Note: This is based on a tumblr post. Thanks to Sarah for beta reading this :)
Once upon a time… Castiel Novak had lost his voice and it was all Gabriel's fault.
Firstly, his big brother had used Castiel's special, all natural honey for Christmas baking. Cas (as his friends called him) needed that honey each night with warm milk, because it was good for his raw vocal cords. It also calmed him down after a stressful day at work. Gabriel knew that and had used the last of it anyway. Then, when Cas had confronted him about it, his brother had thought it funny to leave him out in the cold. Gabriel had been sitting on the large porch swing and when Cas had confronted him about the theft, empty honey glass in hand, the trickster had laughed at him. "You need to cool down, Cassie," he had proclaimed and before Cas even had time to protest, Gabriel had brushed past him and shut the door.
"Gabe?" Cas had asked dumbfounded. It had only taken the snickering from inside the warm haven to turn his confusion into anger. "Damnit, Gabe! Open up, this isn't funny." It really wasn't, seeing how Cas was only wearing his favorite Christmas sweater with no jacket or scarf. It had taken ten minutes of yelling and begging before he could convince Gabriel to show some mercy.
Too late though, Cas' already hoarse voice was gone completely the next morning. No milk and honey, plus ten minutes of yelling in the cold on top of the usual long day at work had been too much. So you see: it was all Gabriel's fault.
Being the good guy he was, Cas didn't even consider calling in sick. It was just a few days until Christmas and this was always the busiest time of the year for them, the little Disney Store downtown buzzing with excited kids and worn out parents. Cas loved to work here. Even though the store was part of a chain, it still had enough personal touches to not look like just any other Disney Store in the country. One of the personal touches was extras like the hours of reading and singing with the kids. No wonder his voice was so strained, each night, singing "Part of your world", "A whole new world", and "Be our guest" countless times over the day did that to your vocal cords. Another great plus was his co-workers and he could never leave Anna, Meg, and Hannah alone so close to Christmas.
"But Cas," Anna protested while putting on her pink shirt. All three girls knew about Cas being gay, so changing in the same room was no problem for either of them. "How will you help the kids, if you can't even speak?"
"I…," Cas began. It was more like a little screech that came out. He cleared his throat once, twice. It hurt and he pressed the dark blue scarf closer to his throat. Swallowing around the pain, he tried again. "I can still…," that's as far as his voice worked, already giving out on the last word.
"No, you can't," Hannah threw in. "Look, not that I'm not grateful you're still here, trying to help us. But working the register is out of the question –" that much was true, seeing how Naomi, their boss, always expected them to communicate with customers to leave a final good impression, "– and the little ones will eat you alive when you won't talk to them." Probably true as well.
"Not even to mention reading stories and singing for the little devils to make them fall in love with you," Meg added with a mock concerned voice. She earned scolding faces from Hannah and Anna for that and a pained look from Cas. Good thing they were all close friends and knew how to take her dark humor.
Desperate to say something on the matter, Cas grabbed one of the pens and notepads from the coffee table and scribbled a quick note.
I'll find a way!
"Cas," Anna started, but didn't argue again, already sounding a bit more defeated.
I'm not leaving you alone!
"Okay, so what's your great plan?"
I'll figure it out.
He still had fifteen minutes until the store opened. Fifteen minutes to figure it out. The four of them left the staff room and went about their normal tasks before the store opened.
Cas really loved this store. It wasn't too big and overly stuffed. The shelves in the show room weren't too high, barely reaching to his chest. That made it easier for them to prevent any thefts and for parents to find their overexcited kids. One corner was filled with blankets, pillows and older stuffed animals, reserved for story time or when younger kids (or the occasional parent) got too tired.
Cas was sorting through the Disney Princess section. Obviously, kids loved to play here and things got messy. Even though the employees made sure to clean the store at night before closing, some finer tasks like sorting the dolls back in their right places was left for the quiet minutes in the morning. He just got another Ariel out of the Belle slot, when something stopped him. Looking closer at the Ariel doll, a sudden inspiration struck him and Cas laughed out loud. Sadly, it sounded more like he was being strangled, alerting his friends.
"Cassie? You okay?"
Pushing the last Ariel doll back in her rightful place, Cas made his way back to the staff room. He looked for a notepad that was presentable, searched for the blue, sparkly sharpie and set to work.
"Cas?" Anna spoke from behind him. Holding up one finger to signal her to wait a second, he finished his work before turning around. Proudly and with a wide grin, he held up the notepad and let his three coworkers read the text.
"Oh my god," Hannah breathed out before dissolving into a fit of giggles. Meg started chuckling and Anna laughed out loud. "Cas, this is seriously brilliant. Yes, that will work."
It did work.
It actually worked so well, Cas was starting to wonder if he shouldn't always do it. He didn't need to speak once all day. The kids looked at him with huge eyes the minute they read his little note or the minute their parents read it to them or told them in their own words what had happened. Being around him, none of them were loud or naughty, just excited. The adults of course knew what was going on but threw him a conspiratorial smile or wink, some even thanking him for having such a wonderful idea, letting the kids believe the stories were true. And even the older kids – those not fooled and obviously way too cool to even be in a store like this – even they smiled at him. By the end of the day, Cas felt like an attraction at Disney World, because some kids even wanted a picture with him and some families only came to the store because they had heard of him. So it seemed he was the talk of the mall.
Cas didn't really mind. He had been able to do his job, entertain the kids and still save his voice. Besides that, his friends were still laughing about the whole thing while the four of them were cleaning up the shop that night. Having fun after a day at work was always a plus in his eyes.
"I swear, some of the kids were about to hunt down your true love just to save you," Hannah smiled at him, while counting the money. Anna laughed at that, throwing some stray stuffed animals over to Cas, who put them back in their right places. "Yeah, and I swear some of the moms were about to offer themselves."
"Not just the moms, I'm telling you," Meg added. "Did you not see that gay couple? I bet you, if there hadn't been so many kids here, they would have taken Cas away to never be seen again."
Cas groaned at that miserably, yet in the end he couldn't hide his chuckle. It wasn't new to any of them that some of the single parents or a stray aunt or uncle occasionally hit on them, but it was still a kids store and most adults respected that.
"Who knows, Cassie, maybe this will end with you finding your Price Charming." For that, Cas threw a stuffed Dumbo at Meg, who didn't even duck away. Dumbo hit her square in the face and all Meg did was to dissolve into laughter. Before they knew it, Anna, Cas, and Meg where involved in a kind of pillow fight with stuffed animals. Hannah, always prim and proper, ignored them for a few short minutes, before calling them to order. Cas, of course, wasn't mad at Meg for the comment. The four of them were friends after all, meaning they also knew about the love lives of the others. Or lack thereof, in his case. Hannah was already happily married with kids, Anna was engaged to a teacher, and Meg was in an on and off thing with a friend of Castiel's. He was pretty sure that Balthazar and Meg would end up getting married within the next few years. That or kill each other, he wasn't quite sure yet.
And Cas? Well, he didn't really date anymore. In his 32 years he had two serious relationships and the occasional short time fling in the past, but now there was nothing. He wasn't even looking, something neither of the girls could understand. His last failed relationship had finally showed him that Happily Ever Afters only existed in fairytales and he didn't really needed his heart broken again, thank you very much.
"Well," Anna finally cut in, after they had cleaned up the artillery of soft toys. "The important thing is that Cassie's voice is better, right?"
At that, they all looked at him expectantly. Swallowing first, Cas finally cleared his throat, before pushing his scarf to it and finally, after a long day without using it, testing his voice again. "Hope so," he choked out and even though it still sounded raspier than usual, at least it didn't hurt that much anymore.
"Sounds good, Clarence," Meg smirked at him, before leaving for the staff room. Shaking his head – he would probably never understand the reference behind Meg's very own nickname for him – he followed her, as did Anna and Hannah to quickly get changed.
"I think you should do this charade again tomorrow, just to make sure your voice is back fully before straining it again."
Hannah nodded at Anna's words. "Yes, that's a good idea. Everybody loved it anyway. No need for you to strain your voice when we have a great solution like that."
Cas pulled out the notepad and smiled down at it, leaving it on the coffee table before following the girls out of the store and closing up.
The next day pretty much went like the day before, as did the day after.
Cas had tested his voice the morning of the second day and decided it was still raw. He drank an extra warm milk and honey for breakfast that day. It seemed that threatening his life was a good way to get Gabriel to do something after all. When Castiel had gotten home the first night, not only had his brother bought a new glass of Castiel's special honey from the bee farm outside of town, he also had a steaming hot mug with the elixir of life waiting for him and the same in the morning. By the end of day two, Cas could already talk short sentences, but Hannah decided to add a third day to the game. "Who knows, Cas, maybe we'll leave you like this forever. The kids sure seem to like it," she'd told him the second night, earning laughter from Meg and Anna and a glare from Castiel. Yes, he loved that the kids liked his idea, but he loved it even more to sing to them. He really missed it, so no way would he play the voiceless attraction for all eternity.
On the third morning, Cas tested his voice again and now he felt confident that it would be back fully by the end of the day.
It was after five in the afternoon of this third day, when the turning point of Cas' own fairy tale happened. The whole day people had reacted to his little note with the same enthusiasm as the previous two days: excited and fascinated kids, charmed and understanding parents. That was, until a young family walked into the store.
Cas recognized them right away. It was hard to forget a couple like that, with him being the size of a moose and her looking like a princess from a Disney movie, curly blond hair and sweet smile included. The giant carried their little girl in his arms. Cas remembered helping her once or twice before and he knew that she was the perfect picture of her parents, with the curls and the eyes from her mother and the hair color as well as the smile from her father. She was a cute little princess and, if Cas remembered correctly, really well behaved (yes, sadly that was something that stuck out in a kids store). And as it seemed, she would be a big sister soon, her mother already showing an impressive baby belly. Not that Cas had any firsthand experience, yet working in this store for many years now, he knew a thing or two about pregnancies. It looked like the couple could very well have a Christmas baby.
The little girl squirmed a bit in her daddy's arms, obviously showing him that she wanted to be put down. Her father complied and told her to stay close. They were heading in his direction and Castiel got ready to pull his notepad out.
"Oh, I know you," the little girl said with an excited note in her voice once she saw him. The smile on Cas' face came natural at that kind of excitement. "Do you remember me as well?" the girl asked, eyes sparkling. Cas nodded and smiled even wider, while kneeling in front of her. "Why aren't you talking?"
"Mary," her father said from behind her, clearly not wanting his daughter to ask such forward questions. Cas, being used to this spiel by now, only smiled at them and shook his head, signaling them that it was alright. He opened his notepad and gave it to the little girl. She seemed to be about four or five and since some kids that age could already read he didn't want to ignore her by showing it to her parents right away. The little girl, Mary, took the notepad and looked at it for a few seconds, trying to read it. Soon, she gave up and turned around, holding the notepad up to her parents without a word. Slightly confused, but smiling kindly, the giant of a man kneeled down besides his daughter and took the notepad, reading the sparkly blue message. "What does it say, Daddy?"
Grinning at first, the guy quickly schooled his face into a pretend concerned look like this was a message they should take serious.
"It says here that he can't speak because Ursula the Sea Witch stole his voice. But he's still happy to assist us, so why don't you tell that nice –"
"The Sea Witch?" the little girl repeated, shock clearly written on her face. After almost three days, Cas was used to that reaction and quickly morphed his features into the sad puppy look, as Meg had named it, nodding in confirmation once the girl looked back at him. He could hear the muffled snickering from the girl's mother and saw the bemused smile on the father's face, yet both parents were quick to play along whenever the girl's inquiring look went back to them. Finally, Mary exclaimed: "That is terrible."
"It sure is, sweetie," her mom was quick to confirm. "Sadly there is nothing we can do about it."
Her mom's words seemed to go right over Mary's head. "Where is your true love?"
Cas was quick to throw her parents a reassuring smile. Nothing new about that. Like his friends had said, lots of kids had been about to search for his true love. Mary's father, still kneeling behind his daughter, continued, even though he seemed to understand Cas' reassurance. "Mary, you don't just ask something like that."
"But, Dad! He needs his true love to kiss him so he gets his voice back and can stay human."
"That might be true, sweetie," the father continued, finally handing the notepad back to Cas and getting up, "but it's not your job to find his true love. Now, don't you wanna tell him what you were looking for?"
"No!" And with that, Mary stomped one of her feet on the ground and turned back around to Cas. "I'll help you find your prince first!"
Well, now that was new and to be quite honest, it threw Cas a bit. Before he knew it, her little hands were on his arm, pulling him to get back on his feet.
"Mary Joanna Winchester, this is no way to act." Her mother was clearly using her Mom-voice and Cas instantly felt guilty. So far, all the kids had been too mesmerized by having a "true prince" in front of them (because clearly, such tragedy could only happen to a prince who was looking for his true love), or simply stunned to have the stories being real. Some of them had asked for his true love, but they all had listened to their parents when they told them that the kids couldn't help him or that he would find his true love eventually. Not little Mary though, it seemed, and now this little sunshine would get into trouble because of him. Clearly not what he had anticipated. He got up, turning around to the young couple, giving them an apologetic look, mouthing "I'm sorry".
"Not your fault, buddy," the giant told him kindly, before turning on his Dad-voice. "The little missy just needs to learn when to stop. Right, young lady?"
"But, Daddy. You always tell me we should help people in need. And he needs to find his prince or the Sea Witch will get him."
This was getting out of hand pretty fast and Cas had the feeling he couldn't stop it. Already, some other parents were looking. They all had read his note at one point, so they knew what was going on. He didn't want for this to become a big scene and get a sweet little girl in trouble, no matter how much it was true that she needed to listen to her parents. She wanted to help him and he would be damned if a kid with such a big heart would get into trouble because of him. Quickly, he got a pen out of his jeans pocket to scribble a note and once again handed it to the little girl. This time, she didn't even try to read it herself but showed it to her parents right away. Reading it, they both looked at him as if to ask if he was really okay with that. He only nodded.
"What does it say?" Mary asked, still excited and almost bouncing on her little feet.
Her father sighed deeply and then read the note to his daughter: "Thank you, little princess. It would be an honor for me to have your help."
For Cas, the look of pure joy on Mary's face was well worth all the awkward situations this decision would surely bring him within the next few minutes. She grabbed his hand in her tiny ones, only for her mother to stop her before she could pull him along. "Mary, wait a second."
Her mother held up her hands as if to sooth her. "I'm not stopping you. However, for this to work you'll need to know what you are looking for," she explained with a grin, winking at Cas. Only now did he realize that Mary had said she would help him look for his prince without even questioning it. Huh, nice to know that there seemed to be no prejudice in this family.
Mary's huge eyes were back on him, studying Cas as if she wanted to find out without asking, before she finally gave in. "Do you want me to look for a princess or a prince?"
Cas had to smile at that. Of course she would ask him an either-or-question while he couldn't answer. He was just about to pull out his notepad again, when Anna showed up next to them. "Our Prince Castiel here is looking for a prince to lift the curse." Her smile was so angelic Cas couldn't even bring himself to scowl at her. A quick look around showed him what he had feared: all business had come to a stop; focus completely on their little scene. To his relief though, nobody seemed to sneer about Anna's revelation. Mary's parents seemed completely at ease with it as well, only throwing apologetic looks at him because of this whole situation. He returned them in kind, telling them silently that it was his fault, not theirs, while he could hear little Mary repeat his name, unsure at how to pronounce it.
"You may also call him Cas."
He felt a little tug on his hand and looked back at Mary. She smiled up at him and he couldn't help himself, smiling back at the sweet girl. "Let's find your true love, Prince Cas!" With that, she pulled his hand and Cas had no other choice but to follow her.
The first guy was just a few feet away. He was smiling at them, clearly a witness of what had just happened – then again, who in this store wasn't? His smile gave Cas hope that this whole thing wouldn't be too embarrassing.
"Scuse me, sir," Mary began and the guy (bless his heart) gave her his full attention. "Are you a prince?"
"I'm sorry, little miss. Sadly, I am not a prince."
Mary looked disappointed yet in no way discouraged. Cas and the guy had a silent conversation, consisting of a thankful smile on Cas' part and a joking wink from the guy, before Mary had found the next person.
"Scuse me, sir. Are you a prince?"
"Little princess, I am indeed a prince," the young man replied, but before Mary could get too excited (and before Cas' heart could stop from shock), he continued: "However, I already found my princess." The man put his hand around a petit redhead and the couple gave them the same smile he seemed to receive from the whole store. So far, Cas didn't know if this was simply adorable or partly awkward as well. It was probably both, although none of the customers seemed to mind. Least of all the children, who were following the spectacle with wide eyes while Mary continued the search.
"Not a prince, milady, but the jester," one of the store regulars answered with a deep bow, making everyone laugh. The next one replied that he was no prince, yet would try to help anyways, throwing a somewhat flirtatious smile at Cas. All too quickly, the guy realized he should have lied and pretended to be a prince if he wanted to get to Cas, because Mary shook her head vehemently. "No, sir, sorry," she replied, her golden-brown curls bouncing around her head. "You need to be a prince to break the spell of the Sea Witch!"
Cas made a mental note to re-watch The Little Mermaid, because he couldn't remember that being part of the deal. Most likely, it was Mary's own interpretation. And for the better, because that flirtatious guy hardly looked of age and was most definitely too young for Cas' taste.
That was four people down and Mary probably would have gone on, had it not been for her father, who chose that moment to step forward. "Alright, Mary. I think that's enough for now."
"No honey," her mother told her in a gentle voice. "You gave your best. It seems his true love isn't here yet, so he'll find him on his own eventually."
Cas felt a little pang to his heart at her words. She sounded confident where he wasn't even looking anymore. Sure, she only sounded that confident because of her daughter, yet Cas found himself wanting to believe her. The warm smile she sent his way didn't make it better. He smiled back anyways.
"Thank you for letting her do that," the mother said and Cas wished he could reply. His voice most likely would work again, except there were too many children in the store right now, all eyes on him. No way would he ruin the magic for them. So he only smiled back and nodded.
That was the moment the bells above the door chimed, signaling the entry of a new customer. That was also the moment Mary's hands suddenly left his.
"Hey, little munchkin," a deep voice replied, followed by happy giggles from Mary as her uncle lifted her up and gave her a big hug.
It was such a cute scene and Cas had hardly time to be glad that Mary was now distracted, when her next words seemed to freeze all action and time in the store yet again: "Uncle Dean, you're a prince, right?"
Cas could feel his eyes widen, the heat slightly rising to his neck and face. He could hear the mixture of giggles, held breaths, shocked laughter. He could see the kid's parents in his peripheral vision, shaking their heads as if to signal the other man to answer "no". To no avail since he didn't even glance in their direction. The smile he gave the little girl in his arms simply grew bigger before he answered her without missing beat. "Hells yeah, I'm a prince. Why?"
The smile Mary gave her uncle matched the man's and it was easy to see the family resemblance. Sneaking her little arms around his neck she squeezed him as if he was her teddy bear – which he probably was, Cas thought in the back of his mind. "I knew it," she squealed after releasing him a bit. "So you can break the curse."
That finally seemed to get her uncle – Dean, as Cas now knew – to pay attention and for the first time, his eyes left little Mary and wandered over to her parents. Cas risked a look himself. They looked as if they had no pity for the man, even though he couldn't have known what he got himself into by answering the way he had done.
"What curse, munchkin?" Dean asked, eyes still on the unhelpful grown-ups.
Mary's little hand grabbed her uncle's face to get his attention again before telling him in a serious and even sad tone: "The Sea Witch, Uncle Dean. She cursed Cas and she took his voice as well, like she did with Ariel. I tried to help him but we haven't found his prince yet. You need to save him."
There was a small pause in which it was clear that Mary expected Dean to do something while he had no clue what it was. Finally, he told Mary just that. "So, what exactly is it you want me to do?"
Rolling her eyes in this uber-exasperated way only five year olds could manage, Mary sighed, before explaining the obvious. "A kiss, Uncle Dean! You need to kiss him and be his prince." To emphasize her words, she pointed in his direction and not a second later Cas was looking into the greenest eyes he had ever seen, which were wide with shock.