A/N: So, fun fact, this fic took me like five decades to write and was supposed to be about three pages long. It kinda got away from me. But in a good way. Also, it took forever to write because I was dying of cute. The fluff is actually so fluffy, it's painful. Beware.
And that's alright/ Found a martyr in my bed tonight/ Stops my bones from wondering who I am
-"Some Nights" Fun.
Dean may still deny the way his heart swells up, but he can't hide the grin that forms as the little two-year-old girl reaches out. Dean gives a little wave as Sam's face appears on the screen, one giant hand pulling her little pudgy one back.
"You can't actually touch him, Mia."
She looks absolutely heartbroken. "Daddy?" she asks, eyes wide and the beginnings on a full on pout forming.
"But you can talk to me," Dean says quickly. He gives another little wave, throwing on his bright "Daddy smile". "How are you, sweetheart?"
It's like nothing happened. Mia starts babbling on nonsensically, short arms gesturing wildly. Dean chuckles.
"Course I am," Sam replies with a smile. "She misses you, though. You're back on Friday, right?"
Dean nods wearily. "My flight leaves around noon, so I should be home in time for dinner."
Mia's still babbling, apparently unaware of the adults talking over her.
"How was your flight out, by the way?" Sam asks with a twinkle in his eyes. "You survived, obviously."
Dean grits his teeth. "Yeah, as if you don't know. How did you get me to take sleeping pills, anyway?"
Sam shrugs carelessly, fighting a grin. "I have my ways."
Dean's about to start interrogating him, but Mia's stopped her babbling suddenly and is climbing up Sam's chest. Sam frowns at her.
"What is it, Mia?"
She reaches up, stretching as far as her arms can, knocking a fist against Sam's lips. "Unk," she says seriously. "Shhh."
Dean has to fight laughter as Mia knocks her fist against Sam's lips once more. Satisfied her uncle's going to stay quiet now, she climbs back down to her spot on Sam's lap and starts babbling to Dean again, looking rather pleased with herself. Sam rolls his eyes dramatically, sharing a private smile with Dean before both of them dutifully turn their attention back fully onto the two-year-old.
It's the next day when the weather suddenly decides to go from grey and cloudy to clear skies, warm and sunny in Lawrence, Kansas. Mia quickly decided she wanted to spend time outside so Sam grabbed one of the textbooks from the online class he was taking and walked Mia over to the nearby park.
Not to Sam's surprise, Mia quickly got tired of running around on the structure but still wanted to stay outside. So she waddles over to where Sam had settled down on a bench with his textbook, begging to be entertained. But Sam had seen this coming and pulls out the bag he'd packed off a few of her favorite toys. Mia gives a squeal of glee and plops down in the grass at Sam's feet, pulling out the toys.
With Mia right at his feet and not running around the structure, Sam's able to put more attention into his reading, and it's not long before he's all but completely immersed. So when Mia's constant babbling suddenly turns into a full blown screech, Sam's taken off guard. A couple of seconds of frantic looking, Sam finds Mia's waddled away from her toys over to a rather tall black cat. Mia looks back over her shoulder to Sam, waving for him to come over.
"Unk! Unk!" she squeals excitedly. "Kitty!"
Sam sets his book down on the bench and walks over to her, watching the cat carefully. His eyes catch on the blue collar and he realizes it's on a leash. And holding the leash is a man. Sam gives the stranger a half smile.
"I hope she's not bothering you," he says apologetically, ready to shoo Mia away from the cat which is watching her with a sort of disdainful curiosity. The stranger smiles softly and Sam's suddenly struck with how blue the man's eyes are.
"Of course not. I would be more worried about Elijah bothering her."
"He not a friendly cat?" Sam asks uneasily, eyeing the cat distrustfully.
"Oh, no, he's perfectly well mannered," the stranger assures him. "He's just picky. Though it seems your daughter is one of the lucky ones," he adds as the cat suddenly moves towards Mia, pressing his head into her hand. Mia giggles gleefully.
"Oh, she's not my daughter," Sam says quickly. "She's my niece."
"On babysitting duty?"
Sam smiles at the guy. There's something about him that Sam automatically trusts. Which is nice because Sam's almost as protective and paranoid as Dean is. Sam wonders idly if Dean would trust the guy as much.
"Yeah. Her father-my brother-is on a business trip in Seattle for the week."
"And her mother?"
"Uh, she, uh. Passed away. Just a little after Mia was born," Sam says awkwardly. Anna never really came up in conversation anymore. Dean sure as hell never talked about her, and Sam doesn't think Mia has realized she's missing a mother.
"Oh. I'm sorry."
Sam shrugs, watching Mia wrap her arms around the cat (Elijah, wasn't it? strange name for a cat), pulling it in for a hug. The cat-Elijah, whatever-surprisingly didn't fight it.
"The name's Castiel Novak, by the way," the stranger says suddenly, holding out the hand not holding the cat's leash for a handshake. Sam looks up, startled slightly, and takes the offered hand firmly. Castiel, huh? Equally odd name for the owner as the cat.
"Sam," he says. "Sam Winchester. And that's Mia." He jerks his head at the two-year-old singing nonsense in the cat's ear.
Castiel gives a short nod. "Good to meet the both of you."
Dean's in meetings that night so Sam and Mia don't get to skype with him that day. Dean does send a quick text asking if everything's all right, to which Sam rolls his eyes and tells him to stop worrying. The next day is just as bright and sunny so Sam decides to even put together a little picnic lunch for the two of them to take to the park.
Sam's finishing up reading a chapter, about ready to call Mia over for food, when her shriek of "kitty!" reaches his ears. He looks up from the textbook, and sure enough, it's the same cat and owner, Elijah and Castiel, that's drawn Mia's attention. Sam goes over to say hi, smiling widely as Mia almost tackles Elijah and the cat doesn't look the slightest bit perturbed.
"Not sure I've ever seen a cat on a leash before," Sam says in greeting. Castiel looks up with a smile.
"Yes, it is a bit unconventional," he agrees. "Elijah enjoys spending time outside, however, and city law states cats are not allowed outside without a leash."
Sam raises his eyebrows. "Really? Cuz I've definitely seen neighbors' cats outside roaming free."
Castiel's lips twist into a grim smile. "Yes, well, it's not a very well enforced law."
Sam grins. "So you're just a goody two shoes then, huh?"
Castiel looks up to meet Sam's eye with a smile. "I suppose so."
Sam chuckles, looking back at Mia, who's now rubbing her face against Elijah's side. Sam lets out a long suffering sigh. "She needs to eat some lunch, but I don't think I'm going to be able to pull her away from your cat that easily." Sam looks back to Castiel. "You wanna join us? I know I packed a lot more food than she's going to eat..."
The look on Castiel's face gives away his answer before he says anything. Honestly, he looks a bit more grateful than a person should be about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
"I would enjoy that, yes."
It's almost Mia's bedtime when Dean calls on skype. Sam quickly scoops Mia up from where she's laying on the kitchen floor, scribbled artwork spread out around her, and carries her over to the computer to answer it. Dean looks absolutely exhausted when his face shows up on the screen, but his eyes brighten when he sees Mia.
"Hey sweetheart," he says and Mia waves excitedly.
"How was your day today?" he asks.
"I dwew a picshure for you!" she exclaims. "Lemme show," she says to Sam, pushing herself off his lap. Sam lets her down, and she waddles back to the kitchen quickly. Sam chuckles, turning his attention back to Dean.
"You look beat," he remarks and Dean winces, rubbing at his eyes.
"Long day today. Gordon took up most of my time."
Sam frowns sympathetically. "Sorry. He's an ass."
Dean blinks up at Sam, shocked, and Sam waves him down before he can start freaking out. "She's not in the room, Dean, jeez."
Dean looks relieved. "Good. I hope you're watching your language this whole week, Sammy."
Sam rolls his eyes. "I'm not an idiot, Dean. If you can keep yourself G rated around her, I can too."
Mia comes waddling back in at that point, a sheet of paper clutched in her fat fist. Sam helps her back up on his lap so she can present her drawing to Dean.
"Is Eli..." She trails off, frowning. "Eliga... Elish..."
"Elijah," Sam supplies helpfully, frowning at the picture. He supposes it does kind of look like the tall black cat she's smitten with.
"Very pretty, sweetheart," Dean says dutifully. "Who's Elijah?"
"Kitty!" Mia screeches, bouncing in Sam's lap with excitement. Sam's lips twitch into a smile.
"He's a cat Mia's become friends with. Weather's been nice lately, so we've been spending time at the park, and we see Elijah and his owner there."
Dean looks up at Sam wide eyed, with just enough panic for Sam to read without Mia noticing. Sam fights the urge to roll his eyes again.
"His name's Castiel. Nice guy. Quiet and a little weird, but nice."
"Quiet and a little weird, but nice?" Dean repeats, and the fight to keep the edge of his voice is so obvious it hurts.
"Dean, he's, like, half a foot shorter than me and really wiry. And I'm around Mia the entire time. Even if he was a threat, he wouldn't be much of one," Sam says in a low, steady tone.
"Eli pwetty kitty!" Mia interrupts, waving her drawing close to the computer. Dean lets out a slow sigh, forcing a smile at Mia.
"Yes, Mia. It's a good drawing."
With a little coaxing, Sam convinces Mia it's time for bed and to say goodnight to Daddy. She does so brightly, waving enthusiastically, and Dean returns the gesture with a small, tired smile. Sam grits his teeth at his brother as he says goodnight as well before shutting the computer down and putting Mia to bed.
The weather continues to be nice, and Sam's never going to say no to some vitamin D, so he continues taking Mia to the park. And they continue seeing Castiel and his oddly tall cat every time. The cat seems to enjoy the attention Mia gives him (in his own disdainful cat way), so Castiel quickly gets to the point of just letting Elijah play with Mia. Castiel sits on the bench with Sam and they chat. Sam tells him about his job as a substitute teacher and how he's continuing to take online classes while he waits for a more permanent teaching opportunity. Castiel tells him about his job or, well, his hobby as a writer who's yet to really get anything published. Apparently he works at the local Starbucks halftime so he has time to write. Sam promises he'll start stopping by Starbucks more often.
"What does your brother do?" Castiel asks. "You said he was on business in Seattle?"
"Yeah, some conference thing," Sam replies with a shrug. "He's an engineer."
"Is he able to work from home in order to take care of Mia?"
"For the most part, yeah. Sometimes he has to go in and I'll babysit Mia, but his company really likes him so they were more than willing to work with him when Mia's mom passed." Sam's gaze settles on his niece, who's currently being led on a wild chase by Elijah in the area right in front of the bench. Elijah looks as disinterested as always, but Sam somehow gets the feeling the cat's rather enjoying letting Mia get so close to finally catching him before darting off again.
"Was her passing hard on Mia?" Castiel asks, his tone softer.
"Mia was only a couple weeks old when she passed away," Sam says. "I don't think she remembers her. To be honest, I don't think she even realizes she's missing something. Dean pulls off the single parent thing ridiculously well."
"He sounds like a father any child would be lucky to have."
Sam chuckles, but it's a little dry. "Yeah, well, he had a lot of practice before Mia was born."
Castiel frowns at Sam, obviously curious but too damn polite to actually ask. Sam sighs. He did kind of walk right into that.
"Uh. Our mom died when I was six months old," Sam says, going for a flippant tone, but it doesn't really work out all that well. "And Dad kinda... wasn't there for us after that. So Dean was the one who raised me."
"How old was he?" Castiel asks gently.
Castiel's quiet for a moment. "I'm sorry, Sam," he says, voice low. "That must have been hard."
Sam shrugs just a little too casually. "'S'okay. Ancient history now."
Sam would actually call Castiel a friend by the time Friday rolls around. That day at the park, Sam lets Castiel know Dean's coming back that evening so Sam won't be taking Mia to the park anymore. But he promises again to stop by the Starbucks. They spend the day talking about Castiel's book that he's working on, and it sounds interesting: full of angels and demons. Sam asks if maybe he could read a bit of it and, after a bit of prodding, Castiel finally says he'll see what he can dig up that he feels won't embarrass him too badly.
Sam bakes a pie that afternoon, knowing Dean will come home in need of some TLC. He's just getting Mia to sit down for dinner when the familiar rumble of the Impala reaches their ears. Mia lets out a shriek, tumbling off her chair and bolting for the door. Sam follows, chuckling. Mia struggles with the doorknob for a moment until Sam helps her out, then she's out the door, streaking over to where Dean's climbing out of the car, chanting,
"Daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy!"
Dean turns with a wide smile, swooping her up and into the air, causing a peal of laughter to bubble from Mia. Sam comes up behind with a grin as Dean settles her on his hip.
"There's an apple pie just out of the oven."
Dean looks up him, eyes wide. "Sammy, you spoil me."
Sam shrugs. "I know I do."
It's only the next day when Dean is boiling pasta for lunch when Mia starts tugging on his pants leg, adamantly telling him it was time to go to the park and "pway wif Eli". It takes a bit of convincing on her part, but Dean never really stood a chance against her huge hazel eyes. He does finish the pasta first, though, making her eat a small bowl before packing a couple toys and pulling out the stroller. He brings a book for himself (he's currently re-reading "The Two Towers"), and then they're off.
Dean just about has a heart attack when Mia lets out a screech. Throwing the book down, searching for her, ready to kill any threat to his daughter, it takes a moment before he finds her. He blinks stupidly for a couple seconds before realizing that must be Elijah, that cat Sam said she'd fallen in love with. The cat has a freaking leash and connected to it's leash is... Holy shit.
The cat's owner (what had Sam said his name was? Cassile or something weird like that?) looks over to Dean and smiles gently and fuck if that isn't the most gorgeous smile Dean's ever seen. The guy lets go of the leash, handing it to Mia, and walks over to the bench.
"I take it you're Dean."
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. That voice is going straight to Dean's center and, goddammit, that is just ridiculous.
"Uh..." Great, and now his own voice is shakey. "Yeah, that's me." He stands as the guy holds out a hand in greeting, and Dean takes it, shaking it firmly in some attempt to regain some sort of composure. But, really, all it does is make it worse because the dude's grip is firm and his hands are soft, and now Dean can see his eyes, and his upstairs brain's functioning along the lines of describing them as 'the bluest blue that ever blued', and this is just not fair. God, Dean has probably gotten laid a total of twice since Anna died, and Dean couldn't even tell you the last time he slept with a guy. High school, probably. And then there's Mia, who's gone and fallen in love with a stupidly tall cat, because she's an adorable, perfect two-year-old, but the owner of this cat is the most beautiful person in all of creation and just why.
"Castiel," the guy says and, okay, yeah, bizarre name, but somehow it just works, or maybe Dean's already just too infatuated to find a single fault in the dude.
"Good to meet you," Dean hears himself say and then he's gesturing at the bench, asking Castiel if he wants to sit down. And here he'd been, all paranoid about some stranger Mia and Sam had met in the park. Sam's going to have a field day with this. Not that Dean's going to tell him. No. He'll just say he met Castiel and leave it at that. Not that Sam'll let him leave it at that. No, he'll push and get all triumphant when Dean's not paranoid, and then he'll wonder what would possess Dean to not be paranoid, and Sam's not stupid, he'll figure it out and, son of a bitch, Dean is so fucked.
Of course, Castiel is completely oblivious to Dean's mental freak out. Or, if he isn't, he's polite enough to ignore it. Dean manages to calm himself down enough to have a decent conversation with the guy for a while until it's just about time for Mia's afternoon nap. Bouncing a weepy Mia on his hip, Dean asks if he'll see Cas (wait, when did he give the guy a nickname?) the same time tomorrow, and Cas (seriously, when did that happen?) smiles and says he has the lunch shift at Starbucks on Sundays, but he'll be here on Monday. Dean nods and smiles, buckling Mia in her stroller, walking away with a final farewell and thoroughly cursing his fate.
Sam doesn't even have to push. He comes over for their usual Sunday dinner, Mia says something about Elijah, Sam asks if Dean met Castiel, and all it takes it Dean's mumbled "yes", and Sam's eyes are about the size of plates. Mia looks thoroughly confused when Sam busts into laughter, and Dean only stops himself from tackling his brother by reminding himself that Mia's sitting right there, and they're eating dinner, and that'd be setting a very bad example for table manners.
"You know, I think Mia would be thrilled if the two of you got together."
Okay, and that's just taking it too far.
"The two of us 'got together'?" Dean echoes incredulously. "We're not going to... Sam, I just met the man!"
"No, but think about it," Sam continues, not even acknowledging Dean's talking. "She could spend more time with that cat, while you and Castiel got to... to know each other better." He says the last bit with the edge of a smirk, and Dean can't stop himself from throwing his cloth napkin in Sam's face. That, of course, only makes Sam burst into laughter again, and Mia seems to finally decide that whatever's going on is funny so joins in with shrieking peals of laughter. Dean gets a headache.
Wednesday it rains. No, okay, it's actually pouring buckets out there, and Dean wouldn't risk taking Mia out in a little sprinkle in fear of her getting sick, much less the absolute downpour that happens. That doesn't stop Mia from having a full blown temper tantrum when she realizes she won't get to see her cat lover that day. Sure, she hadn't seen him on Sunday either, but Dean had warned her beforehand and had taken precautions, and she had had dinner with Uncle Sammy to look forward to that night. This was just a disaster.
...And Dean wasn't exactly happy not to see Cas either.
So the next day when the birds are out singing again and Mia's happily chasing Elijah around the bench, Dean decides to do something about it.
"Mia was pretty upset yesterday about not seeing Elijah," Dean says casually. Cas seems amused, and Dean's certain Cas can see through Dean and knows he's really more concerned about how upset Dean was not to see Cas. Or maybe Dean's just crazy.
"She didn't see him on Sunday," he points out. Dean shrugs.
"Yeah, but she was prepared for that."
"Ah, so it was the shock that was painful?"
The bastard sounds smug, and Dean frowns at him for a moment, trying to read his thoughts through those electric eyes. Cas holds the gaze calmly, and, dammit, Dean can't tell if he's mocking him or not.
"Yeah, I suppose," he says finally. "Anyway, I was just thinking, if the weather stands in the way of the park again, I don't know, you could come over to the house or something. Mia and Elijah can play inside."
He's smirking. The fucker is actually smirking at him, and, okay, fine, Dean's completely transparent, but give him a break, he hasn't attempted to flirt with anyone, much less the strangest and most beautiful person on the planet, outside of a bar in literally years. And to think he had been such a player.
Anyway, Cas is smirking at him and his stupidly blue eyes are dancing like he's trying to hold back laughter, and now suddenly Dean's wondering if the guy even swings that way. Damn, he hadn't even thought of that before now, what if the guy is straight? Or, who knows, asexual or whatever? Or what if he's just not interested in a guy with a dead wife and a two-year-old kid? That's a lot of baggage right there, and that's just on the surface. But, on the other hand, from what Dean can tell, Cas has got some baggage of his own with the family he deflects conversation from. Any guy who lives on his own, works part time at a Starbucks, is an unpublished author, and owns a cat... Well, yeah, okay, that's got some red flags there. Not that Dean cares, because, well, have you seen the guy? And he's strange, but endearing, and, no, okay? It's not just because he's beautiful because Dean's been down that road before, and it never leads anywhere good, so he knows better than that, thank you very much, but the guy is also just... There's something like this magnetic connection that's there, and it sounds stupid and sappy and out of one of those crap chick flicks or high school romance novels, but goddammit, it's true and it's freaking Dean the fuck out, and half of him wants to run the other way like his life depends on it, and half of him wants to hold on and never let go, and wow. He's panicking.
"Sure," Cas is saying, oblivious to Dean's mental freak out. "Should we exchange cell phone numbers?"
"Uh..." Pull it back together, Winchester. "Yeah, okay."
A minute and a half later, Dean's managed to calm himself down a bit and, hey. He's got the guy's number now. Awesome.
The weather stays nice for the rest of the week and the following. Mia trains Elijah to play with her with her favorite toys that Dean keeps bringing along, just in case. Dean tells Cas more about Anna and the car accident that killed her. Cas tells Dean more about the book he's writing. Apparently he's already given Sam a bit of it to read, and Dean can't help the suffocating jealousy that wells up when Cas tells him that. Sam gets an earful of misplaced anger for that, and the next day Cas has his laptop with him at the park and actually reads a bit of the novel to Dean. Dean figures Sam probably said something to Cas and thinks he should be embarrassed about it, but he's honestly too thrilled and too intrigued by the story to care much.
The weather takes a sudden turn for the worse after that. It's cloudy, cold, and windy, dark clouds threatening rain constantly yet never actually spilling. So Cas and Elijah come over. Dean's a little worried about the cat scratching up the furniture, and apparently Cas can tell because he tells him (with that same stupid little smirk) that Elijah's very well trained in that aspect. Though Cas does end up having to physically push Dean out of the living room from where he's watching Elijah suspiciously so they can actually prepare some lunch. With the cat out of sight and out of mind, Dean remembers that he's in fact rather excited to have the kitchen open to his use for lunch because that means he can make Cas something other than a PBJ sandwich. He ends up making alfredo (much to Mia's dismay) with the promise that when the weather isn't so dark and dismal, he'll make Cas some of his famous hamburgers on the grill out back.
Hanging out at the house has a completely different feel to it than at the park. After eating, Mia drags Elijah to her bedroom to play, and Dean and Cas settle down in the living room. Dean ends up introducing Cas to his favorite show, Dr. Sexy MD, which Cas doesn't really seem to enjoy as much as Dean does, but he doesn't seem to hate it. Really, it just looks like he's confused for a bit and eventually decides to be amused.
The next day Cas sees a picture of Dean and Sam's mom on the mantelpiece, and Cas tells Dean that Sam had mentioned she'd passed away in their early childhood. That leads to a rather strange conversation about Dean growing up, the fire that had killed their mom, the alcohol that had taken their dad, the crap Dean had had to do to make sure there was food on the table for Sammy, the stupid, drunken decisions that had led to their dad's death in a dark alleyway. Dean's not exactly why he's telling Cas all of this, except that Cas doesn't mutter any "I'm sorry"s or "that must've been hard"s like everyone else does. Cas merely asks questions at the right moments and watches Dean with this expression that isn't quite pity but maybe... maybe understanding.
Dean tries to ask about Cas's family at that point, but Cas only shrugs and says they were a large family, extremely religious, and Cas got out.
Cas and Elijah become part of the family. Dean invites him to join them for Sunday dinner because, well, wouldn't it be nice to have a home cooked meal at the end of a long day at work? After a bit of prodding and adding that Sam would love it as well, Cas accepts. Dean sits in awe that entire night at how easily Cas fits in. It's like he was always there. Or there'd been a seat just waiting for him to fill.
Sam keeps giving Dean this annoyingly knowing smile.
The weather finally warms up again. Dean packs up lunch and Mia's toys, strapping her down in the stroller, and heads over to the park. Mia runs off to play on the structure for a bit before Cas and Elijah arrive, and Dean settles down to get some work done.
Dean glances at his watch and frowns, scanning the park for any sign of Castiel and the tall black cat. He shrugs and continues working.
Mia waddles over to him, asking about Eli. Dean glances at his watch again and starts to get worried. He pulls out his phone and sends a quick text, asking Cas if everything's all right. He doesn't get a text back.
After an hour or so, Dean gives up and pulls a weepy Mia back home, trying to ignore the pit of worry in his stomach.
Cas doesn't come the next day either. Or the next. Or the next. Dean continues trying to contact him, but Cas never texts back, and the couple times Dean works up the fucking balls to actually call (because, okay, he's afraid he sounds like a clingy, whiny little girlfriend and that's just... no), Cas never picks up the phone. Mia is beside herself with anger turned to grief turned to just plain screaming, and that's not helping Dean's nerves one bit. He's actually losing sleep over it, and his work is less than quality as well. Sam drops by one day and is a bit taken aback by the state of Dean and Mia. He promises he'll stop by Starbucks during one of Cas's shifts and ask what's up. Dean's too frazzled to protest.
It's early Friday morning and Sam is subbing for a third grade class. Castiel works Friday mornings, Sam knows, so he stops by Starbucks before school. Castiel's at the register, and Sam notices right away that he doesn't really seem... okay. He has to wait in line for just a bit, but when he reaches the counter, he smiles.
Castiel looks up, a bit startled. "Sam!"
Sam grins widely. "How you doing?"
Castiel's expression falls. "Fine," he says, and it's so obvious it's a lie it hurts.
"Dean's been missing you."
Dean would kill him for saying it was him instead of Mia, but Dean can go fuck himself.
Castiel's eyes flick up and wow. Sam thought Dean was head over heels. Looks like Castiel's just as in love.
"He said you weren't even answering your phone. He's a bit worried." Actually, he's losing his mind with worry, but Sam does know where to draw the line.
"Oh. Yeah. I should find that..."
Jesus, he looks so distracted. There has got to be something going on. There's a line behind Sam, and he can hear some grumbling but, dammit, this is important.
He looks up at the nickname.
"What's going on? You all right?"
Castiel is a little fidgety for a moment, eyes darting around like he's looking for an escape.
"Elijah's sick," he says finally. "I don't know what's wrong."
Sam's quiet for a moment. They discovered at the Sunday dinner with him that Castiel's deceptively attached to his cat. It's almost weird, but it's Castiel so it's... not.
"You taken him to the vet?" he asks gently. Castiel shifts awkwardly.
"Don't have the funds," he mutters. Sam goes quiet again. Sam's no stranger to having less money than needed. Dean is too, but Dean's pulled himself out of that now. Engineering pays better than part time student, part time substitute teaching and definitely pays better than part time at Starbucks. Dean's helped out Sam in the past. Actually consistently helps pay for classes. But the question is, will Castiel be offended?
"Cas, call Dean when you get off today, okay?" Sam says carefully. "Explain to him what's going on. He'll want to help, okay?"
Castiel's eyes brighten and he smiles. It's that same grateful smile he'd given Sam that first time Sam had offered to share a lunch, and it suddenly makes more sense why a PBJ was such a big deal. End of the month, funds running low. Free, real food would be a very welcome thing.
"Thank you, Sam," he says softly. He pulls himself back together visibly, putting back up the professional front. "Your usual?"
Dean barely manages to hold himself together when Cas calls later that day. He does, though, and they work out an arrangement Cas is comfortable with. Cas says he'll make an appointment with the vet, and Dean tells him to come over for Sunday dinner again. Dean's probably a little too relieved given the circumstances when they hang up.
Dean's cleaning up from dinner that same night when his phone rings. He wipes his hands off on a rag and answers it, watching Mia rocking her baby doll instead of looking at the caller ID.
"This is Dean."
It's quiet long enough that Dean thinks he might be the victim of a buttdial until he hears a shuddering breath, followed by, "Dean."
"Cas?" Dean asks, heart jumping to his throat. Cas sounds completely wrecked, voice small and broken.
"Dean," he says again, a little more strength in his voice, but still making something ugly twist in Dean's stomach.
"Cas, what's wrong? Are you okay?"
It's quiet again for another brief moment, like Cas is steeling himself up or trying to find the words.
"It's Elijah," and there's no mistaking the raw tears in Cas's voice now. "I don't know... He... Somehow he got outside and... and... Jesus." Cas stops and Dean can practically see him pulling himself back together. When he talks again, it's more confident, coming out in a rush. "A car ran into him. He's in surgery right now and I..." He trails off again, choking. "I don't know what's going to happen."
Dean nods before remembering Cas can't see him. "What do you need?"
"I..." Another pause. "Could you be here? I just... need someone."
"Yeah. Yeah, of course," Dean says immediately, glancing over to where Mia's now cooing at the doll. "I'll get Sam to watch Mia and be over as soon as I can, okay?"
Cas's voice is so small, Dean almost doesn't hear him. "Thank you."
Dean dials Sam's number as soon as he hangs up. Sam sounds a bit confused when he answers.
"Hey, Sammy, uh, you think you could head over? I need someone to watch Mia for a bit tonight."
"Uh, yeah, sure. Why? Everything okay?"
Dean hesitates for a brief moment, turning away from Mia and dropping his voice so she can't hear. "Elijah was hit by a car. Cas isn't sure he's gonna make it and... well, I-"
"It's okay, Dean," Sam says quickly, and however annoying the kid can be sometimes, Dean really does love his brother sometimes. "I'll be right over. Does Mia know?"
Dean glances back to Mia. "No."
"You gonna tell her?"
"I..." Dean rubs wearily at his eyes. "I should, shouldn't I? Yeah, I'll tell her."
Sam's quiet for a moment. "Okay. Okay. I'll be there in a couple minutes."
"No problem, Dean."
Dean hangs up, eyes fixed on Mia who's completely oblivious, focus fixed on her doll. Anna, she'd named it. Because of the red hair. Dean remembers clearly the sick feeling that announcement had given him. He's starting to feel it again right now.
Gritting his teeth, Dean sets down the phone and walks over to Mia, scooping her and the doll up into his arms. Mia giggles wildly, flapping her arms.
Dean forces a smile as he walks to the living room. He sits her down on the couch, crouching down in front of her. Mia watches him, excitement written in her eyes. And, fuck, it breaks his heart. How can he tell her? How can he make that happy grin turn into tears? He reaches out to arrange the doll more comfortably in her arms. The red hair is almost the exact shade of Anna's.
"Mia..." he starts slowly, meeting her bright green eyes. "Remember how I told you what happened to Mommy?"
The excitement in her eyes goes out like it's on a switch. She nods, holding the doll closer to her chest. Dean has to pull himself back together before he can continue.
"Cas called. Elijah's been hurt."
God, the panic in Mia's eyes is like a knife. "Eli?" she says, voice high and small.
"He might be fine," Dean says quickly. "But... but he might not. They don't know yet. I-I just... I want you to be prepared, okay? For whatever happens."
She's got one hand clutching the doll's dress, one hand has fingers threaded through the red hair, and she's looking at Dean, eyes wide and watering, and, Jesus, is that what Dean looks like when he turns the puppy dog eyes on because fuck. And, dammit, clutching the doll like that, the doll she named after Anna, right now, God, Dean is having trouble keeping himself together. He puts a hand on her knee, squeezing gently.
"Daddy?" she whispers, and Dean forces himself to smile reassuringly.
"Whatever happens, it's gonna be all right, okay? I promise." He brushes a lock of hair out of her eyes. "And does Daddy break his promises?"
She smiles weakly. "No," as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. Dean moves to sit next to her, pulling her to his side in a warm embrace. They're quiet, holding to each other as Dean tries to keep memories and worries at bay. The sound of Sam letting himself in through the front door is quite welcome.
Sam doesn't let him delay. Dean is barely able to tell Sam Mia's obviously a bit fragile at the moment before Sam's literally shoving him out the door and telling him to call when he's on his way back home. Dean manages to give Mia a quick kiss and then is off.
Dean's never been to the vet before. They never had pets as kids, though Sam was relentless about his desire for a puppy. Anna had wanted a cat at some point, but they had been more concerned about kids and then... well. The point is, Dean is fully unfamiliar with the place when he walks in and is a bit distracted by that when Cas notices him.
The relieved cry startles Dean a bit, especially when his eyes finally find Cas and the man's rapidly walking towards him. Before Dean can react, Cas has got his arms wrapped around Dean in a tight embrace, his face buried in Dean's shoulder. Dean goes stock still. Slowly, and it feels like an age, Dean relaxes and returns the embrace, patting Cas's back awkwardly, cursing himself for being so awful at this. Fortunately, Cas doesn't seem to notice and soon is backing off, wiping furiously at his eyes.
"Sorry," he mutters. "I just..." He shrugs. "Sorry."
Dean's mouth twists in an attempt to hide his amusement. Maybe Cas is just as bad at this.
"Don't apologize, Cas. You got a good reason to be..." Dean waves a hand aimlessly, fighting for the right word. Cas smirks humorlessly.
"...If you want to call it that," Dean says cautiously. Cas shakes his head, still smiling.
"It's okay. It's accurate."
Cas turns away to sit back down and Dean follows.
"How you holding up?" he asks. Cas shrugs.
"I'm... I'm doing better than when I called you, I guess. The worry's just settled into this..." He moves his hands around the area in front of his midsection. "This disgusting pit."
Well, it's better than any way Dean would've described the feeling, that's for sure. He's trying to figure out how to reply when Cas continues.
"It's just..." He looks up to meet Dean's eyes, his own eyes huge and bright. "I know Elijah's older. He's pushing sixteen. Which is old for a cat. But he's been with me for all of those twelve years, and I..." He looks away, down to his hands wringing.
"My family kicked me out I was seventeen," he says in a mutter. "Well. I actually left of my own accord, but I wasn't welcome back. And I had no idea what I was doing so I... I spent a while on the streets. Found Elijah under a bridge. He was just a kitten, dying of hunger. Through some miracle I managed to nurse him back to health, and he's... he's kind of been a source of comfort and sanity through... through everything since then."
Dean's dead silent. There's a little part of him wanting to ask what had caused the discord between Cas and his family, but the rare smart part of him knows now isn't really the time. Besides, they'll have time later.
Suddenly Cas is looking up at him again, and this time the huge blue eyes are watering, and Dean's seen Mia's eyes watering like they had earlier before, but with Cas it's a whole new story. Dean's heart constricts, jumps to his throat, and drops to his toes all in one go.
"I don't know what I'll do without him," Cas whispers earnestly.
Not really in control, Dean watches as he reaches an arm around Cas's shoulders and pulls him into his chest. Cas relaxes almost immediately, burying his face in Dean's shirt with a shuddering sigh. Suddenly in control again, Dean is the one who's tense for a few seconds. He can do this with Mia, he can do this with Sammy, but this, with Cas? ... Well, he can do this with Cas too, he supposes.
A Couple Months Later...
"Dean?" Sam asks as he walks into the kitchen to find Dean leaning up against a counter, staring unblinkingly at the fridge. "Dude, you okay?"
Dean doesn't answer right away. But he blinks, finally, so that's something and Sam waits. He knows when to push and when to let Dean answer in his own time.
"What do you think she'd say?" he says suddenly, voice low and quiet. Sam frowns, following Dean's stare more closely. Oh. The picture of Anna. Sam leans against the counter beside his brother.
"I think she'd be happy for you," Sam says firmly. "She knew you needed someone. And, sure, you got me and you got Mia, but you need something else that neither of us can give. Anna could. And so can he."
"So you think I'm making the right move here?"
Sam chuckles. "If I thought you weren't, don't you think you'd know?"
The corner of Dean's mouth twitches upwards. "Fair point."
Sam leans into the shorter man, knocking their shoulders together. "Now, come on. We got work to do, and it isn't just gonna do itself."
The half smile grows into a full one. "Oh, I don't know, I think Mia's got it covered."
"Mia's a little distracted right now," Sam chuckles. As if to prove his point, a shriek of laughter reaches them from the living room. Dean rolls his eyes, moving from the counter to frown in the direction of the shriek.
"They're not making it any more of a disaster in there, are they?"
"Not sure that's possible," Sam answers with a grin. Dean heaves a sigh and makes his way to the living room. Sam follows, fighting laughter as Dean mutters,
"What is Cas doing, just letting them wreak havoc as they please?"
Sam's pretty sure if his smile gets any larger, his face will split. The scene in the living room isn't perfect by any means, but, well. In a way, it is.
Mia's being chased by a three-legged, one-prosthetic-legged Elijah through boxes of Castiel's things, screeching in glee. Castiel himself is on the couch, an open box in front of him, a huge pile of papers in his hand as he scans through it. He looks up as Dean rights a stack of books Mia just knocked over, holding out the papers.
"I found my manuscripts!" he says excitedly. Dean looks up at that, annoyance erased.
"Yeah? That a recent draft?"
Castiel nods. "I can read some of it to you."
Dean looks just as excited, if not more. "Right now?"
Castiel stops, looking around the living room like it's suddenly just occurred to him how much of a mess the place is. "We should finish unpacking first, right?"
"No, no, no," Dean says quickly, scrambling to the couch and clambering up beside Castiel. "Unpacking can wait, I've waited for months for your book."
Castiel grins like a kid in a candy store. It takes a moment for the two of them to get comfortable, Castiel settling in his usual spot with Dean's arms wrapped around him. Dean presses a kiss to Castiel's temple, which makes Castiel blush furiously, before Castiel pulls the manuscript back to him and starts reading.
Sam chuckles softly, sitting down on the carpet by a box to quietly unpack, forcing a giggling Mia to rethink her route through the living room with Elijah close behind.
A/N: Prequel titled "Inanimate Eyes" on my page.