Castiel first met Dean on a cold day in December. He could remember it
as well as anything. The air had smelt of burning leaves and his breath
had puffed out his mouth in clouds of heat. Dean was walking a dog. He
always walked the dog this time. Every day. Castiel knew just by
looking at the man. He had a process.
Dean raised a hand to wave at Castiel when he saw the other man
watching him. It was an unusual response and it plucked at Castiel’s
Dean shuffled in place and turned back to leave, whistling for the dog.
It followed, wagging a puffed tail through the air as it walked.
Castiel let out the breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. It
dissappeared into the sky.
The third time Castiel saw Dean Winchester— for now he knew his name
—it was spring. Winter had been kind to Dean, softening his features
from the nights spent laying out by the fireplace. The leaved were
starting to push out of the trees and lace into the branches once more.
It was beautiful, but Castiel hardly noticed.
He watched as Dean shouted over the fence for his younger brother. ‘Get
your damn dog out of the way, Sammy!’
Sam ran out of the house and shouted something in return. Castiel
didn’t pay attention. Dean got into his Impala and slammed the door,
the sound hung in the air for a moment and everything froze. Dean met
eyes with Castiel. He grinned from across the street. Castiel sucked in
another breath of his cigarette and stared back. Dean settled into his
car and drove away. The world went on turning.
The seventh time Castiel saw Dean, there was a game on. Castiel wasn’t
He could remember it perfectly, watching the laugh lines on Dean’s face
as Sam threw popcorn across the couch in his brother’s direction. The
smell of candles floated over the smell of roasted meat from the
kitchen. Sam’s fiancee was making turkey. Castiel was grateful to be
Dean smiled at Castiel, asked him questions. Castiel nodded his head in
reply. The dog on the rug lifted his head and looked at Sam with tired
Dean’s attention returned to the game.
The twelfth time Castiel stood next to Dean Winchester, the air was hot
and the lawn was wet beneath bare feet. Dean tossed a baseball through
the air. Sam caught it easily and chucked it back.
Castiel stood across the street.
‘Cas!’ Dean had shouted, he remembered it clearly, ‘You’re missing
out!’ Castiel walked across the road. The dog barked, running about his
feet in it’s elation.
The ball hit Castiel in the shin. He blinked in momentary shock before
looking back up. Dean was laughing. Sam was on the verge of tears.
Castiel was happy to be there.
The two-hundredth time Castiel saw Dean Winchester, he was thirty two
years old. There was a card in his mailbox, and a newspaper on his
porch. The air smelt like rain. Winter was coming, and he’d wrapped his
scarf tighter around his neck and let out a puff of air.
Dean pulled dead leaves and slush from his gutters, cursing in gutteral
tones at the ‘damned things’. Castiel blinked and his eyelashes were
cold against his face.
The sky opened up, and rain came down by the bucketfull. Dean slipped
from his perch, landed on his back, and didn’t make a move to get up.
Castiel sprinted to his yard, and shouted for Sam.
The two-hundred-and-sixth time Castiel saw Dean, he was trudging out of
the hospital. It wasn’t a serious injury, and Sam was quick to thank
whatever god he could. Castiel was an athiest.
The three-hundredth time Castiel sat next to Dean was on New Year’s
Eve. Dean’s face was lit oddly by the lights in the bar. Sam had long
ago gone home. Castiel drowned out the noises to hear Dean speak.
‘That’s a year gone by.’ He had said. ‘Seems like a hundred.’
There was a comment from Sid, across the bar, how a near-death
experience can do that to a person. Castiel twitches impulsively. Dean
The music is shut down, faces turn to the television screens. Dean
turns away. Castiel watches the television. Sid comments on the
silence. He’s immediately reprimanded.
Dean sucks down the rest of his beer and heads for the door.
The five-hundredth time Castiel sees Dean, it’s a Thursday.
Dean’s girlfriend Cassie is sitting behind a grand piano. She plays a
light melody Castiel doesn’t recognize. Dean sits behind her on the
rug, lazily patting the head of Sam’s dog. He smiles at her, and it’s
Castiel feels his stomach flip. He leaves the room.
The six-hundred-and-twentieth time Castiel is with Dean Winchester, the
windows are foggy. It’s been raining for days now. Castiel doesn’t find
it in himself to care. The band on Dean’s finger has his complete
attention. Castiel can almost see the reflection of the ceiling fan
abovehead. Cassie is at the supermarket.
The seven-hundred-and-second time Castiel sees Dean, he feels a pull.
There’s been a service, and many people cry. Castiel finds he doesn’t
have the tears.
Dean is stepping to the beat of the music, in turn with Cassie
Winchester, and the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Castiel’s fists
work themselves into the tablecloth. He doesn’t look away.
Sam sits beside him. His look is knowing, but he is silent. Castiel
enjoys his company.
The nine-hundredth time Castiel sees Dean Winchester, he cries.
There’s an infant in her arms, and Dean looks at her. He’s in love all
Castiel thinks he’s happy. He isn’t sure he can tell the difference
between happiness and sadness anymore. Sam holds his shoulder
reassuringly. Castiel isn’t sure why. Dean doesn’t notice.
The thousandth time Castiel sees Dean Winchester, he can’t move.
Dean lays stiff on the cushion, eyes closed hours ago by the mortician.
Sam stands beside him. Castiel notes that he doesn’t cry either. He
supposes they are similar in some respects. ‘It was his heart.’ He
hears the words in his head like it was yesterday.
Castiel stays long after the others have gone, the only exception is
Cassie. She sits by the coffin and sniffles. Castiel thinks they aren’t
The thousand-and-first time Castiel sees Dean Winchester, he stares at
the stone and blinks.
Castiel doesn’t say what he needs to, the words choke out of his throat
uncomfortably. He stands nearby. He loses track of how long.
‘I’m sorry.’ Sam says under his breath. Castiel shakes his head. ‘He
was your brother.’
Sam leaves, eventually. He needs to go home to his wife.
Cassie had left long ago. Her daughter wouldn’t stop shrieking in her
tiny little voice.
Castiel doesn’t say it.