This is the companion piece to my story "Schubert and Schumann and Lapsang Souchong" – here we see the same events taking place through Castiel's eyes rather than Dean's. If you haven't read the other story yet, I would advise reading it first, but I suppose this could also stand alone. Like Cas and Dean, though, they're better together. :-]
Castiel was used to being the strange one. Even in his family, which was the strangest family he knew, he was still the strange one. If he'd bothered to spend his time analyzing this, he would probably have concluded that it was for a combination of several reasons, including but not limited to the following: he had never gone to school and had no idea what it was like; he had odd and multifarious interests and hobbies; he had a large vocabulary and an old-fashioned manner about him; and he had very big eyes and didn't blink much. There were plenty more aspects of his personality that could add to the general impression of eccentricity, but the fact is, Cas didn't waste any time trying to explain himself. He simply lived. There was so much to do and think and read and try and hear and see and experience!
For instance, the boy next door. Cas wouldn't mind experiencing him. Let's be completely frank here: yes, Cas was quite observant, a habit he had consciously trained in himself from youth onward; but even if he'd been the most oblivious half-blind idiot in the universe, it would have been hard to miss Dean Winchester. Within two hours of arriving in the moving truck, Cas had figured out his distractingly attractive new neighbor's name. He'd heard the boy's mother calling it up the stairs through the open windows on the ground floor, and had filed the knowledge away for future reference. Hopefully not too far in the future.
While Mike and Luc cracked themselves up improvising a jousting match using standing lamps as lances and the lampshades as (very ineffective) shields, Gabe took on the role of the announcer narrating every thrust and parry of the match, and Anna started lugging boxes into their new house, Castiel drifted around pretending to watch his brothers while actually peering up at the house next door. It was only a little while ago that Dean's mother had called up the stairs to him, so he was probably still up there. There were four upstairs rooms that looked like they could be bedrooms. One was on the other side of the house and was still shuttered up, and another was large enough that Cas assumed it would be the parents' bedroom. That left two to choose from... And there it was, a slight movement in the window of one of the rooms. He caught a glimpse of short tawny hair and a quick flash of green eyes. Cas had a weakness for green eyes. Actually, that hadn't been true before, but now he suddenly realized it. It was irritating how few glimpses he'd gotten of this mysterious boy so far.
Cas had to shift his focus elsewhere, however, when Father made his anxiety known about the fate of his beloved lamps and the others obediently stopped roughhousing and got back to work. It felt like it took forever to move all the boxes and furniture into the house, even though this was already their second trip with the moving truck. They just had a lot of stuff. Lots of old souvenirs and so on, things Father was fond of and couldn't be convinced to part with. Luckily this house was large; there would be no shortage of space. The unpacking, though, could be started on tomorrow, the siblings all agreed, exhausted from their efforts.
Luc and Mike concocted some dubious-looking cocktails for themselves and retired to the large screened porch at the back of the house, making it clear they were not to be disturbed. Gabe wheedled the car out of Anna and zipped off for the afternoon, and Anna herself declared she was in need of a long hot bath to soak off the grime of the day's labors. That left Castiel to his own devices, a situation that had always been an agreeable one to him.
Yes, as we've mentioned before, he was definitely the strange one. In any normal family he would instantly have been considered the black sheep, but luckily no such ostracizing terminology was used around their family hearth. Castiel was simply Castiel, and his siblings both loved him and teased him for it. Although the rest had gone to school like normal human beings, Cas had made it abundantly clear from the start that he was not going to put up with this. (He had always been very self-possessed, even as a small child.) At the age of five he had suffered through a total of three half-days of school: half-days because he had left each day at recess and walked home to announce to his startled (and rather amused) family that school was Not His Thing. Father had always believed that three was the magic number, so after this had happened thrice, Castiel was duly excused from attending school.
This had left him with the time on his hands to pursue any weird fancy that crossed his mind––and, being a deliberate sort of person, he pursued them all, one after the other. Some, such as pottery, découpage, skiing, and owl-pellet dissection, hadn't lasted. Others, such as reading, archery, painting (or as Gabriel called it "getting emotional and throwing globs of color all over the place"), and piano, had stuck. Although the last of these, Cas had to admit, had been rather a love-hate affair so far. There had also been French, though he hadn't had much success with that. Each sibling had chosen a language to study, but the results were varied, to say the least. Mike had done very well with German; Anna was still in love with all things Italian but couldn't speak it to save her life; Luc could get by in Spanish but didn't seem very interested in it; and Gabe had announced to all and sundry his intention to study Latin, by which, it later emerged, he actually meant Pig Latin.
But I digress. The point was, Castiel led a fulfilling and multifaceted life, and that, combined with his past experience of not having met many people who could understand him, meant that he tended to live somewhat in a world of his own. Quite satisfied with his own company, he didn't give the impression of a loner, but would be hard-pressed to make a list of "friends" if asked. And yet, moving to this new neighborhood and catching sight of the boy who lived next door, Cas suddenly found himself wondering if it was time to polish up his rusty people-skills.
As afternoon light slanted towards evening and the house remained relatively quiet, Cas ventured into his new backyard to explore. There wasn't much to see. The large lawn was bordered by a thin pine forest around two sides, and on the third side was the fence separating it from the neighbors' yard. Near the fence was a scrawny honeysuckle bush and a small pile of bricks, while along the back of the yard was a drooping clothesline that had clearly seen better days. From here, he couldn't even hear his older brothers' voices from the porch.
Cas was near the clothesline, wondering if any of these pathetically small trees were remotely climbable, when he heard the back screen door of the neighbors' house creak and swing shut. The neighbor boy––yes, that one, the older one, the illegally good-looking one, Dean––had emerged into his own backyard, and was sauntering over towards the fence, peering around.
Cas moved toward him like a shy magnet that's just become aware of magnetic north for the first time. Dean didn't notice him, but kicked desultorily at something on the ground. Soundlessly, Cas approached the fence and gazed at this beautiful stranger. He was perfectly built, clearly the athletic type, but with a certain sensitivity to his features, despite a deep-set wariness hidden in those enchanting green eyes. Yes, Cas definitely had a weakness for green eyes.
The eyes in question were peering at the ground, brows knitted together above them, as Dean poked at some dead leaves with the toe of his shoe and stared disapprovingly down at the few bricks arrayed in a messy circle on the ground. "We've got some extra bricks over here, if you need them," Cas offered.
Dean looked up, right at him, and Cas wondered if this was the sensation romance novels intended to convey when they used the wholly inaccurate and medically alarming expression 'My heart skipped a beat'. That distant wariness in Dean's eyes briefly grew stronger, but then it was smoothly concealed behind a façade of cocky self-confidence. "Nah, I'm gonna put a grill out here. Thanks anyway, though."
Castiel couldn't stop himself. The words began spilling out of him as if the floodgates had been unlocked by hearing Dean's voice for the first time.
"How long have you been here? Are you new to the neighborhood as well? It's just, I noticed that you have a lot of boxes in your garage too. I think these are your bricks, actually, in any case; they match the ones you've got there. I'm not sure how they ended up on our side of the fence." A thought struck him. "Unless you put them there, of course. But I don't think you did; there's no reason to. I'm Castiel, by the way. Most people call me Cas. And I think you're Dean, right?"
There was a short pause while Dean stared at him, mouth fractionally open. "Uh, yeah, right. Hi."
"Nice to meet you, Dean," Cas said politely. "I saw you watching us from your room earlier. You didn't think I could see you, but I could. Those were my siblings, by the way; Mike, Luc, Gabe, and Anna. They all have longer versions of their names too, of course, but I won't trouble you with that. I don't expect you'd remember them in any case. You didn't answer my question...?"
He suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to know everything about Dean. He fervently wished it wasn't considered socially inappropriate to hand an extensive personal survey to new acquaintances you wanted to know more about. Cas felt like he could come up with about forty questions to ask Dean right now––why had he moved here? What was his relationship with his brother like? Was it nice and peaceful, having only one sibling? What were his parents like? Were they a happy family? What had happened to instill that fight-or-flight look in Dean's eyes? And on and on.
But Dean just kept staring at him with a blank expression, and Cas suddenly had one of the random ideas that struck him sometimes: wouldn't it be strange if his thoughts were just as clear and audible as his spoken words, and Dean could hear both of them at once? It would be as if Castiel were practically assaulting him with questions, both spoken and thought. Realizing that Dean still hadn't reacted, Cas forcibly disengaged his mind from its latest 'What if...?' scenario, and picked up the thread of the conversation again.
"I see you've forgotten it. No worries, keeping track of multiple pieces of information in the brain can be difficult at times," he said soothingly, noticing that Dean was beginning to resemble a deer in the headlights. "I asked how long you'd been here, and hypothesized that you are similarly new to the neighborhood. You don't actually need to answer; I was merely making conversation, having already realized that you and your family haven't even finished moving in yet. I would guess you arrived here about a week ago. Am I correct?"
Luckily, this time Dean answered right away. "More like two weeks." His voice was gruff now, and it sent a small tingle of pleasure down Castiel's spine. What a voice. What a face. What a... everything. He could not let this one escape.
Trying to conceal his reaction, Cas narrowed his eyes at the other boy and said the first thing that came to mind. "Right, of course. Slow unpackers. You would be, wouldn't you." The moment these words had left his lips they sounded idiotic to him, and Cas felt like he was waking from a trance. A sudden wave of embarrassment surged over him, and he responded to it the only way he knew how, by retreating into formality and distant politeness. "Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Dean. I guess I'll see you around."
Dragging his gaze away from the other boy's face––freckles! Dean had freckles! Cas had only just noticed!––he made himself turn and walk back towards the house without once looking around.