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Bobby’s attic smells like shit.

Not literal shit, thankfully. Dean still has no clue what Castiel does with his waste, if he even makes waste at all. He definitely eats, anyway, even if Dean’s never actually seen him do it; every few weeks he and Sam climb up here with garbage bags and heavy rubber gloves to clean out the animal bones, tossing out coyote femurs and the ribcages of deer while Cas perches in the rafters and makes unhappy clucking noises.

But it smells fucking terrible, even from the room below, the sickly-sweet smell of rotten meat, like when they’re driving past roadkill on a hot day. Dean gags and pinches his nose, but presses on. This is why he’s up here, after all, because Bobby had called while they were in Omaha hunting down a rogue Naga, telling them to get their asses home because something was wrong with Cas.

Dean grabs a broom from the wall and, still holding his nose, starts banging the handle of it up against the trapdoor to the attic. “Cas!” he yells, bang bang bang. “It’s me, I’m coming up!” He waits a moment, ears straining to pick up any noise, but if Cas is upstairs he’s not moving.

He allows for another half-minute to pass, to give Cas any time that he needs, before reaching up and pulling the string to bring down the trapdoor. The ladder unfolds elegantly, smoothly sliding down to rest on the floor. This is because the metal rails used to squeak with rust and it’d send Cas into a conniption fit, so Dean spent an entire afternoon greasing it up while Cas watched curiously because he’s just a nice goddamn guy.

As soon as the door is lowered, though, the smell intensifies, and Dean gags in surprise, eyes watering. He clamps his other hand over his mouth and coughs for a few seconds. “Cas!” he wheezes, but any reply is drowned out by another wave of coughing. A minute or two passes before he can find the courage to start climbing the ladder, sacrificing balance to keep one hand over his nose, but about halfway up he has to stop and pause because if he tilts his head to the side just so he can hear soft warbling. And, faintly, over that sound is the sound of buzzing.

He hurries up the rest of the way, the ladder shaking beneath his boots, and tries not to vomit at the smell when he finally gets into the attic proper.

It’s hot, like it always is up here, but also humid, and for once the huge bay window is closed. He looks around for Castiel, but he’s nowhere to be found, though the warbling is louder now. It takes him longer than it should to stumble to the window and throw it open, and he leans out of it, gasping for fresh air. Thankfully it’s a breezy day, and the cool fall air flows into the attic like water out of a broken dam.

As the room airs out, Dean looks around for the source of the rotten smell, keeping one eye out for Cas as he does so. He doesn’t have to look hard. There’s a something in the corner of the attic, something big and hairy and vaguely humanoid, and Dean readies his knife quickly, alarm shooting up his spine. But the thing doesn’t move when he tip-toes closer to it, and when he’s a few feet away he can see long, deep gashes in its side and back. As he gets closer he’s able to identify to buzzing noise; huge flies circle the monster, flitting around and even getting close to Dean himself. He swats at them.

He’s seen enough of the deer carcasses Cas leaves them in the scrap yard (He’s like a big, feathery cat. Here you silly humans I brought you sustenance now please try not to die.) to know that this thing is cut up but good. He stows his knife and walks forward more steadily now to get a closer look. It’s like a bear, or a giant badger maybe, but more human in shape. It’s stomach has been cut open, but there aren’t any organs laying around, and it looks like it’s been drained completely of blood. Dean toes at it with a boot, lip curled in disgust, when something touches the back of his neck lightly.

He whirls around, scrambling for his knife again, nerves raw with surprise, then stops. He sees feathers. Dean looks up, and meets two unnaturally bright blue eyes that blink down at him from the semi-darkness of the rafters. Cas chirps down at him, one wing extended slightly for balance, and Dean lets out an explosive sigh.

“Dammit, Cas, you scared the hell out of me!”

Castiel drops to the floor in a graceful rustle of feathers, a shit-eating grin stretching his lips, and he chirps again. Dean swears that the guy is mocking him. He knows that he’s being mocked when Cas chortles, his crest feathers rising in amusement. Dean mumbles unhappily and stows his knife before turning back to the badger-thing in the corner.

“And what the fuck is this thing?” He kicks at it with a booted foot, and feels more than sees Cas leaning over him curiously, looking over his shoulder. It rankles him. He hates when Cas is taller than him; normally the guy is hunched over, his legs not made for standing up straight, but when he draws himself up to his full height he’s even taller than Sam. And that’s saying something.

Castiel whistles curiously, his chin resting on Dean’s shoulder and one wing fanning the air. Dean reaches back to grab the feathers of his other wing and push him away in irritation, but the movement is aborted when Cas hisses and jumps back on his own, clicking low in his throat.

He turns to take a good look at Castiel, frowning when he sees that, unlike the badger-thing, Cas does have blood on him.

His left wing, the one that he’s been keeping tucked against his side and the one that Dean had reached for, is trembling slightly, and the softer downy feathers on the underside of it are caked in dried blood. In fact, his entire left side seems to be in various shades of fucked-up. One of the four fingers on his left hand is bent at an awkward angle, the scales bulging at the knuckle and reminding Dean of that time he’d dislocated his knee, and he’s obviously carrying most of his weight on his right side, his left leg lifted slightly to keep the weight off. Dean frowns even harder when he sees that the left side spur has been completely ripped off his ankle, leaving an angry wound.

“Cas, why the fuck didn’t you call for help?”

Castiel cocks his head and chirps again, rolling his eyes like Dean is being stupid in his concern, but he still hops away when Dean reaches for his wing again. The low clicking sound is back, a warning, but Dean ignores it and grabs Cas’s right hand. After a moment Cas lets him pull them both back towards the ladder, and even helpfully jumps down to the second floor on his own without making Dean force him.

Dean knows that Cas doesn’t like being in the lower floors of the house. He must be in more pain than he’s letting on.

Stairs are a bit trickier to maneuver; Castiel has an awkward gait on the ground even when he’s not injured, and more than once Dean gets a face full of feathers as Cas’s wings shuffle around to compensate. Bobby looks up when they finally make it into the study, Cas’s favorite place on the ground floor, and glares as the creature perches on his couch, wings drawn in tight as he cooes happily on top of the cushions.

“What the hell’d he do to stink up my house?” Bobby says finally, setting aside whatever book he’s reading about the monster of the week.

“Some badger thingamajig,” Dean tells him, taking Cas’s left hand in both of his as he sits on the couch beside him. The feeling of the scales is still foreign, but not as weird as it used to be. Kind of like a bunch of toenails all squished together. Wait, nevermind, still weird. “I’ve never seen anything like it, but it looks like our kind of thing. Cas killed it.” Cas preens, feathers puffing up proudly. Dean knows that if he weren’t sitting down, his tail would be flagging up and down, like a dog wagging.

He clucks in concern when Dean carefully takes hold of the dislocated finger, then screeches in pain, wings flaring and flapping as he shoves it back into place without warning. Papers fly off of Bobby’s desk, Bobby’s yelling unhappily, and Cas’s wing keeps knocking into the window and threatening to break it and add an even bigger mess. Quickly, Dean reaches out, ignoring the warning hisses, and strokes his fingers down the bridge of Castiel’s nose and between his eyes. It takes a few seconds, but the hissing quiets and Castiel’s eyelids lower, though he’s still glaring.

This is the only way Dean has learned to calm Cas down, and he will swear to Sam until his dying day that he didn’t learn it off of YouTube videos of cockatoos.

(Well, this and a spoon of peanut butter. But he thinks that that is even less dignified.)

There’s little that he can do for the wing, really, besides run a wet washcloth over it to clean off the blood. He’s not even sure where the wound is, and after the pain of popping his finger back into place Castiel is sullen and unhelpful, only marginally relaxing when Dean cards a hand through the long dark primaries. Normally the motion turns him into a lax puddle of feathers, and Dean sighs in annoyance when Cas turns his face away, nose up in the air haughtily. Cas sure can be a little shithole when he wants to be.

He has even less of a clue with how to deal with the wound on his ankle. What little he understands of bird anatomy is that spurs are like bones, and Cas has had his ripped off, though he doesn’t seem very concerned about it. Dean has no idea where to start when it comes to stitching up scales, though, or if he’d even be able to, so instead he decides to just disinfect it and wrap it up in gauze. He gets up to grab some bandages from the bathroom, and when he gets back Cas is carefully rearranging his damp feathers, clawed fingers dragging through them. He looks up when Dean sits back down and whistles curiously at the bandages.

Bobby protests half-heartedly when Dean grabs the bottle of rot gut off his desk, and Castiel protests wholeheartedly when Dean makes to pour it straight into the wound. Dean grabs his foot, the claws flexing agitatedly, and tucks it under his arm firmly so he can’t jerk away.

He knows he’s walking a fine line with the trust that they have in Cas; if the creature wanted to, he could use those sharp claws to easily disembowel Dean, spill his guts out just like he did with the monster upstairs. Dean has no illusions that, if Cas decided to stop playing nice, he could kill both humans in the room before they had the sense to grab a weapon. It’d do them little good, anyway, since they still had no idea of how to kill the bastard. Silver cut him but didn’t burn, iron just annoyed him, and he’d started to fucking groom after he’d splashed him with holy water. They’d even hit him in the gut with buckshot and he’d just spit the bullets out.

(The first week after finding him had been wrought with anxiety over a monster bird-man locked in their panic room who they couldn’t kill. Sam and Bobby had run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to find lore, and they were all only able to calm down when they realized that the monster was more curious about them than angry, and isn’t that a fucking first.)

((Actually, Dean thinks that Cas had enjoyed being shot. He’d even giggled after the second time, a high-pitched chatter. Like it had tickled.))

But Cas just huffs, feathers fluffing out at the exhale. When Dean carefully tips the alcohol over the wound, his leg tenses and he bites his lip, but he doesn’t jerk away. His dexterous toes grip at Dean’s jacket, though, and the claws on his hands flex shakily, like he’s restraining himself. Dean pours out half the bottle, because this isn’t just a cut, this is a deep fucking wound, and after a few seconds of the torture, Cas lets out a keening wail, his wings tucking in around him like a shield.

Quickly, Dean sets the bottle on the floor beside the couch and sets to wrapping up the ankle, ignoring the barely-there bite of the claws on Cas’s toes, which had easily ripped through his jacket and shirt to poke into his side. He’s annoyed about his clothes, but can’t really get angry. He knows Cas doesn’t mean anything by it. He’s just glad he wasn’t wearing John’s leather jacket. This one he can replace.

“What I don’t get,” he says after he finishes wrapping the wound, “is how we can poke and prod him with every hunter weapon we know of and not hurt him, but some overgrown rat can rip him up.”

Cas chirps, head peeking out from over his curled-in wings, reacting more to Dean’s voice than his words.

“I guess monsters can hurt monsters,” Bobby grunts, trying to reorganize his desk, and Cas whistles unhappily, like a teapot.

Sometimes Dean wonders how much of what they’re saying Cas can understand. At times the creature will outright ignore them, and other times he listens to them intently, eyes wide and searching. Dean knows that he’s intelligent and able to follow conversations relatively well, but exactly how cognizant he is of their language is still a mystery.

Apparently, though, he recognizes the word monster, and takes offense to it, because he whistles sharply again and bares his teeth when Bobby looks up.

“Not really helping your case, dude,” Dean tells him, and Cas ducks back down under his wings with a grumble.

Dean finally lets go of his foot, but instead of tucking it under himself like he’d expected Cas reaches out with it until it’s close enough to Dean’s face that he can see the little whorls in the individual scales. He freezes and holds his breath and behind him he can hear Bobby’s quiet inhale. Three of the toes bend, curling into a fist, leaving one straight and pointing at Dean’s face, sharp claw only an inch or two away. Dean swallows and his hand slowly, so slow, reaches back for his knife.

The very tip of the claw pokes the end of Dean’s nose. “Boop,” Cas says, the first sound he’s ever made that wasn’t a bird noise, then cackles at the look of incredulous surprise on Dean’s face. His voice is surprisingly deep, considering every sound he’s made so far has been high and lyrical. Dean blinks and breathes out and those claws slide into his hair, scratching very lightly, this motion much more familiar and one that all three of the humans are subjected to. Cas cooes as he grooms Dean with his foot and Bobby lets out an explosive sigh.

“Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the trouble of keeping him around,” the older hunter snaps, disgruntled. Dean doesn’t reply, and bats at Cas’s leg, frowning at the creature’s chittering laugh.

“Dude, gross, that’s your foot,” he snaps, instead of asking what he wants to ask, which is How many other words do you know? Cas starts singing nonsensically, grabbing Dean’s protesting arm with his other foot and running his claws over Dean’s scalp, his warbles stuttering around his smile.

Yeah, Dean thinks, it’s worth it.

 

Chapter Text

There are few things more humbling for Dean Winchester than standing in the WalMart parking lot and trying to maneuver a plastic kiddie swimming pool into the bed of a borrowed truck. Thankfully he has help in the form of Tina, a maybe-seventeen year old who pops her gum as she tells him a little more to the left, there you go. She’d helped him pick out the pool.

(“It needs to be plastic,” he’d insisted. “Not inflatable. That wouldn’t last a minute.”

“Rambunctious kids?” she’d asked, obviously not really caring but trying to seem interested.

“God, no.” That had earned him a weird look. “Bird. Big, big bird. Needs lots of room.”

“...goose?”

“Yeah, we’ll go with that.”)

Likewise, there are few things more rewarding than the shriek of sheer delight that Castiel lets loose after Dean drags him outside to the scrapyard, where the kiddie pool has been filled with lukewarm water from the hose. Dean personally thinks that it’s a bit too cold to be playing around in water, but Cas obviously disagrees. He hops excitedly over to the pool, tests it with one clawed toe, then promptly jumps in and plops his feathery ass into the water, chirping and singing as his tail swishes from side to side and his wings dip under water and then spring back up.

Dean takes a long, deep breath as he gets splashed in the face.

It takes a few minutes of searching before he can locate a lawn chair, which he pulls up to the pool as close as he dares and sits in. “You like that, dude?” he asks, a bit redundantly. Cas has rolled over onto his back, submerging as much of his wings can he can and trilling happily. His long primaries are hanging over the edge on both sides, and he has to pull his legs up out of the water to fit the rest of his body, but he still manages to stir up the water enough that Dean’s feet are getting wet five feet away.

Dean leans back in his chair and closes his eyes, sighing to himself contentedly. Man, he’s goddamn brilliant. A fucking kiddie pool! This is way easier than trying to spray Castiel down with the hose. Plus he won’t have to listen to Bobby bitch and moan about his bathroom walls getting all soaked and mildewy.

Cas starts preening his feathers, dragging his wings across the water and fanning them out as he pulls at his hair with his claws. Dean watches, half interested. Cas’s anatomy is so weird. He’s got feathers mixed in with his hair, the only non-human aspect of his face, and his chest is smooth as if waxed. The only other place on his body that has hair is his happy trail, and even that turns into feathers, soft and downy, well above where his hips dip into his crotch and continuing down to his groin.

Dean clears his throat and looks away as he realizes he’s staring between Cas’s legs. But, well. He can’t help it. He’s curious. It’s not exactly like they can put pants on him, so all three men are uncomfortably aware of the fact that the guy has no junk. There’s no dick or anything, not even a butthole as far as he can tell. Just feathers. Which Dean guesses is a good thing, because, again, they can’t put pants on him, so at least they don’t have to deal with monster free-balling.

Dean has a feeling that if he googled bird sex he could probably figure it out, but he’s already seen enough trauma in his life, thank you very much.

After that awkwardness, ten peaceful minutes pass where Dean just relaxes in his chair, eyes closed. Ten peaceful minutes. Peaceful. He opens one eye. Silence.

Too peaceful.

Dean is immediately suspicious.

He lifts his head up to find Castiel staring at him, chin pillowed on his scaly arms and clawed fingers tapping against the side of the pool. When he realizes he’s been caught, Cas blinks and cocks his head to the side. He lifts one wing, dripping wet and looking strange and disheveled, and slaps it against the water.

“What?” Dean asks dryly. Cas smacks the water with his wing again and chirps. “I don’t understand bird-speak, moron.” Cas huffs and rolls his eyes, hitting the water more forcefully. When Dean just stares at him blankly, Cas finally lifts one of his hands and points at Dean. Then he points down into the pool beside him. He crooks his finger, and the message is suddenly clear.

He wants Dean to get in with him.

“Hell no.”

Cas screeches and smacks at the water again, so hard that droplets land on Dean’s jeans. The other wing starts up too and he screeches loud enough that it starts to echo between all of the old junkers, carrying out into the forest beyond.

“Shit, Jesus, dude, you fucking idiot, calm down!”

Obviously Cas doesn’t approve of the profanity. He tantrums harder.

Which is why when Sam comes to find them, concerned by all the racket, he finds Cas and Dean both sitting in the kiddie pool, looking extremely pleased and extremely put-upon, respectively.

“This is adorable,” Sam says, trying to hide his smile. It’s forced out of him when Dean rolls his head to glare at him. Cas’s knees are pulled up to his chest, his talons alarmingly close to Dean’s crotch, and Dean just barely has enough room to stretch out his own legs on either side of Cas, his feet pressed up against the side of the pool.

Soggy boxers are incredibly uncomfortable. Dean decides that he hates Cas and would like to grill him and eat him.

Sam reaches down to where his brother’s jeans have been tossed on the ground and fishes his phone out of the back pocket. He can barely contain his grin as he aims the phone at them. “Smile,” he orders. Cas chirps curiously as the phone makes a camera shutter noise and Dean glares harder.

“You know, this defeats the entire purpose of a bird bath,” Dean grumbles as Sam sits down in his chair. Jackass. “This thing is barely big enough for a couple kids, much less a grown man and a grown… man-bird-thing.”

Sam takes another picture as Cas lifts a wing to drip water into Dean’s hair. Dean sputters and flails but Cas just reaches out and runs his claws over his scalp, massaging the water in.

“Why does he always do this to me,” Dean asks. He’s not whining. He’s not. (He totally is.)

“Because he likes you the best,” Sam says with a shrug. Cas chirps primly as if in agreement.

Dean swallows down a nasty remark as Cas grooms him. When the creature had first showed up he’d been curious, but definitely skittish. Probably because they’d locked him in the panic room and then tried to kill him. Now he follows Dean around like a puppy every time the boys visit Bobby, trilling and singing obnoxiously.

Sometimes Dean wishes Cas was like a regular monster who wanted to kill him. Dean knows how to handle those monsters. He doesn’t know how to handle an overgrown parakeet who doesn’t understand the concept of personal space.

“It’s kind of cute, actually,” Sam continues thoughtfully, “how much he likes you.” Cas, now satisfied with Dean’s hair, goes back to grooming himself. His wings still slap at the water on either side of Dean, but much gentler now, and he starts combing through his own hair again. “Bobby says he hides in the attic and pines after we leave.”

Dean frowns over at his brother, who takes the opportunity to snap another picture. “Will you fucking stop that!” he growls. Cas looks up at the sound, startled, and quickly scans the area, wide blue eyes jumping from car to car as if trying to find some hidden enemy. When he determines that there’s nothing out there he clucks admonishingly at Dean, who throws his hands up in disgust.

“Oh, hey, speaking of baths,” Sam says suddenly, reaching into his jacket pocket. He digs around before pulling out a goddamn yellow rubber duck. “I got you something to celebrate baby’s first. Cas, catch.”

He tosses it over and Castiel, quick as a flash, lifts one of his feet out of the water and catches it in his toes. He then transfers it over to his less-nimble hands, twisting it curiously between his claws. Even after all these months of seeing him gripping stuff and picking them up, it’s still so fucking strange to Dean how much more dexterity Cas has in his feet than in his hands, like his fingers aren’t as good at bending around things.

It’s also gross because Cas walks on his feet, and then grooms Dean with them. More than once he’s picked what he sincerely hopes isn’t gravel stuck to poo out of his hair.

Cas twitters, raising the rubber duckie up to his face and staring at it. His eyes lift to Dean and he gestures with it.

“It’s a toy,” Dean explains, trying to turn his annoyance into patience. It’s not working. “Kids play with it in the bathtub. If you squeeze it it squeaks.”

Cas nods in understanding and goes back to staring at it in awe. At least, Dean thinks it’s understanding. Hell, maybe he’s just nodding because he has a crick in his neck or something. Cas squeezes the duck between his fingers and blinks in surprise at the short, chipper squeak it makes. He cocks his head again, eyes narrowing, and squeezes it slower. This time the sound is more of a wheeze as the air escapes from inside the toy.

One of Cas’s eyebrows raises and he snorts before holding the toy out for Dean, looking unimpressed. He clucks disapprovingly, as if to say, That is not the noise that ducks make.

Dean takes it and immediately drops it into the water. Cas is suddenly much more interested in it now that it floats. He pokes at it with a wingtip, steering it across the surface of the pool. Against his will Dean thinks that Sam is right. This is adorable. Not that he will ever in a million years admit that.

“So how long’re we here?” Sam asks after a few minutes of watching Cas push at the rubber duck, eyes inappropriately intense.

“I dunno. Rufus said he might have a raw head for us down in Gaffney, but I think Garth’s already in the Carolinas so he might get it.” Dean scratches his stomach and leans back against the side of the pool, stretching until he has one foot hooked over the lip on the other side. Cas regards the foot for a moment and lifts one of his fingers towards it. “If you even think about tickling me I’m going to kick you in the face.”

Cas drops his hand back into the water.

“Guess we’ll just ride the good wave until there’s a bloody murder to check on,” Sam says with a shrug.

“Can’t come too soon,” Dean grunts, and Sam hums in agreement.

Castiel glances between the two of them with a mix of concern and distaste. Great, now the bird monster thinks they’re sociopaths.

Behind them in the direction of the house comes the banging of the screen door, and sure enough Bobby makes his way towards them, ducking around the heaps of scrap effortlessly. He’s already dragging a lawn chair behind him, which he sets up beside Sam’s and eases into. “I see we’ve got the bird bath set up,” he grumbles, crossing one leg over his knee and pulling some folded up papers out of the inner pocket of his jacket. Cas chirps in greeting.

He’s also got a cooler though, and Dean’s practically chirping too when he pulls out a bottle of beer. Bobby opens his own against the hard plastic of the chair’s arm before handing one to Sam, and they clink their bottles together amidst Dean’s protests of being left out. Finally he pulls out a third bottle and tosses it to Dean, who grabs ahold of it giddily.

He tries to use the rim of the swimming pool to pop the cap off, but the plastic is too thin and flexible and he frowns. After a moment of deliberation, he hands the bottle to Cas. “Get that for me, would ya?”

Cas turns the bottle over and over in his hand, fascinated. He’s seen them drink beer before but Dean doesn’t think he’s ever actually held one himself. He inspects it for another few seconds before obligingly hooking a thick claw beneath the lid and snapping it off easily. He hands it back obediently when Dean makes grabby hands for it, and after he takes a few deep gulps he considers for a moment before passing it back over to Cas.

“Try it,” he offers, and Cas sniffs at the mouth of the bottle before taking a small sip. He coughs and his feathers shudder, as if trying to puff out in surprise but they can’t because they’re waterlogged. He snorts, nose crinkling, and Dean reaches back for his drink, but Cas just bats his hand away and tips it back, throat working as he downs the entire bottle.

He belches daintily afterwards, then turns an expectantly look at Dean, who’s staring in shock. Sam and Bobby have equally gobsmacked expressions. Castiel chirps again, confused at their reactions and glancing meaningfully at Bobby’s cooler.

“Oh god, we’ve got a drinker,” Bobby sighs heavily, as Dean whimpers, “My beer…”

Cas’s wings shake and shiver, slinging drops of water as he leans towards Bobby, cooing earnestly. The older hunter reaches down for more beer, resupplying Dean and giving Cas his own bottle this time. Cas catches it, with his foot just like he had with the duck, but drops it with a surprised squawk when the cold glass hits the sensitive underside of his foot. It bobs in the water alongside the duck, floating towards the foot Dean still has in the water. He toes it back to Cas, who makes cheerful noises at the back of his throat and opens it.

“I wonder if he can get drunk,” Sam ponders idly. A long moment passes before Dean shudders at the thought. Bobby, who’s grimacing, seems to share his sentiment. All four of them drink.

“Let’s find out when I’m not in the pool with him,” Dean suggests, reaching out and pulling Cas’s beer away before he can chug all of this one down in one go too. “Sip, dude. Make it last.”

Cas frowns, but takes smaller sips.

“So I did a little more research,” Bobby says after a few blessed minutes of silence. The water is starting to heat up a little under the afternoon sun, and it’s kind of relaxing, as long as Dean ignores the stray feathers and bits of grass and dirt that float along. “And I think I found the closest thing that describes our little mystery monster.”

Dean, Sam, and Cas all turn to look at him expectantly. Dean and Sam genuinely want to know. Cas probably just wants to laugh at them for inevitably being wrong.

Bobby snaps open the folded papers in his lap and explains, “So in the late seventies these reports started popping up in the Rio Grande area of Texas about this giant bird-human hybrid who would swoop down and attack people. No deaths have been reported, but the locals had some different names for it, and they all gave generally the same description; taller than an average human male, glowing eyes, and wings like a bird.” He shuffles his papers and clears his throat, a smirk playing at his lips. “Some people also described it as having a face like an ape and leathery skin.”

Cas huffs in wry amusement and goes back to his beer, having lost interest already, and Bobby hands Sam the sheet of paper he’s currently reading off of. Sam stares at it before choking with laughter, and Dean looks between the two of them, put out over not being privy to the joke. Sam leans out of his chair and Dean snatches the paper away, eyes going straight to the black and white picture on the page.

It’s a cartoon of a fucking gorilla with wings.

“Boys,” Bobby says gravely, “we have our very own Batsquatch.”

Sam leans over, his head in his hands, snorting as he repeats, “Batsquatch!

Dean purses his lips and turns the paper around so that Cas can see the picture. “This you, buddy?”

Cas’s eyes narrow and he takes the paper from Dean, handling it carefully so he doesn’t rip it with his claws. His head turns this way and that as he stares at it. Then, abruptly, he warks and shoves it back towards Dean, expression unhappy. His wings flap and his tail lifts out of the water and slaps back down on it and he turns to glare at Bobby and Sam, loosing an annoyed, shrill whistle when they both laugh harder.

“I’m offended for you, dude,” Dean tells him, trying not to laugh, because unlike the other two he’s in the swimming pool with a pissed off monster. His amusement must show, though, because Cas caws petulantly and climbs to his feet, beating his wings against the air. He hops out of the pool and walks off, nose in the air, and Dean watches him with a grin as Sam tries to catch his breath.

Cas drips water as he wanders a good ten feet away, then scratches at the ground with his feet, kneading the dirt almost thoughtfully. Then without preamble he drops down into the dirt and starts rolling in it, fanning his wings to get it in between his feathers. Dean trips in his haste to get out of the pool, screaming, “Goddammit, you just took a fucking bath!”

Batsquatch!” Sam keens, slapping his knee, and his chair tips over from the force of it.

“Idiots,” Bobby sighs, and drinks his beer.

Chapter Text

He has never understood the human propensity for building large nests.

For thousands and thousands of years he and his kind have watched as the homo sapiens grow and develop as a species and society, and each generation of the beautiful, primitive beings has cultivated more and more of a taste for bigger and better dwelling. He remembers when they had been content to stack mud and straw together for their nests, and now he himself takes up residency in one of the many houses that have spread across the earth like a pox, hollow and strung together with the bones of trees.

Personally, he prefers the simple elegance of leaves and sticks and spit-paste, like the lesser-birds fashion. But then, he has always secretly been a bit of a traditionalist in regards to nesting.

It has something to do with the constant need the humans have for possession, he thinks, some innate craving for object permanence. His pets certainly have that inclination; the two fledglings flit back and forth from their tree-bones nest, staying for a few days at a time before leaving again, but their scent is all over the house in a claiming, marking way. He supposes that humans must cling to what they have, considering their lives are so short and pitiful. The idea that it’s better to have something than nothing explains a lot of their strange, alien characteristics.

Like their obsession with names.

He doesn’t understand names. But then, his kind have never really had the nature for them. When names are powerful and binding and a reflection on yourself, it’s best to not grow attached to them for fear of having them used against you. No, he’s never needed to name himself with sung language, not when his scent and his past can name him. He’s not even sure how he’d accurately do it. Putting his entire being into one word seems tedious and unnecessary, and so far as he can tell there isn’t even one word that properly conveys dark-wings-quick-feet-holds-grudges.

But his humans need to call him something, so with amusement and fond exasperation he has taken on the mantle of Castiel.

A strange name, but fitting. He doesn’t know the meaning of it, if there even is one, but it smells powerful and also graceful. Like the songs he and his brothers and sisters would sing during battle, before the sleeping-time. It was one of many they’d suggested to him with their strange rudimentary voices, but the only one he’d enjoyed the sound of, and he’d sent them a wave of acceptance and ownership, spreading his wings and wafting his pleasure with his new name to fill the metal-salt-bars room they’d hidden him in.

They had, alarmingly, reacted with fear and surprise; his posturing had resulted another rousing game of what Dean called “What Kills the Bird”. (A Sumatran yew branch carved into a spiral and anointed with the blood of a male virgin. Hopefully they won’t discover this, though. What they don’t know won’t kill them. Or him, thankfully.)

Which is how he’d learned that humans can’t scent emotions like he can, that they only speak with their mouths like barbarians. He’d suspected as such after so many years of observation, but until now he’d been content to watch from a distance. His favored-brother had always told him he was too curious, but it had been so long since the sleep-time had begun and he was so lonely, being the only one awake, and the humans were so interesting. And so, instead of scenting his responses, he’d learned to sing them.

This has, he’s learned, generally had better results.

But they’re all so different. He’d always sort of assumed that humans were soft, mindless creatures. Ambitious, yes, but lacking any advanced sense of self or wherewithal. But he’s surprised, and incredibly pleased to discover that they’re all unique and special. His three pets have such distinct personalities that even without their difference in scents he could tell them apart by voice and mannerism alone, even though he thinks they all three look mostly the same (as most non-winged bipedal creatures do, in his opinion).

The one named Bobby, the-older-one-who-drinks and smells like loneliness except for when the fledglings come back to the nest, still doesn’t trust him. He’s not openly hostile, not anymore, but when they’re alone together the smell of wariness is cloying and distracting. Usually he just stays up in his own nest in the attic and only comes out when his favorites make their way back home.

Sam, who-is-tall, finds him fascinating. His curiosity and guileless wonder are refreshing after the oppressive uncomfortable feeling that he often feels from Bobby. Sam swings wildly between constantly asking him questions that he has no way to answer and just staring at him, which is alright because he likes to stare back. Humans, after all, are so much more entertaining than he is.

Then there’s Dean, his favorite. He used to think that he deserved a much better name than Dean. Not that Dean is a bad name, really. It’s just terribly boring. Fast-with-hidden-claws would be more apt, but when he’d tried to project that into a room, to smell the name like he smells his own, it had soured in his mouth, like missing a note while singing. So he’s simply Dean.

Dean is in turns aggressive and accepting. He speaks to him like he’s another human, like there’s a running conversation between them. Not like Sam-who-is-tall, who expects answers and is often disappointed when he gets none. Dean talks to him, and sits with him, and shares his meals and tends to his wounds. Dean is almost like a favored-brother, though he knows that Sam fills that role and not himself. That is alright, though. He enjoys friendship.

But when he tries to convey that friendship with grooming, Dean’s scent grows annoyed and awkward and his voice grows dark. He understands some words, but mostly he relies on scenting and body language to parse out what his humans are telling him, and he hates how Dean closes up and tucks himself away like a crooked feather.

So, he pushes harder. He wants to learn Dean, because Dean smells amazing. He smells like the forest, like the firm steady scent of pine and the heady scent of dirt, and also like salt and the scent of the air above the ocean. It’s a scent that he hasn’t caught wind of since he made the long journey over the great-sea from his home continent to this one so many, many years ago when he was younger and his wings were stronger.

Dean’s scent is one that makes him want to please and be pleased, to fan his tail and flex his wings and shake his feathers out to show how dark and rich and sleek they are. He feels like a fledgling himself around Dean, darting around him and crooning and cavorting about like a tercel building his first nest for a mate.

He wants, he realizes, to court Dean. Which is strange, as he’d never felt the need to take a mate. Even after the sleep-time, when his kind had all retreated into the deep caves to hibernate with the earth-heated stone keeping their feathers warm while they waited for the Call and he had stayed awake, unwilling to leave behind the open blue of the sky, and he had mourned his loneliness it was the mourning of a loss of blood-family rather than a loss of possible mate. He had regrets, of course, but the sun was so bright and the wind so warm and he was not ready to sleep with his brothers and sisters, not when the world above was so vibrant and alive.

It’s strange, but not terrible. He is an apex predator, a hunter-of-the-skies, and he does not hide in the shadows like his other non-human brethren. He isn’t young, but neither is Dean by human standards, and he’s fit and fast and his wings are broad and he sings decently enough, and there is no reason why Dean shouldn’t want him as a mate, too.

Courting Dean will take some forethought, though. His favorite pet isn’t biologically advanced enough to understand scent projection, so he will have to be a bit more forthright with his interest and woo him in a more traditional way. He doubts that Dean will understand the significance of nest-building, and without wings he won’t be able to coax him into a flight-dance. Likewise, Dean is probably ignorant to the connotations of more frequent grooming, even if he decided to stop grooming his other two humans and focus only on his favorite. Though Dean shows him human music, and though his scent is contented and warm and comfortable when he sings along, he doubts that a duet is as special a thing to humans as it is to his kind.

However, Dean is also a predator. Often his human returns to the nest with blood on his clothes and the scent of a kill on him, and though he is sometimes injured he more often than not returns victorious with little damage. Dean is a hunter, like himself, even if they track different prey.

Surely he will appreciate the sharing of a good, clean kill.

---------------

Cas keeps leaving dead shit in Dean’s bed.

It’s really starting to piss him off.

Chapter Text

After the sixth dead forest critter he finds in his bed, Dean’s had enough.

The first and second were gross. The third and fourth, well, they were kinda cute, in a Cas-acts-like-a-big-cat kind of way. Then the novelty wore off and fifth and sixth went back to being gross.

Maybe if there was some sort of schedule to it it wouldn’t be as annoying. Like, if Mondays were designated dead-shit days. Hell, that would even be a little helpful, as long as Cas’s presents weren’t, you know. Left in Dean’s bed. Normally the carcasses that get left strewn around the scrap yard are gnawed on and sun-spoilt, but these are fresh and clean, the cause of death usually a snapped neck or a broken spine instead of huge bloody gashes. And since Bobby’s the kind of hunter who also likes to hunt fuzzy animals for fun, he has his own meat dehydrator and processor and industrial-sized freezer in one of his garages. They haven’t had to spend money on meat for a couple weeks, and any trick to saving money is a good trick to have.

(Dean never expected to have an opinion on opossum bacon, but then again he also never expected to have a pet monster. (Opossum bacon is too tough, he thinks, and he much prefers racoon. Honestly he’s kind of hoping Cas will drop off a deer soon, he hasn’t had deer jerky in years.))

But there is no schedule, and he’s tired of being shocked awake by the smell of blood and the rustle of feathers. Plus, he knows that he’s one errant claw away from getting rabies, and when he wakes up one morning to find a hare staring at him with blank eyes from where it’s been carefully placed beside his pillow, he puts his foot down.

For the last month or so they’ve kept the ladder to the attic pulled down all the time. Cas has started spending more and more time downstairs with them, even though Dean knows that being confined inside the part of the house that’s not “his” makes him nervous, but he has trouble maneuvering the latch to open his side of the trap door. Because of this, tracking the creature’s comings and going are much easier; they can hear the thumps and bangs of Cas dropping from rafters or landing at the sill of the great bay window after one of his flights.

He makes a pitstop in the kitchen, where Bobby’s sitting at the table drinking coffee and reading one of the three newspapers spread out in front of him. “Got another present last night,” he says, dropping the hare down onto the table.

“Damn, boy!” Bobby snaps, startling in surprise. “We eat off’a this table!”

“It’d make a nice stew,” he suggests, already out the kitchen and stomping his way back up the stairs.

“I didn’t bring you into this world,” Bobby shouts behind him, “but I’ll sure as hell take you out of it!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean mumbles to himself as he opens the door to the spare room with the ladder to the attic. “Leave that to the hellhounds.”

The room was probably a guest room at some point, but now it’s more like storage. Half a dozen bookshelves line the walls, filled with old vellumy papers and jars with shit floating in them. The broom they used to use to announce themselves is still leaning against the wall, though judging by the amount of stray feathers and dust on the floor it hasn’t been used for its intended purpose in a long time.

After he taps the ladder a few times and calls up with no response, he figures Cas isn’t home. He’s about to sit in one of the spare chairs to read something while he waits, but after a few moments of silence he hears a faint, muffled murmur from the room above. It reminds him of the vaguely-pained noises Cas had made after that run-in with the badger monster. (Which had actually turned out to be a bake-danuki, confusing the shit out of Bobby who’d never seen one this far west.)

He’s making his way up the ladder before he even realizes what he’s doing, heart hammering in his chest. Cas has proven himself largely indestructible except for wounds inflicted by other supernatural monsters, and if he’s hurt then that means that there’s something in the area that can kick the shit out of the hunters, too.

It’s not because he’s worried, of course. Cas can take care of himself.

So he’s definitely not worried, but if he was feeling any worry (which he’s not), it would have ebbed slightly when he catches sight of Castiel curled up in his nest, wings twitching as he sleeps. He makes that weird noise again, and Dean realizes that he’s snoring.

Cas’s nest is a weird structure for sure. It’s made up of old feathers and woven sticks, and every time Dean comes up here it’s a bit bigger than it was before. When Cas had first started on it it had been a simple pallet of wood and leaves, and now it’s big enough that Dean could probably fit in there with Cas, curved like a bowl just like sparrows make. Except more like an eagle nest than a sparrow nest, considering the size of it. He’s also started to add bits of cloth and pilfered shirts from the clothes line, which explains Dean’s dwindling wardrobe. Hey, wait...

“Is that my Allman Brothers shirt? Dude, come on!”

Cas jerks awake, wide-eyed and surprised. His hair is sticking up in all directions and his feathers puff out, making him look simultaneously angry and fluffy, wings flailing as he struggles to orient himself into a sitting position. When he sees Dean, who wiggles his fingers in sarcastic greeting, he lets out a surprisingly human groan of annoyance and flops back down, wings curving around his body to hide himself from view.

“Cas!” The wings pull in tighter, so Dean steps forward and crouches, carefully avoiding putting pressure on the nest in case it falls apart or something, and digs his fingers into the dark feathers. He gives them a little tug. “Earth to Castiel! Polly wanna cracker?”

Cas turns until his eyes, sleepy and annoyed, meet Dean’s. He clicks low in his throat warningly, but Dean just grins and tugs a little harder. “Wake up, sunshine. I wanna talk to you.”

The wing pulls itself out of his grip, and Dean leans back as Castiel finally pushes himself up. He yawns widely, giving Dean a spectacular look at his sharp canine teeth, and afterwards he smacks his lips together as his inner eyelids slide closed.

“That’s so gross,” Dean says, smiling, and Cas holds them there just to be a little shit. He crosses his arms and leans them on the rim of the nest, resting his chin on them, and he whistles at Dean softly.

Dean recognizes that this isn’t normal, but he’s also never had a pet before, and he feels something like possessive affection for this weird little bird dude. He reaches out and tossles Cas’s hair, sliding his fingers through it like Cas does when grooming Sam or himself, and Cas closes his eyes properly and hums, leaning his head a bit closer. The look of contentment that crosses his face is far too human. Dean needs to make himself stop thinking of the monster as a pet.

Cas clicks again, but it’s different this time. He tilts his head under Dean’s hand and makes the noise again, and Dean realizes that he’s actually purring.

“You’re kind of goddamn adorable,” Dean tells him. Cas chirps in agreement.

When Dean pulls away Cas leans towards him, chasing after his hand and huffing before flopping back down into his nest, eyes still tired but obviously more receptive now than they were a few minutes before. The motion stirs the shredded towels that line the inside of the nest and Dean catches sight of the hipbone of some mid-sized woodland critter, reminding him why he came up here in the first place. He clears his throat.

“So, Cas.” Cas chirps again at the sound of his name. “About the animals you keep leaving me.” At this, Cas looks up attentively, wings twitching. He looks excited, like he’s been waiting for Dean’s reaction for weeks. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, because I do, like I didn’t even know you could actually eat some of the shit I’ve eaten in the last few weeks. Seriously. Racoon, man, who knew?” Cas snorts and rolls his eyes, again looking so human that Dean has to pause and collect his thoughts. “But leaving them in my bed is really, really gross.” Cas frowns and lifts himself up, cocking his head in confusion. “And unsanitary. I could get sick.”

The creature stares at him, mouth parted slightly, before biting his lip and looking away thoughtfully.

“You understand, Cas?” Those blue eyes flick back over to him asessingly. Dean wonders how much of this Castiel is actually absorbing, if he honestly understands the point he’s trying to get across. He tries to simplify it, gesturing at Cas and then at himself. “Not in the bed. No bed. Okay?”

Cas glares as if Dean’s stupid, but nods. He opens his mouth and shuts it, then clears his throat. Dean’s eyebrows go up as he does it again, and Cas starts to look frustrated and makes an annoyed clucking sound. “Cas?”

“No bed,” Cas repeats suddenly, his voice deep and gravelly. Dean’s mouth drops open in shock and he leans back until his ass plops onto the floor. “No.” Then Castiel starts coughing, hacking like a cat with a hairball, and has to lean against the wall of the nest as his wings start shaking from the force of it.

Before Dean can stop to think about what he’s doing, he reaches out and runs his hand over the back of Cas’s neck, rubbing down his tanned shoulders and between his wings. He feels strong corded muscle there, thick and hard where it twists into his wings, and for some reason that surprises him. He smooths his fingers through the dorsal line of feathers that runs from Cas’s head, down his spine and connects to his tail, which is flaring from the force of his coughs.

“Easy, tiger,” Dean mumbles, blinking in surprise to this new development. Cas is breathing heavily as he leans into Dean’s shoulder, his scaley arms trapped between them. This is probably the closest Dean has gotten to the monster since he’d shown up, or at least the longest amount of time he’d spent in such close proximity. They’re practically hugging.

Cas chatters in frustration, and it startles Dean enough that he leans back, just now realizing the intimate position. He pulls his hands away and sits back down on his haunches. Cas huffs and clears his throat again. “I didn’t know you could talk,” Dean says carefully. Cas shrugs and Dean corrects himself, “Well, kind of talk. Does it hurt? When you try?”

There’s a few moments of silence where Cas thinks, his wings shuffling behind him and the feathers that line his brow smoothing themselves back into place. Finally he lifts a clawed hand and points to his throat before opening his mouth and singing. Normally the sound is high and lilting, like birdsong, and completely at odds with his masculine appearance, but now it’s rough and worn like he’s been gargling salt. He shrugs again and looks away, embarrassed.

“Hey, that’s okay, dude,” Dean tells him, aiming for soothing. He’s not sure how well he manages since he’s never had to soothe anyone but distraught victims and Sam. “I can’t speak French.”

Cas sinks back into his nest, letting out tiny coughs, and closes his eyes. It’s kind of sad that three words can wear him out so much. Obviously there’s a reason he doesn’t talk.

“You gonna be alright?”

Cas clucks tiredly, reacting more to Dean’s voice than his words, and folds his wings up to tuck against his back. The talons on his feet clench shut as he draws his legs in, essentially curling himself into a ball. His breathing evens out after a minute or two, and Dean waits just a bit longer before quietly getting up to his feet.

He stares down at the creature who apparently trusts him enough to fall asleep in his presence, despite the sheer number of other monsters that he’s killed. It causes another swell of affection to rise within him, but he immediately stomps that down.

Castiel isn’t a pet. He’s a monster, an obviously intelligent one. Dean should not be thinking of him as a friend. He should be trying to find a definitive method to killing him, in preparation for when the other shoe inevitably drops.

Back downstairs, Sam has taken Bobby’s seat at the table while Bobby stands at the stove, the smell of something frying in a pan filling the kitchen and making Dean’s mouth water. “Bacon?” he asks hopefully, coming to stand behind Bobby and stare over his shoulder. The meat in the pan is decidedly not bacon. Or any other cut of pork, for that matter.

“Rat snake,” Bobby confirms cheerfully, sticking the meat with a fork and flipping it. “Big Bird left it on top of the freezer in the shed this morning.”

“Great,” Dean says with a frown. Snake has never been his thing. The texture is too much like fish. “Oh, hey, Cas talked! Like, in English!”

Bobby and Sam both turn surprised looks at him. “What’d he say?” Sam asks, folding the newspaper he’d been reading and turning in his chair.

“Well,” he starts, pouring himself a cup of lukewarm coffee from the pot on the counter, “I told him to stop leaving things in my bed, and when I asked if he understood, he repeated what I’d said. Not like in a parrot way, either. I could tell that he knew what we were talking about.”

Bobby hums thoughtfully, flipping the snake again. “Wonder if he can tell us what the hell he is, then.”

“I doubt it,” Dean says, sitting across the table from Sam and picking up one of the newspapers. This one is from Dayton, Ohio. Dean wonders how Bobby even gets ahold of all this shit. “He nearly hacked up a lung after two words. Something tells me that whatever he is, it’s not made for spoken language.”

“That’s fascinating, though,” Sam enthuses, smiling up at the ceiling like he’s about to go up there and conduct a survey.

“Whoa, whoa. Slow your roll, Seabiscuit,” Dean says firmly before Sam can slide out of his seat. “It wore him out somethin’ fierce. He went back to sleep like right away.”

Sam frowns in disappointment, but lights up when Bobby places a plate in front of him. A few seconds later Dean gets his own and he stares down at it in distaste. Snake and toast. Breakfast of champions.

“So,” Sam starts, talking around his mouthful, “we have possible demonic omens in Orlando, a series of freak ‘accidental’ deaths in Montgomery, the Minnesota one, and what looks like a witch attack in Salem.” Dean sends him a look. “Yep, Salem. The Salem Witch Trials, Salem.”

“Well, let’s make some calls, see who’s in the area,” Dean says, grimacing as he tries to chew through his stringy bacon. “Man. Open one Devil’s Gate and suddenly everything’s out to kill you.”

“Except Cas,” Sam grins, pointing at Dean with his fork. “Cas likes us.”

“Yeah, well. Cas is weird.”

“You know, he stopped doing that stupid grooming thing with me and Sam,” Bobby says as he cracks an egg over a glass bowl and mixes in some flour.

“Biscuits?” Dean asks eagerly, because Bobby makes the best fucking homemade biscuits in the world.

“Muffins.” He adds sugar, baking powder, and milk to it before beating it all together, but stops when he realizes both boys are staring at him. “What?” he asks, a little self-consciously.

“Bobby, you’re making muffins?” Not that Dean is complaining. He likes muffins. They’re like miniature pies. “Since when do you make muffins?”

“Since Ellen shared her recipe and Cas started bringing me eggs,” he says, shrugging casually. “I don’t really know where he gets them from. He just brings some every few days and leaves them on the desk.” He stops again, a concerned look crossing his face as he stares down into the batter. “I don’t… think they’re his eggs?”

They all take a moment to contemplate that.

No. No, too weird.

“So wait,” Dean backtracks, trying to steer away from that line of thinking, “he doesn’t do the weirdo hair-touching with you two? Because he does that to me like. All the time.”

Sam shakes his head, picking his newspaper back up as he crunches into his snake bacon while Bobby leans against the counter and starts folding in blueberries. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that they’re all trained and tested killers.

“We think he wants to do the monster mash with you,” Sam tells him conversationally.

Dean spits up his coffee.

Chapter Text

So Dean is, like. Ninety percent sure that Cas doesn’t want to bang him.

Cas doesn’t rub all over him or crowd around him like he’s seen some birds do in videos (okay, so maybe he wasted an hour on YouTube watching bird courtship dances, in the name of scientific discovery and self-preservation and not because he thought they were hilarious), and he obviously hasn’t tried mounting Dean or humping him or whatever it is that bird’s do when they want to get their dicks wet.

Which is another thing, that Cas doesn’t have a dick, or any visible genitalia to speak of, really. So, with all of that evidence Dean is fairly confident that Sam and Bobby are just fucking with him to be jerks.

And yet.

And yet, there’s that five percent of him that thinks quietly But then again…

Because Cas does do some pretty weird fucking stuff.

Like the whole grooming thing. Now that Dean’s looking for it, he realizes that Bobby was right, and Cas doesn’t groom them anymore. That’s exclusively Dean’s privilege now, and Cas likes to do it at any opportunity, singing and picking at his hair and clothes whenever Dean stands still long enough. It didn’t used to bother him; he’d just chalked it up to being a Cas-ism in tandem with being more birdlike in behavior than humanlike. But now he avoids Cas’s wandering talons whenever he can, more conscious of the action than he used to be.

Also the dead animal bed-gifts, which thankfully went from bed-gifts to kitchen-gifts after their little chat. But now Cas likes to actually watch them eat the stuff he’s brought, perching on the back of the couch in the den and staring into the kitchen while Bobby cooks.

Admittedly, he spends more time staring in fascination at the cooking utensils than actually observing the consumption of the food. More than once he’d snatched a fork or spoon out of their grasp to turn it over in his hands.

He’d seemed downright flabbergasted by the concept of the gas-top stove, leaning over Bobby’s shoulder and clucking in awe at the meat of the week being cooked. Even now, a week or two after he’d started joining them for meals, he still hops around excitedly whenever the gas burner starts clicking to ignite.

Anyway, the point is that the dead shit he brings is pretty significant to him. It’s worrying enough that Dean has started avoiding Cas, or at least avoiding being alone with him. If Cas has… like, the bird-equivalent of a crush on him, then Dean doesn’t want to encourage that in any way.

Cas isn’t a guy, not really. He’s a monster.

He’s a monster with the intelligence of a hunter, the curiosity of a toddler, the personality of a bird, and the body of a hot guy. Well, the parts of his body that aren’t also bird.

And, okay, Dean isn’t really adverse to the whole dick-thing. He’s not gay himself, but he does appreciate the male form just like anyone else would. Occasionally he appreciates the male form with his hands. Or his mouth. Or his weiner. He likes to think of his sexuality as foot-loose and fancy free, and if asked to describe it would he’d probably make a vague hand gesture and go, “Ehh.”

Whatever.

But Cas isn’t anywhere approaching human, which is usually a pretty important prerequisite for anyone that Dean chooses to know biblically. (Well, usually. That succubus had been hot. Right up until he’d chopped her head off, anyway.)

But he finds himself worrying about it frequently, whether he’s on the road or at Bobby’s. Sam’s accused him of daydreaming more than once, and he knows that his anxiety over Cas’s supposed seduction attempts is cutting into his concentration.

Which is probably why Cas can surprise him so well now, while he’s getting ready to wash the Impala.

Jesus!” he shrieks in alarm when two clawed hands drop onto his shoulders from behind, making him drop the empty bucket into the dirt.

Castiel chatters cheerfully, a nasty little smile on his face as his crest puffs up in triumph. Dean hefts up the bucket and swings it at him with a shout, but he just flaps his wings hard enough to lift him off the ground and propel him back a yard or two and out of reach.

“You sneaky fucker!” Dean hisses, breathing heavily. Cas whistles and waddles forwards, wings shuffling placatingly, and reaches out to run his claws through Dean’s hair.

Dean backs away before the touch connects, and Cas frowns. He whistles and reaches out again, imploringly, but Dean adamantly steps back once more. Cas develops a kicked-puppy expression, and God help him but Dean doesn’t like it.

He lifts the bucket back up and gestures with it, explaining, “I’m gonna wash the car, dude. I’ll just get dirty anyway.”

Cas cocks his head, still frowning, but seems to get the gist of what he’s being told. He straightens his back, bringing himself up to his full height which is nearly a foot and a half taller than Dean, and looks into the yard around them. He chirps and points to the Impala, parked near the garage where Dean had been giving her a post-hunt tune up, then hunches back down to his normal height and blinks at Dean curiously.

“Yep, that one,” Dean says, a bit impressed that he’d remembered the Impala, considering he’s only ever seen it from a distance. He hesitates, deliberating for a moment. He’d been hoping for a bit of peace and quiet with his baby, and he really doesn’t want to give Cas the wrong idea, but he also doesn’t want to hurt his feelings and Cas has proven to be pretty sensitive to rejection.

Besides, he doesn’t even know if Castiel is actually warm for his form or not. Everybody knows that Dean is his favorite, maybe that’s just what his species does for their version of a best friend.

“You wanna help?” he asks, lifting the bucket once more and heading over to the hose installed to the side of the garage. Cas glances down at his hands, then wiggles his claws and looks up at Dean through his eyelashes, one eyebrow raised. He doesn’t need to be able to talk for Dean to hear Moron.

“You’re not touching the car, asshole. You can hold the hose or the man the bucket or something.”

Cas tilts his head as if in thought, then follows, his massive feet dragging and stirring up the fine dust on the ground. Dean wonders how difficult it is for him to walk around all the him.

He’s never actually seen Castiel fly. Like, honestly and truly fly. Gliding, yeah, if he jumps from the attic to the yard outside. In the early days of him having free reign of the house, he’d get spooked by technology and flap his wings hard enough to lift himself off the floor, and also knock everything in the room over.

They’d nearly had to rebuild the kitchen after he’d heard the microwave beeping for the first time. Dean’s kind of terrified that eventually the smoke alarm will go off and Cas will tear the house down in panic.

He never seems to complain, though, and lord knows he follows Dean around eagerly enough, so Dean figures that he doesn’t mind it much.

Dean turns the knob on the spicket and the hose fills up with water, which he then starts spraying into the bucket. Cas watches thoughtfully, making inquisitive clicking noises deep in his throat.

Washing the Impala is something of a relaxing ritual for him. He used to do it with Dad all the time, the two of them silently working around each other to wash and wax the chassis. It was a simple, unemotional way for them to reaffirm that they were both safe and sane after a difficult hunt. John Winchester had trouble asking if Dean was alright, or if he was happy, but he could ask Dean to buff the wax off. Somehow, that managed to be just as important.

Dean needs this, needs to unwind. God knows they’ve had enough difficult hunts lately. Since the Devil’s Gate opened, they’ve been going basically nonstop for the last year, stopping at Bobby’s for only a few days at a time to rest. The entire hunting community is scrambling to cover all the cases that need covering, and nowadays talking to Jo or Ellen is just a curt, five minute phone call to exchange information before moving to the next task.

Castiel bends down to watch the bucket fill, chirping. Not for the first time, Dean wonders if he might be one of the big baddies that escaped from the Gate that night.

After the bucket is half-filled, Dean adds the washing shampoo and mixes it in while Cas picks up the abandoned hose nozzle. He whistles curiously, twisting the trigger around in his hands. Dean watches silently, waiting.

Cas associates the hose with water because before they bought the kiddie pool, that’s how they had to bathe him; take him outside and hose him down in the yard while he clucked irritably, feathers soaked. He knows that the water comes out of the nozzle. He just doesn’t know that squeezing the trigger makes it happen.

Dean says nothing, because he believes that you should learn by doing. Also, it’s going to be fucking hilarious for Cas to spray himself on accident.

Castiel tilts his head, bringing the hose up close to his face, squinting into the nozzle thoughtfully. Dean holds his breath and waits for the magic moment.

Then Cas’s eyes lift and meet his and he smiles, and Dean’s blood runs cold. The nozzle is suddenly turned onto him, and Dean lets out a shout as a blast of cold water hits him square in the chest.

Cas screams with laughter and beats his wings against the air, lifting off of the ground just in time to dodge Dean, who lunges forwards with a snarl. Dean shields his eyes as the resulting gust of wind kicks up a shitload of dust and dirt, and he hears more than sees Castiel’s wings flapping forcefully. A few seconds later he’s recovered enough to uncover his face and glare up at Cas, who’s perched on the tin roof of the garage, one foot gripping a gutter and the other holding tight to the weathervane.

“Asshole!” Dean shouts up at him, and Cas just cackles, chattering down at him excitedly. “Fucking magpie jackass.”

He turns back to the Impala, which is now several shades lighter due to the layers of dust hanging off of it, and ignores Castiel’s pleased preening. Well, he supposed, that’ll teach him to underestimate the dumb bastard.

Grumbling, he hoses the car off and sets to work on cleaning it. He thinks that he can hear the faint sound of singing from the roof of the garage and he rolls his eyes.

As he runs the wet sponge over the hood of his baby, Dean thinks about the predicament he’s gotten himself into.

Half of the hunters in the midwest blame him and Sam for the Devil’s Gate, which he personally thinks is fucking stupid considering how they’d been trying to stop it from opening in the first place. But he can’t deny that because it was opened, a whole smorgasbord of demons and monsters were unleashed onto the world. Besides Bobby and his personal connections, the only hunters that will associate with the Winchesters right now are the ones who frequent the Roadhouse. Everyone else hates them.

That’s not even mentioning Gordon Walker, who’s apparently gunning for Sam, according to Bobby’s contacts.

And now they’re all bunking up with a monster bird that nobody can figure out how to kill. Dean can only imagine the shitstorm they’d bring down on themselves if the hunter network found out about that.

He frowns down at the hood of the car as he rubs soap in gently with a sponge. What a fine mess they’re all in.

Well, he thinks, it could be worse. It’s not like it’s the end of the world, or anything.

He drops the sponge back into the bucket and is reaching for the hose when he realizes that the obnoxious singing has completely stopped. He twists to look up at the roof of the garage and pauses.

Castiel is staring in the direction of the house, crouched down low against the roof with tense shoulders. His wings are drawn up close to his head, feathers sleek and gleaming in the sun, and his claws are clicking against the tin as they twitch in agitation. When Dean strains his ears, he can just barely hear the low, deep rumble of a growl.

He’s caught sight of something, something that’s got him worked up. Dean carefully pulls his pistol out of his back pocket and picks his way back to the house. As he gets closer he sees the Sheriff's car parked in the public lot for the infrequent customer to the scrap yard and quickly shoves his gun back into his pocket when he catches sight of the woman in a cop uniform knocking on Bobby’s front door.

There’s a loud rustle of feathers behind him, and when he jerks around to look behind him Cas has landed a few feet back, hissing and baring his teeth. His breath catches and he barely restrains going for the gun again, because Castiel is fucking scary.

His feathers are puffed up threateningly and his lips are pulled into a snarl, black pupils wide enough to hide almost all of the blue in his eyes. His one remaining spur claw is twitching, like something out of goddamn Jurassic Park, and his talons are clenched as he glares over Dean’s shoulder at the poor woman waiting on the front porch.

The poor woman waiting on the front porch who obviously heard him flapping, because now she’s looking around curiously.

Dean leaps forward and shoves Cas into the nearest junker with an open door that he can find, choosing to ignore the possibility that doing so could provoke Cas into attacking him.

Sure enough, those talons sink into his arm viciously, cutting through the fabric of his jacket and breaking the skin. Cas clicks and spits, trying to flap his wings, but he doesn’t have enough room inside the car. Dean reaches out and slaps a hand over his mouth, panting from the effort of holding him down. The puncture on his arm is throbbing and oozing blood, but he thinks that it’s not deep enough to need anything beyond stitches.

Cas blinks his inner-eyelids, twisting his neck, but after another few seconds he falls limp and stares at Dean in confusion. “Shh,” Dean commands, and Cas blinks again. “Don’t move. Do you understand me?” Cas’s mouth opens under his palm, but he just presses harder, feeling those sharp canines against his skin. “Don’t move.

He pulls away and hurriedly moves back through the yard towards the house and the sheriff, who’s just caught sight of him and is headed in his direction, her hands in her pockets.

“Howdy,” he greets, lifting his uninjured arm in a wave. Hopefully she won’t be here long enough to notice that he’s starting to bleed through his shirt. “What can I do you for?”

“Sheriff Mills,” she responds, flashing her badge. He nods, and she jerks her thumb over her shoulder towards the house. “Bobby not home?”

No, Bobby and Sam went off to help Rufus investigate a possible selkie sighting up in Brookings. The only reason he didn’t go with them is because Bobby’s still reluctant to leave Cas alone for extended periods of time.

“Nope, he took the tow to Yankton for parts,” he says, barely restraining the urge to scratch at the puncture wound. Jesus, if this gets infected or something he’s gonna pluck Cas’s feathers out and make a pillow with them. “Anything I can help with?”

Sheriff Mills looks him over cautiously, hands on her hips. “Never seen you in these parts. You Singer’s family?”

“Name’s Dean. I’m an employee. I help around the shop.” He gestures down at his clothes, which are still wet from Cas’s surprise attack. “Wash up and stuff, you know.”

She scoffs and raises an eyebrow. “I didn’t know Bobby even had employees.” He shrugs casually and she rolls her eyes. “Well, I came to ask if he’d heard any weird noises popping up ‘round these parts. Couple months ago we started getting calls from the rural areas about some big-ass bird that’s apparently been terrorizing the local livestock.”

Dean hums sympathetically, but on the inside he’s freaking out. They hadn’t even considered that Cas might try to attack other humans while out on his frequent flights, but obviously he’s not above aggression considering his reaction to the Sheriff. “Any casualties?”

She scoffs again, louder this time. “Not a one. Just some scared goats and a yorkie who apparently had a panic attack and hasn’t been the same since. The only actual loss reported is by Digger, who says his chicken coop is getting raided, but that’s probably just a fox.”

Well at least now they know they haven’t been using Cas’s babies to make muffins.

“Honestly,” she continues with a shrug, “I think it’s hogwash. Only birds that get that big in this area are bald eagles, and it’s not the right time of year for them. But considering the amount of complaints we have to follow up on it, and Bobby’s usually got some kind of trouble hovering over him so I figured I’d ask if he’d heard anything.”

Dean glances around the yard as if looking for evidence, then shakes his head. “Not that I know of, no. You’re welcome to call back in a few hours, he should be back then.”

Sheriff Mills nods, then her eyes narrow as she tilts her head and stares at his arm. “You’re bleeding.”

He nods, raising his good hand to clamp down over his bloody sleeve. “Caught myself on some scrap lookin’ for a part. It’s not that bad.”

“Riiight,” she hums, looking him up and down. A moment passes before she tips her hat at him. “I will call him later, I think. Nice meeting you, Dean.”

He waves in farewell and waits until the cop car has pulled away before turning and jogging back to the car he’d left Cas in.

The creature is still there, obviously calmed down now, and when Dean yanks the door open he stares down at his claws sheepishly, wings cramped in the backseat. “Come on,” Dean sighs, and Cas crawls out carefully. He brushes a claw through his feathers to straighten them, then immediately grabs at Dean’s arm, warbling pitifully when he sees the blood.

“It’s not a big deal, dude,” Dean mumbles, uncomfortable with the intensity behind those blue eyes. Cas pulls at his sleeve gently, and lets out a mournful cry when Dean rolls the fabric up to show off the wound. It’s not that deep, but it’s pretty wide, and it bleeds sluggishly now that it’s exposed.

He tenses up, muscles growing rigid, when Cas steps closer and rests his forehead on Dean’s. His wings curl around Dean’s back, a soft and barely-there pressure as the primaries shift against the back of his calves. Cas whimpers, and his regret and guilt is so obvious that it’s almost a tangible taste on the back of Dean’s tongue, like breathing in a nasty smell.

Seeing him like this, Dean has no problems understanding how Sam might think that Cas has bird-feelings for him or whatever.

“Seriously, Cas,” he huffs, “I’ve been hurt worse. Trust me.”

“Dean.”

He freezes in surprise and Castiel moves his head from Dean’s face to his shoulder, coughing heavily. The wings shudder against his back as Cas exhales shakily. “Dean.”

“It’s okay, buddy,” he murmurs and slides a hand up into Cas’s hair before he can stop himself. “You didn’t mean it. It’s okay.”

Cas chokes, and Dean can feel his throat working violently against his shoulder, but he still whines out, “Dean.”

Dean shakes his head, sighing, and wonders how he gets himself into these messes.

 

Chapter Text

Cas ran away.

Which is probably a good thing, considering that after Sam and Bobby got home and found out that he’d clawed Dean’s arm to hell, Bobby was ready to break out the shotguns and shoot him just to prove a point. Sam, although still more fascinated than fearful, was likewise worried about their safety since Cas had made it pretty obvious he wasn’t above violence when threatened.

“It’s not like he did it on purpose,” Dean defends petulantly, though he’s admittedly a little salty since he’s trying not to scratch at his new stitches.

“But what if he hurts someone, Dean,” Sam says earnestly, “we should at least be trying to figure out some way to defend ourselves.”

Stupid Sam and his big stupid moo-cow eyes.

So they’d started trying to find some way to get the Colt back up to creature-killing condition, and that’s probably why they haven’t seen neither hide nor hair of Cas since Bobby came home yelling and waving a machete at him.

Dean personally thinks that they’re all overreacting, Castiel included.

The thought of killing Cas just doesn’t sit right with him, not anymore. Cas is a monster, yeah, but he’s the big dumb lovable kind of monster. Like Cousin It from the Addams Family, except with feathers instead of hair. He’s like family or something now.

Besides, it was obvious that he’d felt pretty shitty after the fact; the rest of the day after the incident with the Sheriff, Cas had hopped around after him anxiously, blue eyes wide and claws constantly reaching out for him before jerking back, like he was suddenly afraid to touch Dean. Really, Dean just thinks that Cas doesn’t know his own strength. Given the sheer amount of ignorance the guy has about humans in general, Dean wouldn’t be surprised if they were the first people Cas had tried to communicate with.

Honestly he’s just lucky that he chose a group of hunters to shack up with.

But anyway, he hasn’t seen Cas in over two weeks. It’s starting to worry him, and not just because he’s kind of afraid Cas will jump ship and fuck off back to wherever he came from. The local authorities are looking for a giant bird now, and they’re one fuzzy picture in a newspaper article away from getting phone calls from curious hunters wanting to know what’s happening in Bobby’s neck of the woods.

Correction, Cas is lucky that he chose the Winchesters to shack up with, because any other hunter would be doing their damnedest to rip him apart. And that’s a scary, scary thought.

Because Dean, you know. Cares about him and stuff.

Which is why, when Dean pulls on his heavy boots and dons a heavy jacket for protection, Bobby looks up from where he’s taking apart the Colt and asks gruffly, “Where you goin’?”

And also why Dean answers, “I’m going to look for Cas.”

Bobby looks back down at his hands, playing with the barrel of the gun between his hands for a long moment. “You should wait until we figure the Colt out. He might be back by then, anyway.”

Dean frowns, throwing a few bottles of water into his rucksack. He doesn’t really have any idea to start, so he’s just going to search around the woods to see if he can’t pick up a trail or something. “Why, so we can drag him out back and Old Yeller him behind the shed?”

Bobby flinches minutely, his eyes tightening. He takes a deep breath before grunting, “Look, kid, I know that you think he’s our friend or something. Hell, sometimes I think he’s our friend. I mean, I see more of him than you do.” His swivels to look at Dean hard, mouth set in a firm line. “But somewhere along the line we forgot that he was a monster, too. And monsters can act real friendly, yeah. But I ain’t ever heard of a monster who actually wanted to be friends.”

“Well,” Dean says carefully, “I think that Cas does want that.”

“Cas wants what now?” Sam asks, smelling fresh as daisies and towelling off his freakishly long, wet hair as he thunders down the stairs like an overgrown baby moose. He passes them on his way to the kitchen and makes a delighted noise when he sees that they’ve stocked up on celery again. He crunches a stick of it between his teeth and looks at them. “What’s going on?”

“Dean wants to go find him. I want to wait until we’ve got the Colt up and running,” Bobby says, turning back to the gun. Sam thinks about it for a moment, chewing slowly.

“He has a point,” he tells Dean with an apologetic shrug. Dean makes a noise like a wounded goat.

“We can’t kill him, he’s family!”

“He’s a monster,” Bobby corrects, but he doesn’t look happy about it. Dean can’t imagine that he’s pleased with the possibility that they might have to put down their meal ticket. (Dean will totally admit to being spoiled by all that fresh meat. A few days ago they’d had to buy beef from the store, and after months of free kills they’d all been a little dejected.)

“Madison was a monster,” Sam reminds Dean quietly, but the tense moment of silence that follows is broken by the crunching of the celery.

“Madison was different,” Dean says, trying to be sensitive. “She couldn’t control herself. Cas can.” Sam and Bobby share a look and Dean sighs in annoyance. “Look, you guys didn’t see if right after he hurt me. He was fucking heartbroken. It was like somebody’d just ran over his favorite puppy.” He tries not to think about how he’d just described himself as a puppy.

“You realize you just described yourself as a puppy, right?”

Ha ha ha fuck you Sam.

Sam glances down at Dean’s rucksack, leaning up against the couch, and toes at it with his boot. “You got room for lunch in there? I’ll come with you.”

Dean glares at him briefly, but to be honest he’d be happy for the company. Maybe with Sam there it’ll feel more like a hunt and less like Dean’s chasing after his escaped bird.

“No salads,” he says finally, jabbing a finger at Sam.

Sam smiles on his way back the kitchen and grabs a head of lettuce from the fridge.

An hour later, Dean’s carrying a rucksack filled with bottles of holy water, a machete, some stakes, and a Cobb salad.

They’re tramping through the unmarked trails of the woods surrounding Bobby’s house, boots crunching loudly against the fallen leaves scattered across the ground. They’re not being overly careful, since the only thing they could startle that’s big enough to be a threat in this area would be Castiel himself.

Unsurprisingly, most monsters in South Dakota have learned to avoid Sioux Falls.

“So why do you care about Cas so much?” Dean asks, grunting as he hefts himself up a rocky ridge. He takes a deep breath and wipes the sweat out of his eyes, then leans against a fallen tree with a huff. He hasn’t been hardcore hiking since that wendigo thing. Lately it’s just been standard salt-and-burns and exorcisms. “I mean, he basically ignores you nowadays.”

“Actually,” Sam says in his stupid deep nasally I’m-correcting-you-because-you’re-dumb-Dean way, “he only ignores me when you’re around. When you’re not in the room we talk to each other. Well, I talk. Mostly he sings.”

Dean frowns, feeling a little put out. Wait, no, nevermind. He’s not jealous or anything. That’d be stupid. It’s just, well… it was nice, being somebody’s favorite for once. Not feeling like he had to share with Sam. Knowing that Cas spends just as much free time with his brother kind of cheapens that. Not that Dean wants Cas to have a crush on him, of course. “Oh. Well good for you, then.”

Sam sends him a Look. “Come on, Dean, you can’t even pretend that he’s not head over scaley heels for you. I can be talking and he’ll be super interested, and then you walk in and he starts horking like a walrus and looking at you like the sun shines out of your ass.”

“Does not,” he grumbles half-heartedly. Because Cas kind of does do that stuff. On a fairly daily basis. Well, up until a few weeks ago when he’d flown the coop.

“I’m not sure how you charmed him so much,” Sam continues as if Dean hadn’t said anything, “since you’re kind of a huge loser.”

Dean has nothing to say to that because it’s pretty much true.

“But I mean. He’s obviously just as smart as us. Just in different ways, I guess.” Sam tilts his head thoughtfully. “And obviously I don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to abstaining from having sex with monsters.”

“Oh my god, Sam,” Dean groans, burying his face into his hands. “Please tell me that you’re not giving me your blessing to bang Cas.”

Sam just shrugs and opens his mouth to continue, but something over Dean’s shoulder catches his eye and he leans forward, pointing. Dean looks around and it takes a moment before he sees it: a long, dark primary feather caught in the branches of a tree a few feet away from them. Far, far too long to be any bird native to his area.

“Cas,” Dean breathes, then jolts to his feet. “Cas!”

“Cas!?” Sam joins him in yelling. The two of them shout for a few minutes but it’s fairly obviously that Castiel is no longer in the area.

“Dammit,” Dean snarls, kicking at a tree in agitation. Sam doesn’t look much happier, but he carefully scales the tree until he can pluck the feather free. It takes some maneuvering, since it’s easily as long as Sam is tall, and the barbs holding the vane together catches at Dean’s hands as he takes it. “This is long as a mother fucker,” he sighs.

It’s surprisingly light, though. Dean wonders for a moment how heavy Cas is; he can’t be too heavy despite his muscle, not to lift himself up as easily as he does. He distantly recalls reading something about bird bones being hollow, though Cas has always seemed so substantial and firm that he’d never really believed it.

“I wonder if it has magical properties,” Sam enthuses, running his hands over the vane. The thin fibres shift and part slightly before springing back into place. “Like how the ashes of phoenix feathers have healing abilities, or like how you can bottle kitsune fire to make molotovs that burn indefinitely.”

They’ve never seen one of the longer feathers pulled out before, just soft downy underfeathers or the coverts that cover the sloping backs on his wings. Dean wonders if Cas sheds feathers this long on a regular basis and just discards them.

“You want to try carrying it back?” he grins, holding it back out to Sam, who rolls his eyes and tosses it away.

“At least we know we’re in the right area, I guess,” Sam sighs, putting his hands on his waist as he turns his eyes to the sky and glances around. “I wonder why he ran off though.”

Dean shrugs and picks his rucksack back up, swinging it over his shoulders as he leads them deeper into the woods. Far off they can hear the babble of the creek that runs about a mile away from the scrap yard. They’re not technically on Bobby’s land anymore, but the house is out in the boonies and it’s just forest for the next few miles.

“I keep telling you guys, you didn’t see him after he hit me. I think he was even more surprised than I was, and he kept saying my name. I half thought he was going to cough himself into a fit because he wouldn’t stop talking.”

“You’re so lucky,” Sam whines, and he’s pouting when Dean glances over his shoulder to look at him. “I keep trying to get him to talk to me and he won’t. I even ask direct questions! Simple ones! He just stares at me and chirps. It’s not fair.” His pout turns into a glare. “I hate you.”

“Loser,” Dean teases affectionately.

They hike in silence for a while until they finally break through the forest and find the creek, smooth white rocks crunching and shifting under their feet. It’s been a few hours now since they left Bobby’s and they started meandering around the woods, and the sun is high in the sky and shines down bright on them. Dean shrugs off his jacket and starts poking around it, looking for holes that meant have been rent into it by thorns.

Sam takes the rucksack and pulls out his salad and a fork and starts chewing happily, looking out over the creek. On the other side they can see the targets that Bobby’s set up to shoot at. The two of them sit side by side in the fine gravel, warm and dry under the heat of the sun.

This is what Dean likes about hunting with Sam. They don’t always have to talk, they can be comfortable with each other without the need for constant conversation. It makes him feel like he can open up, just a little, without Sam thinking that he’s a whiny girl, because Sam understands.

“I’m worried about Cas,” he says after a few minutes, head tilted back towards the clouds. Sam says nothing, just chews his food. “I mean, we’ve already got some of the other hunters pissed off at us. And I don’t think that Cas would attack anyone unless provoked, but if some other hunter decided to pick a fight with us and Cas got caught in the crossfire…” He shakes his head with a sigh. “I know that he’s a big boy and he took care of himself just fine before he came to us, but. I don’t know.”

Sam nods in understanding. “Yeah, I get it. Like a feral dog, or whatever. They’re scared of people until they get fed, and then they’re not scared anymore, but they still look and act wild.” He reaches out and punches Dean’s shoulder lightly. “It’ll be okay, Dean, we can find him. All of us care about him, not just you. Even Bobby’s soft on the guy.”

They all into a comfortable quiet, the soft babbling of the brook and the lilting chirping of birds serving as background music. Also, the crunching of Sam’s stupid moose teeth chewing his salad.

It’s damn near peaceful.

They rest there for a bit longer before heading back out, and Sam packs up the rest of his salad for dinner later. Dean makes fun of him for a while, but after several more hours they’re ready to give up the ghost. If Cas is out here then he’s not coming when they call, and he doesn’t want to be found.

The trek back to Bobby’s is spent in a sullen silence. Dean’s staring at the ground as he walks, and Sam’s quiet but Dean can feel his concern like a heavy burden on his shoulders. “We’ll find him, Dean,” he says after they’ve finally picked their way back to the scrap yard, grass and brush giving way to dirt and metal.

Dean’s tempted to take a tire iron to one of the junkers and just wail on it until he feels better.

They’re about twenty feet from the house when they see that Bobby’s sitting in one of the rocking chairs on the back porch, a thick book in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

“Bobby?” Sam asks in concern, but Bobby just points up with one finger, looking bored. When Dean looks up, he realizes that the big bay window to the attic has been opened again. It’s been shut the entire time Cas was gone.

Before he even registers what he’s doing, he’s breezed through the back door and up the stairs. The ladder to the attic creaks under his weight, but he scales it in record time, and when he’s finally pulled himself up, Cas is standing in the middle of his nest, clucking disparagingly and rearranging the sticks and tree limbs that make it up.

He looks up and freezes when he sees Dean. When Dean steps forward, he lets out a wounded chirp.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean says finally, dropping his hands into his pockets. Cas looks away, expression contrite, and starts carding his claws through his feathers in what Dean is starting to realize is a nervous habit. He mumbles out a greeting, the sound more human than bird, and it almost makes Dean smile.

He walks over and Cas watches him with wide eyes, trilling hesitantly when he drops to the floor beside the nest. Slowly, Cas sinks down as well so they’re sitting beside each other, separated only by the wall of the nest. After a minute of contemplative silence, Dean finally says, “I was worried about you.”

Cas picks at his wings, claws flexing and digging into the soft vanes. He clucks softly, then reaches out and points at Dean’s arm. They’d cut the stitches out a few days ago, leaving the skin red and puckered, and he’s taken to wearing short sleeves until it heals over entirely. Cas runs the scaley pad of one finger, careful not to press in with his claws, over the sensitive pinkish mark, then makes a sad whistling noise.

“It’s okay, buddy,” Dean says, feeling a little awkward. He’s never been very good at channelling himself in a positive way. Honestly, he’s surprised that he’s not angry at Cas for leaving. Just… relieved that he’s back. “Seriously. You guys are all freaking out.”

Cas pulls away with a sigh, wings drooping, and turns his head to the side. But after a moment to two he glances back up and lets out a tiny smile.

“There we go, bud. See? I’m not mad, you’re not mad.” He reaches out and ruffles Cas’s hair with a grin. The creature goes limp, eyes sliding shut as he makes that weird purring sound. He lifts his claws up again and almost timidly runs them through Dean’s hair. When he meets no resistance, Cas grows a big bolder and starts grooming in earnest, like he’s trying to make up for the last two weeks.

Dean indulges him for a good five minutes, and even leans forward and straightens some of the crooked feathers at the tops of his wings. Cas lets out a delighted coo and wraps his wings around them both, shuttering out the pink and yellow late-afternoon light that shines through the bay window.

It reminds Dean of the blanket forts that he and Sam used to make when they were kids, using the pilfered sheets of other motel rooms that they’d picked the locks to, lounging back on stolen pillows like kings and watching marathons of The Three Stooges.

Wrapped up as he is in a feathery burrito, Dean somehow manages to not realize that Cas is nuzzling into his neck. Until, quite suddenly, he does.

And, abruptly, he remembers that Cas probably has a bird-crush on him, and this is really misleading.

“Cas,” he starts, preparing to backpedal as fast as possible, but Cas just holds tighter and chirps, pressing his mouth and nose into the bare skin of Dean’s shoulder.

And yeah, okay, this is weird, but Cas isn’t really human and birds rub on people to show affection and Dean needs to take control of the situation again but it’s not a big deal, it’s not like he knows what he’s doing.

There’s the warm, wet drag of a tongue across his adam’s apple, and Dean jerks back as hard as he can.

He stares wide-eyed at Cas, who stares back in equal surprise, wings still flared from where they’d been holding the two of them together.

They seem to realize exactly what just happened at the same time and Cas reaches out again imploringly, but Dean just climbs to his feet and stares down at the ground.

“Dean,” Cas tries, his voice rough and unused, but Dean doesn’t wait for him to start coughing or hacking, doesn’t wait to make sure he’s okay.

Dean scrambles back down the ladder to the attic and folds it back up, shoving the trap door into place and closing off the room for the first time in months.

He stands under the trap door, breathing heavily, for a few good minutes. There’s no noise or movement from the attic above. Dean runs a hand through his hair.

Shit.

Shit.

Yeah, he’d warned himself, and Sam and Bobby both had told him, and there’d been signs, but Cas isn’t human and he hadn’t actually thought…..

Down in the kitchen, Sam is eating his leftover salad and looks up, one eyebrow raised, when Dean numbly drops down into the side on the other side of the table.

“You okay?” his brother asks around a mouthful of lettuce.

“Cas macked on my neck,” Dean answers, picking at the wood grain. He feels like he’s having a fucking out of body experience or something.

Sam just nods. “Yep.”

Dean leans back in his chair and stares at the ceiling and wonders how the hell this is his life.

Chapter Text

Dean’s the one who runs away from Cas, this time.

Not that he’d ever put it in those words, of course. And it’s not like they don’t have other things to do anyway. Demonic signs are popping up all over the place and hunters are getting picked off like fish in a barrel, so when Dean drags Sam back out to the Impala and they spend a few good weeks putting as much distance between them and South Dakota as they can, Dean thinks that he can justify it.

They can’t just stop hunting because their pet monster wants to get his freak on, after all.

It’s not that he’s scared, or anything. It’s just… Cas confuses him. A lot. He sings and touches and bird-flirts, and that’s all well and good, but Dean doesn’t know how he’s supposed to react to this. It’s not like he can reciprocate. He likes the guy well enough, and normally that’d be enough for him to be willing for a tumble in the hay, but Cas isn’t really a guy. He’s a creature.

A weird, bird creature who wants to lick Dean’s neck like a lollypop or something. How does he even intend to diddle the dongle, anyway? From what Dean’s seen, he doesn’t even have a hole to stick anything in.

And it’s not like Cas can actually be in love with him. They’ve known each other for a while now, but Cas acts more like an affectionate dog than a guy who wants a relationship or whatever. And don’t eagles mate for life? Dean’s pretty sure he read that somewhere, though admittedly that might be something of a fable, like how wolves don’t actually howl at the moon. Either way, Cas acts feral, but Dean knows that beneath that he’s incredibly intelligent. There’s no way Cas would throw himself into something like that with Dean.

It doesn’t matter though, because Dean isn’t running away. He’s doing his job. Saving people and hunting things. And if he puts a dozen states between himself and Cas, well, then nobody can really blame him.

They’ve been on the road for almost a month now, and Bobby’s twice-a-day phone calls begging them to come back (“please for the love of God get back here you spineless brat”) have turned into brief updates every few days (“we’ve discovered that beer puts him to sleep so we’re both doing much better now, thanks”). He feels kind of bad for leaving the old man alone with a weirdo pinning bird-monster, but not bad enough to make tracks back to Sioux Falls.

It’s around noon and they’ve just left a routine salt-and-burn in Little Rock, and Dean’s running on about six hours of sleep in the last few days when he flicks his blinker and turns off the highway towards Oxford, where Annie’s caught wind of a telekinetic psychic gone rogue. For the last hundred miles, they’ve been driving in a comfortable silence. Sam’s been dozing on and off against the passenger-side window and Dean’s kept the radio on various soft rock stations, determined to let him catch some sleep before they begin investigating.

Maybe they’ll stop for the night in Memphis, though, since they’re going through that area anyway. Dean thinks he wouldn’t mind stopping off to see Graceland again.

The ringing of the phone pulls him from his musings, and he quickly snaps it open to make the noise stop, not checking the caller ID.

“This is Dean,” he says, not bothering with being polite. The only people with reason to call him are Bobby, Ellen, and Sam, and Sam’s already snoozing beside him.

Sure enough, Bobby’s grumpy drawl fills his ears. “Hey, kid. You heard out of Annie?”

He hums in acknowledgement. “Yeah, she gave us a call yesterday. Something about a psychic blowing stuff up. Why, what’s up? She okay?”

Bobby grumbles, voice low, like he’s talking to somebody in the room on his side of the line.

“Bobby?”

“Yeah, sorry. Cas is helping me make apple turnovers.” Dean hears, muffled, “No, idjit, you have to cook, stir, then add the cinnamon, then cook, stir again.” There’s more quiet curmudgeony sounds that has Dean grinning into the mouthpiece. In the background, he hears Cas squawk faintly and it almost makes him sad.

Cas is confused and weird, but he’s still Dean’s friend. Dean still misses him. He’s not really used to friends, just pseudo-parents like Bobby and Ellen. His last unfortunate crack at friendship was Gordon and, well. Obviously that didn’t go too well.

“Annie?” he prompts, clearing his throat. To the side, Sam stirs and mumbles something about potatoes.

“Yeah, Annie, sorry. She met up with your psychic, and it turns out the thing is a bust. It’s just some scared teenager whose powers started kicking in a bit late. She’s taking him to Missouri to see if she can’t help him learn to control it.”

“Poor kid,” Dean says, but he’s kind of disappointed. He’d been looking forward to going after something with a bit more oomph than a ghost, but not as dangerous as a demon. He wonders what that says about him.

“So you should head on back,” Bobby says gruffly, like Dean knew he was going to eventually. “Y’all’re probably running low on holy water, and knowing you then you haven’t slept in a week.” There’s another pause, then he continues enticingly, “Also, apple turnovers.”

Dean doesn’t say anything for a while, but neither of them hang up, just breathing into the phone. “Bobby,” he sighs after a minute or two of silence, “this whole Cas thing is just…”

“Cas?” Bobby interrupts gleefully, the fucking jackass. “You want to talk to Cas?”

“No, you son of a bitch, I--”

“Hey, Cas! Comere!” There’s some shuffling in the background and then Dean hears an inquisitive wark. He’s still protesting into his phone, but he’s not annoyed enough to actually hang up. A glance to the side shows him that Sam is awake and blinking blearily at him, squinting through the sun shining through the windshield. Dean rolls his eyes when he hears quietly, as if from a distance, “Look, your ear here and your mouth here, just like I did.”

Then there’s more breathing, louder this time, and after a moment Cas chirps into the phone curiously.

Dean sighs again, but he’s not cruel enough to not answer. “Hey, Cas.”

The explosion of trilling and whistling forces him to pull the phone away from his ear, and even then the tinny noise of Cas shrieking is nearly splitting. Now Sam looks wide awake and is staring at the phone in confusion.

Dean waits until the noise has abated before returning the phone back to his ear. Despite himself, he can feel a smile tugging at his lips. “Hey, bud. Good to hear from you too.”

Castiel chirps, sounding weird and slightly robotic through the phone, but even with the distortion it’s obvious that he’s ecstatic to hear Dean’s voice. Dean feels kind of guilty now; this is the longest he and Sam have been away from Bobby’s since Cas had come into the picture, not without popping in for at least a day or two before heading out again.

Another look at Sam shows that his brother is now listening in with his own smile, though whether or not it’s at Dean’s expense he can’t really tell. “Sam says hi,” he tells Cas, who starts whistling again. Dean can just imagine poor Bobby, standing to the side and shaking his head while Cas screams excitedly into his phone. “How’s Bobby’s been? He treating you good?”

“Dean,” Cas says abruptly, and the sudden shift from the high, lilting singing to his deep timbre has Dean blinking in surprise. “Dean.”

Quickly, he puts the phone on speaker, and this time when Cas says his name Sam looks at him in shock.

“Yeah, Cas, that’s me,” he grins, winking at Sam, who’s smiling like a loon at finally getting to hear Cas speak.

“Where?” Cas asks, surprising Dean again. It’s the first question he’s heard out of Cas, the first thing that wasn’t a declarative statement. Sam looks like he’s going to have a nerdy orgasm in the passenger seat and Dean’s kind of worried about his upholstery. He’s also astonished that Cas hasn’t dissolved into a coughing fit yet. He seems to be breathing heavier than normal, but other than that there’s no indication that speaking English is giving him trouble.

“Just crossed into Tennessee,” Dean says even though he knows Cas isn’t going to understand the distance. He thinks maybe he just needs to keep talking, since Cas is so eager to hear his voice. He tries to feel like he’s not talking to a pet dog through the phone. “A long ways away.”

“Long away,” Cas sighs, then whistles weakly and clears his throat. Sam shoots Dean a significant look, but he ignores it. “Come home?”

Dean bites his lip as his stomach does drops, a sad little swoop in his guts. “Yeah. I will soon.”

“Dean,” Cas says again, then the strain of speaking seems to catch up with him because suddenly he’s hacking and coughing violently. Dean winces and turns down the volume as the sound of retching comes through the other end of the line.

When the coughing seems to subside, he can hear Bobby faintly in the background, “--not all over the floor, oh goddammit.”

“Bobby?”

There’s movement, then, “Yeah. He coughed up some blood on the kitchen floor.” Before Dean can even open his mouth to voice his concerns, Bobby continues, “It’s not fatal or nothing, calm down. We’ve been practicing while you’ve been gone. Talkin’ tears his throat up, but it seems to heal pretty fast.”

“But he’s getting better?” Sam asks excitedly. He’s probably jizzing himself over the prospect of having an actual conversation with Cas. Honestly, Dean’s a little jazzed over it too. Maybe now they can finally get some information about the guy.

“Yeah,” Bobby confirms, then briefly pauses to tell Cas to grab a napkin or something because he has blood on his chin. “He’s got a basic grasp of English, probably from listening to us, but his sentence structure is shit. Think preschool level, like if you suddenly moved somewhere where everyone spoke German.” Then there’s the sound of footsteps, and Bobby says, “Hang on, feathers, I’ll get you a towel or something.”

After a moment he continues in a softer voice that makes Sam lean in towards the phone, “Look, Dean, I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but he’s obviously torn up over you. It’s not like we’ve been having sleepovers and swapping secrets, but I’ve been able to talk to him, and you know how that started? A week after you left he asked where you were. That’s literally the first thing he ever said to me. Your name.” Dean shakes his head and opens his mouth to reply, he Bobby continues doggedly, “You’re the favorite, Dean, we all know it, and he misses you.” A breath, then more forcefully, “And I gotta live with his whiny singing shit, so you get your ass over here and fix your damn bird.”

There’s a click, and then a dial tone.

Sam is, mercifully, willing to drop the subject without Dean having to say anything about it. Dean shoves his phone back into his pocket silently and put his hands on the wheel, mouth pulled into a tight frown. He thinks about it, but he doesn’t take the turnoff that’ll take them up North.

“So the Oxford hunt was a bust,” he says, since Sam was asleep for that part of the conversation. “Just some kid psychic who didn’t realize what we was doing.”

“Will he be okay?” Sam asks, concerned and wide-eyed, and it’s times like this when Dean remembers that his little brother was a psychic once. They never did find an explanation for that, really, but to be honest Dean’s not too keen on digging for info. In this situation, he believes, ignorance is most definitely bliss.

“Yeah, Annie’s taking him to Missouri. She’ll sort him out.”

Sam blinks a couple times and rubs at his eyes with the palm of one of his monster hands, yawning. “Maybe we can stop somewhere for the day and catch a couple hours of sleep?”

And since Dean’s feeling pretty tired himself, they pull off the highway to the first town they find, a small place that mostly serves as a refill station for drifters like them, and pull into the closest motel. They only book for a day, ignoring the leery look of the desk clerk, and pretty much as soon as they hit their beds they pass out.

Dean dreams of wings wrapping around him like a big feathery blanket and a hard tug on his shoulder, but when he wakes around seven in the evening he can’t really remember it. Sam is still knocked out and snoring into his pillow, so Dean leaves as quietly as he can to get a beer or something and ends up sitting on a stool in a dive bar a couple of blocks away.

God help him but he’s still thinking about Castiel.

Well, Cas is a pretty big development in his life. He thinks he’s entitled to a bit of introspection about it.

See, it’s not that he doesn’t like Cas. It’s that he does. And his main argument, of not being about to communicate with Cas, is starting to become a non issue. It’s just. The other shoe is going to drop. It always does, and he doesn’t want the resulting mess to be any bigger than it has to be.

If he grows too attached to Cas, it’ll hurt more when the monster inevitably starts acting like a monster. Dean’s sick of losing people that he cares about.

When he eventually makes his way back to the motel Sam is awake, and they kick back on their beds and watch a couple episodes of Doctor Sexy while Dean nurses his buzz and Sam eats a salad from McDonalds.

The next morning is full of easy companionable silence, at least until Dean makes a turn to go further South.

Sam, of course, calls him out on it, because he’s a horrible little brother who doesn’t actually love Dean at all.

“Are you still avoiding Bobby’s? Even after that call? Stop being such a little dillhole, Dean,” he snips primly.

Dean throws a Cheeto at Sam’s head and then immediately regrets it because he just knows it’s going to be crushed into the floor.

“No,” he replies simply, and crunches into his snack.

“So what if Cas wants to get all up on that?” Sam continues, obviously warming up to the conversation. Dean rolls his eyes because now that Sam’s latched on, this is all he’s going to hear about for the next two hours. “He likes you, you like him, what’s the big hold up?”

“He’s a monster, Sam, that’s the hold up!” He reaches out and wipes the Cheeto crumbs on Sam’s shirt, and his brother makes a dying whale sound. “And he’s not even like Madison-type monster. He’s a monster we don’t know anything about who can’t communicate with us!”

“Did you not even pay attention to either of them yesterday!” Sam cries, gesturing wildly with one hand. “He’s learning! Pretty fast, too, considering it’s only been a month and it’s Bobby who’s teaching him! If it were you, or even me since I’m the only one of the three of us who actually has any patience, he’d probably be speaking full sentences by the end of the night!”

“Sam, he says my name a couple times and then coughs up chunks of his throat. It’s not like we’re going to be about to have deep, heartfelt conversations.”

Sam has a miniature tantrum in the passengers seat, kicking his legs and flailing his hands with the force of his ire. “You’re so stupid! You spent two weeks off your gourd worrying about the guy, and when he finally comes back you turn tail and run!”

Dean turns and glares at him heavily, ignoring the hisses to put his eyes back on the road. He should have known this was coming, Sam can’t go three days without finding something to be contrary about. “I bet you’d be singing a different tune if he was trying to bump your ugly.”

“But he’s not, so it doesn’t matter!” Sam pushes his girly dumb hair out of his girly dumb eyes and stares at Dean imploringly. “You can’t tell me you haven’t thought about it, Dean. If he weren’t a monster you’d have been on that like white on rice.”

“Would not!”

“You’d have been on that with bells on.”

“But he is a monster!” Dean snaps, voice rising with his ire. “So it doesn’t matter if he likes me or if I like him, because he’s a monster and one day he’ll do something that’ll make me have to kill him!” Sam’s blinking at him in surprise, one hand raised placatingly, but now Dean’s warming up to his rant. “And what am I supposed to do? Date him? He has fucking wings, Sam, it’s not like I can take him out to dinner or something! And we have no similar interests because, and I repeat, he. Is. A. Monster.”

He takes a few harsh breaths. His anger leaves him as quickly as it had come and now he just feels drained. Sam is quiet, subdued by Dean’s rebuttal, but now Dean kinda wishes that he had something to say. “I just don’t know what to do,” he says finally, tired. He sighs and rests his head on the back of the seat, keeping his eyes firmly on the road and not on his brother.

A few minutes pass and Dean’s pretty sure that Sam’s going to drop the conversation, but after a long stretch of silence he says, “So wing it.”

“Ha ha wow fuck you that was a terrible pun.”

“I’m serious, Dean!” Sam twists in his seat so he’s staring at Dean with his stupid big brown eyes. “I mean, we’re hunters, so a perfect, you know, regular relationship was never really on the table for us.” (They very carefully don’t mention Jess, they don’t even think about how once upon a time Sam had that perfect regular relationship. Sam never talks about her, and Dean never asks. There are just some lines, he’s realized, that don’t need to be crossed.)

“But a monster, Sam?” He sighs again and shakes his head. “It’s just not a good idea.”

“When have we ever had a good idea,” Sam grumbles, crossing his arms and staring out the window. “I just think that you’re being dumb.”

Dean opens his mouth to reply, but is interrupted by the phone ringing. This time he does check the caller ID, but he’s not surprised to see Bobby flashing at him on the screen.

“What’s up, chicken butt?” he asks, thankful for a distraction from his conversation with Sam.

“Shit, kid,” Bobby breathes into the phone, immediately putting Dean on alert. He switches lanes abruptly and starts watching the exit signs for one that’ll take him up North. “Something happened.”

“Did Cas attack you?” Dean hisses, and Sam stares at him in shock.

“What? No! Moron. No, but Gordon fucking Walker did.”

“Gordon?! Where the hell--”

“My goddamn house, that’s where!” Bobby roars, and Dean hears stomping and something falling to the ground. “The sheriff was here asking questions and I was trying to keep her in the yard and out of the house and all of the sudden Gordon appears from thin air and just fucking shoots me--”

“You were shot?!”

Immediately Sam grabs for the phone and turns the speakerphone on so they can both hear. Dean takes an exit way faster than he should have, hands tight on the wheel as he mentally calculates how long it’ll take to get to Sioux Falls. Too fucking long, at least twelve hours, and that’s if they don’t stop and he speeds the entire time.

“Talk to us, Bobby, what happened?” Sam asks soothingly, his voice calm and controlled. It must help because Bobby takes a ragged breath and his voice is quieter when he finally continues.

“I don’t know. It happened too fast. Sheriff Mills and I were in the yard with the cars. She was asking about Cas. Or, well, I guess she was asking about a giant bird, but you know what I mean. Then Gordon Walker comes out of friggin’ nowhere and knocks Mills on her ass with the butt of his gun. I think she blacked out. He, ah… He wanted to know where you were, Sam.”

Dean grits his teeth and Sam stares at the phone in horror. “Oh,” he says weakly, eyes dropping down to his hands. “Oh.”

“Obviously I didn’t say shit,” Bobby continues. “You’re my boy, Sam. Or good as, anyway. I wasn’t ‘bout to help some misguided asshole.”

“Damn straight,” Dean huffs, but Sam is still quietly fidgeting with his hands. “Wait, hold on. What about Cas?”

“I don’t fucking know, kid. When I wouldn’t cooperate, Walker shot me in the shoulder and I went down like a sack of potatoes. I guess he thought I was dead or something, cause he left me, but when I woke up Mills was gone, Cas was gone, Walker was gone, and my place is friggin’ trashed. Everything’s knocked over and there’s blood and feathers all over the damn place.”

Fear, an honest fear and not just concern, takes root in Dean’s heart. “Cas is gone?!”

Bobby sighs and coughs, the sound rattling in his throat. “Yeah. I don’t know how Walker got him out, but I don’t think he’d have just flown the coop without me, and I know he was in the attic when all the shit started. Somehow, Walker’s got Cas.”

“Bobby,” Sam says suddenly, “are you okay?”

“Eh, I’ve been better. But I’ve been worse too. Bullet ain’t that deep. I called Ellen a few minutes ago, she and Jo are on their way. They’ll get here before you will. I, uh. I had to tell them about Cas.” Dean swallows and tension coils up in his stomach, hard and painful. “She called us all damn fools, but I don’t think she’s too worked up over it. I’d still be looking for a phone call from her soon, though.”

“We’ll be there in ten,” Dean snaps. He turns off the highway and onto a rural road. Back roads are more winding and lengthy than the highway, but there’s also less traffic and they can drive a hell of a lot faster. He accelerates a good twenty miles over the speed limit as soon as the road is clear enough.

“We’ll figure it out, kid,” Bobby says gently.

Dean just nods, and doesn’t say anything.

Chapter Text

“If you think for one second that I’m gonna let you get away with this, Dean Winchester, I swear to the High Holies I’m gonna--”

Beep. Voicemail deleted.

“Dean Winchester, you son of a bitch, answer your goddamn--”

Beep. Voicemail deleted.

“I feel like I’ve been waiting on you guys for seven whole months you jackasses--”

Beep. Voicemail deleted.

“Motherfucker--”

Beep. Voicemail deleted.

TXT MSG FROM: Joannabanana
moms spittin fire
answer ur fuckin phone u lil pisslick

The phone’s ringing again before Sam can even open a reply message, and frankly Dean just wants to grab it from his hands and toss it out the window.

“It’s Ellen again,” Sam says, a bit redundantly, considering Ellen has been calling them nonstop for the past ten hours, which is how long it’s taken them to get to where they are now; hurtling over the Sioux Falls town line at sixty miles an hour, and Dean’s running on about three cans of Red Bull and an unhealthy amount of rage.

“Tell her to suck my chode,” Dean says in what he hopes is a pleasant tone, though judging from the concerned look Sam shoots him it’s a little off the mark.

“...I’ll just tell her we’re about twenty minutes away,” he says instead, and starts tapping a message back to Jo.

Dean’s hands tighten on the steering wheel. He’ll make it in ten.

---------------

He makes it in eleven, actually, and when he storms through Bobby’s back door and into the kitchen the first thing he registers is Ellen’s stoney gaze glancing up at him as she carefully threads a neat of row stitches into Bobby’s shoulder. It immediately sends a spike of guilt through him. Ellen has a goddamn perfect Mom Look. Jo, who’s sitting on the counter, waves her sandwich at him in greeting and says around a mouthful of bread and salami, “Lucy, you gots some esplainin’ to do!”

Dean opens his mouth, but Ellan holds up a hand in interruption and he promptly shuts it again.

“No,” she says. “Nobody who’s a moron gets to talk to me right now. And you’re a moron.”

Sam opens his mouth, but she talks over anything he might have said with, “Uh, no, you’re a moron too.”

Bobby, to his credit, doesn’t even try to say anything, and just shrugs his good shoulder that them apologetically. Dean figures that he’s been shushed quite a few times in the last few hours.

After taking a deep breath, Ellen continues talking, voice controlled in such a careful way that Dean knows they’re in some deep shit. “Now, boys. I’ve dealt with some real jackasses in my life. I like to think that I’m a pretty patient woman. I ain’t stabbed nobody that didn’t need stabbed, or shot nobody that didn’t need shot.” She ties off the stitches, ignoring Bobby’s hiss of disapproval, and then cuffs him upside the back of the head. “And then I get a call from this asshole in the middle of the night, and I find out you utter and complete morons have been keeping a fucking Garuda like a pet and hiding it in your goddamn attic.

Beside him, Sam’s eyes widen and he mouths the word Garuda to himself, then winces as if he should have known better. Dean looks at Jo and despite himself asks curiously, “Isn’t that a Pokemon?”

She snaps her fingers at him and points delightedly. “That’s what I said!”

Bobby clears his throat delicately. “He’s not actually a true Garuda, I think.” He immediately wilts under Ellen’s frigid glare and finishes, “But, uh, that’s the closest critter we’ve been able to connect him with, after some, uh, joint brainstorming.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Ellen snaps, “because it is still a monster. One that you’ve been treating like a dog and trying to domesticate!”

Dean feels himself bristle and Ellen’s eyes narrow at him when Sam puts a hand on his shoulder placatingly, murmuring a warning, “Dean…”

“Cas,” he says, slowly and clearly so there’s no fucking confusion, “is not a monster. He is my friend. I trust him, and he trusts me, and he’s in trouble, and I will find him.” Somehow, distressingly, his voice cracks at the end of it like he’s in middle school again.

It seems to have worked to his advantage now, because Ellen’s face softens minutely, and after holding his gaze for another few seconds she sighs and crosses her arms, looking away. “I still think you’re a moron,” she grumbles, and then raises her hand again when Dean lets out a noise of irritation. “However, I think that Gordon Walker is a much bigger one for thinking he can get away with this.” Dean hears Bobby loose a sigh of relief as she steps out of head-cuffing range and starts pacing up and down the kitchen. Jo watches, chewing placidly and kicking her legs against the cabinets underneath the counter. “I mean, what is he thinking? Attacking another hunter in their own home and kidnapping a police officer, what does he think is going to happen?”

There’s a moment of silence, and then Sam says, quietly but firmly, “He’s after me. He’s trying to flush me out, or, or provoke me or something, I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s because of me. He wants me.”

Dean catches Jo’s eye from across the room and she mouths at him, Walker want dat ass and then bites her lip exaggeratedly. Despite himself he snorts under his breath.

“Maybe,” he says after he recovers, “he just wants to talk or something.” He doesn’t really believe it himself, but well. Hopes springs eternal and all that.

“Well actually,” Bobby says, a bit sheepishly, “before he attacked me, he said something along the lines of…” He stops, and then clears his throat. “Uh, ‘Where is Sam Winchester, I’m going to kill him, he’s the Antichrist.’ Or, uh. Something to that effect anyway.”

“Oh,” Dean says, and then pulls out a chair and sits at the table. “Huh. That’s… oddly specific.”

Bobby nods. “Yep.”

“....huh.”

Sam looks out the window, eyes wet and bottom lip a little trembly. “I can’t believe he called me the Antichrist.”

Jo gestures her sandwich at him comfortingly. “There, there.”

“So anyway,” Bobby continues after a moment of reflection on that, “the current going theory is that he’s going to try and make a hostage trade. You know, Sam for the Sheriff. I’ve got no clue what his plan could be for Cas, but honestly I’m not too worried about him. Even if Walker’s found a way to subdue him, we know from experience that Cas is tough as nails and immune to pretty much any weapon the standard hunter has in their arsenal.”

At this, Ellen’s face tightens a little, as if resentful of the fact that Cas is hard to kill instead of grateful, and Dean watches her warily. After a moment she sighs explosively and joins Jo on the counter, ignoring the bleating-goat sound Bobby makes when her combat boots threaten to kick a dent into the cabinet below. “I’ve got my network out lookin’ for Walker as we speak, but he’s gotten even more reclusive than you three have the last few months, and that’s saying something. None of my regulars have seen hide nor hair of him in weeks, and it’s been even longer since he’s been by the Roadhouse.”

“So we’re just stuck?” Dean snarls, hands tightening into fists on the table. Ellen shrugs, now looking a little apologetic.

“Either we have to wait for him to turn up, or contact us. Until then all we can do is rest up and prepare.”

Dean stands up abruptly, kicking the chair out away from him in anger, and ignores the startled way Sam and Bobby call after him as he stomps out of the kitchen, up the stairs, and scales the ladder to the attic. He collapses against the side of Cas’s nest, then grinds his knuckles into his eyes with a sigh.

The entire attic smells like Cas. It’s not necessarily a good smell, because on a good day Cas smells sort of stuffy, like dirt and dust, occasionally with an undercurrent of blood. It’s a comforting smell, though, one that he’s intimately familiar with, and up here in the attic he can only just hear the murmur of voices from down below, the creaking wood of the house in the cold early-winter wind for the most part drowning them out.

It’s chilly up there, the insulation not quite up to snuff, and he thinks that later he’ll ask Bobby if they can renovate up here a bit to make it more comfortable for Cas.

Or maybe, he thinks, he’ll just head back down south and take Cas with him when he goes. The guy could use some warm weather, maybe.

When he opens his eyes, Jo’s sitting cross-legged on the floor a foot or so away from him. He didn’t hear her approach, not even when she climbed the ladder, and he just barely refrains from jumping out of his skin. He can’t, however, quite swallow the startled “Fuck!” that escapes him, and her expectant look melts into a shit-eating grin.

“You’re getting better at sneaking,” he concedes begrudgingly, and she nods, still grinning.

“Yeah. I’ve been practicing. The other day I made Ash pee himself.”

He hums, and then they fall into silence once again. Jo gets up and pokes around the nest, her smile slowly sliding into an expression that can only be called wary curiosity. Dean watches her closely, feeling oddly protective when she starts moving feathers and sticks around, ready to pull her away if she does anything that might ruin the structural integrity of the nest. She stops, then bends down and pulls out a worn and faded shirt.

“What’s your Allman Brothers shirt doing in here?”

“Oh,” Dean breathes, reaching out for it and drawing it in close once she’s handed it over. “Oh,” he says again, running his fingers over the faded graphic across the front, the fabric soft and threadbare from use. There are rips in it, across the hem and neckline, that weren’t there the last time he remembered seeing it, and he can nearly imagine the panicked, embarrassed squawk Cas would have made once he’d realized he’d accidentally torn up Dean’s shirt. The fond exasperation that image conjures is almost immediately drowned out by the wave of dread that washes over him, and for some reason his throat tightens against his will.

“Oh,” he says a third time, and then goes quiet.

Jo sits down beside him and slides her arm across his shoulders, drawing his head to lean on her own. Her hand cards through his hair gently and soothingly, and Dean sighs. “Tell me about him,” she prompts, voice quiet.

So he does.

“He’s a shit,” Dean says bluntly. “He leaves dead animals all over the house and when he molts his feathers stick to everything. He pulls my hair and tugs on my clothes, and not in the fun way. He has a conniption fit every time Bobby’s truck backfires and he grabs things with his feet and he figured out how to get his own peanut butter so now I find the empty jars all over the scrap yard because he just tosses them over his shoulder when he’s done scraping the peanut butter out, and I swear to God he crows like a giant demented rooster out the bay window, and not just in the morning either, but like, all the time.

He takes a couple deep breaths after his rant and feels Jo grinning again against the side of his head. “Sounds like he keeps you honest,” she smirks, and he snorts out a laugh. There’s a beat, and then she says, “Dean, I have to know. Is this guy safe? I’ve met a lot of monsters, but I know… I mean, I know that they weren’t all monsters. So… is he, is Cas, a threat?”

“No,” Dean answers, immediately and emphatically. “Not to us. Not to anyone who doesn’t threaten him. I mean, he’s pretty territorial, but… I think he’d listen to reason, too.”

“Maybe,” Jo says slowly, “if he’s territorial and he sees this place, and the people who live in it, part of his territory, then maybe Walker didn’t take him. Maybe he went after Walker.”

Dean thinks back to how aggressive Cas had become when Sheriff Mills had showed up, how his eyes had narrowed and he’d bared his teeth and tries to imagine Cas’s reaction to a stranger barging in and hurting Bobby, tries to imagine the reign of terror that would be unleashed. “Yeah,” he says. “I could see that.”

Jo’s about to open her mouth to respond, but there’s a hurried clomping in the room below them, the clatter of footsteps that Dean knows means Sam’s on his way, and sure enough that great hairy head pops through the door to the attic, eyes wide. “Guys,” he gasps, “Walker’s called Bobby’s landline, get down here!”

Dean’s off like a shot, but Jo’s even faster, and the two of them almost knock Sam over with their momentum.

When they all scuttle back downstairs and burst into the kitchen, Ellen puts one finger against her lips to signify silence. Bobby’s frowning hard enough that Dean’s half afraid it’s going to break his face and glaring at the landline phone attached to the wall. There’s a strange, staticy sound coming from it, and when Gordon’s voice comes out, sounding tinny and filtered, Dean realizes it’s on speakerphone.

“Honest, Bobby,” Gordon says casually, like he doesn’t have a care in the world, “I’m kind of surprised that you’re still alive after that shot. Didn’t I get you in the chest?”

“Shoulder,” Bobby corrects with a grunt, and Gordon lets out a humming sound.

“Not gonna lie, I’ve got mixed feelings about that. It’d be a shame to kill a hunter as good as you used to be. But then, it’d also feel pretty good to pop a traitor to the human race like what you turned into.”

Dean grinds his teeth together, and though Ellen puts a soothing hand on Bobby’s good shoulder in support he can see that her lips have hardened into a thin line and she’s glaring daggers at Gordon through the phone.

“I’ll admit, I was kind of worried after you sicced your pet monster on me. When it didn’t go down to silver bullets and chased me to the car, I thought I was done for. Turns out just about anything’ll stop moving if you run over it enough times."

Dean’s stomach drops to his feet and he opens his mouth in a snarl, but surprisingly Sam gets there first, spitting out a vicious “You motherfucker,” before Ellen stops him with a glare.

“Sam,” Gordon acknowledges, all jovialness in his voice disappearing. “Just the man I wanted to talk to. You pissed about your pet? I still got him there. I don’t know how much use he’ll be now, but we can make a deal. You get your tall, pasty ass down here, unarmed and alone, and I’ll give Singer his Sheriff back, and then later your brother can pick up what’s left of his bird.”

“You great asslicker,” Dean hisses, “where the fuck are you so we can settle this once and for all?”

“Sorry, Dean” Gordon says, once more cheerful and calm. “Sam’s the only one I want. And Bobby knows where I am, don’t you Bobby? Remember where we met up outside of Canton, near the Iowa border, for that vamp nest? We had good times then, Bobby. Shame you had to flip sides.” Bobby’s look of surprised confusion quickly morphs into recognition, and then anger, but Gordon continues before he can say anything. “Send Sam there. Alone, Bobby. And then that nice Miss Mills can go back home to her husband and her poor, sick little boy. You want to go back home, Jody?”

A pause, and then, “...Bobby? Bobby Singer? What.. what the hell is going on?”

“You sick son of a bitch,” Dean breathes, while Bobby leans forwards towards the phone and cries urgently, “Sheriff! Shit, Jody, girl, it’ll be alright, just hold on.”

“Go on, Bobby,” Gordon says, sounding highly amused. “Tell her it’ll be alright. She’s all sorts of shook up.”

Dean watches as Bobby and Ellen share a nervous look.

“Bobby, there was a… thing. It chased after us. The bird? Fuck.” A shuddering breath. Then, with more clarity than anything else she’s said so far, “Bobby, it’s not--”

There’s the sound of skin hitting skin, and a yelp that’s cut off. Bobby swears under his breath and slams his fist into the table, wincing at the pull of his stitches. Wordlessly, Ellen sifts through the cabinets and pulls out a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass without having to search like she’s done it a thousand times. Bobby downs the shot in one go and breathes heavily while Gordon lets out a delighted laugh on the other end of the line.

“Sorry ‘bout that. Miss Mills got a little lightheaded, didn’t you, officer? She’ll be alright, as long as you get down here so we can talk, Sam. Alone. You’ve got three hours.”

There’s a click, and then the line goes dead.

Jo looks white as a sheet, all of the former cheer from earlier gone, and Ellen leans down over Bobby, leaning her head against his much the way Jo and Dean himself had been sitting in the attic. She whispers something into his hair and he sighs, pouring himself another shot. Sam’s staring down at his hands, which are clenched into fists at his side.

“Well,” Ellen says after nearly a moment of silence. “Obviously we’re not sending you in there alone, Sam. Maybe not even at all.”

“What? You can’t honestly think--”

“Enough, boy,” Bobby mutters, quieting Sam’s protests before they can even really start. “We’re going to take care of this. It’ll be alright.”

“Walker doesn’t know you guys have us here with you, which is a big point in our favor,” Ellen continues, pulling out a chair to sit beside Bobby. “I know the meet-up place Walker’s talking about too; it’s a cabin outside Canton, about half an hour from here. It used to be a safehouse for hunters way back when, but the guy who owned it kicked it during a hunt and it’s little more than a squatter’s den now. Bill and I used to rest up there when a job would take us too far Northeast.”

“I’ll stay here with you, Sam,” Bobby says, but he doesn’t seem happy about it. Neither does Sam, actually. “I ain’t much good with this shoulder like it is, and seems to me that the best way to keep seem from getting at you is to make sure you ain’t near him.” He stares down into his glass, then nods resolutely and meets Dean’s eye. “Dean and the girls’ll be more than enough for Gordon fucking Walker.”

“Damn straight,” Jo says, a bit more emboldened than she’d been a few minutes ago, and Ellen reaches out and squeezes Bobby’s hand around the shot glass.

Sam glares down at the table for a long, silent minute before nodding in reply, not meeting their eyes.

“It’s okay, Sam,” Dean says, trying to be reassuring. “You can have the next homicidal maniac that wants to kill us.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” he says, but he’s still subdued and disappointed, so Dean lets it go.

“Well alright, alright.” Ellen stands up and grabs her coat off the hanger beside the back door and Jo cracks her knuckles with a grin. “Let’s go save Bobby’s damsel in distress. And also your little bird boyfriend, Dean.”

Dean gapes at her, and Sam lets out a bark of genuine laughter.

“He’s not my fucking boyfriend!”

---------------

It’s around two in the morning by the time they actually manage to pack up the Harvelle’s truck and get to the cabin outside of Canton. Despite Dean’s complaints, their truck is really more practical than the Impala, especially if there’s an injured Cas that they’re going to have to drag back to Bobby’s. There’s a dilapidated truck already parked in the front, with a rusted-out horse trailer hitched to it, and beside that sits Gordon’s pretty little red two-door.

Even the sight of it makes Dean pissed off.

They leave the truck running and the headlights on, the only light in the area. The woods around the cabin are silent save for the chirping of crickets, and Ellen uses predetermined hand motions to send Dean and Jo around the side to check out the back door. Having dealt with Gordon before, Dean is wary about tripwires and bombs, and makes Jo wait for him to go through first before he lets her enter.

The cabin only has three rooms, maybe four, if you squinted and drank a little before counting, but canvassing the whole thing feels like it takes for fucking ever. They meet up with Ellen in what passes for a living room, flashlights sweeping across the walls.

“The whole place is fucking empty,” Dean whispers, fingers twitching against his pistol. He’d rather have his shotgun, but didn’t want to risk it in such an enclosed space. “Where the fuck is Walker?”

“Maybe he realized we weren’t Sam when we pulled up and ran for it,” Jo hisses back, eyes wide and darting around like Gordon could be hiding in any shadow.

Ellen hums, looking only slightly less twitchy than her daughter. “Search the woods nearby, but keep eyes on the truck at all times. I want to be able to hit the road if this goes pear shaped. Sorry, Dean,” she says in response to his hard look. “I don’t like it either, but I’d rather lose a monster and a backwater cop than three good hunters.”

He clenches his jaw, but nods sharply, and they go back the way they came.

Dean hates tromping through the woods at night. He goddamn fucking hates it, it is literally the worst thing in the world, goddammit--

“Oh, fuck!

Dean charges forward, pistol drawn up, back in the direction of the cabin, and nearly runs into Ellen who materializes out of the darkness next to him.

“That was--”

“Jo, she--”

Two gunshots in quick succession, and an inhuman scream.

“Go, Winchester!”

He goes.

The doors to the horse trailer, which has previously been closed, have been thrown open, and Jo is sprawled out on the ground in front of them, gun raised in one hand and the other thrown over her face as if in protection.

And, standing over her and screaming fit to burst, is fucking Cas.

“Cas! Goddamn, Cas, calm down!”

Cas whips around to stare at him, impossibly blue eyes wild and pupils dilated. He bares his teeth and crouches, but something is wrong with the way he’s standing, the way he’s holding his weight. It’s almost like…

“Oh, Cas,” Dean breathes. “No.

One of Cas’s wings is completely limp, the dark feathers stained even darker with blood, and as Dean watches it twitches weakly as if attempting to rise. The other wing appears to be righted, but the long pinfeathers have either been completely ripped off or are sticking at odd angles in a way that is no doubt painful. The sight is horrifying, especially considering how many times Dean has watched Cas preen himself until every single luxuriously soft feather is perfectly aligned.

His left arm is tucked against his chest, which is bleeding sluggishly, but the other is stretched towards Jo threateningly, claws flexed outwards.

Dean immediately drops his gun and lifts both hands, palms up. Quietly, and as carefully as he can, he says, “Jo, lower your gun and move back, slowly.” Cas’s eyes shoot back to her as soon as she moves, crawling backwards, then dart between the two of them. “Hey, Cas. Hey. Hey, buddy, it’s okay. It’s me, Dean.” His body relaxes slowly, oh so slowly, but his eyes stay sharp and feral as if he’s not sure if he can trust them or not. When Jo’s foot slides against a wet patch of grass and she gasps, Cas’s attention snaps back onto her and Dean can see as every muscle tenses in preparation to pounce.

“Cas, no. It’s Dean, I’m here, you’re okay.”

Cas blinks, opens his mouth and closes it again. Then, hesitantly, “...Dean?”

Dean very nearly cries in relief. “Yeah, yeah, Cas, it’s me. It’s Dean.”

“Dean,” Cas breathes, his claws reflexing against the ground as he shifts to move, and then abruptly collapses.

Ellen decides to show up right as Dean rushes forwards to catch his pet monster, but she keeps the gun trained on him as she helps Jo to her feet and drags her back a few yards. She shines her flashlight around the two of them and into the horse trailer. There, huddled against the back of the trailer, Jody Mills blinks in the light.

“Um,” she says. “Hi.”

Cas sags against Dean completely, breathing heavily into the side of his neck, tiny little coos that Dean didn’t realized until now he’d been afraid of never hearing again. “God, Cas,” he whispers, burrowing his face into Cas’s feathery shoulder. “I was so scared, Cas, god.”

“Dean,” he croons. “Dean Dean Dean Dean.” He moves as if to wrap his wings around them, then lets out a cry of pain as the appendages twitch pathetically. “Oh,” he says, an entirely human sound of surprise.

Dean drags Cas to the trailer, sitting him in the open door and ignoring Jody’s squeak of distress. “Jesus, Cas, what’d he do to you?” He meets Ellen’s eyes; she’s wearing a frown and staring hard at them, but at his gesture she takes Jo by the hand and they go back into the woods, presumingly to continue searching for Gordon.

Cas winces as his wings brush against the walls of the trailer and immediately leans back against Dean, nuzzling into him as if seeking comfort. He chirps, weak whining trills punctuated by a few wet coughs that have Dean grimacing in sympathy. “Fucking car,” he says finally, then smiles hesitantly at the loud, halfway hysterical laughter the statement shocks out of Dean.

From behind them, at the back of the trailer, Jody timidly supplies, “Um, when that guy, Walker I guess, knocked me out, I woke up in this trailer and this. Um. Thing--”

“Cas,” Cas says helpfully, and Jody nods placatingly.

“Yeah, um, Cas was, uh. Flying after us and dive bombing the truck and stuff until Walker slammed on the breaks and caught him by surprise. After that he rolled off the hood and onto the ground and, well. I guess Walker ran him over a few times.”

“Ten,” Cas clarifies, still hiding his face in Dean’s neck. Dean reaches out to pet his wing, then forces himself to stop before he hurts his friend even more.

“Anyway, then he dragged, um, Cas into the trailer with me, except he was unconscious then. And we came here.”

“Where’s Walker now?” Dean asks, trying to keep his tone as even as possible to keep Cas calm. Jody’s eyes flicker to Cas nervously and she licks her lips.

“Well, see, after our phone call, Walker went to go check on Cas… who I guess had woken up by then…”

“Aww,” Dean says in delight, “did you kill the bad man, Cas? Did you? Did you kill the bad, nasty man who hurt you?”

Cas chirps happily, and Dean can feel his tail flagging, like a dog wagging its tail. Dean can’t contain the urge to reach up and ruffle his hair, and Cas snuggles in closer when he smoothes it back into place.

“Yes,” Jody answers, voice wavering a little. “And then he ate him.”

Dean leans back and stares at Cas in surprise. “What.”

Cas chooses that moment to let out a delicate little burp, and then clears his throat almost sheepishly. “Was angry,” is his carefully nonchalant reply. Well, Dean supposes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Dean pinches the bridge of his nose, and then digs out his phone. “I swear, Sheriff,” he says as he scrolls through his contacts to look for Ellen, “that he isn’t dangerous to anybody that isn’t dangerous to him.”

“I know,” she whispers, and he glances at her over his shoulder. “He didn’t hurt me. He could have,” she says, staring at Cas, who blinks back at her owlishly, still stuck to Dean’s side like a limpet. “But he didn’t. And I think that he thought that girl, the one that was just here, was trying to hurt me. He didn’t attack until after she shot him.”

“He’s a good boy,” Dean murmurs softly into Cas’s hair, and Cas hums in reply.

“Dean,” he sighs, and curls in even closer.

Dean shoots Ellen a quick text message telling them to reconvene at the truck, then carefully helps Cas back up to his feet. “Hey, Sheriff, you think you’re up to driving? I don’t think Cas will fit in the back of our truck, and I know that the four of us won’t fit in the cab. If you can drive, we can take this one and Cas and I will ride in the trailer while Ellen takes their truck.”

“Sure, I guess. It’s not like I have a concussion or anything.”

“Thattagirl.”

Ellen and Jo accept the whole “Cas ate the bad guy” explanation surprisingly well, though Ellen shoots we’re going to have a talk about this later looks the entire time, and there are some rushed introductions before Jo takes it upon herself to phone Bobby and Sam back at the homestead and tell them the outcome. After that Ellen and Jo pack up and leave pretty fast and Dean helps Cas stretch out in the trailer as much as he possibly can.

When Dean makes to help Jody hotwire the old beater, Cas grabs at his arm, eyes wide and nervous. “Dean,” he says plaintively. “Don’t go.”

“I’ll be right back, Cas,” he tells him gently, then gives into the urge to lay a comforting kiss on Cas’s forehead. Those eyes widen even further, and Dean’s feels himself being silently watched as he exits the trailer and tries not to think about why he did what he just did.

Well. Looks like he’s going to be having a lot of fun talks soon.