It had been months since Dean and Sam had become surrogate parents to three small angels. The curse that had been powerful enough to change an Archangel and two Seraphim into toddlers was still not even close to being undone, but the brother's patience was on the brink of it daily.
Gabriel had been the only one of the three to retain at least some of his power. It was wasted on conjuring sweets into his possession or levitating Balthazar up to where Bobby had stashed the liquor, but it was more mojo than Balthazar and Castiel had combined. Unfortunately, they had all retained their individual sense of humor which meant that Gabriel was a tiny force of destruction to be reckoned with.
As soon as they would settle into a routine, Gabriel would do something that would upset the balance. When all the angels were finally on a sleep schedule that allowed the adults to actually get some research done and the house cleaned up, Gabriel would start telling scary bedtime stories to his brothers. When bath time had finally become a routine, Gabriel tried to see how long his brothers could hold their breath under water. Then Gabriel would tell bedtime stories of being trapped under water. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Cas was always the most traumatized by each prank and trick which always brought Dean down on Gabriel the hardest.
Bobby came home one day to find Gabriel duct taped to the wall by his arms and legs as Sam sat at the kitchen table with Dean applying ice and peanut butter to the back of his head.
"What the hell happened now?" Bobby blurted.
"What does it look like? King Kandy over there," Dean, without looking, pointed an accusing finger at Gabriel's squirming form on the wall, "decided to put gum in Sammy's hair."
Sam just made a disgruntled noise and put his head down on the table.
"Sit still or we are going to have to cut this out!" Dean fussed with the peanut butter matted hair.
Bobby looked back and forth between the brothers and Gabriel for a moment. He was about to free Gabriel from the duct tape and give the boys a talking to about how even though he's an angel he's still a kid and you can't just duct tape him to a wall, when Gabriel spit at him. "Release me you mud monkey! I demand it!"
With an arch of his brow, Bobby walked past the archangel and started putting the groceries away. "Well, that's just dandy. Where are the other two? Chained up in the panic room?"
Almost as if on cue, a tuft of blonde hair, followed by a mess of dark brown hair came out from behind the desk in the study.
"No, they are right there, where I can see them." Dean tugged at Sam's hair as he spoke. Sam made a hissing from between his teeth. "They know if they screw up now, they're next up on the wall." Dean pointed to his own eyes with two fingers, and then pointed those fingers at the two little angels across the room from him. With a shuddering of wings, they scampered back to what little safety the desk had to offer.
Sam squirmed again and Dean growled. "That's it, I'm getting the scissors."
Sam bolted up out of his chair. "NO! I'll be still, just… don't cut my hair."
"What's the big deal, you could use a haircut anyway." Bobby slammed the fridge closed and headed into the study with a beer in his hand.
"He could use several." Dean said under his breath as he dug through the drawers in the kitchen, looking for scissors.
"You didn't see my hair the last time he cut it." Sam practically whimpered as he tried desperately to yank the gum from his own hair.
"You were fourteen Sam, the 'Joey Lawrence' was out of style." Dean defended as he slammed a drawer shut.
"Yeah, well I went from 'Joey' to 'cancer patient', where did you even get those clippers anyway?" Sam successfully pulled a large chunk of purple gum from his locks, holding it up triumphantly.
"Fine, that's the thanks I get for trying to help you out."
Bobby rubbed his face. "Would you both shut up!?" He sat down behind his desk and before he could even set his beer down, Balthazar was in his lap, clapping his hands at the excitement of the bottled brew. Bobby decided he better hold onto it if he wanted any to himself and took a long pull from the bottle in case it was weaseled away from him before he could finish it.
Sam gave Dean that look. That look that meant he knew that Dean couldn't possibly be proud of his last statement. "Isn't it bath time yet?" Sam asked snidely.
Dean grumbled as Cas's messy hair popped back up from behind Bobby.
"That's just cold, man." Dean said to Sam as he spotted Cas's big blue eyes, already glassy looking with potential tears.
Gabriel gave one more heaving grunt and pulled one foot free. "Ha! I'm almost free, you fiends!" He squealed in a tiny voice. The duct tape wasn't really a punishment, just a stalling tactic. Gabriel merely saw it as another game.
Dean forced a smile at Sam. "You wanna play that way. You get to manage that one tonight." He tugged a thumb at Gabriel as he walked over to the desk.
Bobby watched Dean approach with wary eyes and Dean paused halfway across the room to take a deep breath. He closed his eyes. "Come on, Cas. You heard the man with the girly hair, bath time."
There was a ruffle of feathers and a sniffle, but Cas didn't come out from behind Bobby. Dean rolled his eyes and tried counting to 10, but only made it to 5.
"Cas, please, let's not do this again tonight." Dean pleaded.
Dean slowly made his way to the desk and started to walk around it. Castiel kept Bobby's chair between him and Dean. His wings were flared out defensively and they were all Dean could see of the little guy. They were quivering. Cas was terrified.
You see, Castiel, mighty angel of the Lord, was afraid of baths. Thanks to his big brother, Gabriel trying to see if Cas could breathe water. It had scared him pretty badly, and he wouldn't even play in puddles now.
Dean knelt down on one knee, holding onto the desk to steady himself. "Cas, man, you think I'd do anything to hurt you? C'mon, trust me on this one. Just you and me, buddy, ok? To hell with the rest of these guys."
Dean was about to just come up with some excuse for Cas not to need a bath, despite the lollipop wrapped in a dust bunny that was visibly stuck to his black wings, when Cas came out from around the chair. His eyes filled with tears and his nose running down his face, creating streaks of clean spots on the angel's dirty little face.
Dean smiled at him and extended his hand. Cas ran the last few steps to Dean, his dirty trench coat balled up in his little fist. Dean grabbed him up in his arms and stood up, realizing then that Cas was missing his pants and one sock.
The hunter shook his head, decided it was best just not to ask any more. He pulled Cas's shirt down enough to cover his Lion King underpants and headed through the kitchen. Glaring at Sam as he went by and hearing Cas call Gabe an 'assbutt' as they passed him to the stairs.
He stood outside the bathroom door long enough to hear duct tape come off the walls downstairs. Cas seized up in Dean's arms, gripping at his shirt. The little guy was afraid that Gabe would come after them. Shaking his head on how fucked up this whole thing was, Dean went into the bathroom and shut the door behind them so Cas could see him do it.
"See, just us." He said reassuringly as he set Cas down on the floor. Cas kicked off his only sock and sat on the floor, wrapped up in his trench coat.
Dean turned to the bathtub and turned on the water. He yelped in surprise as Cas climbed up the back of him to his shoulders and wrapped his feet and hands around Dean's face and neck.
"What the… " He said through the sticky fingers than had found his mouth as a handhold. "Damn it, Cas! What are you doing?!" Dean tried to pry Cas of his head, but the little guy was just not budging and was now sobbing loudly into Dean's hair.
Dean turned off the water and Cas relaxed his hold on him a little, the sobs turning to whimpers. He turned to look in the bathroom mirror so he could see Cas as he talked to him. "Ok, there's no way you're not getting a bath tonight, so how do we have to do this?"
Twenty minutes later, Sam opened the door to the bathroom. Sam started talking before he had even turned the handle. "Hey, can you hurry it up, I still have peanut butter in my… " He stopped short and choked on his words.
There, sitting in a huge pile of bubbles in the tub was Dean and Castiel. They both had shampoo mohawks and Castiel had a bubble goatee to match. There was water and bubbles everywhere and they were belting out the chorus of Bobby Darin's song "Splish Splash" in between Castiel's tiny giggles.
Dean immediately stopped playing the air drums and looked up at Sam with wide green eyes. Castiel, startled, flared out his wings, sending a spray of water and bubbles at Sam. Sam didn't even blink as the water hit him, his jaw was too slack to form words.
With a growl, Dean pointed a finger at him. "One word. So help me, Sammy, I will tell everyone about how you use to shave your legs."
Sam was finally able to close his mouth and he nodded once. "Fair enough." Then Sam shut the door. He stood there for a moment, shook his head and headed downstairs again. As he hit the bottom of the stairs, he could hear Dean start singing again.
Bobby looked up at Sam. "Everything ok?"
"I um, yeah. Everything is fine."
"You still got peanut butter in your hair." Bobby said as he went back to the grimoire he was studying.
"Yeah, and I think I need a drink." He went to the fridge and pulled out a beer and sat back down on the couch in the study.
Immediately, Gabriel was scrambling on his lap. He had a sly grin on his face and reached up and tapped Sam's head. Sam frowned and reached up and touched the back of his head. There were no traces of peanut butter. "You really do need a haircut." He said, matter-of-factly.
Sam frowned at Gabriel. "Why don't you just do that so no one has to suffer a bath?"
Gabriel smiled a deliciously wicked smile that should never be on the face of toddler. "Because all things happen for a reason, Samsquatch." Then the archangel and hellraiser, curled up under Sam's arm, tucked his thumb into his mouth, and hummed "Splish Splash" as he drifted off to sleep.