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Order of Protection

Chapter Text

His whole world changed with a single phone call.

If Castiel Novak-Winchester had been any less busy, he would have had the forethought to glance at the caller ID and promptly ignored it.

But he wasn’t.

Instead, Castiel reached out for the phone automatically, pulling it from its cradle and anchoring it on his shoulder to keep his hands free (maybe he should invest in a headset like his friend Meg over in sales) before saying distractedly, “Novak.”

“You answered your phone, thank fuck,” Gabriel’s voice echoed over the line and Castiel had to hold back a groan. At least his brother in law wasn’t goading him for saying only part of his last name as he usually did. Small miracles, Castiel supposed. When he and Dean had gotten married, it had just been easier at work to continue to go by Novak, even though he’d officially changed it to include Winchester.

“I’m busy, Gabe,” he said flatly.

“I know, I know, but uh…have you been in contact with your family recently?” Instead of taking the hint, Gabriel pushed forward.

“Not particularly, no.” Castiel continued typing up his email, relegating the conversation to background noise.

“Then you haven’t heard what happened?” Gabriel asked incredulously, “Like, nothing at all?”

The unusual seriousness of Gabriel’s tone finally penetrated the work haze Castiel had been wrapped in and he pulled his hands from the keyboard to properly hold the phone, leaning back in his chair.

“What’s going on?”

“Okay, well, first I should probably warn you to expect a representative of CPS to contact you sometime soon.”

Those were not the words Castiel expected to come out of his brother in laws mouth. “Gabriel, I can’t believe you. I’m too busy for this. This is peak time here at Sandover and I don’t have time for your pranks.”

“Don’t hang up on me, Cassie! You’re the only hope those kids have got!” Gabriel’s tone was till serious, now tinged with panic.

“I think you better start at the beginning,” Castiel growled in frustration.

“Okay, okay! I’m sorry, things are just crazy down here. So…our wonderful and upstanding siblings –“ the sarcasm and distaste colored Gabriel’s words strongly and Castiel immediately knew which siblings Gabriel was referring to. “ - your sister and my brother – had the kids taken away from them a couple of days ago and CPS is looking to home them with family preferably, if they can prove to be better than Lucifer and Lilith were.”

“Those poor children,” Castiel breathed, thinking of his two sweet – if rather rambunctious – nieces. “What happened? I knew our siblings were…less than stellar but I had no idea things were that bad.”

“Yeah so, it was this long string of events that led to CPS becoming involved. I think I can boil it down to your sister not having any place to bring the kids so she crashed at my brothers’ place. They lost power – I don’t know what happened. An issue with the building or if they were unable to pay the bill – and they were operating off a generator, but it’s colder than a witches’ teat out here right now and the generator was deemed by the social worker not to be good enough.”

“Not that I disagree, but how did anyone know to even check in on the kids?” Castiel couldn’t stop himself.

“The kids have been missing school recently, so they sent someone to check up on the family situation. Suffice it to say, they didn’t like what they saw so they moved Lilith and the kids into some sorta residence. It had all these rules and shit and I didn’t expect that to last long. But one of the other residents was the one to actually call CPS on Lilith.” Gabriel sighed.

“Why?” Castiel prodded.

“The kids were wandering the residence unsupervised, asking everyone for food. When they were asked where their mother was, the kids said ‘She’s sleeping and she won’t wake up.’ So Lilith was made to take a drug test – which she failed – and now she refuses to take another one and so does Lucifer. After some more investigation – I won’t bore you with the details, I don’t even know them all anyway – CPS decided to file an Order of Protection against the parents. Neither of them can have any contact with their kids.”

“Fuck,” Castiel breathed.

“Aaaaand that’s why I’m calling you.” Gabriel finished.

“Gabriel, I’m 3 states away…what possible information can I give CPS that would help my nieces?” Castiel was feeling a bit dense. He appreciated that Gabe had called him to let him know what was up, but he didn’t see what was to be done about it.

“It’s not what you can say, Cas, it’s what you can do. You and Dean. You can take the kids. God knows I’m not responsible enough to take care of a couple of kids, no matter how adorable they can be – “

“You would probably be better than Lucifer or Lilith,” Castiel snorted.

“Anything would be better than those two.” Gabriel admitted.

“What about your brother Michael?”

“Michael already has a house full of kids. He doesn’t have any place for two more – who will likely need a lot of attention to undo any damage the two ‘L’s have done. And unless she contacted you recently, no one can find your sister Anna. And your dad’s too sick for a couple of energetic bundles of joy.” Castiel closed his eyes at the reminder of his father, Chuck’s, health. He’d had open heart surgery last year and still hadn’t completely recovered from it. Gabriel continued, “It’s not like either of us have got very big families to begin with so…that leaves you. If you can’t take them, Emma and Grace will be given to strangers and who knows if we’ll ever see them again!”

“Gabriel, if they move in with Dean and I, that won’t change all that much. When was the last time we visited Long Island?” Despite his words, Castiel was already thinking of what it would be like to bring the two young girls into his and Dean’s home. Wondered what his husband would think about it.

“We’ll visit you! Mountain and Mohammed, right?”

“What?”

“Never mind. It’s still better than never. And I’ll help your dad get up there to visit. I know the doctors told him not to travel too far on his own. So, he won’t be on his own.”

Castiel laughed a little at that, “Sometimes, I think you’re more part of my family than your own.”

“Hey, what can I say, there’s just something about the Novak’s – minus Lilith, of course. I still don’t get how she’s related to you guys.”

“Sometimes, neither do I. We had a few of the same teachers in school – she went through after I did – and it always confounded our teachers when they figured out we were related.” Castiel paused and shook his head, “Look, Gabe, I appreciate the heads up. I’ll be on the lookout for CPS and I’ll do what I can, but in the meantime, I’ve got a lot of work to finish so I can get home and talk to Dean, figure out what our options might be, what we need to be prepared.”

“Right, right, and hey! If all goes well, maybe you can just adopt the kids – I know you and Deano have been saving up for it, and this would be better for Emma and Grace in the long run, if they could finally have a stable environment.”

“That’s…an idea.” Castiel said slowly, “Though it may take some work. If our siblings fight us on it – “

“Ppbbth…how can they fight you if they’ve had the kids taken away?” Gabriel scoffed.

“Whether they have a leg to stand on or not, won’t mean they won’t try and that could tie things up for a while and it might upset the children.” Castiel pointed out.

Gabriel grumbled in response, “Yeah, yeah, all right then. I’ll let you go, so you can get your ass moving. Keep me posted and I’ll do the same, as always.”

“Thank you, Gabriel.”

Castiel hung of the phone, his mind reeling with possibilities. He stared at it sitting innocently in its cradle and wondered if he should call Dean at work or just wait till they met up at home. Castiel looked back at his monitor and realized he wasn’t going to be able to concentrate for the rest of the day. Still, did he want to knock off now, or save the time for later? He might wind up needing it.

Lost to his internal debate, he jumped when the phone rang again. This time, he did check the caller ID but it yielded no results. With a sigh, he answered it with a frazzled, “Hello?”

“Castiel Winchester?”

“Speaking.”

“This is Pamela Barnes from Child Protection Services. I’d like to talk to you in regards of Emma and Grace Novak.” The woman’s voice was expected, thanks to Gabriel’s’ warning, but Castiel nearly startled at the reminder that his sister had never married, leaving the kids to take on the Novak name.

“Yes, are they all right?” Castiel questioned, leaning forward anxiously in his seat.

“That depends on your definition of all right.” The woman’s voice was a little hollow as it came out over the phone. “They are currently in our custody. We have done some preliminary research on you and your husband, taken a few character statements from your families, and have come to the tentative conclusion to offer the girls up to your care pending an at home inspection and in person interview by a local representative. If you are interested in taking the children, it would be for their best interests to remain with family.”

“Ah, yes, well, I have to talk to Dean, but I don’t foresee any problems bringing my nieces into our home. Dean and I have been trying to adopt, so we’re more than ready to provide for them.” Castiel’s heart beat fast, the thudding in his chest so loud he was amazed it couldn’t be heard over the phone.

“Yes, I did see a notation about that in your files.”

Castiel blinked. Files? CPS had files on him? Or someone else did? He was so confused. Why would anyone have files on him? He supposed CPS would have created one to investigate Lilith and her situation but Pamela’s words implied someone else had compiled that data. “I uh…yes. So, about when should I expect to see someone?”

“We actually have a representative in the area for another case. How would 6pm tonight sound? We like to get these things sorted as fast as possible. It’s better for the children.” Pamela’s voice didn’t even hesitate.

Neither did Castiel.

“Of course.”

As he hung up, he realized, there was no putting this off till later. Castiel had to talk to Dean now. He picked up the phone so he could make arrangements with his boss for the rest of his day - giving a bare overview of the situation since it might further affect his work time - even as he reached forward to start saving his work and shutting the computer down. 

If he was lucky, he could get out of here by 2 and make it down to the garage to talk to Dean in person. Castiel didn’t feel this was something to be done by phone. That should give Dean and him plenty of time to talk things out, adjust to the suddenness of the situation and be home and prepared for whoever CPS was sending.

He realized, with a bit of dread, that he’d never been given a name of who they were going to meet. Castiel shook his head, packing up his briefcase. What did it matter? He’d know the name in a few hours and it wouldn’t make much of a difference to know it now. It’s not like he knew anyone who worked for CPS.

Chapter Text

Dean could barely hear himself think today. Business at the garage was booming and every bay was filled. Benny and Garth had a radio war going on, which was why Dean had separated them to opposite ends of the shop. Benny was buried in the guts of a soccer mom van closest to the door to the inner rooms – the offices, reception desk and the waiting room, and the ever-popular public restroom. His radio was playing Blues as loud as he could while Garth, in the last bay furthest from the door, was countering with country music and dancing around a small sedan.

Neither of the vehicles were anything particularly impressive, but Dean supposed not everyone could own a car as cool as his vintage 67 Chevy Impala. Dean himself had forgone the usual classic rock he blasted, not wanting to add more noise to the mix and push the headache that had been threatening to break since that morning over the edge.

Instead, he lifted the old Cadillac some old timer had brought in up so he could start taking the tires off. Next to him, Ash was explaining to one of their customers about the power steering leak their hatchback had developed. Dean lost himself in the work, finding a zen sort of space, grateful that Jo was running the front for him today.

He was startled out of the zone by a hand on his shoulder and he jumped. A curse ready on his lips to chew out an employee who should know better than to scare a man working around heavy equipment. But when he spun around to see Cas, the curses died unsaid. Cas looked unusually serious today, and more than a little worried and Dean reached forward to brush Cas’s hair back. “Hey, angel, you okay? I thought you were at work? What’s the matter?”

Dean racked his brains for any reason Cas would be at the garage instead of at work and then it struck him and he gasped. “Oh fuck, Cas, not your dad -?” Dean nearly melted in relief when Castiel shook his head and tugged at his arm. He wasn’t even going to bother trying to be heard. It was too noisy to have a real talk in here and Dean agreed. “Okay, gimme a sec, babe? Meet me in my office.” Still without a word, Cas turned away and that worried Dean even more.

He searched for a rag and wiped his hands off, looking over at Benny to make sure he wasn’t at any critical points before Dean interrupted him. When it was safe to do so, Dean approached him and called out his name.

Benny turned, “What’s up brotha?”

“Cas is here. Something’s wrong. I might have to head out early. Could you call in Charlie to man the front, have Jo take over in here?” Dean stepped in close to be heard, Benny turning the music down to make it easier.

“Sure thing, Dean. You take care o’ Cas.” Benny’s face was filled with concern. Dean nodded at him in thanks and stepped away, heading back to his office as fast as he could.

When he made it inside the office, closing the door tightly behind him and ignoring Jo’s questions, he found Castiel seated in his chair, leaned on the table, fingers steepled in front of his mouth. Castiel looked up when he heard the door shut and let out a sigh of relief. It didn’t relieve Dean much, since his husband still looked unsettled and worried. But whatever it was, Dean couldn’t have been the cause, since seeing him had obviously made Castiel feel better. And if seeing made him feel better…

Dean wasted no time in getting to Cas’s side, his husband shooting him a grateful look. Dean pulled the darker haired man into him, gathering him closely, arms coming up to wrap around him in return. “Angel?” Dean dropped a soft kiss to the top of Cas’s dark head, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing – I mean, oh god, it’s a long story.” Cas drew in a shaky breath, taking comfort in Dean’s arms and tried again, “We’re going to have a visitor tonight. I’m sorry its such short notice, I didn’t know either. But uh…do you remember my nieces?”

“Emma and Grace, right?” Dean was slow to answer, trying to parse together what Cas was and wasn’t saying. “Of course I remember them. They’re coming to visit tonight? What was your sister thinking, springing this on us?”

“Well, Lilith, actually, has no say in the matter. Neither does their father. And it’s not the kids. Not yet. We’re being checked out to see if we meet with CPS approval and if we pass, then we get the kids. If we want them.” It was then that Castiel pulled back slightly in Dean’s arms to get a look at his face, his own was worried and hopeful.

“What did Lilith – never mind, that’s not important right now. Of course we want them. Where else would those kids go?” There was no hesitation in Dean’s voice and Castiel sagged further into Dean’s arms in relief. Wanting to adopt an infant, or trying for kids with a surrogate, was different then taking on children with problematic pasts. He suspected, since Dean had a big heart, that he would be okay with it but there was always that bit of worry. Dean was, after all, not a fan of Castiel’s sister. And honestly, not one person related to her or knew her for very long could fault Dean for it.

Castiel spent the next twenty minutes in Dean’s strong, warm arms, telling him about the two phone calls he’d received that afternoon. Dean nodded thoughtfully and looked at the clock. Cas had made it to the shop a little later than he’d planned, thanks to his boss, and it was nearing 4 as they wound up their discussion. Not that it was over. They had a hell of a lot more to cover. But that could be done in the comfort of their own home, instead of Dean kneeling on the cold, hard floor beside his own desk.

Not that being on his knees next to Cas didn’t give Dean ideas, but now was not the time.

In short order, Dean checked in with his mechanics and Charlie, making sure they had everything under control and giving Charlie instructions for closing up the shop. She looked back at the open office door with concern, Jo obviously having told her Cas was inside.

“Is everything all right?” she asked. She didn’t want to pry, and normally she’d have made some sort of joke, but Jo had seemed concerned and if she was concerned, then Charlie was too. Besides, Dean and Cas were family. “Was it bad news?”

“Technically, I guess? But not for us. Look, nothings set in stone so we don’t want to talk about it just yet.” Dean’s attempts to placate Charlie backfired.

She gasped, eyes widening. “Did the adoption thing go through?”

Dean groaned and wiped down his face at the conclusion she’d jumped to. “No, Charlie. You don’t hear back from adoption agencies that fast. So I hear anyway.”

She deflated and let out a small, dejected, “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Dean echoed, “To be frank, I wasn’t holding out much hope, what with Cas and I being…” Dean didn’t even finish. He didn’t have to.

Charlies face flushed with anger, eyes narrowing, “Being what?” she bit out.

“You really need me to say it? You’re not that dumb.” Dean was resigned. He’d had this argument with her before.

“Being a same sex couple doesn’t preclude you to the right to be able to adopt children. Single people do it all the time.” Charlie was still fuming. She felt this strongly and Dean didn’t blame her. He did too.

“Yeah, but it’s harder for them. And more so for us. There’s prejudice in the system.” Dean protested.

“Which is when you bring in Sam. Lawyer school’s gotta be good for something. And if it’s not helping out family when needed, then I don’t know what is.” Charlie pointed out.

“We’d have to prove it was discrimination first. And in any case, I don’t have time for this. I gotta get Cas home and we gotta get ourselves ready for an unexpected appointment.” Charlie opened her mouth and Dean forestalled her, holding up his hand and not pausing to take even a breath, “And no, I can’t tell you till we know what’s going on.”

She blew out a breath, a lock of her red hair getting caught in it and tossed up and over, almost playfully. “Fine, but you promise to tell me after?”

Dean rolled his eyes, “Of course, Charlie. When wouldn’t we?”

“Okay, boss. Will you be in tomorrow?”

“Actually, I don’t know. In fact, why don’t you call Victor and see if he can cover me in the bays tomorrow?” Dean was thinking, however tonight went, he would definitely need tomorrow off. Either he and Cas might need to be out buying some things, or he’d be comforting Cas.

Charlie raised an eyebrow, “You expectin’ it to be this busy tomorrow?”

“Well yeah, Bradbury, it’s almost Christmas time. Everyone needs their cars in tip top shape to make their holiday travels.”

“True enough. I got ya covered boss. You go take care of dreamy.” She waggled her eyebrows at him lewdly and he snorted out a laugh.

Well, Dean didn’t need any particularly special urging to do that.

Time to take Cas home.

Chapter Text

Dean and Cas stopped by a Burger King on the way back to the house, but saved the meal for home instead of the car. They sat in the kitchen, preferring the cozy little room to the bigger dining room they used for holiday meals.

Speaking of holiday meals, Christmas was in less than two weeks. They could potentially have 2 small children here in that time. They needed to make plans, figure out gifts. The girls were young enough they wouldn’t understand that their uncles were already devoting time and money into getting everything ready for them on such short notice. Besides, both Cas and Dean had always wished they could spoil the girls more often than they had.

Castiel had always been so hesitant to send them things, never knowing if the kids would get them – or even if they would be able to keep them - with their untenable living situation, always moving, always leaving stuff behind. Instead, Dean and Cas had opted to send clothes. Things they’d outgrow fast anyway but were needed. Things that would be less likely to be left behind then a special toy or souvenir.  And less likely to be tragic if they were.

Fuck. They didn’t even know if they would have the kids or not, and they were already making plans. It was stupid to be getting their hopes up this high. But those girls deserved a better chance at life than Lilith could give them, then Lucifer could give.

Dean finished his burger – stressed or not, Dean never passed up a meal, he had his own childhood to thank for that – and noticed that Cas had barely touched his own burger and was merely picking at his fries. The same could not be said for Cas. The man ate less when he was stressed.

“Angel, you gotta eat. What are you so worried about? We wanted kids, didn’t we? This is good…isn’t it?” Dean couldn’t hide the sudden uncertainty in his voice and Cas looked up at him, startled. Castiel reached out to take his husbands hand.

“Oh god, Dean, yes, of course I want kids. That hasn’t changed. But that’s…that’s not what this is about.” Cas rushed to reassure his husband, despite the anxiousness curling inside his own gut.

“Then what’s wrong baby?” Dean leveled worried, green eyes on Cas, shifting his own hand where it was held by Cas to slot their fingers together and squeezed, trying to reassure his husband.

Castiel took a deep breath, “It’s just…what if we’re not ready for this? They could have special needs we aren’t aware of. I knew Lilith wasn’t a good mother but I never imagined she was bad enough to warrant CPS stepping in and taking the kids away from her. What if we’re not enough for them? Dean, we have no way of knowing how things have really been. We have no idea what we’re walking into, taking them in. What those girls are going to need from us. What if we inadvertently trigger something? We don’t know what they’ve been through and they’re so little. How do we even ask the right questions?”

The sudden torrent of words relaxed Dean, filling him with warmth for his husband but simultaneously they worried him. It was a strange feeling. It was great that Cas wasn’t having second thoughts and that he was so concerned for his nieces, but he brought up some good points. They might be biting off more than they could chew. But those kids deserved it. Deserved someone who would try on their behalf.

Dean didn’t hesitate to say as much.

“Cas, baby, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, and you’re probably right - though I hope you don’t hold it against me for hoping you’re wrong – but those kids need their family. They deserve to be given some sort of chance at normalcy in a way they’ve never had before. A stable household, people who care for them. And at least they know us. That’s gotta be better than leaving them with strangers who may or may not care for them the way we would. Isn’t that one of the reasons we wanted to adopt? To give a kid a chance that might not otherwise get one? We’re just…starting a little closer to home than we expected.” Dean rubbed his fingers over Cas’s knuckles and slowly the man beside him relaxed and nodded.

“Of course, Dean. I’ll do whatever we need to. I just don’t want to fail them.”

“Remember, you’re not alone in this. We’re not alone in this. If this is truly happening, you know we have support. We have resources.” Dean said. Castiel nodded, let out a breath and nodded again, pushing into Dean’s arms.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll stop being a pessimist.”

“It’s okay. I completely understand. I’m worried too. But knowing I’m not in this alone helps.” Dean smoothed a hand over Cas’s dark hair. When they’d first met, he’d thought it was black, but that had been at night, in a dimly lit room. In bright daylight, Dean had realized it was just a deep dark brown that lightened up some in the summer.

The two of them sat there for a while, taking comfort in each other before finally looking at the clock. Castiel stood to put away his food and toss Dean’s trash while Dean made a quick run through the house, making sure there was nothing too out of place. Thankfully, between their mutual efforts, the place was already neat with only a few things scattered here and there and it didn’t take long for whatever mess there had been to be cleaned up.

The husbands wound up on the couch, curled into each other, too nervous to do anything more than stare blankly at the TV which was playing the news with the volume on low.

Before they knew it, the doorbell rang and Castiel’s heart leapt into his throat. He jumped even as Dean tensed. Letting out shaky laughs, they both stood. Dean answered the door while Castiel hovered behind him.

To their surprise, they knew the person at the door. They blinked at her in open mouthed shock.

“Now boys, I know you’re both a little more eloquent than this. Invite me in, please.” The woman said with a twinkle in her eye and an amused tone.

“Uh, right, Missouri, c’mon in. I um, this is the first time you’ve been here, isn’t it?” Dean finally found his voice and stood aside with a gesture that Missouri followed instantly.

“Relax, Dean,” she put a hand on his arm and squeezed briefly as she passed. “I’m sure this will go just fine. Castiel, it’s good to see you again as well.”

“Uh, likewise,” Castiel blinked as he spoke, then shook himself, “Would you like something to drink? I think we might have lemonade?” He sent a questioning look to Dean who shrugged, returning Castiel’s gaze with a ‘You’re asking me? How should I know?’ look.

“That would be lovely, thank you.” She smiled at them pleasantly and both Dean and Cas felt some of their nerves recede. After all, they knew Missouri. Dean knew her better than Castiel, but they’d always gotten a kind and fair vibe off of her. She brought her car into Winchester Autos all the time, and as one of their loyal customers, plus longtime friend of Bobby (Dean and Sam’s surrogate dad), she’d been invited to special event barbeques – which was how Cas had met her.

Castiel quickly poured her a lemonade – the last of the pitcher he’d made yesterday – and handed it off, the three of them settling in at the recently vacated kitchen table. Missouri placed a folder on the table and sipped at her drink, eyeing the nervous men in front of her with kindly amusement.

“So, this is how it’s going to work, boys. I would like a tour of the house first, see the state in which you normally live, and then we’ll get to the questions. Sound good?” Missouri’s voice was soft but commanding and the two of them nodded along silently.

“Do you want to finish your lemonade first?” Castiel asked hesitantly with another glance at Dean.

“I believe I shall. I might want to make notes and I wouldn’t want to spill lemonade over your nice home because I’m juggling too many things at once.” She took in Dean’s huff of relief and said with a twinkle in her eye (and a sinking in Deans gut), “Though maybe I should. It would give you boys some good practice on what to expect with children in the house.”

Castiel snorted and covered his mouth instantly, eyes going wide. He glanced at Dean who was looking back at him in horror. Cas lost it then and his eyes squeezed shut as he laughed, hand falling away from his mouth to clutch at his stomach. He knew how much of a neat freak his husband could be. This was the part that would likely kill him.

“Geez, Cas. I can take a little spillage. I know what to expect from kids. I practically raised my own brother, after all,” Dean said with a sullen little frown.

Missouri smiled fondly, “Having kids is an adjustment no one is ever truly prepared for, but I’m sure you boys will do just fine. Especially as I have Sam as proof.” She set her now empty glass down, “But I do need to see the formalities through, so I’ll take that tour now.”

“Of course,” Castiel stood calmly as Dean leapt up. The tour was quick. The downstairs contained the kitchen, living room, dining room, an office and a bathroom with a sun porch at the back of the house.

Upstairs there was another, bigger bathroom, three bedrooms and a landing, with access to an over the garage porch as well as access to the attic. All the doors stood open and Missouri looked into one of the smaller bedrooms, noticing how it was already decorated for a baby, complete with furniture: Crib, cradle and changing table, dresser and rocking chair and a toy box. She didn’t say anything and Dean and Cas looked at each other, Dean speaking up,

“I guess we could put the little one, Grace, in here. We’ll just pack away all the baby stuff, replace it with a toddler bed and it should be um, age appropriate enough for her. And then we can work on the guest room, fix it up for Emma, let her have her own room.” Castiel nodded at Dean’s words, taking Dean’s hand.

Missouri turned to face them. “That’s commendable, but actually, I don’t think that it would be wise to split up the children just yet. They may know you, but their whole world – good or bad – has just gone topsy-turvy. Their only constant is each other. Some children, after losing the rest of their family, would be terrified of losing each other as well. They’ll be…clingy. Pamela tells me your nieces are exhibiting similar behavior.”

Both men felt their hearts break at the news. Castiel gulped, “Anything you can recommend to make this easier on the children, we’ll do it.”

Missouri hesitated, “I hate to say this, since it runs counter to just about everything we look for when placing kids, but, it might be helpful to have one of you stay at home with them as much as possible. They might need a lot of attention in the beginning to get them reassured and settled in.”

Before Dean could open his mouth, Castiel spoke, ‘I’ll do it.” Dean tried to protest but Castiel overrode him with a gentle hand on his shoulder. “No, it’s all right. I can take a family emergency leave of absence. I don’t run my own business, Dean. You’re needed at the shop. Besides, it was always part of the plan, you know that Dean.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Dean rubbed a hand over Castiel’s back and Castiel relaxed into the touch.

“Plan?” Missouri raised an inquiring brow.

“Uh, yeah…” Dean lifted his other hand to the back of his neck and rubbed along it, “Cas was gonna quit his job at Sandover once we had kids. We’ve been saving up for a hefty nest egg to hold us over while Cas tried to work from home instead. He’s gonna be a writer!” Dean said proudly, giving Castiel an adoring look.

Castiel rolled his eyes. “We don’t know yet if I’ll be successful at that, Dean. Please don’t brag about something I haven’t done yet.”

They finished up the tour and settled back down in the kitchen, Castiel and Dean sitting close together. Missouri shuffled some papers and made a few notations as they watched.

“So, what else do we need to do?” Castiel broke the silence nervously.

“Well, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve got my approval, but there are still a few more T’s to cross and I’s to dot. The New York branch has already started the process, but there are a few more things I need to do here. First, we’ll need to get more character references from your friends and family here, co-workers too. If you could warn them I’ll be coming, that will make the process go faster. Also – I’m sorry to have to ask this, boys – I need you to fill these out.” Missouri slid some forms across the table she’d withdrawn from her packet with an apologetic look. “I know you’ve got it covered and all, but we need your financials for or records. It’s to assure that you can more than support the children.”

“Of course, anything for Emma and Grace.” Castiel reached for the papers as he spoke, Dean glanced down at them with a resigned grimace and a grudging sigh, but it was no less than either of them expected. They’d had to do the same to apply for adoption.

“How soon can we expect the girls? Will we be able to pick them up? Or…” Dean trailed off, uncertain what to ask.

“Arrangements will be made,” Missouri assured gently, “Don’t worry, we’ll call you.”

“Missouri,” Castiel looked up, stomach in knots, “I hate to ask this but…isn’t it a conflict of interest that you’re working our case seeing as you know us already?” Dean shot him a panicked look but Castiel resolutely ignored it. The question had to be asked. He didn’t want anything to get screwed up.

“Usually, in many other situations and jobs, yes, that is the case, but in this case, being familiar with you both helps me to do my job. We want these kids in a better situation as soon as possible.”

They both heaved a sigh of relief and together filled out any paperwork Missouri slid them. Eventually they were done and they walked her to the door. Missouri took her coat off the wall rack, putting it on and picking her folder back up before turning back to them, giving them a nod. She opened the door and went to step outside when Castiel’s quiet voice made her pause,

“How’re they doing? Really?” Dean tightened his grip on Castiel’s waist, pulling Castiel into his side. Missouri looked at them with kindness and warmth and sympathy.

Missouri sighed. “It’s not going to be easy. We don’t know the extent of the damage. Only that at least there weren’t physically abused. But mentally? Emotionally? You might want to consider professional help.”

Castiel’s breath caught in his throat and he turned further into Dean, closing his eyes. Dean’s other arm came up and wrapped around his husbands’ shoulder. He looked over at Missouri and mouthed, “Thank you.”

She nodded and closed the door with a quiet click.



Chapter Text

The next morning found Dean stretching out his legs across the king-sized bed and frowning when he didn’t feel Cas. Blinking his eyes opened, he found himself alone in the bed. That was worrisome for the very fact that it was unusual. Castiel wasn’t a morning person and never willingly got out of bed, much less got out of bed first.

Pushing aside the blankets, Dean rolled to his feet and padded out of the room and down the small hallway clad in nothing but his boxers. Sure enough, when he peaked into what was meant to be a baby’s room, he found Castiel inside sitting on the floor with a notebook and his laptop. Dean slid bonelessly to the ground beside his husband, slumping against the wall and leaning over to give Castiel a good morning peck on the cheek. The circles under his eyes were pronounced.

“Angel, did you get any sleep last night?” Dean lifted an arm to thread his finger through Castiel’s hair. Castiel leaned into the touch but merely grunted a response. “Cas? Babe?”

“There’s no time to sleep, Dean. There’s too much to do.” Castiel looked at him tiredly.

“I won’t argue that. You want me to make some coffee?” Dean asked. The look of relief and gratefulness Cas bestowed upon him made Dean chuckle. “Okay, give me a few minutes. I’ll be back.” Dean stood up, dropping another kiss, this time to the top of Cas’ head, and left the room.

Dean made his way downstairs and to the kitchen thinking about the night before. How, after Missouri left, the two of them had made several phone calls and sent out a few emails with a brief explanation of events warning them of the impending arrival of Missouri and what for, though not the full details on why. That could be saved for later. If at all. It wasn’t everybody’s business what, exactly, had happened to the children’s parents.

Well used to the morning routine, Dean moved around the kitchen on autopilot, setting up the coffee machine and pulling down mugs – one with a Chevy Impala on it, the other with bumblebees. He smiled down at the mugs, temporarily pulled out of his thoughts.

As soon as they were ready, he picked up both mugs, carefully making his way up the stairs and around the landing to hand off the mug with the bumblebees after nudging Castiel with his toes. Thus less burdened, Dean carefully sat down, trying not to spill a drop of his own coffee and leaned into Cas’s side to see what he was doing.

“I’ve got a list of things I thought we might need and I’ve been looking them up on the internet. The rooms are small – do you think we should get bunkbeds? Or are they too little for those? What if they fall out of the bed?” Cas turned wild and panicked eyes on Dean. Setting his coffee down on the floor, Dean took Castiel’s hand in his own, twining their fingers together.

“Calm down, Cas. Bunkbeds sound like a good idea, now that you mention it. We can get the ones that have the stairs instead of a ladder maybe? And each stair is a drawer. It’d help with the space and it’d be easier for them. But no, they’re not too young. Sammy and I had bunkbeds at their age. What else are you thinking?” Dean asked softly.

“Um…well, they won’t have much to start with, but they should each have their own dresser. They’ll grow into it. Maybe a second toybox, for the same reason. We don’t want them fighting over toys.” Cas paused and looked up from his notebook and stared at the wall blankly. “We’ll need toys. Age appropriate toys. I’ve been looking at a few things there too…but I don’t know what they like! I don’t even know their favorite colors! I’m a horrible uncle!”

“Cas! Hey babe, no, you’re not a horrible uncle! Lilith was a horrible mom. Look, why don’t we call Gabe? Or your dad? They’re bound to know some of this stuff. They’ve had contact with the girls…haven’t they?” Dean was suddenly unsure about that. Lilith was notoriously hard to get a hold of.

“You’re right. I wasn’t thinking,” Castiel huffed out, “God, what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing, you’re just tired. And stressed. It’s a lot to take on suddenly. Have you been up all night?” Dean had a feeling that was true.

“Not…all night. Just part of it. And I didn’t get out of bed till,” Cas paused and looked at the clock on the laptop, “Maybe an hour ago, I think?”

“Yeah, finish your coffee and then we’re gonna take a break. A nice hot shower okay?” Dean waited for the nod and smiled when he received it. “Good.”

Castiel turned, tilting his head to look up at Dean. “How are you so calm?”

Dean shrugged. “I don’t think I really am, so much. I mean, I dunno, I know I’m not doing this alone. I’ve got you and Sam, and of course we’ve got Bobby and Ellen. And you just know Charlie will want to be the doting aunt that spoils them something horrible. And everyone else…so many people I can think of just off the top of my head. And I guess…well, you know I’ll be able to relate to them, at least a little. I know what it’s like to lose your parents when you’re so young. I was younger than Grace when we lost mom, but older than Emma by a couple of years when dad…when…”

Dean’s eyes fell to the wall in front of him, seeing nothing and Castiel leaned into him, taking his hand. He knew about Dean’s past. How his mother had died in a fire when Dean was four and how his dad had gone crazy. How John Winchester had dragged an infant and a toddler all over the country in search of demons that didn’t exist. How it had fallen to Dean to take care of his little brother Sam until finally, he’d reached out to his Uncle Bobby when John had gotten worse and Dean had been old enough to realize exactly how bad it was, how messed up John was.

How much John needed help because Dean feared what would happen to them if he didn’t get any.

Bobby had dropped everything to come and get them, bringing them home without a second thought, John chasing after them lividly as soon as he realized his boys were gone. Took him a few days though, since he’d been ‘on a hunt’ and left them alone in a motel.

And when John had finally arrived on Bobby’s doorstep, ranting and raving and waving a shotgun, Bobby had called Sherriff Mills. In the end, John was admitted to a mental hospital. It had helped, some. Some days were better than others. But it didn’t look like he’d ever truly recover enough to be let out.

Still, Dean had a point. He might very well be able to relate to Castiel’s nieces in a way no one else could, except for maybe his brother Sam. Castiel rubbed at Dean’s arm, trying to offer comfort as he could and cast about for something else to talk about. Unconsciously, his eyes followed Dean’s to fall upon the wall opposite them, the one painted in a gender-neutral ocean theme.

“I wonder if we should repaint the room?” he mused aloud, hoping to distract Dean with the thought. Thankfully, it worked.

“Nah, I think…I think it’s better that we don’t.” Dean’s eyes were thoughtful as he actually looked at the wall in front of him now.

“I don’t understand. Why?” Castiel was truly puzzled, but glad that Dean had broken out of whatever memory he’d gotten stuck in.

“Well, I think that it might help the girls acclimate, to believe they belong here, if we allow them to make the room their own. Let them pick the color or the theme, help them plan it and then do it together.” Dean looked over at Castiel with a grin. “Whaddya think?”

“Dean, I think that’s brilliant!” Cas flashed him a wide, gummy smile, his eyes crinkling and nose scrunching, and Dean laughed. After a minute, Dean took the laptop from Cas and set it aside, then stood and pulled the other man with him.

“Now, I believe I said something about a shower?”

“Oh, yes, I believe you did,” Castiel smirked at Dean, wicked thoughts on ways to relax in the shower already swimming through his head.

Over an hour later, Cas and Dean sat at the kitchen table, with the notebook and laptop between them, hair wet and disheveled and fresh mugs of coffee before them. They both felt a lot more relaxed and calmer then they had been, Castiel especially, as they browsed sites for things they thought would be good to have. Castiel had checked the availability of some of the bigger, more crucial items at the local stores – this close to Christmas, he didn’t want to trust shipping anything, even if it would have been easier, since they couldn’t guarantee getting it in time. If everything moved as fast as Missouri wanted it too, they didn’t have the time.

“We’ll need to borrow Bobby’s truck for some of this. Your car is too small and even the Impala can’t carry all of this.”

“You just don’t want to risk scratching her…” Castiel teased. Dean snorted and bumped his shoulder into Castiel’s.

“Shut up,” Dean said with a grin. “Oh! Hey, look at this! Someone on Craigslist has the very bunkbed I was talking about, and they’re local too. We can get it super cheap this way. What do you think?”

“I think, as long as it’s in good condition, why not?” Castiel conceded.

Dean nodded and started typing a response to the ad. He clicked send and picked up his phone. “I’m gonna call Bobby, see if I can get that truck sooner rather than later.”

“Good idea. You don’t think it’s too early to call Bobby though?” Castiel continued to click through pages, making notes of things he wanted to look for when he hit the stores.

“You kidding? Man’s an early riser. Where do you think Sammy and I got it from?” Already finished dialing, Dean lifted the phone to his face. It didn’t take long for Bobby to pick up and Dean to arrange to borrow his truck for the next couple days – just in case.

They spent most of their day running around to all the stores they’d checked online, though Dean insisted they stop by a few of the local shops first to see if they had similar items the bigger chain stores had – “Gotta support small businesses, Cas”. Castiel wasn’t about to argue, wholeheartedly agreeing with Dean. It was one of the reasons he hit the farmers market all the time.

It was a good call too. They found another dresser and toybox, a small table with kid sized chairs, a unique looking, short bookshelf they thought would be a great addition to the room and an old-fashioned rocking horse.

“You don’t think they’re too old for this, do you?” Castiel asked, worried but hopeful. His hand slid down the wooden grain of the horses’ neck. It was beautiful, hand carved and hand painted.

Dean stared at it thoughtfully. “Emma, I’m not sure about. Kids that age can be a little tough to read. Some of them wanna grow up too fast. Sammy was like that, y’know? But Grace? Definitely not. I vote we get it.”

While they were loading up the truck with all these purchases, Dean’s phone got a ping. Settling into the cab with Cas, he checked and found it was the Craigslist seller for the beds. “Shit Cas! We gotta get this stuff home so we can get the bed! This guy says we can come anytime to pick it up, but that he’s leaving for work by 6!”

“How far away does he live?” Cas asked as Dean got the truck moving.

“ ‘bout an hour if we don’t hit traffic.” Dean answered.

“That should be enough time.” Castiel grinned. “Do you want me to come with you, or do you want me to start taking down the crib?”

“Come with me, babe?” Dean shot a glance at his husband.

“Of course,” Castiel looked back with a tilted head, like there was ever any question of that. Dean chuckled and headed for home. They got home only to find a moose leaning on his car, waiting for them. Dean and Cas climbed out of the truck, slamming the doors behind them.

“What are ya doin’ here, Sammy?” Dean called from the driveway.

“I’m here to help, jerk. You think I wouldn’t be here if I could? That nobody else will come out to help?” Sam snorted and stepped away from his car. He nodded at the truck, “Looks like I got here at a good time. I’ll help you unload.”

“Thanks,” Dean said, feeling choking his voice. He pulled his brother into a rough hug, patting Sam’s back before clearing his throat and letting go. Cas had already lowered the tailgate and unlocked the front door, so Dean and Sam went straight to the back of the truck.

“So, we’re just putting all this in the living room for now. We still gotta take some of the other stuff out of the baby room. But Cas and I have to book it to pick something else up before the guy leaves for work.”

“No problem.” Sam helped pull the first big thing off the bed and together they hauled it to the door. “I’ll work on dismantling…anything you want me to take apart, clear up the room for you…where do you want me to put any of it…when I do?”

Dean grunted, “Uh…guest room for now, I guess. Wanna keep the landing clear – “

“Watch your step, Sam,” Cas called from the house.

“Thanks, Cas,” Sam huffed out.

“– for now. In case we need it.” Dean finished as he and his brother followed Castiel’s directions through the doorway and into the living room.

“Yeah, that makes sense,” Sam agreed as he set his side of the dresser down. Dean quickly followed suit.

“Okay, so that was the biggest thing we’ve got right now. The rest of this shit should be easier to deal with.” Dean huffed another breath. He was a little more out of shape than he’d thought. Though he reassured himself that he did do a lot that day. That had to count for something.

In almost no time at all, in shape or not, Dean, Cas and Sam had emptied the truck. Sam went back into the house and Dean turned to face Castiel.

“You sure you still wanna come? You don’t wanna supervise Sam?” Dean asked, thumbing Cas’s cheek, red from the cold and the exertion.

“I’m sure, Dean,” Cas smiled back.

“Then let’s get this show on the road.”

They lucked out and didn’t hit any extra traffic on the way to the guy’s house and the trip out came in under an hour. The bed, upon inspection, was in wonderful shape, so Dean cheerfully coughed up the hundred bucks the guy was asking for – what a friggin’ deal! – and between the three of them, had broken it down to 3 main pieces and gotten it into the truck, securely tied down.

The guy apologized profusely for the lack of mattresses, but Dean didn’t mind. That was one thing he wanted to make sure they got brand new.

The trip home took longer, caught in the traffic they’d managed to miss earlier, and they were exhausted. Dean caught Cas napping against the window and he smiled fondly over at the man. Dean wasn’t looking forward to hauling that thing in – easy pieces or not – but there was no way he could leave it in the truck overnight, not in this cold and damp weather.

When they arrived home, however, they found more cars there than when they had left. Benny, Sam and Charlie piled out of the house, insisted that they would bring the bed in and made Dean and Cas sit down with pizza and beer.

To their surprise, the trio brought the bed straight up the stairs. Dean stood up and left the kitchen to find that the living room was empty. He blinked. Castiel was at his side in an instant.

“You don’t think they…?” Castiel breathed.

“Set everything up while we were gone?” Dean looked at Cas and laughed, “Yeah, I’m thinkin’ they did.” When the clattering died down enough for the two men to figure the stairs were clear, they darted up to see for themselves.

They stood in the door in amazement. The room was transformed, with just a few simple changes. No longer obviously a baby’s room, it was now ready for older children and Sam and Benny were making quick work in getting the bed back together under Charlies direction. The rocking chair had been removed from the room – Dean would have to check, but he was betting it had been moved to the guest room – and the extra dresser and toy chest had been set up in one corner to mirror the other corner where the original set sat. Between them was the bookcase, and in front of that, the rocking horse. There was no room for the small table and chairs, but it might be a good addition to the sun porch.

Come to think of it, Dean hadn’t seen that in the living room either, and it wasn’t in here, so maybe it already was. Castiel tugged at his arm and pointed to the top of the dressers – there were already a few plushies sitting on top of them, ones he knew neither he nor Cas had bought.

God, Dean loved his family.

It wasn’t much later that had Dean and Cas seeing their brother and their friends to the door before climbing back up to the stairs and standing in the doorway, taking in the room once more.

“I can’t believe we did all this so quickly…” Dean said.

“Me neither.” Castiel stared around the room. It was almost ready, he thought. He glanced back at the bunkbed and his forehead crinkled. “Dean, you said you had bunkbeds when you were their age…but you didn’t move into Bobby’s till you were older…”

Dean took a deep breath, then released it. “Yeah, well, it wasn’t always motel rooms. A couple of times, Dad was almost normal. Not often, but, often enough to make me hopeful, y’know? One of those times, we stayed with this woman named Kate…Kate…Sullivan? Mullivan? Millivan? Y’know, I can’t remember,” he huffed out a short laugh, “But we were happy there. Things seemed to be looking up and then…dad tore up stakes. Just grabbed us in the middle of the night, scared the crap out of us, telling us that we were in danger and we left. Never saw her again. I don’t even remember which state that was in.”

Castiel felt his heart ache for the young boys Dean and Sam had been. “That must have been so hard on you.”

Dean shrugged, “I guess.”

“I didn’t know about any of that.” Castiel said quietly after another moment of silence.

“It’s not that I didn’t want to tell you, Cas. It’s more that, there’s so many little things, I just don’t really remember them till I do. I’m not hiding anything, you know that.” Dean turned to take his husband into his arms.

“I know that,” Cas agreed, wrapping himself around Dean and holding him tight. Little kid Dean didn’t need him, he was all grown up. But Emma and Grace…his arms tightened around Dean.

“God, we spent so much…I’m afraid, Dean. What if it was all a waste? My hopes have been so fucking high since Missouri’s visit, hell, since that first phone call with Gabe, even though I keep telling myself not to let them get so high. What if…what if they decide the girls can’t stay with us? Even worse, what if they’re placed somewhere we can never see them, ever again?” Cas’s breathing grew hard, his eyes stung.

“Babe, calm down, it’ll be okay, I just know it.” Dean rested his head against Cas’s and moved his hands in soothing circles across his back. “We’re the best option. You and I both know it, Gabe knows it, Sam knows it. Anyone with sense knows it. Have a little confidence. C’mon, you’re just overtired. We’ve done as much as we can today, let’s go to bed. You’ll feel steadier if you can get some rest.”

Castiel nodded into Dean’s shirt, “You’re right,” he took a deep, slow breath, then another, closing his eyes and relaxing into his husbands’ warm embrace and soothing touch. Dean guided him out into the hall and into their own room, stripping them both down to their boxers and pulling Cas into the nest of blankets they kept on their bed. Burrowing into the blankets, he wrapped one arm around Castiel’s waist, turning just enough to flick off the light switch he’d installed by the bed frame so he wouldn’t have to leave the bed.

They lay there for a few minutes, curled together, breathing slowing as they began to fall asleep.

Castiel suddenly shot up in bed, “Night lights! We forgot night lights!”

Dean pulled on Castiel’s arm with a grumble, “Sleep now. Night lights and the rest of that shit tomorrow…’

“But Dean…”

“Go to sleep, Cas…” Dean’s order was punctuated by a gigantic yawn and Castiel sighed, a smile quirking his lips as he lay back down in Dean’s arms, turning to face him. Cas kissed Dean lightly, soft and chaste, murmuring against his lips, Dean already too far gone to register the words,

“All right…”

 

 

Chapter Text

It really didn’t take much longer to finish setting up the room and purchasing other random things for the house, though both Dean and Cas were absolutely positive they were forgetting something. Probably a lot of somethings. In any case, all they could really do was wait, and make use of the time as best they could.

Two days after Missouri’s visit, they got the call.

It was time to pick up the Castiel’s nieces.

It would take them five hours to drive from New Hampshire to Long Island, and they had no idea if there would be anything extra they would need to do once they got there, so just in case, they packed an overnight bag and a cooler filled with drinks and snacks – to be replenished with fresh ones once they were ready to return home. Castiel being too nervous too drive, and Dean loving road trips, they loaded up the Impala instead of Cas’s car and got on the road.

To keep himself busy, Castiel made a list of things they could do to keep the kids happy on the trip back. Neither of them thought the girls had ever been on a road trip before and might get bored.

“Dean, did you know there’s a Dinosaur Park in Connecticut? Do you think we should stop there?” Castiel asked at one point.

“I think we should take the ferry back, Dean. It might be an exciting start to their first road trip. What do you think?” He asked at another.

“Do you think we should have bought more age appropriate music? Like, Disney songs?” Castiel said about halfway through the trip. As noncommittal as Dean had been to the other suggestions Castiel had had (really, Cas just needed a way to channel his nervousness and Dean was letting him. Besides, he might follow through with one or two of those ideas) Dean almost slammed on his brakes at that one.

“Oh hell no! They will learn to appreciate the classics.” Dean said emphatically. Cas just smirked to have finally gotten a reaction out of his husband.

Eventually, though, they arrived, much earlier than planned. Chuck insisted on putting them up to save money if they had to stay the night. That was all right with Cas. He hadn’t seen his dad since the year before and Chuck had insisted he didn’t need Cas to move back home and help him after the surgery for his heart. Besides, Dean and Cas had thought it would be a good idea to let the rest of the family get to see the Emma and Grace before taking them up north.

When it was finally time, they made their way over to the address they’d been provided. Parking out front of the non-assuming building, they stared hard at it through the Impala’s windows.

“What if they don’t remember us? What if they’re scared?” Castiel asked quietly, his voice shaking slightly. Dean reached over the seat and took hold of Cas’s left hand, and took Castiel’s chin with his other, turning the blue-eyed man to face him.

“They’ll remember us. It’s gonna be okay. C’mon,” Dean drew Cas in closer and placed an encouraging kiss on his lips, “Let’s go get ‘em.”

Hand in hand, they walked up the path to the door and rang the bell. A dark-haired woman, who had obviously been waiting there, answered the door with a jaunty grin and a pair of dark sunglasses. Dean blinked. It wasn’t that bright out, really.

“You must be the Winchesters, here for Emma and Grace, right? I’m Pamela Barnes.” She reached a hand out in their direction and they each took a moment to shake it. “C’mon in.”

Following her inside, they looked around at the organized chaos. The building had been somebody’s home once, and now it was compartmentalized into offices and a daycare, a kitchen and a playroom. And other rooms they couldn’t see or couldn’t even hazard a guess on as they followed her down the hall and past other workers, some with children and some not. The children they saw ranged in ages from infant to teenager. Their hearts broke at the reminder of all the shitty people out there, or the ones who’d just fallen into bad times too far to be able to keep it together for the sake of their children.

At least Dean and Cas could help two of them. Castiel just hoped he and Dean could give his nieces the happy ending they deserved.

Pamela led them to a room in the far back where she was joined by what looked to be an older, teenage boy, much too young looking to be working here, surely. There was a room with a closed door off to the side, but the girls were nowhere in sight. Dean and Cas looked at each other in confusion before sitting before Pamela’s desk.

“Well boys, to make this official, I need your John Hancock’s right here –“ she snapped her fingers and the kid placed a – thankfully small – stack of papers into her hand.  “We’ve done all the background checks, gotten numerous glowing recommendations, you’re financially stable and best of all, you’re not only suitable, you’re not strangers to our wards. Missouri’s officially signed off on you boys already.” She leaned forward, “Don’t disappoint.”

She leaned back again after dropping the papers in front of them. “We do need to check your ID’s of course, against your signatures, so if you could hand them to Alfie…”

“Of course,” Castiel finally spoke, Dean still silent as they both dug into their pockets for their wallets and held out the requested ID’s, before bending to the task of looking over the last forms, Dean groping for a pen. As they finished, Pamela stood and went to the closed door, giving it a short knock before opening it.

Nearly as soon as she did, two young, dark haired girls with bright blue eyes, ages 5 and 8, rushed past her with loud, simultaneous yells, “Uncle Dean! Uncle Cas!”

“Hey Emma! Hello Grace!” Dean called out as he and Cas stood to greet their nieces. Cas was silent, too choked with emotion to speak, but he held out his arms and leaned down to their level.

The girls collided with their uncles and Dean let out an “Oof, they’re stronger than I’d expected.”

“Your nieces are fairly healthy. They’re pretty lucky actually.” Pamela noted as she carefully retook her seat. “Not all the children we remove from bad situations are as well off as they are physically.”

“Is there…anything else we need to do before we take them home with us?” Dean asked, watching his husband try to pick up both girls at once. Dean smirked. He wasn’t sure how successful his husband would be picking up two very squirmy, solid children.

“Nope, Alfie tells me you are all good to go.” Pamela beamed at them.

“Awesome! So, uh, where do we go to pick up their stuff?” Castiel asked, hesitantly, as it didn’t seem like anything else was forthcoming. Dean looked over at his husband with sad eyes, he opened his mouth, closed it again and shook his head. Instead, he reached a hand out as Cas looked at him in confusion, then back to Pamela.

“What stuff?” For the first time, Pamela’s cheery demeanor dimmed.

“Well…they, don’t they have…clothes? Toys? Didn’t they get to take anything when they were…you know,” Castiel whispered the last bit over the ears of the yammering children, as if saying what had happened would make it any worse than living through it.

“Alfie?” Pamela inclined her head without turning it toward her – Dean supposed the kid must be an aide of some kind, she still hadn’t taken off her sunglasses though they were indoors.

“Oh um, we just have these backpacks they were brought here with. If there’s anything else, it was either left at the residence they were taken from, or back at the house they’d been living in prior to that. You’d have to check those places.”

Dean and Castiel looked at each other over Emma and Graces heads and sighed. “Is there any chance that any stuff left at the residence would still be there?” Dean asked, though he wasn’t holding out much hope. He knew from experience that it wasn’t likely.

Alfie shrugged, “I…could…give them a call and ask…?” his voice was uncertain and he looked over at Pamela. She waved her hand at him with a ‘get on with it’ gesture and he nodded and left the room.

She leaned forward again. “Tell me you boys at least have appropriate car seats for your nieces?”

“Yes. We didn’t trust anything Lil – er…Cas’s sister would have had. Who knew how old or safe any of it was.” Back on solid ground, Dean answered while Cas became the girls’ personal jungle gym. It was too cute and Dean smiled softly at the three of them.

“Smart move.” Her grin returned and she called out, “Emma, Grace, I’m sad to see you go girls. You’ll be good for your uncles, won’t you?”

“Yes,” Emma called from Cas’s lap. Grace ducked her head into Cas’s shoulder from where she’d climbed onto his back. Dean snorted and took out his phone, snapping a quick picture before slipping it back in his pocket. Way too cute for him not to get a picture.

“Here, let me get Grace for ya, Cas,” Dean reached out and plucked the younger girl off Castiel’s shoulders and tucked her into the crook of his arm. She bashfully laid her head on his shoulder but her little arms still came up and clutched at Dean’s shirt.

Alfie returned with a dismal shake to his head, “I’m sorry Mr. and Mr. Winchester. No luck.” He ducked back into the other room and withdrew two backpacks that were at least stuffed to the gills. Dean and Cas each took one, slinging it over a shoulder and prepared to say their goodbyes and thank you’s.

“Just a reminder, Mr. Winchester’s, if you should go looking for more of their stuff, you can’t bring the children with you. There’s an Order of Protection against their parents. What that means, essentially, is that they’re allowed no contact, not even phone calls. If you break that, we’ll have to step in.” Pamela said sternly.

“Of course,” answered Cas quickly.

“Trust me, we wouldn’t even dream of it.” Dean agreed.

“Good,” Pamela’s face softened, “and don’t forget to check in with Missouri when you get back home.”

They nodded and escaped without any further fanfare or fuss and got their nieces settled into the backseat of the Impala, their backpacks between them. Emma squealed when she saw the familiar black muscle car. She was always fascinated with it on the rare occasions when her uncles came to visit and actually got to see Lilith and the kids. That had never been a guarantee, even for the family living in the same state as Lilith. Dean felt a knot he hadn’t even realized was there loosen in his chest. Looked like he had at least one thing he could use to connect with one of the little girls now more firmly in his life.

Dean started up the car, and it came to life with a purr. Castiel twisted in his seat often to check on his nieces, Dean using the rearview mirror to do the same. It was still hard to believe that the girls were in their care, that this was really happening.

It wasn’t a long drive back to Chucks, and just as they were nearing the end of it, Emma spoke, her eyes wide, “Uncle Cas, are we coming to live with you and Uncle Dean now?”

“Yes, you both are, sweetheart. We live very far away and it’s going to be a long trip,” Cas paused, puzzled, “Didn’t anyone tell you?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know if they were tellin’ the truth.” Emma’s answer broke Cas’s heart and a quick glance at Dean showed that his husband wasn’t faring much better.

“Are you okay with that? Would you like to live with us?” Cas continued, a little worried now.

“Mmm…yeah, that’s okay.” Emma said softly.

“Where’s mommy and daddy?” Grace piped in suddenly.

Shit. They hadn’t thought of how to answer this most basic of questions. And nobody had advised them on how to handle a question that would have been obvious if they’d thought of it. Castiel and Dean shot a long glance at each other before Dean cleared his throat and took over.

“I’m sorry girls, your mom and dad are…not allowed to see you right now. See, they um, they’re kinda sick? And they need help. The kind of help that could take a long, long time. The kind of help that only works if they want it to work ‘cause it’ll be hard for them, and we don’t know if they can do it.” Dean tried to toe the line between telling the truth but not overwhelming them with things they might be too much for them. Castiel was grateful for Dean.

“Are you going to be all right with that?” Cas dared to ask the question Dean couldn’t. But Cas was like that. No matter how painful he felt the answer might be, he never let himself hesitate for too long.

The girls were quiet for long enough for Dean to pull into Chucks driveway. Dean looked over at Castiel worriedly then cleared his throat again.

“You don’t have to be afraid of saying something we won’t like. We’re not going to get mad, I promise. And if you’d rather not talk about it right now…you can always tell us later.” Dean could remember that unending loyalty to a parent, the love he had for his father, despite his fear of the man. Such conflicting emotions had often left Dean with huge sense of guilt. This would be hard. On the one hand, the girls might make the adjustment easier because they were younger than he had been, less time for some patterns to have developed. On the other hand, they could be too young to comprehend that this was better for them.

That might lead to resentment against their uncles, if Emma and Grace felt like they were being kept from their parents unfairly. It wouldn’t matter if it was for their own good, or that nobody could let them see their parents. They were just kids.

They didn’t answer and Castiel cast heartbroken eyes on Dean. Dean tried to reassure him without words. They could talk about this later, out of earshot of their nieces. Instead, he turned towards the backseat.

“Who wants to see their Grandpa Chuck before the four of us go home to Uncle Dean and Uncle Cas’s house?”

“Yes! Me!”

“Oh, me! I want!”

“Grampa Chuck! Grampa Chuck!”  they started chanting together, Grace bouncing in her car seat as Emma expertly found the seatbelt to the side of her booster seat and unclipping it. She reached for the door handle and pushed, pouting when it didn’t open. She gave the heavy door another shove, putting her feet into it and it opened slightly, Dean and Cas looking at each other in horror. They hadn’t considered that.

“Is it possible to install child locks in the Impala?”

“You mean…alter Baby?” as horrified as Dean was by the idea, Dean had to admit that Cas was right. At least Grace was too little to get out on her own, but until they had a better gauge on whether the children were likely to play with the doors in a moving vehicle, it might be best to attempt such an alteration…or just use Cas’s car for all family outings.

Yeah, Dean didn’t think he’d be able to get away with that.

Castiel stooped to get Grace out of the car while Dean grabbed the backpacks and slammed the doors shut, quickly following Emma as she started knocking at the door and plying the doorknob, all while calling out for Grampa Chuck.

Thankfully, the door was unlocked and she opened it. tumbling inside in search of her grandfather. Chuck was there in an instant and she launched herself into his arms, babbling happily at him.

“There’s my Emma girl! How are you, sweetie?” with a grunt of effort, Chuck picked the child up and Dean looked at him worriedly.

“Should you be doing that?”

“I’m fine Dean, I can pick up my own grandkids. Can’t I sweetie?” Chuck gave her what Deans mom used to call an Eskimo Kiss and Emma giggled and nodded. He carried her into the kitchen and Dean dropped the bags next to the couch. He moved just as Cas came in, shutting the door behind him.

Grace wiggled in his arms and Cas set her down. As soon as her feet touched the floor, she scampered off in search of her sister and her grandfather. Castiel let out a deep breath. Seconds later, Deans arms wrapped around him.

“Is this going to work? Or are we just fooling ourselves?” Castiel mumbled into Dean’s neck.

“Shh, babe, you can do this. We can do this. I know we can.” Dean whispered back.

 

 

Chapter Text

After some discussion, they decided that if they were to throw a get together for the family to see the girls before they left, it would be best if they stayed overnight. So that’s what they did.

The party was small. No one knew where Anna was, so it was simply Chuck, Dean and Cas, Emma and Grace, and the Milton’s: Gabriel, Michael and his wife, Rebecca, and their own three children - Balthazar, Hannah and Inias. Rebecca was pregnant again, and Castiel and Dean made sure to tell her congratulations, all the while giving each other looks as they stared at their nieces playing with their cousins.

A small affair or not, it wound up being quite lively. At Chucks request, to make the house more festive, Dean and Cas had gone up into the attic to root out Chucks artificial tree and ornaments and bring them down. The girls squealed their approval and Emma and Grace had a grand old time decorating the tree – with the help of the adults of course - and the rest of the house to their satisfaction.

Despite how last minute it was, Dean and Cas were pleased to see everyone could make it. And before they knew it, gifts had been placed under the tree. The husbands eyed each other guiltily. They’d been planning Christmas to be up at their house for the girls and it hadn’t even occurred to them to bring everyone elses’ gifts down. Dean and Cas had been so preoccupied with making sure everything was set for Emma and Grace, that all the gifts they’d bought were still in the guest room.

“Michael, I’m so sorry. We’ll mail everything down as soon as we get back, I promise.” Castiel said, his eyes staring at Michaels children worriedly. All the children were poking at the presents under the tree and making a game of trying to figure out what was in each one. Rebecca had to pull Balthazar back from tearing into one while Grace giggled and darted after them, the gift Balthazar had tried to open in her hands. Chuck walked by and plucked it out of her hands and set it back under the tree, forestalling tears by picking her up and whispering into her ear.

“It’s all right, Cas. We understand. What you and Dean are doing…its wonderful and we’re all very grateful for it. I wish I could take Emma and Grace myself…” Michael gazed at the girls in question sadly.

“I’m sorry we’re taking them so far away,” Dean came up behind Cas as Castiel spoke. Dean hooked his chin on Cas’s shoulder. Cas closed his eyes briefly and allowed himself to lean into the comforting presence of his husband.

“Yes, feel free to visit any time. I know that must be difficult with 3 children and another on the way, but please, invite is open,” Dean insisted before turning to give Cas a kiss on the cheek. “We’re thinking of ordering pizza for dinner, figured that was simplest. Any objections?”

“To New York pizza? Never,” he grinned at Dean and looked back at Michael, “How about you?”

“Oh, definitely the easiest answer, especially with the kids…you’ll learn that quick enough,” Michael laughed and patted his brother-in-law on the shoulder before stepping away to corral Balthazar again, since Rebecca had just sat down.

“Is it weird that I think of Michael and Gabriel as in laws though our siblings never actually married?” Castiel asked Dean quietly.

Dean shrugged, “Your siblings had kids together. That makes Gabriel, Michael and Michaels family our family in my book. I uh…think Emma’s trying to climb the tree. I’ll be right back…”

Castiel blinked and followed Dean’s progression across the room to where it looked like Emma was, indeed, trying to climb the tree. Luckily, she hadn’t gotten far enough to where she would pull the tree down, having only just finished climbing up on the back of the couch and was only now reaching out for the tree.

Castiel’s heart was in his throat. She certainly was an active child. And they weren’t getting the nice, slow, introduction of what she was likely to get into. They were diving in head first. He wondered if she was likely to climb over the baby gates they had permanently installed at the top and bottom of the stairs.

What if she climbed over the gate at the top of the stairs, and fell trying to reach the other side and tumbled down the stairs and…

No. Stop. Breathe.

How did parents deal with this? How was this the first time thoughts like this had even occurred to him? How could they childproof an entire house? Was it even possible? Castiel groaned inwardly, Oh god, we’ve had the kids for less than a day and I’m already turning into a helicopter parent.

Okay, but this was normal, right? All parents had to have these moments of panic. Had to deal with these same questions and fears. So, he just…needed to figure it out. All thoughts of being overwhelmed faded as he caught Grace yelling at Hannah.

“Give that back, bitch!” the words tumbling out of Grace’s mouth made him gasp in horror and lurch forward even as the rest of the adults in the room froze. The other children played on or chattered unconcerned, but Hannah, only 4, simply stared at Grace uncomprehending. She probably didn’t even know what Grace had said. Castiel hoped to god that Grace didn’t known what she said.

Castiel reached Grace and picked her up. She squirmed in his grip, “Down!” she demanded.

“No. Grace, that was mean. You say you’re sorry to Hannah,” Castiel didn’t let go.

She pouted, “But Hannah’s mean. That’s mine!” Castiel followed her pointing hand to the cup of ice that had been spilled on the floor. Castiel wasn’t sure where they’d gotten it from. Until his dad spoke.

Chuck sighed as everyone followed the pointing hand. “No, Grace, that was for you and Hannah to share. We have plenty of ice, but not a lot of cups –“ well, cups he didn’t mind giving to children, anyway, Castiel nearly snorted, “ – and I told you that when it was empty I would give you girls more. There was no reason for you to fight over it, or to call your cousin a bad word.”

“ ‘snot a bad word. Mommy uses it,” Grace looked up at her grandfather with wide, innocent eyes, turning them on Castiel when he still refused to let her down.

“Oh lord,” Castiel sighed. “Oh sweetie, no, your mommy uses a lot of bad words and those words make other people very, very upset. I know you didn’t know that, but Uncle Dean and I will tell you which words are bad words and I want you to try very hard not to use them, okay? And be nicer to your cousin. Sharing is good. Doesn’t it feel good when people share with you?” Castiel felt so goddamned out of his depth, but he was determined.

She looked at him thoughtfully, then nodded, “Yeah.”

“Good, that’s good. And people will want to share with you if you share with them. Do you understand?” Castiel asked hopefully. Grace nodded slowly, her eyes wide and confused. He refrained from letting out another sigh, not convinced that she did understand. But they could work on it.

Dean stepped over to him and got Grace’s attention. “Why don’t you show Hannah how sorry you are by helping her clean up the ice that spilled and throw it in the sink before it melts. Than Grandpa Chuck can get you more ice, because he has lots and lots of it in his freezer.”

“Okay,” she said, squirming to get down. Castiel set her on her feet again and watched her run over to Hannah who seemed to harbor no ill will. The two of them started picking up the ice, with the other children joining in and turning it into a game. Instead of just dumping it into the sink all at once, they then took turns tossing the small cubes into the sink to hear the ice clatter.

“Should we stop them?” Castiel wondered aloud.

Michael laughed, “First rule of raising kids, when they find something relatively harmless, even if it’s a little annoying, just let them do it.  It’s not going to hurt anyone and it’ll keep them out of your hair. Completely worth it for five minutes of peace.”

“Yes, be prepared to not sleep much for a while. Learn to take naps when you can,” Rebecca called from the couch. “Now, the most important question I have right now is, did anyone order that pizza yet? Because I’m starving.” She rubbed at her heavily pregnant belly and Chuck laughed ruefully.

“Well, we can’t have that,” Chuck clapped his hands together, “I’m on it,” Chuck left the living room for the kitchen where he had the delivery places pinned to a corkboard next to his landline that Dean had noticed earlier.

Dinner went quickly, when it finally arrived, with both Emma and Grace packing more of it away than either Dean or Cas had expected 2 small children to be able to do. Gabriel laughed so hard at their expressions that he fell out of his chair. He stopped laughing momentarily in surprise when his ass hit the floor, but it didn’t stop him long and soon all the kids started to giggle along with him.

“Sometimes,” Michael mused, “I think there are 6 children here and not 5.”

Dean snorted at the fake offense on Gabriel’s face, especially when the man couldn’t hold it. Especially when the children all piled onto him and started tickling him and it just set him off again.

“I would be inclined to think the same,” Castiel said with a grin.

“Isn’t anyone gonna – oh boy! Oh god, stop, stop! Hahaha – gonna rescue me?” Gabriel pleaded between wheezing and laughing.

“Time for presents everyone!” Chuck clapped his hands together and called loudly. The children immediately leaped up with various yells of “Yay!” and shrieks of excitement, all of them stampeding back into the living room. Chuck glanced back with a smirk, “You’re welcome.”

Cas reached a hand down to help Gabriel up as Dean darted after the children with a disbelieving look at Cas’s father. Everyone followed much more sedately than Dean or the children and all were hard pressed not to laugh at the sight of Dean trying to get all the children to settle down and not attack the presents. Cas grinned at Dean’s desperate attempts to corral 5 children at the same time (and was maybe secretly thanking God that they would only have to corral 2 from now on).

“A little help, please?” Dean called.

“But you’re doing so well, Deano!” Gabriel called back with glee.

“If you think I’m diving into that fray, you’re insane,” Rebecca said smugly as she settled herself onto the couch, taking the time to get herself extra comfortable. At Dean’s urging, Hannah and Inias climbed up to sit calmly beside their mother, Hannah snuggling in against her stomach.

That left Emma, Grace and Balthazar. Dean was turning red in his struggles to get the 3 to calm down. But to the children, it wasn’t about the presents anymore. Now it was a game of keep away and they shrieked in decibels that made every adult wince as the kids slipped through Dean’s fingers again and again.

Gabriel fell to the couch laughing, clutching at his stomach and tears rolling down his face. “I guess I, hahaha, I shouldn’t have…hahaha…given them all that candy!” he chortled.

“What candy?” Castiel rounded on the man. He hadn’t seen the kids with any candy. Now he was even more amazed at how much pizza they’d eaten.

“Keep going Dean, you almost got them,” Michael called out helpfully, holding back snickers of his own. Eventually, though, between Michael, Dean and Castiel, they’d managed to snag the last three children and sit down on the floor with one excitedly wiggling kid in each lap.

Castiel and Dean sat close together, Grace with Cas and Emma with Dean. Castiel leaned over and bumped shoulders with Dean, causing his husband to look over at him with a questioning smile. “Hey, it wasn’t that bad. You got 2 out of 5 to listen to you.”

“Maybe so, Cas, but it probably doesn’t bode well for us that two out of the three who didn’t listen are also the same two we’re taking home with us. I’m getting this feeling we’ve bitten off more than we could chew.”

Despite his words, Dean’s tone was more fond then truly worried, and the kids were all in good spirits. Nobody was hurt or upset or anything and Castiel counted that as a win.

Chuck spoiled all of the kids – not just his own grandkids, but it was soon clear that Michael and Rebecca’s children had carved a place in his heart as well as he passed out presents to everyone there. Castiel hadn’t realized how far together the two families had grown. At least something good had come out of Lilith and Lucifer’s’ liaison: two very sweet children, and the coming together of these small family groups.

Gabriel had told him long ago that his parents had gone, but not the circumstances. And it seemed like Gabriel and Michael had adopted Chuck as the father they no longer had. Castiel was glad of it, not wishing his father to be alone. With Anna who knew where and Lilith a less than considerate soul, it often had left Cas feeling guilty for having moved so far away from home. And if Chuck hadn’t been so adamantly against it, Cas would have offered his father a place to live, whether it was permanent or temporary.

The best part was that Dean had agreed, but the first few times Cas had broached the subject with his father, the idea had been firmly rejected.

Watching his father, now with the children, Castiel caught Dean’s eye and nodded at Chuck. ‘Should we try again?’ he mouthed at Dean, not wanting to be overheard but certain Dean would figure it out. Dean shrugged and scanned the rest of the room, eyes falling on the Milton’s also gathered there before turning back to Cas with another shrug, ‘But what about them?’

Castiel mused. He’d just been noticing how close the two families had grown. It hadn’t been only Lilith and the grandkids tying his father down to the old home. He had more family now…would he give up the Milton’s to move to New Hampshire? That was a good question. Maybe not one for today though.

The unwrapping of the gifts was a whirlwind with kids involved. Somehow, Castiel had just never made it down for Christmas at the same time Lilith was around. He had trouble keeping track of it all, and one look at Dean showed he wasn’t faring much better.

It was all they could do to keep up with who got what and carefully set gifts aside so they wouldn’t get lost as the kids moved on to the next one, all while trying to stay on top of the shreds of wrapping paper flying around them. Gabriel didn’t help. Every time Castiel managed to get some thrown away, a ball made of more wrapping paper smacked him in the head.

This of course, devolved very quickly into an all-out wrapping paper fight, the kids all too eager to participate.

Eventually, though, things wound down, the last of the presents were unwrapped and kids started nodding off or getting cranky. Michael gathered together the gifts his family had received, while Dean did the same. Castiel attempted to get the girls to say goodnight – and incidentally, goodbye – to everyone before they left, but it proved to be an almost impossible task. Grace wailed when told Balthazar was leaving and she plopped down on the floor where she stood to cry her little eyes out.

The sight just about broke Cas and Dean’s hearts. The other adults didn’t seem quite as affected by her cries and neither Cas nor Dean could understand why.

Scooping her up into his arms, Castiel whispered to Grace, trying to sooth her, but what could he say? They were taking the kids far away from their cousins. A 5 hour drive might not seem like much to most people. In fact, it was better than a cross country trip by far (Dean refused to ever get on a plane which would mean days of driving) but a casual trip just wouldn’t be in the cards.

Not that Cas had made too many of those over the past few years. He and Dean had just been so busy…the guilt rose in him and he pushed it down.

And now he and Dean were taking the girls away from all their friends.

“It’s okay Grace, he’s just going home. You’ll see your cousins again. I know we’re moving far away, but we’ll make sure you get to see them again, I promise.” Castiel couldn’t help but think that Grace didn’t believe the promises of another adult. Not after what Emma had said in the car earlier that day. He wondered how often Lilith and Lucifer broke their promises to the girls.

As the Milton’s were leaving, Michael pulled Dean and Cas aside. Putting a hand on Castiel’s’ shoulder, Michael looked from one to the other and back again. “Look, I know how it is, first kids and all, and you’re being tossed into the deep end, but you need to relax a little. I can see you worrying, nearly panicking over every little thing. And I get it. I do. For all intents and purposes, you’re first time parents. You just skipped some developmental time. And I don’t just mean them, I mean you.”

Michael dropped his hand and dug into his pocket, pulling out his wallet, flipping open the billfold to the pictures he carried inside. “See, when Rebecca and I had our first kid, Inias, we were just like you. Afraid to even touch our own kid for fear we’d do it wrong. See this?” Dean and Cas leaned over to see an older, folded photograph of Michael decked out in full hospital gown, hair net, sitting down, stiff and straight backed and using both hands to hold Inias’ oh so carefully.  Michael continued talking, flipping through the photos, “By the time Balthazar came around, I’d managed to relax. I knew that not every tiny hiccup was panic worthy.”

He finally stopped on another picture, and the difference in Michael’s posture, his entire demeanor, was amazing. He was so much more relaxed and confident, wearing casual clothes and no hairnets, holding Balthazar with one arm with a mug for himself in the other. Michael looked back at them, putting the wallet away, “I had the chance to learn and grow. You will too. I’m just saying…don’t panic.”

A set of arms settled over Dean and Cas’s shoulders, stretching up to make the reach and a head squeezed between them, “Basically, don’t forget your towel!” Gabriel crowed. Dean barked out a laugh and Michael and Castiel exchanged puzzled looks.

“Don’t worry, Cas, I’ll explain later,” Dean said with a twinkle in his eye. Rolling his own, Castiel finished saying his goodbyes to the Milton’s, Dean right behind him, as they attempted to put the girls to bed for the very first time.

Castiel still carried Grace in his arms, the small child nodding off against his shoulder. She would be easy. He watched Dean chase down Emma and wondered if Gabriel had been sneaking her more candy.

“C’mon Emma, it’s bed time. We’ve got a long trip tomorrow and you don’t want to be tired for it,” Dean called out. Emma giggled and ducked behind a couch.

Chuck stood beside Cas and watched. “The two of you will have your hands full. At least they’ve been in good spirits. And pretty well behaved.”

Castiel blinked. Wait, this was behaved? As he watched Emma dart away from Dean again, he couldn’t help be worried about what it would be like when they weren’t behaving.

He took a deep breath.

No, don’t think like that. We can do this. We wanted kids and we will do this. We’ll be the best damn parents these girls have ever had.

Dean finally caught Emma and she giggled as he tickled her a little before they snuggled together, Cas watching with a soft smile.

Yeah, they could do this.

Chapter Text

The next morning, they had planned to pack up the car fairly early so they could get most of it done before Emma and Grace woke up. However, that plan was killed before it could even start when the sounds of a television playing loudly intruded on Dean’s dreams.

Dean stumbled out of bed first, but that wasn’t unusual. He found the girls watching some kids show he didn’t recognize on full blast and arguing over the remote. Chuck stood bleary-eyed in the doorway to his kitchen, watching them with a mug cupped in his hands.

Chuck saw Dean and nodded his head, using his mug to point back at the kitchen. Dean nodded back. Message read, loud and clear. It wasn’t long before he’d availed himself of the coffee supplies and he stood beside Chuck, coffee clutched in his own hand.

They stood – not in silence, the children made sure of that – watching Emma and Grace and the dynamics of the 2 kids interacting when they were somehow unaware of any adults watching them.

As if it didn’t occur to them that they might be watched. Like it was a natural state of affairs. Like they were used to being ignored by the adults in their lives. Dean breathed in hard. That just hurt like a punch to the gut. He shook his head and tried to move on.

“Shit, is this normal?” Dean took a sip of his coffee, making sure to speak quietly. However long he could watch them without the kids being aware of it, he wanted to do so. It would help him get a handle on the girls. Some children acted differently when they knew they had an audience.

“For kids? Sure. It’s like, programmed into their biorhythms or something. Except Cas. Even as a child, he never was much of a morning person. Getting him ready for school was always an adventure.” Dean chuckled at Chucks words. That sounded about right. He should have known.

They continued to just stand there, observing but unobserved. The landline rung and Chuck left Dean’s side, leaving Dean to his own thoughts – until he heard an angry hiss coming from behind him, from the normally mild mannered Chuck. It was so vehement that it startled Dean into turning. The look on Chucks face was simply furious. Dean would never have believed Chuck had it in him.

What the hell was going on? Dean wondered. Who the hell would be calling this early in the morning and be capable of pissing off one of the most laid back people I’ve ever met?

Dean didn’t have to wonder long.

“No, Lilith.  You can’t come over here. No! I don’t care! It’s illegal now. Don’t you get it? Do you want to permanently lose your kids forever? You can’t show up anywhere near those girls now, you or Lucifer. You will get arrested. No, I won’t lie for you!” Dean could only understand Chuck’s side of the conversation, but the angry yells on the other end of the phone rang out audibly, interspersing Chucks words. “I won’t say it again, Lilith. Do not show up here. I will call the cops.” A longer pause where Dean could almost understand the strident tones on the other end, “Then I guess you’re right. Goodbye!”

Concerned, Dean set down his mug and watched Chuck carefully as the bearded man slammed the receiver down on the wall. Dean had to admit, that was one thing he missed now that most of the world used cell phones – the very satisfying slam of a phone when ending an infuriating or frustrating call such as Chuck had obviously just had.

Chuck was red and breathing hard. Dean grabbed his arm, “You okay, Chuck?” For a second, Dean thought his father-in-law was going to have another heart attack. Dean’s other hand was halfway to the nearest phone – Chucks landline, as it turned out, since Dean was still only half dressed – when Chuck stopped him.

“No, I’m okay, Dean. I’m just…mad! I can’t believe her!” Still breathing slightly hard, he was, at least, not as red as before.

“She just wants to see her kids. I can understand that,” Dean said. After all, Lilith had to have some sort of maternal instincts – right? Come to think of it though, with the little he knew of her, Dean actually wasn’t too sure.

“Yeah, sure, if you say so,” Chuck snarled disdainfully and sighed, pushing a hand through his messy mop of curls. “If she’s so concerned with her kids, then why – whenever there’s a family event – does she show up, drop her kids in someone’s lap and disappear for hours on end without a word and no way to reach her? When her daughters ask for her attention, why does she ignore them?”

Chuck took a careful look to make sure the kids weren’t listening and continued on in a quieter voice, just in case, “Last Christmas, when you and Cas couldn’t make it, I threw a party, remember? It’s the only way I could make sure to see my grandkids sometimes, you know? Well, she came, and her kids were hungry. We had plenty of food, but when Emma asked her for a banana – which we had – Lilith blew up! Right there, in middle of the party, just…screaming at her own children for daring to ask for food – food, Dean!”

“Whoa, Chuck, breathe, man. If you keel over, my husband will kill me!” Dean reached for him again but Chuck waved him away.

He continued on as if Dean hadn’t said a word, “And then everything quickly devolved from there into a rant about how everything’s always about them and how she couldn’t get five minutes of some goddamn peace for herself. She kept yelling, ‘What about me? Don’t I deserve some fucking attention?’ Liberally sprinkled with colorful language of course. “

“Holy shit, Chuck! You…you never told us about any of that,” Dean was horrified and he knew his face and voice showed it.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I mean, really. What was the point? You and Cas were lucky, getting to stay out of the family drama. All it would have done was give my son an ulcer as he worried about those kids. I think I was worried enough for the both of us.” Chuck said with a resigned sigh.

Dean spoke slowly as a thought occurred to him. “Did the worry for your grandkids exacerbate your heart problems? Was this the reason you had a heart attack last year? Cause it sounds like you worried enough for all of us.”

Chuck waved a hand dismissively and before Dean could say anything else, two warm arms wrapped around Dean’s waist and a head fell against his back. He heard mumbled words and he turned in those arms to stare down at the bedhead now resting on his chest, smiling down at his grumpy, I-really-hate-mornings, husband.

Dropping a kiss on his head, Dean asked, “Good morning, babe. You want some coffee, sleepy head?”

“Why is everyone awake so early?” Castiel mumbled, the words nearly incoherent against Dean’s tee. Dean gently turned his husband to face the living room, resting Castiel’s back against his chest and hooking his chin on his husbands’ shoulder. It was one of Dean’s favorite places to be.

“Open your eyes, angel. That’s why we’re all awake. Because most kids like to wake up early, and kids shouldn’t usually be left unsupervised until they’re a little older.” Dean kissed Cas’s shoulder and chuckled at the large yawn that overtook the man. “You want that coffee now?”

“Please,” Castiel managed to grunt out, yet he still leaned all his weight on Dean, not allowing the man to move. Dean chuckled and decided to let him have a few more minutes before he propped Castiel up on the doorframe and made him an extra strong coffee.

Chuck beat him to it and Cas took the mug gratefully, still leaning on Dean as he sipped the scalding drink carefully. “Did I hear the phone ringing?”

“Is that what woke you up, angel?” Dean asked.

“Hmm…”

“Yeah, it was your sister,” Chuck bit out, “she wanted to know why we hadn’t invited her over last night. And then wanted to know if her daughters were still here so she could come see them.”

“How’d she even know they were here? Or that there was a party?” Dean asked, confused.

“Michael posted his pictures on Facebook. Some mutual tagged her, I guess. I think that’s what she said,” Chuck barely used social media and he just shrugged, confused.

“I take it that the call didn’t go well?” Cas tensed in Dean’s arms as he awaited his father’s answer.

“You could say that. Your sister, I swear I don’t know what to do with her. She’s pissed at me for denying her access to her children. Like we have a choice in that,” Chuck snorted, “The drama, I swear. She literally screeched ‘Well, I guess I don’t have a father anymore, since you couldn’t care less about me!’ I just, it’s not about her. It’s about her kids! Did I really do such a horrible job raising you all? Anna ran away the second she got out of the house and no one knows where she is. I haven’t heard from her in years. You moved away too as soon as you could and Lilith is…is…” Chuck sighed and turned away, his face heartbroken.

“Dad, no…” Dean let go of his husband. Castiel’s face was stricken, a look of deep guilt rising in his eyes as he reached for his father. “That’s not why I moved. And I know you’ve refused before, but, I wanted to ask if you would consider moving closer to us? I didn’t move to get away from you, Dad. It was just the best option for me at the time.”

“I’d be okay with that,” Dean cut in. “And for what it’s worth, Chuck, I think you’re right. It’s not about her. It shouldn’t be about her. In my opinion, she gave up the right to play pity party the second she had kids. If she wasn’t prepared to give them her all, she doesn’t deserve them.”

There was some bitterness in Dean’s words, and Castiel knew he was thinking about his own father. Though, at least in John’s case, there had been outside factors at work. John had needed help of a different kind then Lilith and Lucifer did.  John hadn’t chosen to go off the deep end. Lilith and Lucifer, though, had chosen to do drugs, neglect their children, and do the bare minimum.

Before the conversation could go further, two small bodies collided with Dean and Cas’s legs, giggles and calls of “Uncle Dean!” “Uncle Cas!” “Grampa!” “I’m hungry!” “Me too!” ringing through the house. Dean reached down and swung Emma up into his arms, Cas attempting to do the same with Grace, but she was currently wrapped around his leg, sitting on his foot and demanding to go for a ‘ride’.

“Walk wif me, Uncle Cas!” Grace called, her blue eyes staring up at him, a smile on her face. Castiel wobbled a bit as he attempted to move to the table with the Grace shaped shoe on his foot, making sure to put his coffee down on the nearest surface first, to avoid spilling any of the hot liquid on her.

With difficulty, the two men managed to pry the girls off long enough to set them down at the table and get breakfast going. Dean loved to cook, so he rummaged around in the kitchen looking for the makings for pancakes. With a triumphant sound, Dean quickly set to work.

Amazingly, the kids swallowed the pancakes down just as fast as Dean could make them with the same efficiency and hunger they’d used on the pizza the night before. Dean and Castiel exchanged looks, still shocked by it, though Cas noted Dean’s shock was tempered with…sadness? He would have to ask Dean later what he was thinking.

Now, in front of the children, was probably not the time to pry. Castiel would have to wait till they got home tonight and had put the kids to bed. He could wait.

Instead, Castiel decided that he was going to enjoy the moment. This moment as he sat with his loved ones - his father, his husband and his two beaming nieces having a wonderfully, comfortable morning together.

It was pure contentment.

Chapter Text

Car finally loaded with duffels and backpacks, gifts and snacks, and most importantly, Emma and Grace, Castiel said one last farewell to his father, their hug lasting a long time as Chuck whispered reassurances into his son’s ear.

“Don’t worry, Cas. You guys got this, I know it. And I’ll uh, think about what you said about moving up there, okay? But no promises just yet.”

“Okay dad, you take care of yourself, all right?” Castiel pulled away, swallowing.

“I will,” Chuck assured. He turned to his son-in-law, “I know you’ll take care of them all, but don’t forget yourself, all right Dean?”

“Yeah, I got ya,” Dean grinned and he hugged Chuck, patting him on the back, “You be smart, don’t overdo it.”

Chuck rolled his eyes, “I’m not an invalid, you two. Get on with you already.” He tried to stay stern but then he looked into the back seat of the Impala and he scrunched up his nose and grinned, giving the girls a fiddly little finger wave. They giggled, though the giggles couldn’t be heard very well through the thick glass, and waved back enthusiastically.

Castiel wasn’t all too sure they understood just how far away they were going. He hoped there wouldn’t be any meltdowns. Cas got into the Impala on the passenger side while Dean did the same on the driver’s side. He started the car and headed straight for the Port Jefferson Ferry. According to the schedule, the next ferry left in about half an hour and it would take 10 minutes – without traffic – to get down to the docks.

Thankfully, there was no traffic, and even the ferry wasn’t crowded. Dean and Cas were surprised, however, when they had to pay for their ticket before getting on board, or even into the line proper. He’d always just paid on the boat before.

“It’s new policy. Either purchase a ticket online, or purchase it in the line. But if you wait to purchase in the line, you might not get on the first boat.”

“Yeah, man, but what if I’m driving from far away and I miss the boat I purchased a ticket for?” Dean looked at the dockworker in horror. “Then I’ve wasted my money and I’m still not getting on the next boat.”

“Don’t worry sir, your ticket just gets transferred to the next boat if you miss that one,” the man replied with a long-suffering sigh. Dean and Castiel wondered how often the ferry workers had had to explain their new purchase policies. The man handed back Dean’s credit card and pointed down the lot. “You’re all set, just follow this lane down and circle around. Park in lane 3.”

“Got it, thanks,” Dean pulled away, handing his wallet to his husband.

Castiel looked at the receipt and blanched. “I can’t believe it costs this much to ride the ferry.”

“At least kids under 12 ride free?” Dean offered, stopping the car to allow a few pedestrians to walk past them.

“Sure…and on the bright side, their new purchasing policy means we don’t have to split up to secure us seats once we hit the boat.” Castiel said with relief.

“It’s not all that crowded though, Cas. We shouldn’t have any problems anyway,” Dean pointed out.

“True. I vote we stay inside though, since it’s winter. It’s already bitter out, but once the boat gets moving, that wind will chill you to the bone.” Dean nodded at Castiel’s assessment. “Let’s try to get one of the tables with a window. I think they might enjoy the view,” Castiel suggested.

Dean nodded again and now that the pedestrians has passed, continued to follow the instructions he’d been given, weaving the Impala through the turnaround into the lane indicated, putting her in park. He debated turning off the engine, since he wasn’t sure how long they would have to wait and he didn’t want everyone to get cold. Cas smirked and pulled out a blanket having, apparently, already thought of this eventuality.

“Good thinking, Cas – I knew I married you for a reason,” Dean teased. He turned the Impala off and sat back in his seat, relaxing. Dean could hear the girls chattering quietly behind them, covering themselves in the blanket Cas passed back, and Dean smiled. Holy Crap, is this really my life? Dean felt giddy looking at his gorgeous husband and listening to his sweet nieces. In this moment, he was able to push back any anxiety he might be feeling (maybe more than might, if he was being honest with himself) that it might not work out with the girls.   

Cas smiled back, “Yeah, because you’re crazy.”

“Awww…I’d have had to be crazy not to marry you,” Dean grinned, leaning in for a kiss.

The girls giggled behind them and the husbands broke apart, Dean blinking as he pulled away from his husband, looking at Emma and Grace in the rearview mirror. He didn’t want to make it apparent that he was looking at them, for fear of drawing too much attention up front.

Castiel tilted his head at Dean. “What is it?”

“I was just thinking, all our casual affection…it didn’t even occur to me how the girls might take it. I mean, it shouldn’t be an issue, right? They must have seen us hold hands, or hug or…kiss before…” Dean’s voice was hesitant, though he refused to pull any further away, but his shoulders were hunched slightly. Dean’s eyes flicked from Cas up to the mirror and back again, his teeth worrying at his bottom lip.

Castiel’s confused look lifted from his face and he took Dean’s right hand in his own with a smile. “If there’s one thing I can’t fault Lilith for, it’s that she really didn’t care about anyone’s gender or orientation. I don’t think we have any prejudices to overcome where the girls are concerned.”

Dean let out a breath of relief. Cas squeezed his fingers and smirked. “Now, a child’s curiosity and probing questions…that’s another matter entirely.”

“Well, with kids, I just take that as par for course,” Dean laughed. The line ahead moved forward, startling Dean. He let go of Cas’s hand and started the car back up, “That didn’t take nearly as long as I expected. Watch this, girls! We’re driving Baby onto a boat!” he exclaimed with over exaggerated excitement and a grin.

The girls gasped and plastered their faces to their windows, each trying to see everything they could. Carefully, Dean rolled up the ramp and into place, shutting off the car once again. Castiel grabbed a bag while Dean helped the girls out of the car in the cramped quarters of the ferry – he did not want Emma shoving the heavy door open again and this time potentially scratching Baby when she did…or denting the car next to them. Baby could do some real damage.

Dean refrained from wincing at the thought and watched, jealously, at how easily Emma and Grace climbed out of the Impala. Dean had had to do some squeezing to get out of the driver’s side without cracking the stupid modern plastic piece of crap parked next to him with his own door.

It was funny how the girls had already picked an uncle to latch on to. Emma gravitated to Dean, while Grace headed straight for Cas. As energetic as they both were, Emma was the more rambunctious of the two and she skipped around, her long black hair bouncing along behind her, her small hand held firmly in Dean’s.

Castiel, in the meantime, was carrying Grace on his shoulders, the younger girl holding his hair in two tight grips and babbling excitedly. Dean almost snickered at the small winces Cas gave, but his dark-haired husband didn’t seem to actually mind.

Castiel quickly picked a table booth with a good view and set Grace down in it next to the window, setting their bag on the table. Dean was right behind him with Emma, encouraging her to sit with her sister before Cas could sit.

She didn’t.

“I’m hungry, Uncle Dean,” Emma said instead, spotting food on the other end of the boat and tugging at his hand, trying to drag him away from the table. Grace piped in,

“Me too! Me too!”

Dean blinked down at the little girl in disbelief. He opened his mouth and closed it again. He looked at Cas whose expression mirrored his own, “But…we all just had breakfast only an hour ago…” Castiel voiced the words for him.

“I don’t understand how you can be hungry so soon,” Dean said, incredulously.

Emma tugged at him again. “Please, Uncle Dean? I’ll be good.”

Dean inhaled sharply and some of the thoughts he’d vaguely had that morning solidified, breaking his heart more. Missouri was likely right about needing some help for the girls. He and Cas should look into different child psychologists as soon as they got back. Maybe Sam could help them with that.

But for now…

Dean allowed the small child to pull him in the direction of the concession-food-bar-thing (he really had no idea what to call it) and let her pick out some chicken tenders and french fries and some water (he absolutely refused to allow her to have soda. It was completely unnecessary for young children to be drinking something like that on the regular), getting two of everything so that Grace would have her own food.

In the end, the girls just grazed the food, not actually being hungry as Dean had suspected was the case. But every time their attention was brought back to it, they’d nibble on it some more. Thankfully, they were too engrossed in watching the land slip away and asking “What’s that?” while pointing at every little thing. Dean and Castiel both spent the next hour explaining things like buoys, and lighthouses and other things they weren’t entirely sure on themselves.

Their first heartbreaking, meltdown experience happened when Castiel pulled out some Ziplocs and tried to put away the rest of their food. Emma practically cried and Grace suddenly lunged forward and pulled her red and white paper dish closer to her, clutching at it desperately with wide eyes.

“Fuck,” Dean breathed, his own eyes wide, his fears confirmed, “No, sweethearts, we’re not taking your food away from you. The boats about to dock so we have to get back in our car so we can drive off. We’re saving the food for you, for in the car. We don’t want to spill it, do we?”

“Look, Grace,” Castiel followed up gently, shaking the plastic zip locks in his hand, “it’s a baggie and once we put the food inside it, you can carry it yourself without worrying that you’ll drop it. Because if we drop food on the boat floor, we’re going to have to throw it away.”

“Cause it’ll all be yucky from the floor?” Grace asked tentatively, her little hands not letting go, the container starting to twist and a tender rolling dangerously near the edge of it.

“That’s right, and we don’t want to waste the food we bought, right? I love eating food, and it’d make me sad if we had to throw it away,” Dean agreed. Emma stared at them, sniffling, the tears that had gathered in the corners of her eyes had, thankfully, not fallen.

She sniffled again. “Can I put the food away, Uncle Cas?”

“Of course you can, sweetheart,” Cas quickly agreed, his gravelly voice still gentle. He handed over one of the baggies and she slowly took it.

“And I can keep it?” She asked, looking between her uncles. They simply nodded at her, their throats tight with emotion.

Castiel had to swallow a few times before he could get his voice working again. “Hey, Grace, do you want me to help you?” He held out the second bag, opening it wide in invitation. She glared at him, then looked at her sister filling her own bag. Dean helped her seal it and then let Emma hold it. Grace looked down at her tray and carefully placed it back on the table, Cas sighing in relief at her ready compliance, and that the chicken tender hadn’t managed to finish it’s escape attempt.

One singular piece at a time, Grace carefully lifted her chicken tenders to the baggie. Emma leaned over and started helping, grabbing bigger handfuls of the fries and dumping them in as well, until the little tray was empty. Grace struggled to seal it, yanking the bag away when Castiel reached over to help.

“Grace, it’s okay, I’m not taking the food away, I promise. I’m just going to show you how that bag closes, okay? It’s got a special trick to it. Can I show you?” Castiel implored. She reluctantly turned to him and nodded and he breathed another sigh of relief.

Once all the food was secure and safe in the hands of the little girls, Dean and Cas herded them back to the Impala and got everyone settled. He was glad they were by one of those strange rectangular portholes (did you still call it a porthole when it wasn’t one of those small round ones? Or could he just call it what it was – a window?) and he was able to direct their attention to what little they could see of their docking through it. That held their attention long enough for Dean and Castiel to exchanged worried looks with each other.

“Dean, I’ve never seen children react like that. They’ve never been like that before either. Not last night, not this morning. I don’t understand what prompted that behavior?” Castiel’s blue eyes were sad, his mouth drooping at the corners. Instead of answering, Dean pulled him across the seat and into an embrace.

Castiel let Dean hug him and his eyes widened when he realized how tightly Dean was holding onto him, how Cas could feel a minute shiver course through Dean’s body. He closed his eyes and hugged back. Dean, apparently, did recognize the behavior and either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, talk about it now. Castiel’s attention was drawn by movement caught out of the corner of his eyes, and he watched the girls, much more relaxed then just 5 minutes ago, and realized, it was both. Whatever Dean knew, he didn’t want to talk about it here because the kids were right here. Castiel would have to be patient and wait till they got home. Likely longer, since they needed to settle the kids in, go over a few ground rules, before they could have time alone to discuss anything.

So instead, Castiel ran soothing hands down Dean’s back, running fingers briefly through his hair and giving his scalp a light scratch. He chuckled when Dean burrowed his face into Cas’s neck for a minute, just allowing himself to be soothed before he pulled back, Dean’s green eyes looking a little less wild and devastated than they had before he’d looked to Cas for comfort.

“Feeling better, love?” Castiel said softly, very softly.

Dean blushed at the rare nickname and nodded. He let out a shaky breath and smiled a little at Castiel, “What would I do without you?” He asked just as softly.

Castiel lifted a hand to graze against Dean’s jaw. “Let’s never have to find out, okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Dean leaned into the touch and then away, taking his keys out to start the Impala as the sounds of the front end of the boat opening reached his ears. They were almost off the boat and then they’d have a 3 hour drive to get home.

If they didn’t stop anywhere first.

Who was he kidding? They’d stop a few times. That’s why they’d left so early, to give themselves plenty of time for any number of planned and unplanned stops.

Dean just wished they were home already. He had to tell Cas what he suspected, because Dean didn’t think Cas understood. To Cas, this was just weird behavior on his niece’s parts. But to Dean…it was all too familiar. The need to eat or hoard food while you could because you simply didn’t know the next time you would be getting any.

Dean was all too familiar with going hungry…

Sam too, though Dean had done his damndest to make sure Sam didn’t, even giving up his own chance to eat to make sure his little brother didn’t starve.

Too many times had John left them in a motel and disappeared for days on end, even upwards of almost 2 weeks without enough food or money to get more.

Nobody should experience that.

Especially children.

Dean’s usual dislike of Lilith and Lucifer, already grown since the phone call that changed their lives, bloomed into hatred as he remembered Chucks story that morning.

Dean had to restrain a growl at the thought of his nieces’ neglectful parents. His grip on the steering wheel tightened as he slowly rolled off the Ferry into Bridgeport and headed for the highway.

Lilith and Lucifer better hope to god he never saw them again, because Dean would be hard pressed not to punch both of them right in the face.

And when he explained to Cas what had just happened, it would be anyone’s guess who’d get in the first punch.

Chapter Text

Dean walked up the flagstone walk in front of the house, following his husband and the two little girls into the house, dragging most of the bags and feeling fucking exhausted.

What the hell?

He’d once done a road trip – by himself, mind you – from New Hampshire to South Carolina in less than 12 hours (Google said it should take 15 and a half), with multiple stops to rest his eyes. He personally knew someone who’d made a similar trip from New York (which should have shaved off 3 ½ hours) to the same location in twice the time, with only 2 stops.

And yet Dean was more tired from this 3-hour trip (he wasn’t counting the ferry time, he hadn’t been driving) than he’d been on that trip down the east coast. It didn’t make any sense. He certainly didn’t remember kids being quite so exhausting. Granted, Dean had been a kid himself, but still, he was only 26. That was still young, wasn’t it?

What was worse though, was that this was only their second day as ‘parents’. Should he be feeling this exhausted already?

Emma’s voice rang out loudly from in front of him, “Is this your house?”

Our house, from now on,” Castiel rested a hand on her head for a second, guiding her to the little bench on the wall in their front entryway. “Here, we take our shoes off at the door and put them under the bench, see? And then we hang our jackets up there,” Castiel pointed and paused. Dean looked to see him staring at the wall with dawning realization.

“What’s up, Cas?” Dean must have missed whatever memo his husband had just gotten, because he was staring at the wall and just not seeing whatever Cas had seen.

“They can’t reach the hooks, Dean. I didn’t think of that,” Cas turned worried eyes on Dean.

“I got it!” Emma called out.

“No, it’s okay sweetie, we’ll hang up your jackets for you until we fix it, okay?” Castiel assured her.

Dean bit his lip and shrugged, “Eh, it’s no problem. I can run out to Home Depot tomorrow and –“ Dean blinked and shut his mouth, shaking his head with a small grin, causing Castiel to follow his gaze. Emma had climbed up onto the bench and was hanging her own jacket up, then her sisters when Grace handed it to her. She was on her tip toes to do it, but do it she did.

“They’re pretty independent, aren’t they?” Castiel noted softly.

“Yeah,” Dean agreed, “I’ll still get those hooks though, make it a little easier for them. Can’t hurt right?”

Castiel smiled at him as Dean hung up his own coat and toed off his boots, kicking them haphazardly under the bench. Castiel turned back to the girls, “Would you like to see the house?”

“The whole house?” Grace asked.

“Of course, including your very own room.” Castiel said solemnly but Dean could see the twinkle in his eye.

Our own room? We don’t have to sleep on the couch?” Emma asked.

“No, sweethearts, you each get your own bed,” Dean said, picking up the bags from the floor, including their stuffed backpacks. Castiel reached for a few, relieving him of a couple with a quick kiss.

As they wandered around the first floor, pointing out the various rooms and the stairs, the girls exclaimed over every little thing and peered into every nook and cranny they could find, trying every doorknob they saw.

“Uncle Cas? Where’s the Christmas tree?” Grace tugged at his sleeve.

“We don’t have one yet. We were waiting for you.” Castiel answered.

Really?” Grace gasped.

“We get to do another tree?” Emma started dancing, grabbing her sisters’ hands and laughing.

Dean laughed right along with them. “Guess it was a good thing we had a late start decorating this year. It’s made this perfect for them,” Dean whispered to Cas. Raising his voice, Dean spoke again, “Okay, how about we check out upstairs now? I think we promised you a room, and I’d like to put these bags away.”

Leading the way this time, Dean headed straight for the stairs, turned around at the midway point and continued on up to the landing. He stopped in the hall and waited for the rest of them to catch up. Pointing at the door at one end, “There’s a door to an outdoor porch there. We never use that in winter, and you always ask us before you go out there, okay?”

“In fact, that’s rule number one. You never leave the house without permission or letting us know where you are. That will change as you get older, okay?” Castiel explained patiently.

They nodded and Dean turned the other way, showing them straight to their room. “Emma, you get the top bed, okay? That’s because you’re older. And Grace, you get the bottom bed. One of these dressers and one of these toy boxes will be Emma’s, and the other ones will be Graces. Everything else, you’ll share. Can you pick out a side of the room, or do you want us to?” Dean dropped the bags in the middle of the room, pointing at everything as he spoke.

“I want that side!” Emma pointed left and while Grace didn’t say anything, she pointed the opposite way.

Dean nodded, “Good enough for me.”

“We hope this is okay, sharing a room?” Castiel asked nervously. The girls didn’t answer, Emma already scampering up the stairs to the top bunk and bouncing a little on her knees on it while Grace climbed into hers and sat on the edge, kicking her feet noisily into the mattress.

“Okay, rule number two –“ Dean hadn’t expected to need this rule, what with having bunkbeds and all, but suddenly remembering some of the games he and Sam had gotten up to when they were bored with nothing else to do but sit around in a motel room, it was probably good to have in place just in general. “No jumping around on the furniture – any furniture. You can get hurt, or maybe break it. We don’t want you to do either of those things.”

While Dean was speaking, he started separating the bags and putting clothes away. Castiel helped and soon they had each of the girls helping to put their own things away into their own dressers and toy boxes. The few books they’d gotten as gifts, they didn’t put onto the shared bookshelf yet, but placed on top of the dressers. Castiel planned to get them little book plates so their names would be inside the books and they would know who’s was who’s. Of course, they planned on encouraging the girls to share, but after what had happened between Grace and Hannah, they figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

And in the meantime, keep them separated. It was a solution appropriate to the books but wouldn’t be applicable to everything. Dean would just have to cross his fingers that no problems arose. He was already getting the idea that he couldn’t use his own childhood with Sam as an accurate gauge. But at least the girls seemed to have a better relationship then Castiel had ever had with Lilith, so at least they didn’t have to use his childhood as a gauge either.

Of course, that left them flying blind but, they’d work it out, somehow.

Everything put away, Dean glanced at his watch…it was almost 4 in the afternoon – or did that count as early evening? He’d never been able to figure that out – and wondered what next? This was a unique situation and he was feeling at a loss what to do. Should they leave the girls to their own devices? Should they attempt to bond more with them?

He was saved wondering by his phone ringing. Thumbing the screen, Dean answered with a grin, barely holding back his customary greeting…after all, they had to set an example for the children, and Grace had already proven herself completely capable of using the word ‘bitch’ in proper context, whether she understood it or not.

“Yo, Sammy! What’s up?” Dean answered cheerfully.

“I wanted to see if you’d gotten home yet…I’m gonna assume since you answered that you did. How was the trip?”

“Dude, if you thought I might still be driving, why didn’t you call Cas’s phone instead? And it was okay. Took longer than I expected. I don’t remember dad making as many rest break stops as we made…”

“Yeah, well, if we needed a bathroom, he just pulled over to the side of the road and had us pee in the bushes. Not exactly a role model there, Dean.” Sam’s tone implied ‘bitch face’ and Dean grimaced.

“Yeah, well, it’s a lot more convenient, I can see why Dad did it…” Dean looked at Cas and raised an eyebrow in question, then nodded his head at the girls, ‘What now?’ Castiel followed his gaze to where the girls were already sorting through what little they had to play with and frowned.

“Dean!” Sam’s shocked voice called Dean’s attention back to the phone.

“God, Sammy, it was just a joke…” Dean groused back.

“Fine, you know what, I’ll just hang up and call Cas instead,” Sam groaned.

“You do that…I’m gonna figure out what’s for dinner.” Dean didn’t wait for Sam to hang up and hung up on him first. Castiel narrowed his eyes at his husband and looked at him disapprovingly. “What?” Dean asked defensively. Cas knew him too well. Cas’s mouth opened –

- and the doorbell rang.

Dean practically leaped out of the room and down the stairs snickering to himself, Saved by the bell! He threw open the door and Sam grinned at him. Behind him, Bobby, Ellen and Jo were pulling into the driveway right behind Sam’s car.

Blinking stupidly at his brother, Dean greeted him just as eloquently, “Uh….”

“Just let us in, jerk, it’s cold out here,” Despite his words, Sam didn’t wait for Dean to move aside, just pushing right past him.

“Right, okay, come on in. Are we having a party? I don’t remember getting an invite,” Dean said. By that time his aunt, uncle and cousin had all reached the door, their hands full, though Jo managed to get a mittened hand free long enough to pat Dean’s cheek.

“Poor Deanie…doesn’t know how to deal with all this affection. Besides, you know we’re not here for you, we’re here to meet our new nieces!” Jo shot him an unrepentant grin.

“Jo, stop blocking the goddamn door and move yer ass!” Ellen shouted from behind Bobby. Huffing, Jo did what her mother asked. Under his cap, Bobby just rolled his eyes, but he wasn’t objecting to his wife’s words.

“What is all this?” Dean watched his surrogate parents and their daughter parade past him with some of those heavy duty carrying bags you see used with cookware – he had no idea what they were called and didn’t much care, as long as the food tasted good when he ate it.

They didn’t answer at first and he just trailed after them into the kitchen. It was a good-sized kitchen and had been one of the selling points of the house when he and Cas had bought it together. Dean liked to cook and Cas liked to bake.

Putting everything on the spacious counters, the four self-invited guests got to work in the kitchen, putting some things into the fridge, turning on the oven, plugging in a crockpot and just basically taking over. Dean wound up simply sitting at the little table in the kitchen that was big enough for four people normally and watching them dance around each other with bemusement. They had all been there often enough to be completely comfortable with his kitchen, knowing exactly where everything they might need would be.

“What’s…going on?” Castiel’s confused voice asked. Dean turned to find him carrying Grace on his hip and Emma, not usually shy, was hiding behind him. She was staring up at Sam with awe and disbelief.

“Uncle Cas!” Emma ‘whispered’ and Dean had to refrain from chuckling at how loud she really was, “Uncle Cas, he’s so tall! Is he the tallest man in the world?”

“No, sweetie, he’s pretty tall, but he’s not the tallest. That tall man is your Uncle Dean’s brother. His name is Sam,” Castiel answered, “And the man in the hat is their Uncle Bobby, and that lady there is his wife, Aunt Ellen, and that’s Aunt Ellen’s daughter, Jo. Guys, these are my nieces, Emma and Grace. Do you girls want to say hi?”

Grace wiggled in his arms to look out at everyone as he spoke, her eyes wide and she gave a hesitant little wave but with her small hands clenched into Cas’s shirt, it seemed like she wouldn’t be leaving her perch any time soon.

Emma was certainly more brave, but she gravitated towards Jo, staring up at her. Jo paused and stared back, smiling. “Your hair is blonde, like Rapunzel. She’s my favorite princess,” Emma stated simply, “I wish I had blonde hair too. Is your hair magic like hers?”

“Oh, you bet it is!” Jo laughed.

Emma gasped, “Really? Does it glow?”

“Nope, but it’s always bouncy,” Jo grinned and reached out to touch a strand of Emma’s long, black hair. “Looks like your hair is magic too, your hair looks and feels just like silk.”

“What about me?” Grace spoke up from Castiel’s shoulder, this time wiggling to get down. As soon as Cas set her own her feet, she darted over to stand beside her sister. “Is my hair magic too?”

“Hmm…let me see now,” Jo pretended to think. “Why yes, I think it is!” Grace gasped and smiled, bouncing in place, eagerly waiting to hear how magic her hair was. Dean and Cas watched the exchange with smiles of relief.  They had no idea how the girls would react to meeting strangers and though both of them had tried not to worry, they hadn’t been able to help it.

Soon, as the children relaxed some, Sam joined Jo in talking with Emma and Grace. He was quickly turned into a walking jungle gym, much to Dean’s amusement.  Laughter rang through the house and the husbands found themselves groping blindly to take the others hand in their own, unable to take their eyes off the little girls that had come to live with them.

Not too long after, under Ellen’s’ direction, Cas was setting up the rarely used dining room table with bowls and silverware, even as Bobby pulled out drinks and Dean helped Ellen bring the crockpot of stew to the table along with baskets of warm, ‘freshly baked’ store bought bread, and two small tubs of soft butter. Sam and Jo herded the girls to the table and soon everyone was quickly digging into the food. Dean groaned over every bite of the stew – much to his brothers’ disgust – and it was everyone else’s turn to be shocked at how much food the two smallest humans at the table could pack away.

Sam paused, his spoon halted halfway to his mouth before he turned his eyes to Dean, a look of understanding in them, and Cas dearly wishing he knew what was going on. He’d been getting hints all day, but…growing children needed to eat a lot…didn’t they? He watched as Dean swallowed and looked away, catching the look of sympathy on his uncles’ face.

“Uncle Bobby, I uh, think Cas and I might want to talk to you at some point to um, get some advice,” Dean tapped his spoon to his bowl and glanced at the girls and then back at his uncle. Dean didn’t have to say anything more than that. Bobby nodded gruffly, but with a gentle, understanding look in his eyes. “I figure you have certain first hand experiences that I lack. Different perspective and all.”

“I got ya, boy,” Bobby’s rumbled out, “Anytime, of course I’ll help. You know that.”

Both Sam and Dean looked away, understanding that yeah, Uncle Bobby would always be there for them. Had from the very first time they’d called out for help. And their lives were so different than they could have been because of it.

Neither Winchester regretted for a single instant having called Bobby to take them away from their dad. They had some good memories, and they might joke about some of the things John had done, but mostly they avoided the topic, even amongst themselves. Never quite good, things had gone downhill fast all of a sudden and it had scared them a lot.

Castiel, sitting opposite his husband at the table, could only rub a socked foot along Dean’s leg, unable to reach out in any other way to comfort him. Was it awful of him that he wished his in-laws would just go home so they could get the kids to bed and he could finally talk with Dean about whatever it was everyone else seemed to have figured out except him?

Castiel knew that the four of them had only come over to help, rightly surmising that their first full day with the girls, coupled with the roadtrip, would be tiring and that the last thing they would want to do was make food.

And Castiel could certainly understand their desire to get to know the two newest additions to the family.

Looking at a clock, Cas resolved that he just needed to be patient. It was nowhere near time for the girls to go to sleep, and he didn’t want to chance any interruptions before that, so waiting till they were in bed was a must.

He held back a sigh and smiled instead when Dean looked at him with concern in his eyes and an inquiring eyebrow. Cas mouthed ‘later’ and Dean nodded, digging back into his food, keeping one eye on the girls as he ate.

They wasted not a drop, asking not only for seconds, but thirds as well.

And every Winchester and Singer at the table watched Emma and Grace like hawks.

Chapter Text

Hours later, with the fridge stacked full with pre-made meals that only required someone to heat them up, their four uninvited but always welcome houseguests departed. Emma and Grace, no longer shy to any degree, gave each one a hug without any prompting. Jo and Sam both beamed, Ellen turned away to wipe away a tear, and Bobby just melted. And then acted like he’d done nothing of the sort.

Sam and Jo left first, Ellen pausing on her way out. Glancing quickly at Cas, she turned to Dean, “Boy, don’t ya think the baby gates are a bit of an overkill?”

Dean blushed and heard snickering from the yard. Before Dean could retort, Castiel hugged Ellen and eyed Dean till he did the same.

When he let go of his aunt, his uncle stepped up in her place. Bobby finished securing his jacket and faced Dean, saying in his gruff voice, “Those two little girls are sweet children. I reckon you boys are lucky to have ‘em. Just as I was lucky to have you and Sam come into my life. You know I never regretted that, right Dean?”

“Of course, Uncle Bobby,” Dean answered with a lump in his throat. He wrapped an arm around his uncle and gave him a tight, but brief hug, then let him go so he could rejoin his wife and adopted daughter in the truck. Sam was waiting impatiently in his own car, since he couldn’t leave until the Singers did.

It wasn’t until they started what they hoped to establish as the night time routine, that Dean and Cas realized what was sure to be just the first of the many things they’d forgotten.

“Uncle Dean, where’s my toothbrush?” Emma, already clad in her pajamas, Grace standing alongside her with wet hair from their bath, stared up at her uncle, her sister doing the same. Dean refrained from smacking himself in the face. It would set a bad example.

“Uh, we need to buy you some. But I’ll show you how me and your Uncle Sam used to do it when we were kids and didn’t have a toothbrush, okay?” Quickly, turning it into a game, Dean demonstrated by squirting toothpaste onto his index finger and using it to push around and over his teeth, his lips spread wide to show what he was doing.

He knew as an adult what he didn’t know as a kid – that it wouldn’t really do much to clean their teeth, but it would help them feel less gross. Eager to try it for themselves, the girls held their fingers out for their uncle to spread toothpaste on. Within seconds, their mouths were a grinning, foamy mess, spreading outwards to their cheeks, and yes, even their hair.

The girls weren’t the only ones giggling at the absurdity of it. He heard a snort from the doorway where Castiel stood with a hairbrush in his hands, waiting for the three of them to be done. He shook his head fondly at his husband and Dean just shrugged with a ‘what can you do’ expression.

When at last the girls were settled into bed, Dean and Cas sighed in relief. They didn’t wander far, just to their own room, leaving their door wide open so they could listen for the sounds of a little one getting up and creeping out of bed. Ellen had thought the baby gates had been a step too far. Dean was just glad that she hadn’t known how seriously they’d contemplated setting up a baby monitor for the room.

The two of them sat on the end of their bed in silence, both straining their ears for several long moments before they conceded that maybe the girls had been exhausted enough from the long day to just fall right to sleep.

“Do you think it’s safe enough to talk?” Castiel whispered hesitantly.

“As safe as it ever is with kids around, I guess?” Dean didn’t whisper, but it was an effort not to.

Cas let out a breath of air, his shoulders relaxing a little as he tilted into Dean’s space. Laying his head down on Dean’s shoulder, he closed his eyes and opened his mouth. He closed it again, trying to figure out where to start.

Dean’s hand reached out to take his and Dean threaded his fingers through Cas’s, a thumb rubbing over Cas’s hand soothingly.

“Cas, I know you have some questions, about some of the things that happened today,” Dean gulped and leaned his head down to rest on top of Castiel’s. “It’s possible that Missouri was right, about the girls going through some sort of trauma or, or neglect. I uh, well Sam and I, and Bobby too, we recognized some of the signs because…” Dean trailed off, taking a shaky breath and Castiel recalled how upset his husband had been on the ferry just after Grace and Emma’s collective meltdown over their food.

It had happened hours and hours ago, and it still made Castiel’s heart break. For all of them.

“Because you experienced it yourself?” Castiel asked softly. Dean nodded silently and Cas twisted around to hold Dean in his arms, tucking Dean’s head into his neck and running his long fingers through Dean’s short, dark blonde hair. It was darker now, in winter, than it would be in the summer. More of the brown showed through without hours of exposure to sunlight.

“There were times when we ran out of food, out of money to get more food and we didn’t know when Dad was coming back. I’d go without first, making sure Sammy had as much of the food as possible. He was my little brother and I was left in charge of him. So, he got whatever we had. But that didn’t stop Sam from being hungry. After a while, I learned how to…ration it out. I stole sometimes too, when things got desperate. Or convinced adults to get us food, somehow, without reporting us. But when we had it, we hoarded it. When Uncle Bobby took us in - this is before Aunt Ellen or Jo – Sam and I tended to eat till we made ourselves sick…hide food in our rooms…” Dean’s stomach twisted at the memories.

“Because you didn’t quite believe your good fortune would hold, did you?” Castiel closed his eyes at the horror of imagining Dean and Sam, Emma and Grace, hell, anyone really, starving. What kind of a world was it that people let that happen? “You had the food before you and you ate and ate and ate because you didn’t know if it would be taken away.”

Just like Grace and Emma had been all that day. Eating at every opportunity. Overly protective of whatever they had.

Distrustful of the adults meant to take care of them.

“Yeah,” Dean exhaled another shaky breath, “I mean, obviously, we’re not like that anymore. We learned better. We learned to trust Bobby, to trust that things had improved, that the food wouldn’t just disappear. Sam adjusted better than I did, faster. I still, to this day – god, Cas, you must have seen me! Sometimes I just can’t stop myself, even if I’m not actually hungry, I’ll keep eating because…”

Cas shuddered. He realized Dean was right. Castiel had seen the signs in his husband, he just hadn’t understood them, any more than he had understood that something had been wrong this morning, but not quite why the girls had gotten so upset. Now he did and it was even more heartbreaking than it had already been.

“And to think those poor children, your nieces had to go through something like that. I just…Lilith should watch out because if I ever see her, I don’t care if she’s a girl…I’m going to punch her right in her freaking face!” Dean growled out.

Castiel hummed his agreement. “You could always get Jo to do it. I’m sure she’d be happy to. And if Jo does it, you don’t have to worry about holding back…or anyone accusing you of taking advantage of Lilith. You do not want to engage Lilith – she’s brilliant at twisting things around to be in the worst light possible, for everyone else, as long as it’s to her advantage.”

Dean snorted, “Yeah, I can see that. From everything I’ve heard about her…” He trailed off again. “Thing is Cas, this is just the tip of the iceberg – to borrow your fathers phrase from this morning – we don’t know what else those girls have suffered through. We are going to have to keep our eyes peeled.”

Cas’s heart sank. “Dean, what if I miss something? I didn’t know what I saw this morning, other than how sad it was and I was right there! How am I going to know other signs as they appear?”

“We get help, Cas. That’s why I wanted to talk to Bobby. He’s kinda got firsthand experience. And Sam can help us with research. It’s kinda his thing.”

Cas opened his mouth to talk when they both stiffened. The creak of the door to the girl’s room seemed to resonate through the house, small footsteps padding across the hall to the bathroom and the door quietly shutting.

Normally, Castiel would have assumed that it was mere consideration. When he woke in the middle of the night to natures call, he always tried to move quietly so that he didn’t wake Dean. But he was starting to suspect that what he had come to think of as normal behavior wouldn’t be a good keystone for Emma or Grace.

They heard the toilet flush and whichever little girl had snuck out, just as quietly returned to the room she now shared with her sister and attempted to close the door just as silently, foiled by the creak neither Dean nor Cas had realized was present in the hinges.

And were now resolving to leave there. In the absence of a baby monitor, it would be a good way to keep track of their new charges – unless Dean and Cas were fast asleep themselves.

Dean let out a breath and ran his fingers through his hair, looking first at their open door and then back to his husband. Dean pointed in the direction of the kids’ room, “That’s another one.”

“Another…? Another sign? I suspected, but I don’t understand what it means,” Castiel admitted.

“Yeah, well, most kids I know, aren’t that considerate,” Dean answered, “Not that they don’t want to be. Some of them do. It’s more like they don’t comprehend certain things, like how much noise they are making. How the time of day can change the impact of the same amount of noise. And that there? Was a child who did comprehend that and tried to lessen the impact so they disturbed those around them the least. Tell me Cas, why would a kid learn that?”

“Normally, I’d say the parents taught them to be more careful. That’s what parents do, isn’t it?” Castiel ventured.

“Yeah…if you happen to know the parents are pretty cool and not at all like your sister and her ex. Which leaves us to consider the other reason a kid might learn to be so careful, so quiet…” Dean’s face was red, angry. He was breathing hard, but somehow had managed to keep his voice fairly level. It was an effort, Castiel could see.

“Dean…” Castiel pulled him back against his body, trying to comfort Dean with his warmth.

“Cas, Sam and I learned damn early on never to get on Johns bad side. Because if he was having one of his episodes, or if he was drunk, the results weren’t pretty. Especially those later years and that’s all I can see right now, babe. That’s all I can see, those girls are so conflicted. They love us. God, I know I didn’t imagine that. They were honestly happy to see us! But they’re afraid of us, because that’s what their experience has shown them. To be afraid of the ones they love.” Dean nearly sobbed, his voice hitching, words wobbling.

“We’ll just have to show them not to be. Like Bobby did with you and Sam. It’ll be okay, Dean, remember? We’re doing this together, not alone, and we have support from other people, just like you said a few days ago, when I was freaking out about…about the stupid shit…” Castiel pressed a kiss into Dean’s hair, closing his eyes as he remembered his panic about the girls coming to live with them.

Dean snorted wetly into Cas’s shirt. “Wasn’t stupid shit, Cas. Your fears were just as valid, they were just on a different spectrum,” Dean paused, “No, that’s not quite right. Same spectrum. Both of us are worried that we won’t be able to care for the kids the way they need to be. It’s just that now our worries have expanded from the sorts of worries most parents have. Because now we know there are deeper issues here. We’ve gone from worrying about raising them right, to worrying about undoing the damage so that we can raise them right.”

“Still…” Cas trailed off, uncertain of where he was going with his train of thought. He was unsettled. Worried for his nieces, worried for himself, and worried for Dean. He had had an inkling of what it had been like for his husband and Sam, but hadn’t realized how much it still affected him. How having the girls in their care would bring light to old wounds, maybe even re-open them.

On the other hand, Castiel couldn’t imagine anyone better at helping those girls then Dean. He could relate to Emma and Grace in a way most people never would be able to.

That had to count for something, right?

Chapter Text

It was amazing how fast paced their lives became with the addition of children into it. The next few days were a literal whirlwind. Aside from making calls to the school district before it was closed for the holidays, and then prep for the holidays themselves, in addition to getting the girls settled in and ground rules worked out, they needed to also check in with Missouri before any of that could be done.

Missouri was enamored of the girls’ right off the bat and the feeling was mutual. Dean and Cas heaved a sigh of relief as the visit seemed to go well. The girls were excited to show off their very own room when Missouri asked to see it. Emma, with apparently not a shy bone in her body, grabbed Missouri’s hand and attempted to drag the poor woman straight up the stairs, Grace scampering along behind them, with Dean and Castiel bringing up the rear.

Grace skipped past them, bee lining for her favorite part of the room while Emma proudly gave at tour of every single thing she could think of before ending with, “And it’s all ours!” Emma’s face was filled with awe. “We’ve never had our own room before.”

“And it’s a very fine room,” Missouri said with a smile, her eyes sparkling.

“Look at me!” Grace called from the rocking horse. As Missouri assured the younger child of her attention and favor, Cas sighed in relief for the second time that day. He’d been worried about the horse, despite Dean’s assurances. Dean leaned into his space and wrapped an arm around Cas’s shoulders.

“I told ya, didn’t I?” Dean whispered in his ear.

Cas playfully smacked Dean on his arm. “Just can’t resist telling me ‘I told you so’, can you?”

“Nah, babe, cause you’re too adorable when you’re riled up,” Dean snickered.

Missouri turned to look at them with a raised brow and a smirk tugging at the corners of her lips, even as she tried to give them a stern look. Cas and Dean looked back at her innocently and she snorted, the grin breaking out, “You two are incorrigible, aren’t you?”

“Who? Us?” Dean teased right back, feeling at home with Missouri. Castiel still felt uneasy around her, as much as he liked Missouri. CPS had the power to take his nieces away from them for the least little mistake or lapse of judgement, and his confidence in being a parent was not very high, even before other things had come to light. Cas attempted to give her a smile, small as it was, but she saw right through it.

Missouri patted Castiel on the arm, “Don’t you be worryin’ now, Castiel. I have a premonition that everything’s going to work out just fine. And if you don’t believe me, you go on and ask Bobby Singer or Ellen about how my premonitions normally play out.” She winked and went to say goodbye to the girls, even shy little Grace giving her an enthusiastic hug.

As soon as Missouri left, Dean clapped his hands together and spoke up in a loud, carrying voice to get their attention, “So, who wants to go and pick out a Christmas tree to bring home?”

With lots of clamoring and jumping and “Me, me!” the girls crowded their laughing uncles. Taking the Impala – “Remember, girls, her name is Baby, ya got that?” “Yup, Uncle Dean!” – because it would be easier to wrangle a Christmas Tree to the Impala’s roof than to the roof of Cas’s tiny car (Dean tried not to wince at the thought and Castiel rubbed his shoulders sympathetically), they headed out to the nearest lot and prayed that this close to Christmas there would still be some halfway decent trees left.

They needn’t have worried. The girls thought every tree was perfect (even the ones Dean would have labeled as Charlie Brown trees). With only a few of their own criteria in mind (size being key, of course), they quickly made their selection and took it home.

While Dean struggled with getting the tree set up, Castiel pulled out the boxes he’d brought out of the attic the previous night and together, he and his nieces sorted through the ornaments. Castiel pulled out his brass ornaments, the ones his mother had used to get each of her kids every year before she had walked out on them.  

Idly, he wondered what had happened to Lilith’s. Did she still have them stashed away somewhere or had she lost them in one of her many moves that left things behind?

“When I was your age, and younger, I got a different Christmas ornament every year from my mom, so these are very special to me. See this one? See how it has my name and the year I got it engraved on the back?”

Grace picked up the one with kitty cat and the ‘ball’ that was actually a jingly bell and coood over it. Emma nibbled at her lip and counted the ornaments.

“Are these all of ‘em?” she asked softly. Castiel paused in the act of digging out another box of ornaments, looked at the solemn and worried face of his oldest niece and nodded. She blinked up at him, then down again, “But there are only 11 of them. Why aren’t there any more? Did you get taken away from your mom too?”

“No, sweetheart, my mom left when I was 11. Your mom was 9 and your Aunt Anna was 15.” Castiel felt the long ago pain of the loss hit him, but it wasn’t nearly as powerful as it had been when he was a child. He thought of her nostalgic confusion, but not with the devastation he’d once been filled with.

He still didn’t understand why his mother had left, dropping out of their lives so thoroughly as she had. Castiel pushed it out of his mind, choosing only to remember the good memories he had of her. Belatedly, he realized that he could, in a way, also relate to his nieces about the sudden lack of one of their parental figures. Hmm…

He shook his head, his thoughts turning then to his sister. It suddenly occurring to him that he didn’t think Anna had ever been around her own nieces. He couldn’t recall the last time he had heard from her himself. As soon as she’d been able to leave home, Anna had done just that. She’d left and rarely came back. Her visits were always at whatever unknown whim that had struck her, and contact was always on her terms, not theirs.

Interrupting his suddenly meandering thoughts, Emma launched herself at her uncle and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face there as she climbed to sit in his lap. “I’m sorry, Uncle Cas. Why did your mommy leave you? Did you ever see her again?”

He swallowed. What should he say to that? If he said the whole truth, would Emma then correlate that to her own situation somehow? Then again, if there was one thing he’d abhorred as a child, it was getting lied to. Especially when it was so obvious and they still refused to tell him the truth.

“Emma, I,” Castiel brought his arms up to hug her back, “I never knew why she left. And no, I never saw her again. Sometimes, I guess, some people aren’t meant to be together, or to have kids. But I don’t actually know, and I’ll probably never know why. So, I can’t answer your question, sweetie, I’m sorry.”

“Were you sad?” she asked. Castiel’s mouth worked, trying to find an answer to that. A small clatter to his left distracted him only long enough to see that Grace had dropped one of the brass ornaments in with the others and was staring at him with wide eyes, also anxious to hear his answer.

He blinked at the little girl as she crept closer to him, climbing into his lap beside her older sister. He turned back to Emma where she was still waiting for his answer. It was suddenly dead quiet in the room and he looked over to Dean for help, but the man had also frozen, just staring at the three of them.

Castiel swallowed again, then cleared his throat for good measure, stalling as he tried to think of what to say. He looked at the children, then back at Dean desperately. Dean dropped the strand of lights he’d been holding and walked over to sit behind Cas, folding his legs around Cas’s crossed legs, wrapping on arm around his husbands’ waist and leaning into him.

Taking a deep breath at the reassuring presence of Dean at his back, touching him, grounding him, offering literal support should he need it, Castiel returned his attention to Emma and Grace.

“Of course I was sad, she was my mom,” Cas said gently. “I was also mad that she left. She didn’t even say goodbye to us. One night she’d tucked me in, and when I woke up she was gone. I felt like she had never loved me. Or that I must have done something wrong to make her want to leave. It took me a long time to stop being sad or mad.”

Cas didn’t tell them how self-serving he’d learned Becky had been. How she’d only married Chuck because she had thought he was going places. They’d met when Chuck had played his guitar at the college coffee house. All the girls (and apparently more than a few guys) had swooned over the amateur musician, but Becky had somehow wormed her way in first.

They’d started dating and then whoops! She was pregnant with Anna. It took a few years, though (more than a few) for her to finally decide enough was enough and book it. But neither Cas, Anna or Lilith had known anything was wrong until literally the day they realized she was gone.

Sometimes, Cas thinks that’s where Lilith had gone wrong. She’d been the youngest, and the most upset, the least understanding of their mothers’ sudden disappearance. Chuck had taken it hard as well, suddenly being the only parent of three children. He’d had to take longer shifts at the hospital (music hadn’t taken off for him like he’d thought), and they’d all felt the lack of his presence in their lives. They’d all dealt with it in different ways. Anna with indifference, Castiel by studying and trying to make things as easy as possible on his stressed dad and Lilith with acting out in any way she could that would garner her attention.

He’d always tried to give his sister the benefit of the doubt for that reason. She’d lost her stability at a younger age then the rest of them. Had had less time with her mother during her formative years then the Anna or Castiel. Cas was certain it had messed her up in ways that the rest of them didn’t quite understand.

But the fact remained that Becky had ditched them all without a word, and it had almost torn the family apart. So yes, at first he’d been sad, and later he’d become mad at her selfish behavior. Eventually he’d moved on, choosing to remember only the times they’d been a real family and been happy together. He had never been able to bring himself to get rid of the brass ornaments for that reason.

“What about you, Uncle Dean? Did you get taken away from your mommy and daddy?

“Yes and no, sweetie. My mom died when I was four and dad, well, he got sick – sick in the head kind of sick – and I called Uncle Bobby, you met him yesterday, remember? I called him and asked him to take us away.”

Emma’s eyes widened, as did Graces.

“You see, girls, I loved my dad, I really did. He was my dad. And no one else could ever replace him. But he also scared me and my brother. He didn’t mean to, but he got so sick, it wasn’t safe for Uncle Sam and I to stay with him. Our Dad was dangerous to be around. And sometimes, as much as we don’t want it, the best thing to do is to leave. That’s…just what happens.” Dean shuddered against Cas’s back as he spoke. Castiel wished to God Dean didn’t have to relive those memories.

“It doesn’t mean you stop loving your parents. But that you recognize their faults. Remember they’re human just like you. They’ll make mistakes, like anyone else. Like you will. Most of the time, we learn from those mistakes so we never make them again, and forgive others when we can. But sometimes those mistakes will be too big and can hurt someone.” Cas struggled to put into words what he was trying to say without scaring the kids or undermining his and Dean’s position with them.

Because Castiel had heard plenty of horror stories –whether true or not, he didn’t know - of children who called CPS on their parents for petty things because they didn’t fully understand the consequences of those actions. Kids who threatened their parents with the words, “I’ll call CPS on you!” while throwing a temper tantrum for not getting their way that later they might regret.

“Did your daddy hurt you?” Grace asked all too perceptively, her big blue eyes boring into Dean’s green ones with an un-childlike concern. Castiel felt Dean stiffen behind him in the ensuing moment of silence.

“Yes, he did.” Dean’s voice came out rough and unsteady as he kept his answer simple. Castiel knew it was the last thing Dean wanted to talk about, but they’d agreed to be as honest as they could with Emma and Grace. It would help the kids to trust them, build a connection between all of them.

Emma tumbled out of Castiel’s lap and circled around him to reach Dean, throwing her arms around his neck. Dean pulled back from his husband to make room for the teary – eyed child, his own eyes wet and his heart melting at the sympathy radiating from the 8 year old.

“I’m sorry, Uncle Dean. But you’re all right now, right?”  Dean nodded at her question and the four of them sat in silence for a few moments, just cuddling and comforting each other with their closeness.

Castiel’s heart felt bigger than it ever had before. A strange little ache he couldn’t begin to describe as he soaked in the love and concern of his nieces lodged itself in his chest. He and Dean had been worried about being able to connect with them. Had been worried about their ability to trust adults. But neither of them could have dreamed that just a bare 3 days with the girls would have had so great an impact on both of them. That despite whatever trust issues the girls had, it didn’t stop their little hearts from being so generous and kind.

They were so special, these girls. He couldn’t imagine anyone not loving them, not doing all that could be done for them. How could people not give their all for such sweet and caring children?

How could anyone not do as much as was in their power for any child?

Castiel tightened his arms around Grace, who returned the hug briefly. Then she pulled back, and he loosened his arms to let her go. She patted his cheek and clambered down. For her, the moment was over and she was once again distracted by the different shiny and colorful ornaments that surrounded them.

Emma pulled away from Dean not long after and joined her sister in exclaiming over their favorite ornaments, making piles of which ones each wanted to hang up themselves.

Dean and Cas sat and watched, using the time to regain their equilibrium. Dean’s hands snaking back around Castiel and pressing himself tightly against his husbands back. Dean tucked his head into the crook of Cas’s shoulder and Castiel reached down to grip Dean’s arms with his own as they watched.

The girls were noisy and occasionally squabbled about which one got to place which ornament, but thankfully, they didn’t get vicious about. After Graces behavior with Hannah, Cas would not have been in any way surprised had it devolved into some sort of fight, but the girls seemed endlessly patient with each other even when they were upset.

Kind of like Sam and Dean, Castiel realized with a jolt.

Eventually, Dean stood back up and headed back to the lights, Emma volunteering to help. She trailed after him with a pile of lights in her hand while he strung them around the tree. The tree was big enough that they had to go back for 3 more strands of lights.

When they finally finished placing the lights upon the tree, Castiel plugged it in and the girls ooh’d and ahh’d over the bright, twinkling colors. After a moment or two of admiration, they wasted no time in decorating the tree, using both Dean and Cas to reach the higher places. For the most part, though, Dean and Cas just observed. Cas surreptitiously taking photos on his phone – he stopped long enough to show Dean the one of him and Emma stringing up the lights – and just enjoying this moment.

Dean slipped out of the living room long enough to make 4 mugs of hot chocolate in the kitchen with generous portions of marshmallows and brought it all in on a tray with Christmas cookies Ellen had left them. He placed it all down on the coffee table and turned to the children where they were engrossed in the trees.

“Emma, Grace, wanna take a break for a special Christmas decorating treat?”

They squealed and rushed over, heading straight for the cookies while Dean started passing out the mugs. He’d made sure theirs wouldn’t be too hot before he gave it to them and they downed the drinks quickly, babbling happily together about the marshmallows and trying to count how many they had before they dissolved or were drunk.

Emma won – Castiel raised his eyebrows at Dean who shrugged back, they hadn’t realized it was a contest – and after they had demolished the last cookie, went straight back to the tree, which was almost done.

That night, Dean and Cas tucked in two very tired, very happy little girls and smiled.

Chapter Text

Much to everyone’s dismay and Dean’s great reluctance, he had to return to work the next day.

Sure, being the boss was great. But that didn’t mean he got to slack off whenever he wanted. There were things only he could do that needed doing. Things he hadn’t been able to properly prepare before taking off like he normally would have when planning for any sort of time off.

And of course, if Dean had to go back to work, then that meant Mister Grumpypants couldn’t sleep in. When Dean’s alarm went off, he peaked into the girls’ room before heading to the shower, noting that they were already awake and playing quietly. Which meant Cas would have to be awake before Dean left. Awake and alert though? That might be pushing it.

After his shower, Dean went downstairs long enough to get the coffee going and then returned to his room. It was time to wake his husband. Dean stood beside the bed, looking down at his adorable husband, the man laying curled up on his side, blankets wrapped around him like a cocoon. Cas’s dark hair lying messy on the pillow, mouth slightly parted as he breathed. Dean smiled down at him affectionately before kneeling beside the bed and gently pushing back some of the hair that had fallen across Cas’s eyes. His husband was in need of a haircut, but Dean wasn’t about to point it out to him. He loved the messy bedhead his husband seemed to perpetually wear.

“Cas…hey babe, it’s time to wake up,” Dean started out soft, as he usually did. It was always hard making himself wake his sleeping husband. A grumbling groan was all that he got for his effort. Chuckling, Dean leaned down and pressed a kiss to Cas’s parted lips. “Cas, baby, you can’t stay in bed, the girls are already awake and I have to leave.”

Castiel’s eyes blinked open, squinting a bit as he looked at Dean, his husbands face bare centimeters from his own. Cas blinked again and rubbed at his eyes groggily, “Whaa-?” he mumbled.

“C’mon babe, you’re going to want to get up before the girls take it upon themselves to wake you up.”

“They wouldn’t…” Castiel trailed off uncertainly.

Dean shrugged, “Maybe not, but most kids would. And as they get more comfortable with us, they just might.”

Cas closed his eyes and groaned before finally rolling and shifting on the bed. His bare feet hit the floor and he managed to get into a slumped but sitting position. Dean darted forward for another kiss which Cas tried to deepen. Chuckling again, Dean pulled away, his husband chasing his lips. Taking Cas’s hands in his, Dean got to his feet and pulled Cas with him, causing the man to stumble forward and collide with Dean’s body.

Dean wrapped his arms around Castiel’s waist and grinned, “Well, look what I’ve got in my arms…”

“Mmm…just kiss me already…” Cas grumbled. Laughing, Dean complied. Eventually, though, he pulled away.

“Sorry, babe, but all good things must come to an end, and I can’t be late today. Jo’s counting on me to open the shop. C’mon, I made coffee.” Dean said.

“Oh, thank god, you are an angel among men,” Cas said with immense gratitude, beaming at Dean.

“Nope, I think that’s you. You’re named after one, after all. Proof positive, right there,” Dean said smugly on his way out of the room. Castiel just grinned and shook his head before trailing after his husband, clad in boxers and a tee shirt, stopping briefly to use the bathroom and toss on sweatpants. It wasn’t his preferred night time attire, but he figured he should stay somewhat decent with children in the house. Plus, it was winter and it was damn cold.

By the time Castiel made it downstairs, he found the kitchen full of husband and chattering children. Emma and Grace were both settled at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal and Dean was leaning against the counter in his jeans and flannel with a steaming mug in his hand and another beside him, waiting for Cas.

“About time you got down here,” Dean teased. Castiel ignored him and groped for his mug, turning to lean against the counter beside his husband, the warmth of their bodies touching a wonderful feeling.

When Dean finished his coffee, he glanced at the clock and sighed. “All right guys, looks like it’s time for me to go to work. You all be good for your Uncle Cas, okay? He’s gonna need all the help you can give him, especially in the morning,” Dean said cheerily. Cas rolled his eyes.

“We’ll be good…” They chimed together.

“Why do you have to go to work?” Grace asked.

“Well, I have to go to work so that we have money. Money helps buy us food and clothes and a place to live and when you’ve got all the essentials squared away, sometimes you even have enough money left over for the fun stuff! And if you pick a job you like, it’s not so bad to go to work.”

“Oh. Do you like your job?” Emma asked.

“I sure do! I get to work on cars all day and fix them up. I’m like, a car doctor!”

“There’s no such thing as a car doctor,” Emma protested.

“Sure there is, sweetie, but most normal people call them mechanics,” Castiel remarked from behind his mug and sending Dean an amused look. Dean just shrugged.

“So, who wants a hug before I leave?” Dean asked while looking at Emma and Grace. They both ran forward and wrapped themselves around him as high as they could reach at nearly the same instant. He was shoved backwards slightly, hitting the counter with an, “Oof! I forgot how solid they are! You guys must be on the wrestling team or something!”

Emma giggled, “No, Uncle Dean!”

Grace tilted her head a little and stared up at her uncle in confusion, “What’s a wessling team?”

“I’ll uh, leave that for Uncle Cas. I’m gonna be late if I don’t leave now and I really want my Cas hug before I go. It’s like, the best part of my day right there! Second only to niece hugs, of course.”

The girls let go and Cas obliged his husbands’ whims – easy to do when it coincided with your own. He set down his mug first to return Dean’s hug. Giving Dean a peck on the cheek, he let go with a smile, “Try not to get in trouble while you’re out.”

Sending Castiel the most innocent face he could – Dean was quite practiced in that regard and Castiel hoped the girls did not pick up on that, or on Sam’s puppy dog eyes, which were something powerful to behold and should only be used in the most direst of circumstances (Sam abused them all the time, Cas idly thought) – Dean picked up his jacket and headed for the door, Cas following, pausing at the bench to lace up his boots and grab his keys off the hook. Castiel got in one last kiss, Dean leaning his head on Cas’s with a smile, “Good luck.”

It wasn’t until the door shut firmly behind Dean, leaving Castiel completely alone with his nieces for maybe the first time ever, that it became suddenly and abundantly clear what hadn’t quite registered before – he had no earthly idea what to do now.

He made his way back to the kitchen, where the girls were quietly eating their breakfasts, and made himself a fresh cup of coffee after gulping down his half-finished mug.

It was different, this was different, then a random visit here and there, which usually amounted to no more than a few hours at a time. Was he supposed to make every moment action packed, scheduled? No, he’d read that structure was great, but that too many eager parents had a tendency to overload their child. But the children were too active, too smart to benefit from Chucks desperate and distracted attempts at parenting – turning the TV on. Though Castiel didn’t blame his father, he had a feeling Lilith had resorted to just that and he felt that a continuation of that method would be a disservice to his nieces.

Castiel worried at his already chapped and torn lips with his teeth as he wracked his brains. There really wasn’t much in the house that was child friendly or age appropriate. Dean and he had tried to think of things to buy, but without knowing their nieces better, had feared buying something they hated and had erred on the side of caution after Dean told Castiel how Sam had become afraid of something most people thought of as fun and innocuous:  clowns.

Dean had a pretty clear memory of some well-meaning adult who bought Sam some sort of talking clown doll with a creepy smile that had terrified the kid, who had only been 4 years old. Especially after it started whispering in the middle of the night, the indistinct words sounding sinister and creepy in yet another crappy motel, in the dark, when John was gone.

And it hadn’t stopped talking even after Dean had ‘rescued’ Sam from the doll and tried to smash it to pieces. They’d stayed in that motel for another week and though the doll had been thrown away, Sam kept finding pieces of it everywhere (Hey, Dean had only been 8 himself. He wasn’t exactly a housekeeper and the hotel maids were expressly forbidden from entering the motel rooms they stayed in, in case they figured out the boys had been left without supervision).

By the end of that week, Sam had never been able to look at clowns the same way again.

So the girls had generic plushies, they had whatever they’d come with – which wasn’t much – they had a rocking horse which could only fit one child at a time (Castiel had a sudden vision of the girls trying to fit both of them anyway and shuddered) and going outside to play in the snow was out. For the moment, anyway, their clothes being inadequate for the purpose.

“Uncle Cas, can we color?”

Color? Coloring books! Crayons! Why hadn’t he thought of that? Cas and Dean didn’t have those things, but that was something he could improvise, he was pretty sure. Shooting off a text to Dean to stop by a CVS on the way home for those things, and child friendly scissors, construction paper and glue sticks (hold the glitter!), Castiel quickly headed to his office and scrounged around for blank paper and a bunch of pencils.

He returned to the table with his treasures and set them down between Emma and Grace, sitting next to them. “I’m sorry we don’t have any crayons. We’ve never had kids in our house before so we never needed crayons. We’ll fix that as soon as possible. You guys are going to have to tell us all about what kinds of things you like, so we know what to look for.” Castiel brushed a piece of Emma’s long hair out of the way, tucking it behind her ear. She liked wearing it loose and long, and he marveled at that. He was positive he’d get annoyed at how quickly his own hair would get in his way if he let it grow out.

Emma looked up, biting her own lip – Cas wondered if it was a family trait, certainly it was something he did – as she considered his words, her sister obliviously drawing beside her as she hummed. “Do you have any games?”

“Hmm…I know we have a couple. I don’t know what kind though. Let me go check. I’ll be right back.” Castiel stood up, hoping that a quick dash from the room wouldn’t result in any disasters. He chided himself for being silly. He’d already done a quick dash to the office room and back and nothing had happened.

Still, he couldn’t help the (simmering) panic that occurred every time he took his eyes off of them. Even only for a second. There were so many things they could be getting up to if he wasn’t there to stop them. The belief that the second he turned his back, something bad would happen to them. Was this what it was like to be a parent? How did people deal with this? He remembered Michaels’ words and nearly scoffed. There was no way he’d ever be able to relax that much around the girls, he was certain of it.

He checked their stacks of games with a quick eye. Thanks to their association with Charlie, they had a multitude of games, but Cas was unsure how many of them would work out with kids, especially one who hadn’t even started reading yet.

Luckily, he had some that might be okay. He pulled down Cartagena, Carcassone and Settlers – none of which required reading of any kind, then scoured the shelf for anything else he might be able to work with. A standard deck of cards quickly joined the meager pile before he lighted on Dixit and snapped that up too. That would have to do for now. Better not overwhelm them with too many choices.

Instead of bringing them to the kitchen, he set them out on the dining room table which had a lot more room for things like that and then he checked on the girls. They were still calmly drawing so Cas decided to leave them be and went off in search of his laptop. He could set up at the same table as them and see how much work he could get done while they were relatively quiet.

Castiel was unsure how long they had been like that before the doorbell rang. He looked up to find that Emma and Grace were no longer by his side and he panicked. How had he gotten so engrossed that he never saw them leaving? Hadn’t heard the difference in the noise level when they’d gone? He leaped from the table, heart in his throat as he darted out of the kitchen in search of the girls, doorbell forgotten.

Luckily, he didn’t have to go far. They were standing in front of the tree and moving the ornaments around to their childlike whims. Placing a hand over his chest, feeling how fast his heart was beating, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Than another. The bell rang again. Oh yes, that’s what had called his attention back to the land of the living to start with.

“Be careful, girls,” Castiel said as he turned to the front door. Opening it, he found none other than Bobby Singer on the other side.

“’bout time you answered. Any crisis’s to avert?” Bobby said by way of greeting, not waiting to be invited inside before striding in. He carried a few bags in his hands and set them by the door and then jerked his head towards the still open door. “Got a few more things to bring in, if you’d like to help.”

“Oh, sure, of course, Bobby,” Castiel snapped out of it, searching for his boots and slipping them on over his sweats, snagging his coat off a hook and pulling it on quickly.

A few more things turned out to be a couple of empty totes and another few bags, but with the two of them, it only took one trip to the car and back to get it all in.

“Bobby, what is all this?” Castiel asked, lugging the things into the living room so he could keep an eye on his nieces.

“Dean called, said you had asked for some crafting supplies. And I had a few other ideas, so I picked up a coupla extra things too. The totes are to organize ‘em.”

As they entered the room, the girls turned away from the tree to face the adults. Bobby smiled and finger waved at them and they giggled and waved back. Castiel’s heart melted again. He was certain it had already been melted and reforged a half a dozen times since they brought Emma and Grace home. He sat down on the couch, Bobby following suit, setting a tote on either side of them and the plastic bags arrayed before them to sort.

With the emptying of each bag, Castiel couldn’t believe his eyes. It was all the stuff he’d asked for and more. Pipe cleaners, washable markers, watercolors, paintbrushes, little smocks, giant sidewalk chalk and paint by number projects. Other bags had games, more geared towards children than he had found such as Chutes and Ladders, Connect 4, brightly colored decks of cards that were game specific, Cooties, Don’t Break the Ice, Candyland and more.

“Bobby, this is…it’s just…” too much, Castiel wanted to say, but he was struggling to say anything.

“Don’t even think it. It’s not. I wanted to do it, ya idjit,” Bobby shook his head but he was grinning ear to ear behind that bushy beard. “’sides, I have no other grandkids to spoil. This is good practice.”

The girls had been attracted by the rustling bags and they eagerly watched as each new thing was revealed. When the crayons and coloring books were finally unearthed, Bobby handed them over with a mock gravity and asked them to each make him the best picture they could so he could bring it home and hang it on his fridge.

Emma snatched up the crayons while Grace clutched the coloring books and they nearly stampeded each other in their rush to get to the kitchen. Bobby chuckled at their enthusiasm, and then he and Cas got settled back in to sort his purchases. All crafting supplies going in one tote, all the games into another, leaving 2 more totes empty and ready for whatever Dean and Cas might need them for. They unwrapped and opened and put together anything that might need it so that when the time came to use it, or play it, the craft was ready to be molded, the game ready to be played.

Now that he had a few childhood essentials, Cas was even getting ideas for Christmas gifts. Dean and he needed to get cracking on that too. Christmas was only a few days away.

Bobby didn’t leave when all was put away, but stayed and introduced the board games to the girls (none of which, it turned out, that they had ever played before except for Chutes and Ladders). And before Castiel knew it, the day had sped by. It had gone well and he’d relaxed as it went.

He even had a vague sort of idea on how to set up each day from now on. It would take trial and error but he was pretty sure he could get it to work.

Bobby was sent home with more than one picture from both girls and enthusiastic hugs. Looked like Uncle Bobby was going to be a favorite, Cas thought. Castiel had just finished placing the pictures his nieces had done for him onto the fridge (where else? Hmm…they were going to need a lot more magnets) when he heard the roar of the impala, the slam of a door and the smile already sitting on his face grew broader.

“Hey girls, Uncle Dean’s home,” Castiel called out.

“Yay!” they shouted in unison. They jumped up and grabbed up the last of the pictures they’d done and scampered towards the door. Cas’s face hurt from how wide his grin got, pulling out his camera to record Dean being greeted at the door.

It was such a heartwarming moment. Cas could see how tired Dean looked when the door pushed open, but as soon as his nieces reached Dean, Cas saw the weariness drop away and happiness spreading across his face in its place.



Today had been good, Castiel hummed happily to himself, watching Dean kneel down to the childrens level and receive their hugs and then their pictures. He watched Dean exclaim proudly over the pictures and felt warmth happiness just bloom in his chest.

Castiel had been happy before, being married to the man he loved, and couldn’t have imagined being any happier, but here, today, he could feel it all just wrapping around him. He almost felt like his heart would burst.

He was so glad Emma and Grace had come to live with him and Dean. By the look on Dean’s face, that incredulous joy, so was Dean.

Castiel stopped the video and shoved his phone into his pocket, literally feeling too much to stay still any longer. He joined the group huddle on the floor and basked in the love of his new family. All future thoughts of any problems they might still encounter were pushed away. Those would come when they came, this was now. And Cas was going to enjoy now.

Chapter Text

“Oh my goodness, what adorable little girls!” Lisa gushed, walking over to get a better look at them, her eight-year-old son, Ben, trailing along behind her, grinning at Emma and Grace. “You said you were adopting, but I had no idea everything had gone through! And so fast!”

“Actually, they’re my nieces, and…” Castiel looked at Dean who smiled back at him, “And we’re hoping to officially adopt them for ourselves someday.”

Lisa’s hand fluttered up to her cover her mouth, her eyes wide, “Oh I’m so sorry! Did something happen to their parents?” She leaned towards the husbands and lowered her voice. Dean and Cas, grateful she’d done that, still traded uneasy looks before looking down at the girls and back up again.

Dean cleared his throat, “You uh, could say that…I guess.”

She blinked, confused, then turned red. “OH! Oh, it’s…oh god. I didn’t mean to pry!”

“No, no it’s okay Lisa. Just um…don’t want to discuss it with little pitchers around.” Dean hurried to assure. “Why don’t we do introductions, right? The girls should get to know their neighbors and vice versa. The taller one here is Emma, and the other is Grace. Girls, these are our neighbors, Ben and his mom, Lisa. Why don’t you say hi?”

Grace ducked behind Cas but Emma practically bounded right up to Ben, “Hi! I’m Emma!”

“I’m Ben. Wanna play?”

“Why don’t you all come inside while we put these things away, if you’re free that is?” Castiel offered.

“Sure, let me help.” Lisa agreed. Dean turned to take the last of the grocery bags out of the trunk and Cas slammed it shut. Lisa picked up a few of the ones that had been set down on the ground and the six of them all trooped inside.

With an admonishment to stay downstairs to the kids, Dean, Lisa and Cas put away the bags before retreating to the dining room where they’d be able to still keep an eye on the children and yet speak without worry.

“Would you like something to drink, Lisa?” Dean offered.

“Sure, coffee if it’s not too much trouble?” Lisa returned. Dean nodded and left for the kitchen, leaving Lisa with his husband. Castiel fidgeted, watching the children and biting his lip. He turned to Lisa with a sigh just as Dean returned with three steaming mugs – Cas wasn’t sure how he did that without spilling anything.

Quickly arranging everything, Dean sat down next to Cas and they exchanged looks. Dean’s said “I know you don’t want to, but I think we should,” while Cas’s was just resigned agreement. Lisa watched them with a little amusement.

“You two are way too good at that,” Lisa laughed.

“Too good at what?” Castiel asked, trying to distract himself.

“Nonverbal communication. It’s like you guys had an entire discussion around me and I have no idea what you said.” Lisa was shaking her head with a grin. “I don’t know how you did it. But something significant just happened, even if am in the dark on what.”

“Well, you’re right, but you won’t be in the dark for long,” Dean paused and looked out at the children who seemed to be playing contentedly for now. Other than their cousins, Dean and Cas had no idea how they would behave around other children. “Look, we didn’t really want to have to tell people about our suspicions but…you’re a mom and if Ben’s going to play with the kids, you should probably know. Just in case.”

“Just in case of what?” Lisa leaned forward now with sudden concern.

Castiel frowned at his husband, “You don’t have to scare her, Dean.”

Dean ran a hand through his hair, “I know, I’m sorry, you’re right. It’s just…the girls come from a bad situation okay? And we’re their temporary guardians. Maybe – hopefully – permanent. They haven’t been here long but they’ve already exhibited behavior for concern. For them. We’re not sure how extensive it is, and we’re already looking for help and they’re good kids, don’t get me wrong – “

“Calm down, Dean…” Lisa said with another laugh, this time sad but understanding, the sound soft of it barely heard, “I think I get it. Don’t worry, I won’t go around telling the neighborhood. Let me guess, you’re really only telling me because we’re such close neighbors, we’re bound to be seeing a lot of each other, right?”

This time she did laugh heartily at their very guilty looks, “Oh don’t worry, boys, I’m not offended.” She turned to watch her son interacting with Emma and Grace, smiling at them fondly, her voice was soft. She didn’t want the kids to hear her either, “Look, I get it. Ben had some anger issues when his dad left. Parents can really mess a kid up. It’s not the kids fault and all we can do is our best to help them work through it. I can recommend a psychologist for your nieces, if you’re interested.” Lisa looked back at Castiel and Dean’s dumbstruck faces, Cas’s eyes were wide, Dean’s jaw had dropped.

“Yeah, uh,” Dean cleared his throat, “Yeah, that’d be great. We’re already working on some things with people who’ve had to uh…run damage control before, but a professional would probably be a good idea. Cas and I haven’t a clue where to start looking.”

“We tried. Got a list a mile long and no idea who would be the best fit for them.”

“Yeah, always get a rec…I dropped 2 before we found this one. Honestly, Madison’s been a lifesaver. You won’t regret giving her a chance,” Lisa reached for her pocketbook and dug through it before lighting on what she wanted. She handed Castiel the bent-up card, and he took it like it was the most precious cargo ever.

Considering it was for his nieces, that might not be far from the truth.

When Lisa left a few hours later taking Ben with her, Dean and Cas’s plans for the day totally derailed but neither minding much, she left with the offer to babysit when they needed it.

“Trust me,” she laid a hand on Dean’s arm and leaned in conspiratorially, “kids can play havoc on your love life and even aside from that, as much as you love them, you will need time to yourself. And if Cas is planning on staying home with them 24-7, he’s going to need it. Badly.”

At Dean’s dubious look to the last, she shook her head. “I’m serious, Dean. Going to work may not be the world’s most fun thing in the world. Even when you like your work, there are days that it’s a chore. Am I right?”

“Uh, yeah,” Dean realized that she was with quite a bit of surprise. She was absolutely right. He loved his job, but being the boss sucked sometimes. He hated the paperwork that came with it, and he wished he could hire somebody else to do it. Then there were the days with the entitled customers, the douchebag customers, the clueless customers – though those were only bad when they were clueless and thought they knew your job better than you did. And some days, he was just…tired. On those days, if he could, he would arrange for help and stay out, taking a mental day and just regain his equilibrium. Self care was important, and before Cas, something he’d never really taken the time to do.

As he thought about it, Lisa kept talking, “But at least when you’re going to work, Dean, you’re getting a break from the constant presence of children. Cas won’t be getting that opportunity and he’ll probably wear out sooner. He’s going to need your help in this. So. Babysitting. Think about it. At least we know the kids all get along,” she winked, double checked the zipper on Ben’s jacket, waved at the little girls and ushered her son out the door.

Leaving Dean blinking in her wake. Cas closed the door behind her and looked over at Dean in concern. “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, I just…” Dean suddenly engulfed Cas in his arms and buried his face in Cas’s hair. “You’ll tell me if it gets to be too much, won’t you?”

“Dean, don’t worry. It’s what I wanted, I don’t think I have much room to complain,” Castiel said with amusement, the small quirk of his lips and a roll of his eyes that Dean didn’t see immediately.

Dean pulled back, placing his hands on Cas’s shoulders, bending down to look him in the eyes. The serious look on Dean’s face made the little smile fade. “No, Cas, I mean it. We both asked for this. I think we both have a right to complain – at least to each other – when it all becomes too much. We’ll both need breathers occasionally, okay? Self care, just like you taught me. And it still holds true, whether for me or for you and whatever the reasons why. Whether just for 5 minutes, or for a couple hours, or maybe a day or two. If we pay attention, if we’re honest with each other, we can keep an eye out and plan ahead. Catch ourselves before we have a meltdown. By doing that, we can keep the disruption to our lives and their lives down some, and it’ll help them too. I doubt they need to see their new parental figures losing it. So, if we can mitigate that in any way, keep it as rare as we can – cause let’s face it, there’s never going to be a way to eliminate that completely – it’ll be better in the long run. Don’t you agree?”

Cas looked thoughtful, Dean’s words washing through him with their sincerity, love and concern. He nodded slowly, “Of course, I would have anyways. It was a poorly made joke. The reverse holds true, right?”

“Yeah, Cas, it does. If I feel like I’m gonna lose it, I’ll let you know. But you may have it worse than me. It’s what Lisa was saying when she left,” Dean’s eyes didn’t lose their concern despite Cas’s assurance. “She wanted to put herself out there, for the girls, for us. Offered to take them off our hands occasionally.”

Castiel shook his head in wonder, “The people around us, Dean, we are so lucky. I knew your family –“

“Our family, Cas,” Dean reminded him with a smile.

Cas smiled back, “Our family, of course, I knew they’d be there for us. But I had no idea to what extent, and…no idea that our support network would be bigger than them. Not everyone gets to have this. Not all families have people close enough to help them like this. It’s just, just amazing, the way people pull together. We are so lucky.” Cas couldn’t help reiterating.

“We are,” Dean kissed Cas on his forehead, the adorable little crinkle right above his eyes, then hugged him tight. “We all are.”

Chapter Text

 

Dean and Cas didn’t waste any time. After a few days with the girls, getting to know them better than they’d ever had a chance to before, it was time to go Christmas shopping. They briefly thought of Lisa and her offer, but in the end, they decided to give the girls a chance to get to better know their new family.

Bobby had been a hit. So had Jo. But now Sam wanted a chance. With the prospect of riding on Sam’s tall shoulders in the works, the girls were very happy to see him when and Bobby arrived.

Dean eyed Bobby and then smirked at Sam. “Feeling a little out of your depth there, moose? Had to call in backup?”

“Shut it, Dean. You know why I brought Bobby,’ Sam leveled a bitch face in Dean’s direction and Dean relented. Sam wasn’t wrong.

“Yeah, I get it,” Dean clapped him on the shoulder. “Good thinking on your part.”

Cas appeared at Dean’s elbow, Grace in his arms and Emma bouncing excitedly at his side. “Thank you,” he said solemnly to Sam and Bobby both, “We appreciate your help.”

“Hey, it’s no problem. Ellen would have been here too, if she didn’t have things down at the Roadhouse to take care of and Jo’s studying her ass off,” Sam assured Cas.

“I thought classes were done for the holidays?” Cas tilted his head, confused.

“Yeah, well, she signed up for something that required a little ‘light’ reading before classes started,” Dean snorted.

“You two git,” Bobby motioned with a roll of his eyes, interrupting the three men before they could really get going. Dean laughed and turned to his nieces.

“Okay girls, you two be good for Uncle Sam and Uncle Bobby, okay? Uncle Cas and I’ll be back in a little bit.”

“Where are you going, Uncle Dean?” Emma asked, leaning down from her newly acquired perch on Sam to tug at Dean’s hair.

“Why, it’s almost Christmas, isn’t it? Uncle Cas and I need to do some super-secret Christmas shopping for a couple of sweet and special little girls. Do you know anyone like that?” Dean asked in a conspiratorial voice.

“Us?” Grace gasped loudly, popping her thumb out of her mouth.

Cas and Dean tried not to let it bother them. She didn’t do it often, but they’d started to notice this habit of hers over the last few days, and had no idea if was something they should be worrying about yet. If at all. Kids sucked their thumbs at young ages all the time, right? And they often grew out of it on their own.

She was still fairly young, not even ready for school yet.

“That’s right, Grace! You’re a smart girl,” Dean beamed at her as he slipped his jacket on and reached for Cas’s, while she gave a toothless grin right back.

“All right, Grace, Uncle Dean and I have to go now,” Cas kissed her cheek and gently set her down, but she suddenly wouldn’t let go. “Grace? Sweetie, you have to let go.”

Graces’ grip tightened, keeping Cas locked in place, bent over as she started to cry, only one word making it through her tears, “No!”

Unable to straighten up, Cas instead knelt down, Grace immediately burying her face in his shirt and sobbing. He looked helplessly over at his husband, running a soothing hand down her back.

“Grace, we’ll be back in a little while, I promise. You can’t come because the presents are supposed to be a surprise. You don’t want to ruin your surprise, do you?” Cas asked desperately. He looked up at Dean, Bobby, Sam and Emma. “I don’t understand, she doesn’t react like this when Dean goes to work.”

“Because yer still here, ya idjit,” Bobby’s gruff voice broke in, “I suspect it’d be fine that you left – providin’ Dean was still here. It’s the prospect of both ya gone that’s making the poor mite cry.”

“Separation anxiety?” Sam asked, Emma watching her sister concernedly from up on high.

“Not quite,” Bobby answered, but wouldn’t say anything more.

Dean knelt besides Cas and Grace. “Hey, Grace, it’s okay. We’re just going to the store. We’ll be back as soon as we can. We can pick you up a special treat while we’re out – what do you say?”

“Ice cream?” she peeked out hopefully.

“Ice cream? In the middle of winter?” Cas said incredulously. Her lower lip started to tremble again and he hurried on, “But I suppose it…matches the…snow?” Cas said desperately, “What kind of ice cream, sweetie?”

“Strawberry.” Grace’s turned a little bit, till one eye and her nose poked out from Cas’s shirt.

“An’ I want chocolate! With sprinkles!” Emma shouted, bouncing on Sam’s shoulders and causing him to wince.

“Rainbow sprinkles,” Grace poked out more.

“Yeah! Lots n’ lots!” Agreed Emma.

“Sprinkles?” Bobby asked.

“Jimmies, old man,” Dean snarked with a grin.

Bobby rolled his eyes, “Just get goin’ while ya can, idjits.”

More waterworks averted, Dean and Cas finally made good their escape, sliding into the Impala and then just sitting there for a few minutes in silence, breathing a collective sigh of relief as the car warmed up around them.

“Was that a good idea?” Cas mused.

“Was what a good idea?” Dean blinked. “Leaving the girls with Bobby and Sam? They’ll be fine.”

“No, I just meant,” Cas ran a hand through his hair, causing it to stand up on end after he knocked his knitted hat off, “We just bribed the kids to get what we wanted. Won’t that set a bad precedent? What if they want a special treat every time we leave the house now?”

“Errr….” Dean blinked and looked over at Cas. “I…hadn’t thought of that. I was just thinking, you know, positive reinforcement? I guess?”

“I suppose as long as we don’t do it all the time, it won’t build up any expectations?” Cas ventured uncertainly.

“Won’t hurt to try it. I mean, we’ve – or I’ve – already dug ourselves a hole so…” Dean finally reached forward and shifted the Impala into reverse. First thing was first, some more appropriate winter clothes. There was fortunately a Cabela’s nearby, and boots, snow pants and more sweaters and a couple of really good coats were quickly acquired.

After that they went to the mall to find more ‘fun’ things. Josh’s Toys and Games was a guilty pleasure of theirs to begin with, it having a fun selection of board games. So since they had a fairly clear idea of what they wanted when they walked in, Dean and Cas beelined for different ends of the small store, each with half a list in hand.

The met back up in the middle of the store with proud grins.

“Dean, I found Play-Doh! I didn’t know this store had Play-Doh. I bet they’d love that.”

“Sweet – and I found Lincoln Logs!”

Dean and Cas stared at each other for a minute before they burst out laughing. “Okay angel, what do you think? Are these for us or for them?”

“Why not both?” Cas asked with a grin. He looked down at his watch. “Oh, we should probably head back soon – let’s take a look at the Legos before we do.”

“Good idea!” Dean’s eyes lit up, immediately heading to the back of the store and perusing the shelves. Cas tried to hide his smirk as he followed Dean back, knowing his husband had a tendency to get lost in the Legos and it would be up to Cas to pull him back.

He stood back and watched his husband fondly running from Lego set to Lego set. “What do you think about this one Cas? Oh shit! Look at that! The Millennium Falcon! No way! I’ve always wanted to do that one!”

“Dean, we’re shopping for Emma and Grace, not you. You can help them with the Lego sets, but it’s going to be theirs. Will they want a Millennium Falcon? Have they even seen Star Wars? Besides, that set is 150 dollars. We might want to start with something a little smaller first.”

Dean paled. “Oh my god…you’re right! We need to educate them in the finer points of all things geek! They need to learn the ways of the force!”

“And how will you manage that Dean?” Cas asked with a smile.

“Movie night tonight! We’ll start with the first one of course.” Dean grinned back.

“Phantom Menace?”

Dean shuddered and drew back with a look of horror on his face. “I don’t even know you man. Phantom Menace? How could you, Cas? How could you betray me like this?” Cas leaned forward and whispered in Dean’s ear, making him blush. Dean grumbled lowly, “You better not be teasing me…”

“Would I do that, Dean?” Cas allowed himself another smile, making himself look innocent with a widening of his eyes and a tilted head. He guided his husband away from the big sets and pointed him at some of the generic ones. “Before we pick one of the more intricate sets, let’s get them something more basic that they can expand and a few of the smaller specialty ones.”

“Okay, yeah, that’s probably a good idea.  So, we’ve got Lincoln Logs, Play-Doh, a bunch of Legos, a couple of Etch-A-Sketches and…” Dean trailed off, rummaging through the basket and muttering as he encountered each new thing. He paused, “I dunno, Cas, you sure the harmonicas are a good idea?”

“Kids need to make noise, sometimes. And it’s never too early to foster an interest in making music,” Cas led Dean toward the register.

“Yeah, okay, no argument in that, but…harmonicas? Really? Couldn’t we, y’know, get them a couple of kid sized guitars? I could teach them to play?”

“I believe that’s something to graduate up to, if they should show an interest, don’t you – oh!” Cas froze, Dean colliding with him. The overflowing hand basket tipped and Dean scrambled to keep it from spilling its contents all over the floor. When he’d managed that, he looked up to see what had stopped Cas.

“Look Dean! They’re little sewing kits! It’s so adorable! They can ‘sew’ clothes onto these wooden dolls! And that kit is like sewing connect the dots! You can make pictures out of the cards!” Cas grabbed up the kits excitedly and turned to drop them in the basket as Dean laughed. “It’s too bad this store doesn’t have one of those knitting looms. Do you think they’d like that? They do love to make things.”

Dean leaned over and kissed Cas’s cheek. “You’re too adorable, angel. And uh, let’s see what they think of the sewing stuff and maybe graduate them up to it, if they want.”

Cas frowned, sighed and nodded. “Well, it’s still a pretty good start, I’d say.”

“It definitely is that,” Dean agreed. “Now let’s get this all paid for, we’ve been gone nearly 2 hours and we still need to pick up the ice cream.”

Chapter Text

Christmas day came before they knew it. Intellectually, both Dean and Cas had known it was right around the corner, but having the little ones had made its presence that much more important and so much quicker to come.

On Christmas Eve, they bundled up Emma and Grace in many layers to make up for the quality of the clothes they’d come with and with two eager little girls in tow, the four of them went on a walk of their neighborhood, looking at all the pretty lights. Cas took short videos of their reactions on his phone on occasion, but mostly he and Dean just basked in their wonder and were grateful that some of their neighbors really seemed to get into it. Watching the joy spread across their faces was amazing.

Halfway through the walk, Grace demanded to be carried, but Cas couldn’t be put out by that. He found himself all too happy to cuddle with his nieces. A warm, content feeling squeezed his heart almost painfully. So he picked her up and tucked her into his shoulder, her little arms clasping behind his neck, her eyes still wide as they went from house to house.

Eventually, though, the walk ended and Dean made more of the special hot chocolate treat to help warm them up. Catching Rudolph just as it started was the icing on the cake, the perfect cap to the night. The four of them curled up on the couch with afghans cocooning them, and soon, the children had fallen asleep.

Cas smiled over Grace and Emma’s heads at Dean and spoke quietly, “I guess it’s a good thing we already left out cookies for Santa. I think they’d have been really disappointed that they didn’t get a chance to do that.”

“Yeah, not after we mentioned it anyway. This is a year of firsts for a lot of things for them,” Dean answered just as quietly. “However this plays out with your sister and Lucifer, I hope this remains a happy memory for them for years to come.” Dean gazed down between them at the girls, heart clenching at the idea that the girls might someday soon be taken away from them. He honestly didn’t trust Lilith or Lucifer to get their acts together in any way other than temporarily and it worried him what would happen to the children if they were returned to their parents.

“Me too.” Cas agreed softly. The credits rolled and the cheery Christmas music played and the girls slept. “You ready to bring them up to bed?”

“Yeah, let’s tuck them in for tomorrow.” Dean slowly stood up, cradling Emma easily and walked as gently as he could up the stairs, Cas right behind him, Grace dead to the world, flopped up over his shoulder with drool slowly dripping out of her mouth around the thumb she was sucking on. Cas found he didn’t mind the wet spot forming on his shoulder.

It didn’t take long to put them to bed, the children barely stirring the entire time. Dean grinned. He knew Cas had been worried about giving the girls such a sugary treat so close to bed their bed time – especially on an exciting night as this - but the walk had really tuckered them out, just as he knew it would.

They turned off the lights, leaving only the little nightlight in the corner to illuminate the room softly, just enough to keep a child from freaking out if they woke up in the dark. They had no idea if Grace or Emma were afraid of the dark, but it didn’t hurt anyone to leave a nightlight on. Tiptoeing out the door, they left it open a crack and went downstairs to clean up and set out the last of the presents, checking over to make sure they hadn’t forgotten anything before they decided it would be best for them to head to bed too.

Neither Cas nor Dean knew quite what to expect of the girls come Christmas morning.  The morning would be just for the four of them and the afternoon would see them hosting, with a few select people to come over. It wasn’t something they had planned on, initially, but after some discussion between themselves, and later Bobby and Ellen, they’d decided some stability rather than constant running about would be best.

At least until the girls had a chance to settle in and to actually realize that – as far as Cas and Dean were concerned – they were here to stay. The husbands just hoped it was true.

But that didn’t solve the question of Christmas morning. Would the girls run into their room at an ungodly hour and bounce upon the bed excitedly as they’d come to expect – via television and the stories of their friends - to be normal children’s behavior (“It hadn’t been mine, Dean. Dad didn’t encourage such behavior, he was always too tired.” “Nor mine, Cas. Our Dad was often gone on Christmas, leaving Sammy and I alone.”)? Or would they do as they’d been doing for the past week that they’d been living here (had it only been a week?) and stay in their room quietly until a more appropriate hour?

As much as Castiel wanted to sleep in, he would give anything for the children to feel like they had the right to be, well, children. He could tell by a single look, that Dean felt the same.

Nevertheless, and despite his worries, Cas fell asleep curled up against Dean, each man wrapped around the other, with high hopes for the morning.

A slight creak woke Dean first early the next morning. A whisper of sound. He blinked sleepily and looked down at his husband who hadn’t stirred in the slightest. The nearly inaudible creak came again and he craned his head up and looked down the length of the bed (after a quick glance at the clock to find it was almost 7am) to find two, adorable little girls, peeking into the room as quiet as could be. When Dean smiled at them, they pushed the door open wider and Emma took a tentative step inside.

Carefully sitting up, Dean smiled wider, breaking into a grin, and held out an arm towards Emma and Grace. “C’mon, girls, let’s give Uncle Cas a good morning wake up, whattya say?”

At his words, they gave up all attempts at being quiet and bounded towards the bed with a giggle. Emma nearly leaped on and then bounced on all fours as Grace climbed on more slowly but no less agile. Still, Dean leaned over and gave her a hand up and the next thing he knew, he was buried in little arms that wrapped around him in a hug.

“G’morning, Uncle Dean!” Emma said boisterously, joining the hug instantly.

“Morning! Merry Christmas!” Grace shrieked in his ear. He winced at the volume but laughed.

“Good morning! Merry Christmas! I see you both are excited – I’m glad to see that. But, I think we have a problem…” he turned the girls so they were each sitting on a crossed knee and the three of them looked at a still sleeping Cas. Dean smiled at him fondly and no little disbelief that Cas could sleep through all the noise. “I think someone forgot it was Christmas morning. How do you think we should wake him up and remind him?”

“I’m gonna give him lots o’ kisses,” Emma said seriously. She climbed down off of Dean’s lap and angled down to kiss her uncle’s cheek, then his forehead, missing the slight upwards quirk of his mouth as she did so.  Dean didn’t and he nearly laughed, almost messing up the game Cas was playing.

Grace, instead of following in her sister’s footsteps, leaned up to whisper in Dean’s ear. “Is Uncle Cas ticklish?” she asked, her whisper loud enough to make Cas’s brow furrow in his now ‘pretend sleep’.

Dean snorted at the worried scrunch of Cas’s face and whispered back just as loudly, “Don’t tell anyone - it’s a biiiig secret, but he is very ticklish.”

Emma was still trying to entice Cas awake with her generous kisses when Grace slid down and crawled the short distance to her other uncle and laid her tiny fingers across his stomach and wiggled. Luckily for her, Dean hadn’t been lying and even the slight touch, as inexperienced as it was, was enough to make Cas laugh and squirm away from her.

The girls squealed at his gasping laughter and pleas to stop, Emma quickly joining in. Finally, Dean came to his husbands rescue and tickled the girls in turn, leaving them just as breathless with squirming laughter as Cas had been.

With that delightful start to the morning, it wasn’t long before they all made their way downstairs. Cas barely had the time to ask, “Should we have breakfast first or – “ when the girls tearing past them and towards the tree set Dean laughing again.

Dean clapped Cas on the shoulder and grinned as the girls exclaimed joyously over the empty plate they’d left out for Santa, “Well, I think that answers your question.”

Cas huffed, though he wasn’t really irritated in any way, “What question? I never even got to finish it.”

Having had no fireplace or anything with a proper mantle, Dean and Cas had hung the stockings on the wall above the couch, and the girls were now climbing up to see if they could reach them. Emma had just lifted hers off the hook while Grace clamored for hers too when Dean quickly took down the rest.

“Okay girls, everyone sit down and we’ll all open our stockings together. Then after the stockings we’ll have some breakfast and then we’ll open the presents under the tree. Sound good?”

“Yeah!” they shouted in near unison. The girls settled down beside each other in the center of the couch, Dean and Cas as bookends on either side. Cas handed Grace her stocking and both men very slowly attended their own while they watched as the girls excitedly dug through theirs. Cas had a camera ready and he snuck pictures as often as he could without drawing attention. He wanted candid photos of the morning. Posed photos could happen when the whole family were together.

The stockings themselves didn’t hold much. The harmonicas’ they’d purchased the other night, some chocolates and candy canes, and a necklace for each girl: hanging off a black cord was a silver colored G with a purple stone on it for Grace, and a silver colored E with a blue stone for Emma. These simple gifts gave the little girls so much pleasure it amazed Cas as he and Dean helped them to put their necklaces on and admonished them not to eat their candy before breakfast.

Thankfully for Cas and Dean, their preoccupation with the necklaces and the harmonicas held Emma and Grace over till breakfast was done – pancakes and bacon, orange juice for the girls and (most importantly for Cas) coffee for the adults.

Stomachs filled and a second coffee in hand, Cas followed his husband and nieces back into the living room. This time, he set up the camera for video and hit record just before he sat down. Everything they’d bought seemed to go over well, though it took a while to get through opening all the gifts. Both Emma and Grace wanted to stop and play with each new toy they opened and they also stopped – despite the fact that most kids seemed to despise getting clothes as gifts – to model the new coats and boots and various other winter gear they received.

All in all, the girls were happy, and that meant so were their uncles.

Finally, all the gifts were opened, everyone was dressed in their Christmas outfits and Dean had started cooking for the gathering later that day. Cas stayed in the living room, showing them how the etch-a-sketch worked, or the little sewing toy. Sometimes they stopped to mess around with the Legos – “These stay on the tables or in the bins, never the floor. Okay?” “Okay Uncle Cas!” – and other times they begged Cas to eat their candy. He allowed them a small treat from their stash and went to check on Dean.


“How’s it going in here?” Cas came up behind Dean and wrapped his arms around Dean’s middle, resting his head against Dean’s shoulder blades once he determined he wouldn’t be interrupting if he did so.

“Peachy,” Dean grinned leaning back into Castiel’s touch. “Ham’s been in since just after breakfast, potatoes are peeled and boiling. Green bean casserole is done and keeping warm in the microwave. The biscuits won’t take long whenever we’re ready for them, neither will the veggies or the cranberry sauce. Or the gravy and stuffing. That leaves the candied yams. And they’re just now ready to go in. Those take 30 minutes tops.”

“I guess it’s a good thing you love to cook and we have two ovens,” Castiel smiled at Dean.

Dean smiled back, “Well yeah, that was one of the selling points of this place, remember?”

“I remember,” Cas leaned over Dean’s shoulder and placed a kiss on his cheek. “I’m going to check on the girls. Let me know if you need anything?”

“Nah, I’m good babe,” Dean turned in Cas’s arms to give him a proper kiss, ending it only when the doorbell rang. “Guess the first guests are here.” He grinned.

“How much do you want to bet that they all arrived together anyway?” Cas grinned back.

“Oh, hell no, I ain’t taking that bet!” Dean laughed, snapping a small hand towel at Cas as Cas stepped away to go answer the door, “You’ve already picked the winning horse.”

“Of course I did. I’m not stupid,” Cas retorted before disappearing from Dean’s view and opening the front door. As suspected, Sam, Jo, Bobby and Ellen had all arrived together and they were laden down with –  “Good lord! And I thought Dean and I had gone overboard!”

“Hey, it’s all stuff every child should have!” Jo protested, huffing as she edged her way past Sam. “Now, there ain’t much hiding what we all got, so question – leave it all here in the hall till everyone’s ready, or bring them straight to the tree?”

“Leave them for now. I know Dean will want to see their reactions and he’s still in the kitchen. Do you need any help?” Cas asked.

Hands full, both Sam and Jo shook their heads anyway. A few more gifts were piled in Bobbys’ arms, but as these ones were wrapped, he simply shook his head and headed straight for the other room to place them under the tree. Ellen had a couple of covered dishes with her and she handed one to Cas and then went to the kitchen, assured of Cas following behind her.

“Oh Ellen, you didn’t have to bring anything,” Dean said as soon as he caught sight of his aunt, taking the first dish from her and placing it on the counter, peeking inside. Cas placed the other one down next to it and did the same, closing his eyes and breathing in the heavenly scent.

“Baked beans, Dean. With Bacon. I’m not arguing,” Cas rumbled out happily.

Dean laughed and gave Cas a peck on his cheek before hugging Ellen, Castiel slipping out of the kitchen to check on the girls as he’d originally planned. “Where’s everyone else?”

“Where do you think, boy?” Ellen rolled her eyes at Dean and he grinned sheepishly.

“Okay, yeah, that was a pretty dumb question. So, dinner should be ready in about 30 minutes. I know it’s a little early but…”

“It’s okay, Dean, take a breath,” Ellen patted him on the cheek and stepped back. “Now, I’m gonna go say hello to those darling nieces of yours. C’mon and join us.”

“Yeah, just a second, let me…” Dean adjusted a knob and set a couple of timers, then nodded and followed his aunt out to the kitchen, pausing at the site of the large gifts leaning against the wall of the hall. “Whoa…”

“Yeah, Cas said you’d want to see their reactions,” Ellen grinned and tugged at his arm, pulling him away. When they stepped into the living room, Dean paused again at the sight before him. The happy little chaos of his family sent such warmth and joy through him that he couldn’t contain – nor did he want to – the broad grin forming over his face.

The fact that his eyes were also tearing up was something he would never mention.

Grace had climbed onto Sam’s lap, the little girl petting his long hair and Dean snorted. He would need to make sure to tease his brother for that later. But right now, it was too cute to break the moment. Jo and Emma were playing with the Lincoln Logs and Legos, creating some sort of monstrosity that was sure to be picture worth when it was done – if it survived - and Bobby had one of the Etch-A-Sketch’s in his hands with a small frown, Castiel showing him how to use the knobs to draw.

Emotion filled, he sat next to Cas and rested his chin on the man’s shoulder, looking over it to see Bobby’s effort but not really seeing it.

“You okay, Dean?” Cas asked, as attuned to his husband as ever. Dean nodded and wrapped his arms around Cas, turning his gaze towards the rest of the room, watching their nieces interacting with the rest of their newfound family.

“You boys done good,” Ellen said, sitting on the other side of Dean and placing a hand on his shoulder. “Those girls are precious.”

“I just hope we can keep them,” Dean said softly, finally speaking his fear aloud. He knew Cas felt the same way, but they hadn’t really talked about it. Cas reached down to place a hand over where Deans were clasped about him and squeezed.

“Things will work out,” Bobby didn’t even bother looking up from the Etch-A-Sketch, though his fingers had stilled and his voice was gruff. “I wouldn’t needlessly worry about it.”

“Well,” Ellen’s hand lifted up from Dean’s shoulder and clapped down again, “What say we get the rest of those presents out of the way?”

Dean laughed at Ellen’s thinly veiled excitement about the girls getting their gifts. “Okay, okay, hold your horses, Ellen.” Sitting up, he called Emma and Grace over. “You ready for more presents yet?”

Emma’s eyes went wide, “We get more?” she gasped out.

Grace squealed and jumped in placed, “Yes, yes, yes!”

“Well, you can’t argue with that kind of enthusiasm,” Jo stood and headed for the hall. “Sam, a little help?” Sam nodded and followed, both of them reappearing a moment later wheeling in the bikes they’d left in the hall. Emma and Grace were speechless, mouths gaping wide and eyes even wider than before. A long indrawn breath and Castiel and Dean winced in preparation for the shrieks that came afterwards. They ran towards the bikes, crowding Sam and Jo who just laughed. Castiel only just managed to snatch up his camera to snap a few pictures just before they reached them.

Graces’ bike was the standard red Radio Flyer tricycle and she was on it and peddling about the room before any of them could believe it. Emma was climbing on her own bike with Sam hovering beside her.

“Do you know how hard it was to find a girls bike that came in blue?” Jo asked.

“Seriously? Why’s that?” Castiel asked.

“Because all the girl’s bikes are pink,” Sam piped in from beside Emma. Her tongue was sticking out and she pushed at the peddles concentrating on trying not to hit any of the toys scattered on the floor. The training wheel stuck on a box and Sam pushed it out of the way, the bike shooting forward with the strength of her feet.

“Why are they gendered anyway? I never understood that? I mean, why does it even matter? A bike is a bike? It should work the same. Plus, if I slip off a girl’s bike, I’m not going to groin myself nearly as easily as I do if I slip off a boy’s bike,” Dean shivered, speaking from his own childhood experience.

Jo laughed at him before standing to help Sam clear the floor of obstacles so the girls could have more space.

“I’m glad to know you’re sympathetic to my pain,” Dean groused. She rolled her eyes at him good-naturedly.

“Why don’t we finish up with the rest of the gifts?” Ellen asked. “We also have helmets and pads for the girls, but they can open those later…and of course, we brought presents for you both as well.”

“Oooh, gimme gimme,” Dean waggled his fingers eagerly.

Bobby huffed out a laugh, “Boy, you ever gonna grow up?”

“Nah, what’s the fun in that?” Dean retorted happily, standing up and pulling Castiel to his feet. Together they went to the tree and started passing the rest of their presents out to the other adults. Ellen took a spot next to Bobby, their presents stacked between them, while Jo, Sam, Cas and Dean all sat in various places about the floor with their own stacks, leaving the girls room to ride their bikes.

When they were about halfway through, Dean felt Emma lean against his back and wrap her arms around him, looking over his shoulder as he opened a gift from Bobby. “What’s that Uncle Dean?”

“These are guitar strings, Emma,” he said, “Uncle Bobby knows that I need to change the old ones out on my guitar soon so I can make music.”

“Wow! Can you play me a song?” she asked, the awe in her voice clear.

Dean leaned his head to touch hers. “Of course, sweetie. Maybe after dinner, okay?”

“Okay!”

They’d just finished unwrapping everything when the first of the buzzers went off and Dean tried to shoot up off the floor, but couldn’t because Emma was still hanging off of him. Ellen waved at him to stay put and rose up off the couch.

“Don’t worry ‘bout it, Dean, I can get this.”

“Thanks, Ellen.”

She paused by his side and lay a hand on his head, “Always, boy.”

Dean took the time to get up more slowly, taking Emma for a ride as he did. She wrapped her legs around his waist and hung on with a giggle. He strode over to the now empty couch and bounced her onto it much to her delight.

It didn’t take long for Ellen and Dean to finish the food prep and set the table, everyone clamoring for the food. One thing Dean loved about Emma and Graces’ appetites were how willing to try new things the girls were, the usual reluctance he’d seen from other kids nowhere in sight. It truly made cooking for them a joy and he thought perhaps Grace might even show an interest in cooking, something Dean hoped to be able to explore with her.

He beamed at them all from the head of table, mouth full of mashed potatoes, turning to Cas when he felt a hand creep into his and clutch him tightly. Emma sat on Dean’s left, while Grace sat next to her, smiling brightly as they shoveled a second helping of everything into their mouths.

It seemed like they had not a care in the world, and if that was the case, then Dean could count it as a job well done. And after a night of games and music, stories and laughter with family and friends – Charlie and Benny both stopped by briefly, a pair of sleds in tow - tucking in those two sweet little girls, Dean knew – as surely as Cas did – that Emma and Grace belonged with them.

 

Chapter Text

New Year’s came and went faster than Christmas had. Missouri stopping by a few times to check in on the girls and see how they were adjusting. Dean and Cas both heaved a sigh of relief after every visit, Missouri pronounced herself pleased with how they girls were faring each time she would spend time with them after she passed off more paperwork to a perplexed Dean and Cas.

“I thought we were done?” Cas asked.

“You are, sweetie. Most of this is just formality stuff, make sure nothing significant has changed. The rest of that is for the school. Mid-year changes, especially under these circumstances, can cause a lot of red tape, I’m here to help you file the proper paperwork, and get Emma tested and settled as soon as possible.”

Nodding their understanding, they bent down to the paperwork she had provided, keeping one ear and one eye each on the girls, interested – as always – to see how things would go.

“Miss Missouri, can I ask you a question?” Emma whispered.

Dean and Cas exchanged looks, their pens pausing but, with great effort of will, they managed to refrain from turning their gaze on the children or Missouri. What could they be asking the social worker? Realization set in, and both felt their stomachs sink. Of course, they’d be asking about their parents. Dean was just surprised it hadn’t happened sooner, or that the girls hadn’t asked them and not her.

“What’s that sweetie?” Missouri said gently. It was obvious by her tone that Missouri thought the same.

“How come Santa could find us here, but not when we lived with mommy?”

“Oh dear, that’s a good question. I’m not sure I know the answer to that. Maybe you could write a letter to Santa with your uncles’ help and Santa can answer that for you?” Missouri navigated the landmine like a pro, the husbands definitely had to give her that one. Of course, now the ball was in their court. Oh boy.

“Ooooh!” Grace clapped her hands together, “I wanna write a letter! I wanna say thank you!”

“That’s a great idea Miss Missouri,” Emma beamed.

Land mine or not, Dean and Cas relaxed. At least it wasn’t about their parents, and Missouri had bought them some time to come up with something plausible for Santa.

When they finished, Missouri joined them for tea and cookies, asking for their updates, now that she had the children’s.

“Emma and Grace seem quite happy,” she mused around the lip of her mug. “How are the two of you adjusting to being sudden parents?”

“Well, I won’t deny that it has been an adjustment, but, we don’t regret taking them in in the slightest,” Cas answered. Dean nodded as he rubbed his husband’s neck, Cas leaning into it.

“It helps that we have plenty of people willing to support us and the girls themselves are just wonderful.”  Dean reached into his wallet and handed the card Lisa had given him to Missouri. “We contacted Madison after our neighbor recommended her from personal experience with her own son.”

Missouri took the card and smiled, nodding approvingly. “I know Madison quite well. She’s a good choice. You could definitely do worse.”

Dean grinned at Cas and his husband returned the look fondly before turning back to Missouri. His face lost his smile. His mouth opened, closed and Dean turned the little neck rub into a shoulder massage, trying to relax Cas. Sending Dean a grateful look, Cas focused on Missouri.

“Missouri,” Cas looked quickly over at his nieces to make sure they weren’t listening, then pressed on after taking a deep breath, “what’s going on with their parents? They haven’t asked yet since the day we left long island and we’re just…we’re not sure what to tell them. And um…how long do we have to wait before trying to make this permanent? I feel it would really benefit both of them if they didn’t have to go back.”

Missouri smiled sadly, knowingly and nodded, “I agree but…I know the answer you boys want to hear, and I’m afraid it’s not within my power to give to you, not yet. The father refused rehabilitation and we no longer know where he’s gone. The mother…well, she did show up but…it’s not going well so far. But the mandated period isn’t over yet. She could still turn it around. As for the other,” she shook her head, “either the courts need to rule that Lilith would do more harm than good, something that we would need to prove, or you convince her to sign over those children to you willingly.”

“What about Lucifer?” Dean asked. “Wouldn’t he have to do so as well?”

“Lucifer isn’t even listed as the children’s father,” Missouri noted. “And he also has a record. Those two things combined with what’s happening now, his refusal to go to drug rehab, he wouldn’t stand a chance if you brought it to a court to fight him. It’s Lilith you’ll have to worry about.” Missouri set her cup down and placed a hand over Cas’s, “I’m sorry, Castiel. Things might get a bit messy if your sister tries to fight this. But if it comes to it, know that I’ll back you both as much as I’m able.”

“Thank you, Missouri, that means a lot,” Cas said.

She smiled gently at them both, then looked over at the girls again. With a mischievous look to her eyes, Missouri changed the subject. “So I know that before all this, the two of you were looking into adoption. Do you think you’re all done, or would you still want more children to liven up your home?”

Dean blinked. He hadn’t expected the question. Neither had Cas. They looked at each other. It wasn’t something they’d discussed. Everything had moved too fast.

Hesitatingly, not taking his eyes off of Cas, Dean spoke, “I think…I think I wouldn’t mind more, some point down the road.” He searched Cas’s gorgeous blue eyes, looking for any sign that they weren’t in agreement on this. Cas’s hand reached over to take Dean’s and squeeze it gently with a small smile.

“I agree. This has been an eye opener, surely. A crash course I hadn’t quite expected but…I don’t regret it, and it doesn’t make me change my mind about having a houseful, eventually.” Cas answered, much to Dean’s relief and Dean beamed at his husband.

“God, I love you,” Dean breathed out and leaned in for a brief, chaste kiss, causing Cas to smile and Missouri to look on them both fondly and in faked exasperation.

Paperwork long done and the tea and cookies also finished, Missouri said goodbye to the girls, who were genuinely disappointed to see her go. The four of them walked her to the door and waved as she left before returning inside.

The girls, of course, demanded immediately to write a letter to Santa. It was interesting, because before Christmas, they hadn’t asked to write him a letter to ask for anything. Cas and Dean had assumed they didn’t really believe in Santa, but seeing them so eager now, they realized it was that they hadn’t believed they were worth Santa’s attention.

Because why would Santa bring all the other kids presents but not them unless they weren’t worth it?

Castiel had to blink tears out of his eyes, and when that didn’t work, he had to stand up and walk out of the room for a moment, Dean looking at him in concern. He made to stand up and follow but Cas shook his head and inclined it towards his nieces.

Cas ducked out of sight, but not earshot, using the kitchen as a sanctuary. With every new thing that he learned, he found himself wanting to hate his sister even more. And yet, it wasn’t fair either. If his sister had at least tried, and had genuinely fallen on bad times and just been unable, rather than simply unwilling, to do things for her children, he would be sad, but he wouldn’t hate her. And there must be some kernel of motherly love to her. He refused to believe that she didn’t love her own children.

God, he didn’t know what to think anymore. Was it right to keep her children from her if she truly loved them? How could he judge something like that?

He fumbled about with the teapot, setting it back on the stove and pulling down a fresh mug. He survived on coffee in the mornings, but tea was soothing and that’s what he needed right now.

He’d have time, at least, to try and come up with a good answer to their question. And Dean would help. By the time the tea was ready, he’d managed to swipe the tears away from his eyes and recompose himself. Grabbing his mug and a leftover tray of cheese and crackers from earlier, he went back out to the living room to be greeted with the sight of his husband sitting on the floor, back against the couch with Emma and Grace on either side of him as they leaned over the coffee table and the assorted papers gathered there.

It was an endearing and heartwarming sight. Just what he needed. Cas smiled and joined them, placing the plate on the side of the table and sitting down on the couch just a little to the side of Dean so he could lean over Dean’s shoulder while cupping his warm mug in his hands.

Dean leaned back and up, a hand reaching to touch Cas’s jaw, “You okay, babe?”

“Mmmm,” Cas agreed, closing his eyes and leaning down further into the touch like a kitten.

The next day was Near Years Eve, and Dean and Castiel had decided to keep it simple and stay home. No big to do or anything fancy. Just some friends, games and snacks.

Jo and Sam came over, of course, but Bobby and Ellen elected to stay home, citing that they were getting too old to stay up past midnight anymore. Dean and Jo had both snorted and Sam smacked Dean on the arm, leaving Jo alone. Dean then proceeded to give his brother the most innocent, hurt look that he could, the ‘what was that for?’ heavily implied as everyone else broke down in various states of laughter and Jo crowed about how she’d gotten away with it.

Charlie and Benny also came by. Garth already had plans with Bess. And at the last minute, Dean asked Cas what he thought of inviting Ben and Lisa to join them.

Cas thought about it for only a second before he nodded approvingly. “I think that’s a great idea. Especially for the girls. Having a regular friend would probably do wonders for them and their morale, and the three of them certainly seemed to get on last week.”

“Great,” Dean beamed, “I’ll go over right now and invite them. But don’t say anything yet – just in case Lisa already has plans. I mean, most people would, by now.”

“Of course, Dean,” Cas smiled, his fingers never once pausing in his knitting, while the girls watched TV from the floor.

Dean left after dropping a kiss on his husbands lips (it may have even turned into two or three more kisses – causing Cas’s fingers to finally stop) leaving Cas smiling down at his knitting.

Suddenly, a finger poked at the yarn and he paused, looking up to see Emma staring in fascination. “What’s that Uncle Cas?”

“This is knitting. I’m making a scarf. I like to keep my fingers busy and it’s very relaxing once you know how,” he answered.

“Can I try?” she asked a little timidly, awe and hope in her eyes.

“Of course you can, Emma,” he placed the knitting next to him and had her climb onto his lap, facing outwards. Picking it back up, he helped her to hold it then walked her through the steps slowly, his hands guiding hers.

When Dean returned, he found them like that. Emma’s face bent down towards the needles in solemn concentration, her tongue poking out slightly as her fingers moved clumsily, Cas’s hands hovering and ready to help at any misstep.

Grace was content to watch, curled into Cas’s side, thumb once again in her mouth. With a smile and a full heart, Dean pulled his phone out and quickly snapped a few pictures before turning it over to video and capturing the moment.

At the first snap of the camera, Castiel looked up and grinned at Dean, though the girls didn’t notice a thing. When Dean was done, he swiftly joined them on the couch, sitting on the other side of Castiel, the tv long forgotten.

“Wow, Emma, look at you go! It’s kinda like magic, isn’t it?” Dean asked.

“Yeah, I want to do more!”

“Me too,” Grace chimed in, popping her thumb out of her mouth briefly.

Dean and Cas laughed happily, “Of course, Grace, I can show you too,” Cas said, reaching over to ‘boop’ her nose.

She giggled. “Can Uncle Dean show me?”

“Oh…oh no,” Dean laughed, “I’m afraid not – I never learned how. I can teach you about cars or cooking or even playing the guitar, but the knitting is all Cas.”

“Maybe Uncle Cas could teach you too?” She asked with wide eyes.

Emma looked up with a gasp, her little hands stopping, “Yes, Uncle Dean! You should have uncle Cas teach you! It’s fun!”

“Okay, well, we’ll see if he has the patience to deal with me. But at this rate, I think he’s gonna need more supplies.” Dean grinned at the happy smiles his acquiescence caused.

The knitting was put away for a little while as they enlisted the girls help in making sure the downstairs was clean enough for guests, even casual ones. Then they moved on to arranging snacks and sandwiches, something low key after the (extravaganza) of Christmas.

People started to arrive after dinner and Emma and Grace squealed happily when Lisa arrived with Ben. Breaking out the new Legos and taking over the coffee table, the children were more than content.  The adults gathered in the dining room and pulled out their own games, showing their newest addition – Lisa – to the non-traditional games their group liked to play.

The entire time, all the adults took turns keeping an eye or an ear out for the kids. Dean, Cas and Lisa most of all. The three of them hadn’t asked the others to do so, but it was done none the less.

The night passed like that – lighthearted and filled with talk and laughter, Lisa easily sliding into the group dynamic, which Dean and Cas were pleased to note.

The kids were all passed out in a huddle on the couch, the tv playing the credits for Frozen long before midnight arrived. While Sam and Castiel carefully picked up the girls to put to bed, Lisa gathered her things and – with Dean’s help – picked Ben up and went home.

Dean followed her into the house and to Ben’s room, gently laying him on his bed. She tucked him in and the two of them snuck back out of the room.

Walking Dean back to the front door, she laughed lightly, “And that’s what happens when you have kids…plans go out the window. Sorry I won’t stay to the finale, but thanks for inviting us over. I’m positive that I can speak for both of us when I say we both had a wonderful time. Please, thank Cas for me as well.”

“Of course, Lisa, I will. And don’t worry, it was our pleasure,” Dean grinned. “We’ll have to do it again sometime. Just wait till summer and we can start up the backyard barbecues again.”

“I can’t wait. It’s always tantalizing to smell the two of you grilling over there. It’ll be great to get to taste it, for once,” she teased back.

Chapter Text

With Missouri’s help, Emma got her school testing done and all the paperwork turned in on time and she actually started at the end of the holiday break, right on time.

Of course, this had unforeseen results.

Emma had picked out an Avengers backpack just the day prior and Dean and Cas has spent the night before filling it up with her school supplies, talking to her about her new school and how excited she must be.

“Where’s my backpack?” Grace asked, crawling into Castiel’s lap. The husbands paused and gave each other a look that clearly showed that the both of them were getting a rapidly sinking feeling.

“Umm…we didn’t buy you one yet. You won’t need it till next year.” Castiel said gently, pushing her bangs out of her face. Her face crumpled, despite the care he’d shown.

“But I wanna go to school with Emma,” she sniffled.

“Sweetie, I’m sorry. You have to be a certain age to go to school. Next year, okay?” Dean explained patiently, hoping that would be enough but knowing – just knowing – it wouldn’t be.

“But…I wanna go with Emma,” Grace insisted, eyes wet.

“What if we make up our own school?” Cas asked.

“How do we do that?” she was still sniffling, but her wet eyes turned wide and curious.

“I don’t know. Maybe you can help me figure it out?” Castiel reached forward and wiped at the corner of her eyes. Grace brightened at the suggestion but now Emma’s face was drooping

“Yeah, and maybe Emma could help too. She’s like, your school spy! She goes to school and can tell you all about it and then you and uncle Cas can use what she told you to make your own school.” Dean said, hit with a sudden inspiration. “That is, Emma, if you think you’re up to the task. Can you be a super school spy?”

Emma nodded solemnly, “I can do it Uncle Dean!”

Crisis averted, Dean and Cas both breathed a silent sigh of relief, exchanging looks. They should have expected this reaction, in all honestly and prepared for it. Missouri had even warned that they would be clingy, to each other (and, they’d learned, to them as well), but things had been going so well, it had completely slipped their minds. Thankfully, they’d managed a workable solution – this time.

They got the girls to bed and slumped into their own. While it was still so early, they were just too exhausted for much else.

“I think it’s more tiring to try and keep up with a child’s thought process than to decipher financial coding…” Cas laughed ruefully.

“Yeah, that’s just practice, babe, though each kid is a little different. But you can usually get a handle on most of ‘em once you get that practice.” Dean was quick to reassure.

“Like you did with Sam?”

“Yeah, though to be honest, I’m a little out of practice,” Dean acknowledged.

“They just randomly shift topics…in the middle of a sentence. Or, or suddenly continue a conversation we had a week ago – and I’m always floundering for the context because they just don’t provide it. Then if I ask for clarification, if I ask for that context, Grace gets so upset and then Emma gets upset on her behalf.” Cas looked a little wild eyed as he spoke and Dean drew him in close.

“I know, Cas…”

“I love them Dean, more than anything, but I have no idea what I’m doing!” Castiel curled into Dean gratefully.

“More than me?” Dean teased, rubbing his hand down Cas’s back and up again, kneading at the tight neck and shoulder muscles there.

Cas wrapped his arms around his husband, dropping his head against Dean’s shoulder and melting into his touch. “Mmm…that’s different. You’re different. You know I love you. God, I love you so much, Dean.”

“I was teasing, babe,” Dean said gently, his hands not stopping for a second.

“I know,” Cas answered, “I’m sorry I freaked out. I’m not regretting this at all, I just feel a bit out of my depth.”

“You’ve been doing great, honest,” Dean assured him. “When I get home, the house somehow hasn’t been trashed, though I expect it and wouldn’t care if it was. The girls are smiling and you – you’re exhausted but you’re glowing. And I find myself looking forward to hearing about your day and the things the three of you have done, the creations you’ve made.”

“Those are fun,” Castiel admitted. “They have such vivid imaginations.”

“They do. Now why don’t you get some sleep. It’s obvious you need it. Maybe with Emma being in school, you’ll get a bit of a break?” Dean suggested.

“Okay, but only if you stay with me,” Cas agreed easily, his eyes sliding shut.

The next morning came too swiftly for the husbands. Cas groggily getting up, though Dean did the bulk of getting Emma ready for school. Cas only had enough presence of mind in his foggy state to take a ‘first day of school’ picture of Emma before Dean and her left.

Grace clung to him after that. Cas realizing that this was the first time the girls had been separated in – well, he didn’t actually know, but definitely since they’d been taken from his sister. He tried to keep the day low key but involved her in everything he did. From baking, to writing, to making lunch. He tried to present each thing as an opportunity to learn since she’d been so excited about the idea of their own ‘school’ just the day before.

They’d made it halfway through the day before Castiel’s phone rang.

His kneejerk reaction was to think it was the school, calling about some problem that Emma had caused or was in some way at the center of. He rolled his eyes, though no one saw. Because it was probably just Dean, checking in on him and Grace and making sure Cas was all right.

Cas smiled at the thought, and answered his phone without even checking the caller ID.

“Hello?” he said cheerily, only to have that good mood dashed at the voice he heard. He should have learned his lesson by now, shouldn’t he? Though that first time had worked out for him and Dean, for the girls too. But this time…

“Well hello there, brother dear,” Lilith said sweetly on the other end. Cas’s gut clenched and he closed his eyes. That was the fake sweet tone she’d perfected as a child, the one that usually heralded no damn good.

“Hello, Lilith. How are you doing?” Castiel asked in return. He quickly glanced around the room to make sure Grace was occupied but not into anything she shouldn’t be.

“Now, do you really actually care how I’m doing? You took my kids away from me.” Her voice went flat, accusing.

He sighed. It was going to be one of those phone calls. He sat heavily on the couch before answering her. “I didn’t take anything or anyone away from you.”

“Then what do you call skipping off to New Hampshire with Emma and Grace in tow?” A hint of anger seeped into the flat tone of her voice.

“They were taken away from you regardless of whether Dean or I were involved. And if we had not been, if we had not volunteered, your children would be in the hands of strangers. I’ve heard stories, Lilith, foster care doesn’t work out for everyone. No matter what they do, you have a government system that’s overtaxed and underfunded and children slip through the cracks all the time, being placed with bad families. If you loved your children, you wouldn’t want to take that risk.” He bit out sharply and then closed his eyes, regretting the words.

“That’s beside the point,” Lilith almost growled, “By haring off across state lines, family or not, my chances of ever seeing my own children again are pretty damn close to zero.”

Castiel sighed, “Lilith…you can barely take care of yourself, wouldn’t you prefer to know your children are safe and in the hands of people you know love them? You know Dean and I wouldn’t keep them away from you. That’s not how we are.”

“You’re keeping them away from me right now, brother,” Lilith yelled loud enough that Cas had to yank the phone away from his ear. “Even Dad refused to let me near my own children!”

“Because it is currently illegal for you to see them! As soon as you get yourself pulled together, as soon as they lift the Order, we can work something out. Dean and I wouldn’t want them to grow up not knowing their mother. All of us – you, me, Anna – we all know what that’s like. I would love to keep Emma and Grace, I won’t lie. I love them and I think Dean and I can do a lot for them. But even if we do get to keep them, we wouldn’t keep them away from you forever unless the government declares you unfit.” Cas felt like he was reiterating the same points over and over again, but with the grinding noise he could hear coming from Lilith, he was uncertain that any of it got through.

“Well, if that’s true, brother, then let me talk to them,” she demanded.

“I can’t – the ban hasn’t been lifted or amended yet. I can tell you how they’re doing but I can’t give you access yet.” Castiel felt horrible for denying her, for denying a mother her children. But there was nothing else he could do.

“So, you lied? Of course you did! I want my children, Castiel,” Lilith hissed. “What kind of a mother am I, if I don’t have my own children? What do I tell my friends when they ask me how my kids are?”

“If those children meant anything to you, you’d think about what was best for them, and not for you,” Castiel growled, anger filling him, “But no, you’ve always used them as a way to gain attention for yourself, just like you’ve done your entire life. I wanted to believe differently of you, but nothing you’ve ever done has proven that you put anyone else before yourself. You need help Lilith. And your children don’t need to suffer because you refuse to get it.”

She squawked but he was too angry to hear her words. He hung up and fell back against the couch, trying to release the tension that had grown tighter and tighter throughout the entire call. He startled as Grace climbed up into his lap. Oh god, what had she heard? Would she hate him?

“Are you sad, Uncle Cas?” she asked, looking up with those big blue eyes, so much more serious than a child her age should be, he thought.

“A little. I had an argument with someone and I don’t like arguing with anyone. It makes me sad,” he said simply.

“I can cheer you up.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and he bowed his head down to touch hers, returning her hug. They sat like that for a few minutes and slowly, Castiel relaxed, believing the worst was over. Until she spoke up again, “Were you arguing with mommy?”

He closed his eyes, a sinking feeling roiling in his stomach. He nodded, “Yes, sweetie, I was. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I argue with mommy all the time.” Castiel couldn’t believe it. He looked down at her, and neither her voice nor her face betrayed any anger. Sadness, maybe, but not anger, leastwise, not for him.

“Do you…do you and Emma miss your mom?” His voice might have shaken slightly with the question but she didn’t notice.

“Sometimes.” Her voice was quiet, muffled in his neck as she turned her face more. “But we like it here better. You don’t yell at us.”

“Oh sweetie,” Cas’s arms tightened around his niece involuntarily as his heart ached for her and Emma. “Everybody yells sometimes. It can even be for very good reasons. I promise to try not to ever yell unless it’s really, really important. And if I or Uncle Dean ever yell, please promise you’ll stop right away and listen to whatever we’re saying. Then we can all of us talk about why we yelled so we don’t have to yell again. Okay? Cause I don’t like yelling either. It makes me super sad.”

“Super sad?” she pulled back to look at his face.

“Super duper sad,” Cas said, pulling out a ridiculous frown with puppy dog eyes and she giggled.

The rest of the day seemed to go just fine, though Castiel expected some sort of shoe to fall. Dean was still at work, having delayed his morning to drop Emma off in the morning, so Cas bundled up Grace and the two of them went to pick up Emma. They were too close to the school for a bus, but neither he nor Dean minded.

Emma climbed into the car with a smile and a hug for Grace and buckled herself in. “How was your first day at school, Emma?” Castiel called back.

Emma shrugged. “It was okay. The teacher said I was good at reading, but then she took my book away.”

“She what?” Castiel blinked. “Why would she do that?” Emma squirmed in her seat and didn’t look at her uncle. “Emma?”

“Because it was Math time. I hate math,” Emma pouted.

“I hate Math too!” Grace called out to show solidarity. It made Castiel want to chuckle at her wanting to stand firm with her sister.

“Math can be confusing, but it’s also very useful. We use math every day without even thinking about it,” Castiel explained, “That was my job before, I had to use math all the time. Maybe you’re just having trouble understanding it and I can help you? You’re both of you really smart. I bet if you work really hard at it, you’ll be able to understand it in no time. You might even like it.”

It was obvious his nieces – or at least Emma – didn’t really believe him, but they had time for him to work on it. The rest of the evening was spent with Emma doing her homework and him looking over even more paperwork from the teacher. Grace sat beside Emma and tried to help. Cas blinked when he realized that Grace already knew some of the same things Emma had already learned. A lot of them, actually. Like reading.

He wondered if they did ‘homework’ like this all the time. Maybe Grace should be tested and allowed to start school early? He’d have to talk about that with Dean. It would be a shame not to nurture any natural learning she had, but at the same time, would it be detrimental to her social and emotional development? But if they didn’t get her started and put into the right grades, then she might be ‘bored’ of the learning material before she even started, having already learned a good deal of it, which would be even more detrimental as she learned bad habits.

Castiel’s’ head spun as he ran through the possibilities in his mind, helping occasionally here and there. The girls did seem to have a mental block on Math though, so they spent the most time on that, Cas turning it into a game where he could, using visuals when possible. It made them laugh and enjoy the lesson and he was certain that that meant they were learning the lesson better that way.

They finished just before Dean came home, who announced as soon as he arrived that they were all going to go out for a special First Day of School treat – dinner at McDonalds.

“What? Don’t knock it, babe,” Dean protested at Cas’s look. “They’re kids and it’s something they really like. It’s also low key and not likely to send them into any kind of meltdown. Baby steps, right? Or did you want to take them out to a fancy, 4 star restaurant? D’ya think they’d have the patience for that?”

Castiel laughed, “I suppose you’re right, Dean. We can work up to those.” Cas’s eyes twinkled as he spoke and Dean grinned back. Dean leaned in for a brief kiss and whispered, “Don’t worry, I won’t take you to McDonalds for a special treat. ‘Cause you sure as fuck deserve a treat too, Cas.”

Dean grinned at the blush that brought to his husband’s cheeks and clapped his hands together to get the girls attention. He turned and found them both already bundled up and he laughed. “Okay then, I guess we’re good to go.”

Smiling after Dean and his nieces as Cas pulled on his own coat, his hat and his gloves -  Dean pausing to wrap a scarf around Cas’s neck for him before tending to Emma and Grace - Cas felt all the turmoil from the day’s events wash away.

He still had to talk to Dean about it all, but they were in this together. All of them. Cas met them at the door and took Grace’s hand as Dean grabbed Emma’s as she chattered on excitedly about school, despite her own lackluster responses from earlier. It seemed that Emma and Dean really were bonding. Cas looked down at little Grace and reached down to pick her up, his heart full.

He loved them both equally, but he definitely felt a bond towards Grace. Castiel hoped the girls were able to live with them long enough that he and Dean were able to form strong bonds with both girls.

He was sure that it would happen. No matter what Lilith wanted.

Chapter Text

Things settled into a routine, after that. Dean woke first, getting the girls ready for the day, allowing Cas to wake slower. He dropped Emma off at school while Cas and Grace had a more leisurely morning. Sometimes Cas was able to get some writing in, and sometimes not, but he didn’t begrudge it.

After discussions with Dean, he got some home schooling material and set up a ‘real’ school for Grace, mostly just to see where she was at and give her some tests, but he also made that a leisurely thing.

At the end of the day, Grace and Cas would pick Emma up from school and they would set up in the kitchen to work on homework together as Cas prepped dinner – sometimes with the help of his nieces.

The girls had weekly appointments to see Madison, who they took too like a fish to water.

They also got to see Ben a lot. At least a few times a week. The girls were super excited every time and just as bummed if he couldn’t make it. If Cas didn’t know better, he’d think the boy was their first friend ever.

Or maybe Cas didn’t know better?

That was a disheartening thought.

Sundays continued to be a meetup for games, and a way for everyone to get together despite busy schedules. The girls seemed to fit seamlessly into their new family. Bobby sure was taken with them and was there in an instant any time Dean or Cas hit a snag.

Together, the husbands took turns keeping the families on Long Island updated, with the addition of suggesting lightly about visits from all of them, and of reminding Chuck of their offer for him to come live with them.

Before they knew it, two months had passed. There were ups and downs a plenty – like the time Grace had gotten into Dean’s birthday pie before dinner, because she was afraid she wouldn’t get any after getting in trouble for making a mess – but for the most part, the transitions had gone fairly smoothly.

Even the weekly phone calls from Lilith, harassing and full of angry words, became part of the routine.

That still didn’t lessen the blow when she tried to sue them for custody of children she still wasn’t allowed near. The papers arrived at the door and Castiel opened it in confusion, looking at Dean.

“She can’t actually do that, can she? Doesn’t she realize that if she gets anybody to believe that we’re incompetent, she’s still not allowed near her own children and that they’ll be given to strangers that would have even less reason to let her visit them?” Castiel asked in consternation.

Dean shrugged. “I still think she’s crazy. Just give those to Sam. And let’s call Missouri, see what she has to say about the whole thing.”

“Missouri doesn’t think Lilith has much of a leg to stand on,” Cas pointed out.

“Exactly. Means Missouri’s on our side, right?” Dean grinned and Cas shook his head.

“Caseworkers aren’t supposed to take sides,” Cas argued, though he secretly agreed with Dean.

The husbands supposed they should be glad that they didn’t live anywhere near Lilith, because after the papers were served and they got Sam on the case, she upped the harassment by having her friends calling their numbers at all times of the day, as well as night.

It got to the point that they had to actually go out and change their phone numbers and then pick and choose who got the updated numbers.

Except that just meant she shifted tactics.

Dean’s shop couldn’t afford to have an unlisted number and when she couldn’t reach them at home (which was technically their cells), she started ringing his number off the hook, impeding business as paying customers couldn’t get through.

There wasn’t much that could be done about it though. The shop had a landline. When Dean was banging his head after another such call, Charlie rolled her eyes.

“Dude, you realize that’s the reason you employ me, right? Cause it’s actually possible to do exactly that!” She grinned at his stunned countenance.

“It is? Oh my god, red, I would love you forever!”

“EWW…no! Not my type, handmaiden. Besides, you’re happily married. With kids even,” she pointed out.

He grinned back sappily, “Yeah, I so am…” he sighed and lost himself to la la land while she shook her head and snapped her fingers in his face.

“Yo, earth to Dean – is this the only number I need to block, or are there others?” She asked.

“Oh, right, well, that’s the most important one. I’ll write the others down as they come in and add them to the list.” Dean snapped out of it long enough to say.

She nodded and got to work and he shook his head to clear it before heading back out to the bays.

“Everything okay, brotha?” Benny asked Dean on his way past. Dean nodded and gave him a thumbs up. Benny stared at him skeptically for a long moment before accepting the answer and simply nodding back.

Within a few days, Charlie had managed to work her magic and most of the harassing phone calls cut back and Dean was able to relax again at work. So much so that he didn’t even flinch any time he heard the phone ringing anymore.

In fact, Dean was once again buried in the guts of another clunker when Jo’s shout somehow cut through the din of the garage. “Dean! Get your ass in here – you got a call!”

Grumbling about being interrupted, he slid out from under the car and grabbed a rag. Wiping his hands, Dean turned to the door but Jo had already disappeared. He grunted, finished cleaning his hands and tossed the rag down on his bench and went over to Benny, shouting over the music, “Benny!”

Benny poked his head out and raised an eyebrow. Dean pointed to the shop door and mimed talking on a phone. Benny nodded and went back to work without a word.

Swinging open the glass door, Dean stepped through. Jo had her engineering book out, studying, and she pointed without even looking up towards his office. Letting the door behind him swing shut, cutting off the noise abruptly, Dean walked around the corner to his office and shut the door. Picking up the phone, Dean fumbled to access the line. Not for the first time, he wished his office phone had caller ID, but Jo had screened the call so it was probably pointless.

“Hello? Winchester Autos,” he said.

“Hello, Mr. Winchester,” said the last voice Dean had expected to hear in the middle of his day at the garage.

“Missouri?” Dean said with surprise. Then a thought occurred to him and his stomach dropped. Rubbing a hand nervously on his jeans, he spoke up again quickly, “Is everything all right? The girls – “

“Calm down, Dean,” Missouri soothed, “I need to talk to you, but not about Emma or Grace. I have another…unusual situation here, and I need to confirm some things with you before I can move forward. Would I be able to meet with you anytime soon? The sooner the better.”

“Uh, yeah, sure. Tonight? I guess, yeah, tonight should be fine. Or you could come here now if you wanted to meet earlier? I could take my lunch early.” Now Dean was just plain confused. If it wasn’t about the girls, then why would she be calling him? It obviously wasn’t about her car. Jo didn’t need him to schedule an appointment.

“No, I’ll meet you at your place after work. I have a lot of things to do today before I’m free,” Missouri paused, “Oh, you might want to have your brother meet us as well, we might need his input too.”

“I…uh…I’ll see if he’s available. Do we have to postpone if he’s not?” Dean blinked, anchored the headset onto his shoulder to leave both hands free and dug his cellphone out of his pockets. Already composing a message to his brother, Dean’s fingers picked across the screen painstakingly and slow.

“No, you’re more likely to have the answers we need. If Samuel can’t make it, don’t worry about it,” she conceded.

“Can I have a hint on what this is about?” Dean was absolutely confused and insanely curious right now. His text message to Sam simply read,

DEAN: Plans tonight? Meet @ mine? CPS issue. Not about girls.

“I have some questions about a certain living situation you and your brother may have had when you were still in your fathers’ custody,” Missouri answered. Again, it wasn’t anything Dean had been expecting.  “I promise, it will make sense later, but I can’t discuss it now. I have an appointment I can’t be late for. Goodbye, Dean.”

Dean barely got his answering goodbye out before he heard the click of the phone. He hung up and turned his attention back to his cell. Sam hadn’t answered his text yet. He was probably busy. The moose was at work too, after all. Dean sighed. Picking up the landline again, leaving his cell free so he could watch for an answer from Sam, Dean dialed the house phone.

Originally, neither Cas nor Dean had intended on having one. After all, it was cheaper and more convenient these days to have a cell phone. But then they decided it might be best to have a landline for when they had kids. Besides, it was part of a package deal and since they were going to have it anyway, might as well use it, right? They’d just had to make sure it was unlisted because of his sister, but that wasn’t too hard to deal with.

It didn’t take long to get Cas on the phone and for to Dean to explain the short, but perplexing phone call from Missouri. He kept glancing at his cell, but still no response from Sam. Without even realizing it, Dean’s leg started to bounce as he sat at his desk.

“Could she have been any more vague?” Castiel asked.

“I know, I right? It was like she was being deliberately mysterious or something. I just, I can’t think of what she could even be asking us about. That shit was like, 15 years ago or something. So what does it matter anymore?”

“Good question,” Cas agreed. “I hope we find out soon because now I’m just as insanely curious as you must be. Do you think Sam will be there?”

“I hope so. Should we have Lisa take the girls, just in case?”

“Mmm….” Cas mused, “No, that shouldn’t be necessary.”

It was killing Dean all day trying to figure out what Missouri was digging into. Some part of him felt no little dread of the things she could have found out, yet, none of that was on Dean or Sam.

When closing time came, Benny and Jo took pity on him and insisted they could close up the shop and he rushed home.

Missouri arrived around 6 that night, just as Cas and Dean were cleaning up dinner while Sam kept the girls company in the living room. They’d ordered out, not sure what was going to happen and wanting to keep the evening simple. The doorbell rang and Dean whirled around and then froze. Cas’s hand came down on his shoulder and squeezed. Letting out a breath, Dean looked at him and nodded, heading for the door just as it rang a second time.

Throwing the door open, he was surprised to see not just Missouri, but a tall, lanky boy with short, dirty blond hair and grey blue eyes. Kid was tall but looked maybe 15 or 16, kind of in the way Sam had at that age. Dean hadn’t believed his eyes when Sam had shot up like that. Looking at the boy curiously, Dean then forced his confused attention back to Missouri.

“Hey uh, Missouri, how ya doin’? You guys come on in,” he said with another curious glance at the boy. Why was he here?

“Hello Dean,” Missouri said with a warm smile, taking her jacket off and hanging it on an empty hook on the wall, motioning the boy to do the same. He jumped a little, and turned with a blush from where he’d been staring at Dean and hung his own jacket. She noticed Castiel once again hovering behind Dean and smiled, “Hello Castiel. I hope you both are well?”

They nodded at her and stepped backwards, towards the kitchen, Castiel taking Dean’s hand, “Why don’t you come into the kitchen. If either of you would like a drink? Dean could go and get Sam?”

“That’s a wonderful idea. First, I’d like to apologize for being so late. This is Adam Milligan, and he’s the reason I didn’t have time to talk earlier. I had to pick him up from the airport and settle some things. Adam, this is Dean Winchester, and his husband Castiel.” Sam chose that moment to come into the kitchen, saving Dean the short trip to fetch him, trailing giggling children and Missouri smiled at them fondly, “And this is Dean’s brother, Sam. And these two little rascals are Dean and Cas’s nieces, Emma and Grace. Hello girls! How do you like living here?”

“I love it!” Emma shrieked.

“Me too!” Grace yelled. She skipped forward and leaned up to whisper at Missouri, who’d instinctively bent over to listen to her, “I wanna stay here forever an’ ever an’ ever!” she looked up with pleading eyes and Missouri ruffled her hair.

“Oh sweetie…of course.  I don’t see any reason why not.” Grace melted with relief and then leaned away, grabbed Emma, yelled, “Tag!” and ran off laughing, with Emma chasing her.

Missouri laughed, “Oh they’re in such lively spirits. I’m so glad to see your nieces doing so well. This move has been good for them. Thank you, Dean and Castiel for taking them in.”

“We love them, we could hardly refuse.” Dean stared after the girls adoringly and Castiel smiled at him, leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss on his stubbled cheek. Turning, he looked at Missouri and at the quiet kid.

“So Missouri, are you going to solve the mystery of your visit any time soon? I’m afraid you’ve had my husband on tenterhooks all day trying to figure out what the purpose of this visit was.” Castiel leaned into Dean, rubbing at his back. The sound of the television and childish laughter came through from the living room clearly. Tag, apparently, was over, the lure of the television simply too strong for the children to resist.

“Ah, yes, of course, why don’t I just get right to it,” Missouri smiled, pulling an envelope out of her purse. She laid it on the table and slid it before the brothers. “Do either of you recognize these?”

With a perplexed look at Sam, Dean reached for the envelope first, slowly opening it. Inside were about a dozen photos. He pulled them out and spread them on the table with a gasp, “Oh my god…I do remember these. Sam, do you remember Kate?”

Sam shook his head as he looked at them. “Who? No, I don’t think so. Hey, is that us? I don’t think I’ve ever seen pictures of us at that age before.”

“Whattaya mean, ‘Who’s Kate’? Dude, how can you not remember?” Dean looked affronted and Castiel watched Adam’s head swinging back and forth to look between the brothers. He was biting his lip and hunched over slightly, his drink ignored.

“God, Dean, look at us! I had to be, what, 4 or 5 here? I really don’t remember much from that age. Dad moved us around so often I just, it all just blends together. Where was this?” Sam’s tone was incredulous as he stared at the pictures still in Dean’s hand. He grabbed one much to Dean’s displeasure and took a closer look at a picture of just the two of them. “Wow…”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I was 8 going on 9 when we stayed with Kate, so that sounds about right. I guess you really wouldn’t remember. I don’t remember much of…when…” Dean trailed off, looking back down at the pictures, then shaking his head and looking back up at his brother. “We lived there half a year, I think? I liked her too and I really thought we were gonna stay there, but then dad…well, and that was the last time we stayed with anyone.”

Castiel leaned over his husbands’ shoulder, still rubbing at his back and reached to look at the pictures. Sam was right, there really wasn’t all that many pictures of the boys when they were children and Cas really wanted to see too. John had apparently been somewhat remiss in that regard, though Castiel supposed having gone insane might have that effect on someone.

Dean leaned back slightly, angling the pictures so Cas could see them, all while he kept talking to Sam, “Once we got to Uncle Bobby’s, I tried to find her but, it’s hard to find someone when you don’t remember their last name, much less what state you were in at the time. We didn’t stay nearly long enough. You’re right, after a while a lot of that did kinda become a big blur.”

As his husband slowly flipped through the photos, Castiel saw a house, a backyard with an honest to goodness tree house and a golden retriever. No matter the background, each picture included some variation of Sam and Dean, John and Kate. Castiel noted Dean’s eyes looked suspiciously wet when Dean finally raised his gaze back to Missouri.

“Where…how…? These pictures…I don’t understand?” Dean’s voice was soft, confused, “Where did you get these pictures?”

“They were my moms,” Adam’s voice hitched as he stared at Sam and Dean.

His mother’s? Castiel started tilting his head as he tried figuring that out, when, “Oh!” Now Castiel understood the strange, nervous looks Adam had been casting the brothers’ way the whole time he’d been there.

Dean figured it out a split second after Castiel did.

“Milligan!” Dean snapped his fingers, “I was so close! You’re Kate’s son? How is she?” Dean asked, barely able to contain his excitement. He missed the headshake from Missouri as instead, Dean watched Adam hunch back down and look away, his lips tightening. “Oh…is she…?”

“Yeah, she’s gone. She…it was cancer,” Adams voice wavered.

“The funeral was yesterday, otherwise, we’d have been here sooner,” Missouri said softly, looking at Adam with sympathy.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Castiel spoke into the silence nobody seemed to know how to fill. Adam just shrugged and refused to speak again.

Dean looked down at the pictures still in his hand, then back at Adam. At least a couple of these pictures had his mother in them. Dean swallowed and carefully placed he photos back into the envelope and slid it back across the table, “I’m sorry too. Did you want the pictures back?”

Truthfully, Dean didn’t want to part with those few childhood photos of him and Sam, but he knew how precious a rare photo of a loved one could be, and he had no idea if Adam had any or not, he knew nothing about the kids’ life. Adam wasn’t around when the Winchesters had lived with Kate.

Adam shook his head.

Dean just stared at Adam as if trying to figure something about the boy out while Sam and Castiel exchanged looks. As one, they turned to face Missouri, but it was Sam who spoke,

“I don’t think we understand why you’re here. It seems a little…extreme just to bring a few pictures,” Sam’s eyes were narrowed suspiciously at the serene woman.

“Well, boys, Adam doesn’t have any family left now that his mother’s gone, and according to his birth certificate, his father is John Winchester. It seemed like it would be an awfully strange coincidence if all three of his boys needed rehoming, so I thought I should confirm that it was the same John Winchester before I asked if either of you would consider taking him in. You know we prefer family over strangers, and Dean, you’ve already been checked out which is one less step to take.”

Castiel refrained from snorting at how obvious she was. The initial remark was aimed at the brothers but she was staring straight at Dean and Cas. Adam looked resigned and Dean was looking particularly stunned today with wide eyes and gaping jaw.

“A brother? We have another brother?” Dean whispered….

Missouri raised an expectant eyebrow and even Sam and Adam turned to face Dean and Cas. Dean was still impersonating a fish so Castiel took it upon himself to nod. Cas already know how Dean felt about family.

Dean would have been the first person to have said yes.

If he could figure out how to connect his brain to his mouth, that was.

Which didn’t look like it was going to happen any time soon.

“If Adam is amenable to the idea, we wouldn’t have a problem bringing him into our home,” Cas spoke into the growing tension, Adam’s shoulders hunching inwards further with every second of silence, then falling in relief at Cas’s words.

“I was sure you would. I’ll bring all the paperwork by tomorrow. Adam, you have my number so if you need me for anything, be certain to call. But I think you’ll like it here. Dean and Cas are good people. Sam too,” Missouri turned to the teen and he nodded uncertainly.

Missouri left soon after that and Cas left the brothers alone, going upstairs to the empty room to see about setting it up for Adam.

He’d certainly not seen the day ending like this, but he had a feeling that – just with the girls – they wouldn’t regret Adam coming into their lives.

Chapter Text

When Dean managed to gather himself together, he immediately set about helping settle Adam in. “Where’s all of your stuff? Do you need help unloading from the car?” Dean looked up eagerly.

“Um…just, I only got 2 bags right now. Everything else is…still at the house.” Adam fidgeted uneasily in his chair.

“No problem, tomorrow, we’ll get in the car and head on over and pick up everything you wanna keep. Might take a few trips, and if there’s anything of your mothers you wanna save, trust me, I understand that. We’ll set up storage or something. We’ll work it all out somehow,” Dean grinned at Adam giddily.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Dean, that won’t quite be possible, dear,” Missouri said softly.

Sam groaned and shook his head. Dean looked between them all, brow furrowed in confusion. “What? What’d I miss?”

“I’m from Windom, Minnesota,” Adam spoke up unbidden for the first time.

“Wait – what?” Dean blinked.

“Dean, Missouri mentioned picking Adam up from the airport when they first got here,” Sam spoke gently. “This isn’t a day trip kind of thing. Or, well,” Sam was tapping away on his phone, “I guess if you drove without stopping, Windom technically is a 24 hour trip by car-“

Dean wiped a hand down his face. “Sam, stop babbling.” With a sigh, he looked back at Adam and Missouri again. “Okay then, we’ll just…I’ll take a week off from work and rent a van or a U-Haul or something and drive out – “

“Dean! That’s crazy! You can’t just leave Cas alone with the girls for that long, and doing all that driving and everything else by yourself would be insane. And don’t think about taking Adam with you, he needs time to…to…” Sam floundered for words and Dean jumped back in.

“Why not? Road trips are the perfect way to get to know somebody, Sammy, Besides, kinda gonna need the kid so I know what to pack up and stuff. I mean, not that I was gonna force him to go or anything but I’m sure we can all discuss this like rational adults,” Dean said back with a tight voice.

Adam watched the brothers – his brothers – arguing, his eyes wide and darting from one to the other and back again. “Um…Don’t I get a say in this?”

Missouri placed a hand his arm soothingly, “Of course you do, dear. They’re still in a little bit of shock, is all. Not every day you find out you have a brother, now is it?”

“I…I guess? I mean, I sort of always knew. Mom never kept secrets from me. Not even when she got sick,” Adam answered.

“I’m sorry Adam, I didn’t mean to speak for you. It’s just, I know that what Dean’s proposing is already going to make it harder on himself and I just wanted him to stop and think about it for a second. There are smarter ways to do this. No decisions have to be made right this second, but Dean’s not looking at all the options.” Sam gave Dean a pointed look.

“No, Sam. I’m not doing it.” Dean said flatly.

“But Dean – flying out and then renting a U-Haul only makes sense –“ Sam pressed.

Dean paled and he rubbed his hands on his jeans, swallowing. His voice shook as he spoke, “Not doing it. I’m n-not gettin’ on a t-tin can…”

“Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out,” Cas said, causing Dean to start in surprise. Cas rubbed a soothing hand across Dean’s neck, putting just enough pressure behind it to cause Dean to relax into him. “So, what next? What do we need to know?”

Missouri smiled. “Well, first things first. We unload Adam’s things from my car. It’s not much, a backpack and a single suitcase, but you boys don’t have to rush to get the rest. Despite her illness,” Missouri looked at Adam sympathetically. He looked down and away, mouth tightening. “Kate owned her house and somehow managed to keep from going in debt.”

The three men looked impressed at that. They’d heard horror stories of families living past their means because of illnesses, and the survivors getting hit with the backlash.

“Of course, now it’s Adams. The three of you will have time to discuss with Adam what he’d like to do with it. But again, that does mean you have time to figure it all out. Also, I already started the school transfer paperwork, help you get Adam situated as soon as possible. You’ll need to do the rest, however. There’s only so far I can go.” She withdrew an envelope from her ever present bag and handed the manila folder to Dean, who took it on pure reflex.

“Here, I’ll help Adam with his things,” Sam said, standing abruptly.

“Of course you will, dear boy,” Missouri smiled and stood with him, Adam rising as well. When Dean and Cas both made to stand – Dean dropping the folder to the table – she motioned them back down. “None of that now. I’m not so old and feeble that I need help from three grown men.”

Suddenly left alone in the kitchen, Cas sat beside Dean, angling his seat to look him in the eye and take Dean’s hands in his. Dean looked over to him slowly after having watched his half-brother leave.

“Are you all right? It’s a lot to process,” Cas asked quietly. Dean nodded, then shrugged and Cas could see his eyes were wet. “Dean?”

“I am but…I guess…” Dean took a breath, “Just look at this mess, Cas. Sam and I have a brother we never knew about. All this time…we could have been a family but Dad-“ Dean’s breath got a little shaky and Cas tightened his grip on Dean’s hands, rubbing his thumbs along Dean’s in a soothing gesture. Dean closed his eyes and continued. “Dad ruined that for us, for him. Like everything else and I’m so mad at him for it, even though I know now it wasn’t really his fault. But I can’t help it and that just makes me feel guiltier.”

“Oh Dean,” Cas’s eyes turned sad and he let go of a hand to reach up and touch Dean’s face, petting down the side with Dean leaning into the touch, drawing comfort from his husband. “It’s okay to feel that way. Whether he meant to or not, your father did do damage to you and Sam, to your lives.  Yes, it’s horrifying that he got so bad before anyone noticed, before anyone could help him. But you can’t blame yourself for that. You were a kid, Sam even younger. But despite it all, you and Sam, and Adam I’m sure too, you’ve risen above that. Prospered despite it. It’s not anything to feel guilty for.  Do you understand me?”

Dean nodded and Castiel smiled, leaning forward to touch their foreheads together. “In the immortal words of Elsa, just let it all go…the past is the past. We’ve got a wonderful life here and now, and a family that’s growing. Let’s live for that, all right?”

Dean huffed out a watery laugh. “Guess it’s your turn for the pep talk, eh?” Dean reached up and wiped at his eyes, leaning back just in time to hear the front door open and close again, footsteps and voices coming closer. Missouri came into the kitchen and returned to her place at the table, Sam ducked his head in but didn’t enter.

Instead, Sam looked over at Cas, Adam standing dead still behind him. “Yo, Cas, the bedroom at the top of the stairs good to go, or should we set up Adam down here for the night and work on the bedroom tomorrow?”

Cas smiled, knowing Sam was remembering all the extra furniture they’d stashed into the bedroom in preparation for the girls’ arrival. “We took care of all that stuff a month ago, I just checked and put fresh sheets down, so Adam should be all set up there. We can make changes later if necessary.”

“Hey, uh, I’ll show you to your room, okay Adam?” Dean stood up.

“I got it, Dean,” Sam said, confusion clear in the lines on his face.

“Yeah, I know but…” Dean floundered.

Sam went to open his mouth again but stopped when he caught the look on Cas’s face. “Um, right. Well, I guess I should get going anyway. I’ll come by tomorrow, if that’s all right?”

“Of course,” Cas said with a smile.

Sam nodded and set down Adam’s bag. “Goodbye, Miss Mosely – “ he held out a hand only to have it gently smacked away.

“Missouri, boy, how many times I got to tell you?” She gave him a hug and Dean had to hold back his snort of laughter. Sam disappeared to say goodbye to his nieces and Dean joined Adam in the short hall, leaving Cas with Missouri.

Leaning down to pick up the suitcase, which Adam tried to take, Dean headed straight for the stairs, “This way…”

Adam hesitated, watching Dean, then looking back at the woman who’d found his family for him. “Uh, bye, Mrs – uh, Missouri. Thanks for, for everything, I guess.”

“Go on now, I’ll be seeing you again, Adam. You can count on that.” She stepped up close to him and whispered, Cas barely catching the words. He turned away, pretending to at least give Adam some privacy. “And give them a chance. I think you’ll like it here.” She gave him a brief hug and patted him on the shoulder, then he hefted his backpack over his shoulder and turned to find Dean waiting patiently at the bottom of the stairs, though from this angle, you couldn’t tell that’s what was there.

In less than a minute, Adam and Dean stood in the small room at the top of the stairs. Dean set the suitcase down just inside the door and looked around a little sheepishly. “So, um, sorry it’s a little cramped. And we can change whatever. Um…bathroom is down the hall there and um, I was thinking we could give you the grand tour tomorrow? Let you rest up a bit? I mean, everything probably happened pretty fast and all, and jetlag, and um, so you probably want some time to yourself, to regroup, right? I mean, if it was me and all, that’s what I’d want. But if you’d prefer not, just let me know.”

Dean winced internally at his babbling but Adam just nodded, though the poor kid still looked lost and haunted. “Yeah, uh, thanks.”

“And we’ll officially introduce you to our nieces tomorrow – your nieces now too, I guess. But it’s almost their bedtime and uh, I’m afraid if we do it now, they’ll be too excited to go to bed. They’re good kids, but, y’know, kids.”

“Yeah, that sounds, that sounds great,” Adam said absently.

Dean hesitated in the doorway and chewed his lip. Finally, he let out a breath and knocked on the door frame on his way out. “If you need anything, mine and Cas’s room is at the other end of the hall, just past the bathroom, okay?”

“Okay, thanks,” Adam nodded. Dean closed the door behind him and let out another breath, feeling off balanced and inexplicably nervous. He never had any problems making friends and he just didn’t understand why his stomach was so twisted up.

Breakfast came about leisurely, as it usually did on Saturdays. The girls woke up early and bound downstairs to turn on the TV and to color while they watched the morning cartoons. Dean woke up not long after that and left his husband with a kiss before leaving the bed. It was getting warm enough that he didn’t need to grab a robe, so he went downstairs in sweats and a tee and checked on Emma and Grace, getting his morning hugs before he aimed for the kitchen.

He was still really god damn nervous. He had no idea how to relate to an almost grown half-brother. And it really shouldn’t be that difficult, should it? But this wasn’t like making friends randomly. Dean wanted to make up for everything the brothers had lost out on. He wanted Adam to like him and the rest of the family. Becoming friends with Adam had higher stakes then walking up to a stranger and saying hello. With a stranger, if it didn’t work out, you could walk away again.

Dean didn’t walk away from family.

He opened the fridge and pulled out bacon and eggs, butter and bread. He opened one of the lower cabinet and pulled out a bag of potatoes and a couple of onions. Dean was nearly done dicing the potatoes when Adam tentavely walked in.

Dean looked up and smiled at the sleepy teen. “Mornin’! Did ya sleep well? Want some coffee? Cas cannot function without his morning coffee so I already got the machine ready to go.”

Adam yawned and took a seat at the table, his hands fidgeting in his lap. Dean pretended not to notice. He could understand how nervous the kid felt. Losing everyone and everything he knew and had to be plopped down among strangers, unsure what they would expect out of him. At least Dean and Sam had known Uncle Bobby.

“Yeah, coffee would be great,” Adam yawned as he spoke, “I didn’t sleep all that well.”

Dean nodded and hummed in understanding, stepping over to the coffee machine and hitting the brew button before reaching up to open the cabinet and rummage for a third mug and getting it set up. He got back to making food, his back to Adam and unable to gauge his reactions, but when Dean was nervous, he tended to cook. Potatoes and onions ready, Dean got started on the bacon. Soon, the smell of glorious bacon and the sizzling sound of it filled the room.

“So, Adam, how old are you? I was trying to do the math and you must be um…what, 16 or 17? Right?”

“Sixteen, yeah,” Adam’s fingers were clasped around the mug. In a quiet voice, he asked, “Did you really try to find my mom?”

Dean’s hand stilled, the fork hovering over the bacon hissing and popping in the pen, oblivious to the grease splatter. He cleared his throat, “Yeah, I did. But…I was just a kid when I knew her. Didn’t know any of the things I needed to find her.” Dean’s hands resumed their work.

“Why didn’t you ask dad? Missouri says he’s still around. Why…why did he leave my mom?” Adam’s voice hitched a bit and Dean swallowed, closing his eyes.

“There’s no point in asking Dad anything, so I didn’t bother. And…” Dean blew out a breath, “well, I don’t really know the answer to that Adam.” Did Dean want to tell Adam that their father was a raving lunatic? That he’d been well on his way to it when he knew Kate? Whatever stories Kate had told Adam of his dad and his brothers, should Dean ruin whatever image the kid held in his mind?

“What’s Dad like?” Adam asked.

“Um…he’s…” Dean floundered. He was saved only by his nieces running in and demanding food, then freezing when they saw Adam was still there.

“Uncle Dean, who’s that?” Emma asked.

“Hey uh, this is my brother Adam. He’s going to come live with us now. What do you think of that? A brand-new uncle, huh?” Dean said cheerfully, pulling the last of the bacon from the pan.

“Yay!” Emma cried out enthusiastically, climbing into a seat next to a clearly stunned Adam.

“So that one is Emma, she’s 8. And that’s her sister Grace, who’s 5. They have the room between yours and mine and Cas’s. Don’t let their size fool you either, they’ve got bottomless pits for stomachs.” Dean chortled, thankful for the distracting the girls provided.

Adam won them over easily, he was glad to note, and if what he saw was accurate, he thought they might just be wrapping Adam around their little fingers in return.

Hash browns and bacon placed on the table, Dean turned to making scrambled eggs and Emma dragged a stool over so she could help with the toast. Dean smiled down at his little helper and hit the brew button on a fresh pot of coffee just as Cas finally shuffled in.

A set of arms wrapped around his waist and Cas’s head dropped to nestle into Dean’s neck. Dean smiled and leaned back into Cas gently. “Mornin’ sunshine.” Cas’s rumbled greeting was unintelligible and Dean laughed, feeling at ease for the first time all morning. “Coffee’s on. It’ll be ready soon. Why don’t you go sit down and Emma and I’ll join you all shortly?”

“Mmmm…” Cas didn’t make a move to leave his place and Dean chuckled.

Dean patted Cas’s hand. “Go on, you, before you fall over and pull me down with you.”

Reluctantly, Cas peeled himself away from his husband and dropped into a seat at the table, absently reaching for the bacon. Grace crawled into his lap nearly instantly, abandoning Adam. She chattered at Cas, including Adam in her chatter as Castiel hummed and nodded along with drooping eyes.

Eventually he received his coffee and he perked up a bit, leaning into Dean when Dean finally shut off the stove and brought the last of the food over. At that point, Cas carried the conversation, for which Dean was glad. Watching Adam interact with his husband and their nieces helped him get a measure of the boy, and that would be important in the days to come.

Chapter Text

Despite Dean’s fears, a plan was eventually agreed upon that included flying out to Windom. Or, well, the closest airport to Windom. Which turned out to be actually in Windom. Huh. How about that? That was sure as hell convenient.

Sam insisted on going with – both to share the driving on the way back and to use the trip as a brotherly bonding “get to know you” sort of thing, just like Dean had suggested to begin with.

“Dammit, Sam, you’re stealing my ideas!” Dean laughed, not really mad. He was looking forward to this, just the open road and his brothers – brothers! He still couldn’t wrap his head around that – good tunes and some good old bonding. Too bad they wouldn’t be taking his Baby.

Even with google maps, they weren’t sure how long the trip would take since they wouldn’t be driving straight through on their way back and because, well, they had an entire house to go through before they could come back. Because of that, they decided to plan it to coincide with Adam’s spring break. That meant that he was barely in school before they hared off across the country.

The only worry Dean had was leaving Cas by himself with Emma and Grace.

“I’ll be fine, Dean, don’t worry about me. You know Ellen, Bobby and Jo are all more than willing to come and take turns staying with me if I need it. Which I’m sure I won’t,” Cas insisted. “Failing that, I hear one or the other plan on checking in on us on a daily basis, just to make sure I get a five-minute break once in a while.”

“If you’re sure, baby,” Dean said, leaning forward for a kiss.

“But I don’t understand!” Emma wailed, “Why can’t I go too?”

“Don’t you want to keep your sister and Uncle Cas company? You wouldn’t want them to be lonely while we’re gone, do you?” Dean turned to kneel down before the pouting child. Her arms were crossed and she was glaring, her eyes wet. “Besides, I’m really looking forward to seeing how much progress you make on your knitting project while I’m gone.”

She sniffed, still pouting, but she wiped at her eyes and nodded. It was sullen, but it was a start. Dean and Cas would take it. Thankfully, Grace was content to stay at Cas’s side, so they didn’t have the same problem with her.

Thankfully, with the girls about, the days passed faster than they might otherwise have done. Cas checked his phone often, eager for updates from the brothers to tell him how things were going. He couldn’t think of the last time Dean and he had been apart this long. It was a damn good thing he had his nieces. Cas was certain he’d become very mopey and lethargic otherwise, especially since he didn’t have a nine to five job anymore to distract him.

Instead, he spent a lot of time with Emma on her knitting, with Grace when she begged to learn how to bake and it was only in the hours after they’d gone to bed that Cas felt hollow and lonely.

So he treasured every moment he spent with the girls, even more so than he already did, and made certain that Dean didn’t catch wind of how he was feeling. He was sure his husband would feel guilty, and that’s the last thing Cas wanted to do.

Thankfully, as promised, Bobby, Ellen and Jo also came by to spend time with him and the girls. To check up on them, making sure Cas was hanging in there and not getting overwhelmed, and just spend time with Emma and Grace. The three of them had become greatly enamored of the children. It was, quite frankly, hard not to be. Cas smiled to see how attached the girls had gotten in return. Grace particularly seemed to like Ellen, while Emma loved Jo, but both girls adored gruff Uncle Bobby to pieces, and in turn, he held a great big soft spot for them.

Of course, while the brothers were gone, Emma voiced a question she’d obviously been wanting to ask for a while. “Uncle Cas? How come Uncle Adam lives here but not Uncle Sam? How come he didn’t live here before? Where was he?”

“Well, see, your uncles, Dean and Sam, they have the same mother and father, okay? But Adam didn’t. Adam had the same father, but a different mom. That makes them half-brothers, but they’re still 100% family. And Adam used to live with his mom, but his mom died. He’s not an adult, so he has to come to live with family. He used to live very far away – that’s where they all went. Back to Adam’s old house to bring back more of his stuff that he couldn’t fit on the plane.”

“Is that why Uncle Dean and Uncle Sam act weird around him?” It was Grace, this time, who asked.

“That’s right. Because Adam never met the rest of his family, and everyone’s just getting to know each other now, like you are with Uncle Bobby and Aunt Ellen and Jo.” Cas beamed at the girls.

“I bet Adam will love it here, ‘cause I do,” Emma said.

“Me too,” Grace agreed with a nod.

“I bet he will too. And you know why? Because he has people here, like you two, who love him already. And he’s pretty sad about his mom dying, so you two have been doing a great job cheering him up!” Cas said with a smile.

Emma looked down with a frown, then peeked back up at him. “How can we cheer him up more?”

“Sweetie, it’s very nice of you to want to cheer up Adam, but just be yourselves, okay?” Cas suddenly realized the trap he’d fallen into. He’d just put the girls into the same position Dean had been, responsible for his brother rather than just be a normal kid. He didn’t want the girls to feel obligated towards Adam. He wanted them all to behave naturally. He wasn’t sure how to fix it.

The panic quickly switched gears when Grace tugged at his sleeve next. “So, when’s Adam’s mom coming back? Will we ever meet her?”

Cas felt tears prick his eyes whe he realized what Grace didn’t understand. Dread curled in his stomach as he made another realization. He was going to have to explain what death was. He took a quick glance at Emma, trying to gauge if she knew too. Surely, she must have an inkling of what that was, at her age? Emma was frowning and blinking up at Cas.

“I…no, Grace. We won’t ever be able to meet his mom. She died. Do you know what died means? What being dead means?” Cas asked gently.

“I know,” Emma said in a quiet voice. “Grandpa Chuck told me that peoples bodies are like his car. And the engine is its heart. Sometimes you can take it to the garage to fix it, like Uncle Dean does. But sometimes you can’t fix it and its broken and gone forever.”

Cas sent up a thankful prayer that his father had found a way to explain death to the child, though he wondered what had brought the topic up to begin with.

“Uncle Cas? If Adam’s mom’s engine has died, can’t they just take her to the people doctor and get a new one?” Grace asked, her eyes showing that she still didn’t quite understand.

“I’m sorry, Grace. Adam’s mom, her name was Kate, they couldn’t help her. She’s gone forever and Adam won’t ever get to see her again. That’s why he’s so sad. But now he’s got new family so he’ll never have to be alone,” Cas pulled Grace up into his arms and hugged the little girl who held onto him tightly as the words processed. Emma threw herself onto Cas seconds later and he found himself with two arms filled with sobbing children.

Charlie chose that moment to come by, so he was eventually able to calm them down and peel them off of him and the four of them turned to board games.

Before he knew it, they were breaking out both Candyland and Cartagena and playing both. The girls were already familiar with Candyland and loved it, but were eager to try Cartagena when they heard Charlie describing it as “Grown up Candyland”. It quickly became apparent that they needed to put a house rule in place to cover a contingency the game creators hadn’t – apparently – thought of, as Grace got herself trapped at the start of the board with no way to get new cards.

Still, she seemed unfazed by her ‘failure’ at the game and the rest of the afternoon continued without a hitch. Cas occasionally pulling out his phone and sharing various pictures and updates from the brothers (but mostly Dean) as they made their way home.

“Hey, Cas, what’s this?” Charlie asked from the kitchen. She’d gone after a drink of water while Cas cleaned up Cartagena with Emma’s help. He was in the midst of attempting to pry one of the meeples out of Grace’s fist when Charlie called to him.

He looked up and was just able to see the fridge door from where he sat. She was stepped to the side and pointing at the large road map being held up by magnets. He grinned and turned back to Emma and Grace. “Hey, we need to update the map. What do you say?” Grace and Emma squealed and Grace dropped the little yellow pirate on the table. Cas quickly rescued him and dropped him into the bag, put it away and closed the box before she could remember it, then he followed his nieces to the kitchen.

Pulling out his phone, he looked up the last few messages he’d gotten. “Look, they stopped in Chittenango to look at this waterfall. Can either of you help me find Chittenango on the map?”

Eagerly, they both looked at the map, Grace following Emma’s fingers, Charlie watching in bemusement, taking in all the marks along a route tracing all the way back towards Minnesota.

“Cas, this is brilliant!”

“Thanks. It lets them feel involved, being able to track Dean, Sam and Adam as they made their way back. Every time we get an update, we pin it to the map with one of these dots. Then we use google to figure out how much longer they might be.”

Emma bounced, her hair flying about her shoulders. “I found it! Here right? It’s here?”

Castiel leaned down to squint past her little fingers, covering the names on the map and smiled as he made out the word. “Yes, that’s it. What color sticker are we going to put on it today?”

“Blue!” Grace yelled, darting for the box of sticker dots on the table and rummaging for the right one. “I wanna do it this time!” She came running back with the dot on her thumb and she hovered over the map. Emma tapped her finger on it.

“Here, Grace, right here…” With her tongue sticking out, Grace solemnly placed the sticker on the map.

“How far away are they now, Uncle Cas?” Grace asked.

Charlie held up her phone, having already typed it in. “Google says at least 5 hours unless they run into traffic.”

Emma turned to look at the clock on the microwave and tilted her head at it. “They’ll come home after bedtime?”

“Looks that way. Won’t that be a nice surprise to wake up to?” Cas asked them.

It was hard getting them to bed that night, but with the promise of their Uncles being home in the morning, Cas finally got Emma and Grace to go to sleep. Charlie went home afterwards, though she offered to stay and keep Cas company till Dean came home. Cas had insisted he would be fine. He spent the time waiting on his laptop, attempting to work on his long-abandoned book.

The distraction worked.

Before he knew it, the door opened and Cas looked up eagerly. Sam had sent a message a short time ago telling Castiel that the brothers would be home soon. God, he’d missed Dean. He stood up and went to the hall to greet them, but the smile died on his face as the three of them entered. Sam looked fed up. Adam was unhappy and Dean beelined for Cas.

“Dean? What happened?” Cas wrapped his arms around his husband, Dean tucking his face against Cas’s and just breathing in deep before he answered.

“Nothin’ Cas. Everything went off without a hitch. Even the plane, thank God. The U-haul is fit to bursting, so I say we only take a few things out now, let everyone get some rest and deal with the rest tomorrow. I’m gonna hit the bathroom.” Dean pulled away far enough to give Cas a quick kiss, a chaste peck to the lips.

Before he could pull away further, Cas reached up and cupped his jaw and leaned in closer. “Now, Winchester, I haven’t seen you in almost a week. I think you owe me a proper kiss hello,” he said with a low rumble. Dean’s face relaxed for the first time since he’d walked through the door and his tired eyes twinkled.

“Of course, what was I thinking?” He moved forward to give Cas what he wanted and they both lost themselves in the kiss till a throat cleared. Dean pulled away and muttered about ‘cockblocking moose’, but at least now he was smiling, Cas was pleased to note. He disappeared in his quest for the bathroom and Adam had already disappeared, so Cas leveled his attention on Sam.

“Okay, now what happened?

Sam blew out a breath. “Everything was fine for a while. A little stilted, maybe? But okay, y’know? But then on the way back, Adam started asking about Dad and, well, Dean shut him out. You know what he’s like on the subject of Dad. When Adam got mad about it – I guess this wasn’t the first time he’d asked - Dean told him later. That he wanted Adam to settle in and for all of us to get to know each other better before broaching the subject of Dad.”

Cas closed his eyes and rubbed at his forehead. “Well, that accounts for all the sourpusses, I suppose.”

“Yeah,” Sam sighed and looked up the staircase. Then he blinked and looked around the room. “Wait, where are the girls?”

“Oh, they’re sleeping,” Cas answered with a smile. “You know, I have to admit, the girls have adjusted to living here and everything a lot easier than I had feared.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, I looked up similar situations online. Behavior we might expect to see from them as a result. There was a lot of information and I thought they’d act out. I expected lying and sneaking. I expected them to break things or cause drama in some way. I expected them to turn against each other once they both felt ‘comfortable’ being here. There’s so many things they could be doing that would be harmful to themselves and others and yet…” Cas shook his head wonderingly, “And yet, they love living here. They’re incredibly gentle and caring and eager to learn new things. They have their issues, sure, but it’s not self-destructive in a way that would push people away from helping them. Rather, it’s more like the opposite. They welcome people whole heartedly. I feel so blessed to have them here.”

Sam smiled warmly at his brother in law and clapped a hand on Cas’s shoulder. “And they are both blessed to have you and Dean in their lives. Honestly, I think the two of you stepping up for them was the best decision either of you ever made. Aside from putting up with each other for the rest of your lives, of course.”

“Of course,” Cas grinned back. “Thank you, Sam. I only hope we can make Adam feel as welcome here as we’ve been able to make them feel.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you will,” Sam assured him.

Chapter Text

Despite the disaster their road trip had apparently devolved into, Adam only remained sullen and silent another day. They spent the day after the return unloading everything Adam wanted in his room, Lisa taking the girls to keep them from getting underfoot.

They rearranged some of the furniture, dismantling a few of the pieces that had been in Adam’s new room and replacing it with his own bedroom set. The old pieces were relegated to the attic and then Adam spent the rest of the day holed up in his room and unpacking his boxes, decorating as he saw fit, Cas and Dean staying out of his way.

He came out once to tentatively ask for a hammer and nails.

Dean handed him a toolbox without question as Cas watched out of the corner of his eye.

By the time dinner rolled around, Adam seemed much more relaxed and willing to talk and Cas heaved a sigh of relief. This would work out. Dean just needed some time.

The tension between the brothers didn’t dissipate, however, as Cas watched anxiously. Weeks went by as Adam went to and from school and did his homework on autopilot. He ate silently, and seemed to devote most of his energy and good cheer on Emma and Grace.

They got a momentary breather when Easter happened in April, the girls were excited to be able to actually participate in an honest to god Easter Egg hunt.

Dean and Castiel might have gone overboard in dying eggs with them. They even managed to get Adam involved. He rolled his eyes, but when faced with the enthusiasm of the two little girls, he couldn’t help but be pulled in.

Dean used the oven to bake dozens of eggs to perfection at a time while Cas laid brown paper down the entire length of the dining room table, taping the edges down and setting up all sorts of dyes and paints to play with.

Adam kept Emma and Grace distracted while the husbands worked. Finally, Cas stood in the Livingroom with the girls aprons in his hands. “Who’s ready to color eggs?”

“Me! Oh, me!” Emma jumped up and raised her hand, waving it vigorously. Grace said nothing but let out a piercing squeal to match her giant grin as she bounced in place before racing over to Cas. She tugged her apron out of her uncle’s hand to his accompanying laugh – green with a sunflower on it – and pulled it over head, turning and holding the ties out behind her.

“Tie me, Uncle Cas!” Grace said, still bouncing on her toes.

Cas laughed, “Hold still and I might be able to do that for you.”

Adam helped a slightly more patient Emma with her own apron – blue with a butterfly – and then the girls charged to the table and climbed into chairs on opposite sides from each other. Cas chuckled and followed after her, Adam behind him. They bumped the table and some of the dye splashed out onto the table.

Adam smirked at Cas. “Guess the paper ‘tablecloth’ was a good idea.”

“Thank you. I have those sometimes,” Cas smiled back. Dean placed three bowls of hardboiled eggs onto the table and sat at the head of it next to Emma. Cas raised his eyebrows from beside Grace at his husband. “That’s a lot of eggs, Dean.”

“Yeah, well, breakage happens, Cas. And we wanna make sure we have enough for a family Easter Egg Hunt.” Dean grinned back.

“Wait, I’m not hunting Easter Eggs, Dean. I’m not a little kid,” Adam looked at his brother with narrowed eyes.

“Are you kidding me? If I didn’t have to hide these things, I’d be right beside them,” Dean’s grin didn’t fade though his eyes turned slightly challenging.

Adam huffed and turned away at Emma’s urging and grabbed an egg. Cas’s shoulders relaxed as the rest of the dying went off more pleasantly. The girls, just by being themselves, keeping the peace between the brothers.

“Hey Cas, think I can manage a TARDIS?” Dean held his egg gently with the clear crayon poised above it.

“Can you make a straight line without being able to see it?” Cas looked at Dean with a challenge.

“Ah, He-e-ck yeah!” Dean stuttered over the word, with a quick glance at Emma and Grace to make sure they hadn’t noticed the slip up.

“Next question, can you manage a blue dark enough to work?” Adam asked without looking up.

Dean grinned at his brother, Adam catching it out of the corner of his eye and his own lip twitching up slightly when Dean answered, “Challenge accepted. Best TARDIS wins.”

Hours later, fingers and faces were nearly as full of dye as the paper covering and the multiple trays of eggs. The remains of broken egg shells, some dyed and some not, littered the table alongside scatterings of salt. At the end of the table, all five of them stood staring down at a number of eggs in various shades of blue with crisscrossing lines. Thick shaky lines on pale blue, slightly surer lines on splotched blue, and one perfect, deep blue egg with crisp and clear lines stood out from the rest.

“So, I’m guessing that Cas is the winner,” Adam said smugly.

“Yeah, yeah, like you’re attempt was much better than mine,” Dean grumped back good-naturedly.

“What about us, Uncle Dean?” Emma looked up at Dean’s face from her place in his arms.

“You guys did great!” Dean exclaimed. “Honest. In fact, let’s make up a special basket filled with just our TARDIS eggs and take some photos, make Charlie jealous.”

“Yeah!”

The girls cheered and even Adam laughed, Cas leaving to find one of the baskets they’d bought. He brought it back along with a bunch of his yarn scraps and he made a nest in the white basket for the eggs with the help of his nieces. Emma tossed all the yarn in haphazardly while Grace attempted to organize it oh – so – carefully, picking out the colors she didn’t like. Both girls were way more careful with the eggs themselves, having learned quickly how fragile even hardboiled eggs were. When everyone pronounced themselves satisfied, Cas took out his phone and snapped a few pictures of the basket, Dean doing the same with a snicker. Followed by pictures of everyone posing with the basket at the encouragement of first Emma, then Grace. With a roll of his eyes, Adam acquiesced. Cas didn’t bother holding back the smile that watching the three of them interacting never failed to draw out.

When Easter morning came about, Cas and Adam kept the girls distracted and away from all the windows as Dean ran around the back yard hiding eggs. Finally, he popped his head back in. “Everybody ready to find Easter Eggs?”

Grace tumbled off Cas’s lap and Emma dragged Adam bodily from the couch as they both started yelling excitedly. “Whoa, hold on there, you need your shoes, your jackets and your baskets!” Cas called after them. They darted for the front door to put on their jackets and shoes while Cas and Adam followed at a slower pace, Dean grabbing up the baskets and handing them out as each person was ready.

“Now, we’re going to let Grace start first, then Emma, and afterwards, Adam – here Cas, you can have a basket too.” Dean leaned over and pressed a kiss to his husband’s cheek even as Castiel rolled his eyes.

“You really enjoy the holidays, don’t you, Dean?” Cas rumbled out.

“Only just figuring that out?” Dean asked with raised brows.

“Dean, I really don’t need to – “ Adam started.

“Nonsense. This is a family activity. And those girls? They’ll be mightily disappointed if you don’t participate. Don’t do it for you, or for us. Do it for them. Besides. I can’t help Emma ‘cause I hid all the eggs. That would be cheating. And Cas, of course, will be helping Grace. So really, you’re not competing against the kids. You’re competing against each other.” Dean grinned with a twinkle in his eye.

“Fine,” Adam groused, but the husbands could see his heart wasn’t in it.

Dean beamed as he watched the teams fan out through the backyard and look for the eggs. He had a ton in the easy, most obvious of places, of course. But he’d also made sure to make some really hard to find, just to give Adam and Cas a challenge. Wouldn’t want them to get bored, after all.

Humming happily as he watched his growing family hunt for eggs, Dean dug his phone out and started snapping pictures, pausing occasionally to call out encouragement or give hints, sending the snapshots out to Sam and Charlie or posting them directly to his Facebook so Chuck and the Milton’s could see the joy on Emma and Graces faces.

Even as he smiled and laughed with the rest of them, Dean wondered how they would accommodate Chuck now if he should decide to take them up on their offer to move in. they no longer had a spare room, having given it to Adam. Dean didn’t regret that for a second, as hard as it had been to break through Adam’s shell. Maybe if they cleared out Cas’s office area? It’d make things tight, but it could work, at least temporarily, as they hunted for something a bit bigger to house them all.

With a sigh, Dean put that problem away for another day, another time when he and Cas could talk it out, make contingency plans for if Chuck said yes, since they still didn’t know if he would.

Pretty soon, all five of them were collapsed on the lawn in various states of mixed excitement and exhaustion, each counting up how many eggs they had in their baskets. The girls had the lions’ share of it, as Adam and Cas had made sure that they would ‘find’ the eggs first.

Dean frowned. “How many eggs did you all find?”

“Emma has 21, Grace has 17, I have 8 and Adam has 10.” Cas said after double checking the count a couple of times with Adam’s help. Dean did the math in his head, frown still in place, then pulled his phone back out and opened the calculator.

He got the same results.

“Huh, we’re missing four eggs,” Dean said.

“I told you we made too many,” Adam said from his place on the ground, picking at the grass beside him.

“Well, no, I think Dean was right to make as many as he did. There was a lot of breakage after all. And we all had fun coloring them. I’m not sure he needed to hide every single one of them though.” Cas’s nose scrunched in and his lips quirked up as he held back a laugh.

“Hey, I didn’t even touch the TARDIS eggs!” Dean protested.

“Yes, because that made a huge difference,” Cas’s smile grew wider. Dean grumbled incoherently from where he lay on the lawn. “I hope you know where you hid all those eggs. I don’t relish finding them in a couple of months when it gets stinking hot.”

Adam shuddered at the thought. “Stinking is right. Hey, at least we didn’t lose them in the house,” Adam pointed out helpfully.

“Okay, okay, who wants to help me find the last four missing eggs?” Dean said without even attempting to get to his feet.

Grace and Emma yawned and didn’t bother moving. Grace was curled up on Cas’s lap, his arms around her waist as she rolled her eggs around in the basket in wonder. She looked up at him, the awe clear in her eyes, “Uncle Cas! We found these all by ourselves! And there were so many to find!”

“Yes, you and Emma did wonderfully. You’re regular egg sleuths,” Cas agreed, looking down at her.

Dean sat up. “So hey, if they’re such good egg finding sleuths, then they should totally help me look for the last four eggs!”

Adam snorted as Dean got no reaction from Grace or Emma.

“I don’t wanna do more egg hunting. I’m hungry,” Emma complained. “Can I eat one of my eggs?”

“Hmm, if you want. But not out here. Let’s all go back inside,” Cas said.

“But…we need to find the last four eggs…” Dean protested again.

Adam levered himself up to his feet and helped Cas get to his, taking Grace into his arms and tucking the handle of her basket over his arm. Emma scrambled up and followed the other three to the house, her own basket clutched in both hands, the four of them leaving Dean behind.

Cas paused at the door and looked back, “You coming, Dean?”

Dean heaved a sigh and joined his husband at the door. Castiel took pity on him and leaned forward for a kiss. The kids having already gone inside with Adam, the husbands took the chance to kiss a little less chastely then normal, Cas running a hand over Dean’s jaw.

When Cas finally pulled away, leaving Dean breathless, he smiled and spoke softly, “Come on, Dean. It’s time for breakfast. Besides, you can always send Sam and Jo out here to look for them. Should keep them entertained for a bit. Especially if you tell then you lost 5 and not 4.”

Dean stared after his devious husband in stunned surprise before his lips curled up approvingly. “I like the way you think, Cas,” he said, following hastily afterward.

Chapter Text

It was finally warm enough for Dean to justify having a barbeque – and then of course they got rained out. But any excuse was a good excuse for a family get together. Instead of using the grill, he cooked up the burgers in the kitchen as his growing family chattered and played games in the living room.  Last he’d checked, Emma was proudly showing off her knitting and trying to show Uncle Bobby how to knit. Dean grinned and hoped Cas got some video of that.

Even Adam seemed to be fitting in with the larger family, having met Bobby and Ellen and Jo finally. There’d been a look on his face Dean wasn’t sure how to interpret, but the kid hadn’t said anything and Dean chalked it up to the fact that he was probably still grieving his mother.

All in all, things seemed to be good. Well, mostly.

Dean couldn’t decide if he was making any kind of headway with Adam or not. He was so frustratingly different then the girls. Then again, the girls were young, still learning who they were. Adam already knew he was. He just wasn’t willing to share it with strangers – family or not.

In fact, it kinda reminded Dean of himself, after Sam and he had gone to Bobby’s. As much as he’d liked Bobby, Dean was a difficult teen for the man, feeling guilty for breaking up their already broken family, as much as it had needed doing. It had taken a while for Bobby to break through Dean’s shell, but Sam had taken really well to living with Bobby and Ellen, much like the girls had.

Hmm…maybe… yeah, that was it!  Dean could connect with Adam…he’d just do what Bobby had done. He felt a sense of relief wash through him and he couldn’t stop the grin from forming on his face. He took the burgers out of the pan and started putting them together, turning around at a sound to find Adam – speak of the devil - rummaging in the fridge.

“Oh Adam, perfect! I wanted to talk to you,” Dean said.

Adam straightened up and looked at him suspiciously. “About what?”

“Well, I was thinking, when summer gets here, I thought we could kill a couple of birds with one stone. We could spend some time together and I’m sure a kid your age, you’d want at least a part time job, so I was thinking, you could get one at the garage, with me.” Dean beamed proudly with his idea.

Adam stared at Dean blankly for a few moments, the silence straining between them. Dean’s grin began to falter.

“Adam?” he prodded.

“Uh, that’s…that’s great, Dean but…I don’t know anything about cars,” Adam finally said. Dean heaved a sigh of relief.

“Oh, is that all? No problem. I’ll teach you. It’d be a great bonding experience. Plus, knowing at least the basics of car mechanics is a great life skill no one should be without. You should have seen how bad Cas was when we first met,” Dean chuckled, turning away.

“Well, I…I mean…um…” Adam stumbled over his words, sounding nervous and reluctant and Dean turned back to face him, but before Dean could do more than open his mouth, the landline rang.

He jumped in shock. The landline was still somewhat new to the household and almost nobody used it. It was there for emergencies, in case a cell was lost, or something happened and the girls needed to call for help or something. He blinked dumbly at the phone hanging from the wall and Adam raised an eyebrow.

“Dude, you going to answer that or what?” Adam asked. The question galvanized Dean into motion and he picked the receiver up off the hook and answered it.

“Hello? Yes, I’m Dean Winchester. Yes, I’m the current guardian of Emma and Grace. What? Are you sure? What happened? Really? Um…right, thanks for uh, thanks for calling me.” The call didn’t take long and Dean hung up, staring at the phone in shock.

“Dean?” Adam asked tentatively. It didn’t look like he wanted to ask but at the same time, his own curiosity was obviously killing him. Dean couldn’t blame him. Half that conversation was probably near as mind boggling as hearing the whole thing had been.

Dean wiped a hand down his face, his fingers lingering over his mouth. He shook his head. “This is just…I don’t know how to process this.”

“Well,” Adam said slowly, as if he was talking to a young child, “Why don’t we start with who it was and go from there – unless there’s a reason I’m not allowed to know?”

“No, no reason…I’m going to have to find a way to break the news to the girls. Everyone’s going to know.” Dean groaned. “Fuck! How do I tell kids that…shit!”

“Dean! Just spit it the fuck out! You’re killing me here!” Adam almost shouted. Out of respect for whatever Dean had heard, he managed to keep it down so the no one in the Livingroom heard. For that, Dean was glad.

“Language!” Dean said automatically.

“What the fuck ever – you cursed not two seconds ago and I’m nearly an adult anyway,” Adam retorted with a snort. “Now tell me what’s going on.”

“That was the New York State Police, calling to tell me that…well, Lilith and Lucifer died of an overdose.” Dean explained. “I mean, I guess we didn’t tell you, but Lilith is Cas’s sister, and also Emma and Grace’s mom. Lucifer is their dad.”

Dean paced away from the wall, hands gripping his hair, trying his damndest despite his panic to keep his voice down. “Fuck! How am I supposed to tell my husband that his sister is dead? Her children that their parents are dead? Both of them, Adam. There’s nothing here to even attempt to soften the blow. And yeah, I didn’t like Lilith or Lucifer. They weren’t exactly exemplary parents but the girls are young. A part of them isn’t gonna care about that. They’ll be devastated. I know I was when my mother passed. I felt like my whole world had come crashing down.”

Dean’s head jerked, staring at Adam in realization. “Like how you must have felt. God, I’m so sorry, Adam. I know you’re older, more capable of dealing with the grief, but it doesn’t change the shitty thing that happened, and I’m sorry. I know how it feels to lose a parent, and maybe I should have tried harder to, to –“ Dean sighed. “I just mean, I understand what you’re going through – what these girls will be going through –“

“Jesus Christ! Will you just shut up? It’s not even remotely the same thing, Dean, so don’t even try to sympathize with me. There’s no way you or Sam could understand. At least your brother has the good sense not to try – “

“Our brother,” Dean said softly, eyes going wide at Adam’s sudden outburst. Adam didn’t hear him.

“You were – what? Four when your mother died?” Adam scoffed, “You probably don’t even remember her. Certainly not enough to grieve her. She was in and out of your life so fast, I bet you never even missed her.”

Dean’s face turned red and his eyes narrowed. His mouth opened –

“And those girls? Your precious nieces? Same goddamn thing! They’ll be sad for like, a week. They’re young and they haven’t exactly seen their parents in how long already?” Adam didn’t even pause at the question, he just kept going, kept ranting, Dean silent from pure shock.

“It won’t even hit them, they won’t even understand what it means. They won’t feel the impact of the loss in their life because there is none. They’ve got you and Cas and I haven’t heard either of them talk about their ‘real’ parents the whole time I’ve been here. In the meantime, I’ve had almost 17 years of my mom being the only person in my life and I’ve got this hole now, and you can’t understand what that’s like! It’s not vague memories of a lullaby at night, or a special treat at lunch. It’s everything! So don’t pretend to understand, because you really don’t,” Adam’s voice broke, anger and grief battling over his face, tears pooling in his eyes but not spilling.

“Okay, I don’t know what’s going on, but how about we all just take a break, okay?” Sam nearly jumped between them, having walked in on the two angry men. Dean snapped his mouth shut. Sam was right. the kid was grieving and lashing out and didn’t need Dean going off on him.

That didn’t stop Dean from being pissed as hell.

So, he turned on his heels and slammed out of the house.

How the hell had this escalated so quickly?

Fuck, fuck fuck! Dean stood just outside the door, getting drenched in the spring thundershower that had moved in. God, he just wanted to go for a drive, or curl up in his husband’s arms. He’d give anything to not have to tell Cas about his sister. His nieces about their parents. To not have fought with Adam.

How was he going to tell them? He sure as hell wasn’t going to do it right now, during what was supposed to be a happy family get together.

But was it still? He’d stormed off, and odds were, so had Adam.

The door opened so silently behind him, he nearly didn’t hear it. Certainly didn’t register it till two arms wrapped around his middle and pulled him back into his husbands warm body.

“Dean, what happened? Are you all right? Please, come in out of the rain before you get sick,” Cas’s low, soothing rumble was barely heard over the rain hitting the ground hard. Dean closed his eyes and leaned back, taking more comfort.

But that was wrong, because Cas was the one who was going to need the comfort. He just didn’t know it yet because Dean hadn’t told him. Unless Chuck had called - ? Fuck, how was Chuck doing with all this? Problematic or not, Lilith was his daughter. Emma and Grace had only been in their lives in a more permanent sense for a few months – no, it was even longer than that, now – but Dean was absolutely positive he’d be devastated if something happened to either of them.

“Dean, who was that on the phone? What happened?” Cas pushed gently. Dean turned in his arms and wrapped his own around his husband.

“I’m so sorry, Cas,” he whispered into Cas’s ear.

“For what?” Cas rubbed his hands up and down Dean’s back, soothing as he talked, “I honestly expected some sort of blow up out of Adam at some point. It’s healthy. He shouldn’t be holding so much in. I wouldn’t blame yourself for it.

“Not…it’s not that. I mean, fuck,” Dean shivered against Cas, the cold rain finally registering.

“Come on, Dean, let’s go inside,” Cas insisted.

“Not yet,” Dean said, voice broken. He’d never had to break the news of a death to anyone before. In his life, the bad things had happened to them. He’d never had to be responsible for such news. “Cas, we need to call your dad and make sure he’s okay. Your sister…I don’t know how to tell you, but she’s dead. Her and Lucifer. I’m sorry. I know we weren’t on the best of terms with her, but she’s still your sister.” Dean tightened his arms around his husband as Cas’s body stiffened against his, his hands stilling on Dean’s back.

“Lilith’s dead?” he asked, stunned.

“Yeah, god, I’m so sorry, Cas,” Dean said.

“How are we going to tell the girls?” Cas asked.

“I don’t know, babe, I don’t know,” Dean answered.

“Dad…” Cas breathed out, pulling away from Dean, panic in his eyes.

“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Why don’t you call him?” Dean pushed the now sodden hair out of Cas’s eyes. He blinked. They were both still standing in the heavy rain and were completely soaked. “Shit, we really should get inside. We’re gonna get sick. I’m so sorry.”

Cas nodded blankly and turned to face the door, hand reaching out and fumbling with the doorknob. Dean’s hand covered his and helped him, guided him through the door and to the stairs. He waved off the concerned looks from Bobby and Ellen, Sam and Jo and followed his husband up the stairs, their socks squelching uncomfortably with every step. How long had they been out there?

They passed Adam’s closed door, music blaring out. They paused at the open door to their niece’s room and Cas’s breath hitched.

“How are we going to tell them, Dean?” he asked again. “Do we…should we bring them to the funeral? I don’t know what to do.”

“It’s okay, babe, we’ll figure it out together, right? Let’s get into some dry clothes first, then call your dad, okay?” Dean slung an arm around his husband’s shoulder and gently guided him away and back down to the end of the hall, to their own room, stopping only to grab a couple of big, fluffy towels from the bathroom closet.

Tossing the towels onto the bed, Dean helped Cas get out of his clothes, barely remembering to close the door behind them in case anyone came up stairs to check on them. He and Cas had disabused both Sam and Jo of that habit early on in their courtship because as adults, Jo and Sam should know better.

But they were a lot more careful now that the girls lived with them.

Dean disrobed, only noticing then as he peeled off the soaked clothes how cold he was, but he ignored that to wrap the biggest towel around Cas and started drying him off, rubbing gently over his skin, rubbing briskly at his hair, bringing a small smile to himself as he stared at Cas’s unruly as ever bed head.

Finally, they were both dry. Not bothering to get dressed yet, Dean folded Cas back into his arms, tucking his head against his neck, letting Cas breathe in the scent of Dean. He’d always told Dean how calming he’d found his scent.

Fingers gripped his ribs tight and Dean knew that if he looked, Cas’s knuckles would be white. His body shook and the first sobs wracked through him. They sunk to the floor together and Cas just rocked him. He didn’t say anything. He knew if he’d lost Sam, he’d be just as devastated, if not more. As shitty as a sister she’d been, as shitty a human being as she’d been, Lilith was still Cas’s sister.

Though he was half convinced that Cas cried not so much for himself but for his dad and his poor nieces.

“Shhh...It’ll be okay. You’ll be okay. They’ll be okay, I promise. We’ll be there for them, for all of them. They’re not alone. You’re not alone. I’ve got ya,” Dean soothed. “I’ve got ya.”

Chapter Text

When Cas finally calmed down enough, Dean got them both dressed and grabbed a phone, handing it to him so he could call his father. “Do you want me to stay or…?”

Cas shook his head. “Could you check on the girls, first? Then um…come back after?”

“Of course, Babe,” Dean cupped Cas’s face and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead before leaving the room. He paused by Adams still closed door, then shook his head and kept walking.

Everyone looked up as soon as he hit the bottom of the stairs, looking at him in concern. Dean was thankful to see that Emma and Grace were preoccupied. He and Cas would talk with them together, but they would wait till everyone else had gone home.

Sam was at his side quicker than Dean could blink. “Is Cas all right?” Sam asked quietly. “Are you all right? What happened in the kitchen, Dean? Is Adam…?”

“No, actually, this has nothing to do with Adam,” Dean said.

“But then why was he…?” Sam trailed off.

Dean sighed, “Adam was collateral damage, to be honest. His issues are, well, understandable, actually. But that’s not the problem. Well, I mean, it is…and Cas and I will have to figure out how to deal with that later but we have more pressing concerns at the moment. The phone call was both good and bad news. Good for their future, in the long run. But in the short term, this is gonna be painful.”

Ellen joined them, leaving Bobby and Jo to distract the girls. She placed a hand on Dean’s arm and gently pulled him out of the living room and into the kitchen, Sam following.

“What’s up, Dean?” She didn’t bother beating around the bush.

“Just got a call that Cas’s sister died,” Dean finally managed.

Ellen instantly turned to look out the door of the kitchen even though she couldn’t see anyone at this angle. She turned back. “Oh, sweetheart, that’s their mother, isn’t it? How’s Cas doing?”

“As well as can be, I suppose, when you have mixed feelings for someone,” Dean shrugged, nearly dislodging Ellen’s hand, “He’s checking in on his father now.”

“Oh the poor man,” Ellen breathed. She blinked as something occurred to her. “Dean, how are you going to be holding up? You’re the only one in this house right now that’s not touched with personal loss. Being surrounded by four grieving people…that’s going to be hard, honey.”

“I dunno,” Dean shrugged. “I mean, the girls don’t know yet, obviously and we don’t know how they’ll even react. Cas is probably feeling guilty and I’ll need to get on that and Adam…well, Adam won’t talk with me. So I’m not really sure how to help him. And the girls…it wasn’t just their mother that died. Cas has no particular attachment to Lucifer, but to the girls, that’s their dad.”

“Oh!” Ellen gasped. Sam swore.

“Shit, Dean, this is huge…” Sam leaned halfway out into the hall from the kitchen so he could see a little ways into the living room where the girls cheerfully played with Bobby and Jo.

“Yeah, we don’t wanna tell them yet,” Dean couldn’t help but look toward the stairs, where his husband was hopefully talk to Chuck.

“Go on, Dean. Go take care of Cas, we’ll keep an eye on the girls,” Ellen reassured him, patting his arm. Dean nodded his thanks, then ducked in for a quick hug for the woman who’d taken him in like a son.

“I could stay tonight, if you want,” Sam offered. “So you don’t have to worry about Emma and Grace for a little while.”

“That’d be great, Sammy, thanks,” Dean said gratefully. “Let me know when they’re ready for bed so I can come out to say goodnight to them.”

“Of course,” Sam agreed.

Taking the stairs two at a time, Dean ran back to his husband. Adams door was still shut, music blaring out of it, just loud enough for the hall. He hurried past the other bedrooms to where he’d left the door of his own bedroom very slightly ajar. Gently, he pushed it open, not wanting to disturb Cas if he was still talking to Chuck.

Peeking in, he found his husband sitting on the floor at the foot of their bed, knees drawn up, his head laying back on the mattress, the phone still pressed to his ear.

“I’m not sure yet, Dad, I need to talk to Dean, but I’ll be there as soon as I can, I promise. Yes, I’ll be safe,” Cas said. Quietly, Dean made his way across the room, and turned, sliding down to join Cas on the floor on the opposite side from the phone. Immediately, his husband leaned into him, fully and completely, laying his head against Dean’s shoulder. “I’ll call as soon as we’ve decided. I love you. I’ll be there soon, all right?”

There was silence for a few moments after, Cas dropping his phone from his ear, setting it on the ground and turning into Dean. Dean hugged him about the shoulders and stayed quiet, just letting Cas gather his thoughts, give him whatever time he needed.

Finally, Cas sighed and spoke, “I want to go down.”

“Of course you do, babe. I’m not going to stop you.” Dean said quietly, rubbing his hand down Cas’s arm.

“But what about – “

“Look, I have an idea. Let me explain and then you can tell me what you think, okay?” Dean asked. Cas nodded. “Why don’t you go down first? I’m gonna ask Sam to go with you – “ Cas opened his mouth but Dean continued, “No, don’t argue. I don’t think you should drive down alone. Maybe let Sam do all the driving, too. If he’s up for this, that’s one thing down. Now, from what I hear, these things take a little time. So the both of you go down, and you and Chuck can have some private grieving time, take a little time to process things. Then when you’re all ready, Sam can help you guys make funeral arrangements. Make him an errand boy or whatever, he’ll want to help, and he can be a rock for you.”

“But what about – “ Cas started to ask again.

“Shhh…not done, babe. Let me finish my idea and then you can pick it apart, okay?” Dean waited a few seconds but when Cas closed his mouth Dean leaned forward to drop a kiss to his husband’s forehead and kept speaking. “Maybe halfway through the week, sooner if you need me, Adam and I will drive down with Emma and Grace. We’ll drive straight to Chucks. At that point, you, me and your dad can sit the girls down and have a talk about what’s happened. After that…we’ll play it by ear. I’m still not sure about bringing them to the funeral or not but…I know if I was them, I’d want to go to something that let me have some closure. Let’s see how they react and then just, go from there. Sound good?”

“You’re thinking of your mother…” Castiel whispered. “John kept you away from the funeral?”

“Yeah, he did. And I regretted it more and more the older I grew. He didn’t even ask, he just…assumed I wouldn’t understand. But I really think that, on some level, I did. So…?” Dean tried to change the subject back towards planning.

Cas hummed and grabbed at Dean’s hand. “I think…that I can find no real fault with it, though I really wish I could have you with me the whole time. But I understand how difficult that would be for, well, a lot of reasons. It’s not just us anymore. We have to consider the girls. Not just how this will impact them but how they impact us.”

 “Look, if you like the plan, let me go talk to my brother while everyone else is still here so he can make a run home to pack. You good?”

“Yeah, I’m good.” Castiel pushed himself up and away from Dean and stood, then extended his hand downwards to help Dean up off the floor as well. “I think that, yeah, I’ll start packing too. You’ll be back?”

“Of course. I gotta give you your weekly doses of Dean all in fell swoop, so you don’t miss me as bad when you leave,” Dean said with a sall smile.

Cas gave a – thankfully dry – chuckle, short and almost quiet, but it was there and Dean counted it as a win. He refrained from fist pumping the air by some amazingly narrow margins and gave Cas a parting kiss before leaving his husband alone.

Finding himself alone for the second time, and with a different task in mind, Cas looked about the room, trying to pull his thoughts together. Right. Packing. For at least a week. And he’d need appropriate clothes for whatever arrangements were finalized for his sister. And Lucifer he supposed. That meant more than a duffel bag would be required.

He headed for the closet on autopilot, digging through the generous sized space for the small suitcase he’d last used a few years ago, when he’d traveled overseas without Dean (and that had been lonely as hell, but it had been for work and he hadn’t had much of a choice).

It was buried at the back of the closet but his hand closed on the handle and he yanked it out. Laying it out on the bed, he opened it and had to shake his head. Dean had stuffed it with random stuff from one of his cleaning sprees, apparently. Looking about, Cas found the laundry basket – thankfully empty – and upended the suitcase into the basket and then set to work packing everything he thought he would need.

All too soon, Castiel finished packing the clothes and picking out two suits to place into his garment bag. He hung it on the back of the door and placed the suitcase nearby but nowhere Dean would trip over it before Cas left. He found himself sitting on the foot of the bed, staring at the rug.

He couldn’t really decide how he felt at this moment. Grief, yes. Lilith was – above anything else – family. And no matter the person she had become, Castiel could still recall the child she had been. He also felt relief. With their parents gone, Emma and Graces’ lives would become infinitely more stable. The ever-present threat that the children would be returned to a pair of adults who couldn’t be bothered to care for them properly utterly removed.

And guilt. Oh God, the guilt he felt for even thinking it might be better off for everyone that they were permanently out of the picture.

And to top it all off, there was concern for the children, at how they would take the news. And for his father, of course, and how Chuck would now be living with the fact that he’d outlived his own child. His youngest, in fact.

Combine together, stir, and top off with a dose of self-loathing to go with the guilt, and you had a recipe for an upset stomach and a headache moving in. Just as he thought he might need to get up and address those last, his husband slipped back into the room. He held a water bottle, a mug with something hot in it – not coffee, Cas would have been able to smell that coming up the stairs – and a vial of aspirin.

“You are a mind reader,” Cas said gratefully as he accepted the proffered items. He took the aspirin first, downing it with a healthy swallow from the water bottler, before switching to the mug of tea. Not his usual go to…but then coffee was to wake up and sometimes for being sociable, but tea, that was for being sociable and – given the right blends – going to sleep or soothing your stomach or nerves…Cas had no doubt that the tea Dean had picked would help with all of that.

“Nah, I just know you, babe. You’re worrying yourself into knots, you’ve got a lot of mixed feelings about this, I don’t doubt, and you’re going to keep yourself awake with all of it. You need to try and get some sleep, okay?” Dean soothed. “Here, want me to check your bag?”

“Would you? I’m afraid I’m not thinking all that straight right now,” Cas asked. He drank his tea while Dean looked the bag over, then checked his garment bag. Dean chuckled once when he realized what else he’d packed. He looked over at Cas with a raised eyebrow.

“What? You know I have trouble sleeping when you’re not around. Besides, Bumbles been with me through a lot…it feels right to take him.” Cas explained with a sad smile.

“Yeah, if it helps, I say take the adorable little guy. How long you had ‘em, Cas?” Dean tucked the stuffed Bee – a little worse for wear because of its age only, Cas having kept quite good care of it over the years – back into the suitcase carefully.

“Mmm…I think he’s as old as me. My grandparents gave him to me.” Cas finished the tea and stood.

Dean walked back over and took the mug from his hands. “Don’t worry, babe. You just lay down and I’ll join you shortly after I take care of this. What time do you wanna leave with Sam tomorrow?”

“Sam agreed?”

“Of course he did, you’re his brother, Cas.”

“Well, as soon as possible would be nice, maybe after the morning traffic though,” Cas mused.

“Great, I’ll let him know. Now why don’t you call your dad and assure him you’re practically on your way?” Dean asked.

“That’s a good idea. Thank you, Dean,” Cas wrapped his arms around his husband and Dean returned the hug.

“No need for thanks, Cas. You’re family and I love you. We all love you,” Dean comforted. They stood there for several long moments, letting each other’s warm and strong arms reassure each other, heartbeats matching. It had been a difficult day and there were more to come – neither of them were looking forward to the inevitable discussion with the girls – but they weren’t alone in this.

They had each other. They had family. With support and love, Cas knew, it would work out. They’d rise above the challenges – together.

Chapter Text

The next morning was complete chaos. The scene that had played out just a few weeks prior when Dean had left with Sam and Adam, repeated itself as Cas explained that he’d be going away for a few days. Only it was Grace, this time, who insisted on going with him .

Adam came down long enough to get breakfast and say goodbye. As he opened his mouth to utter – what Dean assumed – his condolences to Cas, Dean caught his eye and gave the girls a pointed look, making the motion for zipped lips. Adam rolled his eyes and huffed out a breath but didn’t say anything.

“It’s okay, Grace,” Cas was saying when Dean turned his attention back to him and Grace. “It will only be for a few days – less then when Uncle Dean left to help Adam – “ Dean and Cas had decided to let the girls drop the uncle bit if Adam hadn’t minded. He hadn’t. “-and in fact, Uncle Dean and Adam will bring you both down to join me and Uncle Sam.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really,” Castiel assured her.

Adam pulled Dean aside. “You haven’t told them yet?” he bit out angrily, incredulously.

“Adam, let’s talk about this later, okay?” Dean sighed. He most definitely didn’t want to get into this now, when Cas was stressed enough as it was, and certainly not in front of the girls.

“Later. It’s always later,” Adam muttered and stalked away, leaving Dean to sigh once again.

Before he knew it, it was time for Cas and Sam to go, Sam’s car already loaded and ready. Dean walked Cas out to the car, the last to say goodbye, Sam already in the driver’s seat. Dean took Cas in his arms and held him close. Cas returned the hug tightly, reluctant to let go, but finally he did.

“Either you or Sam call me as soon as you guys arrive, okay? And let me know when you need me, when you’re ready. I’ll have all our bags pre-packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We’ll be there before you know it. Just say the word,” Dean said softly.

“Of course, Dean,” Cas said back just as softly.

“I love you,” Dean said.

“I love you too.” Cas leaned in for one last kiss, then got in the car.

Dean walked around the front of it and knocked on the roof, leaning down to peek in at his brother. “Drive safe,” Dean admonished.

“I will, Dean, don’t worry,” Sam said with a roll of his eyes. Sam backed out of the drive and Dean went back inside, going straight to the kitchen to clean up the remains of breakfast, grateful that it was still the weekend.

He heard the girls giggling in the living room. Adam's voice talking with them quietly. For that, if nothing else, Dean felt a rush of fondness for the boy. His heart ached for him too. Dean was frustrated that every time he seemed to have made some progress in forging a connection with his new brother, it became clear that he hadn’t.

He’d just finished the dishes when Adam poked his head in. When Dean noticed him, acknowledged his presence, Adam edged in the rest of the way and leaned up against the wall. “So, you really didn’t tell them?”

Dean shook his head. “Nope. We decided to wait.”

“Of course you did. You always put off the things you don’t want to do,” Adam grumbled.

“Listen, Adam...Cas and I talked about it and decided – together – that it would be best to wait a few days. When we go down for the funeral, that’s when we plan to tell them. Cas and I together, after Cas has had a chance to…to process everything and help his father get over the shock of it. Then, when they’re surrounded by the family they grew up with, that’s when we’ll tell them.”

“Oh…” Adam said, so quietly Dean almost didn’t hear him.

“Do you approve of the plan?” Dean asked sarcastically.

“Yeah, I guess…it makes sense.”

“See, I usually have a good reason for asking people to wait.” Despite Dean’s words, Adam still looked skeptical and Dean sighed. “Look, whatever issue you have with me, whatever it is that’s going on, can we at least table it till after we come back from the funeral?” Dean leaned back onto the countertop, crossing his arms over his chest.

Adam started, looking a little surprised. “Um…yeah…of course.”

“Now, I know it’s early, but the next few days are probably gonna be pretty crazy. Why don’t you prep yourself a bag so when Cas calls we can just load the car and go? I’m gonna help Grace and Emma do the same. I’ll do mine later tonight. Most likely after they’ve gone to bed.” Dean explained.

Adam nodded and straightened up, leaving the kitchen and going up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time. Dean followed more slowly and quickly roped the girls into the excitement of planning a trip and putting their bags together. That easily took nearly 2 hours due to questions and distractions, but the entire effort was a distraction that Dean welcomed.

Lisa came over later with Ben. The usual crew – minus Sam and Cas of course – followed after, and Sunday game night went off mostly without a hitch. Everyone, of course, wanted to know where Sam and Cas were and Dean had to find ways to tell them all without the girls hearing. It was trickier than he thought since they kept popping up under his elbow at the worst possible second nearly every time he opened his mouth.

Eventually though, with Ben there, the girls were distracted enough for Dean to get out the whole story while they all played board games. Everyone was sympathetic for the girls, especially Lisa who was staring at her son. Dean could only imagine the scenarios going through her head for if anything ever happened to her.

With a little bit of effort on Charlie’s part, they even managed to rope Adam into joining the games, which soon actually had him laughing and smiling a little and Dean relaxed that something at least, was going well.

He had to retract that thought the next morning as he tried to get Emma ready for school and Grace ready to be dropped off at Bobby’s. At least Adam was pretty self-sufficient in that regard, and wasn’t having a meltdown about the change in the schedule.

“But sweetie, I thought you liked Uncle Bobby?” Dean asked Grace in desperation. She clung to him crying, and didn’t even attempt to answer his question. “Grace, I can’t bring you to the garage with me – you’ll be bored in no time! You’ll be begging me to take you to Bobby’s instead!”

Emma hovered near Dean’s elbow, staring at her sister in concern and Adam snorted from over by the door as he shrugged on his jacket. Dean glanced over at him with a glare.

“What? Can you do better?” he snapped, already with no patience left to deal with Adam.

Leaving his backpack by the door, Adam stepped forward, rolling his eyes at Dean.

“Hey Grace, hey sweetie, can you look at me for a sec?” Adam cajoled. Still crying, she at least turned her head to look at him, her lower lip trembling. “What do you say? I’ve never been to Bobby’s place. If you go, I’d like to ask you a favor – I’d like to ask if you could check it out for me and tell me what it’s like? Also, I hear he’s got a big ol’ dog too, sweet as anything. Have you seen him yet?”

She shook her head against Dean’s chest, the sobs quieting down, though tears still streamed down her face. She sniffled. “’e’s got a doggie?” She turned to look back up at Dean and wiped at her eyes. Her curiosity well and intrigued now. “What’s his name, Uncle Dean?”

“It’s Rumsfield. But I think Bobby gave him a nickname, I just can’t remember what it is. If you hang out at Bobby’s for a couple of hours, and you find out, you’ll remind me right?” Dean talked gently, wary of saying the wrong thing and prompting another bout of tears.

She thought about it solemnly for several long minutes, still sniffling slightly. Dean refrained from checking his watch. At this rate, he knew he was already going to be late to work. Good thing he was the boss. Finally she nodded. “Okay, I’ll go to Uncle Bobby’s house today. But tomorrow, Uncle Dean, I wanna go to the garage with you. I wanna see where you work.”

Grace leaned in conspiratorially. “Adam and Emma haven’t seen the garage either, so I can tell ‘em all about it when I get back.” She beamed, having made her decision and Dean sighed at the reprieve. If she enjoyed staying with Bobby, Ellen and Rumsfield today, then she could always change her mind about tomorrow, after all. He hoped.

With that out of the way, the rest of the day passed uneventfully, except that he kept checking his phone for messages from Cas or Sam. He got a quick one saying they’d gotten on the ferry, then another to let him know they’d arrived at Chucks. Dean pocketed the phone then, expecting radio silence for a while as Cas and Chuck comforted each other and started to make plans.

Two days later, while at the garage shortly after dropping Emma off at school and with Grace in tow – she’d put it off, but she hadn’t forgotten her determination to check out the garage and to be the first of the three kids Dean and Cas now took care of to do so – Dean finally got the call from Cas.

Less than three hours later, Dean had gathered all the kids, made their excuses at the school, arranged for coverage at the garage, grabbed their bags and hit the road.

They hit traffic on the way down, turning the normally five-hour trip into seven hours, not getting to Chuck’s place until after 7pm. The girls were cranky by the time they arrived, and Dean didn’t relish the talk they still had to have. The double wake - for the two families had decided to show Lucifer and Lilith together, despite the two having not ever married or, for the matter, even still been together - was going to be on Thursday and Friday, with the funeral itself on Saturday.

Which meant that they had to talk to the girls tonight . Right before bed. And neither Dean nor Cas had been able to predict how Emma or Grace would react, despite much discussion over it.  

Tired as he was, Dean was exceedingly happy to finally make it to his father-in-law’s house. They’d barely pulled into the drive – one or two other cars parked in front of the house – when the front door opened and Castiel rushed outside. Dean got his door open just in time to watch Emma and Grace race for his husband. He found himself jealous of the girls as they got to have the first hugs, and yet, he couldn’t really begrudge them either.

Adam stepped out of the Impala more slowly, heading right for the trunk after Dean popped it open. Cas appeared at his side, carrying Grace with one hand as she chattered freely and holding Emma’s hand with the other, leaving Cas no free arms for which to hug Dean. From the tenseness of his shoulders, Dean could see he really needed one. Dean stepped into his husbands personal space and wrapped his arms around Cas, tilting his face down for a kiss.

Cas’s eyes closed and he sighed happily, dropping his head to Dean’s shoulder after, just letting Dean scratch at his head. “I missed you. I missed all of you so bad…” Cas’s voice was low, rougher than normal. “Come on, we ordered pizza. It was the easiest with the kids coming and you all must be hungry and tired.”

While Dean and Cas had greeted each other, Sam had joined them, grabbing up the last of the bags and showing Adam inside. Cas and Dean followed at a slower pace, Grace wiggling to get down as soon as she saw Grandpa Chuck, then her and Emma racing to see which could reach him first.

Dean took full advantage of Cas’s now empty hands to pull him closer. Cas slipped his arm around Dean’s waist, his fingers gripping Dean’s shirt tightly. “How you holdin’ up, babe?” Dean asked.

Cas shrugged.  “As well as can be expected, I suppose.”

“Is Anna here?” Dean inquired about Cas’s other sister, the eldest of the trio.

“Not yet. If she’s coming. We don’t actually know since we’ve only been able to leave messages,” Cas sighed.

“I’m sorry, babe,” Dean said softly, rubbing at Castiel’s back through his shirt. Cas shivered a little and they ducked into the house. If they’d been hoping to go unnoticed, it had been a vain hope. While not overly full, there were a number of people besides them there. There was no Gabriel, but Dean noticed Michael, Rebecca and all the children spread about the room.

Even the baby was there. Dean kept forgetting she’d been born, finally. Emma was already ensconced on the couch next to her Aunt Rebecca, the baby cradled in her arms and a look of wonder on her face. Grace peeked over, but had already run off to play with Hannah and Balthazar after giving her grandfather her greetings.

Rebecca and Michael caught sight of Dean and Cas first. “Dean, hello. I hope you are well?” Michael asked.

“Yeah, I’m good. Just tired from the trip really. A little worried ‘bout everyone else. How are you all?” Dean shook Michael's hand, then Rebecca’s before leaning down to look at the sleeping baby. “Wow, look at her…she’s adorable.”

Emma looked up at the adults. “I’m done holding the baby. She’s not big enough to play yet. I wanna go play.”

“No problem sweetie,” Rebecca took the infant girl back in her arms and Emma scampered off, pausing only to say “Thank you, Aunt Becka!”

“The kids have been a bright beacon in this dark time,” Rebecca said simply. “Have you told Emma and Grace yet?”

“No, we were going to do it tonight. The other kids won’t mention anything, will they?” Cas bit his lip in sudden worry.

“I don’t know,” Rebecca’s eyes widened. “It didn’t occur to me to ask them not to. I’m so sorry…”

“It’s not your fault,” Dean soothed. “I meant to get here earlier so we’d have more time to talk with them about it.”

“I’m going to get the girls and bring them to my old room, if you’ll get dad?” Castiel slipped out of Dean’s arm and took a step away before pausing and looking back.

Dean nodded. “Yeah, I’ll grab Chuck and we’ll be right in.”

“We were about to leave anyway,” Michael noted. “It’s getting pretty late for the kids and the last few days have already been a little hectic.” They all nodded their understanding as Michael helped Rebecca wrap the baby blanket more firmly round the baby.

Suddenly, she looked up. “Oh, I almost forgot to mention it - I wanted to offer to watch the girls tomorrow. I’m not going to bring ours out to every wake, just the last one. And I don’t think they need to see the funeral either. Will that other boy you brought want to go?”

“Probably not,” Dean said. “He has no ties to anyone here except me and Sam, and he could probably do with less reminders of his own recent loss.”

“Alright. Well then, let him know if he wants to escape the majority of it, he can hang out with me and the kids.” Rebecca stood, handing Michael the baby – Samantha, if Dean remembered the birth announcement correctly – and started picking up her things.

Dean said his goodbyes, in time for Cas to usher the girls out to say theirs, Chuck appearing in the doorway with Sam and Adam behind him. He’d probably been giving Adam the tour since he’d never been there before. Adam hung back while everyone else said their goodbyes, and after the door closed behind the Miltons, Dean and Cas continued the task of getting the girls alone to talk to.

Chuck joined them, a little reluctantly, while Sam and Adam stayed in the living room to give the rest of them enough privacy for their talk.

Cas sat down on his old bed, Dean sitting on the opposite end, pulling Emma and Grace between them. The girls gravitated to their usual places: Grace on Castiel’s lap while Emma snuggled in next to Dean. Chuck pulled a chair away from the old desk and sat down.

“Girls, I’m afraid we have some very bad news,” Castiel started to say. That was as far as he got before Emma launched herself at Dean and shrieked.

“No! I wanna stay with you! Grace and I both do! I wanna live with you and Uncle Cas. Please don’t get rid of us!”

Grace's eyes went wide and her lip wobbled. She looked up at Cas with tears filling her eyes. “You don’t want us anymore?”

“What? No! We’re not getting rid of you!” Dean rushed to say, panicking. How had they not seen something like this coming? He grabbed Emma and hugged her tight. “Both of you can stay with us forever and ever! I promise…do you believe me?” he asked her softly, as Castiel did the same with Grace.

Chuck looked on in amazement. “Wow, they’ve grown so attached to you both. I’m glad to know they’re doing so well. If anything good has come from all this, it’s that my grandchildren are in good, loving hands, safe and sound.”

“We love them more than anything,” Castiel said plainly, but with immense feeling. Dean nodded, the same intense feeling knotting his throat.

“I’m confused...if we can stay with you, then what’s the bad news?” Emma pulled away enough to ask, after Dean’s reassurances finally got through.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you girls that your parents are gone, that they died,” Cas spoke gently, “Remember how we said they were sick and they needed help? Well, your parents didn’t get the help they needed and they did something because they were sick that hurt them really bad.”

“Mom and Dad are dead?” Emma asked slowly, looking back and forth between her uncles for confirmation, before eventually landing on her grandfather.

They all nodded. Together, all three adults waited for an explosion, for tears, for…for something. Instead, the girls blinked and stared. Finally, Emma tentatively asked, “So, that means we get to stay with you , right?”

“Of course, sweetie,” Dean was quick to assure, even as he processed the fact that the girls hadn’t really believed them when Dean and Cas had already assured them they would. “But…I thought you’d be sad about your mom and dad?”

Emma looked down and back up and shrugged. “I guess...” Grace huddled next to her, her eyes wide, but she was silent. Dean wasn’t sure how to respond. As bad as his dad got, as neglectful or hurtful as he’d been, Dean had still loved him. It had ripped him up inside to be the one to call for help, to abandon his dad the way he had.

But it had needed to be done. And after all, dad was still alive. But this was…this was different. This was something so outside of Dean’s experience, he wasn’t sure what to do. By the expression on Cas’s face, his husband was just as lost. Chuck, however, didn’t seem all that surprised.

“Is that why we’re down here? ‘Cause of mom and dad?” Emma asked.

Cas nodded at her. “Sweetie, Emma, you know…you both know, right? It’s okay to be sad. I know they were…not always the best parents but they were still your parents. We won’t be mad at you if you are.”

“Okay, Uncle Cas.” Emma suddenly climbed into his lap and hugged him, then leaned over to do the same with Dean. Climbing down, she went over to her grandfather and hugged him as well. Grace, not to be outdone, ran about collecting her own hugs. Dean wasn’t entirely sure she quite understood what was going on, but supposed this would do for now. At least they weren’t freaking out.

Grace returned to climb into and curl up on Cas’s lap, her thumb in her mouth briefly before she popped it out to say, “I’m hungry.”

Cas laughed lightly. “You’re always hungry. Alright, we got pizza tonight. Let’s go get some.” The girls raced after their uncle, leaving Dean and Chuck by themselves.

“Well, I gotta admit that didn’t go anywhere near like I had expected,” Dean said eventually.

“Hmm…” was all the answer Chuck made.

“What kind of mom – what kind of parents were they that their own children don’t seem to care that they’re gone? What other damage has been done to those kids we just haven’t seen yet?” Dean said with a great deal of worry.

Chuck sighed. “I don’t know what to tell you, Dean. Except that I’m not really surprised. Lilith was never there for them – their father even less so – always farming their kids out to other people when they could. I happily took them whenever the opportunity arose, which wasn’t often enough. Lilith rarely asked me, resorting to other ‘so called friends’ more often. And when they couldn’t find someone to take the kids, they barely paid more than the bare minimum necessary. Not that I can hold myself up as an exemplary parent. Just look at the muddle I’ve made of things. Would Lilith have turned out different if I’d been there for her more than I was?”

Dean took a closer look at Chuck as the man sighed again. He looked horrible, all worn out and pale. There was grief and regret lining his face as he stood. “You know what they say, Dean. Sins of the father. Maybe it was unavoidable.”

Dean shook his head, restraining the shudder that he felt deep in his core at Chuck's words. “No, I refuse to believe that. We can choose to be different, to learn from the mistakes of those who came before. And I will not be my father.”

Dean couldn’t wholly suppress the shiver a second time as he thought of John Winchester. True, it wasn’t exactly something John could have helped, as it turned out. But the docs had explained enough that Dean got the picture. Johns descent into madness – into the harmful state it had become to himself and those around him – had been gradual. The signs had been there if he’d paid attention. Paid enough attention to make sure his boys were cared for properly and gotten himself some help before it got worse.

John hadn’t needed to tear across the country with no purpose in mind and an infant and a toddler in tow. His descent may have been inevitable, but the damage he’d caused could have been avoided.

After their heart to heart – Dean hesitated to call it a chick flick moment – Dean and Chuck rejoined the rest of the family for dinner.  Dean was about to introduce his father-in-law to Adam when he realized it must have been done already, since Chuck had given him a tour.

It was as everyone was winding down and getting ready for bed for the night that Dean overheard Adam with Emma. The two were in the kitchen and he could hear cabinet door banging. Probably after cups for drinks. That’s why Dean was heading for the kitchen after all.

He heard Emma first and Dean stepped back so as not to intrude. Emma might open up to someone younger than Dean or Cas, someone she didn’t really view as an adult.

Someone whom she knew had lost his own mother recently, and was probably an expert on the subject. At least in her eyes.

“Adam, can I ask you a question?”

“Of course, Emma,” Adam said, his tone patient.

“Do you think I’m a bad girl?”

“What? Emma, why would you think that?” Adam’s tone had turned shocked and the sounds of him rummaging in the cabinet died down as he spoke.

“Cause I’m not sad about mom and dad being gone. I didn’t want to go back anyway. Neither does Grace.” her voice as small as she spoke and Dean had to strain his ears to hear her. His heart ached when he heard them. There was silence for a moment and he worried. How would Adam handle this? Should Dean intervene? This wasn’t really Adam’s place, his responsibility and it would be unfair of Dean to put that on him. Yet…Emma had gone to him. Not Dean. Not Cas. Not even Chuck.

He bit his lip and waited.

“Oh Emma, come here,” Adam said gently. There was a rustle and then, after another moment, he continued. “Emma, you’re not a bad person, okay? I didn’t know your parents but everything I’ve heard -  I can’t say I liked them very much. I’m not surprised you aren’t sad. Don’t you feel guilty about that, okay?”

“But don’t you miss your mom?” now her voice was muffled. Dean itched to be able to see what was happening, not just hear it.

“I do, every day. Every second of every day,” Adam choked out and Dean closed his eyes. “But it was different for me, Emma. My mom was all I had and she really, truly loved me and we did everything together. Your mom, I don’t know how she felt, I couldn’t even try to guess, but she wasn’t there for you the way my mom was. But you know what? When your mom wasn’t there, you had other people who cared for you. A lot.”

“But…shouldn’t I have feelings? Shouldn’t I love my mom cause she’s my mom and be said cause she’s gone?”

“Sweetie, I’m sure if it had been someone else, you wouldn’t even be asking this question. We love you – we all do. You and Grace, okay? I haven’t been here long and even I can see that. And we can all see how much you love us too. You have feelings, I promise!”

As if his words were the cue for the dam to break, Emma sniffled, then sniffled again before she started to cry. Dean couldn’t wait any longer and he hurried around the corner, finding Emma with her arms thrown around Adam’s neck and her face buried in his shoulder. Adam, for his part, sat on the floor, back against the fridge. He held her in his arms and he rocked her.

Adam’s eyes flicked up briefly as Dean entered the kitchen, seeming to realize he must have heard everything, or near enough to all of it to make no difference.

Dean knelt beside them and reached out to touch Emma’s head, running a hand over her soft hair. Dean looked back at Adam with his throat painfully tight, but he finally managed to get out a few words quietly enough that Emma wouldn’t hear them over her own anguish.

“Thank you, Adam.”

Adam nodded slightly in acknowledgement and for the moment, all between him and Dean seemed to disappear.

 

Chapter Text

The next few days were hard on Castiel, as well as Chuck. Anna, to nobody’s surprise, never even showed. Dean felt guilty when it was time to leave. Once again, leaving Chuck alone. Of course, he had the Milton’s, but…Dean bit his lip, thinking.

At the beginning of all this, they’d offered Chuck to live with them. Now, even if Chuck was entertaining the idea, Dean didn’t know where they’d put him. They hadn’t anticipated that all the rooms would be occupied. We could always clean out the study, Dean supposed. I’ll have to talk with Cas about it though. It would be an awful tight fit. The study was quite small.

With a sigh, he put the matter out of his mind, for now, and concentrated on taking care of his more immediate concerns. The discussion could wait till Cas had had some time to regain some equilibrium. Poor guy still wasn’t sure what to feel, and Dean was uncertain how to comfort him in this time.

Of course, having taken two cars down, Sam and Dean split the driving going back up, Adam jumping at the chance to ride with Sam, leaving Dean with Cas and the girls.  Sam offered to take them too, but Cas demurred with pleading eyes. Rebecca had been right. The children being around really helped, and for that Dean was grateful.

They left late and took it slow, stopping for a long lunch when the traffic got bad. All that meant that they didn’t get back to New Hampshire until much later than they’d hoped. Dean and Cas got the girls unloaded and into the house, Dean returning outside to get the last of the bags. He found Sam talking with Adam softly. Dean’s ears barely picked up the words.

“Just give it time, Adam, okay? I promise, things’ll look up. And if you wanna talk, about anything, any of us are here for you. Even if we don’t fully understand, we’re here for you, we’ll listen. Okay?” Sam assured Adam, who nodded slightly in return. Dean blinked and tried not to intrude, wondering what they were talking about. Adam’s mom? Living here? Dean? He and Adam certainly didn’t seem to be getting along most of the time, but he shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that whatever they were discussing had anything to do with him. It could be any number of things.

Dean still had a gut feeling it was him. Why couldn’t he connect to the kid? They had a few things in common, the little that Adam had let him see so far. Dean shrugged mentally and went back inside before his brothers could notice him.

Still, whatever Sam and Adam had been talking about, the air between Adam and Dean seemed a little less strained. It wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But they were talking civilly more often now and he’d even managed to get Adam to crack a smile a couple of times. They both had a sarcastic streak and a love of puns and pop culture references and that seemed almost enough to bond over sometimes.

And then someone would do or say something and Adam would shut down on him again. It was frustrating the hell out of Dean.

“I don’t know what to do Cas! How do I connect with him? It’s different with Emma and Grace. They’re still learning who they are at the same time we are. Adam’s already a full-grown person.” Dean flopped backwards onto their bed.

“He’s still learning who he is too. I remember my teenage years. I most definitely didn’t know everything about myself then. Did you?” Cas asked mildly, sitting down beside Dean.

Dean let out a huff and draped an arm over his head. “Nah, guess not, not really. I spent too much time being who other people needed me to be for so long. Always just figured it took me longer than everyone else around me because of that. ‘Cause they all seemed to know who they were. So certain of themselves.”

“That might be true, it might have taken you longer, but still, no matter how self-assured some of your peers seemed, I’m sure that most of them were just as lost as you were. I know I was.” Cas dropped back, pressing his body against Dean’s, using his chest as a pillow.

“Nah, I don’t believe that. You knew exactly what you wanted to do with your life before you even graduated.” Dean shifted to run his fingers through Castiel’s hair.

Castiel hummed in contentment. “I knew what I wanted to do, sure, but I was still lost, Dean. Sometimes, I still feel like I am. Less so, after I met you.” Dean smiled at the words. “I’m starting to think that, really, we’re all lost most of the time. It’s like, we all start out with a map. Sometimes it’s out of date, sometimes we lose the map or it gets torn, or maybe it’s the wrong map, but still, we get that map and we’re a little less lost. Sometimes, we only have pieces of a map, and we just need to find the people with the matching pieces, so together we can find our way.”

“You’re all introspective tonight,” Dean mused.

“Mmmm…I’m just rambling. I’m not sure I’m even making any sense right now,” Cas said.

“That’s okay, angel. A little bit of nonsense once in a while is good for the soul,” Dean said. Cas laughed and it lifted Dean’s spirits a little, because he did that. He made Castiel laugh. “So hey, did Missouri get back in touch with you yet about the papers?”

“Oh yes, I completely forgot in the excitement from dinner,” Cas grinned and pulled away from Dean to lean on his elbow and look down at his husband’s expectant face.

“Well, hearing Emma announcing that she won an award in class is the kind of thing that would distract,” Dean agreed. “So, was it good news? It’s gotta be good news, look at that freakin’ grin on your face!”

“Yes, it’s good news. Missouri says with Lucifer and Lilith gone, there’s no one left in the family who wants to stand in our way to adopt the children. With that, and all the other hoops we’ve already leapt through, we just need to fill out these papers and, well, it’s just a mere formality at this point. It’ll likely be official before Emma’s out of school for the year.”

“That’s really damn quick,” Dean said in shock.

Cas shrugged. “Honestly, the systems overtaxed, and we’re family and they’re already in our care, they’re flourishing–“

“They are, aren’t they?” Dean said happily.

Cas nodded and continued, “- all the checkpoints are the same and we’ve already passed all those. And really, it’s in their own self-interest just to sign off on it. It’s not like Missouri won’t still come around to check on those girls. They’ve really formed a bond with her. With her as an advocate…” Cas let himself trail off just as Dean surged upward to land a kiss on his lips.

“This is great news! Awesome! I can’t wait to make it official. We’ll have to have an adoption celebration as soon as it is. Whaddya say?” Dean’s eyes sparkled and Cas laughed, leaning forward to plant another kiss on Dean.

“Of course. If there was ever a reason to celebrate, I couldn’t think of anything better,” Cas smiled.

They talked for a while after that, thinking of ways to make it special for the girls. After all, they’d been living with Dean and Castiel for months now already and a piece of paper saying it was permanent might be too abstract for the girls to really grasp. Of course, they knew the girls would be happy, but Dean was insistent that they needed to do something really special to help drive it home that this would always be their home, as long as they wanted it.

They spoke for days, trying to figure out the best thing to do, the right thing to help the girls understand how momentous an occasion this was.

At the same time, of course, they also talked about Chuck, his health and his living situation. “There’s the study, Cas. We could make it a bedroom. It’d just be a little cramped.”

“I think…that would work in the short term, but long term, it wouldn’t be very comfortable.” Castiel paused, lost in thought. The two of them sat in the kitchen, Dean getting drinks, Cas with the bills laid before him. Everyone had finished breakfast and the girls were watching TV in the living room. Adam had ducked back upstairs and they hadn’t heard a peep form him since. He did that a lot, kept to his room unless he was playing with Emma or Grace. Dean refrained from sighing.

“What if…” Dean started, then shook his head. “Ah, never mind, it’s stupid.”

“What?” Cas perked up, looking up at Dean. Dean sat down beside him and pushed a glass towards his husband.

“Well, I mean, what if we just bought a bigger place? Maybe one of those places that have an in-law apartment or something?” Dean suggested.

“I don’t think we can,” Cas explained. “Not with me not working. The nest egg we saved up…the emergency funds, the start of savings accounts for Emma and Grace – all that would be gone if we did that. The taxes alone would kill us.”

“Yeah, the one downside of New Hampshire. No sales tax, no state income tax, but they get ya on the property taxes. And then there’s the friggin’ view tax! What a friggin’ rip off!” Dean started to rant but Cas shook his head, grabbed Dean's hand in an attempt to draw his attention away from the familiar spiel.

“What if I could help?” Adam’s voice asked hesitantly from the open doorway, an empty glass in his hand. “I mean, um, I got the house I could sell. That would help, right?”

Dean shook his head, “No, Adam, that’s very generous of you, but no. I’m not going to let you do that. You’re just a kid and you might find you regret selling the place a few years down the road. And then you’d resent us for letting you. Besides, if you sell the house, you should use it towards your own future. College isn’t cheap, if you’re thinking about it. And even if you decide not to go –“

“Would you cut it out? Stop making my decisions for me!” Adam growled, stalking past Dean and putting his glass in the sink with a bang before turning around and glaring.

“I think maybe –“ Cas started to speak.

“I’m the adult here, Adam, and all I’m saying is you do not want to be rushing something like this. Kids do shit all the time that they regret later. This is a big decision. When you have a few more years on you, then you can make decisions like this, but in the meantime, we’re here to watch out for you and keep you from doing dumb shit.” Dean’s words tried to be reasonable, his tone too. Cas still winced. Because none of it was phrased in a way that wouldn’t rub Adam wrong, the tone was just a little too condescending. Cas could understand where his husband was coming from, but he didn’t believe for a second that this was the right tact to take with Adam, or that it was even necessary.

Adam fumed, his hands clenched in fists as he glared at Dean.

“Stop treating me like a child! You don’t think I can make important decisions? You don’t think I’m grown up enough to know what I’m doing? To have responsibilities like an adult? Who do you think took care of mom while she was dying? Who cooked and cleaned and took care of the house and made sure the bills were being paid on time? I think I know a little bit about how to weigh things out! And don’t tell me what to do! You are not my dad! Hell, you won’t even tell me about dad. You don’t know anything about me. You don’t even try! You just want me to be like you but I’m not!” Adam stalked back past a completely stunned Dean, reached the doorway and whirled around to face him again.

Cas stood and tried to interrupt again but his words were drowned out as Adam’s voice, already quite loud, got louder.

“For that matter, you don’t know what It’s like to be all alone – you had Sam and Dad, you had Bobby and Ellen and Jo, and all I had was mom! You don’t know what it’s like to watch your only family wasting away.” Despite his anger, there were tears in his eyes.

Dean’s face went pale. “Adam, I –“

Before he could finish, Adam stormed off. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs long enough to turn once more and yell, “I’m not really a part of this family. This was just the first convenient place Missouri could stick me!”

“Adam!” Dean tried again, but Adam had already charged up the stairs. Dean winced as the door slammed shut upstairs, the sound loud enough, clear enough despite the distance. Adam was pissed and Dean was stunned. He swallowed against the heavy feeling in his heart. He’d known he and Adam had issues, but he’d never dreamed

He turned to Castiel, who took in his distraught face and wrapped Dean up in a hug. “God, Cas, what do I do now? Everything I do with him is wrong. I was just trying to…Fuck! How do I fix this?” Dean whispered.

“Let me go talk to him,” Cas offered softly. Dean nodded into his shoulder. “It’ll be okay, Dean. It’s just a speedbump in the road, a wrinkle in the map. You’re both a lot alike, you know. Both good people, but stubborn to a fault at times. You both tend to keep things in a little more than is healthy, but somehow, you still wear your heart on your sleeve.”

Dean nodded again and Castiel let go after one last squeeze, then headed up the stairs. He stopped in front of Adams door, took a deep breath and knocked.

 “Go away!” Adam yelled. Castiel heard the sullen tone even through the door.

Cas closed his eyes and let out a frustrated sigh. Wonderful. Not only did they get to miss out on the girls most formative years, but here they’d leaped straight into the teenage ones with even less preparation and without any idea of the boy they were dealing with, no years of experience in knowing the best way to approach him.

They’d been bound to misstep more with Adam than the girls. It was like Dean had said, Adam was a full-grown boy with very decided opinions and who was set in his ways - ways they’d never had the chance to learn as he grew up like his mother would have. They were both very much operating without a map when it came to Adam.

Cas hesitated before the door, not wanting to invade Adam’s privacy, but they couldn’t leave things like this. Dean had tried to protect him from the truth while he tried to ascertain whether Adam was ready to hear it or not. They’d both tried giving him space. Obviously, neither course of action had been the correct answer. Things had been festering long enough as it was. He turned the handle and went in, closing the door securely behind him. “Look, Adam, I think we need to talk.”

“About what?” Adam wouldn’t even look at him. He was laying on his bed, curled up with his back to the door.

“About what just happened downstairs,” Cas said patiently, stating the obvious as calmly as he could.

“Why? You’re just gonna take his side anyway. Everyone will,” Adam’s voice was rough, and it made Cas hurt to hear it. He’d known Adam for far less time than his nieces, but there was something about the boy that had already crawled its way into Cas’s heart.

“What makes you say that?”

“Because nobody will tell me anything!” Adam finally turned to look at him, glaring as he yelled. “How many times have I asked about dad? Dean just clams up, tells me to wait. I’m sick of waiting!”

Cas sighed and crossed over to the bed. “Look, Adam, it’s not like that…”

“Yeah, right,” Adam sat up and put his back against the wall, crossing his arms. Cas sat gently on the foot of the bed and turned to face the boy.

“No, you’re wrong about that. Everyone thinks you deserve to know, but they don’t think they have the right to tell you about it. It should be Sam or Dean, but your brothers –

Half-brothers, like it even matters…” Adam snarled with a scowl on his face.

“Half-brothers,” Cas conceded with a sigh, “…it’s not what you think. Dean’s not keeping anything from you to be malicious. He has reasons, even if I don’t quite agree with them. But Dean didn’t want to make things worse for you when you were already grieving your mother. When you had to adjust to such drastic changes in your life. He thought it – the situation with your father – would just be too much. And then, even without those concerns, Dean has a hard time talking about his dad even to Sam or myself.”

“So, what, I’m not allowed to know? I’m not a child, Cas! But you all treat me like I am – you saw what happened downstairs when all I wanted to do was help! He practically cut me off at the knees! And all I can get out of anyone is that John Winchester is still alive, but nobody’s talkin’,” Adam growled.

“I’m talking, if you’ll let me,” Cas said quietly. “I can’t tell you a lot, because I don’t know it, but I can tell you some things, okay?”

Adam unfolded a little, looking at Cas uncertainly, though the glare remained. But he stayed quiet and Cas took that as a good sign.

Cas pinched his nose, trying to formulate his thoughts. “Do you really hate living here that much? Resent Sam and Dean for their childhood?” Adam looked away. “They didn’t exactly have one, Adam. You think they were lucky to have all this family, but they didn’t.”

Adam’s head whipped back to look at Cas, confusion writ on his face, his body unhunching a little more, but the sullen look, the tight lips remained, parting only for a second to say, “But…” then he clamped them shut again.

“I guess you wouldn’t know, but Bobby, Ellen and Jo? They’re not actually family. Not by blood. They’re family by choice. They raised Sam and Dean – but only after Dean finally called them for. As hard as it was for you and your mom - and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been. I have Dean to help me, and I find being a parent hard enough – your mom was there for you. In body and mind. John Winchester…” Cas sighed, “Let’s just say that if CPS had been able to catch up to the man, they’d have taken Sam and Dean away long before Dean called Bobby.”

Adam’s eyes widened the more Castiel talked.

“Look, Deans dad – your dad – he went a little crazy after his wife died. He pulled up stakes, took a 4-year-old and a baby out on the road and took off. As far as anybody knew, he’d resettled someplace else for a fresh start. Sounds good, even reasonable, right?” Cas paused again and waited for a reaction.

Adam nodded slowly, his face clearly showing he was no longer certain if he wanted to know or not, but he was determined. Stubborn, Cas mused, just like Dean.

“In truth, he was chasing imaginary monsters, teaching his sons how to shoot and play with guns, leaving them in motels for weeks at a time by themselves. Not enough money or food. Dean remembers being as young as 6, maybe younger, when John left them like that. I think it goes without saying that what he did wasn’t right. Dean didn’t have a childhood for much of his life. He didn’t have a dad, he had a nightmare.”

Adam’s lips parted again. Cas didn’t think his eyes could get any wider. “That, that’s crazy!”

“Oh, I know. I won’t argue with you. Adam, I can’t tell you too much more, because I don’t know it. Dean and Sam won’t talk about it, but I know they starved, they were neglected, and I have…suspicions, that John may have hit them, or worse. I’m not sure even Bobby or Ellen know most of what happened. But Dean’s had nightmares about it, so when I say John was a nightmare, I don’t mean that figuratively.”

Adam made a sound, but didn’t attempt to speak, so Cas kept going. “So yes, John - your dad, Dean and Sam’s dad - is still alive, but he’s also in a mental institution. You watched your mom waste away physically, Dean and Sam are watching your father waste away mentally. It’s not a pretty picture.”

Adam shook his head, his mouth gaping in horror.

“I couldn’t tell you who had the worst of it. And in all honesty, Adam, it’s not a contest. None of you had it easy.  It was tragic for all of you. But you’re not alone now. Just like Dean and Sam, you have a chance to be a part of this new family. They’re all ready to support you. And I know it’s rough, you’re still grieving your mother, but Dean’s trying, I promise. He’s just trying to find a way to relate to you and he doesn’t know how. You’re not a child, you’re a grown man and you’re in that…that…in between state. Young enough to still need a guardian but you’re old enough to know your own mind, make your own decisions. You’re getting ready to take some big steps out into the world and Dean feels like he doesn’t have enough time to get to know you. To be your family. He’s afraid that that as soon as you’re able, you’ll take off and never come back.”

Cas stood up and Adams eyes followed him. “I’m not telling you how to feel, and I’m not telling you Dean’s perfect. To be perfectly frank, neither he nor I know what we’re doing and we’re both going to make a hell of a lot of mistakes. But we’re trying and we do care. Now, I’ll leave you to think about all of this if you want. It’s a lot to take in. If you want to talk – to Dean or I – we’re always available, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, thanks, Cas,” Adam said absently, staring off into space, already losing himself in thought. Cas nodded and stepped away from the bed, making his way to the door.

Before he could reach it, the door burst inward and Dean stood there, breathing hard. “They’re gone!” His voice was high pitched, panicked, and Cas stumbled to a halt.

“What?” Castiel blinked at his husband dumbly.

“The girls! They’re gone and I can’t find them anywhere!” Dean’s eyes were wild, his face pale, and though Cas could feel the panic tugging at him as well, he forced it down.

Someone had to remain calm, had to stay in control of this.

He crossed over to Dean and grabbed his arms. “Dean, breathe. Did you check the sunporch? The study? Under the table? Or the hall closet?” The questions did the trick, and Dean calmed down enough to shoot him a look.

“Of course, I did! I’m not dumb, Cas. Then I came up here. I checked all the rooms except this one –“ Dean’s eyes slid over to Adam for a brief second and then back to Cas, “uh, and, and the garage deck. I even checked the garage and inside both cars and there’s no way they could get into the attic without leaving any evidence behind. I don’t understand where they could have gone or why!”

The panic was back in Dean’s eyes. Inwardly, Cas cursed. Somehow, he had to get Dean to calm down and keep himself from panicking at the same time, because if he panicked, he was certain everything would spiral out of control and make matters worse.

“No, stop. Dean, you have to remain calm, okay? We’ll find them. Why don’t you call Sam and Adam could go downstairs in case they come back?” Cas turned to look back at the boy who nodded.

“Yeah, I can do that,” Adam quickly agreed.

“Thank you, and while the two of you do that, I’ll check the backyard. When you’re done calling Sam, you can double check the front yard and we’ll…we’ll figure out where to go from there, okay?” Cas couldn’t understand how he was functioning, how he was staying as outwardly calm as he was when inwardly his mind was screaming at him. This was shaping up to be a horrible morning and all he wanted to do was collapse in a corner. He just wanted his family happy again, his girls home and safe, for Adam and Dean to stop fighting.

“Okay, uh, yeah, sounds like a plan.” Dean nodded, relief clear in his voice and on his face that someone had any idea of what to do.

Together, the three of them headed down the stairs, Adam letting Cas and Dean go first. Dean rushed headlong down the stairs, with Cas right behind him.

“When did you notice they were gone?” Cas asked when they got to the living room.

“Uh, well, after you went upstairs after Adam, I realized that our argument had been quite loud which might have upset them, so I went to make sure they were okay. I thought they’d been in the living room watching TV but when I looked, well, they weren’t.” Dean headed for the kitchen and grabbed for the landline but before his hand could touch it, it started ringing.

Dean froze for a second, all sorts of horrible ideas flitting through his mind and the trepidation and fear they caused echoed across his face, plain as day. With a quick exchange of looks with his husband, Dean snatched the phone off the cradle. “Hello? Lisa? Wait, what? Oh, thank god,” he breathed, covering his eyes. “We’ll be over in a minute to get them, okay? Thank you so much.”

He hung up and dropped his head against the wall, trying to regain his equilibrium. Cas reached out to touch him, placing his hand between Dean’s shoulder blades and rubbing gently. Dean turned into him, pulling Cas tight into his arms. “You got that, right?”

“They went next door, yes? The girls are safe?” Cas asked. Dean nodded.

“Yeah, they’re safe. Fuck, Cas, for a few moments there, I thought…I thought this whole family had fallen apart on us,” Dean’s voice broke for a second, his fingers tightened their grip on his husband but then he pulled in a shuddering breath and pulled away.

“Let’s let Adam know they’re okay and then, let’s go get our girls. Whaddya say?” Dean asked.

“I say that’s a good plan,” Cas agreed.

Chapter Text

Neither Dean nor Cas breathed a true sigh of relief until they made it next door and Lisa answered their knock with a sympathetic smile.

“They’re both upstairs with Ben. What happened?” She stepped aside and let them in.

“Long story,” Dean mumbled shortly.

Cas sighed. “Adam and Dean had a fight. We think it frightened the girls. How are they?”

Lisa shrugged. “All right. A little spooked, I guess. I found them hiding in Ben’s closet making a nest like they’d been planning to spend the night. It was actually kinda cute, if I wasn’t worried why they were suddenly in my home.”

“How’d you figure it out?”

“Ben tried to sneak food up to his room,” Lisa smirked.

Dean snorted, shaking his head in amusement. “Kids.”

“Mmhhmm…” Lisa agreed. She led the two men through the house – nearly identical to theirs.  “Are they in trouble?”

“No, though I think…could we ask a favor of you?” Cas asked.

“Sure. I can’t promise anything but ask away.” Lisa paused at the bottom of the stairs and turned to face Castiel and Dean.

“We’re severely lucky that they only thought to go as far as here. They could have tried to cross town to get to Bobby’s or worse – just taken off with no destination in mind. So many things could have happened to them and if they’re likely to try this again…” Cas trailed off, uncomfortable about asking what he wanted.

“You would like to encourage them to come here with no repercussions if they feel they need space?” Lisa picked up shrewdly.

“Yes,” Dean and Castiel breathed out simultaneously.

“It would certainly be a load off our minds. It’s obvious they feel safe with you and Ben, which is rare for them. And I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s important for all kids to have a safe place to retreat to. I know this is a lot to ask. So you don’t have to answer now, or even answer yes but…” Castiel pushed the words out in a rush, stopping only when Lisa held up a hand.

“Calm down, Cas. Of course, it’s all right with me. I completely understand. Maybe it can be an equal exchange, if maybe Ben should need the same thing? He really likes Dean.” She offered.

“You are a godsend, Lisa,” Dean said, his voice choked. Before Castiel could blink, Dean had wrapped their neighbor in a bone crushing hug. “Of course, the reverse is true. Ben is always welcome at our place. We love having him, and him and the girls seem to get along really well.” Dean let go and Cas moved forward, giving Lisa a more subdued, but no less heartfelt hug.

“Agreed, we’d love to have him over, anytime.” Cas said simply, pulling back.

Lisa beamed at them both and then tugged at their elbows. “C’mon. Let’s give them all a few moments to just be kids, without any worries. I’ll make coffee – or tea, if you’d prefer. What do you say, hmm?”

Dean laughed, “Okay, okay, twist our arms, why don’t you?”  Cas nodded, but both men couldn’t help looking up the empty stairs before they turned to follow Lisa.

“So, where’s Adam?” Lisa inquired, walking into the kitchen and straight for the coffee maker and set about getting it ready to brew.

“In his room, thinking. He’s got some things to work through,” Cas said.

“Is he in trouble?” She asked, looking over her shoulder at them as they joined her in the kitchen.

“Maybe,” Dean said.

“Dean!” Cas turned to him with sharp disapproval.

“What?!” Dean said defensively before he deflated. “Okay, fine, no. There’s just some friction. We’ll get past it.”

“You know, what you guys are doing, it’s just…it’s amazing.” Lisa pulled down three mugs and set them on the counter.

Dean blushed and rubbed at his neck. “Oh, no, I wouldn’t say – “

“But it is. Don’t you see?” Lisa insisted gently. “There’s a world of difference between wanting your own kids - fresh slates you get to raise up from babies - and taking on a handful of children who are, quite possibly, damaged in ways you may never know.”

The brewer finished quicker than Dean or Cas expected, and as she spoke, Lisa poured the coffee into the mugs, bringing them over to place in front of each man, before going back to get her own. “You might be having a hard time with it right now, and maybe you’ll never see the rewards in as easy or straightforward a fashion as you expected, but…what you’re doing for them? Giving them a safe, stable and loving home, with so much support – for them, what you’re doing is incalculable. Don’t give up on them. On any of them. It’s making a difference.”

Castiel reached blindly for Dean’s hand, their fingers touching, then twining together. Dean turned towards Cas, dropping his face into Cas’s hair and just breathing it in with his eyes closed for a minute. Lisa watched them with a soft smile. “You guys can do this. I know you can.”

“Thank you, Lisa,” Castiel said. “I don’t know what we’d do without you. Your support has been more than we could have expected from a neighbor we had barely known before. I’m sorry we didn’t take the opportunity to get to know you. We’ve missed out.”

She smiled again. “That’s all right. It helps that we have something in common now. We both have children to raise in less than ideal circumstances. I’m not sure we would have known where to start before.”

“Well, that was our loss,” Dean said, finally raising his head and picking up his coffee.

The three of them sipped their coffees in a companionable silence, their ears trained to catch childish voices, despite the fact that they probably couldn’t be heard unless something was wrong. But as much as Dean and Cas were enjoying Lisa’s company - they appreciated her encouraging words, and were relieved that the girls were here, safe and sound - they were still antsy to see Emma and Grace for themselves. To take them in their arms and be physically assured their nieces were safe.

Dean drained the last dregs of his coffee, Cas just a little behind him, not taking the opportunity this time to savor the flavor of it. He set the mug down and an instant later, so did Cas. Before he could say a word, or stand, Lisa set her own mug down and looked at them.

“I have an idea, by the way.  I got it from the way the children were getting things ready for a sleepover, but I thought it might be a fun thing for them if they could have one. A sleepover, I mean. Either here or there, doesn’t matter to me. Ben doesn’t have a lot of friends and I’m thinking neither do they.”

Cas looked over at Dean thoughtfully. Dean bit his lips and looked down as he thought about it, then shrugged and said, “Why not? If it’s something they want to do. It could actually be good for them. That’s a good idea, Lisa.”

“Great! We’ll have to pick a date for that – but in the meantime, I’m sure you want to get your girls and bring them home.” Lisa stood and they stood with her. Dean and Cas followed her through the house and up the stairs again to where giggles drifted out of Ben’s open door.

Dean let Cas go in first. Cas cleared his throat to get their attention, then called out, “Hey Emma, Grace, it’s time to come home now, all right? Why don’t you say goodbye to Ben?”

“Don’t wanna…” Grace pouted, dropping onto her butt and crossing her arms. “Everyone’s mad at home.”

“I know, sweetie, but it’s over now okay, and we need to talk about what happened. Nobody was mad at you, you know that, right?” Cas answered.

“Adam was,” Emma said, her lip started to quiver.

“What?” Dean startled from the doorway. “What are you talking about, Emma? Adam was mad at me, not at you. Why do you think he was mad at you?”

“Cause he said we weren’t his family,” Emma said quietly, and then she broke, her eyes filling with tears and quickly overflowing. Grace sniffled from beside her.

“Oh sweetie,” Cas’s heart broke at her words and he knelt down, reaching for his nieces. They barreled into him and ducked their heads into his shirt. Dean quickly knelt beside them. They barely noticed Lisa pulling Ben away from their huddled group on the floor of Ben’s room and leaving them in peace. “He didn’t mean it like that, I’m sure of it.”

“Then why’d he say it?” Emma wailed into Cas’s shirt.

“Cause he was mad at me, sweetheart. Not you guys, he loves you guys. You can ask him yourself,” Dean assured them, leaning in close and placing a hand on her head.

“But why’s he mad at you?” Grace poked her eyes out to glare at Dean.

Dean looked helplessly at his husband who only shrugged back. He took a deep breath. “Well, see, Adam’s very sad, right?”

“Yeah, cause his mom’s gone, just like ours. And yours and Uncle Cas’s.” Emma said.

Dean nodded. “That’s right. But see, Adam’s a big boy but we’ve known you two longer than we’ve known him. And when you came to live here, you already knew us. He didn’t. When he came here, he left behind everyone and everything he ever knew and he’s…just a little bit lost. We’re trying to help him find his way, but it’s hard.”

“Why?” Grace piped in again.

“Because your Uncle Dean wasn’t listening close enough to what Adam was saying. But we’ve learned our lesson, haven’t we Dean?” Castiel eyed him over Emma and Graces’ heads, the girls turned to face Dean and see his reaction. The crying had slowed down, but the tears were still in their eyes and rolling down their faces. They were just being quieter about it. As they stared at Dean, Grace turned to wipe her sniffly nose all over Cas’s shirt.

Dean sighed. “Yes, I’ve learned my lesson. Now come on, girls, let’s go home and clean you guys up. Then we have to talk a little bit more. But after that, maybe we can have a cuddlefest in front of the tv – what do you think?”

“Can we watch Moana?” Grace asked.

“Yeah,” Dean laughed, “We can watch Moana.”

“And no more yelling?” Emma asked, eyes wide.

“We’ll try to keep the yelling to a minimum,” Dean promised. “Come here, sweetie.” He held out his arms and Emma eagerly climbed into them, leaving Grace with Cas. Together, both men stood carefully, balancing the children on their hips and making their way down the stairs and out of Lisa’s house, thanking her for her hospitality and good graces as they left.

“It wasn’t a problem, guys, promise,” she called after them before shutting the door behind them. They walked across the lawns in silence, but when Dean shifted Emma to reach for the door handle, the door flew open, Adam having yanked it wide as soon as they reached it.  His eyes flitted between Emma and Grace, taken in their tear stained faces.

“Are they okay? I’m so sorry if I scared them. Emma? Grace?” Adam asked hesitantly, standing awkwardly in the doorway a minute, taking in the girls, how they turned away from him and buried their faces in Dean and Cas’s shirts. Dean watched Adam’s face fall, hurt and guilty.

“Let’s just go inside and we can all of us talk later, okay?” Cas offered gently.

“Um, yeah, okay.” Adam skipped back out of the doorway, making way for his brother and Cas to enter the house. He backpedaled through the house, hovering uncertainly. Dean and Cas headed for the stairs and Adam followed a few steps behind them. He kept trying to catch Emma’s eyes but she kept looking away. He dropped back when they all reached the top of the stairs and turned to his own room.

“Adam, could you get fresh outfits for the girls and bring them into the bathroom?” Castiel called behind him.

“Yes, of course,” Adam answered and disappeared from view, the gratefulness that he could help was clear in his voice. Dean and Castiel looked at each other and nodded. Adam was a good kid, they’d get there. But right now, it was time to take care of Emma and Grace. Setting the girls down on their feet, Dean set about getting the tub ready for them. He heard Castiel thank Adam and the door shut after he left to return to his room.

“Okay, let’s get all those tears wiped away and give the day a brand new, fresh start,” Cas whispered to Grace, tickling her lightly. She giggled and Dean felt lighter to hear it.

It wasn’t so much a bath as play time, both girls splashing about and playing with the few tub toys they had. In the end, it seemed there was nothing in the bathroom that hadn’t been soaked – including Cas and Dean, despite the fact that they’d left the bathroom for most of it, trusting the girls were old enough to not drown if they were left alone for a few minutes at a time. They stayed close though and peeked in a couple of times to just reassure themselves that the girls were, in fact, fine and not drowning.

When Emma called out they were done, Dean and Cas returned, wincing as they stepped through all the puddles on the floor, and soaking through their socks. It would be a pain to clean up, but for the laughter it was worth it.

The girls stepped out of the tub, Cas helping Grace to keep her footing, and wrapped themselves in big fluffy towels. Cas and Dean left them to dry off and dress on their own while they went and changed their own soaked clothes. Within moments, they heard the pitter patter of feet running down the stairs.

Dean sagged onto the bed, closing his eyes. Fresh jeans covered his legs, but his feet were bare and he clutched a t-shirt in his hand.

“Dean,” Cas said softly, placing a hand on Dean’s back and slowly sitting beside him, slightly more dressed than his husband, his own shirt was on but hung open and unbuttoned.

“Cas…I…” Dean took a shuddering breath, “I was so scared...anything could have happened to them!”

“I know, I know, Dean,” Cas said. He pulled Dean into him. “I was scared too but they’re safe now, they’re okay. They weren’t in any kind of danger.”

“Yeah, sure, not this time. What about the next time?” Dean gritted out, dropping his shirt in his lap, clutching at his face with his hands.

“I can’t promise there won’t be a next time, and yes, that scares the shit out of me too, Dean. But we can’t live in fear of the might-have-beens. Let’s just love those children and make sure they know they belong here. That way, maybe they won’t try something like this again.” Cas rubbed his hand across Dean’s shoulders and watched him nod. “And remember, we do have a backup plan, thanks to Lisa.”

“You’re right, Cas,” Dean said, raising his head.

“Of course I am,” Cas smiled and pressed his lips to Dean’s, giving him a soft, gentle kiss before pulling back again. “Now, let’s join our nieces for the cuddlefest you promised them.”

Dean groaned and rolled his eyes, but he was smiling and Cas knew he wasn’t really objecting to the cuddling, knew that Dean was a sucker for the warm hugs and sloppy cheek kisses the girls lovingly bestowed upon their uncles. “Okay, let’s not make them wait any longer.”

“That’s the spirit, Dean.”

Together, they stood and finished dressing. Leaving their room, Dean paused at the door of the bathroom. Cas snagged his arm and pulled. “Later, Dean. It can wait.” Dean nodded and continued down the hall and down the stairs to find the girls already cuddled up on the couch, amidst a pile of blankets, Adam nowhere to be seen.

Emma popped up from the blankets and beamed at her uncles. “Moana?”

Dean laughed, “Yes, Em, just give us a few moments to get everything ready, okay?”

She nodded and snuggled back down with her sister. Dean took that opportunity to grab some snacks while Cas set up Netflix, Moana already at the top of the list, having been watched a half a dozen times at least since they’d found it there.

Before long, the four of them were curled up together, the movie playing but neither Dean nor Cas paid it any attention, despite how fun and catchy they usually found it. Dean couldn’t take his eyes off the girls. They’d only been missing for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes – to be honest, he’d been too frantic to take note at the time – but it had felt like a lifetime. He understood, in a way Cas couldn’t, how badly things could have gone.

Dean never ran away from home, but he’d been left alone so often with no money or food that he’d suffered the same affects as he would have had he done so. When he finally ran away – it hadn’t been away from home, but toward it, though he hadn’t realized it then.

Emma and Grace sang along, lifting his spirits, their fears and hurt from the morning already forgotten – for the moment. Dean knew they could rear up again at any time. But for the moment, his family was almost whole. He spared a glance to the stairs and sighed.

They’d get there.

Adam appeared when the credits were rolling and walked over to the couch, then standing awkwardly at the edge of it. He bit his lip, glanced from face to face and waited.

“Sit down, Adam. I think it’s time we had a family talk,” Cas said calmly. Dean reached for the remote and turned off the tv. The girls shifted and looked up at Dean and Cas, then over to Adam as he bonelessly dropped to sit on the floor by the couch.

Everything was suddenly quiet, too quiet, no one sure where to start. Finally, Adam broke it. “Is it my fault? Did they run away because of me?”

“In a way, yes. But I think it was more the fighting and yelling in general that caused it, that they’d have done so no matter who was fighting. Though there was one thing you said that particularly upset them.” Cas paused. “Adam, I know you don’t really feel like you belong here, yet, but you are family. Especially in their eyes, you already are. To hear you saying we weren’t family hurt them, even though Dean and I know it wasn’t directed at them.”

Emma was looking up at her uncles with wide eyes. She huddled closer to Dean while Grace did the same with Cas. Adam looked at them sorrowfully. “I’m so sorry…I didn’t mean to…Emma? Grace? You’ll always be family to me, okay? Can you please forgive me?”

Emma narrowed her eyes at him and frowned. Dean kissed her head and rubbed her arm. “It’s okay, sweetie. You can still be upset with someone and still love them at the same time. I get upset with people I love all the time and they get upset with me too. But the best part is, we love each other so much, that whatever made us upset can’t stand in the way for long.”

“And I’m really - really - sorry,” Adam insisted, wringing his hands together. “I was mad at Dean, and what I said was wrong. I didn’t mean it.” Adam’s face drooped, looking like a kicked puppy and Dean had to choke back laughter. Apparently, puppy dog eyes was an inheritable trait. He couldn’t wait to tell Sam.

Emma wiggled and crawled out of Dean’s lap and over to Adam, flinging her arms around his neck. “Okay,” she said simply before giving him a huge kiss on his cheek, then settling down right where she was, effectively pinning Adam in place. .

He looked over at Grace, the last holdout. She blinked at Adam and stuck her thumb in her mouth, turning away from him. Dejected, he looked away, biting his lip.

“Not all things are easily fixed with an I’m sorry,” Cas said softly. “So always be careful of what you say, and what you do, no matter how upset you are with someone. All right?” His eyes started on Adam but dropped to Emma, catching her eye, before looking down at Grace. “Sometimes, people will say things they never meant, just because they know it’ll hurt someone else. Or maybe they didn’t know how much it would hurt. But once said, once done, it can’t be taken back. And some people can forgive and forget, and some people cannot. Even when you’re angry, be respectful. Better yet, if you’re angry, you should give yourself some space and some time to calm down until you can be respectful.”

Cas was sure Grace wasn’t completely understanding it, and he was equally unsure how much Emma was getting. But the words were mostly for Dean and Adam anyway. He’d just have to make sure to re-iterate them often enough that the girls would pick up on them too.

Adam nodded thoughtfully, and Dean and Cas decided that, for now, they’d drop the matter. The moment soon passed and the girls climbed down and clamored for their coloring supplies. Adam jumped up and ran to get them before either of the adults could. Quickly dragging the tote over to the coffee table, Adam lifted the lid and started pulling things out and laying them down. Emma wasted no time in claiming some blank paper while Grace found her favorite coloring book.

Within moments, Emma and Grace had dragged Adam into coloring with them, while Dean and Cas backed off some to give them some space.

“Well, at least they don’t seem mad at him anymore,” Cas said.

“For now. Hopefully, they’re not like Uncle Sam and be likely to hold a grudge,” Dean said.

Cas turned and raised an eyebrow at his husband in disbelief. “And that’s strictly a Sam trait?”

“Yeah, okay, but I’m getting better at that, aren’t I?” Dean asked.

“You are,” Cas agreed, kissing Dean’s lips happily.

Dean jumped when his phone rang in his pants. He slapped at his pockets till he found it, then pulled it out, looked at the caller ID and grinned. “Hey Charlie,” he said, stepping away when he answered it. Cas smiled fondly and looked back towards the living room just in time to see Emma hand Adam a picture.

“What’s this?” Adam asked.

“Uncle Dean said you’re lost. ‘s why you got so upset and said we weren’t family. So, I made you something to help.” Emma beamed at him. Curious, Cas edged back into the living room proper and tried to get closer without them noticing.

Adam laid the paper down on the table and smoothed it out, giving it a good look over.

Emma leaned into his space, pointing at various places and explaining things for him. “See, that’s our family there. It’s got Uncle Cas an’ Uncle Dean, you, me and Grace. And over there is more family – Uncle Bobby and Aunt Ellen, Uncle Sam an’ Aunt Jo. And down there is Grampa Chuck. And there’s Uncle Michael, Aunt Rebecca, Hannah, Inias and Balthazar. Oh! And their new baby and Uncle Gabe.”


Adam nodded and Cas followed her fingers. “Okay, what’s all these lines here?” Adam asked out loud the same thing wondered as he studied the squiggled lines and boxes between each family grouping. He wasn’t surprised that there was no Anna. He wasn’t sure they girls had ever met his sister. He was not too surprised when he realized their real parents weren’t on the page either.

“That’s your map. So you can find all of us if you ever get lost again,” Emma said proudly. “See, cause,we all live in different places. Our family and Uncle Sam’s family live close by, so we have short lines between us. That’s the road. And Grampa Chuck lives suuuuuper close to our cousins, so they got short lines too. But I put loooooooots of long curvy lines between Grampa Chuck and us, and our cousins an’ us, ‘cause they live so far away.”

Emma looked up at Adam, still beaming and Adam just stared at it in awe before he pulled Emma into his arms, hugging her tight. “Thank you, Emma. This will be a real big help. I’m going to put it in my room right now to keep it safe so I can always find it when I get lost, okay?”

“Okay!”

Cas felt his heart squeeze at the interaction. Emma was just so compassionate. He felt tears prick his eyes. A hand wrapped around his waist and Cas leaned against Dean.

“You okay, babe?” Dean asked with a little bit of worry.

“Yeah, im good. I’ll tell you what happened later,” Cas sad. “What did Charlie want?”

“Oh! Right! It’s totally awesome! Chance of a friggin’ lifetime! Chunky’s theater is doing a free showing of the Princess Bride on the big screen. We gotta take them out to see that! First showing is at 4, and we’re gonna want to get moving quick to make sure we get in!”

“What about dinner?” Cas asked.

“We’ll eat there – another reason to get there early. So we can order food before the movie starts. Whattya say? Movie night?” Dean practically bounced on his toes and Cas laughed.

“Sure, movie night it is,” Cas agreed.

‘YES!” Dean crowed triumphantly. He made so much noise in his excitement, that Emma and Grace both turned around to stare up at him.

“What’s going on?” Emma asked.

“How would the both of you like to go and see a very special movie at a special movie theater?” Dean asked, trying to rein in his exuberance just a little.

“Oh oh! Me, me! I wanna go!” Emma shouted.

“Me too, me too!” Grace jumped up and down in place.

“Good! Well, we gotta leave quick, so we need to get Adam and get ready!” Dean said.

The girls were a flurry of activity after that, searching for their shoes – how they’d lost their shoes in the shoe rack, Cas would never know (“It’s right there, Grace. No, watch where I’m pointing. Yes, no…yes, right there. No, that’s Emma’s shoe.”) – and calling up the stairs for Adam.

He came running down with a bemused look on his face. “We going out?”

“Yup, movie night. It’s a classic. Trust me, you’ll love it!” Dean said, beaming. He was still beaming three hours later when the movie let out and the girls chatted excitedly about it on their way back out to the car and even Adam had conceded that Dean had been right about the movie. Emma and Grace continued to talk about it enthusiastically on the car ride home, and still couldn’t shut up about it even as Dean and Cas got them ready for bed, tucking them in.

“Hey Cas, can you hand me Emma’s elephant?”

“Of course, Dean.” Castiel looked at Dean fondly, picked up the Elephant from where it had been left that morning and brought it back towards the bunkbeds. Dean was sitting on the edge of the bed, a storybook in his hands when Cas reached past him to hand Emma her plushie. As he pulled back, he pecked Dean on the cheek and smiled a little at the small blush that bloomed on Dean’s face.

Emma gasped. “Uncle Cas! You’re Westley! And Uncle Dean, you’re Princess Buttercup!”

Dean and Cas blinked at Emma. “What?” Dean asked, utterly confused.

“That’s your Halloween costumes! We can go trick or treating this year, right?” Emma looked at them both hopefully.

“Well, sure, why wouldn’t we go trick or treating? But, it’s a little early to think about Halloween costumes, don’t you think?” Dean protested.

Emma shook her head and Grace sucked on her thumb. “Nuh uh! Those are your costumes and Uncle Sam can be Fezzick and I will be Indigo – Inigo Montoya!” Emma’s eyes were wide and sparkling and Dean had to concede the point – it was an awesome idea.

“But why am I Princess Buttercup?” he complained.

“Cause you are”, Emma insisted, Grace nodding sagely as if she understood what her sister was getting at. Maybe she did, but Dean and Cas were feeling particularly lost. Cas wondered if Emma made other types of “Just in case of being lost” maps. He felt like he could use one right now.

Adam poked his head in on his way back from brushing his teeth. “It’s cause Cas practically says ‘As You Wish’ to you all the time, Dean.”

“But I don’t say that,” Cas protested.

“Of course.” Adam shrugged. “If you say so.” He rolled his eyes. “Same cadence, same tone. The words are a little different, I’ll admit. But damn, its obvious if the kids are picking up on it. How blind can you two get?” With a shake of his head, Adam walked away.

Dean felt like he should be bristling but the more he thought about it, the more he realized Emma, Grace and Adam were right. He was Princess Buttercup and Cas was his Westly. And ‘Of Course, Dean’ might not have the same near romantic feels, but it was all in the delivery. Dean would feel loved if Cas only ever said a single word.

Cas always said three.

“Well, if we’re gonna start talking Halloween costumes in the spring, I suppose we should ask Grace what she wants to be,” Dean asked.

“I’m gonna be Hei-Hei,” she said solemnly, removing her thumb from her mouth to speak. Dean blinked, looked at Cas and back at Grace. Of all the things she could have picked, Dean certainly hadn’t expected that. Moana, maybe, but not…

“You want to be Hei-hei?” Dean asked hesitantly. He didn’t want to make her feel bad about her choice, but he really didn’t understand it.

Grace nodded and stuck her thumb back in her mouth. She’d said her piece and as far as she was concerned, she was done.

“Okay, I admit, the chicken is kinda funny, but…why Hei-Hei?” Dean picked his words with care. Why would she want to dress up like an idiot? It was just an animal side kick, created for laughs. As the movie put it, it lacked the intelligence for pretty much everything. And Grace was really smart, so why would she want to be the chicken?

She stared at him and Cas for a moment. Popping her thumb back out, she spoke again. “Cause no matter what Hei-Hei does, everyone still loves him.”

“Oh sweetie…” Cas ducked down to hug her. “You are wise beyond your years. I never would have thought of that. Hei-Hei’s a good choice, wouldn’t you agree, Dean?”

“Uh, sure. I guess it’s a good thing we found out now though, figuring out how to get a Hei-Hei costume is going to be pretty difficult. Might need to enlist Charlies help on this. The Princess Bride costumes will be easy with her help. Totally up her alley, but even she might find this a challenge.” Dean mused aloud.

“I have faith in Charlie. You know she’ll take it on just because it’s a challenge, right?” Cas said.

Dean grinned at his husband. “That’s exactly what I’m counting on.”

All in all, despite the horrendous start to the morning, they’d managed to turn it all around and have a quite an enjoyable day. Dean just had to remember, even normal families had their ups and downs, their good days and bad ones.

It was still worth it.

Chapter Text

The front door opened and Cas looked up when Sam and Adam entered the living room. Both were pale and shaken. It was Saturday, and Dean had run in to check something at the shop really quick, so when Sam had come by earlier to pick up Adam, Cas had no objection. Sam and the teen seemed to get along much better than Dean and Adam did, and Cas wouldn’t begrudge Adam the chance to get to know his own brother.

“Are you all right?” Cas asked in concern, standing up to meet them.

“Yeah…I’m just going to…yeah…” Adam gestured up the stairs and then bolted. Faintly, Cas could hear Emma and Grace happily greeting Adam, followed by Adam gently telling them he wasn’t feeling well and was going to lay down.

Castiel looked at Sam and narrowed his eyes. “What happened?”

Sam looked away and gulped.

Cas continued to stare at Sam. He was visibly as upset as Adam was, but also a little guilty. What could have possibly happ – wait a second, “Did you take Adam to see John?”

Sam nodded, “Yeah. I mean, he deserved to know the truth. I know Dean won’t talk about Dad but, Adam has just as much right to know as we do, and I just felt like, maybe now would be best, after you told me about their blowup and the girls running away because of it, so....” Sam babbled, the words a little too quick, a little too high pitched.

Cas crossed over to his brother in law. “Christ, Sam, are you okay?”

Sam shrugged and looked away again with a heavy sigh. “The ward said he was pretty lucid so I thought it would be safe enough, y’know?”

“How bad was he?” Cas asked gently. He knew the brothers never told him the full story. He knew Dean hid things about John. But anytime either of them returned from a trip to see their father, it took hours to get Dean to talk, to feel comfortable in his own skin.

It made Cas wish uncharitable things upon John. Made him wish that John was gone – because then it would be over, and neither Dean nor Sam would have to continue getting tortured like this. Enough was enough. They’d sacrificed a lot for their father, because of their father. Cas didn’t even know all the things John was responsible for, but when Sam and Dean came back looking like they’d seen a horde of ghosts…Well, Cas hadn’t been lying when he told Adam that he suspected much worse had gone on than either brother would allow.

Sam shrugged. “Worse than I’d hoped but…par for course, really. At least Adam understands now why Dean didn’t ever want to talk about Dad. I just feel really bad for Adam. How much has it got to hurt? He probably dreamed about meeting Dad someday. Whatever Dad was like when he was with Kate, I’m sure Kate had no idea that…” Sam sighed and raked a hand through his shaggy hair. “Look, I gotta get going. I promised Jo I’d meet up with her after. And if I don’t show, you know she’ll kick my ass.”

“Of course, Sam.” Cas pulled his brother in law into a hug that Sam reciprocated tightly before ending with a clap on the back. “And if you need to talk…” Cas knew Sam wouldn’t ever actually take him up on the offer, but there was always a first time. So Cas would continue to offer for Sam what he offered Dean – a sympathetic ear. Just in case.

Sam left, leaving Cas to debate whether he should follow Adam upstairs to check up on him or not. With a sigh, he finally decided not to this time. This time was for Dean. He settled down at the dining room table with his laptop, angled so he could see the stairway and tried to write.

Unfortunately, he was too preoccupied to get anything of substance down. It was with relief that he heard the Impala pull into the driveway not too long after Sam left. Cas was the wrong choice to talk to Adam right now, he was sure. Dean, on the other hand, problems or not, this would be best for both of them, Cas figured.

Dean entered the house, toeing off his boots and pattering into the kitchen to grab a beer before walking through to the dining room. He reached Cas and leaned over with a smile, kissing him lightly before settling down next to him.

“Its pretty quiet. Where is everybody?” Deana asked, taking a sip from his bottle.

“Hmm…well, the girls have been playing in their room. I think they’re doing some sort of odd puppet show with their plushies. I snapped a few shots before they chased me out,” Cas started light, remembering the giggles he’d heard. Dean smiled softly at the thought of the girls and Cas’s heart would have melted right there if he hadn’t already been head over heels in love with his husband.

“Oh, and um, Sam just dropped Adam off. Adam’s now holed up in his room,” Cas said with some dread.

Dean snorted. “Holing up in his room? That’s normal.” He took another sip and paused, swallowing. Finally, as Cas waited, Dean couldn’t help but ask, wariness filling his face. “Where did they go?”

“Sam took him to see John.” Cas kept it simple.

“Oh.” Dean looked up at the stairs, biting his lip. “How did…how was he when they got back?”

“Shaken, I think. They both were. Sam said it wasn’t one of John’s best days,” Cas said, all while watching Dean carefully. “Maybe…you should go talk to him?”

Dean looked down at the bottle in his hands, both of them only noting then that he’d started tearing at the label. He took a deep breath and placed the beer on the table and pushed it away. “Yeah, I think I should.”

Dean took the steps two at a time and came to a stop in front of Adam’s door. It was shut, as usual, but there was no ‘drown out the world’ loud music playing. Good sign number one? When he reached out to knock, Dean saw – if Adam was anything like him, which Cas insisted he was – good sign number two.

The door wasn’t shut tight, but had been left cracked open. Like Adam simultaneously wanted to keep most of the world at bay but was also desperate for someone to talk to him. Like he couldn’t ask for it, for whatever reason, but something in him knew he needed it.

It was what Dean had done himself, numerous times. It hadn’t taken Bobby or Ellen long to figure it out either.

Taking a fortifying breath and hoping he didn’t screw it all to hell, Dean knocked lightly on the door and gently pushed it open slightly with a creak. “Adam? Do you wanna talk?” he asked, still hesitant in case he’d read this wrong.

There was agonizing silence before Adam finally answered with a long, drawn out sigh. “Come in, Dean.”

Taking the invitation, Dean pushed the door open the rest of the way and slipped inside. Shutting the door behind him securely so the girls wouldn’t take it as an invitation, Dean looked at Adam.

The teen looked frazzled, almost shell shocked, his hair a little wild and his eyes a bit wide. Dean made no move to approach him but leaned against the dresser instead. “So um…I heard Sammy took you out to see Dad,” Dean couldn’t look up from the floor, stomach tight with worry. This was a conversation he’d have loved to not ever had.

“Yeah,” was all Adam said. Fuck, that wasn’t much to go on.

“I’m sorry you had to see that, but…I guess Cas and Sammy were right. You do have a right to know, I just…” Dean ran a hand through his hair.

A sound from Adam’s bed made Dean look up. “Was he always like that?” Adam asked quietly.

Dean shrugged and shook his head. “Not at first, no. Though…Sammy doesn’t remember it. Too young to remember, y’know? And it started off small, at first. Little things that a kid wouldn’t notice, wouldn’t know was wrong. Then, I guess, I just, that was always the way it was, and it became the new normal. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that it wasn’t. That what dad was doing was dangerous for Sam and I, that the fear I felt when he was around, the fear I felt for Sam…” Dean blew out a breath, his hands shaking. He shoved them into his pockets to hide them.

The silence stretched again. Dean once again looking at the floor from his place across the room from Adam.  His gut churned. Even after all these years, he really didn’t want to talk about it. “Look, you don’t know me from Adam –“

Adam snorted. “Seriously, Dean?”

“That was purely unintentional, I assure you,” Dean protested, but he felt a little lighter at the evidence of humor on Adam’s face. The barely restrained upward quirk of his lips. “Point is, you don’t know me and I don’t know you. I don’t know how to know you. I’m floundering here, kid. I have to make decisions without all the information and I’m bound to screw up, okay? But can you see why I was reluctant to tell you the truth about Dad?”

“I…I may not have liked what I saw today, but I’m old enough to handle it, Dean. I had to grow up pretty fast,” Adam insisted, his words – true as they were – holding no heat.

“Yeah, but…you shouldn’t have to.  You took care of your mom for how long? Shouldering burdens at your age that you never should have had to take on. You deserve a break, kid. You deserve to just be a kid – well, teenager, at any rate,” Dean amended. “I just wanted you to be able to have some normal. God knows Sammy and I didn’t.”

There was silence after that, as Dean waited for an answer.

“Is Da – John - always like that?” Adam asked again, but Dean could hear the difference in his question. Before it had been more like ‘Had he been that way when he was with mom?’ and now it was ‘Is this what you have to deal with whenever you visit him?’

Dean shrugged again, “Like what? He has good days and bad. And days in between. I’ve got no idea what you saw, I just know it likely wasn’t good.”

“He thought I was you,” Adam said skeptically.

Dean barked out a laugh. “Well, we do share a passing resemblance to each other, for whatever reason,” he teased.

“I’m not sure how to feel about that,” Adam said with another twitch of his lips. Not quite a smile, but he was getting there. The teasing was helping Dean, too, he had to admit.

“What? You don’t wanna be as ruggedly handsome as me?”

Adam narrowed his eyes and glared. “You’ve got a pretty strong opinion of yourself.”

“Just tellin’ ya what everyone else tells me. I happen to trust Cas’s judgement,” Dean smirked. “After all, I married him.”

Rolling his eyes, Adam conceded the point. “Okay, I’ll give you that first point, but uh, not so sure about the second one – I mean, I question Cas’s judgement. After all, he married you.

“Thank you. You’re so kind,” Dean laughed. “I’ll have to tell him you said that.”

This time the silence wasn’t nearly as tense, but as much as Dean hated to continue, he needed to do so, for Adam’s sake. Make sure the kid was okay. “What else happened?” Dean asked gently, his gut still churning.

Adam’s eyes went wide again, filled with disbelief and horror. “He attacked Sam! Or tried to anyway. He yelled the most awful things,” Adam’s voice was a harsh whisper. “Said Sam was a demon, that Sam killed your mom. That…that you’d betrayed him, turned against him by shielding Sam.”

Dean winced. “Yeah, that’s…uh, par for course actually.”

“Is that why you called Bobby?” Adam asked. Dean nodded. “How old were you?”

“I was twelve. Sammy was eight. You know what it’s like to watch your father, the man who should be protecting you against the world, try to kill your baby brother? A kid who tried everything just to get his dad’s attention and love? John started off blaming him for being the cause of moms’ death because she died in Sam’s nursery. Went to grab him but…I don’t know what happened, how he got out and she didn’t. I never quite understood. But Dad…he…” Dean took a shuddering breath.

“So, you’re telling me that today was normal?” Adam’s voice went up a couple octaves and Dean winced.

“Yeah, pretty much.” Dean’s head was throbbing. Wonderful.

“Then why did Sam take me? If he knew he’d have to face that?” Adam asked, his horror clear.

“My guess? Sam was trying to spare me. He may have been younger than me, but he remembers things. Enough to…and with Dad…” Dean choked on the words, feeling guilty that his brother had had to step up to the plate because he’d been too chickenshit to talk to Adam before this, using the excuse of Adam’s age and his life upheaval - though valid – as a way out.

“Have you…,” Adam cleared his throat and barreled on, “told anyone this? You or Sam?”

“No, not really.” Dean’s gut twisted.

“Not even Cas?” Adam whispered the question. Dean’s head shot up and his heart almost stopped.

“No,” Dean said firmly. “And I’m not telling him. He doesn’t need to know the details. I gave him a bare bones version. He doesn’t need to know everything else. Sam and I don’t need anyone feeling sorry for us.”

“Dean – you may not have told him, but I think Cas knows anyway. Maybe you should just talk to him,” Adam suggested.

Dean stared at his brother and blinked. This was not the way he’d seen this conversation going at all. He’d come up here to make sure Adam was okay and now…he jerked away from the dresser, startling Adam.

“No, he…he doesn’t know. He can’t know.” Dean winced at the pleading sound in his voice. He felt close to breaking here and he didn’t like it.

“Why…if…if things were that bad, so bad that just thinking about it is so horrible, why do you and Sam even go to see John? It’s not like he’d notice if you stopped going, would he?” Adam was confused and Dean didn’t blame him.

“Cause he’s our dad. And God help me, but I still love him. I love what I remember before it all went bad. And…and I can’t help hoping he can get better. That’s what hospitals do, right?” Dean turned away and strode towards the door, pausing with his hand on the handle. He had to get out of here. But...

“Look, Adam, I’m sorry you had to see what Dad became. I’m sorry he wasn’t what you’d hoped for. Probably dreamed about. I’m sorry I wasn’t upfront about him. I’m sorry Sam had to be the one to take you. As oldest, it should have been me. I’m sorry for the way I’ve been behaving, if it made you feel unwelcome here. But, I gotta tell you, I don’t regret you coming to live with us, and I hope you learn to like it here.”

“Dean…um…thanks and, I guess, I’m sorry too. For pushing the issue. I mean, I couldn’t have known but…I had to know. Thanks for talking with me. And um, I’ll tell Sam thanks too. And hey, its uh, it’s not that bad here, I guess. I kinda like the girls, y’know?” Adam offered an olive branch and Dean grasped at it.

“Kinda?” Dean snorted. “Be honest, Adam. I think those girls have you wrapped around their little fingers as badly as Cas and I are.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Adam agreed.

“Y’know, when we went down for the funeral…I never thanked you for what you did with Emma. That was…thank you. Thank you for listening to her, for being there. Thank you for not dismissing her feelings. You’ve been absolutely great with those girls and they adore you. You’re like the big brother they never had or knew they wanted.”

Dean turned away from the door, though his hand stayed poised to leave. His throat was filled with emotion as he spoke, a roller coaster of good and bad feelings flooding through him throughout this conversation. “And I just want you to know that we didn’t take you in because we had to, or felt responsible. We didn’t take you in for a free babysitter. We took you in because you’re family.”

“What I’m trying to say is, you’re a Winchester Adam, if you want to be. We’re not here to replace your mom, but we’re here for you. The way we’ve grown up, all of us, it wasn’t easy but we got through it. And all I ever wanted was family, to belong somewhere. I got that with Bobby and Ellen, but I feel it even more now, in this house with Cas and all of you. I hope you can one day feel like we’re your family too.” Dean finished softly.

Just as softly, the words choked, Adam answered him, “It’s all I ever really wanted.”

Dean smiled, “We’re here if you want us and, uh, maybe we can start over. What do you say?”

“I’ll uh…give it a shot, I guess,” Adam answered.

“Good to hear,” Dean said. He turned the knob and ducked out of Adam’s room, shutting the door quietly behind him.

As soon as Dean escaped Adam’s room, he hurried down the hall to his own, changing into some ratty clothes, before following the itch in his bones back down the stairs and out the door. God, he needed some air, needed some space.

Thankful he’d left the Impala in the driveway and that the weather was nice, he opened the garage, stepping around Cas’s car. He rummaged about for his gear – buckets, sponges, etc – and got himself ready to give Baby a good old-fashioned sponge bath. She needed some tender loving and he needed to just decompress.

Once the bucket was filled with the soapy water, Dean took a deep, grounding breath. He already felt better. Going through the motions of making tea sometimes helped Cas feel better, lavishing mindless love and energy on his classic car helped Dean.

The conversation with Adam was something he’d wanted to avoid and the whole thing had left him deeply unsettled, remembering things he’d rather not remember. Cas, thankfully, left him alone when he was like this. He knew when Dean needed space. He also knew when Dean had had too much space, and would come out to rescue him, take him out of his own mind and back into the world.

Soon, Dean lost himself in washing the Impala. At some point, he’d stopped long enough to go back in the garage and turn on the radio he had plugged in there, his favorite classic rock station blaring away. Dean wiggled in time with the music, his churning thoughts starting to feel lighter.

Baby was covered in soapy white bubbles and he was singing along tunelessly, when a small voice called to him from behind. “Uncle Dean, can I help?”

Dean’s automatic reaction was to deny his niece her request, not quite ready to face other people yet, but his heart melted when he turned to find Emma standing there with a hopeful look on her face. Out of the corner of his eye, he noted that Cas stood in the door, checking on him. Which probably meant it was time to disturb Dean anyway. Cas wouldn’t have let Emma bother Dean if he’d thought Dean still wasn’t in a good headspace.

Or, as Dean continued to stare down at the smiling child, Cas had figured that being faced with Emma and her cheerfulness and her enthusiastic interest, Dean would be instantly yanked out of that bad headspace.

Cas wasn’t wrong.

God, Dean loved his husband. “Of course, sweetie. But I gotta warn you, we’re gonna get soaking wet – and maybe a little dirty. Are those the clothes you want to wear?”

She nodded. “Uncle Cas helped me pick something to wear.” She turned and waved at Cas who waved back with a gummy grin. He looked back at Dean and cocked an eyebrow in question ‘Is this okay?’ Dean nodded and nearly snorted at the relief that clearly showed on Cas’s face.

Within moments, just as Dean had predicted, Emma was soaked. Patiently, he showed her the best way to rub the sponge over the black car and how gentle she needed to be (she was nearly too gentle). Dean smiled proudly at her as she used both hands to push the sponge about, her tongue once again poking out from between her lips as she did so.

Now he wished he had his phone out here, but he’d left it inside to keep it from getting damaged from the wash. Anyone who needed to get a hold of him could call the house phone or Cas’s phone anyway, so he hadn’t been too worried about it. Besides, Dean had wanted to make sure he wasn’t interrupted while he was out here. But now…now he was regretting not having the camera. He’d been surprised at how good the pictures on his phone came out. It had definitely been worth the investment.

Leaving Emma to her work, Dean returned to the garage to turn the music down some, so it’d be easier to hear her if she wanted to talk. As it was, they’d gone over the basics of the car, and how old it was and how much work it took to keep a car in good, proper working order, especially older ones like Baby. He was debating opening the hood and pointing things out to her when he turned back to face the driveway and saw Adam there, snapping pictures with his phone.

Adam looked over at Dean when Dean stopped beside him. He grinned wryly. “Cas sent me out. Said you’d probably be wanting pictures but you didn’t bring your phone with you.”

Dean snorted. “Probably wanted us to spend quality time together.”

“Heaven forbid,” Adam said with another wry grin.

“You wanna help?” Dean asked.

Adam rolled his eyes. “I dunno, man, looks like you and Emma got things fairly well covered.”

Dean shrugged, then jogged over to Emma who was struggling to reach higher places. “Easy there, you don’t need to really worry about the high parts, y’know. I can get the top and you can get the bottom. Teamwork, sweetie,” he said.

She turned her head to look at him, “But I can do it, Uncle Dean!”

“I know you can! You’ve been doing such a great job! When we’re done washing and waxing the car, I’m gonna get you a step stool and I’m gonna show you the insides! What do you think of that?” he asked her.

Her eyes widened and she gasped. “Really!” she squealed and turned back to the car, her hands moving faster now in anticipation. Dean laughed and held her hands, slowing them down. “Not so fast, Emma. You want to make sure you get every spot so she looks her very best! Here, just like I showed you, remember?”

Dean heard the click of Adam’s camera in a lull in the music and he wondered how many pictures the kid had gotten. A few hours later, found Dean and Emma huddled together under the hood of the now gleaming Impala. Adam was still around, even showing some vague interest himself.

“How long have you been working on cars? Have you always been interested in them?” Adam asked suddenly.

“When I grow up, I’m gonna be a mechanic like Uncle Dean!” Emma exclaimed, poking her head up and beaming at Adam.

Dean laughed and ruffled her hair slightly. “I bet you’ll be even better than me, Emma.” He looked up at Adam. “Dad uh, he taught me a couple basics, like checking fluids and changing the oil. Adding air to the tires. But it was Bobby who really got me interested, taught me nearly everything I know and gave me a real passion for it.”

Adam looked thoughtful at the answer. “Is that why you tried so hard to…to…” he floundered for words.

“Yeah,” Dean looked away, embarrassed. He continued in a quieter voice, careful not to let Emma hear as he watched her looking at everything and pointing, mouthing different things as she tried to remember all the names he’d told her so far. “It was a real hard time for me and Sam, adjusting to life without Dad, to life without the kind of insanity he’d brought on us. Easier for Sam, than me, and I needed something to…something to focus on, some purpose now that I didn’t have to be the one taking care of Sammy anymore. Bobby gave that to me. And it was a real bonding experience. It really helped me a lot. And I discovered that it was something I truly enjoyed. I had hoped, even if you weren’t interested in pursuing it as a career, it could at least be something we could bond over, like Emma and I are. I mean, I know it’s not for everybody but…”

“Dean, it’s okay, I get it and…I’m sorry I didn’t see that,” Adam interrupted. He was silent, fidgeting for a moment and Dean waited, letting Adam work up to it. “So um, I wanna be a doctor,” Adam said defiantly.

“Okay,” Dean said, not pushing it. This understanding between Adam and him was still too new, and Adam was clearly uncertain about it. They needed time to repair the damage and build a better relationship. That was okay. They were on the right path now, Dean was sure.

“Okay? Just like that?” Adam eyed him with more surprise than suspicion and there, that was a good sign that he was right. Dean was going to count the surprise as a win, a step in the right direction. In fact, he might as well chalk up this whole interaction the last few hours as one big win. Dean was really starting to feel good about this.

Dean shrugged. “Why not? It’s a good life goal. Sure, it’ll be hard work, but I’ve no doubt you can do it. We’ll support you.”

“Yeah, right,” Adam scoffed and Dean bristled internally at the return of his old attitude but then Adam stopped and actually looked at Dean, obviously searching his face for something. He spoke again, more quietly, his voice hopeful, “Really?”

“Yes, really Adam. Cas and I, we’ll both support you. You’re family, Adam. And you matter as much to us as these girls do, I promise.” Dean looked down at Emma, placing a hand on her head and stroking it softly.

She looked up at him with a small frown. “Uncle Dean, is being a doctor better than being a mechanic?”

“What? Oh no, sweetie, they’re both good, solid jobs and both are important. Both require you to be smart if you want to be the best there is, and both require you to be hardworking too. Adam could be saving lives doing what he’s doing and everyone sees that. But a mechanic is like, the hidden life saver. A car kept in good working condition can save lives too. A car that loses something even as small as a ball bearing because the mechanic messed up can k- er…really hurt someone.” Dean barely stopped himself from saying ‘kill someone’. He didn’t want to scare Emma, just impress upon her how important being a mechanic could be.

Adam nodded approvingly. “Dean’s right. If you want to be a mechanic, then you be the best mechanic you can be. Together we can save lives. Deal?” he asked her, holding out his hand.

She beamed at Adam and gave a firm nod before grabbing his hand and pumping it as hard as her small hands could. “Deal!” Emma yelled before she launched herself off the stepstool she’d been standing on and into Adam’s arms.

“Ooof!” Dean laughed as Adam barely caught the child, exclaiming at how solidly she impacted him. Adam’s phone dropped to the ground and Dean caught it, opening it up and snapping a few pictures of his brother and his niece.

Dean felt so happy in this moment, he forgot the entire reason he’d come out here to begin with. Emma was curled into Adam’s chest, her arms wrapped around his neck, and it was the sweetest thing. He didn’t even catch Cas watching from the door, Grace by his side.

“What do you think, Grace? Think Adam’s starting to fit in?” Cas whispered down at the little girl clinging to his leg.

She looked up, thumb in her mouth – Cas wondered how he could break her of that habit before school started for her (or if he should even try. He should talk to Madison as it might have psychological backlash if he did, if she used it as a coping mechanism) – and nodded, grinning around her thumb, and drooling a little. He reached down and wiped the corners of her mouth.

“Now then, should we go inside and see if that surprise pie for our hardworking car cleaning crew is finished baking?” Cas reached down and picked her up, settling Grace on his hip, the movement already second nature to him.

“Can we sneak a taste too?” she whispered in his ear conspiratorially.

Castiel laughed, closing the door firmly behind him. “Just to make sure it tastes good enough for everyone else, right?”

She nodded again with a beaming grin.

“Of course, sweetie,” he said softly, placing a gentle kiss on her cheek before following the mixed scents of apple pie and pecan pie back into the kitchen. The apple was cooling on the counter and the pecan was almost done. There were also several dozen chocolate chip cookies already cooled off and set aside. And if more than a few of those went missing during baking, nobody had to know but Cas and Grace.

Chapter Text

“But I don’t have a sleeping bag!” Emma protested

“Sweetie, it’s a sleepover at Ben’s house, not a camping trip. You don’t need a sleeping bag. Lisa has assured me she has plenty of pillows and blankets and –“ Castiel tried to explain.

“But a sleepover is sleeping bags!” Emma interrupted with a sniffle. “Ben said! And s’mores too!”

“We don’t have a sleeping bag – can’t you just use the blankets this time?” Castiel asked a little despairingly. The girls were due over at Lisa’s in less than half an hour and he’d had no idea this would even be an issue. Adam was already gone with Sam for the weekend and Dean and Cas had reservations for their first night ‘off’ in a while.

Which they were going to be late for if Emma proceeded to have a meltdown about a sleeping bag of all things. Aaaaaaand…there she went. Pouting, she turned her back on him with a stomp of her foot. “You’ve ruined everything!” she yelled.

Cas ran a hand down his face, holding back a frustrated groan. “Sweetie, one little thing not going the way we want doesn’t mean everything is bad. When Grace accidentally broke your favorite crayon, did that mean the entire day was horrible?”

She turned and looked at him, Emma’s lower lip trembled, but the mulish, pouting look was gone. “But this was my first sleepover and I wanted it to be special!” she wailed.

“It’ll still be special sweetie. And it’ll be special for a lot of reasons. Because it is your first sleepover. Because it’s with friends you love. Because you’ll have fun. Because you’ll make it special.” Cas said desperately, trying to find the words she’d listen to, not just understand intellectually.

Grace tugged at his sleeve and looked up at Cas with wide eyes when he looked down at her. “Do I need a sleeping bag too?”

“No, Gracie, you do not. But I tell you girls what, I think you’re Uncle Dean wants to go camping this summer. We’ll all need sleeping bags for that. We can go shopping for some after this and you can use them whenever you want after that. How’s that sound?” Castiel was hit with sudden inspiration and hoped it didn’t count as bribing. He didn’t want them thinking if they complained enough about something, that he’d give in and give it to them.

Dean laughed a little when Cas explained his thoughts later. “Babe, I think they realize that. I mean, they still went to Lisa and Ben’s without the very thing they were coveting, after all.”

“True enough. I just, I want them to grow up happy, but not spoiled. I’m not sure I know the best way to do that,” Cas said with worry, his fingers playing with the cloth napkin as they waited for their dinner to arrive. Dean reached across the table and covered Cas’s hand with his own.

“Babe, I don’t think anyone does, we’re all just winging it. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think it’s going too badly.” Dean smiled and then shrugged sheepishly. “Of course, I’m pretty biased. We’d have to ask someone else for an outside opinion.”

Cas laughed, his eyes crinkling and his nose scrunching up in that way that Dean totally adored. Their food arrived, but instead of the waitress that had greeted them earlier, it was Ellen. She set the plates down with a smile.

“Hey, boys,” she said. “Enjoying a rare night out?”

“Hey, Ellen,” Dean said back, grinning from ear to ear. “Yeah, they’re at a sleepover so Cas and I thought we’d take advantage of that.”

“Well, I won’t bother you then, just wanted to say hello. Have fun, and behave!”

“Thank you, Ellen,” Cas said with a smile.

Dean frowned at his surrogate mother. “Hey, I behave!”

“Not from what Jo’s tellin’ me.” Ellen raised an eyebrow at Dean. “Prank wars? Really? At the garage? If business is that slow, do Bobby an’ I gotta worry about you?”

Dean turned red with embarrassment. “Oh, come on! I’m gonna kill Jo!”

“Dean!” Cas chided him.

“I mean, it was only ever one time. Why does she gotta make such a big deal out of it?” Dean continued to protest.

Ellen shook her head, trying to look stern, but the corners of her lips twitched up, even as she walked away, returning to the bar.

Dean and Cas tucked into their food eagerly – a gourmet burger with the works for Cas, and steak and potatoes for Dean (which may or may not have been covered in mushrooms. Which fact was never to get back to Sam ever).

After a few moments of blissful chewing and a comfortable silence - broken only by the sounds of the old juke box across the room and the few other patrons eating or holding low conversations – Dean spoke up, his eyes still glued to his plate. “So, Benny made an interesting suggestion today.”

“Oh?” Cas took a bite out of his gigantic burger ad nearly moaned at how good it tasted. He would never get over how good the burgers at the Roadhouse were. It was clear where Dean had learned his cooking skills.

“Yeah, told the crew about looking for a bigger place, right? Thought I’d enlist Charlies help in finding the best deal and Benny suggested expanding the house. His exact words were ‘You’ve got a fairly large property. Why not just expand some?’ So, I started thinking about it. He ain’t wrong.’

“Mmm…” Cas said thoughtfully, as he chewed his food.

“Mmm is right! Everyone seemed instantly for it. Charlie was an agreement with ‘besides, at some point, with or without the addition of your father in law, Emma and Grace are going to want to have their own rooms.’ And then Jo totally started designing new layouts for our house.” Dean laughed at the memory from earlier that day, the excitement on his friends and coworkers faces.

Cas shook his head with a smile. “We really do have some of the best friends and family.”

“I know, right?” Dean said around a mouthful of steak, too excited not to speak. Cas smiled at him indulgently as Dean continued. “The idea is friggin’ brilliant! I know neither of us wanted to have to uproot the girls again, or take them away from their first, real friend. This would give them the very permanency we’ve wanted. We can allow them to decorate their room just like we’d originally planned, and not have to tear them away from it right afterwards.”

“Even better, Dean!” Cas put his burger down with a grin. “You realize, don’t you? That this could be the special thing to celebrate their adoption that we’ve been looking for.

“Hell, yeah! I love it when a plan comes together,” Dean said triumphantly, laughing a little.

“I should call Dad, make sure he realizes our offer is still on the table,” Cas mused.

“Right, right. We can clear out the study for now, putting whatever we need into storage. It’s not ideal, but it would hold him over till we finished building the extension on for him. We’d save a lot of money that way, and we know a few people in town we can trust for a job like that. Hell, there are parts of it I could do too,” Dean said.

Castiel smiled to see his husband so excited. They discussed ideas as they finished their dinner before they paid, leaving a generous tip for their waitress. They made sure to say their goodbyes to Ellen and left, returning home.

Sure, they had all night to themselves, but they were both antsy at being too far from the girls, just in case.

Walking into the house, Dean headed for the kitchen and Cas stood in the livingroom. It was clean, but everywhere there was evidence of both Emma and Grace. He felt Dean come up behind him and Cas spoke without turning around. “It feels weird, feels…empty.” He sighed.

Dean slipped an arm around Cas’s waist and pressed a kiss to his temple. “I know what you mean. Even when they’re asleep, I’m always so aware of them, my ears just tuned for the slightest sound.”

“You think they’re all right over there?” Cas asked, leaning back into Dean’s embrace.

“Yeah. Lisa would have called us if they weren’t. Come on, first night alone in forever. Let me go upstairs and distract you, whatddya say?”

Cas turned in his husband’s arms and smiled. “I say, what are we waiting for?”

Together they went upstairs, where the distraction proved to be a mutual effort.  They fell asleep after, but the sleep proved fitful. That meant Cas woke easily when his phone rang on the bedside table. He lurched upwards, his heart beating fast as he fumbled for the phone, swiping it on with trepidation.

“Lisa? Is everything okay? She is? No, no, don’t worry about waking us. I’ll be right over, just as soon as I find my pants. Thank you for calling.” He dropped the phone with a clatter and straightened out of his awkward position, feeling about on the floor for his pants. A light flicked on and Dean rubbed a hand over his back.

“What happened?” he murmured with sleepy concern. Cas found his pants quicker with the aid of the light and he stood, slipping them on before he turned to Dean.

“Grace woke up crying, calling for me. Won’t tell Lisa what’s wrong. I’m just going to pop over and get her. You stay here, I’ll be right back.” Cas leaned over to kiss Dean briefly before he grabbed up his keys and rushed out the door.

Not bothering with shoes, he hurried down the stairs, unlocked the front door and crossed the two yards in quick, large strides.

Before he could knock, the door opened and Lisa stood there, a sobbing Grace in her arms. Cas reached out for her immediately, pulling Grace into his arms. She nearly launched herself at him, her small hands gripping around his neck tightly. He held her close and looked at Lisa. Even though she’d already told him she didn’t know, he couldn’t help but ask again, “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. She woke up crying and she just keeps asking for you. I don’t know how Emma and Ben slept through the whole thing but, they are.” Lisa shrugged. “She probably had a nightmare. This is the first time she’s been away from both you and Dean since they came to live here. Will you be taking her home?”

“Yes. I think that’s best with how distraught she is. Do you think we should wake Emma? I’m afraid if she wakes up and Grace is gone, she might get upset as well,” Castiel asked.

“I don’t know but I think…I think we should try it, see how it goes. Let her stay the night and I can explain in the morning that Grace missed her Uncle Cas and went home early.” Lisa shrugged again. “It’s probably a good idea to let her try, anyway.”

“Thank you, Lisa, for everything,” Cas murmured, turning away from the door.

Lisa smiled after him softly, “No problem, Cas.”

She shut the door behind him, no doubt to check on Emma and Ben before heading back to bed herself. He walked more sedately across both lawns as Graces sobbing died down to sniffling. She still clung to him. Her legs wrapped around his waist, her arms around his neck, but she said not one word. Cas hummed to her soothingly as she quieted.

The door opened and Dean – more awake now, a look of concern on his face – met them there with a warm blanket in his hands. He tried to pull Grace away but she still clung to Cas, so Dean simply wrapped the blanket around her. Together, they brought her to her room but she still refused to let go of Cas.

“Sweetie, what’s the matter? Were you not having fun at Lisa’s?” Cas asked, settling down on the edge of the bed, ducking so he wouldn’t hit his head on the underside of the other bed.

She shook her head against Cas’s shoulder, her voice muffled as she spoke. “I had fun, Uncle Cas.”

Dean came to sit next to him, running his hand over her hair. “Did you have a bad dream, Grace?”

She nodded. Dean and Cas looked at each other worriedly. Was this a normal sort of bad dream? Or was there something underlying it? They’d certainly had had enough happen in their young lives to have nightmares, and it was only a wonder that neither Dean nor Cas had been woken up more often to comfort them.

“Can you tell us what it was about?” Cas asked finally.

She sniffed and her fingers tightened. It was clear she wouldn’t let go anytime soon. “I don’t wanna leave, Uncle Cas. You won’t ever get rid of us, will you?”

“Oooh, sweetie, oh Gracie…” Cas breathed. He hugged her close. Dean’s breath caught as well as the meaning of her words, her question, registered with both of them. “No, we won’t ever get rid of you. As a matter of fact, do you know what Uncle Dean and I are doing right now? We’ve been filling out papers with the state to adopt you and your sister, so that you can officially live with us always and no one can take you away if you don’t wanna go.”

She leaned back just a little bit, her eyes still filled with unshed tears, her face marked with the tracks of those she had already shed. Her forehead wrinkled. “Always an’ forever an’ ever?” They nodded and she smiled with another sniff, burying her face back in her uncle’s shoulder.

They sat like that for a while, dean and Cas exchanging looks. They didn’t feel right trying to make Grace sleep by herself when she’d been so clearly upset, and she wasn’t letting go anyhow. With Dean’s help, Cas stood, and they carried her back to their room. Dean helped his husband lay down and get comfortable with Grace curled into his side, then slipped under the covers himself, rolling over to face his husband and his niece.

Soon, the breathing slowed enough that they realized she’d fallen asleep. Cas and Dean stared at her in wonder. Whispering so he wouldn’t wake her, now that she had calmed enough to sleep, Cas ran a hand through her hair and spoke. “God, Dean, I…Emma and Grace are so much larger than life sometimes that it isn’t till they’re’ sleeping that it really registers how little they still are.” Cas placed a hand on her back and she snuggled closer.

Dean huffed out a laugh, “Damn, it kinda looks like she’s using you as her personal teddy bear.”

“I’m okay with that,” Cas looked down at her tenderly. “Do you reckon Lisa’s right? That we’re doing good just by having them?”

Dean reached over at Cas’s question and tucked some of Graces’ hair around her ear and out of her face. “Yeah, man. I know it made a difference in my life. Me and Sammy. If we can give that back…”

Cas pulled his eyes up from his gaze upon the top of Grace’s head to look at Dean. He saw the faraway look in his eyes and Cas reached out to take Dean’s hand in his own, twining their fingers together. Dean looked up and caught Cas’s eyes. The love in those green eyes always floored him. He tightened his grip and smiled at Dean.

They fell asleep like that, content and happy. Dean was right. What they were doing meant something to Emma and Grace. The fact that Grace didn’t want to let go of Cas was proof enough that they’d already made an enormous difference in their lives, for the better. And that made Cas happy, that he could do something for them, help them.

Give them the happiness they deserved.

Chapter Text

Designing an addition turned out to be simple enough. The easiest thing to do was to take the porch over the garage and turn it into a mini apartment. The footprint for the porch was actually bigger than the master bedroom and would give Chuck plenty of space if he needed it.

With that in mind, they set about creating a simple, enclosed space with his own bathroom. Chuck would still have to use the kitchen on the first floor, but otherwise, he would be pretty self-sufficient. He’d even have his own access to the outside.  

They hired a few friends of Bobby’s to take a look at the structural integrity of the porch and at the proposed idea and get an estimate. They pronounced the house in good enough condition to work with and made minor corrections to the plans, then quoted something that caused Adam’s eyes to bug out but for Dean to simply nod without much surprise.

Work on the addition was started less than two weeks after that.

Cas called his father as soon as things were solidified to let him know the offer was still there. “Have you thought about it any?”

“Well, I had been, but then with Adam I thought you wouldn’t have much room for me,” Chuck answered. “You’ve got a full house now, you don’t need to worry about me.”

“But I do worry, Dad and…I miss you. And the girls miss you too. It would be really nice if you lived closer,” Cas said, coughing lightly. His throat had felt itchy all morning. “Adam did put a crimp in the original plan, but Dean and I meant what we said. You’re more than welcome to live with us. If you want.”

“Thank you, son, but I don’t want to be an imposition-“

“You won’t be, I promise. Did I tell you what Dean and I are doing?” Cas coughed again and he stood, heading for the kitchen. Tea with honey. Maybe that would help.

“Not yet, but I’m guessing you’re about to?” Chuck hazarded.

“We briefly entertained the idea of moving into a bigger place but we didn’t think it’d be all that feasible financially, or be good for Emma or Grace to move again so soon. So instead, we’re building an extension.” Cas filled the kettle and set it on the stove. After he turned on the burner he rummaged in the sink for his favorite mug and rinsed it.

“Oh, Cas,” Chuck sighed, “that hardly sounds like much less of an inconvenience –“

“No, it’s okay,” Cas said with another cough. He frowned as a shiver ran through him. How high had Dean left the AC on? It was getting awfully cold in here. “We’re replacing the porch over the garage with an actual room. It’s fairly large. If you think about it, we’re really just enclosing a space that already exists. They estimate that it’ll be done sometime about midsummer, in fact. If not sooner, it’s that simple.”

Chuck snorted. “Construction is never that simple. Trust me, I’ve been there. Something always goes wrong, something always happens to cause yet another delay…”

Chuck kept talking but Cas lost track of what his father was saying as another bone deep shiver drove through him. He almost dropped the phone from where he had it cradled on his shoulder. It was tricky, doing that with a smartphone without hanging up by accident, but he’d mastered it eventually. The wave of dizziness that rushed in along with the shiver was unexpected. He stopped what he was doing and braced himself against the counter, head bowed.

It took Cas a few seconds – or maybe a full minute, he wasn’t sure – before he realized his father was still talking, this time a good deal more frantically. “Cas? Castiel! Are you all right?”

“I’m…not feeling well. I think I’m going to lay down for a bit, after I finish my tea.” Cas coughed again and barely heard the concerned sound from his father.

“Do you want me to call Dean?”

“No, I’ll be fine. Grace is visiting Bobby and Ellen today and the workmen actually don’t start phase two till tomorrow, so I’m just going to take a nap.” The dizziness passed and Cas pushed himself off the counter to finish setting up his mug. The water finished boiling and he poured his tea.

“If you’re sure,” Chuck said, uncertainty. “So, um…this extension, it’s already a thing?”

Cas nodded then winced at his own stupidity. His head had felt so clouded all morning but it was getting worse. “Yes, there’s people already working on it. They finished putting up the framework yesterday.”

“Oh, well, that’s good,” Chuck said.

“I mean, if you don’t want to move here, that’s all right. Dean and I don’t want to pressure you. We want you to want to be here but we also want you to know that you can be here. It’s not going to be an inconvenience, I promise.” Cas had to stop talking to cough. He blinked. His eyes were burning. He was just likely overly tired. He squeezed some honey into his tea and put everything away, then picked up the mug carefully in both hands, spoon still sitting inside. He walked toward the stairs. “We’re already planning more expansions on the house so we can have guest rooms and stuff, but this was the easy one, so we thought we’d get that done first and get an idea of how these’ll go.”

“If you both are sure, then I’ll do it. I miss you all as well. The Milton’s are nice, and they are family but…I miss you all and I’m tired of living alone.” Chucks voice was quiet as he spoke, but Cas could still make out the loneliness in his tone.

“We look forward to having you. And if you want to head up before the extension is finished, Dean and I have a plan for that as well.” Cas cursed when he tripped on the top step and some of the hot tea splashed over his hand. The phone tumbled from his shoulder and he groaned. With a sigh, he leaned over to pick up the phone and tried not to spill any more tea. “I’m sorry about that, I dropped the phone.”

“Cas, we can talk later, all right? You get some rest and take care of yourself. Are you sure you don’t want to call Dean?”

“I’m fine, Dad,” Cas rolled his eyes and instantly regretted it when dizziness washed over him again. He stopped and leaned against the wall between Adam’s room and his nieces room. “Bye, I love you. I’ll let Dean know you’ll be coming up and we’ll work out more details later.”

“All right. You take care of yourself, okay son?”

“I will. Goodbye.” He hung up with a sigh of relief and shoved the phone in his pocket just in time to start coughing. Instead of the few, shorter coughs he’d had earlier, the exertion of climbing the stairs seemed to have kickstarted an actual coughing fit. The coughs shook him against the wall as another cold shiver ran through him, and he spilt more burning hot tea on his hands. He dropped the mug and slumped against the wall, trying to get the coughing to stop and catch his breath.

Maybe he should call Dean? But really, what could he do that Cas wasn’t going to do anyway? When the coughing subsided, Cas was still shivering, but it had gotten more violent. He felt so cold. He picked himself back up, pushing away from the wall and headed for the bedroom. He yanked open his drawers and pulled out his softest, thickest sweater and pulled it over his head. Turning, he fished his phone back out of his pocket and dropped it uncaringly on the bedside table before flopping onto the unmade bed and dragging the covers up, cocooning the blankets around himself.

He shivered for a while, despite the layers, but eventually he fell asleep.

He awoke blearily when a hand touched his head. A voice muttered, “Shit,” and Cas blinked up at the hazy form standing over him.

“Dean?”

“No, Dean’s still at work. Cas, you know you’re burning up?” Adam asked. Cas’s eyes slipped closed again.

“N-no, that can’t be right,” Cas muttered, having to force the words out, the energy required to do so leaving him lightheaded again and grateful that he was laying down. “It’s really cold in here, Adam.” His coughing returned with his effort to talk.

“You don’t sound good, Cas. I’m gonna call Dean, okay?” Adam made to step away and Cas reached a hand out from under the blankets, groping for Adam.

“Wait…I’ll be fine…just need to rest,” Cas gasped out. “Don’t…need to bother Dean. He’ll be home soon anyway.” Cas blinked at his own words and tried to sit up. “What time is it? Emma will be home soon – I need to get up.”

“Nuh uh, Cas, you stay right there. You don’t want me to call Dean, then fine, but you stay here and I’ll take care of Emma.” Adam gently pushed Cas back to the bed.

“No…that’s not…not why you’re here,” Cas protested, his thoughts fuzzy. “Not a babysitter, Adam. ‘s not why we…we agreed to have you here.” He paused to cough and after a second, Adam had him sit up and lean over. “You’re…you’re fa-family.” Cas choked the words out around wet sounding coughs.

“Fuck, man, do you have, like, a bucket or something? Sounds like you need to cough something up.” Adam said with concern. Cas didn’t respond this time. Instead, he fell forward, his burning hot forehead resting against Adam’s chest. Adam hissed at the contact, even through his t-shirt. “Look, I’ll be right back, okay?”

After gently laying Castiel back down, Adam disappeared from the room. Cas wavered in and out of consciousness, still shivering and coughing. What rest he’d gotten hadn’t seemed to help any. If anything, he felt worse than he had before.

Something cold touched his forehead and he flinched back. “Hey, hey, Cas, babe, stop that.”

“Dean?” Cas asked again.

“Yeah, it’s me.” Dean’s voice soothed him for a moment, before he remembered Dean should be at work. Unless it was later than he thought. Castiel frowned and he tried to squint up at Dean but his eyes wouldn’t focus.

“What are you doing home? I told Adam –“ Cas struggled to sit up, struggled to get the words out.

“Adam’s downstairs with Emma. Grace is still with Bobby and Ellen. And he didn’t call me Cas, though I think he was going to when I came home. Chuck called me. Thought I should check on you and when you didn’t answer your phone, I got worried.” Dean pulled Cas into a sitting position and sat next to him. “Here, you need to drink something, okay? For me, please?” Dean held out a water bottle and Cas nodded, taking it and bringing it to his lips. It was cold, but not ice cold and it actually felt refreshing against his throat.

Dean hissed at the sight of Cas’s hands and as soon as his husband put the bottle down, he gently took them, turning them over. “Fuck, babe, what’d you do?”

“What’d I do?” Cas asked, dazedly.

“C’mon, babe, I think we gotta take you to the doctor. You’re obviously not all right, and it looks like you hurt yourself. I think you’ve got burns on your hands. Not…not bad but…I’d feel better if we get them looked at. I’m not exactly a doctor.” Dean pulled Cas to his feet, grateful the man was at least dressed and that all Dean would need to do was shove both their feet into shoes.

“We can’t go, Dean,” Cas muttered, getting dizzy from the movement and grabbing hold of Dean’s arms to keep himself upright.

“Why not?”

“Cause it’s not…not Adam’s job to be a…a…a babysitter!” Cas coughed and groaned. Dean’s arms wrapped around him, helping him to walk out of their room and down the hall. The stairs would be the tricky part.

“He’s not, Cas. He’s family, and he loves those girls and he’s worried about you. He wants to help. Same as you or I would. So, let him help. And if he needs help, Lisa’s right next door and Bobby and Ellen are just a phone call away. Sam and Jo too. Charlie and Benny – they’d all be here in a heartbeat if we needed them and I gave him all of their numbers a while ago already,” Dean assured him. “Now, c’mon, keep those feet moving. I’ve got ya, okay?”

It took a while to get down the stairs safely, but eventually they made it. Adam was by their side in a second. “Dean?”

“I’m gonna take Cas to the docs. You and Chuck were right, Adam. I don’t know how I missed this when I left this morning.” Dean looked down at Cas guiltily.

Adam shook his head. “You weren’t the only one who missed it Dean. Plus, I’ve only been here a short time and even I can tell that Cas is stubborn – a good match for a Winchester – “ he paused, smirking and Dean felt his lips twitch slightly in response. “ – and I think he was trying to, well maybe not hide it so much as he was passing it off as not that big of a deal.”

“I think you’re right, Adam. Here Cas, sit here, let’s get our shoes on, okay?” Dean sat him down on the little bench by the front door where Cas proceeded to slump and keel over sideways till he landed on Dean’s body. Dean pressed a hand against his forehead and frowned at how hot it felt, then proceeded to dig out his and Cas’s shoes. Dean shoved his feet into his boots first, and quickly tied the laces, not caring if they were secure or not.

He was reaching for Cas’s feet when a scared voice piped up. “Uncle Dean, is Uncle Cas all right?” Emma asked. Adam hovered behind her as she stared at her uncles with wide eyes.

“Hey, Emma, that’s what we’re going to find out, okay? You stay here and be good for Adam while I take your uncle to the doctor. I’m sure he’ll be fine though. He’s probably just so tired he got sick. That can happen sometimes,” Dean assured her, while maneuvering Cas’s feet into his shoes. Out of it as he was, Cas did help, so that was a good sign. “Maybe you can make a Get Well card for him. I bet that will help a lot.”

She brightened up at the prospect of having anything to do that could help and she nodded vigorously. Dean smiled at her and gave her a kiss before she scampered off in search of her paper and crayons. He looked over at Adam and mouthed ‘thank you’. Adam nodded and held the door for Dean as he helped Cas out to the car.

It didn’t take long for Dean to get Cas to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinic and get Cas signed in to the Urgent Care. Dean didn’t think Cas was unwell enough to warrant a trip to the ER, so he was glad there was another option. Cas was handed a mask to cover his face because of his cough and he fumbled with it. Dean helped him get it on and then Cas slumped against him once more, causing Dean to stagger. The receptionist’s eyebrow rose as she checked them in.

“Have a seat over there, someone will be with you shortly,” she said softly.

“Thank you.” Dean guided Cas to a seat and had barely sat down before the door opened and his husbands name was called. Rising once more, he helped Cas through the door and followed the nurse and answered her questions. Cas started coughing again as he walked, and stumbled, tripping over his own feet. He clutched at Dean and Dean halted, giving him a moment. The nurse kept walking for a few seconds before she realized they were no longer following her.

Thankfully, she was patient and soon Dean had managed to get Cas into the examination room and up on the table. They went through the routine questions. Medical history, what his symptoms were before she switched to taking his vitals and listening to his chest. Dean pointed out the burns on his hands.

“I don’t think they’re bad but, what do I know? We think he spilled his tea on himself when he tried to bring it upstairs. My brother found the mug spilled on the floor of the hall. I have no idea how long ago that was. Cas was alone then,” Dean said anxiously.

“Hmm…well, they don’t look too bad. First degree burn maybe. It’s a good thing they weren’t worse, since it’s obvious he didn’t even try to run his hands under cold water. The doctor will have more to say, I’m sure, but we’ll get some aloe for that. Don’t cover them – treat it like a sunburn. If any blisters appear, do not pop them, and have him come back. It’ll be a sign that it was a worse burn than we thought.” The nurse was gentle as she talked, typing in her notes and asking even more questions.

In the end, the doctor came in, listened to Cas’s chest, talked to Dean and read the nurses notes and sent Cas off to get his chest x-rayed. Dean waited, fidgeting before he remembered his phone. Now that he had a moment alone, he pulled it out and found the silenced device held a number of texts and voice mails from various concerned friends and family. He shot off a group text to everyone he could, then called Chuck to let his father-in-law know what was going on.

“Thanks for calling me, Chuck. He’s definitely worse off than he made out to be, but I’m sure he’ll be okay and I’ll keep you posted, all right?” Dean said quietly, keeping one eye on the door, ready to hang up the second it opened.

“Thank you, Dean, for taking such good care of my son,” Chuck said.

Dean barked out a short, humorless laugh. He ran a hand over his forehead and down his face. “Shit, don’t thank me, man. If I’d taken such good care of him, we wouldn’t have to be here.”

“Dean, no. This isn’t your fault. Cas is stubborn. He probably saw the signs and thought nothing of it, or figured he could just push through it. He did it all the time as a child.”

“That doesn’t make me feel better, Chuck. I should have noticed. I’ve known Cas all this time – I know him better than I know myself! How did I not notice?” Dean raked a hand through his hair as he spoke.

“You boys have a lot on your plate. I really wouldn’t feel too bad about it. You’ve had quite a few disruptions in the last – what, 6 months? Both of you have been focused on things other than yourselves for a while now. And that’s not a slight against you. The two of you are amazing men and you do a lot for people, but you’re not supermen either. Remember that and don’t beat yourself up about this.” Chuck’s voice was firm, full of belief and Dean nodded slowly, even though his father-in-law couldn’t hear it.

Sighing, he opened his mouth but then a knock sounded on the door and he changed what he was about to say, “Gotta go, Chuck. I’ll keep you posted.” Dean hung up without waiting for a goodbye and straightened, staring at the door with single-minded focus.

It opened and a nurse pushed Cas in in a wheelchair. Seeing how out of it his husband still looked, Dean didn’t blame them. “How is he?” Dean jumped up to take over wheeling him in.

“No worse than before. The doctor will be in shortly.” The nurse smiled and patted Cas on the shoulder before slipping out, closing the door behind her.

“Cas, babe, how you feelin’?” Dean ran his fingers through Cas’s hair before placing his other hand against Cas’s forehead. Dean winced at how hot his skin still felt. Cas didn’t answer in words, but groaned softly, leaning into Dean’s hand.

There was another knock on the door and it opened a bare second later, the doctor walking in. “Hello again.” Dean held his husband close, despite the wheelchair as the doctor talked, nodding along and asking more questions, frowning down at Cas in concern.

Less than an hour later, Dean was helping Cas back into bed and tucking him in. He’d arrived home just as Bobby came by with Grace in tow. Emma immediately took charge of her sister and enlisted her help in making their uncle a Get-Well card.

As soon as Dean returned downstairs, his feet hitting the bottom step, Adam looked up from where he was helping the girls and his eyes followed Dean and Bobby when they headed for the kitchen. A minute later, Adam joined them there.

“So Cas is pretty sick – um…Acute Bronchitis, which is actually contagious so we’re going to want to keep the girls contact with him at a minimum. Maybe for the weekend we can arrange a sleepover at Lisa’s or maybe your place. Then during the week, Bobby, would you still watch Grace while Emma’s in school?”

“Of course, Dean, you don’t ever need to ask, idjit,” Bobby said gruffly. It couldn’t hide the care behind the words though and Dean smiled before something occurred to him.

His face fell. “Shit! The workmen are due to come back tomorrow and I don’t think Cas is gonna get much rest with them hammering away just down the hall.”

“Maybe you should cancel the contractors till he’s feeling better?” Bobby suggested. “I promise, Rufus would understand.”

“God, Cas would kill me if I postpone the work on the addition, he’s really worried about his dad and the doc said it could take at least two weeks before he’s feeling better.” Dean looked up at the ceiling trying to think of solutions.

“Don’t cancel for two weeks, just a couple of days. See how he’s feeling and go from there,” Bobby said with a shrug.

Dean nodded. “Right, right. Look,I gotta go out to the store, pick up some stuff for Cas.”

“What’d the doctor say to do?” Adam asked.

“Not much, really. Lots of rest and fluids -not caffeine. Cas is not gonna like that part. Tylenol and cough medicine. That’s it. Said antibiotics are pretty much worthless for this.” Dean sighed. He wanted to be able to help his husband more. “Oh, and I should dig the humidifier out of the attic.”

“Who’s going to stay home with him?” Bobby asked. “I’m assumin’ someone is for a few days, anyway.”

“Guess I will. Shop will keep a couple of days. My guys know what they’re doing. I’d rather not, as I’ve taken a lot of time off recently, but, well, it’s Cas.”

“I know, boy. And Cas is family and you’d do just about anything for family. Just don’t let yourself get sick too,” Bobby admonished. Dean wanted to scoff but he knew Bobby was right. He could only thank his lucky stars that nobody else in the house was sick.

He hoped he hadn’t thought that too soon. They’d all have to keep a close eye on his nieces. And Adam. Shit. Adam had been in fairly close proximity to his sick husband. That might not be good. His thoughts turned to the possibilities of sending Adam over to Bobby’s with the girls when Adam caught his eye and he shook his head.

“God, Dean, do you ever think of yourself? Don’t you worry about me. I am at way less risk than you. You’ve got the greatest chance right now for coming down with what Cas has. Now either you can let me help and halve that chance, or we can be stuck taking care of two very sick adults.”

Dean looked helplessly at Bobby and Bobby simply leveled a “Don’t be stupid,” look at him. With a sigh, Dean nodded. “Fine, you can help. But be careful and don’t overdo it.”

“I can say the same for you. Besides, I told you, I wanna be a doctor. If I’m not willing to take these risks, how could I even get near my patients?” Adam pointed out.

Bobby smirked behind his beard. “Kids got ya there, Dean.”

“Oh, shut up, both of you.” Dean struggled to keep the smile off his own face. “Okay, let’s go talk with the girls.”

By the time they returned to the living room, Emma and Grace had outdone themselves with not one, or even two “Get-Well” cards, but over a dozen of them. Pictures of flowers as large as life on the construction paper. Some actually were cards that folded over with “Get Well Cas” blazoned shakily and boldly across the front and just their names, big as can be, written inside with hearts all around.

Dean sat on the floor by the coffee table and Emma and Grace both immediately climbed into his lap and clung to his neck.

“Is Uncle Cas gonna be okay?” Grace asked the question, the fear on her face so clear it made Dean’s heart ache to see. It hurt to see her like that, but it also felt good to know that Cas meant so much to her.

Dean swallowed against the lump of feeling in his throat. “Oh yeah, totally! Remember, your Uncle Cas is tough – he just needs some peace and quiet for a little while. That means we’ll all have to work together for that. Grace, you’ll stay with Bobby while Emma’s in school, okay sweetie, and for the weekend, the most important part for Cas, we’re going to see if we can arrange a sleepover somewhere so you girls can still have fun and he can extra sleep. Sound good?”

“But, I wanna help…” Emma said plaintively.

Grace nodded. “I don’t wanna go away, I wanna help too….”

“Oh, I know you do, sweethearts. That’s because you’re the best kids anybody could ever ask for and we love you so much. God, we are so happy that you’ve come to live with us. Do you know how happy you make your Uncle Cas and me, every single day?” Dean’s arms, already wrapped around them, cinched just a little tighter, eyes squeezed shut with emotion.

“Even when you’re mad at us?” Emma asked.

“Yes, even when we’re mad. I get mad at your Uncle Cas too, remember, and he gets mad at me, and we still love each other very much!” Dean explained.

Emma giggled. “Oh, I know! Like when you ate the last slice of pizza Uncle Cas was saving for lunch, but he still gave you his dessert later.”

“Yeah, just like that,” Dean said, tweaking her nose and making her giggle again. Grace blinked, taking in the less serious tone and clearly not sure what to make of it.

Except that she wanted in too.

Eventually, Dean made to get up, gently removing the girls from his lap and leveraging himself up to his feet with a groan. “Okay, I’ve gotta get some stuff at the store and then I need to make some phone calls to arrange a few things. Adam’s here if you need anything and Uncle Bobby’s gonna help too, okay?”

The girls looked like they would protest and in a flash of inspiration, Dean schooled his face to be completely serious. “And Emma, Grace, you have the all-important job of watching the clock and telling Uncle Bobby when its 6pm okay? Cause he’s gonna go check on Cas for us, make sure he’s sleeping okay. Sound good?”

Emma and Grace nodded enthusiastically and Bobby just raised an “Oh really? Am I, now?” eyebrow at Dean. Dean shrugged and gave Bobby a lopsided grin.

Before too long, Dean had finished a trip to the store, made a couple of phone calls and then gotten one of his own.

“Boy, what kind of crazy are you thinkin’?” Ellen’s voice came over speaker, his phone sitting in the cup holder of the Impala.

“Uh, now, I know I’ve done some crazy ass shit over my life but…what, exactly, are you referring to?” Dean concentrated on the traffic on route 3 with a frown, unable to put too much thought into what Ellen could possibly be talking about. “Oh, hey, is this about me asking Bobby if he was willing to watch Grace for us during school?”

“No. Well, yeah, you’re an idiot if you thought you had to ask, but that’s not what I’m talkin’ about, boy,” Ellen said.

“Ellen, please. I’m tired, hungry and most of all, worried about Cas. Clarification would be appreciated so I don’t crash my car trying to figure out your cryptic remarks.” Dean was snarky, but, well, he wasn’t lying when he said he was tired, hungry and worried. A trifecta that never boded well for him or anyone around him.

“Dean, hon, you don’t have to take off from work again. I can come by and help out with Cas, okay/” Ellen said softly over the phone.

Dean’s eye’s pricked slightly with tears. God, what’d he do to deserve friends and family like the ones he had? “Ellen, what about your restaurant?”

“Oh, honey, the Roadhouse can take care of itself without me for a few days. I can bring just about any of the work I need to do with me to your place and still keep it running. While you could do the same, they still need you down there for the more difficult customer consults. It’ll all work out, you’ll see.”

“Thanks, Ellen. What would I do without you and Bobby?” Dean swallowed, pulling into the driveway and picking up the phone, taking it off speaker as the Impala idled. Once the phone was settled, he reached for the gearshift on the steering column and put his Baby into park and regretfully turned her off. The sound of his baby was always a soothing one for him.

“Eh, you’d be fine, Dean. Might be tough, but y’all would pull through. I’m just here offerin’ to make it a little easier on y’all. Now you finish what you need and I’ll be over in the morning.”

Chapter Text

It took nearly 2 weeks for Cas to recover, though the worst was over in just a few days. At which point he asked where Emma and Grace were with narrowed eyes.

Dean looked away uncomfortably. “Well, it’s the weekend so they’ve been trading time between Lisa and Ben’s, and Bobby and Ellen’s.”

“Why?” Cas asked.

“Well, because the doc said you were contagious, Cas. I didn’t want the girls to get sick,” Dean protested.

Cas sighed and shook his head. “Dean, no. I know you want to wrap them in a bubble and keep them safe. I understand, I really do, but what do you think keeping them away is doing to them?”

Dean blinked and his face fell. “Oh fuck…”

“We just have to be smart about it, but there’s no reason to keep them from their home,” Castiel said. “Especially when we know…”

“Yeah, I get it babe,” Dean wiped a hand down his face. “I’ll go and get them. I don’t think any damage has been done. Right now, they know you’re sick and all, and the sleepovers have just been a little bit of fun while you get better. If I bring them home now…it should be okay. It’s only been two days.” Dean hesitated and looked at Cas. “Right? I didn’t screw this up, did I?”  

Castiel longed to take his husband in his arms and reassure him, but he didn’t want to get him sick either. “Oh Dean, it’ll be okay. It was well intentioned, and not too late. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

Dean sat beside Cas on the bed and took his hand. Cas tried to pull away but Dean held on tightly. “Babe, I’ll be fine. And…thanks.” Dean flashed him a crooked smile and leaned in to place a gentle kiss on Cas’s forehead. It was no longer warm and the man looked so much better than he had just a few days ago.

“Dean, I don’t want you getting sick either,” Cas said softly.

“Cas, if I was going to get sick, it would have happened already, I’m sure. I’ve been nursing you back to health for the last couple of days. I’m still sleeping in here at night and I’m not sick yet,” Dean said.

Cas narrowed his eyes at him. “Yet is a very powerful word, Dean, but okay. Now, go get our girls.”

“Of course,” Dean grinned and stood.

The next week and a half was tough. They tried to let the girls see Cas and interact with their uncle without letting them get too close and of course they wanted to do things to make him feel better. It was very sweet, but somehow as Cas recovered, nobody else got sick and life returned to normal.

Normal, of course, now being that the end of the school year was approaching and workmen were constantly tromping in and out of the house to work on the extension and they were still waiting for the adoption papers to go through. It wasn’t going nearly as fast as Cas had predicted, which worried him. Dean tried to get him to calm down, but being anxious himself didn’t make it any easier.

“Don’t worry, Castiel, it’s just a little extra red tape. You boys will have Emma and Grace permanently in your care before you know it,” Missouri assured Cas when he called her for what was probably the hundredth time. “They’re just thriving with you boys. Best thing to ever happen to your nieces in a long time, I’m sure, and they’d be fools to break that up.”

“If you say so, Missouri,” Cas said, sighing.

“I know so. As a matter of fact, while I have you on the phone, I have an idea for you and your husband – not for right now, but for a little further down the road.”

Cas listened to Missouri’s’ idea with excitement. She was right. It was something they’d be interested in and he just knew Dean would go for it. But the call calmed him down and he and Dean put in plans and anxiously waited for the chance to put them into action.

It was about halfway into the summer that the adoption was finally official. Cas could have danced for joy. Instead, he and Dean shared a long, loving kiss.

“We’re officially dads!” Dean crowed, just as excited as his husband. “Well, I mean, uncles…but effectively…Dads!”

Neither Cas nor Dean could keep the wide, beaming smiles off their faces when they sat the girls down to talk. Adam hovering at the edge of the room with a knowing smirk.

“Emma, Gracie, we’ve got some really good news to tell you,” Cas started.

“What is it?” Emma asked, her eyes widening with curiosity.

“This piece of paper means you are officially ours for as long as you can put up with us. Missouri will still visit, but she’ll visit just as a friend from now on.” Dean held up the papers with a grin.

“I thought we were already staying here forever and ever?” Emma tilted her head and bit her lip. Dean had to stifle the urge to laugh at how like Cas she could be sometimes.

“Well, yes, we already knew that, true – but this means that the rest of the world knows now too!” Cas explained patiently.

“Which I think means that we need to throw an official Emma and Grace adoption party to let everybody we love know the good news. What do you think?” Dean asked. He didn’t have to wait long to see their reaction.

“A party?” Grace yelled, “With balloons and cake and presents?”

“Of course, sweetie,” Cas answered. “And your Uncle Dean had a suggestion – another way to mark this special occasion. Would you like to hear it?” At their enthusiastic nods, all heads turned to put Dean on the spot, but he didn’t mind.

Dean clapped his hands together once before speaking. “Right. It’s time to fix your room up properly, make it look more like an Emma and Grace room. What color should we paint it?”

“Blue!” shouted Emma.

“Purple and pink!” cried Grace.

Cas, Dean and Adam all laughed. “Those are good choices. We can go to the paint store tomorrow to pick out the ones you want,” Dean agreed.

“Uncle Dean, could we also paint pictures on our walls?” Emma asked.

“Oh? I suppose so, though neither Cas nor I are artists. We might have to get some help and that part might take a while.” Dean exchanged looks with Cas, his mind already working ahead to think if they knew anyone who could do something like that, or if they’d have to hire out.

“That’s okay. We can wait,” Emma said.

“What were you thinking, sweetie, for pictures?” Cas asked.

“The impala!” Emma grinned. Dean snickered, barely restraining the urge to shout, “Hell yeah!”

“Hei-Hei!” Grace chimed in.

“Oh! Avengers!”

“Rapunzel!”

The girls started shouting out ideas a mile a minute till the husbands were overwhelmed with it all. Nearly every Disney show they’d ever watched and so many other things too – things Cas and Dean weren’t even sure what they were! Adam started laughing hysterically.

“Oh man, you guys should see your faces – priceless!” Adam finally wheezed out around the laughs, ignoring Dean’s dirty looks. He came forward and took Emma and Grace in hand. “Here now, those are all really awesome things but I think you have to pick just a couple or your beautiful blue, pink and purple walls will get lost under all the pictures. You wouldn’t’ want that, now would you?”

The girls gasped and shook their heads. “You could help us pick, right Adam?” Emma asked.

“Sure thing, Em,” he assured. Adam looked smugly at Dean and Cas. “I’ll get you a much shorter list in no time. Why don’t you two start making your party arrangements?”

Within days, the rest of the party planning was well underway with several more surprises in store for the girls. It was a good thing, Cas thought, that they’d already had most of this planned and ready to go, simply waiting for official word to set a party date. Otherwise, the extra surprise would have been very hard to pull off.

Cas and Sam spent two days before the party packing up Cas’s office and setting up a bed in there for a guest while Dean was at work. The extension over the garage wasn’t quite done yet, though it was damn close. As usual, the girls wanted to help and Cas and Sam tried their best to find them appropriate sized tasks for them to do, praising them for a job well done.

They finished just in time as their surprise guests arrived en masse the night before the party. Only two came to stay at the Winchesters household, the rest going over to Lisa’s and taking her up on her generous offer. All of them arrived late enough at night that neither Emma nor Grace had any idea anyone else was there until morning came and they darted down the stairs for cartoons.

Without looking, before Dean could say a word, Emma bounced onto the couch and startled when it moved beneath her. What she’d obviously thought was a lump of blanket was shifting and letting out a loud, “Oooph!”

Then the blanket flipped back and she let out an excited squeal. “Uncle Gabriel!”

Dean started laughing from the open doorway he had watched their descent from. He covered his mouth to smother his laughter, but once the girls had Gabriel in their sights, nothing could easily distract them form their little reunion.

“Hey there, chipmunk! How’s it goin’? Long time no see.” Gabriel grinned, pushing himself up to a proper sitting position. Emma clambered back onto the couch and tucked herself into Gabriel’s side, wrapping her arms around him for a hug.

“Are you here for our party?” Grace joined them on the couch, angling for her own hugs with Uncle Gabe.

“That I am! I hear it’s a special occasion,” Gabriel answered, eyes sparkling happily as he watched his nieces. “And I got you girls something extra special to celebrate it.”

Castiel joined Dean in the doorway, not quite awake and with coffee in hand, to watch right alongside his husband. “I’m glad they were all able to make it,” Castiel murmured quietly. He needn’t have bothered trying to stay quiet since nothing short of a bullhorn was likely to get anyone’s attention right now. Dean and Cas watched the girls chattering away excitedly, offering to give Gabriel a grand tour.

With a laugh, he allowed them to pull him along.

“I can’t wait to see their faces when they realize Grandpa Chuck is here too,” Dean noted.

“I’ll make sure to have the camera ready.”

The eventual reveal of grandpa was met with even more happy squeals and smiles, hugs and laughter. Cas did, in fact, manage to get it all on video as Dean prepped breakfast. The planned party was going to be an informal, come-when-you-can, all day affair, and he expected the first guests any –

Knocking sounded at the front door and he grinned. Right on time. “I’ll get it!” he shouted, wiping his hands off on a towel and stepping out of the kitchen. He flung the door open to see the rest of the Milton’s – Michael, Rebecca, their 3 children and a baby – all waiting on his doorstep.

“Come in, come in! I’ve got breakfast started and you’re welcome to join us – unless Lisa’s already fed you?” Dean stepped back to make room.

“The kids had a little something, to tide them over. Seemed to think they were starving to death and the world was ending or something, but I’m famished!” Rebecca said.

“Whoa, you’re not pregnant again are ya?” Dean joked.

“Oh no, all done. I think four kids is more than enough,” she laughed. Michael nodded emphatically behind her and Dean laughed, waving them inside.

Breakfast was well underway when Sam, Jo, Bobby and Ellen arrived. Ellen joined Dean in the kitchen, trading back and forth so they could each spend time with the rest of the family sitting in the dining room. Dean entered the room just in time to catch Adam’s question.

“See, I don’t get it,” Adam said, waving around his forkful of scrambled eggs. “You guys are Milton’s, right? So, Em and Gracie’s dad was a Milton too. And Chuck, you’re a Shurley…so how come Emma and Grace’s last name is Novak?”

“Well, when I married my wife, she refused to take my name,” Chuck shrugged. “Now I’m a progressive sort of guy and I really didn’t care, but thinking back on it, I wonder if that was a sign?” Chuck tilted his head, losing himself in thought, letting his son pick up the thread of it, answering Adams’ question.

“Of course, that means that we – me, Lilith and Anna – all grew up as Novak, and since Lilith and Lucifer never married, her kids took on her name,” Cas finished.

 Adam nodded thoughtfully. “Okay, yeah, that makes sense.”

“So, I guess with the adoption being official and all, that means their taking Dean’s name now, right?Just like you did?” Michael asked. Castiel nodded, opening his mouth to answer when he was interrupted.

“Cas-ti-el! What on earth are our nieces teaching my children?” Rebecca cried out in alarm.

Cas blinked at the usage of his full name, such a rare occurrence most days, and focused his attention to where the children sat around the little coffee table in the living room, the remains of their breakfasts scattered about the table. They were all happily singing along in such mismatched tones that it took a few minutes to understand their words.

He snorted. Rebecca glared. “I’m serious, Cas! Why are they singing about biting heads off?”

“What?” Michael whipped around to stare at the children as Dean and Sam started laughing. The kids collapsed into giggles when they finished their song, launching into another loud rendition of it.

“It’s the official jingle for goldfish. Or it was, once upon a time. It uh, threw me for a loop too when I first moved here,” Cas admitted. “I couldn’t believe my ears the first time I heard it play on the radio. Though, I haven’t heard it for some time, it’s the kind of tune that gets stuck in your head. I may have, accidentally, taught our nieces the little jingle when I unintentionally started singing it under my breath on occasion.”

“It’s very disturbing,” Rebecca shuddered.

“That’s understandable,” Cas agreed. “But it’s fairly harmless.”

As morning gave way to afternoon, first Lisa and Ben, then the gang from the garage, arrived with their families. Missouri came soon after and the party was officially underway. There were balloons and streamers all over the place, a piñata hung from the ceiling with Sam’s help, and snacks adorned nearly every surface.

Dean poked through the presents left in the hall, picking them up and bringing them out a few at a time to the living room when he froze.

“Uh, guys? What the hell is this?” Dean called out.

“Isn’t it great?” Gabriel called back. “All kids should have a pet.”

“You numbskull, you’re supposed to ask if it’s okay, first!” Dean tried to keep his temper. “Also, where the hell were you hiding this when you came in last night?”

“Oh, I didn’t have to hide anything, Dean-o! We brought it in to Lisa’s place last night and she brought it with her when she came over. We figured it was best to bring it over later so as not to spoil the surprise,” Gabriel explained. “And why would I ask? It’s supposed to be a surprise! And it’s not your present anyway, it’s theirs.”

“Yeah, but what if I’m allergic? And who do you think will be helping them take care of it till they get older?” Dean sighed, rubbing a hand over his face and hoping that cute, brown bunny rabbits were not on the list of things he was allergic to.

“Hmm…hadn’t thought of that,” Gabriel said with a shrug. “Oh well. Too late now. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the girls, now would you? I already promised them something special and I didn’t bring anything else.” Dean sighed as he realized that Gabriel was one of those uncles. It was probably a good thing he didn’t live closer than he did.

Cas came over to look at what was causing the commotion. “He is pretty cute,” Cas said.

“Well, sure, but…that’s not the point,” Dean said with another sigh.

Cas massaged Dean’s shoulders lightly. “It’ll be okay. Bunnies live in cages. How card can it be?”

“If you’re sure…” Dean said uncertainly, still staring at the bunny. “He is kinda cute…”

With Cas’s help, they finished bringing the rest of the presents in from the hall and Emma and Grace tore right into them. With exclamations over everything they got, still nothing compared to the gasps and happy smiles they got when the bunny was revealed. Everything was forgotten after that as they coo-d over the bunny and Dean melted at the sight of the little fingers reaching through the cage to pet the soft brown fur.

Maybe the bunny wasn’t so bad.

Soon, the bunny had been released from its cage and placed on the floor, adults and children alike sitting down on the floor around it to lavish attention to it. Gabriel grinned smugly at his successful present and Dean rolled his eyes.

Okay, so maybe the bunny wasn’t so bad, but hell if Dean was going to admit to Gabriel.

The party lasted well into the night, with the children dropping like flies around them. Disney movies played in the background as they all lay in various stages of sleepiness in cuddle piles on the couch. With a closer look, Dean realized that several of them were, actually, quite soundly asleep. He carefully snapped pictures of them, trying not to wake them.

The adults finally started breaking up, putting their coffee mugs in the sink, helping Cas and Dean clean up the leftover snacks and put away the games. Collecting their kids, people started to leave, with one last heartfelt congratulation on their way out to Dean and Cas till at last, only Gabriel and Chuck were left behind.

Emma stirred sleepily in Dean’s arms as he picked her up, but Grace simply flopped against Cas’s shoulder when he lifted her off the couch. Together, they carried the girls to their room, Chuck following along behind, standing in the doorway watching his granddaughters being tucked snugly away in their beds.

“I’m so happy to see them like this,” Chuck whispered. Dean looked up after one last tug on the light blanket, Cas placing their favored stuffed animals into their arms, to see Chuck’s eyes shining with unshed tears. “Thank you, so much, for stepping up for them. To do what I couldn’t…it just…it means the world to me.”

“Shh, Dad, it’s okay,” Cas quietly went over to his father and wrapped his arms around him. “You did what you could, and it shows. Emma and Grace adore you.” Cas gently nudged his father out of the doorway to allow Dean to close it behind them. “Just think, we haven’t even told them the best news yet – that when everyone goes home tomorrow, you’re staying behind.”

“Are you sure that…” Chuck trailed off with a swallow.

“Yes, we’re very sure,” Dean said. “We want you here. Even before the girls came into our lives, we wanted to ask you to live here, with us. This just makes everything so much better.”

“Hey, if it makes any difference, I barely know you and I think it’ll be cool to have you here,” Adam said as he reached the top of the stairs. “Just so long as you remember it’s my room on the other side of yours and you don’t have any loud parties.” He gave Chuck a cheeky grin before disappearing into said room and shutting the door firmly behind him.

Dean blinked and choked back a laugh. “Shit, I thought teenagers were supposed to be the loud partiers. How’d we get so lucky?”

“Hey, don’t knock it,” Chuck said. “I wish more of my kids hadn’t gone through that phase.”

“Oh, come on, Dad, I wasn’t that bad,” Cas chuckled.

“Maybe not, but your sisters near about gave me my first heart attack, I swear to god,” Chuck sighed. “So, I’m advising you both now – don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And uh, watch out for when they become teenagers. You’ll want to tear your hair out.”

“Well, at least you’ll be here, the voice of experience and reason,” Dean said with no little trepidation at the thought of Emma and Grace being teenagers. Shit, he hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“Experience, sure. Reason…?” Cas trailed off with a shrug.

“Watch it, son. I can easily sabotage you and get away with it cause I’m grandpa.” Chuck mock-glared at Cas before they all broke into barely smothered laughter.

Dean followed his husband and father-in-law back down the stairs with a grin and a full heart. Missouri’s offer for the future echoing suddenly in his mind.

Who knew his life could change so much, in such awesome ways, in less than a year? It’d been nine months. Just nine months since Emma and Grace had moved in with them and it had brought about so much that time had passed so quickly Dean was still reeling from it. But it was everything he and Cas could have wanted.  

He watched Cas and Chuck banter back and forth as they set about making one last cup of coffee before bed and Dean felt his heart swell. This was family. He had Sam and now Adam of course, and Bobby and Ellen and Jo, but now he had so much more. Cas had brought so much to his life that sometimes, Dean couldn’t believe he’d gotten so lucky, couldn’t imagine loving Cas any more than he did.

From having almost no one, Dean now had everyone.

And that was something he wanted to give to others. That sense of belonging, of family. Support and unconditional love.

He’d have to call Missouri and tell her yes – he already knew Cas’s answer, after all – that he and Cas were in as soon as they could get things ready. It might take a little while, but once Chucks extension was done and his father-in-law settled in, they could knuckle down and get to work.

It wasn’t what they’d intended, but it felt good. It felt right.

And Dean couldn’t wait.

Chapter Text

Dean looked up from the grill at the cry of a baby. No less than seven adults, and Emma, converged on the young toddler, only 2 ½ years old. Cas reached the little boy first, scooping him up into his arms, the cries turning into giggles as the toddler tucked his face into Cas’s shirt. Dean smiled, content that Cas had it handled and turned his attention back to the grill.

The back door slammed and he looked back up with a frown. “Hey, Krissy, take it easy – if that door breaks off its hinges, you’re helping me fix it.”

The dark-haired girl rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, old man.” She was joined seconds later by another of Dean and Cas’s foster kids – Claire – and the two of them darted away from the house together, joining Emma and Ben on the other side of the yard. The teens – and most of the other kids - were gathering around Grace who’d actually gotten pretty good at playing the guitar and was currently taking requests.

Despite the teen’s grumpy attitude, watching the children gathering, Dean had to smother a smile. These days, he and Cas had a pretty full house. The extension to the back of the house, over the summer porch, had proved very useful once Missouri's idea had been put into play. With another staircase coming off the living room (and bypassing the porch on purpose) they'd built three more bedrooms. Their three foster teens, Krissy, Claire and Alex, had those.

Cas had once again sacrificed his study on the first floor, instead turning a corner of the master bedroom into the space he needed so that Adam still had a room to sleep in when he came home on breaks. But otherwise, Emma and Grace still shared a room and Adam's old room had become Lincolns.

It was cramped sometimes and they dreaded Missouri asking if they had room for anyone else. Dean and Cas hated to turn any child away. Especially when those that came to them were often ones that other families had given up on. They'd had their challenges and of course, some troubled times over the years, but they didn't regret the decision to help as many children as they could.

In a way, Dean felt like he was paying back the world for the help he and Sam had gotten.

Dean’s heart melted as their newest addition, the toddler, now coo-d in Cas’s arms. The sight was an unusual one. So far, Cas was the only one able to coax the little boy into those rare, happy smiles and even rarer hugs. Lincoln was their youngest foster child yet and it was a whole new ball game, but Dean was confident that they had this, despite the challenges he represented. Old hats to it all, Dean and Cas knew where to look for help if they needed it.

It had been Missouri’s idea to open their home (and hearts) further, helping even more children the way they’d helped Emma and Grace. Dean had immediately become excited by the idea and was extremely happy when he realized that he had Cas’s full support on it.

Krissy had been their first, coming to live with them five years ago. Now she was 17 and their oldest. Claire was second oldest and had only come to live with them two years ago. It had taken a while to get through to her, but Dean thinks Krissy actually had a hand in that. The two girls were nearly inseparable. Dean and Cas were now taking bets (privately, of course – they weren’t discussing their children’s love lives with anyone else) on when Krissy and Claire would officially become an item.

The third teen was Alexis. Cas and Dean were still trying to reach through to her. They were certain she’d been abused, but she still wasn’t talking, even to Madison. Not that they’d asked Madison to betray any confidences. It was important that they didn’t, if they were going to build any kind of trust or relationship with the kids that came through their home. But they had shared their concerns with Madison and asked if Alex was opening up at all. Madison had merely shaken her head, saying,

“Don’t worry, Dean, she will when she’s ready. And when she does, we’ll be able to help. In the meantime, if what you suspect is true – and I don’t think you’re far off on that one – you might want to read up a bit so you don’t make any missteps in handling her.” She’d then suggested some abuse survivor’s literature and the two of them had devoured it all, hoping any of it could help.

While a lot of the stories behind their fosters were horrible, or sad, Dean thought maybe Lincoln’s story was the saddest. His parents had abandoned him when he was only a few months old. Left on the steps of a church, he’d been found when the doors had opened in the morning. It had been like something from a story, complete with a basket and a note. The mother, relinquishing all claims to the boy, had left only his name and a favorite toy.

From then on, Lincoln had bounced from family to family – and been rejected sight unseen by many more - before ending with Dean and Cas. Each family before theirs had decided the little boy was too much to deal with. Dean had to admit, the possibility that he might be autistic was a little scary but that was no reason to drop the kid like a hot potato. He needed love, support and acceptance too. Why shouldn’t he have it? Didn’t he have as much right to those things as any other child?

Going through four families in less than a year, Dean and Cas were the only ones to keep Lincoln for more than six months. They were closing in on eleven months now and like all the others that had come and gone and those still there, Lincoln had quickly crawled into their hearts. They were already quietly talking to Missouri about adopting the young boy, since – in contrast to some of their other charges – Lincoln had no home life, no family, to contest it.

Sam had asked him once, early on, “You ever think about his parents? Who they might have been? Why they just…abandoned him like that at such a young age?” Dean and Cas could see how easily the thought disturbed him as Sam held his newest baby close to him.

Dean shrugged. “Sometimes. Cas and I have thought up all sorts of scenarios that could have led to him being left on a church doorstep. We just can’t help it. All of them bad, but not all of them are heartless. Guess it's just something we’re never gonna know. But that’s okay, cause we’re his family now.”

“Ewwwww…” Grace groaned loudly across the yard, breaking into Dean’s memory. “Ben and Emma are kissing again!”

Dean shuddered and groaned at her words but kept his mouth shut. It had been a massive surprise when the teens had revealed they were dating and he still wasn’t sure how to feel about it.

Something cold touched Dean’s arm and he turned to find Lisa at his elbow, holding out an open beer. He took it gratefully. “I swear to god, Lis, if they wind up pregnant…”

“You shut your mouth, Dean Winchester. I am not ready for grandbabies. Besides, you and I both know that as soon as we were done lecturing them for being so careless, you and that husband of yours would be right there to support them before anyone else could draw breath,” Lisa pointed out shrewdly.

Dean sighed. “Okay, yeah, you got me. That doesn’t mean the possibility still doesn’t scare the shit outta me though.”

Lisa nodded an acknowledgement. “Well, we’ve both given our kids the talk and traumatized them for life. After that…” she shrugged, “I guess we’ll just cross that bridge when we get there. If we get there. They’re good kids though, so I’m doubting its anything we really need to worry about.”

“Well, I won’t argue that, but…I think I’ll always worry about them, no matter their gender or their age,” Dean said.

Lisa laughed. “Welcome to being a parent, Dean. Ask your father-in-law, or Bobby. I’m sure they’ll both say the same thing.”

“Same thing about what?” Castiel’s voice behind them made them jump, Dean eagerly turning to smile at his husband. Lincoln still clutched that old, tattered toy in his hand, his eyes closed as he slept peacefully against Cas’s chest. If Cas’s arms were getting tired from constantly holding the boy, he showed no indication.

“About being a parent, how the worry never stops,” Dean said, leaning forward to kiss Cas’s cheek. After all these years, it never stopped amusing Dean when he caught his husband blushing from something so simple, so chaste.

“Oh, yes, I think I’ve heard that somewhere. Has everyone eaten yet?” Cas eyed the mostly empty grill.

“Yeah, just thought I’d cook up the last of the burgers in case anyone got hungry again later. You thinking it’s time to gather in the troops?” Dean inclined his head out towards the children. All ages, their nieces and their fosters mixed with many others – cousins from both sides (Sam and Eileen’s four-year-old trailed after Grace like a little lost puppy dog), neighbors, classmates, and the families of their closest friends as well.

Cas nodded. “Yes, Sam’s got the birthday cake ready to go, just needs the all clear to start lighting the candles.”

“I still can’t believe Emma’s 15 already,” Lisa sighed, staring at the young girl. “Ben too. Where does the time go?”

“Do you ever regret not having more kids?” Dean asked.

Lisa laughed. “No way, not when my house became a revolving door for all of yours,” she chided good naturedly. Cas broke into a quiet chuckle, trying not to disturb Lincoln.

Dean pulled the last of the burgers off the grill and turned off the gas, wiping his hands on his apron before pulling it off. “All right, I’ll go put these inside away from the bugs and then I’ll enlist Adam and Gabriel in rounding everyone up.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Castiel agreed. “I just hope Gabriel didn’t get her anything outrageous for her birthday this year.”

“Nah, he’s been good about that lately. I’m pretty sure that means he’s saving up for her 16th,” Dean noted, picking up the plate of burgers.

“In that case, I’m officially worried. For next year. It’s too soon to worry about it now,” Cas answered.

“Agreed. Now give me another kiss before this place descends once more into chaos,” Dean said with a grin.

“I think it’s a little late for that, but I’ll oblige you anyway,” Cas said. The kiss was brief, but still full of love and happiness. Dean’s heart felt like it could burst. This here, this life, was everything he’d ever wanted.

How did he get so lucky?