Disclaimer: I don't own the show Supernatural or any of its characters.
Dean Winchester sat down on the edge of the deck, panting slightly. The thick, hot summer air was draining his energy faster than usual, and all the running that was involved in his and his brother's latest romp wasn't helping. He'd recently been getting into old Clint Eastwood westerns, which inspired their current game's theme, although Sam didn't follow along as well as Dean would've liked (he kept asking what a 'varmint' was and why he had to be one). But, Dean couldn't complain. He wasn't antisocial by any means, and he had friends from school, but Sammy was and always would be his top priority, so Dean rarely hung out with kids his own age outside of school. Ever since their father's death, Dean considered it his job to be the man of the family and make sure his brother was never lonely or sad. And if that meant staying home and playing in the backyard with Sam during long summer afternoons instead of going out with other kids, then Dean was glad to do it.
Dean watched Sam gallop as if he was riding a horse, then plop down on the grass tiredly, when suddenly Dean felt as if he was being watched. He scanned the backyard warily before catching sight of two small hands clasping the picket fence between their yard and the neighbours', along with incredibly blue eyes staring right at him underneath a head of messy black-brown hair. As soon as they made eye contact though, the hands and head disappeared. Not fooled, Dean walking over to the fence, stuck his head over the side, and looked down. Crouching in the grass was a small boy with a puppyish face, probably a little younger than him, looking up at him guiltily with those startling blue eyes.
"Hiya," Dean said, grinning.
"Hi," the boy finally responded quietly after a good six seconds had passed.
"Watcha doin' down there?" Dean asked, leaning his elbows on the fence.
"Watching," the boy confessed timidly. "Sorry," he added, as if afraid he'd get in trouble.
"S'okay," Dean assured him. "My name's Dean Winchester, what's yours?"
"That's a funny name," Dean said without thinking. Castiel's face fell a little bit. "Oh, no, don't get me wrong, it's nice," Dean added hurriedly. "Just kinda a mouthful. Can I call you Cas instead?"
"Sure." Castiel smiled shyly, standing up. Dean noted how short he was, only a few inches taller than Sam.
"How old are you, Cas?" Dean asked, trying to continue the conversation.
"Cool, your age is right between me and my brother Sam," Dean said, pointing to his little brother, who was still sitting in the grass. It looked like he was trying vainly to catch a ladybug. Cas watched interestedly. Dean continued, "He's five, and I'm nine. D'you wanna play with us? We're playing cowboys. Well, sorta. Sammy's not very good at being a bad guy. He doesn't quite understand what to do 'cause he's little and hasn't watched as many cowboy movies as I have. But you'll have fun anyway, prob'ly." Dean looked at the younger boy hopefully. Cas squinted a little and chewed on his lower lip, thinking.
"Okay," he finally decided. "I'll play with you. I guess my parents won't mind." He attempted to pull himself over the fence, but he almost fell backwards onto his rear instead.
"Here, lemme help," offered Dean, reaching out his hand. He managed to half-pull the skinny boy over the fence. Cas tumbled to the ground, but stood right back up immediately. He surveyed the Winchester's backyard with wide, unblinking eyes. The yard was all grass except for the wood deck covered by a patio covering. The grass was a tad bit too long and could use mowing, but it didn't look unkempt. In one back corner there was a tall elm tree, and in the other was a small garden, laid out with wooden beams.
"We can play wherever we want, just not Mom's fruit and vegetable garden," Dean explained. Cas stared at the garden while working up the courage to ask a question.
"Is your mom home?" he finally asked.
"Yeah, she's inside. Is yours?"
"What about your dad?"
"I live with my stepdad, and he's not home either." Dean looked at him incredulously.
"They left you all alone? You're only seven!"
"Yeah." Cas looked at the ground. Dean decided to drop the subject, noticing the boy's sudden mood drop.
"How long has your family lived here? I've never seen you around before."
"We just moved in two days ago. We used to live in Pontiac."
"Cool, is it nice there?" Dean asked, racking his brain to try and figure out where Pontiac was. He came up with nothing and decided to ask his mom later.
"It was okay." Cas shrugged. "But I like it here better already. I don't know why exactly." Dean was struck by how carefully enunciated all of Castiel's words were. There were no slurs, no words strung together. He couldn't help but wonder why a kid two years younger than him talked better, like a grown-up. Just then Sam walked up, holding something in his hands and looking triumphant.
"Dean, lookit! I finally caught the ladybug," he cried, opening his hands to reveal the small red beetle crawling on his palm.
"Good job, squirt," Dean congratulated, ruffling his brother's floppy chestnut hair. It needed a trim, Dean reflected, but Sammy was practically allergic to haircuts, he freaked out so much.
"My ladybug don't have spots though. Is it okay?" Sam questioned worriedly. Dean crouched down to examine the bug.
"Yeah, it's okay Sammy, that just means that it's a girl instead of a boy," he explained. Sam looked in wonder at the bug, before catching a glimpse of Cas and throwing him a suspicious look.
"Hi," said Sam cautiously.
"Hi," replied Cas. Apparently this was good enough for Sam, for he immediately relaxed and thrust his hands at Cas.
"D'you wanna see my girl ladybug?"
"Yes." Sam plucked it off his hand and put it on Cas'. Cas watched the bug crawl around on his thumb before it spread its wings and flew away.
"Bye, Mrs. Ladybug," called Sam, watching it fly.
"Sam, this is Cas. He just moved next door, and he's gonna play cowboys with us," Dean told his brother.
"I'm tired of playing cowboys, Dean," whined Sam. "I wanna catch more ladybugs." Dean sighed. The heat did nothing to improve his little brother's already spotty at best five-year-old temperament.
"Okay, fine," he muttered.
"I still want to play with you," said Cas hopefully. "If that's alright."
"Yeah, of course," said Dean, brightening. "You can wear Sammy's hat." He retrieved the cast off straw cowboy hat and handed it to Cas, who placed it awkwardly on his head, as if unsure exactly what to do with it.
Just then the screen door opened and Mary Winchester walked out, her wavy blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and holding a tray with two glasses of lemonade on it. Sam and Dean raced over to her eagerly, with Cas trailing behind hesitantly, looking wary.
"It's so hot, I thought you boys might want some lemonade," Mary said, holding out the tray to them. "There's more in the house if you want some after you've finished these." The two Winchester boys took their glasses right away, and Mary saw Cas' unfamiliar face. What she could see of it, anyway, for the younger boy was half hiding behind Dean.
"And who's this?" she asked pleasantly, nodding towards the brunette. Dean gulped down his mouthful of lemonade before responding.
"This is Castiel Novak," Dean answered, sounding out each word carefully like Cas did just to see how it sounded. He found it too much work and resumed his regular speech. "But that's really long so I just call 'im Cas instead. He's seven, his family moved next door two days ago, and he's home alone right now so he's playin' with me." Cas' cheeks flushed pink, self conscious at all the attention.
"Hello, Castiel," Mary said, smiling, amused at her eldest son's detailed description. "Nice to meet you, I'm Mary. Would you like some lemonade as well?"
"Yes, please," he answered shyly, peeking out from behind Dean.
"Alright, be back in a moment." Mary headed back inside. Cas watched her go.
"Your mom seems nice," he told Dean.
"Yeah," Dean agreed. "She's the nicest mom in the whole world." Cas didn't answer, but instead just watched Mary through the screen door thoughtfully.
"Is your dad home too?" he asked. Dean's face fell slightly.
"No. Our dad died two years ago. He was a Marine, and I didn't get to see him that much... Sammy barely remembers him. But he- he died a hero. That's what Mom says." Dean kicked at the grass at his feet. It had been a long time since his father's death, but it been a hard blow. It was like a wound that had never fully healed. If you picked at the scab too much, it would start bleeding painfully again.
Cas placed a small hand on Dean's shoulder. "I am sorry," he said quietly.
"It's alright," Dean said, eager to move on from the subject. "It's been a while." Cas just nodded, something sorrowful in his bright blue eyes that looked too old for his young face. Mary came back holding another glass of lemonade, which Cas gratefully took, thanking her politely. He downed it in three gulps.
"This is really really good!" he told Dean excitedly. Dean laughed at the boy's enthusiasm. Mary chuckled as well.
"I'm glad you like it," she smiled. "If you want more just let me know."
"Okay, thank you," Cas said. Mary retreated back indoors where the air conditioning was.
"When was the last time you had lemonade, Cas?" asked Dean, amused.
"Um." Cas thought for a moment. "A while," he finally decided. Dean shook his head in wonder.
"Well, come over to our house more and you can have lemonade all the time."
"Really?" Cas asked, looking up into Dean's green eyes hopefully.
"Really," Dean promised. "Now giddyup, pardner, we got ourselves a bank robber to rustle up." Dean said the last part in an exaggerated southern drawl that made Cas laugh and recaptured Sam's interest. The three of them played their game, running around shouting and laughing. Cas was a bit stiff at first, but he eventually warmed up and was soon yelling almost as loudly as the other two.
After about an hour of playing, a car pulled into the driveway of the Novak's house and shortly after a slender, boney woman with dark brown hair came to the gate in between the two yards, holding a brown paper grocery bag.
"Castiel!" she called sharply in a high, thin voice. Cas flinched. "Come help put away groceries and finish unpacking your bedroom." Cas turned sadly to the Winchesters.
"I have to go, my mom and stepdad are home," he told them. "Thank you for the lemonade and the cowboy games."
"Oh, okay," Dean said, his face falling a little bit in disappointment. "It was great meeting you."
"Bye Cas!" Sam cried, hugging the brunette tightly around his middle. "Come back tomorrow, okay?"
"If- if you want me to," Cas said happily, patting Sam awkwardly on the back and looking to Dean for confirmation.
"Absolutely! You can come over whenever. Every day, even. We'll do loads of cool stuff before summer's over, and we'll become even better friends." Dean told him, perking up. He couldn't stop a crazy grin from spreading over his face. The idea of having a friend who lived right next door was exciting. And, he could spend time with Cas and still keep an eye on Sam at the same time. Besides, being an older brother, protectiveness was naturally wired into him, and Cas seemed lonely. Dean made up his mind that he was going to change that.
"We're... Friends?" asked Cas quietly, staring into Dean's eyes seriously and tilting his head to the side slightly.
"Yeah, of course we are," Dean told him. Cas's eyes widened, then he smiled a little and looked at the ground.
"I don't think I've ever had a friend before," he admitted. Dean was shocked at this statement, but tried not to let it show. Instead he knelt to the ground so he could look the younger boy in the eye better, something he usually only did with Sam. Cas dragged his vivid blue eyes up off the ground to look at him.
"Well, you've got one now, okay? Me. So you're not alone anymore, and you don't need to be shy or scared. Got it?" Before Cas could answer, Sam slipped his hand into his and squeezed.
"You gots me too," Sam told him firmly. "So you gots two friends." A brilliant smile lit up Castiel's face.
"Thanks," he said happily to the Winchesters, beaming. "I'm glad you're my friends." He glanced reluctantly at his house and let go of Sam's hand. "I'll see you soon." He waved to the boys before he climbed back over the fence, a spring in his step, not even needing Dean's help this time, looking considerably happier then he had before venturing into their yard.
So, that's the first chapter! Thanks for reading! This is my first stab at a multi-chapter story. Exciting, I know. I've already got it all planned out, it should be nine or ten chapters. Probably ten because I won't be able to stand it if it's an uneven number, haha. Updates will be about once a week, maybe a little sooner, maybe a little later. I'll do my best :) Reviews make me incredibly happy! Have a good life, see you next week!