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Matchmaker Mary

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Our story starts about thirty miles east of Seattle at a quiet little café in the small town of Carnation.

At least Mary assumes it’s quiet; having been born deaf, pretty much everywhere she’s ever gone is a quiet spot.

But this small café, which has a charming hand-painted sign hanging in the door which reads Sacred Grounds - Coffee House & Small Eats, is without the hustle and bustle of the Starbucks across town.

A few folks come in to sit down, like the elderly man who wears a tweed sport-coat and sits at the counter reading a beat-up old Bible every Sunday. Mary assumes he’s avoiding church and feeling guilty about it – something Mary herself can relate to.

Most patrons, however, run in and out in a rush for a quick cup of coffee to-go.

It doesn’t matter where you live; nearly everyone seems to be in a rush these days.

Everyone except for the handsome man behind the counter.

Whenever she walks into the café he is there; a calm, consistent presence with a stoic expression and black apron, which Mary notices is always clean and neatly pressed. Besides the rich coffee and the lemon crème tarts that are to die for, he is the reason she keeps coming back.

Oh, no, it’s nothing like that. He’s young enough to be her son for Christ’s sake.

It’s just that the first time she came in he’d been able to talk to her.

She’d walked in and found a table next to the window. He came to take her order shortly after she’d settled in. His lips moved, “ Hello, how are you this morning?” and she smiled, as she usually did – people didn’t know, they couldn’t help it – and pointed to her ears, then her lips while shaking her head. She mouthed ‘sorry’ back to him.

But then, he tucked his pen behind his ear, slid his order pad into the wide front pocket of his apron, and made the sign for ‘deaf’ with a questioning tilt of his head.

She nodded, and he smiled wide and continued signing.

‘I can sign.’ It was a little sloppy, but that was alright. Mary could understand him just fine. ‘My best friend from college is deaf, but she lives in the city so I’m a little out of practice. I’m C-A-S.’

‘Cas, I’m M-A-R-Y.’ She spells it out slowly, watching him take in the movement of her hands.

‘It’s nice to meet you, Mary. Can I get you a cup of coffee?’

That is why Mary keeps going back to Sacred Grounds.

***

‘Cas, you work too much.’ Mary signs as he brings over her English breakfast tea, already doctored with milk and one sugar, as well as his own cup of black filtered coffee. He takes the seat across from her and briefly wraps his hands around the ceramic mug before pulling them away to respond.

‘I know. But I love it and I can’t afford to bring anyone else on. I don’t really mind it.’

His signing is getting better, more fluid, and Mary likes watching how his hands shape each word with such deliberation.

‘What time do you get here in the morning?’

‘I come in at four o’clock to start baking so everything is fresh when I open at seven. But I close at two, so it’s not like I stay open late. And I’m closed on Mondays.’

‘Honey that’s still a ten-hour day at least. You need some ‘you’ time.’

The café is empty, and when the café is empty and there is nothing that needs his attention, Cas sits with her and they talk; sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for an hour or so. He is a good man, and Mary enjoys getting to know him.

‘I’m not good with ‘me’ time. I spend too much time thinking about dumb things.’

‘What sort of dumb things?’

Cas takes a deep breath through his nose and looks toward the register, but before Mary can apologize for prying, he starts to explain.

‘About whether this place will ever be stable enough so I can travel. Or why my parents don’t want to talk to me anymore. Or why I’m single. Things like that. I’d rather keep myself busy and productive than sit around over-thinking.’

‘I can’t imagine any reason why your parents wouldn’t want to talk to you.’ She notices the way the corner of Cas’ mouth quirks up in a sort of sad smile. ‘Or why you’re single. That’s mind-boggling. If I were thirty years younger…’

That makes Cas tip his head back in a laugh.

‘I should be so lucky.’ He signs back. ‘If only you were a few years younger, and I was attracted to women…’ he stops somewhat abruptly and stares down at the table, the smile slowly fading from his face as he taps a nervous finger against the marbled laminate. ‘I guess that solves the mystery of why my parents don’t call me.’

There’s a sad glimmer in Cas’ eye that takes Mary back nearly ten years to when Dean came out to her and John. He was twenty-one, and he’d brought a friend home for Thanksgiving break. She remembers the boy, Aaron, sitting very still and determined with an assuring hand on Dean’s knee while Dean explained that he’d known he was bisexual since sixth grade and that Aaron wasn’t just a friend.

That didn’t change the way Mary and John saw their son, of course. He was their son; their first born. He was healthy and smart and had the manners of a southern gentleman even though he’d been born and raised in Washington (she thanks the Winchester Family’s Kansas roots for that). His sexuality didn’t change him or their relationship with him. It just added even more depth to the extraordinary person he already was.

So, if that was really the reason why this sweet young man’s parents never called, then Mary could conclude that they were, in fact, assholes.

She reaches across the table and rests a hand over his, giving it a bit of a squeeze. He squeezes hers back.

‘Their loss.’ She signs after a few moments.

‘Do you have children?’ Cas asks with a squint.

‘I do. Two sons.’

‘They’re lucky to have you.’

‘I’m lucky to have them.’

At that moment her heart aches with love for her boys, and with a little love for Cas, too.

***

There’s a soft tap on her shoulder, and Mary looks up at Cas, who is glancing down at her notebook which, unfortunately, is currently covered in scribbles, scratches, and illegible cursive.

‘Do you mind if I ask you what you’re working on?’

Mary sets down her pen and stops herself from snapping back with something about writer’s block.

‘I’m working on a book about the tribes of the Yakama Nation.’ She see’s Cas’ mouth make an “Oh!” before he plants himself into the chair across from her and she continues. ‘I was director of The Burke for about twenty years, and I always thought that after I retired I’d write a book… but as it turns out,’ she gestures to her mess of a notebook, ‘writing is hard.’

Mary spends the next half hour fielding questions about Washington’s tribal history and recalling a Lee Moorhouse exhibit at The Burke from 2008 that Cas remembered. He was so genuinely interested and paid such rapt attention as she spelled out different tribe names. It took her mind off of the frustration of writer’s block, that’s for certain.

‘You should talk to my son Dean. He’s a curator at MOHAI - although his focus is more on industrial and mechanical engineering in Seattle and not so much on Washington’s Native American history.’

That’s an interesting thought – Dean and Cas meeting.

They’re about the same age, she’s fairly certain of that. And they both take their jobs too seriously. They’re both handsome, and passionate, and humble to a fault.

And they’re both single.

Yes, that’s a very interesting thought, indeed.

Dean had been quite lonely lately, and although he’d never admit to it, Mary notices all the small shifts in her son’s behavior that make it clear he’s in a funk, as he’d call it. He hasn’t talked about a date in months, which is unusual as he’s almost always got someone on his arm. Instead, he’s always at work – seven days a week some weeks. He claims it’s in preparation for an exhibit, but Mary was in the business for a long time, and his “commitment” to the exhibit is a bit excessive.

Mary finds herself so lost in thought she doesn’t catch what Cas says and has to ask for him to repeat himself.

‘I’m afraid I don’t know too much about engineering.’ Cas signs with a shrug.

‘That doesn’t matter.’ She waves it off. ‘He’d talk your ear off about it anyway.’

Cas smiles and nods in understanding, then stands to greet the couple who just walked in.

***

‘Can you make pie?’

‘I can. I don’t because it’s not really a brunch food. Maybe if I stayed open later. Why? Do you think I should?’ Mary is sitting at the counter watching Cas, who is removing parts of the espresso machine and wiping them down with a cloth before putting them back – when he’s not simply leaning against the counter and chatting with her.

Business has been slow today.

‘Maybe, but I was actually going to ask if I could special-order one. I’m going to go see my son Dean in the city. He loves pie and I wanted to take him something special.’

Cas chuckles softly and the softest rosy pink tints his cheeks. Mary makes sure to praise him often for the various confections he makes solely to see him blush. He’s really too modest about how talented he is.

‘Does he like apple pie? Granny Smiths are in season right now…’ Cas pulls his order pad from the pocket of his apron and starts to write some things down; ingredients, maybe.

‘Apple pie is his favorite.’

When he’s finished with whatever list he’s making, Cas signs, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but why do you want me to make a pie? You seem like the type of mother who would make her sons seasonal pies for dessert all year long…’

‘Oh believe me, I tried baking, but it never took. I’m sure if Dean could change one thing about me it wouldn’t be that I’m deaf, but rather my complete incompetence in the kitchen.’

Mary continues with stories of her kitchen mishaps until Cas decides it’s better to keep her way from the oven and promises to have a fresh apple pie ready for her to pick up the next morning before she heads to Seattle.

***

‘Mom!?’ Dean’s eyes go wide when he sees her standing in the doorway of his office. ‘What are you doing here?’ He gets up and crosses the small office to greet her.

‘I had some free time; I wanted to come see my baby.’ She says, and he leans in to kiss her cheek. He smells like aftershave and a little bit like grease. He must be working on something specific today.

‘Aren’t you supposed to be busy with hobbies and shit like that now that you’re retired?’

‘Bothering my son at work is my hobby. And watch your language.’

Dean smiles, and almost laughs.

‘Couldn’t you have learned to knit or something instead?’

‘Yeah, because I need something else to keep my hands busy…’

Dean rolls his eyes and really does laugh this time. He’s so handsome - like his dad, but just a tad more delicate which Mary loves about him but will never, ever say.

‘Touché.’

‘Have you had lunch?’ Mary asks.

‘Not yet.’

‘Can I treat you?’

‘You know I get free food from the museum café, right?’

‘I’m your mother. Humor me.’

Dean gestures in the direction of the café, and they walk together through the museum. Dean starts to fill her in on the exhibit he’s been working on, and no wonder he’s been spending so much time at work; it’s an in-depth look at Boeing’s defense planes from the 40’s and 50’s, and Dean’s been getting his hands on all sorts of antique warplanes and never-before developed photography.

‘Dad would have loved it. I’m actually reassembling a B-47 Stratojet that came from the assembly line in Kansas. We’re going to hang it from the ceiling in the main hall.’

‘Do you really know how to build a plane?’ Mary asks, somewhat shocked that her Dean, who is actually terrified of flying, would be so excited about building one.

‘I’m figuring it out, and I’ve got a whole team of pros I get to boss around. Besides, it’s basically just clicking pieces into place. She won’t have any guts, and it’s not like she actually has to fly.’

In the café there are many open tables next to the windows, and it’s cloudy and threatening rain but there’s still a lovely view of the lake and the seaplanes taking off from the water. Some people stop by their table to talk to Dean as they pass by. Mary used to recognize a lot of people from museums all over town as they worked closely together on certain events and exhibits and vied for a lot of the same jobs, but all these faces look new and young. A few of them have obvious gaga-eyes for her son, which he seems to be ignoring.

When they’re alone, Dean sticks strictly to small talk, which, like his B-47 Stratojet, is not going to fly.

‘Another gray day in Seattle… what a surprise.’

Mary pointedly sets down her sandwich and signs, ‘Okay. What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing is wrong. Why?’ Dean wipes his mouth with a napkin and sets it back in his lap, then takes a few chips from the bag and chews slowly. He’s biding his time, but Mary is nothing if not patient.

She says nothing, just stares at him with a patient smile like she’s done since he was a child and wanted him to spill the beans. John once told her that sometimes when she looks at Dean like that he makes a frustrated growling sound. Sam always cracks immediately, but Dean has never been forthright when discussing his feelings.

Finally Dean pounds a fist on the table.

‘Fine!’ Dean throws the sign in her direction.

Mary smiles despite his chagrin. She’s won, as usual.

‘Fine! Dammit. I miss Sammy! Okay? And don’t you tell him that either.’ Dean takes a long drink of his pop and denies eye contact.

Of course he misses Sam. They’d been roommates since Sam moved back from California four years ago. But a few months ago Sam moved in with his girlfriend Gen.

Growing up, the two brothers teased and fought as siblings do, but there was always a very special love between them. Since the day Sam was born Dean had taken the role of Big Brother very seriously. Having no siblings herself Mary didn’t understand that type of bond, but she loved nothing more than watching her two boys grow up so close. Sam knew about Dean’s sexuality for years and actually encouraged him to come out. And Dean, well, let’s just say that Mary and John practically had to hold Dean back from moving to California with Sam when he got accepted to Stanford. And no one was prouder of Sam than his big brother when he graduated with honors from such a prestigious school.

They were best friends and confidants, so of course Dean misses him.

‘I knew he’d move out eventually, but I wasn’t expecting it so soon after dad died. And then you moved out of the city and now I’m just…’ Dean’s hands trail off into a vague gesture before he reaches for his drink again.

‘Lonely?’ Mary supplies, and Dean nods and chews on the inside of his cheek. Instead of explaining that Sam is still in the same city and Dean can see him pretty much whenever he wants, or that Carnation is only a short drive away and that Mary would love to have him come visit more often, she reaches across the table and takes his hand. Right now he needs comfort – not an analysis of why his feelings aren’t justified.

A few brief moments pass before Dean pulls his hand away, ever sensitive to being seen as a coddled Mama’s Boy by his colleagues.

‘I just…’ Dean takes a breath. ‘I wish I had someone. Like how Sam’s got Gen now, you know? I’m thirty-one years old. You and dad met when you were, what, eighteen?’

‘Seventeen.’ She corrects, ‘And your grandpa was not your dad’s number one fan, I’ll tell you that much.’

Dean snickers.

‘I guess I’m just ready to find that person who’ll stick around, you know?’

‘Do you have anyone in mind? Anyone you’ve been seeing? Someone you like?’

Dean shakes his head. ‘No one that really revs my engine. I want someone passionate and funny. And kind. Someone you’d really like, you know? Someone who I could bring home and you’d take one look at them and say ‘hell yes,’ if that makes sense.’

Mary can’t hold back the grin on her face.

‘And they’ve got to be smoking hot.’ Dean finishes with a decisive nod.

‘Well of course.’ Mary agrees.

They go back to talking about the exhibit Dean is putting together, and after lunch and a short walk around the museum, Dean walks Mary back to her car. It’s starting to drizzle, but it probably won’t do much more than that today. It’s just that fine mist that Seattle seems to wear from October until May.

‘You know I worry about you driving around in the city.’ Dean signs after he opens the car door for her. ‘It’s not like driving out there in the sticks.’

‘Oh please. I drove you and your brother all over this city for soccer practice and boy scouts and…’

‘And Sammy’s dance lessons…’ Dean interrupts.

She can’t help but laugh. That’s one thing Dean will never let poor Sam live down.

‘Besides, I’m the one who is supposed to worry about you. Remind me, how many accidents have you gotten into, Mr. Distracted Driver?’ She pokes him in the chest. ‘At least I don’t text and drive.’

‘That was one time. And that guy rear-ended me. Wasn’t even my fault.

In lieu of a snarky response, Mary says ‘I have something for you’ and then leans down into the car, reaching for the box in the passenger seat. She stands up and hands Dean the plain brown box wrapped with a single piece of twine - the pie she picked up from Cas that morning. Dean’s eyes light up when the smell of apples and cinnamon and buttery pastry hits him. He takes a long whiff or two and smiles.

‘Did you make this? Did you have adult supervision this time?’ Dean signs after setting the pie on the roof of the car.

Mary gives him the look, and Dean tosses his head back in a beautiful laugh.

‘No, wise guy, I didn’t make it. It’s from a bakery in Carnation.’ She says when he’s paying attention again.

‘Okay good, because you promised no cooking until we get you a service dog that’ll warn you when the smoke detectors are going off. Which they always do, you know.’

‘You worry about me too much.’

Dean shrugs. ‘Yeah, I know. Don’t expect it to change any time soon, either.’ He pulls her in for a warm, tight hug, and she feels his chest rumble as he says something aloud before squeezing her a little tighter.

She knows he just said, “I love you mom.”

She knows, because she remembers picking him up when he was just a toddler, and she’d hug him and he’d speak against her neck. She asked John what he said, and John replied, ‘I know you can’t hear me Mama but that’s okay because I love you so much.’

It’s something that Dean never stopped doing, and it meant everything to her.

When he finally pulls away, she tells him, ‘A lot has changed this year, and it’s okay if you need time to adjust, but don’t think that you have to do it all on your own. You still have Sam and me; just because we’re not within arm’s reach anymore doesn’t mean we’re not still here for you.’

Dean leans forward and rests his forehead against hers.

It doesn’t matter how big and strong Dean gets – he’s always going to be her baby.

She feels him nod, and he kisses her cheek and steps back.

‘Come see me this weekend. There’s a nice little spot in Carnation I think you’ll like.’

‘Sounds great. I’ll text you.’

‘You better.’

‘Love you mom.’

‘I love you too Dean.’

Dean gives her another quick hug and takes the pie from the roof of the car. She watches him sniff at it one more time as he walks across the parking lot back toward the museum, and she throws a quick prayer up to whoever might be listening that Dean can take just a few more days being lonely because Mother Mary has a plan.

***

‘My son Dean is coming to visit me this weekend.’ Mary tells Cas this as they sit together at what has become Mary’s regular table. The sky is dark and has been threatening all day, and it finally started to really rain about twenty minutes ago. They’ve been sitting in the empty café watching puddles form. Cas blames the weather for today’s lack of customers.

‘That’s nice, but I’m not sure why he doesn’t come visit you more often. Seattle isn’t that far away. If you were my mom I’d visit so much you’d be sick of me.’

‘You’re sweet. He’s a good man, but he’s had a tough year. When John passed away last fall I think Dean took it the hardest. He’s a fixer, and he couldn’t fix that, so he’s sort of buried himself in his work as a distraction. I’m trying to dig him out.’

Cas makes an expression of understanding, then signs, ‘Losing himself in his work is better than some other things he could have lost himself in.’

It seems to Mary that Cas may be speaking from experience, but she lets it go for now.

‘He got that quality from John; that need to fix everything. A car breaks down, get under the hood. Somebody gets sick, make them soup. He’s a problem-solver, my Dean, and he’s brilliant. That’s why he’s so good at his job.’ Then, after a moment and as innocent of a shrug as she can manage, ‘It’s a wonder he’s single...’

Cas gives her a questioning look, and then realization strikes him. ‘It sounds like you’re trying to set me up with your son…’

Mary doesn’t even try to hide her grin.

‘Sneaky woman.’ Faux-drama plays across Cas’ face, and they both laugh. Cas shakes his head and rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling.

‘I just think you two should meet. That’s all.’

‘Is he,’ Cas pauses briefly, and Mary knows what he’s going to ask before he even asks it. ‘Is he gay?’

‘He’s bi.’ She tells him, ‘And very handsome, if I do say so myself.’

Cas shakes his head, chuckling to himself. ‘I should have known you were up to no good today. You had that look when you walked in this morning…’

***

When they walk into the café on that wet Saturday morning a little after ten, Cas is helping three women sitting in a far booth, and while Mary is relieved to see more business in the place than she’s seen all week, she pouts for a brief moment that they had to come in on the day she brought Dean.

But Cas is wearing dark blue jeans and a tight black t-shirt under his clean, crisp apron – he looks too good for Dean not to take notice.

What? Mary can notice things like that, too. She is a warm-blooded woman, you know.

They take a seat at her table by the window, and Dean goes for the single-page menu propped between the napkin stand and the straw dispenser right away, setting it in front of him so he can talk and read.

‘What’s good?’ He asks before looking up.

‘Everything. The lemon crème tart is my favorite, though.’

Cas turns and is walking toward them now, a smile on his face, and then a suspicious, yet almost hopeful look when he notices that Mary’s not alone.

‘Good morning Mary. It’s nice to see you, as always.’ He signs, and his lips move. He must be speaking for Dean’s benefit, and Dean must hear it because his face goes from She’s deaf you idiot to a double-take when he glances up and sees Cas signing, too. Then, he does a triple-take, assumingly because of how attractive Cas is.

Mary signs back, ‘Good morning Cas. Look who came for a visit.’ She’s grinning, and it’s wicked and she knows it, but her grin breaks into a full-on smile when she watches the boys’ eyes meet for the first time. It’s only a second, but it’s enough to see that little spark of… of something.

‘You must be Dean.’ Cas’ signing fumbles a little as he speaks, maybe because he’s not used to doing both at the same time. He’s doing just fine, but Mary sends him a silent prayer of encouragement nonetheless. ‘It’s good to finally meet you. Mary’s told me a lot about you.’

‘All good things I hope.’ He glances at his mother. Oh Dean, don’t be that cliché, she thinks as Dean stands to shake Cas’ hand.

‘Of course.’ Cas says before he takes Dean’s hand and glances at Mary with a look that she can’t quite read.

Dean’s look, however, she can read like a newspaper headline: Dean Winchester Flustered By Blue-Eyed Barista. He sits back down and vehemently focuses on the menu; eyes stock-still because he’s not actually reading it, and fingers scratching nervously at the rough stubble along his jaw. Mary taps the table in front of him to catch his attention.

‘Cas made that pie I brought you the other day.’

With that, Dean’s eyes go wide.

‘What? Really? Well then why am I even looking at this thing, I know what I’m ordering.’ He tucks the menu back in its place and smiles his million mega-watt smile up at Cas.

Cas works his way through a few unintelligible syllables before signing ‘Sorry, I don’t actually sell pie. I made that special for you.’ Then, after a beat, ‘I mean, for Mary. She asked me if I made pie, which I do, but I don’t sell it.’

‘Well you should! That was the best damn pie I’ve ever had in my life.’

That embarrassed pink blush accompanies a shy smile from Cas.

‘You think so?’

‘Hell yes.’

Mary looks from one man to the other, watching them watch each other for just a moment: Dean is looking up at Cas through his enviably long eyelashes, and Cas is staring down with a slight tilt to his head like he’s trying to figure Dean out with just this single look.

‘Well,’ Cas breaks first, ‘Then I’m sorry I don’t have any. But I could bring you something else. I bake everything fresh in the morning.’

Dean is still staring back at Cas, who is patiently awaiting an answer. Mary decides to give a little nudge of encouragement and kicks the toe of Dean’s boot under the table. He startles slightly, and it moves him enough to answer.

‘My mom mentioned something about a lemon tart?’

‘One lemon tart it is.’ Cas smiles, and Dean smiles, and Cas turns to walk away.

He gets about three steps from their table before turning on his heel and coming right back.

‘Mary! I’m so sorry, did you want…’

Mary holds up a hand to stop him; the poor thing.

‘The usual, please.’

‘Of course. I figured. I’ll be right back with that. Thank you.’ He sets his shoulders, almost like a soldier, and glances at Dean quickly before looking back at Mary and giving her a tight nod and heading back to the kitchen. He pushes through the swinging door so hard it flaps back-and-forth four times before settling closed.

‘Now I get why you spend so much time here.’ Dean says after pulling his eyes away from the door Cas just exited through. ‘So what, you just hang out with cute young guys now?’ He’s teasing, of course. But he also just called Cas cute, and Mary can work with that.

‘You said I needed a hobby…’ She smiles, and Dean looks surprised, clearly not sure what to make of her remark.

‘Mom?’

She laughs.

‘Oh please. I’m way too old for him.’ Dean leans back in his seat as she signs. ‘Besides, he’s gay, so I don’t think I’m his type.’ She tries to come across as indifferent with that little nugget of information, but Dean’s eyebrows hit his hairline anyway and he leans forward, resting his elbows on the table, suddenly far more interested than before.

‘You mean he’s…’ Dean’s eyes dart back toward the kitchen just as Cas pushes back through with a plate in each hand, each containing a lemon crème tart. He sets them on the counter in order to prepare Mary’s tea. ‘You sure? How do you know?’ Dean keeps glancing over, presumably to make sure Cas isn’t watching them.

‘He told me. We talk a lot. He’s a very sweet young man. Sweet… and single.’

Cas is collecting their order onto a small tray, seeming overly-focused on such a small task.

‘Is that why you brought me here?’ Dean asks, trying to scowl – but it lacks any real indignation. Before Mary can respond, Cas is there, placing the delicious tarts in front of them.

‘No, this is why I brought you here.’ Mary points to the tarts. They’re perfect, topped with candied lemon slices and sprinkled with powdered sugar. ‘Just trust your mother.’

Mary takes a bite, signaling the end of the conversation, and Dean’s eyes hardly stray from Cas for the rest of their visit.

***

The café smells different when Mary walks in on Tuesday morning, and she realizes why as soon as she steps up to the pastry display case.

There’s a sign on top of the case, and in the same neat handwriting as the sign on the door are the words Seasonal Pies: Blackberry, Pecan, and Apple Cinnamon. On the top shelf of the case are three beautiful pies, all with a piece or two cut out of them.

She immediately takes her cell phone out and snaps a picture, sending it to Dean before Cas can see her do it. When he arrives at the counter to greet her, he sees her eyeing the pies and shrugs shyly.

‘It was a good idea,’ is all he says, and Mary smiles.

***

Mary remembers the first time she saw the Impala when it rolled into her parent’s driveway just after her 18th birthday. John was still learning how to sign at the time, but he’d memorized this whole thing about being a knight and how he’d needed a trusty steed to carry away his princess, so that’s why he’d got the job at the garage and saved up to buy the car. Mary didn’t care that he stumbled through the speech – John leaning up against that car in his leather jacket was the sexiest, most romantic thing she’d ever seen in her life.

She gave John her virginity in the car that night.

And she’d never tell Dean this, but there was a good chance that he was conceived in the backseat of that car years later.

John nearly had a conniption when Dean was seventeen and Mary suggested giving Dean the car for his graduation. The two of them had been working on it together for years – since Dean was tall enough to see over the hood. Eventually John relented. They both knew how much Dean loved that car.

Mary loves it almost as much as John or Dean, so when she sees a sleek black ’67 Chevy Impala parked outside Sacred Grounds there is no question in her mind that it’s the Impala, Dean’s Baby, and that Dean is here.

A quick peek in the window confirms it.

Dean is sitting at the counter, his jacket draped over the stool next to him. There’s a plate in front of him with a half-eaten slice of pie on it, and Dean’s got a fork in his hand, a napkin in his lap, and even though he’s mostly turned away from Mary she can see clearly that he’s laughing. Cas is standing in front of him, leaning back against the counter that houses the espresso machine, arms folded casually over his chest as he talks.

“It was hard to find a job when the only honest qualification on my resume was bicycle touring, so I had to start my own business.”

Mary is generally pretty good at reading lips and that doesn’t exactly make sense, but for some reason it makes Dean laugh even harder, and she watches as Cas’ face scrunches up in an authentic smile, eyes shining as he watches Dean.

The café is empty except for the two of them, but it doesn’t seem to be worrying Cas as it normally does. He seems pretty preoccupied, and Dean seems more relaxed than she’s seen him in weeks. Mary almost doesn’t interrupt, thinking she’ll take a walk around the block to give the boys a few more minutes alone, but Cas spies her in the window.

“Your mother’s here.” He says with a smile and a wave.

Dean turns toward the window too, his mouth still pulled up in a residual laugh, and waves her in.

‘Hey mom.’ Dean signs, nonchalant – like he hasn’t just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

‘Hi honey.’ She sets her purse on the counter and sits on a stool next to Dean, tousling his hair and watching him tamp it back down immediately. ‘Hi Cas.’ She grins. Cas seems much more confident than the last time Dean was here.

Unless this isn’t the first time that Dean has been back this week…

‘Hello Mary. The usual?’ He pulls the dishcloth off his shoulder and sets it on the back counter.

‘Actually I think I’d like to try a slice of the pecan pie.’

‘With a scoop of vanilla ice cream?’

‘Of course.’ Like that’s even a question. ‘And a black coffee, please.’

‘Coming right up.’ Cas turns and busies himself with her order. Mary turns to Dean, ready to ask him why he didn’t tell her that he was coming into town, but then she sees him watching Cas bend over to reach into the pastry case, and the answer is clear.

Nothing stops her from pinching Dean on the back of his arm to get his attention. He jumps and makes a face.

“Ow!”

‘What was that for?’ he signs, petulant and a little embarrassed.

‘Behave yourself.’ Mary says. Dean glances back to make sure Cas isn’t watching them. ‘I knew you’d like him.’

Dean blushes and looks down at his plate.

‘Well yeah. He’s gorgeous and he bakes pies. You know my type…’ Dean keeps his eyes on Cas until he disappears behind the swinging door to the kitchen. ‘And he’s funny, and sort of weird but really smart. And…’ Dean stops when he looks back at Mary, squinting. ‘What?’

‘Nothing.’ Mary shakes her head knowingly.

Cas reappears with Mary’s pie with a perfectly round scoop of ice cream melting over the top of it, and the three of them spend the morning discussing Dean’s upcoming exhibit and sipping coffee until three women and one man come in.

They stand at the case, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the pie before ordering a slice each.

‘I guess I should get to work, too.’ Dean stands, looking at his watch. It’s nearly noon and Dean is never late to work, but since he’s been working pretty much non-stop for weeks Mary supposes he’s finally found a reason to give himself a break. She must be giving him a weird look, because he then says, “I wanted to miss traffic.’

Mary chooses not to mention that he drove nearly thirty miles out of his way in commuter traffic to see Cas, and nods in agreement instead.

He gives Mary a hug and sets a twenty dollar bill on the counter.

“Oh, that’s not…” Cas protests, immediately sliding the bill back in Dean’s direction.

“No now you let me bum around in here all morning and all I ordered was a piece of pie…”

“Really, I can’t…”

“Please, just think of it as a down payment on another apple pie.”

Before Cas can protest further Dean turns to Mary.

‘Bye mom, see you later.’

‘Bye sweetheart. Love you.’

‘Love you.’ Dean turns to leave, but it doesn’t escape Mary’s notice that he turns and says goodbye to Cas one more time. Cas, in turn, watches Dean as he walks out the door and past the windows toward the car, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth before he breaks into a smirk.

‘More coffee?’ is all he says when he sees that Mary has been watching him the whole time.

He smiles to himself as he refills her mug, and at that moment Mary realizes she’s witnessing this man fall in love with her son.

***

It’s Thursday afternoon, and Mary’s finds herself in an almost constant state of pre-sneeze from dust she’s kicked up after hours spent in the depths of the library searching for a few specific pieces of information for her book that she could swear she remembers reading years and years ago but can’t remember the source.

>>Text Received<< Is it always as slow at Cas’ shop as it was when we were there?

The text from Dean is a welcome distraction.

<<Text Sent>> Unfortunately yes, I think so. Why?

>>Text Received<< The other day he was talking about having to fold. He might need to shut the place down.

Mary’s heart sinks a little.

<<Text Sent>> That’s awful, but sadly not surprising. Sometimes I’m the only one in there for hours.

<<Text Sent>> I hope he can figure something out.

<<Text Sent>> How often do you talk to him?

There are a few minutes of silence on Dean’s end, and Mary’s about to continue her relentless search for Chalá·at history along the Hoh River when her phone vibrates once again.

>>Text Received<< That’s not important.

She laughs to herself, knowing full-well that means all the time. Rapid-fire texts from Dean quickly follow.

>>Text Received<< I think I have an idea.

>>Text Received<< You know there are four other bakeries in town but none of them sell pie?

>>Text Received<< Two are coffee shops (like Cas’), one only sells “cake pops” whatever the hell that is… and one is all gluten-free granola bird food crap. And then there’s Starbucks, but that doesn’t count.

>>Text Received<< So what if he opened the first specialty pie shop in Carnation? I mean, his pies are freaking amazing.

<<Text Sent>> They are delicious, but do you think pie alone would draw people in?

Then, just to hound Dean a little more she quickly adds,

<<Text Sent>> I mean, do you think that people would drive miles out of their way in traffic – insuring that they’ll be late to work – just for a slice of apple pie?

>>Text Received<< If stupid cake pops are that popular I don’t see why pie couldn’t be. Pie is the freakin’ best.

>>Text Received<< And I see what you did there. Har har. I gotta go. I’m workin.

Mary chuckles and tucks her phone away in her jacket pocket, continuing her dig through the dusty tomes, her mind oscillating between the beauty of the Hoh River and hoping that Dean’s Mr. Fix-It mode doesn’t come across as domineering when he inevitably presents Cas with a brand new business model.

***

This morning Mary received a text from Dean giving her a heads up that he is coming into town and that she could meet him at Sacred Grounds if she wants to.

She had planned on heading over to the café anyway, but she decides that she wants to give the two men a chance to get to spend some time together – without parental supervision.

Although she didn’t really know how much time they had been spending together. She knew they talked (and fairly often, if Dean’s silence on the matter was anything to go by), but did Dean come into town frequently without telling her? Did Cas ever visit Dean at work? Had they gone on a date? She really wasn’t sure…

Curiosity got the better of her, and Mary made her way to the café around eleven o’clock.

When she arrives, Dean and Cas are sitting side-by-side at the counter, pressed together from shoulder to elbow. Cas seems to be explaining something to Dean, who’s taking notes and nodding along in agreement.

They hear her come in, because they both look back at her and smile.

‘It’s about time slowpoke...’ Dean signs. Mary realizes that he’s wearing his glasses, which he never wears if he can help it.

‘I wasn’t sure what I’d be walking into.’ She responds, sliding onto the stool next to Cas and taking in the sight of various loose papers, a laptop, Dean’s notebook, and old, stained recipe cards strewn across the countertop. ‘To be honest I’m still not sure…’

‘Dean is helping me rethink my business plan.’ Cas signs excitedly, and soon the two men are catching her up to speed; they’re signing simultaneously and talking so quickly that Mary almost can’t keep up. Occasionally, while they rehash the plan they come up with another new idea and Dean takes a moment to write it down. Cas shows her his great-grandmother’s recipe cards, all written in a beautiful script, and then begins explaining that he wants to create his own book of recipes: updates on old-fashioned favorites.

‘If I can make a name for myself, that is.’

‘So,’ she signs when she can finally get a word in edgewise, ‘Sacred Grounds Coffee House and Small Eats is going to become Castiel’s Pie Emporium?’

‘He’ll still make all this,’ Dean gestures at the pastry case, ‘But the focus will be on pie. There isn’t a single place to get pie in Carnation.’

‘That’s not true…’ Cas responds. ‘You can buy those little pre-packaged fruit pies at the Gas-n-Sip.’

Dean tosses his head back and laughs and elbows Cas in the arm.

‘Dork.’ Dean rolls his eyes. ‘I’m going to hit the head.’ He announces needlessly as he gets off his stool and makes his way to the bathroom.

Mary taps Cas’ arm to pull his attention away from the recipe cards he’s lovingly tucking back into a worn wooden box.

‘I know Dean is passionate, and I know I already warned you that he is a fixer, but don’t let him steamroll you into this. He’s got blinders on and all he can see is pie. This is your business…’

‘I know,’ Cas nods, interrupting gently. ‘But he’s incredibly smart, and his excitement is contagious. Besides, he’s right. I’ve sold out of pie every day, and if I don’t do something I’m going to lose this place. And I enjoy spending time with him.’ He grins. ‘And with you, for that matter. If I closed this place down when would I ever see you?’

‘Smooth.’ Mary teases with a slight raise of her eyebrows.

‘It’s true!’ Cas laughs and scrubs his hands down his face and then through his hair. Dean does that same thing when he’s nervous or upset. ‘I have to keep this place, Mary. It’s all I have…’

Mary can’t help but reach out and give his hand a soft, reassuring squeeze. She’s spent hours talking to this man, but she still doesn’t know how it’s possible that he’s on his own, here, so far away from his family with no one to help, support, or encourage him. She couldn’t even imagine not living close to her boys. Sure, Sam went to college in California but they always knew he was going to come home.

‘It’s not all you have.’ She signs after a thoughtful moment. ‘I happen to have it on good authority that there’s at least one headstrong museum junkie and a deaf history buff who care an awful lot about you.’

Cas scrunches his nose up in a sniffle and gives her a grateful look before reaching over and tentatively wrapping his arms around her in a hug. Mary reciprocates happily, hugging him as she’d hug Sam or Dean, squeezing tightly and petting the soft hair at the nape of his neck. She feels him relax into it and rest his cheek against her shoulder.

When was the last time Cas got a hug from his mother?

When was the last time this sweet boy got a hug from anyone?

The thought makes her squeeze him a little tighter.

Then she feels Cas’ jaw move and there’s a rumbling vibration through his back and against her arms – it’s short, two words at the most; maybe thank you.

It doesn’t matter what words he said – they resonate their way into her soul where she can keep them safe.

When they part only a moment later, Cas smiles at her and ducks his head immediately.

A shadow falls across the counter, and then Dean is back, sitting on his stool on the other side of Cas.

‘What did I miss?’ He glances at Cas and then at Mary, realizing that something has shifted since he’d walked away.

‘I was just telling Cas not to let you bully him into making his business your personal pie palace.’ Mary chides.

Dean denies the accusation, and Cas teases him a little, then gets up to get him another slice of pie.

***

Tonight is the opening party of Dean’s Boeing exhibit, and even though he said it’s not a fancy affair Mary has put on a floor-length dress, a silk shawl, and the pearl necklace John got her for her 50th birthday. She may be a tad bit overdressed but doesn’t care as she enters the grand atrium at the center of the museum.

Suspended high above the crowd is the two-seater jet that Dean had reassembled and she smiles, full of pride. My son built that she thinks to herself.

The rest of his exhibit is on the third floor, but most people are stopped here to ogle the underside of this main centerpiece. Many others are wandering the perimeter of the second, third, and forth floor balconies to see the sides, wings, and top of it.

Mary is blown away by the large crowd (and the eighty-ton shell of a plane hanging above them), but she doesn’t miss the familiar face of one particular pie-maker – standing in the corner of the room, wearing dark fitted slacks and a white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and a thin black tie. He’s looking up at the war plane like it's the most incredible and confusing thing he’s ever seen. She passes on the glass of wine that’s offered by a passing hostess, and instead wanders casually over to Cas who doesn’t notice she's there until she’s tapping him on the arm.

‘Fancy meeting you here.’ She smiles, but it fades after she gets hardly a reaction. Sure, he’s looking at her, but it’s with the same confused, worried look he had when he was looking at the plane. ‘Is everything alright?’

‘I make pie.’ Cas says, looking up at the jet once again and pausing, and Mary thinks that seems like a silly thing to be thinking about right now until he continues. ‘I make pie. And he builds jets.’ He looks at her finally with a worried expression. ‘How can those two things even compare?’

Ah. So that’s what he’s concerned about.

‘Well, for starters you can’t eat a fighter jet.’ Mary signs, getting an almost-smile from Cas. ‘Or fly a pie, for that matter.’

‘You know what I mean.’ He signs back, giving her the stink-eye but kind of laughing, too.

‘Of course I know what you mean. What I’m saying is that they don’t compare, and they don’t need to.’

Some of the tension in Cas’ shoulders dissipates and he takes a breath, nodding briefly in agreement and hopefully letting go of the argument he was clearly waging in his head.

‘I suppose you’re right.’

Mary remembers what Cas had mentioned many months ago – about how he always keeps himself so busy so he doesn’t over-think things – and decides to use a distraction tactic.

‘Of course I’m right. I’m a mother. Ask my boys - that means I’m universally right about everything. Now, come along and walk with me. I’ve been out of the museum scene for too long; I want to walk by that group of goons over there. You can eavesdrop and relay to me what all the fresh new gossip is.’

They spend a few minutes arm-in-arm, walking the outskirts of the large group of directors and registrars from various museums around the city. She knows that most of them are here to seek Dean’s skill set for their own museum. A few of them recognize her and come by to say hello but for the most part they wander, uninterrupted as they head toward the stairs on their way to the main exhibit.

The juiciest bit of gossip Cas is able to glean from overhearing the various conversations doesn’t come as a surprise to her at all; Balthazar Roché, the salacious director of the Asian Art Museum, had been caught having yet another affair – this time on the floor of the Chinese Erotic Art exhibit with not one but three museum tour guides.

At least this time it was after-hours.

By the time they reach the third floor it seems as if Cas has forgotten all about his struggle of reconciling pie and military aircraft, and is instead laughing and musing with Mary over the confusing logistics of a four-way.

They find Sam in the crowd before Dean, since he stands a head taller than almost everyone else in the room. Mary leads Cas toward him and Gen, who is ogling the plane from the balcony outside the main exhibit. She sees Mary first and waves, then turns to get Sam’s attention.

Gen still gets a little nervous around Mary. Partially because she’s the mother of the man she’s dating, but also because she’s still learning how to sign and can’t talk to Mary as easily. They text frequently, though, and she hopes that makes her more comfortable. Mary appreciates that she’s learning to sign. It can’t be easy, and she always tries to make it clear that she truly does appreciate the effort.

‘Mom!’ Sam leans down and gives her a hug. Hugging Sammy is a lot like hugging John, and it makes Mary ache a little.

Gen gives her a hug too and signs a simple ‘hello,’ then all eyes are on Cas, who is attempting to not look like a deer in headlights.

‘Cas, this is my youngest son Sam and his girlfriend Gen. This is Cas. He’s my date.’ Mary grins and elbows Cas in the arm and he blushes. He’s so easy to embarrass; it’s a little evil how much she enjoys it.

‘So this is Cas.’ Sam speaks as he signs, and when he says Cas’ name Gen’s eyes widen in recognition, too. ‘We’ve heard a lot about you. It’s nice to put a face to the name…’

Cas eyes Mary as he shakes Sam’s hand, and Mary raises her hands up in innocence before defending herself.

‘Don’t look at me. I haven’t told them anything.’

Handshakes conclude and friendly small talk ensues as they make their way into the exhibit’s main room to find Dean.

Gen talks to Cas, distracting him while Sam grills Mary for information.

‘So that’s Cas. Dean hasn’t shut up about this guy for weeks. Did you really bring him or did Dean invite him?’

‘Dean must have invited him. I just grabbed him when I saw him wandering around downstairs like a lost puppy. I don’t think Dean knows we’re here yet.’

Mary is back on Cas’ arm, and before they enter through the large glass double-doors to the exhibit’s main room, he stops them to read the small placard on the wall just outside:

About the Curator: Dean Winchester holds three Master’s Degrees: Electrical Engineering (University of Washington), Mechanical Engineering (Western Washington University), and History (Gonzaga), and is a regular contributor to the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History. His articles have also been featured in The American Historical Review and National Geographic. His small-scale and large-scale mechanical dioramas have been featured in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and other museums across the country and throughout Canada. He resides in Seattle and is a regular curator of aviation and machinery at MOHAI.

‘I had no idea… Dean has three Master’s Degrees?’ Cas stares in awe.

Mary fights the urge to go on a long diatribe about how smart and talented her son is and how unbelievably proud she is of him, but now is not the time.

‘Don’t over-think it, honey.’

Cas squares his shoulders and they enter the room.

She sees Dean almost immediately. He’s practically glowing; all smiles and comfortable posturing as he discusses something with a wealthy-looking couple while standing next to a series of historical black-and-white Boeing photographs. Despite the fact that he’s wearing dark blue jeans, his white button-up shirt and fitted gray v-neck sweater with a black tie tucked inside it makes him look just professional enough while still looking very much like himself. His sleeves are pulled up to his elbows and he’s twirling a pen in his fingers. Always fidgeting, that boy.

He smiles when he looks over and sees Mary, and then smiles impossibly wider when his eyes find Cas next to her. He quickly excuses himself from the two he’d been talking to (probably donors, Mary thinks), and heads their way.

‘Damn, mom, your date is hot!’ Dean signs, giddy and confident, just before he leans in and kisses her on the cheek, and then clasps Cas on the shoulder. Mary pretends not to notice the way Dean’s hand lingers.

“Glad you came, Cas.”

‘We’re here too, you know!’ Sam shoves Dean in the shoulder.

‘Oh like I didn’t see you there, Sasquatch.’

‘Shut up.’

‘You shut up.’

“Jerk!” Sam tugs on the knot of Dean’s tie making it go askew.

“Bitch!” Dean musses Sam’s hair roughly.

‘BOYS!’ Mary claps once to get their attention. ‘We’re in public… at an exhibit opening – at your exhibit opening, Dean. For the love of God can you two act like two grown men for just a few minutes?’

They both look slightly ashamed but continue their verbal sparring, trying to place blame.

Cas turns to Mary.

‘Sasquatch?’ He asks.

‘Don't ask.’ She says and rolls her eyes.

‘Can I show you around?’ Dean asks Cas, pointedly ignoring the amused look Sam is giving him.

Cas nods, fighting a grin.

‘What about us?’ Sam asks, slightly sardonic, and he’s completely ignored as Dean leads Cas away with a hand at the small of his back heading toward the far end of the exhibit.

‘He just stole your date.’ Sam says, and Gen laughs.

‘I’ll live. Gen, do you mind if I share yours?’

Sam translates and Gen grins.

‘Not at all.’

Sam takes Gen on his right arm and Mary on his left and they continue to explore the exhibit.

***

Pie becomes so popular at Sacred Grounds that Cas now has to bake periodically throughout the day instead of baking everything in the morning. He still comes in early, and he always finds time to talk to Mary, but with the now nearly steady stream of customers coming in and out all day long, many of them picking up whole pies or special orders, he sells out of pie more often than not.

He’s running himself ragged, Mary can tell, but she can’t say anything because despite the bags under his eyes and the exhaustion he shows when he finally sits down with her after closing the doors at two o’clock, he has a genuine smile on his face.

Mary misses their calm days together, but she can’t deny what a relief it is to see the place turning a profit. Cas has worked hard. He’s earned this success; now he just needs a small wait staff to help him out.

***

It’s almost two-thirty before the final patrons leave their table, thanking Cas on their way out and leaving their empty plates at the counter. Instead of jumping into cleaning, which Cas usually does as he’s somewhat of a neat-freak, he comes over to the table where Mary and Dean have been sitting and takes a break as soon as the door is locked.

He never makes them leave as he closes up.

Mary notices that despite his baking all day, his apron is still completely clean and crisp. He must have one in the kitchen to wear while he bakes, and one for when he’s customer-facing, although that seems a bit silly to her.

‘I’m thinking about changing the name of this place. Sacred Grounds just doesn’t seem that appropriate anymore.’

‘Yeah? What are you thinking?’ Dean asks, looking up from his laptop. Mary has noticed (but hasn’t dared to comment) that Dean has been spending a lot more time working remotely from the here than in his office. Apparently with his exhibit completed he has a lot more free time, and is using it to brainstorm for his next big project-

And ogle Cas, which he spends plenty of time doing.

‘I don’t know. Something related to pie, I think.’

‘Cas’ House of Pie?’ Dean suggests.

‘I don’t think I want my name in it.’

‘Okay, then The House of Pie?’ Dean tries again, and Cas gives him a look that says he’s no good at this. ‘The Pie House?’ Dean tries one final time, and it gives Mary an idea.

‘What about The Pie Hole?’

‘As in ‘shut your?’’ Dean says.

‘Or ‘open your…’’ Cas responds.

‘Or ‘stuff your.’’ Mary adds.

‘Mary that’s perfect!’

***

It takes nineteen days for the paperwork to be filed and a license with the new name to come through (according to Dean, who has been helping Cas through the entire process), and when Mary walks up to the front door and sees the new sign, she can’t help the laugh that escapes her lungs.

Just like the old Sacred Grounds sign, the new sign is also hand-painted. It’s circular and painted to look like a bird’s-eye view of a classic lattice-topped cherry pie, with the words ‘The Pie Hole’ written in beautiful red script in the center. An even closer look shows that in small print bordering the edge of the pie are the words ‘Shut Your,’ ‘Open Your,’ and ‘Stuff Your.’

The air outside the café-turned-bakery smells of buttery pastry and something else sweet and fruity – a combination of fruit fillings, she supposes, and it makes her mouth water.

It’s utterly ridiculous and completely perfect, and Mary is certain that anyone who walks by with a nose and half a brain won’t be able to stop themselves from going in for a piece.

***

Mary shows up to the café one day and is surprised to find that her regular table by the window is empty, despite most other tables being full.

Then she notices that sitting atop the classic white-and-chrome dinette stands a wooden sign, the word ‘Reserved’ painted on it in the same script as the sign in the door, with a few yellow and white flowers painted in the corners. A small, glass vase with yellow and red tulips sits next to it.

There’s a tap on her shoulder and she turns to see Cas with that shy smile on his lips.

‘Is this for me?’ She can’t help but ask even though she already knows the answer.

Cas nods.

‘I just wanted to make sure you knew there would always be a place for you here, even when it’s busy.’ He clenches his fists nervously for a moment before signing, ‘You’re very important to me. I hope you know that.’

Mary feels a few pesky tears sting behind her eyes as he wraps her in a tight hug. She hugs him back, of course, and when they finally part he kisses her on the cheek just like her boys do, and then hands her a neatly-folded cotton handkerchief from his back pocket that she uses to dab the tears away.

***

Only a few short days after Cas put up the ‘Help Wanted’ sign in the window, Mary walks into The Pie Hole to see a smiley blond woman behind the counter.

“Hiya! Welcome to The Pie Hole! What can I get ya?”

Cas is standing next to her, also smiling.

‘Donna, this is Mary Winchester, my favorite customer. Mary, meet my new employee Donna Hanscum.’

“Oh! This is Mary! It’s so nice to meet ya!” The woman reaches over the counter to shake Mary’s hand.“Can you read lips?” She then turns to Cas immediately, “Can she read lips?”

Mary and Cas both nod, and Donna smiles impossibly wider.

“Goody!”

Barely a moment has passed before Donna is turning and greeting the next customers in line, and Cas walks around the counter to greet Mary with a hug.

‘She seems sweet.’ Mary signs as she and Cas walk over to their table.

‘She is an unstoppable ball of energy, but yes, she is very sweet. And she might like pie even more than Dean does.’

Mary gives him a look.

‘That’s not possible.’

‘You’re right.’ Cas scrunches his nose and shakes his head, laughing. ‘As I was saying that it seemed very wrong.’

They spend a few minutes catching up before Donna comes over to let him know that they’re out of cherry pie. She’s also brought a small tray with a lemon crème tart and a ceramic pot of what appears to be Earl Gray tea.

“Your favorite, right?” Donna gives her a wink and a grin before walking away with an unrefined pep in her step.

‘I like her.’ Mary tells Cas.

‘I do, too.’ Cas says, as he stands and heads toward the kitchen to get back to work.

***

‘Hey! Cas finally got his new menus!’ Mary points to the fresh, newly laminated single-page menu as soon as they take a seat at their regular table.

Dean grabs the menu first, thumbing over the stiff corners as he reads. He’s smiling, but then his smile goes a little slack in a slightly-awed expression.

‘Excuse me a second...’ He signs as quickly as possible before pushing his chair away from the table and standing up, heading toward the counter.

Mary takes the menu and turns it on the table so it’s facing her. She sees the new logo, just like the sign on the door. It’s cute.

Then she sees what must have gotten Dean’s attention - the first item on the menu:

Dean’s Favorite Apple Pie

Smiling, Mary reads through the rest of the pies on the menu, all of which have their generic names and clear notes about seasonal fruit and availability, when she notices movement as the heads from all other patrons snap to look in the direction of the kitchen. A few people stand up to see what the apparent commotion is, then sit back down, some of them shaking their heads.

Looking toward the counter Mary only sees the door to the kitchen swinging wildly at first – but when it swings back open she catches a brief glimpse of Dean – who has Cas backed up against the metal door of an industrial refrigerator and is kissing him roughly. They’re surrounded by a plume of white fluff which can only be flour from a bowl that was likely spilled in the frenzy, and it puffs through the swinging door as it swings two more times and finally stills closed.

Mary turns away from their direction and grins.

When Dean returns to the table a few minutes later he is disheveled and blushing. He doesn’t say anything; just picks up the menu and avoids eye contact.

A minute later, after Dean has nearly stared a hole through the menu, Cas walks up with two plates of apple pie and sets them on the table. There are flour smudges and creases all over his normally crisp apron. When he turns to walk away, Mary sees two large, flour handprints on the butt of his jeans.

She cocks an eyebrow at her son.

‘I had nothing to do with that.’ He signs before picking up his fork and taking a large bite of pie. He grins around the mouthful.

It doesn’t escape Mary’s notice that Dean has flour caked under his nails and on his shirt, too.

***

Things around the café don’t change much once Dean and Cas are together; except now the boys’ hands brush more often than not if the opportunity presents itself, and Dean wanders back into the kitchen to steal a few kisses when he thinks no one will notice.

Mary and Donna always notice though, and send knowing looks to each other every time.

***

It takes some time and convincing before Dean (with Mary’s help, of course) talks Cas into going on a vacation.

‘What would I do with the shop?’

‘Who would bake the pies?’

‘What if something goes wrong?’

Every concern Cas has is nixed by Dean… or Mary... and even Donna gets in on it when she mentions that her husband used to be a baker for the New Orleans Cake Café & Bakery and would be happy to lend a hand while Cas is on hiatus.

Dean had never been outside of the United States, and Cas had always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, so after Donna’s husband Benny was trained and another part-time employee – a sweet redhead girl named Charlie – was hired on, plane tickets were purchased and a prescription for Xanax was filled by Dean’s doctor just in case he starts to have a panic attack at the gate.

Honestly, Mary was shocked that this trip had been all Dean’s idea. Mary tried to hide her surprise, afraid that if she brought it up it might trigger his fears, but really – Dean was utterly terrified of flying. She assumed that seeing Eiffel Tower and its all its wrought-iron glory (and the Louvre, let’s not forget that little box on Dean’s list of must-sees) was enough to get Dean past his phobia – especially now that he had someone to hold his hand through it all.

Then, the day before the two men were set to leave, Dean showed Mary the ring he’d picked out for Cas, and while tears streamed down her cheeks, Dean’s sudden desire to get to Paris – the most romantic city in the world – made a whole lot more sense.

***

It’s early afternoon, and Mary is in her garden, up to her elbows in dirt and blackberry brambles, when her cell phone vibrates suddenly in her pocket and displays Dean’s WhatsApp number. Her heart skips a beat – it has been radio silence since the boys landed in France last week. Not even Sam had heard from them.

Taking off her gloves and opening the message, she is graced with a picture of the two of them, apparently taken by a passerby, of Cas with his eyes squeezed closed as he kisses Dean on the cheek, and Dean smiling wider than she’s ever seen. The Eiffel Tower sparkles bright behind them.

A ring is visible on Cas’ left hand, glimmering in the evening light as Cas grips onto the front of Dean’s shirt, keeping him pulled close.

Another text comes through while she’s still smiling at the image of the two boys looking so deliriously happy.

Mary lets the pure joy bubble out of her in a nearly hysterical laugh, and while the tears fall from her eyes she reads;

>>Text Received<< He said yes.