Dean glances at Cas, trying not to smirk. The woman they're speaking to is the picture of innocence with a sincere look on her face, wide brown eyes, and a smile that she pulls out easily. Though she looks to be in her late thirties, she's dressed like a businesswoman in her late fifties. The hairstyle even makes her look older than her skin tone would suggest.
She's invited them in for tea, which she had conveniently just made, and the pot and cups are sitting on the kitchen table between them. Cas doesn't reach for his cup. Dean takes his lead and doesn't touch his either.
They'd come to the small, upscale neighborhood not only for a missing child, but because Bobby had said a hunter tipped him off about a creature he'd been hunting. The creature had turned on him, injuring him badly, but hadn't killed him. The hunter was recuperating, but he was fairly certain the creature lived in this neighborhood and that it had been responsible for two missing children over the last six months. Another child had been reported as missing just days ago.
“Are you sure you've never seen Abigail, Ms. Calder?” Cas asks, pushing the photo a little closer to the woman.
“I don't remember ever seeing her,” she claims again. “But I don't go to the neighborhood functions, so I wouldn't have met her unless she came over with her parents to attend one of my dinners.”
Dean keeps a straight face, even though Cas just very sarcastically agreed with Ms. Calder's claim. “Well, she's gone missing, ma'am,” Dean says, keeping his tone light instead of accusing, “and a couple of your neighbors mentioned seeing her playing in your driveway a few times over the last few weeks. In fact, Mr. Hanson from next door said he saw you sharing a glass of lemonade with her just two days ago.”
Her face screws up as if she's trying to think back over the last few weeks. “Oh, yes,” Ms. Calder says, her eyes widening even more, her index finger in the air as if the light bulb suddenly lit up over her head. “That was Jenna. She's Carol and Frank's daughter. Jenna helped me prune the bushes out front, and it was a warm day, so we shared lemonade.”
Yeah, Dean knows she's lying, but it's nice to have Cas helping. Dean goes by instinct, gut feeling. Cas can really read people, so even if someone is a very accomplished liar, Cas isn't fooled.
“So, just between us,” Dean says, leaning in and lowering his voice, “what do you think happened to Abigail?”
Ms. Calder sighs, biting her lip and faking nervousness. “Off the record?” she asks.
Cas and Dean nod. “Just between us,” Cas says, and Dean nods in agreement when she looks at him.
“Greg and Anna, Abigail's parents, are going through a rough patch with their marriage,” she says in a hushed voice. “Greg took off to go stay with his brother for a while, but he was very broken up about leaving Abigail behind,” she says, eyebrows raised as if implying so much more, yet acting as if she doesn't want to say the rest because it's awful.
*Squeak* comes from Cas, obnoxiously loud.
Dean works hard at not laughing, giving Cas a quick look that says 'dude, if you make me laugh, I'll find a way to pay you back,' then turning his attention to Ms. Calder again.
“So you think Greg missed his baby girl a little too much,” he says, acting as if they're sharing something super secret.
She shrugs. “I don't want to speak badly of Greg, but he's impulsive, and he really was torn up over leaving Abigail behind,” she says, overacting on the concern.
Just as Dean's about to give Cas a look that says 'maybe we should come back later tonight,' Cas stands up, the kitchen chair scraping along the hardwood floor. Cas opens the connection a little more than usual, and Dean feels a rush of fear, sadness, hunger, and longing, but it isn't coming from Cas. Dean knows without a doubt it's coming from Abigail, who's just awakened from a drugged sleep in the basement and is crying softly.
*Grunt* Cas walks out of the kitchen, and even though the connection closes down to normal again, he knows Cas is going to save the girl.
Ms. Calder stands up. “Where are you going?” she asks, then turns to Dean. “Where is he going?” she says, sounding as if she's trying to cover how nervous she is.
Dean pulls out his knife, and Ms. Calder's eyes flash with a purple that doesn't change the color of her eyes, but instead gives a purplish glowing effect.
“Don't touch her,” Ms. Calder says with a very inhuman, scratchy voice. “She's mine!” she says, then her tongue strikes out, hitting Dean's neck before he has a chance to move.
Dean's vision becomes hazy, and even though he's not in pain, his body isn't moving the way it should. He watches Ms. Calder stand up and stalk toward him.
“Little Abby has nearly given up hope of being rescued already,” Ms. Calder says, her eyes glowing brighter. “They taste so good when they're full of despair and heartache.”
Dean notices her cocky stance, and he knows she thinks she's won, that whatever she injected him with is going to send him to the ground in a matter of moments. He lunges at her, his knife quickly and smoothly arcing up through her throat and into her brain.
She looks surprised, and Dean grins at her. “Oh, did you think your venom would stop me?” he asks innocently, twisting the knife and watching the glow fade from her eyes. “It didn't,” he says as the glow dies out completely.
His knife slips out of her as she falls to the ground. He steps over her and heads toward the constant noise coming from Cas.
*Hum, grunt, hum* comes from Cas, and even though Dean knows Abby can't hear or feel the noises, it makes Dean feel better, because he knows Cas is using comforting and mothering sounds instead of shock or sorrow over the loss of a life. The girl must be alive.
Dean finds them in the basement, Abigail's legs wrapped tightly around Cas' waist, her head on his shoulder, and Cas' arms wrapped just as tightly around Abigail's body.
She gasps when he reaches the bottom of the stairs, her fear-filled eyes focused on him, and he hears Cas calming her with soft words that he can't make out. She relaxes, her head resting on Cas' shoulder. Whatever Cas said must've let her know Dean was safe, not a threat, and she believed him without question.
“Let's get her home, Cas,” Dean says.
She looks so small in his arms. She's six, a normal size for her age, but she's so scared, squeezing Cas so hard and melting into his body, and it makes her look smaller, more fragile.
“Do you want to see you mommy again, Abby?” Cas asks.
Dean's throat tightens. He's never heard Cas interact with a scared child before, and he sounds so at ease, so comforting. Dean shouldn't be surprised. Cas cares so much about everyone, is ready to protect the innocent, and he's even more protective of people less able to defend themselves.
But watching him cradle Abigail, looking determined, almost fierce, well, it moves him. He loves Cas so much it hurts, and this only makes him love Cas more.
Abby doesn't answer Cas. She doesn't even nod. She's upset, and he knows Cas doesn't need a response from her, but was only making small talk to calm her down.
“She prefers Abby,” Cas says as he walks by Dean.
“Abby it is,” Dean says with a reassuring smile directed at Abby. She watches him closely over Cas' shoulder on the way up the stairs, but Dean is pleased to see she doesn't look scared of him.
Abby doesn't live very far away, so Dean pulls around the corner with Abby and Cas in the back seat. He stops the car and puts it in park. Dean leans his head back against the seat, getting ready for what's about to happen.
*Nih* “Everything's going to be okay, Abby,” Cas says softly.
Abby still doesn't say anything, and Dean knows it's because she's traumatized. He feels Cas' grace leaning on his soul. He can recognize it now that Cas has done it a few times. Cas' grace has recovered some, but it still isn't strong enough to mess with Abby's memories without draining him significantly, and Dean's more than willing to help.
Dean flinches as Cas opens their connection. He sees everything that has happened to Abby in the last few days in a flash that's nearly overwhelming. It's not horrific, but from the eyes of a child, everything was terrifying. She wasn't given food, and when she was thirsty, Ms. Calder gave her just enough to survive.
Ms. Calder had revealed her true self to Abby, and it was more than Abby could take. She'd pulled herself in, hid inside her own mind to get away from what she'd seen. Dean's seen plenty of monsters, but even so, he flinches when he sees the real Ms. Calder.
Cas works his way in, refreshing Abby's body a little as he goes to help her with the dehydration, but mostly focusing on her mind.
Dean feels as if he's floating above all of them, watching as Abby's soul reaches out to Cas, trusting him even though she's only known him a few minutes. Her mind opens for him like Dean has never seen happen with an adult. She practically drags him and Cas into her, wrapping them around herself.
He's no longer floating above them. He feels the fear, the hunger, the craving for good attention and love, and he wants his mommy so badly it hurts. He wasn't a bad girl, and he doesn't know why Ms. Calder was so mean. She invited him in for cookies, and he likes cookies.
Ms. Calder had told him he'd been bad, that mommy was mad at him and asked Ms. Calder to keep him locked down in the basement because he was such a bad girl. He cried, begging to be let out, that he'd be a good girl, but Ms. Calder had ignored him.
Ms. Calder called him Abigail. He doesn't like that name. Mommy and Daddy and his best-friend-ever-in-the-whole-world Dana calls him Abby. Only the teachers and that creepy Mr. Jenkins who lives down the street calls him Abigail. Mommy keeps him away from Mr. Jenkins, but mommy should've kept him away from Ms. Calder too.
He'll never be a bad girl again. He's sorry he lied to mommy when she asked how the lamp got broken. It was him, but he was scared mommy would be disappointed. He'll never play with a ball in the house again if mommy just comes back and gets him from Ms. Calder's basement. He'll be such a good girl that mommy will never even think about locking her in Ms. Calder's basement ever again.
As soon as he gets home, he will say he's sorry for breaking the lamp. Abby never meant to break it in the first place. He knows she tries to be good. He can see she loves her mommy and daddy, and as soon as her daddy moves back home, everything will be just right again.
Dean gasps as he realizes he's being pulled out of Abby's head by Cas. He's shivering, his stomach aching, and his head throbbing. It's going away quickly, and he thinks it's mostly sense memory rather than his physical body actually hurting.
He shakes his head, trying to get rid of the sensation. He turns in the seat and finds Abby smiling at him.
“Are you going to take me home now?” she asks.
Dean's more relieved than he could ever express. She looks fine. She's not scared. “Yup, we're taking you back to Mommy,” Dean says, smiling at her. He turns around, starting the car and heading toward Abby's house.
“Mommy won't be mad at you,” Cas says to her. “But what did we talk about?”
Abby giggles. “You said I shouldn't go on any more walks without Mommy because Mommy had to ask policemen to bring me home,” she says.
Dean remembers being told that. He remembers Cas explaining that little girls shouldn't wander off. Cas said it was a very good thing Policeman Dean and Policeman Cas were there to find her and take her home to Mommy, but that there are very bad people out there who take little girls like her away from their mommies, so she should always stay where her mommy can see her.
Abby never did wander off, but she doesn't know that now. As far as she remembers, she chased after a cat, got lost, and the nice policemen found her in the park, where she'd been looking for the cat for a couple days, sleeping on the park bench at night and eating the apples from the tree she'd found.
Dean tries to get his head on straight. He'd fully immersed himself in Abby's head. He'd become her, and he'd left it up to Cas to have to fish him back out again. He feels a little silly, but it had been so easy. Abby had grabbed onto him. She wouldn't let go.
He sits in the car while Abby and Cas get out. Abby walks up to his door and waves. He rolls down the window.
“Bye, Policeman Dean!” she says with a big grin.
“Bye, sweetheart,” he says, waving at her.
Dean watches Cas knock on the door, sees Abby's mom squeeze her so tightly that Abby squeals with laughter, and watches Abby's mom thank Cas repeatedly for bringing her daughter back safely.
Cas walks back to the car, gets into the passenger seat. They sit there in silence for a few minutes. Dean's still shaken by the experience, but he feels better having Cas beside him.
“When you latched onto me in Hell, *uhn*,” Cas says, “it was even stronger than that.”
Dean feels goosebumps rise on his arms. He knows the story. Cas has told him more than once. “Sorry I let myself get sucked into Abby like that,” he says, reaching over and grabbing hold of Cas' hand.
*Nih* “I let you do that because Abby needed it,” Cas says. “I was fixing her mind, but she needed someone to keep her safe, take away the fear as I changed her memories. I apologize for how you feel right now, but I assure you it was what she needed, and I assumed you'd have agreed to it if I had asked.”
Dean snorts. “Well, yeah, when you put it that way, I have no problem with it. I mean, I feel funny and all, but if she needed it, it's okay.”
“I couldn't push you away when you wrapped yourself around me,” Cas says softly.
Dean chuckles. “I pulled the octopus routine on you, huh?” he asks with a smile.
*Cuh* Cas smiles. “You assume you were too far gone to be worth saving, but a demon would've never wrapped itself around an angel for comfort and insisted upon being rescued.”
Dean turns to Cas, feeling raw and broken open. “You fought for me. I thought Hell and pain and torture was all I had left, but you fought for me.”
Cas leans in and kisses Dean so gently it nearly makes Dean cry. Cas always puts his all into a kiss, and this time is no different. Even though it's gentle, a soft press of Cas' lips to Dean's, Cas reassures him and comforts him with just the kiss.
*Uhn, dook* “I knew you'd be worth it,” Cas says.