Title: The Mouths of Children
Characters: Dean, Castiel, Sam, Ruby
Category: Gen, Humor, Crack (and now Angst and H/C too, looks like)
Rating: PG13/T (language)
Spoilers: Through 4.10
Summary: "We still have work for you to do, Dean Winchester," Castiel said solemnly, doing his utmost not to sigh. "This is bullshit," Dean declared in his shockingly high, clear voice. "I want ice cream."
Word Count: 2058
Disclaimer: Pretty sure they’re not mine.
Author’s Note: Semi-sequel to Entertaining Angels, original flavor, but stands alone. I really, truly, and completely adore every single review and comment and mention you guys lavish on me. ♥ Even if I don't reply to you for WEEKS, because I am teh lamzors, that's still true.
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Sam was having one weird-ass day.
The day had started out normal enough, in the wee hours, that was, practicing demon-fu with Ruby. And yeah, okay, so that was weird for most people, but it was becoming increasingly normal for him. Sam was getting better and better at pushing things around with his mind, bending the natural and supernatural world to his will. It was glorious and intoxicating and terrifying as hell, and it was what he had to do. So yeah, normal.
But then the weird stuff had started. There had been...pressure. A feeling of being crushed, his brain being squeezed in a giant hand like a fistful of grapes, until the juice escaped and consciousness fled. Sam remembered falling to the floor, Ruby's shocked face wavering somewhere above him, and then nothing.
It had hurt. A lot. His whole head still ached, feeling bruised and battered and wavering on its metaphorical feet. The current situation was not helping matters much. He was having a little difficulty processing.
His brother sat beside him on the bed, strange and small, leaning confidently against him and chattering away about his visit to the playground with "Uncle Cas." Before she left to find a doctor, Ruby had raised the head of Sam's bed so he could sit up. Dean had taken that as an invitation, clambering out of Castiel's arms and snuggling down next to Sam without the slightest hint of an invitation. He had taken the time to arrange it to his tastes, though, kicking the sheets around with his incomprehensibly tiny sneakers and nudging Sam's arm impatiently until he put it around the little boy, still blinking and confused but unable to resist that kind of demand.
This Dean was so trusting, so innocent. Somehow he had gotten it into his head that Castiel was his uncle and therefore implicitly believable, and therefore he believed it when Castiel said that this was Sam, the brother he only remembered as a baby. A spiky ball of terror had lodged in Sam's chest, hot and throbbing, because Dean should never be like this, so easy to convince and lead. It made him incredibly vulnerable, and he was already too small, too short and slight and childishly beautiful with his gold-brown hair and big eyes and rounded face and...everything.
This was not exactly new for Sam, though the sensation was horribly heightened now. Ever since Dean had come back, and especially since his confession on the side of a Kentucky road, Sam had known that Dean needed protecting, now. Hell had chipped something away from his big brother, something subtle but vital.
To most people—perhaps all—Dean probably seemed the same as always: cocky, crude, chauvinistic, a lower-class grunt in a too-old car. But Sam knew. Sam saw. His real major had always been Understanding Dean, never mind that brief fling with pre-law back when he was young and stupid and didn't understand how life worked for Winchesters. He understood the effect, if not the cause. It was his turn to step up.
And now that cocky, crude, chauvinistic, wonderful bristly rough shell of adult-Dean had been stripped away, leaving behind the shining center that had always survived at the heart of him. Sam had not needed to be convinced that this was Dean—he recognized him instantly. And on the heels of recognition had come fear that nearly strangled him, because Dean was small and there were demons out there, and Sam was in a hospital bed and he hurt and he didn't know what had happened or how to fix it.
"And then I threw up and cried and Uncle Cas hugged me and I fell asleep," Dean was saying, still reciting the events of the afternoon. "It's too bad you missed the slide, Sammy, but it's okay you weren't there for that part. Cas's hugs are almost as good as Daddy's, and I woulda hated to throw up on you or somethin'."
Helplessly incredulous, Sam looked to Castiel, sitting at the bedside in a high-backed vinyl armchair and watching them both with big, worried eyes that never seemed to blink. The angel frowned and nodded. Damn, poor kid had gotten sick and Sam hadn't been there. Hadn't even known...anything.
"And then we..." Dean faltered, staring sightlessly away. The silence stuck there, stretched out too long. The little boy had frozen, unblinking, and the fresh terror in Sam's chest found something new to latch onto.
"Dean." Sam tried to keep his voice calm, but knew that there was a current of hysteria under it. He wrapped his arm farther around the child and squeezed him tight to his side, feeling the warmth of the little body, the hard press of his elbow and shoulder, sharp and clear through the thin hospital gown. "Dean."
The boy blinked and shuddered, sagging suddenly in Sam's grip, limp against his side. His voice was tiny, higher than just a moment ago, but almost emotionless. "There was a man with black eyes in the parking lot."
He buried his face against Sam's ribs, hiding, trembling, and Sam looked again to Castiel. The other man's face was harsh with guilt, drawn and begging. "It was my fault. I did not notice him. I should have."
Sam's voice was harsh, too, though unintentionally. His throat was just too tight to let the words out in anything more than a hoarse exhalation of air. "What happened?"
Castiel tipped his chin up, mouth grim, not defiantly but as if bracing for a blow. "I allowed myself to be distracted. It was a foolish error. We walked almost directly up to the demon before I realized what it was. I threatened to send it back to hell. It threatened Dean's safety, expressing pleasure that heaven's warrior had been turned into a small boy. It fled before I could exorcise it."
Sam blinked wearily, letting his head loll against the supporting pillow. "So nothing happened, then? But Dean. It threatened Dean." He looked down at the fluffy little head pressed under his arm, and had no oulet for the rage that filled him, almost subsuming the terror in cold red waves.
He was glad that Castiel hadn't gotten the demon in time. He wanted to take care of it himself. It was just too bad that he couldn't kill them.
"'Mokay, Sammy," Dean said, rolling his head around to press his crown against Sam's side. "I was just scared that somethin' might happen to you when I wasn't there."
God, this kid.
"Don't worry about me, Dean," Sam murmured, fighting to make his voice audible. "I can take care of myself."
Dean gave him a skeptical eyeball, but settled down, lounging against his big-little brother, elbow poking him sharply between two of his ribs. Sam squirmed a bit, trying to shift him, but Dean was relaxed and warm and completely immovable despite his small size.
Speaking of which...
Sam's brain finally caught up enough to realize that something was definitely hinky here. He looked to Castiel, eyes abruptly wide, his head giving a sharp throb with the movement. "Cas...what the hell happened to my brother?"
Castiel's shoulders slumped even further than they had been already. Sam had never imagined that he would get a chance to see a depressed angel, but, yeah. Sam was having one weird-ass day.
When Ruby finally returned, trailed by a bored-looking doctor and a slightly more alert nurse, Dean gave them all the stink-eye and pressed himself further back into his brother. Sam glanced down at him, surprised by this reaction in the apparently sweet, trusting little boy. But no, that had been just with Sam and Castiel, he remembered. Sam hadn't noticed his brother's reaction to Ruby before she left, still too busy waiting for his head to stop floating three feet away from his body. He had probably made faces at her, too.
Dean was wary of strangers, even at this young age. Yes, that made perfect sense.
He saw a mutual wariness in Ruby, too, keeping an eye on the boy but careful not to come too near, never adressing him directly. The doctor and nurse at first attempted to get the child to move off the bed so they could examine their patient, but thought better of it when Dean bared his teeth at them and growled. It was disturbingly intimidating for something that sounded like it should have come out of a kitten.
Dean kept a close eye while they checked the bump on Sam's head, shone lights in his eyes, noted his vitals, and asked question after question after question. No, he didn't have a history of seizures or strokes. Yes, he knew the year and the name of the president and his birthday and he remembered what he'd been doing when he collapsed—just taking a walk in the moonlight with his girlfriend, thank you, nothing dangerous or unusual or interesting. His head ached but there were no sharp spikes, his vision wasn't blurred or doubled, he was dizzy and nauseated but it was no worse than a moderate flu.
They talked about CAT scans and MRIs and blood tests and other medical nonsense, and they obviously had no idea what they were looking at or what they were talking about. Dean's skeptical glare did not soften in the slightest, and Ruby and Castiel just watched with exasperation and confusion, respectively.
"Fuck, what a bunch of yahoos," Dean declared when they, at long last, took their leave.
Sam's head swam as he jerked around to look at him, too quick, too sharp. "Dean?"
"What's it to ya?" Dean shoved at Sam's arm still wrapped around him with both small hands, thrusting him off and squirming away to sit up against the railing, looking Sam in the face. "It's still me, dude. The packaging changes but the contents remain the same."
The other three just stared at him.
"Hey, Sammy, good to see those peepers." Dean punched his arm, voice light and sincerely happy. "How you feeling? And what happened to you, anyway? I wake up and see your bed empty, and then I get called by a freakin' hospital, man, saying they just admitted my brother, Thomas Anderson. You gotta quit giving me heart attacks, dude. I'm too old for this."
"Dean..." Sam shook his head, not sure where to start.
"Hey, when did you wake up, anyway? You been up for long?" Dean leaned forward, so close to Sam's face that the now-bigger brother had to cross his eyes to keep him in focus. "You don't look so hot. Maybe you should take a nap. You got all...circles around your eyes." He waggled a finger around Sam's eyes, brushing feather-light touches on his temples with those warm, tiny fingers.
Sam hurt. His heart was literally aching. How did that work? Dean was still Dean, always, big or small, old or young, innocent or hardened. How did he manage it? The packaging changes but the contents remain the same. In one way Dean was completely wrong on that one, considering his yo-yoing memories. But in another way, yeah, that was exactly the right way to say it.
"Dude, what is it?" Dean leaned back, frowning. "Oh, crap. You aren't going to cry, are you? Your eyes are all red and damp and stuff. Don't you dare cry on me, Sam. You might drown me, you freaking giant."
"God, Dean." Sam passed a trembling hand over his face, trying to pull himself together. Mood swings were a symptom of concussion, right? This was totally just the head injury messing with him. "What are we going to do?"
"We're going to fix this."
Castiel's voice was warm and certain. He had stood from his chair to lean against the railing, next to the brothers but not intruding on their intimate circle. "We are going to discover the cause of this madness, and we are going to fix it."
"Right." Ruby's voice cracked, choked and small, but she sounded sincere. They barely looked at her, the brothers too caught up in staring at each other, Castiel focused on them.
Then Ruby uttered a strangled, choking cry, and Sam turned his head just in time to see her crumble to the floor.