When I turned to the left, all I saw of the guy there was what he was wearing – old jeans; really, properly old, with small holes from the ankles to the very top, and, as such, hardly fashionable… at least from what I saw of fashion; a faded band tee and then a worn flannel shirt over it; a couple of sizes too large even for his broad shoulders, meaning it was definitely second hand; and all covered in various shades of dirt – and I immediately classed him as a slob, as someone I would most certainly not like to associate myself with.
Of course, this very thought process meant that he was ingrained into my memory and I was thus inclined to notice him everywhere I went, which is just great when you're the weird new kid. Especially one who's named after the angel of Thursday – like being named after any angel wasn't bad enough; it had to be the angel of Thursday.
Moreover, being called a stalker by everyone doesn't exactly help me to make friends at all.
However, I soon got fairly good at pretending he didn't stand out like a glaring, ten-foot-tall neon sign in the middle of crowded hallways started to simply stare at the floor all the time.
Let me tell you, in case you are unaware; every inch of floor in school is the exact same as the last. Anything interesting, like blood stains, is scrubbed away before an hour has passed by cleaning staff that everyone calls lazy because they don't bother to get rid of chewing gum under desks ever.
Of course, this ability to not see him was not discovered early enough to avoid being branded 'that freaky angel kid' and, occasionally 'stalker boy'.
Still, being the school freak had its perks; everyone would ignore my presence and discuss anything when I was nearby because who on earth was I going to tell? So I found out quite a lot about Dean Winchester quite quickly.
I knew that, despite his effortless charm – keep in mind that these facts were paraphrased from how my ears received them – he did not go on dates; not only did he not ask for them, but he did not accept them if a girl asked him. In fact, he was very rarely ever seen outside of school.
I knew that, although he looked like a slacker, he got astoundingly good grades and 'omg Lauren, I've talked to everyone and I swear that no one's ever seen him cheating? Like, how is that even possible?'. Because no one who was born with good aesthetic genealogy ever wound up intelligent. That would be completely unheard of.
I knew that as soon as school ended, and no earlier, he took off from school in the leather jacket that isn't seen between 9am and 3pm in what looked like a clunky old car, but was actually a well-loved, well-cared-for '67 Chevy Impala that, rumour had it, he restored himself and isn't he so dreamy.
I knew that he always got picked first for sports teams in lessons, and that he'd easily participate in any competitions that happened during school time, but if he were asked to do anything sports-wise – or academics-wise, for that matter – outside of school hours, or to actually join a team, he declined. Firmly.
I knew that he didn't exactly turn his nose up at the currently more preferred, top-40 type of music, but laughed kindly at anyone who tried to preach its virtues to him and offered them a 'musical education' of classic rock.
I knew that, despite how many people seemed to like and respect him, he was somewhat more of the school freak than me. I supposed he was more of a 'school mystery', since calling him a freak would 'ruin your pretty face, angel boy'.
Never mind that I had been muttering to myself and don't you know it's rude to interrupt a conversation? The baboon look-a-like seemed not to think that was an inappropriate response.
In any case, I settled in well enough, at least to my standards. I was contentedly resigned to a lack of company and to spending my lunch breaks in the library. The smell of books, even those borrowed by 12-year-olds and returned with chocolate spread stains and oh my God, Jenny, how can you even touch that? I don't even want to think about what that is stains, is far preferable to the smell of cafeteria food.
Unfortunately, on the topics of school library books, I was of the same mind as the girl who had reproached Jenny for touching them, and there's only so much homework teachers can set belligerent 16- and 17-year-olds without their getting parents to complain, so occasionally I just sat at a table by the window and counted how many magpies passed and ignored the librarians – the blonde one who would stare at me reproachfully for eating but would never muster enough cruelty to tell me to stop, and the ginger one who would give me uncomfortably pitying smiles whenever I glanced her way.
The library was situated so that the windows faced an expanse of grass that no one sat on – it was on a slope and sitting there was never quite worth the effort. Even the youngest students in school, who somehow managed to survive eating outside even when it was snowing, didn't sit on that field, so it was peaceful and my highly interesting magpie watching went uninterrupted.
When doing biology homework one Wednesday, I absently noticed a person sitting on the field, but forgot to look because I was trying not to forget my train of thought. If I lost it, then I wouldn't regain it for another ten minutes, at least, and I wanted to finish that piece of homework before going home because it was pretty disgusting, honestly.
The next two days I faced away from the windows because I had realised that they only distracted me from homework, and although I had plenty of free time in which I could complete it all, watching TV was far preferable and I couldn't do that in school.
The next Monday, though, I had no homework to complete. This was customary of Mondays; I found it difficult to finish Sunday with the knowledge that I had outstanding homework that I could have easily completed by that point, and my teachers on a Monday morning were the kind ones who only set homework when the class misbehaved, forcing them to throw their well thought out teaching schedules out the window, leaving work to do after the lesson ended.
So I sat by the window and I looked out.
I expected an empty field, as per usual, maybe with a rabbit and two magpies – two for joy. However, there was instead a Dean Winchester, and he wasn't bouncing as delightfully as a rabbit would have – and, in case you're interested, there was only one magpie, which counts for sorrow.
I spent a few seconds questioning his presence before internally shrugging; maybe it's tiring to be liked. Maybe he simply wanted some alone time. I'm sure it would be difficult to find for him. In any case, it was none of my business.
Even so, his back was astoundingly intriguing, which made me feel uncomfortably like the stalker the school's populace claimed I was. So I faced my phobia of chocolate spread stains and found the cleanest book within easy reach – a surprisingly decent read for a library stocked for the 12-year-old girls who leave chocolate spread stains – and read that for the duration of lunch break.
And if I only got through 3 short chapters in that hour, it was not because I kept glancing up at Dean Winchester's back. It was because I was tired that day, and, as such, read much slower than my usual pace.
I survived that lunch break telling myself that his presence was likely to be a one-time thing and I wouldn't have to find other disgusting books to read so as to prevent myself looking at the slobbish Dean Winchester, of whom I had no interest in whatsoever.
The next day, I could not prevent myself looking out the window for the boy I did not care about. I saw him sitting in the same place and position as the day before.
The next day was the same.
As was the day after that.
On Friday, I felt calm pleasure and absolutely no melancholy at all that it was raining and Dean Winchester would be a fool to sit outside in that kind of weather.
And I felt calm pleasure and no heart palpitations in that I was correct. He didn't.
He sat in my window seat.
Now, I'm not really a creature of habit. I'm perfectly content to go home and watch a different TV show every evening, and to have no strict time to go to sleep every night. Still, almost every single lunch break I would sit in that seat. I had been planning on sitting there that day, and usually when I planned to, I did. In fact, every other time I had planned to sit in that window seat up until that point, I had achieved that miniscule goal.
So now that I couldn't, I stood in the doorway feeling my fingers shake, because that little bit of control I had was now entirely dissipated.
I finally remembered that people could still actually see me, although they often acted as though they couldn't in the most obvious ways possible, took a deep breath, and found another seat.
The bookcases weren't as interesting a view as the magpies, and certainly less (possibly) prophetic, but upon reflection of Dean Winchester's extremely tensed shoulders, I thought maybe he deserved their comfort more than I.
I got out the notebook I used to scrawl homework in and spent the lunch break doodling, ignoring the discomfort pooled in my stomach. I ended up with a remarkably detailed cityscape, complete with both a Batman symbol and a Stark Tower.
I ripped the page out because you don't merge comic book universes. Ever.
On Monday, I got my window seat back, and Dean was back outside.
On close inspection, I noticed that his shoulders were just as tense as they were when he had spent his lunch inside. I also noticed that he checked his phone a lot, occasionally tapping out long replies.
That was also the day I fully embraced my reputation as a stalker. But only when no one but the librarians were watching me.
"Have you seen Dean outside of lessons recently, Lisa? I'm kinda, like, worried about him, you know? He doesn't flirt with me anymore."
"Jo, you need to calm down. No one likes a clingy girl. It's not like you were ever actually dating in the first place, you know?"
"I know, but I just want to give him a hug, you know? He looks so... he never really smiles anymore."
Both girls were quiet, and all I could hear for a couple of seconds was our English teacher saying something about how one couldn't help but admire Tess Durbeyfield's strength of character in this dark time of her life, in which she screams at a pastor that she doesn't like him, like the completely mature character those who only like classic books because it makes them sound clever try to make her out to be.
"I know. But we can't force him to talk to us."
Tuesday was sunny, and relatively warm considering it was the end of autumn. I already missed summer, so I decided to spend my lunch in the field I usually watched, rather than surround myself with dirty books.
This decision had nothing to do with the owner of the tensed shoulders, of course, and was purely coincidental.
I chose a seat about fifteen feet to the right of the spot I saw from my place in the library. This wasn't because I was trying to make Dean Winchester more comfortable with my presence and not feel like he had to leave; it was because here was a place in which the magpies and rabbits didn't usually roam, so I wouldn't interrupt them.
I leaned back, closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my face. This was a state of being that didn't require stained books, or homework, or fourth-wall breaking doodles, or brooding slobs to occupy my time, so I was prepared to lie like this for the full duration of the lunch hour.
I felt, rather than heard, Dean Winchester's approach. I felt the prickles on the back of my neck, the sudden warmth of my cheeks, the slight increase of heart rate and tension in my teeth and arms. I heard him stop, though, at my presence. Or rather, I heard the complete lack of movement that didn't come after a rustle to suggest he had sat, as he usually would have.
My closed eyes twitched, and I hoped it wasn't perceptible. Otherwise, I utterly refused to move. I forced myself to breathe, though, in case he could tell I wasn't.
Well, hey. If you needed any proof that you're not invisible, angel boy, this'll do.
I found the logic the rest of the school used in talking freely around me applied to Dean Winchester as well. He figured I had no one to tell that the school idol, the school enigma, was sitting on a slope checking his phone so often that one would assume whoever he was contacting was of the utmost importance to him. He was quite correct, obviously. I guess he may also have thought that I was asleep or simply zoned out so far that I wouldn't notice him. There, of course, he would be incorrect.
He checked his phone 37 times and sent 8 texts in that hour. I didn't open my eyes once, not until after I heard him gather his bag and leave.
That night, as I walked home, I questioned to myself why I had felt it necessary to spend time outside that lunch. I had forgone actually eating in order to listen to Dean Winchester text someone.
I came to the conclusion that I had absorbed Jo's and Lisa's concern over the enigma, and had formulated an unconscious plan: if I spent enough time in his presence, I could gain his trust, much the same as I would with an animal. Not that Dean Winchester was an animal, of course.
Then, of course, the part of me that enjoyed watching the occasional rom-com decided that, following this gain of trust, Dean Winchester would impart his troubles unto me and there would be rainbows everywhere and everything would be perfect.
The cynic that took up roughly 80% of my person, however, said that if I gained his trust, which was less likely than Dean Winchester simply finding another place to sit and text at lunchtimes, the most that would occur is that we would sit outside in each other's presence and ignore each other.
Or, at least, he would ignore me and I would pretend to ignore him.
The cynic also said that there had to be something in the middle of gaining animalistic trust and revealing one's entire life story and how was that going to happen? Was he going to bump into me in the corridor, knock my books out of my hands and onto the floor, take one look into my eyes whilst picking up my books for me, and decide that I was to be the one to cure the melancholy that had seeped into him so obviously that it worried otherwise entirely shallow girls? (I said I liked rom-coms. Guilty pleasure.)
Regardless; whenever it was sunny, I would lie outside.
Dean did not find another place to sit.
I started feeling more content in school than I had before. Of course, it was probably because of the sunshine. Vitamin D is released from your skin with some endorphins, right? So I felt happier when I spent time in the sunshine than surrounded by depressingly distasteful books.
I had decided to sit outside only when it was sunny because that was less suspicious. Not that I supposed I was particularly surreptitious when staring at his back from inside the library, but the librarians were hardly going to spread more school rumours about me. I doubted the rumours would catch anyway, I was boring already. This was, of course, the greatest travesty of my life.
It was a matter of weeks wherein we… there's no real English term for it. We weren't hanging out, or basking in each other's company, and I can't say we were sitting together given that I was lying down, but that's what we did. For a matter of weeks.
And then: a cough.
I hear you calling me a loser who gets excited over his crush coughing, but no. I have not yet stooped to that level. (Also, he's not my crush. That would be completely wrong of an assumption for anyone to make.)
And now you're wondering if I'm going to stop with the two word sentences. But no.
And I didn't say it. I felt my mouth twitch into an amused smile and I bit the inside of my mouth to stop it. I didn't think he'd be looking at me – why would he? – but given my eyes were closed, I couldn't tell.
Is my voice really that low?
Okay, so we didn't speak again.
That lunch break, at least.
The next day, I figure it's on me to begin conversation. Or whatever you would call an exchange of 4 words in total. I start with one. "Hungry?"
You see, Dean Winchester never ate outside… unless he snacked on morsels of grass when I wasn't looking, which I found unlikely. So I offer half of a sandwich to him at 1'o'clock; just before halfway through lunch. This seems a casual enough time that it wouldn't sound like I'd been planning this for roughly 24 hours.
There is a slight pause of green eyes blinking four times and a scrawny kid's practiced casual smile.
So that was hardly an inspirational conversation either.
The day after that was overcast. Dean Winchester casually glanced to his right 34 times that lunch break. He looks back into the library once. He caught a lanky kid whose name he didn't know smiling up at the two magpies flying across the solid grey sky.
The day after that, Dean Winchester had not even sat down properly before he said, "Hey, I'm Dean."
He leaves a gap of approximately 5 feet.
Dean's knowing nod is the only indication that he knows of me. "Religious family?"
"You could say that."
The next sunny day is a Thursday, purportedly my lucky day. I consider the sun in the sky a good start.
The conversation overheard in my chemistry class in the morning goes as follows: "Jo. Tell me how it went!"
"I'll tell you when we're not in class, Lisa."
"No one's listening!" (This was said utterly unironically, incidentally.)
"Well, he said no. He wasn't free on Saturday."
"So I asked about Friday."
"And… he said 'I can't, I've got to wash Sammy's hair'."
Pause numero dos.
"Ouch. He rolled a pathetic excuse into 'I'm gay'? Geesh, I'm sorry, Jo."
"That's not even the worst part, though! He said it with a completely straight face. He thinks I'm an airhead." Whine.
"Well, apparently that's the only straight thing about him. Don't worry, babe; everything will be okay."
I'm going to skip over the spiel about how confusing and weird teenage girls are. That conversation was punctuated by groans and back rubs and weird eye staring and they were calling Dean gay for saying he needed to wash his brother's hair.
Oh yeah, I should say that I saw seven magpies whilst waiting for Dean on this particular Thursday. Seven for a secret never to be told. Seven is also for an unusually large number of magpies.
As I offer half of my sandwich to Dean, I ask him who he texted at lunch. "It's okay if you don't want to tell me… I mean, the whole year will cry to find out you've got a girlfriend, it's probably better you don't tell anyone."
I don't hesitate to use longer sentences. I mean, that has more words in it than the rest of our exchanges put together, but I have no reputation to uphold. Word vomit is the least of my problems.
Conversely, to maintain my reputation, that was not word vomit. It was planned babble. Hold your surprise.
Dean purses his lips for a second and then takes the proffered triangle of sandwich. "My little brother, Sam."
"Most guys don't skip lunch inside to text their brothers." I take a nonchalant bite of my half and no offense at the minute-long pause that follows.
"Most guys don't have a brother threatening to kill himself every time he talks to them."
I stop chewing for a second, and then I continue.
Sorry won't make Dean feel any better.
I nod once. "You make a valid point."
Dean smiles a stretched smile and takes his first bite of sandwich. His smile says he's not quite surprised that weird stalker angel boy Castiel would offer that reply.
"He knew this girl, Jess, for… well, forever. I don't know how long they were dating, but it always seemed like it was gonna happen, so I guess it doesn't really matter. They went really good together. She was his first everything, at least as far as I figure, and I don't know how much that is… kid tries to tell me everything, but I don't want to know that shit about my 16-year-old brother, you know? But… shit happens. Her house caught on fire in the middle of the night. There weren't batteries in the smoke alarm 'cos her dad had cooked that night and set it off – Sammy had been with them, said that always happened, that they usually remembered to put the batteries right back in, but they'd forgotten and played Monopoly instead. The neighbours didn't notice until the smoke was too thick. Not one of them survived." Pause.
"Sammy blames himself." Quiet. "And then he doesn't know what to do with himself 'cos they are – were – completely fuckin' inseparable since they started going out." Loud. "And no one's around to get him to talk to anyone, so all he does is call me when he feels the worst – since I told him to – and texts me the rest of the time." Quiet.
There's another gap, because saying anything would be cheap.
"I go back every weekend, always have, but I can't get my dad to take him to a therapist or some shit since he figures it's how anyone would feel after the death of someone they love – since he's the model of healthily coping with that, he's a fuckin' alcoholic – and he's too young to take himself. Not that he would, even if he could, but I can't."
I let minutes pass.
At half past one, the time we usually part ways, I haven't figured out a response until we are both standing with bags over our shoulders. "Hey, Dean?" He turns. "Everything is dust in the wind."
He smiles and we leave.
The next sunny day, Dean sits a meagre foot away from me and hands me one of two shiny green apples he is holding. I hand him half of a sandwich in return.
I don't think he notices how similar the green is to his eyes, but I, unfortunately, do. I'm doing little to prove that I'm not Dean's personal stalker, aren't I?
"I figure anyone who can quote Kansas lyrics to me must be an okay guy."
"I figure you must have thought that earlier, Dean, if I'm the only one in school who does not believe 'sorry, I have to wash Sammy's hair' is a 'crappy excuse' merged with 'I'm gay'." I take a bite of the apple.
He grins. "Good point, Cas, good point."
The next day is forecast for rain, so I feel a little gloomy myself. It doesn't help that I am long since tired of over-worked-out man-children bumping into me in the hallways, apologising that they didn't see me, then high-fiving other man-children.
Especially if that is the only contact I get with my peers other than Dean.
I suppose I should be glad; I'm sure it could be far worse. It's hardly anything to covet, though.
My mood lightens, however; for once, I am paying attention in the hallways, when my little eye spies Dean's signature injured jeans. I look up to meet his eyes and he grins at me. I manage a smile back. He cares about me enough to acknowledge me.
I give up on sunny days, and simply avoid any kind of weather that would ruin my lunch; so rain, snow or hail. Any other weather would be endured contentedly.
And so, I am outside next to Dean very soon. He shares stories about Sam and we smile together. It seems effortless.
I learn that Sam is two years younger than Dean, and for reasons Dean does not share, does not go to the same school as us. He has 'fuckin' long hair, Cas; he looks like a Disney princess', which he now forgets to wash – which is why Dean has to set Friday evening aside to wash Sammy's hair. Sam has always gotten better grades than Dean and can make the best lemon meringue pie around. He never watches TV but has an insane obsession with films; he can quote any Monty Python film, for example, line for line.
This is not to say that I don't learn a lot about Dean, too, because of course I do. I just learn most of this from subtext more than what he actually says.
But I shouldn't reveal his secrets, eh?
On a day whose lunch break was spent in the library due to rain – and Dean has found more desirable places to spend rainy lunch breaks than in my window seat – I find myself facing a soggy walk home.
I don't mind the rain, but this is the kind of downpour that makes it difficult to see anything, so I'm feeling a little bit of dread deep in my stomach.
"Cas, what the fuck is that?"
"I believe it is what is commonly referred to as a trench coat, Dean. A beige trench coat, I might say if pressed."
I shrug and shake my head no.
"Then it's a useless coat you got yourself there."
"Not useless, it's still waterproof. And it covers more than your leather jacket, which, I see, has no hood either."
He gives me a sarcastic look and flips up the hood from a jacket underneath his outer layer. "You're walking home, I guess? Aren't your books gonna get soaked?"
"Yes, I am, but no, they're not; I wouldn't be a proper nerd without a waterproof bag." Self-deprecating humour and a smile; I have been around Dean too much.
"Don't care. I'll give you a lift. But you better run; if you get huge puddles in my baby I will murder you. And possibly your children, too." He grabs my wrist and pulls me out into the downpour.
It's not the wrist-grabbing I really care about, though. It's the thumb that touches just below my sleeve, on my bare skin. I can still feel the tingle hours – psychosomatically, of course; because I've been thinking about it too much.
It's been too long since anyone's touched me in any kind of a friendly manner; I'm a loser and I acknowledge this.
The rain shows the start of a rapid decrease of weather; soon, if I'm lucky, I spend one lunch break a week outside with Dean. He'll smile at me in the hallways, though, and stop by my locker occasionally to share an anecdote about Sam, or even just to ruffle my hair. If he sees me preparing to walk home, he'll grab me by my collar and 'offer' me a ride home.
This is, I guess, what having a best friend feels like.
People start looking at me curiously in the corridors. They never did that before; even when I first joined, they only bore a lack of recognition. But the strange kid garners smiles from the enigma? Well, now I'm worth their curiosity.
In all honesty, it's nothing but an amusement to me – so I'm glad for it.
When March comes around, I'm thrilled. I've always considered March 1st the first day of spring, regardless of whether it technically starts closer to the end of the month.
I always get tired of winter after the first snowfall. The second, perhaps, if I've had a good year. Without fail, though, by the time it's March, I'm more than ready to see some spring green.
This March 1st is one to be proud of. The sun is out in enough force that the dew has dried by lunch, so I sit leant against the school building, head tilted to the sky. I keep my eyes closed because I have an unfortunate tendency to temporarily blind myself on bright objects.
I notice Dean's arrival, but I don't respond to it in any way; I am somewhat going back to our roots in pretending I'm not here for him.
"You look like a dog that's just been given a big red ball, Cas."
"I am truly wounded." I state, and take the apple directly from his hand with, hopefully, no behaviour to suggest that statement to be true. Dean chuckles and sits beside me.
"So, Cas; you know just about everything there is to do with me and my brother, but I don't know much about you. What's your story?" He takes a nonchalant bite of his apple.
"Yeah. I dunno… what's your family like? Your childhood? That shit. I mean, I know nothing about you. You turn up one day and just… lay there. And you never ate, until one day you just offer me a sandwich. And then I told you most of my life story, and I've realised all I really know about you is your name."
I bite my bottom lip for a few seconds before replying. "I… my mother died giving birth to me. I have no siblings. My father isn't around much.
"My childhood..? I used to spend a lot of time with nannies, I guess." I shrug. "There's not much to say, really." I feel my shoulders hunching in defensively. I try to maintain a more relaxed posture.
"So no real family to speak of?"
I consider, then I shake my head. I guess not.
Dean shakes his head, too. "Fuck, man. Family's about all that keeps me going, most days."
I smile a wry smile. "So you've never seen the appeal of an empty house? Whatever you want to watch on TV, or whatever music you want to listen to. I haven't had a curfew or a bedtime since I was 12, either."
"I see the perks now." He grins, but he's shaking his head like I'm crazy. "You ever do anything crazy, though? Or anything that's just a little stupid? You're like the most straight-laced person I know." I tilt my head in confusion. Dean pulls up his left jean leg up to the knee. "You see that scar? I thought it would be a great idea to scooter down a slide. I broke the scooter and I cried over this tiny scratch for hours."
I laugh. "I can imagine you doing that now, actually." I consider as I dodge Dean's friendly punch. Most of the scars I have are from learning to cook or chicken pox. "I have one, maybe."
"Well, don't keep me in suspense." Smile.
"I once tried to make friends with the kids on my street, so I joined their game. They were playing some kind of football, I think, but I've always been awful at any kind of sport. I… managed to kick the ball onto my house's roof, and they somehow convinced me to get it down myself. They stayed just long enough for me to throw the ball off the roof to them before running away. It didn't really surprise me, to be honest, they were that type.
"Anyway, I managed to get about halfway down off the roof before the neighbourhood dog barked at me… and I fell the rest of the way down." I pull up my shirt to show the long, jagged white line that covers most of my left side and shrug. "I got attacked by the fence.
"Does that count as stupid?"
He laughs. "Stupid? Cas, that scar is fucking badass. Nothing I've got can top that, and I have literally pulled Sam out of a burning building."
So what that exchange should tell you is that we're comfortable around each other. He talks about Sam running into a burning building sobbing for his dead girlfriend easily, flippantly, around me, and… well, I talk about my childhood, or lack thereof, with him. It should go without saying that I don't tend to talk about myself.
Even so, the gossip mill isn't the only thing shocked when Dean loudly leans his back against the locker next to mine as I fill my bag with books at the end of the day. "So Cas, how do you fancy meeting Sammy?"
I blink four times before I resume filling my bag and shut my locker. "Um… sounds good..?"
"Great, let's go." He grabs me by my shoulder, a slight improvement over the collar.
"Yeah. Unless you have other plans?" He raises his eyebrows, silently saying that he finds that unlikely. Which is a fair assumption.
I shrug. "Let's go."
Dean's house looks lived in, inside and out. You can certainly tell that teenage boys live there – at least part-time. There's a line of slightly muddy shoes near the door, which Dean makes longer without thought, and rugs over every pale-coloured carpet, not to mention the subtle disarray of most flat surfaces.
When Dean introduces me to his father, all I get is a grunt in return.
"It's… nice to meet you, Mr Winchester..?" I get the feeling that phrasing this as a question earns me no points, but I have no idea of how to react to his utter lack of interest.
"Call him John, he doesn't deserve 'Mr', not from you, Cas." Dean mutters in my ear, then pulls me upstairs. "We'll probably have takeout for dinner. Hope that doesn't cause a problem?"
"No… should it?"
"Nah, it just about makes you my favourite person. Sammy! Your favourite brother's here!" Dean calls as he walks into a room.
"You missed a word. Least favourite brother, Dean."
"I'm your only brother, so I'm your favourite. We've been through this." He sits in a chair by the desk and spins so he faces the door, which I'm still standing in. "Oh yeah, meet Cas. I kidnapped him today."
I shrug and wave at Sam, who nods at me from the bed.
"Cas, sit down. You're making me feel awkward." I look at the tidy room, and see no spare seats. Okay. I sit on the floor, leaning against the wall.
Dean starts telling stories about stupid things kids have done in school this week. I occasionally add details he's forgotten – like that Shelly got locked in the girls' bathroom for 3 hours, not 'a few', or that Todd wasn't the one who locked her in, she locked herself in somehow.
The gossip still reaches me fastest. The things I have to be proud of.
I also feel it necessary to tell Sam that the whole school thinks his brother is gay, simply because it makes Dean duck his head and turn a bit pink.
"A few weeks ago, this girl comes up to Dean and asks him out – she's been gathering the courage up for a while, I think, and she asks him out for Saturday. He says he's not free, so she goes 'okay, how about Friday?'
"His response is now infamous throughout the entire school. 'I can't, I've got to wash Sammy's hair'."
Sam chuckles, and speaks only as Dean finally retreats from the safe haven of his arms. "But I thought you liked anyone with breasts and a pulse?"
"But, Sammy, how am I ever supposed to survive without our Friday night tradition?" Dean's eyes are large, innocent and laughing.
Sam throws a pillow at Dean's head.
At one point, Dean excuses himself for the toilet, or to figure out what's happening with dinner – his stomach was audibly protesting – but I don't know which.
Sam and I are silent for a second, before I decide that Sam should feel comfortable talking to people who aren't his brother about Jess. I suspect, however, that sitting in silence with him would not gain his trust as it did Dean's.
So I go for the more direct route.
"Tell me about your childhood. And if any embarrassing stories about Dean happen to be integral in that theme, don't keep them to yourself." I grin my most charming grin, eliciting a smile from Sam, too.
When Dean returns, Sam and I are discussing Dean's first suspension from school – "this girl had a crush on him – yeah, they always have – and she just runs up and kisses him on the cheek. He stands there all shell shocked for about a second, blinks like ten times and then figures the best response is to kiss her back… full on the lips. They were, like, 7. So, of course, she bursts into tears and runs off to tell the teacher."
"Sammy! We swore never to speak of my Casanova days! The betrayal, it stings…" Dean walks in, clutching his heart in mock pain. We make quite a pair; I've been clutching my sides in laughter.
"Doesn't sound… very Casanova-esque to me, Dean." I say between laughs.
Dean shoots me a hurt look, too.
"Oh, whilst we're sharing childhood stories, has Cas told you about his one failed attempt to make friends?"
I mock gasp at that solid burn – after all, look at me now; sitting on the floor, laughing with the school enigma. I can't convince even myself that I'm an utter failure at making friends.
"Yeah, Cas was an utter badass and fell halfway off his house. He's got this scar all the way up his side. Show him!"
"Wow, you really seem like Casanova now, you're really tempting me to strip." Blank tone, but I pull my shirt up anyway. I think that's considered mixed messages.
"That's one hell of a scar, Cas." Sam says, wide-eyed.
"Ain't it just?" Dean says proudly, like he had anything to do with it. I give him a sceptical look, but before he can reply, the doorbell rings; the symbol for 'get up, ravenous boys, it's food time!'
Dinner is a pleasant enough affair. John takes his plate in front of the TV, whereas Dean and Sam lead the way to the kitchen table. The brothers elbow each other a lot 'accidentally', and due to my subtle questioning to Sam earlier, they try to one up each other with embarrassing stories.
I haven't laughed as much in one evening in… well, in years.
When Dean and I leave – he gives me a lift despite my protests that I don't mind walking – I am assured by Dean, with a definite nod from Sam, that I am welcome whenever. I smile widely.
The sky outside is clearer than I've seen in months, so I direct my grin to the sky.
"Cas, man. Do I have to compare you to a dog again?"
"Too masculine for a bit of stargazing, eh?"
"Nah, Orion's all right. You just look like a dog."
I smile charmingly at him and get in the passenger seat.
A few weeks pass, and Dean's Friday tradition – the one his heart breaks for – changes. As in, I join Friday family dinner. Which is great.
I also gain Sam's trust, meaning that I get long texts at lunch sometimes, too. And calls at nights, the nights that Sam feels like a burden to his brother. Quickly, though, the texts get less frequent, a fact that fills me with pride – it feels like Sam is my brother, now, too.
It's summer, and I decide to risk my masculinity and sit cross-legged, making daisy chains. I'm happy, because it's warm enough that I can roll my shirt sleeves up, and vitamin D is the best vitamin, really.
"Aw, man," Dean drops his bag and sits in front of me, mirroring my position, "I haven't made daisy chains in years."
But then, Dean's masculinity was never in question.
Half an hour later, both Dean and I have necklaces, bracelets, anklets and 'halos'. I'm trying to figure out if I can make rings and Dean is trying to send picture messages of us to Sam, because he seems to enjoy his brother laughing at him. However, Dean can barely send normal text messages, so it's not going well.
And by 'not going well', I mean he keeps muttering angrily at the poor, innocent, mistreated device and dropping it on the ground in frustration.
"Dean, just hand it to me, see if I can figure it out."
"No! I can do this!"
"Not to point out the obvious, Dean, but it seems as though you can't."
"Be quiet, now I hate you too."
"No you don't." I drop the latest failed ring and reach out to grab his phone from where he's dropped it on the grass.
"Hey, don't take my stuff!" Dean grabs my wrist.
"Let me try and send embarrassing pictures to your brother!"
"Never!" He drags out the 'r', and since he's enjoying his dramatic moment, I take the phone easily. "Son of a bitch, I should have seen that coming."
"Yes, you should have." I turn my back to him to make it harder for him to steal his phone back, and smile at him briefly over my shoulder.
I successfully send the message within about a minute.
"Tell me, Dean, are you completely technologically inept or is this just a fluke?" Turning around, I hold the phone up, with its screen bearing the words 'message successfully sent!'
"I hate you."
"No, we've been through this; you don't hate me." He takes the phone back from me, grazing my hand in the sweeping action, with a joking pout, but he leans too far forward and his halo falls off.
So I lean forward and put it back on.
And fall over.
"Whoa there, Cas; if you wanted a hug, all you had to do was say so." His voice sounds a little weak as he squeezes me. I feel weak, to be honest, and my heart's racing from the terror of falling.
I sit back and smile apologetically. "I'm sorry, I promised myself I wouldn't fall all over you, and look at what I'm doing…"
He waves a hand as if to tell me to think nothing of it. "No worries, I'm used to it." He winks.
I want to reply I'm sure you are, but I seem to lose all ability to speak, embarrassingly.
Dean's eyes are so green.
I lean in a little closer to see them better, see how they compare to the daisy stems in his hair, and he leans forward too, but it can't be to compare my eyes to daisy stems because my eyes aren't green, they're blue and we're kissing.
It's not really a kiss, I guess, by modern standards. We just sit with our lips pressed against each other for a second or two.
We pull back at the same time, and I bite my lip because I'm the loser who's never had a friend, let alone anyone who would want to kiss them, and then Dean kisses me again.
And it's a 'proper' kiss.
And because of all the angels singing, them's all the words I have for you, folks.
Dinner with the Winchesters is great, but kissing Dean is better. It may even be the best as I know things.
I should really stop trying to say things I enjoy or like in words, because all I end up doing is sounding like an idiot who can't form sentences.
One might be able to argue that I cannot, in fact, form sentences, and would be able to make a compelling argument.
We stop kissing, and it's even before the end of lunch. Which is good, because I realise I'm feeling the 'girl' urge to talk about this and define us and make sure that he actually wants this and isn't simply trying to fix me like his brother.
Which makes it sound worse than it is, because I know he loves his brother, whereas I'm not sure he likes me… like that.
I am a 12-year-old girl.
"That was… nice." I say.
"All I get is nice?" He laughs breathlessly. "You've described a cheese sandwich better before."
"Take it as a compliment." I grin as I realise we're both a bit short of breath. "You've stolen all of my words."
Then both of us laugh somewhat breathily.
I'm not sure how to do this girl thing and ask for what we are.
"Wanna do it again?"
I seize the opportunity. "Wanna do it frequently?"
"Are you asking me out?" His eyes are serious, and yes, they match the daisy stems. The daisy stems that aren't in his hair anymore.
"Well that depends, is that a yes?"
He smiles. "Well that depends on the question."
"I win. You were the first not to use a question." I smile, but my heart is beating far too rapidly for comfort.
He shuffles forwards a couple of inches with that same smile and whispers, "Yes. Now what was the question?"
"Will you go out with me?"
And I kiss him.
But we pull back quickly, because I start laughing into his mouth. "Could we have phrased that a bit more awkwardly?"
"Probably." He grins.
Suddenly the 12-year-old girl fights her way free. "What do we do about this, Dean? Do we go on dates? Do we hold hands in hallways? Do I carry your books to lessons? Do we tell everyone? Do we tell no one? Do I still come for Winchester family dinners? Does your dad clean his shotgun in front of me? Do-"
Dean puts his hand on my fidgeting one and locks reassuring eyes on mine. "We take it as it happens. We go on dates if we want to, or we can just hang out. Like we are now. If we feel like holding hands in hallways, then we hold hands in hallways. Likewise with book carrying, except I'd be carrying your books because I don't even own the books I should. We discuss who we want to tell – like, if no one else, I wanna tell my family. Well, Sammy, and maybe my dad. Of course you still come to family dinners. If my dad does try to threaten you, I'll protect you." He winks. "If I'd ever needed proof you led a totally sheltered life before me…"
I exhale in a shaky laugh. "I don't think I want everyone to know just yet, and if you didn't tell Sam I'd be offended. But I want…" I consider. "Just a week to relish in the anonymity."
Pause. "What do you mean?"
I shrug. "No one cares about me, but everyone cares about you. And if the girls figure out that I've stolen 'the hottest guy, like, ever' from them, they'll start caring about me, too." I smile a little, because it feels amusing.
I'm just happy, I think.
Dean's eyebrows knot a bit in confusion, but he's smiling too, so I don't think he minds.
"Everyone ignores me because I'm boring; I did nothing but stalk you and that's only interesting for roughly a week. So I'm pretty much invisible, which is kinda nice. And everyone thinks you're gay, but I don't think they actually think you're into males, so if we just… spread rainbows or whatever then people are going to notice. And I won't be invisible. And… I'd rather have you, lack of anonymity or not, but I'd like time to bask in it for a while."
It turns out that silence and anonymity aren't as nice as I remembered them being. Or, at least, Dean has a far stronger pull than them.
So I watch him a lot, which I'm sure helps my waning reputation as his stalker.
I realise that even during lunch, when no one really watches us, there's little sign of our relationship either. I want to protest, but I can't figure out if it's a subtle, teasing punishment for wanting to keep it a secret, or whether he's just being over-cautious, so I don't.
Midway through the week, Dean meets me at my locker. He stands as close behind me as he can get without touching me, which I don't even notice until he says 'boo' in my ear. Then I straighten up suddenly, which, fortunately, he anticipates. Otherwise I'd have head-butted him, which could have been… so not sexy.
No, I really should not try and say things like that.
Dean takes this in stride, and goes to lean on the locker next to mine. "I told Sammy last night; I'll give you three guesses as to what he said."
"'Finally'?" I guess, to a head shake. "'O. M. G. You're so gay!'" Another head shake. "Okay, I didn't really think he'd say that. Um… 'but what about the baby?!'"
"Cas, you've been watching too much crappy TV." I nod, because I have. "Nah, he said 'I knew it', which isn't anywhere near as exciting."
"Yeah, I threw a couple of pillows at him, so that's cool." We grin at each other.
The next day, I overhear a conversation in English class: "Okay, you know that freaky angel kid who totally stalked Dean when he joined?"
"And you know how everyone thought Dean was gay because he rejected Jo but they didn't really think he was gay and just thought he didn't like Jo?"
"Which is totally likely."
"Yeah, well, I thought that too, but then Jess said that yesterday she saw Dean stand like… not even a centimetre behind angel boy and then whisper to him and doesn't that sound, like, a lot gay?"
"What?" That sounds like a bit of a shriek.
"And you know that when Jess tells us stuff she's almost always right."
"But… but… angel kid?!" I am truly hurt, shrieky girl.
Shrug. "It's not like we're losing out on him, really, is it?"
Oh hey, angel boy is right here.
Who cares though; my self-imposed 'I'm not in a relationship with the person I'm in a relationship with' thing is over – cue confetti.
I fully plan on doing something really obvious, but when I finally see Dean I realise that he's not expecting it and he may not want a major reveal without warning. So I come up with this gem last minute: "Do you wanna make girls cry?"
Wow, I am really glad he's not with people at the moment.
He raises his eyebrows at me. "Always. What do you have in mind?"
"Tumbling out of the closet?"
He grins. "What happened to a week?"
I shrug. "They think we're spreading rainbows together already, I see no reason to keep them guessing."
The way his smile grows elicits a grin of my own. "Okay then, boyfriend, let's go make girls cry." He says, and entwines his fingers with mine.
"Be careful, you're making me feel all tingly." I joke. Except he is.
"Good," he replies, and I can't help but smile up at him, no doubt looking like an utterly enamoured puppy as he half-pulls me down the hallway.
I'm glad it's him, because if anyone's staring, I don't notice.
Okay, I mean, I notice the stares when I'm alone. But, well… roughly 90% of the staring is to do with jealousy, which is hardly something to get upset about, especially when I'm almost jealous of myself.
The other 10%, of course, which seems to be homophobia, bothers me a little more. But, still, no one's said or done anything to me about it, so I shouldn't complain.
Friday night dinner is… something that will be hilarious in the future. Sam takes every opportunity to make bad, arguably homophobic jokes, and John mainly glares. I'm unsure as to whether that is due to the simple fact that I'm dating his son, or that I am a male dating his son.
I try to act like nothing's changed, because I'm still the same person, but I also don't protest when Dean grabs my hand or flings an arm around me or flirts, and I can't help but watch him, uh, 'surreptitiously' sometimes.
So I don't think I really act like nothing's changed.
After dinner, a first occurs: Dean invites me to stay and watch a film. I agree, and Sam gets an evil look in his eyes as he says that sounds great and suggests a film. I do not understand Dean's resulting glare towards Sam.
John grunts once and tells Sam it's his turn to do the washing up.
Then Dean gets the evil smile.
"Sammy really hates action films with no plot; do you have a problem with watching one of those?"
"Great, come on." He takes my hand and pulls me through to the living room, and then pushes me onto the sofa. As I sit, a little bit just trying to keep up with the entirety of what's just occurred, Dean picks out the film, puts it in, turns off the light, grabs a blanket and sits next to me. He then places the blanket over us. "Is this okay?" I nod. "Perfect. Now spread out, so Sammy has to sit on the floor."
"But there's space for him-"
"That's the point. I wanted us to watch a film together, and he knew that when he interrupted… that's why I'm trying to make this as undesirable for him as possible." He grins and I kind of can't resist him.
So I turn a bit, putting my legs up on the sofa next to me, and I lean on him. He puts his arm around me, enveloping me in his scent, and I can't really imagine anything better.
Which is when Sam walks in. "Perfect timing, Sammy, we're just about to start!" Dean's voice sounds more mellow than usual, which I think is on purpose.
Sam looks around at the lack of seating. "Um, Cas… budge up?"
"But he's so comfortable! Don't be rude to our guest, Sam." Dean's voice has that tone that means he's putting on wide Bambi eyes. I bite the inside of my mouth to hide my smile.
Sam grumbles, but sits on the floor, leaning against the sofa by my feet. His long body looks funny folded up so much.
Dean sighs contentedly and Sam gives him a dirty glare.
The film starts, and it's nothing particularly interesting. So, with Dean rubbing my shoulder in regular, soothing circles, another first occurs: I fall asleep during a film.
I don't notice until I feel a gentle shaking sensation and hear Dean whisper 'Cas' a few times, at which point my eyes open slowly, then quickly.
"Dean?" I blink a few times before I realise. "I didn't mean to fall asleep on you, I'm sorry."
"It's all right, you're cute when you sleep," he teases, and I have no pillows to throw so I swat his arm with one hand, using the other to wipe my eyes.
"Is it time for me to go yet?" I mumble.
"Depends, do you want to?"
"Never." I sigh. "But I probably should, else I'll just fall asleep here, and I have a feeling it's too early in our relationship for us to sleep together."
"Who said anything about together?" Dean asks, but he's grinning.
"Take me back, idiot."
"Your wish is my command, master." He gets up, bows with a flourish and offers me a hand. I pull a face to say I think he's an idiot, but I take his hand and do one better; I put my arms around his neck and give him a quick, chaste kiss.
"Good to see you, Sam, John!" I call as Dean drags me out of the house, receiving identical glares from Sam and John. I can't help but laugh as I wave.
Dean gets me home in record time. The kissing goodnight takes longer, though, and I won't complain about that.
We don't see each other over the weekend, which is the longest time since we 'got together', and texts and phone calls aren't quite the same. But neither of us say that we would like to meet up.
The first I hear of him on Monday is when he is around the corner from my locker, so I don't see him. He is talking to people I had assumed were his friends.
"So when were you gonna tell us you're gay, Winchester? Don't you think we have a right to know when someone's gonna enjoy looking at us getting changed?" Chorus of 'yeah's.
"I'm not gay, Zachariah." Ouch.
"Oh yeah? So you hold hands with that freak Caz-teel because you're bezzies?" Grunted laughter.
"Oh no, I'm going out with Castiel" said slowly, so the pronunciation is evident, thank you "because I'd enjoy looking at him getting changed." Oh Dean, how charming thou art. "However, the thought of watching you getting changed, Ali, kinda makes me want to puke. Same goes for all of the rest of you, actually, but hey! Good on you for having good self-esteem." Manly shoulder-clapping, presumably from Dean to one of the others, probably harder than it should be.
I hastily open my locker as Dean walks around the corner. I try to maintain an impassive expression.
He pulls me from my locker, forcefully yet gently and pushes me lightly against the next locker to kiss me. "A happy Monday to you, too, Dean. What was that for?" Breathless.
"People were looking at you funny."
"They've looked at me 'funny' since I've joined school, Dean." I say with a small smile.
He smiles a little and doesn't pull back at all as he says quietly, "I know you heard."
"You're giving me your sympathy eyes." I decide to give up on impassive.
"I'm sorry, De-"
"Shut up, Cas," he says it nicely. "If they care about us enough to be dicks about it, then they're not friends I want to have." He kisses me on the corner of my mouth once. "Okay?"
I close my eyes for a second and nod. "Okay. But if it gets awful-"
"Then you're not doing anything! I don't want to change us even a bit."
"I was going to say 'tell me'." I smile wryly.
"Oh. Well, I can do that." I lean up to kiss him once.
"Now may I get my books for this morning?"
It turns out to be a rainy day, but Dean meets me at my locker at the beginning of lunch. "I haven't seen you all weekend; you're not escaping me that easily."
I shrug. "I usually spend rainy lunches in the library, but there are rules against talking."
Dean shrugs, probably mocking me. "I think I can handle that."
I lead Dean by our linked hands to the table where I could see him from, the one he sat at the one lunch he spent here. He smiles as I sit on one of the two chairs and pat the other.
As I look out the window, leaning on Dean's shoulder, I count magpies again. There's 6; a large number for a rainy day.
"6 for gold," I murmur.
"Is that that old rhyme thing?"
I smile with the left side of my mouth and nod.
"Wait, what was that saying?" I shush him. "About friends? 'Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver but the other is gold'? What bullshit."
I can't help but laugh as he leans in for a kiss.