Title: Entertaining Angels
Characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel
Category: Gen, Angst, Crackiness (knowing me, there will probably be some h/c later, too)
Spoilers: Through 4.10
Summary: A strange boy shows up at Dean and Sam's motel room. Maybe he needs help, or maybe he's there to help them—they can't quite tell.
Word Count: 1658
Disclaimer: Angels belong to God. The Winchesters belongs to Kripke. It's a sad, sad world we live in.
Author's Note: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2) And The Newsboys. Also, I keep re-watching the confrontation scene at the end of 4.10, and Castiel kills me. Also also, I can't believe I'm actually writing this.
Something was tapping on wood, soft and tentative, stopping and then starting again. Dean rolled himself tighter into his blankets and squeezed his eyes shut, determined to get just a little bit more sleep. They had nowhere to go, nowhere to be, no hunt, no demons on their tail at the moment. Surely they were allowed a break now, right?
If the tapping had been regular, he would have just tuned it out and faded down into sleep again. This, though, was both constant and sporadic enough to be annoying. And it. Wasn't. Stopping.
Dean grunted, rubbing his head on his pillow in frustrated longing, then jerked himself up and off the bed, still tangled in blankets, eyes only partly open. "Sammy?" The word was slurred, full of sleepy phlegm. Bleary eyes caught his brother heavily asleep on the other bed, head turned away. Not even twitching.
They were both still scraped raw and empty by the events of the day before. Dean felt like his insides had been scrubbed out with steel wool, achy and sore, too rough to handle, flinching at any touch. He just wanted to forget, but that was denied him.
Sam knew everything now, knew all the darkness Dean had tried to shield him from, knew just how far his big brother had fallen. Kid deserved to get a good sleep after absorbing that kind of blow. At least he still could get a good sleep.
Dean tried not to be jealous of that, tried not to resent his baby brother for still having that gift.
The tapping started again, a little louder, a little more insistent. Dean swung around and squinted at the door. Someone was knocking on the door. The light outside was soft, still early. Who the hell…?
Dean shuffled over to the door and put an eye to the peephole, but couldn't see anything but a dark blob low down in the distorted view. Seriously. What the hell.
With an inward shrug, he opened the door. Whatever was going on, it couldn't possibly be any freakier than their last job.
A young boy blinked up at him, fist still raised to knock. He looked to be about eight or nine years old, unruly dark hair standing up as if he'd just woken from a restless slumber, big eyes blinking as if he was still sleepy. He was wearing a light gray t-shirt and formless pants, both wrinkled and a little dirty, and—Dean flicked his eyes downward—no shoes, filthy bare toes wiggling on the concrete of the walk outside the motel room.
Dean blinked and took a step back, just enough so as not to loom over the little guy. He must have been standing pressed right against the door, toes lined up on the bottom jamb. "Sorry, kid. You have the wrong room. You staying here with your parents?"
The boy shook his head, slow and solemn. He opened his mouth and closed it, and his forehead wrinkled in bewilderment. "I…"
The voice was small, squeaky, as if it had never been used before. The boy frowned and looked down at his toes, curling against the concrete. A shudder passed over his shoulders, swift but strong. Dean recognized fear, confusion.
Dean sighed, then knelt on one knee to be more on the child's level. Kid was obviously lost, and Dean wasn't going to feel right until he helped him find his folks. Or whatever.
"Hey. I'll help you figure it out, okay? We can go to the office and find where you're supposed to be. What's your name?"
The boy stared at him. The gaze was disconcerting, unfathomable, lasted too long, fastened to Dean's face as if held by a magnet. And his eyes, that deep, dark blue, so innocent and curious and full of yearning…
Dean drew in a sharp breath, and he knew.
"Sam! Sam, wake up!"
Sam groaned and pressed his cheek into the pillow. It wasn't time to get up yet. They weren't on a job. There was absolutely no reason to get up.
"Sam! I need you to get the first aid kit!"
Sam's eyes snapped open at that, at the urgency in his brother's voice as much as at the words themselves. He was upright before he knew what he was doing, though he was already all but shaking with angry frustration, wondering how in the world Dean had managed to get himself injured, and this just when they had been hoping for some downtime, too. Dean was…
Dean was crouching on the floor near the motel door, kneeling next to a strange little boy, looking intently at the kid's bare feet.
"Dean? What the crap, man?"
His brother looked up, eyes wide, almost panicked. "He must have been walking to get here. On that gravel road outside. His feet are all cut up. C'mon, Sam, get the kit!"
Sam untangled himself from the bedding, stifling the questions that crowded his mind like a horde of angry bees. Now was obviously not the time. He went to fetch the kit they had stashed in the bathroom while Dean picked up the little boy, grabbing under his slender arms, and swung him up to sit on the small wooden table in the kitchenette of the semi-furnished room.
He brought the plastic box out to the table and set it down, then sank into a chair next to his brother and the strange child, unable to stop staring. The boy seemed vaguely familiar…maybe he'd seen him around the motel when they checked in last night. That didn't explain the almost-panic in Dean's eyes and movements, though.
Dean knelt beside the table, carefully cradling the little feet in his hands, one at a time, studying them as if they could answer some urgent question. He barely looked up when Sam rummaged in the kit and found antiseptic wipes, then handed them down to him. The boy just sat there, silent, staring. He flinched slightly when Dean started cleaning his cuts and scrapes, but didn't make a sound.
"Sorry, sorry," Dean muttered, his touch tender on the small feet, unbearably cautious. As if he was handling a tiny wounded bird. "Sorry, kiddo. It's gonna be okay."
The boy reached out and patted Dean's chest, gentle and soft. "Dean," he said. And smiled.
His smile was blinding. Like watching a world being born, new and whole and unsullied.
Sam swallowed. "Dean… Who is this?"
Dean finally looked up and met Sam's eyes. Panic still showed in the white around his irises, uncertainty and bewilderment, but there was determination there, too. "I think… Sam, I think it's Castiel."
Sam's mouth fell open.
"I know, I know," Dean added hastily. "I know how crazy it sounds. But look…look at his eyes. And, and he just showed up here, was just standing there knocking on the door as if he had nowhere else to go. And, and oh, God, Sam, look at his feet. No calluses. They're as soft as a newborn's."
He held up one little foot with a bizzare flourish of almost-triumph, thumb pressing against the scraped and bruised sole, fingers wrapped gently around the heel, his hand seeming incredibly thick and strong and tanned against the pale, soft flesh. The boy trembled silently and wiggled his toes, shoulders hunching up a little. And then he giggled.
Both Sam and Dean jerked their heads around to stare at his face, mouths open in astonishment. The boy went sober instantly, staring intently at his foot. Then he wiggled his toes again, watching in fascination as they moved both separately and together.
Dean grinned suddenly, squeezing the foot carefully, then moving the callused pad of his thumb over the newborn-soft sole. The child giggled again, the sound rising and bursting in the room like soap bubbles, iridescent and sweet. "Oh, you like that, huh? You're ticklish!" Dean swiveled his gaze over to beam at Sam, utterly delighted with this discovery. "Sam! Castiel is ticklish!"
"I…I see that. That's…great."
Dean lowered the foot back down, letting it dangle. The boy swung his legs, grinning small but real. "Okay, kiddo, looks like nothing is bleeding, but we'll still wrap it up, all right?"
Sam wordlessly handed him a roll of gauze, and Dean suited actions to words. Sam, though, couldn't seem to stop staring at the child sitting on the motel table, still trying to fit this image of quiet innocence with the figure of remote power he had first met the day before Halloween. The one who had hesitated before taking his hand, who had called him "the boy with the demon blood."
The boy tilted his head to the side to meet Sam's gaze, still smiling that little smile. Sam looked into dark blue eyes, and the boy looked back, serene and silent, holding his gaze for far longer than was normal. After a moment that seemed like forever, Sam gasped and jerked back in his seat, one hand rising as if to shield himself.
"Castiel?" he whispered, barely believing.
The child's smile widened, and he reached out to touch Sam's cheek, feather-soft. "Sam." Then he looked back down at Dean, the smile fading. "Sam and Dean."
"That's us, kid." Finished with his task, Dean ripped off the end of the gauze and tossed the diminished roll back into the open first aid kit, then stood and held his arms toward the boy. "You found us. Everything's gonna be okay."
Castiel went into Dean's arms without hesitation, letting him scoop him off the table and carry him over to the ratty couch, sagging in the middle. Sam drew in a shaky breath and watched them, wishing he could believe that Dean was telling the truth, not just shoveling out a soothing platitude for a scared little kid.
This was so far outside their realm of expertise, it wasn't even in the same solar system.