I found a fatal flaw in the logic of love. Castiel laughs half-heartedly at the irony of the thought. There is no such thing as logic where love is concerned. The rattle of the box cars startle him out of his reverie, and he notes with a small measure of disappointment that he has missed yet another train. The conductor’s whistle screams as the vehicle roars by and in a few moments he is left standing in front of the empty tracks, nothing but rows and rows of dried up fields surrounding this no-man’s land.
Cas shifts his trench coat as he searches his pockets, wishing that he could spare the change for an actual ticket, though he knows just how unlikely that is. Hopping trains is nothing new in this day and age, but he is concerned about meeting others like him- those whose lives have been torn apart by The Depression. The economic downturn had broken many a man stronger than him, but he was still surprised when it finally did. With a small jolt of surprise, his hand closes around a lightweight box. His hand withdraws, clenched firmly within it a crushed carton of cigarettes. A sad smile creeps across his face when he realizes they must be Dean’s.
One Year Ago
Castiel wandered the once busy streets, staring into the many empty shops that decorate the sidewalks, a vast majority of the town’s inhabitants having long ago given up on this seemingly god forsaken place and moving on for the hopes of better prospects out west. His shoes were scuffed and a size too large, his coat dirty and worn, his face in need of a shave and his unruly hair a trim, but he still had a home. But if he wanted to keep it, he was going to have to sell his father’s car. The old thing was a prized family possession, but no longer ran, and he could use the money now that he was the only one left.
He ended up at the train station, the only mechanic in town out of business long ago and his only hope was to find someone riding the tracks and hope that they might trade their services in exchange for board and meals. It was a long shot, but what wasn’t these days? He sat, feet dangling over the platform, hearing the cars coming with a screech of metal. He was both disappointed and not to see several able bodied men sitting astride the box car- some decidedly more disheveled than others.
Once the train came to a stop, he hopped of and jogged to the fullest car. “Any of you got a decent knowledge of the workings of a V-16 engine?” He was met with stony silence and a few glares from those barely able to keep the clothes on their backs. “I can provide a room and decent enough meals for the duration of your stay.” After a short pause, a young man just taller than himself leapt off the neighboring car. A dingy cap was squashed low over his head and several puffs of smoke billowed around his head as he approached- a once prideful swing to his gait.
The heady menthol makes Cas cough as the stranger grinds the butt into the gravel beneath them and holds the last breath in his lungs before releasing the plume directly in Cas’ face. “You offering a some kinda salary too?” The young man’s voice is gruff and weary, a combination of the smokes and the hand he was dealt in life.
“Twenty percent of whatever the car sells for when you’re finished.” The stranger looked up at him for the first time and Castiel is struck by the deep green of his eyes, the tawny locks bursting from beneath the cap, and the dusting of freckles across his nose.
“You’ve got yerself a deal.” They briefly make introductions and shake hands before heading on their way.
Through sheer luck Cas finds an abandoned match book at the foot of the platform. He snaps a few before one sets aflame and he gingerly brings it to the tip of the cigarette, inhaling lightly. He coughs and sputters at first, but acclimates to the feel as he continues- wishing to be close to him in any way that he can. He takes another long drag, the taste on his lips familiar despite this being his first cigarette.
Nine Months Ago
“I told you that if you couldn’t take that outside, then you’d have to give it up.”
Dean smirks in that unnervingly charming way of his as he puts the menthol out on the sole of his shoe. “Alright, alright- no need to get all worked up.” He rubs his hands together eagerly as Cas sets their meager dinner on the table. He can’t afford copious variety and he’s never been much of a cook, but Dean always eats ravenously, with a look akin to ecstasy spread across his features.
It took a while to settle into a rhythm, the two of them constantly butting heads, but now they get along well enough and Cas is glad for the company. A companionable silence fell over the room as they ate, occasionally sharing interesting pieces of their day and friendly looks. At the end of the meal, Dean rushes to grab the dirtied plates before Castiel can even get up. He flashes a coy smile before heading into the kitchen.
At the end of the day Dean comes crashing into the house, his entrance always announced with a myriad of bangs and grumbled obscenities. He has taken to the upkeep of the house in addition to fixing the car while Cas tends to the small field and paltry farm animals kept out back. He is bone tired and ready for a long night’s rest, but instead of heading to his room, unknowingly searches out the other occupant of the house.
Castiel is barricaded in the inadequately lit drawing room, candles set up around every flat surface of the room, a book held in front of his face and his appearance disheveled. Dean flops down next to him, trapping Cas’ lower legs beneath him. This only earns him a stern grumble, so he fishes in his pocket for a moment, and light up. A few curious sniffles and a couple seconds later, the book comes down and Cas flashes him an exasperated look, but says nothing. “Whatcha reading?” Castiel taps the title with his fingers, but doesn’t move an inch elsewise. “If it’s that great why don’t you share it with the rest of us?” he quips, never really thinking the other man would do just that.
As Castiel reads aloud, his deep cadence filling the room, Dean begins to relax into the couch, eyes sagging closed. At some point his head falls into Cas’ lap, but neither says anything as the sun begins to set.
As the sun dips lower in the sky, Castiel knows that the last train of the day is fast approaching. If he doesn’t do this now, he knows that he never will. With a world weary sigh, he stands and walks to the rails. He walks along, on top, and over them, trying to control his breathing. The waning sunlight catches the metal around his finger as he carefully removes it.
The ring is heavy in his hand as he examines the beautiful metalwork- the time and effort put into its creation evident in the quality. His heart clenches and his stomach drops as he slowly sets it atop the rail and walks away- leaving it for the wheels to nullify.
Three Months Ago
Castiel has taken in another boarder- this time a young girl who declared herself “Just Jo.” with the same gruff attitude that Dean had come along months earlier. The restoration of his father’s Cadillac Sixteen Convertible was taking longer than necessary and the two men knew it, but neither of them said a word about it. The town was quite nearly empty at this point and they needed all the extra income they could get as harvest season was fast approaching, but there was no one to sell their crops to.
The girl can be quite charming when she wants to, but is surprisingly strong and hard working. Cas thought that Dean would take an instant liking to her- being as alike as they were- but so far there has been nothing but an awkward tension between the two whenever he is in the room. This has made dinner an especially strenuous time, as he tries to carry on polite conversation while Dean alternates between glaring at her, and smiling lightly at him.
Soon, Dean begins spending more and more time in the garage- taking half his meals there, and working late into the night. Castiel itches to go and see what has got the other man so occupied. He exorcises great amounts of restraint- knowing that Dean prefers a rather surprising amount of privacy- only sharing the smallest pieces of himself, though he insists on knowing all there is to Cas.
On a night much like any other, Dean comes bursting into the drawing room, wide smile bright against the sweat and grime that paints his face. It disappears quite quickly when he sees Jo sitting too close to Cas, an obvious mirth in their eyes. He hesitates for a moment as the two of them stare at him, but a grim determination sets into his posture. “Cas, can I talk to you?” his voice is soft and eyes hopeful before he shoots a withering look at his companion, “Alone?”
“I’ll, uh…. Leave you two then.” She throws a cautious smile over her shoulder before disappearing upstairs. Dean wrings his hands nervously and wipes at his face as he comes to sit next to Cas. The two share shy smiles as Dean seems to be gathering himself for something big.
“So, erm…. What do you think-a her?” he gestures upstairs with his head, and though he tries to be as nonchalant as possible, Castiel can see the anxiety in his eyes.
“She’s nice enough.” Cas shrugs, before throwing his legs over the couch and into Dean’s lap. Dean barks out a laugh before tossing them off and reversing the situation. Castiel narrows his eyes, but starts kneading the other man’s feet.
“And… what do you think of me?” his voice is quiet, just above a whisper, his eyes on the floor.
“I think….. that you’re unbearably frustrating, infinitely caring, and undoubtedly the most fascinating man I’ve ever met.” Cas gives his feet a light squeeze and searches Dean’s face with an intense stare, until he forces their gaze to meet. A reassuring smile tugs at the corners of his mouth, as Dean licks his lips in apprehension.
“That’s what I was hoping you’d say.” Dean reaches deep inside his pocket and extracts two identical rings. The craftsmanship is remarkable, and Cas thinks that he’s never seen Dean looking so vulnerable, or beautiful as in this moment. Dean carefully slips he ringer over his finger as they draw closer.
Castiel chokes back a sob as the train pulls in and he hears a violent snap just down the line. With that his heart has been nearly severed and when an open box car approaches he thinks that it finally time to get on with his lonely life. It was nice pretending it could ever be anything than that, even if for only a few months.
Taking a deep breath, he lets the carton of smokes fall from his hand as he climbs aboard. He tucks himself away behind some crates and lets his head fall back against the cool steel. Castiel took him away from his proper path, and now he must atone some. His stomach lurches as the cars begin to move.
Cas still doesn’t believe how natural it feels to wake up to the sight of Dean smiling down at him, the morning light throwing a halo across his head and freckled shoulders. They share an intimate breakfast together, once again having the house to themselves since Jo moved on a several weeks back. They finally found a buyer and today Dean is taking the car into the neighboring town to finally free them of it. They are both happier than they have been for quite some time. Dean has decided to stay, take care of the house, take care of him.
They share a tender kiss before Dean sprints off to the garage. He smiles as he pulls out, the engine growling pleasantly. “I’ll be back soon!”
“I’ll be here.” Cas waves from the porch and watches as he drives away. He’s about to head inside when the postman comes around and starts heading up the walk. “I have a letter?” he tilts his head to the side and remains still, baffled as to who would write him.
The postman shakes his head as he hands him the thick envelope. “Not you, your boarder.” he doesn’t elaborate further as he turns and quickly heads in the other direction. Those few left in town mostly ignore the two of them and their ‘curious living arrangements’, but that doesn’t mean they’re too friendly about it.
Cas frowns as he closes the door behind him, and unable to contain his curiosity, searches for a letter opener. A brief twinge of sadness hits him when he remembers he sold all the silver a while back. He tears the envelope open with his hands, biting his lip as he takes in the careful, practiced script, belying a certain amount of respect if not affection coming from the author of this letter. This person had taken the time to handwrite the whole thing n flowing lettering, and it made him uneasy.
His hands start to shake as he moves further and further down the dispatch that details a strong connection with a younger brother. Cas sits heavily and covers his mouth with one hand. Dean’s family had been hit hard when the depression hit- his father dead, his mother dependent on her sons, one of whom had been in the process of courting a sweet young girl. Apparently Dean had been sent west to find work and send money- though that source of income had obviously dried up quite inexplicably nearly three months ago.
The younger brother, Sam, is writing now to implore Dean for some form of help or guidance. He has married the young girl, Jessica, and they are expecting a baby soon. The papers scatter across the floor as they fall from his grasp. Normally raising a child is difficult and expensive, especially while taking care of a wife and a widowed mother. In this climate, it is impossible- without help. Cas feels as though he is going to be sick, and runs out the back door for some fresh air. That’s when he hears the train.
Dean’s not sure why he’s here, but it was the only place he could think of. He had searched every inch of town, asked anyone who would listen, to try and find Cas, but it seemed as if he had merely disappeared. He looks out over the tracks as his stomach roils, thinking how quickly things had changed. Just hours ago he had been blissfully happy, wandering amongst the shops, looking for something his love might like, now that they had a bit of money to spend.
But when he got back to an empty house, papers spread across the floor and a chair upturned, things had gotten bad, fast. The cheesy bouquet of flowers fell from his hand as he scrambled out back hoping to find Cas working diligently as ever in the fields. When they were eerily empty he’d torn the house apart looking for a wounded Castiel, thinking that maybe drifters had broken in to steal what they could find. He slipped on those damned papers as he dashed across the hall, and gathered them in his hands, ready to rip them in frustration, until the familiar scrawl caught his eye.
A quiet dread filled him as he fought down the panic rising in his chest. He read the letter quickly, a myriad of emotions fighting inside him- joy for his brother’s good fortune, guilt for his attempt to leave them behind, anger that this had to happen now of all times, and terror at how Castiel must have reacted.
He looked through the house again, this time with a less panicked eye, and a more meticulous hand. He eventually ended up in the drawing room, as he always did. But this time there was no lounging form, no friendly smiles, or affectionate blue eyes waiting- just a note placed inside the book Castiel had been reading those long nine months ago. The writing was small, the message simple.
The house and all its surrounding assets are yours if you should choose to keep them, as is the money from the car. I wish you and your family the best of luck in the coming years, and wish to inform you that this last one has been the best of mine.
With all the love I can offer,
Now, Dean stood, defeated, at the railroad station, staring out into the night. The last train had left just a half hour before his arrival. Dean couldn’t be sure that Cas had taken it, but somehow, he knew. Dean had come into Cas’ life on that train, and now Cas had left Dean’s in the same manner. His throat was constricted, his eyes stinging with tears, his breath ragged. He turned to leave, determined to find that big bottle of liquor Cas had always teased him about as an incentive to behaving, when a the glint of something close caught his eye. He walked hesitantly to the end of the platform, and looked down. A pack of his favorite cigarettes sat, crumpled on the ground, atop it a mangled piece of metal. He gingerly picked them up, the design was warped, the color darkened, but he’d know this metal anywhere.
He dropped the deformed ring in his pocket, lighting up as he walked away. Someday, he vowed, he would return to the man he loved.