Title: First and Amistad

Summary: His mother told him two things: Angels were watching over him, and good little boys always got what they prayed for. Eventually, Dean realized that he wasn't good. No pairings.

Rating: PG-13

A/N: Working title was "Five Times Dean Winchester Said His Prayers and One He Didn't," but that was just too long. So I swiped something from The Fray's "You Found Me" instead.

Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural, it's characters, or the song from which the title is derived. I'm a poor college student, actually. I own nothing but ramen noodles.


First and Amistad

Four-year-old Dean Winchester knelt by his bed, closed his eyes, and folded his hands on the big boy bed in front of him. "Mommy," he said, cracking one eye open a bit, "why do I hafta say prayers?"

Mary knelt beside her son and smiled. "To say thank-you to God. And sometimes to ask Him for special favors. Like to keep everyone safe and happy."

"Why?"

"Because that's what God does. He looks after all of His children."

"I thought I was your children."

The blonde smiled. "You belong to God, too. Everyone does. No matter what. And He loves everyone, Dean, no matter how bad things may seem, and he sends angels to watch over us. That's why people pray. To thank Him for what we have, to ask for safety, to be forgiven for the bad things."

"I thought you said God loves me no matter what. Why do I need to be sorry for stuff?"

"Because everybody likes a good little boy. And if you're extra good, and you say your prayers every night, God will listen and give you what you ask for. So, fold your hands and close your eyes, and when we're done, we'll go put your brother to bed, all right?"

Dean smiled. "Ok, mommy." He did as he was told, letting his eyes slide shut, assuming the position he'd been taught was needed to speak with God. "Dear Jesus," he whispered. "I'm sorry I stole a extra cookie today and then lied about it, and I'm sorry about all the other stuff I ever did. Please don't be mad. And please watch over everyone like Daddy and Sammy and me. Amen."

"Amen," Mary said, a smile tugging at her lips. "Now, come on. Let's go say good-night to the baby."

The boy nodded, got to his feet, and followed his mother out of the room. Neither of them noticed that he had left someone out of his nightly prayers. Dean wouldn't even think about it until later, when the guilt would crush him like a black stone against his heart, weighing him down like the disappointment of a God that only listened to good little boys- boys who prayed for everyone in their family and didn't set their mothers aflame.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Bright moonlight filtered through the stained glass windows, bathing the church in a series of colors that Dean would have otherwise deemed unnatural. Blues and reds and yellows fought for their proper place across the floor and pews and altar as the twelve-year-old knelt in the midst of the moonlight, his head bowed, hands folded.

He'd made sure he was alone. Completely and utterly alone. He couldn't risk anyone finding him. His dad told him this kind of thing was pointless, and he, in turn, fought Pastor Jim tooth and nail on the subject. And Sammy couldn't know.

Yeah, he made sure Sammy said his prayers, but Dean never joined him. He didn't want to mess things up for the younger boy. Didn't want to curse him.

Late at night, though, when he was alone and knew he wouldn't be caught, he did what his mom had taught him. He thought of it as a selfish weakness, to hit his knees and beg like this, but he was so tired and so lonely and so out of his league. No one wanted him.

"Dear God," he whispered because Jesus had punished him, he was sure. "I'm sorry. I know that doesn't mean much, but I am. Whatever I did, I'm sorry. Please, just keep dad safe. And help me get enough money for new shoes for Sammy, 'cause he's gettin' too big for his old ones. And if Sam could just be able to not know what's really going on for a little longer, that'd be good, too."

He sighed, debating whether or not to go on. "I'm sorry. I am. I know it's bad, but, I kinda… I want something, too. Like, for me." He cracked his eyes open and glanced at the ceiling of the church, waiting for lightning to strike him down for daring such an impossible and selfish feat.

"See," Dean continued when nothing happened, "we move around a lot, and the way we dress and where we live and how we talk… it's just, I guess people know there's something weird going on and they don't really want anything to do with us. With me. And we always move away, so, I mean, what's the point, right? I used to try, and people laughed at me. So I stopped, and they don't try at all, and that kinda hurts, you know?"

He waited. He didn't know what he was waiting for, exactly, just knew that it was supposed to be big. "I guess I'm asking for a friend? One that can come with us everywhere and won't, you know, hate me or anything? One that'll just understand and stuff. One that I won't have to explain everything to." He smiled. "Maybe you could send me an angel. Like, a guardian angel, and then I wouldn't even have to worry about Sammy and Dad anymore. I could just worry about myself. Maybe. If someone's free up there or something."

Light filtered through the windows, playing across his face, spreading colorful shadows across the floor. There was no immediate answer, but that was ok. Dean could wait.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

He walked to a pew and knelt, clasping his hands before him and bowing his head. His eyes closed for a moment as the events of the day played out again in his mind. He wondered how many people shot and stabbed their saviors, how many hunters had encountered actual angels. He wondered why he was suddenly so special.

Colorful light flashed across the floor, streaming in through the stained glass windows, reminding him of a time when he'd been patient, when he'd asked and never received. When he'd thought he'd been good enough to actually get something he'd wanted. Back before he'd heard Sam pray for an escape from the life of hunter. Before Sam had gotten his acceptance letter from Stanford.

Dean looked up at the skylight, smiling as the warm sun hit his face. He'd had to wait nearly eighteen years, but he'd finally gotten it, finally gotten his answer. He'd had to sell his soul to save something so much more precious than himself, but that was good enough for God and more than good enough for him.

"Thank you," he whispered.

He never saw the figure behind him, the stoic face with wide blue eyes, the one assigned to him for reasons far graver than he ever dared to imagine. Dean never looked back and saw his friend before the sound of rustling feathers filled the small church in Pontiac, Illinois.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

The lamp hit the wall. "What the hell?" He grimaced. Poor choice of words. Horrible, terrible choice of words. I dragged you out… I can throw you back in.

"Respect, my ass." The duffle bag joined the lamp, crashing to the floor, shattering glass and bending the shade. "Friend, my ass."

Dean looked up at the ceiling of the motel room, his lips pulling back into a snarl. "Bet You think this is really freakin' hilarious, huh? Yeah, give a guy some hope and then rip it all away. 'Think you're good enough? Naw, I just need you to stop the friggin' Apocalypse. Nobody else is stupid enough to jump under a bus for humanity.' Great."

He kicked out at the pile of debris that had accumulated in the corner, smiling as it crunched under his boot. "Perfect. You know, You could have given me a little warning here, other than a bi-polar angel that can't decide whether I hate myself or I should show him some respect."

Dean shook his head. "'Course, I suppose, it's all my fault, right? I thought I was deserving and good and all that crap. Guess You had to correct that, right?" He paused, staring at the ceiling, waiting for something. He shook his head again when nothing happened. "Yeah, I thought so. See, I get it. I do. I'm the bad kid. I'm the one who sleeps around and swears and lies and cheats and steals. Guess I gave up on being good when I realized that wouldn't get me shit."

He sat down hard on the bed, his energy spent. "Sam asked once. He wanted to get away. I asked every night from the time I was five until I was twelve for a family or a friend and what did You do? You let him leave. You took him away and You took dad away and You left me alone. Then You sent me an angel as a slap in the face. Gave me three days to think I'd done something right, actually gotten something out of it, maybe finally gotten that friend I used to beg for. And then he tells me he's sendin' me back. Nice touch, there. Really. I appreciate that. He coulda just told me I was wrong, but that was better. Much more effective."

Dean shook his head and sighed, looking around the decimated motel room. He was going to have a hard time explaining this to Sam when his brother got back from… wherever he'd gone. It wasn't like the lamp would be easy to fix, and that hole in the wall was pretty big, not to mention to the blood on his knuckles.

"Why?" he asked. "Why me? Why bother tricking me like that? I mean, You get your jollies by watching me get my hopes up and then threatening me? I just… I never ask for anything. I haven't for years, anyway. And I just thought maybe I could have something for once. So why not? Why can't I just have one thing? One little thing?"

He turned his eyes toward the ceiling again. "Let me guess? Too selfish, right? Keep thinking like that, and I'll never get anything. Yeah." He settled back on the bed, curling up on his side, pulling his knees to his chest and watching the door, waiting for his brother to come back. Odd, he hadn't done that since the younger man had been away at college.

Again, with his back to the majority of the room, he didn't see the bright blue eyes that had been watching him from the shadows.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Castiel sat in the back of the church, again watching the man without being noticed. He couldn't help but feel responsible for Dean's presence in the small chapel. He'd told the man of his true orders, had unloaded his own doubts onto already slumping shoulders. Of course Dean would seek solace… in a deity he claimed didn't exist, even when the proof was staring him in the face.

But that wasn't entirely true, and the angel knew it. After watching the human long enough, he'd gathered that he didn't know the whole story, and done a little digging. Dean, it turned out, hadn't always been the atheist he currently took such pride in being. Quite the opposite, in fact. The boy had once said his prayers every night. Now it seemed he had started again.

Dean sat in a pew near the altar, neck bent, hands clasped tightly together, eyes shut, mouth a thin line. Castiel watched, waiting for him to speak, wondering whether he would whisper his thanks, shout his indignity, or go a completely different route.

No doubt, there were more important things the angel could be doing, but this seemed somehow better. Watching a lost man find his faith, no matter how painful the journey may be. Perhaps that was the reason Dean had been chosen.

Or perhaps his early assumptions had been correct, and he had finally done something right, something worthy of friendship.

The angel sighed. He wasn't privy to the ways of his Father, but he knew one thing for sure. God didn't grant wishes, not even those whispered to the heavens by deserving children in need of hope.

"I know it's selfish."

Castiel focused back on Dean, who had raised his head and was looking at the large crucifix hanging over the altar.

"And I know You got me outta Hell," the hunter continued. "Thanks for that, by the way."

The angel grinned at the familiarity of the words, spoken without spite or hatred this time, only sincerity.

"I don't say that enough. Don't want to be too needy. People leave if you're too needy, You know? Like Sam. And Dad. And everyone. So I take care of myself and them and it's cool. Don't wanna suffocate 'em." He shook his head. "So, you know, this is gonna sound really bad, but…"

He trailed off, dropping his eyes from the cross. One hand snaked back, rubbing along his neck in a nervous gesture. "I never had a friend before. And I know he's not. Not really. Not supposed to be. And that's cool. I can deal with that. But it's kinda neat to just not think about that and pretend or whatever for a while. I was never too good at that, but for a while today, it was almost like… I dunno, it was just cool."

He paused again, sighing, looking back up. "So, yeah. I shouldn't ask for stuff. I got life, or whatever." He smirked. "And a fake friend to boot. But the thing is… the thing is," he whispered, "everyone leaves."

Dean sighed again. Breathed in and breathed out, deflating as Castiel watched from a safe distance. He looked defeated, sadder and more open and honest than the angel had ever seen him. Laying himself bare in what he assumed to be an empty church, asking for some unknown that he thought he could never have.

It hurt.

"I get it," Dean said, his voice soft. "I do. I'm here to stop the Apocalypse, and if I don't do it, or if I don't wanna do it, You're gonna send me back. Hell, maybe You'll send me back even if I do everything You want. Just use me up and throw me out. Everyone else does." He shook his head. "No, I get it. This gets over and You'll want him back. And he'll wanna go back. 'Cause it's Heaven, right? It's paradise."

Castiel blinked. He was shocked. Almost more by the fact that he had actually blinked than by what Dean had said. He was the subject of this most recent prayer session. He was eaves dropping on a one-sided conversation about himself.

"I was told once," the hunter continued, "that You don't make deals. But I was also told that if I was a good little boy, I'd get what I prayed for, and I save people every day and I got jack-shit for years, so… I wanna make a deal."

The angel gasped and got instinctively to his feet, gazing around the old church and waiting for something dark to come slithering out of the corners to take the man up on that offer. Nothing happened and he relaxed, though remained standing.

"If I do this right," Dean said. "Like, everything- if I do everything you tell me to- if I save people and stop the Apocalypse, keep the Devil locked in Hell… if I do everything right, you let me keep him. If I stop it, he stays. He can do whatever the hell he wants here, but he's gotta check in, all right?"

He looked up at the cross and swallowed hard. "Besides," he grinned. "You don't want Cas. Not really. Don't tell him I told You, but," he lowered his voice to a whisper. "He's defective. You don't want a defective angel. I mean, I'll take him, but I'll take anything."

The angel slid back into the pew. He was oddly touched, saddened, and a little offended. However, he had to hand it to the man, turning something as obscene and potentially threatening as an angel's doubt into a selling point. Perhaps Dean Winchester was smarter than most gave him credit for.

"So, please?" His attention was turned back to the man with the choked tone. "I promise I'll take care of him. And I won't question. I'll do everything right, if I just get to keep him. Please. I'll do everything right."

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Dean did something wrong.

The Seals were broken. Mountains moved, fire rained from the sky, the seas were set aflame, and demons rejoiced. Dean didn't let himself mourn the loss of something he'd never had.

"How do we fix it?"

"We fight," Castiel replied. "And we pray." He chose to ignore the way Dean paled at that.

"All right," the hunter said. "Let's get out there and save the world."

Uriel grabbed his shoulder as he took Ruby's knife and made to step into the battle raging beyond the safety of the church they'd gathered in. "You do know," the angel said, a knowing grin on his face, "that if you simply fix it, you get nothing?"

Dean narrowed his eyes. "Yeah," he said. "I know." He shrugged off the hand, threw open the doors and walked into the fray, knife clutched tightly in his hand, the angels and his brother watching him disappear into the smoky light of day.

It was the moment that ultimately decided the war, that tipped the scales in the favor of Heaven and Earth. It took the three soldiers in the chapel only a moment to realize that- the time between Dean disappearing into the seemingly hopeless battle and Castiel cocking his head and announcing with a smile that he had been reassigned.