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Nine Times We Met (And One Christmas We Parted)

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However alienated by absence, however altered by years, the heart must bow to the sweet and irresistible spell of memory.
— The Pocket Magazine of Classic and Polite Literature, 1832

❄❅❄

1947

Castiel loved the smell of colouring pencils. He smiled to himself as he breathed in slowly, savouring the gentle, woodsy aroma. His eyes were half shut, focused on the sound of his pupils scratching nib to paper as they decorated their Christmas cards. He looked forward to having some cards draped from the string along the top side of his classroom, where they would flutter every time someone opened the door.

He leaned on the side of his desk, shoes stretched out in front of him on the floorboards, crossed at the ankle. He was going to miss these children over the holidays, they were all so lively. The seasonal break would be nothing but silent nights, holy nights. His lips twisted at his mental joke, but it wasn’t a true smile.

Among the friendly end-of-year murmurs and childish giggles, a scuffle of laughter caught Castiel’s attention from the other end of the classroom, where a few students were collected around Tommy’s desk. The kid was likely to be scheming, Castiel would bet his tie on it.

Stalking around the edge of the room, Castiel nodded warmly to Barbara, who was often worried by most things. “Carry on, don’t mind me,” Castiel said to her, petting her hair down as he went past. He peered over Louis’ shoulder, smiling at the sight of a red-nosed reindeer on his paper. “Well done, that’s going to look wonderful when it’s finished.”

He straightened and carried on, tugging a rattling window completely closed as he passed it. The draft was perfectly horrible, and even though it was only mid-afternoon, it already seemed to be getting dark.

The children’s parents would be arriving to collect them from the boarding school in under an hour, and then Castiel would have almost two weeks of aimless solitude. Perhaps he could buy himself a new sweater, or even knit one to pass the time.

He wasn’t all that intent on breaking up the group at the back of the class, because Christmas was a time for fun and sociability, but he caught sight of their nervous eyes, flashes of panic, and he immediately knew this wasn’t the average six-year-old’s rendezvous.

“What’s going on here?” Castiel asked gently as he approached. “Tommy, is there something you want to share with the class?”

Mildred and Douglas fled at the sound of Castiel’s voice so close, and Joanne only giggled and shot away when Castiel patted her back. Tommy was left sitting alone at his wooden desk, eyes as wide as coins. He had something in his hand, a collection of dark-coloured cards - which were definitely not the drawing he was meant to be doing.

Castiel tilted his head, intrigue pushing his hand forward. “Do let me see, Thomas.”

Tommy hesitated, then hesitated again, his hair flopping about his ears as he fidgeted.

“Come now, boy, I don’t want to snatch.”

Tommy finally put the set of cards into Castiel’s much larger hand, and Castiel turned them so he could see them.

The bottom surely fell from his stomach as he saw what he held. There was a naked man staring at him from the photograph, sultry gaze cutting deep into Castiel’s privacy. The man’s legs were naturally bowed outward, his hip slung to one side. His physical form was perfect, his sex bigger and more defined than any Greek statue Castiel had ever seen.

Castiel felt defenceless now, shields all tossed aside for the sake of this fantastically attractive man. He was getting excited in a way that ought never happen in a classroom. At once, he clutched the photographs to his chest, pressed to his sweater. “Tommy,” he said, voice rough and dry. “My God, what possessed you to think this was appropriate for school?”

Tommy’s face was understandably drawn of blood; he knew he’d made a mistake.

Castiel didn’t know what to say to him. No punishment could be worse than regret. Shakily, Castiel managed to say to the boy, “I will be telling your parents about this.”

Tommy nodded, eyes down. They were in understanding.

Castiel turned back to the front of the classroom, checking that the other children who had seen this were not upset at all. They were fine; they rushed back to Tommy’s side and pried him with questions, but Castiel didn’t stop them. Children were curious creatures. One day they would understand fully what they’d seen, but for now, all they needed to know was that they were too young to view this sort of material.

Castiel hid the pictures in his desk drawer, and took care to sit down behind the desk instead of perching on the ledge of it. He was not quite as excited as the man in the picture, but he was getting there. His eyes kept down for the rest of the lesson, feeling guilt at his body’s reaction.

That guilt did not stop him from opening the drawer again, just to see...

Oh, that man was so very gorgeous. Castiel’s heart pounded and his skin burned hot, legs twining together tightly to suppress the feeling that refused to fade from between his legs. He couldn’t meet the pupils’ parents like this, not with red cheeks or a bulge raising his slacks. He had to do something about it.

He put the photographs into an envelope to cover them, and the moment the bell rang for school assembly, Castiel told his class to report to the school hall without him. He wouldn’t miss much, only the headmaster telling five hundred pupils how important Christmas was. There were approximately fifteen minutes until the parents would arrive.

When the classroom was deserted and silent of youthful chatter, Castiel removed his Christmas sweater and threw it over the back of his chair, tucked the envelope into the front pocket of his slacks, then darted out his classroom. He followed the gloomy hallway on quick feet, eyes shifting all around to check he was alone.

He hurried straight for the teacher’s restrooms, thankful that nobody was there to see him. He shut himself into the farthest stall from the door, falling back against the tiled walls, frowning at how cold they were. He himself was as hot as a furnace, arousal and guilt fighting for control of him.

He undid his belt and unzipped his slacks, then set one shoe against the seat of the toilet, gasping in reverence as his hand slid into his underwear to touch his erection - just softly. Hot flesh met his fingers, swollen, with velveteen skin dipping under the pressure of his thumb. He looked down and almost whimpered at the sight of himself hardening further.

Lapping his tongue over his dry lips, he pulled himself out of his tight pants. He smiled, seeing his small member flushed red at the tip, the full weight of it pulsing once, twice, pointing towards the ceiling. He fingered the raised veins, sighing at how stimulating that was.

His free hand reached into the sagging pocket of his pants and pulled out the envelope with its flap still unsealed. He paused, wondering if he was brave enough to look.

He knew what he liked, and he knew it was wrong to enjoy it, but... he was alone. These pictures were more than he had ever had access to before, and they seemed to be precisely what he wanted. It seemed silly to resist.

He let go of his cock and took hold of the pictures instead, pulling them all out together. They made a neat stack, a short deck of five. Castiel shuffled them, quickly taking in how each one was different.

Monochrome skin must have been pale in reality - Castiel could even see freckles on the man’s shoulders. Even with the bulge of muscle, displayed in one image where the man flaunted the size of his arm, flirting with the camera through long lashes, he remained sleek, slim. His physique was similar to Castiel’s, and Castiel adored seeing that. He smiled softly as he touched himself, all awareness of the cold bathroom and the distant sound of children singing hymns fading into an echo.

He felt his own hot breaths, felt the heat of pre-come sliding on the back of his hand. He went slow, stroking random, mindless rhythms that were mostly just to keep the ache at bay, because he was so enraptured with the photographs instead.

The man in the photos could only be aged twenty or so, not much younger than Castiel. He had cropped hair and a sharp jaw, clean-shaven. Castiel wondered what colour his eyes were. They seemed bright.

The matte paper’s white border was trimmed nicely, but bumped at the corners; they could’ve been any number of years old. The man would have aged since the photos were taken, but no matter; Castiel was intent on the fantasy: he pretended this man was another soldier who fought in the war.

Castiel had wanted to play the sort of games with his fellow fighters that nobody was allowed to play. He had never tried, because he’d heard about some men who did. They were ridiculed, discharged from the army - and in some cases, beaten or even killed by men who were once their allies. The soldiers weren’t meant to talk about it, but Castiel always listened for whispers. He wanted to know what happened to the other men like him, the ones who liked men instead of women.

That was why he was alone. That was why he went home for Christmas to an empty cabin. He had a secret.

Eyes closed now, Castiel sank his head back against the tiled wall and stifled his moan. He humped at his hand, simulating how it might feel to penetrate this other man, his mouth, or his wet little hole. Castiel thought about a phantom moan, based solely on the kind of noises he made himself when he let himself cry out. He imagined it would be wanton and deep, accompanied by the touch of warm hands and a kiss.

Oh, how he yearned for a kiss.

He fisted his cock as fast as he could, grunting, hips juddering; he watched his grasping fingers slip over and around his hard flesh, breath escaping with involuntary sounds of pleasure. He was dizzy, and hot all over, and he stared at the beautiful man in his hands and accepted this furious desire, let it take over.

“Yes, yes―” he breathed, shocked words lifting off his tongue, because he wanted it, he was lost in this feeling. “Oh, yes...”

His head fell back and hit the wall, and he moaned aloud, warbling and low. Rolling sensations hit him in waves, bubbling spectacularly. He released spurt after spurt of his orgasm, mind turning lucid, not even thinking about where the liquid of his release went. It had been so long, and climax was such a relief. He shivered and grinned at the ceiling, unable to see through bleary eyes.

His lower back was sweating against his white shirt, and his slacks were slipping down his thighs. He pumped his cock through every lingering aftershock, all of the leftover tingles and flashes of heat. He sighed as it finished, and his thoughts paled into perfect blankness. He was so relaxed now.

He shook his hand free of a sticky drip, then reached for the toilet paper to wipe himself clean. The photographs were stuffed unceremoniously back into their envelope, then into Castiel’s pocket as he brought his pants back up to his waist, belting and zipping them closed. He was still sticky in places, but nobody would be able to tell except him.

He took a minute to collect himself, taking deep breaths. Now he had enough fuel to keep him masturbating every night for weeks - months even. He looked forward to going home, for once.

As he left the stall, he caught sight of his reflection over the sink. He tried washing his face with cold water to ease the blush, but he soon realised that the glow was coming from inside him, so it wouldn’t wash away. His spirit had been revitalised by these indulgent acts, all the sneaking around, all the terrible things he liked to think about. He found himself grinning at his own image, seeing the tiny bit of sweat that made his dark hair even darker at the roots.

He was going to meet all those parents and wish everyone a merry Christmas, and nobody would know why he was smiling.

He made himself semi-presentable, and went back to his empty classroom to put his knitted sweater back on, not to keep him warm, but in order to hide the sweat on his shirt. Now he was ready. He would make it through telling Tommy’s parents about what he’d found and brought to school. Castiel was decent enough to do that.

When he regrouped with his pupils at the end of assembly, a few other teachers asked where he’d been. “I had a call to make,” he told them, and none of them could tell he lied.

The packet of photographs seemed heavy in his pocket, but he enjoyed how warm they were, too.

He grinned and saw off each of his pupils to their parents as they swarmed to the front of the school building. They trailed their luggage behind them, handing it all to their parents. Most Christmas cards were offered to parents as Castiel watched, but some were given to him. He beamed, utterly delighted to be handed those, and he crouched to look those generous children in the eye.

“Thank you,” he said to each of them. “Have a very merry Christmas.”

Those words didn’t describe how grateful he really was, though. They were the only cards he was going to get.

When it came to Tommy, Castiel caught his icy-cold hand and told him to wait. “Stay here until your parents come and get you. I need to talk to them about what you did today.”

“My parents aren’t in town,” Tommy said.

Castiel wished to pry, but was distracted by Barbara’s scarf-swaddled lump of a father stomping forward to pluck his daughter from the dwindling crowd. Castiel wished the man a merry Christmas. The man nodded and took his daughter home.

Slowly the children waddled off into the semi-darkness, well-dressed ladies and men with shiny motor cars with engines running idle taking the hands of their children. Some of the older students walked their siblings home.

The other teachers eventually turned inside, eyes cast in Castiel’s direction, wondering why he wasn’t going inside too.

Castiel looked around cautiously at the deserted road. Grass verges were tinged with winter blue, bristled with trampled frost, but there were no parents to take Tommy home.

“I can walk,” Tommy said, but Castiel shook his head.

“I know you live locally, but you’re not leaving until someone collects you. Someone will be here soon. Come inside, where it’s warm.”

They went back into the classroom, and Castiel put all the Christmas cards he’d been given into a line on his desk, then rubbed his hands together and turned around to perch on the edge.

Tommy kicked at the floorboards gracelessly, acting sheepish.

“You don’t have any brothers or sisters, do you?” Castiel asked, tucking his cold hands under his armpits, clenching into the wool he wore.

Tommy shook his head. “None, sir.”

Castiel sighed. “If nobody is here in ten minutes, I’ll make a telephone call.”

Tommy was quiet.

Gulping, Castiel decided now was a good time to pose the questions he had no answers to. “Tommy, may I ask where you found those...” he cleared his throat, “photographs?”

Tommy stuck his hands into the pockets of his britches and knocked his toes together, but didn’t answer.

“Very well,” Castiel said. “You know that bringing them to school was wrong?”

Tommy nodded glumly. “Yes, sir.”

Castiel nodded too. “What do you expect me to tell your parents?”

Tommy searched the floor for an answer. “That I stole them outta my uncle’s dressing cabinet and I shouldn’t’ve done that because it wasn’t mine, and even though they’re funny they’re not proper.”

Castiel smiled in mild satisfaction. So, Tommy’s uncle enjoyed looking at naked men. That secret was safe with Castiel; he wouldn’t show the photos to Tommy’s parents, since that could endanger the uncle.

“You violated your uncle’s trust, and his privacy,” he stated to Tommy. “I hope you know that. But I think all I really need to tell your parents is that you’re sorry.”

“Yes, sir.”

Castiel stood up and approached the boy, setting his hand on the dirty-blonde hair that grew to below his ears. “You’re a good boy, Tommy, I know this isn’t something you’ll do again.”

“Yes, sir; no, sir.”

Castiel smiled, scuffing Tommy’s hair and stepping away again. “So where are your parents, exactly? I’m just worried they might be late.”

“No, they’re working in Maine,” Tommy said. “There’s only my uncle,” he mumbled, eyes still on the floor. “He’s meant to be looking after me.”

“...Meant to be?”

“He forgets to buy dinner, sometimes. Because he’s always working at the fire station, he―”

“Hello...?” a man’s voice called outside the classroom, somewhat distant.

Castiel walked to the door and peered outside, looking both ways before his eyes lighted on a figure that wandered the other end of the desolate corridor, clearly lost. “We’re here!” Castiel called, waving until the man turned in his direction.

Castiel ducked back inside the classroom and smiled at Tommy. “Is that your uncle?”

Tommy shut his eyes tightly. “Yes.” Whispering, he added, “Pl... Please don’t show him, sir...”

Show him...? “Oh,” Castiel realised aloud. “You don’t want me to show him what you brought.” Tommy nodded. “Well, I’m sorry, but if you didn’t want anyone to know you stole something, you shouldn’t have told your friends.”

Tommy swallowed. Castiel did feel sorry for the boy. But then his uncle entered the classroom, knocking on the open door, and Castiel’s emotion drained away as fast as the blood from his face.

The man in the photographs was Tommy’s uncle.

“Hey. I didn’t see this little tyke outside, I thought maybe he’d be in here. Nasty weather, huh? My car wouldn’t start, had to defrost her before I could get out.”

His smile was charming, and he entered the classroom walking with a bowlegged swagger. He was no more than three years older than he was in the photos; Castiel’s age. He had green eyes, and was even more beautiful in reality.

Castiel’s knees had turned weak, and a very faint sound squeaked from his throat.

“You’re Tommy’s schoolteacher, right?” the man assumed correctly, sticking out a hand. “I’m Dean Winchester, elder brother of his old man.”

Castiel reached out and shook Mr. Winchester’s hand automatically, hoping dearly that he wasn’t blushing. “H-Hello.”

Castiel had thought about those full, rounded lips sucking on his erection not twenty minutes ago. Guilt was only a baseline for what he felt now; he was shamed to the core.

“I guess there’s no papers or anything I gotta sign,” Winchester said, glancing at Tommy and scooping his hand around the boy’s shoulders. “I just take him home?”

Castiel nodded. “Yes. Yes, uh― But, one thing...”

He panicked. This would be safer and less embarrassing for all parties if he kept quiet. Tommy would be let off the hook, Castiel wouldn’t be exposed, and Mr. Winchester would never need to know where his photos went.

Castiel couldn’t think about anything except how confidently this man had spread his legs.

Castiel caught his wispy moan before it escaped his mouth. He coughed to cover it, and locked his eyes on Dean’s, determined to be professional, perhaps to make up for the lack of such a sensibility earlier. “I need to speak with you, sir.” His eyes darted to Tommy, then back to Mr. Winchester. “Alone.”

“I’ll wait outside,” Tommy offered, and Castiel gave him a reassuring smile, watching him go. Tommy closed the door between them, and Castiel sank down against the edge of his desk, a hand to his forehead.

“What’s this about?” Winchester asked, cautiously.

Castiel licked his lips, then ducked his head low so he wouldn’t have to see how gorgeous the other man was. “Um. This... This may be hard to explain. Ah. Tommy brought something... into school today, something he wasn’t meant to bring.”

“Ahh, shit,” Winchester muttered, and Castiel’s toes curled at the cuss. He’d never heard one flicked off the tongue so easily. “Shit, was it a knife, did he bring a knife? Look, I told him violence ain’t the answer, it’s better to use words and stuff, but― Fuck.” He turned away, running a hand down his face. “He doesn’t exactly have the best role model, I’m crappy at using words.”

Castiel’s heart was fluttering. “You seem to be doing just fine,” he said, enlivened by how the man spoke so casually. Oh, it was dirty. Castiel lost the feeling of guilt as it was overtaken by a newfound attraction, not only for the fantasy of a naked, beautiful man, but for Dean Winchester.

Dean turned, tongue wetting his lower lip. “So it was a knife.”

Castiel balked, letting out a fast breath. “No, no! Not at all, it was―” He had to reach for his pocket, where he kept the photos. He paused when they were out in his hand. He looked at their containing white envelope, kept his eyes on it as he said, “It was these.”

“What is that?”

Castiel swallowed. “Um. It’s probably not right if I show you. Tommy asked me not to show you.”

“Did he now?” Dean said, a little dangerously.

“It’s not, um... These aren’t appropriate school... things,” Castiel stumbled, struggling to find the right words. He was usually so articulate, but this man had his eyes on him, and Castiel knew sooner or later he would see what he was trying to hide. “Tommy doesn’t need any punishment, he knows not to do it again.”

“Let me see that,” Dean demanded, holding out a hand. His hand was pale in the aura that came from the ceiling lights, showing up well-defined lines - and there was a scar across the centre of his palm. When Dean realised Castiel was looking at the scar, Dean curled his hand and stepped closer instead.

Castiel looked up, burning hot all over as he realised Dean was only a foot away, and their knees were almost touching. Dean reached out to take the envelope, and Castiel couldn’t react fast enough to clench his fingers to stop him.

He watched, steeped in cold dread as Dean turned away in a circle, flipping open the envelope and pinching out what was inside.

Dean’s feet stopped when he registered what he was looking at. Then his wide shoulders slumped, and he let out a soft breath through parted red lips. “Fuck.”

Castiel chuckled breathily. “Yes, that was my approximate thought, too.”

Dean’s eyes shot to Castiel’s, and Castiel saw as much shame and embarrassment in his features as he felt himself. “You looked at these?”

Castiel inclined his head, eyes not leaving Dean’s. “I had to, when I confiscated them.”

Dean put a fist over his mouth, eyes on the pictures, then on Castiel. “I thought I burned these.”

Castiel shifted, but didn’t say anything.

“I, um,” Dean said, then released a breath that came out trembling. “It was just after the war, I needed some way to get money to feed the kid after I was discharged, even on compensation pay I was flat-out broke - still am - and I swear it was just―”

Castiel stood up, raising a hand, “Oh no, sir, you don’t have to explain―”

“This guy asked to take these, and I couldn’t turn it down for what he offered me, it was one time, it was only one sex― One set!” Dean gasped and clapped a hand over his mouth, eyes wide.

Castiel’s whole body was bubbling with interest and curiosity, and honest attraction. His gaze shifted between Dean’s green, green eyes, wondering if the fear he saw in his expression counted as confirmation. Was Dean like him, a broken pendulum that swung the wrong way?

Dean slowly lowered his hand, throat pulling up as he swallowed. His eyes dipped to Castiel’s lips, then to the envelope in his hands.

“I won’t tell anybody, sir,” Castiel promised. He was either referring to the photographs, or to Dean’s sexual preferences, whichever Dean chose to believe he meant.

Dean swallowed again, nodding gratefully. “Um. It’s - It’s Dean,” he said. “Not ‘sir’.”

Castiel smiled, because he already thought of Dean by his first name. “Call me Castiel.”

Dean’s gaze lifted to meet Castiel’s. He smiled, just enough that Castiel saw.

“May I ask what you’re going to do with those?” Castiel said, pointing at the envelope that Dean was fiddling with.

Dean scoffed. “Oh, burn ‘em.”

Castiel gasped as his hand shot forward, fingers touching the envelope protectively.

A moment passed, and Castiel grappled with how he could play off his reaction. His eyes shifted up to Dean’s, seeing him peering back, interested.

Castiel gulped and let his hand return to his side. “They’re flattering photographs, is all,” he said weakly.

Dean’s lips curled up on one side, and he stared at Castiel for a long time. A very, very long time. Castiel stared back, breath shallow.

Then Dean looked down and started pulling the photos back out of hiding. “Lemme see these...”

Castiel’s blood ran hot as he watched Dean stand there, in his boots and his loose workman’s trousers and flannel shirt, shuffling between the nude pictures of his younger self. Castiel blushed completely when Dean paused on the image with his legs open, erection pushed to the soft tummy under his navel. He had such a filthy expression on his face in that one. Fuck me, those eyes said.

When Dean looked up, it took Castiel a solid second to pry his gaze off the pictures. He could do nothing to hide the fact he’d been looking from Dean. Dean was smiling in any case.

Then Dean shoved the pictures into the envelope, and handed them to Castiel. “Take them. It’s not like I have any use for them.”

“Wh-What makes you think I’d want them?” Castiel stammered, hands unable to escape the offering when Dean grabbed his hand and put the envelope firmly into it.

Dean’s grin was cocky, while admittedly bashful. “They’re a little damp in the corner.”

Castiel’s jaw dropped open, and he covered his hot cheek with a palm. He didn’t think he’d been so embarrassed in all his life. Dean laughed at him, a dusty, friendly chuckle. He turned around and sat down beside Castiel on his desk, their legs touching.

“Don’t worry about it, man,” Dean said, grasping Castiel’s thigh briefly, then letting go and slapping his hand to his own. “I got a bone to pick with Tommy, but... nah, you’re good.” He bumped Castiel with his shoulder, slipped off the desk, walked halfway to the door, then turned around. “I’m not gonna tell anyone... if you’re worried about that.”

Castiel could only nod in thanks, before he put the photos into his pocket, then went to get some money out of his desk. When he looked up, Dean was gone. Castiel scurried after him, but he got to the open door and Dean was already halfway down the hallway.

“Go on, Tommy,” Castiel urged the boy, who was waiting outside, curled up against the far wall of the hallway. He handed the money to Tommy, who took it in bewilderment. “Tell your uncle to buy you some dinner. And if there’s anything left over, get something for tomorrow, too.”

Tommy looked up with stars in his eyes, then got to his feet.

And then Castiel found his waist wrapped tight with Tommy’s arms, an embrace that almost squeezed the air right out of his lungs. He stroked the boy’s hair down, and then watched, breathless and stunned, as Tommy took off down the hall after his uncle.

❄❅❄

December 16th, 1947
We met. And we gave each other what we needed.

❄❅❄