He finds it on some unmarked rack of the thrift store as you’re looking for pants that’ll actually fit him. Because having to cut up all yours and Sam’s old jeans to make something even half decent isn’t working. And you have an arm full of cargo pants and plaid shorts when he comes up to you and presses himself to your leg. He hasn’t spoken since they demoted him, but you’re learning his cues. This one means look down. So you do.
The jacket in his arms is huge. He holds it up for you to take and you do. It’s identical to the one he used to have, just smaller. You look back down at him and then kneel, getting yourself to his level.
“We’ll get it,” you tell him, handing it back. “But it’s gonna need to be altered, okay?”
He nods and moves himself into your space. He hasn’t gotten the concept of hugging yet, so instead he pushes his body against your chest and rests his head on your collar bone.
“You’re welcome, Cas.”
He backs away and looks at the clothes in your hands. He points to a pair of dark-wash jeans and then touches a hand to your leg. You understand him.
“Yeah, they’re like mine,” you agree. “Want to try them on?”
Cas nods and takes your hand. You stand and let him lead you to the dressing rooms. He insists on doing everything by himself so you stay out of the dressing you, holding the door open and only peeking in when he knocks on the mirror to let you know he’s ready for you to check and make sure they fit the right way.
Eventually, after trying on too many clothes and deciding on six pairs of pants and five t-shirts, you’re both ready to leave. You get to the checkout counter and the woman behind it smiles at you.
“Well aren’t you a handsome little guy. Are you having fun with Daddy today?”
Cas hides behind your legs, holding you so tightly you wonder if he’s trying to fuse himself into you.
“He’s a shy one, huh?” the woman says.
You smile, not having the heart to tell her or Cas that you aren’t really his dad. “That he is,” you say instead.
She smiles and finishes ringing up the clothes. She totals the purchase and Cas yelps behind you. You look back quickly, thinking he’s hurt or something. The woman looks concerned too. But Cas only holds out the jacket to you, reminding you that you almost forgot to pay for it.
“Oh yeah.” You take it from him and put in on the counter. “This too. I’m not sure if it even has a tag though,” you admit.
The woman searches the coat, and sure enough there isn’t one.
“Normally we can’t sell anything without a tag,” she explains. Cas’ eyes get big and you can see the tears starting to form. “but there’s always exceptions, honey.”
“So how much?” you ask.
She shakes her head, waving you off. “Don’t worry about it.” She rounds the counter and holds the coat open to Cas, who slips it on all to eagerly. “It’s yours to keep, sweetie.”
Cas grins wide.
“Thank you,” you tell her.
You pay for the clothes and thank her one last time before you leave. The coat drags on the ground behind Cas, but he’s happier than you’ve seen him in a long time. And when he refuses to take it off during bedtime, you don’t say anything. Because everyone’s got a security blanket, even if it isn’t even a blanket at all.
He stands on his bed and reaches up to where I sit on my knees on top of his dresser, looking out the window. His hands barely reach my head so he tip-toes and put the construction paper crown on my head.
“If you were a Prince,” he says. “I would be your princess and I would save you.”
“Why a girl?” I ask, watching the exploded fire hydrant shoot a geyser into the air.
“Because,” he nudges my leg and I scoot over so he can climb up. “it’s always about a Prince and a Princess.”
“But it doesn’t have to be. You can be a Prince too.”
“But the stories —”
“Don’t tell the whole truth,” I tell him. I look away from the window and move to sit cross-legged across from him as best as I can with the space I have. He does the same. “Just cause no one said that two princes were in love, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” I hold out my hands, palms up, so he can put his on top.
“I know but, I still wanna be a princess,” he smiles and smacks my hands.
“Cause they get to wear pretty dresses!”
We play red hands for a while, until we hear the firetrucks drive up with their sirens blaring. The sound hurts his ears so we move to a different room and crawl into the broken bed, pulling the ratty blanket over our heads and breathing until the air turned hot.
“Hey Jay,” I whisper.
“I’ll buy you pretty dresses when we get older, okay?”
His lips touched my face just under my eye, I could feel his grin. “I like purple ones.”
You hide beside the old recliner and wait for the darkness to leave. It isn’t night, but you wish it was, because then you couldn’t see them. The huge sentinels that scan everyone’s homes, blocking out the sun as they keep track of every resident and make sure there aren’t strays. Strays are bad. Evil. At least that’s what they say on the news and radio, in between songs about your mental health.
Mack sits next to you and holds your hand, kissing the back of it and telling you that it’ll be okay. “It’s just the weekly check,” he says, his small voice too loud in your ears despite how he’s whispering. “Only got a minute left.” He leans forward onto his knees and kisses the tears you didn’t know you were crying.
But he doesn’t see what else is lurking near the sentinels. The creatures with red eyes and hissing voices don’t haunt Mack they way they haunt you. He doesn’t know the sounds they make as they sing-song their threats, telling you how badly they want to turn you in.
You aren’t a stray. But you’re close enough to it, and it’s the shadows’ fault that you’re this way.
You slam your arms to your ears when a sentinel’s siren starts up down the road. You don’t want to hear the screams that’ll follow and Mack must not either because he pushes himself between your legs and burrows his face against your chest. You wrap your legs behind him and wait.
“Someone told me that they never used to have checks like this. One of the Rec Leaders, I think,” Mack whispers after a moment.
You drop your arms. “Was it better?”
Mack shrugs and you lean down to rub your hands over the knobs of his spine. “He didn’t say. But can you imagine it? Must’a been peaceful.”
Suddenly a streak of light touched the scuffed up hardwood behind Mack and you squeeze him closer. “Maybe,” is all you say.
Mack lifts his head and kisses the corner of your mouth. “Yeah, maybe.”
Her pale blue dress puffs out as she twirls on her tip-toes and giggles, lifting her hand over her head as if she were a ballerina. But you know better than to call her that. She’s a princess, Cinderella, to be exact. And even if you think her pout is the cutest thing in the world, you favor her hugs and kisses over her cold shoulder any day.
So you sit at the Dining Room table with bills spread out in front of you, punching numbers into a calculator and wondering how the hell you and Cas are gonna pay for all of this. And you watch her from the corners of your eyes as she curtsies and thanks her imaginary friends for making her dress. Her brown hair bounces as she fakes the most pompous royal laugh you’ve ever heard. You grin and try to focus on your current task again. But she calls for you and she’s suddenly at your side, tugging on your shirt.
“Daddy, I need your help,” She says. “There’s a ball at the castle and I need to practice my dancing.”
You start to shake you head and say, “I don’t know how to.”
But her hazel eyes widen, “Please, daddy. Please?”
You nod instead. “Okay.”
When Cas comes home an hour later, the couch and coffee table have been pushed to the side and she’s standing on your feet, holding your hands as you count out the steps.
“Did I miss something?” Cas asks, setting his keys down on the table by the door.
She turns to him and grins. “Daddy is helping me get ready for the ball!”
“I didn’t know Daddy could dance.”
You look up at Cas and shrug your shoulders, ”I’m making it up as I go.”
Cas laughs and walks toward the two of you, holding out his hands to her. “Lucky for you, sweetheart, your Grandpa taught me how to dance when I was a little boy. Here, hop on.”
She switches from standing on your feet to standing on his shoes. Then Cas starts waltzing across the carpet, all grace and poise and absolutely beautiful.
“Show off,” you say, faking a pout.
Cas makes his way back over to you and gives you a quick kiss. “I’ll show you some other moves later.”
You chuckle softly and then move to the couch to watch Cinderella get ready to meet her prince, wishing that he’d forever be imaginary and your little girl could just stay like this forever. No heartbreak or high expectations, just a beautiful night in a beautiful dress, dancing with someone you know won’t ever disappoint her.
But life isn’t a Disney movie and you know that she’s going to grow up before you know it. Because unlike the Prince, you know the truth. And one day that clock will strike midnight and your baby girl will be gone.
So you make yourself a promise that no matter how old she gets, no matter how many mistakes she makes in her life, or how many frogs she has to kiss to find the love of her life, you will always dance with Cinderella. Every time she asks.
for artandaquee who prompted me with:
“Cas and dean have a kid(s), but Cas ends up in a battle he loses. Dean thinks he’s dead and carries on raising their kid(s). But it turns out Cas’s grace had been ripped out and he fell. Cue him turning up once he’s around 18 to find a kid(s) older than him and a Dean that never stopped missing him. But also resents him for not being there.”
All you remember is screaming his name until it felt like you were swallowing glass every time you tried to speak. You don’t remember a bright light, or his voice calling for you, if he even did. You just know that he was there, then he fell, and then he wasn’t there anymore. He wasn’t anywhere at all.
And you searched for days. Doubled over the same spots, hoping and praying that you’d find something of him - a body or just a part of it - to take home. But the only thing you took was a torn off sleeve of his coat that had bits of his tie fabric melted to it.
You quit looking after that. You met Sam at the motel you were staying in and told him it was time to go. He tried to argue, but stopped when he saw what you held in your hand. You didn’t have to look at him to know that he tightened his jaw as he nodded.
“Okay,” he whispered. “I’ll get the bags in the trunk.” Then his arms enveloped you and you cried against his shoulder, clutching at his shirt and begging him not to leave you too. You don’t remember the words Sam said that calmed you down enough for you to be able to walk to the Impala unassisted, but you’re sure it must’ve been something good, promises you know he’ll always keep.
You reached Bobby’s in a day, with Sam speeding like he was trying to win Nascar. You didn’t mind, really. You wanted to as far away from the battlefield as you could get. And even if Sioux Falls was still too damn close, it was better than having the bloodied dirt sticking to the soles of your boots.
When you walked into the house, Bobby stood and opened his mouth to ask what you didn’t want to answer. You shook your head before the words could be formed and all Bobby did was say, “I’m sorry, son.”
The old crib sheet tears easily in your hands, ripping into jagged strips that’ll work for what you want. You make six of them and you don’t know what you’ll do with the other five, because you only need one right now. So you put the extras in the junk drawer in the kitchen and walk out to the back porch where Mason sits on the chair you and Sam made him for his last birthday. He stares into nothing, the bandages still on his eyes, though you can see the reddened chemical burns on the sides of his face.
You sit next to him and stay quiet, still. Not wanting to disturb him from his thoughts.
“I know you’re there,” Mason annouces, in a voice so broken you almost shatter from hearing it.
“Yeah, I figured,” you say, resting your elbows on your knees and leaning forward. “Must be giving Daredevil a run for his money ‘bout now, huh?”
Mason snorts, though it isn’t happy in the least. “M’not a superhero, Dad.”
“You mean, I bought that cape for nothing? Damn, I didn’t even keep the reciept.”
Mason smiles at that, small and barely there, but you catch it.
“I’m sorry this happened, kiddo,” you start. Mason shakes his head and holds up his hand, stopping you.
“What’s done is done,” he tells you, sounding like he’s thirty instead of thirteen. You hate it. “Can’t change it now.”
“The doctors said it might not be permanent. They said —”
“That there’s a 20% chance that I’ll see again and that even if I do regain my sight, I’ll need glasses with lenses three inches this to even be able to read a book.” Mason slumps back and crosses his arms over his chest, a serious pout decorating his features. “I’d rather just stay like this.”
You suck in a breath, trying to quell your anger at God and yourself. A breeze blows by and the torn piece of sheet tickles your leg, reminding you that it’s there. You look down and the faded dinosaur print and let out the breath you were trying to keep.
“Play a game with me?” You ask, your voice quieter than you expected it to be.
“What?” Mason turns his head and it kills you to know that all he’s seeing is darkness instead of you.
“A game, sort of. I figured that it isn’t fair that you can’t see anything ever again while I can, so…” You push the ripped fabric into your son’s hands, wrapping his fingers around it.
“What is it?”
“Yeah. If you’re blind, then I will be too,” you tell him.
A small smirk plays on his lips and his fingers tighten around blindfold. “You don’t have to, Dad. I’ll be okay.”
“I know you will, but I won’t. Please, Mase?”
Mason nods and leans forward, reaching out until his hands are on your cheeks and roaming over your eyelids. It takes him less time than you thought it would and soon your eyes are covered and all you see is the midnight blue of the sheet. You close your eyes, you can’t cheat and see color when Mason can’t.
“Good?” Mason asks.
“Perfect,” you confirm.
You hear Mason lean back in his chair and you do the same in yours. You sit in silence for a moment and then you move, holding out your hand and waiting for Mason to find it. When he does you lace your fingers together.
“Thanks, Dad,” Mason says.
You smile. “Any time, kiddo.”
Cas sits on park benches for the sense memory and sometimes to talk to the children that like to ask him questions.
Sometimes it takes a kid’s point of view for you to figure out what you’re missing.
She stands by Dean’s bed every night, just before eight, and for the longest time he think she’s a ghost that he’ll have to put to rest. But then she crawls onto his bed one evening and sits cross-legged at Dean’s feet.
You bury him on a Tuesday, because that’s the day he was born.
Dean and Cas’ son, Dae, is convinced that only girls like pink.
Not everyone sticks to the sex they’re born as, and just because Dean and Cas’ daughter has a penis, it doesn’t make her any less a girl.
Dean and Cas’ daughter is 17 and pregnant and Dean doesn’t know how he’s supposed to react to it.
The tests come back: Dean and Cas’ son has cancer.
What if Dean and Cas had a daughter during 7.01?
Dean and Cas’ Daughter, Katie, can see ghosts and one of them wants to talk to Dean.
“Daddy,” she whispers, sleep coating her voice. You turn over in bed and squint to see her small frame in the doorway. You turn on the bedside lamp.
“S’wrong sweetheart? Have a bad dream?” Cas grumbles in his sleep and you ignore him.
She shakes her head. “Not a bad dream.”
It’s then that you notice she’s pale and shaking like she’s terrified of something. You sit up as fast as you can and elbow Cas in the back before bolting to her side. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Cas get up!”
Your head spins over what could be wrong, horrible scenarios passing through your minds and only making things worse.
“Cas!” you yell again.
“M’up,” he mumbles. “S’wrong?”
“Katie’s shaking like a fucking leaf, that’s what’s wrong.”
“Language,” is all Cas says as he trudges toward you and kneels down next to you. He touches Katie’s forehead with the back of his hand. “No fever, Dean. I’m sure she just had a bad dream.”
“She said she didn’t. And I mean,” you pinch his face between your hands until it hurts him enough to wake him up. “Look at her.”
Cas blinks a few times and leans back to study the fear still inscribed on their daughter’s face. “You okay, baby?” he asks.
Katie shakes her head.
“Baby what’s wrong?” You question.
“I don’t want to sleep in my room?”
She bites her lip and makes a small whining sound, squeezing the stuffed rabbit in her arms.
“Katie..” Cas says low and too slow. It’s the voice he uses when he knows Katie is lying and he wants answers.
“I saw something in my room,” Katie cries.
“What do you mean? This place isn’t haunted, baby. We made sure of that before we moved in.”
“They don’t live here,” she declares. “They come from all over. They don’t let me sleep.”
“Katie, who are they?” Cas asks, saying what you want to know.
She’s quiet for a moment and then in a whisper she admits what you didn’t want to be true. “Ghosts.”
She looks up at you with watery eyes and her voice is thick with unshed tears. “All the time.”
“Fuck,” you swear.
“Language,” Cas reminds you.
This wasn’t what you signed up for when you adopted Katie all those years ago. You knew it was a possibility, her mother was the same way before she died. But you had hoped that Katie would be spared, that the sight would’ve skipped a generation. Katie’s mother killed herself because of the dead, you didn’t need Katie to entertain the idea too.
“Daddy,” Katie says, her voice still too tiny for her body. “One of them wants me to tell you something.”
Katie steps forward and presses on your shoulder, letting you know that it was a secret meant only for you. You bend down until her lips were at your ear.
“I told you angels were watching over you.”
Tears spring to your eyes and fall faster than you can stop them, and all you can do is hug Katie close and reach for Cas to include him too.
Daddy says Papa isn’t coming home for a while. I asked why and he almost cried. God, if you know please tell me. And if you see Papa, please tell him that Daddy is sad and we need him to come back.
Uncle Sam told me who you really are. Daddy is still sad and he’s drinking more than usual. You used to tell me that if I pray, God will always hear me and answer. I hope it works for you too. I miss you.
I saw you on the news the other day. I like the flowers you made grow all over that old church, they were pretty. I asked Uncle Sam if he could drive me over there to see them, but Daddy heard me and yelled. He scared me. I wish you would come back soon. Daddy is happy when you’re here.
I still miss you.
I don’t like what you’re doing anymore. I don’t like that you’re gone. Daddy left me at Grandpa’s to go look for you with Uncle Sam and they haven’t been back for a week. They haven’t even called. Please find them for me, please. I need them to come back, with you. Please.
I don’t know why you took my Papa away from me and Daddy. But I want him back. He isn’t yours.
Don’t come back.
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that last letter. I was angry and I saw Daddy crying and I just really want my Papa back. Please. I don’t like seeing Daddy cry.
I know who you really, really are this time and I hate you. My Papa said you hear people’s prayers and that you answer them.
You’re a liar.
The tests come back and you cry. You can see the bruise that started this all and you ask Cas why. He tells you he doesn’t know and he holds you as you both sit in your son’s room, watching him sleep.
This wasn’t supposed to happen to you. You’ve never done anything so bad that you deserve this kind of fucked up karma. Dakota’s just a kid, and you just want him to be normal and have fun. He shouldn’t have to learn the definition of Leukemia or Chemotherapy.
But the test came back positive and tomorrow his battle really starts.
Koda’s strong though and you have no doubt he’ll fight like a warrior. But the what-ifs still hang in the air and sit on both your shoulders, weighing you down and jumping until your bones start to splinter.
He’s your little boy, looks just like Cas and acts every bit like you. You need him here. You have to see him graduate and find someone to love and maybe get married and have kids if that’s what he wants. You don’t want to bury him. You can’t even stomach the thought.
“Shhh,” Cas coos in your ear as a sob rips from your throat. “We’ll get through this, Dean. Just one step at a time.” He holds up his hand and you fold your fingers between his, letting him hold your hand too tightly. And you realize, when you feel him trembling, that he’s scared too. How could he not be? Koda is his son too. He’s the one that took Koda to ballet and picked him on the nights you worked too late to be able to get there on time. Cas taught Koda how to make cookies from scratch and how to tell if the soil was good enough to use or if you had to get new stuff. Cas is the one that broke his back to make sure that Koda’s fifth birthday was exactly how he had asked for it and that the Red Power Ranger really did show up.
Of course Cas would be just as terrified as you.
“Do we tell Sam?” you ask stupidly, because you already know the answer.
“Later,” Cas whispers and kisses your forehead. You can feel his tears touch your skin.
You aren’t ready to fight this fight, no one ever is. But it’s being shoved at you and soon you’ll be waist-deep in the reality that you could lose Koda for good.
But right now he’s sleeping and there’s still hours before it’s morning. So you lay your head on Cas’ shoulder and let him lean his cheek against your hair, and then you just watch your son and try to memorize how he look right now in this moment. Because you don’t know when you’ll ever get this back and you need something to keep you going if things go from bad to worse.
“We’ll be okay,” Cas says again.
“Yeah,” you agree. “Just one step at a time.”