Fucking private practice. Dumb tearjerker plots about abandoned kids got to me god damnit!
Dean's sitting in a big orange chair covered in scratchy hairs. He's five years old, wearing a green polo and red shoes which clash interestingly with the chair. Dean's holding the arm of a mangy bear with one wing and a bald patch where it's halo used to be before Sam pulled it off and chewed it. A group of Doctors, including Dr Sacks, his paediatrician, watch him anxiously through the glass partition to the waiting room.
Dean has no idea that the note he gave to Dr Sacks read –
Please don't think less of us. You of all people know how hard this is to do, and how much harder it would be to keep him with us. Sam's normal, we can't risk him in this.
We're done, and we're sorry.
Please take care of him.
Dean tugs on the bears wing as Dr Sacks tries to work out a way to tell him that his parents are never coming back.
Castiel is nine the first time it happens, and it hurts so badly he can barely breath. His skin is on fire, the muscles stretching and burning with effort, his fingers and toes curling in agony. He must make a sound because Balthazar, in the twin bed across the room, wakes up and see's him.
Castiel has no idea what Balthazar saw that night, because his perspective was rather limited. But his brother screamed like demons were coming out of him, like Castiel was dying horribly in front of him.
Which is what it felt like at the time.
Michael comes to see what the matter is, just as Castiel's body gives a last apologetic wet, shudder which feels like sliding into a cold rubber suit, and he's done.
Michael grabs Balthazar and runs from the room, screaming for Lucifer to wake up, for Gabriel to come downstairs. Castiel lies in his own sweat, thanking God that the pain is gone, that it's over. Weak and shaken with the force of it.
He tries to get up and follow his brother, but his legs are shaking and he can't make them work right. His whole body feels wrong. He lies there with his eyes closed, waiting for Michael to raise the alarm and then come to help him.
It's only a few minutes later when his brother returns with a broom and a kitchen knife, rousing Castiel from half-sleep with a yell, that he even realises something is wrong with his eyes.
Dean hates the child services lady. He hates her stupid fluffy jumpers and her thick necklaces and her little dolls that she gets out all the time to ask him how he thinks families should look. He wants his Mom, he wants to see Sam, and they won't let him.
He's been in care for a month and he hates that too. The other kids think he's weird, like all kids do, 'cept Sam. They laugh at the sounds he makes when he sleeps, the way he sometimes wakes up across the room, dazed and naked.
He's only five years old and he already thinks that, if his parents aren't coming back, then there's no reason for him to stay somewhere he hates.
Two weeks shy of his sixth birthday. Dean runs away from home.
Castiel has scars from what Michael did. None of them are from the knife, but the brief panicky tussle when Castiel came to was enough to earn him four finger nail slashes and a bad hit with the broom that made his new vision jump and left a cut over his eye.
He'd bolted from the house in confusion, bumping into Gabriel on the way and begging for help, but his brother leapt away from him and darted a little way up the stairs, staring down at him in horror.
He'd run from them, out the front door and away down the street. He'd wandered the streets and grown tired and cold, tried crying but made only terrifying sounds. Everything was weird and harsh and loud, and he'd eventually curled up in a doorway and shivered himself to sleep.
He woken up naked and alone.
When he'd made his way back to the house, Michael had stood in the doorway with their Father's revolver, unearthed from underneath the potting shed, handed him a bag of his things and told him never to return.
Castiel had walked away from his family, the only place he'd ever known, and begun his life on the streets.
Dean hated people.
He'd felt that way since he was five and his fucking parents had left him behind at a doctor's office. Since he's been put into care, and every single person he met when he ran away had only deepened his mistrust.
He was fifteen and he was sick of their bullshit.
There'd been a manhunt of course, when he'd disappeared, and frankly it had kind of escaped his notice. He'd been busy living in a box in an alley behind a diner.
At six he'd decided he hated being a person, so he'd done the one thing his Mom had made him promise never to do if he could help it.
Dean's form had been a beagle since he was six months old. His mom was a retired hunter, she'd known as soon as he changed, the night after she read to him about a beagle who chased down bad wolves. He'd shifted, he didn't even remember it, but the lore he'd found since, in a library across town, said it must have hurt.
He'd thought, later when he had the capacity to be introspective, that it must have killed his mother – the fact that he had been in pain and she couldn't help.
His parents had coddled him once he got old enough to reason with. They'd asked him not to change, promised him things that kids like (he guesses)...ice cream, stories, time at the park. But he couldn't help it, it just slipped out. So they'd started to get mad, figured he was doing it on purpose.
Then when he was four, Sam was born.
Perfect, healthy, baby Sammy.
He'd loved his brother, but at fifteen? Living in the filthy side streets as a dog for the last decade?
He kind of fucking hated that kid.
Castiel doesn't know what he hates more, being kicked as a dog or abused as a boy.
When he's in his other form, people don't check their malice, they snarl at him, boot him in the ribs and chase him away. They try to hit him with stones and maybe tie firecrackers to his tail. He's a mutt after all, a medium sized black dog that looks so thin and broken that it can't possibly belong to anyone.
But as a boy...there are people, men, who come up to him on the street, smiling. They offer him things like candy and food, then money if he keeps saying no and edging away. They smile, but they don't smile with their eyes. Their eyes are dog kicking eyes.
As an animal he sometimes gets attention, the good kind. When a woman on her work break will give him half a sandwich or children will pet him. He hates being touched by them, it's like being pawed in his human form by other children, but he likes the food, and after a thousand kicks and a hundred suggestive touches on his human skin, a pat on the head feel so good that he can forget the discomfort.
He's stuck between his two forms. Boy and animal, neither of them really work, dogs know something is odd about him, and people don't trust him either.
He doesn't fit, with anyone.
It's also winter, and he's so tired with wandering, half sleeping on the ground and freezing all the time. He chances across a box beside a bin that smells like food, the cardboard is lined with a faded blanket, but he snuffles around it and it seems empty enough. Curling up he lets his head fall on his paws and tries to sleep.
It's been six years since he slept in a bed.
Oh, Son of a bitch.
Dean pads to a stop and drops the half a burger he'd liberated from a paper bag two blocks away. There's a stray in his den and he really fucking hates when that happens. He's got a scar across his nose from the last one, and he promised himself that he wouldn't fight one off again, he'd just shift back and kick the damn thing out on its ass.
He lets his skin shiver and stretch. Somewhere along the way he'd gotten desensitised to it, could feel the heat and cold pouring along his skin and not cry out in agony. It just feels weird.
Standing up he looks down at himself, he hasn't been human for over two years and he's changed so much he doesn't really recognise himself. Though his skin feels clean enough, probably due to the grooming he does in his other form. He limps over the rough concrete and slams a hand down on the top of the box.
"Out" he growls, surprised that his voice has broken and he'd skipped the mangled stage in between.
The shaggy black dog snaps awake, looks up at him and cowers back into the box. Dean's not particularly fazed, dogs are scared of him in either form because he smells wrong, and now he even looks threatening. Which hey, can only be a bonus living as he does.
"Get out." He snaps.
The dog whines and stands up slowly, tail down and nose tilted at the ground. Dean grabs it by the scruff of its neck and pulls it out of the box, shoving it into the street. It doesn't run away, but turns quickly and sniffs at his hand, whining deep in the back of its throat.
"Go." Dean points, advancing a little.
The dog doesn't run, but yips excitedly, circling him slowly and sniffing the air, leaning up to do so. Dean doesn't recognise signs of attack, but the dog is starting to piss him off, so he draws back into a crouch and tries to growl, forgetting for a second that he's not in the right body.
The dog trots forwards, long snout angling towards his face as he draws slowly closer to Dean's snarling mouth. The dog inches forwards, sniffing, whining softly and softly sweeping the ground with a wary tail. Then, it licks him. A soft dab of pink tongue on Dean's cheek. A pair of cautious blue eyes look up at him and Dean rubs the saliva from his face, wondering why this dog has decided to take a shine to him.
"You asked for it." He grumbles, tensing and letting his body find the edge and tip into the change. He contracts and shivers down into the form of a beagle, fully grown now and scarred from several brawls with both dogs and people.
The dog doesn't move. Doesn't try to attack him, doesn't howl and run away. Instead it plants its butt on the ground, looks at him for a moment, and then does its own little shiver, a tense coil of energy as its body grows and changes from flat black to pale skin.
Dean backs away a little as the dog turns into a boy, perhaps his own age, pale and thin and with longish dark hair that matches his other form. The kid is sitting on the cold concrete, knees drawn up to his chest. He holds out a hand tentatively, Dean sniffs the very tip of his finger and scents what he hadn't been able to as a human.
The boy smells exactly like him. He changed, exactly like he can.
The beagle darts forwards and sniffs him thoroughly. Castiel knows he already understands that they're the same, but knowing that and wanting to having it re-configured as the comforting smell of 'likeness' is something else. The dog hits him in the stomach, jumping up and pressing him to the ground as it trails its cold nose up his chest, sniffs his under arm, then transfers its interest to his hair, pressing the soft, scarred snout into his tangled locks and breathing so deeply that Castiel can feel it's warm exhalations. He reaches a hand up and touches the soft belly of the small animal, the dog tenses, but recognises the touch as friendly, and relaxes again, snuffling happily as Castiel brushes his fingers over a bite mark on its stomach.
"Hello." Is the first word Castiel thinks to say. The dog woofs softly and he feels it move to the ground by his side, shivering against his ribs as it changes back to human form. Hands touch his skin, his chest and stomach, Castiel lies in the submissive, belly baring position whilst it happens. If he hadn't spent so much time prowling around naked or crouched unclothed in alleys looking for food – he'd probably be embarrassed.
The other boy's face is intent, and now that he can see it in colour, Castiel notices the green of his eyes, the brown of his hair. The boy is larger than him, stronger and better developed, though their ages might be similar. When the trailing hands slide to his hips and trace his cold thighs and the place between he makes a small sound of discomfort and the other boy looks up, seemingly surprised to find a person attached the body parts he'd been touching.
"What's your name?" He remembers it's an important question, people use it all the time, and sometimes Castiel is a person, so he's tried to re-learn the skills he let drop when he left his family.
"Dean." The boy says after a pause, like he's trying to remember a word like trebuchet, one he's never really had to use.
"Castiel." Castiel says, even though Dean doesn't ask.
"You were sleeping here." Dean says. "I sleep here."
"Sorry." Castiel mutters, wondering if Dean's going to exact some kind of vengeance for this intrusion, instead the boy shrugs and hunkers down on the pavement.
"Shift." He says, and then does so without waiting for an answer. Castiel pauses, then does so, wincing at the odd feeling. As a dog, Dean nudges him into the den and Castiel goes in and lies down on the blanket. Dean snuffles into the longish, tangled hairs of his belly, curling up and settling down in the curve of Castiel's body.
Castiel whines confusedly.
Dean huffs arm air into his stomach and closes his eyes pointedly.
Castiel goes to sleep, breathing in the scent of himself, and someone similar.