Startled, Claire was dizzily out of bed and on her feet before her brain had even caught up to what was happening. The piercing cry from elsewhere in the house was making it hard to focus and had her heart racing. Her hip painfully banged into the corner of the drawers as she tried to make it to the door in the dark. She flung it open just to witness Cas bolting into the nursery.
Going from the dark bedroom to the brightly lit hallway hurt. She squinted and tried to shield her eyes with one of her hands while she followed into Jack’s room, stopping in the doorway.
Cas stood next to the crib. He gently swayed back and forth on his feet while he held Jack tightly to his chest. Jack’s little fists held onto the material of Cas’ coat for dear life. “Shhh. Shhh. You’re okay. You’re okay, Jack. Shhh.”
Jack continued to wail with his eyes squeezed shut.
“Is he okay?”
He turned in her direction, and Cas’ eyes widened with surprise for a moment. Momentarily, he forgot that Claire was even in the house. “He will be.”
One of Cas’ hands continuously rubbed circles into Jack’s back. “Shhh. I’m right here.” The volume of Jack’s cries slowly lessened to sniffles.
Yawning, Claire leaned her head into the doorway. “What’s bothering him?”
Jack peeked an eye open and it glowed an unnaturally bright gold. Claire banged into the doorway flinching. New tears bubbled in his eyes.
“He’s growing again,” Cas answered, looking just as pained as the baby.
“Isn’t he a bit young for intense growing pains? Should we get a doctor?” Antsy, Claire finally stepped into the room, but she still kept a distance between her and the baby.
Firmly, Cas said, “No doctors.” Jack hid his face in Cas’ jacket.
“Cas, crying like that because of pain isn’t normal.”
Cas crossed the space between them and sighed, “I’ve tried to take the pain away. My grace, does nothing. His grace, does nothing. I doubt a human doctor could do better.”
“Okay.” Claire raised her hands in defeat.
“All I can do is hold him. It seems to help. Hopefully it’s not too big of a growth spurt.”
Jack finally turned his head again. The golden glow of his eyes was hard to look away from.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“No, but thank you.” Cas offered her a small smile. “I’ll take him downstairs so you can sleep. He’ll be all better in a few hours.”
Jack reached a tiny hand out towards Claire. She offered her hand, and Jack tightly wrapped his around her fingers. He sniffled.
Claire met Cas’ eye. “Growing pains don’t just disappear by morning.”
“Jack is two months, one week, and three days old.”
Her gaze flew back to the baby. “He looks a hell of a lot older than that.”
“I know. Every so often he leaps ahead in growth.”
“That explains the pain.” With her free hand, Claire lightly ruffled a bit of Jack’s hair. “Keep fighting little guy.”
“I wish I could do more to alleviate his pain.” His voice was so quiet that Claire almost missed it. Jack released her hand, and he squished his face into Cas’ chest again.
“You’re doing everything right.” Claire crossed her arms. “Trust me. Just being here is enough.”
Silently, Cas studied her for a moment. His head tilted to the side. “Thank you.”
She nodded. “So do you have any clothes ready for him?”
“Oh.” Cas looked down at Jack. He ran a finger down to the collar of the baby’s onesie. It wasn’t too small yet, but it already was snugger than when he dressed him earlier.
Cas went over to the dresser and opened one of the lower drawers. “I should have something suitable from last time I went out.” He glanced at Claire over his shoulder. “Depending on how much he grows this time we will have to go to couple stores in the morning. I’ll need to get a few things in bigger sizes too for later.”
“Okay,” Claire yawned and rubbed at one of her eyes. “We can make a day out of it.”
Cas lightly kissed the top of Jack’s head, and whispered more words of comfort to him. He found the clothes he was looking for and brought it over to the changing table.
Glancing over at Claire again, he saw that she was dozing off on her feet. Cas crossed the room and put a light hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay. You can go back to bed.” She jumped awake.
“Are you,” she yawned. “-sure?”
“Yes. We’ll both be here when you wake up.”
Claire’s gaze went from Cas to Jack, and then back to Cas. A part of her wanted to argue and stay with them a while longer, but her eyes started drooping closed again. Another yawn escaped her.
“Bed.” Cas walked her out of the room. She followed behind, and Cas watched as she continued past him and into the master bedroom. Claire fell onto the bed and was immediately asleep.
Groggy, Claire rolled over in bed and realized the room was teetering on being too warm. Almost suffocating. She sat up and opened her eyes. Bright rays of sunlight were coming in the windows and a part of her wished thick curtains or blinds would appear so she could go back to sleep.
A big yawn shook her body while she turned to lay on her side, facing away from the windows. Her eyes slowly closed, but then her heartbeat jumped to a racing pace. Claire didn’t recognize the room at all.
Slowly, the memories of the previous day flooded back to her. A lot of it felt like it was all just some crazy dream. Claire put her feet on the floor, grabbed her phone off the nightstand, and stumbled out of the room. On the stairs she looked at her phone. It was almost twelve thirty.
She forgot to peek in the nursery when she passed the door, but she figured that Cas would have said something if they were in there. Entering the living room, Claire still didn’t see Cas. The play pen was empty too. Frowning, she turned around and went over to the window. The lake looked inviting, but still there was no sign of the angels.
Despondent, Claire was about to head back upstairs to change when she heard the sound of something plastic hitting the floor. Oh. The kitchen. Claire felt the tension loosen in her shoulders.
“Honeybee, please,” Cas begged.
Claire paused just outside of the kitchen, and out of sight. She bit back a smile listening to the exasperated tone in Cas’ voice.
“We agreed to be quiet while Claire sleeps, right?”
The high pitched voice took her by surprise. Right, the little weed was growing last night. She knew that.
Her mouth curled into a grin at the sound of Cas’ deep sigh. She peeked into the kitchen and saw Cas standing next to the high chair with his arms crossed. Jack’s eyes widened the moment he spotted her.
Distressed, Cas’ gaze snapped over to her. “I’m so sorry we were too noisy. Did you get enough sleep?”
Yawning, Claire stretched her arms over her head and leaned to stretch a bit of her back too. “I didn’t hear anything until I was almost at the kitchen.”
“Good.” He looked relieved.
Crossing the room, Claire got a better look at Jack. He was holding a small, red, plastic bowl in his hands. The closer she got the higher he raised the bowl, hiding his face. She stopped at Cas’ side.
Jack peeked an eye from behind the bowl, but quickly squeezed his eyes shut when he realized Claire was still looking at him. He was notably bigger than he was last night.
“Hi,” she finally mumbled with a tiny wave. Jack didn’t react. Claire glanced up at Cas. “So….he can talk now?”
A small smile tugged at the corner of Cas’ mouth. “A bit, yes.”
Claire raised an eyebrow. “Walk?”
“Not quite.” Cas walked around to the other side of the highchair. There was a proud air about him when he looked at Jack. He lifted the bowl from Jack’s hands and placed it on the kitchen table. “I thought you wanted Claire to join us, honeybee?”
Jack put the side of his hand in his mouth and tilted his head slightly to the side. He smiled.
The look on Cas’ face melted into a fond one. He lightly ruffled Jack’s sandy, brown hair. Like everything else it had grown and thickened overnight. The front swooped more to the side and the ends in the back curled under his ears.
Claire inched closer to the highchair. “Jack….” His big blue eyes shifted over to her, and Claire immediately felt tongue tied. Her mouth pulled into a nervous smile. “Can you...uh..can you say, Claire?”
His head seemed to tilt slightly in the other direction now. It eerily reminded her of Cas. “Lee-air.” His eyebrows seemed to furrow like he knew that he made a mistake.
A shiver shot down Claire’s spine. Granted, she had never really interacted with a baby before, but she knew that there was something completely different about Jack. Her stare didn’t leave Jack, but she spoke to Cas. “Is it the angel wiring that makes him….seem...more advanced?”
“I’d imagine. His mind is rapidly growing like the rest of his body. He’ll probably be able to perfect various speech sounds within the following week. If not sooner.”
Nodding, that information about the nephilim amazed her. He blinked, focusing on her again. “Cl? Cllllll-la?”
Absentmindedly, she pointed her thumb at the center of her chest. “Cl-air-re.”
Chuckling, she nodded. “Not bad, Jack.”
His smile widened at that. Jack excitedly started kicking his feet and they tap, tap, tapped loudly against the underside of the highchair tray.
“Were you planning on having anything to eat right now? Jack’s all done with his lunch.”
“Mm-hmm.” Claire took that as her cue to start poking around the refrigerator again. She settled on a prepackaged fruit cup.
Before she could ask, Cas went over to the drawers and plucked out a fork. He passed it to her and she sat at the table. “Thanks.”
“You’re quite welcome,” he said, tearing off a piece of paper towel. Cas carefully folded it in half, and then again. “You know,” he started while wetting it under the faucet. “When I was human, I hated eating right after I woke up. Made me nauseous.”
“When you were what?” Claire burst with a mouthful of cantaloupe.
Cas rung out the excess water and turned around. “I was briefly human for a time after the angels fell. It was a while until I found what was left of my grace.” He started wiping the stickiness off of Jack’s face and hands.
Claire stared at him dumbfounded for several moments, and Jack wiggled against the cleaning. Focused, Cas continued with his task like he was talking mundane subjects.
“Noooo Daa,” Jack whined while his chin was wiped again.
When Cas was done, Jack pouted. Cas turned to see Claire still watching him. Her fruit-cup was mostly untouched. He raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“When did that happen? The human thing.”
“Oh.” Cas crossed the kitchen to discard the damp paper towel in the trash. “Late 2013, I believe.”
“Okay,” Claire said quietly. She went back to eating her breakfast, but pensively this time.
Cas sat down at the table. “Are you okay with making a shopping run today? We have a long list of things to pick up.”
“Yeah,” she mumbled with a full mouth. A heartbeat later, she realized that Cas wasn’t speaking to her. Both Cas and Jack looked at her with similar confused stares. She swallowed. “Sorry. Thought that was directed at me.”
Cas’ expression softened. “Ah, that makes sense.”
Her gaze bounced between the two angels. Claire frowned. “I’ve never really been around a baby before. I’m not sure what to say to him.”
Cas’ eyes squinted like he wasn’t sure if she was kidding or not. He sat back in his chair. “Am I not supposed to be talking to Jack like I would anyone else?”
“I don’t know,” Claire snapped. “People usually talk all cutesy or whatever because it’s a baby.”
He turned to glance at Jack. “That sounds ridiculous.”
“Yeah!” A large smile spread across Jack’s face.
“Now what were we talking about again, Jack?” Cas said glancing at Claire out of the corner of his eye. Claire shook her head, watching the exchange. He turned his attention back to Jack.
It was impossible not to giggle at that Claire discovered. The corner of Cas’ mouth pulled into an affectionate smile.
“It’s crazy how fast he’s learning,” Claire said just before she took another bite. She mumbled while she chewed. “You weren’t kidding.”
Cas nodded in response. He then spoke slowly for Jack to mimic, “Shop-ping.”
“Shop-POP-ping.” Jack burst into a fit of giggles.
“That’s not bad honeybee. You still haven’t answered my question. Are you up for a busy day out of the house?”
In the metaphysical plane the nephilim’s wings momentarily stretched to their full length before snapping back to their usual resting position. “Yeaa,” Jack answered in a quiet tone.