Amelia and Jimmy are both out with a cold the weekend one of Claire’s classmates is having a birthday party. Castiel hates seeing the resigned look of the eleven-year-old who just the week prior modelled her new winter outfit for Castiel. He watches uncomfortably as his young niece carefully carries a tray with two mugs of chicken soup over to her haggard parents.
“I can take her,” Castiel volunteers.
Claire nearly spills the soup, she stops so abruptly. She turns to Amelia and Jimmy, eyes wide.
“Can he?” she asks.
Amelia and Jimmy try to protest, but Castiel is insistent. He has no plans for the afternoon, and it’s the least he can do. They relent, Jimmy saying he’s too tired to argue, and send Claire upstairs to get ready. Amelia hands Castiel the cash to pay for his and Claire’s skate rental, and Castiel’s look of confusion has Jimmy laughing until he coughs.
Castiel hadn’t known the party was at the local, outdoor, ice skating rink. He has nothing against ice skating–it was his favorite winter activity as a kid–but he assumed the party was indoors. Claire’s new winter outfit now makes sense.
Claire talks excitedly the whole car ride over, explaining to Castiel how the present she got for her friend works. Castiel has just put the car in park when Claire unbuckles her seatbelt and jumps out the door. Castiel follows behind, at a more sedate pace, apologizing to those in line behind Claire for essentially cutting them off. He pays for his and Claire’s skates and gets tugged along when Claire points to the group of girls and boys from her class.
Castiel shakes hands with some of the parents there, has to introduce himself to those who believe him to be Jimmy. A few of them don’t believe when Castiel says he’s Jimmy’s twin brother and distinguishes himself by saying his eyes are prettier. He is embarrassed to find he’s the only adult there to rent skates, but he’s grateful for the excuse to get on the ice and away from talks of childcare methods he can’t utilize.
The skating rink doesn’t have as many patrons as Castiel expected for a Saturday. The sun is in the middle of the sky, and the cold in the air burns Castiel’s cheeks, though there’s no wind. He can easily identify his niece amongst the birthday party attendees, even if he hadn’t known her new knitted beanie has cat ears.
Castiel steadily gets on the ice and skates around. He tries not to hover around his niece and her friends who are staying along the edges of the rink. He avoids the very center where a group of five adults play a game of hockey. There doesn’t seem to be any discernable rules to their game. Cas shakes his head at the immaturity on display, but when he hears a booming laugh coming from one of the adults, he changes his initial judgment.
The laugh comes from the tallest man of the group, the man with red cheeks, dimples, and almond-shaped eyes. He helps up a small, redheaded girl with a moue from off the ice. The man’s dying laughter fits in with the festive spirit of the rink, Castiel decides.
Castiel continues skating carefully in between the middle and the edge of the rink. He doesn’t want to intrude on the hockey game, too reminiscent of middle school when he and Jimmy would meet up with Jimmy’s friends while Cas waited to be asked to join. He wants to give Claire space to talk with her friends without her awkward uncle breathing down her neck.
He’s focusing on skating a perfect circle around the rink when he hears the thunk of a small body falling on the ice. Panicked, Castiel spins around, but he finds Claire and two of her friends standing around a boy who’s fallen. Cas is distracted by the display, he doesn’t anticipate being bumped into from behind.
Castiel frowns, looks back and sees nobody, but a groan from his feet alerts him to the tall man lying there.
“Are you all right?” Castiel asks, kneeling down to check on the man.
The man’s answering groan dissolves into hysterical laughter. He mutters, “I think I’ve fallen for you?”
Castiel’s face heats, “Excuse me?”
The man laughs again, apologizes, says his name is Sam. He says he was skating toward the hockey puck at Castiel’s knee when he failed to brake on time.
“How did you manage to stay standing?” Sam asks in wonder.
Castiel admits to being a goalie in his high school hockey team, though they only played for fun.
Castiel pulls the man up, explains, “I was the only one on the team able to withstand getting hit all around without losing my balance.”
“That’s…really cool,” Sam smiles.
Castiel instinctively adjusts Sam’s beanie where it’s slipped down his forehead. He doesn’t realize what he’s doing until he notices Sam smiling at him with a raised eyebrow. Castiel pulls his hands back, looks furtively for a distraction.
He kneels down, says, “Don’t forget your hockey puck?
Castiel picks up the puck in question, only to find it’s a faded-black hacky sack. Sam takes it from Cas and throws it back to the group of adults Castiel now realizes has been watching them. Castiel would feel embarrassed, but he remembers Sam’s little line about falling for him.
"Would you like some hot chocolate?” Castiel chances.
Sam waves to his friends and follows Castiel to a table set up for the birthday party. Castiel introduces Sam around as a courtesy for taking an extra cup of hot chocolate. Sam brazenly puts his arm around Castiel’s shoulders, and Castiel wouldn’t mind if it weren’t for the fact half the parents there think he really is Jimmy. He excuses them quickly to a table at the edge of the party. Jimmy will deal with those questions alone.
Sam tells Castiel the group of friends he’s with consists of his brother, Dean, and Dean’s friends Charlie, Victor, and Benny. They work at a retirement center and they all happened to have the same day off so they made plans to play hockey.
“Another one of our friends, Jo, has the day off too, but she’s has a cold,” Sam says.
Castiel explains his brother and sister-in-law are sick as well, and so he’s at the ice rink with his niece. When Castiel points out Claire from the group of children, Sam notes how adorable she looks. They continue talking during the celebration, while the partiers sings “Happy Birthday” and cake is served, Castiel refilling their cups of hot chocolate every so often.
“Uncle Cas!” Claire runs up, “Luz loved my present!”
She turns to Sam, “Who is this?”
Castiel doesn’t know how to introduce the relative stranger, but Sam takes over for him.
“Sam Winchester,” Sam sticks out a large hand. “I love your hat, where’d you get it from?"
Claire giggles and shakes Sam’s hand. She says, "I’m Claire Jay Novak. My mom got it for me from Target.”
“I might just have to buy my own,” Sam says, earning another giggle from Claire.
Claire gets called away by her friends and runs off, calling out a quick, “Bye, nice to meet you!”
Castiel squints his eyes at his companion. Sam laughs, “What?”
"You’re a sweet talker,“ Castiel says.
"I’m honestly just trying to curry your favor,” Sam admits before taking a sip from his cooling cup of chocolate.
The two sit in the cold in companionable silence for a few moments before one of Sam’s friends walks up to their table.
"Ready to leave, Sammy?“ the man says.
"Uh,” Sam looks from the man to Castiel and back again. “Yeah, I’ll meet you at the car.”
The man winks at Castiel before leaving. Sam stands, Castiel following. Castiel takes one of their styrofoam cups and scratches his phone number on the side with his thumbnail.
“Here,” Cas hands Sam the cup bashfully. “If you’d like to get more hot chocolate.”
"Maybe we can get matching hats,“ Sam says, accepting the cup. "I’ll see you around, Castiel.”
Castiel watches Sam walk to his friend’s car where he gets pushed lightly by the group. Sam waves to Castiel before getting in the passenger’s seat of the car. The car is still within sight when Castiel hears the alert of a text message on his phone.
it was ‘ice to meet you ;)
Castiel saves the number to his phone and plans for a date on Monday. Hopefully inside, where it’s warm.