Chapter 1: Long Haul
I released the sigh that I had been holding, dropping my keys onto the messy counter top. Looking around at the stacks of boxes was overwhelming. I only had three days off before I went back to work. I had so much shit to unpack…
“Gabwiel!” My little brother called, racing around the boxes out of nowhere to hug my leg. He looked up at me with huge blue eyes, expression very serious. “There’s a fwog outside!”
“A fwog?” I asked in mock disbelief, scooping him up. He was still so small. Were all four year olds this small? Did I feed him enough? Was I a bad brother?
“Yes. It’s gween. I twied to pick him up but he got away!”
“Oh well. I’m sure he’ll come back.” Biting back a smile, I sighed and tried to tame my little brother’s wild black hair. He didn’t fuss about it, holding up his grubby little hands for me to see.
“Then I fell in the mud. Sammy did too!”
“Who’s Sammy?” I asked, rocking him as I pulled open the nearest box. It was packed full of stuff for Cas’s room. The cartoon bees on the bedspread made me smile. What kinda kid liked bees, anyway?
“Sammy’s my fwiend,” Castiel announced, resting a mud covered hand on my shirt. I stared down at it. Whatever. I sat him back on the floor, patting his back.
“Okay, go play with Sammy. Just stay by the house, okay?”
“Okay!” Cas said cutely, darting off again. That kid had way too many imaginary friends.
- - -
I dumped the entire pack of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets onto the pan, smearing them around with my hand so that they were sorta flat before dropping the pan into the oven. I was way too tired to put effort into making food.
“Cas! Hey bro! Dinner’s in fifteen! Come in here and wash your hands!” I shouted toward the back door. Cas had been really quiet for a long time. I was starting to worry that he wasn’t out there when I heard him shout back to me.
“Can Sammy have dinner too?”
Chuckling, I leaned against the kitchen counter, calling back.
“Sure! I made enough for him, too!”
I’ll bet my face was priceless as my little brother came back inside — dragging along a real kid.
I stepped around the corner, staring at them.
What..the actual hell.
The kid had longish chestnut hair and the shiniest hazel eyes that I had ever seen. He was also truly filthy. His cheeks were smeared in mud and his jeans had holes worn through the knees. The blue flannel shirt he had on looked several sizes too big. He looked up at me with alarm, and I immediately dropped down to a crouch, putting on a smile.
Sammy stepped behind Cas, shrinking down a bit.
Where the frick did Cas find another kid? We were out on the edge of town by the woods! The nearest house was like fifteen minutes away by car! I tried to hide the panic rising in my chest as I cleared my throat. I had to play it cool. I didn’t want to scare the kid off.
“Go wash your hands, guys.”
Cas smiled at his friend, leading him away by the hand.
“The baffroom is over here!”
I stood up and watched them disappear into the bathroom.
What was the protocol here?
Should I call the cops? That kid looked like a mess. Was he homeless?
A surge of anger washed over me as the possibility that someone may have abandoned him out here suddenly occurred to me.
The kids returned shortly, Sammy’s clean hands standing out against the rest of him. I had been standing there spacing out about what to do and hadn’t even gotten the nuggets out of the oven!
I spun around and yanked the oven open. Oh thank god. They weren’t burnt.
While Cas helped his new friend up onto the couch — which was the only piece of furniture that was right-side up — I split the nuggets into two plastic bowls. God only knew where the real plates were.
Pulling on a big smile, I stepped over and sat a plate on each kid’s lap. Then I settled cross legged on the floor in front of the couch. Here goes.
“Careful. They’re still hot. So, uh, Sammy, where are you from?”
Sammy looked at me, chin tucked down. He glanced at Cas and shook his head shyly.
“Aww, you don’t wanna tell me?”
“You’re a stranger,” the little boy said softly, still keeping his head down.
Well. At least he knew that much!
“True, true.” I nodded sagely and held out my hand. “My name’s Gabriel. Cas here is my little bro.”
After a long moment of consideration, Sammy put his hand in mine and shook it by my thumb without comment.
He was so cute. How the hell could someone just let their toddler wander off? If that had been what happened. I hadn’t written off abandonment yet.
That’s what dad had done with us. I knew it happened to other kids, it just stung too much to think about it again. I smiled at Sammy.
“You can hang out here as long as you want, okay?”
When I got a nod in response, I stood up and went to my room. I had to do something.
You can’t just keep the kid, Gabe, I reminded myself as I rummaged through the junk all over my bed. My cell phone had to be in there somewhere.
It had been a battle to get Castiel into my custody. I got why those people didn’t think it was a good idea to leave a one year old with his 18 year old brother — but I would do anything for Cas. Cut off my leg. Eat a dude like Hannibal. Whatever it took. Dad could go suck a dick. I was in this parenting thing for the long haul!
I wasn’t sure who I was gonna call. Foster care seemed like a death sentence for that poor cute kid.
As my hand closed around my cell phone, I heard one of the boys crying.
“I don’t wanna go!” Sam screamed.
My heart froze in my chest as I jumped over the boxes in my room, pushing off the wall and charging back into the living room.
Chapter 2: Big Brothers
I skipped to a stop in the living room, panting. Standing in the door to the backyard was a grubby looking young guy. It was dim outside, so I couldn’t get a good look at his face. He was wearing a leather jacket and jeans, and frankly, he looked like he could kick my ass. But he was holding Sammy, who was crying loudly.
I jabbed the cell phone in the man’s direction.
“Put the kid down!” I demanded out of breath.
The young guy looked over at me, turning Sammy further away from me.
“Screw you buddy! He’s my brother! You can’t just take someone’s kid!”
Brother? I stepped over to the couch since Cas was starting to cry from all the shouting. He took my hand the moment that I was closer.
“Well, I thought he was homeless with how he’s dressed! He’s filthy! How many years has it been since you gave him a bath?”
“That’s none of your damn business!” The guy snapped back at me. Sammy was still crying, hugged up under his brother’s chin. They looked so dirty and sad.
Castiel squeezed my hand, leaning his face against it. He was crying too. I held up my free hand to Sammy’s brother.
“Let’s stop yelling. We’re scaring the kids. Please. Let’s just talk, okay?”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” the guy grumbled, turning to yank the door open.
“Wait!” I called after him, pulling away from Castiel’s grip. “Wait, wait! At least take his food with you!”
That made him pause. He looked back at me over Sammy’s muddy hair, eye narrowed with suspicion. I picked up the half eaten bowl of chicken nuggets and held them out to him.
He took a step back and grabbed the bowl from me. Handing it to the kid in his arms, he looked my way and mumbled a thank you.
“You're welcome.” I let out the breath I had been holding. Okay. It said a lot about the guy that he came back for the food. Considering how dirty his clothes also were, maybe they were BOTH homeless.
I couldn’t really stop them from leaving. The guy looked like he could be an adult. It was hard to tell. I waved to Sammy, trying to get his attention. He looked my way through shiny sad eyes.
“Hey kiddo. Thanks for hanging out.”
The tiny brunette looked up at his brother and then back to me, waving a hand in return.
“Aw, you're welcome. Take care of your bro, okay?”
Sammy nodded and I heard his brother chuckle.
I glanced at him and he instantly put on a serious face again, locking his face into a frown.
So…he wasn’t immune to cuteness. Good to know.
“You know,” I started, circling back over to pick Castiel up. My brother was still upset, so I rocked him while we spoke. “We were going to have dessert. Rainbow sherbet. Do you want some to go?”
“Can we have rainbow sherbet, Dean?” Sammy asked, looking up at his brother. He was so excited, he almost dumped his bowl of nuggets.
“Uh,” Dean mumbled, looking me over with suspicion. He glanced down at Sammy and sighed. “Yeah. Fine.”
So his name was Dean. I took note of that and stepped around the counter into the kitchen. I sat Cas on the counter and got the ice cream out.
If I ever got up the guts to turn them in, it was good to know their names. Who knows where their parents were. The idea of them sleeping god knows where in the middle of January was a depressing thought, but I seriously doubted that I could convince them to sleep on the couch. Hell, I might as well try, I thought.
I scooped up two little bowls (more tupperware) of ice cream and gave one to Cas. I put the other on the counter and Dean took it.
He sat his brother down, dropping the dinosaur nuggets on the couch and giving Sammy the ice cream. The toddler happily ate it, face brightening into a smile. Aww. Dean ruffled Sam’s hair and took a seat next to him on the floor.
I stuck a spoon in the sherbet carton, picked Cas back up, and stepped back into the living room. I cleared my throat, holding the carton out to Dean.
“You want some?”
It was the first time that I had seen him in good lighting. Big green-brown eyes peered up at me, framed by dark eyelashes and freckles. Wowza. That was a hell of a gaze. He took the carton of sherbet, then held up a hand.
“Are you calling your parents?” I frowned.
“No, and you aren’t either.” He stuck his hand up further. “PHONE.”
Sitting Castiel down by Sammy, I took the cell phone out and slapped it into Dean’s palm. He stowed it in his jacket.
Hopefully he didn’t run off with it.
I sat down on the couch with Cas, keeping an arm around him. I didn’t expect Dean to try and grab him, but then again, I didn’t know the guy.
“Do you want to wead a book with me, Sammy?” Castiel suddenly said out of the blue. He leaned dangerously far forward on the couch to get a look at his new friend. I patted his back.
“Not until you wash your hands, kiddo.”
“We gotta go—” Dean started to say before his little brother spoke.
“You have books too?”
“Yeah! I have a book about bees!”
Dean and I looked at each other. He was clearly weighing his options. I took pity on him, addressing the toddlers.
“Maybe next time, guys. It’s getting pretty late.”
“Pwease?” Castiel begged, pointing his stupid cute eyeballs my way. I shrunk under their gaze. “Pwetty pwease?”
Sammy turned to his brother, imitating Cas.
“Please? Maybe Cas can come read in the car with me!”
“Shh, shh.” Dean shushed his brother and shook his head. “No. You got chicken nuggets and ice cream — it’s time to go.”
Ugh. There came the waterworks.
Castiel started first, having heard Dean say the word ‘go.’ He wasn’t a noisy crier. He’d sit quietly and sob to himself. I gave him a hug.
“You guys got to play all day!”
“I don’t want Sammy to go!” Castiel cried, burying his face in my shirt. The little brunette across the room joined in, sobbing.
“Come on, Sammy. Knock it off!” Dean groaned, getting up. He scooped Sam up and snagged the nuggets again. Sammy sobbed louder, throwing himself dramatically against Dean’s shoulder and sticking a hand out toward Cas.
I bit back a smile. Kids.
Did Sam just say they lived in a car, though?
I got up too, plastering on a smile.
“Maybe one book?”
The glare that Dean sent my way was sharp enough to cut through glass. I ducked over to the boxes, shuffling through them and finding the one labeled ‘books for Cas.’
I grabbed the first two in the stack and offered them to my brother.
Castiel hiccuped and took them, hugging them and looking longingly up at Sam.
“Seriously?” Dean said through gritted teeth.
“You want ‘em to keep crying?” I muttered back. Dean relented and sat Sammy down on the couch.
“FINE. One damn book. That’s it. Got it Sam?”
Sammy nodded quickly, crawling across the couch to settle in beside Castiel.
Chapter 3: Sammy's Place
Sammy was shockingly good at reading. He read to Cas, snuggled up at one end of the couch. I had never seen Castiel so comfortable around another kid. He usually got shy and avoided talking to people his age.
I had settled in on the floor in front of the couch. I would have joined them on the couch if it didn’t mean that I had to sit next to Dean.
The young guy was still being a grouch.
Castiel leaned over Sammy, pointing to a picture and laughing. Whoa. He rarely did that, either.
“They puke up the honey.”
Sammy giggled and made fake puking sounds, pretending to barf on Cas.
Gross, I thought, smiling anyway. They were taking their sweet time going through that book. I would have checked the time, but Dean still had my phone. I leaned to look at him.
Shockingly enough, he was completely sacked out, head flopped back against the couch and mouth hanging open as he snored.
I wasn’t sure if I felt like smiling or just feeling bad for him. He looked absolutely exhausted. I remembered the early days of taking care of Cas. As sweet and mild of a baby as he was, he had been a handful.
I got up and went to my room, snagging a blanket from the bed. Very carefully, I lay the blanket over Dean. He sat up with a start, his whole body flinching.
I held up my hands.
“Whoa, whoa. It’s just a blanket!”
“Sammy?” He mumbled, looking for his little brother.
The toddler glanced back.
“Bedtime,” Dean told him, holding an arm out to wave him closer.
Sammy closed the book and handed it off to Cas. Before he could crawl away, Castiel looped an arm around his neck and placed a clumsy kiss on his cheek.
“Cas!” I snapped, cringing. He looked up at me in alarm and I realized that he had no idea what he just did. “Uh, yeah. Bedtime.” I scooped him up into my arms.
Sammy crawled over and curled up with his brother, completely at home against his chest. They looked cozy. I smiled and flipped the lights off on the way to my room.
- - -
The couch was empty in the morning. For a few minutes, I thought that I had dreamed the whole thing. Then Cas came out for breakfast.
“Sammy?” He called, thoroughly searching over and under the couch.
“He had to go home, bro,” I told him over the kitchen counter. “We need to get unpacked today.”
The black haired boy came over into the kitchen and hugged my leg, clearly disappointed. He didn’t say anything. He just held on tight and sat there sadly.
“We’ll see him again.” I ruffled his hair. It was really unlikely that we actually WOULD. Cas didn’t need to hear that though. If they were living in a car, they were probably a hundred miles away by now.
“Can we go to Sammy’s pwace?” Castiel asked, looking up at me with tear-filled blue eyes. I gulped.
“Cas, my little bro, Sammy’s place is really far away.”
“No it’s not!” He protested, finally letting go of my leg. “It’s out in the woods with the fwogs! Sammy said he caught fwogs too! He lives by a stweam!”
In the woods by a stream? I cocked my head. Maybe it was worth a look.
“Oh,” I said stupidly.
Cas stared up at me expectantly. I stared back.
We needed to unpack. I only had two more days before I went back to work. Dean had taken my phone, so I needed to go buy a new one, then there was double checking that the daycare was in order… But I was gonna win the Asshole of the Year award if I crushed that gleam of hope in Castiel’s eyes.
I sighed and gave in.
“Alright! We’ll go check on him.”
- - -
The stream wasn’t very far into the woods. It was a very small stream. Small enough that we could easily walk through it.
A glint of metal caught my eye. Something black and chrome was tucked behind the bushes ahead of us. I held Castiel’s hand and guided him safely to the other side of the stream, patting his head.
“Stay here for a sec, squirt.”
As I came around the bushes, I could see that the chrome belonged to a car – a really beautiful old Chevy Impala. She hadn’t a bath in a long time.
A head poked up in her window and I spotted Sammy looking back at me. He smiled and waved.
Don’t cry, Gabe. I’m sure they’re just on a day trip. I hurried over as Sammy opened the car door.
“Hi!” He said excitedly. I could hear Castiel start to run toward us.
“Hey Sammy. Is your brother here?”
“No, Dean’s at work!” Sam said, sliding out of the car to the ground. He looked so tiny and grimy. I just wanted to pick him up and run home.
…That would be kidnapping, Gabriel, I told myself, shaking my head.
“Ah, of course.” I ducked my head to look in the car. The backseat was full of books and wrappers from a zillion different snacks. A pillow and a worn looking sleeping bag were wadded up in there too.
Castiel ran and launched himself at Sammy, hugging him tightly. Sammy smiled and hugged him back.
“Do you wanna read a book?” He asked excitedly, disentangling himself from Cas to crawl back up into the car. He dug through the books.
I swallowed, glancing around. Dean was gonna be PISSED if he came home and found us here. I understood Dean had no choice, but leaving Sam there seemed downright criminal.
I helped Castiel up into the car and smiled.
Chapter 4: Licking Wounds
One book turned into two. As they were deciding on a third book, the toddlers started giggling. I had been dozing in the front seat, but leaned to check on them. Cas was poking at Sammy’s stomach and smiling.
“Your tummy is roawing!”
While they thought it was funny, I didn’t!
“Sammy, are you hungry?” I asked, leaning between the Impala’s front seats.
“I have food,” the brunette said, raking through the snack wrappers by the handful. He found something and held it up for me to see: a chocolate Gershey’s bar.
Oh. Oh, that hurt in a special way. He was so happy about it. Oh god. No, no, nope!
“Alright, come on. Time to go home!” I got out of the car, slamming the door and circling to the backseat.
“What? Why?” Cas whined, crawling my way with tears already glinting in his eyes.
“Sammy, you wanna come? We’re having spaghetti!” I picked Castiel up and ducked to look at Sam, who was still in the car. He looked concerned, tiny hand still holding the chocolate bar in front of him.
“Dean said I had to stay here.”
“We’ll give Dean spaghetti, too.” I plastered on my nicest smile.
Sammy fell for it, dropping the candy bar and crawling out of the car. I took his hand and helped him step down to the ground. He looked up at me with shiny eyes.
“Dean likes spaghetti!”
“Awesome!” I grinned, leading him by the hand back toward the house.
I was literally kidnapping a child. I had just made my reservation in Hell.
- - -
Sam wasn’t at all disappointed that spaghetti was actually the second meal he was going to have with us. Lunch was PB&J sandwiches, which were Cas’s fav.
Then they were rocketing around the house, screaming while they supposedly unpacked boxes in Castiel’s room. I went to check on them.
Sammy was helping Cas stack his books on his bookshelf, talking quietly.
“…Dean calls her Baby.”
My brother shifted to look at Sam, a book still in his small arms. He seemed puzzled. Sammy continued, putting another book on top of the one in the black haired toddler’s arms.
“Does your brother have a girlfriend?”
“No, Gabwiel doesn’t have a girlfwiend.”
Thanks Cas. Just tell everyone how SINGLE and ALONE your big bro Gabe is.
“Hey guys, how’s it going in here?” I asked loudly, leaning in the door. Both toddlers looked up at me like they had been caught in the act.
“…Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” Sam asked me with wide eyes.
“Because…I’m…” I frowned as I tried to think up an excuse. Cas answered for me.
“He loves himself. He told me.”
Sammy looked at Castiel and then up at me, frowning with mild disgust.
“Alright, you little punks — back to work!” I clapped my hands and they went back to stacking books. The nerve of those little brats!
So it had been awhile since I had a date. Who cared? Dating was hard when you had a kid to take care of. I retreated to the kitchen to lick my wounds and start making the spaghetti sauce.
- - -
I was expecting a knock on the back door and it came at just after four. Bracing myself for another screaming match, I opened the back door with a smile.
“Hey Dean. So, about your brother…” I trailed off as my eyes landed on Dean’s face.
His lips were busted open. The left half of his face was bleeding, too, and his eye was almost swollen shut. The injuries weren’t limited to his face, either. There was blood on his clothes, along with mud and leaves. He looked like someone had kicked the crap outta him.
All thoughts of fighting with him left my mind. He needed help. I had to help him. I held out a hand, stepping out onto the back porch step.
“H-hey. Are you okay?” I managed. He didn’t pull away when I put my hand on his arm, though he cringed. I guided him inside the house very carefully.
“Is my little brother here?” He asked as I closed the door behind us, keeping his swollen face downturned.
“Yeah. He’s with Cas in his room.”
“Sammy!” Dean called, hunching and putting an arm around his stomach.
“Are you kidding me? You’re not leaving! I’m taking you to the hospital!”
“No,” Dean growled at me. “No hospitals.”
I stared at him in disbelief.
“You’re joking, right? Have you SEEN yourself?”
Sam came hurrying into the room with Castiel on his heels. He did a double take at seeing his brother, eyebrows pinching sadly. He ran to hug Dean’s leg.
“Are you okay?” The toddled asked, eyes growing misty.
“Yeah, I’m okay, buddy.” Dean knelt to hug Sam gingerly in return. Sammy clung to him, sniffling. They stayed arm in arm for a moment, then Dean ruffled his little brother’s hair. “Hey. No crying. I’m alright.”
“I’m sorry I left the car!” Sammy sobbed, hugging onto Dean again.
“Don’t sweat it, Sammy.”
I stood there, shaking my head. Cas reached up and took my hand. I squeezed it gently and stepped closer to Dean.
“Don’t go back to the car. I have a whole house here, dude. Just stay.”
I wasn’t sure if Dean heard me, but Sammy did. He sat back and looked up at Dean, sniffling back tears.
“Gabriel is making spaghetti.”
Dean smiled painfully, patting Sam’s cheek.
“With meatballs and everything?” The injured man asked. Sammy turned and looked up at me with huge hopeful eyes.
I nodded quickly.
“Oh yeah! Lots of meatballs!” I lied. I was gonna have to learn how to make them, but if that’s what made Dean and his little bro stay, I'd Google it.
“Alright. We’ll stay for spaghetti.” Dean let Sam go and I saw him struggle to try and stand up again. I stepped over and gave him an arm up. He swayed once he was on his feet.
“He’ll be okay, Sammy. You stay here with Cas — Dean needs a nap before dinner.” When Sam didn’t move from his brother’s side, I waved Cas over. The black haired toddler took Sammy’s hand and led him away to the couch, giving him a half hug.
As we stepped into my room, Dean leaned heavily on me, mumbling. I caught him, glancing at the bed.
“Come on. Stay awake. The bed’s right there.” I pointed to it for emphasis.
“…please,” he murmured as his head dropped to rest on my shoulder.
“What?” I asked, shifting him so I pull his arm over my shoulders. His head rolled as his lips lightened a shade or two. Even with all the blood, he looked pale! He was going to pass out any second.
“No cops. Please. They’ll…they’ll take Sammy away.”
Chapter 5: Spaghetti Night
Dean had then promptly passed out in my arms. I had to haul him to the bed. He was surprisingly heavy. I spent a good forty five minutes patching him up, but there was only so much I could do with my first aid kit. Thank god I got bought the sport edition.
He had bruises all over him. His arms, his neck, his ribs. I stripped him down to his T-shirt and boxers, grimacing as each piece of clothes that I removed showed off some new wound.
I prayed that he didn’t have internal bleeding as I closed the door. Giving it a second thought, I left it open a crack as a reminder to check on him. Not that I wouldn’t be doing that every ten minutes anyway!
What the hell was I supposed to do? I needed a tub of ice cream and a box of cookies…
I went back into the living room, shaking my head. This was the kind of shit that only happened in movies!
“It’s okay Sammy,” I heard my little brother say. He was sitting side by side with Sam on the couch, a small arm over his friend’s shoulder.
I sat down in front of them and sighed, patting Sam’s arm.
“Hey kiddo. It’s gonna be okay.”
The brunette slipped off the couch onto my lap, sobbing all over again. I caught him in my arms, standing up and sitting next to Cas on the couch.
That had had the opposite effect that I wanted. I rubbed his back, trying again.
“Your brother’s tough. He’s gonna be okay.”
“He’s missing an eyeball!” Sam sobbed.
“What?” I bit back a laugh. “No, he’s got both his eyes! One’s just got an ouchy on it. I checked.”
Sniffling and wiping at his face, Sammy sat back to look at me.
“Yes,” I said confidently. “Now, would you guys like to help me make dinner? You said your brother liked spaghetti. We can make special meatballs for him.”
“Okay.” Sam nodded sadly.
- - -
A knock on the door interrupted out meatball making efforts. I left the kids there at the counter, hurriedly washing my hands in the sink. Hopefully nobody fell off their chairs while I was gone.
The knock sounded again before I made it to the door. I opened it and leaned out. It was already getting dim out.
“Good evening,” a tall man in black said. A glint caught my eye, and I noticed the shiny police badge on his chest.
…Could he see Sammy from the door? Should I just fess up and tell him I had Dean and Sam? Had he found the car? Did Dean kill someone?
Play it cool, I reminded myself, pulling on a smile.
“Good evening officer. Can I help you?”
He stuck a piece of yellow paper in front of me, smiling in return.
“A bear has been seen in the area. This has the number for animal control on it. You should keep all pets and kids inside until it's been caught.”
I stared at the paper for a second, taking it. It had the number for animal control as well as a…portrait of a bear? Seriously? I looked back up at him and nodded.
“Thanks. Will do.”
The officer gave me a wave and went on his way. I shut the door quickly, cringing with how that might have made me seem suspicious.
I ducked back into the kitchen and put the paper on the fridge with one of Cas’s many alphabet magnets.
Castiel turned around on top of his chair at the counter, staring at the yellow paper.
“Is that a beaw?”
“Yeah. He got lost around here — so no playing outside. The bear might mistake you for a honeycomb and eat you!” I joked, tickling Cas. He giggled and squirmed, smashing the blob of meat he was holding between his fingers.
“This one is for Dean!” Sammy held up his meat ‘ball’ proudly.
“Nice! Good job, buddy! High five!”
He slapped my palm with his disgustingly slimy little hand.
Nice, I thought as I went to wash my hands yet again. It didn’t really bother me. I was too busy worrying about the cops finding the Impala in the woods.
There had to be a good reason why Dean was avoiding the authorities. Judging by what he said, he must not be Sammy’s legal guardian. But who was?
Chapter 6: Peas and Painkillers
I lingered outside of my bedroom door with the plate of saucy spaghetti and meat wads. The kids had tried their best, they just lacked the motor coordination to actually make the sticky ground hamburger stay in ball shapes. I knocked lightly, stepping inside.
While looking up how to make meatballs, I had also brushed up on my medical knowledge, and people with concussions weren’t supposed to sleep! I didn’t think he had a concussion before, but I was worried about it now.
I reached tensely for the light switch, bracing myself for a dead body as I flicked it on.
The young man stirred in bed, but didn’t sit up. He had barely moved from the position that he had been in after I patched him up.
I let out the breath I been holding. He wasn’t dead!
I crossed the room and sat the spaghetti down on the end of the bed.
“Hey, sleeping beauty.”
Those words earned me a one-eyed groggy frown.
“Do you have any alcohol?” He mumbled, touching the gauze on his left cheek gingerly. The swelling was still pretty bad. I made a note to bring him the frozen peas from the freezer.
I picked the plate of food up and offered it to him.
“I’ve got spaghetti.” I pointed to the meat wad in the corner. “Your bro made you a gift.”
Dean’s face lit up at the sight of the plate. He reached out and took it shakily with both hands. Shoving a big fork full of noodles into his mouth, he sighed happily. He blushed and hurried to swallow his food.
“T-thanks. Holy shit. This is amazing.”
He took another generous bite, closing his eyes and savoring it. I felt like I was looking at myself whenever I ate cookies. Or cake.
Or anything sweet really.
“Welcome. Sammy’s still freaked out, mind if I bring him in to say hi?”
Dean just nodded. His mouth was still full of spaghetti. How long had it been since he ate?
I tried not to think about it as I went to the door and called the kids. Sammy raced past me, climbing up onto the bed eagerly.
“Did you like the meatballs?”
“They were awesome,” Dean told him, giving him a one-armed hug. Sam sat in his lap and hugged him too. The older brother leaned to look Sam over, raising his eyebrows. “Where’d you get that shirt?”
“Oh, Cas gave it to him.” I chimed in, scooping Castiel up the moment he was in the door. I didn’t really want him too close to Dean with how messed up he looked.
There was a pause as Dean thought it over, then he looked down at Sammy again.
“…Did you tell Cas thanks?”
“Thank you Cas!” Sam said with a smile.
Cas shrank in my arms, turning shyly to hide against my shoulder. I patted his back. Poor kid still couldn’t handle attention.
“Alright guys. You need to go finish your dinner.”
Dean helped Sam back down onto the floor, grimacing at the motion. Sammy patted his brother’s arm and came back over to me. I sat Cas down next to him.
“Can you two go eat dinner? I need to check on Dean’s ouchies.”
Castiel took his friend’s hand and led him off. Sam went along willingly, casting one more concerned look back at his brother. I pushed the door closed behind them and turned back to Dean.
“How ya holding up? I don’t have any alcohol, but I’ve got ibuprofen and a bag of frozen peas.”
Dean was busy trying to clear his plate. He looked up at me with those ridiculously pretty eyes and nodded.
“Sounds awesome.” He gave me a thumbs up.
I left him to his food and returned shortly with the promised peas and painkillers.
Dean had managed to wolf down most of his food in that time. I settled on the edge of the bed next to him, snagging the first aid kit off the bed stand.
“Alrighty,” I said as I flipped his blankets back.
“Hey!” The injured man snapped, yanking the covers back up. “Watch it.”
“Watch what? I need to change some of those bandages. The blood soaked through them,” I added drolly, tugging the blankets down again. He didn’t protest the second time, huddling against the pillows and scowling at me over his plate of spaghetti.
I handed him the peas before I started.
“So,” I began as I carefully peeled off the first patch of gauze.
“No,” Dean grunted. I glanced up at him, cocking my head.
“I’m not telling you anything—”
I lost it.
“Okay, Dean, you came stumbling into my house beat up and bloody and I didn’t ask questions! I took you in, stopped the bleeding and let you sleep! Why the hell shouldn’t I call the cops on you? You owe me SOME kind of explanation!”
As soon as I realized that I had been yelling, I felt bad. The guy shrank back against the pillows, swallowing nervously. He kept his gaze on anything except me. The hand that was keeping the frozen peas over his eye tightened.
“…Sorry.” I deflated, focusing on cleaning and dressing his injuries instead. I didn’t actually feel like he owed me, I just didn’t know what to do.
I knew nothing about him. He could be a total creep. From what I'd seen, he cared about Sammy a lot. That could be a facade. Maybe he was a really good actor.
He was quiet for a few minutes, then leaned stiffly to grab his jacket off the foot of the bed. He rummaged in the pocket for a second and produced my phone. It was smashed. The screen was shattered to bits and the case was bent.
“I’ll buy you a new one,” he mumbled, laying the phone on the bed stand.
I stared at it.
“Uh, don’t worry about it.”
“Seriously. I'll get another one.”
“Seriously, DON’T worry about it. I’ve been there,” I said, looking him right in the eye. I softened my tone as I continued – I didn’t wanna scare the guy. “When I first got Cas, man, I was a mess. I dropped out of college. I was so worried about letting him down, or hurting him — or not being able to take care of him. Ugh.” I exhaled sharply, shaking my head.
Slowly, Dean scooted forward and leaned closer, wrapping an arm over my shoulders. I was so shocked that I froze. I also was struck by how he smelled like dirt and blood. It was a stark contrast to how amazingly good looking he was. Then he patted my back.
“Thanks for taking care of Sammy. I appreciate it.”
Feeling a little flustered by the closeness, I nodded.
“No problem. Just get better so YOU can take care of him. He needs you.” I put my arms around him carefully, painfully aware of all the bruises on his ribs.
The hug was brief, then Dean was laying back onto the bed, sighing and snuggling his face against the pillow. I stared down at him.
I hadn’t been hugged in forever. Not by anybody but Cas. Growing up with my brothers had made me a little touch-shy.
Hurriedly patching him up and tucking the blankets in around him, I was starting to feel angry with myself. I stepped back out of the bedroom, running a hand over my face. The wounded dog routine was getting to me. I was a sucker for hurt, lost animals. Especially animals with freckles and huge green eyes.
No, Gabe, NO! You can’t have a thing for the first hot person to show up on your doorstep! He’s a dude. You don’t even LIKE dudes!
I tried to reason with myself about it and gave up. Dean was probably going to run off the second he was able to, anyway.
Chapter 7: On A Roll
Special thanks to my sis Threshie for being my editor! I know this chapter took awhile to update. Sorry! Real life happens.
After fluttering around like a newspaper all day, I was really ready for bed. I hurried the kids through brushing their teeth and had Sammy dress himself in a spare pair of Cas’s PJs. Then I herded the kids to my bedroom.
Dean sat up in bed as we came in. He must have been sleeping, judging by the spiky hair and bit of drool on his chin. I picked Sam up and placed him on the bottom of the bed.
I heard Sam giggle as Dean stretched out an arm to receive him. They cuddled up in bed and Sam waved to Cas.
“'Night Sam,” Cas said shyly with a wave, leaning to take my hand. I ruffled his hair.
“Sleep well, guys. There’ll be waffles in the morning!” I said as I led Cas back out and shut off the lights. I picked the toddler up on the way back to his room. “Did you have fun today?”
“Yeah!” Cas said with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. Sitting him on the bed, I plonked down to slip off my house shoes before joining him. He snuggled up to my side like usual. Sleeping over in his room wasn’t uncommon. He still had nightmares about our family.
I did, too.
- - -
“…No, shh. I’ll be back soon.”
I gasped hard enough to wake myself up. My eyes opened and I was relieved to see the glow in the dark stars on the dim ceiling of Castiel’s bedroom. I rolled over to check on him.
The little boy was curled into a ball against his pillow…and someone was standing behind him on the other side of the bed.
My entire body locked up as my brain tried to reason with me that it couldn’t be him — I had locked the doors. He was still in prison! I felt my heart flop and I couldn’t force myself to breath.
“Lucifer?” I choked. The dark figure stood up, eyes glinting in the light from the window.
I inhaled sharply as I recognized the voice as Dean's. I caught my breath and shook my head. Great. Thanks to the nightmares and my stupidity, I was sweaty and cold.
“Nothing,” I panted, leaning to flip on the lamp by Cas’s bed. The bright scene of a jungle with cartoon animals made the nightmares seem a little farther away. I turned back to Dean. Sammy was laying next to Cas now, both still sound sleep. I swallowed and sat up more. “You going somewhere?”
“Shh. Yeah,” Dean whispered, already stepping around the bed to leave.
“You ARE?” I questioned, scurrying out of bed to follow him. I closed the door to the bedroom and chased the teenager down. “Hey, wait! You can’t just leave!”
“I gotta work,” the brunette muttered. He paused on his way to the back door, snagging a banana from the fruit basket on the dinette.
“The HELL you do!” I snapped, dodging past him to block the door. “Have you seen your face? You look like you were hit by a car, and I’m pretty sure you have a broken rib!”
He glared at me and tucked the banana into his jacket. Then he stepped up close, looking down at me with angry green eyes.
“No,” I said defiantly up at him.
Dean grabbed my arms and shoved me aside. Man, he was strong. I snagged the back of his jacket collar and tugged him back. The small grunt of pain reminded me to be careful. I wanted to keep him from being hurt, not to hurt him myself!
Dean being pissed, I expected — Dean elbowing me in the face, I did not. By the way he looked, I guessed that he could have killed me with that move if he wanted to. As it was, it just made my nose bleed.
“Seriously?” I clapped a hand over my nose, growling.
“You said you understood me! You gotta do whatever it takes to protect your brother. So do I!”
He slammed the door open and started off across the back yard, his hands shoved into his pockets and his shoulder hunched to balance out his limp.
Screw it, I thought, charging after him. Dean was taller than me. Like, several inches taller. I had to get a running start to jump high enough to catch him around the shoulders. He yelped in pain and surprise as we went rolling across the downhill slope in the yard.
We ended up in a pile at the bottom. While he was stunned, I rolled him over and sat on his chest, jabbing a finger in his face (which I could barely see in the early morning light.)
“You can’t take care of Sammy if you’re dead!”
The man groaned and coughed, rolling his head to scowl at me.
“Than w-why are you trying to kill me?” He asked weakly.
God, I hope I didn’t actually kill him. I stood up and hauled him to his feet, dragging him back up the hill. He was too racked up to protest, clutching at his side and spitting out bits of grass as we went.
A low mumbling growl sounded from somewhere behind us. Both Dean and I turned to look over our shoulders.
Down the hill by the woods sat a big dark blob of a figure. It rose up on its back legs. A bear! Its beady little eyes were pointed our way as its nose snuffled.
I wasn’t sure who was screaming as we blindly charged back into the house. I crashed through the boxes in the living room, toppling over and crawling on all fours across the kitchen floor to get to the number on the fridge. I checked all my pockets then turned to stare at Dean.
“OH SHIT! You broke my phone!”
Chapter 8: Señor Bear
I laid on my belly on the carpet, watching the doggy door without blinking. The bear was way too big to actually FIT through it, but I couldn’t help it.
“What’re we gonna do?” Dean whispered. He was leaned on the wall just around the corner from the back door — safely out of sight of Señor Bear.
It could probably smell the blood from my freshly bleeding nose. I wiped it, just remembering that that had even happened.
It could probably smell the banana that Dean had put in his jacket, too. Especially since it was smashed all over his shirt from our roll in the backyard.
Huh. That sounded a bit, uh, different.
“Why’d you stop me? I could have been halfway to town by now,” Dean grumbled at me.
I rolled over on the carpet to look up at him dubiously. “Or, you’d be half EATEN by now.”
Dean thought about it then nodded, cringing at the thought. He cleared his throat and jerked a thumb toward Cas’s room.
“We should go in there, shut the door and wait it out.”
“Wait out the bear?”
Dean nodded and I rolled my eyes.
“I’m a hungry bear and I see two guys run into a THIN door. Should I follow them? Hmm. One smells like blood and the other smells like BANANAS!” I rolled back over and stared at the dog door again.
“…Are you done?” Dean grumbled after a minute, nudging my leg with his boot. I batted at his foot.
“Yeah, I’m done.”
“Cool. Do you have a car?”
“Yes?” I rolled over again and got up, rubbing my aching back. I was too old to go rolling down hills. Then again, what the heck was I complaining about? Dean was way more of a mess than I was!
“Let’s grab the kids and make a run for the car.”
“With the BEAR out there? NO. Cas stays inside until it’s gone.”
“Do you have anything we can bait it with? Hamburger? Steak?”
“I have a cherry pie in the—”
“No. Not pie.” I was surprised at the sternness of his voice. Dean shook his head. “Better plan, do you have anything we could set on fire? Deodorant spray?”
I stared at him.
“…Are you serious? You wanna FLAMETHROWER the bear? It’s just a bear, man! It’s lost.”
Dean stared back at me, tilting his head and listening. He carefully sneaked around the corner to the back door, stopping a few feet back.
I waved frantically at him. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Shh.” The freckled teenager leaned even closer and listened. I held my breath. Dean turned back to me after a few seconds and pointed to the door. “I think he’s gone.”
I crept closer. It was pretty quiet outside. Craning my neck to see out the small window by the back door, all I could make out was the green lawn. I moved a step closer. Still clear open lawn. At that point I was hovering over Dean where he was crouched by the wall. I shrugged down to him.
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“Let’s not find out. I say, we grab that pie and go watch Webflix until it’s light out.”
“Internet is being installed tomorrow.” I bit my lip and looked down at him. Green eyes looked back at me from under his eyebrows.
“Fine. Just pie.”
- - -
We moved the kids into my room. Cas’s bed just wasn’t big enough to hold all four of us. Without a phone or internet, it was gonna be a long night.
The kids didn’t seem to mind. Cas and Sammy sat between the two of us, side by side with a big book about bears. I had tried to get them to read about the zoo or bees, but they were insistent on learning about bears with the threat nearby. As always, Cas was spending his time trying to convince me that Señor Bear wasn’t a bad bear.
“He’s still a wild animal,” I explained, AGAIN. My little brother stared up at me with huge blue eyes, a hand still pointing to the picture of a bear munching on a honey comb in the book.
“But beaws eat honey and bewwies. He wouldn’t eat US!”
“Yes he would.” I shifted under the blankets to scoot the pie closer. We had sort of just dropped it on the foot of the bed with a handful of forks. At that moment, with the threat of being bear food, I needed sugar. I ripped through the sticker that was sealing the pie box. “Bears are omnivorous. Do you remember what that means?”
Sammy stuck up a hand like he was in class, smiling brightly. I looked at him and he took that as the okay to answer.
“It means they can eat berries AND us!”
Dean raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment. His eyes were locked on the pie. Apparently I wasn’t the only one jonesing for pie.
Cas glanced at Sam in alarm, then grabbed the front of my shirt with a small hand.
“Was Seen-yow Beaw fat?”
“Yeah. Looked healthy enough.” I opened the pie box and nodded, snagging a fork. Dean beat me to the first bite, shoving a large chunk of cherry pie into his mouth. He closed his eyes and sighed. He made that pie look really good. I took a bite and chewed thoughtfully. Yep. It was good! The tangy sweetness of the cherries was everything I needed in my life at that moment.
I didn’t plan on sleeping. I couldn’t. What if the bear decided to break through the back door? It wouldn’t take much effort…
“But what if he’s still hungry?” Castiel asked quietly, hugging the blankets tighter. I ruffled his hair.
“We’ll save him some pie and if he shows up, he can eat that.”
Dean made a little snort like the idea of sharing the pie with the bear to save our lives was unreasonable. I glanced his way and he stared me down, shoving another bite of pie into his mouth. I sat up and cut a pie of pie out with my fork, showing it to Sam and Cas.
“Look. This is Señor Bear’s piece, okay? So just go to sleep—”
“I want Mistew Buzzbee!”
“Uh, Mister Buzzbee is still napping in a box somewhere,” I began, trying not to notice the tears forming in Cas’s eyes. I forced a smile and rubbed my brother’s shoulder. “He’s safer from the bear that way.”
“Pwease?” The toddler asked, chin trembling.
Running a hand over my face, I sighed and slung the covers back.
Chapter 9: Mister Buzzbee
At some point during digging through boxes to find Castiel’s favorite plushie, I gave up on organization. Señor Bear couldn’t have missed all the clunking, either. As I dumped a box on the floor by accident, the yellow bee doll came tumbling out. I dropped the box and plucked the bee off the floor. Cas was probably asleep by now.
I joined everyone back in bed. Cas stirred. After all the fuss about the bear, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wake him up over a doll. I tucked the bee next to him and pulled the covers back over my legs. Phew. I lay back on the pillow and sighed.
Sam and Dean had talked for a bit then curled up to sleep. As usual, they both looked exhausted. I rolled over and hugged an arm under my pillow, scanning over Dean’s face while he slept.
I had never seen a guy with eyelashes like that. They were so long…
His eyes opened suddenly and I found myself caught in a staring contest. He blinked slowly, glancing down at Sam and Cas.
“You find the buzz thing?”
I nodded, poking the bee doll with a finger. It felt like a big marshmallow. Out of all his toys, Cas loved Mister Buzzbee the most. It was most likely because it was the first toy I bought him when we moved in together. I smiled at the memory of the tiny one-year-old’s face when he first saw it. It was love at first sight.
“Look,” Dean said softly, sitting up from his pillow. “I have to work tomorrow.”
“What is it that you do exactly?” I asked dubiously as I also sat up on my pillow.
“Hustle pool? That’s your job?” I hissed, trying to keep my voice down.
“Yeah, I do. I’m damn good at it!”
“Is that how you got the crap kicked outta you?” I whispered. Dean frowned.
Something about the tone of his voice told me that it might have been, but I wasn’t going to push it. I sat up all the way and took a breath.
“You want easy money?”
“Duh.” Dean sat up and nodded.
“How about you babysit for me? I’ll pay you something. I can’t afford much, but it’ll be better than nothing and it’ll give you a chance to heal up.”
Dean eyed me. I could see the gears turning in his head. I didn’t trust him to watch my brother, but thankfully Cas had daycare during the day. I had also managed to hire a babysitter for the evening, so Dean wouldn’t actually be alone with Cas at any point.
Dean wouldn’t know that until tomorrow. I hoped that by then he would realize that it meant I was paying him to sit around and babysit HIS brother and he wouldn’t be offended by my lack of trust. If he didn’t run off for a few days, maybe I’d consider letting him babysit Cas.
We stared at each other and I leaned forward. The shorter man shifted back a bit and I cleared my throat.
“Really? That was way easier than I thought it would be…”
“Gabwiel? Mistew Buzzbee!”
I leaned back quickly, checking on my baby brother. He had his arms around Mister Buzzbee now and was snuggling him against his cheek lovingly.
“Hey, let’s be quiet so Sammy can sleep. Okay?”
Cas nodded. He hugged the doll and rolled over, wedging the bee between Sam and himself. Unfortunately, that Sam woke up. He sat up and looked from Dean to me and then Cas.
“Is the bear gone?” He asked around a yawn. Dean patted his back and tucked him back in.
“Go back to sleep, Sammy.”
“Sammy, this is Mistew Buzzbee!” Cas chimed in, waving the doll in the other toddler’s face. Sam caught it and examined it with a smile.
“I like his tie!”
“He’s a busy bee. He wowks at the hive and he makes honey!”
“Alright, alright. Shh.” I lay Cas back down and put the covers over him. “Let’s be quiet. Señor Bear might be sleeping, too.”
“Okay. Shh!” Cas whispered loudly, hushing Sam. The other two lay back down and a quiet fell over the room again. It didn’t last. Sam and Cas were giggling and making faces at one another. Both Dean and I sighed in unison.
- - -
Getting Cas ready for daycare was miserable after our long night. He cried when I dressed him. He cried when I helped his brush his teeth. But he cried twice as hard when I picked him up to go to the car. I had scouted out to the detached garage as soon as it was light to make sure there wasn’t a hungry bear waiting for me. As far as I could tell, the bear had wandered off. The only tracks I found were by the back door and they led off back to the woods. I didn’t exactly have a choice by then. I had to go back to work.
I had to get a new phone, too. I wasn’t made of money, but last night provided a perfect example why I should have a phone attached to my person at all times.
“I know, I know,” I hushed Castiel as I strapped him into his car seat. He cried pathetically, squirming around as I buckled him in. I couldn’t muster the energy to get mad about it. He had had a long night. I had had a long night. Snapping at him would just make me an asshole.
I turned at the sound of my name and found Dean hovering nervously in the garage doorway. He glanced back outside like the bear might be sneaking up on him.
“Good morning.” I waved as he turned back to me. He frowned.
“Thought you said I was babysitting.”
“You are. You’re babysitting Sam.”
“Sam?” Dean stepped inside, crossing his arms. “You’re gonna pay me to watch my own brother?”
“Yeah, but I’m mostly paying you to stay out of trouble. And alive,” I added, checking my watch. 6:37. Damn. I was going to be late if I didn’t hurry. I waved to Dean. “Can we talk about it after my morning shift?”
“Yeah, sure,” the teen mumbled. He stood there and watched me as I drove past.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I turned out onto the long gravel driveway that led to the main road. I watched as Dean disappeared from my rear view mirror, ducking back into the house. I frowned. Was he really going to be there when I got home?
Chapter 10: Day in the Life
I swigged down my second cup of coffee on my first break. Crowley and Kali took mercy on me and gave me coffee before the store opened. Crowley said my ghoul face was bad for business.
The morning was a blur of waffles, eggs and flannel. It was all the usual crowd of truckers and retirees. Most of them had been eating the same thing since I started at Macleod’s.
Macleod’s was a small Scottish style diner that was owned by a lady and her son. The mom was never around, so her son Crowley ran the place. Considering the scowl the man wore every time anyone asked about his mom, I’m guessing they didn’t get along.
As I ferried a plate of tatties — potato scones things — to a table in the back, a blur of copper caught my eye.
It was that cute nerdy girl. Her name was Charlie. At least, that’s what Kali told me. She had actually stopped to talk to the redhead instead of creeping on her like I was. I sighed as I swung by the counter to snag the coffee.
Charlie had been coming in and drinking coffee since the college quarter started. I was a little jealous. I had skipped college to take care of Cas. Every time that I saw her, I wondered how different my life would have been if my family hadn’t fallen apart.
I forced a smile as I approached her table with the coffee carafe.
“Need a refill?”
“Yes please,” Charlie sighed, leaning back from her computer to push her empty cup to me. I poured her a new cup.
“Yeah.” She smiled tightly. “I’ve got two papers due today and my laptop is being a total a-hole. It keeps shutting off. I’ve been obsessively saving.” She sighed heavily and held her mug with both hands. “Sorry. I wasn’t trying to rant.”
“Hey, no problem.” I laughed. “I got stuck in my house because of a bear last night.” I regretted saying it as soon as I had.
Charlie stared up at me wide-eyed. She looked like she wasn’t sure if she should believe me or not.
“Oh. Wow. That…sucks,” she said at last.
“Hey, he didn’t eat me. No harm done.” I waved and ducked away. Gah, Gabe! Stupid!
I made it back to the counter just in time to catch Kali’s smug remark to Crowley, who was cooking today:
“Gabriel’s expendable. He’s spends more time chatting up the guests than working.” The dark haired woman turned and saw me. She didn’t seem to care if I had heard the comment as she ducked past me with a steaming plate.
I watched her go, her supple hips swaying. God, I missed those…
“Gabriel?” Crowley dropped a plate of breakfast food on the pass through. I turned and found him wearing a knowing smirk. “Are you moved into your new place, then? I need you to cover Kali’s shift tomorrow. We’ve got a little…rendezvous.”
I swallowed down the stab of annoyance. Crowley was well aware that Kali and I had dated for awhile. It hadn’t been serious for me or her, but it had been fun. I think I missed her more than she missed me. At least if they had a date tomorrow, I wouldn’t have to see them. I nodded to him.
“I can work ‘til three.”
“Five,” Crowley retorted, leaning on the pass through.
“Three. I have to pick Cas up and take him home. After that, I can come back and work from five to closing.”
“Deal,” the hazel eyed man said, shoving the plate at me.
I got it just in time and went on my way. My baby sitter was greedy, so I had no doubts that she wouldn’t mind a longer shift. I stopped dead in the middle of the restaurant as a thought occurred to me.
How was I going to have a babysitter over with Dean around? Maybe I could pay him to babysit Sam in their car. If they were even still there.
- - -
“Hi Gabriel!” Anna said, waving to me with her free arm. Anna was the other pretty redhead in my life lately. She had the softest looking copper hair I had ever seen. The idea of running my hands through it ran through my mind every time I saw her. She was standing in the doorway to the Little Angels daycare center with Castiel on her hip. He didn’t look very happy.
“Hey buddy! How was your day?” I hurried over with open arms and Anna passed Cas to me. I petted his hair and tried to get him to smile by pretend pinching his cheek. He turned his face away sharply, blue eyes misty. Since he didn’t reply, Anna spoke up.
“He’s been a bit grumpy today.” She paused before adding, “He got into an argument and wouldn’t apologize.”
“What?” I asked in mock disbelief, looking down at my little brother. Cas rarely ever got along with other kids. I sort of blamed myself for that — I had to be doing something wrong. He stuck out his bottom lip at me.
“Hannah said that I don’t have any fwiends! She said I made Sam up!” He sniffed sadly, hugging against my shoulder. I rubbed his back.
“Aw, I’m sorry kiddo.”
“Hannah and Cas usually get along. It’s sad to see them fighting over imaginary friends.” Anna crossed her arms, a soft frown coloring her delicate features.
I was about to correct her that Sam was real, then I stopped. From what Dean had said, he and his brother were on the run. Maybe it was better to let her believe he didn’t exist. I stared down at Cas, who was looking up at me with such love and trust. Daring me not to defend him. I cleared my throat and turned back to Anna.
“Sam’s his new neighbor. Nice kid.”
“Oh!” Anna put a hand over her heart. “Oh, I’m sorry. I just assumed that he had made him up since he— um, since he’s usually…” She trailed off into a cringe.
“Don’t worry about it.” I waved to her and headed back to the car with a sigh.
“Is Sam at home?” Castiel asked as I strapped him into his car seat. He craned his neck to stare at me. “Gabwiel?”
I realized that I hadn’t replied to him. I had been worrying about the exact same thing. What if Dean and Sam were gone? I ruffled Cas’s hair.
“I hope so.”
Chapter 11: Settling In
Cas fell asleep on the way home. I tried to wake him up as we pulled up the road to the house.
“Cas? Time to wake up. We’re home!”
He stirred as I hopped out of the car and opened the side door.
“Is Sam home?” Cas asked, instinctively reaching his arms out as I scooped him out of his car seat. He felt so small as I hugged him.
“Uh, I dunno, but Cathy will be here soon. Do you remember Cathy?”
“I want to pway with Sam,” Castiel said sadly.
Oh God. Here come the water works! I thought as I unlocked the front door. We stepped inside and I heard Cas sniffle.
“Hey, hey. Come on.” I rocked him. “I’m sure we’ll see Sammy again, okay?” As the toddler proceeded to silently sob, I pressed a kiss to his cheek and sat him down.
“He’s watching TV.”
I jumped about a foot off the ground at the sound of Dean’s voice. I stared at him. On the way home, I had had myself completely convinced there was no chance that he would stick around.
“Sam’s here?” Cas asked, blue eyes wide. He ran past Dean before he could respond. “Sammy!”
I watched him go and then stared at Dean again. He must have taken a shower. There was no other way that I could have missed how freakin’ gorgeous he was. With all the blood and mud gone, he looked like a model. His pale green eyes were framed by dark lashes and he had way more freckles than I thought. And…those lips.
“Uh, wow. I didn’t think you’d still be here.” I gulped and started taking off my jacket. I tried to keep my eyes on the floor, but they somehow wound up looking at Dean’s muscular chest shoved into one of my old t-shirts. It was an understatement to say that he wore it well.
“Yeah, well, that damn bear broke into my car! Busted her window out and took a chunk out of her backseat!”
I blinked at him. The anger in his voice was a stark contrast to how distractingly hot he looked at that moment. As I passed him to head into the living room, I caught the softest hint of my shampoo on him. I fought to steer my mind out of the gutter.
Women. I liked women. I had been attracted to two men in my whole life. Crowley was one. He had that ‘I’d make a great villain’ hotness goin’ on...and now there was Dean.
He had shown up all injured and hungry and I was a complete SUCKER for taking him in. He could have knifed me!
“Glad you stayed here,” I said, cringing.
Cas and Sam were on the couch, side by side, both completely absorbed by whatever was playing on TV. From the overly happy high-pitched voices, it must have been a kids show.
I stepped into the kitchen. Focus Gabe. Eat something, check email, go to work. OH SHIT. What if Dean sleeps with the babysitter?
“Are you okay?”
I looked up and found that Dean had followed me. The teenager was leaning against the wall and staring me down uneasily.
“Uh, yeah. Long day. Sorry about your car. I’ve got a garage, you know. I never park in there, but there’s tools and stuff. I gotta go back to work in like an hour, but we could move your car up here if you want.” While I talked, I plucked sandwich fixings from the fridge.
Dean looked surprised at the idea and nodded.
“Not a bad idea. Then maybe the cops won’t find it.”
Or the cops will find it in my garage and arrest ME for hiding you guys. I smeared mayo absently on the bread. There was no winning. Sooner or later, someone would come looking for Dean and his brother. It didn’t matter if the car was in the woods or in my garage. They had to be on the run, otherwise why the heck would they stay with a weirdo like me?
“Hey, I, uh,” Dean gestured off to the living room. “I unpacked some stuff. The internet guys showed up, so I figured you might need your TV set up.”
I lifted my gaze from the packet of turkey meat as realization dawned. Right. The kids were watching TV and I hadn’t set it up. Dean had.
“Really? Thanks.” I couldn’t come up with anything else to say at that moment as I stared at him. He had done that for ME?
“Welcome.” Dean shrugged a shoulder. “I’ll go put on my boots.” He ducked back into my bedroom, and I took the opportunity to wolf down my sandwich.
The babysitter would be there in half an hour. After the diner closed, I had another job to go to. I couldn’t make Dean and Sam camp in their beat up car. What the hell was I gonna do?
Chapter 12: Baby
We waited to move the car until Cathy arrived. When she didn’t show up, I checked my email. Sure enough, the bratty teen had emailed me a short message saying that someone else had offered her fifty cents more per hour and she wouldn’t be working for me anymore.
I stared at the screen and then up to Dean. The handsome teenager was hovering in the door, arms crossed while we watched the kids running in circles around the living room.
Okay. Think positive, Gabe. Dean won’t have a chance to sleep with the babysitter. I shut the laptop and rubbed my forehead. Could I call out? I'd just gotten done taking time off to move, so that’d probably get me fired. I glanced over at Dean again. I barely knew him. I couldn’t leave Cas alone with him. I’d have to think up a plan while we moved the car.
“She’s, uh, late,” I told Dean, waving him towards the door. “Let’s just move the car. Come on, guys!” I called to the kids.
Sam and Cas ran over to join Dean in the doorway. Cas looked way up at him, hugging Mister Buzzbee.
“Are we widing in the caw?”
“We’re gonna go for a walk and then ride in DEAN’S car,” I told them as I locked up the house.
“Baby?” Sam asked.
“Want a ride?” Dean knelt down in front of him and patted his back. His little brother cheered and climbed up onto his back. I offered Cas a piggyback ride too, and soon enough we were hiking down through the patch of trees in my backyard.
It was a pretty quiet afternoon. A couple of birds tweeted and flew by us as we walked.
I glanced back at them as we walked. Dean was smiling. I hadn’t seen himself smile like that since he had arrived.
“When we’re done camping, do you think Dad will be home?” The toddler asked softly, sticking a hand on top of his brother’s head.
“Yeah. Sure. But we have to camp for a bit longer. Okay?” Dean’s smile faltered, but he pushed through it and reached up to pat Sammy on the back.
“Okay,” Sam said dutifully, gazing off into the trees around us.
I turned my attention to the ground, stepping over a fallen branch. I was curious about their dad, too. Other than Dean’s comment on not wanting the police to find him, I could only assume that their dad must have abandoned them. The way Dean had talked about camping made it seem more like they up and left. Or that Dean took Sam away for some reason. I’d have to ask him some other time, but their conversation wasn’t exactly selling me on leaving Dean to babysit Cas.
Cas had been quiet the entire time until then. When he saw the stream ahead of us, he kicked his feet.
“There’s the stweam! I see the caw!”
“Her name’s Baby,” Sam told him. We put the kids down and they hurried over to climb into the car. Sam gasped when he saw the broken window. He placed his hands on the car door and frowned sadly up at his brother. “What happened to Baby, Dean?”
“Señor Bear’s an asshole,” Dean muttered. He pulled open the door to the back seat and waved Sam over. “Alright. You guys get in here while we push. No opening the doors.”
“Okay!” Both toddler’s chimed as they crawled up into the pile of books and blankets. Dean shut the door and both kids stuck their heads out, smiling with excitement.
“You ready to do this?” Dean asked me. I cracked my knuckles and nodded.
- - -
“My babysitter canceled on me. What the hell am I supposed to do?” I growled, pacing outside of the garage. Dean was surveying his car, cringing at every little dent or scratch he found. He patted the car’s hood as if to comfort it. I turned away again and sighed into the phone. “Just tonight. I promise.”
“You just took a whole week off, Gabriel,” Naomi replied. “The part-timer never showed up. Get your butt in here, or you’re fired.”
Before I could say anything else, she hung up on me. I scowled at the crappy burner phone and shoved it back into my pocket. I had to work late at the diner and now my SECOND job was being a pain in my ass. I took three deep breaths. I needed sugar.
“Dean?” I turned around to face him and his precious Impala again. He was bent over the bumper with his shapely muscular ass pointed in my direction.
“Yeah?” He grunted. I quickly glanced away as he sat up.
“I, uh, I know it’s last minute, but the babysitter isn’t coming.” I looked at him again, trying to read his expression. “Could you watch Cas tonight?”
“Sure. It’s what you’re paying me for, right?” The teen turned and leaned against the car, smirking.
“Yeah.” I stepped closer and leaned on the car too. “Look. I don’t really know you. If you have any trouble with Cas — ANYTHING — call me. My new number is…” I looked around for something to write on, snagging a pen from the workbench. I jumped as Dean stuck his hand in my face. I stared at it. “What?”
“For the number.” He waggled his fingers impatiently. I gingerly took his hand and wrote the phone number along his wrist. He checked it and nodded with approval.
“I had a camera installed.” I dropped the pen back onto the workbench and jerked a thumb at the house.
“Yeah, I know. I helped the guy install it.” Dean ducked back under the car hood. I watched him for a minute, gathering the strength to leave my little brother in the hands of a total stranger.
It was nice of him to go along with my lie about the camera.
Chapter 13: Age gaps
The glitter was everywhere. It wasn’t just outside of my coveralls anymore. I imagined that my underwear looked like a sparkle bomb went off in there.
The strip club at the end of the street had been my last stop, and they must have been throwing one hell of a party. There was glitter coating everything – the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and all of the furniture. Cleaning it off the roof, I had wound up with handfuls of it falling down my shirt.
As I locked the place up, I batted some glitter off my nose. It was hard to do a good job when I couldn’t stop worrying about Cas. I had told him that he got to stay home with the other two, but he was shy. What if Dean didn’t notice when he got upset? What if Dean was actually a total asshole and Gabe had fallen for his strong quiet facade?
Thankfully there wasn’t any traffic at three in the morning. I made it back to the house in twenty minutes, with minimal speeding down the empty roads.
Since it was the middle of January, it was pretty chilly. I thought about rolling my sleeves down, but the house was about ten feet away from where I had to park my car since the garage was occupied by Dean’s Impala.
I stopped abruptly and peeked into the garage. Phew. The shiny black car was still sitting there.
Sneaking as quietly as I could into the back door, I went to check on Cas. My baby brother was curled up in bed like a little angel, dark lashes resting against his cheeks. I adjusted his blanket as I stifled a yawn. Then I perched on the edge of the bed and rested my head on the headboard.
Then it was morning.
I slipped off the side of the bed and landed on my ass on the floor.
“Gabwiel?” Cas gasped, leaning over the edge of the bed to stare at me. “Are you okay?”
I got up and cringed at the explosion of glitter that I had left on the carpet. Ugh. I turned around and scooped Castiel up, snuggling him close.
“Good morning kiddo!” He wrapped his arms around my neck as we made our way out to the kitchen. I glanced down at him. “How was last night? Did you have fun with Sam and Dean?”
“I did,” Cas said with an exaggerated nod. His face brightened with a smile. “Hi Dean!”
We found the freckled teenager standing in the kitchen. Four bowls were set out in front of him as he poured cereal, two large and two small. He looked me over slowly, quirking an eyebrow at all of the glitter.
“Mornin’ Cas.” He sat one of each bowl in front of me and presented them with a gesture. “Breakfast is served.”
At least he hadn’t commented on the glitter. I didn’t want to explain that I was a janitor. He’d lose the last tidbit of respect he might have for me.
I sat Castiel down, wondering why a bowl of cereal was better received when DEAN made it instead of me. Cas crawled up into a chair and I moved his bowl in front of him. He glanced around and then looked at Dean.
“He’s still sleeping. I’ll go get him.” Dean brushed past me, briefly resting a hand on my lower back. The sudden touch and the scent of him startled me. I watched him go and puffed out a sigh.
Get a grip, Gabe. I took my bowl and joined Cas, stirring milk into both of our bowls.
“Is it okay with you hang out with Dean today too? I gotta work a double.”
Cas nodded as he chewed, big blue eyes trying to express his approval since his mouth was full. I ruffled his hair.
Dean returned with Sam in his arms. The toddler’s eyes were still half closed as his brother dropped him gently into the chair next to Cas.
As soon as all of us were done eating, the kids went to brush their teeth...which left me and Dean alone. I wasn’t sure I could handle that with how my brain kept telling me that I found him hot.
The bruises on his face were beginning to heal as well as his busted lip. Beat up or not, Dean was distractingly nice to look at.
I stirred my cereal, risking a glance his way. He was looking at me too, crunching on a mouthful of cereal.
“So,” he began, resting his spoon on the edge of his bowl.
“So?” I turned to him. His eyes weren’t just green. They had some brown in there too. Was I staring? Yeah, I was staring. I glanced away at the wall and stuffed another bite of cereal into my mouth.
“Thanks for letting me use the garage.”
“Welcome,” I managed, still chewing.
We sat quietly for a couple of minutes, then Dean cleared his throat.
“And thanks for letting us stay here. As soon as I get Baby fixed up, we’ll be outta your hair.” He stood up to drop his bowl into the sink and I watched him go.
“You don’t have to leave.” Dean raised an eyebrow at me as I continued. “Seriously. It’s been nice to have somebody else around here. You know. Somebody who isn’t four.”
“Sam’s five. Gonna be six in May.”
“He is? Shouldn’t he be in school?” I asked, frowning.
“Sure, if we weren’t hiding out.”
I put my bowl in the sink too, leaning against the counter next to Dean. We exchanged a glance.
“Why ARE you hiding?”
The brunette turned to face me, crossing his arms over his muscular chest. He sized me up then shrugged a shoulder.
“Dad’s gone. Drank himself stupid. He upped and left after mom died. So, I took the car and drove until we ran outta gas.”
“You know, there are legal ways of taking care of your brother. How old are you?” As much as I wanted to pry about the details of his mom’s death or WHY their dad ran off, I figured I’d stick to lending a supportive ear.
“I’m 17,” Dean grumbled, pushing off the counter and making a beeline for the living room.
“You’re only 17?” I half shouted as I hurried after him. Dean turned back to me and shook his head.
“You’re not legal,” I told myself more than him.
“Legal for what?” Dean snapped, crossing his arms again.
“Uh, um, custody,” I told him quickly, averting my gaze to the floor.
Great job, Gabe. You were lusting after a minor. Now who’s the creep?
“Yeah I know that — that’s why we’re hiding! And I wasn’t exactly a great kid. I doubt they’d let me have Sammy if they took five minutes to look at my life up ‘til now.”
Our conversation was cut off by Sam and Cas charging out of the bedroom, hand in hand and big smiles on their faces. Sam was wearing a shirt with a big bee on it. The beige one. That was Cas’s favorite shirt.
“Gabwiel, can we pway outside?” Castiel asked, hopping excitedly in place.
“Uh, ask Dean. I gotta get ready to go.” I checked my watch, crouched and hugged Cas goodbye. “You be good.”
“I will,” Cas said sweetly, waving to me as I ducked into the bathroom door.
I didn’t have time to think about all the craziness going on. I had a double shift at Macleod’s to get through.
Chapter 14: Easy Money
Lazing around with a cup of coffee while the kids played felt surreal. Hell, the past two weeks felt like some wacky drug trip. First with Dad leaving, then camping in the woods in the Impala, and now staying with Gabriel.
I leaned back and glanced over the house again. It was a pretty nice place. Small and old, but nice. Gabriel must have been able to afford it since it was on the edge of town. A house that big would cost a lot in town.
I sipped on my coffee as the kids ran up to me.
“I found a snake!” Sam yelled excitedly, holding it up for me to see. It was a tiny garden snake with a red stripe down its back. I nodded to him.
“Can we keep him?” Cas asked, staring at me intently. I shook my head.
“Nope. He’s got his own life goin’ on. You gotta put him back, Sammy.”
Castiel looked sadly down at the snake, clumsily petting its head.
“It’s okay. I bet I can catch a bee!” Sam told his friend. Cas cheered and they took off across the lawn.
“Hey!” I hopped to my feet to shout after them. “No bees! It’s time for lunch. Put the snake back and go wash your hands!”
Me. A babysitter. I snorted at the thought. There’s something I’d never thought I’d be. Biker, sure. Race car driver, yeah that could be me. But a babysitter?
What the hell was Gabe? Showing up in the wee hours of the morning in a glitter coated jumpsuit was pretty weird. Stripper had been my first thought. Gabriel was a pretty hunky guy, and he had that swagger goin’ on when he wasn’t freaking out over…everything.
He didn’t seem to notice that he was hot. Hot in a ‘I could be a real asshole if I wasn’t a nice guy raising my baby brother’ kind of way. It was way easier to see him as a waiter or something, smiling all shiny eyed and offering me pie and coffee.
That was a nice mental image.
Gabriel had won me over after my pool stick beating by first HAVING a pie and secondly giving it to me in bed.
Oh. That sentence brought something else to mind…
Focus, Dean. Kids, money, car.
I herded the kids back inside and locked the back door. We'd never heard what happened to that bear after it broke into Baby. I was hoping that it got the shits from eating chocolate, the bastard.
I started setting up sandwiches. Cooking wasn’t my thing, but I could make a mean PB&J.
The kids returned, hand in hand like usual. I watched them as they settled in at the table. Sam was smiling as Cas leaned dangerously close to falling off his chair to give Sam a peck on the cheek.
I blinked as I realized what was happening. Oh boy. Lil’ old Cas had a crush on my brother. Sammy didn’t seem to mind all the snuggling or the kisses…but I wasn’t sure that Gabe wouldn’t. How was he gonna take the news that his brother might be gay? Should I tell him? Did he already know? Did it matter right now? They were just kids. It was kind of weird how nice they were.
Sammy was a nerd, but they were still boys. I expected some kind of fist fight or hitting sooner or later. So far, they were only loud when they were running around playing.
I cut the sandwiches into quarters and brought them over to the toddlers.
“What do you guys wanna do today?”
“Can we go to the park?” Sam asked, looking at Cas. The black haired boy had a mouthful of sandwich so he nodded.
“It’s hard to get there without a car.”
“What about Baby?” Sammy took a bite of his sandwich too.
“Baby isn’t fixed yet. How about we play in the house?” I suggested, looking between the two of them. I knew it was a boring suggestion, but they seemed to enjoy hanging out no matter where they were. The toddlers exchanged a glance.
“…Can we make a fowt out of the boxes?” Cas asked cutely. “Gabwiel said he’d make a fowt.”
“A box fort? Sounds awesome,” I sat back in my chair. I had this babysitting thing in the bag. Gabriel was right. It was easy money.
- - -
As I sent Sam to grab another box from Castiel’s room, I knelt down to peek into the fast growing box fort.
“Can we talk?” The little boy scooted over, looking at me with huge blue eyes. Cas looked scared. I nudged his shoulder playfully. “You like Sammy, huh?”
The toddler smiled and nodded.
“Uh huh,” I mumbled, smoothing down a piece of stray tape on the side of the box.
I didn’t plan on us sticking around forever. It took two cups of coffee to get my brain working to realize that separating the toddlers was gonna be miserable.
Sammy didn’t have any friends even before we took off and I assumed Cas didn’t either. It was easy to understand why they got along with the similar events in their lives.
Both of them were being raised by their older brothers, they were only a year apart in age, they both liked books and nature. It was sort of cute how dorky they were. We’d have to visit or something.
“Do you like Gabwiel?”
I glanced at Cas. He was staring intently at me. I nodded.
“Your brother’s cool.”
“Awe you going to kiss him?”
“Uh no,” I said quickly, settling onto my butt on the floor. I checked to see if Sam was back then leaned closer to Cas. “Does your brother do that? Does he kiss boys?”
The toddler pursed his lips, thinking it over really hard. Then he shook his head.
“I don’t think so.” He crawled out of the box fort and perched on my leg. I supported him with a hand, completely caught off guard that the kid would want to be near me. He wouldn’t let me touch him yesterday. Cas rested a small hand on my shoulder and looked at me very seriously. “But he said some boys do that.”
“Some do, but I don’t. So, if Gabriel doesn’t and I don’t — we’re not going to kiss.”
What the hell was I doing? Gabe should be telling him all this crap. I had tried to have a similar conversation with Sammy, but that hadn’t gone well. He just sort of shut down, blushed and squirmed in his seat until I let him go back to reading. Maybe ‘cause I had tried to start the conversation with an underwear catalog.
“Pwease?” Cas asked sadly.
“What?” I sputtered. I picked him up and settled him onto the carpet next to me instead of on my lap, shaking my head. I felt my cheeks growing hot. “What? WHY? Why would you want us to KISS?”
Chapter 15: Juggling Act
“Oh. Oh wow,” Charlie mumbled, sliding a hand up to play with her short coppery curls. “Um, I don’t mean this in a bad way, but I t-thought you were gay.”
I stared at her with the coffee carafe still in hand. After spending all damn day watching her and trying to come up with a pickup line that didn’t sound like something from a porno, she had shot me down when I had just been honest. I had just wanted one thing to go good today!
“I’m not gay,” I assured her quickly. I dropped the coffee carafe onto the table.
“Well, I am,” the redhead chimed in, blushing and looking away from me.
“Oh.” I bit my lip. SHE was gay? Was that an excuse not to have me as an option, or was I just that rusty at reading people? Charlie being a lesbian would explain all the flannel…
“I’m sorry. Really! You seem like a nice guy!”
“Hey, don’t worry about it.” I topped off her coffee, gave her a tight smile and retreated back across the busy cafe to the cook’s counter.
I wouldn’t have had the time to date anyway. What the hell was I thinking? One-night stands even seemed like a bad idea. Cas was a nosy kid. He’d ask questions, and that was one conversation I wasn’t ready to have.
“That went well,” Kali said sweetly, arriving at my side with a plate of half eaten tatties. “I’m gay too, Gabriel. That’s why I’m with Crowley. He’s such a Queen.”
“I heard that.” Crowley poked his head around the corner of the kitchen pass through, smirking smugly. “We’ve got guests waiting. Chop chop.” He pushed a plate of steaming food at Kali. The dark haired beauty took it happily, sauntering off.
I watched her go with a frown. Yep. Her ass was still hot.
“Gabriel.” The sound of my name made me turn my attention back to my boss. Crowley was still smirking. “I know you still have a thing for Kali. She still has a fondness for you, too. She likes men she can abuse in bed.” He added a wink as his hand slid over to rest on top of mine. I glanced at it and then back up at him. “So do I.”
I laughed and yanked my hand away.
“No thanks. You’re not my type. And you might be an asshole that’s okay with cheating on her, but I’m not. Even though it’s, well, HER.”
“Who said anything about cheating? It’d be the three of us, angel.”
I bit the tip of my tongue hard enough to hurt. Was he freaking serious? Having a three-way with my ex and my BOSS? Kali probably gave him the idea in the first place. I remembered one drunken night where I told her I had a thing for Crowley. She must have told him about it. Oh good. They talked about me.
Don’t say anything to get yourself fired, Gabriel, I told myself over and over again as I collected a breakfast plate and a fresh carafe of coffee from the counter.
I didn’t bother to give Crowley a response. I still had to be here until nine so he and Kali could have a DATE. I took a slow breath as I headed back out into the diner. If I didn’t desperately need this job, I’d burn the damn diner down to the ground, preferably with Crowley and Kali inside.
- - -
How was I both sweating and cold? I closed the back door quietly. It was well after nine and I didn’t want to wake the kids up if Dean had managed to get them to sleep. I came around the corner and stopped mid step at the sight in the living room.
A hulking fort made out of boxes had been built in the middle of the room. It was up to the ceiling with little windows cut out of the towers. I gawked as my eyes followed it down from the roof to the floor.
Laying in front of it was Dean, a toddler tucked up under each arm as they all lay there sleeping on a pile of colorful pillows and blankets. Mister Buzzbee was laying on his lap, tucked halfway under the blankets like another child.
My mind finally came out of its haze and I frantically took out my new phone. Thank god I had gotten a real phone with a camera!
I snapped two pics before I noticed Dean was awake in the next picture. I glanced up and found him staring at me sleepily.
“Hey,” he grunted.
“Hey.” I shoved my phone away and pointed to my bedroom as I headed that way. “Just changing.”
I cringed as Dean crawled out of the blanket pile, leaving the kids groggily looking around.
“What the hell are you doing?” I said between my teeth.
“We gotta talk,” Dean whispered.
“Gabwiel?” Cas asked with a tiny yawn. He crawled out of the pile and came over to hug my leg. They were awake now. I sighed and stooped to pick Cas up.
“Hey sport. Did you have fun?”
“We made a fort!” Sam chimed in as he charged out of bed to stop at my feet.
“That’s awesome. Look guys, I gotta go to work—”
“But you just got back!” Cas cut in, blue eyes instantly hurt. I swallowed nervously. Noooooo. The last thing I needed after today was to leave Cas crying while I went off to scrub up nastiness.
“I work two jobs, remember? I did one, now I gotta go to the other.”
“What IS your other job? Glitter inspector?” Dean asked sarcastically. I looked him in the eye and nodded.
“Yeah. I’m a Glitter Inspector,” I told the kids. “If I don’t go back to work, they’ll never know who took the glitter.”
Dean rolled his eyes as I sat Cas back onto the floor.
“You guys need to go to bed.”
“Can we sleep in the fowt?” Cas asked, clinging to me. I went to stand, but he had a death grip on my shirt.
“Yeah. Sure.” I gently pried his fingers off, but he moved to hug my arm instead.
“Can you wowk tomowwow instead?”
“No, I gotta work now.” I picked him up and handed him off to Dean, who looked equally pissy about me leaving. He braced Cas on his hip.
“Dude, seriously. We need to talk. Sans the kids.”
“We will! Tomorrow,” I snapped, ducking away into the bedroom. Thank God I didn’t have a scheduled start time as a janitor. Just scheduled hours. Ugh.
After the day of failures I had had, cleaning up other people’s filth sounded like a meditation session. Just me and my mop. It’d be just my luck if I passed out from exhaustion in a puddle of strawberry flavored glitter. Yes, the glitter was flavored.
Chapter 16: Boss Man
“If you kiss, you’we mawwied and you’ll stay forevew, wight?”
The toddler’s silly way of thinking floated through my mind as I pushed open the door to his room.
“Cas? Time to wake up…” I trailed off as I spotted Gabriel perched on the side of the kid’s bed, out like a light and snoring with his head back. Similar to the day before, he was dusted with glitter. It wasn't nearly as thick as yesterday, but it still made me wonder. I chuckled. Seemed like that was his routine after working the night shift. It wasn’t like he could sleep in his bed with me there.
Well, he could…nope. Not gonna think about that. I cleared my throat.
“Hey. Time to get up, guys. Breakfast is getting cold.”
Gabriel’s snoring cut off as he sat his head up. He blinked unevenly and mumbled something. I crossed my arms and tried to push away the thought of how cute it was to see the man sleeping.
“Cereal can’t get cold. It gets mushy.” The blond man muttered. He looked like he hadn’t slept much last night. Must have been a busy night at his ‘night job.’
“Are you a stripper?” I asked frankly.
“Shh, jeez!” He climbed to his feet, checking on his baby brother. Cas was still sleeping peacefully, his plush bee hugged close in his arms. Gabe turned to me. “I’m a janitor around the mall. Okay? I scrub floors. It’s not glamorous, but it pays the bills.”
“So, you smell like strawberries and are COVERED in glitter because you’re a janitor?” I saw his jaw tighten as he gave me a nod. “Uh huh. Right.”
- - -
Breakfast was cereal again. Not that I was complaining. All of my favorite foods were carbs coated in sugar. With how crappy I felt, I wouldn’t have said no to an actual bowl full of sugar. I knew that I had a fever, I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. That meant I was getting sick. Getting sick meant the chance of missing work. With Kali and Crowley dating, I felt like my job was already leaning over the edge of a cliff.
One little push and I’d wind up jobless like Dean. Speaking of him…
I glanced his way. He had borrowed more clothes from my closet – a sweatshirt from back in college that had the slogan ‘Ladies’ Man’ written on the back in gold letters. Those were the days.
I stirred my bowl again, trying to ignore the fact that my head felt like it was being squeezed from the pressure building in my ears.
I didn’t wanna be sick. I had shit to do. Two jobs, a kid to care for, a hot guy to avoid. Being sick meant being home and home was where DEAN was. I pouted and dumped a spoonful of milk back into the bowl.
Dean was pretty quiet through breakfast, so I was caught off guard when he finally spoke to me.
“What time do you work?”
I checked my phone screen.
“In half an hour. Why?”
“I told you earlier — we gotta talk.”
“About what? Me being a stripper?” I added dubiously. Dean shook his head.
“You said you’d pay me to babysit. When’s payday?” The handsome teenager took a seat next to me and rested an elbow on the table. “Baby needs some parts.”
Good gravy. Those freckles. Those eyelashes. Those EYES.
Those eyes narrowed as he stared back at me.
“Are you sick?”
“What? No. I’m not sick.” I turned back to my bowl and stirred it some more.
“Your voice sounds weird, you look half dead and your eye bags have their own carry on luggage.”
“Payday is in three days. I’ll pay you once I get paid. 'Kay? Cool.” I got up and stumbled over nothing, catching myself on the sink and shattering my bowl in the bottom. Milk splashed me in the face and I sighed.
“You’re sick,” Dean concluded somewhere behind me.
“No, I just need coffee.”
- - -
“Gabriel, coffee isn’t a cure all. You’re still going to be sick after your second cup.”
I glared at Crowley and took a long drink from my cup. My face felt hot and my nose was starting to run. If I had been a rich man, I would have been high on cold meds by then.
We had opened an hour ago, but like every Saturday morning, it was dead. It’d pick up around eleven, after everyone got done sleeping off their hangovers.
God. It had been years since I had had a hangover. I missed it. The exhaustion. The regret. The hatred of everything. The vomiting—
I gagged at the thought.
“Don’t you dare,” Crowley growled sharply as he sat a plate on the pass through. He circled around through the kitchen door. “This is a high class establishment.”
High class my ass, I thought bitterly. The smell of the food wasn’t agreeing with my stomach. A cool hand came to rest on the small of my back and I flinched.
“Why don’t just you go home?” Crowley said smoothly, guiding me to face the door. I pushed him away.
“So you can fire me? Nope. Not happening.”
“Why in the world would I fire you?” The cook said with a roll of his hazel eyes. “You work like a dog, you show up on time and you let me walk all over you so I can date your lovely ex girlfriend. Don’t be daft. It’s a marvelous deal.” He took the cup of coffee out of my hand and sat it aside. “Now go home, angel.”
I wanted to throw a fit about it, but I was too tired. I hated it when he called me angel. I didn’t want him touching me, and I was extremely close to punching him in his stupid sexy face.
I gathered my stuff from my locker and went to find my car. Crowley had a point. As long as I cooperated, my job was secure. He was the boss and he wanted me to go home. Fine. I could do that. At least I didn’t have to be near him and Kali all damn day.
Chapter 17: Sick Day
“Hello?” I called tiredly as I pushed the front door open. I hung my coat up on the hooks behind the door and turned to find Dean staring me down, his muscular arms crossed over his chest.
Why was the 17 year old more muscular than me?
“You got sent home,” he stated, a smirk tugging at the corner of his perfect lips.
“Yup,” I muttered. I brushed past him and ducked into my room to change. Dean followed me, hovering in the doorway. I ditched my black vest and tie and started unbuttoning my shirt when I noticed Dean was still there. I stopped on the last few buttons and stared him down. “Yeah?”
“Nothing,” he mumbled, disappearing back out the door.
…Was he blushing?
I dismissed it as wishful thinking as I changed into a pair of red pajamas and retreated to the couch with a blanket. The kids were playing in the cardboard fort that Dean had made, laughing and barreling through the tunnels.
I crawled onto the couch, smiling as Sam peeked out of one side of the fort to look for Cas. He looked so happy compared to the first time I met him.
My train of thought was derailed as Dean took the blanket out of my arms and spread it over me. I frowned up at him.
“Shut up. You want tea?”
Something warm would probably help with the pressure in my head, but I wasn’t about to let Dean take care of me. I was the one who took care of people!
“I can get it—”
“Gabwiel?” Cas gasped as he came out of one of the box fort’s doors. He hurried over and leaned against the couch, tiny hands grabbing my arm. “Awe you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.”
“You sound funny.” The toddler crawled up the side of the couch and sat himself on my lap, big blue eyes gawking at me with concern. I patted his head.
“I’m alright, kiddo. I just got a bit of a cold.”
“Tea it is,” Dean said, heading off to the kitchen. I frowned after him.
I was paying him to watch the kids, not me.
- - -
By noon, Gabriel was starting to cough and had gone through half a box of tissues. I tried to keep the kids away from him in Castiel’s room, but Cas came out to check on his brother every time he coughed too loudly.
The toddler was just heading back to his room again when I arrived with soup. It was canned soup, but hey. Sick people needed soup, right?
I watched as Sammy put a hand on Cas’s shoulder and led him back into the room, comforting him quietly. It was cute, but sooner or later I’d have to tell Gabriel. Hopefully mister ‘I’m a big boy’ wasn’t homophobic.
I sat the soup down on the coffee table and poked at the blanket ball that was Gabe. The blond man lifted his head out of the wad of blankets and stared at me through bleary eyes.
“Wow. You look like shit,” I said, plunking down on the other side of the couch.
“Aw, love you too, pumpkin,” Gabriel grumbled as he reached for the soup.
“Uh, speaking of love.” I cleared my throat. Gabe looked over at me like a deer in the headlights. “I’m not homophobic or anything, but I’ve noticed something—”
“Whoa, hey. We don’t need to talk about it.” The man dropped his soup back onto the table and held up his hands. “We don’t need to talk about it. Seriously.”
“Yeah we do.”
“No we don’t—” The blond argued, shaking his head.
“They’re kids now, but we gotta talk to ‘em.”
Gabriel stared at me, quirking an eyebrow. He slowly lowered his hands.
I scooted closer and lowered my voice.
“Cas has a thing for Sammy. He keeps kissing him.”
“Oh.” The blond thought it over, eyebrows lowering. “Huh.”
“Sammy and I aren’t gonna be around here forever.”
Gabriel’s frown turned sad as he gave a little nod, his soft eyes glancing away from me.
“Yeah. I know. I don’t think about it.”
I watched him as he picked up his soup again and sipped it. It was hard to tell if that comment was about the kids…or about me. I got up and went back to the kitchen. Another cup of coffee was in order.
I needed time to think.
- - -
Cas was going to be heartbroken. Now that I thought about it, Dean was right. My baby brother had been sneaking kisses onto Sammy’s cheek since they met. It was hard to tell if Sammy returned his feelings. The brunette was pretty quiet. Just Cas’s type it seemed. His first crush. Ouch.
I blew my nose for what felt like the millionth time and huddled back into the couch arm.
For a split second, I had thought Dean noticed me checking him out. Then again, someone that hot probably got checked out all the time. Maybe he was blind to it by now.
“Gabwiel?” Cas asked softly, a hand resting on my back. I shifted back around and smiled at him. The little boy’s eyes were teary as he climbed up onto me again, clumsily lifting the blanket edge to join me. I hugged him and rubbed his back.
“Can Sammy and I have a sweepovew?”
“Uh…Cas, little man, we gotta talk.”
Chapter 18: House Rules
I'm sorry this update took so long! I was moving to a new apartment and then the 4th of July hit like a bomb. Don't worry! I haven't forgotten about these guys!
I sprinted back into the house, grabbing the edge of the door to fly around the corner into the living room. I panted as I saw that no one was dying.
“Hey, hey! What’s going on here?” I asked Sammy as I approached the couch. Gabriel and the toddlers were all sitting in front of the couch and both kids were in tears. Sam turned and threw his arms around my legs dramatically. I sat a hand on his head and stared Gabriel down as he started talking.
“All I said was that they can’t date.”
The sobbing from Sam grew in volume as I slapped a hand to my forehead.
“Seriously? They’re little kids.”
“Exactly! They’re little kids! They can’t DATE!” The blond man stood up from the couch unsteadily, abandoning his blanket. I stuck a hand out to catch him in case he tipped over.
“We wewe going to go to the pawk and pway! And-and-and get ice cweam!” Castiel managed through sniffles, also running over to hug my leg. I stared at the kids and then back at Gabriel.
“Not until you’re 16,” Gabriel stated in a fatherly tone.
“They’re five years old—” I began.
“Cas is four!”
“Not my point!” I hissed, leaning closer and lowering my voice to reason with him. “You really think they’re gonna know dating means ANYTHING else when they’re this little?”
“You’d be amazed what I knew when I was five!” Gabe growled back. “You said you were worried about attachment…” He gestured pointedly to the two crying kids.
He was right. The closer we let them get, the worse it would be when Sammy and I finally hit the road again. I glanced down and caught Sam staring up at me with big tear-filled eyes.
“Come on. It’ll be nice to get outta the house,” I said, not believing the words as I said them. Every second we were outside, we were at risk of being recognized. Well, if dad had even bothered to report us missing.
“Maybe this weekend,” Gabriel muttered, coughing into his hand. He sighed and gave in, kneeling down to hold his arms out to Cas. “Okay, okay. One date. No kissing, only one ice cream a piece.”
Cas dove into his arms, hugging him like his life depended on it. He didn’t say anything. He just hugged his brother tightly.
- - -
I called work early in the morning to tell Crowley I was coming in, but the chef refused after he heard me talk. I apparently sounded like the ‘love child of gravel and mucus.’
However, I wasn’t a health care concern when I was scrubbing floors, so I sneaked off to work when Dean went to take a shower.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up on my face in the front of Tito’s Burgers. Someone was knocking on the door, a frown of concern on her face. She worked there, judging by the blazing yellow polo shirt she had on.
I rolled to get up, groaning as the pressure in my head made my teeth hurt. My nose ran down my face and the only part of me that felt like it wasn’t burning from a fever was my face since it had been pressed to the freshly mopped tile floor. I waved a hand at the woman and hurriedly pushed my mop bucket away as she unlocked the front door.
I only vaguely remembered driving home as I pulled up to my house. It was just getting light. But Dean was waiting for me in the doorway. I held up a hand as I swayed to a stop in front of him.
“I shouldn’t have gone to work. I know. Don’t—”
“No shit! Is that where you were? What the HELL is wrong with you?”
“Well, I guess I passed out at some point.”
“Passed out?” Dean sputtered. He stomped out next to me and hauled me inside. I had to admire how strong he was. Damn those muscles.
He shoved me at the couch and I fell on my ass, coughing angrily. The teen started untying my boots while he grumbled under his breath. I only caught a couple of words. Something about disappearing in the night. He grabbed both my legs and dropped them onto the couch, raking a blanket over me in his care-taking fury. I lowered the edge to look at him miserably.
“Whatever,” Dean snapped. He turned on his heel and marched off to the kitchen, no doubt to find another can of soup.
I sank back into the couch and stared at the ceiling. Even after sleeping on the floor in the mall, I was exhausted. I closed my eyes and let my mind drift.
It drifted to Dean’s face. That pissed off expression he had when I got home. It hadn’t occurred to me until then that Dean actually seemed worried about me. All the huffing and puffing was a cover for that tiny quirk of concern on his face. I smiled as I started to drift off.
Chapter 19: Sleepover
I frowned as I stirred the soup in the pot, watching the chunks of chicken and noodles as they clung to the spoon. I wasn’t much of a cook. Sammy and I ate whatever garbage we got at convenience stores even before we ran away from dad. Well. WE didn’t do anything — I did. I took Sam, stole Baby and drove. It was the first time I had ever gone against what dad told me to do.
I never doubted him for a minute growing up. He was strong and smart and taught me all kinds of neat tricks. Like how to hustle people at pool.
Then mom died.
I grabbed a bright red bowl from the kitchen cabinet, pushing away the painful thoughts. I poured the soup carefully and started slowly toward the living room.
I had to decide what the endgame was, here. If Gabriel came through and paid me, should I throw that money at fixing Baby? With the damage that damned Señor Bear did, it’d probably take me months to save up enough.
I could go back to playing pool at the local watering hole, but those assholes that beat me up last time might make good on the threat of killing me. I was tough and I knew it. Five versus one wasn’t exactly good odds, though.
As I came into view with the soup, Gabriel glanced my way. He seemed to be feeling better after sleeping the day away.
“Yep.” I handed the soup off to him, daring to put a hand on his forehead to check his temperature. He looked up at me while I did so, soft brown eyes twinkling.
“Is this what being married is like? I could get used to it.” He chuckled, coughing into the sleeve of his cozy looking red pajamas.
I chose not to comment and circled around him to sit on the couch. As the blond man coughed and ate his soup, I thought over my options some more.
“I know you said that you’d pay me,” I began, shifted to face him. “But I gotta work. Baby’s pretty beat up. I’m not gonna be able to fix her on a baby sitter’s salary.”
Gabe swallowed his mouthful of soup and frowned at me.
“By work, do you mean hustle people at pool?”
I rolled my eyes.
“I mean whatever work I can get. I can’t hang around here forever.”
“…Why not?” Gabriel said, dropping his gaze to his soup. He tilted the bowl to stir it, frown turning sad. “Cas and Sam get along, we’re by the edge of town and we’ve got a whole house here. You can stay if you want to.”
I had considered it before, but it felt good to hear him say it out loud. Gabe wasn’t a bad guy. If something happened to me, maybe just MAYBE Sam would have someone other than dad to go home to.
I smiled at him.
“Thanks, but I think we better keep moving.”
Gabriel nodded, taking another sip of his soup. He looked sad. Was he sad for his little brother…or would he miss me?
I brushed that thought away too, getting up from the couch. I didn’t have time for people…especially people I kind of sort of MAYBE liked a little teeny tiny bit. I waved a hand at him as I left.
“Just tell me if you find another baby sitter.”
- - -
“And Mr. Buzzbee,” Dean said nicely, tucking the plush bee in beside Cas. My little brother smiled brightly and snuggled the doll. The kids were side by side in makeshift blanket sleeping bags in Castiel’s old tepee. He hadn’t used it since he was two, but man was he eager to show it off to Sam.
“No problem, buddy.” The teen crawled back from the door of the small tepee, admiring the cheerful animals printed on the outside with a smirk.
I hugged my blanket closer around my shoulders and knelt down to look in at the kids.
“You guys got your snacks?”
“Yeah!” Sammy cheered, holding up a baggy of cheddar cheese ducky crackers.
“Stwawbewwy kiwi!” Cas held up the small box of juice packets.
“Alright. Have fun. Don’t stay up too late, okay?” I got up as Cas helped Sam zip the tepee’s door closed.
“Okay!” The kids said in unison as the door sealed.
WHY the kids wanted to have a sleepover when they lived in the same house was beyond my groggy brain. I had to wonder what Cas had in mind with the sleepover and then the whole date fiasco. Hopefully he was a more innocent kid than I ever was…
As I crawled miserably back into my nest of blankets on the couch, Dean cleared his throat. He hovered next to the couch.
“You uh, you can sleep in your room. I-I mean, I can sleep out here on the couch,” he explained shyly. I blinked slowly.
Was he blushing?
I stared at him for a long moment and then pointed to the television.
“TV’s out here. I’m good.”
“Right. Okay.” Dean turned on his heel and ducked into my room. I watched him go.
Then I followed him. I knocked lightly on the door and waited.
The freckled teen pulled the door open and we sat staring at each other for a minute. His cheeks were pink again as he asked.
“Change your mind about the couch?”
Chapter 20: Ups and Downs
I leaned on the outside of the door frame, hugging my blanket closer around me.
“You’re not really going to pack up and leave. Right?” I asked Dean, too tired to keep how sad the thought was off of my face.
He crossed his arms, leaning on the door frame too. He seemed surprised that I was asking, and took a second to come up with a reply.
“We can’t stay here forever.”
I nodded, lowering my gaze to the floor. Did he think he wasn’t welcome or was he still running from his phantom dad? I knew a bit about irresponsible fathers.
“Cas was one when dad decided he couldn’t handle life anymore.”
Dean frowned as I continued after a cough.
“I know how scary it is to take care of a kid on your own, is all I’m saying. I get it. You wanna keep him safe — but cruising around in a car until you run out of gas again doesn’t sound like much of a life. Who knows where you’ll end up next time.” I held out a hand toward him. “Stay here. Just until you’re 18. I’ll help you file for custody and walk ya through it. Then you can drive off.”
The freckled man looked down at my hand, still frowning. Then he shook his head.
“…I’m sorry,” he mumbled sadly. With that, Dean stepped back inside the bedroom and closed the door.
I stood there for a moment. I had to keep trying. The car was still too much of a mess to drive off. I should send Señor Bear a thank you card.
- - -
“I wasn’t drunk! I was SICK!” I shouted into the phone for the fourth time. Naomi snorted.
“Just turn in your uniform.”
“I’m gonna BURN it!” I snapped as she hung up.
Fired. I had been FIRED.
I didn’t have much time to fume over it. I had to get to Macleod’s. Before that, though, was swinging by Cas’s room to check on him and Sammy.
I knelt in front of the tepee and carefully unzipped the door. The kids were cuddled up inside, Mister Buzzbee wedged between them. Cas glanced my way sleepily.
“Hey bro. I gotta go to work. Be good, alright?”
“I will,” Cas said sweetly. I was going to close the door when he crawled over Sam to give me a hug. I hugged him back, settling onto the floor. He was still half asleep. I smiled as I brushed his hair out of his eyes.
I had been so pissed when I came into the room. It surprised me how fast it fizzled out from a hug. I snuggled my little bro and sighed. He was the reason I was doing all this shit. I needed to remember that more often.
“Awe you bettew?” Cas asked, still holding me.
“Oh yeah. I'm 100%, dude,” I lied nicely, ruffling his hair. I sat him back into the tent carefully. “I gotta run. See you later?” I held out a hand and Cas slapped it softly.
- - -
My head was reeling. I squeezed my eyes tight to try and stop it. More coffee. Yeah. That would help.
A hand on the small of my back made me flinch. I spun and found Crowley at my side, looking at me suspiciously.
“You know Gabriel, Macleod’s is a classy place. We pride ourselves on good service and friendly faces.” His hand slid down my back and I pushed it away before he got slapped with a sexual harassment charge. Crowley continued as if nothing happened. “So, when one of my employees isn’t smiling and is secretly COUGHING in the back room, it hurts business. What’s wrong, angel?”
“Stop calling me that,” I muttered, resting an arm on the counter. The day had been a blur so far. We were swamped. I didn’t have time to explain my life woes to my boss. “I’ve got some stuff going on.”
“You’ve spilled two cups of coffee.”
“I had a late night.”
“You tipped a plate of toast into the fryer,” he listed casually.
“I…I need more coffee.”
“Face it, Gabriel — you’re still sick. Go home.”
“I can’t,” I snapped, grabbing a tray of food off of the counter. I balanced it on one hand and snagged a coffee carafe too. “I just…”
I lowered my voice.
“I just got fired from my other job. I need the hours.”
The shorter man wrinkled his nose and reached to take the tray from me. He sat it aside as I stubbornly hugged the coffee pot. Crowley drummed his fingers on the counter top and sighed.
“I’m a business man,” he began. I closed my eyes and braced myself. I shouldn’t have told him. What if he took it as a sign I was a bad worker? What if he knew Naomi?
“I know. I’m not asking for overtime, here. I just want forty hours a week,” I said quickly. I was exhausted but Cas needed me to work. He deserved a freaking house and someone who gave a damn about him. Dad was gone, Dean was leaving — so that left ME. “I’ll work nights. Doubles. Whatever. Please.” I added the last as my heart sank. I really wanted to throw in a ‘please don’t fire me’ but I was already sounding pathetic.
Crowley jerked the coffee carafe from my arms and sat it aside too.
“I’m not FIRING you, Gabriel. Bloody hell.” He turned back to me and sighed. “I meant what I said before. You’re a good worker. Better than Gadreel. Better than Kali — maybe even as sexy.” He put a hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye. “Go home. Take a few days off. Don’t come back until Monday. After that, we’ll work out a new schedule. Deal?”
“Yes. It’s a deal,” I managed, suddenly overwhelmed by the man’s unexpected kindness. I could have kissed him!
Chapter 21: Double Date
Friday went by in a blur after I went home from Macleod’s. I remembered dozing on the couch for the rest of the day before finally falling asleep around 8pm.
“Hey.” Dean’s voice cut through the dream I was having about falling off a balcony. When I opened my eyes, I found the sexy young man standing over me with a plate of waffles in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. “Hungry?”
I rolled in my tangled blankets and took both offerings from him.
“Welcome,” he replied coolly, taking a seat on the couch near my feet. I took a long drink of coffee and laid back against the couch arm. Oh. That was good bean juice.
Dean cleared his throat. I lifted my head to look at him.
“So, it’s Saturday. Cas and Sammy are all revved up to go to the park.”
“They’re awake? What time is it?” I mumbled, scooping a sticky waffle up and shoving it into my mouth. It crunched delightfully, letting out a burst of syrup like a sponge.
Oh heavenly sugar. The one friend I could count on.
“It’s eleven thirty. Dude, you’ve been zonked out since last night. You need to drink some water.”
“Okay, dear,” I quipped, cramming the other half of the waffle into my mouth. There was no way Dean cooked these. They must have been freezer waffles.
Dean stood up and tucked his hands into his pockets, flexing those gorgeous biceps. I gulped my food down as I realized he was smirking at me.
Smirking. At. Me.
He didn’t make any comment, though, instead sauntering off back into the kitchen. I watched him go. Damn those jeans fit nice.
I sank down into the couch and sipped my coffee some more.
Stop creeping on the teenager, Gabe. It's SUPER tacky.
- - -
It was a bright sunny day outside. It was a little jarring in comparison to my dark, cozy blanket wad.
As I released a squirming Cas from his car seat, he ran around the car to where Sam was.
“Sammy! I think I see a bee!”
“What?” The other toddler gasped. Dean sat him down and Cas immediately took his hand to lead him away.
I locked the car and hurried after them.
“Hey! Remember what I said about catching bees!”
“Okay!” They said in unison, charging off to a patch of flowers. Ugh. I was too tired for this shit. Dean and I found an unoccupied picnic table to sit at near the sidelines. There were quite a few other people there and it made me nervous. I probably looked like crap with my puffy eyes and red nose. Whatever. I wasn’t there to pick up single moms — I was there to watch Cas go on his first date ever.
The two boys were sitting among the flowers, smiling and chatting. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but it was a cute sight.
I dug my phone out of my pocket and aimed it their way. They didn’t notice, so I zoomed in a bit and snapped a pic. It was super cute. Might even become my new wallpaper!
I turned to show Dean and found that he was distracted by a small ice cream cart that was set up in the middle of the park. It had a huge picture of a classic ice cream, with a waffle cone and three different colored scoops on top.
I had to admit it looked good.
“Hey Cas! Sam!” I called to the kids, waving a hand. They looked my way and I gestured to the cart. “You ready for ice cream?”
“YEAH!” They cheered.
A few minutes later, ice cream in hand, the kids ran ahead to the play set. It had a swing, a slide, some tunnels to crawl around in and a big surprisingly empty sandbox. All were great ways to let the kids burn off the globs of sugar they were eating.
All the benches around the play area were occupied, so Dean and I settled on the edge of the sandbox. He was busy eating his own ice cream cone and didn’t notice as I averted my gaze. Watching him lick things was a bad idea while we were in public…
“No!” I heard Sam shout suddenly. Both of us spun around to see what the fuss way about.
A little girl with dark hair in pigtails had smacked Sam’s ice cream out of his hand down into the sandbox. It took me a second to recognize her. It was Hannah, Cas’s friend from daycare. She was crying, tiny hands balled into fists.
“Cas is my boyfwiend! He is!” She cried sadly.
As Sam’s face scrunched into a frown, Cas stepped in front to defend him.
“No I’m not! I told you Sam was weal!”
Unable to come up with a reply in actual words, Hannah sniffled and ran off, pigtails flinging out behind her.
“Cas! What the hell, man?” I stepped into the sandbox and knelt by him. My little brother was crying too now, turning and giving Sam a clumsy hug. Sammy hugged him back, also in tears.
“She h-hit my ice cream!” He cried as Dean joined us.
“Aw, it’s okay buddy. You can have mine, okay?” He held the cone out to Sam and the toddler took it sadly. He gave it a tentative lick and sniffled.
“You can have mine too, Sam.” Cas was quick to peck his cheek with a kiss and offer his ice cream too. Sam shook his head sadly.
“I’m okay, Cas.”
“Kiddo, you gotta go apologize to her. She really liked you!” I told Castiel.
“She’s mean!” Sam stated, hugging Cas with his free arm.
“No, she’s upset.” I held out my hand to my bro and stood up. “Come on. Let’s go find her.”
Reluctantly, Cas slipped his hand into mine. He stuck out his bottom lip in a pout as I lifted him out of the sandbox. I handed my ice cream off to Dean, who looked at me like I'd handed him a hundred bucks.
“We’ll be back,” I told them.
The park was small. It wouldn’t take us long to find Hannah. I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain changing relationship dynamics to a toddler, but I felt kinda bad for her. She and Cas had gotten along pretty well before Sam entered the picture. It was obvious that she had a crush on him since day one.
Then Cas went and cheated on her. Yikes.
Chapter 22: Young Love
“She nevew said I was hew boyfwiend,” Cas protested again as we walked. We still hadn’t found where Hannah had run off to.
“Well, sometimes you don’t need to say it. You just know.”
My little brother shifted in my arms, making his half melted ice cream ooze onto the sleeve of my jacket. I glanced at it and sighed.
“I know that I’m Sammy’s boyfwiend,” Castiel stated. He said it like it was as obvious as the sky being blue.
“You don’t know that, Cas. Come on man. You’re too little to know that kinda stuff.”
“You said I know!”
“Uh, yeah — I meant…” I stopped walking and sat Cas down on the ground, staying crouched in front of him. “Cas. How the hell am I gonna explain this?” I wondered out loud. My little bro stared up at me expectantly, eyebrows caught in a cute frown. I knew that look. He was ready for a fight. I plunked down on the edge of the sidewalk, patting the space next to me. “Sit down for a sec.”
Castiel did so clumsily, balancing his disintegrating ice cream cone in one hand.
“You said a bad wowd.”
“Yeah, sorry bro. Okay.” I slapped my hands on my knees and tried to gather my thoughts. “It’s okay to like Sam. But you guys are really little. You’re gonna grow and change and maybe someday you and Sammy aren’t going to be close. People change.”
I glanced his way and caught tears forming in those huge blue eyes, so I quickly continued, “OR, you two could be in love for the rest of your lives. All that. My point is that YOU might know he’s your boyfriend — but you don’t know what Sam thinks. Maybe he doesn’t like boys.”
Was I still talking about Cas and Sam? I told myself that I was.
Cas was trying to process what I had said, staring sadly down at his ice cream cone. He sniffled.
“I wike boys.”
I put a hand on his back and sighed. I had totally botched that explanation.
“Did you like Hannah?”
Cas looked up at me, tears spilling down his cheeks as he shook his head.
“Okay, okay.” I scooped him up and started back through the park. The poor kid was jacked up on sugar and emotions that were WAY too big for him.
- - -
Being at the park with Sammy was surreal. It was a painfully normal bright sunny day. I kept glancing around, afraid that every passerby might be Dad. In reality, he was probably drunk somewhere and couldn’t give a shit.
“When you fix up Baby…are we going to leave?”
I glanced back at Sam when he spoke. He had finished off my ice cream, which left me to eat Gabriel’s. I mean, hey. It was melting. I couldn’t let it go to waste.
“Hm? Yeah. Of course.”
The toddler stared back at me and gave a small nod.
“…Do we have to?”
“Well, yeah. We gotta keep moving. You know that.” I put an arm over his shoulders and hugged him closer.
“Can I stay?” Sammy asked, looking up at me again. “Cas said I could sleep in his room.”
“Yeah, about Cas…” I cleared my throat. “You know he’s into you, right?” Sam’s cheeks flushed a bit and he shrunk down under my arm. “How do you feel about him?”
When my brother didn’t reply, I leaned to look him in the eye. He fidgeted.
“I like him.”
“You do? You do. Huh.”
“He likes books,” Sam started, smiling suddenly. “He said he’d protect me—”
“Protect you? From what?”
Again, Sammy shrunk, glancing up at me with big shiny eyes.
“From the monsters.”
“Sam…” I took a breath.
“He didn’t even get scared! He said he’d fight them!” The toddler explained, hopping to his feet.
“Sammy, there are no monsters! Dad wasn’t thinking right. Okay?” Sam nodded quickly and I pulled him over for a hug. I hadn’t meant to yell at the kid.
Great. Hopefully Cas didn’t pass that monster part along to Gabe. He might think that crazy ran in the family. Hopefully I could fix the Impala before that happened.
- - -
I let out a breath of relief when I saw Sam and Dean waiting where we had left them. Dean had Sam carried on his back and was running around in circles. Sam had his small arms outstretched and a big smile on his face. It was painfully cute.
“Hey, where’s my ice cream?” I asked loudly over the fake airplane sounds Dean was making.
He stopped in his tracks and put Sam down, fidgeting with the leather jacket tied around his waist.
“Hey. You gave it to me,” he remarked with a shrug.
Cas ran over to Sam and hugged him so hard they almost toppled over. Sam smiled and hugged him back, lifting Cas up with effort and spinning him.
Dean stepped over next to me, also watching the kids. He was as stupid handsome as ever, especially in that tight white tee. He leaned closer, and I was briefly stunned by his disarming smile.
“Thanks for takin’ us out. Sam needed some sun.”
“No problem,” I said a bit too loudly, taking a step back. Dean raised an eyebrow at me as I pointed to the ice cream truck, already starting that way. “I’m gonna grab a soda.”
“Hey uh.” Dean squared his shoulders before continuing, “it was nice hanging out. I can’t remember the last time I had ice cream.”
I turned back at that sad statement. I jerked a thumb at the truck.
Dean glanced at me.
Chapter 23: January 24th
“It’s January 24th?” Sammy gasped, poking his head in my view in front of the TV.
“Yeah.” I nodded at the bold printed date on the screen. The weather looked like it was about to take a turn for the worse. It was nice that I now had a covered garage. Dean had been out there working on his car all morning.
It was starting to piss me off. I felt like I was running out of time to convince him to stay. Maybe some home cooked food would help…
Sam crawled up onto the couch with great effort, propping himself up at my side. He smiled up at me. He was so adorable and fluffy. He didn’t deserve a life on the run!
After he sat there smiling at me for an uncomfortable amount of time, I cleared my throat.
“Need something, kiddo?”
“It’s Dean’s birthday!” Sam whispered excitedly, cupping his hands around his mouth. It was a good thing that Dean was outside — his little bro was stage whispering.
“Really?” I asked, glancing to check that the back door was still shut. I leaned down to whisper to Sam. “Do you wanna make him a cake?”
Sam blinked up at me, shaking his head as his smile faded.
“I don’t have any money.”
“Uh, but I do,” I whispered. Sam grinned up at me again.
“Can we make him a PIE? Dean loves pie!”
- - -
“Hey, where you goin’?” Dean asked grumpily from the garage door as I herded the kids toward the car. I waved at him with my free hand. After hearing about the plans to stealthily make a birthday pie for Dean, Cas had insisted on coming along too. So I had gone on a hunt through the horde of unpacked boxes to find Castiel’s old car seat. Now I had one for each kid. Good god. I felt so old…
“I was going to grab dinner. Sam and Cas wanted to go. That okay?”
I crossed my fingers behind my back, praying Dean wouldn’t want to tag along.
The handsome teen came out of the garage, wiping his greasy hands on a rag. He had black smears up to his elbows.
“Uh…yeah. I guess.” He frowned as he said it, eyeing Sammy. Dean rubbed the side of his neck, leaving a black smudge there. “When are you guys coming back?”
“An hour?” I estimated, opening the door to my car to start strapping the car seat in. Car seats were incredibly frustrating. They took damn near forever to understand. Thank god I knew how to use this one already.
Dean watched me like a hawk while I set up the seat before he circled the car to give Sam a hug.
This was good. It would be a great example of how responsible and trustworthy old Gabriel could be!
- - -
“Can we get Dean THIS?” Castiel asked, holding up a tiny toy car. I shook my head.
“He’s already got a big car, though.”
“Yeah.” Cas sat it aside and took my hand again, scanning over the shelves as we walked.
I had to wonder if Dean would care if the pie was home made or just a pie off the shelf in the bakery. They had a bunch of flavors to choose from. Apple, peach, cherry, strawberry-rhubarb and even pumpkin. Wasn’t that a Thanksgiving thing? I could manage an apple pie, but anything else wasn’t in my skill set. Maybe if I just warmed it in the oven…
“Can we get him some ice cream, too?” Sammy asked, squeezing my other hand. I nodded down to him.
“Do you know what flavor he likes?”
“…Ice cream flavor,” Sam said with a smile.
I snickered. Yeah. That was my favorite flavor too.
After a brief argument on the flavors, we were the proud owners of several fruit pies. I swung by the gift section to grab some bows and a small gift bag. Aside from the pie, I figured Dean would appreciate some good old fashioned money.
The kids happily spent a handful of quarters on the quarter machines while I got $20 out of the ATM and carefully hid the bag of sweet goodies in the trunk.
“Gabwiel! Look at THIS!” Cas yelled excitedly, running over to crash into my leg and show me a blue sticky hand he got out of the quarter machine.
“Wow, neat,” I said nicely, kneeling next to him to look at it. “I’ll bet you could catch flies with this—”
Cas gasped dramatically.
“Like a fwog!”
“Yeah, like a frog!” I picked him up and circled the car, pulling the side door open. The backseat was really crowded with two car seats in there. I turned to call back to the other kid. “Sammy? Come on, we gotta go—”
He wasn’t by the quarter machines. I looked around the car. “Sammy?”
“Sammy?” Cas echoed, resting arms on my shoulder. He blinked up at me. “Whewe’d he go?”
What if their dad had shown up? What if some random creep took him? I shouldn’t have left him alone for a second. Dean would never trust me and I would die if something happened to that poor kid!
“SAM?” I yelled, a surge of panicking rising in my chest. Cas hugged his arms around my neck, looking over the parking lot with alarm. I patted his back. “It’s gonna be okay, Cas. He’s gotta be around here.”
Chapter 24: Stranger Danger
As I was dialing the emergency mall security number into my phone, Cas tugged on my hand.
“Gabwiel! I see Sammy!”
“Where?” I barked. I looked around us at the busy mall and my baby brother pointed a hand. Just outside of the double glass doors to the mall sat a bulky bulldog…and Sam. He was smiling and rubbing the dog’s ears.
I scooped Cas up and bolted that way, keeping my eyes locked on Sam.
The brunette looked up at me with big shiny eyes.
“I found a dog! He’s nice!”
“You can’t just wander off like that! Good god! I was freaking out!” The bulldog’s head turned in confusion at my tone and I suddenly realized that I was fuming. Sam looked equally alarmed, hazel eyes growing misty. I took a breath and sat Cas down. “You have to tell me where you’re going, okay? There are bad people, strangers, that will take you away. You’d never see Dean again. Do you understand? You can’t walk around by yourself!”
“I understand,” Sam said sadly, sniffling and hugging the fat bulldog. Then he crawled to his feet, grabbed a shopping bag that had been laying near the dog and came over to me. He sniffed and held out a hand.
I took it and sighed. With how paranoid Dean was about everything, it really surprised me that Sam felt comfortable wandering off. When I met him, he was scared to talk to a stranger. Dogs seemed to be a weakness for him. Noted. I glanced at the bulldog as we headed back to the parking lot. Its droopy eyes watched Sam go sadly.
It took awhile to load the kids into the car. Sam was still crying and Cas wanted to comfort him, so neither of them were getting into their car seats. I already felt like a raging asshole so I didn’t wanna rush them.
“Okay, okay. I’m sorry I yelled Sam,” I told the toddlers. “I was scared.”
“Why wewe you scawed?” Castiel questioned as he climbed into his seat at long last.
“Because strangers are dangerous, kiddo.”
“Like the bwond man?”
“I’M blond,” I grumbled, strapping him in. I had to pick Sam up and circle the car. He didn’t seem to be in a moving mood. As I pulled open the second car door, Sam lay his head on my shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Gabriel. I just w-wanted to pet the dog. The pretty lady said I could.”
Oh. My. Freaking. Stars. Cas had met some blond guy and Sam had ran into a ‘pretty lady’ all while I was STANDING there? I leaned and deposited the toddler into his seat, fumbling with the straps.
“It’s okay. I’m not mad anymore. Just next time, ask ME first. Bad people can have dogs.”
“Weally?” Cas echoed, staring at me in horror. I looked between the two of them and nodded.
“Yeah, I know right?”
- - -
“Shh!” I hushed the kids as we sneaked back into the house. From all the clanking and loud rock music, Dean was clearly still in the garage. I herded the toddlers inside to prep the pies. We were just gonna heat them in the oven, but hey. It was a good distraction from all the drama at the mall.
“You can call me Gabe, Sam.” I ruffled the kid's hair in passing and he trailed after me, holding up his shopping bag.
“I need to wrap Dean’s gift. Do you have tape?”
Slowly, I turned and stared at the bag. Gift?
“Where’d you get money for that?”
“You gave me a dollar for the toy machines.”
“The quarter machines?”
“Yeah!” The brunette came over and crawled into a chair by the table, sitting the bag down carefully.
PHEW. He didn’t steal it. Too bad I didn’t actually have any gift wrapping supplies around.
“The lady said I could buy it on discount because I w-was cute,” the kid added shyly. He started rolling the bag up into a ball. After a few minutes of digging through the living room, I managed to find a half used roll of packing tape. I offered it to Sammy.
“This is tough tape. Don’t use too much.”
“Okay!” Sam said with a big smile.
- - -
The scent of toasted crust guided me back into the house. Gabriel had gotten back sometime while I was workin’ on Baby. The kids were playing in the living room and both ran to me when I came into view, hugging onto my legs.
“Happy birthday!” They cheered.
Ugh. How did they figure that one out?
“It’s not my birthday,” I mumbled, kneeling down to pick them both up under my arms. I spun us in a circle and they both laughed.
“Yeah it is! Gabriel got you pie!” Sam argued with a smile.
“If I say it’s my birthday, do I get pie?”
“It IS youw biwthday!” Castiel said. He hugged my arm as we made our way into the kitchen. I managed not to hit the two wiggling toddlers on the door frame.
Gabriel was poking at a pan FULL of pies. Holy shit! I sat the kids down and stepped up beside the blond. He looked at me with a knowing smirk.
“Happy birthday, man. You’re 17, right?”
“18,” I corrected him. The pies were hand-sized, but there were a lot of them. I bet I could shove one into my mouth whole if I tried hard enough.
“18 huh? Jeez, don’t choke!” The shorter man looked appalled as I managed to bite off half of one of the pies. He took the pan of pies to the table and we all sat down. Sam sat on my lap and Cas on Gabe’s.
“I got you a present, Dean!” Sam shoved a tape ball in my face. I stared at, still chewing my pie.
“Aw, gee Sammy, you shouldn’t have.”
“Open it!” He shouted, clapping his hands together. I shifted in my seat and pulled out my pocket knife. There was no way I could get through the tape and still have warm pie to eat.
I cut it open carefully, balancing Sam on my knee. Inside was a necklace with a brass horned head on it. It wasn’t really my style, but I felt like I had been handed a million bucks. I slipped it on over my head and hugged Sammy tight.
“It’s awesome, Sam. Thanks.”
“Welcome!” my baby brother said happily, wrapping his small arms around my neck.
Chapter 25: Pancakes
The cuteness of the two brothers hugging had melted my internal organs. After we — mostly Dean — ate all the pies, the kids went to Cas’s room to burn off some sugar. We skipped ice cream for now. Which left me and the handsome teenager sitting on the couch. Alone.
I kept my eyes on the TV. When I did glance at Dean, I noticed he was dozing, head laying back on the couch. I smirked. Probably in a coma from all the pie. Slowly, I reached a finger over and poked his cheek. Dean snorted and sat up.
“What?” He grunted, looking around us.
“You’re 18 now. What do ya wanna do?”
“Take a nap,” the brunette grumbled. He rolled over in his seat and hugged his arms around himself. I poked at his shoulder.
“Hey Dean?” A dark scowl was cast over his shoulder in my direction and I grinned back. “On a serious note, here.” I cleared my throat, dropping the grin. “If you still want to file for custody, I can help you with that.”
The scowl softened and Dean rolled to face me. He propped his head up against the back of the couch.
“…What if it helps them find us?”
I was startled at the sudden serious reply. I totally expected Dean to dodge the question with either silence or sass.
“Then I’ll help. You’ve been here for awhile. I can be a character witness or something. Hey! I have this website on my computer. Lemme print it out for you.”
“Um, sure.” Dean didn’t follow me. Instead he snuggled down into the couch and resumed his nap.
- - -
The obnoxious buzz of my alarm cut through my nightmare. I rolled over on the couch and pawed at the phone until it stopped making sound.
It was Sunday. I always made Cas something special on Sunday mornings, so I reluctantly hauled myself off the cozy, warm cushions. I took a quick shower and was rummaging through the kitchen when it occurred to me that Dean wasn’t up. That was weird. He was almost always awake before me. I had chalked it up to paranoia. Most teenagers slept til noon if they could. I know I did.
I left the coffee pot on and knocked gently on my bedroom door. It hadn’t been shut all the way, and pushed in with the knock. I dared a peek inside.
Dean was tangled up in my covers, face down in the pillow and one leg sticking out the side of the blankets. I smirked and closed the door again. I should let him sleep as long as possible. Since I hadn’t seen Sam in there, I went to check on the kids.
They were snuggled up in Castiel’s bed, but my little brother opened his eyes when I leaned in the door. He blinked sleepily at me and sat up with Mister Buzzbee in one arm.
“Good morning, sport.” I came in and plucked him out of bed, hugging him. He felt so small in my arms. Half awake children were the best. Cas leaned on my shoulder and looked back down at Sammy, his eyes falling closed again. “Hey. It’s Sunday. Do you want pancakes?”
“Pancakes?” Cas lifted his head and started nodding. “Bee pancakes?”
By bee pancakes, he meant when I had stretched my artistic talents to the limits and made oval pancakes with ‘wings’ on top. With some chocolate syrup stripes and whipped cream, they actually turned out okay. As far as the toddler was concerned.
“I wove you!” Cas hugged my neck with a smile. I resisted cooing out loud. Had to maintain my manly rep. I cleared my throat and tried not to tear up.
“Bee pancakes it is.”
- - -
“It’s a doggy!” Sam squeaked, glancing from the pancake up to me and back. Making a dog shape had been easier than the bee. I just smeared some ears on there. The rest was fruit slices and syrup. “Thanks Gabe!”
Dean glanced at me from over his coffee. He wasn’t very lively yet. Maybe after ANOTHER two cups of coffee, I’d get a full sentence.
“Sleep well, Dean-o?” I asked, sitting a plate of pancakes in front of him. He shrugged a shoulder at first but then shook his head.
“I was up most of the night reading that damn website.”
“You said a no-no wowd.” Cas mumbled around a bite of pancake.
“Sorry,” Dean said insincerely off to the side. He started chopping off a huge chunk of pancake.
“So?” I pressed. I sat down with my own pancakes across the table and stared him down. “Are you gonna file?”
Dean shrugged again as he chewed the fist sized wad of pancake he had in his mouth.
“Can we go camping?” Sammy asked, looking at me. I looked right back. Why the hell was he asking ME?
“We could have smowes and mawshmawwos!”
I snorted at the lisp and shook my head.
“Guys, guys. It’s Sunday. We can do whatever you want!”
“YAY!” The toddlers cheered. Dean just cringed at the volume. Or he was choking on his pancake. I couldn’t tell.
- - -
The weather wasn’t the best. It was cloudy overhead. Cas was in his yellow bee rain slicker since Sammy had borrowed his actual coat. The two of them were racing back and forth along the tree line, screaming about frogs.
I was keeping an eye on them while Dean and I set up ‘base camp’ as the kids called it. Which meant Castiel’s little teepee, two folding chairs and a pile of snacks. What camp out would be complete without s’mores?
“You got that?” I asked, turning to check on Dean. He was bent over on all fours, blowing on a tiny glowing ember in the pile of sticks we had gathered. I’m gonna be frank here. The view was top-notch. Those jeans. Oh. Those jeans…
“Yeah, I got it.” Dean sat up and fanned the ember lightly. The tiny ball of flame spread out quickly, igniting into a cute little fire. He turned and gave me a thumbsup and a grin. I stuck my thumb up too, pretending that I hadn’t just been staring at his ass.
Dean went back to tending the fire, so I joined him on the damp grass. Again. Not the best camping weather. It was cold enough that the small glow of warmth from the fire felt cozy. I had been making fun of Dean all day for his eating habits, but he hadn’t seen me around toasted marshmallows yet. I was glad that we brought two bags.
“So, you didn’t answer me this morning. Are you planning on filing for custody of Sam?”
Dean grumbled under his breath and shifted, leaning back on his hands to look at me.
Chapter 26: Camp Out
“I don’t know,” I sighed after a moment. Gabriel was watching me with those shiny eyes of his, looking all concerned and handsome. Ugh. “If anyone knows where we are and dad decides he wants Sammy back, they’ll try to take him. What if it was Cas? Wouldn’t you keeping drivin’?”
The blond chuckled and shook his head.
“Hiding wasn’t an option. It was all or nothing. They sent me a letter. It basically said that if I didn’t want Cas, no one did. Whoever his mom was, she left him too.” Gabriel lay back on the grass and tucked his arms behind his back.
I glanced at the kids before joining him. The grass was damp and cold.
Cas's mom was alive? Jeez. He was gonna have some serious abandonment issues when he grew up. Sammy would too, I guess. Thanks to dad. I wasn't sure how much of that I could counterbalance by being an awesome older brother. I glanced at Gabriel. Laying shoulder to shoulder with him, I could feel the warmth off of his body as he continued.
“Man, you wouldn’t even recognize the life I had before all of this. Before the diapers and the daycare. I had a life. I was out partying it up with girls, drinking myself out. Dad couldn’t handle life and honestly…I couldn’t handle mine. When I got that letter, I was alternating between yakking up my drinks and reading it.”
Gabriel shifted to look at me, pulling on a smirk. There was a twinkle in his eyes when he caught me looking at him.
“I get the idea that’s kinda your thing too.”
“Hey. I drink a lot, yeah. But Sammy’s more important.”
“So was Cas, dude. I dropped everything. College scholarships, fake IDs, a phone full of girlfriends and booty calls.” Gabriel sighed wistfully and shook his head. “I miss it sometimes. The good ol’ carefree life.” He sat up and looked off down the hill to where the kids were. “Maybe someday when Cas is grown.”
I sat back up too and watched the toddlers as Cas leaned in to pet something Sam was holding. Probably a frog. HOPEFULLY a frog.
Gabe looked at me again and shrugged. We were still shoulder to shoulder and at close range, I couldn’t avoid looking him in the eye. He smiled and leaned to grab a bag next to the teepee.
“Anyway! These marshmallows aren’t gonna toast themselves.”
“So, what you’re saying is, it’s worth it?”
The blond man turned back to me and nodded, suddenly serious.
“Worth every penny, every second and every bit of effort. At least you don’t have the diaper stage. Ugh.”
I snickered and added a twig to the fire. When I sat back up, Gabriel was staring at me. He had a big grin on his face.
“What?” I asked.
“This is gonna sound cheesy, but it’s nice to hear you laugh.”
I immediately felt uncomfortable at the comment. The way he said it. The fondness in his voice. Sammy wasn’t the only one I was worried would form an attachment. I cleared my throat.
“So when’s payday?”
“Friday,” Gabriel replied quickly, stabbing a marshmallow on a fork. We didn’t have any long sticks. Maybe I could go grab some and get the hell away from him and his niceness. I got up and Gabriel froze, a marshmallow at the ready.
“Hey. I know you’re eager to hit the road and all, but we gotta talk.”
“Let me go get some sticks first,” I grumbled.
“Dean, Sam and Cas have something going on. Yeah it’s weird since they’re four—”
“But you’re seriously just gonna drive off with him? Look at them.” Gabe gestured off down the hillside.
Sammy was sitting crossed legged on the ground, still holding something in his hands, while Cas made a house out of rocks. We should probably go save whatever creature they had before they accidentally killed it. I sat back down, though, and looked over at Gabriel.
It was obvious that the kids were attached. If I took Sam and drove off, I’d probably become the new version of dad in his eyes. That scary man that didn’t care about his feelings and took him away from what he loved.
“Fine,” I murmured. I crossed my arms over my knees.
“Fine?” Gabe echoed. He turned the marshmallow slowly over the tiny fire and looked my way. “They’re gayer than a rainbow.”
“What? Really? For real?” His marshmallow was forgotten as Gabe spun to face me. I nodded and he chucked the fork aside give me a hug. My brain went blank.
Gabriel. Hugging. Me? Anytime a guy got that close, he was about to throw me into the ground. Gabriel’s arms felt nice though. Safe. I hugged him back and propped my chin on his shoulder. His hair smelled nice, too.
Chest to chest, I could feel his heartbeat. It was fast. Like mine.
I sat back and Gabe did too. He was smiling all goofy like. I swallowed down the flutter in my stomach from the closeness. I wanted to say something along the lines of ‘thank you for letting us squat in your house,’ but I couldn’t. My mouth was struggling to form the words when Gabe leaned in and kissed me.
Before I could register more than the softness of the other man’s lips, I heard the kids yelling in alarm.
Gabriel dropped me out of his arms and jumped to his feet. I climbed to my feet too, still a bit stunned. My brain snapped awake again.
“Bear?” I shouted to Cas and Sam as they ran up to us.
“I saw him!” Sammy shouted breathlessly, holding his arms up. I picked him up and propped him on my hip.
“Thewe he is!” Cas screamed and pointed. I followed his his gesture. A scary dark brown figure was heading our way up the hill slowly.
Gabe snatched Cas up and we bolted for the back door.
- - -
“Yes I can see the bear — he’s eating my marshmallows!” Gabriel practically shouted into the phone. I stayed with the kids on the couch. Señor Bear had stopped to help himself to all of our snacks, so Gabriel had called animal control.
“It’s okay, Sammy,” Cas said nicely, leaning over to give Sam a sideways hug. Sam wrapped an arm around him and held him close, watching the back door with scared eyes.
“He is gonna eat us?”
“No. He has mawshmawwows.”
“But he’s an omnivore. He likes marshmallows AND meat!”
Cas frowned at that and leaned into the hug more.
As scary as a bear being outside was, my mind kept coming back to that kiss.
It had been a huge mistake.
Chapter 27: Boo boo
Hi guys! I'm on vacation until the end of September, so there won't be any new chapters until then. Thank you!
“How is it Thursday already?” I asked Crowley as I dumped a stack of sticky syrup covered plates down on the pass through. The chef lifted his head from where he had been rummaging for something under the counter.
“Tomorrow’s payday. Why are you complaining?” Crowley sighed, standing and slamming a tub of flour down on his metal work counter.
I leaned both elbows on the pass through and shrugged a bit. I didn’t really want to explain my way through my idiotic decision to kiss the runaway teenager that I had been hiding in my house.
“Uh…bills,” I mumbled vaguely.
“I already gave you raise,” Crowley replied coolly, measuring out several cups of flour into a large mixing bowl.
“Yeah, I know. I’m grateful for that, but…”
Did I REALLY want my boss to know anything? Crowley was a tricky bastard.
“I sort of might be seeing someone.”
Crowley paused in his work, one hand wrapped in dough in the mixing bowl. He squinted at me.
“SEEING something? As in, a relationship? That doesn’t sound like you, angel.”
“Don’t call me that,” I said almost on instinct. I checked that Kali was still across the cafe and stepped around into the kitchen. “Don’t tell Kali, ‘kay? It’s a dude.”
Crowley huffed and went back to mixing. I crossed my arms and leaned against the counter.
“What’s with that reaction, boss man? You jealous?”
The chef glanced my way, eyebrows furrowed. After an uncomfortably long stare, he shrugged off the frown.
I chuckled and ducked back around to look at him through the safety of the pass through.
“Really? You stole my girlfriend and now you want ME too? Damn. You’re greedy.”
Crowley smirked and turned his attention back to his dough, kneading it with the heel of his hand.
“So, you’ve got a man. What does that have to do with payday? Wouldn’t money be good for your dating life?”
“Well.” I glanced again to check on Kali. She was flirting with some big tattooed man with a beard. Good. I cleared my throat and turned back to my boss. “His car’s messed up, so he’s been staying with me. I agreed to help him fix it on payday. He knows payday’s this week, which means—”
“Bye bye lover,” Crowley interrupted, flipping the dough out of the bowl onto the metal counter. He sprinkled a handful of flour of the surface and leaned to grab his rolling pin. “So. What’s the plan? Are you going to LIE to him?”
“What? No! He’s too hot for that. I can’t lie to him.” I grumbled and tapped my fingers on the counter.
“Then fix his car and send him on his way.” The chef rolled the dough out expertly, setting the rolling pin aside to grab a round cutter. He glanced my way with a smile that added way more to his words than I wanted to hear. “And then go out with me.”
“Ha. No,” I snorted.
“Come on, angel. You. Me. Some wine.” He leaned closer to the pass through to whisper. “A big dark chocolate cake.”
I felt a shiver ripple through me at the thought of a dark chocolate cake. Oh. That sounded pretty good, but not with Crowley there to judge me as I planted my face into it.
“No thanks,” I said, playing it cool so he didn’t know that he had actually tempted me with the cake offer.
“I’ll fire Kali.”
I bit my lip and shook my head.
“Stop. I got a guy. I just need to find a way to help him and not help him at the same time!”
“Suit yourself.” Crowley sat back and cut biscuits out from the rolled dough, sighing.
“So, nothing then? No help? At all?” I grumbled, grabbing a fresh coffee carafe from the machine.
“Nothing in it for me. Not my bloody problem,” Crowley said with a shrug. He went back to his biscuits without further comment.
I scowled and marched off to refill everybody’s mugs. For a minute there, I had forgotten who I was talking to.
- - -
I scrolled slowly. There were a crazy amount of things available to watch on Webflix. Everything that looked interesting had an R rating. I leaned over the edge of the couch. The kids were playing in Cas’s room, bouncing on the bed at the moment.
I turned back to stare at the screen. ‘Zombie Strippers from Mars’ looked perfectly campy. The cover was a man fending off a horde of half naked and half dead women with a human leg. Fantastic. I peeked back at the kids again.
Was the risk worth it? I pressed play before I could talk myself out of it and settled in, remote in hand. I could hit the back button faster than any kid could run.
“Cas?” I heard Sammy gasp. The sound of the bed springs creaking stopped abruptly.
I pressed the button to go back to the menu and listened.
Someone was crying.
I ditched the remote and headed that way.
“Hey, what’s going on in here?” I said as I stepped into the room. Sam and Cas were behind the bed. To my surprise, it was actually Cas who was crying. He never made any noise when he was upset, so I hurried around the bed to pick him up. The black haired toddler was sobbing and holding a hand over his head as I sat him on my hip.
“He fell and hit his head on the dresser!” Sam explained, ducking around me to look up at Cas while I rocked him.
“Lemme see,” I told Cas as gently as I could manage. What if we had to go to the hospital? What if someone recognized us? And of course, I didn’t have a car. I’d have to call 911. Which meant they’d know where I was living.
Cas moved his hand after a minute of fussing to reveal a bloody scrape. It looked pretty bad, but it was hard to tell with facial wounds – they bled a lot. I hugged him and made a beeline to the bathroom.
“It’s gonna be okay, buddy.” I patted his back carefully. I practically tripped over Sam, who was hovering underfoot, as I stopped to dig through the medicine cabinet. Band aids, rubbing alcohol and an array of cold meds were basically all that was in there.
I stared down at the crying toddler in my arms and ground my teeth. Maybe the hospital was a better idea.
Chapter 28: Trust
A big thanks to my sis Threshie for being my editor! I'm back from vacation, so regular Wednesday updates will hopefully happen again.
I sat the phone on the arm of the couch. Okay. The nurse said not to panic. I had been about to dial 911 when I saw the number for the nurse line scrawled on a sticky note in the medicine cabinet. Apparently it wasn’t the first time Cas had hurt himself.
I had put the kid on the couch where I could keep an eye on him. Maybe even distract him with some TV. No Zombie strippers. Just cutesy, colorful, HAPPY kids shows.
“How ya doing, pal?” I patted the little boy’s shoulder and he looked up at me. He pressed his lips together in determination as he nodded.
I nodded slowly. Since Sam was sitting next to him, now in tears, Cas had started to act tough. He had some idea that he had to look macho for Sammy. I stifled a laugh and tucked the blanket in around them.
“Okay. What do you guys wanna watch?” I checked the big patch of gauze on Cas’s head gingerly. Gabe was gonna FREAK out. I could almost hear the yelling already.
“Can we watch a documentawy?”
“…A documentary?” I asked. “Seriously?”
“There’s one about bees!” Sam said excitedly. He and Cas exchanged a smile.
“Alright. Bees.” I turned and scrolled through Webflix. I wound up having to type a search in for bees before I found it. Looked innocent enough. It was about the life of a bee colony on a farm in the middle of nowhere.
After all the crying and jumping around on the bed, I had my bet on Cas falling asleep two minutes into the show. I watched them settle into their blanket. Sam had stopped crying. That was a good sign. Castiel changed from leaning on the couch arm to putting his head on Sam’s shoulder.
Could cuteness kill?
I hovered around long enough to hear a couple of bee facts, then I ducked into Gabe’s bedroom. I hadn’t poked around much. Since our little camp out, I had started to wonder what kind of person Gabe really was. He said he was a party animal before he adopted Cas.
I opened the closet and peeked in. Moving boxes. Go figure. I had been living in his room since he moved in so he hadn’t had time to unpack. I opened the box on the very top.
It was full of papers and folders. Under those, I found a handful of pictures of people that I didn’t know. A chef and a dark haired woman in an apron chatting in a kitchen. I shuffled through the stack. There were a lot of pictures of that woman with Gabriel. They must have been dating. I had to wonder if they still were.
Under those were pictures of Cas. He was much smaller and wearing a bee Halloween costume. I smiled. Sam and I had never really celebrated the holidays.
“Hey guys.” I heard Gabriel’s voice along with the sound of the front door closing.
I dumped the pictures back into the top of the box and hurried to close it. I shut the closet and went to face the music.
Gabriel was in a nice white button up and dark slacks. He was hanging up his coat when I cut him off before he could reach the living room.
“Hey,” I said shortly, caught off guard by how Gabe smelled. He smelled like coffee and pancakes. With a hint of bacon. I moved a little closer and lowered my voice. “How was work?”
“Uh, fine?” Gabriel said, giving me a quirked eyebrow. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, Dean, about the whole kiss thing…”
“Cas fell and hit his head,” I blurted out. I’d rather be yelled at than talk about him kissing me.
“What?” Gabe sputtered. He ducked past me and stormed over to the couch. He took one look at the gauze patch and spun back to me. “Why the hell didn’t you call me?”
“Because the nurse said he’d be okay. It wasn’t a big deal—”
“Wasn’t a big deal?” Gabe snapped, pointing to Cas. “You should have at least told me!”
“Told you what?”
“Exactly what you just said now! Anything!” Gabe dropped down to his knees to check on Cas. “Hey kiddo. What happened?”
Both of the kids had been totally peacefully watching bees crawling around on honeycombs. With all the yelling, they looked like they were gonna cry again.
“We wewe just pwaying,” Cas said timidly. His big brother was checking him over for any other injuries, frowning and fussing. Satisfied the scrape wasn’t a gaping gunshot wound, Gabriel stood back up to face me.
“Next time, tell me,” he hissed. I nodded. Gabe shook his head and stomped off to change.
- - -
After Cas got hurt, I was kind of worried about leaving Dean with all those new car parts. What if he was too distracted by the car and the kids got hurt again? I didn’t really have a choice about going to work, though. After digging around the wrecking yard — a big place full of old cars — I worked until eight.
By the time I got home, I was yawning. I found the toddlers on the couch where Dean had left them. They were playing Nintendette and talking through the puzzle onscreen.
“Hey guys. How’s your head, Cas?”
“It’s okay,” Cas replied. He slipped off the couch and came over to hug my leg. I carefully ruffled his hair.
Cas didn’t reply. He just leaned his head against my leg and went quiet. Typical Cas. I scooped him up and hugged him.
“Dean said…” Cas trailed off, sticking out his bottom lip.
“What’d Dean say?” I prompted, making my way into the kitchen. I was hungry enough to eat a whole cake.
“Dean said Baby’s all bettew.”
I glanced down at him.
“He fixed the car?”
Cas nodded and peeked Sam’s way, blue eyes growing misty with tears. I rubbed his back. I suddenly wasn’t very hungry. My time to convince Dean to stay had just ran out.
Chapter 29: Payday
I left the kids watching TV while I ventured out to the garage to find Dean. I wasn't sure what I was going to say. I had yelled at him when I got home. Now that I had had time to sit and think, I couldn't stop kicking myself. Duh Dean was gonna look after Cas and Sam. Kids hurt themselves sometimes. It was just a fact of life. Like when Cas pinched his fingers in the back door last year. He lived and learned.
I swallowed nervously as I stepped into the garage. The beautiful black Impala was sitting there, shiny and sporting a new plastic window on her driver's side. I patted the hood.
“Hey good lookin'.”
Dean's head poked up from behind the car. He had a smear of oil from his cheek up into his hair. He also didn't seem happy to see me. I waved a hand.
“Hey.” I got a frown and some sound of acknowledgment before he disappeared back behind the car. I circled Baby and found Dean putting on a new wheel. He glanced up at me and went back to work screwing in bolts. I crossed my arms and leaned against the car. “Alright. Jeez. I'm sorry for yelling at you.”
“Whatever,” came the grouchy reply.
“I know you'd take care of Cas if he got seriously hurt.”
Dean stood up and I was a little jealous that he was taller than me. He wiped his hands on his jeans and crossed his arms like me. His buff arms.
“I get it. Cas is your kid. Next time he gets hurt, I'll text you.”
Whatever I had expected him to say, that wasn't it. I blinked and nodded stupidly.
“Um, thanks. Same goes for Sammy.”
“Cool,” Dean said shortly, ducking back to finish putting on the tire. I leaned back on the hood and looked around the garage. It was one of the things the previous owner had left full of junk. There were tools all over the walls and boxes of god knows what shoved against the far wall. I'd have to check those out sometime.
“So,” I turned my attention back to the teen. Dean got up again and kicked the tire gently before looking my way. I patted the car hood. “Cas said she's all fixed up.”
“She runs. Still need a new window thanks to that damn bear.”
“Where are you planning on going?” I asked, happy that I managed to hide the pain in my voice. I didn't want them to leave. Sam would be heartbroken.
Dean shrugged a shoulder and ducked past me.
I followed him.
“Come on. I'm not gonna tell anyone. I just want to visit occasionally. So Cas and Sam can visit.”
Dean opened the passenger side door and dug around on the floor, raking out a handful of energy bar wrappers. I waited but he didn't reply.
Dean turned back to face me, resting a hand on Baby's door.
“I don't know. I'd have to find somewhere we could lay low. Hide the car. Get a job.” He eyed me and shrugged again. “I already have all that here.”
My heart froze in my chest. Was he serious?
“I mean, sooner or later Sam's gonna have to go to school. We can't keep running forever.”
“You're staying? You're staying!” Without thinking, I caught him in a hug. I felt his body stiffen in my arms as I squeezed him tight.
“Sure. What the hell,” he said, muffled by my shoulder. He put both hands timidly on my sides and pushed me back to arms' length. “But I need you to help me.”
“Anything.” I grinned.
“I gotta file for custody of Sam. You've done all that before. Just walk me through it.”
- - -
I knew Sam was gonna be excited to hear we were staying. What I didn't expect was for him to turn and outright KISS Cas! Both Gabe and I practically dropped our jaws. Sam cheered and swept Cas up into his arms, spinning him happily. Cas's face was bright red.
“We're staying!” Sam squealed as they spun. Coming out of his shock, Cas smiled shyly and hugged onto Sam tightly.
“Okay, okay. He's hurt, remember Sammy?” I stepped in and made sure that Cas made it safely to the ground. I put a hand on his back to stop him swaying on his feet. Sam hugged him again anyways.
“I'm okay,” Cas assured him happily. The toddler moved out of Sam's arms and hugged me instead. “Thank you Dean!”
“Uh, welcome.” I hugged him and left him to Sam again. Gabriel was still hovering nearby, lost in thought. He was really happy to hear that we were staying at first, then he got all quiet. I waved to the kids. “Time for bed! Go brush your teeth.”
“Can Sammy sweepovew?” Cas asked immediately, big blue eyes pointed Gabriel's way. Gabe nodded.
“Hey sure. Why not?”
With both the kids in Castiel's room, that left Gabe on the couch again. If I was sticking around, it made way more sense for him to have his room back. As the kids went to get ready for bed, I followed Gabriel to the kitchen. He was already opening a tub of ice cream, spoon in hand, as I arrived.
“So, about sleepovers...”
“Yeah,” Gabriel said nervously. “Maybe they need a chaperon.”
“That's...not what I was gonna say, but yeah. Probably a good idea.”
“Maybe we should all have a sleepover in the living room.” Gabe sat the ice cream in the microwave and punched in thirty seconds.
“I should take the couch,” I blurted out. “You can have your room back.” Gabriel looked my way.
“We could just share the bed.”
The two of us? In one bed? I nodded vaguely, lost in the thought of waking up next to Gabriel.
“Or I could take the couch since this is YOUR house.”
“Seriously. I don't mind sharing. The couch isn't that comfy.” He took the ice cream out of the microwave before it could beep, already placing a spoonful in his mouth. “We're big boys. We can share, right?”
Chapter 30: Waffles and uncertainty
Holy cow! What a slow burn this is! Sorry this is a little late. I’ve been sick with Hell-flu for the past four days.
Here it is. Chapter 30. That’s three-zero! I had originally planned for chapter 30 to be the end of the fic, but over time the plot grew longer — some thanks to my wonderful readers (love you guys!!!) and some thanks to the way Dean and Gabe interact.
This little fluffy fic has grown SO much and it’s all thanks to you guys. I would have long ended this if it wasn’t for all the enjoyment you guys seem to get from this crazy house’s adventures. This may even end up being morphed into an original story sometime, but that’s future stuff. This tiny fic has completely curb-stomped my other fics and is now my largest and most read fic of all time – which is saying a lot, considering a couple of my co-written projects...
As it stands, I have about six chapters until the end of Do I Worry. So Big Plot things are coming down the line!
Thank you SO SO much for your support and thank you for enjoying this so much! And I know it says it on each chapter but thank you THRESHIE for being my editor! I appreciate it so much that you take the time to edit a chapter each week. <3 <3 Thanks sis!
(Editor's note: I get to read this fic before anybody else, muahaha—I mean, you're welcome! ♥)
Love you guys!
Clouds. I was floating in the clouds. I looked around me slowly, taking in the wispy white puffs that sprawled as far as I could see.
I could see a small child, swerving clumsily through the sky. It was Cas! He had a small pair of fluffy white wings and the warmest smile I’d ever seen him wear.
I beat my wings harder and shot up higher. I found a hole in the cloud cover and dove through it, brushing past Cas playfully. I heard him giggle.
I spiraled down, grinning at the wind on my face and through my hair, my golden feathered wings guided me with ease to the shoreline below. I could hear my little brother flying after me.
As I zoomed along the shore, a blur of white caught my eye. I leaned back to drift to a stop and hovered in place, looking to see what the thing was. A dark figure looked back at me, unfurling large white wings not unlike my gold ones.
Red eyes twinkled on his face and my heart stopped. My vision blurred in like a black funnel, locking in on those eyes. I knew that face. Knew that hate in his eyes. I fought with all my might, feeling my wings straining under the sudden jerking motion as I was yanked toward him.
I caught a glimpse of Cas as he was pulled past me, hands reaching for me.
“NO!” I screamed as I reached for him. The air was thick. I couldn’t breathe.
“Gabriel!” A cold hand clasped over my shoulder and I suddenly found myself struggling in place, face down in my pillow. I was in my bed. Shaking like a leaf, I rolled to look at Dean in the dim light. His hair stuck up in tufts as he tipped his head.
“You okay, man?”
As always, the nightmare was fading quickly, being suppressed by being awake. I wiped the sweat and tears from my face and managed a nod.
“Yeah,” I panted. “Yeah, I’m alright. Sorry.” I lay my head on the pillow and turned my face away from Dean. I was soaked in sweat and I couldn’t hear my thoughts over my pounding heart.
A set of muscular arms wrapped around me and I froze in place as Dean whispered to me.
“You’re alright, Gabe. I got you.”
I rolled over to face him and shamelessly pressed against him. He pushed me gently down onto my back, his weight pressing me back into the bed. A cool hand brushed my hair back from my forehead.
I swallowed. Was I still dreaming? I stared up at him, barely able to make out the outline of his face. He looked sad.
I leaned up and caught his chin, kissing him desperately. The moment our lips touched, I forgot about the red eyed figure. The terror of being pulled towards him. Cas screaming for my help.
Dean pushed me back into the pillow, his hands trailing down my sides. I shivered as fingers slipped under the hem of my shirt. He broke away from the kiss and nuzzled into my neck.
I lay back and squeezed my eyes shut. Don’t wake up, I told myself. Please. Don’t wake up.
“Wait,” he mumbled, pulling back from me. The momentary safety and warmth from his body was gone. I felt goosebumps forming on my arms at the cold. Dean crawled out of bed quickly, shaking his head.
“Dean?” I asked breathlessly. He held up a hand at me.
“We—I can’t.” He swooped and grabbed an armload of clothes on his way to the door.
“Wait!” I called, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. “You don’t have to leave!”
“I’m not leavin’, I’m sleeping on the couch,” the teenager snapped, ducking out the door.
I sat there in the dark, hugging my arms and shaking against the cold. My thoughts were darting between my nightmare and how badly I had just screwed up with Dean. I ran a hand over my face, took a ragged breath and crawled away to bury my face in my pillow.
- - -
I heard Gabriel sneak out the door. I played dead, keeping my face smashed into the couch arm. What the hell was I supposed to say?
He had kissed ME, so it was on him if he got hurt. I kept telling myself that as I got up, showered and started making breakfast for the kids. I wasn’t a relationship kind of guy.
“Sammy?” I leaned my head into the boys’ room. “You awake?”
Sam dug himself out of a blanket wad and looked at me, eyes threatening to close. He tiredly stuck his arms out to me.
I stepped inside and picked him up, hugging him against my shoulder. I rubbed his back as I checked on Cas. His head was doing good. It had a lot of bruising, but the edges weren’t red or anything. According to the internet, that meant it wasn’t infected.
I shook Cas gently and managed to pick him up with my other arm. I carried the two of them to the kitchen. Sam had fallen back asleep on my shoulder, but Cas was looking around sleepily.
“He had to go to work,” I told him quickly. I didn’t wanna talk about Gabriel. The memory of rolling around in bed with him was way too fresh in my mind. I shook off those thoughts and sat one kid in each chair. “Alright. I made waffles.”
Sammy managed a smile up at me, rubbing one of his eyes.
“Can I have strawberries on mine?”
“Oh! Oh! Me too!” Cas squeaked, bouncing in his chair.
“Strawberries, check. But you guys don’t want whipped cream right? Nobody likes WHIPPED CREAM…”
“I do!” Cas said eagerly, waving his hands.
“Can we have both?” Sammy asked, staring up at me with big eyes. He looked like he was really torn up about giving up strawberries for whipped cream. I ruffled his hair.
“Yay!” They cheered.
As I ducked back over to fork the waffles out onto plates, I couldn’t help wondering if Gabe had eaten breakfast. I felt bad for the guy. I frowned as I sprayed a goofy smiley face on top of Sammy’s waffles, dropping strawberries on its nose and eyes.
After everything Gabriel had done for us, I’d have to be a real asshole to break his heart. He had made it clear that he liked me, but… I frowned harder at the waffle.
Did I like him?
Dating and living together felt a little too close to a relationship for me. Dean Winchester didn’t do that.
Chapter 31: The Letter
I expected the cops to show up sooner or later. Maybe some social workers. Every time I walked past the mailbox, I felt a sense of dread in my stomach. As I opened the creaky metal mailbox door, I was caught off guard by a plain white envelope laying inside. It had a long return address that I instantly recognized as belonging to the courthouse. I picked it up. It had Dean’s full name on it.
Dean and I hadn’t exchanged more than a few words since I had kissed him. He’d skillfully avoided me by working on the car whenever I was home, and I let him. It was my own idiocy that had gotten me into the situation. Dean was just being Dean.
My heart was thumping in my chest as I pushed open the door to the garage with the letter in hand. Whatever awkwardness was floating around wasn’t as important as that letter.
Dean sat up from inside the driver’s seat, standing to look at me over Baby’s shiny roof.
I held up the letter and stepped closer to offer it to him. He stepped came around the car slowly, frowning.
“Is that for me?”
I nodded and he took it, tearing the top open easily. I watched as his eyes started frantically reading over the page. His arm lowered, letter still clutched tightly in his fingers.
“Well?” I prompted after a second of watching him stare off into space. Dean’s eyes found mine as a tear trickled down his cheek. My heart froze and I carefully took his shoulders in my hands. “What? What happened? Do you want me to read it—”
“Dad’s dead,” Dean mumbled. “He…he killed himself.”
Without considering the consequences, I moved forward and hugged Dean as tight as I could. His head fell against my shoulder as I felt him take a sharp breath.
“It’s alright. I’ve got you,” I told him softly, rubbing his back. I heard the letter crumple as Dean threw his arms around me and cried.
- - -
“The funeral’s in two days,” I told Crowley as I sat an armload of dishes down by the sink. The clean cut chef nodded a little as he dried his hands on a rag.
“And you want time off. Again.”
“Just one day. Please.” I mustered up my best set of puppy eyes for him. Apparently they were pretty good, because he had to look away.
“No. This man sounds like one long sad sob story.”
I stepped around to Crowley’s side, leaning to catch his gaze.
“Please? Come on. I’ll owe you. I know you like favors—”
“Enough. Fine. You can have ONE day off. Then you and I are getting coffee.”
“Pft, what?” I sputtered, frowning at him. “I told you earlier, I’m kinda seeing someone.”
“Mm hm,” Crowley hummed, going back to making tatties. “One day, you work late next Friday and you make Kali jealous by kissing me. It really gets her all fired up.”
I rolled my eyes, then I caught the look on Crowley’s face as he winked my way. Oh shit. He was serious. I shifted on my feet.
“One day off, I work late Friday and Saturday.”
“You’d rather work late for TWO days in a row than kiss me? Ouch,” the brunette said drolly.
“Okay. One day off, I work late Friday and I tell Kali that I kissed you—”
“One day off, you work late on Friday AND a little kiss NOW.” Crowley tapped his cheek pointedly. “Or no deal.”
“Gah,” I growled. A kiss on the cheek wasn’t terrible. After he'd given me a raise, I had felt like kissing him anyway. But did I really want to piss Kali off again? She’d been surprisingly civil all week.
I glanced and caught her looking our way as she headed back to the kitchen with a plate in hand.
Alright. Fine. For Dean’s sake.
I gave her a smirk and leaned to kiss Crowley’s cheek. The chef purred at the attention, looking after me with an alarming amount of fondness.
“Enjoy your long weekend, angel,” he said sweetly.
I let out the breath I had been holding and rounded the corner out of the kitchen just in time to run into Kali. She dumped the plate of scraps she had been carrying on the pass through and glared daggers at me. She cast a quick look at Crowley, who simply batted his eyes innocently as Kali huffed.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Surviving,” I told her halfheartedly. I just wanted to go home, eat a bag of sugar, and find a nice dark spot to hide from the world for awhile.
“Not for long!” The black haired woman hissed. I was completely caught off guard as her hand came whipping out of nowhere to slap me across the face. A prickling hot pain radiated from my cheek as I took a step back.
“Hey, hey! Calm down, dearest,” Crowley said quickly, hurrying around the corner to catch Kali in his arms. She shook him off and stormed away. Crowley watched her go, then looked up at me.
“Hm. I thought she’d be more angry with ME. Maybe that wasn’t a good idea.”
“You THINK?” I sighed, rubbing my stinging cheek.
“Why don’t you go home?” Crowley said, already shooing me away from the counter. “There are a lot of knives in the kitchen.”
“Yeah. That’s probably a good idea.” I hurried to get my stuff from my locker, keeping an eye on Kali. She was angrily pouring coffee far across the store. The man she was helping looked scared.
Chapter 32: The Funeral
As soon as I was outside, I heard the door push open behind me. I spun around, fully expecting Kali with a cleaver — but it was the pretty redhead from the other day instead.
“Oh my god, are you okay?” She asked, shoving her laptop into her backpack.
“Just a day in the life.” I pulled my jacket on and turned to go only to find a familiar fat bulldog sitting by the door. It looked up at me with droopy eyes and woofed lowly. It was the dog from the mall!
“And here I thought she was pretty,” Charlie mumbled, leaning to untie the dog’s leash from the trash can. I stared.
“That’s your dog?” I asked, pointing at the bulldog. Its tiny tail was waggling at the sight of its owner.
“Uh, yeah. This is Gadreel.” She rubbed the bulldog’s wrinkled head.
“Uh, this is gonna sound weird, but were you at the mall a few days ago?” For some dumb reason, I gave the bulldog a wave. I needed SO much more coffee…
“Yeah! I broke my headphones. Oh my god! I had the weirdest thing happen to me!”
“You found a lost kid? Brunette? Likes dogs?”
Charlie stared at me, her eyes growing wide.
“Whoa,” she breathed, blinking. “Are you psychic?”
“No,” I chuckled and gestured to her dog. “I was babysitting that kid and found him with your dog. Um, Gadreel.”
“I was SO freaked out! I found the kid and he wouldn’t come with me to the security office, so I left him with Gadreel while I ran to get help.” She put a hand over her heart and breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank god. I thought he wandered off again. I told the mall security and everything.”
“Thanks for…all that.” I started slowly down the street toward my car and the redhead fell into step with me, bulldog toddling ahead in the lead. “I flipped when I thought I’d lost him.”
“You babysit?” Charlie snickered. “Wow. I thought you were a total frat boy. The booty call and beer type.”
“I used to be. Then I got a kid and, well. Life happened. Which, uh, reminds me.” I looked at her critically. She seemed like a really nice person and I was kind of in a pinch, so what the hell. “What are you doing on Friday?”
“Dude, come on. I told you I’m into women.”
“No, no.” I held up a hand. “Not for a date. I need a babysitter. I have to drive my roommate to his dad’s funeral.”
Charlie wrinkled her nose.
“I’m not great with kids. I'm more of a book or computer person.”
“You have a dog, so Sammy’s will love you and if he loves you, Cas will love you too. And I can pay you,” I added as we stopped by my car.
“Oh, that’d be nice. Maybe I could have the nice ramen for once,” Charlie joked with a laugh. Something about her tone of voice told me that she was only half kidding.
“So you’re a college student.” I smirked.
“Yeah,” she admitted shyly, fidgeting with her backpack strap. “Let me give you my number and I’ll check my sched.”
“Wow. This has to be the first time I got a girl’s number without sex involved.” I offered her my phone and she took it with a smile.
“There’s a first time for everything!”
- - -
The drive to the funeral had been practically silent. Dean sat staring out the window the entire way, occasionally wiping at his face with the back of his hand. I couldn’t get him to eat anything. His burger and fries sat in the bag until it disintegrated from the oil.
The funeral itself was practically empty, save for a grouchy looking man in a suit with a stack of papers. He approached us after the service.
“Yeah?” Dean mumbled, glancing up from the scary looking knife he had been left along with the Impala.
“I understand that you filed for custody of your younger brother Sam?”
Dean simply nodded and the man offered him a stack of papers.
“With your father’s passing, there’s some additional paperwork to fill out.”
I took the papers for Dean since he hadn’t made any motion to do so. He looked so exhausted. We’d have to take a look at the papers some other day. The man glanced at me sideways then turned his attention back to Dean.
“Someone will be along to visit you at your new address and do an assessment. I just wanted to give you a heads up. After investigating your father’s life, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble winning a custody case. However, your uncle Robert Singer, who couldn’t make it today, is willing to take Sam if you’re unable to. Alright?”
When Dean didn’t respond, the man put a hand out on his shoulder. Dean lifted his head and looked at him through red-rimmed eyes.
“Take care of yourself.” The man patted his shoulder and went on his way. I watched him go, then turned to Dean, but the teenager was already making a beeline for the door. I hurried after him. I wasn’t wild about him having a knife at that moment, but it was one of the only things his dad had left him. I’d probably get shanked if I tried to take it.
Dean was already strapping himself into the car when I climbed in. I dumped the handful of papers in the back and looked at him.
“Look, we don’t have to drive back tonight. Charlie said she could stay over if she had to.”
“Whatever,” Dean grunted, laying his head against the window and staring outside.
I sighed and dug out my phone. I’d call Charlie, then find a cheap motel for us to crash at. Maybe Dean would be awake enough tomorrow to realize that he just got custody of Sam.
Chapter 33: The Aftermath
The motel room was dim by the time we had settled in. I hadn’t packed any pajamas or anything, so my boxers would have to do. Dean beat me to it.
He was still spacing out as he abandoned his jeans in a pile on the floor and shucked his wine red flannel shirt on the foot of his bed. As he crawled into bed and smacked his pillow a couple times to fluff it up, his eyes drifted to me.
I was standing there, in my underwear, staring at him. My face warmed a bit as I climbed into my bed. Dean’s eyes followed me.
“Thanks for all this,” he said, his voice sounding strained. “Driving me down here, letting me live with you. I appreciate it.”
I settled onto my side and gave him a smile.
“Hey, no problem.”
“You don’t have to pay me to babysit anymore,” Dean told me, tired eyes still watching me. I frowned and stared back for a moment.
“Are you quitting?”
“No, no.” Dean scooted up to lean an elbow on his pillow. “I feel bad taking the money when you’re feeding me and letting me sleep on your couch—”
“Don’t you need money for your car?”
“Look, I’m not going to freeload. I’ll find part time work somewhere. You need that money.”
I gave him a dubious look, then reached to turn the light off.
“Let’s talk about it later.”
“Just sayin’. You’re paying me in room and board.”
“Get some rest, dude.”
The click of the the lamp switch left the room in almost complete blackness. As my eyes adjusted, I noticed Dean’s bed was empty.
Weight pressed on the other side of my bed and spun and found the handsome teen perched on his knees on the bedside. I could just make out pieces of his face. His eyes, his nose…his lips. Dean crawled up beside me, slipping under the covers to lay against me. His body was warm. I gulped nervously.
“Whoa. You know, this sounds great in theory — but it’s been a long day,” I told him. My body was screaming the opposite after catching the scent of his skin. Logic. I had to think about this—
My thoughts turned into white noise as Dean pushed me down into the pillow with a kiss. I caught him in my arms, my fingers tracing the muscles up his back. Dean broke away from the kiss slowly, hooded sad eyes looking down into mine. I stared up at him, my resolve slipping.
It wasn’t all in my head. Dean liked me. The feeling at the realization was a weird mixture of some hesitation, some awkwardness and a pulse of excitement. I slipped my arms around his shoulders and pulled him back in for another kiss.
- - -
“Come on, Sammy, Gadreel’s gotta go,” I told my little brother again. The toddler was still hugging the white bulldog. Gadreel looked happy to have the attention. His bobbed tail was wagging.
“Yeah, Gadreel needs a bath.” Charlie knelt beside Sammy and patted his back. “This isn’t goodbye. We’ll visit again. Don’t worry!”
Sam let go of the dog and rubbed Gadreel’s ears fondly, eyes growing misty. He looked up at me, then Gabriel.
“Can we get a dog?”
I heard Gabe chuckle nervously from behind me.
“Maybe when you’re older.”
I glanced back at him. That…wasn’t really his call. I was starting to worry that after last night he thought we were a couple. Making a note to tell him otherwise, I picked Sammy up and sat him on my hip.
“Alright. Say goodbye to Charlie. She’s gotta go.”
“Bye Charlie! Thanks for teaching me about the periodic table!”
The red headed lady laughed, leaning to click her dog’s leash in place before ruffling Sam’s hair.
“Do you remember what Fe is?”
“It’s iron!” Sam cheered. They exchanged a smile and the nerdy woman started toward the door. At last. Good grief.
Gabriel handed her some money in passing, walking her along to the door. I turned my attention back to Sammy.
Somewhere between the mistake that was last night and snarfing down six mini pie pockets for breakfast, I had taken the time to read the paperwork that random dude at the funeral had handed to me.
If I could manage to prove that I could hold down a real job and maintain a kid-safe house, Sammy was my responsibility. The stress of it was almost as strong as how deliriously happy I felt. No drunkard asshole father could walk out on us now. Nobody could take him. Sam would be able to go to school. We could go out to the park without worrying about dad showing up to take him away.
I hugged my little brother, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. Sam put his arms around me too, and I couldn’t stop my eyes from tearing up. I was gonna make damn sure he had an awesome life.
“Dean? Are you okay?” As I looked down at him, I nodded, dabbing at my eyes with the back of my hand.
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s take a walk, okay? We gotta talk about dad.”
Sam stared up at me, small hands playing with the neck of my shirt.
“…He died,” the toddler said, blinking up at me. I froze.
“How’d you know that?”
“That’s what the blond man said.”
“Gabriel?” I questioned, glancing back at the door where the blond man and Charlie were still chatting.
“No, the blond man at the mall.”
“Sam, what blond man? Uh, what did he look like?” I hurried to the kitchen to find my phone. I had dumped it on the counter along with the leftovers from breakfast and all those damn papers from the funeral. I shuffled through them and picked my phone up. Maybe uncle Bobby would know a blond man.
“I don’t know his name.” Sam looked at what I was doing as I scrolled through the phone. Bobby’s number was in there. It had been scribbled on the top of the paperwork. “He was scary.”
I looked from my phone to Sam. He was frowning and playing with the funky necklace he had given me. I hadn’t taken it off since I got it. Sitting the phone aside, I sighed. I’d have to figure out who the man was later.
“Yes. Dad’s dead.”
Sam fidgeted and stared at me again. I expected more of a reaction. Maybe crying? Questions about the afterlife? But Sam was calm. He kept playing with the necklace, pressing his lips together in thought.
“Aren’t you sad?” I asked in disbelief and Sammy nodded quickly.
“I’m sad, but dad wasn’t very nice.”
“But he was still dad.”
“Yeah…” Sam shrunk down and hugged me again, resting his head on my shoulder. I rubbed his back. I was flabbergasted. Sam didn’t care? That was the sign of a serial killer — wasn’t it? My tired mind jumped around to all the worst case scenarios as Gabriel joined us.
“Alright. I’m thinkin’ spaghetti for dinner. Thoughts?”
I glanced at him. Spaghetti. I looked down at Sam again. Serial killer.
“And then pie?” Gabe added slowly.
“Yeah, sounds good,” I told him. “We’re gonna go for a walk.” Before Gabe could distract me with more talk of food, I ducked out of the kitchen.
Chapter 34: Memories and Meatballs
Hi everyone! Sorry for the break over Thanksgiving. The holidays are busy in my family.
I totally forgot to talk about it, but I'm doing a writing charity for Random Acts! You can check it out here and bid on me if you like (or anyone! It's all for the cause!) : https://www.juliahouston.com/fic-facers/
The bidding ends on December 3rd.
“Did you have fun with Charlie?” I asked Castiel. I was busy fluttering around the kitchen making spaghetti. The toddler had brought in Mister Buzzbee and sat on the floor just inside the kitchen. He tugged on the bee’s wings and made them flap.
“And Gadweel,” he reminded me, smiling and still playing with the bee. “We dug a howe in the backyawd.”
“A…hole in the backyard?” I parroted, glancing down at him. Cas looked up at me with big blue eyes and nodded.
“Gadweel’s good at digging!”
“He’s a dog.” I chuckled and dumped the noodles into the pot of boiling water.
“Can we get a dog? Can we get Gadweel?” Cas added excitedly. His smile faded when I shook my head at him.
“Sorry kiddo. He’s with his mommy Charlie.”
“When I mawwy Sammy, we’we getting a dog,” the toddler told me matter of factly. I came over and bent down to look him in the eye.
“Remember what I said? You don’t know if Sammy WANTS to marry you. You gotta wait until you guys are older—”
“We pwayed house and he was my husband! We got mawwied!”
Are you freaking kidding me, kid? I thought, plunking down on the tile next to him. Was it okay if Cas and Sam were playing house? Was that normal for apparently super GAY toddlers? I needed to find some books on all this shit.
“Cas,” I began, sighing heavily. I rubbed my forehead. We’d already HAD this conversation! “That’s…great. Look, you and Sammy can make plans all you want, alright? Just remember that plans change.”
Cas nodded knowingly.
“Just wike how Dean and Sammy awe staying!”
“Uh. Yeah,” I agreed halfheartedly. I got up and returned to my pot of noodles.
I never thought of sex as a big deal. With all the partying and drinking, it used to be my hobby. I slept with a whole lot of college girls. But something about last night meant a whole lot more. Maybe it was because I actually knew Dean’s name? Maybe it was ‘cause he was a guy? I wasn’t sure. I had a couple of girlfriends before and I never thought of myself as being gay.
I glanced at Cas as I stirred the noodles. I never played house when I was little either. Not that I could remember. I was usually ripping around in the backyard with Lucifer.
A shiver crept down my spine at even thinking his name. He’d been in prison for years. His psycho breakdown was the catalyst to Dad leaving. That day was a nightmare.
Dad had had a long day at work and wanted to retreat to his room to drink and write — his favorite pastime — and leave Cas to Lucifer and me. I, being the lazy-ass frat boy that I was, told Lucifer that HE could take care of the baby. Something in Lucifer snapped. He shoved me out of the way and stormed off into Dad’s room.
I was a little drunk, a little high and really scared. I’d never seen that look in my brother’s eyes before. I heard them screaming at each other and crashing sounds. My mind went straight to them killing each other and I froze up. I was too scared of both of them to get involved. Whoever walked out of that room was probably gonna kill me and Cas next. I was too damn drunk to do anything about it.
I leaned down and scooped Cas up — he was almost one — then stumbled out the door into the street. Then I kept walking, dialing the cops on my phone and slurring through explaining what was going on.
I turned back in time to see Lucifer slam out the front door and take off down the street. He glanced back once at me and Cas, then vanished around the block.
I couldn’t move. I stood there stupidly with Cas in my arms and the phone to my ear, the woman asking me if we were okay over and over again. I didn’t move until red and blue lights flashed down the streets.
When I found out Dad was still alive, I thought everything would be okay. Lucifer got caught and thrown in prison. He’d beaten Dad to a pulp, which Dad was healing up from. It took a couple weeks.
Then Cas and I celebrated his first birthday. Just me and him and a couple of cupcakes. I still had the pic I snapped with my phone somewhere in a box. He was the damn cutest baby in the whole world in his little birthday hat.
A couple days later, I came home after class and found a note from Dad. It basically said he hated himself, hated the life he’d made and was gonna go start fresh somewhere else.
Without Lucifer, me or Cas.
“Can I help make meatbaws?” Castiel’s voice yanked me from my gloomy thoughts and I glanced down at him. He was at my side with Mister Buzzbee in his arms and a hopeful smile on his face. I ruffled his hair.
I really wondered if Cas remembered anything about those days. Did he remember Lucifer’s breakdown? Did he know what Dad looked like?
I knelt and scooped him up, kissing his chubby cheek loudly. Cas squirmed and made a face, squeezing Mister Buzzbee tighter.
“I love you, buddy,” I told him.
Cas shrank down as he shyly replied.
“I wove you too. Can we make meatbaws now?” I sat him down on a chair by the table and patted his back.
“Alright, alright. Let me get the hamburger.”
Once it was all said and done, I was glad Dad left. Screw him. Hopefully his new life was so great that he’d forgotten we existed! He’d taught me everything I needed to know about how to be a dad, which was simple: don’t be like Dad. As long as I kept that in mind, I’d be a better dad then he’d ever be.
Chapter 35: Drama in the Park
“Let’s pway in the sandbox!” Cas shouted as soon as his tiny feet touched the ground. I unloaded Sammy from the car next to him and they charged off. I took a second to snag the bag of sandwiches before following them.
It was kind of a chilly day. The sun was poking through the clouds overhead, but the air was cold, so Cas and Sammy were in their coats. Most of the park was empty. There were a couple of random people around with their dogs, a blond guy on his phone, a woman in short shorts just jogging through — but a little girl caught my eye.
She was standing in the sandbox and frowning at Cas and Sam. I didn’t remember her name. She was the one who knocked Sammy’s ice cream out of his hand last time. I hurried that way, preparing myself for crying toddlers. I could already hear them talking. I was surprised that they didn’t sound angry.
“Sowwy,” Cas was saying. He stuck out a hand toward the little girl. “Do you want to pway with us? We wewe going to make a dinosauw wand!”
Hannah looked from his hand to Sam, hurt still on her face. She took Cas’s hand shyly and nodded.
“I like dinosaurs.”
As they settled in to playing in the gross looking sandbox, I parked my ass on a nearby bench. I could keep an eye on the kids from there and I really needed some time to think.
Time to think about Gabriel.
After the motel, he started acting differently. Boyfriend-ish. I frowned at the kids in the sandbox. I’d had a girlfriend before back in middle school. She was a cute blond with the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen — and boobs. She had nice boobs.
The thought slipped from my mind as Sam came stomping over to crawl up on the bench beside me. He didn’t say anything, he just crossed his arms tightly and glared back at the other two.
“Hey pal. What’s wrong?” I asked, nudging his shoulder with a hand. Sam turned to me and huffed.
“Hannah thinks Cas is her boyfriend!”
“Uh,” I said stupidly. I really wanted to say ‘you’re five, boyfriends aren’t a thing,’ but the look of hurt on Sammy’s face told me that’d only make the situation worse. I patted his back. “Cas said that wasn’t true last time. Right?”
“But-but…” Sam’s frown turned sad as he glanced back at the sandbox. He sniffled.
“Hey, hey. No waterworks. Come on, man.” I scooted closer and put an arm around him. Sam snuggled up to my side, eyes still locked on Cas and Hannah.
I guess I wasn’t the only one having issues with who I was…dating. I had been on the fence again about whether Sam liked Cas or not. Seeing him jealous over some random girl made it clear that he did. He and Cas were constantly around each other. I figured they’d get sick of hanging out after awhile. The little nerds.
“Cas is just being nice. Just head back over there.”
“…I don’t want to. Hannah’s there.”
“Hannah was in the sandbox first. You can’t kick her out, Sam.”
“Cas is my boyfriend!” Sam said with tears in his eyes. He looked up at me, hugging me tighter. “Can we go home?”
I stared down at him and sighed. Being at home meant being in Gabe’s house. With Gabe’s stuff and potentially even Gabe. I picked Sammy up and headed to the sandbox.
“Hey Cas, you wanna try the swings?”
“Yeah!” Cas cheered, hopping to his feet.
“I know where they are!” The little pigtailed girl got up too, clumsily wiping sand from her knees. She was smiling widely as she took Cas’s hand and led him in the direction of the swings.
I trudged after them, Sammy laying on my shoulder unhappily.
Cas helped Hannah up on a swing and started pushing her with a smile on his face.
Okay. MAYBE Sam was right. Maybe he had just gotten dumped. I patted his back and sat him on a swing. It was too big for him and he looked really small and sad in the middle of the seat. He fussed a bit and then slouched down, watching Cas and Hannah through misty eyes.
“I wanna go home,” he whined quietly to me as I gave him a gentle push on the swing.
“You know, I’ll bet you’d both fit on here!” I said with a forced smile. I ducked over and plucked Cas off the ground, sitting him next to Sam on the swing.
I stepped around and pushed Hannah, then stepped back and pushed the boys. Hannah smiled and kicked her feet, giggling every time Cas came swinging past.
Amazingly enough, Cas was ignoring her. He was holding Sam with one arm and talking quietly to him.
“Awe you okay, Sammy?”
Sam didn’t say anything. He hugged Cas with his free arm.
Going back and forth to push them still, I caught a flash of realization on Hannah’s face as she swung past them again.
“Cas, you can fit on my swing!” She called to them in passing, sticking her feet out to slow the swing down.
I sighed. These kids and their damned drama.
“I’m going to stay hewe with Sam,” Cas told her as they swung past. Hannah stepped in before I could dive to catch her, getting nailed in the chest with the swing.
She fell flat on her back, pigtails and arms out beside her. I heard Cas gasp as he hopped down from the swing. “Awe you okay?”
Hannah sat up with a start, tears already streaming down her cheeks. She got to her feet and shoved Cas away.
“You did that on purpose! You’re a bad boyfriend!”
“I’m not youw boyfwiend,” Cas told her timidly. Hannah’s cheeks flushed with anger and she jabbed a finger at Sam.
“You’re a stinky butt-face!” With those harsh words, she stomped off across the park just like before. I watched her go, wondering where her parents were and if I should make sure she was okay. It seemed like Cas had done way more damage then the swing had.
I turned back to the boys, who both looked like deer in the headlights. Cas looked from Hannah’s retreating back to Sammy, blue eyes wide.
Sighing, I came over and picked Sam off the swing.
“Okay. No more playing with her.”
“Hannah is my fwiend,” Cas said sadly, reaching up to take my hand. I was caught off guard by it. First Gabe was acting all familiar and now Cas? I wasn’t his uncle, dammit. I led the kids across the park to the playset. It had a double slide, those stupid fake phones at the bottom, and two swings that were more kid sized. The nicest part was that it was in the middle of the park, so I could keep an eye out for Hannah. I watched Sammy lead Cas up the stairs of the tower. He was smiling again, like the whole Hannah thing hadn’t JUST happened. She needed to stay the hell away from Cas — for her own good.
Like me and Gabe, I thought. I was now Sam’s guardian. I didn’t have time to date. I had to prove myself to a whole bunch of suits and more importantly, to Sam.
Chapter 36: Time to Think
“I’ve done this all before, I can walk you through it,” I told Dean. I had gotten home later than I wanted to and found Dean pacing around. The kids were playing in their room, so Dean hadn’t held back when he told me that he didn’t have time for me. Ouch.
“Look, that’s fine. Let’s just get something straight here — I’m not your boyfriend. We’re not TOGETHER.”
I nodded, trying to swallow the little lump forming in my throat.
It really felt like Dean was me from three years ago. He didn’t want a relationship. Just a one-night stand, then he’s on his way. Now I knew how all those girls felt back in my college days. The whole conversation was stirring up memories of the past.
Dean crossed his arms as his angry expression faded a bit. I guess I must have looked as sad as I felt, because his voice softened too.
“Maybe…I don’t know, maybe we—”
“No. Don’t do that,” I warned him. I shook my head. “Don’t give me hope that you’ll change your mind. I’ve been there, I’ve done that — and I never changed my mind.” It was really hard to get angry. I didn’t have it in me. I just wanted to crawl onto the couch, turn on a crap movie, and be unconscious for a couple glorious hours.
Then Dean stepped closer, dropping his arms to his sides. His eyes glanced anywhere but mine as he spoke.
“I’ve never been in a relationship. Not with anyone I cared about.” He looked down at me and sighed. “I…I don’t know how to do this.”
“Like you just said — we’re not together,” I said through a clenched jaw. I decided it was time to make my escape. The last thing I wanted was for Dean to see me cry. Ugh. I turned to go and Dean caught my arm in his.
Nope, I thought, turning my face away. My eyes were starting to sting. No, no, no, dammit!
“Gabriel,” Dean stepped around me and slipped his arms around my waist, leaning to catch my gaze.
“What?” I choked, mustering every bit of willpower to try and sound normal. I needed to think of a distraction. He smelled SO good. Like car oil, coffee and something sweet. Probably the rest of that pie from the fridge.
“I like you. Just gimme some time, man,” Dean told me.
“You like me?” I couldn’t help quirking an eyebrow at that, even as a tear slipped down my cheek. I reached up and wiped it away quickly. Dean was frowning when I looked back up at him.
“Yeah. I do,” he said softly. I shivered as his hands pressed against my back. It took me right back to the night in the motel. God, what a mess. Dean had just lost his dad and gained the responsibility of taking care of Sam — I never should have slept with him. We'd had perfect chemistry, though. I couldn’t think of a better night in my life. Every kiss, every touch…
Looking up at him now, with that bothered little frown of his, I felt stupid for feeling hopeful at his words. Hopeful that I might get another night with him. Kiss him again. Anything.
“Just gimme a couple hours to clear my head,” he added, finally stepping back away from me.
I nodded and he turned to leave immediately, ducking out the front door toward the garage. I followed after and leaned in the door. After a moment, the garage door opened and out purred the shiny black Impala. Dean glanced my way before driving off. I watched Baby until she disappeared out of view.
Something felt off. All the memories of my old life were drifting around in my head and I couldn’t help wondering if Dean was just leaving. It was what my dad had done, it was what HIS dad had done… Maybe being a new dad was too much for him.
- - -
I squandered a couple hours of the evening away watching trash TV before I checked in on the kids. They were playing in the remains of the box fort Dean had made for them. They had hauled four boxes into Cas’s room and piled them behind the bed. Cas was sticking his head out of one of the top boxes, pretending to breath fire.
“Ahh!” Sam half screamed and half laughed, ducking behind the other side of the bed.
“You guys hungry yet?”
Both kids looked my way and Cas shook his head.
“I’m a dwagon! I onwy eat pwincesses!” He made a cute roar and blew a breath at me.
“Uh huh,” I said tiredly. “Dinner’s in an hour. Sorry it’s not princess. It’s mac and cheese.”
“Okay!” The two boys replied, going back to their game.
I ducked back out of the room and made my way to the kitchen, stepping over the plush body of Mister Buzzbee. Cas was so distracted by Sam, he’d left the doll there on the floor by the couch. Sooner or later, Cas would freak out and come to find him. I plucked Buzzbee off the carpet and sat him on the kitchen counter instead.
A knock sounded on the back door just as I pulled out the box of mac and cheese. I frowned and sat it aside, glancing at the clock on the stove. It was 7:19 at night. Who the hell was knocking? The only person that came to mind was the house inspection guy from the courthouse. It was a bit late for that. I did a quick once over of the living room just in case as another knock rattled on the back door.
“Hold on, hold on,” I called ahead, clicking the lock and yanking the door open. “Hello?”
The blond man standing there was instantly recognizable. That smug smile, those cold eyes. I felt my heart freeze up in my chest.
Chapter 37: Reunion
I'm sorry this took SOOOOOoooOOOOOO long to update.
I had been driving around for hours. I didn’t have anywhere in mind, though I stopped for a burger when my stomach started hurting. It was getting late when I pulled Baby off to the side of the road just down the road from Gabriel’s place.
The house looked small from there, a dim silhouette with a spot of bright light pouring from the front door window. I got out of the car and leaned on the hood, crossing my arms over my chest. It was dark and there was definitely a creeping chill in the air. I puffed out a sigh of cold air.
I had finally made up my mind.
- - -
I couldn’t help glancing to check on the kids constantly. They were playing quietly in Cas’s room after dinner. Both of them seemed a bit shy with Lucifer sitting on the couch.
I was perched on the arm of the couch, sipping a cup of coffee. Nine o’clock at night or not, I wanted to be awake for this conversation. I hadn’t seen my brother since he was hauled off by the cops. I felt bad I hadn’t even tried to talk to him over the years, but what the hell would I have said? I wanted to ask him why he attacked dad, even though I could guess the answer. Something about the way he moved and talked made me keep quiet about it.
I wanted to get through the conversation and send Luci on his way, then pack up the house and drive at full speed in any direction. It wasn’t a realistic plan, but it was all I could think of in the face of my big bro.
“I got help, you know.” Lucifer leaned back on the other end of the couch. “First with a therapist then with a priest.” He blew out a breath and shook his head. “I even found Dad.”
“You did?” I asked, cringing. Thank god I wasn’t there for that conversation.
“Oh yeah. He’s up in some tiny town in Washington, drinking his life away.” Lucifer chuckled dryly. “Only we’re not there to yell at him about it.”
“Huh.” I slipped down from the arm of the couch to the cushion and looked at my brother. The years had definitely taken a toll on us both. After all this time of avoiding my family, I felt bad. Luci and I were in the same boat – I was just blessed with an abundance of patience and he wasn’t.
“Well, if Dad ever shows up, I guess it’ll be nice to have backup.”
“You see, Gabe, that’s the best part — Dad won’t BE showing up.” Lucifer shifted to sling his legs over the side of the couch, resting his elbows on his knees and looking at me with a big grin.
“Huh?” I managed.
“I found him and I reminded him we existed. It took awhile, but he apologized for the way he raised us. Said we’d be a family again. So that’s why I’m here.” Lucifer stood up slowly from the couch, reaching under the back of his shirt and producing a large black knife. He rested the blade on his finger and sighed. “We’re gonna be a family again, Gabe. Even little Cas.”
I gawked between him and the knife. Was I having a nightmare? Had I nodded off after dinner?
I stood up slowly, keeping my eyes locked on the shiny black blade. I held out a hand.
“Whoa. Hold on a minute. You said you got help!”
“It was mandatory to get out, Gabe. I made a miraculous recovery!”
“You lied.” I took a step back and yelled over my shoulder, “Cas, shut the door!”
My little brother must have heard the panic in my voice because a second later, I heard the door slam shut behind me.
What the hell was I gonna do? Lucifer wore a dead serious expression as he moved in on me. My heart was thumping against my chest as I took an unsteady step away.
“Gabe, come on. We screwed up the first time. We can do better. We’ll start over in Heaven. I’ll be your big brother, Dad’ll work hard, and you can take care of Cas—”
“I’m already doing that. I’ve been taking care of him! Just like you always wanted me to!” Lucifer blocked me as I took a step toward the back door. I was kind of grateful. I couldn’t just leave Cas and Sammy.
Before he could get into range to USE that knife, I bolted for the kitchen. Yanking the drawer out fast enough that it came off its rail, I grabbed the biggest knife I could see and brandished it toward my brother as he swung around the counter into the kitchen.
“Aw,” he said, making a disappointed face. “You aren’t going to use that.”
He was right. I had never attacked someone in my life. But Cas had been included in Lucifer’s plan. Once he did whatever he was planning to do with me…Cas was next. My hand was shaking as I held the knife higher, swallowing down my fear.
“Just leave. I’m taking care of Cas and Dad’s g-gone,” the words stuck in my throat. Dad had been a real piece of work, but he hadn’t deserved to die for it. I'd always hoped he’d show up one day and try to make amends — even after I told him to get bent.
“Dad’s not gone, Gabriel, he’s WAITING. Waiting for us in Heaven.” Lucifer started my way slowly, his face slipping back to a cold stare.
Sucking in a breath, I took a swing at him. I felt the blade connect with something right before a crushing grip caught my wrist and wrenched my arm backwards, making me drop the knife.
Sharp, jagged pain burned through my stomach and I looked down. That black knife was buried in my shirt, dark red blood pooling out around it. I tipped my head back and looked up at my brother as I realized that he had been right.
I really was useless.
Chapter 38: Finding Heaven
This is it. The last two chapters. Both are written and the last one is in editing. The outline for this fic is 3,172 words long and it was a lot of work, but so worth it! Thank you all for enjoying this fic! It’s been one of my most loved creations so far.
This story was started almost a year ago. 2018 was the hardest year of my life. I faced up to having depression and started treating it. I found out my dad is going blind. I was almost homeless after an arm injury left me unable to work. I was worried, Gabe was worried.
So thank you! Thank you for reading this! I worked on it through all the trials of last year and there were days were waking up and reading your comments about the story were the only good thing that happened that day. You enjoying the fic is what made me want to keep writing on it.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Love you guys and hope you enjoy the last chapters of Do I Worry! This is a two-parter and the last chapter will be up sometime this week. Probably Thursday!
The back door wasn’t locked. I shrugged and tucked away the set of keys that Gabriel had had made for me. Not even an hour ago, I had thought that I would be sneaking off in the night with Sammy and leaving those keys for Gabe to find, along with a note explaining how relationships scared the shit outta me. The least I could do was tell him to his face.
After the drive, though, I was more torn up than before. Gabe had just invited me into his house. Maybe it was because I had Sammy with me, maybe it was something else. I had kept my guard up, waited him out, and found that he was the same guy that had taken care of me. A complete stranger.
I don’t know if the situation would have been the same if our roles had been reversed – if it had been CAS who showed up homeless and Gabriel who walked into my living room in the middle of the night to take him back. Gabriel was a great guy. Better than me. How he liked me was a mystery to me, but I would be damn lucky if he forgave and forgot the last couple of days.
I just had to have him in my life. As terrifying as settling down in one spot was, Gabe was the first person I’d ever met that made me feel like it would okay. I could do the married couple thing. Well, not married. Boyfriends or whatever.
I took a deep breath, calling into the quiet house.
I stopped dead in my tracks as a tall blond man leaned partly out of the kitchen. He pointed a finger at me and smiled.
“Uh yeah. Who’re you?” I asked. A tickle of fear crept up the back of my neck. I had seen this guy somewhere. I paged back quickly through my memories as he started talking.
“Lucifer. I’m Gabe’s brother.”
The park. That’s where I saw him. He had been reading a newspaper on a bench. For some reason, I got the feeling I had seen him elsewhere too.
“Sorry. He doesn’t really talk about his family. Where’s Gabe?”
“He had to go,” Lucifer remarked casually. The little shrug after really rubbed me the wrong way. I crossed my arms.
“Then why are you here?”
“Someone has to take care of Cas.”
I barely heard what he said. A fleck of red on his shirt caught my eye. Blood. There was blood on his sleeve. He had been trying to hide it by standing halfway in the kitchen. We stared at each other for a second, my heart pounding in my chest.
“Where the hell’s Gabe?”
“In Heaven,” Lucifer told me, finally stepping out of the kitchen. His left side was spattered in blood but I couldn’t see any injuries on him.
“Gabriel?” I shouted. I heard a very quiet voice reply from the kitchen floor.
I ducked just in time for a large black knife to sweep over my head.
There was no time to think. The last fight I was in had been over money, and I had gotten my ass kicked. This fight was different. My heart was in my mouth as I realized in an instant that I’d rather die then leave Gabe there.
I caught Lucifer’s wrist as he took a swipe at me again, and slammed the back of his arm with my elbow. He yelped in pain as I heard a satisfying crack from the bone. An arm caught my neck and I kicked off the carpet to put my full weight into tossing the asshole over me.
He went falling into the coffee table back-first. Bits of wood and glass went spitting off in every direction as he crushed a mug into the tabletop. Luficer stood back up and brandished the knife between us.
“Get out of my way. Cas has to go with us or Dad will never get it right,” the blond told me venomously.
I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. It didn’t matter, because he lunged at me. Jumping out of the way, I kicked the back of his knee as hard as I could.
Lucifer’s legs buckled and he stumbled as he turned to face me again, dropping to one knee.
“Gabriel’s already gone. You wouldn’t take Cas away from him, would you?” He asked honestly, believing his own words sincerely.
Gabe was dead? I had heard him say my name — I didn’t have time for Lucifer.
“Shut up,” I snapped. Before he could stand back up, I kicked him in the neck. Then the face. He toppled over like a rock. I didn’t even wait for him to hit the floor before I was bolting for the kitchen.
Gabriel was laying on the kitchen tiles, a hand over a seeping hole in his side. I dropped to my knees and slid to his side, lifting his head and shoulders up into my arms.
“Gabe? Hey, hey! Wake up!” Gabe’s eyes fluttered open and he looked up at me hazily. Then he smiled. Tears blurred my vision as I held him close to press a kiss to his forehead. “Say something. Please.”
“Take care of Cas,” he whispered.
“What?” I managed. I couldn’t breath as I watched the color draining from his face. “No. NO! Stay with me. I’m calling the cops. Just stay with me, please,” I begged, digging out the phone from my jacket. I dialed the numbers as fast as I could, distracted by Gabe looking back up at me through sleepy brown eyes.
“I think…I love you. Huh.” He smirked at the idea and his eyes drifted closed, expression slipping away as his head hung limp.
“I love you too,” I choked, hugging him closer. Had he heard me?
“Hello?” A voice asked through the phone. “What’s your emergency?”
I couldn’t reply.
Chapter 39: Don't Worry
“Come on guys,” I told the kids as I circled the car. Baby looked a lot better after a good wash and a new window. I opened the back door and leaned inside to help Cas out of his car seat. He felt thin as I picked him up. The kid had had a rough month.
The three of us crossed the parking lot slowly, Sammy holding my hand and Cas still in my arms. I looked at Cas and smiled.
“What do you want for lunch?”
He didn’t reply, eyes growing wide as he stared off ahead of me. I followed his gaze and found Gabriel standing just outside the hospital doors with a big goofy smile on his face. He was hunched a bit from all the stomach bandages.
I sat the excited kid down and Cas rocketed over to dive into Gabriel’s arms. Gabe couldn’t pick him up or kneel down really, so he just kind of hugged Cas’s head.
“Awe you okay now?” Cas asked eagerly, clinging to his brother’s leg.
“Oh yeah. I’m a tough cookie,” Gabe told him. Sammy and I joined them and I let go of my brother’s hand to help Gabriel along. The kids circled our feet excitedly as we carefully made our way back to the car.
I didn’t talk. My throat was tight. All I could think about was the night I had come home to find him in a pool of blood on the floor. That was just over a month ago. Seeing Gabriel on his feet again, smiling and happy, was something I had worried I’d never see again.
Gabe looked at me suddenly, smirking.
“Just thinking,” I told him, swallowing the lump in my throat. Every time I visited Gabe in the hospital, I had kept the conversation light. Complaining about the food, or telling him what the kids had been up to. Now we had time to think about us and I wasn’t sure what to do with that.
“About what?” The blond asked, making big innocent eyes up at me. When I didn’t reply, he made a thinking face. “Hmm. Perhaps it’s when you said that you loved me?”
My face flushed as we reached the car. Sam crawled up into the back door to help Cas into his car seat.
“You heard that?” I asked quietly.
Gabe leaned in close.
“Yeah. I did. Did you mean it or were you just telling me what I wanted to hear ‘cause I was dying?”
I wanted to smirk or smile, but I couldn’t. The idea of him dying hurt way too much.
“I meant it. I love you.”
The blond’s smile faded as he leaned up to close the space between us with a kiss. I caught him carefully in my arms.
“They’we mawwied!” Cas yelled nearby.
Both Gabe and I looked at the two kids in the car. Sammy was beaming ear to ear and Cas was kicking his legs excitedly in his seat.
I looked down at Gabe again. He was smiling again, tired eyes twinkling as he spoke.
“Not yet. Come on guys! Let’s go home!”
My mind was swirling with the idea as I opened the door and helped Gabe into the car. I climbed the driver’s seat and Gabriel nudged me with an elbow, smirking.
“Jeez. Don’t worry, man. I was kidding.”
“You were?” I asked as I started Baby up. She purred happily.
“Um, yeah?” Gabe quirked an eyebrow at me. I gave him a long, knowing look and his face flushed a bit. “Really? You’re serious?”
“Maybe. Right now, we need ice cream.”
“Hell yeah,” Gabriel said as he sank back in his seat.
- - -
The worst part about being stuck in the hospital was the food. I’m not a picky dude, but the only thing I ate out of the tray of crappy food they brought me had been the jello.
After a month of almost nothing but jello, Dean’s version of my spaghetti was like a gift from Heaven. I ate until I was worried my stitches would rip, then sacked out on the couch. When I woke up, Dean was leaned over me.
“Hey, come on. You can sleep in your room now, remember?”
I let him help me. I mean, I could stand up on my own — I just liked him touching me. If I didn’t have a hole in my side, I might go for more than a kiss, but that seemed like a really dumb idea.
As Dean was settling me onto the bed, I grabbed his hands. He had been about to leave. What the heck?
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“The couch,” he grunted.
“Seriously? You save my ass from my psycho brother, tell me you love me TWICE, take care of my kid for a month — and you think you’re sleeping on the couch?”
Dean thought it over, then he knelt down in front of me, still holding my hands in his. He kissed the back of my knuckles, looking up at me with a sigh.
“Didn’t want you to try anything stupid.”
“Like knife fighting my brother?” I asked. The memory still stung. Lucifer really had murdered Dad. Sobbing my eyes out in the hospital for weeks had helped, but I had made an appointment to see a therapist. I knew better than to let the wound Lucifer left fester.
“Like kissing me,” Dean told me, pulling my attention away from my memories.
“No offense,” I told him, crawling painfully back into the bed, “but I don’t have the energy. I gotta get back to work on Monday--”
“Hell no. I talked to Crowley. I’m working your job until you’re back to normal.” Dean climbed up into bed with me, tugging the crumpled blankets up over us.
“You don’t have a uniform.”
“I’ll wear yours.”
I shamelessly cuddled up to his side. He shifted to tuck both arms around me. I sighed. The moment I was wrapped in his arms, cozied up in my memory foam bed, I felt a wave of exhaustion wash over me.
“Hm?” I mumbled.
“I was really worried about you.”
I smirked, listening to Dean’s heartbeat.
“That’s MY job.”
A hand massaged gently between my shoulders as I started to slip into dream land. The last thing I heard was Dean’s voice.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”