It was a Friday night this time. Dean was lounged out across the bed, wearing old ratty boxers and a worn out tee, Cas draped over his body like a much-loved accessory. These nights were becoming less and less rare, and for that Dean sent a silent prayer up to something.
Lately, Dean and Cas had taken to watching old movies on the television in their room before drifting off into lazy, uninterrupted sleep together. When it was Dean’s turn to pick a movie, his choices were always subtle and artistic, clever and romantic. When it was Cas’ turn to pick, well… those would not have been Dean’s first choice of words to describe the movies.
Right now, for instance, they were being treated to a disgustingly drawn out scene in which a man’s head was being ripped off of his body because he was infected by some alien virus. They were watching 1982’s The Thing. It was not Dean’s night to pick out a movie.
“This is the sickest shit I have ever seen in my life,” Dean grumbled, placing a hand over his eyes to try and block his view. Beside him, Cas let out a cackle that Dean had to classify as maniacal.
“Don’t be such a baby,” he goaded.
Dean thought to retaliate, but then some other gut-wrenching thing happened on screen and he had to cover his eyes as well as his mouth.
The rest of the movie was pure suffering for him.
When it was all over and the credits were rolling, Dean finally felt that he could relax. He rolled over and sighed, pulling Cas’ body against his. “I am gonna have a nightmare tonight, you little twerp,” he muttered angrily into Cas’ stock of dark hair.
“I know,” responded the smaller man. “It’s creepy, right?…. The idea of not being able to know who’s infected… who’s really the person you love, and who’s an impostor…”
Cas sat up in Dean’s arms and moved his face so that his mouth hovered over Dean’s cheek. “You know, Dean, I could be an alien impostor right now…”
Dean jerked his face away and raised a single eyebrow skeptically towards Cas, but by then Cas was already pulling away and beginning to flail dramatically across the bed.
“Oh! Oh!” He made a few theatric choking noises, “Dean! OH!”
“God, you are such a fucking weirdo,” Dean couldn’t help the smiles that broke through in between his scolding words. “I hate you so much.”
Cas halted his flailing mid-movement. “No, you don’t. You don’t hate me.” He tried to tug himself tight into Dean, who only fought the embrace.
“Oh, yeah? What makes you so sure?”
“I have a few clues,” he whispered, and suddenly he found that Dean’s rigidity was gone. Instead, he melted into Cas’ touch.
“Like?” The words teased off of Dean’s tongue, so close to Cas’ own mouth.
“Like, the domestic partnership…. co-parenting…. the bed-sharing…”
Dean pulled back and rolled his eyes deep into his head. “You’re actually very annoying.”
Cas leaned up and caught Dean’s lips between his own. “Will you just shut up and fuck me?”
“Sounds good to me,” Dean agreed, pressing himself down into Cas with renewed fervor. Cas sighed into his mouth, wrapping his arms around Dean and pulling the two of them closer into each other.
It was precisely at the moment that a small, high-pitched voice called out “Daddy!” into the pitch black night.
Dean and Cas paused in the middle of their make-out to look at each other in a flash of mild horror.
“Was that you or me?” Cas asked roughly into the darkness.
“It sounds like her voice for you,” Dean answered quickly.
Cas huffed, but he was already turning off to his side to hop down from his of the bed. “You’re just saying that because you’re a lazy piece of dirt,” he sighed.
“I’m sorry,” cried Dean. “but I am not lazy. I don’t exactly need my daughter to see me popping a half-chub in the middle of the night, either.”
He gestured to the sweatpants that covered his lower half and raised his eyebrows. Cas’s eyes too, went to Dean’s crotch, and he shrugged his shoulders and trotted off down the hall into Ruby’s room.
Not ten seconds later did Dean hear that same tiny little voice saying, “No! I want other Daddy!” and Cas came back into the room shoulders hung low and a very unsympathetic expression thrown at Dean.
Dean sighed, and clenched his eyes shut, thinking of cold showers and Uncle Bobby’s chest hair and anything other than how good Cas looked in sweatpants and no shirt and….
“I’m coming, angel!” he called in a strangled voice.
He opened the door to Ruby’s room with a pronounced squeak. He could see the warm yellow that shone from her nightlight illuminating her little face. She look small, scared.
“Boo, what’s going on?” He asked as he drew nearer to the bed.
Ruby barely peaked out over the top of her covers. “I had a bad dream,” she said in a small voice.
“Aw, boo,” he cooed.
Her bed was quite small, and pink, but Dean crunched his body enough that he could fit into it with her. He petted his big hand over her pretty blonde hair. “What’d you dream about, huh?”
“It was scary,” she confessed. “It was big, and it hurt you, and Daddy…” She trailed off as her voice began to break under the stress of tears.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he soothed. “We’re fine. Everything’s okay. Nothing’s gonna come for us. We’re much too big and brave to let that happen, right?”
Ruby just sniffled, snuggling herself closer into her father. He hated to see his little girl like this: helpless, little green eyes shining up at him filled with tears. He wrapped a strong arm around her, tucking her in against his side.
“Hey now," he whispered, running his hand over her soft hair. “How bout I tell you a story, hm? Would that make your feel better?”
Ruby nodded slightly. As relief flooded over him, Dean reached over her over her body to grab whatever book was lying on the nightstand beside the bed.
“Alright now, let’s see what we have here.”
It was a simple story, about a little girl and her mom who take a trip into town and find all kinds of things to fill her pocketbook. Dean absently wondered where the book had come from, since he didn’t remember picking this one up himself. But, honestly, he was so surprised at how quietly Ruby was sitting through the story that he didn’t pay the thought much mind.
That was, until he’d nearly reached the end of the story. Turning his fingers to the last page, Ruby stopped him with a hand laid across his. “Daddy?”
Sometimes, when the kid looked at him in a certain way, it felt like she was so much older than five. This was one of those times. “Do I have a mommy?”
It wasn’t like he never expected her to ask. He just... wasn’t ready, not right now.
The question posed a problem. To be honest, Dean sort of freaked out when she asked. He’d planned what to say, how to answer a million times— hypothetically. But, it was different when she was looking up at him with those big, green eyes, asking him earnestly.
“Nope," he blurted out at last. “Just two daddies who love you very much.” Ruby looked away and nodded thoughtfully, seeming to be satisfied with this answer.
But… well, that wasn’t quite right either. And it wasn’t fair. She had had a mother, someone who loved her and carried her and spent nine months taking care of Ruby all on her own. Dean couldn’t just erase her entirely from the little girl’s life.
Ruby flicked her eyes up to him again. He rubbed his fingers lightly up and down her arm, as if trying to physically soothe the tension away.
"You did have a mommy once,” he said plainly. “When you were a teeny, tiny baby. You lived in her belly.”
“Like Bobby was in Aunt Sarah's belly?”
Dean laughed softly to himself and laid a kiss on top of her head. “Yeah. Just like that.”
He wasn’t sure how much to say after that. How much could she really understand at five years old? And it felt weird having this conversation without Cas in the room. He always knew what to say better than Dean did.
“Daddy?” the little voice called again.
She waited a few seconds before she spoke again. “Where is my mommy now?”
Shit. Was he supposed to explain death to a five year old? That sounded like a heavy duty conversation, and one that Dean would almost certainly fuck up.
“She… lives in Heaven now.” And here’s hoping that was the end of that conversation for some time. “Now, let’s finish this story.”
“Where is Heaven? Can I go there?”
Dean’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. That little girl sure was full of questions. He was one hundred percent unprepared to give her an honest answer, but he didn’t want to lie to her either.
"Guess who’s coming to sleep in our bed?” Dean called out a few moments later, a pleading smile plastered on his face and Ruby wrapped around his upper half. He ambled over toward the bed as she reached her arms out to Cas.
Cas, who looked back at Dean with a face that said it all: tired, but understanding. Annoyed, but welcoming. He always could pin Dean just with a look.
“Yay!" he smiled wide— a tired kind of thing that just barely reached his eyes— as he grabbed for Ruby and pulled her in to him. “I needed my angel girl cuddling up next to me.”
Dean watched from the doorway while Ruby curled up against Cas and nuzzled her nose into his neck. They looked awful happy, the two of them. He walked happily over to the bed and pulled back the covers to join them.
Probably, in the not-too-distant future, there would be a day where she won’t be quite so easy to distract from the difficult questions. But, well, that would be a problem for later days.
On another day, Dean sat on the couch with Ruby on his lap, bouncing her on his knees while she happily giggled. It was pure, sweet happiness. He wanted to save this moment in his memories for the inevitable snotty teenage years when she would undoubtedly tell him that she hated him.
But that was later. For now, it was good.
“Daddy,” Ruby said suddenly. “Are you uncle Sam’s big brother?”
“Yes, I am,” Dean answered her without thinking.
Ruby paused for thought, then continued. “Do you like being a big brother?”
Dean stopped bouncing her in his lap. “It’s my favorite thing in the world. After being a dad.”
“When do I get to be a big brother?”
Dean let out a soft chuckle. “Well, you would be a big sister, not a brother. Because you’re a girl. Why are you asking, anyway?”
“Well Cassie from school just got a little brother, and she said that she loves him and he’s so cool and squishy” Ruby said matter-of-factly, like there’s no implications of anything that comes with that. “So I want a little brother.”
Dean held her firmly on top of him. That wasn’t exactly a conversation he and Cas had had yet…. Honestly, it seemed like she'd only just started calling him Dad, though that was more than a year ago now. It was just, Dean didn't want to pressure him. And things were going so great right now, he didn't want to chance rocking the boat at all.. Not that he had any doubts about Cas being The One. But now that Dean thought about it, he wasn’t even sure if Cas wanted any more kids…
Dean jerked his eyes back to Ruby, but she barely noticed as she kept on talking.
“Daddy, Cassie said that before he was born, her little brother lived inside her Mommy’s belly. But if I don’t have a mommy anymore, where will my little brother live?”
Dean paused minutely, still holding her on his lap. What a curious little girl his daughter was. Frankly, it could be pretty inconvenient at times.
Already onto the whole ‘where do babies come from?’ debacle. And it didn’t exactly make things easier, him and Cas being, well, y’know, two dudes. He could take the time to intricately explain the human body and the birds and the bees, and the whole “when two people love each other very much” thing. Or….
“Who wants ice cream?”
“Ice cream!” Ruby shouted. “Yay!”
And thankfully, that settled that for a little while.
Mornings had grown calm for them. They were routine now, and it was nice. Dean and Cas would wake up early, and pretend that Ruby was just rousing them an hour later. Then, Dean would make coffee while Cas toasted waffles or sliced fruit in the kitchen, and Ruby would lecture them about some new thing that she’d learned.
For the most part, it was impossibly adorable.
On this particular morning, she decided to start things off with a bang.
“Are you married?” she asked when Cas dropped an Eggo onto her plate.
Dean and Cas each shot the other a look, seeming to defer to each other on the matter. Dean just gave a sort of whatever shrug of his shoulder, nodded to Cas that he could take the reins on this one.
“Um,” Cas started, turning back to face Ruby, “No, we’re not. Why are you asking?”
Ruby took a big sip of her juice and placed it back on the table, heaving a sigh that indicated long-suffering on her part. “Well, I was reading this article…”
Dean heard Cas choke down a laugh from behind him, struggling to keep his composure. Dean was thankful for that fact that he was facing away from Ruby so he could let a grin freely crack over his face.
This was one of Ruby’s new habits: repeating phrase she’d heard adults say over and over because she thought it made her sound more grown up. This one came courtesy of Cas. Dean couldn’t count how many time they’d been sitting at the table for dinner, and Cas would start up animatedly with a “I was reading this article…”.
(Of course, Ruby had taken a few lines from Dean as well. Just last week when Cas had been pouring her orange juice in the morning, she had placed her hand on the cup, looked him dead in the eye and said, “I’ll take it black, no sugar.” Dean swore to God, he had to leave the room that time because he was physically hurting his chest by trying to contain the howl of laughter.)
Anyways, in all likelihood, the “article” to which she referred was a picture book that one of them had actually read aloud to her. But, in any case.
“Oh were you?” Cas indulged her, sinking into the chair beside her as Dean made his way over to the table.
“Yes,” Ruby confirmed. “And the article said that most mommies and daddies are married to each other.”
“Hmm. Very interesting,” mused Dean, slathering more than enough syrup onto his plate. “Eat your breakfast, kiddo.”
“How come you aren’t?”
“Aren’t what?” Dean huffs out at her, digging into his meal.
Finally, Dean raised his head to see two big green, eyes staring at up him, nothing but total innocent curiosity written on her face. His shoulders slumped. He wanted to kill the conversation, but did’t know how to do it without begin harsh. He turned to Cas for backup, but found his boyfriend staring dazedly at the table decorations.
“Huh?” Cas jerked suddenly, being brought back into the conversation. Dean gestured toward the kid with his head, and Ruby’s eyes darted between her two dads. “Oh, right.”
“Well, Rubes, we aren’t married because… well. Marriage can be really important to some people, but for Daddy and I, we… we just want to be a family.” Cas paused, and looked to Dean. His face softened into a warm smile and Dean could feel the infectious joy spreading to his own. Cas went on, “And we are. We love each other very much, and we have the best little girl in the whole wide world. The only difference with being married is that you get to have a big party and a fancy piece of paper.”
He capped the explanation off with a casual shrug and commenced to eating his waffles. Dean’s face was still covered with a smile. He was glad he’d had Cas explain the situation instead of him— Cas was so much smarter, better with words. Dean would have just stumbled his way through awkwardly and tried to distract her with ice cream. Again.
To his side, Ruby appeared to have been appeased by this answer. Though she did have one final gripe to air. “But… big parties are fun. You get presents.”
Cas and Dean chuckled over their mugs of coffee. “Can’t argue with you there,” Dean told her. “Which reminds me, if I recall correctly, you have a birthday coming up, don’t you? I wonder what presents you’ll get.”
Castiel quirked an eyebrow at him while Ruby’s face lit up at the prospect. She began to list off everything she wanted, including, but not limited to: Barbie dolls, a kitten, coloring books and dress-up clothes.
It was easy bait, of course, but that was one of the advantages of being parent of a five year old.
They didn’t mention it again for a few days, though the question seemed to be floating in the air of the house. They didn’t talk about it at breakfast or dinner, or when they were running errands or even in the car on the way to their Thursday evening at Sam and Sarah’s place.
It isn’t until the next weekend, when Ruby has been dropped off for a sleepover with Bobby and Ellen and they’ve got the place all to themselves that either one of them thinks to brings it up again.
“Do you ever think about what Ruby asked us last week at breakfast?” Cas asked in a very even tone; no tricks or games on the table, just genuine interest in Dean’s answer.
“What, you mean about us being married?” Dean hopped onto the bed above the covers. He watched as Cas went about putting away the freshly folded laundry. Domesticity had really done a number on their Friday nights.
Cas shrugged. “Yeah. I mean… I dunno.”
Dean furrowed his eyes, trying to choose his words carefully. This had all the potential to turn into a fight if he said something wrong, and if history was any indicator, he would probably say something wrong. “Yeah. I’ve thought about it.” He paused and bit his lip. “Have you?”
Cas stopped walking to shoot Dean a very meaningful glance. “Of course I have.”
Dean moved so that he was sitting up on his knees. “So… how come you never did anything about it?”
It was a moment before Cas answered, but the reply sounded earnest when he did. “I.. It’s just like I explained to Ruby. It’s just a piece of paper and a party. I always figured that all that money we would spend on that stuff could go to something more productive, like saving up for a house or a vacation or something.”
Dean gave a single nod. It was a very reasonable answer. In fact, it was very similar to the one he had prepared in his back pocket. Cas put away the laundry basket and approached the bed so that Dean could reach out and touch him. “Why haven’t you done anything about it?” he questioned in a tone that was half-playful and half-sincere.
A small sigh escaped Dean’s throat. “Same, pretty much. Didn’t seem necessary.” He took Cas’ hands into his and laid his lips gingerly across Cas’ knuckles. Cas was smiling when Dean looked at him again, so Dean hesitantly tacked on, “But… you would be interested? If… If I did ask, I mean?”
Cas’ expression changed in a flash, a hand darting up to cover his mouth where he couldn’t stop a chuckle from coming out. A chuckle that felt less sweet and a little more at Dean’s expense. “Oh My God,” he breathed out. “You were afraid I’d say no.”
“I was not!” Dean called out, though the crack in his voice definitely betrayed the truth.
“Dean.” Cas said in an almost scolding manner, as if chiding Dean’s self-consciousness. “Babe, come on. We have a child together. Did you really think I wouldn’t say yes if you proposed?”
Dean considered fighting it, for the sake of his pride, but then he thought the jig was all but up. And anyway, this was Cas. The one person in his life that he should be able to be truthful with.
So he shrugged his shoulders and diverted his eyes to the floor. “I dunno,” he sighed dejectedly.
“I mean… I just thought we were going so good, there was no reason to rock the boat.” Cas nodded along while Dean confessed his fears, which made Dean feel a whole lot better about the whole thing. “And, you know, sometimes you can be a little emotional about things— hey, hey!” He yelled when Cas’ eyes bugged out a bit and he looked ready to fight. “That’s not a dig. I just meant… yeah, I wasn’t sure how you’d react.”
Cas remained silent for a few seconds after Dean finished, running his thumbs along the calloused skin of Dean’s palm. Eventually, he perked up a bit, straightened his shoulders and looked Dean straight in the face. “But you do want to?”
Dean pursed his lips in confusion. “Marry you? Fuck yeah, babe.”
“Well, then…” Cas took a large step backward to create adequate space between them, and then gestured to the floor in front of him. “Ask me.”
“What, right now?”
Dean scoffed at the idea. “This is totally unromantic, Cas.”
“Why? Why is it unromantic?”
“Um, because I am wearing an old Boston t-shirt? You’re folding laundry?”
“Who cares where we are, what we’re wearing?” Cas reached up and cupped Dean’s face with his hand. “All that matters is that it’s us.” Dean considered the idea for a moment, staring into Cas’ beautiful, perfect, entrancing blue eyes, and then shook his head with firm conviction.
“Uh-uh, nope.” He said right into Cas’ face. “It’s gotta be way better than this, and I need a ring, and there’s still a lot to think about— we don’t have enough money for a wedding and a house, so—”
“Fine!” shouted Cas in exasperation, extracting his hands from Dean’s grasp. “If you’re not going to do it…” he muttered, and sank down onto his knees in front of Dean. He looked up from his position on the floor, eyes wide and adoring, and began to speak with such reverence in his voice. “Dean Winchester, you are—”
“Nope!” Dean balked as he yanked Castiel back to his feet, “Nope, nope, nope. If anyone is gonna do any question-poppin' around here, it’s gonna be me.”
Cas rolled his eyes and cracked a smile. “You’re quite the traditionalist, aren’t you?”
Dean elected to ignore that comment in favor of savoring the moment. He allowed his eyes to flutter shut, loosened his shoulders and got down on one knee. He expelled a long breath of air.
‘Why are your eyes closed?” Dean heard in a whisper, to which he bit out “I’m concentrating.”
After a moment, he opened his eyes again. He looked up at Cas, to find him staring down at Dean with a face filled with such emotion. And when Dean saw that face, he knew exactly what he wanted to say.
“Cas,” he started it off. Good lead in.
“Castiel. You are, hands down, the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
That made Cas giggle, which in turn made Dean’s heart flutter a few hundred times. He reached out for Cas’ hand and entwined their fingers around each other.
“And I am crazy lucky to call you mine— I have no clue how you’ve managed to put up with me and my crap this long. You’re smart, so smart, and you always know just what to say, which I never do. You are… you’re an incredible parent, and I am so lucky to have you watching my back all the time. Sometimes when you look at me with those big baby blues of yours, I forget everything else in the damn world. You’re my favorite person, and my best friend.”
If Dean is a little too choked up to continue, well that’s perfectly reasonable. Especially with the way Cas is looking at him with that great big old smile plastered on his face…
“So, what d’ya say we make this a permanent thing? Will you marry me, Cas?”
Cas had been biting down on the cuff of his sleeve to keep from chewing his own lips off. He tore his mouth off and sniffled quickly. “Um…”
“Cas! Now is not the time to for teasing,” shouted Dean desperately.
“Yes! Yes, obviously!”
Dean sprang up to his feet and surged toward Cas, wrapping his hands around Cas’ neck and tugging him into the most passionate, crashing embrace he thought he’d ever known. It was hard to kiss around their smiles, all teeth clacking and hard lines and giggles. They wobbled around the room together, hands holding each other close, finally winding up on top of the bed.
Eventually, when they pulled away for a second to breathe, the pair looked at one another with light shining out from their faces.
“You know the funniest thing?” Cas said to Dean, panting through the words.
“What?" returned Dean.
“I feel like it should be my mom or friends or something, but the person I’m most excited to tell is a five-year-old.”
“Yeah, I know. Me too.” Dean ran his eyes over his lover's face, feeling wonderfully possessive in the moment. “Fatherhood has made us lame.”
“So lame,” Cas agreed with a laugh. He grazed his thumb sweetly over Dean’s cheek. “I love you.”
Dean could barely contain the happiness shooting out of him in that moment. He could scarcely believe this was his own life. If you had told him some years ago that he would turn into a romantic sap like this, he might have thrown back another whiskey and laughed in your face.
“Yeah, yeah, come here,” he grumbled playfully, pulling Cas in again with one hand, while the other began to wander dangerously along the rest of his body.
When Sunday came around and it was time to pick up Ruby once again, Cas and Dean decided to go together. They were too excited to tell her the big news.
Dean pulled his car into the driveway at Bobby and Ellen’s place, and immediately saw his little girl bounding across the lawn towards the Impala. “Daddy! Daddy!” she yelled excitedly. Cas opened the passenger's side door and ran to collect her into his arms.
“Hello, hello, babygirl,” he greeted, hugging her with all the force he had. “We missed you very much.”
Ruby flashed a brilliant, gap-toothed smile at them.
“And guess what?” Cas whispered conspiratorially against her ear. “Daddy and I have some big news to tell you.”
Just then, Bobby and Ellen opened the front door and offered a small wave to the happy couple as they came out to join them. Dean grinned wide, happy to share the news with the rest of his family.
When he turned back to his fiancé and their daughter, he saw Ruby looking up toward her dad with piqued curiosity. She asked silently for them to go on. Cas sent a smile over to Dean, giving him permission to go ahead.
Dean turned to his daughter. "Honey, do you remember last week when you asked us if we were married?”
She gave him a funny look then, and tilted her head to the side in a way that was such a hallmark of being Cas’ offspring. He almost got distracted by that, but he shook his head and went on, with big wide eyes and excitement in his voice, “We’re getting married!”
The cutest, loudest gasp sprang from Ruby’s mouth then. “Are we going to have a big party? With presents?”
“Lots of presents,” Dean assured her, as she bounced excitedly in Cas’ arms. Bobby and Ellen were now approaching, and had apparently heard the announcement as well, if their hooting and hollering were any indication. Dean tossed a wink in their direction
“Daddy,” Ruby called out to Dean, “does this mean I can have my baby brother now?”
"Your what?” exclaimed Cas, shooting a look at Dean-- whose face had already gone pale white at the question.
“Um, why don’t you put her in the car while I go talk to Bobby and Ellen?” Dean spat out, turning to make a break as he did. He could already feel his mouth going dry. “By the way, I love you. Best boyfriend ever— fiancé ever.”
"Ruby, what did you just ask him?” he heard Cas murmuring as he moved away.
Okay, running away from uncomfortable questions was not an ideal way of handling them. Someday, he'd get better about that. Probably. Maybe. But it didn’t really matter— not if he was always going to have Cas to back him up, which he was. And that was one thing that made him very comfortable.
…and, you know, maybe the baby brother thing wasn’t such a bad idea.