"She’s going to tumble out of the wagon, Dean," cautioned an overly concerned Castiel. "A four-month-old baby has no sense of balance."
"Nah, we got this. She’s a Winchester," Dean replied. "Every kid should experience riding around in a little red wagon. It’s American like apple pie."
Chuckling, the former angel held onto the wagon handle and waited. It was Mary Joanna’s first Halloween season, and Dean thought they should do it right, despite Castiel’s protests that a four-month-old wouldn’t remember any of it. But Dean insisted, demanded, and cajoled until they ended up at Sam’s favorite farmer’s market transformed into a pumpkin patch. As Castiel watched Dean roll up his coat in the bed of the wagon, making a little recliner for the baby, he realized the first Halloween as a father was more for Dean than their adopted child.
"Okay, there. Little squirt’s not going anywhere now. Look, she can see everything," announced Dean as he stood upright and examined the baby nested in his coat. "Did we lose Sammy?"
Castiel pointed to the far corner of the pumpkin patch. A shack with market employees serving hot chocolate, assorted pumpkin flavored hot drinks, and sweet treats had attracted Sam’s two children. The younger Winchester brother’s hulking stature towered over his son and daughter, who, much to his dismay, learned Dean’s endless desire for sugar by watching him.
"I bet they have pie," Dean said in a not-so-subtle hint.
"Your daddy’s a glutton," said Castiel to the baby as he pulled the wagon along behind him, Dean bringing up the rear.
As the new little family approached the refreshments shack, Sam’s boy ran to Dean and instantly climbed him like a jungle gym. It was their way. Entirely too many family holidays witnessed some broken piece of furniture or shattered glass the minute Bobby got old enough to rough house with his uncle. Castiel had even worried that Dean would be disappointed with their adoption resulting in a baby girl rather than a boy, but as soon as the hunter held her for the first time, he never looked back.
"Dad won’t let me have a cookie," said Bobby from his spider monkey perch on Dean’s back.
"You're gonna be six next month. We're not wrecking your teeth already," Sam replied. "And don't run to Dean when I say no to junk. I'm your father."
"Mom'd lemme have it," Bobby muttered.
"Mom's not here, is she? Sorry, kid. You've got Dad today," he replied. Sarah was pregnant again, just barely, and she couldn't move off the couch without throwing up. Pregnancy was hard on her every time.
A stuttering, stifled chuckle covered by Castiel's free hand. They all knew it - Bobby inherited everything about being a Winchester that spawned Dean's personality. Sam bent, hooking hands under Ellie's arms, and lifting his three-year-old girl on his hip. Though still quite little, Ellie watched everyone around her like studying things for later. She tucked away nuggets of knowledge to use as she grew up, Castiel often suggested. That little girl was special.
"Okay, fine," Sam relented. "How 'bout a chocolate covered apple? At least you'll get some fruit in you."
Bobby wriggled down from Dean like swinging off the monkey bars with a contented, somewhat victorious smile. Usually Sam gave in like that, although he pretended it was a big compromise, but he never could bring himself to be a hard father. Neither could Dean. They never spoke of it but Dean suspected the specter of their father bringing them up like mini-soldiers rather than little boys made them, in turn, treat their own children with a softer hand. Maybe too soft at times. Dean never could let Mary Joanna cry in her crib very long no matter how much Castiel explained that babies needed to cry it out sometimes.
While Sam straightened out the snacks situation with his own kids, Dean and Castiel sneaked away with their little red wagon. The former angel pulled the wagon through the pumpkin patch while Dean kept an eye on their little cargo.
Mary Joanna was so good that Dean wondered if she fell asleep, but as he leaned over and peered at her little face in a pale pink and white stripped jacket hood, she simply took in everything around her. Wide blue eyes watched pumpkins pass her wagon as if completely mystified and intrigued by the weird orange lumps on the ground. Dean immediately decided that his baby was a genius. How could she not be with a father like him and a father like Castiel?
"Cas, keep an eye out for a good tall one and a good fat one."
The former angel nodded. "You know, Dean, people have been carving faces into gourds for centuries. This is a very old tradition. It began with an Irish myth about a man named Jack who repeatedly tricked the devil, and when Jack died, neither Heaven or Hell would claim his soul. The devil gave him a lit piece of coal and he wandered the earth with it inside a carved turnip. So the Irish and Scottish carved frightening faces into turnips and potatoes to scare away Jack and other evil spirits." Castiel often drifted into old stories like that and Dean listened until something distracted him. "It's not entirely true, of course. Lucifer's much too intelligent to be tricked by a human."
"Is any of it true?" asked Dean.
"Some," Castiel replied. "There's always a grain of truth in every myth."
True, Dean did find the story mildly interesting but he felt priorities shift a long time ago, around the time Ellie Winchester was born. Sarah endured a very difficult labor and nearly bled to death even with highly skilled doctors. It spooked Sam into being home more, hunting less, and then Castiel began wondering out loud when Dean might scale back too. He wanted a baby of his own. Dean didn't know it at the time but he wanted a baby too. So the brothers set up shop like Bobby had in their time, helping younger hunters with lore and solving cases. Both Sarah and Castiel breathed loud sighs of relief.
Lost in thought, Dean's boot clipped an errant pumpkin in the footpath and stumbled over it. Castiel stopped, throwing a glance over his shoulder.
"What are you doing?" Castiel asked.
Laughing at himself, Dean scooped up the offending pumpkin. "Falling over shit like an idiot."
"She's not old enough to understand yet. Relax, big daddy." He held up the pumpkin as if presenting a royal heir. "Check it out. The perfect carving sacrifice."
"It's rather large, isn't it?" Castiel ventured with some skepticism.
Dean crouched by the wagon and put the pumpkin down by Mary Joanna's feet. "Sure, but kids are kids for like a minute before they're too cool to care about this stuff. Might as well do it big."
In fact, he already had plans for the house at Christmas bordering on Clark W. Griswold standards.
The transparent pink binky popped out of Mary Joanna's mouth and tumbled down her tummy as she appraised her new fat, orange wagon-mate. She gurgled and cooed, her little hands closing and opening with apparent interest. Though she was not biologically their child, sometimes Dean looked at her in awe, seeing little glimpses of both himself and Castiel in her as if she had been plucked by the universe specifically for them. Dean put the binky back in her mouth and picked her up like a little football tucked in his arm, having decided not to risk letting the pumpkin roll on top of her.
As they walked along in search of another pumpkin, he unconsciously helped Sam keep an eye on his rambunctious kids as well. Bobby ran through the pumpkin patch on his sugar high and Ellie skipped along Sam's side, holding his hand.
"How did we get here, Cas?" he asked in a faraway tone.
The former angel's response took on a literal tone. "We took 81 South to 70 East, Dean."
Sometimes he was still just like the awkwardly clueless angel he knew years before and it make Dean chuckle down at the baby clutched against his chest. He wondered if she would develop that literal sense of unintentional humor too.
"Your papa's never gonna change, is he?" whispered Dean. He swayed with each step in a natural rocking rhythm as if his meaty arms were designed for babies all along.
"Dean, look," beckoned Castiel a few yards into a crowded patch. "What about this one? It has character. It's odd. I like it."
He stood there presenting an oblong pumpkin with the top listing slightly to one side. Truthfully, it looked like a mutant squash rather than a good carving pumpkin but it made Castiel quite proud of himself. His full mouth spread into a smile. Dean could see his mind turning already, planning and designing a face for his pumpkin. It took a while, sometimes, for Castiel to learn how to have fun, but it came faster after becoming a father.
And there, a man who was once a multidimensional wavelength of celestial intent stood in the middle of a pumpkin patch with his husband and baby, like any other family. None of the kids running around or the parents chasing them even guessed that he was once an angel of the Lord.
"Perfect," Dean said. "Dump it in the wagon."