Title: The Mouths of Children
Characters: Dean, Castiel, Sam, Ruby
Category: Gen, Humor, Crack, Hurt/Comfort
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: 2100
Disclaimer: Pretty sure they’re not mine.
Author’s Note: Semi-sequel to Entertaining Angels, original flavor, but stands alone. Yikes! Has it seriously been more than a month since I updated? Oh well, you will all be happy when I post my Big Bang and it's FINISHED ALREADY OMG HOW CAN THIS BE? MAY NEVER FINISHES STUFF FIRST!!!!!!
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“Ruby? Ruby!” Sam struggled to sit up, craning his head to see where the demon girl had fallen. Dean grumbled at his side in a vaguely threatening manner. Castiel, though, was faster than any of them, somehow at Ruby's side in the blink of an eye and catching her head just before it hit the floor.
Ruby moaned and tossed her head in the angel's grip. Her limbs twitched uncontrollably, jumping up and down. The sight of it was somehow awful, obscene. It was impossible to know if she was reacting to Castiel's touch or to something else, but whatever it was, it looked painful.
"What is she doing?" Dean asked, staring down at her with eyes and mouth agape.
Sam's heart was beating too fast. All right, he wasn't entirely sure that he liked Ruby, certainly didn't trust her, but he needed her. "What does it look like?" he snapped. He fumbled for the call button, fingers thick and shaking. A seizure, she was having a seizure. Is this what happened to him right before he passed out and found himself here?
"No, it's a fair question." Castiel looked up at them, just as cool and serene as ever. "This is not a physical malady. She is fighting with something."
Ruby's head wrenched back and forth, and the angel tightened his fingers, holding her still, gazing down on her with all the compassion that a young boy would show for the ants he was watching through a magnifying glass. Sam stared, tried to see what he saw, a struggle, a fight, but all he saw was a suffering girl lying on the floor, writhing in the grip of something they could not see. Dean's small fingers bit into his side, clenching in his hospital gown and digging into the flesh beneath.
Sam fought the urge to cover his brother's eyes, protecting the child from such an unsettling sight. But this was Dean with his adult memories, though it was getting harder and harder to remember the difference.
In due time a flood of nurses and doctors poured into the room, taking Ruby from Castiel's hands. Nothing they did seemed to make any difference, but the three of them watched, all the same. Sam could hear the same confusion in their voices as when they were examining him—none of this made sense to them, nothing followed the right patterns. A familiar thing for the Winchesters, to know more than the so-called experts. Castiel was right. This wasn't a medical problem. It was supernatural.
Sam looked around the room, seeing the wards and symbols of protection Ruby had already put in place. Mostly general stuff, nothing specifically against demons, because of course that would hurt her, too. Was Ruby fighting another demon? Was it trying to possess this body, kick her out?
He bent his head to murmur into Dean's ear. "You have to get closer to her. See if you can do a quick exorcism."
Dean looked up at him, showing the white of one eye like a panicked horse. "I thought you liked Ruby. Thought you wanted her around."
"I do, but...she's fighting something. Another demon, maybe. Exorcise that one."
"Dude, just how bad is your head? You can't pick and choose. Exorcism is whole hog."
'Maybe you can weaken it, though. Even if you weaken both of them, maybe it'll stop looking like a seizure so the doctors will leave us alone. We have to try something."
"This is definitely one of your weirder ideas, man." But he slid carefully off the bed, sliding his tiny frame between the rail and the mattress, and inched nearer to the clump of medical folks gathered on the floor.
Then he abruptly switched direction, going to Castiel, who stood hunched and watching by the bank of windows like some gothic statue. The boy tugged on a hanging sleeve, and Castiel turned to him instantly, crouching down to listen with frowning concentration as Dean cupped a hand next to his mouth and talked urgently into his ear. Then the angel nodded and straightened, one hand falling gently on Dean's shoulder as if without conscious thought, the other held at waist height, stretching toward Ruby.
They had loaded Ruby onto a gurney and were starting to wheel her toward the door. "Wait!" Dean cried, his high child's voice cutting through the medical chatter, and launched himself toward the still-shuddering girl. They parted to make way for him, more out of startlement than anything else.
Dean hauled himself up onto the gurney and put his mouth next to Ruby's ear, talking low and rapid. Sam couldn't hear the words from where he sat, but the cadence was clearly liturgical Latin. The small mouth faltered over some of the words, and Sam had no doubt that the pronunciation was being butchered to heck, but maybe it wouldn't matter. They didn't really want to get rid of Ruby—they wanted to help her.
About the time one of the nurses started hovering uncertainly at Dean's back, clearly wanting to haul him off, the kid leaned back and gave them all a brilliant, cupid's-bow grin. "Jus' wanted to tell Aunt Ruby how much I love her." He pushed himself off the gurney and trotted back to Castiel, turning back to watch the proceedings with wide, innocent eyes. He slipped his hand into Castiel's and held on tight, also seeming without conscious thought.
On the gurney, Ruby's body had stopped jolting, stopped fighting an invisible enemy. The intern holding her shoulders to keep her still jerked in surprise at the sudden lack of movement, but they wheeled her out the door anyway. Sam leaned forward despite the vertigo caused by the movement, trying to watch for as long as possible.
At last the room was still again, and they were alone. The raspy intake of Dean's shaky breath filled the air, loud and harsh. Castiel and Sam looked to him immediately, saw his white face and big eyes, the way he swayed on his feet.
"Damn it," Sam spat. The six-year-old was back, had to be, for Dean to look so frightened and shocked by something that was actually very tame in comparison to the things he usually faced on a daily basis. What was this? Why did this keep happening?
The boy paid him no mind, though, just turned to Castiel and lifted his arms in mute appeal. Castiel scooped him up easily and held him to his heart, then moved back over to the bed so Sam could place a shaking hand on his back. He felt the tremors going through the little body and was stupidly, helplessly furious at his total inability to handle this situation.
"Dean?" he asked carefully. "You in there, little buddy?"
Dean nodded against Castiel's chest, eyelids drooping. "Tired."
"Rest then. It's all right. Cas and I will stay here."
He glanced to Castiel for confirmation, and the angel nodded. He would stay.
Sam was childishly grateful. It was so good to have someone to share this with. He didn't even have the words.
Castiel sat in the big plastic chair next to the bed, his feet propped up on the railing. Dean curled against his chest, sleeping or dozing with his hands twisted in Castiel's shirt. It was not uncomfortable, though it really probably ought to be.
An orderly had brought Sam a tepid, bland meal, and he picked at it listlessly, letting his head lean back against the pillows. "I wish they'd tell us what's going on," he fretted aloud. "Ruby should be awake now, right? You protected her with your angel stuff while Dean was doing his lisping little-kid exorcism. Which I'm sure was adorable and I wish I'd been able to hear it, but whatever. Damn, these green beans are ice cold."
Sam was bitchy when he was concussed, Castiel noted absently. He did not remark on the phenomenon.
The young man tapped his fork irritably on his plastic plate. "This sucks. I hate being stuck here. I hate this hospital. This bed hurts my back. I don't even like stroganoff."
"It looks rather like intestines," Castiel said, nodding in agreement.
Dean giggled fuzzily into his tie, and Sam made a face and put his fork down. "Well, that certainly killed what little appetite I had. Thanks, man."
"You are welcome."
Dean mumbled sleepily and rubbed his face into Castiel's shirt, mussing it thoroughly, then settled down again, still and limp and warm. Sam looked at him, and a transformation passed over his face, wiping away the annoyance, the sharp discomfort, and replacing it with something much more beautiful. Castiel couldn't help but stare, infinitely fascinated. Sometimes he thought that he had never truly understood what love was until he had met the Winchester brothers, despite millenia and eons spent contemplating the all-encompassing love of the Almighty. Strange how something so small could feel so large.
"Is he all right?" Sam asked. "I didn't mean to bother him."
Castiel didn't even have to look to know the answer. He was constantly aware, now, of Dean and everything that was going on with him, down to the smallest breaths and minutest twitches. "He is well. It has been a long, tiring day."
"Yeah." Sam let his head sink back into the pillow and stared straight ahead, blinking slowly. "I don't understand...we gotta fix him, Cas."
"He is not broken." Castiel passed a hand over the boy's soft hair.
"You know what I mean. Bad enough that our life has suddenly become Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but...why does his mind keep switching back and forth? It...it really scares me. And every time, it seems, he spends more and more time as a little kid and less time as, as Dean. I want my brother back."
Castiel frowned. "He hasn't gone anywhere."
Sam clenched his fists and huffed out a breath. "You know what I mean!"
"I'm not sure that I do." Castiel tilted his head to the side to study the human at a different angle. "Perhaps you have not noticed, but Dean is happy when his mind reverts to childhood. He is still himself, but he is trusting and innocent, and he believes absolutely that you and I will care for him, that we will care for everything. It is...relaxing. In all the time I've known him, he has never been so peaceful and at ease in his mind. I do not think that this is a bad thing, for now. Eventually he will have to return and take up his responsibilities again, but the Apocalypse is not happening today. It is doing us no harm for Dean to be as he is."
Sam stared at him for a long moment, and Castiel stared back, trying to understand. Was what he had said so very shocking to the young man?
Sam finally blinked and shook his head, looking away. "Somehow, I kinda doubt that you've ever thought or said anything remotely like that before. Aren't you angels always all about the party line, the serious mission? And yet here you are, happy that Dean is getting a break. Uriel was right—you like him."
Castiel looked down, abruptly abashed, turning inward, though his eyes were fixed on the messy blond mop that rested on his chest. Was it true? Had he changed so much? Certainly the day had been an odd one for him as well, so many new experiences stacking on each other in such quick succession, but had it truly affected his angelic judgement, his dedication to Heaven's will?
Yet he could not see a wrong in this. He could not take back anything he had said. Dean deserved this interlude of peace, however brief, however strange. Whatever his brethren would think if presented with the conundrum, Castiel's answer was solid and sure.
Sam swallowed thickly and pushed back the tray of food, as if the smell sickened him. "You said...Dean is happy as a child?"
"Maybe...maybe that's why the intervals are getting longer, why he's spending less time in his adult mind. Because he prefers it this way, somewhere deep down. Because things get overwhelming for him and he just wants to go back."
Castiel's arms tightened around the small body. "Perhaps that is so."
He thought he might be hearing censure in the younger Winchester's voice. It...troubled him.
"Well, I hope he enjoys his little mental vacation," Sam said, after a long moment of staring at the opposite wall. "It won't be a long one. We can't afford it."