Dean loved his boyfriend. Ever since he met him 15 years ago, Castiel had held a place in Dean’s heart. Castiel’s family moved into the house down the street during the summer when Dean was 10 years old. The first time he saw him was on a Sunday when he rode his bike past the house with Sam in tow on his way to the playground. Castiel sat on his porch swing reading a book. He wore a button up light blue shirt, khaki pants, and dress shoes. Dean figured he had just come back from church. Dean stopped his bike and called out to him from the sidewalk, “Hey!” The boy ignored him so he shouted louder, “Hey! Wanna come play?”
The dark-haired boy looked up. He appeared a bit surprised to be addressed. “No, thank you,” he called back in a hesitant tone.
Dean shrugged, called out a goodbye, and hurried to catch up with Sam who was several houses ahead.
Every day for the next week, Dean passed by the new kid’s house on his way to the park. Every day, he asked him to play and the other boy politely declined. He always had a book and always wore dress clothes. Dean thought it was a little strange, but he was determined to make friends with him. None of his other friends lived as close as the boy did and it would be great to play with someone other than Sam every day.
Finally, Dean had had enough. Once again, the quiet kid sat on the porch, book in hand. Dean stopped his bike and made his way up the walkway. It wasn’t until Dean was a few feet away that the boy seemed to notice him. Surely, he’d heard him approaching? “Hey. I’m Dean. I live down the street in that yellow house,” Dean pointed as he spoke.
The other boy raised his blue eyes to look at Dean. “I know. I’ve seen you playing in the yard.” He chewed on his lip and fingered the edge of his book. “I’m Castiel.”
“No. Cas-tee-el,” the boy said slowly as he enunciated each syllable.
“Castiel.” Dean smiled at Castiel. “I’ve never heard that name before.”
Castiel looked embarrassed. “My brothers and I were named after angels. Their names are Michael and Gabriel.” Castiel dropped his eyes. “I got the weird name,” he mumbled.
“I like your name,” Dean insisted. “It’s cool. Makes you sound smart.” Castiel beamed at him. “Is that why you always dress that way? Y’all go to church a lot?”
Castiel looked a bit embarrassed again. “Um, just on Sunday mornings. This is just what my mother buys me.”
“Oh. Um, hey, why don’t you ever wanna play? Is it cause you don’t wanna get those clothes dirty? Cause you can wear some of my play clothes.”
Castiel squinted at him as he spoke. “Did you ask if I wanted to wear your clothes?”
Wasn’t he listening? Dean huffed, “Yea, to play in. So you don’t get those fancy ones dirty.”
“I can’t play,” Castiel said quietly.
“I, um,” Castiel sighed, “I have a health condition. I have problems with my neck and my lungs. I can’t run because I can’t breathe properly and if I fall, I could be paralyzed.”
“Paralyzed?” Dean asked.
“It means my spinal cord could become so damaged I wouldn’t be able to walk anymore. Or I could die.”
Dean’s eyes got huge. “Oh, I don’t want you to get hurt! How did you get that?”
Castiel shrugged, “I was born this way. That’s why we had to move here. To be closer to my doctors.” Castiel hung his head again.
“So, you can’t play?” Dean asked sadly.
“Not if it’s too physical. It’s ok. I don’t mind. I have my books.”
“We could do other stuff,” Dean said. “We could play with my action figures, or color or something.”
Castiel’s smile brightly. “Really? You don’t mind?”
“No Cas. We’ll just have to get creative. Use our imaginations.”
“Ok. Thank you, Dean.” Castiel put his book down and stood up. “What should we do?”
“Um…” Dean looked around before he though of something. “Oh! We could watch the clouds and see who can find the most shapes.”
“How do we do that?” Castiel asked with a head tilt.
“You just need your imagination Cas. Just like with your books.”
Over the next few years, Dean and Castiel became inseparable. Dean never minded that he had to slow down to play quietly with Cas. At first, it was a challenge. He had set his mind on becoming friends with this kid and he would do whatever he could to make it happen. It became more than that though. Not being able to run and play left little else to do but talk. They talked about everything. All their hopes, dreams, and fears. Castiel wrote stories while Dean colored the pictures, they had epic action figure battles, and cloud watching turned into a regular occurrence. They became each other’s safe haven. They would create fantastic imaginary worlds together and developed an unbreakable bond.
Dean finally learned that Castiel had Klippel-Feil syndrome. It was a rare disorder that affected everyone differently. In Castiel, it had resulted in several fused vertebrae in his neck, some extra ribs, rib fusions, under-developed lungs, and hearing problems. Castiel was 12 when he finally got hearing aids. He was afraid he would get teased for them, but Dean told Cas it was awesome that he had robot ears and helped him cover them in stickers so they looked cool.
When Castiel was 13, he finally convinced his mother to let him go to school. Until that time, he had been homeschooled. After many meetings with the school to ensure her son’s safety and several promises from Dean to watch out for him, Naomi agreed. Castiel was very bright and was in all honors classes. He was very quiet and still wore dress clothes. He was teased often at first and Dean got in trouble for starting several fights in defense of his friend. But the bullies grew bored and eventually left him alone. Most of the other kids finally accepted him once they realized what a good heart he had.
It wasn’t until the boys were 16 that Dean’s feelings for his best friend changed. Castiel had been more tired than usual. Dean also noticed him coughing often. When he asked about it, Castiel told him he just had a little cold, but he was trying to hide it from his mother because she worried so much. After a few days, Castiel collapsed in the lunch line at school. Dean caught his friend before his head hit the ground. He sat there with Castiel’s head in his lap as they waited for the ambulance. As Dean sat there staring into his pale, too still face he realized how much he cared for him. Surrounded by teachers and hysterical students, he became overwhelmed with love for Castiel.
He never left his friend as he was transported to the hospital. He stayed outside his room as doctors worked to treat him. He consoled a frantic Naomi after she arrived. Castiel was diagnosed with pneumonia and spent a week in the hospital. Dean rarely left his side. Unfortunately, the antibiotics used to treat Castiel’s illness also damaged his hearing further. He had to get stronger hearing aids, but they didn’t help much. His doctor presented him with two options; he could get a cochlear implant or learn sign language for daily conversation. Naomi and Castiel’s father Zachariah strongly pushed for the surgery, but Castiel refused. He didn’t want to have yet another specialist he had to check in with. He especially didn’t want brain surgery or to spend more time in the hospital. He was afraid this would cause a rift with Dean as well, but like always, Dean refused to let anything get in the way of their friendship.
Castiel’s family, with the exception of Gabriel, refused to learn any signs besides what was absolutely necessary. Dean suspected they were being purposefully difficult to try and push Castiel towards surgery. Dean and Cas went to all the classes together. Even his parents and Sam learned some signs to try and communicate with Castiel. He spent increasing amounts of time at the Winchester home until by the time he was 18, he was practically living there except to go home and sleep. The boys were closer than ever. They spent more and more time in silent conversation and most of the time could communicate with just a look or a single gesture.
Castiel had worked hard to keep up with all of his classes and was graduating high school on time with Dean. It was after graduation that Dean finally planned to tell Castiel how he felt about him. Dean cheered as Castiel crossed the stage. He heard a whistle and turned to see his father, Sam, and Gabriel holding a giant banner that read, “Congratulations Castiel!”. He turned back to see Castiel grin and wave before leaving the stage. A short while and another giant banner later, Dean received his diploma as well. After the ceremony, the boys went to lunch with their parents. As usual, things were awkward when the two families got together these days as most of the party was doing some combination of speaking and signing while majority of the Novaks sat there looking annoyed. Gabriel always took the chance to sign dirty jokes right under his parents’ noses, which always got the biggest laughs.
Dean and Castiel went off on their own after lunch. John had gifted Dean his 67 Impala for graduation and the boys went off for a drive. They stopped at a park and lay in the grass together watching the clouds. Dean kept pointing out more and more romantic shapes like flowers, hearts, and couples kissing until finally Cas started looking at him strangely.
Dean sat up and asked Cas to do the same before he raised his hands to sign. “We’ve been playing this game since we were 10 years old. Back then, all I could see were cars and animals and superheroes. We kept playing as we got older and I saw different things. I started seeing what you saw. Books and chess pieces. I even saw a few that looked like your hearing aids or your funny ribs from those CT scans you showed me.” Castiel laughed loudly at that and Dean chuckled as he watched him. Castiel finally composed himself, his sparkling eyes trained on Dean, and indicated he continue. “It wasn’t until you got sick that I started seeing things differently again. I started seeing a future with you Cas. I can’t imagine my life without you in it. Even in the clouds, I can only imagine you. Only you. I-I love you Cas.”
Dean chewed on his lip as he waited for Castiel’s reaction. Castiel sat frozen with his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open. Dean’s stomach dropped and all he could think was that he blew it. Over a minute passed before Castiel started to respond. His mouth slowly split into a wide grin. He huffed a laugh before launching himself at Dean and wrapping him in a fierce hug. Dean hugged back before he felt Castiel start to pull away. He let him go and raised his hands to sign again but was stopped by Castiel grabbing his face and kissing him. His world fell as silent as Castiel’s. Sound and sight vanished. All that mattered was the feel of Castiel’s lips on his, the warmth coming from his body, the taste of his mouth, the smell of his cologne. All of it was Cas.
They stayed locked together for a few moments. Kissing lips and roaming hands. Eventually they broke apart and sat smiling at each other with their foreheads touching. Castiel raised a hand and Dean looked down to see him sign, “I love you too.”
Dean and Castiel attended college together. Dean got a degree in mechanical engineering and Castiel got an accounting degree. Eventually, the plan was to start their own auto repair business together, but for now Dean worked at car dealership and Castiel worked balancing the books for an animal shelter.
Today though, they were celebrating their seven year anniversary. Castiel thought they were going out for a nice dinner. While Castiel got ready, Dean packed a picnic and hid it in the trunk of the Impala. After they passed the restaurant, Castiel got Dean’s attention to ask where they were going. Dean told him to wait and kept driving. He soon pulled up to a park. He went to the trunk to retrieve the picnic basket and Castiel was delighted by the surprise. They once again lay in the grass to play their old game. A few minutes later, Dean heard the plane.
He pointed it out to Castiel and together they watched it cross the sky. Thick white smoke started coming out of the back and Castiel looked concerned until he realized it was a sky writer. He chuckled as he watched the first letter form before he looked at Dean who sat watching Castiel’s face. They shared a few gentle kisses before Dean broke away and pointed back at the sky. It took a moment before Castiel realized what he was looking at. There, written in the clouds were the words “MARRY ME?”.
With wide eyes, Castiel turned back to Dean who had produced a little box from his pocket. With a nervous smile, Dean handed it to Castiel. Castiel let out a small sob as he took the box. He opened it to see a beautiful silver band. Dean pulled the ring out and held it between them in his left hand. With a question on his face, he signed, “Will you Cas? Will you marry me?”
In his rarely used voice Castiel shouted, “Of course I will!” They fell into each other’s arms crying and kissing and laughing all at once.
Dean heard a laugh and looked up to see Sam and Gabriel standing nearby, camera in hand. Castiel noticed them too and smiled. He lifted his hands to sign and looked at Dean, “You had them record that?” Dean grinned and nodded. “Oh, that’s wonderful! This was perfect Dean.” He turned to Gabriel. “Can you please turn that off? I’d rather you not get the part where I’m crying.”
“Sorry bro, no can do,” he signed back. “This is the best part. Totally going in the wedding video.” He turned and high-fived Sam. Castiel gave them the finger and turned back to Dean. He had a fiancé who needed more kisses.