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Why are you doing this?

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Castiel forced himself to walk calmly to the next clas, and not let everybody see that he was terrified. Azazel had clearly failed the math test, and Cas could still see the glare Azazel had sent his way. The look had promised a beating after school, maybe a few stitches. He really didn't want to go to the emergency room again, but he just didn't know how to avoid them.

He walked into his English class with a minute to spare, and took his usual seat at the back. He tried to calm his nerves, thinking of other things. Like how he was going to rewatch season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or read the book he had been waiting for for months. Anything but how they were going to pummel him after school.

He was calming down, when the lesson started and Mr. Livovich started talking about 'The Scarlet Letter'. He made the mistake of letting his gaze wonder, and found himself looking at Dean Winchester, who was looking right back at him. The other boy stared at Cas and smirked, making it clear he knew Cas was being pulverized later today. That set his brain whirring again, and he couldn't concentrate on the lesson.

 

 

He looked both ways before making every turn, almost running through the hallways. He walked outside without being attacked, but still held his breath. He had yet to clear the parking lot. He had just taken a few steps outside when he was grabbed roughly by the arms and shoved to the side. He hadn't seen them coming!

He looked up with terror in his eyes and saw the entire gang was there. Azazel, Alistar, Uriel and Dean. Or as he called them in his head, the knights of hell. His arms were being held back by Uriel, who never did much except for that menial task. Sometimes he laughed, if that counted as doing something.

Azazel looked him up and down. "My my. Not looking so smug now, are ya?" he purred. "Yeah, I saw you. You like that I didn't do so well on that test, do you? Well not everyone has a rich mommy and daddy to back them up if they flunk. But maybe next time you won't look so happy, if you know what's good for your health."

Castiel shook his head with wide eyes and forced words out of his mouth. "No- no I wasn't happy I swear! I wasn't looking!"

"Yeah, sure." Drawled Winchester.

"Well, in any event, you need to learn a lesson. Remember Novak, it does no good to gloat."

Azazel's fist slammed into Castiel's stomach, making him double over in pain. The throbbing hadn't even begun until another fist rammed into his side. He groaned, and was pushed back against Uriel. He almost collapsed, but the pain of hanging by his arms kept him upright. He struggled to tear his hands away from Uriel, but just like all the other times, he couldn't do it before they set in on him again.

They hit him in the side and face until he fell, and Uriel couldn't hold him up. And when he fell, they kicked him. He yelled in pain with every kick, and he felt his ribs take every impact. The hard gravel wasn't doing anything for comfort. The next kick came in harder then the rest, and he screamed. He hadn't begged for them to stop more then twice, because he knew they wouldn't until they were good an ready to.

They left soon after that, talking about the football game that was on TV tonight. They left Castiel on the ground, bleeding. He felt pain everywhere, even his fingers and toes. They had left no stone unturned.

He got up after a few minutes, and when he had straightened fully, assessed his injuries. It didn't look like anything was broken, but one of his ribs might be bruised. He had several cuts on his face, and bruises all along the rest of his body. It didn't look like anything would need immediate attention.

He grabbed his school supplies from where they had been thrown, and started walking home.

Chapter Text

he opened the door slowly, and just barely shut it. He was trying not to wake up his mom, who was probably sleeping off a hangover in her room. His dad was at work, far away from home. Far away from their problems.

He crept up the stairs without a sound, and threw his bag onto his bed when he got to his room. Then he started doing his math homework, to get it over quickly before he could read. While he did his math, he plucked at his cardigan with his hands, fidgeting. After about 20 minutes, he finished all his math and put it back in his backpack. Then he got out his book "Eleanor and Park", which he had heard a lot about on the internet, but wasn't very excited for. Maybe it would surprise him.

He read that for an hour, and was really starting to get into it, when his mother came into his room and informed him in a slurred voice that dinner was ready. Cas really didn't want to leave his room, but he would get punished if he disobeyed.

He walked down stairs, and helped set the table without being asked to. When that was done, he came into the kitchen, and saw no food was set out, or being readied. "When are we going to eat?" He asked his mother.

She looked at him in anger, and hissed "We eat whenever the food I'm preparing is ready you ungrateful little brat!" then slapped him hard across the face.

He stumbled back into the fridge and left the kitchen. She wasn't drunk, but she wasn't in a good mood either. This was not a very good situation either way. He didn’t want to go back upstairs in case his mom wanted him to do something, so he got a pitcher and filled it with water to fill the glasses at the table.

After he had done that, “Dinner” was served. His mom must have been out of it while cooking, because the meal was half burned. It was macaroni and cheese with hot dogs cooked into it. Sometimes, if his father was home, his mother would cook an actual meal. And it wouldn’t be half bad, because he father might get angry if it was bad. His mother could cook well if she tried. But right now it was all he could do to force down the crap and keep a neutral expression.

After dinner, he did the dishes. Then he walked to the living room. “Do you need anything else mother?” He asked.

She looked over at him from where she was watching TV on a giant flat screen, and answered “No.” In a monotone , if slightly slurred voice. Castiel left the room.

He walked up the stairs feeling much the same as he normally did, minus his aching rib. Glad that supper had gone by without any arguments, and he had only provoked her to hit him once. It was normally a lot worse if his father was home. When he was home, the house was filled with a tension that didn’t ease up until he was gone again. His father was a strict man, not above beating Castiel until he bled for making mistakes. But luckily, Castiel knew what not to do when his father was around. His mother received a similar treatment, and she too changed the way she acted around him. She wouldn’t drink as much, and kept herself clean. Castiel was glad she knew how to avoid his anger, because as much as he resented his mother’s actions, he didn’t like seeing her get hurt.

In his room he resumed his book again, but instead of sitting on the bed he walked around and around the room. Like pacing, but without the thought. He read about 4 chapters, before he started thinking things while he was reading. When was his father coming home again? He had better find out, so as not to be taken surprise by the sudden appearance. His father came into the house like a thunderstorm, making the air stuffy and casting a shadow around the rooms. He should probably go look at the calendar sometime, and see when he was due home next. But later, because he didn’t feel like leaving his room. His mother always wrote “Zacharia home” On the days when his father was coming. Castiel suspected she did it for the same purpose; so she wouldn’t be caught by surprise with two bottles of beer and a hangover.

After he had paced awhile, Castiel put down the book and took out his journal. He took off the tiny padlock on it, and started writing.

 

Tuesday, April

Beaten again today, not feeling very good. Bruises, and possibly broken rib. Got to be more careful.

Dinner was ok. Mother was drunk again, but it was quiet and we didn’t talk.

Feeling: Peaceful

 

He locked the journal up again and put it under his mattress. Then he turned off his light, and went to bed fully clothed. He didn’t really care, he would just throw them in the dirty laundry tomorrow.

Chapter Text

When he woke in the morning, Cas got up and showered. He went downstairs and packed himself a hurried lunch in their huge kitchen, grabbing small things from the fridge. Then after that, he remembered the night before and looked at the calendar on the fridge door. His father was due back two weeks from now.

He walked to school like he did everyday. He prefered not to take the bus, since the kids there hated him for being rich. They seemed to hate the way he dressed in particular, even though there was not much special about it. He wore a cardigan of some sort, a white t-shirt and khakis. But in any case, he walked to school because the bus was hell and there was no way his mother was getting up before 11 to drive her stupid son to school.

There were students already there when he got inside. He hurried to his locker and then to his first class.

 

He walked to the library for lunch, like he normally did every day for obvious reasons. The lunch room was a battle ground, and while a lot of the school didn’t care whether he lived or died, the ones who did made it impossible for him to eat his lunch amid all the yelled insults and thrown food. He had learned not to sit there the first week of highschool. But it was nice being surrounded by nothing but books who won't judge you.

He walked to the back of the library, and took out his lunch. He had a cutie, a small pbj, a granola bar, and a bottle of water. He started peeling the cutie.

After he had eaten, he read until lunch was over. He normally ate very quickly, so he had time to finish a chapter or two of one of his school books before the bell rang and he headed to math.

In math, he carefully avoided looking at Azazel. He didn’t look anywhere except his paper, carefully training his gaze. He left in a hurry, and fast-walked to his locker. He didn’t walk past any stair wells until last period, and that was where they normally harassed him. There were no classrooms opposite the stairwell, so no teachers to witness the knights of hell pushing Cas over, or kicking him in the back and making him drop his books.

So when it was time for his last class, he hurried past the stairwell, this time full on running. His stomach leapt when he saw a hand reach out to grab him, but he swerved and managed to avoid it. As he continued down the hallway, he heard muttered curses coming from the stairs.

His last class was uneventful. He got an A on a paper he had turned in, like usual. He carefully made sure to tuck the paper out of sight when he got it, as most of the other students suspected he used his title of “Richest kid at school” to get good grades. But that wasn’t true. He was just smart.

He was feeling pretty good when he started walking home. The knights of hell hadn’t ambushed him in the parking lot, they had failed to get their hands on him in the school, and it seemed like he wouldn’t be going home with new bruises for once.

He was about a block from his house, when he heard footsteps coming from behind him. He ignored them for a moment, but when they got louder he turned his head to see. It was Alastair, Azazel and Dean. They were closing in quickly behind him, with mean cold looks on their faces. Castiel saw the Winchester’s impala sitting behind the group, a getaway car waiting. Castiel turned back around and started to run back to his house. He was not a fast runner though, and his shoes were not made for quick getaways. He heard someone start running behind him, and a weight slam on top of him, making him fall flat on his stomach. The person on top of him laughed, and he recognized Winchester’s voice saying “That was too easy Novak!”

He wheezed at the pressure on top of him, flattening his lungs. “Get...off” He spat out.

“If you can make me!” Winchester laughed at him. The other boys caught up and complimented Dean on whatever move he had made to land on top of Cas.

Castiel was having a hard time getting his breath out, and he couldn’t make it slow down. There was panic coursing through his body, flooding his mind. What did they have planned? Dean got off of Cas, but kept a hand on his shirt collar and pulled him up too.

Cas looked at them, terrified. He held his head up. Dean was still holding the back of his shirt tightly, so he wouldn’t slip away. Like he would be stupid enough to try. They would be on him like fleas to a dog if he tried to make a break for home. “What do you want?” Castiel said. His voice was trembling. Dammit.

“We just want to have a little fun!” Crowded Azazel, eyeing Cas. Cas pulled on his cardigan sleeves, giving his nervous fingers something to do. His brain was flooding with every possible outcome, trying to figure out what he should do, but not helping his situation. Then Alistar hauled a fist into his stomach, and he tried not to double over, but lost the fight and wrapped his arms around his aching stomach. Winchester pulled him back up, the shirts collar digging painfully into his neck. He looked at them, and saw Alistair and Azazel were both smiling, and he would bet a hundred dollars Winchester had a grin on his face too.

“We thought me might change it up a little this time,” purred Azazel. “Give you different scenery.” Then they started dragging him to the car.

Castiel’s vision went red with panic, and he struggled to get away, tossing himself this way and that. Dean grunted and hit him in the face, stunning him for a minute. Then he wrapped both arms around Castiel, and hauled him roughly to the car, making it impossible for him to escape.

He was shoved into the back seat, and when he tried to get to the other door, Dean grabbed his ankle and dragged him back, making him cry out in pain. Then Winchester slid into the car next to him, keeping a hand on his sore ankle. Alistar and Azazel got into the front seats. “You be careful driving my baby.” Winchester said warningly to Azazel, who laughed.

“I wouldn’t dream of being anything but careful!” He said cheerily, and started driving.

Castiel stared out the window in a panic, and breathed a sigh of relief when they only drove for about a minute. He recognized where they were, and the panic came back. “You like the bridge, Novak?” Winchester said in his ear.

Chapter Text

They dragged him back out of the car, and Castiel struggled to get away more than ever. They had taken him to the old bridge that was somewhat near his house. It was made of metal, and overlooked a small creeke. The fall wouldn’t kill you, but it would definitely hurt, since the creek was only about a foot deep. They had parked in the middle of the road, since cars barely ever came down here. It was generally a spot kids came to get high, or drink booze.

The got him out of the car, and Winchester resumed his position with his arms around Cas, since he was flailing wildly. “Wow, you’re a fighter when you want to be!” He commented cruely.

He hissed as Cas started scratching at his hands, tearing the skin. He was desperate to escape whatever they had planned for him. Dean called to Alastair “Hey Al! Get the ties, would you!?” Ties? What were they planning on doing to him? His breathing quickened, and Dean rubbed his back in mock sympathy.

“Hey, don’t worry kid. We’re not that bad!” Reassured Dean in a mocking voice.

Then Alistair came and secured his hands behind his back with zip-ties, and he was being pushed forward to the bridge. Azazel was waiting there with rope, and an evil grin on his face. Castiel was pushed up against the bridge, and then he was being pushed over it. He started yelling, fear rushing through his head as they tried to haul him over the railing. They laughed, and he yelled even more. Are they trying to kill me? Why the fuck would they tie my hands and push me over?!

They got him over the edge, and he dangled a moment, yelling at the top of his voice. “Stop! Stop! Please, please please stop!” He was almost sobbing, but it was hard because Alistair had his hand wrapped around his throat, and it was compressing slowly, cutting off his air supply. He made choking sounds involuntarily, mostly in fear and anger but partly in relief because his feet had balanced on the narrow ledge of the bridge. “Hey All, let him breathe will you?” Said Dean.

The hand on Cas’s throat slithered around to his collar, and held him up while they tied something around his waist. “What are you doing?” Castiel cried out, as rope bit into his stomach. He realized they were tying him to the metal guard rail.

He asks them what they are doing again. He knows that he will not fall now, the rope was keeping him secured to the bridge rail. But what are they doing, why was he tied here? “We’ll just leave you alone then, alone with your thoughts. That cool with you, Novak?” Azazel asked with mock seriousness. The others laughed.

Castiel realized that they were just going to leave him there, tied to the bridge, alone. With basically no way to get free. His heart hardened at this, a steely look coming to his face. These fools, stupid arrogant jerks, are just going to leave him there. They will let him rot with embarrassment as he yells himself hoarse and has to have someone untie him from this damn bridge. And then they will do it all over again when he returns to school.

He turns his head from where it was twisted over his shoulder, and looked at the water. All fear was gone from his head, and what was left was pure rage and hatred. He glared at the river, his brow contorted in an effort not to scream insults and obscenities at the Bullies, the petty children who had to hurt others to solve their own problems. But he would not give them the satisfaction of his attention.

“What’s his problem?” Winchester mocked, and Castiel’s jaw clenched. The rage inside him was making his bones shake. He thought he might explode with the intensity of it, aimed at those three petty specks of humanity, Alastair, Azazel and Dean.

He hears the doors of Dean’s school-famous Chevy impala open and close, and laughter cut off abruptly. The engine started and faded as they rode away, leaving Castiel with his hatred.

But emotions couldn’t get him off the bridge.

He had been sitting there, stewing in his resentment for 30 minutes when his torso started to ache. There were only ropes wrapped around his waist and stomach, but his hands were clasped together by zip-ties, which he knew to be impossible to get out of. If he were to untie the ropes around his waist, he would have to choice but to fall, because those ass-hats had chosen to make this truly hell, and zip tie his hands to the belt loop in his jeans. With no limbs except his legs available, he knew that he had no other choice than getting free and falling. Besides, it wasn’t like he would die. He might get a broken arm or sprained ankle, but that was the worst he would have to suffer. His anger took most of the fear of falling away.

He picked at the rope around his waist, plucking and pulling at the knot. He could feel his fingers getting raw as he worked it. After about 20 more minutes of cursing and fraying the impossibly tight knot, he felt it loosen around his waist. He felt a thrill as he pulled it off, but then a jolt of fear as he thought of what he had to do next.

He gripped the guard rail with his fingertips, barely holding on. He looked at the rope falling to the water. He really didn’t want to jump. He stared at it another 5 minutes, before taking a deep breath, and pushing himself off the ledge.

There was a moment of terrifying nothingness, and then his body smacked the water 25 feet below, and his arms were wrenched painfully further behind his back. He hit the bottom of the creek, and his arm screamed out in pain. He had broken it, no doubt.

He struggled to his knees in the water, sputtering at the cold. His hands were still behind his arms, but he felt that the tie was looser. Maybe that was what had broken his arm, pulling it so hard against the tie. In any case, it felt like he could pull free now. He tried to get loose and cried out as he made the mistake of trying to use his broken appendage. He pulled the good one out, and the bad one swung to his chest to be cradled by the other one. He grunted in pain, having it lance up his arm like a swarm of bees. Tears were springing to his eyes, and he couldn’t help it when they leaked down his cheeks. His whole body ached from the fall for a minute as he stumbled out of the creeke.

He clawed his way up a steep hill, holding his arm to his chest as he went. His leg was hurting too, since he had landed on that. His chest still burned with anger.

When he got to the right side of the bridge again, it was getting dark. He hurried along the sidewalk, shivering in his soaked clothes. It took him about 4 minutes to get home, and by then it was completely black. He didn’t know what time it was.

He walked into his house in a huff, still shivering after being hit by the warm air. He walked in and almost made it all the way upstairs before his mother stepped into the hallway. “Castiel.”
He cringed, and backed down the stairs, listening to the dripping of his hair, suddenly louder than it had been before. “Yes mother?”

“What the hell are you doing, tracking mud all over my floor?” She accused in a steely voice. She was stone cold sober, then.

“Nothing, I just had an accident and fell.” He ventured, hoping she would buy the story. He would never tell her he was getting bullied, she would just laugh and tell him to man up. His arm flared again.

“You fell….into a swimming pool?” She asked, sarcasm lining every syllable. He shrugged, and winced when it irritated his arm.

“Well, you better clean all that up. You made that mess, you can wipe it up.” She started walking away, and turned back. “While, you’re at it, do the dishes too.”

He was relieved when he heard her sit down on the couch. It could’ve been worse than just a telling off and an order to clean up after himself.

He walked the rest of the way up the stairs, and reached his room. His arm was still aching, and he was starting to worry about how he was going to take care of it. His mother would ask too many questions, his father was gone and he had no friends. His only other option was just going to the hospital himself, and the doctors might ask too many questions. But that was literally his only other option, so he was probably going to be walking to the hospital sometime soon.

He got into his room, and locked the door behind him. Then he started carefully rolling the sleeve up on his broken arm, wincing every time he touched his skin. When he got the cloth all the way to his elbow, he looked at the arm. It was swollen a little, and bruised a bit on the underside. It was also bent just a little off, so little that if you didn’t look closely you wouldn’t notice it. His stomach dropped at the sight, even though there was no blood. The thought of going to the emergency room or hospital was bad enough. He left the sleeve, and stared around his room, thinking about nothing in particular.

His room had mostly bare walls, with the exception of an obscure book poster in the corner of one wall. The walls were a light light blue, bordering on white. He had a shelf next to his bed filled with books and a few seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer he sometimes watched. There was also an Angel Funko Pop, one of the few decorative things in his room. His bed had a dark red comforter set, and it was sitting next to a window that was the only source of light in the room currently. He had almost never had another person in this room besides his mother and father.

He treaded to the bathroom to shower, feeling all the aches in his body as he put one foot in front of the other. He wondered if the hot water would make the pain better or worse.

When he got undressed, he barely got the shirt off, his arm screaming the entire way. He couldn’t wait until nightfall, and he made his decision then to go to the emergency room after his shower.

In the shower, he held his arm out of the water for as long as he could before the pain of holding it was too much. Then he carefully pulled it into the water, hissing when the drops hammered across his arm, making little spikes of pain burst across it. He held it across his chest, using his other hand to wash himself.

Soon his shower was over, and he got dressed and headed out.

When he slipped out the back door, his mother was still watching TV. He barely looked at her to make sure she wasn’t going to stop him. She was just sitting with her eyes glazed, staring at the TV like she was blind. She wasn’t going to get up for a while, if she didn’t fall asleep. He closed the door and locked it with a key behind him.

Cas lived about two miles from the hospital, a short walk compared to some he had to take. He really should start driving soon, but he can’t seem to find the time to get a license. He nearly crashed into a lamp pole because he wasn’t looking, and snapped himself out of his thoughts.

The rest of the walk he carefully spent looking at where he was going and not thinking about what it will be like when he shows up in school with a cast. Because he was definitely going to need one, the way his arm was feeling right now. He felt every step he took pulse through it, and the fact one of his ribs was stabbing him with pain too did not help either. He shouldn’t have waited so long to get help.

He turned the last corner to the Hospital emergency room, feeling his nerves kick back up and flutter around in his stomach. He didn’t like going here much.

Castiel walked in and told someone at the desk what was wrong, that he thought his arm was broken. A nurse came and took him to a room, looked at his arm and grimaced. She said that it was definitely broken, but they were going to have to take an x-ray to see in what way it was broken before they put a cast on it. She then left to get a doctor.

Cas waited, looking around the room that smelled of new-ness and disinfectant. He swung his legs. He didn’t mind waiting that much, he liked being alone.

The doctor came in in a few minutes, and he started asking Castiel questions. How old are you, do you smoke, do you do drugs, do you drink alcohol? Castiel answered all of them truthfully, except for one. “How are things at home?” The doctor asked.

“Things are fine.” Castiel lied. The doctor believed him.

Then came the time to call his parents. He grudgingly gave them his mother’s cellphone number, and hoped she was awake. They needed her permission to fix his arm. From what he understood, he needed a surgery to set it right.

The doctor came back into the room after they made the call, and Castiel’s mother was close behind him. Her eyes landed on him and stayed, a mixture of anger and sadness in them.

“Castiel, why didn’t you tell me?!” She asked him, and he couldn’t tell if the concern in her voice was real or fake. “I could have driven you here, you didn’t have have to walk sweety.” Ok. That sounded fake.

“I just didn’t want to be a bother.” He explained, though they both knew the real reason.

His mother answered questions and filled out a couple forms, then he was whisked away to get his arm fixed.

 

_________

Cas sat in awkward silence as they drove home from the hospital. His mother was either faking calm until they got home, or was too tired to be bothered to shout at him. He was stroking the blue cast on his arm with his good hand, feeling the rough scratchy material. He was lucky he was right handed, or he wouldn’t be able to write.

They got home, and Castiel hurried out of the cold into the house. His ribs had kicked back up again, but it wasn’t as bad as his arm had been. He just wanted to get in bed and sleep. It was almost one in the morning, as the doctors and nurses had to keep them at the hospital a longer time than expected.

He let his mother go in first, and closed the door behind him. He went to the big kitchen and got himself a glass of milk, the most calming thing he could think of to drink, besides hot chocolate. His mother was standing in the kitchen too when he turned.

“Castiel.” She started.

“Yes?” He asked, hoping she wasn’t about to chew him out for breaking his arm.

“How did you break your arm?” She asked simply. It wasn’t what he was expecting.

“I fell. Down a hill.” He said haltingly. She raised an eyebrow, and he could tell she didn’t believe it one bit.

“Must’ve been a big-ass hill, to break your arm falling down it.”

“Yeah, well….” He had never been good at cover stories.

He caught her staring at his wrist, the one not covered by the cast, and looked down at it. She was looking at the red line engraved into his skin from the zip-ties he had been tied with. His stomach dropped, and he looked back at her worriedly, wondering what she thought caused those marks.

“I want to know what’s happening. I know you think I don’t care, and I don’t honestly know if I do. But I want to know at least.” She set her face. There was no getting out of this.

“Nothing's happening. Nothing I haven’t told you before. I just fell. That is the truth. Some assholes tied me up and I fell.” He clenched his jaw.

“They tied you up? And you let them?” She asked incredulously, like it was his fault.

“I couldn’t get away! Don’t act like I just stood there and took it!” He raised his voice a little.

“Don’t talk that way to me! I am your mother! I am trying to help you!” His mother shouted.

“Well you’re not! You’re not helping me, and you won’t if you tried, so please just leave me alone!” He raised his voice a little more, but couldn’t quite muster up the courage to yell at his mom.

He remembered times before now, when he had been having trouble at school, or was being bullied, or had a parent teacher conference, or needed help for a project. And his mother had agreed to help him. And she had let him down, every single time. Not showing up, saying she was busy, going out with friends the day of. He had learned not to trust her.

His mother looked hurt, but the expression disappeared almost as soon as it had come. She walked to the fridge and grabbed a beer out of it, twisting the top off as she said “Fine. You can keep getting hurt, you can whine and mope. But do it away from me. I tried to help you, and you better remember that.” She stomped out of the kitchen.

He stood there a moment, feeling his heart rate slow down, and thinking over what just happened. It wasn’t so bad, just words. She wasn’t drunk, she would remember this in the morning. But right now he was too tired to think about that, and he had to get to bed before 2 AM. Couldn’t be late for school in the morning.

Chapter Text

Dean woke to the beeping of his alarm clock, loud and irritating. He mustered up the will to move, and turned it off. Then he dragged himself out of bed, barely opening his eyes as he moved to the bathroom across the hall.

When he stepped into the steaming hot water, he felt his head getting clearer. He always had to take a shower in the morning to make himself feel human, not like a living fungus ripped out of bed and shoved into school. At least it was friday.

He got out of the shower and got dressed, combing his hair with his fingers. Then there was a knock on his door. “Yeah?” He called, and then remembered the door was locked. He opened it.

Sam was there, and he said “Morning! Came to see if you were awake yet. Bus comes in 5 minutes.”

“Yeah, I’m up. How long have you been awake?” Sam always woke up earlier than Dean, to go online or read or whatever the heck his nerdy little brother did in his spare time.

“I’ve been up since 5:30. I had to do stuff online. Come on, you gotta eat breakfast.” Sam nagged. Dean didn’t eat Breakfast very much, he wasn’t hungry in the mornings. He only did when Sam made him.

“‘Kay. Lemme get something first.” He watched Sam bound down the stairs and grabbed the book he had for English, “Scarlet Letter”.

He went downstairs, ate breakfast and packed himself and Sammy lunch. His dad was probably in a bar or around town somewhere. That or passed out in his bed.

They got on the bus, Sam sat with his friend Jess and Dean walked back to Alistair and Azazel. Sometimes he drove to school in the impala, but he was low on gas and didn’t want to spend his money filling it up after school. He grinned as he neared his friends.

He sat on the seat opposite them in the isle. “Hey.” He said.

“What’s up?” Alistair said, playing with the edge of a stolen comic book.

“Nothin’. Where’s Uriel?” Dean asked, noticing the absence of their todie.

“Had to stay home, take care of a half-brother. You know his family, always some little brat needing to be taken care of.” Azazel cut of Alistair as he opened his mouth to answer. He looked at Azazel with an annoyed expression.

“We taking him homework after school?” Dean asked.

“Nah.” Azazel answered, and didn’t say anything else. The guy could end a conversation with one syllable.

Dean turned and just stared at the window, not really wanting to talk to anybody. He started thinking about yesterday, and Novak. Tying Novak to that bridge. It hadn’t really been the plan, he had thought they were just going to beat him up and leave him there. But Azazel had thought out a whole nother plan, and they had just gone with it. Hidden their surprise.

He did feel a little bad, how desperate Castiel had gotten when he saw the bridge. His bright blue eyes had widened to the size of dinner plates. It made him wonder what the rich nerd thought they were going to do. Toss him over? Leave it to the spoiled brat to think the worst of them. Dean wondered if Castiel had gone home and tattled to his perfect parents. Maybe they would march down to the school and tell the principal. Dean’s heart boiled in anger at the thought of Castiel, with his big wig rich daddy and perfect mother and wife, in their huge house. And Dean got stuck with a drunk angry dad and memories of a sweet blond dead mother. It all was just not fair, the fact he and Sammy got stuck with a drunken asshole who didn’t even buy them new clothes, and Castiel went home to a loving mother and father and got whatever he wanted. He could feel his mood dipping lower and lower, and struggled to think of other things. They couldn’t get Novak again today, because that would be too risky if he had tattled on them for yesterday. No matter how much he wanted to.

The bus stopped at the school, and they all got off. Dean walked to his first class. He and Castiel didn't share any classes. He knew that Azazel and him had math together, but that was about all they saw of him until before last period at the stair well.

His classes went well enough, except for history, when he found out there was a entire paper he didn’t know about. That put a damper on his mood.

At lunch he scanned the crowd for Castiel, even though he knew he was in the library.

Alistar was telling them about the new computer his dad had gotten, and how he would be able to use it every once in awhile. Dean was jealous, but anger soon burned that emotion down when he thought about how Castiel must have his own laptop, and his parents could certainly afford it. He hated Castiel Novak.

Dean skated through the school day, getting frustrated in math but not much else happened. Then just before last period, he, Alistar and Azazel hurried to the stairwell to freak out Novak. They couldn’t do anything else today.

He and Azaze; walked partway up the stairs, as Alistar hid behind a wall and waited for the black head of hair to come into sight. They knew he didn’t have an alternate way to get to his last class, he would have taken it by now. So they waited.

Soon, the black head flew into view. He seemed to be running, trying to get past them without incident. No matter how many times he tried that, it never worked and he never learned. There was a bright blue blur on his arm. He must be carrying books. Alistair grabs him, jumping out from behind the wall and Castiel yells a little in surprise and pain. He almost shrieks as Alistar goes to pull his arm back, and Dean sees that he’s not carrying books. He has a big blue cast on his left arm. Alistar lets go of his arm at the sound, and looks in surprise. Dean is surprised too, and wonders if Cas broke his arm at the bridge yesterday. Well, of course he did. How else would he have? Their parents were getting sued for sure.

“Pretty new accessory!” Azazel comments on the cast. “Where’d you get it?”

Castiel looks terrified. “Just - just getting off the bridge. Let me go to class, please.”

That makes Dean feel weird. The fact that Castiel had gotten hurt so bad getting out of a situation he had put him in. But the weird feeling dissipates as he remembers Castiel’s perfect life, what he had and Dean didn’t. He smiled at Castiel meanly.

“Oh, we’ll let you go. Gotta get to class ourselves but first-” He pulled a marker out of his backpack next to his legs, “Can we sign your cast?” He sounded so innocent, Dean applauded his acting.

Castiel started shaking his head and saying “I’d rather you no-” But Alistar grabbed his arm again and he cried out in pain and nodded his head hurriedly. Dean kind of wanted to tell Alistar to quit hurting him. He shook the feeling off.

Azazel uncapped the marker and Alistair held Castiel’s cast up. Castiel watched in fear as Azazel started drawing on the cast. He stepped back after a few moments and viewed his work. He had written “Get better soon!” In blocky letters and put a smiley face next to it. The smiley face’s smile was too wide, stretching all the way across the face and not stopping. It was creepy.

Dean went next. He drew a couple dicks and wrote “AMPUTATE HERE” In all caps with a dotted line under it. Castiel visibly paled at that, even though Dean doubted there was any chance someone would take those instructions literally.

Dean didn’t see what Alistair wrote because the moment he was done Castiel wriggled around him and fled to his next class. When he left Dean and his friends quickly exchanged a few words about how much of a pussy Castiel was, and then dashed off to their respective classes.

_________

On the bus ride home Dean thought about Castiel’s cast, and how much trouble he was going to be in when he got home. They hadn’t done it on school property, so there was not much the principal could do besides call his dad and have him and Mrs. Novak duke it out. Which meant it could get pretty scary.

He arrived at his house and walked inside, to his room to deposit his bag. When he got back downstairs, he found a note saying his dad had gone food shopping and would be back in a few hours. He raised his eyebrows in surprise that his dad was out and about. But their fridge had been looking empty, so he was grateful. He went upstairs.

When his dad finds about the whole Novak thing, he was going to flip his shit. He had a bad temper when he wasn’t drinking, the alcohol only amplified it. Dean had been on the receiving end of the temper too many times, though it was his fault for pushing. Dean called for Sam before he remembered he was at a friend’s house helping him study. Dean was glad he would probably be out of the house when Dad came home, he didn’t like it when Sam had to see him that angry.

So he went upstairs to get his homework done, and as he was finishing up a paper for science, his phone dinged. He looked at it and found a text from Alistair, wondering if Dean would go to a movie with him and Azazel after school on tuesday. Dean replied ‘yeah what movie’ right away, and waited for another message. But Alistar must have gotten off the phone because another text didn’t arrive.

He finished homework for a couple classes and then layed on his bed to read comics. He was halfway through a Deadpool comic when he heard the front door open downstairs. The telltale sound of his dad’s boots stomping to the kitchen and putting food down. “Dean!” He jumped when he heard the voice. “Come help me put away groceries!” Dean scrambled out of bed.

He helped his dad put away in silence, except for when his dad dropped a whole bag of vegetables and cursed. Dean jumped about a foot in the air, his nerves were so shot. His dad looked at him weirdly. He just shrugged.

When they had made it through an entire grocery-putting-away-session without mention of Novak’s broken arm, Dean started to wonder. Did his dad know? If his dad did know, he would have said something by now. He went upstairs when his dad was done with him and texted Alistar.

“Hey Al, did your dad or mom say anything about Novak to you?” He hit send.

He waited a moment but then remembered Alistair probably didn’t have his phone on him since he hadn’t answered his last text. He asked the same thing of Azazel, and got a response. “Nah, can’t figure out if they’re waiting for the right moment or if Novak didn’t squeal after all.”

Dean thought about it for a few seconds before replying. “I don’t think he told. My dad hasn’t said anything and he totally would’ve by now.” He hit send.

“Little bitch didn’t even have the balls to rat on us” Azazel replied, and they kept up the banter for a couple more minutes, until Dean heard Sam come home.

He texted Azazel goodbye and bounded downstairs, letting his spirits grow a little in the absence of his dad’s temper. He started making pasta for dinner, and Sam came in and told him about his day. “So anyways, after science Garth had to go to the principal ‘cuz he brought his hamster to school again, so me and Jess just ate lunch by ourselves.” He took a breath and Dean jumped in.

“You know what Sammy, I’ve been hearing alot about Jess nowadays. Is there a little somethin’ going on that I don’t know about?” He teased, waggling his eyebrows.

Sam blushed and punched him on the shoulder. “Shut up! There is nothing going on!” He hunched his shoulders and muttered “We’re just friends.”

Dean turned back to the pasta and stirred it. “Sure…” His muttered, stretching the word out into 5 syllables. Sam huffed indignantly.

When the pasta and sauce were ready, Dean heated up some frozen green beans in the microwave and called his dad to come and eat. There was a responding “Be down in a minute!” From his dad’s room, and then silence.

Dean set the table and served Sam and his dad, then himself. The big man himself came down the table about 10 minutes after Sam and Dean started eating. He scarfed down the pasta and green beans like he hadn’t eaten in days, and then asked them how their days had gone. Sam went into a detailed description of the fight that had broken out in his class, while Dean just shrugged and said his day was fine. His mind flashed back to Novak’s bright blue cast and his stomach roiled in nervousness as he remembered that his dad might know. He was suddenly very interested in his green beans.

His dad watched him pick apart the limp green vegetables before asking him, “Dean, is anything wrong?” Dean looked up, heart beating fast.

“N- no dad. Just tired.” His dad didn’t seem convinced.

“Are you sure? Because you look so tired, you probably wouldn’t be up for pie for desert.” Damn. His dad knew how to play it.

“Well- I just had a rough day. Didn’t do so well in a history test is all.” Dean lied semi-smoothly. His dad narrowed his eyes was looked like was about to ask about the test when Sam cut him off.

“So dad, Gordon was wondering if I could go over to his house on thursday for the night. It’s his birthday and Garth and Peter’ll be there too.” His dad turned to Sam after another look at Dean.

“I don’t know about that. I don’t like that Gordon kid, he’s always getting everybody including himself into trouble.”

Sam started arguing to the contrary, and his dad was fighting back. Dean wasn’t paying close attention to the conversation but it seemed like Sammy was winning. He would make a good lawyer.

After dinner, Dean did the dishes while listening to Metallica. Then he went up to his room and read his Deadpool until he was drowsy. He brushed his teeth and went to bed, laying in the dark for a while before he got sleepy again.

Tonight had been a good night. His dad was sober, in a good mood and doing it work, it sounded like. The night had gone by without much incident, and he didn’t know that Dean was tormenting the Novak kid.

He felt guilty for feeling so relieved his dad didn’t know. It felt weird, feeling guilty about something connected to Castiel. Mostly things connected to Castiel just made him feel angry. He didn’t like feeling guilty. Not that he wasn’t a little guilty. As much as he hated Castiel, he knew that mocking and hurting someone every day was a bit wrong. Well, a lot wrong. But it didn’t feel wrong. It was Castiel, the kid who everything and wanted for nothing.

He turned over, and went to sleep soon after that.

Chapter Text

Castiel woke to his aching arm. He wondered briefly with a foggy mind why his arm hurt so much, before he realized he was sleeping on it so that it was bending under him. He quickly rolled over and the pain worsened and lessened at the same time. It felt better though.

He lay there a few minutes before his alarm went off, and he turned it off quickly and went back to sleep a few more minutes. It was Saturday, the best and worst day of the week. He didn’t go to school to be tormented by the knights of hell, but he also had nothing to do at his house.

He rolled out of bed, almost falling because his legs were so heavy with sleep. Then he stumbled to the bathroom and got his shirt off before he remembered he couldn’t get the cast wet. He would have to run to CVS or something to get a protector.

He looked at his reflection in the mirror, especially the cast, and noticed that the crude drawings and threateningly sweet messages from the knights of hell were still there. He would have to scribble them out sometime.

He went back to his room and lay in bed for a few minutes. He didn’t want to make breakfast, he wasn’t hungry. He didn’t have activities to do on a Saturday morning.

Castiel got out of his pajama pants, and after a few minutes of taming his hair walked down stairs.

His mom was nowhere to be seen. Cas started getting a pan out for eggs, before looking in the fridge to see they had no eggs. He abandoned breakfast to tentatively search the house for his mother.

He stepped into the living room, trying to be quiet. If she was in the house, then she wouldn’t want him bothering her. So he walked around on his toes. He was moving around the couch when he lost his balance momentarily, and since he didn’t have both arms to brace himself on furniture, landed noisily on his knees. He sat there stalk-still, waiting to hear his mother yell from the other room.

Silence.

He got up and walked around the house quickly, fairly sure that his mother was not there. She did that, just leaving without telling him anything. She once was gone for 4 days in a row, without leaving so much as a note to tell him where she went.

She never left like this when his father was home though. When his father was home no one did anything without telling him first. And if he didn’t approve, you didn’t go. Simple as that. Not like it was a problem for Castiel, as he never did much of anything to begin with. The most he would do was maybe go to the library, or a bookstore. He had no friends to speak of.

He crept to his mother’s room and stood outside the door, listening for any signs of life. When he was certain she was either sleeping, out of the house, or dead, he opened the door. There was no one there. He sighed in relief.

He then went to the kitchen to get himself something to eat, he was starving and needed something to get his mind off the plaster encasing his arm.

____________

It’s been 5 weeks since he broke his arm.

School has been terrible, people pushing him around and down, knowing how hard it is to get up with one arm. Luckily, he was due to get his cast off next week.

His father’s visit had been pushed back, and he hadn’t been home in over a month. Castiel wasn’t even sure if he knew about his broken arm, or if he cared. Probably not. In any case, his father was going to arrive at their house the day after he gets his cast off.

His grades had dropped a little, since breaking his arms had completely sapped his will to open an educational book. He was desperately trying to get them back up for his father’s visit, as he would punish Castiel severely if he found out. Castiel had made 13 trips to the library in a week. A new record.

But for now, he was looking forward to getting his cast off in 4 days.

He had arrived to school the monday after he broke his arm, with the dick picks and false cheery encouragements scribbled off his cast. The knights of hell had noticed, and like on Friday, had cornered him and asked to sign his cast again. He had refused again, and they had hit him a couple times before taking his arm by force and signing it. He had gone home and scribbled them all out. By now, his cast was almost black. This happened every single day. Uriel, Alistar and Azazel had kept a cruel grin on their faces the entire time. The only one who seemed to not have enjoyed every minute of Cas grunting and cringing in pain was Winchester, whose own smile had faded once or twice, replaced with a faker look of forced enjoyment. Castiel didn’t even want to know why Winchester was suddenly not reveling in torment, but it was an interesting change. It wasn’t like he was going to walk up to Dean and ask to be friends or anything. Dean was one of the bastards who had tied him to that bridge and broke his arm. He wasn’t suicidal.

Yet.

The truth was, these half-beatings every day, on top of homework and studies and his mom not going food shopping in 3 weeks was really taking a tole on Castiel. He was kind of numb all day, feeling things here and there but not especially caring. He hadn’t felt much emotion past anger, fear and sadness for a long, long time. He couldn’t find anything to smile or laugh about, not even Buffy the Vampire Slayer was working.

And then, when he lay down to sleep at night, it all came out. His heart explodes with the emotion he suppressed all day. The first time, he just lay there and thought about how awful his life was, and how he could prevent a repeat of today. Another time, after a particularly crappy day at school where he had gotten shoved into the same stair rail 3 times, and pushed into a locker, he had lain in bed and cried.

The crying days had gotten more and more frequent. He didn’t care, it felt good to let his emotions out, and then go to sleep quickly after. He felt refreshed in the morning, and weighed down by night. Then he would unload his feelings in a fresh round of self loathing and pity, and sleep.

Cas microwaved his spaghetti, leaning against the kitchen counter as he waited. It sounded like world war two was happening in the microwave, but he bet his pasta would be cold in the middle. He pulled it out when the timer was done, and found this was just the case.

He was waiting for it to finish again, when his mother banged through the back door. She smelt of alcohol and urine, and he knew she had been out all night clubbing and going to bars. He just hoped she hadn’t been with any other men, as that would have ended badly for both of them.

She fixed her foggy gaze on Cas, scowling on instinct. He swallowed and looked at the microwave. She slammed her purse down in the table, and looked around the kitchen. She glared at Castiel as he grabbed his food out of the microwave.

“What, didn’t think to get food out for me?” She muttered angrily. He felt a rush of anger, it wasn’t like he knew what time she would be home.

“I didn’t know you would be home so soon.” Castiel said quietly.

“Well I wasn’t going to be out all day. I thought you were top of your grade. Gotta run out of your father’s money sometime.” She hissed.

“Well I figured he would just make more.” He said lightly, not really sure what it would accomplish.

“You watch your mouth boy.” She growled, even though he had technically been talking about his father, not her.

“Sorry.” He said, in a slightly defensive tone he tried to hide, but not very successfully.

“I said you better watch your mouth.” She hissed again.

“Ok! I’m sorry. I’m going to my room now.” He started walking to his room. She huffed something behind him.

Remembered he left his pasta in the room, and stopped for a second, having a quick debate in his head about going back to get it, when his stomach growled and he turned back. He walked into the kitchen and she spun around.

“What do you want? More money? Another hospital bill I have to pay?” She almost yelled at him.

He stopped, taken aback. Obviously, something was wrong. He really didn’t want to make it worse.

“I just forgot my food.” He answered quietly, and started walking to the counter when she grabbed his food.

“Here! Take it and leave!” She full on screamed, and hurled the glass bowl full of food at him. He threw his hands in front of him in reflex, but it sailed through them and hit his side. She had remarkable aim.

He grunted when the bowl hit him. It bounced off his body and shattered on the floor, spreading sauce and spaghetti everywhere. Then he just stood there, with pasta sauce all over his shirt, looking at the shattered pieces on the floor. He wondered if he should clean up, or leave.

His mother stared at the mess, and walked to the kitchen cupboard. She then handed him the mop, said “Clean it up.”, and walked slowly and calmly out of the room.

Castiel stood there for several moments before he moved. He put the mop aside and started wiping it off with a wet rag, picking up the larger mounds of spaghetti and dropping them into the trash can. He did it methodically, thinking about what had lead to this.

Something big had happened. Like his father losing his job big, or his mother having to get one. Or maybe there was a nasty rumour going around. And what was it she had said about paying hospital bills? Maybe the one for Castiel’s arm had been a bit high. It was a mind boggling thought, considering his father’s money never seemed to end. But that kind of thinking usually got people in trouble so he tried to avoid it.

When he finished picking up everything, he mopped and put that away too.

When he had brushed his teeth, he laid down in bed and thought. He thought long and hard about his day, which hadn’t been particularly stressful, aside from the episode with his mother. 3 days until he got his cast off, four until his father came home.

He was about to go to sleep before he remembered his journal, and hauled himself up to write in it. He grabbed it from his bedside table and unlocked it, wrote the date on the top.

Saturday, May

Mother was agitated today, something is wrong. I don’t know what.

Cast comes off Tuesday!

Father comes home Wednesday.

Feeling: uneasy

 

He finished up in the journal and put it aside after locking it. Then he turned out the light and went to bed.

Chapter Text

He woke up Sunday morning and showered right away to get ready for church.

His family was not very religious, if asked his mother would say christian, though he didn’t think she had been in a church since her wedding day. His father was actually Christian, though as far as Castiel knew he didn’t go to church.

Castiel walked to the local Catholic church every sunday. He enjoyed sitting through the masses, and payed close attention to the gospel, even though the old priest hardly ever had any different messages to give out. Father McGregor was edging up on 85, and still up at the pulpit. But his sermons were oddly calming for Castiel to listen to.

Castiel didn’t pray though. He didn’t know why, but he never really caught on to the idea of talking to God, when he couldn’t talk back. It seemed pointless.

His mother often made fun of him for never missing a mass, but he didn’t let it affect him. He had faith, and he wasn’t going to let it be taken away.

When he was all ready for mass, with nice clothes on and combed hair, he headed out.

On Sunday mornings, you could always count on his mother to sleep in to one in the afternoon.

It was a beautiful day, with sun shining through light clouds and a bright blue sky. It wasn’t very warm, but it wasn’t cold either. Perfect for a Sunday.

When Castiel got inside the small brick church, he grabbed a hymnal and sat down in his usual seat at the very back. The place was already half full.

He smiled at an old woman standing near him. She smiled back.

Mass started soon after, and they sang one of Castiel’s favorite hymn ‘Make me a channel of your peace’ soon followed with ‘One bread one body’ for communion. Mass was over sooner than Castiel was ready for, and when the recessional hymn was over he went into the lobby to look at the parish bulletin.

When he had lingered at church all he could, he finally started heading back home.

______

When he got back inside his house, it was 11. He was hit with a blast of hot air when he walked inside, though it was 60 degrees outside. It hadn’t been this warm when he left, had his mother turned the thermostat up? Weird, she never got out of bed early on a Sunday.

He walked to the thermostat and turned it down, wondering why someone would want it up that high anyways.

He hadn’t forgotten about last night, with the pasta incident. But he also wasn’t going to march up to her and ask what was wrong up front. Tact was a vital part of getting information. Unfortunately, he wasn’t too good with tact. But he would work it in somehow, maybe at dinner or something.

He got upstairs and changed clunkily into a light blue-ish grey t-shirt, and jeans. The cast made it hard to move right. He put away all his clothes neatly, only finding it a little hard to hang a shirt with one hand. He had adapted since he had broken the other one.

Castiel loved being away from school. Well, he loved being away from the knights of hell. He didn’t mind learning so much, he was exceptionally smart and most of the classes were little trouble for him. Just another reason for the knights of hell to hate him, though. But Sundays and Saturdays he was free, and he almost never saw the bullies outside of school. If he did, he left before they saw him. The school may be their territory, but outside was his.

He ate breakfast when he got back downstairs, cereal and an apple. He turned on the news and lounged around on the couch. He liked keeping up with current events, but he rarely got the TV to himself. He normally got it only on Sunday’s maybe on Wednesday's sometimes because the local bar would have free lunches and his mother didn’t like missing free food.

He watched disinterestedly as an attractive lady talked about a donut factory in New York City getting robbed. It was amazingly boring, but in case anything big had happened, he watched it anyways.

After about thirty minutes of nonsense and mind numbing stupidity, Castiel turned off the TV and stood up. He stretched his arms over his head, his back cracking pleasantly. The cast bumped his head when he put his arm down, and he found himself wondering how many hours he had before he could get it off. He wished he could take it off right now, but the doctors and his mother both told him to wait. Castiel had been immensely confused, and still was, about why his mother would make him wait. Surely it would just impede him from being useful? He didn’t get it, but he didn’t get a lot of things.

He scratched absentmindedly at the blue hunk of plaster. It had stopped aching and itching about the fourth week, which had been such a relief he had almost cried. The weeks of having his arm wrenched to and fro had made it ache fiercely, and it didn’t help when Castiel felt the burning need to itch it at 3 AM. Those nights (mornings?) had been absolute hell. And when he woke up, with his arm aching from all the ways he had tried to stop the itching, and then he had to go to school and have it drawn all over with sharpie and yanked again and again, he felt like crying all over again. Too much crying, too much feeling. He couldn’t wait for high school to end.

He had to get to the library sometime. Castiel only had one book to read, and it was for school. Uninteresting and about the cold war. Castiel needed to read something Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Something non educational and mostly mindless, to take his mind off the real world and into a fantasy one.

Cas looked at the clock, and was startled to see it was 12:30 already. If he wanted to go to the library, it was open at 1.

He made a mental note to go later, and headed to the kitchen to make some tea. He had gotten some chai spice from the dollar store, and wanted to see if it was any good.

He passed the pictures on the green walls, some of his whole family, a few of his father as a young man, and almost none of himself. It was almost like his family was trying to make him disappear. There were barely any pictures of him anywhere, online, in baby books (which he didn’t have), on the walls. Just the yearbook, where he won the title “Most Likely to succeed” one year.

In all the pictures, there was only one where his parents looked truly happy. It was a picture of them at their wedding, coming down the aisle, newly made Husband and Wife. His mother was beaming, all her teeth showing in a rare sunshine-bright smile. His father had a small but genuine smile on his face, and more importantly it reached up to his eyes. Castiel had never seen one of those smiles in person. Just this photo, where his parents look truly happy. His father is dressed in a handsome tuxedo, and his mother has a big poofy dress that has bell-like sleeves and white lace all over. He wondered what had happened since that day, that made his father a work machine and his mother a sad drunk who didn’t care for her only child.

He realized he had been standing in the hallway thinking for 5 minutes. He shook his head and moved on the the kitchen, grabbing his favorite red mug out of the cupboard and putting a chai tea bag in it. He turned the kettle on, putting the burner on high.

He waited in the kitchen until the pot started whistling, and then quickly turned it off. He poured the water, but was sloppy and splashed some out the nozzle, hitting his foot below.

He hissed and put the kettle down quickly, waving his foot around a bit to get most of the sting off. It killed his neutral mood, and he glowered at the kettle, like it had done something to offend him.

He walked in circles around the kitchen, waiting for his tea to steep. He was going to start this old show he heard a lot about called “Doctor Who”. He wasn’t so sure about the whole “Aliens and space travel” concept, but it sounded good.

When he had walked around in circles for roughly three minutes, and he felt like throwing up, he put cream and sugar in his tea and took it to the living room.

He got the TV to netflix and found the show in question, gazing skeptically at the summary. He started the first episode.

_____

He was halfway through the third episode, silently willing himself to get up and go to the library. He had finished his tea long ago, and made himself two more mugs. This show was really living up to what he had heard about it. At first, he had thought it enormously cheesy and wasn’t sure he would survive the first episode. Plastic people? Really? But he had given the second episode a chance, and was slightly more impressed by it than the first one.

He was hooked by the end of that episode, and was really struggling to get off the couch and go to the library. He just couldn’t think of a reason good enough to abandon this show, and even though he had a small laptop in his room, and he had long before hacked the netflix password, he liked watching it on the big screen.

He was pulled out of his reveries by the sound of feet on the stairs. He bolted upright and turned the TV off, knowing his mother liked to have it when she came down. He quickly whisked his three mugs to the kitchen and dumped them in the sink. Then his mind went blank as to what he should do now. Stand in the kitchen? Wait in the living room? He never knew what to do when his mother came down, he ended up standing creepily in front of the couch, holding a book he had read a long time ago.

His mother got downstairs and walked through the living room looking like she just crawled out a pit full of tigers. She generally looks like that in the mornings, and he has learned never to comment on it. Last time he had, he had gotten slapped so hard there was a red handprint on his cheek. His mother was sensitive about how she looked, about her weight and how other people perceived her.

She glanced at him disinterestedly while making her way slowly to the kitchen, barely tipping her head to acknowledge him. He waved a little, regretting it instantly because of how stupid it probably looked, but what was done was done.

He escaped upstairs before she could glare at him or get mad.

He grabbed a light grey knit cardigan and a couple books to return and his wallet. There was nothing in his wallet but his library card, a gas station rewards card, and a single dollar bill. He had to put his books down to put his wallet in his back pocket with one hand.

He brushed his hair down quickly, trying to make it stick but only getting half of it down. Cas wasn’t sure if it was better or worse.

He almost ran down the stairs, a habit formed when his mother used to drive him to school and he was always being yelled at to get “His little ass down the stairs!”

He called to his mother “I’m going to the library! I’ll see you in a bit.” He waited and heard her responding grunt before bounding out the door.

He walked the mile to the library happily, the weather had picked up a little bit since that morning. The sun was beaming proudly through the clouds, warming Cas’ back but not baking it. There was mud all over the roads, still lingering from the rain showers last week.

He was very lucky to live only a few blocks from the local library, and was in there more than he should be. He had become a regular, and almost every librarian knew his name. He knew many of their names too, and had even been to some of their houses. But he hadn’t done that in a long time.

When he was inside the library, he pulled out a list of books he wanted to get. When he passed the front desk, Mrs. Robbins waved at him, and he smiled back quickly. This was meant to be a short visit, he couldn’t stand around and talk.

First up on his list was the book “The Watchers” by Dean Koontz. He had read it several times, but enjoyed it just as much each time he did. Second on his list was “Wicked” , a book he had heard a lot about but didn’t know the author’s name. So he would have to look that one up.

He trooped over to the adult’s horror section, and grabbed “The Watchers”. The he headed over to the library computers, which were tucked into a corner, almost like the librarians didn’t want people to use them. It was a weird place to put them, but nobody ever changed it.

He looked up the second book, and headed off to the young adult section, on the other side of the library. It really made no sense how the things were placed in this building, like they wanted you to exercise as much as possible. Against your will.

Castiel found out as he grabbed it, Wicked was a lot thicker than he thought it was, which was fine, except he really had other things to read school. He had only grabbed watchers intending to read little bits and pieces. But he also really wanted to find out about the cover of the book, which was green, decorated by a woman all in white, whispering into the ear of a green woman clad in black. He assumed she was the Wicked witch. So he grabbed the book and headed on his way.

While he was treading his path to the checkout desk, something caught his eye. His heart leapt as he recognized the cover of a book he had been waiting for for months.

He snatched it off the shelve like it was going to disappear, greedily eyeing it up. It had come out a while before, but his library was always slow to get new books. While he was devouring the back of the book with his eyes, he heard loud laughter. He looked up and his heart plummeted from where it was hovering in his adam’s apple.

Dean, Azazel, Alistar and Uriel were standing in the young adults section, laughing their asses off at Castiel. He must have made a psychotic face when he saw that book, because they were making wild reenactments, holding an imaginary book out and pulling strange twisted faces of surprise at it. Winchester was the only one there actually holding a book, so he used that as a prop.

Castiel’s face burned as he tucked the book into the crook of his usable arm. He was half tempted to put it back on the shelve, but knowing those idiots they would probably check it out themselves and burn it in their backyards.

They laughed harder as he turned hurriedly and walked away, eager to get out of the place he thought was safe but apparently was not. They were making a bigger spectacle of themselves that was really necessary, but wasn’t that the point of the Knights Of Hell? To bring attention to themselves?

He unloaded his books at the checkout desk and tried to hurry the young librarian along, twisting around every three seconds to make sure Winchester wasn't going to grab him from behind or something.

He doubted they would in such a public place, but Castiel had learned not to expect anything but the top treatment from the knights of hell.

When the books were all checked out and scanned, he said a quick thank you to the young woman and dashed off, almost running out the doors. It was funny, he had felt so safe coming into the building, only to have that torn away when four people started laughing. It made his vision blurry with anger, and he almost stomped on his way home.

“Always ruining things,” He muttered with a throat blocked in anger, “Can’t they leave me alone?” His voice swelled in anger, making the words almost painful to get out.

___________

Dean watched Castiel leave, and that annoying bit of guilt pelted through his heart.

The moment he had seen the Novak kid, Alistar and Azazel had too. His first instinct was to make fun of Castiel, which was normal and fine. But his second instinct was to stop Azazel and Alistar from seeing the kid, and that was not ok. Was he going soft or something? He was supposed to hate him. Get your head in the game, Winchester. He chided himself.

As if the fact they had spotted their prey wasn’t enough, Castiel proceeded to pull the most ridiculous face looking at the cover of a book. It was like a cross between Gollum and the Joker laughing, the most joyful look he had ever seen anyone pull. It had made Dean smile, but not in the way he normally did looking at the Novak kid. He hated it, the way he was feeling different things all of a sudden, like someone had flipped a switch in his brain.

Then Azazel and Alistair had started laughing, and Dean had joined in without thinking about it. It was second nature to laugh like a movie villain when Novak was doing something interesting.

Then Novak had looked up, and Dean stopped recreating the moment just long enough to watch his face fall and his eyes lose that temporary light the Gollum/Joker face had given them. Then he had turned and hurried away from them, leaving Dean with the annoying heaviness pulling at his brain.

“Wow, I didn’t know it was possible for someone to look that demented.” Laughed Alistar.

“Oh come on, we’ve all seen the Batman movies. I think Joker is a close second.” Chided Azazel, apparently following Dean’s train of thought.

Dean turned his book over in his hands nervously, having let the mean smile fall from his face. “Come on, I gotta get this book and then we can go.”

“Why so quick to leave, Winchester?” Azazel asked sharply, “Not like we’ve done anything wrong.”

Dean huffed annoyed. “I’m not saying we have, Al, but I’m going to check out and then we can blow this book stand.”

“Alright, alright, just askin’” Azazel said defensively, throwing his hands up in a gesture of peace. Dean scowled.

“I thought dragging Novak always put you in a good mood, Dean-o!” Alistair said, faking concern. “But it looks like it’s doing the opposite now.”

“It’s nothing. Just remembered how much homework I gotta do. So let’s get my book and I can go take care of it, aright?”

“We could just ditch. You know Shurly never squeals on us.” Azazel supplied.

“Yeah well, maybe I’m just doin’ this to ease my conscious.” Dean shot back, starting to walk away.

He heard Alistair mutter a loud remark about ‘not seeming to have one until this point’ and ignored it. He also ignored the laughs of his other friends in favour of smiling politely at the librarian scanning his book.

As she clicked at a computer on the desk, the young woman asked, “So what were you laughing at Castiel for?” in a neutral voice.

Dean was so taken aback that he lost his words and stood there with his mouth open for a few seconds. “Excuse me?” He managed to ask.

“Castiel. What were you and your...friends laughing at him for? It seemed quite funny, but he didn’t seem to think of it that way.” She continued in what seemed to be a neutral tone, but was slipping down a few notches to accusing.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Dean said firmly, hoping she would just drop the subject and give him his book, but she was taking her sweet time with the computer.

“He doesn’t deserve it, you know.” She continued, like Dean hadn’t talked. “ to have jerks like you bother him. He’s got enough on his plate without it.” What did she know? It wasn’t her business.

“And this concerns me because…?” Dean asked dryly, still trying to play semi-dumb.

“All I’m saying, is lay off the kid. Have a nice day.” She handed him his book at last and he grabbed the rest of his group before walking to his car.

Chapter Text

Castiel lay in his bed drowsily, still fully clothed even though it was 12:30 at night. He just really didn’t want to move from his comfortable position on the bed, even to get pajamas on.

The Watchers was laying flat open on his chest, He had stopped halfway through one of his favourite scenes because he just couldn’t concentrate on anything.

Apart from the fact that he had been embarrassed at his place of sanctuary, his father was coming home in three days. It may not sound so bad scrawled on a day in a calendar, but when the prospect of having him in the house was looming, it cast a shadow on any emotions. Castiel could feel nervousness roiling in his stomach.

He Picked up the watchers with his good hand and braced it on his cast as he tried to resume his reading. He found it increasingly difficult, as his eyes were foggy and unfocused at random intervals. He hated feeling drowsy, the only remedy was sleep, and succumbing to it felt like a weakness.

When he realized he had been staring at the same word for two minutes straight, he decided tonight he was just going to have to admit defeat and go to sleep.

He rolled over and grabbed the piece of toilet paper he was using as a bookmark from the desk. After marking his spot, he pulled the covers all the way over his chest before realizing that he was still in his jeans and t shirt.

“Dammit” He hissed, jerking the covers off half angrily half sleepily, and stumbling to his dresser.

He pulled his shirt sloppily over his head and simply let his jeans fall off his waist. They were about two sizes too big, and once he took his belt off they just slid right off him. They were also the only pair of Jeans he owned, so other than that is was dress pants and khakis. He shoved his grey t shirt into the laundry basket next to his dresser and put his jeans away.

He grabbed a black t shirt and pulled it on, almost jumping into bed because he only had boxers and a t shirt on and it was cold in his room.

Cas made the blankets into a cocoon around his, tucking his hands under his chest and lying on his stomach. He had picked up that habit from when he was 7 years old, and scared of the supposed “monster under his bed” the mean kids at school talked about. He had learned not to keep his hands out, or the monster would grab them and drag him under to eat him slowly starting with his toes and finishing with his hair. So he tucked his hands under himself every night, and pulled the blankets under his feet just to make sure the monster couldn’t grab those too.

Needless to say, he didn’t believe in that monster now. But the habit stuck.

He settled into his blankets and fell asleep thinking about getting his cast off, and trying not to think about his father coming home.

_________________

 

He ate his lunch in the library again, not reading anything. He was staring off into space, not thinking about anything either. He wasn’t really tasting the food, but he knew it was a pbj. He had made it for himself this morning.

He was snapped back into reality as a backpack almost slammed onto the tabletop across from him. He jumped so hard he bumped his elbow on the table and gasped, looking at the newcomer accusingly and a little fearfully.

The person in question was a girl, one he had seen around school but never spoke to. She had brown hair and wore a lot of button down shirts with ties, and her name was Naomi. “Hi Castiel!” She said brightly.

He looked at her weirdly, not really trusting the friendly tone in her voice. No one spoke to him, this seemed a little off. “Hello…?” He answered awkwardly, making the greeting more of a question.

“Can I sit here?” She asked, pointing to the chair she had parked her black backpack in front of. Castiel gave a hesitant nod. She skooted the chair back and sat right in front of him, with her hands folded leisurely on the table.

“So….How are you?” Castiel asked haltingly.

“I’m good. How are you Castiel?” She asked, still with a bright tone that just projected friendship into the air. It seemed very very wrong.

“I’m ok. Is there anything you wanted?” She wasn’t part of the knights of hell as far as he knew, but they were always picking up new toadies and recruits, thought they never lasted long.

“Oh, I just wanted to tell you that I need help with something down by my locker.” She stated, looking him straight in the eye.

Cas gulped. Down by her locker? This was a trap, blaring in neon letters a blind man couldn’t miss. “Uh-what exactly is the problem?” Came out of his mouth before he could stop it.

“It’s jammed, and I can’t get it open. But I heard you’re good at getting them open, so I’m just asking for help. Just for a few minutes.” She assured him.

He didn’t trust her one bit. He couldn’t, even though the story seemed true enough. Everybody bullied him into opening lockers for them, ever since he had revealed in junior year that he could pick locks like an escaped convict. It was a skill learned from when he read crime novels, and his mother shut him in closets when he bothered her too much. He could go along with Naomi’s story, but he would have to be on the lookout for any flying fists or Knights of Hell.
“How can I be sure you’re not just going to drag me into a trap?” He asked lightly, putting down his pbj. She looked taken aback. If this was all acting, she was destined for hollywood.

“Oh I’m not! I would never do that to you! I just want some help with my locker, Cas, I swear.” Her eyes were wide with what seemed like honesty.

“Don’t call me Cas.” He barked. He didn’t like it when people gave him nicknames. They could call him Castiel, that was it. His expression was icy.

“Ok, ok.” She conceded, throwing her hands up in what seemed like defeat. “But can I have help before lunch is over?”

Cas thought it over. If she was lying, he would probably get jumped in the hallway and end up with his face in a toilet, new bruises on his skin. Then he would never speak to Naomi again, and his lesson would be learned. But if she wasn’t lying, then he would have come off as a jerk and a coward for being too afraid to help a girl with her locker. One more thing for the knights of hell to taunt him about. What the hell, he decided, and started packing up his lunch.

Naomi’s face lit up again. “Will you help me?”

“Yes. Lead the way.” He said with nervousness concealed in his voice.

She almost skipped out of the library, and he felt his mood shifting downwards as he got more and more annoyed by her happiness. And suspicious. He was very suspicious.

She led him down the empty hall in almost-silence, with her making little comments along the way about how much school sucked and how she was failing in math and all the usual student gripes and grumbles.

He plotted along after her, in complete silence. He would look like a coward if he didn't help her, but he didn’t care about looking like a jerk. He didn’t answer when she asked him questions, preferring to make it a one sided conversation. She stopped asking him things after the third try, but didn’t seem sad about it.

When they finally stopped in front of a locker, she smiled at him and said, “Well this is it. It won’t open.”

He stepped forward and tried to open the door. It swung open easily, without a sound, and his eyes just managed to widen for a second before a hand slammed onto the back of his head and knocked it hard against a locker, making stars burts in front of his eyes. He cried out in surprise and pain, stumbling into the lockers when the hand moved down to his back and pushed him into the metal.

He heard familiar laughs and sneers and mentally groaned and slapped himself. Of course you fool how could you trust Naomi no one is actually nice to you. That should have been your warning!

“Thanks Naomi! You were great!” Alistar.

“Anytime, boys. Now pay up.” Castiel heard the faint sound of coins clinking and paper money shifting.

Cas had fallen gracelessly to the floor, where he sat glaring up at whoever he could make eye contact with.

This hadn’t been the first time they had payed someone to lure him in, of course. He was like a fish, and the hook always seemed to be scraping at his throat. They could reel him in any time they wanted, for less than twenty dollars.

Azazel, Alistar, Uriel and Dean looked around him, with their backpacks dropped on the floor a few feet away. Dean was standing closest to him, with his green eyes hard and mocking. Alistar and Azazel stood right across from him about a foot from his legs, and they had their arms crossed in a twin gesture of hostility. Uriel was standing farther away at his other side with a ridiculous looking evil-villain type expression on his face, like he was trying to look mean and menacing but failing. Cas had the urge to laugh at it, but that urge soon passed when Azazel started moving forward.

Castiel started getting up as fast as he could, using the locker behind him for purchase as he shot up. He hated sitting down while they stood, it made him feel like an ant with a boot poised above his head, ready to smash him into bits.

“P-please just let me go to class.” He said softly, looking straight into Dean’s cold eyes. He always felt like maybe, just maybe Dean would be the one to let him go. Dean was famous for being the loving older brother of a freshmen Sam, and Castiel always felt like that gave Dean more humanity than only-child Azazel and Alistar. But he was always wrong.

Dean just laughed. Castiel’s face fell from his glare for just a second, before he fixed it back. He knew it wouldn’t work, but he still felt crestfallen.

“We’re just getting started!” Azazel teased, ever the leader of their little group.

“Honestly, I’m surprised you never learn that that never works! Letting you go right after we got you alone? Where’s the fun in that?” Dean sneered, and Castiel thought about just how many times they seemed to manage to get him alone. He should be on guard for that more.

The others in the group laughed and agreed with Dean, Uriel looking nervously at the clock while they did. It was getting dangerously close to the end of lunch. Then the hallway would be swarmed with students, and Teachers returning from lunch breaks and bathroom trips.

Castiel was leaning against the lockers, trying to be as far away from them as he could, but it was a small comfort. He saw Uriel looking at the clock and took a chance.

“It’s not worth it to be caught,” Castiel pleaded weakly, “It’s not worth Detention to beat me up. I’m nothing, and I’ll be here tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.”

Dean and Alistair opened their mouths to say something and Azazel took a step forward. Uriel was close to Azazel’s side, which left a huge gap in the circle. Castiel took his chance, and threw himself from the locker, sprinting through the gap as Uriel started to move sluggishly and the others started yelling.

He was running fast, not caring if other people saw him. He almost made it around a bend to the library when a hand clamped down on the back of his shirt, making him emit an involuntary choking sound. He threw his hands up and tried to keep running and dislodge the grip on his clothes but the person tackled him and he felt his body slam into the cold linoleum.

Dean stared at him with his amused green eyes, smiling a little and panting from the run. Castiel felt the ache in his body and fought for breath because Dean was practically sitting on his chest.

Dean leaned in close and grabbed his jaw with one hand. “That was fun. Thank you, for that exercise.” He smiled a bit more, and then his expression turned serious. “But if you try that again, I will stuff you into a locker, and make sure no one lets you out until you’re hoarse from screaming for help. You got me?” His eyebrows quirked a bit, but he didn’t look like he was joking.

Castiel nodded and gulped, partly because his chest was burning. Dean gave Cas’s cheek a quick pat, and slid gracefully off him. Cas sat up immediately, grateful for the air flooding into his lungs. Dean walked back to Alistair and Azazel, and they walked past Castiel shooting righteous looks of disdain at him. Alistair kicked him hard in the leg, and he sucked in a breath quickly to try and keep his eyes from welling up.

He stood up only after their voices started fading, and just in time because lunch was over. The bell rang loudly, and students started slowly trickling from the cafeteria.

Cas mentally groaned as he realized his next class was on the other side of the building, and he still needed to get his backpack from the library and pick up books from his locker. He dusted himself off, and started heading to the library ignoring his dully aching leg and pounding head.

______________________

 

When he got home, there was someone else in the house. He closed the door, and then paused for a moment of alarm as he heard the vacuum going. That simple sound set off alarm bells in his head, because his mother never used the vacuum. He kept his backpack on, and padded to the living room, trying to keep quiet even though there wasn’t a very high chance it was a robber in their living room. What kind of criminal vacuumed the floors after he was done?

Castiel still reached into his backpack and grabbed his emergency pocket knife just in case.

He entered the living room, doing his best be quiet, to find a short, white middle-aged woman vacuuming his living room rug. She wore a light blue plain dress, and her hair was done up in a graying perm. There was a bucket of cleaning supplies sitting near the couch, and she was listening to earbuds while dragging their hulking car of a vacuum across black shag.

He stood there about 40 seconds, while she ignored him, before it clicked. A cleaning lady, to get the house ready for his father. There was no way in a million years that his mother would get anything done if she tried to clean, so she often played older (often grandma-looking) woman to do it for her. They cleaned the entire house, top to bottom except for Castiel’s room, which she made him do himself. Something about it being ‘His mess, and he should be the one to clean it up’. His room was never messy, but he didn’t point that out.

Instead of bothering the cleaning lady, who was deeply concentrated on the handle of the device, Castiel creaked up the stairs to his room and dropped off his backpack. He had some homework but that could wait until later at night, after the cleaning lady left and he had his house to himself. It wasn’t that big of a breach in his privacy, but he never felt like doing things when other people were around. Maybe he got that from school.

He rubbed a spot on the back of his head, and it stung. He must have gotten some of the skin scraped off, but he couldn’t really feel what had happened beyond stings and a raw sensation. When one of the knights of hell had banged his head into the locker his must have hit the padlock pretty hard, because it hadn’t stopped hurting throughout the rest of the school day.

He had gotten away before they had time to graffiti his cast again, which was good because his marker was running out of ink and he would have to find a better way to cover up the pictures, and soon. They probably had a different colour sharpie for when they black covered the entire surface and they had nowhere else to draw. Thank goodness he was getting his cast off tomorrow.

Trying to rub away a looming headache, Cas tried to ignore the loud vacuum sounds coming from downstairs and started looking around for his old laptop.

He picked up his pillows on his bed, checked his closet twice and looked through his shelf once before he finally found the ancient machine. He blew the dust of the front of it, like an archeologist in an Indiana Jones movie blowing the dust off some ancient artifact.

His laptop was black, a 2004 hp that hardly ever worked and shut down if you let it run 20 minutes without the plug attached. It was slow, with hardly any internet connection, and you couldn’t have more than two tabs open at the same time or the crappy wifi would stop working all together. It was his father’s old laptop, and Castiel had fished it out of the garbage one night when his mother and father were at a charity ball. He had kept it a secret ever since, knowing his mother would throw it away the moment she found him hiding it, and his father would beat him for not asking permission. Castiel had kept it a secret for a year.

He mainly used to it to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, since he didn’t have the Netflix password and his mother used the TV a lot. It wasn’t good for much else, besides checking his barron email that in the absence of friends, contained only stiff messages from his father and mother. And even those weren't very many.
Castiel placed the computer on his bed carefully, and attached it to it’s charger so it wouldn’t poop out on him. Then he walked to his shelf and browsed the seasons of Buffy The Vampire SLayer, before settling on season 7. He held the cardboard box in his hands, reading the list of episodes it had and frowning a little. He finally decided on the last episode of the series, because he felt like he needed to be sadder for some reason.

He tossed the box of DVDs onto his bed and settled himself down beside the computer, carefully lifting the top and powering it on. It took 5 minutes before he trusted that it wouldn’t shut down the minute he put the DVD in (He had done that before, and had to wait days to get the DVD out of the computer).

When the title appeared on screen and the music started playing, he sat back against his headboard and watched raptly as the dramatic episode unfolded. No matter how many times he watched it, he never got tired. Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles were always there with witty things to say and bad guys to dismember. Dependable. Right now, far too little good things aren't dependable in Castiel’s life, and far too many bad ones were. Like the knights of hell torturing him, or his mother ignoring him, or his father being abusive. Castiel snapped himself out of his thoughts quickly before he ruined his time to watch TV.

_________

In the end, Castiel had given up trying to watch Buffy because 1) The vacuuming downstairs was drowning out the sound from his computer’s weak speakers, and 2) His computer quit halfway through the episode and he didn’t feel like restarting it.

He heard his mother come home while he was putting away the Buffy DVD, the door slammed open thunderously and her high heels clicked across their wood floorboards dangerously. Castiel raised his eyebrows to himself, surprised that she was out of the house. But she did have to make herself look presentable when his father came home (which normally took a few days) so maybe she had gone to the salon or someplace similar to beautify herself. Suddenly he heard yelling coming from downstairs, and jumped when he heard a sharp crash coming from the living room. The front door opened and closed, and all the while his mother was yelling curses at whoever had walked through it. The vacuuming had stopped, and Castiel guessed that the cleaning lady had just vacated the premises.

Cas felt his heart beat out of his chest as his mother’s footsteps suddenly clacked up the stairs, and she threw open the door to his room wearing a scowl big on her face. Castiel’s expression was close to fear, more surprised because she had thrown his door open so hard it had hit the wall with a sharp thud. She did that a lot but it never seemed to fail at surprising Castiel.

She had her hair cut a bit shorter, and fluffy too. She looked like she had showered while he was at school, and had a nice outfit on. But she marched in and grabbed Castiel by the arm, dragging him out and snarling, “That idiot woman couldn’t follow instructions. I told her, sweep the floor and vacuum the rug but she didn’t listen, and now I’ve got scratch marks all up the floor.” She marched Castiel down the stairs and hissed at him, “But I don’t have time to get another cleaner, so you’ll have to make do. Sweep the floor, vacuum the rug, dust the shelves, clean the windows, and anything else that needs doing.” She slapped a broom into his hand and swept back up the stairs again. “And make it quick!” she called down, before slamming her bedroom door shut.

Castiel stood only a moment before he started to pick up the broom. His mother had neglected to realize that currently one of his arms was immobile and inflexible, so it would be practically impossible to sweep well. Cas sighed and resigned himself to the fact that he would get scolded when she got home for doing a bad job sweeping.

He awkwardly maneuvered the broom so that the handle was resting on his cast, and his other hand was moving it to round the dirt up off the floor. He brushed it across the boards in short slow sweeps. It wasn’t so unusual, being forced to clean, but normally not the before-clean when his father was coming home. His mother didn’t trust him enough normally to clean the house well enough. And if she ended up alienating the cleaning lady, (which she normally did) then she would just hire another. Castiel started wondering why she wouldn't just hire another one this time. Maybe we’re running out of money? Pfft, we have so much we couldn’t run out if we tried. He though, a little bit bitterly. He knew that most kids at school hated his for his money, and while it was what was paying the bills and feeding him, he resented it.

When Cas finished sweeping, and brushed any leftover dirt that he couldn’t pick up under the couch, he went to the kitchen and grabbed a rag from under the sink. He got it wet and proceeded to wipe down the couch in front of the Tv, even though it was only dusty. When he was done wiping off the living room, he moved on to the dining room and wiped down the table and chairs. After that he swept the dining room, easier this time because it was smaller and they didn’t eat in there very much when their father wasn’t home.

When he finished doing that, he walked back into the living room and turned on the vacuum from where it was sitting on the hardwood floor, and vacuumed the rug. He did all this with a blank look on his face, not really watching as he dragged the vacuum back and forth and back and forth. He wasn’t mad about being made to clean, because if he wasn’t going to do it, who was? He didn’t want his father to come home to a dirty house, because that could end terribly for everyone. It had been a while since the last big punishment, but it had stuck in Castiel’s mind well enough. He shuddered a little as he remembered the hunger, gnawing and clawing at his stomach and torso. It wasn’t an experience he wanted to repeat.

Chapter Text

That night Castiel curled up in bed over his books, eyes faintly scratchy from reading for hours. It was around 12:30, and he had gotten into bed and started reading at 10.

He rubbed his eyes, yawning at the same time. He was wearing a pair of ratty threadbare pajama pants he had had since his freshmen year of highschool, and they rested just above the tops of his ankles when he stood up. A grey t shirt went on top of those, and both those articles of clothing were hidden out of sight beneath the old comforter curled around Castiel.

Castiel had been reading for a while, listening to his mother clang and bang around downstairs. She had gotten after him for doing a bad job sweeping, and found a couple other things to be mad about too. He had walked away from her with a slap and several yelled words.

He hadn’t eaten anything for dinner, but he didn’t really mind. His stomach felt mildly hollow but it wasn’t growling, and he had a ways to go before it was painful. He had a tolerance for hunger, one he had built up over the years. Not that he didn’t eat every day, but often enough to learn to get used to it.

Tomorrow was tuesday, and he was getting his cast off at 12:30. He couldn’t wait, excitement made shivers go down his spine. He was skipping school tomorrow to go to the doctor’s though he wasn’t sure it was called skipping if you had permission. He was grateful that he didn’t have to suffer through another day bearing the handicap. The hunk of plaster on his arm was horrible now, covered in sharpies that threw their fumes into his face and obscene comments and pictures. Getting it off him would be getting weight off his back, he would stop having to hide his arm every day after school. The thought of it made him smile, even as he read line after line of letters in his book.

Out of the spring sounds wafting in through his open window, he started hearing voices. They varied in pitch, yells and and laughs that sounded male. There was also a playful shriek that was definitely made by a girl, and though the voice were laughing Cas couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy. He put his book cover up on the bed next to him, and slowly sat up, careful not to make his old bed creak. He swung his legs over and gently rested his feet on the floor, then put his weight behind them and stood slowly. He walked over to the window and peered out, but the house was facing the wrong way and he couldn't see the people making the noise. He had a strange suspicion that it was people from his school, but he couldn’t be sure. He didn’t even know why he cared, but he had to see the people to make sure they weren’t causing trouble. The yells and shouts were getting closer and louder, Cas was pretty sure someone on his block was going to call the police to complain. Something was thrown with a clang, and he jumped. It sounded metal, maybe a beer can.

He padded to the door and opened it almost soundlessly, the bottom of it brushing the floor lightly. He stepped out into the hall, not closing the door but turning off the light because he wasn’t sure if his mother was in bed or not, but if she walked by the door she wouldn’t look in unless the light was on. Then she would usually yell at him to go to bed, and not leave until he had turned out the lights and was under covers.

He glanced at her door down the hall, and was relieved to see it closed. She was sleeping then, which meant she wouldn’t come home in the middle of the afternoon with a wicked hangover and a thunderstorm of a bad mood. He crept down the stairs, which thankfully were fairly new and didn’t creak.

All of this took about a minute, and the voices still were getting louder. The people walking must be really slow, or really loud. Castiel cleared the stairs and tiptoed to the front door, unlocking the deadbolt and tugging it open with his cast braced against the jam to lean on. The voices leaked inside the house, laughs and shouts and teasingly fearful shrieks from the one woman. Castiel poked his head out, listening and straining his eyes to adjust in the dark. He caught view of a figure walking backwards in the night, and shrank back into the house a little so they wouldn’t see his head. Other silhouette materialized into people, with glass bottles that gleamed in the porch lights of the houses opposite him. He watched as Azazel, Alistar, a girl named Meg, a boy named Dick and Dean Winchester pranced along, and he watched as Winchester took a long drink from a bottle of beer he wasn’t legally allowed to have in his hand. Azazel had meg tucked under his arm, and as he watched he leaned down and said something into her ear, which made her let out a peal of laughter and hit him in the arm. Castiel watched them from the shadows, not visible because their porch light wasn’t on and his porch was thrown in shadow from trees on either side of the house. He stared in silence until he heard someone shout “Hey, isn’t that Richkid Novak’s house?”

He shrank back, heart beating in his chest hard as the others laughed and confirmed the first voices query. “How about we leave him a little gift?” He heard Winchester announced. He slowly stuck his head back inside, and inched the door sut soundlessly, feeling a little sick to his stomach.

He could still hear them talking through the open window, and flinched hard as he heard a glass bottle shatter against the porch, and liquid, (probably beer) splashed against the side of the house. There were several more crashes, and he jumped at all of them. Outside, they were very amused by the vandalization, with raucous laughter blasting through the night air. Castiel headed upstairs when he heard the group responding to a neighbor who had started telling them off.

He closed his door less carefully than before, a bit mad that he would have to clean up the mess the Knights of Hell had made in the morning before getting his cast off. It made no sense to leave it until his mother woke up, and put her in a bad mood. She was his ride to the hospital, and he didn’t really want to forfeit that just so he could sleep in.

He climbed into bed, and not really feeling like reading, he bookmarked his book and pulled out his journal. He grabbed his pen and riffled through the pages until he found the right one. He began writing.

Monday, May

Today was mostly fine. I had a scare at school from Winchester, but I got out of it mostly unscathed. I am driving to the hospital to get my cast off tomorrow, which I cannot wait for. Tonight Azazel and Winchester and some of their friends smashed beer bottles on the house. I will have to clean it up tomorrow before mother wakes.

Feeling: Excited, scared and angry

Castiel clicked the pen closed, and put the journal away quickly, sleep tugging at his eyelids and making his limbs fill with mortar. He turned the light off and wrapped himself up in blankets, cocoon-like and comfortable. He thought about ways to get the inevitable beer-smell off the side of the house before his father came home.

 

_______________

 

Castiel woke up suddenly at 7, like his body knew he had to wake at a specific time. He sat up right away, not giving his eyes time to sag with sleep again. He hated sleeping for longer times than he meant to, it always threw him off.

He walked to the bathroom and wrapped a waiting ziplock baggie around his cast before turning on the shower and stepping inside. He kept a few of them on the counter. He went through the usual motions, shampooing his hair, conditioning his hair and rinsing. He washed his body and turned off the water, not lingering for a second longer than he had to. Excitement sparked in his stomach as he thought about getting his cast off, and as he dried off his mop of almost black hair he smiled a bit. It stretched across his lips strangely, the expression foreign on his mostly stoic face.

He walked out to his room, looking at his mother’s door, which would be closed until she woke up at 10:30. At least Cas hoped she would wake at 10:30, he dreaded the thought of waking her himself to do something for him. But if he had to do it to get to the hospital in time, he would.

In his room he threw on some clothes, a dark tee shirt and jeans for cleaning up the beer spilled on the outside of the house. He would change into something better when he came inside.

He walked down to the kitchen and grabbed a rag from under the sink, getting it wet and ringing it out over the sink. Then he grabbed the old blue bucket they also kept under the sink, and stepped outside.

The morning was crisp, and it was still gaining light. He breathed in deeply, counting on the clean spring air to wake him up fully. He stepped more onto the porch, and surveyed the damage from last night.

Smashed brown glass littered the ground and the floor of the porch, and the beer, long dried carried a scent over the air. The sweet smell made Castiel a bit angry, partly because the teenagers drinking it were breaking the law, but mainly because they had made such a mess on someone else’s house, and they weren’t going to get any consequences for it. His house.

He kneeled and started picking up glass with one hand, dropping it into the bucket beside him with a loud clink. He did this until most of the bigger shards were picked up, and then grabbed his rag and started wiping down the side of the house. He wiped until the porch nearest the front door was clear, then he moved off the porch and wiped wherever he spied glass below.

Satisfied with his job, he stopped wiping and brought the bucket off the porch and in between the hostas planted around his house. Then he started picking up the brown shards there, careful not to knick his fingers. Cas braced his cast against the side of the house when he lost balance, not wanting to fall in the dirt.

Even though it was only about room temperature outside, Sweat gathered on Castiel’s brow, turning cool as he worked and sliding down his face. He wiped at it impatiently with his arm, annoyed because he hated sweating and tried to avoid it where he could.

He continued picking up mahogany shards until he couldn’t find any more, and then walked back to the porch with the bucket and grabbed the outside broom he kept leaning against a wall. He swept any remaining pieces off into the dirt of their front yard, and put the broom away after.

After puzzling a moment about where he should put the glass shards, The trash can inside, or the bigger one outside? He dumped it into the bigger one around the shadowy side of the house. The clattering of the contents might have woken his mother inside, and he didn’t want to risk her bad mood.

Inside, he put the bucket back under the sink after rinsing it with one hand (so he wouldn’t get his cast wet) and he threw the now dirty and alcohol-smelling rag down the stairs at the back of the kitchen into the basement where the laundry room was. He would wash a load later, after he got his cast off so he would be able to handle the wet clothes without covering the black plaster.

 

He glanced at the digital clock on the stove and saw it was 8, which meant he had two hours to kill until his mother woke up from her seemingly eternal slumber. But luckily, he had a source of entertainment to fill that time gap quite adequately.

He walked into the living room and flopped onto the couch, grabbing the remote with his good arm and flicking the TV on. He had two hours before his mother woke up, and he would have to abandon ship and make her breakfast. But he could watch Doctor Who until then.

Cas pulled up Netflix, scrolling quickly down until he found the “continue watching” list and clicked Doctor Who. He nervously looked at the stairs and turned down the volume until he could barely hear the british accents issuing from the TV. She sleeps like the dead, He gritted his teeth and told himself, you can turn it up you idiot you don’t have to read their lips.

He was engrossed in it from the moment the theme song wheezed out, and he watched the TARDIS whorle through the time vortex on screen. He rubbed his eyes, thinking about what would happen if Winchester and the other knights found out he was watching such a “Nerdy” show. They could make him eat a calculator and he wouldn’t be able to fight back, he was that weak. His mood shifted lower as he realized exactly how much power they had over him.

_____________

Cas looked at a clock on the wall, and mentally kicked himself when he saw it was already 10:20, and he hadn’t made his mother breakfast yet. He always made her eggs and sometimes bacon, topped off with a mug of coffee. He had gotten several rebuttals before for not putting the correct amount of sugar in the coffee for her, so he usually made a point to dump two heaping spoonfuls of sugar into her mug. It had to taste like cavities in a cup, but she didn’t scold him for it.

Castiel paused the TV reluctantly, before turning it off because his mother got up in 10 minutes and there was no way he would be able to watch TV with her in the room. She would either turn it to something she liked, (like Dance moms or Hell’s kitchen) or she would turn off the TV and hide the remote so that he couldn’t watch anything.

In the kitchen, he grabbed a skillet from a low cupboard and set it on the stove. He flicked on the burner and turned it to “4” instinctually, then whirled around and grabbed two eggs from the large silver refrigerator. Cas snatched a bowl from the cupboard above the sink and cracked the eggs into it, throwing the shells into the garbage and grabbing a fork.

Castiel whisked the eggs with a mute expression, eyes not really watching what he was doing because he had done it so many times before. He rushed a little because he had such a small amount of time to get the eggs cooked and coffee brewed, but otherwise this felt perfectly normal. His mother probably had never made him breakfast in her life. Sometimes other meals, but never the first of the day.

Grabbing a stick of butter from the fridge, he cut off about half an inch and dropped it in the now hot pan, tilting it a little so that the quickly melting stuff spread throughout the pan. He turned to the coffee pot sitting at the end of the counter and started filling the pot with water, going through the normal measurements and requirements.

When he had the coffee going he turned back to the pan and poured the beaten eggs into it, grabbing a green rubber spatula from a drawer and prodding it. The heat of the pan almost burned the eggs, and certainly would ruin them if he turned his back on them for any amount of time. Idiot, you should have watched the pan better. You know better than this. He mentally scolded himself, since there was no one else around to do it for him.

The eggs were done very quickly, and he scraped them onto a plate quickly and grabbed a fork from the silverware drawer. Then he put the plate onto the table in the living room, where his mother ate when his father wasn’t home and she didn’t feel like eating in front of the TV.

By then the coffee was done, and he could hear the movement upstairs that announced his mother’s consciousness. He hurriedly poured cream into the dark brown liquid, and turned it tan like she liked. He quickly dumped sugar into it from the black glass sugar bowl they had, and carried the mug of energy out to the table and set it beside her breakfast.

And right on queue, Castiel’s mother’s footsteps sounded on the stairs, and she descended with a case of bedhead in a big bad way, and a robe wrapped around her that she was still tying. She glared at him, then fixed her gaze on the food on the table and loitered to it, not looking at Castiel again. Castiel fixed his gaze to the floor, furrowing his eyebrows in vexation. She never thanked him, and no matter how many times he had made her breakfast it always stung a bit that he had done all of it for her time and time again and he never even got a “Thanks” muttered out the side of her mouth. Not anything new.

Castiel watched her stare at the wall while eating, running one hand up the back of his head in anxiety that hit him all of a sudden like a truck. “So,” He started, then he cleared his throat nervously and continued after a moment. “At 11:40 we have to go to the hospital to get the-my-the cast off.” He stammered a little, a blush flushing his cheeks. She didn’t look at him.

“It’s probably only going to take about an hour, you will maybe have to sign some paperwork but-but that’s it I think, and then you only have to be there, I think while I-”

“Stop talking.” She hissed before picking up her coffee and taking a small sip. “These eggs are burnt and the coffee is too hot.”

Castiel stood awkwardly, not really knowing what to say. “Sorry…” He ventured, and she sighed dramatically.

He stood there for about a minute fiddling with his hands, before he realized he was still wearing his work clothes for outside and could go upstairs to change and escape from the awkward situation.

“I- I’m just going to go…” he pointed at the stairs despite the fact that his mother was looking at the wall again, and mumbled the word ‘change’ as he turned and bolted up the stairs.

In his room, he shed his shirt and skipped the shower because she would probably want to shower and get dressed very soon. He unbuttoned his jeans and let them drop, then riffled through his drawers before he found a pair of black slacks, and white T-shirt and a white button up dress shirt which he rolled up one sleeve of to accommodate his cast. He grabbed a tie from his sock drawer which was a home for things from socks to school assignments for safe keeping, and pulled on a pair of black socks. He put on the pants and white T-shirt, then buttoned the next shirt on top and smoothed it down. He draped the tie around his neck and tied it on autopilot, staring at his ‘Angel’ funko pop sitting on his shelf while he did it. He shrugged on a black jacket, and since he didn’t have a mirror in his room, he had to just assume he didn’t have anything hideous on him and went back downstairs.

As he walked out his door, he stopped as he saw his mother walk into her room, presumably to get her stuff for her shower. She glowered at him as she passed, and the moment she was gone he released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

Down the stairs, into the living room he walked grabbed his mother’s dishes absent mindedly as he went to the kitchen, and placed them carefully into the sink so that they wouldn’t break, as they had done before when he hadn’t been careful enough. That accident took place when his father was in kitchen, and he made sure Castiel never forgot to be careful. His father was on a whole nother level than his mother when it came to punishments, and Castiel lived in fear of screwing up in front of him.

There had been days when Castiel’s father was home, where he hadn’t eaten a crumb, or was locked in his room for hours because he was being too loud, or he wasn’t aloud to go outside on the weekend because he hadn’t gotten a perfect score on a test. His father didn't care about Castiel beyond his wrongdoings, or how much money it took to maintain him (an interest both his father and his mother shared) And even then he didn’t get the stuff he needed. Once he had been sick with the flu, in bed all day with a fever and they hadn’t done anything besides yell at him to clean up when he accidentally vomited in the living room. He had been so ill that time, he thought he was going to die and his father would cover it up like he was a pesky family pet he had been waiting to be rid of.

Castiel stood at the kitchen sink, staring at the wall opposite it and thinking about one horrible night when his father had found him stealing food from the fridge to eat in his room, and he had beat him so hard with his belt he had welts on his back for days after the punishment. He had been so scared, when his father found him tearing hungrily through the fridge he hadn’t even fought back, just screamed and took it, until his father had harshly told him he wouldn’t eat more than stale bread for a week if he continued making so much noise.

Castiel wasn’t sure how his father’s company didn’t know more about his home life. Zacharia was fairly famous, enough to be in the tabloids and newspapers, but there had never been a scandal and Castiel wasn’t even sure if the world new Zacharia Novak had a son. The kids at school certainly knew, his whole hometown seemed to know, but no one on the outside. He wondered if there would be a scandal if someone found out that Zacharia beat his kid so bad he couldn’t stand up straight sometimes.

He snapped out of his reverie when his knee bumped against the cabinets under the sinks, making his startle. He scared quite easily, even though he would have thought due to all the fear in his daily life he might have built up a resistance.

Cas swallowed, and felt the tight dryness in his throat left behind after thinking of those horrible times with his father. He filled a pristine glass with water and chugged it down before the dry feeling could get any worse, and refilled the glass again. Carrying it in his hand, he walked over to the calendar magnetized to the fridge, and stared at Wednesday of that week, a dark anticipation blooming in his chest. The words Zacharia home printed in his mother’s messy scrawl on the white block made him uneasy, no matter if he was getting his cast off before. Though he was very grateful he was disposing of the handicap, for he had a feeling he would feel weaker in his father’s presence with it on.

He glanced at the clock; 11:20. 20 more minutes and hopefully he would be in the car with his mother, driving to the hospital to get the wretched once-blue-now-black plaster off, and feel the wind on the skin of his arm for the first time in a month and a half. His mood shifted upwards, thinking about flexing his elbow and carrying more books and being able to use both hands to make the landing softer when people shoved him over at school…

Castiel’s ears perked as he heard the shower upstairs turn off and the shower curtain ripped back on the metal rod it hung on. His mother was out of the shower, and she normally took 10 minutes to get dressed, and they would be pushing it but they would probably be on time at the hospital. Castiel didn’t want to piss off their nurses or doctor by being late, but he couldn’t exactly rush the one driving him there so they would just have to be patient if worst came to worst.

__________

In the car, Castiel sat with his hands in his lap, staring out at the rapidly passing scenery as his mother drove too far past the speed limit. His father didn't like it when she got tickets, (Scratch that, he hated it. The last time she got a ticket Castiel had to cover his ears to dull the sound of his father’s yelling blasting through the house) but she still sped across roads like she owned them. Castiel had warned her to slow down a few times, but he decided not to risk dying in a fiery crash because she had to turn so far to slap him to tell her off for going a few miles over the limit.

His mother stared straight at the road, her music playing loudly through the car. Something Castiel didn’t recognize, but he strongly suspected was a Miley Cyrus song was currently oozing through the speakers. Castiel watched as they passed the high school, and winced when he caught a glimpse of the athletic boys playing out on the field. Dean and Azazel were probably there, inflicting their presence on the other less popular boys who crowded around them like pigeons to a piece of bread.

When they pulled up to the hospital, Castiel waited an uncertain amount of time for his mother to start getting out of the car. She sat there staring out of the window for what seemed like ages, before she finally unbuckled her seatbelt and slung her legs out of her door. They walked inside and checked in at the desk, and Castiel could feel a nervous excitement brewing in his chest. He couldn’t wait to get the damn cast off.

 

_____________

Dean picked at his lunch, a tupperware half full of last night’s macaroni and cheese, something he hoped his dad didn’t want to eat because he had dished out the last of it to Sam and him for that day’s lunch. He knew Sam didn’t like macaroni that much, but they didn’t have many other options.

He searched the cafeteria with lazy eyes, half listening to the conversation Azazel and a boy named Raphael were having about the rights Raphael’s sandwich packed for him for lunch. Azazel seemed to have quite the appetite today, and was forcing anyone not a senior to give him their lunch. With exception of Dean and Alistair, of course. And Castiel didn’t seem to be here today, which struck a little match of worry in Dean’s stomach that he quickly doused. Probably going off on some trip to an exotic island or something.Castiel had missed days before, stretching into long periods of time. He came back quieter than he had been before, like he knew that he was going to be punished extra for the loss of time. Dean didn't know how he knew, and he wanted to forget it, just like he wanted to forget how he noticed that Castiel always looked paler and thinner after days off from school. But he also never got in trouble for skipping so many days, which set Dean’s brain on fire. He would get in major shit if he missed even two days to take care of Sam when he was sick, or deal with his father.

He shoved more cold mac and cheese into his mouth, wishing he was eating anything else. Mac and cheese was cheap though, and their cupboards were full of it. Dean knew that he should be grateful they had food what with their poor state, but Sam was a growing boy and he needed some variety.

A fist slammed into his shoulder, bringing him solidly back to earth. “Watch it Al.” He grumbled, and he sensed Alistar snickering at the grumpy expression he had plastered across his face.

“What’s got you so crotchety?” Azazel asked in a peevish voice, casting Dean;s mood lower. He was not emotionally prepared right now to deal with Azazel acting like a seven year old.

“No one can look at your face for this long without there being side effects.” He grumbled, giving up on the mac and cheese and putting the lid on the container. He shoved it into his backpack by his feet, hearing Azazel scoff and Alistair snort. Uriel let out a braying laugh that grated worse against Dean’s nerves.

“Oh come one Deanie, lighten up.” Azazel laughed. “The blue eyed bitch boy might be gone, but you don’t have to take out your righteous anger on me.”

“Don’t call me Deanie, you ass.” Dean growled, glowering at the table. For some reason it rubbed him the wrong way that Azazel automatically assumed that Castiel was the reason he was in such a bad mood.

“Ooooh, that hurt. What else could I call you then?” Azazel waited for an answer, chin resting in his hand. But Dean just grabbed his backpack and started rustling through it for a piece of stolen gum.

He finally murmured “Screw you.” In a detached voice, not listening to the other’s responses. He waited until the bell rang to get stand gracefully from his seat and straide to the door, watching the smaller teenagers cleave a pat through the crowd to let him by.

Once he cleared the door he walked until he came across his locker and slammed it open, steaming from the ears. Not literally, of course.

That had been a lame exit, and he knew it. But sometimes you just don’t have the brainpower to come up with a good insult. He could’ve always started a fight, thrown the first punch. He had wanted to, but the last time he had done that there had been hell to pay when he got home. A drunk, angry john Winchester was not something Dean liked to deal with. Ever. Especially is sam is home to see the mess his dad was. But Dean always made Sam leave if John started hitting.

He closed and locked his locker, turning around and scanning the hallway to see if Novak might be there for him to beat on. Those feelings, the remorseful one he had been feeling about the nerdy richdick? Screw ‘em. Right now he needed something to hit, and there was nothing that made him happier than making that kid bleed.

But he couldn’t find the black hair and pale face in the crowd, and gave up when he saw one of his other play toys walking fearfully down the hall.

Dean grabbed Sully and slammed him against the wall of lockers, and grinned when Sully groaned loudly. Tears were shining in the fat kid’s eyes, and Dean grinned wider when he didn’t feel any guilt looking at them. So it was only Novak. Strange.
“Heya Sully!” He said mockingly, while Sully slumped against the walls in pathetic defeat. Sully wasn’t the funnest to torture, but he would have to do.

“Hey Dean.” Sully said, in that ever friendly voice he never lost, even when Dean’s fist was pounding into his face.

Dean Smiled a second before letting the facade fall and punched sully hard in the gut. The boy gasped and doubled over onto the floor, landing with a clank and thud as he fell back against the lockers. Dean chuckled and walked away from Sully, who was groaning on the floor. The bully scattered Sully’s discarded books across the floor and walked away triumphant, even though it hadn’t been much of a fight. The crowd parted in front of him, and he felt powerful. A kind of power he hadn’t felt in a long time.

Chapter Text

Castiel almost skipped out of the hospital, rubbing him casteless and now whole arm with one hand, marveling at the smoothness. It felt weird after weeks and weeks of being stuck inside of that sweaty stiff prison, but he was enjoying the sensation. His mother walked alongside him, not nearly as overjoyed as Castiel. She had a scowl on her face, and even though Castiel knew it was because she didn’t like to see anyone happy, especially him, he couldn’t hold back the smile growing on his face. It felt strange.

The reached the car and he made a point to grab the handle with his free left hand, even though he was a righty. Inside the car, he went back to rubbing it feverishly. He had pushed up the sleeve of his jacket, and his mother was looking at him strangely, a little bit angrily from what he could see from the corner of his eyes.

“Stop that. Freak.” She muttered, and he made an effort to unclasp his right hand from his left arm and pulled down his jacket sleeve. Getting the cast off was like getting a puppy, and he couldn’t stop being happy and excited, and even though his mother was glaring at him he couldn’t stop smiling slightly. And when he tried to force it down, the smile grew.

The drive home was laced with tension. His mother was not happy, in one of her moods that resulted in her either binge watching tv all day, drinking 5 cups of whiskey-infused coffee and beating Castiel, or sleeping for 5 hours. Or all at once, not specifically in that order. Castiel’s mood was gradually receding.

When she unlocked the front door of their house, he waited a few moments when she went inside and then followed her in. The house was cold, and he shivered lightly. It hadn’t been cold before they left, but that was their house for you. If you don’t have the heat on always when it’s cold, it was like the structure just gave up, and sat there like an icebox. Like all the cold was leeching up through the basement, which had always creeped Cas out a bit. Their basement was dark and unfinished and cold, with shadows and lights that didn’t quite reach all the corners of all the rooms.

Cas walked into the living room and folded up a blanket that was tossed onto a couch, neatly laying it over the back of the sofa. His mother was in the kitchen, and he heard bottles clinking. So it was to be a drunk sort of day.

Castiel rubbed his arm again, and though he could feel the just there dregs of hunger brewing in his stomach, he figured he could wait a few more hours. He had grown quite resilient of hunger pains over the years, and he didn’t want to shift his mother’s mood into something angrier just now. Sometimes he could just walk into a room and she’d go off on him. Like the night with the spaghetti.

Castiel frowned, thinking about that strange night when his mother threw a bowl of spaghetti at him for seemingly no reason. He assumed after the incident that his father had something to do with it. His father often was the cause of lots of anger on his mother’s part.

A less-than-pleasant sensation settled low in his stomach when he thought about it, effectively dousing out any happiness when he remembered that his father was coming the following day. Sometime while he was in school, his father was going to fly here and stay for a while. Castiel wondered how long.

Suddenly it seemed rather unimportant that the cast was taken off before his father came home. It wasn’t like Castiel could defend himself any better without it than when it was on! And it wasn’t like he was going to hit his father, but it was generally nice to have two hands to block his angry fists and feet. But His father did not take punishments lightly, and it took more than a few blocked punches and kicks to save Castiel from his wrath.

Walking upstairs, still in his shoes, he passed his mother in the kitchen where she was treating her coffee to a heavy dousing of alcohol. He winced as he walked by, thinking about the hangover she was going to have to fight tomorrow if she wanted to avoid a pummeling.

He walked calmly up the stairs, and when he closed the door to his room flopped onto the bed. His feeling of euphoria from earlier was gone completely, and he was left in a soggy mood. Closing his eyes, he searched for anything in the less-than-cheerful archives of his mind to make him feel better. All he could come up with were songs from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that wasn’t the kind of cheerful he needed right now.

He puffed a long breath out of his mouth, making his cheeks swell and deflate. Ungluing himself from the bed, Cas opened a window and stuck his nose right up against the mesh screen, breathing in the scent of spring and rain, even though it had not fallen. It was around 2 in the afternoon, maybe 1:30, and he could probably make it to the old arcade and back before it closed at 4:30. Maybe walk around town after he had spent all his money. He hadn’t been there in months.

Reluctantly smooshing his face from the screen, Castiel walked out his room and found his mother in her room. He walked in and lingered in the doorway, listening to the sound of his mother’s TV show issuing from the flat screen TV. His mother was sitting on the bed eating something that looked like nachos and cottage cheese with jalapenos, banana peppers and interestingly, bananas on top of a blanket on the bed so she didn’t get the sheets dirty before his father came tomorrow. She looked at him with an expression of distaste on her face, whether the look was aimed at Castiel or the questionable nachos was debateable.

“I’m going to go out for two or three hours.” Castiel said haltingly. “Is that-Is that okay?” He bit his lip, hoping she didn’t say no. He wasn’t sure what he would do for hours, besides think about school tomorrow and the attention he was going to get from the Knight for not having the cast on. Their personal trophy shelf.

She looked back at the TV and said “Dinner’s at 5 and you’re making it.”

Castiel took that to mean ‘If you’re not back by 5, you’re not getting food until lunch tomorrow’ and walked back to his room.

The old arcade was a couple miles from his house, downtown. A small building, about the size of a two bedroom house filled to the brim with pinball machines and ancient shooting games. He only went there sometimes, when he had a bit of pocket money. Now he was on his last few dollars left over from mowing his neighbor’s lawn a few weeks back.

He kicked a pebble off the sidewalk as he started making his way downtown.

_________
He punched the buttons on a ‘Rocky’ themed pinball machine, listening to the pings the little ball made inside as it bounced against all the points hot-spots. Since he went here often, he had grown to be quite good at pinball. He was top of the the leaderboard on some of the machines, and a close second on all of the rest.

Castiel was only concentrating on the machine, his eyebrows tugged together and creating wrinkles in his forehead. He was trying to wipe all other thoughts from his overly burdened brain, especially the fact that his father was coming home in less than twenty four hours. 4:00 sharp the next afternoon, after Castiel was home from school. And the nightmares would start again.

That was one thing Castiel tried to push out of his mind every day. The horrible nightmares that pushed themselves back into his mind every night that his father was home and then weeks after. Some of them were just eerie, others were bloody. And the worst part was, it was his mind. It knew him, and fears he didn’t even know he had were brought to light in the horrible real-ness of the dreams. They usually start right after his father gets home, the night after or the night of his arrival. He sometimes woke up screaming, or just opened his eyes and felt the terror or sadness of fear wash over him in a wave. If his mother or father knew he had nightmares, they didn’t show it. The probably couldn’t care less, unless his screaming woke them from their sleep.

Ping. Ping. Ping. Cas’s fingers flew on the pinball machine, trying to make his rounds last because he only had three bucks and he had to make them worth it. The metal ball flew over pictures of boxing rings and Rocky and the lyrics to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ That were splashed across the inside of the game. The door across the arcade opened, letting in a burst of cool spring air, and he looked up momentarily over the pinball machines in front of him to see who it was on reflex.

Dean Winchester walked in, and Castiel’s eyes widened a fraction in surprise. Shouldn’t he be in school? I doesn’t let out until 3. And then Dean looked up and Cas ducked down before he could see him, crouching behind the pinball he was playing. He heard the ball fall past the little plastic guards and the losing music play. He gulped as fear curled in his chest like a chemical reaction to seeing Dean.

He peeked around the corner of the pinball machine, and Dean was standing with a shorter boy, with shaggy brown hair wearing a brown hoodie. They were talking, and Dean was smiling at the boy, who was jabbering on animatedly, holding a five dollar bill in his hand. Cas pulled himself back behind the game. So they hadn’t seen him. He would just have to wait until Dean walked to a different part of the small one-room arcade so he could sneak out, which would be virtually impossible but Cas was going to try. No telling what Dean would do when he saw Cas.

Cas looked around the corner and gasped when he saw Dean walking in his direction, startlingly close.

Shit. Shit.

He crouched and hurried to the other side of the machine, and got behind it just in time to see Dean walk in front of him and to the ancient Pac Man. Cas breathed a sigh of relief when Dean didn't see him, and stood fully when Dean was busy playing the machine. Cas’s eyes lingered on Dean’s plaid clad shoulders for some reason, and he had to tear his gaze away as he started to make his way to the door. His heart was beating fast from the scare.

He was stalled, however, by the large crowd of people he had not previously seen gathered around a small crying boy, with a bloody cut on his arm. The crowd was blocking his only safe pass, and he frantically searched for an opening, but the frenzied crowd was too busy getting a first aid kit to the little boy to bother to clear a path.

Castiel looked at Dean again, and jumped when he met Dean’s green eyes. Staring at him, Dean had his hands in his pockets and was walking to cas slowly, like he knew Cas could either fight his way through the crowd, or run past Dean before he could catch him.

Castiel gulped, and steeled his nerves before looking away from Dean’s lazy gaze and to the exit right by him. Then, with a whooshing breath of air, he sprinted for the opening, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Dean start to chase him before the shaggy haired boy from before started to talk to him and he stopped, casting a threatening glance at Castiel before turning to the boy. Castiel continued to the door, where he slowed to a walk and went to the side of the building, leaning against the brick alley wall. EVen though he had only run a few feet, he had to catch his breath as he felt his heart beat a violent rhythm against his ribcage. He wondered idly if he was out of shape or terrified. Probably both.

But he didn’t get to rest long. He sprang upright when he saw Dean round the corner and walk to him. Damn. You’re screwed. Should have beat it when you had a chance. His mind told him Helpfully, before Dean’s face donned it’s signature smirk, (and it looked a little forced, but Cas knew that was just his imagination) and his fist slammed into Cas’s face.

Cas fell to the ground, and lifted a hand to his throbbing cheek, letting out a groan. Dean stood above him a second before grabbing Cas’s collar roughly with both hands and jerking him, up. The fabric dug into Cas’s throat and he choked as it cut into his esophagus like a noose. Dean rammed him against the wall, and his head hit the brick that felt like a sledgehammer. Stars burst in his eyes. His heart was beating fast, 1000 miles an hour and Dean grabbed his arm and looked at it maliciously. “So it’s finally off. Bet you’re glad about that huh?” Dean said. “I wonder, would you like another one? I could do that for you.” the grip on Castiel’s pale arm tightened and Dean raised it with two hands over his knee like he was about to snap it like a twig.

Castiel’s heart sped up to 1001 miles an hour, and he tried to break out of Dean’s hold by punching him in the side. “Stop-ah!” Dean grunted but still held his iron grip, and pushed Cas back against the wall. He barely got any warning before Dean’s fist rammed into his face again. He grunted as it his his nose and he felt blood drip out of it and into his open mouth.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” Dean said conversationally, “Didn’t think rich kids like you hung out at the shabby old arcade. Or skipped school, for that matter. What happened, you just decide you want a day off and get daddy to let you ditch and hang around all day?”

Castiel wanted to tell him that he just had to get his cast off, but he somehow doubted that would make Dean stop. And besides, Dean was being such a fucking hypocrite. He was out of school too.

Dean punched him again, and again, and when Castiel fell to the ground with a groan of pain, he kicked him with a steel toed boot in the stomach. Castiel clutched his stomach, gagging. Dean laughed, and the normally pretty sound fell sourly on Cas’s ears. He felt a stinging behind his eyes as Dean kicked him two more times before he hoisted him back up again. Castiel felt gravel fall from his face from where his cheek had been pressed to the ground, and faced Dean tiredly, wanting more than anything to run away. But his stomach and face hurt so much he probably couldn’t run more than 20 feet before he would have to stop. He sagged against the brick wall, the pain of the material digging into his back pulling in comparison to the pain of the punches Dean was currently raining down on his face and ribs. He could feel his lip split and cuts and bruises making themselves known across his body. When he fell again, Dean didn’t pull him up a second time.

As the cool gravel dug into his side and face, Castiel gritted his teeth and tried to sit up, only making it a little bit into a sitting position before pain in his ribs flared up and he slumped back to the ground. His heart was beating so fast, it hurt too along with the rest of his body. Dean looked down at him with something like pity in those beautiful green eyes. Wait, when did the word beautiful make it’s way in there?

The thought barely made it into his mind before Dean crouched down and grabbed Cas’s face. “Sammy’s waiting for me, so I gotta run. Seeya tomorrow. Unless, of course mommy and daddy pull you out tomorrow too.” Anger flashed briefly across Dean’s freckled face.

Castiel coughed, his throat sore. “Tomorrow.” He said scratchily, hoping dean didn’t punch him again. Dean fingers were digging into his cheeks and chin. He just wanted to be let go.

Dean laughed. “So long.” He let go of Cas’s face and walked away, whistling some song. Cas coughed again and let his head fall back to the pavement, pounding with pain and an oncoming headache.

He felt his face with one hand, and it was swollen, his cheeks inflated and painful. He could tell he was going to have a black eye, and his nose still burned and dripped blood. “Asshole.” Cas muttered dejectedly. The bruises on his stomach cried out when he moved.

He lay there for another minute before he finally hauled himself to his feet and walked slowly out of the alleyway. He noticed unused quarters still jingling in his pocket.

Every breath Cas took hurt his lungs, but it wasn’t the worst beating he had gotten from any of the Knights Of Hell. It wasn’t the worst beating he had gotten ever. That one had been from his father.

Cas shuddered and repressed the memory of pain and blood, it would probably appear in the nightmares anyways.

He walked with a limp, more to keep his ribs happy than for any leg problems. The bruises would probably be black tomorrow, and sore as hell. Maybe he might even have a fractured rib, if he was lucky. They hurt enough to be fractured.

At the pace he was going he probably was going to have a long walk ahead of him. He gritted his teeth and put one foot in front of the other, making his way back.

Chapter Text

When Castiel’s alarm clock rang out the next morning, he didn’t turn it off and it rang and rang until it stopped on it’s own, maybe 20 minutes later. The only thing that got Castiel to open his eyes was the sudden realization to his sleepy pained mind that he was going to be late for school, on the day that his father was coming home.

He gripped his pillow lightly with one hand, and pushed himself up with the other until he was in a sitting position. The bruises on his stomach were dark purple and large covering one side. He had slept shirtless, not wanting to deal with pulling the garment over his head with his sore arms. He could feel cuts and bruises on his chest, and looked at the bruises with trepidation, wondering how much they would hurt when he sat in a desk at school. His face ached fiercely, and he felt a swell of nausea in his stomach as his head spun at the movement.
Cas hissed as he felt a sharp sting at his ankle, and lifted the covers to find a giant scratch on his foot that he wasn’t sure how he had gotten. Being slightly more mindful of the scratch, he swung his legs out of bed and stood up too quickly. Head spinning, he stumbled to the shower.

The steam wafted onto Castiel’s back, he was sitting on the floor of the shower because his legs suddenly felt too weak to hold him up. The slightly slimy feel of the floor was not an altogether foreign feeling, as he had done this many times before. The mornings after a hard beating were always the worst, he knew that from experience. He shampooed his hair on the floor slowly, until his arms ached from holding them up and he had to rinse it out. He lingered for a while, just letting himself rest in the cocoon of warmth. Then he realized how much time he had been wasting and hurried along so he wouldn’t be late for school.

Castiel’s father would be home maybe an hour after he left school, which gave him that much time to get home, tidy up the house a bit, do a load of laundry and generally get himself ready to wait out the storm.

Getting dressed, Castiel put on his usual outfit of a t-shirt, his loose jeans and a belt. He slipped on a grey cardigan too and grabbed his backpack from the floor as he headed downstairs, head still aching.

He didn’t grab anything for breakfast and darted out the door and into a cool spring morning. But as he walked it turned colder, and he was rubbing his arms while his breath fogged out in front of him. The weather could turn sour in the blink of an eye, and it felt like it could snow currently. Cas pulled his cardigan tighter around himself, and cursed the fact that it didn’t have buttons to hold itself closed. A few blocks away from his house, he heard a rumble of an obnoxiously loud car engine behind him, and he turned when it slowed down slightly behind him. His heartbeat started a race when his eyes locked on the beaten up old pickup slowing down near him, with Alistair, Dean and Uriel inside. Dean was sitting shotgun, eyes fixed on Castiel’s and a strange look on his face. Cas looked quickly away from Dean and regretted it when he took in Alistar wearing creepy grin on his face like a disney villain.

Castiel turned and walked as fast as he could, thoughts of being cold partially discarded while he thought of all the ways he could defend himself while his whole body ached and he had no weapons. The car behind him sped up, and for a heartstopping moment Castiel thought they were going to run him over. But instead, as they passed, out of the window came about a dozen hard objects, along with some litter, pelting Castiel. Rocks, Mcdonald’s wrappers, Half empty Mcdonald’s drinks. Among those was a baseball bat, which clattered to the curb after hitting it’s target.

Alistar had thrown it eerily well and hard from the moving car window, and hit Cas just above his knees, hard like a sledgehammer. He groaned, and straightened feeling his headache flair like fire from the impact. The rocks hitting his torso were barely the size of a pencil sharpener, the kind you would buy at some museum, the ‘geodes and crystals’ type, and barely stung. The car in front of him stopped, and Dean opened his door and ran out of the car. He started walking to Castiel, and Cas started walking back quickly, heart still jackhammering at the thought of Dean’s fists whacking his head to the side, his steel toed boots kicking his stomach and legs outside the arcade. Cas flinched when he looked from Dean’s boots up to his face and found the green eyes staring at him. Something akin to confusion strangely flashed across Dean’s features, and he leaned over and grabbed the baseball bat from the curb. With it in hand he looked savage, and for all the world like he was about to beat Cas to a bloody pulp with the bat. Castiel noticed his hands were shaking near violently, and fear was pumping through his veins like blood.

 

Dean started forward again and Castiel couldn’t keep his eyes off the bat, and he could barely feel the place where it had hit because the terror was coursing through his veins so thickly. He imagined how each blow would feel, thudding on his back and head and sides, breaking and fracturing and bruising.

Dean sort of smiled, a little tilt of his lips that could have been a sneer or a frown or a grin. His eyes were zoomed in on Castiel’s cheek, right where a large bruise blossomed on his pale face. Then he turned and walked back to the car, where his friends were talking boisterously and looking at Castiel eagerly through the back window.

The car door slammed, and they drove off. Castiel felt light headed, and all of a sudden he gasped for air, letting go of a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. After the fear let go of his heart, and the blood stopped pounding in his head, he spent the rest of his walk to school wondering how Alistair had thrown that bat so well.

 

________________________

 

Dean could feel the ache in his hands the minute he woke up that morning, like he had
Been punching someone over and over again until his knuckles bruised.

Oh wait. He had. What else was new?

He groaned slightly as he flexed his fingers, feeling the ache that accompanied the movement. He should really stop doing things like that, it made it hard to write. Or do anything else that involved his hands moving.

He moved his body experimentally, just feeling a slight twinge where Castiel must have hit him yesterday. It was kind of weird, him fighting back, but maybe getting his cast off made the rich kid feel like he had a chance. Some part of Dean wished he had given him one. He quickly squelched that part. It wasn’t uncommon for his little projects to fight back, most of the tougher ones did manage to land a few punches. But Castiel stopped fighting back in the seventh grade.

Dean’s mind chose that moment to remember the look in Castiel’s eyes as Dean cornered him in that dirty arcade alley way, the terror flashing through the blue of them. And the feel of hitting Castiel, feeling the skin and bones bruise his knuckles as he slammed punch after punch home. When Castiel had fallen Dean had continued beating on him, just to prove to himself he could. He slammed kick after kick in, just to thumb his nose at his inner self. He kept at it even after his brain was yelling at him to stop, but didn’t let himself think about the person he was beating, to make it easier. A little something suspiciously like remorse edged it’s way into Dean’s emotional spectrum, and Dean shoved it back out violently. No remorse goes to Castiel Novak. See Novak? He thought You can’t escape me. I’ll just keep coming after you, you can’t spend your entire life hiding behind your parent’s money.

In the kitchen, Dean half listened to Sam talk about his science fair project while making them both lunch. PB and J’s all around, with roughly peeled carrots sticks as a side. Sam paused his story long enough to ask for a capri sun, but Dean had to disappoint him on that one.

“Could you pack me a capri sun too? The cafeteria stopped selling them.”

“Sorry kiddo” Dean said, smiling. “You drank the last one yesterday, remember?”

Sam’s face fell for a second, but it was back up again after a disappointed sigh and a disconsolate look at the table top. Dean’s heart panged, but in a few moments Sam was back to his story about sciency mumbo-jumbo that Dean didn’t really understand, but he nodded along like he did. Science was never his forte. But he could still manage to look interested as Sam jabbered on, flipping his hair out of his face while he did. Someday, Dean was going to force him down, tie him to his chair and give him a proper haircut. His heart panged, longing for that time to come quickly.

As he packed the lunches in their seldom-washed containers, Dean looked absently at the cuts on his knuckles too. They had stung like a mother in the shower, but he was no pansy and didn’t mind them. Well, not much anyways.

Sam paused his story again, and Dean looked up at him questioningly before he realized the story had finished and he hadn’t been listening. He feebly said “Okay. That’s good.” Sam shot him a brief knowing look before Dean turned back to the lunch he was constructing and then setting the containers on the table in front of Sam.

Sam was taking a big swig of orange juice, and his hazel eyes were fixed on Dean’s knuckles. It was far from the first time Dean had sported those types of bruises, and Sam always gave him shit about them. Before Sam could say anything (and he was already opening his mouth), Dean turned and put away the jamb and peanut butter,

“So, mister ladies man, I haven’t heard a lot about a certain Jess lately!” Dean swiftly distracted Sam and as his floppy haired brother profusely denied all the rumours about his and Jess’s relationship, Dean covered his knuckles with a few band aids from the cupboard.

He didn’t know that Sam watched him carefully while he did.

____________

 

Hunting down Castiel in the hallways wasn’t all that hard, considering the boy was moving slowly, with his back straight and walking stiffly with a bit of a limp, presumably from where the baseball bat had hit him earlier. He probably had a lot of bruises under there, maybe a cracked rib. Dean kind of lost count of how many times he had hit Castiel. He hoped it was a lot, the kid deserved it. And the baseball bat. And the Mcdonald’s garbage and rocks.

But does he? A nagging awful voice at the back of Dean’s head questioned, and he shoved it away. YES.

Alistar on his left grabbed Castiel, and slammed him up against a random locker with a bang. Students scurried out of their way in the halls, and none of them stopped to help Castiel. As per usual. The moan was almost lost in the chaos of the hallway, but the look of pain on Castiel’s face spoke for itself. He definitely had some sore spots under those clothes. Satisfaction wormed it’s way through Dean, he’d done a good job on him.

Dean walked behind Alistar, and watched with a smirk on his face as Castiel struggled to get free of Alistar’s bony hands gripping his shoulders. Castiel grunted when Alistair swung a fist into his side, almost doubling over in pain but Alistar kept him up with one hand. “Looks like someone’s been working on you before us!” He sneered, eyeing up the dark bruises on Cas’s face, “Who got their hands on you then?”

Dean walked closer and said “I freshened him up a little yesterday. Found ‘im at the arcade, during school hours.” Dean chose to ignore the fact that he and Sammy had skipped school too to come and have a little fun before their dad got home.

“Skipping school? Tsk, tsk. I thought you were better than that Castiel!” Alistair turned back to Cas, who was still struggling to get away but not as hard as before. He looked resigned. Alistair still hadn’t noticed Castiel’s cast was off, the lack of black plaster was glaringly obvious to Dean, but maybe not so much to Alistair.

“I was not skipping school,” He deadpanned, “I was going to get my cast off. I couldn’t explain yesterday, you wouldn’t listen.” He looked straight at Dean, with just a hint of rare accusation in his eyes and voice. Dean sneered at him. The blue eyed boy looked down.

Alistair muttered “Excuses excuses. Looks pretty with out the cast. All fresh and new. Maybe instead of pens we should use knifes, what do you think?” He asked, looking at Castiel. Castiel looked suddenly a lot more nervous that he had a few seconds ago.

“I- I don’t think it would be a very good idea.” He said faintly, looking anywhere but Alistair’s eyes.

 

Alistair snorted. Then he released Castiel’s shoulder for a moment to dig around in his back pocket. The students around then were trickling slowly now, most disappearing into classrooms and bathrooms. While Alistar’s hand was off Castiel’s shoulder, the boy decided to bolt, shoving himself away from the locker and starting to run, but his arm was swiftly grabbed by Alistair. The bully yanked Cas back and at the same time Dean leapt forward and pushed him, and he crashed into the wall of lockers hard before crumbling down it, face screwed up. Dean watched Castiel’s hands ball into fists, and tried to feel happy as he imagined how much that had to hurt. It didn’t seem to be cheering him up as much as usual. Stupid.

Alistair knelt beside him and said maliciously “Try anything like that again, I’ll go get the baseball bat and finish the job I started.” Dean watched Castiel’s eyes flitter with fear as Alistar grabbed his arm and forced up the sleeve of the cardigan Castiel was wearing. With a ballpoint pen, he wrote the letters A. A. In blocky letters on Castiel’s arm. THe letters stood for Alistair Abernathy. He finished up and passed the pen to Dean, who quickly crouched in front of Castiel and grabbed his warm hand. As he drew his initials into the pale skin there, he wondered how it would feel to snap all the fingers of Castiel’s hand. To watch blood pour from them onto his perfect, expensive clothes bought for him from his perfect apple-pie-life mom. Probably satisfying, maybe a little disturbing. He dug the ballpoint pen hard into Castiel’s arm, and the boy yelped and tried to jerk away from him. Dean laughed softly, almost managing to succeed in ignoring the guilty twitch in his heart.

Get a fucking hold on yourself Winchester, He thought shakily, and wondered what was wrong with him. He gave a last, slightly forced glare at Castiel and stood up, watching Castiel rub at the initials A. A. and D. W. Carved into his arm with ink of Alistar’s ballpoint pen. Then he and Alistair walked away, with the sea of students parting in front of them.

 

________________

 

Castiel rubbed at his arm all throughout the rest of the day, and whenever he saw a flash of sandy blond hair or Alistar’s trademark Nightmare on Elm Street backpack he would turn the other direction. Even though it made him late for Algebra. His legs burned and felt like sandbags, his arms ached, his chest ached and his back ached worst of all. His butt was bruised to from being slammed to the floor, and he could feel every cut and bruise on his face as well. You would think he wouldn’t be very fazed by these things, being beaten up all the time as he was, but swollen bruises on his face felt like a very thick layer of face paint, and he could always sense it under his eyes and nose, making him want to rub his face. And the initials scrawled on his arm didn’t help, they hurt because the two boys had pressed down viciously with the pen. It didn’t matter that it was only ink, it made him angry to look at the marks, angry at Alistar and furious at Dean Winchester.

So many injuries, so little time. When Castiel returned home, he would have to clean a lot in the last few hours before his father arrived. Make sure everything was pristine, and do a cursory check-over of his parents room to make sure there were no whisky bottles lying around. Once he had forgotten that step, and that had led to a nasty cut in the morning on his arm.

Finally, the last bell ended and he started heading home before the Knights could get him.

Pausing outside his house, he took a deep breath of the cold spring air, feeling the slight burn in his chest and the concrete pull of his legs. Castiel was pretty sure that if he sat down, he wouldn’t be able to get back up again.

Inside, the house was quiet. The floor was mopped and unswept, the walls and surfaces needed dusting and the kitchen and living room needed tidying up. Castiel did a quick assessment of the damage before he noticed his mother sitting in a chair in the dining room, with a pretty red dress on and nice earrings. After he’s done cleaning, Castiel should go change too. He walked to the base of the stairs and dropped his backpack on them without leaning down and irritating his back.

“Clean. I’ll start dinner. You’re making garlic bread.” His mother walked into the kitchen, talking over her shoulder.

“Yes mother.”

“And do something about your face. It’s going to get blood on the carpet.” She finished, opening a cabinet and pulling a large pot down from it.

Castiel puzzled over her words for a moment, before he walked to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. He realized in surprise that one of the larger cuts on his face was bleeding, steadily sending a little ribbon of blood across his cheek. Any farther and it would have been bleeding all over his house, and he would have had a tough time cleaning it up before his father came home. He sighed softly in relief at the close call, mopped up his face with a bit of toilet paper, then stuck a bandaid on the cut. He scrubbed at the letters on his arm, rubbing the ink off with soap before he would forget. Then he walked out of the bathroom, and grabbed a broom from the closet to start cleaning.

_____________________

An hour and a half later, Castiel put away the cleaning supplies as he smelled his mother’s soup that was coming together in the kitchen. He cracked his neck as he viewed his fine work, and the house practically sparkled back at him. His father would be home very very soon.

He had put in the garlic bread earlier, and so he walked creakily upstairs, his back yelling at him for doing so much work. Well, everything was yelling at him, basically. He wanted nothing more than to collapse in bed and sleep for a thousand years. But right now, he had to change into something a bit more presentable than the t-shirt and too-big jeans he was currently wearing.

He stripped out of his clothes until he was only wearing his boxers, and then sat on the bed feeling exhausted. The covers wrinkled under his legs were cold, and they felt good against his bruises. Cas kneaded at his arm, rubbing at the red sore spot where the ink had been. He was beginning to develop a habit of doing that. He sat there rubbing his arm for a few minutes in silence, mind blank and tired and sad. He didn’t know why he was sad particularly. He just was.

He stared at the wall of his room, and just let his mind buzz pleasantly. He sat there until his hand slipped while rubbing his arm, hitting his thigh with a sharp smack and snapping him out of his daze. He flinched at the sound and got slowly up from the bed, every muscle screaming at him to just get under the covers and go to bed for the rest of time. But instead, he pulled on his black slacks, a white button down shirt over a pale t shirt, and a blue tie. He rolled the sleeves up to his elbows, and exited his room.

The smell of nearly-burning garlic bread greeted him when he stepped out into the hall, and he hurried down the stairs to the oven before it had a chance to burn completely on him.

______________

 

His father arrived shortly after Castiel finished dinner preparations. His mother bolted from the couch, slipped on some high heels to match her red dress, and went to greet her husband at the door. Castiel hurried to the bathroom, just for a few seconds to make sure he was decent, and then walked into the living room to greet him.

 

When he walked in, his mother pushed past him with his father’s luggage in her arms, carrying it upstairs for him. Zakaria himself was standing in the living room, looking at Castiel in the doorway, with his arms crossed and his half-bald head shining in the light.

“Castiel. You’ve grown since I last saw you.” He said pleasantly, with just a little hint of distaste in his voice.

Not really knowing how to answer that, Castiel stood in the doorway and nodded a bit awkwardly, looking more at his father’s forehead then his eyes. His father didn’t comment on the prominent bruises littering his son’s face.

“Come on, say hello to dad!” Zacharia mockingly said opening his arms as if welcoming a hug, and Cas walked stiffly across the room for his father to squeeze him into a bone-crushing mangle of a hug. It made all the injuries on his body cry out, and Castiel bit his lip hard to keep from making a sound. He didn’t return the hug, just stood there and took it. Fake affection was at least a little better than beatings.

When he was released, he stumbled back and “Welcome home father.” left his mouth numbly. “Dinner will be starting in a few minutes.”

“Good, good. Take my bags upstairs. There’s more in the car.” Zacharia dug around in his pocket, and tossed a key to Castiel, who fumbled and let the key drop to the floor. He just barely caught Zacharias smirk as he bent over stiffly to pick it up. His father didn’t say anything about the bruises and bandaids on his son’s face.

As Castiel left the house he heard his father yell faintly, “Honey! When’s dinner?”

It was strange how seemingly energetic and loose his father might appear, the image of a family man. That facade was just a load of bullshit. But Zacharia was so good at faking and painting the image of the ‘perfect family’ that everyone bought it. It was probably the reason all the kids at school hated him, now that he thought of it.

Unlocking the car, Castiel hefted open the truck, and began unloading some of the suitcases in it. There were 3 of them, big heavy-duty things that Castiel had a terribly hard time getting out of the trunk. With the cloth of the handles chafing his hands, he could only drag/carry one to the house at a time, otherwise he was fairly sure he would collapse before he got to the stairs. It was funny how pain could sap your energy so fast.

Inside, Zacharia was standing near the dining room table, hunched over his phone and stationary. Castiel didn’t linger before he turned back to the task of dragging the suitcase up the wooden stairs.

Carefully, Cas moved the suitcase around so he was dragging it instead of carrying it, and slowly made his bumby progress up the stairs as quietly as he could manage. His heart stopped beating a second when his father’s face suddenly appeared at the end of the stairs. “Could you hurry that up a bit?” Zechariah asked with annoyance, glaring at Castiel.

Castiel hurried a little, dragging the suitcase faster up the stairs. “Yes father.” He said, the words still fell from his mouth like he didn’t mean for them to happen.

When he finally hefted the suitcase over the last step, his father cleared it and strode ahead of Castiel and into his bedroom. Castiel could see him walk over to their enormous closet and into it, out of Castiel’s eyesight. Struggling over through the doorway, Castiel cautiously deposited the suitcase near the king sized bed, and lurched forward to catch it when it teetered, threatening to crash to the floor. Holding it until he was sure it wouldn’t fall, he exited the room to get the next suitcase.

________________

His muscles were complaining, feeling stretched out and beaten and sore. Trudging down the sidewalk, his hamstrings felt like someone had beaten them with pvc pipes for hours. He slammed down the trunk door on the car, letting his hands linger on the lukewarm black metal, which was strangely comforting for some reason. Like holding your hands over a fire.

Sliding his hands off the metal again he walked back to the house, which smelled pleasantly of dinner.

__________________

Setting down pristine white bowls around the dinner table, Castiel was careful to not make noise. He poured water into clear clean glasses, and set an ice cold beer beside his father’s glass of water.

After he laid out the silverware, he brought the food from the kitchen to the table. Then he went to find his parents.

Castiel heard them before he saw them. Creeping toward a the kitchen, the voices were faintly there, hushed. His mother sounded worried, his father was louder and it sounded like he was threatening her. Taking a deep breath, Castiel shoved rising concern away. Normal. This was normal. He knocked semi-loudly on the doorframe to the kitchen before entering.

They were standing at the sink, his father was standing ominously over his mother, who was staring at her hand, which his father was gripping between them by the wrist. They both looked over at Castiel when he entered, his mother looking scared, his father looking angry. “Dinner is served.” Castiel said.

“Great!” His father let go of the hand he was possessing, and strode out of the room. On his way out he thumped Castiel hard on the shoulder in a ‘friendly’ pat, and nearly sent Castiel sprawling across the kitchen floor. His mother quickly clacked out of the room in her high heels, not sparing Castiel a glance. He followed them out, and sat down at his space at the table.

The meal started well enough. The clinking of silverware and his father’s chewing were providing a soundtrack. Castiel was eating quietly, eyes only on his food. Out of the corner of his eye his father was eating hungrily, or staring at his mother and Castiel in turns. “So,” he started conversationally, (and quite suddenly, making Castiel flinch) “Castiel, how is school?”

 

Castiel swallowed a lump of carrot horribly fast, and hurried to answer. “it’s…..good.” He answered painfully awkwardly.

 

Zacharia smirked, sensing Castiel’s prominent discomfort. “Just good?” He asked.

“Yes. Sir.” He looked back down at his soup. His interest in it had evaporated.

“How are your grades?” Zacheria asked. “Your friends?”

“My grades are exceptional. My friends are- they’re-uhm, good.” He cursed himself mentally for his slip up. Zacharia sneered.

“Are you sure? Just good? Am I going to get to meet any of them?”

“Yes. They are good. Most likely you will not see them...as they live far from here. I don’t see them very often. So….” He felt like he was getting better at this whole ‘make it up as you go along thing’.

“You have friends.” Zacharia scoffed, stuffing his mouth with a piece of garlic bread. “Is that where all the bruises come from? Your friends?” apparently he wasn’t better at the whole ‘make it up as you go along’ thing.

Castiel’s face heated up. There was a loud clatter as his mother dropped her fork, and she hurriedly whispered “Sorry.” under her breath, when his father turned menacingly to her. Castiel really shouldn’t have, but he spoke. “No.” And he immediately wished he hadn’t.

Rule number one, don’t contradict.

“What? What did you say?” Zacharia turned back to him, disbelief etched on his face. Castiel mentally kicked himself, mentally rolled himself over with a tractor.

“I-nothing. Nothing. I didn’t-nothing.” He let the words stumble out of his mouth, and rushed an apology out after. His father didn't look very happy about it.

“I could’ve sworn you said something that sounded an awful lot like ‘no.’.” Zacharia glared at Castiel. “But I know that you, my son, would never say something like that. Right? Respect your elders and all that.” He spat out the words my son like he was disgusted to call him that.

“Yes sir.” Castiel looked down at his soup. Again. He caught a glimpse of his blue eyes in his silver spoon. He noticed he had circles under them.

“And even if you had said anything like that, you would be lying anyways. Because I’m a thousand percent sure that you are too much of a helpless loser to attract anything other than pity for your worthless life.” Finality in his father’s tone made the point of halting the conversation. Castiel simply looked down at his food.

Chapter Text

Castiel’s pen hovered over the page, he hadn’t written a word yet. His mind was battling with itself, going back and forth on a decision he had yet to make. The pen was still waiting for him to make a final decision, as it had been for the past five minutes. That’s right, Castiel had been staring at a blank page, dipping his pen up and down in hesitation and indecision, for five whole minutes.

Finally, his pen hit the page with an almost silent tap. He steeled his nerves, and then tried to unsteel them because this was a ridiculous thing and he shouldn’t be so nervous. He was just going to stop writing in a journal.

Castiel’s pen started to move under his fingers.

Thursday, May

Yesterday father came home. As you can see, I am starting to forget to write in this journal. Last night I completely neglected it, though it was a rather stressful day. School was rough, Winchester and Abernathy gave me a scare. I thought they were going to break my arm again, for a second. Then I came home and cleaned, and father arrived soon after. He quite enjoyed reminding me how friendless and hopeless I am at dinner. He and mother were fighting in the kitchen, though I’m not sure what about. It hasn’t turned physical, yet. Though that could be happening now and I wouldn’t know until he dragged her screaming down the hall. He likes to be quiet sometimes, it’s quite startling.

Anyways, I have some news. I am going to stop writing in this journal. I feel that my updates are getting sluggish. I am skipping nights, sometimes twice in a row. I haven’t really acknowledged it until now, but life is just getting too tiring to write about. So this is my goodbye, though no one will ever read it, as I am going to rid myself of this journal tomorrow. If my father got his hands on it, it would be like a nightmare come to life. Maybe I’ll throw this in the creek the Knights of Hell introduced me to. But first I’ll have to erase my name from it.

He paused, thinking just how awful it would be if he didn’t. His first and last name were written in thick tar black sharpie on the front of the journal, and if anyone….if the knights of hell found his journal, he couldn't help but shudder at the possibilities. Enough self pity. He got back to writing.

So anyways, Goodbye.

Feeling: scared, sad, nostalgic.

Cas stared at his notebook, but not for as long as he had previously. Then he shut it, dropped his pen over the side of his bed that he was nested on, and dragged himself from a slumped half-sit to a full sitting position. Then he crawled off his bed and over to his shelf, where he kept a roll of duct tape for emergencies. He was going to cover up his name on the front, because now that he thought about it he really liked the idea of throwing it finally into the same creek he had broken his arm in. The water wouldn’t destroy it completely, but the ink would run and the pages would tear. Someone would have to be awfully determined to read it, and he couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to read about his sorry life if they weren't interested in getting dirt on him.

His brow furrowed. He didn’t see the duct tape. He ducked, looked through all the compartments on the shelf, but came up short. Where was it?

He thoroughly searched his room, looking for the silver duct tape that he knew couldn’t be there because there were only a few places to lose things in his room and he had searched them all. But he searched them again. And again. Desperation built up inside him as he walked in circles around his room, a simple problem blown into a full grown crisis. He dropped to his knees, and thrust his head partway under the bed. No duct tape. Nothing.

“Shit.” He whispered.

Climbing back to his shaky (and still hurting) knees, he did a few more unyielding circles around the room until he suddenly realized where the duct tape was.

“Shit.” He whispered again, clenching his hand into a fist and digging his fingernails into his palm. He knew where the duct tape was.

The duct tape was downstairs, sitting just inside one of the creaky kitchen cabinets. That’s right, out his door, through the hall, down the stairs, past the living room and into the kitchen. At night. While his father was home, who, he might add, was strictly against the idea of Castiel roaming the house after bedtime. But for some reason, he had to get that tape. It couldn't wait until tomorrow for some reason, he felt like he would never get around to it if he waited even another hour. The dry unhappy feeling he got in his stomach when he couldn’t find things was already fading as he set his mind. He was going to go downstairs and steal it back. Even though technically, it wasn’t stolen from him. He had used the duct tape the other day and somehow left it in the cabinet, but still.

Castiel carefully crept to the door, turning the cold handle and opening it as slowly as he could. Only a tiny creak sounded as he slipped out, into the dark hallway. As quickly and as quietly as he could manage, he crept down the stairs, pausing every so often to listen for Zachariah. His ears buzzed in the silence as he stepped through the dark house, past the doorframe and into the kitchen. The cabinet was there. And hopefully the duct tape was too. What if it wasn’t there, and he got caught downstairs for no reason? His father really did have hearing like a hawk’s. Suddenly Castiel was beginning to regret this little journey.

He opened the suspected cabinet, and with a lurch his stomach fell somewhere around his knees. The duct tape wasn’t there.

He internally smacked himself across the face as he clutched around in the cabinet for the tape, but he knew that he wouldn’t find it. He had no idea where it could be, unless his father had found it and taken it to his tool box in the garage, in which case Castiel was NOT going to to sneak in there and take it back. He could not believe he went downstairs for this! It was just his luck. He shouldn’t have expected to find the tape so easily, living his life.

He tried to take a step forward out of the kitchen when something in the basement ticked loudly, making him jump so hard he almost fell, nerves shot. He clutched at the counter to hold himself up, his knees almost but not quite hitting the ground, and prayed that he hadn’t made as much noise as he felt he had.

Castiel was still half crouched at one of the counters in the kitchen, his knees halfway buckled and wobbling. He slowly started to rise, and then went rigid as he heard a voice speak behind him. “Out for a walk?” Fuck.

His heart, which hadn’t been slowing down, began to beat impossibly faster, jackhammering in his chest. How had he been so stupid? Being out of bed this whole time. How much noise had he made? He slowly turned around, his eyes reluctantly going straight to the sight of his father leaning with one shoulder on the kitchen doorframe. He smirked at Castiel, with an amused light in his eyes, but tucked in the corner of them there was something akin to annoyance and slight anger waiting to be unleashed. Castiel gulped and whispered “Father.”

His father laughed softly, bald head shining in the moonlight from the window. The sound made Castiel twitch a little. His whole body flinched when his father sighed and unhooked himself from the doorjamb. As Castiel watched him approach, he cursed himself fluently in his head for going downstairs, how stupid was he? After years of living in the same house as Zacharia, why hadn’t he learned the fucking rules? Was he really that brain dead, that he would sneak out of his room at night for a fucking roll of duct tape, what the hell?

Too late now. His father had caught him with his pants down. Castiel was a little embarrassed that he had let himself get caught only the first night into his father’s stay. If he couldn’t keep his guard up for more than a day, how would he even survive this visit?

“I thought I told you before, I don’t like it when you try to stay up with the adults?”

His father’s voice was like poisoned honey. Castiel gulped hard. “I-I remember.”

“Then why are you here?” His father asked, examining Castiel’s face. Criticizing it. “Why aren't you getting your rest? It’s a school night. Don’t you want to be your best for all your friends?”

Castiel flinched when his father took a big step forward, towering over him. Zachariah had to be at least over six feet. His thick fingers started playing with a lock of Castiel’s hair, petting it softly. “I just was looking for something. I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.” He whispered. He knew it was pointless. Revulsion made him shudder as his father continued fingering his hair.

“You’re damn right it won’t.” His father whispered nastily, and with a great whoosh, he grabbed Castiel by a fist of hair and jerked him onto the floor. Castiel let out a grunt as he hit the cold ground his his bruised body, his scalp white hot with pain. He could tell his father had yanked out a tuft of his hair, though the calloused fingers were still holding onto him. He watched as a few black-brown strands fell to the floor in front of his eyes. He barely started to try to get up, but the hand on his head was a vice, pushing him down.

His father growled, a disgusting rumble at the back of his throat like it was full of phlegm. Castiel shuddered, then groaned as his father’s foot sank deep into his stomach, scooting him along the floor a few inches. He gagged as he was hit again, in the same spot, tears springing to his eyes involuntarily. He had barely curled up his legs to protect himself when fingers were scraping his still-smarting scalp, and suddenly he was yanked up again. Mercilessly pulled up to his knees, He didn’t know how the grip in his hair was being maintained so long, it was so short. But his father usually found ways to get around those things.

He was left teetering on his knees for a moment, then a fist rammed into his face, catching his cheekbone and sending stars into his vision. They didn’t fade before the other fist was sent crunching into his nose, a hot poker was being applied to his face as the pain caught up to him. The hand in his hair was abandoned so that his father had two fists instead of one.

Castiel slowly raised his fists as his father mercilessly beat him round the head, not pausing for anything.

He could feel the blows starting to addle his brain, and he sluggishly put his hands in front of his father’s fist, so that instead of the knuckles landing directly on his face he got slapped with the back of his own hand. His father slapped his hand away roughly, and in punishment for that simple act of defence he grabbed Castiel by the hair again and steered him into one of the cabinets hard enough to make Castiel think he had passed out.

Lying on the floor, Castiel halfway curled into the fetal position, giving up on his feeble attempts of self-preservation. His father stood over him, examining his knuckles and tutting at the split skin on them. He looked at Castiel and smiled pleasantly, like he hadn’t just beat the shit out of him. Then he crouched gracefully, and Castiel flinched so hard he banged his head on the cabinet door behind him as his father grabbed his face. He pulled it closer, examining it.

“Well, so much for beauty sleep.” He said with a smirk, accenting his last syllable with a light slap to Castiel’s cheek. The latter just closed his eyes and let his father do whatever he wanted. He felt like someone had bolted him to the floor. He doubted he would be able to make it upstairs.

Soon after Zacharia left. The bruised boy just layed quiet and still on the kitchen floor, feeling blood drip down his cheeks and onto his clothes. He made no attempt to get up, just let himself fade softly into the consuming darkness that followed passing out.

___________________________

He woke up suddenly, with a sharp intake of breath that made him cough weakly. Fear washed through his hair to his toes, probably making him sweaty. But he couldn’t feel anything outside the general cocoon of nastiness he always felt when he woke up covered in his own blood and drool on the kitchen floor.

The nightmares had started. This one had been….

Castiel lay on the kitchen floor several more minutes to collect himself. He let the residual fear leave his body, slowly calming his own breaths and concentrating on what was real, however pitiful it might be. The dream had been bloody and disturbing, filled with silent people and crows with wet green eyes that pecked his hands to raw bloody messes. It left him gasping for air.

Eventually he realized that he had to get up, or he would be late for school. Such a stupid thing.

He started with his head, lifting his neck up and then bumping it back as gently as he could onto the floor with a groan. His neck was horribly painful, having been pulled so many ways the night before. After a few moments he tried again, forcing his head up and then his shoulders, eyes welling at the pain but no tears spilling. He gasped as he felt the bruise on his stomach burst in pain. Then in turn almost every other body part he had bloomed in a fiery complaint that echoed through his brain. Now he could feel the beginnings of an unwelcome headache.

As he stood, he felt every place which had rested on the cold hard floor, and some. Wounds that his father hadn’t even caused screamed at him, but he shushed them internally. This was nothing a little ibuprofen couldn’t fix, right?

Slowly, like a toddler, he walked to the stairs. He felt like a stiff mannequin, with wooden limbs that wouldn’t move properly. He actually cried out the first step on the stairs, his head shooting laser beams of agony through him. But soon he was in his room, closing his door behind him with petrified fingers. Then he turned, and gazed longingly at his bed. If only…..

But he had to get ready for school. He couldn’t miss today, no matter how much he wanted to just curl up in his bed and die. He was just being a wimp. It was just a few bruises, why was he complaining so much? There are children starving in Africa. Castiel thought this, but internally he knew that this was more than just a few bruises. He could have a concussion, the way his head was hurting and swirling.

But he gave up thought of his condition for getting to the shower. He grabbed a dry towel from his floor and made his slow way to the bathroom.

Getting his shirt off was like stabbing himself again and again. He actually let a few tears slip away, the heat in his chest was so intense. But soon the worst was over and he hastily wiped away the shimmer on his cheeks. Getting off his jeans and boxers was easy, just unbutton the jeans and sort of shrug them off. Basically the same for the boxers.

He set the shower luke-warm, knowing from experience that it would only aggravate his injuries if he set it to the normal scalding-hot temperature he normally endured. He watched the dried flakes of blood float down the drown slowly, rubbing his hands slowly through his hair over his face and onto his chest in one big repetitive motion, rubbing off the excess blood and successfully touching every single bruise. For some reason he didn’t mind that pain as much though, at least he was in control of it. He almost forgot about the nightmare under the warmish glaze of the water on his purple back. It hurt some at first, the little pellets hitting his skin and making him clench his jaw. But he grew used to them in a matter of minutes.

When he was out of the shower, with freshly washed hair and a cleaner body in general, he chanced a look in the bathroom mirror. He recoiled as he wiped the steam from the looking glass, seeing a indescribable sight looking back at him.

His face only had a few precious places that weren't bruised. Last night Zacharia seemed more determined to hit the same place over and over again, so it was mainly one enormous bruise on his right cheek, and a slightly less pronounced one on his left jaw line. There were other more faded bruises on his face of course, but they were a lot less noticeable that the newer black-bruises on him. And no one would think anything of it. It was perfect, the way his father operated. The children and teachers at school wouldn’t give a shit, thinking the Knights had simply gotten hold of him again. Well, they were right. The Knights had gotten hold of him, but they were only part of the reason he looked like a house had been dropped on him.

He only stared at his sorry blue-eyed reflection for a few moments before walking back to his room to get dressed. He peeled his wet band-aid off his face.

_____________________

He was walking to school just like normal. He wasn’t enjoying the walk very much, despite the fact that the weather was finally giving them a break. It was early June, and the day was neither hot nor warm. Castiel wore a grey cardigan over a white button up, and his pair of jeans tied at the waist with a belt.

Castiel doubted he would eat anything for lunch with his stomach hurting so much, and churning from the pain meds he had taken on empty. But he had packed himself a PBJ anyways, just in case. And he could use it as barter for peace today from the Knights of Hell. Sometimes they let him off the hook if he gave them his lunch, and it wasn’t like he wasn’t used to being hungry anyways.

The wind was picking up slightly, and it felt nice through his button up shirt. He was walking with a slight limp for his rib’s benefit. He only stumbled every once in awhile.

When he finally reached the reddish-brown metal doors of the school he was exhausted. There were only a few kids on the sidewalk, hurrying to get inside. Not many of them spared a glance for the sorry loser trodding along, they knew he was nothing more than a punching bag and they didn’t want to suffer the same fate as him. One girl with curly sunshine yellow hair actually stopped and looked at him, he just barely saw the pity and disgust in her gaze before he turned away and continued through the doors into the building.

______________________

It turned out he did actually have an appetite after all.

Castiel sat in the library with no book, gingerly resting on the chair and chewing his PBJ slowly so as to savour it. It was the only thing he had packed, he hadn’t even thought to bring a water bottle to wash down the throat-closing peanut butter. He stared absently at the wall ahead of him as he ate.

Then a backpack dropped quite suddenly next to him, and he jerked back in his seat, looking around for his next assailant. All he heard was a “Woah there, easy dude.” As the same girl from before eased into the chair next to him. She held her hands up as if in surrender.

Castiel’s forehead creased as he watched he start to open her backpack and pull out a purple plastic lunch container. What was she doing?

“Why are you here?” He asked, thoroughly confused. She laughed slightly.

“Straight to the point, huh?” she said, not particularly unkindly. It confused Castiel, and he didn’t like it. Now she was pulling a ham sandwich out of a ziplock baggie and laying it on the library desk, for some reason. Was she trying to eat lunch with him? Red flags were up and waving in his head.

Then it hit Castiel. This was another Naomi situation. The girl had seen him outside, saw how hopeless and useless he was, and reported into the Knights for duty. What was the excuse this time? Was she going to pretend to recruit him to some sort of club or something? Was she just going to bat those eyelashes at him and hope he played along?

“I don’t want you sitting with me, and I’m not leaving the library.” He said firmly, staring at her. She looked up in surprise.

“What?” She asked, “Why not?” She seemed genuinely confused. The Knights seemed to be getting better actors.

“You know why not.” He said stiffly. “And don’t act stupid, it doesn’t work.”

“No seriously, why not?” She asked, her curiosity grabbing a sharper edge. “What do you think I’m going to do? Hurt you? I just met you!” She said. “Actually, I haven’t even met you. My name’s Jo, what’s yours?”

Castiel sat still for a moment, considering his options. He could play along, pretend he believes her until she tries to lead him somewhere the Knights could get him, or he could say no then and there and go find somewhere else to sit, or he could believe her when she said she meant no harm.

He decided to go with the middle option. And yes, he knew he had just stated he wasn’t going to leave the library but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Castiel stood abruptly, PBJ half eaten in his hand. Zipping his backpack up he slung it around his shoulder. “Nice meeting you, but it won’t work.” He tossed over his shoulder, gathering his books from the floor. “Tell them it’s getting old.” He barely kept from crying out while he stooped to get his stuff.

“But wait! C’mon dude I’m just trying to be your friend, is that so hard to believe?” A hand grabbed at his sleeve, and he flinched and jerked his hand away as though burnt. Jo mumbled a quiet apology behind him, and he stiffened. He had never heard anyone at this school apologize to him for anything.

“Yes, it is. Now please, I’m just trying to get through my day, and I don’t need another bruise.” He turned as if proving his point, showing Jo his purple black face in all its glory. She winced a little.

“Yeah, you’re looking a little rough around the edges. That’s actually part of the reason i came here, aside from hoping to make a new friend. Do you need any help taking care of some of that?” She gestured vaguely to his face. “Because some of those cuts look nasty.”

“I-I-” Mumbled intelligently. This was a problem he had not faced before. She sounded genuine, but then again so had Naomi. How could he be sure he could really trust this Jo? He had never met her before. From what she said, she didn’t even know his name. Should he risk it? No.

“Please?” Jo asked, patting the seat next to her. Somehow she had stood up and he hadn’t noticed. “Just at least tell me your name.”

“Why should I?” He asked. He wanted to know what she thought.

“Uhm, why should you?” She furrowed her brow. “Well, for one, I don’t even know this school my first day was less than a week ago. I know, I know, late start, but I was homeschooled until now. I don’t know anyone here, I saw you on the sidewalk this morning and it looked like you and I both need the same thing. A friend.” She reached to his shoulder like she was going to pat it, and he shrank back quickly. She put her hand awkwardly down and said “You don’t have to trust me, I can tell you really don’t believe me when I say I come in peace. But just know that I’m not lying. I don’t know what they’ve put you through here,” she eyed his face “but I had no part in it, and I never will. I just want to be your friend.”

He had been standing stock still throughout this little speech. Jo was fidgeting with the hem of her peach colored shirt nervously, and kept studying Castiel's, eyes roving up and down his frame. Castiel could barely hold back a groan as his shoulder twinged. He didn’t like this. He didn’t like this at all, Jo could be anyone! He had never seen her before, true, there wasn’t a way she could be lying about that. But that was almost definitely the only real thing she had said to him. He didn’t have time for this. Sighing, he started to walk away again.

“Wait! Come on, why can’t I sit with you? It’s not like I’m gonna poison your food or anything! What are you so worried about?”

Castiel didn’t answer. He continued walking.

“I’m going to come back tomorrow. And the next day after that, and the next. And if you move to the cafeteria I’m going to go bug you there too. Don’t ask me why, I’m not sure myself! But you better just get it over with and let me sit with you, because I’m not going away anytime soon.”

Castiel was almost to the library door, and he was sick of this shit. If what she was saying was true, he was going to have a lunch buddy if he didn’t deal with her now. Some people could be persistent if they wanted too, that he knew. He turned around and glared at he the hardest he could, through his slightly swollen eyelid. “Go away tomorrow if I sit with you today.”

“Maybe.” Said Jo, with an expression on her face that said No.

“That’s the only chance you’re getting. If you can sit with me today without bringing me bodily harm, or doing stupid shit, I might give you a chance. But you can’t sit with me tomorrow.” Castiel growled, trying to bring something intimidating into his features. It might have worked on Jo, as she looked a little taken aback but nodded once, rolling her eyes like Castiel was being unreasonable. He sat at the nearest table. Grabbing his PBJ again and trying to eat quickly.

“Yay!” She crowed, sitting down with a thump. “So I’ve told you mine, what’s your name?”

“Castiel.” He answered quietly, and she smiled at him. He felt annoyed at himself for telling her, but then again if she was with the Knights it wasn’t new information. He wolfed down his sandwich as fast as he could.

“Nice. I like it.”

 

____________________

 

Last period. This was it. If the Knights of Hell would get him today, it would almost certainly be directly after this class. If they mentioned Jo, if they talked about her helping them, Castiel was going to get away from her.

Castiel was nervous, doodling a little bit on his paper until the teacher called him out for it and sniggers from the other student filled the class as she reprimanded him. When the bell rang he was the last out the door, but just barely. Normally he was the first, so he was hoping that if the Knights were waiting outside it would throw them off a little.

But his extra effort was for nothing. He walked through the school nervous, but assailed as he made his way to the door. He was almost to the sidewalk before they attacked.

Hands clamped around his arms, immediately dragging him back. Laughs came from the person dragging him along. Castiel grunted and thrashed, getting one hand free momentarily before it was crushed in the young man’s grip. From behind him Azazel spoke. “I wouldn’t try to get free too hard if I were you. Those bruises look nasty, and I would hate to make them...worse.” Azazel punched him hard on the nose, making it bleed profusely.

Castiel was dragged behind the building, to the place where the teachers couldn’t see them. Dean, Alistair and Uriel were waiting there, Dean was lounging against the brick wall like a model. Alistar was doing something to Uriel that involved a pencil and didn’t look that pleasant.

“Got ‘im.” Snickered Azazel, shoving Castiel away from him. He stumbled into a little circle. Dean was to his left, Alistar in front, Azazel and Uriel to the right and behind him.

“Well well freak. You’re looking a little rougher than usual today.” Alistair sneered, examining his face. “Wanna explain that? Has someone else been beating on ya, huh? Taking up space on that face for bruises that could have been ours?” He looked around the group. “Or has one of you been havin some fun without me?” He looked especially at Dean, who shrugged.

“Nope, it’s definitely someone else. Looks like he’s pretty popular.” Dean stood closer to Castiel, looking down his nose at him in seeming disgust. “Just wish I had been there to watch.”

Castiel felt sick. He didn’t want more bruises. He wanted to go home and lay in bed and rest and never get up ever again. But when he got home, he only had a few hours rest before his father got home. And even then he had to get homework done too. The queasyness progressed. He just wanted a way out.

And before he could really think about what he was doing, Castiel broke into a sprint. He ducked past Alistar, and started sprinting across the parking lot as fast as he could. He almost cried, the pain was unbelievable. It ranged from his head to his calves and only stopped short of his fingers, which were gripping his jingling backpack so hard the knuckles were white.

The Knights came out of their shock behind him and started running after him, shouting insults to him and each other. Calling him a Pussy and a coward and taunting him.

Soon enough they stopped running after him, and he heard Winchester yell after him “Go! Run home to mommy! Get your daddy to protect you! We’ll be waiting!”

Chapter Text

The next morning was cold. He woke up shivering from a nightmare involving meathooks and rumbling stomachs. He got dressed. He skipped a shower.

 

The day passed in a blur as they often tended to. He wasn’t really aware of anything until he was eating lunch in the library, and a backpack slammed loudly onto the table next to him. He startled hard and launched himself halfway out of his seat before he glanced up to see Jo looking down at him, a small smirk playing on her lips. He scowled and looked away. “It’s not nice to sneak up on people who want to be alone.”

 

“It’s not my fault you’re a grouchy pants.” Jo responded with a bright smile. “I’m gonna sit here anyways.” She gave him a once over, eyes roving over everything she could see over the table.

 

“Um, are you sure you don’t want those checked out?” She looked pointedly at his face. It throbbed as if acknowledging her stare. He glared at his hands. “They’re starting to look green.”

 

“I’m fine.” He answered shortly. She looked at him surreptitiously.

 

“Well, they have to hurt! I mean, it looks like you’ve been volunteering as a punch bag for Rocky.” Jo said, and Castiel didn’t know who she was referring to when she said Rocky so he kept his mouth shut. Pop culture had never been his thing, and never would be, even being on Netflix he couldn’t watch everything he needed to be able to keep a conversation flowing about TV and movies. Books, maybe.

 

He glared at his lunch some more.

 

“Okay then. You know, I’ve only seen you around a few times, but every time you either look constipated or like a kicked puppy.” She was talking, pulling her lunch out and taking a few bites of some sort of cold lasagna looking thing. Except it was green instead of marinara red.

 

Castiel didn’t say anything, just focused on not letting the headache gathering on his brain in. Jo stopped briefly, filling her mouth to the brim. She didn’t seem to care that the disgusting thing she was eating was stone cold.

 

“So, what class do you have after this?” She asked, wiping her mouth on the sleeve of the olive jacket she was wearing.

 

“Art.” Castiel responded, he hoped that was the most he would have to talk to her.

 

“Oh. Are you any good at it?” She asked.

 

“No.”

 

“Okay. My little brother Ash, he’s like, a prodigy. The next Van Gogh. We keep trying to get him to take classes but he just wants to learn on his own. I think he could really improve a lot, if he would take some. Maybe get a job at some big comic book place, like Marvel or something. Maybe pay for my college. That would be helpful.” She finished with humour and just a hint of bitterness in her voice.

 

“Hm.” Was all Castiel said. Time was ticking by, soon it would be art and then soon after the final bell would ring and he would undoubtedly be cornered. Maybe I could run again? He thought hopefully. But he knew they would probably be expecting it this time. Yesterday he had gotten so lucky, catching them off guard and getting away relatively without a scratch. He had taken a big risk. It could’ve ended very badly for him if they had caught him in the middle of an escape attempt. Though he wasn’t sure it would be better the day after either, when they’d had time to simmer in their hatred for him.

 

“Hey? Hello? Earth to Castiel?” Jo was waving her hand in front of his face. He leaned away from it quickly and she put it down, looking vaguely annoyed. “You drifted off there a moment. Are you alright?”

 

He looked at her dully, wishing very much she would go away.

 

“I’m fine.” He said, annoyance creeping through his voice.

 

“I’m not blind, Castiel. You’re not ‘fine’. I know what happens every day. I know where you get those bruises from.”

 

What? Had she followed him home or something? THis was bad. What if she told someone? No, she wouldn’t tell someone. Like she would care enough to do that. But how had she found out? If his father-

 

“-I know what Dean and his gang do, after school. And I know that they’ve probably been making your life hard for the past months -hell- years…”

 

He breathed an internal sigh of relief, and his shoulders, which had shot ramrod straight sagged. She didn’t know. She didn’t know. “-and you have good reason, plenty of it, to hate their guts. I certainly do, watching those boys strut around like they own the school. I watched Alistar beat up that sweet little freshmen, Maddie, yesterday. And I couldn’t do hardly anything about it because I knew Dean would verbally beat the shit out of me when I got home-”

 

“What do you mean, ‘when you get home’?” Castiel cut sharply into her babbling like his tongue was a knife. She fell silent, looking guilty. His stomach dropped to the floor.

 

“Well-I mean to say, Dean’s sort of a family friend. Our dad’s knew each other, so he’s at the house a lot, with his brother Sam. But he’s a complete asshole, always talking about-”

 

Of course! Here it was, the catch. The reason Jo sat with him at lunch. What was she, reporting back to Dean when he got home like some sort of spy? This was absurd. He turned to stare at her angrily. “Is this why you’ve been sitting here then? Because Dean told you to? You’ve been scoping out the place and decided that maybe the loser rich kid needed a few more reasons to hate life? Are you setting me up? Am I going to walk out that door and get ambushed by those dicks?” He didn’t want an answer though. He stood and grabbed his things, again, almost crying out as he unbent. Bruises were horrible.

 

He marched through the library. His hands shook hard as he clutched his backpack. Jo called after him, and suddenly she darted in front of him, blocking him momentarily.

 

“Castiel, wait!” She looked angry, and sad and her eyes were flashing with something else he couldn’t identify. “Just because I sometimes share a house with that asshole, doesn’t mean I like or respect his decisions. I think it’s sickening, the way he treats the people here. It’s one of the only things me and Sam agree on. And don’t you think I haven’t called him out. He comes home with bloody knuckles and he goes to bed with his ears ringing. But the dumb lump won’t listen, not to anybody. Not even his precious little brother, and that’s saying something.He just defends whatever his goons do with all his heart and it’s hard to fight with him after a while. But please, I’m just trying to be your friend. The reason I didn’t mention Dean at first was I knew it would probably get in the way of things, bring up bad memories.” She looked pained. “I don’t know why I mentioned it just now. But now you know. I really am just trying to be your friend.”

 

She stopped speaking and bit her lip, breathing a bit more heavily than before. Castiel was still rooted to the carpet, a deadpan expression fixed on his face like usual. She stared at him, she looked sincere. Really sincere. Castiel was fighting the impulse, his stupid basic human need to trust her. But it was a losing battle. He always was too gullible.

 

He sighed resignedly. Looking down at the floor, he muttered. “You’re just a family friend? Really?” He couldn’t keep from letting the suspicion heavily into his voice.

 

“I’m not friggin lying!” She sounded slightly exasperated. “Please, just believe me? I’m not Dean’s secret agent. I just thought you looked lonely, and since none of the other sheep at this school were talking to you, I thought I would give it a try. I haven’t even been here two weeks.”

 

He didn’t want to trust her. He really didn’t very much. So he decided to go along with it. Let her sit with him in the library, let her keep him company whenever she felt like it. But eventually liars always showed their true colors, and if she was just trying to get him to trust her for some cruel joke he would know soon enough.

 

He looked back up at her and nodded his head once. Jo smiled in relief, and the bell rang in the background. He walked out of the library, leaving Joe behind him. “See you.” He said over his shoulder, before thinking she might not want to sit with him and adding “Or whatever.” She replied but he didn’t make it out.

 

He passed through the swarms of students with the usual difficulties, getting his shoulders knocked and his bag buffed between bodies. The day sped up and everything faded to a blur again until last period ended.

 

_________________

 

It was kind of comforting, knowing when you were going to be beat and where. A sort of dependability that he could count on, the fact that on a normal day, he would be caught after school and dragged around the building to be punished for some unknown wrongdoing. It was comforting in an off way. As the day went on and Castiel sort of sat through it thoughtlessly, a sense of calm flooded through him. That is, until the last period, when the bell rang shrilly and his class stood to leave, and he felt his stomach start to flutter in anticipation.

 

Walking through the hallways, his shoes scuffed and squeaked on the floor. His shoulders were pummeled, like he was invisible. If only I could be invisible to to a the Knights He bitterly thought. His backpack was whacked uncomfortably to the side of his back as a blonde haired teen tried to cross unwittingly directly through traffic. “Watch it freak.” He said loudly, not even pausing to look at Castiel.

 

Castiel waded along until he was pulled into a headlock from behind. He sighed out loud as his bag was ripped from his shoulders and tossed into the sea of students, many of which glared at him as if it was his fault they were being bombarded with school books. Alistar’s arm tightened constricting around his neck and he chuckled. Castiel just hung limp, fighting was useless in this stage. Maybe if he got out of the headlock?

 

“You got any lunch money for us?” Azazel asked, and Alistair chuckled.

 

“Lunch money? What are we, in fifth grade?” Dean snarked at his friend. Castiel remained stoically silent. Alistair chuckled.

 

“Shut up Abernathy, I don’t see you contributing much to the conversation.” Azazel shot at Alistar, who glared at the other boy threateningly.

 

“You better watch who you tell to shut up.” He growled, and Azazel looked cowed for a moment.

 

“So, Novak,” Dean cut over whatever conversation would’ve ensued. “We thought we’d change up the scenery a little today. Thought you might be getting a little tired of the parking lot.”

 

They started moving, Alistar jerked him forward and he awkwardly hobbled along, still ensnared in the headlock. Winchester continued. “See, we heard from a certain person that you aren’t exactly a prodigy when it comes to the water world.” Castiel stiffened just a little in surprise; it was true, he wasn’t the best when it came to swimming. He would bet prepared to bet that the school PE teacher had given that particular piece of information. He had never exactly done well in her swimming lessons. “So we thought we’d just give you a little practice.”

 

Castiel, stomach sinking, knew where this was going.

 

As they traveled steadily down the hallway to the pool, The three Knights kept up a cheerful conversation going consisting of insult to Castiel’s life in general, the school, and the PE teacher. As the door to the pool locker room loomed into sight, Castiel jerked hard in Alistar’s headlock, not succeeding in much except getting Alistar to tighten his hold to bruising pont. “Woah there, where’re you going?” He asked Castiel, deceivingly good-natured.

 

Winchester looked at Castiel with a warning in his eyes. Castiel disregarded it. He stomped as hard as he could manage on Alistar’s foot, who yelled out and threw him to Winchester, eyes a little red at the pain. Dean caught him easily, though Castiel fought his arms, and wrapped them tightly around his torso. Castiel desperately thrashed from side to side, and Dean muttered “Keep doin’ that and you’ll be doing more than just getting wet.”

 

Castiel continued throwing himself back and forth, trying desperately to shake Dean’s strong body off him. He didn’t speak, but grunted once in awhile from the effort of trying to throw his weak frame out of their arms. Alistair walked in front of him and whacked him in the nose with his fist, stunning Castiel for just enough time for them to get moving again.

 

Castiel stumbled unwillingly to the locker room door, and then was pushed through it roughly. Winchester almost carried him through the musty-smelling room, he was trying to escape but every time he even got close the boy holding him would lift him almost off the ground, crushing him in an unfriendly and tight embrace. Castiel cried out at last when his ribs absolutely screamed in agony during one of these lifts. Dean chuckled softly.

 

Finally, he was dragged/lifted through the door to the pool. The greenish water lapped lazily around in it’s tiny concrete cage, full of chlorine and pee and whatever else was in a High School pool. The Knight’s laughs echoed around the damp room, hitting the walls and reverberating in the way only found in rooms like this. Winchester dragged Castiel to the edge and shoved him to his knees at the very ledge, keeping his hand on his head to restrain any escape attempts. If Castiel leaned forward at all he would fall into the deep end of the pool, which was only seven feet, but Castiel didn’t much like the idea of getting soaked before his trek home. He didn’t like the way this was going, not one bit.

 

He took in a deep breath and ducked out from Dean’s rough hand, which scrabbled in mid air aimlessly for a moment, not quite as efficient as it should’ve been in keeping Castiel still.

 

The blue eyed boy made it to his feet, staggering away from Dean and the pool. The Knights watched in apparent amusement as Castiel struggled to catch his breath. His ribs were still groaning under his skin, irritated and angry at him. ‘“You’re not getting out of this one, you can’t pull another stunt like the one you did yesterday.” Dean said conversationally. “Which, by the way, was quite stupid of you.”

 

“Screw you.” said Castiel quietly, and the Knights all ‘oooh’’ed and jeered at him.

 

“Yeah, real whippersnapper. I have no idea how you come up with those retorts!” Alistair sneered. “You know, I was really looking forward to our appointment yesterday, I think you should’ve at least called to cancel.” Alistair looked hungry, like a mad dog. He always was a creepy kid, in Castiel’s eyes. “I guess we’ll just have to have a makeup session.”

 

At that, they started to move in on Castiel. After ducking a blow from Azazel, Castiel kicked Dean in the shin as the other two closed in on him fast. He moved out of the way of another hit, but soon one, and then two and three punches slipped past his defences and he was restrained back in his old buddy Winchester’s arms before long. But just as he was getting ‘comfortable’, Dean threw him down onto the concrete in front of the pool and then Alistar pushed him out of the way and crouched next to Castiel. “Enjoy your swim.” He crooned with a sickening smile, and Castiel barely had time to draw in a breath before Alistar’s hand clamped on his neck and forced his head underwater.

 

Everything went silent and wavy as his ears cleared the liquid barrier, he struggled to break the hold and not fall in at the same time. Panic was making his lungs seize for air, he could tell he wasn’t going to last long. He wasn’t any hero from a movie, he couldn’t hold his breath longer than ten seconds, he was screwed. He swung wildly with his arms, though he could barely move them in the hunched over position he was occupying. He jerked his head fruitlessly, the water billowing around his ear as the non-existent air burned in his lungs. The hand on his neck was so tight it was incredibly painful, he screwed up his eyes in the effort not to breath in water as he finally reached his limit, his heart beating a thousand miles an hour….

 

He was dragged upwards through the water, the hand still vice-like on his throat. He gasped in a great lungful of air, his lungs burning and his body feeling weak, coughing and limp. He could hear the laughs echoing through the room as he shuddered, and glared at the closest blurry thing he could see.

 

He struggled feebly as the hand shoved him back under the water, where the thrashed weakly, trying to push forward or backwards, any direction but it wasn’t working. They were going to drown him, he was sure of it, one of these times they would hold him under too long and they wouldn’t care enough to perform CPR, of course not….

 

He was panicky and his heart was beating faster and slower at the same time and he was struggling hard not to breath but the urge to was so, so strong. As the seconds ticked by he felt his will crumble until, involuntarily, he took in a breath of water and started choking immediately, everything from his elbows up burning. He opened his eyes, thrashing more forcefully and the hand on his neck was getting slippery, maybe he would get out soon…

 

His vision was starting to white out when he was finally allowed out of the burning water, and he was thrown and fell back onto the cement coughing and gasping and almost sobbing with relief as he gulped in as much air as he could. His vision slowly returned as he curled slightly, not even making an attempt to do anything other than breath.

 

He barely heard the laughter, coming from Alistair and Azazel. Winchester was curiously silent. As hands grabbed him terror flashed icily through his veins and he almost screamed out “Stop!”

 

But as he was plunged back into the cool water, the sycophantic laughs of his classmates ringing in his ears, he tried his hardest to get free, bumping his head hard on the hard edge to his side in the process and losing what little air he had with his pained gasp. Immediately he started choking on the water he had let in. His body was going into the red zone.

 

He was going to die, he was sure, in this sad school swimming pool that stank of bleach, and his last words were going to be a pathetic plea that fell on deaf ears.

 

It seemed longer than the other times, maybe it was just because it was all he could do to not breath any more water. The burn for air was like an itch that needed to be scratched, it was an involuntary impulse to pull in through his nose. He had about as much control over it as the beating of his heart.

 

He thrashed and thrashed, but he was getting weaker and weaker. His head was starting to hurt. He opened his eyes into slits and the over-chlorinated water burned them. His lungs felt like balloons, they were full to the bursting point for his need for oxygen and soon they were going to pop.

 

Suddenly he was jerked out, His head snapping back, and he breathed in from the shock of it, the liquid burning his nostrils and seizing up his chest. The billowing water drained from his ears and his head hit the concrete with a thump. His gasping filled the air again, this time accompanied with hacking coughs as the water tried to force it’s way out of his lungs. Something was going on with the Knights, but right now there was a buzzing in his ears and all he could hear was his own harsh and rapid breathing, all he could feel was the heartbeat in his neck like a drumbeat.

 

There was definitely some sort of arguing going on behind him, his ears were picking up what they could but his coughing was making it hard. His body rocked on the ground as Castiel tried to catch his breath. He was soaked from his ribcage up.

 

“-too long! Do you want to kill-” cough. Cough. “-twerp, but being charged with manslaughter-” COUGH cough “-not how I want to end my day!” Dean’s voice cut through the moments that Castiel drew in his laboured breaths.

 

“Well at least he’s alive,” Alistair spit back. “If you’re so worried about-” COUGH cough “-Dear Cassie-” cough cough COUgh cough “-Be here!”

 

“Fine! You have fun. Azazel, you with me? Or-” cough cough “-him?” Dean asked Azazel, and Castiel couldn’t make out the answer. Were they leaving? Were they leaving him with Alistar?

 

Footsteps echoed through the room, and the door opened squeakily. Castiel’s stomach dropped as Alistar muttered “Fuckin’ cowards. Afraid to have a little fun.”

 

Suddenly Castiel was turned over by his shoulder, his back digging into the hard floor, “We’re having fun, aren’t we?” Alistar’s smiling face loomed over Castiel’s, too close for comfort. He gulped, trying not to look at Alistair's eyes. He couldn’t calm his breathing, a combination of fear and oxygen-deprivation was making his heart work overtime. He hoped all Alistar was going to do was half-drown him, because the look in his eyes was the sort of thing you would find in the eyes of jailed murderers, or little boys who like to kill rabbits they trapped in the woods.

 

His brain panicked and his hand starting acting on impulse, any sense of self-preservation discarded while Alistair leered down at him. Castiel punched Alistar as hard as he could on the mouth, his knuckles throbbing painfully afterward. Alastair fell back with a yell, clutching his lips with both hands. Blood was dripping down his chin, and Castiel barely had time to feel a pinch of satisfaction before he scrambled on his hands and knees away from Alistair, trying to get as far away from him as he could before he made a run for it.

 

But Alistar recovered quickly.

 

He felt that same rough hand that had previously been on his neck clamp down on his leg, and he kicked out wildly, hitting something that might have been Alistar’s head. The bully behind him grunted and pulled again, with both hands on Castiel’s leg, and he slid backward with a sickening scraping sound. His wet hair flopped in his head as he was pulled backwards, and his hands scrabbled on the ground like rats, making them raw and cracking a few of his fingernails. Alistar’s hands reached up suddenly to his knees. “C’mere you.” Huffed an amused voice behind him. “We’re not done that quickly. Dean and Az might not have enough stomach to teach you your lesson, but don’t think for one second I’ll just let you go like yesterday.” Castiel grunted as he struggled in vain to get away, heart thumping madly. “Oh, you thought you escaped all on your own?” Sneered Alistar. “No, you went because I let you. I say what goes around here.” He hauled Castiel to him with one big pull, and smacked him across the face. “And don’t you forget it.”

 

Alistair started moving to the pool, smiling evilly while he did it, and Castiel abandoned all pretense that he might get out of this alive. Alistair looked like he was going to murder him. Dean and Azazel had left, two of the only people who would have reined Alistar in. As much of a jackass as Winchester was, he didn’t seem like the homicidal type. But as Alistar approached the water, Castiel caught the glint in his eyes, and terror flashed through him. He started screaming. “Help! Help please HELP!” It was frustrating that he could only think of those words, he couldn’t come up with anything to convey to a standby that he was going to be murdered and needed help immediately. “Please! I need-”

 

Castiel cut off suddenly as Alistair stood, still clutching his leg with both hands, pulling Castiel upwards like a sack of potatoes. His leg was painfully curled halfway over Alistar’s shoulder, the rest of him hanging until his shoulders, which touched the ground. His chin scrunched awkwardly into his chest, but he was more concerned about his leg which felt like it was going to snap over Alistar’s back like a twig. “Help! Please stop him! In the pool! Help HELP Please!” He sobbed as he scrabbled at the ground. Alistair stopped at the pools edge and dropped Castiel’s legs, and when he tried to crawl away Castiel’s hand was stomped on so hard he screamed. Alistair grabbed his head with both hands, framing his face with his fingers, and shoved it under water.

 

Castiel clamped everything shut, determined not to give into the water again. He scratched at Alistar’s hands with his nails, digging as hard as he could to no avail. He tried to dive into the water, at which Alistar removed one hand and clamped it around Castiel’s throat, squeezing harder and harder until Castiel stopped struggling for a moment. Then he resumed, simply trying to throw himself as far as he could in any direction, before Alistar squeezed his throat hard enough to dent it, and he knew he’d have bruising in the morning. If he survived to the morning. His heart beat faster and faster as though some tiny racer with a riding crop were beating it and telling it to speed up. His lungs were bursting again.

 

When it seemed he would never get free, Castiel stopped struggling. He focused all his energy on holding his breath, which was becoming a rapidly bigger issue, as the stale air seemed to have turned to lava in his lungs, burning through the flesh and leaving him helpless. The pressure was building and building, and he resorted to blowing bubbles out of his nose to relieve it in some way, which didn’t work. In fact, it seemed to deplete his air supply quite quickly. Alistair seemed to find his lack of struggle amusing, Castiel could feel the vibrations of him laugh through his side. He shivered, disgusted to be so close to the teenager.

 

When was Alistar going to let him breath? When he was unconscious? Would Alistar listen to his heart and wait until it was barely thumping? And now, it seemed there would be two choices. Wait, see if Alistar would let him up, whenever that might be, or breathe. His heart was thumping out a tune; scared scared scared scared.

 

He might black out quicker if he did it now. It might be over sooner.

 

All of it..

 

But he didn’t breathe. He didn’t let go that easily. Alistar was still holding him under when he started to lose consciousness.

 

 

Next thing he knew, Castiel was on the concrete once more, head swimming and heart thumping, coughing up water. Someone was leaning over him, golden hair glinting in the sunlight. He blinked the grayness out of his vision as he watched her lips move, forming words.

 

“Jo?” He asked, coughing a little, than a lot, jerking his torso up with the force of the hacking.

 

“Yeah, it’s me.” She sounded relieved. “Thank god you’re alive, I thought I was too late. I thought you were dying. I was about to call nine-one-one.”

 

Castiel hacked harder, water dribbling out of his mouth. His nose burned, maybe he had blacked out and started breathing? Why was Jo here? He retched and gagged, water dribbling out of his mouth along with some spit. He weakly wiped that off his chin with his wet sleeve.

 

“Why-are you here?” Castiel asked weakly, throat sore from screaming for help and the squeezing it had been given minutes previously. When he spoke it burned.

 

“Dean.” She said shortly, suddenly something flashed in her eyes. “Oh, I bet he knew. He knew exactly what was going on, that coward.” She spat out the words, leaving Castiel confused. She looked at him and sighed, shoulders rolling back. The drip of Castiel’s wet clothes echoed in the brief silence, and Jo started to talk. “I was walking around after school, I had just come from English and I saw Dean when I walked out. He was with that other dude, Azazel, and they both looked kinda antsy so I went up and said hi, and Dean just told me to that something was happening in the pool and He thought someone should know. Then they left before I could stop them, and I just went to the pool cuz I figured something bad must be happening, and I heard screams from the hallway outside of the hallway that has the lockers. I suppose that was you, wasn’t it?” She looked down at Castiel with faint pity in her eyes, and Castiel looked away, embarrassed. “And I came in, and that creep Alistar was holding you under, and you weren't moving at all, just laying there I thought he had killed you. I really did. And I kicked him in the head, called him some names, kicked him in the dick and that got him to let go and get out of there pretty quick.

 

“And I got you out of the pool, and got you to start breathing again. And here we are.” She finished, touching Castiel’s throat lightly, tracing it as if checking for broken things or lumps. He flinched back.

 

Castiel was exhausted. He could feel his eyes drooping, and his head and neck throbbing and his nostrils burning (though fainter than before), and he wanted nothing more than to get out of this building and collapse somewhere and just sleep forever. His hands were shaking so hard he doubted he could have held anything, and his coughing was making everything else shudder too. He kind of wished he hadn’t regained consciousness.

 

Jo grabbed something at her side, and held it up. “I found this in the hallway, I assume it’s yours?” She was brandishing Castiel’s backpack, and he nodded. She put it back down and stood up.

 

“Well, I’m no doctor but I don’t think you should be up for a while.” Castiel opened his mouth to say something and she held up a silencing hand. “You were just almost drowned I don’t know how many times he held you under. Probably more than just once right?” Castiel closed his mouth with a click, Jo knew she was right. “And if I’m not mistaken, Dean and Azazel were there too right?” He hesitated, before nodding jerkily. Jo practically glowed with anger. “That little shit….me and Dean are going to have words when I get home.”

 

It was weird how angry Joe was on Castiel’s behalf. It felt strange and foreign. “Well, I think we should call an ambulance or something, make sure you’re okay?” Castiel snapped to attention, shaking his head very hard. Well, as hard as it would let him without bursting.

 

“I’m okay.” He croaked, already pushing his aching body up. Jo tried to stop him but he glared at her fiercely and she backed off. “I’m going h-home. Thank you for everything Jo, but there’s not much you can do. This will happen again, maybe not in the swimming pool, but you can’t stop them or longer than a couple weeks when it comes to...things like this.” He said, limping to the door. Jo followed him, shoving his backpack into his hands. She stopped him with a firm hand on his shoulder, turning him gently.

 

“At least promise me that you’ll put an ice pack on your neck when you get home, there’s already a bruise.” She sounded like she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Wondering if his father would even allow that, and knowing the answer already, Castiel nodded. “Okay. Good. You may go.” She opened the door for him and he walked out, dripping all over the floor. She accompanied him through the hallways. He felt guilty, because as much as he was grateful to Jo for stopping Alistair, he just wanted to be alone. Well, not too guilty.

 

“Are you going to be okay, Castiel?” She asked suddenly, and he turned to face her, confused and silent. He was going to be fine, he wasn’t dead was he? She sighed, faint humour flickering through her features. “The silence is back huh? I mean when you get home, will you be okay? You’re so quiet, are you going to tell anybody about this, or do I have to?”

 

Castiel shook his head. “I’ll tell...my parents.” He lied, wry amusement flashing through him. Like his parents would do anything. But he couldn’t have Jo telling anyone, it would get out to the whole school and things would just get worse.

 

Jo looked apprehensive, but nodded. “Okay.” They reached the doors and Castiel started walking out, to the sidewalk that led to his house. “Cas!” She called, and he turned. “Just...take care of yourself, okay?”

 

She was looking somewhere near his collarbone, and confused, Castiel looked and saw his shirt had ripped sometime during his swim, and exposed an enormous bruise his father had given him the other night. Pulling his shirt up with one hand and trying his best not to expose the nervous lightning bolt in his stomach on his face, Castiel nodded at Jo, hopefully dead faced. “Okay.” His voice seemed kind of waverly, maybe from the near-drowning, maybe from something else. He didn’t think he could handle more than that, it hurt too much to speak.

 

He watched her turn, her sunshine hair bouncing as she walked out into the parking lot and cracked open the door to a blue toyota. As she drove away in the opposite direction he found himself wishing that he had a car. It would be so easy to just get in and drive, go find some cheap motel to live in and work at a Mcdonald’s, far away from here. He could drive and drive and never have to worry about his father or the Knights again. Before he could think about it much more, he turned back and started down the way to his house.

 

___________________________________

 

after a shivery walk home, in which Castiel had plenty of time to reflect on his life and be angry, he finally arrived at his house. He walked up the drive, past the dying flowers and into the doorway without pausing. The cool breeze had turned his wet shirt into an ice cube, and his teeth had been chattering for uncomfortably long time. Every drip of water was akin to the sloshing of the pool at the school. Every time his breath caught he was taken back to the imploding of his lungs, the need to breath burning in every part of him. It was horrible. Flashbacks were one of the worst things that accompanied these situations. And they only made him more furious at Alistair, and more ashamed that he hadn’t fought harder, longer and better. Surely he would gain skills from these experiences?

 

And another question, why was Jo so insistent that he stay safe at home? Even if she thought something else was going on, she couldn’t have suspected his father. Whenever they were seen in public the ‘normal’ charade was slapped on so thickly that even Castiel had a hard time seeing through it himself. The fakeness of it all was nauseating. He knew that people thought he had it made, basically all people who had never seen his bruises. Maybe Joe was the one exception? Castiel wasn’t sure whether he was glad Jo could see through lies, or he wanted her to shut up about it because his father would kill him if he knew she’d figured it out.

 

But hold on, who said she figured it out? Castiel’s brain asked itself. There was no proof she knew anything. She was looking at an old bruise, one the Knights could have easily given him. He was probably just freaking out over nothing. Probably.

 

Castiel was halfway to the stairs when his father walked out of the kitchen. “Hold it!” the balding man ordered.

 

Instead of pausing like he normally would have, Castiel sped up, jogging up the stairs as his father called after him, “Castiel! Get down here now or I’ll skin you!”

 

Castiel knew he would pay the price fore running away in a few minutes, but right now his will to obey his father was considerably smaller due to his pounding head and scratchy throat. All that was keeping his going was the fact that the weekend was tomorrow. Yes, that glorious day was coming when he would get up and go outside and not return to the house until evening. Or at least, that’s what he wanted to do, but he knew that even if he did get out of the house he wouldn’t really know what to do. The library closed on weekends, he had no money for the arcade and his other option was walking around town for a day. Given his current physical condition, that just didn’t seem fun.

 

He quickly peeled off his wet shirt, throwing on the first dry one he laid his hands on. He changed his pants too, for good measure, into old dress pants that were a faded black. For some reason he had quite the number of black dress pants.

 

After changing, he debated. Take a nap, or go downstairs? Spend several hours in blissful sleep, or go face the thunderstorm he had left brewing behind his locked door? It was glaringly obvious which one he would choose. He laid carefully back on the bed, settling into the mattress that felt like a pillow stuffed with angel feathers. Within minutes he was fast asleep, not unlike a log, and oblivious to the world.

Chapter Text

Castiel slept for so much much longer than he had intended to.

He woke the next morning grogily, feeling better than he had before but with an ominous feeling in his bones. It was Saturday, Sometime in June, and he was 98% sure he was supposed to have done something the night before and forgotten.

Then he remembered; his father. He had defied his father’s orders, and left the consequences for his morning self to handle. Fear twinged in his stomach as he imagined what might happen this time. Maybe his father would keep up the theme and try to drown him in the kitchen sink? He hadn’t made dinner, and had pointedly ignored his father’s calls, and that was a serious offense. His mother made dinner it sometimes, when there was a special occasion, like the night Zacharia came, but other times it was left to the son. And when he failed to act accordingly, especially if his father told his specifically, it was like signing a form that signed him up to be a test subject for boxing gloves.

His throat felt raw and closed up, he could tell talking was going to be a bitch. His head was headache free, for now. The rest of his body hurt, but it was a dull hurt in the background. When he swallowed it was like his throat was puffy and full of sawdust on the inside, he could barely work up enough spit to make it easier.

He threw the covers off himself and tried to stand up in one go, like some superhero in a comic book that could bounce back the day after a dramatic rooftop-jumping fight. Buffy got stabbed in the sixth season and Castiel was pretty sure that if she could run around and kill monsters after that, he could make his way downstairs and eat a banana before school.

Easier said than done.

As he stood, the uneasy calm he had been feeling in his forehead disappeared and returned with a wave of pain that slammed into his brain like a poisoned arrow. Castiel slapped a hand unhelpfully to his forehead to steady it and clenched his eyes shut, dizzy and nauseous from pain. If he had any luck, it wouldn’t turn into a migraine while he got dressed. Though he rarely had luck.

He didn’t pay attention to what was going on he grabbed when he got dressed. He could’ve been wearing anything and he wouldn’t know because he could barely tilt his head without acid valves leaking inside of it. It felt like he grabbed a soft t shirt. He wasn’t wearing his jeans, but he didn’t know what color his pants currently were. He didn’t really care, fashion wasn’t really his biggest worry right at the moment.

Once he grabbed socks and somehow dragged them onto his feet, Castiel walked carefully down the hallway and into the kitchen, the only comfort he had about his situation was that his father worked 7 days a week most of the time and he had left for his job hours before daylight. After taking a glance at the mostly empty fridge, he decided to forgo lunch because making anything would mean rooting through shelve to cobble together some sort of finger food. He did grab a banana for breakfast. Then he filled a glass with water and drank it steadily down in one go, chugging until there was no sound but his teeth clicking on the glass. It didn’t feel much better, but at least he was hydrated.

He looked as well as he could around the kitchen for any booby traps, death threats or hornet nests hidden there by his father. He found nothing. This didn’t exactly comfort him, it meant that the ammo was being saved until the later hours, but at least the bruises on his face wouldn’t have new brothers and sisters quite yet.

Carefully Castiel walked back up the stairs and brought his backpack and a pair of shoes with him, tying them tightly without looking down and hefting the backpack on one sore shoulder for the walk ahead of him. Before he had come downstairs he had slipped his journal into his backpack, meaning to take care of it on his walk home today, if he didn’t get semi-kidnapped again. He readjusted his backpack to that it didn’t hurt so much on his skin. He would have carried it if he didn’t doubt the upper arm strength he currently (didn’t) possess.

Slipping out the door, he opened his banana and tried to swallow a chunk of it without tearing up. He failed, the banana tore its way down his bruised throat and he could barely stand to take another 2 bites before deciding that whatever he thought would happen if he went to school on an empty stomach, would be far less painful than this.

It was a warmer day. Castiel realized he hadn’t grabbed jacket, and was grateful for the mid seventies temperature. As he walked he could feel his hips crack, the bones felt like someone had filled them with mortar. Part of him could barely believe he had managed to wake up, another part of him was shaking in fear at the thought of whatever intense misery waited for him when his father got home. Another part of him was thinking about the Knights, and wondering if the others knew how close Alistair had come to drowning him yesterday.

Probably they knew all of it. Knowing Alistair he had probably grabbed a phone, dialed Winchester’s number and boasted about his work, as long as Winchester would listen. He did seem rather opposed to the idea of what Alistair was doing yesterday. Then he would have called Azazel and maybe Uriel too, accepted their praise and polished his throne at the top of the pecking order. Castiel found himself wondering if the others would approve. Azazel almost certainly would think it was a tale worth writing on gold leaf, worth proclaiming to the whole school, despite the fact that he had abandoned the attack yesterday. Castiel probably could expect nothing less than Azazel’s worst treatment. Uriel...well, Castiel didn’t really have a grasp on Uriel’s attitude. He was basically a carbon copy toadie, sneering and laughing at all the right insults, holding arms behind backs and only joining in when told to. Maybe he would laugh, suck up to Alistair and try to be a real member of ‘the gang’. Winchester….

Maybe Winchester would be more inclined to be disapproving than joyful. He had a brother after all, maybe that instilled some sort of moral sense in his heart, however shaky and off course it may be. Winchester was the one who walked out on Alistair originally, so he must have some misgivings about what was basically water torture. Though Castiel didn’t fool himself into thinking that Winchester had walked out because of him. It had nothing to do with the person being dunked. But Castiel did have the feeling that if it was anyone other than him, Dean probably would’ve ended the little session right there. He just wasn’t worth the strain it would put on Dean’s friendship with Alistair. This last thought was accompanied by a bitter aftertaste in Castiel’s mouth. Anger bubbled in his stomach.

The more he thought about the pool, the feel of Alistair’s bony hands on his tender neck, the sound of laughter echoing off the damp walls, the more angry Castiel became. At how weak he was, how cruel the Knights were, how hopeless his situation was. How easily bruises formed on his skin, and instead of growing used to it it was like his skin was flaking off, each layer was more sensitive than the other and he could feel it more firmly than before. Maybe the knowledge in his head that he was a pathetic excuse for a person was strengthening the pain of it all. He never used to feel it like this. He couldn’t defend himself, he relied on the pity of others to keep himself alive, to save his ass at the important times and ignore him at the others. Yesterday was one of the worst Knight attacks yet, and he had been rescued by a petite blonde with a sharp mouth who shouldn’t give two fucks about him but still sat with him at lunch. Pathetic.

He almost certainly had a few prominent marks on his neck. He hadn’t thought about it that morning, but now he wished he had some sort of scarf or something to cover that bruises, to cover the shame of what he had let happen to himself. Why hadn’t he looked in a mirror? He probably looked like hell warmed over. Bad enough to repulse anyone who would care enough to look at him. He thought about Jo, rescuing him in the pool. Would she want to see him today? Or would she finally realize that he was just a loser with rich parents who couldn’t defend his own life to save the world?

He was steadily approaching school grounds. His wish to not step a foot in the buildings was also steadily growing bigger, but he tried to take his mind off of that. The trouble was, there wasn’t very much he could think of that would cheer him up. It briefly flittered across his mind that he could try to imagine the Knights of Hell getting what they deserve, say, disembowelment, but Castiel crossed that option off his mental checklist. Unless he was in a really bad mood, he wasn’t much for the whole plot-your-enemy's downfall thing.

The big brick building seemed to suck all the happiness in the world into it, crush it beneath its weight, and then feed the desiccated joy into the mouth of hell. Maybe that was a shade dramatic, but the description was accurate all the same. There was a flow of students slowly winding through the door, ignoring Castiel mostly. As he walked up the stairs another Senior Castiel didn’t know the name of shoved him down, but out of sheer willpower Castiel managed to remain standing. He glared halfheartedly at the smirking face of the Senior, who turned and was hailed by friends.

Through the doors, past some lockers, then to the bathroom. Castiel walked cautiously inside, aware that this was a smallish enclosed space where more could transpire than personal hygiene. He turned at looked at the mirror, and pushed all the air out of his lungs.

The bruises on his face were very new and very old, all from different fists and boots and slabs of cement. If you had pointed to a spot on Castiel’s face and asked where it came from, he wouldn’t have been able to tell you.

The t shirt he was wearing did nothing to conceal the necklace of dark purple that wreathed his throat. Little fingernail marks were stamped at intervals around the sides, and Castiel winced when he swallowed, feeling how sore his throat still was. THe bruises were so prominent, he was surprised the boy who had shoved him hadn’t commented on them.

His face was just bruised and scraped, nothing was bleeding but scabs were tucked into his hairline and scrapes with hard scabby outsides where framing his face. It was vague how many times his face scraped the painted concrete edge of the pool yesterday, but it must have been a lot because the lacerations on his cheeks were more numerous than usual.

When Castiel finished examining himself, he strode self consciously from the bathroom, trying to keep his head down and his neck covered. He passed the girl’s bathroom and heard arguing coming from the maintenance closet next to it. Looking quickly, he noticed it was halfway open, and inside was the telltale Nightmare On Elm Street backpack slung across Alistar’s shoulders. He was hunched over something with glittering blonde hair, and a horrible pang struck Castiel’s stomach as he realized Alistair had cornered Jo. He almost wanted to go and help her, but he knew he would only make the situation worse. He was far from intimidating when it came to warding off bullies.

“-fuck off before I tie you to the ceiling with your own small intestine.” Jo snarled, (Castiel paused just behind the closet door, nervously rubbing his arm).

“Oh there’s no need for such drastic measures!” Alistair crooned. He sounded like he was trying to make a deal. “Just stay out of my business, and I’ll stay out of yours. Dean doesn’t like it much when you get - involved - in these things, but you step into crap you don’t understand one more time and I’ll do whatever I can to mess up your pretty little face. I can deal with Dean afterward.” The threat was so strong in his voice, it could have melted a cast-iron door. There was a thud and the clatter of cleaning supplies on a shaken shelf, like Alistair had pushed Jo back.

“Dean doesn’t have a say over what I do. None of you assholes do. I don’t know what you were expecting to happen here but I can tell you one thing, if I ever find you doing something like what I saw last night again, I will personally make sure you graduate in a coffin.” Jo spat her words like venom. “Or maybe a cardboard box. I’ll make sure you get what you deserve.”

“All bark and no bite.” Alistair said, and Castiel shifted uneasily. It sounded like the conversation was drawing to a close, and while he should be getting out of there he couldn’t help but stay and hear what would happen next. “I’d say you’re like Dean in that way, but, well, after seeing his magnificent job on RichDick the other day, I’d say he’s got a fair amount of bite in him after all.” Castiel twitched at the mention of him.

“You and your little goonies are nothing but-” Jo’s commanding voice was cut off as a bottle of water thunked off the side of Castiel’s pain riddled head and clattered to the ground. There was shifting from inside the janitor’s closet, and, rather than face Alistair and without seeing whomever threw the water bottle, Castiel sped off down the corridor.

His heart was thumping, though not out of fear. He could not believe he let Jo get so close to him. Grateful though he was that Jo found him yesterday, it hurt him to hear that she was getting the repercussions. If she got even a fraction of the misery Castiel had to suffer through here, it would ruin her high school experience. Though she was tougher than he, and had connections within the Knights Of Hell, Jo was not going to be all sunshines and rainbows if Alistair was harassing her every time he could. Guilt settled itself into a comfortable crevice of Castiel’s stomach. He had to talk to her (no matter how much he didn’t want to) in the library. Even though he had packed no lunch, The Knights rarely ever went in there. He had to tell Jo that for her own sake, she should stay away. Though really, did she expect that being around him wouldn’t bring repercussions? Castiel also didn’t find it very likely that she would leave him alone without a fight, stubborn as she had proven herself to be.

He just noticed as he walked down the bustling hallway that Winchester was talking to a freshmen on his right, not looking altogether friendly. As Castiel hurriedly passed, Winchester looked right at him until Castiel was out of his line of sight. The look was cold, reminiscent of a glare, and it didn’t exactly warm Castiel’s heart as he watched the fist bunched in the freshmen’s collar tighten until the knuckles turned white. There was a bruise on Winchester’s cheek, the size of an apple. Castiel wondered if Alistair had given his buddy that for interfering yesterday.

As he walked he tried to keep to the wall of lockers, but even though his head was down and he was trying to look no more conspicuous than an ant, people still pointed and laughed at his neck openly, a few that weren't quite as ruthless simply looked at him with pity. A few boys wearing neon nike shirts threw some garbage at him and called him names. Cheeks burning, Castiel hurried to his first class.

____________________________

Dean could barely believe himself when he got home that night.

He spent the evening feeling horribly guilty, while at the same time mentally yelling insults at himself, and also trying to figure out what the hell he and Sam where going to eat because his dad hadn’t given him any money for groceries when he had left for a job interview a few states away yesterday. It didn’t help that Jo’s words were ringing in his ears like fire engine sirens either. As he opened the same cupboard doors over and over again, and perused the fridge’s contents for the thousandth time, Dean wondered Novak would be okay after that afternoon.

It hard started off innocently enough. Well, these things were never exactly ‘innocent’, but it had started off more prankish than life-threatening. It had been someone’s idea, Dean couldn’t remember whose because the group adopted it so fast that the owner barely got acknowledged. It might have been Azazel, as he had swim lessons at the school every so often with the crusty gym teacher. Dean had liked the idea. It sounded fun, and adventurous, and new, and most importantly, it sounded like it would scare the shit out of Castiel Novak. Alistair had quickly said yes too, but Dean had never expected him to say no.

So, after school, they had waited until Castiel’s skinny person appeared in the hallway, then they grabbed him and hauled ass to the pool.

Dean was still kind of impressed by how much Castiel fought. He had almost almost slipped out of their fingers a few times, but never quite got as far away as he needed to to escape properly. It had been fun, getting him there. The first couple of dunks had been exhilarating. Every punch Dean landed was like a boost to his confidence. But then those feelings started fading as he watched Alistair hold Novak under the water for increasingly long amounts of time, barely letting the RichDick breath before shoving him under. And as much as Dean enjoyed a good hazing, this was edging a little too close to manslaughter for him to stand. What if they got caught? What if Novak passed out while he was still under? What if he died, and his loaded parents sued the school and the people responsible? His dad would fucking kill Dean. Guilt might have also had a part in his mutiny, but he tried not to acknowledge it.

And after a few minutes of quickly battling with his inner demons, feeling steadily queasier and sicker and seeing Castiel’s face grow steadily redder as he was dragged out of the water for brief air breaks, Dean tried to get Alistair to stop. Alistair had yanked Novak out and thrown him to the ground, Dean was admittedly a little worried (damn conscience) by the lack of movement by the other boy. The weaker boy’s erratic breathing was frightening, to understate it, and Dean’s heart-region had protested against that much to the displeasure of Dean’s mind. When Alistair had refused to let old blue eyes go, Dean had called it quits then and there. The other two could carry on with this fun, but Dean wasn’t going to be faulted if this whole shenanigan went terribly wrong. He hated Castiel, but there was a line. Maybe if it was someone else, say…. Anna, from Algebra, he would have stopped the whole thing. But really, as long as the blood wasn’t on his hands he couldn’t care less if Castiel got fucking PTSD from this bullshit, as long as no one’s soul was ripped from their body. Wow, that was a little graphic. He had left the swimming pool with a horrible feeling in his chest and a thorough wish to smack someone in the face with his knuckles.

And Jo had come over just a few hours ago, and filled him in on what had happened in his absence.

________________________

“Dean!”

Wincing at the tone of voice, Dean stuck his head out of his room to see Sam looking at him from the doorway across the hall, where he had stuck his head out curiously. He eyed Dean and mouthed the words ‘what’s up?’, which Dean ignored. He didn’t know the answer, and he wasn’t going to waste precious breath telling Sam so.

So Dean yelled back, “Yeah? What ya’ want, princess?” Biting his tongue in trepidation. Jo didn’t sound very… happy. He could almost hear Sam shudder across the hall at his ‘disregard for the rules of grammar’.

“Get in here.” growled back Jo, who was glowering so fiercely Dean could feel it, and Dean walked slowly to the living room, where the blonde was standing with her foot tapping. Dean gulped mentally. The ropes of tension in his gut, ones residing since the end of school, tightened compulsively. Jo could be funny, she could be kind, she culd be nice and she could be sarcastic, but no one even denied that none of those traits compared to when she was angry.

“Yeah? Don’t you have homework or something?” Dean knew she was in the midst of an avalanche of homework, with end of year studies and the extra complications of dropping in unexpectedly from a patient lenient homeschooled background.

“Yes, Dean, I have a lot of homework, so I’m going to make this pretty damn quick.” Jo spat, and Dean’s fragile pretense of ‘nothing is wrong and she’s just here for a social call’ disappeared as he watched the fire lick at Jo’s eyes.

“Now, I have had the pleasure of helping a friend of mine out of a sticky situation recently at school.” Jo said, with a tone of voice that told him she was massively downplaying something, and Dean wondered where the hell this was going on, with the vague sense that he was forgetting something important in the back of his head. “Now, as this friend of mine has a pretty tough school and home life, I was expecting a little something like this to happen soon. But of all the stupid, idiotic, brainless, moronic, cowardly things I expected you to do, leaving someone to be drowned in a swimming pool was not one of them Dean Winchester.”

And then it hit him. He had told Jo! He had completely and totally forgotten that he had told someone else about the swimming pool, that he had stopped Jo in the parking lot and sent her back to check up on the situation. Suddenly his stomach started to roil, wondering what she had found. Also, friend? She was friends with Novak?

He had been so concentrated simply on the fact that he had abandoned the situation, so wrapped up in his friggin’ guilt, that he hadn’t realized that he hadn’t just left his plaything in the school with a psychopath, he had also sent the most badass girl he knew to go check on them for him. He tried to push any feelings of impishness out of his chest, letting tension into his bloodstream in its stead.

Before he could get a word in, Jo continued, in a soft dangerous tone. “I found your friend, your buddy Alistair, holding Castiel under the water. When I got there, Castiel wasn’t moving. The person you left to fate was passed out under the water, and your fucking friend was just holding him under, and you know what? He was laughing while he did it. So I did what a decent human and friend would always do, I went and I got that fucking demented creature away from him, and I had to pull his body out of the fucking water, and I had to get him to breathe again. I was this close-” she pinched her fingers together and jerked them in his face- “to calling an ambulance when he woke up. But my friend Castiel, even though he had just been attacked, even though some fucking dickbag idiots had jumped him and almost FUCKING killed him, didn’t want to cause any trouble. Didn’t let me call the ambulance, didn’t let you morons get into trouble you deserve, and went home with a swollen neck, fucking gashes on his head. And believe me Dean Winchester, even though you are my relative, even though we sometimes share a house, even though every birthday party I’ve ever had you sing me a Beatles song, I would’ve sold you out to the cops like that.” Jo snapped her fingers, it sounded like a gunshot in the silence. “Because no one, absolutely fucking no one who does such horrible things, is my family.” Jo said savagely. The room was silent. Sam watched from his doorway, shocked and angry.

A slew of vivid images filled Dean’s mind. He could only picture the scene Jo had walked in on. He could visualize the Fingernail marks, the purple clouds on Novak’s throat that would later be put on display for the school to see. He could see Alistair, his face alight with sick glee as he held Novak by the back of the neck, the water roiling with the efforts of the person trapped inside of them. The guilt in his stomach was churning, forcing it’s way up his esophagus like it was vomit, and he couldn’t push it down like the other times. It was like and infection, a curse, and all the could do was gulp like a fish in the face of Jo’s less than diminished anger. Dean couldn’t believe Castiel hadn’t let her tell the cops, if they had switched places Dean would’ve done the exact opposite.

He felt sick as he tried to justify himself to Jo, the lie bitter in his mouth,“No one was supposed to get hurt-” She cut him off with a slap to the face, her fingernails scratched his cheek as the sound bit through the house.

“‘No one was supposed to get hurt’?” She repeated in a dangerously low voice. “Dean, I have a hard time swallowing your bullshit. And I think you do too.”

“But he’s probably fine!” Dean tried, rubbing his cheek. “His parents are rich! He’s probably having a fucking sponge bath in a jacuzzi right now-” He wasn’t just trying to convince Jo.

“Dean, I haven’t even been at this school for two weeks. You’ve been here almost four years. Are you blind or just stupid?” She spat, with an infuriatingly pitying undertone.

She looked past Dean, to a confused Sam. “See you later Sam. Hope you’re proud.” She strode out the door.

____________________________

After taking refuge in his room, ignoring Sam’s efforts to talk and yell at him through the door, and sitting over a pile of algebra homework for a half hour, Dean faced the fact that he had to get some food together, or they were going to starve. In the kitchen, he tried to rid himself of his thoughts by going through the cupboards over and over, and making mental notes of all the staples they were missing.

The next time he turned around to the fridge, he found a fucking heart attack waiting for him. Sam had somehow crept soundlessly across their ancient floorboards, and was standing in the kitchen doorway, twelve year old face scrunched in fury that steamed out his ears. Dean jumped and breathed in a long breath, because he was going to kill the floppy little twelve year old if he ever did that again. His heart was nearly out of his chest at the rate it was beating.

“What?” Dean asked, already with the ‘don’t-talk-to-me-or-I’ll-hurt-you’ voice out, locked and loaded.

“Really?” Sam spat, he was positively shaking with anger, and Dean knew any other time he would’ve found it funny. “Really, Dean?”

“Talk or walk Sam. I’m really not in the mood for this right now.” Dean turned and opened their barely magnetic fridge, shutting it firmly behind him once he made sure they had mustard.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Prince Dean. I guess I’ll just come back at time that’s more convenient for you then!” Sam said, his voice dripping with sarcasm that practically made Dean wince. “After all, the world revolves around you, right? You can do whatever you want!”

“You know what, that sounds great! Go write in your diary about this or something.” Dean turned and placed a half moldy jar of pickles on the counter, “Oh! Sorry, I mean, journal.” He raised his hands in the air, making a swishing motion with his index fingers, “Headline; ‘disappointing brother screws up again.’”

“Dean, if you’re just going to be an asshole about this, should I just let dad handle this instead?” Sam threatened, and Dean sent him a dark look, “I’m sure he’d love to know what his oldest son is doing in his free time. He’d be so proud.” Sam spat the last word savagely, like it was a bomb.

Dean pointed his finger at Sam in what he hoped was a threatening manner, growling “Dad doesn’t hear about this, Sam. You can yell and bitch all you want, but if dad hears then you’re gonna wish you’d stayed quiet, little bro.”

“Make me stay quiet, Dean.” Sam said with venom, “After all, that’s what you’re good at right? Making people stay quiet? I bet ‘Castiel’ had no intentions of telling anyone what you do to him.” Dean glowered, looking merely angry on the outside, but on the inside he felt horrible. How could Sam see this without knowing the full details, but Dean couldn’t even stomach the idea of Novak being worthy of such a fuss?

“Sam, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Stay out of it, if you know what’s good for you.” He turned back around before he heard Sam huff defiantly, at which he swung back. “I mean it, alright? Don’t come to my school, don’t go looking for trouble. I know how you work, and I know how my school works, and I’d rather you just drop it now rather than get tangled up in this mess, dude.”

“Dean, just because I’m younger than you, and I haven’t smoked or kicked puppies yet doesn’t mean I’m stupid, or unable to see obvious things. I can’t believe you would just hurt and go after someone who’s done nothing to you! I mean, what did he do. Steal something from you in fifth grade? Or did he insult Alistair or Azazel?” Sam asked, eyes hard. “I want a reason Dean. That’s all.

Dean opened his mouth, thinking hard. “Of course I have a damn reason. He’s just- he thinks he’s better than everyone else.” Man, this was harder to justify out loud. “Just ‘cuz he’s got a better house and rich parents, and he can afford to be picky or not like something.” Sam’s eyebrow raised skeptically, and Dean bristled.

“I kind of find that hard to believe Dean.” He said softly. “If he’s so well off and protected, then why hasn’t he told anyone yet? Because from where I stand, this doesn’t sound like a one time thing.”

‘He has a point,’ said a little voice in the back of Dean’s head. He glared at Sam, angry at him for making his guilt rear back up again.

“Get out.” He growled. “Sam, if you value anything you love, get out right now.”

Sam opened his mouth to say something, more but must’ve gotten the message when Dean yelled “GET OUT! Let me just figure out what we’re going to FUCKING EAT!”

_______________________________

 

He spent the rest of his time in the kitchen fuming less and less until only pathetic emotions like worry and guilt were left behind. Finishing up dinner, he served the cheesy-noodle-macaroni-and-cheese-and-marshmallow-hybrid into two bowls and left one on the table for Sam. He wasn’t taking it his room, so if the kid wanted dinner he was going to have to come out of his cave and get some. Dean himself walked into the bare living room and turned on the big tube television, and sliding Star Wars: A New Hope into the VHS player. Yes, yes, old and clunky as it was, he and Sam had no cable or DVD player to speak of, so they just worked with the cards they were dealt. Equipped with the VHS player and a library of tapes to go with it, he and Sam could quote every Star Wars movie while they played, they had memorized The Princess Bride, and could play every scene of Harry Potter in their minds. Mainly they grabbed tapes from fifty-cent piles at resale, or if someone was throwing them out they would speak up and claim what they didn’t already have. Two bookshelves full of the large plastic cases were propped against the bare walls of their living room. They each had their favorites, and took turns choosing movies on different nights of the week, which often ended in arguments because Sam wanted to watch ‘Good-fucking-Will Hunting again’.

The VHS player was also a constant reminder of how little money they had.

Dean rewound the tape methodically, having done so so often that he didn’t even have to think about it any more. Once, back when he and Sam were younger, they had actually taped to the wall a paper that bore the legend ‘Be Kind Rewind’, but they had taken it down a long time ago when Sam had gotten angry during a house- rocking fight, and held a burning match up to it in a bought of recklessness. There was still a scorch mark on the wall from that little adventure, but their father had never noticed it.

He sat back to watch the movie, trying to immerse himself in the iconic opening music before his crappy dinner could get cold.

 

_________________________________________________

 

Dean watched Castiel skitter past him in the hallway. The person he was trying to intimidate with intense eye contact and threats of bodily disfigurement squirmed while he stared at the skinny shadow trying to escape the hall.

Novak’s face was a mess. Well, it always was, something Dean prided himself on, but it was more of a mess than usual, scraped in patterns of concrete on his forehead and cheek. His neck was painted purple, crescent moons were visible on the sides on his throat in the shape of fingernails, but Dean tried not look at it too hard. He felt sick. Novak tried to keep his head down, Dean watched as his chin nearly bumped his chest in the effort to make the livid bruises less obvious. Dean couldn’t help trying to imagine exactly what had happened after he left the swimming pool. The scene in his head wasn’t quite as pleasant as he wanted it to be, and he found himself trying quickly to banish the thoughts as they came because it wasn’t making anything better. Dammit.

Whatever plan Dean had had about ignoring everything that happened yesterday (because it wasn’t like he was going to stop at Novak’s locker with a damn plate of home baked cookies, a heartfelt apology and a shoulder to cry on) sort of crumbled under his flannel shirt when he watched those stupid blue eyes dart into his instinctually glaring face shoot away in fear. Normally, he would’ve welcomed that reluctance to meet his eyes, because it comforted his evil insecure bully heart that he was still top dog at this shithole, but right now he could only focus on the finger nail marks on Castiel’s neck. I might as well have done that. The thought came to him suddenly, making his eyelid twitch a little bit. He had practically done it himself, letting Alistair carry on like that. Fuck.

Then Castiel was gone. Dean looked back into the pudgy face of the ginger haired kid he was threatening, and felt disgust well in him. Whether it was because of his actions, or Alistair’s, or the spinach leaf wedged in between the trapped kid’s teeth, he did not know. He raised his hand and whacked the kid in the cheek with his fist, because he had lost his train of thought in regards to this loser, but he didn’t want to let him off too easy. The kid’s face crumpled and Dean left with the ginger’s cry of pain trailing in his wake. It felt good.

 

Sort of.

______________________________________

 

“So, Novak, i quite enjoyed our time together yesterday.” Alistair crooned into Castiel’s ear, as the thinner boy tried to get away in vain. “I mean, before that blonde bitch showed up and bailed you out. You’re lucky someone pities you enough to do that, Novak.”

Castiel wasn’t listening. Pinned against the wall by his arms, Castiel’s only thoughts were those of getting away to freedom, away from this abusive psychopath. The hard wall was pressing painfully into his back, and it didn't help that the only thing he could really do was try and shove himself forward, because then Alistair would simply shove him back. He didn’t want to be this close to Alistair.

Alistair smiled sickly at Castiel through his eyelashes, and Castiel was disgusted as he felt the stronger boy’s breath waft softly across his face. He couldn’t focus on anything Alistair was saying, and he knew that wasn’t a big deal because it was probably just insults and pervy-sounding things spewing out of his mouth. All he could do semi-successfully was tilt his head as far away as possible, while still trying to hide his neck. But he wasn’t doing it quite inconspicuously enough, because Alistair’s face was suddenly closer than before.

“I know you loved your little bath yesterday.” says Alistair, and Castiel actually yelped when one of the hands on his arms comes up to caress his neck. “It probably wasn’t like the jacuzzi tub you have at home, but sometimes life just isn’t fair. Someone needs to teach you that.” Bucking and thrashing, Castiel tried to get Alistair’s hand off of his neck, but it only clamped down with more force than before, and he flinched back so violently that his head banged on the wall behind him, which just so happened to be the outside of a toilet stall.

“S-top.” He ground out, trying not to tear up from the pain of it. “St-stop.”

“But Cassy!” Alistair sang in a sickeningly sweet voice, “If I don’t do this, who will? Who’ll show you what a worthless, friendless, dickless, spineless little piece of pig shit you are? I can’t count on Dean anymore. He’s going kinda-” -Alistair rolled his eyes despairingly- “-Soft.” Castiel would have snorted at that if he had control of his airway. It didn’t feel much like Winchester was going soft. “And Azazel- well, he’s a little preoccupied right now. Got his own selfish family drama to deal with, his whore of a sister getting pregnant and all that. Uriel- well, if the retard could do anything without orders first, he still wouldn’t have enough balls to actually throw a punch himself.” Castiel felt like his neck was swelling and deflating and burning all at the same time, and it was not pleasant.

“It’s nice,” Alistair continued, “That you got yourself a little girl to defend you. That Jo= really is something’, isn’t she? She’s also a relative or something of Dean’s, so I gotta be careful round her so’s not to hurt my dear old buddie’s feelings. Me and Dean had a little disagreement this morning, because of the fact that his balls suddenly dropped off yesterday, but now we’re cool. But he won’t be very relaxed if he knows I’ve been dealing with your little groupie.” Alistair looked Castiel in the eyes and said very slowly, “Let’s get this clear. If you ever make a run for it, or get someone to help your ass, or cause me any sort of discomfort ever again,” Alistair leaned close, and Castiel leaned away- “I will kill you.”

Castiel’s breathing hitched at the tone, dead serious and promising, and Alistair drew just a bit closer, almost touching Castiel’s face with his before he shoved back. Castiel’s lip rippled a bit impulsively in disgust when Alistair’s breath brushed across his face again, acidic in smell. Alistair grabbed Castiel’s hair, which protested from his still sore scalp, and whacked his head quickly against the wall with the sound like a gunshot in the silence of the bathroom. Castiel crumpled to the floor silently with his ears ringing, bringing his hands up to his head to protect it as he recovered from the blow, the waves of pain flowing freely as Alistair swaggered from the bathroom.

He sat on the cold linoleum floor for some time before a boy walked in and looked at him in surprise before walking nervously a bit closer and prodding Castiel’s motionless body with his foot. The boy on the floor was watching the kid through his fingers warily. “Hey, dude you okay? Do I need to get someone?” He prodded Castiel harder and he let his hands slip from his face and slap down to his lap, glaring up at the kid, who looked asian with a floppy haircut that almost covered his eyes. His polo shirt was rumpled, and he took a step back when he saw who he was talking to.

“Oh. I’d get out of here if I were you, I just saw Winchester coming down this way.” The boy’s voice wasn’t mean, it wasn’t sad or pitying, but it did sound a lot like he would rather not be in the same room as Castiel. It was, after all, a danger to others to get caught with him when the Knights are on the prowl. Against his better judgement, Castiel let his head fall back and hit the wall, and winced immediately after because it hurt. A lot.

“Yes. Thank you.” Castiel responded, in a voice that some might describe as ‘dead’, And more than a little horse.

“Uh, alright. Good luck.” The boy left without using the bathroom or offering Castiel a hand to get up. He started moving, pushing himself up precariously on his heels and letting a gust of pain out of his mouth when everything twinged in protest. Using the sinks not to far away, he pulled himself up with his finger tips, trying to to touch the public germ fountains too much. When he was fully vertical, he limped out of the bathroom and tried to flee the scene before Winchester showed up to finish him off.

______________________________

The school day was much the same as every other school day; miserable.

At lunch Jo sat with him and said meaningless things while Castiel sat in silence, his usual lack of enthusiasm when it came to response doubled with the addition of a throbbing windpipe. Eventually Jo stopped trying to initiate conversation and just ate her fruit cup silently while Castiel stared at the tabletop, with no lunch to eat and no energy and motivation to read. It was interesting, though, how distressed Jo had become when she saw Castiel’s throat. She’d tried to get Castiel to come over to her house and let her take care of his ‘injuries’, but he shot her down as best he could in the least words possible. He wasn’t going to her house, no matter how many times she saved him from the Knights, it made him freak out a little bit inside just thinking about it, being inside someone else’s house, alone, with no weapons to defend himself, even though everything Jo had done so far suggested that she wouldn’t jump him. And aside from not fully trusting her enough, he didn’t want to take her hospitality. He had none to give back, and if the trip went well some part of him was afraid that he would end up spending his days at her house and his nights in his hell - house. Hiding from his problems.

When the bell rang Castiel shoved himself up with the palms of his hands quickly so that his knees wouldn’t have time to collapse on him. He thought he saw Jo watching him out of the corner of his eyes, but when he looked he just saw her stuffing her lunch stuff in her backpack, the picture of innocence.

He didn’t realize he had forgotten to tell Jo to back off until the period after lunch.

_______________

The final bell rang and Castiel quickly made his way out of school, making it surprisingly to the front steps before something unfortunate happened.

Winchester stepped out from a brick alcove in the wall of the school, next to Castiel. He didn’t make an attempt to grab him, and as Castiel skittered back with his heart pounding Winchester just looked at him with a face like a concrete wall. The only emotion that showed flickered in the green eyes, and Castiel couldn’t identify it. Whatever it was, it wasn’t exactly friendly.

Castiel wanted to ask what exactly Winchester wanted with him, but found that between being pummeled and using his frayed vocal cords to talk, he didn’t really want to do either. So, he waited.

Winchester just looked at him. Uneasy, Castiel slowly stepped back like he would with an unfriendly dog. Winchester just stared at him for a moment longer, before the took a breath in as if he were about to say something, but he seemed to change his mind. Castiel waited just a second longer before he began walking away quickly, weirded out and confused. Winchester didn’t shout anything after him, and Castiel just kept walking down the sidewalk until the school was out of sight.

Winchester may have been acting weird, but honestly, stoic silence was better than anything else Castiel had experienced from the bully so far. He would take that over a punch in the face anyday. If only it could be like this more often.

Of course, there was always the fact that there could have been something terrible about to happen to Castiel, and Dean wanted to get one last look at his plaything before it disappeared forever. But Castiel was just being dramatic, right?

As he walked up his father’s driveway, he noticed that the garage was open and his mother’s expensive car was gone. It was slightly unusual for her to go out while his father was home, but not unheard of. Horror struck his heart as he noticed that his father’s shiny, more expensive car, was parked in the spot his mother’s normally occupied. Normally he had time between the end of school and the end of his father’s workday. Apparently he had come home early, and Castiel stood in fear looking at the shiny white vehicle in the garage.

Fully contemplating his chances if he just didn’t walk into the house, and slept in the bushes, he slowly edged the door open. Trying not to make noise, he crept inside.

Too quickly, he heard the floorboards creak to him, his father’s dress shoes clicked across the hardwood and soon the man walked into the hallway Castiel was occupying, making it feel small and claustrophobic.

“H-hello father.” Castiel ventured. His father was standing in front of him, silently tapping at his phone. He gave no notice of his only son, and Castiel waited patiently and nervously while his father’s brow furrowed.

Shifting, Castiel tried to settle his backpack on a shoulder that didn’t ache as bad. The floorboard under his shoe creaked squeakily, and he stilled with his foot half lifted. He waited to see if his father would look up, but the bald head remained resolutely bent over the phone.

For several minutes they stood like that, Castiel’s foot raised halfway over the floor in a tiring manner, and Zacheria ignoring him (or that’s what it looked like. Castiel knew that Zacharia did just like to make people wait for the fun of it too.)

Finally, Zacharia cleared his throat and clicked his phone off. Looking at Castiel, he brought his shoulders up and resumed his normal better-and-stronger-and-worth-more-than-you posture. Sometimes Castiel wished he could’ve inherited that stance when he was born.

“Your mother has died. Get out of my sight.” snapped Zacheria, in a tone that was meant to mean ‘don’t ask questions just do it.’ Brain scrambling, Castiel tried to make sense out of the words. What did he mean, ‘your mother has died’?

“What?” Unfortunately, Castiel’s confused brain didn’t catch on to the tone quick enough.

Quick as lightning, his father stepped forward and slammed Castiel’s head into the door, pushing him backwards with a hand on his forehead. Castiel crumpled halfway to the floor, breathing harshly as he tried to see his way through the painful stars in his eyes. Zacharia crouched down between Casey's legs, and tipped his chin up with the tips of his fingers. “I said, your mother died. Bit it. She’s in chunks on the road, or at least some of her is. And now, “ He tapped his fingers on the side of Castiel temple as Cas recovered, “I want you out. Out of my house.”

The world was still swaying, Castiel was trying to wrap his mind around what his father was saying. But it didn't seem possible- how could it be? And his father was so emotionless about it, Castiel was almost shocked. But then again, when had his father showed any emotion other than hatred and indifference to his mother, since their wedding? This didn’t seem like the kind of joke that would be funny to Zacheria, so it must be true. His stomach roiled, but he didn’t know which emotion was plaguing it. If his mother had really died...well, there wasn’t exactly anything keeping his father from throwing him out, except for maybe the media getting wind of it, or teachers noticing his absence in school. But after so long without much outside interference, Castiel doubted anyone would notice if he never came back to the house or school. His father had friends in high places, and while they didn’t necessarily know much about Castiel’s home life, his father payed them well when it came to keeping noses out of his business. So, now it seemed like his mother had been the only thing stopping him from being cast out a long time ago.

“Hey son?” Castiel was slapped hard across the face. “Get up, you fucker.”

Slowly, Castiel started raising his battered person up, until his father grew impatient and pulled him roughly up by the armpits, making the world spin and his head light. Castiel looked dazedly in the direction of his father as he jerked out of his hands and fell back against the wall. “What do you mean- mother’s dead?” He whispered.

“‘What do you mean mother’s dead?’” Zacharia mocked in a high pitched imitation. “What the fuck do you think I mean? I sent the lazy bitch out to do some shopping, and she shish kabobed herself on a lamp pole! Finally got rid of the cunt, and so now it’s time I got rid of you. By the way, that little stunt you pulled yesterday, with the ignoring me? Not making you any friends.”

Flickers of grief flared in Castiel’s stomach, but they were faint. After all, it wasn’t like he had many good memories of the woman who’d ‘raised’ him, but she was his family. Had been his family. He wasn’t really surprised that Zechariah was using her death as a way to finally get rid of him.

“You have twenty seconds to pack everything you need. Any longer and you won’t like the end result.” Snapping to attention, Castiel nodded once before making his way upstairs as quickly as he could. There was no use fighting it, after all. He unzipped his backpack as he went, and when he was inside he quickly grabbed a few things from every draw of his dresser, leaving everything else. Quickly, he grabbed the journal from the bedside table and opened it, grabbing scissors from his shelf and snipping at the pages desperately, heart rate pounding as he heard the seconds tick away. Too soon, he realized his time was up, and he could hear his father's footsteps walking quickly and purposefully up the stairs. He tore at the journal, making the pages almost illegible, before dropping it to the floor and turning to the door, cursing for taking to long. But it wasn’t like twenty seconds was enough time, after all.

He scrambled as close to the door as he dared, trying to make himself seem like less of a target. Zechariah entered the room, face all business. “Time’s up! You should’ve been at the door five seconds ago, retard.”

Castiel jerked his whole body into a flinch when his father lunged forward and flung his backpack off his shoulder, probably bruising his arm some more with the force of the pull. It landed with a thump to the floor on the opposite side of the room. “See, if you’d been on time then I would’ve let you keep that!” Hissed Zacharia.

Castiel raised his hand to block the first punch to the head, making it just a hint duller than it would’ve been. He gave up pretty much right as the second blow sucked the air out of his lungs, sinking deep into his stomach and making him wretch horribly. Zachariah's knee cracked into Castiel’s lowered face, and the burning waves of pain in his head made his cry out hoarsely, dropping to his knees. His father laughed cruelly, and said something Castiel couldn’t focus on before pushing him back off balance so that Castiel’s back crashed to the ground.

Everything in his head hurt, his nose, his ears, his mouth, his brain, his throat. His cheeks ached and his teeth clattered against each other as his father kicked him in the ribs, pointy work shoe digging in like a shovel. It felt excruciating right now, like iron spikes being driven into his side. He was kicked again, and again, and as he felt a rib crack Castiel screamed with his abused throat, making things worse. Again and again, he was kicked and pulled up by the collar to be punched and pummeled. It lasted forever, and felt like being encased in a cold iron maiden, sticky with blood and pain. He was drowning in an ocean of the stuff, and it was dramatic but startlingly accurate.

Finally, it stopped. Or rather, his father grew tired enough to let Castiel go. “Get out of my sight you little fucker.” He said lightheartedly. “You’ve plagued this house for too long. Get up no or I’ll rip your tits off.” He leaned closer. “You could stay, but I think I’m right in assuming the basement isn’t the most comfortable place to be.”

Castiel coughed, spluttered, and drew himself to all fours with tremendous effort. Tears slipped out of his eyes as he crawled slowly down the hall, and when he stopped for a second to rest his father kicked his ass hard enough to make him yelp. “Lazy breath-wasting fucks don’t get to stop and dither. Move or you’ll be leavin without balls.”

Sobbing under his breath, he started moving again. His backpack was gone, his mother was dead, there were weather predictions for unusually cold winds in the weekends, and Castiel was beaten blue and black. Shit couldn’t hit the fan much harder than this.

He pulled himself up for the walk down the stairs, gritting his teeth. He figured that stumbling down a few steps would better than knocking himself unconscious from a tumble down a flight. He didn’t think he was necessarily lucky enough to be killed by the fall, if it happened.

Tears were freely coursing down his cheeks now, and Castiel could barely believe he was standing. Of course, he had been worse than this before. Definitely. He had had his arm broken, for fuck’s sake! But if there was one thing he’d learned from all his years of split lips, aching rib cages and black eyes, was that it always feels worse in the moment.

After an eternity of aching knees and awkward shuffling, Castiel reached the door, the front one. He was about to turn the handle when his father yelled loudly, “What the FUCK do you think you’re doing, idiot? I don’t want the fucking neighbors seeing my freak son crawling out looking like this! Use the fucking backdoor!”

The long crawl to the back door was bitter. Castiel stood on his knees to unlock it, and when he had, he dropped to all fours and again and dragged himself to the back yard. Hoping that his father would give him some time to rest now that he was out of the house, he dropped to the ground and breathed heavily throat his mouth, drooling on the grass but not caring.

“Get off of my fucking property.” Zacharia said, kicking the shit out of Castiel's leg for emphasis. Castiel groaned quietly and swiped a few stray tears off of his face before dragging himself to his knees, and then his feet, unlocking the gate fence and staggering away from the house. His father watching emotionlessly from Castiel’s back porch. Castiel’s old back porch. His father’s back porch.

He staggered across the sidewalk, feet stuttering along, heart heavy. He had no clothes. No bed. No shelter. He could go hide out in the library, or skip around the shops downtown until nightfall, but he probably looked like a murder victim right now. From experience, people tended to be less happy about that. He didn’t shiver, but he felt cold, and his head hurt. He knew from overheard voices in the hallways that there was going to be a freak cold front these next couple of days, maybe lasting even a week long. Due to current circumstances, it made his mood plummet further. Life apparently couldn’t give him a fucking break.

Focus. Organize your thoughts. He tried to think of any spots or people that he could sleep at, or would take him in. Unfortunately, as much as he’d thought of running away, he hadn’t thought as much about shelter when he needed to rest. Jo would probably take him in for a few hours, before she would inevitably tire of him. He couldn’t think of anyone else in the town who would even think of housing him. He knew he had some relatives in Northern Indiana who were not on the best of terms with his father. Relatively close, only one or two states to the left. He could try and hitchhike over there, after a time. He should try to build up some money for food before he tried to leave the state, though how he would he had no idea. It wasn’t like he had friends. He unofficially had no address. He would probably have to find a homeless shelter somewhere and plead for funds over a bowl of free soup. Going back to his house and begging for his father’s mercy was an option, though barely. He had no doubt that he would be turned away, though with a lot of groveling he would be allowed meager shelter, back in the basement. A horrible thought. Castiel didn’t think he could survive a night in the basement again.

Shaking off memories, Castiel started paying attention to where his experienced feet were leading him. Somewhere near downtown, he was walking past neighborhoods and dead end house-lined streets, some full of lace curtains and flower pots, some full of kid’s bikes and sidewalk drawings drying in the lukewarm spring sun. He remembered when he was younger, and his mother had friends, and while their mothers talked he and another rich child would swap stories and fantasies while tracing scribbles on the pavement. So long ago was this, he could barely picture it. It must've been nice. It was before the drink got his mother, before his father used the basement as often as his fist.

He walked alongside a busier road, ignoring the weird looks he was getting from the drivers of cars. He curled his fingers into fists and pushed his nails into his palms as a secondary pain to fixate on, besides the hurting spreading through the rest of his body. It didn’t work very well. It was slow going, limping along for the benefit of his ribs and hips and head. Dipping forward to ease the ache in his shoulder, wishing he could just lay down somewhere soft and sleep. But he couldn’t do that, yet. He needed to find some homeless shelter, or something similar, even though he had never heard of any nearby. He could stop by the nearest church and ask around, maybe locate a first aid kit.

He heard the deep rumble of the engine before he saw the deep black impala roaring towards him. Far enough away that he couldn’t see who was behind the steering wheel, (though he already knew) he watched it approach with dread. He quickly turned into the first street he came across, hoping Winchester hadn’t seen him, though he knew he stuck out like a sore thumb in the prissy neighborhood he was traveling through. Surprisingly, the sounds of the engine roared past Castiel, not slowing down. If anything, it sped up. Sighing with relief, Castiel turned around and headed back up the sidewalk the way he came, not wanting anyone to call the police on his because he looked like a hit-and-run victim.

Adrenalin was pumping through his veins from the scare, making him shaky and his hands sweaty. It wasn’t the run-a-mile kind of adrenalin, more the kind that makes you more jumpy. It was in no way helpful to Castiel.

He walked on for sometime, reaching the downtown area with more people to stare at him as he walked past. He was rapidly regretting his decision to come here by the time he had walked half a block into the patchy crowds of people. Eyes, followed him, a few people even gasped loudly when he walked into their line of sight, many of them were older women. He gasped a little himself when he caught sight of his reflection in a reflection store front. Bloody clothes, bloody face, old bruises and forming bruises and bandaids on his arms. He didn’t look like the son of a rich businessman, he looked like a poor boy who’d just been in a gang fight.

“Are you okay? Would you like some help?” A voice came from in front of him, startling him in it’s closeness. Looking dazedly at the woman in front of him, Castiel stepped backwards hastily. Warm brown eyes and dark brown hair, the woman looked maybe in her thirties.

“No. Thank you.” He went to step past her, hoping she wouldn’t prolong the conversation.

“Honey, you look like you’re hurt pretty bad. Are you sure you just want to walk around like that?” She persisted.

“Yes. Very sure. I’m fine.” He said again, not caring if she believed him, but not wanting to have the eyes of those at the cafe tables around them on him.

“I can take you somewhere if you’d like. The emergency room? Sweetie, your shirt is soaked in blood. I can call someone for you, to come and get you.” Castiel looked down at his shirt and thought that she was making a vast overstatement. It wasn’t soaked-just kind of splotched.

“Ma’am, I appreciate it, but I’m really fine.” He said firmly as he could, stepping forward before turning back to say something that would convince her. “I’m going somewhere to….take care of this right now.” He said vaguely.

He started walking off faster than before, the woman behind him said something after him but all he cared about was that she wasn’t following him. He started walking to the nearest church steeple he could see over the tops of the stores.

 

__________________

After being turned away from several churches, once because he looked too rough, once because there was no homeless shelter or anything like it, he was on his way up to a big catholic building with a red brick spire rising out the roof. A promising sign around the side talked about free soup on certain days, and he hoped someone in the building could find it in their hearts to lend him a first aid kit and a bathroom.

Inside it was warm, and after talking to a concerned elderly priest, Castiel was granted access to what he needed. In the white and light green bathroom, he leaned over the sinks as he carefully cleaned dried blood off his face with a wet paper towel. He had already pulled up his shirt and inspected the damage on his ribs, which were purple and blue in the florescent lights. He looked so pale in the mirrors, the pouches under his eyes were the color of plums. His skin looked too tight, and blood and bruises on his body gave the impression that his bones were trying to pierce their way through.

Band aids littered his arms and his ribs, he kept them off his face because they got in the way. Patting and squishing, he cleaned out his wounds as well as he could with a piece of wet gauze from the blue plastic kit. He found a few pain pills in a pouch at the bottom the kit, and swallowed them. He couldn’t feel the effects yet, but hoped they would work soon. He throat hurt, a reminder that he shouldn’t talk much more than he had to.

He wished he had a new shirt, or a hoodie or jacket. Something to cover up the drippings of blood on his lightish grey tee. A whole new wardrobe change would be nice, but not exactly realistic. Maybe the church could lend him something.

Castiel sighed and set down the wad of gauze and closed his eyes. Leaning heavily against the sink, breathing shallowly to appease his ribcage, he tried to see any good points to this situation.

Well, there was the fact that he wasn’t being oppressed and pushed around (punched around) by his father anymore. He couldn’t really go to school, what would be the point? He couldn’t do much homework, he didn’t have anywhere to go afterwards, and the idea of just going to be somewhere warm and sheltered was ridiculous. Warm and sheltered and riddled with people who hated him.

He wished he had a book. He wished he had his library card. He wished that he had a jacket to fend off the soon to come cold weather, and the stares of strangers on the streets. He wished he had a house, where the people who occupied it with him liked him and treated him fairly. He wished he had a friend.

But he banished those thoughts from his mind and opened his eyes again, coming back to the sharp ache in his undoubtedly broken rib, the prickling on his face and aching of his feet. He didn’t need a family, or a friend. He had survived this long without the. He could deal with it a while more.

Chapter Text

Hours later, he was out of the church. The kindly priest had told him that they didn’t have a place to keep him for the night, and asked him to return tomorrow to receive further assistance. Castiel thanked him and left, knowing that they just didn’t want a filthy beaten up homeless teenager camping out in the building, but the priest was too nice to say so. Either way, he had to figure out what he was going to do.

It was getting dark outside. Castiel couldn’t breathe very deeply for fear of tearing his side in half with pain. His throat hurt, his leg hurt where his father had kicked it, everything was bruised. It was getting colder, too cold for the spring they were having.

He stopped walking when he got to a rougher part of the area, looking around regretfully when he noticed the spray paint on the walls and carpet of cigarette butts. He hadn’t meant to come this far, and luckily he wasn’t too far from somewhere safer. He walked into an empty alleyway shielded from the cold wind, and rested. Leaning against the wall hurt too much, so Castiel settled for sort of sagging where he stood. It was really too cold for June, but he comforted himself with the idea that it couldn’t get much chillier. Gooseflesh prickled on his arms, prickly.

Voices were floating through the air, towards him. Lazy, uncaring tones. Nervously, Castiel moved further back into the allyway, not wanting anyone in this neighborhood to see him, even if that was a bit biased. Some people at school lived here, they seemed to act okay to people other than Castiel. Everyone was generally horrible to him at school, so he just judged by interactions he overheard. They couldn’t be blamed for being rude to him, everyone was, and if you weren’t then you were picked on until you did.

In the shadow of the ally he watched a group of teenagers walk by, younger than him. He felt a little foolish for being afraid of a bunch of fourteen year olds for a few seconds, before his rib reminded him why he should stay out of trouble for a while.

He wished he had a book more than ever now. He paced for a minute - before his ankle started to hurt and he couldn’t keep his breathing even enough for his rib- just for something to do. Eventually he had to sit down with his back to the wall, curled over his knees and breathing shallowly.

When he next looked up, dark hard fully fallen. Judging from the gumminess of his eyes, Castiel thought he might have actually fallen asleep for an hour or two. It was a miracle no one had bothered him. Shivering in what must have been forty degree weather, Castiel rubbed his arms for a while. He should stand, look for some place to sleep that was sheltered from the harsh wind. But he didn’t want to. Couldn’t he just sleep here, on the ground, for one night? Until he gathered back strength?
He knew he shouldn’t. He knew anything could happen to him, sleeping in an alleyway. But as he tried to muster up an ounce of will to stand, he felt himself slipping back into unconsciousness.

__________________________

“Woah there skeletor!”

He woke abruptly, foggy and with his heart racing like a NASCAR driver, with memory of a fantastically horrifying nightmare on the front of his mind. Sweat was soaking the back of his shirt, colder than it should be. He looked up into maliciously happy eyes, and with a lurch his stomach threatened to upend itself again. Was he still in the nightmare? He could be. It felt so real… If he was truly asleep, his subconscious had rendered the exact shade of pale, icy blue that Alistair’s eyes were. It had also shaped them exactly right, in just the mix of malice and amusement, like a boy kicking a puppy. Or tearing the wings off a butterfly.

He didn’t speak. For one thing, he felt that if he did it wouldn’t be anything remotely intelligent, and for another, his throat was still fairly swollen, though it appeared to be better than before at least. His nap hadn’t been restful, but it appeared it had given his body at least enough time to half way heal one injury.

Alistair smiled at him as Castiel tried to recover from the shock of falling asleep in a trashy alley way, and waking to find one of his tormentors in chief with his hands on Castiel’s shoulders, grinning down at him scarily. Trying to get away from the vices on his shoulders, Castiel pushed himself harder against the brick behind him, eyes squeezed shut. The grip only tightened, and Castiel gasped before he could stop himself at the pain of it. He opened his eyes and tried to look past Alistair for something he could use to defend himself.

“Oh, you sound like you’re a little hurt. Who did that to you, Cassy?” Alistair asked, whining with fake sympathy. “Was it me?” Castiel kept his eyes exactly where they were, determined not to let the bully see too much of his fear. “No, it wasn’t.” Alistair sighed. “I know it wasn’t Dean, he’s been home. He woulda told me if he’d got you again.” He sounded thoughtful, and Castiel wondered why he noticed. Surely he always looked on the verge of death? With how much he was treated like a punching bag, surely these bruises weren’t anything new to Alistar?

“Hm. Was it your dad?” Alistair asked suddenly, coming out of a few seconds silence, the question dripping with fake empathy. Startled, Castiel’s eyes snapped down to Alistair’s face again, and he grinned even wider now. “Oh, It was daddy, wasn’t it? Is that why you’re sleeping here? Your loaded Dad decided you were looking bad for his reputation? Got tired of having a useless friendless nobody living in his house, and kicked you to the curb?” Castiel’s eyes were the size of dish plates now. He said nothing, looking up at Alistair breathing shallowly through his nose. His mouth parted slightly, wondering how Alistair figured it out. “Or maybe you left on your own. There’s lots of ways it could have happened.”

“The other’s have never noticed, you know, that you sometimes come to school looking better then when you left. They still think you got it made, with a butler, maybe a few topless maids, a silver platter of lobster waiting for you when you drop your backpack off at the door. If you did, I think you’d look a lot different than you do now. Better clothes. Better hair. Better skin.” Alistair scoffed. “Better.”

Castiel’s hands started shaking. Alistair knew. There was no use denying it, really. He didn’t much sound like he was going to enlighten his friends, more like he was going to sit back and watch them tear Castiel apart. He had been sitting back and watching them tear him apart. He’d probably known forever, just not said anything. The bastard, Castiel thought viciously, though he didn’t know where the animosity came from. It wasn’t like he expected anything from anyone. Least of all Abernathy. How long had he known?

“You know, I’ve seen you for what you are all along.” Ah. Well, it looked like Alistair was going to answer any questions Castiel had on his own. “Ever since you showed up that first day in junior high, shaking like a leaf smothered in bruises. Of course, artfully placed bruises. You gotta give your dad credit, I didn’t even suspect until your shirt pulled up when Dean-o was given’ you that noogie. Nowhere above the armpits. An inch below the bellybutton. Gosh, even after all these years, I can still remember. It was beautiful work.”

Wolfishly, sickly, Alistair smiled at Castiel, who shrank back. The world was becoming more clear, the haze of painful sleep rubbing from his brain. He was angry. Feeling it bubble in his stomach, along with the shame and faint nausea of hearing the details of his past situation, before his father stopped having to hide the bruises. Before the teachers grew used to his appearance. His lip curled a little bit, maybe in disgust, maybe in anger. But the toughness of that display was lost in the shakiness of his breathing and the hummingbird beat of his heart.

“Ah, Nostalgia.” Alistair sighed, his breath blowing with uncomfortable heat onto Castiel’s face. He desperately wished he were anywhere but here, underneath Alistair’s crouched legs, even if it meant he was back with his father. Castiel would be away from the horrible mad glint in Alistair’s eyes.

“You haven’t said anything yet!” Alistair sing songed. “Cat got your tongue?”

Castiel had nothing to say to this. He looked intensely at Alistair, almost a glare he knew. With the last bit of courage he possessed, he spit in Alistair’s face. The other boy jerked back, surprised, and Castiel closed his eyes in a flinch as Alistair swung back round-

Quick as a whip, a sharp sting lanced across Castiel’s face. Like a cat, Alistair had raked his fingernails across his cheek, not drawing blood but it felt like the skin was grafted at least a little. It was a very mild reaction, considering. Alistair didn’t even look peeved about the fact that there was a gob of saliva on his cheek, dripping slowly down the curve of his chin.

“You took too long to answer.” Alistair said, as if answering a question. “Next time you’re gonna be less happy.”

“What do you want me to say?” Castiel said, and cursed internally to hear the shake and fearful pitch to his voice.

Alistair chuckled. “Man, just hearing the sweet honey of your voice is enough for a good for nothing runt like me.” Very sarcastic.

“Then get on with it, p-please.” Hating himself for the hitch in his voice in the phrase that was supposed to be manly, (Though he couldn’t help it, his rib was throbbing in time to his heartbeat) Castiel tried to steal his gaze. Alistair sighed.

“Can’t blame ya for being cranky.” He said sympathetically. Castiel shrunk away again, because he could envision something akin to the scratches happening again. Unpredictability was Alistair’s most used weapon.

“So.” started Alistair quickly. “Here’s the deal. You can stay here, in the cold,” He mimed shivering, pouching out his cheeks and clattering his teeth together loudly. “- rotting, pissing in allies and stealing food from old ladies. Or-” He held up one finger. “You could help me out with a little problem.”

Stomach leaping, Castiel felt his face shift into a confused tilt. Alistair was subtly closer than before. “You see, there’s a couple of ways you could get out of this shit heap and back to another, more comfortable life.” He was getting somewhere, cutting the bullshit and getting to the meat of the subject. “And all you have to do, is a few little things.” Closer. Castiel’s back was pushed into the wall painfully hard, to get away from the scratchy chin nearing his face. Through his eyelashes, Alistair looked at Castiel, predatorily. “I’ve been real lonesome lately, Cas. Real lonesome.”

Even more confused than before, Castiel continued staring at Alistair, who sighed again, delicately. “Azazel’s sister got fucked, he’s home all the time dealing’ with the downfall. Dean-o’s got other stuff to do, and I wouldn't hang out with that retard Uriel by myself for a fucking Porsche. Naomi's got a loving mommy, Meg’s got a new guy and Benny’s been carted down to New Orleans with his family.” He looked at Castiel pointedly, grinning humorously when he saw the puzzlement in the blue eyes. Castiel was frustrated now. Who cared about the status of Alistair’s social life?

“Have you ever sucked a cock before?” Alistair leered, mockingly. Castiel’s head snapped back, nudging the brick wall. His stomach plummeted, his heart did the opposite, beating hard enough to create friction in his chest. He didn’t want to be faced by this He did not not not not- “Huh? You could learn pretty fast, I bet. Those lips are just made for sucking.” Obscenely, Alistair licked his lips, making them glisten. Castiel shifted, for the first time considering pushing Alistair away. Before he wouldn’t, simply because he was not well enough to make a quick getaway and infuriating the beast was not something he wanted to do. But now, he couldn’t believe this. It was disgusting, the mere thought that he would sell himself- his body - for what? A roof? Some blankets. He wasn’t that desperate, and he had no plans to ever be. Still, he could think of no response. If he said no, would Alistair force himself on Castiel? He sat there for a second, thinking erratically while Alistair looked at him expectantly, licking his lips. Castiel cringed when he starting speaking again, wishing he would just go away.

“Or, if you don’t prefer the more oral aspect of the pleasure range, you know I could just help you get that stick out of your ass.” He leaned closer, much much more than before, next to Castiel’s ear. “And I could help another in.” He whispered.

And at the feel of Alistair’s wet tongue flicking at his inner ear lobe, Castiel jerked away, propelling himself away from the other boy. “No!” He said loudly, gasping painfully. “Never.” He ground out.

Alistair looked faintly amused, not the least bit put out that his plaything had just scampered away from him. He crawled forwards, across the short distance on all fours, swinging his hips in a vulgar impression of sensuousness. Castiel’s hands scraped over the ground as he tried to pull himself away. The pebbles were damp and left his hands beaded with wet dirt, uncomfortable and prickly. He dragged himself a few feet before he collapsed, unnaturally tired. Panting, he watched, terrified, as the clawed hands neared his sprawled legs. “Don’t be like that! I’m not going to hurt you.” Alistair weedled. The fact that Alistair would resort to telling him such obvious lies scared Castiel. The bigger boy wasn’t even trying, he knew he was going to win any fight that occurred.

Alistair grabbed his leg hard, Castiel jumped and tried to kick out unsuccessfully, only succeeding in grazing the side of Alistair’s cheek with the toe of his shoe. Quick as a tiger he was dragged bodily across the ground, scrunched up into Alistair in such a painful position he screamed. Quickly a hand was over his mouth, dry and disgustingly warm, and he lurched forward trying to bite the palm. Suddenly the hand was replaced by Alistair’s disgustingly hot mouth, tongue plunging indelicately past Castiel’s lips, licking everywhere in the few seconds. Making horrible wordless noises, gagging, Castiel fought to get away from the intrusion that was making his empty stomach rear. His hands were weak and useless, so he used his elbow, trying desperately to get enough leverage to jam it somewhere, anywhere. The mouth was still on his, lips moving and slimy and warm, and Castiel couldn’t stand having them on him, he wanted them off off off off off

One of the iron hands that had been clamped to his head, keeping it there, slid down quickly. Down, to his chest. To his stomach. Past his stomach. Castiel bucked and thrashed as Alistair gripped his thigh hard enough to leave bruises. His hands were skeletons, and his eyes were open and cold. Wasps filled Castiel’s brain, buzzing in panic and fear, hyper aware of the hands all over him and the stench of cologne and sweat and dirt that surrounded him. He was so scared he could barely move the way he wanted to, time slowed down but his body was speeding up, four steps ahead of where he wanted to be. Alistair’s fingers were scrabbling at his fly zipper and Castiel could taste terror, coppery and blood like. He brought his hand up quickly as he could, gathering his strength, and batted numbly, with all the strength his possessed, at Alistair’s cheekbone.

To his indescribable relief, Alistair was knocked to the side from his club of a fist. His lips felt sore and damp, but he didn’t have time to think about that because Alistair was not incapacitated in the least. Hands were still on him, roving, intruding. Castiel swung and banged his fists anywhere he could reach, fingers uncooperative, focusing on using as much precious strength he could muster. Like a lightning bolt, luck was with him in the form of a successful elbow jab to Alistair’s throat. Choking, he fell away while Castiel scraped his knees and palms in a mad attempt to run. Kicking, grunting, he managed to just barely disentangle himself from Alistair before he tried to stand. His knees were jello, wobble in the second he stayed upright, before gravity pulled him back down, crumpling to the dirt again. Alistair bore down on him, but before he could resume his attempt to force himself on Castiel his foot snapped out and kicked Alistair hard in the groin.

“Ah- motherfucker!” Alistair groaned, “You’re gonna pay for that-” He was silenced (in a matter of speaking, as he made such an animalistic noise Castiel wondered if he was turning into a dog) by the same foot, in the same place.

Ears thumping with the sound of his heart beat, Castiel tried to crawl away soldier-style, to the mouth of the alley they were in. Alistair was making sounds behind him, recovering. Suddenly with a pain like fire, Alistair stomped on Castiel’s leg, pinning him down like a bug. Castiel screamed, tears leaking out of his eyes. “You’re not going anywhere you maggot!”

Time sped up until Alistair was suddenly on top of him, and Castiel couldn’t breath, his side was creaking and his face was bleeding, and Alistair was hissing words into the air like poison darts. “Just because I can’t fuck you know doesn’t mean you’re getting away that easy. I;m gonna find you again, Cassy, and next time you’re gonna take it up the ass so hard my dick’ll stick out of your mouth.” Alistair groped Cas’s ass roughly. He was so tired, he could barely thrash. The fingers dug painfully into him like knives. Alistair’s boner was prominent, pressing on Castiel’s chest like an anvil. “I know you want me to, you dirty little whore. Has daddy been getting you ready when he’s at home? Or are you still virgin tight-” Castiel could barely hear the words through his disgust, but what he did catch rang around his skull, sharp and stabbing. He felt like gagging at the thought of everything Alistair was implying, that his father would rape him, that Castiel would let Alistair have him-

His vision was growing foggy from exhaustion. Alistair stood, finished speaking for now apparently, and leaned down to grab Castiel, to shove him against the wall. Seeing opportunity Castiel raised his leg and kicked Alistair (somehow, he wasn’t sure exactly how he managed it) hard in the balls again. His attacker was crumpling to the ground, but there was no strength in Castiel’s body anymore. He felt himself sag into his surroundings, even though every instinct and ounce of will he had was screaming at him to run, crawl away from this person. He was just so tired…..

He could hear Alistair laughing in a horrible, pained way. His vision was going too grey to see, but he could hear Alistair coming up in front of him, and he could just envision his blurry outline crouched in his line of view.

“Honestly Cassy, If you were mobile this would be a lot easier. But you’re not. And I don’t have a car with me. So it looks like I’m probably not going to get a fuck right now, and what’s the fun of kissing out where people can see?” The words were echoing, fading. Castiel could barely tell if he was dreaming or not. “Ah, well. Maybe sometime later. If you survive a couple weeks, I’ll try again, and I’ll get something to make you a little more….relaxed.”

Alistair left, after what seemed to be an hour in Castiel’s fogged over brain. He sealed their parting with a fleeting kiss on the cheek, but Castiel fell unconscious before he could rub off the stain.

_____________________________________

Dean woke up the next morning to his alarm, like always. He got up and turned it off, like always. He walked into the bathroom for a shower, as always.

While he was packing lunch, which was pitiful (but thankfully he found enough money in a dirty pair of pants to buy a school lunch) Sam walked into the kitchen, dressed and ready to go. “Hey.” Dean said.

Sam didn’t say anything back, clearly still giving Dean the cold shoulder. ‘Not that you don’t deserve it,’ chimed a voice in Dean’s head.

So, Dean walked through the morning routine of getting to school in one piece in silence. Well, not complete silence. He hummed songs from ‘The Muppets’ as loud as he could whenever Sam was near him.

Like a warrior, Sam didn’t say a word about it on the entire ten minute car ride to the school. Dean had to admit to himself he was a little impressed.

He had woken up that morning with a horrible stress in his gut, like his body was revolting on him for stupid decisions. He tried calming himself down, taking deep breaths, but nothing seemed to help. He liked to the think that humming “The lovers the Dreamers And Me” At the top of his vocal chords was working, but he knew he was deluding himself. The best he could do was just not think about….it.

And later, when he realized Novak was nowhere to be seen in the building, he couldn't help but worry a little. There was definitely guilt. He had established that, it was there and there was no changing it, but worry? Concern? He didn’t want those things! He wasn’t supposed to care about Castiel Novak, damnit, they’d never had a conversation that was pleasant, he hadn’t exchanged two words with him that weren’t sarcastic or venomous or degrading. The rich kid in school was supposed to be hated, and though thinking of ways to slit Novak’s pale throat used to be a favorite pastime, Dean found himself thinking of ways that Novak could be being hurt right now, by Alistair or Azazel, which was stupid because even if he was being hurt right now, it wouldn’t be Dean’s fault! The only thing he was guilty of was leaving him in that swimming pool, right? Still, Castiel could be in the emergency room right now, getting expensive stitches for the cuts on his head, or surgery for broken ribs or something. Or he could be at home, playing video games and eating rich stomach-hurting foods, caring about nothing and complaining to the maid.

Jo passed him a couple of times that day, glaring red hot pokers into his eyes. Well, he passed her. Whenever she tried to stop him to talk he would sidestep her and move along, quicker than before. By the end of the day he was tired, in every sense of the word.

He sat with the gang, Alistair and Uriel, Azazel and Meg. The latter was there by invitation of Azazel, being his current girlfriend. Meg was pretty, with dark hair, sharp eyes and deceptively round cheeks. Her cherubic appearance didn’t match her sarcastic, mean attitude, which dominated conversations with her. She also had a reputation for cheating on current boyfriends with old ones. Dean had, of course taken part in a terrific one night stand with Meg once, and the thing about it was that Meg didn’t linger. Things were temporary, and that meant that no relationship was sacred. It was kind of awesome for a quick one after a bitchin’ party, and kind of not if you really liked her. Meg had been tagging along to a few events lately, including the beer-bombing of Novak’s house, and the byob-graffiti-party last week.

He faded in and out of the conversation, trying to act normal. He couldn’t help but let some ice leech into his voice though whenever Novak was brought up, which was a surprising number of times. He sat there uncomfortably while Alistair pinned with with a look like an x-ray machine. The cold eyes drilled through him, making his arms prickle. But he didn’t let it show how close he was to abandoning the lunch table and going to look for Novak.

When he was walking down a corridor near the end of the school day, a bright flash of blonde hair whipped behind him before nails scraped the back of his neck, snatching and hanging on tight to his collar. He held back the instinctive duck-and-skid-away-cowering because it would be unmanly and funny to Jo. He doubted anyone else in the hallway would say anything, because they were afraid he would punch them in the gut. And damn, they were right.

“What?” He growled, swinging around.

Jo let go of his collar but stood close to him, in a stance that told him she was ready to run after him if he tried to bolt. “Where is he?”

“I dunno what you’re talking about.” He lied arily, turning to leave. Jo walked quickly next him, heels of her boots clacking on the dirty linoleum.

“You know damn well what I’m talking about. I feel like we’re having these types of talks way, way too often Dean. Now what happened? What did you do to him? Where hell is he?”

“Why would you care so much?” He asked gruffly, trying to deflect answering as much as he was trying to get an answer, “I mean, you’ve only know the guy for what, two weeks? Week and a half?”

“It doesn’t matter. If you had taken time off of being the big macho alpha dog, Dean, and talked to Castiel, then you would be just as concerned as I am. He always comes back from missed days worse than he was before,” She sounded seriously pissed off. “-and since the pool incident I’ve learned not to put things past you.” He almost flinched at that.

He could feel her trying to pierce him with a glare as they sped down the hallways, the waves of people partying like the red sea before Dean. “Well, I’m sure he’s just enjoying a nice day at home with the family.” He lied, and Jo could tell. “It’s not my business, it’s not your business, and this conversation is pointless.”
Jo rolled her eyes. He could see them go completely white out of the corner of his eye. She was very dedicated to eye rolling. She might have practiced it in a mirror at one point. “You’re a dumb drama queen.” She obviously didn’t believe he didn’t know what happened to ol blue eyes. Harsher than usual, her words were meant to cut.

“I don’t know where he is!” He raised his voice an octave, and a freshmen nearby scuttled away nervously. Jo glared at him. “I don’t.” He said, defensively.

“Really.” The scepticism nearly peeled the paint off the walls.

“Yeah. Really.” He matched her scepticism with annoyance that could make your hair fall out. “I haven’t seen him since yesterday.”

“Did you bother him yesterday?” She asked, fiercely.

“No!” a little.

“I find that a little hard to believe, coming from you.”

“Why shouldn’t I bother him? It’s what I do! Just because you’re here and fresh from home where nothing’s bad and everyone pukes glitter and kindness, doesn’t mean you can automatically turn this school into a kid-safe hug zone. There’s a way of things here, Jo, and you just gotta learn how it is.” The words felt wronger than they would’ve before, but he still poured emotion into them like he believed himself.

Jo had a look on her face, probably relating to the comment Dean had made about her family ‘puking glitter and kindness’. anyone who had met Ellen and Ash knew that the statement was far from being even remotely true. While they weren’t exactly mean, Jo’s family weren’t the type to go easy on you either. Okay, maybe they were a little mean, but Dean comforted himself by thinking that was how they showed they liked you.

“The way it is is wrong, Dean. I hope you know that.” She said simply. Then she sped off before Dean could get in another word, which was damn petty of her, because Winchesters always got the last word in arguments, and walking away before it could be said was the worst form of cheating he could think of. The way it is is the way it was, as far as Dean was concerned, and no matter what his conscience or Jo said, it was going to stay that way.

Chapter Text

There was a strangled grunt from an alleyway, a little ways past a graffiti garbage dumpster. Castiel shifted, barely.

It burned like a fire, ached like heavy blows and cut like sharp glass. It was everywhere. Castiel was awash in flames now, so much so he wished he was back at home miserable and frightened, rather than here, optionless and painfully immobile.

He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, but focused on the sounds and feelings. Cars. Chapped lips. Birds. Bricks. Wind. Denim. But there was too much feeling. He was overwhelmed by it, unpleasant painful chaffing. He tried to focus on the sounds more, but there wasn’t enough of them.

He could barely feel his stomach rumbling over the pain, it was but a gentle reverberation in his empty gut. He wished he could go back to sleep, or that some kind stranger with a gun would come along and shoot him. His mouth tasted terrible. Probably from not eating for at least a day and half, Castiel couldn’t remember how long exactly.

He lay there in pain and suffering, until his eyelids pulled him back into the land of sweaty, nightmare ridden unconsciousness.

_________________________________

Two days after Jo talked to him, Dean and Sam were driving home from school. Sam hadn’t stopped ignoring him, except to write down little messages on the legal pad he now kept handy if it was absolutely necessary. Dean had suffered the complete loss of conversation from his little brother for a whole of three and a half days, and he was getting damn tired of it. While the pit of seemingly endless stress in his stomach hadn’t eased up either, he found the determined and silent set of Sam’s jaw to be just a smidge more annoying. The legal pad was the only response he got- apart from the heated glares dished out when Dean chose to be particularly annoying at times. The only perk to Sam being mute was that he could sing anything, anytime, anyvolume, and Sam couldn’t verbally complain.

Right now Dean was bellowing a fairly in tune version of ‘Istanbul’ by They Might Be Giants, and with every wallowing chorus he could see Sam’s shoulders go up higher. He was just getting to the third rendition when it happened. Sam jerked to him, eyes snapping, and punched Dean in the ribs so fast it was like a denim clad lightning bolt raced through the car. Groaning, Dean stopped singing and looked at Sam accusatory. “That hurt…” He whined. Sam didn’t look at him again.

At home they went to their own things. It looked like Dean going to have to go out and buy some more shaving cream if he wanted to continue having a chin that didn’t look mouldy. Maybe he could pick up some beer too, if he went to that one drugstore on the corner of Richter and 2nd. He could either go now, and get it done with, or spend the rest of the evening trying to simultaneously avoid and annoy Sam. He made up his decision.

“I’m going to get some shit! Be right back.” He yelled at Sam’s room. No response. Obviously. He trusted that Sam didn’t have earbuds in, and opened the front door.

He walked outside, got into the car and slammed the door shut behind him. He started her up and drove down town almost above the speed limit, but not quite. He didn’t want a ticket, and the cops in this town were out to get him. Seriously. He sighed loudly as he skipped around on the radio while he drove, catching flickers of the soul-crunching ear shrapnel people called music these days. He was on his second round of the different stations when he gave up all hope of finding a decent song, and completed a dangerous feat that could’ve ended up with his crashing headlong into an approaching semi. He leaned far, far over to the passenger side and popped open the glove compartment, rooting around inside for a cassette, any cassette. His head was level with the dashboard, so he couldn’t see jack, but he firgured it was worth it. Good music equaled a good mood, and he could use a good mood right now, Anything would be better than catching Ariana Grande’s dulcet tones one more time. When he had located a cassette and popped it in, he settled back and let the drums take over, tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel in time, thinking randomly.

In the crevices of his thoughts, weaved in the cloth of his mind Novak jumped out at him, reminding him over and over again that he couldn’t relax, couldn’t feel good, shouldn’t have a moment's peace while Novak was unaccounted for. Which didn’t make sense at all, Dean reasoned with himself, because for all he knew Castiel could just be at home on his soft memory foam mattress, drinking Fiji water and Netflixing his life away. His mother could be tending to him, bringing drinks and kissing his bruises, and his father would be downstairs reading the newspaper, sipping coffee and supporting his family, like a proper dad. (Dean couldn’t help the bitterness that leaked into these last thoughts.) But that just didn’t ring true in his head, somehow. If his Dad supported him so much, how had all the injuries gone unnoticed? How had the school not been notified, a message been sent out? Like when they broke his fucking arm! Even Dean’s dad would’ve raised awareness at that…. He shifted uncomfortably, mind straying into territory too contradicting to his beliefs to think about.

After a car ride that stretched on and on with only himself and the sound of some spare change jingling to fill the dusty leather interior, Dean arrived at the desired store. He got out, counted his cash, stowed it securely in his back pocket to discourage pickpockets (was it the back or the front that was easier to get to? Whatever) and stepped inside the rundown shop.

When he stepped out again he carried a paper bag with shaving cream, a pack of gum and a six pack of HopHands beer hidden inside of it. After putting the stuff in the trunk and slamming it shut again, he counted up the $3.47 he had left and decided to splurge and get himself some lupper from a little cafe down the way. It was less than a block from where he was parked, so he decided to risk it.

The cafe he was walking to was truly terrible. He only knew it because it was also dirt cheap, and if you asked real nice the cashier/bartender would give you a shot of whiskey in your instant coffee. But the sandwiches weren't half bad, so that was also a plus. Sometimes he and the gang come here for lunch.

He walked into the wooden, brown and chipped doorway to the immediate smell of coffee, cigarettes and spray paint. On the patchy faux-leather couches near the door lounged a few low lifes, sipping liquids of their choices out of styrofoam cups and reading magazines. Dean nodded to one who lifted his head long enough to stare at him. To his relief the dude nodded back and went back to the intense highlighting he was doing to what looked like a textbook. Nodding back is a sign that you’re not crazy, or on drugs, or likely to kill you. All three types of peope lived in this side of town. And on the better side too, but they were just more descreet about it.

He walked up to the counter and got a ham sandwich with wilted lettuce and a drop of mayonnaise on both sides. He took it, payed what was due and hit the road. He nodded to the same guy on way out. Maybe it was getting a little weird, but he didn’t care.

As he walked past an alleyway between the cafe and the diner next door, Dean looked by chance into it and his eyes caught on a pair of feet. Feet with shoes on them. Lying, unmoving in the ally, blocked partially by the large dumpster next to Dean. He bit into his sandwich wearily. Did he want to get mixed up in this? Fuck it. He walked forward cautiously, tossing the piece of crap bread-and-lettuce concoction into the garbage on his way.

“Hey, dude.” He called, softly. No response. “Dude, you okay? Are you hurt?” Could just be a stoner passed out, or someone who’s had just a little too much to drink…. Or some evil sneaker-wearing witch that lures boys into her ally to eat them slowly tendon by tendon.

He cleared the dumpster and caught site of the guy fully. His stomach flopped around, partly in response to the smell of the air around the person, and partly because there was so much blood. The ground was red and brown, rusty and wet in some places.

Crumpled, a boy that was merely skin and bones lay crusted in red. The frame and hair looked familiar, though Dean didn’t think he knew anyone who would be in this position… From where he stood, momentarily frozen, Dean watched the rise and fall of the guy’s chest. He looked like someone had taken an extremely large meat tenderizer and smashed him with it. Dean stepped forward a bit more, nearly gagging as a wave of urine-smell washed over him. How long had this guy been here? Days? Was there an ER nearby Dean could take him to?

He crouched, heart fluttering, and got a better look at the mauled face. Then, like a punch in the gut he recognized the swollen lips. The bags under the eyes. “Shit. Shit. Shit shit.” He whispered, hand trailing out to grab Novak’s wrist from where it was curled awkwardly at his side. The pulse there was thready and weak. He looked back at Novak’s face again, and winced. He looked truly terrible, in every sense of the word. Shiny, swollen bruises lined his face. Blood from his nose created a beard of crusted iron colored flakes along his chin. His lips were split and chapped. Dean had never taken into account how truly skinny Novak was, ribs sticking out from where his tee shirt was stuck to his skin. Of all the places he thought Castiel would turn up… He barely registered the fact that he wasn’t even thinking anything untoward about Castiel yet. He was just…..shocked.

 

“Okay. Okay.” He tried to calm his heart, to figure out what to do. He couldn’t just leave him here, he could die if he did. Calling 911 and leaving? Could that work? There was the possibility that when Castiel woke he would immediately tell the police who was responsible for most of his injuries, or, if he didn’t know his attacker he could just blame Dean. Or Alistair and Azazel, and their getting blamed would lead to his getting blamed to by association. Anyone could’ve done this to Castiel, in this area, if they thought he had money. From the looks of him, if Castiel ever did have money it was long gone by now. Well, ER was out, unless something changed drastically on the way to the car. Dean didn’t want his Dad (or Bobby, or Ellen, or anyone else unaware of this little tidbit) that he could’ve been responsible for this.

Dean got closer and awkwardly shifted Castiel upwards from his position on the ground, so his head was shoulder height. It flopped in a way that Dean knew couldn’t be comfortable, How had he not woken up yet? He couldn’t believe he was doing this…

After a minute of wondering about his life choices and supporting Castiel’s neck with one hand, he was standing with the thinner boy balanced awkwardly on his chest in a half-hug. Castiel’s breathing was shallow, laboured and worrying. As Dean took a step out of the alleyway Castiel took a loud wheezing gasp, followed immediately by a gasp of pain. “Hey…” Dean whispered nervously in his ear, “Are- are you awake?”

Apparently the gasp had been involuntarily for Novak didn’t stir more than sagging farther down Dean’s chest. Handling him like a fragile eggshell, Dean hefted Castiel farther up before slipping his hand under his knees and holding him bridal style. Another whisper of agony passed Castiel’s lips, and Dean glanced at his face. Instead of the relaxed if unlively expression on his face beforehand, his nose was screwed up slightly, and his mouth was twisted in pain. As Dean started walking to the car, he could hear Novak’s breath bobbing in time with his footsteps.

They got out of the dim, and back into the sunlight. Dean grew suddenly nervous as a passerby on the street stared as she walked by. He walked quicker, despite Castiel’s pained gasps with his footfalls. It was just a little ways to the car…

He could hear every shake of his breath and his heart was beating faster with the exertion of carrying a 5’12 teenager (he may be rail thin, but he was no featherweight) and another person stared at him as they walked… His car was only a few feet away now, and no one had called him out yet. He couldn’t believe he was doing this….

He felt overwhelmingly relieved as he popped open the car door and started leaning over Novak. He could hear the whispering of the smaller teenager’s breathing as his head got closer to Novak’s.

Dean started maneuvering Castiel into the car. Half crouching awkwardly, he tried his best not hit his charge’s head on the metal while lowering him head first onto the long leather seat. He grimaced as he watched a bit of blood smear on the black, but quickly turned away from that when Castiel’s shoulder caught for an instant on the back of the seat. He let out a cry of pain, though he wasn’t conscious, that trailed into a pitiful whimper that made Dean’s heart curl a little bit. Dean carefully shut the door after he was finished positioning Castiel in a neutral pose, getting into the driver’s seat and heading off.

He kept glancing into the rear view mirror as he drove, half afraid that some red white and blue lights would start flashing behind him. He couldn’t believe he was actually doing this…..Even though a part of his heart was telling him he was doing the good thing, he couldn’t underestimate the risk of taking Novak to his own house, in his own car. If Novak died on his hands…. Not that that was even a POSSIBILITY, right? But if he did, would Dean be blamed for it? And Lord, Sam was going to flip out….

It was fine, they’d be fine, at least until school started back up again, cuz it was the weekend now but he had to figure out what to do with Castiel on monday. Maybe...by monday Castiel might be well enough to listen to Dean, and if he could just scare him into not saying anything, Dean could drop him off at the ER and let his dad do the rest. Or he could just drop Castiel at his house… actually, that would be perfect, if Dean just dropped Castiel off at the grand Novak Abode, wouldn’t his parents freak out and take him to the hospital? Why hadn’t Dean thought of it before... he knew where the house was, of course, he just really didn’t want to deal with the questions. Novak’s mother was bound to be a bitch about it if some unknown boy showed up on her doorstep with her baby in the backseat of a car, bleeding out. Novak’s father could be liable to sue, or some other legal thing like that if Castiel told his sorry tales about Dean and the gang, though if he hadn’t already Dean wondered if he ever would. But if he could just go, drop off Castiel and get the hell out of dodge…

He turned around the car in a highly illegal U-turn, speeding down the pavement to the fancy-neighborhood Novak lived in. He hoped to the heavens this could be over quickly.
As he drove, he staved off the feeling of unease in his gut by wondering he could maybe use this little endeavor to stop Sam from being such a little bitch. Maybe saving the guy he had previously left to the dogs from several day’s misery in a filthy alley was enough to redeem Dean Sam’s eyes. He figured he had a pretty good chance, especially if it turned out no one in the gang had done it. He should talk to Al later, text him or something. Then Azazel.

It was several minutes before he got to his destination, cruising to a stop outside the house, looking up at it for a moment. There was no movement inside. A car that looked like it was worth more than Dean’s house was sitting in the driveway. His lip curled in envy when he saw it, though he did try to tear his mind away from that. He looked into the back, where Novak’s face was shining with sweat. Fresh blood was leaking from his shirt, dotting the fabric bright red. Dean grimaced and looked back at the house, dragging his feet slightly. He didn’t want to meet Novak’s parents, he didn’t want to go inside and he DIDN’T want credit for this, beyond what he may tell his darling little brother. This was going to destroy his reputation if it got out…..

 

He hoisted himself out of his car and around to the other side. There was no movement in the curtains of the giant house behind him, but the car in the front seemed to be a promising sign that someone was home. He opened the back door real quick to check on Castiel. He looked the same, so Dean shut the door and walked warily up to the house. The last time he had been here, he’d thrown beer bottles at the siding. Meg had been there. The shards of glass were all gone now. Dean wondered idly if a maid had picked them up or something. Funnily enough though, the house was big, and pretty, and looked like it cost a pretty penny, but it wasn’t exactly the house you hired MAIDS for. It was almost oo small to be maid-worthy, though Dean doubted that really stopped the possiblilty of there being a maid inside there. Dean stepped up the front stair and rang the doorbell nervously, shuffling where he stood.

He waited for only a few seconds before the door opened, pulled wide by a bald man wearing a blazer and work trousers. Obviously, Zacharia Novak was home. The man looked Dean up and down before raising an eyebrow at his bloody clothes and asking “Can I help you, young man?”

“Uh, yeah hi I’m- your son goes to school with me, and I was way across town and found him. N- Castiel. I don’t know if you were looking for him-” judging by the man’s completely uninterested appearance, Dean guessed not. “-but yeah, I found him, and he’s roughed up pretty bad so I was just going to drop him off here and be on my-”

“Whoever it is you have in the back of your…” He looked at Dean’s beautiful wonderful majestic eye-striking impala and spat out “-car, I’m sure it’s not my son. I don’t have a son anymore.”

Dean’s mind went on high alert as he tried to conceive of what Mr. Novak was saying here. Did he just not want Castiel back? Was he being serious? By all looks of the man, from his shiny bald crown to his socked feet, he was dead-ass serious. Dean gulped. He was going to have to take Novak home wasn’t he? Maybe the mom would have more sense. Maybe this wasn’t even Mr. Novak….. But Dean didn’t entertain that thought for too long, because who else would this be?

“Uh, is Mrs. Novak home? Because I’m sure she’d want to-” Dean was cut off. Again.

“Mrs. Novak is dead. Car crash. Very tragic.” Dean almost snorted. If Novak sr. thought he was going to get Dean out of his hair with such a lame excuse, he was in for a surprise.

“Really sir, I think she’d benefit from seeing Castiel, he’s just in the back of my car, he’s looking pretty rough….”

“I told you, boy, Mrs. Novak is dead. Do you hear me? Should I say it louder?” He almost shouted the last part. Dean felt his temper rise like a tsunami, and humiliateingly, he felt his hands start shaking. No one would ever say that Mr. Novak was not imposing. “I have photos of the body if you want them, but whoever you think you have in the back of your car is not someone I know. You understand? I don’t have a son. Goodbye.”

The man turned to leave but before he shut the door Dean blurted “Wait! Are you serious?” Novak sr. turned around and looked at him like he was a bug. Dean regretted his life decisions for a second.

“What?”

“T-that she-Mrs. Novak- is dead?” He asked, though he really called out to find out if Novak sr. actually didn’t want his son back. But somehow Dean’s bravery seemed to evaporate when Zacharaia’s attention turned on him.

“Oh yeah. Do you think I’d lie to you?” Yes. “Like I said. Car accident. Head on. Would you like a description of the body? Funeral’s on Saturday. Goodbye.” The door closed.

Dean stood there for a second before sighing, deeply, and spinning around on his heel. This went….a bit fucking differently then he thought it would. He had a sick feeling in his stomach that Novak sr. had been telling the truth, and Castiel’s mom was going to be six feet under on Saturday. Could Castiel and Novak sr. have had a fight, ending with Novak being thrown out for a night by a Mr. Novak, who would be too blinkered by rage to realize his weak son didn’t stand a chance on his own in the town? Maybe the mother’s death caused the fight... A story was coming together in Dean’s mind, mainly fiction to compensate for the lack of solid facts in this case. And Castiel could’ve been walking through streets he didn’t know, when the wrong people found him and decided to have a little fun. All the while loving parent Zacharia Novak was at home, wondering if his misguided teenage son was suffering out in the wilderness. Dean bet this was supposed to be nothing more than a few nights of angry distance before they reunited once more in a tearful confrontation….But that was probably all bullshit. No matter how mad Zacharia Novak was, Dean didn’t think he would turn away his son like that. Dean just couldn’t…..think. He couldn’t think.

He slammed the car door shut when he was safely planted inside, and turned it back on. Praying to heaven Jo wouldn’t come over until Castiel was out of his house and reasonably healthy again, he turned around and headed home.

When he finally got his house, pulled into the driveway, looked up at the front room window and sighed again, he realized that Sam was going to be a total bitch about this. But hopefully Sam would know a little more about First Aid than Dean. After his reaction to the pool Dean had no doubts than Sam would do whatever was within his power to help Castiel.

He opened the side door and levered Castiel out, this time getting him into his arms more easily. Novak was completely silent. Dean almost gagged when the wave of toilet-smell hit him. Clearly, Castiel had not had the strength to find a bathroom in that Alleyway.

When he reached the door, instead of dropping Castiel to open it he kicked it hard four times with a crash loud enough for the neighbors on the next block to hear it. The ghostly shape of a pissed off twelve year old appeared on the other side of the door.

Sam opened up the screen, looking ready to kill Dean. Then, his eyes traveled down, and widened to the size of baseballs. Without a word, he opened the door wider and Dean staggered in, being careful so that he didn’t give Castiel brain damage by whacking his head on the wooden rail of their door.

Chapter Text

As Dean walked inside, Sam broke the silence for the first time in nearly four days. “What. The. Hell.” He breathed, setting up a throw pillow on the couch for Castiel’s head. “Dean, is this- what? Who-” He stuttered a second. “Did you do this?” He asked, accusingly.

 

He looked Dean in the eye fiercely for a second. Dean barely had time to feel offended before Sam was moving. “Is this pool guy? Castiel? Fuck, Dean, what the hell-” He turned and bolted to the bathroom. Dean heard the metallic snap of their sink mirror opening, Sam grabbing every bandage cream and washcloth in there. Dean busied himself with setting Castiel down on the couch and rolling him on his side. Blood was soaking through the shirt, and Dean knew enough to guess he’d opened a new wound on the journey here. He wasn’t gonna lie, it kind of made his heart flutter. Which was stupid, because he’d seen a lot of blood throughout his highschool years and something like this (though it would truthfully make any grown ass man cry) shouldn’t faze him.

 

Maybe it was just how…pathetic Castiel looked. He was so pale, underneath the plethora of bruises. Angular was also a word best used to describe his frame, knobbly and twiggy too. Dean wouldn’t be surprised if Castiel’s stomach was concave, though Dean knew the kid ate lunch in the library almost every day. There were a few welts scattered between or on the prominent bruises on Novak’s sharp drawn face, shiny and nauseatingly puffy, some of which had gravel still pressed into them. To have the dirt so deeply ingrained in Castiel’s face, Someone would’ve had to hold his face to the ground. Dean had seen so many cheeks like that over the years, he could practically envision the struggle. But now it seemed a little less enticing than usual. The raw power of restraining someone, pushing them against the wall or a locker or against the floor was addictive to say the least. It was fun, and exhilaratingly controlling, and knowing that the poor bastard you’re terrorizing would bleed or ache or eat shit on your command was an authority Dean would hate to see leave. He understood the where Villains like Killer Croc and Venom were coming from. The thrill of the hands on approach was much more preferable to having tons of Henchmen who could do it for you, like Hydra or Voldemort. But somehow, Castiel looked more weak right now than anyone Dean had encountered so far. The way he was so limp, practically melting into the couch, the way he was hollow and crumpled like paper, all edges and wrinkles. Dean was still just staring at Castiel. He wondered vaguely if he looked stupid. If Dean were to wake him up now, and make him scream for mercy, he was sure he wouldn’t feel any joy at all. And that was terrifying.

 

When Sam came back he dumped a load of medicin on the floor and said “Dean. Explain.”

 

“Yeah, it’s-pool guy. I found him. I dunno what happened Sam- help me get his damn shirt off.” using the tips of his fingers Dean tried to quickly but tenderly peel off the bloody rag glued to Castiel’s chest. He couldn’t help himself. “It’s nice to hear your voice, princess.”

 

“Dean….” that was all Sam could get out before he punched Dean clearly as hard as he could in the arm. Dean fell back, groaning as he felt the bones in his arms fucking bruise. Twelve year old boys about to hit a growth spurt really don’t get enough credit for the ferocity of their punches. “Did he get hit by a car or something? Why did you bring him here, the ER would take him...like, even take him to his house or something! Are we taking him to the ER after? He’s not gonna like it if he wakes up in your house.” All in one breath. All in the same furiously worried voice. Blood was soaking into their beloved couch, but Dean didn’t dwell on that very long.

 

As the shirt came off, Dean took the opportunity to gasp and avoid Sam’s questions. Sam fell silent too, looking shocked. Purple, and shiny, swollen, and hideous. Castiel’s face was a sneak peak for what was underneath, though the swelling on his side was much more prominent than on his face. Dean guessed that was probably due to a bruised or broken rib. In other places his skin was completely black and purple in waves of broken blood vessels, still in others there was caked blood and scrapes. His pale skin (Seriously, it looked like his nipples hadn’t seen sunlight in seven years) was rusted red, where blood had dried and flaked off leaving a fading tint in it’s place. Dean didn’t think anything was broken, with highly possible exception of Novak’s ribs which were practically popping out of the skin they were so swollen. Sam’s breathing turned a little shaky.

 

“Uh..” He started unsure of what to say. “Do you think we need more stuff?”

 

“I hope not,” Sam said.

 

With that Dean tried really hard to lose himself in the task of figuring out where to start. He was halfway through reading all the supplies before realizing they needed to clean some of the blood and shit (he cringed at the reality of the latter, though he hope he wouldn’t have to deal with that yet) off of Castiel’s wounds. The might get infected if they didn’t, if they weren’t already, is what Dean would guess. He dropped every tube and bottle in his hands, like a dumbass, on the floor and stood - just to find Sam three steps ahead of him. Of fucking course. With a tupperware full of water in one hand and one of their softer walmart sponges in the other, Sam was walking slowly from the kitchen so as not to spill the water. “We’re gonna give him a sponge bath?” Dean asked, temporarily amused.

 

“Yeah. Shut up.” Sam said shortly. The he added, “I think there’s a big chance some of this-” He waved over the wounds “- might just be a little tiny bit infected….I don’t know. I have to do some googling or something.” Sam sounded like he would rather the apocalypse came early than have Castiel’s wounds be infected. Dean almost asked what he was going to use to do said googling, before he remembered the gas station phone Sam had recently saved up for, and gotten, successfully. A whole sixty dollars, plus tax. But since they couldn’t really afford having and paying for another operating phone, it was basically a glorified calculator. He also used kik to communicate with the elusive Jess, whom Dean had still not met.

 

“What do we do if they’re  infected?” Dean asked, knowing already that Sam probably didn’t have an answer to that. “How do you even tell?”

 

“I don’t know, I have to google stuff!” Sam snapped, setting down the water and soaking the sponge. Dean huffed and hoped Castiel didn’t wake up anytime soon as Sam started dabbing at the blood caked areas. Dean wondered vaguely how that much blood had gotten everywhere, since sometimes he didn’t even break the skin when he punched people. Was Novak beaten with a metal pipe or something?

 

Before long, he had gone to the kitchen and gotten himself his own sponge, if just to sit there and feel helpful. Sam had taken care of almost half of all the caked blood on Castiel’s abdomen, and was moving so fast Dean figured he should just move on to the face. He sat on the arm of the couch, awkwardly overlooking Novak’s prone figure, and started squishing the sponge on his face. With a little bit of wiping, he could get most of the crap dislodged. There was a lot of blood caked under Castiel’s nose and on his mouth, like when his nose started bleeding he didn’t even have the strength to wipe (or lick) it off. Maybe he had been unconscious? Hell, Dean didn’t know. He didn’t know why he was even trying to solve what had happened, because the only thing that REALLY mattered was getting Castiel to the point where he could go back home. If his dad took him. And if his dad wouldn’t take him, then…..he would just have to find some relatives or something. Dean got his chin clean and noticed a light bruise on the corner of Novak’s mouth. His lip was split in several places, and there were some marks on his chin Dean could only think of as teeth marks, though they were barely that.

 

It was startling to be this close to Castiel’s face without malicious intentions. Absently Dean’s finger stroked a clean spot Dean had just uncovered. He caught himself before it could get freakishly weird, because Castiel’s skin was seriously soft. Like, baby’s bottom soft, and it was kind of hard not to notice when you’re using your fingers to feel for a broken nose. Which Castiel didn’t have, FYI. A little stubble graced Castiel’s jaw, probably hard-grown and well loved though it was patchy in a few spots. Dean realized he’’d been idling and started back up again, getting Castiel’s neck. He noticed Sam looking at him from the corner of his eye.

 

In almost no time, because both of the boys were eager to stop sponge-bathing this teenager, Castiel was reasonably clean. Well, maybe clean wasn’t the way to put it. But Dean felt they could put bandages and shit on without trapping a motherload of dirt underneath. Sam sort of wiped him off with a beach towel to finish, then they moved on to the next step; patching him up.

 

“Man, I wish he was awake so he could shower or something. Prolly couldn’t stand up if he was though….” Sam trailed off, looking at Dean in a way that was a little too accusatorial for his taste.

 

“Whaaaat,” Dean asked, “are you insinuating, Samuel?”

 

“Oh come on Dean. I know you know something else happened, I just can’t tell how much you know and you’re not telling me what!” Sam said angrily as he stripped open a pack of gauze-bandage pads.

 

“I don’t know much more than you know Sam!” Dean responded dryly, and probably not completely truthfully, ripping apart a bandaid with equal violence.

 

“Then why haven’t we taken him to the Emergency Room?” Sam asked wearily, like he was already tired of living in the same dimension as Dean.

 

It took Dean several minutes to answer. He put a bandaid or two on a few bleeding cuts framing Castiel’s face while he thought of a way to explain this to Sam in a convincing manner. Unfortunately, Dean had very little talent in the make-up-a-believable-story-on-the-spot- department.

 

“Novak-” He started, and Sam’s head stilled a little bit from where it was bent over Castiel’s chest, dabbing neosporin on a cut, “-has some….information, that he could tell some authority figures who would use that information for purposes that would officially land my ass and others in a sticky situation.” Dean said slowly.

 

“We’re forcing this really sick, hurt dude to stay at our house for God knows how long because…. He MIGHT snitch?” Sam’s volume went from 0 to 10 real quick. “Dean, that is the stupidest bullshit I have ever heard-” Yeah, well, Dean’s inner voice seemed to think so too, “- if you’re not involved in this, like you claim to be. But the only reason I see for you being so averse to taking him to the ER is if you were the one to actually do this.” Sam pointed out, rather logically.

 

“Well- it may be stupid. Hell, I know it’s stupid. We just can’t take him anywhere until I get the chance to talk to him, alright?” Dean responded. “And I told you I have no fucking thing to do with this.”

 

“No, not alright. You’re not gonna be talking very much to him if I have my way. You have enough to do with it.”

 

Dean snorted. It was cute when the pipsqueak tried to control him.

 

“I’m serious Dean! If you’re gonna try and scare him into not doing the right thing and turning the person who did this to him in, like Azazel, or Alistair say, I’m gonna try my damn hardest to make sure you don’t. I swear, do you have any human decency? I honestly think this guy’s been through enough, without waking up in your  house, from what I overheard when Jo came.”

 

“Jo was wrong. Kind of. I’m not gonna scare him! I’m just going to talk to him and figure out what happened, that’s all.” Dean lied through his teeth. “I have human decency, why do you think I fucking brought him here? And don’t go around accusing my friends if you know what’s good for you, Sam.”

 

“Or what, you’ll throw me in a swimming pool?” Sam asked. Dean felt like that was a low blow, but he couldn’t come up with a fucking comeback on the spot. Sam looked cloyingly satisfied.

 

“According to you-” Sam threw a disgusted glance his way “the emergency room is out. So that leaves….bringing him to his house. I can’t think of anything else right now. What about after we get gauze on his chest and stuff we just, like, got him in the car and took him to his house! You know where that is, right?”

 

Dean sighed, wishing his attempt at handling Castiel to his father had worked. He and Sam wouldn’t be having this conversation . “I already tried that. I went there, and his dad was being a dick and wouldn’t say that he was his son. So I couldn’t leave him there. He wouldn’t take him. Does this go on his ribs?”

 

“Uhm, I think you don’t put gauze on broken-bruised ribs. I read somewhere, uhm,” Sam sounded remarkably less sure of himself talking about medical technicalities than he did arguing about Dean’s motives and actions of late. “-That we just kind of leave them alone. Well, he’d put ice and crap on and when he wakes up he’s gonna need a couple ibuprofen, but even if they’re broken and not bruised it’s only gonna take like 6 weeks to heal almost fully.”

 

“Ugh. That’s still fucking six weeks…” Dean said, with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

 

But it was fine. By that time his dad would’ve come to his senses right?

 

“Are you sure you got your house right?”

 

“What?”

“Are you sure it was his dad you talked to?”

 

“I’m sure, dammit.” Dean snapped, at Sam and himself.

 

“Well sorr y your eminence.” Sam punted back, acidically. “Just making sure we aren’t kidnapping someone. Why wouldn’t his dad want him back?”

 

“First of all, we’re not kidnapping him. We’re helping him. And just because he and his daddy had a little father/son spat doesn’t mean that the old man won’t take him in a few days, at most. Now, when I went, his dad said something….he said his mom is dead.” Dean halted to the end, wondering if he should sound like he cared.

 

Sam looked up, “Was she dead before?” He asked, nonplussed.

 

“Well I’ve never exactly met her but I can take a guess that they’re not having a funeral on Saturday for a woman who’s been dead for years.”

 

“Geez, sorry for asking. You know the guy better than me.” Sam bit back, though he sounded a bit more regretfully thoughtful than solely focused on hurting Dean verbally.

 

“I don’t know him!” Dean snapped again. He was struck by how true that was.

 

“Do you know...does Castiel know?” Sam asked, and Novak’s name sounded strange on his tongue.

 

“I don’t know. But that might be the reason he’s out on the streets, I mean, teenage angst, walking around crying about unfairness and the world’s cruelty? It only would’ve taken being in the wrong place at the wrong time for it to go south.”

 

“Heartless much? He lost his mom Dean, I’m pretty sure he’s entitled to human grieving. Angst and crying about unfairness are kind of part of the process.” Sam glowered reproachfully. “It’s not like we can’t relate.”

 

Dean was a little taken aback as he realized his voice had grown more hateful over the last two sentences he said then it had during the course of this entire conversation. He cleared his throat and kept his expression the same. “Whatever. Let’s get this shit over with, then I can figure out what to do with….him.”



_______________________________________

 

It was hours later that Castiel stirred at all, and it wasn’t  exactly a hopefully cheerful sign. Splayed on the couch, stone like, Novak was laying above where Sam was sitting on the floor. Dean was in the other room doing a little homework because Sam kept picking fights if he sat near Novak, touched Novak, or generally breathed the same air as Novak. Nevermind the fact that Dean had freaking brought the dude into his own house, of his own (sort of) free will, with good-enough intentions. He heard the choked moan from the chair he was sitting in, and crept around the doorjamb, hoping it was just the TV.

 

Sam was looking too, craning his neck upwards. Novak’s expression was pinched. His mouth wasn’t open, though his breathing was harsher than it seemed to normally be. As Dean watched, mildly concerned, Novak breathed in forcefully and let out another deep, quiet choke of pain. Was it his ribs or a nightmare? Dean couldn’t tell. But he let it be, and returned to the land of homework.



__________________________________________



Dean went to bed that night in his own room, and Sam was out in the living room with Novak. Dean had, in fact, told Sam that it was doubtful Novak would bleed out or anyshit in the eight hours the other two teens would be sleeping. But Sam shrugged aggressively and laid out his blankets, settling in for the night. A part of Dean wondered if maybe Sam thought he would creep out and smother Castiel with his pillow if he didn’t lay guard.

 

He tried not to think too much as he drifted off. Tomorrow. He would worry about this tomorrow.



____________________________________________



Sam declared Castiel fever-bearing a half-hour after the two woke up on Saturday morning. Novak hadn’t moved during the night, and his face was slightly shinier than Dean remembered it being. Sam also told Dean that a fever was a sign of infection, and they were in deep shit if it was a bad infection. They talked in the kitchen while an ibuprofen dissolved on Novak’s tongue.

 

Personally, Dean didn’t really worry too much about that. People got beat up all the time. People broke ribs all the time. It wasn’t like there were knife slashes on Castiel, so if one or two little slits got infected was it really the end of the world? He told Sam as much, and received a very adament response proclaiming his statement false. But how much did twelve year olds learn accurately from Google and wikihow anyways?

 

He and Sam got breakfast. Dean ran to the store and picked up just enough food for three people for the next four days. When he came back Sam was sitting below Castiel again, watching Spongebob Squarepants and eating the last of their cereal. Dean sat farther away, and watched the TV determinedly. He was not going to let this situation hurt his TV watching time. And maybe he and Sam had seen this particular VHS a million gazillion times. Maybe they didn’t laugh anymore so much as him appreciatively. But the impression of what was once a new and exciting hilarious tape of stupidity still stood proudly in Dean’s mind. Even though Alistair had laughed his ass off when they watched it at Uriel’s house. So what if Dean knew every line? It wasn’t bad, was it?

 

Later, much later, Castiel still hadn’t woken. He’d moaned in a way that made Dean deeply uncomfortable several more times, and once he could’ve sworn he spoke in his sleep. But he had been in the other room at the time, and and hadn’t caught whatever it was he’d said. Dean began wondering if he should be MORE worried about the continued lack of response in Castiel to Sam and Dean’s loud stomping footsteps. (Dean had become painful aware of how noisy he and Sam were around the house as someone who was practically a stranger lay asleep in the other room)

 

(Seriously, they were fucking elephants.)

 

_________________________

 

Castiel perished in a false world of dramatic terror. Hands were grabbing his lips like play dough, prying them apart and using his mouth like a trashcan. His feet were on fire, plunged into pools of acid and nothing was making sense and everything was wrong but that was okay, because this was his life and it was fine. Everything was, if not right, then as it should be. The screams in the background could be Castiel’s, they caked his ears and made him shake his head in agony. The air was burning his throat and there were nails on his wrists, clawing and tearing but never piercing the veins. But that was fine, that was okay, because this was Castiel’s being, his purpose, to be used and hurt and thrown away to be fished out again. Like a toy a toddler can’t decide to give away or keep. He didn’t deserve to bleed out, he shouldn’t be so dramatic. His life wasn’t that bad. There are starving people in africa! Impoverished people in North Korea! Children killing themselves from stress in South Korea. It was fine. All was fine. Razors in his stomach, unwanted fingers clamping his hipbones, caressing his ribs. It was all--



- fuzzy. He didn’t feel anything, for a second, before awarness started in. After the first granules of it had seeped through his gummy eyelids, he realized he wasn’t laying on the ground. With that realization came the memory of what had just happened to him, perhaps minutes before. Alistair, the bruises on his lips….. Even in the dream like state he existed in currently, Castiel’s stomach felt ropey at the thought.

 

He heard music. Sounds, voices coming from something electronic, like a TV. No one in the room was speaking, but as he woke he could hear breathing near his knees-- were his knees breathing? But he banished the thought when she realized he was being stupid. Knees don’t breath. But human beings do. He unconsciously felt his body tighten, his skin tingling. Horrifyingly, he heard the couch crinkle as his leg shifted. But the breathing at his knee didn’t change in pitch, tone or direction so he assumed it went unnoticed. Something exploded on the television.

 

Slowly, Castiel opened his eyes. He was lying on a couch, he could tell from the shape. Nothing was tying his hands together as far as he could tell, the same for his feet. There was a sticky tightness on his chest, face and arms that might have been bandages. Which was strange, unless he was in a hospital. But then why would he be on a couch? His ribs hurt. Actually, everything did, but not as pointedly as it normally did. Some of it was achiness, like he hadn’t moved for days. His stomach was clenched with uneasiness and fear, but he could still tell it had been empty for a long time. It wasn’t rumbling, but painfully carved by absence. Absence of food. Absence of water.

 

His mouth tasted terrible. He lingered on that fact for a whole three seconds before moving on.

 

He was looking at a wall. There was nothing on it. The color was unimportant. If he moved his eyes just a little to the left, he found the TV. It was bright and glaring in contrast to the darkened room, and Castiel’s eyes lingered a moment on the movie he had no name for playing indifferently in the background. The volume was down, low enough he guessed it would be hard to make out distinct words. His eyelashes bordered his vision in dark spikes. He looked farther to his left and found the person watching the television.

 

No more than a dark and furry blob, the person sitting by his legs was small. Or, he looked small. From what he could tell Castiel guessed they might have been a boy, from the way the shaggy hair was combed back and the back curved--- Castiel really had no idea though. He was just going to trust his gut and go with male.

 

There was creaking somewhere away, in the rest of the house. (he figured this was a house. It smelled like one. Though it didn’t smell anything like Castiel’s---his old one, that was) Castiel froze, slamming his eyes shut. He heard the creaking of floorboards crossing to the couch, and stopping somewhere at his ankle. With no warning he felt something solid bump his toe. His body reacted in the only way it knew how to; violently flinching into the couch.

 

With a creak of springs and jolt of Castiel’s heart, his entire leg jerked like it had been tasered. He felt his mouth go drier, he heard his chances of remaining unnoticably awake disappear. There were noises of surprise from his knees, and he could definitely pick out male tones-- and then one of them spoke.

 

“Look who’s awake?” A voice asked him softly, and his fingertips startled buzzing and pricking with the electricity of his fear. He knew that voice.

 

Chapter Text

He stayed still. If he didn’t fucking look at Dean Winchester, then he wasn’t here. Was this his house? Was Castiel in Dean Winchester’s fucking house oh FUCK-

 

Did Alistair Call Dean and get him to clean up the damage? Was he in some underground torture lab where they kept teenage boys who were social failures? Was Alistair himself here? Was Dean interested in the same things as Alistair? Was Castiel going to be- be raped? Castiel was running through possibilities and questions a mile a minute. His brain was scrambling and somehow only computing a single four letter work that started with ‘F’ and ended with a’K’.

 

He could feel his body stiffen, though it might not’ve been as externally obvious as it was internally. He wasn’t shaking bad enough to see yet, and he couldn’t feel his face twitching. But SOMETHING must have been noticeable because the TV-watcher punched Winchester (Castiel heard the fist make impact) and muttered “Nice, asshat.” after that was a hissed argument just a few sentences long that was out of Castiel’s earshot.

 

Could he run for it? He probably could. He didn’t feel good, he was about a three day’s airplane trip away from good, but he could probably find the door and make it out before his legs collapsed. Quick as a cheetah, he made his decision.

 

He sat up fast enough for the world to tilt on it’s axis, though it was probably embarrassingly slow compared to what it felt like. He heard a disgruntled noise emit from both boy as he stood shakily, aided by the adrenalin rush, and opened his eyes. Somehow he had kept them solid shut before now.

 

The door was in front of him, deadbolt unlocked and ready to be flung open. He stumbled to it, and clumsily opened it, feeling the cool night air wash over him. How late was it? What day was it? Hands scrabbled a little at his back, voices were speaking but he had to get out- He was feeling his body protesting with every single movement, his energy draining as every nerve lit on fire. Adrenalin wasn’t going to be enough to get him to the sidewalk, and if it was he would collapse the minute his toes hit the pavement.

 

It turned out that moment came sooner rather than later.

 

Hands attached themselves to his shoulders, a conversation was taking place behind his back and he could tell part of it was aimed at him.

 

“-Careful, get off-”

 

“Well he can’t fucking go outside!”

 

“I swear if you make him fall over Dean-”

 

“Hey c’mon dude let’s get you back to bed-”

 

Winchester sounded pissed, in contrast to his words. His heart tore at his chest as he thought about laying back down in the same house as the steel-eyed boy. The hands on his shoulders tightened, and suddenly Castiel felt his muscles fail him as his sense of balance was violated. Tipping backwards, his arms reached out as a grunt was pushed from his throat. He felt a thrill of fear before he hit someone’s chest (Winchester’s most likely) and his brain jostled in his skull.

 

His vision whited out for a moment, ears ringing a bit as he recovered from his sudden loss of altitude. He was being pulled somewhere, hands were under his arms and it hurt! By the time his vision cleared again he was laying back on the couch. On his bare chest, he felt the gauze taped to his cuts flap. He had torn some of it off in the struggle. His breathing was harsh but constricted, and he focused on that for a moment because it felt like he was stabbing an ice pick into his ribs. Unable to gain any satisfaction from his shallow and laboured breaths, Castiel gasped on the couch for the moment, recovering, before tuning back into whatever was happening beyond his body.

 

“- have to take it easy, I read you shouldn’t take big breaths, it’ll just aggravate the wound. Or something.”

 

“Sam, give it a rest. You sound like you swallowed WebMD.” Winchester sounded righteously aggravated. Castiel’s breathing jerked a bit more when the next question was directed straight to him. “You’re not gonna try to run away from us again, are you? Because that would be a very stupid decision.”

 

Was that a threat? A poorly veiled threat? Was Castiel being held captive by Dean Winchester and his 13 year old brother?

 

“Dean. you sound like you’re gonna make a skin suit outta him.” Castiel heard Sam mutter quietly. Dean snorted. Castiel wasn’t sure if the suggestion was so out of line.

 

“No I don’t.” Dean Winchester firmly and falsely denied.

 

Castiel still hadn’t said a word beyond gruting. He didn’t think he could. It was really too much to hope that Winchester-- the Winchesters, more like, -- would let him go. So he just hoped he would die quickly. His head felt inflated enough to pop, one more hit and Castiel was certain he would burst like a pimple, which would probably be preferable to whatever was to come next. He didn’t take his eyes off the older Winchester as he recovered what little breath he had, side searing in pain. In a few places, aside from the pain, the injuries felt oddly warm too in a way that made Castiel sure that they were infected. He didn’t have the brain space to deal with that now though, so he filed it away completely for later.

 

“Are you calm now?” Winchester asked rather nastily, though it sounded a little forced. Which was, of course, Castiel’s imaginition.

 

He kept on panting, and the floppy-haired boy standing next to Dean with the worried mouth and perky nose shuffled uncomfortably, leaning forward and putting out his hands toward Castiel. Immediately the blue-eyed boy flinched back, raising a finger (literally, just a finger. He couldn’t seem to get his whole arm’s cooperation in this matter.) in a defence and, embarrassingly, wheezing a little harder for a second. The boy back up, looking strangely guilty and confused.

 

“Uh, look. I’m not going to do anything- I mean, I’ll do stuff- I mean, I’m not gonna hurt you, I just want to take your stuff off- your bandages, that is- and then maybe we can see if they’re ok? The cuts you opened. You’re ok. You’re gonna be ok, you’re safe here. ” He tripped over his own tongue, speaking in bursts and stutters, like he was giving an impromptu speech to an audience of a million people.  He was unduly nervous, for a boy with the upper hand in a situation. Castiel didn’t believe any of the shit about “Him being ok” and the bedside manner act, which was truly terrible. The least Sam could do was put just a little more effort into his soothing tone.

 

“Uh, so can I look? At the cuts. And stuff.” Sam asked, tentatively.

 

Castiel shook his head promptly, firmly, and civilly (which he didn’t feel in the least.) Winchester snorted. Which was surprising, because Castiel had assumed even Winchester had enough brains in him to realize someone who had just woken up in a house that looked like a reject set for a horror movie (Was that a pile of bloody cloth in the corner, or just ketchup stained napkins? There were McDonald’s wrappers littering the floor beside the trashcan in the bathroom, just barely visible beyond the doorway. A lone toothbrush wasted away on the carpet in the living room, feet from where Castiel lay.) tried, and failed, to escape, and now was being held practically captive by a thirteen year old and his older brother, Castiel’s own personal tormentor. Forgive him if he was being a little reluctant.

 

“Look, man, I just want to help you.” Sam tried again. Castiel again shook his head as hard as he could. He should talk soon.

 

His throat felt so akin to sandpaper, he felt that if he tried to speak it would only grate on itself.

 

“Well, we don’t really need your cooperation, I think you know that-” Dean said, in a parody of a comforting tone. Again, Sam punched him hard with his knuckles, though Dean didn’t show any recognition of pain, just annoyance. But he fell silent.

 

“C’mon man-”

 

“Why am I here?” Castiel asked, quietly. The end of his sentence petered off in a grated squeak, which would have set his cheeks aflame if he actually could bring himself to care at the moment. Just as he had thought it would, speaking hurt.

 

“Well, I’m glad you asked that,” Sam started, looking a slight bit pleased. “Since it seems like you haven’t really gotten the chance to put it together yet.” He shifted, looked at Dean, and glared. With a minute little hand gesture, Castiel saw Sam point viciously at the kitchen. Winchester’s face darkened in displeasure, but with a snort he stomped where Sam directed him. Castiel just lay tense on the couch.

“So, my name’s Sam. Winchester.” Sam said, jerking his hand a little like he was going to shake Castiel’s but decided not to at the last second.

 

“I know.” Castiel rasped.

 

“Oh. Ok. Good.” Sam mused, and sat down on the floor after a moment's debate, with a Fwump that made Castiel jump. Castiel looked down at him, hand unconsciously picking at the loose end of a plaster on his chest. “So. Dean, he found you in some alleyway. You were uh, unconscious and hurt, so he brought you here because-- something was wrong and he couldn’t get to the hospital or something. Still waiting on more news for that. And bringing you to your house didn’t work. So, we got you here I think Friday afternoon. Today’s Saturday, you’ve been out for like an entire day, not counting how long you were in that alley. So, we’ve just been changing your bandages and stuff, and you’ve got a place to stay now to get back on your-uh, feet, I guess.” Sam concluded.

 

Unlikely.

 

“Did Alistair call him?” Castiel asked maybe a little harshly, because Sam looked affronted.

 

“Uh- I don’t know. What does Alistair have to do with this?” Sam’s voice took a sharp veer into suspicion.

 

Castiel didn’t answer that question. If Sam already knew what Alistair had to do with this, then it would be pointless to. And if he didn’t, well, then Winchester would have to tell his brother himself. Castiel didn’t think he could speak about that moment in the ally to anyone, let alone the Winchesters.

 

Sam sighed, and asked, “Why did- Dean went to your house. Earlier, when he had you in his car. And um, your dad was a little- less than forthcoming, when it came to taking you, and when it came to why. Could you, ah, tell me why?”

 

Castiel’s mind went blank. Why his father didn’t want him? Why was that any concern of Sam Winchester’s? Of Dean Winchester’s too, by extension!? He just sat, staring into Sam Winchester’s eyes, feeling fluttery. In his heart, he was fluttering, his nerves were fluttering like butterfly wings or construction tarps. He heard Dean Winchester breathing in the kitchen, not far away.

 

“Castiel?” his eyes snapped back to the brown ones facing him, minutely surprised to hear his name. “Do you know why your dad wouldn’t let Dean drop you off?”

 

“When can I fucking leave?” Castiel growled, sounding impatient. He wasn’t impatient, really, just fluttery. And that did strange things to your voice.

 

“Uh, when you feel up to it, I guess. But Dean said your dad was pretty adamant about your not coming back so I’m-” Sam cut off when Castiel started struggling upwards, fists clenched in pain.

 

“-I’m fucking leaving.” Castiel huffed, hobbling into an upright position. OW, ow ow ow ow ow!

“You can’t just leave! Dean get back in there I’ve got this!” He paused to yell at his brother, who was, just a second ago, rapidly approaching them. “Castiel, you haven’t got anywhere to go if you leave here. And, I know it’s not ideal for you, and hell knows we’re probably not the most comfortable home to stay in but I think, unless you’ve got relatives we don’t know about nearby, you don’t have anywhere to go!” He pleaded, as if Castiel really had a choice. He could feel his muscles revolting. He glared at Sam, and he turned and glared at Winchester, who was watching stonily from the kitchen. His brave mood wilted a slight bit when Winchester glared back.

 

He made it to the door again, with Sam WInchester dogging by his side, waiting for him to change his mind. Castiel, inwardly, was amazed that he had gotten this far. Wouldn’t Dean charge from the kitchen and wrestle him to the couch? Wasn’t he being pointlessly aggravating to both of them?

 

Sam reached out to take Castiel’s arm, and the older boy retracted it so fast he elbowed his own side. Trying again, Sam actually grabbed his arm, starting “Castiel-please, let’s just-”

 

“I’m not staying here! Waiting for things- for Alistair-” He was out of breath, and his ribs hurt, making his lungs hurt, making his chest hurt too.  

 

“Alistair’s not coming.” Castiel backed himself against the door, back to the wood when Winchester’s voice entered the mix. Eyes half open, he made sure Winchester was in his line of sight.

 

“I’m not a fool.” He breathed, “don’t t-treat me like one.” He stuttered just a little.

 

Winchester didn’t roll his eyes or anything, he just stared at Castiel steadily. “If Alistair has anything to do with this,” He waved his hand over Castiel’s body. Castiel folded on himself a bit defensively. “Then he’ll tell me when I call him later tonight.”

 

“You haven’t- you don’t know?” Castiel asked, a little dumbstruck. If Dean didn’t know about Alastair...Castiel didn’t even know. He had thought the Knights of Hell where like a web, inescapable and connected to each other. But how many days had it been, and Dean hadn’t be told….

 

“Don’t know what? Was he the one who blacked your face?” Dean asked, though he didn’t look too surprised.

 

Castiel wasn’t going to tell him anything. He didn’t deserve to listen, to know, and Castiel didn’t think he could face the shame of having Dean know about the attempt. About the bruises on his mouth that were surely visible. And if Dean found out later tonight…..

 

“Just- let me go. Please.” Castiel was begging. He knew that. Winchester looked at him with pity in his gaze, which rankled Castiel’s spirit but was unavoidable.

 

“He was, wasn’t he? Big surprise. It isn’t like that’s a new thing. Unless there was a little something more this time…?” Winchester was asking. He clearly didn’t know anything. Than why was Castiel there….?

 

“Why am I here?” He asked, again. Dean snorted, though there didn’t seem to be much of a reason for it. Sam looked like he didn’t really know how to answer that question.

 

“You answer me.” Winchester answered, which was baffling. Castiel didn’t know! He hoped his expression didn’t show the war of emotions on the inside.

 

“Please, I just want to go.”

 

“And you will. Eventually.”

 

“When?” He was lying on the couch. Slumped, defenseless. There wasn’t much he could do about that.

 

“When you’re ready.” It sounded like it bore multiple meanings. Castiel could unravel that later.

 

“Uh- what Dean means- when you’re okay enough to find your own place. Right, Dean?” Sam butted in on Winchester’s steely movie-villain moment.

 

“Right.”

 

Castiel lay back on the couch, and tried to contemplate this. “And I can’t leave right now because…. You don’t want me to not have a place to go? What sense does that make?” He asked quietly.

 

“Human decency kind of sense, I guess.” Sam answered.

 

Hmm . What if I don’t want to stay?” Castiel was going in circles, and he knew that. But as long as they were going in circles he wasn’t being restrained or beaten.

 

“Then….I strongly suggest you reconsider. We’re just trying to help, and I think it would really be in your best interests to stay here, right Dean?” He nudged Winchester, who nodded at the wall behind Castiel. He looked constipated, in an angry sort of way.

 

“Nothing about staying here is in my best interests.” Castiel’s fight and urge to stand and leave was draining away. What was the use of denying them?

 

“Can we get to your freaking cuts now?” Sam asked, and Castiel looked at him as critically as he could through the haze.

 

“Fine. But keep your...distance.” Was it wise to sound threatening to these people? They could do anything to him. But Castiel liked the thought of their hands on his body nearly as much as he liked the thought of Donald Trump being re-elected for president.

 

Sam nodded and walked forward, and Winchester walked off to somewhere Castiel assumed there was a bathroom or something. He was more focused on Sam, who was sitting in front of him with a lapful of medical ointments and such. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a bottle of water sitting beside him on the couch. He didn’t reach for it, though his throat was sandpaper this whole time.

 

His hypersensitive nerves made him jump when Sam’s wary fingertips came in contact with his skin, and Castiel couldn’t believe he was doing this. He just couldn’t. Sam was clearly feeling awkward, but he strived on. Peeling a bandage slowly and carefully from Castiel’s chest, Sam was so focused his brow seemed to fold in on itself. Castiel was barely breathing, for multiple reasons. As Sam drew a little bit nearer, he put some sort of something on Castiel’s cut (Edge of his chest, bordering on his elbow), and smoothed another bandage over it methodically. Castiel's fists were clenched so hard he wondered if you could tear your knuckle skin from the tightness of his bones against it.



_________________________

 

After the largely silent affair of Sam Winchester’s hands virtually all over him (But what could he do about it?) Samuel sat back and breathed in deeply. Castiel was as shrunken into the couch as he could get. Winchester came from the kitchen where he had been hiding the past few minutes, with a glass of water and a few pills in his hand. Castiel's heart started back up again. Were those for him? What were they? Sedatives?

 

“Here you go. Ibuprofen. And water.” Winchester dumped two pills into Castiel’s limp hand, despite how hard the other boy jerked away. He continued holding the water, looking at Castiel expectantly.

 

He examined it, in his hands. It looked like an ibuprofen, clay red with the little 1-2 on the side of it. How could they have faked that? And he was hurting…. But really, if he was just going to accept whatever happened to him without a fight like a doll, didn’t he deserve to hurt a bit?

 

“Why are you giving me pain relieving pills?” Castiel asked, quietly.

 

“Because it hurts, doesn’t it?” Sam answered. Winchester ignored him.

 

“Well…. How do I know the pill won’t?” He asked, childlike. Sam looked him with an expression he could only label as ‘pity’.

 

“Ibuprofen doesn’t hurt. It’ll help your ribs” Was all he said. Castiel could tell he was just bursting to say more though.

 

He looked down at the new, bright white bandages on his chest. It was not an unpleasant sensation, to have his wounds covered. Then he suddenly became aware of the swollen nature of his throat, how he hadn’t taken that water bottle before. Not like that was an option anyways. So, in a fit of thirst, he chugged the water suddenly, slamming it to his lips and chugging hard. He could feel a cough forming terribly in his throat, but he finished the water off with a gasp. Then he remember the pill, and dry swallowed it, late. He choked it down through a cough that tore his throat.

 

After watching for a moment, Castiel registered that Sam was putting away medical supplies into tubes and containers, all emptied into a plastic bag Castiel assumed was hung somewhere. Winchester was….sitting in front of a shelve of VHS’s. He looked deep in thought, eyes scanning. After a moment, Winchester leaned forward and pulled a box from the shelf. “Jumanji?” He asked, showing Sam the box.

 

“Dean.” Sam responded, “Don’t you think we should work through some things before we start a freaking movie night?”

 

“Oh, he’s half asleep.” And he slid the VHS in. Immediately, the ending music started blaring, credits scrolling past the screen slowly. “Dammit, Sam.” Dean muttered, rewinding it by turning a knob on a machine under the TV.

 

“Well it’s not my fault!” Sam started, before he seemed to catch himself. Castiel was noticing more and more, Sam seemed more reluctant to make a fool of himself than Dean, or maybe just wiser about it.

 

“Whatever.” Dean said.



________________________

 

It took a few minutes for Dean to rewind the tape fully, and in that time everything going to behind him was silent. He wondered if Castiel was asleep, staring like a creep at Sam or staring like a creep at himself. Either way, Dean was about this close to punching his lights out to make it stop. Vebally. Verbally punching his lights out.

 

Jumanji wasn’t exactly the most calming, family friendly movie out there, but Dean felt like a little action was what they all needed right about now. Maybe, when Sam went to bed Dean could come out and talk to Castiel in private? It felt pretty damn ridiculous to wait for his baby brother to go to bed, because Dean didn’t have permission, but he was smart enough to know that Sam could make his life hell if he didn’t approve of Dean’s methods. We’re talking hair dye here.

 

Dean had pretty much no doubt that Castiel would sleep before long. No matter how freaked out you are, you don’t just pull an allnighter after whatever Novak went through. The details were still a bit fuzzy….

 

And Dean still had to call Alistair. As soon as Novak was out, Dean planned to get outside and dial up his best buddy. Maybe those last two words were a little sarcastic, Dean couldn’t honestly say he was looking forward to this phone call, but who really looked forward to phonecalls with Alistair? Nobody, that’s who. Dean doubted Alistair’s mother even picked up the phone.

 

The movie was starting. Dean was sitting down, near the couch were Castiel was still breathing like he’d run a mile in sweatpants and a parka. It couldn’t feel good, not with his ribs, and by the greenish pallor of his face Dean could tell the pain was DEFINITELy getting to him. “Relax dude.”

 

Castiel turned and looked at him, eyes dead serious and scared. Dean pretended it didn’t make his stomach clench, and turned to watch the movie.



20 minutes in, Dean looked back over his shoulder at the boys behind him. Sam was staring pensively at the TV still, Castiel’s eyes were fluttering open and closed in a battle for wakefulness. Which was a good thing. When he was dead asleep and Sam was off...doing homework or watching Novak sleep or something; then he would call.

 

In another twenty minutes, Sam got up. Dean watched him grab a blanket from his room, covering Castiel’s shivery body with it. Noavk’s eyes were closed, but twitchy. The blanket was light enough that he didn’t react as it floated down on him, but when it settled fully Dean could watch Castiel stretch out a bit more. A relaxed Castiel Novak- something dean wondered if he had ever seen before. Probably not. He liked to keep people on their toes most of the time.

 

In another twenty minutes Castiel’s breathing faded almost completely out of Dean’s hearing range. Sam didn’t seem to notice, for all his worry about punctured lungs, but Dean could tell. Struggling over to Castiel’s side on his knees, Dean ignored Sam’s suspicious “Where’re you going’?” and just sat there. Like a creep from a horror movie, he listened for Castiel’s breathing carefully and probably too focused to not look like a serial rapist.

 

Castiel’s breathing was there, but so faint Dean felt like he was stretching his ears longer just trying to sort past the static and voices from the TV. It was probably just his body getting used to the bruises on his ribs. And, he was practically hyperventilating the entire time he was awake. So, that probably wasn’t helping things. So, Dean sat back down and tried not to worry about things he didn’t have to. Leave Sammy to freak about breaths per minute or whatever the shit he had learned from wikipedia.

 

So he sat back down.

 

They were gonna have to figure out food. Because if Castiel was out for as long as they thought he was there was very little chance he got a homecooked meal during that time, and his stomach was bound to be the size of a walnut by now. Hadn’t he once (a lifetime of undone homework ago) read a book about some Holocaust survivor? You can’t just take away food then expect everything to be hunky dory, or else badness would ensue. One of the rules of biology Dean thought was stupid, and annoying, not that he’d had many opportunities to use this information. So what, did they just feed him a tablespoon of oatmeal a day until his stomach got big enough? Maybe milk, and cereal? Were Rice Krispies too traumatizing for a sad stomach? Dean paused. Did I seriously just call a starved organ a ‘sad stomach’?

 

If he was at the hospital right now Dean probably wouldn’t have to worry about these things, would he? He’d be at home, dealing with his own problems, and not worrying about what this runt was going to eat in the morning.

 

After the movie ended, Dean watched Sam grab his pillow from his room and set up shop beneath Castiel again. Ignoring that, he grabbed his phone and stepped into their tiny backyard, promising himself mentally that if Sam was listening he was about to get an ass whooping nobody's ever experienced before.

 

He punched in Alistair’s name and hit his caller ID, wondering what he would say. Because, of course, he had no plan. Plans were for weak people who wanted to get stuff done correctly. Dean was a strong person who was perfectly content getting it done half-assed. He stood in the darkness, swatting the occasional mosquito and listening to the phone ring.

 

It clicked, “‘Yello, Dean.” Alistair drawled.

 

“Hey.” Dean responded, trying to sound businesslike. “Did you get Castiel the other day?”

 

“‘ Get Castiel?’ You’re gonna have to be a little more specific Dean,” Alistair replied, Dean could hear a smile on his voice, “I get Castiel a little too much too call up a memory right at the moment.”

 

“You know what I mean, asshole.” Dean said, “Like, Thursday, did you find him outta school or something?” Not conspicuous at all, right?

 

“Thursday? What’s so special about Thursday? ” Alistair was playing with him. Alistair played with everybody.

 

“What makes Thursday so special is none of your fucking buisness. You gonna answer the question, or should I hang up now and save myself the trouble?”

 

“Peace, dude.” Alistair laughed, in a mean way. “Yeah, I got Castiel. I think it was a Thursday, odd that you were right, isn’t it?” The voice on the phone paused a moment, before the crackly dialogue continued. “Got him pretty good in a place down by the cafe, you know?”

 

Yeah, he knew. “Yeah, I know.”

 

“Good. Anyways, I found him there, right? Just like, sitting in the alley. And I asked him was he was doing, and he was fucking asleep! So I woke him up, and he freaked a bit in his say-nothing-big-eyes way. And I talked to him and shit, and he was just like ignoring everything I was trying to say, so I made him an offer, and he said no, so I had to get what I wanted another way.” Alistair’s voice teased a story that Dean was going to have to ask for.

 

“Don’t play the waiting game with me Al, what was t he offer ? Did you make him one he couldn’t refuse?” Dean couldn’t help the reference at the end there, but really, how many times a day could you quote an iconic line from The Godfather?

 

“Oh you know….A boy’s gotta have a few toys, Dean. And he was sitting, and his brains were clearly almost dribbling out his ears. So I asked him for a little head in exchange for a favour, and he fucking turned his nose up at me!” Alistair sounded amused. Dean’s eyebrows must have furrowed into the ground. “So I tried to take what I wanted, but the little cockshit beat me off! And I’m not ashamed to admit that. Everybody has their off-” Dean cut Alistair off mid-stride.

 

“Wait, are you telling me…” Dean was quiet a little while. He could practically hear Alistair smiling patronizingly as he figured this out on the other line. “You- You tried to get Novak to give you a blowjob?” Not completely unbelieveable. And Novak had said, no apparently.

 

“Yeah, Dean.” Alistair drawled, like he was stupid. “Don’t tell me you don’t think of it! I mean, he’s got a mouth made for it, Those cheekbones, man I could practically feel his tongue just flexin-”

 

“Oh my god.” Not what Dean was expecting. And Castiel had said no…. And Alistair had persisted….

“How far did you get?” Dean asked, quietly.

 

“Oh, he struggled a little too much for my liking, so I left him before I could really get much of anything. Just made out a minute and then, well, he didn’t like that very much. But I could tell, deep down, he must’ve enjoyed it a little.” Alistair said, casually. “Couldn’t get his fuckin’ pants off to save my life, the dude’s got a fighting stamina of a elephant.”

 

Dean felt sick. It was a surprise, this news. He always knew, somewhere in him, that Alistair, his friend for years, was capable of this...attempt. Alistair was capable of a lot of things that, morally, Dean just couldn’t have ever done. There were some stories, real ones, that Alastair had recounted to Dean that sometimes sat uncomfortably in Dean’s stomach. Screwing girlfriends behind backs, stealing money from his past babysitters, killing the pet bird of the one girlfriend he caught cheating on him, Spray painting the houses of the girlfriends who had confessed of cheating. Other things besides, not to mention everyday petty cruelties which Dean would admit are a highlight in both of their lives.

 

“You alive over there?” Alistair asked.

 

“He...struggled.” Dean stated.

 

“No shit. It’s Novak.”

 

“And you...kept on going. Trying to get a BJ.” Dean was really trying to give Alistair a slight chance to redeem himself. To laugh it off and admit that he had only punched the smaller boy ‘round a bit, before leaving. But Alistair didn’t take the out, and the pit of Dean’s stomach continued it’s rocket towards the earth’s core.

“Damn right! The day I stop at no is the day Uriel gets a life.” Alistair chuckled at his own joke. “And I know it may seem a little bit unorthodox, but Dean, does it matter? Truly. I mean, in the end, we’re all gonna die, so I’m gonna get my jollies out wherever and with whomever I so please. I think you should take my advice, man. It’s not the first time someone’s gotten away, but could you imagine, those tight lips, that tight ass, just grinding against-”

 

“You’ve done this before?” His toes felt tingly with dread.  

 

“Oh, come on Dean, don’t be like that!” Alistair laughed. Dean couldn’t really believe it. Multiple times? How many times had it worked, had the poor bastard/bastardette given in to Al? his stomach felt weird, like….nausea. That’s what it was. But he didn’t think he was going to throw up.

 

“You’re sick.” Dean growled, “Sick in the brain, man. I can’t believe you- you-” He took a deep breath. “How far  did you get?”

 

“How far-?”

 

You know what I mean !” Dean half yelled into the phone. Part of him couldn’t believe he was getting so angry on Novak’s behalf.

“Not enough to scar the little guy, if you’re so worried. I told you before, just unbuckling’ my pants and a bit of necking. He fought hard, for what he looked like. I wish some of the girls would fight like that-”

 

“I don’t want to hear that. You stay away, okay? Alistair? Stay away from me, and my brother.” Dean wanted to get off the phone and that very second. But he had to give Alistair a warning first.

 

“Stay away from you? But Dean, I’ll miss you!” Al said in a mocking voice. “And Sammy! How could I possibly bring myself to avoid that little ray of sunshine?”

 

“You stay away from him. Or I will come over there, and smack your teeth through your neck, so help me God.” Dean threatened.

 

“Oooooh. Got it, boss.”

 

“Fuck off.” Dean ended the call while Alistair was still trying to get the last words in.

Chapter Text

 

“How far-?”

 

You know what I mean !” Dean half yelled into the phone. Part of him couldn’t believe he was getting so angry on Novak’s behalf.

“Not enough to scare the little guy, if you’re so worried. I told you before, just unbuckling’ my pants and a bit of necking. He fought hard, for what he looked like. I wish some of the girls would fight like that-”

 

“I don’t want to hear that. You stay away, okay? Alistair? Stay away from me, and my brother.” Dean wanted to get off the phone and that very second. But he had to give Alistair a warning first.

 

“Stay away from you? But Dean, I’ll miss you!” Al said in a mocking voice. “And Sammy! How could I possibly bring myself to avoid that little ray of sunshine?”

 

“You stay away from him. Or I will come over there, and smack your teeth through your neck, so help me God.” Dean threatened.

 

“Oooooh. Got it, boss.”

 

“Fuck off.” Dean ended the call while Alistair was still trying to get the last words in.

 

 

Chapter 19

 

Dean stood in the dark for a while, after that. He breathed in the spring air. He wondered if he was going to have to confront Novak about this. And he would have to, just in his own time. It wasn’t like Novak was gonna come to him, all weepy eyed and begging for comfort. Dean wondered if Castiel would have some sort of- of mental thing, after what Alistair put him through. And hey, if he and his dad weren’t on good terms anymore, why not add that to the tragedy of Castiel’s last few days? And his mother too, Dean had forgotten her... Not to mention, the evil little voice in the back of his head said, everything you and your friends put him through.

 

______________________

 

Back inside, Dean looked at Castiel’s figure, splayed on the couch, and saw him differently. Not a whole lot differently, but a decent amount. Pity was thick in his stomach, and he knew that most people really wouldn’t want it to be directed their way. Was Castiel like that too, rejecting pity, or would he welcome it and bathe in the attention? It was a lottery in Dean’s mind, and it did bother him a little bit that he couldn’t figure out which one was more likely. A fortnight ago, Dean would have said the latter, and now…..

 

Sam wasn’t asleep yet. Laying under Castiel, he was using a LED reading light to do homework. It was silent as Dean passed, and walked into the kitchen. Sam didn’t know. Dean was gonna have to decide whether or not he should tell his brother, before he confronted Castiel. He probably should, Sam would be more pissed than a shot rhino if Dean didn’t, but really, he couldn’t seem to give a fuck.

 

There was still a good chance that Castiel might tell the police, so Dean was still gonna have to talk to him. Maybe, he could skip a class or two beginning of Monday while Sam was in school, and Castiel was wherever he landed (because Dean had NO intentions of keeping him through the week. What was he, a bed and breakfast?) And so what if it would probably be morally right for the police to know about what Alistair did? Dean could still get in trouble! For now, Mr. Novak might be able to press charges if Novak decided to unfurl the angsty story of their time in school together. All the times Novak had witnessed Dean with a beer in his hand alone could be his undoing.

 

In the kitchen, he sat. And he thought some more. From the other room, he heard someone shift. Something in the house creaked like floorboards. There was a ticking sound coming from the basement, though Dean didn’t think anything of it. It was an old house. Things happened, made sounds, and scared the shit out of paranoid people in old houses.

 

There was coughing coming from the other room, Castiel’s coughing. It sounded like he couldn’t get enough air in, and at the end of every explosive sound there was a quiet moan of pain. Was he awake?

 

Dean got up and walked into the living room, ready to do some awkward staring at the prone form of the person he hated most in the world. Instead, he was looking directly into the eyes of the person he hated most in the world. He stopped halfway to the couch, in the heat of a staring match between his eyes and the watery blue eyes of Castiel Novak. The latter’s face was impassive. Dean was still moving, without realizing it. He stopped near the foot of the bed-couch- and looked at Castiel; long-faced and sunken, curled in the blanket. The air was thick with the awkward fog of silence. Dean looked down at Sam to find he was asleep, head pressed to the pages of his book, breathing deeply.

 

“Water?” Dean asked, just to say something.

 

“What?” Came the hoarse whisper.

 

“Do-you-want- water.” Dean demanded again.

 

Novak looked like he was thinking it over. Finally, after what felt like an hour of waiting, he looked back into Dean’s eyes instead of his chin, and nodded his head.

 

Back in the kitchen, Dean filled a glass all the way and brought it back out quickly, before the invalid could fall asleep again. He stopped a few feet away from Castiel’s head and leaned dangerously far over Sam’s snoring head to deliver the lukewarm cup of water. He huffed when Castiel struggled to pull his arm away from his side, taking forever to reach out and curl his fingers around the glass. The flat tips pulled stop just before they hit Dean’s, on purpose. Dean could see the concentration it took shown on Castiel’s face. And then he let go. Novak’s arm wavered for just a second midair before Dean watched disaster loom like a tidal wave, closing in on Sam’s snoring face. With a rush of adrenalin and not much thought, Dean’s hand closed completely around Novak’s, crushing the glass and bones in a heat-of-the-moment grip. He could feel the blood rush to his head as Castiel’s hand convulsed under his, wet with the spilled water and shaking. Dean was suddenly aware that the smaller boy’s breathing had started growing louder, much louder. Quickly, Dean snatched the cup away and put it on the floor, backing away a bit.

 

“S-Sorry.” He choked out, the word burned, unfamiliar in present company. Novak’s arm curled back into his body again, his blue eyes were wide and frightened enough that the bottom of Dean’s stomach curdled in suspiciously guilty-feeling emotion.

 

“Okay. You want this? I’ll put it next to ya.” Dean asked, then decided. He set the glass carefully next to Castiel, then he turned and practically ran away into his room. Sam hadn’t woken through the ordeal, despite the drops of water scattered on his face right now. Dean really should’ve just let the cup hit his face, the little sucker deserved it.

 

He closed his door behind him, and in a flash he was changed from a tee shirt and jeans to a tee shirt and plaid pajama pants. He lay in bed a while later, thinking. He wondered if Castiel was asleep yet. He wondered if he needed to use the bathroom. Probably. He could wait till morning though, or piss himself, it was his choice. Dean wasn’t getting up to help the little cripple. Sam could do that, if Novak could get enough balls to wake him up and point him to the bathroom.

 

Dean got up eventually, after maybe an hour and a half of lying awake in bed. He walked into the living room, gazing on the two figures. No one was moving. He watched the breaths puff Sam’s hair off his forehead, the blanket over Castiel’s chest barely rise as he pulled in air. Dean went back to bed.

 

 

 

_____________________

 

In the morning, Castiel felt, if possible, worse. He woke up with his eyes almost crusted closed with sleep, pain, and some gumminess that he couldn’t identify. After reading countless books in which the main character awakes energized and ready after a day of sleeping in the aftermath of an ass kicking, Castiel was disappointed to find that he felt like pure shit warmed over. Even more disappointed was he, when he found out he could hardly move. The strength to even swing his legs off the couch had fled him, though just the day before he had been up and running. After a few seconds of light grunting and trying to rub the sleep off his eyes with leaden fingers, Castiel sagged back and looked around the room.

 

The boy, Sam, was no longer sleeping beneath him. A pile of rumpled blankets and a squashed pillow were in his place, much to Castiel’s relief. Winchester was also out of sight. If Castiel focused, he could hear something in the kitchen, maybe someone stirring something metal with a spoon? He hoped no one came into the living room until he had gotten his bearings, because now he was more defenseless than he had ever been.

 

He could feel his exposed back glued to the couch, maybe by tiredness, maybe by the sweat pasting him onto the fake leather. His limbs had concrete in them, his mouth and throat were so dry it felt like he was swallowing confetti. The lone toothbrush was still on the floor, and Castiel wondered who in this house was going without brushing their teeth. He wished he could have some water, maybe some food, though from past experiences he guessed he might not be able to hold it. His stomach had probably shrunk to the size of a walnut over the past few days.

 

He didn’t just feel tired, he felt sick. Sticky. Hot all over despite the thin nature of the blanket he was shrouded in; his bare chest shuddering underneath. His eyes burned, his throat and mouth….the discomfort there was indescribable. Not to mention all the physiological ailments that affected him physically! His stomach roiled with fear, anger and..grief.

 

All of a sudden, it hit him again. One thing he had forgotten over the course of the last day. His mother…

 

He lay there, thinking about her, trying to find some justifiable reason to explain why he didn’t feel devastated, just gloomy. Somber. It was awful.

 

At some point, he heard footsteps. A screen door near the back of the house slammed, and Castiel felt his full bladder react painfully as it startled him. Someone stomped through to the living room, and he saw Winchester stop near the TV.

 

“You’re awake, then.”

 

Castiel didn’t feel like answering. Winchester didn’t wait for him to, rather, he walked over and looked at Castiel critically. Under the cold gaze of the boy, Castiel felt like a bug. A firefly, ready to be torn apart before it’s time by cruel little boy; who would smear the glowing entrails over his arms like decorative paints.

 

“You need anything?” Dean asked, out of the blue.

 

Castiel almost shook his head, instinctively. Almost. Winchester must’ve seen his hesitation, because he sighed, a giant gust of disappointment. “What?” He spat.

 

“I-I need to use the…” Castiel said quietly, but he didn’t have to finish the sentence.

 

Winchester sighed again. “Great. Good.” He moved towards Castiel quickly, and stopped in front of the couch, with his arms out. “C’mon.” He grunted, jerking his head in annoyance.

 

“W-what?” Castiel asked, stomach jumping. Why were hands being waved threateningly in his face? He didn’t want Winchester this close.

 

“You gotta go when you gotta go, there’s no shame in it.” Dean said patronizingly. “Now c’mon. Move it.”

 

“I don’t n-need-” He started, but Winchester interrupted again.

 

“Oh, right. You don’t need help . Buddy, I wish that was true, but in the interest of not cleaning up piss from the couch, I’m gonna ignore everything you say and get your lame ass to the bathroom.” He leaned forward and seized Castiel’s arms roughly, trying to pull up.

 

“No- stop-”

 

Winchester stopped. He stepped back, a pondering expression working it’s way across his face. Castiel’s heart was beating like a drum, his hands were shaking violently from fear. Sweat was beading on his forehead, he could feel it.

 

“Look, I gotta get you to the bathroom.” Winchester spoke, finally, slowly. “Sam’s out weeding neighbor's yard food money, so you’re just gonna have to work with me here. No matter how much I would rather not be touching…” He paused like he was searching for a word to express his extreme animosity towards Castiel, but couldn’t, and continued, “-You, I’m gonna hafta. And you’re gonna be touchin me too, so buckle up, buttercup. And after this torturous trip, I’m gonna get you breakfast. Sound good? It better. Now lift your damn arms.” He held his hands out again, looking reluctant.

 

Castiel would still rather lick the bottom of a septic tank than take this help from Winchester, but he saw no other way. In one small act of defiance though, he didn’t accept Winchester’s hands of help. At first. Trying to sit up smoothly without assistance proved a task Castiel was unfit for, as his ribs and bruised stomach screamed when he shifted upwards, clenching his abs to sit up. Without meaning to a small moan of pain escaped him, sifting out of his clenched lips. Winchester raised an eyebrow. “You can take a ibuprofen when we’re done.” He said.

 

Castiel blinked at this surprising kindness. Should he say thank you? He banished the notion from his mind quickly, having seemingly forgotten the last half of his life; in which Winchester tortured him every weekday for years. Instead of thanking him, He cast his eyes downward as he reached out and grasped Winchester’s hand, hating the flimsy feeling of his fingers enclosed in Dean’s. A moment later his finger bones were being crushed as Winchester pulled upwards with force, sending Castiel careening into his chest with a bump that sent the bigger boy back a few steps. “Fuck.” he cursed, eloquently. “I thought you were gonna be heavier than a feather, at least.”

 

Castiel struggled for a moment to push himself off Winchester’s chest, feeling his knees threaten to buckle, sides on fire. It was terrifyingly hard to breathe as his lungs seemed to be tied up with twine, and Winchester’s hands grasped his shoulders bruisingly. Not to mention, his vision whiting out briefly as the blood rushed to his head, bringing with it a ringing in his ears that blocked out sounds temporarily, leaving Castiel defenseless and senseless.

 

“Bathroom’s this way.”

 

All of a sudden, he was being practically dragged to the bathroom. With what little breath he had, he whispered, “Stop. Stop.” And to his surprise, the movement stopped.

 

“What?” Winchester barked.

 

“Allow m-me to...breathe…” He croaked. And they stood in the middle of the living room a minute, Castiel breathing like a winded hippo, and Winchester shifting impatiently from foot to foot. When he had his breath back, and the pressing again made itself definable on his bladder, Castiel started stepping forward.

 

As much as he hated to admit it, he leaned quite heavily on Winchester’s shoulder. The weight of the other boy’s arm around his waist was foreign and horrible, but he tried to roll with it as they slowly made their way to the bathroom.

 

Near the door, the awkwardness intensifies. Side-eyeing him, Winchester asked “Do you need me to go in with you, or…?”

 

Castiel shook his head, grabbing onto the doorjamb and making his slow way into the bathroom, holding onto the wall like it was a jungle jim he was climbing. Winchester closed the door for him, leaving a parting message of “I’m right outside the door if you fall into the toilet or something, Novak.”

 

That would certainly not happen, he decided. It took him almost 10 minutes, he wagered, to do his buisness, stand up, wash his hands and make his way to the door again. He desperately wanted to shower, but how would he stand? He almost collapsed as it was standing up from the toilet. He opened the door, to find Winchester standing next to the door jamb, resting his head against the wall with his eyes closed. “You done?”

 

Castiel nodded his head.

 

Technically, he could leave right now. All it was was a question of whether he would make the walk out of the house to a homeless shelter or church basement. And, now that Alistair knew he was homeless, he would probably be out on the prowl too, looking for him to finish the job he started. And, at the same time, Winchester could’ve already told Alistair he was here, he could be on the way to the house now, and the most Castiel could do to defend himself was what, biting fingers? He hadn’t the strength to kick like he had thursday. But he somehow doubted Winchester would’ve stayed quiet about it this long is Alistair was on his way here.

 

He leaned on the wall. “Is Alistair coming?” Castiel asked in trepidation.

 

Winchester suddenly looked weary. “No,” He said strangely heavily, “he’s not.”

 

Castiel really felt in that moment that simply asking, rather than wondering, was a highly underrated. Relife made breathing easier all of a sudden. He wanted to ask ‘ why not?’ but felt that one question was enough for now.

 

He was taken back to the couch, and Winchester disappeared into the kitchen. With what he was doing out of view, Castiel’s anxiety grew.

 

He could feel all the bones inside him groaning. He was definitely sick, he thought. His skin felt tight, the joints were achy as an old man’s. Winchester spent quite a while in the kitchen while Castiel reflected sorrowfully over his physical state. There was a clinking of a spoon, and Winchester came back holding a tupperware, a glass of water and a spoon.

 

“Breakfast is ready.” He grunted, as he lowered himself to the floor.

 

Castiel looked into the green tupperware and was surprised to see a bit of rice krispies cereal floating in a liberal amount of milk. An ibuprofen was set beside the glass, where Winchester put it on the floor. “Cereal?” He asked, with a dry mouth.

 

“And I didn’t even poison it.” Winchester confirmed. It was surprisingly playful, the way he said it. WInchester must’ve noticed this too, because his expression quickly shuttered.

 

“Just eat it.” He said, before shoving it into Castiel’s hands and bolting.

 

Castiel took a few spoonfuls of the Cereal, feeling his stomach clench as the milk hit it. Maybe  it wasn’t such a good idea to hit the hard dairy right off the bat, but he thought he’d give it more of a try after the water.

 

After he gulped down the glass and pill (which he questioned only for a little) and settled back before trying again at the bowl of cereal, he noticed the light was shining blindingly bright outside. How long had he been out? His stomach gurgled unhappily. He knew that shocking it with too much food really would end unhappily for him and the couch, so he just picked out the little rice puffs and ate them, leaving the majority of the milk behind. Both Winchesters were nowhere to be seen.

 

Castiel didn’t really know what to do, so he sat for a while, feeling the cement in his bones. And after a few minutes, he decided he really didn’t want to wait around and see what happened. He tried to sit up, groaning as his shaky arms tried valiantly to bear his weight. It hurt, like knives on violin strings, to bend his bruised torso upwards. But he did it. He had done it before, and he would again. Why was it different this time?

 

After probably a solid three minutes, Castiel was standing. Everything hurt. As per usual. And after another minute, he was at a window, looking out. He could see a sidewalk. The house was near the corner of the street, a stopsign in full view. Castiel got to watch as someone completely ignored said stop sign, hurtling down the one0way street at breakneck speed. He wondered if there were a lot of accidents here.

 

After he had noticed everything, trying to memorize the street (for something to do), he just stood and watched the pavement outside. He stood for a long time, even though he could feel his knees going out, and he had to clutch the windowsill for any support. After a while, he was certain that he was going to fall, so he knelt, shaking like a leaf the entire time. He didn’t know why he didn’t try to walk out the door. It made no sense, none at all. Now was his chance! Both boys out of sight, only a deadbolt locked door standing in his way.

 

But he was too tired. It would hurt too much to get up.

 

“Not thinking’ about running away, are you?”  Dean asked from behind him.

 

He jumped. It was more his intestines moving as the rest of his body resisted, but it felt very jolty.

 

“No.” He answered, quietly, a little bit untruthfully. “But I could, if I wanted. It’s in our agreement last night. I can leave today.”

 

Right.” Winchester agreed readily. “So why haven’t you gone?”

 

Castiel got the feeling Winchester was just asking questions that he knew the answers to, so he stayed silent. A bird flew into a tree across the street.

 

“You didn’t drink all your milk.” Dean commented.

 

Castiel sighed. “No. I didn’t.”

 

Winchester huffed, “Didn’t mommy ever teach you it’s bad to waste food? Especially if someone else if paying for it.” and Castiel could hear the sounds of him cleaning up the dishes. He sounded disdainful.

 

“I couldn’t.”

 

“Finish it?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Still wasting.”

 

Castiel wanted to snap ‘ drink it yourself, then.’ but he didn’t feel that would be wise. His stomach was already jumping a little, being this close to an argument.

 

“Okay.” He tried to make it neutral, though he didn’t know how he could say anything that wouldn’t be construed as rude or salty and still be speaking his mind.

 

“You get milk at home?” Winchester sat; Castiel could hear the couch cushions smoosh. “It’s kinda pricey round here, isn’t it? But Sam just loves that nasty-ass off-brand cinnamon toast crunch, so we gotta keep it in stock. You probably got milk whenever you want it at home, right?”

 

Castiel couldn’t think about the likelihood of there being milk in his refrigerator right now. He knew Winchester was getting after how rich his parents- parent was, but getting all hot and bothered over the same shit Winchester had been teasing him for for practically his entire school experience was not a good plan.

 

“You hearing me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Silence. Always with the fucking silence, man.” Dean leaned forward on the couch, “You know how you could put that silence to use?”

 

“Hmm?” Castiel hummed, trying to sound polite, interested, and not like a punching bag.

 

“Keeping your fat gob shut about anything that goes on in here. And outside, for that matter.” Dean’s voice turned dangerous. “If your dad comes out of his little tantrum, (like father like son, apparently), and decides suddenly that he gives a shit about what’s been going on-” Castiel felt a sudden hand on his shoulder, and was pulled backwards in an attempt to turn him around- “-If you breathe a fucking word mentioning me, Alastair, Azazel, or any body, then you’re gonna wish you were never born .”

 

Castiel was having a hard time breathing without crying out, and missed a few words here and there. His knees remained facing the window, despite Winchester’s best efforts to completely swing him. His torso was twisted by Winchester’s fist on his bare shoulder, His ribs were hurting more than they had all the while he had been awake, and Winchester’s hand on his skin was like a cattle prod. It was insane, Winchester confronting him now. He wasn’t going to go to the police! If he was, he would’ve done it long ago.

 

Suddenly, Winchester’s face changed, shuttering from intense intimidation to confusion, to something that looked startlingly like regret. The hand on his shoulder disconnected with a jerk, and Castiel fell back against the wall, breathing hard.

 

“Sorry.” Winchester bit out. It sounded like it hurt to say, immensely. For a flicker of a moment, something dark in Castiel wished it did hurt. He wished Winchester’s spleen would burst in his gut and-

But then the feeling was gone, and he was just a scared and angry and hurting again.

 

He struggled to push himself back up from the wall, for his very awkward halfway fallen position made it hard to do anything, including breathing. To his surprise Winchester grabbed his hand and pulled him up, helpfully moving him to the couch. It didn’t stop Castiel from flinching back, but Winchester didn’t sit back and watch him struggle like the smaller boy expected.

 

“I’m gonna go. Gotta-gotta do somethin’” Winchester said, not looking at Castiel. “Ask Sam if you need something.”

 

And he walked out the door, in a huff. On his way out Castiel heard Sam intercept with Dean, slamming the screen door behind him. There was a bump, and Winchester muttered “ Move.” with more malice than was appropriate.

 

Samuel walked in. “Geeze.” He said, looking quizzically at Dean’s retreating figure, “I wonder what’s up his butt.”