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If You'd Only Cut Loose

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THE LAST WEEK OF AUGUST

“Please?”

“No!”

Please?”

“Absolutely not!”

“Think of the children, Dean!”

For thirty years, Dean Winchester was able to keep his secret talent hidden. Nobody outside of his own family knew about it, and he liked to keep it that way. Not his old college buddies. Not his exes. Not even his best friend.

Well… that was the case until said best friend caught him singing in the faculty lounge. It was his prep-period and he really needed some caffeine. So twenty five cents later, he’s pouring the entire can of Coca-Cola into his “Best ‘Effin Teacher Ever” mug while belting out Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” At the peak of the second chorus, he turns and nearly drops his mug at the sight of Charlie staring in bewildered excitement from the door. Now, if Charlie had been, say, the biology teacher or the computer science teacher, Dean probably would have gotten a simple “you sound good!” and that would be the end of it.

But no. Ms. Charlie Bradbury was none other than the high school drama teacher. And she was on the hunt for a leading man to play the antagonist for the all school musical.

“I am thinking about the kids Charlie,” Dean huffs and continues making his way down the hall and to his classroom. “Don’t you think it’s weird to be including adults in the show?”

“Not for a show like this,” Charlie counters, following Dean every step of the way. “The whole show deals with kids standing up against adults in the name of what’s right. So if kids were playing the adults, it'd get a little muddled, don’t you think?” Dean thinks on it for a second.

“I guess,” he shrugs and pulls out his keys to unlock the door. “What’s the show again?”

“Footloose,” Charlie beams.

“Oh yeah,” Dean rolls his eyes. “That’s gonna be another no from me then.”

“Deaaaaan!” Charlie whines as Dean swings open the door. It’s a humble little room that’s used for distance education class. A large television sits front and center of the room with rows of seats in front of it for the students. On the one side of the wall is the board with the fancy fonted “Distance Education” letters, with the college schedule for the students, and another whiteboard with upcoming dates to remember, as well as the quote and song of the day. Opposite of that wall is Dean’s desk, the only place he felt comfortable enough to make his own.

He sits in the comfy swivel chair and does his traditional spin around. Just to make sure that everything is in order, even though he did lock the room before leaving. Black Impala Hot Wheels still stuck to his computer monitor? Check. Two movie posters (The Dark Knight and The Magnificent Seven), still serving as his personal backdrop? Check. Dean smiles as everything is accounted for. And as his chair returns to face the empty seats, there stands Charlie still. They stare at each other.

“You have your classroom rituals, I have mine,” Dean huffs again.

“Join the musical cast and I won’t tell anyone else?” Charlie tries.

Dean makes a buzzing noise. “Nice try. No cigar.”

“Dean, I am begging you!” Charlie drops to her knees and clasps her hands together in a praying motion. “I know you can act! You go larping with me every summer at Fantasy Fest! And now I find out you can sing? And sing good?

“Yeah, when I’m alone and no one can judge me,” Dean frowns. “There is gonna be a fuck ton of more people.”

“The lights on stage are bright enough that you won’t see anyone!”

“I’ll know they’re there still. Jeez, just thinking about it already makes me want to puke.”

“We can give you tums before the show!”

“Not gonna happen.”

“Dean!”

“Nope!”

“Pleeeeeeeeeeeee--”  Dean turns his chair away from Charlie’s elongated plea. It takes a couple of loud sips from his mug before Charlie runs out of air. It’s quiet, aside from that one LED light that flickers on and off (yeah he should really call somebody for that), and suddenly Charlie stands up and places both hands firmly on the desk.

“Fine,” she huffs and slides her hands off so they make that squeaking sound. “I guess it’ll just be me and the students getting to know Mr. Novak better this semester.”

“Say what now?” Dean swivels around at the name drop. Charlie was halfway to the door, but stopped and coyly looked back.

“Oh, I didn’t mention that the new agriculture teacher is a part of the cast?” she asks innocently. “Yeah, he was the first one to sign up actually before I had to start looking.” Dean swallows hard.

As soon as Mr. Castiel Novak walked into the first teacher meeting in July, Dean was smitten. He was exactly Dean’s type when it came to men. Dark hair, five o’ clock shadow, and bright blue eyes as an added bonus to the small checklist. Normally, Dean had no problem building up the courage to go up to the cute guy, or girl, at the bar to flirt a little and then ask for their number. Something about Mr. Novak was just different though. Words just… didn’t work.

“What do you say I take the lead and show you around the Enterprise?” Dean had said to the new teacher after the meeting. Mr. Novak’s eyebrows knitted together and his head tilted to one side.

“This isn’t a ship, Mr. Winchester,” he said slowly. Crap, they were on a last name basis. “That’s not even the mascot of the school.”

“N...no,” Dean replied. “That’s just… I was making… you never…?”

“I got this Dean-o,” Gabriel, the mythology/English teacher, swooped in to the rescue and Dean watched in envy as Mr. Novak followed Gabriel for the tour.

Since then, Dean had been itching for redemption. But anytime he tried to talk with the guy (the two other times that he tried), Dean’s pop culture references flew right over his head.

“Oh well,” Charlie shrugs, interrupting Dean’s trip down memory lane. “Too bad you’re not interested at all in the show.” Dean jumps from his seat and blocks her from exiting the door.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Dean holds his hands up. “Y...you’re sure he’s going to be in this? You’re not just coming up with some bullshit to get me to join?”

“I am being very serious Dean,” Charlie responds. “Like, Vulcan serious. He showed up to my room after I made that announcement in the faculty meeting and signed up. I think he’s looking to make some new friends outside of Gabe.” Dean’s eye twitches slightly at the name. “And like rehearsals take a lot of time and work. There’s choreography to learn, and lines to memorize, singing parts to practice--

“Is this supposed to convince me or scare me away?” Dean deadpans.

“I’m just saying, it’ll be the perfect chance for you to get to know him,” Charlie sing-songs the last bit and Dean bites his bottom lip. “Dean, I promise you I will do whatever I can to help you get over your stage fright. I’m a Drama teacher for fuck’s sake. It’s what I’m trained to do. And like, come on, spending lots of extra time with a cutie? I mean, for a guy I guess he’s cute.”

“I…”  Dean wants to say no. He knows he should say no. He has never ever sang in front of a large audience and the thought alone terrifies him. Yet his stupid crush is convincing his mind that it won’t actually be so bad. Just a few hundred people staring at him for a couple of hours in exchange for the chance to maybe hit something off with the strange little agriculture teacher…

“...fine,” Dean says.

“Really?!” Charlie gasps.

“Yes, ok. I’ll… do the singing sh--OMF!” Dean is promptly cut off by a tight bear hug.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Charlie squeezes him a little tighter with each “thank you.” When Dean lets out a soft gagging sound is when she finally lets go. “Ok, so rehearsals start next week. We’ll read the script and then basically split the rehearsals between the students and the adults. Anytime the ensemble goes off to learn music or dance choreography, we’ll do the blocking and scene work for the adults with some of the leads. When the kids are working on scenes, you guys can work on the music and stuff.”

“Blocking?” Dean blinks.

“I’ll explain more next week,” Charlie waves off and then hugs Dean once more. “You’re a lifesaver Dean!” She hurries out the door in excitement, only to return a few seconds later to say, “I love you!”

“I know,” Dean sighs with a smile. Once she disappears again, Dean numbly walks back to his chair, slumps down, and stares at the ceiling in despair until students start coming in for the next period.

 

oXoXoXo

 

SEPTEMBER - 10 WEEKS BEFORE SHOWTIME

Dean found himself unusually nervous when he walked into the auditorium for the first rehearsal. He found this rather frustrating because he’s a teacher for fuck’s sake. It’s in the job criteria to interact with students on the daily. But then that annoying voice in his head reminds him that he’s going to be singing in front of all of these kids, and a scene where he’s laughed off stage plays in his mind. He’s about to turn tail and make a run for it, when he sees the reason he agreed to this in the first place.

Mr. Novak sat two rows behind most of the student ensemble, carefully looking through what looked like a packet. His eyebrows scrunch together in puzzlement before he turns the page and Dean can’t believe such a simple action is making his heart flutter. He also can’t believe that he’s just sitting there by himself. Dean looks to his left and right before taking a deep breath.

“You got this,” he mutters to himself. “Charlie said he was looking for more friends. It’s fine. Normal. Just normal friendly teacher stuff.” He takes another quick breath and marches forward. Two steps in, Gabe bounds over and plops himself in the empty seat right next to Mr. Novak. Dean’s internal scream only gets louder as he watches Gabe throw an arm around Mr. Novak’s shoulder and lean into his ear to say something.

“Dean!”  Dean grumpily looks over to Charlie who is waving him over to a seat in the front row. “You’re gonna sit with the rest of the leads up here!” The distance education teacher sulks over to his assigned seat.

 

oXoXoXo

 

Rehearsal wasn’t quite what Dean expected. Though, if he were being honest, he had no idea what to expect anyways. As soon as they did a quick roll call, Charlie sent the students in the ensemble off to learn musical parts while she had the main cast read through the script. Fortunately, there was no singing yet. Unfortunately, Dean was becoming more and more overwhelmed with each page and song that they got through. As soon as they get to the intermission and Charlie calls for a break, Dean jumps up and thrusts the script into her face.

“I can’t do this,” Dean blurts out.

“I didn’t even have you sing yet,” Charlie pushes the script back towards Dean.

“Yeah, that didn’t need to happen to make me realize I’m not cut out for this,” Dean shoves the script back.

“But you said you would,” Charlie pushes back. “And what about you-know-who?”

“I’ll just cut my losses and try online dating for once,” Dean shoves again.

“You haven’t even talked to him yet!” (Push.)

“Because Gabe’s been chumming it up pretty good with him already.” (Shove.)

“I told you he’s looking for more friends outside of Gabe.” (Push.)

“Well, introduce him to your D&D group. I’m out.” (Shove.)

“Just wait until the end of rehearsal to decide.” (Push.)

“I already decided.” (Shove.)

But-- (Push.)

“Um, Ms. Bradbury?”  The script freezes mid air between the two as they look at Mr. Novak. He looks incredibly confused. “Sorry to… interrupt… I just wanted to confirm with you that you are still available to help me with grading my student’s quizzes tomorrow during the second hour block?” Dean slumps slightly as Charlie lets out a groan.

“That’s tomorrow?” she asks. Mr. Novak nods. “Dang it, I thought it was next week. I have to set up lights for my technical staging class to work on during that time.”

“I understand,” Mr. Novak nods, but Dean notices the slight droop in his shoulders. He gives Charlie a side eye for disappointing this gorgeous man. This goes unnoticed, due to Charlie throwing her arm around Dean’s back.

“However!” Charlie chirps and promptly shoves Dean forward. He stumbles a bit towards Cas, but catches himself in time to not crash into the other teacher. “My friend Dean here has a free period so he should be able to take my place!” 

“I-It’s not actually a free period really,” Dean explains as he straightens himself up. “There’s just no students that signed up for that class so it’s just me time.” Confused blue eyes blink at Dean. “But, I-I can still totally help. If you need it or whatever.”

“Yes,” Mr. Novak says slowly. “The help would be quite appreciated since I am hoping to have these results by midnight tomorrow for the students.”

“Deadline huh?” Dean smiles. “Well, no sweat there. Just call me your fairy god-grader because we’re gonna bippity-boppidy-do this.” Charlie snorts and Mr. Novak blinks.

…Holy shit, did he really just say that?!

Dean is about five seconds away from throwing himself into the first lake he can find when something incredible happens.

Mr. Novak smiles at him. A genuine smile. And it doesn’t stop just there. He lets out a small chuckle. Dean lets out his own nervous chuckle and rubs the back of his neck. An eight-bit version of the “Game of Thrones” theme begins playing from Charlie’s phone, and the student stage manager calls for everyone to get back to their seats. Mr. Novak excuses himself and Dean stupidly waves him good-bye.

“You’re welcome,” Charlie whispers, and slaps the script hard against Dean’s chest.

 

oXoXoXo

 

Dean had almost forgotten just how big the school was. Or maybe it was the fact that his legs felt like jello that made him think the school was so big. He hums some Metallica to himself and clicks his trusty red grading pen as he walks down the now empty hallways. While his classroom was located near the front of the school and near the main entrance, the agricultural classroom was on the other side of the school and then some.

He rounds the corner of the last hall and finds Mr. Novak standing in the small hall opening that leads to his classrooms. Dean waves and the other teacher offers a half smile.

“I’m glad you were able to find the classroom,” Mr. Novak comments as he walks into the door on the left. “Many students get lost the first few days.”

“It wasn’t so bad,” Dean shrugs and follows. “Just follow the yellow brick road to the end.” Mr. Novak tilts his head a bit.

“...right,” he says. They stare at each other for a moment. “The quizzes are on the front table.”

“Got it,” Dean nods and scurries away. The classroom, Dean noted, had a completely barren feel to it. Of course it had the necessary tables and chairs for the students and Mr. Novak, but in regards to decoration, there was hardly anything. A few words scribbled on the once white-now yellow board at the front, a poster that had the school’s schedule taped next to it, and a potted plant at the corner of the teacher’s desk. The word “prison” felt like a proper adjective for this room. 

 Dean turns his attention back to the long table at the front which had six stacks of papers. Those had to be the quizzes, and if he were to guess, he would say that they were separated into classes. As he settles down onto one of the cold chairs, he notices that one stack already had a few red marks and numbers on them.

“I allowed the students to leave a few minutes early,” Mr. Novak explains as he joins him shortly. “So I got a bit of a head start. This is a copy of the answer key. Do you need a pen?”

“Nope,” Dean holds up his pen and gives it a few clicks. Mr. Novak nods and sits down. Noticeably, on the opposite side of Dean and a few chairs away. Dean gulps and scoots a stack of quizzes closer to himself. They begin working in complete silence.

Well… almost complete silence.

“Doesn’t that sound get annoying?” Dean asks, pointing his pen towards the loud humming sound behind him.

“Not usually,” Mr. Novak doesn’t bother looking up from his grading. “Since I have the door closed during class. I’ve also grown accustomed to the sound of the greenhouse fans.”

“There’s a greenhouse here too?” Dean blinks.

“Of course. It’s part of the curriculum that they grow plants.”

“In the fall? Won’t they all die?”
“Not in a greenhouse they won’t.”

“Got it. So you’re just going to have them grow a bunch of daisies for their final project or something?”

“I’ll have them grow poinsettias.”

“Oh, right in time for Christmas. Nice!”

“Yes. Um… I don’t mean to be rude but…”  Dean looks back at the stacks of papers spread out on the desk.

“Right,” he says and picks up the first quiz.

 

 

1. WHAT IS IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE?

It is the process used to feed the world.

 

Dean checks the answer key.

 

 

ANSWER: The importance lies not only in the production of food through the means of live stock rearing and plant growth, but also in its fundamentals of producing materials for shelter and clothing as well as being a large factor in economic growth and sustainability.

 

Dean blinks and looks up at Mr. Novak. “Do you allow partial credit?”

“Not at this time, no,” Mr. Novak replies, once again not looking up from his grading. Dean nods and slowly marks an X over the number. He moves on to the next question.

 

 

2. ASIDE FROM GRAIN PRODUCTION, NAME 5 OTHER VARIETIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION

Fabric

Shelter

Milk

Wool

Bees

 

Dean checks.

 

 

ANSWER: Forestry, Fruit Cultivation, Bee-keeping, Arbitrary, Dairy, and Textiles

 

Another worthy partial credit answer, another X marked on the page.

 

 

3. LIST THE MAIN FAMILIES OF ANIMALS

 

Dean blinks again and then quickly flips through the other quizzes in his stack. He wasn’t sure if he should feel relieved or concerned to see that the students’ answers seemed just as confused as he was beginning to feel.

“It’s bad isn’t it?” a deep sigh echoes in the room. Dean looks up and sees Mr. Novak leaning forward with two fingers to his temples. 

“No, it’s fine,” Dean shakes his head and tries to figure out whether aquaponics was a watering technique or a straight up water horse.

“The highest grade I’ve given so far is a C+...”

“That’s… ok, I’ll admit that I’m getting a little confused myself...”  Mr. Novak lets out a low groan and covers his face with his hands. “They’re high schoolers. They tend to forget things really easily.”

“These quizzes were taken at the end of the day,” Mr. Novak grumbles. “After the presentation I gave.” Dean winces with a soft “oooh…”

“Maybe they were just distracted?” Dean offers. “What does the presentation look like?” Mr. Novak slides his phone over and Dean picks it up.

 

 

AGRICULTURE

 

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE?

The importance lies not only in the production of food through the means of livestock rearing and plant growth, but also in its fundamentals of producing materials for shelter and clothing as well as being a large factor in economic growth and sustainability.

 

THE MAIN COMPONENTS THAT FABRICATE AGRICULTURE

Food production is a main component and arguably the most important component. However there are other options a person may take to produce agricultural products. Examples include things such as Forestry, Fruit Cultivation, Bee-keeping, Arbitrary, Dairy, and Textiles.

 

“So… basically the power point is the answer?” Dean asks. The other teacher nods. “You know, it’s just a month into the school year. Kids will probably pick up on this really quick.”

“You think so?” Mr. Novak looks up, hope shining in his eyes.

“Yeah,” Dean swallows as he gets ready to burst his bubble. “Yeah they’ll figure it out and just take pictures to use as cheat references for later.” The other teacher groans again and buries his face in his hands. Dean clicks his pen slowly as he tries to work through the answer key for grading.

“Can I be honest with you for a moment Dean?” Mr. Novak murmurs. “I mean… Mr. Winchester.”

“Dean is fine,” Dean chuckles. “Getting called Mr. Winchester by other teachers makes me feel pretty old.” Honestly, it made him feel old when students called him that too, so he usually instructed them to just call him Mr. Dean.

“Dean,” Mr. Novak nods. “I… I’m afraid I’ve lost complete confidence as a teacher.”

“I get that,” Dean shrugs. “We all do. It happens when you’re starting out.”

“I doubt many of you had to transfer from your very first school due to excessive complaints however.”  Dean looks on with sympathy at his crush. “Gabriel had assured me that this school could be my fresh new start but it’s becoming apparent that history is about to repeat itself.” Admittedly, Dean feels himself click his pen a little too hard at the mention of Gabriel. But he quickly scolds himself and gives the reminder that it’s not about his pathetic jealousy right now.

“Sorry to hear that,” he says. He looks at the empty seat in front of the distressed teacher and moves over to occupy it. “Hey…” He waits until Mr. Novak looks up at him again. “What if I helped you with your presentation and stuff? I mean… I don’t want to tell you how to teach your subject. You’re the agriculture teacher, not me. But it sounds like you’re still pretty new and nervous with this whole teaching thing.”

“That’s… That’s very kind of you to offer,” Mr. Novak sighs. “But I would hate to burden you with my incompetence as a teacher.”

“Ok first off,” Dean glares. “You got a degree and everything right? So you’re not incompetent. Secondly, I mostly sit there in class and make sure kids are paying attention enough to the main teacher on the TV. Or at least show up. I have a lot of down time to look over presentations or lesson plans or whatever to make sure it flows and junk. Just look at me as your little guinea pig.” The agriculture teacher stares at the other man for a long while. He squints his eyes as though he’s trying to read Dean’s mind, which instantly makes him feel nervous because his brain is simply repeating “cute cute cute” over and over again.

“Alright,” he finally says with a small smile. “I… I would really appreciate your help again.” With his brain now screaming the word “cute” over and over again, Dean can only offer him a thumbs up. Mr. Novak looks at the stacks of quizzes and lets out a long sigh. “What should be done about all of these? They’ll immediately bring down the student’s grades.” Dean opens his mouth to reply but then slowly closes it.

“What do you think should be done?” he asks. Mr. Novak looks back and forth at each stack.

“I… I suppose I’ll grade them on a curve,” he mutters. “Take the lowest and highest scores and grade them from there.”

“Sounds good,” Dean smiles, which grows even wider when Mr. Novak smiles back at him. After about the third flip his stomach makes, Dean coughs and glances up at the classroom’s clock. “I still have fifteen minutes before I’ll need to head back. But I can come help again after school is out.”

“We have rehearsal for the musical after school,” Mr. Novak frowns. Dean groans at the reminder. “It did sound like they would mostly be focusing on the student’s choreography at the beginning… so there should be time to potentially continue grading. As long as you’re not needed and it won’t be too much of a bother.”

“No bother at all Cas,” Dean says. Mr. Novak blinks in surprise.

“Cas?” he repeats. Dean suddenly realizes he called him a nickname. 

“Uh y-yeah, sorry. It just sort of came out. I can keep calling you Mr. Novak if that makes you feel--” Dean shuts his mouth when the other man starts laughing.

“No, it’s fine. It’s just… no one has ever called me Cas before.”

“Seriously?” It was Dean’s turn to blink in confusion.

“No. People usually refer to me by my full name.” A smile appears on his face again. “But, you’re right. It does feel strange when your colleague refers to you the same way as the students do. So, Cas is fine with me.”

“Awesome,” Dean grins. It’s another couple of minutes of smiling at each other before Cas shyly prompts them to get back to grading again.

 

oXoXoXo

 

SEPTEMBER - 8 WEEKS BEFORE SHOWTIME

It turns out that Dean was an excellent guinea pig for Cas' lessons. Thanks to his limited experience with agricultural topics, being none whatsoever, he could listen through each presentation and read through questions as though he were a student himself. The main difference however was that Dean had permission to let Cas know when some wording didn’t make sense or when Cas was rambling too much on a particular slide. At first he worried that it would just lead to Cas feeling utterly discouraged forever. But Cas didn't see it that way.

"It's actually very insightful," Cas explains during a rehearsal where the adults had a break and the students were reviewing choreography. "It helps me to better gage what are the key points of the subject and what is just overbearing and useless trivia."

"Oh ok," Dean simply says, before shrinking down in his seat a bit. "I mean, that's not to say you're useless or anything. You're really smart Cas and it shows through your lesson plans."

"Thank you," Cas smiles a bit. "But I have been told that I have a bad habit of rambling when I become nervous. Which seems to be a continual problem when I give my slideshow presentations. It has left students completely confused at times, like today when I begin explaining a plant's decomposition process."

"Maybe you just need a little different approach now," Dean suggests. "You got the PowerPoint down, but you gotta remember that not all kids learn through textbook osmosis."

"Technically the practice of placing your textbook under a pillow to study through osmosis does not work," Cas informs his colleague. "You can learn through osmosis by surrounding yourself with the material you wish to learn. Such as moving to Spain to speak and practice Spanish."

"Right," Dean nods slowly, then perks up. "No yeah, you're right! I mean, look at us!” He gestures to the auditorium. “You’re surrounded by teachers here who have years of experience under their belt! Like, Lisa. The lady playing Ren’s mom in the show? She makes sure she gets through the entire math lesson before going around and helping students individually. Or even Charlie. She’s a natural.”

“SWEET LORD OF THE RINGS!” Charlie throws her hands up in exasperation. “It is just walking people! How do we keep forgetting the choreography for walking?! ” Cas raises a curious eyebrow at Dean.

“Just keep watching,” he mutters in embarrassment. Charlie has now hopped on to the stage as the student dance leader explains where the choreography gets lost. She listens, then walks through the choreography along with the students. After tripping over a couple of students, she nods and reworks the positioning of the lines. “See that?”

“She listened to her student and made the appropriate changes,” Cas nods slowly.

“Well, yeah that. But she’s up there with them.” He tilts his head towards the stage again and Cas watches closer as the students slowly walk through their new positions. “She’s not just up there telling them what to do. She walked it through with them and is still with them to make sure it works this time.”

“Very hands on,” Cas comments before Charlie and the students cheer at finally succeeding. “Perhaps that’s the different approach I need to--oh God.” Dean is confused at the response until he looks to the front. While some students were covering their eyes and screaming, other students joined Charlie’s uncontrollable laughter at the sight before them. Gabriel strutted around the front of the stage in his designated police costume. Aviator glasses, a tan button-up shirt with a badge pinned on… and extremely short shorts. Dean snorts in laughter.

“Alright, where’s MacCormack?” Gabriel shouts in his chosen actor voice. Ben Braeden, the student playing Ren MacCormack, immediately hides behind leading lady Patience Turner. “You’re gonna have to learn that in Bomont a stop sign means stop!”

“I told him not to wear those,” Cas groans. “I specifically begged him last night to not bring those monstrosities in.”

Last night? Dean immediately sobers up as jealousy hits him like a wave. Weeks of grading and going through presentations wasn’t enough to reassure Dean that there wasn’t anything going on between Cas and Gabriel. In fact, it only made Dean one-hundred percent sure that they were living together. Shared car rides, dropping off lunch for one another at times, and vague comments like, “last night.” When Dean saw the two hugging and exchanging quick “I love yous” before school one morning, he knew his crush was in vain.

“Cassie!” Gabriel chirps as he skips down the aisle to get to them. He plants a boot on top of the chair in front of Cas and grins brightly. “Feel my legs!”

“I told you not to wear those,” Cas glares up at the Mythology teacher.

“I knew Charlie wasn’t going to let me anyways,” Gabriel shrugs. “But it was still fun! Come on! Feel, feel, feel!” Gabriel doesn’t wait for Cas to answer. He simply takes Cas’ hand and rubs it up and down his own leg. Dean bristles at the gesture.

“You shaved your legs,” Cas comments.

“Yeah! Don’t they feel awesome!”

“I hope you freeze walking home today.”

“Jokes on you, I got the keys lover-boy!”  Cas pulls his hand back and Dean growls a bit at Gabriel’s finger guns. He turns his attention to Cassie Robinson walking up to the group now.

“Hey Dean, you mind if we go over lines?” she asks. 

“Yep!” Dean says and quickly stands. “Anything for my lovely wife.” Fake wife actually, seeing as Charlie had casted the history teacher to play Dean’s wife. He winks and offers his arm to her.

“Thank you, dear husband,” she smiles and takes his arm. “Then maybe we can get Patience and work on our singing parts in the opening song?” She flutters her eyelashes at him for good measure.

“Charlie put you up to that didn’t she?” Dean sighs playfully.

“Maybe a little,” Cassie giggles as Dean rolls his eyes with his entire body. Dean might have been imagining it as they walked off to a practice room, but he could have sworn that Cas looked a little sad.

 

oXoXoXo

 

“May I ask you something Dean?”  Dean looks up from the current quiz he was grading, a bit surprised that Cas had initiated conversation. The agriculture teacher faced the grueling task of reading about a hundred student essays by midterms. Not wanting to cancel their little meetups, Dean had promised to keep his chatterbox closed for the day so Cas could focus. It was difficult at first, but it was either bite his tongue or not get to spend more time with his pointless crush. And while his mug full of Coca-Cola provided useful for these trying times, Dean welcomed the break with a sigh of relief.

“Sure, go ahead,” Dean stretches his arms over his head.

“Why did you join the musical if you don’t like to sing?”

Oh shit. Dean really wishes they could go back to not talking.

“Uhhh no reason,” Dean lies. Cas narrows his eyes slightly, in the way that still makes Dean think he’s trying to read his mind.

“I see,” Cas finally sighs, a little slump to his shoulders. “So it is because you like someone then.”

Oh fuck.

“Who told you that?!” Dean squeaks, quickly covering it up with a little cough.

“Nobody,” Cas mutters, writing a score on an essay and moving it to his completed pile. “I’m just observant and noticed a few things.”

“L-like?” Dean sputters. Cas quietly reads the next essay and Dean swears his heart beat is louder than the greenhouse fans across the hall. “Hey you can’t just drop something like that and then ditch the subject!”

“Like the way you and Miss Robinson talk,” Cas sighs.

“Cassie?” Dean blinks, then smiles a bit in relief. “We’re just married in the show.” He makes quotation marks with his fingers at the word “married.” Cas is still frowning. “Dude, I promise you it’s all just playing around. Ok? Trust me.”

“...alright,” Cas says slowly and looks down at the essay again. Dean takes a long sip from his mug and silently thanks the heavens that he was able to save that--

“Ms. Bradbury then.”  Soda sprays out of Dean’s mouth and onto the floor like the whale splashes the audience at SeaWorld. Fortunately, he hadn’t soiled any of the student’s work, but that didn’t stop Cas from pulling the stack of essays closer to himself.

“Charlie?!” Dean gags. Cas abandoned his seat to gather up paper towels for clean up. Dean immediately drops down to the floor to help. “Dude that’s even more off!”

“Sorry,” Cas mutters apologetically. “I just overheard you both the other day talking about going to a bar and then... something about how she needed two hands to wield if she wasn’t mounted and how well your piercing damage works...”

“...wha…” Dean’s brain rapidly replays the last few conversations he had with Charlie. “Lance… we were talking about a lance’s stat in D&D, Cas.” The agriculture teacher tilts his head. “Dungeons and Dragons, it’s a fantasy roleplaying game for nerds. We--” Dean pauses and quickly lifts his head to scan the room. No one else was in there, but he lowers his voice anyways. “Charlie was asking me to help her come up with a new character for the game at MacLeod’s.”

“The gay bar?” Cas’ eyes widened in surprise. Knowing MacLeod’s as the gay bar was about as obvious as knowing the Statue of Liberty was an American icon. As much as Dean wanted to, he knew it was nothing to get hopeful over.

“Yeah,” Dean keeps scrubbing at one particular spot on the floor but nods.

“...so--”

“Charlie’s gay. I'm…”  It wasn't that Dean was ashamed of his sexuality anymore. But it had only crossed his mind at this point that Cas could very well be straight and might feel weird about it. His jealousy caused him to assume there was a relationship happening between Gabriel and Cas, but now he felt that he was being delusional.

Well, either way, Cas would need to know sooner or later.

"I'm bi."

“...Oh,” Cas says in a tone that Dean doesn't want to try and interpret. 

“Yeah,” Dean gathers up the wet paper towels to throw away. He doesn’t look up right away, nervous about the sort of face Cas would have. After the discomfort of the wet paper gets too much, he risks it and looks. Cas gives him a sincere smile that immediately feels warm and safe. Dean remembers to breathe again.

“So, anyways,” Dean clears his throat and makes his way to the trash bin. “Nothing’s ever gonna happen between me and Charlie. And before you go off and guess I have a crush on Lisa or Mr. Donatello or some other teacher--” The risk of Cas guessing his pointless crush correctly was still there. “--I don’t actually hate singing. I just don’t like singing in front of big groups. It makes me nervous as hell. But Charlie needed some help.”

“I see,” Cas says. “So it's more of a matter of helping your friend out despite having stage fright than a motive of potential partnership.”

“Yep,” Dean lies and tosses the papers into the trash. “Exactly that.” Cas nods thoughtfully and soon they go back to their seats and pick up their grading material again.

“I’m sorry,” Cas once again breaks the silence. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“No big deal,” Dean shrugs. “It was getting to that point in our relationship anyways. I-I mean, relationship as friends! You know? I’m not trying to imply anything is happening between you and me.”

“I understood what you meant,” Cas responds. The greenhouse fans click off again and the silence is almost deafening.

“There’s this field trip I’m planning,” Cas says. “It’s a tomato farm that is able to grow all year round thanks to an electrical power plant built nearby. I’m using it for a unit I have planned for when we talk about recyclable farming methods.” Dean makes a noise of interest. “The trip will probably happen at the beginning of November but… while parents are able to volunteer to chaperone, I am still in need of a teacher to be a sort of co-chaperone.”

Just as quickly as the word “date” pops into Dean’s mind, it is thrown into the mental garbage disposal. There was no way this gorgeous guy could be asking Dean on a date. It wouldn’t even be a true date since they’d be babysitting the group of kids they are assigned to. No chance to really get to know each other. No romantic stroll by the tomato fields while holding hands. This was definitely not a date that Cas was asking Dean on. And besides…

“Did you ask Gabe?” Dean tries to say the Mythology/English teacher’s name with as little venom as possible. “I’m sure he’d leap at the chance to ditch his classroom and hang out with you.”

“I suppose he would,” there’s a hint of annoyance in Cas’ tone. “The only problem I see in asking him is that it would be like bringing another child to the trip.”

“I guess I can see that,” Dean snorts. Cas presses two fingers to his temple with a sigh.

“I really should be more patient with him though.”

“Is he patient with you?” Dean raises an eyebrow in suspicion.

“Extremely,” Cas chuckles to himself. A fond smile appears on his face that Dean wishes were for him instead. “He’s done so much for me throughout the years and it’s only now that I feel like I’m at a position where I’m worthy enough to give back the generosity in kind.”

“Hey, you’re worthy,” Dean leans forward and points at Cas. “You’re always worthy. Don’t ever let anyone make you think or feel that you’re not.” Cas blinks at his finger, then he gives Dean a smile of his own.

“Thank you for the reminder, Dean.”  Dean nods once and adjusts the stack of quizzes in front of him.

“Yeah any time. And like, I’m not here to judge you on your relationships or anything, but just know that you don’t owe anyone anything either ok? A relationship needs to be balanced if it’s going to work.”

“That’s what I’ve been told.”

“Yeah well, it’s true. There’s no point in sticking around if they’re going to keep making you feel bad.”

“I… suppose you are right.”

“Especially if they do things that make you uncomfortable. Like… I don’t know, wear booty shorts even though you told them not to.”

“Y...yes, but--”

“But nothing Cas! If you’re with someone who doesn’t respect you and always makes you feel like shit, then maybe something's gotta change or end in the relationship!”

Cas squints in confusion. "What does my brother have to do with any of this?"

"Because he just--wait… your brother?"

"Yes.”  The silence falls heavy between them. “After I was informed that I was being transferred from my first school, it was Gabriel who told me that Mrs. Butters was retiring and that I should request to come here. It’s thanks to him that I received the position in the first place."

...oh.

Then comes the head tilt. "Were you under the assumption that he and I were dating?"

"No!" Dean scoffs. Cas keeps staring. "...maybe…" Cas gives a half smile. "...shut up." Dean decides that the quizzes were much more interesting than the chuckling man sitting across from him. This is why Sam tells Dean that it’s better to ask questions than to ass ume something when you’re not sure…

Idiocy, thy name is Dean.

“Well now that I’ve made a dumbass of myself, you don’t have to feel bad for earlier. We’re even now.” 

“That sounds fair,” Cas snorts and picks up another essay. They continue their respective grading process in silence, even to the point where Dean begins to lose himself in the zone.

"You weren't entirely wrong with your assumption though," Cas says. "At least… you got the preference of gender correct." Dean nods as he's marking down points on the quiz and--

Wait.

What?

Dean almost gives himself whiplash at how fast he looks up from the quiz. Cas is reading through the essay in front of him, but his eyes aren't actually moving. He finally looks up at Dean through his eyelashes. A bit of worry and hesitation shines through. Dean swallows down the excitement at the fact his pitiful crush is not in vain.

"Nice," is all he can say, with a genuine grin. When Cas smiles back at him, Dean has to fight the urge to grab his face and kiss him at that moment. He compromises with a thumbs up.

 

oXoXoXo

 

OCTOBER - 7 WEEKS BEFORE SHOWTIME

The screen once showing the instructor for Biology 1010 clicks off and Dean grunts as he stands from his swivel chair, immediately drawing the attention of his small class of five. “Alright, you heard the lady. Go over the practice quizzes on Canvas before taking the test, and make sure you get that research paper done by next week and turn it in.” He gives each of his students a playful warning glance until he gets to one student in particular. Hayden Foster already had her phone out, as usual, and completely ignored Dean. Typically, Dean was much more lax on the “no phone” policy than the rest of the school, but even he found himself getting a bit tired of Hayden’s “creative” ways to pretend she didn’t have her phone out. He fights the urge to let out a loud sigh and instead points to a blonde girl who sat on the floor at the very front of the room. “No late work accepted this time around, got it Claire?”

“Oh no,” Claire deadpans. “Whatever shall I do about the paper for the class I’m not taking?” While Claire wasn’t technically signed up for the class, Dean didn’t really have a problem with her hanging out in his classroom at this time. So long as she stayed quiet and busy and out of the camera’s view, then she was allowed to stay. Dean dismisses the class and as soon as the student seated next to Kaia leaves, Claire jumps up to her girlfriend for a tight hug.

“Oh my God, get a room!” Patience teases her two friends.

“I’ll be sure to tell you that when you have to kiss Ben in rehearsal today,” Claire smirks. Patience’s face turns beet red and she immediately covers her face in embarrassment.

“It’s just a stage kiss, Patience,” Adam Milligan comments, still seated in his usual spot at the center of the room. “Samandriel says it doesn’t actually count as your first kiss.”

“It does if you like the guy you’re kissing,” Hayden says, abandoning her phone for a topic she actually cared about now. “That’s why me kissing your boyfriend doesn’t count Adam. But Patience on the other hand!”

“Alright, alright, leave my daughter alone,” Dean makes a shooing motion at the teenagers. In a strange twist of fate, a majority of the students in this Biology 1010 course happened to be connected to the musical in one way or another. Of course there was Dean and Patience, but Hayden and Kaia were also a part of the leading cast playing Patience’s friends. Claire, with her stellar work in the stage production class, had quickly taken the place of head techie for all of the shows. Adam, though very capable of memorizing things quickly, never bothered to give theater a try and would much rather go in support of his boyfriend Samandriel. Dean found it rather funny of how small this acting world turned out to be.

“Fine,” Hayden sighs dramatically. “We’ll just see how it goes in rehearsal today.”

“Just don't forget to water our plants Hayden," Adam says, finally packing up his notebook and pen. "It's your day to do that, remember?"

Another funny "small world" moment that Dean found rather ironic was the fact that Claire, Adam, and Hayden were all in the same agriculture class this year. Claire had admitted that it sounded like “a funner option for science credits.” Dean wouldn't particularly ask the students how the class was going, but when it came up in conversation like now, then who was he to change the subject?

"Ok Dad ," Hayden scowls. "I'll take care of it."

"I'm just saying because last time you forgot," Adam folds his arms over his chest. "Mr. Novak docked us all points for that."

"Well maybe Mr. Novak shouldn't be so anal about stupid dirt," Hayden rolls her eyes.

"Whoa, hey now," Dean holds a hand up to get the teen’s attention. "Mr. Novak isn't that bad now, is he?"

“He is literally the worst, ” Hayden says. “He gives like no partial credit whatsoever and most of the answers aren’t even on the slideshow!”

“That’s because you’re supposed to be paying attention while he’s talking,” Adam says.

“Yeah, and at least he sort of acts like he knows what he's doing now," Claire chimes in.

"No he doesn’t,” Hayden scoffs. “Did you see the last worksheet he gave us? Half of the answers were in a completely different chapter! And if he was a good teacher, then the class would be easier. But it’s not. It’s freaking hard and he doesn’t do anything to help. He just keeps going on about stupid stuff that doesn’t make any sense!”

“Well maybe if you’d get off your phone for five seconds,” Adam grumbles, maybe hoping no one else hears it. Hayden turns to him with a slight glare.

“He’s boring as hell. I need something to keep me awake while he’s talking about dumb stuff. He is literally the worst teacher ever.”

“If you don’t mind me asking,” Dean finally interjects. “Why did you sign up for the class then?”

“I didn’t. My counselor signed me up because she said it would be an easy class.”  Dean bites back a groan by taking a sip from his mug. It’s an all too common story. Counselors sort of liked to guess what classes sounded the easiest just so a student had a full schedule. “But whatever. At least Mr. Novak offers a buttload of extra credit. I can easily get a B in the class without having to pay attention for the rest of the semester.”

“Well don’t forget that participation is a majority of your grade,” Dean says. “Not just for his class, but for this one too, Hayden.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it,” she says, more to her phone. Dean was fairly certain she did not get it.

 

oXoXoXo

 

OCTOBER - 5 WEEKS BEFORE SHOWTIME

“Do you really think it’s wise to be suggesting this to me?” Cas asks while he inspects the doughnut he chose from the faculty lounge (it was meant to boost morale as the teachers were preparing for midterms next week). “Concurrent enrollment is a huge commitment and it’s only now that I feel like my presentations actually make sense.”

“Totally,” Dean responds over a mouthful of his own doughnut. “I had some very reliable sources tell me that you’re doing a lot better. So why not jump into the next level?”

“There are still a handful of students who are struggling,” Cas counters. “How can I be expected to teach at a higher level comprehensively when there are still more students getting C’s than A’s or B’s?”

“C is still passing,” Dean points out. “And it’s not like I’m telling you to teach it now. You’ve got some time. And I’ll be there to help you. At least in getting it all set up with the universities.” Cas sighs and hands his doughnut over to Dean. “Don’t like jelly filled?”

“I’ve had a headache all day,” Cas grumbles. “I’m afraid if I put sugar into my system it may grow worse.” Out of habit from having to watch over his own brother, Dean presses the back of his hand against Cas’ forehead.

“You’re a little warm,” he comments.

“Great,” Cas rolls his eyes. “Just what I needed before midterms.”

“Well ‘tis the season for colds and junk,” Dean shrugs. “Just grab some orange juice or vitamin C packets on your way home and chug it. And get some extra sleep tonight. None of that late night gaming.”

“Is this typical teacher sickness protocol?” Cas asks.

“Nah, just Winchester protocol,” Dean answers before finishing off his first doughnut. “My brother kept getting sick from stress and too much cramming during college, so after lots of trial and error, we figured out how to kick colds in the as--”  Cas nudges Dean sharply as Principal Billie enters the lounge. She offers a polite nod in greeting, and Cas shuffles closer to Dean to give her enough space to select her doughnut. Her dark brown eyes stay locked onto the two men as she takes a bite. Another nod, and then she promptly leaves. Dean hears Cas let out a loud exhale. “Were you holding your breath?”

“If I am getting sick, I didn’t want to spread it to our boss,” Cas mutters with slightly flushed cheeks. Dean holds the doughnut up to Cas’ face.

“Oh, so don’t get the principal sick, but your teacher buddy is whatever,” Dean snorts. Cas’ eyes widen a bit and he reaches out to take the pastry back. Dean promptly stuffs half of it into his mouth. “Too late!” Though it sounded more along the lines of “foo wate!” The agriculture teacher chuckles until he coughs. As soon as the large mouthful had been carefully chewed up and swallowed, Dean adds, “Dude, you should just head out now. Your last class is your other prep-period, so just go home already.”

“I’ve scheduled an appointment with a student’s mother during that time,” Cas says. “She informed me about how frustrated she and her daughter felt about my lack of consideration and willingness to help her daughter raise her grade. Though, if I’m being perfectly frank, this is the first time her daughter has expressed any sort of honest concern about her grade in the class.”

“Late change of heart?” Dean suggests.

“Perhaps,” Cas sighs. “She is one of the leads in the show, and Charlie recently checked all of the lead students’ grades.” Dean hums in understanding and takes a smaller bite.

It was a condition that Charlie always followed through with during her shows. Students who were casted were required to have a minimum 3.0 GPA through the duration of rehearsals. If they were unable to keep that GPA minimum, they would be out of the show. She told them it was a sort of practice for when these kids went out into the real world and would have to learn how to keep the theater and other responsibilities balanced. In all actuality, she had admitted to Dean that it was to reduce the angry parent phone calls. In her own words, “the arts and myself aren’t paid enough to deal with the constant blame game.”

Yesterday was grade check day for the students playing lead roles. After a few other loud complaints from a certain Biology 1010 student, Dean had a pretty good guess now as to who this student was.

“I should go,” Cas sighs after checking the time on his wristwatch.

“Good luck,” Dean mumbles through another bite. “And go home as soon as you’re done ok?”

“I will, thank you.”  Cas hesitates in leaving. “And… I will consider teaching a concurrent enrollment course. So long as you promise you’ll help me get everything set up.” Cas’ cheeks flush even brighter and Dean convinces himself that it’s due to the oncoming illness.

“One-hundred percent,” Dean nods. Cas still doesn’t leave right away. “I think I forgot my trusty grading pen in your classroom. Think I can head back with you real quick to check?”

“Of course,” Cas says, and finally leaves the faculty lounge with Dean.

 

oXoXoXo

 

OCTOBER - 4 WEEKS BEFORE SHOWTIME

Unfortunately, Winchester sickness protocol is only helpful when used at the correct stage of the sickness. Cas’ body had already dived into the “chicken soup and lemon tea” zone of sickness during his teacher-parent meeting. Just like Sam after his law school finals week, Cas had strained his body so much that he had to call in a substitute to properly recover. And Dean missed him terribly.

Nothing felt the same without the dorky agricultural teacher. He would still go during that second hour hole for grading, but only felt lonelier as the greenhouse fans echoed loudly in the empty classroom. Conversations with the substitute could never hold a candle to the conversations he had with Cas because… well… Cas actually talked sometimes. After the fifth try, Dean just gave up.

From quick conversations with Claire and Adam, Dean couldn’t help but begin to worry about the direction the agriculture class was heading. It was never ideal for a teacher to be gone during midterms, and it was especially not ideal when the class featured a very specific topic. The substitute had no knowledge of agriculture whatsoever, and Dean could only offer a little guidance based on what he remembered from the presentations he had proof-read. It should have been all review sections for their upcoming midterm exam, but the next time the ag students come in, they’re vocally frustrated and confused about the difficulty of the exam.

After a full week, Cas returns. Due to his own teaching schedule Dean wouldn’t be able to go see Cas until after school. But hey, good things come to those who wait anyway. Twenty minutes after school was over, since his schedule was like that, Dean was making his way down the hall and to the familiar classroom. Goodbye crusty old sub, hello sweet beautiful Cas! 

He doesn’t find Cas in the greenhouse like he usually did, but instead finds him in his office. The office space sits between the classroom and the greenhouse, and typically has the door open when Cas is in there. This time however, the door is closed and Cas seems to be pacing around the space. Dean gently knocks on the door, but is ignored. He knocks a little harder and causes the other man to jump. That’s when Dean finally sees that Cas has a phone pressed to his ear and papers are scattered all over his desk and even on the floor. Dean tilts his head in wonderment and Cas shakes his head.

He frowns as Cas turns away and goes back to the phone conversation. This wasn’t quite how Dean imagined their “reunion” would go. But it was Thursday tomorrow, so that meant it would be time for their second period grading agreement. He offers Cas a wave that goes unseen before he trudges through the exit.

 

oXoXoXo

 

The next day when second period rolls around, Cas is once again locked in his office. And once again, their reunion is postponed.

 

oXoXoXo

 

Dean had two options at this point. He could go home after school and have what he would call a typical “chick flick” moment. Eat a whole tub of Rocky Road and cry about how his pitiful crush refused to see him. Or he could say “fuck it” and wait outside of Cas’ office, like the lame love-sick puppy that he was, to finally talk to him.

As good as Rocky Road sounded at the moment, it would have to wait as Dean had chosen the second option. He waits about twenty minutes before walking to the other side of the school. Sure enough, he finds Cas in his office once again. The difference this time however, is that Cas is not pacing around like a tiger in a zoo or on the phone. This time, Cas is hunched over his desk with his hands covering his face. Dean doesn’t wait for the opportunity to be dismissed again, and cautiously enters the office.

“Cas?” he says quietly. There is no response. Dean swallows a bit as he closes the door behind him. He hovers over the other teacher for a moment, until he hears a loud sniff. He gently places his hand on Cas’ shoulder.

“Cas?”  Cas finally looks up at Dean. His eyes were red and shiny.

“I can’t do this anymore Dean,” he whispers. “I quit.”

 

oXoXoXo

 

“Inhale…”  Dean inhales. “...and exhale.” Dean lets out a long exhale as Charlie smiles at him. “Good job Dean. Now, you want to try it again?”

“No,” the distance ed teacher answers honestly. Charlie gives a tired sigh. “But I will cuz I love you.” 

“I know,” Charlie gives him a smirk. “But you’re just saying that now since Cas isn’t here to overhear that.” Dean groans and Charlie snickers. Great, now he’s thinking and worrying about that again. He tries to focus on his breathing while Charlie pushes the play button on her phone. The bell at the beginning was meant to prepare Dean for the incoming music, but all it did was set him into a slight panic.

Focus Dean. 

Inhale. Exhale. But not too fast or he might faint. 

In. Out. 

It’s just Charlie. No judgement.

In. Out.

Man if Cas were here…

Don’t think about it Dean.

Out. In.

And!

Dean opens his mouth... and stares wide eyed at Charlie.

“...I forgot the words!”

“Ok,” Charlie stops the music and points to the yoga mat on the floor. “Back on the floor.”

“No,” Dean growls and stomps over to the door, plopping himself on the floor to tie up his boots. “I can’t do this Charlie. I’ve been trying for weeks now but I can’t do it. I literally cannot sing in front of anyone! No matter how much I try the breathing thing or stretching to ‘loosen me up,’ it’s not working. I’m sorry I wasted your time for so long, but I’m just not cut out for…”  He stops mid lacing as the words start to sink in. Words that were practically identical to words he had heard earlier in the day. Dean closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Sorry.”

“It’s ok,” Charlie says quietly. “I could sort of tell something was eating at you and making you off.” Dean glares at his half laced boot. “Do you want to talk about it?” He chews on the inside of his cheek deciding whether he wanted to or not.

“It’s Cas,” Dean mutters, then quickly adds, “Teacher related stuff.”  Charlie sits next to Dean on the floor. “You know how he got sick for a week? Right when midterms were happening? Well the sub was a complete idiot and printed off the wrong exam for the students. It was the midterm for next semester so the kids had no fucking clue what any of the material was. Most of the kids didn’t even know until the report cards came out, and then came the angry phone calls from the parents. Not for the sub though. For Cas, because when they all found out what happened, that’s when he was feeling better and came back.”

“Oh damn,” Charlie says. “I mean, kids are tough. But parents are hell.”

“Right? I tried to visit him a couple of times before and he was just on the phone and just looking to see where the hell those midterms were. He found them after he called the sub and that’s when he realized what had happened. He told the kids they all had to retake the exam and you can imagine just how ticked they were.

“After all of this, the angry phone calls and the ticked off kids, Cas just... he just decided today that he’s going to quit teaching.” Charlie lets out a soft “ooh…” of pity. “I tried telling him that shit like this happens all the time but he won’t listen to me. Just got his mind set that he can’t do it anymore and that no matter what he does it’s just gonna fail. I was kind of pissed about it… until I almost walked out right now thinking the same way he did. But with the whole musical stuff.” Charlie hums thoughtfully. “Sorry I almost walked out. We can try to--”

“No, Dean… it’s ok,” Charlie cuts him off. “Obviously a lot is going on right now. But also… I should be the one saying sorry. I kept trying to force you out of your comfort zone and didn’t listen to you.” She leans into him and rests her head on his shoulder. “If you really want to quit the show, then that’s totally fine.”

“But the show is in like a month,” Dean frowns.

“Three weeks,” Charlie corrects him, with a slightly panicked tone in her voice. “But I’m sure I can find someone. Worse comes to worse, I’ll just take over the role myself.”

“Super conservative town says dancing and music is illegal but gay marriage is a-okay,” Dean snorts.

“It’s called artistic liberties,” Charlie says in a pompous tone. Dean chuckles at that and then looks at the script rolled up in his jacket. He reaches over to retrieve it. A smile of fondness grows on his face as he thumbs through the pages and reads the notes written for himself in pencil. The smile grows even wider at a particular page where he and Cas had a mini doodle war. Cas had won by drawing a chubby cow shouting “QUACK!” 

“It’s ok Dean,” Charlie’s voice brings his attention back to the moment. “I won’t be mad if you decide to quit.”

“...yeah but Sammy might be,” Dean sighs and closes the script. “I should have known better than to tell him so soon.” He scratches at a weird brown stain that had been on the cover of the script since he first got it. “And anyways… it feels a little hypocritical if I’ve been telling Cas not to quit something he’s good at and then turn around and do the exact same thing.”

“Don’t do it for him,” Charlie looks at him sternly. “Or Sam or me. Do it because you want to.” Dean runs a thumb over the Footloose title and swallows.

“I… I want to…” he admits. “It’s hard as hell… but it’s kind of fun too.”

Charlie smiles at him. “That’s what she said.”

“On second thought,” Dean goes back to lacing up his boots.

“Oh come on! It was a good one!” the drama teacher giggles. Dean rolls his eyes but can’t help but laugh as well. “Thanks Dean. Again, I’m really sorry for being so pushy at the beginning.”

Dean shrugs. “If it wasn’t for you, I would still be tripping all over myself in trying to talk to Cas.”

“Well in that case, I’m not sorry,” Charlie grins and nudges Dean. “But, speaking of Cas… did he say he was going to give a two weeks notice or something? Maybe I can tag team with you in convincing him to stay.”

“He didn’t say,” Dean sighs. “But if you want to try to talk to him, go right ahead.” He suddenly remembers something. “You know when a good chance to talk to him would be? During the field trip on Tuesday.” Charlie grimaces. “Oh come on, I thought you liked nerd stuff.”

“Not like, plant nerd stuff,” Charlie whines. “I’m more into the tech and science of space and fantasy. Not plants.

“Well one of the parents that volunteered to go cancelled since she was so mad about the grading mix up. We’re looking for someone ASAP, otherwise the trip will get cancelled.”

“B-but I have class!”

“It’s just in the morning, we’ll be back by lunchtime. Just have Gabe pop in a video for your first class, and then you have a prep-period second hour.”  Dean leans forward and looks at her with puppy-dog eyes. “Please?”

“Oh not the puppy-dog eyes!” Charlie tries to swat Dean away. “Ok fine! I’ll go.” Dean punches the air in triumph. “On one condition.” He looks at her curiously. “You have to sing for me right now.” Dean lets out a small whine of his own upon hearing the condition. “Don’t worry…” She hands Dean her phone and lifts herself off the floor. “I’m not going to try and watch you this time.” She puts a finger to her chin as she looks at Dean. Her director gears started to turn in her head. “Remember what I told you. The feeling of frustration you felt trying to keep Sam safe growing up?”

“Got it,” Dean nods, flipping to the page with the song lyrics.

“Well, don’t be afraid to use some of this frustration with Cas too,” she adds. Dean blinks up at her as she walks out of the room. “Just push play whenever you’re ready!”

Dean nervously reads through the words of “Heaven Help Me” a couple of times. He inhales as he stands up from the floor, and exhales when he pushes the play button. The bell gives the warning and panic bubbles up inside of Dean. But with the words right in front of him and the room completely empty now, Dean finds his voice much easier this time.

 

oXoXoXo

 

NOVEMBER - 2 WEEKS BEFORE SHOWTIME

If Dean didn't know any better, then he would have assumed Cas was having an off day instead of full out ignoring him. But Dean did know better. And he could tell that Cas was purposely creating space between them. It was obvious from the moment Cas assigned himself to the first bus and placed Dean and three other parents on the second bus. There were only two buses going up for this trip. So much for needing a co-chaperone… It was nothing but dental horror stories from Garth the entire forty minute drive…

The only bright side to all of this was that Charlie had been placed on the first bus with Cas. So if she was going to talk to him about not quitting, that would be the time to do it. He could only hope she would be able to talk some sense into him when Dean failed to do so.

His hopes continue upward by the time they reach the tomato farm. Forty minutes surely was enough time for Cas to come to his senses and be in a better mood. It would have been a real bummer if they went on this hour-long tour without talking at all... But as soon as Cas stepped off of the bus, he brushed past Dean without a second glance. Dean's jaw clenches a bit as Charlie hops off shortly after.

"I called in a sub for this stupid trip and I'm getting the cold shoulder," Dean growls.

"Whoa, easy there Hulk," Charlie says. "Cas is just under a lot of stress right now. Between the field trip, and the teaching, and getting over being sick."

"Would have been nice to hear it from him," Dean mutters, folding his arms. Cas calls the group of students and chaperones over to the worker who would be giving them the tour.

"Just give it some time," Charlie whispers as they get closer to some students. "And don't worry, I'm still working through the layers."

"Layers?" Dean blinks, but Charlie has already bounded off next to Cas.

About ten minutes into the tour, Dean’s mood had completely soured. The tour and farm itself wasn’t boring, but Dean couldn’t help but feel that he was wasting his time. The whole purpose of Dean being a chaperone was so he could spend more time with Cas. Like a date. Even though Dean had told himself that this field trip was absolutely not a date. Obviously, he had lied to himself and now had to deal with the heavy disappointment weighing down his heart.

How many things did Dean agree to because of Cas only to be disappointed at the end? This field trip for starters. Then the presentation proofreading and grading sessions that would probably never happen again since Cas insists on quitting. And of course, the show. The show that Dean decided to stay in, even though it still filled him with a huge amount of anxiety and dread. He had never ever sung in front of a large audience, and whether Cas was sticking to the end or not, Dean would have to deal with the consequences.

It’s not until they are half way through the tour, walking through greenhouse number two, that Dean’s irritation shifts into a sort of sadness. He doesn’t want to be mad at Cas, especially if this is really it for them. Every choice that Dean had made was for the sake of his dumb crush, but it helped them. Dean could actually call Cas a friend at this point instead of some cute dork that he never could talk coherently around. In fact, Dean was quite sure he had moved past from “I have a dumb crush on Cas” and more towards “I am in...” 

Well, he never actually allowed himself to think that four letter L word… that word still made him feel nervous. And if he were to admit that to himself… then it was just going to make Cas leaving hurt a lot more. For now, he would be fine in calling Cas a friend and he was thankful for that. At least he had something with him. Even if it was just friendship.

Something gently grazes his left shoulder, and Dean slaps what he assumed was a giant mutated fly from the power plant. Dean stares in bewilderment at Cas who is gently rubbing his hand.

“Sorry,” Dean quickly says. “You scared me.”

“My apologies… It’s just that the group has moved on from this room,” Cas mutters. Dean looks around and realizes that he is in fact the only person left in the greenhouse. Aside from Cas who came to get him.

“Thanks,” Dean replies. They stare at each other a moment longer before walking side by side down the long path.

“Dean,” Cas says once they’re into the next greenhouse. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Dean asks, slowing their pace so that they don’t join the tour quite yet.

“For my behavior last week,” Cas sighs, slowing down their pace even more. “I shouldn’t have shouted at you like that. Especially since you’ve been nothing but kind and helpful to me all this time.” Dean glances down at their hand when he feels Cas’ accidentally bump into his. “It was unfair for me to assume that you wouldn’t understand how difficult it was.”

“I don’t really blame you,” Dean says with a shrug, which causes another gentle hand bump. “A lot of teachers think that I have it easier since there’s another professor doing the heavy lifting. I’m more like the Longbottom when it comes to which teacher matters more.”

“But Neville was still an important member of Harry’s team. He did kill the snake in the end.”

“Yeah I--”  Dean stops and turns to Cas. “...you got my obscure reference?”

Cas glances away. “My brother is sort of giving me a crash course in major pop culture references… just so I can understand you a little better…” Dean can’t help the huge giddy smile that appears on his own face. Before Dean can say anything, Adam and Claire are right next to the two teachers.

“Mr. Novak, when a leaf is turning yellow, it’s because there’s too much sun right?” Adam asks, his tone clearly waiting for their teacher to confirm that he is correct.

“I’m telling you it’s because of the water level,” Claire argues back.

“Our flowers have tons of water though! It’s gotta be because Hayden left some of them out in the sun!”

“In some cases,” Cas interjects. “If a plant is receiving too much sun, it can cause the leaves to burn. But then the leaves would turn brown and crisp.”

“And our leaves aren’t crispy,” Claire points out. “They’re actually wilting which meaaaaans …” She looks to Cas.

“You have probably been overwatering the poinsettia,” Cas finishes.

“Told you!” Claire nudges a frowning Adam.

“I’m glad you both noticed,” Cas says with a smile.

“Yeah, we went to go check on Bobby John and his flower army before leaving this morning,” Claire says.

“Because somebody keeps forgetting to check,” Adam scowls and then mutters “Hayden” under his breath. Dean notices that Cas looks up and he can’t help but wonder if he just stopped himself from rolling his eyes. 

“Any ideas on how to save the flowers?” Dean asks. 

“Probably just hold back from watering for a couple of days,” Claire says, more to Adam.

“Maybe we need to check the drainage too,” Adam nods. “If all else fails I guess we could re-pot them. Or burn them. Depends on how I’m feeling later.” Claire nudges him sharply. “I’m kidding!” Dean bites his bottom lip to keep from laughing and looks over to Cas. Relief washes over Dean when he sees Cas has a slight smile on his face and looks pretty proud.

“Hey guys! Keep up!” Charlie calls over to the group in the back. There are a few students funneling through the door and into the final greenhouse.

“Looks like the herd is on the move again,” Dean comments and motions for the students to start walking. 

As soon as there’s more space between them, Dean gently nudges Cas. “Good job, Teach.”

“Thanks,” Cas mutters, a slight pink growing on his cheeks.

 

oXoXoXo

 

While a part of Dean was happy that he and Cas seemed to be back on speaking terms, the other part of him wanted to bring up the topic that caused the small silent treatment. It seemed like whatever Charlie had said to Cas at least helped him to realize that Dean wasn’t an enemy. However, he didn’t actually say whether he changed his mind on quitting or not. He hoped that after the conversation Adam and Claire had in front of them that Cas was reconsidering. 

They filed the kids back onto the bus, ready to head back to school. Dean let Garth take over roll call duty as he took a headcount of how many students were on the bus. 40 students and two other chaperones aside from himself and Garth were all accounted for. 

Dean’s about ready to give Garth some bullshit excuse as to why he’s going to sleep instead of listening to him talk about dentist stuff again, when Cas scrambles into the bus.

“Is Hayden Foster here?” he asks a bit out of breath.

“Hayden?” Garth calls out. “Hayden Foster?” A few students look around while one group of boys say “I’m Hayden Foster” in their best falsetto voices.

“Ok, everyone stay seated!” Dean orders and begins the recount as soon as they sit still. Still only 40 students and the chaperones. He looks at Cas and shakes his head. Fear immediately shows in Cas’ face at the news.

“Oh no,” he almost whispers and quickly exits the bus. Dean quickly follows. Charlie and another parent chaperone from the second bus wait to hear Cas’ response. “She’s not in there either.” Charlie’s eyes snap over to Dean and he shakes his head. “We’ll just follow the protocol we discussed. I will stay here and look for her while the rest of you get the students back to the school.”

“I’ll call Principal Billie while we drive over,” Charlie says, already pulling out her phone.

“And I’ll grab my car and drive back up to pick you up,” Dean adds.

“Thank you,” Cas nods and then heads back to the main entrance of the farm.

 

oXoXoXo

 

It was near impossible for Dean to pretend to be asleep after that. A few students came up to ask what was going on, but were quickly sent back to their seats by the bus driver’s yelling. Dean then had to assure the students that everything was fine, but he could tell they didn’t believe him. Fortunately, Garth didn’t go into more dental stories, but the conversation wasn’t necessarily helping to ease Dean’s worry.

“That would be such a horrible feeling,” Garth says for the third time. “Just imagining getting a phone call and hearing that my little Gertie went missing.”

“Yeah well it’s not fun for us teachers either,” Dean grumbles. “We’re supposed to be the ones in charge.”

“Could you get fired for this?” Garth asks. Dean opens his mouth and then slowly closes it. In the stories he had heard of, the teachers were usually fine since they typically found the student only a short time after. But Cas was new and was still trying to figure things out. If Billie heard about this and the midterm mix up that happened as well...

“...I don’t know,” Dean sighs with a slump to his shoulders. Garth nods and gives him a gentle pat on the arm. As soon as the school’s parking lot comes into view, Dean becomes antsy. 

To get to the bus loading zone they have to drive half way through the parking lot, and that’s time that Dean could be using to get to his car. He almost asks the bus driver to just stop right there, but he wasn’t sure if they were in a friendly mood after shouting at kids to sit down. That, and he might have come off as a bit desperate. He did also have 40 students on the bus that he needed to keep calm and pretend things were fine after all. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help himself from looking around and trying to plan out the quickest route to his car. Half way through the parking lot and after narrowing his route options, Dean suddenly sees a familiar face. Just sitting in the back of a pick-up truck like she hadn’t suddenly vanished into thin air.

“...Stop the bus,” he says, standing from his seat and moving towards the doors. The bus driver is about to order him to get back in his seat, but Dean repeats a bit louder, “Stop the bus and let me out!”  The bus stops and Dean immediately storms over to the truck. 

“Hey there Hayden!” he shouts with a forced smile. The sound of her name causes her to nearly drop her phone when she looks up. By the way Hayden’s face fell, it tells Dean that she knew she just got caught. “Thought you got swallowed up by the tomatoes or something. Where were you?”

“My brother picked me up,” she says, motioning towards her brother who had previously been searching for something in the truck. “Family emergency.”

Dean probably would have calmed down at that point... if her brother didn’t get a confused look on his face and say, “Family emergency? You told me your teacher gave you permission to leave since you were allergic to the plants in there.” Hayden shoots her brother a glare and Dean folds his arms.

“Allergies huh? Well, I hope they’re not bad enough to keep you from explaining yourself in the principal’s office.”

 

oXoXoXo 

 

With Hayden waiting for her parents in Principal Billie's office, Dean hopped into his Chevy Impala and made the forty minute drive back to the farm. Of course he called Cas as he drove up to let him know their missing student had been found. The line goes deathly silent while Dean explains what happened. He was nearly convinced that he had lost cell service until he hears a long tired sigh from the other end.

"This is quite frustrating," Cas grumbles."But… at least she's safe."

The car ride home from the farm was quiet. Almost uncomfortably quiet if Dean didn’t have the radio playing in the background. Dean had tried making conversation with Cas, and they'd sort of talk. But he could tell Cas wasn't quite in the mood for it. His mind appeared to be elsewhere and forced him to contemplate in silence.

It wasn't the same silence Cas had been giving Dean earlier. That one was more based on frustration while this one felt melancholic. Dean stayed respectful of Cas' space until they pulled up to Cas' house. 

"This is it, right?" He asks.

"Yes," Cas mutters. Dean had sort of expected Cas to exit quickly, but he remained seated and silent. 

"What, you afraid Nichole Kidman is gonna chase you out as soon as you go in?" Dean smiles. No response. That's when Dean put the car into park and turned to face Cas.

"Talk to me, Cas," He says. "You've been quiet the whole time but I can tell you got something on your mind."

“It’s just,” he finally says. “I was so sure about quitting my job. Everything that could go wrong kept going wrong and I was sure I was just doomed to fail this school like I did in my first one. I had convinced myself that I wasn't good enough and that I had just wasted my time and money on a dead-end career choice." Dean opens his mouth to argue against calling teaching a "dead-end career choice," but a gentle hand pressing against Dean's arm makes him close it.

“But then I talked to Charlie and she helped me to realize a few things. One, that no teacher has a perfect beginning in their teaching career. There’s always stubborn students, and angry parents no matter where you go. She also told me how difficult her students were to her when she first started and… well, it truly made me realize that my classes were really not that bad. 

“And they’re not bad kids. They really aren’t. A few of them sleep through the class or are a little harder to work with but… the majority of them look like they’re actually learning. Adam and Claire just showed me that. And before that, a student told me how this class was going to help him and his mother grow some food so they have more to eat.” He pauses and stares down at his feet.

“But then a student went missing and… and I thought I was going to lose my job. The moment I started thinking that maybe I do want to keep trying because I love it, it felt almost like it was being torn away from me. Like, the universe was granting my bitter wishes before I realized it was a mistake to think that way. Going from determination to utter despair… It was a lot. And even though I'm glad she is safe and nothing happened… I still feel scared.

"Scared that I'm going to fail again. Scared that I'm just kidding myself and not actually going to be good at this. Scared that I won't actually make a difference to these kids. Still scared… that I'm not good enough…" Cas moves his hand away from Dean's arm and covers his face with it. A moment later, he hears a small sniffle.

Now, Dean understands Cas' silence. Even though Dean thought he was helping, it was clear that Cas still had a storm of doubt and fear raging in his mind. 

"...I'm sorry," Cas mutters and rubs at his eyes. "I don't mean to burden you any more than I have already." Cas makes a move to finally exit the car, but now it's Dean’s turn to put a hand on Cas’ arm to stop him. Blue eyes glance down at the hand then look up at Dean curiously.

If Dean actually took the time to think about it, then he would realize what he was doing. He would have probably hesitated and fumble around enough that Cas would be convinced that he was an idiot. But thankfully, his mother had taught him this action well. An action that had been used on more than one occasion to make Sam laugh in his darkest times. An action that, if Dean really reflected on it, even helped him to feel less alone. It’s incredible the power that the human mind allows or blocks a person from doing. And right now, as Cas was needing some comfort, Dean’s mind allowed himself to give it the best way he knew how.

"Hey Jude…" Dean sings. "Don't make it bad. Take a sad song, and make it better..." Cas lets out a small gasp and that’s when Dean realizes what he had just done. He was so sure that upon realizing he just sang in front of his crush/friend, he would feel too embarrassed to continue. But he didn’t. He felt at peace. Maybe he would have if he allowed himself to wonder why at this moment singing felt like second nature to him. But he doesn't think about it. He won't. Otherwise he knew he would stop.

So he keeps singing. Singing like he's alone in his car. Or he's jamming along to the radio in his kitchen. At the chorus, he decides to take a risk and look at Cas again. Cas looked starstruck. Maybe even a bit smitten. 

Dean was fully expecting to stumble on the words as soon as he locked eyes with the gorgeous man, but oddly enough the opposite happened. He felt empowered. Like he wanted Cas to truly understand that he shouldn't carry the weight on his shoulders. To let things into his heart. Then how things can get better.

A slight pause follows once Dean reaches the last verse. But before Cas has a chance to say anything, Dean lets out a loud and obnoxious, "NAAAAAAA! NAAA! NAAA! NA NA NA!" Cas’ snorts turn into laughter at Dean's over the top outro "na na's." Dean gets about two more na’s in before he’s laughing as well.

"Well at least I got you to smile with my crap singing," Dean wipes a tear from his eye.

"That wasn't crap," Cas says, instantly sober. Oh no… now it’s starting to hit Dean what he just did... "You have a wonderful voice." Dean shrinks a bit in his seat. "I can see why Charlie chose you for the role as Reverend Moore." Dean shrinks even further. "Dean, why are you shrinking?"

"...you're kind of the first person I've sung to," he admits quietly. "On purpose at least. Unless they're family." Cas tilts his head.

"But, Charlie--"

"Was an accident. I… haven’t sung in front of her since then…"

"...oh…" Cas simply says. They're quiet for a moment. 

"My mom would sing that to us as kids," Dean feels the need to explain himself. "When we were feeling sick or just really crappy and… I guess looking at you, it felt right?" Cas gives Dean one of those smiles again. The smile that is so fond and just for Dean. 

"I feel very honored then. Thank you."  Dean squirms even more in his chair.

"Yeah whatever," Dean grumbles and tries to ignore how hot his face feels. It's quiet again between them. There’s a squeak of leather as Cas slides over into Dean's space. It takes him a moment to realize that Cas was giving him a hug.

"Thank you Dean," Cas murmurs into Dean's chest. "For everything." 

Dean smiles and hugs Cas back. "Any time Cas."

 

oXoXoXo

 

NOVEMBER - ONE DAY BEFORE SHOWTIME

To say things went back to normal after the field trip would have been an understatement. 

Since Hayden was safe and had been found quickly, there was no punishment given to Cas or any of the other teacher chaperones. Hayden was suspended for the rest of the week, not permitted to attend any more field trips for the rest of the school year, and had to write an apology letter to Cas. This caused a larger strain to happen between the student and teacher relationship. She was given permission to transfer out of the class after the semester finished.

After finding his love and passion for his chosen career once again, Cas took teaching in stride. He split the class time so they would listen to a short lecture in the first half and then go and work on their plant projects in the second half. Cas happily reported to Dean that a lot of the poinsettias had started to thrive thanks to this method. And as far as Dean could tell from the biweekly quizzes he would grade, B’s were becoming the new class average. Of course there were still hurdles Cas had to work through, but he knew where he wanted to be as a teacher and let that drive him to improvement.

As for Dean’s relationship with Cas, things were definitely different. After singing to Cas, they found themselves much more comfortable around each other. It turns out that Cas was a bit of a talker, which Dean thought was charming and cute. When Cas would go off explaining the plans he had for the next semester and the different animal units they would cover, Dean usually lost track... but he still enjoyed listening to Cas and seeing the spark of excitement in his eyes. Sometimes, Cas would notice Dean’s intense staring and pause to give him a nervous smile.

“What?” he would ask. Dean would reply with a quick, “nothing” or a random pop culture reference which never failed to make Cas roll his eyes and keep going.

Dean lo… liked whatever it was they had going. He didn’t feel so nervous and uptight around Cas anymore. Which made it easier for him to be a little more open about himself, and a lot more comfortable about singing. Cas called him a jukebox on more than one occasion, but he still tapped his toe and bobbed his head to whatever song Dean was singing.

If Dean had known that singing was the ice breaker the two of them needed to get… whatever this was… then he would have started singing in public months ago.

Which… he sort of did… and is the reason he finds himself standing on the stage in front of a pajama wearing, sleep deprived Charlie seven hours before dress rehearsal.

“You’re sure you’re ok to sing, right?” Charlie asked, the dark bags under her eyes even more pronounced in the staged lighting.

“I think so?” Dean shields his eyes from the lights suddenly changing colors. “I mean… I told you I had started singing around Cas more so that’s a start.”

“Who needs a radio when Dean can be your own personal jukebox?” Cas says from the edge of the stage where he’s pulling apart the prop corsages and boutonnieres that were shipped in that morning.

“Hey you know you love it!” Dean narrows his eyes and points accusingly at Cas. The other teacher says nothing, but Dean can still see a fond smile on his face. Dean feels that annoying flip in his stomach again as he stews on the word “love” that he just spat out. Charlie places both of her hands on Dean’s shoulders and pulls him down to her eye level.

“Dean,” she says very quietly. “That was very adorable and I’m happy that you two are happy in love.”

“Huh?!” Dean chokes out. Charlie moves her hands from Dean’s shoulders to his face.

“But I need you to focus!” she says and her hands squeeze his cheeks a little. “Are you absolutely certain that you are going to be ok to sing these next few nights?”

“Uhh… yesh?” Dean responds through squished cheeks. Brown tired eyes narrow in slight suspicion.

“Ok,”she finally says with a nod. “I’m trusting you on this.” Dean takes a hold of Charlie’s wrists and pulls her hands away from his face.

“And for the record,” Dean drops his voice low so it was just between the two of them. “We’re not in love!” Charlie gives him a look that screams “yeah, sure.” Dean gulps. “Ok fine, you know how I’ve felt about him for a while but… there’s no way he’s… you know.” She and Dean look over to Cas, who quickly goes back to working on the props and not staring at them.

“I’m tired Dean,” she sighs. “Not stupid.”

That became the only thing Dean could focus on for the rest of the day. While he sat in his third and fourth period class, he thought about the possibility of Cas being in love with him. As he drove to his apartment after school, he thought about how there was no way Cas was in love with him. When he drives back to the school for their six o’clock call time, he thinks of all of the times he caught Cas smiling at him and only him. Sitting on a stool while Cassie applied stage make-up on his face, Dean convinced himself that Cas was just being friendly and that Charlie was crazy. By the time the main leads lined up on the stage for their mic checks, Dean had gone back and forth on the “is he-isn’t he?” that he could barely remember his lines.

Then he realizes that if he can barely remember his lines… then how the hell is he going to be expected to sing? Singing in front of Cas was still just singing to one person. This show was going to have him sing in front of a large group! Adults and teenagers just staring and silently judging as he stood up here and made himself look like an idiot! As Claire’s voice echoes from above to tell Dean to go ahead and test his mic, he feels himself sway forward at his sudden lightheadedness. He catches himself by putting his hands on his knees, but he’s breathing as though he just finished running a marathon. A second later, Charlie is leading him to sit on one of the benches backstage.

“Hey, it’s ok,” Charlie says to him gently once he’s sitting down. “Just breathe ok? Can you breathe with me?” Dean nods and follows Charlie in a few deep breaths. He tries to ignore the curious stares from his fellow teachers and students. Especially Cas…

“I’m good now,” Dean says, even though he wasn’t completely. “Thanks.” Charlie hands him a water bottle before having to join Claire and the other tech students at the booth.

Once the curtains close in preparation for the beginning of the show, anxiety saunters right back into Dean’s mind. There was no escaping it now. Dean would have to sing. Well, maybe he could just run out of the school right now. Nobody would notice him! Except maybe the others in the cast, but he was sure he could easily push past them all.

He entertains the idea a second too long, because the next thing he knows, the lights have gone down and the high school band has begun the first song. There officially was no escaping it now...

He fidgets with the stripe tie around his neck as the kids belt out the chorus. With each passing note, with each line being said and each foot step stamping out the choreography, Dean could feel his heart pounding harder and harder against his chest. 

But before his breathing goes out of control again, he feels a gentle hand touch his  shoulder. Dean looks and there’s Cas, smiling. He gives his shoulder a gentle squeeze as he mouths the word “breathe.” Dean immediately does so. The stage manager signals for the Bomont group to get into position. Cas is right next to Dean the entire way until they have to get into their positions.

The curtains open, a little slow at first, and Dean grips his podium a little tighter. Charlie was right about the lights being bright… but he felt like he could still see some faint outline of the chairs in the auditorium. His eyes dart around more as the curtain is almost completely open. Fear grips him tight and the urge to vomit tickles at his throat.

Somebody in front of him almost stands up, and it brings Dean’s attention to the congregation before him. It was Cas who brought Dean’s focus back from the empty audience. Innocently adjusting his pants in order to sit properly for the number, but it was what Dean needed. Slowly, the theatrical world around Dean began to fade and it was just he and Cas. 

When he only focused on Cas, he felt alright. Worries and insecurities simply melted away. The familiar urge to sing begins to overtake the urge to vomit. 

Dean can hear the cast begin to sing the chorus that leads into Dean’s first solo, but his eyes stayed on Cas. The other man’s smile never falters and he mouths another “breathe” for good measure. 

Dean swallows and takes a deep breath as the last few words are sung out by the ensemble. And finally, for the first time in his entire life, Dean sings in front of an audience.

 

oXoXoXo

 

NOVEMBER - LAST DAY OF SHOWTIME

The show ran as well as any high school production could run. Of course they had their typical technical difficulties like sound cues going off at the wrong time and a few improvised props since the original ones had been misplaced. There were costume malfunctions, actors tripping over lines (and sometimes each other), and a few kids got sick near the end of the run. But they did it! Dean did it! And people didn’t laugh him off the stage.

It still made him feel incredibly nervous and shy when complete strangers came up to compliment his talent. But it also did wonders in stroking his ego. Sam, who basically came to every performance, always said with a smile and a playful eye roll, “Great, now you’ll never shut up!” In which case Dean, always without fail, traps him in a headlock and rasps his knuckles hard against his head.

After the show had finished, Patience hosted a student cast party at her place while the teachers met at Charlies for a party of their own. By the time eleven hit, a few teachers decided to move the party to the nearest bar while others decided to head home for the night. Gabe was one of the bar participants, so Cas would need a ride home. Between the double performance they had just done and the extra socializing, Dean was more than happy to offer him the ride.

“Would you ever do acting stuff again?” Dean asks Cas on their drive home. He was still thinking about the show and the question had crossed his own mind once or twice. Honestly, he wasn’t quite sure how he’d feel about being on stage again. But maybe if Cas was there with him again...

“I suppose it depended on the show,” Cas answers. “A show that is religious by nature, perhaps not. I’ve had my fill of that while growing up. But another musical production? Maybe.”

“Whoa wait,” Dean smiles and steals a quick glance at the man sitting next to him. “You did other plays before this one?”

“My mother always signed us up for our church’s Christmas pageant,” Cas sighs heavily. “And Easter pageants…”

“Easter huh?” Dean chuckles and turns the wheel with one palm. “Sounds like this might have been an upgrade then.”

“Indubitably,” Cas deadpans and Dean can’t help but snort. They arrive only a minute later to the house.

“Home sweet home,” Dean says after putting the car into park. Cas nods but doesn’t give any indication that he’s getting out yet.

“I can’t believe it’s all over,” Cas mutters. 

“Yeah,” Dean nods. “Two months of after school rehearsals and stressful nights trying to  memorize lines are all over after four shows. Not to mention the constant anxiety attacks when I realized I had to sing in front of people.”

“Do you regret it?” Cas asks. Dean looks at him with a slight head tilt. “You sounded amazing of course--” Dean mutters a bashful “thanks” at the compliment. “--but I know it was still a struggle for you. So… Do you regret doing the show?” Dean puts a finger to his chin in thought.

“Probably not as much as Gabe did when he ripped his pants trying to do the splits tonight,” he says. Dean smiles when he hears Cas snort and then begin to laugh. And then it hits him.

It's at that moment where Dean realizes that he doesn’t regret any of the choices he had made. He really did enjoy performing alongside the students in the show, and it did actually feel nice to hear someone other than his family praise him for his talent. 

Even his choices when it came to the academic and work side. Reading through agricultural Power Points turned out to be rather educational. In a short time, Dean became the go-to man for any plant related questions. His new knowledge was able to help Sam and his girlfriend Eileen as they prepared themselves to grow a vegetable garden. Any other fun facts were definitely put to good use by his mother and her various house plants.

And of course, were it not for this show, Dean most definitely would not be sitting next to Cas right now.

“But no,” Dean finally says with a shake of his head. “No, I don’t regret anything.” He smirks and gives Cas a subtle wink through the dark. “Sure helped me get to know you better.” Cas’ eyes widen a bit and then he looks down at the seat between them. Dean is chuckling until he looks down as well.

Their fingers were touching. Just the tips of their pinky fingers, but it was enough that it sent electricity down Dean’s spine. He did his best to act casual, as though they weren’t touching like this. He tried even harder to control his breathing when he felt Cas shift his finger slightly closer to Dean’s. He completely allowed Cas’ pinky to slide underneath his own. They stare at their interlocked pinkies before looking up at each other.

Over the last two months, Dean had made quite a few choices that were sometimes overwhelming and oftentimes uncomfortable. But they were all choices that allowed him to get to know Cas. He still couldn’t quite wrap his mind on how Cas went from “pitiful crush” to “good friend.” And even now, as their fingers were interlocked, Dean felt their relationship was sliding into the next stage.

But maybe Charlie was right. Maybe they had happily slid into that stage a long time ago. That stage that involved that four letter L word that…

No… no, Dean can say it now. He can say it because he can feel it. Looking at Cas, he knows it without a doubt left in his mind.

Dean Winchester was absolutely in love with Castiel Novak.

“I should let you get home,” Cas finally says.

“Right,” Dean mutters. They still don’t move however. Just keep staring.

Now would be the perfect time to kiss. He knows it. A part of him wants to argue that it was still rather unclear if Cas felt the same way or not, but they were (kind of) holding hands for Pete’s sake! And Dean just worked through his insecurities and fears of singing in front of complete strangers. He could handle the anxiety of the unknown of how Cas felt. And what better way to let things known than with--

“Good night Dean,” Cas whispers, and then exits the car. 

“Night Cas,” Dean says with a slight frown. He watches him until he disappears behind the front door, and then proceeds to internally scream at himself as he gently bangs his head against the steering wheel.

 

oXoXoXo

 

DECEMBER - FIVE WEEKS AFTER SHOWTIME

Now that the show was over and Dean had finally admitted to himself that he was in love with Cas, the universe seemed to do everything in its power to keep the two of them separated. With the start of December came the start of the universities finals. Between ensuring the students were able to turn in their projects, take their final exams, and making sure the universities received everything, Dean no longer had time to help Cas with grading. And by the time those finals were over, Cas had already recruited Gabe as extra help in grading his class’ semester finals.

Frustrated, but undeterred, Dean looked for any other excuse that would get him and Cas together again. And he meant any excuse…

“That’ll be ten dollars please,” Dean says in his best friendly tone. He’s handed a twenty dollar bill and Dean reaches for the appropriate bill in the cash register he’s working at. 

“Actually,” the woman pipes up. “Could you break it up into one dollar bills?” Dean suppresses a sigh as he counts out ten one dollar bills. 

“Here you go,” He hands over the change while Claire hands over a potted poinsettia to the woman.

“Thanks! Merry Christmas!” the woman smiles and walks away with the plant.

“It’d be a lot more ‘merry’ if I wasn’t here right now,” Dean grumbles and earns a look from Claire.

“Mr. Dean, you’re the one who offered to help run the cash,” she says. Dean sighs, but it’s true. Cas had simply said, “Could you--” and Dean immediately said yes. What he had agreed to was running the cash register while Cas left for a meeting with the university. Mostly to go over the basic requirements and procedures that was expected from Cas as he taught concurrent enrollment the next school year. Dean couldn’t stop from smiling as Cas explained why he would be absent that Friday afternoon. Much like the poinsettias the students were selling, Cas had truly grown as a teacher. And yeah, it still sucked that it was just Dean with Claire and a kid named Jack selling the army of red Christmas flowers for three hours after school… but it was worth it for Cas to keep growing.

“On the bright side,” Jack pipes up, “All of the flowers have been sold!”

“That’s true!” Claire perks up. “So maybe that means I don’t have to come in tomorrow after all!”

“Hold your horses,” Dean says, pulling out his phone. “Let’s see what Cas has to say about that.” He notices that Claire and Jack share a look, but decides to ignore it as he texts out their current situation to Cas. Cas sends a small list of instructions, mainly to lock up the greenhouse with the keys he had left him and take the cashbox to the administrative office. Dean frowns as Cas suggests that he’ll just head home.

Cleaning up is not all that tedious or difficult. Claire and Jack put away the advertisement signs and Dean counted out the money in the cashbox. They’re having another look through the greenhouse for any stray objects, when Dean finds a lone poinsettia hidden under a table.

“Looks like we’ve got a straggler,” Dean calls out and pulls the flower out. “BOBBY JOHN” is scribbled on to the decorative foil wrapped around the pot. “Claire, I think this was yours.”

“Aw man,” Jack pouts. “Only one flower left to sell. Guess you are going to have to come in tomorrow.”

“Not unless someone else buys him,” Claire says. “Like, somebody in this room who has a special someone to give it to…” Jack and Claire have matching smirks on their faces as they look at Dean.

“I’m good,” Dean responds with a slightly nervous smile. “Besides, I don’t have a special someone.” Claire and Jack look at each other and then back to Dean with matching doubtful looks. Dean suddenly feels a bit self conscious. “What?”

“Not that it’s any of our business,” Claire clears her throat. “But you obviously have the hots for Mr. Novak.”

“Ex cuse me?!” Dean chokes.

“Told you,” Claire smirks and nudges Jack playfully. Jack bites his bottom lip to keep from laughing.

“Mr. Novak and I are just good friends,” Dean says and promptly ignores the students in favor of re-counting the money in the cashbox.

“Mr. Dean, you act the same way I act with my girlfriend when you’re around him,” Claire counters. “You’re about as subtle as a sledge hammer.”

“It was pretty obvious,” Jack says. “With the way Mr. Novak talks about you and the way you always come over to visit, we sort of figured it out pretty quick.”

“Well there’s nothing to t--wait,” Dean blinks up at them. “He talks about me?” Jack and Claire nod. “Huh…”

“He’s like, mostly serious when he talks to us,” Claire explains. “But whenever he talks about his ‘friend from the show,’ his voice sounds more excited.” Claire begins to mimic Cas’ gravelly voice. “‘My friend from the show did this,’ ‘my friend from the show said that.’ Just lots of little stories that totally sound like stuff you’d do or say.”

“Huh,” Dean repeats with a small smile.

“One time,” Jack says with a small sheepish smile. “We got him to talk about this friend for the entire class period instead of what we were supposed to do.”

“Seriously?” Dean laughs.

“Yeah that was fun,” Claire snorts in amusement. “But the point is, we sort of figured something was up with you guys. But for some reason, you’re both too chicken to do something about it.”

“Hey,” Dean frowns in slight protest.

“Chicken in the most respectful way Mr. Dean,” Jack says in an attempt to save Claire.

“...well she’s not wrong,” he grumbles. Claire smirks and pushes the poinsettia closer to Dean. 

“Soooo, what do you say? Wanna save Bobby John from the plant orphanage?”

Dean opens his mouth, ready to decline the plant again, but then he starts thinking. He thinks back on Dr. Garth who bought a couple of flowers two hours ago and how he couldn’t stop gushing about how excited his wife Bess would be. He thought about Charlie buying a pot a few minutes before their last customer and how she couldn’t wait to give them to her girlfriend. Then he thinks about Cas, and he begins to imagine the cute look of surprise on his face if Dean were to say… hand him a poinsettia…

Dean smiles, “You know what? Why not?”

 

oXoXoXo

 

It takes Dean a total of five seconds after pulling up to Cas’ house for him to realize what the hell he was doing. He was about to make a grand gesture of romance towards this dorky new teacher. Who may or may not feel the same way about him? 

No, the kids seemed pretty confident in letting Dean know that Cas had some sort of interest in him, and Dean certainly felt confident in his feelings towards Cas. Still, it was probably better to assume Cas didn’t feel the same way. Better to be safe than sorry. The dread of not knowing whether this flower would push them into the relationship-zone or completely ruin their friendship slowly started to make Dean double guess everything...

He stares at Bobby John just long enough for it to start snowing again. Dean grumbles a quiet “Screw it,” and takes Bobby John to his new owner. He makes sure to cover the plant as best he can from the large snowflakes falling onto the ground. Giving his boots a couple of good taps from the toe, Dean takes a deep breath, and pushes the door bell. A minute passes, and he’s still outside. Maybe the bell just isn’t working… he decides to knock.

Footsteps thud from inside and a second later Dean comes face to face with a dark skinned woman. Dean blinks in surprise. She looks at the poinsettias in his hands then looks up in suspicion.

“Can I help you?” she asks.

“I uh…sorry,” Dean stammers. “I thought that… are you new here or--” 

“Kali, who is it?” Dean glances up to the voice coming from behind the woman. He wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or nervous at the sight of Gabe. Eyes wide and jaw dropped with excitement, Gabe scurries up the stairs screaming out “CASSIE!!! GET YOUR FACE DOWN HERE!!! YOU GOT A VISITOR!!!” Dean looks back to the woman curiously.

“Please excuse my husband,” Kali sighs. “He gets quite excited when Castiel shows signs of having a social life.” Castiel appears at the top of the stairs, wearing blue plaid pajama bottoms and a gray and red AC/DC shirt. This outfit made Cas look like a completely different person. Less put together and maybe a little more disorganized then he presented himself to be. A warm feeling grows in Dean’s chest as Cas quickly trots down the stairs.

“Is everything alright?” Cas asks once he replaces Kali at the door and allows Dean to enter.

“Yeah, everything’s good,” Dean grins. “The greenhouse didn’t burst into flames or anything and the money’s on lockdown at the office.”

“That’s good to hear,” Cas sighs in relief as Dean hands back the keys. “Is this the only one that was left over?” Cas points and Dean looks down at the plant in his hands.

“Uh no,” he says. “Well… almost, but I decided to save it from the plant orphanage.” He feels his mouth dry up. “I uh… actually wanted to give this to you.” Cas looks up at him.

“Are you unsure of what care a poinsettia needs?” Cas asks.

“No, I mean, yes?”

“Well, you’ll want to make sure you don’t over water it. This group had a slight problem with that--”

“Wait, I’m not trying to dump this on you because I felt bad for it. I…” Oh boy, here it comes. “I wanted to give this to you. Like a gift. Because I…” He’s going to do it. “...I just thought you might like it…”

Strike one.

“Oh,” Cas says, looking up at Dean with curious eyes. “I… yes, I suppose poinsettias are lovely for this season.” He takes the small pot and Dean tries to ignore the fact their fingers brushed against one another. “Thank you Dean.”

“No problem Cas,” Dean offers a nervous half smile. Cas holds the pot a little closer to his chest and gently touches the petals. Dean watches him with curiosity at first, and then with worry. “Did I pick a bad one?”

“Oh, no!” Cas replies, instantly looking a bit embarrassed. “It’s just… I had a gift for you as well.”

“Really?” Dean asks with a huge smile on his face.

“It’s not finished,” Cas quickly explains. “I used to be a lot faster at this particular craft but it’s actually been a while since I began to focus on my studies in the university and then teaching afterwards. But I thought I might as well try again, and the first try I made for Gabriel wasn’t so bad, so I thought I could try something a little more difficult. But then it proved to be a lot more difficult than I had expected and so I just--”

“Cas,” Dean reaches out and places a hand on the rambling man’s arm. “You’re talking faster than the speed of light.”

“Sorry,” Cas mumbles into the flower petals.

“Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll love it,” Dean says.

“I hope so,” Cas sighs. “I suppose we will find out after the break. Not that it would take me the whole break but… that’s the next time I will see you I believe.”

“Yeah,” Dean swallows. “It could be sooner.” Cas looks up at Dean through his dark lashes. “We could always… you know… I think Charlie said there was a planetarium opening up next week. We could... check it out after you’re done with your thing.” 

“Just... the two of us?” Cas asks. 

Dean opens his mouth to agree, but something in his mind panics and he blurts out instead, “Or with Charlie. She likes space stuff too.”

“Oh... right,” Cas slightly deflates. “I suppose she does have a tendency to talk about Star Trek.”

“Y...yeah,” Dean says.

Strike two.

“Well,” Cas finally says after a long moment of silence. “I… Thank you for the gift, Dean. It’s beautiful.”

“No problem Cas,” Dean replies with a shrug. They stare at each other for another moment before Dean turns to the door.

“Night Cas,” Dean says as he lets himself out.

“Good night Dean,” Cas replies. The door slowly begins to close, and so does Dean’s opportunity.

“Cas!” Dean slams a palm to the door to stop it. Cas blinks at him curiously and Dean worries his frantic heart is going to burst out of his chest.

“I… I just wanted to say…”

It was now or never.

“...I think you’re awesome.”

Strike three. Dean’s out.

Another quick, “night,” and Dean pitifully retreats back to the Impala. Safely behind closed doors, he lets out a loud groan and bangs his head against the steering wheel.

Why couldn’t the words just come out?! He knew how he felt about Cas. He knew that Claire and Jack all but confirmed that Cas felt the same way. Why was it so difficult to say something?!

After all of this time. After all of the grading days, and rehearsals, and even now…

“It’s not that hard to say it,” he growls to himself. Then with each bump to the steering wheel, he grumbles, “I love you. I love you. I love--”

Knock! Knock!

Dean let out a loud “FUCK!” before whipping his head towards his driver’s window. A stern looking Cas stood on the other side, pointing a finger downward to the ground. Dean gulps and opens the door. The shocked look on Cas’ face made Dean realize that he was probably motioning for the window to be rolled down instead of wanting Dean to come out of the car...

“H-Hey Cas,” he tries to keep his tone even and not guilty sounding at all. He takes note that Cas seemed to have hastily thrown on some bright yellow crocs on his feet and a tan oversized trench coat. “D-Did I forget something?”

“I um...” Cas stammers a bit. But then he takes a deep breath and looks Dean directly in the eyes. Fiery determination burns within the blue eyes that squint at Dean. “Yes.” It was practically a growl and so Dean gulps. He opens his mouth in order to ask for forgiveness for daring to forget something. Not a single word passes his lips however, as two firm hands grab onto his face and pull him forward.

It takes Dean a total of three seconds to realize that Cas was kissing him. Cas had smashed his lips against Dean’s open mouth so he could feel dried lips on his teeth very well. Just as Dean’s about to lift his hands to do… something… the lips are gone, along with the two hands on the side of his face. Dean stares up at an incredibly tensed up Cas. The once determined tiger now looked like a terrified wet kitten.

“GoodnightDean!” Cas sputters quickly and all but runs away. Dean stares at the empty space and blinks a couple more times. Then… it hits him… He sprints after Cas.

“HEY!” he shouts into the night air. “HOLD ON CAS!” 

“Dammit Gabriel!” Cas shouts as he’s tugging at the door handle. Dean could swear he hears a loud howl of laughter from inside the house as Cas leans down to retrieve a key from under the house mat. A second later, Dean has caught up to Cas. He has to slam both of his hands against the door to stop himself from completely crashing. The loud slap causes Cas to shoot up and crash into Dean’s chin.

“Dean!” Cas gasps as Dean hisses in pain. “I’m so sorry! This is all my fault! It just didn’t feel right for us to leave it like that and Gabriel had insisted that I knew what I needed to do. So I thought ‘what the hell’ and thought that kissing you was ‘what I needed to do.’ But now I see that this is just turning into a huge mess and you’ve been hurt and are possibly upset by me now and--”

“Cas!” Dean laughs and places his hands on Cas’ shoulders. “It’s ok! I’m not mad!”

“You’re not?” Cas still looks like a terrified kitten and Dean has to keep from laughing harder.

“No! I mean… maybe I’m mad at myself because I…”  His smile falls into a frown as the words get stuck in his throat again. Cas waits but nothing comes out of Dean’s mouth. “Words... don’t freaking work when I’m around you, ok?” He slides his hands down from Cas’ shoulders to his hands. “It drives me friggin nuts but...yeah…”

The fact that they were holding hands on the front porch, well, Dean would take that as a slight win and a definite confirmation that Cas did like him in that way (as if the kiss wasn’t enough already). Unfortunately, no more words would come out… but this was a start at least.

“You… never had to say it,” Cas mutters. “Your actions have always spoken louder than words ever could. So… I’ve known for a while now.” Dean grew tense until Cas gently squeezed his hands. “And I just wanted to let you know that… I like you in that way as well…”

The energy that buzzed through him when he sang on stage, the thrill of talking with students and watching them get excited about participating in his class were nothing compared to this moment. Just those words sent Dean’s mind shooting off into a million different thoughts, but all of them ecstatic to finally hear it. He doesn’t fight the urge he gets to pull Cas in close and kiss the heck out of him. Cas' lips felt so much better now that they were against his lips and not his teeth. They felt so nice that Dean never wanted to stop kissing him.

But he does… because he realizes the music he thought was playing in his head wasn’t actually in his head.

 

It seems like perfect love's so hard to find

I'd almost given up

You must have read my mind

 

“Do you hear that?” he asks, looking out towards his car and the falling snow. Cas looks that way and then towards the door. Dean feels the man stiffen in his arms and he immediately looks over. The mythology/English teacher had his face pressed against the door window. His eyes shimmering with wetness and his mouth pulled in a pout usually reserved for looking at baby animals. Gabe had the door cracked open so that he could stick his phone out and play the music that Dean thought was in his head. 

 

And all these dreams I saved for a rainy day

They're finally coming true

I'll share them all with you

'Cause now we hold the future in our hand

 

“Almost Paradise.” The love song for the musical they were in just a month ago.

Gabriel! ” Cas hisses as the song goes into the chorus.

“I’m so proud of you Cassie,” Gabe sniffles and wipes a fake tear away from his eye. “I knew you had it in you.” Cas buries his face into Dean’s chest. Kali comes to the rescue by grabbing Gabe by the shirt collar and dragging him away.

 

oXoXoXo

 

JANUARY - THREE WEEKS LATER

“Please?”

“No!”

Please?”

“Absolutely not!”

“Think of the children, Charlie!”  Charlie shows her offense at Dean’s comment by gasping dramatically and slapping a hand over her heart. Dean grins innocently. This conversation taking place in Charlie’s classroom after school was sounding all too familiar to Dean. Though, whether it was because they actually had a conversation like this before, or this was the sort of childish back and forthing they typically did was unknown to him. It certainly didn’t help that he was swinging his legs back and forth like a child as he sat on a desk right next to Charlie’s. 

“You fight dirty Dean Winchester,” Charlie shakes her head. Then with a more serious tone adds, “Why does Cas need me to join him at a chicken farm? Aren’t you his boyfriend?” Dean looks away with a slight blush on his cheeks and a huge grin on his face.

Boyfriend… It had been two weeks already, and he still couldn’t get over how awesome that sounded. Days before they went on their planetarium date, Dean practiced asking the question any chance he got. Cas hadn’t even said hello before Dean just blurted it out. To Dean’s joy, Cas agreed. They still hadn't quite dropped the "I love yous," yet, but Cas continued to assure Dean that his actions let him know. 

“Because,” Dean explains, pulling out his teacher planner from his backpack and pointing to the third week of March. “That’s the week the universities go on spring break. So I go to the Jr. High schools and hype up those kids for distance education. Meaning, I can’t go. And Cas needs there to be a teacher on each bus.”

“But chickens? ” Charlie wrinkled her nose in disgust.

“And geese,” Dean adds and Charlie groans. “But if you hand over my present from Cas that you kidnapped from my classroom, then maybe I can convince Gabe to be the chaperone instead.” Before she has a chance to give her usual "I don't know what you're talking about," the classroom door swings open and Patience leads Kaia and Ben into the room.

“Ms. Bradbury, the Drama club fliers aren’t in the copy office,” Patience says.

“Still?” Charlie asks with a slightly exasperated tone. “I swear I actually hit the print button this time.”

“The copy lady said she hasn’t gotten anything from you since before Christmas break,” Kaia explains. “She says to try one more time.” Charlie grumbles a few elvish curse words under her breath as she goes to her small office space in the back of the classroom. The girls follow their Drama teacher to the small office, leaving Dean and Ben in the main classroom.

“So are you in the Drama club too?” Dean asks.

“No,” Ben shakes his head. “It just... looked like Patience needed some help so I said I’d help her out.”

“Got cha,” Dean nods slowly and looks towards the office window. Charlie and Kaia were intensely focused on the computer screen, but Patience had been looking out the window and back at them. Well, mostly Ben from what Dean could tell. He sees the shy smile on Ben’s face from the corner of his eye as Patience smiles right at him. When Ben seemed to remember that a teacher was still in the same room, Dean was already pretending to be searching for something in his backpack.

Not that it was any of his business, but he had a pretty good idea what that look could have meant… It’s not like he hadn’t been pulling the same thing with a certain agricultural teacher for months.

Speak of the devil… A few seconds later, Cas pushes open the classroom door. Dean thought he looked like a cartoon office man, what with the overwhelmed look on his face while carrying in a large stack of papers and trying to make sure none of them blew away.

“Charlie?” he calls out. “Charlie, your Drama club fliers are being printed in my office and I've just run out of paper!”

“Oh shoot!” Charlie jumps out of her seat and rushes to Cas. "Sorry Cas, your printer and the copy office's printer have nearly identical names!" Dean takes the opportunity to slip past them and retrieve the item he had initially come to the classroom for. It wasn’t difficult to find since Charlie always placed it in the same spot. He smiles at Cas, who was helping to divide up the fliers to the three students, then smiles down at his gift.

Dean couldn’t believe it when Cas told him the wooden horse and its attached base were all carved by hand. Despite the rough appearance from the divots where the knife had worked on shaping the figure and a small knick on its muzzle, it still felt smooth to the touch. Black paint gave the horse a face and a nice short mane that only made Dean fall even more in love with it. Cas explained again how he hadn’t actually carved anything for years and apologized profusely for the low quality. He assured Dean that he could always make another one, but Dean made it very clear that he was still keeping the first one.

Though with how often Charlie liked to “take the horse for a stroll” to her classroom, it becomes difficult for Dean to follow through with that.

Once the students leave to hang up the many fliers, Dean holds up the horse figure for Charlie to see that he has it back. She pouts and Cas looks at Dean curiously.

“Charlie likes to kidnap my horse every other day,” Dean explains and goes over to give Cas a hug.

“He is a very beautiful horse,” Charlie sighs in longing.

“Thank you,” Cas mumbles with a slight blush. “I could always… attempt to make one for you as well, if you’d like.”

“Really?! You mean it?!” Charlie’s eyes become the size of dinner plates and they sparkle with excitement when Cas nods. “Oh my God that would be awesome! Thank you! I promise now that I totally won’t complain during the field trip. Even if it is going to be an hour full of stinky chickens…”

“That’s wonderful but…” Cas tilts his head. “We’re going to be visiting a sheep farm this semester. Not a chicken farm.” Charlie blinks and then turns to glare at Dean while Cas explains how sheep actually smell rather good (so long as their wool is sheared every year).

“Love you,” Dean mouths to her. 

“I know,” Charlie mouths back and flips him off.

A short explanation of the sheep farm later, Dean and Cas are heading back to Dean’s classroom to return the wooden figure in its proper place. Once there, Dean sits in his chair and does his routine spin to make sure everything is in order. Black Impala Hot Wheels still stuck to his computer monitor? Check. Two movie posters (The Dark Knight and The Magnificent Seven), still serving as his personal backdrop? Check. “Best Effin’ Teacher Ever” mug? Check. And now with the wooden horse placed neatly near the computer monitor, Dean smiles as everything is accounted for. His chair returns to its original position facing the student’s desks, and there stands Cas. Dean suddenly feels a bit embarrassed.

“I’m a creature of habit,” Dean says, and squirms a bit in his chair. “So sue me.”

"I thought it was adorable," Cas says, then leans forward to meet Dean’s lips. Dean relaxes into the kiss and wonders for the hundredth time how he got so lucky. Lucky enough for this to all work out despite their equally shared awkwardness. With Dean, Cas found confidence and passion once again. And with Cas, Dean found someone he felt comfortable enough to be himself.

Doubt still liked to creep in at times though. Like now, as Cas waited for Dean at the door and gave him that special smile that was only for him. How could that smile belonging to this gorgeous man be for Dean and Dean alone? How has Cas not gotten tired of Dean and his inability to make words at times? Dean suddenly felt like a nervous mess just like the first time he saw Cas before the school year started. He thought that being an official couple would help with his moments of uncertainty, but no, not really.

Fortunately, Cas was getting better at recognizing when Dean’s mind started racing faster than he could keep up. He goes back to meet Dean half way and gives his hand a squeeze, which instantly brings Dean back to a familiar feeling of safety and calm. It's the same sort of feeling Dean gets when he's hanging out with Charlie, or when his mom would sing to comfort him. Cas didn't usually sing, but he didn't have to for Dean to feel it.

“Ready?” Cas asks. Dean smiles and places his other hand on the side of Cas’ face. Dean thinks about kissing the heck out of Cas like he usually does, but strangely enough, he's not thinking. What he does instead just comes to him as easily as singing to Cas had been a few months ago.

"I love you, Cas," he says. Cas’ eyes widened in surprise and that's when Dean realized he just dropped the "love" word first. No practice beforehand. No words getting stuck in his throat. It just came out without a second thought. He'll admit that it felt nice that he didn't overthink it, but holy hell was he overthinking it now. Before Dean has a chance to say something and maybe make himself look like an idiot, Cas gently kisses Dean’s hand.

"I love you too Dean," Cas says, with the biggest smile on his face. With their true feelings finally said, Dean feels the nervous thoughts of doubt cut loose from his mind forever. At this new feeling of freedom and love, Dean simply grins and kisses the heck out of Cas.