WARNINGS: Dubcon. Child abuse, mental and physical. Excessive use of "fuck". Character death. Homophobia.

I am not a fan of John Winchester. At all. This fic makes that very clear.

There were more brother feels than I was anticipating.

Apologies for an overabundance of italics and the word "fuck". Headcanon says it's John Winchester's favorite word, so...

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. -Song of Solomon 8:6

Dean's chest is heaving, lungs burning. He can hear his blood pumping loudly in his ears, loudly enough that it sets him even further on edge. He has no idea how long he's been running. He can't feel his feet anymore, they've been pounding into the ground too heavily for too long. His legs are screaming at him, begging for a reprieve, but he can't, he can't quite give in, it's not safe. Granted, it's never safe here, not in Purgatory, but he has to make it back to the little hidey-hole he'd found and been camping out in, else he's just a sitting duck to whatever that thing was that he ran into while searching for food.

But he's stopped now, back pressing up against a huge tree to keep himself steady, trying to quiet the heaving of his lungs and pounding of his heart so that he can hear, so he can know if that thing's still chasing him, how close it is, how desperately he needs to run or hide or fight. The fight to shut himself up is hard and long, but then he hears this whooshing sort of sound that sounds really familiar and he can't quite place it... His fingers tighten around the weapon he'd fashioned out of some poor bastard's bone, and he carefully peers around the tree.

He blinks hard rapidly, thinking for a moment that the stupid place has finally gotten to him and he's lost his marbles. But the trenchcoated angel stays firmly where he is. His scruff has turned into a bit of an actual beard, his hair is mussed, and every inch of him is covered in dirt and probably blood too, but that's him. That's Castiel. Still wearing the trenchcoat and whites from the hospital that he'd been wearing when he'd fucking vanished.

Dean's not quite sure whether he's more pissed off or more relieved. Pissed off the angel had just deserted him and was now back after who knows how long it'd been, Dean isn't really keeping track, like he hadn't just left Dean to fend off the monsters of Purgatory by himself. Relieved the idiot's alive, not the monster Dean's been running from, and someone Dean knew and, yes, okay, he still trusts him beyond all reason, despite everything. Dean doesn't have to fight this alone now. That is, if the bastard doesn't vanish again.

Dean's still trying to sort out his thoughts when he realizes he's storming out from behind the tree and right up to Cas. He's grabbing the angel by the lapels of his trenchcoat and shoving him up against a tree, and he's pretty sure he's growling under his breath like an animal. Cas's eyes have gone huge and shocked and who's to say whether it's shock because he wasn't expecting to see Dean or because of Dean's reaction. Dean doesn't waste a thought on that, though, and finds himself latching his open mouth to Cas's. He shoves his tongue in roughly, drinking in the sharp gasp Cas emits. Dean lets go of the trenchcoat and moves his hands to Cas's neck and hair, digging his nails into skin and yanking at hair.

When Dean pulls away from Cas's mouth to kiss-well, more actually bite at Cas's jaw, Cas breathes out Dean's name in a stutteringly ragged sound that really should bring Dean to his senses-he's pretty sure there's a note of fear in that sound-but all it does is send a stream of pulsing heat straight to his groin. Cas's hands have found their way to Dean's back and his fingers seem to be clawing at the leather of his jacket. A pleased, bass hum sticks itself in Dean's throat and he pushes himself up against Cas's body more forcefully. The little huff of breath that leaves Cas's lips tickles Dean's neck, encouraging him even further.

One of Dean's hands leaves Cas's hair and dives for the waistband of the hospital pants. When Dean's fingers managed to wrap around Cas's cock, Cas gives a startled jerk underneath the pressure of Dean's body and he croaks Dean's name again, a strangled, terrified sound that Dean automatically interprets as desperation and want. Cas tries to twist away, but Dean only grins harshly and raises his hand again to push Cas's shoulder hard against the tree bark. If Cas actually wants to get away and stop this, Dean tells himself, he very easily could. The dude's a friggin' angel after all. The twisting and moaning is playful, that's all it is.

Both hands now keeping Cas in place against the tree trunk, Dean shoves his hips against Cas's. Cas's hands stop scrabbling at the back of Dean's jacket and fall to clutch at the bark behind him as Dean grinds and ruts against him, face buried in the angel's neck, sucking and biting at the skin hard enough to draw blood. He barely pays any mind to the small, wrecked sounds being drawn from the angel's throat like torture. It's dirty, it's frenzied, and it's the most frantic sex Dean's probably ever had and it's only seconds after Cas goes completely still underneath him, a halting gasp and a sudden warmth seeping through the thin white cotton, that Dean's own orgasm tears through him. His fingers dig deeper into Cas's shoulders as he forces himself to stay on his feet and, this time when Cas hisses his name Dean actually manages to push himself back. He pats himself down, mouth twisting at the uncomfortable damp sensation between his legs, then looks up at Cas with a forced grin. He claps a hand on Cas's shoulder, not allowing himself to recognize the wince of pain that flashes across the angel's face.

"Good to see you again, buddy."

Cas's electric blue eyes seem more fiery than usual, but Cas doesn't let his old familiar stoicism falter. He blinks at Dean owlishly for a few moments as Dean looks him over. His lips are redden and swollen, hair sticking out on ends. The right side of his neck is already bruising, a few spots of bright blood mixing with the dark greens and purples. His clothes are rumpled and the crotch of his pants are stained. It's almost enough for the animalistic fever inside of Dean to rear it's head again. Instead, he jerks his head in the direction he'd been running towards earlier.

"Here. I'll show you home sweet Purgatory home."

Castiel doesn't vanish.

They don't talk about it, either. There's some part of Dean that recognizes that Cas hadn't really seemed thrilled at the idea, and there was this underlying ripple of fear and shock in his eyes, but Dean doesn't let himself dwell on that. When the thought passes through he shoves it away with the knowledge that Cas could have stopped it, could have flitted away with a mere thought, if he had really wanted to.

Dean doesn't ask why Cas had vanished in the first place. Cas doesn't tell.

They fall into a weird sort of routine. The hidey-hole (a sort of crevice that went underground some rock) becomes home base. It seems to do a decent job of hiding them and giving them a place to rest. They leave only for food and water. It's unavoidable to leave, though, and not run into some nasty creature, so they always go together. Watch each other's backs. Some days it's worse than others.

It's cold underground. Dean's a bundle of rock hard muscle from the tension of trying to sleep on the all too solid ground and too cold air. But now that Cas is here, Dean finds himself waking up wrapped around the angel's stiff but warm body.

They don't talk about that either.

It happens again. Back in the crevice after a particularly bad day outside. They'd been ambushed by a pack of shapeshifters, and one of them had managed to shift into Cas during the initial fight. Dean hadn't realized the fake Cas was fake and had ended up trying to breathe through his own blood as his punctured lungs deflated. Real Cas had then Hulked out, leaving all the shifters unconscious in the grass, before healing Dean up with a touch. Dean had forgotten about that particular perk, fully expecting to spend his last moments choking on blood on the Purgatory floor. The panic and distress snapping into surprise and relief-an all around rush of pure adrenaline-results in a quick session of grunts and gasps on the icy cold floor of the cave they called home.

Cas doesn't seem much less edgy about the whole thing. Dean continues to not dwell on that. They still don't talk about it.

Soon it becomes more than just a once or twice thing. Dean starts to recognize how much of a stress reliever the whole process is, and Cas still isn't actually doing anything to stop it so Dean presses forward. It becomes part of the routine: after a day of fighting off monsters and finding something to eat, they come back to the cold and dark of their home base for a desperate and rough few moments of rutting and grabbing, after which Dean almost immediately falls asleep, curled around the stiff form of the angel.

Sometimes Dean wonders why Cas doesn't take control. He's plenty willing to shove Dean behind him during a fight outside but hiding in the black of their cave, Dean is the dominant figure. Something whispers to Dean that it's because Cas doesn't really want this, that he's not really a willing participant in these... activities, but Dean is stubborn. He simply will not allow himself to go down that train of thought. Just like he's not willing to give this thoroughly fucked up thing they've got going on an actual name.

He knows it's fucked up. Dammit, he knows. But, honestly, this whole place is fucked up. They're in Purgatory. Land of the monsters Dean's grown up killing. He's already run into a couple he ganked back in the real world. And the horrible thing about fighting monsters in Purgatory? They didn't die. They couldn't. Dean supposes it makes sense, after all, he hadn't been able to die on Alastair's rack in Hell, but it didn't mean all this shit didn't fucking suck.

There's one night after Dean's already fallen into a heavy sleep (Cas doesn't really sleep so Dean feels comfortable allowing himself to be all but dead to the world) when the inevitable happens. A swarm of vampires finds it's way into their hole of a home. Cas has Dean on his feet in seconds, his favorite leg bone weapon already in his hand, and the next half hour is a blur of screams and hisses and slashing on instinct as he's still trying to wake his brain up. By the time Dean fights his way through and outside into the buzzing night air, Dean's long lost track of Castiel. There's still screeching coming from the cave, though, so Dean doesn't dare go back in, especially after he notices the gigantic gash in his leg.

Muttering a string of curses under his breath, Dean limps away to find somewhere he can hide as he tries to fix up his leg somewhat. He's gotten used to Cas being able to just heal him all the time so he's stopped being so careful anymore. He should've known it would come back and bite him in the ass. He finds a bunch of bushes that seem thick enough to hide him for the time being and crawls under, hissing as branches scrape against the gash.

He falls asleep before he can really do much of anything about the wound.

It's light when he wakes. A weird sort of hazy green light that accompanies the mornings here in Purgatory. The pain in his leg seeps into his consciousness in a slow dull ache and he winces as he opens his eyes to get a look at it. It doesn't look good.

It takes him a moment to realize the light's weirder than usual. He freezes, suddenly recognizing it's a shadow of something. He tenses, quickly looking around for some form of weapon.


Relief floods through Dean like a poison. The bush brustles around him as Castiel moves branches out of his way.

"Dude. I thought you were dead."

Cas's mouth twists and he moves to help Dean up. He eyes the gash with a frown.

"That looks bad."

Dean chuckles dryly. "Think you could do something about it?"

They have to find somewhere new to hide at nights. The search doesn't go well. Cas ends up guarding Dean like a dog during the night, and Dean sleeps awful. In the midst of this, they meet Benny.

Dean doesn't trust Benny. But he has a way out. And he fights well. And he knows his way around Purgatory. Well, and he has a damn good sense of humor. Dean can tell Cas doesn't trust Benny either. But more than that, Cas really seems to dislike Benny. Dean decides not to give it much thought. It's just Cas being Cas.

There's one time when Benny returns from wherever the hell he goes as Dean is zipping up his fly. Cas is still hunched over with his pants around his ankles, panting like he just ran a marathon. Dean doesn't make a big deal about it. Really, he doesn't even react. Benny looks between them with eyebrows high on his forehead and a slight smile, but he doesn't really comment either. From then on, Benny lets them know he's returning before he appears. Gives them a chance to clean themselves up a bit. Dean's silently grateful. Benny talking about it would mean Dean would have to talk about it and acknowledge it, and he still just was not about to let that happen.

Castiel wasn't supposed to be left behind. That hadn't been part of the plan. But Cas had been exhausted and slow for weeks before they finally got out and he'd just... Dean doesn't really understand what happened. He just knows he and Benny got out. Cas is still in Purgatory.

The real world sucks.

The guilt of Cas still stuck in Purgatory sucks.

And Dean's still not going to admit it, but he misses the stupid angel like hell.

When Sam finally drags it out of him what actually happened (meeting Benny was a party), Sam practically has them drop everything and work solely on getting Cas back. Dean is exasperated and frustrated, but secretly he's grateful.

Honestly, it's a shock when they finally do get him back. Dean's pretty sure even Sam had all but given up hope. Cas had given up long ago. But the light that flickers in his eyes... It's something Dean hasn't seen in who knows how long. It's beautiful.

That night, after Sam leaves (Dean's not sure why, he wasn't exactly paying attention), Cas almost immediately presses himself up against Dean's body, and Dean almost, almost forgets they're not in Purgatory anymore. As soon as he remembers, he's pushing Cas away, ignoring the surprise, and there's no possible way that could be hurt, in those big blues.

"That was Purgatory," he bites out gruffly. "This is the real world. It didn't mean anything, Cas, it was just a release of tension and, and a need for human... angel... whatever, contact."

Cas's expression tells Dean he doesn't quite understand. But he doesn't argue. And he doesn't try anything again. Things go back to normal. Like they were before things fell to shit.


Things don't really change much in the next month or so. There are monsters to hunt, of course. And the world's trying to off itself. Again. You know: the usual. Dean's almost settled into some form of content when Cas jumps him again. He's all teeth and hands, and Dean's completely thrown at first, but he gets his head back and shoves Cas right off him. This time, though, Cas doesn't have the decency to look shocked or hurt or really anything satisfactory. No, he actually looks determined and maybe a bit exasperated which makes absolutely no sense at all until Cas finally says something.

"Sam told me about Nick."

Dean's so caught off guard that his mind actually, fully, completely goes absurdly blank. He actually has to force himself to blink. Once. Twice.

"What?" he hisses hoarsely.

"Your father's gone, Dean," Cas says, taking a step closer. Dean tenses and wants so badly to counteract that step, but he'd have to walk through the wall pressed up against his back so that's not happening. His mind is abruptly trying to catch up, going into hyper-speed and moving through so many thoughts all at once he feels he might be sick.

"Your father's gone," Cas repeats. "And he was wrong anyway."

"I-" Dean chokes on his own voice and, shitfuckdamn, what the hell is going on? "I don't know what you're talking about."

Cas actually looks sad. The bastard looks sad, like Dean's some poor wounded thing that he has to take care of, and that just pisses Dean off.

"I love you, Dean."

And that just about takes the cake. Dean is actually choking on his own spit now, and Cas just keeps pushing forward.

"I understand that you were hurt. That your father made you believe that your feelings were wrong and something to be ashamed of. But together we can work through this."

"Cas-" Dean manages to say, a bit breathlessly. He's panicking, dammit, he's actually panicking. "You're wrong. We talked about this, remember? It was Purgatory, it didn't-"

And now Cas looks annoyed. "Dean, stop lying to yourself."

What. The. Hell.

But the walls are starting to crack. The mention of Nick and then Dad, and they're just sitting there, chipping away at those walls that Dean has worked so long and hard on, and memories start seeping through, and suddenly Dean's drowning, and he doesn't know what to do about it.

There must be something in his expression because Cas softens quickly and raises a hand to Dean's cheek. Dean flinches wildly but doesn't draw away. It's like something's forcing him to stay still, forcing him to accept the creepily comforting and loving gesture.

"I love you," Cas says again and Dean's drowning, drowning, drowning... "And I can't be around you and Sam without wanting you. It's a surprisingly painful experience for me, Dean. So I need you to either let go of past grievances and be with me or... not."

Dean can't breathe. He has no idea how long he stands there, staring into Cas's electric eyes, wild with passionate determination, unable to breathe. His lungs actually start to burn before he's coherent again.

"Cas..." he lets out in a small, quiet breath. "I... I can't..."

The reaction is instantaneous. The soft touch of Cas's hand drops and Cas is suddenly two steps back. His expression flips from open and soft to blank and guarded. Angry. He practically glares at Dean, mouth pressed into a thin line.

"Fine. If that is what you choose. Fine."

And then Dean's staring at thin air.

It takes Dean about a half hour of near hyperventilation to patch up the walls and sweep away the remnants of the flood. By the time Sam gets back, Dean's pulled out the younger Winchester's laptop and is watching anime porn.

Dean Winchester deserves a fucking medal.

Seriously. He is the king of repression. He's been doing it all his life. Even before Azazel had killed his mom and overall ruined everything, John Winchester had still been fucking things up with Mary. Dean had still been cleaning up his father's messes, and that's just not something a small mind can handle very well. So he learned early on the craft of repression. And he's been repressing anything and everything ever since. Dean Winchester has so many walls, so many dams set up in his mind that if they ever broke, if something ever managed to tear them all down at once, it would probably kill him. Sam's Hell-wall breaking was nothing. Sam confronts nasty things head on. He doesn't repress them.

Dean just never learned how to really deal without the use of a combination of repression, violence, and alcohol.

Which he enthusiastically throws himself into after that last night that Castiel came on to him.

Especially when Cas makes it obvious that he's not going to let the whole debacle be forgotten.

He doesn't actually say or do anything about it, though, he just is suddenly all standoffish. He'll come when they call, he'll help if he can, but he doesn't linger. He'll give them the information they need and then fly off without another word. Which Dean would be perfectly fine with if he didn't actually miss the bastard (a point he was trying desperately to repress, but it wasn't working) and if Sam didn't obviously notice something was weird.

Sam kept quiet, though. He probably just assumed it was something the two of them needed to figure out on their own. But then he invites Cas to join them after they wrap up the hunt they're currently on for a burger. Cas had never turned down a burger with the brothers after he'd gotten back from Purgatory. It had been a point of amusement between the three of them for a while.

Cas turns down the burger this time. Dean's not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed. Or terrified when, after Cas flits off, Sam rounds on him, his jaw set.

"What did you do?"

"Whaddya mean?" Dean does not stammer. He doesn't. In fact, he's keeping steady eye contact with Sam, challenging.

"You heard me," Sam says, not even slightly backing down. "What did you do?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Sammy."

"Did Cas talk to you?"

"Excuse me?"

"About what happened in Purgatory. And what you're not letting happen now."

Dean blanches. "He told you?"

Sam rolls his eyes dramatically. "Yes. Well, no, not in so many words. I kinda figured it out, Dean, I'm not blind. The tension between you two could've been cut with a butter knife for years. Cas just didn't deny it when I asked him about it."

"I-you-what?" Dean splutters. Sam sighs heavily, and it's that overly patient "stop being dense, Dean" sigh, and it sort of makes Dean want to break his nose.

"Will you drop the macho 'I'm completely straight' act?" Sam says wearily. "I remember Nick. And I've seen the way you check out some guys."

Nick again. Damn it all to hell. It's like Nick has suddenly decided to haunt Dean and the guy isn't even dead yet. At least, not to Dean's knowledge. Damn, maybe he is and he really is haunting Dean...

"You probably don't remember, but I was right there when Dad blew up on you about Nick. I heard every word he said, and he was homophobic bastard, Dean. And he scared the hell out of you, I get that, but, dammit, for once in your life, the universe is trying to give you something you want, and you're just shoving it away!"

Dean's falling into another panic, and the dam he worked so hard on repairing is cracking again, yet Sam's not stopping.

"Did Cas talk to you about you two or not?" Sam asks, patiently setting a firm hand on Dean's shoulder. Dean jerks away from the touch and glares.

"He jumped me," he growls. Sam looks surprised but not even close to as much as he should.

"Oh. Wow. Okay. But-"

"And then he gave me a fucking ultimatum, Sam!" Dean continues in a hoarse bark. Sam's slowly disappearing from view, and it's Nick and then Dad and then Cas, Dad again, Nick again, and all three are morphing into one character tall as Sam.

"I couldn't-" Dean chokes, grappling desperately onto reality. "I don't-Dad-"

"Whoa, Dean, breath, dude." Sam's the one talking, but it's this terrifying mutant Sam/Nick/Dad/Castiel creature, and Dean just can't anymore, and he's turning tail and running away.

By the time Dean comes back enough to himself to really recognize his surroundings, he's in the Impala driving down some road even more recklessly than usual. His knuckles are white on the steering wheel, and his lungs are burning from lack of air. It takes him another moment more to realize why: he's full on hyperventilating. He manages to recognize the need to pull off to the shoulder of the road and puts the car in park, meaning to stumble out into the cool night air, but he can't seem to make his limbs work anymore.

The mutant creature has taken on more of Nick's form and some sick, twisted part of Dean is revelling in the image. Nick is still a seventeen-year-old kid, all gangly limbs and awkward angles. His thick, dark hair is as curly as ever, and his grey eyes are still dancing with soft amusement and caring.


Nick's voice had already dropped to a nice bass. Dean had always admired his voice. Being only a scrawny fifteen-year-old himself, his own voice was still squeaky and cracking at that point.

Dean's fully revelling in the image now. Nick's smiling at him, that warm, older brother smile that just made Dean's insides all funny. Jeez. Fifteen-year-old Dean was a total sap.

"Dad and Sammy are out at the library so we've got the room all to ourselves."

Nick's arm is strong and warm around Dean's shoulders, and he presses a kiss to Dean's forehead. "Awesome."

There's a "Star Wars" marathon on tv so they turn that on as they settle down together on one of the beds. Nick's still got his arm around Dean, and Dean sort of misses the first bit of the movie because he's thinking about how it's sort of strange that for once in his life, he's the one being taken care of more or less. It's kinda nice. He tells Nick as much during one of the commercials and Nick just chuckles, rustling Dean's hair like Dean always does to Sammy.

After the movie's over, they get rather lost in each other. Nick's this perfect mix of rough and gentle, and it drives Dean up the wall. It honestly takes way too little time before Dean's nails are digging into Nick's shoulder blades and his pants are uncomfortably damp. That doesn't stop them, though. Not even close.

Eventually they do tire, though, and Dean falls asleep curled up at Nick's side, half on top of him. Nick's long fingers brushing through Dean's hair seems to act as the perfect lullaby.

Dean has no idea how long he's asleep, but he wakes to Nick whispering in his ear.

"Hey, Dean, I think your dad's back..."

"Shit." Dean's immediately awake and flailing off the bed, and he can hear Dad talking with Sammy, their voices getting steadily closer. Before he can really think, Dean's shoving Nick off the bed urgently.

"Go, go, get out of here, I'll see you at school tomorrow," he's hissing, trying to make the bed look less like they'd just been cuddling, having sex, and sleeping there but probably really only making it worse.

Nick doesn't argue-Dean had explained how much of a hardass John Winchester is-he simply grabs his bookbag and bolts out the door, but not before he halts briefly to flash a wide grin and a wink at Dean. Dean has to squash the stupid giggly feeling at that, grabbing the remote and turning off the tv that's still showing Luke Skywalker battling it out with Darth Vader. He makes another attempt at straightening up the bed just as Dad walks in.

Dean whirls around to face Dad, immediately falling into attention like a good soldier. Dad's already looking around suspiciously, and Dean knows he's just exuding guilt, and then Dad's eyes fall on the bed and there's that familiar glint.

"Had a girl over today, have we, Dean?" he rumbles lowly. Dean opens his mouth to reply, but then Sammy walks in. Tiny eleven-year-old Sammy, completely oblivious to everything.

"Hey, Dean, was that Nick? He come over today?"

Dean's mouth falls into an odd impression of a fish: opening and closing slowly as he sees, no, feels Dad go from annoyed to shocked to understanding to angry to furious.

"Sammy. Go get cleaned up."

"What?" Sammy says, looking up to Dad in surprise. "But-"

"Just go, Sammy," Dean says quietly, too quietly, and Sammy can tell because now he's looking at Dean uncomprehendingly and maybe a bit worried, but he's not arguing anymore, and he slinks off to the bathroom.

Dean doesn't remember what Dad said. Or. Well. Screamed. Honestly, he probably doesn't actually know because he was already shutting down as Sammy was walking into the bathroom. He knew he was going to have a new one torn open for him, and he knew the best way to get through it was to mentally shut down and just take it. He can take a guess, though. It would be the usual stuff. The stuff about how you don't have time to waste on stupid stuff like this, we're on a hunt and a dangerous one at that, so you need to grow the fuck up and act like a fucking adult. You're too fucking young for this anyway, and you're never going to see this person again, so why waste your fucking time? Your mother died, you ungrateful brat, and in this family, we work in her memory, we hunt and kill things so that other people don't have to go through what we went through, but, no, Dean Winchester is too good for that and can spend his time fucking like a rabbit with anyone who looks his way twice.

Of course, it took a different twist this time. There were probably screams along the lines of no son of mine is going to grow up a faggot. It's unnatural and, dammit, Dean, we fight the unnatural every day, I'm not about to have you turn into one of those fucking monsters. I'd rather see you die at the hand of a wendigo than see you turn into some unnatural disgusting faggot. Do you understand me, Dean Winchester? I will not have a fucking faggot for a son!

The next day, Dean's at school and he's still in a daze. Between third and fourth period he stops by his locker and suddenly Nick's there, leaning up the lockers beside Dean and smiling.

"Well, hey there, gorgeous."

Dean flinches and shrinks back, and Nick's smile falters into concern.

"Hey, dude, you all right?" He's reaching out, probably to put a comforting hand on Dean's shoulder, but Dean jerks back, away from the touch.

"Don't," he says hoarsely, and now Nick looks really concerned and worried and, jeez, that look could just break Dean's heart if it were still intact at this point, but it never really has been, Nick was just the flimsy tape until Dad tore that away.


"Just-" Dean interrupts quickly, picking his backpack up and slinging it over his shoulder. "Don't. I... I don't ever want to see you again." The words tumble out in a rush, and Dean can't look, he can't look at Nick's face anymore to see that expression, whatever emotions might be displayed out there for the world to see, and he's slamming his locker shut and running, running...

His legs take him to where the ghost they're currently hunting haunts. An old halfway burnt down farmhouse. He's already inside the house before he realizes he doesn't have any weapons on him. He's got his backpack. If blunt force worked on a ghost... but it doesn't. He's just about to turn around and trudge home when suddenly he's flying backwards, and there's a very pissed off looking middle aged man in ghost form hovering in front of him. Dean scrambles back to his feet, but the ghost is too fast, and it's hands are around his neck, and Dean's scrabbling at the hands, but dammit, they're ghost hands, he can't actually get a grip on those, however much they can get a grip on him, and he's gasping for breath, choking and spluttering, and there are grey spots forming in his vision, and he suddenly gets a great idea.

Why struggle?

Why fight?

He could just... let go.

And, for a moment, he does just that. He stops struggling and just allows the darkness to cover his eyes.

And then he hears an eleven-year-old voice screaming out his name.


He can't just let go. His own life might be shit and worthless, but Sammy... Sammy's worth something. He has to protect Sammy. He has to take care of Sammy.

But by now he's too far gone. His lungs are losing their quest for air and the grey/black spots covering Dean's vision have all but taken over.

There's a loud crack, and then something solid and fast hits Dean square in the chest. The ghost hands vanish, and Dean's falling backwards, choking and coughing and hacking as his lungs desperately try to refamiliarize themselves with oxygen.

"Dean! Dean! Are you okay? Dean!"

Dean wants to answer, to reassure his little brother, but he's still having trouble just re-teaching himself how to breathe properly, and before he can fully do that strong, rough hands are on his shoulders, dragging him up to his feet.

"Stupid, stupid boy! What were you thinking? No weapons, no salt, you just decide you can take on the ghost by yourself, huh? In the middle of the day, just ditch school and walk over here without letting me know! Fucking worthless, Dean!"

And Dean's still coughing when suddenly he's reeling backwards from a backhanded slap across the face.


"Shut it, Sammy!" It's a full blown roar this time, and Dean's cringing and just praying that Sammy does shut up. The side of his face is pulsing, he's still gasping and coughing from being strangled, and his chest is throbbing from where the rock salt had hit him. And that's just the physical side of things.

Dean didn't go back to that school. He stayed in the motel room for the rest of their stay, and Sammy and Dad took care of the ghost. He never asked how they knew where he was in time to save him. He didn't care. He was too focused on staying curled under the covers in bed, all his energy being put into forgetting.

Dean lets out a strangled gasp as he wrenches himself back to the present.

"My father was an obsessed bastard!"

More than that, though... Dad was a bigot. Dad was abusive. He'd scarred Dean so badly, Dean was still reeling from it now, even after going through the Apocalypse, through Purgatory, through fucking Hell. The realization hits Dean like a truck, and he's throwing the car door open and keeling over to retch out the remains of his last meal on the side of the road.

He takes a moment longer to let himself reel at the suddenness of John Winchester's tumble from the pedestal.

And then he remembers what got him here tonight in the first place.


Dean doesn't really know what the hell he's doing. And the stares from Sam are getting rather annoying, frankly. Dean wants to call for Cas, but he's too afraid Cas won't answer. Which is probably ridiculous but dammit, Dean's treading water here.

And then, finally, they need Cas's help on a hunt. Sam calls him up, and Cas gives the needed information, and Sam's looking at Dean expectantly because somehow the punk knows even though Dean never told him what happened that night when he ran off, and Dean's running out of time so he just blurts out,

"Hey, wait, Cas!"

Cas freezes and then slowly, agonizingly slowly, turns to meet Dean's gaze. Dean shrinks. Dammit.

"Uh. I was just. Uh. Well, we're not gonna get this thing tonight, so maybe we should... I don't know. Go out. Or something. Hang out. Like, at a bar. Or whatever."

Sam's eyebrows are practically hidden in his hair, and Dean's mentally letting out a string of curses. That was real smooth, Winchester. Real smooth.

The only change in Castiel's expression, though, is his eyes narrow ever so slightly. He seems to be trying to search into Dean's soul-which, probably isn't actually that far off-to try to find a hidden motive. Dean can only shift his weight uncomfortably and give a wavering, hopeful smile.

"I'll pass," Cas says finally, and before Dean can protest, the angel's disappeared.

But it doesn't stop Dean from trying.

Over the next few weeks, every time they call Cas for help, Dean invites Cas along for drinks, a burger, join them on the hunt, whatever Dean can think of in the moment. Cas always declines, but Dean doesn't stop trying. He'll go to the grave still trying if he has to, he's decided. He's not going to give this up.

Late one night, Sam and Dean are tracking down a shifter. They've followed it's trail to a large abandoned factory. They're at the trunk of the Impala, loading up on supplies, when Cas shows up. Dean jumps. It's been far too long since Cas has shown up without being called.

"Cas! What are you-"

"It's a trap."

Dean and Sam share a look, eyebrows raised. "You wanna explain, Admiral Ackbar?" Dean asks.

Cas frowns at him for a brief second before replying. "The shapeshifter you're looking for is not in that building. A squad of angels is waiting for you instead."

"Angels?" Sam repeats, looking dumbfounded. Cas looks annoyed at their density.

"Yes. About twenty of them."

"Wait, why-" Dean starts, but Cas cuts him off shaking his head.

"It doesn't matter. I'll take care of it." He reaches out and claps them both on the shoulder and, with a familiar lurch in his stomach, Dean finds they've all flown to their motel room.

"Wait, Cas, you can't take on twenty angels-"

But Cas is gone.


Sam's at the window, peering out into the parking lot. "He didn't bring the car. We can't go after him."

"The fucking idiot is gonna get himself killed!"

Sam looks at him with that stupid doe-eyed sympathetic look and sighs. "I'm gonna go over to the gas station few blocks down, get us some food. Try not to wear a hole in the floor."

Dean scowls at him, which Sam dutifully ignores as he walks out the room. Dean then spends the next half hour muttering swear words and pacing. He's just about ready to say fuck it all, he'll just hijack a car and drive over to the factory when he hears that rushing sound of wings. He whirls on the spot and there's Castiel and, dammit, he's alive and that's all that matters.

It's probably a reaction far too similar to that first time in Purgatory, but Dean's too far out of his mind with worry to notice. He grabs Cas by the shoulders, shoves him up against the wall, and latches his mouth to Cas's like it belongs there. Cas stiffens at first, ever so slightly, but then he's melting into Dean's arms, and he raises a hand to the back of Dean's neck, fingers curling in his hair gently. His lips are chapped and his technique is sloppy, but Dean doesn't care. He pulls back for breath after a moment, resting his forehead on Cas's.

"Dean," Cas whispers in a breath, and Dean could cry because Cas isn't running away, Dean isn't using him like he had in Purgatory, and Dean doesn't fucking care that Cas has stubble and a dick, he's Cas and he's Dean's angel and Dean is his broken human, and that's all that fucking matters.

Dean leans in to kiss Cas again, and Cas tilts his head up to meet the kiss. Cas lets out a slight moan when Dean nips gently at Cas's lowers lip, the noise going straight to Dean's groin, and the next thing he knows, he's moving his mouth over Cas's jaw, his neck, that bit of his collarbone that peeks out from under his shirt. His hands are trying to find their way under the trenchcoat and suit coat, to the buttons on the white dress shirt, and Cas lets out a grunt that would encourage Dean further, but he could swear that's actually a grunt of pain. He pulls back slightly to look up at Cas, but something catches his eye, something bright and white... Dean looks down to the source of the light, and his heart jumps into his throat.

"Cas..." he lets out in a horrified whisper. His hand flutters over the light pouring out of Cas's side, unsure of what to do. Cas's head falls back onto the wall with a light thunk, and he lets out another low groan.

"Dammit, Cas, why didn't you say something?" Dean whispers, fighting the panic building up inside his throat. Cas gives him a sort of strangled smile, and then the smile drops suddenly as his knees buckle and he tumbles to the floor, Dean trying hard to keep him steady.

"No no no no no no no no, Cas, hey hey, stay with me, we can fix this, okay? We can fix this." He's rambling and he's not sure if he's talking about the grace spilling out on the floor or the two of them, but either way, he's determined and frantic, and Castiel is bleeding grace and, dammit, why didn't Dean notice earlier? Cas's breathing is steadily getting more and more ragged and uneven, and now the pain is so blatantly obvious in his expression that Dean feels like he's dying himself, and this isn't fucking fair.

He raises a hand to Cas's face, brushing hair off his forehead, keeping the angel steady in his other arm. "Look, you stay with me, and we'll fix this, I promise. You're not leaving me now, Cas, not now. We'll fix this, we can fix this..."

Cas coughs, a small, weak sort of cough, and looks back up to meet Dean's eyes. There's so much pain in those electric blue eyes, so much emotion there that Dean wishes he had time to decipher...

"I'm sorry, Dean," he whispers hoarsely. Dean shakes his head frantically.

"No. No, what do you have to be sorry for? I'm the one who should be sorry, I am sorry, I treated you like shit, worse than shit, in Purgatory, and when we got out I wasn't any better, dammit, Cas, I'm so sorry, but we can fix this, just stay with me, okay?"

It's like there's this force swirling up inside Dean's chest, spinning faster and faster, making the blood in his ears rush, making his throat raw, his muscles tense, his eyes water. He presses his palm against Cas's cheek, and it's warm, too warm, and wet from tears and sweat and, dammit, this isn't supposed to be happening.

The light has been getting steadily brighter and larger, and Dean's trying to ignore what that means, but then it's bursting bright, and Dean has to shut his eyes, and he can feel Cas go rigid in his arms, and there's screaming, but Dean's not sure if it's Cas or himself, he just knows someone's screaming, and if it's him screaming he doesn't think he'll be able to stop.

And then the room goes suddenly dark and quiet. Dean slowly opens his eyes, the pounding in his chest seeming to echo throughout the small motel room. Cas is limp and heavy, eyes closed and jaw slack. A brief, panicked and clingingly hopeful glance tells Dean there are wings, black and huge, burnt around them on the floor, the wall, even Dean's arm.

It probably hurts. He can't tell. Everything else is on fire.

Sam returns to the motel room with some donuts for Dean and a couple bananas for himself. He juggles the food in one arm as he digs in his pocket for the room key, opening the door ready to yell at Dean to stop fretting and go to bed or something. He stops dead at the sight of huge black wings charcoaled on the wall and floor opposite the door.

It takes him a moment to get past the horrified awe to see what was between the wings. Dean. On his knees, bowed over the angel. Castiel. Sam would recognize that trenchcoat anywhere. Sam takes a moment to send a hateful spew of curses at the God who'd left them all in the dust. For once Dean had been given something he wanted. For once Dean actually took it. Only for it to be snatched away at the last moment.

Only the Winchesters.

Sam sets down the donuts and bananas and comes up behind Dean gently and quietly. Dean completely freaks out on him when Sam tries to pull him away, but Sam persists, resorting to pulling Dean into a firm hug, ignoring the beating fists and hoarse curses. When Dean finally gives up, slumping against Sam almost lifelessly, Sam drags him to the bathroom and pushes him towards the shower. He tells Dean to clean up, not to drown himself in the process, and Sam'll take care of the body. Sam tries not to notice the violent flinch Dean gives at the word "body".

Sam would like to forget the next hour or so of his life. All he can think about is how, if this is hurting him so much, how much worse Dean must be right now. He's not entirely certain if he trusts Dean to follow his order or if he'll come back to the motel room to find he has a second body to burn.

He doesn't. The light's still on in the bathroom and the water's off when Sam returns. He pauses by the door, though, to listen for a moment.

"Fuck. Dammit. Fuck fuck fuck."

Sam frowns and opens the door slightly. Dean's at the sink, well-worn jeans on but no shirt. The handprint scar on his shoulder is a bright, angry red, standing out under the black feathers of the wingprint. Dean's got a washcloth, and he's scrubbing angrily at the black, an almost constant stream of curses flowing from his mouth. From the raw color of the skin underneath, it's obvious he's been at it for a while.

And the wingprint's not coming off.