Monday, June 2nd 2014
Every morning while Dean makes his coffee, he stares out at his garden and wishes there was more to see than just a well-kept lawn. He adds sugar to his mug and thinks about scattering seeds and when steam, warm and rich, rises up to blossom into smoky flowers he sighs and hopes that one day there’ll be a colour other than green outside his kitchen window.
After a few sips of coffee and a contented sigh as his body begins to wake up, Dean usually wonders why he still hasn’t done anything about it if he has the same damn conversation with himself every morning.
Today Dean is halfway through pouring the leftover coffee from the pot into a travel mug, when his phone rings and his half formed daydreams about flourishing flowerbeds are cut off by Bon Jovi. Dean grins and tucks his phone between his ear and his shoulder.
“Hey, Sammy,” he greets and screws the lid onto his travel mug.
“Hey man, you at work?”
“Not yet. Why? You know if you’ve set fire to your kitchen again, there’s probably a fire department in Palo Alto you could call.”
Dean swears on every pie he’s ever eaten that he can hear his baby brother roll his eyes.
“That was one time, Dean. And it wasn’t even a proper fire.”
Dean snorts, “Ellen banned you from the kitchen for a month.”
Sam sighs and Dean turns away from the window to lean against the counter, taking a sip from his mug and smiling at the memory.
“Not that I’m not happy to reminisce about your kitchen failures, Sammy, but is there a reason you called?”
“Yeah actually, I was just calling to remind you that your flight’s at 9am on Saturday. You manage to get that week off from work?”
“‘Course I did,” Dean says gruffly and tries to choke down the ridiculous swell of fear sticking in his throat, “I’ll be there.”
Sam sighs again, softer this time, “Look, Dean, I really am grateful for this. I know you’d rather drive.”
“Nah, it’s fine,” Dean says, despite the fact it really doesn’t feel fine, “Flying’s quicker, I know that and I can’t get any more time off work.”
Dean loves his job, really, he does. He loves his team and he loves his uniform and he loves kicking fire in the ass. But with his little brother getting married in California, he really wishes he had the time to hit the road. It’s been too long since his Baby’s had a proper drive, and there’s a chance she’s starting to get jealous of how much time Dean spends in the fire truck.
“All the same,” Sam continues, “We really appreciate it. Your return flight’s on Sunday the 15th. That alright?”
“Yep that’s cool. Any best man duties I gotta take care of before I get there?” Dean asks, glancing at the clock with another sip of coffee.
“Nope but actually that reminds me,” Sam says, a little sheepish and uh oh, Dean thinks, this sounds ominous, “You okay with sharing a room? Jess’s best man is staying with us too and neither of you would fit on the couch.”
Dean frowns, “Why does Jess even have a best man?”
“Why not?” Sam says, somehow managing to shrug loudly, “They’ve been friends ever since she started Stanford. He’s your age but he was doing his doctorate here and they were in Astronomy club together. Now he’s a professor.”
Dean snorts, “Wow, Sammy, hanging out with your professors? That’s lame, dude.”
“He’s a History professor, Dean, he’s never even set foot in law school.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dean smirks and waves at an empty kitchen, “I don’t mind sharing.”
Sam sighs with relief, “Okay thanks. I think you’re really gonna like him actually. He’s really nice and super smart and… oh God Dean, please don’t sleep with him.”
Dean huffs, amused, “Hate to say it Sam, but sounds like you’re the one who wants to sleep with him.”
Sam snorts, “Shut up, jerk.”
“You shut up, bitch!”
Sam sighs again and Dean chuckles, turning back towards the window to finish his coffee.
“Whatever. You’re gonna get on great. And get this, he even grew up in Lawrence! Must have been in your year at High School but he says he doesn’t remember you.”
“Bitch please,” Dean scoffs, “That’s impossible, everyone remembers me!” He’d been on the football team for crying out loud. He’d driven around in a leather jacket and a ’67 Chevy Impala.
He takes an indignant gulp of coffee. And then regrets it.
“Yeah, well apparently not Castiel.”
Dean’s coffee ends up spattered across the window. And Dean would probably set to cleaning it up right away if it weren’t for the fact that he’s kind of choking up a lung right now.
“Dean?” Sam’s voice sounds concerned but distant over the phone, “You okay, man?”
And you know what? No. Dean is absolutely, 100% the opposite of okay right now. He could be in be middle of a burning building with no back up and a watering can and he’d still be more okay than he is right this second. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is ‘okay’ and 1 is ‘Oberyn Martell in the latest episode of Game Of Thrones’, Dean is about a 1.5.
“Yeah, yep,” Dean gasps and hopes Sam assumes it’s just the choking making him breathless, “Just swallowed my coffee wrong that’s all.”
“Are you sure?” Sam sounds sceptical.
“Yep. It’s all good now. Dandy, actually. Everything is good in the hood.” Dean cringes, time to wrap it up Winchester, “Anyway I gotta get to work, you know how it is. Fires. Kittens in trees. The whole… dealio.”
“Dean, what – ”
“I’ll see you next week! Say hello to Jess for me, won’t you? Okay, bye.”
And he hangs up.
And then he panics.
Like hell does Castiel not remember him. Dean groans and leans heavily against the counter, knuckles white against the polished wood. Ten years. Ten years and Dean’s finally in a place where he honestly hasn’t thought about Castiel fucking Novak in months, years even, and now he feels like a nervous 18 year old all over again at the mere mention of him.
Dean’s hands are very deliberately not shaking when they pick up a cloth from the sink and wipe angrily at the drops of coffee racing each other down the window pane. He pours the rest of his drink down the drain, he’s probably not gonna get any sleep from now until Palo Alto anyway, and stares out into his garden.
Of all the times he’s stood in this spot, eyes lingering on a neat but lifeless garden, it’s never looked so bare as it does this morning.
Monday, September 4th 2000
Castiel really doesn’t have much experience of school. He’s been home schooled by his brother Michael ever since he can remember and his only real friend in the world (because Gabriel says he cannot include his siblings in that list) is almost as inept when it comes to social norms and popular culture as he is. And as much as Castiel likes Gadreel, he’s pretty sure they only ever bonded over their parents’ poor choice in names.
It’s for this reason, as he trudges his way through the High School parking lot, that Castiel briefly considers turning around and running straight back home.
It’s not like Gabriel and Balthazar have painted a particularly bad picture but then it’s not exactly the same. The two of them have always been popular, big fish in this small pond called Lawrence, and both have the annoying talent of being obnoxious enough that it’s actually quite charming. Were they still here, maybe it would have gained him some popularity points to be related to them but Balthazar’s in college now, Oxford actually, and Gabriel runs a successful candy store in New York.
Castiel sighs and grips his bag a little tighter against his shoulder. Gadreel isn’t here either, shipped off to some Catholic boarding school by an overbearing mother and Castiel knows enough from his brothers’ tales of High School to know that a home-schooled kid with glasses and his absent father’s oversized trenchcoat isn’t exactly bully-proof.
When he finally finds his way through the front doors, he feels like a very small fish.
He takes several wrong turns before he gets to his assigned locker and almost expects to have to complete a series of trials, or perhaps answer a riddle, before he can get into it. But it opens easily enough and he breathes a sigh of relief.
No one looks his way, or at least Castiel doesn’t notice them if they do.
The same cannot be said for the scrawny boy on the other side of the room. He must be a freshman too, about a head shorter than Castiel and a good two or three heads shorter than the boys surrounding him.
They’re wearing matching sports jackets and Castiel files them away in his mind under the category marked ‘jocks’. Balthazar was very firm about staying away from them.
But then again, Castiel has never been particularly good at following rules.
When the largest of the group, a broad shouldered boy with dark skin, shoves the small boy hard into his locker, Castiel finds himself surging forward without really thinking about it.
“Hey,” he says, voice firmer than he feels, “Leave him alone.”
The jocks turn around, and Castiel feels a little less brave.
“What’s it to you, Four-Eyes?” sneers a spiteful looking boy with a nasal voice that sends shivers down Castiel’s spine.
Castiel frowns, “That seems like a rather unoriginal insult.”
Something dark flashes in the boy’s eyes and Castiel clenches his fists. The boy steps forward, right into Castiel’s space, the others standing close to his sides like bodyguards.
“Well, if you don’t like my insults,” he smirks, “Maybe you should lose the glasses.” And before Castiel can do anything about it, his glasses are being pulled from his face and placed just out of reach on top of the lockers. Castiel’s heart sinks. Michael will be disappointed.
The rest of the boys are sniggering behind him, and the sneer on the creepy boy’s face is only visible because he’s standing far too close.
“I’d watch your back if I were you,” he licks his lips and it almost sounds like he’s singing. Somehow, the gleeful lilt to his voice makes it all the more chilling.
And then he’s gone, the other boys with him, and Castiel feels shaken and lost. The scrawny boy is still there, back flat against the locker, and though he can’t see as clearly as he’s used to he thinks he can make out an apologetic smile on his face.
“Thanks, man!” he says and even his grateful voice doesn’t shake the sense of dread spreading through Castiel’s bones, “The name’s Garth.”
“Castiel,” he replies, trying and failing to reach his glasses.
“Sorry about your glasses, amigo,” Garth says, startling Castiel with a brief hug around his shoulders, “I gotta get to class. Thanks though. And, um, sorry again.” And then he’s gone too, and Castiel begins to realise he’s one of the only people left in here and he has no way of reaching his glasses.
He holds onto the belt of his trenchcoat and sighs. He’s going to be late to his first ever class and he’s pissed off the jocks already and he’s destined to spend four years swimming against the current.
A warm presence appears at his back and Castiel curls in on himself even more, ready for a physical blow when he sees an arm lift out of the corner of his eye.
But it doesn’t come. Instead, the arm reaches around Castiel and up to where it can only just reach his glasses. Castiel turns around just as the boy, who seems to be only a few inches taller than him, places the glasses back on his face with gentle hands.
Castiel blinks as his world comes back into focus and thinks for one startling moment that maybe he’s actually been blind his whole life and only now is he truly seeing colour for what it really is. The boy’s eyes are green, that’s the first thing he notices. Greener than the meticulous lawn Michael keeps in the front yard or the leaves of the flowers in Castiel’s window box.
He’s also the most attractive human being Castiel has ever seen. He smiles, kind and a little bit shy, and Castiel feels the tips of his ears burn.
“That was pretty cool, what you did,” the boy says and Castiel feels pride swelling up in his chest.
“Thank you,” Castiel says, and when he reaches up to straighten his glasses it’s more for something to do with his hands than anything else.
The boy grins even wider, “I’m Dean, by the way. Dean Winchester,” and he holds out his hand.
They’re standing close together, closer than they need to be now that Dean has returned his glasses, and the shiver that runs up Castiel’s spine is nothing at all like the one caused by that other boy. This time it’s exciting, addictive, and Castiel finds himself wishing it was more permanent. That he could crystallise this bolt of lightning forever like fulgurite.
“Castiel,” he smiles timidly and takes Dean’s hand, “Thank you for retrieving my glasses.”
“It’s no problem,” Dean smiles back and the sight almost distracts Castiel from feeling the loss of Dean’s hand, “I’m sorry those dicks did that in the first place.”
Castiel shrugs, “My brothers warned me this might happen.”
Dean frowns, “Doesn’t make it okay.”
No, Castiel thinks, but you just might.
“So, Cas,” Dean asks, after a long moment spent simply looking at each other and the nickname sends another spark of electricity through Castiel’s veins. “You’re a freshman too?” Castiel nods.
“Cool,” Dean grins, ducking his head, “We better get to class. But uh, maybe we’ll see each other around?”
He looks up at Castiel through his eyelashes and there’s a shy kind of hope there that makes Castiel’s heart speed up. He smiles and nods again, not trusting himself to speak, and he watches as Dean walks away, turning at the last minute to offer a little wave that makes Castiel feel giddy.
He smiles all the way through math, feeling like maybe being a small fish may not be so bad as long as he has Dean Winchester swimming against the current with him.
Friday, June 6th 2014
Dean is a rational man and no matter what his brother, his surrogate parents or his best friend might try to tell you, he absolutely never overreacts to anything ever.
Which is why it is perfectly reasonable that Dean is currently banging his own head repeatedly against the table in the middle of the fire station kitchen. What is not reasonable is that Benny, the ass, is laughing.
“No way,” he says in his Southern drawl with an incredulous shake of his head, “The same Castiel who punched you because you asked him to prom?”
Dean lifts his head from the table and glares at his friend with the most withering stare he can muster, “No, one of the many other ‘Castiel’s I know.”
Benny is irritatingly unfazed by his best death glare and whistles, low and sympathetic, “Brother, that’s rough. Small world, huh?”
Dean groans and lets his forehead drop back to the table and Benny claps a large, warm hand onto his shoulder and squeezes.
“What the fuck am I gonna do?” Dean asks, and Benny pushes at his shoulder until he’s sitting upright again.
“Dean, you haven’t seen this guy since you were 18. Please don’t tell me you’re still hung up on him.”
“What?” Dean splutters, because no, okay? He’s not, “Guy’s clearly a homophobic asshole. I don’t wanna see him because it was fucking embarrassing! And he’s a dick. Not because I still like him.”
Benny sighs, “Dean, ten years is a long time. Maybe he’s grown out of that.”
“Yeah,” Dean says and he is absolutely not pouting, “Ugh, I still can’t believe he told Sam he didn’t remember me. Like hell he doesn’t!”
Benny laughs, “Maybe you’re not as memorable as you think you are, Bub,” he grins and pats Dean on the cheek.
Dean bats his hand away and rolls his eyes, “Shut up, I’m adorable. Plus, he hated me enough to punch me. And he never punched anyone. Not even the dicks who bullied him.”
Benny levels him with a sad look, “Dean,” he says softly, “You were one of the dicks who bullied him.”
And just like that Dean’s miserable mood turns even fouler. It’s not like he’d forgotten, in fact it’s pretty much all he’s thought about for the last four days (and maybe some of his more sleepless nights over the last ten years), but hearing it said out loud drops a lead weight right into his stomach.
“Not – ” he says, “I wasn’t – ”
“Yeah, I know,” Benny squeezes his shoulder again, “But he probably didn’t.”
Dean huffs, “Well maybe he would have done if he’d let me apologise without punching me in the face!”
Benny sighs and this time it’s a little less fond and little more exasperated, “Dean, I cannot believe we’re still on this. You haven’t even mentioned him since we were in training, I thought you were over this!”
“I was!” Dean insists, “I am! I haven’t thought about him in years, honestly,” he adds when Benny raises an eyebrow, “I just didn’t think I’d be running into him again, you know? Let alone have to share a fucking bedroom with him for a week.”
Benny snorts, “Yeah, I really don’t envy you there, Brother. Just,” he looks pained, “Try not to kill each other ‘til after the wedding, alright?”
Dean huffs a shaky laugh and nods, “Yeah. Man, I wish you were coming.”
Benny smiles and shakes his head, “Me too. I wanna meet the guy who turned big, bad Dean Winchester soft.”
And fortunately for Benny, that’s when the alarm sounds around the station and the two of them leap up and head toward the garage, because Dean was totally about to come up with a really awesome and badass comeback.
As it is, he settles for shoving him playfully as they pile into the truck and when Benny laughs he feels himself relax, just a little.
Monday, October 4th 2000
“Hey guys,” Dean says with a soft smile as he opens his locker. There’s a photo stuck to the inside of the door; a pretty blonde woman and a handsome dark haired man. They’re smiling happily at the camera, arms wrapped around each other, and between them sits a boy with green eyes and a wide, goofy grin. The boy has a new-born baby cradled in his arms and all four of them look like they haven’t a care in the world.
Dean likes seeing them there every day, he needs his parents’ smiling faces kept fresh in his mind.
He grins excitedly as he begins to put his books away, “Guess what?” he says, imagining what it would be like to tell them for real, “I made it onto the football team!”
The photo doesn’t answer, but the mom in his head sweeps him up into a warm hug as his dad ruffles his hair in a way Dean would pretend to hate.
“Hey, Winchester!” comes a voice from behind him and he looks over his shoulder, confused. It’s the rest of the football team and Dean tenses as they stroll towards him. He recognises the leader, Alastair. He’s the boy who took Cas’s glasses last month.
As the boys draw closer, Dean squares his shoulders and turns to face them, and out of the corner of his eye he sees Cas watching from his own locker at the other end of the row. Dean wants to meet his eye, just like he usually does when they see each other in the hallways, but he doesn’t. He raises his chin and watches Alastair approach.
“Hear you just made the team,” he says and Dean tries to relax.
“Yeah, coach just told me,” Dean shrugs, “Did you want something?”
The boys directly behind Alastair, Uriel and Raphael, bristle slightly and Dean takes some pleasure in the fact that he’s managed to annoy them already. Alastair however, and Dean doesn’t know if it’s a relief or if it’s just plain creepy, laughs.
“Oh, I really am sorry if we’re bothering you Dean, can I call you Dean? It’s just, we had to come check that you’d be a good fit.”
And slowly, Dean’s joy at making the team and all the hope he had that maybe he could be valued for something at this damn school rather than mocked for his love of books and astronomy, begins to trickle away.
“I plan to be,” Dean says and Alastair moves closer.
“That’s good,” he smiles, sickly sweet, “Because we were beginning to worry you were friends with that boy over there.”
Alastair turns his head to look at Cas and Dean turns to look just in time to meet Cas’s eyes for a second before the dark-haired boy is looking away, a dusting of pink just visible on his cheeks.
And the last of Dean’s joy drains away like sand in an hour glass. He hasn’t even spoken much to Cas since that day back in September, they barely count as friends. So maybe Dean goes out of his way sometimes to make sure he bumps into Cas on his way between classes, and maybe every time Cas smiles that small, private smile at him he feels lighter than before but Dean has never quite got up the courage to do much more than smile goofily back.
Cas is smart; he’s brilliant and brave and beautiful. And Dean should have pursued more than just the handful of conversations they’ve had because now he’s terrified. Alastair is smirking at his clenching jaw and he knows, this fragile foundation of friendship he’s been building with Cas is about to be torn down.
“He was sure staring at you like he knew you,” says another of the boys behind Alastair and Dean shrugs.
“I’ve seen him around,” he says and he knows his voice is a lot calmer than he feels, “but I wouldn’t say we’re friends.”
“Good!” Alastair grins, “Then you won’t mind taking his glasses.”
Dean feels sick. “What?” he asks, voice no longer quite as steady as he’d like, “Why? He’s done nothing to you!”
“Why?” Alastair’s eyes flick to something over Dean’s shoulder and Dean feels his face heat up at the knowledge that he must have seen the photo, “Why, because a little birdy tells me that you have a little brother. Must be in the Middle School just across the yard.”
Dean’s insides turn to ice and Alastair smiles like he can see it happen.
“And I have a feeling,” he leans even closer and Dean wills himself to stand his ground, “That something bad might happen to him if that kid,” he jerks his head towards Cas, “doesn’t lose his glasses.”
Dean feels the ice in his veins like shards behind his eyes. Cas is almost done unpacking his bag and Dean wishes, he wishes with everything he has that he would hurry up. That he’d close his locker door and leave before Dean can do anything.
And if he really listens he can hear Sammy telling him not to do it, insisting he can take care of himself. He can hear his mom, in a voice Dean’s not sure was even hers, telling him to do what he knows is right. He can hear Uncle Bobby telling him to do something for himself for a change and Aunt Ellen telling him he doesn’t need to worry about Sam anymore.
But above all he can hear the last words John Winchester ever spoke to him and they ring in his ears until all the other voices fall away. You take care of your little brother, okay? He’d said. And Dean had cried into his shoulder with a soundtrack of beeping machines and promised he would.
“Tick tock,” Alastair says and Dean slams his locker shut.
The distance between their lockers has always felt too far before but now he finds himself wishing it were further. Cas looks up at him when he’s halfway there and for the first time, Cas’s shy smile makes Dean feel anything but light.
When Dean stops directly in front of him Cas is still smiling, a little confused, and Dean has to force himself to meet his eyes. When he does, he hopes his face says what his mouth cannot.
“Dean?” Cas asks, head tilting to one side, and before Dean can condemn his brother to years of torment he pushes down the feeling of fondness blooming in his chest and reaches out.
Cas doesn’t even look hurt at first and somehow that makes everything ten times worse. He looks up at Dean with so much trust in his eyes, that even as Dean’s fingers prize the glasses away from his face the only emotion Dean sees there is confusion.
“What are you doing?” he asks, eyes squinting at him in an effort to make out his motives and for a fleeting moment Dean allows himself to imagine laughing it off. Pretending he just wanted to try them on and placing them on his own face with a grin.
But he doesn’t. Instead he thinks of Sammy and drops the glasses to the floor. Cas’s face falls and Dean leaves the room before anyone can make him break them, or before he does something embarrassing like cry.