A/N: Welp. I promised myself I wouldn't do this, but I should know better than to think I can keep that promise... so let's see how this goes. *Bites nails*
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural. I wish I did coz zomg, I could hang out with Jensen and Misha and ... everyone, but I don't.
Sammy had been missing for three days.
It wasn't so unusual for Sam to take off. He was thirteen and an all around angry young man. Whenever he would get hot around the collar, he would typically go over to his best friend's house until he cooled off. Dean didn't like Brady, so he always tried to let Sam wander back on his own. Anyway, Sam was at that stage where no one could tell him what to do.
But one night had turned into two, and Sam didn't answer his phone. Dean started to get nervous. By the time he made it over to Brady's house, the way the snot-nosed thirteen-year-old sneered at him when he said he hadn't seen Sam either didn't bother Dean. Nothing registered for him except the growing panic in his gut.
"I hope he ran away," Brady said. "Anything would be better than staying with your prick father."
Under normal circumstances, Dean would have had the kid by the collar, shoved up against the wall. No one insulted John Winchester in his presence. Yeah, it was true John had left his boys for long stretches at a time, but he was trying to provide. It was true he pushed Sam maybe a little too hard, but it was because he wanted what was best for the kid. Their mother had died when Sam was a baby, and John had to go it on his own. He did the best he could.
But that day, Dean let it slide. As soon as he got confirmation Sam wasn't with Brady, he was back in the Impala and out on the road.
Another day passed, and Dean had no idea where Sam was. Dean was going out of his mind. If his friends knew where he was, they weren't talking. Dean was more inclined to think they were telling the truth as a couple of them seemed worried. His girlfriend Stephanie freaked right the fuck out. He had to peel her off his arm to get away from her long enough to continue his search on his own.
All for nothing.
Flagstaff, Arizona wasn't a huge town, but it might as well have been the size of Los Angeles. There were endless places Sam could have been, and he was nowhere Dean looked. He didn't want to start thinking about the thick ponderosa pine forest that surrounded the city. Sam had no reason to go there, none.
A key turning in the lock drew Dean's attention. He darted to the door and flung it open, ready to hug Sam before he throttled the kid. But it wasn't Sam at the door.
Dean's throat got tight, his heart began to race, and he broke out in a cold sweat. He stumbled backward a few steps. "D-dad?" He swallowed hard, curling his fingers into fists as he tried to still his trembling. "I thought... You were supposed to be home tomorrow."
John Winchester furrowed his eyebrows as he looked at his eldest son. "I got done early. Is that a problem?"
"No, sir," Dean mumbled to the floor. He rubbed the back of his neck.
"Where's your brother?"
Dean's mouth went dry. He took another step backward. Inwardly, he was cursing himself. How could he have been so stupid? He'd gone out with Lisa when he knew Sam was already pissy. He should have guessed Sam would run off. And he should have gone after him that night. He should have.
Dean looked up at his father.
"Where is your brother? It's late. He should be home."
"I... He's not here." Fear raced down Dean's spine with the admission. Today, searching the whole town for his brother, realizing he wasn't anywhere safe, had already been the worst day of Dean's life.
It wasn't going to get better because Dad was home. It had been a very long time since his daddy could make it all better.
John took a step forward. "What do you mean he's not here? Where is he, Dean?"
"I don't know."
"Speak up. I can't hear you when you mumble."
Dean closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing. "I don't know. He's not here. I don't know where he is. He... He hasn't been home for days." He mumbled and stumbled, but he managed to tell his father the whole story.
"Are you insane?!" John grabbed him by his jacket and shook him. Hard. "What is wrong with you? You had one job, Dean, one. The only thing I ask of you is to look out for your little brother. What the hell is so difficult about that?" He pushed Dean away, sending him flying back against the wall. Dean crumpled in a heap at his feet, and John towered over him, his fists clenched.
"Do you have any idea what could happen to a kid like him out there alone?" John yelled. "Some sicko could have him right now, you realize that? They could be doing anything to him right now because you couldn't do the one thing I asked you to."
It wasn't anything Dean hadn't been telling himself for the last two days. Any horrible scenario John could come up with, Dean was sure he'd already imagined it. In detail. He felt sick and wrong and so guilty.
"I'm sorry, Dad," he said. "I'm sorry." Over and over again.
It was almost a relief when John started hitting him. It was exactly what he deserved.
When Castiel was very young, he idolized his elder brothers and his father. When he was born, his brothers were 12,13,14, and 16. Gabriel, Raphael, Luc, and Michael had always been adults in his world, and when he was a little boy, their word was almost as gospel as their father's.
But then, after the baby, Samandriel, was born, everything changed. Dad, who'd spent much time away doing charity work for Doctors Without Borders, went missing, never to been seen again. It had left their mother, Naomi, reeling. In the interim, Luc and Michael nearly broke up the family with their constant bickering, Gabriel ran away, and Raphael declared himself the new head of the family.
And here they were in Flagstaff, AZ.
After her husband's apparent death, Naomi reinvented herself. Castiel couldn't blame his mother, really. She'd been with his father since she was seventeen - Castiel's age now. She knew nothing but how to manage her brood. Finding herself single for the first time in her adult life, Naomi returned to school and then immersed herself in work. In his heart of hearts, Castiel knew she hadn't become such an absent mother on purpose. It was a gradual change but a change nonetheless. Most of the burden of raising Castiel and Samandriel fell on Raphael.
Like their father, Raphael ruled with an iron fist and demanded absolute obedience, but he lacked compassion and empathy. More and more, Castiel found himself at odds with his elder brother.
Castiel paused with his hand on the doorknob. He didn't look at his brother, but he stood very still waiting for the next command.
"Where are you going?"
"Out." He doubted Raphael really cared where he was going.
His brother nodded and turned his attention back to his laptop. "Walk Samandriel to his friend's house, and you may go."
Castiel bit the inside of his cheek. He wanted to snap that he was seventeen and not a child. He didn't need Raphael's permission to go where he pleased. Their mother certainly wouldn't care. She wouldn't be home from work until long after Castiel went to bed. Samandriel's friend's house was in the opposite direction Castiel was headed. And further, Samandriel was twelve. He could walk to his friend's house on his own at that age.
But he knew from experience his words would do no good. If he challenged Raphael, his brother would prove just how little control Castiel had over his own life. Rather than say a word, he headed upstairs to collect Samandriel.
"Come on, Sammy. Let's get out of here."
His sandy-haired brother offered him a bright smile. He was innocent for his age, perhaps too innocent. Castiel slung a protective arm around him as they headed for the door.
"Castiel," Raphael called before they were away. "Remember you need to be home by nine to pick Samandriel up."
Castiel bristled and clenched his fist at his side.
"Mrs. Milton said she'd bring me home, Raphael. Cas doesn't have to come get me."
Raphael stared for a long second, but then he grunted. "Fine. Don't be trouble. Either of you."
"We won't," Samandriel called over his shoulder as he and Castiel descended the steps.
As they walked, Samandriel chattered on in his usual bright way. He always made Castiel smile. Again, Castiel reflected that his little brother was far too innocent for his age. They would be starting public school for the first time in another month, and while he wasn't concerned for himself, he was afraid Samandriel would be overwhelmed. Or teased. Or both. Probably both.
Still, he had already made one friend in Anna Milton, which was more than Castiel could say for himself. Come to think of it, his whole family was bad at making friends. Except Gabriel. Castiel had had occasion to visit Gabriel in New York City the year before. In the five days Castiel was there, Gabriel was always with different people.
Before Samandriel darted up the walk to Anna's house, he gave Castiel a hug goodbye.
There were, Castiel thought, some good things to say about lingering innocence.
A/N: Many thanks to EverdayBella and songster for their help and enabling... I mean encouragement. See you soon!