Dean always thought it was unfair how the last vestiges of August were spent sweating in a school classroom. He’d never been too keen on it himself – even if the air conditioning now was significantly better than it had been seventeen years ago. Dean had always preferred to skip class and waste time in the sunshine – preferably with a pretty girl at his side, driving the Impala out of town, and making the most of their free afternoons.
That was how he and Anna ended up with Marnie.
Now, he found himself leaning on the side of the Impala, waiting for the bell to ring, reliving those memories as he stared at the concrete buildings of Sioux Fall’s High.
It was five minutes later when students started pouring out, eager to escape the confines of stuffy classrooms and the pain of the first day back. Dean watched the crowd, scanning it for Marnie’s familiar shock of red hair.
He spotted her winding her way through the crush, hand in hand with Michael, her best friend since the age of four. The boy had grown exponentially over the summer, and now dwarfed the tiny figure of his daughter, who had not inherited any of the Winchester height genes. It was a constant complaint in their house, especially since Dean had taken to hiding cookies on top of the kitchen cupboards.
They were chatting happily, Marnie listening easily as Michael bent down to whisper something in her ear and then pushing him away with a shove and roll of her eyes. Dean chuckled to himself and raised a hand in an attempt to make himself seen in the crowd of cars.
Not that you could miss the Impala anywhere.
“Hey you two,” Dean smiled, “have a good day?” He clicked the trunk open to allow Marnie to throw her bag in, noting the small mountain of books she had also managed to acquire in the space of one day.
“Yeah, it was ok,” Marnie answered with a shrug. “Same old, same old.”
“Would you like a ride Michael?” Dean added, glancing over at the blonde boy, who’d definitely grown but still looked about twelve with his wide blue eyes and softly styled hair.
“Oh, no thanks Mr Winchester. I have to go to work – but thanks for the offer, normally I’d love one,” Michael smiled up at him, batting his eyelashes. “Maybe next time?”
“Sure.” Dean grinned, ignoring the scoffing sounds from his daughter. He wasn’t even quite sure why she was making them to be honest. He pulled open the door of the Impala, sliding onto the soft leather seat and feeling the familiar rumble as the engine purred into life. Led Zeppelin blared from the speakers as Dean pulled the car into the road, attempting not to run any teenagers over in the process. It probably wouldn’t look good down at the station if their leading homicide detective committed manslaughter.
“So, how was your first day back?” Dean asked, rolling down the windows, letting a cool breeze stream into the car, “and take your feet off my dash, you know the rules.” He reached out, playfully swatting at his daughter’s sneakers, noting the fond eye roll he got in return as Marnie folded her legs down.
“It was fine. Same as usual really, although they already started talking about college applications. Got a new history teacher, he seems pretty cool.”
“Yeah – think he’s gonna be good?” Dean asked, trying not to be annoyed that the school is already pushing college applications, something Marnie’s been worrying about all summer.
“Well, he’s got a PhD from Harvard so I think so,” Marnie laughed, hitting re-wind on the stereo to replay The Immigrant Song , “plus he’s kinda hot, so that’ll be a nice change from Marv.” Dean chuckled, remembering the twitchy old man he’d been forced to listen Marnie whine about for the past few years. “Met this new kid too, he’s super sweet. Michael and I are adopting him because he’s so precious. Like a duckling,” Marnie sighed. “I think he just moved here, which sucks because it’s senior year and he knows nobody. Michael’s already tried hitting on him though, which has gotta be a new record.”
“Really?” Dean chuckled. “I didn’t know Michael wanted a boyfriend.”
“He does and he doesn’t. I mean he still thinks you’re the hottest thing he’s ever seen – which is weird and kinda gross. I mean he asked me today if you’d consider being his daddy .”
“Well I mean, he is practically your brother, he spends enough time at my house too. I’m guessing things aren’t great at home again?” Dean mused, trying to think of a week during the holidays that Michael hadn’t been round his house. That boy really could do with a father figure. Beside him, Marnie spluttered, and Dean raised an eyebrow. “What’s so funny?”
“Holy shit dad, not like a father but a daddy …” she paused, and shook her head at him, “y’know like a sexual kinda daddy… fuck me daddy, that sorta thing.”
“What the fuck? No!” Dean burst out, rubbing his face with one hand as he tried to erase that image from his mind. He was going to need goddamn brain bleach now. “Just no! Nah uh, never ever gonna happen. He’s a kid. And you can tell him that! Jesus Christ.” Dean shook his head again, Marnie’s giggling ringing in his ears.
Still, that explained the eyelash batting.
Dean saw the sneakers a split second before he tripped over them, attempting valiantly to maintain an upright position while not dropping his duffel bag. It didn’t work. His knee twinged as it thwacked into the edge of the stairs and he swore violently as he cracked his elbow on the wooden floor.
“Son of a bitch! Marnie!” he yelled, noting the flowery pattern on the shoes. “MARNIE!” If he had told her once, he had told her a thousand times – don’t leave your shoes just lying around by the front door. They had a shoe rack for a reason!
“What?” Marnie’s voice echoed from the kitchen, where Dean could also hear the low baseline of music playing.
“Shoes!” Dean called, noting the second pair of polished brown boots, neatly lined up next to Marnie’s. Those he doesn’t recognise. They definitely didn’t look like anything Michael owned either.
“Sorry,” came the unapologetic response. Dean shook his head and rubbed his elbow as he made his way into the large kitchen that took up the whole of the back of the house. It was a beautiful space that Dean had pretty much designed and built himself, with huge windows that allowed the afternoon light to stream through. The delicious smell of Marnie’s peanut butter and chocolate cookies filled his nostrils and he allowed himself a deep inhale. Hopefully his daughter and her companion had left him some, otherwise there was going to be trouble.
“You don’t sound sorry,” he grumbled, as he dumped his bag on a nearby chair. There was a cooling tray of cookies on the table, and Dean swiped one as payment for his wounded ego.
“You’re just clumsy, old man, maybe you need glasses,” Marnie shot back from behind the counter, a ball of cookie dough in hand. Beside her was an unfamiliar boy, with fluffy, dark blonde hair and a soft, confused smile.
“Brat,” Dean added, with a smile, turning to face the young man. “Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met before. I’m Detective Winchester, Marnie’s dad.” He reached his hand out, which the boy took nervously. His grip was strong though and Dean made a check in the positive column in his head.
“It’s nice to meet you sir, I’m Jack.”
Jack… that name rang a bell, but Dean couldn’t place it. “Nice to meet you too, Jack,” he said, attempting to use his firm work voice. The one he used when he wanted to intimidate people. Not that he was worried about Marnie, they’d had so many talks over the years, Dean knew she would talk to him about anything. But this was the first time there’d been a boy in Dean’s house that wasn’t Michael since Marnie stopped having birthday parties. She’d never shown an interest in having a boyfriend before.
“So, Jack… I haven’t seen you around here before.” Out of the corner of his eye, Dean could see Marnie shaking her head. He’d probably get an earful later, but it would be worth it to have a little fun tormenting this boy.
“Yes, I just moved here a few weeks ago. My father got a teaching job here.” Jack squinted at him slightly, head on one side, as if wondering why Dean was asking him.
“What does you father teach?” asked Dean, attempting to swipe a piece of cookie dough off the side. He was too slow though and winced as Marnie whacked his knuckles with a wooden spoon.
“No touching!” she snapped, shooting Dean a hard look. “And Jack’s dad is my new history professor, Dr. Novak.”
“He’s not my real father though, I’m adopted,” Jack said quickly, “my mother died when I was a child.”
Dean tried not to stare open-mouthed, but damn it was hard. This kid was definitely something… although he wasn’t sure what that something was. “Well… that’s… I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s ok,” Jack added, “Castiel takes excellent care of me. I don’t miss her too much.”
There was a soft, sweet expression on Marnie’s face and Dean had seen that look before – Marnie was totally gone on this boy. She looked like she didn’t know whether she wanted to cuddle him or kiss him. Dean was hoping it was very much the former. They may have had in depth discussions about everything from first kisses to blowjobs to the realities of sex, but Dean wasn’t quite sure he was ready for the reality of that situation.
“That’s... good to hear,” Dean said, not really sure what else he could say. “What are your plans for this evening then?” he added, in a quick attempt to change the subject.
“We’re gonna go study. We’ve got a presentation to work on for English already,” Marnie said, sliding the last tray of cookies into the oven. “Can you keep an eye on those please? They’ll need about twenty minutes. After they come out, you can put the lasagna in too, it’ll just need some extra cheese on top.”
“Sure,” Dean said distractedly, his mind too occupied with the word study . Study did not mean studying. It never meant studying. It meant the two of them being alone in Marnie’s room together. With a bed. It meant kissing and touching and… His head snapped up as Marnie ushered Jack out of the kitchen towards the stairs.
“Sweetheart,” he called, beckoning her over, trying to remain calm and ignore his daughter’s raised eyebrows. Dean shuffled nervously, “look, um, I don’t want to pry and I know we’ve talked about everything but would you mind leaving you door open please. And if you really, really can’t help yourselves, then please remember to use protection and-” his voice trailed off at the exasperated look on Marnie’s face.
“Look, daddy, first of all – have some faith in me, jeez. And secondly, Jack and I are just friends, seriously. I mean he’s cute and all but he’s just like a little duckling – I just wanna wrap him up and squish him. Look at that face!” She cooed, gazing over at Jack, who was stood just outside the doorway. “He’s so freaking adorable!” Dean sighed, mentally kicking himself for not realising sooner that Marnie’s soft expression was the same one she reserved for small animals, as he watched his daughter pull Jack out of the kitchen.
Thank god his daughter wasn’t interested in dating, Dean mused to himself, as he pottered around the kitchen. He wasn’t sure he could handle the thought of anyone touching his daughter, even though he knew he had absolutely no say in the matter. The idea made him shudder, as he pulled salad ingredients out of the fridge, but that was partly because he didn’t want her to end up in the same situation he had been – seventeen years old with a knocked up girlfriend, whose very Christian family were not happy with their daughter’s surprise pregnancy, with no money, no job and no idea what to do next.
True, Marnie was been the best thing that had ever happened to him, even after the whole mess, but he still wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It had broken Anna. It was why he’d always tried to be so open with Marnie about her body and sex – so that she wouldn’t try experimenting with the first guy who showed interest and end up in a situation that made her unhappy. It seemed to be working, at least it was to him, since Marnie’s general view of her classmates tended to be that they were all idiots.
He kept thinking about it all evening, trying not to think about his own senior year and the events that followed. He distracted himself during dinner by trying to get to know Jack a little better and could instantly see why Marnie was coddling him. The boy was very serious and incredibly honest, displaying the sweetest sense of naivety; it was almost like dealing with a confused kitten. No wonder Marnie had adopted him – Dean thought that high schoolers would eat Jack alive.
Afterwards, when Dean was busy loading the dishwasher, and Marnie and Jack had disappeared upstairs again, the doorbell rang.
“Marnie,” he called, as he made his way to the door, “I think Jack’s ride is here.” He pulled it open without thinking and was greeted with a sight that made his jaw nearly hit the floor.
His brain registered scruffy, dark hair that looked like it’s owner had just gotten laid, five o’clock shadow on a sharp jaw, and piercing blue eyes that seemed to be evaluating him. Dean also noted the slightly rumpled suit, and oversized tan trench coat, which on most guys would probably just make them look dishevelled but on this guy? It just worked.
“Hello,” the man said, his voice deliciously deep, “I’m Castiel Novak. I’m Jack’s father, he asked me to come and collect him.”
“Dean Winchester,” Dean said, attempting to regain his composure, stretching out his hand to shake Castiel’s, noting the strong grip that sent little sparks flying across his skin, “I’m Marnie’s father.” He paused a second, trying to force to his brain to form a sentence, “it’s nice to meet you.”
There was a small smile on Castiel’s face, “it’s nice to finally meet you too, Dean.”
There was an awkward pause, then Dean cleared his throat, “so, um, those two don’t seem to be getting a move on… you want a drink or something while you wait? I’ve got a great coffee machine if that interests you.”
“Coffee sounds great, thank you. Staff meetings are never fun, but I think Mr. McLeod intends on torturing us for our career choice.” Cas smiled as Dean gestured him instead, trying to remember to keep breathing. Castiel Novak was just another parent come to collect their kid, that was all. Plus, he was Marnie’s new teacher to boot. That was it. Nothing to get excited about at all.
So why did it feel like his insides were full of butterflies?
“Dad, can I ask you something?” It was Friday evening and the pair of them were curled up on the sofa together watching Tangled, empty pizza boxes littering the floor in front of them. Marnie’s head was resting in Dean’s lap, as he stroked her hair like she was six years old all over again.
“Yes baby, you can ask me anything, you know that.” Dean answered, running his fingers through the dark red waves, gently scratching Marnie’s scalp. He was never quite sure where the soft curls came from, but he was glad of them. Dean thought they might be from his mother, since in a couple of the photos he had, Mary’s hair was a halo of blonde curls.
Marnie didn’t answer straight away, as if she was mulling the question over in her head. “Do you think you’ll ever date again?”
“Honey, you know I’m not interested in dating anyone,” Dean replied. It’s the same line he’s been saying over and over for years. He’s said it so much he’s started to believe it.
“I’ve got you baby, I don’t need anyone else.” Marnie sat up and shot him a look with a raised eyebrow that said she didn’t believe him. It was an expression Dean had seen on Charlie’s face a million times, and it was kind of adorable. It probably came from Marnie spending so much time with her while Dean was on shift. “I’m serious.”
“Dad, honestly. When was the last time you got laid?” Dean opened his mouth to answer and then closed it again because the truth was he couldn’t actually remember the last time he had any action that wasn’t done with his own hand.
“My point exactly,” Marnie said, a smug smile of satisfaction on her face. That was definitely an expression that Dean’s seen on Charlie’s face. Usually when she kicks his ass at a game.
“Relationships aren’t just about sex, you know that,” Dean replied, pulling his daughter into another hug. Although sex would be nice occasionally , he thought.
“I know, I just… you spend so much time on me, I want you to be happy. You deserve that.” Her tone was so earnest and sweet, that it killed Dean slightly inside.
“I am happy,” he added, placing a soft kiss on Marnie’s temple as she curled into him again. “I don’t need anything else.”
It wasn’t until later, when he was lying in bed and staring at the ceiling that he considered it again. Sure, he was happy with Marnie. She was smart, funny, sweet and so strong and fierce – a perfect combination of him and Anna. He adored her. She was his entire world and for so long that had been enough.
But now? Now he wasn’t so sure.
Dean tried to think back to the last time he’d had sex. What was it, three years? Four? No wait, it was when he went to Vegas for Benny’s 30th - that cute boy in the casino; the wildly flexible one with the bubble butt and the smooth, silky skin and a mouth to die for. That was nearly five years ago.
Fuck, maybe Marnie was right. Maybe he did need to get laid.
He could go out for a night. Go to a bar and try and pick up some cute young thing for a little fun. Then again, maybe he should try to aim for someone his own age… recently, every time he saw the barely legal kids in pornos he couldn’t help thinking how most of them weren’t a lot older than his daughter. That was an instant mood killer.
Charlie was always suggesting dating apps. That could be worth looking in to. But then again, you did get a lot of strange people signing up for them… and he’d have to explain about how busy he was and then about Marnie and Anna. It was just too much. Especially if it wasn’t going to work out.
And really, what did he need a relationship for anyway? Dean was pretty sure that sharing a bed was overrated, he liked having his king-sized bed to himself, so he could sleep in the middle. Especially since Marnie had grown out of crawling into his bed when she had a nightmare, although she did usually join him on a Sunday morning – usually baring coffee, cookies and a good book.
And date nights – that was overrated too. Going out to expensive restaurants, wearing uncomfortable clothes and making small talk. Give him a good burger and fries any day, especially if it was followed by a good movie. Nothing artsy or fancy, just a good, explosive action piece or something fun and nerdy.
Plus, he had Marnie to think of. Nobody wants to date some thirty-five-year-old single dad with a teenage daughter. What if they didn’t like her? That was something Dean couldn’t even bare to consider. Marnie was the centre of his universe and nobody else would ever come close, so what was the point in even looking.
Dean rolled over and pulled his pillow close. Yes, that was it. No one else would ever come close. It wasn’t that he was scared of putting himself out there. Not at all…
Somehow, Jack seemed to become a permanent fixture in Dean’s house. At least two or three times a week Dean would come back from the station to find Jack and Marnie, and often Michael as well, watching tv or making dinner or crowded round the dining table, books spread across the worn surface.
It was like Marnie had somehow gained an extra brother and Dean had lost track of the amount of times he’d found the three of them curled up on the couch together watching a movie, in a bid to educate Jack in the nuances of pop-culture. Marnie was also attempting to teach him to cook, but considering she’d been trying to teach Michael for years, Dean wasn’t sure how good her skills as a teacher were. Still, there was always some form of meal for him and at least ninety percent of the time it was edible.
Despite his initial reservations about Jack, Dean quickly found him to be a rather endearing, if a little too serious. Jack had also not learnt to drive yet, which meant there was an unexpected perk to him spending so much time at Dean’s: Castiel.
Although Marnie always offered to drive Jack home, Castiel always insisted on coming to pick Jack up and, that usually meant that Dean got to talk to Cas. Some days it was only for a few minutes, but sometimes it was for far longer – which, part of Dean considered highly suspect. The rest of his brain told him to ignore those suspicions and just enjoy the time he got with Cas.
Castiel was intelligent and thoughtful, with a wicked, dry sense of humour that always caught Dean off guard. His pop culture knowledge was almost as lacking as his son’s, but Dean soon found himself discussing the intricacies of the Roman Empire or debating the merits of various Vonnegut novels and the influence of Lord of the Rings on the entirety of the fantasy genre.
Dean had only just managed to graduate high school, but Castiel never made him feel stupid and instead listened carefully to Dean’s opinion. Several times they’d even ended up discussing Dean’s work and had some very interesting discussions on the American justice system. Mind you, sometimes they just had a coke and bitched about their jobs, and very occasionally, their kids. As long as the little bastards were out of earshot first.
Every time they talked, Dean felt a familiar surge of warmth, his insides fluttering as he listened to Cas talk and melting a little at Castiel’s attention whenever he replied.
He couldn’t remember the last time someone had made him feel like this.
“Are you ever going ask Mr. Novak out to dinner?” Marnie asked one evening, as they watched Jack and Cas walking towards their car.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Cas is a friend,” Dean spluttered, trying to ignore the way his heart fluttered and stomach lurched at the idea of getting a whole evening of Cas’s time.
“Yeah… just a friend… and you’re not watching his ass right now are you?” Marnie sniggered. Dean felt his face burning. There was no way he could deny it – he had been watching the curve of Cas’s ass in his dress slacks and admiring the strong musculature of his thighs. “Jack says he runs every morning and does weights too,” Marnie whispered, leaning in close, “admit it, you wanna bounce a quarter off it!”
“He’s your teacher!” Dean protested, trying to change the subject. His brain protested by conjuring up images of Cas sweaty from a run, t-shirt clinging to those shoulders, skin glistening, shorts highlighting the delicious thickness of those thighs.
“Doesn’t mean I can’t find him attractive though,” Marnie added. She turned to go back into the house, “still I don’t think I’m his type… Jack mentioned that he’s also pretty into dick.”
Somehow, Dean didn’t think those would have been Jack’s exact words…
It took Dean another two weeks to work up the courage to ask Cas out for dinner.
Two weeks of agonising and worrying, and some pointed comments from both his daughter and Charlie, who Marnie seemed to have recruited to the cause. Dean wasn’t sure whether or not he should be concerned about his daughter’s sudden interest in his love life and her determination to find him a boyfriend, or at the very least get him laid. He supposed he should consider the gesture touching, but he was too worried about his own feelings for Cas.
Sure, he liked the guy. Really liked the guy.
But he wasn’t even sure Cas was interested, even if he was gay. Why would such a handsome, funny, kind, intelligent man be interested in Dean? Dean; a single father with a high school diploma and no real relationship history to speak of.
He was still arguing about it in his own head one evening, while he and Cas were sat in the kitchen, waiting for Marnie and Jack to finish doing… whatever they were doing this evening, and drinking hot chocolate. The weather had turned colder over the past week and Dean had practically forced one on the man when he had appeared on the doorstep, shivering in his customary trenchcoat.
“Do you wanna go out to dinner with me?” Dean blurted out, whilst Cas was grumbling about his freshman class’s inability to write a coherent essay.
“Do, um, I mean…” Dean took a deep breath, feeling like he was fifteen and asking out Cassie Robson all over again. “Would like to out to dinner? With me… just me, no kids… just us.”
“Dean,” Cas said, a little smirk playing across his lips. “Are you asking me out on a date?”
Dean could feel his face flushing. Dammit he was a grown man, he should be able to do this! “Yeah, Cas. I am. I mean, I wanna that is, I know I’m not-”
“Yes,” Cas replied, cutting Dean off before he could start rambling. “Yes, I’d very much like to have dinner with you.”
By the time Dean went to bed that night, his cheeks ached from smiling.
“I don’t understand why you’re so worried, you like him right?” Charlie raised her eyebrow at him from across the kitchen counter. It was Saturday, and like most Saturday’s, Charlie and Gilda had invaded his house in search of brunch. Dean groaned, trying to focus on making French toast and thus avoiding Charlie’s grilling.
“That’s the problem,” Dean said, trying not to sound as anxious as he felt. “He’s such a great guy, I don’t know why he’d want to date someone like me.”
“What does that mean?” Charlie asked, attempting to steal a piece of French toast off the plate and wincing when it burned her fingers.
“C’mon Charlie, look at me,” Dean added, dropping more pieces in the pan and actively avoiding looking at his best friend since high school. “I’m a thirty-five-year-old single dad, with a teenage daughter, who barely graduated high school and works as many hours as possible solving horrible murders, who hasn’t had a proper relationship in seventeen years. Why the hell would he be interested in me? He’s got a PhD from Harvard for fuck’s sake.”
“Dean,” Charlie’s voice was cool and direct – the same one she used just before she usually gave him an ear-bashing. “You’re being ridiculous. Nobody could look at you and see anything less than an amazing guy. I mean even I have to admit you’re cute and I don’t swing that way, like at all. And stop using Marnie as an excuse – you know she’d hate that. She just wants you to be happy. Plus the whole single dad thing is amazing; you took the shittiest situation possible and turned it into something amazing. You’re a fantastic dad and Marnie is like the coolest child ever. Seriously. And Cas already knows this, plus he’s got Jack too so you know he gets it!”
“Yeah I guess,” Dean muttered, not wanting to admit that she was right. “But I-”
“No buts,” Charlie said, fixing him with a firm stare, “you are gonna go out tonight and have fun and enjoy yourself! Seriously, when was the last time you did something like this for yourself?”
Dean didn’t answer, focusing instead on pulling a tray of muffins out of the oven. The silence spoke for itself. In truth, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d done anything like this.
“Exactly,” Charlie added, her voice turning softer, “and don’t be nervous. I bet he feels exactly the same, I get the impression that he’s not the dating type either.”
“So, where are you and Mr Novak going this evening?” Marnie asked. She was currently sat on Dean’s bed while he tried to find something to wear. Half of his wardrobe was now scattered across the floor as Dean began to come to sickening realisation that he couldn’t remember the last time he went on an honest to god date. What did people even wear or do on dates?
“I made reservations at that French place that Charlie recommended - Le Petite Chat ?” He picked up a pair of jeans and looked at Marnie, who simply shook her head.
“That’ll be nice, I think Mr. Novak will like that. Where are your dark jeans?”
“What, these ones?” Dean said, picking a pair of deep indigo jeans out of his wardrobe. He’d hardly worn them, always finding them a little too tight around the thighs. He’d bought them as an extravagance in case he ever went out anywhere nice. “They’re a bit tight, aren’t they?”
Marnie tilted her head and shot him a patronising look. “That’s the point. You’ve got a great ass, might as well show it off.” Dean blushed and turned back to the wardrobe, trying to hide his embarrassment. His body wasn’t terrible, he knew that. The long hours at work and gym sessions kept him trim and he wasn’t awful looking for someone in their mid-thirties. But still, he wasn’t sure that the phrase ‘great ass’ really applied to him.
Marnie thought for a moment, chewing her lip slightly. “White button down, brown belt, brown shoes and either that nice blazer you bought last year or your dark green sweater – the v-neck one that matches your eyes.”
“Really? My eyes?”
“Yeah, it’ll work, trust me,” Marnie smiled at him reassuringly, “Michael agrees with me.”
“Why are you asking him?” Dean added, pulling the shirt out and examining it.
“Because he has the best fashion sense of anyone I know. And he has a total hard-on for you, which is super weird but still, he says this outfit will make you look a hundred percent fuckable.”
Dean laughed and rolled his eyes, “thanks… I guess.”
“And please dad, for the love of god make sure you wear nice boxers. Not the joke ones or the comfy ones with the holes. Nice ones. Please don’t let my efforts go to waste.”
Dean blushed again, rummaging around in his drawer for a pair of boxers that would match the description of nice. “Don’t see why not. I don’t put out on first dates,” he muttered, more to himself than Marnie. He could see her rolling her eyes and fixing him with a hard stare. The same stare he often used on her when she was obviously lying.
“Sure you won’t,” she said, sliding off the bed and planting a kiss on his cheek. “Get dressed old man, and make sure you use that new cologne I bought you for your birthday.”
“Stop trying to get me laid, you hellion,” Dean said, smacking her as she passed. “Go and study or something.”
“You love me really. And you’ll thank me tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I do.” The door clicked shut behind her.
Dean couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this nervous.
Marnie’s first day of school didn’t even come close to this, and Dean had been up the whole night before that, half crying over the phone to Charlie and Sam that he didn’t want his little girl to go to school. He’d also run extensive background checks on all the staff, but in his opinion that was just a precaution.
Castiel and Jack lived in a cute little house on the other side of town. Nothing fancy, in fact, it could probably do with a new coat of paint in Dean’s opinion. The guttering could do with some work too before the winter. He’d have to talk to Cas about fixing it. Dean reckoned it would only take him a couple of hours.
He parked Baby on the road, casually adjusting his shirt collar before taking a deep breath and heading towards the front door. Cas appeared just before he knocked looking equally nervous. It calmed Dean’s nerves ever so slightly.
“I saw your car,” Cas said. “She is quite distinctive.”
“Yeah, she is,” Dean added. There was an awkward moment of silence. “Shall we go?”
The drive to the restaurant was quiet and Dean prayed it would get better. It was so easy to talk to Cas usually, but now? Now he couldn’t think of a thing to say.
“Le Petit Chat?” Cas mused as they pulled up outside.
“Yeah… honestly, it’s not really my style but Marnie said I should take you somewhere nice. I’d be down with burgers and fries but apparently that’s not good enough,” Dean chuckled, shaking his head. “I kid you not, I love her but she’s far to over enthusiastic about this.”
“I know,” Castiel smiled, with a roll of his eyes. “Jack spent the entire evening lecturing me on the merits of clean underwear and why this form of social interaction would be good for me. He also suggested that I ‘put out’ a little.”
Dean laughed, throwing his head back at Cas’s use of air quotes. It was so adorable. Plus at least it meant that his child wasn’t the only pain in the ass. “Sorry, I think the last comment is probably from my daughter.”
“It’s not a problem. It’s nice for Jack to have friends,” Cas added, almost wistfully. “Although, quite why he feels the need to lecture me on dating and sex is another matter entirely. I’m very much blaming my friend Meg for that, she’s been a terrible influence.”
“Oh my god, I know what you mean. Let me tell you about my friend Charlie and the time she told Marnie about the benefits of lesbian sex.”
They’d reached the restaurant by this point. And from that moment on, neither of them stopped talking.
They were still there three hours, lots of delicious food and a bottle of wine later.
Dean couldn’t remember the last time he’d had this much fun with someone else. Well, someone who wasn’t his daughter. It was only when they noticed the staff starting to close the restaurant down that the two of them realised they ought to leave.
The night was cold, the first winter frost nipping at their skin as they hurried to the car, sliding onto the cold leather seats. Dean flicked the heater on full blast, and by the time they’d reached Cas’s house his fingers had defrosted again.
It was only as he parked that he realised he didn’t want the night to end.
“I had a great time,” he said softly, a faint blush on his cheeks as he turned to face Cas. “I haven’t done this in a while.”
“Me neither,” Cas admitted, sliding across the bench seat towards him. “It’s hard when you’re a single parent. Your child comes first, you don’t have time to think about yourself.”
“Yeah… but, maybe we should.” Dean could feel himself shaking, but he wasn’t sure if it was nerves or the weather. Cas inched a tiny bit closer, reaching out to take Dean’s hand. The skin was soft and warm, and the gesture said so much more than words ever could. An unfamiliar feeling stirred in Dean’s stomach and something unfurled in his chest.
Without thinking he reached over and pulled Cas into a gentle kiss.
A tsunami of sensations flooded through his body. Heat, softness, wetness, the delicious scent of Cas’s skin. The firmness of his tongue as it caressed Dean’s lips, politely seeking entry. Dean pulled the other man towards him, reaching his hand up to cup Cas’s stubbled jaw and drag him into a deeper kiss.
One kiss became two, which became five, which became a thousand delicious kisses, each filled with something that Dean had never expected to feel again. Fireworks exploded in his chest as Cas’s teeth nibbled at his lips, his hands sliding onto Dean’s legs. A soft moan escaped Cas’s chest as Dean ran his hand across those firm thighs he’d been dying to touch from day one.
It was perfect.
“Knock knock! Daddy, are you awake?”
Dean groaned, burying his head into his pillow, cursing his only child. Why the hell couldn’t she sleep till midday like a normal teenager? “I am now,” he grunted, pulling the duvet over his head.
He heard the click of the door and then the mattress shifted beside him as Marnie made herself comfortable. She tugged at the covers, forcing Dean to relinquish them as she climbed in beside him. “Don’t you think you’re too old for this?” Dean grumbled half-heartedly, opening one eye to stare at his daughter. She looked rather smug and it sickened him. But she had also placed a mug of coffee on the bedside table.
“Nope,” she replied, sipping at her own mug of hot chocolate. “I’ll be doing this forever. You’re too snuggly and you love it.”
“Dammit, I do,” Dean conceded, sliding into a sitting position so he could finally get his hands on the sweet, liquid gold that was coffee. They sat in silence for a moment, and Dean knew he had to bring the question of Cas up to her. Things had gone so well, he knew he wanted to see Cas again and again and again.
“What if I started seeing someone?” he asked tentatively.
“Date went well then?” Marnie asked, trying to play it cool. Dean couldn’t help the little blush that spread across his cheeks as he remembered making out with Cas in Baby. He hadn’t done that since high school.
Marnie giggled beside him, “I see. Well in that case, I’m getting the four of us matching pjs and a cookie jar for your bedroom. Gotta have snacks for sunday snuggles.”
“You’re a pain in the ass, you know that?” Dean muttered, trying not to laugh at his daughter’s eternal optimism. He’d never needed to be worried.
“I know, but you still love me.”
“Always and forever baby girl.”
Over the next few weeks, Dean found himself spending more and more time with Cas. Dinner dates, movies and long walks around the park in the evening when it was quiet, where they would hold hands and talk about everything from their kids to their childhoods to their dreams for the future.
It sounded sappy, but Dean couldn’t help but love every moment of it. He felt like he was sixteen all over again, dealing with his first crush and the myriad of emotions that came with it. He was smiling all the time, and even his colleagues had noticed an improvement in his mood.
All of this and they still hadn’t had sex yet.
Every date seemed to end the same way - they’d make out in one of their cars, maybe with a little light groping, but inevitably it would end with one of them having to leave and Dean spending a long, long time in the shower as soon as he could.
Then, one Saturday in November, when Dean was getting ready for his date night, Marnie knocked on the door.
“Yeah?” Dean asked, as he tried to decide what shirt to wear. He hadn’t even planned anything for tonight, so he had no idea why he was worrying.
“I have a surprise for you,” Marnie sang, sliding into the room and hurling herself onto the bed.
“Oh yeah? What’s the occasion?”
“Well, I know you don’t have anything planned for tonight so I booked you guys in at mini-golf! They have an adults only night where they serve burgers and beer and stuff. Plus you love mini-golf and I figured you’d wanna show off your terrible putting skills.”
“My putting skills are awesome,” Dean grumbled with a smile, “but go on.”
“Plus, cos I am an awesome daughter, I booked you and Mr. Novak a cab so you could drink. And I’m gonna go crash at aunty Charlie’s so you guys can come back here if you want.”
Dean felt his face flushing. “And why would we wanna do that?”
Marnie raised her eyebrow at him, head on one side, in the best resting bitch face he’d seen since Sam was a teenager. “Really dad? Really? I know you and Mr. Novak haven’t done it yet and I figured you’d want to. Especially since you keep spending a ton of time in the shower whenever you come back.”
“I-I do not!”
“Do too!” Marnie argued, sticking her tongue out and giggling when Dean threw a pillow at her.
“Upstart brat! I shoulda given you up for adoption.”
“Nah, you’d miss me too much. Besides, who else is gonna find you a hot teacher to bang?”
Dean threw another pillow. This time, he didn’t miss.
Dean unlocked the front door, dragging Cas inside and slamming it behind them, pulling him up the stairs, desperate to find out exactly what was underneath those well fitted jeans.
He flicked the bedroom light on and noticed a large piece of folded paper on his pillow that definitely wasn’t there when he went out. The words, ‘Read Me’ have been written across it in red letters. Surprised, Dean picked it up and opened it, recognising Marnie’s sprawling handwriting.
As promised I’ve gone to stay with aunty Charlie and Gilda so you and Cas can have the house to yourselves (I am not ready to listen to that). I’ll be back tomorrow lunch time.
Btw I bought you some supplies – I wasn’t sure if you’d stocked up. Have lots of fun and play safe.
p.s take your own advice and always remember to swallow ;)
Dean chuckled to himself as he looked down to find a box of twelve condoms, a large unopened bottle of Astroglide and a small packet with some sort of vibrating cock ring, which had a post-it note on saying it was buy two items, get one free.
“Well that’s… thoughtful,” Cas said, obviously reading the note over Dean’s shoulder. “That’s very kind of her.” His face was a deep shade of pink and Dean supposed it was because he didn’t have quite the same relationship with Jack.
“Yeah, she’s a good kid,” Dean added, putting the note down and picking up the box of condoms. “Can’t believe how desperate she is to get me laid – I mean she even bought the expensive ones.” He looked up at Cas again, who was looking even more uncomfortable, although Dean wasn’t sure why. They were just condoms. Then it clicked.
“Holy shit, I’m sorry. I just remembered you teach her. Shit. Fuck. This must be so weird for you.” Dean dropped the condoms and ran his hand through his hair. “Shit. Um… I can explain.”
“It’s fine, you don’t have to explain,” Cas said, stepping in close and running a hand along Dean’s jaw, pulling his head gently so he could look straight at those eyes.
“We’re just really close,” Dean added softly, a little smile on his face. “I’ve always been open about sex with her, I didn’t want it to be shameful, like it was with my parents. I didn’t want her getting knocked up at sixteen or feeling like she couldn’t talk to me about it. I know most parents are pretty anti this sort of thing.”
“Actually,” said Cas, wrapping an arm around Dean’s waist, “I think it’s quite adorable how much she cares about you.”
“Yeah, she’s a sweetheart. Most of the time,” Dean smiled and pressed a kiss to Cas’s jawline, revelling in the texture of stubble underneath his lips. “So, do you wanna… I mean we don’t have to, I mean if you-” Dean’s next words are lost as Castiel claimed his mouth in a fierce kiss that had him melting on the spot.
“There’s twelve in the box,” Cas muttered, breaking the kiss for a moment, allowing them to catch their breath. “How many do you think we can use before tomorrow?”
“Dad. I’m home! I hope you’re not still naked!”
Marnie’s voice cut through Dean’s sleep like a knife. He bolted up, mind reeling as it was suddenly jolted awake. He had enough awareness to realise that his daughter was home, and that he was still naked. Very naked. So was Cas.
“Whas goin on?” Cas mumbled, head still buried in the pillow, sheets tangled around his waist. Dean took a moment to admire the curve of his broad shoulders, the solid muscles of his back and the way his back lead to the most perfectly round and fuckable ass Dean had ever seen.
“Marnie’s home,” Dean muttered, flopping back down onto the bed with an arm over his face.
“Shit.” Cas rolled over, blue eyes still fogged with sleep and dark hair askew.
“Yep,” Dean added, shooting Cas a little smirk. “How much sleep do you reckon we got?”
“Not enough,” Cas said, pulling himself over to Dean and depositing himself on Dean’s chest, wrapping a hand around his waist and snuggling into his chest. “It was worth it though.”
“It really was,” Dean said, arms encircling Cas. He pressed a soft kiss to the top of his head and closed his eyes. How much would it take to bribe Marnie to go back to Charlie’s for tonight? There were still some condoms left in the box and Dean would really, really love to have a chilled-out day with Cas. Marnie was old enough to look after herself, surely she could make herself scarce for another few hours?
Dean sighed. He really ought to get up and go and be a responsible adult. But dammit, this wasn’t fair – it had been such a long since he’d last gotten laid, couldn’t he enjoy it for a little longer?
A knock at the door startled him out of his thoughts and the pair of them jumped apart like teenagers being caught by their parents.
“Dad? Are you in there?” Dean groaned. “I’ll take that as a yes, which means I’m guessing Mr. Novak is in there too. In which case, hi Mr. Novak.”
“What do you want Marnie?” Dean said, a resigned note in his voice. So much for a lazy day in bed with his boyfriend.
“Listen, I just wanted you to know that I just came to grab my homework and I’m going to Michael’s to study. If you want me to crash there then let me know and I will – I’ll take some clothes with me just in case. Also, Mr. Novak, I’ll take Jack with me too so he’s not by himself.”
“Thank you Marnie… that’s very nice of you,” Cas said, his face a wonderful shade of pink that made Dean chuckle.
“No worries, it’s fine. By the way Dad, I bought you some snacks and I took the two portions of lasagna out of the freezer, so you don’t have to cook later. And, because I’m an amazing daughter whose father definitely doesn’t deserve her, there’s another box of condoms outside the door here.”
“Yeah, yeah you’re awesome and I love you. Now scram – I haven’t had this much alone time since before you were born and I’d like to enjoy it!” Dean called, touched by his daughter’s caring gesture. Even if it was a tad unnecessary.
“I love you too.” There was a pause. “Oh and dad?”
“Please don’t leave used condoms by the couch. It’s gross and disgusting and there’s no way in hell I’m touching it. And now you owe me like five hundred bucks in compensation and a years’ worth of therapy, jackass.”
Dean waited until he could hear her footsteps disappearing down the hallway before he burst out laughing.
In the end, he spent the whole weekend with Cas - eating, sleeping, making out and making love, talking about everything and nothing in between. It was only after Cas finally had to leave that a stunning realisation smacked Dean across the face.
He was falling hard for Cas.
By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, Dean was absolutely certain that he was in love with Cas, and it terrified him. He couldn’t remember feeling like this about a potential partner since Anna, and even then he’d only been seventeen and he wasn’t really sure if that counted.
Dean knew he had to tell Cas. But on the other hand, he’d never done this before and the whole idea filled him with dread.
At the moment, the house was filled with people, family and friends, for his annual New Year’s Eve party. Although these days, it was less about booze and more about board games, video games and an insane amount of ice cream and pizza.
His brother Sam and his wife Jess, were currently playing an incredibly fearsome game of Mario Tennis, cheered on by their two year old twins who’d had far too much sugar. Dean had heard something about no trash duty for six weeks as the stakes… and from the look of it, Sam was well on his was to getting his ass handed to him.
Dean’s best friend Benny was currently tucking into another slice of pie, while slightly heckling Sam and simultaneously teaching Marnie, Michael and Jack the rules of Texas Hold’em. From Dean’s guesses Marnie would walk away with everything, mostly because Dean taught her to play poker at fourteen for fun.
Charlie, Gilda and Benny’s wife Andrea were plotting darkly over a game of Pandemic, and it looked like they were trying to draw Cas in as well. The man was sat next to them, hunched over the board, a little crease between his eyebrows as he watched, occasionally making a comment and gesturing to one of the tiny disease cubes on the board.
Dean stood in the doorway, quietly observing and smiling to himself. He’d always been grateful to his friends and family, especially for all their help over the years. Heck, Charlie had pretty much helped him raise Marnie. But seeing them all together made his heart swell. He loved how well Castiel and Jack just slotted into their lives, as if they’d always been there. As if they belonged there.
When it came time for the countdown, they all hurried out to the backyard to watch Benny and Charlie’s ‘epic firework display of awesome’. When New Year struck, Dean pulled Cas into a deep kiss, relishing the soft sweetness of his lover’s lips.
“I love you Cas,” he murmured, fears momentarily forgotten.
“I love you too,” Cas said, as fireworks exploded in rainbows above them.
It took a few weeks for Dean’s fears to take root. It was only late one night, when he was tossing and turning in bed, that he finally figured out what was bothering him so much.
He had no idea how to be in a relationship.
Yes, he and Cas had been dating since October and they loved each other, and had great sex whenever the time allowed. But mostly it was hurried texts and evening chats and family dinners several times a week, where Dean always cooked because Jack had made it very clear that Cas’s skills in that department were abysmal.
But he had no idea where they went from here. Was this ok? Were they supposed to go on more dates? Should he sext Cas? Would Cas even like that? Should they talk about moving in together? Did they need to talk about the future? What were Cas’s plans once Jack left for college?
Dean already knew he was going to feel so empty when Marnie left in the fall, even if she was only going to school an hour or so away. Would Cas feel the same about Jack? Would that affect them as a couple?
Dean sighed, flopping back on his pillow and groaning. He was too old to deal with this shit. Most adults had it figured out by now and here he was, fretting like some middle-schooler with their first boyfriend. How the hell was he supposed to know what to do?
This called for emergency measures. This called for Charlie.
“What’s up handmaiden?” Charlie said as soon as she picked up the phone. Dean cringed on the other end of the line, wishing the high school nickname hadn’t stuck.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, this about Cas?”
“Maybe?” Dean said, cursing his own inability to act like an adult. He sighed and scrubbed his hand through his hair before thumping his head back onto Baby’s headrest. He’d snuck out of the precinct to make this call on his lunch break, hoping for a tiny amount of privacy. Or at least, to be out of earshot of his workmates who would undoubtedly offer their own, terrible, advice. Victor had been married three times now; no way was Dean taking his advice on relationships!
Charlie was quiet on the end of the line, waiting for him to pluck up the courage to speak. Finally he asked, “how do you have a relationship?”
“What d’ya mean? Surely you know what a relationship is: you go out, you talk, you have awesome sex, you fight sometimes and then have cool make-up sex, y’know… normal stuff.”
“I know that!” Dean huffed, “I mean… I just don’t know how to be in a relationship. My last one was with Anna, and look how that turned out. I just don’t wanna screw this up Charlie. I really, really like Cas. Dammit, I love the guy. I can’t fuck this up.”
“Dean,” Charlie’s voice was soft, with the caring edge he’d heard her use so many times with Marnie when she was upset. “I know this is tough - all new relationships are. Maybe it’s harder for you because you’ve been single for so long. But I’m sure Cas is going through the same stuff right now. You’re both single dads, to awesome kids I’m gonna add, but it’s hard dating in this situation. Just take it at your own pace and be honest with how you’re feeling. You’ve gotta woman up and talk to each other. And that’s not a suggestion, as your queen-”
“As your former queen, I command you to talk to him. Face to face. And for once in your life you have to be honest about your emotions. And if you’re not, I’m taking Marnie to Vegas for the weekend and taking her to a strip club.”
“Do that and I’ll disown you. She’s seventeen.”
“And just what were you doing at seventeen?” Charlie asked sweetly.
“... point taken. You win.”
“I always do!”
It took Dean a couple of weeks to pluck up the courage to bring up the issue to Cas. They were lying in bed at Dean’s house one Sunday morning, snuggled up and falling in and out of sleep.
“Hey Cas,” Dean muttered, not opening his eyes as his pulled the teacher closer. “Can I talk to you about something?”
“Of course, anything.” There was a pause for a second, and Dean could feel Cas shifting in his arms. “Should I be worried at all?”
“No! Not at all,” Dean’s eyes flew open to see Cas’s beautiful blues in front of him, his head resting on Dean’s chest. “It’s just…” he gazed up at the ceiling, trying to find the words. “I’m sorry if I’m a crappy boyfriend or whatever, I’m not sure what the hell I’m doing… I mean, I haven’t dated anyone since Anna, and well… that didn’t end well.”
He glanced at Cas, relieved to see a soft, understanding smile. It eased his fears as Cas took hold of his hand, squeezing it gently. “It’s fine Dean, I know how you feel. My last relationship wasn’t very successful at all. None of them have been. I’m quite sure that I’m a terrible partner.”
“What?!” Dean frowned, noting the dejected look on the other man’s face. In that moment, he’d never felt more protective of Cas. “You’re the best guy I’ve ever met. I’m serious. I couldn’t ask for a better partner, I mean you get it. You get being a single dad and having a teenager, and my whole history. And you’ve never pressed the issue of Anna or asked or…” he trailed off, a lump catching in his throat.
“Dean,” Cas asked gently. “What happened? You don’t have to tell me, but I’m here if you want to talk about it.”
Dean swallowed, taking a deep breath. He hated telling strangers about Anna, but Castiel wasn’t a stranger anymore and he deserved to know the truth.
“So, I told you that I got Anna pregnant when we were seniors. Well, her family hated me for it. They were super religious and they accused me of defiling their baby girl and all this shit. And I was determined to do the right thing for her and the baby. So I enlisted in the army. I figured it was a good career, plus I wasn’t gonna get to college and the money wasn’t bad. So I signed up as soon as I could after Marnie was born.” He smiled. “She was so tiny when she was born. Her proper name is Marianne. After my mom and Anna. The two most important women in my life.
“And for a while, things were ok I guess. At least, I thought they were. But shit, I was away a lot and maybe I shoulda noticed there was something wrong…” Dean paused, forcing back the tears as the memories surfaced. “I got a message one day, from the hospital… Anna had been sectioned. She’d tried to throw herself and Marnie off a bridge into a river… told the doctors that the angels would take care of her. I was allowed to come see her. She’d had a mental breakdown… they wanted to send her somewhere to get better. But there was no one to look after Marnie - she was only two, and Anna’s parents wanted fuck all to do with us and my dad was no good with kids. I was able to get a discharge and Anna went to this facility… I thought she was getting better…” Dean trailed off again, and Cas squeezed his hand so tightly that Dean thought it would leave a mark. It was comforting though.
“She was there six months when we got the news… the doctors had diagnosed her with a bunch of different things, I won’t go into it, but she was getting worse and worse. Violent some days, refusing to eat on others… and then one day… she, she… she just changed. She wasn’t Anna anymore. The doctors were amazing… they still are.”
“Oh Dean, I’m so sorry,” Cas pressed a gentle kiss to his chest.
“Thanks… the place where she lives is lovely. Marnie and I go up there to see her. She seems happy there, they let her paint lots and grow flowers. Sometimes she even recognizes Marnie and then she seems like my Anna again… it’s my fault Cas, I should never have done this to her. I should have taken better care of her.”
“It’s not your fault,” Cas insisted, pulling Dean into a tight hug. “You did what you thought was best and you are the most amazing father. Don’t ever doubt yourself.”
“Thanks Cas… I don’t usually tell people that story…” Dean mumbled, breathing in the deep, comforting smell of his boyfriend.
“I can understand that. My own relationship with Jack has an unusual beginning and I don’t usually talk about it,” Cas sighed, pressing a soft kiss to Dean’s lips. “Technically, Jack is my nephew. His father was my oldest brother, Luke. He managed to get his assistant Kelly pregnant, and then tried to pay her off to keep it hushed up. He’s in prison now for embezzlement, money laundering and various other misdeeds. He was not a good person and I don’t think he even cares that Jack exists. Kelly and I were already friends. She was a wonderful person and I supported her through her pregnancy, but she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer when Jack was six months old. When she passed, I became Jack’s legal guardian. I’ve always been honest with him about his mother, in fact Kelly and I planned several things for me to give Jack at various points in his life and she wrote him lots of birthday cards, so that he gets one from her every year…” his voice trailed off and Dean couldn’t help but be touched by the story. He couldn’t imagine knowing Marnie would grow up without him, let alone trying to plan things to leave her.
“She couldn’t have picked a better person Cas, you’re awesome and you love that kid so much.”
“I really do.” A sad smile played across Cas’s lips. “So don’t worry Dean, I’ve had very little relationship experience as well. My last boyfriend and I broke up several years ago and that was an unmitigated disaster… he wasn’t a very nice person in the end.”
“Shit babe, I’m sorry,” Dean sighed and chuckled. “What a pair we are…”
“Indeed,” Cas murmured. “Thank you though, for understanding.”
“Don’t mention it,” Dean said, pulling Cas in for a deep kiss. “You mean more to me than you’ll ever know.”
For a while, everything seemed perfect. They messaged every day, saw each other a couple of times a week for date nights or sneaky lunches or evenings whiled away on the couch. Cas and Jack usually spent most of the weekend at Dean’s house as well, especially after Jack declared that it was nice to eat proper food and Dean discovered how lacking Cas was in culinary skills.
For once, Dean had something he’d never dreamed of having. A loving partner and a buzzing family household. He’d been worried at first about Marnie’s reaction, but that had been quickly quashed when he’d come down one Sunday morning and found his daughter teaching his boyfriend to make french toast. It was the perfect moment, and Dean couldn’t think of anything better.
The change began to happen slowly. So slowly that Dean missed it at first.
It started with unanswered text messages. Just one or two. Then it was full days without a response. Dean didn’t really think much of it to start with, the spring semester was in full swing and Cas was busy with planning and marking and stuff, meanwhile Dean was snowed under with case work. It wasn’t a surprise that they forgot to text each other.
Then Cas cancelled a date night, saying he was too busy. Then he said that he couldn’t come around for the weekend because something had come up. Right before Dean’s eyes he started to drift away, their relationship evaporating under the spring sunshine.
Dean had no idea what to do. Was it something he’d done? Something he’d said? He lay awake at night running everything through in his head over and over until exhaustion claimed him.
He sent Cas texts begging him to talk to him, left him voicemails and sent him emails. He knew it was pathetic but he couldn’t understand what had happened. One minute everything had been perfect. The next minute everything was crumbling.
The only explanation was that Dean had done something wrong. He’d driven Cas away and Cas was trying to be polite and work out the best way to say he didn’t want to see Dean any more.
That weekend Dean refused to get out of bed. He knew it was childish and stupid but he couldn’t help himself. All he could think about was how much of an idiot he’d been. He should never have tried to have a relationship again. They always ended badly and it was always his fault. He’d pushed Cas away and brought this upon himself.
Marnie tried to come and talk to him, but he shooed her away and locked the door behind her. When she banged on the door he put his headphones on and turned Metallica up until he couldn’t hear her. So what if he was wallowing in self pity? Dean didn’t give a shit.
It was only his upcoming shift on Monday that forced him to leave his room. The house was deserted, Marnie had apparently already gone out, although she had left him a packed lunch in the fridge. There was a little post-it note on it in the shape of a heart with I love you daddy xxx scrawled on it in purple pen.
For the first time in a long time, Dean cried.
When he got home from work that night, he found Marnie and Jack sat together at the kitchen table, heads pressed together like they were hatching some sort of evil plot. They probably were, but Dean was too tired to care.
“Daddy,” Marnie said in her firmest voice, the one she learnt from Charlie. “Sit down, I want to talk to you about something.”
Christ she sounds like a parent, Dean thought to himself as he flopped into a chair. He glanced between their stern faces and far too late twigged that this was probably something to do with Cas. He tried to make a break for it but Marnie glared at him, shooting him the full force of the Winchester bitchface until he slumped in his seat, pouting like an unruly toddler.
“Daddy,” Marnie continued, as if nothing has happened. “Jack has something he’d like to tell you.”
Jack nodded, his customary serious look on his face. “Yes. It’s about my father. He has been very unhappy lately-”
Dean groaned, rubbing his hands on his face. He knew it!
“However,” Jack added, “it is not your fault.”
“And why is that?” Marnie said sweetly.
“Because Castiel’s last relationship ended very badly. Inias was horrible to him, although I don’t know all the details, because he hid it from me, but I do remember overhearing him telling Castiel how stupid he was and that nothing he did was good enough. I believe my father is scared of getting hurt again and is convinced that he will never be good enough for you.”
“But why would he think that?” Dean was astounded. He tried to rack his brains for a situation where he might have given Cas cause to doubt just how much he cared. “Did I do something?”
“No.” Jack tilted his head to one side, in a way that was so like Cas it made Dean do a double take. “Meg thinks that Castiel needs to ‘woman up’ and tell you about his feelings,” Dean smiled at the kid’s use of air quotes. Like father, like son. “But I think he’s worried that you won’t accept him.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Dean snorted. “I mean, I told him about Anna,” he looked to Marnie and noted the soft smile on her face.
“Good, I’m glad you told him about mom.” Jack reached out and squeezed Marnie’s hand, and Dean smiled at the closeness between them. Whatever happened, he hoped they’d remain friends.
“And he… he told me about your mom too, Jack, and your dad.” Jack’s expression dropped for a second, and then he smiled.
“Yeah, is that weird?”
“No… well, he never tells anyone about my mother and biological father. Not unless he really cares for them.”
“Well, I do. I love your father, Jack,” he looked at both of them, watching the little smiles on their faces. They were too clever for their own good. “I really do.”
“That’s good, because I know he loves you too,” Jack added, “I heard him telling Meg when she came to visit a few weeks ago. She and my father got very inebriated.”
Dean chuckled. He’d met Meg a couple of times, she was pretty much Jack’s Charlie - she was Cas’s best friend and had helped him raise Jack. She was snarky and sassy and incredibly quick witted, Dean hadn’t been sure about her at first. But after watching her and Cas together he could see why they got on so well.
“Their conversation was very interesting,” Jack mused. He turned to Dean with his head on one side. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about, so long as we can convince my father to talk to you, he loves you very much and he also said that your sexual repertoire was incredibly satisfying.”
Dean felt his face go scarlet as he tried to stammer out an answer. Across the table, Marnie burst into hysterics.
It took them two weeks to formulate the perfect, cunning plan. The idea itself was actually Michael’s.
The three of them had been sat in Dean’s kitchen one Saturday morning, attempting to come up with romantic ideas to show Castiel just how much Dean cared.
“How about lots of flowers - like that scene in Big Fish?” Marnie suggested, pouring a small vat of syrup on her pancakes.
“No,” Michael responded flatly, smiling shyly at Dean as he sliced strawberries. “I mean, it’s a cute idea but it’s very public and I don’t think Mr Novak would appreciate that. Don’t you agree Mr. Winchester?”
“I do, plus it’s not really me.” Dean replied as he spooned more batter into the pan. “Maybe something more low key?”
“You’re no fun, y’know that?” Marnie stuck her tongue at him, and Dean returned the gesture.
“It’s cos I’m old.”
“I knew it!”
“You both like food right?” Michael asked, chewing his lip absent mindedly, in the same way Marnie did when she was thinking. You could tell they’d been friends since kindergarten.
“Yeah, why? What’re you thinking?”
“I have the perfect plan…”
And it was.
Well, Dean muttered it was a little bit schmaltzy and romantic and sappy, but Marnie argued that he liked all those things. Which was true. It did feel like something straight out of one of those cheesy romance novels, but since nobody could think of anything better, it was the idea that was agreed upon.
Which was how he found himself here: on a striped picnic blanket, in the middle of the park, with a hamper full of food, a bottle of wine and a basket of flowers. He’d already downed half a glass of wine, trying to take the edge off his fluttering stomach.
Shit, what if this all went wrong? What if Cas turned tail and ran?
They had been texting more recently, and they’d had a lovely date last week when he’d taken Cas to an artisan food market and they’d spent the morning eating and drinking their way round. Dean hadn’t thought it would be his thing, but then he’d discovered a pie stall…
“You ok, dad?” Marnie’s voice cut through his thoughts. Dean nodded, even though he wasn’t really sure how he felt. All he knew is that he’d much, much rather be facing the most brutal murder scene he’d ever encountered than deal with his feelings. And yet here he was.
“Fine,” he muttered. “What time are they getting here?”
“Jack said they’re just coming into the park now,” Marnie replied, tapping away at her phone. They’d all agreed that it would be easier for this to be a family thing, mostly so that Dean couldn’t run away, but also because they all wanted to tell Cas how much they loved him.
“Great… great…” Dean ran his fingers through his hair and took another swig of wine. He wasn’t even sure why he was drinking it in the first place, he didn’t really like wine that much. Whiskey would have been much better, but apparently that wasn’t acceptable for a Saturday afternoon picnic.
He was about to say something to Marnie, something about the food or the weather, and then he saw Cas and his brain stopped function.
Dressed in dark blue trousers and matching waistcoat, a white shirt and pale blue tie, with his hair askew and a pink tint on his tanned face; Cas was the epitome of perfection. All Dean’s doubts faded away as a giant grin crossed his face.
“Hello Dean,” Cas said as he stared at the scene before him. Behind him, Jack winked. “What is all this for?”
“It’s for you,” Dean replied, setting his glass down and climbing to his feet. “I know things have been a little different between us lately, and I just wanted you to know how much I love you. How amazing you are Cas, and how I couldn’t imagine my life without you.”
“Yeah… look, I know we’ve both had a bit of a shit time with relationships, but I’m in this for the long hall, I promise you. You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met. Please Cas, don’t shut me out.” He stepped closer, desperately hoping that Cas wouldn’t run.
“Dean… I-I love you too,” Cas said, his voice soft with wonderment. “I’m sorry I’ve been running away… I never thought I’d be good enough. You deserve the world.”
“You are the world to me, I don’t want anything more than you,” Dean replied, pulling Cas into him and pressing a soft kiss to his lips.
“Me neither,” Cas grinned, returning the kiss, until a loud gurgling noise disturbed them. “Unless, of course, you have food.” Dean laughed as Cas rubbed his stomach with embarrassment.
“Yeah, c’mon Mr. Novak, we’ve got the picnic of your dreams waiting.”
6 Years Later
The snow was lying thick on the ground, the dark sky threatening another dusting. The houses all shone with bright Christmas lights that twinkled in the frosty air.
Marnie couldn’t help but grin as her car pulled up outside her childhood home, noticing that her dad had still gone all out with the decoration despite Castiel’s assurance that it would be more ‘tasteful’ this year. Somehow, she didn’t think Cas had won that argument.
“Did your dad really buy three light up reindeer?” asked Jo, from the passenger seat.
“Yeah, he really did,” Marnie chuckled, reaching out to squeeze her girlfriend’s hand. “Ready to go inside?”
“Sure, I’m looking forward to seeing your dads again, you’re family is awesome!” Jo winked, pulling on her beanie as she stepped out into the snow.
The front door opened before they’d even gotten to it and the pair of them were enveloped in warm hugs and kisses. Her dad hustled them both inside, fussing over them and plying them with hot chocolate before Cas produced a pair of matching sweaters for them to wear.
“Matching sweaters papa, really?” Marnie smiled as she examined the dark blue wool and the snowflake pattern.
“Of course, we’ve all got one. It’s for the family photo,” he grinned, and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “I’m going to beat Serena’s mom for cutest family picture if it’s the last thing I do.”
“Cas has become very involved in the PTA,” Dad said with a sigh, looking at Jo’s confused face.
“Her cinnamon buns are not better than ours,” Cas grumbled, “she uses far too much nutmeg.”
“Whose cinnamon buns?” Dad asked, raising an eyebrow at his husband, who sighed and shook his head.
“Damn straight,” her dad added, sipping his hot chocolate triumphantly.
“Honestly you two, Claire is only five, what the hell are you gonna be like when she gets older?” Marnie chuckled, knowing full well how it would turn out. She adored her dad's, but god help her little sister when she got older. Growing up with her dad had been bad enough, but with two of them?
She’d been so happy when her dad and Cas had approached her and Jack about adopting another child. At first they’d thought they’d be happy when both their teenagers disappeared off to college, but a year after they’d gotten married the pair of them had realised they missed parenting full time.
Her dad had assumed it would take a while to be matched with a child, but two months later Claire had come into their lives. She was only two years old, but her life hadn’t been easy. Although it had taken a while for her to come out of her shell, she was now a full blown hellion in child form. Not that any of them would change that.
The back door clattered and her brother and sister appeared, drenched in snow with flushed cheeks. Claire lit up delightedly and ran, full pelt, into Jo’s legs until she was scooped up by the other woman.
“Marnie and Jo-jo are here!” Claire giggled, planting a wet kiss on both of their cheeks.
“Hey squirt,” said Jo, booping her gently on the nose, before Cas began rounding them all up for the family photo. Marnie made a mental note to talk to her dad about finally letting Cas having bees - papa needed a new hobby that wasn’t plotting against the rest of Claire’s classmates’ parents.
Marnie hung back as Cas herded Jack, Claire and Jo into the living room, chatting happily to her girlfriend about her postgraduate course. Marnie smiled as her dad wrapped her up in a giant hug and she breathed in his familiar scent of leather and home. Everything was perfect.
“Welcome home baby girl,” he whispered.