The only thing Dean can think of as he stares down at Castiel is, "He looks so peaceful."
"Yeah," Sam whispers in agreement. "I've never seen him like this."
Neither has Dean. Not once in the 11 years he has known the angel has Dean seen Castiel at peace. Even when he slept after the injury to his grace whenever he needed to recharge, it was always a tense kind of sleeping. Like he was ready to jump up and fight at a moment's notice.
This is different. Castiel's in a deep, restful sleep. His chest rises and falls with soft breaths that are slow and steady. Little curls wisp across his forehead, the rest fanning out against the couch cushion. There are no lines on his face - not from worry, age, or injury. The corners of his eyes aren't pinched. His pink lips aren't stuck in a frown.
He looks happy.
Dean and Sam almost find themselves wishing they could keep the angel just like this. They'd never admit it to each other, and wouldn't even dream of mentioning such things to Castiel, but the urge is there. Castiel has saved them so many times, the boys have lost count. He's always protecting them and caring for them. The angel loves them unconditionally - truly unconditionally, considering he met Dean in hell where the man was getting a PhD in torture, and met Sam in the middle of a nasty demon blood addiction.
It's about time the angel gets to take a break from carrying the world on his shoulders. Dean and Sam could take care of him. Protect him. Show him that they love him unconditionally too.
The boys' seperate, yet startlingly similar, thoughts are interrupted by a Scottish accent that's all too familiar. "Well, what have you lads gotten yourselves into now?"
Before either can answer, her eyes find the angel sleeping on the bunker couch. He's still wrapped up in his trench coat because he had refused to let go of it when Dean tried to remove the coat back at the witch's home. As Rowena comes closer, she sees two black wings sticking out from behind Castiel, settled comfortably as he lays against them.
"Oh my," Rowena gasps, looking up at the Winchesters. A smile tugs at the corner of her mouth but they give her credit for at least trying to pretend she isn't amused by this. "I'm going to assume this little babe is the angel Castiel?"
"Yes. We were hunting a coven of witches and right before we caught one, the bitch did this to him," Dean growls.
"So you caught her? She's here?"
Sam winces. "No. I shot her. She was going after Cas and I wasn't willing to risk it."
"Oh no. No no no. That's not good."
"Why?" Dean asks, his gut sinking. After a few seconds of silence, Dean grabs Rowena and forces her to look at him. She doesn't seem quite as happy as before. "Why is this not good, Rowena? Can't you fix it? Or - or his grace. His grace will eventually heal him, right?"
"I'll have to do a bit of research, but I'm afraid this may in fact be permanent."
"What?" both brothers shout at the same time.
Rowena nods. "His grace was already so weak. So fragile. When he was hit with the curse, his grace wasn't strong enough. It was injured further by the attack. He's still an angel, you can see that by his wings, but just barely. The first thing angel grace does is allow them to change form, take vessels, and hide their wings - all 3 vital to their survival on Earth. Castiel is clearly unable to do the first and third, and I doubt he has enough grace in him to leave this body for a new vessel. I'd be - I'd be surprised if he even-" she stops herself, now looking more worried and upset than Dean and Sam thought she was capable of.
"What?" Dean asks. "What will happen? What's wrong?"
"Like I said, I need to research."
"But?" Sam presses.
"But…" Rowena touches a finger to Castiel's cheek, closing her eyes. When she steps away, the look she gives the boys makes them want to die on the spot. "I wouldn't be surprised if he stopped being an angel altogether. He may very well fall, boys. But I'll see what I can do."
As Rowena hurries off toward the bunker library, a place she's quite familiar with now that she's aligned herself with Team Free Will, Dean and Sam look back at Castiel.
"He's falling," Dean whispers, feeling his heart break beneath the crushing immensity of that.
"As a baby, too, Dean. You know what that means, right?"
Dean closes his eyes and nods. "If we can't fix this, he's - we're going to have to
"How the hell will we do that?" Sam asks in a trembling voice.
"I don't know. But we will, Sam." Dean crouches down to rest a hand on Castiel's tiny chest, feeling the fragile heart beat beneath his fingers. "He deserves to be loved and taken care of, and it needs to come from us. We are family. I won't accept anything else."
Sam doesn't argue. In fact, he puts his hand next to Dean's, his pinky finger feeling that same little heartbeat. "You'll be okay, Castiel," Sam tells the sleeping baby.
"You will," Dean agrees. And, because Castiel is sleeping, and a baby, and unable to understand what they're saying, he adds, "We love you, Cas."
When Castiel wakes up, he's unusually warm and surprisingly well-rested. He kicks off the heavy blanket that’s on him and puts his arms over his head, stretching out his muscles. There's an ache he notices in his stomach and he places a hand over it in confusion. He gets hungry from time to time because of his lack of grace, but it's not often, and it's never like this. Castiel feels like he's starving.
Deciding to look for some food and track down the boys, Castiel tries to push himself into a sitting position. His arms feel too heavy, though. He tries twice more before giving up. As he stares at the ceiling, he wonders what happened to him. Obviously, he was injured in a hunt, but what happened to make him so weak? Castiel forces his panic down. If he's hurt, Dean and Sam won't be too far away. They'll be able to explain everything.
"Sam? Dean?" Castiel calls out tentatively. After a few seconds pass, he tries again, this time louder. "Sam? Dean? You guys here?"
"Sam! Dean!" he shouts, putting all of his energy into the two names. He's starting to panic. Truly panic.
In the middle of frantically flailing against the couch in an attempt to sit up, two hands close around him and pick him up.
Picks him up.
His cheek is being pressed to a shoulder, and he can tell that he's either very small or in the arms of someone very large because his face is tiny compared to the person's neck he's currently staring at. It takes some effort but Castiel finally manages to control his head movements enough to look around, his eyes wide.
The person holding him is talking, Castiel realizes. He pauses his panicking for a moment so he can listen to the words.
"-be okay little guy. I know you're scared. This is probably so confusing. You have no idea what’s going on, or where you are, hey?”
Castiel squints at the living room in confusion. He knows exactly where he is. The bunker. That’s the fireplace that Dean can never get to light. Right above that is the TV where they all watch sports (for Dean), the history channel (for Sam), and anything Shonda Rhimes on ABC (for Castiel, though Castiel thinks both Sam and Dean secretly like his shows). Recently, the three of them have been watching Stranger Things on that TV together.
And right there is-
“Oh! He’s awake!” At the sound of Dean’s voice, Castiel whips his head around so fast he bumps it on the person holding him’s shoulder.
“Dean! Dean, thank goodness! What’s going on? What’s happening?”
Dean doesn’t look at Castiel, instead looking at whoever is holding him. “How is he?”
Castiel balks. “I’m right here! Ask me how I am, not this stranger!”
“I don’t think he understands what’s happening. He looks completely lost.”
“He didn’t recognize you?” Dean asks in a soft voice.
“Not that I could tell.”
Recognize the person? Who is holding him? The voice doesn’t sound familiar… but maybe if he sees their face? Castiel tries pulling his head away to look up at the person’s face. His muscles are pretty sore, though, and he’s suddenly feeling exhausted. He hears a soft whine and realizes after a few seconds that it’s him making the sound. Embarrassed by his weakness, and his pathetic noises, Castiel gives up and rests his cheek on the person’s shoulder again.
“What will you do with him? If Rowena can’t fix this?”
“We’ll keep him, of course,” Dean says in a tone that almost sounds angry. “He’s our family.”
“Of course. You’re right.”
Castiel tries again to see the person holding him. Instead, his face turns toward Dean. It’s even better. Now maybe Dean will look at him. Acknowledge that he’s actually here instead of talking about Castiel like he’s not in the room.
“We’ll just-” Dean’s words stumble to a stop as his bright green eyes fall on Castiel.
This is his chance! Castiel perks up and immediately begins to shoot questions at Dean. “Dean, what’s going on? What happened? Am I hurt? Is this person cursed? Why are they so big? Wait… why are you so big? Oh god… Dean, did something happen with the hunt? We were hunting… what were we hunting? I can’t - I can’t remember. What happened?”
Dean gives him a soft smile that Castiel’s seen him give victims’ families before. Comforting and kind, but also pained. Castiel asked him one time why he always looked so upset when they had to interview witnesses and family members. Dean had said it was because they were reminders of the ones Dean doesn’t get to save.
It makes Castiel sick that Dean’s now giving him that look.
“Don’t worry, Cas. You’re going to be fine. Sam and I will take care of you, and with any luck, Rowena will have this thing sorted out by morning.”
“What thing?” Castiel asks in exasperation.
“Is Sam back with the supplies from the store? We don’t get him in a diaper soon and there’s going to be a mess,” the person holding him asks Dean.
Diaper? Who is getting put in a diaper?
Wait a minute.
Are they - is Castiel - no.
He doesn’t care if he’s tiny compared to them, or that his muscles aren’t working like they should be, or that he’s somehow unable to communicate with them - Castiel is not a baby. He can’t be. That makes absolutely no sense.
It’s not possible.
He’s a damn angel!
“Shhh, don’t cry baby,” the person holding him whispers.
“Here, Charlie. Hand him over.”
Charlie? Yes, Charlie! He met her. Castiel liked Charlie. Now that he knows it’s her, he does in fact recognize her voice.
Okay. One mystery solved.
So many more to go.
Castiel yelps as he’s passed through the air from Charlie to Dean. It feels like he’s flying for a moment - but not flying like he loves to do as an angel, where he’s in complete control and enjoying himself. This is the terrifying kind of flying where you don’t know where you’re headed and you have no power over your success of reaching the destination safely.
That’s why the second he’s up against Dean’s soft, warm flannel, Castiel is grabbing two fistfuls of the fabric and gripping with all his strength. He doesn’t want to fly again. Until Rowena fixes… well, whatever this is, Castiel wants to stay with Dean. No offense to Charlie, or even to Sam, but Castiel needs the man that makes his soul feel at peace. Castiel was formed with the sole purpose of being Dean Winchester’s keeper. If he can’t fulfill that duty, the next best thing is to have Dean be his keeper in the meantime.
Dean looks down at Castiel and gives him a slightly happier smile. He taps the pad of his finger over the tip of Castiel’s nose in a little boop, and Castiel laughs at the reminder of the time he did that to Kevin. Dean looks shocked for a moment at the giggle before his smile turns into a full-grown grin.
"You like that?" Dean asks in a soft, cooing voice. "Is that silly?"
Castiel gives Dean a frown, pulling his eyebrows together as he fixes him with a glare. "Don't talk to me like I'm a damn baby, Dean."
"Ohhh that's a grumpy face. What's wrong?"
After blinking hard a few times, making sure to let Dean know he is completely unimpressed with this entire situation, Castiel rests his cheek against the man's chest and sighs. This is going to be a long night.
Please hurry Rowena.