I'm sowwy *puppy eyes* I did not mean to take so long to update. Many things prevented me but you will be pleased to know my writing bug is back and I have the rest of the story outlined so I'm hoping to be finished by the time I start uni again on 17th of February.
I'm also going to apologise in advance for this chapter. There is much feelsy angst in it but not terrible, just much. I wanted to write you something nice after... well... after the mid-season finale *sobs hysterically* but this all needed to happen. But dear god, did I want and need to write something nice so I'll try and get some fluff out after what happened... (spoilers ahead)
And oh my freaking god, that hurt so freaking much. At least with Gadreel off with Sam's body it means Dean has no reason to keep Cas away anymore so we will get more gorgeous Destiel. And jesus christ I just... WAAAHHHH! I want my Kevin back!
Ahem, sorry. On with the chapter!
Two weeks after the night they silently agreed not to speak about, Michael called Dean into the kitchen where he was fussing over dinner, looking harried.
"What's up Mikey?" Dean asked and it was a mark of how stressed he was that Michael didn't even respond with the eye roll he always did when one of them shortened his name.
"My..." Michael looked like he was in pain for a moment as he turned to Dean with a grimace on his face, "dear, darling brother called me this morning."
Dean frowned and looked around to locate Gabriel and Lucifer and Michael shook his head quickly.
"I mean Raphael," he said and Dean blinked.
"Oh, yeah Gabriel's mentioned him before. What's wrong?" Dean leant on the counter as Michael wrung his hands together and looked around warily. "Cas is in watching Sam and Gabriel playing Mario Cart. Just say whatever it is."
"He's coming home for Thanksgiving!" Michael cried out and threw his hands up. "I don't know if I can deal with this. I mean Inias and the others are coming so I shouldn't be too worried but Cas doesn't do well around Raphael and..." Michael rubbed his forehead. "I was going to ask anyway because I hated the idea of you and Sam alone for the holiday but now I really need you to say yes, so... I'd like you two to join us for Thanksgiving."
Dean smiled, warmth filling him but then the smile faded. Michael raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"Sam and I usually have Thanksgiving with Bobby," Dean explained.
"Invite him to join us then. The more guests the less likely it is Raphael will cause a scene," Michael explained distractedly.
"You know, Gabriel implied that none of you get along with Raphael. What's the story there?"
"I honestly hope you don't find out, I'd rather you didn't start a fight with him." Michael gave Dean an apologetic look. "I'm sorry I'm so flustered. He normally only comes home for the Summer breaks. Never Thanksgiving. When he called and said he was coming home I thought it was a joke, I still hope it is. I hope he cancels or just doesn't show up."
Michael tugged at his hair and Dean grabbed his wrist the way Lucifer does when Michael's panicking. He squeezed.
"Calm down," he insisted.
Michael took a deep breath and leant on the bench beside the oven. "I'm sorry Dean. The idea of Raphael coming here..."
Michael studied Dean's face. "You aren't going to let this go."
Michael sighed. "Raphael's adopted."
"Our father and Uncle Inias were only a year apart and they were very close. So close that they went to the same university and did everything together," Michael began. "At college my father had a roommate, Uriel. He became Father and Inias' best friend. After college, Uriel joined the Marines. He served a tour of duty over in Iraq and then he came back to serve here. He got married and had a son, Raphael. Uriel's wife was killed in a car accident when Raphael was still very young so the Navy gave him time off to get used to being a single parent."
"They needed his platoon to go to Afghanistan. Uriel went, leaving Raphael with us. Uriel was killed not three months later. His will requested for my parents to be Raphael's legal guardians. When Raphael turned seven they asked if he would mind being adopted by them. Raphael loved Lucifer and I and our parents, so he said yes, and then he officially became a Novak. Not long after that Castiel was born."
Dean suddenly felt sick, he had some idea of where this might be going.
"For two years everything seemed alright... except Castiel didn't talk and he took a very long time to learn to walk." Michael ran a hand through his hair. "Our parents took him to a doctor who diagnosed him with autism and explained their options. Uncle Inias asked them to let him pay to send Castiel to the Son-Rise Program when he was old enough."
"It's a special program designed to help them. It's intensive and very unique and it has produced some amazing results. I don't quite know everything they do but I know it would have required our parents leaving us with Uncle Inias to go for, a year, two years, I can't really remember but they didn't want to do that and our father refused to let Inias pay for it. So they decided they could deal with it. And for six months it seemed that everything would be okay then I watched our father pack his bags and leave. He couldn't deal with all the special attention Castiel needed."
"Our father was the only real connection Raphael had to his real father and when he walked out, there was no connection anymore."
"Raphael doesn't like our uncle. You'll meet him at Thanksgiving, I think you'll really get along with him. He can't wait to meet you." Michael smiled slyly. "Rachel informed us of your trip to Kansas State."
Dean flushed and turned the conversation back on its original course. "So what happened with Raphael?"
"He was resentful towards Castiel but not severely. Then when our mother got sent to the psychiatric hospital and it fell to Lucifer and I to care for our siblings... Raphael didn't like that. He was uncooperative and downright nasty towards Castiel. As soon as he got a full-ride to Penn State, he left. And he only comes home for Summer breaks which he mostly spends out with friends, not that I'm complaining. When he comes home Castiel becomes even more withdrawn than usual. It's... I really hope he isn't actually going to be here."
"Well, I'm going to be so even if he is, Cas will be fine," Dean promised.
Michael sighed, a smile of honest relief crossing his face. "Thank you, Dean, thank you so much. I am looking forward to meeting Bobby."
"Do you want me to bring anything?" Dean wondered.
"Not at all. But if you want to show up early and help out I'd be so grateful."
Michael smiled and pressed a knife and cutting board into Dean's arms, directing him to the bench to assist with preparation for dinner.
The day before Thanksgiving Dean pulled up next to an unfamiliar car in the Novak's driveway after school.
"Well, shit," Gabriel commented would-be casually from the backseat but Dean could hear the tension underneath. Dean looked at Cas who was staring at the car with an expression of apprehension.
"What is it?" Sam questioned, looking between the others. Nobody answered him and he frowned unhappily.
It was a long, silent time before anybody moved.
"We may as well get it over with," Anna suggested. "Who knows... maybe he'll be all grown up?"
"You say that every time he comes home." Gabriel rolled his eyes. "Come on Sammy. I'm hungry, out."
Sam climbed out so Gabriel – who drew the short straw that day and was seated in the middle – could clamber out after him. The three approached the house warily, Sam more confused than anything while Dean just focused on Cas.
"What do you want to do?" Dean wondered. Cas tore his eyes from the car and looked at Dean's face for a long moment before practically leaping into his lap and burying his face in Dean's jacket. Dean's eyebrows shot up and he ran a hand through Cas's hair. He was trembling. "Hey, it's alright. I'm right here. I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you, remember?"
Cas nodded slowly.
"Good. Come on, let's go inside. See if Luci used his day off to bake."
It took Dean several more minutes to convince Cas to get off him so he could get out of the car but as soon as they were Cas had latched onto him, using Dean's bigger body for protection as they moved into the house. They moved into the kitchen to find a very tense Lucifer nursing a mug of black coffee.
"He's not here Cassie," he said, looking at the way Cas was hiding behind Dean. "He dumped his bags and went for a walk."
Cas didn't relax. In fact his hands tightened where they were clutching Dean's jacket. Dean looked down at him worriedly before glancing at Lucifer.
"He's going to be home soon. Before Raphael, I hope." Lucifer was still watching Cas. "Bobby's still coming tomorrow, isn't he?"
"Yes," Dean confirmed. "He's looking forward to meeting all of you. Especially Cas."
Lucifer smiled slightly and got up. He dumped the last of his coffee in the sink and came over to drop down into a crouch by Cas.
"Why don't you help me cook dinner, Cassie?" Lucifer suggested. "We'll make burgers, from scratch, the way you like."
Cas looked tempted.
"I'll help," Dean assured him. "I won't leave you alone. I promise on Baby."
Cas hesitated but then nodded and Lucifer grinned.
Even though it was early they started cooking immediately, Dean and Lucifer discussing his essays for his college applications. Cas began to relax until the front door opened. The three of them all looked around but it was only Michael, looking tired and unhappy. He joined them in the kitchen, accepting the hand Cas held out with a warm, albeit small, smile.
"He's not here now?" Michael wondered.
"I have no idea where he went," Lucifer shrugged. "I kinda hope he doesn't come back. Maybe it was all a hallucination."
"That car looks pretty real."
"I could ram it with Baby and check," Dean offered. Michael shot him a half-hearted stern look as he sat at the table, Cas going with him, still holding his hand.
"I'll beg if I have to Dean, but please don't start anything with our brother," Michael requested tiredly. "As much as you might want to, please."
"If he leaves Cas alone then we won't have a problem," Dean argued stubbornly. Anyone who caused Cas to shake with fear deserved the be beat over the head with something hard in his opinion. Especially if that person was supposed to be family.
"It would be best if you didn't pick a fight at dinner tonight at least," Lucifer said. "When Raphael comes home our mother decides to rise from hell and join us for dinner."
Dean's head whipped around so fast his neck cricked. He rubbed the spot while staring at Lucifer in horror. He tried to say something but couldn't find the words.
"Don't worry, we sit her as far away from Cassie as possible," Lucifer promised.
"She shouldn't be allowed near him," Dean scowled. "Why does she live here?"
"It's... complicated," Lucifer tried.
Dean, bristling in agitation, didn't get the chance to demand a real answer as the front door opened again and they all fell silent, turning to look. Dean tensed up at the sight of tall, dark, severe looking man who walked through the front door. He was shaved bald and dressed in dark, nondescript clothing. Dean didn't like him.
Raphael looked over at them.
"Who's he?" he asked, nodding at Dean. Dean went to take a step forward but Lucifer pressed a hand to his chest.
"Dean Winchester," Michael explained. "A friend. He, his brother Sam and their uncle will be joining us for Thanksgiving."
"Oh, of course." Raphael's eyes swept up Dean's form then back down. "Rachel mentioned your little miracle boy."
Dean opened his mouth to reply but he felt movement and looked down in time to move his arm so Cas could wrap his around Dean's waist and hide against him.
"I'm going to unpack."
Raphael left then and Dean slumped back against the counter, running a hand absently through Cas' hair.
"Well, now you've met our darling brother," Lucifer sighed.
What followed was probably the most awkward dinner Dean had ever attended and he could still remember the dinners with Bobby and John after their falling out years ago. Nobody spoke for a long time so the only sound was that of cutlery on plates and chewing. Dean sat between Gabriel and Cas, with Michael on Cas's other side.
Gabriel was tearing at his burger with far too much savageness as he stared down the table at Raphael and Melissa. Cas was simply picking bits of bread off his bun and occasionally eating a bite of the hamburger patty. The only person eating possibly less than Cas was Michael who was just staring at his plate.
Dean glanced over at Sam sitting next to Anna and Lucifer. He was glancing around the table warily. Sam didn't know the story behind the Novak mother and Michael's legal guardianship of his siblings. Nor did he know the story behind Raphael. So the poor kid was incredibly confused but definitely smart enough not to be the first one to speak.
Cas sat back and pushed his plate away. Dean and Michael both looked at him worriedly.
"You not hungry buddy?" Dean asked. All eyes except Raphael's drifted over to them.
Cas shook his head miserably.
"Would you rather something else?" Michael wondered. "There's leftover cottage pie."
Cas shook his head again, staring down at his hands in his lap.
"There you go, babying him again..."
Dean turned slowly to look at Raphael, hands clenching into hard fists on the table.
"You wanna say that again?" he asked darkly. Raphael raised his head, one eyebrow arched in a challenge.
"I don't know who you think you are, Winchester-"
"Dean, I feel really sick."
Sam's voice cut through the tension at the table and suddenly Gabriel and Michael were at the teen's side, Michael pressing his wrist to Sam's forehead to check for a temperature and Gabriel offering him a glass of cool water.
"You don't feel hot," Michael said.
"We have ginger ale in the fridge," Anna said. "It should settle your stomach."
There was movement as Michael and Gabriel moved Sam upstairs to lie down, Anna went to the kitchen to pour Sam a drink. Lucifer began clearing the table, shooting Dean a meaningful look.
Cas was getting up and heading towards the stairs. Dean followed him, glowering heavily at Raphael as he went. He wanted nothing more than to punch him in his smug face but he went with Cas instead. Cas was heading to Gabriel's room where Sam was being settled into the bed.
"You okay, kid?" Dean questioned as they entered.
"Just not feeling good," Sam shrugged. Dean frowned at him. He looked perfectly fine. In fact he seemed more than happy with Gabriel fussing over him the way he was. There was probably nothing wrong with him but Dean wasn't going to give him away. He'd acted in perfect timing, giving everyone a reason to disperse without making it even worse. Dean was going to buy him that book he'd been eyeing off for the last month as a thank you.
Cas went to Sam's side and reached out slowly, patting him on the shoulder a couple of times before backing off. Sam smiled warmly at him.
"I'm okay," Sam assured him.
Anna and Lucifer joined them then with a glass of ginger ale and a bowl of water and a washer respectively. Lucifer made Sam sit up and put the damp washer on the back of his neck. Sam smiled at him gratefully and sipped at the ginger ale Anna passed him.
"If you need anything you let me know," Michael said, arms folded. Dean could see the traces of a smile playing around his mouth. He wasn't fooled. He practically raised Gabriel, he probably knew what fake sickness looked like a mile off. "Are you things for tonight in the car?"
"I brought them in," Sam replied.
"You think you'll be okay to eat Thanksgiving lunch?" Anna wondered.
"Luci makes the best pumpkin pie you'll ever eat," Gabriel added.
"Really?" Dean looked at Lucifer sharply. "Why have you been hiding you pie skills?"
"He knew he'd be your personal slave if he told," Sam teased. "I should be fine. It's probably just a little indigestion. You don't have to hover."
"Okay, everyone out. Let him lie quietly," Lucifer ordered. Sam plucked at Dean's sleeve and he leant down closer.
"Don't start a fight, Dean, please," Sam begged.
"I'll try," Dean said half heartedly. Truthfully, he knew he'd probably end up getting into it with Raphael before lunch was even on the table the next day. "Thanks anyway."
Sam smiled ruefully and turned to Gabriel who was bringing a chess set over to the bed.
Dean and Cas left the room and Dean looked down at his friend.
"You need to eat something. Why don't I take you somewhere to eat?" Dean offered. "Jo and Ash's mum makes the best burgers ever."
Cas looked up at him and then shook his head. Instead he took Dean's hand and pulled him into his room. They ended up curled up on Cas's bed, Dean reading softly as Cas snuggled against him, still trembling a little every now and then. Dean had promised to protect him, to make sure he didn't have to be scared.
He scowled to himself as he realised he wasn't doing a very good job.
Dean and Cas were both startled into the world of the waking by his bedroom door bursting open and a bright, overly-enthusiastic voice crying "Cassie!"
Dean was staring around warily. Cas looked terrified for a moment until he focused on the figure in the door and then he smiled. Dean stared at him in amazement. It wasn't a shy or sad smile. It was bright, warm and welcoming. He climbed out of the bed to cross the room to the blonde teen who beamed down at him.
"Long time, no see, cousin," he said, moving his eyes to Dean and narrowing them sharply. Dean recognised a warning when he spotted one and he flushed involuntarily as he realised why he was being glowered at.
He realised then that this was the second time he'd slept with Cas beside him, snuggled into his arms. He frowned at the spot on the bed beside him, unsure how he felt about this. Dean didn't like to sleep with anyone. He usually left one-night stands after the act was done so he wouldn't have to wake with them clinging to him. But twice now he'd slept soundly with Cas in his arms, not caring when he woke up to find they'd wrapped themselves around each other.
"Come on Cassie, Rachel and Alfie want to see you. And I'm sure Dad would be very interested in the boy sharing your bed."
Dean felt his face heat again. "Hang on-" he attempted but the boy had already left. Cas avoided Dean's eyes for a moment before following.
Dean huffed in frustration. He was starting to wonder if Sam had had a point about Cas's feelings. Dean shifted uncomfortably. What was he supposed to do if Sam was right?
Clearly whatever he did would end up getting him castrated. He was sure he'd just met Balthazar. And was sure Balthazar didn't like him one bit.
Dean took his time in the bathroom and hunting down his overnight bag for a change of clothes before going downstairs. There were warm waves of conversation and laughter drifting in from the living room as Dean slowly made his way there. He didn't think he'd ever heard this family sound so happy. He was surprised they were after the tension the night before.
As soon as he appeared in the doorway his brother greeted him and Cas jumped up, rushing over to grab Dean's hand and drag him over to the three blondes who had been fussing over him moments ago. They were all staring in shock at the pair's joined hands.
He looked up and smiled at Rachel whose eyes were shining with tears.
"Hi Rachel," he said.
"It's good to see you again."
Cas tugged Dean's hand impatiently and pointed at the two boys. Balthazar, who was still glaring hostilely at Dean, and the youngest must have been Samandriel. He was the youngest in the room, probably a year younger than Sam.
"Okay, Cassie," Rachel smiled. "Dean these are my younger brothers Balthazar and Samandriel, we call him Alfie."
"Where does that come from?" Dean asked with a grin. Samandriel shrugged and stood up. He turned and went to tap the shoulder of the last unfamiliar person in the room. He was playing cards with Lucifer and Sam. Dean glanced around the room. Anna and Gabriel were playing chess. "Where's Michael?"
"Making breakfast with our mum," Samandriel commented, glancing over and pestering the man again. "Dad, come and meet the guy Rachel and Michael couldn't stop gushing about!"
The older man looked up from his hand of cards and smiled when he spotted Dean.
"You must be the famous Dean Winchester," he said as he joined them. His eyes flickered to where Cas was gripping Dean's hand and his smile widened. "I'm Inias Novak, it's fantastic to finally meet you."
Inias offered a handshake and Dean accepted, feeling a little embarrassed. It was difficult enough accepting the way Michael treated him like he was something special. Now there were more people who looked at him the same way.
"You've heard a lot about me then?" Dean asked warily.
"Of course. Michael and the others haven't been able to stop talking about you and how great you've been for Castiel," Inias explained. Michael appeared in the doorway then to summon them all for breakfast. Inias put an arm around Dean's shoulders and he tensed automatically as the man led him from the room, Cas following along still holding Dean's hand. "And to see him, far less introverted than the last time we were all together... Dean, you have no idea what that is like. I remember the day my brother and Melissa received the news that Castiel had autism. They were so upset and worried. They didn't know what to do. How they were going to care for a child with such high needs alongside their four biological children and one adopted son."
Dean looked down at Cas who was staring at his feet.
"Well... you know how that turned out I'm sure." They sat at the table, Inias beside Dean and he turned to him to continue talking. "Michael has done a great job but I was concerned at how it was wearing on him."
They looked over at the twenty three year old who, for once, actually looked twenty three. He was laughing and smiling with a woman who must have been Inias's wife Hester, Lucifer and Anna as they brought the food to the dining table.
"But now... you've lifted some of the burden," Inias continued, his eyes back on Dean. "You've given him hope that he never had before."
"Hope?" Dean wondered.
"That Castiel will make enough progress that he will be able to lead a relatively normal life without the constant presence of carers and psychologists," Inias explained.
Dean smiled weakly and began helping himself to bacon, eggs and fried tomatoes, passing each plate to Cas as he did so he could serve himself. Inias looked at him for a moment and then changed the subject to colleges. This Dean was only slightly more comfortable with but was grateful for the change.
Breakfast this morning was a stark contrast to dinner the night before. Even when Raphael came downstairs to eat the atmosphere barely changed. Cas tensed and moved closer into Dean's side. Raphael luckily said nothing though he did shoot Dean and Cas a condescending look.
After everyone had eaten their fill Michael gathered the dishes and put them in the dishwasher before shooing everyone out besides Hester, Anna, Dean and Lucifer so the five of them could begin working on lunch. Sam and Cas remained at the dining room table. Sam produced a notepad and started teaching Cas how to play boxes.
"When's your uncle getting here?" Anna questioned Dean.
"Soon," Dean replied. "He was really looking forward to meeting you guys."
Michael looked up from stuffing the turkey and smiled. "We've also been looking forward to meeting another member of your family."
Anna and Dean ended up covered in juice trying to make the cranberry sauce and Lucifer ushered them over to the dining table so he could save it before they made a bigger mess.
Cas stole the wash cloth from Dean with a small smile and started cleaning the juice from his face. Dean grinned at him before swiping a finger covered in sticky liquid across Cas's cheek. Cas blinked in surprise and then huffed unhappily, swatting Dean's face with the cloth.
Their laughter was broken by the sound of a knock on the door.
Sam jumped up in excitement.
"Bobby!" he cried, answering the door. Dean smiled and glanced over into the kitchen to see Michael wiping his hands and moving out to join them with a grin. Sam was treating the Novaks' house as if it was theirs. Dean found himself pleased. Sammy really needed something stable in his life and this was it. This place was slowly becoming more of a home for them than their childhood house.
Dean had thought he would never feel that way, that house holding the only memories of his mother that weren't tainted by her sickness, but being away from that place meant thinking about her didn't hurt so much. Being able to breathe somewhere stopped the memories from being stained with pain.
He tried to get up to greet Bobby but Cas stopped him, focusing on cleaning Dean up. It didn't matter since Bobby came over to the table anyway, presenting Michael with a bottle of wine and six-pack of beer.
"Ooh, that's good stuff," Lucifer grinned, stealing the wine from Michael.
"What my brother means to say is thank you, Mr Singer," Michael smiled.
"Call me Bobby, son, might as well," Bobby grinned. He turned to Dean and raised his eyebrows. "Just what have you been up to boy?"
"Cooking," Dean smiled, ducking away from Cas's hand.
"Looks like it," Bobby grunted. "Is that...?"
"Hey Cas, come here," Dean got up and pulled Cas over to Bobby with a smile. "This is Bobby Singer, my adoptive uncle. Bobby this is Cas."
Cas peered up at Bobby shyly before waving once, his hand tightening around Dean's. Bobby returned the gesture and smiled at him before Dean took him around to introduce him to everyone else. Balthazar was once again glaring at the sight of Dean and Cas attached at the hand. Dean really needed to find out what his problem was.
Bobby noticed Sam's heart eyes at Gabriel and looked at Dean with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, I know," he shrugged. "Nothing I can do."
Dean was thrilled to see Bobby, Michael and Lucifer chatting as Hester and Anna finished up lunch and began piling the table high with food. Lucifer pressed a beer into Dean's hand with a wink and Dean looked warily at Bobby who just smiled and mouthed 'one'. Lucifer also handed one to Gabriel when he looked affronted at Dean getting alcohol.
"Hey, what about me?" Balthazar demanded.
"You're sixteen and it's not up to me," Lucifer responded. "It's up to your parents and I doubt they'll let you."
Dean smirked and laughed which only earned him a darker look and he shrank towards Bobby slightly. Wow that guy hated him.
Anna and Gabriel fell suddenly silent.
"Melissa," Inias greeted warily and Dean looked up to see the Novaks' mother joining them.
"Inias, Hester, so lovely to see you," Melissa greeted. She looked at Michael, her eyes cold. "Is lunch ready?"
"It is," Michael confirmed darkly. He tore his eyes from his mother and gestured everyone into the dining room to sit.
Dean realised then that he'd never been to a big Thanksgiving before and that this family would have traditions. And sure enough Michael started everyone off giving his thanks out loud, something he and Sam had never done on Thanksgiving.
"Most of all this year I'm thankful for the progress Castiel has made," Michael said, smiling across at Cas. "And the person who has helped him get there."
Dean felt his cheeks heating and he avoided everyone's gazes. They went around the table then. Sam was very enthusiastic about it, pleased to be doing something he'd always wanted them to do at Thanksgiving but Dean and Bobby had always been too uncomfortable with their feelings to do.
Sure enough Bobby merely said a few words, family, his business going well, before passing off to Dean beside him.
"Um... can I pass?" he asked.
"What? No, Dean!" Sam protested.
"If you're too embarrassed you can pass," Lucifer grinned, attempting to spur him into speaking.
"It's just..." Dean shrugged one shoulder unhappily and squirmed.
"It's okay Dean," Michael assured him. He looked at Castiel who just took Dean's hand and squeezed it. Dean felt his cheeks heat even more as Gabriel on Cas's other side started speaking. They reached Melissa and Dean tensed but she only stated she was thankful for her health before it was Raphael's turn.
"I'm thankful this is the last time I'm gonna have to come back to this hell you all call home," he said darkly.
There was silence before Lucifer turned and glowered at Raphael. "Excuse me?"
"I got myself an apartment. It's why I came back. To get my stuff," Raphael responded. "I didn't expect to be shanghaied into another fake family celebration. We all know you don't actually consider me or Mum family, do you?"
"You ungrateful little-"
"Lucifer," Michael snapped. He glanced at Bobby, Dean and Sam warily. "We'll discuss this later."
"Why not now brother?" Raphael responded. "Why do you insist on trying to pretend we're some kind of perfect family in front of others? Oh right, never mind, it's because in reality we're as shitty as any other family but you don't want your power over us to be taken away."
Michael flushed and clenched his hands into fists.
"Raphael, that's enough."
"Because we all know it's going to happen eventually. Someone's going to see how Castiel is still as much of a freak as he always was and take him away from you and then where will you be?"
"You can't say that about Cassie!" Gabriel snarled.
"Why not? It's the truth."
"It's not!" Sam and Alfie both protested in unison.
"Cassie's just different," Alfie added, even though he couldn't meet Raphael's eyes.
Raphael scoffed. He opened his mouth and Lucifer shot to his feet. "You say one more word little brother and I'll toss you out that door on your ass so fast-"
"Lucifer, stop it," Michael insisted.
"Why don't we all just sit down and eat?" Hester suggested. "This isn't really the time-"
"Oh it'll never be the time. Michael can't stand being told the truth," Raphael sneered. "You really think he's a fit guardian, Inias? I bet if you go up and look in his bedside table there'll still be a bottle of scotch there, or maybe even several empty ones. I bet-"
Lucifer tried to grab at Raphael but Michael stood and pulled him back.
Castiel was shifting uncomfortably beside Dean and he got up at the sound of Michael shouting and went to move around the table to leave but Raphael grabbed his arm, saying something about freaks and cowards over Cas's shocked and frightened shout and everyone at the table burst into angry cries at Raphael but Dean didn't hear because he was around the table, shoving the bigger man back from Cas before drawing his arm back and throwing the punch he'd been dreaming about since the man walked through the door yesterday.
Silence fell immediately and everyone stared with shocked, wide eyes.
Raphael was bent over, a hand on his mouth where Dean's fist landed. He looked at the blood on his hand and stared up at Dean with a mix of fury and shock.
"You touch him again and it'll be more than a split lip," Dean snarled. For a moment he forgot how Raphael was older and bigger than him so he wasn't expecting it when he straightened up and lunged at Dean, fist catching him harshly on the eye. They went down and Dean was momentarily stunned but as Raphael made to punch him again he threw his elbow up and caught him in the side.
Blows were traded as they rolled around the floor until two pairs of hands grabbed Dean and yanked him off the top of Raphael and another pair grabbed the bigger man as he tried to lunge at Dean again.
"That is enough!" This time it was Inias who shouted from where he was restraining Raphael with Michael.
Dean stopped struggling against Bobby and Lucifer and just glared, chest heaving.
"Let me at him, Luce," he snarled. "I'll teach him to leave Cas alone."
"You are frightening him," Lucifer hissed back. Dean froze and turned to where Cas was standing behind Balthazar and Rachel, eyes wide with fear.
"Cas," Dean said and pulled away from Bobby and Lucifer to go to him. Raphael tried to escape from the hold on him but Inias and Michael pulled him back again.
"Enough, Raphael," Michael said. He didn't angry or hurt anymore. He just sounded tired. "Go and get your things. Get them and leave." He let go and then pushed Raphael towards the stairs before turning and leaving the dining room to who knew where.
"Dean, you're bleeding," Rachel said softly when Cas shrunk away from Dean. Balthazar glared and folded his arms, stepping in front of Dean to stop him from getting to Cas. Dean tried half heartedly to get around the blond boy but Balthazar wouldn't budge.
"Come on, Dean," Hester said gently, taking his arm. "Let's get you cleaned up."
Sam went with them when Hester led him towards the laundry, face grave.
Dean turned, hoping Bobby wasn't disappointed but he was gone.
"That was so stupid, Dean," Sam said, wringing his hands together. "He could have really hurt you."
Dean shrugged. "He deserved it."
Hester hummed as she located a first aid kit in one of the cupboards. "I do believe anyone who's met Raphael has wanted to punch him but most of them don't for a reason. Besides, you've terrified Castiel and that was the last thing he needed when being around Raphael and his mother already upsets him enough."
Dean sighed and then flinched when Hester dabbed at what must have been a nasty cut on his eyebrow.
"Sammy, can you go check on Cas, please?" Dean requested. "Make sure he isn't scared of me."
"Um... okay..." Sam gave Dean a worried look and hurried off.
Dean looked at Hester who appeared mildly disapproving.
"He touched Cas."
"Nobody's meant to touch Cas."
"He's supposed to be family. Family doesn't do things like that."
Hester gave Dean an amused look. "Raphael was projecting, Dean. We do consider him family. It's he who doesn't consider us family. I'm more concerned about my nephew right now." Dean raised an eyebrow and then flinched when it hurt. Hester laughed. "Michael."
"Yes." She sighed. "Lucifer told us he wasn't drinking anymore but I don't think that mattered with Raphael bringing it up in front of you, Sam and Bobby."
"He has a drinking problem?"
"Not a problem perse. But we were worried he might go that way. He drinks when stressed which is, of course, one of the ways you get there."
Dean frowned. He knew, of course, he'd seen it in his dad when he was younger. He just hoped his actions hadn't made Michael's stress worse.
The eldest Novak had in fact gone to dig up the one bottle of scotch in the house Lucifer hadn't gotten rid off on account of the fact that he didn't know where it was hidden. He'd then retreated to his father's old study to drink it in peace. If Raphael wanted to accuse him of being an alcoholic in front of their entire family then he may as well go give them some proof.
He was slumped over the desk when he heard the door open.
Michael felt movement next to him and the bottle of scotch was tugged sharply out of his hand. He raised his head, snarl ready to go off at his brother when he noticed it wasn't Lucifer but Bobby Singer. The man was frowning at him sadly and Michael lowered his head.
"Give it back," he said half-heartedly.
"Trust me son, you don't wanna start this," Bobby replied.
Michael scoffed. "Oh, I know that." He sat back and stared out into the yard through the big windows in front of the desk and Bobby sat next to him, keeping the bottle safely on his other side where Michael couldn't reach. "The old man was an alcoholic. So was my mother. It's genetic you know. Inevitable really so why put it off?"
"That's coward's talk, boy, and from what I hear, you ain't no coward."
Michael rolled his eyes and looked at Bobby again. He was being fixed with a stern look. Michael had never been levelled with a fatherly look from anyone but Inias and he found himself shrinking into his seat under the stare.
"Lucifer would kill me anyway," he relented. "He doesn't want me to end up like our parents."
Bobby grunted. "You've got three younger siblings you're supposed to be setting an example for. Do they know their parents-"
"Oh they know about our mother, she was drunk when she tried to drown Castiel." Bobby flinched at Michael's bluntness. "But not our father, no. He always drank. I didn't realise how much until I noticed my friends' parents didn't drink as much as he did. But then after Castiel was diagnosed... well..." Michael shrugged one shoulder helplessly. "He was as much kicked out as he walked out. Then she started drinking because she couldn't handle Castiel. Well, look at this, it's a full family circle. I can't handle it either. It's weakness. He had it. She had it. And I've got it too. We're all too weak."
He pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes, trying to think past the haze from the scotch and the swirling mass of emotions.
"God... Why did I ever think I could do this? He'd be better off without me."
"I don't think so," Bobby replied. "Son, in that house, you've got three brothers and a sister who absolutely adore you and are immeasurably grateful for everything you do for them. When each of them said they were thankful for family, it was you they looked at. Even Castiel when he took Dean's hand, looked up the table at you."
Michael felt his eyes burning. "I'm not a good parent."
"You're twenty three. I don't know anyone who would be a good parent of teenagers at twenty three. You're still supposed to be out living it up. But instead you're taking care of your family. And that, well, that takes a kind of selfless courage this world could use a whole lot more of."
Michael tried not to smile and has to brush some escapee tears away.
"And more than that. Anybody who could convince Dean that college is a good idea... well, they have my highest opinion and thanks." Bobby smiled. "I spent years trying to make that boy believe he was more than his daddy thought but he wouldn't listen to me. A few months with you and your family and suddenly, I can see it in his eyes, he's starting to realise how much he's worth."
"That's all Castiel," Michael said gently. "He has a beautiful heart. I think Dean needed that in his life as much as Castiel needed Dean's acceptance."
Bobby nodded. "I think you're right. But regardless, they both need you. So does your twin, so do Gabriel and Anna. And so does Sam too. I've never seen that boy so relaxed and happy. He's at home in your home. Dean notices that too and nothing means more to him than Sam's happiness. My boys are happy here with you. Your siblings are happy with you. Would you really try and take that away from them? Dean's not the only one who needs to realise he's worth so much more than he believes."
Michael shook his head slowly. "I don't-"
"Boy, don't make me say it again. I don't say anything I don't mean and I don't ever say anything like this without it being true."
Michael huffed out a laugh. "Well, okay then." He rubbed his eyes and eyed the scotch bottle. "Give that here."
He took it and went to the window, opening it. The rush of crisp, November air helped sober him up and stopped the burn of tears in his eyes. He poured the amber liquid into the garden bed below the window and glanced back at Bobby. How could a man he'd only just met think so highly of him? Regardless, Michael didn't want to prove him wrong, for once he'd like to prove someone's good opinion of him right. Starting with this.
No more drinking. And this time he'd stick to it. Lucifer would probably punch him if he knew he'd stashed a bottle in the house anyway.
"Okay, let's go eat that turkey," Bobby said when Michael tossed the bottle.
Castiel stood beside Sam, waiting for Dean to come back from where Aunt Hester had taken him to patch up his cuts. Castiel was very angry with Raphael for hurting Dean. For making him bleed. He wasn't afraid anymore. He was just angry now that he'd been able to think about what had happened.
Dean had scared him by hitting Raphael but mostly he was scared for Dean when his bigger, older brother decided to attack him. And it wasn't play fighting either. Raphael had wanted to hurt Dean. Nobody was allowed to hurt him.
Dean was his.
Hester and Dean finally came out and Cas rushed straight to Dean to hug him tightly. Dean's hand landed in his hair and he stroked it through a few times.
"I thought I scared you," Dean chuckled. Castiel shook his head. Dean was safe, not scary. Why would he think Castiel could ever be scared of him? Dean hugged him tightly. "Good. Glad I didn't."
"Come on guys! We're going to eat now!" Gabriel shouted.
Castiel pulled back and looked up at Dean. He looked bruised but he was smiling. Good. He was okay then. Hester and Sam went ahead and Dean bent down, his mouth by Castiel's ear.
"This year, I'm thankful for you," he murmured and Castiel felt warmth explode through his chest. He though his heart might actually burst out of him it felt so immense. Castiel hugged Dean around the neck tightly and turned his head, brushing a kiss on his cheek out of impulse. Dean stiffened and Castiel pulled back, eyes down, shaking his head apologetically.
"Uh... it's okay, Cas," Dean said softly but he sounded strange. "Let's go eat, huh?"
Castiel nodded slowly, still feeling hot and embarrassed. He was surprised at himself and worried at Dean's reaction but Dean took his hand and led him off, thumb rubbing circles onto his hand. Maybe it was okay then. Maybe Dean felt the same huge warmth in his heart that Castiel did. He looked at Dean throughout lunch, wondering how he could go about asking if Dean had the same warmth as he did.
Next chapter: Christmastime is approaching fast and the truth about feelings loom, confusing and frightening.