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August

“Come on, Castiel, it’s just one date.” 

Cas frowns and points to the colored pencils on the shelves, purposefully avoiding his sister’s doe eyes so he won’t cave. “No, I’m not interested.”

Anna huffs and grabs two boxes to place in the cart. “I don’t know why you’re so against-”

“Not those.”

“What?”

Cas hands the boxes back to her. “These have twelve colors. I need the ones with twenty-four.” He smiles when Anna huffs again but replaces the items like he asks.

“As I was saying,” she continues, ignoring Cas’ resigned sigh. “I think you’ll like this guy. Sure, he’s an attorney at a competing firm but Chuck assured me that-”

“Anna, I didn’t refuse the date because he works for a competing firm.” Cas steers the cart into the backpacks aisle, scanning the merchandise for Marvel characters. “I refused because he’s a lawyer.”

He turns his head just in time to see Anna blink. “But... you’re a lawyer,” she argues.

“Exactly.” Cas takes an Avengers backpack off its hook to inspect the design. Good, Iron Man is in the very front. He loops one arm through the strap and reaches for a Spider-Man backpack with the other. “The last thing I want is to go out with another attorney.”

“Do you always have to focus on the cons whenever I try to set you up?”

“Maybe you should stop trying to set me up then.”

“We’re not talking about marriage here, you know,” Anna teases, fiddling with the markers Cas put in the child seat. She gently swats at his hand when he goes to pry the box away from her and he rolls his eyes; some things never change. “You’re allowed to enjoy yourself,” she finishes.

Cas sets the backpacks down neatly in the cart and looks up at his sister, expression a little pained. He knows that she means well, that she just wants him to be happy, but. “I can’t let new people into my life who aren’t going to stick around. It’s not only about me, remember? I don’t... Things are unstable for them as it is.”

His voice falters a bit on the last sentence and Anna rushes over, arm wrapping around his shoulder though she has to stand on her tiptoes to manage it. “Hey, that’s not true,” she murmurs, calm and quiet. “They love you so much, Cas. And you’re doing great, you really are.”

She pulls him into a hug and Cas sort of melts into the embrace, tension leeching out of his larger frame. “I appreciate that, Anna,” he mumbles into her shirt, smiling at the small hands patting his back. He’s slightly more concerned, though, when they move apart and he detects on her face a trace of mischief, a feature she shares to an uncanny degree with their brother Gabriel.

“Fine. No dates,” she declares up front like a disclaimer. “How ‘bout this. Be my plus-one for the cocktail party next week and I won’t bug you anymore about dating.”

Cas groans, running a hand over his mouth. He should’ve known there would be a catch. “What cocktail party,” he asks, reluctantly indulgent. 

“I told you. The Globe hosts the event every year for young professionals in Boston. Ooh, there’ll be so many eligible bachelors that all I’ve gotta do is set you free among them.” Anna waves both of her arms like a ballerina about to curtsy. “Go. Go find your sweet gay love, Castiel.”

Cas makes a noise halfway between a scoff and a laugh. “Why can’t Chuck go with you?”

“He’s going to that conference in New York.”

“Oh, right, the confer-” Cas pauses. Wait a second. That was the conference he would’ve gone to had Chuck not volunteered at the last minute- “Anna,” Cas narrows his eyes. “How long have you been scheming to take me to this party? Be honest.”

“Scheming is way too harsh of a word,” Anna grins, nudging him aside to push the cart herself.

Anna.”

“Long enough to make sure that Gabe will be babysitting that night,” she confesses. She doesn’t sound guilty so much as proud of her foolproof plan. “And I mean, all night.”

“Jesus Christ,” Cas grimaces, unsure whether he should be in awe of the mastermind that is his sister or totally grossed out by his siblings’ joint determination to get him laid.

“So,” Anna wiggles her eyebrows, “are you coming with?”

Cas fixes her with a long, begrudging look that screams ‘I love you to death as a rule but hate you right now’ and shrugs, the fight having left him already. “It seems I have no choice. Let me make one thing clear though. You’re not going to play matchmaker at the party, alright? Just... I don’t know, leave me to roam free or whatever, like you said.” 

“Free-range brother. Deal,” Anna replies breezily as she starts unloading the school supplies onto the conveyor belt. Cas holds back on another dramatic eye roll and joins her, utterly convinced that this was the worst and most unfruitful Office Depot run of his life.

 

◇ ◇ ◇

 

Dean rings the doorbell and paces the doorstep, glancing at the bottle in his hand. He’d never been to a wine shop before (his drink of choice is whiskey, Sam’s beer), but Jess prefers Pinot Grigio so he hopes the sommelier has recommended a good one with like, the right undertones.

Fortunately, the door opens before he can worry too much, and he’s greeted with Jess’ bright smile.

“Hey, Dean.” She steps aside to let him in and he bends down to kiss her cheek, handing over the wine as he pulls back.

“Hi, Jess. I’m, uh, not sure if you’ll like the wine, but I tried. I know jack squat about grapes so I put my faith in the expert at the store.”

Jess laughs fondly and gazes at the label. “No, this is perfect,” she says. “It’s even from Sonoma.”

“Yeah, I know how much you miss NorCal. Did you two have fun at the reunion?”

Jess is about to answer him when they’re interrupted by thumping footfalls on the hardwood, which, of course, belong to Sam, who bounds into the foyer and lights up at the sight of Dean.

“Sorry, had a call from a client,” he grins, tugging Dean into a bear hug. Dean grumbles that he can’t breathe but makes no real effort to let go, because it’s been a really shitty few months, hell, year so far, and there’s nothing like having his brother around again.

The townhouse smells wonderful, and Dean sees why once they’re in the kitchen: scrumptious pasta and a complex-looking chicken dish Jess takes out of the oven. There’s a salad too (for Sam because he’s a freak) but Jess counterbalances the travesty by hinting that she’s baked a pie, and Dean has no qualms about reminding Sam that his wife is so out of his league.

Their conversation centers mostly on Sam’s and Jess’ recent five-year college reunion, Jess regaling Dean with tales of drunken-dancing Sam and other misadventures. They do inevitably circle around to him, though, and Dean wishes he could change the topic but Sam is folding his hands on the table, which pretty much means that they won’t move on until the matter is discussed in full.

“Have you had a chance to visit the school?”

Dean scrapes his fork across his dessert plate, toying with the tiny puddle of melted ice cream and pie crumbs. “Yeah, went there yesterday to meet some of the other teachers... The principal was the only one I talked to at my interview so, you know, it was good to see who I’ll be working with.”

Sam nods, and Dean glimpses him and Jess exchanging a look, all telepathic and befitting a couple that’s been together for almost ten years.

Even so, they both fail hardcore at subtlety, because Jess’ intentions are painfully transparent when she asks, “Did, um... Were there any co-workers who seemed... particularly... nice?”

Dean kind of wants to face palm violently. “Jess. I’m not starting up a relationship at a brand new job. I intend to keep this one drama-free.”

“That’s not what I was...” the objection dwindles. “Yeah. Yeah, no, it was.”

“We just think it’d be wise to keep your options open,” Sam chimes in, bringing out the puppy dog eyes that are like an Achilles’ heel for Dean. God, he grew up to be such a sneaky little shit.

Guys,” Dean groans, sinking into his chair. “I’m not ready to jump back in the dating pool, okay? I’m still messed up from what happened with-” His throat tightens on the name and he stares glumly at a random point on the wall, eyes prickling from the memory.

“I’m sorry, Dean,” Sam says. He sounds so apologetic that it makes Dean feel worse.

“It’s alright, Sammy,” he musters a smile for everyone’s sake, which improves the mood enough for dinner to end on an agreeable note.

Dean insists on doing the dishes afterward, pushing his way toward the sink despite the protests, and it’s as he is drying the last of the glassware that Jess finds him.

“What’s up, Jess?”

“Dean, there’s...” she pauses, treading carefully for some reason. “My work is... throwing a party next week and I wanted to ask if you’d like to come? Sam has a conference so he can’t go but your company would be great. I’ll introduce you to some cool people. Nothing like a blind date, I promise. Just, you know, since you’re new to the city and summer’s nearly over and-”

“Jess, slow down,” Dean laughs. “That sounds nice.”

She beams. “Really?”

“Yeah, I mean, as long as it’s not one of those black tie things. You know I hate monkey suits.”

“Don’t worry.” Jess takes the towel from Dean to wipe the water splattered on the granite. “It’s just a cocktail party. No need for anything fancy.”

“Cool. Text me the details.”

Jess confirms that she will and Dean can tell she’s excited, bouncing a bit on her feet. The fact that she cares so much warms him down to his toes, and Dean considers himself lucky to have a sister-in-law who’s frankly all sister and no in-law.

Sam and Jess come out onto the doorstep to say goodbye when he leaves an hour later, standing with their arms around each other, natural and comfortable. Dean waves at them, who are lit up by the cozy glow of their home, and wonders when he, too, will have that kind of love.

 

◇ ◇ ◇

 

The party is less like pulling teeth than Castiel expected, save for the one cardiac surgeon who’s adamant about ordering him a cocktail. Anna comes to his aid, thankfully, and ushers Cas over to her friends, all of whom prove to be far more pleasant. He meets Uriel, an editor who appears supremely displeased at the world and follows it up with biting humor. There’s Balth, a sarcastic English correspondent who dispenses terms of endearment like they’re going out of style (Cas is called “sweetheart” at least five times). And, finally, he’s introduced to Anna’s fellow staff writer Jess Winchester, whose husband is also a lawyer and off attending the same conference as Chuck.

Jess informs Cas that she’s brought her brother-in-law along, pointing him out in the crowd. He’s at the bar with his back to them and Cas can’t see much from this distance, but it takes nearly every reflex for him to not drop his drink when the guy returns to their group.

Wow. He is gorgeous. Light brown hair, strong jaw, stunning green eyes. The attraction hits Cas like a ton of bricks and he finds himself listening very intently when Jess says, “This is Dean.” Everyone else has already met him so it’s just Cas shaking his hand.

“Hello, I’m Castiel.”

Dean quirks a smile and Cas actually feels his heart flip-flop in its cage. Oh god, this is dangerous, and wholly unbecoming of a man in his thirties. Well, barely thirty-one, but still. Meanwhile, Dean echoes “Castiel” – thoughtfully, like he’s remembering something – then adds, “Like the angel?”

“Yes.” His surprise must be obvious because Dean is chuckling softly and, boy, it’s a glorious sound.

“My mom used to, uh, tell me and my brother angel lore at night. Her version of bedtime stories.” Dean rubs the back of his neck a little sheepishly, completely charming Cas in the process. “Castiel was one of the angels she told us about but... I’ve never met anyone with that name before.”

“We- My siblings and I were all named after angels,” Cas explains, gesturing toward his sister. “Anna is a nickname that stuck for Anael, and our brother is Gabriel. I suppose it comes with the territory when your parents are theologians.”

“I guess so,” Dean smiles again, the curve of it so easy on his lush-looking mouth. “You guys live up to your names then? Innocent trio of angels?”

“Oh, definitely not. Gabe got in trouble endlessly for pranking anyone who dared to cross his path, and Anna, well, they became partners in crime. Active to this day.”

“And yourself?”

Cas can swear that Dean is standing closer now, but that might be the alcohol talking. “Pardon?”

“What about you?” Dean repeats like he knows Cas heard him the first time. The tip of his tongue peeks out to catch a stray drop of whiskey and rum on his upper lip and multiple sirens go off in Cas’ brain, warning him against handsome strangers.

“I... People tend to describe me as the... square one... of us three.”

“Hmm.” Dean peers at him amusedly over another sip of his drink, and just as he opens his mouth to say something else a server ambles by with a platter of hors d’oeuvres.

“Canapé?” the server asks, gauging their interest. He looks about seventeen and pitifully defeated when they both shake their heads, which makes Cas feel bad enough to take one.

Dean scrunches his nose at the garnished puff pastry in Cas’ hand. “I get that this is a cocktail party but, man, am I the only one who’s famished from relying on the bird food?”

Cas laughs as he glances down at the appetizer that’s... yeah, ridiculously tiny. “No, I’m sure you’re not alone in that predicament.”

“Right.” Dean nods but the movement is somewhat abrupt, deliberate, like he’s nervous and trying to mask it. “You know, there’s actually this great bar not fifteen minutes away if you wanna get out of here, maybe grab a bite...”

Cas’ pulse speeds up in tandem with his widening eyes. “Oh?”

Dean’s shifting on his feet now. “My brother took me there a few times and, um, I can vouch that the food is fantastic. Human portions too.”

Cas can’t recall the last time he found another adult quite so endearing, and it’s flattering, really, to entertain the idea that Dean’s shyness is a reaction to him. And while that may not be true Cas still hears the words “Yes, alright” fall from his mouth, and all of it happens before reason can fully kick in to persuade him otherwise.

He texts Anna on their way out of the reception hall, picturing her needlessly triumphant expression as he types, ‘Leaving to get some food with Dean.’ His phone buzzes ten seconds later with a winky face, to which he responds, ‘It’s not like that.’

It isn’t, Cas thinks as Dean hails a cab. They're going to eat, perhaps talk some more, but there’s no promise of anything beyond that, and even if such an offer is made, Cas knows he shouldn’t accept, or indulge. The problem, then, is that Cas finds himself second-guessing all of this as he climbs into the taxi, Dean’s hand a polite yet searing touch on the small of his back.

 

◇ ◇ ◇

 

Dean must be losing his mind. 

There’s no other explanation, honestly, because wasn’t it just a week ago that he whined to Sam and Jess that his social life’s on indefinite hiatus? And yet here he is, sitting in a taxi with Castiel – who is, holy shit, like otherworldly hot – and heading to the Roadhouse for... something.

He knows burgers are not the reason they’re in this cab, and he’s sure that Castiel, with the sexy five o’clock shadow and striking blue eyes, was a huge (read: the only) motivating factor behind his stammered invitation earlier. What eludes Dean, though, is why Castiel decided to leave the party with him, and his brain nearly blows a fuse trying to predict where this night is headed.

Castiel, who asks Dean to call him ‘Cas’ in a voice husky enough to pull a dog sled, seems to appreciate the change of scene, loosening his tie a bit and leaning against the counter as he nurses a beer. He occasionally reaches for a fry from the basket between them while Dean works admirably through a bacon cheeseburger, and somehow it isn’t awkward at all, this- Whatever this is.

Dean learns that Cas is a lawyer like Sam and that he’s been living in Boston since graduate school. His tone goes distant for a moment when he alludes to a divorce (three years ago) but brightens as he mentions his two children, and Dean sort of wants to hug Cas and smack himself because the situation has now morphed into one involving, god, a DILF.

He tells Cas that he’s a teacher, a recent transplant from Lawrence, and evades bringing up the messy break-up that impelled him to start over someplace new. Cas, for his part, appears to understand that Dean doesn’t want to disclose anything further, and simply nods at the appropriate points with soft, empathetic eyes. They move onto lighter topics after that, primarily baseball (Cas is a Red Sox fan by default, Dean a much more avid supporter of the Kansas City Royals) and the general woes of growing up with siblings. Their conversation begins to slur and meander, however, after the beer is replaced with bourbon, and it’s when Cas cracks up uncontrollably at something Dean said (something not even that funny) that the owner, Ellen, rolls her eyes and phones the cab company.

There’s a slight chill in the air as they wait outside on the curb, standing close, arms brushing. Cas is warm and Dean instinctively curls toward him, only to smile a second later when he looks up and sees Cas steadily gazing back.

“You’re warm,” Dean says, like it explains everything. Cas huffs a laugh but keeps staring, and rather than being uncomfortable, the attention stirs something within Dean, heated and yearning and impulsive.

So before he can over-think it, Dean steps forward and leans in until his and Cas’ lips are pressed together.

Cas makes this noise, a muffled “mmph” of surprise, but then it melts into a quiet moan that Dean swallows hungrily, greed flaring in his senses. He can’t help a gratified grin at Cas fisting both hands in his jacket, like he wants to keep Dean from going anywhere, and Dean clutches Cas tight in return, wishing there were no layers separating his palms from Cas’ skin.

They hesitantly pull apart just as their ride shows up, which, good because Let’s Traumatize The Driver isn’t a very kind game to play. That doesn’t stop them from trailing their hands over each other’s thighs in the backseat, and Dean’s so distracted that he can’t even remember giving his address to the driver, although he must have since the car is, well, moving. They arrive at Dean’s building after a short while, and he swiftly hands the fare to the driver. He’s also pretty sure that they stumble into his apartment, pawing and impatient, and it’s a split second between the door closing and Cas shoving him against it.

He tastes the liquor on Cas’ tongue, its bitter flavor insistently pervading his mouth as they kiss, harsh and filthy. Dean groans at it all, their tongues rocking together, Cas’ wandering hands, and he shucks his jacket before maneuvering them toward the bedroom, making quick work of the excessive layers keeping him from touching Cas.

“Mm, Dean,” Cas murmurs when Dean’s mouth finds the hollow of his throat, arching his back to give Dean better access. Dean feels his arousal start to spike because Cas sounds so fucking gorgeous, gravelly and broken, shooting right to his erection. He manages to get rid of the tie and unclasp the buttons after fumbling a bit, pulling the shirt off of Cas, which, fuck, reveals toned muscles and abs and tanned skin that cause his brain to short-circuit. He wants to touch every inch of Cas’ body and starts by tracking the collarbone and chest with his tongue, licking and searching for the sensitive spots to make Cas quake and shudder. He doesn’t have to wait too long because Cas bucks and moans when Dean’s tongue sucks around a nipple, and a thrill runs through him at the effect he’s having, driving this beautiful man crazy with need.

By the time Dean sinks to his knees, Cas is writhing, hands already in Dean’s hair. Dean teases him a little, though, and lets his fingers brush feather-light across Cas’ hipbones before unzipping the fly at a painfully slow pace. He slides the pants down just enough to mouth at Cas’ dick through his boxers, moaning at how damp it is from precome, and it’s Cas panting out “Dean, come on, please” that cues Dean to finally pull the shorts down too, leaving nothing between his lips and Cas’ cock. He uses one hand to grip Cas’ hip, the other to wrap around the base of Cas’ thick length, and the room fills with dirty-hot noises when Dean moves to take Cas’ dick into his mouth, tongue swirling around the head.

“God, Dean,” Cas keens, fingers tightening in Dean’s hair and every syllable like a labored punch from his lungs. Dean just keeps going, taking him in gradually, and pulls off only when Cas starts to tremble, not wanting this to end with a mere blow job. He stands back up, gasping at Cas’ lust-blown eyes, and proceeds to grab his wrists and manhandle the guy in the direction of the bed, his own control wearing dangerously thin.

He pushes Cas onto the mattress and climbs over him, pinning him with his weight, then bends down to capture his mouth in a messy kiss, both groaning at their bodies seaming together. “What do you want, Cas?” Dean whispers, straightening up to divest himself of his shirt. He tosses it aside and glides his palms over Cas’ skin, prompting again, “What do you want?”

“I need- Dean, I...” God, Cas' voice is wrecked, chest heaving with every ragged breath, and his long fingers curl desperately into the sheets as he tells Dean, “I need you to fuck me.”

 

◇ ◇ ◇

 

“Shit,” Dean growls at the request, bowing down to mash his mouth against Cas’, kissing him deep. Cas is breathless, suffering a moment of confusion when Dean tears his lips and body away, but he soon realizes it was to fetch supplies and waits for Dean to settle back on the bed to pull him close. “You’re so fucking hot, Cas,” Dean groans into the crook of his neck, and Cas’ eyes screw shut on a whimper at that.

His heart pounds as Dean spreads his legs wider and then a dozen things seem to happen at once, the click of a bottle cap, gel trickling lewdly over Dean’s fingers, the ringing in his ears all the while. Dean is also pressing kisses into his skin, which burns in their wake, and Cas feels an overwhelming buzz in his nerves at the lips and tongue tracing patterns on his torso. “I’ve got you,” he hears Dean say, the assurance muffled by another kiss, and he has no chance at a response because Dean’s lubed fingers are now paused at his entrance.

Cas gasps loudly and Dean is careful, one finger then two, pumping in and out slowly, alternating with licks across his skin. When Dean is up to three fingers, Cas starts to groan incoherently, the pressure brushing his prostate on every stroke already too intense. His hands scrabble at Dean’s shoulders, urging him to get on with it, and there’s a low chuckle as the fingers disappear, followed by sounds of a condom being opened and lube dripping onto latex. Dean re-enters his field of view after, green eyes locking onto Cas’ for an impassioned moment where neither looks away, and he finally pushes forward when Cas squeezes his arm in permission, the initial burn quickly giving way to pleasure as Dean bottoms out.

They’re totally still and Dean continues to watch him, checking to see that he's okay. Cas eventually cradles Dean’s face in both hands and draws him in for a soft kiss, murmuring a simple command of “Move” because the anticipation just might kill him otherwise.

Dean laughs quietly but obliges him, thrusting shallowly at first then deeper, faster. Cas bucks his hips upward to meet Dean’s movement, moaning when Dean’s cock hits his prostrate, and then he’s panting “There, Dean. Oh god, right there” as he fists the sheets, knuckles white.

And Dean. Dean is ruthless, snapping his hips and rutting into Cas like his life depends on it. He has clearly made a mission out of grinding on Cas’ sweet spot and, oh, he’s succeeding, making Cas ache with desire as his pleasure knots into a tight, volatile coil. Cas hitches his legs around Dean’s waist and fucking takes it, whimpering from the unrelenting rhythm, the sultry roll of Dean’s body. He and Dean are practically shifting up the bed with how hard they’re moving, and if that weren’t enough Cas nearly blacks out when Dean’s fingers land on his throbbing erection, slipping on precome as they jack him off.

“Fuck, Cas,” Dean grunts, his gaze poring over Cas’ body like he’s drinking in the sight of him. “God, you feel so-”

“Dean, Dean,” the name streams from his mouth and Cas doesn't try to stop it, because the rough chant seems to only ignite the other man further.

“Yeah, I’m here,” Dean grits out as he thrusts. “Wanna see you come, Cas, see you fall apart.”

With that, Dean pushes in again, pressing firmly on his prostate, and all of it plus the hand wrapped greedily around his cock are suddenly too much. Cas doesn’t tumble over the edge, he’s flung, propelled, and stars burst behind his eyelids as he comes, painting his stomach and Dean’s chest in hot, wet stripes. His veins feel like they’re fizzing, and he closes his eyes to relish the high while Dean works him through the orgasm.

“Cas,” Dean calls, and when Cas' eyes open, he leans in for a kiss, tongue and teeth and visceral and unbelievably amazing.

Cas runs his hands up Dean’s sides, the skin like fire beneath his fingertips, and as their lips separate with a slick, obscene little noise he whispers, “Come for me.” And, shit, Dean does, his hips stuttering, whole body tensing at the release overtaking him, and Cas can feel Dean’s cock pulsing inside him, which is insanely hot and almost enough to make him hard again.

When the climax subsides, Dean inelegantly slumps onto him and they lie there, sticky and blissed out, entangled in each other.

“Wow, that...” Dean chuckles breathily.

“Yeah,” Cas agrees. His previously grayed vision is at last restoring itself to full-color and he lifts his head to look at Dean, who props his chin on Cas’ chest to do the same in return.

“This isn’t how I thought the night would pan out,” Dean mumbles, and the grin that accompanies his sated sigh is lazy and beautiful and Cas panics because they’re cuddling, aren’t they.

“Same,” he replies quietly, trying to quell the emotion as Dean laughs and presses a small kiss to his mouth. He shivers when Dean pulls out and begins to drift off when Dean comes back with a warm towel, though he's conscious of an arm looping solidly around him and Dean’s chest against his back, the soft kisses to his nape, a sleepy “Good night, Cas.”

 

◇ ◇ ◇

 

Dean wakes up to sun streaming in through the blinds like an intruder, groaning at the immediate, dull ache in his temples that seem to yell, ‘Good morning! Fuck you.’ He attempts to rub the pain out using his fingers, which helps a little, and as the headache fades, memories take its place, flooding his brain with images of the party, the Roadhouse, Cas- Cas.

Dean jerks his head to the left, half-expecting (entirely hoping) to find Cas still asleep, burrowed in the covers. But the other side of his bed is flat, cold, disappointing, and Dean even listens for noises beyond the bedroom before sinking into the mattress, hating himself for feeling so upset.

His crestfallen thoughts are interrupted by an all-too-chirpy sound from his iPhone and he glacially reaches over to grab it, which is when he spots the folded paper on the nightstand. He stretches his arm to retrieve both items and flips open the note first.

Dean,

I had to go pick up my kids and didn’t want to wake you. Thank you for letting me stay over. I enjoyed my time with you last night.

Cas

There’s no number or any indication of wanting to see Dean again, just three bland sentences in a neat script that pretty much ruin Dean’s day. He tosses the paper aside (but not too hard because it’s pathetically his only tangible connection to Cas) and dejectedly checks his phone, sighing at the multitude of texts from Jess.

‘Anna says you left with Castiel?!’ the earliest one reads, followed by a ‘Good luck!’ with six smiley faces. There are a few more exuding a similar enthusiasm and then the message sent a few minutes ago: ‘How did everything go last night?’

A part of him wants to call Jess and cry, rant, do something to let out this frustration, but Dean pushes the temptation away, chalking it up to his emotional state not being as strong as it should lately. Instead, his mouth tightens as he types, ‘Hey, Jess. Nothing happened. We actually split after grabbing food and drinks at the Roadhouse.’

He sends off the text and clambers out of bed, cursing the annoyingly clear sky outside as he trudges to the bathroom to shower.

 

◇ ◇ ◇

 

Cas parks in Gabe’s driveway and pulls down the sun visor, hoping he doesn’t appear too exhausted; he had to leave Dean’s place early in order to go home and shower before coming here. But he has about ten seconds to come to terms with the dark circles under his eyes, because one glimpse out the window reveals his daughter running up to the car. She giggles delightedly when he steps out and gathers her in his arms.

“Hi, baby,” he murmurs into her hair, the same shade of brown as his. She buries her face in his shirt, her words dampened by the fabric, among them a quieter “I missed you, Daddy” that clenches at his heart.

“Me too,” Cas replies as a another blur of brown and blue dashes toward them. It’s his son, who wraps both arms around Cas when he’s close enough, and suddenly they’re a bundle of limbs standing on the pavement. “Did you guys have fun with Uncle Gabe?”

“You bet they did,” comes the answer from a couple of feet away. Cas glances up. “I gave them so much candy that they passed out at eight.”

Both of his children start yelling “No, he didn’t, Dad!” and “Uncle Gabe’s lying again, Daddy!” and Cas just rolls his eyes at his brother, who laughs at the chaos he’s created.

“Alright, calm down.” Cas sets his daughter carefully onto the ground next to her brother. “Why don’t you head inside and grab your things. We’ll go get breakfast.” This, of course, leads to pleads of “Can Uncle Gabe come?” that both men have no choice but to agree to.

Gabriel waits for his niece and nephew to disappear past the front door to fix Cas with a curious grin. “So, how was your night?”

“Ugh, Gabe,” Cas says indignantly and, god, he sounds like his own children.

Gabe ignores Cas’ whine like the practiced older brother that he is. “Anna called. Said you left with her co-worker slash friend’s brother-in-law? Very classy. Was he hot?”

Cas almost blurts out ‘yes’ but reels himself in. “We just went for drinks. And burgers. Well, he ate a burger. I got fri-” He stops there because he’s starting to sound like a seventh grader. Minus the alcohol.

“Aw, you didn’t even hold hands?” Gabe teases, not unkindly.

“No, we talked and then... went our separate ways.” Cas can’t comprehend why it physically pains him a little to say this.

Gabe seems skeptical, understandable since Cas looks really tired for someone who supposedly got enough sleep. There are unspoken questions hanging in the air between them and Cas is grateful that his brother doesn’t push, especially when the kids come prancing back out and Gabe just goes to scoop one up while Cas takes the other, all four Novaks heading to the car in a cloud of laughs and anticipation of waffles and pancakes.

 

September

The school year starts out smoothly for Dean, who really loved teaching back in Lawrence and didn’t think Boston would top that experience so soon. But to his own surprise, settling into the new post was as effortless as it could be, and he’s already made some good friends on the staff, namely Charlie who also teaches first grade and Benny, who teaches fifth.

He’s bonded with his class too, a group of twenty rambunctious six and seven-year-olds. It’s an age where most kids adore their teachers but Dean works hard regardless to deserve that adulation, the pay-off being the way his students excitedly dart up to him every morning.

Still, teaching is exhausting even on the best of days, and today more so because it is six pm and Dean’s back at the school for parent-teacher conferences. He’ll be lucky if he’s home before ten but the upside is that first grade-related topics are mostly light-hearted, and Dean is in a fairly pleasant mood eleven meetings into the evening.

That is, until the twelfth parent walks into the classroom and Dean chokes on his water.

“Cas?” Dean’s eyes are bugging out of his head, and the confusion only grows when Castiel remains maddeningly calm, approaching the desk in slow, graceful strides.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas replies as he sits down, the welcome packet from the opening assembly placed neatly in his lap.

“Yeah, uh...” Shit, this is awkward. “It’s... nice to see you.”

Cas' probing blue gaze meets his nervous one and Dean feels a flush creep up his neck, because the last time he thought (vividly) about those brilliant eyes was this morning. In the shower.

“Yes, likewise,” Cas says. “I imagine you’re quite shocked that I’m here.”

Dean almost snorts. Talk about understatement of the century. “Pretty much, yeah.”

Cas ducks his head like this is entirely his fault and Dean tries not to be distracted by how adorable he looks, all mussed hair and wonky tie. “I saw your name on the syllabus,” he murmurs like it's a confession. “I remembered you mentioning that you’re a teacher when we...” he trails off, blushing, and Dean really wants to call someone, anyone, for help. “I figured it was you but I... didn’t think it’d be appropriate to say anything.”

“No, I understand.” Dean fidgets with the stack of Post-Its by his computer. “I, um... We didn’t cover your- I didn’t catch your last name that... night... I had no idea...” The color on Cas’ cheeks deepens to a crimson at that, and Dean changes the subject to give the poor guy a break. “So, your children are Rose and Max?”

His instinct was on point and Cas’ fluster evolves into a broad smile. “That’s right. The twins.”

“Yeah,” Dean mirrors the smile. Rose and Max Novak are two of his favorite students. “They’re really great. Max is way ahead of the curve in math, so that’s an area to definitely pay attention to. And Rose, she shows a lot of strength in writing already. I think it’s because she reads so much and constantly absorbs new words. Both of them are always engaged in whatever we do and I love having them in class.” Dean pauses here and grins. “I’ve also never met six-year-olds more obsessed with Marvel than they are. You’ve cultivated good taste.”

Cas’ laugh is at once fond and exasperated. “I am learning far more than I ever wanted to know about the Marvel universe. I’m getting concerned about the paraphernalia piling up in our home as well.”

“Well, the silver lining is that you have a large selection of movies,” Dean teases. “I had a parent in here earlier who told me she’s seen Frozen every Saturday and Sunday since the DVD was released. She can recite the whole script.”

“Oh no,” Cas cringes in solidarity, eyes crinkling in a way that’s too cute for words. “At least the Avengers don’t sing, though they inspire my kids to jump off of furniture on a regular basis.”

“Between a rock and a hard place.”

“Exactly.”

His conference with Cas is twice as long as normal (ten minutes per kid and Cas has two, so). They discuss Rose and Max for the most part but some side conversations slip in there too, like Cas asking how Dean’s adjusting to Boston and Dean asking about Cas’ field of law (corporate mergers and acquisitions, yikes). It all flows so easily that the meeting nearly runs over, but Dean glances at the wall clock just in time.

He stands up when Cas rises from his chair, fingers curling and uncurling at his sides, unsure if he should go for a handshake or- Cas makes the decision for him by extending a hand, which Dean takes. It’s warm and Dean doesn’t let go right away.

“Cas,” he begins instead. Their hands are still clasped together and the other man waits for him to continue, expression slightly bemused. “Would you want to, um, maybe have coffee sometime?”

“Dean, I...” Cas tucks his bottom lip between his teeth and Dean’s stomach sinks at the sight. God, he could kick himself. This was a monumentally bad move. “I really like you.” But. “But I am- I’m not in a place to pursue anything serious.”

Dean’s heart both aches and flutters at the thought that dating Cas is a possibility yet not an option, but what hurts more is the guilt and frustration crossing Cas’ face, like he’s self-blaming for being a single dad. “You have your hands full with Rose and Max,” Dean supplies. “I get it, Cas. I’m sorry for putting you on the spot like that.”

No, it’s- Please, Dean, don’t apologize,” Cas sighs. “Believe me, I’m very flattered that you asked at all.”

“What-” Dean’s incredulous because, okay, how could someone so thoroughly attractive not know that they’re so thoroughly attractive. That makes him even more attractive. Fuck. “Seriously? I mean, have you-” Dean almost utters something hopelessly cheesy like ‘Have you seen you?’ but he apparently doesn’t have to since Cas is blushing again. He clears his throat. “Right. Well, just, keep the offer in mind... you know, for the future.”

“I will.” Cas smiles shyly when they finally release each other’s hand, and the promise is enough to have Dean grinning like an idiot as he waits for his next parent. Man, is he screwed or what.

 

October

Castiel curses whoever thought this event was a good idea. It’s technically called Family Pumpkin-Carving Night on paper, but it might as well be Parents vs. Gourds: Death Match because every father and mother gathered in the gym, including Cas, is sweating buckets as they battle pumpkins that refuse to be carved, and he can see the profanity bubbles floating above the adults’ heads. 

The children, meanwhile, are growing restless, disappointed that the fruits bear no resemblance to the jack-o’-lanterns they’ve seen on television. Rose is pouting a little too, because the cat in her pumpkin is looking more and more like a gaping hole, and Cas is about to lose a bit of patience himself when he hears “Mr. Winchester!” and glances up to find Max clinging to Dean’s leg.

Dean looks really, really amazing in a black Henley and jeans, and Cas stills his hand so he doesn’t nick any skin on what’s already an uncooperative blade. Max rapturously tugs Dean by the hand to their corner, inviting him to sit, and Rose scrambles over to join them, leaving Dean’s sympathetic gaze to meet Cas’ across two pumpkins and gleeful squeals.

“You okay there, Cas?”

Cas waits until both kids are looking away to roll his eyes, and Dean laughs as he hauls Max’s untouched pumpkin toward himself. “What do you want on here, buddy?” he asks Max, whose whole face lights up like a lantern as he yells, “A spider!”

“Hmm.” Dean makes a show of inspecting the fruit from every angle, drawing giggles out of the twins. “Let’s see what we can do.” He produces a Sharpie and a utility knife from his pocket, and Cas wants to tell him that he doesn’t have to help (this is blatant favoritism or something). But Rose and Max are watching their teacher so intently that Cas ultimately relents and returns to salvaging the cat, gritting his teeth as he saws through a rind that’s like a wall in fucking Alcatraz.

Dean, though. Wow, Dean is an expert at this. He cuts the top and digs into the center with his large hand, pulling out the flesh and seeds onto the newspapers covering the floor. He then elicits a reverent “Whoa” from Max by drawing a perfect, creepy spider on the waxy surface, and Cas is just watching too at this point because Dean is so focused and careful as he carves, forearm muscles flexing from the effort, and, god, is it ever hot.

Rose claps enthusiastically when Dean puts the finishing touches on Max’s spider, which honestly belongs in the Halloween edition of a Martha Stewart magazine. “Can you do mine, Mr. Winchester?”

“No, Rose, don’t-”

“It’s alright,” Dean assures him. He actually shrugs apologetically like he’d hate to steal Cas’ ‘dad thunder’ or something, but Cas’ arms and hands are aching and he did enjoy seeing Dean go to town on Max’s jack-o’-lantern so he nods, selfishly, letting Rose push her pumpkin closer to her teacher. Dean quickly draws an outline around Cas’ poor excuse for a feline and gets to work while Rose peers at him like he’s Tony Stark himself.

Since they’re left with two hefty pumpkins at the end of the night, Cas and Dean each carry one out to the car, and a strange feeling swells in Cas’ chest at Dean leaning down to fasten the twins’ seat belts, making sure the jack-o’-lanterns are settled snugly between them.

“Thank you, Dean,” Cas says as he shuts the rear door. “I would’ve run into a lot of trouble with my children if it weren’t for you.”

“Nah, it was my pleasure, Cas.” His green eyes appear warm even in the moonlight, and it’s a long moment before Cas manages to bid Dean good night, to tear his own eyes away.

Rose’s cat and Max’s spider glow beautifully for the next two weeks, and they’re all more than a little sad when the time comes for them to remove the pumpkins – mementos of that evening spent with Dean – from their porch.

 

November

Dean has sort of a love-hate relationship with field trips; he imagines his colleagues do too. Sure, they get kids out of the classroom, are interactive, et cetera, but they can also be nightmarish for the person in charge, i.e. the teacher.

There’s the counting, for one. Endless, panicked counting, because if there’s an easy place to lose a kid, well, that place is everywhere. So, yeah, his anxiety reaches a high this morning during the migration from the bus into the science museum (open spaces are the worst), but nobody wanders off thanks to the chaperones who are staying alert.

Oh, speaking of chaperones. Dean is extra, extra preoccupied today for an entirely unprofessional reason, and that reason is Cas, who volunteered to help out. He’s now efficiently rounding up the students in his group, appearing delectably windswept. The blue half-zip pullover he’s wearing also makes his eyes look absolutely ridiculous and everything is twice as terrible.

“Earth to Dean,” Charlie whispers beside him. She quirks an amused eyebrow when Dean jumps.

“Sorry, Charlie,” he mumbles, still glancing furtively at Cas because, shit, he is such a goner.

Charlie follows his eye line and smiles knowingly, her elbow nudging Dean’s side. “Got a crush on Smoking-Hot Dad, huh?” There’s a bright peal of laughter when Dean spins around like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “He is dreamy. Think the other moms have caught on too.”

She nods toward Cas and Dean turns and, lo and behold, several female chaperones have moved the students in their charges closer to Cas’, totally counterproductive to the goal of keeping the two classes in smaller, manageable groups.

“I’m gonna put a stop to this,” Charlie declares, solemnly marching into the mass like some kind of superhero. It’s a daunting task but Dean silently cheers her on, and in the end everyone is relieved except for the hungering moms who sulk under Charlie's sweet-smiled dictatorship.

It takes about fifteen more minutes of loitering in the lobby to hand out the tickets, which the kids all clutch fiercely, and form mini, single-file lines. Rose keeps sneaking into Cas’ group to join Max so Dean lets her trade places with another student to maintain the numbers, and she beams at him while her hand reaches up to grasp her dad’s, stealing Dean’s heart yet again.

“Are you ready?” Charlie asks, as they herd forty bouncing children down to the lower level. Her tone is theatrical in the way of a suspenseful movie trailer and Dean laughs, though he secretly prays to every deity he knows of for the day to proceed without any hiccups.

The kids practically vibrate with excitement upon seeing the full-sized, model capsules in the moon exhibit; it's as if they can instantly picture themselves as astronauts. Charlie and Dean have to handle some fussiness – generally whines of “We can’t climb on the Apollo?” – but besides that the tour goes surprisingly smoothly, and they both relax a tiny bit by the time lunch rolls around.

Dean scans the café after grabbing his sandwich and bottled water, and it’s not difficult to find Cas among the mostly three-and-half-feet-tall crowd. He checks to make sure that Charlie’s eating before heading to Cas’ table, slipping into an empty seat near him as casually as possible.

“Hey, Cas.”

Cas is in the middle of wiping a smear of mayonnaise from little Kevin Tran’s cheek, which is adorable. He then gives Dean an apologetic smile as he takes the sandwich Max presents to him, going on to meticulously cut the crusts off with a plastic knife. Rose comes next and Cas hauls her onto his lap, bending his head down to ask if she wants apple or grape juice, and Dean's just sort of left gaping like a fish because he cannot handle the level of cute he’s witnessing.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas finally says once all eight students in his group are digging into their lunches.

Dean notices the unopened sandwich in the middle of the table and slides the box over until it’s at Cas’ fingertips. “You have to eat.”

“Yes... Thank you.” Cas sounds dazed like he completely forgot about putting food in his own stomach, and Dean can relate; it’s easy to slip out of it when you’re swamped with kids.

“I really appreciate the help, by the way. You sure it’s okay that we interrupted your scary M&A work?”  

Cas shakes his head with a laugh. “This is a very nice break from my usual routine, and the other partners were good sports. Of course, one of them is my brother-in-law so I had that going for me.”

He must be referring to Anna’s husband (Charles? Chase?). Chuck, Cas answers for him, and Dean would’ve been happy to listen to Cas speak more about his family except one of the girls spills juice on her pants and any chance at a conversation flies out the window.

The rest of their trip is spent in the planetarium, where the kids are unanimously captivated by the lights and visual effects, and when everyone is settled in for the showing of Magic Tree House: Space Mission, Dean takes a quick breather, walking toward the back wall.

“I don’t know how you do this every day,” Cas whispers to him. It’s dim inside the planetarium save for the distant glow of the constellations, but Cas’ eyes nonetheless shine somehow and Dean is utterly mesmerized.

“It’s easier in a classroom.”

“Well, I’m in awe.” Cas shifts his gaze to Dean, a charming tilt to his head, and suddenly Dean can’t breathe. “They love you, you know. Rose and Max... Neither can stop talking about you.”

“Yeah?” There’s a warm burst of affection in Dean’s chest, as well as a distinct flutter of butterflies in his stomach, because call him crazy but he swears that Cas’ words seem to hold a second meaning, something more private for just the two of them.

Cas nods and they are stupidly close, enough for Dean to discern a flash of nervousness and hopeful shyness in his eyes. “And I also...” Cas continues, and Dean thinks he has to be hearing wrong so he tries to clarify.

“You...?” he tapers off too soon, though, Cas’ soft smile rendering him incapable of much else. 

“Yes.”

It’s the quiet, simple confirmation that Dean’s wished to receive for months, and the only way he can respond is by gently pulling Cas in for a kiss. Their lips seam together and the moment is brief, chaste (because, well, children, field trip, other chaperones), but it’s also perfect and unbelievable and Dean could pinch himself.

“Dean?”

“Yeah, Cas?”

“Would you like to have coffee with me?”

Dean grins as his hand seeks out Cas’ in the dark, their fingers entwining comfortably. “Yes, I would love to.”

 

December

Cas extends his arm out in front of him, hand keeping a loose grip on Rose’s while she twirls on the ice. She's a whirlwind of pink, making them laugh when she eventually tumbles into him, and Cas is overcome with a ridiculous amount of love as he crouches down to kiss her forehead.

He's adjusting the lapels of Rose’s bubble gum-colored pea coat when Max comes gliding into his back, tiny hands tugging on the collar of his Northface. “Dad. Dad, is Mr. Winchester coming to dinner with us?”

Cas reaches around to give his son an affectionate pat and looks up at Dean, who is now standing behind Rose. “Yes, if Mr. Winchester wants to,” he says as Max excitedly skates over to Dean. Rose has her head tilted up toward him too and Dean ruffles their hair, his expression so doting that Cas hears himself sigh a little.

Dean helps Cas onto his feet once Rose and Max have skated off, arguing in the way kids do about where they should eat. The momentum of Dean pulling him ends up being a tad strong, though, and their noses gently bump as Cas stumbles, hands finding purchase on Dean’s arms. He’s a second away from apologizing but then Dean grins all lazily, murmuring “Hi” like a breathy sigh, and that’s how Cas starts to blush furiously in the middle of a busy ice-skating rink.

“Hi, Dean,” he says, fingers curling into the padding of Dean’s jacket. His breath catches when Dean wraps both arms securely around his waist.

“Thank you for inviting me today,” Dean smiles. “It means a lot.”

“Mm, what else could I do?” Cas hums playfully. “My kids keep insisting on seeing their teacher over winter break.”

“That have anything to do with how frequently we’ve hung out this past month?”

“Maybe. Still, it’s two against one so I’m outnumbered.”

“Oh?” Dean shifts forward to press a light kiss to Cas’ mouth. “Not three against zero?”

Cas narrows his eyes but breaks into a laugh at Dean innocently batting his lashes. “Aren’t you confident,” he barely manages to chide, the tone of it more fond than anything else.

“I think I’m adorable,” Dean winks, leaning in for another kiss, and Cas sighs again because, yeah, it’s totally true.

They pull apart to a symphony of high-pitched shrieks and the twins staring at them with huge, matching blue eyes. Well, Max actually covers his after an embarrassed, betrayed-sounding “Da-ad” whereas Rose can’t stop giggling, and Cas genuinely worries that she might laugh herself sick. Dean, meanwhile, huffs an amused noise at these two kids who are completely beside themselves, and swoops in to take each one’s hand, glancing over his shoulder at Cas before guiding Rose and Max to the edge of the rink. Cas follows, gaze focused on the small fingers clutching Dean’s hands, and wonders how silly he must look right now because he certainly feels absurdly happy.

They’re a perfect set as Dean unties Rose’s skates, Cas Max’s, and then in the car and at the restaurant where they fit around a four-person table. In fact, it becomes increasingly difficult in the coming weeks for Cas to imagine what their life would be like without Dean.

 

January

Dean’s thirty-second birthday falls on a Saturday, which is fantastic news for Sam who’s made it his life goal to mortify Dean every year. He’s gotten better at the surprise factor too, and creates a false sense of security by taking Dean to lunch at his favorite dive – only to have a hired Mariachi band crash the meal halfway through with a boisterous, Spanish rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

Dean is sort of horrified, even more so when the other patrons start clapping and Sam films the whole thing on his phone. Everyone erupts in cheers at the end of the song and Jess appears sympathetic, but clearly not sympathetic enough since she was totally an associate in the scheme.

Sam drops Dean off at his apartment afterward, dismissing the explicit warnings to never distribute the reaction video. Instead, he and Jess spend five minutes cooing and teasing Dean about his date with Cas and the kids and then just laugh at Dean rolling his eyes. God, they suck. 

The feigned annoyance doesn’t last long – because he loves Sam and Jess, okay, don’t make him say it again. Plus, there’s also the text he receives from Cas in the early afternoon, one that reads, ‘Happy Birthday, Dean! Just reminding you that our dinner is at six. See you soon!’

Dean is on Cas’ porch at five minutes to six, smoothing his plaid shirt and hoping that Cas isn’t hiding a Mariachi band or classical quintet or what have you inside the house. Of course, since Cas is not a total weirdo like Sam, the amazing things Dean is surprised with are Rose and Max launching themselves at his knees and a handmade, glitter-coated birthday banner in the foyer that makes his throat close up more than a little.

He really has to tamp down on the emotions, though, when Cas leads him into a kitchen literally bathed in streamers and balloons, all surrounding a table sagging beneath a crazy amount of food that includes a cake, covered in candy like it were baked in a theater concession stand.

“Sorry, they went a bit overboard with the decorating,” Cas says sheepishly. 

“Are you kidding? It’s perfect,” Dean proclaims, pulling an endearingly relieved Cas into his arms. He whispers a slightly choked up “Thank you” into the crook of Cas’ neck and sighs at the warm hands stroking his back.

“You’re welcome, Dean,” Cas replies, voice low and thick. “Happy birthday.”

The remainder of the evening is pretty surreal too, especially with the mouth-watering meal (seriously, it’s not fair, you can’t be hot and cook that well) and the cripplingly cute presents from the kids. Rose gives Dean a frame she built from popsicle sticks that contains a photograph the four of them took over the break, while Max hands him a collection of handmade coupons for things like ‘Help Mr. Winchester clean up after art class.’ And Cas. God, then Cas has to go ahead and get him these customized book ends that are an exact replica of his Impala, and Dean's bibliophilia kicks into overdrive as he is entirely conflicted between using them at school or in his apartment.

He stays until Rose and Max fall asleep around nine-thirty, and agrees to coffee when Cas offers after they’ve tucked the kids into bed and Dean’s read Where The Wild Things Are. Cas asks Dean to wait in the living room while he brews the pot (“It is still your birthday, Dean”), so Dean does and it’s here that his phone rings, displaying an unfamiliar number on the screen.

“Hello?” he answers. It takes a moment for the caller to respond but soon Dean is frowning and gripping the phone more tightly because it’s his ex on the other line, sounding vaguely, irritatingly drunk. “What do you want?” Dean hisses. “... No, you don’t get to call me like this... You left me. You can’t- No. No, I don’t give a shit about that. We are done, okay? We're done and my life is pretty fucking great now so don’t you dare contact me again.” He hangs up abruptly and slumps onto the couch. Fuck, and everything was going so well.

“Dean?” Cas is in the doorway, holding two steaming mugs, and his brows knit in concern as he approaches Dean, setting the coffee down before joining him. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, it’s-” Dean runs a hand over his face. “That was my ex. Calling to wish me happy birthday because he misses me. God, he’s a piece of shit.”

Cas’ fingers find their way into Dean’s hair, threading through in tender, soothing motions. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Dean leans into the touch and his eyes close briefly, contemplating. He’s not sure if he should burden Cas with the details of his ugly break-up, reveal, you know, the depressing stuff. And yet. “We taught at the same school. First grade, both of us. We, um, spent a ton of time together planning curricula and field trips and- I don’t know, it became something else. I was overwhelmed but I thought- It was serious, in my mind.”

“What happened?” Cas prompts gently, and it dawns on Dean that their hands are clutching the other now, grounding him. He feels safe.

“I caught the bastard cheating on me,” Dean concludes, “with another teacher on our staff.” The laugh that tumbles out is bitter, incredulous. “The worst part of it was... The teacher he was seeing? She believed that they were dating, and so did some of the staff, apparently. I mean, we were always so careful because he said- He said public office romances wouldn’t be good and- Shit, I trusted him. Thought he was looking out for us, but he was... he was just a closeted douchebag. Nothing more. So I left. The school, and Lawrence. It was them leaving or me and... I couldn’t keep working there. I moved to Boston to be near Sam and Jess.”

Cas looks at him intently, like he’s peering straight into Dean’s very soul, and it’s not with pity or excessive sympathy but a kind of attentiveness that reflects how much he cares. He doesn’t say out loud he’s sorry this happened to Dean, which is fine because the sentiment becomes obvious when he draws Dean close, lips brushing against his neck. Dean feels the tension drain from his muscles as he nestles into the warmth enveloping him, and for the first time he’s glad things transpired the way they did, since he wouldn’t be here with Cas otherwise.

 

February

“Are you sure Chuck won’t mind?” Cas asks as he hands Anna a duffel filled with clothes and books. “I don’t want to intrude on Valentine’s Day.”

“Don’t worry,” his sister shrugs good-naturedly. “Valentine’s is still a week away according to our calendar. Chuck’s swamped right now with the contract for that ice queen’s art gallery.”

Cas smiles. Bela Talbot’s company is a big name in the art collecting world, and the woman definitely has an intimidating, no-nonsense demeanor to show for her success. “So, you’re going to Vermont next weekend?”

“Yup. Cheese tastings, Ben and Jerry’s factory. Being an old couple, basically. I’ll bring you back some maple syrup.”

“Sounds great.”

“You should go with Dean sometime,” Anna advises airily, a sly glint in her eyes. “Or will you two never make it out of the bed and breakfast?”

Anna,” Cas warns, gaze instinctively flitting to the second floor landing to check for his children. "We're not-”

“Oh, sorry, didn’t realize you were saving it for the wedding night.”

Cas throws her a look that’s equal parts disturbed and appalled and Anna practically cackles at the sight, quieting only when the kids come running down the stairs. She bends down to hug them both. “Ready to go?”

They nod excitedly – because even though Anna mercilessly teases Cas, she’s also the ‘cool aunt’ that you always see in movies and his children love her something crazy. Once Cas has said goodbye to his kids, Anna grins and stands up straight to open the door, ushering her niece and nephew outside before kissing her brother on the cheek. “Have fun, Castiel,” she says, and he smiles at the fondness lining her voice.

The house is uncharacteristically silent after they leave, and Cas tries to adjust to the absence of noise as he heads into the kitchen. He studies the wine rack for a bottle he could open with Dean later and then glances at the clock, noting that Dean should be here in half an hour and feeling inexplicably nervous. It’s not that they haven’t gone on dates; they’ve spent a lot of time together since November. But it wasn’t often that they could be alone, naturally, and now Cas is dealing with jitters in his stomach like a teenager. He paces the kitchen a bit and is in the middle of drumming his fingers on the countertop when he hears the doorbell.

Dean is... pink. At least, he’s partially obscured by the obscene amount of pink things in his arms. He manages to step inside and kiss Cas without tripping, blushing at Cas’ wide eyes. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Cas.”

“Dean...” Cas doesn’t know where to start so he reaches for the object that’s closest to him, which turns out to be a sizable bouquet of roses. He takes the ridiculously large box of chocolates as well to help Dean unload and shuts the door with his shoulder. “This is...”

“Too much?” Dean ventures, forehead creasing slightly. “Too much pink, right? Yeah, I know, it’s enough to make Hello Kitty cream her pants.” He sighs, the bundle rising and falling with him. “I just wanted to get everything, I guess... Wasn’t sure what you’d-” His words are cut short by Cas kissing him, the cellophane and card stock crinkling between them.

“Thank you,” Cas says simply when he pulls back, and Dean finally grins.

The gifts cover most of the space on the kitchen island, and Cas fills a vase with water while Dean explains, “The red velvet cupcakes are for Rose and Max, but maybe you can have one too... if you’re good.” It sounds indubitably suggestive and Cas flushes as he arranges the flowers.

He moves the roses to the table and returns to stand beside Dean, eyes tracing over the bottle of rosé and, wow, is that a teddy bear and- “What’s this?” He picks up the smaller bottle and peers at the label, a drawing of a dark brown ink jar and paintbrush, overlain with a red lipstick stain.

“Oh, that.” Dean’s mouth curls into an impish smile. “It’s chocolate syrup.”

“Chocolate- And what will we need chocolate syrup for, exactly?”

“You tell me,” Dean challenges. “I was told that it tastes delicious.” 

Cas looks from Dean to the syrup, slowly, before coming to a decision. “Well, I do have strawberries in the fridge we could... use,” he smiles at the heat flashing in Dean’s eyes, “but I made dinner reservations for seven o’clock. We should go or we’ll be late.” He laughs and tugs a dumbfounded Dean toward the foyer, grabbing his coat on the way.

Dinner is, quite honestly, picture-book romantic, a panorama view of the harbor spread out behind them and Dean regarding him like he hung the moon. None of this, however, discourages Cas from teasing Dean throughout the meal (and vice versa), with playful nudges under the table and way indecent tongue action around the dessert spoon. The tension climbs to such a palpable degree by the time Cas calls for the check that it’s a miracle Dean doesn’t just stop the car on the road, though he does drag Cas through the front door when they finally make it home.

They hurry up the stairs, kissing hungrily, shedding their clothes as they go, and Dean peels off Cas’ underwear just as Cas tips him over the edge of the bed and crawls into his lap. Dean groans into their kisses, filthy and thorough, intensified by Cas’ fingers ghosting across his jaw, shoulders, and chest. It’s unabashedly desperate, hot and needy, and Cas feels a surge of impatience as he shifts forward to push Dean onto the pillows, settling on his hips and moaning roughly when Dean rocks up. He rolls his hips in response, pressing their lips together, and Dean skims his palms over Cas’ sides to caress his back in warm, broad sweeps.

“Dean,” Cas breathes, hands splayed on Dean’s flushed skin. He feels Dean’s soft touch trail to the curve of his ass, kneading a little, and he sighs as his eyes flutter shut.

“God, Cas,” Dean murmurs, voice so strained like he’s aching for more contact. His hand finds Cas’ cock and brushes against the slit, spreading slick pre-come, and Cas gasps and arches, totally responsive and shameless. “We’ve got to- Cas, I...”

Cas is already nodding and lifting himself off of Dean to reach for the bedside table, pulling out the lube and a condom. He quickly tears the foil packet to roll the condom over Dean’s erection before opening the lube, and empties a generous amount onto his fingers, keeping his eyes on Dean the whole time. Dean pants in lust as he fixes his gaze on Cas, who leans back and lets his arm disappear behind him. He then groans upon hearing the harsh cry that falls from Cas’ lips and watches, completely enraptured, while Cas fingers himself open.

Cas whimpers at the stretching burn, at Dean’s intense stare, his free hand gripping Dean’s leg for balance. “Dean, I want- I want you inside me.”

“Fuck,” Dean curses under his breath. His eyes are wide and sex-drugged and he's shuddering beneath Cas, the motions of his chest labored and frantic. Their hard breathing and quiet blasphemies echo around them for another minute until Cas is ready, removing his wet fingers and repositioning his hips so he can push down and- “Oh, Dean,” he keens, head thrown back, taking Dean in slowly and his throat hitching from the fullness. He stills for a moment to relax, both of them inhaling sharply, trembling from the sensations of each other’s bodies, and then, at last, he starts to move again, bracing his hands on Dean’s taut stomach.

Dean’s fingers dig into the tops of his thighs as Cas rocks up and down, gradually building a rhythm that’s further, faster. He feels every nerve ending sparking white-hot when Dean puts his heels into the mattress and really thrusts up in earnest, vigorously hitting Cas’ prostate and filling the room with the dirty thud of flesh meeting flesh.

“You’re so beautiful,” Dean says in a daze, hips grinding against Cas’ and his cock ramming right into that sweet spot, making Cas see stars. He slides an arm between them to stroke Cas’ leaking length, fist twisting around the head, and effectively drives Cas closer and closer to the edge. Cas is babbling, begging for Dean to keep touching him like this, so firm and full of want. He voices his demand in wrecked little phrases and Dean yields immediately, hand continuing to fly over his throbbing cock with abandon until Cas’ body curls and jerks and he comes, orgasm striking like a bat swinging through his brain. He clenches down on Dean, quakes from the force of his climax, but barely has a shot at catching his breath before Dean flips him onto his back and fucks into him hard and deep.

Cas is spellbound by how incredible Dean looks, disheveled, eyes an electric green, lips forming “Cas” on every whimper. He hooks his ankles behind Dean’s lower back to pull him in more and Dean cries out, grunting and shoving Cas into the bed.

“Dean, mm-”

“Cas... Shit, Cas-” Dean’s hands somehow find both of Cas’ among their tangle of limbs and pins them to either side of his head, lacing their fingers together. He exploits the leverage to rut his hips and thrust at a brutal pace, and it doesn’t take long after that for Dean to come with a low, throaty groan, dick buried in Cas as far as it can go and his entire body quivering from waves of pleasure. “God...” he pants, collapsing onto Cas when it’s over. He moves his hands to grasp Cas’ waist and his breath is hot, irregular, stolen from his lungs. “We didn’t even use the chocolate syrup.”

Cas laughs, lifting a hand to pet Dean’s back. “Next time,” he promises.

Dean hums his approval into Cas’ neck and raises his head for a kiss, licking into Cas like they have all the time in the world. Cas tangles his fingers in Dean’s hair and feels a lazy smile against his lips, his heart beating madly, blissfully, as he whispers, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Dean.”

 

March

The Novaks’ kitchen is in disarray (of the Cupcake Wars variety) when Dean arrives at dinnertime, letting himself into the house with the spare key Cas gave him a week earlier. It’s a strange feeling, walking into warmth and chatter as opposed to the dark silence of his apartment, but his chest swells so contentedly at the change that Dean accepts it all gratefully without question.

Max spots him and runs over, arms outstretched like they haven’t already spent five hours together at school. Dean grins anyway because he's missed them too, and hoists Max onto his hip before going to the sink where Cas has both hands submerged in soapy water, unaware of Dean’s entrance. He startles a little at Dean kissing his cheek – while Max makes this snort-like, offended noise – but the surprise soon fades into relief.

“Thank goodness you’re here,” Cas says. “I’m in way over my head.” He absently wipes his brow with the back of his wrist, forgetting about the soapsuds, and huffs in annoyance as Dean grabs a towel to clean them off. “Don’t laugh,” comes the warning but Dean just kisses him again because, god, his boyfriend is adorable. Naturally, the gesture mortally embarrasses Max.

“What should I help with?”

“Mm, we still need to make the red batter. The recipe is by the stove.”

Dean sets Max back down on his feet and reaches for the paper covered in frosted fingerprints. “Is Rose having a play date?”

“No, she’s with Gabe, actually. They’re shopping for cupcake toppers because I can't figure out fondant to save my life. He’s intervening so I don’t become another Pinterest statistic.”

Dean laughs and starts measuring the dry ingredients, occasionally having Max ‘assist’ by dumping the contents of various measuring cups into one large bowl. Cas, meanwhile, finishes washing the stand mixer attachments and gets going on the yellow frosting, and it’s as Dean is cracking eggs into his mixture that he has a somewhat nerve-wracking realization.

“So, am I... meeting Gabriel tonight?”

Cas glances up from opening a package of cream cheese, his expression mildly amused. “Yes, Dean.”

“Oh.” Dean clears his throat. “Anything I should know?”

“Well... He prefers ethnically ambiguous brunettes with great legs. I’m not sure if you’d be his type.”

It’s almost pathetic how quickly Dean’s attempt at a glare derails under Cas’ faux-innocent smile and the sweet addition of, “But you’re my type. And don’t worry about Gabe. He’s mischievous but as easy-going as they come.”

Still, Dean is a bit anxious as he opens the front door twenty minutes later, because he does want to make a solid impression and he’s pretty sure he has flour on his face. Fortunately, Rose facilitates by tugging Dean down so he can kiss her forehead and scoop her up, and Gabriel raises his brow in curiosity.

“You must be Dean.” He offers a hand, which Dean shakes with the hand not holding Rose. “I’m Gabriel. Friends call me Gabe.”

That sort of throws Dean for a loop. “... Am I allowed to call you Gabe, then?”

Gabriel barks a laugh, the sound bright like a firecracker. “I don’t see why not, considering how much Cas talks about you these days. It's non-stop, in case you're wondering."

Dean thinks he should apologize or something on Cas' behalf, but then Rose interrupts quietly, small fingers clutching his shirt. “Mr. Winchester? Can I show you the toppers me and Uncle Gabe got?”

“Oh, yes,” Gabe indulges his niece, lifting the paper bag he’s holding. “Let’s go inside and show your dad too, sweetie.” He nods at Dean, who steps aside to let him through the doorway, and it’s an enlivened reunion in the kitchen where Gabe pulls Max into a spinning hug and Cas peers at all of them adoringly.

The toppers that Gabe bought are these two-inch, edible rounds printed with an assortment of Marvel heroes, and Dean finally understands why Cas was so stressed. He’s been baking cupcakes in different colors to match each character, which is exactly the kind of overachieving task he’d take on for the sake of his kids and Dean loves him even more for it. They order pizza for dinner and wrap up the baking within the next couple of hours, thanks to Gabe pitching in with his apparent mastery at making desserts. He tells Dean that he has an out-of-this-world pecan pie recipe that he’s willing to share, and, yeah, Dean believes they’ll get along just fine.

He returns to Cas’ place the following morning to pick up Rose and Max, who bounce excitedly the whole way to school. They bring along the cupcakes as well and their seventh birthday celebration is a resounding success, with everyone delighting in the treats resembling their favorite superheroes: red cupcakes frosted yellow for Iron Man; blue frosted red for Spider-Man, Captain America, and Thor; and green frosted double green for the Hulk. And if Dean surprises the twins later that day with presents of his own, well, he’s simply glad to have two torturously cute kids to now care about in his life.

 

April

Cas gets that the expression ‘April showers bring May flowers’ exists for a reason, but it’s still a downer (Ha.) to be caught in a rain shower, which is precisely what happens between parking his car in the driveway and reaching the front door. He’s understandably a little grumpy as he shakes out his drenched jacket on the porch, and glumly disposes his wet shoes at the door too before walking inside.

“I’m home,” he calls from the foyer.

“We’re in here!” his daughter exclaims. Her voice sounds muffled for some reason and Cas follows it to the source – which turns out to be a massive pillow fort set up in the living room. Cas bites back a laugh as he takes in the carefully arranged pillows and blankets, amused by the thought of Dean pushing the furniture around according to Rose’s and Max’s exact specifications. He crouches down to peek into the fort and chuckles when he sees Dean lying on his side, the twins sprawled across his chest and legs.

“This is quite impressive,” Cas commends, smiling at his children then at Dean, who winks back.

“Dean built it, Dad,” Max explains, starry-eyed. “He can do everything.”

Cas sighs, both because his son is impossibly adorable and because he’s a bit wary of the kids saying ‘Dean’ instead of ‘Mr. Winchester,’ a recent modification. He worries that it's vaguely disrespectful but Rose and Max promised to “always, always” use ‘Mr. Winchester’ at school, and dropping the formality had actually made Dean grin like the Cheshire Cat, so.

“Shall we drink some hot chocolate?” he asks, knowing that the answer will be a thunderous ‘yes.’ He stands back up with a fond laugh and heads toward the kitchen, hoping that they haven’t run out of cinnamon. Luckily, there’s just enough left in the container for today’s batch, and he’s scanning the cupboard shelves for the cocoa mix when he feels strong arms wrap around his waist from behind.

“Did you have a good day?” Dean murmurs, kissing the juncture of Cas’ neck and shoulder. He’s warm and soft in his sweater and Cas relaxes, leaning back with a tranquil sigh.

“It’s good now,” Cas replies, then rotates around to press a tender kiss to Dean’s mouth. They release each other reluctantly but go on to move in effortless harmony as Dean heats the milk and Cas finds the marshmallows, all of it made even more wonderful by Rose and Max padding in to sit at the table.

The shower extends into rainfall that continues into dark, the pitter-patter on the roof a persistent beat. But Dean stays the night and Cas falls asleep to the feeling of Dean wrapped around him like a blanket, shielding him from the outside, the cold and the grey.

 

May 

Dean's on his way to the staff lounge when he receives the text.

‘What are your plans on May 17th? It’s two Sundays from now,’ Cas’ message reads. Dean does a quick mental check of his schedule and types, ‘Nothing yet. Have any good ideas?’ He also inserts a smiley face because he does that sort of thing now.

He’s a little confused, though, when Cas just sends back, ‘Okay.’ Maybe he accidentally touched Send mid-text but then there’s the period and nothing else comes after that, which is strange. Dean hastily eats the rest of his meal and returns to the classroom (still empty from students gone to lunch) to give Cas a call.

“Dean,” Cas answers, low and familiar.

“Hey, babe,” Dean replies. “What’s happening on the seventeenth?”

Cas pauses for a moment, filling the silence with a small sigh. “It’s... It’s the annual associates picnic. For my firm.”

“Oh.” That’s certainly not as bad as he expected. “Are you inviting me?”

Cas chuckles softly. “Yes... but I don’t want you to feel obligated.”

Dean frowns, leaning back in his chair. “What do you mean?”

“I haven’t-” Another sigh. “It’s been a while since I’ve brought anyone besides the twins. The last time was before I...” He doesn’t need to finish for Dean to know what he’s referring to. “People can be nosy sometimes and I’d hate for you to be uncomfortable.”

“I won’t be.”

“Dean,” Cas says. His tone seems to imply that Dean spoke too soon. “It was no secret that I...” he stops again and Dean can imagine his brows furrowing anxiously. “I got a divorce because... Well, it became clear that I’m not bisexual. My ex-wife and I... We married in law school and- We were too young to even know ourselves. At least, I didn’t. Anyway, this probably sounds silly but I’m just concerned that-”

“Cas,” Dean cuts in gently. “Do you want me there?”

“What-” Cas finally slows down. “I... Of course, Dean. Yes.”

Dean smiles. “Then I’ll be there. Are Anna and Chuck coming?”

He can sense a matching smile on the other line. “They are.”

“Well, in that case, Rose and Max will definitely have a blast. I’ll have fun too, and so will you.”

“Dean...” Cas’ voice is fond and Dean feels the warmth spreading through his chest. “Thank you.”

“Right, it's such a trial for me,” Dean teases. “But you’re welcome. And you don’t have to worry so much, alright? ‘Cause you can’t get rid of me that easily.” He waits for Cas’ quiet laugh to subside and adds, “See you tonight.”

The picnic takes place on a very sunny day in the park, where the kids have plenty of room to run around while the adults chat. Dean keeps one hand on his boyfriend’s back as he’s introduced to everyone, and the afternoon goes as well as either of them could have hoped, the firm’s third partner Zachariah Adler’s comment of “Ah, so you’re the reason why Castiel wanted to visit the science museum last fall” notwithstanding.

 

June

Summer vacation starts on the second Wednesday of June, and Cas leaves the office early to pick up Rose and Max from school. He deftly navigates the wings and hallways (honestly, what building needs this many) until he’s in Dean’s classroom, and grins when he sees his children drawing at their desks, his boyfriend pulling laminated posters off the wall.

“Congratulations on finishing first grade,” he proudly tells the twins, who hug him and giggle and bounce a little because school is out. Cas then saunters to a sort of frazzled-looking Dean for a brief kiss and murmurs, “Congratulations to you too, on your first year in Boston.”

Dean gives him this cute, lopsided smile in return, and says “Thanks, Cas” before going back to cleaning the kid-friendly clutter that’s accumulated over the past nine months. Cas decides to grab a staple remover and pitch in, and they’re almost through with blanking out the front wall when he announces, “We should go on a trip.”

“Hmm?” Dean says, stacking some paperbacks into a cardboard box. “What trip?”

“Well, three quarters of us are on break now and I can take a few days...” Cas continues, smiling at Dean setting aside the Impala book ends to carry separately. “I thought we could plan it around a weekend.”

“That’d be nice. Did you have a destination in mind?”

“Not yet, no. Anna really liked Vermont so that’s one option... Maybe the Hamptons? Or Washington, if we’re feeling particularly patriotic. I don’t know, what do you think?” Cas waits as Dean closes the box flaps and rests his forearms on top, absently chewing his bottom lip, his gaze shifting slowly around the room, musing and pensive.

“How about Lawrence?” Dean asks at last.

Cas blinks. Dean hasn’t mentioned his hometown in quite a while. “Would you like to...?” he begins, only to taper hesitantly; what he truly wants to ask is whether Dean would be okay going back to a place that might trigger some unpleasant memories. Dean seems to hear the unspoken part of his question, however, and walks around his desk to lean on the edge closer to Cas, solemnly locking their eyes.

“I’m not saying Lawrence to mean that I’ve finally gotten over what happened, Cas. You already helped me do that months ago.” He reaches out to take one of Cas’ hands in his. “I’m saying Lawrence because, well, I may have told my parents about you and... they’d like to meet you.”

“Your...” Cas feels the oxygen practically jump ship from his body. “Oh.” Dean wants to- Sure, Cas has gotten to know Sam and Jess, in terms of family, but these are Dean’s- “And are you... okay with me meeting them?”

It’s Dean’s turn to blink. “Yeah. Yeah, Cas, I’d... God, I’m more than okay with it. We don’t have to, though, if you aren’t. We can go wherever. Hell, we could watch cows eat grass for five days and I wouldn’t care as long as you and Rose and Max were there. But just- I guess do me a favor and... sleep on it?” He studies Cas carefully, gauging his reaction, and it’s really a testament to Cas’ self control that he doesn’t kiss Dean hard right then.

Instead, he steps forward to wrap his arms around Dean’s waist, his chin on Dean’s right shoulder, and sighs when Dean reciprocates by encircling him in a hug. “Let’s go to Lawrence,” he says happily, laughing as Dean tightens his embrace. “But you have to swear you’ll provide all the advance warnings, Dean. I want your parents to like me.”

“Honestly, Cas, they’re gonna love you,” Dean claims as he releases Cas to peer into his eyes, “because I do.”

Cas stares into the gorgeous hazel-green for a second, air exiting his lungs again for an entirely different but spectacular reason, and lifts his hand to gently cup Dean’s cheek. “I love you too.”

 

July

The harbor is packed on Fourth of July, swarming with tourists and locals gathered to watch the firework display. The throngs are only worsened by the Food Network tent dishing out clam chowder, and Dean can make out a tiny Bobby Flay serving a mass of people hypnotized to consume soup in this humidity. But, you know, whatever. Dean currently has no presence of mind for celebrity chefs, not with Cas standing beside him, wearing aviators and Dean’s Metallica shirt and looking seriously smoking hot. He’s got Max on his hip, busily persuading the boy to drink more water, and Dean is so glad for his own sunglasses because his lovesick ogling, if exposed, would make everyone else want to cry or vomit.

Rose squirms in his arms, fussy from the heat and the crowds. “Dean,” she whines, grasping a water bottle tight against her body.

“Yeah, baby.” Dean glances down and can’t help a broad smile at her festive outfit, the arrangement of red, white, and blue more French flag than American but, still, adorable.

“When are the fireworks?” Her blue-eyed, brow-knitted frown is remarkably identical to Cas’ and Dean marvels at the resemblance for a moment.

“It’s starting soon,” he says, noting the orange hues on the horizon. “The sun has to go down first.”

“Tell the sun to go faster, please,” Rose sighs thoughtfully and Dean laughs, bending his head to lay a kiss in her hair.

There’s a tap on his shoulder and he turns to find Sam and Jess, who are equally as gross as him and Cas in their matching Red Sox shirts. He greets them eagerly nonetheless and lets an enamored Jess hold Rose for a bit, while Sam nudges his way toward Cas, a.k.a. his girl crush.

“Taken a lot of pictures, Cas?” Sam asks, managing to sound like a gushing dork with one harmless question. Seriously, thank the lord that Dean was the Winchester brother that found Castiel Novak first.

Cas, for his part, pushes the aviators up into his messy hair (ugh, sexy bastard) and smiles back fondly. “Just a few views of the harbor so far. I’m hoping to get some good shots of the fireworks later, though, to email to your parents.”

Dean quirks an eyebrow. “Our parents?”

“Yes, I spoke to Mary on the phone yesterday,” Cas explains, eyes drifting momentarily to Max, who’s fallen asleep on his chest. “She and John were thinking of coming to Boston for the Fourth but it didn’t work out, so I told her that I’d send photos. We’ll try to make the trip work next year.”

“Mom loves Cas,” Sam tells Dean, a total non-sequitur and, yeah, like Dean wasn’t already aware. Cas had gotten on so well with both of his parents during their visit last month that he’d essentially dragged his boyfriend out of Lawrence. Rose and Max, of course, were also completely doted upon.

“You’re setting the bar too high, Cas,” Dean grumbles lightheartedly. Sam has gone to join Jess in cooing over Rose and, from what Dean can see, she’s basking in the attention. “My work’s cut out for me for when I meet your parents.”

“You instantly knew I was named after an angel,” Cas says, shifting on his feet as he gently rocks Max. “I’m sure that alone earns you a gold star.”

“Either way,” Dean starts, carding his fingers through Max’s hair, “I’d like to get to know your parents too.”

Cas nods, a smile tugging at his lips. “They're on sabbatical in Jerusalem until October but, yes, when they come back we... We can have dinner.”

“Yeah, we’ll invite Anna and Chuck. And Gabe,” Dean grins. “Gabe’s bringing the dessert, by the way, just so we’re clear.”

Cas laughs and ducks his head into Max’s shoulder, his smile bigger now, and Dean pulls him close as Max stirs and the fireworks begin, gradually illuminating the night sky in a brilliant dance of colors.

 

August, Again

“Are we going with Marvel again, guys?” Dean asks as they veer into the backpacks aisle at Office Depot. He reaches for one with a screen print of Iron Man then glances at Rose, who shakes her head and pulls at his hand.

“No, Captain America,” she clarifies, pointing at a round backpack designed to look like a shield. 

“Whoa,” Dean breathes, letting go of his original choice to grab Rose’s. “Iron Man's gonna be left in the dust if he doesn't make a movie stat.” He puts the item in the cart and winks at Rose, who giggles happily, and Cas watches their exchange from a few feet away, smiling like a loon.

“Dad,” comes Max’s voice, along with a light tug on his pant leg.

“Yes, Max?”

“Is Dean still ‘Mr. Winchester’ at school even when we start second grade?”

Cas laughs and crouches down to meet his son’s eye level. “Yes, he’s ‘Mr. Winchester’ at school until you and Rose finish fifth grade.”

Fifth grade?” Max’s eyes are huge as he gapes. “That’s... But after that?”

“Well, after that, you two will go to middle school, where Dean doesn’t teach.”

“Oh.” Max is frowning now like this is very serious news. “I wish Dean was always at school.”

“You might change your mind about that when you’re sixteen and too cool for me,” Dean interjects, lowering himself to the floor beside Cas, “but thanks, buddy.” He extends an arm to ruffle Max’s hair, which prompts Rose to demand that he ruffle hers as well, and then it’s a whole round of chase and squeals that halts under the stern glare of an employee checking in on the commotion.

“You are twelve,” Cas teases as he shifts the school supplies around so Dean can lift Rose and Max into the cart. The three of them are ridiculously breathless from running and laughing and there’s something Cas really likes about that.

“But you lo-ove me,” Dean drawls, leaning over to press an obnoxiously loud kiss on Cas’ cheek, and since the twins are hyper but not distracted or anything, they witness this perversion and erupt in a chorus of “Blegh, Dean!” and “Daddy, ew!” that has Dean cracking up.

Cas rolls his eyes. “I think we better leave before we’re kicked out of the store.” He shoves at Dean lightly to push the cart and tries not to let the giggle factory infect him on their way to the counter. It proves to be difficult.

Their cashier, fortunately, takes more kindly to the laughter than her co-worker had done (or not done) earlier. “Are we excited for school?” she asks the kids while Cas and (a finally calmer) Dean pile the merchandise on the conveyor belt.

“Yeah!” Max exclaims. “I’m going into second grade. Me and my sister.”

Rose thrusts out a pack of markers for Cas to take. “We’re shopping with our dads!”

“Rose-” Heat flares on Cas’ face as looks up frantically, gaze immediately honing in on Dean, and his stomach swoops at the sight of Dean’s hand stopping short halfway to the counter.

 

◇ ◇ ◇

 

Dean unfreezes just as the cashier says, “Oh, how wonderful!” He's further jerked from his thoughts by beeping barcodes and the whirring belt and he quickly seeks Cas out, their eyes meeting over the cart.

He attempts to convey his barrage of questions as best he can, namely ‘We heard the same thing, right?’ and ‘God, can it please be true? Are you ready for us to be...?’ It seems like an eternity passes before Cas moves, a helpless shrug as if to say ‘Well, we sort of are already,’ and the sheer relief that surges through every fiber of Dean’s body is strong enough for his knees to nearly buckle.

They don’t talk about it in the car, mostly because Rose and Max are chatting their ears off about the obscene amount of pizza they’re planning to eat at dinner, but Dean nonetheless stretches his arm across the console to hold Cas’ hand, mouth curving into a goofy grin as Cas wordlessly threads their fingers together.

 

◇ ◇ ◇

 

That night, Dean waits for Cas and the kids to fall asleep before slipping back downstairs, quietly pulling out his phone and dialing Sam. And when Sam picks up with a groggy “Dean? What’s up?” Dean smiles so widely that his face hurts and says, “Sammy, I need you to help me pick out a ring.”