Sam is terrible at lying and everyone knows it, so why he's so insistent on trying to hide something from Dean, the older Winchester will never understand. Sam's been twitchy and awkward since Wednesday and by the time Saturday rolls around he's more than a little fed up.
"What is the matter with you?" Dean snaps when they're on the way to the park a couple blocks from Sam's apartment.
The other man at least has the sense to look a bit ashamed. "Nothing."
Lexi looks up at them both, a calculating look on her face. "Is Daddy fibbing?"
Dean raises his brows to Sam before looking down at the little girl. "I think so."
"Daddy! Fibbing is against the rules," Lexi chirps.
"I know, baby. I'm not fibbing. There's nothing wrong with me so I didn't fib," Sam says carefully. Dean has no idea how the kid has made it this far as a lawyer.
"Uncle Dean! S'not nice to call people names."
Dean sighs. "Sorry peanut, I just don't like it when your daddy doesn't tell me things."
Lexi stares up at Sam. "Me neither."
Sam avoids both their eyes and clears his throat. "Hey, let's go feed the ducks!" he says, pulling out a bag of bread from his pocket. Lexi squeals delightedly—Dean knows a cop out when he sees one.
They walk quietly—well the adults do, Lexi chatters on about the ducks and how Mr. Novak has a stuffed duck that they pass around during sharing time and whoever holds it gets to talk. Dean tries his best to let Sam's reluctance to share go and Sam does his best to look everywhere but at his brother. It's working out horribly for both of them.
"MR. GABRIEL!" Lexi screeches and tears away from Sam and Dean toward the pond. Gabriel turns and waves, a big smile on his face before patting the guy next to him who turns to face them and—
"Oh, I'm gonna kick your ass Sammy," Dean growls. Sam's shit-eating grin is gonna get him punched in the jaw one of these days.
Castiel's eyes widen comically when he sees the Winchester gang coming toward them and he drops an entire piece of bread on the ground, much to the delight of a particularly forward duck. He half turns back to the pond before seeming to think better of it and smacking Gabriel on the arm lightly and whispering something to him.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Sam deadpans. Dean glares at him while Lexi rushes up to the two Novaks. "Listen, I can only take so much pining—"
"I was not pi—"
"This is for your own good, Dean." Sam bumps his shoulder against his brother's, shoves the bag of bread into Dean's hands, and then follows after his daughter. Dean curses under his breath and attempt calm himself down. Gabriel is crouched next to Lexi, letting her stick one of her pony stickers on his jacket. Sam laughs at something the bus driver says while Castiel stands stock-still, obviously trying to avoid Dean's eyes.
"Hey Cas," Dean says. Castiel nods his hello and they stand by the side of the pond. "We've got some sneaky siblings, I think," he offers after a moment. Cas ducks his heas and nods but Dean catches the smile pulling at his lips.
"Gabriel has always been too invested in my personal life. Or more aptly, my lack of personal life," he replies, seeming to gather himself enough to toss another small piece of bread to the ducks. They watch the birds fight over the crust for a moment. "He would say, 'Castiel, there's more to life than five year-olds and vintage records'."
"Vintage records, huh? I didn't really take you for the type." Dean reaches across Cas to pluck a hunk of break from his bag. The teachers stiffens for aheartbeat, then relaxes and Dean wants to grin at the flush creeping up Castiel's neck.
"Yes. My father didn't leave much behind when he left," Cas throws another piece of bread, this time harder to match the frustration in his voice. "But I managed to hold on to his vinyl collection. I've been adding to it over the years." He tosses his last bit of break listlessly. "It's silly, really."
"Nah," Dean says. "I've got a crapload of my dad's stuff still. And I know Sammy salvaged Mom's little ceramic collection of angels after the fi—after she died." He swallows quickly amazed that even now it's so hard to talk about her. When Sam told him they were giving making Lexi's middle name 'Mary' after her, he definitely cried. Manly tears, but tears all the same. "He's gonna give it to Lexi when she's older, I think."
Castiel looks at him, his eyes soft. "You obviously loved your family very much," he says as Dean offers him some of the bread Sam stashed in his pocket.
"Yeah, still do," Dean shrugs. "Family's always been important to me."
"My family was never really that…close," Castiel replies, fidgeting with the bread in his hand. "I didn't speak to Gabriel for a long time before I got to college. Not that it was either of our faults, of course. He's older and he left home when he was eighteen to love with out cousin—though not actually related—Balthazar in England."
"After your dad left?"
"Yes. Michael and Lucifer—"
Dean's eyebrows shoot up. "As in…?"
Cas smiles. "As in the archangel and ultimately the devil, yes."
"Also after the archangel."
Dean whistles. "Growing up must have been fun. You guys weren't religious or anything, were you?" he asks with a grin.
"Just a bit," Castiel laughs. "I'm named after one of the lesser-known angels, actually."
"What, no Raphael?" Dean huffs. He totally knows the archangels. Thank you, motel room reading materials.
"That would be my other, older, adopted brother," Cas responds wryly. "Gabriel's been teasing me for years that I was a mistake."
"So what'd your angel do?"
"Castiel is the angel of Thursday," Cas says like hes reciting a textbook.
Dean snorts but quickly raises his hands in apology when Cas glares at him. "Sorry, it's just—Thursday? Just like the day?"
"The souls who are born and return to Heaven on Thursdays are under Castiel's protection," the teacher says, snatching the remainder of the bread bag from Dean's hands.
"So basically, he's kind of a big deal?" Dean asks, hoping to mollify the situation.
Castiel's lips twitch upwards at the corners. "Basically."
They watch the ducks paddle around in amicable silence until Dean clears his throat. "So you were talking about your brothers before he got sidetracked by all this angel business?"
Cas sighs. "Michael and Lucifer loved each other. They just couldn't…"
"Like each other?" Dean supplies.
"Exactly. They were always fighting and I think when Father left, it just got worse," he says quietly.
"I know what that's like, man," Dean says. "Before my dad died, he and Sam—the acted like they hated each other, you know? Sam left because he couldn't take it."
"I think that's why Gabriel left too," Castiel says, looking out onto the pond. "I resented him for a long time. I was twelve when he left me without any explanation." He picks at the sleeve of his tan overcoat. "He was the next youngest to me after out father left, he was the one I spoke too most because my other brothers were off trying to run the family company."
Dean wants to reach out and grip Castiel's shoulder, but he's not sure if he's allowed or if he did that he'd be able to trust himself enough. He studies the way the light simultaneously casts Cas's face into shadow and seems to illuminate him from within. It's distracting and kind of stupidly beautiful if Dean described things like that. "That's rough, man," he eventually gets out.
"I mean, I understand now why he left and I forgave him years and years ago, but at the time, it was the angriest I've ever been," says Cas with a sigh. He turns back to face the pond.
"Why did he?"
Dean shrugs. "Why did Gabriel leave?" He knows it's a prying question, but he wants to be able to keep listening to Castiel talk. It's hypnotizing and it's terrifying, but Dean thinks he could listen to Cas talk about mold for an hour as long as it meant he was still talking.
Cas stoops to pick up a small flower from the ground, straightens, and begins to spin it between his fingers as he thinks, seemingly of a good way to explain. "Well the fighting was part of it. Michael and Lucifer both tried to get him on their sides. He loved them both, especially Lucifer. They were the closest despite their age difference; both of them fond of jokes and tricks. Gabriel couldn't choose though," he says, touching the petals of the flower cautiously. He doesn't look at Dean. "They shouldn't have made him try."
"I think what really pushed him to leave," the other man continues, "was when they finally did agree on something."
Dean sits carefully on the ground and tugs at the hem of Castiel's coat to get him to join. When he does, he finally looks at Dean. "What did they want him to do?" he asks.
Cas smiles that wry smile again, the one that looks more like a grimace than anything else. "They told him he has to go to business school for accounting so he could join the company."
Dean snorts at the idea and Castiel looks at him curiously. "Just picturing Gabriel as an accountant."
Cas huffs out a laugh. "Yeah he wasn't really into the idea."
"So what happened?"
"My family is…well, they're pretty well off. Uh, more along the lines of 'rich'. Gabriel uses the term, 'loaded' I think," Cas says slowly. "Have you heard of Novak Pharmaceuticals?"
"Yeah of course—wait. You—Novak? You're one of the Novaks?" Dean stammers.
"Precisely." Cas shift uncomfortably. "When we were born—or adopted in Raphael's case—my father set up college funds for us. I think he wanted us to all go to school for things to help the company."
"Smart, I guess."
"Yes, but Gabriel didn't want to be an accountant. He didn't even want to go to college at all. He's very bright but he never really did will with all the structure of school. So he listened to Michael and Lucifer plan out his life for him until he turned eighteen and then he took the money and ran," Castiel explains. "He left a note for them, and years later I found out he left one for me too."
Dean frowns. "What do you mean, 'years later'?"
Cas looks at him with his brows furrowed like he answer is obvious. "Michael hid it from me."
"They'd lost their future accountant. I was next for the job. I think Michael thought he was helping me." Castiel picks at a blade of grass.
"That is totally bullshit," Dean says, crossing his arms over his chest.
Castiel smiles at the reaction. "Pretty much. I think when Gabriel found out I was in school for that he went a little nuts." He picks another flower and pulls each petal off slowly. "He tracked me down and showed up at my school," the teacher says fondly. "He pulled me right from class and into the quad. I was upset and confused and embarrassed that he would do that—just show up and expect me to…"
"Yeah," Dean nods because he knows. He did the same thing to Sam when Dad got sick all those years ago.
"And then he asked me of this is what I wanted. That was it. He wasn't angry at me or trying to pressure me either way. He just asked," Cas says, still sounding amazed after all the time that has passed. "When I didn't answer, he asked me if I'd read his letter and I was so—so infuriated because no matter how much I'd wanted there to be one when he left, there wasn't a letter. And I punched him in the face."
Dean's eyebrows shoot up. "Cas!"
Castiel laughs quietly. "He just took it too. Gabriel didn't hit me back and people were looking at us like we were crazy. After I—after I hit him, he stood there with a bruise forming on his cheek and stared at me. My whole life, all the time I knew him, Gabriel was the one who filled the silences. You've met him," Cas chuckles. "He loves to talk. But that day—that day he just stood there and the only thing he said was 'Is this making you happy?'"
"And it wasn't," Dean states quietly.
"No, " Castiel says with a said smile, "it wasn't."
They're quiet again, this time for longer than any of the others. Cas watches the ducks and Dean can't stop watching Cas. He leans back on his hands and stretches out his legs. "Did he tell you what the letter said?"
"Yes," Castiel starts. "It said that he was sorry I couldn't come with him and that he couldn't stay. He wasn't going to let the family run his life and neither should I. I found it when I went home for Thanksgiving. Michael was furious at me for going through his things."
"You should have told him to fuck off," Dean grunts.
"I did," Cas laughs. "Just in less concise words." He smiles and Dean can't help joining in. "I moved out of the house permanently at Christmas and changed my major to Elementary Education." The wind shifts and Dean has to fight past the way his throat has suddenly gone dry when Cas turns his face into and closes his eyes. He wants to reach out and touch and take whatever it is Cas is willing to give.
"Do you know what the best part of the letter was?" The teacher asks, startling Dean from his thoughts.
"What was the best part?"
Castiel opens his eyes and looks straight at Dean. "He told me that I was the one who inspired him to leave but it broke his heart when he did." Cas closes his eyes again and scruntches up his face as he recites the letter from memory. "'Castiel, you are the best of this family and you better not ever forget that. Don't let them control you. Choose your life. Make it your own. You aren't your brothers or your father. You are Castiel and you deserve to be happy.'"
"It was a lot, when I first read it," the teacher agrees. "But the p.s. really made it I think. 'Our brothers are great big bags of dicks'."
Dean chokes back a laugh but loses it when Castiel grins lopsided at him. "I can see why Sammy like him."
"Would you like to get dinner sometime, Dean?" Cas asks. "Perhaps a date where we set the time and place instead of our interfering families?"
"I'd really love that, Cas," Dean says with a grin of his own. "And that way we can plot revenge together."
Castiel laughs and tucks a flower into the pocket of Dean's jacket. "It's a date."