I had a few people ask about the Cas-secretly-bribing-with-strawberry-slices scene, and I'm already really sad that I have to let baby!Sam grow up so we can have a plot, so here it is! Then I realised that I totally forgot to stick in Gabriel's scene (this is why I need a beta), so I threw it in here. Sorry.
Now that they were on speaking terms, Dean quickly grew to like Bobby even more than he had when the hunter was just a good caretaker for Sam. The man was entirely blunt and ornery and not remotely about to give Dean or Castiel any respect just for being angels of the Lord, and Dean had to admire that. Bobby didn't think that just being millennia-old made them any smarter than he was, either, but he freely asked for and willingly took advice about every supernatural thing he could think of without seeming lesser for it- or granting Dean or Cas any kind of thanks other than a beer or a fond "Yeah, yeah, now enough with the history lesson, idjits. You're boring Sam straight to sleep and I can look all this up myself." Dean admired that, too.
So when it came up that Bobby had more cars than he could work on by himself and plenty than needed two sets of hands, Dean volunteered to help immediately. He liked working on cars, so it wasn't any hardship to him, and he figured they should probably pay him back somehow for crashing on his doorstep and demanding to stay. He felt a little guilty for drinking up all the guy's alcohol as well, even though Bobby himself insisted that Grace could be put to better uses than snapping up beers when he had a fridge full of them.
The weather was cooler and overcast the next day, and Dean didn't really like the idea of Sam outside without at least two pairs of eyes on him (he'd heard about eagles taking off with dogs and cats and things, and Sammy wasn't much that bigger than a little terrier), so he dressed Sam in sweatpants, a Superman shirt, and little tiny socks with rubbery treads on the bottom so he wouldn't slip on the slick wood floors. Castiel sat down on the floor of the nursery with a pile of children's books from the library and Dean gave Sam a big smacking kiss on the nose before dropping him into Cas' lap.
"You two good?"
"We are very well, Dean," Castiel assured him, his hands automatically going to Sam's middle to steady him.
"Sammy, you gonna be good here with Cas while I go help out Bobby?"
"Cath," Sam repeated.
"Castiel," Cas corrected. "My name is Castiel, Sam. Not 'Cath.' There is no 'th' sound."
"Cath," Sam agreed.
Dean chuckled. "Forget it, man, he needs like- six more teeth before he can say it right. Just go with it for now."
Castiel frowned. "I do not think it is to Sam's benefit to encourage a mistake."
Dean rolled his eyes and pushed off the door frame. "Just read him some damn books and don't let him take a nap, he doesn't get one 'til this afternoon. If I'm not back in by eleven, there's some cheese cubes and shredded chicken and orange slices in the fridge for him to eat."
He left to the sound of Castiel reading out Dr. Seuss in the flattest, most boring voice possible.
Bobby knew his cars, and he was such a good taskmaster that Dean didn't mind taking orders- even though he'd been elbow-deep in an engine compartment since the first Ford rolled out of the factory back when the world was still in black and white. Bobby didn't pull any punches and didn't offer compliments, but he had a beer cooler in the garage and his running commentary was some kind of comedy.
"Got this old wreck a few months ago, some idiot figured his son would love a beige Volvo station wagon for his sixteenth birthday. Kid crashed it into a tree as soon as he could, but not before he and his friends figured out they could fit full-sized girls in the back along with an ice chest and the stupidest stereo system you've ever seen in your life. I ripped that sucker out and threw it in the fire pit and toasted hot dogs over it first night I had it."
Hours passed. There was a plain round analogue clock up on the wall above the beer cooler, and Dean wanted to go in and check on Sam when it got near twelve, but Bobby held him back.
"We're just about to bleed the brakes here, needs two people. Castiel can feed him, can't he?"
"Yeah," Dean answered slowly. "But he doesn't believe in dessert."
Bobby snorted. "Kid'll live."
Dean sighed and wriggled under the car on his back. "Fine. When we go inside and Sam's all miserable because he thinks he didn't get dessert because he did something wrong, I'm just gonna turn him around and point the puppy eyes at you."
"Not at Castiel?"
"Nah, I wouldn't do that to him." Dean frowned and scraped a wrench on a rust spot, trying to see how far it went. "It's not his fault he's a stick in the mud with no sense of fun."
"Why are you two such good friends, then, anyway?"
Dean shrugged. "We grew up together, sort of. Plus most of the other angels in Heaven are dicks. Gabriel and me are, like, the dead opposite of everybody else up there."
"You never did tell me how you got mixed up with an archangel."
Dean rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah, well...it's a long story."
Gabriel liked Dean well enough, and Dean tolerated Gabriel- the archangel annoyed the hell out of him most of the time, but centuries ago they'd randomly run into each other at a dive bar in Rome while Gabriel was supposed to be missing and Dean was supposed to be guarding the virtue of some young serving girl (who, in all honesty, didn't have much interest in virtue herself, and definitely didn't seem destined for any kind of monastic future. Dean figured the paperwork had gotten switched up somewhere and mostly ignored her; he wasn't really into voyeurism, after all). After that Dean bounced from boring charge to boring charge and Gabriel went north, but they still met up now and then to drink and complain about the smugly sanctimonious smartasses up in Heaven. Dean figured Gabriel missed Heaven, just a little bit, and took what angelic company he could get. After all, Dean was only a standard-level guardian. But he wouldn't rat out God's Messenger for wanting a break from the prissy dicks upstairs, not when he himself was hardly the most chaste and pious example of angeldom, and they each felt it was kinda nice to have a drink with someone who wouldn't freak if they used their Grace to change water into whiskey or ended the evening by going home with a barmaid.
But then, Sam was born-the mistake, or the gift- the one he'd been given far too early. Souls usually came to him just long enough before birth for him to get used to their particular glow and resonance, but this one- this bright, tiny soul was all his own, the one he'd kept sheltered, warm and safe, in the deepest folds of his Grace since the very beginning of humanity, keeping up a steady soothing croon to it in the back of his mind until it was ready for its spark of life.
When Sam came into the world, the most beautiful baby Dean had ever seen, he'd already known his guardian's voice and arms for millennia. Dean hovered over his plastic crib that first night in the hospital and smiled down at the restlessly sleeping child and carefully reached in, stroking one fingertip gently over the back of Sammy's tiny grasping hand. Sam immediately clutched his finger in a tight grip, and settled down.
"You're gonna be awesome, Sammy," Dean whispered. Sam clung on and dreamed indistinct images and sounds of Heaven seen through a filter of Grace. "You're all mine, Sam, and I'm gonna be with you every step of the way, and you are gonna be the best man this world has ever seen."
He'd gone back up to Heaven in a daze, already thinking ahead to how he could make Sammy's future as bright and long as possible.
Then Azazel happened, and Dean hurtled back to earth just in time to see blood on Sam's lips. After finding the kid in a duffel bag on a motel room floor Dean spent every night with his wings held protectively over the baby boy, either watching in rapt silence or whispering that he'd never let anything hurt him again.
Then, of course, Gabriel showed up.
"Dude, you feed him any more of those and it'll be a toss-up whether he throws up on you before I kill you."
"Then it's a good thing you can't kill me, and I've got super special angel magic that gets baby vomit out of silk shirts, because he really likes these." Gabriel smirked unrepentantly as he held out another handful of chocolate-coated jelly balls. Sammy gurgled happily and tried to grab all of them at once with his chubby little fingers.
"Seriously, you're gonna make him sick," Dean insisted halfheartedly. He was sprawled out across John's bed on his stomach with his feet up on the pillows and his head resting on one out-stretched arm, one eye on his friend and his baby where they sat on the floor, the other on the tv.
"Hey. I'm doing you a favor. If I get him used to overloading on sugar now, he won't ever be sick because of it later."
Dean frowned. "That's…huh. Whatever, man. Just don't let Cas catch you, okay? He puts a lot of work into that slop he makes."
Gabriel rolled his eyes. "Yeah, and I'm sure he's real thrilled with you calling all that hard work slop."
Dean tuned out his angelic brethren and watched tv. Gabriel continued to feed Sam chocolates, now trying to get him to do tricks to earn the candies. It didn't really work because Sammy didn't do much beyond sitting and rolling, and he couldn't understand commands, anyway.
"He totally adores you, you know."
"Huh?" Dean asked blearily. He'd spent the whole day half asleep. John had left early, laying Sam down with his bottle and bowl of cheerios. Gabe popped in just as early, bored and deciding to take it out on Sam. Sam usually thought Gabriel was pretty fun, so Dean let them play and had a lazy day of catching up on his soaps.
"Sam-a-lamb," Gabriel said. "He doesn't really have thoughts, you know, just a lot of 'De De De' and mmmmms and gahs. But he kind of projects feelings. When you make eye contact with him his whole mind lights up with, like, bubbles and sparkles. It's like the feelings he gets from chocolates, a clean diaper, and tickles all combined."
"Nice," Dean muttered wryly. "Cheap candy and a clean diaper. Good to see where I rate."
Gabriel snapped his fingers and Dean jerked at the feeling of a sharp pinch on his ass. "Don't be a dick. I'm just saying. You're like, the center of his world, right? So if that's what you were going for, taking over the daddy role, you're doing an awesome job. And dude, this is not cheap candy. I got it in Austria."
Dean frowned. "Why not Switzerland? Isn't that where the good chocolate's supposed to come from?"
Gabriel looked cagey. "I'm not all that popular in Switzerland right now."
Dean lay in silence for a long while. He knew Sammy loved him, of course he did. Sam was a human baby, Dean cuddled him and cleaned him and gave him food. That's what happens. But hearing it from his archangel brother was something a little different. "Huh," he said finally. "So what does Sam think of you, anyway? Ugly creepy uncle he puts up with because you come with sugar?"
He paid for that with another pinch on the ass.
"Serious time now, Dean-o," Gabriel grumbled. Sammy was pawing impatiently at his empty hand, trying to find more chocolates. He used his free hand to pet the boy's wispy hair. "You've got an awful lot on your plate, kiddo," Gabriel murmured. "And there's nothing I can do except keep you happy with candy until that doesn't work anymore. There's nothing you can do, Dean," Gabriel added, fixing him with those piercing hawk eyes, "except keep loving him and keep him loving you, so he knows he has a safe place to come home to and something to fight for."
"What are you talking about, Gabriel?" Dean asked warily. He propped himself up on his elbows. He'd wondered why Azazel chose Sam, but the thoughts weren't pleasant and nothing had happened since, so he'd let it go for a little while.
"Ahhh…." Gabriel shook his head with a sigh. "Nothin,' man. I don't even know. I've been out of touch for too long." He stroked Sam's hair again and chucked him gently under the chin. Sam giggled and grabbed at his hands. "Just keep him under your wings, okay? And remember, Deano, just give me a call and I'll come if you two ever need me."
"So you bonded over beer and barmaids and had a big feathery chick-flick moment," Singer said dryly.
"Shut up, man, you wanted to know," Dean grumbled. "Anyway, that's why Gabe's around. And he's not in Heaven anymore because Michael's the guy in charge and he has wet dreams about writing up behavior regulations." Dean grimaced at his own imagination. "And Gabe likes Castiel, so he sticks around for him, too."
"They don't seem like they'd get along too well. Hell, he doesn't seem like the kind of guy you'd get along with too well."
"Cas is like Heaven's little accountant, but he gets me," Dean explained with a grudging smile. "And he's got a sneaky little sense of humor in there. Besides, Sam likes him."
There was silence up above him for a long while. "So...you and Castiel..."
Dean shot up and crashed his head against the underside of the car. "Shit. No! We're not like that." He recognized the tone of that 'so.' He'd heard it often enough. About once for every angel he'd ever met.
"Hey, I'm open-minded," Bobby said mildly.
"Yeah, well, there's nothing here to be open-minded about," Dean snapped.
"That sounds a lot of protesting for nothing." Bobby sounded unreasonably gleeful.
"Figures you're just an old gossip," Dean muttered. "Screw the braks. I'm gonna go check on Sam." He ignored Bobby's sniggering with dignity and shoved out from under the car, pushed to his feet, and stomped back to the house.
Sam and Castiel weren't in the kitchen, so Dean washed the grease off his hands and arms at the kitchen sink. He kicked off his boots so he wouldn't track dirt into Sam's nursery, filled a glass with water, and went off in search of his boys.
He froze at the nursery door.
Cas and Sam hadn't heard him come in. They sat on the floor, Sam plopped in a little nest of blankets wrapped and piled up around him. A glass bowl of strawberry slices sat between them.
"Now, Sam," Cas said seriously. "Who is your guardian?"
"De," Sam answered at once. It was a sort of squeaky, serious 'De' that Dean knew meant 'I don't know what's going on and that's okay but I kinda want Dean now.'
"Very good," Cas said, with an approving little twitch of his mouth. "And who am I?"
"De?" That one meant 'I have literally no idea what you want from me, and where is Dean? Because he can probably fix that."
"No," Cas said patiently. "I am Castiel. I am Castiel, Sam."
"Cath," Sam said, grinning happily, and he reached for the strawberries.
"Very good, Sam," Cas said warmly, and handed Sam a piece of fruit from the bowl. "Can you say it again?"
Cas gave him another strawberry slice.
"Cath! Cath! Cath! Cath!"
Four strawberry slices were dropped into Sam's grasping little hands and he shoved them all into his mouth at once, red juice staining his chubby cheeks and dimpled chin. Cas, who normally kicked up a massive fuss about letting Sam get food on his face, just twitched his lips in a fond smile.
Dean chuckled quietly and tiptoed back to the kitchen.
p.s. This is dead week, next week is finals week. There's a good chance I won't update until after that because I'll be too busy crying over textbooks and unfinished essays. Sorry!