It’s Thursday in December and Dean is getting back from a supply run. The thin plastic bag in his hand is laden down with cheap dime-store foods and a couple canisters of salt just to be on the safe side of things. Sam and he are at Bobby’s, bunking down for a few days to work a case with the old hunter on the outskirts of town – not that he needs the help; Bobby is more than capable of taking care of a haunting that’s so uneventful it borders on the mundane.
In fact, Dean’s finding it difficult to even consider this a real case since the most that’s happened so far is an overturned table lamp and a few banged cupboards. Still, a haunting is a haunting and even the lamest of spirits can go from mildly irritating to seriously dangerous in the blink of an eye and it's better to be safe than sorry.
Hence the extra salt.
Dean frowns, though, when he opens the front door and steps into Bobby’s kitchen. The house is unusually quiet and no one appears to greet him (or at least spring at the food like rabid dogs). “Sam? Bobby?” He calls, abandoning the bag on Bobby's table as he closes the door behind him and instinctively grabs the salt. He opens it as he walks towards Bobby’s living-room and, finding it empty, moves onto the library.
Bobby and Sam aren’t in there either but Castiel is much to Dean’s surprise.
Dean blinks and Castiel looks up at him. “Hello, Dean.” He greets calmly and, at Dean’s puzzled expression adds: “Sam and Bobby have gone to the library to pick up a book.”
“Oh,” Dean says, because that explains that and he doesn’t know what else to say. And then he notices, for the first time, what Castiel is doing and sets the canister of salt down on Bobby’s shelf slowly, as it has lost its value (for the moment, at least).
“Uh, Cas... what are you doing?” Dean asks, for clarification purposes only because he is already aware of what Castiel is doing, which is going through Dean’s duffle.
Castiel stops in his movements and looks to Dean solemnly. “I am doing what must be done.” He insists, pauses and adds: “I am sorry, Dean, but it is for the best.”
Dean blinks, stricken by Castiel’s oddly remorseful tone. “Wha- hey!” He shouts, trying and failing to catch Castiel’s arm as the angel turns and strides past him out of the room, arms laden down with Dean’s clothing. “That’s my favorite shirt, Cas!” Dean says as he follows Castiel.
They wind up in Bobby’s laundry room, a cramped and tiny space with barely enough room for the washer and dryer let alone two grown men. “I know, Dean.” Castiel says, still solemn and sincere as he puts the clothes down on top of the dryer and opens the lid of Bobby’s washing machine. “But it will be alright. I am only doing what has to be done.” He takes a piece of clothing from the top of the pile – a pair of Dean’s blue jeans – and continues: “I am truly sorry, but I can no longer allow this to continue and… they must be punished.”
“What?” Dean says, because now he is really, really, confused. “Who?”
Castiel looks up at Dean and tilts his head to the side, frowning slightly. He doesn’t respond but after a moment his eyes track towards the pile he is rifling through. Dean’s face screws up into what can only be described as a ‘what the hell’ look of confusion. “Wait…my clothes?” He asks, and at this moment he feels certain that this is all some very surreal dream he is having because Castiel cannot be serious.
“Yes.” Castiel says, and all of Dean’s hopes are shattered with that single syllable. “I can no longer tolerate their abhorrent, rude, behavior.” Castiel continues, selecting a shirt from the pile and tossing it into the washer. “They must be punished.”
Dean stares at Castiel for a long moment.
Then he stares some more.
By the time he’s managed to wrap his head around the situation, Castiel is kneeling on the floor so that he can peer into the washing machine at eye-level. “You refuse to take care of yourselves and so actions must be taken and I know of no other way to teach you this lesson.” Castiel says, addressing Dean’s clothing. “I am sorry.” And with that he stands up and reaches a hand out to adjust the settings on Bobby’s washing machine.
If Dean is honest, he’s had a lot of strange experiences in his life and I don’t just mean the sort most sane people would jump from categorizing as weird or unusual to byproducts of a psychotic breakdown, but your regular average Joe kind of strange experiences. He’s had déjà vu before, he’s seen a full grown man fit himself into the bottom drawer of a motel dresser and he once met a girl in Texas with two identical sister’s (and boy was that a fun night). He even walked in on his dad watching Old Yeller and crying – which was both strange and horrifying, though maybe not as much as that time he walked in on Sam watching porn (which was also all kinds of awkward) but still.
He’s not quite sure if any of the above mentioned instances in his life quite compares to this moment.
Dean’s still trying to think of one when Castiel finishes adjusting the knobs and starts to close the door, then his eyes track sideways and he frowns at Dean in a way that tells Dean he should turn around right now and walk out. Instead he stands there and stares back. “What?” He says, and this is how he winds up being manhandled by Castiel and winds up standing there, naked, in Bobby’s laundry room.
Castiel seems annoyingly self-satisfied as he starts the washer that now contains all the clothes Dean has to his name. Meanwhile, Dean who is now caged between the wall and Castiel, attempts to squish himself between the dryer and said wall, partly to hide the fact that he’s stark naked in front of an “Angel of the Lord” and also because it’s December in Sioux Falls and it’s freezing.
He tells Castiel this and, in response, the angel carefully removes his trench-coat and offers it to Dean who glares and, because he doesn’t have anything else, snatches it out of his hand and wraps it around himself. He’s surprised that it actually fits extremely well, which maybe shouldn’t be so surprising since it’s always looked a bit big on Castiel (and man is it weird to see him without it). Dean doesn’t say this, though. Instead, he glares at Castiel and says, “you’re insane, you know that?”
At this, Castiel frowns in genuine confusion before kneeling down to peer through the glass door of the laundry machine to watch the clothes as they spin in circles in the wash. Dean stands shivering in the corner for a moment to glare at the angel in the vain hope that he can somehow kill him with the power of his mind.
When this doesn’t work, he settles for attempting to escape the cramped (with the intention of stealing some of Sam’s clothing because some clothes are better than none at all) and freezing room by shimmying between Castiel and the washer. Unfortunately, the edge of Castiel’s trench coat gets caught on the edge of the dryer lid, which is how he winds up standing naked in Bobby’s laundry room in front of a kneeling Castiel, when Sam walks in.
“Hey, Dean are you in here, I- OH MY GOD.” Dean hears the utter horror in Sam’s voice and knows instantly that his brother has completely misinterpreted the situation. A glance at his little brother confirms this. Sam is in the doorway with a hand slammed over his eyes, face redder than a tomato. “Oh my god…oh god…no, no, no, no, no…” He his muttering to himself over and over again.
“Sammy, wait!” Dean starts, “I can explain.” He insists but Sam just squeezes his eyes shut and slams both hands over his ears.
“No!” Sam all but shouts, “I don’t even…no, I don’t wanna know. Oh god…ok…I am just gonna go. Right now…” He insists, disappearing around the corner and out of sight before Dean can even get another word in.
As soon as Sam is gone, Castiel, who has been kneeling and frowning up at Sam the entire time in confusion, stands up. “Is Sam alright?” He asks confirming is complete lack of knowledge concerning these sorts of situations before reaching over to casually pull the edge of the coat loose, thereby freeing Dean from captivity several minutes too late.
Dean doesn’t bother to respond to this and instead he glares at the angel in spite. “Go. Away.” He growls thinly in response, red faced with a mixture of embarrassment and anger (but mostly embarrassment).
And just like that, Castiel flits out of existence with a rustle of invisible wings.
He takes the trench-coat with him, leaving Dean alone, naked, and freezing in Bobby’s laundry room wondering how he is ever going to be able to explain any of this. To anyone. Ever.