Blue Rains Make Green Trees
Castiel is the solitary artistic type who pines bitterly for the unattainable boy next door. Also, he thinks too much. Childhood/Teen!AU. Slash.
Some drifty, suburban teen angst for [my]your [writing]reading pleasure. I have a general idea, but I'll basically be making this up as I go along, just to warn you.
When Castiel was eight years old, the Winchesters moved in next door. Michael, who had taken over the role of guardian to two younger siblings, visited the new arrivals to welcome them to the neighbourhood and to invite them to church.
On his return, he explained to Castiel and Gabriel how Mrs Winchester had died, leaving her husband and two young sons behind. It had been hard for them to carry on in their old home without her, so Mr Winchester had decided on a fresh start, a change of scenery.
"The oldest will be starting in your class after the summer, Castiel. When you talk to him, make sure to be kind and offer support. You know what it's like."
Castiel was reading in the garden when something hit his book with a loud crack. The source of the noise was a cherry stone with the stalk still attached, which had bounced off and landed in the grass beneath his right knee. It had left a tiny reddish stain in the middle of the black and cream page.
He looked around for the source of the missile, but the garden was empty save for him and the bees buzzing gently around the flowers.
Another of the fruits, this time whole, hit him in the chest, and he let out a small cry of shock and pain. He looked up, and was surprised to find there was a boy in his tree.
They stared at each other for a while, Castiel's unblinking wariness meeting the flat, challenging glare of someone daring him to react.
"These cherries suck," the boy said, with venom.
He sounded like he blamed Castiel for this fact. Castiel found he was hurt by the hostility, and tried to think of what he might have done to warrant it. He didn't make the cherries that way.
"They're inedible." He said quietly, but apparently it still carried.
The boy frowned down at him, the challenge behind his expression falling away to leave confusion. His nose scrunched up.
And Castiel was reminded of school, and how all the other children looked at him with that exact expression whenever he answered a question. He didn't say much outside of lessons, because then it was more than just looks.
"Inedible. It means you're not supposed to eat them."
The boy considered the cherry he held in his hand, squashed it with his thumb against the branch he was perched on. "Well why didn't you just say that, then? And what's the point of having a cherry tree if you can't eat them? That's stupid." He kept his thumb pressed down, until there must have been nothing but red pulp left in the crevices of the bark.
Castiel seriously pondered the question. "I think it's because it looks pretty. And birds can eat them."
He flinched when the boy laughed. It was a familiar laugh; tinged with mocking. But there was no cruelty in it.
"What's your name?"
"Castiel." He said, then immediately remembered he wasn't supposed to tell strangers who he was, or even talk to them for that matter. Michael had said it didn't apply to children his own age, but at the moment this boy was reminding him more of the Cheshire Cat. He pressed his lips together.
"Cas-ti-el? What kind of a name is that?"
An over-tightened knot in his chest constricted, pulling steel-strength cords to straining point. Why did every new meeting have to go exactly the same way? It just meant it would end the same, and he'd have met another person who didn't want to be his friend.
"It's my name!" he snapped defensively, then bit his tongue to stop himself saying any more. Whoops.
The boy didn't laugh anymore. "Okay. Whatever. I guess it's kinda cool. I'm Dean."
A rush of something unexpected loosened the knot. Nobody had referred to anything about him as 'cool' before, not even in this flippant, consoling way. But that was something else in its own right – unless Castiel was reading things wrong (which he may well be, going by his record), this boy had tried to remove the sting his words had caused by adding kinder ones. Castiel blinked widely at the emotion that was assaulting him – it was hope.
The boy – Dean – was apparently not as he seemed; this development was at odds with the impression of hostility he had first conveyed. Maybe… maybe he wouldn't be like the others. Maybe he wouldn't taunt and antagonise.
"You're book looks really boring. Why are you reading a book without pictures? That's really boring."
Or perhaps not.
"Dean!" A man's deep voice boomed through the house next door. "Dean? It's time to go!"
"That's my dad." Dean said, a tad unnecessarily. He spent a couple of seconds looking across at his house, swinging his legs. "We're taking Sammy – that's my brother – to sign up at kindergarten. You can meet him when we get back, if you want. He's four."
Castiel sensed something with more meaning than the words themselves pass between them – something a bit nervous, a bit hopeful, but not just from his side this time. For the first time he could remember, he felt like there was someone looking for his acceptance.
"Yes. I'd like that."
It was only after the brief smile, the reckless yet artful leap between the trees and then the unrestrained sprint inside which finally hid the boy from sight, when Castiel wished he'd thanked him.
Apart from accepting a drink from Michael at one point, Castiel's position remained unchanged until the rumble of Mr Winchester's car signalled their return. Voices carried around the houses, easy over the still summer air.
"Come on, Sammy, come meet the boy next door. You'll like him, he's funny."
"Not now, Dean, they'll be eating. Like we should be. Why not wait 'til tomorrow?"
"But Dad, he's waiting now! I told him he could meet Sammy when we got back!"
"Would you 've waited all that time?"
"Exactly. He'll still live there in the morning…"
"Dean! Did you get the cherries?"
"You can't eat them, Sammy."
"Yes you can! You can eat cherries!"
"Not those ones, they're the wrong type."
"Oh. That's stupid."
"Yeah, I know."
Castiel listened to the front door shut, and felt a flutter of surprise. He'd remembered.
In the lead up until the new school year, Castiel lost a lot of sleep. He was petrified that once Dean met the other children he wouldn't want to be friends with him any more; that he was just playing with him at the moment for lack of anyone better or more fun.
When school did start, it was the first time he'd had an ally; someone who he could trust to take his side in the playground.
He didn't take anything for granted, though. He was determined not to ruin this friendship, so tried not to do anything that might upset Dean or go against what he wanted. Of course, he couldn't avoid conflict completely, and every single time he did something he thought had spoiled things, he was amazed when Dean was still his friend the next day or the next hour, not even mentioning whatever had split them apart, like it didn't even matter.
Castiel began to realise that usually, it didn't.
When Castiel was fifteen years old, he didn't have anyone that he would call more than an acquaintance, at school or out of it, and had to learn to cope with life without his big brother for the first time. Whenever Michael asked him if he was happy, he told him he was, because he didn't think he deserved to complain about his circumstances in relation to all the people in the world who were much worse off.
He'd been right not to take anything for granted, but it hadn't made it any less heart-wrenching when he realised it was coming to an end.