Author's Note: Well. I was reading The Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling and this one, number nine, sort of helped me get the chapter-and hopefully the rest of the story-going again: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
Consequently, this happened. I'm not exactly unstuck, but at least there's another chapter. I wonder why Crowley always insists on showing up? I blame Pixar. They are, apparently, the root of all evil. Bastards.
Dean leaped out of the Impala and ran toward the porch; he slowed as he got closer, though. He didn't want his big, booted feet to squish any of the tiny kittens pouring out of Bobby's front door. "Aw, Cas. What the hell, man?" He groused. And then, he sneezed. Crap. Cats. "Cas!"
The Warrior of the (absentee) Lord appeared. A small gray kitten clung to his shoulder; a second, larger cat sat on his head like a living helmet. Its tail draped alongside Cas' left ear and dipped under his chin like a chinstrap. Cas' blue eyes peered past the white-toed paw tapping his nose. "Hello, Dean."
Dean took a deep breath, closed his eyes, unclenched his fists and deliberately counted as close to ten as he could (six) before he burst. "Cas! Why the fuck does Bobby's front porch look like it belongs to a crazy cat lady?" He opened his eyes to glare at the clueless, cat-clad angel.
"Me-La likes kitties."
"Yeah? Well-" Dean sneezed dramatically-"I don't!"
Cas frowned as the kitten on his shoulder swiped at his earlobe. "You liked BooBoo."
Deep breaths. Don't kill him. Don't sneeze. "He was a beanbag kitty, and I was eighteen months old. I liked a lot of things. Like puppets and cartoons."
"You still like cartoons, Dean." One of the kittens swarming the porch appeared over Cas' other shoulder; its eyes were wide as it spotted the switching tail of the helmet-kitty, and it perched on his other shoulder, ready to pounce.
"It's called anime and it's an art form." Dean defended himself. "Look, I'm allergic to them. Can't you just…?"
"True. Okay." The animals suddenly disappeared.
Dean breathed another sigh-this one of relief. He wasn't ready to see the angel's throat slashed by kitten claws. "I'm not going to ask where they came from or why...or where they went. But I got the stuff. It's in the car. Would you mind getting it? Please?"
The angel nodded. "I like it when you ask me to do things, Dean. Usually, you just demand."
Seriously? "I do not," Dean muttered.
Cas shrugged and narrowed his eyes. "Me-La is in the house," he said, and poofed off to get the juice.
Dean went into the house to find Mela. She sat on Bobby's couch with a battered-looking Barbie doll clenched in her fist.
The good news was, she no longer was naked. The bad news: she was still a teenager. And-predictably-she looked pissed. "Wheah da kitties go?" She glowered.
"Home. The kitties went home." He took in her outfit: glittery princess crown, Hello Kitty t-shirt ("Figures," he muttered to himself) a filmy-materialed pink skirt,and what appeared to be a pair of boxer shorts. Whose boxer shorts they were, he didn't want to ask; they had hearts on them. On her feet, he noticed, were the same glittery shoes she wore when she was a toddler, only they were bigger. "Where'd you get the outfit?"
"Ass gave it to me." She answered, holding her chin in an aristocratic sort of a way that would have been adorable on a two-year-old but was annoying as shit on a teenager wearing a tiara and waving a Barbie doll like a sword. "I wike it."
"You lllllike it."
"Dat's what Mela said. I wike it." She crossed her arms over her chest and pouted. Upside down, battered Barbie also appeared to pout. "I don't wike you."
"So you've said. Repeatedly." Dean sighed and wondered what was taking Cas so long to get a bag of juice and crackers from the car. He also wondered if there was another errand he could do, some way to sneak out and get away from Princess Pouty Face and her glittery freaking shoes. She hated him. And all he'd done was try to keep her safe.
And then, he'd failed.
Looking at it from that perspective, he could understand why she was mad at him. But still, he hoped she'd eventually learn to like him again. Otherwise, it was going to be a long few days.
"I is hungry."
"You are hungry."
She frowned at him. "Dat's what Mela said. I is hungry."
"Yes, but you said 'I is'. Say, 'I am hungry'."
"Dee no hungry. Dee a poophead." She narrowed her eyes.
"Dee have a headache." He turned away before his head exploded for real. "Where the fuck is Cas?"
"You said dat bad word."
I'll say lots of bad words, he thought. "Stay right here. Don't move." He turned and started walking back out to the car, but stopped when he heard a giggle. "What?"
Dean wished God was still in Heaven. If He was, he'd pray for a quick and sudden death. It wasn't likely, of course; the Powers that Be (or were) seemed to enjoy watching him squirm, and dealing with a petulant toddler-teen was pure squirmy gold. He didn't turn around. "Stop moving, Mela."
She giggled again. Talking to her was like talking to Cas. Literal. And yet, while Cas did what he was told-more or less-Mela wanted to do the exact opposite. Because she was a little stone breaker. So if he told her not to move, she'd move. Then again, he could use that as a way to keep her from leaving the house. She'd be so busy moving, she wouldn't think of other ways to be contrary. Or escape. And he could, at least, keep her safe.
"Remember what I said. Don't move!"
Congratulating himself on his understanding of the toddler-turned-teen mind, he hurried out to the porch to look for Cas, and found the angel on the other side of the Impala in deep conversation with the last person...thing...demon...damn!...Dean expected to see. "Crowley!"
"Ah, Dean. Good to see you. Is that a bit of a headache I sense?" The King of Hell peered over the car and greeted him with a wide grin. "Aren't teens wonderful?"
"Fuck off, Crowley," Dean said.
"Listen to him, Cassie," the demon said in an strangely warm and affectionate tone. It gave Dean the creeps. "He may be grown, but his vocabulary is much the same."
Cas ignored him to address the Hunter. "Dean. Crowley and I were just talking about what's happened to Mela. We think we know caused it and how to fix it."
"Great. And you're discussing it with him because...?"
"Because he appeared to me with news." Cas shrugged.
"News? Are you all right? Because the last time I checked, angels and demons were playing on opposite teams." Dean glared.
"The witch who de-aged you got away," Crowley interrupted. "And I was able to confirm that this current mess is her doing."
"What? Wait a minute." Dean frowned. "Hold on. I thought you ganked her." He looked back and forth between the Warrior of the (former) Lord and the (current) King of Hell. "You did gank her, didn't you?"
"Weeelll, funny thing, that," Crowley started.
"It was really just a misunderstanding," Cas finished.
"More of a communications breakdown, really. It's the sort of thing that happens between Heaven and Hell-"
"Obviously. Since we aren't usually working together-"
"Never. Never working together. Well, except for that one time, with Sam-"
"And you, Squirrel. So it's to be expected-"
"Right." Cas nodded.
Crowley shrugged. "Basically, I thought Cassie had her, and he thought I had her-"
"Because he did have his hand on her shoulder-"
"But then in all the excitement-"
"When you started growing-"
"And you were all grouchy-"
"And naked! You were naked, Dean!"
"Even so, the bottom line-no pun intended, of course. Much-is that she got away. Again."
The angel and the demon stared at Dean with embarrassed smiles on their faces.
If only he had an angel blade right now..."She got away," Dean repeated. And then, a thought occurred to him. A disconcerting, horrible, disgusting and yet somehow familiar and comforting one. Which was wrong on so many levels. "Are you telling me you let this witch get away because you were distracted? By my junk?" Dean glared at Castiel.
"In all fairness, Dean, you can't blame him. After all, Dean slash Cas is always a hot topic of speculation and the fact that you were naked and apparently-growing- was more than enough to make anybody let a witch get away," Crowley said in a pleasant tone of voice.
Dean turned the power of his wrathful gaze at him. "You do realize I have a Supersoaker full of holy water in the trunk?"
The demon grinned in an ingratiating way. "Right. I'm sure you do."
"Dean. Really. It was an accident." Cas flickered, then appeared directly in front of him. The angel put his hands on his shoulders, probably to stop him if he moved to get the squirt gun. (Or maybe because he liked touching Dean, which was squicky.) "Completely understandable, given the circumstances."
Just in case, Dean let him have it. "I have one filled with holy oil, too. You want to play?"
Cas flickered back to the opposite side of the car. "Not especially."
Dean narrowed his eyes at them, then opened Baby's door and leaned in to grab the bags of snacks and his bottle of Scotch. As he stood, he twisted the top off and took a swig. There. That quelled the desire to scream. And kill them both. Mostly. He looked over the Impala's hood at the dysfunctional duo. "So...why is Mela a teenager?"
"The witch was trying to get some of her age back," Cas explained.
"Because she grabbed some Hell time from me and ended up being-I dunno-twelve, maybe? That sound about right, Cassie?"
"Yes. Certainly too young to function effectively as an independent human being."
Dean took another drink before asking, "Wait. So she gave years to Mela? But why? Why not some other random chick?"
"We think it's because she was following Cas. And watching you."
"Kind of like a stalker," Cas supplied. "She's vengeful. And you-you're in danger."
"Great." Dean took another drink, a deep one, so that the alcohol scorched a fiery path down his gullet. It felt far better than this conversation was making him feel. "So what are we going to do about it?"
"We're going on a witch hunt!" Crowley clapped his hands together and grinned.
"Again!" Cas clapped his hands too, a bit too enthusiastically. "Hurray!"
"Oh, fuck me," Dean said, and turned to trudge toward the house.
"There you go, Cassie. It's an open invitation," he heard the King of Hell chortle. "Go get him!"
Oh...no. Not again. Honestly. Poor Dean. He doesn't deserve this. He's sitting on a witch's hit list with sexual innuendo on one side, a toddler-teen on the other, and no one to lean on but Johnny Walker. Awwww...