Scout bounced on the bed and listened as the springs squeaked softly beneath the brightly colored quilt that covered it. The metallic protestations were quiet enough that they wouldn’t be a bother once he settled in for the night. On the other hand, they were just loud enough to be certain to be heard if anything other than a good night’s rest was happening.
Too bad that had been what he’d been hoping for.
There was a homespun charm to the small bedroom that even Scout could see. Calico fabric with dainty prints dressed the windows and almost everything sitting on a flat surface had been carefully positioned centrally on a handcrafted lace doily. In the corner was an old rocking chair that predated the house with yet another quilt draped over its arm with deliberate carelessness to nestle a well-worn and apparently well-loved teddy bear in its folds. All in all, it was hard to imagine the room as belonging to one of the craftiest engineers ever to walk across the sands of the Great Gravel War.
The father of one Dell Conagher.
Of course the man must have a first name, but that had been left a mystery for now. “Mr. Conagher” had been Engineer’s direction when they’d arrived earlier that day, and there was a certain steeliness to the Texan’s eye that Scout knew better than to ignore.
That had been all Scout needed to hear.
He’d been welcomed with a hearty handshake and a clap on the back from the elder Conagher, and an equally hearty meal was waiting for him inside, courtesy of the missus. There had been no sign of the coolness that could sometimes come along with even the most tolerant of family in situations like these, and within the hour he was already feeling like he was part of the family.
Still, he knew better than to press his luck.
Baby steps. That’s what Engineer had told him.
He hated waiting.
Mrs. Conagher had shown him up to his room after dinner, bustling around like a mother hen as she made sure that he had everything he needed. Extra blankets? Not in the middle of the Texan summer. A pillow perhaps? Sure, that’d be swell. After that, he’d been left to his own devices as the household settled down for the night. Early to bed, early to rise, and all that other folky type wisdom. He shed his jeans and t-shirt and changed into the pyjamas that Engineer had given him for the trip.
“Ain’t the base. Mama would have a conniption if she caught you in your Jockeys.”
“Pppph, she should be so lucky.” Scout had teased back as he’d packed them in his duffle bag. Frankly, given how the night had gone so far, he still hadn’t been convinced otherwise. While Engineer had definitely inherited his looks from his pa, Mrs. Conagher was the one with that impish twinkle in her eye.
Back on the bed, Scout let himself fall backward onto the quilt. The light from the hall winked out as the household made ready for sleep, and a quietness that was almost disturbing settled over the world. No explosions in the night. No drunken carousing. Aside from one particularly talkative owl somewhere in the distance, everything seemed at peace.
Or, at least it did until the creaking of floorboards caused him to sit back up. There was a small click as a latch was turned and slowly a door that Scout had written off as a closet slowly opened. A moment later, Engineer slipped through and quietly closed the door behind him.
“Hope, I didn’t wake you.” He kept his voice low as he crept across the floor towards the bed.
Scout shook his head. “Nah. Head had barely hit the pillow, but, uh…” he pointed back towards the door, “what’s with that?”
“Never seen a connected bedroom?”
“I shared a bedroom with seven brothers. What do you think?”
Engineer chuckled as he hoisted himself onto the bed. Again the boxsprings groaned, but Engineer didn’t seem to mind. He edged himself over as Scout scooted to the side, tugging down the quilt and letting them both slip underneath.
It was a tight fit for two grown men in the barely full sized bed, but they were both used to being a bit snug. Even with the warm night air of summer, it was pleasant to have the warmth of each other as they lay side by side.
“You gonna be good?” Scout whispered as he rolled over onto his side to wrap an arm across Engineer’s chest.
“Yeah. It’s good.” Engineer reply sleepily. “It’s not that they don’t know. They’re just…”
“Yeah.” Engineer’s hand slipped up beneath the pyjama top to find its usual place against Scout’s back. “You good?”
“Is your ma’s breakfasts like her dinners?” Scout grinned as he felt the chuckle rumble up through Engineer’s chest.
SAM HAD NEVER really liked Autumn. Growing up, moving around from place to place, never sure what region of the country he would be in from week to week, Autumn had frequently meant a new start at several new schools, each one beginning their curriculum in a different place at a different pace so that he would end up covering the same material three times and then get dropped in weeks behind only a month later. Autumn also meant that football was In, and the football players were local gods, meaning the skinny nerds like Sam were often in fear for their property, their dignity, and in some cases their lives.
It also didn’t help that so many places made such a big deal about Halloween. Before Sam had known about Hunting and monsters, he’d been confused and upset about why Dad never let him go trick-or-treating with the other kids, or why Dean looked so pale and grim about it despite the prospect of free candy. Afterwards, it made him feel sick to think about all those kids dressing up as things they thought were costumes, never knowing that the real creatures would probably see them as delicious snacks. Dad drank more around Halloween, too, and Dean tried his best, but he couldn’t shield Sam from the curses and contempt forever. Years later, learning about the demon Samhain would only be the icing on the cake of his dislike for the holiday, more than even his dislike for the day two days later.
And then, Halloween would be done, and everyone would be making a big deal over Thanksgiving. School would let out for a few days, meaning that more often than not John would choose then to move them somewhere else, ignoring the holiday the way he ignored every other holiday except the anniversary of Mom’s death, and Sam hated having to dodge questions about what his plans for Thanksgiving were, or what he expected to eat at the feast his teachers and classmates obviously expected his family to have. The one time he’d actually had a real Thanksgiving dinner, the experience was marred by the fact that Dean was away with Dad on a hunt and they were overdue. He’d had fun, but the whole time he’d been missing his brother.
Stanford had changed a lot for him, but even Jess and her enthusiasm for the holidays and eagerness to get Sam to participate in these arcane rituals that made less sense to the Hunter than actual arcane rituals couldn’t change his generalized distaste for Autumn. It seemed only fitting that Dean would come and disrupt his safe scholastic life in the season he disliked the most, or that the Yellow-Eyed Demon would choose to kill Jess the same day it had killed Mom. Because of course that was how things would go.
So it surprised Sam when Castiel actually seemed enthusiastic about the approaching Autumn months. He wasn’t particularly obvious about it, not so much that Dean ever noticed, but Sam could see the interest lurking in blue eyes scanning over shop windows decorated with multicolored leaves or a diner menu advertising a new fall special. Things finally came to a head the twenty-ninth of October when the three of them were on a case in Tennessee and the motel clerk made mention of the town’s annual Autumn Festival.
“Y'all should definitely check it out if you plan to be in town through the weekend,” the cheerful woman said as she handed over a flier with the keys.
“Sorry, ma'am, we rarely get that kind of down time in this job,” Dean said briskly, turning away to hand one of the keys to Sam, missing the look of disappointment that crossed the angel’s face. Sam took the key and the flier, but said nothing, and agreed to get started with the investigation first thing in the morning.
The case turned out to be something of a bust. Investigation turned up nothing supernatural, just a regular crazy human killer who had decided to get creative with his kill to throw off suspicion. Under Castiel’s piercing stare, the man had cracked like an egg, spilling everything to the angel and the two towering hunters. Sam was more than happy to let the local law enforcement take charge of the man. Even though Dean was more disgruntled about not getting to shoot something, it was late enough in the day that it didn’t take much for Sam to convince Dean they should stay the night and drive back to the bunker in the morning, though Castiel shot Sam an odd look for it. The look changed to one of suspicion when Sam suggested Dean find a bar or something without them and they would catch up to him the next morning.
“Where are we going? Is there more to the case?” Castiel asked as Sam ushered the angel towards the outskirts of town.
“Not that I know of,” Sam assured him. He pulled out the crumpled flier and handed it over to Castiel, watching his face change from suspicion to surprise and wonder as he realized what he was looking at. “Things don’t really get underway until tomorrow when it’s Halloween, but there should be something of the festival going on this evening for us.”
He was right. Most of the bigger events would only take place the next day, but there were still games and craft stalls set up around the large field and lit by torches in the fading evening light. Sam tucked his hands into the pockets of his jacket and followed Castiel from stall to stall, just watching the way the angel’s face lit up with excitement as he tried to take in everything. Castiel asked questions of the craftspeople selling their wood carvings and knitwear and quilts. He studied the techniques being shown for pumpkin carving and then tried his hand at carving one of the pumpkins to be displayed along the parade route the next day. He even managed to convince Sam to play one of the festival games involving throwing darts at orange and green and yellow balloons. The prize he won turned out to be a voucher for one of the intricately crafted quilts, so back they went to the quilter’s stall and Sam encouraged Castiel to choose whichever one appealed to the angel most while Sam stepped over to the stall next door to get them a couple of styrofoam cups of hot cider.
“You boys here celebratin’?” he heard the elderly man presiding over the stall ask Castiel. In a town as small as this, the man had probably pegged them easily as outsiders, but the tone was friendly rather than suspicious so Sam paid for the cider and lingered just out of sight to listen.
“It is the anniversary of the day we met,” Castiel answered, surprising Sam. Though thinking back, he realized that Castiel was right. He had almost managed to forget that his first meeting with Castiel had been the day before Halloween, usually preferring not to dwell on the rising of Samhain given how tied up it was with the Seals and the Apocalypse and Ruby….
“Love at first sight for you two, was it?” the old man asked with a knowing tone, making Sam nearly choke on his first sip of the fragrant cider.
“Oh! No….” Castiel said, his voice dropping quietly so that Sam had to strain to hear him. “Our first meeting did not go very well at all, and that was entirely my fault.”
“Seems like you managed to overcome a first impression well enough, if he’s winning you prizes and such,” came the knowing tone again.
“Sam is very compassionate, and more forgiving than even most venerated saints,” Castiel said, making Sam’s cheeks heat with embarrassment. “There is not a day that I do not give thanks for his willingness to forgive my abominable behavior towards him and accept me into his heart. Though I fear I may have exhausted his patience with my enthusiasm for your festival tonight….”
“Not at all, Cas,” Sam found himself saying, stepping around the canvas side of the stall. Castiel started, looking guilty, and Sam shook his head. “It was my idea to stick around town long enough to come here, remember?” He handed one of the cups of cider to the angel, who took it automatically. “Are you having fun?”
“Yes, quite a lot of fun,” Castiel admitted. “But–” He fell silent when Sam, greatly daring, reached up and touched his lips with one finger to still them.
“As long as you’re having fun, then I’m happy to be here with you,” Sam said seriously, flushing slightly as he lowered his hand again. “Okay?”
“Okay,” Castiel agreed. Sam wondered if it was his imagination that the angel sounded a little breathless. Before he could contemplate it too much, Castiel had turned and was tugging Sam over to one of the quilts. “I thought perhaps this one would be acceptable.”
Sam looked at the quilt. He wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the craft, but it looked warm. The colors were several shades of blue and green and yellow and brown calico prints, and the photograph taped to the shelf below it showed a pattern of sunflowers out of the different color fabrics. Peering at the quilt more closely, Sam could see the layers were held together with a network of stitches that had been made to resemble strings of bees flying. He grinned. Somehow, he should have known.
“It looks great,” he said instead, daring to wrap an arm around the angel. “This is the one you like best?”
When Castiel nodded, Sam handed over the voucher to the old man, who shot him a knowing smile that matched all too well with the tone Sam had heard and presented the neatly folded quilt to Castiel. They bid the man farewell and stepped back out into the main field, the quilt held close to Castiel’s chest with the arm not occupied by the cup of cider. Sam kept his arm around the angel as they walked, and he knew he wasn’t imagining the way Castiel tucked himself up against his side to walk in step with him.
By unspoken agreement, they left the festival when the middle of the torch-lit field was taken over by musicians and dancing couples. The wind had picked up to bring more of a chill than Sam’s jacket could shield him from, so they ducked behind a tent on the outer edge and Castiel flew them back to the motel room. When their arrival was not heralded by a round of cursing from Dean, Sam took the chance and ducked down to brush a kill across Castiel’s wind-chilled cheek.
“Happy anniversary, Castiel,” he whispered as Castiel looked up in surprise, cheeks flushing, and was rewarded with Castiel’s rarely seen shyly pleased smile.
“Happy anniversary, Sam Winchester.”
Oh my gosh this is so adorable!!! I just can’t even
A charming Calico box crab! I did the sketch for this last year but have only managed to finish it now as a gift for my dad’s birthday. I love the intense patterns and his little beady eyes, so filled with rage.