Title: The Mouths of Children
Characters: Dean, Castiel, Sam, Ruby
Category: Gen, Humor, Crack
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: 1602
Disclaimer: Pretty sure they’re not mine.
Author’s Note: Semi-sequel to Entertaining Angels, original flavor, but stands alone. I'm not sure I'm really happy with this chapter, but it seems to be taking an excruciating length of time for me to write anything lately, and I didn't want to leave you guys without an update for any longer. So here is one.
First stop was the bathroom to get lollipop out of Castiel's hair. Dean sat beside the sink on the cold marble counter, splitting his time between shifting uncomfortably and staring into his companion’s face. Castiel wet some paper towels with warm water and did his best to melt the candy out of his tangled locks, thinking about what to do next. Food or clothes? He wasn’t used to prioritizing these sorts of things. Usually it was more like picking which demon to destroy first, or trying to decide which seal was in the most immediate danger and where the angelic troops should be posted so as best to oppose Lilith.
“You have nice eyes,” Dean said, still staring fixedly.
“Thank you, Dean.” Castiel gave the lollipop an experimental tug. Still stuck. “Though these eyes actually belong to my vessel.”
Dean shook his head, green eyes wide and unblinking. “No, I think they’re yours. You had the same eyes when you were a kid, too.”
“You may be choosing to interpret these details in a manner that pleases you, rather than one that truly suits the facts.”
“Whatever.” Dean sighed loudly and swung his legs, hands hanging limp in his lap. “Can we go now? I’m bored.”
“We can go as soon as I disentangle this lollipop. It is incumbent upon me to care for my vessel as much as is practical.” Castiel gave it another pull. Finally starting to come loose.
Dean stood up on the counter and leaned over to have a look, one small hand resting on Castiel‘s shoulder. “I‘ll get it for ya.”
A sudden sharp, hard pain in Castiel’s scalp, and Dean presented him with the sucker, still fuzzy with clumped black hairs. The little boy grinned broadly, eyes bright and shining. “See? Toldja I’d get it.”
“Ah.” Castiel took the lollipop from him and stared at it thoughtfully. It was purple.
“Can I have it back? Still hungry, here.”
Castiel considered. He was pretty sure that most humans would view that as a distinctly unsanitary practice. “No. Your small body needs better nutrition than sugar, grape flavoring, and hair.”
Dean plopped grumpily down on the counter. “Fine. We’d better go to the hospital cafeteria, then. I’m still wearing the kitty pants that nurse gave me.” He plucked at the knee of his scrub pants, small face sour.
Castiel nodded, grateful that the decision had been made. “That sounds like a good idea.”
Dean beamed at him.
Castiel was unable to resist smiling back. Really, it took so little to make the child happy. Listening to his opinions, treating him seriously. This wasn't so hard. Castiel reached out to lift Dean into his arms again, but the boy leaned back, hands up to keep him away.
"Hey, man, lay off! I can walk!"
"You don't have any shoes." Castiel frowned down at the dirty feet, the wiggling toes. Human feet were so fragile. They needed protection.
Dean rolled his eyes. "Yeah, but unlike some randomly kidified people I could mention, I have calluses." He lifted his foot in proof, all but shoving it into Castiel's face. "I can walk."
Castiel tilted his head, then swept his hand toward the door. "As you wish."
The boy hitched forward as if to jump down, then glanced nervously toward the floor. It was a fair drop. "Uh. Put me down?"
Castiel was careful not to show his amusement, merely nodding seriously. "Very well." He carefully picked Dean up off the counter and set him on the floor. "Please lead the way to the cafeteria, as I'm sure you've already discovered its location."
"Of course, dude. Gotta know where the food is." Dean marched out the door, pumping his little arms as if this was the most important walk in the history of humanity. Castiel followed, effortlessly keeping pace. Only under these strange circumstances, it seemed, would he ever be able to keep up with Dean Winchester.
The cafeteria did not actually serve chocolate chip pancakes, but this was not much of a hindrance for Dean. He just leaned against the metal counter, made his eyes large and round, and asked the cook to "put some choc-lit chips in, please?" Castiel wasn't sure, but he thought that maybe Dean had deliberately lisped a couple of the words. When the man looked to him for permission, Castiel shrugged gently and did his best to look like a fond parent. It wasn't particularly hard.
Dean did indeed order almost everything he had mentioned in Sam's room. Castiel had to carry the tray for him, Dean keeping a sharp eye on him to make sure he didn't drop anything. At the table, the child ate steadily through the pancakes, bacon and sausage, picked at the fruit and eggs, then began to slow down. When he actually began to play with the food, pushing it around the plate with his fork, Castiel frowned and leaned forward.
"Is something wrong?"
Dean's little shoulders slumped, and he let the fork fall haphazardly by his plate, scattering tiny scraps of scrambled egg across the table. "I want to go back to Sammy."
"There's nothing you can do for him. We have to trust Ruby and the doctors to figure it out and take care of him."
He looked up at him, green eyes liquid. "Dude, that just makes it worse."
Yes, he supposed it would. Dean's sense of responsibility was enormous, especially when it came to Sam. And even, apparently, when Dean was only a child himself.
"You suck at this comforting-adult thing." Dean pushed his plate away and put his head down on the table. His voice was muffled by the faux-wood, small and young. "I want my brother."
"I'm sorry." Castiel hesitated, then reached out and brushed his fingers through the boy's messy hair. "We'll go see him again, all right? Just to make sure. Then we'd better get you some clothes."
Dean sniffled for a bit longer, then raised his head, eyes suddenly twinkling. "Yeah, and how are we going to do that? You gonna take me flying? Or do you know how to drive?"
"I suppose it will have to be the second option. Though it's true that I don't know how to drive--you'll have to teach me."
"Oh, no way, man! No way am I letting you use my baby for your angelic driver's ed! I do not trust you that much!"
Castiel tilted his head. "Would you rather we go on the bus?"
Dean scowled ferociously at the table. His poked his finger into the whipped cream on the top of his fruit cup and smeared it across the light brown surface, drawing a stick figure with Xes for eyes. A pink tip of tongue stuck out the corner of his mouth as he worked, adding several details Castiel did not understand the significance of, and then he finally nodded, his shoulders slumping. "Okay, okay. I'll show you how to drive the Impala. But only because my feet probably don't reach the pedals anymore, and I'm pretty sure I'd get pulled over, anyway. The picture on my driver's licenses looks a little different than this."
Castiel nodded. Dean opened a napkin and laid it carefully over the whipped cream drawing, hiding it from view, then slid out of his seat and marched to the door. "C'mon, let's go see Sam."
In Sam's room, Ruby knelt on the floor on the side of the bed hidden from door, drawing something on the tile with pink chalk. Castiel recognized witchcraft, some kind of ritual. Crude, but perhaps it would be effective. She looked up and scowled at their entrance, dark eyes focused on Castiel. "What did I say about the kid and my hair?"
Castiel blinked. "Keep him out of it?"
"Got it in one. So what's going wrong with that plan?"
"Geez, hoity toity much? This isn't about you, Sulfur Girl." Dean rolled his eyes, making a beeline for Sam's bed. He grabbed the railing with both hands and started to scramble up, but his bare feet were slipping. Castiel hurried over and grabbed him before he fell, then lifted him onto the mattress.
Dean wiggled around to perch next to Sam's head, sitting cross-legged and staring into his brother's slack, pale face. "Hey, Sammy." He patted the young man's cheek. "You gotta wake up soon, okay? It's freaking boring around here with only Miss Highway to Hell and Mister Stairway to Heaven to entertain me. It's all just a lot of blah blah blah." He held his hands up next to his face, opening and closing his fingers and thumb as if manipulating puppets. "Predictable, man. I'm even starting to miss your annoying lectures, and that's just wrong."
He continued in that vein for several minutes. Castiel circled the bed to look down at Ruby's work, watching every move. "I do not understand the problem. He isn't in your hair. If anything, he may be in Sam's."
She pressed the chalk a little too hard against the floor, and it snapped in half.
"Oh." Castiel took a step back. "I'm being too literal again, aren't I?"
She just looked at him.
He backed slowly around the bed and waited for Dean.
After an excruciating length of time, Dean ran out of things to say. He stared at Sam's face silently for a few seconds, then sighed heavily and leaned down to kiss his brother's forehead. "Get better, Sammy."
He held out his arms for Castiel to pick him up and let himself be carried out to the Impala.