“Pathetic,” Lisa said, frowning at the thermometer. “Ben brings home an ordinary middle-school cold and you feel compelled to try and turn it into a full-blown flu.”
She had him sitting on one of the kitchen stools, the hand not holding the thermometer resting on his shoulder, as if she thought he might make a run for it. She was getting to know him pretty well.
“Pathetic?” Dean attempted to smirk up at her. “Or so awesome that germs have to mutate to take me down?” He meant to be cocky, and a little flirtatious—but he was prepared to admit the effect was kind of ruined by the audible sniffs punctuating his words.
Lisa raised her eyebrows and turned down the corners of her mouth—an expression of disbelief that had no right to be as appealing as it was.
Dean changed tactics. “You’re right,” he said. “I am pathetic. You’re the one that’s awesome. He hooked an arm around her waist and drew her in, nuzzling the smooth fabric of her shirt. “And warm,” he noted. “Awesome and warm.
Lisa laughed and dropped her hand into his hair, rubbing her fingers against his scalp. “Come on,” she said, “go lie down.”
But she paused there long enough for him to tilt his face up and press a line of kisses along the sweet, soft curve of her breasts.
Dean fell asleep before Lisa left to pick up Ben from practice, and didn’t wake up until she called his name and gently shook his shoulder, sometime after the early winter dark had closed around the house.
Lisa sat on the side of the bed while he downed a glass of juice and swallowed some cold medicine.
“How’re you doing?” she asked. “Germs still mutating on you?”
“Yeah,” Dean croaked, because it really did feel like some kind of viral experiment was being conducted inside his body. Now his throat was killing him, and all the muscles in his back and legs felt knotted and tight.
“Poor thing.” Lisa smoothed a palm across his aching cheekbones. “Go back to sleep—it’s the best thing for it.”
She was right, but sleep seemed to have deserted him. Every position hurt and the sheets scratched along his skin; he was too hot with them on, and too cold with them off. He had only managed a restless doze by the time Lisa came to bed, even though he pretended to be dead to the world when she whispered his name.
But her presence seemed to balance out the temperature somehow, because as soon as he heard her breathing even out, Dean dropped off too.
With the perversity of fever, even as he lay there next to Lisa, Dean dreamt of Castiel. Of an unseasonably warm autumn night they’d spent in the ass-end of Georgia during those odd, weightless months when they’d traveled without Sam.
They were in what might have been one of the world’s shittiest motels—and God knew Dean had seen a lot of shitty hotels. This one was stifling, with a single window-unit as noisy as it was useless. Some truly terrifying fungus spread spider-like over the bathroom tiles, and unidentifiable stains dotted the mustard-colored carpet.
But Dean hadn’t cared. He’d been wound tight on the aftermath of a brutal hunt and the looming threat of the apocalypse, and his his only purpose in stopping there had been to get Cas up against some surface—vertical or horizontal, it didn’t matter—and kiss him until the angel’s clear blue eyes clouded with desire, and his body loosened under Dean’s demanding fingers.
It had worked. For once, Dean had gotten Castiel to fuck him as hard as he needed to be fucked, goaded him into unleashing some of that heavenly fire. Dean was pretty sure that come morning he’d have a set of angelic fingerprints on his hips to match the handprint on his bicep.
It had worked, but it hadn’t been enough. Even bruised and sore and sated—even with half a fifth of whiskey in him, Dean was still wired, heart still racing like a three-day caffeine jag. And hot—so hot—sweat still dripping into his eyes, and the stale, dusty air of the room clinging to him like a second skin, worming its way into his lungs.
He rolled away from Cas to cough harshly into the thin pillow. When he’d gotten his breath back, he found the angel watching him, his expression unreadable.
“Get some sleep, Dean,” Castiel said, irises cool as lakes.
“Easy for you to say,” Dean rasped—hacking out all that dust seemed to have scraped his throat raw. He raked his eyes over Castiel’s naked body—dry, calm, seemingly unmarked by the rough sex—unmarked by the whole vicious war they were part of, for that matter.
He felt a sudden surge of resentment. “Don’t you ever rest?” he asked. “Don’t you ever just tuck your head under your wing like a pigeon and hide under the eaves?”
Cas tilted his head, looking puzzled—and more birdlike than ever.
“Christ, Cas.” Dean rolled his head restlessly and dug his heels into the sheets, as if he could tunnel out from beneath the blanket of heat. “Sorry—It’s just—I’m just fucking hot, you know? Do you think maybe you could use some of your mojo on that air conditioner? I swear it’s putting out steam instead of cold air.”
“It doesn’t work like that, Dean, you know that.” Cas was ever so slightly chiding.
“Yeah, yeah, I know—shouldn’t have even asked.” Dean muttered bitterly. He knew he was being ungracious, but right now he was too worn out and on edge to care.
They lay side by side for a few minutes: Dean trying to ignore the sweat prickling on his scalp and the headache building behind his eyes—and Cas. Well, Dean had no idea what Cas was doing. Whatever it was, it was very quiet.
Gradually, though, something settled over Dean. Something barely perceptible, but real, material, encompassing. It felt like what a cloud might feel like if a cloud had hands. Many, many hands. But no—that wasn’t right—because the fingers of these hands weren’t like fingers at all. They were flat, silken, and they stirred, ever so faintly, with the rhythm of breath.
And they were cool: cool like the first hint of rain on a sweltering day; like the comfort of shade after harsh sunlight.
Dean sighed in relief, and as the heat leached out of his body, the room around him seemed to dissolve too, garish mustards changing to warm whites and browns, the polyester sheets softening against his skin.
“Cas,” he whispered, as sleep finally took him. “Thank you.”
Dean blinked his eyes open in Lisa’s bed. He’d kicked off the covers, but the feeling of feathers lingered on his skin. Almost as if they were still there, a current of satin skimming over his sides.
He lay as still as he could, as if any movement might dispel the sensation, and, for a moment, he allowed himself to miss Castiel desperately—the power and strangeness of him—his weird, unexpected grace.
Inevitably, almost painfully, the wings, real or remembered faded away, though the punishing heat they’d banished didn’t return. Belatedly, Dean realized his t-shirt was soaked. Maybe that’s all it had been, he told himself, the fever breaking had triggering some weird sense memory of that time.
He eased himself out of the bed, careful not to wake Lisa, and padded into the blessedly mildew-free master bath. He could hear the wind picking up outside, but the temperature inside was perfectly pleasant. Lisa had a thing about energy efficiency, and he’d helped her put in new storm windows just a few weeks ago. He relieved himself, making sure to put the seat back down, and laughing a little at his own domestication, then splashed some water on his face, tossed the damp shirt in the hamper without bothering to find a clean one, and made his way back to bed.
“Dean?” Lisa said sleepily as he slid in beside her. “You okay, babe?”
“Yeah,” Dean whispered. “I’m fine.”
Lisa rolled towards him and grazed her lips against his forehead. “Mm—you’re cooler, anyway—that’s good.” She turned away again, curled on her side.
Dean followed, put his arm around her, dipping a hand under her shirt to find the warm, pliant skin of her stomach. When she didn’t protest, he slipped his hand lower, past the waistband of her pajamas, between her legs. No intention, really, just a blind need to be closer.
“Lisa?” he whispered into her shoulder, though he had no idea what he was asking. “Lisa?”
“Yeah,” she answered anyway. “Yeah.” She rocked into his hand a little, brushing gently back against him as she did.
It was nice, more than nice, but it was all there would be tonight, by unspoken, mutual agreement. It didn’t matter. Tomorrow, Dean told himself, tomorrow he would feel better, and tomorrow night they’d both be back in this bed, and they’d have all the time in the world.
They drifted towards sleep like that, and just before he went under, Dean imagined he could once again feel the faint, precise, press of feathers across his bare back—not cool this time, but warm, like the wings of a fantastical bird just back from basking in some celestial sun.