The cold air whipped by, cutting into the warmth of his cheeks, as Dean stepped out onto the porch. Winter had settled in comfortably, and it wasn’t playing nice, particularly the wind. Even Jax stayed inside of his own accord, and he was a dog who would leap outside at the first opportunity, despite most weather conditions. Dean certainly couldn’t blame him. If the wind came from the fields, as it was now, it would be brutal and unforgiving in its biting coldness.
Leaving the warmth of the house behind him, he crept down the front steps of the porch and made his way around the side of the house. Even the barn looked warmer from here, despite its seemingly lifeless quality. Dean had made sure that the working heaters were stuffed into the barn before it had even dropped near freezing at night. The chickens had been less than pleased about being shoved into an area of the barn that didn’t allow them to roam free, but he figured that was better than having frozen chickens that he’d have to pry off the ground.
The fields lay quietly under a blanket of snow as he passed around the house. It would have been a little warmer to go around the other side, but he liked watching the stretch of snow-covered land. It made him a little sad, and yet gave him a rather peaceful feeling, to see the fields so empty and the earth hidden out of sight beneath the frozen snow. It wouldn’t be like that forever, but there was something strangely eternal about it.
Then, there was the bright and very green spot that stood out starkly against the white, situated at the back of the house. It always stood out amidst the pristine white and listless brown that was the backdrop of the woods. The greenhouse stood, shining and tall, behind the house, positioned out of sight of the road so that it didn’t unintentionally blind someone, while still being positioned where it could get plenty of sunlight.
Dean had to give Mikael credit, the greenhouse had come together wonderfully. Dean didn’t believe Mikael had never worked on a greenhouse before, but he had taken to learning what he could about the construction with vigor. He knew how much Mikael loved his work, and it had been interesting to watch him dedicate himself to learning. Dean hadn’t had any interest in the subject, but he found himself fascinated by seeing Mikael dive into books, sketching out ideas on paper, and mumbling to himself as he stared at various empty parts of the property as he envisioned what he would do.
At first it seemed like the research would take too long, and the opportunity to actually build it would have to wait till the first thaw. Yet Mikael had been out in the cool, bordering on cold, autumn days and into the evenings beginning the process without warning. Dean knew better than to get in the way, and had stayed clear of the area set aside for the building. They were alike in the sense that they both needed time and space while they dove into whatever project they were devoting themselves to.
Dean had watched the building come together only in a matter of days, and had found himself impressed at the pace at which it was going. For someone who hadn’t initially known what they were doing, Mikael had jumped into the project with the confidence and surety of a man who’d been doing it for years. When Dean had asked about the costs of the building, Mikael had waved him off, stating that it was taken care of. Any protests Dean had were waved off, and he could either choose to fight that particular battle or let well enough alone.
Dean had chosen to leave it alone and instead he’d waited till it was almost finished before he began ordering the plants. Mikael had told him what sort of climate to expect in the building and Dean had planned his plant orders around that. Thankfully Mikael hadn’t tried to foot that bill as well, otherwise Dean would have had to of put his foot down.
By the time all was said and done, the greenhouse had been built just in time. Within a couple of days of it passing Mikael’s final inspection, the first real frost came and they looked like they were going to stay. Following that came the first snow littering the ground with a fine coating of white that built over the following couple of days. Within a week, the once vibrantly green and brown farmland was covered in a blanket of dampening snow.
The farm itself might have been cold and frozen over as winter settled in with enthusiasm, but the greenhouse stood true. Caution made Dean clean any layers of snow that accumulated on the roof of the building, hoping to potentially spare himself from broken panes of glass. That was only an issue with the larger snowfalls; however, anything less than that was melted by the warmth radiating from the trapped heat within.
It was this very warmth that washed over him as he opened the door and stepped inside. In here, you would never know that it was well below freezing outside, save for the howling of the wind. This was by far his favorite place to be when at home, except for being curled up in a warm bed with Mikael wrapped around him, of course. Although, when it came time for him to have some solitude and peace, nothing quite beat the cushion of warmth within the walls of the greenhouse.
The smell of warm, wet dirt hit him and he breathed deep, taking in the smell of assorted plants along with the air. It was the smell more than the heat that melted the melancholy that had threatened to sink into his heart as he walked there. It was always the same, the short trip to the greenhouse always made his mind wander with dark and morbid thoughts before the warmth and color of life seeped back into him. Happiness and peace filled him as he stripped off the heavy coat, and his boots and socks for good measure.
He was susceptible to both feelings now more than he had ever been. In truth, he had always enjoyed the presence of growing things, from the smell of the plants, to the feel of a warm body around him. The winter time had always been depressing if he spent too much time outside, and he had once considered seeing a doctor about it back when he had lived in the city.
Rather than forking out money over a silly, seasonal issue, he had decided to fill his apartment with hardy plants and had ended up adopting Jax, shortly afterward. That had almost done the trick, but when he found the half frozen, nearly starved kitten outside of his apartment building one night, he found he had discovered the final piece to the puzzle. Nix had taken time to recover from her brush with death but once on her feet she proved herself quiet, though inquisitive, which meant the ‘poisonous-to-cats’ plants had needed to be removed.
Of course, moving out here had been the best thing Dean had ever done in his life, and despite all that he’d gone through so far, he didn’t regret it for a moment. In so many ways, it felt like he’d gone through most of his adult life fending off the perpetual winter that had blanketed him. He hadn’t even realized it until Spring had arrived in the form of this farm, and in Mikael.
Now, he had this little piece of spring right here in this greenhouse. Lines of plants were set in rows against three of the walls and a few hung lushly in the center of the room. Dean, due to staying out of the way, had missed the construction of the small pond in the center of the greenhouse. Yet, it added to the peace and overall ambience of the building. The light gurgle of the water was soothing as it filtered through the system, and was pushed back into the main reservoir. As Dean waited for the flowers to bloom, little water plants floated gently on the surface. He wished that he could have introduced tadpoles, but eventually those tadpoles would become frogs that would need food as well and he wasn’t quite up to the task of introducing a whole ecosystem within the glass walls just yet.
Knowing what he knew now, he supposed the path of his life, and his habits, made more sense. He had spent his whole life being a sort of Proto-Druid, and only recently had he come into his own. Yet knowing that, his tendency to surround himself with living things, his discomfort with the city, his drive to live and work on a farm as he was doing now, and maybe even his attraction to Mikael made sense. He wasn’t so sold on the idea that the druidic nature within him was somehow drawn instinctively to the werewolf nature within Mikael, but it wasn’t the worst theory he’d ever come up with either.
A howl cut through the idyllic scene, sending a shiver up his spine. It was an involuntary reaction, but he smiled all the same when he recognized its source. Mikael had taken more and more to shifting to his wolf form and doing God knows what around the property. Apparently, the thick wolf pelt made him more immune to the cold than the rest of the inhabitants of the house, save for Apollo, who had finally been convinced to go on those little jaunts of Mikael’s.
Though the howl had been close, it was the snuffling at the glass that alerted him to just how close Mikael was. Smiling, Dean moved to the door to let the large wolf in. From the looks of Mikael, he hadn’t so much run through the snow as he had rolled around in it. Snow covered the wolf from the tip of his nose to the very end of his tail.
Dean’s eyes widened when he saw Mikael’s skin shift, “Mikael! Don’t you dare!”
It was too late as Mikael’s body shook and the snow flew in every direction. Yelping at the sudden, small bursts of cold against his skin, Dean stumbled back in an attempt to avoid more. When it was over, he stood with cold pinpricks of melting snow and water splattered across his skin. A very happy looking tongue lolled out of Mikael’s muzzle as he stood there panting, now free of the clumps of snow and ice that had only just recently clung to his pelt.
“Damn it Mikael!” Dean huffed, attempting to brush the dampness from him, “You are an ass.”
Mikael let out a sharp bark, obviously pleased with himself as he gave a little hop. Dean knew this game, having gone through it enough over the years with Jax, whenever the dog was being a brat. Stubbornly refusing to give in, Dean crossed his arms over his chest and huffed. Mikael sat down in response, cocking his head, making his stiff ears flop slightly as he tilted his head from one side to the other.
“Absolutely not,” Dean grumbled.
Mikael whined and pawed at the ground.
“No! You come into my greenhouse and shake cold-ass snow all over me. I was warm in here, you know. You’re as bad as a dog, I hope you know that. Or a child.”
The noise that Mikael made could only be described as disbelieving. Dean wasn’t quite sure how a ferocious looking predator could manage that soft, doe-eyed look, but Mikael was making a good go of it. Despite his initial annoyance, Dean could feel his own irritation dissipating before that look. Sensing it, Mikael flopped onto his side, exposing his stomach and wagging his tail.
“Oh God,” Dean finally huffed in annoyance at himself, “Fine, you win, alright? Sheesh.”
Crouching down, he rubbed the wolf’s chest and scratched his stomach, something he knew Mikael would object to if it was brought up later. His boyfriend could exhibit any doglike behavior that he wished when in wolf form, but it wasn’t something he liked brought up later in conversation. Dean never saw that sort of behavior from the man at any other time, and he figured it came with the territory of being closer to his animal side while in this form. He did think it was amusing that Mikael would be positively bashful about it afterward though.
“You know I’m going to give you hell about this later, right?”
Mikael panted, his tongue hanging out further as his tail worked against the dirt covered ground. Laughing, Dean bent over and kissed the side of Mikael’s furry head. Revelling in the attention, Mikael hopped up, shaking himself once more, though thankfully free of any more cold water. Dean watched his lupine other half patrol the greenhouse, sniffing at this and that as he moved along the rows.
“I haven’t had a chance to look at anything yet,” Dean told him, standing and brushing the stray bits of dirt from his knees. “See, I was interrupted by a certain wolf who decided it was time to annoy his boyfriend, then demand petting to get out of being yelled at anymore.”
Mikael eyed him, and Dean would swear he could read what was going on in that furry head, “Don’t even think about it. We don’t have a change of clothes for you out here. Get your furry butt back into the house and get dressed. There’s already a fire going, you can curl up in front of that. And in human form mister, I already have a dog to cuddle with, I’d like my boyfriend with bare skin.”
Mikael perked his head at that, his tail giving another happy, hopeful swish.
“Yes, that kind of bare skin,” Dean smiled, moving to the door, preparing to open it. “Just let me do my checks and I’ll be right along. I’m sure you can think of a way to occupy Apollo by the time I get back there, right?”
Mikael gave a happy bark, bounding for the door. This wasn’t the first time Mikael had interrupted him while he’d been out here, and this time he waited for Dean to open the door for him. For some reason, Mikael had opted to make the door mostly glass as well, which meant the first time Mikael had been in here in wolf form and become a little too excited to leave, he had pawed the door and that had led to Dean scolding the wolf up and down about ruining it.
Dean opened the door, so Mikael could tear off into the snow for another round of gleeful bounding through the deep drifts. “And you better make sure to shake off on the porch before you let yourself in! So help me if I find snow everywhere, Mikael!”
There was no response and Dean hadn’t expected one. He wanted to blame the snow for Mikael’s goofy behavior, but he’d been like this before the snow had showed itself. Honestly, ever since the incident with Nox and Damian, there had been something different about Mikael. Where once he had been a little too serious at times, prone to drifting off into solemn silences, there was now a more confident, and even playful Mikael in his place. Dean had loved the Mikael of before and he loved this one just as much, though this one made him happier because it was easy to see that Mikael had been shaken free of something that had been weighing heavy within himself.
Knowing what was awaiting him inside would usually make Dean hurry in his self-appointed task. However, he knew it would take Mikael a little while to get to the house, get dressed, and find a way to shoo Apollo upstairs. That, and he knew full well Mikael would take some time to raid the fridge. He was always ravenous after running around for several hours. Dean would still have time to soak in the atmosphere of his plants, bathing in the warmth within the building and making sure each individual thing in there was growing well.
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