Times when I just can't bring myself to say it loud, 'fraid that what I'll say comes out somehow awry
Dean set up the empty beer bottles, all in a row along the fence, then turned back to his audience. Cas had been talked into wearing his new clothes for the outing, though he clung stubbornly to the tan overcoat. Zoe huddled in her red goose-down jacket, a knit hat pulled low to ward off the November chill. Dean popped the Impala's trunk, picking out a .22 rifle. “Today, you are gonna learn how to shoot.”
“Oh. Yay.” Castiel nudged Zoe forward, wordlessly encouraging her to take the rifle. She held it gingerly, expression uncertain.
Dean rolled his eyes skywards as if calling on the heavens to grant him patience. “Put a knife in your hand, you're Vernita Green, try to give you a gun and suddenly you're a shrinking violet?”
Dean expected the puzzled head tilt from Cas. He was used to his references going right over the angel's head; what he didn't expect was for Zoe to mirror the expression, complete with the tilted head.
“Vernita Green? Kill Bill? The-” Dean palmed his forehead. “The movie is not that old.”
“I don't like Tarantino movies,” Zoe told Dean sullenly, looking down at the rifle in her hands.
“Oh, there is so much wrong with you.” Dean lead Zoe over to the line of empty bottles. He stood behind her, glancing over his shoulder at Cas, who watched them closely. “Okay, butt against your shoulder like that, hand here and – Jesus, will you relax? I don't bite.” Dean took a step back while Zoe side eyed him. “What is with you?”
“I like my personal space,” Zoe snorted, resuming the position Dean had been guiding her towards.
Dean ignored the noise Cas made, something between a laugh and a grunt. “Okay, you're gonna site along the barrel, and when you've got your target, you're gonna squeeze the trigger.”
Zoe stood there for a few minutes, and Dean opened his mouth a few times to tell her to get on with it, but a look at Cas kept him quiet. Finally, Zoe fired off a shot.
The bottles remained upright and unbroken.
“You kinda suck at this,” Dean couldn't help but note. “C'mon, it's only four feet away.”
“Shouldn't I have, like, ear protection and stuff?”
“Don't be such a girl.” Dean snorted as he showed Zoe how to reload the rifle.
“What's wrong with being a girl? I bet this is why you listen to that crap you call music so loud – you're going deaf.”
“Shaddup and shoot. If you actually hit anything, we'll go for ice cream before you learn how to clean that little baby.”
Dean's fingers and nose were numb from the cold despite keeping close to Cas and using him as his own personal space heater when he finally conceded that Zoe wasn't going to get any better that day. At least she was hitting the bottles as often as not.
Zoe got a hot chocolate instead of ice cream, and she slouched silently on her side of the booth until Cas got up under the pretense of investigating the spinning racks of pies. Dean settled on his side of the booth with his coffee, grinning at Zoe.
“You can stop trying to play 'daddy' now.”
Dean raise his coffee in a mock salute. “From zero to bitch in five seconds. Good job.”
“Up yours. You think you're the first guy who's tried being all dad-like at me? First it's all ball games and ice cream, then they realize being a dad is work. Then they leave. They always leave.”
Dean laid his hands flat on the table, face stoney as another child's words on the subject of fatherhood echoed in his head. Kid had a real gift for sticking the knife in and twisting. “I'm trying here, okay? I get that you're a big ol' bundle of daddy issues. Try cutting me a little slack.” He glanced at Cas, still looking over the spinning trays of pies. He caught Zoe following his line of sight. “Lets face it, neither of us is going anywhere.”
“Says the guy leaving for Arizona tomorrow.”
Castiel gently corrected Zoe's grip on the handle of the knife, following her gaze. Sam and Dean were loading up the car for the trip to Arizona, and they were going loaded for bear. “Dean Winchester is many things. He is wrathful, and arrogant, stubborn, often blasphemous, short sighted, and prone to letting his hormones call the shots.” That got a snort and something that was almost a smile from Zoe. “But he is also the most selfless, generous being that I have ever met. He has given everything time and again to save people who will never know or understand what he and Sam have been through, or what they've sacrificed. That isn't a metaphor – they have been to Hell and back for each other and the world. There have been times when I have doubted, but in the end Dean has always come through. If it weren't for him, I...” I would have been consumed by the power of the souls of Purgatory, and the universe with me, “I would not be here now.” Castiel stood back and let Zoe attack him with the knife, disarming her easily with a blow that left her fingers numb. Sophie saw this as the perfect chance to jump onto Zoe's leg and demand attention, yipping excitedly until she was gently pushed away.
Zoe shook her hand until the feeling returned, picking the knife up from where it had dropped. “And the ass that you could bounce quarters off has nothing to do with it?”
“I have seen his soul, Zoe, and it is far more beautiful than any flesh could be. It shines brighter than the sun.” Zoe attacked again, and once again Castiel disarmed her, plucking the knife from her hand. “You are trying to distract me. A good tactic, but you could stand to be a bit more subtle.” He handed the knife back, and Zoe tucked it into her boot.
“Mike's mom is driving me to school today,” she said, raking a hand through her hair, shaking some of it loose from her pony tail. It stood up awkwardly, too coarse and untamed to be proper curls. Jody had made a few noises about a curling iron and hair products, but Castiel suspected that a pair of scissors would be more useful.
“Ah yes. Mike.”
Something in Castiel's tone made Zoe grin. “Sam says I'm supposed to make friends. It's part of being normal.”
“I'm starting to see why Dean finds you parroting me so obnoxious.”
“Most of my personality is about being obnoxious.” Zoe squeezed Castiel's forearm briefly before heading inside to clean up, leaving Castiel alone with his thoughts, or at least as alone as he could be with Sophie making disappointed whimpers when the screen door closed before she could get into the house.
Dean was, Castiel was more than willing to admit, aesthetically pleasing, and Castiel always felt a small surge of what he thought was pardonable pride when he looked at the man. Castiel had rebuilt him, no small feat for an angel of his former rank and power.
If he had known then what he knew now--
Castiel shook off the thought like Sophie shaking off water. The past could not be changed, and there was little point on dwelling upon it; even if Castiel could have changed things, he wouldn't. He'd made his choices, and while not all of them were good ones, they were his own.
Dean had a map out on the hood of the Impala, and when he looked up and caught Castiel's eye, he flashed a smile that was oddly shy. Dean had decided to take things slowly, and Castiel was inclined to let Dean have his way. Dean needed time to adjust to the way his world and how he viewed himself had shifted, and Castiel was nothing if not patient. Sam elbowed his brother in the ribs and raised his hand to wave, grinning what dean would call a 'shit eating grin'. Castiel had deemed that term one of the more nonsensical ones Dean used; when Castiel had pointed that out, Dean had just laughed.
Dean was laughing more these days, and his smiles were more genuine. He was happy, even if he didn't really realize it, perhaps as happy as he had been with Lisa and Ben.
That thought made a hard knot form in the pit of Castiel's stomach.
Dean got into the Impala, shouting at Sam, “If I hear the worlds 'it's about time' come outta your mouth, you're walking back!”
Sophie yipped with typical puppy enthusiasm, launching herself off the porch and onto Sam before he could close the door behind him. Sam submitted himself to the puppy's attentions, allowing himself to be thoroughly licked before gently turning Sophie away, Dean complaining all the while about the stupid dog as they drove off into the distance. Sophie made a forlorn sound that lacked the dignity of a proper howl, climbing awkwardly back up the porch steps and flopping down with a whimper. Castiel sat down next to Sophie, rubbing her ears the way he'd seen Sam do. “I know the feeling.”
The Colt felt heavy in Dean's hands, even though he knew it wasn't loaded; he'd seen to that himself as soon as he's pried it free of the witch's hands, after a day and a half of driving and another two days actually tracking the bastard to his lair out in the middle of the fucking desert. It was just... full of potential. It might not have worked on Lucifer, but this baby could sure as hell do a number on Meg, and then--
What? Settle down with Cas and try to civilize Zoe while Sam played with his (incredibly dumb) puppy and Bobby accused them all of being idiots?
Strangely, the idea didn't seem quite so stupid when he thought about it.
It wasn't normal. It wasn't the white picket fence in the burbs, it wasn't the beautiful wife and the Sundays in the park teaching a kid to play baseball; it wasn't any of the things Dean had thought he'd wanted. All the things he still kind of wanted, Dean admitted to himself, but knew he wasn't going to have.
But it also wasn't that bad.
“Dean?” Sam said, shaking Dean from his reverie. There was still a house full of satanic crap to burn down, including what was left of the epically groady looking witch guy.
Said witch was sticking disgustingly to the wall, little more than a human sized booger thanks to the spell Sam had disrupted before he could be lobbed at Dean.
Witches and bodily fluids. Ick.
A thought crouched unpleasantly in the back of Dean's mind like a toad on a stone, worrying words worming their way trough he consciousness even as he helped his brother light the cabin up. Of course, it was Sam who put the worrying thought into actual words.
“Crowley said he had bigger problems.”
“What are the odds that those bigger problems aren't gonna come and bite us on the ass?” Dean asked rhetorically as he tossed a batch into a pool of gasoline. The cabin went up like the dry tinder it was, burning with unnatural colors as a lifetime of collected magical paraphernalia caught fire.
“About as good as Uwe Boll winning an Oscar.”
“Son of a bitch.” The curse carried no force behind it; really, it was little more than a world weary sigh and an acknowledgment that their lives just weren't that easy.
“We still need to actually find Meg,” Sam added helpfully.
“Aint you just a little ball of sunshine.” Dean pulled out his cell, thumbing Cas's number and ignoring Sam's smirk. Two rings, then--
Dean could hear Sophie barking shrilly in the background, suppressing an instinctive wince. Sam's puppy had about as much in common with hellhounds as a pigeon did with a velociraptor, but Dean's instincts didn't always listen to his logic. Thankfully, Sophie had caught on quick to the fact that Sam was the one who loved her best, and was content to leave Dean alone.
“How's the Angel of Home Improvement gig working out?” Dean steered the Impala away from the burning cabin, wedging the phone between his ear and shoulder so he could flip Sam off. Sam, the brat, made kissey faces at him.
“At the moment, I am placing the rotten boards on the front porch. Please inform Sam that Sophie managed to get stuck under there, but he lured her out.”
“Sam, your dog's an idiot,” Dean obligingly told his brother, ignoring Sam's insistence that there was nothing wrong with Sophie. On the other end of the line, Cas let out a huff of annoyance.
“C'mon Cas, the dog is kinda dumb-”
“Not that. Mike is here.”
“Did he bring pie?”
Dean could hear Cas inhaling slowly. “Strawberry.”
“Save me some.” Cas's annoyed grunt made Dean laugh. “What is with you about that kid? Don't tell me you're going all overprotective dad about a twelve year old.”
“You only like him because he bribes you with pie,” Cas retorted.
“You make me sound cheap,” Dean protested.
“You are cheap,” Sam muttered, settling against the seat to try and catch some sleep.
“Relax, Cas. And stop glaring at the kid or Zoe's gonna spend her whole life as a friendless loner and grow up to be a crazy survivalist out in the middle of nowhere.”
“You're on your way back?” Cas asked softly.
“Yeah.” Dean's grin turned into something softer as he pulled onto the interstate. “We'll be back soon.”
“Please hang up,” Sam muttered. “I'm not sure how much more of this I can take.”
“Sammy's being a bitch, so I gotta go.”
“Goodbye, Dean.” Another point in Cas's favor – he knew when to hang up the damn phone.
Sam was asleep, head resting against the passenger side window, when Dean pulled into the gravel covered lot behind Bobby's. Normally, Dean wouldn't stopped at a motel hours ago and finished the drive after a few hours sleep, but they'd already been gone so long, and it wasn't like Dean hadn't driven on little to no sleep before. And--
And there had been signs. Cas had mentioned them during their last phone call, when Sam and Dean had stopped for food and to stretch their legs, and Sam had confirmed when they'd been able to find some wi-fi.
It seemed the wait was finally over.
Dean gave Sam's shoulder a little shake and got out, stretching his arms above his head to try and work the kinks out of his back. Inside the house, Sophie started to yip madly. The dog had yet to work out how to properly bark, so it was all yips and whines and excited noises that Dean couldn't exactly define.
Salt skittered across the floor as the door opened, breaking the line spread out on the floor. Sophie raced past him, homing in on Sam like a furry missile.
Cas was in the living room, a finger pressed to his lips as he gestured at Zoe, sleeping on the couch.
“C'mon, if the kid slept through the dog, she'll sleep through me.” Dean still kept his voice down. “Salt lines?”
“Zoe was worried, and she wanted to help.” Cas caught Dean's disbelieving expression. “Not a word, Dean.”
“Wasn't gonna say a thing,” Dean reassured him. He leaned over the back of the couch. “She almost looks normal like this.” He twitched a frizzy lock of hair away from Zoe's face. He didn't notice Sam taking the picture with his phone until it was too late. “Dammit, Sam-!”
Zoe knocked Dean's hand away, rolling awkwardly off the couch. “Christ!” Sophie darted from Sam's side to rejoice in Zoe's awakening by covering her face in dog slobber. “Ack! Ack! Off!”
Sam snapped a few more pictures. “Gonna sleep now, night.” Sophie chased after Sam, letting Zoe get up, wiping at her face.
“What the hell was that about?” she demanded.
“Gathering poof that you're actually a kid, and not some evil troll creature in a kid suit. If you used all Bobby's salt, he's gonna need that reminder.”
“Up yours,” Zoe muttered, heading for the stairs after Sam.
“I think I see,” Cas mused, a near smile playing across his lips.
“This is how you two show affection, much like with you and Sam. You snipe, and you complain-”
Dean raised his hands to ward off the flow of words. “Can we save the chick flick moment for after I get coffee?”
“There's strawberry pie in the kitchen, too,” Cas added helpfully. Dean laughed quietly, unwilling to disturb the silence that had fallen back over the house as he slung an arm across Cas's shoulders. He smelled like wood varnish and strong soap, and Cas's arm fit comfortably around Dean's waist.