Sam groaned when he felt the bottom seam of his backpack give way and dump his books all over the floor. He bent down to gather them up, ducking so none of the other kids rushing around trying to get to class wouldn't accidentally kick him in the head. Nobody stopped to help, not that Sam expected it; being the new kid meant being invisible, and Sam had been that new kid enough times in his life that he didn't expect anything else.
By the time he gathered them up the hallway was empty. Sam supposed it really didn't matter, it wasn't like he would have made it to class on time anyway; the way the corridors sprawled meant that taking a wrong turn could mean wandering around hopelessly lost, and Sam knew he'd made at least two of those already.
He balanced the books in his arms, debating with himself whether it would be worth it to find his way back to his locker or just muddle through and find his class. He lost his grip on the top book when he tried to take a look at his schedule, hoping he was at least close to the right track; it was when he bent down to pick it up, balancing the stack on one knee that he heard footsteps behind him.
"Well, look who's lost."
Sam cringed. He looked around but there were no teachers in sight; with no rescue imminent there was nothing for Sam to do but turn around and face it. While usually Sam knew he could count on being left alone, in each of the many schools Sam had been in over the years there was always that one guy who took it upon himself to haze the freshmen and any new kids.
And here, that guy's name was Gordon Walker.
Sam had been dodging him for the past week but he guessed it was about time for his luck to run out. And Gordon wasn't alone; Sam didn't know his sidekick's name but knew him by sight well enough, he was the kind of guy who had a big picture of Jesus on his locker door but still amused himself by pushing around the younger kids. "Leave me alone, Walker."
"You hear that?" Gordon said, sidling up next to Sam as his cohort came up around to block him in. "And here we were being concerned." He nodded over to his friend. "The two of us, we heard your old man just up and abandoned you and your brother here."
Sam narrowed his eyes. "My dad's away on business."
"Bounty hunting's a business now?"
"What? Got something he'd bring you in for?"
Gordon smiled. He leaned in close, looming over Sam. "The rumor I heard was that he's hellbent on finding the guy who'd killed your mom. That true? Is he looking for the one-armed man?"
Sam didn't answer, his hands balling into fists. Gordon's friend decided to join the party. "Rumor I heard said he offed her himself."
Sam took a swing at him, unable to stop himself; he was too off balance to make contact and only managed to drop his books all over the floor again.
Gordon pushed him against the wall and Sam knew he wouldn't get another chance. "You shouldn't have done that. You're supposed to respect your elders." That smile of his widened. "It was a fire, right? Part of the Lucifer murders. The fire started right in your bedroom, I read," he taunted, and God, Sam hated the internet sometimes. "I tell you, the Lucifer murders were nasty. All those rumors about devil worship, and there's you and your mom right in the middle. Was your mom a freak like that, Sam?" he said, a leer in his voice. "Are you a demon child?"
"Doesn't picking on the freshmen ever get old?"
The new voice came from behind, one deep enough that for a second Sam thought it might be a teacher, but when the other two turned around Sam saw it belonged to a boy with messy dark hair who Sam guessed was around Dean's age. The newcomer's blue eyes squinted as he looked at them. "You should leave him alone."
Gordon heaved out a heavy sigh. "Not your problem."
The other boy's head tilted to the side like a puzzled bird's. "I thought it was clear I was making it one."
Gordon's sidekick swaggered up him and Sam winced; Jesus freak had a solid inch on him, maybe two. "Pretty ballsy taking us on without your shadow."
That seemed to amuse the boy. "I don't need Uriel here to fight the two of you."
Sam thought he recognized the name Uriel, and not for good reasons, but he didn't have time to dwell on it; something about the boy's confidence seemed to unnerve the other two. Sam could tell by the way the two of them kept glancing at each other that this wasn't a fight that was going to happen, and the suspicion was just confirmed when Gordon said, "It figures the freaks all stand up for each other. C'mon, let's go."
Sam's heart kept pounding until he saw them disappear around the corner. "Thanks," Sam said when the other boy crouched down to help him with his books. "I'm Sam."
"I know who you are, Sam," he said, that amused look on his face again. "My name's Castiel."
"Yeah?" Sam said, piling the books back into a stack. "What kind of name is that?"
That just made Castiel frown. "It's because I was born on a Thursday," he said, as if that made complete sense.
"Um...okay. I just never heard it before. I mean, is it religious, or...?"
"Is there something wrong with my name?"
"No! No, I didn't mean it like that, I just..." He sighed. "I was just curious. I used to have a book on names and where they come from, I like that stuff. I'm not usually this big a dick, I swear." He wrapped his arms more securely around his books. "Can we start over?"
Castiel did that head tilt thing again. "Of course."
"Thanks for helping me out. Most people don't jump in on things like that."
"Kubrick and I have fought before," he said, and now at least Jesus Freak had a name. "His understanding of Scripture is...suspect."
The way he said it made sound like that was the most offensive thing he could think of. "I guess there are dumber things to get into fights over." He gave Castiel a grateful grin when he took some of the unsteady books from the top. "Thanks. Hey," he said, putting the remainder under his arm, "didn't it bug you when that jerk called you a freak like that?"
Castiel's brow just furrowed. "Should it?"
And it was the way he said that, not blustering the words out the way Dean would but as if it honestly hadn't occurred to him that he should be bothered. "You're kinda weird, huh?" he said as he shook his head, the words just slipping out, and Sam smiled as he said it to make sure Castiel absolutely knew he meant it as a compliment.
Fortunately, the other boy seemed content to take it as one. "Thank you. I've been told that before."
"Cool. Hey, any chance you know where room...312 is?" Sam said, glancing over his schedule.
Castiel nodded. "It's off in a side corridor. I think they assign freshmen classes there just to watch them get lost." He started to lead the way, glancing behind to make sure Sam was following. "I had freshmen English there."
"Same here. Looks like it's mostly poetry."
"And not very good ones," Castiel commiserated. "How does this school compare to your previous ones?"
Sam wondered for a second how Castiel knew there had been multiple other schools, but he supposed word got around. "I don't know. One more hive of scum and villainy, I guess."
Castiel's brows furrowed in confusion again. "Surely it's not that bad?"
"Dude, it's a quote. You know, from Star Wars?" The confusion didn't fade. "The movie?"
"Oh. I haven't seen it."
Sam felt the whole day grind to a sudden halt. "Wait. Wait a second, you've gotta be a junior or a senior, right? How old are you?"
"Um...seventeen?" he said, clearly at a loss as to what had happened to the conversation.
"And you've never seen Star Wars?"
Dean pushed open the motel door and was immediately confronted by the ear-blastingly loud sound of starfighters dogfighting and Han Solo barking out, "Don't get cocky!" telling him Sam had beat him home. Which was weird, because Sam was still supposed to be in school; just because Dean had decided to cut class today didn't mean Sam got to do the same thing. "Sam? What the hell are you doing here?"
He rounded the corner and pulled up short; Sam was curled up on one side of the suite's dingy sofa in what Dean supposed technically counted as a living room, a greasy bowl of popcorn in his lap and mouthing each line as he stared starry-eyed at the motel's thousand-year-old television. That was normal, dorky Sam Winchester behavior - what surprised Dean was that he wasn't alone; seated on the floor was another boy, a guy around Dean's age, his arms resting on his knees with his own bowl of popcorn in his lap. "Sam, what the hell?"
"Cas hadn't seen Star Wars," Sam said, with the exact horrified tone sane people would use when finding out that some deadbeat hadn't fed their kid for a week.
"Hello, Dean," Cas said, waving one hand vaguely in Dean's direction.
"Hey," Dean answered back, giving Sam a skeptical, seriously, what the hell? look as he threw himself on the other side of the sofa and snatched some of Sam's popcorn. "What's Cas short for? I knew a Cassidy once, but that's kind of a chick name..."
"Castiel," he said, cutting Dean off.
"...Isn't that also kind of a chick name?"
Cas sighed. "I'm named for the angel of Thursday. It's really not that remarkable."
"Man, if you say so."
"Ignore him, Cas," Sam chimed in. "Dean really is a total dick." Then he kicked Dean once for good measure.
Dean decided to be the bigger man and let that go. "Are you new, too? I don't think I've seen you around."
For some reason Cas smiled at that. "You sit two rows in front of me in history."
"Oh," was all Dean could think to say, feeling heat crawl up over his cheeks. "Well. I guess we haven't really..."
"You cheated off me on the quiz three days ago," Cas said, giving Dean a knowing look, and Dean pretty much wanted to sink through the floor.
"Oh. Um." He drummed his fingers against the arm of the sofa. "Thanks for not ratting me out."
"I didn't mind," Cas said, ducking his head. "I intentionally answered some wrong so you wouldn't score suspiciously well."
"I...thanks." Dean couldn't think of anything else to say; that honestly had to be one of the nicer things someone had ever done for him. "I think that teacher has it in for me."
"She's not a very good teacher," Castiel sighed.
"Guys, shut up. Movie."
Dean just grinned, leaning down toward Cas. "Sammy takes Star Wars super seriously," he said in an exaggerated stage whisper.
"I noticed," Cas answered back, a conspiratorial grin on his face.
"Both of you. Shut. It."
Dean threw some popcorn at Sam but gave in, settling back against the sofa to watch the rest of the movie.
Two and a half movies later the trilogy credits were scrolling down the screen and Sam had dozed off sometime around the Ewoks first showing up. "So, what did you think?" Dean asked, keeping his voice low to avoid waking his brother.
Castiel looked much more thoughtful than Dean would ever expect someone to be about Star Wars. "I enjoyed it a great deal. The way it tied into Joseph Campbell's work on heroic archetypes was intriguing."
Dean didn't know what that meant but he was still pretty sure it was one of the nerdier things he'd ever heard in his life. "Whatever, man."
"I was glad Luke was able to come to an accord with his father," he said softly, almost in a wistful way Dean didn't understand.
"Should have taken you for a Luke guy. Me, I like Han. Not that either of them can hold a candle to Kirk, anyway. Kirk's from..."
"I'm aware of Star Trek, Dean."
"Cool," Dean said, feeling like he'd won somehow.
"How long will your own father be away?" Cas said, changing the subject so quickly it caught Dean off guard.
"Wish I knew," Dean said with a big sigh. "A while this time, a few months at least."
"You miss him a great deal."
"I tell you, every time he comes driving up it's like the best day of my life. I can't wait to get back on the road and forget all about this place. No offense, I mean," Dean backtracked, realizing too late how that sounded.
"I suppose if you move around enough forgetting becomes necessary for survival."
"I wish Sam would figure that out. He pitches a fit every time."
"Rumors say your father's a bounty hunter."
Dean grinned. "My dad's a total badass. He finds missing people, fugitives, all that stuff. He's let me go on hunts with him, the past couple of years. I keep trying to get him to let me take the GED and just stop this school shit but he says I need to stick with it to keep an eye on Sam."
"Should I take it you mean to become one as well?"
"Never wanted to do anything else." He got up and grabbed two beers, handing one to Castiel. "Don't tell anyone you got this from me, okay?" he said, popping the top on his can. "So, what's your dad do?"
Castiel's expression clouded. "I don't know," he said, staring down into his beer. "He left a long time ago."
Dean wished he could reverse time; he didn't know what was wrong with him, he was old enough to know that could be a loaded question. "Hey, dude, sorry, I didn't..."
"It's fine. I was very young when it happened. I have no memories of him," he said, as if that made it in any way better.
"It still sucks. I'm sorry I asked."
"There's no need for you to be. You couldn't have known."
"How about your..."
"My older brothers look after me," he said, a firm we're not talking about this anymore tone in his voice.
"Okay." Dean did know when to back off when he heard it. "Thanks for hanging out with Sam," he said after a few quiet moments. "He doesn't always make friends so easy, and us moving around is hard on him sometimes."
"I don't have any younger siblings," Castiel said. "I've always wondered what that would be like."
"They're total brats who always call for rides home when you've got a girl in the back seat," Dean said, grinning. "Hey, speaking of rides, it's getting late. You need one?"
Castiel shook his head. "I texted my brother Uriel before the last movie started. He should be here when he's able."
Dean just raised one eyebrow. "You got a brother named Uriel?"
Castiel's eyes cut toward him. "Yes?" he said, a clear challenge in his voice.
Dean bit his lip before the words Were you guys raised in a cult or something? could come flying out, because Dean might have his moments but he knew that would be a seriously dick thing to ask. "Nothing," Dean said, the word coming out just a little too quickly. "Your family's, um...one of those theme name families. I knew a girl one whose whole family had C names." Dean let out a little sigh of relief when Castiel seemed to accept that. "So, when's he showing up?"
Cas frowned. "I'm not sure. I thought he would be here by now."
Dean drummed his fingers against the arm of the sofa again. "Cas, can I ask a question?"
The other boy looked up at him, his brows drawn together. "Of course."
"Why do you talk like a time traveler?" Okay, Dean realized as the words came out that sounded pretty bad. "I mean, you talk like you're out of an old movie."
Dean was surprised to see him blush bright red. "I suppose I do sound peculiar to you." He picked at a stray thread on his sleeve. "I'm also not particularly skilled at making friends," he admitted. "My family can be rather...insular. Especially when I was younger I was dependent on them for company, and the older ones don't..." He let that trail off. "So I read a great deal. I found myself preferring the way people expressed themselves in the books I read. I understood them better." He looked up at Dean again. "Do you have a problem with how I speak?"
"No." He was surprised Cas had asked that. "It's cool. I like it," he said, realizing as the words came out how much he meant it. Castiel smiled at that, and Dean had a feeling that if Cas smiled like that at school more he'd have girls all over him no matter how he talked. "You think you have time for another movie? I got Crank 2 from the Redbox on the way home."
"Are you sure? It is late. I don't want to put you out."
"Dude, I'm watching the movie anyway, and besides, tomorrow's Saturday. Sit, relax. Let me get Sam in bed and I'll make some more popcorn."
"But I haven't seen the first one."
Dean scoffed at that. "Seriously, I don't think it matters."
Dean didn't know what was keeping Castiel's mysterious brother, but at least they got to finish the movie. "So, what'd you think?"
Cas was still staring at the screen. "I have no idea what I just watched."
"But it was cool, right?"
"Told you." Dean yawned; staying up late was nothing unusual but even he was feeling a little tired by now. "Seriously, if you need to crash you can..."
Just then there was a knock on the door and Dean jumped up to get it; the motel manager had been giving him the stink eye ever since it became clear it was just him and Sam staying there and people knocking on the door at all hours wasn't going to be any help. He took a step back when he opened the door; Dean hadn't recognized Castiel but he sure as hell knew his brother, if this was his brother, by face if not by name. Uriel looked more like a offensive lineman than high schooler, tall and broad, dark-skinned with a shaved head. Dean remembered the first time he'd encountered the guy, the impression he'd had that he was the type who'd always just thought of a joke and it was always somehow about you. "I understand that you've kidnapped my little brother."
Dean hated him immediately. "You're Uriel?"
He smiled at that, the way a shark would smile at a fish. "You don't see the family resemblance?"
Dean heard Cas sigh behind them. "Uriel, don't bait him." He turned around to see Castiel already standing with his bag on his shoulder. "You took your time."
"You could have told me which motel you needed me to come to," he countered, eyeing the room like it was crawling with filth. "There's three by this name." When Cas walked up Uriel put one hand on his shoulder. "The school almost called Michael about you cutting class," he said, keeping his voice low but not low enough for Dean not to overhear.
Cas went pale at that, and Dean knew that was why Uriel had said it, so Dean would know Cas had almost gotten in trouble. The dick. "But they didn't?"
Uriel shook his head. "I covered for you," and Dean felt his stomach churn at the sheer relief on Castiel's face. "At least give me some warning next time."
Cas nodded. "Thank you." He looked over his shoulder as they left. "I'll see you on Monday, Dean."
The door closed before Dean could say anything in return.