Genre and/or Pairing: Dean Winchester/Castiel
Spoilers: none, it’s an AU!
Warnings: schmoop, adorable kid!Sam
Word Count: 7,387
Summary: Unexpected events, unexpected discoveries, one great playdate. Part 3 in the Once Upon a Wendigo verse.
Author's note: Sorry for the delay, but better late than never, eh? Thank you to all our wonderful readers new and old. And to all of you who leave us feedback, message us, poke us and provoke us...thank you! If you’re just joining us, you don’t need to read Part 1, but it helps get your bearings on this wonderful universe we’re creating. You can read Part 1 here. Hope you enjoy and let us know what you think!
“Alright, Sammy, close your eyes.” Sam drops the submarine and scrunches his eyes shut as Dean pours warm water over his head, rinsing out the shampoo. Suds slide down from the crown of Sam’s head and join the bubbles in the opaque bath water.
“Can I look now?”
“Not yet.” Dean gives Sam’s hair a final rinse, pleased to see the water run clear. He sweeps Sam’s wet bangs off his forehead.
“Alright, bath’s over.” Dean reaches for a towel.
Sam stands quickly, the water sloshing up against the sides of the tub. Sam’s favorite bath time toys -- a submarine, a tiny water pistol, and a red plastic stegosaurus -- bob half-concealed in the soapy water. Sam shakes his hair wildly, water droplets flying off in all directions. Dean wraps a large towel around him, lifts him out of the tub, and sets him on the bathroom rug. Sam immediately takes off to his room, leaving a trail of water in his wake.
“No running,” he reminds Sam. Dean turns back to the tub and pulls the stopper, letting the water drain. He flips the light switch and follows Sam to his room.
Sam is standing on his bed, shivering in his towel. “Dean, it’s cold.”
Dean hands Sam his underwear. “That’s because you’re wet. Put these on.”
Sam begins to rub himself dry. He steps into his Batman patterned underwear and pulls them up with a smart snap of the elastic.
Dean pulls out a pair of flannel pajama pants and a blue thermal long sleeve. Sam pulls on the pants and grins at Dean. “Thanks, Dean!” he chirps before he jumps off his bed and runs off, hair still wet and little feet thundering down the stairs.
“I thought you were cold!” Dean yells after him. He picks up Sam’s towel, abandoned on the floor, and the thermal shirt before following his little brother downstairs. Sam is in the den, legos and army men already littered on the floor around him.
“Put your shirt on, Sam.” Sam pouts and struggles through the sleeves. “Now hold still.” Dean places the towel over his head and starts rubbing his hair dry.
“Dean,” Sam whines, “stop it, I can do it myself.”
“Then why are you making me do it?” Dean teases.
Sam pulls his head out from under the towel and huffs. “‘m dry.”
Dean gives up and tosses the towel in the laundry room before heading to the living room. His students’ papers are spread out over the coffee table and he can’t put off grading them much longer. He settles down on the couch and uncaps his red pen with his teeth. He pulls the nearest paper off the table and begins to read.
Halfway through his second paper -- and his second ‘C’ by the looks of it -- Sam peeks out from the den.
“Can I play in the living room? I won’t make a mess,” he promises, eyes wide and pleadingly innocent.
“If you can keep the volume down, then sure, kiddo.”
Sam mimes pulling a zipper closed over his mouth and disappears back into the den. He reemerges carrying an armful of green soldiers and a toy tank.
Sam drops his toys with a loud clatter. Dean clears his throat pointedly, and Sam looks up. “Sorry!” he apologizes, then seems to remember himself and repeats, quieter, “sorry!”
They settle into a comfortable semi-silence, Dean working his way through the first stack of papers while Sam whisper-orders his green men into complicated formations. Sam’s make-believe war rises in tension -- there are traitors in their midsts, men are defecting, morale is low. When Sam’s war reaches a boiling point, the tank rolls in to restore the peace. He presses the sound effect buttons located on the side of the tank and Dean’s attention is blasted away with the accompanying explosions. A lone toy soldier lands on Dean’s lap.
Dean quirks an eyebrow and Sam shrugs by way of explanation. “He ‘sploded.”
Dean places the soldier on top of his stack of graded papers and brings a finger up to his lips, signaling for quiet.
“Sorry,” Sam giggles, mimicking the motion.
The war is over, peace is achieved, and silence settles in its wake. Sam rolls the unneeded tank back into the den, crawling all the way. He returns with a jumbo coloring book and a box of crayons. Sam lays stomach-down and props himself onto his elbows, arranging the crayons in rainbow order and flipping to an unmarked page toward the back of the coloring book. The scratch of a pen and the dull sound of crayons rubbing against paper fill the room, punctuated by the occasional turning of a page.
Half an hour later and nearly done with both his classes’ papers, Dean pauses to stretch and roll his shoulders. Sam looks up from his coloring book and puts the crayons back in their box before making his way to Dean’s side on the couch. Dean stops reading another awful paper on vampires and their “romantic” gestures in converting their human lovers to peer at Sam. Sam blinks back at him.
“Can I watch?”
Dean simply drapes his left arm around Sam, letting him settle into his side before continuing to grade the last of the pile.
When Dean tucks Sam into bed that night, Sam’s docile as a lamb. He rubs his eyes with drowsy indulgence and looks up at Dean.
“Dean,” Sam yawns, “can I go to Ruby’s house tomorrow? Ruby lives with her mama and her mama said I could come over.”
Dean frowns. “Ruby’s the friend with the dogs, right?”
“I want to pet them! Dean, please? Pleeeaaase?”
Dean turns on the bedside lamp and turns off the main light. Sam’s pleading eyes glimmer in the soft glow of the lamp. “Well,” Dean sighs, knowing he doesn’t have a legitimate reason not to let him go, “how about I meet Ruby’s mom tomorrow? Then maybe you can go over Friday after school.”
Sam kicks off his blankets in a fit of joy. “I’m gonna play with puppies!”
“Easy there, cowboy. It’s not set in stone--” but Sam’s not listening, already lost in the prospect of a playdate with Ruby and her dogs.
Once Sam settles back down, Dean tucks him in again and kisses Sam on the forehead. “Night, kiddo.”
Sam’s hand snags Dean’s sleeve as he pulls away.
“You haven’t read me a story yet!” Sam had been on the brink of sleep when Dean carried him upstairs, but it seemed he had found his second wind.
“Alright, hold on.”
In light of Castiel’s concern, the two had come to a mutual agreement that it would be in Sam’s best interest to read ‘age-appropriate reading material.’ Dean hadn’t mentioned it at the time, but Sam’s bookshelf is very much lacking in anything Cas might venture to call ‘appropriate.’
He’s about to make due with a story from the complete collection of Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales when his eyes stray. Laying innocently on its side is a well-loved and familiar book. It’s a heavy tome, leatherbound, and the binding is worn but intact. The pages are made of thick parchment and the entire text is handwritten in a dark, black ink.
Dean weighs his options.
He walks back over to Sam’s bed and sits on the edge, propping the old book open on his lap.
“Uncle Bobby’s book!”
Dean smiles and turns the pages thoughtfully. This will have to do until he can get himself to the bookstore.
“Sam,” he begins, “have I ever read you anything about skinwalkers?”
“--and they’re not good because they’re monsters but they don’t eat people so they’re not bad and they can turn into animals and they’re really fast and--”
Castiel closes his eyes and lets out a slow breath. Sam is especially enthusiastic about today’s painting, what is presumably a skinwalker in mid-transformation from a plump middle-aged man into possibly a coyote. There’s not a drop of blood to be found in today’s painting, he notes, which is a vast improvement. Still, Dean had promised lighter bedtime material. Perhaps his first mistake had been to assume Dean owned lighter bedtime material.
Not easily discouraged, Castiel sets to rectify this surmountable problem. As the children begin to clean up at the end of the day, he pulls out several books from the bookcase and organizes them into a small pile for Sam to take home.
“Sam,” he explains, when he pulls him aside, “you are a very smart boy so I’m going to give you a special homework assignment.”
Sam’s head pops up through the hoodie he’s struggling to put on. “What kind of homework?”
“I am going to lend you some of my favorite books. I want you to read one book every night with Dean. When you’re done, bring them back and I’ll lend you more. Do you think you can do that?” Sam nods eagerly and Castiel helps him place the books in his Thor-themed backpack.
Sam pulls the zipper closed and shrugs on his bag. Castiel fishes his hood from underneath the shoulder strap and ushers him toward the door. “Start with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and we’ll take it from there.”
“Yessir, Mister Milton!” Sam salutes before spotting his classmates and running out into the playground.
Castiel is wiping dried tempera paint off the desks with a damp rag when his phone vibrates in his pocket.
“Hello?” he answers.
“Guess who’s cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year?” Anna’s cheerful voice greets him.
“We’re planning Thanksgiving already? And please tell me it’s not Gabriel.”
“I want us to eat together, not die together,” Anna laughs. “No, I will, provided you provide me with comfortable lodging and VIP access to your kitchen.”
“Of course, my home is always open to you.” Castiel glances at the large, blocky calendar in the classroom. “Have you bought your tickets yet?”
“I wanted to make sure you’d be available to host us before buying the tickets,” Anna explains. “Inias misses you very much.”
Inias’s voice chimes over the line as if on cue. “Mama! Mama! Up! Up!”
“Oh, hold on. Here’s the little angel now.” Anna lets out a small grunt as she presumably hoists the three year-old up onto her hip.
“Say hello,” she instructs.
“Uncle Cath!” Inias lisps into the phone happily.
“Hello, Inias.” Castiel imagines Inias cradling Anna’s phone and pressing it close to his face. “Have you used the tricycle I gave you for your birthday?”
“Mama taked me to the park,” Inias states proudly.
“She took you to the park?” Castiel gently corrects.
“Yeah she took me.”
“Did you ride your tricycle there?”
“Yeah! At the park!”
Castiel hums in agreement, rubbing at a spot of brown paint sticking steadfast to the surface of a desk. “Did you play in the sand?”
“No,” Inias grumbles, “thand dirty.”
“Speaking of dirty, Inias has to take a bath! Isn’t that right, baby?” Inias squeals a laugh. “Okay, say goodbye to your Uncle Cas.”
“Bye-bye Uncle Cath, love you!” Inias takes off across the living room of Anna’s one-story home. “Bath! Bath!”
“Okay, Cas, I’m going to let you go--oh! Before I forget,” Anna says, voice rushed, “quick update on Gabriel: don’t mention Kali.”
Castiel rolls his eyes. “Are they off again?”
“I think for good this time. Then again,” Anna seems to reconsider, “it’s always ‘for good’ with those two.”
“They make quite the dramatic pair. It’s very...” Cas fumbles for a suitable descriptor.
“Hollywood?” Anna supplies helpfully. “They don’t work in tinseltown for nothing.”
Inias calls impatiently from the bathroom. “Mama!”
“Coming, sweetie! Sorry, Cas, motherhood calls. I’ll buy tickets for a week before, that sound good?”
“Let me know when you have all the details. I’d like to pick you up from the airport.”
Anna hangs up with a promise to call again and Castiel pockets his phone. From the open door, he can hear the children running and playing in the schoolyard, little voices yelling “You’re it!” in rounds. A chilly breeze sweeps into the classroom and Castiel shivers. He deposits the dirty rag in the storage room sink, then goes to pull on his sweater.
When his heads pops up through his crew-neck pullover, he is greeted with a handsome sight. Dean Winchester is leaning in the doorway, posture relaxed with his hands in his pockets.
“Dean,” Castiel greets, pulling his sweater the rest of the way down to cover his torso.
“Hey,” Dean smiles as he pushes off the door jamb with his hip. “I was outside waiting for Ruby’s mom and I figured since I’m here...” he trails off and shrugs.
“You figured you’d come and say hello,” Castiel finishes for him.
“Something like that.” He walks forward until the two are standing barely a breath apart, and Castiel has to tilt his head back the slightest fraction of an angle to look Dean in the eyes.
“Well it’s a good thing you did. I have something for you,” Castiel exhales, voice deep.
“Do you now,” Dean’s voice drops an octave.
“Yes,” Castiel says curtly, turning abruptly to snatch a folder off his desk. He hands it to Dean, who shoots him a confused look before opening it. Inside there is a single painting -- and it’s totally the skinwalker from last night’s bedtime story. Fuck.
“Uh, not quite what I had in mind.” Dean jokes.
Castiel crosses his arms. “Not quite what I had in mind either. Dean Winchester, do you not recall the reason we even met? This,” he points, “is the reason, in case you forgot.”
“Well when you put it like that, you make it sound like it’s a good thing,” he smiles disarmingly.
“Dean,” Castiel admonishes, but his self-righteous flare of anger dampens a bit.
“I know, I know. I’m sorry!” Dean closes the folder and sets it down. “I’ve been meaning to go book shopping. Would you,” Dean shifts his weight to one side, “want to come?”
“Evidence does seem to imply you need guidance in the matter.”
Dean barks a laugh and leans on Cas’s desk. “So what are you doing Friday night? Sam’s going on a playdate. We could, too,” he proposes, “maybe even pick up where we left off.”
“Very tempting,” Castiel mock-deliberates, moving into Dean’s personal space.
“Sounds like you need a little convincing,” Dean plays along, but sees Castiel’s gaze flit between Dean’s eyes and mouth.
“You’re making me want to kiss you,” Castiel confesses.
Dean hooks his fingers through Castiel’s belt loops and tugs him forward. “Well,” he says, tilting his head down, “who’s gonna see?”
“Dean!” Sam rushes into the room, grass stains on his knees. Dean and Castiel hastily push apart. “My backpack is heavy,” he thrusts it into Dean’s side, “you take it.” Sam speeds away back to the schoolyard.
“You say ‘please,’ Sam!” Dean turns back to Cas, cheeks and ears tinged pink. He strings an arm through the shoulder straps and picks up the discarded folder. “I’m, uh, I’m gonna go put these in the car.”
Dean doesn’t make it to the car.
It happens in slow motion, an eternity in what actually happens in mere seconds. One moment his baby is parked and safe and whole; the next, a sleek, dark blue Bentley Mulsanne pulls up to the curb and parks right into the back bumper of his precious Impala. The loud crunch of the car’s frame echoes in his ears and he’s yelling well before he reaches the scene of the crime.
“No no no no no! What are you doing? Are you blind?” He yells at the driver who exits the car.
A woman with a posh accent emerges, looking generally unperturbed and slightly annoyed. “--I’m going to have to let you go. Some idiot is yelling about his car. No, I’ll call you later.”
“Damn straight I’m yelling about my car,” Dean gesticulates angrily. He glances at the damage and feels his stomach lurch. “I’m going to be sick,” he declares.
The woman pulls off her sunglasses and nestles them in her hair. Her pumps click on the asphalt as she assesses where the two cars have crunched together like the proverbial beast with two backs.
“I don’t see what you’re on about. It’s barely a scratch.”
If he could kill her with a glare she’d be dead ten times over. “You dented the rear bumper! You forced the trunk open and now it won’t close!” He can feel himself turning hysterical.
The woman looks on impassively before turning to run a hand over the hood of her car fondly. Through some act of God, Dean notes with bitter resentment, her car has remained mostly unscathed. If only the same could be said about his baby.
The woman smiles smugly. “You can get yourself a better car,” she mock-consoles, “let that old thing retire.”
“That ‘old thing’,” Dean snaps, “is a 1967 Chevy Impala. That is what we here in the States call a classic car, you--”
“Dean.” Castiel’s authoritative voice cuts him off and Dean closes his mouth with an audible click.
“What,” Dean grits out.
Castiel surreptitiously points out the circle of people amassing around them. Several children and their rubbernecking parents curiously peer on.
“Mommy!!” Ruby comes running out of the front gate, skirt flowing around her knees and arms thrown wide.
“Hello, sweetheart!” The woman scoops Ruby up and spins her in a circle. She gracefully perches Ruby on her hip, then turns to Dean.
“Look,” she says, irritated, “get a quote for the damage and send me the bill. Here’s my card.” She pulls a card from her coat and hands it over before dismissing him entirely and showering her daughter with kisses. Ruby squeals in delight.
Dean squints at the business card. Bela Talbot, Auctioneer, Christie’s New York Salesroom.
“Mommy, can Sam come over? We’re gonna play with the puppies!”
Bela tucks Ruby’s hair behind her ears. “Of course he can, darling.”
Dean looks on in mildly disguised horror. Oh hell no. “You’re Ruby’s mom?”
While Dean calls the car rental company, Sam wanders over to the damaged end of the Impala. His curious little hand reaches out to investigate the jagged metal and Castiel rushes over to pull Sam’s hand back.
“Be careful, Sam,” Castiel cautions. “The metal looks sharp; we don’t want you getting tetanus.”
“What’s that?” Sam asks, looking up at his instructor inquisitively.
“It’s an infection.” Sam crosses his arms and tucks his hands safely away under his armpits.
“Is baby going to be okay?”
Castiel looks over at Dean, who’s running a hand through his hair and gesticulating irritably. “Is that the only car you have available? Come on, man,” he bemoans into his phone.
“It’ll be fine,” Castiel assures Sam.
Dean wanders over, pocketing his cell phone. “This is ridiculous,” he mumbles.
“Is the rental coming here? I can drive you two home.” Castiel offers.
Dean’s ears color. “Uh, actually, that would be nice. Thanks, Cas.”
Sam giggles. “His name is Mr. Milton.” Dean rolls his eyes and ruffles Sam’s hair before going to pull the booster seat from his car.
“But his name is Mister Milton,” Sam insists, “right, Mister Milton?”
Cas smiles fondly. “Of course,” and smoothes Sam’s hair back into place.
“Pull over right here,” Dean points to a house in the middle of the street.
“The next house up.”
“That’s a nice house,” Castiel comments. It’s a large house, he means to say, especially for just two people.
“Yeah,” Dean nods. “Would you like to come in? Have a beer?” he offers. In the backseat Sam is already trying to pull at the fasteners keeping him in his booster seat.
“Dean, let’s go, I’m hungry.”
Castiel puts his car into park and lets it stall. “Perhaps another time.”
Dean resists the urge to lean over and kiss him. Instead he opens the door and announces loudly, “All right, all right, you monster,” unbuckling Sam and hefting his booster seat into his arms, “let’s get you something to eat.”
Dean closes the rear door with his hip and peeks in through the passenger window. “See ya later, Cas.”
Castiel sees Sam thump a fist against Dean’s leg as they walk to the door, “It’s Mister Milton!”
“Ow, okay, it’s Mr. Milton, Jesus.”
Castiel waits until the brothers are safely indoors before slowly pulling away from the curb.
“So you want me to drive two hours to Lawrence just to tow your car from Sam’s school and drag its sorry ass another two hours all the way back to Salina?”
“I wouldn’t trust anyone else with it.”
Bobby grunts, defeated. “Any other requests while I’m bending over backwards for you, Princess?”
“Come over for dinner. I’m making steak.”
“And broccoli!” Sam chimes in from the kitchen island, munching on a baby carrot dipped in ranch.
By the time Dean’s pulled the steaks out of the oven, Bobby’s old tow truck audibly rattles down the street. Sam runs into the kitchen from the den and announces excitedly, “Uncle Bobby’s here!” before scurrying off to the hallway to greet him. Bobby lets himself in and before he can take off his hat, Sam full-body slams into his legs and holds on tight. Bobby picks him up, albeit with effort.
“Either I’m getting old, or you’re getting big there, Sam.”
“I’m growing,” Sam replies and hugs Bobby tightly around the neck.
Dean pops his head into the hallway. “Wash up, dinner’s ready.”
The boys don’t need telling twice, spurred on by the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen and the insistent growls of their stomachs. By the time they’ve washed their hands, dinner is served in the dining room and Dean offers Bobby an open beer.
“Thanks for coming, Bobby.”
Sam pats at the seat next to him and Bobby sits. “If your daddy could see what you’ve done to that car -- nearly gave me a heart attack just looking at it.”
Dean takes a swig from his own beer. “You should have seen it happen. And the woman who hit me -- jesus! -- the most self-concerned, privileged, condescending--” He glances at Sam who has forgone his utensils and is eating his grilled fish with his bare hands.
“...woman I have ever met. She didn’t even care that she ruined a classic car. Told me to send her the bill and drove off in her precious Bentley.”
“Charming,” Bobby drolls. “Well from what I seen, the repairs ain’t gonna be cheap.”
Dean pulls Bela’s card out of his pocket and slides it over to Bobby. “By all means, send her the bill.”
Sam holds his plate out in front of him. “Dean, can I have more broccoli?”
Dean scoops another serving of steamed vegetables onto Sam’s plate and dinner continues, Sam’s usual chatter filling the space.
“At school today Mr. Milton played the piano. He sang My Country Tiffany,” Sam tells Bobby confidently.
“Pretty sure you mean My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” Bobby replies, amused.
“‘S’what I said,” Sam confirms, and loudly hums the opening bars of the tune.
“And that’s another thing,” Dean says around the steak in his mouth, “She’s got the most ridiculous British accent I’ve ever heard, just thinking about it sets my blood to boil.” Time has yet to temper Dean’s anger. “You can tell she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth,” he grumbles, stabbing at his mashed potatoes.
Sam picks up his fork and stabs at his plate, too.
Bobby lifts an eyebrow. “Are you sure this is pure animosity between you two?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Dean snarls.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Sam mimics.
Dean frowns at Sam. “Don’t say that.” Sam ignores him and sticks another floret of broccoli in his mouth.
Bobby continues his thought. “She seems to have you pretty worked up.”
“What? Absolutely not.” Bobby looks on, unconvinced. “No, seriously. If I ever see her again, it’ll be too soon.” Dean wipes a smear of mashed potato off Sam’s cheek. “Besides--” he cuts himself off, realizing with a start he was about to mention Cas to Bobby. The impulse surprises Dean, he’s known Cas for all of two weeks. They’ve been on one date. It’s not even serious. No, best not to mention Cas at all. It’s a miracle Ellen and Jo haven’t ratted him out yet.
“Besides?” Bobby prompts.
“She has show dogs,” Dean says, finally, “Show dogs.”
Sam brightens at the mention of Bela’s dogs. “And I’m going to play with them!”
Dean scoffs, but doesn’t say anything.
Excitement builds throughout the week as Friday’s field trip to South Park approaches. Castiel has the children review their shapes and colors, propping up different kinds of color spectrums and charts listing basic and more obscure geometric shapes.
If all goes as planned, Castiel will randomly divide the students into three groups of five for their scavenger hunt, all differentiated by colored visors. The groups will all look for different shapes and colors in nature, a list that Castiel is still putting together.
Sam, particularly, works on his assignments with an almost religious fervor, determined to not only complete his work but finish it first. Castiel is delighted with Sam’s work ethic, and by the end of Tuesday, the rest of the students are following Sam’s lead. By Wednesday, all the students are in friendly competition with each other; Jessica finishes her journal entry first, but is beat out by Adam on their math worksheets.
On Thursday morning, Sam trudges into the classroom, face so defeated Castiel would not be surprised if he suddenly burst into tears.
He pulls a few sheets from the tissue box and folds them into his pocket, making his way to Sam’s desk while the students hang up their jackets in the coat closet.
“Good morning, Sam,” Castiel greets, squatting down to Sam’s level.
“G’morning, Mister Milton,” Sam murmurs.
“Is something wrong? You look sad,” Castiel prompts, tone empathic.
Sam’s face crumples, fat tears pooling in his eyes. “I don’t get to play with pu-puppies!” he hiccups, starting to cry.
Castiel pulls the tissues from his pocket and hands them to Sam. “There, there, it’s okay,” he soothes. “Come on, let’s go outside for a second.” He turns to Kevin. “Start the students on the hot potato exercise; vocabulary, if you can. The lesson plan is on my desk if you need it.”
Castiel takes Sam by the hand and leads him outside, walking them to the bench just within view of the classroom door. Sam continues to cry his way through the four tissues Castiel had given him, and when the tissues are more wet than dry, Sam turns and wipes his face on the sleeve of Castiel’s sweater.
“Do you want to talk about what’s wrong?” Castiel asks once Sam’s crying has petered down to soft hiccups.
Sam shrugs a shoulder, but speaks anyway. “Dean said I can’t go to Ruby’s anymore.” Tears well up in his eyes again and Sam blinks them away furiously.
Castiel nods. “I see. Did he say why?”
“No,” Sam mumbles, trying to uncrumple the tissues in his hands.
Castiel plucks the tissues away and tosses them into the garbage bin next to the bench.
“I’m sorry your playdate was canceled, Sam.” Sam’s lip quivers alarmingly. “Hey, hey. It’s okay. Hear me out.” Sam nods and takes a shuddering breath. “I wish I could change that for you, but I can’t. Sometimes people do or say things we don’t like. And a lot of times they don’t tell us why they do or say what they do. But that doesn’t mean they do it to hurt us. I know for a fact Dean loves you very, very much.”
Sam has his hands bunched in his hoodie, gaze resolutely glued to the ground.
“Sam?” Sam hesitantly looks up. “It’s going to be okay. I know you’re disappointed. It’s okay to feel that way.”
Sam sniffles and swings his legs, kicking a dandelion and sending its seeds into the breeze. Castiel and Sam sit in silence for a few minutes.
Sam pauses his swinging. “Mr. Milton, do you have any pets?”
“I have a cat,” he replies honestly. “His name is Lucy.”
Sam frowns. “Dean would never let me have a cat. Or a do-o-og,” and he’s off again.
Unlike before, Sam refuses to be consoled, choosing instead to pull his legs up and cry into his knees while Castiel dials the main office from his cell phone.
“Good morning! This is--”
“Missouri,” he interrupts, “I need you to call the Winchester home, please. Tell Mr. Winchester that Sam needs to go home and get some rest.”
“Oh dear,” Missouri tuts before doing as asked.
Dean ends his class early and cancels his office hours before hightailing it to the school. By the time he arrives, the students are outside having recess. Dean has 50 minutes left before his next class starts and 65 before it’s canceled by default. He rushes through the main office, receiving a simultaneously sympathetic and angry look from the secretary, and briskly makes his way across the schoolyard. When he enters the classroom, Sam’s sleeping form greets him from the reading area, curled up on a bean bag chair. His eyes are puffy from crying. Dean suspects he knows why.
Dean glances around the room and finds Cas at his desk with a deadly glint in his eye. They stare at each other for several tense moments before Cas stands, seemingly calmer than the look in his eyes suggests.
“Cas,” Dean says weakly. Castiel’s gaze hardens, and it simultaneously wants to send Dean running or make him fall on his knees and blow him.
“It’s Mr. Milton until everything’s straightened out. Have a seat.” Dean scrambles over and sits in the uncomfortable wooden chair on the opposite side of the desk.
“This is about the playdate, isn’t it,” Dean cuts to the point without preamble.
“It’s about a lot more than a playdate, Dean--”
“Mr. Winchester,” Dean butts in, feeling brave.
Castiel’s eyes narrow. “I beg your pardon?”
“Well if I have to call you Mr. Milton...” Dean trails off, false bravado quickly evaporating under the heat of Castiel’s scrutiny.
“Dean, this is about you not allowing Sam to develop his social skills. You’re discouraging him from exploring his fascination with the world and its animal inhabitants. You’re fostering resentment by denying him a playdate without a valid reason,” Castiel watches as Dean ducks his head down in a semblance of shame. “And you made him cry for over an hour. What do you think that says about his emotional state?”
Dean pinches the bridge of his nose. “I understand that he’s upset--”
“He’s more than upset; he’s devastated.”
“I understand he’s devastated. Trust me, we went over this last night. But I can’t bend to his will because he decides to have a fit at school.”
“Normally I would agree, but I fail to understand the benefit of punishing Sam because of a personal vendetta you have against Ms. Talbot.”
“It’s not a vendetta,” Dean protests.
“Had she not rear-ended your car, Sam would still have his playdate, whether you agreed with her personality of not.” Castiel whispers heatedly.
“Okay, fine,” Dean throws up his arms as he stands up to pace, “it’s personal. How could it not be? She ruins my car, I’m driving around in a Jeep Liberty for Christ’s sake, and doesn’t even have the decency to apologize.”
“Dean I’m truly sorry about your car--”
“This is not just about the car, man. It’s about people like her.”
Castiel furrows his eyebrows, not quite understanding. “Like her?”
Dean rolls his eyes and explains. “Rich people, Cas. Rude, condescending, rich people walking around on their inflated sense of friggin entitlement. People who have never worked a day in their lives, who don’t know what it’s like to hurt for money, who think it’s okay to treat people like crap because they can afford to treat people like crap,” he spits.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit of an exaggeration?” Castiel snaps, the venom in his voice surprising even himself. Castiel is standing now as they attempt to tower over each other.
Dean huffs a bitter laugh and leans in close. “Yeah right. Come on, Cas, who are you trying to kid? People like her are all the same: big spoiled babies with trust funds.”
They each suddenly find themselves with an armful of the other, mouths sealed tightly together in a bruising kiss. Castiel viciously tugs at the small hairs on the back of Dean’s head and pulls a groan from Dean’s throat. Dean presses his fingertips into the flesh around Castiel’s waist, leaving if not small bruises, then tiny red marks that will take minutes to fade.
Castiel unclenches his hands and moves them to Dean’s shoulders to shove him away. Dean stumbles back a few steps, arms hanging uselessly at his sides.
“Cas, damage is done. What do you want me to do about it?”
“You can still let Sam have his playdate.”
“No. Let me bottom line it for you: I don’t trust that woman behind the wheel and I sure as hell don’t trust her with Sam.”
Cas takes in a steadying breath. “You need to take Sam home. He’s tired and needs as unstimulating an environment as possible.” He pulls his sweater down and smoothes the sides. “Try to think about his playdate as interaction with Ruby, not as exposure to Ms. Talbot. Reconsider, please.”
Sam shifts as Dean scoops him up gently, nestling his face in the crook of Dean’s neck. Just like that, Dean can feel his resolve begin to soften. “I’ll think about it,” he promises. He moves to the door and pauses over the threshold of the room. “We still on for Friday?”
Something curls uncomfortably under Castiel’s lungs, anger still rippling through his veins.
“I’ll think about it.”
Disappointment floods Dean’s face before he nods briskly. “Okay,” he says, and walks away.
The field trip goes without a hitch.
The children chatter loudly on the school bus that morning, excited for their first ever field trip. The windy weather lends perfectly to their planned activities; scattered leaves litter the park as his students run around in teams to collect items on their scavenger hunt. Kevin does his best to monitor fifteen scavenging 4-year olds while Castiel approves of his students’ finds and keeps score.
Jess and Ruby rifle through leaves looking for a pine cone, while Ed and Harry try to catch a flying insect.
Adam secures his team’s win by accident, tripping over a pine cone and handing it to Castiel while a ladybug clings to his bangs.
Castiel carefully plucks the red beetle out of his hair and calls the class to gather around him. He kneels down and reveals his right palm, the ladybug snug in the center of his hand.
“Who can tell me what this is?”
Hands shoot into the air, but it's little Madison who speaks up. “It’s pretty.”
“Yes, it’s a very pretty ladybug. Would you like to hold it?” Madison hides her hands behind her back and shakes her head furiously.
“Why are they called ladybugs?” Ben asks.
“Because they’re girls!” Sam answers.
The lady bug crawls to the tip of Castiel’s middle finger before opening its wings and flying off. “Actually, Sam, ladybugs can be boys, too.” This news causes his students to chatter in amusement, the giggles extending even into lunchtime.
Kevin spreads blankets out onto the grass while Castiel hands out labeled lunches, having taken great care to provide meals that cater to students with specific dietary needs. Sam chats with Amy over sandwiches, the leaves they collected earlier that morning spread out next to them. Sam is his usual, cheerful self, nothing like the crying mess he’d been just the day before. Either Sam had gotten over his disappointment or Dean had changed his mind on the matter after all.
Dean. The mere thought of the older Winchester causes Castiel’s gut to twist uncomfortably as Dean’s words echo in his head. Logically, he knows Dean’s anger is not directed toward him, rather toward Ms. Talbot. Still, Castiel had turned defensive. Dean, of course, knows nothing about his past, he couldn’t possibly -- and yet it begged the question: what would Dean think were he to learn about Castiel’s family? Would he still see 'Cas,' or would he see The Miltons, just one more well-off family from upper state New York?
Castiel has his own reservations and criticisms. It was these very thoughts that led to his estrangement from the majority of his family. But would that mean anything to Dean?
The whole matter doesn’t sit well with him. It’s best, perhaps, he keep his distance until he can settle on a course of action.
Dean waves to Sam, watching as Bela lifts him into her Bentley after securing Ruby in her own seat. The chauffeur waits patiently for everyone to be seated and buckled in before pulling away from the curb. Several parents, nannies, and babysitters mill about the entrance of the school, socializing as their charges play together in their post-field trip rush. Castiel excuses himself from a conversation and makes his way to where Dean is leaning against his rental, away from the chatter.
“I take it Sam is going on his playdate after all.”
Dean pushes off the car and scuffs a boot against the asphalt. “Yeah, well,” he begins. “I thought about what you said. Sam slept for a long time after I took him home, but he still looked sad. I couldn’t do that to him. So I, uh, I called Bela. Wasn’t happy to have to speak with her; she wasn’t too happy either, but you know, we do our best for the kids.” Dean sighs and runs a hand over his face.
“Told Sam over lunch yesterday, got so happy he almost cried,” he laughs.
“I’m glad,” Castiel says. “He seemed very different from yesterday. I had a feeling things worked out.”
“I told you I’d think about it,” Dean smiles charmingly, but his flirty demeanor quickly fades and he nervously sticks his hands in his jeans pockets. “Have you thought about tonight? I mean, are we...” he trails off, pulling one hand out to circle it in the air slowly. “...still on?”
“I have given it thought,” Castiel confirms.
“I feel a ‘but’ coming,” Dean’s nervously jokes.
“--And I think that we should wait a little longer before our next outing.”
Dean smiles ruefully at the ground and nods. “Fair enough.”
“Dean,” Cas amends quickly, “I am still very much interested in going out with you again.”
“It’s fine, Cas,” Dean says, smile tight and brittle. “You have my number; call me when you feel like it.”
“Dean,” Cas calls out, but Dean is headed to the driver’s side of his rental Jeep, starting the ignition and pulling away from the curb.
Dean wakes up Saturday morning to the rattle of his cell phone vibrating noisily on the bedside table. He feels for his phone blindly, swiping at the screen and taking the call.
"What," he grumbles into the receiver.
"I need some extra cash," Jo begins without preamble. "My laptop broke and I need it replaced pronto. Can I babysit Sam?"
Dean slowly pushes himself into a sitting position. He catches his reflection in the mirror across the room. His hair lays flat on one side, the rest of his hair askew and wild. Time for a haircut. Jo makes an impatient sound over the phone, drawing Dean’s attention back to the matter at hand.
"You woke me up because you can't take care of your electronics? Seriously? Just have Ash fix it up for you."
"I'm asking for money, not advice," Jo sighs, exasperated. "Can I watch Sam or not? Come on, go on a date with that cute boy from the other night."
"He's not a boy," Dean argues, swallowing the surge of disappointment at the thought of Castiel cancelling their date. "He's actually older than me."
"Great, so have him take you out instead. Come on, Dean, I really need the money!" She wheedles.
"Well I do have some errands I can run--"
"Great I'm coming over." She hangs up with a click.
Fifteen minutes later Dean opens the door to a slightly out of breath Jo, hefting a large backpack on one shoulder. Dean ushers her inside and takes her bag like a gentleman.
"You know Jo, I can just give you the money--"
"No, working for it is much better. Now where is the little monster?"
A little over an hour later, Dean finds himself at the local bookstore in the children’s section. He has a few of his own childhood favorites in his shopping basket, but they’re not quite nearly enough to last. Sam will want at least two stories read to him every night, especially since they’re so short compared to their usual reading material. The Very Hungry Caterpillar stares at him from the top of the pile.
A blue book catches his attention. He pulls it out from behind another book and glances at the familiar cover of a small boy making a mess of the bathroom.
Dean twists in his mother’s lap to look up at her. “Mama I’m too old for that book.”
“Trust me, baby, you’ll never be too old for this one. Now settle down and listen.” She kisses the top of his head before opening the thin book to the first page.
“A mother held her new baby and
very slowly rocked him back and forth,
back and forth, back and forth.
And while she held him, she sang:
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”
Dean clears his throat and sets the book back on the shelf with a shaky hand. He’s feeling overwhelmed suddenly, the memory making him feel vulnerable and raw. He leaves the pile in the basket by his feet and leaves the store for a breath of fresh air, rubbing his face with his hands. He thought he was over this; it’s been four years.
He’s leaning against the brick façade of the bookstore when he spots him: Castiel walking across the street, struggling with two heavy grocery bags. The strap of one bag hangs loose, the end frayed where it unstitched. Dean smiles fondly. Of course he uses reusable bags, drives a Prius, teaches children the merits of recycling.
Without a second thought he jogs across the street and manages to catch the ripped grocery bag as it slips through Castiel’s arm.
“Thank you,” Castiel huffs and looks up with grateful blue eyes.
“My pleasure,” Dean smiles as Castiel fumbles with his remaining bag. “Can I help you to your car?”
Castiel nods and leads them halfway down the street before popping open the trunk to his car. “Lucky I bumped into you,” he laughs nervously.
“I was going to the say the same thing about you,” Dean says seriously, crowding in close.
“Dean,” Castiel says weakly.
“Look, I messed up. I did something or I said something, hell, I probably did both. But all I know is that I was across the street trying to buy Sam books and freaking out because I’m really in over my head and suddenly there you were across the street and--” Dean takes a big breath, “and I thought, ‘There’s someone I can help, and maybe, maybe, he can help me.’”
Castiel doesn’t say a word, just stares at Dean in silent wonder.
“Uh, so I guess what I’m trying to say,” Dean says awkwardly, “Can we start over?”
Castiel seems to reach a decision because in the next second he is resolutely taking his bag from Dean’s arms to set it next to the first. He turns to face Dean again and extends his hand.
“I’m Castiel Milton," he says simply, "Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Dean takes his hand in a firm handshake and smiles.
“Dean Winchester. The pleasure is all mine.”