"No. Absolutely not." Dean doesn't even let Sam finish his sentence.
"Dean, be reasonable. With Rowena's spell, your fear of flying will be completely suppressed. We'll be there in a few hours, toes in the sand, just like you always wanted."
"Maybe I don't wanna suppress my fear. Ever think of that? Maybe my fear is what keeps us safe." Dean throws back the last of his drink and slams the glass with a final "clink."
"Besides, you can’t have a road trip without the ‘road.’"
In the end (shockingly) they compromise.
Dean, Cas, and Jack set off to drive from Lebanon to the Florida panhandle. They calculate it should take about two days to get there with a stop in Memphis.
Sam and Eileen will follow by plane, meeting them at the house Jody rented for everyone.
Sam and Dean each believe they are clearly the wiser Winchester brother, but in a display of family accord, neither vocalizes it to the other.
"Jack," Dean says, face serious as he maneuvers his four-year old into the carseat, "this is very important. Okay? You’re about to have the time of your friggin’ life. Just you, me, Baba, and the open road. We’ll listen to some music. Eat some snacks. You are going to love it."
Jack scrunches his face up in concentration and nods. "Goldfish!" He yells in Dean's ear.
"Now you’re gettin’ it. Snacks? Essential road trip material. Especially goldfish."
Jack looks at him expectantly. “Gold. Fish.”
Surely this is rhetorical, Dean thinks. It's 7am and Jack just had breakfast, so he shouldn't be hungry yet.
"GOLDFISH!" He screams, little hands making a grabby motion.
Cas smiles, opening the car door on the other side to hand Jack a cup of the orange fish-shaped crackers.
"Tank you, Baba." Jack grins sweetly as he shoves a handful into his mouth. “Yummy. These are the best ones I’ve ever had.”
"Cas, those are for later." Dean protests.
Cas gives his husband a sideways glance. "You're the one who mentioned the snack." He raises a brow.
Dean sighs, effectively shut down. "Yeah, should've known better." He slaps a palm on his forehead with dramatics. "Rookie mistake."
Dean digs for the perfect cassette. The opening strains of "Peaceful Easy Feeling" comes through the speakers.
Dean grabs Cas's hand and grins. This is gonna be awesome.
A few hours later, things are not as awesome as Dean expected.
They've already stopped twice to pee. Dean never thought he would miss the diaper days, but potty training is a sonofabitch.
Jack's becoming a real expert at making it to the potty (in part thanks to Sam’s dumb song about ‘having a party, a silly party, what kind of party? a potty party!’), though he still wears pull-ups at night.
The main problem is that he isn't so good at predicting when he will need to pee.
They didn't even make it to a gas station for their first pit stop.
Jack had bellowed "IT'S A ‘MERGENCY" and they had to pull over and let him pee on the side of the road.
Jack had been delighted, which means they will probably be fighting with him about whether he can go “water the flowers” for months. At least his clothes stayed dry.
Dean rubs his temple. Jack is currently wailing because he dropped his sippy cup.
For the third time.
This time, the little plastic cylinder rolled under the seat and Cas can't reach it from the passenger side, no matter how he stretches.
And Dean knows for a fact, Cas can stretch pretty damn far.
"Dean, just pull over." Cas growls, rubbing his shoulder. Dean guides Baby to the grassy bank on the side of the road, fighting the urge to get out and walk back to the bunker.
At this rate, it's gonna take them a week to make it to Florida.
Maybe Sam was right about the flying. At least my death would have been quick and painless.
As Dean contemplates demise by airborne transport, Cas scrambles out of the car and settles in the backseat.
"I'll just stay back here for now." Cas offers, recovering the cup.
Jack claps happily when he hands it back to him adding a soothing pat on Jack’s forehead.
“Yay, Baba! We can play games.”
Dean feels an irrational rush of disappointment.
Yeah, it's the smart move. The kid’s a damn mess and somebody should be there next to him.
But Dean had been looking forward to the hours seated next to Cas, and it’s hard to gloss over the sad dip of his stomach. His mind drifts.
For years he fought the urge to reach out and take Cas’s hand every time he rode shotgun. Miles of road debating whether or not he should finally make his move, dreaming of what the warmth of Cas’s fingers interlaced with his own would feel like.
When Dean imagined this trip, it was always with Cas by his side, their kid happily bouncing to Zeppelin in the backseat.
Now it’s just Dean trying to get from point A to point B like a freakin’ cabbie.
Dean pulls back out into traffic, his mood soured.
Suddenly, there’s a warm hand on his shoulder. “Hey, I’m still here.” Cas says quietly enough that Dean has to strain to hear it. He sighs and leans into the hand. Ok, so it isn’t all bad.
Jack is calm now that ‘Baba’ is next to him. Dean sneaks a peek in the rearview mirror to see Jack feeding Cas goldfish. “Mmm.” hums Cas appreciatively, sending Jack into a fit of giggles.
“I have an idea.” Dean can hear Cas say cheerfully over the music. “Let’s play storytime.” The clapping sound from Jack’s side of the car indicates that this idea is a winner.
“Storytime” is Jack’s favorite game to play with Eileen. The rules are easy - she starts a story and then Jack fills in the blanks. Jack’s vivid imagination often means that the stories are ridiculous and fantastical.
It’s like a souped up game of mad libs with a sprinkling of Lisa Frank.
“Once upon a time, there was a . . . .” Cas begins, looking at Jack expectantly.
“TURTLE” Jack supplies.
Of course it’s a turtle, Dean thinks with a smile. They watched a documentary on sea animals last week in preparation for the beach and Jack was enamored with the turtles.
“Inside voice, Jack.” Cas corrects automatically, voice gentle.
“Ah yes, that’s right. Once, upon a time there was a turtle who lived in the sea, playing with the fishies and eating up all the seagrass. His or her or their name was . . . .”
Dean can see Jack grinning ear-to-ear in the rearview mirror.
“Daddy!” Jack’s eyes widen and he covers his mouth, remembering Cas’s admonishment. “Daddy the turtle.” Jack whispers. A surge of love fills Dean’s chest, and he swallows thickly.
Any prior tension about Cas sitting in the back disappears.
“Of course, how could I forget?” Cas catches Dean’s eye in the rearview mirror and winks lovingly.
“Daddy. Daddy the sea turtle loved to swim and play. Sometimes, he would protect the little fishies from the big mean sharks.” Cas draws out the last bit, dropping his voice low to indicate just how big and mean the sharks were.
Dean absolutely does not tear up at Cas’s gentle description of him. The road is just dusty or something.
“One day, Daddy was swimming along when he met a new friend. Jack, what kind of animal was the new friend?”
“A birdie with big rainbow wings and lots of feathers and a tiny bowtie.” Jack supplies. Dean and Cas’s smiles in the rearview mirror are identical twins when they make eye contact.
Cas’s face drops into a serious expression. “Oh, the birdie sounds very fancy. What's their name?” Dean holds his breath, waiting for the answer.
“BABA! YOU’RE A BIRDIE BABA!”
“Right, that makes sense. Because I have wings. But I don’t usually wear a bowtie.”
Cas pauses, chuckling. “Maybe I should start.”
Dean’s mind wanders as he envisions Cas in a bowtie. Yeah, that is definitely happening. Soon.
Cas continues. “So, Daddy the turtle finds Baba the birdie perched on a rock, soaking up the sun.” Jack nods appreciatively.
“Hello, birdie. I’m Daddy the turtle.” Cas changes his voice, making it higher in pitch.
“That’s not what I sound like!” Dean protests.
Cas looks at Dean seriously. “Well of course not. We aren’t talking about you, Dean. This is Daddy the turtle. Why would you think he sounds anything like you?”
Dean watches as Jack covers his mouth with his hand, giggles escaping out the side.
Dean shakes his head with mock severity, but he can’t keep a smile from peeking through.
“I’m Baba the birdie. It is very nice to meet you, Daddy. Would you like to be friends?” Cas’s voice deepens, getting into the character.
“Oh come on! Seriously?” Dean protests. Jack and Cas laugh harder.
“All of these interruptions.” Cas says sternly. “May I continue, Dean? We’re trying to play Storytime.”
“Yeah, Daddy. Interrupting is ruuuuude.” Jack agrees.
Dean rolls his eyes. “Fine, but see if I let you ride on the back of my turtle shell,” he deadpans
“So, Baba and Daddy became friends, and eventually --best friends. Daddy would bring Baba beautiful shells from the ocean floor and he would tell Baba stories about the fish and the coral.”
Dean gets lost in the cadence of Cas’ voice, the melodic hum of his syllables like a soothing balm.
“Sometimes, Baba would bring Daddy flowers. Daddy had never seen flowers and at first he tried to eat them to see if they were yummy like his favorite sea grass.”
“Silly Daddy!” Jack laughs. “Flowers aren’t for eating.”
Cas smiles. “That’s right. Daddy realized quickly that they were better to look at instead.”
Jack nods, pleased with this confirmation of his accurate assessment. Cas continues:
“Now, some days Daddy had to do turtle things like fighting sharks, and some days Baba had to do birdie things like flying high. But they always came back to each other afterwards. And they always cared about each other.”
A lump rises in Dean’s throat. He looks up to find blue eyes staring at him in the mirror. A little bit of moisture is gathering in the corner of his own.
“One day, Baba came back after a very long journey,” Cas murmurs. “He was so happy to see Daddy, that he said . . . .” Cas pauses, looking at Jack.
“I LOVE YOU!” Jack screams, forgetting any instructions to use his inside voice. A happy chuckle escapes Cas’s mouth.
“That’s right, and Daddy said ‘I love you, too.’ and they lived happily ever after. The end.”
Jack’s face scrunches in protest. “That’s not how it goes, Baba.”
Cas raises an eyebrow. “Oh? You don’t think Daddy loves Baba back?”
Jack rolls his eyes. “Of course he does,” comes his exasperated reply, “but that’s not the end. Auntie Amara comes and gives Daddy wings and Baba fins so they can play every day in the ocean and the sky.”
“Oh.” Cas replies, emotion thick in his voice. “Of course. And they live happily ever after.”
Yeah, there are definitely tears in Dean’s eyes now. He blinks them back, watching his guys in the mirror.
Jack lets out a big yawn. He’s asleep within the next five miles, a sweet little snore sputtering out of his nostrils like a purring kitten.
By the time they pull into a gas station to fill up, Jack’s head is slumped against his car seat, mouth hanging open. He’s out like a light and not even the sounds filtering into the car can rouse him. He’s sleeping that special sleep of little kids, face slack and head full of dreams.
Cas slides into the front seat and Dean wraps his arm around his shoulders, pulling him close. He kisses Cas on the temple before pulling back onto the blacktop. Cas hums contentedly.
Okay, yeah -- the road trip idea? Awesome after all.
They don’t make it to Memphis that night and it takes them a full day beyond their estimated arrival time. There are compromises along the way.
Jack refuses to honor the “driver picks the music” rule and Dean can’t help it if he is a bit of a pushover when two sets of pleading eyes stare back at him. As a result, they are treated to hours of “Baby Shark” and the soundtrack to “Frozen” blasting from Cas’s phone.
They make several unscheduled stops, more than Dean could ever have imagined.
But it’s worth it to see Jack’s eyes light up at the cheesy roadside attractions. His favorite is the giant squirrel, but a close second is the gas station with Bigfoot in front of it.
“Bigfoot isn’t even real.” Dean grumbles quietly to Cas.
“Didn’t you say that about angels once?” Cas teases back.
When they finally pull into the house that Jody rented, the sun is setting. Dean sits for a minute and watches as the bright pinks and oranges fade into the pale gray of dusk.
The smell of salt drifts into the car when Cas opens the door and Dean reminds himself that they will absolutely need to stop at a car wash (or a “car bath” as Jack calls it) on the way out of town.
He smiles. Jack will like that. He loves it when Dean lets him hold the water sprayer in the bunker garage on ‘Baby bath days’ (with some assistance).
“Coming?” Cas asks over his shoulder as he moves to get out.
Dean grabs him and pulls him back into a deep kiss. He thinks about the miles of empty road traveled in his life, and the turn his journey has taken. His heart is as full as the seats of his car, now.
A small smile tilts up on Cas’s lips. “What was that for?”
Dean sighs, a smile mirrored on his own lips. “Everything.”
He looks up at the house. He can see Claire and Kaia peeking through the window at him. Kaia tosses her head back laughing at something Claire says. Warmth spreads through Dean’s chest as he prepares for the chaos of a full house.