“Faggot,” Dad hissed. “That’s what they
called you, isn’t it? And they were right.”
“Dad!” Sam exclaimed, appalled by his father’s bigotry.
Mom laid a hand on her husband’s arm, trying to calm him. “John, no, that’s Cas, he’s-”
“He’s what? Our son’s boyfriend? Mary, did you know about this?”
“John, you don’t understand. Just give us a second to explain-”
“Explain what? Why Dean is hiding a half-naked man in his bedroom?”
“There are extenuating circumstances…”
“He’s friend of mine,” Dean said. “He was hurt-”
“Then why didn’t he go to a hospital? Why were you hiding him from me?”
Dean tried for honesty, one last time. “Because he’s angel and you don’t believe he exists.”
Dad’s face twisted with disgust. “An ‘angel’? Is that what they call hookers these days?”
“He’s an angel of the Lord, Dad.”
“Maybe Cas could prove it…?” Mom suggested.
Dean felt anger and frustration well up within him. Mom was a hunter. She knew supernatural creatures were real and if she would just take his side in this thing for once he might stand a chance of convincing his father. But she was trying to play this so the truth would come out without Dad ever finding out about her past. “No, he can’t,” Dean said scathingly. “You’re just going to have to take my word for it.”
But of course Dad wouldn’t. He never did.
“You know what I think?” Dad said. “I think this is just another lie. I think those idiot jocks back at your school were telling it like it is. I think you’re gay.”
Dean had never seen his father look at him that way, with such hatred and revulsion. They’d had some nasty disagreements in the past, but this felt like something they might never be able to come back from. It didn’t matter if what Dad believed wasn’t the truth; he was beyond listening.
“So what if he is gay, Dad?” Sam challenged. “He’s still your son. You should love him just the same.”
Dad’s eyes spat fire. “If this is the life Dean has chosen – lying, failing in school, getting involved in the occult, brawling, fucking men – then he is no son of mine! I won’t have that kind of filth in my house.”
“John!” Mom gasped.
Dean drew himself up, his expression hardening. “That’s fine. Cas and I were leaving anyway.”
Mom’s face was distraught. “No, Dean-”
“You have both made it very clear that you can’t accept me for who I am. I won’t change just because I don’t fit into your mould. I don’t belong here anymore, if I ever did.”
“Dean-” Sam tried.
Dean’s expression softened when he looked at his little brother. “I’m sorry, Sammy, but I can’t live like this. I have to go.”
“You heard him,” Dad snapped. “You don’t need his corrupting influence, Sam. You’ll be better off without him.”
“That’s not true! He’s the best big brother in the world!”
“He is no longer your brother.”
Tears sprung to Sam’s eyes and he flung him arms around Dean to hug him tight. “You’ll always be my brother.”
“Yeah, I love you too, runt,” Dean said quietly, giving him a gentle squeeze before he pulled away. “Take care of yourself, Sammy.”
Dean slipped on his leather jacket and took Cas by the arm. “Come on, Cas. We’ve got work to do.”
Sam watched helplessly as his parents parted the way to let Dean through. Dean cast one final glance back at his brother, and then he was gone.
Bobby was enjoying a rare day off. None of his hunting buddies were on jobs at the moment so he didn’t have to man the phones and it had been over a week without any strange stories cropping up in the local papers. He used the spare time to reorganise his books and papers, to go into town for a grocery run, to work on a few cars out back and to clean all of his weapons. Now he felt entitled to a little rest and recreation, so he was enjoying a nice cup of tea in front of the telly.
Of course, he had barely taken a single sip when his personal phone line rang.
Bobby sighed, considered ignoring the call, sighed again, set his cup down and picked up the phone.
“This had better be important,” he barked.
“Yeah.” God, the kid sounded exhausted. “I, uh… I need your help.”
“What is it? A monster? Demon?”
“No, I just… I need you to come get us.”
“Me and Cas.”
“Can’t angel-boy just fly you both here?”
“Not at the moment. Some stuff has gone down, Bobby…”
“Okay, you can save the explanation for later. Where are you?”
“The Red Motel in Lawrence. Room 23.”
Bobby had questions, a lot of questions, but he was an ‘ask later’ kind of guy. “Hold tight. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Bobby hung up and five minutes later he was on the road. It didn’t sound like Dean was in any immediate danger, but he felt responsible for the kid and he’d be damned if he left him alone any longer than absolutely necessary.
Even so, it was dark by the time he reached Lawrence. He found the motel easily enough – they really weren’t kidding about the whole ‘red’ thing; it had red bricks, red window sills, red roof tiles and a brightly illuminated red sign that stood out for miles.
“Overkill,” he muttered.
Bobby knocked on room 23 and when the door opened he got a flask of holy water tossed in his face.
“Good to see you remembered what I taught ya,” Bobby grunted, accepting the towel Dean offered to pat himself dry. “You okay, kid?”
Dean shrugged, closing the door behind him. “Been better.”
Bobby looked over to where Castiel was sitting propped up against the headrest of the bed. His face was pale; a stark contrast to the rest of the garishly-coloured room. “What about you, feathers?”
“Been better,” Castiel agreed.
“He was injured,” Dean said, moving over to the angel and helping to pull aside his jacket and coat so Bobby could see. “I patched him up as best I could, but…”
Bobby nodded. “I’ll take a look.” He was no doctor, but he’d had plenty of on-the-job training over the years. “Go grab my med-kit out of the truck, will you, Dean?”
Dean scurried to do as he was told and Bobby set to work unwrapping the make-shift bandages around Castiel’s chest. He had to hand it to the kid – he was resourceful and considering this was the first time he’d patched up a wound he had done a damn good job.
“When did this happen?”
“Yesterday,” Cas said.
The wound had already started to close which was a testament to the angel’s healing power, though Bobby would have thought the angel could heal in seconds.
“My Grace is fading,” Castiel explained sombrely. “Healing the slow way is…inconvenient.”
Bobby noticed the faint white stress lines around the angel’s eyes. “And painful.”
Castiel breathed out through his nose, averting his gaze from his injury. “Yes.”
“What did it?”
Cas glanced to the door before he answered, “A demon named Alastair.”
“Never heard of him.”
“He is the demon responsible for overseeing all torture in Hell. He is also one of the few demons old enough to remember when angels and demons used to engage in warfare across the globe. He used a spell on me that should have resulted in my banishment to Heaven but the gates would not open. I am not wanted there, it seems. When he was unsuccessful, Alastair stabbed me with my own blade. If I had been at full strength I would have continued the battle until he lay dead at my feet, but in my condition… I am ashamed that I had to flee.”
“Hey, living to fight another day is a heck of a lot better than getting yourself killed. Besides, that kid out there needs ya.”
“Sometimes I think his life would be easier without me.”
“I think if you asked him, he’d rather have you.”
“He has lost everything because of me.”
“That’s not true, Cas,” Dean said. He came in and passed the med-kit to Bobby before perching on the edge of the bed. “Hey, look at me. None of this is on you, okay? I don’t blame you for what happened. It’s not your fault that my parents can’t accept that I’m not the person they thought I should be.”
Bobby knew what it felt like to be considered a disappointment and he wished Dean could have been spared from that. “What happened?” he asked.
“I got kicked out of home,” Dean said. The matter-of-fact tone of his voice as he explained the events of the past two days was belied by the pain in his eyes. Despite his efforts to appear strong and unbothered, Bobby could see how much he was hurting.
“That’s rough, kid. I’m sorry.”
Dean shrugged. “It’s no big deal – had to happen sooner or later.”
“Family ain’t always what it is supposed to be. But you deserved better, Dean. Your parents are the ones who done wrong.”
“I was going to leave eventually anyway. This is earlier than I planned, but what’s done is done. At least now I’m free to do what I was meant to do… that is, if your offer to train me as a real hunter still stands.”
“Of course,” Bobby said gruffly. “I have a couple of spare bedrooms back home, so you’re welcome to stay. Both of you.”
The tension visibly sloughed from Dean’s shoulders, as though he had been afraid that Bobby would reject him, too. Bobby had half a mind to hunt down those Winchesters and give John a solid punch to the jaw for being an asshole to his kid – in fact, he wasn’t above hitting a woman either, since Mary was an ex-hunter who should damn well have been protecting her son from all of this crap instead of lying to him to protect her own interests.
But he chose to focus on the needs of the young man in front of him instead. He finished re-dressing Castiel’s wound and then bundled the two of them into his truck. He took them first to an all-night diner because Dean looked like he hadn’t eaten in days and Castiel looked like he could do with a decent meal as well. Cas had never had human food before so Dean ordered a burger for him and Castiel’s clear enjoyment of the meal managed to coax a small smile from the boy.
Stomachs full and fatigue catching up at last, the kid and his angel both fell asleep in the back seat on the way home. A sad smile curved Bobby’s lips when he glanced in the rear-view mirror to see that Dean’s head was resting on Castiel’s shoulder and the angel’s arm was wrapped protectively around him.
However other people might label them, it was clear to Bobby that the two shared a special bond and nothing was going to be able to get in the way of that.
With Dean gone the Winchester household was quiet and subdued. No one would talk about what had happened. They tried to go on with their lives like everything was normal, but Dean’s absence was keenly felt in the awkward silences, the fourth plate that Mom accidentally set on the dinner table, the lack of Metallica blasting from Dean’s speakers, the questions at school about why Dean wasn’t turning up for classes, the uneasy peace that had replaced sibling banter and bickering, the load of washing Mom hung out that included some of Dean’s clothes, and even the liquorice in the cupboard that no one was eating.
Sam was struggling to cope. He was furious with his father for kicking Dean out of the house, disappointed in his mother for not calling Dad out on his homophobic bull-crap, frustrated with Cas for sticking around and getting Dean in trouble, upset with Dean for leaving and mad at himself for not going with him.
January 24 was Sam’s breaking point.
They had been planning Dean’s sixteen birthday for weeks. Sam was going to wake up early to blow up balloons and hang up streamers. Mom was going to bake a huge pecan pie and stick sixteen sparklers in it instead of candles. Sam had bought a leather necklace with a cool pendant amulet thing that he thought Dean would like and had already wrapped for him. Dad was going to surprise Dean with the biggest gift of all. Dean was supposed to open a little carefully wrapped box with a big bow on it, and inside he would find the keys to the Impala. The car he had loved and doted on and called ‘Baby’ was going to be his at last. He would have been so excited.
But Dean was gone.
Dad had already arranged to buy himself a new truck to replace the Impala. The morning of Dean’s birthday, Dad made a very deliberate point of covering the Impala in a tarp and carelessly tossing the keys into the bowl of odds and ends they kept on the kitchen surface.
Sam got angry.
He stormed away from the breakfast table and shut himself in Dean’s bedroom. He refused to come out or talk to his parents and eventually they left him alone.
When Sam was confident that he wouldn’t be disturbed, he starting packing. Dean had been forced to leave with nothing but the clothes on his back so Sam filled a duffle bag with all of his clothes, his favourite cassette tapes, his Gameboy, framed photos of the two of them and other miscellaneous belongings he thought Dean might need or want. He retrieved Dean’s birthday present and slipped it on top, then zipped up the bag.
Next, he snuck into the kitchen and snatched up the car keys. He dragged the duffle out to the yard and whipped the cover off Dean’s car.
Sam clambered into the driver’s side, pulled the seat forward so he would be able to reach the steering wheel and adjusted the mirrors. He thought back to Dean’s driving lesson – had it only been a week ago? – and tried to remember everything Dad had taught him.
He was sure he could do it. How hard could it be? Besides, it was for a good cause. Dean deserved to have a good birthday. He needed his stuff. Most importantly, Sam wanted his brother to know that there was at least one person in his family who still loved him.
Sam gritted his teeth, and turned the key in the ignition.