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: 1718
Disclaimer: Pretty sure they’re not mine.
Author’s Note: Semi-sequel to Entertaining Angels, original flavor, but stands alone. Yeah, so this one came out a little faster. Guess you might say I was inspired.
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The Impala had been parked crookedly across two spaces, one wheel up on the concrete barricade, attesting to how hastily Dean had parked it here in his rush to get to Sam. It made the initial driving lesson—How to Back Out of Park—extremely difficult.
"Slower, slower!" Dean bounced up and down in the passenger seat, his young, high voice even higher with anxiety. If this kept up any longer it was going to become an inaudible squeak. "Just tap the pedal, you lead foot! God! I can't believe how bad you are at this!"
Castiel frowned, clenching his hands around the steering wheel. His shoulders and upper back were rigid with tension, and he was starting to get a headache. He hadn't realized that was even possible.
"Is your foot on the brake? Keep your foot on the brake! Don't just rest it there—you gotta push it down, you dumbass angel! I swear, if you leave a scratch on the paint, I'm going back to atheism. Swear to God! Well, swear to something, anyway."
Castiel took a deep breath. He did not sigh. The Impala rumbled around him, sounding distinctly unfriendly, hostile to the outsider daring to sit in her driver's seat, caress her controls. And now he was even starting to think like Dean.
This was going a bit too far.
He turned his head to give the child a narrow-eyed look. "Your constant yelling is not making this task any easier, I hope you realize."
Dean was on his knees on the seat, now, leaning with both hands on the dash, peering over the hood as if afraid that they were going to run into something. Even though they weren't moving. He flashed a sudden, white-toothed grin, looking at Castiel out of the corner of one eye. "Are you bitching me out?" He sounded unreasonably delighted by the prospect. "You are! You're bitching me out! Castiel, bitchass angel of the freakin' Lord! Yes. Awesome!" He pumped his fist in what appeared to be a gesture of victory.
Castiel eyes narrowed even further, his frown deepening. He would not sigh. He would not.
Dean giggled, clear and beautiful. "Damn, you and Sam should get together and have a bitchface contest. My little bro would win for sure, but wow, you could really give him a run for his money."
The child looked to the hospital, then, face blanking, eyes deadening. Thinking about his brother, pale and still in a railed bed, guarded by a demon.
Castiel let his foot slip from the brake and nudged the accelerator, making the car jerk forward a few inches, then slammed on the brake again. Dean kept himself from falling into the footwell only by virtue of already having his hands braced on the dashboard. He pushed himself back and landed with his butt on the seat, mouth open, working soundlessly for a moment.
The swearing was long and inventive and undeniably strange, coming from that cherubic little mouth. But the deadness in his eyes was gone.
"Son of a bitch, Cas! This should not be that hard!"
Castiel squinted at him.
"I learned to drive when I was ten, dude. Ten. How old are you? Millennia? Eons? Oh my God!"
"Now I believe that you are the one who is 'bitching,' Dean."
The boy went silent. He looked forward and wrapped his arms around his chest, legs dangling over the edge of the seat. He was pouting. Castiel could not deny the wave of smug satisfaction that pulsed through him. Got him that time.
Definitely beginning to think too much like Dean. He really shouldn't be spending so much time around this infuriating, fascinating human. But who else was going to look after him? The child or the adult.
Dean scrubbed a hand over his face and pulled in a deep, shaky breath, his chest expanding in the too-big t-shirt, then relaxing again. "Okay. Okay. This...this is fucking weird, man. I'm getting way worked up over stupid shit. It's the kid brain messing with me, it must be. I don't see things the same way as I did before stupid Ruby did her stupid magic on my stupid self. My head doesn't work the same. Neither does my body, of course, but that's more obvious."
He took another deep breath, then finally looked over at Castiel, his eyes tragic. "I don't remember being this hair-trigger when I was little, but then, who remembers being six years old? That's a long fucking time ago, man. It was fun at first, being a munchkin, cussing at Ruby in this sweet little voice and making goo-goo eyes at the nurses, but I don't like it anymore. I want to be myself again."
Castiel carefully shifted into park and turned back the keys, cutting the engine so that silence filled the car. They both needed to step back, regroup. It was all just too much. Too much.
Dean wiggled around so that he sat sideways in the bench seat, leaning his head against the back rest, knees drawn up. "Why are you sticking around? Don't you have important things to do, seals to protect, people to save? Taking some annoying brat to go get some clothes has to be pretty far down on the heavenly priority list."
Castiel said nothing for a long moment. He could hear his brothers and comrades talking, discussing the war, sending urgent messages, calling for assistance on battlefronts across the globe. The tide of war moved constantly back and forth, and every soldier on the field—every angel, every demon, every hunter, every victim—was potentially the fulcrum on which all would turn. He shouldn't be away for long, and he was sure that Uriel would thoroughly "bitch him out" when he returned.
But he knew what he had to say, what was true and immediate in this moment, this now. "You are important, too."
"No offense, but that's sort of ridiculous, man. I'm just a guy. A little kid, right now. I don't get it."
"We still have work for you to do." How many times would have to say this? How long would it take for this man to understand?
Dean blinked at him. "Yeah, okay. Whatever you say, Mr. Sunshine-Puppies."
But he seemed to come out of his funk, then, turning forward and lowering his knees, back straight and eyes focused again. "All right, let's try this one more time. And remember, you gotta ease down on the accelerator. Ease. Act like there's an egg under the pedal and you don't wanna break it."
Castiel tilted his head. That might help. Castiel was no good with these infernal human contraptions, but he knew how to be gentle with something small and breakable. "All right. Let's try it."
It actually worked.
"It was a fire," Dean told the sales lady. "Lost everything in a fire. Last night. It was bad." He coughed into his tiny fist, small and decorous. "My brother's still in the hospital with smoke in...in-hell...in-something. He hasn't woken up yet."
His eyes watered. Being an emotional young child apparently had its advantages.
The middle-aged woman's face went soft and open, a swift and complete transformation from the hard-eyed glare she had given them when she first spotted the little boy's bare feet and disheveled appearance. "Oh, don't worry, honey. We'll fix you up with everything you need. You and your...?" She looked at Castiel.
"Uncle Cas," Dean chirped.
"You and your...Uncle Cas." She gave her head a quick little shake, still staring.
"It's short for Cassandra," Dean said with a wicked little grin only Castiel saw.
"Short for Lucas," Castiel interjected smoothly. "When Dean was a toddler he seemed to prefer the second syllable, and we haven't managed to wean him off it yet." He gave her a brief, dazzling smile, drawing on fuzzy memories of human joy to make it as genuine as possible.
"Ah." She blinked, long and slow. "Well...Lucas. Don't you worry about a thing. Kohl's has everything your nephew will need."
She hurried off, presumably to begin gathering the necessary items, and Dean looked up at him. "Dude! That was awesome. I didn't know angels could lie."
"It wasn't a lie," Castiel said primly. "Merely a...story."
"Sorry to break it to ya, but they're pretty much the same thing."
Castiel's forehead wrinkled. It honestly had not occurred to him to explain the truth. Dean had been weaving a tale for the woman's benefit, and he had gone along without even thinking about it. This might be a problem. "Telling her the full story was clearly not an option."
"Well, clearly." Dean shrugged and looked away, already bored with the conversation. He poked at the colorful shirts on a nearby rack, and began tugging them aside one by one, too short to reach the hangers. His eyes were distant and uninterested. "When can we go see Sam?"
"Not for awhile yet." He cast about for a distraction. Dean's childish mind was much like a pendulum, it seemed, constantly returning to the same point. Castiel would have to push his thoughts in a different direction. "Why is it always a fire? You used the same story when I was an ill-clad child, as well."
"Hey, 'it was fire' always works. Explains your lack of stuff and gets sympathy points on top of it. I should use it more often. Like, even when nobody has been turned into a kid." Dean circled around to a different rack, this one festooned with small t-shirts bearing various graphic prints. "Ooh, Batman!"
He jumped up, trying to grab the hanger of a black shirt with some sort of yellow symbol, and couldn't quite manage it, thumping back down to the floor with a frustrated grunt. Castiel began to reach out to fetch it for him, hopefully forestalling him jumping up and down like a rabbit on a pogo stick, but Dean solved the problem by simply grabbing the fabric in his reach and giving a good hard pull. The shirt popped off the hanger and dropped into the boy's hands.
Dean cackled gleefully. Several nearby shoppers gave him suspicious glances.
This was going to be a long day.