“Cas, I really don’t think that this is a good idea,” Dean yelled down the hallway around a trio of nails caught between his teeth. He teetered slightly on the step stool and had to balance himself with his free hand against the wall.
“Why?” Castiel called back from another room.
“You know how people get when they talk to teachers outside of the classroom. It’s a fucking disaster every single time,” he answered.
Castiel appeared in the living room, trying to rub drying paint off his fingers with a rag. He was wearing a pair of Dean’s overalls and a plain white shirt that had now been turned a combination of tan, blue, and green from all the painting they’d been doing in their new house. “I have met with parents before the school year before, Dean. It’s not a problem.”
“You’ve never taught at a private, Catholic school before,” Dean pointed out. He spat out the nails into his hand. “I just think it would be best if you stayed as far removed from the parents as you could.”
“That is not how teaching works. I will always be in contact with the parents,” Castiel answered. He reached up and straightened the picture that Dean was trying to affix to the wall. “Hammer.”
Dean banged the nail into the wall with a bit more force than necessary and hung the picture accordingly. It was one of him and Castiel at Sam and Jessica’s wedding. Dean had been Sam’s best man, of course. They were both smiling, Dean as broadly as humanly possible, Castiel in his own quiet way that Dean loved more than pie. He trailed his fingers down the frame. “I’m worried that what happened last time will happen again.”
“I think that it won’t,” Castiel said. He looped two fingers through Dean’s belt loop and tugged him so that Dean was looking down at Castiel from the top of the step stool. “They know this time, that I am homosexual and that I have a partner.”
“You can get fired for a lot more when they know you’re a homosexual.” Dean got off the step stool and placed the remaining nails on the top step. “They start looking for reasons to fire you.”
“They would not have hired me if they intended to fire me.” Castiel picked up another picture from where it was leaning against the wall. He held it up and tapped it on Dean’s chest. “Come, we have much to do and I don’t think we should worry about this any longer.”
Dean huffed and climbed back up the ladder. He returned the nails to their place between his teeth. “Someone should worry,” he muttered.
Castiel smiled slightly when he knew Dean was looking as he held up the picture and situated it properly on the wall.
They had been living in their new neighborhood for a good two weeks before they ventured out to meet the neighbors. It was a painfully high class white neighborhood filled with perfect houses with perfect gardens and perfect families - perfect families that Dean was fully aware did not contain homosexuals. A middle aged woman with hair so stiff with product it could function as a helmet had appeared at their door several days after they moved in to present them with a cake and invite them to the neighborhood cookout which apparently happened every few weeks. Of course Castiel had automatically told her that they would be there. Dean had been too busy fuming over her expression when she saw the two men living in the same house to answer her. Dean had dumped the cake in the garbage before Castiel could stop him. Castiel hadn’t said anything about his reaction though.
So that was how they came to be standing in one of the nicest backyards Dean had ever seen, a low calorie, high class beer in hand, watching Castiel in a circle of couples a few yards away. They had arrived together but Castiel had made it clear that they were not going to act all couple-y. Dean wasn’t sure if he was relieved at the order or irritated that he had to change his behavior with Castiel because of a bunch of people he didn’t even know.
“So what do you do, Dean?” one of the men around the grill asked. All of the men around him were wearing some variation of polo shirts and khaki dress pants tucked in around midsections that were sure to become bulbous in a few years. Dean felt proudly out of place in his regular jeans and t-shirt.
“I’m a mechanical engineer,” he said, slightly loath to say that he just worked on cars. He worked on damn good cars but he was just a mechanic nonetheless. “Castiel’s a teacher but I’m sure you already knew that,” he added.
The men looked a little uncomfortable. “You and… Castiel, you said? Are the two of you -”
“We’re partners,” Dean said firmly. “Seven years and counting.” He took a hearty swig of his beer.
The other men were looking on with expressions of varying states of discomfort. Finally, one muttered, “Wish the wife would get better beer.”
Dean quirked an eyebrow. “You don’t just drink this stuff all the time?”
The man laughed quietly, immediately looking over his shoulder to make sure his wife wasn’t lurking nearby. “Let’s just say we get the real stuff when it’s just the men out without the ladies.”
“Damn, man. I was getting worried about you all,” Dean said with a grin. “I can’t take a man seriously if he drinks low calorie beer.”
And thus the ice was broken and Dean found himself suddenly accepted into the group of men who seemed to have decided that he was manly enough to be one of them. There was something strange about being the one who looked the straightest with his rough clothes and unshaven face and work boots when he was the only gay one. He glanced over at Castiel a few times but he couldn’t see that anything was distressing lover so he turned back around. He caught the other men looking at him curiously the first few times so he said cheerfully, “I’ve got someone to check up on too, dude.”
Castiel was not distressed by the ring of parents of high school students around him but he was certainly not comfortable. He would never be comfortable with these people, he assumed. He could see the judgement in their eyes. They were either there to gain brownie points for their children and to gain favors that they would undoubtedly try to trade in later for better grades for their failing son or daughter or they were there to ascertain if he would be a threat to their white-bread way of life with their husbands and wives and daughters and sons and dogs. So far, though, none had been brave enough to ask him about his sexual preference. He was sure that, by this point, everyone knew that he and Dean were partners but no one had asked him to confirm it yet. He wondered how Dean was doing.
“How did you get in to religious studies, Castiel?” one of the women asked him. She was cradling a red plastic cup of water like a lifeline.
Yet another question he got all the time. “I was raised Catholic in a big Catholic family but in high school and college I explored alternate religions and faiths and found that there is something to be learned from every different way of thinking, no matter how strange it may seem at first,” he answered diplomatically. He wasn’t about to tell him that he had been thrown out of his family after he had come out and that he had been furiously jaded towards most religions after that.
The general group seemed to have stopped thinking at “in high school I explored alternate religions.” A large, loud man with a red face made more violently colored by the pink hue of his shirt asked, “So do you encourage students to throw away their religions and drift around until they find something they like better?”
Castiel measured the amount of threat underlying that question before answering. “No. I teach my students the unbiased facts about each religion we will cover. I will never press your children into choosing any particular religion or looking into any of them any further than what we will cover in class unless, of course, they come to me of their own volition and ask for more information, in which case it is my duty as an educator to help them look into the subject. It is not my intention to preach at your children.”
“But you will teach them that homosexuality is social acceptable,” the man snapped. The rest of the circle went dead quiet. They could here the other groups of people speaking.
He regarded the man for several seconds in silence before answering carefully. “I try my best to not bring up my personal opinions in class. I may speak on the matter but only within the constraints of the religion we are covering and what it has to say on the matter.”
“What if they ask for your opinion?” a woman asked.
He sighed quietly. “I am asked about my opinion on sexuality every year by students. If they ask, I will answer them truthfully but that is the only thing that I am willing to give my opinion on. I’ve discovered that it is best to simply get it out into the open so that the students don’t have to use up brain power thinking about it all year.” He glanced around the people in front of him to where Dean was laughing with the larger group of men. “Obviously I think that homosexuality is socially if not religiously acceptable, or should be if it is not. But that is all I will say on the matter. It is not my intention to make a fuss about it.”
“How can you be a homosexual and teach religion?”
“There is more than one basic religion. You would be surprised what a variety of others have to say on the subject.”
“That’s not an answer to the question.”
Castiel shifted slightly. “I am not going to answer your question. I do not tell my students or their parents what my religious views are and I do not talk about my sexual orientation outside of making it clear that I am a homosexual and I think that it should be recognized as a viable lifestyle.”
Suddenly, Dean was at his side. Castiel let out a relieved breath. Dean could always tell when he was starting to become distressed by something. “Hello, all,” Dean said with that winning smile that could get him anything. “I’m Dean Winchester.” He placed one hand on the back of Castiel’s neck, not a friendly hand on the shoulder and not a half embrace that would surely make these people uncomfortable. “I’m going to borrow Cas for a minute if you don’t mind.”
Dean steered Castiel away from the circle. “You okay?” he asked. He glanced over his shoulder and noticed that pretty much everyone in the backyard was watching them.
“I’m ready to go home,” Dean said for Castiel’s benefit. His partner would never admit to wanting to escape from someone. Castiel nodded his agreement with a relieved expression. They returned to their respective groups to make their goodbyes and their excuses that they were still moving in and had a lot of things to do to make their house respectable.
Once they were safely in the car, Castiel slouched down in the seat and sighed heavily. “I am not usually so accosted in these meetings,” he confided.
“Well you don’t usually meet with people like this,” Dean said as he pulled away from the house with perhaps a bit more speed than was strictly necessary on the quiet street. “What were they saying?”
“Nothing that I have not anticipated coming before. They asked how I could be a homosexual and a religious studies teacher.”
“That doesn’t seem too bad.”
“It is not, on its own. But it was said with a great deal of force,” Castiel answered. “I am ready to be home and perhaps just sit on the couch with a cup of tea and a book.”
“I thought we had stuff to do when we got home,” Dean teased.
Castiel gave him a bland look. “At what point did we start making real excuses for leaving social functions?”