It was the third car he ditched, and the fourth he’d stolen today. Cas knew that he was being excessive at this point, especially with the erratic out of the way routes and doubling back he’d been doing in case he was being followed. He couldn’t afford a mistake. Not now.
His gaze slid over to the rear-view mirror for probably the thousandth time today. Still, there in his eye line was Jack sleeping in his car seat. The sight unnerved him every time.
Reading books, watching videos, taking online classes were all one thing, but...actually taking care of a child was a completely different experience. Jack wasn’t even twenty-four hours old yet, and Cas had already frozen in panic and broke down crying more times than he’d care to admit.
They crossed over the state line into Washington. Cas’ grip tightened on the steering wheel. What he wanted most was to be going in the opposite direction. To an extent, yes, the Men of Letters Bunker would be safe for Jack, but nowhere was going to offer the protection they needed from Heaven. His body ached to head for Kansas, because after these last several years on Earth, Cas was starting to associate the feeling of home with the Winchesters. And home was something he badly wanted for Jack.
The sun was rising when they drove up to the small cabin in North Cove. Cas parked the car, but he didn’t move from his seat. Guilt was coiling and tightening around his throat for the entire drive, but it was only now with the house looming over him that he desperately felt like clawing for air. It wasn’t fair what happened to Kelly.
The next several weeks were bumpy. Jack was definitely growing faster than human babies his age, but no where near as fast as Amara. Whether any of that was a good or a bad thing, Cas had no idea. The nephilim was an utter mystery to him. At the very least, as far as Cas could tell...Jack was a happy baby.
That was the only thing that kept Cas grounded while he tried to master the finesse of diaper changes, formula, and wrangling wiggling baby limbs. What didn’t help was the disharmonious tune of longing encircling him. Some days it was quiet like a lullaby, but others it was erratic and thunderous. The worse days were the ones where there was nothing at all.
It stung, but he knew that Dean wasn’t intentionally praying to him. He would if he absolutely needed to, but Dean was stubborn. Cas figured that even if Jack was aware of the situation, his reasoning skills were sufficient enough to surmise Dean was angry and that he wanted Cas to return to the bunker just so he could be told exactly so.
Castiel was in no mood to be chastised for doing exactly what Dean would do if the situation was reversed. The man’s double standards were maddening.
Today though was different. Cas was busy at the kitchen sink washing dishes when he heard a whisper. Castiel? Are you there? He dropped the small bowl that was in his hand. It splashed soapy water back up at him. You better be alive.
He stood there waiting for several minutes after that, but there was nothing else to the prayer. That was it. Cas picked up the dish towel on the counter and dried his hands, looking over his shoulder at Jack in his high chair.
Jack’s smile widened when they made eye contact. He started lightly tapping the palms of his hands on the tray part of the chair.
“Is it okay if I make a quick phone call?”
Jack’s head tilted to the side while he babbled.
The soft smile on Cas’ face grew. “I know. I know. We’re supposed to be off the grid hiding.” Cas dug his cell phone out of his coat’s inside pocket. He looked at the black screen before looking back at the baby. “It’ll only be for a minute. And after all this time there’s no way anyone is watching close enough to find us, right?”
Jack continued to babble away while he tried to wave every limb he could. Even his metaphysical wings.
Cas couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight. He knew this was Jack’s way of signaling he would like to be released from the chair’s confinement. “Can you wait until I’m done with my phone call, and then we can sit in the other room? It won’t be long.”
Jack stopped his wiggling and went back to rubbing the palms of his hands all over the chair. Cas took that as a, yes. Sighing, he leaned his back against the edge of the counter and turned his phone on.
It came to life and buzzed erratically for a couple minutes. Cas wasn’t sure what to do other than wait for it to stop. Even Jack was eyeing the phone oddly. Eventually, the buzzing ceased and Cas discovered that he had: over a dozen missed calls, tons of text messages, and a couple voice mails.
He groaned. It was bad enough that he had to keep track of the phone at all times, but what he really hated were the angry, red notification icons. So Cas did what he had to and cleared them out. All the missed calls were from Dean and they were consistent. He never went more than four days without calling. Cas opened the text messages next. The majority were again, from Dean.
Cas opened the ones from Sam first: Hey, I know you’re doing what you think is best but please pick up the phone once in a while.
Hey, is there any chance you can let Dean win the competition for being the most stubborn bastard this time and call him back? He’s driving me insane.
I saw on the news an aerial shot of the blast zone. I hope you and the baby are safe. Send us any kind of sign that you’re okay. Please.
It was too much. Grief battered into him in an unforgiving wave. Cas put the phone down and plucked Jack from his chair. He held the baby close to his chest. “We’re okay,” he whispered. “We’re okay. We’re okay. We’re okay.”
And they were. And so was Sam….and Dean. But not Kelly. It was inevitable. They all knew that, but still….Cas hoped that there would still be something he could try.
For now he was just grateful that he had the foresight to get Kelly far enough away from the cabin before Jack was born. He knew that she wouldn’t survive the birth. He knew that it was likely going to alert every angel, demon, and curious moron in creation, but he still wasn’t prepared for what occurred. The power blast….atomized her and tore apart tons of trees in the wooded area. He couldn’t imagine what the sight was that Sam saw on the news.
The tiny fist pounding into his collarbone finally snapped Cas out of his thoughts. Tilting his head down, he saw Jack’s big blue eyes intently staring into him. “We’re safe,” Cas whispered. He kissed the top of Jack’s head. “Everything’s fine.”
Cas went back to the counter and retrieved his phone. He brought Jack into the living room and they sat in the rocking chair by the window. The moment Jack caught a glimpse of a bird flying by, he was entranced by the window. Cas hung onto him with one hand while he stared at his phone.
There were still messages to read. He opened Dean’s: Where ARE you?
We’re not gonna do anything to the kid, okay? Removing their grace was just an idea.
I DO get it. You know that right?
The ship has sailed stopping the kid from being born. We’re not gonna let anyone go Old Testament on the kid. Besides the bunker has more than enough warding.
We’ll figure something out.
PpiECE o f shit. PICCJ UPP
What did Satan jr do? Tear down the nearest cell tower?
Come on Cas.
Are you even getting any of these?
Call me back NOW.
We’re not dead in case you care.
It looks like a bomb went off. That’s what the news is calling it.
I know you’re not dead. You’re too damn stubborn to die in a blast like that.
It took several deep breaths before Cas felt calmer. Knowing Dean, any of that could have been worse. He scrolled back up through the messages again, trying to piece together the timeline of each one. We’re not dead in case you care. That one in particular concerned him most.
Cas ruffled Jack’s sandy brown hair. Jack leaned back and stared up at him making a couple happy noises. He looked back at the phone again. Dean could hate him for the rest of his life and that would be okay, because that meant he was safe enough to live that long. And Castiel could live with that.
He listened to the voice mails next: Cas, buddy, I…...I don’t want to be having this conversation like this. Those British assholes started killing us...the hunters. Everyone we know is fine….as far as I know. But….Cas, I really need to know that they didn’t get you. There was a long pause where Cas assumed the message was over. He held onto Jack tighter. Cas….they trapped Sammy and me in the bunker. Sealed us in...to suffocate. There was another pause, and Cas felt cold. He knew they were fine. They sent messages after this voice mail was made. He felt like he was the one suffocating. I’m sorry.
The next one started on it’s own before Cas could even try to pull himself together. You don’t get to do this. You’re either laying low in hiding right now or you’re in pieces from whatever happened in that blast zone. Did you ever stop to think ho- Cas felt himself lean forward, wondering where the thought was going before Dean cut himself off. He strained to pick up any sound, but there was only silence. Come on, man. Pick up your damn phone. Pick up any phone. And that was it.
Cas felt like he was being held together by one frayed thread. The part of him choking on guilt was begging it to snap, but the baby lightly kicking the heels of his feet into Cas’ thighs gave him enough reason to keep moving forward. He had more responsibilities and worth now than being the Winchester’s bulwark. Castiel hoped that one day they would understand that.
“Okay, Jack.” His voice came out strained while he turned Jack around to look at him easier. He cleared his throat before continuing. “I can’t put off making that phone call anymore. Wish me luck.”
Jack’s big blue eyes stared at him intently.
“Your wish is received. Loud and clear,” Cas said getting up and crossing the room to Jack’s playpen. It was made of rainbow pastel colored panels with star decorations. He placed Jack down in the safety of the pen, and then Jack immediately latched onto the foot of a plush lion doll.
Cas went back into the kitchen. He paced the room, again and again. The whole time his eyes were glued on the name in his contact list. Finally, he tapped the name and the line started ringing. Cas held his breath, worried that he was only going to make things worse.
It rang, and rang, and rang. And then, “Castiel?”