August 2008

"If you run over my shoes, I'll kill you."

"If you mess up my wheels, I'll kill you," Dean contends. Jess considers this and nods.

"If you could park right behind Sam so that he can't turn and run, that'd be great."

"He's not gonna run," Dean says patiently. "Not until I tell him that I've lost the rings, that is. Okay, bad timing, bad timing," he adds hastily. "No jokes. Sorry."

"Why am I marrying into this family?" Jess whines. She looks stunning, as Dean's already told her- whilst he's supressing about sixteen different 'virgin bride' jokes, white is very much her colour. She decided against getting a huge gown, and the long, closely-fitted dress she picked instead was a very good choice on her part.

There are bridesmaids flitting all around Jess, and guests are already collecting in the garden. As the best man, it's apparently Dean's job to make sure Sam has his shit together, but they've started treating him as a kind of messenger boy- they're determined that, as tradition demands, Sam won't see Jess until her father's walking her down the altar. That means that Dean's spent his morning relaying messages about everything from the flower arrangements to what they're having for dinner tonight, and frankly, he's getting sick of it.

"Has Cas still-"

"Yes, Cas has still got Oscar," Dean interrupts. "We'll hang onto him until after the ceremony, don't you worry."

"Thanks, Dean," Jess says, flashing him a tight smile. Oscar Dean Winchester was born on the 7th of April, after eight hours of labour during which Jess nearly broke Sam's hand. She was right about the baby's sex, but Sam was too busy tearing up to care. They named him 'Oscar' after Jessica's father, and 'Dean' after… well. Oscar has his mother's eyes and, unfortunately for the kid, Dean strongly suspects he's inherited Sam's hair. Dean calls him Ozzy and plays him Black Sabbath when Sam and Jess aren't around.

"You should be with Sam," Jess says. "It's nearly time."

"Gotcha," Dean says, and he grins. "Let's get this show on the road."

Dean doesn't remember ever going to a wedding before, so he feels a little like he got thrown in at the deep end, but somehow it all works out. The ushers all do as they're meant to, no one drops the rings, and nobody suddenly bursts through the doors in objection (Dean had had his concerns about Becky). Ozzy's on his best behaviour, Jess and Sam say their vows without stumbling once, and Sam cries. Again. When they come out of the church, Dean throws a handful of petals directly into Sam's face for good measure.

There are about four different kinds of salads at the buffet, all of which Dean looks at distastefully.

"Lettuce," he tells Oscar, "is not natural."

"What do you mean, it's not natural?" Sam says. "It's like, the most natural thing there is."

In theory, he's sitting next to Dean, but his and Jess' seats have stayed fairly empty- they keep being pulled from crowd to crowd by hoards of people desperate to wish them well or impart advice. Dean's on babysitting duty, Ozzy balanced on his lap.

"Nah," Dean says. "It's green. Never trust green food," he advises Ozzy, who blinks up at him.

"You're such a great role model," Sam says.

"I'm the best godfather there is."

Sam rolls his eyes. "There's other food too, you know. I think there are some canapés that have bacon on top."

"Can you get me some?"

"Do it yourself."

"But I'm a sad and lonely crippled man."

"No, you're a lazy idiot." The woman sitting opposite Dean looks at Sam in horror. "You've got hands, Dean. Use them."


"Not around Ozzy," Sam hisses, panicked- and then adds "Jerk" out of the side of his mouth.

Dean grins. "It's okay, Cas is bringing me something."

Sure enough, after Sam's disappeared, Cas arrives holding two plates. "Were there bacon things?" Dean calls.

"There were," Cas says, setting a plate down in front of him. "Now there's an empty plate."

"See?" Dean says, showing Ozzy one of the canapés. "This is why we love your uncle. Uncle-in-law? Kinda?" Dean shrugs. "Let's just go with 'the bacon guy'."

"I would really rather we didn't."

Dean tries one of the bacon things and finds there's cheese and pastry in there too, so it's really a good deal all around. He accidentally catches the eye of the bridesmaid sitting a few seats over- one of Jess' friends, Dean doesn't know her name- and nods and smiles.

"Hey," she says. "I'm Lisa."

"Dean," he introduces himself. "This is Cas."

"Nice to meet you," Lisa says. "I'd introduce my boyfriend, but he's…" She cranes her neck and looks around. "Getting drunk, apparently. It was a gorgeous ceremony, wasn't it?"

"Guess so," Dean agrees. "Good job, uh, bridesmaid-ing."

Lisa laughs. "Good job best man-ing," she says approvingly. "You're Sam's brother, right?"

"Caught me. How do you know Jess?"

"We went to the same yoga place," Lisa says. "She moved on, but I stayed, and now I work there."

"Follow your dreams, huh?"

"Beats retail," she says. "Do you work?"

"Yeah, actually," Dean says. "I tell people their cars suck for a living."

"He's a car advice specialist," Cas supplies, "and he's very good at it."

"I run a website with a woman named Charlie," Dean explains when Lisa looks confused. "She does the tech stuff, I do the car stuff, and there are a couple of other people who help out too. We pretty much just give people advice on cars. How to buy them, maintain them, repair them, sell them, whatever."

"Does it pay well?"

"Could be worse," Dean shrugs. "We don't charge that much, but we make money in other ways- we've got links with a few companies that offer discounts and then pass the saved money onto us, that kind of thing. It's early days, but it's looking good."

It had been the people on the car forum who gave him the idea. "I wish everyone was as helpful as you," somebody had written. "I'd seriously be willing to pay for your help, and I know other people would too." Before Dean knew it, Charlie was drafting the skeleton of a website, and Dean was looking into fundraisers to get their idea off the ground.

He doesn't tell Lisa about his other job, the one that gives him an extra cash injection once a week. He has the car forum to thank for that too- a reply to a post from another ex-motorhead coming to terms with a spinal cord injury had a stranger messaging Dean a few days later, offering him a column on her website.

It's a depression-slash-self-help thing that answers messages and questions from people who want somebody to talk to, publishing them with the best advice they know how to give (plus a long list of useful links and phone numbers). There are a bunch of different people who help out, but the majority of the bereavement, illness and injury related messages come Dean's way. Cas, Sam and Jess know the truth, but nobody else knows the identity of the sympathetic- if slightly brusque- man who seems to 'get it' so damn well.

"Are you part of the website?" Lisa asks Cas, who shakes his head.

"I'm a tax accountant, but I'm training to be a teacher," he says.

"Good luck," she whistles. "You always wanted to teach?"

"No, my brother gave me the idea." Cas and Inias talk a couple of times a week, and in a few weeks' time Inias is travelling down to stay with them for a while. Dean is torn between excitement about meeting Inias, and irritation that he's going to have to go a whole five days without sex; being caught by Cas' kind-hearted, pure-souled older brother really is not worth the risk.

"Cool," Lisa nods. "What subject are you interested in teaching?"

"Languages- Spanish, probably, but I could do others. There's a school nearby that caters exclusively to disabled or chronically ill children. I'd like to work there."

Lisa and Cas chat a while longer, and Sam swoops in to reclaim Ozzy. After a while, Dean catches Cas squinting at him.

"You're quiet," Cas states.

"Well, the nice lady in the corner's been staring at me for the last ten minutes," Dean says. Cas turns to look, not bothering with subtlety, and the woman immediately looks away. After a few seconds, though, her eyes flicker back to Dean. The grimace on her face is not a pleasant one.

Dean is distracted when Cas leans over and kisses him, his hand cupping the back of Dean's head. It lasts a solid five seconds- pretty weird, considering neither of them are the PDA type. Dean kisses back, because he's pretty sure that being inappropriate is like half the point of weddings, but he's still confused. He gestures so at Cas.

"I thought I'd give her something to stare at," Cas says, with a slight, unapologetic shrug. The woman is now averting her eyes completely, her face beet red. As far as solutions go, Dean's heard much worse.

Someone taps him on the shoulder, and he twists around to see Jess. "If you can put Cas down for five minutes, it's your speech soon."

"Gotcha. When?"

"Three o'clock," Jess says. It's ten to three now, so that gives Dean some time. He nods and she moves off, seeking out Sam and their son.

"If you do car stuff, you should talk to my boyfriend," Lisa says to Dean. "I think he probably drives the worst car in the world."

"Nope," Dean says immediately. "Cas has that covered."

"You like my car," Cas sighs, pushing a mouthful of pasta salad into his mouth. The conversation is an old, comfortable one, like a pair of jeans you keep meaning to throw out but can never quite bring yourself to.

"I kind of do," Dean admits. "It's like vehicular Stockholm syndrome."

"It can't be that bad," Lisa says comfortingly.

"It's green."

"Matt's is yellow."

"I am so sorry." Lisa sniggers, and Dean eats the last canapé on his plate. Say what you want about Sam's prissy catering choices- whoever he got, they're good with bacon.

"My car's better," Dean comments, brushing crumbs from his suit.

"You drive?"

"Hand control, baby. Goes like a dream."

"A nightmare, maybe," Cas grumbles. "Dean does not believe speed limits apply to him."

Dean still sees Benny every week- PT is very much an on-going thing, and if he wants his hands to stay as good as he's got them, it probably always be. Dean likes Benny too much to complain. Andrea is pregnant again, and Dean is enjoying hearing his tales of My Pregnant Wife Made Me Buy Grape Kool-Aid At 2AM; Jess had been disapprovingly level-headed throughout her own pregnancy.

Dean sees Ellen and Jody occasionally, Ava rarely, and Jo when she feels up to it. She's still getting sicker, and it hurts to see. It hurts a lot, actually, but there's nothing anyone can do about it. For now, Jo can still insult him, and make him laugh, and complain when he visits without bringing her something chocolate-based, and Dean focuses on those good things like bright stars in a dark sky. He still sees Tessa regularly, and as much as it may not feel like it, that's a good thing too. Life is not easy. It is, however, life- it is his, it is real, and it is so very worth it.

Jess reappears, Sam by her side and Ozzy on her hip. "Yo, bro," she says, handing him a microphone. "Your time has come."

Sam has drained of colour. "I'll be kind," Dean promises, but he doesn't think the grin spreading across his face is very reassuring. Sam sits down with Dean on one side and Jess and Ozzy on the other, and Dean taps the microphone a few times. When it seems to be working, he bangs it on the table.

"Sorry, but I can't exactly stand up," he says when everybody jumps in shock. He wheels himself back a little to give him a better view of the room and clears this throat. "I'm the best man and brother of this pain-in-the-ass you see before you, so apparently I've got to give a speech or something. I don't really do speeches, but you all know how Sam gets his panties in twist when things don't go to plan, so I'll give it my best shot."

In the audience, people titter and chuckle. Sam looks like he's about to pass out.

"When Sam was four," Dean begins, "he wanted to be a princess. No, don't deny it, I literally heard those words come out of your mouth."

"I didn't know what it meant," Sam says mournfully to Jess, who shushes him.

"He says he meant 'prince', but he says a lot of things. Like how it wasn't him who clogged the motel bathroom with army men when he was six, and it wasn't him who let the neighbour's dog out and ended up getting the other neighbour's dog pregnant, and it wasn't him who got so drunk in high school that he ended up passing out in a flowerbed and- you know what? Ask me about that one later, it's not age-appropriate. Anyway, Sam'll tell you that none of that was him. Nope. No way.

"So now that we've established he's a lying asshole- whoops, sorry kids, pretend you didn't hear that- I'll tell you that Sam doesn't think he's a good person. That he doesn't think he's made the right choices, and that he doesn't think he's a good brother or a good friend, and that he won't make a good father." The mood's more sombre now, laughter dying down and all eyes fixed on Dean.

"Now, I don't think he's lying about believing those things. I think he genuinely believes them, and I can't even begin to say how friggin' ridiculous that is. My brother is one of the kindest, smartest, most selfless men you will ever meet, and somehow- and I really have no idea how he did this- he found a wife who's just as good as him. I know, I wouldn't have thought it was possible either. They're gonna be kickass parents, because they've been a kickass brother and sister, and I could not ask for any better. I owe a lot of things to a lot of people-" and he glances at Cas now, only for a fraction of a second but that's long enough for Cas to notice- "and Sam is very much one of those people."

Dean smiles, a huge, happy thing that he can't seem to control. "Have a great day, little brother, and have a great life. I'm pleased to say that I'm gonna be around bugging you for a long, long time." He pauses. "And seriously, people, ask me about the flowerbed story."

Dean puts the microphone back on the table as the room erupts into applause. Jess looks like she might be crying- Sam does too, but that's hardly shocking.

"That was beautiful," Cas says quietly, and he raises a hand to Dean's face. Dean leans into the touch, smiling lazily as one of Cas' knuckles ghosts down the back of his neck.

"What can I say?" Dean says. "I'm that kind of guy."

One of Sam's college friends approaches their table, and Cas' hand drops to close around Dean's.

"Can I help you?" Dean says pleasantly when the friend reaches the table. Sam's already switching from 'tearful gratitude' to 'frantic pleading' mode, and Ozzy giggles delightedly at his father's misfortune. Jess holds him in her lap and smiles like she doesn't ever plan to stop.

"About the flowerbed-" the guy begins.

Dean pats the empty chair next to him. "Why don't you sit down?" he grins.

It is a good day, Dean thinks, to be alive.

'My soul is alight with your infinitude of stars. Your world has broken upon me like a flood. The flowers of your garden blossom in my body. The joy of life that is everywhere burns like an incense in my heart. And the breath of all things plays on my life as on a pipe of reeds.'

- Rabindranath Tagore