97°F, the thermometer on the dashboard of Cas’s SUV read as he pulled into the parking lot of the local supermarket. He groaned and loosened his tie as he prepared himself to step out of the pleasantly air conditioned car interior into the oppressively humid summer air. The heat index had been remarkably high this year, the news even warning people to stay hydrated as it reported the daily highs. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the goddamn humidity.
Pulling the keys out of the ignition, Cas slid out of the impressive vehicle, shiny loafers meeting the heat radiating furnace the pavement becomes in the late afternoon during this time of year. He squinted up at the sun in contempt as he shut his car door. It felt like he was swimming in the soup of some giant creature’s moist morning breath. Blegh.
“Just perfect,” Cas sighed as he thought about the leather of his car seats baking in the unforgiving heat, just waiting to burn his ass when he returned from grocery shopping.
He was about to begin walking towards the store, and the promise of a reprise from the sun, when he noticed the car parked next to his and drew up short. It was an old muscle car, sleek and black and shiny with beautiful curves. Despite the flashy exterior, it was what was inside the vehicle that had caught Cas’s attention. There was a very pretty young boy, fuck Cas guessed he looked about 16, in the passenger seat. A very pretty young boy who looked very very hot. There was sweat dripping from the boy’s damp hair down his face and onto the worn stuffed leopard he was holding close regardless of how uncomfortable it must have been.
The boy was clearly a Little. If his innocent face and slight frame did nothing to betray it, the thumb planted firmly between his lips sure was a dead giveaway. Cas felt his inner Caregiver roar to life as he watched the frustrated expression on the Little’s face contort as if the boy were about to cry. What kind of a shitty caregiver could be so irresponsible as to leave a Little out in a car in this heat? Without even a window cracked! Anger and indignation surged through Cas but was quickly replaced by concern as the boy finally noticed his observer and turned to meet Cas’s eyes with his own startlingly green ones.
Shit, Cas’s heart all but melted at the curious-but-shy look this green-eyed cutie was giving him. He had always had a soft spot for the innocent, for those that were in need of help or care. That was why it was far from a surprise to anybody when he officially identified as a Caregiver at 15, two full years earlier than the required declaration age of 17.
The two just looked at each other for a moment, until the smaller’s face crumpled and the boy began to cry in earnest, effectively breaking the enchanted daze Cas had fallen into. Poor thing must be roasting alive in that goddam car, thought Cas as he watched the Little tug at the door handle and let out discouraged wails. Nobody with a heart would let even a dog sit out here with no water or way to escape the burning sun. His anger returning, he tugged his phone from his pants pocket. Cas dialed 911 and impatiently listened to the phone ring.
As he informed the operator of the unattended Little in danger of heat stroke or potentially worse, Cas glanced around the parking lot for any sign of the owner of the vehicle that was now more effectively a death trap than a car. There was barely anybody in the parking lot to begin with, and nobody coming towards him. Cas sighed and thanked the woman who promised help and an ambulance were on their way.
Putting his phone away he glanced back down to find that the boy had attempted to take off his shirt. His hair was mussed and he had one arm out of its sleeve and the shirt twisted around his torso. Tears were still flowing freely, leaving tracks down the distraught kid’s face as he gave up and put his arm back through its sleeve. Cas’s stomach knotted at the sight. Christ, what was this kid doing to him? He crouched so that his face was right next to the window of the car the boy was in. The Little watched him warily, letting out a strangled little hiccup that had Cas chuckling to himself.
“Hey there bud,” he crooned with a small wave and a disarming smile. “My name is Castiel, what’s yours huh?” It was kind of awkward seeing as he had to speak louder than normal so the kid could hear him through the glass separating them, but Cas just kept his eyes trained on the agitated creature in front of him.
“’M D’n,” the boy sniffed and stuffed his thumb back in his mouth as his body shook with that signature ‘I’ve-been-crying-really-hard’ rattling inhale.
“Dean?” Cas clarified. The boy just nodded and continued to suck on the digit between his pouty lips. Cas found himself staring, he found the boy mesmerizing, before he snapped himself out of it enough to focus on the task at hand.
Keeping his voice lighthearted, Cas continued, “Okay Dean, you must be pretty hot in there, arentcha? Let’s see if we can’t get you out hm?” He sustained a steady stream of little reassurances that seemed to relax the Little – Dean – ever so slightly until Cas saw what he was looking for.
“Alright Dean do you see this little metal rod right here?” Cas tapped the window where the locking mechanism on the door was located. Dean gave a tentative nod and scooted closer, attention focused on Cas. “That’s good honey. Now I’m gonna need you to pinch it with your hand like this,” He made the ‘OK’ symbol with his hand and mimed plucking something from the bottom edge of the window. He felt like an idiot, but the kid seemed to be getting the message. That was the thing about littlespace. For some, it reverted them to a place where they wouldn’t be able to think through things like they would as their adult selves. Regression could affect any type of development whether physical, emotional, or mental; most often it was a combination of all three. Dean watched carefully and put his slim thumb and forefinger on the locking mechanism, looking back up to Cas for further instruction.
“Yep just like that you got it! Okay and now pull up!” Cas made a lifting motion with his hands. Dean looked unsure, almost guilty, and hesitated with his hand still poised. His brows furrowed and he looked as if he was going through an internal struggle. Cas was at a loss, what could be holding the boy back from escaping his prison? Then he realized, Dean had most likely been directed to stay inside the car. Disobeying generally went against most Little’s instincts and Cas figured that must be what Dean was struggling with. Besides, he himself was a stranger and Dean really had no reason to trust Cas. Hell the boy had most likely been given lectures on ‘stranger danger’.
“Hey Dean?” Cas figured he’d try again. He could see how red the boy’s face was becoming in the sweltering heat. A wave of urgency crashed over Cas. He needed to get Dean out of that car, now.
Dean just kept his head down and sucked harder on his thumb. He took his hand off the locking mechanism to wipe at the sweat that was getting into his eyes and was about to put it back on the metal piece when he seemed to think twice. When he put his hand in his lap was when Cas pulled out his trick card.
“Dean? Hey I promise you won’t get in trouble if you do this, okay?” Dean lifted his head to glare (oh god, it was fucking adorable) doubtfully at Cas. And who was he kidding, Cas wasn’t really in a position to be making such promises but at least he had gotten the Little’s attention. “Dean you need to listen to me, it is dangerous in there and I know that your mommy or daddy would want you to get out of there rather than hurt yourself,” Cas put all the sincerity he could muster into his voice. Though given Dean’s current situation Cas wasn’t sure he could say much for the wishes of the boy’s parents or Caregiver.
After a skeptical eyebrow raise, it seemed like Dean decided he could take the loophole Cas was offering him. He scrunched up his face in concentration and tugged at the rod, his fingers slipping up and off of it. He made a startled noise and then looked to Cas who could see a twinkle of worry in the boy’s eyes. Cas was quick to reassure and after a few more attempts Dean was finally able to pop the lock on the door. It took no coaxing on Cas’s part for the boy to quickly open the passenger side door…setting of the fantastically loud car alarm.
The squeal of delight Dean had let out at being freed from his prison turned into a shriek of surprise at the blaring noises coming from the car. Cas sighed wearily and pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course the fucking car alarm would go off, just great. As if things wouldn’t be awkward enough with whomever Dean belonged to.
Cas ran a hand through his already tousled hair when he felt a little tug at the hem of his untucked button down. Glancing low, Cas found himself looking at a wide-eyed Dean. The boy only came up to Cas’s shoulders. Poor kid probably could use some comfort right about now. Cas smiled wearily at the Little clinging to his side and stroked dark golden locks that promptly buried themselves and the face they were attached to into his armpit. Cas cringed, imagining the smell and hoped his deodorant was enough to combat all the sweating he’d done in the late afternoon heat. Dean, however, seemed not to mind at all as he snuffled against the stiff fabric of Cas’s dress shirt.
As touching as Cas was finding Dean’s display of affection, the car alarm was starting to attract the attention of the few other shoppers in the parking lot and Cas was beginning to feel anxious. He was only here to grab some milk and other necessities to last him and Sam the rest of the week and now he had inadvertently caught himself up in…this situation. Though how much longer he would be a part of said situation was in question as a police cruiser pulled into the parking lot and Cas flagged it down. He felt a twinge of annoyance at the absence of an ambulance, even though Dean seemed to be fine, his personal philosophy was better safe than really flippin’ sorry later.
The police car trundled to a stop in the middle of the lane behind Cas’s and Dean’s cars and out stepped a female officer. Her eyes drifted over the form of the little, still tucked into Cas, and then up to Cas. She glanced at the squawking car before smirking and turning back to the other adult.
“Officer Meg Masters,” she introduced herself over the honking.
“Castiel Novak,” offered Cas in the same strained half-yell.
“A pleasure, Clarence. You must be the one that found the ankle-biter,” she rounded to the trunk of her vehicle and rummaged around.
Cas rolled his eyes at the term. “Yeah I noticed him when I parked my car next to the one he was locked inside. He’s still pretty hot,” Cas looks over the sweat dampened hair and the flushed neck of the occupant residing in the folds of his shirt. “I was told there would be an ambulance?”
Meg emerged with an icepack and a bottle of water. “Sorry Clarence, we get a lot of these types of calls with the heat lately. Can’t be sending out emergency vehicles every time Jonny thinks his mom has sun poisoning when really all she needs is a drink of water,” she told him, flashing her mischievous, irritating Castiel thought, smirk and holding out the water bottle.
Just then the wailing car went silent, and the sudden quiet weighed on Cas’s ears like he had just plunged into deep water.
“Hey!” Came a shout from the direction of the store. “Hey what the hell are you doing to my car?!”
A middle aged man pushing a shopping cart filled with bags was heading in their direction. “Did the alarm fuck with your ears? I asked what the hell you’re doing to my car, bub,” spat the newcomer, who Cas could only assume was Dean’s Caregiver.
Feeling indignant, Cas unconsciously puffed up his chest a little. Could this moron not see his Little in the arms of a stranger? Or was he only concerned with his car’s paint job? Still, Cas needed to keep a level head, it would help no one if he couldn’t be civil. He took a deep breath, “Listen, sir, I found Dean here locked in your car. It is entirely too hot for anybody to be sitting in direct sunlight without water or cool air, let alone to be cooking in a car oven,” Cas let his disapproval seep into his voice as he eyed this new man. He was scraggly with three day old stubble and rumpled clothes. His cart was full of groceries but also shovels, rope, lighter fluid and… a fifty pound bag of rock salt? They were in the throes of the dog days of summer for Christ’s sake.
“Hey buddy I don’t appreciate people touching my things without my permission. Capisce?” The man glared at Cas and only then seemed to register Dean’s presence. “Kid what have I told you about staying put? Look at me when I’m talking huh?” He growled. Dean trembled a little against Cas’s side but turned to face his presumed caregiver.
Meg, who had been watching the whole exchange with something close to disinterested amusement plastered on her face, chose that moment to intervene. “Im sorry sir,” she began, not sounding apologetic in the slightest, “but would you be the owner of this vehicle?” She gestured towards the sleek muscle car.
The man grunted “Isn’t that what I been sayin, lady?”
“Then do you know that in this state it is considered a crime of neglect to leave children, Littles, or pets unattended in a vehicle?”
“Well someone wasn’t supposed to be Little today, were they? In fact, he wasn’t supposed to be a Little at all!” If possible, Dean’s face grew even redder and he hid his eyes from the daggers his caregiver was shooting him by bringing his leopard up to his face. Cas reached for the distressed boy’s shoulder with the hand not already wrapped around his waist, but the minute his fingers brushed Dean the kid stiffened and stepped away from Cas’ hold. Dean was obviously fighting his regression instinct because of what this man had said.
Cas felt his veins turn to ice as he regarded the man. “Just because your alpha complex is so large it impairs your intelligence, doesn’t mean you have to be a dick about it,” Cas informed him calmly, even though the ice throughout him was ferocious.
Scraggly stubble took a menacing step towards Cas and Cas was surprised to feel himself raring to go. He didn’t step back.
“Okie dokie boys, let’s put our junk away and save the measuring for later,” Meg suggested. Though her stature was relaxed, her hand was casually rested on her holster and this gave both men pause.
“P-papa?” Asked the stuffed leopard in the moment of silence. “Papa ’re y’mad ame?”
“Shut up, Dean. What have I said about you calling me that?” This ‘papa’, Cas scoffed, snapped and the leopard began to tremble and sob. It was Heartbreaking for Castiel, but he knew Dean would only shy away again if he offered comfort.
“Alllllrighty then. Clarence and um…,” Meg looked expectantly at Giant Dickbag, as the scruffy man was named in Cas’ mind.
“John. Jon Winchester,” Giant Dickbag provided importantly.
“Right. Well all of you will need to accompany me down to the station so we can sort this mess out,” Meg raised a hand in the direction of Dickbag, fine, John, who had opened his mouth with what seemed to Castiel like a characteristic argumentative spark in his expression. Dean continued to sniffle into his stuffed toy as Castiel could only feel a strange mix of excitement and dread at the prospect of spending more time with the boy, but having to deal with John. Boy was he going to have a lot to tell Sam when he got home tonight.