So when Rosie was three, Sherlock and John took her to the South of France on their first proper family holiday - they had of course done the odd day trip to Brighton, and visited Sussex or Sherlock's parents for a weekend here and there before this. Anyway, John forgot his shaving kit when they went away and Sherlock might've talked him out of nipping to the local supermarche to purchase some more. 'Consider it an experiment,' he'd said. Within a few days both Sherlock and Rosie had taken (1)
a great interest in the stubble on his usually smooth cheeks. It was a bit itchy, but considering Sherlock’s reaction, he dealt with it and enjoyed the sun, the beach, hearing Sherlock speaking french and listening to him teaching Rosie a few more phrases and words - which she picked up and used very astutely over their week away.
But when they returned to London, both Sherlock and Rosie sulked for a day solid when he shaved it off for work. When Sherlock joined him in bed that night (still slightly sunkissed with some rather fetching freckles!) John turned to look at him in the darkness. ‘Do you really prefer it?’ he asked, coaxing Sherlock to look at him gently. 'I mean, do you prefer me with the beardy look?’ Sherlock scowled and turned to face him, cupping his smooth cheeks. His thumbs ran over them as he spoke, 'You are gorgeous. With or without facial hair. It’s addition or removal could never make me love you any less than I already do. Same with Rosie.' Sherlock sealed his promise with a kiss. 'Though it was a bit sexy. A change,’ he added, 'And I really wouldn’t mind if it made a comeback now and then. If you’d like that…'
John could hear the hopeful smile in his voice, and felt it against his own lips as he went in for another kiss. 'Hmm, we’ll see,’ he whispered, 'Might need a little more convincing…’ Anyway, John grows it out now and again and Sherlock rather likes the bristley kisses, so does Rosie, and he gets forty per cent more flirtatious glances and chat ups when he has it - a blessing and a curse, both stemming from Sherlock’s jealously. A new addition to the bathroom cabinet is beard oil and shampoo, courtesy of the facemask and skincare aficionado himself. (Fin).
“That’s the man who is going to teach you how to love, Castiel.”
Hushed words were spoken close to the angel’s ear as he neared the end of his journey. He could see the ragged figure close now, covered in chains and blood and filth. Hidden within the depths of the darkest expanse of space. Fire blazed around the angel, in defiance of his actions, scalding his true form to it’s core. He could feel himself starting to burn up, to fade, to die. It wouldn’t be long now before he was just another puff of smoke in the cascades of darkness. But the mission - his one true purpose - pushed him forward, closer, closer, until his hand rested on a shoulder. Solidly grabbing as his touch seared into flesh, marking the man down to his soul.
Dean Winchester has been saved.
Nearly nine years later the miracle happened in a barn - as miracles are wont to do. He’d laugh at the irony if he wasn’t so busy dying. He could feel himself fading, his grace burning out like coals. Only small sparks remained, contained under bleeding and cracking olive skin.
He stared at the man before him, speaking in low tones with his mother and brother. A man who’s panic he could feel through the chill of the midnight air. Dean’s hands flexed at his sides as he spoke. He was going to miss those hands.
And suddenly Castiel remembered that small moment of Dean’s rescue. Or perhaps, he’d never forgotten but had let the memory fade softly as something of little consequence. Either way, it was a memory he’d not revisited in years. But he held onto it now like a precious jewel, examining it in his mind’s eye anew. Who had spoken those words? Was it his brethren?
Was it his father?
…did it really matter?
Because as he watched Dean nervously glance his way, lips pulled tight, back stock straight - he knew. Unequivocally. Undeniably.
It was true.
And he was suddenly overcome with the emotion it - the sheer beauty of the path he’d been sent on. He’d watched millenniums worth of human lives transverse like he’d experienced in his short time with the Winchesters - one mistake and fortunate happenstance after another, all blending together to push a person to their best potential. To teach them to be their best selves. And he’d envied their progression, how they could change and love and hurt and grow. Evolve.
But now here he was. A completely different angel, a completely changed man, from the one who dove into hell head first simply because he was commanded.
All because of knowing Dean.
Castiel hardly recognized himself and yet, he felt more himself than he’d ever been. Some might call him an abomination.
But in truth he was proud of the man he’d become - a man who knew what true love really is.
So he didn’t mince words, he didn’t stop them from flowing once they’d started. He told Dean he loved him with the conviction that moment demanded. With the sincerity that the righteous man deserved.
He wasn’t stupid - he could see the pain and the hesitation across Dean’s face when he spoke them. Knowing that they were as rare to Dean as anything in this world. Knowing he’ll toss this moment around his mind like a hot potato for a long time to come.
But mostly knowing that he will leave this world having given Dean the second greatest gift he could - the knowledge that he was undeniably, unconditionally loved.
Second only to the gift that Castiel was capable of it.
Yeah, Rosie. Tell them. The first time I met Annalise… she was kickboxing. Yeah, she was so focused she wouldn’t even look at me. But I was looking at her. You know, it was that… that face that was perhaps the most alarmingly beautiful face that I had ever seen. And it kept alternating from… from delicate and captivating one second to scrunched-up and intense the next. It was like she was fighting not just that bag, but something bigger. Something inside of her. And I didn’t know it at the time, but my life was never gonna be the same.
So the day that I proposed to Annalise, she was meeting me on a weekend away, and she came around this corner wearing a pair of blue-jean shorts, a white t-shirt, and a hat. And it was an outfit so simple, so nondescript. But the way she wore it… The way she wore it, it was like it was designed just for her. Then I knew. I realized that she showed up not for a vacation, not out of obligation, but for me. She was there for me. And just at that moment, the Rihanna song “Stay” came on the radio. And so I took her hand in mine, and I’m not really a Jumbotron kind of guy, but I do believe that the… the smallest moments have the potential to be the biggest. And it was in that exact moment that I realized this whole time that I thought I was gonna be saving her… it was she that was saving me.