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Crayons and Candy Bars

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A plush toy giraffe and two wedding rings. Tittle: Crayons and candy Bars, written by I. Franco (aint_no_holy_ghost) and art by leafzelindor.

Friday, February 9th (2018) – Chicago, Illinois

 

Castiel Novak’s day started as normal as any other. He woke up, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, and opened the curtains to let the sunlight in.

            He poured himself a big cup of coffee and slightly burned his toast. He turned the TV radio on to a low volume and settled at his desk to work on his current Latin-to-English translation for a history professor at the local university.

            At noon, he defrosted some leftover takeout from last night, watched some crappy day time television, and went back to work, uninterrupted until mid-afternoon when his phone––left on the coffee table in the living room––started ringing.

           “Hello?” He said, not bothering to check the ID.

           “Castiel. It’s Michael.”

           “Oh. Hello brother, I wasn’t expecting your call.”

            “Yes, I wish I didn’t have to give you this call either.”

           “Is everything okay?” Castiel asked as he sat down on the couch.

           “It’s…it’s Kelly,” his brother said heavily.

            Kelly Kline was his best friend and had been since college. They stood by each other during difficult times, especially after she and Castiel’s brother––Luke––slept together and Kelly got pregnant. Luke left without a second thought and Castiel helped her take care of his nephew, Jack. Recently, though, she received a great work proposal and moved to San Francisco with the boy.

            “What happened?” Castiel didn’t like the sound of his brother’s voice.

            “Car crash.” Michael’s voice was low and filled with anguish.

            “Oh, God. Is she okay? What about Jack? Was he with her?” Castiel felt like his heart was being compressed.

            “He was. He’s okay, just a few scratches. Gabriel’s at the hospital with him. I’m on my way to the airport. Kelly…she’s dead, Cas.”

         He ran a hand down his face, feeling his cheeks wet.

           “Dammit. Wh-what are we gonna do? W-with Jack, he can’t be with Luke. A-and Kelly’s got no real family left.”

           His heart flipped and bled inside his chest. His best friend in this world…

            “Well, one of us will have to take care of him. I would if I could, but right now I don’t quite have the time to…”

           Castiel remembered Jack’s fourth birthday party, on the past may. It was one of the last few times he had seen Kelly. It had been just them, Gabriel, Michael, and a few kids from their building. Everyone had been happy. When the party was over, Cas had stayed to help her clean everything up. I don’t know what I would do without you here, Cas, she had said. I don’t know what would be of me and Jack without you. They would’ve been just fine, he’d told her, because she was the strongest person he knew. Just promise me, she had asked him with a smile, if anything ever happens to me, you’ll take care of Jack.

           He had answered as he always did, of course, Kelly, and he had hoped he would never have to make due on his promise.

           “I will,” he interrupted his brother’s speech, “I’ll take care of him. I’ll catch the next plane to San Francisco.”

            “Uh, actually, Gabriel has already sent his private to you. It should be there in about an hour or so.”

            “Oh. Okay. That’s…” That sounds just like Gabriel, he thought, for once thankful for his brother’s extravaganza. “That’s great.”

            “Look, brother, I have to go; I’ll meet you there. Be safe.”

            “Right, you too.”

            Castiel ended the call, pressing his phone between his hands. He propped his elbows on his knees and let his tears continue to fall down his face.

            He packed a bag with a couple of changes of clothes and left for the airport in a taxi, still not able to wrap his head around what was happening.

 


 

He arrived in San Francisco by 8 pm. He had texted Gabriel and his brother was waiting for him in the crowded airport.

            “I’m so sorry, Cassie,” his brother whispered as he hugged him tightly.

            “Me too, Gabriel. Me too.”

 

The drive to the hospital was silent. When they got there, the girl on the front desk gave them directions for Jack’s room. Michael was sitting by the hospital bed while the boy slept, a couple of bandages on the kid’s forehead and arm.

           Michael got up as soon as he saw his younger brother and hugged him too.

           “How is he?” Castiel asked.

           “He’s okay. I’m not sure he understands much of what’s happening. The doctor said he can leave tomorrow, but we have no idea where to take him.”

            Castiel looked at Jack sleeping under a thin blanket. The four-year-old seemed peaceful in his sleep. His blond hair was a mess and he was wearing the Superman t-shirt Castiel had given him last Christmas.

           “Should we take him to the funeral?” Gabriel asked from where he leaned on the door frame.

            “When is it going to be?”

            “I don’t know. As soon as the hospital releases her body and we can prepare everything,” Michael answered.

            “Has anyone talked to Luke yet?” Castiel sat on the chair by the opposite side of Michael’s.

           “I did,” Mike said, taking back his place in the armchair. “He was an asshole, as always”

            “What did he say?”

            “That he was sorry about Kelly and there was nothing he could do about ‘the kid’.”

            Castiel shook his head in disbelief, though that was very much like something Luke would say. He doubted his brother even knew Jack’s name correctly.

            On the bed, Jack stirred and slowly opened his eyes, rubbing them lazily as he sat up.

            “Uncle Cas?” The boy mumbled.

            “Hello, Jack,” Castiel smiled at his sleepy nephew. “How are you feeling?”

            “My arm hurts,” the boy said showing Castiel the bandage near his shoulder. “Where's mommy?”

            Castiel glanced at his brothers and they shared a worried look.

            Reaching forward, Castiel put his hand on top of Jack’s small one, squeezed it.

            “Your mom is not here now, Jack. But me and your uncles are going to take care of you”

            “But… Where is she? When will she be back?” Jack looked at the three of them, his bluish eyes wet.

            “Jack, do you remember what happened?” Gabriel asked with a soft voice, coming closer to sit at the end of the bed.

            “A truck bumped on me and mommy.” Jack was a very smart kid and Castiel had suspected he would be able to connect the dots. “Uncle Cas, where's mommy?” A tear slowly made its way down the boy's rosy cheek.

            Castiel got up from the chair and sat beside Jack on the bed.

            “Jack… your mom she's… she's in Heaven now.”

            Jack stared at him, lower lip trembling, as he sniffed once. Then he threw his arms around Castiel's neck and started sobbing quietly on his shoulder. Castiel put his arms around the boy, rubbing a hand up and down his back.

            “Shh, it's okay, it's okay, Jack,” he tried, but the boy shook his head vehemently. “It's going to be okay.”

 


 

Jack cried himself to sleep in Castiel's arms. As he gently laid the boy back on the bed, someone knocked on the door.

            “Excuse me,” said the woman at the door, “I’m Mia Vallens from child protection services. I'm here to talk about Jack. I’ve been told he’s your nephew?”

            “Yes. I'm Michael,” Cas’ brother said, getting up to shake Mia’s extended hand. “These are my brothers, Gabriel and Castiel.” Michael pointed at each of them, who raised a hand in greeting.

            “It's good to meet you, gentlemen, although unfortunate, under such a circumstance.” She gestured at the opened door at her back. “Should we talk outside?”

            “Of course,” Michael said.

            They followed Mia to the hall, shutting the door to Jack’s room behind them.

            “Are you taking him with you?” Castiel asked as soon as he stepped foot outside the room.

            “Not right now. We prefer that he stays with his family until the funeral. I couldn’t contact his father, I was hoping you would give me some information on him.”

            “I’m not trying to speak ill of my brother,” Michael began, “but I don't believe he is in any condition to raise a child Jack's age.”

            “I was told he lives in Los Angeles, is that correct?”

            “Yes,” Gabriel said, “I live there too. But I don’t see Luke very often.”

            Mia shook her head and wrote something down on the notepad she carried.

            “Michael, what about yourself? Would you be willing to care for your nephew? In case the Judge chooses to not leave Jack with his father.”

            “I wish I could,” Michael lowered his head, “but I already have two other kids, my wife and I can't offer the attention he needs right now.”

            “I see,” Mia then turned to the younger Novak. “What about you, Castiel?”

            “Yes, of course. I would love to care for Jack. I know—”, he cut himself for a moment, “I knew his mother since college. We were very close friends. Not to be pretentious, but I believe that if she could no longer care for her son, Kelly would like me to do it for her.”

            “And she doesn’t have anyone else from her family?”

            They all said no.

            “Very well. You do seem like a centered person. Though I have to take some precautions. Jack will need a lot of attention in the coming months”

            “I work from home, I believe I'll have quite some time for him.”

            “That helps.” She wrote something else down and proceeded with her questions. “What do you work with?”

            “Translation. I make money enough to provide him well, I believe”

            “That's good. And are you married? It would be very good for Jack to have a balanced environment for now. It counts a lot in Court.”

            “I will be soon.” Both of his brothers turned their heads abruptly at him. He had no idea where that had come from. He wasn’t married, nor would he be anytime soon. But he was desperate and he’d do anything to take care of his nephew, even marry the first person he bumped into on the street.

            “Great. That's it for now, gentlemen,” she said and handed each of them one of her business cards. “I do have to take him with me tomorrow after the funeral. He'll stay at a federal office for now, until we have something definitive for where he'll be staying.”

            “Miss Vallens, is that really necessary?” Gabriel stepped up from his position against the wall, “He's very shaken, wouldn’t it be better if he stayed with his family?”

            “Unfortunately, I have to. You are allowed to visit him as much as you want, though. I will need one of you to accompany the visit to Miss Kline’s apartment to gather the boy's belongings tomorrow.”

            “I can come,” said Michael.

            “Good. I'll be in touch.” She shook their hands and went back through the hall, her heels echoing on the floor.

            “What the hell, Cas?” Gabriel said as soon as Mia was out of earshot. “Since when are you getting married?”

            “I have no idea. But I…I'll figure something”

            “Figure something?” Michael hissed at him “Are you insane? You can't lie for this, Cas.”

            “Then I won’t be lying.”

            “And how do you plan on getting married?”

            “I'll take care of that,” Gabriel raised his hand. “I know a lot of people, we'll find someone. You can’t be the only person in the U.S. needing a fake marriage, right?”

 


 

He stayed with Jack at the hospital the whole night. Castiel didn’t sleep much, watching as Jack tossed and turned several times but didn’t wake. In the following afternoon, after Kelly's rushed and simple funeral, Mia came to take Jack, Michael following her to Kelly's apartment. He assured them that he would take care of the sale of the place and all the papers required for Jack's adoption.

            Before they left, Castiel tried to explain to his nephew what was going to happen. Jack didn’t say a word––he hadn’t since he woke up––but he nodded his head when Castiel asked if he had understood.

            “So,” Gabriel clasped a hand on his shoulder suddenly. “Guess we need to find you a husband, huh?”

            “Yes, I believe so,” Castiel was tense. He was worried about Jack and grieving the loss of his dearest friend.

            “We'll figure something, Cas. Jack’ll be fine”

 

            After a final goodbye to Kelly, Castiel made his way into Gabriel's car. He needed to fly back to his home in Chicago, but he wanted to stay close to Jack.

            He'd have to take care of him now.

 

Monday, February 12th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Dean Winchester’s routine had been pretty much the same for about ten years. Since he started working at the family's business––a sales company with three affiliates, in Lawrence, Lebanon, and Dodge City––he worked his ass off five days a week  in the hope that one day his dad, John, would recognize Dean's value and let him take the presidency of the company.

            Every day, he got up, tidied his small room in his small apartment, fixed himself some coffee and a PB&J sandwich, went to work at 8:15 am (8:30 on Tuesdays). Later, he had lunch at his office––something he had only gotten after five and a half years of begging. Yeah. Screw his dignity. At least he had a place in the company that was truly his, somewhere he could decorate with Star Wars action figures and Led Zeppelin posters. His office was his safe space at Winchester and Sons––his Fortress of Deannitude.    

            This Monday, as any other Monday, started with Dean turning on his computer to check his schedule, then getting his hands on whatever it is he's working on that week and that by the end of it his father will probably call garbage and tell him to do it again.

            Did he go to college to get his degree in marketing and administration just to go through this every week? Hell no. Was he going to do it anyway, because he wanted what should be his by right? Hell yes.

            And this Monday, just as any other Monday, had John Winchester coming into his son's room to check the progress of his latest campaign––the one that would be put in the shops by spring––at 11 am.

            “Morning, son,” his father greeted him as he entered the small room.

            “Hey, dad,” Dean called back without taking his eyes off the screen.

            “How's the project going?” John stood in front of Dean's desk, hands on his pockets.

            “Fine. It's almost done.”

            “Can I take a look?”

            Dean sighed. That single sentence meant that, instead of being finished with the project tomorrow, as he could’ve, he’d probably only be done by Friday because of all the “flaws” his father would find in a perfect piece of work and ask for him to fix.

            “Sure.” He turned the monitor around so John could look at the screen.

            “Isn't it too…floral?” His father asked after a roaming glance at the design.

            “It's a spring campaign, Dad.”

            “Well, doesn’t mean we need a garden on display,” John commented as he kept analyzing the work, looking for the smallest imperfections.

            “I'll take some of ‘em off.” Dean rubbed at the back of his neck.

            “You should make the title a little bigger,” John pointed out.

            “Sure, Dad.”

            “And take off the blue theme, it's not winter anymore.”

            “Uhum.” Dean ran a hand over his face, wishing he could just turn off his father’s voice as it undid two weeks' worth of work.

            “Are you actually listening to a word I'm saying, Dean?” John asked. Not getting an immediate response, he snapped his fingers in front of his son.

            “Uh? Sorry, what?”

            “Son.” John sighed and sat in the chair in front of Dean, turning his computer back. “If you really want to take care of this company someday, you got to earn it.”

            Dean wasn’t sure if he should get angry or simply ignore all of it. He received that speech at least once a month; he knew the words by heart. And no matter what he did, he kept hearing them. He was never good enough.

            “You think your grandfather built this company out of nowhere? There was a lot of work put into this, son. You know how hard I worked to open the office in Dodge City. Running a business is not easy, Dean. You have to be prepared for it. You have to want it.”

            “I know, Dad,” Dean said, exasperated. He was a hard worker, he always did his best. Why couldn’t his father acknowledge it?

            “Do you? Then why does it seem like you don’t? And what about our deal, do you even remember it?”

            Oh, yes, the deal… of—fucking—course he remembered the damn deal.

            “Of course I do.” He glared at his father.

            “Then why are you still single? I told you, if you're not married by the time you’re thirty-five, I ain’t passing you the Presidency, son. Family means structure.  It means support.”

            “I know. I'll figure something. And I'll fix the design”

            “Good. You better.” John stood up and squeezed Dean's shoulder “You just have to think harder ahead, son. It's not that difficult.“

            After his dad left, Dean threw his hands in the air and ran them through his hair, exhaling all the air in his lungs.

 


 

After his lunch, he decided to call Charlie––his best friend since high school, God knows how.

            As soon as she said “hey” he was already speaking.

            “I need to get married,” he blurted out.

            “Woah there, cowboy. Hello to you, too.”

            “Hi.”

            “So, when's the wedding?”

            “As soon as find someone willing.” She chuckled on the other end of the line. “I'm serious, Charlie, I need to. Otherwise, Dad's never passing me the company. Like, ever.”

            “You’re such a drama queen, Winchester.”

            “No, I'm not. You know I'm right,” he said, twisting in his chair.

            “Yeah, I know. You have any idea how you're going to find someone to marry you in less than a year?”

            “Nope.”

            “What about your ex-girlfriends? Would any of ‘em do you this favor?”

            “They're most likely to rip my lungs off, though I'd be tempted to try. Honestly, at this point, I'd marry a brick wall if it helped.”

            “C’mon, Dean. You can’t be the only person in the U.S. needing a fake marriage.”

            He huffed out a laugh, throwing his head against the back of his chair. “Yeah, sometimes I really doubt that.”

            There was a long pause where Dean waited for his friend to say something to help him. “Charlie? You still there?”

            “You're not!” She half yelled at his ear.

            “What? I'm not what?”

            “You’re not the only person in the U.S. needing a fake marriage!”

            “Care to elaborate?” Dean asked sitting as straight as he could.

            “Do you remember my boss, Gabriel?”

            “That guy who, I have no idea how, but manages not to have diabetes, even though every time I see him he's eating a different kind of candy?”

            “Yes, him! He called me a couple of days ago, I just remembered. He said his brother, Castiel, needed a fake marriage. Something about his nephew's adoption, I think…”

            “So…I marry your boss’ brother and I get a husband and a kid?”

            “I think so. Do you want me to call Gabe?”

            “Wait, does his brother dig the husband and husband thing?”

            “For what I understood, Castiel's pretty desperate too, so anything is possible.”

“Oh, that's… that's great, Charlie. I mean, I still gotta meet this guy, but it’s worth the shot, right?”

            “Yeah, might be your chance, Winchester. I'll call Gabriel now, talk to you later. Bye!”

            “G’bye”

            He dropped the phone on his desk and leaned forward, with his elbows on the hardwood.

            Castiel, huh?

Chapter Text

(3:37 pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): Hey! Here’s ur husbands’ number

(3:37 pm)

[Contact received]

(3:38 pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): I talked to Gabe, he said you should call Castiel

Your Highness (Charlie): I think he’s interested ;)

(3:45 pm)

Dean W.: I’ll call him after I get home

Dean W.: Tnx, Charl <3

 

After he arrived at his apartment, Dean took a quick shower and dialed the number Charlie had sent him. It rang a few times before a gravelly voice picked up.

            “Hello?”

            “Hi,” Dean said. “Is this Castiel Novak?”

            “Yes.”

            “I’m Dean Winchester. I’m not sure Gabriel talked to you, but he said I should call about, uh…the marriage stuff. If you’re interested, that is,” he quickly added.

            “Oh! Yes, he said you’d call. You live in Kansas, right?”

            “Yeah, Lawrence.”

            “I can be there by the end of the week if we can make an arrangement.” There was some shuffling at the other end of the line like Castiel was changing the phone to the other ear. “I have no idea how we’re going to make this work, but I need someone to marry and so do you and I don’t mind moving to another state.”

            “You live in LA with Gabriel?”

            “No, Illinois.”

            “Oh, right. I’m not sure how we do this either,” Dean admitted, throwing his legs up onto the couch, “but I’m sure we can get to something. Charlie mentioned your nephew?”

            “Yes. I need a stable relationship to appear to be a better option in court in order to be his legal guardian,” Castiel explained. “Not that I’m not a good option, but I don’t want to risk not getting custody.”

            “Yeah, I understand.”

            “I hope it’s not a problem. A kid, I mean.”

            “No, not at all. I’m great with kids.”

            “Good.” There was a pause. Castiel was probably relieved. “What about you, why do you need to get married?”

            “I made a deal with my dad, years ago. Bottom line is, I need to be married by the time I’m thirty-five. So, got a year to find someone, and the sooner the better.”

            “I see.”

            “So, uh…if we’re really doing this, we’re gonna need a few things. Like, you know, a marriage license. And a house.”

           “I can get us both. My other brother is a lawyer, he’s already helping me with the documents for my nephew’s adoption. And my family has a house in Lawrence from when Gabriel moved there to open the shop, we can use it.”

           “Uh, okay. So we just… blind-date our wedding?”

           “I believe so. As I said, I can be there by the end of the week and we can arrange things better in person.”

           “Yeah, sounds great.”

           “Good. I’ll call you when I have booked the flight.”

           “Okay. Uh… bye then.”

           “Goodbye, Dean.”

           Castiel hung up after that, leaving Dean to stare at his phone.

           “What the hell am I getting into?”

 

(6:12 pm)

Dean W.: called the guy

Dean W.: he’ll be here by the end of the week

Dean W.: u sure he’s not a psycho?

 

            He texted Charlie as he went into the kitchen––too small for all the gourmet food he’d like to cook––to start making dinner. She answered shortly after, making him roll his eyes when a second message came.

 

(6:16 pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): he’s nice

Your Highness (Charlie): and he’s cute 😉

(6:17 pm)

Dean W.: so? ‘m not banging the guy

Dean W.: just marrying him

(6:18 pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): wtv, can I be ur maid of honor?

 

            He chuckled at that one. If he ever had a real wedding ceremony, he’d be sure she was his maid of honor.

 

(6:19)

Dean W.: sure

(6:20pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): 😊 <3

 

            Well. Guess now I should just wait for Castiel to call, huh? Dean thought,  who would’ve thought finding a fake husband would be so easy?

 

Friday, February 16th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Castiel called around 6:30 pm on Wednesday to tell him he’d gotten a flight Friday morning. Dean had offered him a ride from the airport, which he accepted, and now here he was, waiting for a guy he’d never seen, and who might become his husband. Super.

            To make it easier––though it probably made him look like an idiot––he brought one of those plates people held in airports with “Castiel” written on it. He thought about adding “Novak” but how many Castiels could be on a flight to Lawrence?

 

However he imagined Castiel would be was nothing like the guy that stopped in front of him. Due to his tendency to imagine the worst, he had pictured Castiel as a guy in his mid-forties with a dry throat problem and a psychopath look. But the man that shook his hand and said “Hi, I’m Castiel, nice to meet you” was the kind of guy he’d actually marry.

           Dark, messy hair, sparkling blue eyes, sharp jaw, and probably more muscular than the beige trench coat he was wearing let show.

           “Hey, I’m Dean,” he said. “You, uh, need any help with those?” He pointed at the bag by Castiel’s feet.

           “No, it’s okay, thank you.” He took the bag’s handle with the hand that wasn’t holding what looked like a laptop case. “Should we go?”

           “Yeah, sure.”

           They walked out into the parking lot in awkward silence.

           “Nice car,” Castiel said when they got to Impala.

           “Yeah, she’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Dean opened the trunk and placed Castiel’s bags inside. They climbed into the car and Dean turned it on.

           “So, how was your flight?” He asked as he put the car into reverse to get out of the parking lot.

            “Uneventful.”

            “You wanna get some lunch and we can talk about…whatever we need to talk about?”

            “Of course. I suppose you know the best places to go?”

            “Definitely. I hope you like burgers.”

            “They’re my favorite.”

            “Great.”

 

Dean took them to the best diner in town, where he ordered what had more bacon than burger and Castiel ordered the house special.

            Dean took them to the best dinner in town, where he ordered a bacon cheeseburger, and Castiel asked for the house special.

           “So. We’re getting married,” Dean said in what he hoped was an effective way to break the ice as they waited for their meal.

           “I hope so. I don’t really have the time to look for someone else. And you seem like a good person,” Castiel said, hands folded in his lap and posture straight.

           “Thanks.” Dean’s leg was starting to shake nervously. This guy was a little… unnerving, staring at him as if trying to read his soul. “So, uh… I guess we should… learn the basics about each other, right? Before…”

           “Yes, I think so.”

           “Great. So, tell me about you, Cas.”

           The man in front of him blinked at the sudden nickname, then he started talking.

            “I’m from Chicago. Work as a translator, which is why I said I didn’t bother moving––I work from home. You know my brother, Gabriel, but I have two other older brothers, Michael and Luke.”

            The waitress brought their burgers, interrupting Castiel, and left when they said they didn’t need anything else.

            “What about your nephew?” Dean asked between a bite and a sip from his soda.

            “His name is Jack,” Castiel smiled fondly. “His mother was my friend in college. She passed away a couple of weeks ago, and since Luke is not suitable to care for him, I volunteered.”

            “Sorry about your friend,” Dean said.

            “Thank you,” Castiel swallowed a mouthful. “We were very close. I’ll be very happy to take care of Jack.”

            “He’s a good kid?”

            “Amazing.” Castiel took a sip from his water and cleaned his mouth with a napkin. “What about you, Dean, what’s your story?”

            He swallowed some fries before answering.

            “I’m an Aquarius. Born and raised here in Lawrence. Work at the family’s company since I was twenty. The deal I made with my dad is that he’ll only pass me the presidency if I’m married at thirty-five which will be next January.”

            “Why?”

            “Honestly? I don’t know. He just doesn’t seem to think I’m good enough for the job.”

            “That’s unfortunate.”

            “Hell yeah.”

            They finished eating in silence, Castiel seeming very satisfied with the meal.

            “Do you want to look at the house?” He asked Dean.

            “Sure. You done?”

            “Yes.”

            They got up and paid for the burgers, Castiel insisting they split the check. Then he guided Dean to the address Gabriel gave him, a two-store light-blue house a few streets down. According to his brother, there were two bedrooms, a suite, a bathroom, a half-bath, a good kitchen, and a spacious living room.

           Dean parked in front of the garage and they climbed off.

           “Looks nice,” Dean said.

           They walked to the porch and Castiel got the keys to unlock the door. He flipped on the lights as they entered the dusty hall. Inside, the furniture was covered with white sheets, the kitchen was well-equipped and there was a door to the backyard.

            “Needs some cleaning,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t need any repairs”

            “If it needs that, I can handle it.” Dean moved to the stairs. “I’m a handy kind of guy.”

            “The bedrooms are up here.” Castiel followed behind Dean as they got upstairs. “There are three. One for you, one for me and one for Jack.”

            “Good.” They went through the bedrooms, opening the windows to let some light in. “You should take the master. It’s your house after all.”

            “Right.” They went back to the kitchen and sat at the table after the sheet was removed.

            “It’s a great house. The backyard is big enough for your nephew to play,” Dean said.

            “Yes, I believe he’ll like it.” Castiel searched his coat’s pocket for some folded papers. “I brought the marriage certificate, just for you to see if it’s all ok.”

           He placed the papers in front of Dean.

           “Michael got it for us. He has some good contacts around, so all we have to do is sign it and give it back to him. He’ll pass it to one of the judges he knows, and it’ll be official in a couple of weeks. Then, after a year, Michael will file the divorce papers, unless we need more time.”

           Dean read the whole thing, the three pages. His conscience said he was jumping into this too fast, but he didn’t really care. If this guy was insane enough to marry him, then Dean was insane enough to marry this guy.

            “A year’s all I need. Should we sign it?”

            “If you’re ready. I know we don’t know each other…at all, but…”

            “But we don’t have many options.” Dean searched his jacket “You got a pen?”

            “Yes,” Castiel reached in his coat and handed it to him. “Here.” He pointed at the dotted line at the end of the third page.

            He filled it with his personal info then signed it and gave it back to Castiel, who did the same.

            “There. I have to be back in Chicago tomorrow morning to finish setting a couple of things up, but I’ll be back by Monday and I’ll bring some furniture for the living room and for mine and Jack’s bedroom.”

            “Yeah, sure. I’ll bring mine. You need a ride tomorrow?” Dean offered.

            “No, it’s okay, I’ll handle it. Though I’d appreciate if you could drop me at my hotel.”

            “Of course. Now?”

            “Yes, I believe we have everything settled. I still have to email some things to the Child Protective Services, I’ll do it there.”

            “Okay then.”

 

He dropped Castiel off and went to work. He’d already told his father he’d be late. When he arrived, he called a real state agency to put his place up for sale and set on working on the spring project.

            Later, he texted Charlie to tell her how lunch went.

 

(3:42 pm)

Dean W.: yup, he’s hot

(3:44pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): told ya 😊

Your Highness (Charlie): how did it go?

(3:45 pm)

Dean W.: fine, I guess

Dean W.:  we signed the papers already

Dean W.: I’m a married man now

(3:47)

Your Highness (Charlie): :D

Your Highness (Charlie): what about the house?

(3:48 pm)

Dean W.: it’s great

Dean W.: moving Monday

(4:00pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): Good luck!

 


 

For Castiel, the last week had been filled with emails of documents, endless calls to Michael and Mia Vallens—who told him the judge had decided to leave Jack with him until the final order—, boxing his things and making arrangements with the shipping company.

           He also talked to Jack on the phone, told him they were going to live in Kansas, which Jack found very nice. Michael sent him Jack’s things and Castiel bought some others he thought the boy might need while Gabriel kept him informed from California.

           With almost everything ready, he called Dean Saturday night to tell him he’d be back in Lawrence on Monday at 3 pm, the furniture would arrive on Tuesday and by then they would have more time to discuss their new routine.

           After he ended the call he caught himself wondering if he’d done something too reckless, but Dean seemed like a good person. Besides, it was a bit too late to back out now. And it wasn’t like they were going to actually do stuff married couples did. They were just going to be housemates for a year. It should be easy.

 

Monday, February 19th

 

Dean spent the entirety of Valentine’s day searching for wedding rings and boxing his things. It was the most unusual way he’d passed the date.

 

When Dean and Castiel arrived at the house, they decided to start by doing some cleaning. Using the soaps and brooms Dean brought, they managed to get everything tidy by 7:30 pm.

            They moved their bags to their respective bedrooms and tiredly settled onto the couch.

            “Internet and phone won’t be working ‘till tomorrow,” Castiel said and Dean responded with a nod.

            “We should go to the grocery store, there’s nothing in the pantry,” Dean said looking at the kitchen he’d scrubbed clean.

            “Yes,” Castiel said as he got up and gestured towards the front door “Should we go now?”

            “Yeah,” Dean got up as well and reached for the car keys on the coffee table. “Actually, wait there, I’ve got something for us.” He searched his pockets for the velvet box. “Here, I got us some rings. Who’s gonna believe we’re married if we don’t have these.” Dean opened the box and handed one of the rings to Castiel.

            “Thank you, Dean.” Castiel pushed the ring onto his finger. “I completely forgot about rings.”

            “Well, you brought the house, I brought the rings. Hope it’s about your size.”

           “It is.”

            “Let’s go then. When we get back, I’ll make us some dinner and we can talk about… routine and whatever.”

 

Shopping with Castiel felt very different than doing it on his own. For some reason, it made Dean feel a little self-conscious about some of his choices––the box of Lucky Charms, the pack of Texan beer, and all his unhealthy bacon-flavored snacks; all of those contrasted with Castiel’s organic honey, oatmeal, and fresh vegetables. At least he didn’t question it when Dean put two whole cherry pies in his basket, just as Dean didn’t question when Castiel sneaked a bottle of wine into their cart.

           Dean was glad that they agreed on the lavender-scented soap, even though they argued for five minutes about which brand of detergent was better and about who would be paying for what––in the end, they decided to just split everything evenly between them. 

           When they got back to the house, Castiel stored all they had bought while Dean started to cook dinner. They had both brought some kitchen utensils from their previous houses, so Dean used one of his old pans for the spaghetti and sauce.

            “Why don’t you have a car?” Dean asked as he started chopping the tomatoes for the sauce.

            “I had no need for one back in Illinois. I worked at home and whenever I needed to do shopping, it was close to my place,” Castiel said. “I do know how to drive, though.”

            Castiel sat in one of the chairs at the kitchen table, watching Dean put the pasta in a pan. “What time do you work?”

            “Eight to five on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, Eight-thirty on Tuesdays and Sundays.”

            “And what do you do?”

            “Marketing,” Dean said. “What kind of translation you do?”

            “Books, old texts…whatever I can get my hands on.” He hoped that didn’t sound too… off.

            “How many languages do you speak?”

            “Hmm…Spanish, Russian, a bit of Latin, and I can read Hebrew too.”

            “Dude,” Dean turned to face him from the stove, “when did you have the time to learn all that?”

            “I wasn’t very popular in school,” Castiel chuckled. “Had plenty of time to do extra studying.”

            “So, you’re a nerd?”

            “A little, I guess.”

            “BB8 or R2D2?”

            “What?”

            “Oh no.” Dean stopped chopping tomatoes for the sauce to look Castiel in the face. “Do not tell me you have never seen Star Wars.”

            “I won’t then.”

            “Dude, what planet have you been living in?”

            “Earth, as far as I’m aware.”

            That ripped a laugh from Dean, clear and honest.

            “You’re gonna watch Star Wars. And every other classic movie you haven’t seen.”

            “Okay.” Castiel watched Dean work for a while before he asked, “Do you have any annoying habits I should know of?”

            “What, we’re playing ‘Twenty Questions’ now?” Castiel shrugged. “None that I can think of. You?”

            “My brothers say I don’t talk much.”

            “That doesn’t sound annoying.”

 


 

As it turned out, Dean had plenty of annoying habits, which Castiel had discovered in those few weeks they had been living together.

            He was stressed from work, listened to the same four albums every time they drove together, drank at least two beers per night, cooked like a chef, was definitely a cleaning maniac, was bound to make Castiel learn all his references to popular movies and…and who was he kidding?

            Dean was great. His cooking was great, his cleaning habits were great, he had a great music taste, told funny jokes—even though it took Castiel a while to understand them—and the few movies he made Castiel watch were also great…the most annoying thing about him was that there wasn’t anything annoying about him.

            Except maybe…his work. He always brought tons of work to do at home—work that sometimes wasn’t his to do—and never complained about it. He learned that Dean didn’t actually enjoy his work that much and it left him confused about why he tried so hard to please his father and hold a job that didn’t seem to be the one of his dreams.

            Still, Dean cooked every night—for both of them—, made coffee for Castiel when he woke up first, asked about Jack and never played his music too loud in his bedroom.

           He was a great housemate. Castiel just wished he could understand Dean a little better.

 

Dean figured that Castiel’s habit of not talking much was, in fact, a little annoying. Not exactly annoying, just… creepy. A lot of times he caught himself jumping, startled when Castiel suddenly spoke from where he’d been so quiet, Dean had forgotten he was even there.

           And he always—always—burned the toast.

            But Castiel’s coffee was the best Dean ever had and he didn’t leave his things laying around or anything dirty in the sink, which as great for Dean’s tidy disposition.

            And Cas actually enjoyed the movies and TV shows Dean showed him. Star Wars, Braveheart, Game of Thrones…Though there were some Dean hadn’t shared with him, some he preferred to keep for himself. Like Rent. And Frozen. And—of course—Doctor Sexy. Not he was ashamed of those, no; they were some of his favorites. It was just so… him.

            But anyway, it was March 7th already, which meant they had been living together for sixteen days and still hadn’t killed each other or gotten into a fight, making Castiel his second-best mate—the first being Benny, his roommate during his first two years of college.

            “So. When’s your nephew coming?” Dean asks Castiel, who’s on the couch reading some stupid book about old ass languages.

            “Wednesday.”

            “You got everything ready?” He focused on the onions he was chopping while he waited for an answer.

           “Yes.”

           Still not a Chatty Cathy, huh?

           “You think he’ll like it here?”

           “I hope so. There’s plenty of space for him to play. And the school seems reliable.”

           “You got him registered?” He dumped the onions on the pan and moved to cut the chicken breasts.

           “Not yet, he’ll only go when he turns five.”

           “Right.” He heard Castiel place his book on the coffee table but didn’t hear him getting up.

           “How’s your work?” Cas was right behind him, which made Dean startle—like always—only this time he had a knife in his hands.

           “Shit. Don’t do that!” He put his cut finger under the running water from the faucet.

           “Dean, are you okay?” Castiel put a hand on his shoulder and looked over where the water was flowing down Dean’s hand.

            “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” Dean took a look at his finger—not a deep cut, it was already healing. “Dude, we gotta get you a bell or something.”

           “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

           “It’s fine.”

           “I’ll get the first-aid kit.”

           Castiel was gone before Dean could protest.

            Once dinner was ready, Dean’s finger had a band-aid on, and they were settled to eat, Castiel asked again.

            “So, how’s your work?”

           “Same as always.”

           “Your father still doesn’t want to pass you the company?”

           “No. I haven’t told him about us yet, so maybe he’ll change his mind.”

           “When are you telling him?” Castiel asked between bites of Dean’s amazing cooking skills.

           “Dunno. Maybe tomorrow.” Dean took a swig of his beer and looked straight at Castiel. “We need a backstory.”

           “Huh…yes, I suppose so.”

           “You got any ideas?”

           “We met at the grocery store?”

           “That your best story?” Dean glared at him.

           “I’m a translator, not a writer, Dean.”

           Dean sighed and drank from his bottle again, emptying it.

            “What about… your car broke down ‘round here once, we fell in love or whatever”––he couldn’t help but blush a little at he said it––“and you’ve been coming to see me every once in a while since you don’t have a working schedule?”

           “That’s pretty elaborate.” Castiel considered it. “Why would I be around here, anyway?”

           Dean thought for a couple of seconds, then his face lit up.

           “Your brother’s shop inauguration!” He said. “You came with him and I went to the party with Charlie and we met there.” He looked smug, as if he had just had the most incredible plan ever. He wasn’t really at the party, though he wished he’d been.

           “Sounds believable.”

           “There. Backstory.”

           “And then, when I needed to get married to have a better chance with my nephew’s adoption, you, as the great boyfriend you are, said we should get married?”

           He detected the irony in Cas’ voice but chose to ignore it.

           “Exactly.”

            “But why didn’t we tell our families we were dating?”

           “Because…” Because I’m terrible at relationships, Dean thought. “I don’t know, ‘cause you lived in Illinois and we didn’t want people to think it wouldn’t work?”

           “That’s a very immature way of thinking.” Castiel shook his head. “We’re grownups, we should be more confident”

           “Then… ’cause it’s Kansas and not everybody is okay with gay people?”

           “We just started married life in Kansas. We don’t seem concerned enough about that.”

           “Well, I don’t know.” Dean sighed heavily. “Because I… didn’t want my dad to pressure us to get married?”

           “We just did.”

           “Yeah, cause we needed to. Not that we didn’t want to, that would be weird.”

           “Okay, then. Backstory.”

Chapter Text

Wednesday, March 14th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Dean woke up to the smell of something burning in the kitchen.

            He checked the clock on the bedside table––9:23 am, which meant it was Wednesday. Cas had come back from his jog and burnt some toast for breakfast.

            Dean got up, stretching slowly at the edge of the mattress. Twenty minutes later, when he finally went downstairs, he found Castiel reading the newspaper in the kitchen, half a piece of toast in a plate beside him and some on the kitchen counter, probably still warm and waiting for him.

           “Morning,” he said as he started to make a new pot of coffee.

           “Morning,” Castiel greeted back, not taking his eyes off the paper. “Don’t you think the government should do something about the safety of the bees? They’re the most important species on the planet and they’re starting to go extinct.”

           “Uh…” Dean considered that for a moment. Sometimes Cas took the phrase ‘Mornings are for coffee and contemplation’ too seriously. “Sure. Though I really doubt they will.”

           “Yes…”

            He took the plate of toast and his steaming mug of fresh coffee and sat across from Castiel.

           “So,” he said, grasping Cas’ attention, “what time do we pick up your nephew?”

           “Two pm.”

           “Great.”

           “You don’t have to drive me, I could take a cab.”

           “I don’t mind driving you,” he tested the temperature of his coffee before taking a sip. “Besides, you’ll look more like a responsible parent if you have a car.”

           “True.”

 


 

Waiting at the Arrivals section with Dean by his side, Castiel was, essentially, six feet of nervousness. His hands were shaky, his eyes darting everywhere around them, checking the clock in his wrist every five seconds.

           They were sitting at the black armchairs in front of the gate, Dean with his legs crossed, reading a magazine he’d found lying around while Castiel, on the edge of his seat, rubbed his hands together anxiously.

           “That’s him,” Castiel said as he jumped up and immediately started marching towards a black woman that held a blond boy—about four years old—by his hand.

           Dean followed him a few steps behind, watching as Castiel kneeled in front of the kid, who threw his skinny arms around his uncle’s neck.

           “Hi, Jack. How have you been? I’m so happy to see you.” Castiel placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders.

           “’m fine,” Jack mumbled and Castiel smiled. He got up and took the boy’s hand.

           “Thank you for bringing him, Mrs. Vallens.”

           “It’s my pleasure. Jack is a great child,” Mia said, “I’m sure you’ll take great care of him until we have the judge’s final word.”

            “I’ll do my best,” he assured her. “Does he have any luggage?”

            “Just these,” she handed him a Spider-Man backpack and a small red suitcase. “Who’s your friend?” Mia asked.

            Castiel turned around and saw Dean waiting there, hands in his pockets. “Oh God, where’s my head. Mrs. Vallens, this is my husband, Dean.” He introduced. The word ‘husband’ felt weirdly pleasant on his tongue.

            “Oh, right, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Novak.” She offered her hand for Dean, who shook it.

            “Winchester, actually. We kept our names.”

            “Winchester, sorry. Well, I should be going now.”

            “Would you like us to accompany you?” Castiel threw Jack’s backpack over his shoulder, still holding the boy’s hand.

            “Thank you, but there’s no need.”

            Mia shook both their hands again and went back towards the gates to wait for her flight back.

           “So, Jack,” Castiel said, kneeling in front of his nephew, “are you ready to go home with me and Uncle Dean?”

           Jack nodded and Castiel got up again, taking the boy’s hand. Dean smiled at him and lifted Jack’s bag off the floor.

           As they walked towards the exit and the parking lot, Jack tugged at his hand to get his attention before asking, “Is Uncle Dean your boyfriend?”

           “Yes.” He didn’t want to lie to his nephew, but he couldn’t risk Jack telling them off either. “He is.”

           “Wha’bout Uncle Mick?”

           “Oh.” He didn’t think Jack would remember his and Mick’s brief relationship. “He went back to England.”

            Jack shrugged as they got to the car and Castiel opened the door for him. The kid allowed his uncle to buckle him on the booster seat they’d placed on the Impala.

           Dean closed the trunk after putting Jack’s bag in it and climbed into the driver’s seat.

           “You ready, kiddo?”

           The boy nodded quietly from his seat, and Dean reached at his feet to grab a green gift bag, handing it to the kid.

           “Here. This is for you.”

           Jack took the bag suspiciously, opening it and taking the plushy giraffe off it. He smiled brightly at the toy, holding it close to his chest.

           “Jack,” Cas called, “what do you say?”

           “Thank you, Uncle Dean.”

           “Your welcome, kid” Dean said, turning the car on and putting it in reverse to drive out of the parking lot.

 

When they arrived at their house, Castiel helped Jack out of the car, letting him run to the porch while he and Dean grabbed his bags.

           After Dean unlocked the front door and they all walked in, he placed Jack’s bag on the hallway floor.

           “Are you hungry, kid?” Dean asked, receiving a nod as an answer. “You like PB&J?” Jack nodded again, still holding the giraffe in his arms.

           “Okay.” Dean looked at Cas. “How ‘bout you take him upstairs while I make some sandwiches?”

           “Sounds great.” He took Jack’s bag from where Dean had placed it. “Jack, do you want to see your room?”

           The boy agreed and held Castiel’s hand so he’d take him upstairs.

 

With Dean’s help, Cas had decorated Jack’s room close to what he remembered from how it was in Kelly’s apartment. The walls were painted a light-blue tone, the furniture was mostly white—a single bed, a dresser, and a desk with a navy-blue chair—there was a rug in front of the bed, curtains hanging at the windows and lots of plastic boxes for Jack’s toys. He thought it would be good for the boy to have something resembling his previous home, even though it made him miss his friend more. He’d told Dean as much when he was asked.

            He placed the bag and the backpack on the bed, then sat down on the other side, patting the spot beside him for Jack to sit.

            “Do you like it?” He asked when the boy sat on the bed with him. “You can change whatever you want.”

            Jack nodded, reaching behind them to open his backpack. He pulled out a framed picture of him and Kelly and handed it to Castiel.

            “Do you want to put this somewhere?” Castiel asked. He remembered taking the picture during the small party they had for Jack’s fourth birthday. Seeing Kelly so happy on the photo made his heart ache with the reality that he’d never see her again.

            The boy pointed at the bedside table by Cas’ left.

            “There?”

            “There.”

            Castiel placed the photo beside the lamp on the table. When he sat back, Jack hugged his neck. He patted a hand through the boy’s back, thinking of how much he wanted to give Jack a happy life. He knew how it felt to lose his mother at such a young age.

           And even though he didn’t remember his mother well—he had been three when she’d died—he would do his best to help Jack remember Kelly the way she deserved.

           

They ate the PB&Js Dean made them while Castiel told his nephew about all the fun things they could do. Later, Jack asked if they could watch a movie, and—much to Dean’s excitement—he chose Star Wars.

           “See?” Dean whispered to Castiel, sitting on the couch after putting the movie on. “Your nephew knows the good stuff.”

           Castiel chuckled and rolled his eyes at his housemate, watching as Jack’s attentive eyes fixed on the television screen.

 

After dinner, Castiel tucked Jack in his bed, telling him he’d be in the room across from his and to the left in case the boy needed anything. He left the door cracked open and went back downstairs to help Dean clean up.

           “You want me to wash those?” he asked from the kitchen’s entrance.

           “Nah, I’ll do it.”

           “Okay.”

           He removed the table clothing and put the leftovers in the fridge.

           “I didn’t ask before,” Dean started, turning to face him, “but are you sure the kid’s not yours? I mean, he’s like a small clone of you.”

           Cas chuckled as he closed the refrigerator door.

           “Yes, I am sure. Though you’re not the first one to say that. Even Kelly thought we were alike.”

           “Yeah, he’s not much of talker either.”

           “He’s usually chattier.” Castiel pulled one of the chairs back from the table to sit on it. “Though he’s been more closed since his mom died. I guess it’s normal, Gabriel told me I didn’t talk for a week after my mom died.”

            “You didn’t tell me about that” Dean dropped the sponge in the sink, drying his hands in a towel.

           “There’s not much to tell, really. She died when I was three—lung cancer.”

           “I’m sorry about it, Cas. Hell, I can’t imagine how it’d feel like to lose my mom.”

           “It was worse for Michael, he was the oldest. He’s the one who remembers the most, always tells stories about her.” Castiel had a fond smile on his lips as if he was thinking of one of those stories.

           “That’s nice of him.”

           “Yes…” He looked past Dean, onto the sink. “You’re done?”

           “Yeah.” Dean threw the towel he was still holding over his shoulder. “I’m just gone dry it up.”

           “Okay, then. I’ll go to bed now, waiting for Jack to arrive really tired me out.”

           “Right. Goodnight.”

 

Thursday, March 15th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Dean left Castiel and Jack some pancakes in the microwave when he left at 8:15 the next morning. He got into his car, throwing his bag in the passenger seat and let out a sigh as he tried to be mentally prepared for another day working for his father.

 

He arrived at his office, leaving his bag on the desk and turning his computer on to check his schedule. Dean worked for a couple of hours on a new campaign before going out to buy himself some coffee.

            As he waited in line for the barista to take his order, he decided to buy one for his dad too, then go to John’s office and tell him about Cas. He should have told him a week ago but had been so caught up in his work that he kept forgetting to and it was about time he delivered the news. Maybe dad will give me some extra credit, he thought.

 

He knocked at his father’s office door, the man inside telling him to come in.

            “Hey, Dad.” Dean walked inside, placing the coffee he’d bought for John on his table. “Brought you some coffee”

            “Thank you, son. How’s your work?” John asked, taking a sip from the warm cup.

            “Going great. Can we talk?”

            “Sure. Take a seat.”

            Dean pulled the chair his father had indicated for him, placing his own cup on the table.

            “So,” he began, “I know it’s gonna sound a little crazy, and I know Mom’s probably gonna freak out, but there’s nothing to worry about.”

           “You’re telling me not to worry that your mom will freak out?”

           “Yeah, sorta.”

           “Right. Okay, go ahead. Whose body do we need to hide?” John asked drinking more of his coffee.

           “I didn’t kill anyone. I got married.”

           His dad choked a bit with the coffee. “I didn’t even know you were dating!” 

            “Yeah, we…uh…” He remembered the plan he and Cas had made, their backstory. “We didn’t really tell anyone.”

            “And you just got married without telling your family?”

            “I’m telling now. I was going to tell you last week, but I forgot”

            “How long has that been?”

            “About a month,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I mean, we’ve been together for two years.”

            His father threw himself back on his chair, scratching his stubbled chin.

            “Okay, but why get married now?”

            Dean sighed, choosing the best way to tell the actual story.

           “His friend—the mother of his nephew—died last month. To get custody, we thought he’d have more chance if we were married.”

           “So, he has a kid?” John asked, mind still catching up with the pronouns his son was using.

           “Yes. Kind of. We picked him at the airport yesterday.”

           “So now you have a husband and a kid?”

            “Pretty much.” He shrugged.

            “Your mother’s definitely going to freak out.” His father finished the rest of his coffee. “You want me to talk to her?”

            “Sure.”

            “Okay. You told your brother yet?”

            “No. Only people that know are you, Charlie and Cas’ brothers.”

            “Well, you should get back to work, now. I’ll talk to your mom when I go home.”

            “Right. Thanks, Dad.”

            John nodded and walked his son to the door, still a little dumbfounded, giving him a pat on the shoulder before Dean left.

 

When Dean got home, he found Castiel and Jack playing with Legos on the living room carpet. There were several pieces splattered all around the floor and the couch.

           “Hey, guys.”

           “Hello, Dean,” Castiel said handing a blue piece to his nephew, who was trying to build what might have been a spaceship “How was your day”

           “Fine.” He took his shoes off near the door, walking on his socks to the stairs. “Told dad about you and Jack”

           “Oh. What did he say?”

           “That my mom’s going to freak out.” He grinned. “I’mma take a shower then make some dinner.”

           “It’s my turn to make dinner.”

           “Oh, right” He’d been secretly trying to avoid Castiel’s attempts at making dinner, but he’d let this one pass. “Okay, then.”

 

After his shower, Dean sat on his bed, towel wrapped around his waist, and checked his phone. There were three missed calls from his mom. Before he could think of calling her back, the phone vibrated in his hand, indicating another call from her.

           “Hey, Mo-”

            “Dean Winchester.” She interrupted him, “What were you thinking, getting married without telling me?”

            “Yeah, I’m fine, mom, how are you?”

            “Don’t play with me, Dean.”

            “Right, sorry.” He laid back on the mattress, phone pressed against his ear. “Look, mom, I didn’t mean to hide it from you, that’s why I’m telling you now. I just didn’t want dad pressuring me to marry him like he did when I started dating Lisa.” He hated lying to his mom, though that last part was true.

            “I know, sweetheart, it’s ok.”

            “Am I forgiven, then?”

            “Only if you bring him for lunch next Saturday.”

            He looked at his bedside table, checking the calendar there.

            “On the twenty-fourth?”

            “Yes. And my grandson too. What’s his name? How old is he?”

            “Mom, chill.” Dean chuckled. Jack technically wasn’t her grandson, but he knew his mom had a big heart and would treat the boy as if he were. “His name is Jack, he’s four.”

            “What about my son-in-law? Your dad said his name’s ‘Cas?’”

            “Yeah, Castiel, actually.”

           “I still can’t believe you’re married. I’m so happy for you, Dean.”

           “Thanks, Mom.” Of course, he didn’t tell her it would probably be over in a year, but still, it was good to hear the joy in her voice. So good, he almost felt bad it wasn’t actually real.

           The smell of something burning reached his nose and he sat up suddenly.

           “Huh, Mom, I gotta go. I think Cas is burning dinner. Bye.”

           “Bye-”

            He hung up and threw on some clothes as fast as he could, then flew down the stairs, stopping when he reached the kitchen’s entrance. Jack was watching from the sofa as Castiel tried and failed to free the kitchen from the smoke that had taken it.

           “What the hell happened here?”

           “I think I might have burned dinner,” Castiel said shyly, holding up a platter of what looked like charcoal.

           “What was that supposed to be?” Dean asked as he opened the kitchen’s windows and the back door for the smoke to go out.

           “Mac and cheese.”

            “How’d you managed to turn it into this?”

            “I don’t know.” Castiel dropped it on the counter. “I was playing with Jack, then I smelled something burning and remembered I had put it in the oven, but it was too late already.”

            Dean was still a bit shocked at the state Castiel had left the poor macaroni.

            “Should we order something?”

            “Pizza!” Jack said from the sofa, covering his nose from the smell of burned cheese.

            “Yeah, kid.” Dean took his phone off his pocket. “Let’s order some pizza”

 


 

After dinner, Castiel put Jack to bed and got back to the kitchen, planning on washing the dishes.

           “I’m sorry about the mac n’ cheese,” he said to Dean, who was putting away the pizza box.

           “You don’t have to say that to me, you should apologize to the poor noodles.” Dean grinned.

           “Yes, I think you’re right,” Castiel scrapped the macaroni platter with a fork, trying to remove the burnt remains.

           “You know,” Dean said, starting to rinse the plates in the sink, “I think we should establish some rules.”

           “What kind of rules?” Castiel frowned.

           “I cook, you clean.”

           “You don’t have to do all the cooking by yourself.”

           “Well, I can give you some tips on how not to burn things but, until then, you only get close to the sink. Besides, I like cooking, so it won’t be a problem.”

           “Okay,” Castiel sighed, the burned macaroni having its revenge by refusing to get off the dish. “I hated cooking when I was a teenager. I basically lived off frozen meals and take out, back in Illinois”

           “Seriously?”

            “Yes,” he said behind gritted teeth as he tried to force the cheese off with a spatula. “That’s why I kept inviting Gabriel to visit me. His cooking is great.”

            “Then I guess you made a pretty good deal.” Dean dried his hands in a towel. “You don’t have to cook, and Jack doesn’t have to live off Lucky Charms and frozen pizza.”

            Castiel chuckled even though he was still losing the fight against the pasta.

           “Yes, that’s very fortunate. And you don’t have to do the dishes.”

           “Yeah, that sucks.” He pointed at the darkened platter Castiel was struggling with. “You need some help with that?”

           “Actually, I don’t think this is working.” He dropped the spatula on the counter in defeat.

           “Then just leave it there, we’ll get rid of it tomorrow.”

            “Okay.” He washed the spatula and covered the platter with a towel, not wanting to drown flies.

            “Oh, and before I forget…” Dean turned back as he was about to climb up the stairs. “My mom wants you, me and Jack for lunch next Saturday. That cool?”

            “Of course. It will be a pleasure to meet your family, Dean.”

Chapter Text

Saturday, March 24th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

The week had gone by as peaceful as possible.

           Jack had been adapting well and, even though he was still a little down from losing his mom, Castiel always managed to distract him when he wasn’t working. Jack liked to talk about his mom, and Castiel did his best to tell him stories about her, but never too much—if they prolonged their conversation about Kelly, Jack’s eyes tended to start watering.

           The kid still tiptoed around Dean, not knowing him well enough to fully trust the man, but Dean was slowly making his way into the boy’s heart, letting Jack help him decorate the deserts, showing him his favorite movies and playing with him in the backyard.

           

“Does your father like whiskey? I was thinking of buying a bottle for him tomorrow,” Cas asked Friday morning while Dean scrambled some eggs for breakfast.

            “Uh, no, he stopped drinking a couple of years ago,” he said, dropping the eggs on a plate. “We actually don’t drink any alcohol on the house, you know, to support him.”

            “Oh. I see. What should I take, then?”

            “You don’t have to take anything, Cas. It’s cool.”

            “What kind of flowers does your mother like?”

            Dean brought the eggs and bacon to the table and sat down across Castiel.

            “You ain’t giving up on being the gentleman, huh?”

            “No,” Castiel served some eggs onto his plate and refilled his coffee.

            “She likes Daisies.”

 


 

As promised, Castiel bought a small bouquet of Daisies for his “mother-in-law”. They arrived at the Winchester’s a bit after eleven.

           They waited on the porch after Dean ringed the doorbell, Castiel holding Jack’s hand with one of his and the flowers with the other. Jack was carrying his Spider-man backpack, with a few toys and a change of clothes in it.

           Dean smiled widely when a blonde woman in her sixties opened the door.

           “Hey, Mom,” he said as Mary hugged him.

           “Hi, sweetheart.” She released her son and looked at him with a kind smile on her face. “And you must be Cas”

            “Yes. And this is Jack.” He tugged lightly on Jack’s hand and the boy waved at Mary shyly, hiding behind him.

            “Hi, sweetie.” She gestured at the door. “Come in, your dad’s in the kitchen.”

            “I brought this for you, Mrs. Winchester.” Castiel handed her the flowers after she closed the door.

            “Oh, thank you, Cas.” She took the Daisies, pressing them lightly against her nose. “And, please, call me Mary”

           “Of course. Mary.”

           “I’m going to put them in a vase,” she said walking towards the living room. “Go say ‘hi’ to your father.”

           “Yes, ma’am.” Dean waved Castiel toward the kitchen. “C’mon.”

           “Hey, Dad,” Dean said, as they entered the kitchen through its archway. The man in front of the stove turned to them, a ‘Kiss the cook’ apron tied around his waist.

           “Hey, son.” Mr. Winchester cleaned his hands on a towel and dropped it aside, patting Dean on the shoulder and offering a hand to Castiel. “And you’re Cas.”

           “Yes,” Cas said, shaking John’s hand.

            “And this little guy’s Jack?” John kneeled in front of the boy, holding a closed fist for him. “Bump it here, kid.”

           Jack looked up at Castiel, who nodded encouragingly, then knocked John’s fist with his own. The older man got up, chuckling, and ruffled the boy’s hair.

           “You need any help, Dad?”

           “No, the food will be ready soon. Why don’t you go take sit with your mom in the living room?”

           “Sure.”

 

After John brought the casserole from the kitchen and set it on the dinner table, they took their seats; John at the head of the table, with Dean and Mary at either side, Cas beside her and Jack beside Dean.

           “So, tell me, Cas,” John said as Mary reached for his plate to serve him the casserole. “Did you live here in Kansas before you two got married or...?”

           “No, I lived in Illinois. That’s where my family is from.”

           “Then how did you meet? Please don’t say it was the Internet.” Mary looked at Dean worriedly.

           “No,” Dean chuckled, he knew his mom didn’t trust computers. “You know that shop Charlie works at? The candy shop? She dragged me to the inauguration party and everything.” He remembered telling his mom he would go, but then he’d got caught up in something from work and Charlie had gone with Dorothy…

           “Yes, it’s not far from the company, right?”

           “Exactly. Well, it belongs to Cas’ brother, Gabriel.”

           “Gabriel made me come with him for the inauguration. That’s where we met.” He looked at Dean, who had a discrete grin on his face, probably because their fake-story was working so well.

           “We started talking and Cas would come to see me from time to time.”

            “And by ‘time to time’ you mean every month?” Castiel smirked at him.

            “You came to see Dean every month?” Mary asked, positively surprised.

            “Pretty much, yes. I work from home, so I don’t have trouble with schedules.”

            “What do you do for work ?” John said taking a sip from his soda.

            “Translation. I have a contract with a publishing company from New York, but I also translate old texts and other material for college professors.”

            “That’s amazing.” Mary beamed at him. “I’m guessing you speak a lot of languages then?”

            “Not as many as I would like to, actually.”

            Dean smiled at seeing Cas interact with his parents––as if it were a real lunch to introduce his real boyfriend to his family. He’d never done one of those and he hadn’t told Castiel, but he’d been kind of nervous about it. He’d have to thank the guy for nailing it later.

           He was taken out of his daydreams by a tug on his left arm. Jack was looking at him with his big blue eyes, holding him his knife.

           “You want some help there, buddy?”

           The boy nodded, and Dean took the knife and fork and helped him cut his food.

           “When’d you meet Jack, Dean?” His mom asked.

           “Huh, last week, when we got him at the airport. I don’t really know anyone from Cas’ family yet, just as he didn’t know you guys.”

           “But you’re going to meet them, right?”

           “Yes,” Castiel intervened. “My brother, Gabriel, is planning on coming to visit Jack.”

 


 

After lunch, there was another round of questions about Cas and their relationship while Jack played on the carpet, but finally, they went home.

           “When’s your brother coming?” Dean asked as he turned on the TV for Jack.

           “Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you. He’s coming Saturday morning and he’ll be gone by Monday.” Castiel remembered the texts his brother had sent him. “Is it okay if he stays here?”

           “Yeah, sure. Is he okay with sleeping on the sofa?”

           “He’ll have to be.”

  

Saturday, March 31st – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Gabriel Novak was nothing like Dean had imagined. 

            First, he didn’t look anything like Dean had thought. He had imagined the man to be some sort of older version of Cas, but he was absolutely not. The guy they picked up at the airport was short, he had long, brown hair and caramel eyes.

           Second, he was Cas’ complete opposite. While Castiel was quiet and introvert, Gabriel made small talk the entire ride back to their house. And, not only did he know how not to burn a meal, but his cooking was positively heavenly.

            Gabriel cooked lunch for them and kept sneaking candy for Jack after they ate, which seemed reasonable since he owned at least three candy shops. Dean just hoped Jack wouldn’t be too high on sugar after his uncle was gone.

            He was a funny guy, Dean would give him that, but he kept staring at him as if he was trying to read him, decipher him, grinning like he knew something Dean didn't, and that creeped him out a little.

            On Saturday night, after Jack went to bed, they settled in the living room to watch the game that was playing and drink some beers.

            “So, Dean-o,” Gabriel started. “Why’d you want your father’s company so bad you were willing to arrange yourself a marriage?”

            “Gabe,” Castiel intervened with a warning tone. He was worried,  Dean could be quite sensitive about the subject.

            “What? Just asking. It’s not every day you see a case like this,” he said, watching Dean fidget in his place beside Castiel on the sofa, his hazel eyes stripping him for an answer.

            “Someone needs to take on the family business.” Dean shrugged. “My brother’s not gonna do it, so it has to be me. If my dad’s condition for that to happen is that I must be married, so be it.”

           Gabriel grinned into his beer bottle, victorious, though still with a devilish spark in his gaze.

            In fact, Dean couldn’t crack Gabriel. The guy was a trick. He couldn’t figure whether Gabriel didn’t like him, or if he was merely testing the waters his kid brother had decided to take a swim in.

            Whichever the reason, Gabriel spent the whole weekend looking at them weirdly.  By Monday morning, when they were dropping Gabriel at the airport at 7 am, Castiel’s brother hugged a sleepy Jack and patted Dean on the back.

            “Welcome to the family, Dean-o,” he said, then hugged Cas and headed to the Security Controls.

            So, yeah. Weird seems to run in Cas’ family, Dean thought.

 

Tuesday, April 3rd – Lawrence, Kansas

 

“We’ll have to educate you,” Castiel said flatly to him just as Dean entered the house that afternoon.

            “Well, hello to you, too.”

            “Yes, I'm sorry. Hi.” He could see Cas was nervous just by the tense way he moved.

            “Educate you on me. And Jack's playing upstairs,” he said as he sat on the armchair across from him.

            “Okay…what the hell do you mean with ‘on you’?” Dean frowned.

            “Oh, sorry.” Castiel blushed slightly. “I expressed myself badly. I meant that you'll have to learn more things about me.”

            “Okay…any special reason for that?”

            “Yes…” Castiel folded his hands in his lap. “Do you remember Mrs. Vallens, the woman that brought Jack to the airport?” 

            Dean nodded.

            “She called me this afternoon, said the State will send someone soon, to evaluate how we're caring for Jack, the safety of the house, all of that,” Cas went on. 

            “And they'll ask me questions about you?”

            “I don't know how these things work, really.” He sighed. “But if they do ask about our relationship, it is important that we know each other well. I really don't want to screw this up, Dean. I can't.”

            “Yeah, man, don't worry.” He placed a hand on Castiel's shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. “I'll help you with it. You can even get a blackboard and white chalks to give me lectures.”

            Castiel chuckled, Dean's hand following his body's movements.

            “Thank you, Dean.”

 

“Okay, let me see if I got this straight. Your favorite book's the Bible?”

            They had started Dean's “education” that night after Jack went to bed. Castiel didn’t believe the state agent would ask any elaborate questions, so they stuck with the basics, besides what they already knew about each other.

            “It is a very interesting story, especially if one wants to understand the basics of how humanity grew,” Castiel defended over his wine glass. “Besides, it was my mother's favorite too. That's why she named me and my brothers after angels.”

            “Makes sense, I guess.” Dean shrugged. “What's my favorite book?”

            They'd been doing that for a while, talking about themselves and then asking each other questions.

            “It’s, uh…Slaughterhouse 5, right? By Vonnegut.”

            “Bingo. Not that I think anyone will want to know that.”

            “Well, I have not read it yet, but I should take a look.”

            “Damn straight.” Dean knocked his beer bottle into Castiel's glass.

            “I’m not, really,” Castiel said, taking a look at the questions he scrawled on a note pad, small things a someone would know about their partner.

            “Not really what?” Dean gently pulled the pad from Castiel, searching for any questions they haven’t gone through yet.

            “Straight.”

            Dean looked up from the pad quick enough to nearly crack his neck.

            “Did you just make a pun?”

            “I don't understand why you're so surprised” Castiel drank the rest of his wine and put the glass in the sink.

            “I dunno, you just… don't usually do that. Especially not with the word ‘straight’.”

            “Guess I'm full of surprises then.” He sat back on his chair and pulled the pad back to himself. “When's my birthday?”

            “Uh…” Dean wasn't sure why his head wasn’t working right. Cas made a pun. So what? No reason for his brain to turn into Jell-O. “September… eighteenth?”

            “Yes.”

            Of course, the reason he was so bewildered by Castiel’s pun––even though it was a bad one––was because it was a confirmation that he might actually be into guys. Not that aby straight guy in his right mind would marry another guy, whatever were his reasons––or so Dean thought.

            But the thing was, he shouldn’t care about whether Cas liked men or not, because that would mean Dean might have a chance with him, and he wasn’t supposed to have a chance with Castiel, let alone want to. Of course, he wasn't blind, he knew Castiel was one of the most handsome men he'd ever seen. He had given up on relationships, not on his senses.

            Acknowledging that he might have a crush on Cas, though, was unprofessional. He hadn’t married Castiel to sleep with him, he’d married him to get what should be his by right.

            So, of course, he did not have a crush on Cas. No, not at all.

 

Saturday, April 7th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

As it turned out, the interview with the state agent went smoothly.

            The woman––a blond and smiley Donna Hanscumn––talked their ears off the whole time she'd been in the house, checking for any dangers––a window without a lock, a loose end on the carpet, anything––but, of course, she found absolutely nothing wrong.

            That was due to the fact Castiel had spent three days going over and over every surface on the house to make sure all was perfect.

            Donna quickly became friends with Jack, who answered all her questions about the boy's feelings and wellbeing and even tried to get her to play with him and his Legos.

            For Dean and Castiel, the only questions were about how they had met, what their jobs were, how long they'd been together and how having a kid had changed their relationship. They answered everything with trained ease, having gone over their fake backstory quite a few times.

            When Donna was done, Jack hugged her goodbye—‘cause he really liked her, Donna was pure sunshine after all—and Dean and Cas shook her hand. Right before she got into her can she turned to them and said:

            “You two sure make a lovely couple, fellas. You take care of that boy. I wish you the best luck.”

            “You too,” they said in unison, as Jack waved at her.

            “I guess that went well.” Castiel let out a sigh of relief.

            Jack ran back inside to play with his Legos and watch the Scooby-Doo episode Dean had put on for him.

            “I told you it'd be alright. You're doing great with him.” Dean patted Cas on the shoulder.

            “Thank you, Dean,” Castiel smiled shyly at him. “You're very nice to Jack too, more than you have to, sometimes. I'm very grateful for it.”

            “It’s nothing.” He internally cursed himself as he felt his cheeks blushing. “And I told you, I like kids.”

            Cas’ smile grew larger and they were interrupted when Jack reappeared by the door, asking ‘Uncle Dean’ to come watch TV with him.

            “Sure, kiddo. How about I make some sandwiches first?”

            Jack nodded, then looked at Castiel with his big blue eyes.

            “Uncle Cas, you wanna watch Scooby too?”

            “Of course.” His uncle smiled, guiding them all inside.

Chapter Text

Monday, April 9th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Dean told himself that after introducing Cas to his parents, things would get better for him at work.

            He was absolutely, one hundred percent wrong.

            His father came into his office, same as always, and started finding small defects in order to call Dean’s work inadequate. Dean didn’t say anything, of course, just nodded along his father's rambling, completely distracted.

            “Dean,” John said, with a tone that indicated that wasn’t the first time he called his son's name.

            “Yes?”

            “Do you ever pay attention to anything I say?” When he was about to answer, John waved him off and repeated what he had said, “I asked how your husband was.”

            “Cas’ fine. Working on a book from that New York company.”

            “Huh. I'm sure he listens to what his boss says.” It was meant to be teasing, but the words felt like a paper cut—small scratch, big inconvenience.

            “Definitely,” he sighed. “Dad, I gotta ask.”

            “What, son?” His father took his eyes off the screen where he was probably trying to imagine more flaws in a perfect piece and looked at him.

            “Are you ever passing me the company?” As he said it, John’s eyes avoided his, looking around the room instead. “I know I can handle it, Dad. Besides, I’ve followed our deal.”

            “I know you have, son. But I'm not sure yet.”

            “Yeah, you never are,” Dean mumbled under his breath, unsure if his father heard.

            “What?”

            “Nothing.” Dean sat up straight. “Look, Dad, I gotta get back to work, so…”

            “Of course. See you later, Son.”

            As John closed the door, Dean let out a heavy exhale, allowing his body to slide back against the fake leather of his chair. Fan-freaking-tastic.

            Pleasing his father was going to be even harder than he had thought.

 

Later that afternoon, as he was leaving the building, he got a call from his brother.

            “Hey, Sasquatch!”

            “Don't call me that. How you're doing?”

            “Yeah, I'm fine, just another exhausting Monday working for Dad.”

            “Well, it was your choice.”

            “Sure.” He opened the car’s door and threw his bag into the backseat. “Someone had to follow our family’s steps.”

            “By that, you mean ‘do everything Dad wants’?”

            “By that, I mean ‘be a good son’” He knew he’d probably pushed it with that last comment, but his day already sucked, he didn’t need his kid brother telling him he was essentially his dad's blunt little instrument.

            “Yeah, I forgot I had been removed from that category,” his brother chuckled on the other end, “but you've always been the favorite, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.”

            What? Dean thought.

            “The fuck you mean ‘I'm the favorite’?” He pressed the phone between his ear and shoulder to get the key in the ignition. “You're the one who always got everything you wanted.”

            “What? No, I wasn't.”

            “Oh, C’mon, Sam. You always got praised for everything you did, you went to the college you chose, married the love of your life, got out of Kansas.”

            “Dean-”

            “Now, me?” His voice was slightly raised, not to the point where someone passing through would think he was insane, but still, “I've always done everything dad asked me to do. I did marketing, because he wanted me to work for the company, and I work my ass off in said company every week, I even got married to fulfill his stupid deal and do I ever get a single ‘good job, son’? No, I don't-”

            “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Sam interrupted. “What the hell you mean you got married?”

            “Oh, shit.” He Knocked his head on the wheel when he realized what he had done—or, more precisely, what he hadn't done. “I forgot to tell you.”

            “You forgot to tell me you got married?”

            “Yes,” Dean confessed. “I was going to tell you, I swear”

            “I thought you'd given up on relationships!”

            “Yeah.” In fact, he had. That’s why he had a fake marriage, but Sam didn’t need to know that. “Guess I just hadn’t found the right person yet.”

            “How could you forget to tell me that? Was there a ceremony or something?”

            “’ Course not. I’d have invited you then.”

            “Wait, did you only get married so dad would be happy with you?”

            Man, was that kid smart. Dean wasn’t sure whether he should be mad at his brother for thinking he'd do something like that or hate himself for doing exactly that.

            “Of course not,” he lied, “we've been together for a couple of years, I just didn’t tell anyone.”

            “Why? Was it because of what happened with Lisa?”

            “Yes,” He gritted his teeth. Did his brother call to remind him of all his past resentments?

            “Thought so…but why get married now? Seems hurried.”

            “It was.”

            “You want to elaborate?”

            “Long story short, Cas’ best friend who happened to be the mother of his nephew died in a car accident a couple of months ago. Since his brother’s not really a good influence from what he's told me, he wanted to get  custody of the kid, and we thought he'd have more chance if he was in a stable relationship.”

            “By ‘stable’ you mean married.” Sam sighed.  “Sorry about his friend.”

            “Yeah, they were really close.”

            “Wait, so now I have a nephew?”

            “Yeah, sort of.” Dean had lost count of how many times he'd told that story already. “His name's Jack.” He checked his watch and realized he'd been talking with his brother for a while. “Look, Sam, I'm gonna hang up. I gotta go home and make dinner.”

            “Yeah, sure. You're a family man now, huh?” Sam teased.

            “Exactly. Wait, did you have a reason to call me or...?”

            “Nah, I just wanted to check in, we haven’t talked much these past weeks.”

            “Yeah, I know. I really gotta go though, so…”

            “Yeah, no problem, man. Go cook for your husband.”

            “Bitch.”

            “Jerk.” Sam hung up and Dean turned the radio on to drown out the sudden silence.

           

He thought about his conversation with his brother the whole ride home. Sam was, in fact, the one who always got what he desired. Dean had good grades in school too, some as good as Sam's, but John never praised him the way he praised his youngest son. His father never recognized what he did, his attempts at being the perfect son. Even when Sam left home to go to Stanford—which his dad definitely didn’t agree with—he still said he was proud of Sam. Of Dean? Never.

 


 

Dean made his classic spaghetti for dinner. Jack had his fun twisting his pasta into rolls with his fork and sucking them noisily, which Castiel said was not a polite thing to do with Dean's food. Then Dean started doing the same thing, grinning, and soon Cas did it too, and they laughed through dinner until Cas put Jack to bed and came back to wash the dishes.

            Dean was still at the table, a half-drank beer bottle in front of him. He fell back into his thoughts about his chat with Sam.

            “Dean.” He heard Castiel call and snapped his head in the direction of his voice. “Are you okay? You seem…off.”

            “Yeah, yeah, I'm fine,” he said, rubbing a hand through his face. “Just thinking.”

            “Anything you want to share with the class?” Castiel asked as he started to soap and rinse the plates.

            “Nah, I just…my brother called today and it didn’t go well.”

            Cas placed the bowl he was washing back in the sink, dried his hand on a towel and sat across from Dean in the table.

            “You know you can talk to me, don't you? We're here to help each other, after all.”

            “Yeah, I… I know. Thanks, Cas.” He drank some of his beer, playing with the condensation circle left on the table. “The talk I had with my brother…made me think if I shouldn’t just throw the towel and quit the job with Dad.”

            “Why should you?” 

            When he looked at Cas, he was sitting straight in his chair, hands folded on the table in front of him, sincere concern—or maybe curiosity—in his eyes.

            “Sam said I just do everything Dad wants me to do and… Well, he's not wrong. That’s the very reason we're here now. But is easy for Sam to say, he's always got what he wanted. First choice of college, great place, dream job…”

            “And working in your family’s company is not your dream job?”

            “Not really, if I’m being honest with myself.”

            “Then why did you choose to do it?”

            “I tell myself that it’s because someone had to stick with the family business, but-” he sighed, then shrugged. “Guess I just wanted my dad to be proud of me like he always was of Sam.” He ran a hand down his face again. “Shit, I sound like a spoiled kid, don’t I?”

            “No, you're not.” He looked at Castiel again, trying to find evidence that he was being teased, but all that he found was concern.

            “Yeah, well…so I stood with the family business. Did everything dad wanted.” He gestured at Castiel, “…even got married. And he still won’t recognize a single good thing I do.”

            “Is there any chance he'd be upset you married a man?” Cas asked carefully.

            “Nah,” he chuckled bitterly. “For dad, I could marry an octopus as long as I got married.” He toyed with his beer’s label, peeling it off at one corner. “I don’t know what else to do.”

            “Do you want my opinion?” 

            Dean nodded affirmatively. 

            “I think there are two things you could do,” Cas paused to make sure Dean was looking at him. “One, you could talk to your father about it, tell him everything  you’ve just told me.” 

            Dean snorted, dismissing the option. 

            “Or,” Cas continued, “two, you could find something else to do.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “I know you're a hard worker, Dean, and that you're great with what you do. I’ve seen some of your campaigns when you brought them home to work. They're very good.”

            “Huh, thanks, I guess.”

            Castiel raised a hand, indicating him to just listen.

            “If there's one thing my father taught me, is that you should always do what you love. He always said my mother wanted us all to be big, important things, like lawyers or doctors. But I translate books and Gabriel sells candy because that's what we like to do. I studied to be an accountant for three months before I decided I was doing the wrong thing.”

            “So, you're saying I should just drop the company and do something I really like?”

            “I'm not saying you should, that would be too pretentious. I'm saying you can. It's an option you can always consider. Just think, if you had had the same opportunity as your brother, to go to the college of your choice, get the job you’re truly happy with, what would you be doing right now?”

            He thought about that for a moment, though he knew he didn’t need to think much.

            “I'd be working with my uncle, restoring classic cars. He has a garage near the edge of the city and he let me work part-time there when I was in high school.”

            Castiel nodded, smiling proudly at him.

            “See? There's something you want to do. You could get another degree or just work with your uncle––because it's what you want to do. It's what you would like to do.”

            “Actually, I huh…” Dean blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. “I have a second degree that I never told my father about. Got it right after marketing, did part of it online. Mechanical Engineering.”

            “Then… why didn’t you drop the company earlier?” Castiel tilted his head a little, frowning at him. It was utterly cute, not that Dean was going to mention it.

            “I…I don't know. I guess I just needed someone to tell me that I can do what I really want instead of following my dad.” He let out a relieved sigh, then got up to throw away his bottle. “Thanks, Cas. Really,” he said, placing a hand on the man's shoulder.

            “Thanks, Cas. Really,” he said, placing a hand on the man's shoulder.

            “Like I said. We're here to help each other.” 

            Dean smiled, squeezed Cas shoulder and headed to the stairs. “I'll get some sleep now, I think. You gonna need any help there?” Dean gestured at the sink where only a couple of plates and cutlery were.

            “No, I'm good. Goodnight, Dean.”

            “G’night.”

 


 

In Dean’s defense, he did try to sleep. But he kept tossing and turning, thinking, unable to shut off his mind. The only thing keeping him awake was his inability to choose between following one of the options Castiel said he had or leaving things exactly the way they were and hope it would get better with time.

            When he finally got pissed at himself for not falling asleep, he decided to watch some TV in the living room. When he stepped outside his room, the first thing he saw was Jack, blond hair sticking up on every possible angle, wearing his Mickey Mouse pajamas, just about to knock on Cas’ door.

            “Hey, kiddo.” The boy looked at him, lowering his hand from the door. “What you're doing here? Can’t sleep?”

            Jack nodded, his big blue eyes staring up at him.

            “Yeah, me neither. Do you wanna go downstairs with me? Maybe we can have some milk and cookies?”

            The boy looked from Dean to Castiel's door, then back at Dean. He nodded again and raised his arms for Dean to pick him up.

            Dean smiled, raising the boy to his hip. Jack settled his head on Dean’s neck, his hands holding the stuffed giraffe Dean had given him that day at the airport.

            When they got to the kitchen, Dean turned on the lights and helped Jack onto one of the chairs at the table.

            “Warm or cold?” Deas asked as he opened the fridge for the milk.

            “Warm.”

            Jack had placed his giraffe on the table and his legs were dangling from the chair, still far from the floor.

            As he heated two glasses of milk in the microwave, Dean searched for the cookies they’d bought last time they went shopping. He put them on a plat and settled it between his and Jack’s seat at the table.

            He checked the milk’s temperature to make sure it wasn't too hot and handed a glass to Jack.

            “Why can’t you sleep?” He tried and got a shrug for an answer. “Did you have a nightmare?” Jack shook his head no. “Took a long nap in the afternoon?”

            Jack drank some of his milk and ate half a cookie before he nodded.

            “If you sleep too much in the afternoon you'll have too much energy at night.” He grabbed a cookie for himself. “It happened to me too when I was your age.”

            “But…you work all day,” Jack said as he reached for another cookie.

            “I do.” Dean better make sure Jack didn’t eat too many of those, otherwise Cas would probably be mad at him.

            “Then why’re you awake?”

            “Cause I can’t stop thinking about work.” He ate the rest of his cooking, brushing the crumbs off his hands.

            “Is that bad?” Jack frowned at him, same way Castiel did, which made him think one more time about how in the hell Jack wasn’t Cas’ kid.

            “Probably.”

            “When I gro’up, I wanna be a doctor.” The boy said proudly, cleaning the milk off his mouth with his sleeve.

            “Yeah? What kind of doctor you're gonna be?”

            “Kind that helps people who’re sick.”

            Dean smiled at him. That’s why he loved kids, they were innocent and pure and just wanted to help people.

            “I’m sure you’ll be a great doctor, kiddo.”

           “Can we watch TV?” Jack asked him, finishing another cookie.

           “Well…” Dean wasn’t sure it was a good idea, letting the kid in front of the television this late, but it might help him sleep right? It always helped Sammy sleep when they were young. “I don’t see why not.”

           Jack smiled, grabbing his giraffe and jumping off his seat to rush for the couch. He settled on the cushions as Dean logged in to Netflix, dangling his socked feet off.

           “What do you wanna watch?”

           “Looney Tunes!” Jack whispered, throwing his hands up. He hugged his plushie close and Dean sat beside him with the remote.

           Three episodes later, Jack was snoring, his head resting on Dean’s side. Dean ran a hand through the boy’s hair to make sure he was asleep and turned the TV off. After putting away the remainings of their snacks in the kitchen, Dean took Jack in his arms and carried him back to bed.

Chapter Text

Tuesday, April 10th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

After putting Jack back to bed, Dean decided to watch some TV, which meant he ended up falling asleep on the sofa, earning himself a nice sore back when he woke up.

            He went upstairs to take a shower, then check his phone, which he’d left charging, and found a couple of texts from Sam.

 

(7:06 am)

Moose: Hey, good morning

Moose: Sorry about what I said yesterday, I didn’t mean to be that way about you working with Dad

Moose: How's your husband-that-I-didn't-know-of?

 

            He snorted at the last one, got dressed for work and went to the kitchen to get some sort of breakfast started and call Sam.

            “Hey,” his brother answered with the panting tone of who just came back from jogging.

            “Dude. Seven am. You texted me seven am then went out to exercise?

            “Yes, Dean.” He could hear the bitchface. “Some of us do try to keep healthy exercise routines.”

            “Hey, I have a toddler at home, I do get some exercise.”

            “Sure. How's your husband-that-I-didn't–“

            “You're going to torment me with that one for the rest of my life, aren’t you?” He said, searching the fridge for some eggs.

            “You bet.”

            “He’s fine.”

            “Why are we talking in such a low voice?” Sam asked imitating his tone.

            “Because,” he said, placing a pan on the oven for the eggs, “Cas and Jack are still sleeping”

            “Why's he's still sleeping? Doesn’t ‘Cas’ have a job or something?”

            “Or something.” Dean searched the cabinet just above his head for the coffee powder. “He works from home, translating books.”

            “Wow. That's awesome.”

            “Yup. It’s also the reason why we don’t need a babysitter.”

            “How old’s my nephew?”

            “Four.” Dean couldn’t cook and talk on the phone at the same time, so he figured he'd better say what he had to say or he would be late. “Hey, uh, I actually called to apologize about yesterday…I think I might've been a bit too harsh and I shouldn't have.”

            “It's okay, man; I got a little ahead of myself too. Guess we're even.”

            “Yeah.” Dean chuckled. “Guess so. Look I gotta hang up. These eggs aren’t gonna scramble themselves.”

            “Sure. Bye, Dean. Say hi to Cas for me.”

            “Yeah, bye.”

            He poured himself a cup of coffee and started scrambling the eggs right about the time he heard someone descending the stairs. From the sound of it, it was Castiel. Dean heard the front door open and close again; Cas was probably getting the newspaper.

            “Morning,” Cas grumbled as he sat in one of the chairs and opened the news to pretend he was reading something instead of almost falling asleep on it.

            “Morning, Sunshine.” Dean put a hot mug in front of Cas, who sighed in relief. “Hope I didn’t wake you up.”

            “Not at all,” Cas said after drinking half his coffee. “How did you sleep?”

            “Fine.” Dean unconsciously rubbed his back where it was still a bit sore. Cas didn’t seem to notice.

            Castiel just hummed in response. He couldn’t help but notice how well Dean’s suit fit him, tie loosened around his neck, dark slacks enveloping his thighs.

            They watched a sleepy Jack drag himself into the kitchen, his giraffe hanging from his left hand. He hugged Castiel, who pulled a chair for his nephew, but when he went to help him up the boy had walked to where Dean stood by the counter and hugged him too.

            “Morning, kiddo.”

            “That's new,” Castiel said when Jack finally requested his help to sit at the table.

            “Jack and I are best friends now, right kid?”

            The boy nodded happily, pushing a mug towards his uncle so he'd get him some milk.

            “I thought I was your best friend” Castiel was more confused than jealous. He wondered when that had happened as he got Jack his milk.

            The kid shook his head.

            “You're Daddy. Uncle Dee’s my best friend”

            Castiel held onto the milk cartoon tight, or else he'd drop it. Jack hadn’t said anything like that for years. The first time he'd insisted calling him ‘dad’ he was two. Kelly told him Castiel was his uncle and her best friend.

            “Okay. I can work with that.” He handed Jack his glass and saw Dean smiling softly at them.

 

Friday, April 13th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

The last few days had been completely the same at the company—nothing had changed at all, to Dean's despair.

            As for Castiel, he was constantly nervous, checking and re-checking his emails several times a day, waiting for a word from Mrs. Vallens. Dean kept telling him to ‘cool off, man’ and ‘don't worry, they'd be stupid if they didn’t make you his legal guardian’. He believed Dean to be right, but it did nothing to stop himself from biting his fingernails.

 

Dean had just gotten home that afternoon and had walked into the living room to find a very usual scene—one that was becoming very dear to him—Jack playing with his Legos on the carpet as Scooby-Doo played on TV. Castiel was sitting on the couch, laptop balanced on his tights, staring blankly at its screen.

            “Hey, guys,” he greeted, gaining a happy wave from Jack, who quickly got back to the boat he was building. “Cas? You okay?” Dean asked after Cas said nothing for good 30 seconds. “Cas?” He walked around the couch, sitting beside Castiel, and snapped his fingers in front of him. “Earth to Castiel, are you okay?”

            “I…” Castiel mumbled right when Dean was starting to get concerned. “I got it.” 

            He slowly moved his face away from the screen, focusing his eyes on Dean. There was the beginning of years in the corners of his blue eyes. “I got Jack's custody”

            “What, really?” it took Dean a moment to catch up, staring at the computer's screen, reading words like ‘Vallens’, ‘guardian’ and ‘approved’. “I told you you'd get it.” He placed a hand on Castiel's shoulder and was surprised when the other man wrapped his arms around Dean, almost knocking the laptop off. Dean gently placed his hand on Cas’ back, not really knowing what to do.

            When Castiel pulled back he had a huge smile on his face,  which quickly faded when he saw the confused expression on Dean's face.

            “Dean, oh, sorry, I just-”

            “It’s okay,” Dean cut him off, “I'm happy for you, Cas.”

            Castiel released a long, relieved breath that he seemed to be holding for months.

            “Yes. Thank you, Dean. For everything you be done really, for me and Jack,”

            “Hey, it's nothing.” He patted Cas’ shoulder then turned to Jack, who was looking at them with confused eyes, trying to understand what was going on and why his uncle was crying. “So, kiddo, what do you want to eat tonight, huh? I'll make whatever you guys want.”

            “Dean,” Castiel protested, “you don't have to-” 

            Dean just waved him off, smiling at Jack.“So, what's it gonna be? Pizza, spaghetti?”

            “Burgers!” Jack said.

            Dean clapped his hands on his tights and got up, shuffling the boy’s hair.

            “Burgers it is. You wanna help me?”

            Jack nodded and followed him into the kitchen, Castiel close behind, still smiling and wiping off tears.

 

Dean made them his special burgers, with Jack handing him things whenever he asked, then helping his uncle set the table. While Dean cooked, Castiel had called Michael and Gabriel to thank them and deliver the good news. He sent a text to his father too, though he was probably watching his soap operas at that hour.

            While they ate, Jack told them all about the latest Scooby-Doo episode with them, babbling like the happy four-year-old he was. He talked so much that Castiel had to keep reminding him to eat his burger and drink his orange juice.

            Dean avidly chatted about the cartoon with Jack, smiling when the boy made large explosions gestures to recreate the scenes.

            After dinner, Dean managed—with fierce insistence—to convince Castiel to let him clean the dishes. When Cas realized Dean wouldn't budge, he agreed and took Jack upstairs to tuck the boy in.

           


 

“Uncle Cas,” Jack called him as he fixed the boy's covers, “how'd you meet mommy?”

            Castiel sighed, sitting back in the mattress. He smiled and brushed a strand of golden hair off Jack's forehead.

            “We were both in college. She had just started her classes and I was in the middle of my masters degree. We met in the library because we were searching for the same book. Then we became friends.”

            “Do you miss her?” the boy asked, voice almost a whisper.

            “Every day,” Cas said, handing Jack his giraffe.

            “I miss Mommy too.” The boy took hold of the stuffed toy, pressing it against his chest. “But mommy would be happy I'm here.”

            “She would.” Castiel smiled fondly. “She would be very happy. And now I am going to take care of you, Jack. Remember Mia?” Jack nodded. “She said you can stay here.”

            “For real forever?” The boy asked enthusiastically.

            “Yes,” Castiel chuckled. “For as long as you’d like. Or until you’re eighteen.”

            “I wanna live with you forever.” Jack hugged him, messing the covers again.

            “You will then.” Castiel kissed the boy's temple. “But now you need to go to sleep, okay?”

            “’kay.” Jack laid back again, pulling his covers with him. “G’night, uncle Cas.”

            “Goodnight, Jack.” He got up, leaving a crack on the door as he went downstairs.

 

“You really didn’t have to, Dean,” Cas said when he reached the kitchen and saw Dean finishing cleaning the sink.

            “Dude! How can you be so quiet?” 

            Dean turned back to look at Castiel and Cas realized he had startled Dean again. He was about to apologize when Dean waved him off. 

            “Don't worry ‘bout the dishes, man, you can wash ‘em all you want the rest of the week.”

            “I will.” Castiel sighed. “That's the deal we made.”

            “Yeah, the deal doesn’t count today.” Dean dried his hands on a towel and stood back by the counter, facing him. “So, what did it say in that email anyway?”

            “Mia said they will send two copies of the custody papers.” He leaned back against the door frame. “I just have to sign them and send one back.”

            “Then it's done? He'll be legally your kid?”

            “Yes.”

Chapter Text

“That's great, Cas,” Dean said. “When do the papers arrive?”

            “Within the next few days, I suppose.”

            Dean nodded. Then he looked at the fridge and back at Castiel, an idea forming in his mind.

            “What do you say we crack a couple of beers open and watch something?” He suggested “You can drink your fancy wine if you want,” Dean grinned.

            “I think it’s a good idea.” Castiel went past him and opened the fridge, reaching for the bottles. “I'll take the beer, though.” 

            Dean chuckled.

            “You can pick the movie since you insisted on washing the dishes. I'll make some popcorn.”

            “Deal.”

 

Ten minutes later, they were settled on the sofa with their feet on the coffee table and a bowl of popcorn for each of them as Tombstone played on the TV.

            Cas could tell that Dean liked the movie very much. He kept telling him random facts about the actors, talking about other movies they had worked in that they should watch too. Castiel just nodded along, asking about details in the movie that he had missed or didn’t understand.

            Dean would explain to him everything and more like he always did when they decided to watch one of his favorite movies or TV shows. He reminded him of Jack, in that aspect—always talking inexhaustibly about what he liked.

            Within an hour and a half on the movie, Dean got up to get another round and put away the bowls with the uncooked kernels.

            When Tombstone ended, Castiel suggested they watched another that had one of the actors of the movie they'd just watched.

            “We could watch Guardians of the Galaxy. We saw the first one, remember?” Cas nodded “Kurt Russell's in the second one.”

            “Sounds good.”

            Dean searched for the movie on his computer, leaving the volume just high enough to not wake up Jack.

            “That tree is too cute for its own good,” Castiel said when baby Groot first appeared, making Dean chuckle.

 

When there was still about forty minutes until the end, Dean felt a weight on his left shoulder. The second he realized it was Castiel's head, he started to internally freak out because what the hell is happening and you're not supposed to like it, you don’t even know what he's doing, you idiot.

            He very carefully turned his head around to take a look at Castiel, only to realize Cas’ head was on Dean's shoulder because he had fallen asleep.

            He wasn’t sure if he should be mad at Castiel for sleeping in the middle of a fight scene, or if he should let the butterflies swell in his stomach at the sight.

            Neither, he thought, it’s probably past midnight already, so he must be tired. And the second is too unprofessional, Winchester.

            He decided to wait for the end to wake Cas up. He didn't have to since Castiel woke up when there were still twelve minutes of action.

            “What did I miss?” he asked, rubbing his eyes “Sorry. I think I fell asleep on you.”

            “It’s okay. You just missed the plot twist of his father.”

            “He’s evil, isn't he?” Dean nodded. “I knew it.”

            “What? How?”

            “It was very obvious, Dean”

            “No, it wasn't.”

            Castiel shrugged and focused his eyes back on the screen. The credits had started rolling. He started to get up and stretch when Dean said, “where are you going?” 

            He might’ve sounded a bit more surprised than he intended, but Castiel's shirt had ridden up when he’d stretched his arms over his head and Dean's ‘It's unprofessional’ policy did not cover that.

            “I was thinking of going to sleep.” 

            When Dean glared at him, he remembered the rule he’d been taught about superheroes movies. “How many post-credits scenes are in this one?” He sighed.

            “Five.”

            Castiel grunted and sat back beside Dean.

            “Don't worry, I'll fast-forward the credits.”

            “Thanks.”

 

Tuesday, April 17th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

To be quite honest, Dean thought it was one of his finest pieces of work. Each month he had to come up with a new slogan, a new design and this one was… awesome.

            In fact, it was so good that he was actually excited to show it to his father. It was too perfect for John to find any defects. The entire campaign had been kind of inspired by Jack's Lego playing, and Dean was very, very proud of his work.

            When John walked into his office, Dean even greeted him with a smile.

            “Hey, Dad.”

            “Hi, Son. You finished?”

            “Yup.” He turned his computer around to show his dad his masterpiece.

            His smile faded though, as soon as he saw the spark of over-analyzing and disapproval in his father's eyes.

            “What do you think?”

            “I think it's…” John sat on the chair across from Dean, rubbing his chin as he looked at the screen. “It's missing something… or there's too much something… you should take off the-“

            “No.”

            His father’s eyes jumped to him at sudden his outburst, but Dean was done with it. He wouldn’t change a damn thing on his work, it was great just the way it was. He was tired of being shuffled around by his dad, just because the old man was never satisfied with Dean's performance.

            “What do you mean ‘no’?” His father asked in his best offended voice.

            “I mean no. I'm not gonna change anything. This is the final piece, and if you don't like it then you can give it to someone else edit.”

            His father said nothing, just stood there sending him warning glares.

            “Dad, I'm tired, okay? I'm tired of my work never being good enough for you, and I'm tired of not getting the recognition I deserve. I've worked my ass off for years here, and it’s never enough for you.”

            “Watch your tone, boy.”

            “This is the final project.” Dean pointed at the screen. “Whether you like it or not.” He got up so quickly from his chair it spun and was ready to walk off. “I'm gonna get some coffee.”

            As he left his baffled father behind, he made a mental note to thank Cas for the advice he'd given Dean that other day.

           

While he waited in line for his coffee he called Charlie.

            “Hey! I was almost filling a missing person report on my handmaiden!”

            “Hey, Charlie,” he chuckled. “Missed you too”

            “Where the hell have you been? Too busy with your new husband to call a friend?”

            “It's nothing like that.” He sighed. “I've just been busy.”

            “Whatever, you’re gonna take a break from married life and fatherhood and you and I are going out for some beers, you understand?”

            “Yes, ma'am.” He took his coffee and headed back to the company building. “I was thinking exactly that, actually. You free tonight?”

            “Dean, it's Tuesday. You wanna go to a bar on a  Tuesday?”

            “Yup. If you're free.”

            “Sure. What time will you come pick me up?”

            “Well, I gotta get home, make dinner and take a shower, so… eight thirty good for you?”

            “Great. See you later. Bye, busy hubby.”

            “Bye, your Majesty.”

 


 

“Cas,” Dean called from the kitchen’s door.

            “Yes, Dean?” He turned his head towards him, away from the television.

            “Come here, wanna help me with dinner?”

            “Of course.”

            He got up from the couch and followed Dean into the kitchen, where he was taking ingredients off the counters and fridge.

            “What are you doing?” He asked.

            “We,” Dean corrected, “are gonna make a quiche.”

            “We?”

            “Yup. I promised you cooking lessons.”

            They worked together on the dough and the filling, Castiel being the one to place both on the plate they were using. Their elbows brushed every so often in the small kitchen space, made smaller by working so close together.

            When the quiche was assembled, Castiel placed it in the oven while Dean talked about time and temperature.

            “Now, I gotta take a shower, I’m gonna go out with a friend tonight,” Dean said and Castiel couldn’t deny it made him a little bit jealous, as silly as that sounded. “And I trust you to take care of this quiche.”

            “You won’t stay for dinner?” Cas hoped he hadn’t sounded disappointed, even though he kind of was.

            “No, but you better save me a slice. So, you wait…” Dean looked at his watch. “Exactly thirty-seven minutes and then you can turn it off, but leave it in the oven for five more, okay?”

            “Yes. Thirty-seven and an extra five.”

            “That's it, buddy.” Dean patted his shoulder and went for the stairs. Castiel set an alarm on his phone because there was no way he was letting that quiche burn.

           

Dean came back twenty-four minutes later—he was not counting, he’d just glanced at the timer—wearing tight jeans and a dark-gray button-down, looking absolutely gorgeous, which definitely made him feel jealous of whoever Dean was going out with because…damn. He and Dean didn’t have any agreements on the matter of seeing other people during the time they were ‘married’ but still…

            Well, Dean's a grown man, he thought, a very handsome man- focus! He can do whatever he wants, see whoever he wants and it's none of your business.

            He watched Dean fish his phone from his jean’s pocket and smile at the screen before typing something. Not your real husband, Castiel had to remind himself at least three times before Dean spoke.

            “So, probably be back late, but you call me if you need anything.”

            “Of course.”

            “And don’t forget the quiche.”

            “I won't.” 

            “Okay. Bye, Cas.” Dean turned to Jack, who had been playing in the living room. “Bye, kiddo!”

            “Bye, uncle Dee,” Jack said without turning away from his toys.

            “Bye.” Castiel checked the timer again. Still seven minutes left.

 


 

(8:21 pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): your queen awaits

(8:22 pm)

Your Highness (Charlie): where's my handmaiden?

(8:25pm)

DW: on my way

 


 

“So,” Charlie said grinning at him. “How's Mr. McDreamy?”

            They had ordered a couple of beers and fries to accompany, as they sat at a booth on the left side of the bar.

            “Who?” Dean asked stuffing his mouth with fries.

            “Your husband, dummy. The one you cook for, Mrs. Housewife.”

            “Hey! I'm not a housewife.” He punched her lightly on the shoulder. “Cas is fine.”

            “And you're on defense mode.”

            “No, I'm not.” He drank some of his beers while Charlie studied him.

            “Yes, you are.”

            Dean glared at her.

            “He's fine, okay.” Dean sighed. “Fine, hot and unattainable.”

            “Why?”

            “Cause he's my husband, that’s why,” Dean stated as if it were obvious. “I can’t just sleep with him, Charlie, it would make things really  awkward.”

            “Okay.” She placed her hands on the table in front of him. “You're talking one-night-stand here. I'm not.” 

            Dean snorted.

            “Yeah, right, cause that worked really well last time.”

            “Oh, C'mon, Dean. Give yourself a chance.”

            “Nope.” He placed his hands above Charlie's. “Besides, I'm not here to talk about my fake husband.”

            “Then what do you wanna talk about?”

            “My insufferable father.”

            Charlie’s pushed her hands back and sighed dramatically. “What did he do this time?”

            “Nothing new, actually.” He waved at the waiter for another round. “I just decided to follow some advice and told him I was tired of not getting my work recognized.”

            “Wow!” Charlie slumped back into her seat. “Who was the blessed soul to give you such wise advice? And you actually followed it? Must be the Pope.”

            “It was Cas.” Charlie immediately started grinning at him again and Dean glared at her. “Stop.”

            She raised her hands with an innocent face.

            “I said nothing.” The waiter placed their beers and took the empty bottles away. “You did.”

            “Charlie. No.”

            “Okay, fine. Don’t you come crying to me later.” She grabbed her beer and knocked it against Dean's. “So, you're gonna quit working with your dad, or…”

            “I think I might.” He raised his beer. “Cheers to that.”

Chapter Text

Wednesday, April 18th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

When Castiel woke up, Dean was already in the kitchen preparing the coffee.

            “Morning.” Dean smiled. 

            He seems very happy, Cas thought. “Morning,” he greeted back “Do you need any help?”

            “Nah, I got this.” Dean handed him a cup of coffee and started to take things off the fridge. “Pancakes ok for you?” 

            Very, very happy.

            “Yes,” Cas took a sip from his mug, watching Dean move around the kitchen without the usual morning tension in his shoulders. Maybe it’s just because he isn’t working today. Or…maybe it wasn’t just a ‘friend’ yesterday, Castiel's mind betrayed him.

            “How was your date last night?” And so did his mouth.

            “What?” Dean turned to him, confused.

            “You said you'd go out last night, with…a friend…I just assumed…” Cas let the sentence hang in the air as he put some organic honey in his coffee.

            “Oh. Right.” Dean made a face as he finally understood what Castiel was implying. “Dude, no, it…it was just Charlie, it wasn’t a date.”

            “Your friend? The one that works for Gabriel?”

            “Yeah, that one.”

            “Oh. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have assumed anything. You just seem very happy, so I thought…”

            “It's cool, man.” Dean got a pan for the pancakes and started mixing the ingredients. “Besides, I'm a married man. I wouldn’t do that.” Dean winked and Cas’brain short-circuited. He's just playing with you, assbutt, he remained himself.

            “Right.”

            “I am happy, though. That's ‘cause I’ve decided to change something. Thanks to you, actually.”

            “Me?” Cas frowned.

            “Yup.” Dean turned to face him again. “I'mma quit my job with dad and go back to Bobby’s. I mean, I still have to call him and ask for my old gig back, but I'll do it.”

            “Dean.” Castiel smiled fondly. “That's great. I’m glad you’re doing this.”

            “Yeah, me too.” Dean started flipping the pancakes around. “Dad's probably gonna be pissed.” He shrugged. “But, anyway, thank you for the advice that other day. It really made a difference.”

            “You’re welcome, anytime.”

            They were interrupted when Jack walked into the kitchen, rubbing at his eyes and demanding food.

            “Hey, kiddo,” Dean said. “You want some pancakes?”

            Jack shook his head vehemently, pulling at Castiel's sleeve for his uncle to help him into his chair.

            Five minutes later Dean placed two smiley-face shaped pancakes on Jack's plate. The boy smiled, reaching for the syrup and drawing details on Mr. Pancake’s face.

            Then Dean dropped something that looked like a cone with a circle on the top and irregular pieces on the sides.

            “It was supposed to be an angel,” Dean said over his shoulder.

            “Thank you, Dean.” Castiel smiled up and Dean patted his shoulder before going back to the stove.

            A few minutes later he brought a plate full of pancakes with a least three other smiley-faces, and put some on his on plate.

            “I’m gonna go to Bobby’s place after lunch,” Dean said pouring a slightly unhealthy amount of syrup on his pancakes. “When I get back we could take someone to the park.” He looked at Jack, who was shoving another bite of pancakes on his mouth and had syrup all over his chin.

            “That's a good idea. Would you like to go to the park, Jack?”

            The boy raised his head from his breakfast to nod at his uncle.

            “Great.” Dean grinned.

           


 

“Hey, Bobby,” Dean said as he walked into the newly reformed garage.

            “Dean! Watcha doing here?” The old man walked from behind the front desk and gave him a hug, then slapped the side of his head.

            “Ouch!” He rubbed the spot where he'd been hit and glared at his foster uncle. “What was that for?”

            “That's for not visiting.” Bobby guided him to the back and into the house's kitchen, grabbing them both a beer. “So, what are you doing here, son?”

            “Not happy to see me?” Dean teased as he screwed the cap off his bottle. When Bobby glared at him he said, “I was wondering if you would give me my old job back.” He looked at his hands.

            “Did your daddy fire you?”

            “No. I’m quitting.”

            “It’s about time, boy. What took you so long?”

            “Guess I…” he sighed, “just needed someone to tell me it was okay to live my own life.”

            “Well, give that person a prize for knocking some sense in that stubborn head of yours.” Bobby knocked his beer with Dean's, then raised it. “Cheers.”

            “Cheers.”

            “So, who was it that told you to quit?”

            “Cas didn’t tell me to quit, he just said it was an option that…” He cut himself when he saw the puzzled look on his uncle's face. “Shit.” Great. Did I forget to tell everyone?  It wasn’t his fault, really, it all just happened so fast, it wasn’t even on his plans!

            “Who's Cas?”

            “Please don’t murder me.” He sighed, placing his beer back on the table. “Cas is my husband.”

            “Come again?”

            “I didn’t tell anyone until last month.”

            Bobby rose from his chair to slap his head again.

            “You idjit! How's that something you don’t tell anybody about?”

            “I know.” He rubbed his head again. “It just happened really fast.” He prepared to repeat their made-up backstory for the…third? Fourth time? He was getting tired of it, really. “There was a problem with his nephew, and he had to take  custody so we got married to have an extra chance…”

            “And now you’re married with a kid and you want your job back?”

            “To sum it up, yes.”

            “You kids these days.” Bobby shook his head. “Alright. I'll let you work here–”

            “Thanks, Bobby, I–”

            “With one condition.”

            “Sure.” Dean frowned.

            “You'll bring ‘em here. I wanna meet that family of yours.”

            “Yeah,” he chuckled. “Yeah, sure, I'll bring ‘em.”

            “So,” Bobby got up to grab himself another beer. “When’re you gonna deliver the good news to your father?”

           


 

They had taken Jack to the park after Dean got back. He played on the swings until he managed to fall off and scrape his elbow. There was a bit of blood and a couple of tears, as well as Castiel and Dean running towards the boy.

            It was fine at the end, when Jack said it was okay because he would have an awesome scar. Dean told him it probably wouldn’t leave a scar and Castiel said he was spending too much time with Dean.

            Dean just bumped his shoulder and said that the kid knew he was awesome.

 

Now here they were, Dean sitting in the kitchen table with his computer and a beer in front of him, while Castiel carefully attempted to cook some pasta for dinner.

            “How do I even write a resignation letter?”

            “I don’t know,” Castiel said. “Maybe you should start by thanking the company for the opportunity.”

            “Right. And when do I get to the part where I say I quit?”

            Across from Dean on the table, Jack sat with his crayons and color-books, coloring a picture of Capitan America, using purple instead of blue.

            “How about you thank the company, then add a ‘but I must quit’?”

            “Hum.” Dean analyzed the screen. “That sounds good.”

            “Don't forget to say why you’re quitting. It’s important,” he added, moving the pasta around on the pot. “Dean, I think it’s ready.”

            Dean got up and stopped beside him, taking the fork Castiel was using and testing the pasta.

            “Almost. Just three more minutes, then you can turn it off and drain it.”

            “Okay.”

            Dean sat back in front of the computer, sighing as he began to type.

 

Friday, April 20th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

“Morning, Dad,” Dean greeted as he walked into his father’s office with an envelope on his hands.

            “Hi, son. I didn’t expect to see you ‘till eleven.”

            “Yeah, I know. I just have something to give you, then I'll go back to my office.”

            He carefully placed the envelope on the desk, in front of his father.

            “What's that?” John asked as he reached for it, opening the yellowish envelope to find a folded sheet of paper inside it.

            “That is my resignation letter.”

            “What?” John stopped unfolding the paper to look at Dean. “You're quitting?”

            “I am,” Dean said, not able to disguise all the pride in his voice.

            “What are you going to do?”

            “Bobby gave me my old job back.” John nodded along with his words.

            “Who am I supposed to put in your place? You’re the best marketing man I have,” his father sighed.

            “Should have told me that sooner.” 

            John glared at him and Dean cleared his throat. “That Marie chick from the products section. She has a marketing degree.”

            “The new girl?” John asked skeptically.

            “She's got talent.” He shrugged. “Anyway, I gotta go back, so…”

            “Dean,” his father called when he pulled the doorknob, making him turn back.

            “Yeah?”

            “I'm happy for you. I know this was never what you really wanted to do. You're good, son. You're very good” John sighed, folding Dean's letter back. “I'm proud of you.”

            “What?”

            “I said I’m proud of you.”

            “Is that just you trying to make me stay, or…”

            “No. I mean it, son. Me and your mom, we always wanted you and Sam to do things you loved. Sam was quick to jump for it; you just needed a little push. It’s a good thing you decided to do this for yourself.”

            “Thanks, dad.”

            “Now, go.” John pointed at the door. “You still work for me ‘till next week, so get your ass back to your room.”

            “Sure,” he chuckled.

 


 

Dean Winchester, Head of the Marketing Department at Winchester and Sons TM

Friday – April 20th, 2018

 

Resignation Request

 

JOHN WINCHESTER,

 

            I am very grateful for having the opportunity to be part of this company for such a long time. I have learned a lot and I have no doubt that my experience here has made me a better person. I have grown so much as an individual, and I will not forget the things I have gone through working here.

            However, I no longer feel like this is where I belong. Therefore, I must move forward, I must look for what will make me truly happy, and unfortunately, I shall not find it here.

            So now I come through this letter to announce that I no longer wish to work for this establishment.

            I quit my job, knowing of the responsibilities I will leave behind and that will be passed to others.

            I offer a week of my services on notice, so the company can have adequate time to replace me.

 

            Thank you again,

 

DEAN WINCHESTER

Chapter Text

Friday, May 4th – Lawrence Kansas

 

From all of the people he knew, Luke was the last one Castiel expected would call him on a Friday afternoon.

            His brother's number wasn’t saved on his phone, and so when he saw the unknown number pop up on its screen he considered not picking it. He was working, he had to finish translating that book by the 30th.

            “Hello?” He said when he decided to answer the phone just so it would stop ringing. Jack was playing in the living room as always while Castiel sat at the kitchen table, his notes spread all over it.

            “Hello, brother.” He heard and almost dropped the phone.

            “Luke.” He spoke in an almost whisper so Jack wouldn’t hear him, though the boy was very entertained with his new crayons. “I- why are you calling me?”

            “Wow, I'm fine, bro, how are you?”

            “Please, no games.” Castiel rolled his eyes. “What do you want?”

            “Isn't it obvious?” His brother asked. “I wanna know how my son's doing.”

            “Fine.”

            “What a Chatty Cathy, huh? Look, I know you think I’m soulless, heartless and all that, but I know my boy's birthday is this month.”

            “But of course you don’t know when exactly.”

            “No, I don't.”

            “Well, what about it?”

            “I wanna send him some money, like I did with Kelly. Sorry about her, by the way.”

            “Luke, Jack's fine, I can support him on my own.”

            “Oh, I'm sure you can, bro. But I'll do it anyway. You don’t have to tell the kid it was me, just buy him something nice.”

            “You're not planning on showing up here, are you?”

            “I know better than that, Castiel, don’t worry. Just give me the number of your account, I'll transfer the money and you can go on pretending to be his daddy”

            “Fine.” Castiel rubbed his temples. Arguing with Luke was not on his to-do list these days. “I'll text you the number”

            “Great.” 

            He was about to hang up when his brother continued, “You can keep playing his dad for all I care.”

            “You expect me to thank you for that?”

            “Nah, that would never cross my mind. I know you just want to be a good example for him or whatever the crap and I definitely don’t have space for a kid.”

            “I didn’t volunteer to be his guardian for you, Luke. Just so we're clear,” Cas said, “I did it for Jack and especially for Kelly.”

            “Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re the big hero. Whatever, just text me the number. Goodbye, Castiel.”

            Luke hung up, leaving Castiel with silence and a headache. He saved his brother's number and texted his bank account number.

            He decided to take a break after that, no more work.

            “Jack, are you hungry?” He asked his nephew who popped his head up from the sofa.

            “I am. Who were you talking to, uncle Cas?”

            “Uh…” He pondered whether he should be honest with Jack. He didn’t like lying to his family. “I was talking to Luke.”

            “Why?” The boy frowned. If Castiel was right, Jack had only met with his father once or twice. He didn’t think the kid actually remembered Luke, but he surely knew him by the name.

            “He called me. Said he wanted to send you a birthday present. I'll make you a sandwich, is that okay?” He asked, desperate to change the subject.

            “No cheese,” Jack said, turning back to his crayons.

 


 

When Dean got home, he was covered in grease: from his shirt and jeans to underneath his fingernails.

           

He had started working in Bobby’s shop that Monday, and oh was he happy to go diving into old damaged engines and to roll under cars to fix their problems. Theirs were so much easier to fix than people's.

            The only thing that had changed was that he now had to deal with those stupid hybrid cars and the new models that deteriorated quickly and had their bodywork ruined by a feather bumping them.

            Dean hadn't gotten to do any restorations yet, but he knew he'd find one soon. It was good to be back to work in a place where he felt good about what he was doing.

            And he had missed his co-workers too. There were a couple of new faces, but Ash was still there, with his weird hair and weirder habits.

 

After he closed the front door, he took his shoes off, leaving them near the coat hanger. He walked into the living room where Jack lied on the carpet with his coloring book and the new crayons Dean had gotten him scattered around him.

            Castiel was moving through the kitchen, cutting the crusts off a sandwich when Dean leaned into the door frame.

            “Hey, Cas.”

            “Hello, Dean.” Castiel turned to him for a moment, quickly going back to his task. “Do you want a sandwich?”

            “Please.” He watched Castiel’s hands moving through the ingredients, picking and placing the bread, the ham, the cheese.

            “Can you hand this one to Jack?” he pointed at the plate with the crust-free sandwich.

            “Sure” Dean took the plate Castiel handed him and put it in the coffee table for Jack.

            “Snack time, kid.” He went back into the kitchen to let Castiel know he was going for a quick shower before rushing up the stairs.

 

“How was your day?” Castiel asked him while they sat on the sofa, watching TV and eating sandwiches, Dean being fresh from a shower and grease-less.

            “Good. No morons with those stupid hybrid cars.” He heard Cas chuckle beside him, like he always did when Dean complained about modern automobiles until Dean had to ask ‘What are you laughing at?’ “How was your day?”

            “A bit stressful.” When Dean raised his eyebrows in question, Castiel waved him off. “I'll explain later.”

 


 

“Jack's father called you?” Dean asked in surprise.

            “Yes,” Castiel sighed. “He did.”

            Jack had just gone to bed and Dean accompanied him while he cleaned the dishes, as well as drying one or two on occasion to make more space for the ones Castiel was washing.

            “That’s what got you stressed?”

            “It gave me a headache, yes.”

            “Well, what did he want?” Dean asked from his seat at the table.

            “He wanted my account’s number to send a birthday present for Jack,” he explained. “And also apparently wanted to torment me with his games”

            “His games?”

            “Well,” he exhaled. “Luke has ways to make people feel bad for doing nothing wrong.”

            “At least he didn’t fight for Jack’s custody, did he?”

            “No, but…my brother is a very peculiar person,” Castiel said as he cleaned the sink and dried his hands. “The only reason he didn’t is that it’s better for him, it has nothing to do with Jack's wellbeing.” 

            Dean nodded, looking concerned and reminding Castiel of how much he seemed to care about Jack.

            “But that's just the way my brother is.”

            “Is he the oldest? Or is that Michael?” Dean asked.

            “Michael is the oldest.” Cas dropped onto the chair across from Dean. “And I am the youngest.”

            “The little brother. Bet Gabriel pranked you a lot, huh?” Castiel smiled at the subtle way Dean changed the subject, alleviating the mood and making him remember his childhood and all that times Gabriel did prank him.

            “He did. We all pranked each other, actually. I remember this one time when we were all doing homework together and Gabriel kept throwing paper balls in my head.” He smiled fondly at the memory.

            “What'd you do?”

            “I made a paper airplane. And I threw it at him. Tried at least.”

            “What happened?” Dean asked with a grin.

            “The moment I threw it, it just plumped into the table.” Dean let a quiet laugh escape his mouth, the skin at the corners of his eyes wrinkling. “It didn’t even get close to him.”

            “I remember one time when me and Sam were playing superheroes,” Dean said after he composed himself. “I was Superman and he was Batman. And Sam jumped off the roof of the shed ‘cause he thought he could fly, even though everybody knows that Batman doesn’t fly.”

            “Did he get hurt?”

            “Yeah, broke his arm. So, dad was working and mom had gone to the supermarket, it was just the two of us, and he was crying.” 

            “What then?” Castiel asked.

            “I put him in my bike, took him to where dad worked. When I explained how Sammy got hurt he was super mad at us, took us to the hospital giving us a sermon the whole way there. I never told him I had jumped too. Cause I was Superman and Superman can fly.”

            Castiel's laugh was music to his ears, and also contagious. Soon they were laughing together, sharing more stories about their childhoods. He told Cas about baking pies with his mom and getting flour on his hair, God-knows-how, and about watching his dad work on the Impala. Castiel told him about playing hide and seek with his brothers, how they always hid so well that he couldn’t find them and started crying thinking they'd vanished, and about pretending to read his father's books when he was four and didn’t know how to read yet.

            They talked and talked way past midnight, so involved in their small bubble of conversation they didn’t notice when Jack walked into the kitchen, dragging his blanket at his feet.

            “Jack, what are doing up?” Castiel asked, pulling the boy into his lap. “Did we wake you?” Jack shook his head before resting it in his uncle's chest. “Did you have a bad dream?” The boy nodded.

            “You want some milk and cookies, kiddo?” Dean offered. Jack looked at him with his big blue eyes and nodded.

            “Just milk,” he mumbled. Dean got up and went to the fridge to get the carton.

            “Jack,” Castiel called and the boy looked up at him. “Are you okay?” Jack nodded. “Do you want to talk about your dream?”

            “No. I don’t remember it anymore.”

            “Well, if you do remember and want to talk about it, you can talk to me ok?”

            The boy nodded again and reached for the glass of milk Dean had just placed in front of him.

            “There you go, kid.”

            “Thank you, Uncle Dee.”

            Dean smiled fondly at Jack, sitting back in the chair he’d been.

 

Monday, May 14th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Sunday had been Mother’s Day. Jack’s first without Kelly to celebrate, and Castiel wasn’t quite sure of what to do. Eventually, Jack asked him to tell him stories about his mom and they settled on Jack’s bed, pictures of Kelly with one or both of them or alone in front of places, always smiling with the wind brushing her hair.

            Castiel told Jack everything he remembered, the boy listening with eager attention, asking thousands and questions and telling himself the stories of certain pictures he remembered.

 

For the past few days, Dean had been helping Castiel with the preparations for the small birthday party they were throwing for Jack on Friday.

            When Castiel had said first brought up the idea, Dean had immediately started talking about décor and food and how many people Cas thought there would be.

            Jack wanted a Star Wars thematic party, which was no trouble for them. Dean had some posters they could use and even some action figures he'd stolen from Sam years ago.

            They agreed on making hot dogs, sandwiches and a cake, as well as buying some other things to serve. There wouldn’t be many people, just Castiel’s brothers and their children, his father, Charlie and Dean's parents.

            He had called Gabriel that morning, asking him to bring some candy for the kids.

            “Who do you think I am, Cas? Of course, I'll bring candy for the kids,” his brother had said on the phone. “But not for you. You have enough eye-candy on a daily basis, you'll get diabetes if you get any more.”

            “I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to imply,” Castiel rolled his eyes and sighed at his brother's mannerisms, “but as long as you bring the candy, I don’t really care.”

            “Oh, boy, what bit you today, huh? I bet it was Dean.”

            “Gabriel!” He heard his brother laughing at the other end.

            “See you soon, little brother.”

Chapter Text

Friday, May 18th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

As it turned out, Castiel saw Gabriel sooner than he’d expected.

            His brother had insisted on coming earlier to help them with the food, which resulted in a huge argument between Gabriel and Dean about what color should the frosting of Jack's birthday cake be: blue or green.

            “I want it yellow,” Jack said coming into the kitchen, “blue and green don’t match Star Wars.” 

            The boy's words ended the discussion, leaving Dean to mix the frosting while Castiel dragged his brother to the backyard to help him with the balloons.

            “So, tell me, Cassie,” Gabriel started, grinning at him while he knotted the balloon in his hands to another one. “You and Dean-o dancing the horizontal tango yet?”

            “What?” Castiel asked, stopping his task of fixing balloons on the porch to stare at his brother with his patented head tilt.

            “Did you not understand or are you just shocked I asked?” When Castiel didn’t respond, he tried again, “Oh, c'mon, Cas. Rolling the hay, doing the dirty?”

            “Gabriel!” He scolded, “No! Just…No!” 

            Castiel got down from the stairs he was using to fix the balloons up and took the ones Gabriel had in his hands to put them on the other end of the porch.

            “Why not?” Gabriel followed him. “You keep staring at him. Someone’s bound to think you’re attracted.”

            “I don’t stare,” Castiel snapped, glaring down at his brother.

            “And I'm the Queen of England.” 

            Cas shot Gabriel another glare at the comment and his brother threw his hands up in surrender. 

            “Ok, fine! Let's say you’re not aware of Green Eyes’ ass. He's still aware of yours.”

            “Would you stop? Dean could hear you,” Castiel hissed. He finished tying up the last balloons and walked to the table they had brought into the backyard, grabbing a tablecloth to put on it.

            “I'm not here to “hook up” with my fake husband,” he said, gesturing with air quotes. “That's why it’s fake. I’m here to take care of Jack and make sure he’s ok.”

            “Oh, I’m sure he could help you with that. He seems pretty fond of Jack.” Gabriel sat at one of the chairs that were arranged near the table.

            “You want to help me with these like you said you would, or are you going just sit there and torture me?”

            “That’s a strong word.” Gabriel got up and helped him organize the plates and Star Wars toys on the table. “I’d say I’m just trying to knock some sense in your stubborn head.”

            “Uncle Cas! Uncle Gabe!” Jack came running out from the back door. “Uncle Michael's here!”

           

When they got inside, Dean was shaking Michael’s hand after everybody had been introduced. Castiel greeted his brother, his sister-in-law and his nephews.

            Jack pulled Adam and Joshua upstairs to show them his bedroom while Michael and Rachel asked if they needed any help.

            “Nah, don't worry, we got everything,” Dean said. “Why don’t you take a sit? Gabriel, can you help me take the cake outside?” Gabriel followed Dean into the kitchen and Castiel sat in the living room with his brother.

            “What about Dad?” He asked.

            “He got on a later flight. He'll be here in an hour, probably.”

            The kids came rushing down the stairs and out through the backdoor, Adam suggesting they played catch.

            “No running around, the three of you, you're gonna break something!” Michael called after them.

            “Kids,” Castiel mumbled.

            “How's it been, Cas?” Rachel asked him. “With Jack?”

            “Calm. He is a great kid. Kelly taught him well, he’s very polite and well behaved.”

            “He talks about her a lot?”

            “A little.” Castiel watched as the three boys walked back into the house, each of them with a lollipop in their mouths. “Boys, you’re not supposed to eat the candies yet!”

            “Uncle Gabe said we could,” Adam spoke.

            “If we stopped playing outside so he and Uncle Dean could get everything ready,” Joshua finished.

            Beside Castiel, his brother chuckled.

            “Why don’t you go play upstairs in the meanwhile?” Michael offered “No running, though.”

            “Kay,” the three mumbled and they moved for the stairs.

            Dean and Gabriel came back inside. The latter sat on the couch in front of Michael and asked him about work.

            Castiel went into the kitchen, intending to help Dean with the hotdogs, but he was waved off.

            “Don’t worry, man, I got this. Go stay with your family, this will be ready soon.”

            “I feel like you're doing everything by yourself and I should be helping you,” Castiel said before the bell rang.”

            “You can get the door,” Dean said, looking up from the pile of hotdog bread and grinning at him.

            But when he went for the front door, Gabriel was already there, greeting John and Mary Winchester.

            “Hi! I'm Castiel's older brother, Gabriel.”

            “Good to meet you, Gabriel.” Mary smiled, wider when she saw Castiel a few feet behind. “Hi, Castiel.”

            “Hello, Mary. Mr. Winchester.” He nodded at John.

            He introduced Dean's parents to the rest of his family, which might as well have been the most awkward thing he'd done in his entire life. Jack and his nephews came to greet John and Mary too, and soon everybody was moved outside to the chairs they'd put in the backyard.

            John was talking to Michael about Sam, who was also a lawyer, while Rachel chatted animatedly with Mary, and Gabriel entertained the kids with magic tricks.

            “Where's your Dad?” Dean asked from behind him, close enough to make Cas shiver slightly.

            “Michael said he should be here soon.”

            “Great.” 

            He heard the bell ring again, and felt Dean move away, saying, “I'll go get the door.”

            Two minutes later, Dean was introducing him to a smiling young redhead ––Charlie Bradbury––who he vaguely remembered seeing on Gabriel's shop.

            “I thought you'd be taller,” she told him. “Where's your young grasshopper? I brought him something.”

            Castiel called Jack, the boy reluctantly leaving Gabriel's magic show to greet the new visitor.

            “Jack, this is my best friend, Charlie,” Dean introduced. “She likes Star Wars too.”

            “Hi,” Jack smiled, and Charlie quickly pulled the kid in a debate over the last movie.

            When the doorbell rang once more, Castiel was the one to get it, his father hugging him tightly when he saw his son.

            “It’s so good to see you, Dad,” Cas said as he welcomed Chuck inside. His father hadn’t changed at all since the last time they’d seen each other, maybe one or two extra white hairs among his brownish locks.

            “You too, son. The house looks great.” Chuck smiled kindly, following Castiel to the backyard.

            After Charlie had been introduced to Castiel's family and Chuck had been introduced to Dean's parents, they all sang Jack ‘Happy Birthday’. Rachel offered to take pictures with the camera she'd brought. Jack was smiling in every single one; it was good to see his nephew so happy.

            After everyone had gotten full of hotdogs and sandwiches, Dean helped Castiel serve the cake.

            Dean noted his parents were getting along easily with Cas’ Dad, and it gave him a bittersweet feeling. He was glad to finally meet Castiel's family, but he knew they weren’t there to stay, at least, not for long.

            Dean was shaken out of his daydream when he heard Gabriel call Castiel to the back porch.

            “We have a problem,” Gabriel spoke in a low voice so the others wouldn’t hear, but Dean was close enough.

            “What is it?” Castiel asked his brother.

            “Luke’s here.” 

            Dean turned around in time to see Cas’ surprised, then worried face.

            “What?”

            “I saw him in a car, parked outside.” Gabriel gestured towards the door. “We should probably check it out.”

            “Hey,” Dean said, walking towards the brothers. “Is everything okay?”

            “Gabriel said that Luke’s here.” Castiel looked terrified.

            “I thought he said he wasn’t going to show up today,” Dean remembered very clearly what Cas had told him when Luke had called.

            “I guess he changed his mind,” Castiel said and rushed through the back door, his expression now determined. Dean and Gabriel trailed behind him.

            Cas crossed the living room, reaching for the front door. When he pushed it open, there was his brother, right about to ring the doorbell.

            “What are you doing here, Luke?” Cas said through gritted teeth.

            “Hey, bro.” Luke smiled wryly. “I’m here for my son’s birthday, isn’t it obvious?”

            “I thought I was clear that you weren’t welcomed here.”

            “Oh please, Castiel,” Luke mocked. “I have every right to be here.”

            “I don’t think so, brother,” Gabriel spoke.

            “Oh hi, Gabe.” He waved at his brother, who stood behind Castiel. “And you must be the lover boy,” Luke said to Dean. “It’s weird, Cassie never mentioned you to the family.”

            “Luke,” Castiel said to get his brother’s attention. “Just go.”

            “Not without seeing my kid.”

            “You don’t even care about him! What the hell are you doing here?” Gabriel accused him.

            “Why don’t you guys stop blocking the door and we can all talk like adults inside, huh?”

            Dean watched as Cas and Gabriel exchange a look. Dean raised an eyebrow to Cas, who nodded, and they moved aside for Luke to pass through. Dean immediately stood in front of the hallway that led to the backdoor, blocking Luke’s access.

            “See, you boys are wrong about me,” Luke said as he sat on the couch, his brothers standing in front of him. “I do care about the kid. You know why? ‘Cause I’ve realized that he’s my heir. When I’m gone, he’ll be all that’s left of me, my legacy.”

            “So?” Gabriel asked “What do you want to do? Teach him to be like you?”

            “Because that is not going to happen,” Castiel said.

            “Oh, because you’re so righteous aren’t you, Cas?” Luke hissed. “You think you’re some kind of hero, some…role model for him? Well, guess what, you’re not his dad, I am.”

            “You might be his father, Luke,” Castiel said, glaring at his brother, “but you’ll never be a good influence on Jack. I’m his legal guardian and I’m not going to let you brainwash him. He’s a good kid.”

            “Yeah, you’re so proud of yourself for that, huh.” Luke got up, pointing a finger at Castiel’s chest. “But you’d never have gotten his custody if it wasn’t for me.”

            Dean and Gabriel both looked at Cas, who appeared as clueless as they were.

            “What are you talking about, Luke?” Gabriel asked.

            “I told the child services that I didn’t want the kid. That’s why they gave him to you, Castiel.”

            “No,” Castiel growled. “They made me Jack’s guardian because anyone in a right mind would do so. You are not suited to take care of a child, Luke.”

            “And let’s be honest here, brother,” Gabriel said. “You don’t really want to do the hard work. Take him to school, put him to sleep. You just want someone who’ll look up to you and massage your ego.”

            “And isn’t that what Castiel’s doing? Posing as a good example to my son so the kid’ll like him?”

            “What I’m doing is keeping the promise I made to Kelly,” Castiel said, pointing back at Luke. “I promised her that I would look out for Jack if she couldn’t, and that’s what I’m doing. She knew what’d be best for her son, and I’m making sure Jack grows up good and kind like his mother. I don’t know how you ever got to have something with Kelly, and sometimes I think I really don’t want to know. But you bet your ass that Jack’s not going to turn like you, not on my watch.”

            Cas could feel his heart hammering in his ribcage. He was so close to punching his brother, and he knew Gabriel would let him. 

            From the hall, Dean watched––a little dumbstruck––a version of Castiel he’d never seen before, the Castiel that would do anything to protect his family.

            “What’s going on here?” Chuck asked, coming through the back door. Dean moved to give him space. “Luke, what are doing here?”

            “Your son won’t let me see my kid,” Luke shrugged in Castiel’s direction.

            “You shouldn’t be here, Son,” Chuck said, coming closer to squeeze Luke’s shoulder. “Jack’s doing great with Castiel and Dean.”

            “Yeah, ‘cause you always take their side don’t you, Dad?”

            “Luke, please.” Chuck frowned at his son. “You don’t need to do this. Go back to your life in Los Angeles, to your…job”

            “Go back and then, maybe, after you work on yourself a little, you and your brother can arrange a day for Jack to meet you properly,” Chuck said. “He won’t have a good image of you if it’s like this, Son” Luke observed his father’s face for a while, seeming to consider his words.

            “Fine,” he finally said. “Castiel can have my kid and play house with him and…”––he gestured towards Dean––“whoever that is. Say ‘Hi’ to Michael for me.” 

            Luke strode out the front door, Chuck right behind him, following his son to his car.

            As soon as his brother was out of the house, Castiel threw himself on the sofa, running his hands through his hair. Gabriel sighed loudly, relieved.

            “Hey,” Dean said, sitting beside him. “I’m sorry about all this.”

            “I can’t believe Luke did this.” Castiel propped his elbows up on his knees, holding his face. “He just wants attention, that’s why he came here, but I still can’t believe it.”

            “I can.” Gabriel snorted. “Luke’s always been like that.” He shrugged. “Well, I’mma go back there, see how everyone’s doing,” he said, taking off to the backyard.

            “He’s gone now, Cas,” Dean said when he heard the sound of Luke’s car fading in the distance. He placed a hand on Cas back. “It’s okay.”

            “Yes, for now. Who knows how long it’ll take for him to come torture us again.”

            “He won’t do that, son,” Chuck said, closing the front door behind him. “I spoke to him, made him promise he wouldn’t come again unless invited.”

            “Thank you, Dad. I know he listens to you more than he does to any of us.” 

            Chuck nodded at his son.

            “Well, Dean’s father was telling me some very interesting story about his sons putting Legos in his car. I’ll go see how it ends.” 

            Dean chuckled at the memory.

            “Are you gonna be okay?” Dean asked.

            “I think so,” Cas sighed. “We should go back too.”

            They got up and made their way back to the party. 

            After that, there were no other incidents. They had fun with the kids, and Gabriel acted out some magic tricks to entertain them.

            Cas’ family stayed in a hotel near the end of the city, except for Gabriel who slept on the couch, and they had breakfast together at Dean’s favorite dinner before everyone took a plane to either New York or Los Angeles.

           


 

Monday, May 21st – Lawrence, Kansas

 

When Dean walked into the living room after he got home from work, he couldn’t see the armchairs.

            Half the room was covered in sheets and pillows, the couch being the only untouched furniture. Jack was sitting under the improvised tent, drawing what looked like a space ship. Or a train, Dean wasn’t sure.

            “What's going on?”

            “Dean, hi.” Castiel emerged from the kitchen with a plate of cookies and sandwiches. “ We made a tent for Jack to play in. I can move it to his bedroom if you want.”

            “No, no, no problem, man. I loved making tents for Sam when we were kids.”

            “Oh, good.” Castiel placed the food on the coffee table and went back to the kitchen to get drinks. “You want something, Dean?”

            “No, I'm good.” Dean took his boots off, leaving them in a corner and sat on the couch. “Have some good news, though.”

            “Yes?” Castiel handed Jack a plastic bottle of orange juice and sat on the only sit of the sofa that wasn’t being used as tent support.

            “Bobby arranged me a client for restoration,” he said in an animated tone. “Some rich guy with an old Corvette.”

            “That’s great, Dean!” Castiel smiled. “It's good that you’re finally doing something you like.”

            “Yeah,” Dean mumbled. Before his mind could turn to others ‘things’ he liked and could be doing, Jack got up from where he lied under the tent and showed Dean his drawing.

            “Looks awesome, kiddo. That a spaceship?” Jack nodded happily and showed his uncle the paper.

            “It's very good, Jack. Do you want to hang it in the fridge?”

            Jack shook his head and held the drawing in Dean's direction.

            “For uncle Dee.”

            “Thanks, kid,” Dean said, smiling fondly at the picture. “I'll hang it in my bedroom, what'd you think?” 

            Jack nodded, taking another drawing from the splattered papers on the carpet and handing it to Castiel. “For Dad.” 

            Castiel smiled widely at his nephew, accepting the crayon drawing of a big bee.

            “Thank you, Jack. I love bees.”

            “Hey, what do you guys want for dinner?” Dean asked suddenly.

            “I was thinking we could just order some pizza,” Castiel said. “You have been cooking non-stop since Friday.”

            “Okay, then.” Dean looked at the bundle of sheets and pillows in front of him and had an idea. “What about we throw some blankets in here and watch some movies too?”

            “Yes!” Jack exclaimed, jumping in place.

 

They ordered the pizzas and ate them on the living room floor, between pillows and blankets as they watched The Lion King trilogy. Jack had never seen it and he loved the movie. Dean had a feeling the boy would be humming Hakuna Matata for the rest of the week.

 

 

Wednesday, May 23rd – Lawrence, Kansas

 

“I’m taking Jack to the park this afternoon,” Castiel said as they ate breakfast––eggs, bacon, and sausage––on Wednesday morning. “Do you want to come with us?”

            “Sure.” Dean had made an arrangement with Bobby to keep his Wednesdays free. In return, he'd go to the shop Sunday morning, in case any unlucky soul needed a spare tire or an oil change.

 

There weren't many kids by the time they got to the park. It was just past four in the afternoon, and the people there were mostly moms with babies or young adults jogging and walking dogs.

            Dean and Castiel sat at a bench near the swings, in case Jack wanted to be pushed, and the boy ran for the slide.

            “Careful, Jack!” His uncle yelled after him.

            When they'd been there for about twenty minutes, Jack had already been pushed on a swing by Castiel and asked for Dean's help in the monkey bars.

            “Looks like he's made a friend,” Dean said and Castiel looked up from the newspaper he had forgotten to read in the morning. Jack was playing on the seesaw with a dark-haired boy, about Jack's age.

            “Apparently,” Castiel sighed, relieved. “I’ve been bringing him here for a while now. I’m glad he's finally making friends.”

            “When does he start school?”

            “In August,” Castiel watched as the boys left the seesaw for the sandbox, where they started building a castle. “I still have to buy his school materials. I've been working hard, trying to finish this book and I forgot to do it last week.”

            “They grow up so fast. Last week he was playing with legos. In two months he’ll be going to kindergarten,” Dean joked.

            “Yes.” Castiel chuckled beside him. “Yes, they do.”

            “Excuse me, are you Jack's parents?” a middle-aged woman, wearing a police uniform asked as she approached them.

            “Uh, yes...?” Castiel said. What did the police want with them?

            “I'm Christine Barker, Clark's mom.” She pointed at the boy playing with Jack. “Just wanted to introduce myself, since our kids seem to be getting along real good.”

            “Oh, right. I'm Castiel.” He offered her a hand. “And this is Dean.”

            “Hi,” Dean said, also shaking Christine's hand.

            “So, you’re from around here?”

            “I'm from Illinois actually, but Dean was born here in Lawrence,” Castiel answered. “And you?”

            “We moved here recently, used to live in North Cove.”

            “Heard it’s a great place,” Dean said.

            “It sure is.”

            The three were interrupted when the kids came running at them.

            “Dad! I made a friend!” Jack said, jumping around Castiel.

            “I'm aware.” Castiel ruffled the boy's hair. “You must be Clark.”

            “I am.” The other boy nodded. The kid’s eyes were a clear shade of blue, sparkling in the sunlight. “Mom, can Jack come play with me at home?”

            “We'll see, sweetie,” Christine said to her son, patting his shoulder. “Why don’t I invite you all for dinner, so the boys can play some more?” She asked them.

            “Sounds good to me,” Dean said and Castiel nodded in agreement.

            “Great! I'll give you our address then.”

            After Christine passed them the address, they watched the boys playing around for another twenty minutes. Castiel had to promise Jack they would be seeing Clark that evening again to make him agree to go home.

           

The Barkers lived in a neighborhood close to theirs, in a small white house with a big tree on the front. During dinner, Christine told them she was divorced and was transferred to Lawrence last summer, but they still hadn’t made a lot of friends around. She asked about them, and they told her a bit of their fake backstory, to which they had become so used it almost felt true now.

            Clark showed Jack his room and they played with legos and superheroes figures for almost two and a half hours. Castiel was glad to see his nephew smile and play with a kid his age, and he was even gladder when they discovered Clark was going to go to the same kindergarten he had registered Jack on.

            It would be a long friendship, it seemed.

Chapter Text

Saturday, May 26th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Mind note: do not play Scrabble with Cas.

            Saturday night found Dean and Castiel inviting Charlie over for board games and pizza.

            Jack loved Charlie and insisted on showing her his room and all his toys while Dean and Cas ordered the food and set the games on the table.

            “So, which one do we start with?” Charlie asked as she entered the kitchen, Jack close behind her.

            “I vote for Scrabble,” Dean said. He had bought the game years ago, it was one of his favorites.

            They sat at the dinner table, Charlie in front of Dean who was setting the board with Jack beside her, watching carefully.

            After losing two rounds, Dean realized that playing a word game with Cas might not have been a good idea. He kept on making impossible words like ‘aspergillum’, ‘bardolatry’ and ‘borborygmus’.

            “Dean,” Cas called him while Dean formed his latest word, “I hardly believe spaghettification is a real word.”

            “Oh, yeah, smartass?” He threw Castiel his best smug look. “Google it.” He pointed at Cas’ phone, near his wine glass.

            Castiel took the phone and typed the word, throwing suspicious glances at Dean while it loaded.

            “That was good, Winchester,” he said, placing the phone back. “I really didn’t know that one.” 

            Dean smirked and sat back, drinking some of his beer. “But”––Castiel grinned at him before reaching for the board––“I won.”

           “No.” Dean knocked his beer on the table, looking at the board.

           “Yes.”

           “What the f-he-heck does that mean?”

           “Logomachy?” Charlie read from the other side of the table.

           “It is an argument about words,” Castiel explained, looking at him all cheeky.

           “I can’t believe this,” Dean complained. “I’m not playing this with you anymore.”

           Castiel laughed at how offended Dean looked, Charlie making an ‘aw’ sound that earned her a glare from Dean.

           “You’re so cute,” she said, Dean glaring harder as they heard the doorbell ring. “That must be the pizza. I’ll get it, you two pick another game.”

           “We should play Boggle,” Castiel suggested, getting up to take some plates for the pizza.

           “I’m not playing another word game with you this soon.” Dean shook his head, glancing accusingly in his direction.

           “Can we play Monopoly?” Jack asked. “Then I can be the bank.”

           “Sure, kiddo.”

            Dean put the Scrabble back in its box and set the Monopoly - Empire board in the center of the table.

           “I’m the X-box!” Charlie claimed as she walked in the kitchen with two pizza boxes”

           “I’m the Ferrari.” Dean placed both at the start sign “Cas, which one do you want?”

           “Huh…I’ll take the DreamWorks

           After Charlie read them the rules and gave them the right cards, she handed Jack the bank’s money. They ate all the pizza while they played the first round, won by Charlie.

           “You’re a lying, cheating excuse of a human being!” Castiel angrily accused as Dean stole Samsung from him and won for the second time.

           “Not my fault that the Scrabble boy can’t handle his money,” Dean teased.

           “You’re not the man I married.” Castiel shook his head.

           “Oh, c’mon, Cas. One more round.”

           “No. Let’s play Sorry!

           Sorry! was Castiel’s favorite game. He had the same old board since he was twenty, had brought it to Kansas from his apartment in Chicago.

            With a little help from Charlie, Jack played with them, winning two out of five rounds. Charlie won the other three, but Castiel was the one who always made Dean lose.

           On the sixth round, Dean was very close to winning when Cas took a card from the pile and looked at him apologetically.

           “Oh, no. No.

           “Sorry,” Cas said, showing Dean the card.

           Dean grunted and slumped against his chair.

           “You’re not sorry, you’re playing Sorry,” Dean grumbled. “You like to see me suffer.”

           “That’s not true,” Castiel chuckled.

           “Okay, guys”––Charlie got up––“I really enjoy your company but I think it’s getting kinda late.”

           “You’re going?” Dean asked.

            “Yeah, I’m a bit tired. Though I think I’m not the only one.” She looked at Jack, who was yawning in his seat.

           “I believe it’s time you go to bed, Jack,” Castiel called. “Say ‘bye’ to Charlie, I’ll take you upstairs.”

           “Bye, Aunt Charlie,” the boy mumbled.

           “Bye, kid.”

           “Goodbye, Charlie. I hope to see you soon.”

            “Bye, Cas.” She hugged him unexpectedly before he took Jack to his bedroom.

           

“Uncle Cas, can you read me a story?” Jack asked him as he pulled the kid’s covers.

            “Of course,” he smiled fondly at his nephew. “Which one do you want?”

            “The one with the baby swan.”

            “The Ugly Duckling?” The boy nodded and Castiel searched for the book on the small shelf near Jack’s bed.

 

“So,” Charlie started as she helped Dean put away the board boxes and pizza plates. “How are you and Mr. Dreamy Husband?”

            “Fine. Cas’ a great guy,” Dean answered shortly.

            “Just fine?” She leaned close to him on the counter, smiling suggestively.

            “Yes. Just fine.”

            “C’mon, Dean,” She ignored the pointed look Dean gave her. “Don’t you get just a bit warm when he’s around?” Charlie whispered.

            “It…” Dean rolled his eyes and tucked the pizza boxes in the trash can. “It doesn’t matter.”

            “What? Of course, it does!”

            “I thought you were tired and leaving already?”

            “Are you kicking your best friend out?” She pouted at him.

            “Nope. I’m just avoiding the subject.”

            “Well, you can’t avoid it forever.”

            “Yes, I can.” Dean placed the Monopoly and the Boggle boxes in his friend’s arms.

            “But you two look so cute together!”

            “Thanks.” Dean pushed her out of the kitchen.

           “Okay, okay, fine! I’ll stop talking.” She walked to the front door and waited for Dean to open it. “Just give yourself a chance!”

           “Charl-”

           “Bye, Dean!”

           She ran out of the porch and Dean closed the door behind him, sighing. Cas was still upstairs with Jack so he figured he’d better clean up the dishes.

 

“Dean,” he heard Castiel’s voice behind him, “why are you washing those?”

           “You were upstairs with Jack, it’s okay.”

           “Get out of the sink,” Cas said, hand extended in a silent demand for the sponge Dean was holding.

            “Fine.” He handed it to Castiel along with the apron. “What were you doing up there?”

            “Jack asked for a bedtime story,” Cas told him as he started washing the plates and glasses. “The Ugly Duckling.”

           “I like that one.” Dean leaned on the counter. “Though sometimes it gets me thinking of when I’ll get to the swan part.”

           “I believe you already are at the swan part,” Cas said, tilting his head and looking at him in a way Dean didn’t quite understand.

           “What d’you mean?” he frowned.                      

           “Well, you have the job you like, a supporting family, a great car. It’s not a bad life.”

           “Yeah, I guess it isn’t.” Dean looked at his feet. If he had such a good life, why did he still feel like there was something missing? Some final growth to be made?

           “And for the record,” Cas continued, “you’re not hard on the eyes, either.” He threw Dean the quickest of up-and-down glances. “So, swan part.”

            Dean felt a blush creeping up his neck and hoped it didn’t rise much farther. He thought about a dozen different smug replies, but his brain was drowning and what came out was a rushed ‘thanks’.

           “It’s nice. You reading him to sleep.”

           “Yes. I like to. It’s something Kelly always did, and Jack loves stories.” Cas smiled fondly. “It’s a way to teach him, too. He reads half the story by himself already,” he chuckled.

           “Yeah, Jack’s a good kid.” Dean watched Castiel dry his hands on the apron, then take it off and hang it. “And you’re a great dad to him.”

           “Thank you,” Cas smiled shyly, looking at his hands. “You know, I think you’ll be a great dad too, Dean.”

           “Yeah…maybe. Someday.” They looked into each other eyes for what felt like a month, though it was barely ten seconds. The feeling of longing hung around them as Cas broke the eye-contact and the silence.

           “Well, I’m done here. I’m going to bed now.”

           “Yeah, sure,” Dean said, not looking at him.

            “It was nice to have Charlie over. We should invite her again sometime.”

            “No word games, though.”

            “We’ll see.” Cas grinned and left for the stairs, as Dean stayed behind with a troubled mind and a twist in his guts.

 

Castiel lied awake in his bed for a while, just thinking. What he had said to his brother, about being there only to take care of Jack, was true. That was mission there, it was all he should focus on.

           He had finished his latest work on Thursday, ten days earlier, and now he’d have to wait for his publisher to send him something new to work on, get his head back on the right track. Additionally, Jack would start kindergarten soon, which meant Cas would have more time home alone, so he’d better find something to busy himself with.

           Dean might be a beautiful, charming swan, but Castiel had a duckling to care for now.

Chapter Text

Monday, August 13th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

When the Fourth of July came, they took Jack to Cas’ family's beach house in Long Island, Gabriel tagging along with them. At Dean's suggestion, they drove there all the way from Lawrence. “I'm sure Jack would like a road trip” he had said. But the truth was, he didn’t want to take a plane—nor was he going to admit that to Cas.

            The house was beautiful, two-story and wooden, with three bedrooms and a big, welcoming kitchen. Gabriel and Dean took turns cooking their meals, Jack ran around the sand collecting seashells, and Dean tried his best not to stare at Castiel's bare chest whenever they took Jack to a swim.

            It was hard for Castiel too, having Dean's freckled shoulders shining in the sunlight, so close he could touch them, trace every little dot, though he knew he shouldn't.

            It was a welcome break from their routine, though.

 

Castiel was a bundle of nerves and Dean was laughing at his face.

           “Dude, chill,” Dean said for what seemed like the hundredth time since breakfast. “It’s just his first day of school, he’s not going to war”

           “I know, I know,” he sighed. “It’s just…what am I supposed to do? He’s going to school all afternoon and I’ll be alone! He is-“

           “Growing up too fast?”

           “Yes.”

           “That’s what kids do, Cas.” Dean patted his shoulder. “You’re just having an empty nest crisis. You’ll be fine.”

           “Uncle Cas, I’m ready!” Jack rushed into the living room. “Can we go?”

           “Yes, right. Go,” he mumbled, “I’ll just get your…”

           “Here.” Dean handed Jack his Batman lunch bag.

           “Yes, that.” Castiel kneeled in front of his nephew, making sure everything was in order. “Okay, there’s a sandwich here for you, apple cubes and two juice boxes”

           “Okay,” Jack repeated. “I’m ready.”

           “I’m not,” Castiel murmured as he got up. “Let’s go, then.”

 

“Two juice boxes?” Dean whispered after Castiel buckled Jack in his seat.

            “He could get thirsty.” Dean chuckled at him. “What? I never had a kid before, I’m nervous.”

            “Just chill.” Dean patted his knee and turned on the Impala. “He’ll be fine.”

 

Dean parked in front of the school and turned to look at Jack in the backseat.

            “You ready, kiddo?”

            “Yes,” the boy said excitedly.

            “Ready?” he asked Castiel, who took a slow, deep breath.

            “Yes.” Castiel nodded to himself, trying to assimilate what was happening. “You can stay here if you want.”

            “You kidding? Who’s gonna make sure you don’t start crying in there?” Castiel punched his arm and opened the passenger door.

            On their way to the entrance, they found Christine on her way back to the police car that was parked a few feet away.

            “Hey,” she greeted them. “Just left Clark there. How are you doing?”

           “We’re good,” Castiel said. “Jack’s very anxious to start school.”

           “Clark was too. I’m sure Jack’ll like it. I have to go back to work now, see you guys around.”

           “See you,” they said in unison and Jack tugged at his uncle’s hand.

           “Uncle Cas, let’s go,” the boy jumped on his feet.

           The teacher––Mrs. Mosley––welcomed Jack into the room with a kind smile on her face. She shook both their hands as Jack rushed inside the room to meet Clark––after hugging Castiel and Dean goodbye, of course.

           “Don’t worry,” Mrs. Mosley said. “Your kid will be okay here, we’ll take great care of him.”

           “Thank you, Mrs. Mosley,” Castiel said, watching his nephew from the door.

            “I’ve never seen you around here, did you move recently?” Missouri asked him.

           “Yes, I came from Chicago.”

           “Oh, I see. And you…it’s Dean right?” Dean nodded. “You’re from Lawrence?”

           “Yes, ma’am.”

           “I’m pleased to meet you two. Some parents just drop the kids and run off; it’s good to see a couple that cares to meet the teacher.”

           “We should probably go, though.” Castiel watched as Jack and Clark started playing with a brown-haired girl. “I believe Jack’s already settled.”

           “Yeah, I gotta go to work too,” Dean agreed.

            They shook Mrs. Mosley’s hand again and said their goodbyes.

 

“Are you okay?” Dean asked him as they walked back to the car.

           “I’m good,” Castiel raised his eyes from the ground to look at Dean. “I just wish Kelly could be here to see him. She’d be very happy.”

           “Well, I’m sure she’d be glad you’re looking after him.”  Dean squeezed his shoulder. “C’mon, I’ll drive you home.”

           “I can call a taxi if you’re-“

           “Shut up, I’ll drive you.”

 

(1:32pm)

     C.N: Jack went to kindergarten today

 

Castiel texted his brother after he got home. He was alone for the rest of the afternoon with nothing to do—since Dean was working and his publisher hadn’t sent him anything new yet.

 

(1:36pm)

Gabe: bet you’re having an empty nest crisis

C.N: Dean said the same thing

(1:41pm)

Gabe: Oh, did he? ;)

C.N: -_-

C.N: would you stop that?

(1:47pm)

Gabe: Oh, c’mon, Cassie

Gabe: you said it yourself, kid’s going to school

 (1:48pm)

C.N: I do not see your point

 (1:50pm)

Gabe: my point is

Gabe: you could have a little you-time now

Gabe: if you know what I mean ;)

 (1:53pm)

C.N: I don’t.

C.N: I won’t do anything that could destabilize Jack’s routine

 (1:55pm)

Gabe: I don’t see how that would “destabilize” his “routine”

Gabe: kid already thinks you’re married

Gabe: and you text like a 70 year old grandpa

 (1:57pm)

C.N: what if it does not work?

C.N: ending the contract in its time would be easier and far more peaceful than having a fight and needing an early divorce

 (2:00pm)

Gabe: I thought you were more positive, bro

C.N: the answer is no

 (2:01pm)

Gabe: hey, your life

Gabe: just don’t blame me when I say “I told you so”

 

Castiel sighed and threw his phone aside. Gabriel was no help, which meant that now he was alone, bored and with no one to talk to.

           I need to thank Dean, he thought, for offering to take Jack to school and pick him up later.

           There was something he definitely didn’t get. Dean was always driving them everywhere, only let Castiel call a taxi if it wasn’t possible for him to drive. He knew Dean loved driving but still…

           And now he had something to do. The thought of finding a way to show Dean his gratitude for him being such a good housemate gave him an idea.

 


 

Dean smelled it even before he opened the front door: pie.

            He’d spent the entire day working on the Corvette and picked up Jack from school afterward. The boy talked the entire ride home about his new friends and his new school.

            When Dean stepped on the porch he felt the delicious smell of apple and cinnamon floating in the air from the kitchen’s window.

            “Look who’s back from school,” he said closing the door behind him. Jack ran towards his uncle and immediately started flooding him with information.

            “I made a ton of friends, uncle Cas!” The boy said, “and Mrs. Mosley is the nicest teacher ever!”

            “That’s very good to hear, Jack,” Castiel said, ruffling the boy’s hair and helping him take off his bag. “Now, how about you and Dean go wash your hands and I’ll serve you two some pie?”

            The boy rushed to the bathroom, leaving the adults alone in the living room.

            “Did you…bake a pie?” Dean asked him and Castiel nodded. “And you didn’t burn down the kitchen?”

            “I did not.”

            “But h-how?” Dean gaped “I-I mean..?”

            “Well, though I am, in fact, a terrible cooker, I am an excellent baker.” Castiel smirked at him. “Or so I’ve been told.”

            “I washed my hands,” Jack announced, back from the bathroom. “Can we eat pie now?”

           “You can, Jack.”

           “What about me?” Dean pouted slightly.

           “You haven’t washed your hands yet.”

           Dean glared at him and made his way to the bathroom as Jack followed Castiel to the kitchen.

     Castiel placed the pie on the table and grabbed a plate for each of them, carefully cutting through the crust and serving the slices.

 

“Hmm,” Dean moaned around the forkful of apple pie in his mouth. “This is heaven.”

            “Dean.” Castiel blushed at the sounds his friend was making. “Don’t talk with food in your mouth.”

            “You’re a bakery god,” he said after swallowing. “What else can you make?”

            “Cookies, cakes, pies. I learned a lot with my father and Gabriel.”

            “Can I eat more?” Dean asked, with cinnamon on his chin.

            “Of course, Dean. I made it for you. And there’s another one in the oven. I figured it would be a good way to thank you for taking Jack to school.”

            Dean swallowed down the sudden ‘I love you’ that appeared unexpectedly in his throat, cutting himself another slice instead. He told himself that he’d love anyone who baked him two pies—it had nothing to do with Cas being Cas.

           “You’re the best, man. And you don’t have to thank me.”

           “Of course I do. Did you like it, Jack?” 

            The boy nodded emphatically, with cinnamon all over his mouth and chin, making Castiel smile.

 

Thursday, August 9th

 

With Jack in school and Dean at work, Castiel found himself alone once more. He knew he could do better than just sit on his butt and wait for them to get home, so around two pm he walked to the closest gardening store. He’d been meaning to start a garden for a long time, since Illinois, actually, but he couldn’t have a garden at his apartment.

           He bought some tools, fertilizer and a few different types of flowers. 

            When he was a teenager, his father had let him grow flowers in the backyard, and Castiel had been great at taking care of them. He hoped not to have lost those skills.

           When Dean and Jack arrived he was taking a snack break.

           “Someone made about a dozen holes in our front yard,” Dean said as he walked in.

           “It was me,” Castiel spoke from the kitchen. “How was school, Jack?”

           “Awesome! We made drawings today!” the boy searched his bag for the papers, eager to show them to his uncles.

           “Why are you making holes in the front yard?”

           “I’m planting a garden,” Castiel explained.

            “Here, uncle Cas! Look!” Jack handed him a sheet of paper––the crayon drawing he made in school. 

            “Mrs. Mosley asked us to draw our families,” Jack said, pointing at figures in the drawing––there was a smaller figure in the middle, hands held by the other two, and another one in the sky above them, with wings and a halo.

            “This is me,” Jack's finger stopped in the smaller figure. “And these are you and Uncle Dee,” the kid went on, pointing at the other figures, “and this is Mommy. She's an angel!” Jack smiled at the figure in the sky.

            “It's very good, Jack,” Castiel said, blinking back a couple of tears.

            Jack then took the paper from Castiel and showed it to Dean, repeating the process of pointing and naming the drawings.

            “It's great, kiddo. You're becoming an artist.”

            “Do you want to put it on the fridge, Jack?” Castiel asked and Dean hung the paper on the fridge’s door after the boy nodded happily.

 


 

When Castiel finished planting the flowers, the sun was almost setting. He sat on the porch steps and wiped his hands on his worn-out jeans––the ones he used for the rare occasions that involved housework.

            There were three different types of flowers planted on each side of the pathway, and more scattered in front of the house.

            “It's gonna look great when they're fully grown,” he heard Dean say from behind him. 

            Castiel watched as Dean came closer and sat beside him, offering him a beer.

            “Thanks,” Castiel said, popping off the beer’s cap, “I had a garden in our house back when I was a teenager.”

            “Really?” Castiel nodded and Dean smiled, “Secret talent, huh? You're full of ‘em these days.”

            “Apparently,” Cas chuckled. In front of them, the sun was slowly hiding behind the houses. They waved at one of their neighbors who walked by on their way home. 

            “What is Jack doing?” Cas asked.

            “Watching Looney Tunes,” Castiel snorted and Dean chuckled beside him. “Kid has good taste.”

            They fell into a peaceful silence for a few moments, watching as the stars grew brighter as the sunlight faded.

            “It was nice of him to draw Kelly as an angel,” Castiel spoke. “I know he misses her, I do too. But he seems happy.”

            “He does.” He sensed a reticence in Dean's voice––as if he wasn’t saying all he wanted to. “He really likes you.”

            “He likes you too.” Castiel smiled at him. “You're here too, after all. As part of his family.”

            “Yeah.” Dean smiled fondly into his beer bottle. “Melted my heart there.” Castiel laughed lightly.

            “Oh, really? I thought that was impossible,” he teased.

            “Course not. I'm an emotional guy.”

            “You just don’t show it.” Castiel finished for him.

            “Exactly.”

Chapter Text

The months flew by them in a rush of domesticity.

            With Jack in school, Castiel had much free time to fill when he wasn’t working and quickly fell back into his old hobbies. He took care of his growing garden, read all the new books he had bought in the past months and re-read his old favorites.

            On the weekends, Jack and Dean helped him bake pies and cookies––if messing around the kitchen could be called helping.

            Dean came home from work with a smile every day and grease under his nails. He finished two restorations and remade the almost nonexistent marketing design for Bobby’s shop.

            Jack was as happy as could be, always talking about his kindergarten adventures with Clark and Kaia––his best friends––to which his uncles listened with attention.

 

As for Dean and Cas, they had grown closer as the months passed; they were best friends if one could tell. They spent every Wednesday afternoon in front of the TV, binge-watching Netflix and having movie marathons ‘till they had to pick up Jack at kindergarten. They sat on the sofa, bowl of popcorn between them making it easier for them to keep their hands to themselves. Always careful not to reach for it at the same time, so as to avoid the awkwardness of their fingers brushing. But whenever they weren’t being consciously careful, they touched all the time. Elbows brushing around the kitchen, shoulders bumping one another playfully, a hand on the back as a door was opened.

            Shy smiles over the table, knees pressed together on the couch, longing glances throw when one wasn’t looking. Small things that meant nothing to the eyes around them, but that made Dean's heart beat faster, made Castiel's stomach hurt with butterflies that weren’t supposed to be there.

 

On Cas’ birthday, they had dinner with Gabriel and Charlie at his brother's new restaurant in Kansas City. Castiel received calls from his father, Michael, and even Dean's parents. He shared a huge sundae with Jack that gave them both a sore throat for a—they were in the middle of September and the air was slowly cooling.

            When they got home, Dean gave him his present—a grey hoodie with the words ‘LET IT BEE’ written in black letters and a cartoon bee trailing around. 

            “I saw it and I knew you’d like it,” Dean said, and he was absolutely right. Castiel wore the damn hoodie practically everywhere for weeks until Dean convinced him to wash it.

            Jack gave him an elaborated, handmade birthday card, with bright colors and a lot of glitter that had Dean complaining for a month about not being able to get rid of it from his clothes.

           

On Halloween, they took Jack, Clark and Kaia trick or treating through the city.  When Dean showed Cas the costume he’d picked for him—fluffy angel wings with a yellow halo attached—Castiel rolled his eyes so hard Dean thought they’d get stuck that way.

            “No,” Castiel blurted as soon as he saw it. 

            “Yes,” Dean threw the wings at him. “C’mon, Cas, it’s cute.”

            He ended up actually liking the wings.

            Dean called Charlie about a dozen times to ask her how to do his vampire make up, till Castiel took the phone and eyeliner from his hands, listened to Charlie’s instructions and told Dean to sit still as he applied it to his eyes. It came out pretty good.

            Jack and Clark dressed up as pirates, plastic swords and all, and Kaia was Wonder Woman, quickly engaging in a conversation with Dean about how she was the best superhero and “who needs a guy when Wonder Woman is so awesome”.

 

When November came, Castiel decided to resume another one of his old hobbies. He started knitting socks and matching scarves for the three of them, ignoring Dean’s teasing.

            “Hey, grandma,” Dean said whenever he came home and Castiel was knitting in one of the armchairs.

            Castiel made sure to laugh when the smug look disappeared from Dean's face the second he slipped his feet inside the wool socks and sighed dramatically at how warm they were.

            In return, Dean bought him the most ridiculous Christmas sweater he could find––a red and white thing with snowmen and reindeer embroidered all over it and small rattles on them. Cas loved it, of course.

 

They bickered around playfully, both of them happy to have a friend they could rely on. But if he was to be honest, Dean knew there was more to it. His best friend was Charlie, not Cas. Cas was more than that. As for Castiel…his best friends were Kelly––who was no longer there––and Gabriel, who would always be there for him.

            Yes, they were friends, but they were friends with a big gap between them, a promise of something more that neither of them was willing to keep.

 

Thursday, November 22nd – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Dean knew this year’s Thanksgiving dinner with his family would be different. Because now, his family included Cas and Jack, and therefore he wouldn’t hear John’s speech about him being forever single while his little brother was married at twenty-five.

            Additionally,  this year he was no longer working with his dad and, for some reason, that made John proud of him. It was probably because Dean had finally gotten a hold of his life—or so his mother said.

            Yes, this year would definitely be different.

 

Dean helped Cas bake a pecan pie for while Dean was left responsible for the casserole.

            When they parked in front of his parent’s house, Dean felt something twisting in his gut. Stepping out of the car, waiting for Cas to unbuckle Jack from his seat–– it all felt so…real. As if Castiel was really his husband and Jack was their kid, and after dinner they’d go back to their house––their home––and into their room and…no. He wouldn’t think about it, not tonight. He would just enjoy the meal with his parents, his brother, and his best friend, and pretend that living a lie he desperately wished to be true didn’t leave him feeling empty inside.

            “Ready for Thanksgiving with the Winchesters?” he asked Castiel as they stepped into the porch and Dean rang the doorbell.

            “Yes,” Castiel replied, holding a covered pie with one hand and Jack’s hand with the other. He was very excited to meet Dean’s brother, who he’d heard so much about.

            Sam opened the door and immediately pulled Dean into a bear hug, minding the casserole his brother held.

            “It’s so good to see you, man,” his brother said, patting his back.

            “You too, Sammy.”

            “And you must be the famous Castiel,” Sam grinned. “Dean talks a lot about you.”

            “Oh, does he?” Castiel glanced at Dean, making him blush. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sam. Your brother talks a lot about you too.”

            “And I guess you’re Jack?” Sam asked the boy, craning his neck to look at him. Jack nodded at the giant man in front of him. “I’m Sam.”

            “So, we’re kinda freezing here, you gonna let us in?” Dean teased his brother.

            “Yeah, sure. Just be careful with the-“

            “Whoa!”

            As Dean stepped into the hall he was almost tackled by a brown fur ball that immediately started licking his shoes. “Dude! You brought the dog?”

            “Of course I did! We weren’t just going to leave him alone.”

            “Hello, there,” Castiel said to the dog. The animal had quickly lost interest in Dean and ran over to greet Castiel.

            “Cas, this is Bones,” Dean introduced.

            “Is that Dean Winchester I hear?” Called a sweet voice from the hallway.

            “Jess!” Dean handed Sam the plate he was holding so he could crush his sister-in-law into a hug, lifting her off the floor. “So good to see you! Is Sammy taking care of you?”

            “More like I’m taking care of him,” she chuckled. “And you must be Cas! Dean talks a lot about you.”

            “I’ve been told,” Castiel smiled shyly and shook Jess’ hand.

            “Hi,” Jack spoke from behind his uncle. “I’m Jack.”

            “Hi, Jack. I heard a lot about you too.”

            “Where are Mom and Dad?” Dean asked his brother.

            “In the kitchen,” Sam said and they all moved further into the house, the dog trailing behind them.

            After greeting them, John took Jack to the kitchen with him, to show the boy how to mash the potatoes, and Mary sneaked Dean outside as Sam and Jess engaged in an enthusiastic conversation about organic food with Castiel.

            “What do you need help with, Mom?”

            “The porch lamp. Your father keeps saying he’ll fix it, but he forgets it every time.”

            “Don’t worry, I got it.”

            “So,” Mary started as Dean climbed the ladder to reach the porch ceiling, “how are you and Castiel doing?”

            “Fine,” Dean answered, glancing at his mom.

            “Honey, let me get straight to the point here,” she said, switching from the playful tone from before to a serious one. “I know of the deal you made with your father.”

            She handed him the new bulb.

            “W-what deal?” Dean stuttered, almost falling from the ladder. 

            “The deal. It’s okay, sweetie, I’m not mad at you,” his mother assured, “I just want to understand.”

            Dean finished switching the lightbulb and climbed off the ladder after successfully switching the lamp.

            “Understand what, exactly?” he sighed.

            “Why you did it, mostly.” Dean looked away and didn’t respond, so Mary continued, “Dean, when me and your father got married…it wasn't because we were madly in love with each other.” He looked up, startled with the new information. “It was because our families thought it would be good for us.”

            “You…didn’t love Dad?” he asked in a low voice.

            “Not at first. I didn’t know him very well. When I did learn to love him though, it wasn’t like fire or butterflies, no, it was more…calm. Contentment, you could say. I don’t regret it, no. Your father does make me happy and I do love him.

            “I just never wanted you and Sam to marry someone you didn’t choose, that's why we always encouraged you two to explore, go out and meet new people. So, when your father told me about your deal, I…I was a little disappointed.”

             Dean lowered his head again, ashamed. The last thing he wanted was to disappoint his mom.

            “But then you started bringing Castiel here—even though you didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend,” she scolded playfully, “and I knew you hadn’t made a mistake.”

            “What?” Dean frowned.

            “Don't play dumb, you know what I mean. You and Sam, I'm proud of you. You married people you chose, people you love–”

            “Mom–” Dean tried to stop her, but Mary kept going.

            “When I saw you with Castiel, I knew you made the right choice. Even if you married just to please your father, at least you married him because you wanted to–”

            “I didn't,” he blurted. 

            His mother froze, mouth slightly agape.

            “Me and Cas, we…we've never been together. I needed someone for the deal I made with dad, Cas needed someone to increase his chance at getting custody of Jack,” he admitted, embarrassed. “It was just convenience. I'm sorry,” he added. “I didn’t want to disappoint you.”

            His mother came closer to him, caressed his cheek.

            “It's okay, sweetie. I’m not disappointed.”

            Dean lifted his head to meet the kind look in Mary's eyes

            “But if you no longer work for you dad…why are you still married?” She asked raising her eyebrows.

            “I…we, uh…we have a one-year contract.”

            “Huh,” Mary crossed her arms in front of her and grinned mischievously at her son. “And are you sure that's the only reason?”

            Dean frowned at his mom again. Deep down, he knew what she was implying, and he also knew she was right. He could have told Cas that he wanted to get an early divorce if he wanted, they had both already gotten what they came for. So what was he waiting for?

            He was saved from his mom when the answer to her question opened the back door and popped his head out.

            “Dean,” Castiel called. “Your father wants you to help him with the turkey.”

            “Right. Yeah, sure.” 

            He followed Castiel into the house as quickly as he could, his mother's voice still ringing in his ears. Why are you still married?

 


 

To accompany the Turkey John had made and the green bean casserole Dean had brought, Mary and Jess had made cornbread with cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes and gravy. For dessert, of course, Castiel's pecan pie.

            Everyone filled their plates, praising the food and chatting around the table. Castiel helped Jack with the turkey, and Mary smiled at Dean as they watched the interaction. John asked Jess about her family and the recent trip they took to Hawaii, and Sam sneaked Bones bits of cornbread under the table.

            Everybody seemed happy.

            “Everyone, we've got something to tell you,” Sam spoke, interrupting the small conversations among his family. He took Jessica’s hand in his and looked at her. “Do you want to say it?” 

            She nodded and turned to look at the others.

            “I'm pregnant!” She announced, smiling as widely as Sam.

            Their family congratulated them with tight hugs and joyful we’re so happy for you’s, especially Mary, who immediately started making plans for the baby.

            “Mom, she’s only two months along,” Sam said exasperatedly. “And there's something else, too.”

            “We're moving to Kansas.” Sam's line was followed by cheers and surprised gasps from his parents and brother. “We’re moving to Topeka in March. We thought it'd be good to live closer to you now.”

            “And since my parents live there, we decided it was a good choice” Jess added.

            “I'm so happy for you, Sammy,” Dean said, grinning at his brother.

            “Dude, you can’t call me ‘Sammy’ in front of my kid.”

            “Watch me.” Dean grinned and Castiel chuckled beside him.  Sam made a face across the table.

            “Are you sure you don’t want my help with the dishes?” Castiel asked Dean as he set the pile of dirty plates near the sink.

            After dinner and dessert, Dean had promised to clean up while everybody chatted in the living room, and Castiel had followed him to help.

            “I'm sure. You can stay here for moral support if you want.” 

            Castiel snorted and grabbed a towel to start drying the dishes.

            “What are we doing for New Year's Eve?” Cas asked beside him, so casually––as if it were something he asked Dean every year.

            “I dunno. You have any plans?”

            “Michael invited us to his place in New York. If you want to.”

            “Sounds great.” Dean swallowed a do we have do take a plane? “I'm sure Jack will be thrilled to meet with his cousins.”

            “Yes.” 

            They fell silent for a moment before Castiel talked again. “I'm glad we spent Thanksgiving with your family. It was a great dinner.”

            “Yeah, Mom's cornbread’s the best. And everybody loved your pie.” Dean grinned at him. “You ever get tired of translating, you can open a bakery.” 

            Castiel chuckled.

            “I'll add that to my post-retirement to-do list,” he said, leaning on the counter. “What about your uncle? Why wasn’t he here?”

            “Bobby always spends the holidays with an old friend of his, Rufus. He's a lonely guy, so Bobby keeps him company,” Dean explained. “He tried bringing him here once, but Rufus is too grumpy to leave his house. He has a good heart, though—not that he lets anyone know.”

            “Sounds a little like you.”

            “I'm not grumpy!”

            “But you have a good heart.” 

            Dean stopped rinsing to look at him, eyes wide and cheeks red. He turned his eyes back to the sink after a few silent seconds, and Castiel thought he'd better change the subject. 

            “And you're going to have a nephew.”

            “Yeah, tell me about it,” Dean snorted. “Makes me feel kinda old, the fact that Sammy’s married and having kids and I…” he cut himself. What was he going to say? I wish I had you and Jack for real? It wasn’t really an option.

            “And you..?” Castiel prompted.

            “I'm getting old. That’s all.”

            Castiel nodded, looking at his feet. He felt stupidly disappointed, having expected Dean to say something like ‘I have you and Jack’. Just because Dean talked about him ‘a lot’ to his brother didn’t mean he wanted something more. Dean had had his reasons to sign that contract, and Castiel had been the one stupid enough to fall in love.

            “Cas?” Dean called and Cas realized by his tone it hadn’t been for the first time. “You okay? Been kinda quiet there.”

            “Yes. I was just… thinking”

            “Hey, guys, you done here?” Sam asked, suddenly appearing on the kitchen’s doorway. “We're gonna play some poker.”

            “Yeah, almost done Sammy.” Dean turned to Cas. “You go there, I'll finish here quick.”

            “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Saturday, December 15th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

Dean loved Christmas; it was his favorite holiday. He loved everything about it, from the over-the-top decorations and ridiculous sweaters to the gingerbread houses and the annoying songs that stuck in his head until the end of the holiday season. There was just something about the spirit of Christmas, about families gathering in front of fireplaces, playing in the snow, and drinking eggnog with friends––something that made him feel joyful.

            Last week, Cas, Jack and he had gone shopping for Christmas decorations. Dean had found them the perfect tree––not too tall nor too small, with lush needles––and Jack had been in charge of picking out the ornaments.

            They bought snowmen, candy canes, reindeer, gingerbread and snowflake ornaments, along with the usual ball-shaped ones, tinsel, a golden three-top star, a wreath and Christmas stockings. And way more Christmas lights than Castiel thought necessary.

            “Dean, are you sure we need these many lights?” He asked as Dean put another box into their cart. Beside them, Jack was hanging the candy canes on the cart’s side.

            “Course we do. I’mma put ‘em all over. It’s gonna look great— you’ll see.”

            After shopping for the decorations, they went to the supermarket, where once again Jack insisted on riding inside the cart.

            “Nougat!” The boy exclaimed, pointing as they passed the aisles.

            “You want some, kid?” Dean asked, and handed Jack a few bars when he nodded.

            “Not now, Jack,” Castiel warned when his nephew tried to open one of the candy bars. “After dinner.”

            “Speaking of dinner, what are we having tonight?” Dean pushed their cart forward as Castiel checked their list.

            “I could try making a lasagna,” Castiel offered. “There, we need more coffee.” He pointed at the shelf at Dean’s left.

            “We’ll need some pasta then.” Dean handed Jack the coffee, which the boy carefully put next to their other items.

 

When they got home, after putting away the groceries, they started the process of decorating their house. While Castiel helped Jack put the ornaments on the tree, Dean untangled several strings of lights. He saved a box of them for the tree.

            “I’m going to put these on the porch, you guys call if you need me.” he received an okay in unison and grabbed the ladder from the garage to help him hang the lights.

            Around three, he was almost done. There was only half a string left to hang up when someone opened the front door. His ladder, which was resting very close to the door, was knocked off balance and Dean lost his footing.

            “Dean!” 

            Castiel placed one hand on the ladder to prevent it from moving further while the other flew to Dean’s hip to stabilize him. 

            “I’m sorry,” Castiel said, quickly taking his hand away once Dean regained his balance. “Are you okay?”

            “I’m good.” Dean climbed off, red-faced and still breathing a bit fast from the fright. “You need anything?”

            “Uh… Jack wants you to watch him put the star on the tree.”

            “Yeah, sure.” Dean smiled. “Let’s go.”

           

Castiel held Jack up to reach the tree’s top and put the golden star in it.

            “Great job, kiddo,” Dean said, ruffling the boy’s hair once Castiel had put him down. “Now, we turn these on.” 

            Dean plugged the wire into the nearest socket and the multicolored lights burst into life in front of them “And voilà!”

            Jack beamed and clapped his hands, Castiel smiling at their work.

            “Where do we put these?” Dean asked holding the stockings they’d bought. “We don’t have a fireplace.”

            “On the window, maybe,” Castiel suggested. 

            Dean pinned them to the windowsill as Castiel nailed the wreath on the front door.

            “Uncle Cas, can we build a snowman?” Jack asked, watching a few snowflakes drop from the sky through the open door.

            “Of course, Jack. Just put your gloves on, okay?” the boy nodded and ran upstairs for his gloves.

            “Hey, Cas,” Dean called, “do you want to build a snowman?” He grinned when Castiel rolled his eyes at him. “C’mon, let’s go and play,” Dean continued and Cas snorted a laugh. Castiel had been sure Dean was singing along to Elsa in his mind when they watched the movie last week.

            “C’mon, Uncle Dee!” Jack called from the bottom of the stairs, rushing to the front door. “Let’s build a snowman!”

            Half-way through building the snowman’s middle, Castiel took some snow in his hand, balled it up and threw it in Dean’s direction. He’d aimed for Dean’s back, but the snowball ended up hitting his butt.

            Dean turned around slowly, a mix of surprise and indignation in his face. He looked at his feet and crouched, gathering snow in his hands. Before Castiel could dodge, the snowball hit him in the chest.

            “Is this a war?” he asked, brushing the snow off his coat.

            “You started it.”

            “You started it.” Dean grinned.

            They ran around the front yard, laughing and chasing each other, throwing snowballs that didn’t always find their targets. One ended in their neighbor's porch––thankfully, Mrs. Sunders wasn’t home––and another got Cas’ hair sprayed with ice. Dean almost slipped dodging one of Castiel’s shots and Cas tripped on his own feet several times.

            Meanwhile, Jack carefully straightened the snowman’s head.

Jack building a snowman as Dean and Castiel have a snowball fight in the background

            “We need a carrot,” the boy said and Dean froze, arm stretched back ready to throw another snowball.

            “What?” He asked seconds before being hit in the face with ice.

            “For the snowman’s nose!”

            “I’ll get one,” Castiel said, heading for the porch, and Dean threw the ball he’d been holding at his butt.

            “What goes around comes around.” He smirked when Castiel gave him an accusing glare before going inside the house.

            He came back with a carrot, one of his old ties and a couple of small stones from the backyard, for the eyes. Dean helped Jack with the snowman’s face while Cas fixed the blue tie and, once they were finished, he took a picture of Jack and Dean smiling at either side of the snowman.

            “Wait a second!” Dean said, before running inside to plug the extension cord. The Christmas lights on the porch turned on. 

            “Ta-dah!” he said from the front doorway, watching as Jack’s eyes lit up with Christmas joy. Castiel smiled at the dancing lights.

            “It’s amazing Dean,” he said when Dean approached them.

            They stood there, watching the lights blink and dance and change colors until it got too cold to be outside. When they entered the house, Castiel made them all hot chocolate.

 

Friday, December 26th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

            John and Mary had spent Christmas Eve with them, since Sam and Jess had gone to Jessica’s parents in Topeka.

            After they were gone Dean and Cas cleaned everything up, saving the leftovers for Charlie’s party on Friday.

            Dean kept thinking about his mom saying how lovely ‘their home’ was after Jack had given her a tour of it.

            “Did you have fun today, Jack?” Castiel asked his nephew when he tucked the boy in, covering him with blankets so he wouldn’t feel cold.

           “I did,” Jack answered, hugging his plush giraffe closer. “I missed Mommy. We always made gingerbread at Christmas.”

           “We can do that next year.” Castiel ran a hand through Jack’s hair and smiled down at him. “I miss your mother too.”

           “But I like you and Uncle Dee, you’re family. I like living here.”

           “Family, yes.” He got up from where he sat at the edge of Jack’s bed. “That’s very good, Jack.”

 


 

“Merry Christmas, guys!” Charlie greeted them as they stepped into her small apartment.  A Santa hat was tucked into her redhead.

           Every year on Boxing Day, she and Dean got together with some friends to eat leftover turkey and watch old Christmas movies.

           This year, they had been joined by Castiel, Jack and Charlie’s girlfriend, Dorothy. Gabriel had also joined them, since Charlie had insisted on inviting him.

           “Merry Christmas, Charlie!” Dean said, stealing her hat and putting it on his head. “I brought the food.”

           “Is there pie?” she asked, trying to take her hat back. Dean brushed her hands away.

           “No, Dean ate it all,” Castiel answered as they walked into the living room where Gabriel and Dorothy were already waiting for them.

           “Dude! Not cool,” Charlie scolded. “Anyway, how about we play something?”

           “We could play Scrabble,” Dorothy suggested.

           “No,” Dean and Gabriel said at the same time, then give each other a weird look.

            “I do not play Scrabble with him,” Gabriel said, and pointed at his brother.

           “Me neither,” Dean said as he walked to the kitchen. “Charlie, did you make the nog?”

           “Nope, I was hoping you’d do it.”

           “Can we play Monopoly?” Jack asked from beside his uncle. “I like being the bank.”

           “Sure, kid. I’ll get it,” Charlie rushed off for the board.

           Twenty minutes later they were settled in the living room, board on the coffee table, drinking the eggnog Dean had made. There was even some without alcohol for Jack. They split into teams, Charlie and Dorothy, Dean and Cas, and Gabriel by himself.

            After five rounds, two won by Dean and Castiel, one by the girls and the other two by Gabriel, Dean got up and asked, “Who’s hungry?” and they moved to the kitchen table. 

           

“We’re not watching The Grinch again, Dean,” Charlie argued after Dean suggested the movie for their marathon.

           “Why not? It’s a classic!”

           “We watch it every year!”

           “Because it’s a classic.”

           “I bet you know all of the Grinch’s lines,” Charlie accused him.

           “What’s a Grinch?” Jack asked from beside Charlie.

           “It’s a movie,” Dean said. “A traditional Christmas movie. You’ve never seen it?” Jack shook his head and Dean looked at Charlie victoriously. “There. A perfect reason why we should watch it.”

           “I don’t think I’ve seen it either,” Castiel said and Dean threw him a dramatically disappointed look.

           “Why am I not surprised?”

           “My favorite is A Christmas Carol.”

           “We’ll watch that one too,” Charlie decided.

           “Oh, c’mon,” Dean whined. “That one we definitely watch every year.”

           “It’s a classic,” Charlie teased him.

           “Fine,” he said, rolling his eyes.

 

Decision made, Dean helped Dorothy with the dishes while Charlie went to set the movies up. Castiel stayed in the kitchen and tried to talk Gabriel out of giving Jack another candy cane.

            “You gave him five, already,” Castiel scolded.

            “He’s a kid, Cassie, kids love candy canes. And it’s Christmas!” Gabriel took two more out of his pockets. “I’ll give you one too. Have some Christmas spirit, would you?”

            “Fine.” He rolled his eyes at his brother. “Just one more.”

            Gabriel high-fived his nephew and handed him the candy.

            “Sometimes I feel like I’m creating a little monster,” he said lowly walking closer to Dean.

            “Nah, Jack’s a good kid.”

            “I was talking about Gabriel.” Dean snorted a laugh beside him and Gabriel threw them a dirty look.

            “I heard that.”

            “Hey, people, the TV is ready,” Charlie called from the doorway. She had a slightly devious grin on her face as if she were up to something.

            They finished with the cleaning and settled in the living room with bowls of popcorn, Dean and Cas on the couch backed against the wall, Jack in the sofa with Charlie and Dorothy and Gabriel on the reclining armchair to the side.

            Charlie put on the first movie, Dean rolling his eyes when he realized it was A Christmas Carol. Charlie smirked at him, then moved her eyes above Dean’s had with a––fake––surprised expression.

            “Oh, ops!” she said, pointing up at the ceiling. “Forgot I had hung that up there.”

           Dean looked up, his gut twisting when he saw the mistletoe branch hanging from one of Charlie’s posters. That had definitely not been there when they had been playing Monopoly. He looked back at her with a murderous glare.

           “Oh, you didn’t.”

           “What did she do?” Cas asked beside him, bringing Gabriel’s attention to their conversation.

            “Oh, baby brother, I’d look up if I were you,” Gabriel smirked from his seat as Castiel drew his eyes up, his cheeks immediately starting to redden.

            “We don’t have–” Dean started, but he was cut off.

            “Of course you do! It’s Christmas tradition!” Charlie said.

            “That’s true, Dean,” Dorothy chuckled from the sofa. “You can’t break the tradition.”

            Dean looked at Cas with a mortified expression. He was going to kill Charlie for making him do this.

            They both stood still, staring at each other in silence. Cas looked pale and red at the same time and he could hear his heart beating in his ears.

            “We’re waiting,” Gabriel said impatiently. The brightness of the  TV screen was the only thing illuminating the room, the light making the blue in Castiel’s eyes spark.

           Dean took a deep breath, and moved closer to Castiel, shutting his eyes when their faces were merely inches apart. He wasn’t sure who made the final move, but he was suddenly aware only of the dry, yet soft, brush of Cas’ lips against his. He pressed harder.

            Their friends seemed to melt away, along with Dean’s last brain cells. He felt Castiel sigh into their kiss. Dean tried to resist the temptation of deepening the kiss, but it was impossible. He felt Castiel’s hand on the back of his neck and a tongue brushing his as his mind short-circuited.

           Gabriel’s loud whistle cut through the air. Castiel pulled back, not meeting Dean’s eyes, and sat back on his side of the couch. He was breathing hard, trying to regain his composure as Dean shifted uncomfortably beside him.

           Dean looked at Charlie, who quickly turned her head back towards the TV, a smug expression on her face. He saw Jack really enthralled with the movie and Gabriel sprawled on the armchair. Focusing on the movie, Dean tried his hardest not to look at Cas. That shouldn’t have happened.

           Dean reached for the armrest where a glass of eggnog was settled on a cup holder, and drank half of it at once, feeling the burn down his throat. He was going to need more if he wanted to sit through two or three more movies like this, with the phantom feeling of Castiel’s mouth still on his lips.

Chapter Text

Monday, December 31st – New York, New York

 

They didn’t talk about the kiss.

           Dean pretended it didn’t happen, though deep down what he wanted the most was to do it again till he was out of breath. He didn’t talk about it—why would he? Talking would only make things harder on Cas—who was his best friend and would hardly want to be anything else, right?

           Castiel avoided thinking about it. Because if he did, he would relive the sensation of Dean’s lips and that was something he didn’t want to remember—he knew it wouldn’t happen again, after all. He did not talk about it either, afraid that showing even a slight interest would push Dean. Interest he’s sure Dean does not share, right?

 

On the morning of the thirty-first, they got on a plane to New York. Just as planned, they were spending New Year’s Eve with Michael’s family and Cas’ father.

           Jack was jumping excitedly at Castiel’s side as they went through the check-in, talking about how much he liked to fly. The airport was crowded; people coming and going anywhere, carrying huge bags or nothing at all, families hugging and lovers kissing after longs weeks apart. Castiel noticed Dean’s slightly pale face, though he wasn’t sure of the reason. It certainly made his freckles stand out.

           Cas sat in the middle, Jack looking outside the window and pointing at the small people loading the plane. Dean kept twitching beside him, buckling his belt a bit too tight and flipping through the Emergency guide.

           “Dean, are you okay?” Cas asked after Dean finished reading the pamphlet for the third time.

           “I’m great. Nothing wrong,” Dean answered with a tight smile. 

            Down the aisle, the flight attendant announced they were about to take off and began giving instructions. Castiel made sure Jack was secured in his seat as the boy looked out the window, and Dean’s face got paler by the second. When the plane began to move, Dean started humming something under his breath.

            What are you singing?” Cas asked.

           “Metallica,” Dean said through gritted teeth, gripping both armrests as they started to lift off, his back pressed firmly against the seat. “Helps me stay calm.” 

            Dean snapped his eyes shut as the plane kicked off and rose from the ground.

           “Dean, are you…afraid of flying?” Castiel asked astonished, placing a hand on Dean’s right wrist. Dean shook his head, eyes still tightly shut as they evened into the sky. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

            “Not like we would have driven from Kansas to New York in New Year’s traffic.” Dean breathed unevenly, his knuckles white in their grip. “Don’t tell Sam.”

            “It’s fine now. We’re flying already.”

            “Uncle Dee, look!” Jack called from his seat, pointing at the window. “We’re in the clouds.”

            Dean opened one eye to look out and felt his stomach twist. He gripped the armrest impossibly harder and closed his eyes again. If he were a believer, like his mom, he would have probably started praying.

           “So freaking high,” he mumbled under his breath. He could hear Castiel chuckling beside him and opened his eyes just to throw him an annoyed glare. “Not funny.”

            “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t laugh at your discomfort.”

            “Damn right, you shouldn’t.”

            “I’m sure Jack could lend you his giraffe.”

           “Are you making fun of me?” Dean asked, opening his eyes fully and staring at Castiel with all the indignation he could muster.

           “Actually, I’m trying to distract you from the fact we’re several feet up in the sky and you seem to be afraid of heights.”

           “Planes,” Dean corrected, relaxing his hands. “And please continue.”

           

Having Cas to talk to during the flight turned out to be much more effective than humming Metalica. Dean almost didn’t notice the little turbulence they went through, and his fingers didn’t go numb from holding too tight onto the armrests like it usually happened. He even managed to keep his eyes open when they landed.

 


 

New York’s traffic on New Year’s Eve was the worst thing Dean had ever seen. They got in a cab at the airport and Jack tried to count all the yellow taxis they passed through, but they were too many for the boy.

            When they finally arrived at Michael’s apartment, Jack and his cousins immediately started playing, pretending to be pirates and super-heroes. They only stopped running around when Chuck announced Story Time and the three kids followed him to Joshua’s room.

           Once it was time for dinner, Dean and Castiel helped Michael and Rachel in the kitchen and the kids set the table. Dean and Michael talked about classic cars and Castiel listened to his father’s stories from his trip to Alaska and the new book he was writing.

            As it neared midnight, they all gathered in the balcony to wait for the fireworks, the large TV in the living room showing the reporter on Times Square. 

            The street below them was covered in snow and the cold wind ruffled their clothes, but they stayed there, chatting and toasting with champagne glasses while the kids counted the seconds to the New Year.

           When the clock struck twelve, the fireworks burst in the horizon, through the mass of buildings in the stone forest of New York City. They clinked their glasses together in the air, and Castiel met Dean’s eyes for a moment. He wished the other man would kiss him right there and—unknown to him—that was exactly what Dean wanted to do.

           Instead, Dean shifted his eyes to the sky and watched the colored explosions paint the cool night. They only had a couple of months left together, and as the fireworks glowed in the distance, Dean wished he had the courage to want more.

           Castiel wished that, too.

 

Friday, January 4th (2019) – Lawrence, Kansas

 

The new year found them not having talked yet about the kiss on Christmas.

           Castiel was working on a new book––this one in Spanish––and Dean spent more time than usual at the shop, since Jack’s school was on break. They weren’t tiptoeing around each other, but they weren’t acting the same either.

           It annoyed Castiel, the fact that he kept thinking about the kiss but he didn’t know if Dean did too. He was tired of not knowing.

            “We never talked about Christmas,” he said one night, after he’d finished cleaning the dishes. Dean was sitting at the table, computer open in front of him and a beer in his hand as he checked his emails. Dean swallowed and nodded.

           “Yeah we, uh… haven’t gotten rid of all the lights yet.” He ineffectively tried to avoid the topic. “I’ll take ‘em down tomorrow, don’t worry.”

           “That’s not what I meant.” Castiel raised an eyebrow, watching Dean shift in his place.

           “What’s there to talk about.” It was a statement, not a question, and Castiel sighed as Dean turned his eyes back to the screen. He bit his lip.

           “I believe it is quite a subject to discuss,” he tried, but Dean still wasn’t looking at him.

            Castiel shook his head in disbelief.

            “You want to tell me you didn’t feel anything?”

            “Cas-”

           “Dean.” 

            Dean looked at him with troubled eyes, a pained expression on his face.

            “You want to tell me that?”

           “No. No, I don’t,” Dean admitted.

           “Then, why-“

           “Cas,” Dean interrupted, rising off his chairs and walking closer, though still keeping a safe distance between them. “I’m sorry. I should’ve made this clear earlier. I’m sorry. I can't do this.”

           “Do what?” Castiel asked lowly.

           “This”––Dean gestured between them, keeping his voice down, careful not to wake Jack up––“This us, us together thing, I can’t. It doesn’t work for me, it never does.” 

            Castiel stared at him and Dean looked away. He didn’t want to see the wetness creeping into his blue eyes. “I can play house with for a year, but I can’t do us.” 

            Castiel looked at his feet for a moment, nodding at them, before raising his eyes again.

           “You must be glad we’re almost done, then.”

           “Cas, it’s not-”

           “It’s fine, Dean,” he spat out the words, feeling his eyes start to burn as he shook his head again. How could he be so stupid? 

            “It’s fine,” he said and hurried out of the kitchen.

           “Cas!” Dean tried to stop him, but he was already gone.

           Great way of not messing up your friendship, Winchester, Dean thought.

           He sighed to himself, rubbing his temples. Dean sat back in his chair and finished his beer before going upstairs.

            He stopped in front of Cas’ door on the way to his bedroom, fist raised to knock. He lowered his arm. Instead, he dragged his feet to his own door and lay in his bed with his eyes closed. He didn’t sleep.

           I gotta take down those Christmas lights, he thought.

           In his room, Castiel lay awake too.

 

Thursday, January 10th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

The morning after their talk in the kitchen had been awkward. Not because they didn’t even look at each other, but because Castiel had looked at Dean as if nothing had happened. Breakfast had been completely uneventful, Castiel even made small talk about the weather, which left Dean undeniably confused.

           He would’ve felt less rejected if Castiel had pointedly ignored him, but he seemed to have simply forgotten everything––including the kiss.

          

As the days passed, things seemed to go back to normal. Cas made breakfast, Dean made lunch. Dean took Jack to school, Cas worked on his translation. Dean picked Jack from school, they ate dinner. They talked—not about what they wanted to, of course, but about everything else. They had gone back to their ‘good old routine’, and yet it didn’t feel enough.

 

It was barely after three pm and Castiel was comfortably working on the sofa when his phone rang with an unknown number.

            “Hello?”

            “Mr. Novak?”

            “Yes.”

            “My name’s Hester, I’m calling from your nephew’s school.”

            “Is everything okay?”  He asked sitting up straight.

            “Actually, there was a disturbance during playtime. Jack fell off a swing, hurt his knee. Are you able to pick him up?”

            “Oh, yes. Yes, I’ll be there soon.”

            “Thank you.”

            Castiel hung up and immediately dialed Dean’s number, tapping nervously at the computer on his lap.

            “Cas? Everything okay?” He heard Dean through the phone.

            “Dean, hi. Uh, Jack’s schooled called, he hurt himself during playtime. They asked me to pick him up, could you-“

           “I’ll be right there,” Dean cut him off. “Wait outside.”

           Dean ended the call and Cas got up, shutting down his computer and leaving it on the coffee table. He locked the backdoor and went to wait outside as Dean requested.

           Ten minutes later, he saw the Impala coming through the street.  And the car barely stopped before Cas threw himself in.

           “Is he okay?” Dean asked as he pulled off.

           “His knee’s hurt. I’m sure they took care of it already, there’s an infirmary at school.” He saw Dean nod as they passed an open streetlight. “Sorry to get you off your work.” 

            Dean threw him an annoyed glance, focusing back on the street.

           “Really, Cas? You know it’s okay.”

           “I know. Thank you.”

           


 

“Wait a minute. What did you say happened?” Dean inquired after Hester explained to them how Jack got hurt.

           “The kids were on the playground, Jack was on a swing and one of the other kids pushed him off,” she repeated calmly.

           “What about the monitors? Didn’t they see what was happening?”

           “It happened very fast, but they got there quickly after.”

           “This is completely unacceptable,” Dean said. “How can you let our kid go through this? You should be taking care of him.” 

            Dean heard Castiel clear his throat beside him and felt him place a hand on his forearm.

           “What my husband’s trying to say, Mrs. Grace, is that though we understand things like this happen when you’re looking after kids, it still upsets us.”

            “I know, Mr. Novak, I’m very sorry. But we already talked to the boy that pushed Jack and we’re going to talk to his parents soon.” 

            They both nodded, and Castiel removed his hand from Dean’s arm.

           They met Jack at the infirmary, where the boy was sucking on a lollipop as he sat in a big armchair. His left pant-leg was rolled above his knee that had a small bandage wrapped around it.

           “How are you, Jack?” Castiel asked his nephew as they entered the room.

           “I’m ‘kay.” Jack raised his leg up, showing it off. “Mrs. Leahy gave me a bandage.”

           They thanked the nurse and Castiel carried the boy outside on his shoulders.

           “What do you say we get some ice-cream to heal that knee, kiddo?” Dean offered as they walked to the car.

           “It’s winter, Dean,” Castiel chuckled.

           “Well, then how about hot chocolate?”

           “Yes!” Jack said, holding onto Castiel’s head.

 


 

“Thank you,” Castiel said later, while he helped Dean prepare dinner.

            “What for?”

            “Standing up for Jack.” Castiel started setting the table. “I really appreciated it. Though I think you might’ve scared Hester a little.”

            They chuckled as Dean took the meatloaf out of the oven.

            “Yeah, don’t mention it. ‘s no big deal,” he brushed off as Castiel finished setting the plates.

            “I’ll go get Jack.” Cas walked off to call Jack for dinner, leaving a wondering Dean behind.

            How do you let our kid go through this?

           What my husband’s trying to say…

           You want to tell me you didn’t feel anything?

           Dean sighed, placing his hands on the counter either side of his body.

           Why are you still married? His mom’s voice questioned him.

           He put the meatloaf on the table, remembering the way he told Castiel that he ‘couldn’t do them’ only a week ago. What if he’d been wrong all this time? Should he—even though he was afraid—allow himself to try?

           He heard Cas and Jack coming into the kitchen and brushed his thoughts aside.

Chapter Text

Thursday, January 24th – Lawrence, Kansas

 

It wasn’t exactly a birthday party. It was just his family gathering to eat his homemade burgers and tease him about getting old.

           Charlie was the first to arrive, hugging him tight and calling him ‘old man’. Then came Sam and Jess, which was a surprise for Dean since his brother had texted him saying they wouldn’t make it.

           “Dude! What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t coming,” he said as he hugged both.

           “We wanted to make it a surprise,” Jessica said, her belly slowly starting to show through her well fit flowery dress.

           Gabriel was there too, bringing a big chocolate cake from his shop, with thirty-five purple candles carefully placed on it.

           They had invited Clark and Christine too, though she was working her shift that evening and couldn’t stay for long. The two boys rushed upstairs giggling, probably going to play in Jack’s room.

           Sam and Cas were enthusiastically discussing some documentary Dean was almost sure Cas had made him watch, and Jess was asking Gabriel about his shops and restaurants. Dean was in the kitchen assembling the burgers for everybody.

            “Birthday Boy shouldn’t be working,” Charlie said coming through the kitchen’s doorway.

            “Well, someone’s gotta put these together.” He placed another finished burger on the tray with the others.

            “Did your husband give you a present yet?” She asked smirking at him with a raised eyebrow.

            “No.” Dean rolled his eyes. “Nor do I think he will.”

            “What? You guys haven’t worked things out yet?” She whispered.

            “There’s nothing to be worked out, Char.”

            “You kidding, right?” She snapped, keeping her voice down. “Don’t you see the way he looks at you? The way you look at him?”

            “I can’t.” He turned around to face her. “I’m not relationship material, you know that. I always screw things up. This time I managed to do it without even starting.”

            “C’mon, Dean. It’s not like that.”

            “Yes, it is,” he said, sighing and turning back to the burgers. “It didn’t work with Robin in eighth grade, it didn’t work with Aaron in High school, or with Bella in college and it didn’t work with Lisa.”

           “That was four years ago, Dean. You’ve changed! Besides, half of those were not your fault.”

           “Doesn’t matter, Charlie.” He took the tray from the counter and put it in the table with the cake. “I just…I don’t want to mess this up any more than I already have.”

           “Dean,” Charlie said, placing her hand on his shoulder and forcing him to meet her eyes. “The only way you’re going to mess this up is if you let him go. You have never been so happy, and you know that.”

           Yes, he knew. He knew Charlie was right.

           No, it hadn’t worked for him before, but he’d never loved anyone the way he loved Castiel. Maybe this time… it could work… right?

            He didn’t respond, taking the burger tray instead and heading back to the living room, Charlie following behind him.

            Castiel called Jack and Clark to eat and the boys came rushing down the stairs, holding a big piece of paper folded in half. There were little glitter sparks falling from it, and he could make out the words For Dean written in crayon letters on the front.

            “We made something for you, Uncle Dee,” Jack said and Clark handed him the card.

            Dean opened it, revealing a drawing of him with his car on the side, made with crayons and markers. He chuckled at the glitter put on the Impala’s wheels. On the other side of the card, the boys wrote Hapy B-day, Uncle Dean, surrounded by stars and smiley faces.

            “Thank you, boys,” he said, fighting the watery feeling in his eyes. “I loved it.”

            Gabriel and Castiel brought the cake from the kitchen all candles lit, and everyone sang him happy birthday.

            His parents had promised him lunch on Saturday, and he received congratulatory texts from Michael and Chuck too.

           Hours later, his family had finally left, Gabriel being the last one to go—after making Dean promise to come by his shop sometime.

 

The night had fallen quickly, the chilly air of the backyard caressing his cheeks as he leaned on the porch railing. It was a bit past eleven, and the stars were shining above his head. He sat on the wooden swing and thought about his day. 

           You have never been so happy, and you know that.

           That thought spread itself through his mind, soaking into his bones. A year. He had been truly happy for an entire year and didn’t even notice. He considered going inside and getting a beer, but what for? It wouldn’t help anything.

            Instead, he just sat there, staring at the sky, ‘till he heard the backdoor creak open, and turned to see Cas close it behind him.

           The sight of Castiel made his chest hurt. His dark hair was as messy as usual, and he had one hand tucked in the pocket of his LET IT BEE hoodie, and the other one holding a sheet of paper.

           “Hey.”

           “Hello, Dean.” Cas pointed to the empty space beside him. “May I?”

           Dean shuffled to the left, making room for Castiel to sit beside him. Cas sat down with a sigh and handed Dean the papers.

           “What’s this?” he asked, running his eyes over the small letters, capturing words like ‘contract’ and ‘ending’.

           “These are the divorce papers,” Castiel explained. “Michael sent them to me yesterday and, since our contract is due next month, I thought to just give you them already.” 

            Dean could pick out a trace of sadness from Cas’ voice. Not bitterness, not anger. Sorrow.

            And Castiel wasn’t, in fact, angry at Dean. The months they’d spent together had been the best, and he would miss them terribly. He would miss Dean. His smile, his jokes, the way he cared about his family, and the way Dean looked at him.

           He was sad that all that would end soon, but he wasn’t mad at the way things had happened. Dean had his hung ups, Castiel had his too. He only hoped they could be friends one day, even if that was all he could get. No, it would never be enough—for either of them—but it would be something.

           “Cas, I…I’m sorry,” Dean said, meeting Castiel’s eyes. “I’m so sorry, I…what I said to you that night, I shouldn’t’ve-”

            “It’s okay, Dean. I understand.” Castiel looked at his hands. “We just have to sign those, and it’s done. Of course, you can stay here until you find somew-“

           “No, Cas, listen to me.” He placed a hand on Cas’ chin, making Cas look at him, startled. “I was stupid. I was so, so stupid and I’m sorry I hurt you. It’s just… these kinda things, relationships, they’ve never worked right for me-”

           “You said that,” Castiel mumbled, trying to look away again but Dean chased after his glance.

           “What I’m trying to say, is that I want to try.” Dean smiled shyly as inhaled deeply. “I can’t promise you I’ll be the husband you deserve, but I’ll try. I can’t promise you I’m not gonna say something stupid and hurt you again, but I don’t plan to. I can’t say how long’s gonna last, how long you’ll put up with my dumb jokes, and my greasy nails and my movie references. But I can promise you, that I won’t stop loving you.” 

            He felt a tear fall down his cheek, physical proof of the emotion pouring out of him.

           “Dean…” Castiel breathed.

           “I know you’re probably still hurt, and I get it if you don’t want to see me ever again, and-“

           “Dean, shut up.” 

            Dean’s eyes went wide when Cas pulled his face forward, crushing their lips together, and they slowly fell shut as he held onto Castiel’s waist, opening his mouth and allowing Cas to deepen the kiss.

           This time, there was no Christmas tradition, no whistling, no awkwardness. This time, they only pulled back when they couldn’t breathe anymore and, even then, the cold breeze drew them closer.

           “Cas…” Dean pressed their foreheads together, palm resting against Cas’ cheek.

           “Yes, Dean?” Castiel said in a breathy tone.

           “Will you marry me? For real?” Dean asked and he felt a huge smile spreading through from Cas’ face to his.

           “Of course.”

 

             Then the night breeze carried their quiet laugh, their kisses, and their vows.

 

The End