Since Pop started getting busier, Jasper and John had to share their training sessions with Uncle Gabe. Typically, the sessions had been split pretty evenly between the two archangels but Pop was the second most powerful angel in Heaven right now, and also, apparently, the fan-favourite for the moment.
Jasper pouted in the corner as John and Uncle Gabe spun and danced around each other, silver blades flashing brilliant in the pearlescent light of Heaven, almost faster than even Jasper could follow. He watched John phase out and reappear catching even their archangel uncle off guard once or twice.
Jasper had never been able to do that. He knew John was ten years older than him, but it still felt a little unfair to the thirteen year old. He had heard stories from when John was his age – John had gone back in time for the first time when he was thirteen. John had met their grandparents. Jasper couldn’t do that, Jasper could hardly fly to Japan without landing disoriented and out of breath. It sucked.
“You’re up, Kiddo!” Gabriel grinned form across the room. “Ready?”
Jasper scrambled to his feet and nodded, sliding his blade into his hand as he walked slowly to the centre of the room.
“I’m gonna pop up to the barracks. Check out what they’re up to,” John said casually as if just anyway could go there. Most angels had to be invited, Jasper had never even been. That sucked too.
“Sure thing, say ‘hi’ for me,” Gabriel nodded. “All set Jass?”
Jasper braced himself, analysed his opponent and launched an attack on his uncle. He was blocked without the archangel even blinking. They continued to spar, Jasper being knocked flat on his back more times than he could count. He only managed to get one lucky shot in, before he was panting and sweating and more exhausted than he ever remembered being. Calculating the time, it had only been a fraction of the duration that John and Uncle Gabe had fought for, but Jasper couldn’t go on.
“You did real great today, Sport,” Gabriel slung an arm around the young angel’s shoulders, ruffling his soft hair.
“John did better,” Jasper pouted.
“John’s older,” Gabriel shrugged, not denying it.
Jasper’s pout deepened. No one even humoured him, they all knew John was a thousand-million times more powerful than Jasper. Jasper was just the lame little brother who was lucky enough to work with the Archangel Gabriel because his father was Gabriel’s favourite brother. There were other new angels now, and all of them took no pains to hide from Jasper that they thought this very thing. None of the other young angels really liked Jasper, they all thought he was weird. It wasn’t even to do with the fact that Jasper was part human, they all seemed to like John well enough. John, John, John. Jasper kicked the air.
“Hey, hey, what’s up?” Gabriel asked.
“Nothing,” Jasper muttered.
Gabriel stared for a moment, unsure what to say. “Oh. Want a popsicle?”
“No thanks Uncle Gabe. I’m just gonna go back to Earth now,” Jasper sighed.
Gabriel bit his lip but nodded. “All right, Sport. You really did do good, you know.”
“Thanks Uncle Gabe.”
“Straight home!” Gabe called behind him.
Jasper nodded, but didn’t go straight home. Dad and Uncle Sam were at work and so was Pop. John was at the barracks probably laughing at dirty jokes in Enochian with the warrior angels and Mary was off doing Mary things with her boyfriend, who was gross and stupid.
Jasper had a different idea. He concentrated, stuck out his tongue and flexed his wings and in an instant he stumbled to a landing out front of a now familiar modest though elegant house. Jasper didn’t bother knocking or ringing the doorbell. He had a standing invitation.
“Granddad?” Jasper called.
“Hey!” The slight form of his grandfather emerged from the kitchen, dishtowel over his shoulder wide smile on his face, glasses perched on his nose.
Skittering claws scrambled across smooth tile and Jasper squealed happily at the fluffy golden retriever puppy.
“You got another dog?” Jasper grinned.
Chuck nodded. “Yep.”
“What’s his name?” Jasper asked.
“Bal—” Chuck coughed, “I mean ah… Bones.”
Bones leapt up on Jasper’s chest and began eagerly licking the young angel’s face. Jasper giggled at the soft puppy fur and fresh puppy breath, nuzzling against the dog’s neck. Without ceremony the puppy stopped licking and settling comfortably on Jasper’s crossed legs.
“So how’re your dads?” Chuck asked casually though Jasper understood that he was asking about one father in particular.
“Pop’s fine, Granddad,” Jasper answered. “Busy. Everyone knows he’s the favoured son so they’re turning to him more than Uncle Gabe.”
Chuck winced. “Maybe I should…”
“He’s all right with it. It’s not so bad now that John and I are older,” Jasper shrugged.
“Hey! You want some ice cream?” Chuck asked overly bright.
Jasper nodded eagerly. “Sure!” He gently shifted the puppy off his lap, the little dog whining and leaping back up Jasper’s legs.
“Bones,” Chuck chastised. The puppy didn’t move. “Hey Bones.”
The puppy startled then seemed to scowl at the name before he pulled away from Jasper and sat miserably on his haunches.
That’s when Jasper noticed something, his eyes widening. He looked between the puppy and his grandfather. “Hey! Granddad, are his eyes blue?”
Chuck chuckled uneasily, “Heh, heh… Weird, huh? Maybe he’s part husky or something.”
The puppy seemed to huff.
“He seems like a very smart puppy. You chose real good with him Granddad,” Jasper remarked. At this the puppy leapt to his feet eagerly and almost seemed to preen.
“Yeah, ah… thanks. He’s a good ah… kid, at his core,” Chuck said. “A little disobedient though.” He flashed stern eyes over to the golden who hunched his neck and trotted close at Jasper’s heels.
“Seems pretty loyal to me,” Jasper said. If ‘Bones’ could have stuck his tongue out at Chuck – he would have.
“Yeah, he’d probably like to go home with you.”
Bones danced on the spot, his tail waving manically behind him.
“But Dean probably wouldn’t like it,” Chuck added.
Bones deflated again, his lip curling only fractionally.
“Dad likes dogs,” Jasper frowned. “We almost got one, but no one is really home enough for a dog. It’s wouldn’t be fair. Too bad though, I would have liked to have one. Especially if he was like this.”
Bones moved closer to Jasper’s legs until he had his warm flank pressed firmly against the boy, practically leaning on him.
“How old is he?” Jasper added, finally moving towards the kitchen and to the promised ice cream.
“Er… currently?” Chuck squeaked out. “About um… five months.”
Jasper shot his grandfather a puzzled look. He had always been kind of weird though, so Jasper let it go. He figured he should probably be a little more nervous around the man but Jasper could never could find it in himself to be. Chuck may be God but he was still just Jasper’s granddad. Besides, Chuck was the only one in Jasper’s life who didn’t treat him any different than John. Jasper supposed to Granddad they were both just his boys, considering how powerful he was and everything.
“So what’s brought you all the way over here, anyway, Bud?” Chuck asked. “You don’t often just pop in out of the blue. Not that I mind, of course. You know I always love to see you and your brother.”
Jasper’s face darkened at the mention of John but he just shrugged a little and attacked his strawberry ice cream with undo vigour. “Nothing. Just didn’t wanna go home,” he said around a mouthful.
Bones was scrambling against the kitchen isle, and Jasper sent a brief glance of askance at Chuck who shrugged. Jasper reached down at helped the puppy up onto the tall kitchen stool. It was only until the puppy managed to crawl into Jasper’s lap again that he settled. Jasper pulled the other kitchen stool closer so the puppy wasn’t hanging awkwardly between the two.
“He really likes me,” Jasper commented.
“Mmhmm, you probably remind him of your Pop,” Chuck said idly.
“Huh?” Jasper frowned.
“What?” Chuck laughed with a strained tone.
“Um… nothing,” Jasper shook his head. What just happened? He blinked, then returned to his ice cream.
“You sure nothing’s bothering you?” Chuck asked, as if he didn’t actually know.
Jasper sighed, realized it was kind of silly to keep hiding it. It’s not like he could ever keep secrets from his grandfather even if he ever had an inclination to. It wasn’t really a secret anyway.
“John’s better than me at everything and everyone seems to like him more. None of the other angels hang out with me up in Heaven but John has loads of friend up there,” Jasper answered sadly.
The room seemed to darken all of the sudden and Bones whined faintly, squeezing impossibly closer to Jasper.
“What?” Chuck asked lowly, his eyes flashing eerily.
Jasper sighed and didn’t seem to notice the change in the room. “It just kind of sucks. I know I’m just the lame little brother, but still, John could time-travel when he was thirteen. He met Grandpa and Grandma Winchester. He’s also super-fast when he spars with Uncle Gabe and he can do all kinds of neat tricks. I mean, last week he made the storm go away for my baseball play-offs ‘cause he didn’t want to miss them and he had to get back to Med School on Monday. Not only is he a super strong angel but he’s also real smart and real popular and he’s gonna be a doctor. I got all Bs on my report card last term and I tried real hard. Granddad it sucks. It’s not fair.”
The sky had lightened and Bones stopped shivering against Jasper’s chest. Jasper scratched the dog’s ears idly and looked up into his grandfather’s sympathetic face.
“Jasper, listen to me,” Chuck said softly. “You aren’t your brother but that doesn’t mean you aren’t special, all right? John’s a lot older than you and he had life a little bit rougher when he was growing up. He could do all those things when he was so young because that’s just how the world worked then. You’ve grown up with both your dads nearby a lot more, with Uncle Sam and Mary. Your Uncle Gabe your Grandpa Bobby and me. Also John himself. You’ve been allowed to be a kid which means you’re going to take a little bit longer to grow-up. John wasn’t allowed to be a kid, not for a long time. I can guarantee though, Kiddo, that when you’re twenty-three you’re going to be just as powerful as John. You just wait. You and him are gonna be my greatest most fiercest and most loyal creations. You’ll see. I’m already so proud of you both and I can’t wait to see what you two grow into. Both of you have a lot of growing do to yet. He may have the power, but you have the heart.”
Jasper blushed. “John’s so cool though.”
“You know who you remind me a lot of Jass?”
“Who?” Jasper asked.
“Castiel. Just like him, you are so much more than you give yourself credit for. Castiel was my proudest achievement, which is why I gave him Dean, you and your brother. Why not take the crowning glory and make something so much more? You don’t understand how wonderful you are Jass. You are one half Castiel and one half Dean. The Winchesters have always been the human line of which I was most proud and Castiel was the angel. You’re perfect, Jasper. I just want you to know that and believe it.”
Jasper was blushing and gaping in awe up at his grandfather. “Really?”
“I wouldn’t lie. Never to you,” Chuck shook his head. “Finish up your ice cream, Kiddo. You’ll need to head home soon.”
Jasper ice cream had remained miraculously intact through the entire conversation, maintained at the perfect temperature. Jasper grinned his thanks up at his grandfather and finished the ice cream quickly after that. Just as Chuck placed the bowl in the sink, the doorbell rang.
“That’s your dad,” Chuck said.
Jasper nodded and moved Bones, the puppy whined but went relatively easily.
Jasper circled around the isle and hugged Chuck tightly. “Thanks Granddad, and Pop will forgive you one day. I know he will.”
Chuck hugged back, bending down to kiss Jasper’s dark hair and nodding. “Thanks for saying so, Jass.” Chuck released the boy and ruffled hair. “Now come on, let’s go let your dad in before he kicks my front door down.”
Jasper laughed when the bell rang again, this time with seemingly more force than before. Jasper helped the puppy off the stool. Once set on his paws Bones seemed to slink a little around the base of the counter.
“Come on, Bones, you should meet my dad,” Jasper said eagerly. The puppy followed with the most reserved gait Jasper had seen from him thus far. Jasper shrugged and opened the door with Chuck at his back.
“Hey Dad,” Jasper said.
“Thought you’d be here, Monkey. Gabe told Cas you were a little upset at training today,” Dean said eyes full of concern. “Chuck,” Dean acknowledged with a small nod.
“Hey Dean,” Chuck waved.
“I’m okay now!” Jasper said brightly. “Oh! Granddad got a new puppy.”
“Oh yeah?” Dean asked.
“Yeah he’s…” Jasper trailed off and looked at his feet, frowning when he didn’t see the puppy there. He turned and looked to see Bones sitting near the kitchen entrance, shooting Dean what could have been translated as a haughty glare.
“Weird,” Jasper said. “He was real nice with me.”
“He’s probably just tired,” Chuck offered, glaring at the puppy. Instead of coming forward the puppy remained resolutely where he was, going so far as to lie down.
“Wow, seen a look like that somewhere before. Just can’t put my finger on it,” Dean laughed. “Almost reminds me of…” Dean shook his head. “You ready to go home, Jass? Pop’s gonna barbeque. He got those steaks you like on his way home today.”
“Oo, yummy!” Jasper smiled. “Bye Granddad, thanks for the ice cream.”
“No problem, Kiddo,” Chuck nodded.
“Didn’t give you any trouble?” Dean asked.
Chuck laughed. “What trouble can’t I handle, Dean?”
“I suppose you’re right,” Dean chuckled. “Anyway, ah… thanks for helping him out.”
“Yeah, no problem.”
“See you, Chuck.”
Chuck peered out his front door, he didn’t see Castiel standing on the curb but he knew he was nearby. Chuck sighed and shut the door, after returning Jasper’s happy wave.
Castiel brushed Jasper’s brow gently and eased the blanket up around his chin before exiting the room with Dean and shutting the door softly behind them. Jasper was a little too old now to be tucked in, which was why Castiel and Dean snuck in after he had fallen asleep for one final check on him. Just because he as thirteen now, didn’t mean he wasn’t still their baby, after all.
“It’s odd,” Castiel said, once they were settled in the backyard around the small outdoor fireplace, beers in hand. “This afternoon just before I headed home several of the younger angels came up to me and requested I send their apologies along to Jasper, then assured me that they meant no disrespect. They all fluttered away before I could ask them what they meant.”
“Weird,” Dean agreed.
“I’ve only seen reverence like that to Michael or Jesus Christ in the past,” Castiel added. “They seemed to be afraid.”
They fell into comfortable silence, Dean watching the stars while Castiel watched the flames, idly playing with Dean’s fingers held gently in his hand. Dean turned his hand palm up and Castiel drew gentle little patterns on the delicate skin there.
Castiel paused in his ministrations. “Jasper will be all right, won’t he?”
“Yeah, I think so now,” Dean nodded. “Your Dad seemed to help him out.”
“Yes,” Castiel said grimly.
Dean squeezed the angel’s hand. “Hey, hey. I told you before Cas, you’re doing the right thing letting Jass and John visit Him, you know.”
“I know,” Castiel agreed. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Dean agreed. They lapsed into silence again.
A few minutes later Dean stood, pulling Castiel to his feet, grinning in the fire light, “Come on. I know something you do like.”
“Oh?” Castiel asked, a smile slowly curling on his lips.
“Mmhmm,” Dean replied, moving closer to the blue-eyed man and captured his lips. They kissed deeply in the warm spring night, pressed flush against one another under the stars. “I know something you like a lot.”
“I think it best that you show me what that is.”
When Dean’s back hit their mattress without taking a step, he could only chuckle.