Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Note: Because I was prompted to write a story about one of Dean or Sam's kids getting married...and I couldn't resist. Part of Future's So Bright... verse.
It should have come as a surprise, Michael acting the part of consummate ladies man nearly since birth, having moved through more girlfriends by the age of 12 than his brother had in all his 24 years. But it didn't, not really, not to those who knew him best. Because all his life he'd been nothing if not a dedicated and loving member of the family, a boy who actually got excited about get togethers and holidays and just plain being with his loved ones.
While Rachel had fallen headlong into work and John drew further within himself growing more solitary and passive, and even little Samantha – little no more – had an independent streak that rivaled any other baby, Michael never lost touch with his family, never outgrew them, never thought of them as superfluous in any way.
He was, simply put, a family man. Which is exactly why none of them were particularly surprised that he should be the first to marry.
He was his father's son after all. Scatterbrained and seemingly aimless, falling for a different girl every other week without ever really allowing himself to get close enough to fall in love. On the outside he seemed the type that would never settle down or settle in. But that was before he met Mara.
Bubbly, tanned and blond, she was the exact opposite of most of the girls he went for, an exotic shift from the tall, dark and sardonic women he was used to. His mother, his aunt, his cousins and little sister. He wasn't used to sweet, soft spoken chicks, had never really been interested in bookish and smiley, downright happy to be alive type people. But together they worked, just similar enough in general attitude – life gives you lemons, make lemonade – and opposite enough in basic demeanor – she was calm where he was bouncy, she quiet as he spoke and spoke and spoke – to be a perfect fit.
He'd only known her for four months before popping the question, only dated her for six weeks. That's all it took for him to know, Michael never having been the second guessing type, always ready and eager to jump headlong into any decision deemed right at the time.
She needed a little longer, not giving in until he managed to repeat the proposal seven times, finally relenting only two days ago when he got down on both knees and promised her a pony if she'd marry him. And because that was just such a Michael thing to say, such a Michael thing to do, she laughed heartily, shone a gleaming smile and nodded her head yes. Because she simply loved Michael things, almost as much as she loved Michael himself.
"Finally broke her down," he informs his father, taking a seat at the kitchen table.
And before Dean can say a word, offer anything other than a crooked and knowing grin, Samantha deadpans a, "Congratulations," from across the room, head buried in the fridge. "You finally managed to beat her into submission." She saunters over to the table where her father and brother sit, bottle of water in hand. "And to think, it only took six months of harassment."
Dean backhands her playfully in the stomach, saying, "What she means is, I'm very happy for you. I wish you both the best of luck."
"Don't put words in my mouth," she snipes, turning, too slow to avoid her father's arm shooting out and wrapping around her waist, holding her in place. "All I'm saying is, nice work. If it were me, I would have gone the restraining order route. But, hey, that's me." She twists and wiggles to get away, even lets out a slight whining squeal very unbefitting of the willowy 15-year-old she's become.
Dean turns in his seat to get a better grip, holding tighter to her shirt the more she squirms. "And I wish you the best of luck," he prompts with a smile.
"Well, he'll certainly need it," she sighs out, stopping her struggles.
"And I'm very happy for you," he repeats, urging her on.
She whines, true to teenage form, "Daaaad."
"She doesn't have to say it," Michael chirps. "I don't care if she's happy for me or not."
Samantha leans over the table, locks nearly identical eyes with her brother and says, coy and crooked grin on her face, "Liar. My happiness is all that matters to you."
He rises from his seat, leans in to take a hold of her small shoulders. "You're not the most important girl in my life anymore, Sammy," he says, hint of mockery to his voice. "You've been demoted."
And while she knows he's making fun, not really meaning what he says, only trying to get a rise out of her, she's also fully aware of the overall gravity of that statement. Because everyone knows wife trumps sister, and he's about to have a wife. And that wife is going to be Mara, sweet, unassuming, blatantly boring Mara. It's true, she's not the most important girl in his life anymore, not number one as she'd been for all of her years. Mara is.
Her smile fades, expression slipping, as Michael sits back down and takes another swig of his soda. He doesn't notice her face fall, too lost in his own joy. But Dean catches her reaction, pulls her close for the briefest of moments, a quick squeeze that says, no words needed, You're still my best girl.
"I don't see what's so great about her anyway," she gripes, tone no longer playful, but downright petulant. "She's so…blonde."
Michael nearly spits his drink, sputtering through chuckles. "That's all you've got?" he presses. "The worst thing you can come up with is she's blond?" He turns to his father, "I guess I did pick a good one, huh?"
"I like her," he replies simply. "She's polite, well mannered, seems smart…"
"Terrible taste in men," Samantha interrupts.
Ignoring her Dean goes on with, "Got a hell of a rack."
"Eww," she spouts, slapping her father in the shoulder. "Gross."
Michael counters with a too sly smile and, ""Trust me, nothing about her rack is gross."
She rolls her eyes dramatically, an expression so reminiscent of another dark haired teen he once knew so well, one who had perfected, if nothing else in her short life, that insolent Winchester eye roll, that Dean feels a tightening in his chest, an all too familiar pang that hits and vanishes like a sorrowful hiccup.
"She loves you, ya know," Michael tells his sister. "Thinks you're the greatest thing since sliced bread."
"I am the greatest thing since sliced bread," she retorts, arms crossed defensively over her chest.
"And modest too," Dean mutters.
Michael gets up, never one to stay in one place or position too long, crosses the room to rummage around for something snacky in the pantry. "She loves to watch you dance," he says, back to her. "Thinks you're awesome."
"I am awesome," she says, unimpressed.
"And still modest," Dean repeats, earning him a rather disdainful glare.
Samantha shifts her stance, glance falling to the floor. "Besides, you force all of your girlfriends to watch me dance," she grumbles, tone and temperament of a small child.
He turns and retreats to the counter nearest her, hauls himself up onto it, box of crackers in hand. "Forced, past tense. Girlfriends, past tense," he corrects before shoving his mouth full, working to talk around the crumbs. "And I might've made them go to a few recitals, but I couldn't make them like it."
"Whatever," she mumbles, hardly appeased.
"You broke up with some girl because she said she hated ballet," Dean says, "didn't you?" a glint to his eye as he winks at his daughter.
"He also broke up with one because her hair smelled like roses," she points out.
Michael's face contorts into a grimace. "Old ladies smell like roses," he says, enough of an explanation.
She sighs long and deep, glances the clock on the wall and says, "I have a class to get to," words filled with the kind of self-importance only a teen could fathom. And as if on cue, a horn sounds in the background, "That's my ride," tumbling from her lips just before, "Have fun planning your wedding, Mary Sue."
"Hey," Dean calls after her as she rushes from the room, "Don't tell him," referring to her oldest brother who's waiting in the car. She rolls her eyes yet again, but nods none the less, understanding it would be wrong to spoil any sort of brotherly bonding moment the two might share.
The house goes still and quiet once she's gone, a sort of energy drained from the room. Michael moves back over to the table, sits across from his father once again. "Guess I'm gonna have to make John my best man, huh?" he says absently.
Dean merely shrugs. "Up to you."
"Well," he sighs, "he is my brother."
They sit in silence for a moment, nothing but the sound of crunching crackers and the rumbling ice machine resounding in the room. Then, "Did you tell your mother?" comes from Dean in as forced a casual manner as possible.
Michael shakes his head. "I wanted to tell you first," falling shyly from his lips, almost embarrassed.
He smiles despite himself, never one to put his ex down, yet unable to mask his joy at being the one the kids go to first, as they so often tend to do anymore. "You should call her," he says, clearing his throat to hide the lilt in his voice.
"Yeah, I know. I will," he replies, less than determined.
"Hey Michael," Dean says, tone deep and soft. "I'm really proud of you." His son smiles bashfully, blushes a bit too, which is so unlike him. But, there again, he's like his father, never one for chick-flick moments. So he says, unobtrusive mocking quality to his voice, "I'm very happy for you. I wish you both the best of luck."
Rachel almost doesn't make it to her cousin's wedding, a hunt outside Albuquerque taking longer than expected. And when she does show, barely five minutes before the ceremony's scheduled to begin, her halter top dress sets off a ton of stares, not so much for how she looks in it, though, yeah, she's built like her mother, but because of the highly visible, deeply purple bruises mottling her back.
"Rache," her father exclaims, flying over to her. "What the hell happened?"
She's flushed and rushed, so relieved to have made it to the church in time that the idea of something being wrong hadn't even occurred to her. "What?" she asks, eyes wide with confusion.
He grabs her by the arms and twists her around so he can inspect the marks. "Your back," he says, voice high pitched.
"What?" she repeats, more flustered than before, as she twists her sore neck around to try and get a glimpse of her own back, looking like an idiot in the process.
Sarah politely excuses herself from a small group of guests a few feet away and glides over. "Here," she says softly, taking the silk wrap from around her shoulders and placing it across her daughter's.
She's gotten used to seeing bruises over the years, on her husband and brother-in-law first, then as Rachel grew more and more independent, more and more adamant about taking up this ridiculous line of work, on her daughter as well. She doesn't like it, never has, never will. But she learned long ago that no matter how much she might want to keep her children safe and guarded, she simply can't; couldn't. And no matter how much she might want them to be the small and eager to please children her girls once were, that's simply not going to happen, those days being long gone.
So she takes things as they come, lives by Murphy's Law, and tries not to sweat the small stuff.
Her husband, not so much. "What," Sam repeats low and measured, "happened?"
But for the life of her, Rachel just can't figure out what he means, all concerns about possibly being hurt after being hurtled into a wall by an unruly poltergeist quickly vanishing from her mind in the mad rush to get home on time. Sarah leans in, recognizing the look of confusion on her daughter's face and says, "Your back's all bruised," which is just enough to remind her, a look of realization, and embarrassment, crossing over her features.
"Oh, that. It was nothing," she says bashfully before looking into her father's furrowed face. "Really," she assures him. "Poltergeist threw me into a wall. Nothing new, nothing you haven't been through."
Sam sighs, long and labored, and looks away. "Okay," he says to one in particular. "Okay," before turning back and showing off a too forced smile.
His eyes say it all. It's a look they have come to recognize over the years, Rachel finally placing it only months ago. This isn't right. That's what it says, the somber, veiled expression that falls over his face too often, only since Maya, because of Maya. This isn't how things are supposed to be.
And every time she sees it she can't help but feel that emptiness inside churn and ache. She can't help but feel a little guilty, because she knows this isn't the life he envisioned for her. For himself. She can't help but feel a little guilty because every time she returns home broken or bruised she knows it just reminds him how easy it can be to lose a daughter.
The sullen aire that befalls them is quickly lifted though, Michael striding over in shining tux, gleaming smile, and tossing an arm over his cousin's shoulder. "Thought you weren't gonna make it," he says, excitement and anticipation heady in his voice.
"Miss this?" she says, turning to pull him into a hug. "Never." She steps back and takes a good look at him, straightens his bow tie, flattens his lapels and nods approvingly before saying, "Besides, I heard there's an open bar."
"Well, her family's Catholic, so…" He turns and squints out at the sun, takes a deep breath while taking in all the people around them, most of whom he doesn't know, his side of the church undoubtedly set to fill all of two pews. When he turns back around, sees his cousin still staring at him appraisingly in that same protective older sibling way, he realizes something. For the first time in his life he's going through something that neither Rachel nor John have experienced. He's embarking down a path that the elders in their little Winchester pack have no way of leading him down, offering unasked for advice and unheeded corrections. He is finally, "First!"
He shouts it with so much fervor, so much pent up Michael-like energy that all three shake their heads and snicker at the young man before them, standing tall and regal in a well cut tux, wearing the expression and attitude of a small hyperactive boy.
"Uh, yeah," Rachel admits through light laughter. "You're finally first," a thing that being six years younger than her, two younger than John and Maya, had never afforded him the opportunity to be. "How's it feel?"
He smiles even brighter, a thing that didn't seem possible, and puffs up his chest a bit more as he says, "Pretty damn good."
Sam and Sarah separate themselves carefully, ducking out to continue greeting guests, taking their roles as surrogate parents very seriously, especially with Dean off hiding and Ava out sulking. Rachel and Michael stand in calm silence barely a moment before "Rachel!" fills their ears as a frilly, pink-clad Samantha skips quickly across the lawn toward them.
"Aw," Rachel coos amid giggles. "You look so cute!"
"Shut up," she says, more to her brother who can't seem to control his laughter at all. She rolls her eyes. "I feel like a marshmallow dipped in blood," she gripes.
"Nah," Rachel says. "You'd be more…brown. This is…red dye #5 infused marshmallow."
"Oooh," Michael nearly shouts, "like Peeps!"
"Yeah, exactly. Just less sparkly and bunny shaped." She turns to the groom, perplexed look on her face. "The pink ones are bunnies, aren't they?"
"Anyway," Samantha interrupts, turning to her brother. "Dad's looking for you, and I think he's getting kind of nervous, really antsy, sweating and asking everybody if they've seen you, which, of course they have, you've been all over, just not where he wants you to be right now, which is apparently with him. And he keeps acting like his tie is choking him, totally not made for a tux, even though I think he looks good. But he's pacing in that let's get this show on the road kind of way and he wants to make sure you're ready, or at least there, or here, or whatever. I guess," she says in one long breath, displaying the rather unique ability inherited from her mother.
"Okay," he says chipper lilt to his voice. "I'll find him."
The two girls stand in silence for a moment, each basking in the beautiful day, the warmth of the late afternoon sun beating down on their faces, the tiniest chill of the mid-autumn breeze making their skirts dance around their legs. "You really do look like some sort of Easter candy," Rachel says casually, eyes still perusing the dozens of strangers before her.
Samantha sighs. "Who knew that pink could actually be a favorite color of anyone besides Barbie?" she asks absently. She turns finally, strappy shoes in hand, callused toes wiggling in the grass. "This is not starting off on the right foot," she singsongs, plucking at the shimmering fabric, before walking away, heading back to the bridal chamber as though it were the guillotine.
Rachel remains, serene smile on her face, until her father sneaks up behind her and slips his arm around hers, leading her into the church so she can witness her baby cousin enter absolute adulthood.
He's not good with words, never has been, and it's not usually much of an issue. But it's his boy's wedding day and he knows he's supposed to say something. Only problem is, John just showed him up.
Sweet, achingly sensitive John, with his best man/best freakin' brother ever toast. From the very first line, "I can't even remember my life before Michael entered into it," Dean knew he was shit out of luck. And by the last, "He's finally getting everything he most deserves," he'd resigned himself to maintaining monk-like silence throughout the rest of the evening.
But Mara had it all planned out, every aspect of her wedding and reception, down to the exact minute that hors d'oeurves were served and champagne corks popped. And it had been her idea that Dean and Ava introduce their first dance, a too saccharine move that was put in for the sake of the hopeless romantics out there. But hey, her parents paid for the whole damn wedding, or most of it anyway, so really standing up on a stage with his ex and toasting his son and new daughter-in-law was the least he could do.
But why did it have to occur just after John's little speech, with a barely dry eye left in the house?
"Um," he starts, tugging at his tie in a sort of nervous twitch. "Well, I guess we're supposed to say something," he chuckles lightly, looking to Ava at his right. There are tears in her eyes and a sort of hopeful solemnity in her expression when she looks back at him, so much better than the bitter resignation that had taken over her face years ago. He clears his throat, looks away from her, because he can't remember the last time she looked so beautiful and it aches.
He sees his son, standing out before him, arm wrapped loosely around his wife, and that too makes him ache. Which is when the words hit him, passing over his lips before even traveling through his mind. "You're perfect just the way you are," a statement that causes a number of confused eyebrows to raise. "What I mean is," he stutters a bit, not really knowing for sure what he means, "You and Mara," locking eyes with Michael, "apart, together…you are who you are. Don't pretend to be someone you're not. Don't ask the ones you love to change into someone they can't be. Just love each other, like you are right now, plain and simple, and you'll be set." He reaches down, a rather covert move, and grasps Ava's hand, her familiar warmth sending a tingle down his spine. "I know it's not a…poetic kind of toast like your brother gave," he says with a smirk. "But it's honestly the best advice I can think to give."
He ducks his head shyly, turning to leave the stage, when he hears Ava sing out into the microphone, "So dance!" just as she gives his hand a reassuring squeeze.
He leads her back to a corner of the reception hall, where the music resounds in their ears and the image of their youngest boy leading his bride along the dance floor plays vividly enough before them to be cemented in each of their memories for a lifetime to come.
"It worked out," she whispers to him, laying her head innocently on his shoulder.
Dean nods, taking in the scent of her hair that he's never stopped yearning for. "Yeah," he breathes out, mellow smile on his face, "looks like."