They met on a playground during the summer before second grade. Dean had heard his baby brother shout out a squeaky "Hey!" to a much larger blond boy who stood over him. Dean was having none of that, so he had stormed away from the slide to confront the bully. Another boy with dark hair Dean's age had made it to the pair first.
"Gabriel!" he had shouted, pushing at the older boy, a very stern look firm on his face. "Stop being mean! I'll tell Michael."
The other boy drew in a huge breath, preparing to scream. The blond boy scampered off. The boy with dark hair turned to Sammy and asked if he was okay.
"Y-Yeah," Sammy whimpered. "Dean!"
Dean hugged his baby brother close. "It's okay, Sammy. No need to cry. I'm here." He turned to the other boy. "Thank you. For helping my brother."
The other boy just sorta blinked at him with wide blue eyes. Dean wasn't sure he'd ever seen anything so blue. Not even the sky was so blue! But then the boy thrust out his hand. "Castiel."
"My name. It's Castiel." And then the boy furrowed his eyebrows like his dad did sometimes when his mom said something confusing. "I was told you shake hands and introduce yourself when you meet people you want to be friends with."
Dean was taken aback. He wanted to be friends? No one wanted to be Dean's friend. Hesitantly, Dean stuck out his own hand. Castiel gripped it tight and started shaking it up and down. "My name is Dean. And this is Sammy."
"Do you want to play with me?"
Dean looked at him through squinted eyes. "Can Sammy play with us, too?"
And they were bestest friends ever since.
They played a few times at the park over the summer, but the real fun began when they found out that they were in the same second grade. That meant they could see each other every day. How cool was that?
On the first day, Dean and Cas (because Castiel was kinda hard to say and he smiled every time Dean said it) waited outside to be picked up. Sammy was only in preschool in the morning when his mom worked at the diner, so Dean was kind of jealous that he couldn't spend time with his mom all afternoon like Sammy. But Dean was a big kid, now, and went to school. And he'd get to be with his mom all after school.
They weren't waiting long when his mom and Sammy walked up to them. They didn't live very far from the school, so his mom dropped him off before she took Sammy to preschool and went to work for the morning, then she walked to pick him up in the afternoon. It was nice because they even walked when it rained so they could play in the puddles on the way home.
No one had shown up for Cas yet, though. Dean frowned, glancing around. Surely Cas wasn't supposed to walk home by himself?
"Hi, Dean. Hey, Cas," his mom said, grinning down at them. "How was the first day of school?"
Dean shrugged. He wasn't that enthusiastic about school—he'd rather be with Sammy. "Good, I guess."
Cas shrugged silently next to him.
"I'm sure it'll get better once school gets going," she said, ruffling their hair. "Do you have someone picking you up, Cas?"
"Uhm. I think my brother is? Michael dropped me off but I don't know who is picking me up."
His mom hummed. "Well. Do you know your brother's number? Perhaps the secretary will let us use her phone."
"That's okay. We'll wait with you."
What was probably forever later, Sammy was starting to get antsy and whiney. But he was only three, so Dean could kind of understand. He was getting kind of antsy himself. All the other kids had left already and three different teachers had come out to ask if they were alright. But finally a beat up blue car rolled up to the curb. The boy that hadn't been very nice to Sammy the day he'd met Cas rolled down the window and shouted at Cas to hurry up. There was another boy up front and a redhead girl sat behind the wheel.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Cas!" shouted Dean as his friend rushed over to the car.
Cas just waved back at him and slammed the door shut.
Somehow, his mom had gotten a hold of Cas' brother. At least, he thought so anyway. His mom was on the phone and saying Cas' name a lot as his dad rolled a beer bottle between his hands. Dean was supposed to be in bed, but he'd needed to use the bathroom. He couldn't exactly hear his mom, but he also didn't wanna get caught out of bed. With a heavy sigh he returned to his room.
The next morning, though, there was a knock on the door as Dean and Sammy were sitting down for breakfast.
"Could you get that, Dean?" asked his mom who was at the stove finishing breakfast.
Dean hopped out of his chair and hurried to the door.
"What are you doing here?"
"Uh, I guess you're taking me to school. That's what Michael said."
Cas' brother honked from his yellow car at the curb. Cas waved at him as he drove off, back seat full of Cas' little siblings.
"Oh. Okay. We're about to have breakfast. Did you eat yet?"
"Mom!" Dean yelled, pulling Cas inside and slamming the door. "Cas is here!"
His mom smiled at them as they entered the kitchen. "Good morning, Cas. Hungry?"
"No need for that. You can just call me Mary," his mom chided as they sat at the table. Sammy was already stuffing his face, eggs stuck to his cheeks. His dad rustled the papers, muttering a "Good morning," to Cas as he turned the page. "Here you are." She sat down a plate before both boys.
And that's how life went for the Winchester and Novak households. Michael would drop Cas off every morning and pick him up for dinner. It was kinda fun, Dean thought, because it meant he got to see Cas almost all the time. If they finished their homework, they were allowed to play outside on the playset his dad had built a few years ago. Sometimes, though, Cas didn't have a lunch, so Dean shared with him. Cas said it was alright, but Dean knew that it made his friend sad. He told his mom after Cas left one day and she got that frowny look she sometimes got when he did something naughty but she was more sad about it than angry.
That following weekend Michael and Cas came over with a bunch of stuff. Cas was pulling a small suitcase and Michael had a big box in his hands.
"Cas!" Dean rushed over to his friend. "What are you doing here?"
"Cas is going to stay with you during the week," Michael replied. "Is your mother or father around?"
His mom came out of the kitchen. He saw her roll her eyes. "No need to shout, Dean. Are you going to invite them in or let them stand on the porch all day? Show them to your room."
Dean quickly guided them up the stairs to his room. Michael put the box in an empty corner and Cas set the suitcase by Dean's dresser. They went back downstairs to his parents. While the grownups talked, Dean excitedly tugged on Cas' hand.
"This is so cool! You get to spend the night all the time!"
Cas didn't look nearly as excited. He looked kinda sad as he watched the grownups talk. "Yeah..." he said quietly. "I guess."
"What's wrong, Cas?"
"He doesn't like me," Cas mumbled, sniffling into his sleeve. "He wants to get rid of me."
"That's not true!" Dean tugged on Cas' hand again. "Cas, that's not true. He just—"
"He just what, Dean?" Tears gathered along the edges of his eyes. "Why else would he let me stay with you all the time? Most of my stuff is in that box he brought. I'm just—I'm just a burden."
Dean didn't know what that meant, but it couldn't be anything good. Not with Cas sniffling and crying like that. He held his hand tighter, wondering what he could do to make his friend stop crying. He didn't like it when Cas cried because it made his heart hurt. "Maybe..." Dean tried to remember what his mom had said to his dad the other night when they thought he was in bed asleep, but he couldn't remember.
"Oh, Cassie," Michael said behind him. They turned to see the grownups all looking sad at them. Michael fell to his knees and pulled Cas into a hug. "Of course I love you, Castiel. I'm doing this because I can't take care of you like I should be able to. I'm sorry you get lost in the shuffle sometimes." He pulled back to wipe away Cas' tears. "After mother died and father left... I'm sorry, Castiel. You're old enough to mostly take care of yourself but young enough to still need someone. And with all your siblings..." Michael wiped his own tears away. "Sometimes I forget that you still need me to help you. That's why you'll stay with the Winchesters during the week, because I know you won't be forgotten and they can take care of you better than I can."
Cas was quiet for a long time. He and Michael stared at each other with their bright blue eyes. Finally, he nodded with a small, "okay."
The two hugged again and Michael wiped away their tears before standing. "You're going to go shopping with them today but be home for dinner, alright?"
They took the truck to the store. His mom stayed home with Sammy while Cas and Dean rode in the truck with his dad. The store was pretty fun, though. They got to lay on all the beds to see which one Cas liked best. His dad even let them lay on the grownup beds that could probably fit a hundred Cas'. They were done quickly and even got him a pillow before they left. On the way home, his dad stopped for ice cream and the three of them sat in the parking lot next to the truck licking the sticky mess from their fingers.
When they got home they set right to work moving Dean's room around so they could fit Cas' new bed. They decided to put the beds on each side of the window and the dresser sat at the foot of Cas' new bed. Dean's small bookshelf ended up under the window to act as a bedside table, too. His dad did most of the work, but sometimes if they both were on one side and his dad on the other they could help some. Once that was set up, Dean and Cas were tasked with rearranging Dean's clothes so Cas' could fit in the dresser. The box Michael had brought was mostly books, so they put those and the little trinkets Cas had on his half of the bookcase while Dean shoved his haphazardly on his side. Cas sighed, but there was a smile on his face, so Dean counted it as a win.
Cas was back Monday morning for breakfast with a folder clutched tight to his chest. When Dean asked, Cas said, "Michael said this was very important that I give to Mary."
His mom plucked it from his hands and opened it to read it. "Ah," she said with a smile. "Better eat quickly, boys! We're leaving earlier than usual."
Instead of dropping them off, his mom parked and brought them all inside. Sammy was peering around at the new surroundings, peaking into the classrooms they passed as he held his mom's hand and toddled after them. When they got to their classroom, his mom handed his teacher some of the papers from the folder. They talked and nodded along as Dean and Cas showed Sammy where they hung their backpacks and where they sat for school.
Sammy almost threw a tantrum when their mom was ready to go. But his mom was always good about calming Sammy down and they were gone quickly without too much crying. Dean didn't like it when Sammy was sad, either.
That night, instead of Cas leaving before dinner, he stayed and ate with them. It was kinda cool, Dean thought. Almost like he got another brother—but one that was way less annoying. When it was time for bed, Dean wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to do. He always gave Sammy a kiss goodnight when they tucked him in. Was he supposed to do the same for Cas? Cas was already in bed, pulling the sheets with little happy bees up to his chin. They weren't nearly as cool as Dean's Batman sheets, but Cas liked them so Dean wasn't going to say anything mean.
Oh, well. Dean decided to go ahead and kiss him on the forehead like he did to Sammy. "Night, Cas."
Cas just stared up at him. Those blue eyes almost seemed to glow in the warm nightlight they had by the door. Dean stared right back at him, wondering if he had done something wrong. Butterflies swooped around in his tummy. But his eyes started to hurt after a while so he looked away to climb into his own bed.
"Good night, Dean," he heard Cas whisper from the other side of the room.
The butterflies didn't leave his tummy for a long time.
Dean did not like Ms. Naomi. She wasn't nearly as fun as any of his other teachers had been. Her classroom was kinda boring and they did a lot of math every day. Dean knew that third grade was supposed to be less fun than second because they were getting older and 'more mature,' but he figured it should have been more fun than this. It wasn't even a couple of weeks into school before trouble started.
"Castiel," Ms. Naomi said in front of the whole class one Tuesday morning in that too-calm tone of hers that set Dean's teeth on edge. "I've told you before. You need to have your guardian sign off on your homework and report cards."
Cas' brow bunched together. "But Mary Winchester has permission to sign for my brother. There's paperwork and everything. They've never had a problem before."
"You'll be staying inside for recess for your backtalk and until you bring in work with your brother's signature."
"That's not fair!" Dean cried out, standing up with his fists clenched tight at his sides. "Cas stays at my house during the week so he doesn't even see his brother until the weekend."
Dean wanted to scream, but he knew that wouldn't do him any good. He huffed, but went to go stand in the corner in the front of the room. He was there almost all day, only let out to go to lunch. He wasn't even listening to her talk, too mad to listen to the math and science lessons going on behind him. His legs and feet got tired, but he knew punishment would be much, much worse if he tried to lean against one of the walls. He'd seen the last kid who had tried a few weeks ago almost get smacked on the head with a ruler because of it.
For the whole week Cas was kept inside during recess. And Dean noticed that he was also becoming a lot more shy and skittish around him, like a bunny they saw in his backyard once. Cas even shied away when Dean kissed his forehead goodnight. He tried to talk to Cas about it after school while his mom was making a snack for them, but Cas would just shake his head and keep his mouth shut.
But then Friday Cas started crying at the table when Dean touched his arm.
Dean sprang back, scared he hurt his friend. His mom was there, though, hushing Cas and wiping away his tears, asking him what was wrong.
"Boys aren't supposed to touch each other," Cas gasped out between sobs. "Ms. Naomi says it's wrong and naughty and I—I'm going to hell. She—She told me I was stupid because you sign my papers instead of my brother."
His mom was very still as Cas continued to cry in her arms. Cas cried for a long time. Sammy stood next to Dean, holding his hand. Dean wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. He wanted to hug his friend, but just touching him made him cry. Tears burned in Dean's eyes which he quickly wiped away. He couldn't let Cas see that he was upset!
"It's okay, Cas," his mom was saying. "She was wrong. Don't believe a word she said, alright? I'm going to call your brother, okay? We'll take care of this."
Michael came early to get Cas, who was still crying in his mom's arms. When Michael got there, they talked in quiet tones as Cas, Dean, and Sammy played in Dean's room. Cas was still sniffling and wiping at his face every once in a while and he still shied from Dean's touches.
Finally, Dean was fed up with it.
"I'm going to hug you now," he warned with a glare. "And it's okay. Momma said that it's okay if boys hold hands and hug and my momma is always right. My dad said so."
"Okay," said Cas, fresh tears filling his eyes.
And that's how they found them when his mom and Michael were done talking. All three kids had ended up in a pile on Dean's bed, fast asleep.
Dean and Cas didn't go to school on Monday. They stayed with Lucifer and a few of Cas' brothers and sisters who were too young for school in the morning, since he didn't have go to work until after lunch that day. But then his mom came to get them with Sammy after lunch and they spent the whole afternoon playing on their playset in the back yard.
They stayed home Tuesday, too, except to go in to talk to Ms. Mosely, the principal. Michael and his mom stood behind the chairs that Cas and Dean sat in. They were big chairs, too, and their feet didn't reach the ground. Dean told her about having to stand in the corner all day and the other boy who had almost been hit. Cas told her the things Ms. Naomi had said to him and how she had called him a liar even after he had produced another copy of the note saying his mom could sign his work for Michael.
They went back to school on Wednesday.
Instead of Ms. Naomi, they had a tall, skinny blond guy who told them to call him Mr. B. He had a funny accent, and he said he came from England, which was all the way on the other side of the ocean. Dean thought that was pretty cool and was in awe that Mr. B had been on an airplane for eight hours! That was a long time, Dean thought, probably as long as a school day. England had to be pretty far away if it took that long by plane.
Mr. B was a lot nicer than Ms. Naomi. He let them color and do art stuff for the first hour every day. He said it was "to get the creative juices flowing" so their "brains are open for more knowledge." They were even allowed to read with a friend if they wanted to during reading time, and there were a lot more books and bean bags for comfy reading. Sometimes for science they did fun experiments where they smooshed together around the front table to watch a demonstration about the density of different liquids. There were even fun musical tapes to help them learn the multiplication tables and they got to sing along with it as they played. He didn't make kids stand in the corner if they were naughty, either. He made them pull a card to a different color. Green was good, yellow was a warning, and red meant you didn't get recess that day. Dean didn't want to find out what the blue and black cards meant. It probably meant that Mr. B would call their parents or something.
Later that week during reading time, Dean had Cas tucked under his arm as they shared a bean bag. They had a system down where Dean would hold the left side of Cas' book and Cas would hold the left side of Dean's book with his left hand. Cas had finally stopped freaking out when Dean touched him, going so far as to demand cuddles sometimes like at night when they went to bed. The first few nights, Cas would stand by Dean's bed and ask if they could sleep together. Dean had lifted his blankets and Cas snuggled right up to Dean's left side each time. After that, Dean would automatically lift his blankets before Cas could ask. Dean was alright with that—Cas was warm and comfy and smelled nice and fit perfectly under his left arm. Mr. B only smiled at them when they sat together in the bean bags, which Dean thought was a good sign.
But then there was a knock on the door. Everyone looked up when Mr. B answered it. There was a lady there in a band t-shirt and jeans with long, curly brown hair.
"May I borrow Castiel for a moment?" she asked.
Dean glared at her when he felt Cas tense under his arm. He put the bookmarks that they had made yesterday in the books to mark their pages and set the books aside. Dean nudged Cas to stand when Mr. B beckoned for them.
"I just need Castiel," the lady said when they got up to her, hand in hand.
Dean hardened his glare at her. "I'm coming too."
Dean clutched Cas' hand tighter, stepping forward and pulling Cas to stand behind him so Dean was between them to protect him. He felt Cas' other hand clutch at the bottom of Dean's shirt, pulling the fabric tighter around his stomach. "The last time a teacher wanted to talk with Cas alone she was mean to him. Either I go with him or he stays here."
He thought he saw her lips twitch as she looked down at him. "That's very admirable, Dean. But I'm just going to talk with Cas about—"
"You don't get to call him Cas," Dean said harshly. "Only I get to."
"Sorry." She held up her hands. "I just want to talk to Castiel about what happened last week. I'm the counselor. Do you know what that means?"
"Yeah," said Dean. "It means you don't get the choice to speak with him alone. Either I come with him or he stays here."
She sighed, crossing her arms in front of her chest as she stared down at him. Dean was good at this game—Cas liked to stare at him all the time. After a year of practice, Dean's glare was unwavering. He'd even gotten better at not blinking. This lady had nothing on Cas' intense stares. Finally, though, the lady sighed again and looked behind him to Cas.
"Are you aright with Dean coming, too?"
Dean could feel Cas pulling his shirt tighter. The grip on his hand was almost painful, but Dean wasn't going to complain. At least Cas was willingly touching him again. "Yes, please," he heard Cas whisper into his shoulder, his breath hot through the fabric.
Ms. Barnes' room was not how Dean expected. There was a couch and a chair and a table and a bunch of paper and colored pencils. It was filled with bright colors and there was a toy chest in the corner. The two settled on the couch, hands clasped tight, as she sat in the chair. She smiled at them, but Dean didn't smile back.
"I just wanted to know how you're feeling, Castiel," Ms. Barnes finally said after a long moment of silence. "Last week was pretty rough for you, huh?"
"I feel much better," Cas replied. "Dean has been very patient and kind to me."
"Dean is a good friend, isn't he?"
"Very much so."
"Now," said Ms. Barnes, shifting in her seat. Dean had a bad feeling about this. "I understand that Ms. Naomi said some mean things to you. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Mary said that she was lying," Cas replied, lifting his chin. "She said I shouldn't believe anything she said because she's wrong. I know that, now. I just didn't know at the time."
"And who is Mary?"
"She's my mom," said Dean, leaning forward. "Cas stays with us during the week. That's what made Ms. Naomi mad, I think. She got mad that my mom was signing papers for Michael—Cas' brother—even though Cas has a note saying it's okay. We didn't have a problem last year about it."
Ms. Barnes nodded at them. "I see. Dean, how do you feel about all this?"
Dean sat back and shrugged. "I'm mad that I didn't stop it sooner. She made Cas scared of me."
"I see he's not scared of you anymore."
"That's 'cause I'm awesome."
Ms. Barnes grinned. "I bet you are, Dean."
She let them go after that. Dean only let Cas' hand go once they were back in their classroom and had to take their seats.
When school was over, Mr. B followed them outside, whistling a Christmas tune—even though it was only September. Dean glanced back at him warily and reached over for Cas' hand. His mom and Sammy were already waiting outside, his mom holding Sammy's hands as he used a sidewalk crack as a tightrope.
"Hello, boys," his mom greeted them when they came up. Mr. B was still behind them. She eyed him standing behind her boys. "Hello, Mister...?"
"Mr. B, your son's teacher," he said, holding out his hand. They shook hands, though his mom still looked kinda confused. "I just wanted to tell you about something your son did today."
His mom turned to look at him with that scary glare she always got when he was naughty. Dean held up his free hand and shook his head frantically. "I didn't do anything bad! I swear!"
"No, no," Mr. B said, also raising his hands. "I apologize for the confusion. Dean did something very brave and good today and I wanted to tell you how proud you should be of your son."
Now Dean was confused. He hadn't done anything particularly brave today, had he? He looked at Cas who just shrugged in return, also confused.
"Uh... Okay?" his mom said. "What'd he do?"
"Ms. Barnes, the school counselor," said Mr. B, "came by and wanted to talk to Castiel about what happened last week. He became... somewhat distressed and Dean refused to let him go alone with her. I believe his exact words were, 'Either I come with him or he stays here.' He was very adamant. Quite the spitfire, too."
The look his mom gave was soft and warm and made Dean feel all good and squirmy inside. She touched his cheek with one of those proud smiles he liked so much. "That's my boy," she murmured. To Mr. B she said, "He's very protective of Cas."
Mr. B chuckled. "I've noticed. They also..." Here, he looked down at the pair. "They also cuddle during reading time. Did you know that?"
His mom shrugged. "I'm not surprised. They always do at home."
Dean wasn't sure why Mr. B smiled so brightly at that. Or why he said, "Are they..." without finishing the sentence but flapped his hand as if that would explain what he meant to say.
"Well, I think they're a bit too innocent for that for now. But we won't be surprised if it comes to that in the next few years."
Dean and Cas looked at each other, then shrugged. Who knew that the grownups were talking about this time. They were weird like that.
It was nearing Christmas. The air was crisp and kind of chilly, but his scarf kept his nose warm. The sky was dark grey, threatening to let loose some more fat snowflakes. Maybe it would snow so much tonight that they'd get a snow day and get to play in the yard all day instead of go to school. Dean was about to turn ten—Cas had already turned ten in September, which was unfair. But he was excited to be in double digits finally.
"Someone at school called us gay today," Dean said after a moment. He took Cas' right hand in his left, just how it should always be. "What does that mean?"
"Well," his mom replied, drawing it out. He could see her thinking as she watched Sammy kicking snowbanks against the fences. "You know how your dad and I love each other? It's like that, but for two boys. Or for two girls."
Cas squeezed his hand. "Does that mean Dean and I are gay, Mary?"
She stopped walking. Sammy protested when he was pulled to a stop, but he continued to kick at the snow. They all just looked at each other for a long moment. Dean wasn't sure he liked the way his mom was looking at them. He clutched Cas' hand tighter. Cas' grip was just as tight.
"Well," she said again. "What do you mean by that, Cas?"
"I love him," Cas said simply. "Not like I love my siblings, though."
"Yeah. I like holding his hand and cuddling with him," Dean answered shyly. He wanted to duck his head, but he didn't. "Like what you and dad do."
His mom continued to stare at them. "Do you... kiss?"
"I kiss him goodnight, if that's what you mean?"
"Like you do for Sammy, or like your dad and I do?"
Now Dean could feel the blush rising to his cheeks. He ducked his head between his shoulders. "I mean, it used to be like Sammy, but... then I saw you and dad kiss goodnight over the summer and... and now that's how we do it. We don't kiss, like, all the time."
He heard his mom hum, then she turned and continued walking home. Dean looked at Cas who just shrugged back and pulled him along.
"Are you mad?"
"Oh, no." She kept walking, but turned to smile at them. "I'm not mad at all. We'll just talk about it when we get home, alright?"
Dean just hoped she wasn't mad. She was the one who encouraged their cuddling and hand holding, after all. Hopefully his dad wouldn't be angry. Sometimes he looked confused if he walked in on him and Cas curled up on the couch, but he never said anything.
It was too short of a walk back home. They took off their boots by the door and hung up their coats and scarves and gloves. His mom asked them to put their bags in their room before coming to the kitchen for a snack. Dean and Cas were quiet, just listening to Sammy jabber on about kindergarten. He still only went in the morning while their mom worked at the diner, but he was excited about first grade already.
Once they were done with their snacks, his mom told Sammy to go play in his room.
"But I wanna play with Dean and Cas!"
"I need to have a talk with them, alright? They'll come play once they finish their homework."
Sammy pouted, but he did as he was told.
"Now." His mom sat across from them at the table, hands folded in front of her. "I want to make sure you understand what's going on. Most kids don't start dating until they are in their teens, once puberty hits."
"What's puberty?" asked Cas.
His mom's mouth went thin. "It's when your body changes and prepares you for being an adult, mostly to have babies, I guess you could say. Your voice deepens, you start growing hair on your body like your dad or your older brothers, you know. I'll let your dad give you the talk later."
"Why can't you?"
"You'll probably want to hear it from him," she answered with an odd smile. "Anyway. You two haven't done anything other than kissing and holding hands, right?"
"Uh, no?" replied Dean. He looked over at Cas to make sure. He shook his head back.
"So." But his mom stopped, looking like she was choosing her words very carefully. "Would you two say you are in a relationship? Romantically?"
"Well, yeah, I guess," Dean replied, looking over at Cas again who nodded. "I think so? Like you and dad?"
"Then yeah. Cas is my best friend. I love him."
She smiled softly at them, that proud little smile that warmed his heart the most. "I'm glad you do. Just..." Here, she sighed and looked sad. "People are going to tell you it's wrong. That being gay is wrong and you'll go to hell and a lot of other awful things."
"Like Ms. Naomi."
"Yes, Cas. Some might even call you awful names."
She hesitated. She opened her mouth a few times, but no sound came out. Finally, she said, "Faggot, for one. It's a derogatory word to put people down. They might call you a sissy, or delegitimize your masculinity." Dean wasn't quite sure what that meant, but nodded along. It didn't sound very good, whatever it was. "I..." She hesitated again. "I would tone down your public affection, Dean, Cas. Less hand holding, less cuddling in public. It's fine if you do it here, but..." She bit her lip and wiped at her eyes. "I just don't want you to get hurt."
"What do you mean?" Cas placed his hand in Dean's and he gripped back. He didn't like where this was going.
"People," she said, "get upset about gay people. I don't know why. Sometimes... Sometimes they'll hurt you because of it. I just want you two to be safe, okay? I don't want to lose my babies."
Dean reached over and put his much smaller hand over hers. "Okay, mom. We'll just do it at home. Cas can still be my best friend in public, right?"
"Yes, honey." She wiped at her tears and sniffed, but she was smiling. "Just be careful, alright?" Then she chuckled. "Now go get your homework. Sammy is only patient for so long."
That, Dean could agree with. They rushed to their room to grab their folders to finish their worksheets. It wasn't a lot—it was almost Christmas so it was mostly Christmas related stuff like word searches and doing story math problems involving candy canes.
When his dad got home that night, his mom took him aside as she was finishing dinner. They were talking in whispers, so Dean couldn't really hear what they were saying. His dad looked uncomfortable, though, and kept shooting them weird looks over the back of the couch. But neither of his parents said anything when they sat down for dinner. But his dad also kept shooting his mom weird looks, to which she would just roll her eyes back at him.
When they were done, however, his dad asked if he could talk to them privately.
"Uh oh," Dean muttered to Cas as his dad led them to their room.
His dad sat on Cas' bed and motioned for them to sit on the other bed. Cas' bed was rarely used nowadays, though it still had the bee sheets he liked so much.
And then it got very, very awkward as his dad gave them 'The Talk.' No wonder his mom didn't want to tell them. Dean could feel his face flushing bright and hot and he was sure Cas was no better. But when he looked over, Cas looked as composed as ever, even going so far as to tilt his head in that way that meant he was curious and wanted to learn more.
"What about sex between two men?" Cas asked when his dad had finally stopped talking.
"Uh, well." His dad rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't know a whole lot about that, honestly. There—I suppose there's oral, or... ahem, or anal. I would suggest using condoms if you do that. And lots of lubricant. Just to be safe."
Cas nodded, looking very serious with his furrowed brow. "I see." Dean sure didn't.
"Are you two..." His dad did that hand flapping thing pointing between them as he cringed. "Are you two... sexually active?"
"No," Cas answered. "I do not believe we are quite ready for that."
His dad nodded, sighing in relief. "Good. Well. I'd prefer you wait until you're a teenager before you start experimenting, but I won't stop you if you decide to try it sooner. I just ask that you let me know when you need condoms or anything, alright? You may not be able to get pregnant, but..."
Dean nodded quickly, hoping to stop his dad from saying anything further. "Yes, sir. We'll let you know."
His dad nodded sharply once. "Good. I'd like you to feel like you can come to me for anything. Your mother and I just want you to be safe and happy." He then looked down at the bee sheets he was sitting on. "I almost want to ask you two to stop sharing a bed, but... You aren't doing anything wrong and I don't suppose I can stop you. Although..." He gave a look to the bed they were sitting on. "I'll talk to your mom, but we'll see about getting you a bigger bed. I suppose you two are starting to get cramped on there, huh?"
Dean shrugged. "Not yet. If we don't get a new bed for a while that's okay with us, right Cas?"
"Alright." His dad stood up with a clap of his hands to his thighs. He looked between the two for a few moments. "Good talk," he said before leaving the room.
Dean turned to Cas. "Well that was awkward."
Cas just laughed.
Cas told Michael the following weekend. He said that Michael was alright with it, but a little concerned about sharing the bed still and that they seemed a little young. Cas had made no promises to stop, and Michael didn't say that they couldn't be together. Dean counted it as a win.
Even still, they shared a bed more often than not, but did not ask for a new bed until the summer. Again, Dean and Cas went with his dad in the truck. To avoid suspicious glares, all three tried out the mattresses with varying degrees of success, pretending they were just helping Dean find a new bed and Cas was just tagging along. The salesman was nice enough, though still shot them suspicious looks when he thought they weren't looking.
They ended up getting a double bed, thinking it would last them a while before they grew up too much. Dean and Cas helped his dad move the other two twin beds down to the basement for storage and helped him bring up and set up the new bed. They decided to have it centered under the window with the bookcase to one side as the dresser stayed in the corner. Then all five went shopping for sheets. They ended up just getting dark blue sheets since they couldn't find any cool patterns for a double bed.
But that was alright, because they were trying to show their families that they were mature now. Of course, when Gabriel found out about the whole thing, he teased them mercilessly. It annoyed Dean to no end but Cas, on the other hand, was unfazed. Eventually Gabriel grumbled about how 'unfun' he was being and ended up leaving them alone.
After Dean finally turned fourteen, they went up to his dad and asked if he'd help them buy condoms.
"We're not sure if we're quite ready yet," Dean added hastily. "But we'd like to have the option if we decide to."
His dad just nodded and grabbed the keys for the Impala. "We'll be back!" he called out to his mom and Sammy. Once in the car, he said, breath puffing in the cold air, "Just so you know, you'll be in the aisle with me. If you can't man up enough to pick out what you want then you don't deserve to be having sex, you got me?"
"Yes, sir," they intoned. Dean added, with a quick glance to Cas and a slight blush on his cheeks, "Uhm, just so you know, we've been... sort of experimenting. Like. With our hands. For the last few weeks, I mean. We haven't, uhm, tried oral yet. But we were thinking about it."
"Thank you for telling me." His dad stared out the windshield. Dean imagined that it was giving him answers to the universe, with how hard he stared out it and all. "You'll pick out what you want, but let me check out myself, alright? I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea or... I guess get the right idea and target you, you know?"
"Don't mention it."
At the store, the three stared at the displays in front of them. Dean was amazed that it took up at least half the aisle. He listened closely as his dad explained the differences between them. Heat creeped up his neck when his dad showed him the ones he used. Gross. He couldn't believe his parents still had sex. When would they even have time?
...No. He didn't actually want to know the answer to that.
With hushed whispers, he and Cas decided on a box to try before moving on to the lube. His dad pointed to the ones that would work best with what they picked out and they decided to just go with the cheapest one.
His dad gave him some cash and told them to go get some ice cream to bring back to Sammy and his mom and that he'd meet them out in the car. They scampered off and bought the largest tub of Neapolitan they could find. His dad was already in the car when they came out, grinning at their treasure. He just rolled his eyes at them as they scooted into the back seat.
"That's yours," his dad said as he threw the bag over his shoulder to them. "If you want some privacy to... experiment, just let me know and I'll get your mom and Sammy out of the house for a bit."
"Thanks, dad," said Dean. His dad was pretty awesome.
A few months after the condom trip, Dean decided to ask his dad for a favor while they were alone and wouldn't be interrupted.
"Hmm?" He turned to look at Dean from beneath the hood of the Impala. They were tinkering with her and his dad was trying to show him how to keep her in good condition. Dean was pretty sure he was going to be getting the car for his sixteenth birthday, even though that was nearly a year and a half away.
"Cas and I were..." Dean cleared his throat. His heart pounded sharply in his chest. "We were wanting to... experiment. With sex. Uhm."
His dad pulled away from the Impala, closed the hood, and leaned back against her. He patted the hood next to him and Dean carefully hopped up. It was warm from sitting in the driveway in the late June morning.
He watched his dad stare off towards their garage for a long moment. Dean tried not to be nervous, but it was also kinda awkward to ask his dad to clear the house so he and his boyfriend could try sex. Finally, his dad cleared his throat. "Okay. Did you have a day in mind?"
"Uh. Whenever's convenient for you."
His dad nodded, still not looking at him, brow furrowed. "Alright. Sammy was wanting to see a movie. Thursday alright with you?"
Thursday was much sooner than he had been anticipating. Dean swallowed, then cleared his throat, rubbing his fingers over the shiny chrome grill. "Yeah. That would work."
"I'll take them to dinner, too, so hopefully that would give you two a bit more time." His dad finally stepped away so they could look at each other. "I have a few rules, though."
Dean hurriedly nodded. "Of course."
His dad held up a finger. "One: you clean up after yourselves. That means if you make a mess in the sheets, you're washing them." Dean nodded again—that was a reasonable request—and his dad held up a second finger. "Two: at least try to be discreet about it. Sex is nothing to be ashamed of, but at least be considerate to the rest of the house if sex is something you two plan on doing regularly." Again, Dean nodded. So far his dad wasn't asking anything too outrageous. A third finger went up. "Three: you will let me know when you need more supplies and you will be picking it out yourself. For now, until you're a bit older, at least, I will still buy it for you but you will have to get them yourself." And, yeah, that was sort of expected, but it still made Dean blush. A fourth finger came up. "And you will always, always practice safe sex. Like I said before, you may not be able to get pregnant but it's still not the cleanest... act."
Dean tried hard not to choke on the sudden intake of air.
"Do you agree to these rules?"
A large hand clapped his shoulder. Dean looked up to see his dad smiling at him. "I'm proud of you, son. Thank you."
"What for?" Dean frowned, trying to imagine what his dad could possibly be thanking him for.
"For trusting me. I know it's a difficult topic, but I appreciate you talking with me about it." He squeezed Dean's shoulder. "I may not know a whole lot about it, but I am here for you if you need to talk."
Dean bit his lip, nodding. "I... I'm not sure how we're supposed to do this," he finally confessed. "Like—" He cleared his throat. He could do this. "Hands and mouth are one thing—totally self-explanatory—but—"
His dad nodded, sliding his hand away so he could sit back down on the hood. "And probably not a whole lot to look up, huh?" He hummed, hand on his chin and smearing grease all over his face. "Slow, for sure. Lots of lube. Always check with each other to make sure neither of you are hurting. It's okay to stop." He set his heavy gaze down on Dean. "Remember: if one of you says stop, the other needs to respect that and stop immediately. Got that? Don't feel pressured to continue if you change your mind."
"Yeah." Dean looked down at his hands. "I don't wanna hurt him, dad."
"You won't." Dean looked up to see his dad smiling softly at him. "And I'll give you a bit of advice—don't get right to the main event. Foreplay is a wonderful thing." It was his dad's turn to turn a bit pink. "It's important, is what I mean."
Okay. Dean was so done with this conversation. "Right. Got it. Are you gonna tell mom?"
His dad scoffed. "You're mother's not stupid. She'll know right away."
And, yeah, that was true enough.
Then Thursday rolled around. Cas was over, like usual, even though it was the summer. Dean was nervous all day—he hadn't told Cas that today was the day—but Cas, thankfully, didn't comment. When his parents got home, his dad announced he was taking his mom and brother out for dinner and a movie, and when asked why Dean and Cas weren't coming, smoothly replied that they had already said they weren't interested in joining. His mom sent him and Cas a look that told him that she knew what was really going on, but Sammy just whooped and dashed upstairs to change. Before they left, his dad told them that they'd be back at nine. It was only six o'clock. Dean figured they had plenty of time.
Cas tilted his head, silently asking Dean what was going on, as Dean gently pulled him to the kitchen. He had a light snack prepared already, but only grinned at Cas when he asked why they weren't eating much. Once done and dishes put in the sink, Dean pulled Cas upstairs to their bedroom. He wasn't going to play music—he wanted to be able to hear Cas—or light candles or anything. Instead, he shut the door and slowly started to undress.
It didn't take long for Cas to understand what was going on. But when he finally got it—God, his boyfriend was so beautiful. His eyes lit up and his smile was pleased.
They took their time—not in any hurry to reach their destination. They had three hours, after all. It was slow, and soft, and Cas touched him in all the right places.
Dean wouldn't have it any other way.
Somehow, Cas had gotten his way and had a local pop station blasting godawful music through Baby's speakers as they drove home. Dean glanced over when he could—Cas was just being too friggin adorable. He was squirming and dancing in his seat, his shoulders jumping with the beat as his hands waved along with the lyrics. His eyes were closed, head thrown back, singing along with the cheesy lyrics as his head swayed along with the music.
Dean's chest felt tight, breath catching quick in his throat. The box he'd picked up a few weeks ago was heavy in his jacket pocket. The song changed and Cas smoothly changed his motions to match the beat of the next song.
Dean wasn't quite sure how they made it home. They were parked in front of his house and he had no recollection of how they got there. He just hoped he hadn't run over any old ladies or puppies or something. The living room lights were on, so his parents were probably still up. It wasn't too late, really. Just barely ten during spring break. A spattering of stars hung low in the sky.
But he couldn't stop watching Cas, watching Cas enjoy himself as he moved with the song. He didn't usually dance—he was too self-conscious at the best of times in front of others, which was half the reason they weren't going to prom in the first place. That, and neither really wanted to buy or rent a suit and get all dressed up just to party around people they didn't really like in the first place when they would have to pretend they weren't there together and spend money they could use on something better. Yanno. Like rings or something.
The song ended. Cas seemed to come back to himself and he turned to see Dean watching him. Dean watched him smile shyly at him. It was too dark to see clearly, but Dean could imagine a light dusting of pink on his cheeks.
The smile froze on Cas' face. "What?" he asked quietly, eyes wide.
"I asked you to marry me."
Cas dove for the stereo, punching the volume button harder than necessary. The car was quiet for several long moments as they stared at each other.
"You... You want to marry me?"
"Well, yeah. I don't see anyone else in the car, do you?"
"Dean, we're seventeen. And—And it's not legal—"
"Jeez," huffed Dean, crossing his arms and turning away. That really stung. His chest constricted painfully, squeezing his throat along the way. "If you didn't want me you coulda just—"
"No!" Cas gripped his arm, tugging, trying to get his attention. "No, Dean. I do. I really do. I just—but we—how do you know you even want me forever? We aren't even adults!"
A sigh escaped him against his will. The anger rushed away, and something like sadness settled there instead. He unfolded his arms to hold Cas' hands in his, turning in his seat so his knee was on the seat touching Cas'. "I love you, Cas. I want you for the rest of my life. We've been together since we were nine—why wouldn't I want you forever by this point?" He couldn't bring himself to look up at his eyes he was sure were wide with shock, or fear, or—or something. Instead, he brought Cas' hands to his lips so he could kiss the trembling knuckles. "You're my everything, Cas."
And then the hands were tugging at the back of his neck and the front of his shirt, pulling, tugging, demanding him forward to crash against Cas' desperate, hungry lips.
"Yes, yes, yes," Cas whispered against his lips. "Please."
He'd never seen Cas so unraveled—Cas was composed even during sex, giving and demanding, and taking with poise and ease. But now it was like he was falling apart, trembling at the seams as he struggled to contain himself. Dean pulled him close, cradling the single most precious thing to him, trying to meld them together, as Cas trembled in his arms. Dean managed to get the box out of his pocket and nudged it into Cas' hand.
"You even bought me a ring?"
"Yeah, weeks ago."
Cas opened the box to see two dark grey bands nestled inside.
"I know we can't legally get married, but..." Dean rubbed the back of his neck and ducked his head away. "I figured we could do it more symbolically? I've seen some other guys who call each other husbands and wear rings without having the paperwork for it."
"Which one's mine?"
"Ah." Dean took the box back and plucked out the one on the left. Cas dutifully held his hand out. As Dean slipped the ring on his finger, Cas sniffed and wiped at his face with his other hand. "Hey, hey," murmured Dean, cradling Cas' face and wiping away his tears. "No need to cry, babe."
"Happy tears," Cas managed to chuckle out. He plucked out the other ring, pressing a kiss to the palm of Dean's left hand before taking it in his own and slipping the ring on the appropriate finger. Once it was on snug and safe he pulled Dean back into a slow, warm kiss.
They didn't pull away for a long while. But finally Cas pushed him away to ask, "What about our families? Are they alright with this?"
"I, uh, didn't ask."
"Hey," Dean huffed, pressing a quick kiss to Cas' lips. "It's our lives, not theirs. Besides, there's nothing they can really do. It's more of a... promise, I guess."
"What about people at school?"
"What about 'em?"
Cas fiddled with the ring on his hand. Dean wondered if he could feel the same warm, comfortable weight that settled in his chest Dean did. "What if people ask?"
"Let 'em," replied Dean. "They can ask and we don't have to answer."
"But we should probably say something to our families."
"But only if they ask?"
Dean chuckled, pulling Cas near again. "Yeah. I'm not gonna hide it, though."
"Me neither." This was punctuated with a quick, hard kiss. "I want you to fuck me. Now, preferably."
"Cas!" Dean laughed as Cas started pawing at his clothes. "I'm not gonna have sex with you with Baby out in public like this. Or while my parents are home."
"Don't care." Cas' breathing was ragged. "This is what happens when you get engaged—you have celebratory sex."
Dean huffed another laugh into Cas' neck. "Oh yeah? How would you know?"
"I made it up."
"Of course you did."
But Cas was already pulling away and shoving against the passenger door, missing the handle twice before he managed to get it open. "Dean," he said in his low, rough voice that always went straight to Dean's dick. "We are going to walk into your house, go to your room, turn up your music, and you're going to fuck me."
Dean couldn't argue with that logic.
Once in the door, however, the idea lost its appeal. His family was sitting around the living room, watching the TV. Some action movie, if the explosion that greeted them was anything to go by.
"Hi honey," his mom called as the door slammed shut. "How was your date?"
"Good," Dean replied, nearly squawking as Cas tugged on his hand. "Cas! Slow down!"
"No." Cas looked nearly feral as he pulled Dean towards the stairs. "Goodnight, everyone. Please don't let us disturb your movie."
His parents openly laughed as he was manhandled to his room. "I guess the date went more than alright," he heard his dad say, enticing more laughter from his mom.
But Cas was insistent, pushing Dean into their room and slamming him against the door once it was closed. Yeah, and if Dean couldn't hold back the moan as their groins met, that totally wasn't his fault. He heard Sammy protesting loudly from the living room, but Cas growled in his ear to ignore them and, well, he couldn't deny Cas as his mouth attached to that wonderful spot under his ear.
The next morning the two staggered out of their room to the kitchen. As soon as Sam saw them he bolted from the table, breakfast half finished. Dean saw his face flushing a bright red as he rushed past. Cas, he saw, was unfazed. Like usual. Dean rolled his eyes as he moved to the counter to dish up the pancakes his mom had made.
"Did you have a good night?" his dad asked from behind the newspaper.
"Mhmm," Cas replied dreamily. "A very excellent night."
His parents just laughed. His mom pointed at his neck with her spatula. "You've got something there, Dean."
"Shuddup," he muttered as he picked up both his and Cas' plates. His ring clinked against the ceramic, and for some reason it made his chest warm. He couldn't help the smile as he turned and placed Cas' plate in front of him. "Here you go. I'll grab the peanut butter and jelly for you." He put his own plate down before dropping a kiss to Cas' temple, hand brushing the back of his neck. He grabbed Cas' toppings, depositing them and a knife on the table before grabbing two glasses of milk.
"Thank you, Dean." He was already spreading the peanut butter on the bottom pancake.
"You should probably apologize to your brother," said his mom as she sat with her own plate. "You pretty much traumatized him."
"Didn't mean to," Dean grumbled into his pancakes as he poured an unhealthy amount of syrup around his plate. "Like you said last night—the date went more than alright. Cas was pretty insistent. Speaking of, are you going to the store today? We're running low."
"I can. You're coming with, though. You know the rule."
His parents hadn't noticed anything. Which was weird, since Cas wasn't exactly hiding his hand (since he was left handed and all) and Dean wasn't being shy either. The secret burbled in his chest, threatening to climb up his throat and expose them. He just managed to keep himself from squirming as he dug into his breakfast. Purposefully, he picked up his milk with his left hand.
The ring chinked against the glass. The paper rustled as his dad lowered it to stare at him. His mom's fork tapped against her plate as she set it down to stare at him as well.
No. Not at him. His hand.
"What?" he asked, as if he didn't know. From the corner of his vision he saw Cas slowly lower his fork. He turned to him to see his eyes darting between each Winchester.
"I see why Cas was so 'insistent,'" his mom commented.
"Dunno what you mean," Dean replied, stuffing a piece of dripping pancake into his mouth. The extra syrup on his plate sluggishly moved to fill in the new triangular notch in his pile of pancakes. Hmm. Maybe a bit too much syrup.
"Don't play dumb," his dad said with narrowed eyes. The paper was abandoned to the side. "Who bought the rings?"
"I did. Couple of weeks ago."
Dean sighed, clutching at the hand Cas offered. "We know we can't really get married. It's more of a symbolic thing. Lots of gay couples wear rings and call each other husbands even if they aren't legally."
"But you're only seventeen," his father insisted.
"We know," replied Cas. "But we've been more or less romantically together since we were nine. Eight years and he still wants me."
Dean gripped his hand tighter, hoping to convey that he would always want him. He licked his sticky lips, wondering if Cas would be upset if he got syrup on his knuckles if Dean decided to kiss them again. Those bright blue eyes looked back at him. Dean could see hope and love shining through those beautiful clear pools of blue. "He's my everything," Dean added.
"Does Michael know?" asked his mom.
Cas shook his head. "Dean asked last night when we pulled up."
His dad shook his head. "That makes a lot more sense. Celebratory sex?"
"I told you."
"You better tell your brother sooner rather than later," his mom interrupted, picking her fork back up.
"Tonight?" Cas asked him.
Dean shrugged, returning to cutting up his pancakes. "If you want."
"'S fine with me."
His dad was still watching them. It was kind of unnerving, honestly. He wasn't sure if it was a good stare or a bad stare. But all his dad asked was, "And you're sure?"
It was another several moments before his dad smiled at them, all scruff and teeth and squinty eyed. "Then congratulations, son. Are you going to want any kind of ceremony or anything? Anything special?"
Dean coughed into his fist, trying to hide his own smile. "We were, ah, too busy to talk about it."
His mom rolled her eyes as his dad outright laughed.
With his parents' approval and Cas' warm hand in his, all was right in the world.
Michael took it... with a bit more grace than Dean was expecting, really. He rolled his eyes and crossed his arms and huffed and asked if his mom and dad were alright with it, but he conceded well enough.
Gabriel laughed at them when he found out. "Seriously?" he asked as he took off his jacket. "You're, like, seventeen. Don't you want to test out the waters?"
"Nah," Dean said, brushing his lips to Cas' knuckles. He really enjoyed the small smile Cas gave him when he did that. "I like your brother too much. Plus, he's good in bed."
"Only because you don't know any better," Gabriel muttered.
"I don't know about that, brother," Cas replied with a downright devious smirk. "At least Dean knows how to satisfy me. I am willing to ascertain the reason you've never had intercourse with anyone twice is reason enough to believe you're a lousy lay."
Dean laughed as Gabriel stomped off in a huff. "I love you so much," he said before bestowing a heated kiss to Cas.
The rest of Cas' siblings congratulated him with varying levels of enthusiasm. But whatever. Once they were done they headed back to the Winchester household since it was still during the week. Even though Cas would be able to take care of himself at home and didn't really need the Winchesters anymore, it was more out of habit and comfort than for necessity. Dean liked it, though. And now that they were more or less "married" it made sense (to him, at least) that Cas would still stay with him for most of the week.
They took Sammy out the next day and treated him to whatever he wanted as an apology. He tentatively forgave them, but made them promise not to make him listen to their sex anymore.
"No promises, Sammy."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever."
No one at school really noticed.
Well, almost no one.
Charlie spied the ring on Dean's hand, first, during lunch. She frowned at him, opened her mouth, then looked at Cas' hand. Her mouth shut with a click, eyes wide. Dean watched on, amused at the expressions flying across her face. Finally, she settled on a grin. After looking around to make sure they wouldn't be overheard, she said, "Dude, I'm definitely invited."
"We probably won't do anything," Dean replied with a shrug. "It's not legal, anyway. Besides, it's more of like a promise to each other."
Charlie glared at them. "You can still have a ceremony. Like, you two were made for each other."
And that's how they found themselves in the Winchester's backyard the next summer. They were still only seventeen, and Michael wasn't very happy, but Cas told Dean it was only because they were so young. His mom's flowers were in full bloom, and no one was dressed up. It was easy, comfortable. Charlie, being their best friend and their Queen, 'officiated' the ceremony for them.
Pie and cupcakes and lemonade awaited them afterwards. His parents were even kind enough to let them have the house to themselves for the night.
In July, nine years later, once things had settled down a bit over the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Cas and Dean finally signed their marriage certificate.