The sun still shines high in the sky when Dean comes back from tee-ball, beaming with excitement because, according to his father, the surprise project in the backyard is supposed to be ready today. Today. Rightnow.
John, Bobby, and Rufus all worked on it for a while, employing Mary to distract the oh too curious little Winchester boys. Sam, still pretty young, was easy to distract. But Dean? No, Dean's been glued to the glass, stealing as many glances as he could, even sneaking into the backyard a few times in hopes he can get a sneak peak. He got caught nearly every time, but that doesn't matter anymore, because it's ready today. Ready now. Ready at last.
Mary's eyes flicker from the sweet small town street to the rear-view mirror. In the backseat, two little tee-ball players sit, Dean convincing his mother that his best friend Cass just had to be here for the unveiling. Dean practically vibrates with anticipation, olive eyes glowing with glee, his mind racing at the speed of light. Castiel, on the other hand, simply stares at Dean, still and quiet, blue eyes fixed on his best friend's face. Sometimes Mary's pretty sure that the demure little boy counts her son's freckles in his spare time.
"Alright," Mary sighs, pulling the Impala into the driveway. He engine's thunderous purr softens, finally cutting off when Mary takes the key from the ignition. But when she turns around, all she catches is Dean flying out the door, orange cap falling off in his swift escape, and a hand tightly gripping his friend's arm, tugging Castiel behind him while the boy still struggles with the seatbelt. As the boys vanish behind the tall wooden gate of tall brown pickets, Mary smiles.
"C'mon, Cass!" Dean shouts, Castiel stumbling behind him as he zooms towards the old tree, the one half concealed by a large off-white canvas sheet. Sam's already out there, sitting on his father's shoulders, chin resting on his father's messy dark hair, hands loosely gripping a thick rope. Rufus and Bobby stand next to him, both of them grinning as Dean leads a bumbling Castiel down the home stretch.
"Dean, slow down," Castiel begs, minding his feet. After running all around the baseball diamond, Castiel isn't up for a marathon in the Winchester backyard. Dean doesn't hear him, his best friend's soft voice drowned out by his own screaming thoughts all urging him to get over there as fast as he can.
But Dean does notice when his hand slips down Castiel's sleek arm, accidentally releasing the other from his hold. Castiel's footwork falters, legs getting in the way of one another, one foot tripping over the other, and he's sure that any moment he'll wind up face first in the grass. Just like playing outfield. He doesn't, though, because Dean stops right then, doubling back a few steps and grabbing Castiel, arms looping under his arms.
Castiel's knees brush the blades of grass, tickling the bruises on his legs. He looks up, eyes wide as humanly possible, puffing out erratic breaths. Dean's head blocks the sun, the rays making the burnt honey hair shimmer, a halo forming around his head. He can't remember a time when he's seen anything more wonderful than this.
"I'm not leaving you," Dean tells him, hauling Castiel up. He waits until his friend is back on two feet before grabbing him again, making sure his clasp is as tight as a hawk's before they bullet over to the older men. Neither of them notice John and Bobby's combined chuckling or Rufus' gruff guffawing until they're right over there; but Dean's still too focused on his surprise to really care.
When the boys in orange stop, Dean widely grinning and Castiel slightly smiling, John looks up at Sam and motions his hand. Sam nods understandingly, knowing that the gesture is his signal, and tugs the rope accordingly. He uses all his might, legs tightening around his father's neck so he doesn't fall down. The only thing that falls is the canvas, the sheet drawing away to reveal the long awaited surprise.
It's a brand new tree house.
Dean and Castiel spend nearly every day in the tree house. When Sam's old enough to climb, he joins them. And all of them play, games ranging from superheroes to cowboys and all else available to a child's imagination. One time, Sam suggests truth or dare, and, still naive and new to the workings of the world, dares his brother and his best friend to kiss.
Dean, after profuse protesting that all just ends in Sam crossing his arms and giving him the classic puppy dog pout, complies. He leans over to a very reluctant Castiel and presses his lips to his heated cheeks, turning a little red himself when he looks over at Sam and asks, "Happy?"
"No, on the lips," Sam specifies with a smirk. He's getting too much enjoyment from this, so Dean thinks, but Sam thinks he's doing the right thing. After all, they look at each other like Mommy and Daddy, they make each other smile like Mommy and Daddy, so why not kiss like Mommy and Daddy do too? It's flawless logic.
Dean growls, glaring at his brother. He's about ready to scream at him and banish him from the tree house forever, but Castiel intervenes. He cups his hands around Dean's face and pulls him over, mashing their mouths together for a long moment. A lot longer than Dean expects. Longer than Castiel expects too, even.
When he's sure the deed is more than sufficiently done, Castiel leans back, arms retracting, hiding them behind his back. His lips flatten into a tight line as he looks down at the wooden floor planks, blush rivalling a strawberry's hue.
Dean wipes his mouth, stomach swirling, face just as red as Castiel's. He glowers at Sam the moment his baby brother starts giggling, the youngest of the trio covering his insane beam with his hands. After that, Dean makes a new rule that there's no more truth or dare allowed in the tree house. He also bans any kissing.
They use the tree house less and less as they grow older. These days, people keep concocting new cool things that make inside a lot cooler than outside. They're getting too old for pretend games anyway.
But Dean still goes up there. Just to sit. Just to think. Playdates aren't cool anymore, so he never calls any of the other kids to join him. He doesn't even invite Sam, who's usually too busy either sticking his nose in a book or obsessing over the new blonde girl down the street in his exploration of puberty. Nah, Dean just goes up alone to think most times, legs swinging over the edge.
There's a suspicious creak one night, Dean's ears perking at the sound of someone else climbing up the ageing ladder. When he turns his head, he sees Castiel's head poking up, brows raised, stare asking if he can come up.
Dean can't say no, motioning the other over. He watches Castiel crawl over, sitting right next to Dean, barely any room between them. Neither of them talk much at first, Castiel gazing up at the stars all twinkling over head, Dean fixated on the boy at his side. He thinks of conversation starters-the weather, the new term starting soon, the reason why Castiel appeared in his backyard-but all of them sound so dumb. He's not a man of words, and he's not a man of much touchy-feely emotions either. So what the hell are they doing inside him?
Castiel breaks the ice, of all things, randomly pointing out constellations and nebulas in the sky, like he memorised the map of the universe already. Over there is Polaris (it's the official, fancy name for the North Star). Right over that way is Draco (the Dragon not the Harry Potter character). And the giant Orion forms right off that red star Betelgeuse (not the Tim Burton movie).
Somewhere along the lines, Dean zone out. He doesn't know when he did, but he must've somewhere. Because one minute he's listening to Castiel talk about stars, but the next he's kissing him, chapped lips gently and tenderly moving against his. It's pleasant, not like the kisses he shared with some of the girls he saw for a while, but ten times as sweet, ten times as right.
From then on, the no kissing rule is repealed. If he ever made a law against what came after kissing, Dean would amend those laws too.
He's alone again, sitting in a ramshackle of a tree house. It's ancient now, all the wood rotting, decaying a bit more each day. They had a fight, he and Castiel, and he just doesn't want to talk to anyone. Not Bobby, not his dad, not Sam. He just wants to be alone.
He's never been this upset over something like this before, never so broken inside, never so hollow and vacant. He doesn't like it, not one bit. Hates it even. And maybe loitering around in the place where all the firsts happened-kisses, confessions, touches, long nights, and so on-is a dumb idea, but Dean just can't bring himself to care. All he knows is that somewhere he screwed up. Castiel screwed up too, but Dean had to have somewhere along the lines.
"Dean!" Castiel emerges from the back door. Sam must've let him in or something, thinking Dean ought to stop moping around and actually talk about this. He makes plans for Sam's funeral as Castiel rushes up the yard, shouting apology after apology, begging for Dean to let him explain.
But Dean doesn't want to hear anything. And even though there's a voice screaming at him to sit the fuck down and stop being so fucking stupid, he gets up, leaning over the railing and yelling back. He doesn't know what he says, barking out whatever bitter thought that crosses his mind, not meaning a word, just wanting to ward him off.
None of that works, because Castiel won't go away. He won't leave until there's justification, closure, something more than a blow up with nonsensical fragmented debris. So he counters every acrid word with his own trenchant remark.
Dean leans over more and more with each volley, remaining deaf to the ominous creaks and cracks of the railing, too focused on the argument. Castiel tries bringing it to his attention, but Dean just won't listen to anything. Not until the finally resounding snaps pierce the night, gravity sending Dean down from his perch. He shuts his eyes as he falls, expecting a broken nose or a fractured arm upon impact with the hard soil, but he never lands on the grass.
Instead he falls right into Castiel's arms, the force pushing Castiel back against the ground, his hands tight on Dean's arms. Castiel whimpers, but knows he'll be alright. The important thing to him is that Dean's okay.
Dean opens his eyes again, staring down at Castiel in the pale moonlight. The lunar beams reflect in his vivid blue eyes, so scintillating and stunning, majestic as the stars above. And even though his jaw locks, repressing the pained moans jumbling up in his throat, Castiel looks pleased, pleased with himself at least. And there's something really beautiful about it, but Dean can't put his finger on it.
"What was that?" Dean asks, still a little breathless. If anything, he deserved whatever punishment the fall had in store for him.
"I wasn't going to let you fall," Castiel frowns, tilting his head in confusion, wondering why Dean would even think that, "I'm always here to catch you."
Dean's lips curve into a wide, wide smile. All the negativity retreats, dwindling in the overwhelming warmth and happiness filling up the once cold voids. He hasn't smiled like that since the tree house was first built.
"Is the surprise almost done, Daddy?" Mary Jo wouldn't even spare the time to change out of her dirty tee-ball uniform, still covered in green splotches and reddish stains from the game. She hops up and down next to her parents, ready to sprout wings and fly up to the sheet and tear it off herself. She almost completely forgets about her friend, young Jesse Turner shuffling his feet at her side.
Dean laughs, wiping the sweat from his forehead. He looks over to Castiel and winks, telling him that maybe right now really is the perfect time. Their daughter looks like she's about to explode, anyway.
Castiel smiles and nods, looking down at the twins in his arms. Jeremy and Ben are both clinging to their father and holding a rope, acting like little koalas. And when their green eyes meet Castiel's gaze, they tug together.
The canvas sheet falls away, and Mary Jo squeals with excitement, gazing up at her brand new tree house. She darts over to the ladder, already halfway to the top before Dean has time to blink. Jesse's close to follow, sharing his friend's excitement, already telling Mary all the fun things they can do together. Ben and Jeremy both reach out, wishing they were old enough to join their sister and her best friend running around the deck and disappearing into the little one-room shelter.
Dean walks closer to Castiel, carefully wrapping an arm around him. Both of them lean their heads close to one another as they watch the magic of the tree house work all over again.
A/N: Thanks for reading!