A/N: This is an idea that has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and I finally got around to finishing and posting it. It is really just a bit of Sam and Cas friendship that is set right before Sam goes to college. It will all make sense when you read it. I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or its characters.


Answered Prayers

By gammadolphin

It was not the first time that Sam Winchester had prayed, but it was the first time that he had gotten an answer.

The eighteen year old hunter was sitting on the edge of the creaky bed, a spring digging into his thigh and a wrinkled letter resting on his knees. He had never felt like this; so proud and yet so scared, so eager and so uncertain. He felt like he was being torn apart, and he did not know what would be left of him whenever the inevitable split occurred. So he did the only thing that he thought might bring him some of the peace that he so desperately needed.

"So, it's uh, been a while," the young man began nervously, his eyes pinched shut and his hands clasped before him. "But I've been doing my best to do the right thing, and I think I've been doing well, all things considered. That has to count for something, right?"

He paused, feeling stupid. He was fairly certain that you were not supposed to try to talk God into helping you.

"Look," he continued, shaking his head slightly. "I just…I need some guidance."

He paused again, staring down at the letter in his lap. It was everything he had ever wanted, but it could mean giving up everything he had ever had.

"What do I do here?" he asked despairingly, tilting his face upwards. All he saw were the musty boards of the ceiling. "This is stupid."

He let his hands fall into his lap, then got restlessly to his feet. He scrubbed a hand over his jaw, wishing that he could think of something else to do.

"Demonstrating one's faith is never stupid," said a low voice from behind Sam. The hunter whirled, reaching for a gun that he was not carrying.

"Who the hell are you?" he asked the dark-haired man standing before him. The stranger tilted his head to the side, confusion written across his features.

"I am the assistance that you prayed for," he stated, as if that should have been obvious.

"I prayed for guidance," said Sam. "Not a creepy model in a University of Chicago hoodie."

"I am not a model," the young man said. "I'm an angel of the Lord. And these garments are not mine."

"You'll forgive me if I have a little trouble believing that," Sam said to the supposed angel, who looked like nothing more than an ordinary college student. "I've seen a lot of monsters in my time, and not too many good guys.

"And yet you still have not called to your father and brother for help."

Sam froze. The man had him there. But an angel? A real, flesh and blood angel? Believing in God was one thing, but angels just felt different. Seeming to sense his doubt, the man gave Sam a small smile, before letting his face fall into lines of concentration and taking a deep breath. An impossibly beautiful and bright light began to pour from him, turning his eyes to stars and revealing the dark shadow of a set of massive wings.

The light faded and the man relaxed, but Sam remained frozen, rendered immobile by awe. He took a hesitant step forward, reaching out a hand before catching himself. He could not touch a holy warrior. He was not clean enough for that.

"Do you have a name?" he asked softly instead.

"Castiel," the angel replied with a small smile.

"Castiel," Sam repeated. "I can't believe you're here."

"You don't think you're worthy of heaven's attention?" Castiel asked, tilting his head again.

"Uh, not really, I guess," replied Sam with a shrug. "I mean, my problems don't really seem worthy of angelic interference."

"You are more important than you think," the angel told him earnestly.

"I don't really think I want to be important," said Sam with a nervous chuckle. "All I really want is to go to school and be normal for once."

Castiel's face was unreadable as he stared searchingly at Sam. Finally he sighed and sat on the bed, indicating for the hunter to do the same.

"Why do you want to be normal, Sam?" he asked. Sam laughed humorlessly.

"Castiel, I could write a book about why I want a normal life," he replied.

"Then what is stopping you?" The angel seemed genuinely interested, for reasons that Sam could not fathom.

"It would mean leaving my family," he explained. "And we're kind of all that each of us has. I think I might have to choose between living the life that I want on my own, or living the life that I hate with my family, and I just…can't."

The angel was silent for a long time.

"It is mostly your brother that you're worried about, is it not?" he asked at last.

"How do you know that?"

"As I said, you are more important than you think," Castiel replied. "I have been watching you and your family for some time. I have witnessed the deep connection between you and Dean."

"So you're like a guardian angel?"

"Not exactly." Castiel shifted slightly, suddenly looking uncomfortable. "I was assigned to monitor you, not to interfere. But I heard your prayer, and…I suppose it is not in my nature to ignore a cry for help."

"Oh." Sam was not quite sure how to respond to that. Why did he have an angel monitoring him? Surely not everyone had one, so what set him apart? "So you will help me?"

"If I can. But you seem to be asking me to tell you what to do, and I am not sure that would be in your best interest. This seems like a decision that you should make for yourself."

"But why am I different?" asked Sam, desperate to understand. "I mean, I'm grateful that you're here, but why am I so special that an angel was assigned to watch me?"

Castiel sighed.

"I find that I wish I could tell you, Sam," he said solemnly. "But I can't. I'm not even supposed to be here."

"I don't want to get you into trouble," Sam said quickly, suddenly concerned that Castiel would be punished because of him. The angel seemed surprised.

"You're worried about me," he stated, his tone tinged with disbelief.

"Well, yeah. I mean, won't the other angels be mad at you if you're breaking the rules? From what I've heard about you guys, it's pretty strict up there."

"I suppose that there would be consequences if I were caught," said Castiel. "But there is no need to tell my superiors of this. I will be alright. Your concern is…touching, however."

"Well, you're one of the few people who has ever given a crap about me," said Sam with a wry grin. "And I've been told by reputable sources that I worry too much."

Said reputable source was Dean, who teased Sam about his constant worrying. Of course, that was right up until Sam got so much as a skinned knee, at which point Dean would launch into his full-on mother hen mode. But heaven forbid Sam make fun of him for it, or he would end up with a shampoo bottle full of Nair. Again.

"Perhaps." Castiel paused for a moment, looking away from Sam. "You deserve more people who, as you say, 'give a crap about you'," he continued finally. "I have watched humanity and your family long enough to know that."

"I think…I think that's part of why I want to go to college so badly," said Sam, dodging the rather overwhelming compliment. "I want to make friends that I can keep for more than a few weeks, maybe find a girl who I can create a stable life with."

Stability. That was really the core of what Sam wanted. He was sick of feeling like he did not belong anywhere, sick of feeling like an outsider. He had spent his entire existence saving the lives of other people, and now he wanted a life of his own. He wanted to stay in one place long enough to become a regular somewhere, long enough to recognize some faces on the street. And he wanted to stop being constantly afraid of the things that went bump in the night.

"I think you should go to college, Sam," said Castiel after a long pause. Sam looked over at the angel in surprise.

"You do?"

"I believe that it is the path on which you would be the most content."

"But how can I fulfill some great destiny if I just go off and become some ordinary freshman? I mean, isn't that why you're watching me; to monitor my fate?"

Castiel sighed heavily, glancing away from the hunter again. Sam's stomach dropped as realization dawned on him.

"I'm not supposed to be the good guy in all of this, am I?" he asked in a whisper. Castiel said nothing, but his obvious discomfort was answer enough. Sam jumped to his feet, one hand rising to run through his hair in distress. "You're not here to watch over me, you're here to make sure that I don't…don't what? What exactly is this big, evil fate of mine?"

"It's alright, Sam," said Castiel in what was probably supposed to be a soothing tone. It did not make the hunter feel much better. Because the angel was not denying the darkness of his future. He was not denying the deep fears that had been plaguing Sam for his entire life. Fears of being impure, unholy…evil.

"How can it be alright?" Sam shouted. "You're telling me that I have a destiny so bad that an angel has to keep an eye on me."

"You are still the master of your own choices," said Castiel earnestly, rising as well and taking a step closer to Sam. "I've seen you, Sam; I know you to be a good man. No one can force you to become something that you do not wish to be."

"But what is that?" asked Sam, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had always worried about not being pure and good, but this? "You haven't told me anything!"

"I've already told you more than I should. I did not come here to scare you; I came to offer my support. I refuse to believe that the evil in your future cannot be avoided."

There it was. Confirmation that Castiel was there to make sure that Sam did not go darkside. For so long, the hunter had been concerned with doing the right thing, with maintaining a set of morals that his father and brother sometimes let slip. But how could any of that matter if destiny itself was fighting against him?

"Why let me live?" asked Sam quietly.

"What?" Castiel sounded surprised and disturbed.

"Look Castiel, if I'm supposed to be a big enough problem that a warrior of God has to watch out for me, wouldn't it be simpler to just kill me?"

The angel looked stricken.

"Oh my God," Sam breathed, taking a step backward. "You were supposed to kill me, weren't you?"

"Sam-"

"Just tell me the truth!"

Castiel met the young man's distraught gaze. Sam could see the conflict behind the cerulean eyes, and was suddenly unsure he wanted to know the truth after all.

"Those were my original orders, yes," he admitted at last.

Sam suddenly found that his legs were no longer up to the task of supporting him. He collapsed back onto the bed, head in his hands. Heaven wanted him dead. What was he supposed to do with that? He could see Castiel out of the corner of his eye, standing next to him awkwardly. The angel looked like he wanted to comfort him, but had no idea how.

"Why didn't you do it?" Sam whispered.

"You did not deserve a death sentence, Sam," the angel said firmly. "That was apparent from the moment I saw you."

That was not good enough for Sam. Apparently Castiel realized this, because he sighed again, putting a tentative hand on the hunter's shoulder.

"You were twelve years old when I came to…to kill you," he said quietly. "You were staying at the home of Robert Singer, and you were out in his scrapyard, playing by yourself. I was seconds away from smiting you, which would have been painless, by the way, when you saw something and started running. I could have caught you instantly of course, but I was curious to see what had caught your attention. I followed you to one of the old cars in the yard. You looked in the window, and I could feel the spark of a life from within the vehicle."

"I remember that day," said Sam softly. "A bird had gotten stuck in one of Bobby's cars."

"It was a starling," Castiel told him. "You opened the door for it, but the creature had become ensnared in the frayed seatbelt. You spent twenty minutes extracting it so that it could fly away safely."

"And that convinced you not to kill me?" asked Sam skeptically.

"I was stunned by the gentleness you displayed," Castiel admitted. "I had been led to believe that you were a monster; cruel and unstable. But the boy I watched saving that starling did not fit that description. And he certainly did not deserve a death sentence. Not for a crime he had not yet committed."

The angel paused, evidently lost in the memory of a day long past. A day that Sam had not thought about in years. That had been during those two lonely months that Dean had been lost, and Sam had spent hours by himself in Bobby's scrapyard, missing his brother. His avian rescue had not seemed extraordinary to him. The bird needed help, he provided it, and they both moved on. But apparently that bird had saved Sam as much as he had saved it.

"The longer I observed you," Castiel continued eventually, "the more convinced I became that my orders had been made too hastily. I could see no evil in you. I persuaded my superiors to let you live. They agreed, on the condition that I monitored you carefully. Since then, I suppose I have come to see myself as your guardian. I did not think that you would appreciate me making my presence known to you, but when I heard your prayer…I could not let another one go unanswered, not when you were so distraught."

Sam was silent for a long moment after the angel had finished speaking. This angel had been listening to every single one of his prayers since he was twelve years old. The thought was slightly unnerving, but Sam could not help but be amazed that he really had been heard, that Castiel had been paying attention to him. He was even more astonished by the fact that the angel seemed to genuinely care about him.

"You saved my life," he said eventually, testing out the idea.

"From myself," returned Castiel. "That hardly seems heroic."

"Whatever. Thanks anyway."

The angel quirked a smile.

"You're welcome, Sam," he said solemnly.

Sam gave him a small smile before looking away towards one of the small windows in the dim room. When he had prayed for guidance, he had never expected his own personal guardian angel to come down and accidentally tell him about a dark destiny and heaven's wrath. But given the strangeness of his life, he supposed that he should have seen it coming. And now he had to deal with it.

"If I go to college," he began after a long pause, "will I avoid whatever the rest of the angels are afraid of? Will I stay…good? Will my family be safe?"

"I have no way of knowing that, Sam," Castiel replied reluctantly. "But it does seem to be the safest route, for all involved."

Sam nodded, picking up his acceptance letter from where it had fallen to the grimy floor. Castiel's visit had placed a new weight onto his chest, but it had also given him a new sense of freedom. Maybe his decision to go to college did not have to be so selfish after all. Maybe what he wanted was actually the right thing to do.

"Right," he said, determination growing. "College it is, then."

"Are you sure?" asked Castiel. "I don't want to influence your decision too much. You should have the right to make your own choices."

"I'm sure," Sam replied firmly. "This is what I want. Besides, I would hate for you to have to kill me later."

"I would find that unpleasant, yes," said Castiel seriously, making Sam chuckle. He was surprised that the angel did not have a better understanding of jokes if he really had spent the last six years following the Winchesters around. Of course, Sam would not really blame him for choosing to ignore Dean's sense of humor.

"I should go," Castiel added as Sam stood. "And you should tell your family about your decision."

"Right," said Sam, subdued. He knew that they were not going to take the news well. John would be angry and Dean would be hurt, but Sam would not tell them about Castiel and the unsettling information that he had shared. The older two Winchesters did not need to know about Sam's fate, not if he was going to avoid it. There was no way that Dean would let him go if he thought that Sam was in trouble. "Thank you for coming, Castiel. I know it was a risk, but I really appreciate it."

"I'm glad I could help," Castiel told him sincerely. "I've been wanting to speak to you for a long time."

"Does that mean you'll come back?" asked Sam hopefully. He was excited for college, but nervous about being on his own. It would make him feel better to know that he had a friend standing by him, even one as bizarre as Castiel.

"I won't leave," Castiel promised. "It is still my job to watch over you. We may not be able to speak often though, per my orders."

"That's okay," Sam said quickly. "It's just nice to know that someone will be listening."

Castiel gave the young man one last smile before vanishing with the slightest ripple of sound. Sam blinked, shaking his head at the strange turn the evening had taken. He could almost have believed that he had dreamed the whole encounter, but he found a single, jet-black feather tucked inside the envelope in which his Stanford letter had arrived. He gripped the feather tight, squared his shoulders, and steeled himself to deliver the news that would shatter his family. And hopefully keep them all safe.

ooooooooooooo

From her office deep within heaven Naomi frowned at the angel before her. Nathaniel had just reported Castiel's unsanctioned visit to the young hunter in his charge, and Naomi was not pleased. Castiel had been under strict orders to make no contact with Sam Winchester, but he had ignored them because the child had gotten upset. Obviously the angel still could not be trusted to handle simple tasks that involved humans. Every time that he was exposed to those mewling mudcrawlers, he took pity on them, befriended them, and generally caused problems for the angels in command.

Naomi sighed, wondering what to do about this new situation. The Winchester boy could not be allowed to keep knowledge of the angels, but even if she had his memory scrubbed, Castiel, annoying little rebel that he was, would probably just visit him again. Which meant that she had two minds to wipe.

"Nathaniel, have Ion lead a squadron to collect Castiel and bring him here," she ordered sharply. She was not looking forward to digging into that stubborn head again, but she had no other options. Castiel's garrison would notice if he went missing permanently. But that did not mean that she could not vent her annoyance on the angel that had been causing problems for her since the day he strapped on his wings.

"Should I assign a new angel to watch Sam Winchester?" Nathaniel asked, wincing in sympathy for what he knew that his brother would go through at Naomi's hands.

"No," said Naomi derisively. "He is unworthy of heaven's resources. Let him go to college and live out the rest of his meaningless life. Just make sure he doesn't remember who got him there."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Oh, and Nathaniel?"

"Yes?"

"Ensure that the other angels know the consequences of associating with the Winchesters."

"Yes, ma'am."


A/N: Thanks for reading! I hope you liked it. In my mind, this fits in with the canon series, though it is extremely unlikely that the writers had this in mind. I can dream... In case it was not clear, Cas is dressed like a college student because I figured that Jimmy Novak would be a college student, or just out of college at the time. I picked the University of Chicago simply because it is in Jimmy's home state. This is a stand-alone piece for now, but I might add something later that is set during the more recent seasons, in which Sam and Cas realize that they knew each other before 2008. I'm not sure about that yet; I'll see if inspiration strikes. I would really love to hear what you think, so please leave a review. Thanks!