"We're far away!" Matthew announces to the pretty young desk attendant, twisting around in Cas's arms so that he can face her while Dean digs through his bag for his check in information.
She gives Matthew the warm smile that all women give him. "What are you far away from, honey?"
"My house!" Matthew proclaims.
The desk attendant, whose nametag reads "LaRhondha" smiles at Dean.
"He is so cute."
Dean smiles at her. He realizes that he's biased, but he thinks it's pretty hard to deny that they've got a good looking kid. His and Cas's features stripe across Matthew's face- Cas's dark messy hair, Dean's bright green eyes, Cas's mouth and Dean's jaw. Everyone agrees that he looks like Sam when he laughs. On the very rare occasion that someone really pushes to find out who his biological father is, they usually say that it's Cas, because Dean feels like people assume that Matthew is his son from a previous girlfriend, but assume that if Cas is the father, Matthew is a child they had together.
"Well, I bet you'll like it here," LaRhondha tells him. "We've got a pool and a waterslide. Hot tub for the parents, cause you seem like you a handful sometimes." She winks at Dean.
Matthew giggles, gives her a smile that is outright flirty and buries his face in Cas's neck.
"Oh, yeah, he is," Dean laughs. He gives LaRhondha the registration information, noting the difference between Sioux Falls and Chicago when she doesn't so much as blink at their reservation for a king sized bed and a cot for two men and a child.
"Daddy? You know where is my house?" Dean hears Matthew ask Cas seriously.
"Don't worry, baby, we know where the house is from here," Cas says softly. "Your father used to drive everywhere. All over the whole country."
"Yeah," Dean replies, running his hand over Matthew's back. "I know where everything is."
Dean has actually enjoyed bringing Matthew on a long trip. He'd thought Cas was a little nuts for suggesting it at first, Chicago is a two day drive these days. Sam had unapologetically mocked him for the idea, but it's… nice to do the family car trip thing right. Dean's driven back and forth across the lower 48 at least a hundred times, and he's never been to Wall Drug.
I had turned out to be creepy as all Hell, but Matthew had gotten a kick out of it.
And the kid's… concern over getting lost is… it shouldn't be, and Dean knows it, but the fact that Matthew thinks of a car trip as being away from his home, away from his dog, away from Uncle Sam and Aunt Chelsea, away from Emily and Lizzie, away from his oldest cousin Sophie, who the younger three all adore… is nice. Dean's had a home for less than ten years. His son's growing up with a sense of what a home is and he's so grateful for that he can't really put it into words.
Even if the big family road trip had been put on the calendar because Dean had gotten screwed into going to another convention for work. His program director was under the impression that Dean's existence as a young man in the Hospice field was going to update Sioux Falls General's entire program. As the youngin', Dean had been sent to Chicago to gather the knowledge and bring it back to the people. While this would have made perfect sense if Dean was a young, single, nurse, but it was really irritating to be chosen to sit in a hotel in Chicago for a week when everyone knew damn well that he had a husband and a three year old, and Sharon had five grandkids in Chicago.
Besides, the whole concept of going to some convention to learn more about their field was laughable. Nothing he brought back from Dr. Read It In A Book was going to change how they all did their jobs. Cheryl was still going to bring a hotdish. Cathleen was still going to make an extra trip before the last day she expected to visit a house. Dean was still going to sit on the corner of his patient's bed on the last day that they were mentally "there" and tell them about Reapers and Heaven and that everything was going to be all right.
But the fact that his program director was an ass was at least going to work out for Dean. It was a four day conference, he'd taken an extra couple days off so that he, Cas, and Matthew could drive out, and he knew exactly which three talks his director thought were important, which meant he could blow off most of this stupid crap and have a nearly all expense paid vacation with his family.
The first night in Chicago they just eat in the hotel. They're both wiped from the drive and from spending two hours in the pool with Matthew, and Dean has to get up and go to the stupid convention in the morning.
Cas is paging through a couple of the brochures from the concierge desk, looking for things to take Matthew to. Dean's going through his convention schedule with a penciling, circling the things that he absolutely has to go to and crossing out things that he'd rather suck rock salt than attend. Their waiter comes by to ask them if they want refills. It's not until Dean looks up to thank him that he notices her.
The girl staring at them.
She's young, seventeen, maybe nineteen at the outside. Blonde. Not that Dean never gets looks from girls too young to be giving him looks, but this one is different. She looks shocked to the core. He's gotten that in that past too. Every once in a while some kid that remembers him from when he stormed into their house and saved them, or sees him and stares for a while, trying to determine if they really do recognize his face.
Then her gaze shifts to Cas and turns to horror. Dean starts to stand up, go to her, find out what's wrong, but she sees him, startles, and bolts.
"Dean!" Cas's voice finally broke in.
"Yeah? Sorry. Just… planning. What's up?"
He can tell that Cas doesn't believe him, but indicates with a quick headshake that they'll discuss it later.
"We go swimming again?" Matthew asks.
"Not tonight, kiddo," Dean says. "Tomorrow?"
"Not tonight?" Matthew asks, with a little frown crinkling his slightly chubby cheeks. "Why not?"
"Because you can't swim after you eat. It makes you sink," Dean replied. Cas and Matthew both gave him the exact same look of slightly suspicious disbelief. It didn't quite push the girl to the back of his mind, but did make her something to worry about later.
Today was totally, completely, in every way worth getting up at six this morning to go to an hour long lecture on bullshit so that he could blow off the rest of his official day. Cas had found children's nature museum with a nationally renowned butterfly enclosure and Matthew had spent half an hour trying to stand still but giggling like a maniac every time a butterfly got anywhere near him and scaring them away. Cas had been covered in them. It looked like he was wearing a shirt and hat made out of wings. Everyone in the enclosure had been staring at him and it had taken them ten minutes to dislodge enough butterflies so that Cas could walk outside.
Matthew is heavy and asleep in Dean's arms as they walk back to the hotel. Cas's hand is warm, folded up in his own.
And his gasp as he walks into the hotel lobby is so loud and so harsh that it makes Dean jump.
And then he sees what Cas sees.
The blonde girl from last night, and the thing that makes her reaction to them make sense.
Dean feels like his brain has just shut down. Like this is just too bizarre to digest and he's not totally sure how to even process it. The girls name pops up though. Claire. He remembers the way Jimmy said it. The desperation in his voice.
Jimmy is looking back at Cas with the Sam brain-melted expression. From the same face.
But it's not exactly the same. Jimmy's hair is still short, and still brown. He's put on just a little bit of weight, not that he's gotten heavy, but he looks as though he's spent a few too many years behind a desk. His cheeks and jaw are soft where Cas's aren't. He's wearing slacks, a button up, and a tie. In comparison Cas looks like triple the hippie he actually is with his loose long hair, slightly ragged jeans, and just a little overlarge flannel shirt.
Claire's expression is even more of a mirror to her father's than Cas's is.
Jimmy gapes like a fish for a few moments before managing a breathless, "What the hell?"
His voice grates. It's lighter, less gravel in it. Just like it's not quite Cas's face, which Dean has spent more hours than he'd like to admit watching peacefully sleep, it's also not quite Cas's voice, which Dean has starting hearing scold him in his head when is deciding whether or not the garbage can will hold for another day, or telling him to take a breath when he is about to lose his temper with Matthew over an innocent thing.
"Hello, Jimmy," Cas answers.
Jimmy's eyes blow wide as understanding dawns. Claire grabs his wrist "Dad? What the hell is going on?"
Dean sees Jimmy's eyes travel down Cas's body, bug out as they see a reflection of his own hand wrapped in Dean's, and then jump up to Matthew.
"Are you serious with this?"
"Okay, come on, come one, let's take this freak show off the main drag, alright?" Dean says, walking away from the front door toward the corner of the lobby. Claire follows, and then her father after her.
"Yes, alright?" Dean tells Jimmy after they've planted in the corner of the lobby. "He's who you think he is." He waves his hand between himself and Cas. "This is what you think it is. This is our son. Our," Dean stresses, in case the whole "I'm in a serious relationship with someone in a carbon copy of your body" thing isn't coming across. Matthew stirs, just a little and Dean strokes his hand over his son's back, trying to soothe him back to sleep before he's awake enough to catch what's going on. He may not be psychic like his cousin, but he's a sensitive kid, he picks up on the emotion of a room nearly as quickly as Sophie does.
"I don't understand. Who are you?" Claire demands
Cas bites his lip, making a decision. "I'm Castiel," he extends his hand to her and Jimmy grabs her around the waist and pulls her back.
"Castiel. Castiel the Angel?" Claire gasps.
"No, not anymore. Just Castiel. Human."
Jimmy stares at Castiel. Claire stares at Castiel. Cas moves a little closer to Dean.
"So," Dean starts, trying to break the crazy weird tension. "How did you come back?"
"How long have you been walking around in my skin?" Jimmy counters.
Cas's hand tightens around Dean's and Jimmy purses his lips. It's something that Cas does all the time, but on Jimmy it's tight and wrathful. On Cas is usually slightly annoyed, undercut with pretending not to be amused. Dean's used to the way that the same expression on the same face can look so differently. Emily and Lizzie somehow managed to develop polar opposite personalities, so much so that even neighbors and acquaintances have no trouble telling them apart. But the difference between Cas and Jimmy just stabs him in the heart. He holds Matthew, still thankfully sleeping, a little bit tighter.
"For… um… about a year after the warehouse," Cas answers. "And then Lucifer killed me. And then a month later I came back."
Dean can see Jimmy doing the math in his head, and can see him come up with the figure. "Oh."
"Lucifer?" Claire asks.
Jimmy hushes her and pulls her a little further back.
"When did you come back?" Dean asks again.
"Just after that," Jimmy answers. He looks at them both for a moment, eyes lingering on Matthew, before clearing his throat. "Come on, baby, we're going to stay somewhere else. Let's go get our stuff."
Dean almost calls out to him, but what's he supposed to say? Sorry you got double minted? Sorry you made pawn status in a universal game of fuck-you-chess?
They both watch Jimmy storm off, dragging Claire behind him by the wrist until she wrenches her hand out of his grip. She shoots a quick look back at them.
Cas steps into Dean's body and plants a quick kiss on Matthew's forehead. "Well… I'm glad he's alive?" he manages.
"I guess," Dean replies.
Matthew naps for a couple hours. Cas does too. Dean watches them until Cas wakes up, and then pretends that he wasn't just staring at the two of them for the last hour. Cas reads until Matthew wakes up. They all go back down to the pool for a couple hours and then out for deep dish. Matthew declares it his favorite thing and Dean has to go wet a couple of napkins in the bathroom to get all the pizza sauce off his fingers. And his face. And some how, the back of his neck.
They go back to the hotel. Matthew refuses to put on his pajamas until his dads do too. They're all tucked into the bed reading him one of his books about trains and, Dean has to admit, doing their best impression of a sappy Hallmark card, when there is a knock on the door.
"Hello!" Matthew shouts in response. Dean stiffens. He shoots a look at Cas, who nods and pulls Matthew close to his chest.
"Let's play quiet, baby," he whispers. Mathew tucks his lips into his mouth, so there is just a line across the bottom of his face. "And close your eyes."
Dean slides out of bed, and grabs the demon knife that he packed alongside his toothbrush case and goes to the door. He peaks through the peephole.
"Shit," he whispers. It's Jimmy's daughter, wearing less shirt than he would prefer to have a teenage girl wearing near a hotel room. He goes back to his suitcase, grabs the flask of holy water that he didn't feel right about not packing and returns to the door, ducking out of it.
"I just wanted to talk to you," Claire says, holding up her hands placatingly.
"That's nice. Give me your arm," Dean replies.
Claire extends it and watches as he undoes the flask. "Holy water, right?" she asks as Dean pours it over her arm to absolutely no effect.
"Right. What are you doing here?"
"Dad and I are here looking at colleges. He wants me to stay close by, but I'm too brilliant for Chicago."
"That's nice. I meant in my hotel" Dean replies.
"I realize that," Claire huffs, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Where are you going to go?" Dean asks, when she doesn't offer any answer.
"MIT. Or maybe Stanford. Best computer science programs in the country and they're wooing me. If I snapped my fingers I could probably get Carnegie Mellon to give me an expense account and let me spend it all on clothes and caviar. I hacked into the hotel records and found your room. Took me a minute and a half and that was just because I was pretending that I was just IM'ing a friend so my Dad wouldn't get upset." She sets a hand on her hip. "He doesn't realize that no one IM's anymore."
"Good for you. What do you want from me?" Dean asks.
"Angels destroyed my family. Then Demons did. I'm not stupid. I started following all the weird news stories that crop up. Looking up what the explanation might really be. Noticing weird arrests for people impersonating FBI agents and homeland security."
Dean sets his hand to his forehead. "Do not tell me you became a Hunter. You are a little girl."
"I haven't been a little girl since your boyfriend took my father away when I was eleven," Claire snaps. "And I could boohoo about that and pummel my teeny fists into your chest and it wouldn't do any good. And I can walk into Google in a couple years, start raking it in and live in the company dorms with a bunch of nerds relieved by having the weight of the outside normal world lifted off their shoulders, and it won't do any good. Your supernatural shit ruins the lives of girls like the girl I used to be every day. That's what matters to me. Stopping that- that's what I actually want to do with my life."
"Well I don't know what to tell you, sweetheart," Dean tells her, backing against the door a little bit.
"Don't call me sweetheart," Claire responds, stepping right into his space again. "Your boyfriend was in me for a little while too. I know more than you think I do. I know Hunting is more than stabbing demons and stealing cars. I know how much seriously scary shit is out there. I know your big hulking brother thinks that being able to do a Google search and track an IP address is impressive- and that's cute, but I can actually do something. I can get access to things your motely crew doesn't know exist. Fuck your laminated badges, I can put you into the FBI employee records so if someone runs your badge numbers, something actually comes up. Every company in the world that uses those pass cards? I can open all those doors. I'm a goddamn prodigy, and I'm asking to be on your team."
"I'm not on a team," Dean responds immediately.
"Obviously, Daddy number one of two," she snarls. "But someone sure the hell is." She takes a deep breath, Dean notices the miniscule tremble in her bottom lip before she schools it and puts her hands back on her hips. Good. She's not as hard as he thought she was, there is some of that scared little girl from last night still in there. "I want to do something meaningful. This is what I can do."
Dean crosses his arms and looks at her. She stands her ground, and he can tell it's not just posturing.
"How is your father?" He asks.
"Right now? Pissed. How often do you run in to the jackass angel that high jacked your body throwing said body into the arms of his surprise gay lover?"
"Other than that. For the last few years. Since he got back. How has he been?"
Claire breathes deep, then huffs the whole breath back out. "Grateful. Sweet. Attentive- Over attentive, almost smothering. Every birthday's an event, every holiday is a major celebration. He and my mom renewed their vows and every once in a while he brings her flowers for no reason."
"That's great," Dean says.
"He lives like he expects to die," Claire answers, and there is an edge there.
"Well, what else is a man going to do?" Dean replies, even though he doesn't mean it. "Are you guys, the Novaks, are you happy?"
Claire chews her bottom lip. "Yes."
Dean nods. "Alright. Fine. You gotta pen?"
Claire rolls her eyes at him and pulls out her smartphone. Dean gives her Jo's "business" line and explains what it is. That she can call Jo in the morning and explain what she can do and that Jo might find a job for her.
Claire nods, turns, and stalks away. Dean goes back inside, where Matthew is still winning the quiet game. He gives Cas a tight smile, walks forward as quietly as he can and tickles the unsuspecting three year old. Matthew laughs and swats at his hands kicking backward into Castiel.
Dean drops back into bed, kisses his son's forehead quick and then kisses his husband.
"Everything alright?" Cas asks.
"Yeah, we'll do details in a little bit, okay?"
Cas nods and picks the book back up. The three of them settle back against the headboard again and finish the book. Cas carries Matthew to his cot and then tucks himself back into bed with Dean.
Dean tells him about Claire. Cas comments that it certainly won't make Jimmy any less angry with them, but Jo will be thrilled. Dean sets his head on Cas's shoulder while they plan their trip the Lincoln Park Zoo tomorrow and they drift off together.