Day 1: Road Sign
Dean was lost. The GPS wasn’t working out here in the country, so he’d pulled over to the side of the road and taken out the map he’d bought as his back up, just in case this happened. He unfolded it over the steering wheel and cross referenced it against the roads he had passed. The road sign directly in front of him said he was heading for highway 23, but that wasn’t right, he was supposed to be looking for county road 2500 north. The last road he’d passed was county road 4225 west. He was so lost it was ridiculous.
As he studied the map, he heard the whoop of a siren, and looking up, he saw the car pulling up behind him. Great, this day was just getting better and better. He sat still and waited for the sheriff to pop up at his window. When he finally approached, Dean rolled his window down and offered up his politest smile.
“Good afternoon, sir. Has your vehicle broken down?”
“Uh, no, I’m lost,”
The sheriff smiled softly as he removed his sunglasses.
“Well, where is it you’re trying to get to?”
Dean dragged the map closer to the window and pointed to the red circle he’d put there before he’d ever left Lawrence.
“I’m looking for county road 2500 north. There’s a farm there, 2536 is the number,” Dean scratched his jaw and looked at the road ahead of him. “But I am so lost. The last road I passed said west.”
“Yes, you’re a bit off,” The sheriff tilted his head slightly. “Are you looking for the Winchester house?”
Dean smiled and nodded. “Yeah, that’s my grandfather’s house. He passed away and left it to me in his will, but I just can’t find it,”
“Well, you’ve lucked out because I’m actually your neighbor. My name’s Castiel,” The sheriff offered his hand and Dean shook it. The man was backlit by sunlight and he couldn’t get a clear look at his new neighbor, but the man’s voice was sure sexy.
“Nice to meet you, Castiel,”
“I was actually on my way home for lunch. If you want to just follow me, I’ll take you right to the house,” Castiel said. “Plus, I think you might have been told to pick the keys up from the neighboring house. Well, that’s me. I have the keys in my desk drawer at home. I can grab them real quick and then we’ll head to your place.”
“Awesome,” Dean smiled wide. He lucked out finding his next door neighbor. Castiel got back in his car and pulled out in front of him. He turned the Impala back on and followed the sheriff.
It was a good twenty minutes of driving down back roads until they finally turned onto county road 2500 north. Dean breathed a sigh of relief and followed Castiel up a driveway to a country house, white with red shutters and a lovely flower garden that spanned the entire length of the front of the house. Castiel parked his car and got out, heading inside. When he came back out he got back in his car and Dean followed him out of the driveway. It wasn’t a far drive, and then they were pulling into another driveway. He looked up at the house as he parked in front. It was massive, bigger than he’d expected, and in obvious need of a lot of work. Still, it looked like it had good bones. There had been a large enough inheritance that he could fix the place up fifty times over without blinking an eye, and he was mentally compiling a list of what he wanted to get started on first.
He climbed out of the car and looked at the second floor windows. There were a few that had been boarded over, and he wondered if that was due to bad weather. How often did tornadoes come through here? Was that something he was going to have to worry about?
“Here you go,”
Dean turned to see Castiel standing there, offering the keys. From a seated position inside the car he hadn’t noticed just how handsome the sheriff was, but he was definitely aware of it now. The man had removed his sunglasses again and was looking at Dean with deep blue eyes and a warm, friendly smile. He accepted the keys as he smiled back.
“Thanks. Did you know my grandfather?”
Castiel nodded as he looked up at the house. “I did, rather well, actually. I helped out around the farm when I had the time. He mentioned that he had a son, and that he had grandsons, but I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone visit that wasn’t from town, or was from a neighboring farm,”
Dean scratched the back of his neck and looked up at the house again. “Yeah, well, apparently my grandfather and my dad had a falling out when my dad was around twenty. They never made up. When my brother and I were growing up, we’d been told that my grandfather died when our dad was just a little boy. We never thought to question it, neither did our mom. She died when I was four, so all we had was our dad. He died about six years back, still without ever telling us that his father wasn’t dead. We didn’t learn about Henry until I got a call out of the blue from his lawyer about a will reading. I was pissed, to put it mildly. Because of my dad’s tiff with his father, my brother and I were denied the chance to get to know the man. Our mother’s father, he’s still alive and he is a very unpleasant man, but from what I understand, Henry was a great guy. I wish I could have known him. The lawyer asked me if I wanted to sell the farm, but I refused. This is my last link to him, and I’d like the chance to get to know about him and the life he led.
“The lawyer, a man named Crowley, he says my dad was born in this house, and that he went to school in a small town near here called Bell’s Hollow. I’m guessing that’s the nearest town? Anyway, dad moved to Lawrence in his late teens, early twenties, and that’s where he met my mom. As far as I know, he never came back, never spoke to his father again. I couldn’t fathom turning my back on my family. My dad, he was a mess after our mom died, developed a drinking problem and we spent most of our youth being raised by family friends because our father was incapable, and unwilling to give up his alcohol.
“My brother Sam, he’s a lawyer and he looked over the will, all of the documents pertaining to our inheritance, and found out that Crowley was trying to stiff us out of the money part. He only told us about the properties. Apparently gramps got into real estate and bought like, twenty five different condo complexes in Florida. I guess he was buying them for decades? Anyway, he had millions in the bank, and Crowley tried to not tell us about the bank accounts. I don’t know how he thought he was going to get access to them, but Sam figured it out and well, Crowley’s now doing 15 to 25. Sam and me, we’ve always had a good relationship and we’re in this 50/50. We’ve taken over ownership already, put everything in both of our names, but we each took one of the houses. Henry had a house in Florida, much nicer than this, much bigger, but when I heard that this was where he had actually lived, I told Sam to take the place in Florida and I took this. This is the first time I’ve gotten to actually come look at it though,”
“I’m sorry that you didn’t get to know Henry. If you’d like, I’d happily tell you about him. He was a wonderful man that I knew very well,” Castiel offered. “I do have to grab my lunch and get back out on patrol, but I’ll be home around six. Will you still be here?”
“I am planning to stay. My stuff is being delivered Saturday,” Dean replied. Castiel touched his arm and smiled.
“How about I stop by tonight? I’ll even bring dinner. I’m sure anything that’s in the fridge now is not edible,”
Dean smiled back, his stomach fluttering at the thought of getting to have dinner with the handsome sheriff.
“I’d like that,”
“Alright, I get back home about six. I’ll have to stop for food first, but I’ll be back over here about seven,” Castiel slid his sunglasses back down over his eyes and began backing up towards his car. Dean waved and watched him pull out of the driveway. He looked up at the house again. It was time to see his new home, and maybe figure out what happened between his father and grandfather.
Dean took his time walking through the house. He wasn’t sure whether it made him happy or angry to see pictures of himself and Sam over the mantle in the fireplace. The pictures were old, from when they’d been babies, the last one being around the time of their mother’s death. He wondered if maybe his mom had known Henry was alive and was keeping him updated. Did Henry know their mom had died? Did he know why the pictures had stopped coming?
There were framed articles on the walls too. The opening of each of Dean’s auto shops had made it into the papers, in Lawrence, Wichita and in Kansas City, and apparently his grandfather had known this because those articles were hanging on the walls in the living room. There was a newsletter from Stanford listing the graduating class the year Sam had graduated hanging on another wall, and it was with a fond realization that his grandfather had been following their lives. . He didn’t know why the man hadn’t reached out to him, or to Sam though. Maybe he hadn’t known John was dead. If he had, he’d have told him, whatever hatred there had been between him and their father, it did not carry over to them. Sam would have whole heartedly agreed.
The floors were a bit warped, the windows needing caulking, but the appliances were fairly new, as was the furniture. He inspected the upstairs windows and found bricks on the floor. So it hadn’t been a tornado, it had been people that had busted them out. He intended to ask Castiel about that later. Someone had come in to board the windows up and his money was on the sheriff.
The bathrooms were old fashioned but still nice. The wallpaper could use updating, as could the tiles in the showers, but it looked like the sinks had been updated at some point in the last few years, as had the toilets. It meant less work for him to have to do. He checked the electric, pleased to see that it had all been updated, and the plumbing, most of which had been updated. There were a few pipes that needed replacing, and he wrote that down on the pad he’d been keeping a list on.
From there he headed into the kitchen. Castiel hadn’t been kidding about the fridge and after locating the garbage bags under the sink, he’d proceeded to throw everything in it out. From there he’d moved onto the pantry. Most of the food in there was salvageable still, but anything bread and any kind of pastry was tossed. He left the pantry door open to air the room out since it stunk of rotten bread. His grandfather had passed away three months earlier but most of the things he’d bought before he’d died still had far out expiration dates, so he left those alone. Later he’d figure out what he still needed to invest in.
By the time Castiel arrived, Dean had walked through every room of the house at least twice, figured out where at least some of his stuff would go, and what he just wouldn’t have the space to keep. He opened the door when Castiel knocked and was surprised to see the man dressed casually, no longer still in his uniform.
“You changed,” He felt stupid for pointing it out but Castiel just smiled.
“Yes, well, I don’t live in my uniform,” He joked. Dean laughed and waved him in.
“I made sure to call ahead and make sure the power was on, so there’s light. Just in case, I found out where the candles are located. I’m sure I’ll need them eventually,”
“Oh, that’s a given,” Castiel placed the bags of food on the table along with the drink carrier. “I wasn’t sure what you drank, so they’re both sweet tea. That ok?”
“Yes, that’s perfect. I tried the water earlier but it tastes off, so I think I need to update the water softener in the basement because adding the salt didn’t seem to make a difference. Plus it just makes the water taste kind of soapy. Hurt my stomach, so maybe I have to figure something else out,” Dean motioned towards one of the chairs and they both sat down. Castiel reached into the KFC bags, pulling out a bucket of chicken and several sides.
“Everyone out here has their own well, but I know Henry had some issues with his the last few years. If I were you, before you go drinking it, get it tested. Some of the wells out here have tested positive for lead and arsenic. Mine didn’t, but that really doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Castiel slid a container of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and cold slaw towards him. “I wasn’t sure what you liked. I’m hoping that being in the south, you liked fried chicken, but I was clueless on the sides, so I got a little bit of everything. I figure whatever you don’t eat, you can save for later.”
Dean smiled across the table at the man as he opened the container of potatoes. “Thanks, I really appreciate this. Does this mean there’s a KFC nearby?”
“Bell’s Crossing is actually the name of the town, not Bell’s Hollow. I think you were mistakenly thinking of Oak Hollow, that’s about ten miles past Bell’s Crossing. Oak Hollow has gotten a lot of new businesses in the last ten years or so, including a KFC. There are a few others, including McDonald’s and Burger King. They’re talking about adding a Taco Bell, but we’ll see,” Castiel pulled a leg out of the bucket before pushing it across the table to Dean.
“I don’t even know where Bell’s Crossing is, or this Oak Hollow, but it’s good to know that there’s some fast food joints around. Where’s the nearest grocery store?”
“There’s a small one, more of a mom and pop shop in Bell’s, but there’s Dillons and an Aldi in Oak Hollow,” Castiel replied. Dean pulled his pad of paper out and wrote that down. It was good to know where he could shop. Later he’d find out where he could get other things.
“So, you live next door with your family?” Dean asked as he pulled a breast from the bucket.
“No, I live alone. It was my family home. My parents retired to Florida, ironically enough, to one of your grandfather’s condos. My brother and sister moved off, they have homes and families of their own, so my parents left the farm to me. My sister complained about it but my dad’s a lawyer and he arranged it so she can’t fight me in court after they’re dead. She’s greedy and she’d see me homeless on the streets if it meant she could sell this place and all the land to line her own pockets. So it’s just me to the south of you, and the Noonans to the north. Nice, older couple. I went to school with their kids. I think your dad probably went to school with Gary Noonan growing up,” Castiel passed a plastic spork to him and they both dug into their potatoes.
“So, tell me, what was my grandfather like?” Dean asked. Castiel smiled fondly.
“I knew him since I was a little boy. He used to tell me I was about the same age as his grandson, Dean. I now realize he meant you. He helped my father build a treehouse for us kids, he watched baseball or football most weekends with my dad, went to church with my family, was an associate pastor, and was just…a nice guy. As he got older my brother and I, we’d come help with things like feeding the horses, cutting the grass, making repairs around the house, stuff like that. Your grandfather, he had money but he preferred to do the repairs himself. We had no idea he was as wealthy as he was, he wasn’t the type to flaunt his money. He never talked finances with us, we just liked him,”
“Did he ever tell you why he and my dad weren’t on speaking terms?”
Castiel shook his head. “No, sorry. I called my dad earlier to see if he knew anything. He mentioned knowing your dad, said John was a temperamental asshole when they were teenagers. Your dad liked to push his father’s buttons and they butted heads a lot, but my dad didn’t know why your dad just up and disappeared one day. Henry had faith that his son would eventually come home, but he never did. I was ten before I even knew he had a son, but my dad told me and my brother not to be nosey, so we never asked where John was,”
“Not your sister though?” Dean wondered. Castiel huffed and pursed his lips.
“My sister has always been incredibly selfish. She was a diva growing up, felt that our parents should keep her in name brand clothes, give her a car, buy her expensive things, but they refused. So…she found herself a man that would give her everything she wanted. She was sixteen when she left, never looked back. I was seven at the time and I remember the house being a lot more peaceful after she was gone. Naomi never helped any neighbor, not Henry, not the Noonans, just no one. My mom would ask her to but Naomi would just complain and whine until she was told to go to her room. I think they were relieved when she left. She only came back to visit twice after, and she pitched a huge fit when our parents sold the farm to me. To make sure she had no claim and couldn’t fight it in court, they sold me the farm to me for a dollar. It now legally belongs to me, so if and when our parents die, there’s not a damn thing she can do to try and take it from me. My dad was smart there,”
“That is pretty genius. Your sister sounds like a real piece of work. I’m actually glad this house comes from my father’s side of the family because if this was my mother’s side, I have two cousins just like your sister. Because of that, my other grandfather gave my brother and me our inheritance early. I used my share to open my first auto shop. My cousin Gwen actually pitched a fit when he gave Sam and me a larger inheritance, but our mom was his daughter, and he had loved our mom dearly, she was his only daughter. Sam made sure Gwen, and Christian can’t touch our money and with our grandfather’s permission, he threatened Gwen that if she tries once he’s dead, we’ll go after their portion. That shut her up real quick. See, they never really did anything with their lives, but Sammy, he’s a lawyer and I was a teacher for nearly a decade before I opened my first shop. I now have three. I taught criminal law at Kansas State, so I know state laws like the back of my hand. She’s scared of my brother and me. Christian is smart enough to know not to mess with us,”
“You say you taught at the university? That makes you a doctor, does it not?” Castiel asked.
“Yeah, I hold a doctorate in law and history. I graduated high school early, went on to university and I was finished with my doctorate by twenty one,” Dean scratched at his jaw and shrugged. “Wasn’t a big deal.”
“Your grandfather never mentioned that. He talked about how smart his grandsons were, but not what either of you had done with your lives,” Castiel was marveling over what he’d said, but it was making Dean uncomfortable. “Will your family be arriving soon?”
“No, just me. I’m not married or with anyone,” Dean poked at his mashed potatoes before scooping some up and eating it. He added more pepper and took another bite.
“So, a bachelor like me,” Castiel teased, smiling when Dean chuckled.
“I guess so. Don’t know what I’m going to do with this much house, or this much land, but I guess I’ll figure it out. There’s a nice big garage, so I can rebuild antique cars, it’s a passion of mine,” Something clicked for him that he’d heard Castiel mention before. “Did you say my grandfather had horses? Are there still horses here?”
“Well, technically, yes, but they’re over at my place so I could take care of them better. So are his dogs and his chickens,” Castiel replied.
“Dogs…chickens…,” Dean shook his head. “What do I do with dogs and chickens? Or horses for that matter?”
Castiel laughed, he couldn’t help it. “Well, they’re working dogs, meant to watch over the horses, so they don’t go inside the house. As for the chickens, your grandfather kept them for eggs, and to keep the insect population down. There’s a very nice chicken coop out back, and three large pastures, all fenced that the horses are moved between regularly so they don’t kill all the grass in just one. I can show you how to work them, how to ride them, and if you don’t want them, I can buy them, but I’m just a sheriff, I can’t buy them all at once,”
“I know how to ride, my friend Donna has a couple of horses and she gets me out there to ride now and then. I guess…I have my own to ride? How many even are there?” Dean asked.
“There are four. All rideable, I’ve ridden them all. Maybe…you’d like to go riding sometime? With, uh, me?” Castiel shrugged. “I don’t really get to socialize much, not even with work. Pulling people over, dealing with small town issues, it’s not really socializing. I figure, since we’re neighbors, maybe we could do this again,” He motioned towards the food “And I’d be happy to show you around.”
Dean smiled. He liked Castiel. The man was ridiculously attractive, and apparently very sweet. He was also desperate for human interaction. That was something Dean wanted too, especially with this man.
“I’d like that very much. It’s better riding when you have someone with you. Maybe once I get this place up and running, and I get the water fixed, you’ll let me cook you dinner?”
Castiel’s smile was breathtaking. He wished he knew which way the man swung. He had the thought that the handsome sheriff might be interested, but first, he had to find out.
“I’d love that. I can bring dessert,” Castiel offered.
Dean scratched at his cheek again, a nervous tick of his, and looked across the table. Maybe this was at least the start of a friendship. He certainly hoped so.
“Can I ask you a question? And I hope it doesn’t make you want to avoid me,”
Castiel’s smile sobered and he nodded. “Of course. I won’t think badly of you. Unless maybe you killed someone. I am a sheriff after all,”
Dean knew the last part was said in jest and it made him smile.
“No, haven’t killed anyone. I’m wondering about something. See, this isn’t a very friendly state regarding certain things, but they tend to get sort of…Christian out in the country,”
Castiel sighed and nodded. “Yes, the Baptist church is very…judgy,”
“Do you attend that church?” Dean wondered.
“Oh, hell no,” Castiel laughed. “I don’t attend any church. I don’t share their views on a lot of things. I believe in god, I pray, but I don’t believe in the hatred the churches like to preach. Why do you ask?”
“I’m wondering how homophobic this area is,” Dean watched him closely, waiting to see how he would react. Castiel’s smile was soft, showing no sign of the hatred he had experienced in the past. From even his own father.
“They’re rather racist and homophobic, but I just ignore them. Are you…gay?”
“I’m bi, with a heavy lean towards men. I’ve only dated two women, and one of those was back in high school. I want to know that I’m not going to be harassed,” Dean replied.
“Well, I’m gay and I’ve had a few of the local punks throw rocks, bust my mailbox, but I arrested them, locked them up for a few days. They’ve stayed away since then. I’ll arrest them if they bother you. I know every one of those little shits, and I know which ones to press so they roll over on the ones that actually did it. I caught the little bastards that threw the bricks through your upstairs windows. They thought this house was empty, and that no one would be coming. I informed their parents that they had damaged private property and that when the new owners arrived, they’d likely press charges. The kids begged not to go to juvie; it’s their third strike, so I negotiated a deal. They’re going to come back, under my supervision and they’re going to clean up the mess they made, then they’re going to work for three months doing whatever you want them to do. I highly recommend bringing your horses back and making one of those tasks cleaning up their shit. I told them that as soon as you arrived, I was bringing them back to start working. Their parents agreed, and I made them sign a contract. For the next three months, they’re yours to do with as you please. Four hours a day after school, eight hours on the weekends. It’s doubtful they’ll do that again. Next time, they go away, and they know that,”
Dean smiled. Castiel was gay. Gorgeous and gay. That made him unbelievably happy. He was even happier to hear that the kids that damaged his house would be doing community service working his farm.
“That’s awesome. Can they start tomorrow?”
“Absolutely. I can bring your animals back Saturday. All I have to do is walk the horses back, and I can put the chickens in my truck. Dogs too. I don’t work weekends, so that’s when I can bring them,”
“Ok, sounds good to me. Is there a diner or restaurant in town?” Dean asked.
“Yes, there’s Margie’s and there’s the Dewdrop, that’s a restaurant. Their food is really good, but Margie’s has killer burgers,”
Dean smiled shyly as he poked at his potatoes again. They were cold by that point.
“Would…you maybe want to get dinner with me tomorrow night?”
When he looked up he was graced with another beautiful smile.
“I’d love to,” Castiel grabbed another chicken leg from the bucket. “I get off at six and when I get back, I’ll change and come pick you up.”
“Works for me,” Dean bit into the breast he’d already grabbed. He had a hot date tomorrow night and anyone that gave them shit, he wasn’t going to let it bother him. If he survived his father, he could survive some bible thumpers. He expected that dating a sheriff would go a long way towards discouraging the locals from being assholes. Moving here was going to be interesting. He was looking forward to everything it was going to bring.