Title: The Soul Piece
Pairings: eventual Dean/Castiel
Word Count: 3,404
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. I am making no profit from this fanfiction.
Warnings: Vague season 5 references are starting to filter in.
Summary: When a human child is born, their soul is shattered into bright gleaming pieces that scatter to the winds.
Author's Notes: Castiel and Dean have their first fight. Sort of.
Ok, so I want everyone to know that the first half of this chapter takes place on August 26th, 1983. There are two reasons for this. A. So you get an idea of where we are in the timeline. B. Because that's when yours truly was busy being born a few states over. I didn't put it in the chapter, but I'm pretty sure Castiel knew something significant was happening that day. He just didn't know what. ;)
Also, Merry Christmas!
"Oh Castiel, I keep meaning to tell you about next week."
Castiel is in the Winchester's living room with Mary, Sam and Dean. Mary is seated on the long sofa and Sam is nestled happily in her arms while she feeds him. Dean is sitting on the floor across from Castiel and together, they are playing a game called 'hot hands'. Dean lays his small hands in Castiel's larger ones and tries to tear them away before Castiel can flip his hands over and slap them. Dean's reflexes are extraordinarily quick, so Castiel tests him by using his much faster wings. When Dean jerks back under the hard tap of feathers, he accuses Castiel of cheating, though he is laughing as he does so.
"What happens next week?" Castiel asks curiously. He likes being included in the Winchesters' plans.
"Dean's going to school," she says somewhat wistfully.
For his part, Castiel is stunned into silence. He knows what school is, of course and he understands education is a necessary element of surviving in Dean's world. But his research had led Castiel to believe that Dean would not have to start until the following year. It isn't something Castiel is eager to welcome because it will complicate their visiting schedule. Between sleep, time with family, Castiel's other duties and Dean's classes, it will be difficult to find the time for each other.
"Isn't that early?" Castiel finally asks with a frown.
"Well, it's pre-school actually," Mary explains. She is feeling equal measures of pride and melancholy. Castiel thinks perhaps she is also not ready for this change in their normal schedule, though she is more accepting of it than Castiel. But Mary's had her whole life to become accustomed to human traditions. Castiel doesn't understand why Dean has to go away from his home to learn what he needs to know to survive. Surely Mary and John could teach him the necessary tools.
"What is the difference?" Castiel asks as Dean makes him trade hand positions, so that he can try to escape Dean's slaps.
"It's not as formal as regular school. It's more about getting ready for kindergarten," she says. "They'll help him keep learning his letters and work on vocabulary. Things like that."
Castiel nods. Dean has been learning to recognize and write the letters of the English alphabet. As much as Dean enjoys having stories read to him, he's been having an easier time identifying the words of his favorite songs. Castiel isn't very surprised. Music is a special language all its own. It helps write words of power into the hearts of men. It makes sense that it would do the same with ordinary words. Castiel has been helping as much as possible, though once Dean discovers that Castiel can speak any language known on Earth and several that aren't, Castiel ends up spending most of their reading time translating Dean's songs and stories into dozens of different languages. Dean favors Spanish, Latin and Arabic, but his favorite is Castiel's own native tongue, a language without name. Dean likes it because he thinks it sounds like rain and crickets.
"But mostly it's about learning social skills," Mary adds as she wipes at Sam's mouth.
"Social skills," Castiel repeats uncertainly.
"Yes, you know." Mary glances at him and then smiles when she sees he obviously doesn't know. "Socialization. Dean has to learn how to act at school. Away from home."
"Oh," Castiel says, understanding a little better now. He forgets sometimes that humans must learn the difficult and often irrational rules that govern their own particular culture. Angels don't have to deal with this education. They are created with full knowledge of their world and their purpose.
"What rules must he learn?" Castiel asks, eyes on Dean as he pulls away from their game in favor of standing and turning in circles.
"There's all kinds really," Mary says, also watching Dean make himself dizzy. "Getting along with the other kids, obeying the teacher, sitting quietly. Basically learning how to function in the world outside our family."
Castiel feels an unexpected pang at this information and he thinks maybe he understands why Mary felt a bit sad. Not only because she'll have less time with Dean, but because Dean will be widening his circle of acquaintances. It's the beginning of a separation process that appears to take years to complete in Dean's culture. Of course, Dean will always be connected to his home and family, but he'll be slowly building his own life and eventually will create his own family.
School is just one of the many places Dean will go that Castiel can't follow.
"I don't want to go to school," Dean suddenly says, pausing and stumbling to the side.
Mary sighs wearily as if she's heard this before, but Castiel is surprised. He knows Dean enjoys spending time with the children his age in their neighborhood.
"Why not?" Castiel asks as he stretches out one wing, catching Dean before he can spill into the floor. Dean rolls into the wing until he ends up by Castiel's side.
"I wanna stay here with Sammy," Dean says forlornly, wrapping Castiel's wing around his shoulder and burrowing into Castiel's side.
"He's mad that Sam isn't old enough to go with him," Mary says, hiding a smile.
Dean doesn't want to go where Sam can't follow.
Castiel never thought he'd have so much in common with a human.
"Daddy says I have to go," Dean says with resigned acceptance. This is the final word in Dean's life. His father says he must go and so he will go.
Another thing they have in common.
Castiel hugs Dean, wrapping him in wings and waves of warm affection from his Grace. It helps bolster Dean's mood, but Castiel still senses that Dean is upset about this school development. He is even less eager than Mary and Castiel to change their schedule.
"You must go to school so you can teach Sam what you have learned," Castiel says reasonably. He thinks this is the best way to convince Dean of school's importance. Judging from the way Dean's mood brightens even further, Castiel sees that he is correct.
They spend the rest of Castiel's visit talking about the various topics Dean will study. When Castiel takes flight once more, he leaves Dean holding Sam in his lap and telling his brother that he will teach him colors and numbers. Sam doesn't understand anything Dean is saying, but his soul glimmers with pleasure at Dean's attention.
A few days later, Uriel catches Castiel's mind wandering during their guard duty. Since Castiel's distraction was due to worrying about Dean learning to focus his attention, Castiel is too embarrassed to confess the real reason to Uriel. Although Uriel's sour expression is a fairly accurate indication that he knows the subject of Castiel's thoughts regardless.
When Dean's first day of school arrives, Castiel decides to check on him. Just to be sure he's having a good day.
The light of Dean's soul calls to Castiel from a large brick building not far from the Winchesters' home. The building has only one level, but is spread out enough to accommodate the presence of hundreds of humans. Behind the building, there is a flat grassy area sprinkled with metal contraptions that Castiel identifies as large toys. They are covered in children, but as none of them are Dean, Castiel continues into the building, taking care to remain cloaked.
Castiel finds Dean in a room that is labeled PRE-SCHOOL-MRS. CRENSHAW. He is sitting in a circle with other children his age and they are playing a game that involves passing a ball to one another. The teacher, an adult female Castiel suspects is the aforementioned Mrs. Crenshaw, leads the game with a firm, but gentle voice. Castiel watches as Dean is given the ball and must decide which of his classmates will receive it next.
He is having fun.
The game ends a short time later and the students return to small chairs attached to low desks. Mrs. Crenshaw takes her place in front of the classroom and raises her hand into the air. This must be a signal to the children because they become quieter, their little voices trailing off as Mrs. Crenshaw waits for their attention. Once she has it, she gives them a wide smile.
"Very good!" Her voice is bright and encouraging and Castiel can see how it pleases the children. "Alright. It's time to move onto another lesson. We're going to learn about families. Everyone has a family and everyone's family is different. In a little while, we're going to draw pictures of our families."
This information sends a wave of excitement through the students and Mrs. Crenshaw has to raise her hand again to command their attention.
"But before we do," she continues. "Would anyone like to tell us about their family?"
Fifteen small hands shoot into the air, Dean's included. In this case, the raised hand must signal the desire to speak rather than a desire for silence because after a quick perusal of the students, Mrs. Crenshaw points to a girl with blond hair flowing down her back. The girl stands from her chair and twirls a lock of her hair around her finger.
"Yes, Marisa," Mrs. Crenshaw says. "Who do you live with?"
"Um, there's Mommy," Marisa says. Her voice is soft and her soul glimmers quietly, almost shyly. "And Grandma and Janie."
"Who is Janie?"
"My big sister," Marisa explains, her timidity easing a touch at the thought of her sister. "She's ten."
This process of sharing continues through three of the other children. In between each presentation, Mrs. Crenshaw points out the differences and similarities between each child's family and emphasizes that each family is special in its own way. Castiel enjoys this lesson. He thinks about his own family. It's probably a good thing he's not in this class because it would take far too many hours for Castiel to enumerate all his many brothers.
After the fourth child, Mrs. Crenshaw calls on Dean to share. He stands up, cheeks blushing, but doesn't say anything for a long moment. Having the attention of his entire class has apparently embarrassed Dean into silence.
"It's alright, Dean," Mrs. Crenshaw says in an encouraging tone. "Why don't you tell us about your family members?"
"Um," Dean says. It's a common word among the children. "Um, there's Daddy," he finally says. "And Mommy and Sammy and Cas."
Castiel's wings flutter in pleasure at being included and the soul piece he carries answers with a shiver of its own.
"Who are Sammy and Cas?" she prompts dutifully.
"Sammy is my brother," Dean states proudly, his shyness forgotten. "He's a baby and I get to help take care of him."
"Oh I see!" Mrs. Crenshaw looks impressed, but Castiel suspects that is more to support Dean to express genuine amazement. "Do you like being a big brother?"
"Uh huh," Dean says with a nod. "It's fun."
"Is Cas your brother too?"
"No," Dean says, drawing the word out and huffing a laugh as if the thought of Cas as his sibling is hilarious. "Cas is my angel."
Mrs. Crenshaw is taken aback by this information, but Castiel isn't sure why. Her soul has the shine of a faithful believer, one who truly loves God, so Castiel doesn't understand why she should be surprised by the presence of one of His angels in her student’s life.
"An angel?" she says, bemused. A closer look reveals a certain degree of disbelief. Castiel finds this very strange.
"Yeah," Dean confirms.
"Oh. Well...what does he look like?"
"He's tall," Dean says, stretching a hand up to indicate Castiel's great height. "He's got really big white wings and he wears a white jacket and he frowns a lot."
Castiel didn't realize this about himself.
"Oh an angel," Mrs. Crenshaw says, as if she now understands, though Castiel sees that she still doesn't believe Dean. "And he lives with you?"
"No," Dean says, frowning at her. "He lives in Heaven," he adds and it's clear he thinks this should have been obvious. "But he visits me a lot and when I grow up, we are going to live together and be a family."
Surprise blooms on Mrs. Crenshaw's face and she begins to say something, but Castiel is too shocked to note her words. Dean's never said anything like this to Castiel before. They've never discussed the future, but he’d believed Dean knew Castiel would always just be a visitor. In all the times Castiel had thought of that fact and felt regret, he'd always assumed Dean understood it as well.
He doesn't look forward to correcting Dean.
The sharing session continues for a short time and then the children are given piece of white paper and colored sticks. Castiel watches as they use the colored sticks to draw ill-formed pictures of their families. Dean's drawing is not very accurate, but Castiel recognizes himself as the splotch with two big triangles attached to either side of its body.
The next several minutes pass quietly and Castiel considers returning home to ponder what he's learned today, but before he does, Mrs. Crenshaw calls the class' attention and tells them to ready themselves for 'recess'. Castiel is too curious about 'recess' to leave before finding out its purpose. The students line up in front of the door and after Mrs. Crenshaw summons another adult for assistance, the class marches down the hallway and out of the building to the flat grassy area with the large metal toys. After a short explanation of the rules of 'recess', Mrs. Crenshaw allows the students to break their line. They run towards the metal toys, yelling and laughing as they go.
Dean goes to the metal toy he always favors at the playing grounds he visits with John on occasion. It is a swinging seat suspended from a metal bar. Dean sits in the seat and curls his fingers around the metal links attaching it to the metal bar. He steps back as far as the seat will allow and lifts his feet. This release propels his body forward quickly and like always, Dean's mouth curves up in a broad grin. He likes speed.
His swinging is interrupted a very brief time later by a short black-haired boy. The boy grabs the metal links, halting Dean's progress.
"I wanna swing," he says. All the other swinging seats are occupied, but Castiel still thinks the boy could be nicer about his request.
"I'm not done," Dean informs him, pushing at his hand. The boy holds tight and scowls.
"You been on it already. Lemme get on," he demands. His soul is a good one, but it's consumed with selfishness at the moment. A childish reaction, but not an evil one. Castiel wonders what Dean will do.
"Quit being a jerk," Dean says, frowning at the boy.
"I'm not!" The boy's face turns red. Apparently, Dean's reaction was not a desirable one. "You're dumb."
Dean plants his feet and crosses his arms over top of the metal links, so that they are captured firmly within his grasp. "No, I'm not. Leave me alone."
"Yeah, you are," the boy says, pointing at him. "You think angels are real."
"They are real!" Dean snaps, now becoming truly angry. "They are and I got one, so shut up."
"No, they're not," the boy counters. "You made it up."
"No, I didn't," Dean insists vehemently. His soul is affronted at this child's disbelief over Castiel's existence. He is offended on Castiel's behalf and on behalf of their connection. "He comes to see me when I need him. He always comes, I'll show you." Dean stands, abandoning the swinging seat and looks up. "Cas?"
Castiel's grace twists with unhappiness. He is trapped by this request. If he appears, he'll risk damaging the children playing nearby and the adults watching over them. Most of the children here are already losing the ability to see his true form and it's a certainly that the adults already have. Yet, if he doesn't appear, Dean will feel abandoned.
There is no doubt which choice he must make. Castiel can't hurt innocents, even to spare Dean this pain.
"Cas?" Dean says again, hesitation entering his tone. When Castiel still doesn't appear, the boy sneers at him.
"Told you, dummy," he says and stomps off.
Dean sits back in the swinging seat, his soul wounded, but there's nothing Castiel can do. Nothing except stay by his side, an invisible presence and watch him through the rest of his day.
When John stops by the school in his large black vehicle to retrieve Dean, Castiel finally takes his leave, shooting fast into the Heavenly realm towards the cool lake of crystal water where he always finds solace. As he dives into the lake, the frigid water pulling at his hair and cloak, Castiel thinks to himself that this is just one more reminder why Dean's vision of their future needs to be corrected.
Castiel returns to the Winchesters that evening after Dean's been put to bed. He is not surprised to find Dean wide awake and sitting beside his window, looking out into the night.
"Hello, Dean," Castiel says softly. Dean doesn't turn to him.
"Hi, Cas," he mutters.
"Are you alright?" Castiel can see that Dean is not alright, but he knows humans must be given the opportunity to discuss their emotions.
"Before, you didn't come because you was gone and I knew it. But I knew you was there. I felt you and you didn't come. So I'm mad at you," Dean informs him very calmly. His soul is more hurt than angry, but Castiel doesn't think it would be a good idea to make that distinction.
"I am sorry," he says instead. "I wish I could have appeared, but I didn't want to hurt the other children."
That comment finally turns Dean's attention towards Castiel and he gives him a reluctantly curious look. "Hurt them?"
"Yes. You can't forget that you are very special, Dean," Castiel explains, chancing to come closer. Dean longs to reach out to Castiel, but he is too stubborn to overlook how disgruntled he is with him in order to do so. Castiel sits on the floor beside him, leaving a space between them. "Only special people can see me without being hurt. Remember how I told you that your father couldn't see me?"
Dean nods slowly.
"It's the same. I truly am sorry, Dean, but I can only visit with you when it won't risk others," Castiel says.
"I don't like that," Dean says stiffly, crossing his arms over his chest, his frown still firmly in place.
Before Dean, Castiel never had a preference for how humans perceived him. He thinks it was clever of their Father to give the ability to only certain humans, those special enough to understand the awesome power angels wield. Those who wouldn't be tempted into taking that power for themselves.
But now, all Castiel wishes is that he could be seen by anyone Dean wanted.
"Neither do I," Castiel agrees.
They sit in silence for a time, Dean brooding to himself and Castiel waiting for Dean speak. It's quite some time before that happens and when it does, Dean sounds anxious.
"But what about when I grow up and we live together?" he asks, turning worried eyes on Castiel.
Castiel knows what he should say. It's the perfect opportunity to explain to Dean about their future. But Dean's eyes are pleading, asking Castiel to make everything alright and his soul fears further rejection. He trusts Castiel and Castiel is in danger of losing that trust. A sense of failure swells within his Grace, making Castiel feel weak and helpless and he hates it.
He can't disappoint Dean.
"We'll figure something out," Castiel says, the lie burning through him like hellfire. "Don't worry."
His wing stretches out, his feathers warm against Dean's back and Dean closes the space between them, leaning into Castiel's side.
"Okay," Dean says, relief making his head light. He lays it against Castiel's chest and Castiel envelopes Dean in his wing. "I love you, Cas."
Castiel tightens his hold on Dean and lays his cheek on Dean's head, his grace churning with guilt.
"I love you as well, Dean."
Read a bit of Dean's POV