If anyone asks then Dean isn’t enrolled at the summer camp. Those things cost money and Dean’s not wild about having his name down on a roster of happy-clappy kids. Sam’s name is down there because Sam they had the money for. Dean just kind of drops him off and then doesn’t leave. His dad doesn’t seem to mind taking off in the other direction and leaving Dean to make sure Sam survives the summer and doesn’t come back quoting scripture or something.
During the day the bible kids don’t do a lot of religious stuff apart from a prayer with breakfast. They do a lot of fun stuff. Dean’s kind of jealous. They raft, they hike, they find out what plants are poisonous and which ones aren’t. Sam’s already got a lot of survival skills and Dean wonders if his dad didn’t just shunt Sammy off to camp for the summer so Sam could continue training but in the evenings they get a nice meal – even Dean who sneaks in and pretends he’s meant to be there – and then that’s when all the bible stuff really happens.
There are a couple of priests running the camp and they take it in turns to give the kids a bible lesson after dinner. Father Zachariah is all brimstone and fire. Father Uriel takes the line that everyone is a sinner even if they don’t know it yet. Dean pretty much hates both of them and the first two nights, listening to them preach to the wide eyed little kids had left him feeling he should yank Sam out of there, find a pay phone and get their dad to pick them up.
On the third night however it was Father Castiel and he’s worth sticking around for. He doesn’t so much preach as tell stories. He takes about the creation of the earth, the beauty of Gods good works and even if Dean thinks he’s a bit soft in the head he finds himself staring up into the night sky once they’re allowed out, looking up at all the stars and thinking about what Father Castiel said about how they came into being.
Dean doesn’t think he believes in God and he certainly doesn’t believe in a God who spent hours carefully creating each star but he likes the way Father Castiel speaks. He doesn’t sound like a priest. He sounds like a guy with a fifty a day habit or someone who spends a lot of time down on his knees doing something other than praying.
Dean might have been checking and so far it’s only Father Zachariah who comes out to have a sneaky cigarette behind the priests’ cabin. Given that Father Castiel is sharing with Father Zachariah and Father Uriel, Dean is also pretty certain that he’s not going down on his knees for either of them. Otherwise they’d both be hypocrites of the highest order. Maybe they are? Father Castiel is younger than the two of them and he’s pretty in the way some guys are. Dean doesn’t think it matters that he notices that. It’s just how it is.
At night Dean just camps out on the floor of Sam’s cabin. The boy he’s sharing with doesn’t mind. He’s frightened of things in the woods – smart kid – and thinks Dean is like some oversized nightlight. His name is Gabriel which is a stupid name for anyone but Sam seems to like him so Dean doesn’t make fun of his name and Gabriel has contraband sweets so that makes him alright.
There are other teenagers Dean’s age in the camp but Dean stays away from them. They’d probably want to ask questions he doesn’t feel like answering or they’d try and convert him. They all seem too happy, too shiny and filled with goodness to be real. Dean doesn’t doubt they’d sell him out. He sticks close to Sammy during the meals and the rest of the time he just amuses himself. No one seems to have noticed that there’s one face too many and no one seems to notice when Dean disappears. It all works out fine for him.
Everything continues to go fine till the second week in. Dean is lying in a clearing up in the hills, just watching the clouds because today Sam and Gabriel have opted to do some boring pottery class and Dean doesn’t think he needs to pay attention to them if they’re not in danger. They have to leave their pots to dry out in the sun, there’s no kiln that Gabriel can explode and Dean’s pretty okay with just letting them get on making things. Sammy’s will either end up left behind or broken at some point down the road but Sam should have fun while he can.
So Dean is just there, lying on his back, picking out the pictures in the clouds when he hears a rustle in the undergrowth. For a moment he thinks that it’s some of the other teenagers, that he’s not the only one sneaking off and finally there might be something interesting going on when the person who wanders into the clearing with him is Father Castiel.
Dean fakes nonchalance.
“I noticed you were not with the others,” Father Castiel says and Dean ignores the way his heart beasts faster at the fact that the priest actually noticed he was missing. “In fact,” Father Castiel continues, “I have noticed that you are never around apart from at meal times. I have looked for you on the lists but your name is not there. I asked Samuel and he said you were Dean and there is no Dean enrolled here.”
That gives Dean a start and he rolls over to look up at Father Castiel properly. He doesn’t look angry. Instead he’s tilting his head to one side as if he’s waiting for Dean’s explanation. Dean figures he better make it good.
“It was just meant to be Sammy coming,” he says with a shrug of his shoulders. “I just got here and I liked it and I wanted to stay. If you kick me out then I don’t know where my Dad is or how long it’d take him to reach me. I think that’s called endangerment if you want to look it up.” And somehow good turned into confrontational and a bit scared but why not remind the priest that he has something to lose? True, Dean’s not going to run off to the police or the papers but Father Castiel doesn’t know that. It’d look bad if they just started turning teenagers out on to the streets, even if the teenagers didn’t technically pay to be there in the first place.
Father Castiel smiles in a way that is completely unfathomable and reminds Dean of a painting in a book that Sam raved about for a while. Dean had just thought it was stupid at the time but now he gets it. He doesn’t know if Father Castiel is laughing at him, or if he likes what Dean just said or if this whole thing seems inconsequential to him and he’s smiling because of that.
“I’m not going to have you thrown out, Dean. I simply wanted to learn your name,” Father Castiel says and Dean does not feel his heart skip any beats. He smiles at Dean again – that completely inaccessible smile and then leaves him alone. Dean lies back in the grass, tells himself to cool it and wonders, if there is a God, how quickly he’d strike Dean down for wanting to get it on with a priest?
Sammy is thirteen and that’s old enough to start figuring himself out but Dean didn’t expect to come back to the cabin and find him figuring that stuff out with Gabriel of all people. Dean wanted the cabin for some alone time as it happened and he doesn’t like the fact that Sammy’s learned to lie to him. Sam knew Dean wouldn’t want to stick around for a pottery class, he knew he and Gabriel would have the time to themselves but more importantly than that Sam is thirteen and he’s supposed to be kissing girls, not the boy he shares a bedroom with.
They have a fight and Gabriel acts all cowardly and sits with his pillow pulled over his head so he doesn’t have to listen to the two of them yelling at each other. Dean knows he’s being a jerk considering all the thoughts in his head about Father Castiel and the things he’d like to do to him but he didn’t expect to find Sam and Gabriel self-consciously kissing on the floor of the cabin, hands clasped innocently together and he’s having a hard time getting his head round it. Sam just keeps calling him names and telling him to get out so eventually Dean goes.
Maybe this is what people mean when they say the Lord works in mysterious ways because as soon as Dean’s feet hit the dirt track outside of the camp ground he’s aware he’s being followed. He whirls round, right into Father Castiel who is both the first and last person he wants to see at that moment. Father Castiel looks concerned.
“Dean? I saw you leaving. You seemed upset. Is something wrong?” he asks, worried blue eyes running up and down Dean’s body as if he’s looking for marks. Dean wants to laugh. All his scars are emotional and he’s got them hidden pretty well.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Found out my brother is gay. I guess you’ll have to kick us out now, won’t you?” he says, laughing because it’s not funny but he can’t deal with it. Only Sam would come to a hardcore Christian camp and end up with a crush on another boy. Father Castiel looks deeply puzzled at the suggestion of Dean and Sam leaving.
“Unlike my fellows, I am indifferent to sexual orientation and I believe God is also. I believe he wants us to love people the best we can, regardless of their gender.”
That isn’t at all what Dean expected him to say and he concentrates on the one bit of Father Castiel’s sentence that really sticks out to him. “Us? But you’re not allowed to, are you? You’ve got a vow of celibacy or something?”
Father Castiel blushes and Dean is drawn to the fact that he really is very young. He must have taken his vows at an early age. He can’t be that much older than Dean. Dean is seventeen but he looks a bit older and Father Castiel must be in his twenties. It’s not a bad age gap. Dean’s done worse.
“I am celibate, yes,” Father Castiel says carefully as if it’s taking him a long time to choose his words. His eyes flick back up, his gaze meeting Dean’s and he licks his lips slowly. “But sometimes, I am tempted.”
That’s all that Dean can take. He shoves Father Castiel off the path, and how’s that symbolism for you? - and into the undergrowth, shoves him right up against a tree and then he’s kissing him for all he’s worth. Father Castiel makes an approving noise, hands running up and down Dean’s back and Dean breaks the kiss because he can’t keep calling him Father Castiel – not if he’s going to do this to him.
“I’m going to call you Cas,” he says and Father Castiel nods wordlessly and pulls him down for another kiss.
Dean wakes up the next morning with twigs in his hair and the uncomfortable knowledge that he fell asleep out in the open air. His limbs ache but it’s nothing compared to the ache Cas is experiencing with his first ever morning after. Apparently he was very celibate. Not now though. Not with Dean. Dean can’t help smiling at him as they try to creep back into the camp undiscovered. This was not the summer he expected.
It’s much better.