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Sometimes, Dean leaves Sam and Castiel to take care of themselves after he’s done playing with them. More often, though, he stays with them and makes sure they were both okay.

 

Usually, they don’t need much. Most of the time, a gentle kiss and a few soft words can suffice. At times like these, though, when Dean has had them both crying and shaking all day, they need a little something more.

 

Castiel is still crying, tear-stained face pressed into Sam’s shoulder. Sam is doing his best to comfort Cas even though Dean can tell that Sam is strung out and needy himself. When he looks closer, he can see that Sam is holding back tears of his own.

 

It’s an hour before their bedtime, but they’re stretched out on the bed they both share because Dean knows that it’ll take the full hour to take care of them. And if it takes longer, well, he has all night.

 

Dean covers them both with the softest blanket they own and walks over to the cabinet hidden within the wall to retrieve a juice box, a bottle of water, and a handful of snacks.

 

He cools the drinks with a touch and hands the juice box now dripping with condensation to Cas and the bottle of water to Sam. He gently tears open a candy bar for Cas and gives Sam a small packet of cheese and crackers. They smile in thanks at him, and he sits on the edge of their bed, hand on Sam’s knee, as they eat and drink.

 

Castiel’s tears slowly dry up, but Sam still looks like he’s on the verge of crying. He rises and retrieves two soft pre-moistened baby wipes, then starts to wipe the salty tear tracks from Castiel’s skin. Sam starts to sob while he’s busy with Cas, and Dean finishes as fast as he can and moves over to Sam. He holds his hand and presses his lips to his forehead until Sam is done and then he washes Sam’s face as well.

 

He throws the trash into a little bin by the bed and patiently waits for one of them to speak. They like quiet at times like this, and he won’t deny them this, such as small, simple, insignificant thing.

 

Cas holds out his arms, as if to say, Hold me, please, and Dean can’t refuse. He settles down beside them so that Cas is in the middle, cradled by both Dean and Sam. Even though it’s Cas he’s holding, it’s Sam he’s focused on, tracing lazy little circles upon his brother’s skin and searching his face for any signs of discomfort.

 

It’s Sam who speaks first. “Tell us how much you love us,” he demands. Dean doesn’t scold him for his tone, because he knows that right now, Sam needs his reassurances as much as he needs air.

 

“I love you both so much,” Dean begins.

 

“How much?” Castiel asks childishly.

 

Dean smiles. “Cas, do you remember how many stars were in the universe?”

 

Cas nods. “It’s a really, really big number. Humans don’t have a word for it yet.”

 

“That’s how much I love you and Sammy.”

 

Castiel’s eyes go wide and he turns to whisper to Sam, “That’s a lot, Sam,” so seriously that Dean rolls his eyes fondly.

 

“I love you two more than anyone or anything else. Never forget that.”

 

Castiel nods solemnly and Sam hides a shy little smile. “Tell us a story,” Cas begs.

 

“Which one do you want to hear?” Dean asks, gently tucking a stray piece of Castiel’s hair behind his ear.

 

“The one where Cas is a princess,” Sam says. He always asks to hear that one, so Dean isn’t surprised.

 

“No! I wanna hear the one about how we met.”

 

Dean cups Castiel’s face in the palm of his hand. “Cas, baby, that’s such a sad story. Why do you want to hear it?”

 

Cas shakes his head. “Not that one. The one you made up for us where you bought us from a pet shop!”

 

“That one,” Sam agrees. “And then the princess one.”

 

Dean smiles indulgently. “All right.” He clears his throat. “Once upon a time, there was a lonely man-”

 

“That was you!” Cas squeaks.

 

“Shh, don’t interrupt,” Sam admonishes.

 

“As I was saying, there was a very lonely man who just wanted someone to love. So one day, he decided to go to a very special store selling very special little pets. When he got there, he saw a lot of pets. They were all very pretty and well-groomed and obedient. They were all happy and smiling, but the lonely man didn’t want any of them. He wandered around for a little while before he found a dusty cage in a tiny corner.”

 

“What happened next?”

 

Dean just presses a finger to his lips and continues. “The cage was only big enough for one pet, but there were two in the cage. The bigger one was curled around the smaller one, and they were both dirty and very unhappy. But they were more beautiful than any other pets in the entire store. A saleslady came up to the man and told him that they were very disobedient little pets, and that no one wanted them because most people only wanted one pet, but those two just wouldn’t be separated because they loved each other so much.”

 

Sam pulls Cas tighter.

 

“The lady told the lonely man that both of the pets came from broken homes, and that no one would ever adopt them. Then she asked if she could interest him in another pet. The man shook his head, because he didn’t want any other pets. He wanted the sad, little, disobedient pets that no one else wanted. He already loved them. He wanted to give them a home and make sure they felt safe and wanted. He wanted to make them so happy that they’d forget that they were unwanted for so long. He told her so, and she was shocked. Then the bigger one in the cage looked up and said that he wouldn’t let anyone separate them or hurt the one he loved. The lonely man promised that he’d take them both and never hurt either of them.”

 

“Then what?” Sam asks.

 

“Then they lived happily ever after.”

 

“We’re obedient now, aren’t we?” Cas asks, pressing himself against Dean.

 

“You are. You’re my good little pets. You’re both so, so good for me and you know how much I appreciate that, right?”

 

Cas preens under the praise while Sam blushes and buries himself under the covers. They both have different reactions when he reminds them of how good they are for him most of the time, but he knows that they both need the reminder, need to be told every once in a while that he is grateful for their obedience.

 

He tells the princess story next – Cas is an adorable little princess and Sam and Dean are the princes who save him. It’s a mash-up of Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty, and both Sam and Cas love it because Cas secretly wants to be a princess sometimes and Sam enjoys indulging his fantasy.

 

Then Cas gives a great big yawn.

 

“Time for bed, you two,” Dean says. They’d brushed their teeth before getting into bed, and even though they’d eaten since, one night wouldn’t kill them.

 

“But I’m not sleepy,” Sam protests, but then he yawns and looks away sheepishly.

 

“I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep. I promise.” He rises from the bed and watches as Sam wraps himself around Cas. Dean picks out Castiel’s favorite stuffed animal from the top of the dresser and hands it to Cas, who takes it sleepily and cuddles it close to his chest.

 

He turns off the light and smiles as they press a chaste good night kiss onto each other’s lips because they think he doesn’t know. He stays until their breathing evens out and then he slips out into the night, content.