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Timestamps: We're Almost Out of Minutes

Chapter Text

Dean does feel faintly stupid to be alone out in the yard with water-gun loaded and at the ready, but there’s no way he’s going to call Sam to join him. It’s the principle of the thing, and Dean’s still smarting from the argument they’d had that morning, where Sam had blown a gasket over something that’d happened with the computer that he claimed was Dean’s fault but no one fiddled around with that stuff except Sam, so they’d yelled at each other until dad told them to quit it and now Sam’s sulking in his room and Dean’s distracting himself by stalking invisible enemies in mom’s begonias.

Or he could be stalking the begonias themselves. They could be alien invaders from space, transmutated into seemingly harmless plants that attract people to plant them because they look nice, or something. Dean can just see their little eyes inside the petals, watching him and taunting him for his helplessness.

He can hear, in his mind’s ear, mom’s voice calling out with a shocked: Dean! so he keeps his finger just barely touching the trigger, not pushing. “Alien scum,” he hisses, waiting for the whites of his enemies’ eyes, “I see you, you’re gonna get it, gonna shoot you.”

It’s the soft crack of a branch that makes Dean spin round suddenly – finger pressing down and wouldn’t it just serve Sam right for sneaking up on him, the little twerp.

But it isn’t Sam who’s staring at him now. This guy has a new face, his eyes wide with shock before they look down in confusion, fingers plucking at his now-wet shirt. Who the hell buttons their shirts all the way up to the collar?

“Where’d you come from?” Dean asks sharply, just before he remembers the moving vans that’ve been going up and down the street lately, taking stuff to that house down the road that used to belong to the dentist guy Dean never cared much for.

“Down the street,” the boy answers. He could be Dean’s age or he could be a little older – but there isn’t anyone around Dean’s age along this street, the closest being Marie-Ann who’s in high school and hot and doesn’t think of Dean as anything more than a potential babysitting gig. “We just moved here.”

“Cool,” Dean says, though it’s more to fill the empty space than anything else. The other boy still looks unsettled, which hey, Dean can relate since it’s hard starting out at a new place. Even so, it’s always worthwhile to test the new kid and see what he’s made of, so he raises his gun and cocks the pump. “You’re supposed to die. When people shoot you in the chest, you die.”

Sam would’ve rolled his eyes and shoved the muzzle away; Victor probably would’ve brought out his finger guns and shot Dean in the head. This guy, however, just frowns with deepening irritation and asks, “Why?”

“What do you mean, why?” Dean snorts. “You just do. Don’t you know anything?”

The boy bristles. Dean means that word exactly: bristles, because he’s reminded exactly of the way Grandma Deanna’s evil cat reacts whenever Dean grabs its tail. Dean’s almost surprised that the boy doesn’t spit-hiss at him and says instead, “I know lots of things. I’m very smart and you should show me some respect.”

Dean almost laughs at that. It figures that the only person on their street his age would be a weirdo freak. It’s even worth voicing out loud, so he says, “You’re so weird. Come on, I’ve got a treehouse, we can hang out while waiting for your shirt to dry.”

“You have a treehouse.” It’s not phrased as a question at all, but it’s hard to miss the way the boy’s eyes widen – this time with curiosity, not shock – and it’s enough that Dean feels that familiar surge of pride over having an awesome pad.

“It’s bad-ass,” Dean says, grinning. “Want to see?”

“Yes.”

So Dean leads the way, occasionally glancing over and somehow not at all surprised that every time he does the other boy just stares right back, like maybe that’s normal behavior wherever the hell he’s from. He’s not threatening, though, just strange, and as Dean starts climbing the ladder up into the treehouse, he figures that he can work with strange.

“It’s Dean, by the way,” he says, once he’s pulled himself over the threshold and tossed his gun at a safe corner. He glances over the edge, curious to see if the other kid can handle the rope ladder.

As it turns out, he can. “I’m Castiel,” the boy says, and he’s smiling faintly at his own hands as he climbs, as though pleased by what their accomplishment. “My name is Castiel.”

Dean rolls that name around his head for a moment, and then shrugs. “Yeah, sure, why not.”

Chapter Text

Sam wasn’t born yesterday, which is why he’s stealthy and silent as he creeps down the staircase, past the living room and to the back door. He rises up to his tip-toes to peer through the window, just making out the top of Dean’s stupid hair where he’s sitting on the edge of where the backyard deepens into the almost-woods behind their house.

It’s too dangerous to use the back door, so Sam goes in the other direction, exiting through the front door instead and creeping around the house. His weapon is clutched carefully in one hand, fingers twitching with anticipation, Dean is going to get it.

Sam makes it halfway across the lawn before he’s pelted with a water balloon.

Blind, Sam gasps, flails and drops his home-made dye bombs to the grass.

He can hear Dean laughing, the stupidhead, and Sam feels his whole body shaking when he wipes the water and hair from his eyes. “Dean, you jerkface!”

“Having a nice shower, Sammy?” Dean asks, snickering. “Look at you!”

“You cheating cheater,” Sam mutters, to angry at being taken by surprise to cook up better insults. He glances up at Dean’s stupid conspirator, who, at the very least, isn’t laughing at him. In fact, he looks a little surprised, which is rich.

“I didn’t cheat,” Dean asks smugly, making a stupid face at Sam like he thinks he’s being funny. “I’m sitting way over here.”

“Hello, I’m Castiel,” the boy says, extending an unexpectedly polite hand to him. “Your brother said you’d appreciate the balloon to the head.” He narrows his eyes at Dean suspiciously. “I may have been misinformed.”

“Oh,” Sam says, startled. “Um, okay. I’m Sam.”

“Yes, I’ve been told,” Castiel says. And then he endears himself forever to Sam by saying, “I have a few more balloons, and would be happy to enable your revenge.” He directs Sam’s attention to a box near the wall, proving his truth, and Sam cackles softly when he reaches out for them.

“Traitor!” Dean shouts, but he’s laughing when he runs.

Chapter Text

Mary’s husband has plenty of ideas on how to keep the boys preoccupied during their summer break, but she’s of the opinion that their boys’ freedom is a treasured thing that they have the right to decide the use of themselves. Accordingly, this has meant that Sam has been vibrating with excitement for a math camp he’s wanted to go for since spring, while Dean vacillates between watching rented videos in the den, playing videogames in the study and going outside to be a neighborhood menace.

So Mary definitely notices when Dean starts getting excited about his day, trading sleeping in for waking up not all that long after John’s gone for work.

“Who’re you looking for?” Mary asks, when Dean cranes his neck peering out the kitchen window.

“No one,” Dean says quickly. When Mary raises her eyebrows at him, he sighs and fiddles with the spoon in his cereal bowl. “Some guy from down the street, just moved in, I guess.”

“Oh, one of the Reeves kids,” Mary says. There are three or four, she can’t remember exactly, having only seen two when she and John had gone over to say hi the other day. There had been a small girl (Anna) who’d been polite and asked about stores in town, and an older boy (Michael?) who’d been tinkering with the car outside.

“Sure,” Dean says, shrugging carelessly. He feigns his usual disinterest as he finishes his breakfast, but there’s no hiding the way he perks up when he spots something of interest outside. He starts to get up, grabbing his glass and drinking quickly.

“Let me meet him,” Mary says, beating a sputtering Dean to the side door.

The boy walking down the street does share some physical similarities with the elder teenager she’d seen at the Reeves house. He nods when he sees her, almost business-like. “Good morning,” he says once close enough.

“Morning,” Mary says, ignoring the way Dean’s clawing at her arm, like she’d ever do anything to embarrass him (much). “You must be Dean’s new friend?”

“Castiel,” he says, and there’s nothing fake about his politeness, because twelve-year-old boys are hopeless at that. “I do hope I count as a friend of Dean’s, yes. Am I too early? Dean said to come by at this hour, he said that it’s the best time to—”

“Bird-watching!” Dean yells, squeezing past Mary and grabbing Castiel’s sleeve. “Which we have to go do now, if we don’t want to be late.”

But Castiel looks back over his shoulder even as Dean drags him along, calling out with, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Winchester!”

Mary watches them go, wondering where that level of familiarity could have come by so quickly when Dean’s hated playdates with other kids in this town since he could talk (and complain). It’s interesting, then, that there’s now this, Dean marching along briskly and trying to hurry things up, matched only by Castiel’s determination to walk slowly and smack Dean’s hands away when he tries to pull at his arm.

“I don’t have a mother,” Castiel says, far away enough by now that Mary can only barely make out the words. He doesn’t sound particularly upset about it, as if the concept is irrelevant. “It’s nice to meet yours.”

Dean looks at Castiel sharply, then, and his whole body relaxes, subdued, maybe repentant. He shrugs, says something else that Mary can’t hear, and then they’re gone from view entirely.

Mary really isn’t all that surprised when Dean invites Castiel back to the house for lunch.

Chapter Text

The thing that surprises Dean the most about Castiel is that Castiel hasn’t stopped being surprising. Dean’s aware of the Aesop’s moral whatever about judging a book by its cover, but it’s always a thrill when Cas pushes back against his assumptions, somehow managing to be a boring guy with boring hobbies who’s, at the exact same time, completely fascinating.

“I like Kelly best,” Cas says. When Dean tries to argue that Farrah’s hotter, Castiel cuts off him off with a solemn, “We were talking about characters, not the actresses, Dean. There is a very distinct line between the two, and Kelly has a complexity that I find more interesting.”

“Guess you have a thing for brunettes,” Dean says, which only makes Castiel purse his lips together in something that is not quite a pout. It’s the look Castiel gets when he’s not sure whether Dean’s teasing or not, but in this case, he isn’t, really.

Castiel treats everything with the same ridiculous gravitas, no matter how trivial the topic sounds coming out of Dean’s mouth. It’s different and exciting and new to have someone who listens to him the way Cas does, as though every possible thought Dean could ever possibly have is just plain important.

“I don’t think I care about hair color,” Cas says. The book he’d been reading is resting on his lap, forgotten – just as Dean had hoped the moment he’d started talking. “Though that’s probably not true either, what with subliminal messages of coloring tells us in fiction.”

“Subliminal messages,” Dean echoes, just to see if the word sounds as interesting from his mouth as it does from Cas’. Castiel nods at him, waiting to see if Dean will prompt him from an explanation, which he does. So Cas starts talking about color coding and symbolism tied to the depiction heroes and villains and damsels in distress; nerd stuff that’s actually kinda cool.

And that’s the the other thing. Cas talks like everything is serious, and he looks – well, he’s about the same size as Dean, but he carries himself in a way that makes him appear smaller, quieter, more reserved, like a science fair champ in training, but that’s not all he is either. Dean once made the mistake of trying to tickle him but Cas had taken that personally, and where Dean would have held back, assuming Cas to be, you know, soft, Cas had reared up and shoved back, stronger than he looked, and then they’d started tussling, really tussling, the way Dean only gets to do with douchebag cousin Christian, minus having to deal with said doucheyness.

Cas is a whole bunch of new things in an unexpected package. Dean can just see, in his mind’s eye, the two of them side by side and rocking the scene; standing on the edge of the masses and being utterly incomprehensible because of their sheer, unboxable awesome.

“I can’t believe you just schooled me about why Supergirl’s a blonde and She-Hulk isn’t,” Dean says, laughing. He kicks at Cas’ ankle, liking that he can.

“It’s rather obvious, when you think about it,” Castiel says, and it’s a shame he doesn’t smile much, because it lights up his eyes. “Come, let’s review the materials.” Which means, naturally, that they’re to check out Dean’s comic stash up in the treehouse, spending another couple of hours spent perusing the classics and arguing whether Green Lantern can take Superman in a fight.

They won’t have much time for that later now that summer’s ending, but for the first time ever, Dean’s sure going back to school isn’t going to suck. He’ll have Cas to hang with now, so it’s going to rock.

Chapter Text

There are many things Anna likes about the new house, but the best thing has to be that Gabriel gets the converted basement, which puts a whole floor between his room and hers.

Back when they were at their old place, it drove Anna crazy how much a stink Gabriel used to raise over her right to have her own room. Gabriel usually focused his cheeky animosity on Michael, but when it came to their living arrangement, he simply couldn’t get over the fact that he had to share his space with Castiel, despite that being the way things had been since always.

Gabriel only started making noise about it when he joined middle school and got it into his head that that meant he was a man (barf) and thus entitled. He couldn’t take out his frustration on Castiel, because Castiel was immune to other people’s malice like that, so he took it out on Anna.

Yeah, as if it was Anna’s fault that she was born a girl and couldn’t share her space with her twin, which she would definitely have done otherwise, because as far as she was concerned, it was a cruel and unusual punishment to be forced to be Gabriel’s roommate. She still wasn’t sure how Castiel had done it all these years, only that he deserved a medal.

It’s a little better, now that they’re here. Anna has a new room with larger shelves, Castiel has his first taste of privacy (though they have a shared bathroom between them) and Gabriel’s set up his new kingdom downstairs. Michael, being Michael, has taken the converted attic for himself, which serves a double psychological purpose by placing him literally above all of them and puts two layers of floors between him and Gabriel.

Not that that will help much when Gabriel decides he wants to poke at their oldest brother, though admittedly he hasn’t been doing much of that lately. Gabriel and Michael – and even Castiel, to everyone’s surprise – have been out and about, using up the last of summer to check out the place that is their new home.

Anna does feel foolish for being the only one left hanging around the house, but she’d spent the first couple of weeks painstakingly unpacking and organizing her room to perfection, and by the time she was done, her brothers had all developed comfortable outside routines. They hadn’t rubbed it in her face, exactly, but she hated Michael’s cruel sympathy and Gabriel’s teasing, like Anna’s less for not being as adventurous as them, so she’d decided to stubborn out the rest of summer at home, counting the days until school opens.

She’d hoped she’d have Castiel around, though. Back home (sorry, their previous home) Castiel only ever went out for essentials (the library, bookstore, grocery store) or to accompany Anna on whatever she wanted to do. Gabriel made fun of that, too, but Castiel is a better person than Anna and never let any of that bother him, being perfectly content to do whatever he wanted to do.

What he wants to do now seems to involve the Winchester boys, if Gabriel’s sighting reports of Castiel hanging out with them are true. He does leave the house almost every day looking as excited as Anna’s ever seen him, this morning included.

It hurts, though Anna knows she shouldn’t think such things since she can’t remember the last time Castiel spent time with anyone for reasons beyond school assignments. Anna still has friends back home (previous home, previous), calling them when she wants, but it’d be nice if Castiel asked her to come along to do whatever it is he does whenever he leaves the house these days. Or even just talk to her about it.

He’s there, now, probably.

Anna pushes back her chair from her desk, glancing through their shared bathroom to where Castiel’s room is empty.

There are still unpacked boxes on the floor, which is silly because they’ve been here for a few months already and one would think that since this is the first time Castiel’s had a room to himself, he’d be more excited about it.

An idea occurs. It’s proof of how bored she is, but she’d be doing Castiel a favor by helping him unpack, and it’d kill some time before dinner.

She’s sitting on the floor unpacking his books and sorting them by genre when the door suddenly swings open and Castiel’s standing there, home far too early for dinnertime. It takes a moment for him to focus on her, and by then Anna’s recovered enough from her own surprise to notice how his eyes are a little wild and his breathing erratic, like he’s been hiccupping.

“Why are you in my room?” Castiel asks, and there’s something thick and wrong in his voice that makes the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. His hands appear to be shaking, but he’s moving too quickly for Anna to be sure. “Why are you touching my things?”

“I was doing you a favor,” Anna says, rising off the floor. “You haven’t unpacked—”

“Please don’t touch my things, please don’t be in this room, I don’t want you in this room,” Castiel says, almost babbling. Anna gasps when he pushes her – it’s not a particularly hard shove but Castiel’s always so gentle when he initiates physical contact that the unexpectedness of it makes it harsher than it is. “Please go out, I don’t want you in here.”

Anna’s face flushes hot with embarrassment and betrayal; Castiel’s reacting like she invaded his space, which she kinda understands but didn’t mean it that way at all. He doesn’t need to be so mean about it.

She opens her mouth to demand what Castiel’s on about when she hears a familiar chuckle. She whirls around, gasping, because Gabriel is in her room, her sanctuary, and he’s holding her cell phone up in his hand.

“You shouldn’t leave these lying around,” he says with a grin, dashing out the door.

“Gabriel!” Anna screams, running after him. Gabriel laughs as he darts down the hallway threatening to mess around with the settings which he has done before, because he is stupid and mean and stupid. That’s her life in that phone, her connection to the friends she’s left behind and aches to think about every day, the last links she has to things that still matter to her now that she’s stuck and alone in this new place she never wanted to come to at all.

Anna chases him, shaking and almost in tears and hating him so much, cornering him by the kitchen and kicking him in the shins because he thinks it’s funny. She runs back to her room as soon as she gets her phone, not wanting to give him more ammunition, and when she climbs to the landing she sees that Castiel’s door is closed.

Closed, and quiet. He didn’t even try to help her.

Anna enters her room, glancing angrily at the closed door through their shared bathroom before sinking on to her bed. Anger still vibrating in her bones, she turns her head into her pillow and screams, wondering why she couldn’t have had sisters instead of such stupid selfish brothers.

Chapter Text

Gabriel is firmly of the belief that anyone who’s bored simply isn’t trying hard enough. His own life is evidence of this: he’s always been surrounded by people (and for the most part, family) who hunched down tight in their little self-inflicted cubicles of existence, content to be miserable and complacent when everything that wasn’t boring was within an easy arm’s reach away. If only they made the effort.

But they didn’t, because they were lazy.

Understandably, Gabriel long ago figured that it was only fair that he make life interesting for other people, since they would not make the effort to do it themselves. Always the optimist, Gabriel knows that there is always something worth doing or noticing or inflicting on someone else, even in the hick of a small town that is their new home.

It’s this cheery outlook on life that has Gabriel going for the doorbell when it rings one particular day when he’s the only person available to answer it. Well, his sibs are probably around somewhere, but Gabriel happened to be in the kitchen when it went off, so why not?

When he opens the door, there is a boy on the front step. Already, there are possibilities. The familiar-looking boy is young, a little blank-faced but not outright stupid-looking, with hair that looks like his mommy tells him to comb it before he leaves his house.

Gabriel has already thought up three separate things he can inflict on the kid before he even opens his mouth.

“Hi,” the child says, “I’m looking for Castiel?”

“Winchester,” Gabriel says with recognition, almost smacking his forehead that he didn’t immediately catch on. “You’re the younger one, Sam. Sorry, you see one floppy-haired kid, you’ve seen ‘em all. Your mom’s hot, though, you’ve got that going for yourself.”

Sam’s mouth drops open with shock, but it snaps shut again quickly and then Gabriel’s getting a massive scowling from a runt in a pastel-colored sweater. That frown, plus the fact that he hasn’t run off, means he’s sharper than he looks, which is definitely potential.

“I’m here to see Castiel,” Sam says, firmer this time. “He hasn’t been over to our house for a while, I’d just like to know if he’s okay.”

Gabriel’s brain skids to a halt, then smoothly changes tracks.

“Why isn’t your brother here asking ‘bout that?” Gabriel asks. “Isn’t that he one who hangs out with my bro most of the time?”

“Dean’s busy,” Sam replies, the lie almost as sad as his scuffed little Nike sneakers. “But Castiel’s my friend, too, you know.”

“Yeah, uh-huh,” Gabriel says. Sam tenses up, and it’s like watching a hamster defensively bare its teeth. Feeling kind, Gabriel pats the kid’s shoulder, not even snickering when Sam jumps at the touch. “It’s your lucky day, squirt, you get to walk away with your underwear intact.”

“I… what?” Sam’s frown deepens, and by Jove his face is going to be stuck like that if he’s not careful. His expression suddenly shifts, eyes darting to something behind Gabriel. “Oh, hi! Are you Anna?”

Gabriel glances over his shoulder to confirm Anna’s presence. She has a spoon halfway in her mouth, a bowl of something questionable and leafy in her free hand.

“She’s too old for you, pipsqueak,” Gabriel says, pushing at Sam’s shoulder just enough to send him off-balance backward. “Look, I don’t know where Castiel is, but wherever he is, I’m sure he’s fine, and I’ll let him know you came a-calling. I think you better toodle off before your mom starts wondering where you’ve been, bye!” He steps back and pulls at the door, only seeing the start of Sam’s shocked expression before it slams shut in his face.

“Was that Dean?” Anna asks, after a moment.

Gabriel laughs. He pauses, considering what that it would be like if it were true, and then laughs again. “No, that was the junior one. The puppy.”

“Huh,” Anna says. Suddenly her eyes sharpen, and she turns to Gabriel, eyes blazing with familiar incredulity. “You didn’t call Castiel. He’s in his room, you – you jerk, you should’ve—”

“It’s over,” Gabriel says, the words almost metal sharp in his mouth. He slants a grin at Anna’s confused expression. “Oh, c’mon, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed Castiel’s stopped going over there to see his BFF Dean who’s turned out to not be so FF to the B.”

Anna shifts guiltily, holding back her own opinion on the matter as she usually does. Gabriel shrugs; twins are weird.

“You know as well as I do that Castiel doesn’t do friends,” Gabriel says. “Or maybe it’s the other way round, but anyway, it’s not like anyone can understand that little freak. Hell, you came from the same zygote and I’m sure you don’t understand him.”

Anna does somber so well. “You’d know about not having any friends, huh, Gabriel?”

“Mreow, I love it when you do that, you indulge so rarely,” Gabriel chuckles, winking at her. “You know as well as I do that no one becomes Castiel’s ‘friend’—” he adds the finger quotes, “—without strings attached. People use his smarts when they need it, and then toss him aside when it’s no longer convenient. Figured it was only a matter of time before it happened here, though maybe this time he’ll finally learn his lesson.”

“That’s…” Anna shakes her head, and it’s wonderful how Gabriel can still surprise her. “How can you say that, he’s the best of all of us—”

“Which is why he never realized that’s what it was before,” Gabriel says, already plotting out how to make Dean’s life more interesting tomorrow than it was yesterday. “He always thinks the best of people, never stops to consider that maybe they’re the ones lacking, not him. Well, he’s an idiot, and he needs to start being selfish.”

“What’re you going to do?” Anna asks quietly, biting her lip as she watches him ascend the stairs.

“I’m going to tell him Sam came over,” Gabriel says. Sure, he feels a little grossed out by the prospect of being honest, but eh, it’s Castiel, the only person on the planet Gabriel would occasionally allow to be bored to his heart’s content. “It’s up to him what he wants to do with that.”

Chapter Text

Dean doesn’t care much for the first day of school.

School in general is its own headache, but the first day back is a mess of chaos and uncertainty that throws Dean off-balance every single time. It feels a little like standing up on a swing as it curves through the air, or letting go of the handles on a merry-go-around. Dean feels dizzy and disoriented, though still stubborn enough not to throw up his breakfast by the rush all around him.

Walking through the double doors, Dean catches familiar faces here and there, nodding acknowledgments to Isaac, Victor and Richie. It isn’t like starting out with a completely blank slate, but middle school is something of a fresher start than the starts that came before it, and Dean can already see the flocking. They’re teenagers now (mostly), so there are new rules to learn, new herds to govern, new alliances to be made.

Dean understands the appeal, but he still rolls his eyes at the way he can already see the like drawing in like, as if safety in numbers is the only way to go. He’s perfectly cool holding his head up high and walking straight ahead with a bag on shoulder and smirk on his face, content to be independently awesome.

The only moment he falters, if it counts as faltering, is when he sees a familiar shock of dark hair, cowlicks at odd angles, standing in front of a noticeboard.

Later, Dean will choke on his own bile, but at this moment, he freezes. Panics.

He hasn’t seen Cas since... Well, since, and the memory of it still feels surreal whenever he prods at it, like it’s something he saw in a movie, once, only that doesn’t happen in movies, Dean knows for a fact.

It’s real, though. Dean looks at Cas, the familiar curve of his ear and slender turn of his shoulders, and he knows that it was real. That it did happen.

And he feels that same surge of shock and anger, floating thinly over nausea and betrayal.

He’d known that Cas would be here, and that they’d be schoolmates, but like how Dean had done his best not to think about it (which still grosses him out in ways that he can’t voice aloud), he’d not deeply thought about the fact that they’d be here together. That he’d actually have to react to Cas on occasion, like there was any possible way to be civil to someone who’d wronged him the way Cas did.

How to act now? Cas was turning, eyes wide and bewildered. His first day is newer than Dean’s and he’s obviously lost, searching for something. Help, maybe, and if he were to see Dean, then.

Shit.

Dean starts, tries to change direction without not being too obvious about it, but he’s rescued from having to make an exit when a girl appears at Castiel’s side, grabbing his elbow and talking softly. Anna, Dean’s head supplies, along with a dozen stories Cas has shared about his sister.

They’re walking now, and they’ll pass him.

This is it, and Dean has to make a decision or Cas will think something stupid, like what he did was okay, or acceptable, when it’s farthest from. He’d known was Cas was weird and didn’t look at the world the way other people did, but that weird? That stupid? Jeez.

When they’re close enough, Dean turns a little and smiles, gaze dropping to Anna. “Hey, how’re you doing.”

Anna just blinks at him, her responding smile confused and impersonal. “Hey,” she says carefully, though it’s clear she has no idea who he is.

In Dean’s weakness his eyes flick to the side for maybe a half-second, but it’s enough to see the way Cas’ face shuts down.

Well, Dean thinks, good. Serves him right. That’ll teach him.

Castiel’s looking down at his feet as he walks away, Anna talking softly at his side. Dean watches them go, breath tight but feeling elated, relieved, freed in a way that he wasn’t before.

It’s going to be okay. He’s going to be okay. He’ll never have to think about it again.

Chapter Text

Uriel isn’t so petty as to break off contact with Castiel entirely. They still email and occasionally call each other, but in the wake of his epic disappointment, he’d made the resolution to let Castiel be the one to raise the topic.

But then school opened, weeks turned to months, and Castiel didn’t.

The thing is, Uriel genuinely likes him. He remembers their younger years together fondly, both of them too sharp and too intelligent for their peers to keep up with. When others were wiping snot and eating crayons, they were wielding words and knowledge like the weapons they were.

Frankly, Uriel is impressed that Castiel retains his sound mind at all, considering his siblings. Michael has delusions of grandeur, Anna’s on the path to hipster liberalism, and the less said about Gabriel the better.

But Castiel has potential, and Uriel had thought them kindred spirits. Both of them were meant for better things, and surely Castiel would have jumped at the opportunity to better himself and bring his underappreciated gifts to where they would be allowed to flourish.

Then Castiel had said: No.

Out of the blue, blunt and illogical. No, Uriel, I won’t come with you.

Uriel had been too angry at the time to push any harder, so he’d shut that discussion down, figuring that it had to be Anna’s fault, or Gabriel’s. Castiel had been immune to their influences before, but everyone had their limits. So Uriel simply threw his hands up and walk away, finding petty comfort in the knowledge that one day Castiel would regret his choice and come crawling back.

But it’s been months, and he hasn’t said a word.

“I wasn’t able to renew my subscription,” Castiel is saying over the phone, “But I’ll talk to my father, see if he’ll let me use his credit card.

“Mmm,” Uriel murmurs. His eyes drift over to where his blazer is hanging on his closet door, an itch that refuses to let itself be scratched. “Can’t your library stock it?”

Castiel make a sound, halfway between a sigh and grunt. “I’m not going to answer that.

“Why, your school is that uncaring of your academic pursuits?”

That is not helpful, Uriel,” Castiel says, and though Uriel knows he has a point, the reverse is also true. It has been months, and Castiel is lingering and languishing, not a word from him on the very important matter of his future. Uriel had hoped – though maybe it was too much to ask – that someone physically closer to him would give Castiel the advice he needed and deserved.

Since such a thing has not come to pass, perhaps it’s high time Uriel swallow his pride and point out the obvious. “You’re not singing praises of your new school, Castiel?”

Maybe it’s slight – ever so slight – taunting edge to Uriel’s question that makes Castiel finally snap, “Stop it, Uriel. That boat’s sailed.

Castiel, usually a calm and level-headed person, rarely raises his voice, let alone to Uriel, so he cannot help but feel offended. After all, Uriel is merely thinking of Castiel’s well-being, the ingrate.“I can’t believe you,” Uriel says, far more calmly than he actually feels. “Your father would have supported you, you know that as well as I do, and I can’t help it if no one else will tell you how foolish you’re being. You, Castiel, threw away and excellent opportunity.”

I know!” Castiel shouts. That’s shocking enough in itself, but he keeps on, “I know that I should’ve gone with you, but it’s not like I can do anything about it now, can I? The year’s started, and this is where I have to be.

“You can still enroll,” Uriel points out. “It’s not too late for that.”

I…” Castiel hesitates, and Uriel thinks he may have finally gotten through to him. “I can’t leave Anna.

“Anna?” Uriel chortles. “You wish to stay for your sister? Why didn’t you use that as an excuse when we filled our applications together?”

Castiel goes silent. At first Uriel think that he’s finally cornered Castiel, pushed him up the wall of speechlessness, but then Castiel makes a tiny noise, so soft it’s barely audible. Uriel tries to press harder to the phone but there is no follow-up. Castiel is silent, silent as a statue in a graveyard.

I don’t—” Castiel says, voice low and strange, “—I don’t think it’s any of your business. I am at this school, and if that commitment seems odd to you, Uriel, then sorry. I should have gone with you, I know that, you don’t need to keep rubbing it in. But I’m just... I’m just tired, Uriel, okay? It’s not important anymore.

“Fine,” Uriel says. “It’s your choice.”

Yes,” Castiel agrees.

Uriel is so angry he almost hangs up again. He’s almost put out when Castiel hangs up first, but then agrees that that conversation was entirely useless and going nowhere, so it was best to end it before it were to meander more.

Uriel calls again next week, though, where Castiel is once again back to his normal self, amenable to their usual topics. Uriel decides he’ll ask again when they finish middle school.

Chapter Text

Sometimes Anna thinks about running away. Not seriously, of course, but it’s fun to play with in theory once in a while, whenever she feels small or tired or angry for whatever reason.

Anna knows she’s got it good – a decent home, a father who doesn’t ask too much (that’s when the glass is half-full), and a future that is only a couple of years away before it’s in her grasp. It’s when that ’couple of years’ feel too long to wait for that Anna toys with the notion of going for it before her time, wondering what she’d do, where she’d go, whether she’d end up being crazy successful or epically crash ‘n burn.

She’s thinking about it right now because Michael and Gabriel are at it again. And they’re at it in public like freaking children, Michael puffing up like an alpha baboon in front of his minions and Gabriel giggling as he makes his escape, and all Anna can do is stare over her half-eaten sandwich and gape.

“Is it going to be like this?” Anna squeaks. “Is it always going to be like this?”

“We just need to survive the year,” Castiel says mildly, his voice barely audible over the roar of the football team chasing Gabriel out the cafeteria doors. “Then Michael’s gone.”

“High school is supposed to be better.” Anna winces immediately, knowing what a stupid thing it is to say. Castiel continues eating quietly, so she continues, feeling defensive, “I thought they’d grow up. At least try to behave in school, in front of other people. It doesn’t matter what they’re like at home.”

Michael likes to pretend he’s all grown-up now, which Anna could believe if Michael bothered to give more than just lip service in his attempt to be just like Father. Gabriel, who is smarter than most people give him credit for, sees exactly what Michael is doing and tries to mess it all up – his attempts apparently not limited to their home environment.

Anna wonders all the time why Father doesn’t see any of this. She’s tried telling him, more than once, how Michael and Gabriel are at each other’s throats and that someone has to do something about it, but he’d told her things about independence and learning through action, which had Anna so upset she’d put on her jogging shoes and spent the whole afternoon running around the neighborhood.

“I like these,” Castiel says, studying the apple core in his hands. “I think they’re soaked with something, it feels different from the ones at home.”

“Oh, come on,” Anna says with a sigh. “Aren’t you at least a little bit embarrassed?”

“Why?” Castiel frowns at her. “They’re not me. I’m not responsible for their actions.”

“Of course, I forgot,” Anna says, mouth running off without her, “You’re not embarrassed about anything, not even yourself.”

Castiel drops his drink. Anna’s face flushes hot, the sorry caught in her throat, and tries not to squirm under Castiel’s sharp gaze. She thinks that they’re wrong, all the Reeves turned out wrong when Mom left and Anna was too small to take her place. The kinship she thought she’d always have with Castiel – there aren't the right words to describe the way of twins – has been fraying in unexpected ways since they moved to this godforsaken town and Anna doesn’t know why.

Anna doesn’t know how long it's been happening, since time works funny like that. All she knows is that there used to be a time when they’d hide together, just the two of them in whatever secret place was theirs and talk about things that would never reach the light of day, and now Anna has her own room and Castiel has his, and Castiel has always been quiet but now his silence has a deliberate weight, and though he's never stopped listening it makes Anna feel bad because they’re supposed to share.

“You’re confined,” Castiel observes matter-of-factly. “You want more, you want to do more. That is a wonderful thing, Anna. You know I’ve always thought that you were meant for greater things.”

“You’re just saying that,” Anna mutters.

“No.” Castiel’s hand drifts across the table, gently clasping her wrist. “I may not say it often, but I’ve always thought that. These towns – they’re not enough to contain you, I think.”

“It sounds horrible when you put it that way.”

“I don’t think it is.” Castiel shrugs again. There’s something careless about the gesture that makes Anna want to feel angry, but she can’t tell what to aim that anger at. “But I do think that you… I think that I can’t keep up with you.”

“What?” Anna turns to him. “What are you saying?”

“Like you said,” Castiel says slowly, and oh god, he’s been thinking about this for some time. “This is highschool now. It’s supposed to be – well, maybe not better, but perhaps the time where we prepare ourselves for what will become better. You should be out there doing things, not stuck here with me.”

“No,” Anna says angrily. “I’d never do that to you.”

Castiel laughs. “I know you think you’re the smartest of all of us, and often you are, but you’ve got to stop thinking about it that way. We won’t always have each other, so…” He spreads his hands, something quiet and resigned in his smile, and Anna knows that it's done, they're done, something changed when she hadn't been looking. Castiel’s right and he’s only pointing out what Anna already knew – they’re not kids anymore.

Anna looks at her forlorn, forgotten sandwich. “So what do we do now?”

“That’s up to you, now isn’t it?” Castiel takes his tray, poised to rise to his feet. “How about this. I’m going to go now. You can either sit here by yourself, or go find another table to sit with.”

“Right now?” Anna protests. She’s surprised by her sudden panic, so what if she and Castiel have been sitting together and doing almost everything together for… forever. “But, it’s only been a few days, I haven’t had time—”

“Then I will stay.” Castiel sits back down. “It doesn’t have to be at this exact moment.”

“Oh.” Anna still feels nervous at the look of kind determination on Castiel’s face, and a stray cruel thought in Anna’s head reminds her that Castiel’s been the one among them who’s never been able to make friends, though that is followed up a secondary thought: has Anna been using that as an excuse for herself all this time?

“I’ll be fine,” Castiel says, as though he can read her mind. “I can entertain myself.” He doesn’t say he will try to make friends; he wouldn’t be able to say something like that with a straight face. Instead he asks curiously, “What are you really afraid of, Anna?”

“Nothing,” Anna says quickly. And then, softly, “I don’t know.”

“You are not them, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Castiel says, far too knowingly. “You aren’t Michael and Gabriel, and you’re definitely not Father.”

Anna gasps, immediately wishing that she had something to throw back at him. And she does, she can see Dean at the corner of her eye, on the other side of the cafeteria and laughing in his group of friends, but that was ages ago, wasn’t it. Castiel’s probably forgotten all about that... Though if he hasn’t, Anna really doesn’t want to know.

Anna is also not that cruel.

“I think I will sign up for something,” she declares. “And not something just because it’ll look good on my record. Something… just for me.”

Castiel nods. “You will be excellent at it, I’m sure.”

Chapter Text

Lots of guys are jerks. Dean’s aware of this, just as he knows that there’s a difference between being a harmless jerk and a jerk jerk. Most of Dean’s friends are the former – which is the reason they're his friends, really – and Dean has no problem calling out the latter because one thing Dean Winchester does not do is take crap from anyone.

Okay, so Dad sometimes has problems about that supposed attitude problem but Mom’s good at spinning it – Dean’s not afraid to speak his mind, do what he wants, get what he wants, and shouldn’t that be a good thing? Dean definitely thinks it is, and so what if he’s only a freshman, he’s already getting his share of cool nods and intrigued side-glances (which, okay, could’ve had something to do with the leather jacket he’s started wearing, but just wait until he can drive and gets to bring the Impala to school).

The fact that girls love it and the right teachers think it’s great is a just a bonus, though. Dean does it because he likes to, because he can, because it doesn’t occur him to do anything otherwise.

So when he hears the sound of a fight going on behind the bleachers – he’s only there to scope the football tryouts, not that he’s seriously thinking of joining – Dean’s first instinct is to freaking swoop down like freaking John Wayne because, ugh, jerks.

Only when he gets there, the poor kid on the ground is Cas. Castiel, Dean reminds himself, hit with a rush of stunned nostalgia that has him freezing in his steps and his hands go cold.

And it’s a stupid way to react, Dean knows, because it was a freaking billion years ago and they’re all grown up now, almost men, and god, anything that anyone does when they’re babies doesn’t count and, seriously, Castiel is a stranger by now.

While Dean’s thinking all of this, Castiel grunts, hand clutching his stomach, and he lifts his head up—

His eyes go wide. But he recovers, faster than Dean does because Castiel’s obviously not a headcase like him, and then Castiel’s throwing himself at the other boys, fists up and determined.

Now the reason Dean is frozen is because he had no idea Castiel could fight.

“Hey, arseholes!” A new boy jumps in out of nowhere, grinning from ear to ear. Dean opens his mouth to shoot a warning but realizes that the new guy is fighting with Castiel, jumping around with an obnoxious smile and surprising lightness of feet.

One of the bullies staggers out when a good kick hits its mark, and he ends up flailing in Dean’s direction so he grabs him, cuffing the back of his neck and hauling him up. “What the,” the kid protests, but Dean just shakes him.

The other jerk falls when Castiel shoves at him, but before he can launch a counter-attack Dean strides forward and grabs him, too, snapping, “What’s wrong with you? The teacher’s right there!” Dean doesn’t look at Castiel, keeps his focus on the other boy and barks, “You looking for Coach Walker to kick your ass? Because buddy, I can arrange that.”

“Sorry,” the boy says, reacting instinctively to the authority in Dean’s voice. “But he started—”

“Yeah, like anyone’s going to care,” Dean says. “Get out of here. Go!”

They scamper away, chickens through and through. Dean watches them make a quick beeline for the school building, taking care to swerve away from anyone who could stop them and ask questions.

At Dean's back, the new guy says, “Hey, remember me?” Dean almost turns, stopping only when he realizes the guy's talking to Castiel, who answers, “Balthazar, yes, from History, I…” The other boy laughs, “Couldn’t help it, mate, that was the most fun I’ve had all day…” and then they’re talking and Dean has to stop standing there listening in like a freaking creeper.

“Oi, jackets!”

Dean stops, frowns, and turns. “You talkin’ to me?”

Balthazar smiles up at him. “Yes, indeed. Nice one, yeah?” He’s crouched down on his haunches next to Castiel, who is busy brushing dirt off his pants.

“Just wanted to see what the fuss was about,” Dean mumbles, awkward and half wishing someone would start another fight as a distraction. “Glad you’re okay. I’ll just… go, yeah.” Dean shoves his hands into his jacket and goes, but not quick enough to miss Balthazar’s, “You know him?”

Castiel answers mildly, “Some guy, I guess.”

Anger, unexpected and sharp, hits Dean right in the chest, but he focuses on marching his way towards the field.

Chapter Text

It will be a cold day in hell before Michael will admit being grateful for anything to do with Gabriel. That said, he can acknowledge within the safety of his own head that it is only because Gabriel is completely insane and unpredictable that Michael is able to withstand almost any kind of surprise unfazed.

It makes him supremely useful in diplomatic situations, which is why most teachers like him so much.

It also makes him a good brother when, completely by chance, he walks in on Castiel in a compromising position. Sure, in that first few seconds of Michael's opening the door he'd only seen kissing, and no hands were in any unseemly places, but it’s compromising because Castiel is his socially retarded baby brother who hasn’t done anything remotely interesting his entire life. Until now, apparently.

Michael carefully adjusts his worldview.

“Don’t you know how to knock?” Castiel asks. He’s doing his best to not sound embarrassed, and fixes a steely gaze up at Michael.

“I did,” Michael replies. “You were obviously not listening.”

He hadn’t known that Castiel had friends at school. Surely one of his posse would have informed him of such a thing since it is his job to know everything that’s going on. Or maybe perhaps none of his posse realized that Castiel was his younger brother. That would certainly be easy to overlook, and now that he thinks he about it, he can’t recall if he’d ever mentioned that to anyone.

“Hi!” says the boy sitting next to Castiel on the bed. He seems cheerful enough; Castiel is such a dour child, so this is a good – no, a very good development. The child grins at Michael, unperturbed by the awkward silence, and adds, “I’m Balthazar. Pleasure, I’m sure.”

“Ah,” Michael says, pinging to the accent, “Cultural exchange program.”

“Nah, not really,” Balthazar demurs, “Though I guess you can call it that, I’m not really sure how long mum’s job will keep her here and Cas was the only remotely interesting person to—”

“You’re homosexual!” Michael exclaims suddenly, the ramifications of this finally sinking in. Castiel is giving him that familiar look of exasperation he seems to have all the time now, but Michael ignores it to focus on the crux of the matter. “Have you been homosexual for a while? Are you being oppressed at school?”

Castiel’s eyes widen. “Excuse me?”

“You must be having a hard time, I can’t believe I never noticed.” Michael hums thoughtfully, ideas immediately whirling in his head. “You keep to yourself so much, which is your own business, fair enough, but I should do something about it.”

Castiel shares a quick, terrified look with Balthazar. “I don’t think you need to—”

“One of those!” Michael says, snapping his fingers as he tries to remember the term. “A Gay-Non-Gay thing, council, is it? Alliance, yes, that’s it, I do recall reading about that somewhere. Our school doesn’t have one and I do apologize about that. I’ll get on it immediately.”

“Is there something you wanted?” Castiel asks weakly.

“This is far more important!” Michael declares. “I must do my best to foster a safe and supportive atmosphere. And don’t hesitate to ask me to buy you condoms.” Castiel’s cheeks go pink just as Balthazar bursts into laughter, so Michael adds sternly, “STDs are no laughing matter.”

Castiel blinks rapidly up at him. “You’re all right with this?”

“Of course,” Michael says, frowning. “Why wouldn’t I be? You are beloved the way you are.”

Balthazar slinks his arm around Castiel’s terse shoulders. “That’s what I keep telling ‘im.” Castiel smiles a little, even as he looks surprised and unsure what to make of all of this.

“Now I have to go,” Michael says, heading for the door. “I have to check what the charter rules are on this. You will be joining my association when I form it, though?”

Castiel sighs. “I’m not going to be your mascot.”

“I can be your mascot!” Balthazar chirps. He looks from one brother to the other. “No?”

“But it would look good on your record,” Michael protests, “You should—”

“Please get out of my room.”

“Fine, fine.” Michael, who can take a hint, graciously makes his exit, shutting the door behind him. He hears the click of the door being locked, and just has to give one more piece of advice, “Remember to be safe!” Michael retreats down the hall to the sound of Castiel yelling at him to go away.

Not that it explains everything, it does explain some things about Castiel, and Michael gives himself a mental backpat for having dealt with that remarkably well.

"Castiel is gay!" Michael says when he passes by Anna on the stairs. She trips, because she obviously isn't equipped to handle surprises the way Michael is. Michael chuckles under his breath at her shocked expression and walks on, already drawing up a list of people to call to get this new project off the ground.

Chapter Text

There are moments in Dean’s life he’s sure he’ll remember in full surround sound for years to come. Like his first winning touchdown, the first (and last) time he and Sam measured their heights together in which Sam came out in the lead, the first time Dad let Dean drive the Impala, that sort of thing. If anyone’s planning to write a rock song about him one day, these milestones are the streetlamps on the highway that is his life. (That can be the chorus, maybe.)

What’s harder to pinpoint are the inclines and textures of the road, the little details that accumulate over time and wear down the threads in his tires. (That can be the bridge.) These are things he doesn’t see coming until they’re already there, part of him as though they’ve always been.

Dean is sixteen years old now.

He’s in the backyard, doing tosses with Dad because that’s what they’ve been doing every other weekend. Dean’s not wearing the jacket, which is bright red and hanging in his closet. Mom cleans it once in a while, but it’s always there when he needs it.

Right now Dean is wearing civvies.

As Dean takes the throws and half-listens to Dad’s instructions to move forward or back or go long, he remembers when it wasn’t always like this. He remembers being twelve and hanging out at the comics section at that drug store in town, catching glimpses of that same type of red jacket on loud-mouthed hot-shot wannabes, and how he’d snickered to himself. Some jackets are cool but uniforms are not, why would anyone want to wear the exact same thing as everyone else, as if coolness is something you’re given and instead of earned? Dean remembers thinking like that, even if the thought feels dusty, unused for a long time.

Twelve to sixteen. Four years don’t seem like a long time except where they’re a lifetime, and Dean’s practically an adult now. Of course he couldn’t see then that the jacket was a ticket. Dean has it now, and is on that route even if he doesn’t remember deciding on a destination.

The guys don’t ask how he’d got there because it’s a no-brainer, who wouldn’t want to be one of them given the choice? Girls sometimes do, like those hot twin cheerleaders who’d asked him after the first game: why’d he sign up, he’d missed it in freshmen year and everyone had thought he was a part of Mr. Singer’s workshop crew, to which he’d replied, you know, because football’s cool, and that’d been enough.

Only thing is, it’s a little bit more than that. It originates off the field. Out of school entirely, actually.

It’s just that, well. Mom and Dad don’t get along sometimes. Dad gets quiet and Mom gets sharp, Dad takes walks when Mom would rather he doesn’t. Sam retreats into his books, going quiet just like Mom but holding on to his anger just like Dad. One of those times Dean had found Dad on the back porch with an unlit cigarette in his mouth. Sam was somewhere else, being a nerd or whatever, so it’d been up to Dean to sit down next to Dad before he decided to find someplace else to go.

Somewhere in that awkward effort to fill the silence with stuff on school, a throwaway mention had gotten Dad animated and excited, how he’d grasped Dean’s shoulder and said, what’s that, there are tryouts at school, come on let’s do some throws, pretty sure we got a pigskin lying ‘round here someplace. And Dean rolled with it, figuring out pretty quick he likes the running and the catching and the tackling, he really does.

So it’s just a thing Dean started doing because it’d ended up giving him so many moments like this one: him and Dad in the back yard, laughing and talking smack at each other. It gives them (all of them) new padding to fill up the occasional jagged spaces.

“What’d your Coach say?” Dad asks. “What’s your weak spots? Come on, tell me, we can work on them together.”

In a while Mom will come out to watch them before calling them back in to clean up, and she’ll fuss over Dean and ask how the team’s doing because there’s a game coming up. Sam should be coming back from his study group soon (accomplished little geek, but Dean has some of his own accomplishments now), and then they’ll have dinner.

“You gotta work on that if you want to make Captain one day, Dean.” Dad sounds a little wistful when he adds, “I never got there myself. Would’ve killed for it, worked a little harder, if someone’d been there to remind me how much I wanted it.”

“Okay.” Dean catches the ball. “Sure.”

The games are the best part, though, because that’s when it all comes together. Sam always makes a big production of how he’s so not interested but he’ll be the one dragging Mom and Dad there, getting the best seats and screaming the loudest, and Dad will be yelling at the other team and Mom will be on her feet, and when the countdown runs out Dean will look up and there they’ll be, holding on to each other.

Those are the best.

Chapter Text

Crowley thinks that it’s a wonder that K. County West High survived this long without someone like him filling this role. How did these kids get their contraband, their cheat sheets, their desired information on rivals and/or potential love interests before Crowley came along? It boggles the mind to think.

“Pleasure doing business with you,” he says, offering a hand out to his latest client.

They’re tucked cozy together in a secluded corner behind the library, not another soul anywhere, but Ava looks the opposite of comfortable. She glances dubiously at Crowley’s offered hand but shakes it quickly. “You won’t say anything, right? He said – I was told—”

“Of course, I promise the utmost discretion,” Crowley says before politely standing aside. He watches as Ava takes a moment – she does this quite well, he thinks – and shifts her confident, bossy expression into something a little more subdued, and then goes off.

Crowley leans against the wall, content to bask for a minute or two. It’s been a good morning, his left pocket’s been emptied and his right’s been filled, so that’s one thing he can cross off his to-do list. It’s a relatively short list – Crowley is still new, after all.

“Hey, BritBrit,” a voice calls out. “Making more friends, I see.”

Crowley looks up. There usually isn’t much traffic this side early in the day, but that’s for normal people. Leaning against the fire escape is one Gabriel Reeves, because sometimes when one speaks of the devil, he’ll show up sucking a lolly.

“Sorry, we’re clean out again.” Crowley winks at him. “You know what they say about the early bird.”

Gabriel gives him a long, silent look. Crowley guesses that others tend to see only the mischief in those bright eyes, failing to notice the vicious and much more interesting hints of what’s really going on underneath. Gabriel raises two fingers up, making a clichéd I’m watching you gesture.

Crowley salutes him. Gabriel rolls his eyes and makes his exit, kicking the door shut behind him as he goes.

Well, that just ensured that Crowley should push one item to the top of his to-do list.

The thing is, Gabriel is incomprehensible. He’s an arsehole, but a brilliant arsehole who sees far more and has a far wider reach than anyone else in this school. Crowley wouldn’t mind a rival, but he’d figured out pretty quick that that isn’t what Gabriel is. For starters, Gabriel doesn’t care about power. He has so much of it already – he knows things about the school body of which Crowley’s only starting to sink his teeth into, but the kicker is that he doesn’t do anything about it. Oh, he torments jocks and terrifies the teachers and occasionally sets a lab on fire, but all that’s only for his amusement.

What is the point of power if one doesn’t use it to obtain essentials like security and comfort?

Crowley almost wishes that Gabriel were a sociopath, but he isn’t that lucky. Gabriel has an actual conscience, if some of his antics are to be believed, and that offends Crowley on some deep, primal, professional level.

It’s only fair that Crowley assess the situation. Gabriel obviously has him in his sights now, watching what he’s been doing and trying to decide on the best course of action, and Crowley should get a better idea of what he’s dealing with. Preemptively. In case things come to a head later on.

So what Crowley does, when the day’s lunch break finally arrives, is go a-hunting.

He finds Castiel Reeves in a secluded spot behind the gym, which is a location too close to the fence for any of the usual groups to hang out at. Castiel glances up when he arrives, clearly expecting a teacher or hall monitor, but once he sees that it’s Crowley, he goes back to eating his sandwich, uninterested.

Crowley sits down. Not right next to him, but close enough. He takes out his own lunch and home-brewed coffee and indulges himself.

If Castiel is wondering why he’s there, he makes no sign. He really is not much like Gabriel, quiet and unassuming and dull as dirt, but he’s also a potential in, which is why Crowley’s bothering at all.

They’re in a few classes together but never spoken. Not that that matters, because Crowley knows the type: neglected, starved for affection and so pathetically unable to ask for what he wants that he’s convinced himself that he doesn’t want anything. He doesn’t even seem to know how to act up for attention, though to be fair, he’s brothers with Gabriel, against whom Paris Hilton would pale as an attention whore.

When Crowley lights up a cigarette, he feels Castiel slowly turn to look at him. It’s a convenient opener. “You want?” He pulls the cigarette from his mouth and angles it towards Castiel.

“I don’t.” Castiel stops, clears his throat. He doesn’t talk much. “I don’t have anything.”

“This one’s on the house.” Crowley passes it over when Castiel nods. He coughs a little on the second inhale, but smacks his lips in an interesting way when he exhales.

“That tastes nice,” Castiel says as he passes it back.

Crowley mentally adds, and lives such a boring life that even a little fag seems interesting. Out loud he says, “Not the best I have, but better than the average around here.” He smokes a little more, watches Castiel watch him from the corner of his eye, and then, after letting a suitable amount of time to let the idea settle in Castiel’s head, casually pulls out the near-full pack.

Castiel frowns a little. He looks almost like Gabriel like that, as though Crowley has offended him by existing.

“Between friends?” Crowley offers.

“You don’t have friends.”

“Neither do you, sweetcheeks.”

Castiel sits up a little straighter, eyes narrowed and suddenly sharp. Crowley isn’t entirely sure where that came from, it’s not like he insulted Castiel’s sensibilities or challenged him to a duel. But he still feels as though a gauntlet was thrown down in the middle here somewhere, not that he’s entirely sure who did the throwing. He decides to roll with it to see where it goes.

“Are you trying to trade?” Castiel asks wryly. “With that? Because I don’t care how fancy you think they are, I can get them myself.”

He actually could, Crowley thinks, because he’s brothers with Gabriel, but he’s not going to let that slide. “Oh, so you’re the expert now, are you? You take one whiff of a decent fag and you’re a critic?”

“It remains there’s nothing you could offer that would possibly be of interest to me.” Castiel leans a little ways in, his blue-eyed stare almost unnerving in close distance. “Except maybe a handjob.”

“What?” Crowley doesn’t choke. He just needs to a moment to adjust the calculations in his head, even as unexpected anger shoots up his gut. “There’s nothing you could offer me that could possibly be of same value as my hand on your dick, you little snot-nosed, butt-faced peon, not even that sad little mouth of yours.”

“My sad little mouth is still worth so much more than your hand,” Castiel counters back. “Look at you. You do your nails, and you know what they say about guys who do their nails.”

“Your lips are peeling.”

“I’ll bet you moisturize.”

“Moisturizing is important!” Crowley protests shrilly. “You wear sunscreen, don’t you, how is this even an argument, I don’t care how good you think you are at cocksucking, nothing beats a Crowley beat-off, this Mrs. Palm is a fucking black belt!”

“You want to make good on that?”

“After school!”

“If you’re not at the doors ten after the bell I’ll assume you’re as chicken as you look.” Castiel stands up, looking far calmer than Crowley feels, and walks off.

It takes Crowley a moment to realize that that’s the bell ringing.

Crowley glances down at the pack of cigarettes still in his hand, unsure what the hell just happened.

The most reasonable conclusion is that all of the Reeves are crazy, and Gabriel is the rule, not the exception. He should stay away from the girl, then, that makes sense. But not this one, the brother, especially not if there are blowjobs in the immediate future.

Chapter Text

The thing about disagreeing with Coach is that nobody wins. Well, nobody besides Coach wins, which is the problem, isn’t it? It’s not that Coach Walker minds the occasional helpful comment, but the trick here is that only one person gets to decide what counts as ‘helpful’ and that one person is – wouldn’t you have guessed it – is their Coach.

Dean should know better. Dean does know better, which is why he walks away before the rest of the team can pick up on how mad he is right now. A disunited team is a useless team, and Dean can’t afford to have that on his conscience right now.

So, yes, he walks. He brushes Isaac off with a sharp, “I know, I got it” and marches right out of there, away from Walker and his insistence that they ‘push the line’ and ‘do what it takes’ and ‘don’t be goddamn pussies and use their smarts to mow down the other team where they can’t see it coming’.

A voice in Dean’s head that sound suspiciously like Dad drags Dean’s thoughts over familiar territory: about the importance of team morale, putting on a strong front and trusting their Coach to make the best call because he is, after all, only there to help his kids. Besides, Dean’s still on track to make captain and then – the voice in his head reminds him – surely he’ll have more say in how things are run.

The team needs him.

That last one is the mantra that finally calms Dean down, has him slowing his footsteps and easing out his breathing. He’s outside the building now but he’ll still have to go back to get his things. Not right now, of course. He can sit down, take his time, count the minutes off his watch while he savors the fresh air.

Well, the fresh air, and… cigarette smoke.

Dean rolls his eyes. He can even hear voices now, low whispers coming from that narrow space behind the gym, which is a stupid place to be hanging out at this time of the day when even the clubs are winding down and packing things up.

“Shut up,” someone says. “Be quiet.” Another voice murmurs a reply.

Dean could keep walking but he feels like an asshole today. He needs to be an asshole, actually, because bringing this home feels like a bad idea, and Dean really doesn’t want to deal with questions from Dad or – worse yet – Mom. It’s stupid and harmless, after all, just Coach being Coach and Dean being Dean, and if he can’t work this out on the field, there are alternatives.

He creeps up to the corner, careful to be quiet. It might be freshmen, punk kids who think they’re too cool to be anything but stupid, and if that’s the case Dean would rather just scare them a little.

Dean leans in. He frowns, tries to put a name to the pair of dark heads turned to each other. Then he freezes, recognition a douse of cold water.

That’s Cas – Castiel. Dean would know that hair because it’s exactly the same. Cas never ever changes the messy, dark mop on his head, tufts of it sticking at impossible angles all the time, though in this case it’s made worse because there’s a hand carding through the strands.

Dean tells himself he hasn’t moved away because he wants to know who the other guy is. It’s perfectly reasonable to be curious, because curiosity is a human trait and if anyone else were here right now they’d totally be as just as nosey. Dean’s only curious.

“Yeah,” the other guys breathes. They were kissing but Cas has pulled away, lazily turning his head to where the other guy’s hand is resting on his shoulder, a cigarette dangling from the pale fingers. The angle is off so Dean can’t see Cas’ lips wrap around their target, but he hears the inhalation of breath and subsequent release, soft and sensual in the quiet.

There’s a chuckle. Not from Cas, because he isn’t smiling. At least, Dean thinks he’s not smiling.

“I told you to be quiet,” Cas whispers, and then he’s ducking his head down. Crowley – that’s Crowley, Dean would know that grin anywhere – clucks his tongue, and then Cas’ lip are around that tongue and pulling gently. There shouldn’t be a sound – that kind of move doesn’t make a sound, unless it’s porn – but Dean could swear he hears faint, lewd suction.

Crowley makes a pleased sound, to which Cas pushes Crowley harder against the wall and slaps Crowley’s hip in a warning. Crowley doesn’t seem to mind being boxed in, one hand grabbing a fistful of Cas’ shirt to haul him in.

Dean’s head snaps back. Reality is a second slam of cold water to the face, and it says: what the fuck is he doing.

Actually, he has no idea. It’s one of those days, apparently, full of weirdness and frustration. (Crowley? Of all people, he picked Crowley?) Hey, at least Dean’s not angry anymore. At least, he doesn’t think he’s angry. Maybe the anger has just been put aside, filed away to be processed later, because right now he just feels cold. He feels cold and stretched thin, his skin too loose and too tight at the same time, nothing fits properly anymore.

Dean passes by Mr. Singer on the way back to the gym. Singer’s grumbling to himself, wiping his forehead as he pushes a squeaky cart. Dean likes Singer.

“Hey, sir, Mr. Singer, sir,” Dean finds himself saying. He’s not even sure why he’s saying it. “I just saw a couple of guys behind the gym. I think they’re smoking.” He doesn’t even hear Singer’s annoyed reply because he’s too busy walking away.

Dean turns the rock way up loud during the drive back home. He can almost even drown out the memory of the sounds Cas makes when he’s kissing someone.

Chapter Text

When Michael was around and tried to care, he asked Castiel what his hobbies were. Hobbies tell us what kind person we are, or can be, Michael liked to say. Castiel hadn’t been able to give Michael an answer he’d liked at the time. If he were still home, he’d definitely not approve of the answer Castiel would give him today.

Dirty secrets are exciting. Not the dirty part, which Castiel can take or leave, but the secret part, because Castiel is of a family that’s been living in each other’s pockets and drives each other crazy, and secrets are to be hoarded. It’s become a game, sort of – let’s see what Castiel can keep to himself, truly keep to himself, when there’s Anna just next door and Michael’s thinking he’s the ace and Gabriel’s being a menace to everyone in the immediate vicinity.

Castiel has collected a few. Nothing dangerous, of course, nothing that could get anyone else in trouble, but Castiel deserves the thrill of the chase and the fetch and the keep. Anyone can bring contraband to school, but it takes skill to use it in school, and to barter it with others and never get caught. Not that Castiel does that much these days; he’s not going to be Gabriel.

Right now Castiel is now collecting a few minutes of stolen time, his body tucked into a narrow, hidden corner under the bleachers. His roll-up’s a sad disaster, half the leaves lost to the ground, which is a damn waste. He’ll just steal more from Gabriel later, though, that’s not the problem.

The problem is that a couple of yards away there’s football practice, or something like it. 

All Castiel sees is a skirmish, though maybe that’s standard operating procedure, he wouldn’t know. (Somewhere far away Michael is scowling and doesn’t know why.) There are red jackets and non-red jackets mixed up in each other. The non-reds look younger, Castiel thinks, so it’s probably some sort of hazing ritual.

Then there’s Dean approaching.

Castiel glances around quickly. He knows no one can see him here but it’s better to be doubly, triply sure. 

Dean, who’s parting the crowd like Moses, his shout of “Hey, you listen to me”, clear as bell through the uninteresting hubbub. He isn’t captain yet but that doesn’t matter because he already walks like a prince – the jacket is his robe of office and his hands are swords to clap at the various underlings that haven’t performed to his satisfaction. He’s captain in everything but name; Michael said that Dean’s a shoo-in for the top spot, that there’s no one else who could possibly step up to the challenge.

Dean isn’t even the tallest, or most muscular, in the crowd he now commands. He has to look up to address one of his subordinates, growling a, “I don’t give a fuck who started it,” that has the recipient dropping their gaze to the ground. Michael wouldn’t have sworn.

The crowd disperses but Dean stays, lingering deliberately around two young ones. His voice is quieter now, but no less firm as he talks about tryouts and do you want to be here or not or and if you got the goods, I’m on your team, no question. Dean has a heinous schedule but of course he’d carve out time just for them, these freshmen who are now worthy of his attention because they are of value to him.

The freshmen are slow to answer. Who wouldn’t, when one has earned Dean’s attention like that. Dean’s gravitational force pulls and pulls and pulls. Castiel’s supposed to turn away, but right now, in this moment, he doesn’t.

Dean’s cut his hair. His jeans are riding a little low, a sliver of skin visible when his jacket falls open. Dean’s mouth is a hard line, his shoulders the perfect shape for anyone (Castiel) to hold on to. 

Castiel looks down at the disembowelled joint on the ground. Pity, that. Now he has to get up, go somewhere else, find something else to do with the rest of the break.

He slips away, ducking round the back of the building where no one will see, not that anyone’s looking too closely. There’s a boy’s room on the second floor, which is technically off-limits for this time of the day.

Castiel slips into the last cubicle and closes the door. He leans against the wall and closes his eyes.

If you got the goods, Dean says. 

Castiel tilts his head back and brushes a hand against his chin. That’s Dean’s hand against his chin now, but instead of cuffing the back of his head, this one presses against Castiel’s Adam’s apple. Slight pressure, then firm pressure – Dean means to push Castiel against the wall, show him who’s boss, this isn’t a fucking game.

The relative privacy of a school bathroom isn’t all that different from the relative privacy of the Reeves house. Castiel is hard in his pants, but that’s all right because he deserves this, and no one will ever ever know.

He closes his eyes and imagines Dean standing over him. Castiel doesn’t think their height difference is all that stark but in his mind’s eye Dean is tall because it is right that he’s tall, and it’s right that Castiel has to tilt his head up to meet his gaze. Except Dean doesn’t want Castiel to look at him, because to look upon the face of the king is a reward, and Castiel has to earn it.

Hey, you listen to me.

Castiel opens his pants one-handed and pulls out his erection to let it bob free in the air.

He puts new words in Dean’s mouth: Is this for me?

Castiel almost giggles. He doesn’t, of course, because this is a rite that needs to be performed in silence. Even when Castiel’s really turned on he can still keep to the rules.

Dean’s hand tightens around his throat, choking him. You think I want your mouth?

Castiel has a good mouth. He flicks his tongue out, tasting the air. He’d suck Dean, swallow everything, but he has to earn that first, too.

You think I want this? Castiel’s hand grips his cock – but it’s Dean’s hand now. Dean’s touch is perfunctory, a careless sweep up his shaft, then a slight smack at the head. Now why the hell would you think that? Maybe you’re confused, Cas. Maybe you thought that just ‘cause you’re dripping wet like a girl, then you’re a girl, too? Don’t work like that, buddy.

They’re not in this bathroom anymore, but in the downstairs locker rooms. Castiel’s only been in there a handful of times and never because he was supposed to be there, but he remembers what it’s like. Castiel imagines that Dean has him up against the wall, and they have to keep quiet because everyone else is just around the corner. 

Or maybe they’re not. Maybe the rest of Dean’s posse is standing around, silent and watchful because their king is judging the latest offering on his altar. Castiel’s dick twitches in his hand, his body tensing up under the scrutiny.

Shouldn’t touch you, who knows where you’ve been, Dean says.

Maybe Castiel’s naked in this scenario, clothes discarded some ways back. Castiel spits quickly into his hand and then spreads his legs to put himself on display. He presses his fingertip against the slit, because Dean’s touching him experimentally, checking this other boy’s cock because he’s never touched anyone else’s like this before. It does nothing for Dean, who’s curious but unaroused. Dean’s team members can look, but only Dean can touch and judge and scrutinize. 

Dude, you’re so wet. Something wrong with you? You get that just from looking at me?

There’s nothing seductive in the way Castiel touches himself, because Dean wouldn’t be seductive. He’d be cold, detached, his grip a little too tight, his squeezes a little too sharp. He’d want to see what kind of rise he can get out of his sacrificial gift. Castiel archs his back and shudders.

How bad do you want it, Cas?

Castiel lifts his hand off his throat, moving it up so he can shove three fingers into his mouth. 

That bad, huh?

The king is in his counting house, counting out his rewards of gold and silver and sluts. Castiel needs to work extra hard because he has the wrong parts, so he’ll get off just like this, with Dean standing over him and tugging his cock disinterestedly. If he does good next time Dean’ll do him the honor of fucking his mouth, his ass, anything, everything.

Show me what you got.

Castiel comes silently, Dean’s sharp grin flaring bright behind his eyelids. So good, so wonderful, Castiel jaw aches where he’d clenched his teeth trying not to make a fucking sound.

Then, the world comes rushing back. It is quiet. Castiel thinks he might have missed the bell. 

That was a bad idea.

Castiel cleans himself up, wiping his hands down with tissue and tucking himself back in before going out. At the sink he scrubs his hands clean, fixes his shirt, washes his face. 

Ideas are well and fine when retained within the safety of his head, but some are more dangerous than most. Even indulgence has its limits, and that was a limit.

Castiel looks at himself in the mirror. Bad idea, he thinks at his reflection. Good orgasm (fantastic orgasm), which is exactly why he shouldn’t. There are other ways to indulge, other distractions he can use. 

Just not that one.