Angels have existed for all of time, really, but Castiel can’t help wondering as he idly sips his third cup of coffee of the day (handed to him with a quick kiss to his hair by Dean as he cooks) how many have had this. Domesticity, family, love for humanity more than just a part of their code. An identity of their own outside of Heaven’s orders. But would he still count as an angel, human as he is?
A decade, even a year ago, Castiel wouldn’t have hesitated in answering, but now? He isn’t sure.
In all his years observing humanity, he’d seen similar stories play out on Earth as it so rarely was in Heaven: children growing into adults, learning that they prefer one gender over another, discovering that their parents' plans for them don’t fit who they truly are, bringing in a little bit of Creation into their lives as they mold their bodies to suit them. Is that not what he did? Even before he was well and truly mortal, he was allowing himself to visibly age, skin sagging and hair graying.
Oh, he realizes. I’m growing into an old man.
“What’s got you all smiley?”
Cas looks up from his mug at Dean’s voice to see him leaning on the kitchen’s island, pots and pans piled around haphazardly from use, full attention focused on him. Castiel takes another sip.
“I’m just thinking.”
Dean’s eyebrow quirks upward, and oh, Castiel is a lucky man to love someone so beautiful.
Castiel considers how to phrase this. “Identity. I don’t know that I would consider ‘angel’ a major trait of mine, not anymore.”
“Well, yeah,” Dean says, coming around the island to speak to him more directly. “You’re not.”
No shit, that same voice says in the back of Castiel’s mind, but he ignores it. “No, I mean I haven’t thought of myself as an angel in… I’m not sure how long.”
Dean’s face gets that Look, the one he has when he’s not quite understanding. Cas continues, “Even when I did, there were other parts of myself that felt more important.”
“Like what?” Dean asks.
“Well, the fact that I loved you.”
Just as he knew he would, Dean glances away from Cas’ face, suddenly very interested in the kitchen’s doorway. A faint blush spreads on his cheeks, and Castiel wants.
“Yeah, that can’t be it, though,” Dean says, ever self-deprecating. Cas decides to let it slide, for now; getting Dean to let down his walls has been a struggle since that night after the Empty, when they finally aired out over a decade’s worth of baggage and decided to try.
Castiel lets out a hum. “Becoming a father, too.”
Dean nods, eyes returning to his. “Yeah, Jack sure changed me, but you? Cas, you’re probably the best dad in Chuck’s whole goddamn story.”
He smiles, but he doesn’t argue; between himself, John Winchester, and God Himself, there is no doubt in his mind who would win Father of the Year.
“Well,” Castiel continues, considering, “Angels don’t exactly have a concept of gender, at least not as you’d understand it, but at some point I started thinking of myself as a man. Even as an angel, I was a man, too.”
This, Castiel is certain, is something Dean will understand even more than fatherhood, even if it’s not something he readily shares. Cas knows, though, of course he does; he rebuilt Dean’s body and kept exactly two scars.
Dean brings a hand to the back of his neck for a moment, anticipation clear, before making another Look – the resolute one, same as the night he took him to that brothel – and sitting down across from him.
“When did you know?”
Dean looks surprised at the question, apparently thinking he would be the first to further broach the subject. Castiel is quietly proud of himself.
“Well, I– uh,” Dean starts, and Cas is almost tempted to remind him that he loves him, just to see how much redder he can get. “Since I was around ten? I hit puberty pretty early, and–” He glances down at his chest, runs a hand over his shirt. “Dad would try and buy me bras and shit, and I didn’t hate all of it, but I dunno. It just felt off, somehow. Started dressing like a guy around eleven, and Dad didn’t give a shit as long as I could shoot straight and look out for Sammy. Hell, I think he preferred having a son, anyway.”
Castiel opens his mouth to answer, but stops when he hears the telltale heavy footsteps of Sam approaching from the library. Cas isn’t sure if this is a conversation Dean wants to have with company.
“When’s dinner?” Sam asks as he enters the kitchen, eyes landing on Dean and then Castiel, gears turning. “Am I interrupting?” As always with him when he catches the two of them together in these last few months, there’s a hint of smugness under even the most innocuous questions. Once a younger brother, always a younger brother.
“No, of course not,” Castiel starts to say, but Dean cuts him off.
“Yeah, but sit down; dinner’ll be ready in a few.” He pats the table and gets up, checking on the oven; much to Sam’s delight, Dean has finally decided to try making veggie burgers from scratch.
Cas’ brow furrows, but he says nothing as Sam takes Dean’s place at the table. Sam shoots him a questioning look, but Castiel shakes his head, sipping his (now slightly cold) coffee.
“Oh, hey,” Sam says after a few awkward moments. “I’m going to Eileen’s tomorrow, can you guys get Jack to school?”
The next few minutes are filled with domestic conversation, Dean agreeing to drive Jack to the nearby middle school he’s been attending since deciding to become a child for good with only minimal implications made about Sam’s sex life, and soon enough dinner is served. Cas sends a text to Jack (emoticons, truly one of the best inventions in all of human history), and mere seconds later the kitchen table is complete.
Much like a film Castiel has often come across while channel surfing, their little family is made up of three men and a baby– in relative terms, four years old is a baby even when that four year old appears to be thirteen, he supposes.
“Jack,” Castiel prompts once everyone’s gotten a burger on their plate (veggie for Sam and Castiel, beef for Jack and Dean), “How was school today?”
Jack looks at him from across the table, hurriedly chewing the first bite of his burger to answer. Something flutters in Cas’ chest seeing how truly small his son is. Not quite a child, not yet an adult, but always, always his. Castiel catches Dean’s grin out of the corner of his eye before he reminds him not to choke; the kid may be immortal, but nobody wants a hunk of burger stuck in their throat.
“It was good,” Jack says once he’s swallowed his food. “Brayden wants me to get Minecraft so I can play with him.” He pauses, looking pleadingly at Cas, then Dean, then Sam, reminding Castiel terribly of that cat from the Shrek movies they watched last week.
“Alright,” Castiel agrees. He can never say no to this child, something he worries about slightly for when he’s older. “Just remember–”
“Don’t tell anyone I live in an underground bunker with three people who are legally dead and/or fugitives, got it,” Jack says, taking another bite. “What were you guys talking about earlier?” he asks, giving the table full view of half-chewed beef and bread.
Dean clears his throat, giving Jack another Look – the Dad look, even if Dean considers himself a stepfather more than anything – and Jack’s mouth snaps shut, chewing frantically again.
“Just about getting you to school this week,” Sam answers, but Jack shakes his head.
“No, Dean and Cas were talking about something else.”
Castiel sometimes forgets how sharp Jack is, and combining that intelligence with a nephil’s powers – even without being God to boost them – and the meddling nature of a middle schooler is always a recipe for disaster.
“Jack,” Castiel starts, putting on the disapproving father voice, “were you eavesdropping again?”
Jack suddenly is very interested in his burger.
“Jack, we’ve discussed this,” Cas continues, ignoring Sam – who has revealed himself as something of an enabler since the defeat of God – smirking into his burger. “Part of knowing how to use your powers is knowing to respect –”
“People’s privacy, yeah, I get it,” Jack says sullenly. “Sorry.”
Cas lets out a sigh; he is certainly more father than angel these days. “It’s alright.”
Beside him, Cas sees Dean shift slightly in his seat, picking at his burger.
“We were talking about,” Dean starts, and when Castiel turns to him he sees only a little bit of panic in his eyes. “Uh. Gender, I guess.” A pregnant pause follows, and Cas can see Dean arguing with himself on whether or not to continue.
“Identity,” Castiel finishes for him, pressing the side of his thigh to Dean’s under the table in what he hopes is a supportive gesture. “I didn’t always think of myself as a man, but now I do. It rings true with some of…” He sneaks a glance at Dean, who gives him one of his more subtle Looks: go ahead. “Dean’s experiences.”
Jack cocks his head, reminding him terribly of himself. “Dean didn’t always think of himself as a man?”
Under the table, Dean’s hand finds Cas’ leg. Castiel places a hand over his.
“No, kiddo, I didn’t. I, well.” Dean’s struggling to find the words, but Cas doesn’t jump in this time, and neither does Sam, who’s watching the exchange silently. Never in all the time he’s known Dean has he openly discussed his relationship with his gender, and he knows Sam hasn’t heard much of Dean’s side of the story either. “You know how Kaia named herself? How she didn’t know she was a girl until she was a little older?”
Jack nods, sagely. He and Kaia still see each other regularly – along with visits from Claire – and Jack had been so excited when he learned how Kaia had discovered herself. Castiel thinks it had touched Dean when Jack told them, even if he wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.
“I’m like that,” Dean finishes.
“You’re trans?” Jack asks with that childlike bluntness Castiel so adores. Sam looks relieved that he didn’t have to be the one to say it.
Dean nods, clearly uncomfortable but powering through it for Jack’s sake. That child really did change Dean, Castiel thinks. The start of their relationship may have been fraught to say the least, and there may be things that all of them will have to work through in the future – things that Castiel will never forgive, no matter how deeply he loves this man – but Dean is truly trying now. That gives Castiel hope, at least.
“Yeah, kid, I am.”
“That’s so cool!” Jack exclaims, and Cas gives Dean’s hand a supportive squeeze under the table. “Sam, did you know Dean’s trans?”
Sam laughs. “Yeah, Jack, I did.” His gaze shifts to Dean, and after one of the patented Winchester Brothers Silent Conversations that Castiel still struggles to follow, Sam continues. “When I found out that I had a big brother, I was so excited I tried to make him wear my clothes.”
“Even though he was three sizes smaller than me,” Dean grumbles, but there’s no edge to his voice.
“At least it got Dad off his ass to get you some new ones!”
Castiel smiles, letting the conversation continue without him.
He may be growing into an old man, but he would choose that over millenia more as an angel in a heartbeat. Humanity has the potential for change, and now with Chuck gone, free will at last. Dean is a self-made man as much as Castiel, and he can’t think of a better man to grow old with.
Under the table, Dean’s hand squeezes his, and Castiel squeezes back.