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Learning Curve

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Alright Winchester.  First day back.  Don’t let them see your nerves.  No fear.  Remember, they can smell fear.  Deep breath.  Three…two…one…go.  Dean pulled open the wooden door.

“Mr. Winchester!”  Eight excited voices cried in unison.  Dean was soon surrounded by a swarm of three year olds, all laden down with puffy winter coats and boots and colorful mittens just begging to get lost in all the hubbub that was the first day back from winter break.

“Mr. Winchester, look at my new mittens!  They’re pink.  My old mittens were purple, but then I lost one, and so we went to the store, and mommy got me pink ones instead, and then-“

“Mr. Winchester!  Did you know, that throwing snow at people is not very nice?  I threw snow at Jenny yesterday, and she said 'That’s not very nice!' and then-“

“Mr. Winchester, how big is the ocean?  My big brother told me it has sharks in it, and they will come get me and eat me up!  I don’t want the sharks to get me Mr. Winchester-“

“Alright boys and girls,” Dean cried over the eager chatter, “I’m glad you all had an exciting break!  Now who remembers the first thing we do in the morning?”

“Hang up all our stuff!” shouted a few of the children quickly.  Dean grinned.  His kids were wicked smart.

“Let’s get to it,” Dean said clapping his hands as the students all lined up by the hooks labeled with their name, dropping backpacks and lunchboxes and tangling their pudgy limbs in their coats. 

“Mr. Winchester, can you help me with my boots?”

“Me too!”

“Me too!”

“Mr. Winchester!”

Dean was distracted by the entrance of Ellen, his teaching aide, leading a small boy by the hand.  The kid looked nervous, eyes as round as dinner plates as he took in the chaos that was the first few minutes of any preschool day.  Ellen left the boy by the door, waving Dean over. 

“Is that our new guy?” Dean asked her.  Just a few days before the end of break Dean had been told he was getting a new student.    

“Yeah that’s Samandriel,” Ellen told him, saying the name carefully, “Though what his parents were thinking when they named him I cannot imagine.  Are we ready for him?”

“I’ve got everything but the folder,” Dean said, having already added Samandriel’s name to the helper chart and labeled a cubby for him, “I thought he was coming with his guardian so we could meet.  What gives?”  All of Samandriel’s paper work had been very specifically filled out by a legal guardian, not a parent.  Dean was eager to learn more about the boy’s family, lest he accidentally put his foot in his mouth, or worse, reignite some kind of trauma.   

“Beats me,” Ellen said, “I stopped into the office to check my mail and there he was.  Becky practically threw him at me.”  Ellen’s tone was dry as she talked about the flighty secretary, who of course would have no idea what to do with a three year old who got dropped off at the wrong door.  Dean chuckled.

“Okay leave him to me,” Dean told her, “Think you can handle boot patrol?”

“I managed it for you and that brother of yours for long enough,” she said, cuffing him lightly, though her voice was warm.  Dean didn’t have to be reminded that Ellen practically raised him and Sam after their own mother passed. 

“Get ready,” Dean warned her with a grin, “They’re gonna be super happy to see you.”  

“Don’t you worry about me,” Ellen said with a wry smile, “I’ve got a new bottle of bubble bath waiting for me at home tonight, along with an old bottle of scotch.  I’m ready for whatever these munchkins can dish out.”

As calls of “Mrs. Ellen!” echoed through the classroom, Dean turned to greet his newest student.  Samandriel was small, even for a three year old.  His thick winter coat seemed to overwhelm his delicate frame, leaving him looking somewhat like a red polyester marshmallow. Only his pale face poked out of the hood, with big blue eyes and sandy blonde hair. 

“Hi Samandriel,” Dean said, careful to say the kid’s name right.  Honestly, who did that to a baby? “I’m Mr. Winchester.  I’m gonna be your teacher.  Is that cool with you?”   

Samandriel considered him carefully, eyes roving over Dean’s khaki pants and dark grey sweater with suspicion.  Dean shifted self-consciously under the little boy’s piercing gaze.  He’d meant the question somewhat rhetorically, but clearly Samandriel was more of a literal kind of guy.  At long last, seemingly satisfied, he nodded, offering Dean a tentative smile.  Whew. 

“Alrighty,” Dean said, “Let’s get you out of that coat so you can make some new friends.  I bet if you look over there you’ll find a hook with your name on it.”

Samandriel’s eyes lit up with interest as he made his way to the coat rack.  Dean already felt the early stirrings of affection for the kid as he reached on tip toe to hang his backpack up.  Kid number nine.  Dean shook his head.  He remembered starting out two years ago with four kids registered, three hundred dollars out of pocket for a good calendar set, and the promise to Principle Singer that tacking a three-year-old program onto the existing Lawrence Elementary would profit them in the long run.  Everyone had warned him that parents would shy away from a man teaching kids this young, and that wasn’t even factoring in if they found out Dean was gay.  But early childhood education was the only thing Dean wanted to do, so he went every extra mile, attended every extra conference and workshop within driving distance, and tolerated the ogling of every middle aged female elementary school teacher in the tri-state area to ensure he offered the most kick ass program in the district.  And slowly but surely, Dean’s reputation was growing, along with his class size.  If they could get ten kids enrolled for next year, Dean would be entitled to a full time aide, which meant he could have Ellen with him every day, instead of just mornings three days a week.  Heaven on earth, in other words, at least in terms of teaching preschool.

Dean was pulled back to the present by a firm tug on his sleeve.  He looked down to see Samandriel looking at him determinedly, a bright yellow sheet of paper held up in his grasp.

“Castiel said I’m ‘apposed to give you this,” he said.  Dean took the sheet from the small boy, which turned out to be a note written in hasty, angular handwriting. 

Mr. Winchester,

I apologize for missing our meeting this morning.  I admit I was a bit…confused as to where to locate the school’s car rider door and by the time I determined the entrance I was being called to a meeting at work.  If convenient, I would love to meet with you when I pick Samandriel up this afternoon. 

Thank you,

Castiel Novak

P.S.  Sometimes with other children, Samandriel has an easier time if he goes by “Sam”.

So this was Samandriel’s mysterious guardian.  Seriously, Castiel?  Samandriel?  Who came up with these names?  Dean shook his head as he led Samandriel back the coat rack to help him with his boots. 


By eight fifteen all nine of Dean’s students were gathered on the carpet for calendar.  Dean stood in the middle, his hands on Samandriel’s shoulders as the other students looked curiously at this newcomer. 

“So you guys probably noticed that we have a new friend with us today,” Dean said, and several of the kids nodded eagerly.  He asked the boy, “Can you say hello to the class?”

Samandriel looked up at Dean in despair, as if to ask “How could you do this to me?”.  Sorry kid, Dean thought, but these are the basics of social development.  Them’s the breaks.

“H-hello,” Samandriel said, stepping back closer to Dean.

“I’m Andy,” one of the boys immediately piped up, “What’s your name?”

“ Sam-Samand-uh-“ Dean squeezed the boy’s shoulder reassuringly, “I’m Samandr-“

“How come he can’t say his name right?” A nasally little girl’s voice interrupted him.  Bella, of course.  Little Samandriel looked ready to start bawling.  Dean needed to head this one off at the pass. 

“Hey, buddy,” Dean said kneeling down to the boy’s level, “Samandriel’s a tough one.  You’ll get the hang of it.  It says here you like to be called ‘Sam’, right?”

Samandriel nodded, his lower lip still trembling a little. 

“Boys and girls, can everybody say hello to Sam?”  Eight voices chimed up hello is unison.  Dean smiled at their welcoming faces.  Only Bela still seemed skeptical of the newcomer.  Time for the icing on the cake. 

“Can anybody here tell me somebody else they know who’s named Sam?” Dean asked the kids.  Their little faces screwed up in concentration.  Dean could practically hear the gears grinding.  It was Andy who finally chimed in:

“Your brother!”  Bingo.  Dean silently blessed the day he had convinced Sam to take a day off from the firm and volunteer during the class Christmas party.  Mr. Winchester’s “baby” brother had been an instant hit, and to this day the kids still asked about him.  Eight faces were trained on Samandriel now, in various expressions of awe.

“You’ve got the same name as other Mr. Winchester,” Andy said to Samandriel, “That’s Mr. Winchester’s brother.  …Wow.”  Dean could practically see Samandriel puff up as the other kids exclaimed their amazement.  He still stayed close to Dean though, fitting his chubby hand inside Dean’s roughened one.  Dean smiled again.  Looks like he had a new best friend for the rest of the year.


Castiel Novak made his way cautiously down the brightly painted cinderblock hallway, trying to remember which door the eager secretary had told him would lead to the three-year-old pre-kindergarteners.  They all looked the same, and the dozens of children making their way to and fro in the end of the day bustle wasn’t helping Castiel’s confusion. 

“You look a little lost.”  Castiel turned to find a tall, well built man wearing automobile decorated nurse’s scrubs and an easy smile.  “Looking for someone?”

“Yes, thank you,” Castiel said with relief, “I’m looking for Mr. Winchester’s room.”

The man looked surprised, but smiled again. “Well I should be able to help you out,” he said, offering Castiel a hand, “Dean Winchester.  Nice to meet you.”

So this was Mr. Winchester.  Castiel shook his hand firmly.  “Castiel Novak.”  He saw Mr. Winchester’s eyes light up with recognition.

“You’re Samandriel’s guardian,” he said, carefully pronouncing Samandriel’s name, as well as emphasizing the word ‘guardian’.

“Yes, I’m his brother,” Castiel clarified, and Mr. Winchester nodded. 

“Well I’m sure he’ll have a lot to tell you after his first day,” said Mr. Winchester, “My room is just this way.”

Castiel followed the man down the busy hallway, noting the many female glances that followed Mr. Winchester as they went, teacher and student alike.  He supposed the man was quite handsome, with his strong jaw and bright green eyes, not to mention all the paternal tendencies promised by a career in early childhood education.  Castiel could understand the appreciative eyes of the other teachers, and a few of the older girls who sighed adoringly as they walked past.

They arrived to a door decorated with a large ‘Welcome Back!’ made out of paper letters, with eight photographs of smiling children spaced in between. 

“I grabbed Sam’s photo today,” Mr. Winchester told him as they made their way inside, “So he should be on the door as well by the end of the week.”

“Wonderful,” Castiel said as he took in the classroom.  The walls were a cheerful yellow, and the room was filled with brightly colored bookcases at child height that held everything from storybooks to wooden block sets to play dishes and food.  Castiel was admiring the bulletin boards, which were covered in large laminated images of well known children’s book characters, when an excited voice called to him from across the room.

“Castiel!” A little body collided with Castiel’s knees, almost knocking him off balance as Samandriel gripped him in a tight embrace.  Castiel extricated himself from the boy’s grip so he could kneel down to his level, giving his bulky winter coat clad form a proper hug. 

“Hello Samandriel,” Castiel said, “How was your first day?”

“It was…good,” Samandriel said, as if he almost seemed surprised, “Me and Andy played with blocks, and Mr. Winchester read us stories, and for snack, we had mandarin oranges.  I told Mr. Winchester those were my favorite, and he gave me and extra slice.” Samandriel confided this last piece of information conspiratorially to Castiel before looking to Mr. Winchester, who winked at him as he removed his paint covered car scrubs, stowing them in a small locker by the door.  Castiel was pleased.  Samandriel seemed happy, and he hadn’t been this talkative in months.  Mr. Winchester was by the door now, wearing a clean, dark grey sweater as he waited to talk with Castiel.

“Samandriel,” Castiel asked his brother, “Do you mind sitting with your friends for a few more minutes while I talk to Mr. Winchester?”

“Okay,” Samandriel said with a smile, “Andy wasn’t done telling me about dinosaurs anyway.”

Castiel watched as Samandriel ran back to the carpet, where a few children still waited for their parents to arrive.  He began talking excitedly with a small boy with messy brown hair.  Castiel couldn’t believe Samandriel was already being so social. 

“He had a very good day,” Mr. Winchester commented as Castiel approached, “The kids already love him.”

“I can’t believe how talkative he is,” Castiel told him, “He’s usually very withdrawn around new people.”

The man shrugged good naturedly.  “Sometimes it just takes the right group.”

“He really did alright?” Castiel asked Mr. Winchester, “He didn’t have any problems with uh…his name?”

“There were a few questions,” he admitted, “Nothing we couldn’t handle.”

Judging by Samandriel’s happy expression as he sat with the other children, Castiel assumed Mr. Winchester was correct. 

“He’s had some trouble in the past,” Castiel told him, “I’ve never known quite how to help with it.”

“I’m keeping an eye on him,” Mr. Winchester assured him, “And if Sam tells you about any problems you can come straight to me.  No one gets left out in my class.”

Castiel felt a surge of warmth for the man.  Castiel was trusting him with the most precious thing in his life, and he could tell Mr. Winchester appreciated how frightening that could be.

“As for the name,” Mr. Winchester continued, “I’ve got a book I think you and Samandriel might like to read at home.”  He shuffled through a pile of folders and books before pulling out a bright pink and orange one, offering it to Castiel.

“Chrysanthemum?” Castiel stared at the cover curiously.

“Yeah,” Mr. Winchester told him, “Kevin Henkes is a great author.  He’s one of my go-to’s.  Anyway, it’s about a kindergartener whose name barely fits on a nametag.  I thought Samandriel might find somethin’ in common with that.”

“Yes, this is wonderful, thank you,” Castiel said with a smile, “I’m always looking for new things to read with Samandriel.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for more then,” Mr. Winchester said, “We’re all about literacy in here.”

“Maybe you could help me look for some stories about…unusual families?” Castiel asked hesitantly, “It can be confusing for Samandriel sometimes, and I have a hard time explaining why he has a big brother instead of a mother and father.”

“Of course,” Mr. Winchester said kindly, “I uh, I kind of wanted to ask you about that.  I don’t mean to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong, but I don’t want to put Samandriel in any uncomfortable situations if I can avoid them.”

“It’s no problem,” Castiel assured him, “Our parents married very young.  I’m the oldest of six, counting Samandriel.”

“There’s a pretty big age gap between the two of you,” Mr. Winchester observed, and Castiel nodded.

“Yes, twenty five years,” Castiel agreed, “My mother found out she was pregnant with Samandriel after she had already been diagnosed with a very serious illness.  She declined treatment so she could carry him to term.”

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Winchester said softly, and something in his eyes convinced Castiel that he knew more about that kind of pain than he let people know.

“She lived long enough to meet him,” Castiel continued, “And she named him.  But she died not long after.  We were fortunate that Samandriel was healthy, given my mother’s age and condition.  My father tried to raise him on his own, but he was no longer young himself, and he never recovered from my mother’s death.  When Samandriel was a little under a year old he died, of a heart attack the doctors said.  In his will my father named me Samandriel’s sole guardian.”

“That must have been a shock,” Mr. Winchester said with sympathy.  Castiel puffed up a little. 

“It was an honor,” he said firmly, “And now I can’t imagine my life without him.  I am…not Samandriel’s father.  But I want to fill that void for him, as best as I can.”  Castiel looked up to see Samandriel’s teacher staring at him intently, some indescribable emotion in his eyes. 

“Yeah,” he said, “Yeah, I get it.”  Mr. Winchester cleared his throat suddenly, and Castiel released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. 

“Anyways,” Mr. Winchester continued, “I appreciate you telling me about this.  It’s a big help when I know the whole story, and like I said: if Sam has any trouble, you let me know.”

“I will,” Castiel said, “Although Samandriel already seems more comfortable here than any program we’ve tried.  Thank you, Mr. Winchester.”  Castiel shook the man’s hand once more before calling for Samandriel.

“Did you make new friends today?” he asked as they walked back down the hall.

“Yeah!” Samandriel said, “Andy and Kevin, and Mrs. Ellen and Mr. Winchester too.”

“I’m glad,” Castiel said, “Mr. Winchester gave me a book for us to read together.  He thought you might like it.”

“Cool!  Do you think, when Anna comes over tonight, we could read it with her?”  Samandriel asked excitedly.”

“Of course,” Castiel told him.  Samandriel kept a tight hold on his hand as they made their way through the crowded halls.  It reminded him of Mr. Winchester’s strong shake from moments earlier.    

In retrospect, Castiel thought as they headed out to the parking lot, Mr. Winchester had held onto his hand for just a second longer than was really necessary. 


“Seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders.”

“Seems that way,” Dean agreed.

“Pretty good lookin’ too.”

“Yeah I’ll s-” Dean caught himself just in time, glaring at his smug aide, “Shut up Ellen.”

“Don’t sass me boy.”

Dean sighed.  “Yes ma’am.”


Please Cas I can’t wait anymore-Christ-Need you-please-“

Castiel tightened his grip on the man’s hips, holding him down against the car’s leather seats with bruising force as he laid a teasing kiss on the inside of his thigh.  The man stared down at him, green eyes almost black with lust and frantic with need.

“Please Castiel,” Dean Winchester begged him, hips thrusting uselessly against Castiel’s grip, “Fuck, just touch me please…”

Castiel gripped the base of Dean’s cock, and the man let out a whine of ecstasy as Castiel finally wrapped his lips around Dean’s hot, aching-

Castiel Novak awoke in his bedroom with a racing pulse and an uncomfortable stickiness in his boxers.  Well that hadn’t happened in a while.  He fumbled around in the dark of his room, changing into fresh bottoms before heading down to the kitchen.

Castiel ran himself a glass of water from the tap, gulping down the cool liquid eagerly as his pulse eased.  He tried not to think about his strange dream.  He didn’t even know this Dean Winchester, except that his program came highly recommended and that he had made a special effort to make Samandriel feel comfortable in his class.  And that his handshake had been firm and strong.  And that his smile seemed to light up the room.  And that his voice was soft and rough like-

Castiel shook his head.  He felt buzzy and unsettled.  He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this way.  Not in years.  Not since Meg had-

“Castiel?”  Castiel turned to find Samandriel staring at him from the kitchen door, his eyes wide.

“Samandriel?  Why aren’t you in bed?  Is everything alright?” Castiel asked in concern.  Samandriel’s bottom lip quivered.

“I had a bad dream,” the boy whispered, looking back into the dark hallway with unease.  Castiel immediately reached out, gathering Samandriel in close as the three-year-old ran into his waiting arms.  Lifting him up, Castiel rubbed gentle circles into the small boy’s back as Samandriel sniffled against his shoulder. 

“It’s alright,” Castiel murmured, placing a kiss in Samandriel’s fair hair. 

“It was dark, and I couldn’t find you,” Samandriel confessed, his voice muffled slightly from burying his face in Castiel’s t-shirt. 

“I’m here now,” Castiel assured him, wrapping his arms around the child more tightly, “There’s no need to be afraid.”  Samandriel clung to him, as if to ensure that Castiel wasn’t going to disappear, before taking a deep, shaky breath.   

“It’s very late Samandriel.  We should both go back to sleep.  Would you like some water?” Castiel asked.  Samandriel considered his offer, his nose still tickling against the fabric of Castiel’s pajamas.

“Can I have it in a grownup cup?” he asked after a minute.  Castiel smiled, before reaching into the cupboard for a small glass.  He sat Samandriel down carefully on the counter as he filled the glass partway full.  Samandriel took the cup carefully in both hands, Castiel retrieving his own glass, and the two sipped their water quietly for a few minutes, the only noise in the kitchen the soft hum of the refrigerator.  At long last Samandriel held his glass back up for Castiel to take, and after placing both glasses in the sink, Castiel lifted his brother once more and they headed back upstairs.  When Castiel paused in front of the first bedroom door, Samandriel let out a little whimper, arms wrapping tight around his neck. 

“What’s the matter Samandriel?” Castiel questioned the small boy gently.

“I’m still, uh, a little bit scared,” Samandriel admitted, plucking at the neck of Castiel’s pajama top, “Can I stay with you, Castiel?”  As usual, the minute Castiel looked down into those big blue eyes he was lost. 

 “Alright,” Castiel agreed, “Just this once.”  They headed to Castiel’s room, and soon they were both tucked safely into the queen-size bed.  Samandriel immediately curled up against Castiel’s chest, his breaths already slowing as he relaxed, safe in his brother’s arms.  Castiel felt himself start to drift off quickly as well, his confusion from his earlier dream soothed by Samandriel’s warmth and trust.  Just before he fell into slumber, he heard Samandriel whisper next to him very quietly.

“I love you, Castiel.”  Castiel smiled in the dark room.

“I love you too, little one.”