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Familiar Feeling

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The woods were dark and silent but Dean wasn’t worried. He couldn’t explain it, how being in such an unnatural place with no sound could still fill him with calm. He walked up a tree-covered hill, taking care to not trip over large branches and roots under his feet. It was too dark to make out anything further away, but the moon was bright and he could see a few feet ahead of him, so he continued going straight. This new trail he was making for himself had no tracks of anyone or anything having walked it, he was in unexplored territory, he should have felt something… more. Excitement at being the first, the only person here, or fear of getting lost and never being found. Yet, all he felt was calm and the eyes that he could feel watching his back.

It should have been unnerving, alone in dark woods, no sounds, not even his breathing or the crunching of his boots on dried leaves, could be heard. He was on his own, no weapons, no family or friends, he couldn’t even feel his magic. And there was something watching him. There was more than one; a pair, his mind whispered. There was a pair watching him, following him up the hill as silent as the night. Yet he felt no fear. They meant him no harm, he knew it as an absolute fact. There was nothing to base this on, but he felt it. Their eyes on him, watching him and guarding him like a thick blanket on a cold winter's night.

Just a few feet ahead he could see where the trees ended and gave way to an open space, one where the full light of the moon shone brightly. He could feel the pair coming closer to him. He thought they wanted to show themselves in the clearing. His feet took him closer, his clothes more visible in the bright light. He could hear sounds now, and feel his powers rumbling under his skin. All he needed was one more step.

The sound of knocking shocked Dean out of his sleep, the dream slipping into nothingness as he looked around his room. The knocking continued, steadily getting louder. He groaned into his pillow before calling out, “What?” He grimaced at how hoarse his throat felt. Maybe he should have juice this morning instead of coffee.

“Dean, I need you to go to Bela’s and get some ingredients for that protection spell I’m making for Aunt Ellen.”

Dean groaned into his pillow again; he should have known the incessant knocking had been from his younger brother, Sam. The annoying giant just couldn’t let him have a day to himself. At least their youngest brother, Adam, let him sleep. Sometimes it really sucked being descended from the two most powerful witch families; it just meant more responsibilities and less nap time.

“Why can’t you go? Today’s supposed to be my day off, man.” Dean flipped around onto his back and started to grudgingly get out of bed. He knew what Sam’s reply would be, and he knew Aunt Ellen needed the protection spell. This was more about his job as the oldest to annoy his younger brother.

“You know why, Dean,” Sam continued speaking through the closed door. “Bela is always hitting on me and it pisses Gabe off. He already attacked her once and if I try to go to her shop without him, she’ll be all over me so I come back smelling like her.”

Dean chuckled to himself. That had been a funny fight. Gabriel was Sam’s familiar, a short reddish-brown pine marten and he wasn’t much taller in his human form. Dean had been there when Bela had reached for something on the table Sam had been standing in front of. Oh sure, Bela said it had been an accident, but the way she cupped his brother’s package had been anything but. Gabe had let out a terrifying screech, shifted, and climbed up her leg and body before scratching and biting her face. Dean and Sam had both struggled to separate them, and by the time Sam finally got his familiar boyfriend off her, the store had been in ruins.

“Alright, but at least help a guy out and tell me there’s food for me,” Dean said.

“Gabe already made you a breakfast wrap. Hurry up before you’re eating it cold.” With that Sam turned and the sounds of his descending footsteps were all that was left.

Dean grabbed a pair of soft, comfortable jeans with a hole in the knee, and threw on one of his well-worn band shirts. He should probably dress up more, try and look respectable, it’s what his mother would want him to do.

“Look your best in case you meet your familiar today,” she had always told them. Mary had been the last powerful witch of the Campbell line and had an equally powerful familiar in Colette, the impala.

But that had been a lifetime ago; before tragedy struck their home, ruining their family, and Dean had gone year after year after year without finding his own familiar. Now he was twenty-eight and unable to perform most of the magic the community needed. Without a familiar there was no way to channel his magic without risking a giant explosion of power. He could work smaller spells just fine if he used power-channeling crystals to suck up the excess energy he threw out, but it was embarrassing. And having to set the crystals up just reminded him of his failure as literally the only member of his family to have never found his familiar. So he avoided using magic, worked his regular nine-to-five at Uncle Bobby’s garage, and was now rushing downstairs to get his breakfast wrap because all these depressing thoughts and memories were making him crave hot cheesy goodness.

In the kitchen he found Gabe sitting on the counter with Sam standing between his legs. Both men were so lost in their tonsil explorations they didn’t hear Dean clear his throat, twice. Annoyed, he grabbed one of the kitchen chairs and banged it on the floor making the couple jump apart in shock.

“Knock it off. People eat in here,” Dean growled, glaring at them until Sam stepped away. Gabriel just glared back.

“Why don’t you knock it off or I won’t give you your breakfast?” Gabriel countered, his lips turned in a smirk, knowing how much the eldest Winchester was a food whore.

“Try it and Sammy can go to Bela’s alone,” Dean shot back before yanking the breakfast wrap out of the short trickster’s hand and turning to leave. “I’ll be back in a few. No sex in the kitchen, or living room, or hallway. As a matter of fact, just go to your own damn room for that.”

“Don’t get mad Dean-o, once you find your familiar you’ll feel the pull and maybe I’ll be nice enough to not cockblock you,” Gabriel called out with a laugh.

Dean glowered at the reminder that the first-born son of both the Winchester and Campbell lines still didn’t have a familiar. He slammed the door to his ‘67 Chevy Impala harder than he normally would. He knew it was wrong to take his anger out on his baby, so he offered a silent apology by caressing her steering wheel. It wasn’t even Gabe’s fault really. Sure, he was an annoying, loud, obnoxious, little shit, but it wasn’t his fault Dean was all alone. Not as a witch without a familiar or even as a single man closing in on thirty. While his brothers were in relationships with their familiars, there were witches who had platonic relationships with their animal partners. Like Dean’s mother and father; his parents were practically soulmates, and their familiars were together as well.

Dean still remembered the last Thanksgiving they had shared as a family. He had snuck into the kitchen to steal a cookie and his parents had been inside stealing kisses. So, he had gone to the living room to watch the parade and Colette had been sitting on Cain’s lap, both in human form, just enjoying the moment. Dean didn’t want to disturb the couples and instead went upstairs to wait for his brothers to wake up from their naps. If only he had known what would be waiting for his family just a few short months later… He shook his head, snapping himself out of his quickly darkening thoughts.

Reaching Bela’s shop, he parked his beloved Impala in the parking lot, not wanting to leave her out on the busy street. The bell chimed overhead as he stepped into the rosemary- and lavender-scented room. His nose twitched at the smell, but he went straight to the front counter and rang the bell. His eyes scanned the shop, taking in all the cherrywood used for counters and shelves. They held everything from spell books to glass bottles filled with ingredients, and even cursed objects. He could see the cursed lucky rabbit’s foot in the corner, sitting in a glass case with warning signs around it. As much as he may not like Bela, he had to admit the woman was incredible at getting hard-to-find items.

“Well obviously you must be lost.” Dean whirled around and saw a tall, thin, blond man wearing the most ridiculously low cut v-neck shirt he’d ever seen. “This establishment is meant to cater to the highest of clientele. Whatever you are looking for,” he gave Dean a once over, sneering at his ripped jeans, “I’m sure you would be better suited to find at the Walmart in the next town.”

Dean bristled at this man judging him. “I don’t think the guy shopping in a 16-year-old girl’s closet has a leg to stand on judging my damn clothes. Now run along and get Bela if you want to keep your job.”

The man gave Dean a slow, knowing grin. “Oh I don’t think I have any reason to worry about job security.”

Dean flinched as the man leapt up and shifted into a white swan, flying over Dean’s head and through the open door leading to the storage room.

“Son of a bitch!” Dean grumbled to himself. His situation was getting ridiculous. Was that Bela’s familiar or did she just hire him because he was as snooty as she was? Even if he wasn’t Bela’s familiar, Dean didn’t want anything to do with him. He was glad that they weren’t paired together. He’d rather be alone and unable to properly use his magic than be stuck with a douche like him.

“Dean Winchester, it’s been too long.” Bela stepped out from the back already carrying the small wooden boxes Dean knew contained his brother’s order.

“Bela, I met your… birdbrain.”

She nodded sagely as she rang him up on the antique-looking register. “Balthazar, isn’t he amazing? I found him when I was in the Amazon last month delivering a cursed orb to a buyer. I honestly never thought I would have a familiar of my own. They are becoming quite rare, you know. So many witches are being left without any help absorbing their excess powers and redirecting it. It’s such a shame, only the most lowly, weak-powered witches seem to be able to cast spells now, while the others are forced to wait and wait for familiars who will never come. Thank the absent gods I’m not one of them.” She looked at him for a moment and frowned. “Oh, right, sorry. I keep forgetting it’s only your younger brothers with familiars. But honestly how strange that the first-born of the joining of Winchester and Campbell still doesn’t have a familiar.”

“Yeah, amazing. Give me the damn ingredients, Bela.” Dean shoved his hand at her trying to reach for the bag holding the boxes but she moved further behind the counter just out of his reach.

“Wait, this is the famous Dean Winchester?” Balthazar asked as he stepped back into the room. He ignored Dean’s evil glare and stepped right up to him before bowing his head. “I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. She was a good witch and a pillar of the community and I’m sorry for the loss of your father. Even if his passing was natural, losing them both must have been very difficult.”

Dean was taken aback at Balthazar’s change. The show of respect wasn’t unheard of. His family was famous, becoming infamous because of his mother’s murder. He was used to familiars especially coming up to show their respect for his loss, but he wasn’t expecting it from someone who acted like a douchebag.

“Uh...yeah...thanks,” he stuttered, unsure how to respond.

Bela rolled her eyes at Dean and his emotional constipation. Clearly pitying him, she passed him the bag. “Next time send your brother. If he’s going to order from me he should do the pick up. Otherwise, I’ll think he’s avoiding me.”

“Bela, I can say in full confidence that he is most definitely avoiding you.” Dean took the bag and headed for the door. “It’s the only thing protecting you from getting attacked by a feral marten, again.”

Dean could feel eyes on him as he walked back to the car and the familiarity of it had his mind reeling. The forgotten dream from earlier was coming back, but in a hazy fog, hiding most of what happened. He looked around the empty parking lot, only seeing a line of trees leading to the abandoned building on the other side of the block. He squinted, trying to see through the thick grass, but there was no sound, no movement to let him know anyone was there. He opened his mouth to yell out, then thought better of it. It was probably all in his mind. He had been woken up way too early and he must still be fighting his sleep haze. He turned his back to the trees, got in his car, and pointed her back towards home.

So Bela had found her familiar. Dean’s thoughts swirled around the British beauty. She had found something he had wanted for himself for so long. It wasn’t shocking anymore for a witch to not have a familiar; in the past decade there had been a severe shortage. Witches had never been a large majority of the population. It had always been believed that familiars were born at the same time as their witch counterpart. Dean snorted, thinking of Adam having a 5-year age difference with his, so obviously that wasn’t true. His father and Cain, his Scottish deerhound, had nearly a 12-year age difference. His mother and Colette had a 5-year age difference. Only Sam and Gabe were close in age: his brother was 24 and the sandy-haired prankster was 25. The world was changing and familiars were becoming a rare breed, and witches were following not far behind. Did he want a familiar? Of course, but Dean had a regular job, took care of his family, lived his life. He was happy. He could accept never having a magical partner, never feeling the spark of having someone that completed him on the most profound level, even never being able to use the full force of his powers.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t tried to find his familiar. It was just the ones he’d met weren’t the right fit. There had been Benny Lafitte, the brown bear, that Dean had dated for a year in high school. They had tried to make it work but never felt the zing , that call that brought witch and familiar together. But Benny had felt the call with Andrea, who was a strong and good witch who liked to mix magic with food, and honestly, even Dean knew they were perfect together.

Then there had been Lisa, the fox, in college, and that one had hurt because they both had felt something. It hadn’t been the pull from his soul he’d always heard of, but more of a weak-in-the-knees type of feeling. But it had been something at least, and the closest Dean had ever felt. Unfortunately for Dean, it wasn’t meant to be either, and Lisa had met her true witch two years later. They even had a son together and would send Dean and his family Christmas gifts. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t begrudge Lisa her happiness. He was selfish but not that much. It was actually thanks to Dean looking for his familiar that Adam had his, not that he would ever tell any of them the real reason why Dean had brought him home that day.

It had been Dean’s third year in college. Michael had been in his elective film course and Dean had been smitten since the first moment he saw the dark-haired, hunter green-eyed man. It took him nearly the entire semester before he finally found the nerve to walk up to him out on the quad. He hadn’t even wanted him as a familiar, not really, but only because he knew if they were meant for each other they would have felt it in class. Sure, he had seen Michael look at him with that intense stare of his, but Dean figured maybe Michael was as attracted to him as he was. So one day, after making sure to wear his tightest jeans and the green shirt Adam had used a simple spell on to make it perfectly match his eyes, he walked up to Michael, stopping him in his tracks. Dean still feels nauseous thinking about how it all played out.

“Hey, Michael, right? I’m Dean, we’re in Professor Sutter’s film class together.” Dean had given him a cocky grin knowing how it lit up his face. He was well aware of his good looks.

Michael frowned at him, his brows furrowed in confusion. “Why did you ask like you don’t know who I am? We’re in the same class, I sit in front of you and we have had several debates where you wrongly tried to convince me, and the class, that Indiana Jones is an American classic, despite the fact that it is one of the most unoriginal, uninspired, and wholly inaccurate representation of history and archaeology in film history.”

Dean had bitten back the urge to snap at him for once again crapping all over one of his favorite movies. “Actually I was trying to be friendly.”

“Why would you need to try? I don’t dislike you, just your movie choices.”

Dean had felt his face heat up. He never had learned not to be nervous in front of a handsome man without blushing. He had tried to laugh off his nervousness and had stepped closer to the dark-haired man until they were nearly touching; the closest they had been all year. Michael’s eyes had widened as a soft gasp escaped his pale pink lips.

“Take me to your home.” Despite his smaller size, Michael had towered over Dean in that moment.

Dean had been taken aback, blinking rapidly at the change in the other man and the hungry look in his eyes. “Uh, sure, but my brothers might be home.”

“Brothers? Yes, that’s fine. Come on.” Michael had grabbed Dean by his wrist and nearly dragged him to the parking lot, knowing which car belonged to Dean.

He had been impatient the entire ride, asking Dean how much longer until they arrived, and rubbing his hands nervously on his pants. Dean had been excited. He knew the outfit he had picked out made him look good but he hadn’t expected the reaction Michael had given him.

“Hey, look, Mike, if you’re nervous we don’t have to go to my place, we can go somewhere else?” Dean offered as he saw Michael wipe his palms against his pants again.

Michael had turned a glare on Dean that nearly made him flinch and grip the wheel tighter. “You are taking me to your home now. This is not up for debate, Dean Winchester.”

“Okay, okay. Sheesh.”

In moments they were parked in front of Dean’s house and Michael had been staring at his hands.

“Mike, you okay?”

“It’s Michael,” he responded with his head down, missing the soft smile on Dean’s face. “I’m nervous. I know I shouldn’t be, realistically I know what should happen, but I’m still nervous. I’m not used to this feeling, I don’t like it.”

“Hey.” Dean had reached out laying his hand over Michael’s. “Look, I don’t know why you feel nervous, but nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to happen unless you one hundred percent want it to. Neither I, nor my brothers, are those types of guys. It’s whatever you want to do, Michael, but personally I say we go inside, I make some dinner, and you just hang out for awhile. Like I said, nothing has to happen.”

Michael’s smile had been so pure and grateful that Dean had felt terrible imagining some horrible past that made Michael react that way to a booty call. They had walked into the house and Michael left his side making a beeline for the living room, stopping in front of Dean’s youngest brother Adam.

“I’m Michael Cohen.” Michael had given Adam a soft smile that had instantly put Dean on edge as his brother had returned the same soft smile.

“Adam Winchester, so… let’s see what I’ve got.” Adam had given him a flirty wink, and Michael had chuckled before stepping back, shifting into a beautiful white owl. Michael had lifted himself to land on Adam’s shoulder and nuzzled into his dirty blond hair.

Dean had stood there in shock, realizing why Michael had wanted to come home with him and why he had been nervous. It had been because he could sense Adam’s magic on Dean’s shirt and knew Dean was related to the witch he was destined to be paired with.

Dean thanked the absent gods that Gabe and Adam never found out the truth about that day. Dean had no doubt that neither short, snarky bastard would allow him to go unscathed from the embarrassing misunderstanding. As it was, because of the heart-to-heart in the car, everyone just thought Dean had known from the start and was trying to make his future brother-in-law feel safe and comfortable.

“Sammy, I’m back.” Dean walked into the house, forcing his thoughts away from the past, as Michael walked up to him.

“Gabriel was in your room. I don’t know why but I assume it was for nothing good,” Michael warned him before heading off to the kitchen.

Dean groaned, his teeth clenched as his mind flashed with all the possible tricks that could have been placed in his room. Another reason having a familiar would be helpful for Dean; no more nasty tricks from Gabriel. Gabe had tried to play a trick on Adam just once after Michael moved in and the owl had grabbed the rodent in his claws and flown out the window. Gabriel had been so terrified he shifted to his human form and landed in a heap on the ground, breaking his wrist. He never dared to enter Adam’s room again.

Dean headed for the spell room in the back and found both of his brothers talking inside.

“Here’s your delivery, princess.” Dean passed the bag to Sam before messing up Adam’s hair, smiling as his youngest brother squawked and tried to put it to rights.

“Thanks, Dean. I’ll start the spell after lunch and head over to deliver it.” Sam opened each box to make sure the ingredients were safe and not touching each other.

“Hey, did you know Bela found her familiar?” Dean tried to keep whatever jealousy he felt out of his voice. Judging by how Adam’s head shot up in excitement and Sam continued cataloguing the purchase, he guessed it worked.

“Yeah, Balthazar, a tundra swan. She sent it out in an email to all her customers so we wouldn’t be surprised seeing him there or try and take him.” Sam’s nose crinkled as his body shuddered in disgust at the thought of having anyone but Gabe as his familiar.

“I didn’t get any email,” Adam frowned at his brothers, looking between both.

“You never go to her shop, runt. You and Mike mostly do healings,” Dean reminded him.

“So? I still go there on occasion. I should have been notified. Especially since he’s from out of town. You know all the familiars who move here have to be examined and added to the registry so we know how many are in town and can watch if whatever is affecting the low number of familiars, affects those here,” Adam reminded them both.

Dean put his hand on his brother’s shoulder to stop him before he got too ruffled. “Calm down, Adam. You can just call Bela and tell her to bring Balthazar to the clinic so you and Mike can check him out. ‘Sides whatever is going on is probably natural anyway. It’s not like there are a lot of familiar babies being born in a witch and familiar couple. You and Sam are both guys and I seriously doubt Gabe or Mike are gonna be carrying any babies so—” Dean shrugged. “It’s probably just a shortage of familiar on familiar lovin’.”

Adam gave Dean his own patented bitchface. It was far from being a new argument between them. “It doesn’t matter if familiars don’t mate with each other. Even being with a witch, the offspring could be a familiar. And there has been plenty of recorded evidence to suggest that even non-magical humans could give birth to familiars if they’re descendants of familiars.” Adam drew a breath to begin the same old rant, uncaring of how bored Dean looked. “The same isn’t true for our families because of the extensive power that each Winchester and Campbell has innately, that makes it impossible for us or our children to have a familiar offspring. The magic we carry is practically stored in our genetic code. Well, not exactly, but you get what I mean. And familiars’ magic is about pulling from us, taking the excess that would otherwise explode and instead channel it through themselves so we aren’t in danger. They can only make a limited amount of magic at a time until their bonding, so whatever is going on these past few years has nothing to do with birth rates. It could very well be some type of sickness or infection.”

Dean rolled his eyes and brought his youngest brother into a tight hug, forcing Adam’s head into his chest to stop his ranting. “Okay okay, Doogie Howser. It was just a freaking suggestion.” He let go when Adam started hitting his sides.

“Seriously, Adam, we don’t know what’s going on and no one will ever tell you to stop looking. Dean’s just a dick,” Sam said with a small grin as he began to prepare the area for his spell.

“You’re a dick. Waking me up on my day off to go do errands for you, and now calling me names. I don’t have to take this abuse.” Dean dramatically lifted his head so his nose was in the air and haughtily walked out of the room.

For as much as they fought and argued and how often the house had a tendency to feel too small for all of them, Dean loved his brothers and was thankful every second of his life that he had them. Back in his own bedroom, he peeled his pants off, flinging them to the other side of the room before throwing himself back on his bed. His thoughts swirled again over his non-existent familiar and his brother’s words. Maybe his familiar had existed but had been so weak that some virus ended him or her. He frowned at the thought as he felt himself weighed down with guilt. What if his familiar had needed him and he hadn’t been there? What if he or she had died waiting for Dean to come save them? What if—

A large explosion erupted in his room throwing tons of glitter and rainbow confetti string from the ceiling. He jumped off the bed in fear as he looked around and realized what had happened.

“No sad thoughts, Dean-o!” Gabriel’s laughing voice sounded from downstairs.

“Gabriel, you no good rat! I’m gonna kill you!” Dean got up from the floor with a growl and yanked the door open to chase his annoying trickster of a brother-in-law.

The sound of laughing and angry shouting caused the others to just roll their eyes at the usual spectacle.

******

It was always hard going into work after a day off doing nothing, if you didn’t like your job. Luckily for Dean, he adored his job and went in excited to start every day. He walked into Singer’s auto body garage with a tray of coffees for the mechanics and one hot chocolate for Charlie, who worked up front as a receptionist.

“Hey, Charles, good morning. Here’s your disgusting salted caramel abomination and ruination to all things good and decent.” He passed her the cup before she swatted his arm playfully.

“Morning, Winchester. You have a car on your lift waiting for you. Came in yesterday at closing,” Charlie responded before taking an over-dramatic sip of her drink and sighing loudly, not even bothering to wipe the whipped cream mustache from the top of her lip. “That’s some good abomination.”

“You’re disgusting, Bradbury. I’m ashamed to call you my friend.”

“Best friend,” she corrected him, before passing him a set of car keys. “Now go fix the pimpmobile and leave me to enjoy my drink in peace.” She laughed as she tossed her long red hair back behind her slim shoulder, her fingers already gliding over the keys of the computer.

“Alright, I see how it is, using a man for his hot chocolate connections, how dare you.” Dean turned away laughing, and headed for the break room to put down the tray and get his jumpsuit on. Soon as the suit was on he walked out to his area, zipping up the front as he saw the car waiting for him. He winced looking at what Charlie had correctly nicknamed the pimpmobile. It was a gold-colored 1978 Lincoln Continental Mark V and, without even reaching it, he was already loath to be working on it. Who would drive such an embarrassment? He picked up the clipboard with the information on it and skimmed down to see the car had been modified.

“Aw, come on. Hydraulics on a Lincoln? Why? Has to be a pimp, who the hell else would want to ride in this?” he whined and glared at the car. “It’s not your fault, I know, your owner is just a terrible person or is completely clueless about cars or both. Don’t worry, girl, I’ll fix whatever the mean ol’ pimp did to you.” He opened the door and sat behind the wheel. His body froze before even putting the key to the ignition.

The magic inside him that had been latent came to life, sparks flaring in his veins as he could almost feel cool, fresh rainwater on his skin. It was like a roaring Christmas fire had been lit inside of him, eggnog and caroling and warmth of family and hearth while outside he was in the fresh open plains of a field in the early spring during a shower, barefoot in the grass. His breathing stuttered as he lost himself to the magic, the feeling of rightness inside of him. Two completely different feelings inside his body and on his skin, yet it worked well together, making him feel whole and alive and loved and powerful. It was everything he had ever wanted but never knew to ask for.

“Dean? Dean, you okay?” Charlie practically yanked him out of the car and looked him over, her eyes wide with fright and her skin paler than normal.

“What? What happened?” Dean looked around disoriented at the empty garage. “Where did everyone go?”

“Everyone else went to lunch. I found you sitting in the car with your head back and you were just….crying. Dean… how long have you been sitting there?”

Reaching up to his face, Dean touched the pads of his fingers to the wetness there. He still had the wet stains from his tears but now that he was out of the car he was calming down. He looked at Charlie. Her usual playful green eyes were filled with worry and fear. He must have been a sight to see, and he was glad that none of his co-workers had seen him. He really didn’t even want Charlie to see him like that, but as a non-magical human he could explain it away.

“It’s alright, Charlie, just a lot on my mind and… I guess I lost track of time. I’m sorry.” It was as honest an answer as Dean could give in that moment.

“Dammit, Dean.” She crushed him in a tight hug, not caring that they were both on the floor of the shop. With her head tucked into his neck, her voice was muffled but she knew Dean could hear her. “You scared the crap out of me. Is this because of that swan guy at the magic shop? I already talked to Sam and Adam so don’t even bother lying. I get you hold a lot in and I get why you use the lone space cowboy act but it’s okay to feel and you gotta let yourself feel. Or else it’ll bubble up like that okay?”

“Okay, Charlie, I’m sorry.” He really didn’t want to talk about Balthazar or what Charlie had walked in on. Not when he still needed to figure it out for himself, nevermind explaining it to someone else.

It took a few minutes before he was able to convince her to get off him so they could both get up. She kept trying to get him to go to lunch with her, obviously worried about leaving him alone, but he begged her off. He needed to get information on the owner of the car. She had been skeptical about giving him anything more to do with the vehicle that somehow caused the emotionally stunted Dean Winchester to break down crying. Luckily he convinced her that, because of how many hours he spent not working, he needed to apologize to the owner and explain that the work would take at least another day.

Getting the key to the locked cabinet, he sent Charlie away so he could get to the owner’s paperwork. There were mostly regulars in the shop, so it was easy to find the manila folder with a single slip of paper inside. The driver's license had been copied onto the bottom of the page. Castiel Novak, born 7-24-1984 — making him 32 — from Pontiac, IL, and on the corner was the red F for familiar. The photo was grainy and it was hard to see but he looked handsome with dark hair and a sharp jaw. Dean’s familiar was Castiel Novak. He was in town and drove a pimpmobile. He was so powerful and so right that Dean had been catatonic for hours, tears spilling silently from his eyes at the onslaught of emotions. His familiar made his insides hot and warm like family and home and drenched his body in the feeling of freedom and nature all at once.

“I have a familiar, I don’t have to be broken anymore, I…. I don’t have to be alone.” Dean barely made it to the trash bin before he retched, his breakfast spewing into the metal tin.

It took Dean longer than he cared to admit to calm down and clean himself up. But eventually he was able to get himself under control enough that he could choke down his lunch and get back to work on the car. After the earlier, intense take-over of his body, he was able to sit in the car and figure out what was wrong. The problem wasn’t even anything big, but knowing the car belonged to his familiar, Dean did a full work up. He couldn’t have someone so important to him riding around in a death trap. He put on new wheels, fixed the window and the heater. He updated the wiring and replaced everything that looked old and frayed. By the time he was done, the shop was deserted again and the sun had been down for hours, but he didn’t care. He had a familiar, he even had his name and number now; he had his phone out ready to dial. If he could only bring himself to hit the call button.

Instead he just stared at the number trying to think of what to say. This was big, this was huge. It was the first words he would ever say to someone who would spend the rest of his life with him. It would be the part of their story they would repeat to anyone who asked how they met. Adam had been cocky and flirty, asking Michael to shift right after their introduction. Gabriel had thrown himself into Sam’s arms and blurted out that he was riding his sasquatch ass into the sunset even before they got to tell each other their names. Dean had to play this right. He didn’t want to be flirty and wear a mask, but he didn’t want to leave himself bare. There would be time enough for that, right? His familiar had the rest of their lives to find out who Dean was in a way he never let anyone else know.

It was the beginning of the work week so Sam would be busy with paperwork, Gabe would be trying to distract him, and Adam and Michael were always in the office getting work done, so Dean knew he would have Cas to himself. “Screw it.” He hit the message button and put in his address inviting the other man over saying they needed to talk. The shop had Dean’s protective sigils around it. Even though Dean’s magic wasn’t as intense as it could be, no way could Castiel have walked in there without feeling something. He would know someone at the shop was his witch, and now it was on him to come to Dean.

Dean waited and waited, but Castiel still hadn’t shown up, or even replied, be the time his brothers returned home.

For the rest of the evening, Dean was on edge, to the point where the rest of the family were just watching him warily. He tried to act normal, but it was hard. Every time he heard a car out on the street, his head would snap up hoping it was his familiar. Which was ridiculous since Castiel’s car was still in the shop. He hadn’t said anything to the others, he wanted to keep it private and didn’t want them (mainly Gabriel) to take the attention away from Dean.

By the time everyone went off to bed and the moon was high in the sky, Dean finally gave up on waiting. It wasn’t like Castiel ever wrote back agreeing to come or even to let him know that the message had been received. With a tired sigh, he made his way upstairs, peeling off his clothes before climbing into bed.

Dean closed his eyes, squeezing them shut so he wouldn’t have to think about the feeling of rejection wrapped around his heart. Cas didn’t write back. It might not be rejection, he kept telling himself. Maybe he just didn’t check his messages yet.

Something large landed on his bed and Dean froze as he felt it walking over the blanket. It was larger than Gabe’s marten, but he relaxed as the feeling of spring rain in a field of grass settled over his body again. He didn’t feel that roaring fire but the coolness of the rain was there, calming him and making him want to sink deeper into the feeling of rightness. Soft fur slid over his arms as the bed dipped with each step from the creature—who he assumed was Castiel. He could feel paws on his back as the creature got on top of him. The weight of his familiar more grounding than heavy as he walked along his back then back to his side. His eyes stayed shut as he felt a cold nose press against his cheek, sniffing him. His nose wrinkled at the feeling of stiff whiskers brushing over it before he felt a rough tongue lick at his cheek. He blinked his eyes open and was shocked at the closeness, but soon focused on the sight of the bright blue eyes of his familiar. He turned over and sat up, eyeing the very large cat lying on his bed. Castiel was on his side, his jet black fur a sharp contrast to the cream color of the blanket.

“Hey, Cas.” Dean smiled as he ran his fingers through the soft, long fur of the Maine Coon, the sound of Castiel’s deep rumbling purr making him grin wider. “I’m Dean.”

Castiel opened his eyes, staring at him with an intensity that should have put Dean on edge but didn’t. He blinked slowly, letting his head loll back as Dean scratched under his chin. Cas’ purr was so strong Dean could feel the bed vibrate with the noise, making him want to pet his familiar even more. He scratched down the cat's chest, rubbing his fingertips into the soft fur of Cas belly, before the cat flipped over, arching his back as Dean stroked down from head to bushy tail.

“So I guess you like pettings, huh?” Dean asked and got a toothy meow in response. The open and honest smile on his face couldn’t be helped. This was what he needed, what he had always wanted but never believed he could have. “It’s okay. I like giving attention and I don’t mind pettings. Probably best you know now I’m not really big on PDA, but you never have to worry about me not giving you my all, okay, Cas?”

The cat climbed on his lap, arching up, and nuzzled his jaw in understanding. Dean pulled him in close—very much not cuddling because Dean didn’t cuddle ok?—and rested his head against his pillow. He didn’t ask why Cas hadn’t shifted yet. He figured maybe he was just shy and Dean was fine with that; he liked the idea of proving himself to his familiar. It sparked something primal in him to show Cas his worth.

****

The next morning Dean was awoken by a cold nose pressed to his cheek, followed by a sandpaper tongue, before he felt the dip of the bed and heard the soft patter of paws heading across the room towards the window. He opened his eyes just in time to see a black, bushy tail disappear from the open window, the tree branch snapping back up into view a moment later. He probably should have panicked, what with his familiar leaving, but he saw his clothing freshly ironed and hanging on the door and his shoes and socks next to the chair. Dean smiled at the familiar-behaviour. Obviously, Cas wasn’t gone for good, he probably just had some things he had to do. Dean was needy, on this he could be honest, but he wasn’t going to smother Cas either.

The rest of the day passed by quietly. Dean decided to keep Cas from his family for a little while longer. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to show him off, but that he wanted to be greedy and keep Cas to himself just for a little while more. Unfortunately, his happy and upbeat mood was enough to put everyone on edge and have his brothers watch him with raised brows. He texted Cas to let him know that the pimpmobile was ready and he would stay later to make sure Cas got it but was waved off.

Cas - There’s no need for you to stay there waiting. Actually it’s probably best that you aren’t there. I don’t want you to see my human form and fall so madly in love you force a connection with my animal half just to keep my sexiness around.

Dean had grinned wide reading the message, Cas was flirty and funny. He was feeling the kind of excitement he hadn’t felt since he started dating in college.

Dean - What makes you think I’ll be the one so in love that I’ll force the connection? You’re the giant cat! For all you know you’ve already fallen for my animal magnetism.

Cas - Har har har *eyeroll* You’re lucky you’re cute with an ass that won’t quit.

Dean - Shut up, I’m hilarious… You really like my ass?

Cas - The things I want to do to that ass should be illegal, but I promise on my honor that you’ll enjoy it and beg for more

Dean had to adjust his pants and take several breaths to calm down. He couldn’t just tug one out texting his familiar before he even got to see his face in person. Castiel had been right earlier and he deserved better than a horny witch.

Dean - We’re gonna put a pin in that until we finally get to see each other in person. I want to do this right with you and jumping into bed with you before knowing you isn’t how I want this to start. I gotta ask about your name, what’s with Castiel? Is it a family name or something? Is it okay if I call you Cas?

Cas - I’m not Castiel. I’m Jimmy. Castiel was the cat in bed with you last night. Parents weren’t religious but it was a hard birth and they figured an angelic name would be lucky. So they went with Castiel, the angel of Thursday.

He frowned at the screen. Did Jimmy consider his cat self to be separate from his human half? That was strange, and he didn’t know any other familiar who thought like that, but he accepted it. Jimmy and Castiel were his and if he or they wanted to be called different names he would respect that. He changed the contact name before continuing.

Dean - Ok, sorry Jimmy.

Jimmy - It’s fine no worries. So who would you rather have over tonight. Me or Cas?

Dean - Honestly I’m happy with either so long as you’re both comfortable with it.

Jimmy - That right there is the perfect answer. I think we’re going to get along great.

Dean’s chest swelled with pride, he was always a sucker for praise. That night Dean was more thorough in his bedtime routine and made sure the room was presentable. He wasn’t sure if Jimmy would be coming in his human form or his cat Cas form, but either way Dean was happy to have him near. Dean woke up hours later to the feel of soft fur snuggled under his chin and the feeling of a warm fire on a snowy day under his skin. He leaned back to get a better look at Cas and frowned. The cat looked different, but it was too dark in the room to tell properly. Sleepily, he let it go, and snuggled into the warm body, falling asleep easily.

Early the next morning, he woke up before his kitty familiar and frowned at the sight of the large cat with his head on Dean’s pillow.

The other night, he had been a black Maine Coon with thick soft fur and a deep purr that vibrated through the bed. Now though, Dean was looking at a definitively different cat. Where the Maine Coon had a large fluff of fur from under his chin down to his chest that looked like a beard, this cat had what could only be considered a mane of thick black fur around his head. His purr wasn’t as deep as the other night but it was still loud enough that Dean had fallen asleep comfortably to the sound. He didn’t recognize the breed right away, and while the feeling of being in spring rain was gone, the feeling of winter warmth was there.

He reached over and dug into the cat’s fur, enjoying the purr from his familiar as black lids opened to reveal bright cerulean blue eyes. He smiled at the cat as it nuzzled his fingers, nipping them lightly before turning over so Dean was scratching his back.

“Needy kitty.” His tone was full of affection for his feline familiar.

The cat stretched into an arch, his claws poking at Dean’s pillow without ripping it. He needed to know what kind of cat Jimmy had turned himself into. He was a witch with a familiar who apparently could turn into two different species of cat. As much as Dean thought of himself as a failure, he wouldn’t subject Jimmy or Cas the cat to having such a fuck up for a witch that he didn’t even know their breed.

“I’ll be right back, okay? Just stay here and make yourself comfortable.” Dean quickly got off the bed, careful that the mattress didn’t throw the cat off with a bounce.

He knocked softly on his brother’s bedroom door, not realizing until he heard the shuffle of feet on the floor that maybe it was too early to be waking up his youngest sibling. The door opened before he could turn and go back to his room and he stood face to face with Michael.

“Dean? Is everything alright?” Michael whispered as his eyes roamed over Dean in concern, as though he could find out what was wrong just by looking at him.

“Uh, yeah, everything’s fine. I needed a book.” Dean tried to keep his voice low, hoping it would hide any embarrassment he was feeling.

Michael looked at him, his brows pulled together in confusion. “Sam has many interesting books. I particularly like the one where a telepathic waitress in Louisiana meets and falls in love with a charming vampire and have many interesting adventures. I’m told it was made into a television show but I’m still two books away from the end of the series and I don’t want to be spoiled.”

“What? No, this isn’t for fun. I need to do some research on something.” Dean fought back the urge to wince when Michael seemed to look at him with a more calculating look. This was not going well and Dean had to get this back on track before Michael figured out there was another familiar in the house. “I need the animal familiar book, you know the one Adam uses to find the exact breed when kids first shift?” Judging by the wide eyes of the owl-familiar, Dean guessed he wasn’t any level of covert.

“Dean, that book holds every single species of animal that ever existed save for the dinosaurs. That includes reptiles, amphibians, even fish. To give you the full book would cause it to crash through the floor and not stop until it was deep in the Earth,” Michael rolled his eyes. Dean bit his lip, embarrassed. He knew better, but it was too early in the morning.

“It’s fine, I just need to look for something specific, I know the spell to narrow the book down.”

Michael winced in surprise. “Dean, you know you can’t practice that type of spell work without a familiar to channel the magic through. Using protection symbols are one thing, but actual spells could cause harm to you, this house, even this whole street if you let your magic run unchecked like that.” His eyes turned soft as he placed a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “You will find your familiar one day, Dean, I have no doubt of that, but until then I would be proud to use my magic to help you. I will shorten the book. Now what species did you need?”

Dean stumbled over his words. Of course, Michael didn’t know Dean had found his familiar and talking so openingly about practicing magic—how could Dean make such an error? Luckily, it had been Michael he said it in front of and not one of his brothers. Sam especially would have been on his back for weeks.

“You really don’t have to do that, Michael, but I appreciate it.”

“It is not a problem, Dean.” Michael gave him a wide grin, his hunter green eyes lighting up white. “We’re family, and family sticks together. You Winchesters taught me that.”

Dean ducked to hide his burning face. “Thanks, uh, I wanted to look up cats. Big cats but not like lions or leopards or anything like that. Just big house cats, like Maine Coons and anything else that size.”

“That’s pretty simple, and oddly specific, but alright. Stay here. Adam is asleep and I doubt you want to see him like this.”

“I’ve seen my brother naked before, but yeah, no thanks.”

“He’s not naked, but he is dressed in a…. You know what? Just stay here.” Michael turned from the door and Dean chose to forget everything said in the last twenty seconds for his own mental health.

In moments Michael was back with a much smaller tome than what Dean had originally come for. “Thanks, Mike.”

“It’s no problem, Dean. Get some sleep.”

“Yeah, right away.” He turned and waited until he heard the snap of the lock on his brother’s door before running back to his own room. He breathed a sigh of relief at seeing the cat on his bed. It hadn’t been until he was getting back into the room that he had panicked at the thought of his familiar abandoning him in his absence.

“Hey, sorry for the wait.” He raised the leather-bound book in the air. “Had to get something from my little brother. Well, his familiar gave it to me, my brother was sleeping.”

The cat blinked his too blue eyes at him before laying back down on the pillow, nuzzling his face against it. Dean bit back a smile, realizing the cat approved of his scent, and vowed to pour out all his colognes.

When he sat back on the bed, he found himself with a lap full of cat, but didn’t mind. He just opened the book while his free hand petted the soft fur. He catalogued the differences between the two cats as he went through the different pages of the book searching for the cat on him. Jimmy had told him earlier that Castiel was the cat who had come over, but that was a Maine Coon, and the cat on his bed now was a different breed. He didn’t want to call him Cas, in case he offended his familiar, but he just wasn’t sure what was going on. He frowned, lost in thought and the cat smacked his hand with his large paw, annoyed that Dean had stopped his fur stroking for deep thought.

“Sorry.” He ducked his head to hide a smile before continuing to stroke the long dark fur.

Jimmy had mentioned that it had been a difficult birth, and it wasn’t unheard of for a familiar to shift while in the birth canal. Maybe shifting into two different species was what made the birth so rough? Dean decided to go back to looking through the book that was still on the page with Maine Coons. He flipped it a few times but didn’t see anything the size or look of the cat in his lap.

The cat looked up and eyed the book before sitting up. He used both of his paws to knock the book out of Dean’s hand and onto the floor. A cuss-filled reprimand died on Dean’s tongue as he watched the pages quickly turn before stopping at the information for a Norwegian Forest cat. Dean picked the book up gingerly as the cat sat on his pillow, his back straightened, posed like an Egyptian cat god.

“You’re a Norwegian Forest cat?” His inquiry only got a soft meow in response. He continued reading the description, noting the similarities between the book and the cat next to him. “Males can grow to be greater than 12 pounds. Their social and attention needs are high.” He raised a brow to the cat. “Well that’s one hundred percent true, right there.” He chuckled at the cat’s responding grumble.

“Tendency to shed is high in the cat, but a powerful enough familiar can keep his fur from shedding.” He gave his bed a passing glance noting how there was no dark cat hair to be found. Even the night before, Cas or Jimmy hadn’t left any fur on his bed. “The Norwegian Forest cat is sweet and loving and likes attention and praise from its owner. The familiar is much the same way and both are very strong and have a strong connection to the warrior heritage of the cat form. You a fighter, Novak?” The cat leaned up on its hind legs, moving his front paws like he was trying to box. Dean laughed and had to cover his mouth, afraid his brothers would hear. “Okay, okay. I believe you, Rocky.”

His eyes landed on the alarm next to his bed and he groaned at the time. It probably wouldn’t pay to go back to sleep, but he had to try, regardless of how much he wanted to stay up and get to know his familiar and his apparent double animal forms.

“Listen, I have to get another couple hours sleep, but you don’t have to leave, okay? Feel free to stay. I don’t mind.” The cat gave him a look that Dean could only take to mean, “Of course I’m staying, you idiot.”

Laying on his stomach, Dean got himself comfortable. The feeling of a large cat walking down his back and rolling himself into a ball on his butt made him chuckle but he didn’t move. “Night, Novak”

A rumble of a purr vibrated over his ass, but he ignored it for the deep call of sleep.

When he awoke to his alarm a few hours later, Dean found himself alone in the room again, his clothes pressed and hanging off the chair ready for him. But this time he saw a pair of pink lace panties laying on his pants and he blushed that Jimmy had found them. He knew with the way they had flirted, that they would more than likely end up in a sexual relationship, so he didn’t let it bother him that Jimmy found his stash—especially since he seemed to approve.

It was the next morning that things began to get weird. The Maine Coon spent the night with him, the loud, deep rumbling purr sending Dean into an easy, restful sleep. Which was how he was able to wake up before the cat and pick out his own clothes. Not that he would have minded Novak picking another pair of panties for him but, the hard-on he’d had the entire day had made work nearly unbearable. This would be for the best.

Dean had just finished his shower when he caught the cat walking out of his room and down the hall towards the stairs. In a panic, Dean ran to scoop him up before hightailing it back to his room. He slammed the door shut and locked it behind him. He dropped the cat on the bed. Curious blue eyes stared into him making him fidget nervously under the intense scrutiny.

“Look, I’m sorry, okay? But I haven’t told the others about us yet. I just need more time.” He petted the cat's head and smiled when Novak nuzzled his palm. “I just want you to myself right now. If I tell them, I’ll have to share, and they’ll interrogate you, and Adam will want to run tests on you.”

The cat let out a confused meow and Dean backtracked to figure out what he said wrong. He realized he had never told his familiar about his brothers’ jobs. “Oh sorry, Adam is my youngest brother. He’s the town doctor and handles all of the familiars in town. Sam is the middle child, a giant sasquatch of a child, and he’s a lawyer. But, he’s a good lawyer—you know, fights for the little guy. He’s not one of those douchebag lawyers who rob people.”

Dean hated being so open. Usually he relied on his charm and flirty smile to get his way, but this was important. Jimmy or Cas or whatever he wanted to be called was important. “I’ll tell them about you soon. Just give me some time, please? In case this...in case we don’t work out. I couldn’t bear to have them look at me with even more pity than they do now.”

Novak leaned up and licked the tip of Dean’s nose, making him chuckle.

Before his brothers got up, Dean watched the Maine Coon make his escape, climbing down the tree right outside his window.

The rest of the day passed much like the day before: Dean went to work, texted Jimmy during his breaks, came home to eat with his family and didn’t mention a word to them about his familiar. He tried hard to not choke down his food just to run upstairs and get ready for his familiar’s nightly visit. Instead, he forced himself to make small talk with his brothers. He ignored Gabriel, and was grateful to Michael for never bringing up the morning he came for the book.

After dessert, he made sure to give it back to the owl when he caught Michael alone. Michael had asked if he found what he was looking for, and it was only due to Michael not being able to read Dean as easily as his brothers that he didn’t realize how questionable his grin actually was.

That night Dean fell asleep with a Norwegian Forest cat and woke up to said cat kneading his belly. He frowned. Sure, he knew he had put on a little weight, but he didn’t think it was that bad. He yanked his shirt down as the kneading had caused it to rise up. But Novak wouldn’t accept it and started digging his head under the shirt, rubbing and licking Dean’s belly until the green-eyed man was crying for mercy against the tickling.

“Okay okay, enough. Novak, you win.” The cat popped his head out and let out a proud meow that had Dean chuckling as he wiped his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, all hail to you.”

The cat climbed up to Dean’s shoulder and laid his body down so it pressed against his witch’s side. Dean buried his face in the dark fur, fighting back a smile. This was what he wanted, every day. Regardless of which cat Jimmy chose to be, this was what made him happiest.

There was still a part of his brain telling him something was missing, Hell even his dreams felt like they were trying to hint at something, but for the life of him he could never remember it once he woke up. He pressed his lips to the cat's head before heading out to the shower, chuckling at the lazy meow he got in response. For a giant hunter— hunters , Castiel really seemed to enjoy acting like a lap cat.

Coming back from the bathroom, Dean caught the sight of a black bushy tail making its way downstairs—the smell of cooking bacon had probably called to the familiar. In a panic, he found himself once more running to grab the cat up from the stairs and then back up to his room, ignoring his brothers calling his name. He slammed and locked the door before glaring at his familiar, now sitting on the bed, licking his fur where Dean had ruffled it.

“What do you think you’re doing? I thought you understood that I wanted to wait?” Dean hissed at him, gripping his still wet hair in his hand. “I told you I wasn’t ready to tell the others about you yet.”

The cat tilted his head to the side, blinking up at his witch. Even though Novak couldn’t talk back while in cat form, Dean had gotten very good at reading his body language and the aura surrounding him. He knew Novak was confused and that fact made Dean confused too. He had told Novak yesterday that he wasn’t ready to tell the others about them. He knew he had. So why was his familiar acting like this was new information?

The cat seemed to come to his own conclusion and made a show of sniffing the bacon scented air before before letting out a low meow. Dean took the warning; if he didn’t go and feed his familiar, the next noise would be loud, and that would call his brothers and their familiars upstairs.

“Okay, okay, I’m going. No shouting. Bacon isn’t even good for cats, you know?” Dean quickly put on a pair of boxers under his towel, making sure to not expose himself to the cat. Yes, the animal was actually a man and part human, but there was a line Dean would not cross. The cat grumbled and showed his long fangs as if to remind Dean he was not a house pet but a hunter. The thought made the witch much happier than he would ever admit.

Dean dashed downstairs, grabbed some food, and raced back upstairs while juggling the plate and dodging his family's questions. Adam just watched with confusion and a look Dean knew meant he would be cornered and interrogated by his youngest brother later. Once in the bedroom, he picked up some bread, throwing an egg and bacon pieces onto it for himself, before giving the rest of the plate to the cat. He wanted to talk to Novak more, maybe even feed him more, but he had to get to work. Stuffing his mouth to chipmunk levels, he finished getting dressed and scratched the back of Novak’s neck.

“Stay in this room until you want to head back to wherever you’re staying.” He waved a finger at the cat wanting him to focus and know he was serious. “Do not let my brothers or their familiars see you, I’m serious. This is all that I’m asking from you; give me time to do this myself.”

The cat gave a rumbling purr as he rubbed his side against Dean’s pant leg. Dean chuckled before bending to place a kiss on the top of Novak’s head. “Glad we got an understanding. Stay out of trouble, Novak.”