"Which one did Sonny want?"
Ash looks up as Castiel speaks and gestures vaguely, "The green one."
Castiel's tennis shoes squeak against the dingy tile as he steps forward to grab the closest green bag of chicken feed he could find. The shitty fluorescent lights above them shine on the plastic bag as Castiel throws it over his shoulder, flickering every few seconds to remind them how underfunded the store is. Ash watches him from the end of the aisle, an amused look on his face as Castiel struggles to keep in balance.
Hurleyville is an interesting place, small and quaint. People had greeted him and Ash on the way into the store that Ash always seemed to recognize, replying just as eagerly before pulling Castiel along so they won't take too long getting their stuff. Castiel supposes it comes with living in a small town of only about two thousand, though the smallest place he's ever lived in was a city of about thirty thousand, so he shouldn't be saying anything.
"You need help there, buddy?" Ash asks, a smug smile curling on his lips. Castiel shakes his head, annoyance creasing his brows. Ash likes to tease, but he had been one of the first boys to offer to have Castiel do chores with him, saying "I'll go easy on ya," with an awful wink and awkward finger guns. Castiel took to him instantly.
"Grab your own," Castiel shoots back. "We need to be back before at least the end of the decade."
Ash rolls his eyes, grabbing his own bag of chicken feed, hugging it to his chest as the pair begins to shuffle through the store. The bored cashier, who looks to be perhaps a few years older than Castiel, rings them up, curly dark hair bouncing with her every move. Castiel watches her, eyes flickering down to her large chest before over to her name-tag, reading a simple "Meg" with little doodles around it.
Ash catches on instantly, elbowing Castiel in the ribs before clearing his throat loudly. "I gotta go pee, you good here?"
He squints at the teenager, wanting to vehemently deny Ash his right to take a piss and stay with Castiel, but he doesn't want to embarrass himself, so he just shrugs instead. Ash grins, almost wolf-like, and disappears around the corner, most likely sticking around to watch.
"Some friend you got there, blue-eyes," Meg says, scanning the bags. Her words are slightly lilted, an accent he isn't able to put a name to. "What's your name?"
"Castiel," he replies, eyes fixed on a rather interesting stain on the floor. He hands her the twenty dollar bill and receives a few quarters and a dollar in return, Meg's fingers lingering when they brush again Castiel's palm. He tries not to pull away too quickly, setting the change in his back pocket to give to Sonny later.
"And you're new?" Meg asks, leaning forward with her elbows propped up. "Haven't seen you in little ole Hurleyville since now. I'm guessin' you're with Sonny up there on that farm?"
"Uhm, yes," Castiel says, a polite smile forced onto his face
"So how'd you end up there?" She hands him a receipt, and Castiel doesn't remember asking for one. She leans in as he takes it, her voice low as she says, "I bet you did something real bad, Clarence, with a rugged face like that."
"Excuse me?" he says, eyes widening at her tone. He doesn't bother to correct her calling him the wrong name. Maybe it's for the better.
"You know," she leans back, offering him a charming smile. "Every kid that heads to Sonny's is there for a reason. Your boy over there—" she nods in the general direction Ash had disappeared— "got in because of vandalism. Totaled his crackhead mom's car on purpose."
Castiel bites the insides of his cheeks, glancing away. It feels like an intrusion of privacy, learning about Ash's history secondhand. He doesn't want to be downright rude to Meg, but God would he love it if she quit talking.
"Oh, well, I—" he begins to speak, hoping to explain that he really hadn't done anything to get into Sonny's, when a hand lands on his shoulder and a cheery voice interrupts.
"Are we all checked out?" Ash asks. His voice is the same, happy-go-lucky tone he usually keeps it at, but there's something angry in the way he grips Castiel's shoulder, restrained rage and subtle passive-aggressiveness, something he's all too familiar with.
"Yes," Castiel nearly sighs in relief, somehow managing to suppress it. He grabs one of the bags of chicken feed off the counter, and Ash does the same.
"Let's go, Cas," he says, holding open the door for Castiel, eyes trained on Meg.
The summer sun sits directly above the two of them, not a cloud in sight to help block it out, and Castiel takes a moment to curse the hot weather, even if it's worse at the farm. He'd complain, but he has a feeling Ash won't ignore it like Chuck does and snark in reply instead.
"I'm sorry about her, dude," Ash says as they begin to walk out of the parking lot. Sonny's green truck is at the very end of the parking lot, the engine still rumbling quietly. "She's been such a bitch since she started hanging out with Lucifer. I thought with you she'd be different, but I guess not."
"Lucifer?" Castiel asks, eyebrows raised.
"Yeah, some shit college student who's still riding on his popularity from high school. Meg's a senior, so they used to be tight until he moved. When he came back she started hanging with him again." Ash scoffs, and kicks a rock as they walk. "She was actually pretty decent when he wasn't around."
"But his name is Lucifer?"
"Actually, I'm pretty sure it's Nick," says Ash. "He just wants everyone to call him Lucifer. I'm pretty sure that's what they called him when he played football. Anyway, he's an asshole, and when school rolls around, it's probably a good idea to avoid his posse."
Castiel hums his agreement, shifting the bag's weight in his arms as they approach Sonny's pickup truck. "I'm not exactly looking forward to doing that again. I'd like to think I'm safe."
Ash laughs at that and throws his bag of chicken feed into the bed of the truck, Castiel following suit easily.
Sonny greets them gruffly when they enter the truck, Ash sliding into the passenger's seat before Castiel could even think of calling dibs. The drive is silent, as Castiel finds it usually is, soft jazz playing through crackling speakers. A nice change of pace from Bob Seger, if Castiel has any say in it. This time, while driving through the thinning forest outside of Hurleyville, Castiel pays more attention. While driving with Chuck, he'd been wrapped up in his own thoughts, too much to actually take notice in his surroundings.
Most everything is green, sunlight casting shadows throughout the trees. There's an old, wire fence on either side of the road, though it's not taken care of nearly as well as any of Sonny's fences. Torn in places, old wooden posts rotting. It's rather disgusting, if he were to be honest with himself. There were times where he's lived in places like that—a rush of gratitude for Sonny hits him and he wonders where he'd would've ended up if Sonny had refused to take him in.
When they reach the farm, Castiel immediately notices something is different. There's no boys out, working on the lawn with their shirts discarded onto a hay bale, no loose chickens because Gabriel found it funny to scare the shit out of Aaron, just endless acres of tall grass and wheat and livestock. There is, however, an extra car parked outside the house. It's a red Honda, sleek and clean and glinting underneath the August sun.
Ash notices it too, pointing it out with a grin on his face and a few mumbled words to Sonny. Castiel can't see, but he can't tell the Sonny is smiling, too.
"What's going on?" he asks, though he feels like he already knows the answer. For the past six and a half days, there's been an unspoken rule to not mention the empty bed next to Castiel's, or the two, abandoned chairs at the dinner table. Castiel tried asking Alfie, once, hoping an eight-year-old boy would have loose lips, but Alfie had shut down the conversation immediately, much to his surprise.
"We're not supposed to talk about it." Alfie had said, his voice flat and determined. Castiel didn't push again.
"One of our boys," Sonny says, parking behind the Honda. "He goes to Philadelphia the end of every summer with Pam for about a week."
He doesn't explain any further, cutting the truck's engine and getting out. Castiel and Ash do the same, Ash jumping out with much more enthusiasm that Castiel could even pretend to have. Ash doesn't go to grab the chicken feed out of the bed of the truck, so Castiel doesn't either, instead following him into the house.
It's quiet inside, all of the other nine boys lounging around in the living room. Gordon is draped across the love-seat, muttering quietly as Alfie squishes himself on top. Aaron is sitting on the three-seater with Andy, Raphael, and Jesse (a quiet, reserved pre-teen boy Castiel hasn't really gotten to know yet), all four of them watching the intense game of cards going on between Garth, Benny, and Gabriel. Just a glance in the general direction tells Castiel that Gabriel is cheating, a sly ace of hearts tucked into his jeans pocket.
The sight makes him smile.
Ash toes off his boots and trots into the living room, collapsing beside Benny and sticking his feet up in the air for everyone to smell. Castiel doesn't do the same, shambling after Sonny into the dining room. There's a woman, sitting at the opposite end of Sonny's usual spot at the table. She's beautiful, with long, dark hair and even darker eyes, tan skin and a flash of brilliant white teeth as she grins at the two of them.
"Hey, Sonny," she greets, standing from her spot to pull the older man into a big hug. He chuckles in return, patting her on the back before pulling away.
"Real good to see ya, Pam," Sonny says. He turns slightly, motioning toward Castiel with a fond smile. "This is Castiel. He got here day after you left."
"Hello," Castiel says quietly, offering a hand for her to shake. Pam's gaze flickers from his outstretched palm to Castiel and back again, before she barks out a laugh and grabs onto Castiel, yanking him into a hug.
"It's good to meet you, boy," she says. Her arms are muscular, easily trapping him. She smells like men's deodorant, sawdust, and vanilla.
"Same to you," he mumbles as she finally lets go of him.
"Well, aren't you just a polite little thing?" She claps him on the shoulder, and Castiel winces at the force she used. "I'm real surprised you haven't been eaten alive by those barbarians out in the livin' room yet."
He just smiles in return, not really knowing what else to say or do until Sonny steps forward, his gritty voice right above Castiel's ear as he says, "Why don't you head on up to your room while Pam and I talk?"
It's an odd request, Castiel knows that, but he's not in a position to question the man, especially not when he's already looking for a way out of the conversation. So he nods, teeth dragging over his bottom lip as he turns around and leaves the two adults to themselves.
His fingers drag along the wall as he walks down the dim hallway, making sure his footsteps fall silent. The bedroom door is closed, light seeping through the cracks and muffled rustling coming from further inside. He opens the door and peers inside, unsure if he's intruding.
There's a boy, around his age, sitting cross-legged on Castiel's bed with one of his books (The Great Gatsby) in curled hands. His head snaps up, green eyes meeting Castiel's gaze, and for a moment Castiel forgets what he was going to say.
"Crap," the boy's voice fills the silence. He stands, setting the book on Castiel's nightstand carelessly, before continuing, "Hey, I'm sorry that I grabbed your stuff, dude."
"You're messy," the words slip from Castiel's mouth before he can stop them, taking in the open suitcase at the foot of the bed next to Castiel's. There are clothes littered around, as if the stranger had been trifling through his own belongs while looking for something. It is, truthfully, messy.
"Kinda, yeah." He looks down at the chaos he'd created with a big smile, his cheeks flushing.
Castiel takes a few steps further into the room, closing the door behind him before turning back to face the sandy-haired teenager. He has freckles, dusted along his tan skin that compliment his features. Castiel realizes, belatedly, that he'd been staring when the boy coughs lightly.
"Sorry," he offers, sticking his hand out. "My name is Castiel."
"Dean," comes the reply. There's a slight pause before Dean shakes his hand, and then comes a radiant smile, dimples and all. "I'm Dean Winchester."