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Hue Burn

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Castiel's world was currently a deep violet with shimmering silver overlaying in time to violins fading in and out of the composition that flooded his headphones. He closed his eyes, letting the colour wash over him until the music eventually ran its course.

“And that was Rather Be by Clean Bandit to bring a conclusion to our night and our new segment that we're trying out.” Castiel smiled as he spoke, noting the timer on his right that said he had just thirty more seconds to sign off. “Thanks so much for all of the support for Hue Burn . In case you missed it, today's theme was ‘Purple’.

Castiel glanced over at Anna, who was on the other side of the glass, motioning for him to wrap it up.

He tapped on the timer, showing her the fifteen seconds of airtime he was still allowed.

“As always, this is Castiel and thank you for listening to Campus Radio XM . Have a good night, and don't be afraid to let some colour into your life.”

Castiel muted the microphone and took off his headset as they let the music playlist finish out the night.

“Sorry, I was worried you'd go over schedule again,” Anna said with an apologetic shrug as he left the recording booth.

Yellow painted itself across his train of thought as she spoke, and he couldn't help but smile.  

That was one of the reasons he liked working with Anna so much.

Of course, she was a great coworker, and always pulled her weight in the studio, and had a charming personality, but her voice was a pleasant shade of pale yellow - like freshly carved butter.

Hers was one of the more beautiful voices that he'd ever seen. Definitely in the top ten.

“What did you think of the colour today?” he asked, packing up his things.

Super interesting. I guess I thought that purple would be more like - like jazz songs, for some reason? You chose mostly pop music.”

Castiel shrugged as he picked up his bag.

“Some jazz is purple. It depends on the song. But to me, jazz is mostly blue with some copper tones in the mix.”

Anna cocked her head to the side.

“So, what colour is Blues?”

Castiel ducked his head and chuckled, not blaming her for the confusion; it wasn’t like there was a reasonable formula to it.

“Again, it depends on the song, but Blues songs tend to be white with kind of a cloudy texture. Odd, I know.”

“No, it's super cool!” She locked the door behind them. “I wish I had - uh - what's it called again?”

“Synaesthesia,” Castiel supplied, and stifled a yawn.

It was always later than he wanted it to be when he finished his shift.

“Yeah, that. I wish I had that.”

“It’s both a gift and a curse.” Castiel adjusted the strap on his shoulder bag and let out a breath. “See you in class, Anna.”

He waved and headed down the hallway of the radio station.

***

“What do you say to a study group later tonight, huh?”

Castiel winced as neon pink invaded his thoughts. It was bright and demanding as colours went, and gave him a headache if he listened to it for too long.

Castiel turned and smiled sympathetically at Meg as he walked out of their classroom, shrugging his shoulders in hopes that it would make his lie more believable.

“Sorry, I already have plans tonight,” Castiel said, trying to sound regretful. “I have to, uh, meet a friend for dinner and then go straight to the station.”

In all honesty he didn't mind Meg as a person - she seemed intelligent and ambitious, and definitely quick-witted, but her voice.

It was an awful colour.

“What about tomorrow, then?” Meg tilted her head as the pink dripped from her words. “Got the same thing going on tomorrow?”

Castiel backed up slowly, looking for a way out and noting the men's bathroom nearby.

Dozens of voices clouded his mind as college students flooded the hallway, each with a different colour, though the pigments were muted when they were all mingled together and not directly talking to him.

“Uh, maybe. We'll see - sorry, I have to -” he motioned behind him, backing into the restroom to escape the colour.

He closed the door behind him and locked himself inside a bathroom stall as he closed his eyes and let himself breathe.

Why did he have to be this way?

What if Meg could be an amazing friend to him, and he never let it happen because of this ridiculous thing that happened in his head? Of course most people’s voices weren’t that obnoxiously coloured, but it was tragic that anyone had to bear the brunt of having a voice with a colour that hurt his head just because that’s what their voice had randomly been assigned.

Castiel let out a long breath and pressed his forehead against the cool plastic of the stall - that he was sure was crawling with germs - just as the bathroom door opened and filled the room with echoing hue.

“- and what even is ‘a decent hour’ anymore, huh? I sleep when I sleep and I do fine.”

Castiel put a hand over his mouth as the colour of the voice washed over him, bathing him in a deep golden-green that took his breath away.

“- nah, the eight hours thing is bullshit, I promise. Four is definitely good enough.”

The more the man spoke, the more colour filled the blank canvas around them; Castiel was frozen, not wanting to move and disrupt the new beauty he was experiencing.

“- what? Oh, it’s probably echoing cause I’m in the bathroom. Wh - no, I’m not taking a shit. I got some paint on my hands and I’m washing them. Jesus, Sam -”

Castiel smiled to himself, holding back a chuckle as the sound of a sink turned on, disrupting the green only slightly.

“No, you haven’t...” the sink shut off and the voice moved farther away as the man pulled some paper towels off the roll. “Listen, I’m about to go to my next class but I’ll talk to you -”

The voice left and the door shut, taking all of the green with it.

It was only then that Castiel unlocked the door to his stall and stepped out, immediately rushing over to the door and poking his head out, but the green voice could be anyone in the sea of students currently milling around the rainbow in the hallway.

Instant regret filled him to his core - he should have left the stall while he could to see the owner of the most beautiful-coloured voice he’d ever seen in his life.

Now, he might never see it again.

Ah well. It wasn’t like the colour meant anything. His brain just assigned pigments to music and voices without a pattern, and how amazing of a person you were had nothing to do with the colour.

Just because a man’s voice was one of the most gorgeous shades of green that had ever existed, it didn’t mean he was a god.

Castiel sighed as he walked down the hallway and back into the sea of muted colours.

***

Today’s theme was “pink”, which meant a majority of the songs that were being chosen by him were oldies.  

Castiel nodded along to the current song, Dancing Queen, as the pale pink of the beats began to have silver threads woven through the rhythm. He tapped his fingers against the desk and raised an eyebrow when a little light on his system turned red, telling him Anna was trying to get his attention.

He turned to see her in the sound booth with a hand covering the mouthpiece of the studio phone.

You’ve got a caller,” she mouthed.

Castiel gave her a thumbs-up and waited for her to patch the call through.

This being a campus radio station that Castiel had an evening segment on, he didn’t necessarily get a lot of phone calls. Sometimes they were pranks, which was nothing that he couldn’t deal with, and some were drunken dares, but rarely were any serious.

The song’s final notes ended and Castiel pressed the switch to start the call.

“Hey there - thanks for calling Campus Radio XM . What can I do for you tonight?”

“Hey, uh, I guess I just had a question?”

Castiel blinked as the golden-green from earlier that day filled his mind yet again. It was slightly duller, more distorted since the sound of his voice was coming through a less-than-high-quality speaker, but it was definitely the same hue.

“Uh, yes. Of course,” Castiel said after he was finally able to form a coherent sentence. “What was your question?”

“So, I’ve been listening for the past couple of nights, and - I mean, first off I think this segment is super cool.”

“Oh, well. . . thank you.” Castiel sat up a little straighter, a smile playing on his lips as he danced in the green.

“Yeah, no problem. Synesthesia is awesome. I just. . . don’t get the title?”

“The title?” Castiel repeated, confused.

“Of your segment. Where you play songs that are a specific colour to you. Why do you call it ‘Hue Burn’? It’s been driving me nuts trying to understand the pun.”

“Ah, well,” Castiel flushed just a little, “I admit the play on words is probably lost on anyone who doesn’t know old radio lingo. Obviously it was a great decision to isolate a majority of people. . . but it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Hit me with it.”

Castiel smiled.

“Well, ‘cue burn’ used to happen when a radio DJ was playing a song on a vinyl, and would try to cue the next song by finding the beginning of it on the next record, and would move the record back and forth on the needle until they found it. Eventually this would lead to carving lines into the vinyl and scrubbing the sound off it. I just. . . liked the pun of colour and radio.”

“Oh, for real? Jesus, my old man’s probably rolling in his grave right now. That sounds like something I should know.”

Castiel huffed out a small laugh.

“It’s not incredibly well-known, so I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself.”

“Well, thanks. I guess it is a pretty clever name now that I get it.”

“And what was yours?” Castiel, sensing that the conversation was coming to a close, and being so distracted by wanting to keep the guy on the line for a little longer that he didn’t realize his question didn’t quite make sense.

“My. . . what?” asked the caller.

“Ah, your name.”

“Oh - it’s Dean.”

Dean.

Castiel smiled as the colour solidified into a name, every piece coming together to create new meaning for the crossed wires in his mind.

The colour of Dean.

“Thank you for calling in. Please feel free to do so again, Dean.”

“Sure thing. Later, Cas.”

The line clicked, and Castiel allowed himself a selfish moment of airtime to be silent as he gathered his thoughts and started Sweet Caroline to continue the Hue Burn in pink.

***

The red light flicked on about halfway through his segment the next night.

“Thanks for calling Campus Radio XM ; what can we do for you tonight?”

“Hey again, Cas.”

Castiel leaned towards the mic, a delighted smile on his face as his favourite colour came back into focus.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Wow, recognise my voice already?”

Castiel cleared his throat and flushed at the teasing tone.

“I, uh, I rarely get phone calls. It was mostly just the process of elimination.” No need to gush about his unique colour and scare him away. “Did you have another question?”

“Yeah, just curious I guess - I know the theme today is Red , and you're playing a lot of classic rock - which, hell yeah - but does that mean all these songs look the same to you?”

“Not at all.” Castiel adjusted his headphones as he prepared to explain. “The way my synaesthesia is - each song and each individual person’s voice tends to have a base colour to it, but they shift and have accents to them. The last song I played, Living On a Prayer, is a deep crimson with some white and black threaded throughout.”

“Whoa, really?”

Castiel smiled at the curiosity in Dean’s voice. For most of his life, Castiel hadn't realised that the colours he felt in music and voices weren't something that everyone else experienced. It wasn't until a couple of years ago when he mentioned to a friend that his favourite sweater was the same colour as Dream a Little Dream of Me and got a blank look back in response that the realization hit him.

He heard the world a bit differently.

“Yes, really.” Castiel leaned back in his chair. “There's more white and black in the choruses than there is in the verses, but as the song goes on and gets more frantic so do the accents of colour. Red is still always the base and is still the main colour of the song, if that makes sense. To simplify it for my radio segment, I just group them based on what I feel is most appropriate.”

“That’s really fucking cool. Wait, shit. Can I swear on the radio?”

Castiel smiled wryly, though he knew Dean couldn’t see it.

“It’s a campus radio station. Nobody’s listening.”

“Well, I’m listening.”

Castiel paused, failing to find words as the green of Dean’s last sentence faded from his mind.

Of all the people to listen to his small show on a small airwave on a small campus.

“Yes. You are.” Castiel steepled his fingers together and glanced at the time. He knew Anna would probably be wanting to move onto the next song, but it wasn’t like they had an incredibly strict schedule they had to stick to, or anything. “So, tell me, Dean, why are you listening to my little corner of the airwaves at eleven o’clock at night for the past few nights?

“Oh, I was working on an art project but I just finished it and now I can’t sleep.”

Castiel raised an eyebrow at the small tidbit of information that he’d been given about Dean and filed it away next to his colour.

“You’re an art student?” he asked.

“Ha, yeah. Trying to be, at least.”

“Well then, Dean. My next red song will be for you. Have a good night.”

“You too. And thanks.”

Castiel ended the call regretfully and started playing   I Just Haven’t Met You Yet , and tried not to get lost in the red, red irony.

***

Castiel didn’t want to say that he was hoping to get another phone call from Dean, but it was definitely all that he’d been able to think about all through his classes the next day.

What was he going to say if he did call? Would Dean have another question about his synaesthesia? Should he tell him about his voice?

Chances were that he was worrying about it for nothing. Dean had said that he was only listening while he did an art project, but he’d finished it. Instead of wasting his time listening to Castiel’s mediocre evening radio program, it was probably better spent actually getting some sleep.

Castiel opened the door to the campus radio station and pulled out the handwritten list of blue songs that he’d jotted down for Hue Burn in between classes.

He hoped anyone listening was in the mood for some jazz, and maybe some classical music.

“Cas, hey!”

Castiel looked up at the sound of yellow and waved at Anna, who was bounding down the hallway towards him.

“Hello -”

“Did you see it, yet?” Anna asked, eyes wide with excitement.

Castiel frowned, and tucked the list back into his pocket.

“See what?”

Anna's face split into grin as she grabbed his hand and started tugging him towards the control room that Castiel had, in fact, been heading towards anyway.

They turned the corner, and leaning against the wall next to the doorway was a painting.

It looked to be about two feet by two feet, not overly large but still prominent, and was painted a deep crimson red. Streaks and splashes of white and black interrupted the hue in random shapes and sizes, with parts of the painting nearly completely untouched, and other parts nearly drowning out the red.

Castiel crouched down to get a better look at it, trying to confirm his suspicions.

The colour scheme was too coincidental.

There was a small piece of paper propped up against the painting with words scribbled on it, and Castiel picked it up curiously.

 

Castiel

I know it probably looks nothing like you imagine, but I got inspired.

Hope this isn’t too weird.

-Dean

 

Castiel lowered the note and looked over at Anna, unable to find the right words

“It’s Living on a Prayer, right?” she asked, “It sounds like what you were describing.”

Castiel ran a hand along the top of the canvas and nodded.

“Yes, that’s what it looks like.” He smiled. “It’s. . . amazing.”

***

Castiel started the night off a little differently this time.

“Good evening everyone and welcome to Campus Radio XM . I’m Castiel, here to bring you Hue Burn - a segment where I use my sound-to-colour synaesthesia to share some colour with you. Tonight’s theme will be Blue’.

Castiel paused and licked his lips.

“And Dean the art student. . . if you’re listening. . . give me a call.”

He hoped it didn’t sound clingy.

“Anyway, here’s Feeling Good by Nina Simone to start off the blue music.”

Castiel glanced over at Anna who was giving him a knowing look. He shrugged and she waved at him, signaling that she understood. It wasn’t as if a student-run radio program had many strict rules anyway, though they tried to stay on schedule.

The song wasn’t even over by the time the red light blinked on, and Castiel felt his heart beat a little faster. He could already picture the colour.

The song ran out and Castiel picked up the call.

“Thanks for calling Campus Radio XM . This is Castiel.”

“And this is Dean.”

Castiel closed his eyes at the golden-green tone of his voice and huffed out a laugh.

“Hello, Dean.”

“What can I do for you?”

The voice sounded coy, like he had an inkling of why he’d been requested to call, but enjoyed playing innocent for the time being.

“I wanted to thank you for what you’ve already done,” Castiel said, nervously running his fingers down the wire that was attached to his headphones. “The painting was incredible. I knew exactly what song it was when I saw it.”

“Really? Well, shit. I wasn’t sure how well it would work out, seeing as all I had to go on was your description, so that’s good to know.”

Castiel hummed and glanced over at the painting that he’d brought into the room with him, still awestruck by the accuracy. Obviously it wasn’t exactly the same, but that was mainly because the colours he felt were sometimes so abstract, an actual recreation would be impossible. This, however, was astonishingly on the nose.

“Yes, it’s . . . I love it. Thank you.”

“No problem. It was a fun little project.”

Castiel cleared his throat when he noted his own unprofessionalism - he’d forgotten other potential listeners on their airwave. This wasn’t a private call, after all.

“If anyone listening is confused, Dean sent our station a painting of his interpretation of my description of the way I see the song Living on a Prayer. Frankly, it’s beautiful, and anyone would be lucky to have it.”

“Aw, shucks, you really know how to flatter a guy.”

“I really don’t.”

The words were said before he could stop them, and he physically clapped a hand over his mouth by the time it was too late.

“I wouldn’t say that. I’m pretty damn charmed right now.”

Castiel’s mouth worked, but no sound came out - an effect he wished had happened a few seconds ago - and turned to look behind the glass at Anna in a panic.

She looked back with wild glee.

“I - um. Thank you for calling in. That’s all the time we have for you. Goodbye.”

He ended the call with a click and started the next song with shaking fingers, muting his mic before dropping his head into his hands and groaning in mortification.

The sacred door behind him that was never to be opened while he was on the air was flung open as a loud yellow voice yelled:

Castiel Novak - what the hell ?”

***

It was the weekend, and Castiel spent all of it in a near constant state of anxiety over The Phone Call.

Why had he just. . . hung up?

Why hadn’t he laughed it off and moved onto a different topic?

He could think of several different paths he could have taken besides panicking and cutting him off completely. Now Dean would probably never call the station again, and Castiel had no one to blame but himself.

Anna had laughed herself silly while he buried his head under his arms, playing song after song so he wouldn’t have to talk on air for the next few minutes.

She thought it was endearing that he couldn’t handle a bit of flirting.

Castiel did not.

It was ridiculous. Castiel didn’t even know what the man looked like and he could already feel himself. . . feeling something about all of this - which was rare enough for him.

Maybe it was best to let this fade away.

Castiel pulled out his phone as he walked down the school hallway when he felt it buzz in his pocket.

It was from Anna.

[Received - 1:05pm] Our ratings went up.

He blinked as he read the text, not sure what to make of it. Ratings weren’t something that they cared about necessarily, as it was a well-known fact that campus radio wasn’t the most popular radio in the world. The ratings were always low.

Castiel typed out a quick reply.

[Sent - 1:06pm] They did? By how much?

[Received - 1:09pm] Not a ton. But a significant uptick since you started Hue Burn and let’s be real - any uptick is astronomical for us.

Castiel raised an eyebrow and hummed to himself as he put his phone back into his pocket.

Probably just a coincidence.

***

The red light flashed on near the end of only the second song, and Castiel’s heart rate skyrocketed when he saw it.

Was it Dean?

Was he going to demand an apology for hanging up on him so rudely on Friday?

“Th-thank you for calling Campus Radio XM . What can I do for you?”

“Is this Castiel?”

Castiel exhaled in relief at a feminine, cream-coloured voice and hurried to sound professional for the new caller.

“Yes, it is. And what was your name?”

“I’m Hannah.”

Castiel looked for the next song he’d planned on playing on the computer next to him as he spoke.

“Hello, Hannah. Was there something I could do for you tonight?”

“Oh, I was just wondering. . . if you have a favourite song? And if you do, is it because of the colour?”

He sat back, taking a moment to think about his answer.

“Yes, I do have a favourite song. . . and I suppose its colour does have something to do with it, but I also just enjoy listening to it.”

“What is it?” Hannah asked, sounding a bit shy. “Could you play it for us?”

Us.

The way she said it made it sound like there were more people out there who were actually listening to him when he spoke, which, according to Anna, was accurate - but it was difficult to wrap his head around.

People listening?

A bit too far-fetched.

“Ah, well. I could play some of it if you wanted. It’s very boring to most people, and it’s over an hour in length if you want to listen to its entirety. It’s called Vespers , by Rachmaninov.”

“Oh. . . wow. What colour is it?”

Castiel cleared his throat as he quickly played the music in his mind to get a rehash of the colour, not that he could ever forget it.

“It’s a sky blue with a shimmering silver overlay, for the most part. Very peaceful.”

The voice on the other end was quiet for a moment.

“Could you play it?”

Castiel smiled, already pulling it up.

“Of course. I’ll play the first part. This one goes out to you, Hannah.”

He ended the call and started the song, his mind filling with the silver and blue hue as a chorus of heavenly voices sung in unison.

The ratings were sure to go down after this, but if it made the one person who requested it happy, it was absolutely worth it.

He kept his eyes on the red light for the rest of the night, relieved and disappointed that Dean never called.

***

Another art piece was left outside of the recording studio - this time, a soft sky blue with various vertical strips of silver layered over the top, and blended into gentle puffs.

There was no note, but Castiel knew.

***

“Synesthesia is actually a phenomenon that scientists don’t really know a whole lot about yet, besides that it exists,” Castiel explained to a man named Garth who’d called in asking about it. “There’s a lot of different kinds. There are some people who can taste words, some people who think numbers have personalities, others who see time as space around them, and people like me who see sound as a colour. These are just a few of many examples.”

Garth was the second call of the night - both polite, both interested, and both unusual activity for their radio station.

“Aw man. I wish I had something like that.”

People always said that.

“It’s both a blessing and a curse,” Castiel said, as he usually did. “Was there anything else I could do for you?”

“Oh, could you play something. . . maroon? That’s my favourite colour.”

Castiel quirked his head to the side, marvelling at the coincidence.

Maroon was the colour of Garth’s voice.

“Of course. Thank you for calling in, Garth.”

He began to play Hooked on a Feeling.

A glance over at Anna earned him a thumbs up and a smile - no doubt she was loving the uptick in attention that the show had been getting recently.

Just before Garth’s song ended, the light flashed red again.

“Thank you for calling Campus Radio XM . This is Castiel.”

“Yes, hello.” The voice was deep, unusually so, but Castiel might not have noticed if it weren’t for the shade of golden-green that emanated from it. “I just had a question.”

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel said, amused that Dean had been trying to disguise his voice for whatever reason.

“No, I -” The voice switched back to normal - “Damn. How’d you know?”

Castiel chuckled, trying to cover for his nerves.

“I recognised your colour.”

“You. . . what?”

“Recognised your. . . ah, colour. Everyone’s voice has a specific hue to it for me. Even if you lower it, it’ll stay the same. I simply know what colour your voice is.”

“That. . . is a superpower.”

Castiel laughed openly. He hadn’t hear it ever described like that before.

“The world’s most useless superpower,” he mused, then cleared his throat. “By the way, while I have you on the line. . . I hung up on you rather abruptly last time you called. I want to apologise for that.”

“Oh, that’s alright. I mean, I was wondering if I offended you somehow, or -”

“No, not at all -” Castiel interrupted - “I’m just. . . well. I didn’t know how to react.”

Castiel heard Dean chuckle on the other end of the line, but he sounded a little regretful.

“My brother says I came on a little strong, so that one’s on me. And speaking of coming on strong. . .” Dean paused. “Did you get my gift?”

“I did, and I . . . I don’t know what to say.”

Castiel had already hung it up in his apartment where he could look at it whenever he wanted and hear his favourite song in its colours.

The gift felt intimate.

Intimate in a way Castiel couldn’t quite explain, because he knew it was just an art piece that a student had probably cranked out in an hour tops, but to him, it was an attempt at understanding a part of himself that no one truly did. Not even Castiel did, if he was being honest with himself. It was an interpretation that was as beautiful as its execution.

“It’s stunning.” Castiel finished his thought. “Thank you very much for it.”

“Yeah, no problem. I like your descriptions and I like trying to figure out how to make ‘em real, even if they don’t end up perfect.”

It was very close to being so, however.

“So. . . still can’t sleep?”

Dean chuckled.

“I probably could, now. But if I listen long enough you’ll describe another song and I’ll get inspiration for a new painting.”

Castiel fiddled idly with his headphone wire as he pushed down the butterflies in his stomach.

“You know you don’t have to do that, right?”

“Sure,” Dean said, sounding pleased with himself. “But I like it.”

Castiel did too.

“You really should get some sleep,” Castiel mused.

“Ha. You sound like my brother.”

Castiel nodded and thought back to the first time he’d ever heard Dean’s voice while he’d been hiding from Meg.

If he’d poked his head out then, he would have seen what Dean looked like.

If he knew what Dean looked like. . . would any of this have been different?

“Well, he’s right,” Castiel said with a shrug. “Four hours isn’t near enough sleep for anyone.”

“Yeah, well - uh - how’d you know I said four hours?”

Castiel inhaled sharply when the mistake he’d made came into sharp focus. That was a conversation he’d overheard accidentally, not participated in, and no matter how he tried to explain it, it was going to sound creepy with a side of stalker.

“Oh, I, uh - well. When you called into the station for the first time,” Castiel swallowed, trying to figure out the right words to lift himself from the hole he’d dug, “it wasn’t the first time I’d ever heard your voice?”

“. . . oh, really?”

“I promise it’s not weird,” Castiel grimaced. “I heard you on the phone in the men’s room once. That’s all.”

There was a long pause and Castiel’s brain quickly ran through a dozen different scenarios - all of them ending with Dean hanging up and never calling back.

“And you remembered my voice?

Luckily, Dean’s tone of voice was still light. Smug, even.

“Well -”

‘Cause I hear voices in men’s rooms all the time and I don’t remember them for shit.”

Castiel chewed on his lower lip as he thought about what to say next. Dean already knew that he had a colour when Castiel heard his voice. How could he explain in a way that didn’t make him sound obsessed?

“You have. . . a very unique colour of voice. It would be difficult to forget it.”

“Do I?”

The time ticked next to Castiel, and he knew he would need to move on soon, but how could he deny Dean the small amount of time they were allowed?

“You do,” Castiel said softly.

“What colour is it?”

Oh, if only he could show him.

If only he could share just a fraction of the beauty with him, and wade him through the shade of iridescent emerald that Dean’s voice brought him.

“You are a golden green. It’s not two colours on top of each other, or one winding dominantly through the other - you are a pure tone of golden green.”

The line went silent.

“Dean?” Castiel asked, when the pause continued longer than it should have.

“Sorry, That’s just - wow. Really fucking cool. I like it.”

Castiel ducked his head, and dropped his gaze, though a smile played on his lips.

“I suppose you have yourself to thank for it.”

“I guess I do. Rock on, voice. Keep on being awesome.”

Castiel laughed and felt his spirits fall just a little when he saw the red light on his system flash again, signalling a new caller.

“Dean, I’m going to have to let you go, unfortunately. We have another caller and I’ve stolen your time for longer than I should have. “

“Can’t steal something willingly given.”

Castiel liked Dean more and more with every interaction, and Dean’s colour was becoming more dear to his heart with every passing day.

“Goodnight, Dean,” Castiel said.

“Night, superhero.”

And Castiel transferred calls.

“Thank you for calling Campus Radio XM . This is Castiel.”

“Hey Castiel, quick question. Do you think it’s professional to have your boyfriend call you at work?” The tone was teasing, but it was a colour of voice that Castiel didn’t recognise.

“What?” Castiel sputtered, dumbfounded. “He’s not -”

“He’s not?” The voice raised in pitch and disbelief before cackling loudly. “ Je- sus -”

And then she hung up, and Castiel muted his microphone so that he could groan.

***

 

If You’re Not Listening To Our Evening Campus Radio, You Goddamn Should Be

For those of you that are unfamiliar with our university’s radio station, you would be in the vast majority of students. For years, the broadcasting program has slipped under the radar with mediocre ideas and average music, bringing in low ratings in an era where podcasts are more popular than programs. It was of no surprise that most students just ran the station for the credits needed in their audio classes, doing the bare minimum of work.

Enter Castiel Novak (pictured left).

‘Hue Burn’ is the name of a new radio segment that he helms and if you’re looking for sheer unpredictability and introductions to new music, this is it.

The segment was brought into fruition after mentioning to one of his coworkers that he has something called ‘synaesthesia’. Synaesthesia is a fun little phenomenon that happens in the brain, where two senses cross wires, so to speak.

“It wasn’t my idea, really -” a flustered Castiel told us over the phone - “I don’t think it’s all that remarkable, but I suppose it at least makes for a fun radio game.”

Castiel’s synaesthesia allows him to hear colour in both voices and music where there isn’t any for people who don’t experience the phenomenon, and the radio program includes choosing a daily colour and playing songs that - to him - resemble that same hue.

“It’s really not that interesting,” Castiel is often heard saying, along with his (dare I say) tagline, “It’s both a gift and curse.”

In this journalist’s personal opinion another beloved part of ‘Hue Burn’ is when a certain art student calls in simply to flirt with our radio host, and they both take turns getting tongue tied - it’s absolutely adorable.

A crush on both ends perhaps?

Castiel Novak declined to comment on these observations.

If you love some interesting imagery, a wide array of music, an adorably awkward host, and a budding love (?) story, tune in every evening, Monday through Friday, and don’t be afraid to let a little colour into your life.

Chuck Shurley

***

Castiel rubbed at his temples as the third caller of the night asked what colour their own voice was to him. He didn’t necessarily mind the question - he didn’t mind when friends asked - but random strangers calling in just for the one answer and then moving on wasn’t really what Castiel had in mind when he’d started Hue Burn .

No doubt the recent article in the campus newspaper had something to do with all of the recognition they’d been getting. Anna was loving all of the attention and ratings recently, but Castiel was really only happy that it didn’t stop Dean from continuing to call in.

“Well, again, it’s a little distorted because this is over a phone call, but you sound like a sort of. . . rusty orange?”

“Sweet, dude.”

And then they hung up.

That was not uncommon.

Castiel glanced over at Anna and sighed when he remembered that she’d decorated the glass between them with roughly a dozen different cutouts from the school newspaper of the line “ Castiel Novak declined to comment on these observations.”

He’d become an office meme.

Three songs later, Castiel had another phone call.

“Thank you for calling Campus Radio XM . What can I do for you tonight?”

“Hi, my name’s Jo.”

“Hello, Jo,” Castiel said, attempting to keep up the friendly tone. “Song request?”

“A question, actually.”

Castiel sighed, ready to tell her about how red her voice was.

“You’ve seen a lot of colours, right?”

The question caught him off-guard. Yes? Probably? Not more than most people, he only experienced them a lot more frequently.

“I suppose you could say that,” he answered warily.

“What’s your favourite?”

He blinked.

“My favourite?”

“Yeah,” Jo said, “ what’s your favourite colour?”

Immediately, his mind shifted to the emerald-gold of Dean’s voice and how beautiful it was and how grateful he felt to experience it every time Dean graced him with a phone call. There was no room to even compare any other colours to the one that he held so high on a pedestal.

His favourite was obvious.

Green.

“Dean,” Castiel said.

“. . . what?”

Castiel slapped a hand over his mouth in a panic when his brain caught up to the word he’d let slip off his tongue. He hadn’t meant to say that! No one needed to know the specifics of the colour - especially live on the radio.

“Dean. I said ‘Dean,’” Castiel said in an attempt to correct himself, then promptly panicked again when he realised his mouth wasn’t quite cooperating. “I mean green. Fuck!”

“Dean, huh?”

Jo was laughing amidst Castiel’s frantic attempts to cover for himself, which didn’t necessarily make him feel any better.

“I said ‘green’! My favourite colour is green.”

“I mean, I sure don’t blame you. I heard you describe his colour of voice or whatever and his sounded gorgeous -”

“I’m sorry, we have no more time for calls tonight.”

Castiel quickly ended the call, looking towards Anna’s booth for any sign of support or consolation, but instead saw her dying with laughter behind sound-proof glass while she wiped at her eyes.

Was there no pity?

Was there no empathy for him in this situation?

Castiel started another song - any song, he didn’t waste time checking which it was - and dropped his head into his arms in one large slump in an attempt to ease his suffering.

His face was burning at his mistake and Castiel wanted nothing more than to melt into the floor and become one with the musty carpeting and stay that way for the rest of eternity.

Anna, at least, had the decency to give him a few moments of wallowing to himself before knocking lightly on the door and opening it.

“Your, uh, your call light is flashing.”

Castiel glanced up and narrowed his eyes at the small bulb, then turned his gaze back to Anna, who was still dabbing at her eyes.

“No more calls today,” he muttered, slumping his head back down.

Anna cleared her throat pointedly.

“It’s Dean.”

Castiel tensed.

Nope.

No.

Not dealing with that right now.

“No more phone calls today,” he repeated.

There was a brief pause, and then the sound of Anna’s retreating footsteps disappeared after the door closed behind her.

***

The scenario kept playing in his head.

Over and over.

In HD memory and in vivid detail.

Calling in sick to work sounded like an excellent idea to him, and he’d reached for his phone on three different occasions throughout the day to do just that after several amused looks from his classmates, but eventually thought better of it.

He could also just. . . not take calls again tonight. Of course, that was putting off the inevitable, but it made him feel less anxious about it in the moment.

Castiel ran a shaky hand through his hair with a huff, and gripped the strap of his shoulder bag as he turned down the hallway towards the recording room - and then stopped.

Three paintings were leaning against the wall just outside of the studio, where the paintings had always been left. It was odd, seeing as they were slightly smaller than what he was usually gifted, but not by much, and there were three of them instead of his usual one.

The first was a canvas covered in a unique fuschia colour with an almost neon orange paint splashed over the top haphazardly. It was such an odd colour combination that he instantly recognised the song that was supposed to be represented.

It was a song he’d played exactly once, and had described it so briefly that he couldn’t believe it had been captured so accurately, especially since Castiel didn’t really know the song all that well anyway. A friend had shown it to him once and the colour of it was so odd it had stuck with him.

The song was called I Think I Like You.

Castiel tried breathing, but he was finding it difficult to.

The second painting was copper and burgundy smeared together, with thin stripes of black woven throughout, and Castiel sucked in a breath.

First Date.

The final painting made Castiel nearly take a step back in awe of how perfectly he could see the exact word that was being shown in a bold, shimmering tone of golden-green.

I Think I Like you.

First Date.

Dean.

Castiel slowly gathered the three canvases in a daze, tucking them under his arm as his mind whirled. Was this Dean asking him out? Why would Dean - what if they met and Dean realised that Castiel was only ten times more awkward in person? What if - well. It was just a first date, after all. He’d made that clear. No harm in a first date.

He worried his lower lip as he opened the door to the studio and set the paintings gently down inside, letting out a breath as he straightened, his eyes catching the figure of someone in his studio that he didn’t know.

The man had sandy hair, and a kind face lightly dusted with a generous amount of freckles that only enhanced his handsome features.

The freckled-man instantly stood from where he’d been sitting on a chair in the corner and his mouth parted as he simply stared back at Castiel.

“Only broadcasting students are allowed in here,” Castiel said curiously, cocking his head to the side. “Is there something I can help you with?”

The stranger’s mouth worked soundlessly for a moment, giving Castiel a little bit more time to study him.

There was a familiarity about him that Castiel couldn’t quite describe, but if he had to guess, he’d say that he’d probably seen him in the school’s hallways between classes a few times, but not ever had a reason to come into contact with him.

There were also flecks of paint on his shirt and arms.

“Hey, Cas.”

A shy smile playing on his lips - and Castiel’s world filled with his favourite colour.

Castiel’s mouth dropped open.

“Dean?”

Dean’s smile widened and he gestured at himself awkwardly.

“In the flesh.”

Castiel continued to stare.

“And, uh,” Dean rubbed at the back of his neck as spoke, “I’ve got to say, that picture the school newspaper used of you did not do you justice.”

Oh god. Of course Dean had seen that. Who hadn’t?

“Well,” Castiel cleared his throat, “your colour has absolutely held true to you.”

Castiel was delighted to see Dean’s face turn a bright red at the compliment, and he couldn’t have meant it more.

“Well, uh -”

“Yes,” Castiel interrupted.

Dean paused, raising an eyebrow.

“To a first date?” Castiel clarified, really hoping he’d read the colours correctly. “I’d love to.”

Dean’s face split into a wide smile and Castiel could see the tension in his shoulders visibly relax.

“Awesome! Did you. . . wanna go now? We don’t have to if you don’t want to, obviously.”

“Now?” Castiel blinked, glancing over to Anna’s sound booth to look for her. “Yes, I’d love to, but -”

“I already talked to Anna and she said that you could have the night off if you wanted,” Dean said, bouncing on the balls of his feet a little, as he stepped forward and held out a chivalrous arm. “All I had to do was make a deal.”

Castiel smiled and only hesitated a little before he hooked his arm through Dean’s and stared into golden-green eyes that he’d only just noticed.

“A deal?” Castiel asked, trying to conjure up what Anna could have possibly requested while Dean led them out of the studio. “What kind of deal?”

Dean only smiled.

***

“Hello everyone and welcome to Hue Burn on Campus Radio XM . My name is Castiel.”

“And hey! My name is Dean. You may have heard of me - seeing as I’m pretty famous around these parts. Lots of people gossiping, you know how they are.”

“Yes, indeed I do. Thank you for joining me tonight, Dean. We’re ever so glad to have nabbed you for an exclusive interview.”

“Aw shucks. I’m just glad to be here.”

“Listeners, Dean is here to help straighten some things out about what’s been going on.”

“Lies. I’m here to straighten nothing. We’re literally holding hands right now.”

Dean!

“And playing footsies.”

“This was an awful idea.”

“Hey, Cas?”

“Yes, Dean?”

“You’re the hue burn on my heart.”

“. . .”

“Aw. You’re as red as Living on a Prayer.”