"Dean, don't do this just for me," Cas says.
"I'm not," Dean insists, leaning his hip against the counter as he whisks the pancake batter. "I like pancakes. Sammy likes pancakes. And you -- you eat 'em when I make 'em, so..." he trails off, shrugging.
"Dean," Cas says again, his voice riding the dull fridge-and-lights hum filling the kitchen. He's wearing a pair of Dean's jeans and a faded gray sweatshirt Dean doesn't recognize. It's not his, and it's too small to be Sam's. "I don't want to make extra work for you."
"You're not." Dean shrugs again and taps the whisk on the edge of the bowl, shaking off the batter. "The only thing easier than pancakes is toast."
Cas wrinkles his nose a little; they still haven't found a brand or type of bread he's willing to eat. Even the organic, sprouted, stone-ground stuff Sam picked up at the farmer's market had tasted like organic, sprouted, stone-ground molecules. "If you're sure."
"Can I help?"
There isn't much left to do -- the eggs are already scrambled, and the pancakes just need to be spooned onto the griddle and flipped -- but Dean cocks his head toward the bunker's ancient coffee percolator, which is still hissing and gurgling under its breath. "You can get the coffee set up. Sam's gonna start having withdrawals."
Cas' mouth tugs with a rebuttal -- probably the usual reminder that Dean drinks twice as much coffee as Sam -- but he swallows it with an almost-smile and a soft huff. The griddle isn't hot enough yet, so Dean watches him as he digs three mugs out of the cupboard and rinses the table carafe Sam swiped from a haunted diner they cleaned out a couple years back. His hair is a wreck. Dean's jeans fit him too tightly across the hips and hug the curves of his thighs.
Rowena lifted the attack-dog curse two weeks ago, and Cas has been living at the bunker ever since. He doesn't sleep, and he only kind of eats, but he showers and watches TV and helps Dean and Sam with their research. He keeps stealing Dean's clothes, because they're "more comfortable" than his angel monkey-suit. A few days ago, Sam drove him out to Smith Center and let him loose on the Goodwill with their last fifty bucks in cash; he came back with two bags bulging with stuff, but the only part of that haul he wears is a washed-thin blue button-down that makes his eyes look unreal. Everything else he wears is Dean's.
When Dean carries the breakfast food out to the library, Sam quirks his eyebrow at the steaming plate of pancakes and asks, "Again?"
"Sam," Dean warns. It's a fair question -- he's made pancakes four mornings out of the last seven -- but he doesn't want to talk about it right now. Or possibly ever.
Sam holds his hands up. "Hey, it's cool. I'm just -- you know." He glances across the table at Cas; thankfully, Cas is busy pouring himself more coffee. "I'm surprised there's still any Bisquick left."
There wouldn't be if Dean hadn't sneaked out to the market yesterday afternoon, but he doesn't want to talk about that either. He ducks his head as heat prickles under his jaw. He hates being this transparent, but -- fuck it. Cas is an angel. He doesn't need anything. There isn't a whole lot Dean can do for him, except cook the handful of foods he'll actually eat, and sit with him while he marathons Biblical Disasters, and not complain when he hogs the bunker's hot water.
"Shut up and eat," he says, stabbing at the eggs on his plate. He points at Sam's laptop with his fork as he chews. "Google find us anything yet?"
Sam snorts. "This time of year? Every alert is for fright nights and haunted hayrides. Or it's clickbait. You know, 'fifteen costumes you won't believe actually exist.' That kind of crap."
Cas leans his elbow on the table and nudges at the laptop until he can see the screen. He looks at it for a few seconds, then frowns and asks, "What's sexy about an ear of corn?"
"Nothing," Dean says, shaking his head.
"I find it strange how Halloween traditions have evolved over the centuries. Christmas and Easter have changed drastically as well, but Halloween is --"
"Wait, I think I got something," Sam cuts in. "I -- oh, sorry." He shoots Cas an apologetic look, but Cas just nods him on and reaches for his coffee. "Okay, so... Waukomis, Oklahoma. Just south of Enid. Several reports of an apparition at the local cemetery. Witnesses described a man in wild west clothing."
"Really? A haunted boneyard?" Dean huffs and waves his hand. Haunted cemeteries do happen occasionally, but more often than not they're bullshit. Just kids with wild imaginations, too much time on their hands, and too much to drink. "C'mon on."
"I don't know... this might be the real deal."
Sam types something, then turns the laptop to face Dean. Slowly, three large pictures load on the screen. The first is a lichen-stained cemetery angel surrounded by orbs; the second is a silver-white mist curling away from a cross-shaped headstone. The third is a teenage goth chick standing beside a decaying tree drooping between two markers. A darkly transparent shadow figure is lurking behind her left shoulder.
"Huh," he says.
"What d'you think?"
Dean drums his fingers on the table. He isn't exactly sold -- as far as evidence goes, spirit photography is pretty much the least reliable -- but Enid is only five or six hours away. Hauling ass would put them out there by early evening, so if it turns out to be a bust they can always just drive back home. Besides, it'll give them something to do. They haven't caught a case since that were-ghoul-pire thing, and having Cas around every minute of the day is making the bunker feel like close quarters.
"Okay, yeah," he says, nodding. "We can check it out."
Dean is loading salt rounds into his bag when Cas pokes his head in the room and asks, "Can I come in?"
"Yeah. Of course. Yeah. What's up?"
He's still wearing Dean's jeans, but he's traded the gray sweatshirt for a faded AC/DC tee Dean thought got lost in the wash months ago and a red plaid shirt that must've come from the Goodwill. He hesitates for a second, then says, "I'd like to come with you. On your hunt."
Dean blinks; it hadn't occurred to him that Cas wouldn't come.
"I dislike being idle," he continues, the floor creaking as he shifts his weight from foot to foot. "I know you and your brother don't need --"
"What? Of course you're coming. We ain't leaving you here."
"You left me here when you hunted the nachzehrer," Cas says, his voice sour at the edges. "I could've helped you, but --"
"You were sick."
"I wasn't that sick."
"You'd only been you again for two days." Dean's gut lurches just thinking about it. The weird dead-gray cast to Cas' skin had cleared up almost as soon as Rowena reversed the curse, but his eyes had still caught yellow in the light. A faint animal smell had followed him around the bunker -- gamey, like wood-rot and wet fur. "Besides, you working the books -- that's the only reason I was able to gank the sonofabitch."
"Okay," Cas says.
As he's turning to go, Dean says, "I'm sorry. I didn't -- I was just worried." You almost died. I thought you were dead.. "I just -- I was worried."
A smile tugs one corner of Cas' mouth. "I'll be in the car."
Dean stops at a Flying-J on the Kansas-Oklahoma line. They're only two hours into a five-hour haul, but Sam is bouncing his knee like the coffee he drank at breakfast has come back to haunt him, and Dean's old enough now that his legs start to cramp if he doesn't get out and walk around once and awhile.
It's a bleak afternoon, the sky purple-gray and the air thick with the threat of rain. Dean parks beside a rusty, wheezing freezer stocked with bagged ice. Its glass door has a diagonal crack that runs almost corner to corner. The Flying-J has a Del Taco and a Subway, but Dean heads into the convenience store for some beef jerky and a bottle of Mountain Dew. He also grabs a banana and a twigs-and-berries protein bar for Sam.
He finds Cas in one of the tchotchke aisles, confusion creasing his face as a Big Mouth Billy Bass serenades him with Take Me to the River. The store's heater is chugging away at full blast; his cheeks are flushed pink.
"No way," Dean says, snatching at the fish. "You are not bringing that thing home."
Cas holds it out of Dean's reach, frowning a little at is warbles, take me to the river / drop me in the water. He says, "I don't understand its purpose."
"I doesn't have one. 'Cept being annoying." Dean looks up and down the aisle, which is full of joke license plates and crystal sun-catchers and useless, as-seen-on-TV kitchen gadgets. "What're you looking for?"
"I don't know," Cas admits. The Big Mouth Billy Bass breaks into Don't Worry, Be Happy; rolling his eyes, Dean switches it off. "I just -- I thought I should get something for my room."
Dean doesn't know what to do with that; my room sounds permanent in a way that will only get his hopes up if he thinks about it too much, and he can't really wrap his head around an angel of the lord collecting people things, like seashells or ceramic ducks or decorative ashtrays.
After a moment, Cas huffs under his breath and puts the fish back on the shelf. He says, "Humans are incredible, but they're also --"
"Ridiculous." Cas shakes his head. "I was going to say ridiculous."
Thanks to an accident right where US 64 curves into US 60, they don't roll into Waukomis until a little after six. The town cemetery is already closed for the day, so Dean parks on the soft shoulder about a half-mile down the road. They hop the knee-high split-rail fence and cut straight across the patchy grass. The sun has barely started to set; there aren't quite enough shadows to hide them.
"You sure about this?" Sam asks, his bag bouncing against his hip as he walks. "It's still kinda early."
Dean shrugs; the road is gravel past the cemetery and the adjacent land is the backend of a farm. "Ain't no one out here but us. If we get this guy roasted in the next hour, we can head straight home and sleep in our own beds."
"Yeah, all right," Sam says dubiously. "So, the local legends say the ghost is Stephen Wallace. He died here in 1895. According to Find A Grave, he's buried on the south end of the cemetery."
"Over there," Cas says, pointing over Sam's shoulder. His hair is dancing with the wind. "That's the statue from the spirit photo. I assume he would appear close to his own grave."
They cross that direction single-file, their footsteps crunching in the dry grass and their gear making too much noise. Grasshoppers whine in the hedge marking the cemetery's property line. As they approach the angel, Dean spots the cross that had been wreathed in mist. It looks smaller than it had in the photo. Stephen Wallace's marker is in the next row. It's overgrown with vines and one end is sinking sharply into the ground.
The wind picks up again, stirring a bouquet of dead flowers a few graves down. A car rattles down the gravel road, kicking up a cloud of dust as it heads north toward the Waukomis town limits. They duck into the thin shadows cast by the same tree the goth chick had been posed beside. Dean ends up wedged against the trunk with Sam's knee bruising into his thigh and Cas breathing warm and damp against the side of his neck. He curls his hand into the sleeve of Cas' shirt, and he leaves it there until the sun finally nudges below the horizon.
Between the three of them, it doesn't take long to get Stephen Wallace dug up. He's barely six feet down. His coffin is a standard-issue pine box, and the lid is already cracked and creased from the weight of all the dirt it's been holding up for the last hundred and twenty years.
Cas bashes the coffin open with his shovel, and Sam pours the salt and butane, and Dean lights everything up with a book of matches he lifted from that roadhouse they hit up on the way to Quaker Valley.
Just as the fire starts burning low, Wallace floats up out of his empty, smouldering grave and tosses Dean into the closest hedge.
"All right," Dean says, pitching his voice low. They're at a diner on the southern edge of town. He suspects it's only open past nine because it's on US 81; the look on the waitress' face says closed. "Maybe it's a vengeful spirit deal. Murdered?"
"Nope." Sam shakes his head. "His death certificate says natural causes."
"At... what?" Chewing his lip, Dean tries to remember what he saw of Stephen Wallace before he faceplanted into the bushes. "Forty? Forty-five?"
"That's kinda young to just keel over."
"Not for the time period," Cas says. A smudge of graveyard dirt is following the line of his jaw; Dean's hand itches to brush it away. "Average life expectancy for a man was about fifty years of age back then. It's more likely he is attached to something besides his corpse."
Dean darts a glance at the waitress -- Cas said corpse a little too loudly -- but she's curled up at one of the empty booths, tapping her fingernails on the table and watching the starless sky through the diner's dirty windows. "Yeah."
Sam heaves out a sigh. "If he is, it's going to be serious needle-in-a-haystack stuff. It could be anything. And after a hundred and twenty years, it could be anywhere."
"Fuck," Dean mutters, wincing as pain throbs in his shoulder and neck. After Wallace chucked him into the hedge, he hit the ground like ton of bricks and clipped an exposed tree root so old it was practically petrified. "So much for a quick salt and burn."
"Dean, let me heal that bruise."
"Dude, I'm fine," Dean says quickly -- probably too quickly. "It ain't that bad." He looks away so he doesn't have to see Cas' face fall, then wraps his hand around his coffee cup. The coffee is mud-thick and tastes like the bottom of a shoe; warming him up is about the only thing it's good for. "I guess we'll grab a room in town. Tomorrow we can hit up the library and get some background. Maybe we can figure out where this bastard used to live."
"Yeah," Sam agrees, pulling a face as he stiff-upper-lips it through a sip of his coffee. "We can -- wait. I think -- yeah. I've got something. I searched Waukomis on the Weird US website. According to this version of the story, he haunts the cemetery because he's looking for his wife."
"Go on," Dean says.
"Emma Wallace, maiden name Burton. She died in 1892. Evidently he was hysterical when they took her away to be buried -- hysterical like crying over her body and tearing out his hair."
"Wait, he -- literally?" Dean asks, waving his hand around his head. "He actually pulled it out?"
"It could've caught in her clothes," Cas says thoughtfully. "It could've been buried with her."
"She wasn't with him," Dean says, leaning back in his seat. The vinyl shrieks in complaint. "At the boneyard. He was sleeping alone."
Sam frowns at his laptop for a second, then says, "She died a year before the town was platted. The cemetery didn't exist yet, so she was buried on the Burton family farm."
"On her parents' farm?" Cas asks, cocking his head to the side.
"Yeah. They didn't like Wallace, so they buried her on their land."
Dean starts to drink his coffee, then thinks better of it and sets the cup back down. "Any chance that website's gonna tell us where that is?"
"Actually, yeah," Sam says, scrolling down the page. "It sounds like her grave is this town's Black Aggie."
"What... drunk kids daring each other to kiss it at midnight? That kinda shit?"
Dean sighs and sticks out his fist. "We'll throw for it. Best two outta three."
"Maybe you should take Cas with you," Dean says, his voice too loud for the cemetery's stillness. It startles an owl, which hoots indignantly as it flaps away. "Two shovels'll dig her up faster."
Sam shakes his head. "Her grave is on private property, and this time of year they're probably keeping an eye out. It's safer if I go it alone."
Taking Cas makes even more sense if someone's watching the place -- he can mojo the memory of anyone who catches them -- but before Dean can point that out, Sam tugs the keys out of his hand and climbs into the driver's seat. The Impala's engine is still warm, so it perks right up in spite of the chill. Sam pulls off the shoulder and onto the highway a little too fast.
It's a cold night. The wind is stronger that it'd been earlier, and dew is so thick on the grass that Dean's jeans are wet to his shins by the time he's halfway to Wallace's grave. Cas is about twenty yards ahead. Shadows swallow him whole as the moon tucks itself behind a cloud; Dean doesn't see him again until he pops up from behind the cross headstone and grabs Dean's sleeve.
"Jesus Christ," Dean snaps, his heart beating in his throat. "What the hell are you --"
"Shhh," Cas murmurs, waving him off. He gives Dean a second to catch his breath, then tugs him past the spirit photo tree and points. "There."
It's Wallace, bobbing and weaving around his headstone like something out of Ghostbusters, conspicuous as hell. He's silver-white and fully-formed, his body only misted out below the knee. He looks straight at them at least twice, but he doesn't make a move in their direction. The owl arcs over their heads, hooting again as it slices across the moon.
In the next half-hour, they learn that Wallace doesn't give a shit about them as long as they stay at least fifty feet away from his grave. They also learn that Dean's teeth chatter when he's freezing to death.
"I'm sorry," Dean says. He sounds like he has a maraca in his mouth. "I can't help it."
"If you'd just let me warm you," Cas says, lifting his hand.
"No, I'm -- it's fine," Dean insists. He wipes his runny nose on his sleeve. "It's not that bad."
An uncomfortable silence pushes between them, cut only by the wind rustling through the trees and Wallace, who is humming quietly and tunelessly as he haunts his own grave. Shivering, Dean hunches closer to the tree. His wet jeans are ice cold against his shins. When Dean's teeth start chattering again, Cas sighs and wraps his arm around Dean's shoulder, pulling him close.
Dean yelps under his breath. The sudden movement wakes up the bruise on his shoulder; pain throbs up the side of his neck. Cas sighs again and shifts even closer, tugging until Dean is half in his lap.
"Dude," Dean starts, but Cas cuts him off with an impatient noise.
Sadly, he says, "I wish you'd just tell me what I've done to upset you."
Dean sputters a little; his face is so cold he can hardly get the words out. "What? You -- I'm, I'm not --"
"You shrink away whenever I touch you." Cas tips his head to the side, putting his jaw too close to Dean's mouth. He smells good, good and warm and bright and -- fuck. "I understand why you refused to let me heal you the first time. It pained me to see you suffer, but I -- I understand needing to atone. But --"
"But you were reluctant after the nachzehrer," Cas continues, his warm breath fanning against Dean's frozen cheek. "You only allowed me to heal you because Sam nagged you into it. And now again."
A gust of wind whips through the cemetery; Dean gasps, huddling closer to Cas in spite of himself. He's shaking, but only half of that is from the cold. He doesn't want Cas healing him because it's too much. It puts Cas too close. It drives him crazy, having Cas touch him like that, soft and sweet. Having Cas stare at him like that, his eyes too wide and too blue. Having a piece of Cas inside him, burning white-bright beneath his skin.
Dean tries to say something -- tell Cas that it's not what he thinks, that it's not him -- but his voice freezes in the back of his throat. He shivers again, gasping against the side of Cas' neck and clutching at Cas' coat. He chokes out a weird whining noise that seems to rattle behind his teeth.
"Dean," Cas says sternly. "I'm going to warm you up, and I'm going to heal that bruise on your shoulder. We can argue about it later, if you feel it's necessary, but --"
"Okay," Dean hisses. "Okay, yeah. Do it."
Cas cups the back of Dean's head with one hand and his jaw with the other. It's way too intimate, way too close, and Dean shuts his eyes as he braces himself for a blue-white burst of grace. Cas murmurs something in Enochian. His fingers sift through Dean's hair. Getting healed is always a little like getting stabbed with an icicle, cold and hot and sudden and painful, but this is different. This is careful. This is slow and easy and soft. Dean thinks he might crawl out of his skin.
Dean opens his eyes. Cas murmurs in Enochian again, his voice a low rumble in his chest. Behind them, Wallace is still humming. Cas' mouth is flushed and gorgeous, and the look on his face is -- oh.
Shivering, Dean leans in and kisses him.
Moaning quietly, Cas wraps his arm around Dean's waist and lowers him to the ground. The grass shifts wetly beneath Dean's back. The heel of his boot slips in dirt that's almost mud. He knows the dew is seeping through his jacket and shirt, but he doesn't really feel it. Cas is protecting him from it somehow. Cas is kissing him, lush and desperate and deep.
Dean tucks his hands under Cas' jacket, scrabbling at Cas' shirts and humming into Cas' mouth when he finds warm skin. Cas presses closer, his thigh slipping between Dean's and his hand catching in Dean's hair. He tugs it a little, tipping Dean's head to the side so he can drag a slow, wet kiss up the line of Dean's jaw. His mouth is incendiary. Damp grass scratches at the back of Dean's neck, but he doesn't feel that, either.
Behind them, Wallace mumbles to himself and flits around his headstone, an airy flash of white whenever Dean opens his eyes. His elbow keeps scraping against the edge of a marker, and the smell of dead flowers keeps curling into his nose. He kisses Cas harder, sliding his hands up Cas' back and sucking Cas' tongue into his mouth. He moans Cas' name, low and rough. He arches up and rubs his dick against the flare of Cas' hip.
"Dean," Cas murmurs, his mouth grazing Dean's cheek. "Dean."
Dean shivers as a slow heat coils around the base of his spine. He wants Cas closer. He slides one hand down to the perfect swell of Cas' ass, holding it there, his fingers digging into Cas' skin as he arches up again. Cas palms Dean's hips, pinning him to the ground. He shifts a little, then rocks into Dean, grinding down. Their dicks ride together; Dean chokes out a thick, desperate noise and bites a kiss into the hollow of Cas' throat.
They move together like that, grasping and greedy. Dean gasps and shudders and claws at the collar of Cas' jacket, and Cas shoves his hands under Dean's shirts, scratching his nails down Dean's sides as he tries to pull Dean closer. A chill starts creeping in around the edges, but then Dean flushes warm again, his jacket and shirts and jeans drying and a careful heat pulsing under his skin. Cas kisses Dean's neck and Dean's jaw and the space below Dean's ear. He kisses Dean's mouth, all tongue and teeth, dirty and wet. He reaches between their bodies to tease Dean's dick through his jeans, tracing the length of it with his knuckles, then rubbing it with the heel of his hand.
"Cas," Dean says, hissing it through a weak, grateful noise. Heat sparks and burns in his gut. "Cas, I -- fuck."
He comes clawing at the wet grass, digging his fingers into the dirt. Cas touches him through it, smiling against Dean's jaw when Dean starts to shake, too much, too much, then kneels up in the grass and touches himself. He's beautiful, a pinkish flush blooming in his cheeks and the moon flaring behind his head like a halo. Dean squeezes Cas' hip, then slides his hand around to Cas' dick. Cas moans and pushes into it, coming with a long, slow shudder as Dean tugged at his zipper with clumsy, half-frozen fingers.
Wallace flames out just as Cas is cleaning them up. He ignites all at once, shrieking and gouting flame before belching out a huge puff of ash.
Dean and Cas are so busy staring at him they don't notice the police cruiser pulling up to the cemetery gate.
"Dude," Dean hisses, glancing around the room. The sheriff is chatting with one of his deputies in the doorway, just far enough away that he probably can't hear what Dean's saying. "Can't you whammy us out of here?"
"Of course I can," Cas says, his handcuffs jingling as he moves. He has a hickey peeking above the collar of his shirt. "I'm just waiting for Sam to get here."
"Because he has the car. If we leave now, we'll just have to stand outside in the cold."
"Okay, let me get this straight," Sam says, his mouth twitching in the rear-view mirror. He's sitting in the back, because Cas is sitting shotgun with his hand on Dean's thigh. "While I was digging up a grave, you two were --"
"Sammy," Dean grunts, leaning on the gas. He wants to put as many miles between himself and Waukomis as possible.
"And you got arrested," Sam continues.
"For indecent exposure."
"We were clothed," Cas says, sounding aggrieved. His thumb traces the seam of Dean's jeans. "I'm not sure how that constitutes indecency."
Sam snorts out a laugh. "Yeah, but you were --"
Sam leans his elbow on the back of Dean's seat and laughs for three and a half straight miles. He laughs so hard that he ends up gulping for air, his face flushing red and tears springing up at the corners of his eyes. He manages to pull himself together for about thirty second, but then he catches Dean's eye in the rear-view mirror and laughs for another five miles.
Dean covers the hand Cas has on his thigh with his own. He squeezes a little. It's going to be a long ride home.