The first day of school is rough. It always is, but especially so in kindergarten. New place, new people, new kids to play with—it's probably really, insanely overwhelming.
So when Sam gets home from work to his daughter launching herself at him, mouth going a mile a minutes and so excited she's shaking, he is slightly concerned. He looks helplessly over her head at Dean where he's picking a pony sticker off his face—it's his own fault for buying her the pony sticker books and Sam's gone into the office with them in his hair—and his stupid brother just laughs and shrugs.
"Said she wanted to wait for you to get home when I asked her how it went."
Sam sets the little girl down, her dark hair falling from the braid he'd somehow managed before he left for work that morning. "So?"
She grins up at him. "It was the best day ever!"
Dean comes over to squat next to his brother and puts on an affronted face. "Better than when I took you to Jo's barn?"
Lexi's brown eyes fly open comically wide. "Uncle Dean! No! That was the best best day ever. This was only the best," she says seriously. Dean laughs loud and long, throwing his head back. Sam had dubbed it his 'Lexi-laugh'.
"So school was fun?" Sam asks, poking at his daughter's stomach.
She makes a face, scrunching up her nose and wrinkling her forehead. "School was okay. Mr. Novak is nice. He's kind of weird too. He talks funny sometimes."
"What does that mean?" Dean asks.
"Like," Lexi stops to think about it. "Like when Daddy watches those movies about a long time ago when everyone dressed all fancy and they were really…really…polite. He sounds kind of like a robot."
Sam snickers and Dean laughs aloud again. "So if school was okay, what makes today the best day ever?" He asks.
"Mr. Gabriel!" She giggles.
The brothers share a look and Sam tugs gently on Lexi's shirt. "Who?"
"He's magic, Daddy."
Dean snorts at that. "Magic?"
"Yeah, he pulled a tootsie roll from behind my ear and then he gave it to me! I'd show you but—" she looks down at her feet. "I already ate it. Sorry."
Sam flops down on the floor and pulls her into his lap. "It's okay, baby. Now who is Mr. Gabriel?"
"He's the bus driver! He was real nice to me after Jake—" Lexi claps a hand over her mouth, her eyes comically wide again.
Dean pokes her in the side. "Who's Jake and what did he do?"
"He just—well he was teasing because we had to draw our families today and I drew you and Daddy and he said it looked like I had two dad's and I said no, I have one Daddy and one Uncle Dean and he said I was weird for not having a mommy and he tried to take my picture—" she scrambles out of Sam's lap over to her pony-covered backpack and pulls a rumpled, crayon drawing from the big outside pocket. "—but I didn't let him." She pushes it into Sam's waiting hands and crawls back into his lap.
Dean peers over to take in the stick figures and his finger traces the brown jacket she's drawn him in. "This is wonderful, darlin'. Sammy how much trouble can I get in for beating up a five-year-old?"
Sam rolls eyes. "What happened then?"
"Well I told him that I didn't need a mommy 'cause I had you two," Lexi says and Sam gets a familiar flip in his stomach, the same one he got the first time he ever held her and when she first started talking. He's got the guilt this time too, though. Just like when he doesn't know how to braid well or bake cookies—not that Ruby would have known how either—like he's failing that part of Lexi's childhood. "And then I punched him," she finishes.
"Atta girl," Dean laughs.
"Dean, no. Alexis Mary Winchester, tell me you did not hit that boy!" Sam cries.
She swallows thickly. "I didn't hit him?" He buries his face in his hands. "I'm sorry Daddy! He was being so mean and I didn't mean to do it," she says, her voice shaking. "Mr. Gabriel said he wouldn't tell no one but that I hafta have an assigned seat on the bus as punishment."
Sam sighs. "'Any one', baby. He said he wouldn't tell 'any one'." She nods quickly and throws her arms around his neck. He hugs her tightly against him, catching a glimpse of the clock on the wall. It's already almost 8:30 and he didn't think he'd stayed at work so late. "We're gonna talk about this tomorrow, and I'm gonna talk to Mr. Gabriel too," he says into her hair. She pushes away from him, wiping at her eyes. He pulls her back in to kiss her on the forehead. "Now say goodnight to Uncle Dean and get ready for bed, okay?"
Lexi throws herself into Dean's arms hugging him tightly. "G'night Uncle Dean."
"Goodnight, peanut. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon," Dean says, smacking her lightly on the butt as she turn to run to her room. They can hear her giggles down the hall.
"You got yourself a handful with that one, Sammy."
"Oh shut up, Dean. And stop encouraging her to beat up on other kids please," Sam groans. "So I guess I've gotta talk to this bus driver tomorrow, so can you just be here after school?"
Dean's expression softens. "Sure thing, Sammy." He claps his brother on the shoulder and heads out, closing the door softly behind him.
By the time Sam heads down the hall to Lexi's room, she's in the bathroom, standing on the stool Bobby built her when they moved into the new apartment, brushing her teeth. "Alphabet twice, top and bottom, yeah?" She nods, grinning around the Batman toothbrush she'd insisted on getting—and never let Dean tell you he's not a softy.
He settles onto her bed, his legs far too long and hanging over the end, and waits for her to come bounding in and jump under the covers. These are his favorite times, when it's just him and Lexi. Sometimes he reads her a book, sometimes he tells her a story, and if she's really, really good, he'll sing softly until she falls asleep. He's not much of a singer, but he's pretty sure that doesn't matter. Sam never had this himself, his mother died too early and even if on occasion his dad was around to tuck him in—John Winchester worked himself ragged every day to support his boys—it was never soft and gentle. It was a gruff, 'Goodnight Sammy' and a large hand closed around his calf, squeezing lightly. More often than not, Dean was the one putting him to bed, making sure he brushed his teeth and took a shower. He taught his daughter the same bedtime ritual Dean drilled into him.
"Sorry I hit Jake, Daddy," comes a voice from under his arm.
"I'm not going to say it's okay, but we'll talk about it tomorrow, okay? I'll talk to you bus driver—"
"Mr. Gabriel!" Lexi chimes in.
"Yeah, Mr. Gabriel. I'll talk to him tomorrow morning."
"Okay Daddy. Be nice to him. He's great," she says seriously.
Sam frowns down at her, "Since when am I ever anything but nice?"
Lexi just giggles and shuffles in closer to his side.
Sam's woken up the next morning by an elbow to the sternum as his daughter dive-bombs his bed. He lets out an 'oof' followed by a laugh that starts low in his belly. "You know, I normally can't get you up before nine any other day. It's—Lexi, it's 6:30! The bust doesn't even come until 8:00!"
"Yeah but you gotta do my hair and we gotta pick out clothes!" She says, bouncing up and down. "Mr. Gabriel said he liked my braid yesterday! Maybe we can do TWO today. Right, Daddy?"
"Two braids? What am I, Superman all of a sudden?"
Lexi takes his face in her small hands. "Daddy, you're better than Superman. You're like Captain America and Iron Man and Batman all mixed into one." She stares into his eyes and then nods once, flinging herself off the bed and rushing from the room to get dressed.
"Pants today, baby," he calls, "Uncle Dean's gonna take you out to see Jo this afternoon."
He hears a shrill scream from the other room and he can't stop smiling.
When her hair's been brushed, her clothes picked out and her breakfast eaten, Lexi waits rather impatiently for Sam to finish getting ready. "C'mon Daddy! The bus is gonna be here soon!" He shoves the last of his bagel in his mouth, runs his fingers through his hair and straightens his tie.
"I'm comin', pumpkin."
Lexi all but pushes him out the door; he has to lean back in over her to grab his briefcase. They make it down to the bus stop with ten minutes to spare and she spends the time fidgeting and pulling on her braids. "Lexi if you keep messing with them, they're going to be all pulled out by the time you get on the bus." She glances worriedly up at him, giving her right pigtail one final tug.
"Is it late?" She asks.
"No. Still five minutes before it's supposed to come."
Lexi leans out off the curb, looking up the street. "How long is five minutes?"
Sam laughs. "What, can't wait five minutes to be rid of me?"
"Nooo!" She says, wrapping herself around his legs. He bends to scoop her up into a hug. "No, I wish you could come to school with me every day, Daddy. I just want you to meet Mr. Gabriel!"
The second the bus comes into her line of sight, Lexi's squirming in Sam's arms and struggling down to the sidewalk to pick up her lunch bag—Iron Man, of course. It clashes horribly with her backpack. She grins up at him, face lit up, eyes shining and Sam thinks, not for the first time, that this bus driver might really be magic. The bus grinds to a halt in front of them and the doors swing open.
Sam's not really sure what he was expecting but the man sitting in the driver's seat isn't it. Maybe he was thinking this Gabriel would be older, with a bushy beard and sparkling eyes—okay, if he's being honest, he was expecting a Santa-like figure—but he looks a little older than Dean, but not by much. Lexi screeches excitedly and hops up the stairs while Sam stands staring after her.
"Wow, no goodbye or anything? I feel so used," he laments. She stops mid-step and throws her lunchbox over the seat before turning and launching herself into Sam's arms. He catches her, laughing and kisses her lightly on the cheek. "I love you, firefly," he whispers into her hair.
She kisses him back and presses their foreheads together like they always do before Sam leaves for work. "Love you too, Daddy." Sam sets her back on the stairs and clears his throat, trying to play off the way it's gone all tight and his eyes all watery.
The bus driver is staring at him with this look that could be either impatience or adoration. He's got one of those faces where it's hard to tell. "Hi, I'm Sam," he finally says. "You must be the infamous Mr. Gabriel."
Gabriel grins and nods. "Infamous? How did that happen?"
"Seems that all it takes to win my daughter's eternal love is a tootsie roll. Should have thought of that years ago," he answers. The bus driver laughs. "Though I did also hear something about assigned seating due to physical violence?"
"Yeah," Gabriel seems to hesitate. "Technically if something like that happens I gotta tell the school and then she couldn't ride the bus anymore and she was talking about how you and—Dean, was it? About how you two scramble to get her as it is with your work schedules." He shrugs. "I figured it was first day jitters and—" he leans conspiratorially towards the door and Sam finds himself leaning in as well "—the kid was being a little bit of a jackass."
Sam can't help smiling at that. "Well, I guess thank you, in that case."
Gabriel's eyes do sparkle, it turns out. Or maybe it's just the way the light hits them and the strange honey-brown they are. "No problem."
"Daaaaddy, we're gonna be late for school and we're gonna miss part of story time," comes a whine from over the back of the seat.
"I think I'm embarrassing her," Sam says with a laugh.
Gabriel just smirks and says, "Well, it's never too early to start, am I right?"
The doors slide shut between them and Sam finds himself waving to his daughter through the window. Her assigned seat is right across and slightly behind the driver. He has a feeling this won't be the last he'll hear about Mr. Gabriel.