It starts out simply enough. That is to say, it starts with Cas being Cas and Dean’s mom jumping to conclusions that snowball from there. It would be incredibly embarrassing if it hadn’t worked out so well for Dean in the long run.
So, you know, Amara might have been right about what Dean needed most, even if he will never, ever admit that out loud.
Except to his mom.
It starts like this: after the initial shock wears off, and Dean confirms that yes, that’s his mom, and no, she’s not a ghost or a demon, he hotwires a car and drives her back to the bunker. His mom is quiet but composed, and is probably in about as much shock as Dean is in right now.
He deals with the shock the way he usually does, by pushing it into a little box in his mind and resolutely not thinking about it. He needs to find her something to wear, now that he’s established her identity, and let Sam and Cas know that he’s still alive, and probably run a few more checks to make sure she’s human.
But she’s his mom, so something other than a nightgown is definitely in order. Plus, the nightgown reminds Dean of his worst nightmares.
A stop at Wal-Mart solves that problem, and his mom looks a lot more comfortable now.
Dean can figure out how he feels about the fact he’s still alive and he has his mom back at some other, later date. Preferably with a drink in hand.
“We’re here,” Dean says as he pulls up in front of the bunker.
“What are you going to do with the car?” his mom asks.
Dean senses there’s probably a right answer, and he says, “I’ll leave it somewhere people can find it so it can be returned to the rightful owner.”
His mom nods. “Good.”
All of Dean’s plans go right out the window when he sees the blood on the floor and the angel-banishing sigil on the wall. “Oh, shit,” Dean mutters.
“What is it?” his mom asks. “What’s wrong?”
“Sam and Cas should have been here,” Dean replies distractedly and remembers that she might not be up to date on their latest exploits and allies. “Sammy! Cas!”
He begins to search the bunker, giving his mom a spare gun, uncertain whether he should hope to find the two of them here and injured, or not here at all. His search is interrupted by his mom shouting, and Cas’ familiar rumble demanding to know where Sam is.
Dean quickly intervenes, not wanting to find out whether a bullet will do Cas lasting damage. “He’s a friend,” Dean insists. “Cas, hey.”
Cas just stares at him as though he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing, and then he grabs Dean in a desperate hug.
Cas clearly hasn’t absorbed the three-second rule, meant to keep manly hugs from becoming awkward and unmanly, but Dean finds that he doesn’t mind. Cas is Cas—warm, strong, and familiar, and Dean lets the hug go on for longer than he usually would.
Finally, he pulls back and, brushing aside Cas’ questions, asks, “Where’s Sam?”
Cas shakes his head. “I don’t know.”
Dean has to focus on finding Sam, which means he can’t think about anything other than the immediate mission. It’s something of a relief, since there’s no time for long stories or detailed explanations. They all just have to go with it.
“You two seem close,” Mary comments later, when they have a quiet moment.
“Me and Cas?” Dean asks. “Yeah, sure, I mean, he’s like another brother.” He pauses, thinks about the hug, and adds, “Plus, he doesn’t really get the rules about human contact.”
“The rules?” she asks, sounding a lot less vague and a lot more amused.
Dean shrugs. “You know, the three-second rule for manly hugs. Hug, three pats on the back at most, then release.”
“Is that a rule?” she asks, smiling.
Dean glances at the floor. “Unspoken, but yeah. You know, angels. They don’t really understand personal space.”
“I see,” his mom says, her expression speculative.
That’s how it starts.
It’s easier for Sam, Dean will think later, when he finally has that drink in his hand. Sam doesn’t have any memories of their mom, and therefore nothing to compare her to. Dean stares at the pictures he’s kept squirreled away for the last three decades, and he drinks his beer, and he has no idea how to bridge the gap.
He’s not the man his mom hoped he’d be; that much is clear enough.
A couple of beers isn’t enough to get him drunk, but he’s exhausted from the last few days’ events, and he goes straight to bed, tucking the pictures away.
The next morning, Dean finds Sam and his mom already in the kitchen, sipping their coffee. “I told Mom you would make breakfast,” Sam says.
“Is that right?” Dean asks, pouring a cup of coffee for himself. “How come you aren’t cooking?”
“Because you’re the cook in the family,” Sam says with a smirk.
Mary gives Dean a look that he can’t quite parse. “Where’s Cas?”
“Cas?” Dean frowns. “Why do you ask?”
“He doesn’t stay here?”
Dean glances at Sam, who shrugs. “Cas usually does his own thing.”
“Does he have a place to stay?” Mary asks.
Dean doesn’t actually know if Cas does have a place to stay. As far as he can tell, Cas’ angel mojo isn’t what it used to be, since he’s relying on a truck to get around. “To be honest, I have no idea.”
“I think you should invite him for breakfast,” Mary insists.
Dean can’t really argue, nor does he want to. Cas has been great, and Dean figures the least he owes him is breakfast. “Yeah, I can do that.”
He dials Cas’ number and asks, “Where are you?”
There’s a pause. “Why are you asking?”
“Because Mom wanted me to invite you to breakfast,” Dean replies. “If you’re close, I’ll make enough for you.”
“Be there in ten minutes,” Cas says and hangs up.
Dean blinks at his phone and shrugs. “He’ll be here.”
“Where was he?” Sam asks.
“It’s Cas,” Dean replies. “Who knows?”
Although he suspects that Cas might have been sleeping in his truck close by; it’s the best explanation for why he’s only ten minutes away. Dean figures he’ll probably have to extend an invitation to stay at the bunker.
“You guys don’t mind if Cas stays here, right?” Dean asks.
Sam glances at Mary. “I don’t mind if Mom doesn’t.”
“Of course not,” she says. “He should stay. He helped save Sam’s life, after all.”
Dean gives her a sharp look, seeing something in her expression that indicates she’s got an agenda. “Yeah, well, I’ll ask him.”
Cas arrives just as Dean finishes the first batch of pancakes, and he’s pretty proud of them. They’re light, fluffy, and a perfect, even golden brown color on both sides. Sam immediately digs in, used to Dean’s cooking skills by now.
His mom is a little more hesitant, but she lets out an appreciative noise when she takes her first bite. “These are better than my mom used to make.”
Dean shifts uncomfortably. From what he’d seen on his trip back to the past, his grandma had been awesome, but it’s still a little weird to know he’d been named after his maternal grandmother.
“Hey, Cas,” Dean calls. “Are you hungry?”
Cas stands in the doorway to the kitchen. “I could eat.”
“Coffee?” he asks.
Cas sits down at the table, nodding at Sam and Mary. “Please.”
Dean pours another cup of coffee and puts a plate with a couple of fresh pancakes down for him. “Dig in.”
Sam pushes the syrup closer to him, and Mary passes the butter. “You got a place to stay, Cas?” Sam asks.
There’s a long pause, and Cas replies, “Does the truck count?”
“No, it doesn’t,” Mary says firmly. “You should stay here, there’s plenty of room.”
And Cas looks up to meet Dean’s eyes. “You wouldn’t mind?”
“No, man,” Dean says immediately. “Of course not. We’ve got plenty of room.”
“Thanks,” Cas says, holding Dean’s gaze.
They probably stare at each other for longer than is normal, and then Sam clears his throat, and Dean goes back to his pancakes. He swears under his breath when he realizes he’d burned them, and pretends he doesn’t hear Sam whisper, “You get used to it.”
The funny thing is, Dean knows exactly what Sam’s talking about.
He can’t even deny that he and Cas have something going on between them. Dean just doesn’t have a name for what it is.
Dean isn’t looking for cases right now, because Sam needs time to recover, and he wants to ease his mom into things a little more slowly in the future.
Obviously, he can’t stop her from hunting; she’d already refused to be left behind once, and Dean doesn’t see that changing any time soon.
Still, they all need time to adjust, and Dean’s plan for dealing is the same as it ever is—beers and a little time alone with Baby.
Only he’s not alone, because Cas perked up when Dean said he wanted to go for a drive and asked if he could come. Dean ignored the knowing look on Sam’s face and the speculative expression on his mom’s and agreed.
The air has just a bit of a chill to it as he and Cas lean on the hood of the car side-by-side, sipping their beers in companionable silence.
“Want to tell me why you were sleeping in the truck instead of taking one of the guest rooms?” Dean asks after they’ve both finished their first beers.
“I didn’t want to intrude,” Cas replies after a pause. “You said it was awkward between you and your mom. I didn’t want to add to that.”
“Dude, you’re not,” Dean insists. “I mean, okay, you’re kind of awkward, but that’s part of your charm.”
Cas turns toward him. “You think I have charm.”
“That’s not really what I meant,” Dean replies, and who’s the awkward one now? He tries to change the subject. “So, uh, what do you have going on now?”
Cas takes a long pull from his beer. “Nothing.”
Dean pauses. “Okay, I’m not really sure what to say to that. You’ve always had a mission.”
Cas won’t look at him. “I still have a mission.”
“But you said—”
“You’re still my mission, Dean.”
And goddamn if the way Cas says that doesn’t go straight to Dean’s dick.
There are all kinds of replies Dean could make to that, but he opts for the simplest. “You know, you can stay at the bunker as long as you want, and you’re pretty good in the field. You could hunt with us.”
The corners of Cas’ mouth tilt up. “I think I’d like that.”
Dean drinks a little less with Cas there than he might have alone, and he’s good to drive back.
“Dean, I’m sorry I couldn’t heal Sam,” Cas offers when they pull up in front of the bunker. “It was all I could do to repair the damage to myself and even that is waning.”
“I kind of figured what with the truck and all,” Dean says. “Is it a problem?”
“Only in the sense that I can’t help you as much as I would have been able to before,” Cas says. “Thanks for letting me stay.”
Dean glances at him. “Don’t make this needlessly complicated, Cas.”
Cas huffs out a laugh. “I’ll try to avoid it.”
Dean thinks things are plenty complicated already.
“Are you coming in?” Cas asks as he opens the door.
“I’ll be along in a minute,” Dean replies, wanting some time to regain his composure in case he runs into Sam or his mom.
Once he’s sure he’s good to go, Dean heads inside and finds his mom reading one of the tomes at the table.
“Hey,” he says, remembering Cas’ advice. Maybe if he thinks of her as a stranger, someone he needs to get to know, things will be easier. He can avoid needless complications, as Cas might say.
She looks up and smiles. “Hey. Did you two have a nice time?”
The way she asks it, Dean thinks it’s the way she’d have asked if he had a nice time on a date, if she’d been around when he’d been dating. He thinks about explaining that it’s not like that, but in this case, a denial might sound a lot like an admission.
“Yeah, we usually do,” Dean replies. “Not that we have a lot of down time to spend together.”
“Maybe you’ll get more now that he’s staying here,” Mary suggests.
“Maybe,” Dean agrees. “What are you reading?”
“One of the books I found in the library,” Mary says. “On various monsters. After reading John’s journal, I realized there’s a lot I don’t know.”
Dean shrugs. “Yeah, I think there’s a lot I don’t know, a lot hunters don’t know, no thanks to those asshole Men of Letters.”
“Do you know why they would have come after you?”
Dean thinks about the woman’s mention of Benny, and he has his suspicions. “No idea,” he says, not wanting to get into that whole thing with his mom. She doesn’t need another reason to be disappointed in him.
Besides, he doesn’t know anything for sure.
Mary doesn’t look like she’s buying it, but she lets it go. “Cas is nice.”
Dean feels a burgeoning panic. “Uh, yeah. I mean, he’s—he’s great.”
That’s probably the wrong thing to say, because it sounds like Dean might be interested.
Which he might be, but he’s pretty sure that this is absolutely not a conversation he wants to have with his mother.
Mary nods. “That’s good. It’s good to have a friend.”
“He’s a good friend,” Dean replies and realizes that he’s perilously close to babbling. “So, um, I’m going to bed. Sleep well!”
It’s in no way smooth, but Dean thinks he’s covered pretty well.
After all, Dean’s pretty sure how his dad would have responded to the news that he’s interested in men. He doesn’t want to know how his mom feels about it.
Of course, nothing good lasts for Dean. His mom takes off because she needs her space, and she only charges her phone half the goddam time because she forgets she even has a phone. Cas feels the need to track down Lucifer and hooks up with Crowley to do so—and Dean does not feel jealous, not a bit.
It’s a little easier to bear after they run into their mom at Asa Fox’s funeral, and she asks for more time.
At breakfast that morning, his mom casually asks about Cas. “Have you seen him lately?”
Dean frowns, disgruntled. “No, he’s off with Crowley trying to track down Lucifer. I thought since Rowena banished him, he might come home, but no.”
As soon as the words leave his mouth, Dean realizes his mistake. The bunker is their home; it’s not Cas’.
Neither Sam nor Mary says anything, though. “I’m sure he’ll get tired of Crowley’s company soon enough,” Sam says. “I know I do.”
“He’s a small doses kind of guy,” Dean agrees, breathing a sigh of relief.
Mary smiles. “Tell him hello from me next time you see him.”
Dean shifts in his chair. “Uh, yeah. Sure.”
The truth is, while Dean’s maybe a little annoyed by Cas’ absence—mostly because he’d have liked Cas to stick around for a while—he knows their paths will cross again.
Cas leaving is just how things go, but he always seems to turn up again. His mom leaving feels like losing her all over again.
But a case involving Lucifer means he and Sam are working with Cas again, and when that’s all over, it’s natural to invite Cas back to the bunker with them.
“Where is Mary?” Cas asks.
Dean shrugs. “Who knows? She said she needed time.”
Sam shoots Dean a look that’s half worry, half frustration. “Dude, we talked about this.”
“Dude, I’m cool with it,” Dean replies. “I’m just saying—she needed time. I get that.”
And he does; it doesn’t mean he has to like it.
What he doesn’t expect is to find his mom waiting for them at the bunker when they get back home, him and Sam in the Impala, and Cas in his old beater of a truck.
Dean bites back the first response that pops into his head, which is, “What are you doing here?” Instead, he opts for the more neutral, “I didn’t think we’d see you again so soon.”
“It’s coming up on Christmas,” Mary replies. “I wanted to spend the holiday with my boys.”
Dean shoots Sam a slightly panicked look, because he has no idea what to do with that. They don’t usually celebrate Christmas.
“That’s great,” Sam replies enthusiastically, giving Mary a swift hug. “It’s good to see you.”
Dean glances at Cas, who’s watching the exchange with his head slightly cocked, as though he’s trying to figure out the strange humans.
Dean hugs her, too, and then is amused when Mary does the same to Cas. “How are you, Castiel?”
Hesitantly, Cas says, “I’m well.”
“What do you boys usually do for Christmas?” Mary asks as they head inside the bunker.
Dean has a feeling that the truth will just disappoint her again, so he says, “We keep things pretty low key.”
Sam and Cas give him the same incredulous look—Sam because he knows exactly how little they usually do for Christmas, and Cas because he knows Dean’s history inside and out.
It’s not like Dean’s never had a good Christmas; he can remember the Christmas when he was three being pretty great, and the year he was 12 wasn’t so bad. And hell, the year before he went to hell didn’t completely suck.
The problem is, Dean can remember that Christmas he was a little kid and his mom was alive, and no holiday has ever lived up to that one.
“We should get a tree,” Sam says. “We haven’t had a tree in a long time.”
“Yeah, sure,” Dean agrees readily. “I can probably cook. Ham or turkey, Mom?”
“Turkey,” she says definitively. “We missed Thanksgiving this year.”
Cas is starting to look very uncomfortable. “Perhaps I should leave.”
“No, man, you’re family,” Sam says immediately, before Dean can protest. “Of course you should be here.”
“I agree,” Mary says, giving Dean a look he can’t quite read. “It wouldn’t be right if you spend the holiday somewhere else. I’m sure Dean would agree.”
Dean manages a smile and claps Cas on the shoulder. “Definitely.”
But he can’t help but feel as though his mom might be up to something.
His mom is definitely up to something, because there’s mistletoe hanging from the ceiling.
Granted, it’s in a location that’s easily avoidable, but he’s still not sure why there’s mistletoe hanging up at all.
When he asks, Mary’s answer is less than satisfactory. “It’s traditional,” she replies.
Dean frowns. “But there’s no one here to appreciate it.”
Dean stares at her. “Mom.”
She raises her eyebrows. “Dean.”
He has no idea what to say to her. He can’t deny that there’s a part of him that wants to catch Cas under the mistletoe, if only to see how he responds, but Dean knows how his dad would have reacted.
At least, he thinks he does. He’d never really wanted to find out, though, and there hadn’t been anybody he’d liked enough to take that risk.
Mary’s expression softens. “I like Cas quite a bit.”
Dean swallows. “Yeah?”
“Life’s too short to waste time,” Mary says, sounding a little wistful. “And hunters have less time than most.”
Dean can’t quite look at her. “You don’t mind?”
“Of course not,” Mary replies, reaching out to smooth Dean’s hair in a gesture so familiar, Dean feels a lump form in his throat. “It’s going to be a good Christmas.”
She sounds utterly determined, and Dean finds that he believes her. “Yeah, I think it will be,” he manages to say.
He feels like he has his mom back. It’s not a feeling he wants to trust, but he can’t help the warm glow that forms in his chest.
It turns out that Dean doesn’t have to figure out how to get Cas under the mistletoe because his mom does it for him.
Or, rather, she apparently has a word with Cas to clue him into Dean’s feelings, and then gives him a firm nudge in Dean’s direction. Dean never does get the full story out of either of them.
Hell, maybe it’s better if Dean doesn’t know.
It happens like this: they decide to have the turkey on Christmas Eve. No one looks for a hunt, and Dean’s pretty sure that Sam deliberately shut down all of the alerts he has running to give them a couple of uninterrupted days.
Dean cooks, Sam and Mary read, and Cas—well, Cas hangs out in the kitchen with Dean, unbending enough to remove his coat and tie and roll his sleeves up. If Dean stares at Cas’ forearms a little more than necessary, nobody needs to know.
He thinks Cas might be staring a little more than necessary as well, but it’s Cas, so it’s hard to say. Dean gets the turkey in the oven, and is contemplating on his next step, when Cas says, “Dean, may I talk to you?”
“Shoot,” Dean replies, somewhat distracted. He wants this meal to be good, a real Christmas meal.
“Not here,” Cas says. “In private.”
Dean looks around and realizes that both Sam and Mary have entered the kitchen to refill coffee cups and investigate the smell of roast turkey. “Uh, yeah, sure.”
He’s not really paying much attention to where Cas is going—see: distracting forearms—but then Cas stops cold and looks up, and Dean glances up, too, and—
“I’d like to experience this tradition,” Cas says. “Mary explained it to me.”
“I’ll just bet she did,” Dean mutters, laughing a little. The most he can remember John interfering in his love life was to hand Dean a strip of condoms and issue threats of serious maiming if Dean got a girl pregnant.
Apparently, moms are different.
Cas’ resolute expression falters. “Is this not okay?”
Dean shakes his head. “No, it’s fine. It’s just—I was trying to figure out how I was going to get you under the mistletoe.”
“I prefer the direct approach,” Cas replies.
“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me,” Dean says and closes the distance between them. “Did Mom put you up to this?”
“Mary and I reached an understanding,” Cas admits.
Dean releases a breath. “That’s good then,” and then he leans in.
The first kiss is tentative and a little strange; Dean has never kissed a guy before, and he’s familiar with Cas, but not in this way.
Cas pulls back after a few seconds, and he’s staring at Dean like he’s just had a revelation from Chuck, and leans back in. The second kiss is deeper, dirtier, hinting at a fire just waiting to be ignited.
If Dean had any questions about his attraction to Cas, or vice versa, they’re gone now.
The sound of a throat being cleared has Dean breaking the kiss off reluctantly. “Mom wants to know if you need any help,” Sam says.
Dean is pretty sure he’s blushing, which he hasn’t done since he was sixteen. “With—with this?”
Sam barks a laugh. “No, Dean, with dinner.”
Dean scratches the back of his head and glances at Cas, who’s wearing an expression that can best be described as “smug.”
“Uh, yeah. We should probably get the potatoes started,” Dean replies.
Sam rolls his eyes and mutters something that sounds like “it’s about time,” and Dean hazards another look at Cas.
“We should probably get your mother a thank you gift,” Cas says mildly, although there’s still heat lingering in his eyes.
“Probably,” Dean admits and heads back into the kitchen. He can feel Cas’ eyes on him, probably on his ass, and he can’t help but smirk.
Mary’s watching Sam peel potatoes when Dean enters the kitchen, and she raises an eyebrow in silent question.
Dean figures there’s only one answer to that, and he pulls her in for a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you,” he murmurs.
And Mary holds him tightly in response. “Some things just require a mother’s hand.”
Dean’s pretty sure this is going to go down as the best Christmas ever.