When Dean was a little boy, he had an imaginary friend.
He met him when he was three years old, while he carved crude shapes into the dirt between the sprawling roots of a tall oak tree in the back yard. The summer sun was in its prime, and the cicadas were louder than they'd been in a long time, creating a cacophonous symphony around him, but Dean didn't mind the heat or the noise. He was cool in the shade as he pressed his fingers into the mud.
He found a stick and jabbed it into the earth, sitting back in the soft grass, the blades tickling his fingers.
It came like a whisper, and he glanced up at the low-hanging branches. For just a glimpse of a moment, he thought he'd seen someone there, sitting across from him, watching him as he drew in the dirt. But there was nobody there now. The only eyes on him were those of his mother glancing out at him from the kitchen window.
Dean drew a triangle. A smiley face. A crude stick-man.
It was behind him now, looking over his shoulder. Dean could feel it there, the slight breeze of another presence at his back. He wasn't afraid, though. He drew a dinosaur - he'd always liked dinosaurs - and felt a shift behind him, like it was interested in his imaginative artistic ramblings.
"It's a dinosaur," Dean said. "See? Lookit."
It did. Dean grinned.
"How come I can't see you? Are you invis...invisdible?"
He thought he felt it nod.
"What's your name?"
There was silence except for the chirping of the cicadas.
"I'm not asposed to tell you my name because you're a stranger. But if you tell me your name, maybe then I can tell you."
The breeze shifted anxiously.
"Do you have a name?"
The wave of the tree branches above him whispered, Yes.
"Can you talk?" He felt nothing. His face lit up in excitement as an idea struck him, and he held out his stick to the empty space before him. "Maybe you can draw it. I can't read yet, but you can draw me a picture."
He felt a slight hesitation in the brush of grass against his legs.
"I'll go first." He wiped away the marks in the dirt with one hand and drew another figure: two arms, two legs, a smiling face and short, spiky hair. "That's me!" he proclaimed proudly. He held out the stick again. "Now you go."
A long pause. A car drove down the street on the other side of the house.
"Maybe you can't hold it..." he said somewhat sadly. "What if I hold it for you?" He pressed the stick into the dirt beside his drawing and covered his eyes with his other hand. "I won't look if you're shy."
The cicadas went silent, and Dean - slowly, carefully - moved his arm. He felt a slight pressure on his wrist, like someone was pulling him gently, his hand being guided forward and back. The movement was so slight he barely even noticed it. When it stopped, he opened his eyes.
Next to his first drawing was another now, just as crude as the first. Two arms, two legs, a smiling face, and two wings.
Dean smiled. "Are you an angel?" he asked excitedly. The cicadas' song rose up again, and they seemed to say, Yes.
"Mommy says angels are good guys. They take care of us and help us. If you're an angel then you must be a good guy." He paused a moment, hearing only the rustle of the leaves in the trees and the chirp of the cicadas. "My name is Dean. I can be your friend if you want."
"I'm getting a baby brother!" Dean said excitedly, swinging his legs back and forth and gripping the sides of his chair.
"Isn't that exciting?" the nurse beside him said with a smile. Dean ignored her and craned his neck to look for his dad. Dad had said to wait here with the nurse, that his brother would be here soon. Dean wondered how long it would take for his brother to get here and why he had to come at a time like this, when it wasn't even light outside yet. Dean didn't like the dark, and he figured his brother wouldn't either, so it would have made more sense for him to come when the sun was up at least. He could ask Dad when he saw him.
"I wasn't talking to you," Dean said. "I was talking to Angel."
"He came with me."
"Oh, I see. Angel is your imaginary friend?" The nurse smiled sweetly and waved at the empty chair next to Dean.
"He's not imaginary!" corrected Dean. "He's real and he's an angel and he came with me because he's asposed to take care of me, just like my Mom said. You just can't see him because he's invi-...invis..."
"I see," said the nurse. But Dean knew she didn't get it. Grown-ups never believed in things they couldn't see. That was why he never told them about Angel. He didn't like the looks they got on their faces, like they were trying not to laugh at how silly he was for believing in a friend he couldn't see.
"How long until my brother gets here?"
"Hard to say," said the nurse. "Unless...were you talking to Angel that time too?"
"You can answer if you wanna. I dunno if Angel would know."
"Well, sometimes it takes a while for babies to get here. Other times they come very quickly."
"But it's already been a whole forever!" Dean complained, pushing himself up in his seat.
"You just have to be patient, Dan."
"My name is Dean."
He didn't hear the nurse's reply because that was when his dad finally came around the corner, looking tired, but smiling widely.
"Dean," he called. "Come meet your brother."
Dean rushed after him with Angel close behind.
Dean sat on the ground and picked at the grass.
His dad's back was turned toward him, his shoulders rounded, standing so still that he could have been mistaken for one of the statues that populated the cemetery. Sam squirmed in Dean's arms, and Dean tugged at the edge of the blanket that his brother was wrapped in.
The weather was mild that day, for November.
There was a breeze at his back. Dean ignored it.
"Don't worry, Sammy," he said when his brother got restless. "We'll go home soon. It's just gonna be us, though. You, me and Dad."
The birds in the trees chirped more loudly and the leaves rustled. Dean ignored them too.
His dad turned around. His eyes were red, but they were dry. "Do you want to wait in the car, Dean?" he asked.
"Are you coming?"
"Take your brother and wait in the car. I want to get him out of the wind."
Dean got up, dropping a handful of grass and holding his brother close as he trudged to the car and got into the back seat. The wind blew against the door as he closed it.
Ten minutes later, Sam was asleep in Dean's arms, and as Dean stared out the car window, he kept his voice a whisper: "I thought you were supposed to take care of us."
The rustling of the trees was muffled by the glass.
"You were supposed to take care of us...Why didn't you help her?"
A few orange leaves pressed up against the clear surface.
Dean looked away. "Just go away, Angel..."
After a moment, the leaves fell away from the glass, and the gentle breeze settled into stillness.
"What are you drawing?" Dean hunched over the the paper, crinkling it against the cheap motel mattress.
"Nothing," Dean said. "Mind your own business."
"But what is it?" Sam insisted. "Lemme see!" Dean pushed his six-year-old brother away.
"I said it's nothing." Angrily, he balled up the paper and threw it at the trash can across the room. He missed. He hoisted himself up. "Just go to bed, okay? Dad said he'd be back by morning." He half-heartedly chucked the pencil at his brother, and Sam ducked. It landed somewhere in the middle of the floor as Dean turned off the light curled into a ball on the bed.
Sam sighed and sneaked over to the trashcan, flattening out the paper. He expected his brother to yell at him or try and stop him, but he did nothing.
On the paper was a figure: two arms, two legs, a smiling face and two wings.
"Is it an angel?" Sam asked.
"Who cares?" said Dean. "Angels are stupid anyway."
"Give it back!" Sam yelled.
"Take it back!" Dean yelled back, holding the backpack just out of Sam's reach.
"Deeeeaaan! Gimme it back!"
"I said to take it back!"
"Boys!" barked their dad from the front seat. "Quit your fighting!"
"Yeah, Dad says quit it!" Dean teased. Sam pulled away and slumped in his seat with a pout. Dean unzipped the backpack and rifled through it.
"Dean, don't eat my gummies!"
"I'll eat your gummies if I wanna! I'm hungry."
"But Dean-!" Dean paused when he found something folded up, shoved into the backpack's front pocket. He unfurled the old paper and scoffed.
"You still have this thing?" he said. "Why?" Sam shrugged.
"I liked it."
"I drew this piece of crap like three weeks ago. And I told you, angels are stupid. What'd you write on it?"
"I didn't write anything on it."
"Like I care..." Dean said with a roll of his eyes. He was about to crumple it up and throw it on the floor at his feet, but something stopped him. He squinted his eyes at the word written on the page.
"What does this even mean?"
"I said I didn't write anything! Lemme see!" Sam reached for it, but Dean kept it out of his reach still.
"Cas...ti...el..." Dean mused. "What the hell's a Castiel?"
"I dunno," Sam said. "Are you gonna throw it away?"
"I can if I want. It's my drawing."
"But Dean-" Dean rolled his eyes and groaned, cramming it back into the backpack.
"Here," he said curtly, shoving the backpack into Sam's hands.
"I told you, Sam," he said, crossing his arms. "Angels are dumb."
Sam and Dean fell asleep in the back seat before long, Sam's head resting on Dean's shoulder as Dean drooled into Sam's hair. And for the rest of the night, as John Winchester drove the Impala the remainder of the trip from Virginia into North Carolina, a steady breeze followed them all the way.
The cicadas were loud for this time of year.