“Excuse me, sir, can I use that real quick?” Dean asked, gesturing towards the sound system in the school bus.
The bus driver shrugged, so Dean took that as a ‘yes’.
“Alright, kiddos,” Dean announced into speaker, wincing when the bus’s sound system projected his voice louder than he’d expected. The incessant chatter and squeals stopped as each student turned to face the front of the bus, where Dean was standing and trying not to fall as the bus turned a corner. “Are you guys excited for the field trip?”
There was a cacophony of high-pitched shouting that Dean interpreted as a good sign.
“Great! Does everyone have their buddy? Raise your hand if you have a buddy!”
Small arms shot into the air.
“Looks like everyone. Now, make sure you don’t ever lose sight of your buddy or me or Miss Bradbury, okay?” Dean pointed at them sternly. “Just to make sure we’re clear - there will be no biting the tour guides, there will be no screaming at any of the animals... and Jack? There will be no stealing candy from the vending machines.”
“Alright, team, I want us all to have fun today and learn a lot so everyone needs to be on their best behavior. Can you do that?”
Half of the voices yelled ‘yes’ while the other half yelled ‘no’.
“Close enough,” Dean said to himself and handed the mouthpiece back to the driver, and sat himself down as they pulled up to the aquarium.
Dean’s class of second graders had been lucky enough to win a competition that their school had done a drawing for - with the prize being a special aquarium tour and the honor of naming their newest attraction.
A prize that he was pretty sure the aquarium was going to regret offering.
“I think we should name her ‘Banana’,” he heard Krissy announce from somewhere behind him, amongst the other voices.
“That’s stupid. I hate bananas. We should name her ‘Butter’.”
“I want ‘Lemon’ !”
The bus blessedly came to a stop.
“Alright, kids,” Dean said over the arguing, standing up and walking backwards off the bus. “Remember: best behavior!”
Dean stepped off the bus and began counting heads as the kids filed off in a single line, and he saw Charlie doing the same one bus over. With any luck, this field trip would be entirely without incident, and the most drastic thing that would happen was naming some yellow eel “Lemon”.
“Everyone accounted for?”
Dean looked over at the sound of Charlie’s voice, only minorly drowned out by the sound of the chattering students she led in a group behind her.
“So far, so good,” Dean answered, making sure to keep a specific eye on Adam, who always seemed to get forgotten about.
Charlie grinned and nudged him in the side as they walked up the front steps of the aquarium.
“Well, this is definitely one of the more fun field trips we’ve gotten to go on, wouldn’t you say?”
“Sure, sure,” he said, keeping his voice low enough that his students wouldn’t be able to hear his lack of enthusiasm. “We’re gonna listen to some old person talk about fish for an hour while I stop my kids from breaking anything. How did we ever get so lucky.”
“Okay, Grumpy Gills,” Charlie said with an eye-roll and opened the front door for Dean and the rest of the students to file through.
To give the aquarium credit, they seemed prepared for the arrival of second graders. They had a minimum of five staff members up front and ready to greet the crowd of squealing children, and had clearly roped off areas that were not allowed to be walked into, and in just a few minutes, Dean had gotten them all signed in and ready for the tour.
“If I could have your attention up here, please!”
Dean and the rest of the students looked towards the direction that the authoritative voice had come from, and saw what Dean assumed was one of the museum tour guides.
The first thing Dean noticed was that the man had a pleasantly handsome face and striking blue eyes that were studying the group of children in front of him intently, as if he was trying to decide the best way to tackle the situation. Dark hair that looked like fingers had been run through it more than a few times already today was another prominent feature, and before Dean’s imagination could run away with that, the man combed his own fingers through his hair - confirming that the slight unkemptness was most likely only due to a stressful job. The slight frown he’d been wearing softened into something more professional when he’d finally gotten the attention of most of the students.
“Welcome, everyone, to the aquarium. We’re so excited for you all to be joining us here today and to have you all help us name our newest member of the family -”
Dean would have smacked himself in the face if he wasn’t so intent on watching their tour guide speak.
“Banana sounds like a wonderful name,” the tour guide smiled and clasped his hands in front of himself. “But now isn’t the time for that. My name is Castiel and I’m going to be giving half of you a tour while we talk all about the different animals that we have here today. The rest of you will be toured by my friend Anna.”
Castiel gestured towards a smiling redhead next to him that Dean had only just realized was there.
“Now, which half is going to be going with me?” Castiel asked.
Dean jerked when he felt a hand press under his chin, gently closing his gaping mouth.
“Mr. Winchester’s class would love to go with you,” Charlie said, smiling at Dean knowingly and pulling her hand back. “My class will go with Anna.”
“Alright, if Mr. Winchester’s class will follow me, we’ll get started with our tour,” Castiel said, glancing up at Dean and smiling as he waved them all forward. “First up is the seahorses.”
Dean glanced behind him as he followed his students forward, only to see Charlie wink at him and give him a big thumbs up.
Dean just gave her a confused glare back.
Castiel led them down a darkened hallway until they reached large, faintly glowing fish tanks filled with seahorses of all different kinds of colors.
“Now, how much do you know about seahorses?” Castiel asked, standing in front of one of the tanks.
“I know they’re pretty,” a small voice said from up front.
“Yes, they are,” Castiel said in agreement. “Their pretty colors are how they avoid predators in the wild. It helps them blend in and avoid being eaten.”
“They can get eaten?”
Dean sighed internally, knowing that a few of his students might be sensitive about the pretty fish becoming something else’s lunch.
“Not often,” Castiel answered, “but it does happen. But don’t worry, a seahorse is much more likely to die of starvation or exhaustion than being consumed by other creatures, as they’re very bony and not a good snack. They’re not the best swimmers, either, so something as simple as a strong current can be enough to cause their ultimate demise.”
Silence fell upon what was usually a very chatty crowd.
Dean raised his hand high in the air.
“Yes? Mr. Winchester?” Castiel said, pointing at him.
“Hey, yeah, um - do you have any, like, happier facts about seahorses?”
“Of course. For example: Seahorses are very unique, as they are one of the only fish that mate for life.”
A hand shot up into the air, and Castiel pointed at it.
“What does ‘mate’ mean?”
Dean rubbed at his forehead and let out a long sigh.
As it turned out, Castiel was a great tour guide and had a lot of interesting facts about all sorts of sea creatures. The only problem was that he didn’t seem to have a child filter. There were bits of information that Dean would normally find interesting but which he knew he would never voluntarily tell his students, and yet, here Castiel was, discussing the ins and outs of how terrifying octopuses could be.
If their tour guide kept this up, Dean was going to be getting some awkward phone calls from the parents of his traumatized students.
As far as Dean could tell, Castiel was incredibly knowledgeable in regards to all things underwater creatures, but for some indiscernible reason, kept bringing up the absolute worst facts for second graders to hear.
“- and one of the more interesting things about Sand Tiger Sharks is that they have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all sharks.”
Dean stood off to the side of the group as his eyes darted between the ominous toothy grin of the sand tiger shark swimming in the tank in front of them, and the calm figure of Castiel.
Sure, sharks were scary looking, but they should be a safe topic, seeing as the kids already knew the worst about sharks. They wouldn’t be learning anything that would shock them to their core.
“Does anyone know why?” Castiel asked, clasping his hands in front of himself.
Dean frowned, recognizing the ‘I have a morbid fact to share’ voice that he’d quickly become accustomed to.
“Because…” A small voice from the front piped up, ”the mommy only wants one baby?”
Castiel chuckled and shook his head while Dean’s gut filled with dread.
“Not quite. It’s because one of the baby sharks eats its other siblings while still in utero.”
“Okay!” Dean interrupted, waving the group of muttering children forward past the shark exhibit. “Next room, let's go.”
“Alright...” Castiel looked at him curiously, apparently not used to being cut short. “The next exhibit is our tide pool. We’ve got lots of smaller creatures for you to get hands-on with while learning about them.”
As the group shuffled down the hallway, Dean jogged up to their guide.
“Excuse me?” he said in a low voice, tapping Castiel on the shoulder.
Castiel turned around and cocked his head curiously.
“Mr. Winchester. Yes?”
“Hey, do you think you might be able to…” Dean gestured pointlessly. “I don’t know, cool it with the creepy facts a little?”
Castiel frowned as they entered the large tide pool room, students scattering to the different exhibits.
“‘Creepy facts?’” Castiel repeated, an upturn in his voice. “I don’t understand. I’m giving the same tour that I give every group.”
“Yeah, I get that, but...” Dean rubbed at the back of his neck awkwardly. “They’re kids. They don’t want to hear about all that other stuff.”
Castiel stared back at him blankly, and Dean sighed.
“Okay, for starters, maybe don't tell the kids about cannibalism? That's a scary subject that could maybe give them nightmares.”
“Oh,” Castiel said with a nod. “That shouldn’t be a problem. Cannibalism isn’t all that common -”
“But anything like that, you know?” Dean ran a hand over his eyes, trying to figure out how to reason with someone who had apparently never met a human child before. “If it seems a little dark, maybe just don’t tell them? Keep the facts to sunshine and rainbows.”
Castiel stared at him with a slight squint that put Dean on edge before slowly nodding. “Alright. I think I understand.”
Dean shuffled awkwardly.
“Sorry, I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job or anything -” Dean leaned up against the back wall as he surveyed his students running from one hands-on exhibit to the next. “- I’m just the one that has to deal with any upset parents if their kid comes home and has nightmares about barracudas.”
The corner of Castiel’s lip flicked upwards.
“Completely understandable, Mr. Winchester. I’ll be sure to keep the final presentation on the American eel as G-rated as I can.”
“Thanks.” He reached an outstretched hand towards Castiel. “Call me Dean, by the way. Mr. Winchester is -”
“- your father?” Castiel asked, now smiling at him warmly as he shook the offered hand.
“Hell no,” Dean pulled his hand back with a derisive snort. “He’s just John. Mr. Winchester is my brother.”
“Ah,” Castiel said, nodding. “Makes sense.”
They both looked away from each other as a the shrill voice of one of Dean’s students got closer, holding up her hands in the air with an excited look on her face.
“I touched a fish !”
“Hey, great job, Alex!” Dean gave her a big thumbs-up and a wide smile. “Go ask the nice lady over there if you can touch one of those stingrays, now, and tell me how it goes.”
“ Okay !” She said, her face turning a little red with how excited that prospect made her as she ran off.
Dean almost pitied the woman helping the students at the stingray tide pool.
“You’re very good with children.”
Dean looked over at Castiel and shrugged nonchalantly.
“I mean, I hope so,” he mused. “I’m around them almost all the time.”
“Any children of your own?”
Dean shook his head emphatically.
“Noooooo. I like the peace and quiet at home too much,” He folded his arms in front of his chest and watched one of the other museum workers hold up a sea cucumber for the kids to touch. “Don’t get me wrong, kids are great… but I need that separation from work when I get home.”
Dean raised an eyebrow when Castiel remained silent.
“Well,” Castiel clasped his hands in front of himself and avoided eye contact, “I have two tanks full of fish at my apartment, so… I believe the phrase is, can’t relate .”
Dean laughed and nudged him with his elbow.
“Hey, to each their own.”
Castiel smiled alongside him before giving him a small wave.
“Anyway, nice to meet you Dean.” He nodded his head in Dean’s direction, and while Dean’s worries about the children’s nightmares had made him briefly forget just how blue Castiel’s eyes were, he was definitely being reminded now. “I’ve got to go and prepare for the eel presentation and name choosing. I can’t wait to hear what your kids come up with.”
Dean watched him walk away, eyes lingering.
“Ask him out.”
Dean cursed as he spun around, only to find Charlie standing next to him, a smug look on her face.
“W-what?” Dean spluttered. “Why?”
“‘Cause you were staring at his ass so hardcore you didn’t notice me walk up to you.”
“I did not,” Dean lied, purposefully avoiding eye-contact with Charlie.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Charlie said, nudging him once with her elbow. “He’s cute and you’re lonely.”
“I’m not -”
“ And he’s got a rainbow pin on his blazer. That’s a good sign.”
“... he does?”
Charlie snickered while Dean wracked his brain, trying to remember any signs of a rainbow pin. He had been at least a little distracted by the guy’s eyes...
“Ask. Him. Out, ” Charlie said again, taking Dean by the shoulders and shaking him insistently. “You’re interested.”
“But he’s a little weird,” Dean protested as he shrugged her off.
“And you’re still interested.” She raised an eyebrow. “Besides, you’re weird, too.”
Dean placed a hand over his heart and took a step back in mock-disbelief, but didn’t say anything to refute it.
Charlie knew him too well for that gameplay.
“He thinks you’re attractive too, it’ll be fine,” Charlie insisted.
“How could you possibly know that?” Dean said, his eyes roaming over the small crowd that was now beginning to form, made up of their two classes, as the guides started to gather them in front of a large tank embedded in a wall that he now realized had a large yellow eel darting between some coral inside.
“Because you’re attractive, and he’s got working eyes.”
Dean snorted and started walking towards the presentation - with Charlie following close behind - as Castiel got up on a small platform to get everyone’s attention.
“Welcome, students, to the Aquarium’s newest exhibit: a bright yellow American Eel.” He smiled as he paused, waiting for the children’s chatter to die down. “I want you all to think of a name while I’m telling you a little bit about eels, so that you can help us decide on one for her.”
Dean began chewing on his lip anxiously, waiting to see if Castiel was going to chill on the facts for his kids. He had no idea what kind of scary things eels could be up to, but if anyone was going to be able to share that with the group, it was Castiel.
“This eel is what we call a nocturnal benthic omnivore -” Castiel gestured towards the eel which was only poking part of its head out from underneath various plants, and paused before continuing again, “- which is a fancy way of saying that she prefers to sleep during the day, and hang out on the ocean floor eating both meat and plants.”
Castiel nodded to no one in particular as he adjusted his speech, and Dean smiled.
He really was cute.
“They really only eat smaller prey, but tend to have an incredibly powerful set of jaws that can bite with a lot of pressure - “ Dean tensed, but Castiel’s gaze found his own, “- um, that you will never have to experience because it is rare for them to bite humans and none of you will probably ever go swimming with an eel.”
Everything was going along swimmingly until Castiel started rolling up the sleeves of his blazer part way through the presentation, and Dean felt himself grow weak in the knees.
There was a tap on his shoulder, and he looked over to see that Charlie was surreptitiously holding out a folded piece of paper to him.
Dean shot her a funny look, but took it anyway - only to see his own phone number written on it, signed with:
“Call Me! -Dean Winchester XOXO”
Dean scoffed and folded it back up before anyone else caught a glimpse of it.
“I can do that myself,” he whispered out of the side of his mouth, “and I definitely won’t sign it with ‘XOXO’.”
“Just making it easier for you, you know, if you were on the fence about it. Or on the tank wall, or whatever.” She winked at him.
The rest of the presentation went along without a hitch. The kids were enraptured and not scared of anything, and Dean was able to relax and just listen to Castiel ramble on about their new eel.
“Now, we’re going to be handing out pieces of paper and pencils,” Castiel said, gesturing at the other guides that were now passing strips of paper down each row, “And everyone can write down one name that they want for the eel. Your teachers will gather them when you’re done and then we’ll have a vote.”
Both Dean and Charlie held out their hands and students began running up to them, handing over their slip of paper excitedly.
“I’ll bet it ends up being something that’s already yellow.” Dean murmured.
“I’ll bet it ends up being named after one of those eels from The Little Mermaid,” Charlie countered.
“They’re seven years old. I don’t even remember the names of the eels from The Little Mermaid.”
Charlie deflated a little.
“Flotsam and Jetsam,” she said, sounding disappointed in him.
Once all of the names were gathered, Castiel walked over and held out a glass bowl for them to dump the names into.
“I’m sorry in advance if you guys end up with a stupid name,” Dean whispered.
Castiel just smiled at him and turned to make his way back up to the front.
“Should have given it to him then,” Charlie murmured, once Castiel was out of earshot.
Dean rolled his eyes.
Castiel cleared his throat and pulled out one of the names.
“For the first name proposal, we have ‘Lemon’.”
Dean gave Charlie a pointed look.
“The next name is ‘Flounder’.”
“Close enough,” Charlie said, returning the look.
“And next we have… Castieel,” Castiel said, squinting at the piece of paper, and the kids squealed with laughter when they realized how close it was to their tour guide’s name.
“That one was mine,” Charlie whispered, looking really proud of her pun. “By the way, did I get your phone number right? I just did it from memory.”
Castiel continued to read names.
Dean frowned, trying to remember, and shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably? Let me check -” He paused, patting his pockets before turning back to Charlie. “Did I give it back to you?”
“Where did I -” Dean froze, his gaze landing on the glass bowl filled with slips of paper. “Oh, shit.”
“What? What are you - ” Charlie looked over at Dean, then followed his gaze to the front of the crowd and back to Dean before it seemed to click. “ Oh, shit.”
“And the next name -” Castiel reached into the bowl of papers, and Dean felt like he was awaiting his fate at a Hunger Games reaping. “Is -”
Castiel paused and stared at the slip of paper and Dean could tell by the look on his face what he was reading.
“It’s… uh -” Castiel made eye contact with Dean, and flushed red as Dean ducked his head in embarrassment.
Of all the stupid things to misplace.
“Ah, it’s... blank,” Castiel finally managed, clearing his throat and shoving the folded paper into the pocket of his blazer. “Next one.”
Dean felt like sinking to the ground and hiding behind his students, but there wasn’t any point in hiding now. The deed had been done. He’d just have to explain himself after the whole presentation was over with.
The naming went on for another ten minutes before the students finally settled on “Eelephant”, after much debate.
“Perfect. Well, thank you all for helping us name our newest yellow eel and if you’d like to have a closer look at her, you may.” Castiel waved at the children stiffly and stepped down from his small podium.
Dean instantly began weaving his way through the dispersing crowd of second graders, until he could reach out and tap Castiel on the shoulder.
Castiel turned, and his face immediately turned a shade of pink.
“Ah, Dean, I was just -”
“Hey, I’m so sorry about that,” Dean cut in, wanting to explain himself before Castiel said anything. “My friend Charlie, uh, Miss Bradbury - she wrote that, and it accidentally -” He gestured helplessly towards the glass bowl.
“Oh...” Castiel ducked his head down, and Dean could see the rainbow pin that Charlie had been talking about before now that he wasn’t being distracted by they guy’s eyes. “Right. Of course. Don’t worry, I understand the nature of pranks. There’s no need to explain.”
All the color had gone from his cheeks; he looked pale, his eyes cast down.
“Yeah, there kind of is,” Dean said hastily. “‘Cause…” He twisted up his courage. Make it right, Winchester, come on. “... that wasn’t a prank. Sure, she was teasing me, but only ‘cause she knew I wanted to ask you out anyway.”
Castiel blinked once, but beyond that no emotion showed on his face.
“You did?” he asked.
“Uh,” Dean rubbed at the back of his neck awkwardly. “I mean - yeah. But not with that corny note, and definitely not in front of all of my students, but... something along those lines.”
Castiel nodded slowly, and Dean swallowed, trying to figure out if this was going to end badly or not. Then, Castiel cleared his throat, reached into his other blazer pocket, and pulled out a slip of paper that looked like it had hastily been torn.
“Then I guess I won’t need to give you this?” Castiel asked in a quiet voice, holding out the slip so that Dean could see a number scrawled in pen on the inside.
Dean grinned and plucked the paper from Castiel’s fingers with a dramatic flare, and tucked it into his own pocket.
“How do you feel about sushi?” Dean asked, unable to stop himself from smiling.
“Not in front of the fish, Dean,” Castiel chastised, but definitely didn’t say no. “I’ll text you later.”
“And if you don’t, I will,” Dean reminded him, patting the pocket where Castiel’s note was safely stored.
Castiel nodded, and then let out a long sigh.
“Now, if you excuse me, I have to go inform the head of my department that we have a new Eel named… Eelephant.”
Dean snorted, almost feeling bad for him.
“Aren’t you glad we came,” he said, throwing in a wink, just for the hell of it. Castiel rolled his eyes, mock-exasperated.
“Hmmm. No,” he deadpanned.
“Maybe one day you will be!” Dean raised his voice to call after him, as Castiel began to walk away.
Castiel turned, and smiled.
“No promises,” he said, just loud enough for Dean to hear. “But just maybe.”