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Sam Winchester Does Not Panic (Probably)

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Sam wasn’t panicking. He definitely wasn’t panicking, because hunts always went wrong. There was no reason to panic. Just because he couldn’t find Dean, and Castiel had suddenly zapped off on him, was no reason to panic. Just because he couldn’t find either of them when he had stomped back to the impala in a huff was no reason to worry, even though the impala was the last place he had seen Dean. Just because the plan had been that Dean would stay outside and guard the back door while Sam and Cas search the warehouse for the hex bag stockpile rumored to be hidden there, and now he was nowhere to be found, was nothing to freak out about.

Things had been going smoothly enough. Sam had just found the hex bags and Cas had mojoed the whole pile to ash when suddenly the angel’s head had snapped up, alert to something Sam couldn’t perceive. Then he was just –gone. Disappearing into nothing with no warning at all. Annoying enough that Cas was always popping off at Dean’s call, annoying didn’t even begin to describe how done Sam was with every little thing going wrong every time a Winchester decided to breathe.

Yeah, annoyed didn’t begin to describe it, but he definitely wasn’t panicking.

A scream, high and terrified, echoed from the supposedly empty building around the back of the lot.

Shit.

Sam took off at a run, boots crunching over gravel as he flew around the corner, abandoning caution in favor of speed as the screaming got more frantic. He burst into the open storehouse, eyes immediately and expertly running over hex crap strung up from the ceiling, the smell of burning incense, and pentagram-type symbols painted everywhere on the floor, before finally resting on a cage placed conspicuously in the middle of the room.

All the yelling was coming from one of several disturbingly familiar piles of fabric which were wrapped up in rope and apparently recently deposited in the middle of the cage. Humid air moved across Sam’s face as he approached the bars, gun at the ready. A quick scan of the room revealed the open exit at the opposite end from where he had entered, door still hanging open in evidence of someone’s hasty retreat.

It was at this point in his observation that one of the things in the cage wriggled free of its bonds, and Sam felt his stomach drop as a familiar moppy dark head popped out of a tan bundle to reach comfortingly out to the much louder occupant of the plaid bundle.

Shit.

“Out! Out, out, let meeee out!” the thing in the second bundle shouted. The pint sized Castiel was now attempting to release the ropes around his fellow captive, but he seemed to be having trouble coordinating his new, younger form. As Sam approached Cas’ head whipped up, the relief on his face cuing Sam in to how bad things were.

“Sam, thank goodness,” the kid said, his formal tone erasing any doubts that Sam might have had about this really being their angel friend.

“Oh my God, Cas,” he said shoving his gun down his pants and jogging the last few steps to the cage. “What happened?”

The yelling from the other pile had stopped at the sound of Sam’s voice, the thrashing stilling long enough for Cas to finally untie the knot holding the thing closed. Sam got the door open just as a second kid popped his head out from the plaid shirt and huge leather jacket wrapped around him.

“Bleh!” the kid shouted, wriggling his naked bony torso free of the clothes that had fit him just that morning, face all red from screaming and lack of oxygen, green eyes a little red too, from tears.

“Dean?”

The perfectly de-aged Dean Winchester stared up at Sam. “Who’re you?” he asked, voice shaking, “Mommy? Dad?!” he looked around the room as if hoping to see them hiding somewhere.

“It was a spell,” Cas offered as Sam sunk to the floor, thumping down to rest his head in his hands. This could not be happening.

“It seems the witches had this planned in case anyone found their stock. They got to Dean first because he was vulnerable on his own,” Cas continued, unconsciously pulling up the huge dress shirt that hung uselessly around his shoulders now.

Sam groaned, closing his eyes and rubbing his face. Of course it was a spell, and now their team was down one hunter and an angel.

It was in this moment of distress Dean took his chance to escape. Jumping up, he slipped past a startled Sam and out of the cage.

“Hey!” Sam shouted, surprise getting the jump on him as he made a futile attempt to grab Dean as he took off. “Dean! Get back here!” he yelled at the freckled ass as it dodged past hex spells in an open bid for the door. “Dean!”

“No!” Dean yelled back. Sam cursed.

“He left his pants,” Cas observed, confused.

Sam cursed again. Witches on the prowl, down two team members, and his brother on the loose (little streaker). Good thing he wasn’t panicking.

“Dean!” Sam called again. The fuck was he going to do?

“Calm yourself, Sam,” Cas said, “I don’t believe Dean recognized you, it’s possible he may not remember being an adult. You must show him you’re friendly.”

Sam groaned. “Oh man…fine. I’m going to grab Dean, you…uhh,” Sam flicked his eyes up and down all three feet of Castiel. He looked a little older than Dean had. As far as he could tell the angel was around maybe around six years old, still nowhere near old enough to fit into the clothes he was currently holding up, although it was amusing (and ironic) that Cas would be the one with social sensibilities enough to be embarrassed about clothing while Dean was currently running butt-naked through the witch’s hideout.

“You go find you two some clothes that fit,” he said, as Cas scowled, “And don’t forget shoes!” Sam yelled to the empty air as Cas mojoed away without comment.

---

‘Dean!” Sam yelled, making a grab at his naked-ass brother, who had evaded his attempts at capture thus far by crawling under an abandoned pickup truck. He seemed to sense that height was one of Sam’s weak points.

“Dean, get over here!” With a growl of effort Sam managed to stretch enough to grab Dean’s foot, dragging him backwards in triumph. The kid came up with a shriek, less from fear and more from surprise.

With impeccable timing Cas appeared, holding out a small pile of clothes as Sam struggled to get a decent grip on Dean’s arm. “Thanks,” he said taking the clothes from Cas, who was already dressed. “Do you—” Sam started, but was cut off as Cas sagged forward, white and shaking. Sam dropped a startled Dean to catch the angel as he sunk to the ground. “Whoa! Easy there!” he said, supporting Cas uncertainly as the kid leaned in, panting softly. He looked awful.

“What’s wrong?” Dean said, coming to stand at Sam’s shoulder as Sam kneeled down to their height. “Is he sick?”

Cas’ eyes flicked open, his face still ghastly white against his dark hair. “This body is too small to properly channel my grace,” he gasped, leaning against Sam but addressing Dean (typical), who stared at him wide-eyed. “I don’t think it would be wise to attempt my normal mode of transport at the moment.”

Dean looked at him sympathetically, and Sam resisted the urge to roll his eyes at this continuation of their usual soul searching staring contest. “You gonna puke?” Dean asked, and oh god Sam hoped not, he didn’t want to be the one cleaning up angel barf.

Cas blinked, swallowing almost experimentally before replying. “No, I do not believe so,” Sam let out a breath. Count your blessings.

“Dean,” he said, addressing his brother in his I-am-an-adult-and-you-are-not voice (an unfortunate but necessary tool he had developed for dealing with Dean over the years), “Cas isn’t feeling good. So I need to you to put these on and come quietly so we can get him some help ok?” he held out the clothes, which appeared to be smaller versions of what the brothers generally wore, only a few layers short of a hunter’s set. Dean considered them with all the solemnity of his 3-4 years.

Sam held his breath, praying that some luck would come through and that little Dean was as much of a mother hen as older Dean. His faith was rewarded when, after a moment, Dean took the pile from his hands with a nod. Turning to Cas Dean patted his head reassuringly. “Don’ worry, I had a chicken pox one time and I died with the scratch but I’m ok now.”

With that enigmatic statement Dean turned away from a thoroughly confused Castiel to put on his shirt.

“I don’t understand,” Cas said, turning a questioning stare on Sam. “I was not aware of any previously fatal illness in Dean’s early childhood.”

Sam sighed. “I think he meant that he was so itchy he wanted to die.”

“Buttons!” Dean demanded, pulling at Sam’s sleeve. Sam sighed again. He could already see that he would be spending far too much time in the future being a toddler-speak interpreter.

There was an awkward moment where Sam offered to carry Cas if he was feeling off enough, although the thought of totting around an Angel of the Lord like a pooped-out toddler was pause worthy to say the least, but Castiel declined and so the group made their way slowly back to the car. That seemed to be the little push that Sam needed to make it into Dean’s favor. The little guy visibly relaxed at the sight of his baby; excitedly he ran up to her and threw the door open to climb into the driver’s seat, jumping with a silly shriek into the back. Sam rolled his eyes and stored their gear as Cas sensibly opened the back door to climb in and buckle himself up beside Dean.

“Alright guys,” Sam said, shrugging down into the driver’s seat, “Let’s just get back to the motel and figure this situation out—Dean don’t kick the back seat!”

Dean pulled a face. “I’m hungry,” said plaintively, patting his stomach sadly.

‘Hamburgers?” Cas asked, perking up at the idea. Sam watched as two pleading pairs of eyes looked at him through the rear view mirror.

“Ok, fine. Food and then motel,” Sam conceded.

---

Handing back burgers to Dean and Cas, Sam felt like a god. Cas watched the bag like it was the holy grail, his color already looking better after some time sitting down. Dean was in awe over the novelty of being allowed to eat in the car. They both gazed at him worshipfully when he automatically asked for extra cheese on their burgers. Well. It was nice to be appreciated.

As he took the impala down the freeway toward the motel Sam realized they were passing the neighborhood of what they had thought contained the house which worked as the witches’ base of operations. He was getting an idea, probably a terrible idea, but it felt worth exploring. He pulled off the nearest exit, guiltily meeting Cas’ questioning look in the mirror.

“I think I should make a quick stop,” Sam said, ignoring the surprised sounds from the back seat as he cruised up the suburban streets toward a very normal looking family home. “It won’t take long, I’m just going to do some quick…research,” he pulled the car over, killing the engine as he made a routine scan of the block.

“Sam, I don’t think this is the time for such risks,” Cas started, but Sam cut his objections off.

“Look, just stay in the car alright? I just want to see if I can find the spell they used. They might have left it out somewhere if they worked it recently, or at the very least I might be able to find the book it’s in, and need you to keep an eye on Dean,” Sam said, exasperated and just ready to get going and fix this whole thing now that he saw a way out.

Cas still looked unconvinced but Dean appeared to have entered a food coma of some sort and was obviously too out of it to leave the car, and if Dean stayed then Cas stayed; that was a fact of life. Sam got out of the car, shaking his head as he grabbed his gear out of the trunk. If he was quick he could be in and out in under twenty minutes.

He casually walked up to the house; casual attracted less attention than someone his size trying to sneak (sometimes he grudgingly thought there might be something to all those moose jokes). Carefully setting down his bag, Sam got to work on the front door. Picking the lock was the work of a second, and soon he was sifting through stacks of leather bound books with gusto.

Sometime much later he was beyond frustrated. Why the hell couldn’t people at least keep their books on their shelves? Every time he thought for sure he had searched the whole collection he would find some random assortment of books under a chair or being used as doorstops. Didn’t these witches know how priceless these things were? After much cursing and rummaging around with little more than a flashlight Sam was forced to admit that there was just nothing here that could help them. Help them.

Shit.

Sam’s head whipped around, searching the wall for the clock he had seen on his way in.

Shit.

Three hours. How the hell had he been at this for three hours without noticing? He suspected it had something to do with the fact that Dean wasn’t there to bitch about how long things took or how absorbed he gets when researching. Shoving all his gear into his bag, Sam practically ran out of the house, not really caring if anyone saw him at this point. This had been such a phenomenal waste of time. It was with relief that he saw Dean and Cas were still waiting for him in the car.

Cas looked up as Sam approached. Sam chucked his gear in the back before falling into the driver’s seat.

“Were you successful in your search?” Cas asked as Dean grumbled awake at all the noise.

“Dead end,” Sam said, switching on the engine. “I think we’re going to have to do this the hard way.”

---

Sam parked the impala near the motel office. They piled out of the car, Sam with his usual trouble unfolding himself, Dean by throwing open the back door with such force that he fell out, landing on hands and knees on the parking lot asphalt but bouncing up unfazed as Cas hovered behind him with concern.

Somewhere along the ride home Dean had caught a second wind, waking up thoroughly to start fidgeting enough for Sam to snap at him twice to stop kicking the seat.

Dean took off at a run for the office entrance as Sam grabbed their ID’s from the passenger’s seat, Cas closing the door respectfully before following Sam over to the office at a more reasonable pace than Dean had taken. Dean held the door open for them, swinging on the door handle as Cas entered and whining when Sam plucked him off the thing. The three of them made their way to the front desk where Dean, to Sam’s exacerbation, jumped up and began smacking the bell repeatedly to call up an employee, hitting it several times in rapid succession before Sam could pull him off the counter. He dumped Dean, bell and all, next to his now curious angel as the manager disapprovingly hurried into the room.

“Yes? You need something?” the man said, casting a scathing look over Sam and his apparent brood.

“Uh, one room two queens?” Sam said, holding out his debt card placatingly and flashing his best get-out-of-jail-free smile. The man snorted at him, grabbing the card and punching in the booking on the ancient PC at the desk.

“How many nights will you be sta—” he began, but he was cut off by a piercing ‘ding!’ Sam and the manager jumped a bit and three pairs of eyes looked around with varying expressions of annoyance, confusion, and glee before resting on Castiel, who stooped slightly beside Dean, a deeply guilty look on his face as he clasped the bell in his hands to still it.

---

After trundling back to their room Sam ordered Cas to keep an eye on Dean while he unloaded their stuff.

Standing alone in the empty parking lot Sam took a deep breath of evening-chilled air. So his older brother was now his younger brother, no big deal. It would be fine. Castiel was here, and if he couldn’t stop the spell he would have no trouble helping Sam fix it. It’s not like he could just fly off in his…condition.

After a few moments silence Sam gave himself a shake, pulling out the keys as he went over what they would need for a night in enemy territory.

When he entered the room it was to Dean guiltily smacking the motel’s phone back onto the stand, then shrinking down in the desk chair when Sam fixed him with a questioning look.

“Daddy has a phone, he said I shudn’t touch it,” Dean said, wiggling in the chair. He watched as Sam set their supplies on the table. The silence stretched on for a few minutes while Sam readied salt and paint for demon traps. Finally Dean ventured a quiet question. “If I call him can he come get me?”

Sam felt his gut tighten with a strange mix of embarrassment, guilt, and pity. His brother was looking up at him with those tight corners around his eyes that as an adult, always meant anxiety. The kid was obviously worried about what kind of reaction Sam might have to him asking to go…home.

Turning his back to Dean, Sam began to prep the room, salting the windowsills meticulously as he cautiously answered, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Its dark isn’t it? You don’t want to wake your Dad up by calling right now,” he emptied one container of salt on the windows, and found himself forced to face Dean as he grabbed another container off the table. “So we had better wait, right?” Sam said, finishing off the salt in the doorway and passing Cas a paintbrush, “Set up traps by the windows, and a big one under the bed,” he ordered. Cas crawled under the bed without any remark and Dean watched nervously while Sam painted his own trap in front of the door. Sam refused to be caught with his pants down again on this case, and so he grimly put up every precaution around the room that he could think of. He didn’t envy the cleaning lady this job when they checked out, but he would really rather they got out of this mess alive.

Subdued now, Dean climbed into bed, pulling the blankets over his head entirely as he curled up under them. Sam felt vaguely guilty about this, the kid was obviously scared by all the bizarre precautions Sam set up, but Sam hoped a little fear would keep him from messing with the wards or something. Man, it sucked not having Dean remember him, and it made everything so much more complicated that Dean seemed to have de-aged to some point in his life before the fire: before demons and ghosts, salt and burns.

“Cas?” Sam called softly, moving into the bathroom and gesturing for Castiel to follow. He shut the door behind them as Cas moved awkwardly around him to stand by the sink. Sam didn’t want Dean to hear whatever it was that Cas had to say about this freak-spell.

“Ok man, spill. What the hell happened back there?” Sam said, crossing his arms and watching intently as Cas shifted uncomfortably.

“I don’t know what you expect me to say. As I told you, the witches had this planned, it was only our bad luck that we got caught,” Castiel said, his usual deadpan delivery ruined by his adorably high pitched child voice. Sam stared at him, then frowned as the gears in his head finally started turning.

“But how could a few witches be powerful enough to put a spell like this on you? Usually you just blast through magic like this.”

Cas frowned. “It was a mistake,” he said. “I was confused as to what was happening when I flew to Dean, it—“ he hunched a bit, as if the memory stung. “It felt like they were killing Dean. I felt his life suddenly draining away and I rushed in without properly checking out the situation. In reality, what I felt was the spell stripping away the years of his adult life and I threw myself right into the middle of this insane spell.”

“So I don’t get it,” Sam said, trying to cover the embarrassed silence that followed Cas’ admission (really, these two needed to just get married and declare their undying love or something). “Why can’t Dean remember anything but you can?”

Cas blinked, pausing thoughtfully for a moment before replying.

“I would assume that is because the spell was targeted at my vessel, not my mind, which is unusually detached from this form. It would appear that the spell only reversed my physical age,” Castiel said.

“So, basically you both got de-aged but you have your angel brain so losing a few years is no big deal?”

Cas frowned, his crinkled brow failing to produce its usual death glare. To put it mildly, he was pouting. Sam was appalled at how adorable Cas was. He hadn’t wanted to hug and cuddle something so much since he was twelve and Mrs. Johnson had let him take care of the biology class’s rabbits for the day. “I suppose that is one way to describe it,” Cas said grudgingly. “The point is, that with my powers still adjusting to my vessel’s new form it may take several days before I have enough control to seek a cure in heaven.”

“So basically I’m on my own with this,” Sam said, again dropping his head into his hands heavily. He felt a major headache coming on.

“I would suggest you enlist the help of Bobby Singer,” Castiel replied.

Sam snorted. “Teach your grandma, Cas— no, you know what? Never mind,” he redacted as Cas opened his mouth. Sam opened the bathroom door, glancing over to where Dean slept, conked out now under the cheap hotel comforter after the weirdness of the day. “I’m going to get some sleep. Hopefully I’ll have some deep epiphany while I do that can help fix this mess.”

---

Something pokey landed on Sam’s stomach, jolting him into sudden wakefulness. Sam flailed about for a second, hand reaching under his pillow for the hunting knife he slept with, brain confused as he tried to focus on the thing attacking him. Green eyes blinked down at him, wide through long soft lashes. Sam let out a deep breath, relaxing his death grip on the knife as he willed his heart to stop pounding. Dean sat back on Sam’s legs (and why he felt the need to sit on Sam at all was beyond Sam’s ability to reason out right now).

Sam groaned, leaning back into his pillow.

“I’m hungry,” Dean announced, and gazed expectantly at his brother. Just like a puppy, Sam thought, somewhat nauseated at how adorable the little menace looked with his fluffy blond hair and freckled nose. He was never going to let Dean make fun of his ‘girly’ hair again. He squeezed his eyes shut. They had better find a way to fix this soon.

A small finger poked his face. He sat up, glaring at his pint-sized older brother.

“Breakfast,” Dean insisted, barely blinking under the baleful gaze of his brother. Apparently Dean’s stomach always came first, regardless of circumstances. Groaning again, Sam pulled himself out of bed, barely managing to muster a snort of amusement at Dean’s squeal as he rolled over the edge of the bed when Sam tumbled him off his legs. Watching as Dean bounced to his feet and ran over to the table, Sam suppressed a shudder. He was used to thinking of himself as the healthy one in the family, but kids apparently had their own level of energy beyond normal human capacity. As an adult Dean was sometimes hyper (often silly), but as a kid he was practically glowing with the fountain of youth. Sam walked over to the fridge and blearily peered in.

Shit.

“I guess we’re going out for breakfast” he announced, earning a cheer from little Dean.

---

Breakfast was a bit of a trial, what with Cas initially refusing to order anything, Dean drowning his pancakes (and everything else on his plate) in syrup, and the waitress somehow coming under the impression that Sam was a young, single father of two, and so making sure to provide extra service that prevented Sam and Cas from discussing anything important beyond a short argument over when to call Bobby. They got it all sorted out; Dean ordered food for Cas, (which Cas didn’t object to since Dean looked so proud of himself), the waitress kindly brought over extra napkins to mop up some of the syrup, and Sam grudgingly agreed to call Bobby as soon as they were done at the dinner. The dinner staff pronounced Cas precocious at the end of that argument and gave Dean extra mints with the check. The waitress had just left to clear tables after ringing them up when Sam’s reluctant resolve to call Bobby was preempted by his cell going off.

“Uhh— hi, Bobby,” Sam said, clearing his throat. Cas looked around at Sam as Dean amused himself poking at the candy vending machines.

“What’s up with you two today?” Bobby demanded, “Didja get the stock taken care of or what?”

“Uhmm,” Sam replied, mind spinning as he tried to find the words to explain himself.

Shit.

It sounded so stupid in his head no matter how he phrased it. “Well Bobby, we were hunting witches and decided it would be a good idea to split up,” or “Well Bobby, you know how you were always saying Dean acts like a big two year old?” how about “Well Bobby, our angel has been miniaturized.”

“The hell is wrong with you boy?” Bobby’s gruff voice demanded, loud enough for Cas to leave Dean shaking the candy machine to come stand by Sam’s side.

“Uh, it’s kind of hard to explain,” Sam started.

“Dean and I have run afoul of a de-aging spell,” Cas butted in, pulling down Sam’s arm to speak to Bobby, and earning a patented Sam Winchester bitch face as Sam attempted to cover the phone while stooping down at a ridiculous angle. “What?” Cas asked, pout slipping into place. “You seemed to be having difficulty explaining and we need to be expedient in our search for a cure.”

There was a moment of silence as Sam weighed the pros and cons of trying to spank an angel, but his thoughts were interrupted.

“Tell me that ain’t our angel sounding like a bad impression of the chipmunks,” Bobby demanded, Sam’s cell vibrating with incredulity. “What the hell have you idjits been up to this time?”

Sam groaned. “Look, there were these witches—Oh my God, DEAN!” Sam chucked the phone at a startled Castiel, running over to grab Dean, whom he had just spied putting something into his mouth that Sam darkly suspected was old, chewed-up gum off the ground. “Spit!” Sam ordered, pinching Dean’s cheeks as his brother squirmed defiantly. “Spit it out, Dean, or so help me!” he gave Dean a little shake, “Jeez, you’re annoying. Spit it out!” with one last scowl of defiance Dean spat the gum back onto the floor.

“M’not annoying,” Dean said sullenly as Cas held out the phone to Sam and then proceeded to stand there, scanning Dean’s unhappy expression intently.

“Yes you are,” Sam said, rolling his eyes as he took back the cell. “Sorry about that,” Sam said as Dean turned his back on him furiously, latching onto Cas and burying his face in the older boy’s back.

“Boy, you have the worst luck of anyone on the planet,” Bobby complained, the sound of papers shuffling signaling it was time to get down to research. “Tell me everything, and DON’T leave any idiocy out of your story, I don’t want to miss something because you were too pussy to man up to your dumbass moves.”

---

It was a relief to have Bobby backing him on this. Sam hadn’t realized how worrisome he found being the one responsible for fixing this mess. Sure, he was plenty used to being the one to blame for crap like the apocalypse, but it was a different thing entirely having your now kid brother’s life on your hands, not to mention that of his brother’s sort-of -boyfriend angel.

After much fuss and a promise to go out for ice cream later (Sam would promise almost anything at this point to get Dean to stop sulking and threatening a tantrum), he had everyone buckled up and happy again in the car. Like most kids, Dean seemed to find it too much focus, mentally, to hold a grudge and was now happily chattering at Castiel as Sam started the car.

Dean erupted into a fit of giggles at something in the conversation, bouncing around in his seat and bumping against Cas, who smiled at him affectionately. Sam watched through the rearview mirror as Cas reached across to comb wild blond bangs out of Dean’s face. It was strange, seeing that look on the angel’s face. He looked happy, like he was basking in the glow of Dean’s carefree enthusiasm. Sam gave himself a little shake and Cas looked around at him, electric blue eyes meeting his gaze in the mirror.

Sam gulped a bit and pulled the impala out of the diner parking lot. And here was Sam’s problem, every time he thought Castiel was ‘normal’ or even just kind of human, he was reminded of the awesome power the guy really possessed, and it pulled him right back to square one with how to feel about him. Dean never had that problem, and maybe that was because of the awe Cas seemed to hold him in, that profound bond that seemed to make Dean the center of his universe even now that they were both kids.

Sam cleared his throat. “Ok, let’s get back to the motel and see if we can find ourselves a counter spell or something.”

“I am concerned,” Cas said, “Something of this magnitude will be difficult to reverse. I am surprised that humans were able to work this spell,” he frowned. “It had the feel of a large group working.”

“So, like a spell that takes the whole coven to work?” Sam asked. That didn’t sound good. “We don’t even know how big this coven is!”

Cas nodded. “If we cannot find the counter spell it is possible that we will not be able to lift the curse until every witch had released her part of the spell.”

“Oh man, this is so not cool,” Sam pulled into the motel lot. “Let’s hope we can find the spell then, or that you get enough mojo back to fix this thing.”

“I hope so, I do not like being reduced in this way,” Cas said, frowning at Dean, who was meeting his gaze quizzically.

“Are you sad, Cas?” Dean asked, hands rubbing up and down on the seatbelt. Castiel hesitated, and Dean reached out to pat his head before suddenly leaning in and rubbing his nose to the angel’s in an eskimo kiss. “Do’n worry Cas, I’m here too an we can have lots’a fun back at the room ok?”

Dean pulled back and patted Castiel’s leg like everything was settled. Cas just looked shocked, his hand moving up slowly to rub at his nose carefully, as if he thought Dean might have mojoed it himself or something.

“Oh well that’s gross,” Sam said, rolling his eyes when Cas looked at him in confusion. “Get a room you two if you’re going to flirt like that.”

Dean stuck out his tongue and Sam laughed. An expression of comprehension dawned on Cas’ face and Sam could have sworn he saw the kid blush.

True to his word, when they got back to the hotel Dean immediately grabbed the note paper from the nightstand and began instructing Cas on the finer points of paper airplanes. Sam just shrugged and pulled out his laptop. It wasn’t like Cas could have been much help Googling shit, so he left the two of them to it and dug in to find some answers.

They spent the morning like that, Dean moving on to coloring when Cas had produced a red and blue pen from his coat pocket (kid sized and vaguely trench coat-like in appearance), Sam only moving his focus off the laptop to clarify some info with Cas occasionally (and once when Dean had needed to use the bathroom but couldn’t get his pants off by himself—and now Sam felt like a terrible brother for giving Dean a hard time when the guy complained about having potty trained him, because thank god kid Dean was a little past that stage apparently).

After a day of research Sam was forced to concede that he needed more specifics to get anywhere with this, and after a lunch of breakfast leftovers it was clear that they were woefully undersupplied considering their new circumstances.

“Cas,” Sam said as Dean took another bathroom break during a commercial. Sam had banned paper airplanes after a particularly well aimed one had almost poked his eye out, and so the two had been camped out in front of the battered TV set for the last couple hours.

“We’re going to have to get back to the warehouse,” he said, almost apologetically. He wasn’t quite sure why he felt the need, but he suspected that it had something to do with bed times, just as he had felt guilty about bribing Dean with too much sugar and letting him veg instead of getting fresh air and exercise. Cas seemed to be the only babysitter in the room who objected though. Maybe Sam was also getting to see Dean’s point about the bitch face; it wasn’t very pleasant to have it directed at you by a very disappointed six year old.

“It’s not a good idea,” Cas said flatly, and Sam winced a bit on the inside.

“Yeah, I know, but I’ve got nothing here, man. I need more to work with or we’ll never figure out what this is,” Sam got up, grabbing the keys from the counter. “And we need stuff like food and extra clothes too. We’ve got no choice.”

Castiel sighed, and Dean came out of the bathroom to look at them curiously. He didn’t ask though when Sam motioned towards the door. He hadn’t talked to Sam at all really, after the airplane incident, and Sam felt guilty about that too. Mostly because if he had over reacted and scared Dean it had worked to keep the kid out of his hair for a few hours. Yeah, he probably sucked big time for that thought.

“Get your shoes on ok? We’re going out.”

---

It wasn’t quite dark yet as they pulled into the empty shipping lot. The area was just as disserted as it had been yesterday. But their party was nowhere near as confident as yesterday, or even remotely put together.

“I don’t wanna stay in the car,” Dean whined, kicking at the back of Sam’s seat.

“Dean, don’t start,” Sam warned.

“It does seem dangerous for you to go alone,” Cas said, fidgeting nervously as Dean gave one last defiant kick. Cas found Dean’s show of defiance alarming at times. He wasn’t used to the completely unrestrained outbursts, which was weird to Sam since Dean wasn’t exactly a paragon of restraint in his adult life either, as several broken hands had proved after connecting with their angel’s face. “I don’t like our chances should something slip by you,” Cas stated, attention shifting back to Sam once Dean seemed settled.

Sam growled in frustration. “What do you want me to do, Cas?” he said, switching off the engine. “We have no back up. It’s just us: one three year old, a pint sized angel with pint sized power, and me. Just chill here for a bit and hopefully we all get out of this just fine.”

Dean flopped face down into the leather of the back seat, where he proceeded to scream mutedly into the cushions, to the obvious alarm of Castiel. Sam rolled his eyes and locked the doors behind him, making sure that the windows were open a crack (the last thing he wanted was to be one of those people who roasted their kids by leaving them alone in a locked up car).

In the fading light Sam retraced his steps, making his way across the lot towards the warehouse. Cautiously he approached the building, listening at the door a bit before pushing it slowly open. Treading stealthily, Sam entered the warehouse.

Shit.

Everything was gone.

---

It was like a nightmare, one where Sam was forever doomed to search for crap that wasn’t there. First, nothing in the witch’s books, now not even a hint of anything that had transpired in the warehouse. It was like they hired handy maids to come and bleach the place to within an inch of its life.

Finally forced to admit defeat Sam stomped back to the impala, throwing open the door and shaking his head in the negative at Cas’ questioning look.

“I think we’re out of options,” Sam said grimly, starting the engine and moving the car out onto the freeway.

Cas sighed. Dean, rubbing his red eyes asked blearily, “We gonna catch a witch?”

Sam huffed, amused. “Yeah Dean, we’re gonna catch a witch.”

Which was a lovely thought, except that the witches apparently had the same idea first.

The first indication that Sam had of this fact was a huge crunch against the side of the impala. With a shout of surprise, Sam found himself wrestling with the wheel as something else smacked the same side of the car, pushing her off the road. As the car swerved, chucking them all around pretty painfully, Sam heard a fierce snarl accompanied by the screeching sound of claws against metal.

Jerking the wheel around Sam slammed on the gas, feeling the car jump under him as the tires bumped over something large. Sweating, Sam slammed on the breaks with a shouted “Hold on tight guys!” to his brother and angel before throwing the car in reverse and flying back to hit their attacker again.

A horrific howl echoed outside of the car, met by an answering shriek of fear from Dean and a surprised, choked off gasp from Sam. Whatever they had hit sounded huge.

“Cas, gun. From my bag,” Sam shouted as he shifted gears again, spinning the car around in an attempt to gain a visual on their assailant. “Now!”

With a grunt, Cas ripped of his seatbelt, almost falling to the floor as the car spun, but Dean, wide-eyed with fear, grabbed him by the coat and managed to get him steady long enough for the angel to fumble the bag up into the seat.

Cas pulled the sawed-off out of the bag and tossed it up to the front, where Sam fumbled it up one handed while trying to out-drive whatever had hit them. He knew he was unsuccessful when Dean let out a terrified scream as something smacked into his window. Sam immediately whipped the wheel around, spinning the car at an angle that allowed him to fire out the window once. He heard an agonized yelp and took advantage of his good luck and aim to slam on the gas to get the hell out of there.


“Did you see it?” he gasped, sweat dripping down his back and heart racing franticly as Cas shook his head; Dean was sobbing into his shoulder, practically in his lap as neither of them were buckled up any longer.

“I only got a glimpse,” Cas said, his voice higher than ever, strained from nerves. He rubbed Dean’s back in soothing circles as the kid shook, sobs not dying off just yet despite their apparent escape. “I think it was a…dog,” Cas finally said.

“A what? No way,” Sam shook his head in disbelief. “There’s no way a dog could have done that much damage.”

Castiel shrugged, reaching around to grab some napkins, which he then proceeded to wipe at Dean’s face with. “A very large dog then,” he replied, gently dabbing at the now snuffling three year old.

They made the rest of the drive in silence, even Dean had stopped crying at this point. Sam didn’t even want to consider their options now. The warehouse was clean, he thought. Or was it? If the place was so clean then why bother sending out the monster? They couldn’t possibly be considered a threat in their current situation. Sam frowned his way into the motel room, Dean following Cas tightly, grasping the back of his coat and trailing behind the angel like a duckling following it’s mother. The shopping was completely forgotten for the moment. Nobody was really hungry anyway.

“I’ve got to go back,” Sam said, realizing how true that was. Either he had missed something that was there, or the monster thing was their only clue right now and he had to go find it.

“No, what are you thinking?” Cas said, stepping forward, alarm written on his face as he searched Sam’s as if he had lost his mind. “You can’t put yourself in that kind of unnecessary danger.”

“What am I supposed to do then?” Sam shouted, frustrated with the whole ridiculous situation. Cas scowled and opened his mouth to give some no doubt scathing retort when suddenly Dean was there, wrapping his arms around the angel tot in a positively protective bear hug.

“Indoor voice,” Dean said, green eyes accusing as they stared up at his poleaxed brother.

“Huh?”

Obviously not his best comeback ever, but the sight of his de-aged older brother smothering an increasingly red-faced angel and lecturing on manners (the same Dean who eats with his mouth open and has been known to hit on nuns) was more than throwing Sam off his game. He shook his head violently to clear it. “What the hell?” he said, practically hyperventilating as he threw himself down onto the bed. There was a slight gasp.

“You said a bad word!” Dean exclaimed, apparently forgetting his own indoor voice.

Sam glared at him, causing the kid to shrink doubtfully against Cas, who he still had his arms wrapped around. “S’bad word,” Dean ventured tentatively under the pressure of Sam’s incredulity.

“That’s right, very good, Dean,” Cas said, halting any retort Sam might have had. He patted Dean’s head approvingly, shooting Sam a hostile glare. Dean was beaming at Cas now and Sam felt a headache coming on (also a little resentment because he is, for sure, the one with the good manners in the family).

“Oh come on, Cas,” he started, but suddenly Cas was throwing his arms around Dean and with a whoosh of feathers they were both gone, although there was a sudden shout from outside the room that indicated that Dean, at least, was now sitting in the impala. With a crack, the pint-sized angel was back, radiating with wrath as he marched up to where Sam was sitting. Sam gulped and willed himself to stay where he was, he’d be damned if he was going to run away from a preschooler. He had his reputation to protect.

“Sam,” Cas growled, his voice finally a good imitation of what it would later become. ‘You must stop frightening Dean,” Sam opened his mouth to protest but Cas cut him off. “Why are you discouraging his good moral inclinations and taking your frustrations with this situation out on him? He is a child.”

“I’m not trying to frighten anybody,” Sam protested, that familiar creeping of guilt starting up from his gut. “I just, how am I supposed to not freak him out? We’re us, and there are monsters. I don’t think I can do anything about it.”

Cas gave an angry huff, taking a step forward and putting himself right up in Sam’s space. He had no idea how Dean handled this kind of encounter. Sam wanted to jump back, hide in a corner with his guns and never let this much angry angel in his face again. There was some sort of pressure that came with even the pint sized glare of an angel, some sort of buzzing that went right down to the roots of Sam’s teeth. He had always suspected that Dean enjoyed arguing all up front and personal with Cas, for naughty reasons that he always attributed to his brother’s man-whore ways. But if this was what a fight with Cas was like then he was quickly reversing his opinions on what boners may or may not be enhanced by these arguments and decided that Dean was a masochistic idiot with a death wish.

“What do you want me to do then, Cas?” he gulped out, his voice sounding distant to his ears but not too wussy, probably.

“I want you to stop yelling at him,” Cas said. “You are making things so much worse by being surly and rough in your communication. So stop.”

Sam thought about it for a second before giving a small nod. Cas sighed, stepping back and seeming to suck all that badass mojo back under his skin. Sam could see his point. He had been sort of treating Dean like, well, Dean. Yelling at a little kid was probably bad parenting in the real world. “I just want him back to normal,” Sam said, laying back on the bed and closing his eyes against the glare of the overhead light. “I don’t want to deal with this alone.”

Cas gave him a look then. He didn’t see it but he could feel that laser gaze beaming into his head. “You’re not alone Sam. Or at least you wouldn’t be if you weren’t being such an ass.”

Startled, Sam pushed up just in time to catch the small smile tugging the corner of Cas’ mouth. “I’m going to retrieve Dean, you behave when he comes in.”

“Uhmmph,” Sam said rolling over and pushing his face into the pillow. He flapped a hand at Cas, indicating that it was all fine and dandy to bring the kid back. No more yelling from him.

He heard the door open, followed soon by the sound of a car door closing before they shuffled into the room. Without looking up he waved at them, hoping that he could communicate his utterly unthreatening intentions by remaining docile and sleepy. Man, he was sleepy.
There were squeaking noises and whispers from the bed beside him as Dean climbed in with Cas. And then, a loud growl. Sam looked up, confused for a moment before noticing Dean clutching his stomach and looking at him worriedly. Stifling a sigh, Sam pushed himself up. “It’s all right, I saw a vending machine outside by the office,” Sam wrinkled his nose apologetically at Cas. “We can go shopping tomorrow I guess.”

---

“Where’s Dean?” Sam asked Cas, eyeing the shelves of socks as he debated over how much longer his wardrobe would last. The variety of socks at Walmart was enough to give any grown man pause. How could something so mundane become so complicated so fast?

Cas pointed to the isle three rows down. “He is engaged in testing the functionality of a large selection of garishly colored inflatable balls,” Cas informed Sam, who sighed, shifting the basket on his arm as his phone went off. He fumbled in his coat pockets for the thing as he decided he really did need socks at least (Dean had developed a love for very fluffy socks since his return from hell but refused to buy his own, resorting instead to filching regularly from Sam’s duffle bag).

“Yeah?” Sam said, holding the cell against his head with his shoulder as he rummaged through the intimidatingly large variety of socks.

“What took you so long, yah idjit?” Bobby griped over the speaker, “I’m busting my balls here to work out a cure for you three numbskulls an you can’t even be bothered to pick up your damn phone sometime this century?”

Sam winced, passing the basket to a solemn Castiel as he reached up to hold his cell properly. “Sorry Bobby, what’s up? You find anything?”

“Not really. Sorry, boy,” Bobby grumbled. “As far as I can work out you’re gonna need to catch at least one of the witches who originally cast the spell in order to work the magic to reverse this nonsense.”

Cas frowned from where he was standing next to Sam on tip-toe to listen in. “Can you find no counter spell beyond what the witch could work herself?” he asked. “With only Sam available to hunt, taking on the coven to apprehend this witch will be difficult.”

Bobby sighed. “I know, believe me I looked. But this is tricky magic. It ain’t exactly your classic frog prince gag.”

Cas frowned, perplexed, but Sam just shook his head. “Ok Bobby, we understand. Capture the witch and reverse the spell,” Sam sighed, “This really sucks.”

“Tell me about it,” Bobby agreed.

Sam gestured to Cas to hand him back the basket, “Go get Dean, we’ve got to get going,” he told the angel. “Bobby, you got anything for me on how large this coven might be?”

“Well,” Bobby said, sounds of fingers tapping over a keyboard coming over the line, “Judging by the size of their stash we’ve gotta be dealing with at least twenty, just for shipping and handling alone.”

“Perfect,” Sam groaned, “And with what we’ve gathered these aren’t exactly frustrated housewife types either.”

Cas came trotting up, his frown creeping up from “I don’t understand that reference” to “But why would one want to restrain their partner with copious amounts of leather bindings while copulating?”

“Dean is no longer in this building,” he said, his small voice grim.

Sam stared at Castiel, not quite comprehending the implications of his words.

“You mean he went outside?” Sam asked, confused as he covered the speaker of his cell.

“No, I would know if he had simply wondered off,” Castiel looked wrathful. “I believe he has been taken.”

Shit.

“Bobby I got to call you back,” Sam said, as he dropped his basket on the ground. “We’ve got a problem.”

“Yeah, what else is new?” Bobby groused.

“They’ve got Dean.”

“Balls.”

---

Sam would have liked to say they rushed out of the store with a search plan fully in mind and ready to implement. He would also like to say he hadn’t panicked, running around calling Dean’s name and considering posting missing persons flyers. His only comfort was that Cas was worse off than him; first thing he did was run up to the first shady looking woman he saw and kick her in the ankles, demanding that she reveal her evil plans. In Cas’ defense, the lady was pretty scary looking. Sam had quite the hard time dragging them away from each other; appeasing the woman hadn’t been easy and for some reason Cas had gone all Spanish inquisition on her. With a mental note not to let Cas do any questioning without supervision in future cases, Sam got his shit together enough to get them back to base and begin making a list of possible kidnaper hideouts.

After some heated discussion they agreed to get out and grab themselves a witch, because if this was going to be how it was then two could play at that game.

“You will not leave me behind!’ Cas had shouted, stomping his foot angrily when Sam had suggested he was more of a second kidnaping target than a hunting asset. “I have been able to regain a certain amount of grace,” he glared at Sam, daring him to question his authority, which was definitely in question as the kid stamped his foot again. “It will be enough to capture a witch and retrieve Dean safely.”

Sam raised his hands in defeat. “Whatever you say, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be wasting your juice when you have so little to begin with.”

Cas frowned, hands balled into fists as he turned to look out the window. It was getting dark. Dean had been missing for over five hours. “If we don’t retrieve him without harm then there is no point to having any grace at all,” he said firmly, ending the discussion. Sam nodded and they both made their way to the car.

Sam had a pretty good idea of who at least one of the coven members was; it wasn’t hard to see the black magic trickery involved in a twenty-something fast food worker suddenly paying off her student loans before purchasing her own little piece of suburbia with a two car garage complete with Ken doll husband popping up out of nowhere.

The thing about trapping or fighting witches is that your best chance at getting the upper hand is to basically hit them fast with the biggest weapon you can find. They were human if you caught them unaware.

So he and Cas set their trap and grabbed her in the parking garage.

Quickly and efficiently they gagged, tied, and blindfolded the girl and dumped her in the back seat, where Cas sat on her to keep her quiet.

In no time at all Sam got them over to the empty lot they had scoped out near the warehouses and, after a look at Castiel, the witch was teleported, bindings and all, onto a chair they had placed under pretty much the only fully functioning light in the space. Sam, leaving Cas in the car, out of sight, was hoping this girl was too new and inexperienced in dangerous magic, and therefore could be easily intimidated.

Unfortunately that was not the case.

“About fucking time,” she snarled the moment her removed the gag.

Sam leveled his sawed off shotgun at her face. “I’d watch my mouth if I were you,” he said firmly, now was not the time for pleasantries. “You’re only alive because you might know something we want to know.”

“Please,” she said with a disdainful toss of her head. “I know what you want, now you had better listen to what I want,” she glared when Sam raised his eyebrows at this. “I know you’re looking for your brother. Well you’re not going to get anything out of me on that issue, but if you’re very, very cooperative and do as I ask we might be willing to let you have him back, eventually.”

“Excuse me, lady,” Sam said, annoyed with her attitude. “I’m the one with the gun here, and also not the one tied up, so I’ll be the only one making demands,” he poked her in the shoulder with the shotgun. “Where do you get off being so smartass with hunters who live to kill witches like you?”

She sneered. “Oh, you mean pathetic little men who walk blindly into dangerous, embarrassing spells?” she looked around, feigning indifference to the gun at her shoulder. “Where is the little cherub anyway? You leave him home with a babysitter? Not that it matters if he is around, because you are going to let me go now,” she said as she shifted forward a bit. “You’re going to let me go and then you’re going to give me all that lovely stuff you’ve been hording in that car of yours. It won’t make up for what you burned but I bet you have a few occult pieces that will go some way to paying us back for the damage you did.”

Sam twitched, but didn’t turn when he heard the sound of the car door open. Cas came to stand at his elbow, his judging glare resting solely on the woman tied up before them.

“She talks too much,” he said, growl in full swing now, not a bit of the cute squeak left in it. “And yet not enough about the only thing that will keep her alive,” he turned to Sam. “She doesn’t know anything and we are certainly not going to waste any more time on her idiotic demands. You should kill her now,” he said, dispassionately.

“Oh, and yet I think you should do exactly as I ask,” she interjected, barring teeth in a very unfriendly grin.

“Why shouldn’t I just make you tell me where my brother is?” Sam asked, trying not to let the stress he felt show in his voice. Something was up with this.

Sure enough, the witch simply tilted her head back and let out a high-pitched laugh. “Because, you fool, we don’t have him.”

“Sam,” Cas said, giving him a wide eyed look. “She’s not lying.”

Growling, Sam let off a shot, the bullet pinging off the wall to the left of her head. “Then tell us who does!” he demanded.

She sneered, trying to appear unfazed by his outburst. “Why the hell should I?”

Sam was about to shoot again when Cas stepped up. Despite his height he was a sight to behold when one saw the fury in his face. “You should do exactly as we say,” he rumbles, stepping towards the witch purposefully.

“Because,” he said, stopping a few feet before the woman, who looked nervously down at the kid, “You are not a caster of the spell. We don’t need you alive,” he gave her a disdainful glance. “In fact, I don’t see any reason why we should spare a corrupt soul like yours at all.”

The witch was looking somewhat pale now but she wasn’t about to give up. “You think my sisters will just sit back and leave me unavenged?”

Castiel met her gaze levelly. “Did you think we would leave Dean to your mercy? Do you think that my brothers will let you live after you have dared to profane a warrior of heaven such as myself?”

She blanched, shaking before the wrath of the tiny angel.

Sam was impressed. “So where’s my brother?” he said, rolling with Cas’ pronouncement. 50/50 he was simply bluffing, because while Sam was sure the angels would be overjoyed to see Dean tortured within an inch of his life he could also see them getting pissy with anyone who would dare to harm an angel.

“You—you’re idiots if you think I’m expendable, or that I didn’t hold my own end of the spell!” the witch choked out, and Cas looked ready to smite the bitch.

Sam heard a low growl echo in the alley behind him.

“Finally!” the witch gasped as Sam and Castiel whirled round to locate the source of the sound. “Now you brats are going to get it!”

Sam brought up the riffle as he scanned the edges of the lot, unable to pinpoint where the, now furious, growling was originating as the sounds echoed off high walls and piles of shipyard junk.

“Cas—” he started, failing to hide the alarm he felt growing as the witch gave a laugh.

“Just wait, you are so going to regret not accepting my deal. My sisters are coming to free me! You lose boys!” the witch laughed as Sam looked at Castiel in a panic. If they got into a fight now Sam didn’t think he could protect the kid and prevent the witch from escaping.

“Not likely,” Cas growled, lunging forward and grabbing her wrist. “I doubt you are as important to your coven as you make yourself out to be. Regardless, you obviously are of no further use to us,” he paused as Sam let off a few rounds at the thing now moving in the shadows.

“Jesus,” Sam said as the beast moved into the alley light. It must have been the thing that had attacked them on the road. It was a huge, misshapen dog, all upper body muscle and fanged jaws.

“Well,” Cas said grimly, barely sparing a glance for the monster as Sam fired again. “It looks like we have other things to occupy us,” he raised his palm to her head as her gaze grew panicked. “You pose a threat to our defenses in this fight, I’m afraid I must eliminate you since you refuse to give us our partner’s location.”

“Wait!” she cried out as the monster gave a pained howl when Sam managed a shot at its side.

“Please— your brat is in danger if you don’t get to him soon, and you won’t get to him in time without my help, believe me,”” she said, gasping when Castiel removed his hand from her forehead.

“Alright then,” Sam said. He reloaded the gun rapidly as the monster dog moved closer under the cover of parked cars. “Time to go,” he tossed Cas his pistol, gesturing for the witch to walk before him.

As they moved back slowly towards the impala the monster let out a howl. It lunged forward from the right; shockingly fast for all its bulky size. With a yell, Sam pushed the witch towards the car, letting off a shot that hit the thing right in the head but failed to slow its forward momentum. With a crunch, the beast’s forepaws ploughed into Sam’s shoulders, the shot having thrown off the thing’s aim enough that it missed latching onto Sam’s neck in a death bite. As they hit the concrete in a smashing of flesh, claw, and gravel, Sam jerked the demon knife free from his belt. Pushing up against the dog to avoid giving it space to pull back and bite, Sam shoved the knife deep into the thing’s ribs, feeling the beast jerk as a shot rang out from somewhere above his head.

With a whine the dog pulled back, allowing Sam to drag the blade through its side. With a lurch it pushed off him, falling to the ground at his side as Sam rolled himself to his feet, nodding at Cas as the angel handed back his now empty gun.

“Alright lady,” he said, trying to put some authority into his shaking voice as he struggled to pull air into his lungs. “Let’s get a move on.”

---

Sam wasn’t exactly surprised when, after more threatening and posturing, the witch finally gave up Dean’s location. It ended up being the same house he had fruitlessly searched for hours that first night. He was too tired to think about it really. He and Cas had trussed the witch up in a new motel room rented special for the occasion. No need to risk another possible rescue by stashing their one source of information in their only known hideout. They wasted no time after securing her, Sam was practically sick at what she had told them. No, the coven wasn’t technically holding Dean hostage, they had got some kidnapping freak show to do it for them.

Apparently the kind of guy who hung around attractive , single women who just happened to be into something a little darker than BDSM is also the kind of guy who thinks nothing of snagging a kid at Wal-Mart either. Fucking normal people. Sam knew he would lose it if this creep had laid a finger on Dean; the witch had assured him that they hadn’t let the man do anything to the kid…yet. Cas was just as upset, although Sam hoped that he didn’t have the same idea of what usually happened to kidnapped children as he did. That kind of image floating around in his head was very distracting. He would fucking kill the guy.

They went straight to the house, no point in arming up special for normal humans. Sam was about to talk strategy as he parked the impala about a block down from the place when Cas jumped out of the car, the air around him practically snapping with electricity. “Cas!” Sam hissed as he climbed out and went after him, “What are you doing? What if he sees us coming?”

Cas just gave him a look, “I don’t care if he sees, if he tries to harm Dean he will regret it,” Cas glared grimly over at the house, no hint of the childish pout in his expression any longer. “Actually, I will make sure he regrets this anyway.”

Sam gulped as Cas marched up the road intent on walking in the front door of their enemy’s stronghold. He followed, gun safely hidden in the folds of his coat. He figured that people probably wouldn’t suspect him of breaking and entering if he was with a kid and was walking up to a house the normal way, well, normal if people didn’t look too hard.

When they got to the house there was an awkward moment when Sam thought Castiel was going to blast the door off its hinges or kick it down, which yeah, would totally bust their cover as normal people. But all he did was place his hand on the frame, waiting for a second before hearing a small click. He gave Sam a look to check that he was prepared; Sam drew his gun carefully, before he pushed open the door and stepped inside.

Two yards down the entry way and they saw him. Dean was tied up only at the wrists and sitting on the sofa, a large, middle aged man was in the kitchen grabbing a beer from the fridge. At their entrance Dean gave sort of a whimper that could have alerted his captor to the intruders if the man wasn’t so obviously unprofessional. Cas wasn’t about to give him an opening anyway. As they burst into the room the man went flying, hurtled backwards by an invisible force as Cas gestured, the sweep of his arm encompassing the arch of the man’s flight. Dean shrieked at the sight, shrinking away from Sam, who had run over to scoop him up, his green eyes wide as they locked on the kidnapper, who lay still on the floor, blood trickling from somewhere on his scalp.

“Come on,” Sam said as he dragged Dean over towards him and pulled out his pocket knife. The sight of the blade on top of guns and levitating bad guys was apparently too much for Dean. He burst into tears, wiggling in Sam’s hold as he tried to pull away from his brother. Sam quickly grabbed him, making short work of the rope as he made a weak attempt to sooth the wailing child.

“Hey, come on. I’m not going to hurt you, we came to get you out of here!” Sam put the knife away as soon as the last knot came off. “Really, Dean, just chill. Cas’ll sort out ugly jerk-face over there while you and I get out of here ok?” he patted his brother’s back tentatively, and Dean stopped trying to pull away, although he didn’t stop crying. “Right, that’s a good boy,” Sam muttered as he scooped the kid up. Dean grabbed onto him like a monkey, apparently deciding that leaving with scary guy with the knife was better than staying with scary kidnapper guy who may or may not be dead.

With a glance at Castiel, who was crouching beside the unconscious man with his fingers to his forehead, Sam took Dean out of the house. Cas did seem to have things under control, and by the ease of the rescue Sam figured this creep probably didn’t know shit about the spell or how to fix this.

He stood by the impala for what seemed like ages, shushing and rocking Dean into a calmer state of mind like the inexperienced first-time father that he apparently was. When Cas marched up to them, causing Dean to flinch back into his coat, tears starting up again, Sam could feel himself reaching the snapping point. He glared at Castiel, who glared right back, apparently unaware of the effect he was having on his favorite human. The kid looked pumped up, hand covered in the blood of his enemies or some shit as he addressed Sam. “He knows nothing that will help us undo the spell,” Cas didn’t seem particularly put out about this. “I fixed him so that he will not pose a threat to us in the future.”

Sam decided he really didn’t want to ask. “Great, so what’s the next step?” he questioned, rubbing Dean’s back as the kid continued to snuffle into his shoulder, which was getting progressively wetter by the second. “I think Dean’s had enough for one day. We should get him back to the motel.”

Cas looked at his charge, eyes apparently x-raying the kid for any signs of damage. “I think you are right,” he conceded after a moment. Sam rolled his eyes. “He appears to be physically unharmed but emotionally worn out.”

“Dude, the kid needs a nap, like yesterday,” Sam snapped, moving to open the passenger door. He wanted Dean where he could see him, lack of car seat be damned.

“I will retrieve the witch then,” Castiel said, Warrior of God mode still fully activated. “She will tell us what we need to know. I will meet you at the motel.”

He was gone before Sam even had time to start bitching on why that was a terrible plan. He hefted Dean up his shoulder a bit. The kid had apparently missed Castiel’s flight, which was probably a good thing seeing as how he was completely freaked out right now by all the mojo being thrown around. Sam patted his brother’s back awkwardly as the kid continued dripping into his shoulder.

“Alright, let’s get you back to the motel,” Sam said, turning back to the impala.

The ride home was an uneventful one. Sam had buckled Dean up in the passenger’s seat and drove a little over the speed limit to get back. He wanted to be somewhere safe and locked down. He expected Castiel to already be there when they walked in; after all, he just had to grab the witch and fly over. But he wasn’t anywhere to be seen when Sam unlocked the door and pulled Dean in behind him.

It was almost half an hour later, Dean sitting quietly for once on the bed while Sam paced nervously back and forth before Cas made his appearance, causing both brothers to jump as he flew into existence in front of the double beds.

“What took you so long?” Sam said, trying not to sound like a suspicious spouse.

“She wasn’t there when I arrived.” Castiel said, looking put out and disheveled as he faced Sam.

“What?” Sam felt a sinking in his gut. She couldn’t be gone. They needed her to break the spell!

“They must have spied on us, located their sister, and retrieved her while we were away,” Cas said, the frustration in his voice stopping Sam from pointing out that of course they must have, that much was obvious. “I was able to retrieve the tape and rope we used to bind her. There had been a few hairs on the objects so I believe we will be able to work a counter spell with her essence if such a spell exists.”

Sam blew out a relieved breath. “Well that’s something I guess. Where’s the hair?”

Cas hunched in sullenly, “I took the hair to Bobby, and that is what took me so long. He will have an easier time researching if this will do any good in breaking our spell.”

Sam grumbled in frustration. Cas was right of course. Bobby would be able to find something if there was anything to find, and it was better to have any spell ingredients out of the witch’s reach if their plans were so easily screwed up all the time.

As Sam paced past Dean his brother shrunk down, his face scrunching up as he shifted back on the bed, away from the frustrated older sibling. He whimpered a bit as he bumped his arms on the bedspread, his skin rubbed raw from his time in captivity.

Seeing the red welts on Dean’s wrists Cas let out a small noise. He moved over to Dean, reaching his side in a second and leaning right into his personal space despite the sudden jerk of fear that went through his charge.

“Cas— ” Sam started, worried. But it was too late. Cas had already taken Dean’s hand in his own, the flash of grace and a scream from Dean signaling that he had healed Dean’s wounds. When the light dancing in Sam’s vision had cleared it was to the sight of a confused angel holding his struggling brother’s hand. Dean was well on his way to another panic attack, but Castiel didn’t seem to understand that he was the cause of Dean’s fear.

“Dude, let him go. Dean! Be quiet!” Sam said over Dean’s noise. He gestured for Cas to back off. “Come on Cas. He doesn’t get that you’re trying to help!”

Cas looked at him for a second with brow furrowed in confusion before turning back to Dean. He slowly dropped his gaze to their hands, surprise in his body language as Dean violently struggled to get free. He let go.

With a smack Dean’s flailing arm lashed out, catching Castiel solidly in the nose. Sam barely had time to register the shock on both kids’ faces before he was between them, franticly grabbing at Dean’s fist, sure he would find it a pulpy mess of broken bones. “Damn it, damn it, Dean-” Sam babbled, hands shaking as he palpated the kid’s fingers. Oddly enough they appeared to be fine. Dean’s expression on the other hand, looked ghastly. He gave a small whimper, eyes locked over Sam’s shoulder. Puzzled, Sam turned, and found himself face to face with a teary little angel, crimson blood pouring out of a very obviously broken nose.

“Oh my god,” Sam said, sitting down with a thump, momentarily overwhelmed by the whole situation as his brain went blank. A small wet sob kick started Sam’s body memory despite his mental shutdown. In a second he was up and carrying the bleeding kid to the bathroom.

“Just hang on sec,” he told Cas as he fumbled trying to hold the kid up and turn on the sink at the same time. “Jeez, you’re bleeding everywhere. How the heck did he do that? I thought for sure he was going to have another broken hand.”

Cas gasped as Sam carefully applied a wet washcloth to his face, dabbing at the drips first to get a better look at the damage.

“I am as surprised as you,” Cas almost whimpered, trying to control his tears of surprise. He was doing an ok job of it considering the guy had probably never balled in his life. “I must have used up all my remaining power,” Cas said, tears starting to abate into hiccups as Sam unconsciously rubbed the little guy’s back soothingly. “I could neither dodge the blow or absorb the hit as I usually do.”

Sam nodded, he could tell Cas had been just as scared for Dean as he had been. That little jerk was lucky Cas wasn’t the brick wall he usually impersonated.

‘Dean!” Sam called into the living room, “I need my bag, the blue one from the closet,” he wiped the remaining blood of Cas’ face and directed him to tilt his head back to prevent further dripping while he washed out the cloth. “Get it for me and then sit your butt down on that bed, and DON’T MOVE you hear me?” he heard shuffling sounds from the room that indicated Dean was doing as asked. In a minute the bathroom door opened and Dean pushed in just enough to hand Sam the bag before disappearing behind the reclosed door. Cas seemed to want to say something, he had leaned forward on the toilet seat where Sam had placed him to get better access to his face. “Dude, leave it,” Sam said, shaking his head as he studied the mess of nose before him. “He did a bad thing and he’s all freaked out. He’s just going to have to chill a bit and calm down. Man, this is totally busted; I’m going to have to set it ok? It won’t feel good so try not to hit me or move when I start.”

Cas nodded uncertainly, and Sam had him brace his back against the toilet tank. In a quick motion Sam snapped the bone and cartilage back into nose shape, trying to ignore the pained yelp that accompanied his rough moves. He wished sometimes that he had actual medical training and not just random, but adequate, first aid skills. Sometimes there was something to be said for real wound sterilization and the skilled hands of a nurse.

After finally getting it straightened out to satisfaction Sam taped up Cas’ nose and stood up, working kinks out of his back and neck. He didn’t really want to have a fight tonight; he was tired from all the rescue stress combined with this crap. He made his way out of the bathroom, trying not to stomp, but not really succeeding because he was well, kind of big and angry. Dean was, as ordered, sitting on his bed, legs tucked up and signs of tears on his face.

“Brush your teeth, and then get in bed,” Sam said, pointing to the now vacated bathroom commandingly, “I don’t want to hear a word out of you tonight, you hurt Cas very badly after he just spent all this time saving your butt, so I don’t think that was very nice of you was it?”

Without a word Dean slid off the bed, running past Cas without looking at him. Cas looked reproachfully at Sam, but Sam wasn’t having any of it. “He can’t just be throwing tantrums like that Cas,” he said, trying to put some of his father’s ‘we are done talking about this’ tone in his voice. He knew full well Dean was pretty young and had been upset by the whole week, but damn it, he was just making everything ten times worse by flipping out about it. He knew Dean; he would be fine if given instructions and a firm hand, and everything would be easier for all of them if Sam kept his brother on a tight leash.

They went to bed angry that night. Nobody really said anything as Sam shut off the lights, rolling into bed himself. God, he was so tired.

---

Sam turned over, coming to wakefulness at the soft sound of a door closing. “Guys?” he mumbled into the pillow, turning over slowly. He listened for sounds from the bathroom, assuming that someone had just needed to use the toilet. But there was no light coming from the bathroom. Hunter senses clamoring for his attention Sam blinked further awake. “Cas?” he said, loudly enough to wake anyone now.

“Hmmpph?” Cas responded from the bed beside him.

“Did you hear that?” Sam said, fully awake now. “The door—” he stopped as Cas sat up in bed, a bed that showed no signs of containing Dean.

“Shit.”

Sam jumped up, running over to check the bathroom—empty—and cursing when he saw the deadbolt hanging uselessly off the front door.

“Sam,” Cas said, his voice falling strangely flat. Sam looked at him. Cas held up a paper that had apparently been tucked in by his pillow. It was the crayon drawing of Dean and Castiel that Dean had made that first day cooped up in the motel.

“Aww no,” Sam said in disbelief. He ran to the door, looking around quickly but catching no sight of the kid. He knew the signs of a runaway; in fact, he had a dim memory of doing something similar when he had run off the first time as a kid. It made him kid of queasy now to remember how casually he had left his note by Dean’s pillow that night. Jeez, they had just gotten him back!

“Cas,” he said, thinking quickly, “You’re going to need to stay here,” Cas opened his mouth to object but Sam cut him off. “There’s a chance he could get scared and come back, and I need you to be here if he does,” Sam reached for the keys to the impala but hesitated. Dean was small and on foot, he wouldn’t get very far that way and it would be easy to miss him if he drove. “I’ll be back soon hopefully,” he said as Cas nodded and settled down to wait. “I’ll let you know when I find him.”

Sam took off at a jog, only stopping briefly to calculate the odds that Dean would have taken the main road out of the motel lot. He was pretty sure Dean wouldn’t have taken the back road, there was almost no lighting at all that way and the kid had already been through some scary shit and wasn’t likely to opt for more judging by the way he had freaked out on them. Sam sighed and took off slowly along the main road.

Now in a slightly more rested state of mind he was wishing he had practiced a little more patience. It had been a while since he had let himself think about how messed up and terrifying their lives were. Sam wondered how seriously he had fucked this up as he walked along the empty road by himself. He spotted a small footprint in the gravel. Excellent.

Sam picked up his pace, now fairly sure Dean had gone this direction.

He found him a few minutes later, sitting on the curb outside of an abandoned gas station. He walked slowly, not wanting to spook the kid, whose head had risen dejectedly at his approach.

“I want my mommy,” Dean said softly, his expression lost as he gazed up at Sam, tear tracks on his face shinning in the glow of the street lamp.

Sam felt a clenching around his chest. Swallowing, he crouched down beside his brother. Dean was quiet, but he curled in a little tighter around himself as Sam moved to sit next to him on the curb. Sam was at a loss. Obviously he had no idea how to handle children (Dean always dealt with them on cases, being more on their mental level according to Sam’s brain), if he did he wouldn’t be here now with one heartbroken little boy sitting next to him, frightened and missing his mother.

He didn’t know what to do. Dean didn’t seem to be expecting anything; he didn’t ask for comfort, and that just sucked. This was Dean, and maybe Sam doesn’t know squat about kids, but Sammy knows his brother and he’d be damned if he was going to sit around on a curb and let this kid blame himself for feeling like any kid should when separated from his parents, attacked by monsters, and dragged around the country by a surly stranger.

Sighing, he reached around and scooped Dean into his lap. His brother was startled, but Sam was a big enough guy that the kid didn’t really have any way to object when he was pulled snug against his broad flannel chest. Sam rested his chin on Dean’s blond curls as he patted the kid’s back. “I’m sorry, buddy,” he said. “I’m going to make this alright again. We are going to fix this and I’m not going to be angry anymore ok?” he was going to fix this, and soon. Sam didn’t think either of them could make it much longer if this was the result of him trying to handle the situation. “Cas is worried about you,” he murmured into his brother’s forehead as Dean buried his head deeper into Sam’s shirt. “We should go back now.”

There was no response from Dean and Sam frowned slightly. “Dean?” he said pulling back a bit as he peered down at his brother. Dean sagged, and Sam was alarmed at how unresponsive he was. “Dean! Hey buddy, wake up,” he gave the kid a slight shake which only got him a small mutter as Dean flopped mostly unconscious into his hold. When was the last time he had eaten? Sam had no idea if the creep had fed him or not, and he was barely more than a toddler, and Sam knew for sure he had been awake for over 24 hours now.

“Ok, ok don’t panic,” he muttered to himself as he stood up awkwardly, hoisting Dean onto one hip like a pro soccer mom. “We’re ok, we just need to get you some food and sleep and everything will be just fine,” he started off quickly down the road back to the motel, careful not to jostle Dean who grumbled at any strong movements. That was a good sign, he hoped. With one hand he managed to text Cas, letting him know he had Dean and asking him to heat up whatever food they had left. This whole grocery shopping situation was getting ridiculous.

When Sam got them both back to the motel he found Cas hovering by the open door. Making shushing motions with his free hand he moved inside to lay Dean on the bed. “He’s fine, I think,” Sam whispered to Castiel, who looked like somebody had just killed his puppy as he stood by the head of the bed, staring at Dean. “I’m pretty sure he’s just tired, he’s been running on a sugar high for days now and he probably just crashed,” Sam sounded more confident than he felt, but Cas seemed to take him at his word as he pointed over to the microwave where he had half a leftover burger and a bag of chips waiting for their return. Sam sighed. “Can you watch him while I run out and grab us some real food?” he asked Cas who nodded silently. “I bet the gas station down the road has something with actual nutritional value.”

It only took him fifteen minutes to get over to the gas station and buy some bananas that didn’t look too bad compared to the sad excuses for apples the store had on display before speeding back to the motel, but the whole time Sam was sweating thinking of what might be happening in his absence. It had not been a good week for sure. However, when he arrived back at the motel, fruit in hand, he was greeted with the site of everything exactly as he left it.

At the sound of the door closing Dean stirred in bed, waking up enough sit up groggily and yawn a bit before seeming to become aware of his surroundings.

“Cas!” Dean shot across the bed, bouncing up to his friend and practically jumping on him. Castiel looked shocked.

“Hello, Dean,” he said gently, slowly moving to pat Dean’s back as the boy snuffled into the angel’s shoulder.

“M’sorry, Cas,” he said, voice muffled. “Sorry I whammed your face an yelled at you.”

“I forgive you, Dean, and I’m glad you are safe.”

Sam rolled his eyes. Some things never changed.

Dean, when he could be pried off Cas, ate ravenously. He didn’t even object to the fruit, but simply gobbled it down in seconds along with the junk food. After that he passed out again, one hand fisted in the cream fabric of Castiel’s coat.

Sam gave a small jump as his cell rang, smacking at his pockets before remembering it was on the table with the bags. “I think I got something here,” Bobby said without preamble, and Sam’s heart jumped. “I’m not too sure but it looks like with this hair I can siphon off our witch’s energy, and if I can it might be enough to break the chain.”

“You’re not sure?” Sam asked, barely able to entertain the idea that this spell might not work. He had an end in sight and he wanted to be optimistic. But he had two kids to think of.

Bobby sighed heavily. “Yeah, I ain’t sure one bit,” he confirmed. “It might disrupt the magic enough to break the spell, or it might do squat. I just can’t tell unless we give it a shot.”

Sam hummed thoughtfully. “Ok, let me think about it. This is going to take some logistics whether we decide to go for it or not.”

Bobby grunted in agreement, and Sam hung up with the promise to call back in the morning.

“What did Bobby have to say?” Cas asked quietly, his hand running slowly up and down the side of Dean’s face as the kid slept. Sam told him. It sounded like they would have to leave, but Sam wasn’t comfortable with the idea of letting all the witches off their radar, after all, this could fail and then where would they be if the coven moved base?

“I believe I can make it,” Cas said. “After a few hours rest I should have enough power left for the flight over to Bobby’s home. And I believe that it is best that we test the cure on me before trying it out on Dean.”

Sam chewed his lip as he thought it over. It did make sense, Cas hadn’t been effected by the original spell to the extent that Dean had so it was a pretty good bet that he would fare better if something about the cure was off. “Sounds like a plan to me,” Sam said eventually, sitting on the bed. “But you had better talk to Dean, I don’t want to think what he would do if you just up and left without an explanation.”

Cas frowned, and Sam worried that his face would stick like that—actually, knowing what grown Cas was like, it already had.
“Dean is your brother Sam. He would be fine alone with you—has been fine in fact, for many years,” Cas said, a bit of frustration leaking though in his voice.

Sam made a face. “I think we’re good and all after our little talk, but he’s still calmer with you around.”

“Fine,” Castiel said grumpily. “I will talk with him, although I do not believe it is necessary.”

Sam rolled his eyes, lying back down on his own bed to try and get a few hours’ sleep before the big event. “Good. You do that.” He retorted.

It was actually evening of the next day when Sam and Dean finally stirred from their beds. They ate a breakfast-dinner of gas station fruit before Sam made eye contact with Cas, nodding his head in Dean’s direction meaningfully.

Cas sighed.

“Dean,” Cas said, twitching almost imperceptibly when Dean’s bright gaze focused on him exclusively. He cleared his throat. “I will be leaving to participate in a spell that may return us to our correct human ages,” he cleared his throat again when Dean’s expression became puzzled, his head tilting slightly in mimicry of Castiel. “Because of this it is necessary that you stay here with your brother. I..uh, need you to be good and listen to Sam ok?”

If Dean’s expression was puzzled before it had nothing on his expression now. His whole brow was scrunched up around his freckles as his eyes jumped back and forth between Sam and Castiel in an incredulous accusation.

“I don’t have a brother!” he said, voice pitching high with indignation.

Sam stared at him. He racked his brain, trying to decide if he had been just as stupid as he suspected he had been, and yup, as far as he could tell Dean wasn’t too far off.

“Uhhh, Cas?” Sam said meeting the angel’s confused look sheepishly, “Do you remember ever explaining, well, anything about this whole situation to Dean?”

Cas winced, a look of dawning understanding flitting across his face. “If you mean did we explain that he is your de-aged brother and that we both have been placed under a spell…then no, I don’t think we did.”

Shit.

Dean thumped Sam’s thigh demandingly, green stare saying he had better get explaining now.

“Uhhh, so,” it was Sam’s turn to clear his throat. “Dean, I—well, you’re my brother. I’m your brother. Uhh, younger brother,” he smiled down at Dean, who was looking at him like he had just burst out of a birthday cake in a bikini yelling ‘surprise!’

“Yeah, really man. You’re my older brother. Those witches we’ve been hunting? They put a spell on you and made you a kid again,” Sam rushed on with his explanation. Dean seemed to be buying it; he was all ears, his hand squeezing excitedly on Sam’s thigh. “Both of you are actually adults,” Sam said, nodding to Cas, who nodded back when Dean looked at him questioningly. “So we need to get you changed back. We think a friend of ours has a spell that can fix you, but we need Cas to fly over there to try it out first. Remember last night, when he used magic and scared you? Well it’s really good for us that Cas can do that, because we need to stay here, but we also need the spell. So can you be a good boy and listen to me while Cas is gone?”

Dean looked at his feet, mulling over this new information while Sam and Cas waited, tensely for his reply.

“So I’mma big brother?” Dean said, looking up at Sam with that scrunched up face again.

Sam nodded. “Yeah, you’re my big brother. A very good big brother, and I want to get you back that way,” Sam figured Dean needed a little encouragement at this point. It wasn’t likely after all that he would let it go to his head. Sam had no illusions about his brother’s self-esteem.

Dean looked down at his shoes again. After a few seconds he reached out and took Sam’s hand. Surprised, Sam knelt down, meeting Dean’s gaze at his level.

“Ok Sammy,” Dean said, putting his free thumb in his mouth. “I’ll be good.”

Sam felt his throat go all tight. He gave Dean’s hand a little squeeze before nodding at Cas. With a shush, the angel departed and Dean didn’t even flinch at the use of mojo. Sam stood up, leading Dean over to the table where he got out the pad of paper he had confiscated a few days ago. He then retrieved the colored markers they used on their hunt maps and spent the next few hours contentedly coloring aliens with Dean.

When Cas appeared it was with his usual subtly. Dean gave a small squeak of surprise when Cas was suddenly beside Sam (Sam gave more than a small squeak too, but he wasn’t going to admit it).

“Holy sh—” Sam started, but cut off when he saw Dean look at him. “Uhh, I mean, I guess it worked,” Sam said lamely, eyeing Cas’ currently adult form with relief. “That’s great.”

Cas frowned, and looking at the ground replied. “Sam, may I speak to you for a moment,” he didn’t look up as Sam gave a questioning sound. “Alone please.”

Worried, Sam glanced at Dean, who hadn’t taken his eyes off this new form of Castiel’s. “Sure thing, Cas,” he said, trying to keep his voice natural. He didn’t want Dean thinking that he didn’t have everything under control. “Dean? Can you take my bag to the car and put it in the trunk?” Sam asked his brother, who shook his head yes, hair flopping all over as he bounced up to grab the bag. “And wait for us in there when you’re done!” Sam called after him as he dragged the duffle out of the room.

Sam turned to the angel, who was still staring at the floor as if it offended him. “Ok, what’s up, dude? It looks like the spell worked!”

Cas looked up then, but still wouldn’t meet Sam’s gaze. “The spell did indeed work…fundamentally,” Cas said haltingly. “But I do not recommend that we try it on Dean. I think we should find an alternate cure.”

Sam gulped. ‘Why? Was it really that bad? Are you ok man?” a thousand possibilities flew across his mind as to why Cas was shooting down their cure. Had it been painful? Too much mojo? He knew there were probably an endless list of spells that should not be tried on humans; spells that would probably blow them up or shit.

Cas fidgeted, seeming to choose his words very carefully while he replied, “I am fine, Sam, you don’t need to worry. I just don’t think this is a good idea. Maybe we are rushing into things.”

“What?” Sam said, confused. “What do you mean? Is there a problem with the spell or not?”

Cas looked shifty. “I just think, it might be too dangerous,” he hemmed when Sam looked at him incredulously. “We don’t know what the spell might do to a human.”

“Wait, are you really thinking we shouldn’t turn him back to normal?” Sam asked, the realization dawning on him as Cas shifted uncomfortably. It had been pretty obvious that Castiel had been enjoying the change these last few days, despite the danger and complications. Dean was much more openly affectionate and hands on as a child, though in Sam’s opinion he was pretty flirty as an adult too.

“Dude, no,” Sam shook his head, “We can’t— that’s just not right you know?” Castiel put on his stubborn face and Sam sighed. “I mean, he’s not safe like this, and he’s not himself,” Sam ran his hands distractedly through his hair. He thought about the nightmares, how adult Dean would rather die than say a word about how hell haunted him, and how terrified and confused he was now as a child. “You can’t just protect him from his life Cas,” Sam said gently, reaching out awkwardly to rest his hand on the angel’s shoulder. “He probably remembers everything that’s happened anyway, even if it’s subconscious, besides, Dean isn’t Dean without all his baggage and crap,” Sam gave him a slight squeeze. He got where Cas was coming from, but it was just wrong thinking. “You can’t really tell me that you’re happy with him forgetting you?” Cas scowled, but didn’t shrug off his hand.

Sam took a moment, gross thoughts demanding attention in his head. He really didn’t want to talk about this.

Shit.

“No, oh no,” he said, mortified at himself but resigned to taking one for the team. “Do you really want to give up what you have with Dean for this?” he gestured vaguely at the universe, which apparently hated him judging by the look of confusion on Cas’ face. He was going to have to be blunt, damn it. “You want to trade in your Dean for what, cuddles and hugs? Because let me tell you dude, Dean Winchester is a grade-A cuddler. I have it on good authority from several completely anonymous one-night stands that Dean is a total spooner,” and he so did not search out this information with the intent to blackmail, he couldn’t help it if every once and a while Dean’s lays were smart enough to swipe one of his alternate numbers and were often willing to rant to a sympathetic ear. And gross, he couldn’t believe he was really going to do this. Best little brother of all time and Dean so owed him for this.

“Really, man,” he said, giving Cas a friendly slap and heading for the door. “You should just make your move already (Oh god) because that profound bond thing will only hold someone back for so long, especially when you’re dealing with someone as horny as Dean,” and that’s it, he is so out of here. Sam fled the room, not even bothering to check out what must have been the best perplexed angel face to date. Yeah, Dean so owed him for this.

“Come on, little guy,” Sam said, waving Dean over, “Let’s get you fixed up!”

Dean gave Cas a considering look as he walked up to the impala. Seeming to come to a decision, he reached out and grabbed the angel’s hand, and Sam had to hide a smile as Dean escorted the guy to the back seat.

“It’ll be ok,” Dean said, patting the seat invitingly after opening the door. “You got fixed right? You’re all big now an so you don’t need to be afraid right?” Cas took the seat almost guiltily and Dean closed the door, running round to let himself in on the other side.

“Hey Sam?” Dean asked as he buckled himself in beside Cas. “Will I be tall as you when I’m fixed?”

Sam laughed at the concerned look on his face; he looked as if he hadn’t quite decided if that would be awesome or horrifying.

“Naw,” Sam replied. “You’re definitely shorter than me,” Sam paused, considering. “Hmm. Shorter than me, but taller than Cas.”

Dean seemed pleased to hear that, and Sam watched him sneak sideways glances at Cas, who sat silent through the rest of the ride, apparently still deep in thought.

They got to the empty shed just fine. Sam was so relieved at the ease of the prep that he was almost dancing in place. He knew his attitude of joy was probably the only thing keeping Dean from freaking out; after telling him how to set up the ritual Cas had been brooding and kind of scary the whole time Sam was running around checking symbols.

“Ok kiddo,” Sam said finally, sure of his markings and ready to get this show on the road. “Let’s have you sit here on this chair and hold some stuff for me ok?”

Dean did as requested, climbing into place and taking the dead rat dubiously from his brother. He looked at his angel again, and Cas only stared mournfully back. “Is this ok?” he asked, obviously trying not to fidget.

“Great. Just great Dean, now don’t move,” Sam said, grabbing the spell sheet and shooting Cas a look. “You’re doing it perfect right, Cas?”

Cas stared for a second before nodding. Dean looked a little scared as Sam started the incantation. Smoke started to rise from the ground and Dean was definitely scared now. Sam whipped through the spell as fast as he could, reliably. He didn’t want to take the chance that Dean might jump up or something. Within seconds the kid was blocked from view by the dark cloud. As Sam finished off the spell there was a roll of thunder, the crash so loud it made him jump, but Cas didn’t even twitch as he stared at the spot where Dean sat as the smoke blew apart.

“Holy fuck- ewwwaagh!” Dean yelped, batting at the dead rat on his lap and jumping backwards like a sissy. Sam let out a laugh at the horror on Dean’s face as he took in all the hex ritual stuff he was sitting in. “The hell, Sammy?!” he groused, “What is this, a witchcraft workshop?”

Sam felt light, free enough to fly as he watched his brother pick the remains of their spell work off himself. It was over. No more babysitting. No more scaring children or fussy whining (or at least more than the usual), no more being the adult, no more responsibilities.

“Thank god,” Sam breathed, meeting Dean’s put out glair with a smile. He walked over, thumping Dean on the back with some force. He had been a pain in the butt after all. Before Dean could take revenge however, Sam pulled him into a hug. “Don’t you ever let them sneak up on you like that again you jerk,” he said.

Gruffly Dean patted him back. “Yeah, yeah, bitch. Keep your girly tears to yourself,” he shook his head. “I didn’t think it was that bad,” he said, puzzled. “It’s all kind of blurry though.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw Cas’ shoulders slump, and the angel stepped away from the circle.

Frowning, Sam nudged Dean around, his brother protesting grumpily at the manhandling as they moved toward the exit. Dean’ attention however, was soon caught by the sight of his angel slinking away quietly. Scowling, he trotted over to Cas, and Sam resisted the urge to shake them both. Really, just get a room already.

“You feeling ok, man?” Dean said, bumping shoulders with Cas in typical, manly Winchester style. “You seem kinda off,” unconsciously he leaned in, face almost touching Cas’ as his hand brushed out across the other man’s hair.

Surprised at the sudden intimacy Cas froze, staring into Dean’s face, and Sam saw his brother tense up as he realized what he had just done. Then all of a sudden Cas released, dropping his head forward into Dean’s shoulder and throwing his arms around the elder Winchester as Dean rocked back in surprise, instinctually hugging Cas back. “No, Dean, I feel perfectly alright.”

‘Uhhh, ok. Good,” Dean said, awkwardly patting the angel’s back and shooting Sam a questioning, slightly panicked look. Sam snickered. He didn’t feel the least bit sorry for encouraging Cas. They both needed a little more of the touchy-feely moments in their lives. Besides, Dean had started it as far as Sam was concerned. He just needed to grow up and admit that he has been touched starved since his return from hell and in desperate need of angel cuddles.

Not that any of that meant Sam had to stand around and watch, he thought quickly as Cas’ hands slipped lower than Dean’s back and Dean gave a small squeak, his face going bright red. Sam grinned, as he walked out into the morning sunshine.

Now to start working a little payback for this little adventure.