The old floorboards creaked much more than he remembered as he inched across the grit and mold covered floor of the wide entry hall. There was a time when he could maneuver without making a sound, but those days were long over. He didn’t care how much noise he made as he made his way through the grime and decay of the derelict. No one had lived in the halls for many years.
The road had led him back to town, and it was only nostalgia that brought him back through the long abandoned doors of one of his childhood homes. The time he spent in the boys home with his younger brother seemed like a lifetime ago, but they were fond memories, a time of peace in a regularly unsettled childhood.
He took in how time had changed the large home. The walls had been changed from the clinical green he remembered to a cream, long stained and water damaged since its abandonment. Shattered panes let in a few rays of outside light past the grime covered windows and caused shadows to pool in corners and around piles of leaves, garbage and debris. The sound of young boys was replaced with water dripping and the creak of the wood under his feet. Despite knowing the house so well in his memories, it was shocking how time and neglect had ripped it apart.
A stab of empathy bolted through him. He and the house had stumbled down the same path. Suddenly, it was too much, and he turned to leave.
Movement, a creak too loud and sharp to be the settling of old foundations, caught his attention. He turned slowly. He knew he wasn’t alone, but whether it was human or animal, he had yet to determine. Caution had been learned in abandoned buildings from one to many run-ins with stray dogs. The irony that he’d be applying that knowledge on a visit to his childhood home was not missed, and he let out a quiet scoff of air.
Standing completely still, scanning the every nook he could, led him to a soft shuffle of movement from the hall up the stairs, just beyond clear sight. Something or someone was watching him.
“Hey,” he croaked out, voice rough from disuse. He cleared his throat before continuing. “If you’re human, I’m not here to mess with you.”
“How can I be sure?” A deep whiskey voice answered, quiet but strong.
Human then. Male.
“You can’t. But I was just leaving.” He replied, having no desire to encroach on someone else’s squat. He’d been there, taking any shelter available for the night, and it was a sort of humiliation that he had not wanted to share.
Just as he turned to leave again, the voice spoke again. “Why are you here?” It was unexpected curiosity from someone so determined to hide in the shadows. It made him pause.
“I used to live here, once upon a time…” It was a long story wrapped up in a simple sentence.
“I came back, too,” the voice whispered.
The statement was startling, but with his own experiences in the home it shouldn’t be. His own motivations for returning were probably similar to those of the man taking shelter there. He sought direction and comfort. After moment of silence, he spoke to the shadow again. “Yeah? Do I know you?”
“You remind me of someone… His name was Dean…”
The statement made his heart hiccup. He breathed. “You have a good memory.”
“Dean?” the voice cracked with emotion. The shadow in the upstairs hallway shuffled forward. A skeleton of a man with a shock of messy dark hair and surprisingly tan skin shuffled into the dirty light of the staircase. He halted within view, keeping his distance.
Dean squinted up at the man. A niggling of a memory stirred at the back of his mind - stormy blue eyes and a shy smile. Castiel. “Damn. Last time I saw you, you were a chubby little nerd. You grew up. Heya, Cas.”
The smile from Dean’s memory flickered across the man’s face. It wasn’t quite as bright, but the wear of the world would do that. “Hello, Dean.”
Castiel cautiously stepped down the stairs, keeping close to the wall. The creaking under his feet was worrying. It seemed he’d been there long enough to maneuver through old house again.
Once on the same ground as Dean, Castiel took a moment to really observe the man in front of him. He still had the same stormy blue penetrating gaze. It took all of Dean’s attention.
“You grew up, too, Dean. You’re taller than me now,” Castiel observed.
Dean chuckled. “Yeah…”
“Why are you here, Dean? Why did you come back?”
“I could ask you the same thing, Cas.”
The diversion Dean suggested was what finally broke Castiel’s gaze. He shuffled, swallowed, and squinted out the dingy, boarded windows. “I live here. It seemed just as good as anywhere else.”
It made Dean cringe, the matter of fact way it was delivered even more than the content of the statement. It seemed Castiel had accepted that he was living on nothing in the ruins of his childhood. “Cas…”
“I don’t need your pity, Dean.”
“Not pity.” Dean sighed. “Ok. A little bit of pity, but mostly concern. We were friends, Cas.”
“Were,” Castiel parroted with something that sounded like remorse.
“Look. I should go,” Dean said, needing to get away from the storm emotions threatening to head.
“Maybe that’s for the best,” Castiel sighed. His eyes, full of everything Dean was feeling, finally turned back to meet the other’s.
Dean turned. He was at the door when his resolve melted. Without turning to the other man, he spoke, “Sammy went to college. Dad died. I’m in the wind, Cas. That’s why I came back.” Half turning, so Castiel was in his periphery but he didn’t have to meet his gaze, Dean found himself more grounded. He breathed in the moldy air of the old house and continued with a new determination. “You’re in the wind, too, Cas.”
“I suppose I am.”
“Come with me. No more living in the past.”
Silence stretched between them, while Dean let his request sink in.
Without a word, Castiel bolted up the stairs. Dean was startled by the flurry of movement that broke all previous calm and calculated actions. He watched the top the stairs, wide eyed, confused by the sudden change in demeanor. The manic movements continued beyond his view and the actions forced worrying creaks from the rotten floors above.
When the startle wore off, Dean called up the stairs after Castiel. “Is that a yes?”
The answer came in the form of a man flying down the stairs with several ragged bags in tow. Castiel came to a sudden halt in Dean’s space. His eyes were sparkling. He breathed out an affirmative.
Dean grinned. “Well, let’s get on the road, Cas.”
Castiel nodded and strode out in before Dean with the spring of hope in his step.
As Dean closed the front door, he took one last look at the old house and whispered his thanks.