Mela looked at the pair of them, then got down off the bed. Dean tensed. "Where's she going?"
"I do not know, Dean," Cas intoned.
Freak. Dean watched the little girl hopping across the room-didn't little kids just walk places, like normal people?-and go to the basket in the corner. It was, he realized suddenly, a basket of books. Kids' books. He suddenly had a vague and cloudy memory of pawing through that very basket of books himself, which was weird.
Weirder still was the memory of knowing that Dam was waiting for him, and would be waiting for him, keeping him safe.
"What the fuck?" he said before he could filter himself.
"Ah. You remembered!" Cas settled on the bed beside and slightly behind him. "That's interesting."
"It's not interesting, it's creepy. And what the hell are you doing knocking around in my head? Get out! That's private. Since when have you been eavesdropping in my brain?"
Cas shrugged. "I didn't think you'd remember being small, is all." The angel bit his lip and looked thoughtful. Or constipated.
Mela came back with a stack of books and Dean groaned. She ignored him. "Wead dis," she said, plucking the first one up and climbing up into Cas' lap.
"Hey. How come she's not sitting on my lap?" Dean blurted, shocked to realize he was a bit jealous. And he didn't even like the kid. Much. He narrowed his eyes. What the hell?
The angel shrugged. "She doesn't wike you."
"How can she not wike me? Everyone wikes-damn it -likes me!" Except...well...me. I don't particularly like me. But some people like me. "Sam likes me." He paused. "Well...sometimes."
"Yes, Dean." Cas opened the book. "I like this book. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble." He began to read.
Dean and Mela listened to the story of the little donkey who wished himself into a large boulder and then couldn't wish himself back into a donkey because he had no hands to hold the pebble as he made his wish. Poor bastard.
"This is a kid's story? What the hell, Cas?"
"Dee say dat bad word."
Cas kept reading. Sylvester got snowed on. Dean got depressed.
"What's the wock doin'?"
"Oh, fuck me."
"Because it is a rock."
"Seriously? She wants to know why it's a rock?"
Cas lifted his eyes to Dean's; in them, he saw an expression of infinite patience and love, and he felt humbled. "Dean. She doesn't know anything. Her mind is a blank slate. We are the ones who write upon it, and isn't it better to write what is good and loving instead of that which is evil and harsh?"
Well...yeah. Okay. "But why does she ask so many questions?"
Cas tilted an eyebrow at Dean, and the corner of his mouth quirked. But he didn't answer. Instead, he returned to reading the stupid book to Princess Terror and Dean fell back on the bed with his feet on the floor and his arm over his eyes, and listened. He had a feeling these were going to be the longest few days of his life.
He heard movement and then, he felt a person sitting on his lap. He peeked under his arm at her. "What? She likes me now? All of a sudden?"
She held up her tiny hand. "Shhh. Dee. Oo is Sybester. I is de pebbah. Shh. No talk. We sit."
Cas grinned. "That's a wonderful idea, Mela. You are the magic peeble and Dee is Sylvester!"
"That's what she said," Dean muttered.
"Shhh!" Cas and Mela hushed him.
"Dean. You can't talk. You're a rock," Cas said with an infinitely patient voice.
"Well if that's the case, I'm just going to take a nap."
Dee sighed and lay still. Mela weighed next to nothing, and she was warm on his thighs. He closed his eyes and listened to Cas read the story, hoping the end was in sight. He wasn't going to lie around all day doing nothing but be a rock. An enchanted rock at that.
He wondered how many enchanted rocks-and things-there were, in the world. Anything could be a person, trapped within the confines of the object. Dean shuddered. It was a horrible thought. Would Cas know? Would he be able to see the person trapped within the object? Or would there be no hope of anyone finding them, leaving them in the thing-whatever it was-forever?
Fortunately, Sylvester's parents found the rock, and held the pebble and he was able to wish himself back to his true form. "Thank God that's over!" Dean made to sit up.
"Wead it again!" Mela squeaked, and Cas turned back to the front of the book.
"What? No!" Dean did sit up then, lifted Princess Terror off his lap and placed her on the mattress next to the angel. "I am not listening to that again. What the hell kind of story is that, anyway? It's a nightmare!"
Cas sighed. "It won an award. Look. Sam showed me." He pointed to the gold medal on the cover.
"Well, that's just sick. It's a story about a missing kid who's turned into a rock, and I'm not listening to it again."
Mela gave him a disgusted look. "Dee no wike Sybester. Him wikes Da Mitten."
"We can read that, then." Cas pulled another book out of the stack and he and Mela stared at him expectantly.
"Dee. Oo sit," Mela commanded, and pointed to the spot beside her. "Ass wead Da Mitten."
Dean bit back a snort. "She calls you 'Ass'? Seriously?"
Cas pursed his lips. "You called me that, too."
"I did not." Dean frowned.
"Did. Now sit down and listen to the story. It is one of your favorites."
"No it's not. I've never heard of it. So, how about I go outside and start trying to get that rainbow off my car and…" Well, shit. Mela and Cas' eyes filled with tears; he looked from one to the other and felt like the biggest asshole on the planet. So he sat down and sighed. "All right. Wead it. Ass."
Finally, after what felt like hours and hours of book reading, Melia relented and Dean bounced off the bed. He was ready to climb out the window, he was so bored.
Reading for information-like to find a spell, for example-he could do. But reading just to read didn't make sense to him. Reading stuff about bears moving into mittens was just nuts. Very Hungry Caterpillars, or Little Bears who liked to fish or weird bald kids named Harold who had purple crayons...boring. He couldn't understand how Cas and Mela didn't go insane with it. They were like Sam, who was perfectly happy to sit and do nothing but flip pages. He wasn't surprised his brother had a basket of books for him in the corner of the room; he'd probably been trying to get him to like reading.
Ha. Didn't work, Sammy.
"Let's go do something!" He said, and scooped Mela up; her little arms went around his neck. "Cas, take us somewhere."
"Like where?" The angel tilted his head and frowned.
"I dunno. Someplace interesting."
Literally. Crickets. Dean heard the crickets before anything else. They might not have been crickets...just some kind of noisy insects. And birds.
And the smell-it was humid. Damp. Muddy. Green. Like decay and loam and woods. Which is where they were, Dean figured. In some kind of hot, sticky, loamy forest. Sort of like Purgatory, only greener and more humid. And with vines.
Mela tightened her grip around Dean's neck just as he tightened his arm around her little body. A drop of liquid-water, he hoped-landed on the peak of his forehead and dripped down the bridge of his nose.
Actually, there were a lot of drips. Because it had started to rain. A lot. Like, blinding rain. Dean wondered if it was possible to drown on land.
But then, just as suddenly, the torrential downpour turned to a trickle. The smell got worse. And a huge, green snake sort of appeared from above in front of Dean's face, peering at him with unblinking green eyes.
"Uh...Cas?" He didn't take his eyes off the creature, which appeared to be dangling from a tree branch. It flickered its tongue at him. Probably trying to taste them. "Where are we?"
"The Amazon rain forest," the angel said from somewhere near his elbow.
"Oh. That's nice." Dean wondered if he'd need to get his knife and if he'd have to drop Mela to do it.
"Ooh. Wook. 'Nake go bleh bleh," the little girl said.
"Why is it that when I ask to go somewhere interesting, you take us to a place where Mela could get eaten?"
"I sensed you were bored."
"Really. Cas, really?" He risked a glance at the angel; Cas' hair was wet and matted to his forehead. He looked like he'd just gotten out of the shower. Dean figured they all did. "Can we leave, now?"
"Where would you like to go?" Cas did that head-tilty thing that Dean privately thought of as his "confused puppy in a trenchcoat" look.
"Someplace with less giant snakes in it, maybe? Someplace safe? And dry?"
"All right, Dean."
A thought occurred to Dean, and he shouted just as he felt himself starting to blink out. "Not the desert!"
There was a shift; suddenly Mela was no longer in his arms but his feet were on solid ground. He looked around for her. They were at a playground. It looked vaguely familiar, but Dean was fairly sure he'd never been here before, it was hard to tell.
The little girl was no where to be seen. Dean spun around in a circle, his heart in his throat. "Cas! Where's Mela? Where is she?"
Cas frowned. "When we altered course, she must have gotten lost."
Dean's heart began to pound. "You mean...she's lost?"
"That's what I said, Dean." Cas bit his lip and narrowed his eyes, peering around with his impassive stare.
"Well, go find her!" The Hunter fought not to strangle the angel standing there so...so...so freaking calm. "Where the hell is she? She could be hurt, she could be…" Dead. Dean's knees grew weak; he fought to stay focused.
Moral: Be careful what you wish for. Especially if you wish for more excitement.