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Gathered 'Round This Table

Chapter Text

The boxes seem endless. Each time Dean unpacks one, another one seems to spring up in its place, and he’s not really feeling fighting hydra boxes right now. The problem is that his grandmother’s house was already filled to the brim when he moved in, and now he has his own pack-rat’s nest of crap along with hers. 

Sam is annoyingly calm about it. He seems to think that there are easy answers to this tangled mess, and that’s just not true. Dean spends a lot of time sniping at him from the greenhouse door. Like this morning, unable to do find what he wants in the sea of crap, Dean had stalked over and yanked open the door connecting it with the kitchen. As usual, Sam is working, patiently tying up a thick bundle of fresh rosemary for drying, his tall frame bent over the tiny worktable. He’s wearing a hat and a jacket, same as Dean. The heat has been on the fritz for a month, freezing them both unless they wear outside gear in the house. Dean isn’t sure how the plants don’t die in these temperatures. 

“This is bullshit. How are we supposed to find anything in this mess?”

Sam sighs, looking over the most hilariously small set of spectacles at him. “Grandmother was obsessively organized about the things that mattered. Dean, I keep telling you, just use magic to help unravel it. The right spell will give you the clarity you seek, and you know it.”

Dean comes down the steps and pulls up a metal stool to watch Sam work. “I can’t. I can’t think in this mess, and anyway, this isn’t my space. It’s hers. ” 

He taps the worktable. “Like this thing. You’re going to get a permanent spinal injury. I could never work like that.” 

Sam puts the plant down, taking off the glasses and folding them. “This work table has been in the family since the very start. It’s made of the same wood that built the house. It has resonance , Dean, and you know that. When it accepts me, I’ll fit. It’s nearly winter, and we have a lot of work to do.”

The look on his face says volumes, and shuts down the rest of Dean’s grumbling. Back to work, he guesses. First, though, Coffee.

Crunchy leaves and cold air swirl around Dean’s feet as he enters the shop, door closing behind him with a light tinkling of bells. The earthy smell of coffee and the sharp tang of a fire sink into his skin and soothe him. The place is moderately busy, groups of people clustered in the comfy chairs next to the huge fireplace, reading or playing chess. Two students sit across from each other, coffee forgotten, arguing intensely in low, unintelligible tones. When Charlie and Rowena had opened the place, they couldn’t figure out if they wanted to be a coffee shop or a wiccan shop, or what, so it just morphed into something unique and undefinable. They do serve coffee, but they also sell a lot of stuff to the crystal rubbing crowd. In the back, Rowena sells the real stuff to serious practitioners and various magical ‘services’ that Dean doesn’t want to look too hard into. 

Charlie is behind the counter, engrossed in her laptop. With one finger, she pushes a large mug of dark, aromatic coffee towards him, forcing him to hustle before it lands on the floor. Without looking at him, she gestures with her head at the curtain leading into the back. “Rowena says you’re late. Also, I hold you personally responsible for the tense dreams that have been keeping her awake, Winchester.”

Dean rolls his eyes, but doesn’t linger. It’s never good to annoy Rowena, and he seems to have already pissed off Charlie just by existing. Coffee in hand, he pushes through the thick, slightly dusty, velvet curtain and into the hallway cramped with shelves. They’re covered in wooden boxes, dusty bottles, strangely wrought metal canisters, some with labels - Esfand, Hawthorne, Lavender. Rowena sits in a big chair in the back with a cup of tea, eyebrows raised at him.

“My boy, if you’re going to keep me up at night, at least do me the courtesy of taking me out first.” 

Laughing, he sits across from her. “I’m so sorry. Charlie said you’ve been dreaming?”

“Your family has lived here for a very long time, Dean, and that house has been passed down from generation to generation forever. Your father nearly destroyed that tradition when your mother passed and he took you both away.”

“I know. I can’t make excuses for Dad, but we moved back, we tried to get to know her.” 

Rowena’s eyes soften. “I know, lad. That’s the only reason she left you the house. She loved you boys fiercely, but if you’d turned out to hate magic, or worse, not believe in it…” 

“Regardless, she died with reservations, dear boy, and her house can feel it. Find a way to convince the house of your intentions, and you will find the obstacles fade.” 

Dean leaves, even more confused than before. How is he supposed to convince a house that he loves it? They’d both put their lives on hold to move in and look after it. Sam was practically sleeping in the greenhouse. It just seems obvious that they want to be there. What else could he do?

Back against the headboard, Cas lights a joint and looks up at the skylight, watching freezing November rain sluice over it. The only light in the room is the fading grey of a late Saturday afternoon, and his eyes glow slightly in the gloom. He’s naked and sated, legs crossed at the ankles. Dean’s head in his lap, Cas plays with the short hairs on the back of his neck aimlessly. 

“I think,” He says, resurrecting a conversation that a kiss had interrupted an hour ago, “That you need to do more than just move your enormous pile of crap in. Imagine the house as a person. Hell, imagine it as yourself. You’d be resentful if someone had taken you in when your mom died and then acted like you had no right to be upset.”

Dean reaches up for the joint. “I never thought of the house as alive, though I guess Sam does. I just thought of it as a pile of really old wood. A drafty, creaky pile of old wood”

Castiel passes it over and plants a kiss on his head. “Now you’re being obtuse on purpose. Simmer with that idea a minute, I have to piss.” 

Dean watches his ass as he goes into the bathroom, and when he’s gone, Dean watches the rain on the skylight, smoke curling up towards the ceiling. All the years of living there, raising kids and loving, fighting, dying, whatever. It had to soak into the bones, the foundations of the place. Every ghost they’d ever encountered on the road with Dad had that kind of relationship with their homes, and most of those folks weren’t witches. Magic just amplifies everything.

A chuckle breaks into his thoughts. Cas has found his pentacle among the tangle of clothing and put it back around his neck. He’s still naked, watching Dean with a smirk. Cas sits on the edge of the bed and leans down with one arm on either side of him and looks at him.

“You’ve worked through it, I see. This is why I live here. New house, nothing to muddle my senses. If I wanted to co-exist with centuries of family drama, I’d still be in Salem. Just myself.” 

Dean passes the joint back, head swimming. “And me. You let me in.” 

Castiel’s eyes are intense. He pinches the joint so it goes out, and places it on the side table, then leans down and slowly kisses Dean until the world narrows down to the feel of Castiel’s lips, and his hot feel of rough, roaming hands.

The moon is high in the sky before he comes home. He’s high on drugs and the lingering feel  of Castiel’s skin. The air is cold and crisp, the smell of wood fires faint and lovely. Approaching the house, he’s overtaken by  strong memories of Thanksgiving here - his mother bundling them in from the car, the smells of wood fires and his grandmother’s pecan pie pulling him inside. Laughter was easier, his parents stopped fighting, and he was always so blissfully full, napping on a bed in the attic while the adults played games in the dining room, drinking wine. 

The idea coalesces almost all at once in his mind, a full force compulsion, and he knows in his bones that he’s on the right track. He has to recreate the memory. Not completely of course, but certain aspects of it. 

Dean doesn’t even take his coat off; he goes directly to the greenhouse, where his brother seems to be arguing with an orchid. 

“Thanksgiving.” He says, making Sam turn and blink. 

“Remember… well, maybe you don’t.  I remember , every year a whole lot of people from the community would come over. Her coven, her friends. They would all bring something, and there would be a huge feast here. It always seemed like there would be too many people, but somehow we’d all fit.” 

“Like Stone Soup.” 

“You remember that story?”

“Vividly. I think this is a fantastic idea. Start with Uncle Bobby, and he’ll help you get through to everyone else. I get the sense that the rest of the community isn’t so sure about us inheriting our Grandmother’s legacy.” 

Dean goes off to bed, his mind whirling with memories and for once in a long time, a sense of hope for a future he can shape for himself.

Singer Farm is a little outside town proper, on a piece of land ringed by old low stone walls, crumbling through hundreds of years of use and weathering. When they’d rolled back into tow, Uncle Bobby and Aunt Ellen were willing to help them stay rent free for a while. The both of them refuse to answer whether they were in their Grandmother’s coven, but they at least know enough earth magic to make the trees around their farm grow tall and disease free, the animals they raise strangely cunning and productive. 

They sit in the kitchen, at the old scarred table, drinking coffee laced with whiskey, and they listen to his plans. Ellen is beaming at the end of it, while Bobby stays quiet, sipping his drink and watching Dean with a look he can’t quite figure out. 

“We have just the thing. One turkey left over from the season’s rush. In fact, we were going to eat it on the day. We’ll kill it and dress it, you can bring it home with you now.”

Dean smiles, all nerves. “Is it big enough?”

Bobby rolls his eyes. “Yes, boy. It’s ours. So your plan had better work, because otherwise Ellen and I are out of luck.” 

“Then you will both come?”

Ellen pours him another cup of coffee. “Sweetheart, we’d be honored.” 

When he comes home, laden with the biggest turkey he thinks he’s seen in years, it’s easier to navigate through the boxes. That night before bed, he dedicates a few hours to unpacking a few, and even though it should be hard to find a place for everything, somehow he manages to make it all fit. The heat works reliably all night, too, and he isn’t forced to wear a hat to bed.

Charlie is on his doorstep at five in the morning the next day, looking tired and irritable. She holds up a shopping bag. “Rowena says that we accept your inevitable invitation. Hold on, she wrote you something.” 

Instead of giving him the note, she reads it out loud. “If you can pull this off, you will make your mother proud. Use as many local ingredients as you can. Your grandmother’s book is somewhere in the house. Find it.” 

Dean says, “We found the family spellbook first thi -” 

Charlie holds up her hand, and flips the card. “Not her spellbook. Her recipe book.”

Then she shoves the bag into his arms with a grumpy look, hissing, “We were going to go somewhere warm. I had tickets . This had better be worth it, Winchester.”

Stunned, he can only watch her leave, shopping back held against his chest. He’ll make it up to her. Closing the door on her retreating back, he navigates his way through the hallway, noticing absently that the boxes don’t seem to take up as much space as they did before. 

He goes through the bag at the kitchen table, smiling as he unearths a dozen or so tiny jars of spices. Stuff to make mulled cider, spices for a turkey, nutmeg, cinnamon, thyme. The air is fragrant with them, and the potential makes his head swim.

Apples, local greens from a late harvest, corn, pumpkins, potatoes. As soon as word got around, people started arriving and leaving food. Some stick around to accept invitations to dinner, but most seem to understand that the invitation is implicit. It feels like a tribute to her, and her table is covered in the makings of a feast. When he comes back in from accepting a delivery of flowers from the florist down the street ‘for the table, young Winchester. A bit of color for her table’, his grandmother’s recipe book is sitting, waiting, on the counter.

He picks it up. It’s heavy, stained, fragrant with spices. The edges are worn and frayed. Each page is penned in her ponderous, loopy handwriting with a pen that seems to leak a lot, leaving blotches of ink here and there on the page.

Dean isn’t a stranger to cooking. He’d done it, on the road with his dad and brother. Eventually, he’d learned to take joy in it, reveling in the smile on Sam’s face when he had something filling and pleasurable to eat. He knew how he was going to make almost everything, but he wants something that was uniquely hers, something to tie himself to his grandmother. 

The pages practically move themselves as he flips through them, until he ends up at the page he knows he’s meant to be: Pecan Pie. 

He wakes up before dawn and makes coffee, sipping it in the chill, sitting on the porch. The world, still wrapped in sleep, is still. Dean feels centered. Content. No matter what happens today, he knows he’s doing his best to honor his Grandmother’s legacy and the memories he has of her.

With the time he has, he makes the rest of the desserts. Apple pie made from the fruit grown at Solomon Farms, pumpkin from the same.  The descendants of the Solomon family are now the Fitzgeralds; Garth and his wife are effusive, welcoming, generous. 

Pecan pie is made with pecans that come a county over, and he improvises a little by adding maple syrup. No one here in Kansas makes it, but it’s Dean’s own contribution, a weird memory of pancakes the morning after the day itself, cooked by his Mother on his grandmother’s stove. 

Sam stumbles in well after dawn, accepting a cup of coffee and a long list of chores. He’s done putting out the lunch platter when the first people start to arrive. The day turns into a blur of laughter and work. Ellen makes cranberry sauce while Dean is dealing with dressing the turkey. Rowena has brought handmade decorations that she and Charlie arrange, seamlessly working as a team to do it even while they argue in Gaelic. Bobby grabs Garth and Sam for a beer run to the farm to collect a keg of the homemade brew he and Garth make together; it’s rich and dark and heady.  People keep arriving. Dean is afraid there won’t be enough room, enough food, enough chairs, but it never seems to happen.

There’s always enough room. 

Dinnertime is boisterous. Far too many people seated at a table, groaning with bounty, laughing and telling old jokes, trading fond stories about the Winchester family. Ellen and Garth take over cleanup duty afterwards, and Bobby starts a card game. Finally, the time comes, and Dean brings out the pies. 

The room is abruptly quiet, all eyes on him. The house itself feels heavy; it's waiting and listening. Dean can feel tears gathering, but he won’t let it happen. That’s for later, maybe. He takes the pie server, and cuts a piece off the pecan pie. 

“The first piece is for Grandma.”  Dean puts it on the counter, with a fork. 

“I remember the first day I met her,” Bobby says, and it starts an avalanche of recollections from everyone, laughing and talking with and over each other.

Dean cuts pieces of pies, passing them out, listening to stories. Heartfelt, sad, funny, he absorbs them all. Sam sits next to him with a hand on his shoulder. 

Much later, an exhausted Dean says goodbye to the last guest, closing and locking the door. Sam’s clinking around in the dining room, collecting dishes. He looks quietly gutted. Dean can relate. It’s been a long week, and tonight was intense. If it had been any point in the past, Dean would have left these dishes to be dealt with the next day, but somehow he can’t. He places the pile on the counter, and stares at it for a minute. Sam comes up behind him. 

“Yeah, I saw that too. I’m just going to let it go. I think you should too. If you think about it too hard, you’ll break your brain, Dean.” 

So he doesn’t. They clean up the rest of the dishes, and leave the one sitting on the counter. The plate containing the pecan pie slice he took for his Grandmother, with one, delicate forkful of pie missing. 

In the morning, the plate is empty and clean, sitting in the drainer to dry.

Chapter Text

Use your favorite pie shell recipe here.

  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 large eggs, 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 cup maple syrup, dark amber
  • 1 1/2 cups of toasted, chopped pecans (6 ounces)

Set oven to 400 degrees. Cover your pie shell in foil, prick bottom and sides with a fork, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes, until the bottom starts to color. Brush bottom and sides with egg yolk, return to oven for one minute so the shell can glaze over. 

Lower oven temp to 275 degrees. The pie shell needs to stay warm while you make the filling, so if it gets cool, put it back in to sit.


Melt butter in a bowl, set over a skillet of water below a simmer. Remove bowl and mix sugar and salt in until it's all combined. Beat in eggs, then maple syrup. Return the bowl to hot water. Stir until the mixture is shiny and warm - about 130 degrees. Remove from heat, stir in pecans. 

Pour filling into the warm pie shell and bake until the center is soft but yielding like gelatin: about 50-60 minutes. Let it cool completely - this needs to set, so if you move it excessively it will just turn to liquid. 

Enjoy the pie.