Dean’s teenage years crept up on him. He was so caught up in school work, physical training, navigating family dramas and trying to introduce Cas to all of the best experiences humanity had to offer that he barely noticed how his life was changing.
It struck him one morning, though, when he looked in the bathroom mirror and saw a young man staring back. Seemingly overnight he had shot up at least three inches and his muscles had filled out. His jaw and cheekbones were more defined and there was even a faint trace of stubble on his chin. He wasn’t a weak, scrawny kid anymore – he had grown up.
“Dude, stop fixing your hair and budge over so I can brush my teeth,” Sam said.
Dean smirked down at his little brother. “I can fix yours instead if you like.” He reached out and dragged Sam into a headlock to give him a thorough noogie, laughing as Sam yelped and squirmed under the relentless attack of his knuckles.
“Deeaann!” Sam whined and Dean let him go.
“Look at that. Much better,” he joked.
Sam glared at him through the tangle of hair hanging over his eyes. “Jerk.”
“Bitch,” Dean replied smugly. He sauntered out of the bathroom, throwing over his shoulder “If you can’t comb it out I’d be happy to give you a haircut!”
He could practically feel the heat of Sam’s bitch face on his back as he walked away and made sure he laughed loud enough for Sam to hear it.
“Dean, stop teasing your brother and eat your breakfast,” Mom chided.
Dean swiped up a slice of toast and shoved most of it into his mouth. “S’rry Mom.”
“And don’t talk with your mouth full!”
Dean grinned and his mom averted her eyes from the half-chewed bread practically spewing out onto the floor. “Honestly, child, where did you learn your manners?”
Dean gulped loudly and snagged another piece of toast, repeating the feat to make his mother roll her eyes. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t as grown up as he thought, but he had to balance the serious weight-of-the-world hunter side of himself with some immaturity, right?
“Come on, Sam, you’re going to make us late,” Mom called.
Sam came into the kitchen and Dean was amused to see that his hair was not looking much better. “Seriously dude, give me two minutes with a pair of scissors…”
Sam flung himself down at the table, smearing peanut butter on his toast and munching it with all the moodiness of a pre-teen.
Mom shot Dean a look and moved to comb her fingers through the tangles, smoothing Sam’s hair back into place. “You look fine, sweetheart.”
“Yeah, Sammy, I’m sure the girls will be showing an interest in you any time now…”
“What about you? I don’t see you with a girlfriend.”
Huh. Dean had never even thought about asking a girl out on a date. His life was kind of hectic, and any spare time he had he tended to spend with Cas. “That’s because there are too many hot chicks to choose from.”
Dean shrugged. “What can I say, man? I’m a babe magnet.” It wasn’t a complete lie. The girls at school did bat their eyelashes at him and giggle in groups when he walked past, but he wasn’t really interested in pursuing any of them. He didn’t know why. The other version of himself seemed to like ‘chasing tail’, but Dean had to wonder how much of that was borne of a desperate desire to get out of those crappy motel rooms. His dream counter-part didn’t seem to get much else out of it, although admittedly he never had the chance to form any lasting relationships. For some reason, Dean couldn’t imagine finding a girl and settling down with her in this timeline either.
“I bet you the last piece of left-over pie that you couldn’t convince a girl to go out with you,” Sam said smugly.
Dean raised his eyebrows. “You’re on.” He was never one to back down from a challenge, especially not when Mom’s home-made pie was at stake. Besides, it might be nice to try the whole ‘being normal’ thing for a change.
“Come on, boys, time to get going,” Mom said.
For the rest of the school day Dean was entirely preoccupied with persistent thoughts about dating and girlfriends. He found himself looking more closely at the girls around him, beginning to notice what other Dean would. They were hot, with their lush hair and smooth skin and curves in all the right places. There was one girl in particular who caught his attention; Ally Winehouse was a classic beauty with sparkling blue eyes and dark brown hair that lightly brushed her shoulders. She caught Dean checking her out and winked at him.
Dean felt his mouth go dry. The other Dean would have had a snappy pick-up line to use and they would be in the janitor’s closet making out within five minutes, but he just stammered awkwardly: “Um, hi, Ally. You-um-you look pretty today.”
She smiled sweetly at him. “Thanks, handsome.”
Dean flushed and before he could think of something more to say the bell had rung for class.
“See you around, Dean,” Ally said.
“Yeah, uh-” he started, but she had already disappeared into the crowd of students and soon the hallways were empty. “-you too.”
Dean couldn’t concentrate in chemistry class on the best of days, and today he gave up altogether in favour of sketching absently in the back of his diary. He drew a pair of blue eyes while the teacher was rambling on about covalent bonds, but started adding more details without really paying attention when the teacher started explaining their homework assignment.
He looked down at his picture later and was startled to see that had ended up drawing Cas. He had drawn his angel a lot as a kid, trying to prove to himself that the man who had saved him the night of the fire had not been a figment of his imagination, so he was probably just reverting to a familiar subject. He shook his head and flipped the pages of the diary to the current calendar date so he could write in his homework.
At lunchtime he saw Ally again, filling her tray at the counter in the cafeteria. He slid up beside her, trying to act smooth. “Hey Ally.”
He must have been too stealthy in his approach, though, because she jumped in surprise. With hunter-honed reflexes Dean caught her tray before she could spill it everywhere. “Whoa, sorry! Don’t worry, I’ve got it.”
“Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said sheepishly.
“No, it’s fine. Hey yourself.”
He tried to mask his nervousness with a flirty smile. “Uh, so, have you got someone to sit with?”
Ally glanced to her friend, and Dean wanted to face-palm because he should have noticed her standing right there next to Ally, but the girl just grinned and said “I just remembered that I have to go do a – thing – over there. Yep. See you later Ally!”
Ally rolled her eyes at her friend’s lack of subtlety, but she didn’t seem upset when she answered Dean’s question with, “Guess not, then.”
“Would you like to sit outside, maybe? With me, I mean? It’s a nice day.”
Ally smiled and slipped her arm around his. “Sounds good.”
Dean felt awkward and uncertain as he led her out into the courtyard, but things seemed to be going okay so far.
He perched on the bench next to her, not sure whether he should sit close enough so their knees were touching or to give her space. This was all new territory to him. He wasn’t even sure he knew how to talk to a girl, or people his own age really. He was making this up as he went.
They made awkward small talk about school and classes for a while. Dean wished he could talk about how he was a monster-hunting hero because that would make him loads more interesting if it didn’t scare her off, which admittedly it probably would. He made a joke about their history teacher’s toupee which made her laugh, though, and that gave him more confidence.
“So, I was thinking, if you’re free on Saturday…” Dean trailed off, his gaze catching on a familiar figure who was standing just outside the school gates. He would know that trench coat anywhere.
“Yes?” Ally prompted.
“Hm, what?” Dean looked back to her but he knew Cas wouldn’t have turned up here if it wasn’t important. “Um, sorry, I need to – I’ll be back in a second.”
But he had stopped listening. He left her staring after him in disbelief as he rushed over to where Castiel waited
“Hey Cas, what’s-?” Dean stopped short. Something was wrong. Seriously wrong. His angel looked ghostly pale and his eyes were glassy. “Cas? Are you okay?”
Cas swayed alarmingly and Dean grabbed his arm to steady him. “Whoa! Cas, what’s wrong?”
Castiel’s gaze flitted to his face but he seemed to be having trouble focusing. “Dean?”
Dean cupped his angel’s face with his hands, trying to lock their eyes together to bring Cas back to him. “Yeah, Cas, it’s me.”
“I made it,” Cas croaked. “I’m very surprised.” His knees started to buckle.
Dean acted fast, ducking into his side to catch him around the waist and keep him upright. It was a testament to how much he had grown that he was actually able to bear the angel’s weight, if only just.
“Come on, man, talk to me.” Dean could not keep the panic out of his voice. He had never seen his angel like this. “Are you hurt?” He didn’t think Cas could get hurt.
When there was no reply Dean went looking for the answer, yanking open Castiel’s trench coat and then his suit jacket.
His white shirt was soaked in blood.
For a moment Dean’s mind went blank. The sight of blood was nothing new to him but it was usually his own blood and miraculous healing was only ever a prayer away. This time Cas was the one bleeding. There was so much blood. The tables were turned and Dean didn’t know what to do. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Cas was supposed to be invincible.
“I’ll be fine,” Cas rasped. “I just…need…” But before he could finish the sentence his eyes rolled back into his head and he dropped like a stone. Dean went down with him, cushioning the fall to make sure Castiel’s head didn’t hit the concrete.
“Okay. Okay. Think, Dean. Think! You know this.” He had never learned first aid, but the alternate version of himself had been patching up Dad’s wounds since he was five years old. “Check for breathing.” He wasn’t even sure if angels needed to breathe, but Dean held a hand above Castiel’s mouth and nose anyway and he was relieved to feel slight puffs of air against his skin. “Pulse.” There was a steady beat beneath his questing fingers. Okay, so Cas was just out cold. “Stop the bleeding.” He yanked the shirt open, heedless of the buttons that popped off and scattered, and tossed the tie out of the way. It was a knife wound, long and jagged and still oozing blood. Dean pulled his own t-shirt off over his head, wadded it and pressed it tightly over the wound.
But then what? Any normal person would call an ambulance. But Cas was an angel and sure, his outside looked human but what if his insides weren’t? They could lock him up or do experiments on him or something. Dean didn’t know how to treat an angel’s wounds, though. Other Dean would sew the wound closed with a needle and dental floss, but Dean didn’t have those on hand. There was also the matter of being out in the open where anyone could see them and attack or ask questions they couldn’t answer or call the police.
“Cas?” Dean patted the angel’s cheek. “Cas, man, I’m sorry, but you have to wake up.” He patted more urgently. “Cas!” This time he slapped him. Hard.
Castiel’s eyes flew open and they were glowing blue and Dean almost recoiled at the rage and violence burning in their depths but he knew he had to keep holding pressure on the wound so he stood his ground. “Cas, it’s me! It’s Dean!”
Cas blinked. “Dean.”
“Yeah. We’re not safe here, Cas. You’re hurt. You came to get me and I want to help but I need to get you home and I don’t have a car and no taxi will take us and-”
Dean heard the tell-tale flutter of wings but they crash landed; Dean was thrown into his chest of drawers so hard that he nearly lost consciousness himself and Cas actually made a dent in the floor.
“Cas, keep pressure on that wound!” Dean ordered, putting Castiel’s hand over the shirt and pressing down hard to illustrate. If anything Cas looked worse than before but he was conscious and he matched the pressure Dean was applying so Dean scrambled up and ran for medical supplies. He grabbed a needle from his Mom’s sewing kit and floss from the bathroom and a bottle of whiskey from Dad’s alcohol cabinet and a clean sheet from the cupboard to tear into bandages. He fumbled in threading the floss through the eye of the needle but got it done and quickly prepared some bandage strips before he returned to Cas.
“This is going to hurt,” Dean warned. He gave Cas a swig of the whiskey while he removed the wadding and then used what was left to wash away the blood and sterilize the wound. It was terrifying and awful but Dean started to sew together the edges of the wound, working off the memories of dreams and hoping to god that he wasn’t doing more harm than good. Cas passed out again halfway through but Dean gritted his teeth and kept going until the wound was closed and tightly bandaged.
Only then did he let himself bolt for the bathroom to puke his guts out. He was shaking and pale and sweaty and still panicking, but he forcibly dragged himself back under control. Cas had saved his life god knows how many times by now, and it was Dean’s turn to return the favour. He was not about to let his angel down now.
He dampened a cloth with water and used it to clean the blood and dirt from Castiel’s skin. He removed the remnants of his shirt and hung his coats up in the wardrobe. He lifted Castiel’s dead weight off the floor and settled him onto the bed, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.
Then he sat back, and drew in a deep steadying breath.
He whirled around.
His mother was standing in the doorway.