It’s a moment before CastIEL replies, and Dean half-imagines he can hear the AI booting up under the general buzz and murmur of the ship’s systems: a low, throaty purr, kind of like his voice, rising from a foreboding bass hum to the mellow monotone that answers him after a thirty-second pause.
Dean smiles. “Morning.”
“Yes, it is. Have you eaten your fruit leather?”
Dean looks guiltily at the unopened wrapper floating next to the remains of his breakfast MRE. “I’m getting to it.”
“You need the vitamins,” CastIEL scolds. “Eat, please.”
Dean makes a face, but he dutifully reaches for it, peeling the shiny plastic off the thick, slightly sticky strip of dehydrated apple and letting it drift away towards the command console. “Hey, are you busy right now?”
There’s a sliding scale of electronic noise, which Dean knows is CastIEL’s approximation of a sigh. “In any one millisecond, eighty percent of my processing power is devoted to the speed and navigation of the ship, in addition to the ten to fifteen commanded by the life support systems, the hydroponics units and monitoring your favored Terran sports teams, Dean. I am always busy.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.”
Dean methodically demolishes his fruit leather, one grainy, chewy bite and a time, and CastIEL gives another, longer sigh.
“Did you need something?”
It’d sound ridiculous, telling a ship AI he’d just wanted to hear his voice. “Uh, no. Carry on navigating.”
“I’m getting in my chassis.”
Dean rubs a hand over his face. “Cas, it’s nothing, I was just—”
There’s the distinct click of CastIEL disconnecting from the ship’s comm system, and Dean groans, stretching back in midair. “Cas, goddamn it.”
He’s recaptured the fruit leather wrapper and put it in the recycler when the far doors whoosh open, bringing a breath of fresher air from the atrium.
“You didn’t have to come all the way down here,” Dean grumbles, putting out a hand to rotate himself upright.
CastIEL, dressed a skintight jumpsuit and a long, lean body based on that of the scientist who’d coded him, kicks off lightly from the wall and sails along the corridor. “And you did not have to wake me up.”
“Dude, you don’t sleep,” Dean says, then lets out a surprised “Oof!” as CastIEL’s bulk smacks into his middle, one of his arms catching and holding Dean at the ribs.
“I know for a fact you haven’t completed your strength training, either,” the AI says, turning expertly in place and launching them back towards the door. “Physical exercise and proper nutrition are essential to a happy and healthy flight crew.”
Dean clings to the arm around his his waist and tells himself it’s because he’s being hauled across the room like a sack of potatoes, not because CastIEL’s chassis is warm and solid and smells faintly like copper pennies. He’s coming to associate that smell with all kinds of inappropriate thoughts.
“I have noticed you tend to neglect yourself in favor of accomplishing mission parameters,” CastIEL continues, eyes narrowed. “As your partner, I cannot allow this.”
“No?” Dean asks with a slow smile. They bump gently against the door, drifting apart. “You gonna be my nannybot?”
“If necessary,” CastIEL says firmly. He looks up at Dean as he presses his palm to the lock, and his voice softens, ever so slightly. “You must tell me if you need something, Dean.”
The door opens and the slight pressure differential pulls them through, into the atrium where the trees far, far below (above?) grow in crazy spirals and the air smells sweet, like sap and rain. CastIEL’s manufactured eyes are very, very blue, and there’s a gleam of understanding in them that makes Dean look away hurriedly.
“Yeah, okay,” he mumbles, and leaves his hand in CastIEL’s as they push off into space.