It starts with a letter. A note, if you will. There's nothing special about it, nothing extravagant—it’s simply a note passed from one tenant to another tenant, written with a greeting and a request to direct any following letters to the correct location because there's no telling how the post office works these days.
There's nothing about the note that Dean Winchester would have regarded as extraordinary, except for the fact that its talking about boxes in the attic and paw prints across the bridge and on the porch when nobody has lived (or even come close) to this place for years, if Sammy's right in his information (and he pretty much always is). He looks at the piece of paper in his hand once again and proceeds to scowl, muttering a few choice words about strange people living in Chicago before he pockets the letter into his pocket and forgets all about it soon enough.
But that's where everything starts.
Or to be more accurate, it starts with the lake house.
If there's anything that Castiel Glaser misses about his old house, it would be the fact that at least it had been quiet back there. Living in the heart of Chicago now, there's nothing but cars and motorcycles and people shouting everywhere and he really, really hates that. It's already bad enough that he has minimal rest as it is due to his job (the local state hospital, recently assigned), but to be awakened almost every hour or so by the sheer amount of noise that goes on around him (before you ask—no, Castiel doesn't really want to know what the hell his neighbor is doing against the wall at three in the morning—look, it’s not his fault that the walls are just so thin, okay?) is simply just nothing but sheer torture. He almost regrets having said yes to this posting. Almost, because he really does need to start earning his keep and Castiel knows he can't afford to be picky about where he works.
Perhaps the only consolation he has about this is the fact that Gabriel's living close by—last he heard, his brother's living in the same city, just most likely in some corner that Castiel hasn't ventured into yet. He suspects that Gabriel will contact him sooner or later, but for now Castiel's just glad that he has his time to get used to the city environment. A part of him really wishes that he could have remained in his old house, but the city's just too far for him and as much as he loves the lake house, Castiel isn't that inclined to spend that much money on petrol.
Still, at the very least lake house still belongs to him—granted, Castiel's put it on rent for anybody who wants to take it, but he has a good feeling that nobody actually will; even he will admit that the design of the house is... strange. Almost the entire house is constructed with glass panels—all of them reinforced, of course—but the lack of privacy it gives can be understandably unnerving, not that Castiel can understand that point since the place's located so far away from the city hardly anybody goes there. But it is a nice place, and in the year or so he's lived there Castiel has come to appreciate the serenity that the lake house has provided to him; he has, admittedly, needed it for a while he went about to properly finish his studies and obtain his doctor's licence.
And now here he is, in a job that's not as glamorous as most people assume it to be, and Castiel just wishes that he had more time to rest as he trudges around the corridors of the hospital, attempting to figure out the location of the patient (Alexander Anderson, forty-seven, recently admitted for getting injured in the line of duty—something that happens to seemingly one too many cops) he needs to attend to. The lack of sleep does little to help him, as Castiel squints his eyes at the clipboard in his hands, trying to see if he's misread the location of the patient or anything like that. The tiny text is also not doing much to help him on that account either.
There's a subtle sound of somebody clearing his throat, and Castiel turns around to instantly send an annoyed look to the other doctor who stands beside him. “Balthazar, I'm busy.”
“Now now,” Balthazar replies with a mock expression of hurt that crosses his features. “Is that how you're supposed to treat a friend who's going to help you, Cas?”
Castiel makes another annoyed sound, but passes the clipboard over to his friend ('friend' being a relative term, mostly because Balthazar is knowledgeable in matters around the hospital and happens to be Castiel's senior now). “Just tell me how to get there,” he says, gesturing towards the part of the papers where the patient's location is stated.
Balthazar takes a moment to squint at the paper himself before he passes it back to Castiel. “Just go up from here, take two rights and another left,” he says, gesturing the directions with one hand.
“Thank you,” Castiel mutters, taking the clipboard back from Balthazar's hands and starts to head in the direction that the other has pointed out, eager to get back to his work because he is paid to actually work, not stand around and get lost for the last fifteen minutes. As he walks he sees Balthazar falling into step beside him, and Castiel tries not to show his displeasure when his friend ends up following him, looking at Castiel with a cursory look.
“I heard you moved because of the job,” Balthazar starts casually. “I'm disappointed that I actually had to find out about it through a third party.”
Castiel tries not to roll his eyes. By 'third party', no doubt Balthazar actually means Gabriel—how they actually know each other is something Castiel has never dared to ask for fear of his sanity, but somehow they're friends (or more than friends sometimes, but Castiel really doesn't want to think about his maybe-best friend sleeping with his brother) and... Castiel wonders if he'll actually ever get a moment of peace in his job here.
Sighing, Castiel eventually forces himself to reply to Balthazar's words. “It slipped my mind.” And that is the truth, because things had been a little hectic since he had gotten the notice for the posting late—one of the drawbacks of living in a place so far from the city where the post office happened to be at.
Balthazar makes a small 'tsk' sound at the answer, shaking his head. “Honestly, Cassie. How will you ever make any friends if you keep on being so cold?”
“I am not cold,” Castiel quickly retorts, resisting the urge to scowl. Sure, it's a fact that he doesn't talk much and socalises around even less, but that doesn't mean that he's cold—he simply just doesn't see the need to socialize that much. Besides, Gabriel does that enough for both of them already as it is.
The other doctor only smiles wryly. “Keep that up and you'll very well be,” he says.
Castiel bites back his annoyance, but still throws another irritated glare at Balthazar before picking up his pace, hurrying his way towards where Alexander Anderson is waiting for him.
“Oh, Cas—” he hears Balthazar start again, and Castiel is very much ready to simply ignore him until his friend says the next part of his sentence. “—you might want to turn back, darling. You're going in the wrong direction.”
The lake house is... admittedly not the first thing that comes to Dean's mind when he made the decision to move back to Chicago. After spending the last few years going around the road the mere action of actually settling down and sticking to one place is something that doesn't stick well in his mind, but he does actually need to hold down a proper job again and moving around doesn't do well in actually ensuring that fact. Alright, so maybe he could have been a traveling salesman or something, but there is no way he's going to put crap stuff that's just going to end up rotting in his baby.
So here he is now, living in the lake house somewhere on the outskirts of Chicago and attempting to make said house look liveable once again. The place has all but fallen into disarray in the years it’s been abandoned, but Dean's determined to bring this place back to life in any way he can manage to. It's not the first place anybody would think to live in, but Dean thinks he's come to appreciate the beauty of this house—the view is great, the surroundings are quiet and the lake is great for chilling his beer bottles. Only thing he does want to complain is about how hard it is to get pie from here, but well. Some sacrifices had to be made, he supposes.
He's currently working on the bridge that links house from the ground—the house is built a little off the land, another thing that most people seem to be turned off by but Dean finds it pretty suitable for a home like this. The rails have their paint chipped off pretty badly, so Dean's crouched next to it, studiously working with a paintbrush so that the rails are painted nice and neat—he's seen enough homes with shoddy paint jobs and he doesn't want his place to be one of them.
Dean's so focused on his work that he doesn't really hear the dog until it barks at his side, and the man makes a surprised little start at the sound and the wet nose that presses against his cheek after that. He pauses in his work, carefully placing down the paintbrush onto the palette before turning his head around and finds himself greeted with a huge lick that runs all the way up from his jaw to his temple.
“Okay! Okay!” he cries out, exasperated and amused at the same time because Jesus, that is one huge golden retriever that's appeared before him. It's definitely the kind of dog he can imagine Sammy getting if he actually had the time to take care of one rather than being swamped by his big lawyer job. Dean reaches out with one hand around the canine and scratches it by the back of its ears, earning himself a happy little croon which he can't help but smile at.
“You're a nice little fella, aren't ya?” he mutters, more of a remark than a question as he studies the dog. He knows he should probably take it around to the closest shelter or something to at least make sure it hasn't ran away from home or something, but somehow Dean has a feeling that this is a stray—even if it is pretty damned big for one.
The dog allows itself to be coddled just a bit more before barking once, pulling itself away from Dean before starting to move again, and the man barely has a second to see where its heading and quickly starts to shout. “Hey hey hey—”
Before he can shoo the golden retriever away though it’s already done the deed and Dean can only stare in horror at the trail of (giant) paw prints that lead from the bridge and on the porch and going all the way into the house.
Dean pauses for a moment, frowning as something rings several bells within him. He's pretty sure he's read something about this before, telling him about the paw prints and how he can get rid of it if he wishes to from the note that the last tenant left him—
He's moving even before he's thinking about it, rushing down the bridge and right into the house, making his way up to the attic (which has no boxes other than his own) and grabs the half-crumpled piece of paper he tossed into it just a few days ago. Heading back downstairs, Dean smoothens out the paper as well as he can, eyebrows furrowing as he re-reads the note he picked up from the mailbox outside when he first moved in.
To whom it may concern:
First off, I suppose I should say thank you for going to the trouble of renting this place and living in it, although I have been told repeatedly that nobody else aside from me would ever want to live in a house like this. That fact that you’re reading this, however, does prove my own point, and I’m sure you’ll find this place as wonderful as I had during my own stay here.
That aside, I’ve already informed the post office about my change in address, but there’s still a chance they might screw things up and continue to send my mail there. If you receive anything that’s addressed to me, please forward it over to my new address, indicated below. Thank you in advance, whoever you may be.
— Castiel Glaser
(P.S: I apologize for the paw prints on the bridge and porch; it was already there when I first came, and I never got around clearing that up. You are free to do so, if you wish to. The same goes to the box up in the attic; I believe both were done and left by the previous owner of the house as a possible parting gift.)
Seemingly seriously polite manners aside, Dean mostly just remembers how utterly confused he had been by this strange letter, especially then there definitely hadn’t been any paw prints or boxes in the attic. Of course, there still isn’t anything in the attic aside from the stuff he’s put up there, but the paw prints…
Dean takes one moment to think about this, and then two before he starts going around the place, trying to find the first piece of paper and pen and the closest surface he can actually write on.
If this is how things are going to be, then fine. Two can play at that game.
The lake house is the first place that springs to Castiel’s mind as his destination of choice when Balthazar all but forces him to take a break. Taking a leave from the hospital so soon after his assignment there is most definitely not something that Castiel would ever dare to do, which is why Balthazar had already taken the initiative and already did everything for him, approved leave and all.
“Working around in your current state isn’t going to help anybody at all, Cassie,” the other doctor had said very pointedly to him as he brought (read: dragged) Castiel out from his office and pried the white doctor’s coat away from him. “Everybody understands perfectly what you’re going through, and we all don’t mind that you take a short break for a while and recover from the shock.”
“I am not fragile, Balthazar,” Castiel instantly retorts, scowling. Certainly, the incident at Buckingham Fountain a few days ago had been sudden and—overwhelming, and Castiel would admit that the incident had left him somewhat shaken, but it certainly didn’t require him to do something as extreme as take a vacation. There were still patients to work with, more lives to safe and more people to care for so that nothing like Buckingham Fountain would ever happen again.
(It had been so sudden and so violent and Castiel only remembers how his hands were trembling and how the paramedics were shaking their heads at the tragedy of the accident, and there was so much blood everywhere that he cannot even make out the face of the newly-deceased man before him.
Death, he thinks, always feels too cold, too sudden and too cruel.)
“Of course you aren’t,” Balthazar returns with a roll of his eyes. “If anything, just do this as a request from your dear old friend, hm? The rest of us will cover your duties very nicely while you’re gone.”
And so that had been that. With little else to say in the matter, Castiel had made the decision to return to the lake house because if he had to be honest with himself, a stay there would do him some good. The hustle and bustle of Chicago’s busy streets had never really suited Castiel, and the whole incident at Buckingham Fountain had been… disastrous, to say the least. As much as Castiel found meaning in his job, perhaps Balthazar wasn’t that all wrong to make him take this vacation, even if the other could have been nicer about it rather than forcing him into this. Still, Castiel supposes he’s in no real condition to complain—regardless of the method, Balthazar had simply been looking out for him.
Bones, of course, takes shotgun in his car (a second-hand, somewhat battered-down but still perfectly functional Ford) since there’s only the two of them and it’s not as if the golden retriever has ever done anything to warranted any disbars from the seat—Castiel has never thought of himself as a pet person, but Bones had been more or less a gift from Gabriel and he didn’t have the heart to simply put his brother's good intentions away. Besides, the dog was quite smart and made little trouble for him. He didn’t see a reason to not keep the dog once he saw how well-behaved it was.
This is the same reason why it startles him when the golden retriever suddenly starts to get restless when Castiel pulls over at the road leading to the lake house. Bones randomly begins to bark, loud and relentless, his tail thumping fiercely against the seat of the car.
Castiel takes a moment to frown in concern at his dog before putting it to the trip over; his job had made it hard for him to take Bones out in recent days, and perhaps the golden retriever’s just happy and glad to be out—especially now since they’re back at their old place. The doctor takes out the keys from the ignition, pocketing them back into the pocket of his pants before he reaches for the door and opens it to get out of the car.
Bones, however, acts faster than Castiel does, and before the man can even move a leg the dog is already moving, barking one more time before he’s suddenly darting out. Bones wriggles tightly for a moment in the space between human owner and steering wheel before managing to get through, barking again as he starts to sprint down towards the lake house, leaving Castiel with little choice in the matter other than to follow his dog. Trying not to make a mental reference to same incident he had with Balthazar in this entire situation, Castiel bites back a sigh and hurries after Bones once he’s ensured that his car is secure.
The golden retriever continues to bark loudly even as Castiel makes his way to where his dog is, and the man pauses for a moment when he realizes that Bones is actually barking at the mailbox. Not only that—he’s also seemingly trying to get it open, standing up on his hind legs and pawing incessantly at the flap.
“Did somebody open it?” Castiel mutters to himself, briefly considering the possibilities of that statement; it’s not wholly impossible, even if this place is pretty far from the general public. But still, who would even take the trouble to come all the way here in the first place? Perhaps the place already had another tenant, but then he should have gotten news about it if that did happen to be the case…
His curiosity piqued, the man now cautiously makes his way over to the mailbox, quickly noticing the way Bones quickly quiets down once Castiel is close. A strange action, no doubt, but then Bones has always been a mysteriously smart dog. Castiel takes a moment to give him a brief scratch behind his ears before pulling away to open the mailbox, blinking at the vaguely crumpled envelope that’s lying inside—Castiel’s pretty certain he had never left his note like that.
Bones barks again, almost as if to tell him to hurry up and read the letter already, and Castiel puts on a wry smile at that before he opens the envelope and opens the letter, quickly scanning through the contents. Both of his eyebrows raise up as he looks through the words, and Castiel has to make himself reread the letter a few more times just to make sure that his eyes aren’t really playing tricks on him (or that he was actually managing to decipher this chicken scratch called penmanship correctly).
I got your note. Seriously, dude, is this supposed to be some sort of sick joke? If it is, it’s seriously in bad taste and really not funny at all. FYI, I’m not the ‘previous tenant’. There was never any ‘previous tenant’. The place’s been left alone for years. If you’re referring to any other houses by the lake I’m pretty sure there’s that Lake-something residences up ahead. I’m wondering though: how the hell did you know about the paw prints?
Dean WinchesterCastiel stares at the letter for a good long while before he folds it up and starts to go back to his car, wondering if he’s brought along any paper and pen with him over here. He’s pretty sure he has some in the bag he’s brought over with him.
Dean nearly forgets about the whole weird incident about the paw prints (which he has worked tirelessly to paint over all of them) and the dog (which has somehow ended up staying in the lake house and left Dean little choice but to take it in—that is, after a trip to the closest vet and animal shelter) until he opens the letterbox a few days later and spies the crisp note that has replaced his shabby, crumpled one. In retrospect using a piece of scrap paper and a used envelope is not the best idea that Dean’s had, but it’s not as if anything about this is actually normal.
He stares at the paper lying inside the mailbox for a while, almost hesitant to take it because seriously, weird things are starting to happen here and Dean has never been one to go well with weird, at least not at this point of time. But he does have to face this eventually, so he puts down his work stuff and takes out the note. He notices the torn edge at one side of the paper—almost as its been torn out from a book—as he unfolds the note and reads it, quickly scowling at the contents.
Dear Mr. Winchester,
I can assure you that I am quite familiar with the Lakefront residences up ahead, but I can guarantee you that I have never so much as stepped into that place before. I may have been told by my peers to be a little old-fashioned at times, but I do sincerely believe that no place by the lake should be over six thousand square feet.
Let me try this again. I used to live in the lake house, but then I had to move due to my new job located deep in the city. Now I live at 1620 North Racine within Chicago itself. I would appreciate it if you could forward my mail if you get any.
— Castiel Glaser“1620 North Racine?” the man mutters, frowning. He’s already getting pretty used to Chicago, and Dean’s certain he hasn’t heard an address like that before. But Chicago is a big place, and perhaps it’s just located in some part of the city that Dean hasn’t gone around yet.
Well, he is going out for dinner and drinks with Sam tonight anyway, so Dean supposes he can hunt down the location written here and ask the guy himself about this and clarify matters. He folds the note and stuffs it into his pocket, picking up his bag and bringing it back to the lake house. It stays in his pocket as he takes a quick shower and puts on a change of shirt, donning his jacket again before heading out again to the fancy lawyer building when Sam works at.
As he stands around and waits, Dean can’t help but feel as awkward as hell when he starts mentally comparing himself to the tons of formally-dressed people that pour out from the building, but for the sake of Sam he bears with the awkwardness and puts up with the snooty looks that most of the workers give him as they walk past. Let them look at they want—they’re not the ones that he needs to concern himself with.
The waiting takes a while, but eventually he sees the guy who he’s been waiting for: his little brother (now looking not so little, even from this distance) hurrying out from the doors, shiny briefcase in hand as he makes his way down the stairs and nearly barrels right into Dean, although he does manages to stop in time—not that Dean was going to make this easy for his brother.
“Whoa there, Sasquatch,” he chides his sibling in a semi-serious voice once Sam straightens himself back up. “No need to flatten me on our first night out.”
Sam rolls his eyes. “All these years and that’s the first thing to say to me face to face?” he retorts back, although the smile on his face completely absolves any of the annoyance that’s in his voice.
Dean can’t help but grin back in return. “Of course, bitch.”
“Jerk,” his brother easily replies, eyes gleaming in barely-hidden mirth as he nudges Dean with an elbow. “C’mon, let’s get going before the crowds start to fill up.”
Since Sam is much more familiar with Chicago than Dean currently is, he relents and allows his brother take him out for dinner at a nice local diner and then going around to what he says is one of the best bars in town. Considering his torrid love affair with girly drinks, however, Dean isn’t that all inclined to believe his younger brother’s recommendations, a fact that he states quite clearly to his sibling only after their drinks come.
Sam’s only response is to roll his eyes once again. “You can be the one treating me next time, then.”
Dean snorts quietly. “I’m mortgaged all the way up to my friggin’ eyeballs, Sammy. Give me at least five years before getting to that.”
Eyebrows rise up at the reply. “What kind of crazy house did you buy to even earn that?” his brother asks incredulously.
“It’s a normal sort of house,” Dean tries to deflect, but Sam simply gives him bitchface number seventy-two (‘stop beating around the bush and actually answer properly, Dean') and the older Winchester sighs. “…it’s that house on the lake,” he corrects himself.
Sam blinks, looking somewhat taken aback by the answer. “That house?” he asks, sounding in complete disbelief. “Seriously?”
“Yeah,” Dean answers, nodding. “To make things better, I even got a dog.”
The younger Winchester stares at his elder brother for a good moment at that before he shakes his head, sighing. “Sometimes I wonder about your life, Dean,” he mutters, and Dean can just hear the immediate tone of his brother’s growing disapproval. But still, Sam does drop the topic, and it’s something that Dean is somewhat grateful for—at least for now. In exchange though, he brings up a far more difficult and sensitive topic. “Does Dad know that you’re here?”
Dean has to pause a bit at that particular question. It’s hard to not feel anything whenever John Winchester is brought up these days, mainly because their father had been the main reason as to why Dean left home in the first place. He does find importance in his family, and nothing will ever be as important to him as Sam is in his life—but John… well, that was another whole ball game together. He looks down at his drink and states at it, keeping silent for a good long while. “I left a message about it, but he never got back to me,” he eventually says.
Sam takes a bit before he nods, but stays quiet and proceeds to quickly drop the topic, letting the rest of their time in the bar pass in relative peace. It’s pretty late into the night when they do finally get out of the bar, and for a moment Dean’s pretty tempted to just leave the whole thing with Castiel for another day. But then the strange letters will just keep coming and he really wants to clear this up before it gets any weirder. Since the location is of the guy’s place is closer than Sammy’s house, Dean decides to get around to Castiel’s first and settle his business with the guy (or at least, he’s pretty sure that Castiel is a guy—his name is weird, but it certainly doesn’t give him any female vibes) before sending Sam home.
During the car ride over, Dean manages to get his courage up and ask the question that’s been buzzing in his head throughout the entire time. “Dad ever ask where I went?”
“No,” Sam answers immediately, eyes darting down. A beat of silence passes between them after that, only to be quickly broken by Sam as he speaks up once more. “So, uh… where are we going?”
“1620 North Racine,” Dean answers, eyes peeling around the streets as he attempts to find the place in question.
He doesn’t even need to turn around to see the frown that’s most certainly crossing his brother’s face now. “I’ve never heard of that place before,” he hears Sam mutter.
“That’s because you don’t get out enough, Sammy,” he remarks back, grinning slightly when he sees Sam flipping him off from the corner of his eyes. He turns his eyes back to the road, about to make another turn when a passing sign catches his eye and Dean’s pulling the car over even before he thinks twice about it. Sam, completely unprepared for the abrupt stop, yelps in surprise when he jerks violently with the car.
“What the hell, Dean—” the giant mangirl of his brother starts to say, but Dean quickly tunes out the sound of his bitching as he gets out of the car and runs across the street, eyes fixated on the giant sign that stands out beside the messy construction pit filled with tons of building materials and their accompanying vehicles.
1620 North Racine, it reads, Luxury Apartments Coming Your Way.
Dean’s still staring at the sign in surprise when Sam finally does catch up with him, staring at the giant sign that his brother is looking at before turning to him. “Is there something wrong, Dean?” he asks, concerned.
The older Winchester looks at the sign for a few more moments before he drops his gaze down to the letter he’s unconsciously pulled out from his pocket.
“I have no fucking idea,” is all that he can say in response.
Right below Castiel Glaser’s name, the date of the letter stares back at him pointedly.
It reads to him as March 25, 2010.
It’s nearly the end of his break before Castiel receives a response, and for a moment that does confuse him a little because he’s been staying the lake house for these last few days and he’s pretty certain that the place hasn’t been rented. How and why the letter is here, Castiel doesn’t know at all, but what really throws him off is the response that’s written inside it.
I went to 1620 North Racine just as you put in your letter, but it’s not there. Heck, it’s just a really deep, open ugly pit with a construction site beside it that’ll probably make that pit into a building eighteen or so months down the road. Seriously, dude, this really ain’t funny at all. And that's not even talking about the whole date thing. Last I checked, 2009 hasn’t even come around yet, let alone 2010. At least get your dates right, man.Castiel barely notices the fact that Dean Winchester didn’t even bother to sign his name at the end this time, which he supposes is due to the other man’s frustrations—not that Castiel isn’t just as annoyed as he is about this. Just what is going on here?
He stares at the note for a moment before he starts to move, getting off the couch (much to Bones’s dismay, judging from the whine the dog gives out) and goes to the study in order to grab a piece of paper and pen, jotting down a response as quickly as he can. Everything about this is strange and inexplicable, but if anything Castiel’s determined, and he’s out to get to the bottom of this entire mystery as soon as possible.
For once, he gets an answer pretty quickly—the letter’s in the mailbox when he returns from work, and without thinking twice about it Dean grabs the mail and brings it back into the house. He reads the response as he feeds the dog later after dinner, idly petting the golden retriever while frowning at the returning answer the letter gives him.
I received your last letter. Truthfully, I am not certain why I’m even writing back at this point, but I do want to get to the bottom of this mystery. Apparently, my mail hasn’t been forwarded either, and I’ve been getting my things from the wrong mailbox still—I really do not wish to have to spend so much time and petrol coming down here every week just to get my mail.
Anyway, I am very certain that I have passed you the correct address. Despite my job, I am still perfectly aware of where I live. I admit it’s not the best choice of living, but it is most certainly not an ‘open, ugly pit’ as you described it. The same applies to the date as well. It’s been 2010 for the last three months already, and will continue to be until 2011 comes around next year.
But I am curious to know, though: if it’s not 2009 or 2010 for you, then what year is it for you?
— Castiel Glaser“You have got to be shitting me,” the man mutters out, eyes flickering over the letter as he reads it again. This just has to be some sort of joke… right? There’s just no way somebody from the future is actually talking to him through a mailbox of all things. That sort of stuff just didn’t happen randomly like that.
There’s just no freaking way that it’s happening to him.
Castiel blinks at the bluntness of the response he gets this time round, complete with the irritated, messy scrawl that he nearly can’t decipher is it wasn’t for the fact of how he’s already gotten used to Dean’s handwriting from the last few letters he sent back.
2008. So stop bullshitting me already. I’m getting sick of this.March 2008 then, Castiel assumes, pausing to think about it for a moment. Bones makes a snuffle from his side, pressing his wet nose up against Castiel’s cheek, and the man crooks out a small smile at that, idly reaching around to pet the giant golden retriever. March 2008… he hadn’t been in Chicago yet, no, but he did recall some news about it if he remembered correctly. It had been a pretty weird time in general then, mainly because—
The answer clicks to him there and then, and Castiel gets up from the couch as the memory comes back to him. Bones follows him, tail wagging as the dog looks at Castiel rummaging around the mess on the study table for a while before the man finds what he’s been searching for and picks it up. It’s a photograph of him and Anna, along with Gabriel who had been around to visit him then. He can still remember the chill of the night when this photo had been taken, feeling as cold as the snow that had been drifting around them endlessly.
Castiel takes a moment to smile at the memory of that night before he flips the photo over to the back and eyes the note written at the bottom right-hand corner—April 4, 2008.
I suppose if I have to get you to believe me, I shall have to reveal to you a little secret. A bad case of the flu went around in late spring of 2008, because of a sudden round of snow that came from almost nowhere. A freak late snow, if you will. So, mysterious person from the past, if you truly are at where and when you think you are, then you’re going to need this. Make sure to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Doctor’s orders.
— (Dr.) Castiel GlaserDean snorts aloud as soon as he reads the letter, tossing it away onto the table along with the scarf that came along with the letter in the mailbox. Seriously, who is this guy trying to kid here? Snow at the start of April? This Castiel guy seriously must have gotten a Mickey into his power shake, or something. There’s no way there can be snow in freaking April—it’s practically summer already.
He gets to his dinner since the dog (who is still unnamed, mainly because Dean has no idea what to name it) has been fed, pouring out the noodles he’s cooked for himself and brings the bowl over to the table that faces one of the glass panels of the house that gives him the view of the lake. It’s already pretty dark and the sky is kind of cloudy, but the darkness gives him another sort of peace that Dean can get behind, so he doesn’t mind.
He’s just about to start eating when a stream of something white flashes past his eyes from the outside, and Dean pauses, staring at the window. The white runs by again, little by little and slowly growing lager, and the man can’t help but stare in amazement as he sees snow starting to fall right before his eyes.
“Jesus Christ,” he manages to mutter out before a sneeze suddenly takes over him, and beside him the golden retriever lets out a sound of sympathy.
Castiel returns to the lake house on the following weekend, having gotten back to work and—he has to admit, perhaps Balthazar had been right in him needing a break. He certainly feels much better now, at least, and things have been running around much more smoothly ever since he returned. Now that he’s gone back to staying in his apartment though, Castiel finds himself missing the lake house once again. Not to mention the strange mystery of Dean Winchester.
He almost doesn’t really expect it, so it does surprise him when he sees the letter that sits inside the mailbox, and Castiel is almost certain he can feel the lingering chill of snow and frost as he takes it out and opens it to read the single line written inside.
The doctor thinks about it for a moment before he flips the paper around and writes his answer, putting it right back into the mailbox.
Can this seriously be happening?
He sends his letter once the storm passes and Dean feels healthy enough again, still unable to wholly digest just what is actually happening. Castiel had told him about the storm and then it had happened… there’s no way he can just deny it, no after this. What to do from here though, is something that he doesn’t really want to think about just yet.
Dean’s making his way back to the house where he hears the creak of turning metal, and he turns back to the mailbox only to stare in surprise when he sees that the flag has gone down by itself. He’s still staring at it when the flag goes up by itself too, and it takes the golden retriever to bark out loud before Dean jolts himself into action, running back to the mailbox along with his dog as he takes out the letter and stares at the simple, two word response he gets.
The man looks up and glances around him, unable to make out just what the heck is actually going on. There’s nobody around at all, and there’s no way that a letter can just reply to itself—then maybe, just maybe…
Dean stares at the paper in his hands for a while more before he starts to search through the pockets of his coat. Surely he must have a pen in here somewhere…
Response sent, Castiel makes his way back to his car and prepares to head back to the city, but for once Bones isn’t following him and somehow barking incessantly at something.
“Bones, we need to go—” he starts, turning around only to stop when he sees the flag on the mailbox suddenly dropping by itself. Bones instantly turns quiet at that, but his gaze is fixed on the mailbox and Castiel only frowns in confusion as well as surprise. He blinks when the flag raises itself again mere seconds later, and then Bones is barking again, trying to paw at the front of the mailbox with one of his giant paws.
Castiel quickly moves, going over to Bones and calming the giant golden retriever down with a scratch behind his ears before turning to stare at the mailbox again. Very slowly, Castiel reaches for the mailbox and opens it, cautiously taking out the letter inside it as if it’s a time bomb and after another pause, brings himself to read it.
I have no fucking idea what the hell’s happening here, but it seems to be happening alright.
Dean prepares himself with papers and pen this time as he waits for an answer (and trying not to feel like an idiot in the process). It comes surprisingly fast, and Dean opens the mailbox once the flag has lowered and raised itself for another round, grabbing the note inside and reads it quickly.
“Where am I?” the man repeats incredulously, not quite sure what sure what to say about that. Of all the questions in the world to ask—Dean sighs, and starts to write out his answer.
Where are you?
Castiel stares at the response he gets back in return not even a minute later.
“Well, yes,” the doctor mutters, rolling his eyes. “I think I would have noticed that already.”
The lake house.
And so that is how the strangest of friendships start between two people from two completely different times.
I’m a doctor, Castiel writes, introducing himself because even if he is talking to somebody from two years ago, he still should be polite no matter what—even though nothing about this is normal. I’ve only recently gotten my license and stuff, and the job in the city’s my first posting. I wouldn’t say that it’s what I hoped it would be, but I suppose it could have been worse.
Dean introduces himself back in turn as well. I’m a mechanic. Nothing as glamorous your job, but I get by well enough. I also do odd jobs here and then when I can to get some extra money whenever I can. I moved here after spending my time out on the road for the last few years. How about you? If you’re living in some apartment that’ll only exist two years from where I am, then where were you now? Like, you know, me-now. Or something.
Two years ago? I was in Maine, I believe.
Maine? What the hell were you doing all the way there?
…I don’t remember that well, to be honest. All I know is that my brother dragged me there.
Your brother sounds like a dick.
He was trying to help me ‘have fun’, to quote him.
If Sammy ever tries to do that to me I would have made sure he would’ve regretted it.
Your brother, I assume? If so, then my sympathies go to him.
Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?
Moving on. You said that you had been on the road. Where did you go?
Oh. Well, pretty much everywhere. I just let the road take me wherever it leads me to.
I see. Was there any particular place you liked?
I guess. I did kind of like Manhattan while I was there.
I’ve been there once before myself. It is a nice place.
So. How’s 2010? Is the world ending there?
No, we all dress up in shiny metal jumpsuits and zip around in flying cars. Cell phones are obsolete now because we can all talk to each other through our minds. But in all honestly, no, not much has changed from 2008. I mean, there are a few things, but nothing too big at all. Although I suppose there are the presidential elections.
Tell me who won so I can vote for the right guy.
I think I’ll leave that to you to figure out for yourself. Besides, I wouldn’t want to risk disrupting the space-time continuum or something like that by telling you the future.
Now you’re just leaving me hanging, man.
I apologize, but that’s what the future is for. Speaking of the past, however, I have been wondering about the paw prints again. How is that possible? It is a bit unique, I might say.
…call me crazy but I think we might be having the same dog.
Dean looks up from the letter at that to stare over at the golden retriever now dozing over one of the couches, his back on the couch with his mouth open. In a way, he does look like he’s sleeping like a person. Dean laughs at the description as he looks back down at the letter, reading the last lines written to him.
I suppose that might be a possibility, considering our circumstances. What’s yours like? According to the last check up I had for him he’s eight years old—six in yours, I assume. He’s larger than life, quiet and terribly smart for his own good. He likes to eat straight from the packs and tins and somehow sleeps like a person.
“Hey there, Bones.”
I’m not exactly sure why I did it, but I’ve taken to call him Bones.
Bones instantly straightens himself back up at the sound of his name, barking out once in acknowledgement.
Dean can’t help but smile at that.
“You seem rather awfully cheery these days,” Balthazar randomly remarks out during one of their lunch breaks.
Castiel looks up from his plate of food and blinks owlishly at his friend. “Pardon?” he asks, already lost on whatever it is that his friend is trying to subtly imply. It’s always about the double meanings with Balthazar, and while Castiel doesn’t mind it most of the time, he would appreciate it if Balthazar doesn’t use it when he’s talking to him like this.
Balthazar takes a moment to roll his eyes before elaborating to his friend. “For somebody who’s just come back from leave after seeing somebody die before your eyes, you seem to be coping quite well.”
All that the younger doctor can do in return is to snort. “I did tell you that I didn’t need the break.” Although if he had never been forced into it, then perhaps he wouldn’t even have known about Dean and the strange mailbox back at the lake house…
“No, Cassie,” his friend replies with a shake of his head. “You did need the break, and I’m glad that you’re better for it. But…” Balthazar pauses then to eye Castiel for a moment, as if attempting to discern something from his expression.
Castiel, of course, only raises an eyebrow at his friend’s mysterious actions, but opts to say nothing. Indeed, there is that whole thing with Dean now, but certainly there’s no need for Balthazar to know about that—it’s not like anybody would ever believe him, anyway. These sort of things only ever happened in movies, not in real life—present exception aside.
Balthazar looks at him for a few more beats before eventually dropping his gaze back to his own food, picking at it as he remarks idly, “Well, whatever happened to you during the break, I suppose I should be glad for it. You look much better these days.”
Castiel has a brief feeling that the other doctor is going to probe deeper into this matter sooner or later, but for now he’s just glad that the matter is dropped for the moment; explaining the situation isn’t something that Castiel knows if he can actually accomplish, given the unique circumstances of everything about it. Although that isn’t to say that he doesn’t want to—Castiel does wish he could tell it to somebody at times. But how could he even start?
“Anyway,” his friend continues smoothly, spearing himself a piece of Chinese roast pork and waving it absently at Castiel. “If you are feeling good enough, I suppose you should be free to attend Talbot’s wedding this weekend.”
Castiel blinks at the question. “Bela Talbot?” he inquires. While he isn’t that all well-acquainted with the nurse in question—they are professional colleagues, at best—he has worked with her several times. Admittedly, while she does have the skills and experience, her character certainly could do with more work. At least, Castiel believes that anyway. (He had tried to say this nicely to her once before, mainly for her benefit. It hadn’t worked out well.)
Balthazar replies with a soft hum of acknowledgement. “The one and the same,” he confirms before proceeding to bite down on his pork.
The doctor frowns at the answer, not entirely sure what to make of it all. “Didn’t she get divorced about a year ago?” Not that the divorce had been a big thing, but sometimes trying not to overhear whatever the nurses were gossiping about was next to impossible.
“Ten months,” Balthazar corrects his friend with a quiet snort this time round, poking around at his plate once more. “Even shorter than the last one. The lady’s moving on quick.”
Quick was pretty much an understatement, in Castiel’s opinion, but the younger doctor doesn’t voice that out, instead choosing to phrase it in a tactful, diplomatic manner. “She should be more careful in her choices,” he remarks softly, privately feeling sorry for the poor man who’s going to tie the knot with Talbot; Castiel can’t imagine the life that the man would be going through soon enough.
A small huff of amusement escapes from Balthazar’s throat at those words. “The day she’s actually careful is the day when you actually take leave of your own violation, Cassie.”
Castiel knows that Balthazar does not mean anything harmful by that, but it still doesn’t stop the brief flare of irritation that fires up within him. “I simply see no reason to do so,” he retorts back, frowning once more.
Balthazar sighs, sounding weary and exasperated at the same time as the elder doctor shakes his head. “Not that I can’t applaud for that, Cas, but really—you’re just as human as the patients are. What will happen to your girl—” he pauses there, quickly noticing the brief glare that Castiel sends at him “—I mean, your significant other, whichever gender he or she may be.”
“I don’t have one,” Castiel replies simply, rolling his eyes as he polishes off the last bit of food on his plate. “Besides, I’m perfectly comfortable living the single’s life. There’s no reason to put my work aside for something as complicated as a relationship.”
“It’s only complicated if you let it be complicated, Cas,” the elder doctor returns with another sigh. “Are you really planning to just sit around and only start when you’re grey and balding?”
“If it’ll happen, it’ll happen,” Castiel answers easily, moving to stand up from his seat now that he’s done with his lunch—Balthazar might be the kind to use up his entire lunch hour for trivial things, but Castiel would rather use the extra time to do as much work as he can manage. There will always be patients around that need help in one way or another. “I can wait, if that is the case.”
Balthazar doesn’t respond instantly to that, and Castiel takes that silence as his cue to leave. He turns around and starts to move off, but five steps in the other doctor pipes up from the table, and the words he say ring in Castiel’s ears for the rest of the day afterwards.
“Sometimes waiting isn’t enough, Cas,” he says, “If you wait too long, the chance might just slip through your fingers before you can grab hold of it.”
After over two weeks of silence from the mailbox Dean decides to try his luck and place a letter in the mailbox—he doesn’t exactly know how this past-future communication thing works, and like hell he’s actually going to tell Sam about this. Dean can all too easily imagine the geeky look that his brother would put on his face the moment Dean opens his mouth to speak about this, and he can already hear the whole space-time pish posh that Sam’s eventually going to ramble about.
Sometimes Dean thinks that his brother really needs a non-geek life. It would make the world a far better place.
Hey pen pal, he writes, because he still isn’t that certain how to address Castiel since their communication hasn’t been the easiest of things to accomplish despite the ever-changing ways of technology these days (say whatever you want, but Dean does not trust those i-whatevers). You haven’t written for a while. Avoiding me already?
The joke comes out easy on pen and paper, but Dean would be lying if he said that he isn’t nervous. Even until now he still can’t wrap his head around the fact that he’s writing to somebody who’s living two years ahead. Didn’t this kind of thing happen only at Hollywood’s silver screens? Sure, the letters are coming back before his eyes, but a part of him is still just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s just… way too surreal at times.
Days pass by without any response or movement, and Dean is almost convinced that the entire thing had been some weird dream when a response does come through, alerted through Bones’ continuous barking at the mailbox.
Dean stares at the mailbox for a few moments before he does make himself move. He puts down his bag onto the ground and goes to the mailbox, taking a second to calm the giant golden retriever down with a scratch behind its ears and gives the mailbox about cautious glance. He had been wholly prepared to accept a no-response, more than ready to think of that one incident as a one-time thing and then move on from there. But there’s a response now—even if Dean hasn’t seen it, he just knows—and to be honest, Dean really doesn’t know how to go from here. Should he reply, or should he just…
Bones barks loudly again at that point, tail wagging fiercely as the golden retriever paws against the stand of the mailbox. Dean makes a small start, surprised at the dog’s action, but soon snorts and shakes his head. “Looks like you know what to do,” he mutters, lips quirking into a small smile as he reaches out to open the mailbox and grabs the folded piece of paper that’s replaced the sealed envelope Dean had put there himself.
Even though Castiel only sees words on paper, a part of him can’t help but try and imagine what Dean’s voice might sound like. He imagines the other’s voice to be bright and loud, possibly a little rough and low around the edges but pleasant to listen to nevertheless. Their conversations had been limited, but Castiel thinks that he would enjoy Dean’s company, if they could ever meet each other at the correct time.
Seeing the letter that Dean has placed in the mailbox for what must be most likely a long period of time, Castiel can’t help but feel apologetic as he answers, scribbling his words down onto a piece of paper from the journal he now brings with him everywhere. I apologize for my absence; things have been rather busy at the hospital in the last few weeks, and I’ve been working in all the night shifts.
Dude, seriously? Don’t you get tired?
I’m used to it.
If you say so. But it’s good to hear from you anyway. You should know that you’re my only connection to the future, so losing that would be kind of a loss for me.
I’m still not going to tell you who won the elections.
…Are you seriously still hung up over that?
I’m just making a point.
You’re really uptight about everything, aren’t you?
I do have my own interests and hobbies like any other person, Dean.
Tell me, then.
I read to Bones every weekend.
Can he even understand what you’re reading to him?
Dogs are very smart, Dean.
If you say so, man. Which book does he like the best? I’ll go and get it for him here.
He has a liking to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It’s written by Mark Haddon.
Huh. Weird title. What’s it about?
A teenager with Asperger’s.
I don’t really see the connection here.
You’ll understand once you read the book.
You say that as if I actually READ.
If you don’t read, then what do you do during your free time?
Driving around. Not anywhere far, of course, but to go down on the road with just you and the car… it’s a great feeling. You should try it someday.
No, seriously. We could take a drive together. This Saturday.
We’re two years away from each other, Dean.
And so that’s how Castiel finds himself rolling down on the streets of Chicago in his car on the following Saturday, rather than staying at the apartment like what he would have usually done during his time off work. To him, driving has always been more of a necessity than an enjoyment—he finds the public transport system hassling with its countless commuters, and having the privacy of his own space within the car is something that Castiel has always appreciated on a professional level, so to enjoy it as a pleasure… Castiel isn’t sure if that’s something he can actually do.
Doesn’t mean we can’t do it. C’mon, summer’s here. Might as well enjoy the sun and all that jazz, right?
Still, since Dean has taken the trouble to actually get him a map and even draw out a route for him to take, Castiel isn’t one to not appreciate such effort. Besides, he really hasn’t got the chance to appreciate the sights that Chicago has to offer for him; maybe this drive around the city might help in rectifying that. Bones, of course, rides shotgun, resting his head upon the rolled down windows and simply enjoying the breeze. Despite the dog’s silence Castiel can see exactly how happy the golden retriever is from the way Bones wags his tail without pause, thumping against the seats.
Castiel allows himself a small smile at the open display of happiness that his dog is displaying; he rolls down the windows on his own side of the car and he follows down the route that Dean has marked for him, allowing the roads take him around for the rest of the day.
When the next day comes up the first thing that Castiel does is to go over to the lake house and puts in a letter, thanking Dean for what he had done for the very enjoyable ride that had been given to him.
The drive was wonderful, Dean, thank you. Although I have a feeling that Bones enjoyed it far more than I did.
Hey, he’s the passenger. Let a dog have his day and all that, eh?
Nevertheless, it was a pleasant drive. You must know the streets well to have plotted out such a route around the city.
Eh, I didn’t have anything better to do anyway. I’m just glad you enjoyed it.
I’ve shown you my stuff. Now you got to tell me what you like besides reading to Bones.
I don’t really have much to share.
Well, I have a fondness for chocolate. I like the days where it’s not too bright and just cloudy enough to be cool, and the smell of the air after a long downpour. I also like to sleep in with Bones on my days off from work.
Well, no, but… what, are you too busy for a girlfriend or something?
I could ask the same of you.
Relationships ain’t really my thing.
The same goes for me, then.
You sound surprised.
I just never expected that, I guess.
Castiel feels a little embarrassed when he writes that (because there is the fact that they’re two years away from each other and it is a little silly—and well, it’s not like Dean can actually do anything about it), but on the next Saturday when he passes by landmark number thirteen on Dean’s route, he has to stop his car in order to read the words that’s spray-painted onto the wall at the side of the pavement.
This may sound strange, but… I do wish we could have taken our drive together, at least so that we can both enjoy these sights.
Cas, I’m here with you, it says. Thanks for the awesome Saturday together.
He sees the words ‘together’ seemingly sprayed twice, bold enough that it stands out from the rest of the words, and Castiel can’t help but smile at that.
If he had a choice in this, Dean would really rather not be here if he could help it, but at the same time he knows that he can’t drag this around any longer than he already has. Sam’s been bugging him about it, and if there’s anybody Dean can’t say no to it would be his giant mangirl of a brother. So here he is now, being at the one place in all of the States that Dean would rather not be in and trying not to glare at his food as much as possible and more so at the man who sits opposite from where he is.
In the years that Dean’s been travelling through the country it seems that John Winchester hasn’t even changed a bit—and neither does he seem inclined to start on that anytime soon. Even from where he is Dean can smell the putrid stench of alcohol from his father, and it takes almost everything from inside him to simply not just bolt from the table and out of this house entirely.
Dean just isn’t sure what Sam can still see in their dad to keep sticking by him even after all the shit that their father has put both of them through—and really, Dean does still want to see the best from his dad in one way or another. But John’s broke the last straw a long time ago already and Dean has had enough of his father’s bullshit. Try as he might, there’s only so much that he can take from his failure of a father. Sometimes he can’t help but wonder just how he had idolized his father so much back when he was young when he looks at the wreck that John Winchester is now.
Sam (who is now currently sitting between them and trying very hard not to look awkward) glances between the two older Winchesters for a few moments before attempting to start conversation. “So, uh, dad, Dean’s been living in Chicago for a while now already. He’s working around doing odd jobs and stuff most of the time while working in one of the big garages downtown.”
John makes no movement or sound to show that he’s actually heard what Sam had just said, and it’s actually that which ticks Dean off more than the fact that his father apparently couldn’t even be bothered with him anymore. The thing is that Dean doesn’t care about that at all—John hasn’t been his father for the longest time just as Dean has given up on being his son. No, what really gets Dean is the way how John still doesn’t try to give a shit about Sammy even though he’s the one who stuck around when Dean couldn’t take it any longer.
A good part of Dean wants nothing more than to punch his father in the face and just yell at him about all the shit he’s pulled on the family, but a brief stare from Sam stops him before Dean can do any of that. The older Winchester sibling stays in his chair then, poking at the food on his plate as he hears his brother start to speak up again. “S’been a while since we had dinner like this together, huh? I mean, it’s great to have Dean finally coming back after all these years—”
At this point John does make a sound, although its nothing more than a disgruntled snort. Still, it’s more than enough to get from both brothers, and Dean looks up from his plate just as Sam eyes his father for a brief moment before testing his luck again. “Dad?” he asks, prodding gently.
John raises his head up at that call, and Dean steels himself as he finds himself under the careless scrutiny of his father’s dark eyes. Dean lowers his cutlery onto the plate, letting his food go uneaten as he matches the gaze with his own, not even so much as wanting to back down from that look. He’s already let John win too much by this point—now, Dean wants to prove that he’s no longer that weakling who does nothing but cower under his father’s stupid, drunken tirades.
The silence is tense and stretches on for moments without end, but Dean is the one who goes to break it, clenching his jaw as he snaps out none-too-kindly at his elder. “If you’ve got something to say, then say it.”
Sam makes an uncomfortable expression at the way Dean speaks, but John looks like he could hardly even be bothered about whatever that his eldest son says. Rather than giving him a proper answer all that John does is to lower his head back down, lips moving in a mumble that Dean can barely catch snatches of, but he’s certain that whatever that’s being said is about him anyway.
Dean feels his pulse ticking against his jaw, pulsing at the flare of irritation that surges through him as he snaps out once again. “What, are you too spineless to even talk to me properly? If you have anything to say about me, then tell it right to my—”
“You think you can use that tone on me now, boy?” John suddenly replies, eyes narrowing as he regards Dean with a look that he could only label as ‘disgust’. “Just because you’ve spent all my money across the country and dragged your useless ass back here—”
“Your money?” Dean cuts in there with a growl, anger rising up sharply from inside him. “I never even so much as touched a single cent of your money, you asshole. You’d rather use it to buy your goddamned alcohol before even spending it on your kids!”
The expression on John’s face darkens. “So now you think you can lecture me on how to raise my own children, boy?” he snarls.
“Yes, because you didn’t even bother to bring up your kids after Mom died!” Dean answers back loudly, voice rising up higher with each word. “You do nothing but get yourself piss drunk and leave Sam starving half the time! You didn’t even bother to fulfill your duty as a father!” This is seriously why Dean just can’t understand the reason why Sam doesn’t hate their father for pulling this shit on him, on them. Even with all the empathy that Dean wants to grant his father he just can’t deal with this.
The words clearly strike something within John, because in the next few moments Dean suddenly finds himself being jerked forward across the table, food already long forgotten as he stares unflinchingly right at the furious expression that is now on the elder Winchester’s face. One of John’s hands grabs roughly at the collar of his shirt, the fabric pulled around his fingers as John lurches Dean close enough so that they’re face to face and Dean can smell the putrid stench of alcohol on his father’s breath as John hisses at him. “You think you’re some hotshot now, huh?” he says, voice a low growl. “Now that you’ve got that house and a life and all that money to splurge on your bullshit—”
Red clouds Dean’s mind right at that moment, and he moves before even thinking about it, heedless to the distressed cry of ‘No!’ that Sam gives out from beside him. He swings his fist out and punches John right at his jaw, hitting his father with enough force to bruise his own knuckles simultaneously while he sends John tumbling to the ground.
“Dad!” Sam quickly cries out, hurrying to crouch down and help their—his—father up. Dean only stays where he is, chest heaving with heavy breaths as he tenses his jaw and glares down at his father, feeling wholly unapologetic for what he had just done.
“If you want to know why I left in the first place,” he starts to say, because if there’s anything he wants John to know, then this is it. “It’s because I was trying to forget about you.”
John only looks up and returns Dean’s glare with one of his own. “Get out of my house, you ungrateful brat,” he snarls out with nothing else but anger in his voice.
Dean doesn’t even need to hear that to do so; he’s already getting the hell out of here even before John even says the words, too pissed off to even spare a look at Sam who glances at his brother with worry on his face.
They write to each other almost daily now. Admittedly, it is a bit of a hassle for Castiel since he has to drive all the way down to the lake house in order to get his letter, and there are times when it slips his mind altogether as the days just seem to blur by in his head. Still, Castiel does try to respond as soon as possible; he even starts to bring his journal around to work just so he can squeeze in his responses during the few breaks he has within his shifts. Work at the hospital is busier than ever—even Balthazar doesn’t seem to have the time to tease him these days, and that alone certainly says something about the state of their work.
After one particularly harrowing week that ended with a long thirty hour shift and an emergency CPR on one particular patient (Ed Zeddmore, twenty-three, currently warded after having fractured his shin due to falling about two meters down), Castiel finally finds himself with the time to compose a proper, normal letter instead of his usually hurried and rushed out ones (although Dean has long stopped complaining about his abysmal penmanship when it happens).
Work has been much more hectic than ever, he writes this out while sitting in bed. I’ve just been relieved after a thirty hour shift at the hospital. Not that I mind; I do enjoy my work, and Chicago is much more pleasant now after that tour you gave me. But at times when I stop it’s hard to not realize just how little company I have for myself. My closest friend also happens to be my colleague at work, and our schedules never seem to match up much—although considering how he is, I suppose that should be a small comfort of sorts.
Still, it’s not the lack of contact that irks me. A part of me still misses the lake house, and the many trees that surround it. I have always favored the trees there over anywhere else; I’ve spent my summer studying under the shade that they prove. It is a bit silly, but sometimes I do wish I could just wake up at see one of those trees again. They’re always such a pleasant sight to start the day with.He sends the letter the next morning when he takes a ride down to the lake house before work, putting it into the mailbox. By now Castiel doesn’t feel as embarrassed as he should be when writing about these kind of things to Dean—it’s a bit of a habit now, he supposes; putting words on paper has always been much easier than saying it out properly. There’s still the barrier, that lacking element of proper contact that Castiel feels both guarded and frustrated with. On one hand this barrier is the reason why he finds it easy to write to Dean—but on the other hand there’s still the fact that they’re two years away from each other, and sometimes Castiel wants nothing more than to at least see Dean once properly.
Somehow during their conversations they’ve never made an indication about exchanging photos at all—and Castiel doesn’t really dare to bring it up either. The fear about it is irrational at best; paranoid at worst, and maybe—maybe both of them don’t want to lose the magic just yet. Seeing photos would just make it more real, more certain… and personally, Castiel isn’t sure if he is ready for that reality yet. There are still so many other things going on in his life as it is.
Castiel quickly puts those thoughts aside as he arrives at the hospital and changes into his doctor’s attire, getting ready for his shift ahead. Work for him has, at least, simmered down a bit now that most of the urgent, outstanding business has been dealt with, but things still are pretty busy for him—besides looking over the patients under his charge Castiel finds himself supervising an emergency operation for acute appendicitis, and by the time he actually registers the clock again its already past ten o’ clock at night.
While late nights are something that Castiel is accustomed to, what he doesn’t like are the late night showers that attack him while he’s making his way home. It is a bit of a walk from the car park to the lobby of the apartments and Castiel doesn’t have an umbrella with him; after waiting for the last fifteen minutes for the rain to lighten but to no avail, Castiel has little choice but to run through the rain and hope that he doesn’t get too soaked.
The rain pours on him hard and unforgiving as Castiel sprints from the car park to his destination. The man has to squint his eyes as he runs, trying to make out his path through the constant downpour of rain. The way over isn’t hard at all, but as he reaches the pavement Castiel accidentally loses his grip on his bag, and there’s a brief clatter as the bag drops, spilling out the contents that Castiel had brought back with him from the hospital.
“Damnit,” Castiel mutters to himself, swiftly crouching down as he attempts to gather his things back into the bag. Rather than lessening the rain only now seems to pour even harder, completely soaking Castiel to the bone by now and Castiel really hates these late night downpours. They’re always so hard to make out.
As Castiel reaches for his phone (thankfully waterproof) a brief flash of lightning flares from the sky, accompanied with a rumble of thunder. Castiel blinks quickly for a few moments at the bright light, shaking his head after that in order to shake off the afterimages dancing across his vision as he stands up, thankful for the fact that he had dropped his things under the tree rather than under the rain outside—
Castiel pauses as he brings his gaze towards the tree in question (a tree he’s certain hasn’t been here just seconds ago), eyes widening as he recognizes the distinctive leaves in the canopy above him. There’s no other tree in Chicago that has such leaves—except for the ones at the lake house.
The lake house… the doctor thinks to himself as he inches closer to the tree, reaching out with one hand to press his palm against the trunk while his mind whirls to the possibility of what had just happened. It surely couldn’t be possible, but…
The rain continues to pour throughout the rest of the night, but the next day is another off-day for him and so Castiel makes good use of it. He quickly heads down to the lake house as soon as he’s awake and ready to head out, trying to ignore how fast his heart is beating against his chest. He knows he’s nervous, but for what reason is something that Castiel doesn’t know. Did Dean really go out and plant a tree for him just because he said so? It’s a strange thing to get worked up about, but the fact that the tree is there just somehow truly proves that this is real. Dean isn’t some figment of his memory or the identity of some prankster like it might have been—Dean is a real person back from two years ago.
This is real.
Dean is real.
That thought runs through his head as he walks up to the mailbox and opens it, taking out the letter with slightly trembling hands which Castiel is glad that nobody will ever see. He has to take a moment to steel himself first before he actually opens it, sucking in a breath as he reads the words written on the paper, words that mean so much more now than they had ever did.
You don’t need to worry about something like that, Cas; One day, we’re going to be together in time. Even though we’re far apart from each other now, I’ll find my way to get to you. Just hang on tight until then. We’ll see each other someday. I’ll make sure of it.
Out of all the expressions that Sam has, Dean does have to admit that the flabbergasted one that his brother is currently wearing down is perhaps one of the most amusing ones that Dean has seen on him. He really can’t help but crack a wide grin on his face as he watches Sam stare at the lake house, eyes going as wide as saucers.
“This is yours?” Sam asks as he turns towards Dean, eyes still wide and bulging. “Seriously?”
Dean feels his grin widening a little more at that. “Like I said, I’m mortgaged all the way up to my freaking eyeballs, but yeah. It’s mine as far as the papers are concerned.”
Sam lets out a soft whistle, stepping closer towards the door as he finally starts to properly cast his gaze around, studying both the house as well as its nearby surroundings. “It’s beautiful,” he eventually breathes out, turning his eyes back to Dean.
The grin turns wry at that point, and Dean has to look away from Sam so that his brother doesn’t see the twist of emotions that suddenly go through him due to that comment. “Beautiful is all that this place is,” the older Winchester says back in turn as he steps towards the railings of the bridge and grabs the chain that hangs from one of the latches he had installed earlier on. Holding it tightly in his hands Dean tugs the chain, pulling up the metal mesh basket attached to the end where bottles of beer clink against each other noisily within.
Sam’s eyes instantly go wide at that point as he glances between Dean and the beer bottles that his brother is taking out from the basket. “Dude,” he breathes out, too surprised and awestruck to really say anything coherent there and then.
“You’re way too easily impressed,” Dean quips back with an amused smile as he tosses one of the bottles over to Sam before taking one out for his own. He pops the lid from his own, waiting for Sam to do likewise; once his brother gets his bottle open as well, the duo click the mouth of their bottles in a silent toast and proceed to take their well-deserved swigs and then some. Dean leads his brother through the house as they continue to down their bottles, showing him around and letting him ogle over the architecture and surroundings and other stuff that his dorky little brother goes gaga over. By the time the two of them are up on the rooftop, the older Winchester is pretty sure that he can see those anime-like stars twinkling in his brother’s eyes (yeah okay, so he does watch some anime from time to time. It’s an art form, alright? He can damn well appreciate it however he wants).
Lowering the near-empty bottle in his hand, Sam lets out another huff of appreciation as he glances around their surroundings, eyes sparkling at the gorgeous view. “I seriously can’t believe you actually own this place, man,” he says, looking back at his brother. “I mean… it’s a really fancy place, especially for you.”
Dean only shrugs, taking another swig of his beer while he casts a cursory glance of his own. “It’s nice, yeah, but it’s incomplete.”
The response takes Sam by surprise, and the younger Winchester arches an eyebrow at that. “Incomplete?” he questions, not at all certain just what his brother means.
“Yep.” The older Winchester takes a few steps forward to the edge of the rooftop, leaning against the railing to stare down at the waters of the lake that the house is built over. “I mean, you’ve got a house here right over this great lake with breathtaking scenery, but you can’t even go into it at all from the house. Right here,” he pauses to gesture at the railings beside him, “There should be like a stairway or something that people can go directly into the lake. Even if it isn’t a stairway, a porch or deck would do just as well.”
He hears Sam making a sound of acquiesce behind him, and Dean turns back around at that, this time gesturing at the scenery that surrounds them. “You’re in this box—this glass box—and you get a view of everything around you… but you can’t touch it.” A dry smile. “No interconnection between you and the world.”
Sam frowns in that deep, thinking way of this, and Dean can just hear his baby brother’s mind chugging along as he puts the pieces together. “How about the maple tree?” he eventually asks, motioning towards said tree growing right through the centre of the house.
“Containment,” is Dean’s instant response, and he pauses for a moment before adding on. “But that’s not all.” To prove his point, the older Winchester pulls out a remote from the pocket of his pants and points it to the tree, pressing the button. At the command the glass roof built over the tree begins to pull back, rolling away to the side as Sam blinks in surprise at the mechanized device.
The younger Winchester turns to his brother after a few moments, looking at the mirthless look on his sibling’s face as Dean speaks again. “Containment… as well as control.” He takes a couple of steps back, finishing the last of his beer before continuing. “This house is about ownership, Sammy. Not connection. It’s never been about connection.” He stops then, glancing down at the canopy of the maple tree—and when he speaks, his voice drops to something much softer, much more pained. “It’s always only been about him. That’s why it’s incomplete.”
Sam looks at the tree as well, silent for a few long moments before he starts, questioning quietly. “Did you remember ever being here with Mom?”
Dean brings his head up at that, looking over to his brother with a smile that says both so much and yet so little. “Once, yeah. But mostly, I remember her trying to make things work the best she could.” That is, until the accident; until she died—until John gave up on both himself as well as the world, and Dean could do nothing but hate him for it even though he did understand.
He hears Sam letting out a soft sigh then. “Are you ever gonna go into the business?”
Dean blinks at the unexpected question. “What?”
“The business,” Sam repeats himself, and the younger Winchester brings his gaze over to him now. “Picking up where Dad left off. I mean, you seriously can’t just go around doing odd jobs for the rest of your life, right?”
Now it’s Dean’s turn to sigh this time, and the older Winchester does so as he looks away, running fingers through his hair in exasperation. “Sammy, please.” He didn’t want to talk about this, not now.
“I’m just being realistic here,” his brother starts, stepping closer towards him. “You’ve got the degree in Manhattan and I’m sure we can get a revenue to start, so why can’t you—”
“Not now, alright?” Dean cuts in at that point, looking over to his brother once more. “I don’t want to talk about it right now. I’ve got other things.”
Something in that reply seems to get Sam’s attention, because his brother is suddenly frowning and looking at him in a way Dean’s pretty sure he hasn’t seem on him before. “What other things?” he hears Sam asking from him. “You got something planned already?”
Dean opens his mouth, more than ready to reply with a ‘yes, duh’ but then stops before the words can come out and snaps his mouth back shut. Okay, sure, he does have some plans, but if he has to be honest they’re nothing more than vague notions of going out to find Cas (and Jesus, Cas? Where the hell did that nickname come from all of a sudden?), wherever the hell he is. It’s stupid, Dean knows, but still… he can’t help but think about it. Cas has been more real to him than anybody else at all in these last few months, which is just plain weird because the person in question happens to be two years in the future.
But then again—Dean thinks about the tree he planted right in front of 1620 North Racine, and the following days that he spent around the tree, making sure that its growing properly until he got that letter of thanks from Cas. The tree—his tree, which he had lugged all the way from here to the apartment—had managed to survive all the way until when Cas needed it, and Dean thinks about how he hadn’t even thought about the ridiculousness of the situation. It had been an impulse more than anything, but yet it worked, and he knows that Castiel has never lied to him. Hell, the guy even admitted to him that he’s gay. Dean isn’t against it or anything, being bisexual himself—but for Cas to tell him that must have taken a hell lot of courage; it took almost everything inside Dean himself to actually tell Sam the truth about his sexuality.
“Dean?” he hears his brother prodding quietly from beside him, and Dean blinks out from his train of thought to focus back onto his brother.
“Yeah?” he eventually returns after a few moments.
Sam gives him a cursory glance before speaking. “Seriously, if you’ve got anything in mind, just tell me.”
Dean shakes his head. “No, it’s nothing. It’s just—” he pauses to shrug helplessly. “I ain’t got the time for it.”
The comment, of course, only leaves Sam baffled and confused. “What does time have to do with this?” he asks, looking at his brother with a questioning look.
Somehow the question only manages to get a small laugh out from Dean as the older Winchester looks to his brother, a mirthless smile evident on his face as he replies. “You’re just going to think I’m crazy.”
Castiel doesn’t really know exactly what makes him do it—usually he’s not so reckless like this, but after the thing with the tree the thought just came unbidden into his mind somehow all that he wants to do is this. In an impulse he writes it down into his journal and tears out the page, stuffing it into the mailbox of the lake house on his way back from work that day.
This is your mission, should you choose to accept it. Two years ago during your time, I was taking the 1.45 train to Madison from the Riverside station and I left something there. Something important. If you do manage to find it, would you mind placing it in the mailbox? I would greatly appreciate it.Unlike the previous time, this time Castiel can’t help but think of the letter as the days pass by. It’s foolish, but after the tree… Castiel knows now that he can no longer lie to himself that Dean might have been just some prankster’s way of getting to him. A prank would never go that far, and Dean’s identity is all but cemented in his mind now. Dean is real, back in the past, and somehow fate has allowed them to know each other somehow. Everything about this feels like something out of a Hollywood movie, but yet it’s happening to him right here, right now, right this moment. If this is a dream, Castiel thinks that he might never want to wake up ever again.
So he waits, and waits—and waits, checking the mailbox every time he has a chance to but somehow nothing turns out at all. Two whole weeks pass and still there’s nothing at all from Dean. Castiel leaves a few notes of his own, inquiring about Dean to ask if he is actually okay; more than just the book, the sudden radio silence worries him as well, and Castiel does hope that the other man hasn’t gotten another cold or anything. It would be bad.
A few more days pass, and Castiel is about to put in another letter into the mailbox again when he does get a response, and he hurriedly tears the envelope open to get to the letter inside it. It’s strange, but being able to see Dean’s messy scrawl of his penmanship puts his heart at ease again, and Castiel smiles as he reads the letter.
Cas, I managed to find it. But if you don’t mind, would you let me keep it for a while? I want to look through it. I’ll return to you someday. I promise.
Of course you can keep it for a while. Now that I know you’ve got it, I can rest easy. Just return it to me once you’re done. I didn’t know you read though.
I’m not much of a book guy, but there are a few books I like. Mostly Kurt Vonnegut.
That is quite a pick.
You think so?
I’m quite fond of his works myself. I actually have a few of his books too.
Awesome. That aside though; back at the station, when I got your book? We saw each other. Or well, at least I saw you.
I don’t remember.
I guess you were too busy getting smothered by that other guy with you.
You must mean Gabriel.
Gabriel? As in the brother you keep talking about?
The one and the same.
I may be gay, Dean, but that does not mean I happen to be dating every guy who’s physically around me.
No, no that’s not what I mean! You just looked nothing like how I expected you to look. You looked… great.
Oh. Thank you, I suppose. But I honestly don’t remember you.
Castiel pauses in his writing when he reads the letter, thankful for the fact that he had chosen to read it only now rather than during proper work hours. It’s nearly nine at night, and the cafeteria is long empty and void of people—which is why it serves as the perfect place for him to sit down and do his work in here. He’s always worked better with silence, although noise has never been a big bother for him; he still simply prefers the quiet, where it’s easier to concentrate.
Well. We can meet up in your time, right? And then you can see me for yourself.
A long moment passes as Castiel continues to stare at the letter, feeling a hard lump forming in his throat. A good part of him does want to know Dean—to see him more than just words on a paper or some figure from the past who he can never reach. He wants to know Dean as Dean, as the man who’s been writing to him all these time. He wants to see him, to confirm for himself that he isn’t just a mirage, an illusion. He wants to be sure that Dean is indeed real, and that he does exist in this world wholly and truly. But… is he up for that risk? Is he willing to take that chance, to plunge into these unknown waters?
The man only has a moment to think about it before he makes a decision. Yes. Yes, he wants to take this chance, because Dean is worth it. He is worth this.
Letting out shaky breath, Castiel can do little to hold in the sudden jolt of nervousness that he feels as he steadies his pen again, starting to write down his response. We can try it. Why don’t you call me on July 10th, 2010 at about—he pauses to check his watch, noting the time. At about a quarter past nine PM—
Without warning, his cell phone abruptly starts to ring just as Castiel finishes writing out the end of the ‘M’, and the suddenness of it all nearly causes the man to fall out from his chair. Fortunately, Castiel does manage to steady himself before something like that can happen, but he remains stock still after he’s straightened himself, doing little else but to stare at his phone in disbelief. Could it really be…?
Dean, the doctor thinks in a rush as he reaches out for his phone and grabs it. Another moment passes by as he continues to stare at the phone, but soon Castiel shakes himself out from his trance and picks up the call. He hears the rush of his heartbeat pumping nervously like a jackhammer in his chest as he steels himself, trying to sound as calm as possible as he half-stutters into the phone. “…hello?”
“…yes?” he replies after a pause, quite unable to believe this. Was this really happening—
“Hey, bro! It’s me!”
Castiel instantly deflates at that, closing his eyes to let out a breath he wasn’t aware he had been holding back. Of course it wouldn’t be possible—how could it? He hadn’t even sent the letter yet… although really, Castiel supposes he isn’t one to really talk about time paradoxes like that. Still… “Gabriel,” he eventually manages to sigh out, already moving to snap his journal shut and pack his things up from where they had been strewn across the tables. “Is something the matter?”
“I heard from Bal you’re still in the hospital, so I thought I’d give you a call. You haven’t eaten yet, right? Let’s go and take a bite together.”
Despite the vague sense of disappointment he feels inside, Castiel still can’t help but smile at his brother’s offer—he hasn’t been able to see Gabriel at all ever since he moved to Chicago, so being able to see him now would be a good thing for both of them. It has been quite a while since they last saw each other, after all. “I would be amendable to that.”
One hour later, Castiel found himself at the nearby pizza place poking at slice of a poor imitation of a Hawaiian pizza with Gabriel sitting opposite of him and currently munching down one of the other slices.
“This is such a poor excuse for dinner,” the elder of the two sighs out melodramatically once he had swallowed his slice down. “I would have totally gone for Il Mare—that fancy restaurant near the park, if you've actually seen it—but tables are reserved until freaking October.” A disgruntled expression crossed Gabriel’s face then. “Seriously, Cas, people these days. Don’t they have anything better to do than cause misery in other people's lives?”
Castiel can’t help but let out a mildly amused sound on his own end, shaking his head slightly. “It’s the best restaurant in town, Gabriel. Of course tables are going to be snapped up like crazy.”
“Still,” Gabriel attempts to counter back. “It’s our reunion. We should have made it a good one.”
The words only cause Castiel to roll his eyes. “You know how much I detest such gaudy events,” he returns.
Gabriel does nothing but pout in response, a mock expression of hurt on his features. “C’mon, Cas. It doesn’t hurt if it’s only once in a while, right?”
“Yes, but having to go through one almost every weekend while I was still busy studying does not count as ‘once in a while’,” Castiel returns dryly, pointedly looking down to his food after that to concentrate on cutting his pizza into small, more edible slices.
The elder Glaser lets out another melodramatic sigh once again. “I can’t believe you’re still hung up about that,” he half-mutters out, the tone of his voice easily showing his exasperation.
Castiel takes a moment to chew down his food before replying. “I am only stating the truth.”
Gabriel snorts at that. “And the truth is that you do enjoy it.”
The words make Castiel pause halfway from eating another part of his pizza slice, looking over to his brother with one raise eyebrow and nothing but confusion on his features. “What?”
“You don’t remember?” the other returns, now pointing at Castiel with the end of his fork. “About two years ago, the first time you came over to my place here? You were making out with this really hot guy.”
Castiel would have really rather not remembered it—since he mostly only remembers the aftermath, and his brother's very unhelpful suggestions—but now that Gabriel’s brought it up the memory rushes back to him, unbidden, and the younger Glaser instantly feels his face heating up as his brain unhelpfully recalls the incident. “It’s—Gabriel—”
“It’s just too bad he never showed his face again,” Gabriel sighs out, shaking his head mournfully. “Otherwise you two would have gotten married in Vegas or something by now.”
“It was just a kiss,” Castiel manages to hiss out finally, even though he knows that his face is pretty flushed at the moment—but dignity aside, he really does need to make his point clear here. “There was nothing more than that, alright?” He pauses to let out a sigh of his own, forcing himself to cool down and focus back to the topic at hand. “I can’t believe you even remember that.”
Gabriel shrugs. “Hey, that was pretty much your first and only kiss. Of course I would remember it.”
Castiel can only close his eyes upon hearing that and sigh once again.
Brothers these days, seriously.
When Dean finishes his shift at the garage, he finds himself pleasantly surprised when he steps out to see Sam waiting for him next to the Impala.
“Sammy?” he starts, not quite sure what else to say at the sight of his younger brother standing in his fancy lawyer outfit while being surrounded by scrap metal and men in overalls.
Sam breaks out a small grin, somehow finding a sense of amusement in Dean’s bewilderment. “I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I’d just drop by and stuff. Maybe get a lift if I’m lucky enough.”
Dean snorts at the latter comment. “I knew you had something up your sleeve, bitch.”
“Jerk,” comes the familiar responding jibe, its impact lessened by the growing smile on Sam’s face.
The older Winchester grins back and throws his towel over to Sam, ignoring the following outburst from his younger brother. He takes a moment after that to fish for his car keys, letting out a sound of triumph once he gets them out and proceeds to unlock the doors of the Impala.
“You’re an asshole at times, you know that?” Sam grumbles once the doors are unlocked, shooting Dean a brief scowl before throwing the towel back to him.
“You know you love it,” Dean teases back in return, continuing to grin as he turns around to call for Bones (currently occupying himself with a half-deflated spare tire) to get into the car as well—the golden retriever follows him to work from time to time, and the dog is smart enough to stay quiet and not get into trouble so Bobby had been pretty good in allowing Bones to stick around when he’s brought over. It’s one of the many things that Dean appreciates his boss for.
Sam lets out a small snort of his own at the sight of the dog coming over, arching up an eyebrow. “You even bring your dog to work? Seriously?”
Dean shrugs. “What can I say, I’m a dog guy.”
“Never imagined that this day would come,” the younger Winchester remarks with an amused gleam in his eyes. “Next thing I know, I’ll be getting invitations to the wedding.”
The comment only causes Dean to roll his eyes. “Well, I know for sure now who to not invite when that happens.”
Sam opens his mouth then, more than ready to shoot back with a scathing remark of his own before he’s suddenly interrupted by a series of barking coming from Bones. The two brothers instantly pause in their age-old bickering to turn around the regard the golden retriever with scrutiny, Dean himself looking rather perplexed at his pet’s sudden outburst. “Bones—” Dean tries to start, about to ask if there’s anything wrong but before he can say anything more than that the dog just suddenly bolts, barking non-stop as it runs off without warning.
Dean doesn’t even think twice then on what to do next; he shouts at Sam to take care of the car as he takes off after Bones, chasing his dog down to wherever the hell the golden retriever is darting off to. The man swears under his breath as he runs, wondering just what the hell has gotten into the dog to just suddenly take off like that—he sure hasn’t done anything like that before, and Dean can’t really see any reason why Bones would suddenly start now. Damnit, maybe he should have gotten a proper collar and leash like he had been planning to for a while already. Bones had never given him any reason to worry, but now with this…
Now wasn’t the time to think about this though. Dean mutters a few other choice words as he pushes himself to move faster, keeping the golden retriever in his sights the best he can. Damn, he never knew that Bones could run this fast; sure he had run around with his dog a few times, but they were jogs at best. To think that he could actually move this fast—Dean makes a mental note to actually properly check out the statistics of the golden retriever breed later once he got his dog back. Maybe he should have actually done that when he made the decision to keep the dog.
The man calls out Bones’ one more time as he follows the golden retriever across one of the mini-bridges in the nearby park, but the dog pays no heed to the name and seems to just quicken its pace instead. Dean swears again and tries to catch up, but Bones stamina must be something else because the dog just dashes off into the distance, completely disappearing from his sight a few moments later. By now Dean can’t help but stop because he’s out of breath and his joints hurt after all that sprinting—and he’s seriously, seriously not in the shape to go running around and chasing his dog like this. The man bends over, steadying himself his hands on his knees as Dean gets his breath back, squinting upwards as he makes out houses in the distance and wonders if Bones ran into any of them.
It’s really not a comforting thought.
“Son of a bitch,” comes the swear as Dean straightens himself back up, still breathing heavily as he looks at the houses for another few more moments before starting to make his way towards them. If Bones really had run into one of them he’d just get his dog back, apologize and make a trip to the nearby pet store later to get a leash. After this incident, Dean really doesn’t want to take any more chances.
Walking closer towards the houses, he calls out for Bones once again. This time though, the bark he hears back sounds like a proper reply, and Dean follows it down over to the first house that he saw from the distance earlier. It’s a pretty big and fancy looking place for his tastes, three stories high and complete with porch, front yard plus the shiny white picket fence. Whoever owns this place must certainly be one heck of a guy.
He hears Bones barking again from nearby, and Dean brings his head down this time to see a vaguely familiar-looking short, mousey-haired guy who’s currently holding a heavy-looking box in his hands and seems to be glancing between him and his dog in amusement. “I take it that this canine is yours?” the man asks, nudging at the golden retriever now currently busy with sniffing at his shoes.
“Yeah,” Dean answers, nodding before he crouches down and gently tugs Bones away from the other guy’s shoes. “Sorry ‘bout that.”
“You should keep a better eye on him,” the man remarks, wry amusement bleeding through his voice.
Dean lets out a grunt of agreement as he scratches Bones by the back of his ears, hearing a soft, apologetic whine from the golden retriever that Dean can’t help but sigh at. “Yeah, I know. But Bones never ran off like that before.”
“Must be my charm,” comes the bemused response, and Dean can’t help but snort at those words as he gets back up, content to let sleeping dogs lie for the moment (ha). As he dusts his hands off with the backs of his jeans the other man continue to speak, although it sounds more like something to himself rather than an actual, proper conversation. “I should get one for my bro though once he’s settled in. He goes gaga over dogs.”
“Sounds like a plan there,” Dean returns, looking up now, and he pauses for a moment to properly scrutinize the other man standing before him. He doesn’t know why, but Dean is pretty sure he’s seen him somewhere before… “Uh, have we met?”
The man only arches up an eyebrow in response. “If we had, I’m sure I would have remembered a pretty face like yours,” he says, and Dean blinks at the words, totally taken aback by it.
“Uh,” he starts eloquently.
The man grins a little, finding amusement in Dean’s loss of words. “You’ll do just fine, chump,” he starts, and manages to balance the box around one arm instead so that he can reach out with his now-free hand in a handshake. “Name’s Gabriel. Gabriel Glaser.”
Dean freezes entirely once he hears the name, stopping halfway in reaching Gabriel’s hand as he properly recalls when he had seen the man from—back at the train station, when he had picked up that book for Cas. He remembers the other being there, alright, but back then he had been far more distracted by the fact that he was actually seeing Cas, to see exasperated smile on his features or the way Cas’ face lit up when he was with his brother. Dean can’t help but wonder if that’s the same expression that Cas puts on in their letters, if he smiles in that same way when Dean complains to him about his work or some small, frustrating thing that happened to him that day. God, he wants to see Cas so much it physically hurts.
He manages to get out from his thoughts when Gabriel waves his free hand in front of him. “Yoohoo, anybody home?”
Dean blinks, taking a moment to compose himself as he properly faces Gabriel and reaches out with his own hand this time. “Sorry. Name’s Dean Winchester.”
“Dean-o it is, then,” Gabriel returns with a grin, reaching out once more so that he can properly shake hands with Dean. “Great to meet you.”
“Same here,” Dean returns (perhaps in more ways than one), drawing back his hand and finally studies the boxes that Gabriel is busying himself with. It only takes a moment to figure out what the other man is holding happens to be boxes of various alcoholic drinks, and he can’t help but raise both of his eyebrows at that. “Need a hand with these?” he eventually asks.
Gabriel smiles. “I’d appreciate the extra hands.”
A few minutes later, Dean finds himself helping Gabriel in heaving up his many boxes of alcohol, half-wondering what the other intends to do with all of it while he listens to Gabriel’s genial chatting. “—got some business around here, so I’m staying here for a couple of years to get things going. Mostly small stuff, but they’re gonna be big one day, you’ll see.”
“Yeah?” Dean can’t help but question, feeling a bit too skeptical at the confidence that Gabriel seems to be displaying. He’s pretty sure Cas had mentioned something about his brother being in some trouble or other in one of his letters before.
“Yep,” the shorter man answers all too-easily, complete with confident grin on his face. “What about you? You been here long?”
“About half a year,” Dean answers as he puts the boxes in his hands down onto the ground. “I’ve got a place up on a lake.”
Gabriel blinks at that. “Huh.”
There’s something about the response that clearly seems to be suggesting something, and Dean’s just about to prod and ask for more when he hears a familiar beeeep coming from around the corner. The two men turn around to see the Impala driving up the street, stopping at the road in front of Gabriel’s house. Sam comes out through the driver’s side of the car moments later, looking up at Dean with an amused look on his face as he closes the door.
“Looks like you found him,” his brother starts, gesturing to Bones (now currently lying on the grass and enjoying the setting sun).
Dean breaks into a small smile. “Yeah.”
Gabriel peers between the two Winchesters before looking back to Dean. “You didn’t tell me you were taken, Dean-o,” he remarks with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows.
“Wha—” Sam starts before he gets the message and instantly cringes up. “No, ugh. Dean’s my brother, man.”
The answer does nothing to lessen Gabriel’s leering. “I’m always open for threesomes.”
“Can it,” Dean barks out, rolling his eyes—now this he had heard from Cas before, although he had no idea Gabriel’s legendary flirting would already start this quickly. Biting back a sigh, he gestures between Gabriel and his brother, introducing them to each other. “Gabriel, Sam. Sam, Gabriel.”
He can see his brother already starting to put on one of his man bitchfaces, but that quickly melts away when Gabriel extends out a hand for a handshake and Sam takes it. “Nice to meet you, Gabriel.”
“And the same back to you,” Gabriel answers with a smile now. He turns back to Dean once the introductions are over, looking at him as well as Sam while speaking. “Just so you guys don’t think I’m going to be drinking all of these—not that I can't, but—” he pauses to gesture at the boxes at their feet “I’m actually going to have a bunch of peeps over tonight; friends and locals all welcome. That includes you two.”
Sam blinks at the invitation. “A party? What’s the occasion?”
Gabriel responds with a snort. “Please. Do you always need a reason to host a party?” He shakes his head at that. “But if you must know—it’s my brother, Cas. He finally got the time to come down here from Madison, so I’m having a proper house-warming-slash-birthday celebration for him. It’s his birthday today.”
His birthday? Dean really has to pause at that, confused for a moment before he remembers that he actually never knew when Cas’ birthday is—he had never asked, and Cas had never said anything about it so Dean had been content to keep the status quo like that. To be honest, it had already completely slipped his mind, but now…
This time round its Sam who has to snap Dean out from his daze, snapping fingers in front of his brother until Dean flinches at the sound to turn around and scowl at Sam. “What?” he starts, voice coming out in a frustrated snap.
All Sam does in return is to give Dean one of his bitchfaces before turning back to Gabriel. “I’m pretty sure we can make it. What time’s the party?”
“Eight o’ clock sharp,” Gabriel answers as he casts another inquisitive look between the brothers. “Cas won’t be around until about nine though, so there’s no rush.”
Cas. Fuck, he’s going to see Cas.
“We’ll be there,” Dean instantly responds without thinking, mind already starting to whirl with thousands of emotions that Dean couldn’t even begin to start making sense of. After the train station he thought that might have been his one and only chance to see Cas, but somehow… now, right here, he’s going to see him again. And Dean sure as hell isn’t going to waste this chance like the last time, when he couldn’t do anything but watch Cas’ face disappear along with the train into the distance.
Gabriel takes a moment to blink at the fast reply, but soon breaks into an easy grin. “Excellent. I’ll be seeing you then.”
Dean nods, taking a few steps back and then turns around to walk back towards the Impala. Bones gets up without a word and follows behind this time along with Sam, who does nothing but shoot curious glances towards his brother as they get back into the car. It is only when they’re inside the car does Sam speak up, looking at Dean with concern as he asks in concern. “You sure you’re okay, Dean?”
The older Winchester looks at Gabriel’s house one more time before he turns to face the front, steeling himself with a deep breath before reaching for the ignition. “I’m fine, Sammy. In fact, I’m just peachy.”
He doesn’t even need to turn his head to know that Sam is rolling his eyes. “Of course you are, Dean.”
Bones barks out his agreement from the backseat behind them.
“You know, according to most accepted social norms nobody should be drinking alone after ten unless they have a valid reason to.”
Castiel turns around at the sound of his friend's voice to see not one, but two familiar faces looking right back at him. A smile crosses Balthazar's lips as the elder doctor casts an inquisitive look at him, arching up an eyebrow. “What's your excuse?”
Rather than dignifying Balthazar with an answer, Castiel turns his gaze over to the other figure half-draped over his friend and tries not to sigh at the obviously tipsy, half-drunk state his brother has already landed himself into. “Gabriel.”
“That's not an excuse,” the older Glaser retorts, pointing his index finger at Castiel's face. “So not an excuse. You're an assbutt, Cas.”
This time, Castiel does sigh. “Please take my brother home, Balthazar.”
“I would really love to,” Balthazar starts with a sigh of his own. “But unfortunately, the boyfriend's commands trumps the commands of the boyfriend's brother. Gabriel's quite intent on drinking you under the table tonight.”
Castiel eyes his brother at that comment. “In this state?” he can't help but question, because while Gabriel's alcohol tolerance is pretty good, it's also a fact that Castiel could beat almost anybody under the table almost any day. It's not something that Castiel does flaunt out, but at least it ensures that he doesn't do anything foolish while under the influence. Gabriel's done more than enough of that for both of them.
Gabriel narrows his eyes at the comment, and the finger pointing is back—this time almost right at Castiel's face. “You can't back out of this one, Cas. The drink's on me!”
“The offer of unlimited alcoholic consumption does not tempt me, Gabriel,” Castiel deadpans back to his brother, barely even batting an eyelash.
“Come oooon.” Gabriel's pouting now, a full-on childish pout Castiel knows that Balthazar has never been able to wholly resist but unfortunately has little effect on the younger Glaser himself. “It's your birthday, bro! Celebrate a little!”
“I'd rather not,” Castiel returns dryly this time round.
If anything, the pout only grows even more pronounced at the answer. “Party pooper,” he half-mutters out, dropping his arm.
Balthazar sighs once more, shifting around in order to help Gabriel down onto a nearby seat before getting one himself right beside Castiel. The younger doctor watches, making no protest as he watches his friend calling out a set of drinks for both of them. Castiel accepts his drink once it arrives, sipping at it while Balthazar downs about half of his drink in one go.
“You really shouldn't keep so much to yourself, you know,” the older doctor says after swallowing down his mouthful of alcohol. “Gabe might now show it, but he's been pretty worried about you these days.”
Castiel lowers his glass at the words, closing his eyes to let out a soft hiss of breath. “There is nothing that he should be worried about, Balthazar.”
“Even if he isn't, I am,” Balthazar returns with a small but pointed roll of his eyes. “Honestly, all these months of being in Chicago and you two have only met once? There's no reason why you two shouldn't be meeting every weekend.”
Perhaps, Castiel pauses to think to himself at that point, that Balthazar does make sense there. While he knows that his and Gabriel's schedules tend not to work well, at the same time he has been neglecting his brother quite a fair bit. The thought of that feels Castiel with a fair amount of guilt—after all, it isn't as if work has been the only thing that occupies him these days. There are the letters with Dean, and the trips to the lake house do take up a fair bit of time, as much as Castiel tries not to admit it; the place is located on the outskirts of the main city after all.
Staring down at his drink, Castiel remains silent for a few beats before speaking. “...you are right. I will put in more effort to spend time with Gabriel in the future.” After all, he can write a letter at almost any other time—he really should be paying more attention to his brother.
“As long as we're on the same wavelength here,” Balthazar says, downing the other half of his glass and proceeding to call for another before he talks again. “Although I do wonder—just what do you spend your free days doing?”
The question takes Castiel quite a bit in surprise, and the younger doctor makes a start, blinking a few times. “Um, well...”
“I see you writing quite a lot nowadays,” the older doctor continues on, head inclining just a little. “Either that, or you're reading a letter of sorts. Happens during almost every break we have in the hospital.”
Castiel flusters a little then, because he wasn't aware of the fact that he had been that wholly obvious. “Ah, that—”
A wry smile curls up at one of the corners of Balthazar's lips then. “Is it a love letter?”
“No!” The protest comes out in a near-shout from Castiel's lips before he can properly register it, and the man quickly quietens down after that sudden outburst. “It's just... a long-distance relationship.”
Balthazar raises an eyebrow, his curiosity piqued. “How long?”
Castiel gives a helpless shrug in response. “Just... long.” Long in ways that nobody would have ever thought impossible, but yet it was happening right in his life. If he had to be honest, Castiel would call his relationship with Dean the best and worst thing in his life—best because in Dean he had found somebody to admire and like, and worst because he knew that he would never be able to see him properly. This wasn't even a matter of distance or situation—this was about time, and there's no way anybody can go against it like that.
Balthazar lets out a small hum in return, swirling his drink around idly. “How did you two meet?” he eventually asks.
“We've never met,” Castiel answers without a beat.
The older doctor blinks, clearly taken aback. “What?”
“We've never met,” Castiel repeats himself, shrugging again. “We just write letters to each other.”
“You're kidding,” Balthazar deadpans, but Castiel shakes his head, leaving Balthazar very much bewildered and confused. “Seriously?”
“Seriously,” the younger doctor intones back, taking another sip of his drink. “It's kind of funny, really. I mean... he's going to be the one guy I can never see, but yet there's nothing more I want to do than to actually see him, even if it's just for one time.” And the things he could say to Dean, to see him wholly and truly—to see him smile and laugh when they talk and his frowns when he complains about Bones dirtying the floor. What he wouldn't give just to see Dean, but yet Castiel knows that it will never happen so easily.
Balthazar gives him a sympathetic glance then. “It must be hard,” he muses quietly as he places his glass down. “But I'm sure if he's meant for you, then you'll see him one day.”
Castiel feels his lips curling into a small smile at that, feeling a surge of gratitude at his friend's words. “I hope that can be the case—”
He doesn't know what actually triggers it, but at that moment he finds his mind rewinding to the party that Gabriel had hosted for him two years ago—the same party that Gabriel had brought up in their conversation in their previous meeting. He remembers what Gabriel had said about that 'hot guy' who Castiel kissed back then, and as he thinks about that the face of the person in question suddenly becomes clear in his mind, along with a name that he now knows all too well.
Dean turns around when he hears the door behind him slamming open abruptly, and he turns around to see Cas of all people coming out of the house and into the back porch. Even until now, Dean can’t help but think just how freaking surreal all of this is—there’s the Cas that he’s writing to all this time, and now here’s a Cas who knows absolutely nothing about him even though Dean knows a whole lot of things about Cas himself.
And if he has to be honest, trying to make sense of that does nothing but make his head hurt, so Dean shoves it aside to smile up at the other man and greet him. “Happy birthday, man.”
Rather than accepting the greeting Cas only sighs, one hand running wearily through his hair. “It’s really not necessary,” he eventually mutters out.
Remembering how Cas often says (writes) about his brother being horribly exhausting, Dean puts on a sympathetic expression and muses quietly. “Your brother really went all out here, huh?” Dean doesn’t really have anything against parties like these, but he can imagine how exhausting it must be for Cas, considering his own preference of privacy and after having travelled all this way down. Sitting through a celebration like this is probably the last thing that Cas actually feels like doing.
Cas’ response is to sigh yet again. “I know he only does it with the best of intentions. Although the strippers were unnecessary.”
Dean bites back an urge to laugh at the mention of the strippers, remembering how wide Cas’ eyes had been when he saw them (and Gabriel’s own thinly-veiled suggestions complete with waggling eyebrows). Dean, of course, knows that Gabriel knows that Castiel is actually gay since Cas had mentioned it before, but it was still kind of hilarious to see Cas’ reaction at the sight of scantily-clad women in his brother’s living room.
“He’s probably gonna send ‘em away soon,” Dean says in an attempt to lighten the situation. “It wouldn’t be good if the cops come a’knocking and see them.”
“Perhaps,” Cas replies after a beat. Despite the answer, Dean can see a wry twist to Cas’ lips that seem to suggest that letting Gabriel spend a day in the slammer would actually be a good idea to go with. The thought of that makes Dean let out a small chuckle, finding some form of amusement in that idea.
Cas blinks in both surprise and bewilderment by Dean’s sudden break of amusement. “What do you find so amusing?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Dean quickly answers, recovering from his laughter and presses the heel of his right hand against his eyes, wiping away the tears that had swelled up there. “It’s just… I dunno. It’s a big party.”
“Too big for my tastes,” Cas returns dryly, stepping closer to the edge of the porch where Dean is sitting over. “Do you mind?” he asks, gesturing to a spot beside Dean.
Dean shrugs lightly. “It ain’t my house. Help yourself, man.”
Looking at least a little embarrassed by that statement, Cas gives a small nod before moving to settle beside Dean, letting his legs dangle over the edge of the porch as well. The two men remain quiet like that for a few minutes, allowing the sounds of party back in the house to fill in the silence between them.
Eventually, said silence is broken by Cas, who turns over to look at Dean and starts to speak. “Gabriel told me that you live up at the lake.”
Dean takes a moment to blink at that, caught unaware by the words, but he quickly recovers and nods. “Yeah.” He turns over to Cas then, glancing at him with a fair amount of curiosity. “Why, you interested in getting a place like that?” Yeah okay, he does know that Cas does like the lake house, but it’s not as if he can’t do a little nudging of his own. Not that he’s certain he’s already messing up the timeline or something like that by seeing Cas right now when they only meet two years later down Cas’ time, but then again… who knows, really.
Cas hums softly in his throat, turning back to face the nighttime scenery of Gabriel’s gigantic backyard. “I think it’d be nice,” he replies quietly.
“You’ll like it,” Dean says before he can help himself.
The strange remark causes Cas to turn back right at him, eyebrows raised in question. “I’ll like it?” he echoes, clearly lost in the conversation.
Dean instantly winces at that—crap, he hadn’t meant to make it sound that bloody obvious. “Uh, I mean. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it. It’s got a great view and stuff.”
“Oh.” Cas at least seems to be pacified by that, and the confused look on his face disappears when he turns back to look at their surroundings. “Can you swim, though?”
Dean can’t help but blink again, not sure what to make of that question. “Uh, I took lessons when I was a kid—”
This time, its Cas’ turn to laugh, and Dean can only stare at the crinkles that appear on the other’s face as he chuckles, too entranced by the way Cas’ face simply lights up like a speak of light within the darkness. It’s… Dean really wants to see him laugh like that again. Actually, Cas should do nothing but laugh—he just looks so different; so much more happier with his eyes crinkling up like that, and Dean really wants Cas to be nothing else but happy at this point.
“No, I don’t mean that,” he eventually says, still smiling. “I mean, can you swim into the water from the house?”
“Oh.” And now Dean feels pretty stupid for not realizing that. He feels a surge of embarrassment surging through his face and quickly ducks his head, hoping that Cas doesn’t see how red his face most likely is right now (and thank god Sam’s busy in the house too, because he knows his brother would be laughing at all of this too). “Well… you can’t. That’s one of the bad things about the house. You can’t go into the water directly.”
“Ah.” Cas nods at that, and now the smile turns sympathetic. “That’s too bad.”
“Yeah,” Dean says with a nod of his own, leaning back and bracing his palms against the floor to keep him sitting upright. “I’ve been thinking of changing it though—I mean…” he’s starting to babble now, he knows, but Cas is right here and he’s going to own the lake house one way or another, so Dean wants him to hear this. He wants Cas to know what he’s going to get, the things that Dean wants to give him. The house isn’t just his now—its belongs to Cas too, and Dean wants the house to reflect that. The lake house isn’t just a shiny glass box now where you distance yourself from the world; it’s about looking and then going out into that world you see—it’s about connection, something more than what the house is… something that a home should be. “There could be a deck out back, or maybe a porch like this. And then there’d be stairs going down into the water, too. Like a gentle slope, slowly going downwards… so you can plunge in, or just sit and dip a little into the lake.”
Cas blinks owlishly at that, staring at Dean with a strange expression on his face. “You can do all that?” he asks, sounding faintly amazed.
Dean feels his face heating up again and quickly glances away, shrugging lightly as he does so in a response. “Well… I’m good with my hands,” he manages out, voice weak even to his ears. Real smooth there, Winchester.
At least Cas doesn’t seem to notice the way Dean’s voice wavers and only smiles again, closing his eyes to nod. “It sounds nice,” he murmurs, voice just loud enough for Dean to hear his response.
“I hope it will be,” Dean returns quietly as well, leaning back forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “Then when you’re done you can rent it out as well.”
Cas looks back at Dean yet again. “What?”
Not again. Dean winces at his own words once more, mentally cursing himself for being so careless. He really does need to stop thinking that this Cas and the Cas he knows are the one and the same—even if they are, this Cas doesn’t know Dean at all. To the Cas of now, he’s just this random local partygoer who Gabriel invited over. “Um. I mean, after you get your doctor stuff and all that? Gabriel mentioned it to me.”
Rather than a hopeful response, Cas only continues to look very confused over Dean’s words, and the man knows that he really needs to switch topics before this becomes a whole lot more awkward. Fumbling mentally, he grabs the first idea that comes into his head, and the question nearly escapes from him in a stutter. “Uh, have you ever read this book called ‘Persuasion’?”
“…by Jane Austen?” Cas inquires with another blink—this one out of surprise.
“Yeah,” Dean quickly answers, nodding. “You know it?”
“It’s—it’s one of my favorite books,” Cas begins, looking very startled over the fact that Dean had suddenly brought this up, not that Dean can’t blame him for it. A random stranger, suddenly bringing up something like this out of the blue? Even he would be taken aback. He continues to study Cas as the man looks at him with one of those confused frowns starting to crease on his forehead. “Why did you bring something like that up?”
Crap, now he needs to make something up. “A—A friend of mine recently gave it to me, and I’m not that much of a book guy to be honest so, um…” Dean trails off there, shrugging helplessly. “You know, maybe a nice insight might help me understand, or something…?”
The small smile from before comes back once again when Cas hears that, and Dean’s pretty sure he can hear something of a laugh escaping from the back of Cas’ throat before the man speaks. “It’s about… waiting, I suppose.” He pauses for a moment then, looking upwards instead. “These two people meet, and they almost fall in love… but the timing isn’t right, and they have to part instead. Then years later, they see each other again, and they have another chance.” Cas looks back down, staring at his hands this time, and somehow Dean has a sense that Cas is actually embarrassed in talking about this. “But the thing is that they don’t know if it’s actually going to work—too much time has passed, and maybe they’ve waited too long, or they’ve changed too much.”
Dean finds himself frowning at that description, feeling that it’s a little bit too close to what’s actually happening to him right now—maybe minus the love part, because he’s not in love with Cas or anything like that (he’s not, okay? Cas is just a good friend even though he looks really hot and nice and—goddammit) but… he can relate to that story all too well. To be honest, he actually feels a little uncomfortable with all these parallels—and call it morbid curiosity or whatever, he still can’t help but ask, “…why do you like something like that? Sounds kind of sad, if you ask me.”
Cas shakes his head. “At first, yes. But not at the end.” He turns his head to look at Dean once more, complete with that small little smile on his face. “It gets better.”
Its only now then does Dean realize exactly just how close he is to Cas now—they’re side by side, their faces inches from each other, noses almost touching. He can’t help but just stare—seeing him so close now rather from the distance in the train station, or behind Gabriel when Castiel walked into the living room to his surprise birthday party. He’s close, they’re close, and Dean’s pretty sure that he can just stare into those brilliant blue eyes forever and not mind getting lost in them.
“It gets better?” he barely hears himself say, voice coming out in a whisper only audible to Cas’ ears.
Cas stares back at Dean in return, somehow looking equally enchanted as he simply looks in a way that seem to go right through him, prying him apart and discovering him all the way inside. It’s an intense gaze unlike anything Dean’s ever had before, and he can’t help but let a shudder run through his body as he feels the strength of that look, hearing his heartbeat thundering in his ears.
“It gets better,” Cas repeats himself, and fuck if his voice doesn’t sound even better then when he first heard it—a low deep rumble, like gravel and sandpaper rubbing against each other.
Dean doesn’t really know exactly who the one that starts it is—it might have been him, it could have been Cas—but between this moment and the next Cas’ lips are suddenly pressing against his own and… and that’s the only thing Dean can think about, really. Cas’ lips are chapped but soft and he might not have a lot of experience with guys, but he’s pretty certain that Cas has excellent lips. He doesn’t even think twice on what to do next; he reaches around with one hand to cup the back of Cas’ head, holding Cas in place as he kisses back, soft and tentative. There’s not even any tongue involved; just the brush of lips and the hint of teeth—its seriously chaste and terribly vanilla for Dean's taste, but yet somehow it lights him up on fire and he lets out a soft groan, breath stuttering over Cas’ lips.
He hears a soft sound from Cas in return, and there’s teeth pressing on his upper lip, and now Dean wants nothing more than to deepen the kiss, push his tongue in and lick inside Cas’ mouth and try to draw out even more sounds like the one Cas just made. He tightens his hold on Cas’ head, letting his intentions be known and the returning groan he hears in response is good enough. Dean starts to surge up, his other hand clamping down the side of Cas’ waist as he presses closer, erasing the space between them and Cas is opening his mouth—
“—saw Dean-o heading here and—whoa.”
The two men instantly separate from each other at the new voice, pulling back so quickly they almost jump from the action. Dean turns his head around to see none other than Gabriel and Sam standing right behind them, with his baby brother looking like he’s about to put a major bitchface on.
Cas is the one who breaks the silence first with an awkward-sounding cough. “Uh, Dean was just… telling me about his place. It’s…” he trails off there for a moment, rubbing the back of his neck while clumsily finishing his sentence. “It’s, uh, really nice.”
All that Gabriel does is to raise one eyebrow. “I bet it does,” he replies, looking a bit too amused for Dean’s own tastes.
Sam, of course, chooses this moment to step in. “Let’s go, Dean. It’s late,” he says, emphasizing his words with a very pointed look at Dean’s direction.
“Um,” Dean starts weakly, casting another brief look at Cas before he (very reluctantly) pushes himself back onto his feet. “Yeah. I should… head off. Yeah.”
“You sure you don’t wanna stay the night?” Gabriel quips up in mirth, although that’s soon stopped by Sam who also very pointedly nudges him in the ribs. “Ow!”
Dean looks back to Cas, awkward smile crossing his face as he speaks. “Um… goodnight, I guess.”
Cas gives Dean that small smile of his in return before quickly glancing down. “Goodnight,” he replies, voice soft.
Dean stares at Cas for a few more moments before Sam grabs him by the arm and forcibly drags him away. Dean yelps in protest at the manhandling and tries to shake Sam off him, but both of them know the attempt is half-hearted at best and Dean catches sight of Cas one more time before they disappear around the corner.
He just hopes that he hasn’t done anything wrong with this.
On the next off day he gets, Castiel immediately sets to writing his letter.
You. You were at Gabriel's party two years ago. You were the one who... why didn't you say anything?
How do you even expect me to say anything? That I know the you from two years later? You'd think I was drunk, or crazy. Or both.
I liked you though, even then. You should have at least said something.
I just can't, okay? You had your stuff and everything. I don't want to ruin that.
You know as well as I do that's just an excuse. You're just a coward, Dean.
I am NOT a coward.
Then why didn't you say anything? If you had said something, we would be together by now.
YOUR now, Cas, not mine. I don't even know what the hell's going to happen to me tomorrow, let alone two years into the future.
So what? You're going to just give up like this? Is that it?
Castiel groans as he reads the last letter, rubbing at his temples with a sigh of frustration as he tosses the piece of paper away to the side of his table. Beside him he hears Bones whining for food, but at the moment the man's not exactly in the mood to entertain his dog.
I'm not! I'm just... goddamnit, Cas, this isn't exactly normal, okay?
“Damnit, Dean,” he mutters, feeling very much like he should just find a liquor store and drink it all down. “You think I don't know that?”
To think this is how their first ever fight would happen.
Castiel hates it already.
Dean starts running the moment the doors open wide enough for him to slip through, ignoring the half-glares that the nurses and patients direct towards him. As he runs towards the main counter Sam's voicemail continues to play in his mind, remembering the frightened, worried voice of his brother as he half-blabbered into the phone. Dean, Dad's... I think he's got a heart attack or something, I found him unconscious on the floor and—god, Dean, I don't know what's going on at all. The ambulance picked him up already and sent him over to Cook County. Just... just come over, Dean, please.
Goddamnit, Dean swears mentally as he turns around the corner, deftly sidestepping around the others as he hurries towards the counter. First the fight with Cas, and now this? His life is just getting fucking peachy.
Finally getting to the counter, Dean stops in front of it, looking to the receptionist in front as he starts to ask. “I'm looking for my father, John Winchester? He just got admitted earlier and I don't know his room number. W-I-N-C-H-E—”
Dean snaps his head up at the call of his name, looking over the receptionist to a thin, lanky but rather finely-groomed man in doctor's clothes standing next to the counter and glancing at him with a fair amount of curiosity in his eyes almost as blue as Cas'.
...who is totally not the time to think about now, Dean reminds himself as he shakes his head, clearing his thoughts before he glances back at the doctor and nods. “Yeah, him.”
“Ah, I was wondering when you'd arrive,” the doctor remarks before sending a nod over to the receptionist. The man takes over easily, stepping forward and extends a hand in greeting. “Balthazar Rowan. I'm the doctor attending to your father.”
“Dean Winchester,” he returns the gesture, giving Balthazar a firm handshake and proceeds to the main topic at hand. “How is he?”
Balthazar takes a moment to tuck his hand back into the pockets of his coat before he answers the question. “He's fine, as of now. Your father had a heart attack, but luckily for him its relatively minor—his vitals are fine, and he's stable. Your brother fortunately discovered him early, or things could have been much more worse for all of us.”
“But?” Dean can't help but prompt, because that's how things always has been for him—there's always the bad side, the other shoe dropping down. It's the same with his family, his careers, even his relationship, for God's sake. Nothing has ever been so easy in Dean Winchester's life.
“But, it seems bad enough for us, so it will require an intervention,” the doctor says with a mirthless smile. “An angioplasty. It's a pretty routine thing, and it should prevent another episode like this. Your father's agreed to have it scheduled for tomorrow, so that we can get it done quickly. No worries then, hm?”
Dean lets out a breath he wasn't aware he had been holding back. “Yeah,” he agrees quietly, nodding towards Balthazar. “Thanks.”
Balthazar smiles properly this time. “Feel free to go up and see him. He's at room 7C.”
Castiel doesn't expect the next letter from Dean that comes in—and even more so at its contents, and Castiel can only stare at it as he reads the words twice over.
Hey. I know I haven't written for a while, but I... I really need to get this off my chest. You see, the Lake House? My dad actually built that, all by himself—from conception to construction; he used to be an architect, and a pretty famous one too. He made it for my mom as a wedding gift. They were supposed to live together there. But after the accident, after mom died... Dad just broke. He stopped in his work and started to drink and just never stopped. Sammy was only two then, while I was six. From there I knew that I couldn't depend on my father any more. It was just up to me to raise my brother. So I did. That's just one of the reasons why I hate my father so much.
We've never really seen eye to eye. I mean, how can I? But... he just gave up like that, you know? All he does is to drink and waste everything I meant to save up for Sam. I had to hide my savings and everything so that dad wouldn't get to it, and it worked for a good long while. Then Sam was going to go to Stanford, and I took out my savings to help pay for the expenses he couldn't afford. Dad found out about it and snatched it away to splurge it on drinks.
I just—I just got so pissed after that. Doesn't he even know he's wasting Sam's life like this? I got into a fight with him over that, and at the end he shouted at me to get out of the house and never come back. So I did. Sam didn't like it at all, but I couldn't stay after what Dad had done. I gave him whatever I could and just took my stuff and the Impala and left. That's why I was driving around the states in the first place until I came back to Chicago.
To be honest, I don't really know why I moved back—well, Sam asked me, yeah, but I guess I hoped I could make up with dad. He's still my father after all, and my boss at the garage told me this before: family's not supposed to make me happy. They're supposed to be hard and unrelenting and difficult as hell to deal with. That's why they're family in the first place. And thinking about it, he does have a point. I mean, even though I still hate him now I'm worried sick to death because he's in Cook County waiting for a surgery tomorrow. I just talked to him earlier too, although that hardly went well. I guess I was pretty stupid for easily expecting some tearful reunion scene.
...well, this sure feels like one heck of a depressing letter. Sorry for unloading all of this on you so suddenly... but thanks for reading nevertheless. You might not know it, but writing all of this down was a pretty big challenge. Heck, I didn't even know half of these things were running in my head until I got them down on pen and paper. Maybe that's the strangest part in this entire thing. But, you know, really, thanks. I appreciate it.
DeanIt's strange, Castiel thinks to himself as he finally manages to fold the letter back up. Strange, how sometimes when writing works so much better than speaking. He puts the letter aside, idly petting through Bones' shaggy fur as he ponders over what to do from here. Just what could he do, when Dean is so clearly in distress? He wishes he could be where Dean is, but as much as he wishes otherwise time is still the one impossible barrier and no matter how much he desires for it, he can't be with Dean at all.
It's frustrating, and Castiel wants nothing more than to tear down this obstacle between them one way or another. For once, he truly feels the difficulty of what time presents to him, to Dean—to both of them.
It's late in the night when Dean returns back to the hospital to see his father again (the earlier meeting hadn’t really worked out as well as Dean hope it could have been)—he had spent the evening writing to Cas, getting his stuff ready for an overnight stay at the hospital and buy some decent food for Sam (in that order). His brother had remained at the hospital after they had settled things with the hospital staff, something that Dean was grateful for—he wasn't sure how he could even handle being around John for such a long period of time. He might be worried about his father, but on the other hand it certainly didn't mean that Dean could just magically put up with him after all these years of distrust and separation.
Now, though. Sam's clearly exhausted, and Dean isn't about to let his brother spend the night in the hospital. After their supper he practically chases Sam away from the hospital, telling him to go back and rest. Of course, Sam wasn't that all comfortable with the idea, but Dean assured him that he would do his best to maintain the tenuous peace he had for now.
So here he is now, standing at the door of John's room with a cup of coffee (Starbucks', since it was the closest available place) in his hand and a whirlwind of emotions running through his head. After having poured his whole heart out like that to Cas, Dean isn't sure now how to regard John now—it had always been distrust and disappointment and hate between him and his father, but after writing to Cas about this...
Sometimes Dean wishes feelings weren't so freaking complicated.
Letting out a soft sigh, he enters the room, feeling his hopes sink down when he sees John still very much awake. There went his hopes of a peaceful night.
John turns his head around once he hears the door opening, stares at Dean for a moment before he drops his gaze down to the cup of coffee in his son's hand. “Is that for me?”
Dean blinks at that, glancing down at the coffee for a moment himself before looking back up to his father. “If you want it,” he answers, shrugging.
The elder Winchester looks between Dean and the coffee for a beat longer before he turns his head back and snorts somewhat grumpily. “Bring it over here.”
Biting back one of his usual witty responses, Dean stills his tongue instead and does as told, walking over to his father's bedside and passes him the coffee. John takes it with a grunt, eying it for a few moments before he grunts out again. “Decaf?”
Dean resists the urge to roll his eyes. “Should be, but no.” It wasn't as if the coffee had been for John in the first place, after all.
John grunts out a vague sound of gratitude as he starts sipping at the coffee, making no other move as Dean goes to sit at the chair situated at the bedside. The silence stretches on between them for a few good minutes, broken only by the sounds of John drinking his coffee and the beeping of the monitor that keeps track of the elder Winchester's condition.
Eventually it's Dean who has to break the silence—or at least tries to. He opens his mouth at first, trying to start to speak, but his nerves get the better of him and he quickly snaps his mouth back shut. A pause, and then he starts to speak again. “I sent Sam back home. The day's got him drained.” The 'as well as you' is left unsaid, but Dean's sure that his father can hear it all the same. John, however, gives no sign to show that he has heard them though, only grunting once more as he places the cup down onto the bedside table.
After another pause, the man finally speaks. “You should go back to take care of your brother.”
Dean can't help but blink, surprised by the words of his father. “Sam can take care of himself,” he replies after a beat, not quite sure what John is getting at. Sam's twenty-three, for God's sake—even Dean knows that his brother can look after himself now. He's no longer the scrawny kid who Dean had to raise on his own like a father rather than the brother he should be instead.
The words seem to elicit something within John because the elder Winchester suddenly falters at that, flinching ever so slightly for a moment before he lowers his head, mute. The reaction worries Dean of course, and his gaze grows concerned as he leans closer towards the bed, starting cautiously. “Dad...?”
John closes his eyes and sighs. “Frankly, I'm still surprised you call me that at times, son.”
Dean blinks again, caught off guard by the words. “What—?” he starts, but John raises a hand to cut him off before Dean can say anything further than that.
“I've been thinking,” the man begins to speak. “Ever since our last meeting, I've been thinking about what you've said... and I can understand where you're coming from.” John turns his head over to Dean then, looking at him with an expression Dean hasn't seen his father putting on for ages. “I've wronged you greatly, and I've done nothing but harm to the family.”
There's nothing Dean can say to something like that, because just what can he actually say? In between everything that's happened to his life recently, this is the last thing that Dean had ever expected to happen to him. He had already more or less written John off as a lost cause, only comforted by the fact that Sam is old enough to care for himself and John could have been a lot more worse than he is. But now, suddenly, like this... Dean doesn't know how to respond at all.
“Dad—” he finally tries to start after a pause, but John interrupts him again with another shake of his head.
“Just listen to me, Dean. I've failed you and Sam both as a father for the longest time already. None of you deserve to have gone through all the things you did.” He stops then to look at Dean properly again, a pained look on his face this time round. “I know this is many years too late, but... I'm sorry, Dean. For everything.”
And Jesus, just what the hell can Dean say to something like that? To have something this big dumped on him so suddenly and without any warning at all whatsoever? For years he had already believed that his father would never turn over a new leaf, would simply just drink himself to death or something to that effect. And now here he is, suddenly saying something like this... Dean can only do nothing more than to stare blankly, not knowing what he can say to this.
So Dean just takes the easy way out, giving a little shake of his head as he takes one of his father's hands in his own, clasping around it almost hesitantly as he speaks. “We can talk about this properly after your surgery, okay? Just concentrate on getting better. That's the most important thing now.” He doesn't want to deal with this right now, not with John being like this. Dean can hardly deal with this right now.
There's a brief pause after those words before John nods his acquiescence, and Dean bites down his sigh of relief.
Later, Dean will deal with this. Later, he'll talk to his father properly and try to resolve their problems. He can let his father have this much, at the very least.
Castiel supposes its morbid curiosity that makes him do it—morbid curiosity, as well as worry for Dean. After reading what Dean had written to him Castiel can’t help but wonder about what’s happening to Dean, and hoping that he does have his chance to patch things up with his father. While Castiel himself left his family long ago on different grounds (it’s a long story, and not one that he really likes to talk about—the past is the past, and Castiel is content to leave things that way), he has no desire to see Dean go through the same thing as well. He knows very well by now that family means a lot of things to Dean, and to lose even one of them… that wouldn’t sit well with him at all, to put it lightly.
He heads down to the records room during his lunch break—this is the main hospital in Chicago, so all surgical records should be have a copy here—and goes right to the ‘W’ section. From there it’s simply a matter of rummaging through the files of old records until Castiel manages to locate the one with the label ‘WINCHESTER, JOHN’ slapped across the cover.
Brushing away the dust that had collected on the front, Castiel opens the file once he’s got the dust cleared out, flipping through the test files and lab records and all the other usual stuff patients like John Winchester needed to go through. All seems okay at first sight to him, right until he gets to the end of the file and catches sight of something that stops him right in his tracks. Castiel does a double take at first, unable to believe what he’s actually seeing. He closes his eyes, mentally counting up to five before he opens them again, and this time he stares at the death certificate that sits inside the last sleeve of John Winchester’s file.
A sense of dread starts to grow in the pit of Castiel’s stomach, clawing at his gut uneasily as he shifts his gaze, studying the certificate in closer detail. The first thing he notes is the date—the same day, two days earlier—and that does little to ease the feeling growing inside of him as Castiel moves on to read the other details noted down. Place of death: Cook County Hospital. Cause of death: Coronary failure during surgery. He notes the signature at the end, pausing when he realizes that he can recognize it—a flash of recognition settling within him when he sees that its Balthazar’s signature, no less. Thinking about it, Castiel does recall his brother having mentioned something about this once or twice; Balthazar had been pretty down for a while after this had happened, and for good reason too, now that Castiel knows what had happened.
Dean, the man thinks to himself, not even pausing to give another thought after that as he shoves the file back into its place and proceeds to dash back up to the cafeteria. Balthazar is, thankfully, sitting at his usual place today for lunch, giving Castiel little difficulty in finding him once he’s up there again and heads right to his friend, palms slamming on the tabletop when he stops in front of his friend and has to catch his breath after running all the way here.
Balthazar stops in his meal to look up at Castiel, eyes wide in a mix of confusion and concern over the younger doctor’s sudden actions. “Cas?” he inquires after a pause.
Castiel raises his head up to glance at his friend, chest still heaving for breath. “I need…” he starts for a moment before he pauses in order to steady his breathing. He tries again once he isn’t panting for air, looking at Balthazar with a steady gaze as he speaks.
“I need your help, Balthazar. Please.”
He doesn’t see that the flag of the mailbox is actually raised until everything is over, when the memorial is over and done with and his father’s body is now in a coffin six feet under the ground. Dean… doesn’t really know at all what he should feel now, from the anxiety he got when he received the doctor’s phone call to the numb shock when he dashed to hospital to see his father already long gone to the world. Complications during surgery, he had been told, but even until now the words can barely sink into him, Dean still half in disbelief over the fact that his father is actually dead.
Sam had taken this a lot more worse than him, Dean knows, but yet it’s his baby brother who manages to stay strong, who manages to give the memorial with a clear voice while Dean can barely get a word out from himself. There hadn’t been a lot of people for the service—just a few old family friends, Sam’s colleagues and Dean’s boss at the garage—but then again, it wasn’t as if John had good relations at all ever since Mary Winchester died. He had gave up on life, drank himself to stupor half the time and yet… and yet at the end…
Dean stares at the mailbox for what seems to be a long, long time before Bones whines to catch his attention, pawing at the mailbox insistently. The man takes another moment before he reaches for it, opening the mailbox and taking out the letter inside, opening it on the spot.
I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to your father. I wanted to warn you about it, to tell you; but I looked at the time, and I knew it was too late. I wanted to help you change something, at least, but I guess I was wrong. I guess these things can’t be changed. I mean, if it was even possible then maybe the file wouldn’t even say what it would have said so I never would have tried to warn you and then we'd be right back where we are anyway. It just goes in circles and I don't pretend to understand it. All I know is the shock feels fresh to me, even though it happened two years ago, so I can't imagine what it's like for you there right now.
These things just happen sometimes. I know. Back in February—I remember it was Valentine's Day, but it was really warm—I was at Buckingham Fountain. And something happened. I won't bore you with the details now, but it was rough and things had been generally hard for me. It’s not like what you're going through, but it bothered me a lot. And my friend (Balthazar, actually) gave me some good advice. He told me to take a break and go somewhere I like, somewhere where I could be simply myself. So I did. I drove to the Lake House. And that was the day I got your first letter.
I wish I could be there for you, Dean. I wish we could sit together in the Lake House and look together at the water and the light in this house your father built out of love. I wish I could be a shoulder for you, just as you have been for me all this time. I wish I could be there to tell you that things will be better, and that things are going to be okay. If I could do one thing for you today, just one small, simple thing from the future, then I hope this is it.Dean looks away from the letter to see something else sticking out from inside the mailbox. He reaches for it without thinking, blinking in surprise when he sees that it’s a book—a large-sized book with John’s picture at the front, and the title ‘JOHN WINCHESTER — A MEMOIR’ printed below it in simple, elegant font. Dean feels his eyes widening in surprise as he looks at the cover, feeling his hands trembling when he turns back to the letter, reading the last part of what Castiel has written for him.
This book isn’t published or anything—Balthazar told me that your brother made it as a gift for those who attended the funeral—and I managed to persuade him to give me his copy, so don’t show it to anybody just yet. I don’t know if you have it eventually or not, but I think it’s for the best that you get to see this now rather than having to wait for it. I hope this book is enough to show how much you were loved by your father, even until the end.
Yours,He looks through the book on that very same night after a quiet dinner, flipping past the notes and acknowledgements and whatever other stuff Sam had put into this thing before actually noticing that there’s a tab sticking out from one of the pages. Dean instantly turns to it, stopping entirely when he recognizes the photo now sitting in the page he’s flipped to.
It’s the lake house.
Not just the lake house, too—it’s a whole family photo, the last one the Winchester family ever took before the accident that broke the whole family happened. He sees John smiling proudly, one arm carrying a one year old Sam with the other slung around Mary—his mother’s—waist. The woman herself is smiling too, and Dean can remember the joy in her eyes when the photo was taken. He places a finger on the face of his mother, a small smile crossing his face as he gazes at the photo, remembering the peaceful days of those times. Trailing his eyes across the image of his five year old self, Dean eventually looks down at the corner of the photo, reading the caption tacked at the end. John Winchester with his family at the completed Lake House, presented to his wife Mary.
Somehow, that’s just it. Remembering the photo, recalling those days of his childhood and remembering just how great his father actually is only opens up that gap that Dean’s been trying to ignore. John’s gone now—he’s gone, and there’s no way he’s ever going to come back. He had wanted to change, to try and start again… but yet now he won’t ever have that chance now, because he’s dead.
Dean bites down on his lip and closes his eyes, slamming the book shut as he tries to stop himself from breaking down right on the spot. He feels a million and one emotions swirling around within him, each of them as strong as the other, and there’s nothing he can do but eventually let it all out, choking out half-bitten sobs as he mourns for the loss of his father—a father who had been good, who fucked up but had wanted to try again. A father who was his, and a father who he’ll never see again.
A father who had loved him, and a father who he had loved, even until the end.
It’s one of the last things that Castiel expects to receive, let alone read, but yet somehow—it feels like the only plausible thing for them to do now. They’ve shared weal and woe in these last few months, gotten closer than they have ever been since the passing of Dean’s father. They talk everyday now, countless letters having been exchanged back and forth, and in some wordless way Castiel knows that the both of them have acknowledged that there is indeed something between them—something that could very quickly change their lives.
I want to meet you for real this time.
From the last time they had spoken about this (and doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago now), Castiel does get the hint that Dean isn’t ready for such a meeting yet. In a way, Castiel can understand Dean’s own worries—this isn’t about crossing continents or countries; this is about time, something which both of them know they can’t fight against. So Castiel has been content to leave things as they are, comforted with the knowledge that he still gets to talk to Dean.
But now that Dean is the one taking the initiative for this… Castiel can’t help but smile, feeling a flare of hope swelling in his chest as he reads the words again. Now… now, this time, they can make things right for both of them. They can have a future together, just like Castiel has been hoping for so long already.
He doesn’t want to admit it, but Castiel can just feel the excitement rising up from inside him as he writes his reply. How?
Just pick a place. Any place. I’ll be there, I promise. What do you say about tomorrow?
Dean, it won’t be just tomorrow for you. You’re going to have to wait for two years.
I know, I—I don’t CARE, Cas. I’ll wait as long as I have to. Two years is nothing.
Are you sure about that, Dean?
I do. I’ve never been so sure of anything else in my life. Just go tomorrow and I’ll be there. I’ll be two years older, but I swear I’ll be there.
What will you do during that time?
Work, shape up, hope I don’t lose too much hair… just—Cas, I’ve lost so much time already with Dad. I don’t want to lose any more time with you as well.
Alright. I’ll see you in two years then, Dean.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
Where are we going to meet, though?
Indeed, just what would be a good place? Castiel really doesn't fancy himself meeting Dean in a random fast food outlet after having the other man wait two years to meet up. If anything, Castiel wants this to be special—to mean something for both of them. He knows this is a big step for Dean, and there's no way Castiel wants to belittle that. He wants this to be something they will both always remember.
You’re the one from the future. Any suggestions? I don’t want to name a place where it’s gone by your time.
The man whirls his mind for a suitable location, mentally making a list of all the restaurants around the city. He needs somewhere good, some place where both of them will know, somewhere famous, perhaps...
(“I would have totally gone for Il Mare—that fancy restaurant near the park, if you've actually seen it—but tables are reserved until freaking October.”)
Castiel breaks into a smile there and then as he picks up his pen and writes down the location of their meeting.
There is weird and then there is weird, and even Dean knows that what he's about to do is going to be pretty freaking weird to everybody—but really, he can't care. He's going to see Cas, and nothing is going to stop him from doing that. Screw the people and screw the others—its Cas that's the important one here. He doesn't care that he has to wait for two years himself before they can finally meet properly. They've been dancing around each other for long enough already; its time to make this real for both of them. Not just for him, but for Cas too. Both of them need this, and Dean knows it.
He clears his throat to get the attention of the receptionist, who pauses in her writing to look up at him. “If you haven't noticed, sir, the sign on the outside says we're booked for the next four months,” she says with a tone that clearly suggests for Dean to not even try anything extreme.
Of course, that only means that Dean is going to do something even more extreme. “Yeah, uh, I'm aware,” he replies with another small cough. “I'm making a later reservation.”
He can almost see the receptionist rolling her eyes at that. “Alright, sir,” she responds, already starting to open the reservation book. “When do you hope to dine with us?”
“Two years from tomorrow,” Dean replies instantly.
The receptionist stops entirely when she hears the answer, her eyes already starting to go wide as she does nothing more than to stare at Dean as if he's grown a second head.
“17th October,” the man adds on almost as an afterthought, trying to be helpful.
Another pause, and then a blink before the receptionist starts to move again, closing the reservation book shut before looking back at Dean. “We should be able to accommodate you, sir.”
Nervous would be an understatement to describe how Castiel feels right now. He's not just nervous; he's anxious and excited and also feeling so many other things he cannot name, because he doesn't know how to. Castiel knows he's in love more than ever, and the prospect of actually seeing Dean fills him with a sense of anticipation. It's been two years since he's seen Dean in the flesh, after all, and back then he hadn't even known that it was actually Dean. Things were different now, and this time... this time, Castiel wants to make it worth the two years that Dean had to wait for this.
The day mostly passes by in a blur for Castiel, and the doctor is very much thankful for the fact that there hasn't been any last minute emergencies that he has to attend to. While normally he is okay with that, tonight Castiel would rather not want it to happen—tonight is the night for Dean as well as him. Tonight is their night, and in no way does Castiel want to ruin it.
He gets off work the moment his shift ends—a first for him, to be honest—and hurries back to his apartment in record time. Already having picked his attire for the night (a dress suit, something that Castiel doesn't really wear at all but he feels that a meeting like this requires him to be in his best; Gabriel would be proud of him now, he thinks), the man wastes no time in dressing up and getting ready for the big event. Even Bones seems to be able to sense his owner's excitement, barking loudly as the golden retriever zigzags around the room in a flurry of energy and Castiel can't help but think that perhaps Bones is actually aware of what's going on; he does, after all, belong to both him and Dean.
Knowing that he's about as ready as he can ever be, Castiel puts Bones' food and water out for his dog to eat before he gets out of the house, making his way over down to Il Mare. He remembers the last time he had been here with Gabriel, and recalls the disappointment that crosses on his brother's face when they had been informed that the place was full. Now, though, things are different, and Castiel does his best to push down his nervousness as he makes his way over to the receptionist—the same one as the time before, if he remembers her face correctly.
Castiel clears his throat once to get the receptionist's attention, and the woman pauses in her writing in order to look up at him. “May I help you, sir?”
“Um,” the man starts, not quite sure what to actually say now that he's here. “Yes, um. I had a reservation?”
The woman nods at that, already moving to glance down at the reservation book in her hands. “Under which name?”
Castiel takes a moment to answer. “Glaser—or, um. Winchester, perhaps? I'm not quite sure what name its actually under...”
“Winchester...” she starts, flipping through the pages for a second before she pauses entirely, blinking several times in quick succession.
The reaction (or lack thereof) does nothing to ease Castiel's own anxiety, and the man gulps, shifting uneasily on the spot. “I understand if you've already canceled the reservation...”
The receptionist looks back up upon those words, speaking quickly. “No, no! It's just...” she trails off, shaking her head and proceeds to straighten herself to gesture at the doors. “I apologize. Please, follow me.”
Nodding, Castiel does so, following behind the receptionist into the establishment. It's already well into the dinner hours so he can see that the tables are all packed, waiters and waitresses going everywhere to attend to their respective tables. As he's led to his table Castiel has the distinct feeling that people are watching him, but he quickly shakes that off. Why would people be watching him, anyway? He's pretty certain that his choice of attire isn't that wholly far off from what others are wearing.
When he finally arrives at his table Castiel is faintly surprised to see that the other seat isn't occupied—Dean isn't here yet, apparently, and for a moment Castiel feels a brief flash of worry. Had Dean forgotten about this, perhaps? Or perhaps something had happened to him in the last two years?
As soon as he thinks that however Castiel banishes them just as quickly with a shake of his head. He can't think like this—he has to believe in Dean. Dean had said that he would be here no matter what, and Castiel will believe in those words. He has to believe in them.
Settling down onto his seat, the man picks up his water and cautiously sips at it. He notices that the receptionist still hasn't moved from where she's standing, and Castiel is fairly certain that the woman is looking at him in a way that can be described as fervor.
“Um,” he starts once more, hesitant and nervous. “Is there a problem?”
The woman quickly shakes her head. “No, it's just...” she trails off to cast a glance around her, almost as if she's trying to make sure that people nearby aren't going to overhear what she says next. Once she's certain that the coast is clear then does she bend down towards Castiel, and now he can see the strange excitement glowing in her eyes as she starts again in an eager, conversational whisper. “This reservation is sort of... legendary among us for a while already. It's been here longer than most of the staff. There’s always been intense speculation about who made it, and why, and if you'd actually show up. Some of the crew even have bets going...”
So those feelings of being stared at wasn't just a figment of his imagination after all. Castiel slowly turns his head around to cast a cursory glance at his surroundings, and this time he can see how almost every staff member in the restaurant is looking at him. Waiters and waitresses are sneaking glances at him every once in a while as they move around the place while cooks and busboys peer at him from the kitchen doors. A flush starts to rise up to his cheeks as Castiel ducks his head back down, feeling strangely self-conscious all of a sudden.
The receptionist, at least, seems to notice the man's awkwardness and quickly starts to speak again. “I'm sorry, I—I'll get the waiter to serve your drink right away.” She quickly backs away after that, and Castiel can see her shooing away the rest of the staff and get them back to their work.
It doesn't take long after that before the waiter comes over, although from his looks Castiel couldn't really place him as one who would work as a waiter. The mousey-haired, shaggy bearded man in his waiter's uniform pours out a glass of champagne with slightly shaky hands, and Castiel can't help but wonder just what is making this man so nervous when it should be he who is the one trembling like that.
Once he fills up Castiel's glass the waiter backs away, nearly hugging the bottle that he's holding as he stumbles over his next words. “W-With, um, c-compliments. F-From the staff.”
Castiel feels his face starting to flush again, and quickly ducks down once more. “Thank you,” he half-mumbles, too embarrassed to say anything more than that.
The waiter gives a small, nervous smile at that, and when he speaks this time his words are clear (even if they are hurried). “Good luck.” He darts away right after that, not even giving the chance for Castiel to extend his gratitude and the doctor can do little else but nurse his glass of champagne and wait for Dean's arrival.
At first, he checks his watch every five minutes, followed by ten, fifteen, and then thirty. Slowly the dinner crowd starts to disperse with the passing time, thinning with each hour but still Castiel waits, hoping, knowing that Dean will come. He promised, and Castiel knows that Dean always keeps his promises. Surely he would come. Surely...
He stops the waiter from refilling his glass around the seventh time, not wanting to ingest any more alcohol before he actually eats, and by now Castiel is more than used to the stares that both the staff as well as the patrons of the establishment are sending over to him now. But he ignores them and continues to wait for Dean, not wanting to give up hope to the bitter end. Surely, if Dean couldn't make it... he would have found some way to let him know. Dean wouldn't just leave him hanging like this, not after everything. That would just destroy everything the both of them had been working so hard for.
Hours continue to pass by and still Dean doesn’t come, and by now the crowd is already wholly gone, leaving nobody else but the last few stranglers who's not quite willing to leave just yet and the staff who's already beginning to pack up for the night. Castiel checks his watch one last time—the digital numbers read 23:00.
Castiel doesn't want to acknowledge the horrible sinking feeling now churning violently in his gut, but he knows that he has to face reality when the receptionist comes up to him with a sympathetic expression on her face. “I'm sorry, sir, but we're closing for the night already. You... you need to go.”
The man keeps quiet for a moment, closing his eyes and sucking in a deep breath. He tries to ignore fact that the restaurant staff are all looking at him, or the hot sting starting to form in the corners of his eyes as he opens them again, glancing over to the woman and giving her a small nod. “Thank you for your hospitality,” he says, voice soft and quiet. “I appreciate all that you've done tonight.” Without another word after that, he stands up to pick his things and walk away.
Its only much later, in the darkness of his room and with Bones lying quietly at his side then does Castiel allow the tears to come out, and he tastes nothing but bitter disappointment weighing heavily on his tongue.
Dean stares at the words in disbelief, unable to properly digest them. He didn’t…? How is this even possible? Dean knows himself well enough—he had promised Cas, and he would have been there no matter what. So why would he…?
You weren’t there. You didn’t come.
I don’t understand. Something must have happened. I’m really sorry, Cas. I’ve got two years still. We can fix this.
Dean, you don’t understand. It already happened, you didn’t come. It didn’t work. It’s too late.
Cas, please. We can try again. Don’t give up so quickly.
I’m not mad at you, Dean. I mean, I was last night, but thinking about it, I suppose the fault lies with me. After all, two years is still a long time—anything might have happened for you, and here I am expecting that nothing’s changed for you at all. For thinking that you could just sinply put everything on hold, and keep your life still for two years just because of me.
But I promised you that we’d see each other, Cas. I know I’ll wait for you as long as I can. I wouldn’t just throw something like this away.
Dean, please. Just stop.
What about that book of yours? You told me. They meet, they make up, they have another chance and try to make things work again.
Life is not a book, Dean. Happy endings don’t just happen like this. Maybe you did forget, Dean. Maybe you forgot because wherever you are 'now,' you're busy, and happy, and living so fully in the present that the dinner date you made two years ago just slipped your mind.
It wouldn’t. It WOULDN’T, Cas, trust me on this.
You might say that now, but what will you say the same thing six months later? A year? You know as well as I do that one way or another things will change, and I don’t blame you for it. But time never stays still, even though for the longest time I deluded myself into believing it had. It’s an impossible fantasy, and I think it’s time that we have to get back to our real lives instead.
So, what? Is this it? Are you just going to stop?
We both need to stop, Dean. This won’t get us anywhere.
Goddamnit, Cas. Don’t do this, please.
That’s the last letter that Cas ever writes to him.
Don’t write to me anymore, Dean. Don’t try to find me. Please, let me let you go.
Dean attempts to write back, of course—he writes almost every day and stuffs them all in the mailbox, hoping for some response, any response. But as the weeks continue to pass by, they never disappear. They remain inside there, unanswered. The flag constantly remains up, unmoving, but Dean continues to put in his letters, hoping, wishing, wanting.
One response. He just needs one response.
That’s all he dares to ask for now.
“I do hope that you’re feeling better now, at least.”
Castiel makes a quiet sound at the back of his throat in response to Balthazar’s words as he walks beside his friend down the streets back to his apartment after spending a night at the pub drowning his sorrows (all expenses paid by Balthazar tonight) and generally trying very hard to ignore the large Dean-shaped hole that lies in his heart now. He knows that the decision is the best thing for both of them, but yet that doesn’t do anything to make the hurt go away. Dean is gone now, lost in time, and as much as Castiel does want to reach back for him he knows now it won’t do them any good. He has to break away from his fantasies. He needs to return back to his life again.
Balthazar continues to eye Castiel warily despite the reply, concern still visible on his features. “If you need more time, Cas…”
“No,” the younger man replies instantly, shaking his head. “I… just need a proper break, I think. Go elsewhere for a while.” He stops in his tracks, turning over towards his friend. “It might do me some good.”
The older man fails to look convinced, but he makes a soft hum in contemplation. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to go out of here for a bit,” he eventually says, inclining his head. “I can file in your leave for you, if you’d like.”
“I…” Castiel starts again, but then trails off as something else catches his eye and he pauses to glance at it.
It’s the tree—the tree that Dean had planted for him, because of him. With the coming of winter the leaves on it have already withered up and dropped weeks ago, leaving the tree bare and empty—as empty as the gap left in his heart when he put Dean away.
Balthazar follows his friend’s gaze towards the tree as well, glancing at it with a curious expression for a few moments before he turns back to Castiel and prompts him quietly. “Cas?”
Castiel drops his gaze back to Balthazar, blinking at the other man for a couple of beats and then gathers himself back together. “…yes,” he says quietly, turning his back on the withered tree. “Yes, I would appreciate that. Thank you.”
He needs to let go. This is the only way things will work again.
He’s taking his usual morning walk with Bones when it happens.
One moment he’s just walking normally with his dog and in the next moment Bones is barking up a storm and suddenly darting off, forcing Dean to start chasing the golden retriever through the snow and ice on the ground.
“Bones!” he starts to shout, already quickening his pace in a bid to go after the dog, but just a few steps forward and Dean finds himself slipping down into a painful heap onto the ground. The man swears to himself as he gets up, pushing himself back onto his feet, but by the time he’s up again Bones has all but vanished, already lost in the distance… and in time.
Dean stares into the patch of darkness where he last sees Bones running off, knowing without words what this means. It’s time for him to go, to move off from here. To let go, just as Cas has done to him. Cas hasn’t replied at all, and Dean now knows that Cas will never talk to him again.
This is the end.
Dean slowly trudges back to the lake house and packs up his things—he didn’t really have much in the first place, so it only takes him a couple of hours. He packs everything up; that is, save for the letters between him and Cas, as well as the stack of letters Castiel never replied to. He takes a moment to consider what to do with it, but eventually he seals them all up in a box and puts it up in the attic, hoping that Cas would see it one day, when he has the lake house in his possession.
Once his things are kept he puts them into the Impala and starts driving down into Chicago, towards Gabriel’s house whose address Dean stills remember even after all this time. He knows it’s a cowardly thing to do, but Dean can’t find the courage within himself to face Gabriel at all. Instead he just leaves the key to the lake house in the other’s mailbox along with a note (‘For Castiel’) and drives off again.
He never notices Bones padding up from the trees and going over to the mailbox, lying down beside it until Gabriel returns from work later in the evening to see both the dog as well the key in his mailbox.
Castiel doesn’t exactly keep track of the months he’s spent away from Chicago—but when he does return, he feels lighter, fresher, more relaxed. The pain of Dean is but a distant memory now, and Castiel is content to keep it that way as he makes his way back up to his apartment, Bones trotting alongside him. The golden retriever has been a good companion for him during his months of travel, and Castiel is glad for that—Claire had loved the dog when he had went back to Illinois to visit Jimmy and his family.
Making a mental note to thank Gabriel later for maintaining the apartment for him during these last few months, Castiel wheels his luggage into his room, glad to be back in the comfort of his own place. While going around the country has been a rejuvenating experience for him, it is still home he likes best, and now that he is back and better Castiel feels more than ready to return to his work once Balthazar has made the necessary arrangements. He’ll most likely be posted to a new hospital, but Castiel doesn’t mind—maybe the new environment might help him too.
He’s wheeling his luggage to the cupboard when it happens—the bag suddenly tilts and Castiel yelps as he stumbles back, nearly losing his balance. He quickly manages to regain himself though and pulls the luggage back up from where the edge had been trapped between two floorboards.
Adding a note to talk to the landlord about this, Castiel frowns as he crouches down, examining the loose floorboard in detail. He grips the edge of it and pulls up, blinking when it comes up easily—clearly, this had been deliberately done. But for what reason would it be…
That’s when he notices the package lying inside, the plastic gleam barely visible under the dust and dim lighting. Curiosity piqued, Castiel reaches down for it, pulling out from its place and removes the several rounds of plastic wrap that cover it. When he gets the last sheet out Castiel stops, breath catching in his throat when he realizes just what he’s holding.
Persuasion, by Jane Austen.
Castiel instantly flips through the book, quickly recognizing the wear and tears that the copy possesses as he quickly makes out that this is his copy of Persuasion that he’s lost in that train station more than two years ago. The book he asked Dean to take for him. The book that Dean asked to keep so that he could read it. The book that Dean’s now returned to him, lying in his hands.
One page jumps out at him, bookmarked with a leaf that has already long dried up and withered due to time. Castiel brushes it aside as he scans the page, stopping when he sees a sentence highlighted in bright yellow, the words all but jumping out at him.
The near-distant pain in his heart throbs again as he reads that line, and Castiel closes his eyes, snapping the book shut in order to press it to his chest.
There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison.
He’s let go of Dean already. He’s moved on, and so has Dean.
This is the end.
“This is a really nice piece, man.”
Dean jumps in his seat when Sam’s voice suddenly comes from nowhere, and the older Winchester quickly turns around to scowl at his brother in annoyance. “Goddamnit, Sammy, what have I told you about knocking?”
“You seemed like you were really focused on your work.” Sam shrugs as he replies, moving to grab a chair for himself and settle down beside his brother, looking at the sketch on the table. “But I mean… seriously, this looks really nice, and I know jack about houses.”
Dean snorts. “Being a lawyer suits you more anyway, nerd brain,” he says, elbowing his brother.
Sam rolls his eyes as he elbows back as well. “I’m giving you a compliment here, asshole,” the younger Winchester quips back in annoyance, although that’s also broken by the small smile on his face.
“Bitch,” Dean instantly bites out, smiling back as he turns back to his drawing of the lake house—that is, the lake house he had envisioned to Cas all the way back in that party now nearly two years ago. Not only there are the stairs there are also more trees and lights, simple but effective things to give the house a more homely feeling; letting the place truly be a home, rather than just the house it used to be.
Dean still wishes that he could make it real.
“Jerk,” Sam shoots back with another nudge in the ribs, peering at the drawing once more.
Silence fills between the two brothers for a while after that, but eventually Sam breaks it once again, this time in a gentler voice that Dean knows all too well. “You haven’t told me. What happened?”
The older Winchester stops and closes his eyes, letting out a loud sigh. “I just… lost him, I guess.”
“The guy from the future you were writing to?” Sam probes cautiously, and Dean can only nod as an answer. “How?”
A wry twist appears on Dean’s face at that question. “Bad timing, I guess,” he replies, easily finding the irony in his words. “It just… didn’t work, I guess.” He pauses to let out a snort, starting to scowl once again. “Story of my life, huh?”
Sam gives his sympathetic you-know-we-can-talk-about-this-if-you-want-to look, but Dean really doesn’t want to talk about it so he gets up, excusing himself under the pretense of coffee even though both of them know that Dean doesn’t drink coffee after 1AM.
He has tried and he is still trying, but he just can’t let go of Cas. Cas, who is more real to him than almost everything else—Cas, who he wants to see again no matter what.
But Cas has told him not to go look for him, and so that is what Dean will do. As much as it hurts him, Dean will do this much for Cas.
“Cassie! Rise and shine, it’s time for breakfast!”
Castiel groans as he picks his head up from the pillow, glaring blearily towards the (still thankfully closed) door of his bedroom. “Gabriel, please go away.”
“No can do, bro.” And now the door does slam open to another of Castiel’s groans as he drops his head back down to the pillow, trying (and failing) to ignore Gabriel bouncing through the threshold into his room. He presses his face to the pillow as the older Glaser makes his way over Castiel’s bed and begins to pull unrelentingly at the sheets. “C’mon, Cas, it’s already eleven! Are you seriously planning to sleep in all day?”
“I don’t have work today, Gabe,” Castiel grumbles out, stubbornly keeping his head on the pillow. “I have every right to stay in bed.”
Gabriel lets out a melodramatic sigh at that. “Now don’t be such a wet blanket, bro,” he starts, now moving to poke Castiel by his sides. “It’s Valentine’s Day! Celebrate a little!”
The younger Glaser reluctantly rolls over to face his brother (if only to have him stop poking), looking at him through half-opened eyes as Castiel continues to grumble out. “I don’t see how this relates to me.”
“My date’s treating me to lunch,” Gabriel quickly counters.
Castiel rolls his eyes. “Good for you,” he mutters, starting to flop himself back down to the bed.
“He’s treating you as well. I asked him!”
Knowing that there is really no way to get out this (and okay, the prospect of a free meal is good), Castiel sighs and pushes himself to sit up on the bed, giving his brother a half-glare before speaking up. “Give me thirty minutes.”
Gabriel grins in response.
The streets of Chicago are as busy as ever. To be honest, Dean can barely see any differences from the last time he had stepped foot in this city (two years ago, and how long had it been). Sam stands beside him, squinting up at the buildings before he frowns at the sun peeking through the rooftops looking back down after that to notice the lack of snow piling around like it usually would be.
“Talk about global warming,” the younger Winchester mutters just loud enough for his brother to hear.
Dean answers with a snort.
Castiel can’t help but frown as the elevator continues to rise up without pause, already having long passed most of the floors of the building and right into the upper levels. He turns towards Gabriel who’s currently busy rocking on his heels, asking bluntly. “Just exactly who is you date here, Gabriel?”
The older Glaser grins. “A lawyer. Not the money kind, the really nice and considerate kind. I like him a lot.”
“How did you two even meet?”
“Uh… an accident?” Gabriel shrugs helplessly. “We just hooked up in a pub sometime after Bal and I broke up and became friends, then things just... sort of happened. Nothing to it, really.”
Castiel supposes that’s the best he can expect from his brother, sadly. The elevator finally comes to a stop, chiming to signal its arrival and the doors slide open. Allowing his brother to step out first, Castiel follows behind him, blinking at the door plates as he passes by them. He gets a bit too caught up, unfortunately, and Gabriel needs to tug him back before Castiel can wander too far, already having knocked the door of the office his date resides in.
“Just hold your horses here, would you?” Gabriel starts, amusement tingeing his voice, and Castiel rolls his eyes just in time for the door to open and for the lawyer inside to step out.
“Sorry to have you come all the way up here, but I don’t think I can actually go off and—” the lawyer pauses when he notices Castiel, and Castiel stops likewise because he suddenly has a vague feeling he’s seen the other before, somewhere he should actually remember…
Gabriel steps in then, and its only when he speaks does Castiel put two and two together, and his eyes widen when he does so. “Well, Sammy, I’d like for you to meet my brother Castiel. Cas, meet my date, hotshot lawyer Sam Winchester.”
“So,” Sam starts as they walk down the streets of good old Chicago. “You going to hit up a pub later?”
Dean turns towards his brother at that, arching up one eyebrow. “Why would I do that?” he asks, not sure at all what Sam is getting at.
The younger Winchester snorts in amusement. “Why? C’mon, Dean, it’s Valentine’s Day. Or as you call it, Christmas in February.”
“Oh, come on,” Dean begins with a roll of his eyes. “I’m not that bad, I—” he stops right there and then as the words properly register themselves in his mind, and Dean pauses in his tracks as an old memory flashes by in his head. “What did you say?”
Sam arches up an eyebrow. “Um, Valentine’s Day? You pick up a girl, hook up and proceed to mutilate my ear drums?”
Valentine’s Day. February 14th. The realization burns hot in Dean’s mind as he looks at Sam, mind already starting to whirl. “February 14th, 2010?”
“Um,” Sam starts, clearly confused, but he answers after another moment. “Yeah.”
Valentine’s Day, 2010.
Dean knows that date.
Castiel tries not to stare too much at Sam as he eats his lunch on the coffee table that the lawyer has in his room. He can still vaguely remember Sam from four years ago, although he’s pretty sure that his hair wasn’t in the same style as it is now—or that he actually has that much of a forehead. How Gabriel ended up dating with Sam Winchester of all people is something that Castiel really wishes to know, but right now something much more bigger, much more pressing eats at his mind, the question hanging right on his tongue.
If Sam is here, then where is Dean? Castiel can still remember how fondly Dean talks about his brother, and knows that Dean shouldn’t be too far away if Sam is working here. But he can’t ask without having to answer certain things Castiel doesn’t want to talk about, and he flounders for a moment before he spots a framed picture behind where Sam sits, and it only takes a second before Castiel realizes what the picture actually is.
It’s the lake house.
But not just the lake house—it’s the lake house like how Dean envisions it, from what Castiel can remember having been told. He can see the stairs that Dean had talked about so long ago, leading from the back of the house right into the waters itself. There are more trees then he remembers the place having, and spots of lights dotting around the top. It’s the lake house, but at the same time… its home, in the way Castiel can picture it best.
Sam notices him staring at the picture after a while and gestures at him, getting Castiel’s attention before he points back to the picture. “You like that?”
Castiel tears his gaze away from the picture and looks back at Sam, nodding. “Yes. May I know who drew that?”
“It’s…” Sam’s expression grows closed off then, distant. “It’s my brother, Dean. He drew it for somebody.”
He hears Gabriel suck in a breath from behind him—he must have put things together in his head as well now—but Castiel ignores him to continue looking at Sam, steeling himself for a moment before speaking again. “Is there any way I can contact him, perhaps?” Maybe they can’t make things work between them, but… Dean is a friend still, and to see him properly now would still be good. They can still be friends, at least, and Castiel certainly doesn’t mind that.
Sam bites on his lip the moment Castiel asks that question, turning his gaze down. He hears Sam take in a shuddering breath before he answers, and Castiel feels his stomach sink as he hears the other’s response. “I’m sorry, but… he’s gone. He passed away… two years ago today, actually.”
Gone. The thought echoes blankly in his mind as Castiel stays stock still, unable to digest the words properly.
“He died?” he hears himself croaking out numbly.
Sam takes in another breath. “There was… an accident. He got hit on the road around here…” he pauses to sigh then in a weary sort of way. “Nobody expected it at all.”
An accident. He died in an accident. Castiel closes his eyes, trying to digest that fact. He died in an accident on a road around here, on Valentine’s Day two years ago…
Castiel snaps his eyes back open and looks at Sam, realization dawning upon his mind.
“Where?” he asks.
Dean rushes back to the lake house in record time, not even bothering to lock the Impala like he would always do as he runs right into the place without even taking his shoes off. His mind is rushing, thoughts running in a constant whirl as he goes up to the attic and takes down the box he put up there two years ago before he left.
C’mon, c’mon… the man thinks to himself as he opens the box and rummages through its contents, taking a moment to find the stack of letters he put inside. He rips the cord binding it together once he has it, flipping through the letters until he finds the one he’s looking for and quickly scans it, finding the words he’s been looking for.
“Buckingham Fountain,” Dean mutters to himself, keeping the place to mind. Buckingham Fountain. That’s where Cas is.
...Back in February—I remember it was Valentine's Day, but it was really warm—I was at Buckingham Fountain.
That’s where Dean’s going to go.
He rushes out of the building the moment Sam tells him the location of the accident, ignoring Gabriel’s frantic shouts back from the room as he gets into his car and speeds down to the lake house in record time. As he drives down the street Castiel hears his heart pounding in his eardrums, every part of him shouting for him to go go go because this is it, this is why Dean never showed up that day, why he wasn’t around—because he was already dead by then, dead because he tried to cross the road to see Castiel and got hit by a car because of it.
Dean had died because of him, and Castiel isn't going to let that happen. Not then, not now, not anytime soon.
Even though he pushes his car to the limit it almost feels like forever before he manages to arrive at the lake house, pulling up before the mailbox. He quickly rummages around for a piece of paper to write on as soon as the car comes to a stop, swearing when he can't find any and resorts to pulling out his journal to scribble down the words that he has to say, needs to say now because this is his last chance to make things right.
He writes as fast as he can, getting out of his car the moment he's done and rushes over to the mailbox. Under the cold air the metal freezes to his touch, but Castiel bears it as he opens the mailbox and stuffs his letter inside, slamming it right back shut and raises the flag.
Castiel feels heart pounds erratically against his ribcage as he stares at the mailbox, nervousness and the cold battling him both as he trembles in fear—the fear that Dean won't get this, the fear that he won't be able to prevent Dean's death, just as he couldn't do the same for Dean's father. Dean's death hangs on his consciousness now, solid and heavy, and the weight of it pulls on Castiel as he clasps his hands together and squeezes his eyes shut, falling onto the ground upon his knees as he prays for a God who would somehow hear somebody like him. Please, God, please... don't let Dean die again.
He can't go through this again. He just can't.
Please, let me see Dean again. Just one more time.
Dean runs down the pavement towards Buckingham Fountain, eyes darting around as he searches for any sign of Cas. He knows that he's at the right place, and this is the right date—Cas is so close now, he can just feel it. All he has to do is search a little more...
And then he sees him.
He sees Cas right there, sitting by the fountain and quietly eating his lunch. He sees him with his messy bed hair and too-blue eyes and he's just there, sitting there, just right within his reach. Just one street across from him, with the traffic as his only obstacle.
Right there. Cas is just right there, and all he has to do is to cross the street.
Dean takes a step forward, moving closer to the edge of the street—closer towards Cas, and he is so damn close—
The squeak of metal sounds in Castiel's ears, and the man looks up in disbelief as he sees the flag of the mailbox moving down by itself.
—but Dean stops before he steps into the street entirely, pressing his lips together as he looks down to the letter in his hand... the letter that he just got from Cas in the mailbox right before he left the lake house.
Dean, the one at the fountain that day, the person who died in my arms before I could do anything to save him and made me go to the lake house in the first place... it was you. I know now why you didn't show up that night; you were already dead. You were the one who died in my arms on Valentine's Day. It was you. Please, please don't go. Don't cross that street. Just wait, please. Don't look for me. Don't try to find me. Don't run to me. Do you understand? Please, just... just wait. Wait with me.
I love you.
Forget everything that I've said before, Dean. I love you, I truly do, and its taken me all this time to say it. And if you still care for me, wait for me. Wait with me. Wait until time catches up with both of us and we can finally be together. Please, Dean, just. Just wait. Please. Wait another two more years, Dean, and then come to the lake house. I'll be waiting for you here. Always.Dean looks up again, back to Cas who's just right across the street. Cas, who doesn't know him yet now but soon will... and Dean closes his eyes to take a step back, back from Cas, back from now, and the world continues to move on, spinning.
Two years. He can wait another two years. Two years, and then he'll finally be with Cas.
“Two years,” he whispers to himself, both a promise and as well as an agreement. Two more years. Just another two more years.
He can do it. He will do it.
He'll make sure of it this time round.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Castiel pushes himself up onto his feet, almost unable to believe what he's just seen. He stands up, feeling his knees shaking from the sheer anxiety that he can still feel pounding within him. Cautiously, he reaches for the mailbox, almost afraid to see the truth for himself—it could have been the wind or the joint getting loose—but he wants to hope, he wants to believe. He wants to be sure that he'll see Dean again.
He feels his hand trembling as his fingers catch on the handle of the cover, and Castiel takes a breath before he opens it and—
—and the mailbox is empty.
Castiel stares at the now-empty mailbox, feeling all the tension draining out from him almost instantly now that he knows that Dean has read it. He's managed to get the letter—he's alive, and he's coming. He's coming here. Castiel doesn't even need to guess to know this to be true. Dean is coming.
In the distance he hears the sound of tires crunching on gravel, and Castiel turns around to see a black muscle car driving up the path towards the lake house—the Impala, he guesses, from the many ways and means that Dean has described it. He pushes himself away from the mailbox and slowly starts to walk towards the black car, breath catching in his throat as the Impala pulls over and the door opens.
He sees a crop of hair and a flash of green eyes, and immediately Castiel is running, dashing his way towards the newcomer and embracing the other man into his arms, breathing out his name in a mix of a million different emotions. “Dean.”
A pause, and then Castiel feels strong arms encircling around him, returning the gesture as Dean responds likewise. “Cas.”
Castiel manages to pull back only after a few minutes, looking in wonder at Dean who's finally right here—right before him, after all these years. It almost feels like he's back in his fantasy two years ago, but he knows now. This is real. Dean is real, and he's finally here.
Dean looks back at him as well for a few moments of his own before he smiles wryly, green eyes glinting with mirth. “So, have we waited long enough?”
Castiel doesn't even waste a moment to answer that question. “Yes,” he whispers out, and that's all he can say before he presses his lips to Dean's and kisses him for all he's worth, putting in two (four) years of longing and desperation and love for Dean to know and to understand. Dean doesn't hesitate to return the gesture, kissing Castiel with just as much ferocity and need—and in that moment, everything is perfect for both of them.
It feels like both a second as well as an eternity before Dean pulls away from him, both of them flushed and breathless. Castiel looks in confusion, not knowing the reason why Dean has suddenly stopped, but the man only smiles and takes Castiel's hand into his own, gesturing for him to turn around.
“Look,” he says, and Castiel does, gasping when he sees what has happened.
The lake house has transformed.
It's no longer the same lake house that Castiel used to live anymore—it's the lake house from Dean's drawing now come to life, complete with the trees and the stairs and everything else Dean had once told him the place would have. It's a place of beauty and wonder, so much more striking that the house had originally been. This time, the lake house truly is more than just a house—it's a home to live in, and to stay in.
Castiel looks back at Dean in amazement, and the man just grins sheepishly in return. “I had a lot of time in two years,” he says, as a way of explanation.
“It's perfect,” Castiel breathes out, and then proceeds to kiss him again just to show how much he likes it.
Dean returns the kiss for a few moments before he pulls away again, putting on a full-fledged grin this time as he slides an arm around Castiel's waist and tells him properly this time round. “Let's go home, Cas.”
Castiel smiles back in return, placing one more kiss on Dean's cheek before the two of them make their way towards the lake house. Towards their home.