Actions

Work Header

Oceans

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ONE

Present Day 
July 2019
Lawrence, Kansas 

"Dean? Dean, are you with us Dean?" 

He was snapped back to reality by the soft voice of doctor Moseley invading his thoughts. He looked up at the group of people sitting in a circle around him, taking in each face. He tapped his fingers on each of his knees to a random rhythm, continuously, never faltering, keeping his fingers busy, they were shaking too much these past few days. He soon realized that he was tapping them to the beat of Another One Bites the Dust by Queen. Ironic, he thought to himself. 

"Dean, would you like to introduce yourself to the group?" Dr. Moseley asked him again. He looked up at her, his red-rimmed green eyes meeting her sweet chocolate brown ones. They were old and looked like they had seen many horrors in their day, a very striking contrast to Missouri Moseley's actual age. A woman in her fifties, she didn't look a day above thirty. Yet her eyes told the same stories that your great grandmother could. Her sweet voice was quiet, and it brought him calmness and comfort. 

He took a deep breath and smiled at nothing in particular. It was merely a ghost of smile, and it felt as forced to the rest of the group as it did him, so he let it falter, and dropped his gaze the tile, focusing on the small rupture in the ceramic. He cleared his throat, chewed on his bottom lip, picked at a loose thread in his jeans. They were all quiet. They gave him all the time he needed, and he hated it. He wasn't used to it, wasn't used to people caring enough to listen, people being so understanding, so fricken nice to him. Everyone had always wanted a piece of him, but not these people, no. They were equals here. They only wanted to watch each other get out of this place, one after the other. Dean wondered how long it would take him to be allowed out. He hoped it wouldn't be too soon. He liked the feeling of security that was brought along with being taken care of, even if it was by nurses and not people who truly cared about him. 

Dean raised his gaze slowly, his eyes meeting those of a blonde girl with piercing grey eyes. She recognized him, he knew that because of the look she gave him the first time he walked through those double doors, but she didn't say anything. He wasn't Dean Winchester to her, no, not anymore, not in here, at least. In here, he was Dean, poor old Dean who needed help just as she did. 

He took in a shaky breath and finally parted his chapped lips to speak. "I guess I know how this works," he chuckled. He stopped, licked his lips. His mouth felt like he had stuffed it with cotton balls and he wanted to puke. So, he braced himself and continued. "So, hi, I'm Dean Zeppelin Winchester. I'm thirty-one years old, and I'm addicted to everything that can come to mind," he let out a dry laugh, but no one joined in. No one gave him a condescending look. No one judged him. They all understood. They had all been there. "I am... a cocaine addict, and a weed addict, and cigarettes, prescription pills, ecstasy, pain killers, I am also an alcoholic, and a bulimic, and a sex addict." 

He took a deep breath and looked around. Everyone was nodding in understanding. He could tell by their faces that he wasn't the worst case in the room and that people had done similar or worse things, but somehow, it brought him no comfort at all. He released his breath shakily as Missouri looked him straight in the eyes, locking his gaze, clasping her notebook tightly in her lap. 

"Why did you seek help, Dean?" 

He took a moment as the question rolled over in his head. He mulled it over and over, and they all gave him the space he needed. He wasn't being forced to answer the question, he wasn't being forced to speak, but he wanted to. He wanted to yell, and scream, and tell the world that he fucked up. He fucked up big time. He had ruined an entire decade of his life and ruined the people closest to him in the process. He wanted to yell at the world and give it a big fuck you for ruining his life but be didn't. He didn't scream. Not yet, he thought. He would try to get through this calmly. 

Dean clenched his fists, feeling his nails dig deep into his clammy palms. Maybe by the end of this session he would find them bleeding, and he didn't seem to care all that much, but perhaps he should have. Wasn't the reason he was sitting in this chair that he wanted to get better? That he wanted to start giving a damn or two about himself? 

He unclenched his fists, spreading his palms over his knees. His foot had started tapping on the floor. 

"Take your time, sweetheart," Missouri's voice echoed in the room. 

"I- because I don't wanna die. I might not have cared whether I was alive or not, but..." he trailed off, his voice starting to crack already. Jesus, Dean, pull it together. You haven't even said two words yet! He could feel his eyes already starting to burn with tears. 

"But you realized what it meant to be alive? The people in your life, they care?" 

Dean shrugged, remaining silent, not because he feared that if he spoke another word, he would end up sobbing, which he did fear, but because he didn't know how to. He was uncertain. He had been uncertain his whole life. 

He saw his face, his blue eyes, so broken, his nose puffy, and his cheeks stained with tears. He did care, didn't he? He wouldn't have yelled so hard if he didn't care. Hell, he wouldn't have punched you and then cried about it before leaving if he didn't care. 

"Because they do, Dean. If they you didn't think they did, you wouldn't be here." 

Dean looked up then, his glistening green eyes meeting Missouri's. They weren't pitying him, nor giving him any unwanted sympathy. They were understanding. They were reassuring. He wasn't alone. For once, he didn't feel like he had to carry the weight of the entire word on his shoulders. Behind Missouri came a figure, dark at first, hidden in the shadows. It walked slow, but as it got closer and the light shone brighter, Dean could see the face clearly. Castiel looked down at him, standing behind Missouri's chair. He smiled at him, that bright smile he had grown so fond of over the years, and he told him silently: "I care," he said, and Dean believed him. 

Dean blinked his eyes, and he was gone. He dragged his gaze back to Missouri's and she asked him another question. "What was your childhood like, dear?" 

"My childhood?" He snorted, a small smirk painting his lips, though it didn't reach his eyes, because it wasn't exactly a smile. "Oh, yeah, my childhood was awesome. Rainbows and butterflies and peaches. Mommy baked pies, daddy came home from work, gave me hug, gave my baby brother a kiss, read us a bed time story. It was all beautiful. Yeah, they based Full House on the merry old Winchesters!" The bitterness in his voice left a resonating aura in the room. He sniffed, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. "Picture perfect," he spat under his breath, glaring down at his shoes. 

No one spoke a word, and it infuriated Dean, because he knew that no one believed a word he said, and they had all probably been through similar pasts, he didn't even have to explain. 

"My mom died when I was four. Dad was useless. He didn't even care to yell at us. I raised my brother, stole my dad's and got us the hell out by my eighteenth birthday. He didn't even bother coming after us for the car, which was for the best I suppose." 

He looked up and saw a guy with a hint of a smile on his face. He wondered if his dad was just as useless, or if he'd been the violent sort. It was probably the latter. 

"And do you think it had anything to do with your addictions?" 

"It certainly had everything to do with the alcohol," he replied with a dry chuckle. 

"What about after? What happened after you got yourself and your brother out?" Missouri asked him. He knew exactly what she was asking him about. When his life had actually started, when he had become a free man. 

"California, 2009," he replied simply. 

"Ten years ago?" 

"Exactly ten years next month." He told, a smile appearing on his face. 

"So, what happened ten years ago?" 

He was lost in his thoughts again at her question. He didn't answer for a good few minutes and she had to snap him out of his reverie again. "Dean? Sweetheart? Dean?" 

"August 2009, San Fran. It was perfect. Well... almost." 

***

2009 
August 
San Francisco, California 

Cas looked up at the house before with a frown on his face. The sun was glaring down on his face harshly and he had to hold out his hand over his forehead to read the writing on the screen of his cellphone. He squinted hard, reading the address in the green text bubble, and then slipped the phone back in his pocket, looking at the street sign above his head. This was the street, and that was the same house number. He didn't understand though, why a teenage boy was sitting on the porch reading a novel. The long shaggy hair falling over his forehead softened his striking sharp facial features, his cheek bones protruding and his jawline like a knife. Despite his obviously overgrown limbs, Cas could tell that the boy was no older than 18, and was probably still in high school, or freshly graduated. 

"Hey, dude, you lurking for any specific reason or should I call the cops?" 

Cas was startled by the surprisingly soft and amused voice coming from the kid who was now up on his feet, leaning over the wooden rail of the front porch. He had expected a much deeper voice coming from. The kid could have sworn the exact opposite. He hadn't expected Castiel's voice to be so deep. 

"Oh, uh, my name's Cas- Castiel Novak, I'm supposed to be the new roommate... or something...." he trailed as he approached the house even more, walking up the few steps onto the porch. "Are you Dean?" He wondered, maybe that would have made more sense, that the boy was the person he had contacted a few days earlier about the empty room up for rent. Except, he hadn't expected him to look so young. The guy had said in the ad that it was a house for college students. 

"Oh, gosh, no! I'm his brother, Sam. Dean didn't say you were coming today, though. He's not home yet, actually. He works till five today, so he won't be in for another couple hours," the lanky boy explained. His hands moved with ease, gesturing every word he spoke. He rested one hand on the rail and the other on the back of his neck as he finished speaking, scratching the back of his neck. 

"Right, yeah. He did say that I could come by in the late afternoon. But I finished classes early... and my landlord kinda didn't let me stay the extra day since my rent was up... so I thought I'd just pass by and I had totally forgotten. Uhm, it's not a problem, I'll pass by after five." Cas scratched his jaw awkwardly, turning around and ready to walk away. He really wasn't looking forward to dragging his bags around town though. Even if they did only contain clothes and notebooks, they were still pretty heavy. 

"Hey, no! It's not a problem, I'll just text Dean and tell him you came by earlier than expected. He won't mind, I promise," Sam reassured him, and Cas turned around, finding him already typing away furiously at his phone. He heard the swish noise, indicating that a message had been sent, and not even a second later, there was a series of dings and Sam laughed as he read the replies before shoving his phone back in his pocket. "Yeah, he said to show you around and let you settle in, though he hoped he could do that. He likes to show off his room and the tv room and the basement, usually. Oh, and the garage, which I'm sure he'll still drag you to once he's home. You'll see why when he's here." 

Cas looked at him with a confused look on his face, wondering what could be so fascinating about a garage. When Sam noticed the odd look on his face, he let out a small laugh and just shook his head, as if telling him that he'll understand soon enough, he needn't worry his head about it now. 

"Let's get your things inside, then!" Sam clapped his hands enthusiastically and started marching down the stairs, stopping when he spotted Castiel's two suitcases. "That all you got?" He asked him with his eyebrows furrowed. 

"Yeah, don't own much," he replied coolly, jumping down the steps and walking toward the first bag. He made sure the strap of his backpack was intact over his shoulders before bending down and carrying the first suitcase up the stairs. Sam just shrugged at his response, grabbing the other suitcase and carrying it onto the porch. He walked over to the front door then and pushed it open before dragging the bag inside. Cas followed him slowly, taking in the smell of freshly baked cookies. Honestly, it took him by surprise. He looked around the hall, noticing a coat rack in the corner, empty of coats but happily carrying a bunch of hats and cats for the summer. There was a cupboard next to it built into the wall, which he assumed is where all the winter coats were kept. The hall was empty apart for a giant painting of what looked like... was that Elvis Presley? On the toilet? 

"Oh, yeah, don't mind that painting. Dean bet Benny that he couldn't paint his worst nightmare and well... there was a lot of alcohol involved. That's Benny you're hearing in the kitchen right now. He stress-bakes a lot. Not complaining," Sam explained, turning to Cas and shooting him a grin. Cas raised an eyebrow, wondering who Benny was. Dean did mention in the ad that the house already had four occupants, and Cas would be the fifth. By the looks of it, it seemed as though those occupants were going to be quite fun.

"BEN, COME MEET THE NEW GUY!" Sam yelled through the hall, depositing the bag he was carrying on the floor, Cas doing the same. He followed the boy into the first room to the right where the smell of baked goods was wafting from. The kitchen wasn't too large. It had blue tiles lining the walls and white cupboards all around. A round dining table that could seat six people sat in the middle, a basket of fruit the only decoration available, except, it was empty. It was quite cozy though, he had to admit. He could see himself cooking meals around, he did enjoy cooking a lot. Though he feared he had competition, as his eyes landed on the figure crouching in front oven the oven, poking the dessert in there with a thin metal rod to check if it was done or not yet. "Smells like bananas," Sam grinned, hoisting himself up on the counter. 

"Banana bread, yup," Benny, Cas assumed, replied, closing the oven door and standing up. 

"Cookies weren't enough?" 

"Nah, brother. I'm all out of inspiration. It's a damn bass riff, right? How hard could it be? Well, it's damn hard, alright! And your hard ass brother wants it by tomorrow. Well, he could kiss my ass and write it himself!" Benny grumbled, grabbing a cookie from the tray that was on the counter besides Sam and biting hard into it. His eyes finally landed on Cas who was watching him carefully, and his face split into a grin. "You must be... I'm sorry, I forget, even though Dean mentioned it a bunch of times. Sounded like a good pizza place. Uhm, Cas' somethin'?" 

"Yeah, Castiel, but I go by Cas anyway," Cas laughed, holding his hand out for the man who shook it enthusiastically. 

"Right, Cas it is. I'm Benny, full time tenant, bassist, and stress baker," he introduced himself, causing Cas to laugh. 

The man was pretty buff, clad in a large shirt that still fit his broad shoulders snuggly. His blue eyes were piercing, but they were still gentle, like those of a teddy bear. When he smiled though, his teeth bared and his canines were a little too sharp for Castiel's liking, though it did give him a sort of appeal, and it peaked his interest. He would enjoy it here, he was certain. 

"Alrighty, let's finish that tour, shall we?" Sam sighed, grabbing a bunch of cookies from the tray and handing Cas a couple. He thanked him before following him back into the hall. He grabbed Castiel's bags and hoisted them up with ease, Cas was almost jealous of the kid's strength. He liked to pride himself with the fact that he ate healthy most of the time and tried to get in at least one day a week of exercise but be wasn't nearly as muscular as the teen was. Sam stopped at the first room down the hall on the second floor, kicking the door open gently. 

"So this'll be your room, it's kinda small, but, that just means it's cozier, right?" He chuckled, depositing the bags on the floor near the empty bed. There was only a mattress and pillows there, with no bedding or blankets of pillow jackets. There was a small cupboard in front of the bed and a desk near the door. A bedside table with a lamp was situated to the left-side of the bed and right ahead, a large window opened to a small balcony, looking down onto the backyard. Cas looked around, already getting ideas about how he was going to decorate the place. He smiled to himself. 

"Alright, so bathroom is on the other end of the hall, the room facing yours is me, the one next to it is Benny, and the one next to yours is Charlie. You'll meet her tonight, she's at work too. You'll also see Kevin and Jo spend a lot of time here, like a lot. They have band practices every single day, these guys, but you'll get used to it. They're generally not too loud, and if they are they sound good. And they don't play past ten, unless there's a gig the next day, which is usually round the weekends," Sam went on to explain, and Cas took it in with small nods of his head. He was okay with a little bit of noise, it was better than the quiet of his own thoughts at least. 

"What about Dean though?" He asked suddenly, realizing that Sam hadn't mentioned where he was staying, and all the rooms in the house were already occupied. 

"Oh, yeah, he stays in the basement. Dunno what's that about but, it's like his man cave, and it is pretty cool. That's where the band practices too. Somehow, there's enough space to fit his bed, a couch and a tv, a mini fridge, and an entire band," Sam chuckled, twirling his phone in his hand. He went back to the stairs, ready to show Cas the rest of the house. Cas followed him downstairs and across the hall to the living room. There was a flat screen hanging on the wall with a cabinet filled with DVDs right under it. Couches and arm chairs were set up in a semi-circle around the television, and a reclining massage chair filled the empty spot in the back corner the room.  The other corner held a large stack of records, standing still on a cabinet that was set up on its side so that it was standing up, leaning against the wall. Innovative, he chuckled to himself. On top of it laid a record player that looked brand new, even though it was clearly a vintage piece. A small coffee table sat in the middle of the room, a tiny cactus the only decorating element. Next to the television and behind the door way that lacked a door- Cas had noticed, there was a piano, with old keys and scratched paint. 

"So, this is where we spend most of our time, I guess. There's the guest bathroom right across the hall, and the broom closet under the stairs. And yeah, that's pretty much it. It's not a big place," Sam shrugged, flopping down on the couch, setting his feet on the table. 

"It's perfect," Cas smiled, joining him on the couch. 

Sam moved to grab the remote control from the table and turned in the television. He started switching aimlessly through the channels, searching for something interesting to watch. 

"So, how old are you?" Cas asked him, trying to make small talk and get to know his roommate for a while now. 

"'m seventeen," he replied, stopping at a rerun of That 70's Show. He raised the volume a little and then tossed the remote control aside on the couch. "Starting my senior year." He explained, his eyes focused on the screen. 

Cas raised his eyebrows in surprise. If he actually was still in school, how come he lived with his older brother and not his parents? He didn't say anything, but he couldn't help his curiosity. 

"You into music too, or is that just your brother?" Cas asked instead to keep the conversation going. 

"Just Dean, we have very different tastes. I'm more into books, all forms of literature, really," Sam explained and Cas' eyes widened in response, a small grin appearing on his face.

"Oh, yeah? I'm actually an English major," Cas told him and that seemed to interest the kid. 

"That's so cool! I'm pretty sure I'm gonna go into law though, fight for the people who can't fight for themselves, you know?" Sam admitted and Cas nodded his head in understanding. 

"That's very respectable, good luck with that," he wished him, sending a smile his way. 

They went on to watch the show playing on the television and Benny soon joined him once he had finished baking, bass in hand. He sat on the armchair, his feet hanging from the other side and played some notes, perhaps trying to come up with the riff he was complaining about earlier, though Cas wondered if he could actually hear the instrument that was unplugged, because all he could hear was a few very quiet and muted vibrations and thumps on the strings. 

At around three in the afternoon, the door opened and closed and four people walked into the living room, falling with ease into place, sitting on the available spots on the couches or the floor, fitting right in as though it was a routine to them. They paid Cas no business as they laid pizza boxes on the coffee table and a redheaded girl walked into the kitchen to grab plates, utensils, followed by an Asian kid who went to grab drinks for everyone. 

None of them was Dean though, that he was sure of. He hadn't met the man yet but he was sure that he was neither the Asian kid nor the tall and lanky guy who seemed like he fall on his ass at the gentlest of breezes. 

Cas felt a little awkward at first as they all chanted in excitement when the boxes of pizza were opened and bottles of beer were handed around between them, until finally the redheaded girl looked up at him with raised eyebrows and a confused expression on her face. 

"Who's the dreamy guy?" She asked suddenly and Cas could feel his cheeks starting to heat. 

"Oh, uh, I'm- I'm Cas-," he stumbled over his words as he introduced himself to the rest of the group. 

"Right- sorry, I forgot you didn't know everyone already for a second, uh, guys, this is Castiel, or Cas, our new roommate," Sam started and a chorus of "ohs" and "ahs" were heard around the room, someone mumbling "right, Dean mentioned something". "Cas, this is everyone," Sam chuckled as he introduced the bunch. "That's Charlie, drummer. She might not look like much, but she's pretty bad ass!" 

"Damn right, I am, Sammy!" She grinned, slapping her hand down on the table, making the group laugh a little. 

"That's Jo, co-lead guitarist with Dean, she's also bad ass. Don't get on her bad side, she will kick you." 

"Damn right, I will!" The blonde girl Sam was pointing at stated, imitating Charlie's previous response, partially mocking her. 

"And that's Kevin," he pointed at the kid with the dark hair flopping down on his forehead who waved his hand lazily over his head. "He was in advanced placement," Sam grinned teasingly at Kevin who rolled his eyes at him, throwing a pillow hard at him. 

"Are you ever gonna let it go?" He groaned, dropping his head against the couch pillow. 

"Never," everyone replied at the same time and they all laughed, sharing a bunch of high fives. 

"Anyway, Kevin's the keyboardist, the violinist, the flute and harmonica guy, basically he's the 'whatever else we need for the song' guy," Sam explained and Cas raised his eyebrows, impressed. 

"Is there any instrument you can't play?" He asked him and Kevin actually thought about it for a moment. 

"I've never played a banjo," he replied after a few seconds. 

"And you're never gonna. We ain't going country, brother," Benny chuckled and the all agreed, laughing. 

"Yeah, I'm good playing the piano mostly," Kevin decided. 

"And finally, that's Garth. He's the band's manager, I guess," Sam finished off, pointing at the lanky guy. 

"Yeah, you guys wouldn't be doing shit if it weren't for me, so really, I'm the most important guy here," Garth bragged jokingly, earning himself a smack on the back of the head from Jo. 

"Nice to meet you all," Cas said and they all replied likewise. 

"What about you, Cas? You play anything?" Charlie asked him. 

"You seem like a school band typa guy, no offence," Jo added and the group chuckled, Cas joining in. 

"None taken," he replied. "Uh, no, I wasn't in the school band, believe it or not," he breathed out a laugh. "I mean, I learned a little bit of guitar from my dad growing up, but I never really had a good ear for music. I like words, mostly. Poems, lyrics, I guess," he explained and they all nodded their head, impressed. 

"You write your own stuff?" 

He looked up, looking at the doorway, at the newcomer that had suddenly spoken. The man was leaning against the doorframe, his arms crossed over his chest. Cas could see the hints of black markings on his arms, tattoos trailing all the way up, under the sleeves of his shirt. His green eyes were watching him curiously, and Cas felt his mouth suddenly dry, the air knocked right out of his chest. He licked his lips, swallowing hard, but no words came out. 

Dean had walked in through the backdoor from the garage, which was why he supposed no one had heard him coming in. Initially, all he was going to do was flop down besides his friends, shake the new guy's hand, and eat pizza. But as he stood in the hallway, listening to him talk, his blue eyes bright and excited, he couldn't help but watch him in fascination. Of course, he didn't mean to put him on the spot. He probably should have introduced himself first, and so that's what he did. He walked into the room, dropping his arms to his sides and held it out for Cas to shake. 

"Sorry, I didn't introduce myself. I'm Dean," he smiled politely at Cas who returned a small smile, shaking his hand firmly. 

"Cas," he replied simply with a curt nod of his head, retreating his hand to his lap. 

"Sorry we couldn't meet earlier, I had to catch an extra shift at work. But I'll show you around town tomorrow if you'd like." 

Of course, Cas knew every last street and allies this town had. He grew up here, after all. But he still smiled at Dean and nodded in agreement. "Sure, that'd be awesome." 

"Alright, now get your ass down here and let's eat, I'm starving," Charlie grunted, pulling Dean from his pants to the ground next to her. Dean chuckled, sitting down and grabbing a plate for himself from the stack on the table. 

Everyone moved with ease, grabbing slices of pizza, handing each other pieces of garlic bread, it was like these guys had been friends for years, and perhaps they had been. Cas felt like he was intruding, but then again Dean wouldn't have put the ad and spoken to him on the phone, agreeing to him renting the room if he didn't feel like there wasn't any room for someone new. And besides, they all seemed like nice people. Maybe he could fit in with these guys. He didn't have to be their best friend but getting along seemed easy enough. 

"So, do you write your own stuff?" 

Cas looked up, meeting Dean's eyes looking up at him as he repeated his previous question with his mouth full this time. 

Cas chewed slowly, and swallowed, thinking of an answer. Finally, he did a little mouth shrug, rubbing the little breadcrumbs from the pizza crust off his fingers and onto the plate. "I guess, none of it's really anything, just small verses and pieces of prose here and there. Some for assignments, some for pleasure if I get inspiration. I try to write as much as possible, and maybe one day I'll have enough material to publish, I guess. That's the big goal." 

"Are you any good?" Dean grinned at him, raising an eyebrow.

"What he means is that we're all pretty useless when it comes to writing words. None of it ever makes sense, or rhymes, or it's always too cliché. We've got a good few songs, but that's it. A good few. With better lyrics, it would make the writing process much faster, and well, we could get somewhere with this band," Jo explained and Dean rolled his eyes at her. 

"Hey, we're good. I slept with a member of Lazarus Rising and all I got was this stupid song written about me is an awesome song!" Dean whined and the band laughed as Cas choked a little on his beer, a small laugh escaping his mouth. 

"Wait, that's actually what the song's called?" He asked and Benny laughed, clapping his back a little. 

"Yep, definitely not a rip off of Fall Out Boy's song!" His voice dripped of sarcasm. 

"C'mon, it wasn't that bad. Those teens at that club seemed to be enjoying it!" Sam added, trying to reassure the band but everyone just looked at him with a bored expression, knowing that he was lying.

"Look, we've got the songs for an album, albums, plural, actually," Dean finally said, turning to Cas. "But we don't have the hit, you know? We don't have the Hey Jude, though, the Smells Like Teen Spirit, or Hotel California.  We need our own Welcome to the Black Parade!" 

At the mention of the last song, Kevin reached his hand over to the piano and played a single note, the G note, and Cas knew that for a fact because he did go through an unashamed emo phase during his high school years, he would listen to My Chemical Romance religiously. The entire group yelled out in protest, pretending to suddenly feeling upset and nostalgic, and then they all burst out laughing. 

When they had sobered up, Cas shared a glance with Dean, nodding his head to tell him he understood what he had been saying before Kevin had pulled his little joke. "Yeah, I get what you're saying, but I'm afraid all I've got is a bunch of writings for my classes, none of which are worth sharing to the entire world," he chuckled, looking at the group apologetically. He felt bad as he saw the disappointed look on Dean's face because he knew for a fact that what he had said was a lie. He knew he had good content. Hell, most of his personal writings were pretty damn good, especially the poems. But mostly, they were too personal, and he just wasn't ready to share those with anyone just yet. For now, he was happy just having them tucked in the comfort of his small leather-bound notebook which he took with him everywhere he went. (You never knew when inspiration might hit, and it always did at the weirdest of times).  

He shared another look with Dean, his green eyes softening as he took a large sip from his drink, and Cas knew. He was going to spend the rest of the night writing about the color green, about sun-kissed skin and a freckled nose. 

***

Present Day 
July 2019
Lawrence, Kansas

"So, you met Cas? That's what happened after you left for San Francisco?" 

"Yeah, I met Cas." 

Just saying his name now brought a small and shy smile onto Dean's face. Gosh, he could just see the deep electric blue of his eyes behind his closed lids. He could feel his soft fingertips, remained innocent and untouched, held against his own calloused and roughened tips from playing instruments and gnawing at them too much. 

"Is he your best friend?" 

Dean snorted. Anyone who knew anything about him knew that Cas wasn't just his best friend. There were so many rumors all the time: Lead Singer of Modern Rock Band Lazarus Rising Reportedly Dating Songwriter; Dean Winchester: Cheating on Long-term Girlfriend with Fellow Songwriter and Roommate? Dean Winchester and Castiel Novak: What is going on there?

Article, upon article, upon article. Yet Castiel remained unphased, or Dean simply couldn't see past his happy exterior. He never complained about them once, though, and it never put a strain on their friendship... not until... well, he was here now, wasn't he? 

"Yeah... yeah, he was my best friend," Dean replied quietly, chewing hard on his bottom lip. 

"Was? You used the past tense. Did you have a falling out recently?" 

"Yeah, something like that," he mumbled. 

"What happened?" 

"You want the whole story?" 

"Well, in order for you to heal healthily Dean, we have to find where the problem originated. But you can just start where you're comfortable dear," Missouri smiled at him kindly and Dean nodded, his knee bouncing. Up. Down. Up. Down. He had never told anyone the whole story before. His friends knew it all, they lived it. He sang about it in the songs that Cas wrote for the band, but he never once answered the tabloids, or the rumors. No one knew the truth, not the whole truth at least. Maybe it was time he got it off his chest. All of it. He took in a deep and shaky breath, stared ahead of Missouri, and he began. 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO

September, 2009 
San Francisco, California 

Cas was just... done. There was no other word to describe how he felt. His senior year of university was not as people described theirs. It was not exciting, it was not emotional, he did not spend his days lazing around campus and his nights partying in frat houses. His older brother had lied. Well... then again, his brother probably wasn't lying about himself, specifically, knowing him. Gabriel really was a "fuck it all" and "I don't give a damn unless there's sex and booze" type of person, but it was probably exactly that, his own personal experience. Cas was sure that no one else even dared to party unless it was on Fridays. He certainly didn't even dare leave the library of the comfort of his room until he had finished his readings or his essays. 

His professors were already giving out more assignments than any normal student could handle, demanding essays in just short deadlines, readings of ginormous pieces of literature overnight, and exams. They had already set the dates for his midterms and he was just about ready to drop out. But he was rational and knew that it wouldn't be an option. After all, he did slave through three excruciating years, giving up on his last one would be just plain stupid. Plus, his father would have a stroke. The old man was reluctant to pay for a future career that held no sure jobs or money, telling him time and time again that he would rather he be studying something more useful like medicine or engineering, but Cas didn't like biology, and he absolutely hated mathematics, almost failing it his junior year in high school to prove a point to his father: that he was absolutely mediocre, bordering on horrible, in sciences, and his father had finally agreed. He didn't want to have to pay for the same course more than once, which probably would have been the case with Cas. He would have had to repeat them a bunch of times to pass. It was ironic though, because his father was a New York Times bestselling author. It never made sense to him why his father didn’t want him to follow in his footsteps, but as he was working on his assignments, creativity absolutely evading him, he finally understood. It sucked.

It was already eight p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and Cas had an exam the next morning. Why his professor chose to bring his class on a Saturday morning for an exam was beyond his scope of understanding but he couldn't do anything about it except coop himself up in his room and study everything he could on Shakespeare. Except, Cas was a good student, he would've liked to think. He wasn't top of his class, though his grades fluctuated between A's and B's, which wasn't so terrible. He paid attention in class, mostly. As he read over his notes, over and over, he felt his head lolling backwards, the words blurring before him as his eyes fought him with all their mighty power to shut. 

He let out a heavy groan, pushing his reading glasses over his hair and closing his eyes, hitting his head over and over on his open notebook. He couldn't take another word of this. Sure, he loved Shakespeare and he appreciated his sonnets and plays a lot more than anyone else he knew, but his head felt like it just might implode if he tried to stuff it with any more information. 

He decided that he needed a break. And booze. Gosh, lots of booze. Well... that was a pretty bad idea, he was much smarter than that. 

He heard the heavy stomps of feet running down the stairs. He had become familiar with the different footsteps each of his new friends and roommates had, relating the current heavy thuds to Benny. Then came Charlie's, just as hurried. 

He looked at the time on his phone. 8:23 p.m. He had been studying since he got home at one. God, he really needed a break. He needed to see people, to talk to them, to breathe in a different air that wasn't this house or the university campus. 

With one loud groan and a muttered "fuck it," Cas held his head up and closed his notebook. He pushed his chair back against the floorboards and stood up, stretching his arms and legs. He them shoved his cellphone back into his pocket, grabbed his denim jacket which he had previously tossed onto his bed, and slipped into his shoes quickly. He grabbed his keys and wallet from his desk, stuffed them in the pockets of his jeans, and then shrugged on his jacket as he swung his door open and jogged down the stairs. 

As he reached the main hallway, he found Dean, Charlie, and Benny huddled up, carrying their instruments and gear. He waved hi to them absentmindedly as he turned to the kitchen to grab himself a bottle of water. 

"Alrighty, gang, Kevin's out with his mom's minivan, and Jo will be meeting us at the bar," Charlie announced to her friends, reading a message off her phone, before placing it back in her back pocket. 

"Awesome," Dean replied, nodding his head enthusiastically. He turned around and his eyes landed on Cas just as he walking out of the kitchen and joining them in the hall again. 

"You guys got room for one more?" He asked and Dean's face split into a grin. 

"Hell yeah, we do! Wait- shouldn't you be studying man?" His enthusiasm was replaced by a frown and confused look on his face. Just yesterday, Cas had refused their invitation to come watch the play at the local bar because he was sure he would be huddled up in his room studying. 

"Nah, man. A single word more about the verses in sonnets and the iambic pentameter, and I'll start screaming!" Cas explained, running his fingers through his hair harshly to show his infuriation. 

His friends laughed, and Benny patted him on the back sympathetically. 

"Save that energy for the show, Cas," Charlie told him. 

Just as Dean went to open the front door, several honks came from the driveway. Looks like Kevin was getting impatient. They all rolled their eyes as Dean opened the door and they all rushed out and toward the minivan parked right outside. They stuffed their gear in the trunk and huddled up in the car, with Charlie calling shotgun. The guys groaned in annoyance but didn't complain otherwise. Cas squeezed in first, sliding in the backseat to the end. 

"C'mon, I'm growing grey hair here!" Kevin yelled, honking the horn again and Dean forcefully shut the trunk's door and stepped into the car with Benny right behind him. 

"You know we have neighbors, right?" Dean muttered, sliding in to Cas' side, slapping the back of Kevin's head jokingly on his way. Benny slid in right after him and closed the door behind him. They had to squeeze in a little, but it wasn't too tight. The venue wasn't too far anyway. 

"Yeah, whatever, grandma," Kevin shot him a grin in the rearview mirror as he started the car and rolled out the driveway. 

Dean laid back against the seat, spreading his legs just enough for everyone to be comfortable, and Cas could feel the warmth of his thigh and leg against his through the material of their jeans. He turned his head to his left and sent a boyish grin is Cas' direction. "Hi," he said simply. 

"Hey?" Cas replied with a small chuckle, his response coming out as more of a question than a statement of greeting. 

"Hey, I guess you'll finally see us in action!" Benny held out his arm over Dean and gave Cas' shoulder a small squeeze. 

"I mean, I've been hearing you guys play for the past month," Cas replied with a slight shrug of his shoulders, but Dean was shaking his head furiously. 

"Nah, man. It's different up there, you'll see!" 

And he was right. 

They arrived at the bar only a few minutes later and Kevin parked the van round the back where Jo was waiting for them next a guy that Cas had never met before. They all exited the car and got their stuff from the trunk. 

"Took you guys long enough!" Jo sighed, walking over to her friends, hands stuffed in the pockets of her leather jacket. 

"Yeah, thought I'd have to fill in for all of you!" the stranger said, making Dean holler with laughter. 

"Yeah, you wish you could, Ash," he replied and the guy didn't fight him on it. 

He was an odd sort, Cas had concluded. He was sporting a mullet, clad in a plaid shirt with the sleeves cut off over a Led Zeppelin tee. He held a can of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It was clear to him that the guy was definitely already drunk, and possibly even high, but he still seemed like a pretty nice guy. They all seemed to like him a lot. 

"Oh right, Ash, meet Cas, he's our roommate," Dean stated then, holding his hand out to point at Castiel. "Cas, this is Ash, Jo's cousin and our sound manager, I guess." 

"Hey, I do a lot more than just manage your sounds, alright?" Ash complained. 

"Basically, he handles everything we can't. Electronics and such," Jo explained instead. "He's like a genius or something," she added and Ash gave a proud grin. 

"Yeah, too smart for MIT even," Dean added in a teasing tone which led to Ash glaring at him. 

"Damn straight, man. Why pay for them to tell me stuff I already know, right?" 

"Ash, they kicked you out," Charlie deadpanned and the group all tried to hold in their laughter, but it was impossible, and once Kevin had given in and started laughing loudly, everyone joined in, even Cas. 

"Yep, alright. You guys laugh all you want, I'm gonna head in there and start setting everything up," Ash grumbled as they all giggled. He pushed the backdoor to the bar open and walked inside. Benny held the door open after in and they all pushed in. 

"We don't have much time, guys, so let's tune up and just head to stage," Jo announced and they all nodded as they walked toward the backroom that they had become so familiar with, having played here at least once a month for the past year. They didn't like bragging but they were definitely town favorites. 

"Hey, Cas, get a front row seat, we need you rooting for us," Dean winked at him, placing his hand gently on Cas' arm for just a second before following his band to the backroom, but a second was all it took for goosebumps to trail on Cas' arms. 

"Yeah, alright," he mumbled, swallowing hard and kept walking forward, walking into the bar. The place was packed. There were some familiar faces, students he saw around campus, but mostly people he had never seen before, many who looked much too young to be sitting in here but still were. Maybe the band really was big in town. Cas had in fact heard of their name before even meeting them, but he had never made the connection in his mind until they had told him the name of their band. 

He recognized a girl from his poetry writing class and she seemed to have recognized him as well. She was sitting at a table to the side of the stage with a friend next to her, another guy he'd seen around campus. He smiled at them and they waved him over in return. He walked over to them, shimmying his way between the tables and the heavy and loud crowd. 

"Hey!" He greeted them when he was close enough to be heard. "Hannah, right?" 

The blue-eyed girl beamed at him, nodding her head. "Yeah, hey Castiel," she greeted him back, pointing at the empty chair at their table. Cas pulled it back and sat down, smiling politely at the other guy. "And this is Inias!" 

"Nice to meet you, Castiel," Inias held his hand out and Cas shook it politely, smiling at him. 

"Yeah, you too. You're a senior at USF, right?" Cas asked him and Inias nodded his head, taking a sip from his beer. 

"Yup, I'm a double major. Psych and English Lit," he told him and Cas raised his eyebrows, both surprised and impressed. 

"However, do you find time for both?" He wondered and Inias and Hannah both laughed. 

"Honestly, I've no idea. I've surprised myself time and time again," he admitted, making Cas laugh. He opened his mouth to respond when he saw Ash walk up on stage, carrying a bunch of jacks with him. He plugged them into the amplifiers, making sure to turn them on before walking to the microphone in the middle. He tapped it twice, satisfied that it was working, and threw two thumbs up at the crowd. 

"Alrighty, boys and girls, welcome to Harvell's. We've got a pretty awesome show for y'all tonight, and I think that's why you're all here today. Business is usually dead," he deadpanned and the crowd roared with laughter. In just the few minutes that he'd been sitting, Castiel realized, more people had come in to fill the place. The place was jam packed, with every table and every seat at the bar taken. Some people were even happy to just stand with a drink in their hand. 

Just then, a waitress walked over to Cas' table, looking more overwhelmed than ever. She bent down to his level so that he could hear her. "Could I get you anything, sir?" She asked him and Cas thought for a second. He probably shouldn't drink, right? He had an exam tomorrow, but then again... a beer wouldn't hair. What the hell. 

He turned and smiled at her, asking for a bottle of beer and some nachos. He had started getting hungry, too. The waitress scribbled it down on her notepad and left just as Ash went on to introduce the band. 

"And now, ladies and gentlemen. The moment we've all been waiting for... a round of applause for Lazarus Rising!" 

The whole crowd cheered. Cas laughed as he yelled a low "woo," clapping his hand hard with enthusiasm and excitement for his friends as they jumped up on stage, one after the other. First came Charlie, waving her drumsticks in the air as she settled down behind the drum kit. She started with a steady, simple rhythm, just hitting the bass drum. Then Benny walked up on stage, his grin ear splitting, baring his teeth. He fixed his hat, bent down beside his amplifier and picked up his cord, plugging in his bass. He settled behind the microphone. And his fingers started moving, picking the strings to a smooth groove. A repeating line, over and over, matching Charlie's beat. Kevin came up next, waving lamely at the crowd. He stood behind the keyboard, flipped his hair off his forehead, and accompanied Benny's groove with some chords. It was then that Garth came stumbling in, scaring the hell out of Cas as he laid his hand on his shoulder. 

"Oh, good, I'm on time," he breathed out. 

"Garth, you okay, pal?" Cas looked at him with an eyebrow perched, letting out a small chuckle. 

"Uhu, yeah, just kinda overslept. No big deal," he grinned, taking in deep breaths. It was clear that he'd been in a hurry. Cas shook his head; a smile appearing on his face and turned his attention back to the stage. He could see Dean behind the stage, jumping up and down on the balls of his feet. He was watching his friends, but his eyes moved to the crowd for just a split second, and from the small slit between the curtains, his eyes met Cas' and he grinned widely at him. He waved and Cas waved back, throwing him a thumbs-up for encouragement. Dean made a grimacing face, and Cas understood that he was nervous and was having a hard time keeping it together. He wondered how many times Dean had been on stage before and how many times he got nervous. He seemed like a generally cool and collected kind of guy. 

Jo ran up on stage then. She wasted no time in plugging into the amplifier, fiddling with the pedals at her feet and she was joining in harmoniously to Benny's tune, playing the same melody but higher. It sounded like a twelve-bar blues to Cas, and his legs was bobbing up and down to Charlie's beat, his head bopping. 

And finally, as the song was forming, Dean walked up on stage, waving at the crowd excitedly. The howled and screamed, encouraging the band. Dean grinned as he plugged in his guitar and walked over to the microphone. He played the notes that Jo was playing for a single measure before he burst into a solo. And Cas had to admit, it was a great solo. He knew that this moment was purely improvised, because he had never heard this song before while they were practicing back in the basement every other day. To say that he was impressed would be an understatement. 

Dean shared a look with Jo, and he mouthed something to her. They were so in tune with each other that Dean had stopped soloing and gone back to the rhythmic melody along with Jo so smoothly, only for her to start her own improvisation, and it was nothing like Dean's. While his was more upbeat, starting off the crowed with some initial excitement, hers was building, building on emotion, building on speed, building up to the story. She glanced at Kevin, and they nodded to each other, and Jo was joining Dean again for the rhythm guitar. The Keyboard didn't sound like a piano anymore, and Kevin's fingers were gliding over the notes at a speed that almost blinded Cas, playing notes after notes, integrating some licks he had heard in Jo's and Dean's solos. He looked up after a moment, meeting all the guitarists' eyes. He plaid the same lick twice, three times, four times, and on the fifth time, Dean was playing it. They did it for four more measures. Then Benny joined in, and finally Jo. They all shared a look, and Dean turned around, his back facing the crowed. He was looking straight at Charlie. With a curt and subtle nod, the drumming had changed, the beat becoming more intense, building, and building, the guitars and keyboard playing the same note over and over, louder and louder, the note becoming a full chord, strummed mutedly, and then louder and clearer, again and again, and faster and faster, following the rhythm that Charlie was playing. 

And then it happened. Suddenly, the song had changed, but the change was so smooth that if Cas hadn't been so focused on their playing, he wouldn't have even noticed they had switched songs, and the switch worked perfectly. They were all in tune with each other, playing the intro to one of their originals, one that Cas had heard a lot during rehearsals. And then Dean was in front of the microphone and he was singing, his voice booming, his lyrics echoing around the room, bouncing off the walls. And Cas was mesmerized. 

He was so taken by their performance, he barely noticed anything that was going on around him. 

The song ended and Dean strummed the last power chord before wrapping his fingers around the guitar's neck to mute the strings and avoid any unwanted noise. He stepped back from the microphone, a smile bigger than Cas had ever seen decorating his face. Cas could only grin back as he screamed and clapped along with the crowd. Dean's chest heaved with heavy breaths. He looked down, his eyes meeting Cas'. Cas beamed up at him and Dean smirked, sending him the subtlest of winks before he turned his attention back to the crowd, walking up to the mic again. Cas didn't understand why he suddenly felt his cheeks warming, and he took this as his opportunity to hide behind his cold drink, taking a long sip. 

"Hey, guys!" Dean spoke into the microphone, his voice wavering a little and Cas could tell that it was more nerves than being tired from the previous song. 

The crowd erupted in a small chorus of "woos". The band laughed among themselves. 

"Thank you all for coming out tonight. This next song is a cover, if you know the lyrics, please sing along," Dean said. He turned around to share a look with his band. It only took them a second to come to an agreement. Dean tapped his foot over a pedal and strummed a single chord. He seemed satisfied. He held out a hand and then Charlie started off the song. They all joined her after the first measure, playing a tune that Cas recognized pretty well, and so did the crowd apparently. 

As Dean started singing and Cas grinned in excitement. As the band reached the chorus, Cas got up and started screaming the lyrics at the top of his lungs over the music, laughing as well. 

"We're going down, down in an earlier round
And Sugar, we're going down swinging
I'll be your number one with a bullet
A loaded God complex, cock it and pull it!" 

The crowed seemed to have had the same idea as they were all singing along to the lyrics over the loud instruments, worshipping Fall Out Boy's art. 

Cas could sing along to every song that the band played, including two thirds of them that were their own originals. He had heard them in his basement being played over and over again that he had unconsciously memorized them, and he had to admit, they were pretty good songs. They were amazing songs, actually. 

Hannah and Inias seemed impressed by the fact that he knew all the lyrics though. He leaned over as the band took a two second breather for a sip of water and yelled over the loud rumble of the crowd for Cas to hear him. "So, you're a big fan of the band?" Inias asked him and Cas shrugged his shoulders. 

"I suppose I have to be, I live with the drummer, bassist, and lead singer," he replied and chuckled at his new friends' shocked faces. 

"What? You do? No way! You think you could introduce us? I mean it's not like meeting Patrick Stump but it's pretty awesome!" Hannah rambled on and Cas laughed, nodding his head. 

"Yeah, sure, Dean promised to have a bunch of drinks after the show, anyway!" Cas told them and they high-fived excitedly. 

The band turned to the crowd again then and started off with another original. This one was another alternative blues/rock song and Cas bobbed his head along to the rhythm, taking slow sips from his beer. Benny turned his way at one point, and made a funny face which made Cas double over with laughter and hold his glass up, mouthing a cheers. He sent Kevin and Jo encouraging thumbs up, held up finger guns in Charlie's direction (he had gotten used to her greeting him with them every day and had started using them with her as well). But mostly, he beamed up at Dean, watching the delicate accuracy of his fingers, moving fast over the fretboard of his black telecaster, his body arching forward as he sang into the mic, his gaze alternating between his guitar and the crowd he was facing. 

The show lasted a good hour and a half, and the crowd was enjoying every moment of it. They played two encores, and Cas could tell by the second one just how tired they were, even with the big smiles on their faces. 

"Thank you!" Dean finally yelled through the mic as he played the last note. "Please, give a round of applause for Benny the great," he pointed his guitar in Benny's direction, the other man playing the Seinfeld riff on his bass. The crowd laughed at his antics. "Her royal highness, Charlie!" She played a quick drum beat, hitting every drum before her, and ended it with a twirl of her drum sticks in the air and catching them and hitting the high hats in only a split second. It was very impressive. "Kevin, the keyboard maestro!" He played a quick riff, the crowd applauding loud. "And we've got the amazing Jo," she went on to play a quick metal riff. "You can stop showing off, now, babe," Charlie spoke into her mic and they all burst out laughing. 

"Says you, babe," Jo retaliated, earning herself another roar of laughter from the rest of the people and the band on stage. 

"Anyway," Kevin cut them off and pointed his hand in Dean's direction. "The incredible Dean!" 

The whole crowd cheered as Dean bowed before them. Charlie and Kevin got up, joining their bandmates front stage and they all took each other's hands, bowing in thanks for the crowd's loud enthusiasm. 

"Thank you very much!" Dean yelled into the mic, grinning from ear to ear. "We're Lazarus Rising, and we hope to see you all again soon!" 

They unplugged their instruments and ran off stage as the rest of the people kept applauding and cheering them on, Cas included. 

He leaned back into his seat as some random music started playing quietly in the back and the people at the bar started either leaving or turned to chat with each other. 

"Man, that was a pretty cool performance!" Inias enthused, and Hannah and Cas both nodded in agreement. 

"Hey, my dude! Listen to me really carefully: if you see me ordering a drink, and I will order a drink, please knock me unconscious. Alright, my dude?" 

Cas looked up only to find Garth already drunk out of his mind. "God, Garth, how much have you had to drink already?" Cas chuckled and Garth hiccupped, settling down in the chair beside him. 

"Just one beer," he slurred, a hiccup making him jump in his seat. 

"You big lightweight!" 

Cas looked up to find Dean standing there, his hands clasping Garth's shoulders and shaking him around jokingly. 

"Oh, no, Deano, I- I wouldn't if I were- if I were you-" Garth couldn't even finish his sentence. He was already up on his feet and running in the direction of the bathroom to empty his guts, his friends snickering as they watched him go. 

"What a manager," Dean teased, making Cas laugh. He settled in the seat that Garth was in, leaning back and laying his arm behind Cas' chair. "Ah, so you've made new friends? I thought Shakespeare was your only friend," he shot Cas a grin but it was only returned with a deathly glare, instantly making him drop is grin. He smiled sheepishly as Cas shook his head at his joke and instead turned to the two strangers at the table. "Hi, I'm Dean Winchester," he introduced himself. 

"Hi! Oh my gosh, dude, that performance was LIT!" Inias was practically screaming excitedly. "Oh, I'm Inias by the way, Inias Michaelson," he added and Dean shook his hand, smirking at him. 

"Yeah? I'm glad you enjoyed it!" He responded before turning to the blue eyes girl. "I've seen you before," he told her and she smiled timidly at him. 

"Yeah, I've been to your previous shows," she told him. "And you were in my philosophy class sophomore year." 

"Oh, right... that makes sense!" 

"Yeah, I'm Hannah Oaks," she introduced herself and Dean smiled at her warmly. 

"Nice to meet you guys. Nice to see Cas here socializing," he pushed his shoulder playfully and Cas let out a sarcastic laugh, shoving him back. 

"I socialize. I have to put up with your ass twenty-four-seven. And Benny's, and Charlie's, and Sam's, and Jo and Kevin and Garth who are there all! the! time!" Castiel joked. 

"Well, if we bother you so much, you could always move out!" Dean teased him back and Cas gasped exaggeratedly. 

"Oh, no, I could never live without Benny's three a.m. brownies." 

"Three a.m. brownies?" Hannah wondered and Dean went on to explain. 

"He stress-bakes. Usually at very odd hours of the day," he said and though she seemed a little surprised, she only responded with a soft "oh." 
Cas tipped his glass up and emptied his drink, setting it down on the table. Jo and Charlie had joined them then, and Cas spotted Kevin and Benny standing by the bar, probably ordering drinks. 

"Hey, Cas! What d'ya think?" Charlie came
up to him, greeting him with finger guns, which he awkwardly returned. 

"I loved it! You were bad ass up there, guys," he told them and Jo and Charlie both awed as the redhead ruffled his hair. The squeezed themselves in, Charlie setting her chair too close to Hannah's for her comfort. She grinned at her, holding her hand out. 

"Hi, I'm Charlie," she introduced herself as Hannah hesitantly shook her hand. "Hannah," she replied simply and Charlie smirked, putting her hand back in her lap. 

"Charlie," Dean warned with a sigh while Cas and Jo smiled as they tried to stifle their snickers. Cas had learned the very first day that Charlie was very gay, and she loved harmless flirting. While she flirted with her friends jokingly, complimenting Cas here and there and always trying to make him blush (which wasn't all that hard, she learned easily), she flirted a whole lot with pretty women. He wondered if Hannah could tell. The bigger plot twist would be if Hannah actually went along with it, which was what Cas and Jo silently made a bet on. 

"SHOTS ARE HERE!" 

Cas looked up and found Benny and Kevin walking over to them with two large trays of approximately a dozen shots each. His eyes widened. Just then, Garth had come back from the bathroom. He took one look at the shots, shook his head, and ran back to the bathroom. Cas felt a little bad for him. 

"Hey, Cas, I know you're gonna say you got a date with English Lit tomorrow morning, but c'mon! Have a shot... just one..." Dean started pleading with him, shoving a glass and a lemon his way. Cas bit his lip with indecisiveness. On one hand, he didn't want to be hungover for his exam, but on the other he really wanted to loosen up tonight. 

"God, you're a very bad influence, Dean Winchester, I hope you know that," Cas pointed an accusatory finger at him before taking the shot, hitting it against the table top, and downing in one quick gulp. 

His friends' eyes all widened, both taken aback and impressed. They let out loud cheers for him as he chewed into the piece of lemon, and Dean laughed loudly, patting him on the back. 

"The worst influence, baby!" He grinned mischievously, grabbing his own shot glass. He hit the tabletop first, before holding it out in the air, the rest of their friends doing the same and then they all downed the tequila. Some gagged and others coughed, but most grimaced as they bit the lemon. 

"Round two?" Benny asked and they all nodded, grabbing a second shot glass, except for Kevin. 

"Why am I always the designated driver?" He grumbled and Jo cooed at him, wrapping a comforting arm around his shoulder. 

"You should drink Kev, and then have your mom pick us up!" 

"How will she pick us up if I'm driving her car?" 

Everyone was quiet at that. And then Dean toasted and swallowed his second shot, his friends following suit. 

"Alright, alright. I won't have any more. Solidarity, brother!" Benny said and he held his fist up and Kevin hit his knuckles against Benny's in a fist bump. 

"Whatever, I'm getting wasted!" Dean wiggled his eyebrows, taking a third shot. He was surprised when Cas grabbed another one as well but didn't say anything. They clinked glasses and downed the contents. 

It was safe to say that Cas woke up the next morning with a pounding headache, but he didn't mind. Last night was one of the best nights he'd ever spent, and he didn't care if he failed his test. Though, he did get an A-. 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE

October, 2009 
San Francisco

Saturday, October 31st. Cas was really not looking forward to it. He really hated Halloween. It might have had something to do with this high school freshman year party he attended which ended horribly, to keep it simple. (He may or may not have puked right after kissing Hester James during spin the bottle. In his defense, her breath did smell like eggs.) But it was also the need for everyone to dress up and pretend they were somebody else. Why the hell would anyone want to do that? 

It seemed as though Dean wasn't enjoying it either. As his friends slaved all day around the house trying to get it decorated and ready for the big party they were throwing that night, Dean stayed locked up in his room, only coming upstairs to get lunch and snacks from the kitchen. Benny spent the entire day, baking cookies and brownies. Charlie and Sam were putting up decorative cobwebs and ghosts and carved pumpkins and other Halloween themed items all over the house, inside and outside on the driveway and the front lawn. Kevin and Garth and Jo helped move around all valuable items, hiding them in cupboards or in Dean's room down in the basement which no one would probably dare to enter since he was probably going to stay down there the whole night. Cas came out of his room once he was done studying and was kind enough to lend a helping hand in moving the furniture around to make space for the guests and creating a small dance floor. 

They went around at about seven, just before the guests would be arriving, placing bowls of different snacks on each corner in the house and getting all the alcohol out and on the kitchen the counter. There was a barrel with water and apples for bobbing for apples, a ping pong table set up for beer pong, and various other "fun" activities that mostly Sam and Charlie came up with. 

Dean popped out of his bedroom just as the doorbell rang, signaling the arrival of the first few guests. He let out a loud groan as he entered the kitchen, grabbing a case of beer. 

"Dude, those are for the guests," Sam complained but made no move to stop him. 

"Yeah? Well, I paid for them," Dean grumbled but Sam rolled his eyes at him. 

"Actually, Benny got the beer. Your cash got the pizza," Sam told him, but instantly regretted it as he saw Dean's face twist into a smirk. 

"So, you wouldn't mind if I grabbed this, right?" Dean held out his free hand, grabbing the first of many boxes of pizza, not even bothering to open it to see its contents. 

Sam sighed, running a hand through his hair as he heard someone open the front door and greetings exchanged. "Could you at least socialize and not just mope around your bedroom for once?" 

"You hate Halloween too, Sammy," Dean reminded him but his younger brother rolled his eyes at him. 

"Yeah, well, I'm tryina make the best out of this, and so should you. It's not healthy to-"

"Will you get off my back, dr. Phil?" Dean cut him off and walked out of the kitchen. He spotted a group of people in the living room, already drinking and chatting among themselves. He exchanged glances with Jo who raised an eyebrow at him, but he only shook his head, avoided the disappointed look she gave him which was kind of funny in her zombie bride costume. He smirked, turning to walk back down to the basement, making sure to close the door behind him. He didn't want any intruders. 

The party had gone full blast by 8:00, and every corner of the living room and the kitchen was filled with people Cas barely recognized. Some faces he'd seen around his campus, some around local businesses, but most of them he had never seen before. He wondered if people just brought some of their friends along, even if they weren't invited. That was probably the case, he concluded. Everyone was wearing a costume. Benny had dressed as Dracula, cape and fake teeth and all. Charlie came as a warrior queen, plastic sword on her waist, medieval helmet under her arm. Kevin was a harry potter character, and Garth was dressed as a werewolf. Sam had opted for his usual jeans and plaid shirt, though it did make him look like a lumberjack, so he could have passed for one. Cas didn't bother dressing up though. He sat there in his jeans and plain blue V-neck that his mom always thought brought out his eyes. He stood, leaning with his back against the wall and drinking from his beer while Charlie and Jo stood beside him, having a heated discussion on who would win a fight between Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman. Charlie was rooting for Carol Danvers, her reason being that she is very gay and gay was always a superpower. Jo couldn't even fight her on that one. 

"What do you think Cas?" They turned to him and he looked up in surprise, his eyes wide. 

"Oh, uhm, yeah, Captain Marvel would kick Wonder Woman's ass. You know, cause it's the power of gay in her," he restated Charlie's words, causing for Charlie to raise her hands in the air and for Jo to groan. 

"C'mon man, don't encourage her!" 

Cas only laughed, hiding behind his bottle of beer, taking a long sip. 

"Alright, there's that cute cashier that I invited from the cafe downtown. Wish me luck, bitches!" Charlie grinned, taking in a deep breath. 

"Good luck," Cas and Jo chuckled, waving her off as she practically bounced on her feet in the direction of the girl that had just walked in, looking beyond lost. "To the poor girl," Jo added and Cas burst out laughing, hitting his head against the wall. 

"Alrighty, I'm gonna go mingle, maybe find someone worthy. You gonna be alright?" Jo asked him, already taking a few steps backwards and Cas shot her his best grin, holding out his bottle. 

"Always am," he replied, taking another sip as he watched her shoot him a thumbs-up and then turned around, walking away. 

Cas could easily walk up to some of the people he knew a little and have a good night, he was a fairly social guy, awkward as he might have been. He did have some good friends here and there. But he found the idea of sitting in his room much more appealing, for some reason. He turned around, leaving the crowded living room and stepped into the hallway, reading to climb his way upstairs, past the people huddled up on the staircase making out. He was holding the rail when a hand held him by the arm. He turned around, surprised to see Sam there. 

"Hey, Cas buddy, I'm like already kinda tipsy, and I doubt Dean wants to see me because I'll get pissed at him for moping around. And he'll get pissed at me for getting drunk. Though he gets drunk a loooooot," Sam grinned, laughing to himself. "Can you do me a favor and check up on him? Pretty please? He gets like in this really depressy mood, it usually lasts like up to a whole ass week, and he gets on everyone's nerves, but we're always nice to him you know? Cause we get it, but he shouldn't be alone. Usually I'm there, but C'mon! It's a pretty cool party, right? At least there's no Andrea from sixth grade for me to embarrass myself in front of!" 

Cas cut his rambling off short, placing a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Don't worry, Sammy. I'll make sure Dean's alright," he breathed out a laugh, smiling a little at the kid who grinned at him excitedly. 

"Alright, thanks!" He said and turned around, running in the other direction. Cas let out a small breath through his nostrils.

He really wanted to get some writing done, but he was curious about what Sam had said, and now he really wanted to check up on Dean. Not just because of his curiosity, but because over the past couple of months he had grown fond of Dean and had started to really care for him and his new friends, and he wanted to make sure that he was really okay. So, he climbed up the stairs, jumping over legs and bodies. He pushed his bedroom door open, thankful that no one had gotten to it yet. Grabbing his small leather-bound notebook and a pencil from his desk, he turned to walk out of his room when he bumped into a guy. He looked up at the guy dressed as Shaggy from Scooby Doo who grinned sheepishly at him. He saw a girl standing behind him, and Cas put two and two together. Groaning internally, he made it a point to make them watch as he grabbed the keys to his bedroom door from his desk drawer and locking it on his way out again. 

"The rooms are out of bounds," he grunted, stuffing the keys in his pocket, and marching back down the flight of stairs. He kept going, reaching the door to the basement at the bottom. The wooden door had a glowing neon sign on it that read: 

RESTRICTED AREA
DO NOT ENTER
AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY. 

Cas took in a deep breath and wrapped his fingers twice on the door. He heard a muffled, angry "what?" coming from the other side over the loud music playing in the house and he smiled a little to himself as he pushed the door open a little. 

"I didn't say come in," Dean muttered as Cas stepped into the dark room. There was only a little bit of light coming from the TV that was on. Dean looked up, his eyes landing on Cas and his glare softened. "Oh, hey Cas," he greeted him, this time his voice quieter, and much less annoyed. Cas chuckled to himself and closed the door behind him. 

"Mind if I join you?" He asked, stepping in further into the room. Dean was sprawled on his bed with his feet against the headboard, a box of pizza in front of him and a case of beer on the floor right under him. 

"Make yourself comfortable," Dean replied, patting the empty spot next to him. Cas mumbled a soft thanks as he took off his shoes and climbed up next to Dean on the bed, sitting with his legs crossed under him. "Not a fan of parties?" Dean asked him, taking a bite from his pizza and Cas shrugged, placing his notebook in his lap. 

"No, not parties. Halloween parties," Cas explained with a little chuckle, making Dean turn to look at him in amused surprise. 

"Oh, yeah? Why's that?" He asked and Cas grimaced at his question. 

"You want the real, uncool story, or the made up one?" 

"Both, please!" 

"Alright," Cas flexed his fingers, cracking his knuckles, and cleared his throat, before starting. "It was a cold Halloween evening. The night was dark, and eerily calm. The bats were flying low, and crickets did not dare make a sound, only the owls... they cooed quietly, warning all the townspeople, warning them of the evil that lived among them. The scarecrow in the apple orchard always gave everyone the creeps, but that night, he didn't just look like his usual old creepy self. No, that night, he wore a different face. He wore the face of your worst nightmare. He came up to you, wearing the face of your deceased loved ones, and in one swift movement of his hands, he split open your throat, and watched you bleed out as you stared into the dark pits that were once the eyes of someone dear and dead to you. I saw him that night. I was only six. He visited my grandma, and he looked exactly like my grandpa. I couldn't sleep for an entire year!" 

Dean was quiet for a good few moments, the piece of pizza he was going to bite into long forgotten in the air, his mouth hanging open. 
"Dude..." he finally whispered after a while. "Dude, that was fucking awesome!" 

Cas laughed, giving Dean the high five he held out his hand for. 

"Dude, you should write a book or something. You'd be the next Edgar Allan Poe!" Dean told him and Cas smiled shyly, shaking his head. 

"Well, that's the dream but... I don't know," he shrugged his shoulders, fiddling with the thin rope that kept his notebook closed tight. 

"What's the real story then?" Dean asked, finishing the pizza slice in his hand. 

"Not as cool, may I?" He pointed at the pizza and Dean nodded, offering him a slice. 

"Still wanna hear it, go ahead!" 

Cas sighed as he grabbed the pizza slice and took a bite from it. He chewed slowly and swallowed, taking in a shaky breath before admitting his embarrassing moment. "Freshman year of high school. Halloween party. Spin the bottle!" 

"Oh, Cas, buddy, no!" Dean laughed, already having an idea or two about what Cas had to say. "Did you have to make out with your best guy friend or something?" 

"That would've been much less embarrassing," he chuckled, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. "I got this girl, Hester. Never really liked her, and I thought she hated me too. But we had to do it, and I wasn't going to back down, I didn't want everyone to think I was a pussy or anything. So I leaned in and- well, her breath stunk of rotten eggs and I think I had a bad taco, and I barely pecked her lips and ran off to the bathroom to spill my guts," Cas grimaced at his own ending as Dean was bursting out with laughter. 

"Oh, man! That's sick! Oh, no pun intended!" 

Cas couldn't help but join in on his laughter, it was funny, after all. They were quiet for a moment as they settled down, eating their pizza quietly. 

"What about you?" Cas asked Dean quietly. His friend turned to look at him, furrowing his eyebrows. 

"What about me?" 

"Why do you hate Halloween?" Cas clarified his previous question. Dean shifted uncomfortably, his smile dropping a little. He was quiet, and Cas felt like he was treading on dangerous waters, on sensitive territories that weren't his to explore. 

"I don't see the point of it," he mumbled and Cas chuckled, nodding his head. 

"That makes two of us," he replied, wiping his hands on a napkin. They were quiet again for a moment, watching the horror movie that was playing on the television in silence. Cas recognized it as Poltergeist. Around ten minutes, maybe more, had passed when Dean finally spoke again, breaking the silence. 

"My mom... she passed away on November 2nd, I guess around that time I always get... depressy, as Sam calls it. It's just- I don't know, I just close off, hide in my room and don't come out till November 3rd. Sometimes takes a week, I don't know. It just happens every year, some years are worse than others. This year's alright, I guess. The company's not too bad," Dean turned to look at Cas, shooting him a small grin. Cas smiled back, his bright blue eyes soft with sympathy. 

"I'm so sorry, Dean," he told him and Dean simply shrugged. 

"Yeah well, that was seventeen years ago," he mumbled, emptying his drink. 

They laid there then, just watching the movie and eating pizza, until the pizza was done and the movie was over, but the party upstairs was still in motion, so Dean got up and went through his DVD collection, asking Cas for any suggestions. They settled on The Notebook, claiming that it was only for them to laugh and make fun of it to lighten the mood up a little. Neither one of them would admit though that they were actually enjoying it. Cas was leaning his back against the headboard and Dean had settled down next to him in a more comfortable position. He had his notebook open in his lap, and he worked on that night's piece, writing a few rhymes every time a little bit of inspiration came to him. He didn't notice that Dean had his head turned though, his interested seeming to have switched from the movie to Castiel's moving hand, scribbling down words on the paper. Dean felt like he was violating his privacy, but he couldn't keep his eyes off because he had to admit, it was pretty good writing. Cas hadn't noticed though, movie long forgotten, too engrossed in the piece of paper before him. He was almost done with it, he had realized, only the final verse remaining quite troublesome. He turned his pencil around to erase the last sentence he had written when Dean's hand stopped him. 

"No, no, keep that. That's really good!" He said. Cas' hand stopped in midair, and he looked up at Dean, shocked and confused. He hadn't noticed him reading the words he had been writing for the past hour, and he didn't know whether to feel annoyed, or angry that he was reading his own personal writings without asking, but he didn't. He only felt confused that he seemed genuinely interested in what he was writing. "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry," Dean blushed. "I know, I'm a jerk for reading that without your permission but you didn't laugh at the joke I made and that because you didn't hear it because you were writing and I looked over and I just kinda read a word, and then two, and then it was rhyming, and it was pretty good, and I just had to read it all and Cas- this is really good stuff! Like really good, man!" 

It was Cas' turn to blush this time. "You think so?" 

"Yeah! Here, may I?" Dean held out his hand, grinning at him excitedly. Cas hesitantly placed the book in his hands and Dean grabbed it carefully, as though it were a holy book, and placed it gently on the bed in front of him. He then got off, grabbed his telecaster and plugged it into his all. He turned it on, raising the volume. He played a few chords, testing out a few notes, and humming as he went along. The chords turned into a full chord progression then a melody. And when Dean seemed satisfied with the notes, he began singing Cas' lyrics. 

"I've been down, deep Texas Mississippi state
Hoping things might go my way
For every hard-earned dollar I make
There stands a white man just to take it away
Some might say I talk loud, see if I care
Unlike them, don't walk away from my fear
I've busted bones, broken stones, looked the devil in the eye
I hope he's going to break these chains, Oh yeah!" 

He stopped when he finished the first verse, his eyebrows furrowing as he thought about the next chord he wanted to play. He played a note, physically cringed, then played another, mumbling a soft no with a gentle shake of his head. He experimented with another one, tilting his head to the side, seeming to have liked it. He tested out a tune and grinned to himself. 

"The devil's going to make me a free man
The devil's going to set me free
The devil's going to make me a free man
The devil's going to set me free," [Original lyrics written by KALEO, Broken Bones]

He let his voice go gruff as he sang to the bluesy tune he had started. All Cas could do was stand there dumbfounded. Impressed would have been an understatement. 

Dean grinned widely, setting his guitar aside. "Cas, my friend, I think we just wrote a pretty awesome song!" 

"Dean, I'm- I was just writing down ideas for my writing assignment due Monday..." 

"And it's a pretty damn good song, Cas!" 

"You do know the topic is about in the nineteenth century and it talks about a slave who wants to kill his 'owners' or kill himself to free himself, right?" 

"Way to make it really dark, Castiel. It still makes an awesome rock single!" 

Cas sat there staring at Dean with a baffled expression on his face. On one hand, he really did have to hand that in on Monday or else he would fail. On the other hand, Dean did just write an amazing song to his poem. 

"I need to hand it in on Monday," Cas told him and Dean only grinned at him. 

"And it'll be a really good song on Tuesday! C'mon, please Cas!" 

Cas groaned, laying back against Dean's pillows. "Fine! But if it goes viral and makes you really famous, you owe me a really fancy dinner!" 

"Alright! Yes! You got yourself a deal!" Dean shot his fist up in the air with excitement. "This is gonna be great, Cas. This might just be the hit we need to get outta here, man," Dean let out a sigh, his fingers moving over his fretboard aimlessly, playing a tune in the same key as the song he was just writing. 

"Do I get part of the profits, in that case?" Cas teased him and Dean barked out a laugh, nodding his head. 

"Duh, you'll get like one percent," he teased back and Cas faked offence. 

"55 percent, or I call off the deal!" 

"20," Dean countered. 

"55," 

"30?" 

"45," 

"40! That's my final offer!" 

"50!" 

"Dude, you just said 45!" Dean laughed, shoving Cas' shoulder as he laughed harder, clutching his side. 

"50 percent, that's my final offer!" 

"45 with a fancy dinner!" Dean laughed and Cas finally said yes through his giggles. 

"I want really expensive fish, and the best wine available!" 

Dean grimaced, turning off his amplifier and setting his guitar back in place. He walked back over to Cas, laying down beside him. "Ew, wine!"

"Oh yeah, sorry, you're a gruff lumberjack who's strictly into beer and good whiskey, no ice, with your tattoos, your vintage guitar, and that bottleneck slide," Cas mocked him, shooting him a boyish, toothy grin. "None of that fancy shit, right?" 

"I'm not a lumberjack, you asshole!" Dean laughed, flicking his guitar pick at Cas who caught it with ease. "And my tattoos are amazing works of art, thank you very much!" 

"You dress like a lumberjack! All that's missing is a beard. You should try growing one," he told him, twirling the pick between his fingers. "Thanks, I'm keeping that." He smirked at him, putting it in his pocket. 

"Hey, that's my favorite one!" Dean pouted and Cas wiggled his eyebrows evilly at him. 

"It was blue, my favorite color," he protested, and Dean only sighed, flopping back down on his back. 

"Mine too, but whatever. I guess I have like a bunch of those too, YOU TAKE GOOD CARE OF IT, YOU HEAR ME?" He held his index finger at him as though warning him that something bad would happen if he were to lose it. 

"I cross my heart and hope to die that if anything ever happens to Jack - that's what we're naming the pick- I will never forgive myself and I will surrender myself to your wrath!" 

"Jack, huh?" 

"Yeah, Jack," Cas nodded his head with determination and Dean could only beam at him in amusement and joy. 

"Alrighty then, you take good care of Jack!" Dean told him and Cas grinned at him, holding his pinky out. 

"Promise," he said as Dean wrapped his pinky around Castiel's. 

***

Cas woke up the next morning, still in his clothes and in Dean's bed, though he was still laying over the blankets. He turned around only to find Dean still snoring beside him, hugging his pillow close. He grinned as he spotted the line of drool all the way down his chin. He patted his pockets in search of his cellphone and snapped a quick picture of him, laughing to himself. 

He grabbed his shoes and notebook and made his way out as quietly as possible, not wanting to wake up his friend. Quietly closing the door, he let out the breath he was holding in to avoid making any noise. He walked into the hallway, dropping his shoes by the front door and made his way to the kitchen. It was empty, of course, the house eerily calm. He looked at his watch which read 10:26 a.m. Of course, none of his friends were up yet. They were probably sleeping off a horrible hangover. He silently thanked his hatred for Halloween because he had a lot of homework to solve for the next day and he didn't have to nurse a headache while doing so. 

He grabbed a glass and filled it with water from the tap before making his way back upstairs and getting in the shower. He took his sweet time in there, and even when he got out and it was almost 11 o'clock, no one had woken up yet. He wrapped his towel around his waist and padded his way back to his bedroom, but the door wouldn't open. He groaned as he made his way back to the bathroom, bending down to grab his jeans and fish his keys out of the front pocket. 

"Ew, butt crack!" 

Cas turned around, his cheeks burning red, and not because of the hot water he spent about thirty minutes in. 

"Jesus, Char," he mumbled, tossing his jeans in the hamper and grabbing his phone and notebook from the cabinet top where he was keeping them safe from any water. 

Charlie grinned at him and pushed past him into the bathroom. "Good morning to you too, angel," she greeted him, much chirpier than Cas had thought she'd be. And then just as it hit him, her bedroom door opened and the girl from last night stumbled out, rubbing the sleep in her eyes, dressed in only an oversized t-shirt. 

"Glad you had a good night," he told her, sending her a subtle wink before making his way to his room. 

"Yeah, and you disappeared all night! We're gonna talk about that!" She called out after him. He ignored her though, closing the door behind him. He got dressed into a pair of sweatpants and a comfortable sweater, slipping on his fuzzy socks that had bunny ears, and slid his way back downstairs. 

He found Sam awake and, in the kitchen, his cheek smushed against the table. He chuckled, making it a point to ruffle his long mop of hair excessively as he walked past him to the fridge. Sam only groaned in response, his fingers moving up to his temple and rubbing it extensively. 

"Good night?" Cas asked, opened the fridge and grabbing all the ingredients he needed for a good breakfast. 

"Yeah, horrible morning though," Sam complained, finally sitting up straight. 

"Hangover food for breakfast, then!" Cas announced, placing the eggs and butter and milk on the counter. 

"Oh, he really is an angel!" 

Cas looked up to see a half-awake Jo stepping into the kitchen. She sat in the seat across from Sam and laid her head on the tabletop. 

"Why thank you," Cas grinned at her, batting his eyes lashes jokingly. 

He grabbed a bowl and started mixing in all the ingredients to make some chocolate chip pancakes. 

"Hey, who do I have to compete against?" Benny showed up, complaining jokingly as Cas had started pouring the pancake batter into the frying pan, the smell filling the entire house.  

"Not a competition. My pancakes are pretty awesome," Cas states in a matter-of-fact voice, smirking at Benny who now actually looked offended. 

"Oh, we'll have to have a bakeoff when I'm in a better mood," he said and Cas grinned, placing the first pancake on a plate. 

"Deal," he replied, starting on the second pancake. As the batter started bubbling, he grabbed the coffee machine and filled it with coffee beans and water, plugging it in and turning it on. 

"My mom doesn't even make me breakfast, anymore," Jo whined, a sated smile on her face as she took in a deep sniff, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and pancakes taking over. 

Cas laughed, flipping another pancake to the stack. As he was finishing up, their entire group of friends had woken up and huddled up around the table with plates and mugs in front of them, ready for the heavenly breakfast, save for Dean. Cas was a little worried about him, but he thought he'd check up on him after breakfast. He turned off the stove and set the plate of pancakes down in the middle of the table. They each poured themselves some coffee and then went around placing pancakes on their plates and pouring syrup over them. 

"Oh, God, Cas, I love you!" Sam moaned as he took a large bite. 

"Right?" Charlie agreed, speaking with her mouth full. "If I were into dudes, I'd definitely marry ya," she said and Cas laughed, despite the small blush creeping onto his face. 

"Hey, Cas, will you marry me?" Kevin asked him from across the table and they all laughed at his question. 

"I would love to!" Cas replied though, causing everyone to bellow out harder laughs.  

"What's so funny?" 

Everyone looked up to see Dean walking into the kitchen, brushing his fingers through his hair to fix it. 

"Hey, you actually left your room this year!" Sam teased him and Dean glared at him, flopping down in the empty seat next to Cas. 

"Shuddup," he mumbled, grabbing himself a plate and placing a bunch of pancakes on it. "Can someone pass the syrup, please?" 

"Oh, and he's being nice!" Jo added, a small grin on her face as she stuffed her face with more food. Dean, again, glared at her, but he remained quiet, grabbing the bottle of maple syrup from Garth and pouring some on his small stack. 

"Sleep well?" Cas asked him quietly with a small smile and Dean nodded at him, his expression softening from his previous glare at Sam and Jo. 

"Yeah, you?" He asked Cas in return who only nodded, drinking his coffee quietly. He remembered Sam's words from the previous night and wondered if this was really the first time Dean ever made the effort not to sit alone and sulk in his room. He didn't want to seem arrogant, but he wondered if it had anything to do with his attempts at cheering him up the previous night. He never asked Dean, but what he didn't know was that when Dean woke up just a little after he had, he was planning on spending the next week in his bed, listening to depressing music and sleeping it off. But when he heard Castiel's laugh all the way from the kitchen, along with those of his friends, his family, he gave it his best effort, and it turned out that he didn't need much for his feet to drag him on their own accord to the kitchen. 

Dean ignored the looks his friends were giving him, both proud and a little surprised and confused at his newfound, not joy per se, but lack of depression, more like. "So, Cas wrote this awesome poem yesterday, in like literally thirty minutes. And I got this tune in my head to it, and we have a new song!" He announced to the table. Everyone's head shot up, their interest peaked. And though Cas was hesitant for the world to hear the words he'd written for an English assignment, the pure glee and childlike excitement on Dean's face was enough to convince him that maybe the world did need to hear those words. Or maybe, he just wanted to see that smile on Dean's face again. 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR

 

November 2009

San Francisco

 

November 2nd came by, and as Sam had predicted aloud, Dean spent the entire day cooped up in his bedroom, only emerging to use the bathroom, usually when he was sure the coast was clear and he'd been holding in his bladder for as long as he could handle it.

 

Cas made several attempts to check up on him. The first time he did, it was in the morning just before he left for his morning classes. He knocked on his bedroom door softly, but when he heard no response, he sighed assuming he was still asleep and left on his bicycle to his campus. He couldn't afford being late to class.

 

When he came back home for lunch, opting to eat whatever they had in the fridge and save up a little, he noticed that Dean's bedroom door was still shut, and he was nowhere around. He raised a questioning eyebrow to Charlie who only shook her head. No, he hadn't come out yet. An hour later, Cas had to get back to school for a project he had due the next day. He put a plate of food with a glass of water and a can of soda on a tray and carried it out to Dean's room. He knocked on the door but still heard no response. He knew that Dean was awake though because this time he could hear faint voices and sounds coming from the television.

 

"Dean, I got you some lunch," he announced, loud enough for him to hear. But when he heard no response, he just sighed, placed the tray on the floor by the door, and was on his way out again to the library.

 

He came back home at around eight that night, more exhausted than he'd ever been. That project had really taken up all of his energy. As he unlocked the door, he was hit by the aroma of caramelizing onions coming from the kitchen. He raised his eyebrows, a small smile making its way on his face as he dropped his backpack by the door and kicked off his shoes. He hung his coat on the coat-hanger in the hallway and made his way to the kitchen where he found Sam and Charlie huddled over the stove, concocting something that smelled great.

 

"Oh, hey Cas! Dinner's almost ready, can ya call Benny and Dean?" Charlie told him and Cas nodded, stealing a glance in the direction of the basement. The tray he had placed was gone but the door was closed.

           

"Has he come out at all today?" He wondered, making his way over to the sink to wash his hands.

           

"I don't know if he did while I was at school or when Charlie and Benny left for work but, he was bound to go get some food and use the toilet, right?" Sam answered and Cas mumbled a soft yeah before walking out and running up the stairs. He knocked on Benny's door, telling him that dinner's ready and they walked back down together. Cas hesitated as he stood in front of Dean's door then, chewing the inside of his cheek. Benny wasn't as sensitive as he was though, apparently. He stepped in front of Cas and knocked hard on Dean's door.

           

"Hey, man, come out and eat with us!" He spoke loud, but again, Dean completely ignored them.

 

The two men sighed, and Benny patted Cas' back with a slight shake of his head. They made their way back to the kitchen where Sam was laying out plates on the table.

           

"No luck?" He sounded disappointed when Cas shook his head. "After yesterday morning, I thought maybe this wasn't gonna happen, but it does every year. I should be getting used to it by now," he mumbled to himself, busying his hands with cutlery. Charlie placed a gentle, comforting hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently.

           

They sat down at the table, a place remaining empty for Dean to fill but he never came. They ate, keeping conversation easy, discussing their day and any odd occurrences that had happened to them. Cas offered to do the dishes when they were done, and they later went to sit in the living room, watching a movie together before they were all too tired and went to bed. Charlie tried to drag Dean out this time, telling him that they were going to watch his favorite movie, no luck there either.

           

Halfway through The Lord of The Rings, Cas excused himself and went up to his room. He changed into his pajamas and laid under the covers, ready for sleep to sweep him, but even as tired as he was, no sleep came to him. Even when he heard three different doors open and close as his roommates retired to their rooms for the night, he still couldn't sleep. It was well after midnight when he finally decided to get out of bed. He wasn't getting any sleep, so he might as well get some work done.

           

He grabbed his notebook and made his way downstairs as quietly as possible. He went into the kitchen and made himself a cup of green tea, then sat down at the table, blank page open before him. He let himself get lost in the words that came to him. Writing, scratching out, rewriting, stopping to reread, adding words, finding the perfect sentence structures. He scratched out and rewrote the same sentence about the times. It was getting frustrating. He sighed, taking a long sip from his tea, when finally, the right words came to him.

           

He heard a door open and close then, and he looked up, waiting to see who it was. He was genuinely surprised when his eyes landed on the disheveled blond. "Oh, Dean?" he sounded just as surprised as he was.

           

"Oh... sorry, didn't know you were in here, Cas...." he trailed off, his eyes meeting Castiel's from across the dimly lit room.

           

"Yeah, uh... couldn't get any sleep," he admitted, taking another sip from his tea. Dean chuckled, nodding his head.

           

"Yeah, join the club," he mumbled, making his way to the fridge and pulling out the milk carton. He the grabbed a glass and the box of powdered chocolate. Cas watched him with a little amusement as he poured the chocolate powder into the class and then added the milk to it, making the perfect glass of chocolate milk.

           

"I don't think chocolate will help your insomnia," Cas pointed out and Dean shook his head, sitting in front of him at the table.

           

"Nonsense," he shot back, taking a big gulp from his drink, taking his time in swallowing it.

 

"Chocolate milk cures everything!" He added and Cas smiled at him, shrugging his shoulders.

           

"You make a valid point there, Winchester," he told him, turning his attention back to the piece of writing he was working on.

           

"Another poem?" Dean wondered and Cas shook his head.

           

"No, this time it's boring old prose," he told him and Dean's mouth turned into an "ah" shape.

           

As Cas kept writing in his notebook, Dean watched him carefully, taking occasional sips from his glass of chocolate milk. Cas could feel his heavy gaze. He raised an eyebrow at him but asked no questions. He then sat back in his seat and stared back at Dean, chewing at his bottom lip in thought. They just held each other's gaze in silence for a few seconds.

Suddenly, Cas just closed his notebook and set down his pencil on top of it. Dean looked at him with questioning eyes as he pushed his chair back, getting up from his seat.

           

"C'mon," Cas said, pushing the chair back in and making his way to the door.

           

"What?" Dean asked him in confusion but still following him into the hallway.

           

"C'mon we're going out," Cas told him as though it was the most normal thing in that moment. He grabbed his coat from the hanger and slipped his arms into it, pulling up the zipper.

           

"Dude, in pajamas? And fuzzy slippers?" Dean asked him, trying his hardest to keep his voice down to avoid waking their friends up.

           

"Yes, they're quite cute, aren't they?" Cas grinned at him, stealing a glance at his bunny ears slippers. Dean was wearing normal, black ones. So disappointing.

           

"I mean yeah, but, it's like almost one in the morning, Cas, where are we going?"

           

"Aha, so you're coming!" Cas opened the front door, grabbing his keys from the small shelf that was useless apart for holding everyone's keys.

           

"Sure, Cas," Dean sighed, grabbing his own coat and slipping into it. "But we're taking my car," he said, grabbing his own set of keys.

           

"Alright, but I'm driving," Cas fought back and Dean grunted, shoving his keys in Cas' hands.

           

"Fine," he grumbled, stepping outside and closing the door behind them.

           

Cas practically bounced all the way to Dean's car, twirling the keys in between his fingers. He used them to unlocked the car and they both stepped inside. Cas started the engine and turned on the heat, rubbing his hands together to warm them up.

           

"Yeah, alright, make yourself at home," Dean teased him, and Cas rolled his eyes, changing the gear into reverse and pulling out of the parking spot. Dean turned on the radio, keeping the music as quiet background noise as Cas started driving. It was quite between them for approximately five minutes when Dean finally couldn't handle it anymore. "Where are we going, man?"

 

Cas turned to glance at him, wiggling his eyebrows at him. "It's a surprise," he said, turning his attention back on the road. Dean groaned, leaning his head on the cold window and watching the streetlights move in a blur. He noticed that they were driving into town, though he was sure that there was nothing for them to do there at this hour.

           

"Are you planning on murdering me, Cas?"

           

"Yes," he turned to look at Dean with a very serious look on his face, only to let his face split into a crooked grin, one that gave Dean the creeps.

           

"Jesus," he muttered, running his fingers over his face.

 

Cas cackled loudly, slowing down as he rolled down a street, which was surprisingly still alive at this hour. Dean raised his eyebrows as Cas came to a halt in front of a small diner. He turned the engine off and handed the keys back to Dean. "We're here, c'mon," he patted his shoulder before getting out of the car, not even waiting for Dean. He pushed the door open to the diner and walked inside, though Dean lingered outside, staring at the big sign outside. "SUSIE'S DINER," it read in blue neon lights.

           

"What the hell," he breathed out, pushing the door open and joining Cas inside. The smell of coffee and baked goods wafted through his nose. He looked around, noticing a few tables still occupied. "Huh," he stated, shoving his hands in his pockets.

 

"Welcome to Susie's," Cas told him, laying his arm around Dean's shoulders. "What do you think?"

 

"I think we're in our pajamas and old people are staring," Dean whispered, making Cas laugh some more.

 

"That's not old people, that's Susie. You call her old, she won't serve you any pie," Cas explained. "Best pie in the state, by the way!"

 

"Well, that's debatable," Dean started but Cas was already walking in, moving toward a booth in the far back.

 

"Hey, Susie!" He waved at the old lady behind the counter who          looked up and smiled sweetly at him.

 

"Oh, the Novak boy returns! Told you you'd be back," she said, making her way around the counter and walking over to him.

 

"Yeah, and I said I'll be back for that pecan pie,” he replied with a laugh, sitting down at the booth. Dean sat awkwardly in front of him, watching their interaction quietly.

"Well, we're all out of pecan pie. That's what you get for comin' in here at this hour, you know we close in ten minutes!"

 

"And that is why I'm here right now and not in ten minutes!"

 

"You're getting cocky, kid," she said, but she was still smiling at Cas who was grinning innocently up at her.

 

"So, what can I get you boys?"

 

"All the pie you have left!"

 

"You got it," she chuckled, making her way back to the counter.

 

"How much pie do you think that is?" Dean wondered and Cas shrugged.

 

"Not a lot, the pie's so good here, they always end up selling out by the end of the day. On weekends, they make a double batch."

 

Dean seemed impressed. He had started relaxing a little, and he unzipped his jacket shrugging it off and laying it next to him. "So, how did you come across this place?" He asked, keeping small talk and Cas grinned sheepishly at him.

 

"Well, my parents' house is just down the road from here, and my old school is just a block away. My friends and I used to come here a lot after school to hang out. It's the only place that stays open till one in the morning, so we'd stay out here whenever we wanted to hang out late," he explained and Dean seemed genuinely surprised.

 

"Wait, I didn't know you grew up here," Dean stated and Cas shrugged his shoulders.

 

"And you let me give you a tour the first day you came here," he added, his expression one of someone feeling stupid.

           

"Well... I was being polite, since you were so polite to offer. And well, I'm a senior at USF, that should have hinted at the fact that I've been here for at least four years," he smirked a little at Dean, very much entertained by their current conversation.

           

"At least four years, yeah," Dean chuckled, shaking his head.

Susie came back with a paper bag that had food containers in it.        

 

"Enjoy it, boys," she smiled at them as she set the bag down on the table.

           

"What, you're kicking us out?" Cas pouted at her and the woman rolled her eyes at him.

           

"Yes, I am, I want to get some sleep, kid. You should to," she ruffled his hair as Cas pulled out his wallet, still pouting, and paid for the pies. "Tell those brothers of yours to pass by more often," she added and Cas laughed, giving her a nod of his head.

           

"Sure thing, thanks, Susie." Cas was back up on his feet, grabbing the bag along as Susie left.

“What was that rule about food in your car?" Cas wondered and Dean laughed, getting up with him.

 

"No food in the impala... unless it's pie," he added the last bit with a grin. Cas giggled, carrying the bag out, Dean right behind him. They settled in the front of the impala and Dean helped Cas pull out the containers and place them between them on the bench. They opened them one by one and Cas was very close to salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs. "Oh, these look heavenly!" Dean almost moaned as he opened the last container, revealing a large piece of apple pie.

           
"Tastes even better than it looks!" Cas reassured him, grabbing a plastic fork from the bottom of the bag.

 

Dean wasted no time in starting with the apple pie while Cas chose the cherry pie. They ate quietly with only the sounds of pleasure from all the flavors exploding in their mouths.

 

"Damn it, Cas, you know I'm a slut for pie," Dean whined with a mouth full, making Cas burst out laughing.

           

"I did not know that, but thanks, I'll keep that in mind," he winked at Dean who laughed, taking another bite. He wiped his mouth with a napkin after swallowing and leaned his back against the door.

           

"So, what happened to those friends of yours?" Dean wondered a small smile appeared on Cas' face as he finished chewing and swallowed the pie.

           

"They all left for college. There's Bart, he's studying business in Boston, and Balthazar. He's in London. Anna's in New York. Big city girl, that one," he chuckled, cutting off another piece with the side of his fork. "And, Jimmy, my twin. He's in Los Angeles with my other brother, Gabe."

           

“So, there’s two of you? I’d like to see that,” Dean grinned, finishing the first piece of pie pretty fast. Cas did not miss the opportunity to comment on that.

           

“Dude you scarfed that down in like a second,” he breathed out a laugh. He then pushed his hand into the pocket of his coat, fishing out his cellphone.

           

“Like I said, I’m a slut for pie,” Dean mentioned with a chuckle, grabbing another piece. This one was lemon meringue. Then, Castiel was holding his phone out in front of Dean. He grabbed it from Castiel’s hand to get a better look and his eyes widened. “I can’t even tell you guys apart,” Dean said with a shake of his head.

           

“Take a guess,” Cas challenged him, watching him with a lot of glee and amusement on his face. Dean squinted his eyes as he inspected the pictures closer, shaking his head some more.

           

“I can’t. Even your haircuts are the same. I mean, if I had to take a guess, I’d say Jimmy’s the one on the right… because of the MCR shirt,” Dean guessed, making Cas bubble up with laughter, shaking his head.

           

“God, I wish. He hates them, that’s partially my fault though,” Cas chuckled, chewing on his plastic fork.

           

You had an emo phase?” Dean questioned with surprise and interest, a huge grin on his face. Cas knew he was never going to hear the end of this.

           

“What, like you didn’t? C’mon, they were geniuses!” Cas defended himself and Dean laughed, holding his hands up in defence.

           

“I’m not saying I didn’t have a phase, but I’m not saying that I did either!”

           

“That totally means you did, Dean.” Cas pulled the fork from between his teeth and pointed it accusingly at Dean who was now looking down at the container in his lap, though he remained quiet, shaking his head at Cas. He couldn’t fool him though. Cas could see the smile appearing on his face. He couldn’t help himself. He shot Dean a mischievous grin and started singing, quietly at first. “When I was… a young boy…” he could tell that Dean’s lips were rising even more with a smile. “My father, took me into the city to see a marching band…” he poked Dean with his fork, edging him on to sing along with him. He stared at him, making Dean so uncomfortable until he started singing with him, and Cas held his fist up in the air triumphantly. “he said son when you grow up, will you be the savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned? He said, will you defeat them, your demons and all the non-believers, the plans that they have made? Because one day, I’ll leave you, a phantom to lead you in the summer to join the black parade?”

           

By that point, they were both singing the lyrics at the top of their lungs. They didn’t stop. Dean sat up in his seat and pretended to play the air guitar, humming the guitar part while Cas pretended to play the drums. And they kept singing, screaming the lyrics, laughing so hard Dean eventually fell back, clutching his side as he wiped at his eyes. Cas couldn’t help himself anymore either, and he fell back against the car’s bench, still giggling.

           

They quieted down their laughter until the only evidence remaining was their wide smiles. They remained quiet in a comfortable silence. Dean started the car after a few moments and he started the drive back home, Cas did not complain. He had accomplished what he wanted already. When Dean parked the car once they were back home, it was already two in the morning, but neither one of them felt too tired nor did they want to go to bed. Yet, when they walked inside and shrugged off their coats, they bid each other goodnight quietly and went their separate ways, back to their rooms. But just before Cas had reached the top of the floors, Dean stopped him, calling out his name, his voice just above a whisper. “Hey, Cas,” he called out and Cas turned around expectantly. “Thanks for tonight, man… I really needed that, and- it really helped, so… thanks.”

           

Cas gave him a genuine smile, tilting his head to the side slightly. “Hey, don’t mention it. That’s what friends are for, right?”

           

“Yeah,” Dean smiled back. “Glad you moved in here, pal,” he told him and Cas’ smile turned into a toothy grin, reaching his eyes.

           

“I’m really glad I moved in too,” he replied. “I’ll see you in the morning, yeah?”

           

“Yeah, sure, Cas,” he nodded, pulling his lips inwards. He sent him a small wave before turning to go down to his room. Cas waited at the top of the stairs until he heard the soft click of the door closing. He turned around then and made his way to his own room, but was surprised to run into Sam, standing there in the middle of the hallway. Cas realized he must have been snooping.

 

“I’m glad you moved in, as well, buddy,” Sam told him. Cas beamed at him, giving his shoulder a friendly squeeze.

 

“Great to be here, kid,” he chuckled, dropping his hand back to his side and opening his bedroom door. “Night,” he said and Sam returned it happily, before turning to his own bedroom.

 

To everyone's surprise, Dean was up and about in the morning, making breakfast for himself, and dressed in his work attire. No one said anything about it but they all seemed much more cheerful to see their friend doing better. And on the weekend, they were all ready to start practicing again.

 

Cas sat on the couch in the basement as the band brainstormed and tried to write new songs, watching them and working on his own assignments for his classes. They worked on the song that Cas had written the lyrics for on Halloween night, following Dean's lead with the beat and the melody. It turned out that he had gotten an A on that assignment, which he was pretty proud of. He wondered if his professor would recognise it if the band did hit it off with that song. And Cas could tell by the way things were going that they were going to make it big. He was impressed with every drum beat, and every guitar solo, and every bass line, and keyboard riff. Every vocal Dean had to offer, and every harmony Jo provided, and the rest of the band when they had to.

 

And a week later, they had the song recorded and ready to be posted on YouTube. They sent the demo to many venues and they had shows booked every weekend for the rest of the month. Cas went to every one of them. He sat front row, and at every one of those shows, he met up with Inias and Hannah. He had also started seeing them more around campus, becoming closer friends with them.

 

It was the last show they had for another couple of weeks and Cas was cheering them on as they played the last encore song. The entire crowd cheered so loud, Cas was sure he was going to be deaf for the next couple of hours. The band thanked everyone for coming and jumped backstage. Cas met with his friends backstage and they went back home to hangout in their living room, having a small party among themselves. They had a lot of booze to spare. Plus, these gigs had paid them pretty well. They sat in a circle, ten shot glasses in front of each one of them, playing never have I ever.

 

"Ooh! Okay, I've got one," Benny clapped his hands excitedly. "Never have I ever had special brownies!" he said and the group laughed, they all took shots except for Sam and Kevin. When they noticed that Benny had taken one though they all looked at him weirdly.

 

"Dude, you're not supposed to say something you have done, you're supposed to say something have never done!" Dean explained and Benny looked at him like he was the crazy one.

 

"I don't get to drink, though," he said confusedly.

 

"Yeah, exactly," Kevin stated and Benny furrowed his eyebrows at him.

 

"Then what's the point of the game?" He questioned and they all laughed. After all, they all wanted to get drunk.

 

"Oooh, okay, I got one for all you heteros," she wiggled her eyebrows at them and they all groaned, expecting the worst. "Never have I ever... slept with a guy," she said and laughed maniacally as Jo rolled her eyes and swallowed back a shot.

 

All eyes were on Cas though, when he swallowed back his shot of vodka. As he set it down, he raised his eyebrows at his staring friends. "What...?"

 

"Oh, I thought..." Dean trailed off and Cas shrugged his shoulders.

 

"Nah," he simply chuckled. Charlie was overly excited about the news though. She got on her knees holding her arm out and her hand up for Cas and he gave her a loud high five.

 

"Nice!" She giggled, settling back in her seat, until it hit her and her face fell. "Oh, jeez, Cas, did I just kind of out you? I'm sorry, I should've been more-"

 

"Charlie, I wasn't hiding it anyway," he cut her off, laughing and smiling at her to say that it was all right. No harm done. Charlie seemed to relax at that and she smiled back at him.

 

"You just never said anything, so..." she trailed off and Cas shrugged again.

 

"No one asked," he said simply and that seemed to be the answer the rest of the group needed. Everyone was cool and comfortable, and they all continued playing like nothing had happened.

 

Except, something had happened. And Dean couldn't stop staring at Cas after the revelation. He could feel his eyes burning through his side profile, but every time he turned his head to glance at Dean, his eyes were focused elsewhere. He tried not to, but couldn't help himself from thinking about Cas, Cas with another man, smiling at him that shy smile he always sported, with his front teeth grazing bottom lip just slightly, and his tongue poking just barely. Nope, nu uh. He couldn't think like that.

 

When they had finished the game, everyone was way too drunk, so they all went up to the rooms and they shared beds for the night. Cas offered his room to Garth and Ash and offered to take the couch. But Dean wasn't having it and he offered that the two of them just share his bed. Cas agreed of course, preferring to sleep on a mattress than a couch. They changed into their pyjamas and laid down under the covers, their backs flat against the bed. Neither one of them could fall asleep.

 

"You awake?" Dean whispered and Cas nodded, though he realised soon after that it was too dark for Dean to see it, and he wasn't even facing him anyway.

 

"Yeah, you?" He asked in return, only to realise again just how dumb he was. They both chuckled quietly at his stupid question, and when they quieted down, they would giggle to themselves, causing the other person to join in again.

 

Then, Dean shifted to his side, propping his elbow up and leaning his head on his knuckles, laying on his side. "Broken Bones is a really good song. The fans are always liking it the most," Dean told him and Cas nodded in agreement.

 

"It is one of your best songs," he grinned, feigning arrogance.

 

"The best one, Cas, all thanks to you!" He said and Cas could feel a little blush creep up his cheeks.

 

"You did all the work, though. You and the band," he tried to reason with him but Dean wasn't having it.

 

"Nope. It was your pretty awesome lyrics that inspired the pretty awesome music, my friend," Dean patted his chest, telling him it's all you.

 

"Well, thank you," he chuckled, playing with a loose thread on the sleeve of his shirt.

 

"Can I ask for a huge favour?"

 

Cas raised an eyebrow up at him, silently asking him to go on.

 

"Do you wanna become our official songwriter?"

 

Cas sat up at that, almost choking on his own breath. "What? Dean," he laughed, shaking his head. "I can't- I'm not a songwriter."

 

"Yes, you are, Cas! Maybe not in music, but you've got a way with words, your writing's beautiful. And you've got a musical ear, I know that for a fact. Your verses are always rhyming and they always follow pretty awesome rhythms," he sighed sitting up on the bed with his legs crossed under him. "Come on Cas, it'll be great! We'll work together, it'll be zero pressure, you know. You write stuff like every day. How hard will it be?" He begged him.

 

"Not that hard, actually," Cas admitted. Finally, he let out a sigh and let his shoulders slump in defeat. "Alright, we can try this," he agreed. Dean's grin was split across his face and Cas couldn't help but smile back at him. "No promises though!"

 

"Alright, yeah, we'll try it out! It'll be awesome!" He laughed with excitement, flopping back down on his back. "Hey, if we make it big, you'll get like as much as the rest of the band from whatever we make. Promise."

 

"I'm not in it for the money," Cas told him but Dean shrugged anyway.

 

"Yeah, but it's only fair. You'll be playing a huge part. And if we do end up getting a record deal, we'll owe it all to you."

 

"We'll see about that," Cas sighed, though he couldn't shake the smile off his face as he laid back down next to Dean, shoulder to shoulder.

 

They laid there quietly, their eyes closed. Neither one of them could fall asleep, still.

 

"Cas?"

 

"Yeah, Dean?" he whispered back, turning his head to look at him, his hands folded over his stomach. Dean's eyes were focused on the ceiling though.

 

"So, you're- you're gay then?" he asked him, taking Cas a little aback by his question, but he still answered him honestly. He was comfortable with it at this point. His family and friends already knew and they have come into terms with it and that's all that mattered to him.

 

"Yeah... is that- are you okay with that?" Cas asked this time, a little worry in his voice.

 

"Yeah, yeah, of course!" Dean replied hurriedly, reassuring Cas and he heard Cas let out a heavy breath of air. He was worried that Dean wouldn't accept him and that made Dean both feel a little bad for making Cas worry and smile that he cared enough to worry about his opinion. "So, you've been with like dudes and stuff?"

 

"I mean, that's generally the population I'm attracted to, so yes, and I think we established that during never have I ever," he chuckled, his tone almost teasing, but also interested in Dean's questioning.

 

"What's it like?" and almost as soon as those words were out he was spluttering out excuses. "I'm sorry, that's personal, I'm like really drunk right now and I have no filter!" Dean apologised instantly as Cas had already sat up at his question, almost choking on his laughs.

 

"Oh my gosh Dean, do you want details or...?" Cas trailed off, but he couldn't help himself from laughing more when he saw Dean's horrified expression in the darkness.

 

"No, no, God, no!" He stumbled over his words, shaking his head furiously. He opened his mouth to say something but then closed it awkwardly, fumbling with his hands in his lap.

 

Cas scratched the back of his neck, trying to make sense of Dean's questions. "Are you just curious or..." Cas trailed off, not wanting to say anything wrong and make things weird with Dean by assuming anything. But then again, if Dean was only curious, he wouldn't be feeling that nervous, would he? "Are you having thoughts about...?" Cas felt like he was treading on thin ice, and he was careful not to spook Dean.

 

"I- I don't know,” Dean whispered in reply. He could feel Cas watching him carefully, though his own gaze was too focused on his hands.

 

“Well,” Cas started, “you don’t have to know anything for sure yet. You could, you know, experiment, here and there. Of course, only whatever you’re comfortable with.”

 

Dean nodded, picking at a hangnail on his thumb. “I- I haven’t told anyone this before but,” he stopped midsentence, shrugging his shoulders. Cas didn’t push him, something Dean wasn’t used to. He was genuinely surprised by the look he gave him that said ‘take your time’ and ‘you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to’. He loved his other friends with all of his heart but they were so close now that they have lost all meaning of personal space. They would have been on his case, dragging the words out of his mouth at this point. They were incredibly supportive, but somehow, he felt more comfortable than he had ever been admitting these things to Cas right now. “There’s a guy, Aaron, we went out a while ago. Nothing much happened though.”

 

“Oh,” Cas replied simply, raising his eyebrows at Dean. “Did you like him?”

 

“I mean, sure, he was a nice guy, I guess,” he mumbled with a slight shrug of his shoulders.

 

“Did you like doing, uh, non-platonic things with him?”

 

Though Castiel was asking him more personal questions, Dean didn’t feel awkward about them at all. He wanted to tell him everything so that he could help him figure out who the hell he was.

 

“We never got past first base, but yeah, that- that was nice, actually,” Dean chuckled, running his fingers through his hair and brushing it off his forehead.

 

“So, you like boys then?”

 

“I guess…” Dean sighed, sitting up in bed, and dropped his face into his hands. “I don’t know, Cas. I never thought of myself as you know, not straight,” Dean admitted and Cas placed a comforting hand on his knee.

 

“It’s okay, Dean. You don’t have to label yourself, you know? You’re not straight? That’s totally fine. Not gay exactly either? That’s completely fine, too. I’m gay, Charlie’s lesbian, my friend Inias is bi, my friend Balthazar never labelled himself, either. If it moves, he was attracted to it,” Cas laughed, squeezing Dean’s knee before placing his hand back in his own lap. “You can just be… Dean, yeah?”

 

“Hey, I like that. Dean.” He chuckled, nodding his head as he mulled the thought over in his head. “Hell yeah, Cas. I’m Dean!”

 

“Hell yeah, you are!” Cas laughed, holding his palm up and giving Dean a high five.

 

They laid back down on the bed side by side quietly, and Cas could finally feel a yawn coming his way, and when it did, so did Dean.

 

“Hey, thanks man, for everything,” Dean whispered, laying his hand over Cas’ on the mattress. Cas smiled at him in the darkness of the room.

 

“I’m always here for you, Dean,” he replied mid-yawn and Dean chuckled and then yawned again in response, making the two of them laugh at each other. “Alright, goodnight, Rockstar,” Cas chuckled, turning on his side, his back facing Dean.

 

“Night, angel,” Dean responded turning on his own side to fall asleep.

 

***

 

Present Day 
July 2019
Lawrence, Kansas

It was another one on one session. Dean didn’t like those very much. Missouri was very sweet, he liked her very much, and she was helping him incredibly. But he always felt more vulnerable when it was just the two of them, like he had more to admit. He didn’t like having everything to admit. He had to though, to get better. He wanted to, and he tried his best to communicate all his problems with her. Missouri was always so patient and he appreciated it. Sometimes, she would let him just sit there quietly for the entirety of the hour they had together. She wouldn’t ask him any pressing questions. She would ask: “not a talking day today?” and Dean would only shake his head, no. Then, she’d smile at him understandingly, get up to the small speaker on the table behind them, plug her phone in, and play some songs that she knew Dean liked based on what he had told her before. Led Zeppelin, Boston, some Pink Floyd, some Oasis and Muse, and The White Stripes, and My Chemical Romance. Dean always sat back, closed his eyes, and enjoyed the music.

 

Other days, she would let him talk about anything he wanted and it didn’t necessarily have to do with any of his problems. He could rant to her about why Tom Scholz was one of the most underrated guitarists of all time, or why Blue Öyster Cult’s songs were revolutionary. Missouri would listen to him and even pitch in her own thoughts to keep the arguing going. Dean always enjoyed those talks. He used to have them all the time with his brother and his friends. Him and Jo always fought on those points, and the rather very heated arguments always ended in laughs and ice cream or beer depending on the after-show mood. The rest always agreed with him to avoid any arguing, except for Cas. He always seemed genuinely interested in why Dean thought Tom Scholz was underrated or why Led Zeppelin was the greatest band in the world.

 

Today was a talking day though.

 

He sat in the chair facing Missouri’s desk, dressed in grey sweatpants and a navy-blue crewneck sweater, his feet clad in slippers similar to those you found in hotel rooms. He picked at the sleeves of his sweater, swinging his feet under him.

 

“So, you started writing songs with Cas after that then?” Missouri asked him, leaning back against her swivel desk chair.

 

“Yeah,” Dean nodded his head. “We would write like ten songs every night. None of those were any good though,” he laughed, sniffing his nose and shoving his hands in the pockets of his sweatpants. “It was really fun though, we would tire ourselves to death but it was always worth it.”

 

“You two became even closer then?”

 

“Really close,” Dean admitted. “Charlie and the rest of the guys was my best friend, but Cas was… he was different, you know? Hanging out with him. It was different.”

 

“Different in a good way?”

 

“Oh, yeah, definitely. He became my best friend. We had a very profound bond, I suppose. We got along really well,” Dean explained.

 

“But it was all strictly platonic?”

 

Dean remained quiet for a few moments after Missouri’s question. She didn’t pry him, choosing to type something on her laptop instead. Dean nodded his head, then shook his head. He was chewing really hard on his bottom lip, he almost drew blood. “It had to be,” he replied quietly, letting out a heavy breath.

 

“Why is that? Why did it have to be platonic?” 

 

Dean took a shaky breath, shrugging his shoulders. He sighed, rubbing his cheeks with his hands. “Because — because, I met Lisa.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE

 

December 2009
San Francisco 

To say that Dean was excited would have been an understatement. The band had their biggest gig yet at a local venue downtown and it was rumored that a big ass music producer was going to be there. Of course, Dean was more concerned about the fact that a few hundred people were going to be present which meant they would have more people listening to their new music but having that small chance of probably getting signed by a label was, well, nerve-racking, but extremely exciting. He set his guitar case in front of the front door where his friends were huddled up, ready to leave. He grabbed his leather jacket from the coat hanger and pulled it on. 

"Hey, one sec guys, I'm gonna go bother Cas some more, maybe he'll finally decide to come," Dean told them with a cheeky grin on his face, already on his way up the stairs. 

"Tried that, he yelled at me," Sam replied with a little chuckle. "He's really stressed over finals, Dean, don't bother him," Sam was saying but Dean didn't listen to him. He walked up to Cas' bedroom door and knocked on it twice. 

"Don't come in!" His muffled voice came from the other side and Dean laughed, shaking his head. 

"What're you, naked or somethin'? Hot!" Dean exclaimed as he ignored Castiel's request and still opened the door. He found him at his desk looking like a complete mess. He had grown a beard in the last week, his hair ruffled and sticking up in all the wrong directions. He was still dressed in his pajamas from the previous night and- was that a ketchup stain on his shirt? Dean really hoped it was. "Dude, what died in here?" He grimaced, scrunching his nose at the odor in the room. 

"Me, I'm dead," Cas replied weakly, his eyes still focused on the giant book on his desk. 

"Dude, would it kill you to crack open a window?" Dean suggested, walking over to the window anyway and opening it just a tiny bit. 

"Yes," Cas mumbled, but just as the breeze hit him, he finally shivered and looked up at Dean, his blue eyes wide and red, the bags under them dark and prominent. 

"Cas, you're not helping yourself by overworking yourself. Not healthy, man," Dean sighed, walking up to him and leaning on his desk, his arms crossed over his chest. 

"I need to pass, Dean. I'm not about to waste all four years on this one stupid semester!" He grumbled, grabbing his pencil and writing down a note next to the text he was reading rather aggressively and in the most unintelligible handwriting Dean has ever seen. Normally, Cas' cursive handwriting was beautiful, almost like an artist's calligraphy work. This looked like that one prescription he got from his doctor when he got a rash on his neck that one time he hooked up with a girl whose lipstick he was apparently allergic to. Not a memory he was fond of. 

"And you're not gonna fail, man. You've been locked up in this room for the past week. Your exam's in two days. You can relax for just a few hours tonight. Come on. Finish this chapter, wash up, wear those black skinny jeans I know you keep in your closet and find a hot dude at our gig, you tell him you know the band, have him meet us backstage and get laid tonight! Or just have a drink or two and cheer for us. We kinda need it." 

"You don't need it, Dean. Everyone loves your performances," Cas told him and Dean grinned at him in response. 

"So? What do you say?" He asked him, raising an eyebrow at him. Cas thought about it for a second, but finally, he sighed and nodded his head, dropping his forehead against his textbook. 

"Alright, fine. I'll finish this chapter and follow you guys there. I'm not wearing the skinny jeans though." He turned his head to look at Dean with a pointed look and Dean only smirked at him triumphantly. 

"I knew I could make you come! Alright, buddy, we'll save you a seat in the front!" Dean patted his shoulder, giving it a good squeeze before leaving in a hurry, following his friends to the car, completely oblivious to Cas' loud groan and repeatedly hitting his forehead against his book. He could convince him to do anything at this point, but Castiel really hoped he wouldn't figure that part out and use it to his advantage. Knowing Dean, he probably would, not in a mean and selfish way though. 

So, Cas finished the section he was working on for tonight and jumped in the shower to get cleaned up. He shaved his beard, brushed his teeth, put on some aftershave and cologne, and got dressed in a pair of normal blue jeans with a small rip around the knee and a plain white t-shirt. He wasn't exactly in the mood to dress up, he still looked good anyway. He tied the shoe laces to his white sneakers and shrugged on his denim jacket with wool inside. He ran a comb through his wet hair, brushing it off his face, before grabbing his keys and other necessities and making his way out. He walked all the way to the bus stop at the end of the street and was lucky enough that he only had to wait five minutes, and less than ten minutes later, he was pushing the doors open to the venue. The walls outside were lines with posters designed by Benny with a picture of the band and information about their gig today. There was even a neon sign outside with the band's name glowing in yellow. The music was blasting loud and he realized that the band had already started with their intro song. He jogged inside faster, stopping at the doors where a guy was standing, selling the entry tickets. 

"Oh, Cas, you made it!" He looked up, seeing Garth making his way from the bar in the other room, carrying a bunch of bottles of water. "Hey, Gary, he's with the band," he told the guy at the door who only nodded his head, remaining quiet. He grabbed a rubber stamp and without a warning, grabbed Castiel's hand, stamping the back of it. Cas was taken aback. He yanked his hand back, frowning at the red ink, the name of the venue barely visible. 

"It's this way," the guy mumbled tiredly, pointing at the curtains behind him. 

"Thanks..." Cas muttered, walking past him with Garth right behind him. "What's with all the water bottles?" He wondered and Garth groaned, flipping them in his hands. 

"The guys are assholes," he simply replied and Cas chuckled, pushing past another set of thick curtains and finally walking into the wave of people, so thick, he didn't know how he was going to make to his seat. "This way," Garth told him, walking behind the curtains instead. Cas raised an eyebrow but didn't complain as he back into the hallway again and followed Garth. They made their way past a bunch of doors backstage and finally emerged from a door at the very front of the large room. Cas was certain there was definitely more than about four hundred people in the crowd. He had never seen their concerts so crowded before. He was beyond excited and happy for his friends. 

Garth led the way to a few empty seats at the very front and Cas recognized Ash, on his feet and cheering them on. Sam was standing next to him, with his uncle Bobby's arm around his shoulder. Jo and Kevin's moms were there too, standing next to Bobby's wife, sheriff Jody Mills.  Next to Ash were the two girls that Dean and Charlie had started seeing recently, Lisa and Dorothy. Cas waved at them and they all greeted him enthusiastically. 

He set his jacket down on his seat next to Ash but remained on his feet, staring up at the stage. His eyes met Dean's whose green ones instantly widened and he grinned at him excitedly, his hand strumming the guitar with even more energy if that was possible. Cas held his hands in front of his mouth and yelled out some cheers. He clapped, and jumped, and danced, and sang along to his own lyrics. When the song Broken Bones was over, Dean stepped back from the mic, breathing heavily. He crouched down, grabbing his bottle of water and took a long gulp, spraying some of it on his face to cool down a little. The entire crowd was too loud and the band members were looking at each other with huge, dumb smiles on their faces. 

Charlie and Jo met Cas' eyes as they were looking down at their friends and family and they both winked at him, with Charlie running her hand over her chin to point out the fact that he was clean shaven and then giving up the thumbs up that she approved. He rolled his eyes at his friends but still grinned, sending two thumbs up in return, before clapping and cheering them on. "COME ON! LAZARUS RISING! LAZARUS RISING!" He started chanting loudly and it only took three of those before everyone else in the crowd got the message and chanted along with him. Dean spotted him and fell back laughing, making Cas clutch his side as he laughed along as well. Finally though, he held his hands up, asking for the crowd to quiet down, and when he could finally at least hear himself think a little, he walked back up to the microphone and breathed into it. He opened his mouth to greet the crowd when he spotted Cas still laughing. He shook his hand in front of him, an earsplitting grin on his face. "I'm sorry," he cried out, wheezing into the mic as he laughed too hard. 

The crowd was beyond confused as to why Dean was suddenly cackling so hard but they went along with it, laughing as well. Kevin had a bored look on his face while Charlie was looking at her two friends, joining in on their laughter. Benny and Jo shared a look, two wide grins on their faces. Then, Jo walked up to her own microphone, her eyes watching Cas intently. 

"Cas, could you please stop making Dean laugh? We have a show we need to get on with, fans to please," she said, probably confusing the crowd even more. Cas held his hands up in defense as Dean walked back up to his own mic. 

"Cas, you're hilarious, man," Dean chuckled into the mic. "Thanks for putting up with our asses, guys, anyway. This next song is another original one. My friend Cas and I wrote it about two weeks ago, and it's pretty awesome. It's called No Good. Alright," he stepped back from the mic as the crowd clapped for them to go on. He mouthed the countdown from three and then started with the heavy guitar intro riff. 

Cas nodded his head in encouragement and just as Dean started singing, he was screaming the lyrics along. 

"Can't fight the temptation
When you get the vibration
Won't do you no good
It won't do you no good
You better start running
When you hear the man coming
Won't do you no good
It won't do you no good
No, we don't mind
If you don't mind
Hell, I never mind!" [original song by Kaleo]. 

Dean's voice was raspier than Cas had ever heard it, and it probably had to do with the half empty bottle of beer at his feet. Watching him sing into the mic, jumping on the balls of his feet, the energy in him stronger on stage than ever. It made the hairs on the back of his neck rise. 

Jo had written an amazing solo for this song and Dean grinned at her, pointing his guitar at her as she stepped up to the front of the stage, impressing everyone with her amazing guitar playing. 

The moms were so overly enthusiastic, cheering their kids on so loud and proudly so. It was then that Cas noticed Mrs. Tran's shirt that read the words "I GAVE BIRTH TO 1/5 OF LAZARUS RISING." He pointed at it as he burst out laughing and Kevin's mom grinned at him proudly. I love it, he mouthed and she extended her arm over to him, pinching his cheek rather painfully, but he happily let her do it anyway. He liked the guys' moms. They were always so sweet, and Jo's mom always sent them burgers from her diner, never forgetting Cas' allergy to tomatoes. His own mom sometimes forgot! He couldn't blame her though, she sometimes forgot about her own tomato allergy. 

The show was their greatest gig yet. The entire crowd was engaged. They sang along to the covers that they knew, but most of the setlist was originals, including many of the songs that they'd written the past month. They were their best songs yet. They had enough material for an album even, all they needed was a record deal. When Dean wasn't too focused on Lisa and Cas or the rest of the crowd, his eyes were following the guy in a blue suit sitting at the end of the first row, his phone in his hand. Although he kept a straight face, Dean noticed his foot bouncing up and down to the beat of the song. He only hoped that it wasn't because of boredom and he couldn't wait to get out of there. And when he played the very last note, he yelled thank you into the microphone and stepped back, turning the volume knob on his guitar all the way down, his eyes following the man in the suit. Instead of walking outside though, he walked up to the front of the stage, asking the guard standing there a question. The man pointed at Garth and it was then that Dean actually squealed. He thanked god that he was standing away from his microphone and that the crowd was so loud to avoid embarrassment. 

Dean set his guitar on the stand on stage and ran backstage as fast as his legs allowed him, the band right behind him. As soon as they were inside he let out a loud scream. "OH MY GOSH!" 

"That was amazing!" Benny agreed, grabbing a beer from the mini fridge in the dressing room they were kindly given. He handed each one of the band members a bottle and they all flopped down on the couches except for Dean who was still buzzing with energy. 

"No, yeah, it was the best show ever! BUT DID YOU GUYS SEE THE GUY IN THE SUIT?" 

"Oh God, yeah, he wouldn't stop watching me!" Charlie grimaced and Dean rolled his eyes at her. 

"He was watching us all. I'm pretty sure he's the big record label guy Garth told us about!" Kevin stated with an excited grin on his face, pushing his sweaty hair out of his face. 

"I think I'm gonna faint," Dean announced, falling back against the empty armchair. 

"Alright, princess, relax," Jo mocked him, but the big grin on her face was evidence that she was just as excited about this as he was. They all were. This could have been their big break. 

Just then, Sam and Cas came running through the door. 

"Dudes, guy in a suit. Coming in. Any second now. Garth is stalling!" Sam announced, causing even more panic among the band. They all got up to their feet, trying to fix their clothes to look more presentable, but their shirts were all sticking to their bodies with sweat and there was nothing to do about it. 

"Shit," Dean cursed under his breath, trying to fix his hair but he only made it stand up in different directions. Cas chuckled, shaking his head at him. 

"You look like you just had the best night of your life, if you know what I mean," he told him and Dean rolled his eyes at him. 

"Not the time for your funny jokes Cas," he whined, still trying to fix his hair. Cas walked up to him, an amused look on his face and swatted Dean's hands away. He ran his own fingers through Dean's wet hair, brushing it back to the best of his ability. 

"There you go," he said with a grin, wiping his hand on Dean's shirt but it was useless because it was soaking even more than his hair. "Yuck," he teased, deciding to wipe his hand on his jeans. 

"How do we look?" Jo asked in a panicking voice and Sam threw them all thumbs up, his head poking out of the room. He signaled to them that they were coming in and hurried outside, pulling Cas with him. They smiled politely at the man as he walked into the room with Garth, standing against the wall to listen in to everything they were saying. 

Dean grinned excitedly at the man before him, extending his hand. “Hi, I’m Dean Winchester!” He introduced himself as the guy shook his head, watching him carefully. He held his hands behind his back and cleared his throat, eyeing the rest of the band members who were watching him nervously.

“Michael Sherley. You can call me Mike.” He introduced himself, sending the band a large smile. “Nice show you guys put up there,” he told them, but they were all too busy gawking at him. Dean shared a look with Garth who was only grinning excitedly.

“As in…theMike Sherley? From Heavenly Records? The guy who signed Ladyheart, and The Mörningstars? And the greatest band of all time, Fallen Angels?” Kevin blurted out under his breath, looking up with an expression of awe on his face as he stared at the guy who nodded his head, smiling in entertainment at Kevin’s reaction. “Kevin Tran, hi,” he grinned, extending his hand to Mike Sherley who shook it happily.

“Oh my gosh, you really liked our show, dude? Um, sir, sorry… Charlie Bradbury, hi…” She grinned sheepishly at him, waving her hand awkwardly.

“Yes, I know. And you two must be Jo and Benny, right? I’ve done my research,” he chuckled.

“He knows my name,” Jo whispered to Dean who poked her side with his elbow, still looking up at Mike Sherley, fascinated and grinning from ear to ear.

“So, you kids write all your own songs?” He asked and Dean nodded his head.

“Yessir, our friend, Cas, he wrote the lyrics to our newer songs, and we came up with the music. It’s kind of an Elton John and Bernie Taupin kinda thing, you know…” Dean trailed off, hoping he didn’t ruin their chances for admitting that they didn’t write their own lyrics. For what it’s worth, he wouldn’t ever rob Cas of the credit he deserves for his poetry.

“How many songs you got?”

“An album’s worth, and a little more,” Dean replied and Mike seemed genuinely surprised. “Some better than others, but we definitely have a hit single,” Dean added, hoping he didn’t as arrogant as that came off to him.

“Impressive… The songs you started with, Broken Bones and No good, right?” Dean nodded his head to confirm his question. “These two are definitely hit singles. You got anything like that?”

“Like I said, an album’s worth,” Dean reassured and Mike seemed pleased with his answer.

“I like you guys. Adding a bit of modern sounds to the classic rock scene, you’ve got the stage look, you’ve got the hits and the talent. All you need is me, not to sound cocky,” he chuckled, pulling his wallet from his back pocket. “I’m giving your manager here my card. Call me soon, Mr. Fitzgerald. We’ll set up a meeting. Oh, and make sure your lyricist is there too.”

“Oh God, are you serious? Oh my gosh,” Dean breathed out, running his fingers through his wet hair, pulling at the roots. “Mr. Sherley, thank you so much!” He laughed in disbelief as Mike held his hand out. Dean shook it, sending him the most excited grin he’s ever sported.

“Thank me later, kid. I wanna see you guys on billboards, selling out arenas. We’re gonna make it happen,” he pointed his finger at them and then waved at them before walking out. Dean waited a few seconds after he was gone before letting out a screech. A genuinely loud, ear-piercing screech. Cas and Sam ran into the room with huge grins on their faces.

“DUDES!” Charlie yelled out, throwing her fists up in the air. “WE DID IT, BITCHES!”

“Shit, we actually made it!” Benny stated, removing his hat and running his hand over his head.

“I’m so proud of you guys!” Cas exclaimed, walking over to Dean and wrapping him up in a tight hug. Dean laughed wholeheartedly, hugging Cas back as tightly as possible.

“Oh gosh,” he breathed out, pulling away and turning to hug Sam.

“All right, group hug, you stinky assholes!” Jo exclaimed with a laugh, holding her arms open, and they all walked over to her, with Charlie hugging her first and the Garth and Kevin hugging them, with Benny and Cas and Dean and Sam engulfing them all in their arms in the end.

“We’re fucking awesome, you guys. I love you, bitches!” Charlie yelled out, her voice muffled by their bodies huddled up against each other. They laughed as they pulled away and fell back against the couches, their feet barely managing to keep them up.

“I need to celebrate!” Dean announced, taking a long swig from his bottle of beer.

“Aren’t we all going partying at the college bar later?” Benny asked with a chuckle and Charlie smirked at him.

“Not that kind of celebration,” she said, sharing a knowing look with Dean and winking at him. Benny let out a small howl as Dean cackled, a smirk on his face.

“Alright, let’s go meet our family outside and get the hell outta here,” Kevin announced, grabbing his bag and making his way out the door. The rest of the band followed right after him, making their way outside through the backdoor where they met with their parents and girlfriends. Ash and another guy that worked for the venue were loading up Mrs. Tran’s minivan with their instruments.

“Oh my God! You guys! You were awesome up there!” the sheriff told them and Dean grinned at her as she engulfed him in a hug.

“Thanks, Jody!” He replied as she kissed his cheek and ruffled his hair, making him scrunch his nose.

“Yeah, great job, son, made me real proud up there,” Bobby told him clapping him on the back affectionately.

“Aw, you big old softie!” Dean grinned at him, hugging him tightly. Bobby chuckled, hugging him back.

“You looked really hot up there,” Lisa whispered in his ear then, making the hairs on the back of his neck rise. Dean smirked, pulling away from his hug with his uncle Bobby and pulled Lisa aside, wrapping his arms around her.

“You look pretty hot right now,” he replied with a smirk. She rolled her eyes at him but pulled him down for a kiss. Dean was really glad that she was forced by her friend to their last gig. As soon as he was off the stage, he was hitting on her, as respectfully as possible when it came to flirting, of course. She hadn’t minded though, flirting right back. He ended up in her bed that night and he begged her the next morning to go on a date with him. She couldn’t refuse him.

“Hey when you two disgusting lovebirds are done, we’ll be in the car freezing our asses off and waiting.” Benny announced, smirking at them as he walked past them to Dean’s impala. Dean laughed, pulling away from his kiss with Lisa, but kept his arm wrapped around her waist.

“Kevin, honey, you can have the minivan for the night. I’ll catch a ride with Jody and Bobby,” Mrs. Tran said and Kevin cheered excitedly, giving her a kiss on the cheek as he took the keys from her and jumped in the front seat.

They all huddled up in the impala and the van, except for Sam who was going to go back home since he couldn’t drink legally yet, and Cas.

“Cas, you’re not coming, buddy?” Dean asked him with his window rolled down. Cas shook his head, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jacket.

“Uh, no, I should just go back home and get some studying done,” Cas replied with a small shrug of his shoulders. Dean frowned at him, his eyebrows furrowing.

“C’mon, at least come for one drink? The bar’s just a five-minute walk from home. You don’t have to stay long. Just celebrate with us! One drink,” Dean pleaded with him, giving him those pouty lips and the puppy eyes he never could refuse. Cas was starting to think that Dean knew about the soft spot that was growing in his heart.

“Fine, one drink,” He grumbled, stomping over to the minivan and getting in next to Charlie.

Sam got in the back of Bobby’s car and Dean waited till the mothers were already gone until he started the engine and drove off toward the bar, Kevin right behind him. Kevin and Garth sat up front, singing along to the song playing on the radio, and Cas sat silently in the back staring out the window with Charlie and Dorothy. He felt a hand on his knee and he looked up to see Charlie looking at him with concerned eyes.

“You okay, hun?” She asked him quietly and Cas smiled weakly at her, nodding his head.

“Yeah, I’m just stressed over those finals. You guys are lucky you don’t have to go through them,” Cas replied, letting out a chuckle.

“Well, I still do,” Dorothy stated with a laugh.

“I went through them,” Garth told him, turning to glance at him from the front seat.

Cas chuckled, shaking his head at them.

“You sure it’s just that?” Charlie whispered for only him to hear. Cas placed his hand over her hand on his knee and gave it a small squeeze.

“Yeah, I’m sure. I’m okay, Char. Thanks,” he smiled at her before turning his attention back to the road outside. He didn’t let go of her hand until Kevin was parking the car and they had to get out.

They walked into the bar and sat at a large table round the back that they had reserved earlier. They ordered a first round of shots and a second and a third, and Cas had one every round, despite his earlier rejection of the ideas of getting drunk that night. Dean was watching him in confusion and concern, but he never said anything. He was probably twice a drunk as Cas was anyway. Lisa always turned his head to her anyway, and they ended up making out. And then another shot of rounds were set on the table, and Cas was the first one leaning over the table to grab the small glass and swallowing back the clear liquid.

“Hey, uh, I’m gonna head to the bathroom,” Cas announced, pushing his chair back and standing up.

“You okay, brother?” Benny asked him and Cas nodded, squeezing his shoulder on his way to the bathroom.

“Just gotta pee,” he chuckled, stuffing his phone in his pocket and going over to the bathroom. He pushed the door open and got into the first stall, locking the door behind him. He put the toilet seat down, closing it, and sitting on top of it. He buried his face in his hands, taking a few deep breaths. What is wrong with you Cas? Get it together. You can’t be that bothered by finals. They’re just finals. He was just stressing. He let out a shaky breath and pulled up the toilet seat. He finished his business and washed his hands. Making his way outside, he felt his cell phone buzz in his pocket. He pulled it out, squinting at the bright screen. It was a text message from Inias.

“I see you :)” it read. Castiel smiled, though his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“That’s a little creepy” He typed back, then glanced around him, trying to find his friend. His phone buzzed again and he looked down at it to read the message.

I’m sitting at the bar.”

Cas looked past the table he was sitting at with his friends toward the bar and there he found Inias looking at him with a giant grin on his face, phone in hand. He waved at Cas, who grinned and waved back. He walked over to his friends first, standing behind Charlie and Dorothy.

“Hey guys, I saw Inias right over there by the bar, I’m gonna go say hi,” Cas announced and they all nodded, turning around and spotting Inias. They waved politely at him and he waved back at the band. Cas turned back around and smiled as he made his way over. “Hey, how are you?” He started, sitting down in the empty seat next to him.

“I’m good, Castiel, just needed a break from the studying,” He replied with a small shake of his head.

“Yeah, I was going crazy, cooped up in my bedroom!” He admitted and Inias chuckled, nodding in agreement as he took a sip of his beer.

“Hey, what’re you drinking? On me,” he told him.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t­—” Cas tried to argue but Inias shushed him, calling over the bartender.

“C’mon, what do you want?” Inias insisted. Cas finally sighed and smiled at him in defeat.

“Just a beer’s fine,” he said and Inias turned to the bartender, ordering a beer for him.

Cas and Inias sat by the bar then, drinking their beer and just talking about anything that wasn’t related to studying. They made jokes and laughed and played a game of twenty questions to get to know each other even better. But Cas knew how that always ended, and of course, it did.

Dean looked up, watching Cas laughing as Inias was leaning in and kissed him right there.

“Cas, you animal!” Charlie said teasingly, laughing to herself and laying her head on her girlfriend’s shoulder.

Dean chuckled, shaking his head. “Didn’t he say he was just gonna go say hi?” He wondered and his friends snickered, nodding in response to his question.

“A simple hello can go a long way, Deano. It can even take you to fifth base!” Charlie told him with a little smirk but Dean only frowned at her in confusion.

“There’s no such thing as fifth base,” he replied in a matter-of-fact tone, Kevin and Garth nodding their heads along in agreement.

“Oh, yes, there is a fifth base,” Cas came up behind Charlie, grabbing his jacket form the seat he was previously in. Dean stared at him completely baffled.

“What? What the hell’s fifth base?” He exclaimed making Cas stare at him with a little amused smirk, his cheeks a little red.

“You’ll figure it out, Dean. I’m gonna head home. I should sleep early to study well tomorrow. I’ll see you guys in the morning.” Cas smiled at his friend, waving at his friends and walking out the door. They followed him with their eyes where he met up with Inias outside and they walked away together.

“What’s fifth base?” Dean asked again and Charlie sighed loudly, hitting her head against the table.

“Do you really want me to spell it out for you?’ She grumbled and Dean was about to say yes when Lisa leaned over, whispering in his ear.

“Babe… pretty sure it means anal,” she told him. Dean had never felt his cheeks turn redder than they did in that moment.

“Oh, God!” He exclaimed, his face contorting in a grimace.

“What? What is it?” Garth asked and Ash just rolled his eyes, punching him in the shoulder.

“Shut up and finish your drink, buddy,” he told him, but his eyes were dancing with delight.

They all went back to chatting among themselves soon after, forgetting the moment had just passed. Though Dean couldn’t shake the image of Cas at home with Inias from his head. It wasn’t anything malicious or envious, but rather curious. He didn’t understand why, but the thought itself and the fact that he couldn’t shake the thought away left him feeling uneasy.

“Hey,” Lisa whispered in his ear, kissing along his neck. “Wanna get out of here?” She asked him and Dean smiled down at her, nodding in agreement.

“Hey, we’re gonna head off as well. I’ll see you guys later.” Dean announced as he got up, taking Lisa’s hand in his.

“Dude, how are we gonna get home?” Benny complained.

“It’s a five-minute walk. Don’t strain yourself!” Dean teased, winking at him as he walked past him and dragged Lisa outside to the car.

“Your place?” Dean suggested, but Lisa shrugged her shoulders, getting in the front seat of the impala.

“Your place is closer. You’ll be getting lucky much sooner…”

Dean didn’t have to think about it much. He laughed as he started the engine and drove back home. He parked the car in the driveway, Lisa’s hand having been caressing his thigh the entire ride. He couldn’t wait to get out of his jeans. As he unlocked the front door, he hung took off his shoes right there, kicking them under the coat hanger. There were two pairs of shoes there and he only recognised one of them as Castiel’s. He could hear some quiet muffled music coming from upstairs. He didn’t have any time to think about it because Lisa was pushing him against wall in the hallway and attaching her lips to his in a passionate kiss. He closed his eyes, turning his mind off, and kissing her back. His arms snaked around her waist and pulled her legs up around his body.

He carried her all the way down to his bedroom, laying her down gently on his bed. He shut all of his thoughts that did include Lisa for that night, focusing on his own pleasure, and hers, making it one of her best nights, but as she laid there in his arms, her arms wrapped around his waist tightly as she slept soundly, Dean couldn’t stop his thoughts from wandering back upstairs. Especially when he heard a door open, stumbling footsteps down the staircase, and Cas trying hard to muffle his giggles, but failing miserably. Still, hearing Cas laughing brought a small smile om his face. He heard the front door open and close a few moments later, then Castiel stumbling back upstairs. He only slept for a few hours that night.

Dean woke up early the next day, getting up carefully not to wake Lisa up and made his way to the bathroom upstairs for a shower. He took his sweet time, washing his hair and body from all the sweating that happened the previous night, the feeling of the hot water against his skin heavenly. A knock came on the door as he was shampooing his hair a second time.

“Are you gonna be in there long? I’m gonna shit my pants.” He heard Cas’ voice, muffled by the water running and the door.

“I need like a few more minutes,” Dean replied. He rinsed his hair and grabbed the shower gel bottle to wash his body when another knock came on the door.

“Dude, I can’t hold in it anymore and Charlie’s hogging the other bathroom,” Cas announced, his voice sounding strained. He really was using all his willpower to hold it in. “I’m coming in,” he said and opened the door before Dean could even reply.

“Wha— hey! Personal space, man!” Dean complained, poking his head out from behind the curtain. He found Cas already sitting on the toilet, his face contorted as he emptied his insides. “Oh, gosh!” Dean groaned, pulling the curtain back.

“You walk in on me without even knocking, so shush,” Cas muttered with a roll of his eyes. “I’d step away from the water if I were you…” Cas announced, his hand on the flushing handle, ready to pull it up when Dean remerged from behind the curtain.  

“No, hey, wait a second, I’m almost done, you can shower right after,” he told him and Cas nodded, dropping his hand back down. And a few seconds later, Dean shut off the stream of water. He grabbed the towel hanging on the wall and stepped out a few seconds later with the towel wrapped around his waist. Cas looked up at him then, grinning sheepishly.

“Morning,” he said, flushing the toilet.

“Ah, yes, morning indeed,” Dean chuckled, grabbing a cotton bud to dry his ears.

“Sorry about that,” Cas chuckled, and Dean laughed, shaking his head.

“It’s fine. A man’s gotta empty his bowels,” he said making Cas frown and Dean grinned crookedly, opening the bathroom door and stepping outside. He closed the door after him and made his way back downstairs. He walked to his room where he found Lisa already awake, typing something on her phone.

“Morning, beautiful,” he greeted her and she grinned up at him, sitting up in bed.

“Hey, babe,” she said grabbing his hand and pulling him down for a sweet kiss. “I have to go home, help out my folks with some stuff. Will I see you tomorrow though?”

“You bet!” Dean grinned at her, kissing her forehead before moving to his closet to get dressed. He pulled on a pair of sweatpants and an old long-sleeved shirt. When he turned around, Lisa was already tying her shoelaces.

“See you later, then,” she said, getting up and kissing him one last time before leaving. Dean smiled after her and walked her up outside.

“You need a ride?’ He asked her and she shook her head.

“I’ll take the bus, don’t worry,” she said, sending him a smile. “Bye,” she waved at him as she made her way down the street to the bus stop. Dean closed the door after her and walked back to the kitchen where he found Sam hunched over a cup of coffee.

“Lisa’s gone?” He asked and Dean nodded, walking over to the fridge and pulling out the bottle of milk. He grabbed a bowl and the box of frosted flakes, pouring them in then adding some milk. He sat in front of Sam, eating his breakfast quietly.

Cas walked in later, dressed in a pair of cotton pyjama shorts and a hoodie. “Morning, Winchesters,” He greeted them enthusiastically.

“You’re in a much better mood this morning,” Sam pointed out and Cas grinned at him, nodding his head as he walked over to the cabinet to grab himself a bowl.

“Generally, what happens after you go through fifth base.” Cas turned around to see Charlie walking in with Dorothy. The two of them had their hair wrapped in towels.

“And that’s why I had to hold in my poop for an entire hour,” Cas shot back at her and she only grinned at him, sitting down next to Dean.

“We do have two bathrooms,” she pointed out and Cas rolled his eyes, pointing his spoon at Dean.

“Princess over there likes to take his time in the shower,” Cas replied and Dean dropped his spoon in his bowl, pouting up at Cas.

“Hey! No fair.”

“Dude, I had to barge in there so I wouldn’t poop my pants. You said you needed a few minutes when I asked. I waited fifteen minutes and you still weren’t done!” Cas complained, settling down at the table beside Sam.

“That wasn’t fifteen minutes!” Dean defended himself.

“It was, I witnessed it.” Sam replied, taking a sip of his coffee.

“Well, so what? I like to take my time showering. Sue me!” Dean grumbled, getting up and stomping to the living room. He turned the TV on, turning the volume up, sulking. They laughed after him, shaking their head at his antics.

“You feeling better, Cas?” Dean heard Charlie ask him

“Yeah, I am actually. Thanks!” He replied.

“So… you and Inias?” Charlie questioned and Dean was sure that Cas was blushing at that point, knowing him.

“Nothing yet… but damn he’s good!”

“What? I totally took you for a top, dude!” Charlie exclaimed and Cas laughed.

“Well, yeah… so is he, I guess…” he trailed off and Charlie let out an excited squeal.

“Two rounds? Jesus, Cas, no wonder you’re so happy!” There wasn’t an answer from Cas, but Dean assumed he mouthed something, or maybe signalled something to her because Charlie was suddenly screaming: “THREE? CAS, YOU WILD!”

Dean was sure that Cas was definitely blushing now.

He spent his morning watching some reruns of the office. Around noon, Cas joined him in the living, practically bouncing on his toes. He handed Dean a piece of paper, a wide smile on his face as he sat down next to him on the couch.

“New song,” he said simply.

Dean read over it quickly, chewing down on his bottom lip.

“That’s pretty good, Cas… kind of hot,” he chuckled, turning it over and reading. “Really hot, woah.” He laughed, getting up and stretching his body. “I like it!” He said, setting the paper down on the table. He made his way to his room and came back a few moments later with his guitar, settling back down next to Cas. “Let’s see…”

Dean strummed a few notes, tuning his acoustic guitar and when he was satisfied, he started with a beat, tapping on the body of the guitar softly. He grabbed his pick then and started strumming to a single chord. He hummed a little, trying to find the perfect melody. He raised an eyebrow when he hit a note he liked. Then he started singing Cas’ lyrics.

"We should take this back to my place"

That's what she said right to my face

'Cause I want you bad

Yeah, I want you, baby

I've been thinking 'bout it all day

And I hope you feel the same way, yeah

'Cause I want you bad

Yeah, I want you, baby

Slow, slow hands

Like sweat dripping down our dirty laundry

No, no chance

That I'm leaving here without you on me

I, I know

Yeah, I already know that there ain't no stoppin'

Your plans and those

Slow hands (woo)

Slow hands

I just wanna take my time

We could do this, baby, all night, yeah

'Cause I want you bad

Yeah, I want you, baby

 

[Original lyrics by Niall Horan. Now imagine his song with more electric guitars and a gruffer voice. A little faster. Or just ignore the entire melody. Focus on the lyrics basically.]

 

“I like it,” Dean nodded his head, grabbing a pencil from the table and writing down the chords he was playing over the lyrics.

“Yeah?” Cas smiled as Dean nodded, placing the pen back on the table and trying out the second verse.

“Lucky Inias,” Dean chuckled, leaving Cas a blushing mess next to him.

“Well, it could be you singing to, uh, to Lisa. It says she,” Cas replied and Dean looked up at him with a little smile on his face.

“Hey, uh, you know, if you wanna write your songs from your point of view, like… if you wanna keep the he’s and the him’s, I wouldn’t mind singing them. It doesn’t always have to be about girls. It’s getting a little cliché, right?” Dean said and Cas laughed, nodding his head.

“Right? So cliché,” he replied, making a disgusted face jokingly, Dean laughing along with him. “So, are we Deaning up our songs now?” Cas asked, referencing the conversation they had that one night, a while ago and Dean smiled when Cas remembered.

“Yeah, let’s Dean things up a little!”

“What’s Deaning things up?” Benny asked, walking in with Charlie behind him.

“Making things more Dean-like,” Cas replied quickly, and they both rolled their eyes at their friend.

“This band does not need more Deaning up!” Charlie exclaimed sitting down on the arm chair.

“Trust me, it does,” Cas told her, sharing a smirk with Dean.

“What are you two on about?” Benny asked but they only laughed, ignoring his question completely.

“Cas wrote a new song,” Dean said instead, changing the subject. Benny and Charlie sat up, looking over at Dean with interest as he started playing the song again.

“We get it, you had a great night, Cas,” Charlie teased him. He rolled his eyes at her, but still grinned as he grabbed a pillow and chucked it at her.

“Shut up!”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX

December 2009 - January 2010
San Francisco 

December was a blur. A good kind of blur. Cas finished his exams and passed them with flying colors, and he was more than ready to just sleep for the rest of his winter break. Kevin and Jo were spending Christmas with their moms and Benny was spending it with his girlfriend Andrea's family. It left Charlie, Sam and Dean having to spend Christmas home alone, since their respective girlfriends were going back home. So Castiel invited them all to spend Christmas at his place with his parents and annoying brothers. He was only excited about the fact that his friends were all coming back home this year. 

And that was how they found themselves huddled up in Dean's Impala, with Cas sitting next to him and guiding him to his parents' house. Dean came to a halt in front of the large white gate and they all sat there in awkward silence. Dean scratched the back of his neck before turning to Cas and raising an eyebrow at him. "Dude," he said and Cas looked at him sheepishly. 

"What?" 

"Dude, you're rich!" Dean exclaimed in a high-pitched voice, pointing at the three stories high house in front of them. 

"Well, I'm not but my dad is..." Cas replied, running his hand over his cheek. He didn't exactly like telling people about his background. He didn't want things coming easy to him because his dad could afford it. He liked working hard to earn his own things, which was why he was using up his savings from working every summer at the local library to pay for his living expenses. He knew his dad added some money to his bank account, just like he did for his brothers, but he tried to avoid using that as much as possible. His dad didn't even have to pay his tuition because his grades offered him a full scholarship. Cas was kinda proud of himself. 

"Dude..." Charlie whispered, a wide grin on her face. Cas sighed, pulling out his set of keys from his pocket and clicking a button on a remote control. The gate started opening and his friends were gawking with wide eyes and open mouths. 

"Guys, it's literally not that great," Cas muttered, leaning his head against the window as Dean put the car back in drive and moved forward, the gate closing right after him. 

"It's fricken awesome, Cas, wow," Sam whispered, as though too afraid to spook it all away. 

Cas rolled his eyes as Dean drove as slowly as possible around the giant fountain in the middle and came to a halt right in front of the steps to the house. 

"Uh... where am I supposed to park?" Dean asked and Cas pointed him to the empty space right up front, in between an expensive looking red Corvette and a large Porsche. "Why don't you have a cool ride, Cas? That Corvette..." Dean whistled, turning the engine off. 

"Yeah, that's my brother Gabe's. The other car's my mom's. Dad parks his car in the garage, you'd like that one," Cas told him, scratching his chin, a small smile on his face. 

"Don't tell me it's a Thunderbird? Or a Mustang? Is it James Bond's car?" Dean asked, his excitement over the roof and Cas chuckled, shaking his head. 

"No, I don't think he's that rich. It's a vintage Porsche. We can check it out after dinner," Cas suggested and Dean grinned, nodding his so fast he thought he might have a whiplash. The exited the car one by one and turned to make their way toward the house. Cas stopped when he saw his dad going down the steps and walking towards them, his sister right beside him. 

"Hey, kids! Welcome to La Casa de Novak!" Cas' dad greeted them, opening his arms wide. Cas groaned internally but plastered on a smile as his father reached him and hugged him tight. 

"Hey, dad," he greeted him. "Please don't embarrass me today," he whispered and his dad barked out a laugh, pulling away from the hug but keeping his arm around his shoulders. 

"Me? Embarrassing? You cut me deep, son." 

"He makes a point, Chuck. You are embarrassing," his aunt mocked him and Cas grinned at her, pulling away from his dad to hug her. 

"Hey, aunt Amara, how are you?" Cas said and she smiled, kissing his cheek. 

"I'm good, sweetie. And who are these handsome fellas? And the pretty young lady?" 

"Ah, that's Dean and Sam Winchester, and Charlie Bradbury. I live with them," Cas explained, introducing his friends. "Guys, this is my father."

"You can call me Chuck," he smiled at Cas' friends, shaking each of their hands. 

"And that's his sister, my aunt Amara," he introduced his aunt next who smiled at them all, shaking their hands politely. 

"Nice place you've got here, Mr. Novak," Charlie smiled at him and Chuck scoffed, shaking his head. 

"Please, just Chuck. I hate formalities!" He whined and Cas rolled his eyes at his dad. "That your car, Dean?" He pointed at the Impala and Dean grinned proudly, nodding his head. 

"My pride and joy!" 

"What is she- a 68' Impala?" Chuck asked, walking up closer to the car to inspect it. 

"Ah, close. 1967. 327 Engine and a four-barrel carburetor," Dean explained, patting the hood of his car so gently, as though it were a delicate flower. To him, she was. He called her Baby. 

"Nice! You've kept it in great shape," Chuck raised his eyebrows, impressed. "Well, come on inside. And Cas, fix your collar. Your mother would freak about... that...." he pointed at Cas' neck, giving him a small grin before turning around and practically bouncing back to the house. 

Cas could feel his cheeks heating as his hand slammed against his neck to hide the little red mark that was left there the night before by Inias. They weren't exactly exclusive, but they did enjoy seeing each other every once in a while, which was very frequent. 

He looked back, seeing Dean and Charlie clutching their sides and pointing at him as they burst out laughing, mocking him. 

"Oh, shut up," he rolled his eyes, fixing the last button on his shirt and making the sure hickey was well hidden. 

"It's all right, Cas. They're children," Sam reassured him, wrapping an arm around Cas' shoulders and pulling him forward after his dad and his aunt. They walked up the steps and Cas managed to cool down the temperature in his face as he walked inside with Sam, followed by Dean and Charlie. He pulled his blue sweater down by the hem, fixing it of any creases. The grandiosity of the house always made him feel so small, and as if the house itself was judging him every step he took. It was also part of the reason why he chose to move out right after high school. 

"THE OTHER JERK'S HERE!" 

Cas looked up, a giant grin spreading on his face as he saw his older brother Gabriel around the corner down the hall, followed directly by his older twin, Jimmy. 

"Sup, assbuts!" 

"Ass- Assbut? Did you seriously just say assbut?" Dean whispered, baffled by Castiel's choice of insults. 

"Yes, he did, and we're ignoring your use of bad language because I missed you!" 

Castiel's mother came running after his brothers, her arms open wide as she pushed past them toward her youngest son. She wrapped her arms around him so tightly, engulfing him in the warmest of hugs. He actually really missed his mother, even if he did see her every other weekend and spoke to her on the phone almost every day. He hugged her back tightly as she pressed a big kiss on his cheek, the sound resonating in his ear. 

"Mom- mom, can't breathe- I- mother!" Cas blurted out, his mother finally letting go of him. Her hands went up to his face, caressing his cheeks.

"You live twenty minutes away and you can't be bothered to take a bus and visit your mother?" She scolded him and Cas tried his best not to roll his eyes.

"Jimmy and Gabe live all the way in LA. Why aren't you attacking them with your bear hugs?" Cas pouted, wiping the lipstick he felt on his cheek.

"Because you are mother's favorite," Jimmy stated in a matter of fact voice and Gabe nodded in agreement.

"Nonsense. Cas has just always been... more sensitive. He needs me more!" She stated. Cas groaned, burying his face in his hands as his brothers snickered teasingly.

"Mom..." he whined quietly. He knew for a fact that his friends were trying really hard not to laugh behind him.

"Mom, he's just gay. Not that sensitive," Gabe told her with a little smirk on his face.

"Yeah, thanks Gabe," Cas rolled his eyes, finally turning to his friends to change the subject. "Anyway, meet the guys. Guys, meet my family. I'm gonna go get something to drink."

"Go help your father with the cocktails!" His mom called out after him as he hurried out and into the drawing room — which was only the large living room, but his mom liked watching period dramas and had forced them all to call it the drawing room. He found his dad hunched over the small bar they kept there, mixing Martinis and Daiquiris with the help of Amara.  

“Hey, Cas,” his father greeted him without even turning around. He could always tell which one of his sons was entering the room. Jimmy and Gabe tended to be much louder anyway. Cas was lighter on his feet and generally quieter. “How did your finals go?” He asked him, turning around with two glasses in his hands. He handed one over to Cas and kept the other to himself, taking a small sip. “Ah, perfect.”

“Oh, they were great. I got A’s on all of them,” Cas replied with a small smile, sitting on the couch and taking a sip from his own Martini. He set the glass on the coffee table in front of him and leaned back, taking in the paintings in the room. He had to admit, he missed them. Just a little.

“Of course you did. I always knew you would be a great writer.”

“You wanted me to become a doctor.”

“Yes, but you got my genes. Your brothers have your mother’s business brain. You got my creativity genes.”

“Gabe is quite creative,” Cas pointed out.

“He didn’t write a single paper throughout high school and college,” his father retorted. Cas couldn’t argue there.

“And you get why I didn’t want you becoming a writer. It’s a very disappointing life. You’ll learn that the hard way.” Chuck told him, coming to sit next to him.

“Chuck, honey, you’ve sold more books than J.K. Rowling,” Amara pointed out and Cas chuckled, shaking his head at his father. He loved the guy, but sometimes, he made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

“It was a one in a million chance!” He defended himself.

“Dad, you’re a good author. Your books are great. I’m good at writing, maybe my books will make it… or songs…” and he finally dropped the bomb.

“Yourwhat? You can’t write songs,” Chuck laughed, shaking his head like Cas had just said the most ridiculous things in the world. And maybe he had.

“Oh, no, his songs are great! They’re gonna make me rich!” Cas looked up to see his friends joining them followed by his brothers. Charlie had made the comment as she walked over to the couches and flopped down on the other side of Cas. She winked at him, smacking him on the knee. “Really awesome songs!”

“What, you’re writing songs now, Cassie? That’s great!” Gabe grinned at him and Cas shot him a glare at the nickname he used.

“Yeah, much cooler than that poet career you were going for, poets are just sad,” Jimmy added, shaking his head.

“Let’s play a game called Stop Attacking Castiel,” he muttered, taking a large sip from his drink.

“Easy on the martinis, sweetheart,” his mother scolded him, coming back with a tray filled with snacks.

“Just please let me be!” He groaned, his head falling back against the back of the couch.

“What’re you kids drinking? We’ve got well, pretty much everything,” Chuck asked them, getting up to make his way back to the bar.

“Cocktails or… ah, we’ve got whiskey, and wine here, hey, Becky, honey, why’s this bottle of Bordeaux here? I thought it was in the wine cellar…”

“Yeah, I got it out this morning,” his mother explained, settling down where Chuck was previously sitting and leaning her hand on Cas’ back.

“Ah, wine, guys?” He turned his attention to the rest, holding up the bottle of red wine.

“Actually, you had me at whiskey,” Dean replied with a small chuckle.

“Taste,” Chuck stated, grabbing a tumbler. “Ice?”

“Please.”

Chuck nodded, adding ice into the glass and pouring some whiskey over it. He handed Dean the glass who thanked him politely. He turned to Charlie next, serving her a martini with olives. Sam explained that he was still underage but Chuck only winked at him as he handed him a glass of wine. Sam drank it shyly. He handed his wife a Daiquiri just the way she liked it. Jimmy poured himself a whiskey, neat, and Chuck handed Gabe a martini glass. When they were all settled down on the couches comfortably, Becky announced that lunch would be ready soon and excused herself to go check on the roast, Amara walking with her to help out.

“So,” Chuck started, sipping from his cup. “What’s this about songwriting?”

Cas let out a groan, sitting up and ready to explain everything to his dad, and how serious this was, but Dean started talking instead, surprising him.

“Charlie and I, we’re in a band with a bunch of our friends. Lazarus Rising. That’s what we’re called, and—”

“Dude, that’s you guys? That’s sick! I was at your gig like two summers ago, what was the venue? Uh, oh yeah, it was called The Backdoor, I think,” Jimmy cut him off, an excited grin on his face. “You guys were great. You played a lot of Nirvana.”

“Oh right, the dark era,” Charlie physically cringed. “Let’s never go back to our grunge phase, yeah?” She turned to Dean who laughed, nodding in agreement.

“So, what do you guys play?” Chuck asked them, his interest peaked.

“I’m the lead singer and guitarist, Charlie’s the drummer. We play a lot of rock, mostly. Some classic stuff. But this year, we started playing more originals, all thanks to Cas, here!” Dean exclaimed with a toothy grin, shoving Cas with his shoulder.

“Really?” Chuck raised his eyebrows at them, asking the question he had in mind quietly. Are you any good?

“Yeah, really. They’re pretty good songs,” Cas admitted, trying his best not to sound like he was bragging. But he should be, he did believe their songs were better than a lot of the ones he heard nowadays. Who the hell was that Justin Bieber kid, anyway?

“We have a meeting on January 4 with a record label. And Cas is definitely gonna be included as part of the band!” Charlie exclaimed happily, practically bouncing in her seat.

“Never knew you were interested in writing songs, kid,” his dad told him, taking a drink from his cocktail, his eyes watching his son contemplatively.

“I didn’t know that either,” Cas chuckled, sitting up and leaning his elbows against his knees. “Are you- are you okay with that?” He asked his father with a little worry in his voice. His parents were generally supportive people. Even when he came out to them when he was sixteen, they were confused at first, but they didn’t push him away. Instead, they did some research and talked to people who knew more than them about the subject, and they figured out how to deal with it. He really appreciated that. They went out of their comfort zone for his own comfort and they showed him more support than he thought he’d get, and he knew that they would be at least somewhat supportive beforehand. But what if they expected more from him career wise? What if they didn’t want him to throw his life away on something such as the hobby of writing music? He didn’t see it like that, but he was afraid that his parents would.

Chuck was quiet for a few moments, staring at his son in thought which only made Cas even more nervous. “Do you know,” he finally said, “what my dad told me when I told him I wanted to become a writer?” Cas knew that story pretty well. He knew his grandfather was an abusive hardass whom he thankfully never had to meet; he walked out on his family right before Cas’ dad had graduated from high school. “He said ‘that’s what lazy people do. It’s for ne’er-do-wells and good-for-nothing people, like those queers and women. You’re a disappointment!’ he’d say. ‘Enlist in the army! Be a man!’ He was a douchebag who did nothing himself,” Chuck laughed, the kids joining in.

“You’re not gonna tell me I’m a disappointment, are you?” Cas joked sending his dad a grin which was not returned, which only made his nerves skyrocket.

“Castiel, the last thing you are is a disappointment, I never wanna hear that from you, any of you boys,” he pointed a finger at his other two sons. “My dad was never there for me and your aunt, Amara. I promised myself that no matter what, I’ll always support my kids. I think I’ve done that for the most part, right? What I’m trying to tell you, son, you can do whatever the hell you want. As long as it’s what youwant to do. Now, it might come as shock to your mother at first, she still thinks you’re going to be the next Victor Hugo, but you know we’ll always be there for you kids, no matter what, right?”

Castiel couldn’t help the huge smile that was slowly making its way onto his face.

“Right, thanks dad,” he told him quietly, pushing the words past the lump that had formed in his throat.

“And I expect front row seats at every show in town!” Chuck looked Dean and Charlie dead in the eyes with a serious look on his face and they both grinned at him, Charlie giving him a salute.

“Sir, yes, sir!” she cried out, making Chuck laugh as he got up from his seat, ruffling Castiel’s hair on his way.

“Hey, man, we’re gonna need a demo of those songs you’re writing,” Jimmy told Cas as he got up to follow his father into the dining room.

“Yeah, to make fun of how crap they are,” Gabe teased as Cas childishly stuck his tongue out to him.

He sighed, getting up as well along with his friends as his mom called them to the dining room for lunch.

“Hey, Cas, you never told us you were both a momma’s boy and a daddy’s girl,” Charlie teased him, Sam and Dean both cackling quietly behind them. Cas let out a small groan, ignoring her completely as he walking into the dining room and sitting at the corner of the table. Dean sat down next to him and Sam and Charlie got stuck with Gabe between them. He bothered Sam the entire time they were at the table, but Sam was polite enough not to tell him rudely to fuck off as Cas would have. They ate their lunch with light discussion going around the table. Becky was interested in knowing what each of Castiel’s friends did. She was especially impressed in Sam’s dream of applying to Stanford and studying law. Cas had previously warned his family about his friends’ past, which was basically why they were spending Christmas with them, so they avoided any familial topics, keeping conversations light and funny. Cas and Dean explained their songwriting process and how their first song was written.

Becky seemed overly proud of her sons and their friends, praising them any chance she got and if Dean was quite honest, he was a little jealous. He wished his mother was still alive because he knew for a fact that she would be just as supportive and kind as Becky was. Still, he was very happy for Cas, and really happy to be there with him. He liked his parents very much, and he wasn’t normally fond of parents. In all honesty, he had only agreed to coming over with Cas because he told him that Becky made some mean Turkey, and he wasn’t wrong.

After lunch, they went back to the living room and Becky bounced excitedly over to the Christmas tree, grabbing three boxes from under it, handing one to each of her sons.

“Merry Christmas, boys,” she kissed each one of them on their foreheads. “Toy cars and bicycles no longer interest you, so your dad said something funny would do,” She explained as Jimmy, Gabriel, and Castiel unwrapped their presents. They each came up with onesies, with Dr. Seuss’ Thing 1, Thing 2, and the cat in the hat for Gabriel. He was the first to find this amusing, bursting out in laughter rather loudly.

“That’s- I –,” Cas mumbled left speechless, holding the onesie up in front of him.

“It’s cute, isn’t it?” His mom giggled as the rest of the people in the room tried to hold in their laughter.

“Hey, Cas, I am begging you. Try it on,” Dean said, biting down on his lip to try and stop himself from laughing. It wasn’t easy at all. Their dad pushed them out of the room, making them get changed and try the onesies on. Jimmy and Cas tried to fight them on it, but it was no use. They went up to their bedrooms and came back down a few minutes later, permanent glares on Jimmy and Cas’ faces and an overly elated grin on Gabriel’s.

“This is classic,” Dean sniggered, pulling out his phone and taking several pictures of the Novak brothers.

“Best Christmas ever,” Sam agreed, falling back against the couch as he couldn’t hold in his chuckles any more.

Cas started getting more comfortable in it soon enough though, and he was laughing as well. He decided to stay in it for the rest of the day. He was going to meet Inias that night and he knew he would enjoy it. They’d have a good laugh over it.

The had dessert, Becky serving Dean the best pie he had ever had, and he let her know it. She was ecstatic, compliments to her cooking always putting her in the best of moods. They sat after dessert and Chuck pulled out his acoustic guitar, handing it over to Dean who started gushing over every last detail about it, starting with the fact that it was a custom Gibson acoustic, down to the woodwork and the material the body and the neck was made of. Becky and Chuck begged him to play one of the songs he had written with Cas and after a little bit of persuasion, he played one of the newer songs that they hadn’t finished yet. Chuck was convinced that they would do just fine in the music industry. When the sun set down, Becky pleaded with Cas to stay the night, forcing him to admit that he had a date.

“Wait— Dean is not…?”

Cas’ eyes widened at his mother’s suggestion, making both him and Dean blush profusely. “Oh gosh, mom, no. Jesus. He has a girlfriend. I’m… seeing another guy,” he explained to her, rubbing his temple. Dean watched him stumble over his words as he explained their friendship to his mother carefully.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry! I didn’t mean to assume. They’d make a cute couple though, wouldn’t they?” She winked at them, making them blush even more.

“BYE MOM!” Cas called out turning and running outside toward the Impala.

“USE PROTECTION!” Becky called out after him. Cas could be heard letting out an angry groan and Dean snickered as he saw him hitting his head against the hood of the car.

“Mrs. Novak, Mr. Novak­­– uh, Chuck, I’m sorry, and Amara, it was a pleasure,” Charlie thanked them profusely, hugging them each.

“Thank you for having us,” Dean said with a smile, shaking their hands with Sam right after him.

“You’re welcome! You kids are always welcome here, alright? Now, drive safely!” Chuck called out after them as they made their way back to the car where Cas was waiting, very grumpy.

***

New Year’s Eve was twice as eventful as Christmas was. Castiel’s parents were having their annual party which he honestly despised because of the pretentious old men and women who came always judging everyone and everything. The band had a show that evening so he excused himself, telling his parents that he ABSOLUTELY had to be there. Bartholomew, Balthazar, and Anna were in town and Cas forced them to come to the gig. He hadn’t seen them in almost a year and it was about time he hung out with his school friends. He had gotten very close with his roommates and the band, and Charlie and Dean had quickly become his best friends, but he missed his old friends a lot. He made sure Garth managed to keep three tickets aside for them and Cas waited excitedly outside the venue for them. Balthazar was the first to arrive, wearing a fancy blazer with a V-neck under it and jeans. Cas wondered how in the world he wasn’t cold, but then again, he was English. He hugged him tightly, Balt giving him a kiss on the forehead.

“Gosh, I’ve missed you and this town. Now, where’s that singer boyfriend of yours? Worthy of our garrison?”

Castiel rolled his eyes at his friend, pulling away from their embrace. “I don’t have a boyfriend,” Cas replied and Balthazar raised his eyebrows at him in disbelief.

“Explain the sex hair,” he deadpanned and Cas groaned, running his fingers through his hair to fix. Well, he had been making out with Inias earlier.

“I’m kinda seeing someone, we’re not exclusive though,” Cas explained and his friend rolled his eyes at him.

“Lame,” he muttered just as he spotted Anna’s red hair and Bart’s blond locks walking over to them. Anna was the first to jump at him, wrapping her entire body around him. Cas caught her and almost tumbled back at the force of her body, laughing as he held himself upright against the wall behind him.

“Dude, what have they been feeding you on the East coast?” he teased her and she stuck her tongue out at him as she jumped back down on her feet.

“Fuck off, Cas,” she spat at him, but the grin on her face was evidence that she wasn’t angry or upset but very happy to see him.

“Bart, how are you, buddy?”

“Doing, great, Cas, not as good as you though!” he shot him a wink and Cas raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Told him about your Rockstar boyfriend,” Anna said and Cas groaned, rolling his eyes at them and leading the way inside.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” he repeated and Anna frowned at him.

“Then why’s your hair so unkempt?”

“See?” Balt pointed out and Cas pouted at his friends, ignoring them completely as he led the way inside the venue and all the way to the table up front that Garth had reserved for him and his friends. He spotted Inias and Hannah already sitting at the table and they waved him over. He grinned as he approached Inias, kissing him quickly before settling down in the seat next to him. “So, he’s your boyfriend?”

“Oh, uh, we’re not dating… just…” Inias shrugged his shoulders. He sighed, extending his hand to Castiel’s friends. “Inias Michaelson,” he introduced himself and they all grinned at him excitedly.

“This is Bartholomew, Anna, and Balthazar. And that’s Hannah,” Cas introduced his friends to each other and they all politely greeted each other. The show soon started and Cas turned in his seat, his full attention on Dean and the rest of the band as they played their songs with so much energy. They played some rock versions of Christmas songs, the entire club getting up on their feet and singing along joyously.

“Is Dean single?” Anna whispered in Cas’ ear as she eyed him up and down and Cas rolled his eyes at her.

“No, that’s his girlfriend over there,” he pointed at Lisa who was sitting next to Andrea, Dorothy, Sam, and Garth on the table next to theirs. Anna pouted in disappointment.

“She’s really pretty, I guess,” Anna shrugged her shoulders, turning her attention back to the song. Though Cas stared at Lisa for a little further.

“Yeah,” he mumbled. Lisa turned her head, meeting his gaze. She smiled and waved at him. He pulled his mouth up in a smile, waving back before turning his attention to the band, swaying along and bopping his head along to the beat of the song.

The band started the countdown one minute from midnight, bringing their girlfriends up on stage, and at exactly midnight, they all kissed their significant others, with Kevin and Jo sharing a kiss and laughing afterwards, promising each other to never repeat that. Cas happily made out with Inias, causing his friends to make disgusted noises to annoy him. He rolled his eyes at him as he pulled away from the kiss, looking back up at the stage where Dean was still kissing Lisa. He pulled away with a smile, pecking Lisa’s cheek and then sending her on her way back down the stage. He spotted Cas and sent him a wink as he had seen him with Inias. Cas smiled, shaking his head and turning his attention back to his friends.

They played another few songs and then finally got off stage to the crowd’s disappointment. They were throwing a big party back home so they drove back to their house, opening their door up to all the guest. The music was loud, the house was too hot with bodies covering every inch of the house. They played too many drinking games, Dean had eventually lost count of how much he’s had to drink but he was sure that he was way too drunk, and at this point he didn’t really care. He was way too happy. He had a hand around Castiel’s shoulder and another around Lisa’s waist as they jumped along to the song that was playing, screaming the lyrics at the top of their lungs. It was too loud, and Cas could feel the thumping in his ear. He didn’t know if it was heart beating right out of his chest, or the thumps of people’s shoes against the floor as they jumped up and fell back against the floor repeatedly. He pulled Dean’s arm from around his shoulder and slipped past all the bodies until he was outside. He felt like he could finally breathe. Maybe it was all the smoke. They should have made a rule against cigarettes. He walked over to the backyard, and thank God it was empty, it was a little too cold to hang around out there. He fell down against the grass, laying on his back and staring at the sky. The stars felt like they were spinning. He groaned, running his hands over his face, massaging his temples. He took deep breaths, in and out until his breathing slowed down along with his heart rate.

When he opened his eyes next, he jumped up when he saw a body lost staring down at him with concern etched on their face.

“Jeez, Dean, you scared the shit out of me,” he muttered, sitting back up, bringing his knees up to his chest.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you…” he trailed off, running his hand through the back of his hair. “Can I sit down?” he asked, pointing at the spot beside Cas. He nodded, laying back down on his back, propping his head up on his hands. Dean laid back on the grass next to him, his fingers crossed over his stomach. They stared up at the sky in comfortable silence. “Are you okay?’ Dean asked after a while, breaking the silence.

“Yeah, yeah, just had a little too much to drink I think. I’m pretty sure I’ve had around ten shots of vodka and a bunch of beers. I probably shouldn’t have mixed my alcohol,” Cas explained, his voice quiet, his eyes following a dark cloud, illuminated by the moonlight, moving along the skyline.

“Yeah, I feel you. I’m way too drunk, I don’t know how I’m still standing up straight,” Dean chuckled. They fell back into a comfortable silence for a good ten minute. A guy ran back and emptied all of the contents of his stomach in the nearest plant.

“Oh, God, that’s gonna stink tomorrow morning,” Cas grunted, letting out a small, frustrated chuckle. Dean laughed along with him, turning on his side to avoid having to look at the guy puking.

“Your friends seem really nice,” Dean told him, looking down into his blue eyes. It seemed as though there was an added sparkle to them with the moonlight so bright.

“Yeah, they’re embarrassing fuckers, but I love them,” Cas replied with a little laugh. “I’m pretty sure they’re somewhere in there getting drunk, or worse, getting high on dope,” Cas said with a disapproving look on his face.

“Oh? Then how come they hang out with you if they’re so cool?” Dean grinned at him, teasing him. Cas rolled his eyes at Dean, punching him in the chest as he laughed. Dean caught his hand as he went to punch him again, stopping it midair.

“Give me my hand back you jerk,” Cas tried to pull his hand away but Dean held it tighter.

“Nope, you’ll only punch me again!”

“Yes, and this next one’s gonna be on your pretty face,” Cas grumbled, still trying to release his fist from Dean’s tight grip. He laced their fingers together to stop Cas from having any chance of escape.

“Oh, so you admit that my face is pretty?” Dean smirked cockily and Cas rolled his eyes at him.

“I never said otherwise,” he admitted, finally relaxing his arm and giving up on getting his hand back. “Whatever, I never wanted this hand anyway,” he grumbled, his lips turning in a pout. Dean coughed up a little laugh as his grip on Cas’ hand loosened, he never let go, though.

“Your hand’s pretty tiny,” Dean giggled, inspecting Cas’ hand in his. It really was almost half the size of his own hand.

“Shut up,” Cas whined, trying to yank his hand out of Dean’s grip again. Dean held on tighter, laughing loudly.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry! Your hand is average! Not tiny at all!” Dean apologized, but he was still laughing. Cas yanked at his hand once again, but due to Dean’s tight grip he pulled him on top of him instead.

“Gosh, you weigh a ton!” He howled, trying to push Dean off him. He had given Dean even more reason to tease him. His attempts to free himself had only backfired. Dean guffawed triumphantly, putting more of his weight on Cas, crushing him beneath him. Cas put his free hand against Dean’s chest, trying to push him off, but Dean wouldn’t budge.

“Nope, you’re not getting rid of me,” Dean told him, grinning boyishly down at him.

“I don’t wanna get rid of you, I wanna get you off me,” Cas grumbled, pushing at Dean’s chest again.

“Jeez, Cas, and here I thought we were having a moment,” Dean pouted, feigning hurt. Cas pushed at him again and Dean finally sighed, getting off him and laying back down beside him, his chest rumbling with his quiet laughter.

They both turned at the same time to face each other with words on their tongues, ready to come out, but as they met each other’s eyes, they both burst out laughing, their words long forgotten. They calmed down a little, big grin persistent on their faces. Dean smile slowly fell though as he looked at Cas. He whispered his name quietly, their faces only mere inches away from each other.

“Yeah?” Castiel whispered back questioningly, but his eyes were no longer watching the green ones he had grown so fond of. They were trailing the shape of his lips, and Dean unconsciously ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “Dean…?”

“Cas… I–” Dean cut himself off, leaning even closer. His eyes dropped to Castiel’s lips, the pinkest lips he had ever seen. He’d seen them every day for the past five months, so why was only just noticing just how pink his lips were? He didn’t know, but he couldn’t stop himself from pressing his lips against Castiel’s. They were both taken aback by his action at first, but Cas found himself squeezing Dean’s hand that was still holding his, kissing him back tenderly. He pulled away after a few moments, licking his lips, staring at Dean in thought. “I’m… not really sure what just happened…” Dean started, and then they were laughing again. They were laughing so hard, they fell back against the grass, clutching their sides as they wiped the tears that escaped their close eyelids.

“I think– I think it’s all the alcohol,” Cas managed to get out through all the laughs, and Dean nodded in agreement.

“Yeah- yeah, it’s the alcohol. Anyway, friends do that, right?” He said, only causing them to laugh even harder.

“Yeah, totally,” Cas giggled, nodding his head assertively. “Well, that was nice,” he grinned, sitting up.

“Very,” Dean chuckled, sitting up as well, wiping his hands against his jeans. Cas pointed his thumb behind him at the house.

“I should probably go back inside and make sure the garrison isn’t cooking up any trouble.”

“The garrison?” Dean raised a questioning eyebrow. Cas chuckled, shrugging his shoulders.

“What my friends and I called our group of friends. Kind of an inside joke,” he explained, getting up and dusting off his trousers. He made his way to the backdoor, stopping as someone pushed it open from the inside. He smiled as he saw Lisa, smiling at her. “Hey, Lisa!”

“Hey, Cas, have you seen Dean? He went out to search for you?”

“Yeah, he’s right there,” Cas pointed at Dean’s silhouette in the dark, his back turned to the house. He turned when he heard the chatter and smiled at Lisa. She smiled back and walked over to him as he watched Cas retreat back into the house.

Dean turned his attention to Lisa then as she bent down and pressed a kiss on his lips. He kissed her back, his arms snaking around her waist, but he couldn’t stop thinking of the soft pink lips he was kissing only moments earlier.

Chapter Text

January - June 2010
San Francisco 

January was by far Dean’s most eventful month his entire life. It was an entire rollercoaster. New Year’s Day, was well, horrible. His day started with a banging headache. It felt as though an entire construction crew was working on building the entire freaking golden gate bridge inside his skull. He groaned, flipping over, only for his hand to smack a solid body beside him in bed. Lisa groaned in response, rolling on her own side.

“What- what is it?” she mumbled, pulling the duvet further up around her naked body. Dean rubbed his face and stumbled out of bed.

“No’in’,” he managed to get out with his pounding headache. “Go back to sleep,” he told her, pulling the duvet off him and welcoming the cold air. He found a pair of sweat on the floor and slipped them on. He walked over to his closet, pulled out an old hoodie and slipped it on. He stumbled all the way back out, but hey, at least he was standing. He made his way up the stairs from the basement, taking awkward steps all the way to the kitchen. The house was a wreck. He groaned at the thought of having to clean it all up. Well, that’s a problem for later. The house was surprisingly not quiet. The television was on, a new reporter giving out the weather for the day.

Dean made his way to the kitchen first, happy to find that whoever woke up first made a fresh brew of coffee for everyone. He grabbed the largest mug they had and filled it all the way up to the brim. As he waited for it to cool down slightly for a first sip, he walked over to the cabinet above the stove and pulled down the box they kept all the medicines in. He still didn’t know why they kept it there, but it was better than having to walk all the way to anywhere else for an aspirin. He rummaged through the box until he was holding the aspirin bottle in his hand. He flipped the bottle over, a single pill falling in the palm of his hand and he walked over to his mug, swallowing it back with the hot, black coffee. Just the way he liked it. He smiled into his mug, taking another sip, before returning the box of medicines back in the cabinet and made his way to the living room to see who was awake.

Of course, it was Cas. No one else woke up as early as that kid did. Cas looked up as he heard footsteps approaching, and Dean wasn’t exactly the lightest on his feet, not when he was recuperating from a hangover. He cleared his throat as he approached him, making his way over to the coach.

“Morning…” Dean mumbled and Cas smiled at him, nodding in acknowledgment.

“Hey, how did you sleep?” Cas asked, drinking from his cup of coffee.

Dean shrug as he sat next to him, folding his legs under him. “Meh,” he replied simply, warming his face with the cup of coffee in his hands. Cas chuckled but didn’t say anything else. He watched the news quietly, though Dean could tell from glancing at him every once in a while, that he was lost in his thoughts, chewing on his bottom lip so hard, he feared Cas would be drawing blood from it soon.

“Hey, Cas, uhm… about yesterday…” Dean started, and Cas turned to look at him, his eyes wide and raw with emotion, one that Dean couldn’t exactly pinpoint but it brought goosebumps along his arms.

“Don’t worry about it, it was just a heat of the moment kinda thing,” Cas told him, turning his head back to the television.

“Yeah, I guess… we’re good, right? I didn’t ruin anything, did I?” Dean’s voice was quiet and worried, Cas turned to look at him with sympathy in his eyes now, his eyes much softer.

“We both– it’s on the both of us, so don’t blame yourself for anything. Anyway, there’s nothing for you to blame yourself about. We’re good!” Cas grinned at him, shoving him with his shoulder to prove a point. Dean’s lips turned upward in a small smile.

“Good, good,” he mumbled, sipping at his coffee.

“And, I’m working on a new song, and I need your help with it,” Cas told him, pulling out his leather-bound notebook from the spot next to him on the couch. He handed it over to Dean who started reading his scribbles.

“The thing you scratched out, I like that actually,” Dean stated, taking another drink.

“Yeah?” Cas leaned over him, handing a pencil and Dean started scribbling down his own ideas.

“Yeah, I think this might be your best piece yet,” Dean grinned excitedly up at Cas, writing the name to the song on the top of the page and underlining it profusely. “A Love Like War… I like it…” Dean tapped the pencil against the notebook dropped it back on the couch to go grab his electric guitar from the basement. He made a lot of exited and loud ruckus as he practically ran downstairs to his room, waking up Lisa in the process but he was ashamed to admit that he completely ignored her as he grabbed the guitar from its stand and ran all the way back upstairs to the living. He plugged it in the old amplifier that they kept in the corner of the sitting room and blasted the volume all the way up.

“Too loud, maybe?” Cas commented, wincing and sticking his finger in his ear as it had popped at the sudden loud noise. Dean grinned sheepishly, turning the volume knob down a little. He heard a few annoyed yells coming from upstairs and giggled to himself as he settled back down next to Cas on the couch. He pulled the notebook toward him and set it on his lap. Then he grabbed his guitar pick and played a few power chords. He toyed around with a chord progression until he finally got the one that sounded the greatest.

“I like it.”

Dean looked up to find Benny stumbling in the room, a yawn escaping his mouth. He grinned at him as he walked over to the couch and sat on the coffee table, watching Dean’s finger move around the guitar’s neck, nodding along.

“That’s not standard tuning,” Benny pointed out. “Half step or full step down?”

“Half a step,” Dean confirmed and Benny mumbled a “cool,” as Dean hummed along.

“Nice work, brother,” Benny told Cas, smiling at him and holding his fist out. Cas bumped fists with him, a wide grin on his face.

“Thanks, Ben,” he replied, leaning back against the couch and watching Dean finish the songwriting process.

Make a wish on our sorry little hearts

Have a smoke, pour a drink, steal a kiss in the dark

Fingernails on my skin like the teeth of a shark

I'm intoxicated by the lie

 

In the chill of your stare I am painfully lost

Like a deer in the lights of an oncoming bus

For the thrill of your touch I will shamefully lust

As you tell me we're nothing but trouble

 

“That’s pretty deep,” Benny chuckled, nodding along to Dean’s voice. “What inspired you?” He wondered, taking Cas aback. No one had ever asked him why he wrote the songs that he had already written. He glanced at Dean for a split second then back at Benny and shrugged his shoulders.

 

“I had a weird dream, I don’t remember much of it but I remember the lyrics writing themselves,” he replied vaguely, and Benny seemed to take it as just that. Cas glanced at Dean once again, chewing on his bottom lip again.

 

Heart's on fire tonight

Feel my bones ignite

Feels like war, war

Feels like war, war

Heart's on fire tonight

Feel my bones ignite

Feels like war, war

Feels like war, war

 

We go together or we don't go down at all

We go together or we don't go down at all

We go together or we don't go down at all [original lyrics by All Time Low and Vic Fuentes. If you know the original song, just imagine it with Jensen’s gruff voice instead- wow.]

 

“Woah,” Dean exclaimed, after singing the chorus.

 

“Woah, indeed!” Charlie exclaimed as she joined them with Sam and Lisa right behind them.

“That’s another hit right there, baby!” Lisa exclaimed excitedly, walking over to Dean and wrapping her arms around him. He laughed, turning to Charlie and pointing a finger at her.

“You’re singing with me, kiddo,” he told her and she grinned, flopping down in the armchair with her legs hanging from the other side.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way!” She replied with a smirk and an assertive nod.

The song was written and finished the next day during the band’s rehearsal.

They were more than excited to play the demo in two days to the record label guys they were meeting with for their contract on Monday.

The meeting itself went by pretty amazing. Dean was pretty nervous, and his leg wouldn’t stop bouncing up and down. It comforted it that his friends were right there with him, even Cas. But his nerves were still too high and he was having a hard time controlling them. Mike Sherley met with them with his assistant, Crowley. Crowley wasn’t the most pleasant of guys, but they ignored him as long as it meant they got signed by one of the record labels they looked up to the most. And they did! They went over the contract with Garth and were more than happy to sign over the rest of their lives. They treated Cas as a member of the band, and although the contract had Dean earn more than the rest of the band since he was the leader, Dean negotiated it over with them and Crowley changed it so that all the members would earn the same. They weren’t about to break up in a few years due to unequal earnings in the band and they made sure of that. They got a five-year deal. Five albums – five world tours. Dean’s legs were shaking. He was going to faint any second now, though he pulled through. At least, until they shook hands with Mike and Crowley and the men were gone and they were left sitting in the swivel chairs in the meeting room at the record label, grinning like five-year-old kids on Christmas morning. They squealed and they screamed and they hugged each other, then they went out to celebrate. And they got very drunk!

Dean was proud to admit though that he didn’t get drunk for the rest of the month– well, until his birthday party. He begged his friends not to throw him a surprise party, so they didn’t. Instead, they worked around his request, telling it right to his face that they were going to have a gig and throw a giant party at the same bar they would be playing. He couldn’t refuse a gig after it was booked. So, he went along with it. And in the middle of the show, as Dean was getting ready to start a new song, waiting for Benny to start with the bass line, he was surprised when Benny was grinning like an idiot, turning the volume knob on his bass all the way down. He looked at him with a questioning look on his face, only for him to close his eyes when Kevin started playing happy birthday on the piano, the band singing along. The crowd soon joined in as Sam made his up on stage, birthday cake in his hands, exactly twenty-two candles burning flaming hot atop the cake’s surface. He held the cake in front of Dean who was grinning from ear to ear excitedly.

“Make a wish, Deano!” Jo said in a singsong voice when they finished singing for him, and Dean did, closing his eyes for a few seconds, and then proceeding to blow the candles. He didn’t wish for much, only for their band to make it big. That’s all he wanted right now, anyway. And cake he really wanted cake.

Dean was glad though, that he got away from the usual cake face-smash he got every birthday, which was part of the reason why he didn’t like celebrating it with his friends. But he regretted the thought instantly, because just as he was done blowing the candles, someone tapped him on the back. He turned around, expecting one of his band members wanting a hug or something similar at least, but the next thing he was seeing was complete darkness. He gasped for air, but all that he could breathe was… was that whipped cream? He could open his eyes then, the pressure against his face gone. In front of him, he saw Cas standing there, smashed pie in his hands. His mouth was hanging open, his eyes wider than he’d ever seen. He probably wasn’t expecting himself to succeed. The entire crowd and the band were practically on the floor, laughing way too hard.

“Cas– what the fuck, man?” Dean cried out, wiping some of the whipped cream off with his hand and shaking his hand in the air, most of it flying in different directions.

“Your face, I– priceless,” Cas managed to get out through his laughter, but Dean was glaring at him. Suddenly, he wasn’t glaring anymore. He was smirking. And Cas did not like that smirk.

“Oh no…” he whispered, no longer laughing.

“Come here, you little shit!” Dean yelled as Cas started running around the stage, Dean following right after him. The crowd was growing crazy, all of their phones were up filming the entire thing that was going on. Well, if their songs didn’t get them famous, the footage of this scene definitely would have.

Cas tried to run away as fast as possible, but Dean finally caught up to him and he grabbed him by the hem of his shirt. They both toppled over, falling to the ground, the pie that Cas was miraculously still carrying in his hands getting mushed between them.

“Oh, God, ew,” Cas giggled, tossing the pie aside. Dean smirked mischievously and dipped his head before Cas could do anything about it, getting whipped cream all over his face and hair and well, everything else. “Oh my gosh, Dean stop. Stop,” he giggled, trying to push him off him again, but he couldn’t. And that’s when it happened again. Even beneath the white cream all over his face, Dean could spot the pink lips as Cas poked his tongue out to lick his lips clean from the whipped cream that fell on them. He wondered what they would taste like… they were too sweet without any cream anyway. He wondered just how much sweeter they would be right now… annnnnd– nope. Snap out of it, Dean! He dropped Castiel’s arms back to his side and got up, dusting himself off, which he realized was no use because he was only getting the whipped cream everywhere now. He held his hand out for Cas and helped him get up. Cas cleared his throat, scratching the back of his neck, a little awkwardly. Did he feel the same way Dean did right then? Did his mind wander to that same memory, and wonder the same thoughts? Dean shook his head, turning back to the crowd and grinning at them like nothing had happened.

“Cas,” he spoked into the mic, shooting him a playful glare across the room. “You’re dead, buddy.”

A chorus of oohs rang around the crowd and Jo played a little eerie melody on her guitar, making everyone laugh. Cas grinned, making his way back off stage. Dean watched him carefully as he rounded the corner to get to the bathroom, but he passed by the table he was sitting at before he did so, winking at Inias who got up and followed him.

Dean cleared his throat, turning back to the crowd. “Does anything have a spare shirt?” he joked and they all laughed.

 

“Play shirtless!” Someone suggested, and he looked down to see Lisa winking at him. He smirked, deciding to go along with her suggestion. Charlie played an exciting drum roll as he stripped his way out of his t-shirt and pretending to toss it exaggeratingly at the crowd, as a stripper would. They all cheered for him and Dean would lie if you asked him, but yes, he did blush.

 

“Excuse the pudge,” he said shyly into the microphone, patting his belly. They all laughed and Dean wasted no time in finishing their set list for the night.

 

They got absolutely smashed that night. He was so drunk that he didn’t miss his shirt as he made his way back home in the cold night outside. The alcohol in his blood, and Lisa, kept him very warm.

 

They started recording their songs in February.

 

They had the entire summer booked on tour with the band Ladyheart; they were the opening act. Their excitement was over the roof. The band was way too eager about this deal and they spent 90% of their time in their basement perfecting their songs for professional recording. When they weren’t working on their music, they were sleeping.

 

Mike and Crowley met them every day at the small recording studio downtown, and Cas would meet them there after his classes. He brought his books with him and tried his best to get some work done, but really, he was too focused on the band, and Dean, in that recording booth, getting the perfect notes on record.

 

They were done recording in March, just in time for spring and Castiel’s midterms. And by April, Dean was holding the very first CD between his own two hands. The band was… ecstatic, to put it lightly. Though, it was a big understatement. Naturally, they threw a large party to celebrate. And the next day, when they were sober enough, they managed to sign the first bunch of copies as per the record company’s request.

 

They released the first single, Love Like War, in May, and the second one, Broken Bones, two weeks after that. They were both bigger hits than they had anticipated. Garth even told them that tickets to Ladyheart’s shows were all sold out, which meant that they would be playing for thousands of people soon enough. That was more people than they had ever played for before, and they were beyond nervous of messing it up. But they were also more excited than they had ever been because this was the chance they had been dreaming of for years. People were already talking about them online, and their YouTube channel had already a few hundred thousand subscribers, which meant that they had gained a lotof followers in less than a month. They were pretty proud of their 7,000 and something subscribers just a month ago. And now they were overwhelmed by that number growing immensely. Garth even made them a twitter account to promote their music, and that was slowly growing as well. Dean wasn’t proud to admit that he would refresh their feed every few hours just to stalk what everyone was saying about their singles.

 

And when their album came out early on in June, Lazarus Rising, as they named it (it isn’t that narcissistic, Dean reassured himself), made it in the top ten charts the first week. They had more champagne that night than they have ever had their entire life. The headaches they all woke up with were worth it.

 

Castiel graduated mid-June that summer. He didn’t stay for the after-graduation party, leaving for Los Angeles instantly after getting his diploma, where their very first opening gig for Ladyheart was being held the next day. Castiel also had to attend his brother Jimmy’s graduation down there. He got his entire family front row seats to the show and backstage passes. It was the best graduation gift they could have ever gotten. Expensive swiss watches were overrated similar to the ones they got for their high school graduation were overrated, both Novak twins thought so.

 

Castiel sat between his brother Jimmy, and Inias. Lisa, Andrea, and Dorothy sat beside them, cheering their boyfriends and girlfriend on. Sam, his girlfriend Jess, Garth and Ash were there too, making sure everything was going smoothly. And everything did, except for that one lyric that Dean messed up, but he was sure that no one had noticed except for Cas, who shot him a grin and two thumbs up, telling him it was okay.

 

Despite the fact that more than most of the crowd was there for Ladyheart, the entire crowd was cheering them on after each song. They still played a cover in the middle of their set and another at the end to engage the crowd more and get them to sing along. And as Dean and Jo strummed the last chord, as Benny played the final bass line, as Charlie played the drum beat, and Kevin played the last note on his keyboard, they couldn’t get rid of the grins that were forever etched on their faces as the crowd screamed and clapped for them, yelling for an encore. But it was time for Vince Vicente of Ladyheart to woo them, and they were very excited to watch them perform, anyway. They felt properly overwhelmed. Dean thanked the fans and dashed off the stage as fast as his legs would allow him. Cas was too excited. He knew he could miss the next performance, but at this point he didn’t care. He got out of his seat and slipped out of the big room, making his way past security and showing them his pass, running down the hall backstage. He read the names printed on an A4 piece of paper attached to every door, until he found the one that read LAZARUS RISING. He grinned, knocking on the door and pushing it open, hesitantly at first. He poked his head in and spotted Dean in there, swallowing back an entire bottle of water.

 

When Dean finally noticed Cas, their eyes met and he grinned at him, dropping the now empty bottle on the small coffee table in the middle of the dressing room. Cas pushed the door open further and before he could even process what was going on, he was attacked by a pair of rather sweaty arms, but he didn’t care. He laughed as Dean engulfed him in a tight hug and wrapped his arms back around his frame just as tight.

 

“Gosh, Cas, did you see them? They seemed to enjoy that, right?” Dean asked him, and Cas could sense the worry behind his tone.

 

“Are you kidding me, Dean? They loved you! Every single person out there was on their feet, they even started singing along and I bet you they didn’t know the lyrics beforehand!”

 

“Well, that doesn’t make it that much better,” Kevin pointed out from his seat on the swivel chair in front of the mirror.

 

Cas laughed, Dean finally letting go of him, but keeping him at an arm’s length, all sense of personal space long forgotten. They had both noticed that ever since they had started writing songs together, physical distance was always kept to a minimum when they were in the same room together. It didn’t really bother them at all.

 

The girls walked into the room then, their hair tied up and their outfits changed into more comfortable clothes.

 

“You guys were amazing out there! And I made sure to get it all recorded, by the way!” Cas exclaimed, an excited grin on his face as he held out his telephone.

 

“Oh, man. You gotta send that to us!” Benny replied, kicking off his boots and throwing his feet up on the table.

 

“Are you kidding? I’d get it framed if I could,” Cas said and they laughed at his remark. “Also, by the way, I’m buying a t-shirt for every person I know! They really ended up looking great!”

 

“Look at you, Cas, our biggest fangirl!” Dean teased him, poking his side. Cas squirmed away from his touch, swatting his hand away but still smirked at him, nodding his head eagerly.

 

“If I’m not your biggest fan, then that spot will remain forever empty!” he bellowed out dramatically.

 

“Yeah, he makes a good point. I don’t love our band as much as he does,” Jo stated with a little shrug of her shoulders. Charlie stuck her tongue out at her and they both laughed.

 

“I think I might like you guys better than MCR,” Cas admitted, surprising even himself with that statement. Dean let out an overexaggerated gasp, purposefully spitting out the water he was sipping.

 

“No! That couldn’t be!” Dean cried out sarcastically, causing Cas to shove him with his shoulder and Dean to clutch his side as he sniggered loudly.

 

Cas grinned, shaking his head. Finally, he remembered the camera slung around his neck and he pulled it up, removing the lens cap.

 

“Oh, wow, you were serious about that camera business!” Charlie remarked, raising an eyebrow, impressed. No one had taken him seriously when he had announced a week prior that he was going to borrow his parents’ camera to document the entire tour. They told him that there was going to be a professional photographer hired by Ladyheart, but Cas didn’t care. It just wasn’t the same. It felt more personal if he took the pictures himself. Which was why he held up the polaroid camera up to his eyes, squinting at the viewfinder.

 

“Candid,” he announced and before anyone was ready, he snapped the shot. He heard complaints coming from Jo and Kevin that they weren’t ready but his smile was huge as he grabbed the picture and fanned it a little. “Did you try to flip me off?” He asked Dean with a little amused snicker as he grabbed a sharpie from his back pocket.  

 

“Yes, yes I did!” Dean grinned proudly as Cas rolled his eyes at him. He turned the polaroid around and uncapped the pen with his teeth. He scribbled down the date and the description on the back:

Lazarus Rising Night 1:

June 19th, 2010

Post-show

 

 

“Dude, that’s lame,” Dean chuckled, but still he grabbed the picture from Cas and placed as neatly as possible in his pocket. “That’s going on my wall back home.”

 

“Right, very lame,” Cas mocked him, his eyes sparkling with pleasure.

 

They all made their way back to their seats beside their friends to watch the rest of the show. They had only missed the first two songs, which they didn’t really mind because they had heard them during soundcheck. Dean and Cas walked at a slow pace behind everyone else, dumb smiled plastered on their faces.

 

“You really liked the show?” Dean asked Cas. His opinion somehow seemed to matter to him most of all. He didn’t care if the entire crowd of people in the audience hated their performance. He seemed satisfied as long as his best friend enjoyed it. And when Cas nodded enthusiastically, his smile widening, baring his teeth, Dean seemed to relax, walking with a little bounce of confidence with every step he took.

 

“Yeah, you looked really good up there, really,” Cas reassured him and Dean chuckled, wrapping an arm around his shoulders as they walked down the seemingly never-ending hall. Dean didn’t want it to end.

 

“How good?” Dean asked, raising a cocky eyebrow jokingly.

 

“Oh, so good! Super hot. I think I heard a few panties dropping!” Cas played along with Dean’s joke, keeping a straight face. Dean barked out a laugh, placing his hand over his heart.

“Gosh, you kill me, Cas,” he told him with a crooked grin, ruffling his hair as they made their way down they flight of stairs to reach their seats in front of the stage where their friends were sitting. Dean squeezed Cas’ shoulder before letting go and reaching Lisa who wrapped her arm around him so tight, she seemed to be squeezing the air right out of his lungs.

 

“Hey, there you are.”

 

Cas turned to find Inias getting up from his seat and walking toward Cas. He smiled at him, turning his attention away from Dean and Lisa as Inias held his hand and kissed his cheek.

 

The rest of the show was honestly one of the best night Cas had ever spent. Surprisingly enough, he had only been to a handful of concerts his entire life, so it was always really exciting for him to see a gig live, especially when it was a band he loved as much as Ladyheart. To him though, the performance was nothing compared to Dean’s performance. And he knew for a fact that no one could ever top him in terms of favorite artist, maybe even favorite person.

 

Vince Vicente wasn’t at all as Cas had thought. He was much nicer in person than he appeared to be in public. A little devilish though, one might say. He invited the band members as well as their friends to a party that night. So, there they were, huddled up in a large limousine, on their way to a club they had never been to or even heard of.  Apparently, it was a very private club. Cas didn’t know why he was so surprised as he walked in there behind Dean and Lisa, with Inias by his side. Ladyheart was after all as big as Mötley Crüe were in their day. They had an entire area to themselves.

 

The entire night was a blur to Cas after the show. He remembered loud music, a lot of singing, dancing, and screaming. Happy screams. It was all very fun. He knew for a fact that he laughed a lot. There was even more alcohol, and definitely some weed. He was fairly certain that they all returned to the hotel very, very drunk, and maybe a little, very, high. The headache he woke up with the next morning though did not help with remembering everything he did the previous night, but his naked boyfriend still asleep next to him in bed gave him an idea or two. He groaned, rolling over in bed and checking the time. It was only ten in the morning. He knew that he wasn’t going to be able to fall back asleep. His body simply hated him like that. He stretched his limbs like a cat would and turned back around, planting a kiss on Inias’ forehead. He scrunched his nose but remained asleep. Cas chuckled, sitting up, and getting out of bed. He made his way to the bathroom, standing in front of the mirror and wincing at the giant bruise he found on his hip. He remembered tripping in the middle of the dance floor and causing a domino effect to a couple of people who ended up pushing the person in front of them, which had only made Dean fall back himself in laughs and giggles before finally helping Cas back up. The bruise was nothing compared to the love bites that peppered his neck. He chuckled, shaking his head, and got in the shower to get himself cleaned up.

 

Inias was still very deeply asleep when he came out of the bathroom. As he was making his way out of the room after getting dressed for the day (in sweatpants and a ragged old t-shirt, mind you; he was too tired to get dressed up), he found Dean opening the door to his own bedroom, dressed similarly to Cas. He grinned at him, stuffing his room key-card in his back pocket.

 

“Morning,” Dean said, his tired eyes lighting up.

 

“Morning to you,” Cas grinned back and they walked together to the elevators. They stood in there in silence as the elevator doors shut and they started the decent to the hotel’s dining room. “What the hell was last night?” Cas finally asked, breaking the silence. Dean couldn’t help but laugh hard, shaking his head.

 

“Man, I have no idea. But it was definitely the craziest night ever. Vince? Man, he’s just- he’s wild!”

 

“Tell me about it,” Cas chuckled, staring down at his shoes. He scratched his stubble a little, his eyebrows furrowing then turned back up to Dean, a little grimace on his face. “How– how high did we get last night?”

 

Dean almost choked on his own breath, running a hand through his hair, brushing it back.  “I’m not sure… Lisa and I though, it was,” Dean smirked, nodding his head eagerly. “Crazier than ever. So, I think, pretty drunk and high,” he admitted and Cas laughed, rubbing his face as the elevator dinged and the doors opened. They walked out into the lobby and followed the signs to the dining room. There, they found Benny and Kevin at a booth, both of their heads laying on the surface of the table. Dean smirked mischievously, sneaking up behind Benny. He shared a look with Cas, who instantly understood what he was up to. He resisted the urge to breath out a snicker and snuck up behind Kevin. They bent down to their ear level, and at a silent count of three, they both announced their presence rather loudly.

 

Both men jumped up from their seats, screeching loudly. Dean wasn’t so lucky though as Benny’s arm shot up and his fist came into contact straight with Dean’s stomach. He grunted, falling backwards and holding himself up against the booth, his hand clutching his stomach as he buckled forward.

 

“Dude, what the fuck?” Kevin squealed and Dean laughed through his grunts and moans, making a circle with his thumb and index and holding his other three fingers open, signaling ‘okay.’

 

“Totally fucking worth it,” he wheezed out, flopping down in the empty seat besides Benny. Cas giggled his way to the seat besides Kevin.

 

“Fucking assholes,” Benny muttered, letting his head fall back against the surface.

 

“Rough night, boys?” Charlie teased, her voice too chirpy and booming as she joined them and Kevin held out his middle finger, flipping her off.

 

“No, great night. Rough morning,” Benny replied and they all nodded in agreement.

 

They had the rest of the day free. They would be leaving in the afternoon to catch a flight to their next show in Phoenix. The rest of the band all decided to go out and sightsee for the rest of the day. Though Cas decided to stay back and help Inias pack since he had to go back to San Francisco to start his new job. He wouldn’t be seeing for a few weeks, which was understandable. Cas desperately needed a vacation and going on tour with his friends was definitely the break he deserved.

 

“Walk me out?”  Inias looked up after closing up his small suitcase and placed it on the ground. Cas smiled at him from his spot on this still unmade bed and nodded. He got off the bed and walked over to the door, opening it up for him.

 

“After you, milady,” Cas joked with a little playful grin.

 

“Oh, you are too kind, sir,” Inias played along, giggling as he made his way into the hallway. Cas let the door shut behind him and walked behind Inias who led the way to the elevators. They walked in silence all the way outside where they waited for the bellhop to hail a cab for him. “So…” Inias started and Cas looked up at him with eyebrows raised expectantly. “I’ll see you in… five weeks then?”

 

“Yeah, you will,” Cas reassured him with a grin. They had a couple weeks of break back home before the European leg of the tour. He was very excited about it. Four weeks visiting almost every single country in Europe? Surprisingly, Cas had never spent much time outside of the states. They went on several vacations as a family while he was growing up but those mostly consisted of ski resorts in winters and Florida in spring. There was that one year his father had a press conference for one of his books and they all spent a weekend together in Paris, and that one summer they spent in Mexico. But he had never spent some time with his friends anywhere else. He was thrilled, to put it simply.

 

“Hey, Cas?” Inias seemed a little hesitant, a shy smile plastered on his face. He held his hand up, massaging the back of his neck as he thought of his next words. “When you come back, do you wanna maybe, uh, like move in with me?”

 

Cas’ eyes widened as his brain processed the words he had just heard. He wasn’t expecting that. Then again, they had been seeing each other for more than six months. So, it probably wasn’t all that out of the blue. But he hadn’t dropped any hints at it earlier, or Cas simply hadn’t paid any attention to them. If that were the case, then he would feel like kind of an asshole.

 

“Oh, uh, that’s– uh—”

 

“I know, it came out of nowhere. It’s just, it’s about time, don’t you think? Plus, you’ll only be leaving soon right after that, so you’ll need a place to stay, and when you’re back after the tour’s over, you’ll have my place. It’ll be our place…” Inias shot him a grin, his eyes hopeful. Castiel’s stomach was being swarmed by butterflies, but it wasn’t the good kind. And he hated it. Damn it…

 

“Oh… no, it’s just, I promised mom I’d come back home during that time since I haven’t been there properly in about four years…” he trailed off, realizing how lame his excuse was. In his defense though, he wasn’t intending on making it sound like any kind of excuse, he was still trying to process Inias’ request and how he felt about that. Plus, his mom really did beg him to come stay for a few weeks back home and his dad kind of forced him for Becky’s sake and the sake of all of their sanities. An upset Becky was never a fun Becky to be around. 

 

Inias’ face fell. “Crap, you think we’re moving too fast, aren’t you? I sprung this on you out of nowhere and you’re not ready to move in together just yet. Shit, I’m fucking this up.”

 

“No, no, Inias you’re not fucking it up. It’s not that I’m not ready to move in together…” Cas trailed off, punching himself internally. That sounded very bad. The rest of the sentence made so much sense in his head though. Inias seemed to have read his mind though, finishing the sentence for him.

 

“You don’t want to move in…?” his voice came out soft, breaking at the end of his sentence, making Castiel grimace slightly. It killed him, having hurt Inias like that. “And it’s not because of me…” he nodded his head, finally seeming to understand what was going on, much faster than Cas was understanding it seemed.

 

“It’s not you, it’s—”

 

“It’s not you either,” he cut him off. “Not your mother either.”

 

“Well—”

 

“It’s him, isn’t it?”

 

“Him?” Castiel repeated, his voice sounding confused.

 

“Yes, him,” Inias exclaimed. “Dean.”

 

“What?” Cas chuckled, his eyebrows furrowing with more confusion. “What does Dean have to do with this?” He scoffed like it was the most ridiculous theory he has ever heard. It really was to him right then. He was genuinely clueless. 

 

“You might be oblivious, Cas, because you’re trying to protect yourself or you’re just in denial as a coping mechanism because you know otherwise you’d get hurt, I don’t know—”

 

“Are you psychoanalyzing me right now?” Cas laughed, shaking his head. He refused to listen to his words.

 

“No, I’m observing. You’re oblivious, but I’m not. I see the way you look at him. Every show, every rehearsal, ever goddamn breakfast and lunch and dinner he’s there. Do you know the way my little sister stares at her Justin Bieber posters? That’s literally you with him, Cas!” Inias cried out loudly and Cas just stared at him as though he were growing a second head.

 

“What are you even on about? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?”

 

“I tried to ignore it, I did. I don’t know, I thought it would just go away. Crushes do, right? Except, it’s not a crush. Right?”

 

Cas was quiet. He was chewing on his bottom lip anxiously, deep in thought. He fiddled with his fingers, unable to remain still. The more Inias kept talking, the deeper that pit growing in his gut grew. He didn’t want to listen to Inias’ words because he knew that if he did, they would be real. He didn’t want them to be real. He hasn’t wanted them to be true, not since that night in the backyard. Or even way before that. He didn’t know, and it didn’t really matter. It just couldn’t be. He wouldn’t allow himself to admit it, to allow it to be true.

 

“You love him, Castiel!”

 

“Yeah, he’s one of my best friends.” Cas snapped in response, too quick to shoot down Inias’ accusation.

 

“No, Cas,” he shook his head, his voice going softer. “You love him. I don’t– I can’t blame you. I think you’ve always loved him.”

 

“I don’t!” He could already taste the blood being drawn from his bottom lip. It was starting to tremble.

 

“Cas, we’ve been together for six months, and you’re barely committed to our relationship! You never commit, because you’re already too committed to Dean. You’re in love with him and it’s just– it’s gonna hurt more, the longer you deny it. For your sake, accept it, so you can start moving on.” Inias’ eyes were already watery. He grabbed his bag, lifting it and turned to make his way to the cab that was waiting right up front. He turned around after placing the suitcase in, leaning his arm on the open car door. “It really sucks though, cause I think I might have actually started falling in love with you.”

 

“I’m sorry,” was all Cas could manage to breath out. He felt like his throat was constrained, like he was being choked by a barbwire.

 

“It’s not your fault,” Inias smiled sadly at him, his voice trembling. “Bye, Cas,” he said finally and got in the cab. Cas watched as the car disappeared onto the road ahead, only then tasting the salty tears falling down his cheeks. His vision was getting blurry and he used the back of his hand to wipe at his eyes. He turned around, ready to get back to his room and bury himself under the covers for the rest of the day when he almost bumped into someone. He looked up, his eyes widening as he realized it was his tiny redheaded friend.

 

“Oh, Charlie, when– when did you get back?” he sniffled, wiping the tears falling down the side of his nose.

 

“Just now, Dotty and I, well…” she replied quietly, trailing off at the end, her face turning into a frown. “You okay, babe?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, just, I guess we just broke up,” he mumbled and Charlie let out a soft awe, her lips pouting as her arms wrapped around Castiel’s waist, engulfing him in a tight hug.

 

“It’s okay, Cas. C’mon, we’ll go up to my room and get you some ice cream!”

 

“No, I don’t wanna intrude on you and Dorothy,” Cas said, starting to making his way back inside to the lobby.

 

“Hey, sex can wait. Friends cannot!”

 

Cas actually let out a small chuckle at her sentence, turning around and hugging her again. She rubbed his back comfortingly and got her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.

 

“How- how much of that did you hear, by the way?” Cas asked awkwardly, hoping she wasn’t there to witness the whole thing.

 

“Uhhh…” Charlie smiled sheepishly at him, running a hand through her hair in a miserable attempt to fix it and keep it off her face. It didn’t make sense since she had bangs.

 

“You heard the whole thing, didn’t you?” Cas groaned, closing his eyes, pretending as though if he couldn’t see the world, he would remain hidden from it and its cruelty.

 

“No, no! Not the whole thing, just, you know, that commitment bit, and the love bit, and unrequited love bit.”

 

Cas groaned louder, burying his face in his hands, feeling a fresh wave of tears coming his way, though he held them back.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do!” he sniveled, rubbing his face with his hands in frustration. He looked up at Charlie then, his expression that of fear and horror. “Charlie– you can’t– you can’t say anything. Dean can’t know!”

 

“Cas—”

 

“He can’t know! Charlie, please!” He begged her, his eyes desperate and pleading.

 

“Cas, I’m not gonna say anything, it’s not my place to tell anyway. But you gotta figure this out man, or else it’s gonna kill you. I mean, Inias was right about that,” she told him, pressing on the elevator call button.

 

“I don’t know. I’m not— I can’t —” Cas struggled to find the words he wanted to say. He struggled to even think of them. He let out another loud groan of frustration, getting a few stares from some people in the lobby.

 

“If it makes you feel any better,” Charlie started just as the elevator dinged and the doors open. They made their way inside, hitting the button to Charlie’s floor. “I kinda suspected it all along…”

 

“THAT DOESN’T MAKE ME FEEL ANY BETTER, CHARLIE!”

 

“Okay, jeez, don’t get all pissy, missy!” she pointed an accusatory finger at him jokingly. “C’mon, we’ll figure it out over ice cream.”

 

“And booze,” Cas added.

 

“I will ignore the horrible hangover we are still suffering from and agree to your request only because you are in deep terrible pain and need the magical alcoholic sustenance to mend your broken heart and destroyed soul!” Charlie exclaimed, exaggerating her hand gestures to accompany her dramatic words.

 

“A- you should’ve been this band’s songwriter. Very poetic, bravo. B- I am not in deep terrible pain, and 3- my heart is not broken and my soul is not destroyed!” Cas counted those points on his fingers, making his way out into the hallway as the elevator doors opened.

 

“Stop being sarcastic, you sarcastic little shit, and accept the fact that you’re heartbroken. Denial won’t get you anywhere.”

 

“What’re you, my shrink?” he grumbled, waiting for her to get her keycard and open the door to her room.

 

“If you won’t have anyone else know about your problems, then that leaves no one else but me to be your shrink,” Charlie reasoned, and Cas couldn’t help but agree. He sighed as she finally unlocked the door, but hesitated as she went to open it, turning back with a sheepish grin. “Just a sec?” he rolled his eyes but smirked, stepping back and letting her slip in the room, probably to make things more PG. God knows what she and Dorothy were planning on doing. It only took her a short minute though before she held the door open again and let Cas in.

 

“Hey Dotty,” he smiled at Charlie’s girlfriend who smiled and waved back at him.

 

“Hey Cas, sorry to hear about Inias. He was nice,” she told him with an empathetic smile. Cas frowned, settling down on the couch in the room near the large window.

 

“Yeah, he was. GOSH, I FEEL LIKE SUCH AN ASSHOLE!”

 

“Not your fault, babe,” Charlie reassured him, crouching in front of the minifridge and grabbing a bunch of bottles of liquor. She tossed the tiny bottle of vodka at him and he caught it with on hand, using the other to unscrew the bottlecap. 

 

“It is, fucking hell,” he moaned, finally getting rid of the cap and swallowing back a large sip of the heavy drink.

 

“You guys do realize it’s only three o’clock, right?” Dotty pointed out and Cas just glared at her, taking another drink from the bottle. She held her hands up in defense, an amused and sympathetic look on her face as she settled down on the bed, turning the tv on.

 

“Can we watch cartoons?” Cas asked quietly, a small pout forming on his lips.  Dorothy sighed and nodded her head, patting the spot next to hers on the bed. Cas smiled and climbed up beside her, kicking off his shoes.

 

“I’m ordering the ice cream. Want anything, babe?” Charlie turned to them, hotel phone already held up to her ear.

 

“Strawberry please and thank you!”

 

“Cookie dough for me, please,” Cas sent her a boyish grin and Charlie nodded, turning to speak to room service.

 

By the time they were all piling up in the van that was taking them back to the airport, Charlie and Castiel were very drunk. The rest of the band had noticed, and it wasn’t fun for once. Well, Charlie was still giggling and bubbly, but Cas remained pouty and grumpy, worrying the rest of the guys.

 

Dean sat down beside him in the car and put an arm around him comfortingly, noticing that he was clearly upset. “Hey, it’s cool man. I’m gonna miss home and Lisa too, but it’s only five weeks, right? You’ll be back with Inias in no time!”

 

“No, I won’t,” Cas grumbled, turning to stare out the window. If he didn’t, he would probably puke out all that ice cream he had.

 

“Why not?” Dean asked him with a little frown on his face. Cas didn’t reply, keeping his gaze out onto the street. Dean shared a look with Charlie who simply shook her head, a saddened look on her face. Dean seemed to understand though. His face fell, his arm tightening around Castiel’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, buddy. It gets better, though.” He tried to reassure him, but Cas only shook his head, refusing to acknowledge any sign of caring and affection that Dean offered.

 

Dean understood, breakups were difficult, but he only wished Cas would let him in so that he could help him. Though, it only seemed like he was going to shut off for some time. He could only hope that it wouldn’t last too long.

 

 

Chapter Text

July 2010

The tour was overwhelming, to put it simply. Dean had never felt that much pressure that felt so good and so exciting. The thrill that ran through his veins every night right before he got on stage was the only motivation he needed to give the best performance of his life every day, knowing there were thousands of people watching him live, and even more so who would be watching some of the performance back home. Their shows were being recorded to be posted on their YouTube page, which Dean was overly excited about since they were getting more views than he could have ever hoped for.

They had photoshoots, and interviews, and small promotional shows on the days that they didn't have a show on, or early in the mornings before soundcheck. The photoshoots were the most fun. Most of the time, they only got a small handful of serious pictures out of the entire shoot, with nearly all of them being the members goofing around and messing with each other. Some of them included pants pulled down and silly-string spray bottles, courtesy of Dean. They never knew where he got them from, but the other members could never get their hands on a bottle of their own.

Though Dean had noticed that Cas had gotten quieter. He was usually the more enthusiastic one of the bunch, right after Charlie of course. And he never missed a chance to make fun of Dean, or his other friends, but mostly Dean. And yet, he didn't find Benny calling him out on his ridiculous outfits – which were only ripped, skinny jeans and a leather jacket – any funny or amusing. He might have cracked a smile when Dean came out of the dressing room with his hair spiked up in different directions jokingly but kept his comments to himself.

"Come on, nothing?" Dean scoffed as they walked down the long hall beneath the stage right before their performance.

"No, just walk faster Sonic, or you're gonna be late," Cas finally replied, caving in and throwing in a subtle mocking comment. Dean grinned triumphantly, throwing a fist up in the air, and placing his foot up on the pedestal to get to the stage.

"Right! That's what I'm talking about, making hedgehog jokes," Dean snickered to himself. "Awesome," he laughed, shaking his head and making his way all the way up. "See you on the other side," he called back and Cas mumbled a soft 'yeah,' making his way backstage and remaining there next to the crew.

"You okay, bro?"

He turned around to see Garth standing there, his arms crossed over his chest, carrying a bunch of papers in his hands.

"Yeah, I'm just gonna hang here for a while," Cas smiled at him to reassure him that he was okay and Garth nodded, turning back around to run his errands.

Cas stood there, watching his friends give their best performance yet. Every day was an even better performance. It seemed the nervousness they got before every show only made them even better, and he was immensely proud of them, so why couldn't he be happy about it?

He watched Dean as he played his guitar and sang into the microphone. He had so much energy in him on stage, he bounced on his feet with every note he played on the guitar, he stepped away from the microphone during solos or bits that didn't include singing, or held the microphone stand when he didn't have to play the guitar, and held his face so close to it, brushed his wet hair off his face. It was very hot, Cas couldn't deny that. And Dean did it on purpose he was sure. Every time he heard the crowd, which consisted of girls mostly, screaming at the top of their lungs, he smirked to himself, knowing exactly what he was doing. He would even turn to spot Cas, send him the happiest grin he had ever seen on his face, either throwing him a thumbs-up, or a rock-and-roll sign, or wink at him. He'd throw his head back in laughter, and despite his lonely self-pity party which he seemed to never get out of, he couldn't resist the urge to laugh along with his friend, shaking his head at his idiocy. The idiocy that made his heart skip a beat and his stomach churn.

Sometimes even, Dean would turn to Cas after the show asking him dramatically how he looked up there, making sure to make it sound sexy as possible, expecting an answer just as dramatic from Cas. Instead though, Cas always shot him down teasingly, telling him he looked horrible, and Dean still laughed, usually taking it as his chance to shove him or poke him annoyingly.

Dean made it his mission to make Cas laugh any chance he got. He didn't like seeing him so down and closed off. He didn't understand what was going on with him and Castiel wouldn't talk about it. He was certain that it wasn't only about the breakup. he didn't press him to talk to him or tell him what was wrong. All he could do was be there for him and try his best to make him laugh, but it seemed like all his efforts were in vain. He did get the occasional laugh and grin from Cas, showing Dean that he appreciated him trying to make him feel better, but it was never more than that.

Dean started dressing ridiculously for every show. It started with the way he styled his hair, then it was his shoes. Then his shirts. Then it was entire outfits. He even got the biggest pair of fluffy wings he could find at a costume shop for their show in Chicago and dressed in all white, with a halo and everything. And for the show after that, he dressed as a demon, pitchfork and tail and horns and all. The outfits became worse and worse. Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Harry Potter, a baseball player, a football player, an FBI agent, a ghostbuster, Captain America, Black Widow. And for each outfit, he would play an appropriate song, surprising both the fans and his bandmates who simply went along with it.

Cas took a picture with his polaroid camera of every single outfit. He added them all to a brand-new notebook he had purchased solely for this purpose. And every time, it would make his day a tiny bit better. He really did appreciate Dean's efforts, though he had to admit, he suspected that after the first couple of outfits, he was starting to enjoy them immensely himself, and was doing it mostly for the fun of it. It didn't matter, it still made him burst out laughing every time and Dean would grin, successful.

It was their last night before they would return back home and Cas was very quiet. He kept to himself all night, nose in his notebook, writing away furiously. Dean sat in the tour bus, watching him carefully but Cas hadn't even seemed to notice his arrival. They had made a stop at a McDonald's for some late dinner on the road. The rest of the guys were all still in the restaurant but Cas had stayed behind, sitting in front of the small table in the bus and scribbling down his thoughts. New song, Dean assumed. He wouldn't have been so focused otherwise. Dean had brought him some dinner though, noticing that he hadn't had anything to eat all day and it was past midnight already.

"Hey man, got you some dinner," Dean announced his presence after a few minutes and finally placed the paper bag on the table. Cas looked up, a little startled at first but then relaxed, nodding his head in acknowledgment.

"Oh, thanks," he said simply, sending Dean a small smile. He closed his notebook and got up to wash his hands at the sink. "You're not eating?"

"We already ate, Cas," Dean replied with a chuckle. "You were lost in your own little world and said you'd catch up, like an hour ago."

"Oh, I didn't notice it's been an hour..." Cas trailed off, making his way back to his original seat and bringing the bag closer, the smell off food finally hitting him, causing his stomach to grumble. He hadn't noticed just how hungry he really was.

They sat in silence as Cas ate the burger and fries Dean had brought him with one hand and used the other to finish up whatever he was writing. Dean watched him quietly, but he never asked him what he was so focused on, nor did try and figure out. He just watched him, and Cas didn't seem to mind, or hadn't even noticed, so he sat back and took in his every feature. For the first time, he noticed the giant bags under his eyes. He hadn't been sleeping much, had he? He looked far too tired. It couldn't all be because of the breakup, right? He wanted to help him, he really did, but Cas wouldn't tell him anything, and truth be told, he didn't know where to start. He hoped that it was enough, just being there for him. He hoped that Cas knew that he was there for him, whatever he needed. They were like a family.

Cas finally looked up, having finished his food, and dusted off his hands, raising an eyebrow up at Dean. "Why are you staring at me like that...?" he asked him.

"You know, whatever it is that you're going through, Cas, I'm here for you, right? Whatever it is, I can help. You don't have to go through this alone. You're doing the whole Depressy Dean thing. So off-brand, dude!" Dean told him, ending it with a small, self-deprecating joke, making Cas chuckle softly.

"Thanks, Dean. But I'm okay, I promise," Cas tried to reassure him but Dean wasn't buying it.

"You don't look okay," he pointed out accusingly and Cas sighed, shrugging his shoulders.

"Well, I'll get better. You can't help me out on this one."

Dean finally sighed and nodded his head, though he wasn't completely convinced. "Fine, but if you ever wanna talk about it, you know I'll listen, yeah?"

"Yeah, I know. Thanks, Dean." Cas sent him a genuine, appreciative smile, and turned his attention back to his notebook. He seemed more jittery, his leg bouncing, though Dean didn't know if it was nervous jitters or excited jitters. A few moments later, Cas turned his notebook around and pushed it against the able toward Dean.

"New song," he stated, confirming Dean's previous assumptions.

"Do I Wanna Know?" he read out the title and Cas chewed on his bottom lip, nodding his head. [Original song by Arctic Monkeys].

"Yes, you do," he replied, making a pun out of it.

Dean read them quietly, a small frown on his face and a little crease appearing on his forehead in concentration. He tapped his hand on the surface of the table to the beat he was coming up with, the tune already playing itself out in his head. Dean put the notebook back down, nodding his head. He chewed on the inside of his cheek as he processed the lyrics. He read them once, twice, again, and again. Was this really how his best friend was feeling? God, and he wasn't even all that aware, or even remotely helpful.

"They're different, I know, I like them though," Cas explained when Dean remained quiet. He was usual very loquacious when it came to new songs, always having ideas and an input.

"No, no, the lyrics are awesome. I love them, I already have a tune to it, uh..." he hummed a little trying to find his pitch and when he did he sang the lyrics to the pre-chorus softly.

"Do I wanna know

If this feeling flows both ways

Sad to see you go

Was sorta hoping that you'd stay

Baby we both know that the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can't say tomorrow day."

Cas grinned, nodding along, tapping his hand on his lap to the beat. "Yeah, exactly what I was going for!"

Dean sighed, less enthusiastic than Cas was. He dropped his gaze back to the lyrics, reading the chorus again. Too busy being yours to fall for somebody knew. He really was heartbroken, wasn't he?

"You really miss him, huh?" Dean asked quietly, looking up with sympathizing green eyes. Cas stared back at him, his blue eyes wide and vulnerable. He shook his head slightly, running a hand through his dark hair, messing it up even more than it already was disheveled.

"Yeah, uh, no, like I said, I'm good. Kinda." He shrugged his shoulders, dropping his gaze. "I'm over Inias," he said quietly, but he couldn't convince Dean.

"It's only been a few weeks, Cas, it's okay if you're not. You don't have to hide it." Dean's voice was soft, and he lifted his hand from the table, placing it over Castiel's gently. Castiel actually chuckled in response, removing his hand from under Dean's, joining the other in his lap.

"It's not about Inias," Cas insisted and Dean sighed, giving him the benefit of the doubt. He knew himself and his feelings better, after all.

"Well, then, there's someone else?"

Cas hesitated for a few moments, but then he just shook his head in response. "No, it's not about anyone. It just tells the story of someone, I guess, who's infatuated with someone else. They can't stop thinking of the person they long to be with, and they're hoping that they could feel the same way about them. I want you, but I can't have you, sort of thing. Loving someone you shouldn't, there's a beauty, twisted, sure, but there's something to that kind of pain, don't you think?"

"Cas, you sick bastard," Dean laughed, tapping his fingers on the table to the previous beat that was still playing in his head. "I love it. That's very deep, man. It's beautiful."

That night, as the band all huddled back up in the tour bus and they started the drive back to San Francisco, Dean showed them the song that Cas had just finished and they worked on it until they couldn't keep their eyes open any longer. They each went back to their bunks to get some shut-eye before they would be arriving in the morning. Cas couldn't sleep though. He stayed up, sitting on the couch, lost in his own thoughts and trying his best not to get too lost in his feelings.

"Hey, buddy. Can't sleep?"

He looked up, seeing Charlie walking over to him. She flopped down next to him on the couch as he shook his head, remaining quiet though.

"Yeah, me neither. I'm too hyped up!"

"I'm not," Cas sighed and Charlie pouted at him, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. He laid his head in the crook of her neck and she held him tightly.

"Nice song you wrote today, it's gonna turn pretty fucking awesome," she told him with a grin, holding her fist up. He gave her a lame fist bump so as to not leave her hanging but dropped it back instantly into his lap. Charlie ran her fingers soothingly through his hair as she felt his distress. "Is it about —"

"Yeah," Cas breathed out, cutting her off before she could say anything more. Before he could even stop himself, his tears were streaming quietly down his cheeks, and his chest was heaving. He kept his sobs to himself though, trying not to wake up the rest of his friends. Charlie frowned, feeling her friend's pain. She rubbed his shoulder comfortingly and pressed a kiss on his forehead.

"It's alright, Cassie. You'll get through this," she reassured him but Cas pulled back to glare at her through his tears.

"Don't call me Cassie," he grumbled and she grinned at him crookedly.

"See, you're already feeling better!"

"I hate you," he complained, sniffling and wiping at his face with his sleeve.

"You love me, not as much as you love Dean, but you love me!" Charlie teased him. She wasn't surprised at all when he smacked her (softly) with a pillow.

"Shut up, you're gonna wake everyone up!"

Charlie giggled quietly, getting back up to make her way to her bunk.

"Get some sleep," she whispered and Cas groaned, throwing his head back against the couch.

Dean couldn't get any sleep. He tossed and turned in his bunk, until he heard his friends' voices. Maybe he shouldn't have been listening in, but he couldn't exactly tune them out. The bus was already too quiet, he could hear a pin drop. And maybe he should've announced that he was awake too, and he was going to, until he heard Castiel crying quietly. Maybe Cas didn't want Dean to see him crying. He was trying to keep it together earlier, very clearly. He wouldn't tell Dean about his feelings and just how hurt he really was. He felt bad for being hurt himself, but why wouldn't Cas trust him? Why did he trust Charlie and not him? Of course, he was glad that he at least had someone to lean on for comfort, but Dean really wanted to be that person to him, but Cas wasn't letting him. In all honesty, it stung a little.

He turned to his side, facing the wall and ready to fall back asleep. He heard it then. His name. It was Charlie saying it, but Cas didn't deny it. Dean's eyes widened to the size of oranges. No, it couldn't be. It must have been a running joke between Charlie and Castiel that he didn't know of. She was probably just teasing him. It sounded like playful teasing because Dean heard a soft smack after that and a giggle escaping Charlie. Yeah, that made more sense. It was just a joke between the two of them. It's a funny joke, Dean concluded. But even as he tried to reassure himself, he couldn't sleep at all that night. 

They were back home at around noon the next day. They all rolled off their bunkers, still in their pajamas, and hauled their bags and belongings out of the bus. Dean was incredibly whiney, and Kevin was ready to smack him, because they were all “tired and sleep deprived and ready to sleep for the next ten days” and he didn’t have to be “such overdramatic crybaby” about it. It shut him up, but only made Benny and Jo snicker quietly at him.

Sam was the first one to run into the house and up to his room to go back to sleep, while Kevin and Jo went their separate ways, back home to their mothers. Benny was the first to hog the shower, claiming that he hadn’t seen his girlfriend in weeks and he had a very important date with her. They all knew he meant he was getting laid. Meanwhile, Dorothy had arrived only a few minutes after they had, and she and Charlie were very open about showing their love to the world. Dean made exaggerated gagging noises as he pushed past them and into the house.

“Hey, what’s gotten your panties in a twist, mister grumpy pants?” Charlie snapped at him, but her voice was light and amused.

“Nothing, go back to making out!” Dean snapped back, shutting the front door after him.

“What’s his deal?” Dorothy chuckled and Charlie and Cas shrugged their shoulders.

“So, you going back home, then, Cassie?” Charlie asked him with a little pout.

“Yeah, mom wants me back,” he sighed, running a hand through his hair. It was getting much longer and he really needed a haircut. He knew for a fact that his mother was going to offer to do it for him as soon as she saw him, anyway, and before he could say anything else, a red sports car drifted down the street and came to a halt right in front of him. “And that would be my asshole brother! Dude, can you stop driving like a douchebag?” Cas exclaimed loudly as the windows rolled down and his twin shot him a crooked grin.

“No can do, Cas, Gabe lent me his keys and I am going to take advantage of every second of this!” Jimmy replied, having to raise his voice over the loud engine. Cas sighed, giving him a little disappointed shake of the head and turned to Charlie to give her a little hug. She squeezed the air out of his lungs though and Castiel couldn’t help but let out a breathless laugh. He gave Dorothy a little side hug next, and then bent down to grab his suitcase and his backpack. He tapped the trunk and it took Jimmy a few seconds to locate the button that opens it, but he finally found it. Cas tossed his stuff in there and shut the door closed.

“See you guys later!” He gave his friends a small, lazy wave as he got in the front seat and before he could even hear their response, Jimmy was drifting out of his parking spot and onto the main road. “You’re gonna get us killed,” Cas grumbled, laying his head against the headrest and letting his eyes close. Jimmy let out an excited laugh, only going faster. “And maybe a bunch of tickets,” he added.

“Yup, and Gabe will pay for them all,” Jimmy smirked, and Cas laughed, refusing to open his eyes to acknowledge him though. “So, how’s that boyfriend of yours?”

“No,” Cas muttered, turning his head to face the window. He opened his eyes, watching as the trees and streetlights ran swiftly in the opposite direction.

“Aw, shoot, you guys broke up?” Jimmy stopped at a red light and turned to give Cas a small frown. “What happened?” he asked him, his voice gentler and his eyes watching him worriedly.

“It just didn’t work out, I guess,” Cas sighed, shrugging his shoulders.

“Did he find out about your undying love for the Winchester kid?” Jimmy said jokingly, giggling a little to himself. He was trying to lighten the mood a little but the way that Cas twisted his head so fast to glare at him made him stop laughing instantly. He turned his attention back to the road, driving much more carefully now, his smile totally gone. “Hey, I’m just joking man.” He turned to glance at Cas who was now fidgeting uncomfortably in his seat. “Wait, Cas, you’re not– you don’t actually like Dean… do you?” Cas remained quiet. “Christ, kid, you know that won’t end well, right?”

“Tell me about it,” he grumbled, letting his head drop heavily against the window.

“Does he know…?” Jimmy wondered and Cas shook his head furiously.

“No, and if he ever finds out, please throw me in a ditch somewhere,” Cas bit intently.

“Yeah, I promise I’ll murder you,” Jimmy chuckled, placing a hand on Cas’ shoulder. He squeezed it gently, coming to a halt in front of the gates of their home. “Alright, I promise to find you the best fricken date ever to my wedding, you’ll forget all about Dean. I mean, Dean who? See, I’ve forgotten already!”

“Wait– back up, WEDDING?”

“Oh, yeah, about that,” Jimmy let out a nervous laugh, rubbing the back of his neck before dropping his arm back around Castiel’s shoulders. “I need you to help me break the news to mom.”

“You dick! You proposed to Amelia and didn’t tell me?” Castiel exclaimed, and suddenly all of his personal worries were gone and his lips were turning upwards in surprise and excitement for his brother.

“It was kind of a spur of the moment kind of thing, oh and you’re gonna be my best man, and you have no say in it, but I’m gonna have Gabe and Balthazar in charge of the Bachelor party because you’ll butcher it with your boring ideas.”

“Hey, my parties are great!”

“Dude, we had a Disney themed fifteenth birthday party!”

“Disney fucking rocks!”

“You boys coming in or are you just gonna in that car bickering all day?”

They both let out some loud yelps in fear, jumping in their seats at the voice that came out of nowhere. They twisted their heads to the left, spotting the intercom from which their dad had talked to them through. They could hear him laugh to himself, and his laugh cut off as he turned off the intercom, the gates opening.

Jimmy drove the car inside, parking it next to their father’s car. They got out of the car and Jimmy helped Cas get his things inside.

“Alright, so I’m gonna need you to give mom your bad news first so that me getting married give her a heart attack,” Jimmy told him quietly as they walked inside.

“YOU”RE GETTING MARRIED?”

Jimmy’s dropped Castiel’s suitcase as his mom came into the hall from the kitchen, her blue eyes wide.

“Oh shit…” he whispered and Cas grinned excitedly, trying his best to hold in his laughter.

“Oh, shit indeed!”

“JAMES CARVER NOVAK! HOW DARE YOU GET ENGAGED AND NOT TELL ME ABOUT IT?”

They managed to get their mom to relax eventually. The real problem was that she was just too excited about getting everything ready. She already knew exactly what church they hadto get married in, and where they had to hold the reception, and where to get the flowers and the cake and the catering from. She had been waiting for this moment her entire life, basically. Cas tried to distract her though by telling her all about the wonderful things that happened the past couple weeks while he was on the road, except for his breakup with Inias. He showed her all the pictures he took with his polaroid camera, the ones of Dean in every extravagant outfit and ones of the entire band before and after every show, with the venues and the dates written on them with a black sharpie.

“Hey, what if you get them all framed? Make a small collage or something?” She suggested and Cas seemed to like that idea.

He got a big canvas the next day and started attaching the pictures of the band on them in the order that they were taken in. He also got a smaller one and attached the Dean pictures to it in order. He kept them in his old room back home and had decided to keep the project going until their first tour was over. He knew his friends were going to love this surprise. Especially Dean.

His break was very eventful. His mother made him go everywhere with her, and he didn’t really mind anyway. It kept him busy, it kept his mind from wandering to places he didn’t want it to wander to. It helped him cope with his breakup at least. Becky took him to get a haircut, but despite all the efforts it remained as disheveled as ever, even when it was much shorter now. He could still run his fingers through it though and pull at it in frustration when his mom made him wait for hours at the mall when she went shopping. At least, he always got new clothes when he went on these trips with her.

“You never know when you’ll run out of clean polo shirts,” she’d say and Cas would roll his eyes, but the truth was he really did need the new clothes, he just wouldn’t ever give her the satisfaction of being right about shopping. It was his job to complain as her son, right?

He used the time he wasn’t spending with his family cooped up in his old bedroom at his desk, staring up at his Brendon Urie poster, and writing lyrics in his notebook. He had so many songs and ideas, though he was pretty sure he was only going to give a handful of them to the band. He wasn’t ready to expose himself in certain ways to them, let alone the world, just yet. The ones he was sure were going to sound great as Lazarus Rising singles, he sent to their group chat and they were usually praised by everyone.

Dean spent a lot of his time at home. They had a few small interviews and radio shows which he showed up to, but he would come back home right after and stay in the basement, trying to write songs of his own or adding melodies to the lyrics that Cas sent him, but he wasn’t feeling it. He wasn’t feeling any of it. He didn’t know what it was, but he was grumpy and snappy all the time, and excessively whiny. He was only a little excited when he spent time with Lisa. Getting laid wasn’t all that bad, he thought. It always kept him from thinking and getting lost too deep in his mind. He had these moods a lot, where one thought led to another much deeper, and it all spiraled downwards, and he knew he’d get out of this rut sooner or later. He got himself a new tattoo, the title of the first song he had written with Cas, Broken Bones, on his inner wrist, and another on the back of his arm, right above his elbow. It was the outline of his telecaster. He already had a bunch of tattoos scattered all over his body, and he knew for a fact that he was going to lose count soon enough. He didn’t plan on ever stopping, it was becoming an obsession.

It was five in the morning, and Dean couldn’t get any sleep. He spent the night watching reruns of Greys Anatomy and was getting way too involved in Meredith and Derek’s love life to get any sleep. He was surprised when his phone buzzed by his thigh, indicating that he had received a text message. He frowned, squinting at the bright light coming from his phone as he held it up to his face to see who it was from.

cASS sent a message to Charlie’s Bitches

Dean opened his phone to read the message.

“NEW SONG GANG!”

Dean raised an eyebrow. Already? He sent one the previous morning.

Why aren’t you asleep?”Dean texted back instead, a little smile on his face. Before he could even put his phone back on the bed, it buzzed twice. First an image was sent, then right after, a reply to his question.

COFFEE. REMIN FME RO NEVER DRUNK COFFEE EVER AGAIN.

Dean snickered to himself as he read the response. He ignored the picture of the song that Cas had sent momentarily, choosing to reply to his message instead.

What you drunk, too?he typed, hitting send with a little laugh when Cas replied literally a second later.

No just very very buzzed on caffeine!

Why did you have coffee so late, then? He asked, genuinely concerned for his well-being.

I had to finish the song! Couldn’t wait till tomorrow. Very good song!!!!!!!!!!

And I love coffee! he added in another text.

I love chocolate. I’m gonna go get chocolate. I really love chocolate???!?

Dean frowned at the next text, rolling his eyes. “WE GET IT, YOU LOVE CHOCOLATE AND COFFEE. NO MORE FOR YOU, THOUGH, YOU’RE TOO EXCITED!”

Cas was quiet on the other end for a few moments, and Dean suspected that he was probably searching for some chocolate. Jesus. The next text that came through wasn’t from him though, it was from Jo.

WILL YOU TWO SHUT THE FUCK UP SOME PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO GET SOME SLEEP AROUND HERE JESUS FUCKING CHRIST

Dean let out a laugh which only turned into an outburst when he read Castiel’s response.

Just turn your phone off, Josephine!

Oh, crap, that was going to get him killed. First of all, that wasn’t even her full name, and Cas already knew that. Second, well, it was Jo. You don’t mess with Jo and get away with it.

I SWEAR TO GOD I’M GONNA THROTTLE YOU THROUGH THIS FUCKING PHONE.

Dean dropped his phone on his chest, unable to keep his laughter in check. His phone didn’t buzz for a good ten minutes after that, though, and he assumed that Jo scared Cas half to death. Or probably, she really did throttle him through the phone. He chuckled, pulling his phone back up and opening up the group chat again. He scrolled back up to the picture that Cas had shared and opened it. He read the lyrics carefully, chewing on his bottom lip as he processed the words.

His phone buzzed again then. It was a private text from Cas instead of the group, asking him what he thought of the song.

“Thought you’d fallen asleep, or worse, killed by Jo” Dean texted back, chuckling to himself.

Pretty sure she’s gonna kill me next time she sees me. I think Josephine did it.

Oh yeah,Dean wrote back, calling her by her full name is bad enough, but purposefully calling her by the wrong name? Big ass yikes, Cas

Good thing I’m back home, protected by mommy.

So, what did you think? I’m thinking it could be called in the name of love

Before Dean even knew what he was doing he was replying to the text and hitting send.

What’s with all the love songs man? I get it you just got out of a breakup but that’s just too many love songs, we’re not fricken air supply

Cas didn’t reply for a good five minutes. Then, he only sent oh. Dean cursed under his breath. Why did he do that? It was a good song. The lyrics were really good, and he could already hear the perfect melody in his head. There was even a very smart play on words in the chorus. Fuck, why did he send that? It’s true, they weren’t Air Supply. They were a modern rock band. Modern rock bands make love records. It wasn’t anything wrong. So, why was he so bothered by it?

It wasn’t until a few hours later that he got another text from Cas. It saidAre you okay?Just those three words. Dean didn’t honestly know. He didn’t reply for another few hours as well. He only typed the word pie? And Cas quick to respond with a smiley face. So, Dean got in his impala and drove all the way across town to Castiel’s parents’ house. They made small talk, and Dean complimented his new haircut while Cas made him show him the new tattoos which he absolutely loved.

“When are we getting you your first ink work?” Dean asked him and Cas shrugged, furrowing his eyebrows in thought as he shoveled a spoonful of butter pecan pie in his mouth.

“When we get to Paris,” he finally decided.

“We were in Paris two weeks ago, though?” Dean looked at him with confusion etched in his expression.

“Not Texas, idiot,” Cas laughed, tossing his crumpled tissue paper at him. It bounced off his chest and fell on the table lamely. “France.”

“Oh,” Dean laughed, the tips of his ears turning red in embarrassment. “Why Paris, then?” he asked him curiously, his eyes watching him with interest.

“I don’t know, I wanna get something in French. What better place to do it than in France, right?” Cas told him like it was a very logical reasoning, and perhaps it was.

“Why French?” he wondered, scraping off the crumbs in his plate with his spoon and shoving it in his mouth. He placed the spoon back on the plate and pushed it aside once he was done.

“I don’t know! Because, well, why not? I might just get the word “oui” or something, or “Baguette” in cursive handwriting. Or maybe an Edith Piaf quote. Haven’t made up my mind just yet.”

Dean threw his head back against the booth, his hand going to his stomach as he laughed hard. “Alright, I’ll tell you what. When we get to Paris during the European leg of the tour, we’re both getting tattoos in French.”

“Yeah?” Cas grinned at him, pushing his plate aside and leaning back against his seat. “Sounds like a plan,” he said, bobbing his head. They were going to do it, it was decided.

They finished their dessert and paid old Suzie before they got back in the impala and Dean drove Cas back home. Becky saw them pulling up and she refused to let Dean leave without having dinner with them, so there he was a few hours later, getting ready to leave while it was already dark outside, Tupperware filled with leftover meatloaf under one arm.

“I’ll see you later, then,” Cas told him with a smile as Dean shut the impala door once he was settled back inside.

“Yeah,” he replied through the rolled down window. “Hey, uh, Cas,” he started, and Cas turned around with his eyebrows raised expectantly. “Uh, are you—” he cut himself off, running a hand over his face, rubbing his cheek and chin.

“Am I what…?” He asked him with a small chuckle when Dean didn’t finish his question.

“Nothing, uh, are you doing okay?” He said instead and Cas nodded, sending him a big smile and two thumbs-up.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m back home with my folks, eating homemade food every day, and listening to my Jimmy and mom bicker about his wedding every single day. It’s honestly great. That’s bound to make anyone feel better!” He told him laughing the entire time. Dean exhaled through his nose, his lips quirking up slightly.

“Right, congrats to Jimmy!”

“Thanks, man,” Cas smiled, patting his shoulder. He hesitated a little before turning back to leave, keeping his hand on Dean’s arm. “Are you okay, though?” he asked him, referring to his previous outburst via text. “Everything okay with Lisa?”

Dean nodded his head, his eyes staring ahead of him. Everything wasgreat with Lisa, and yet, he didn’t understand why all that talk about Love was bothering him so much. He heard Lisa say it every day, and he would usually say it back. Charlie always yelled out LOVE YOU before leaving the house every day. He would reply teasingly with I know. It wasn’t a big deal. He knew that he loved Lisa, and he loved all his friends, and especially his brother and uncle Bobby and Jodie and Ellen. It was never such a big deal to him. And yet… and yet.

“Yeah, we’re doing great. Your mom, bless her soul, she made me late for our date,” Dean laughed and Cas grimaced, an amused beam on his face.

“Sorry about that,” he told him with a cackle.

“Hey, what do you mean? I ate some good food and got some for the road!” Dean replied, holding out the full Tupperware. “Well, I should probably get going then.” Cas nodded, stepping aside and tapping the hood of the car.

Dean waved goodbye as he drove away, and once he was all alone in the car, he sighed, shaking his head. Of course, he knew why he was so bothered. But he couldn’t let himself think of that. He was doing a perfectly fine job at ignoring it for the past week. Charlie and Cas had every right to have a joke between the two of them that didn’t involve him, right? Except it did involve him. The joke was about him. He wanted to ask them what the context was so bad. He wondered if it had anything to do Inias and Cas breaking up, that would have made sense. He wasn’t supposed to be listening though. He couldn’t ask, it wasn’t his place to do so. It wasn’t his question to ask. And yet… and yet. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

 

Chapter Text

Present Day

September 2019

Dean laid on his bed, staring up at the ceiling fan, his hands idly fumbling with the necklace in the shape of metal guitar pick around his neck. It was a slow day. The weather was getting much colder, so he definitely wasn’t going to spend it outside, and he didn’t feel like socializing with the rest of the residents of the Lawrence Rehabilitation Center. It’s not that he didn’t like them, or that he was an introvert. He was the exact opposite. He always liked to sit around a person and talk their ear off, even if he didn’t know them. He always had a story to tell, though he had grown much quieter these days, preferring to write down his thoughts in a small notebook rather than speak them out loud, unless he was talking to Missouri.

He had grown more and more comfortable around her, especially during their individual therapy sessions. He was quite fond of her, actually. He really liked everyone around here, really.

The nurses were always nice to him, especially Tessa who always snuck some extra chocolate pudding for him. The other patients weren’t that bad either. A lot of them, especially the younger ones, knew him though, or of him, at least. They recognized him from all the posters and YouTube videos and interviews. He didn’t like to brag, but his band did make it pretty big. They had sold out shows and number one hits more times than he could remember. And so, they always stared whenever they were in his presence. Some even came up to him for a signature at one time or another and he always indulged them, even when he was too tired and only wanted to sit by himself and nap or think too much to the point of having an existential crisis.

It was one of those days. He had his phone hooked to his small portable speaker he had Sam bring him some time ago and Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon was playing loud. A small smile spread over his face as the song Us and Them started playing, and he closed his eyes, relishing in the perfect and soothing echoes of David Gilmour’s voice. He always loved listening to this album ever since he was a teenager. It was especially fun to listen to it whenever he was, well, high. He tried not to think about those times now.

He dropped the necklace, letting it fall back over his chest and his hands dropped to his sides on the mattress. He let out a shaky breath, his chest deflating and the metallic pick vibrating, making a clinking sound against the chain. His fingers moved subtly, tapping along to the beat of the song, the notes appearing in his head. With his eyes closed, he could read them perfectly clear. He hummed along quietly to himself.

Black (black, black, black)

And blue (blue, blue)

And who knows which is which and who is who

There was a gentle knock on the door. He opened his right eye only which was facing the door and waited as the handle rattled and then the door swung open slowly. He spotted the white tennis shoes first, followed by the blue nurse’s pants falling over them. He looked up, both his eyes open this time and sent a glare in Tessa’s direction, pretending to be very bothered by her interruption.

“Hey, Winchester, a little too loud, don’t’cha think?” She spoked over the loud music and Dean pouted, shaking his head.

“Not loud enough, you mean!” He countered and she rolled her eyes at him. “Who’s complaining anyway?”

“Me. I am complaining.” She told him and Dean made the effort to grab one of the two pillows from under his head and toss it lamely from his position at her, not bothering to sit up. She caught it easily and stuck her tongue at him.

“That’s not very professional, nurse Greene,” he teased her with an amused smirk on his face.

“Shut the hell up, Dean,” he heard Dr. Moseley’s voice coming from the hall and Dean barked out a laugh, tilting his head back to see her zip past his room and down the hall.

“THAT’S NOT VERY PROFESSIONAL EITHER, MISSOURI!” He called out loudly and he could hear her laughing to herself as she walked further away. He turned back to Tessa who had made her way all the way into the room, placing his pillow at the foot of his bed. “So, did you come here to complain, or is there something you needed, other than just bothering me?” he asked her and she rolled her eyes at him, making her way back around to the door.

“You’ve got visitors,” she told him. “Waiting downstairs in the cafeteria.”

Dean raised his eyebrows in surprise. Visitors? Plural? Sam was the only one who ever visited him, really, and he was just here last week before he had to leave for a major case in New York, something about a guy falsely accused of murder being on trial. It was huge and Sam was really excited about it and Dean was really happy for him, it’s what he had been training for ever since he was in high school. It’s why they had moved to California in the first place. It helped that their uncle Bobby lived there of course, but it was close to Stanford where Sam was adamant on getting a degree from.

He had gotten a full scholarship, although by that time Dean was willing to pay for all of his expenses, including tuition if it had come to it. He was making more money than he had ever hoped for anyway, with their first Lazarus Rising album going platinum. He didn’t have to pay for anything though. Sam got everything he had dreamed of all by himself, just by studying hard in high school and getting a full mark on his SATs and all his classes.

Dean wouldn’t say he was jealous that Sam got all the brains in the family. He was incredibly proud of him. He didn’t have to take care of his little brother anymore, though he did like to baby him from time to time. It boosted his ego a little.

He sat up in bed, dropping his feet to the floor. He held his hand out to the bedside table and turned his speaker off, just as the song Brain Damage had begun. Damn it, it was his favorite song on the album.

“Who is it?” Dean asked and Tessa smirked at him, shrugging her shoulders as though she had no idea.

“They told me to keep it a surprise,” she said and before Dean could argue and force her to tell him she was hurrying down the hall. He groaned under his breath, slipping his feet into his fluffy white slippers and hurried after her but she had already disappeared into another room. He scowled in disappointment and started down the other side, getting to the cafeteria as Tessa had told him.

On his way down there, he passed by a few of the teens who were hanging in the hall by the stairs, and one of them had an excited grin on her face. “Dude, I just fricken met fricken Charlie Bradbury!”

“What? She’s here? She’s literally the most bad ass drummer ever!” the other girl responded as shocked and enthusiastic as her friend.

“That, she is, kid,” Dean grinned, excitement rising in his chest at the mention of Charlie, and he understood why she wanted to keep it a surprise. But it was ruined anyway, and he put more effort into each stride he took, walking with a little jump of anticipation. He walked passed the open glass doors, his eyes searching the room until they fell on a familiar short-haired redhead. He raised his eyebrows, remembering Tessa mentioning several visitors, only for his eyes to grow even wider when he spotted the tiny redhead running around beside her. The grin on his face spread even wider and he walked even faster toward his best friend and her daughter.

Charlie looked up when he was only a few feet away and she got up faster than he’d ever seen her move, letting out a very loud screech that pierced through his ears, but he didn’t care. She ran over to him and he engulfed her in the tightest hug ever.

“Fucking hell, Dean, I missed you, you asshole!” She exclaimed, pulling away just a little so that she could punch his shoulder and go back to hugging him even tighter. Dean laughed, hugging her back gently and nuzzling his face in her hair. He ran on hand gently over her back, the other caressing her hair and he could feel her grinning against his shoulder.

“I missed you too, Charlie,” was all he could manage to pull out past the lump forming in his throat. He forgot how emotional he was starting to become. Just last night he was crying over The Notebook, something he was never going to admit to anyone, ever.

She pulled away after a few more moments, wiping at her eyes and Dean did his best to hold back his own tears. He looked down, seeing little Celeste clinging to Charlie’s leg. He crouched down to her level and poked her side. “Hey kid,” he grinned, sniffling as she sent him a shy smile. “Remember me?”

“Of course, I do, D, I’m five and a half, not a nanna!” The kid replied, using an abbreviation of his name. Somehow when she had first started talking she picked up his name without the “n” at the end, and so she started calling him “Dee” instead, which Dean found incredibly adorable. Though, only she was allowed to call him that.

He burst out laughing at her response, clutching her sides and carrying her up real high in his arms. She screeched in surprise, flailing her arms and legs, her tiny limbs kicking him on the chest but he barely even felt them, making him laugh louder. Her giggles filled the room and Charlie watched them with a huge grin on her face. “Put me down, uncle D! Put me down!” She screamed through her giggles and Dean finally acquiesced, dropping her back down gently to her feet but he didn’t let her go before ruffling her hair and causing her to huff and puff and glare at him, her tiny arms folded over her chest.

“You’re cute, kid, too bad you’re spending so much time with your mom, you’re becoming as feisty as she is! Downright scary!” he whispered the last part, making Celeste laugh.

“Damn right, I’m scary!” Charlie exclaimed and they all laughed at her addition.

“Uh, so you wanna take a walk outside? There’s a pretty garden, and a swing,” Dean started, running a hand through his hair, pushing it back and off his forehead.

“Yeah, that sounds nice,” Charlie replied with a smile. She grabbed Celeste’s hand and Dean led the way outside. They walked in silence through the halls and Dean could see from his peripheral vision the two kids lurking around the corner, watching them go. He smiled to himself, shaking his head as he pushed the doors open and allowed Charlie and her kid to walk out first. He hadn’t been out in public in a couple months, and honestly, he didn’t miss the staring and the pointing and the crowding of fans and photographers that made it almost impossible to go anywhere.

As soon as they were outside, Celeste ran over to the grass, veering in the direction of the empty canopy swing. Dean watched her climb up on it and make herself comfortable, moving her legs in the air to try and push it in the air. She huffed with exertion, slipping back to the ground, keeping her hands on the seat, and pushed as hard as possible with her feet. She jumped back up and settled with a satisfied beam as the canopy started swinging forwards and backwards steadily, the slight breeze giving her a further push.

“She’s grown up so much since the last time I saw her,” Dean commented quietly, holding his hands together behind his back. Charlie nodded, grinning in the direction of her daughter.

“Yeah, Dorothy and I are barely keeping up,” she chuckled, pushing her hair behind her ear. They had slowed down to a relaxed stroll, walking side by side and keeping Celeste in view. Dean turned to glance at her, smiling as he thought of Charlie and Dorothy. Gosh, he envied them, he hated himself for it, but he did. They really made it for ten years, and he knew for a fact that they were going to make it last till they’re old and cranky grandmas.

“Yeah? How’s Dotty doing? I miss her,” Dean said softly, noticing how Charlie’s eyes instantly brightened up at the mention of her wife. He couldn’t but grin admiringly at her.

“She’s really well. She misses you too, and the rest of the guys. She wanted to come but she had some work she couldn’t get away from. So, it’s just Cel and me,” she explained and Dean nodded in understanding.

“That’s alright. Life as a cop is pretty tough, isn’t it?”

“Tell me about it,” Charlie puffed out her cheeks and let out a heavy breath. He frowned at her, slowing down his pace even more to look at her properly.

“What– you guys doing okay?” he asked her, worry laced in his words.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, we’re good. It’s just every time that damn phone rings, I get, I don’t know, I just worry about her out there, when she’s on the field, you know?”

Dean nods his head in understanding. No, he doesn’t know the feeling. He’s never had to wait at home while the person he loves most is out there putting their life on the line to fight crime. But he understands just how worried Charlie would be. “But you guys are doing good, right?” he asked her, just to make sure and Charlie laughed softly, nodding her head.

“Yeah, we’re better than good. We’re great, Dean. The sex is even better than ever!” she mentioned purposefully with a little grin, noting how Dean scrunched his nose and made a grimace. For a guy who has had a veryactive sex life in the very recent past, he certainly did not like it when his friends talked about it. He didn’t exactly like to picture them naked. “I mean, would you imagine? After all this time, we’re only getting older, really, but it’s still, such fricken, mind blowing—”

“Alright, alright! Yes, I get the picture! Jeez, Charlie,” he muttered, breathing out a small laugh in disbelief. She really had no filter, it always entertained him though.

Charlie sighed contently, watching as her daughter climbed down from the swing and ran towards them again. Dean watched her, smiling adoringly at her. Ever since he laid eyes on her the first day that Charlie brought her home, he was absolutely enamored with the kid. He still remembers the day five years ago when Charlie and Dorothy announced to the rest of them that they were going to adopt a baby girl whose biological parents had suffered an unfortunate death. She didn’t have any family so she was sent to a foster home at just a few months old. And of course, as soon as Charlie had heard about her from the adoption agency, she did everything in her power to adopt that little girl. As a child, Charlie had lost her parents as well, and she had gone from foster home to the next. She couldn’t let little Celeste suffer the same fate. It was a very happy coincidence that the little girl was a green-eyed little redhead, just like her adoptive mother. Everyone had absolutely fallen in love with her cooing and her gurgling and her chubby cheeks and tiny little fingers.

“Mommy! Can I have my switch? Please, please, pretty please?” Celeste started begging, holding her hands out in front of her, palms flat against each other for more effect. Charlie sighed, pulling her small backpack from her back and unzipping it. She pulled out a gaming console and handed it to the kid who grinned excitedly and grabbed it with a small thank youand ran bag over to the canopy swing. Dean watched in amusement as she sat back down and turning the Nintendo Switch on, sticking her tongue out to the corner of her mouth to focus more. Cute.

“Yeah,” Charlie said, turning her attention back to Dean and their conversation. “After the hiatus we took last year, spending more time at home… it helped a lot. A lot, a lot. We stopped bickering as much, ironically. Phone bills aren’t as expensive anymore. I get to drop the kid off at elementary school which is always great. The moms apparently love to gossip about everyone and everything. It’s always very fun. Honestly, it’s great to be back in San Fran for this long. Gosh, we really needed that break, right?”

Dean was quiet. They really did need that break, and mostly because of him. They worked tirelessly for almost ten years, with minimum breaks in between, and it tired them to the bone. And it was all because of him. She didn’t say, no one ever said it. No one had to. He knew it was his fault. Because of his addictions and toxic behavior that made everyone’s life around him that much more difficult. And selfishly, God, he needed that break more than anyone. He just needed someone to smack that sense into him. Castiel literally smacked it into him. It was almost a funny situation. Almost. Maybe in a few years he would be able to look back and laugh at it.

They had stopped walking. Charlie turned and was staring at Dean with an undecipherable look on her face. Her eyes were soft, the creases in her forehead apparent. She placed her hand gently on Dean’s elbow, a small and caring touch. “How are you doing?”

“Ah, jumping to the more serious stuff, I see?” Dean joked and he could tell that Charlie was fighting the urge to roll her eyes at him. She didn’t though, the creases in her forehead deepening as her eyebrows knitted in the middle, her mouth setting in a frown.

“Dean,” she said softly and he sighed, shoving his hands in the pockets of his sweatpants. He started walking again.

“I’m okay, actually. I actually haven’t felt this peaceful in years. Shit, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good.” He let out a small, quiet laugh, turning back to see Charlie walking slightly behind. “I’m pretty sure the last time I was this comfortable was… fuck, probably around the time we were recording the third album.”

“Seven years…” Charlie mumbled and Dean bobbed his head slowly in a nod, chewing on the inside of his cheeks.

“Yeah… it all just, kinda spiraled after that,” he admitted and Charlie frowned, pushing her hair out of her face as she looked at her shoes.

“I remember,” she said quietly.

Sometimes, Dean forgot that whenever he was out there, not taking care of himself, it was his friends who had to pick him back up. The years were all a blur to him. He guessed being drunk and high for most of it probably didn’t help his case much. But it was Charlie who had been there watching him fall further and further. And Sam. And Benny, and Jo, and Kevin, and Garth. And Cas. He always took them for granted. He had never taken into consideration how much he was hurting them. Or perhaps, he had, but he always shoved the idea down and swallowed the thoughts back with a bit of whiskey. It made him more selfish. The guilt was eating him up inside. Fuck, maybe that’s what he was going to talk to Missouri about tomorrow. He had to. He couldn’t handle the constriction he was feeling in his chest and his throat. It was going to be hard, but he knew he had to.

“Charlie, I­– I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice cracking. He knew it didn’t mean anything to apologize. What happened, happened. He couldn’t do anything about that now. He only had to get better. He knew that. But why did it feel so bad? Why did he feel like a thousand-pound brick was crushing his chest?

“I know,” she said with a small, tired smile. She took his hand in hers and squeezed it gently. She didn’t let go, and Dean was grateful. It made brought his heartrate down a little, it made it easier to breathe.

“I forgive you, Dean. We all do. It wasn’t your fault. Not all of it. You were in a very bad place, and you needed help. It took you some time to get that, but you finally did. And it’s all we wanted for you. We all wanted you to get better because we care for you, I think more than you care for yourself,” she said that last bit with a small chuckle, but she was right. He didn’t think he cared for himself at all. Just two months ago, he absolutely abhorred even the idea of Dean Winchester. He hated that man with all his heart. He was learning not to.

For god’s sake Dean. How do you expect anyone to care for you if you don’t even care about yourself?

The words are playing in his head over and over again. He could still hear them clearly as though he was yelling them at him right in front of him in that moment.

“Dean, you know we all still love you very much, right?” Charlie told him, her voice gentle and sincere. Dean shook his head. He was biting down hard on his lower lip. That was going to draw blood if he pushed his teeth in any harder, but he didn’t seem to care.

“Not all of you,” he mumbled so quietly, Charlie would have missed it if she wasn’t standing so close to him and waiting for his response.

“Yes, all of us. We’re all rooting for you. We’re waiting for you to come back to San Francisco. Jo, Kevin, Benny, everyone. Hell, Bobby’s been pestering us all about the fact that you’re not returning his calls. Give the old man a break, yeah? He’s worried sick and it’s driving Jodie nuts.”

“I can’t call Bobby, Charlie. You know how disappointed he’d be?” Dean exclaimed, a pained grimace on his face. Gosh, Bobby. He was like a father to him and Sam. And he fucking disappointed even more than he probably disappointed his father. At least, John never cared. Bobby did. It hurt Bobby more than it would have ever hurt John.

“Are you kidding? What’s the worst that he’s gonna say? He’ll call you an idjit, tell you he’ll kill you dead. If you scare him again like that, smack you on the head and then hug you senseless. He’s a real softie,” Charlie told him, recounting exactly what Bobby would say to Dean when he saw him next. She was right. But he couldn’t stop his guilt from sending each one of his calls to voicemail.

“He’ll call me idjit a lot, and a son of a bitch,” Dean smiled a little, breathing out a laugh.

“Yeah, and he’d be right,” Charlie teased him and Dean rolled his eyes, shoving her with his shoulder lightly.

“Not everyone forgives me, though,” Dean mumbled. Charlie raised a challenging eyebrow at him. “Not– not Cas.” Dean let out a shaky breath, dropping his gaze from Charlie’s. Her face fell and was replaced by an empathetic look instead.

“Dean,” she started but he cut her off instantly, not letting her go any further.

“No, you know what? So far, I’ve had Sammy visit almost every other week. You’ve visited twice already. Benny and Kevin came too, and Jo and Ellen. Garth has called a bunch of times. You know who called me yesterday to check on me? Lisa. Lisa Braeden who wanted nothing to do with me ever again. She called to check up on me. Said she forgives for being an asshole and pushing her away when I did. She’s got a son now, but the way. Ben. She says I can come visit one day. Adam texted. Hell, Crowley called! Fricken Crowley. Gabriel, and Jimmy, and Becky and Chuck. They all called. You know who didn’t? Castiel.”

“Well… can you blame him?”

Dean looked at Charlie incredulously, running his hand over his face, rubbing his chin harshly.

“He still blames himself, Dean,” she told him and Dean furrowed his eyebrows in confusion and disbelief.

“Why would he—”

“He couldn’t do anything to help you. He was there, and yet, it never mattered. Nothing ever mattered. You still chose the girls, and the guys, and the drugs, and the drinks. And I’m not– I’m not blaming you here for anything. It’s just– he always felt so helpless. I don’t think he can face you without breaking down. He’s bottling it all up and I’m trying so hard to get him to open up, he just won’t listen. He thinks he failed you.” She explained to him. And Dean gawked at her, still in a state of disbelief.

“That’s the single most ridiculous, fucked-up shit I’ve ever heard,” he concluded and Charlie snorted through her nose, though she didn’t find anything hilarious. It was just, as Dean said, ridiculous. “He thinks he failed me? Jesus– if he failed me, what the hell do we call whatever I’ve been doing for the past seven years?” This time Charlie actually laughed, though she felt slightly bad for it.

“Fucking up, maybe, slipping. Everyone slips.” She told him, her voice becoming gentler and Dean wondered really how she could be so caring and forgiving even after everything. How any of his friends still wanted him to be their friend.

“I didn’t get up though,” he muttered bitterly, taking in a deep breath and letting it out shakily through his mouth.

“You needed help. And you’re getting it now. That’s all that matters, Dean,” she reassured him, running her thumb gently on the back of his hand, caressing it soothingly.

“God, but I really fucked up so bad, Char. I don’t know how he’ll ever forgive me,” he groaned, covering his face with his hand, his eyes closing. He rubbed at his face until he was seeing stars behind his eyes.

“He will, I mean, it’s Cas we’re talking about here. If he could forgive Thanos for killing half the universe, I think he could forgive you.” Charlie said and Dean looked at her with shock on his face.

“He forgave Thanos? What the fuck, that purple dildo fucking killed Tony Stark!” Dean exclaimed and Charlie stifled her laughter, nodding in agreement.

“I know right? Apparently, since the world is already dying because of global warming and whatnot, the only solution is to dispose of all the evil people on this planet who are killing it,” she explained Cas’ point of view and Dean still couldn’t believe her words. Was he serious?

“What– dude, you know what it means to kill half the universe? That means he killed half the dog population, and half the cat population, and half the fricken chicken population. Now, I’m not a big fan of dogs, but I sure do find those puppy videos really fucking hilarious. And I don’t know about you, but I do like eating chicken enchiladas every now and then!” Dean exclaimed, getting overly provoked about this topic.

“See, you’re this world’s problem. You should be a vegan. A vegetarian at least.”

“Wait… are you telling me he switched to rabbit food? Fucking rabbit food?”

Charlie was trying her best not laugh as she watched Dean’s expression change to an overly exaggerated disappointed scowl. She nodded her head, causing Dean to throw his hands up in the air in frustration. “Goddammit, Cas, I had faith in you, buddy!” he grumbled to himself, pulling at the ends of his hair. Charlie clutched her sides as she laughed at his reaction.

“You’re a fucking idiot, Dean.”

He couldn’t agree more.

They walked back over to where Celeste was sitting and Dean spent time playing a match against her at Mario Kart. She won every time. Charlie talked his ear off, telling him all about their friends and how they were all doing. They sat in the cafeteria when the weather became too cold outside and had dessert. They served pie there, and even though it wasn’t the best, it was still pie and Dean had two servings.

“I was thinking, when I’m out of here. After this break of ours. We should all just– just hang out together, like the old days, you know? Back at the old house. Until we get tired of each other,” Dean said, smiling at the memory of his room down in the basement which served as their practice room. The kitchen that was more often than not occupied by Benny cooking up something that always smelled amazing. He also used the oven to cook a lot of special brownies when they were younger. God, that was a long time ago. The way they would huddle up in the living room and Kevin and Jo would join them and they would discuss their songs heatedly, and when they’d get bored they’d just end up watching a movie and fall asleep on the couches or the floor. His best days were spent in that house.

“Yeah?” Charlie looked up, smiling at him. “Sounds like a plan, Deano. You never know, maybe we’ll get something done like we did before all that fame!” she exclaimed, feigning arrogance and Dean snickered, nodding along.

“Yeah, actually, I’ve uh, I’ve been writing a little.” He admitted and Charlie raised her eyebrows up in surprise.

“Like songs, you mean?”

“Yeah, just lyrics, really. Whenever I’m overthinking, I try and put them into words on paper. And then I try to make them rhyme. It’s harder than it looks. I don’t know how he ever did it honestly,” Dean told her, referring to Castiel’s songwriting.

“A lot of inspiration and talent,” she chuckled. Dean had to agree with her. He was very talented.

When it got dark outside and little Celeste was getting tired, Charlie finally decided that it was time to get going. She promised to pass by again in the morning before catching their flight back to California. Dean hugged Celeste first really tight and kissed her cheek. He ruffled her hair, but this time she sent him a toothy grin. He hugged Charlie close next, pressing his lips to her forehead. She smiled contently up at him as she held on to the back of his sweater.

“I’m really proud of you, Dean,” she told him and he felt his chest tightening with warmth and love for Charlie. She always the annoying little sister he never wanted but really needed. As he watched her retreat back outside, she turned around, held out her right hand in Spock manner, and sent him a crooked grin. “See you later, bitch,” she called out and Dean laughed, waving her off.

***

2012

Kansas City, Kansas

Dean stared out of the car’s window with dread. His leg was bouncing up, his fingers refusing to remain still. He cracked his knuckles, picked at the cuticle on his thumb until he pulled at a hangnail and drew a little bit of blood. That stung a little. He winced, putting his thumb between his lips to suck at it in order to ease the pain a little. His other hand rested on his knee and tapped agitatedly at it. He just couldn’t sit still.

They had just arrived to Kansas an hour ago and they were on their way to the hotel to rest before their show that night. It was their second world tour and tickets were selling out faster than ever. He was excited to perform to bigger audiences every night. But he wasn’t excited to be back home. No, he was very anxious. He didn’t understand why, honestly. It wasn’t like they were back in Lawrence. They weren’t even going to pass by Lawrence. Yet, he couldn’t shake off the dread he was feeling pushing down on his chest, hard.

He hadn’t been back home in years. It had been around six years now. Six years since he had last seen his father and their old home. Six years since he had visited his mother’s grave. Lawrence hadn’t felt like home to him in over twenty years, though. Not since… Well.

He chewed on his bottom lip until it was raw and near bleeding, and he was quiet. His friends had noticed how jittery he was getting, but they expected it. At least he wasn’t pulling away. He wasn’t being depressy. He was very antsy though, and it was starting to annoy the rest of them, no one of course wanted to speak up and spook him. He was going to snap at them, they knew it, so they kept their conversations to themselves.

Charlie was sitting in the front seat, snoring softly. In the middle seat, Jo was squished between Benny and Kevin who were arguing amicably about something which Dean couldn’t be bothered to focus on, and in the very back, Dean sat on the single seat with Cas in the one next to him, the space between them separated by one of their suitcases. Gosh, he should have fought Charlie harder for the front seat. He hated seven-seater cars and hated sitting in the very back even more. He felt as though he was going to hurl as he stared out the small window, trying to focus on the moving cars besides them on the highway, doing his best to keep the meal he had on the plane down.

He felt a warm hand rest on top of his over his knee and looked to his right where he spotted Cas looking at him with worry etched in his knit brow. “Hey,” he spoke softly. “You alright?” He asked him and gave his hand a little squeeze. Dean nodded his head, only for him to shake it no right after. He dove into his backpack in search of his water bottle and twisted the cap as fast as his fidgety fingers allowed him. He took a few small sips, taking in deep breaths through his nose. His heart beat had risen really high. Fuck, he hated anxiety.

Cas let out a small sigh and patted Dean’s hand reassuringly. He didn’t let go, and Dean was grateful. His heart rate never went down though, not until the minivan came to a halt and they were all trying to exit the vehicle, except it was damn near impossible.

There were photographers and reporters swarming the hotel and they could barely move. And Dean’s anxiety spiked. He was okay with paparazzi usually. He didn’t mind them much, if he was in a particularly bad mood, he only ignored them and pushed through till he had escaped their persistent annoyance. He felt trapped this time. He couldn’t escape. He couldn’t get away. And his anxiety spiked, and he was stuck. He stood in front of the car, staring at the camera man who was shouting a question at him, but he couldn’t register the words he was throwing at him. He could see from his peripheral vision his friends making their way inside with the help of a member of their security team, the hotel’s security guard helping. And Dean was frozen in his place.

“Dean, how’s it feel being back in Kansas?”

“Mr. Winchester, could you just smile for the camera, sir?”

“When’s the third album coming out?”

“Is it true Lazarus Rising will be collaborating with Gerard Way?”

“Are you still dating Lisa Braeden?”

“Is it true you cheated on Lisa, Dean?”

He snapped his head up, a confused look on his face. He could hear his voice from miles away, the word whatcoming out, though he couldn’t even tell if his mouth was moving. He felt like he was under water, fighting to reach the surface and breathe. Cheating? When did that rumor begin? Jesus – why the fuck would he cheat on Lisa? Why would they think that he would?

Suddenly, there’s a hand on his face. Gentle fingers held his face up to catch his attention with firmness though and he was looking straight into a pool of blue. Wait– was he really under water? What—

And then Cas was talking to him. And he could barely hear his words, but he tried his hardest to focus on his voice, steady and soft, and a little concerned.

“Hey, Dean, can you hear me, man? C’mon, Dean, let’s get inside.”

Cas dropped his hand from Dean’s face and held his hand tightly and he pulled him along, pushing past the cameras and the bodies crowding them.

“Who’s your friend Dean?”

“You guys are very friendly, are you two dating?”

“Castiel! Are you Dean’s boyfriend?”

Dean stopped in his tracks, right outside the glass doors. Cas looked back at him, his eyebrows raised as he looked at Dean worriedly.

Dean, are you queer?”

“Mind your goddamn business!” Dean snapped at the reporter loudly through gritted teeth, his voice cold and gruff.

“Is your friend who you’re cheating on Lisa with?”

All Dean could hear was ringing through his ears. Even his voice sounded muffled and foreign to him. His fists clenched at his side as the photographer pushed his camera even closer to Dean. He felt like a man possessed because next thing he knew he was shoving the man aside, causing for his rather expensive looking camera to topple from his grip and fall to the ground. Shit…

“I said, mind your own goddamn business!” He snapped again.

“Jesus– Dean, come on,” Castiel urged, his voice pleading as he pulled at Dean’s hand, pushing through the door opened by the guard. Dean let Cas drag him inside, ignoring the loud uproar among the crowd at his explosion. Shit.

“Jesus Christ, Winchester. Are you fucking crazy? You pushed a pap?” He looked up to see Jo in hysterics. They were all staring at him with their eyes wide in concern and confusion.

“He was being a fucking asshole, he deserved it!” Dean retorted aggressively and he instantly regretted it, pushing his face in his palms, rubbing at his face furiously. “I– sorry, Jo, I didn’t mean to snap at you,” he told her, his voice small.

Jo sighed, shrugging her shoulders. “Don’t worry about it,” she mumbled with a small shake of her head.

“I mean, the guy did kinda deserve it, but still…” Cas trailed off but it still didn’t excuse Dean for being a jerk in return.

“Are you okay, Dean?” Charlie asked him in a gentle voice.

Not really, but I can’t really explain it. He nodded his head. “Yeah, yeah, I’m gonna be fine.”

They didn’t believe him, but they just turned around and made their way to the front desk to get the keys to their room.

Garth joined them a few hours later and he was furious. The incident was all over the news, and everyone was spreading rumors and talking about the band, and more specifically about Dean’s unexplainable moment of aggression. It was really bad. Before Dean could even explain and ask what they should do, Garth informed the band that they were going to be meeting with an interviewer to clear the air the next morning. It was already settled and he had to do it if they wanted to keep their contract with their record company and be able to make more music without the industry and the audience absolutely butchering them.

Dean didn’t really understand, it wasn’t such a huge deal. It was just one mistake. But he supposed Garth knew better, and the orders were probably from his boss. There was nothing he could do. What’s one interview anyway, right?

The interview was right before their show, backstage. The middle-aged lady was taken to their dressing room which they were forced to keep extra clean, and they set up two couches and an armchair for them to sit in front of the camera.

“Hi, I’m Mindy Rosen and I’m here today with our favorite heartthrobs from Lazarus Rising!”

The band smiled and waved at the camera, muttering a series of heys.

Mindy asked them a series of questions about the tour and their upcoming album to start off the short interview which they were all very happy to discuss, but Dean had remained awfully quiet, dreading the moment where she would turn the attention to him to ask about the incident. Garth had given him a perfect answer to memorize to have things die down a little. It was going to work out. But then why was his stomach giving him such a hard time?

“So, Dean.” His head snapped up at the mention of his name and he forced a smile in her direction. “What happened earlier yesterday? The fans, as I am, all want to know­– they wanna make sure that you’re okay, is all.”

Dean cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair. He held his hands together in his lap, rubbing absentmindedly the back of one of them with his fingers. “It was a mistake that I regret immensely. That wasn’t me, well, I mean, it was me, but it was just a moment where I lost a little grip and slipped. With the tour nearing the end, and us working tirelessly to get our third album out, our best album yet! I felt majorly stressed and a very agitated and anxious and I snapped. The situation was suffocating, and my body was working faster than my brain. I am very sorry for what happened and I really hope everyone can forgive me, especially the photographer, Mr. Smith. I am not an aggressive person, and I do not condone any type of harm to others, and to oneself of course. It was all just a mistake that should have never happened.”

He felt like a robot as he recited the words and he tries his best to make it sound as though he was just reading off the giant banner Garth was holding up out of the camera’s view. Christ.

“Oh, I’m sure everyone understands! You’re under pressure and everyone has a breaking point. But tell me, why was it that one question that bothered you that much? Are you… uncomfortable with—”

Dean ignored Garth completely. He cut her off and turned to the camera. He just wanted to get this over with. “There were claims that were absolutely ridiculous. So, to everyone wondering anything about those rumors, my name’s Dean Zeppelin Winchester. I do not define myself. I’m Dean, and I’ve been in a healthy, stable relationship with the love of my life, my girlfriend Lisa for the past three years. No, I haven’t cheated on her with girls, or guys for that matter, and we’re very happy. I am just a man who is very comfortable with who he is and that’s all there is to it.” Kevin, who was sitting to his right, slapped a hand on his shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. Dean didn’t turn to look at him, keeping an intense glare at the camera.

“Well, alright, then. There you have it folks.”

Dean zoned out as she went on to talk some nonsense before ending the interview. He forced a smile right before the cameras were turned off and he was the first to be off the couch, running to the bathroom. He splashed some cold water onto his face and held on to the sink as he tried to relax. He stared at his reflection in the mirror, small water droplets dripping from his face and onto his grey t-shirt, wetting the fabric. No outfit today. They’ll have to deal with the plaid and the jeans. He took in a shaky breath before opening the door and walking back to the dressing room. The room was empty apart for one of the crew members who was a good friend now, Andy, grabbing some equipment. He must have noticed Dean’s hands shaking because he stopped in his tracks, raising an eyebrow at him.

“You okay, man? You never get nervous…”

“Yeah, uh, just a bad day.” Dean muttered in response, clearing his throat and turning to bag, shrugging on a red plaid shirt.

“Heads up,” Andy announced, tossing a small box in Dean’s direction before he could even process what was going on. He caught it awkwardly and frowned as he read the label. None of what was written made sense to him. “It’ll help with the nerves.”

Dean’s eyebrows furrowed and he grazed his teeth along his bottom lip.

“You can keep it, I got plenty more. That one’s almost empty anyway,” Andy explained as he made his way out to get things ready before their set.

Dean stared at the pill box for a few moments, his mind was racing at a million miles a second and his heart was only beating harder in his chest, his fingers trembling even more. Fuck, he didn’t know how he was going to play with the tremor in his hands. He doubted his voice was going. To cooperate either. He turned off his mind and took a stride to the minifridge, coming up with a bottle of beer. He twisted open the cap and took an initial sip. He stared at the white box some more and opened it up, staring down at the few pills that remained in there. What’s the worst that could happen, right? It was just a onetime thing. He reassured himself as he swallowed the pill down with his cold beer that it was simply for today. He had to give the fans a good show. His stomach churned. Nothing was settling well with him. He cut off his thoughts completely and ran outside to find his friends right before their performance. He wasn’t going to mess this up. 

 

Chapter Text

December 3rd, 2012

Los Angeles, California

 

Dean looked up, meeting the producer’s eyes from behind the glass window separating, a hopeful expression on his face but when he saw the tired look on Harry’s face, a scowl made its appearance on his features. He let out a heavy breath, deflating his puffed cheeks, and pulled his headphones down to his neck. He ran his fingers through his hair, messing it up even more and leaving it sticking up in multiple directions awkwardly.

 

“What is it this time?” He spoke into the microphone in the studio. Harry’s lips moved, but he couldn’t hear anything. Jesus, the guy might have been a great music producer, but sometimes, Dean thought he really had no brain. He pointed his finger at his ear, twirling his hand in the air to indicate that he couldn’t hear anything. “Spangler, big red button. Press it.”

 

“Alright, jerkwad, stop being such an ass and start sounding like less of one,” Harry snapped at him and Dean’s lips opened to retort something sassy and snappy back at him, but honestly, they were both too tired, and he wasn’t wrong. Dean really did sound like ass. He settled for a lopsided grin and a shrug of the shoulders. “Just– that last verse. Try it again but do the growl. It sounded great the first time.”

 

“Then why can’t we use that recording?”

 

Harry scratched the back of his neck sheepishly.

 

“We weren’t, uh, recording…”

 

Dean rolled his eyes, letting out a heavy sigh. “Alright, alright. Just– just tell me when.”

 

Harry nodded and turned to set up the recording again. He gave him a signal with his hand and then the music started. Dean nodded his head along, tapping his foot rhythmically to the beat and then he started singing. The door swung open and the producers were joined by Cas and Charlie who were laughing at something, soda cans in their hands. Cas’s eyes met Dean’s as he was singing and he shot him a wide, toothy grin, giving him two thumbs up. Dean’s face lit up and suddenly, he was singing with a bit more energy, putting on a show for his friends who shook their head embarrassed, but they still pulled out their phones and snuck a video of him for twitter purposes.

 

They were almost done recording their third album, with only a few special songs left to record which served as the bonus tracks for the deluxe album. This specific song was all Dean’s idea, and Cas had helped him only a little with the lyrics, so he was very excited about getting out there. He knew for a fact that he was going to fight real hard to make it the album’s single, or at least one of them. The others all wanted Better Loveto be it. They weren’t wrong, really, it was one of the best songs they had ever written. It was sure to sell more than any of their previous songs combined. But he was excited about Angel of Death and the Codeine Scene, and not just because he had written most of it himself. He was certain it was going to be a hit. Cas reassured him that the lyrics were really well written and the entire band seemed to have loved it. It was a hit single.

 

“If all it took was for these guys to be here to get a good recording out of you, I’d have tied them to a chair long ago,” Harry announced, his voice amused and very exhausted.

 

“Alright, take ten?” Dean asked, his eyebrows raised and Harry and the rest of the crew nodded.

 

“Make that twenty,” he stated and went to leave the room. “Backing vocals when we get back!”

 

“Gotcha!” Dean called back and went to meet his friends outside.

 

“That sounded great!” Cas exclaimed as soon as Dean had joined them. Dean grinned excitedly, flopping down on one of the swivel chairs and leaning back as far as it allowed, hearing a satisfying pop coming from his back.

 

“You think so?” He asked, a little self-conscious about it, but Cas gave an eager nod of his head. “Single worthy…?” Dean’s lips quirked up in a cheeky, lopsided grin.

 

“Better Love’s gonna be the single!” Charlie replied, slouching in her own seat. She wasn’t even paying attention to him, her eyes watching her phone screen intently. “Oh­– oh, fuck. Remind me never to play words with friends against Sam again? That kid is too smart for his age.”

 

Dean and Cas chuckled, the latter of the two leaning over to catch a glimpse of Charlie’s phone. “Dude, you could have easily won if you had just added an l and a y at the end!” Cas pointed out, his voice indicating that Charlie’s mistake was one that could have easily been avoided if she had paid more attention.

 

“Shut up, I know! It’s Dean’s fault, he was distracting me.” She retorted, sending a glare in Dean’s direction.

 

“With my awfully good looks!” He quirked his eyebrows at her which earned him another heavy glare and without a single moment of hesitation, Charlie’s cell phone was flying through the air and almost hitting Dean right in the forehead if it wasn’t for his quick reflexes. He caught the phone with both his hands, a little small squeal leaving his lips.  “Are you crazy, woman?”

“Yes,” she replied casually, grinning toothily at him. “Now, toss it back!”

 

Dean smirked at her in response, quirking a single eyebrow up. “Now, why would I do that?” He teased her. Her phone was still unlocked and so he took advantage, going through all her apps and settling on the camera and he started taking a few pictures with it which were all hilarious, if he did say so himself.

 

“Hey— Dean, give it back you bag of dicks!”

 

Dean giggled, getting out of his chair and running away with Charlie’s phone. She let out a frustrated scream, one that sounded oddly close to a war cry, and leapt out of her chair, following him outside into the halls.

 

“Uh… What’s going on?”

 

Cas looked up and saw Kevin walking back into the studio room followed by Benny and Jo, staring after Charlie and Dean with bemusement and slight entertainment. Jo already had her phone out, filming the whole ordeal. Cas only shrugged, the only response they all needed. It wasn’t unusual for Dean and Charlie to act like five-year-old, and they had all gotten used to it, finding it more amusing nowadays until one of them ended up hurt. In which case, it was sometimes even more amusing.

 

They all watched as Charlie had kicked off her boots, bent down to pick it up and chucked it right at Dean’s head who let out a squeal that sounded a lot like a little girl’s. As her boot hit him right on the side of his head, he let out an even louder yelp as Charlie cried out triumphantly, running over to him and tackling him to the ground.

 

“Son of a bitch, that’s gonna leave a bump, you asshole!” Dean whined, fighting Charlie off but she was resilient and she fought him until finally she was holding out her phone victoriously. She scrambled back up to her feet, dusting off her pants and went in search of her lone boot which had fallen a few feet back, slipping it back on and completely ignoring the laces. Dean pouted down at her as she held her hand out to help him up. He rolled his eyes, letting out a grunt and reluctantly grabbed her arm and let her hoist him back up to his feet. He didn’t want to sit on the cold floor forever.

 

“Sorry about the shoe,” Charlie stated as they walked back over to their friends who were snickering at them, with Jo still filming the entire thing.

 

“No, you’re not,” they all said in unison, erupting in fits of laughter as Charlie agreed. She really wasn’t sorry, but it was all good fun, and no one really ever held a grunge. Dean was already planning his revenge prank anyway. Though, he did kind of deserve it. They had all as a group lost count of who owes whom a good prank. They all just went around getting anyone who they felt like it and it was always harmless fun, and it always ended up online where the whole world could mock them and mock they did. Anyway, it helped promote their music.

The producers and music engineers walked back into the room staring between the band members with incredulous looks on their faces. “What’s going on? What did we miss?” Harry asked and Jo grinned at him, looking up from her phone.

 

“You’ll see it online tonight, probably,” she announced and they all grinned in excitement and anticipation.

 

“Alright, whatever, are we ready to finish this song so that I can get the hell out of here?” Harry said, turning to sit in his chair and pressing a few buttons on the board in front of him.

 

“Aw, you tired of us already, brother?” Benny teased, pretending to be hurt, his hand laying gently over his heart. Their producer only rolled his eyes and pointed at the recording room behind the glass.

 

“Yes. And you’re up first, Lafitte. Go on.”

 

Benny sighed, taking a big gulp from his bottle of water and emptying it. He tossed it at Dean who caught it with ease and walked into the recording room. He held up two thumbs up at his friends as he pulled the headphones over his head and called out: “Whenever you’re ready.”

 

They each went in turn, recording their backing vocals until it was down to record the harmonizing part in the chorus. Benny, Jo, and Dean huddled up around the microphone and tried to get the harmony perfectly in tune but Dean was having a hard time focusing. He kept getting the last note wrong.

 

“You’re singing exactly what I’m singing, Winchester. How is that harmonizing?” Jo shot at him after their eighth take, rolling her eyes.

 

“Jeez, I know. You wanna try it instead?” Dean snapped back gaining a glare in response.

 

“Would you both relax and just try it again? I wanna get home already,” Benny bit, shutting them both up. Dean let out a heavy breath through his nose, closing his eyes and rubbing his temples with his fingers. He cleared his throat and tested the tune again until he got the perfect pitch. He nodded his head, opening his eyes. He got this.

 

“Alright, let’s just try it again,” he said quietly and then the music was playing again. And all three of them were off singing again. Dean’s phone started buzzing in his pocket once. He ignored it, trying his best to focus on his voice. He had it this time, he was sure of it. His phone kept buzzing though and it wouldn’t stop. He stopped singing, taking a step back and let out a heavy groan in frustration, one that was chorused by everyone else in the room. “Sorry, just– one sec,” he mumbled, removing his headphones and pulling his phone out of the pocket of his jeans. He squinted at the scree, frowning when he saw that it was an unknown caller. No one he didn’t know had his number. He had made sure of it. He rarely even got calls anymore nowadays unless it was Sam checking up on him or someone of the record label. Didn’t everyone switch to texting, anyway?

 

He let out a heavy sigh, hitting the answer button and pulling the phone up to his ear. “Hello?” He grumbled in a gruff and annoyed voice, making sure whoever was calling knew this was the worst possible time to be talking to him. He placed his headphone on the microphone stand and walked back, pacing around the room.

 

“Uh… hi– uhm, is this Dean Winchester?”

 

Dean frowned at the floor, his eyebrows furrowing as he listened to the voice of a teenager on the other end of the line. He didn’t recognize the voice and sure as hell did not understand why the person knew who he was, or more importantly how the hell he got his number.

 

“Who’s askin’?” He snapped into the phone, leaning his back against the wall and tracing the patterns on the carpeted floor with his eyes.

 

“My name’s Adam Milligan,” the guy replied simply and Dean let out a small chuckle that lacked any laughter.

 

“That supposed to mean anything to me?” He spoke into the phone, very aware of all the eyes watching him intently in the room. “How did you get this number? If you’re some kind of mega hacker super fan, then I’m sorry but that’s just a dick move, pal,” Dean stated, looking up to see his friends looking at him with questioning eyebrows. He shrugged his shoulders in response. He knew just as much as they did and they couldn’t even hear the conversation.

 

“What? No– fan? What are you talking about? Uhm, I was told I could reach you on this number by Bobby Singer.” Adam Milligan told him and Dean’s eyes widened a little, his eyebrows going up.

 

“Bobby? Alright, two questions kid. How do you know Bobby, and why the hell would Bobby give you my number?” Dean let out a small laugh, running a hand through his hair to comb it back.

 

“Look, Dean, I know you probably don’t wanna talk to me—”

 

“No, kid, I don’t. And it’s not just because I have no clue who the hell you are,” Dean interrupted him, letting out a heavy sigh. He was itching to just hang up already so that he could finish recording this song. He didn’t care if he sounded rude.

 

“Wait, you don’t? I thought– never mind…” Adam Milligan trailed off and Dean frowned, running his hand over his face, rubbing at his cheek.

 

“Look, Adam, can I call you Adam? You seem like an alright kid, but I’m kind of in the middle of working right now so if you could just—”

 

“Dad’s dead,” Adam deadpanned, cutting Dean right off. He suddenly felt the urge to laugh, because this had to be a prank courtesy of Bobby. Having a random kid call him just to announce that the kid’s father was dead? Alright, hilarious. But Dean restrained himself, on the off chance that this kid’s dad was really dead and it wasn’t a prank at all. Highly unlikely, he thought.

 

“I’m sorry for your loss, Adam. But I really gotta go now—” He started but the kid cut him off again, surprising Dean with his audacity. 

 

“Alright, I realize I should have introduced myself better since you really have no clue who I am.”

 

“Uh, yeah, I really don’t,” Dean laughed, a small smile creeping on his face. This was just funny at this point.

 

“My name’s Adam Milligan. My mom’s Kate Milligan and my dad’s John Winchester and—”

 

“Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah. Just hold on one second,” Dean jumped in, letting out a delighted laugh. “Your dad is who now?”

 

“John Winchester,” Adam repeated. Dean’s previous smile fell, replaced by a tight pursing of his lips. He pulled his lower lip into his mouth chewing on it slightly. He released it, pulling his fingers through his hair.

 

“Yeah, I thought I heard you right the first time. Look, kid, I don’t know who you are, I have no fucking clue what the hell you’re playing at, but I swear on everything that is important to you, if you call this number again, I will make sure you—”

 

“John’s dead, Dean. I don’t care what you think. I won’t call again. I just thought it would be better if you heard it from me, but apparently I thought wrong.”

 

“Yeah, you thought wrong,” he spat through gritted teeth.

 

“Whatever. Do whatever the fuck you want with this information. Just thought I’d inform you of our father’s death. The funeral’s in three days in Lawrence. Be there or don’t, I don’t care. Just thought you’d wanna know.” And before Dean could even have the chance to reply, Adam hung up. Dean slid down to a crouching position, glaring at his shoes as his hand slowly dropped to his side. He glanced down at his phone in confusion. Who the fuck was Adam Milligan again?

 

Before he even knew what he was doing, he was punching down the numbers he was had memorized by heart and walking out of the room and out into the hall. He heard murmurs behind him coming from his friends but he ignored them completely, chewing on his thumb and pacing down the hall as he waited for his uncle Bobby to pick up.

 

“Singer’s Salvation Yard, this is—”

 

“Bobby, it’s me.”

 

“Oh, Dean, hiya, son, how are ya?” Bobby greeted him but Dean was in no mood for small talk. He jumped straight to the point.

 

“Who the fuck’s Adam Milligan and why the fuck was he telling me that dad’s dead?” Dean shot his question. There was a small silence on the other end of the line. He heard a little bit of shuffling and awkward cough.

 

“So, the kid called you, then?” Bobby said quietly and Dean rolled his eyes. He was getting more impatient and irritated by the second.

 

“Bobby, what the hell was he talking about?”

 

Bobby sighed and Dean could imagine him fixing his baseball cap as he thought of a response. “Look, I know it must come as a big surprise. I was honestly shocked myself. But I looked into it before giving him your number, I had Jodie pull on a few threads. It all checks out, Dean. He’s– John’s his dad, which makes him your brother. And John, he, well, there’s no easy way to put it. He passed away last night. Heart attack.”

 

Dean was quiet. He felt himself sliding down against the wall and sitting on the floor on his butt. His phone suddenly felt heavy in his grip and he couldn’t focus his vision on a single point, the lines all blurring. He could hear himself breathing.

 

“Dean, are you still there?”

 

“I– does Sam know?” Dean spoke, his voice betraying him. His words cracked at the end of his question. He noticed the shape of a pair of shoes standing before him, but he couldn’t be bothered to look up to see who it was.

 

“Not yet, couldn’t get a hold of him. I think he’s got a class right now,” Bobby replied quietly and Dean nodded his head, until he realized that Bobby couldn’t see him and let out a shaky breath.

 

“Yeah, alright. I’ll tell him then. Talk to you later,” he mumbled monotonously and only heard the beginning of Bobby’s response before ending the call. His phone dropped into his lap and he stared at the wall in front of him absentmindedly, except his vision was interrupted by a pair of denim-clad legs.

 

Cas crouched down beside him and joined him, sitting down with his back against the wall and crossing his legs before him. He remained quiet, giving Dean the space and comfort he needed to relax, seeing how distressed he looked. 

 

Dean could see his friends lurking from his peripheral vision, but he ignored them. He let his face fall in his hands, bringing his knees up to his chest. He didn’t know how long he sat in that same position for but not even Harry and his co-producer Ed made a move to even get the rest inside to finish working for the day. He felt a hand on his knee, squeezing gently, the pressure and familiar weight of it helping him steady his breathing and get his thoughts back in order.

 

He finally looked up, his eyes landing first on Cas’ worried blue one, he didn’t say anything though. Right. He was in Los Angeles right now, in Hollywood, recording Lazarus Rising’s third album, and his father was laying somewhere, probably on a mortician’s table back in Lawrence. Shit, he had to call Sam who was all the way up in Stanford. He had to pack and catch a flight back to Kansas. He probably should call that Adam kid first. He had to pay for the funeral expenses, right? He didn’t even know where the funeral was being held, but it was most probably the little church in their old town his mom used to take him to as a child. He had a lot to do and he didn’t want to do any of it. Fuck. Where the hell was he and why was everything so blurry? Who the fuck was stepping on his chest? He had to call Sam… he had to tell his little brother, and where the fuck did his phone go?

 

“Dean– hey, Dean. Dean, you’re having a panic attack. It’s okay. I’m here. Just– deep breaths, try and take a deep breath– Dean— fuck, I’m not a fricken therapist.”

 

He turned to look at Cas who was now crouching in front of him, holding Dean’s face in his hands to gain his attention. Dean looked like a frightened, lost little boy and it worried Cas even more.

 

“Cas, I– I need to call Sam, I need to tell him– I need to talk to Sam.” Dean rambled, his words making no sense to hi. He scrambled up to his feet, almost making both him and Cas topple over. Cas held on to Dean’s forearms and helped them both straighten up to their feet.

 

“Dean, talk to me. What’s going on? You’re literally going through a panic attack right now, Sam can wait,” Cas told him, keeping his voice steady and calm, but Dean wasn’t listening, his head shaking furiously as he patted his pockets in search for his phone. There, he spotted on the floor near the wall where he was crouching. He must have dropped it without noticing earlier. “Just take a breath. When you’re feeling better, we’ll call him.”

 

“Fuck, Cas. I don’t time for your stupid breathing exercises,” Dean snapped, breathless. He wheezed, his hands pushing through his hair tightly as he bent down and grabbed his phone. He couldn’t read anything on his screen and his hands were shaking, but he had to call Sam.

“Dean, I’m only trying to help and—”

 

“Will you fuck off for a second, Cas?” Dean shouted, turning to stare at Cas, his breathing ragged. Cas stopped midsentence, his eyes wide and his mouth left hanging open in surprise and a little hurt. “I have to– I have to tell Sam. I have to call Sammy and tell him, I– I have to…” his words were lost in the air, suddenly choked up by a lonely sob that forced its way out of his throat. His hand flew up to his face, as though pushing back any other sobs that threatened to spill out. He could feel the corners of his eyes already stinging with salty tears. His eyes must have been red rimmed and his lips trembled along with his hands.

 

Cas’ eyes softened his brief moment of hurt long forgotten. He frowned, taking a stride to Dean and he wrapped his arms around his friend’s body, engulfing him in a tight hug and let him lean his forehead on his shoulder. Another sob shook its way out of Dean’s body and Cas’ hand settled on his back, rubbing it comfortingly. It was a few minutes of quiet sniffling coming from Dean and Cas gently running his palm over his shirt in small circular movements. Dean finally raised his head from Cas’ shoulder and frowned, patting his denim jacket where he had stained it with a bit of tears and snot.

 

“I’m sorry ‘bout that,” he mumbled, sniffing and wiping his nose with the back of his sleeve.

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Cas mumbled, shrugging his shoulders and offering him a small smile.

 

“Hey, got you some water, babe,” Charlie came up to him, holding out a plastic bottle of water and a tissue paper. Dean gave her a nod in appreciation, taking them from her. He used the tissue to wipe his face but hung on to the bottle of water, gripping it tightly.

 

Cas was about to open his mouth to ask Dean what had happened when Dean spoke again, his voice betraying him as it cracked at the end of his very short announcement.

 

“He’s dead.”

 

“What? Who’s dead?” Jo cut in suddenly from across the hall, her voice quiet but echoing down the corridor and it was just then that Dean remembered his friends were still there, or even there at all.

 

“John,” Dean muttered through gritted teeth.

 

It took them a moment to react. It was probably because Dean never really talked about his father much, or at all, really. The only person in this room who had ever met him other than Dean himself was Jo back when they were kids. She was the only one who knew how much of an asshole he really was firsthand.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Dean,” she told him, her voice barely above a murmur. His upper lip moved, as though he was trying to tell her it’s okay, but no words came out. Instead, he only blinked at her in response. Her gaze softened and she walked over to him with gentle steps, engulfing him in a hug. He wrapped his arms around her waist limply, his eyes closing on their own accord as her fingers brushed through his hair tenderly.

 

Charlie walked up on to him, finally getting over her shock and placed her hand with a soft touch on his arm. The rest of the guys all gave him quick hugs or light shoulder squeezes, offering their condolences. Dean acknowledged them all but he wasn’t really paying them any attention. He was lost in his own thoughts and for some reason, words seemed to have failed him, as did time.

 

He didn’t know how he ended up back in his room at the small house they were renting in Los Angeles, but there he was, sitting on his bed and staring out the window aimlessly. He hadn’t noticed until suddenly there was a bright headlight from the street below flashing through the window. He flinched back, his heavy eyelids falling closed. He let out a small grunt, running his hand over his cheek and chin, mumbling to himself “you’re okay, you’re fine.” He forced himself up on his feet and turned to look around the room though he had no idea what he was looking for. He found his phone laying on the bed and bent down to grab it. The screen was too bright and he swore under his breath as he went to the settings to drag it down to the lowest possible option. He checked his notifications next. Two missed calls from Bobby, three from Sam, one from Lisa, and one from Ellen. He sighed, tossing his phone back on the bed.

 

He still had to buy airplane tickets for him and Sam to get to Kansas if he wanted to get there before the funeral. He crouched down, looking under his bed and spotting his small carryon suitcase. He pulled it out, and carried it up, placing it back on the bed. He tossed in a bunch of t-shirts and a pair of pants and other necessities and he had only just closed the suitcase when he realized that he didn’t have a suit, a he would probably need a suit for his own father’s funeral. Fuck. He had to call Sam again and ask him to pack him his suit and some dress shoes. The one he wore for the music awards they were invited to a few months ago could work. It was black, at least.

 

He flopped back down on the mattress on his back and covered his face with his arm. He let out a scream, muffled by his sleeve hanging over his mouth and cut short by a quick, hesitant knock coming on his door. He didn’t answer, hoping whoever it was would just walk away, but of course, they didn’t. The door opened slowly and Dean didn’t bother removing his arm and looking up to know who it was. He could pick out Castiel’s footsteps even in the loudest of conditions. They were calm, quiet, and quite sure. Though they were a little timid and cautious walking in now. Though the squeak of his Doc Martens were undeniably his.

 

“Uh, hey…” he started, his voice quiet. “Just wanted to check how you’re doing. You’ve been up here for a few hours,” Cas told him and Dean dropped his arm to his side, frowning a little. He hadn’t even realized how long he had been sitting there. Though it had become dark out, so he assumed it was a long time.

 

“Yeah, I’m good,” Dean muttered in response, fiddling with his fingers over his stomach. “I’m great!” he exclaimed louder, his voice coming out a little raspier than usual from being so quiet the entire day, and probably crying a lot.

 

Cas took a few more steps inside, standing right in front of Dean now and staring down at him. “No,” he sighed, tilting his head a little, a small, empathetic smile on his face. “You’re not, Dean,” he said, making Dean roll his eyes. He sat beside him on the bed, pushing the suitcase aside to make more space for himself. “And that’s okay, you know. It’s a lot to take in, and you know, there’s like five stages for you to go through and that’s totally normal.”

 

Dean snorted, a small and dry chuckle. “I’m pretty sure I’m way past those five stages of grief,” he admitted, pushing himself up into a sitting position. He turned, leaning his back against the headboard and looked at Cas with a faint and gloomy smile. “Did I ever tell you about that one time, back when I was sixteen, I spent an entire school semester at a “home for troubled boys”!”

 

“You didn’t, no,” Cas replied quietly, waiting for Dean to go on. He was silent for a few moments and Cas watched him patiently as Dean’s gaze focused on his hands in his lap, a deep scowl etched on his features.

 

“Dad, he was gone on one of his hunting trips or something. I don’t know what it was. He always left for a couple weeks or so, don’t know what he did. Left us with a little bit of pocket money to last us till he came back. It was never enough, but we made do. Except that one time, he was gone for longer than he said he would be. Two weeks turned into three, and we didn’t have any dinner one day. Not my proudest moment, but, I– I had to, you know? Went to a store, stole some bread and peanut butter and… I got caught.”

 

He stopped, sparing a glance in Cas’ direction, expecting a shocked response, or a disgusted one, or anything, but Cas’ expression was unreadable. He was watching him, his gaze intent, taking in his every word, his eyebrows knit as he focused on the story.

 

“Long story short, the cops took me in, handcuffs and everything. I did give one of ‘em a nice shiner though,” he let out a small laughed, his lips turning up in a smile that never quite reached his eyes though. “Uh, they called dad. He told them it wasn’t his problem and just hung up the phone. Lucky me, there was this guy outside of town who took care of little delinquents like me! Tried to call dad again. He was pissed that his trip had to be cut short cause Sammy was all alone now, said I was better off left there, learn a lesson or two. Man, I could have just easily gone back home. But I was an even pettier son of a bitch, and I stayed. Almost six months. Would you believe me if I told you they were the best six months of my childhood? I mean, you know me. I’d give up anything to take care of Sam. No complaining, no questions asked. Sammy comes first, no matter what. But for six months, I had no responsibilities. I didn’t have to be a mom, a dad, and a brother. I could just be Dean. I could be sixteen, you know?”

 

“You didn’t have to worry about anything,” Cas said and Dean shrugged his shoulders, shaking his head a little.

 

“I worried a little about Sam. I always asked myself right before bed if Sam did his homework, or brushed his teeth, or finished his dinner. I don’t know what dad told him, cause he never called or anything,” Dean said, scratching the back of his neck.

 

“So, why did you go back?”  Cas asked and Dean’s gaze fell to his lap, his face falling.

 

“Dad left again, I had to take care of Sam,” he replied quietly, his eyes glaring down a single, insignificant spot, his vision starting to blur. “Doesn’t matter, anyway. It was just two more years and then we were out of there. He didn’t give two shits, I guess he thought less mouths to feed. It worked out for the best for everyone, in the end.”

 

“Yeah, you made it out. That’s something to proud of,” Cas told him and Dean inhaled, a small noise sounding like a trapped chortle coming from the back of his throat.

 

“Turns out, I have a new brother.” Dean finally admitted and Cas raised his eyebrows questioningly, the confusing evident in his surprised eyes. “Yeah, Adam Milligan, at least that’s what he said his name was. Bobby says it checks out. I think he sounded like he was just a few years younger than Sam. A high school kid, I don’t know. And you know what the best part is? He knew about dad dying before I even did. So here I am, thinking why the hell would that kid know more about my dad’s living status than me? Why would John Winchester allow that? It just– it doesn’t add up, Cas. It doesn’t fucking add up.” Dean breathed out a sigh, leaning forward and digging his elbows into his thighs, his face falling into his hands.

 

“I– I’m sorry, Dean. I don’t know what to say. It must be really hard for you,” Cas spoke quietly, his gaze trying to catch Dean’s to show him sympathy, that he was there for him, but Dean was already elsewhere.

 

“Yeah, ya think?” he muttered, pulling at the ends of his hair in frustration.

 

Silence fell between them, deep and heavy. Cas finally got up, exhaling a little breath.

 

“I wanted to tell you, I know you weren’t feeling well enough to do it yourself, so I’ve already booked a flight for Lawrence,” Cas stated, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Sam’s gonna meet us there with Bobby. And he’s getting you your suit, I know you didn’t bring it with you. And before you even start arguing, we’re all going with you, OK? We’re all here for you, Dean. Whatever you need, alright?”

 

Dean stared up at Cas, the look in his eyes saying that he wants to fight back, but he was too tired, and too grateful. “Yeah, yeah, alright. Thank you, man.” He said weakly. “I owe you one,” he added and Cas rolled his eyes at him.

 

“You don’t owe me anything. That’s what family’s for,” he told him, laying his hand gently on his shoulder. “Try and get some rest.”

 

Dean nodded, already pushing the suitcase off the bed and pushing the blankets off the bed so that he could lay under them. “Thanks, sweetheart.” He sent Cas a genuine smile, a small one, but it was enough. Cas’ footsteps faltered for a second as he was making his way to the door but he just shook it off, turning off the lights and opening the door. He heard Dean shuffling behind him but just as he was stepping outside, he cleared his throat, speaking quietly. “Uh, hey, Cas?”

 

Cas turned around, his hand wrapped on the door handle and he looked at Dean who had already settled under the covers. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds and Cas raised his eyebrows expectantly. “Anything you need?” he asked him and Dean nodded his head timidly. He cleared his throat, shifting to the other side of the bed and Cas just watched him with a little concern. Dean patted the spot next to him and Cas seemed to understand. He pulled his lower lip between his teeth, swaying the door a little. He finally let out his breath through his nostrils, releasing his lip and taking a few steps back inside the room, letting the door shut gently behind him. He walked over to Dean’s bed hesitantly and kicked off his shoes before laying down on the bed next to his friend. He leaned his back against the headboard, wounding one ankle over the other.

 

Dean’s hand found Castiel’s over the blankets and gave it a small squeeze. Cas’ lips quirked up slightly and he held Dean’s hand in his properly. Dean didn’t let go, running his thumb on the back of his hand instead. “No homo, though…” Dean whispered and Cas could feel the smile in his voice.

 

“Shut up and go to sleep,” he mumbled in response, finding hard to fight off the smile off his own face. Dean let out a soft chuckle, turning to lay down on his side and let his eyes close, though Cas couldn’t get himself to sleep. He sat there in bed, watching as Dean’s breathing steadied to a heavy rhythm, indicating he had fallen asleep, his chest slowly rising and falling. He watched over him until his own eyes couldn’t stay open any longer, and though he had told himself that he was going to go back to his own bed, he slid down in the bed letting his head fall onto the soft pillow beneath him and his tired body sink into the mattress.

Chapter Text

Present Day

September 2019

 

The silence washed over the room heavily like a tidal wave. It was one of those days, Dean didn’t have anything to say. Well, he had a lot to say. He just didn’t feel like saying any of them, or rather, he didn’t know how to word them. It was hard. He wanted to get them out in the open. But every time he looked up, ready to tell Dr. Moseley what was weighing on his chest, he felt his throat constricting.

 

She let him be, walking around her office, a pleasant smile on her face, humming along to an unfamiliar sweet tune as she watered the small, potted plants hanging on the window sill.

 

Dean nipped at a loose thread on his jeans, using his thumb and index to tug at it, his teeth grinding over his bottom lip. It was with her back finally facing him that he found himself able to talk, his eyes focused on the poster hanging on the wall behind the desk. Some sort of impressive astronomical model with constellations and stars. He wasn’t into astronomy, but he was sure that was a black hole in the background.

 

“It was Adam,” he mumbled, his voice even incoherent to himself.

 

“Hmm? I’m sorry sweetheart, I couldn’t hear you. Could you repeat what you said?” Missouri asked him, her voice patient and gentle. Dean turned his gaze in her direction, but she still had her back to him, a small knife in hand and picking at the various herbs that were planted. He had no idea what she was doing or they were but they did smell incredible, their scent wafting in through the room with the gentle breeze that brushed past him from the open window. It was a nice day out for September. He probably should ask her about them. That’d be pretty interesting.

 

“I started uh, I started the heavy stuff… the heavy drinking and the, uh, the drugs, and the pills… after I met Adam.”

 

“Your half-brother, Adam?” Missouri hummed and Dean nodded, but he realized that she still had her back to him so he cleared his throat to speak up.

 

“Yes.”

 

“So, you blame him?”

 

“Yes, well–  no, not really. It’s not his fault. I– I don’t know,” he struggled. He swallowed back hard, tugging at the loose thread in his jeans harder. He ran a hand over his few days old beard, scratching over his cheek and rubbing it with a little frustration.

 

“Take your time, Dean,” Missouri told him in a soft voice, finally turning around and looking at him with an unreadable expression, but it made Dean relax a little bit. She placed her few gardening tools on the window sill and walked over to her desk, grabbing a packet of wet wipes and using it to wipe her hands.

 

“It’s not– it’s not like he offered me the drugs or anything, hell, he’s a good kid. I don’t think he’s ever even seen what it looks like. It’s just–  after, after the funeral… after I met him…”

 

Dean dropped his gaze down to his hands in his lap. He laced his fingers together, twirling his thumbs around each other in circular motions to no specific rhythm.

 

“You were jealous?” Dr. Moseley offered and Dean shot his eyes up at her, a small flare of anger rising up in his chest. But he wasn’t angry at her. He wasn’t angry at Adam. Or John. He was angry with himself, and mostly angry at the world for letting him fall so hard.

 

Dean was quiet for a long time. He could feel the lump forming in his throat and the back of his eyes burning. He lost focus again, deep in his thoughts, but he was still aware of his leg bouncing up at a fast pace, his fists clenching and unclenching over his knees. Missouri walked back over to the window sill, putting the tools aside, then made her way back to her desk and sat on her chair. She took a sip from her mug of coffee and fixed her papers and notebooks and stationary present on her desk. And she waited patiently for Dean to respond. They still had half an hour, and she was used to much longer and quieter therapy sessions.

 

“Not at first,” Dean finally admitted. “I was– I think I was hurt, at first. My dad was dead, and I had another little brother that I never knew about who I thought was also neglected by John and, and I think I felt– I felt that maybe I failed him by not knowing about him? It was my job to take care of my brother. And I failed him.”

 

“But you didn’t know about him because your father didn’t want you to know. And he had his mother, growing up,” Missouri countered calmly. Dean watched her as she carefully rearranged her desk. Somehow, her tidiness and gentle, steady moves brought him comfort. He scratched the back of his neck, shrugging his shoulders.

 

“Yeah, I didn’t know that. Everything was just so confusing and I was angry at first and I didn’t want to talk to him, didn’t want to get to know him. I just wanted all that– that rage, and the pain, and the irritation to go away,” Dean tried his best to explain. Missouri seemed to know exactly what he was trying to say but she gave him the space he needed. He had to say them himself. He had to come into terms with them.

 

“You needed a quick fix for all those confusing feelings?”

 

“Yeah, a quick fix,” Dean chuckled bitterly. “There was the bottle of pills from that one time.”

 

“The show in Kansas?”

 

Dean nodded, glaring down at the carpet. “I just took one and it helped for a while. The funeral was manageable. I could take a few till I was done mourning, right? What’s the worst that could happen?” he shook his head furiously. “It was– it was fine, at first. But a few weeks later, at Christmas.” He let out a shaky breath, running a hand back through his hair.

 

“Your father’s death took a toll on you?”

 

Dean shook his head. It had nothing to do with his father’s death. His father, though? Practically everything that has ever happened to him was John’s fault, he was sure. At least, he used to be. He was learning to let go.

 

“No, not his death. Just– Adam. That kid, he– God, I hated him!” Dean confessed, burying his face in his hands in shame. “For the longest time, I was just– I loathed him. He was just a kid, and I couldn’t stand the thought of him.”

 

 

December 23rd, 2012

San Francisco, California

 

 Dean was sitting on the couch in their living room back home, his feet laid on the coffee table. Sam was leaning against the wall facing him, his arms crossed over his chest and giving him a challenging look. Dean rolled his eyes, dropping his feet down to the floor and standing up.

 

“Where are you going?” Sam asked him, letting out a chuckle in disbelief.

 

“Away from you and that look you’re giving me,” Dean grumbled in response, making his way out into the hallway, but Sam wasn’t going to let him go easy. He followed him out and Dean let out a heavy sigh, making his way into the kitchen.

 

Sam scoffed. “You can’t just walk away every time someone wants to have a discussion with you that you don’t like. You can’t run away from your problems, Dean.”

 

“Oh, yeah? Watch me.” Dean shook his head, walking over to the fridge and grabbing himself a bottle of beer. Even with his brother being a pain in the ass, he grabbed a second and threw it over to Sam who caught it with ease.

 

“It’s not even that big of a deal, Dean,” Sam offered, his voice softening a little as he twisted open the bottlecap and tossed it into garbage can, Dean following his actions and already back out into the hallway.

 

“Not that big of a deal? The woman doesn’t even know us and she wants us to come over for Christmas? Tell me how that makes sense,” Dean countered, looking over his shoulder where Sam was still following him around, relentless. He walked into the room where he found Cas had joined them, sitting on the armchair and writing something in his notebook, reading glasses hanging loosely over his nose. Dean took a step back, raising an eyebrow up at him, his words suddenly lost.

 

“What?” Cas mumbled, not even raising his eyes from his book.

 

“Since when do you wear glasses?” He asked him and he could hear Sam letting out heavy breath behind him. Cas looked up at him then, furrowing his eyebrows. His hand shot up to his reading glasses, as though self-consciously and he pushed them further up his nose until they fit perfectly.

 

“Since I was twelve,” Cas shot back in response. “Dude, we’ve been friends for three years. How have you only just noticed?” He asked him in disbelief and Dean shrugged, his cheeks tinting pink in slight embarrassment.

 

“I don’t know,” he mumbled, flopping down on the couch. “You never wear them,” he pointed out.

 

“The magic of contact lenses!” Castiel exclaimed with an amused smirk and Dean shot him a playful glare.

 

“Smartass,” Dean muttered, punching him jokingly in the shoulder. Cas shook his head, turning his attention back to what he was writing.

 

“Anyway, as I was saying, Dean, Kate was kind enough to invite us over to dinner. She’s trying. The least we could do is accept the offer,” Sam stated, walking over to the couch and sitting down next to Dean.

 

“Yeah, well, I didn’t ask for her to try. Her, and her son, they knew we existed. They never said a single thing about it till dad died. And what? Now, suddenly, we’re expected to play family? Dad didn’t even tell us he had a girlfriend and a third son for the past thirteen years, and honestly, I don’t give a damn. I’m happy just knowing they exist. That’s cool with me. Just don’t expect me to get along with them.”

 

Sam huffed, running his hand over his cheek and jaw. “Look, Dean. I’m not saying that we have to get along and pretend that we’re going to be this happy family with a new mom and a baby brother. As far as I’m concerned, the only parents I really ever had are Bobby, Jody, and Ellen. But the woman is trying really hard to make amends. I’m sure dad messed them up as much as he messed us up.” Sam let out a heavy sigh, sitting back against the pillows and taking a large swig from his drink. “All I’m saying is we should just go, see how it is, and if we’re not comfortable I’m happy to never talk to them for the next fifty years. I mean who knows, maybe she just wants to understand why John was so fucked up. We probably have those answers.”

 

“No, I don’t think we have all the answers to that, Sammy,” Dean chuckled bitterly, taking another sip from his beer. He placed it back down on his lap, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and then fiddled with his bottom lip between his thumb and index in thought. “Alright, fine. I’ll go. Only if Cas comes along too.”

 

Cas looked up suddenly, raising an eyebrow at him questioningly. “What– Dean, that’s a family matter, you don’t want me there.”

 

“Yes, I do. You’re family, aren’t you?”

 

“Well, yeah, but— I can’t cancel on my mom, you know how she gets,” Cas told him with an apologetic look on his face. Somehow, with his glasses falling off his nose and his navy sweater that brought up his eyes, Dean could only sigh and nod his head, not giving him any remorse about it. He did realize how ridiculous his request was.

 

“Okay, fine, but we’re not sleeping there. We’re catching the first flight back. And I get the aisle seat both ways. If we’re gonna die, I’m getting out of there first,” Dean stated, pointing his finger at Sam who grinned at him and nodded, patting him on the back.

 

“Alright, fine, aisle seat is all yours,” he told him, getting up and leaving the room.

 

“I’ll make sure to leave you a piece of mom’s lemon meringue pie,” Cas told him without raising his eyes from his paper and Dean chuckled, mumbling a thank you into his beer.

 

“New song?” He asked, changing the subject. Cas was too engrossed into whatever he was writing, which could only mean he was writing something good, something that meant a lot to him.

 

“Mm,” he acquiesced, nodding his head only slightly.

 

“Can I see?” Dean asked and Cas looked up at him, his lips slightly parted, as though he was trying to process what Dean was asking him.

 

“Oh, uh, actually, this is uh– it’s not Lazarus Rising material. It’s just– it’s something personal…” he trailed off, clearing his throat and instantly averting his gaze away from Dean’s. 

 

Dean frowned but shrugged and nodded anyway. Cas was allowed to write his own things. Though, he was itching to know what it was about even more now. He sighed, getting off the couch and making his way around the coffee table to exit in the direction of his bedroom.

 

He didn’t pack much with him. Just an extra set of clothes, a toothbrush, and his aftershave. He shoved them all in a backpack with his cellphone charger and his headphones. He didn’t want to stay long, and he wasn’t planning on it. Lisa dropped them off the next morning at the airport and she asked Dean just before he made his way inside if he was sure he didn’t want her there with him to support him. He was sure. He kissed her goodbye and he and Sam made their way to past security and passport control and made their way to the gate. It was a short plane ride but Dean did not miss the opportunity to fall asleep both to get some rest and push away his fear of planes as far away as possible. It worked, for the most part. Sam woke him up at least twice, trying to make it to the bathroom. He was much grumpier when they had gotten off the plane, and that’s saying a lot.

 

Kate had offered to pick them up from the airport, but Dean wasn’t ready to be stuck in an awkward car ride with her. Being stuck at an awkward dinner with her was enough. He wished he had his Baby with him, but he wasn’t going to drive all the way to Kansas on such a short notice. They had to resort to renting a car from the airport for the day, though Dean really hated driving any other car, so he let Sam take the wheel for once. It gave him the opportunity to rest a little, at least. He slept for the entire duration of the hour long drive down town.

 

He woke up with a jolt when Sam came to a halt, parking the car in the driveway behind a small black Prius. He turned the engine off and removed his seatbelt, turning to Dean with a hesitant smile. “You ready?”

 

“No,” Dean grumbled, his voice scratchy from sleep. He opened the door and got out the car, stretching his limbs and hearing a satisfying crackcoming from every other bone in his body. The cold wind fanned against his face and he shivered a little. He grabbed his coat from the back of the car and shrugged it on, not bothering with the buttons, and walked over to the front door, his hands stuffed deep into the pockets of his coat, with Sam right behind him. He didn’t want to be here, so he wasn’t going to knock on the door. He could tell Sam was rolling his eyes behind him from the small puff of air he exhaled as he leaned over Dean and rang the doorbell.

 

They heard a little bit of shuffling coming from inside and a few minutes later, the door opened up, revealing a thirteen-year-old kid. He was blonde and too tall for his age, the button up he was wearing a little snug, hinting at a quick and unexpected growth spurt that probably was his mother’s worst nightmare. Clothes were not that cheap. Adam grinned as he spotted his two older half-brothers and opened the door wider. “Mom, Sam and Dean are here!” He called out and Dean could hear some clinking coming from what he presumed was the kitchen.

 

“Uh, hey, Adam… Merry Christmas!” Sam exclaimed holding out his hand and shaking Adam’s smaller one.

 

“Yeah, Merry Christmas!” He replied enthusiastically. Sam stepped inside the house, removing his scarf from around his neck and Dean followed him awkwardly, forcing a smile onto his face.

 

Kate showed up from around the corner, cooking apron wrapped around her waist and she smiled brightly as she saw the two Winchester brothers. “Hello, boys! Merry Christmas!” She greeted them, making her way over and taking Dean by surprise as she wrapped her arms around him in a quick hug, but he didn’t even have time to process it because she was already moving on to Sam who hugged her back, paying her more attention than Dean. Adam closed the door behind them as Kate started making her way toward the living room. “Come in, come in, boys. Let me get your coats.”

 

“Oh, thank you!” Sam smiled at her warmly, handing her his jacket and scarf. Dean quietly and hesitantly did so too, his eyes taking in every detail around the house. He watched as Adam walked into the living room and settled down on the couch in front of the television, making himself comfortable.

 

“Can I get you anything to drink?” She asked, following her son and Sam into the living room, but Dean lingered around the hall for a moment longer.

 

“Oh, no thank you,” he could hear Sam, ever the polite guest.

 

He was looking at the pictures hanging on the wall. There was one with a little toddler in the arms of an old lady, Adam and his grandmother, presumably. There were others, Adam and his friends, Adam growing up from a tiny baby to a teenager, a lot of them were of Adam and Kate together. There were some of a young lady and Dean could tell it was a young Kate, probably during high school and college. She was really pretty, he had to admit. He frowned as his eyes fell on a picture hanging at the end of the wall. He took step towards it, his bottom lip trapped between his teeth. It was a picture of Adam, maybe two or three years younger, and he had his arm around John Winchester. They were both smiling at the camera, dressed in matching baseball caps and jerseys. Dean was suddenly feeling his throat tightening and his chest constricting. 

 

He forced himself to look away, pulling at the collar of his shirt which felt much tighter now. He let out a heavy cough, clearing his throat and followed everyone else into the living room.

 

“Oh, Dean, can I get you anything?” Kate smiled at him kindly but he couldn’t bear to keep eye contact with her.

 

“No, thank you,” he mumbled, averting his gaze and moving toward the empty spot on the couch besides Sam.

 

“Nice place you’ve got here, miss Milligan,” Sam complimented her, looking around the rather very simply and minimally decorated room.

 

“Oh, please, just call me Kate,” she insisted and Sam chuckled, agreeing with her. “So, how was your flight?”

 

Dean was quiet. He couldn’t stand small talk. Sam was a great conversationalist though, and his talking had gone unnoticed and unmissed. He could zone out, not pay attention to any of the words they were saying. Though he was unfocused on the conversation going on around him, his gaze was too focused on the teenager sitting on the couch opposite him, laughing at some joke Sam had made. Adam barely looked like John; he had inherited his mother’s blond hair and her blue eyes. His smile though, Dean could tell was just like his father’s. John hadn’t smiled much while he was growing up, but he could still remember the days before his mother had passed away. They were happy. John was happy.

 

There was a loud dingand Dean jumped in his seat, suddenly brought back to reality. He looked around the smiling faces in the room and Kate was up on her feet, saying something about dinner being ready. She excused herself, hurrying toward the kitchen.

 

“Hey, you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Sam whispered and Dean looked up at him, spooked.

 

“Huh? Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just– just hungry,” he lied and got up on his feet, following Kate. He found her setting a perfectly roasted chicken on the kitchen counter. He had to admit, it looked mouthwatering. “You need any help?” He offered. He hoped that the faster they got to eating, the faster they were out of there. He had made sure to book their flight back home at three in the morning, which meant they had to be leaving at the latest by eleven o’clock. That was four hours away. He had to suppress himself from groaning out loud.

 

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Dean. The table’s already set, but I’d appreciate if you could put the chicken on there? I’ll be honest, the dish is a little bit heavy,” she replied, adding some final touches to the poultry.

 

“Sure,” Dean said, waiting for her to step back and forcing back a smile as he grabbed on to the dish and carried the chicken out to the dining table.

 

Sam and Adam helped set the rest of the food onto the table and soon they were all sitting around the small table, their plates full and chewing quietly on their food.

 

“Dean, when’s the next album coming out?” Adam asked and Dean looked up at him as he was shoving a forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth his hand hesitating midair as he raised his eyebrows in surprise.

 

“Uh, I don’t know yet. We’re still, uh, we’re still in the recording process,” he told him, biting down slowly onto his fork.

 

“You listen to Lazarus Rising?” Sam laughed, the surprise also evident in his voice. Adam shrugged, a shy smile on his face.

 

“I didn’t, till I found out the lead singer was my brother,” he admitted and Sam laughed some more.

 

“Half-brother,” Dean muttered to himself, taking a bite of chicken. He had to give Kate some credit, she was a really good at cooking.

 

“Have you always wanted to be in a band?” Kate asked him, sounding genuinely interested. It made him a little uncomfortable.

 

“It was that or being a mechanic like dad. I think I made the right choice,” he chuckled bitterly, taking a sip of his water. “I uh, never made it to college, unlike Sammy here. Kid’s a genius.”

 

“You’re smart too, Dean. You just never give yourself enough credit.” Sam interjected making Dean roll his eyes. He didn’t say anything in response.

 

“And you Sam? You’re studying… law, was it?”

 

“Yes! I’m in my second year at Stanford,” he explained and Adam raised his eyes, impressed.

 

“Dude, that’s so cool! I wanna go to a big school like that, maybe become a doctor,” Adam stated and his mother beamed at him.

 

“Smart one, that kid. He gets straight A’s,” she said proudly and Sam grinned at him, giving a high five from across the table.

 

Dean didn’t understand how his brother could be okay with all of this, how he felt so comfortable sitting at a table with two complete strangers who up until a few weeks ago, didn’t know they existed. He wished he could be as laid back as Sam was.

 

They finished dinner soon after, and Dean had remained as quiet as possible, only speaking when a question or statement was addressed to him. And even then, his responses were curt and brief. As loquacious as he usually was, he didn’t feel like talking at all. He felt too vulnerable. He was out of his element. He didn’t have to divulge more than he had to. 

 

Still, Dean helped clear his plate. He might have not wanted to be there, but he still had manners and he wasn’t going to be a complete asshole. They settled back into the living room and Kate excused herself to get dessert ready.

Sam, Dean, and Adam sat around the coffee table in the living room in awkward silence. Dean was glaring down at his shoes, and Sam was fiddling with his cellphone in his lap. He could feel Adam’s eyes watching him carefully. It made him irritable. He snapped his head up, shooting the glare in the kid’s direction, but seeing his blue eyes widen in slight fear, he tried his best to soften his gaze. He wasn’t a bad kid after all. It really wasn’t his fault, Dean knew that.

 

“What was dad like?” Adam suddenly asked, out of the blue.

 

Dean watched him carefully, his fists unintentionally balling into fists at his side. He placed his hands over his knees, laying them flat with his palms open and wiped them over his jeans to try and ease them, force the tension out.

 

“Uh, what do you want to know?” Sam indulged him, sitting upright in his seat. Adam shrugged his shoulders, as clueless and lost as the two older Winchester brothers were.

 

“He visited mostly on my birthday, and some other times. But, I never got really close to him. I don’t think he’s the warm kinda person,” Adam chuckled, scratching the back of his neck. “I mean, he never told me I had brothers. Mom, she uh, she told me after he passed away.”

 

Nothing else of what Adam had said or had to add mattered to Dean. He turned to look at him, an odd, indecipherable grimace on his face. John visited him on his birthday. John actually remembered Adam’s birthday. Huh. “He visited you on your birthday?”

 

“Yeah, every year,” Adam replied with a grin. “Last year, we went to a football game. The year before that, he took me to a baseball game. It was pretty cool, actually.”

 

Dean could feel Sam’s searing gaze into the side of his face, watching him intensely. His fingers curled and uncurled on his knees, his fists balling and fingertips digging into his palms. “He actually took you to ball games? John Winchester took you to a fricken ball game? An actual game?”

 

“Uh… yeah… I guess. What did you guys do on your birthdays?”

 

He just had to ask. Of course. Dean actually let out a laugh at that, something that resembled a grin and a smirk on his face, but it was much scarier, much, much colder. He was lucky if John had ever remembered his birthday. Even luckier if he had even bothered talking to him to wish him a happy one. No, John never acknowledged him on his birthday.

 

“I’m sorry,” Dean breathed out, letting out another bitter chuckle. “I have to use the bathroom,” he mumbled, getting up and making his way down the hall. He found the door to the small downstairs bathroom slightly ajar and pushed it open, stepping inside and locking the door behind him. He switched the lights on and found himself staring at the shadow of his reflection in the mirror before him. He looked like he had seen a ghost. Or better yet, like he was the ghost. He turned the faucet on and splashed some cold water on his face. Feeling the droplets stream down the side of his face and down his neck felt good. Though his heart was still constricting. It felt like there was a frog in his throat fighting to jump out but it was stuck in place. His breathing was getting more and more labored by the second and his heartbeat only got faster. Crap. He held on to the sink hard trying to control the slight trembling of his hands, watching himself in the mirror as he tried to regulate his breathing but every time he tried to, the picture of John and Adam at a ball game flashed before his eyes, and it made his heart physically ache. 

 

He sat down on the closed toilet seat and leaned over his knees, taking in a slow and deep breath through his nose, holding it in for a few seconds before exhaling it through his mouth. It helped, for the most part. But his stomach was still unsettled. And his heart refused to relax and return to its original rhythm.

 

“Shit,” he breathed out, wiping at his face harshly with the palm of his hand. He sniffed, wiping a water droplet falling down the bridge of his nose. “You’re good.  You’re okay,” he whispered reassuringly to himself. He coughed out, clearing out his throat and his hand went down to his jeans, going through his pockets. He came back out with a small box, resembling that of a tic-tac container and he watched it closely. The more he looked at it, the heavier his heart rate became. It wasn’t going to settle any time soon, not until he was as far away from that house as possible, and his body probably wouldn’t be able to handle it. It was just a onetime thing, he told himself. He needed to numb this aching that had suddenly attacked his entire body.

 

He opened the container and dropped a single, white pill into his palm. “You’re okay,” he whispered to himself, watching the pill intently. “I’m good.” He parted his lips and slid the pill inside his mouth. He swallowed it dry. “I’m great,” he reassured himself. His throat felt ten times tighter. He cleared his throat, wiping at his nose. It took him a few moments and a few deep breaths, but the tremor in his hands seemed to have stopped and his heartbeat had finally calmed down. He knew one thing for sure and it was that he couldn’t bear to spend another minute in this house. He had to get out of here.

 

He unlocked the bathroom door and made his way back into the living room where he found his brother laughing at something Kate had said. There were four plates on the table and a tray that held a perfectly golden pie. He eyed it for a few seconds, but he wasn’t even tempted in the least. He cleared his throat to announce his presence but he refused to take another step into the room.

 

“Uh, hey, Dean, you okay, man?” Sam asked him, looking at him with raised, questioning eyebrows. Dean glanced at him, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He scratched his forehead and let his fingers roam through his short hair before dropping his hand back to his side. He shoved his fists into the pockets of his pants, fumbling with his keys.

“Thank you for dinner, Mrs. Milligan, it was uh, really great. But it’s getting late, we should really get going,” Dean started to everyone’s surprise. They all looked at him in confusion. His words came out of nowhere.

 

“Dean, what are you—” Sam let out a bemused chuckle.

 

“Oh, no, you can’t leave just yet. There’s still dessert!” Kate insisted looking almost hurt.

 

Dean forced a smile onto his face. His fingers wrapped around the small box in his pock. He flipped the lid open and closed, the movements bringing him slight comfort. “We really appreciate it, but unfortunately we uh, we have a flight to catch. I– I got work in the morning, we don’t wanna impose any further. It was a lovely dinner, really. Thank you.”

 

“What? Dean, what are you on about?” Sam exclaimed.

 

Dean didn’t wait to see their reactions. He turned away and walked right outside toward the rented car, hearing Sam scrambling up to his feet and mumbling a series of apologies on his behalf to Kate and Adam. “I’m so sorry, Kate, I don’t know what’s gotten into Dean. Let me make sure he’s alright.”

 

He leaned against the hood of the car, glaring at a single spot on the ground. It wasn’t long before Sam had walked outside, closing the front door behind him. He chucked something in Dean’s direction but it took him by surprise. “What the fuck?” Dean exclaimed as he caught whatever it was that Sam had tossed him. His coat. It wasn’t only then that he noticed that he could barely feel his fingers and nose.

 

“Forgot something?” Sam breathed out, little rings of smoke blowing out in front of him.

 

“Yeah, thanks. Now can you unlock the car before we die and turn into fricken icicles?”  Dean muttered making Sam roll his eyes at him.

 

“Why are you in such a rush to leave?” He asked him, giving him a pointed look.

 

Dean shrugged his shoulders, avoiding his younger brother’s gaze. “I don’t know… I just– couldn’t stay there longer. I couldn’t—” he shrugged his shoulders again, rubbing his cheek with his hand. The warmth of the action brought a little feeling to his ski, fighting against the harsh bite of the cold December night air.

 

“Couldn’t breathe? Yeah, I get it. It was like that for me too, at first. But they’re really nice people, Dean. They’re trying. The least we could do is try, too.” Sam told him, standing right in front of him now.

 

“What do you think I’ve been doing for the past few hours? I just couldn’t sit in there. and pretend it was all normal and– and fine, like nothing happened and we were all just one big happy, fucking family! I…” he exhaled heavily through his nose, shaking his head a little. “I had to get out of there, Sammy.”

 

Sam sighed, opening his mouth to say something in response, but, as if on cue, the front door opened and Kate showed up, looking at them with genuine concern in her expression.

 

“Everything okay, boys?” She called out at them. Sam turned to glance at her then back at Dean, sharing a silent look with him. He understood, of course he did. He let out another sigh, nodding his head as he turned back to face Kate who was now joined by her son standing at her side. At only thirteen, he had already surpassed his mother with his height. He was gonna be a big kid. Definitely a Winchester.

 

“Yeah, yeah, thank you Kate. We’re really thankful for everything. It was really a great night. We really should get going, though. We better beat the traffic. Don’t wanna miss our flight.” It wasn’t a very convincing argument, but she didn’t seem to delve too much into it. Maybe she understood how awkward it must have been for them, especially Dean.

 

“Alright, then. At least let me give you some pie to go!” She insisted. Sam couldn’t refuse her that. She ran back inside and was out a moments later, paper bag in hand with a food container with pie inside. Sam hugged her and gave Adam a firm handshake and hair-ruffle. Dean gave them a tight smile.

 

“You boys drive safe, then. And you know, if you ever need anythin’, you’re always welcome here!”

 

“Thank you, Kate. We’ll keep in contact!” Sam reassured her as he placed the bag in the back of the car and climbed into the driver’s seat. Without another word, Dean sat in the passenger seat. He watched as the house became smaller and smaller as Sam drove away. As they drove through the town of Lawrence, Dean suddenly realized that they had a few hours to kill before heading for the airport. And he realized that there was one thing he really had to do.

 

“Turn right. Right there.” He pointed at a familiar street up ahead. Sam glanced at him in confusion but didn’t think much about it. He followed Dean’s directions until finally he seemed to realize where Dean was taking them. He didn’t need his pointing any more, and soon, he was parking the car right outside the familiar cemetery. He turned the engine off and they both slowly made their way out of the car. Dean walked ahead, knowing the way by heart even if he hadn’t been here in years. He came to a halt in front of the gravestone of one Mary Winchester, feeling Sam stopping right behind him as well. There was an empty spot right next to their mother’s gravestone, though it wasn’t taken by their dad after his departure. John was cremated as per his beliefs. 

Dean let out a shaky breath, pressing his fingers against his lips. He kissed them gently and carefully placed his hand over the gravestone. “Hey mom,” he whispered, a small smile on his face. He could already feel the lump in his throat growing. Without much hesitation, he flopped down on the ground, sitting cross-legged on the cold ground. He was probably going to stain his pants, but he didn’t care. Sam didn’t seem to care either, because he was following Dean’s movements, sitting down beside him much more gracefully though. They were quiet for what felt like hours, neither one of them saying a word, but the silence spoke too loudly.

 

It wasn’t until Dean felt Sam’s arms wrap around his shoulders comfortingly that he realized he had started crying. He let himself give in to it completely, letting his body go limp and collapse onto Sam who held onto him tightly. This was all wrong. He was supposed to hold Sam in his arms and comfort him, take care of him. How could he keep it together so well when Dean was barely managing not to break down completely? But here he was, breaking down to his most vulnerable in the arms of his baby brother. This was all wrong. 

 

He could hear Sam’s sniffles his brother having started crying as well.

 

“It’s not fair,” he heard himself crying out loud. “It’s not fucking fair!” He sobbed.

 

“I know, Dean, I know. It sucks.” Sam replied calmly, patting his brother’s back comfortingly.

 

“It hurts, Sammy. It’s fucking—” he gasped, taking in a deep breath and wipe at his face furiously. “Son of a bitch, it really fucking hurts!” He let out a laugh, shaking his head furiously.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Sam nodded in agreement, wiping at his face with his sleeve. 

 

“You know the most fucked up part about all this? I’m still blaming myself for all his bullshit. What did I do to deserve a father who never gave a rat’s ass about me? Huh? What did I do?” Dean sniffled, shaking his head. He leaned his neck back, staring up at the night sky. “TELL ME, YOU SON OF A BITCH. WHAT DID I DO? WHA-WHAT– WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS?”  He l lowered his chin to his chest, using his sleeve to wipe his face. He balled his hand into a fist, smacking his own chest repeatedly as he cried, letting out all of his pent-up pain and frustration. “Fuck– what did I do?”

 

Sam was engulfing in a tight hug, halting his fist from coming into contact with his chest again. “You didn’t do anything, Dean. It’s not your fault,” he reassured him with a tear-filled voice. “It’s not your fault.” 

 

“Why– why did he care about Adam? He took him to fricken ball games!”

 

“And concerts too…” Sam added. Dean looked up at him in silence, taking a moment to catch his breath. Suddenly, he was bursting out into laughter. Sam looked at him in surprise but the harder Dean laughed, the harder it became to resist and. Soon Sam was laughing along as well.

 

“And concerts too. Fuck,” Dean breathed out through his laughter, covering his face with his hands. They laughed quietly until they couldn’t anymore and silence overcame them, cut only by the sound of their heavy breathing and the cooing owls from the trees nearby.

 

“None of it was your fault, Dean. Like you said, he was a fucked-up son of a bitch. None of what he did ever made sense. Wasn’t your fault.” Sam told him quietly, turning to glance at him. Dean was staring intently at the letters engraved on the marble headstone. Sam leaned his hand and placed it on Dean’s knee. Dean nodded his head quietly, placing his hand on top of Sam’s. He wanted to agree and to believe him, but he couldn’t convince himself. He couldn’t reassure himself of how true his brother’s words were. He couldn’t shake of the feeling weighing heavily down on his chest.

Chapter Text

November 2014

New York

 

It was way too loud, the sounds of fans cheering and chanting from the stadium filling the room. It was their biggest concert yet. Madison Square Garden, second night sold out. It was also the last concert for this tour.

 

“Five minutes, Winchester!” Garth called out, poking his head through the door to the dressing room. Dean looked up at him and gave him the thumbs up before turning back around to look in the mirror. He ran a hand through his hair, combing it back. He scratched over his stubble and then wiped his palms that felt too sweaty on his jeans. He popped the collar to his leather jacket up, going for that Danny Zuko look. He looked around, spotting a pair of plastic sunglasses in the shape of stars and slid them over his nose. He took another glance in the mirror and grinned at himself. It didn’t quite reach his eyes. He let out a heavy breath through his nose. He patted the pocket of his jeans pulled out a small plastic bag. With a shaky hand, he unzipped the small bag and released a little bit of its contents onto the table in front of him. Shoved the bag back into his pocket and pulled out an old hotel room keycard. He aligned the white powder into a straight line and grabbed a small rolled up piece of paper. He bent out and not a second later, it was all gone. He sniffled, running his fingers over his nose and let out a cough, clearing his throat. He took another glance at himself in the mirror, his eyes hidden under the glasses. He turned around.

 

He grabbed his guitar from its stand next to the door and slipped the strap over his head as he walked outside into the hall and down toward the stage.

 

“Three minutes!” He heard Garth calling out from somewhere behind him. He kept walking, the voices becoming much louder. He could feel his heartbeat going faster and faster. He was already jumping on the balls of his feet, his hands restless at his sides.

 

“Hey! There you are.” He turned around, seeing Cas coming up behind him with his friend Balthazar next to him. Castiel was dressed in a pair of jeans and Dean’s old denim Sherpa which was a little big on him, his hands stuffed in the pockets. He looked good. He smiled at Dean as he finally faced them, but his smile fell instantly, replaced by a worried look on his face.

 

“What?” Dean asked obliviously. Cas’s hand went to the pockets of his jeans, pulling out a small packet of tissues. He opened it quickly and handed Dean one.

 

“Your nose is bleeding,” Cas told him and Dean’s eyes widened, his hand shooting up to his face. He instantly felt the warm, thick liquid dripping down his chin.

 

“Shit,” he mumbled, grabbing the tissue paper from Cas and holding it to his nose.

“Everything okay guys? Two minutes,” Garth came up to them, typing away on his phone. “The rest of the band’s ready to go, Dean.” He told him, looking up to meet his gaze and instantly frowning. “Everything okay, buddy?”

 

“Yeah, can we have five? My nose is bleeding.” He told him, his voice muffled by the blood and the Kleenex.

 

Garth looked down at his watch then back up at Dean worriedly. He let out a heavy sigh, nodding his head. “Five minutes. I’ll talk to the rest of the crew.” He took another concerned glance at Dean before walking past him as fast as his scrawny legs allowed him.

 

“You okay Dean?” Cas asked him, his blue eyes wide. He placed a comforting hand on Dean’s arm, Dean flinching a little. He was jumpy. Well… it was kicking in at least. He shot Cas a grin and nodded his head.

 

“I’m great, man! Just a nosebleed. Doesn’t even hurt,” he reassured him, but Cas wasn’t buying it. He shared a glance with his English friend who shook his head subtly. He knew exactly what was going on.

 

“Dean…” Cas started, letting out a heavy sigh. His voice had gone quieter. He could hear the disappointment in his tone, and it stung a little. “You promised.”

 

Dean shrugged his shoulders, though. “It’s not that big of a deal, Cas.” He replied, removing the tissue from over his nose. The bleeding had stopped, thankfully. He sniffed, using the clean part of the tissue paper to wipe his nose again.

 

“Yes, it is. Dean, it’s– it’s really dangerous. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” Cas snapped at him, but Dean only scoffed, chuckling dryly.

 

“What, and you do?” He rolled his eyes, tossing the bloody piece of tissue paper in the nearby garbage can. “Cas, get out of my ass,” he grumbled, turning around to walk in the direction of the stage entrance.

 

“I was never in— Dean, you can’t do this,” he told him, walking after him.

 

“Whatever,” Dean shot back dismissively. He held the guitar up to his ear so he could hear it better as he made sure it was in tune. He walked all the way until he spotted the rest of the band and he waved at them.

 

“One minute, guys,” Garth called out through their earpieces. Dean was jumping up on the tip of his toes. He needed that surge of energy.

 

“Dean—” Cas started as he had followed him but Garth was already signaling that it was time for them to get on stage. Dean turned around to glance at him. He opened his mouth as though he wanted to say something but no words came out. He shot Cas a final glance before turning around and walking on stage after the rest of the band, the cheers and screams of the fans almost deafening. Cas let out a heavy breath as he watched Dean disappear behind the curtains, his shoulders slumping forward. Balt laid his arm comfortingly around him, rubbing his shoulder. “He’ll be okay, Cassie,” he tried to reassure him, but Cas had a horrible gut feeling weighing down on him.

 

 

Present Day

September 2019

 

Dean sat on his bed cross legged, a small leather-bound notebook sitting in front of him, left unopened. Truth be told, he was afraid to open it. He knew exactly what was in there. Well, not exactly, but, he guessed they were songs. Lyrics to songs he was never allowed to read. He had never really thought much about them, not until the notebook was quite literally thrown at him. Full force. It left a nasty bruise on his chest for over a week where the book had come into contact with his body.

 

He could still remember it like it had happened yesterday. He knew it wasn’t real, but the stinging in his jaw was still there from where Castiel had literally punched some sense into him. He could still hear how raw and vulnerable his voice was, breaking and cracking as he tried to explain to Dean just how much pain he brought him. It still made him grimace. It was still eating him alive.

 

Ten years, asshole.

 

He was hurting him for ten years. He couldn’t lie to himself now, though: he hadn’t been completely oblivious the entire time. But he was in denial.

 

I’m tired, Dean. I’m so fucking tired. I can’t do this anymore.

 

The words ringing in his head still felt like a slap to the face.

 

This explains everything, he had told him after throwing at him the notebook sitting on the bed in front of him. I- I can’t—

 

He was gone. He couldn’t follow him. He couldn’t move. He could barely breathe. He never opened the leather-bound journal. He remembered it clearly. All those times they would be back home, or on tour in the back of the bus, or on a long flight to Europe, or back home. Even when they were out eating, even when they went on their midnight pie or ice cream runs. That notebook was with him. It was different from the usual one he used to write songs for Dean and the rest of the band. The other one came in different colors and always had scribbles on the back, courtesy of Cas’ friends being annoying jerks but he never seemed to care. He didn’t mind people using those other notebooks or checking them out. The leather-bound one was off-limits, though. It never left his side. It was his journal; everyone knew and everyone respected him enough never to touch it.

 

Dean could still remember when Cas had misplaced it once, accidentally having left it in his luggage instead of his backpack and he had only realized once they were already on the plane. He had pulled an entire scene like Kevin’s mother did when she had realized she had lost her son in Home Alone. Dean had never seen him freak out like he had then. Usually, he was the one who helped him when he was panicking. They couldn’t get him to relax until they were off the plane and they had reclaimed their baggage. He had literally emptied all of his clothes on the airport floor until he had found his journal in the front compartment of the bag. Suffice to say, they got Cas drunk that night to have him relax a little. And maybe a little high. A little bit of Mary Jane never hurt.

 

He picked up the journal, running his fingertips lightly over the worn-out leather. He had never really held it for this long in his hands. He felt as if he was holding the most valuable item in the world. And maybe he was. For as long as he could remember, this notebook was the most important item in Cas’ life. It basically held every single thought he has had for as long as Dean could remember. Well, that was an exaggeration. He would have probably needed a bunch of those at least if that were the case. He didn’t know what the notebook was hiding, though, what secrets, but he had a feeling, and it wasn’t a nice one. It was dark.

 

He took a glance in the direction of the hall. It was empty. It wasn’t like he was going to read it out loud, nor did anyone probably care at all what he was doing. But he already felt like he was violating Castiel’s privacy, even if he was the one who gave him the notebook. He felt like he had to make sure that the environment was safe and that no one was going to read his secret private thoughts that no one else had probably ever had access too until today.

 

Dean cleared his throat, running a hand back through his air and letting it fall all the way down to his neck, rubbing it gently. The room was suddenly getting hotter despite the cold weather outside. He grabbed the neck of his t-shirt and pulled at it, airing out his chest. He let out a shaky breath between his parted lips and ran his tongue to wet them; they felt unusually dry, his mouth stuffed with cotton balls, his throat tight.

 

Dean let out a heavy breath, his shoulders sinking, and he let his gaze drop to the leather-bound notebook laying in his hands in his lap. He focused on the worn-out material, running the tip of his index finger ever so lightly over the creases and the markings left by pens on the cover. Some of them were not accidental, though. There was a small doodle of a pair of feathered wings on the top corner of the book which Dean recognized instantly. The left side was a perfectly plumed wing but the right one was broken, plucked, and beaten. It was the exact same picture Castiel had inked in the middle of his upper back, between his shoulder blades. Next to the doodle were a few words written in Castiel’s handwriting which Dean could recognize anywhere. But broken live on – Lord Byron.

 

With shaky fingers, Dean twirled the leather band that held the notebook closed and untied it from around it, and as he held his breath, his heart beating hard and fast in his chest, he grabbed ahold of the corner of the from cover of the book and flipped it open. He smoothed the first page over with his hand and squinted to read the small words written in the middle in the familiar cursive handwriting. Property of Castiel Novak. 2008— He never finished it. Dean flipped through it fast and found that there were only a couple of pages left empty though. He sighed, going back to the first page. He ran his finger over Castiel’s neatly printed name. He flipped the page.

 

October 23rd2008

 

I feel like I should write something important in this thing… I did just impulsively pay $20 for it. That was probably a bad idea. Maybe I should just not write anything and save it from the bullshit I will spew. What the hell was I thinking.

 

Dean couldn’t help but laugh. This was before they had met. There was nothing funny about that diary entry, but he could just hear the words in Cas’ raspy, grumpy voice. He couldn’t help but grin.

 

August 12th2009

 

Song of the day? Maybe I should write a song of the day in this thing, whenever I use it at least. Not a bad day. Good Vibrations, the Beach Boys.

 

 

August 12. That was the day they met. Dean smiled, flipping to the next page. The entries were spaced by months after that. Some were lyrics, some were just thoughts. Dean recognized a lot of them, mostly because he was present for almost every day that was mentioned. The first show that Cas went to, the day they wrote their first song together, the day that Dean introduced Lisa to the band, the many parties they went to together, the day Lazarus Rising were signed, all the recording sessions, the concerts, the tours the backstage moments, the time they kissed when they were very drunk.

 

January 1st, 2010

 

Happy new year. Yay. You kissed me. Why would you do that? It’s like you want me to question every single aspect of my entire existence, at least when it comes to you. You’re with Lisa. Friends DON’T do that...Fuck. Why do I want to do it again?

 

Dean remembered that kiss. It was at their New Year party after their show. They were in their backyard. His lips had looked so soft in the night light. And they were. Maybe they were even softer than he had expected. He wanted to do it again too, but he was with Lisa. And they were just friends. And he couldn’t just… he couldn’t. Not then.

 

July 3rd, 2010

Alright. Fine. I love you. There, you happy? Yeah, me neither. Fucking hell.

 

By that point, it was clear that every journal entry was a direct letter to Dean. Though he never referred to him by name, he always referred to him in the 2ndperson point of view. It was clear he was addressing him. The entries were getting more frequent, until they were only days apart by the end of 2013. The songs or short poems were becoming more frequent as well. They went all the way till the end of 2018. He had flipped through the notebook quickly. He had stopped writing after his birthday last year. Fuck, of course. Dean had completely forgotten. They were supposed to hang out, get some pie, get a tattoo, and then get drunk. They did that every year on each one of their birthdays. It started in 2011 when they celebrated Dean’s birthday in Amsterdam while they were on tour. Dean wanted a tattoo, and so did Cas. They had gotten a matching pair of small cartoon pies on their arms. They got really drunk after that, and maybe had one too many pot brownies. It was a good day, and it started a new tradition. They did it again when they spent Cas’ birthday in Los Angeles that same year, and every year after that. Except for last year. Dean had decided to party hard the night before. A few girls, a few guys, a lot of drugs and alcohol. What could go wrong? Well… he was woken up in the hospital a few days later. They had to get his stomach pumped, and it wasn’t the first time. Cas was the only one there when he woke up. He had stayed until he was reassured that Dean was alive and breathing. And then he left with a very disappointed and pissed off look on his face. Dean knew he had fucked up big time, so he resorted to getting drunk again once he was out of hospital. He really was a dumb ass at times, wasn’t he?

 

 

March 23rd, 2013

 

I know I’m not the only but at least I’m one

I heard a little love is better than none

Just a little bit of your heart is all I’m asking for. [original lyrics from Just a little bit of your heart by Harry Styles]

 

February 17th, 2014

 

Why won’t you look at me the way you look at him

I know I’m not as great, but at least I care

I guess I wouldn’t me if we share

If it would mean I’d get a little bit of your love

 

May 8th, 2014

 

I’m worried and I’m scared

I can’t lose you

No, not to the white lady too

 

December 25th, 2014

 

You and me

And Mary Jane makes three

Don’t let the devil’s candy free

 

 

April 4th, 2015

 

Please don’t leave me alone

I’m not safe on my own

 

June 18th, 2015

 

Go ahead and laugh, even if it hurts

Go ahead and pull the pin [original lyrics from Atlas: HEART by Sleeping At Last]

 

August 6th, 2015

 

Fourth months has never felt so long

Your sweet release picks me up when I hit rock-bottom

It’s a losing battle, a double-edged sword

The bittersweet stinging, the sharp, biting cold.

 

January 21st, 2016

 

Even when he’s next to me

We could not be more far apart

And he tastes like birthday cake and story time and fall

And to him, I taste like nothing at all [original lyrics from SHE by Dodie]

 

September 16th, 2016

 

What doesn’t kill you makes you wish you were dead

Got a hole in my soul growing deeper and deeper

And I can’t take one more moment of this silence

The loneliness is haunting me and the weight of the world

Is getting harder to hold up

 

October 1st, 2016

 

It comes in waves, I close my eyes
Hold my breath and let it bury me
I'm not OK and it's not all right
Won't you drag the lake and bring me home again

March 2nd, 2017

 

Who will fix me now?
Dive in when I'm down?
Save me from myself
Don't let me drown
Who will make me fight?
Drag me out alive?
Save me from myself
Don't let me drown [original lyrics from Drown by Bring Me the Horizon]

 

June 7th, 2017

 

I tried to pray but the angels said “we’re too busy for you”

Had a talk about my Mama about losing my belief

Cuz since she lost her Mama, the Lord has been helping with her grief

 

She said He might just be a big story.

But there’s more to life than truth

There’s hope my son in people’s faith

Gives them strength to pull through [original lyrics by Bruno Major from On Our own]

 

So why can’t I pull through?

 

What if the world’s a hopeless place

We’re just scared to admit we’re alone

What if the world’s a hopeless place

We’re on our own

 

November 19th, 2017

 

You know I’d rather drown than to go on without you

But you’re pulling me down

 

January 26th, 2018

 

I want you and nothing comes close to the way that I need you

I wish I could feel your skin and I want you from somewhere within

 

January 31st, 2018

 

It feels like there’s oceans between you and me once again

We hide our emotions under the surface and try to pretend

But it feels like there’s oceans between you and me… [original lyrics from Oceans by Seafret]

April 10th, 2018

 

I have loved, and I’ve loved, and I’ve lost you

And it hurts like hell

So, take my mind and take my pain

Like empty bottles take the rain

Take my heart and take my hand

Like an ocean takes the dirty sand

And heal, heal, heal

In a dark room, on the cold floor,

I can’t feel a damn thing

It’s tearing me apart but I can’t let go

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend

Somewhere along in the bitterness

I wanna cry and I wanna love

but all my tears have been used up

literally none of this makes sense

and none of it even rhymes

the thoughts in my head are clouded

and it’s a mess up there

I can’t do this anymore

I’m just so tired

There’s nothing left for me to hold on to.

I want to let go but I can’t

I can’t let you go

I don’t wanna let you go

You pull me down and you lift me up

I don’t want to do this anymore

 

Dean dropped the notebook on the bed, his hands shaking. He ran his fingers over his face, dragging them through his hair and resting his hand behind his neck. He released a shaky breath through his mouth, his eyes closed. It was no use though. The words were plastered on the back of his eyelids. I can’t do this anymore.

 

Shit…

 

Dean picked the notebook up once again and flipped through it quickly. He turned the paged, past the journal entries about Dean’s addictions and all his worst habits that hurt Cas more than he had ever imagined. He ignored them and stopped on April 4th, 2015. I’m not safe on my own. His heart was starting to beat faster and faster. He skipped over the rest of the very, very dark poem and skimmed through the puffy pages, worn from being used and flipped through so many times, and clearly stained with water. They were tears, Dean knew. Fuck. August 6th, 2015.

It’s a losing battle, a double-edged sword

The bittersweet stinging, the sharp, biting cold.

 

He couldn’t have been so oblivious. Cas was his best friend. Even when he was too drunk or high, he noticed. He noticed when Cas wasn’t feeling well. This couldn’t have gone unnoticed. Someone should have noticed at least. It made sense why he wouldn’t talk about it to Dean. But he needed to have talked to someone else about it.

 

Before Dean even knew what he was doing, he was on his feet and walking to the windowsill, the notebook in his hands. He picked up the landline phone on the nightstand and dialed the number he had memorized. While he waited for the phone to be picked up, his eyes were transfixed on the ink-stained page, but it wasn’t the writing he was focused on. It was the small and faded pink stain on the corner of the page. It was no coincidence.

 

“Hello! This is Celeste Bradbury-Gale, I’m five and a half!”

 

Dean couldn’t help but grin as he heard her little voice coming from the phone. “Hey, Cece, it’s Dee,” he told her, hearing an excited squeal on the other side of the call.

 

Uncle Dee! Uncle Dee!”

 

“Hey, kiddo. Listen, is your mom home? I really need to speak with her please.”

 

“OK, just a sec.” Dean had to pull the phone away from his ear then as Celeste was screaming at the top of her lungs for her mother. He could hear a little bit of shuffling and Celeste saying his name. “Hey, Dean! How are you?”

 

“Oh, Dotty! Hey, I’m good, I’m good. How are you?” He raised his eyebrows, having expected Charlie to pick up the phone. But then again, he did have to be more specific.

 

I’m doing great, thank you. So, what’s up? Cee said you wanted to speak with me?”

 

“Oh, actually I meant Charlie, but it’s nice hearing your voice!” He explained and Dotty chuckled.

 

You too, Dean. We miss you round here. Anyway, I’ll get Charlie, just a second,”she told him and Dean heard a little bit of shuffling before the phone was picked up again. He chewed on the inside of his cheek in anxiousness, until he heard Charlie’s voice. “Deano! How’s my fav hetero doing?”

 

“I’m not hetero and you know that,” he replied with an eyeroll and Charlie giggled on the other end.

 

“I know, I’m teasing. That’s clearly Sammy.”She said and they both laughed at her joke. “So, what’s up? Everything okay? You never call on Tuesdays.”

 

“Yeah, I’m good, I’m… well, I’m not, actually.”

He could practically see Charlie frowning on the other end of the line as he heard a little bit of shuffling and then a door open and close.

 

“Alright, lay it on me, babe.”

 

Dean took in a deep breath, leaning against the cold window. He looked down at his lap, focusing on the pink blob again.

 

“Charlie, I need to ask you something and I need you to answer me honestly, please.”

 

“Wow, okay, I promise, Dean. What’s wrong?”her voice was now laced with more concern than ever.

 

“When Cas— when he was... whenever he was,” he couldn’t put it into words. “When he felt bad, did he– did he hurthimself?”

 

“Dean, what are you talking about?” the concern in her voice was growing more and more.

 

“Cas. Has he ever hurt himself or thought about it?”

 

“I don’t know… honestly. He was in a very dark place, Dean. I don’t— I don’t know. Why are you asking?”

 

“He gave me his journal. And I just opened it for the first time. God,” he ended his words in a whisper, running his fingers through his hair. He could feel the stinging in the corner of his eyes. “Charlie, it’s bad. And I’m really scared.”

 

“How bad?” She asked him, her voice constrained. “Dean, how bad?”

 

“I don’t know, bad, Charlie. There’s like a stain and I’m pretty sure– I’m pretty sure it’s blood.” His voice was shaking and he couldn’t keep his hands steady. He held them in tight fists at his sides, his nails digging into his palms.

 

Shit. Dean, he’s not— I saw him a few days ago. He’s okay now,”she tried to reassure him, but it was clear that she was also trying to reassure herself.

 

“But he wasn’t then, Char. And I didn’t know. I didn’t do anything. I only made it worse,” he cried out, finding it hard to fight back his tears now.

 

“Dean, you were in a bad place too. You were both at your worst. It’s not your fault. He didn’t tell anyone. You couldn’t have known. There’s nothing we could have done.”How could she be so calm about this? God, he envied her.

 

“There is someone. Jimmy would know.”

 

“Dean, it’s okay. Don’t worry about this too much. Focus on you. Cas is okay,” She told him but Dean wasn’t hearing it.

 

“I have to know, Charlie. Anyway. I love you. Give Cece a big kiss from me and tell her I’ll see her on Christmas!”

 

He hung up before Charlie could even reply.

 

He pulled out his phone from his pocket and opened the contacts app, scrolling until he found Jimmy Novak. He dialed his number and put it against his ear again, waiting patiently until he picked up after a few rings.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Jimmy, hey, it’s uh, it’s Dean,” he spoke softly into the phone, almost mumbling.

 

“Dean? What? Hey, man! It’s great to hear from you– Claire, Claire, no! Why? Because. It’s past your curfew.” There was a loud whine from the ten-year-old kid and a loud sigh from Jimmy before he turned his attention back to the phone call. “hey, sorry about that. You know how little girls get.” He apologized and Dean chuckled, nodding his head.

 

“Yeah, don’t worry about it. How’s the family? Claire and Amelia? How are they doing?” Dean asked, deciding to keep the small talk going.

 

Everyone’s okay, you know. The usual. How about you? They treatin’ you right up there?” Jimmy chuckled and Dean smiled.

 

“Yeah, I get all the extra pudding cups,” he joked and they both laughed at his joke.

 

“That’s great, pal. So, is there anything I can do for you? Not to be that guy, but, you never really call.”

 

Dean chuckled again, his eyes darting down to the carpeted floor. “Yeah, I know. Uh, I just– Jimmy, I need to ask you something. It may be out of the blue, and not my place to ask you but, I need to know.”

 

“Whoa, okay, that sounds serious. What’s up?”

 

“It’s about Cas—”

 

Listen, Dean, I—”

 

“No, Jimmy, please, hear me out. I— Cas. Has he ever— has he ever hurt himself?”

 

It was quiet for a few seconds. He could hear the scratch of Jimmy’s heavy breathing through the phone and his awkward cough. “Why do you ask?” He finally spoke. His voice was quiet, almost cold. It ran a shiver down Dean’s spine.

 

“I—  his journal. He gave it to me,” he replied simply. Jimmy let out a heavy sigh, remaining quiet for a few moments.

 

“If you’re asking if it was your fault for not loving him, it’s not. He was hurt, sure, but it was just something to add on top of everything else. It’s not my story to share, Dean. But he’s okay now, I promise. It was… it was a bad time. But he got help. He’s— safe.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“I swear. He’s been happier than ever these past few months. Look, I have to go handle Claire, Amelia’s not home, so… Don’t worry yourself about it Dean.  He’ll talk to you about it when he’s ready, you know how he gets. Just give him time.”

 

“Right, time…” Dean breathed. That is if he even talks to him in the first place.

 

“Yeah, time. Anyway, it’s good hearing from you, buddy. See you soon,” Jimmy said before hanging up. Dean sighed, putting the phone back down on the nightstand. He took in a shaky breath, glancing down at the journal. He frowned, biting down on his lower lip, his fingers grabbing a hold of the pages. He opened it to the remaining empty pages and went around the room, opening drawers in search of a pen. He had everything he needed in this notebook to finish the songs he was trying to write.

 

August 2015

San Francisco

 

The gentle tune of Tame Impala’s Feels Like We Only Go Backwards was playing on the record in the living room as Dean walked in Charlie and Dotty were sitting on the floor, their backs to the coffee table. Sam was sprawled on the armchair, his legs hanging off the side. Jo, Kevin, and Garth were laying down on the couch. He smiled as he walked over to them and sat on the carpet next to Charlie. Benny came in right behind him, holding a tray of brownies.

 

“Second batch, ladies and gents!” He announced excitedly and they all screamed out excitedly. Sure, they were eating pot brownies, and they were absolutely baked, but it was nice. This was exactly the kind of relaxing Friday evening they needed before going back on tour on Monday.

 

Dean grabbed a piece and stuffed it in his mouth, the sweet taste almost mouthwatering. “Hey, where’s Cas? He’s missing out.” He turned around but they all shrugged their shoulders.

 

“Upstairs. Bathroom, I think,” Sam replied, taking a sip from his beer afterwards.

 

“CAS! COME DOWN HERE! YOU’RE MISSING OUT!” Dean called out, falling into a coughing fit as little bits of brownies got stuck in his throat.

 

He burst out laughing as he tried to clear his throat and avoid choking, Charlie slapping him on his back with force. “I’m good,” he announced, his voice scratchy from coughing so hard. They all laughed at him as he grabbed his own bottle of beer and took a large swig.

 

It was another few minutes before Cas joined them, dressed in new clothes and his hair wet from having just showered. He was wearing an old sweater, though it wasn’t that cold. It was odd, but Dean paid no mind it. Cas shot them all a smile, twirling a small item in his hands. Dean recognized it as his swiss army knife. He walked over to the table, grabbing a piece of brownie. He took a bite, nodding with a grin, shooting Benny a thumbs-up. He sat down next to Dean, his back against the cupboard under the television.

 

“Tame Impala. Nice.” He commented, nodding his head along to the tune of Keep On Lying. He raised his hand to take another bite when Jo spoke up.

 

“Dude, is your arm bleeding?”

 

Cas’ head shot up, shooting a glance at Jo, and then turning back to his arm. His sleeve was stained with a drop of faint red. His arm was indeed bleeding, Dean noticed. Cas swore under his breath, getting up and grabbing a bunch of napkins from the tissue box. He held them tightly against his arm under his sleeve. “I was uh, shaving my arms,” he stated and for some reason, Garth and Kevin found that absolutely hilarious, bursting out laughing. The rest of them seemed to find the humor in it as well and soon they were laughing along.

 

Cas was the first to quiet down, choosing to chew quietly on his brownie, his eyes fixed on the knife in his hand. Dean watched him carefully, an amused look on his face. How did he not notice that Cas’ shaves his arms? He didn’t always do it, did he?

 

Chapter Text

December 2015

 

Cas had gotten used to the sound of screaming fans and loud instruments. It was still exciting to stand backstage or front row and watch his friends perform to thousands upon thousands of fans at a time, hundreds of shows per year. But it did get a little tiring, and he wasn’t proud to admit that sometimes he found himself dozing off in the middle of a show only to be woken up by a crew member or one of his friends poking him rather annoyingly without forgetting to make him feel guilty by jokingly mentioning how boring their shows were getting. They all knew it was quite the opposite, actually. Though their routine had become almost robotic and monotonic, the fans never seemed to care as everything the band did on stage — from covering the same My Chemical Romance song to Dean throwing his shirt aside and Kevin dowsing him in water — as exciting as it was their first tour. If anything, the crowds were only getting louder and heavier. Cas was getting tired though. He loved his friends, and he loved watching them do what they did best, but he was human. And he missed his tiny ass bed back home.

 

It was the last show of the year, the first leg of the tour finally over. With his shoulder learning against the wall as he watched his friends from the side of the stage, hidden from the public’s eyes, it was hard keeping his own eyes open. Five minutes snooze wasn’t going to hurt anyone, was it? He had become an expert at taking power naps anywhere. Without them, he wouldn’t function at all during the day. He shoved his hands in the pockets of his dark jeans, leaning his head against the cold wall and closing his eyes, letting out a small sigh as the familiar melody of Lazarus Rising’s song Mary Jane resonated through the large venue. It was one of their slower, acoustic songs. Cas smiled as he remembered the day they wrote it, completely smashed and high off their asses on some marijuana. It was a good day. He remembered fumbling around with an acoustic guitar and then Jo had pulled out her own guitar out of nowhere and joined him and after that the lyrics had kind of just written themselves between his own efforts and Dean’s.

 

He thought of Dean’s head falling on his shoulder as he burst out laughing at the lyrics they had just written for the chorus (My sweet, sweet Mary Jane, we’re not insane, call me peter parker and I’ll keep you safe) which of course, they ended up changing when they had sobered up. Though, Peter Parker remained part of it. He smiled fondly at the memory as Dean’s gentle yet raspy voice rang through the loud speakers, his eyes still closed.

 

“Castiel Novak?”

 

Cas jumped in surprise, his eyes opening wide fearfully. “Oh, crap,” he exclaimed, his hand settling on his chest as his heartrate had accelerated tenfold. He turned around, his eyes landing on a well-dressed man, probably the most well-dressed man in this entire place. Anyone familiar with the band had gotten used to their absolute refusal to wear anything that wasn’t comfortable or denim and plaid or leather. It was a very rare occasion when you saw someone in a suit. You were more likely to see someone in pajamas on stage than someone in a suit and tie. So, to say that Castiel was shocked and confused beyond measure would have been the understatement of the year. “Yeah, hi. I’m so sorry, you scared the hell out of me!”

 

“My apologies,” the guy said in a thick and rather posh English accent with a little chuckle, a smirk settling on his expression. It was then that Castiel finally took him in. He was a little taller than Cas, his dark hair cut short and neatly, his eyes a piercing blue. He was wearing a very expensive navy-blue suit, Cas noted, his tie of the upper end brands. Yet he couldn’t recognize him and couldn’t think of a single reason why this man would come looking for him in person or would want to talk to him at all. “You are Castiel, aren’t you? Or this would have been a very awkward interaction.”

 

“I am, yes… and it’s still a little bit awkward, I won’t lie,” Cas laughed, the man joining in.

 

“Yes, well… My name’s Luc Morningstar.” The man introduced himself and Cas nodded along with a smile, putting his hand forward to shake when he was suddenly struck with a realization.

 

“Wait— you’re theLuc Morningstar? Of LUX Studios?” Cas exclaimed very loudly, a smile starting to grow over his features.

 

The man grinned in response and taking Castiel’s previously held out hand and shaking it. “The one and only,” he laughed, nodding his head. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Novak,” he told him, letting go of his hand.

 

“Wha– how– I— please, uhm, call me Cas, I— It’s nice to meet you, sir!” Cas blabbered on, making the man laugh, probably at him but Cas couldn’t care less at that moment. “How— how can I help you?’

 

“You’ve written all the lyrics to the songs that the band plays, correct?”

 

“Yes, most of them… Dean and I work on them together closely,” Cas replied with a nod, watching the man carefully as he pulled out a few pieces of folded-up paper from the inside pocket of his suit jacket.

 

“Yes, that’s what the songwriting credits go to on the records, as per your contract right? Every member has equal rights to each song and you get the same rights as the members? The fifth Beatle, yeah?”

 

“Well, sixth in that sense, I guess but, it’s more like an Elton-Bernie type of relationship—”

 

“Except that you’re Bernie alone and all five of them are Elton,” Mr. Morningstar stated as he unfolded the pieces of paper. Cas cleared his throat, scratching the back of his neck. Technically, he did write ninety percent of alltheir lyrics by himself.

 

“Yeah, well…” he trailed off, not really knowing what the whole point of this conversation was. The contract their band had was a very fair one, he was pretty sure the Beatles or the Rolling Stones didn’t have that good of a contract.

 

“Well, these say the exact opposite of what you’ve said. These lyrics,” he smoothed the stack of papers over and turned it over, handing it to Cas. “Correct me if I’m wrong but, these are pure Castiel Novak.”

 

Castiel’s eyebrows furrowed as his eyes scanned over the papers, reading the words printed on the white sheets. He frowned as the words sounded familiar until he realized that they were lyrics, his own lyrics. “How— how did you get these?” He asked, his voice quiet and confused, and honestly, a little bit scared. “These are unreleased songs. Unreleased because I never even let the band write melodies for them. Dude, these were in my desk in my room at my parents’ house. How the heck did you get these?” Cas asked in absolute disbelief. He looked up, his eyes meeting Mr. Morningstar’s, who were watching him calmly.

 

“They were sent to me, personally, by a mister C. Novak. I assumed it was you, I don’t suppose there’s another C. Novak in—”

 

“I did not send these to you, sir,” Cas interrupted him, his voice curt.

 

“Well, someone did. See?” He went for his pocket again, this time pulling out a ripped open envelope. “Aha, C. Novak. Cursive and all.”

 

“Give me that,” Cas muttered, snatching the envelope from between the man’s hands, his eyes scanning the writing and address on the back of it. He let out a groan as he recognized the handwriting and return address. “That’s not a C. That’s a G. Gabriel Novak, my dumbass older brother.” Cas explained.

 

Luc Morningstar seemed genuinely surprised, taking the envelope back from Cas to inspect the writing. “Oh, well, would you look at that? It is a G,” he stated with a laugh, handing Cas back the paper. “They were sent to me for a reason, and I received them, and I loved them. There’s something about these lyrics, and not just these,” he said, pointing at the songs in Castiel’s hands. “Your songs in general,” he added, his hand moving to motion in the direction of the stage where his friends were currently singing another one of his songs. “They’re raw, and passionate, and beautiful. They’re different from any other songwriter’s stuff I know.”

 

“Wow, thank you…” Cas replied, feeling his cheeks starting to heat up. “It means a lot, coming from you, Mr. Morningstar.”

 

“I mean it. I like your stuff, and I believe you have a lot of potential. Have you experimented before?” He asked him and Cas raised an incredulous eyebrow.

 

“Experimented?’

 

“Tried writing with other artists. You’ve got a lot of talent and I believe it’s being wasted when it’s not branching out everywhere, leaving a little taste of it here, there, and everywhere.”

 

“I can’t say that I have…” Cas replied quietly, chewing on his bottom lip.

 

“I’ll just be blunt and come forward with my proposal. How would you feel about working for LUX studios? Working alongside our best artists and their teams of songwriters, collaborating with our best poets, if you will. Of course, before you start getting any ideas, I am in no way asking you to stop working with your friends here. What you guys have is very special. You have a contract with them anyway, right?  I’m sure that thing is pretty strict anyway. But what if you tried a little bit of new stuff? You know, on the side.”

 

Castiel tilted his head upward, his eyes meeting Mr. Morningstar’s smiling ones. It seemed as though he already knew what Cas’ answer was going to be before he even had the time to think it through. But they both knew it, it was an amazing offer. And Castiel would be a fool to say no to such an offer. He chewed on his bottom lip, leaning his shoulder against the wall. He stood up straight, running his fingers through his hair. He turned around, watching the stage, the fans’ screams catching up with him once again. The band had just finished another song and were taking a singing break, each one of them taking a sip of their water or other drink they had with them while Kevin talked to the crowd, hyping them up even more. Dean was standing toward the back, facing Charlie. He had to crane his neck to talk to her since her drumkit was on a platform slightly higher than the rest of the stage so that the audience had a better view of her. She had something that had him throwing his head back in laughter. Cas couldn’t help but smile as he watched his friends interacting so freely and happily. It was as though they had felt his eyes watching them because they were turning around and staring right back at him, their eyebrows raised questioningly, no doubt having noticed the tall, scary man in the expensive suit. Dean made a face, his eyes dancing amusedly, silently asking Cas who the man who had just placed his hand on Cas shoulders was. Cas replied by pulling the corners of his mouth downward in a facial shrug.

 

“Think it over, Mr. Novak. Here’s my card. I’ll be waiting for your call.”

 

Cas turned to stare back at Luc Morningstar who was handing him a small business card. He took it from him, reading the letters in gold with his number and address. He opened his mouth to reply, looking up but only to find the man gone already.

 

He let out a heavy sigh, turning back around with his back against the wall, watching his friends closing the show with another great performance.

 

***

The sound of the airplane’s engine had become soothing. Castiel no longer paid any attention to the vibration that came along with the wheels turning on the runway as the plane sped until it was in the air. As soon as the orange light was off indicating that he could remove his belt, Cas was up on his feet and making his way to the back of the private jet. He wasn’t sure where he was going, exactly. There weren’t many places he could escape to in a plane. But he knew for sure that he was trying to escape having to be confined in a tight space for a half a day. Why did Asia have to be so far away from their home?

 

As he walked down the narrow hall between the seats in the main area of the jet, Cas stuffed his hand in the pocket of his jeans, fumbling with the cool metallic handle he found in there. The hard material felt comforting, though his mind was still racing a million thoughts a second. He still wondered how the army knife wasn’t confiscated by the security at the airport gates, but he guessed it was the privilege of flying privately.

 

“Hey, Cas, man? Where are you going? I was just about to pull out Cards Against Humanity!”  Charlie exclaimed excitedly, holding out the box of cards. Cas stopped in his tracks to look at her, his mouth hanging agape as he tried to think of an excuse. His fingers froze in his pocket, releasing the metal handle. The game did sound tempting though.

 

“Uh, yeah, just gonna go to the bathroom for a sec. I’ll be right back,” he finally said, sending her a weak smile and turning back around to continue making his way out. He let out a heavy breath through his nose, listening to the shuffling of his friends behind him.

 

“Cards Against Humanity? I’ll play,” he heard Kevin announce and Jo mumbling in agreement. He pushed past the curtains and turned to the bathroom door as soon as it pushed open, making Cas jump in surprise.

 

“Oh, gosh,” he breathed out, taking a step back, his shoulders hitting the wall in the tight corridor space. He looked up, his eyes meeting Dean’s. Dean smirked at him sheepishly, brushing the bridge of his nose with his thumb. “Sorry, didn’t know you were in there, Dean,” he told him quietly, avoiding his gaze. Dean moved away a little to make more space for the two of them and smiled down at Cas, giving him a shrug of the shoulders.

 

“Don’t worry about it, sweetheart,” he told him with a small, teasing wink that Cas would have missed if he hadn’t looked back up. The second he noticed the glazed over look in Dean’s eyes, he felt his heart drop and his stomach churn. It seemed however he tried to confront Dean, none of it ever worked. He was only making Dean promise him things and they both knew he couldn’t keep all those promises at this point, as much as he genuinely wanted to. Maybe he should stop trying all together. But he knew he could never. He couldn’t never leave his best friend like that. And gosh, he was just so tired of trying, but he couldn’t stop. He clutched the metal handle again in his pocket, running his thumb in a soothing pattern over the brand carvings on it.

 

“I’d wait like… five minutes before going in there, if I were you…” Dean trailed off, shooting Cas a grin. He patted him on the shoulder, clearing his throat as his chest shook with quiet laughter while he turned around to walk back into the common area where all their friends were. “I think I’m gonna go pass out, now.”

 

“Yeah, you do that,” Cas mumbled, his heart rate accelerating, but in frustration this time. He let out a heavy sigh, pushing himself off the wall and toward the bathroom door. He grabbed the door handle and pushed it open, only to regret it the second he did so. “Oh, god, dude… yekh,” Cas exclaimed, averting his gaze and turning back around as fast as his body allowed. He should have listened to Dean’s warning. He really did not have to see Dylan, the flight attendant half naked. He let out a frustrated huff, turning back around and walking to his seat. He flopped down into the chair wrapping his blanket close around his body.

 

“Hey, Cas, we’re handing out the cards,” Charlie told him from her seat in the back of the room. He looked up at her and the rest of the group waiting for him expectantly. Benny, Jo, Charlie and Kevin were sitting happily around the table counting their cards. Dean was in the front, curled up in his seat with his eyes closed and an open tiny bottle of whiskey in his cup holder. He let out a small breath and shook his head.

 

“It’s alright, I think I’ll just get some sleep. I’m really tired,” he said instead, trying to ignore the disappointed look on Charlie’s face. He turned around, facing the window and staring out into the night sky. He couldn’t see anything at all, but he squinted hard, placing his hand on the cool window, trying to make out the shapes of the clouds they were flying above and attempting to make out any stars in the clear sky. He tried to tune out the conversation that his friends were having, but it was hard. He listened to them laugh quietly among each other, bickering and fighting over who should win each round.

 

He placed his forehead against the window, the cold comfortingly cooling his skin, and closed his eyes.

 

“Hey, so how’s Celeste dealing with the new nursery?” Jo asked, placing a card on the table.

 

“Oh, much better, thank goodness. Yeah, Dot ran a super thorough background check on that one herself. I think she used her cop resources to check that all the parents are clean,” Charlie replied with a laugh.

 

“Yeah, well. Neither one of you could have known that the other nursery would have druggy parents who would accidentally leave a bag of marijuana in their kid’s bag,” Benny pointed out, chuckling to himself.

 

Yeah that was crazy, man. I think their kid ate some of that stash,” Charlie said and burst out laughing.

 

“A waste,” Kevin joked and they all burst out laughing harder at his comment.

 

Cas frowned to himself. He wanted to sit there with his friends but he couldn’t get himself to. He stayed in his seat, his eyes closed, forehead leaning against the window, the low hum of the plane’s engine lulling him to sleep.

 

When he woke up next, there was still three hours left before they would land in San Francisco. Cas stretched in his seat, kicking his blanket to the ground. He groaned, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

 

“Morning, sleeping head. You slept for almost the entire ride!”

 

Cas jumped, turning to his right to see Jo sitting there. She was grinning at him, a funny look in her eyes. He furrowed his brows in confusion when she pointed to her chin, mouthing the word “drool.” Castiel felt his cheeks heat up in embarrassment. He pulled his sleeved down over his knuckles and used the now covered part of the back of his hand to wipe his chin.

 

“Thanks,” he mumbled.

 

“Yeah, no problem,” Jo laughed, turning her attention back to her cellphone. Cas cleared his throat, getting up to his feet to stretch his body. He could see everyone else in the room. He spotted the top of Benny and Kevin’s heads in their respective seats, fast asleep with Kevin’s head on Benny’s shoulder. It was kinda adorable, he thought. Charlie was in the front on her laptop, but the seat next to hers which was Dean’s was empty. He turned around, spotting him on the couch, guitar in his lap, but he wasn’t playing anything. He wasn’t asleep either, he just seemed lost, deep in his thoughts.

 

“Excuse me,” Cas whispered quietly, and Jo moved her legs a little to let him pass. With more room, he stretched his back, hearing a satisfying crack and pop.

 

“Oh, gosh, ouch,” Dean muttered, as if brought back from his trance. Cas looked at him, seeing him visibly cringing at the sounds that left his body as he was stretching. He smirked, holding his arms backwards, his fingers interlocked. He strained his muscles until he heard the satisfying pop from each one of his shoulders, and all ten of his knuckles had cracked. “Oh my gosh, dude, please, please stop that,” Dean begged, holding his hands out to his ears, shutting his eyes closed.

 

“But there’s still my ankles and knees!” Cas pouted jokingly, a mischievous look in his eyes.

 

“No. Don’t you dare!” Dean threatened him, pointing a non-intimidating finger at him. Cas just smirked at him and proceeded to extend his right leg out until his knee popped and then the same with the left one. He then rolled each of his ankles hearing a small crack from each one of them. “I hate you so much right now,” Dean said and Cas grinned innocently at him, walking over and sitting beside him. “Glad that’s over though,” Dean added when Cas remembered there was still his neck. He turned to face Dean, his grin only widening. Dean frowned, squinting his eyes at him. “No. I know that look. NOPE!”

 

Dean set his guitar aside, his hands now free. He had to stop Cas before he let out the ultimate cracking sound.

 

“You can’t stop it, Dean. It’s inevitable,” Cas said in the most serious tone, but the amused look on his face proved otherwise.

 

“No, you catching these hands is inevitable,” Dean replied with a smirk of his own, holding his hands out.

 

“Oh, no… we’re not doing this…” Cas giggled, shaking his head. He pushed himself further away from Dean until he was all the way at the edge of the couch.

 

“You’re not escaping this,” Dean said and Cas pretended to think about it really hard, holding his hand under his chin.

 

“Hmm, but I think I will.” He stuck his tongue out childishly at Dean and then twisted his neck until it finally cracked. It was honestly the most relaxing move in the world and he let Dean know with the little satisfied groan he let out. But Dean wasn’t reciprocating that feeling. He was mortified and very bothered.

 

“Oh, that’s it you cocky dick!” Dean grunted, getting on his feet, expecting Cas to get on his feet to run as well but Cas just remained in his seat, falling backwards instead, laughing very hard.

 

“Cocky dick.” He managed to breathe out.

 

“What?” Dean chuckled, frowning in confusion. “What’s so funny?”

 

“Cocky dick,” Cas repeated, bursting out into heavier laughter. “That’s just— that’s genius. That’s hilarious.” He got out through his laughs. And even though Dean wasn’t exactly sure what Cas found extremely hilarious, he found himself laughing along. He sat back down next to him as they both laughed so hard, clutching their sides and wiping their eyes until they quieted down.

 

They fell into a comfortable silence soon after and Cas found himself turning around to stare at Dean’s face. He could see every single freckle that adorned his face, peppered on his cheeks and nose. He wanted to reach over and caress them ever so gently with his thumb, use the tip of his index to count each and every one of them. They were in the hundreds, or maybe even thousands, he thought. He wanted to be able to touch his face intimately. To share his personal space. But he couldn’t.

 

Even though Lisa had broken up with Dean, because of his busy career, but mainly everyone knew it was because of his downward spiral with the drugs. Even if Dean was available. He wasn’t available to him. Dean didn’t love him the way he wanted him to. Even if he did, it wasn’t what Cas would want. He knew it was not healthy and it tore him apart. He couldn’t let it tear them apart.

 

He cleared his throat, sitting back up, leaning his elbows on his knees.

 

“So, uh, I was thinking. Uh…” Cas didn’t know how to tell him. There was no easy way to let it out, anyway. Dean sat up as well, giving Cas his attention. “When the next leg of the tour picks up in February, I was thinking I’d stay back home…”

 

“Oh…” Was all Dean could reply to that.

 

“Yeah, uh, I kind of need a break from all the travelling around. And I miss my mom and dad. Even Jimmy and Gabe. And I haven’t seen Claire in a while. And I just— honestly, I’m exhausted, Dean. I mean, aren’t you?” Cas explained, turning to look at Dean but he was staring straight ahead instead.

 

“Yeah, but that’s the job, Cas. Album, tour, album, tour, album, tour.”

 

“Yeah, album, tour. I’m there for the album part, but I don’t have to be travelling the world all the time. I just miss my bed, honestly. I miss being at home. I miss sitting in the basement on your bed and writing songs together. That’s where all the good stuff happened, stress and worry free.”

 

“Where’s all this coming from, Cas? I thought you wanted this,” Dean countered, finally turning to look at Castiel, an undecipherable look on his face.

 

“I do. But I also need to slow down a little. It’s not— Dean, I’m not– I’m not feeling well…” Cas trailed off, picking at the sleeves of his sweater. He scratched absentmindedly at the inside of his arm pulling his sleeves further down his palms, almost covering his fingertips.

 

“What, is it the flu or something?”

 

“No,” Cas shook his head, turning his gaze to his feet. He let out a heavy breath, realizing Dean wasn’t going to understand unless he told him point blank, and he wasn’t ready just yet.

 

“I just need a break, alright? I need a break from all the moving around and the loud noise and the junk food and the drugs and the alcohol and y—” he cut himself off before saying things he would regret as he was on a roll. “a-and this life.”

 

“You mean the band?” Dean asked, a frown seemingly settling on his features.

 

“No, of course not, Dean.” Cas shook his head profusely.

 

“Me?”

 

Cas hesitated, his eyes shooting up to meet Dean’s. He shook his head again, replying: “Of course not!” But Dean had already noticed the hesitation.

 

“Yeah, no, it’s cool, Cas. I get it. You need space, man.” Dean had gotten up to his feet, brushing off his pants and walking over to his seat, grabbing his bottle of water.

 

It was then that Cas had noticed that the rest of their friends had woken up and were not so subtly listening in to their conversation, though to their credit they were pretending to mind their own business except for Charlie who was staring right at them, watching it all go down. She shared a look with Cas, but he quickly turned his gaze aside. He hadn’t told her yet either. This was new to everyone, technically.

 

“I don’t need space, Dean. I need— God, I just need to be able to breathe, you know? To fricken sleep properly. To write something good. Not just another song that might be a hit.”

 

“What, so now you don’t like writing our songs?” Dean let out a bitter chuckled, throwing his bottle back into his seat.

 

“You know that’s not what I meant, but if I’m being very honest, no. I’m not really enjoying it anymore. I haven’t written a single good verse in months.” Cas let out a shaky breath, gripping the back of the airplane seat.

 

“Well, that’s not my fault, Cas! What do you want me to say?”

 

“I’m not saying it’s your fault, Dean, it’s not about you, alright?” He snapped at him, and Cas thought he saw Charlie flinch back from the corner of his eye.

 

“Why are you so pissed? I should be pissed you’re leaving.” Dean muttered, pushing past him and making his way back to the couch.

 

“Jesus, I’m not leaving Dean. I just need a break.”

 

“Whatever,” Dean muttered, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “You can do whatever you want Cas. You’re a grownup man, it’s not like I own you or something.” He spoke, his eyes glued to his screen the entire time.

 

Cas nodded, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his pants. He chewed on his bottom lip, hard, almost drawing blood. “Yeah, alright. I just thought I’d tell you. Sorry I thought about your feelings.” He said coldly. He stood there, waiting for a reaction from Dean, but he was fixated on his phone; his mouth did twitch though. “I got an offer from LUX studios. From Luc Morningstar himself, actually. I was thinking of turning it down. Just thought you should know.” He let out a heavy sigh, taking his hands out of his pockets and letting them fall against his sides, hitting his legs with a small slapping sound. He nodded his head before finally turning around and making his way back to his seat. He flopped down, ignoring the looks his other friends were giving him.

 

Charlie had walked over, standing right above him, but she remained silent so he ignored her, staring out aimlessly at the sky. He could see another plane in the distance. He tracked its path with his eyes until it was too far away and he couldn’t see it anymore. He could tell Jo and Charlie exchanging looks among each other for a while until finally Jo poked him with her elbow. He turned slightly, giving them his attention. “For the record, I think it’s an opportunity of a lifetime that you shouldn’t miss out on, babe.” Charlie told him, giving him a small smile.

 

“If you wanna do it, Cas,” Jo told him, “screw everything else and just do it. Don’t let him get into your head. You know how he is.” She pointed her head in Dean’s direction.

 

Cas nodded, chewing on the inside of his cheek. Charlie ruffled his hair, sending him a small wink before she turned around made her way back to her own seat. They were going to be home soon, anyway.