Title: Fried Onions and a Sesame Seed Bun
Characters: Cas, Jimmy, Dean, and Sam.
Warnings: Spoilers for "My Bloody Valentine." Pre-slash Dean/Cas (very, very subtle. Even so, don't like, don't read ;)
Disclaimer: I own none of these fine boys. Such travesty.
Summary: Cas learns about eating and gives his vessel a gift along the way.
A/N: First Supernatural fic! This idea has been floating around the old noggin for a while and I finally got the chance to write it down. I love the idea of Cas and Jimmy being best buds. Personal head canon: Jimmy, despite being completely faithful to Amelia, is also a little bit bi and the two of them gossip about Dean constantly. Then again, that's just me ;) Anyway, as always, hope you guys enjoy!
"Sure you don't want anything, Cas?"
He sits across from the brothers, ramrod straight in the booth of a low-lit diner. It's just another in a long string they've visited this past week, working their way back towards Bobby's. Two days ago Sam had thrown a bit of a fit, claiming that cereal and a carton of milk would go a long way towards remedying their empty wallets. But Dean had scowled, insisting that "Earth's warriors" needed "manly" food, not "cardboard and watered-down cow's piss." There'd been too much folly in that sentence for Cas to tackle it, so he'd simply nodded. Dean took it as agreement. Sam bitched about Cas always taking his side. They'd headed out to the nearest diner next morning.
For all his bickering though, Sam had eaten heartily and seemingly with much relish. Today, both boys have a stack of pancakes before them, munching happily as Cas looks on.
Dean spears three pieces of pancake, creating a miniature stack. He waves it under the angel's nose. "Food, Cas! Want some?"
"If you say, 'require' I'm changing my order to deep fired angel wings. 'Scuse me!" He waves at their waitress, "You got BBQ sauce in this joint?"
"Sure do, hun."
"Might need some in a sec."
"Comin' right up."
Cas, however, takes no notice. His eyes never wander off Dean, or the lecherous grin he's throwing over his shoulder. "You're dripping syrup," Cas observes.
"Huh-? Oh." Popping the pancakes into his mouth, Dean chews thoughtfully. "Wha whi was yayyin-"
He swallows, sticking a sugary tongue out at Sam. "What I was saying," he says, turning his attention back to the angel. "Was that there's nothing 'required' about it, Cas. It's food. You enjoy it, that's all. It's not rocket science."
"I'd been led to believe that you ingest food for it's nutritional value," Cas says, boring his gaze into their pottery and utensils. Perhaps if he stares long enough, the tools would provide him with some answers. Although, that strategy had yet to work on Dean…
"Oh come on-ats ooring!" Dean's love of the chocolate chip cakes was making communication difficult. With a sigh, Sam pushes away his own stack of blueberries and raspberry syrup. He deliberately wipes his mouth before replacing the napkin, folded with the soiled side down.
"What my idiot brother,-"
"You're an idiot."
"-is trying to say is that while we may have to consume food to stay alive that's not the only reason we do it." Picking up his fork, Sam spears a single berry. "I'm full," he declares, before popping the fruit into his mouth. He chews, a small smile creeping up his lips. The boys wait in silence until, with a start, Cas realizes the question he's supposed to ask.
"If you're full, then why are you still eating?"
"Because it's good!" Smiling fully now, Sam scrapes a bit of powdered sugar off the plate, sucking it from the tongs of his fork. "If eating was just about nutrition then we wouldn't have taste buds. Half the time – hell, more than half – we're eating just because we want to. Taste is why there's so many varieties of each food in the grocery store, people like different things at different times. It's why I ate that Snickers bar last night, even though we'd just had dinner. I didn't want the food itself, just the taste of it."
"And that's why some of us got some seriously fat asses." Dean says, staring pointedly at an obese couple seated in the far booth.
"Right," Sam grimaces, "that's one of the downers. There are other reasons too, though. Universally, food is a sign of communion between fellows. Nearly every culture uses the sharing of food in one way or another to-"
Shutting his ears to the youngest Winchester, Cas takes a moment to think over his words.
Angels knew all this of course, they had, after all, seen mankind rise from their primordial soup and go on to indulge in a variety of tasks – one of which was eating. Cut off from the details of their Father's plan however, most had assumed that the humans would simply live off of what they had been given. There was water in the rivers, fruit in the trees… what more could they ask for?
But then, shockingly, they began to create; mixing the herbs they found in the earth with the meat they themselves had hunted down. They created places of centralized heat and soon enough were producing bread and hot, sticky confections. Sam was right; food quickly became not only a necessity for humanity but also a passion, as his Father's children discovered how to morph an obligation into a joy.
And the angels discovered this joy along with them, for, even if they were to eat, they would have never thought to do such a thing as cooking themselves. Creativity was not a characteristic his brother's generally possessed, for, to beings created solely for obedience, it was as dangerous as it was foreign. Yet many of his brothers had long held a fascination with food and all of the taboos it implied. Cas could still remember centuries ago, observing a woman who mixed cumin with rice as he passed through a gale. Uriel had scoffed at the practice, uninterested. Annael entertained a brief, nearly non-existent desire to taste that all three of them firmly ignored.
Cas's own awareness had locked briefly on the woman herself, and something that he could now label as curiosity passed through him.
Perhaps it is not at all surprising where each of them ended up.
Ca's focus comes flying back as Dan gives a loud snort.
"Geeky much, Sam? This is generally the part where I start ignoring him." Dean proclaims the last bit in what Cas recognizes as an exaggerated whisper. He nods solemnly in response.
"It's my Geekiness that get's us through most hunts, Dean."
"You keep telling yourself that, darlin'."
Scowling, Sam hunches in his seat, poking a playful finger at Dean's ribs. "Fine then, next time we find something the size of a house that shoots ice and devours children-"
"Dude, nothing like that exists!"
"Well we wouldn't know that unless I did the research-"
"Actually," Cas says, feeling the need to interrupt, "there is an ancient beast similar to what you describe." The boys stop, heads jerking his way. "There's no name for it in your language but it's reminiscent of a dragon with the added characteristic of mastery over frost elements. I've heard that it has a taste for all humans, though prefers children due to their bite size nature. But you needn't worry, it's extinct." Cas pauses, then amends, "nearly extinct."
The two stare at him a long moment.
"Well," Dean drawls, "isn't that just a bucket full of sunshine."
The three sit in silence for a while, visions of house-size monsters filling their thoughts. Dean's left hand hovers near his boot where a knife is hidden and Sam fingers the salt. Cas doesn't think either of them realize they're doing it.
The waitress eventually brings over the BBQ sauce and Dean, throwing Cas a strange expression involving a wink and puckered lips, dumps the majority of the bottle over his side of eggs. The consumption of more food seems to have revived him somewhat.
"So," he says, mouth open and stuffed, "about this food phobia you've got…"
"I do not have a phobia."
"Nuh huh. Then why don't you get something?"
"I do not want-" but Cas stops, giving it a bit more thought. While it's true that he doesn't particularly want anything, someone else does. Someone that is slowly, paradoxically, becoming a part of him.
He's used to ignoring it, but the whisper feels quite hopeful.
Dean smiles, bright and sunny. "My treat," he says, and Cas nods.
Five months previously, he's never been more thankful for his vessel's instincts.
No sooner have they chopped the ring from Famine's finger then Cas is flying back to the motel, bypassing doors and walls to land in the cupboard-sized bathroom. Through no conscious effort – at least not on his part – he finds himself bent over the toilet, fingers scrambling at the tie he'd let Dean tighten the week before.
He throws his head against the tile and hurls.
Had he not been tainted by Famine's hunger, he would have seen this coming long in advance. Had he seen it coming, he would have been in no true danger. It was circular logic. Yet Cas still feels a spark of guilt welling up inside him, pulsing with something else that churns and pushes against his skin. There was, after all, only so much a vessel could take. A normal human would have distended their stomach hours before, imploding themselves from the inside out on meat and carbohydrates. In truth, he had been lucky that such a thing couldn't kill his vessel. He could have, theoretically, continued to consume White Castle burgers indefinitely.
That didn't mean they just disappeared though.
The burgers were there, rotting in a place that was slightly off kilter with this dimension but still close enough that it didn't really make a difference. In the end it had been somewhere in the high four hundreds, not including the three pounds of raw meat he'd inhaled – down on his knees, worshipful in a way he should only ever be before his Father. Now Cas is on his knees again, watching horrified as the food comes back up in large, whole bits. At the time, chewing hadn't seemed necessary.
He tries to turn but there's already more forcing its way up his throat. He chokes, his whole body rocking against the tile as he shudders and the muscles of his stomach pull tight. Dimly, over the sickening plop's of food hitting water, he can hear movement behind him. The door closes, a faucet turns, and before he knows it Dean's arm is snaking around him, steady and warm.
"Come on, lean back – you're gonna break your knees, dumbass. Here, coat's gotta go too - I'm not paying your dry clean bill, - that's it. Here," Cas leans further into Dean, giving him room to reach around. He flushes the toilet and though the noise makes him flinch away, he's thankful that the smell recedes. There's more to come but for now Cas settles, nearly purring as a cold cloth is pressed against his neck.
"Sam-" he breathes.
"Sammy's just fine, Cas."
"I know. Sonofabitch really did a number on himself, huh?" The cloth moves to his forehead, passing soothingly over his eyes. Cas struggles not to fall into it, forcing himself to push Dean back towards where he belongs.
"Sam. You should-"
"Should nuthin'," he snaps. "Sammy's out cold, probably will be till morning. We'll get him to Bobby's then. Lock him-" Dean stops, swallowing so hard Cas can feel the movement ripple against his back. "Let him rest up," he says instead. "Till' then, I gotta make sure you didn't kill yourself from meat poisoning. Shit, Cas."
He has another moment of peace before he's clawing at the toilet again, meat spilling from his lips. Dean is there the whole time, muttering nonsense and rubbing small circles into his lower back. He's warm. So warm that when Cas can finally turn to look he sees mostly skin. He realizes, sluggishly, that the motel is too cheap for real washcloths. Dean has been mopping his brow with his shirt.
This time, when flannel presses against his cheek, it's softer than it should be.
"I stole from you," Cas says, nearly an hour later. It's the most he's managed in that time and the words come out as forcefully as his heaves.
"Your credit cards. The cash in your duffle." He peers at his human, begging for something, though he's not sure what. "I went to the restaurant. They said I needed money if I wanted food. The need was so strong. Even then. Famine, he is ancient and knowledgeable. Persuasive. I-I was going to hurt her if she didn't move but… I came here instead." His brow furrows. "That's somehow worse."
Dean snorts behind him, the sound covering something fragile. "Dude, stealing is way better than smiting the poor worker bee."
"But I stole from you."
Dean isn't sure how to respond to that, so he merely grips Cas's waist, hoisting him up as another wave rolls through him.
They pass this way through the whole night. Cas works to purge his vessel of the meat he'd consumed and Dean offers conversation, along with more physical comfort than he's willing to admit to. Near four in the morning, picking up where they left off, Dean patiently explains the concept of emergency money. He details how his – as Cas had discovered – is always hidden in the pocket of his duffle while Sammy's laptop cover had a slim, near invisible slot. It was cash they picked up from playing people, playing pool, and grateful civilians who'd been rescued from things that go bump in the night. It was there for a reason – when family finds themselves in deep shit.
"And Famine's about as deep as you get, Cas."
He lets Dean's voice wash over him, nodding in the appropriate places, vomiting throughout the rest. He doesn't ask the question that's haunting him, does that mean I'm family then?
They speak of humorous things instead. How badass they're going to look now that they've taken out not one, but two horsemen.
Later they speak briefly about plans and the importance of having more than: 'go in, come out, and meet in the parking lot.'
Later still and their thoughts roll back to Sam. Dean hesitantly expresses fear about his brother and his addiction. Cas is sure that the only reason he's hearing this is because Dean is convinced, beyond any doubt, that the sound of his heaves covers his voice. But light is shinning from the other room and the cramps, while still there, are starting to abate. So Dean stands. He gives Cas one more pat on the shoulder and tells him to rinse with water - then repeat. He'll be just outside, checking on Sammy.
It's only when Cas is alone that he realizes he isn't. His vessel's presence, forced down to a manageable level, has nevertheless made itself known throughout the night. Cas didn't know to find a toilet when the nausea started. It wasn't Cas who knew how to curl this body, soften it to experience the least bit of pain.
So it's while sitting on a grimy bathroom floor, in a position so similar to prayer, that he gives thanks. Not to his Father, but to another of his brothers – one who is lacking wings but certainly not strength.
And for just a moment the presence rises up, scared and sick and tired in a way Cas has never known, but also jubilant in a way he doesn't understand.
You know, he whispers, as quick and as loud as he dares. Dean stayed with you. Us. Even over Sammy. That means something, right?
Cas can't think on this now. He pushes down, leans over, and heaves.
Two weeks later, he flies into a bank and with knowledge not his own withdraws $2,000. The presence inside him is free for now, sadly explaining that the money was put aside for a vacation in England. Just him and Amelia. Obviously, that wasn't going to happen.
Cas splits the money and puts it in each brother's hiding place. They won't discover it for months to come. Won't immediately make the connection between miraculous funds and thieving angels. Cas is okay with that.
Glad I could be of service. The voice says. It sounds bitter.
You have been… invaluable, throughout our time together, Cas responds.
He needs a stronger word, something more to convey everything his vessel has given up. He can't find one though, not in any language this mind could process. So instead, after a moment's hesitation, he gives something else entirely.
You have been invaluable… Jimmy.
It is quite uncommon for angels to address their vessels as an identity. To acknowledge that they are anything more than a tool. A meat suit.
Castiel is far from common.
The vessel – the presence – Jimmy, surges with joy.
This, then, is a start.
Cas nods and watches as Dean's face morphs from teasing to genuine surprise.
"Really?" he asks. "You'll eat?"
"Yes. I wouldn't have agreed if I did not mean it-"
"Yeah, yeah. Hell, I'm not complaining. 'Bout time you started kickin' back a bit. Breakfast, man. You're gonna love it. Hey!" He waves at their waitress, fork held high in the air. She's older than the other staff, but still pretty by humans' current standards. Her hands are planted firmly on her hips as she saddles up to Dean.
She eyes his eggs distastefully. "Need more BBQ sauce?"
"Nah. I think I've got that covered." He smiles and Sam chokes on his milk. "My friend here though, he could do with a little TLC."
"Is that right?" She turns to Cas, her gaze softening. He catches an impression from her mind of a blue-eyed boy, dressed smartly in a sailor's cap. Her nephew from last Halloween. "And what can I get for you, sweetie?"
"Oh. Shit. Didn't really decide that, did we? Um…" Sam squawks as Dean lunges across him, grabbing the menu.
"Don't get excited, Sammy. Now let's see…" he flips the menu towards Cas, bouncing in excitement. "These? They're hash browns. They're amazing. So are tater tots but they don't serve them here. Heathens."
The waitress glares at the back of Dean's head, but Cas can sense nothing but surprised amusement from her.
"Sammy and I got pancakes but you might want to try the waffles. Bet you'd get a kick out of filling the little holes with syrup, huh? All methodical like. Or you could just get both. Sammy's paying."
"And bacon. Of course we're getting bacon-"
"I already know what it is I want."
That derails him. Dean slowly lowers the menu.
"Huh. That so?"
He looks oddly disappointed and Cas resolves then and there to eat more often. He'll let Dean choose the food next time. Hash browns, bacon, waffles, pancakes… he'll eat it all if it pleases him. It is his job, now self-appointed, to make the Righteous Man happy, but they have the rest of their existence for that – however short that may be. Right now, Cas is hoping to please another friend.
"All right then, featherbrains," Dean gestures widely. "have at 'em."
Cas turns to the waitress, giving her what he hopes is a thankful smile. "I apologize that we kept you waiting."
"Well now, aren't you a perfect gentlemen." She smiles, revealing yellowed, slightly crooked teeth that have never had the privilege of braces. She is beautiful. "So what'd you like?"
He swallows, Jimmy's heart stuttering in a way it only did before battle. He swallows again before saying: "A cheeseburger." Then a nod, decisive. "With fried onions and ketchup. And a sesame seed bun if you have it." He can sense, in the back of their mind, that this is Jimmy's favorite. "Please."
All three of them stare. It's the waitress who recovers first.
"Uh, we don't normally serve lunch until twelve…"
She bites her lip and her eyes catch onto his coat. Her mind once again fills with images of her nephew, this time memories of his obsession with dressing up. The little boy pulls coats from a cedar closet and swims in them. One of them is a raincoat.
"Yeah. Yeah, all right. I'll see what I can do. Hell, Larry owes me a favor anyway. Lisa!" She marches off towards the kitchen.
No sooner is she gone than Dean's hand is on his wrist, tightening. Sam is also leaning closer. His gaze darts worriedly between him and his brother.
"What the hell, Cas?" Dean hisses. "A burger? You trying to start up DPSD or something?"
"PTSD." Sam corrects.
"I don't know what that-"
"You hate burgers!" Dean's grip tightens into his skin but when Cas goes to look the hand is snatched back. Curling it against his side Dean glares across the table. His eyes are wider than Cas would have expected. "Dammit, Cas. This isn't funny. When I said you should eat I didn't mean that."
"And you realize…" Sam pauses, biting his lip. "You realize you don't need to prove anything, right? I mean, I know it must have been hard, being vulnerable like that…"
"You don't know." Cas frowns as Sam flinches. It's merely the truth. "Unless you are secretly an angel who was once manipulated by a Horseman."
"Wha-?" Sam blinks. "Did you just make a joke?"
"You did! Didn't he?" He turns to Dean, gesturing wildly. "Didn't the traumatized angel just make a joke?"
"I am not trau—"
"If he did it was lame. Seriously, Cas. A burger? That's really what you want to order? I can call the waitress back you know."
Something in Dean's tone has shifted. Cas has no doubts that Dean would do just that, further inconveniencing a woman doing them a favor just because he might flounder and change his mind. So it's not out of a sense of obligation that Cas shakes his head, only a desire to go through with something he knows will bring happiness. It's just not a happiness geared toward himself.
"No." Cas says again, softly.
"Because Jimmy would care for one."
Sam's breath explodes out in a rush and Dean's mouth pops open in a perfect, tiny 'o.'
"Yes," he says to their understanding.
It takes them a moment but it's worth it when Dean snatches his coffee, muttering a, "goddamn martyr" into its depths. Cas is still learning, but he suspects there's a great deal of pride covering those words.
Sam smiles so long and so wide that Dean's eventually forced to poke him, claiming that his face will stick that way. His expression barely dims though and it's replaced by a soft, cheery whistle.
That music is their only conversation until the burger arrives.
When it does their waitress presents it with a flourish, chattering on about Larry's love of routine. "Old man would keel over if someone so much as changed the color of his socks," she says. "I tell ya, he's gonna die in the same town, wearing the same clothes, and flipping the same patties. I'm a real miracle worker, getting you one of these so early." She winks and when the check is left it's got a, 'thanks for the memories, boys' written on it in green ink.
Neither of them look as he picks up the sandwich. Cas supposes it's a kind of privacy, but he's relieved when he feels Dean's leg bump against his own. It reminds him that he's close.
Perhaps his brothers would find this mortifying: the great Castiel, Angel of Thursday, brought low by a human invention and the memories that cling to it. But he's beginning to realize that the smallest things – those seemingly innocuous things – are what cause the most damage. And can bring the most joy.
As he bites down Cas can taste meat, bread, grease… and bile. He opens his mind, letting the textures flow through him to the man beneath. Memories, far stronger than the waitress's, are given in return. Jimmy cocoons them both in a picture of his family. Claire is a toddler, dressed in a swimsuit and braids. Amelia's just washed her hair. The three of them sit on the porch, enjoying burgers on a hot, summer day.
Cas also remembers. He finishes the burger – every bite – with the feeling of Dean's wet flannel pressed against his cheek.