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winter-shaped hearts

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Summer heat descended upon the sleepy town of Pontiac, Illinois as the time slowly crawled towards noon. Castiel undid the first two buttons of his shirt and rolled up his sleeves.

“Oh, your mother would kill you,” Meg commented, playfully nudging him in the arm.

Castiel’s lungs tightened as if on command. “Which is why it’s good that she’s not here now. Right?”

Meg giggled. She grabbed Castiel by the arm and made them cross the street. Neither of them looked before crossing; the traffic peaked during morning rush, which meant approximately five cars per hour. Almost everyone living in Pontiac had a job within walking distance and everyone else was considered either a wealthy high-end person or a salesman. 

Having crossed, they turned right on the sidewalk, in the direction of the local diner.

“Ice cream. I know Anna is in today, she’s gonna give us one free.”

“I don’t like ice cream,” Castiel complained.

“Ugh, Clarence. Your mother doesn’t like ice cream. You do. C’mon, don’t be such a bore.”

Castiel followed Meg up the street. He wasn’t the biggest fan of ice cream, actually - he’d go for a milkshake instead any day - but he was feeling sweaty and giggly and adventurous and with a mother like Castiel’s, that sometimes did mean ice cream. 

The month of June had jumped into its second half, and even though their school years had been over for many seasons now, they still felt like children after their last class ended and they could be free for two and a half months. The heat wave was hitting the US all across its states, and it felt like the last summer of their lives.

From up the street, Castiel heard Frank Sinatra. He squinted into the sun and noticed a vague silhouette on a bike, pedalling towards them.

“Don’t people know there’s no cycling on sidewalks?” Castiel complained.

Meg shrugged next to him. 

They had been walking arm-in-arm, but they each took a step to the side to make way for the bicycle. It was an older prototype, Castiel saw as it approached, with an ugly-green transistor radio in the basket in the front. The man on the bike was sprinkling the street with sheets of paper.

When he got to Castiel and Meg, he stepped down on his brakes a few feet ahead of them and waited for them. They must have been the first people he had come across, everyone else hiding in restaurants or slaving at work or, in the case of housewives, at home. 

The man was wearing brown pants that looked old and worn, with a loose white shirt and a grey flat cap. Even though it cast shadows down his cheeks, they were visibly freckled; the smile he was wearing seemed to underline them like a thick pink line. 

“Hey,” he said with a smirk, speaking over Sinatra’s singing voice.

Castiel could feel Meg shift next to him. She was the femme fatale of this town. Curved lips darkened with a deep red lipstick, rouged cheeks, eyes like chocolate, locks of curled hair bouncing off her shoulders. She was a heartbreaker in a flowy skirt; a devil in a pink flower pattern. 

She smiled. “Hey there, fella.”

He confidently handed her a flyer. “We’re stayin’ for the summer, you should come check us out.”

Castiel looked over Meg’s shoulder. The flyer was a sheet of thin cheap paper that danced in the hot summer breeze. Printed in blurry black and white, there was a picture of a big ferris wheel and fairy lights. In cursive going small-to-big left-to-right, it said THE WINCHESTER FAIR ! In smaller text at the bottom of the flyer, a longer paragraph sat, seemingly squished together in thick black lettering.


Get the best county fair experience of your life!
The perfect kiss on top of a ferris wheel, your fortune told,
trapeze artists, contortionists, shoot-to-wins, cotton candy,
and SO MUCH MORE! THE WINCHESTER FAIR
will be at your service until the end of August.

Pay us a visit!
Open 1pm-10pm Mon-Sat, entrance free/pay per attraction. 

 

"You should come, too,” the man said.

Castiel caught himself and stood up straight. He felt uncomfortable under the glance of the stranger; judged in an odd way that he didn’t particularly like. He felt truly looked at , like when his mother inspected him for redness in his cheeks or a change in breathing. She’d find both, now. However, it wasn’t the asthma for the asthma boy this time around - it was the man with the flyers. Castiel wished he had somewhere to hide.

“We will, thanks,” Meg said with a drawl. She liked him and everyone present knew it. Castiel looked down before the stranger’s eyes jumped from him to her. 

“Would love to see you both,” the man said. Castiel didn’t dare look up until he heard the screech of tires on the sidewalk, the music starting to fade away. 

“Are you okay, Clarence?” Meg asked when they were alone on the street again. She sounded very adult whenever she was worried - and right now she was worried.

“Not if you keep calling me that,” he said petulantly. “It’s a stupid middle name. And you promised me ice cream.”

“It’s the best middle name,” she said. She started walking away and handed Castiel the flyer - he was, sometimes, her personal butler, whenever she wanted to dispose of something she no longer cared for. 

That usually annoyed him, but this time, he was thankful. 

His fingers were sweaty, threatening to smudge the ink as they clutched the paper, but he told himself it was just the heat. He could hear Sinatra in his head until the very second they entered the diner and the bell above it cut off the dreamy song.

 

 

🎡 🎡 🎡

 

Castiel and Meg had graduated high school together, four years ago - he didn’t have a job because he had grown from a sickly boy into a sickly man in his parents’ eyes, and Meg didn’t have a job simply because she didn’t need it.

They both came from wealthy families. It meant that Castiel could have gone on to university, which he had always wanted to do, and it meant that Meg didn’t have to. 

He had always wanted to be a college graduate of any kind - she had always wanted to be a housewife.

“Not because I think I’m useless without a man,” Meg always said when she got worked up about the issue. “No, sir. I don’t need a man. I just don’t want to work, I want social and economic security. If I have to have children to achieve this, I will, and I will love them, and maybe I won’t hate my husband, but Clarence - honestly, I don’t need a man to feel validated, I just want one so I can not do anything my entire life.”

“Chores?” Castiel always supplied.

“We’ll have maids.”

“What will you do all day, then?”

“Keep you company, of course.” 

It was true, and Castiel hated it sometimes.

Other times he loved it - during the summer, he loved it. The summers in Pontiac always felt years long. Illinois had the climate of what Castiel imagined Hell would be - extremely cold in the winter months, extremely hot in the summer months. There was always a blizzard; there was always a heat wave.

At the beginning of the summer of 1954, the heat wave was only starting to envelop the state in its warm embrace. Cas could feel it in the air already - the thunderstorms and the above-hundred degree temperatures - as it was threatening to come. 

It was only just teasing them, though, around the time when the boy started cycling around their small town handing out flyers for a fair. 

“Do you really want to go?” Castiel asked Meg a couple of days after they had been handed the flyer. She had been mentioning it on and off, not very subtly hinting that she’d like to.

They were sitting in the diner again, Anna behind the counter - leafing through a magazine, as they were the only customers there and she was forbidden from talking to friends while on a shift. 

Meg licked her spoon clean of ice cream and smirked playfully. “And you don’t?”

“No, not particularly.”

“Why not, Cas?”

He looked down at his empty plate. Instead of ice cream, he had ordered a pancake this time. The chocolate on it melted way too fast and left dark smudges on the cheap ceramic. Sometimes he felt like that smudge. He shrugged.

Meg frowned. “Is it because of your parents? You’re twenty-two. You get to live your own life.”

Another shrug. “I don’t want to worry them. Especially Mom.”

Meg sighed.

They had been friends since elementary school. Cas had been a skinny boy with a dreamy look on his face, which made him the perfect target for all the other boys, who were burly and broad, with a much more realistic (or in other words, aggressive) attitude. He had kept to himself, especially after the scene one particular early April afternoon - while on a lazy stroll with his mother, he had had a very bad asthma attack and had to use a nebulizer. A big, ugly thing it had been - a mask with a big glass bulb to squeeze to get the medicine in so he could breathe. 

A classmate of his, Raphael Something-or-other, had seen it. Even at such an early age, it had been a scandal. The boy had spread the rumor that Castiel was deathly sick, probably contagious, and they had to use foreign instruments on him. A freak of nature, Raphael had called him, using a phrase he must have gotten from his equally close-minded father. They had been too young and Raphael had been too dumb to come up with it on his own.

Meg, on the other hand, had seemed to float through everything. She had been able to hang out with the popular kids in the morning and the outcasts in the afternoon if she’d so pleased.

“I heard you use a freaky thing to breathe,” she’d told him a week or so after the bullying had started. “Are you an alien?”

Castiel hadn’t enjoyed being bullied, no, but he hadn’t made a fuss about it, either. It had seemed stupid to him, if anything. He’d regarded Meg with a certain kind of distance and disgust. “I wish,” he’d said.

“But you’re not.”

“No. I just have to use a squeeze bulb nebulizer if I have a bad asthma attack so I can breathe again,” he’d explained.

Meg had bit down on her lip and thought for a second. She’d joined her hands behind her back and swung on her heels a little. “Cool,” she’d decided in the end and sat down next to him, right there, in the middle of class, in broad daylight. 

It had been a cool thing, then. Now it was a nuisance.

Or was that his parents? Cas wasn’t sure. The nebulizer had been tucked in his nightstand for quite a few months now. He’d been asthma-attack-free recently, but was scared to jinx it.

“Do you think they wouldn’t let you go?” Meg asked now. 

Cas’ refusal had been quiet and flat. She was right to think that he would like to go but was afraid to try.

“Probably,” he replied.

Not particularly , he’d said when Meg asked him if he wanted to go see the fair, but the only thing holding him back was his health. 

Truth was that he couldn’t stop thinking about the boy on the bicycle and the lively green of his eyes. Never had a color stuck with him as much as that shade when the boy looked at him and sized him up. 

Meg sighed. “It’s not that I don’t get it.”

“But you think I should just go.”

“Yeah, I think you should just go. If you want to, I think you should just go.”

“I don’t think so, Meg.”

But it wasn’t that easy, was it? He wished that defying his parents and his own fear was the only thing. He wished he could just go. 

The first step, though, was admitting that he actually wanted to. 

The first step was admitting he had wants and needs. It was admitting that he dared to hope for something. It was admitting that he might seek more. It was admitting that maybe he was joyless, that maybe he was jealous, that maybe he wanted the life Meg had. They were both stay-at-home somethings, but she still felt like a person - she went out when she wanted, she met up with the people she wanted to meet up with, she laughed when she wanted to, she said no to her parents when she desired it. She was chastised and scolded, and she took it and made it a part of herself that made her Meg .

It was admitting that Castiel had made himself into a cardboard cutout of what his parents wanted him to be. It was admitting that he wanted to be more. It was admitting he was someone and not no one.

 

🎡 🎡 🎡

 

Lying on his bed, Castiel was slowly making his way through Henry James’ Daisy Miller . Albeit a short novella, the humid air in his room and the still too-hot weather peeking in through his window made turning the pages a chore, and he was taking ages.

Even his thumbs were sweaty. 

He was just reading the line “ In such hours as this what have we to do with pain” for the third time, trying to make his probably fried brain understand it, when there was a tap-tapping noise against his windows.

And then it came again.

And again.

It took Cas a sweet second to realize someone was throwing rocks up against it.

He stumbled out of his bed, leaving the book on his crumpled bedsheets, and hurried to the window. He opened it and barely managed to jump back as another rock flew by, about an inch away from his face.

“Oops, sorry!” Meg hissed from down below. 

Castiel, his heart beating hard, stepped into the window again and, leaning over the frame, looked down at Meg. Her silhouette was taking on dark edges as the sun started to set in the distance behind her. He noticed another silhouette - Meg was clutching Anna’s arm.

“What do you want?” Castiel hissed back.

“We’re going to the fair,” Meg replied. “Come with us!”

Castiel looked over his shoulder in paranoia that his mother might be lurking in the doorway. He was, of course, alone in his room.

“Are you crazy?” he asked accusingly. 

Anna giggled. “I told you he would say that. Word for word. You owe me five bucks.”

“No, I don’t,” Meg said to Anna. “Cas. Don’t make me lose five bucks. Come with us. Please? I can whimper like a dog if it will make it easier for you. I would do puppy eyes, but I don’t think you could see them from up there in this light.”

Castiel’s insides seemed to shiver. As if he’d been expecting this - as if he’d ran to Mr. James just for a few minutes, as if he’d known it would be a drag and he would just be biding his time until it was the right moment to leave. But this was impossible. This could never happen.

“It’s late,” he reiterated sternly.

“Don’t be such a scaredy cat,” Anna joined Meg’s ranks. “We’ll deliver you back home safely, don’t worry.”

Meg nodded. “Yeah! Safe and sound. We’ll tuck you in. Kiss your forehead goodnight.”

Both girls started giggling, their whispers long forgotten. Castiel felt a pang of pain at their carelessness, but he heard footsteps downstairs and his mother’s voice - it took him out of the moment quite fully. His pain turned into anger and bitterness.

“Go. You’ll tell me about the fair later.” With that, he shut the window and prayed that there would be no more rocks banging against it. 

There weren’t.

When his mother came into the room, Castiel was back on his bed, still rereading the same line, the small rock that had barely missed his face clutched in his left hand. 

“What was that noise?” Mrs. Novak asked and looked about the room as if she was expecting a burglar or a murderer to jump out at her from any or all corners. 

“Nothing, Mother,” he assured her. 

She left the room with an unsatisfied hum and Castiel was left alone with nothing but a rock, regret and a veil made out of shame. 

 

🎡 🎡 🎡

 

He couldn’t sleep. 

Castiel was tossing and turning for what felt like hours, and when he finally caved and checked the pocket watch on his nightstand, its chain hanging loose off it, he saw that it was well past two in the morning.

He got up from his bed and went to open his window. Wearing nothing but underwear and a thin white tank top, the night air coming in chilled him.

He leaned into it and rested his elbows on the windowsill. 

It wasn’t at all possible, because the fair nested in the field between Pontiac and Chenoa - a hill and a valley and a lit-up magical place, Castiel could just imagine it - but he thought he saw lights in the distance. It seemed as though they were suspended in air, hanging from invisible strings. 

They weren’t stars. Their light seemed warmer and more familiar, just floating in mid-air.

Castiel imagined a tent. He imagined the fairy lights, the stalls. Would there be a fireworks show at the end of the summer? he wondered. He imagined the smells - popcorn, cotton candy, fresh grass that had been walked on.

This wasn’t the first fair that ever came to the county. It wasn’t even the first one to send out a boy with flyers into Pontiac. Yet it was the first time Castiel wanted to go; the first time he felt like he was missing out on something if he didn’t see it. He was no longer a kid, he was a grown man, and he wanted to go.

He probably knew even back then that what he really didn’t want to miss out on seeing was the boy.

Castiel was fascinated by the lights because he wanted to see the boy in them. He wanted to see how they would cast a whiskey-orange undertone into his green eyes; he wanted to see if his freckles would seem faded in them. He desperately wanted to taste the cotton candy and the popcorn from his mouth.

This was not the wish of a child.

He didn’t know what it meant.

Ill go, he decided suddenly, leaning out of the window, transfixed by the lights that he had probably made up because he’d simply wanted to see them. Ill go.

 

🎡 🎡 🎡

 

"I'm going to see Meg,” Castiel said as he walked into the kitchen, finishing buttoning up his pale blue shirt and tucking it into his beige walking shorts. 

His mother looked up from the book she was reading and stared him up and down. “Are you sure about those trousers?” she asked.

He’d felt self-conscious putting them on, but the weather was getting warmer still. “Yes.”

“Is there something wrong with your regular ones?” she continued. She clearly didn’t like the idea of him going out in something short, but she wasn’t worried enough to put her book down - at least not yet.

“I thought it would be better if my skin, therefore I, could breathe. The less hot I feel, the better for my lungs.”

She squinted at him, then changed her approach. “I hope you two are not going to the silly fair business that’s camped outside of town,” she said.

“No.” Cas worried he waited a beat too long, and she did look at him with suspicion written into the webs of wrinkles around her eyes.

The heat must have been getting to her brain, though, because she only sighed loudly and waved her hand. “Say hello to the Masters. Tell them to stop by some time.”

“Of course,” Castiel said and whisked out of the house like his life depended on it.

Coins rattled in his shorts pockets and his heart trembled in his throat like a panicked bird.

 

🎡 🎡 🎡

 

Getting to the fair wasn’t easy.

Castiel didn’t own a bike. His parents refused to get him one even when Meg got one. They simply didn’t see the point in it when they would prohibit him from using it. It would only collect dust in the garage.

The idea of walking all the way to the fair, which nested between Pontiac and Chenoa - about five to ten minutes by car - seemed daunting, especially in this heat, but he had no other choice.

By the time he finally got there, his lungs were working overtime and as much as he’d tried to look nice, he was a sweaty mess. His palms felt like they were burning at two hundred degrees - he was pretty sure someone could fry eggs on them, same as his feet. It had taken him over half an hour.

Many people had biked by him, but he wasn’t the only one walking. There were groups of people, mostly kids and teenagers much younger than him, scattered around him unevenly. When they finally got to the fair, they all seemed to vanish into the crowd, albeit it was a thin and not a busy one. 

Castiel approached the entrance. There was a big metal construction that said THE WINCHESTER FAIR! in capitals. It was decorated with fairy lights that weren’t on at this time of the day. From there, Castiel could see a couple stalls, about ten tents, and several fenced areas, presumably for artists to perform in, given there were also chairs placed around in disarray for the audience. The stalls seemed to be open, as well as a couple of the tents - judging by people gathering by both - but the performers must have been waiting for dusk to come around to perform.

He took a reluctant step and then he was in.

His first fair.

The boy had to be around there somewhere. They were now, for the first time since the brief sidewalk encounter, sharing the same space. 

Castiel took a deep breath and let himself be swallowed by it.

 

🎡 🎡 🎡

 

It had been a few days since the fair had opened its gates for spectators, but Castiel saw a group of men only just now constructing a big ferris wheel on the right as he stepped in. Despite the heat, they seemed to be cheery and happy to be working. 

Castiel took the collar of his shirt in his fingers and quickly tugged at it a couple times to air it out. One reluctant step after another, he walked through and looked around. 

The fair was exactly what the flyer had promised it would be.

The cotton candy stall was right next to the popcorn stall. People buzzed around them like bees around flowers in bloom. The big fenced area advertised trapeze performances every hour starting at 6pm on a big board next to the chairs. There was a big trailer truck filled to the brim with various goodies - paper flowers and fake popcorn boxes and plastic hearts - with a neatly-stacked pyramid made out of cones. TEST YOUR AIM & WIN A PRIZE! a paper flapping in the wind and hanging above the shooting area said. Another fenced area; another stall; more food and drink; in the very back, a small tent in a dark purple color with a board up front promising to tell your future.

Castiel walked around and walked around and walked around.

The crowd was starting to thicken as time ticked on. Despite all the busy feet stirring the sand underneath them and the amount of bodies pressed together like sardines around the stalls, Castiel felt like he had never been able to breathe better.

Fairs were supposed to be a magical place; a place where dreams come true. It was supposed to be a place that takes you in, holds you like a cradle, plants a seed of happiness in your chest, prompts you to laugh and be awed and fascinated.

He had thought it was a myth. 

He’d just… he’d just never thought all of that could be real.

“Sir?” sounded a thin voice next to Cas. A dark-haired boy with a round face was staring up at him.

“Yes?” Castiel tried. He hadn’t liked being a child because he’d never known how to talk to his peers. Growing up had only taken him further and children were one huge question mark.

“Sir.”

“Do you need something?” Castiel asked, puzzled.

“Sir, could you please maybe perhaps give me a penny?”

Castiel’s brow furrowed slightly. “What do you need it for?”

The boy looked down at his shuffling feet, hands held behind his back. “I would like to buy cotton candy, sir.”

“Why don’t you ask your mama, then? Or father,” Castiel suggested. His pockets were filled to the brim with smaller and bigger coins and they made a clink! sound every time he moved, but he figured that if children were advised to not take things from strangers, it would also probably be best if he didn’t… become the stranger in the phrase.

“My ma said not to get it,” the child replied. He looked downright depressed about it.

Castiel frowned. He’d known the parental rejection of something simple and how much it stung and he was tempted to fish out a penny or two and hand it to the boy.

“Ben!” someone called and it took Cas a second to realize it was directed at the kid. “Stop scamming people!”

The boy stuck his tongue out in the direction of the voice and took off running as fast as his short legs allowed.

Castiel looked around. 

The boy from the sidewalk, the boy with the flyers, the boy who will always be associated with Frank Sinatra in Castiel’s mind, was walking up to him. He was wearing the same clothes - or their copies. His shoulders were loose as were his hips, and a smile decorated his freckled face like an expensive ornament. 

“I’m sorry,” he was saying as if he remembered Cas - as if he hadn’t met dozens of other more interesting people since, as if Meg hadn’t overshadowed him. “Ben is Lisa’s kid - our contortionist - he just runs around when she’s getting ready because no babysitter can ever keep a good enough eye on him. He’s as slick as his mother. Anyway. I’m babbling. I saw your friend yesterday. You didn’t come with.” The freckles stood in a dark brown color on the background of a crimson-red blush.

Castiel shoved his hands in his pockets and started playing with the coins. He suddenly felt ridiculous in his casual shorts and a buttoned up shirt.

“Sadly, I had other things to attend to,” Castiel murmured. It was strangely flattering to know that the boy, man, this pretty person with freckles had noticed his absence. “Pre-arranged, that is. Not get-out-of things.”

Such as sitting in my bed and attempting to read a very, very, very boring book. 

“Dunno if I can ever forgive you,” the boy said. If it was Meg saying that, Cas would have thought she was flirting .

“But you don’t even know me,” Cas said.

“Yeah, that’s true. Sorry. Inappropriate humor runs in the family.”

“Does it, now?”

The boy chuckled. “Yeah, you should hear my brother Sam when he starts telling stories about law that he thinks are funny. Damn outrageous.”

Castiel laughed. He didn’t know what to say and he quickly averted his eyes. He didn’t quite feel like himself - it felt as if he’d gotten very small and simply floated up and down inside his body, with a certain kind of anxiety that felt like small pinpricks against his skin.

He wondered if it was his lungs getting back at him for all this sand and sun and exercise, but he realized it was just two parts of him fighting: one wanted to blurt something out and impress, the other wanted to stay quiet so as not to embarrass himself. It was excitement mixed with fear, which made his heart flutter in spurts. 

“I’ve got one,” Cas said in the end. “There was a man about a century ago who wanted to be transferred from prison to an asylum. Do you know what he did?”

“What?”

Castiel laughed. “He tried to sue himself. Wanted a trial going and everything. Isn’t that funny?”

“No, it’s not,” the boy said, but he was laughing as he was saying it, and that made it all the funnier and better. “You’re as bad as my brother.”

“Do you hate your brother?”

“Sam? Nah.” The boy shook his head. “He’s my favorite person in the world.”

 

🎡 🎡 🎡

 

"So what do you do around here?” Castiel asked.

After circling the fair’s premises twice, their conversation was easier to handle, almost natural.

Castiel had found out that the boy’s name was Dean - which means valley in Old English, he had said - and that he is the son of the owner, so a Winchester. He had also heard numerous stories about all the people who ran with them by that point - permanently or short-time, legends and myths and tall tales, but he had yet to hear anything about the man himself. As much as Castiel had enjoyed hearing about the rest, he really wanted to hear about him .

Dean shrugged. “Just about anything.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know, man.” Dean shrugged again. They were walking past the arena for the acrobats, still empty, and he was staring in that direction as if his life depended on it. He took off his flat cap and ran his hand through his hair. It was a brown-gold color spiked with sweat. The flat cap remained off and Castiel was thankful. “I just do anything. I’m an errand boy.”

“I’d have expected more from the owner’s son,” Castiel blurted out. Dean looked away from him and Castiel very quickly realized his mistake. He stopped walking and without thinking, he grabbed Dean’s arm, making him stop as well. “That came out so wrong. I’m so sorry. It’s just stupid preconceptions about what people should do when they’re someone’s child. That was rude of me. I apologize.”

Where Dean’s features had hardened, they now smoothed out again and his face softened. The red in his cheeks, Castiel decided for his own sake, was from the heat.

“That’s alright,” Dean said. “I used to be one of those.” He pointed at the empty arena, implying the trapeze artists that would be swinging around it in only a couple hours. “But not anymore. It’s not for me. I just help out where they need me.”

“I like that,” Castiel said and smiled. “Help out where they need you. That makes you very special.”

Yup, the red in Dean’s cheeks was definitely from the heat. Castiel could feel it in his cheeks, too. Nothing else to blame there. They were just looking at each other and the air here was very, very hot; no correlation between the two, obviously.

Dean cleared his throat. “What about you? What do you do?”

“Ah,” Castiel said. He suddenly felt ashamed and hesitant to share his health status, the same way he’d used to be before meeting Meg and finding friendship. “Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“You see, I’m a full-time sick boy. I’ve had severe asthma since I was a child. I mean, it’s not so severe anymore, but my parents still take precautions.” He laughed. “I’d make for an excellent housewife, I think.”

Dean nudged him. “Hey, nothing wrong with that. And it ain’t ever too late to get into stuff. You look like the smart type.”

“Smart type?”

“Y’know, buried in books, goes alone and wears pressed short pants to a fair, smart type.”

“I hate you.”

Dean snorted. “You wish. You already love me. I have a certain charm.”

It was true, Castiel realized.

There was something about Dean that was very certain , very some type , very some kind of. Something that made him utterly special; something that made you want to cling to his side and ask him: And how old were you when you first helped out? And why are you not an acrobat anymore? And how far could you swing? And would you show me? And what other stories are there? And why does someone like you care to talk to someone like me? And you would just listen and listen and listen, and get drunk on every word. Dean simply seemed like the type. Not the smart type, just a certain type; a bad boy mixed with a devout family man; a contrast in human form.

If there was a charm, and Castiel had thought there was since the moment he’d heard the Sinatra melody and seen him on a bike, Castiel was enchanted by it.

“I have to go,” Castiel said suddenly. The familiar color of dusk was starting to trickle along the lines of the horizon and he was scared he might never leave if he didn’t now.

“Already?” Dean asked. “You haven’t bought anything. Gone anywhere.”

“Maybe next time.”

“Will you at least talk me into buying you cotton candy?”

But they were nearing the entrance-turned-exit, and Castiel was as desperate to leave as he was to stay. “I have to go.”

They stopped by the sandy path out, barely a few feet away from the big sign, and let the incoming crowd mull around them, loud and erasing intimacy.

“Will you come back?” Dean asked.

Castiel pretended not to hear him. He said goodbye, shoved his fingers in his pockets, where he started playing with the coins again immediately, and started walking away.

He chanced a glance back when he was a few feet along.

Dean was still standing there, his flat cap scrunched up in his hands, and maybe it was the sand in Castiel’s eyes that made him see things that weren’t there, but he looked disappointed, almost sad. It was the second before Castiel turned away again when the fairy lights and lamps in the fair clicked on and bathed Dean’s face in their happy, mellow light. He looked astonishingly beautiful.

Castiel tripped, stumbling over his feet.

He turned around. Don’t run , he told himself. 

He barely managed.