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: 1773
Disclaimer: Pretty sure they’re not mine.
Author’s Note: Semi-sequel to Entertaining Angels, original flavor, but stands alone. Still not answering comments cuz of tendinitis (< chuck>writing this was HARD</chuck>), but I ♥ you all so very, very much.
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Castiel led the way to the Impala, half-running, constantly holding himself back to keep pace with Sam's limping gait. Once there, he opened the passenger side door with one hand, still holding Dean with the other arm, and prodded Sam down to sit before lowering the little boy into his ready grip. When Castiel started to draw back, though, something was snagged, holding him still. He looked down and saw Dean's hand fisted in his sleeve, big eyes staring up at him pleadingly even as his other arm wrapped around Sam's neck.
"I'm not leaving, Dean," he said, making his voice low, smooth, reassuring. "I know you are still upset, but I need to drive the car, and I can't do that and hold you at the same time."
By the saints, that statement sounded...really familiar.
Sam blinked up at him in bleary astonishment. "Wait...you're going to drive the car? When did this happen?"
"While you were unconscious. Dean taught me."
"Huh. I bet that was...interesting."
"That's one way to describe it." Dean's fingers were still clenched in the fabric of his coat, shaking slightly with the intensity of his grip. Castiel covered the tiny hand with his own, trying to loosen the fingers gently. "Truly, Dean, I'm not going anywhere. I will stay with you until this is finished, one way or another. I will not leave you alone again."
Dean swallowed, and managed a hoarse whisper. "Pah-miss?"
Castiel nodded. "I promise."
It was an oath. He would not break it.
Dean nodded, believing, and finally released his coat. Castiel squeezed his hand in thanks, then hurried around to the driver's side. Before he started the engine, though, Sam's brain seemed to finally catch up with the situation.
"Wait, wait. We're leaving? Just like that? Where are we going to go?"
Castiel paused with his hand on the ignition. He did not have an answer. That was unlike him, and it was troubling. "Away. We are going away."
"But...but what about Ruby? We can't just leave her! She was attacked, too, and, and she might be the only one who can help with this, and, and..."
"And you want her." Castiel let his hand fall from the keys and turned in the seat to face Sam. "I know. I know you want her."
Dean had twisted around in Sam's lap so he could keep an eye on the angel, both hands now gripping Sam's neck and shoulder so tightly that Castiel could see red marks on the young man's skin under those desperate little fingers. Both Winchesters blinked at him, one with a complete lack of comprehension, the other with dawning dread.
"I know. And I know it disturbs you to think of treating a person--a woman--as disposable, not worth your trouble. But listen, Sam. You must listen to me. The creature you know as Ruby is not truly a person. It is not a woman. Whatever it once was, it surrendered all traces of humanity it once had centuries ago, including any vestige of gender. Ruby is a demon. It can look after itself."
Sam's eyes were almost tragic. He was torn, Castiel could see that, and he understood. It was difficult having more than one loyalty, especially when one of them was dubious, yet had done good by you as far as you could tell.
Another path, then. "The demon said that those who are plotting against Dean are many. Legion. I only sent one back to the Pit. We must leave before the others pick up the trail."
Sam nodded firmly and looked forward, facing ahead. He did not look at the hospital. "Right, yeah. You're right. Let's go."
Castiel started the car and very carefully backed out of the parking space. This time he didn't hit anything.
Ten minutes later, Sam was fidgeting, Dean was sniffling, and Castiel had no idea where he was. He had a sinking suspicion that this was going to be the usual state of affairs for quite some time.
Well, more precisely, he knew where he was in relation to the cosmos, knew the exact distance between this location and every current battlefield, knew what his brethren were doing and where he ought to be and exactly what would be needed to get there. But in terms of the human words and names for their location, he was completely without a clue. Everything was so different, being stuck on one plane, even if he'd done it voluntarily this time. And human modes of transportation were exceedingly slow and clumsy. He had a new appreciation for the Winchesters and their ability to get where and when they needed to be, if nothing else.
For the most part, Castiel had simply picked a direction and started driving that way, doing his best to choose streets and byways that weren't too busy. His driving skills still left a bit to be desired, though he was learning fast. Once they got out of the city, he would "put the pedal to metal," as Dean put it.
Well, as he used to put it. This small, frightened version of the man he knew probably didn't even know what that phrase meant.
At the thought, he glanced over at the child, aware that Dean had been quiet for far too long. That was never a good thing. The boy lay limply in his brother's arms, still gripping the thin fabric of Sam's garment, twisting it in his fingers as if to chain the Winchesters together with a flimsy shackle of cloth.
Sam was peering down at his brother. His eyes were anxious, watering still with the effects of his illness, dark and shifting in the sporadic luminescence from the streetlights outside the car, traffic signals, the neon glow of signs gleaming from diners and bars and corner shops. Long fingers trembled in Dean's hair, weaving through the sweat-damp clumps and strands. "Hey. Hey. You doing okay, kiddo?"
Dean shook viciously against him, arms quivering with effort as he tried to pull Sam even closer, even harder. After a moment his head jerked back and forth in fierce negation. He wasn't okay. He wasn't anywhere near okay.
And this, too, was completely unlike the Dean Sam and Castiel knew. This silence, this complete withdrawal. Dean fought. It was an immutable truth of the universe.
Even as Castiel wondered, though, Dean turned his head against Sam's breast and looked at him, young eyes big and solemn.
"Dean?" the angel asked carefully.
The boy swallowed. "He was gonna kill me," he whispered.
It shouldn't even have been audible over the rumble of the engine, but Sam was holding the little one to his heart and Castiel was an angel, so they both heard him.
"No, no," Sam said instantly, trying to shush him, trying to press his head down to hide against Sam's chest again. He wasn't contradicting Dean, though, so much as the universe in general, shaking his head in horror at a world that would send assassins against someone so small and defenseless. That would dare wish death on his brother.
"He was," Dean repeated, more firmly. He held his head stubbornly still, not letting Sam protect him from this. "He said so. And he hit me. I knew he was gonna kill me."
Castiel looked him in the eyes, giving him the respect of the truth. "Yes. That was the demon's intention. But it did not succeed."
Dean shuddered and acquiesced to Sam's insistent tugging, the adult's hand enormous on the back of his head as he held him, a shield of flesh with every tendon standing out. More tears, quiet, sad, not of terror now but of a kind of grief. The child Dean was mourning what very well may have been his last shred of innocence, gone now with his ability to deny the shadows of the world. Castiel mourned with him.
Sam pressed a kiss into his hair. He said nothing. He understood what a lonely thing grief was.
Castiel was sorry that he hadn't let Sam drive and kept holding Dean himself. It had seemed the only sensible choice at the time, but for a second, he couldn't remember why.
"Dude!" Sam snapped, looking over at him with wide eyes. "Watch where you're going!"
Castiel frowned at him. "I am."
"You've been staring at me and Dean for like five minutes straight without even glancing at the road! How have we not crashed?" Sam's voice rose rapidly in pitch, suddenly panicked.
"I'm an angel," Castiel said, frowning slightly, still not taking his eyes away from his charges. "I can watch two things at once. Many more than that, actually, but that's not important right now."
Sam stared at him. Castiel was curious as to just how hysterical Sam could become about this.
Dean snuffled a laugh against his brother's chest, voice muffled but somehow clear. "'Sokay, Sammy. It's Cas. Cas is awesome."
"Really?" he squeaked.
"Yeah." Dean gave his shoulder a comforting pat, then snuggled down in Sam's arms and let his eyes drift shut, evidently satisfied that all was well.
In a strange way, this moment of strained levity had done the same for Castiel, too.
Sam, though, was barely keeping it together. He stared at Castiel, matching his unblinking gaze with wide-eyed intensity. "Could you...could you at least pretend to look at the road once in a while? This is really freaking me out."
"Very well." Castiel obliged, content to watch the road now that Dean seemed more at ease. They were beginning to edge out of the city, into bare empty fields dusted with frost in the pale light after midnight. "Sam, what is the name of this state?"
The young man had been gradually calming down with Castiel's apparent attentiveness, but now he stiffened again. "You don't even know where we are?"
Castiel frowned at him. "Of course not. I know exactly where we are. I just don't know the name of it. Your names are so odd, and they change every other century. It's hard to keep track of."
Sam stared at him, arms reflexively tightening around his big-little brother. "Iowa, man. We're in Iowa. Just left Des Moines."
"Hmm." Castiel looked back to the road. "Don't worry. I have everything under control."
Sam took him at his word, settling down and staring out the windshield, shoulders slowly coming down from around his ears. Dean released a sniffling little wheeze, the child version of adult Dean's hearty snore. It was all very peaceful.
Castiel wished he had been telling the truth.