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Such Familiar Magic

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Every morning, almost without fail, Castiel rises with the sun.

Usually he likes to get a head start on his jobs in the quiet solitude of the early morning, when the dawn light filters through the trees and the grass outside is still dewy, when the birds have just begun to sing and the rest of the world is still waking up. It’s the best time to go outside and check on his garden, or organize his library after a tricky night of spellcasting, or start working on the charms he makes to sell at the local market.

Some mornings, though, he allows himself a very rare sleep-in. This Saturday morning is one of them—last night had been the full moon, and he’d been out in his garden until the early hours of the morning harvesting the plants that he grows, some rare and some dangerous and all of them beloved.

As a result of the harvesting and the temporary storage in his workshop to make sure no harm befalls them, though, Castiel had barely managed to get into the shower to wash the dirt from his skin before falling into bed.

When he wakes the next morning, the sun has already risen above the treetops, and golden sunlight streams through the window of his bedroom to pool across his bed. It’s warm and comfortable, and he stretches languidly beneath his duvet. After all his hard work last night, he’s allowing himself a lazy day today, and he’s in no hurry to get up. Instead, he relishes the peaceful feeling of being half-in and half-out of sleep for a few minutes, then rolls over onto his back and finally opens his eyes.

There’s nothing quite like a full morning of good sleep, after he’s spent the moonlit night working as hard as he humanly can to achieve everything he needs to in the short timeframe he’s provided. Gods, if it isn’t a satisfying feeling.

He grins up at the ceiling. All he has to do today is check on the handful of seedlings he planted last night, then properly preserve and store all the plants and herbs that he harvested. It’s looking to be a quiet, uneventful day, and he’s so ready for it.

It takes a few more minutes to work up the mental fortitude to leave the warmth and comfort of his bed, but at least the house stays warm no matter what the temperature outside is, thanks to the many spells and wards he’s placed on it. The wooden floorboards are smooth beneath Castiel’s bare feet when he swings his legs off the edge of the bed, and he stretches up towards the ceiling, working the kinks out of his back.

Maybe today is the day for a long bath, if his back is going to keep complaining about the hours he spent hunched over his garden last night. That’s a problem for later, though—right now, his stomach growls hungrily.

First order of business: breakfast.

Castiel pulls on his dressing gown—he’s not one to wear pajamas while he sleeps, and it’s probably not a good idea to cook food while he’s naked—then pads through his house towards the kitchen.

He pulls one of his frying pans down from its hook above the stove and places it on a burner, then lights the fire beneath with a flick of his wrist. A simple breakfast will suffice this morning, since he doesn’t have enough energy for anything more complicated, and he pulls the necessary ingredients out of his fridge to set about making scrambled eggs.

Many witches that he’s met shun the use of electricity, preferring to live solely off their own craft, but maintaining the same effects as electricity produces can be tiring, and Castiel would much rather save his energy for something more productive. The monthly bill for electricity and power is a small price to pay—and it’s also beneficial in that it helps the regular townspeople believe that he’s not some extra-weird recluse living on the edge of the forest and trying to seclude himself from society.

Not many of them know the truth about the true nature of his crafts, and he’d like to keep it that way. Only a handful of people know that there is real magic behind the charms and trinkets he passes off as cheerful superstition—one of whom owns a free range chicken farm just up the road and who now gives Castiel free eggs for curing a whole coop of a sickness the vets couldn’t identify.

He doesn’t flaunt his magic, but he knows how to use it when it matters.

The eggs make for some damn good breakfast, too, and he hums quietly to himself as he melts some butter in his hot pan, makes up the mixture for his scrambled eggs, then adds them to the pan.

The herbs he uses are all from his own garden, and Castiel sighs happily as his breakfast cooks. It’s always a good start to the day. A piece of toast and a mug of coffee—heated and brewed by magic because he doesn’t have the patience to do that properly—complete his perfect breakfast, and there’s a lightness in his bones as he sits down with it all at his rustic little dining table.

Everything in his house he’s either bought locally from business owner in the town, or he made himself when he moved away from his coven and into this house. The dining table is a project he worked on himself, but all the shelves and cupboards in his workshop were specially commissioned from one of the best local carpenters, with a few extra wards and spells added once they’d been delivered to Castiel’s house.

All in all, it’s a wonderfully homey place, and as he sips at his coffee and eats his eggs, he knows there nowhere else he would rather be.

The only issue is that, since he lives on the edge of the forest, out of sight of any of the neighbouring houses, it can get a bit… lonely.

Castiel has been solitary for many years, content working on his craft alone, but admittedly, in recent times, he’s begun to find his house a little too quiet. A little too big for just one person.

There’s not much he can do to change that, though. He’s the only witch in this area, that his powers tell him for sure. Familiars are few and far between these days, and there are even fewer suited to matching Castiel’s levels of power.

And how would he ever be able to date anyone if he has to keep the most crucial part of himself secret?

No, by this point, he’s definitely resigned to his solitude.

Not that it matters a huge amount. He’s still happy, just… not as happy as he could be.

He shakes his head distractedly when he realizes he’s gotten stuck in his thoughts, staring out the far window and letting his coffee go cold. Today isn’t a day for wallowing, it’s a day to revel in the successes of last night. Castiel’s smile returns as he thinks about just how successful his harvesting was in the light of the full moon. He’ll be able to put together some of his most complicated spellwork yet with these ingredients.

He finishes his breakfast, cleans his dishes and kitchen with a few hand movements and a muttered spell because he’s too lazy to actually tidy up properly this morning, then gets up to go get dressed properly before he really starts his day.

Since he’s not going out anywhere today, an old t-shirt and a pair of jeans with a hole in one knee do the job. He runs his fingers through his bed-head a couple of times, but otherwise leaves it as it is, then pulls on a pair of work boots and makes his way in the direction of his back door.

Of all the places he’s been, all the great wonders of nature and the secret, special spaces known only to witches, Castiel’s garden remains his favourite place in all the world.

He’s been working on it ever since he moved into this house, and everything is set up and growing just as he wants it. With plenty of space in his back garden, Castiel has had the opportunity to plant fruit trees, herbs, bushes, flowers—whatever he wants, really. He even has a small greenhouse tucked away in the corner of his property, locked and warded and containing his most precious, fragile, or dangerous plants.

Many witches have to outsource to merchants or salespeople for the rarer spellwork ingredients they might need, but Castiel is lucky in that he has almost everything he could ever desire right here, growing in the expansive backyard of his home. He steps down off the porch and onto the stone path he laid by hand, turns his face up towards the sun, and breathes.

Being in his garden fills Castiel with an overwhelming feeling of peace, tranquility, and a content happiness that only his work can bring him. The plants radiate an aura of calm, each speaking to him in some small way, and he lets it wash over him. The garden is peaceful, healthy…

Protecting?

Castiel frowns and holds his hands up in the air in front of him, focusing his magic on his garden. The message he’s getting from his plants is that they’re… protecting something? Watching over it? There’s no sense of urgency from them, just soothing calm, so whatever they’re talking about, it’s not a threat to them or Castiel.

But Castiel’s entire garden is warded. To humans, it should look like nothing but uninteresting weeds and overgrown grass, and will actively deter them. If anything with a magic signature different to Castiel’s tries to cross the wards, they’ll be denied. Animals visit his garden all the time, but his plants have never taken the time to make him specifically aware of their presence.

So what is this all about?

He ventures further into his garden, towards the direction his magic is pulling him in. His fingertips tingle, and there’s the faintest taste of electricity in the air. When he rounds his grove of fruit trees, the odd sensation in his chest grows stronger, and he scans across his garden until his eyes fall on something out of place, and he knows that that’s what his garden has been telling him about.

Nestled among his white heather and winterbloom is a dog.

“Really?” he mutters under his breath—this is the reason his magic and his plants are calling out to him? This German Shepherd asleep in his gardenbed?

As he ventures closer, though, he realizes that there’s more to this situation than he’d first thought. The dog looks thin, the pads of its paws are bloody, and it’s covered in scratches and scrapes with stained-red fur in places.

Castiel kneels by the edge of the gardenbed to get a closer look, and his heart twists in sorrow and sympathy. No wonder his garden was trying to alert him of the animal’s presence—it’s clearly injured and probably malnourished. It’s nothing a few poultices, some spells, and a couple of days of rest won’t fix, though, and he reaches out to slide his hand gently beneath the dog’s shoulder.

When his fingers come into contact with soft fur and wiry muscle beneath, a shiver runs down the length of his spine.

He pauses for a second at the strange reaction, waiting and wondering if anything else will happen. The magic under his skin dances for a few seconds, then settles, lying dormant once again. Castiel continues to slide his hands under the dog’s body.

It’s deceptively heavy, and he grunts at the weight as he lifts the unconscious dog out from amongst his flowers. He’d half expected it to wake up once he started moving it, but its head and its legs stay loose and floppy. It’s definitely in need of some care and some good food.

“Come on, let’s get you patched up,” he says to the dog, shifting it in his arms to make it easier to carry. One ear twitches, the barest movement, but otherwise the dog remains limp and unconscious. The sooner Castiel can heal it, and maybe give it a few good meals, the better it will feel.

He makes his way back through the garden, pausing to check on the health of the few seedlings he’d planted last night, but everything looks to be in order. The semi-urgent thrum he’d felt when he’d first stepped foot in the grass has faded now that he has the dog in his arms, and nothing else seems to be amiss within his little sanctuary.

Getting the back door open with an armful of dog proves to be a little tricky, and Castiel almost regrets warding them completely against all magic use, but it’s necessary to protect all the valuable and dangerous items he stores inside his house. Instead, he fumbles with the door handle while trying not to jostle the dog too much, and eventually manages to get the door open. Once he’s inside again, he nudges it closed with his foot, and then heads towards his workshop.

As always, the heavy wards feel cool and welcoming on his skin as he crosses the threshold into his workshop—like his magic is welcoming him back into the place in his house where he feels most at home, most safe, most himself. His workshop is his haven, the place where he can practice his craft, and his magic is imbued into every wall, every book, every object within.

In his arms, the dog twitches.

Castiel pauses, halfway to his workbench, and looks down at it. The dog’s eyes are still closed, its pointed ears floppy instead of pricked and alert. It’s little more than still, dead weight in Castiel’s arms. But he’s sure he felt it twitch.

It’s probably just a reaction to the sheer amount of magic in this room, he reasons. Most creatures only ever come into contact with trace amounts; residual spells, the distant effect of charms, being diverted away from a warded, protected area. Entering into such a heavily magicked room would probably have an effect on any animal, which Castiel may have forgotten, since he’s so used to it and is also the only person or creature to ever have stepped foot inside his house after he moved in.

He makes his way over to his workbench and carefully sets the dog down. It sprawls out across the wooden surface with loose limbs, and now Cas gets his first chance to examine it properly. He’s no healing specialist, but he’s dabbled in enough different practices that these simple wounds should be no issue.

When Castiel parts the red-stained fur, he finds a handful of deep wounds that are only just beginning to heal. He’ll deal with those first. Were he a healing witch, he’d be able to completely fix them up with a carefully placed touch and a spell or two, but he’s much more confident with his plants and herbs, so that’s what he goes to now.

It doesn’t take long for him to mix up a poultice that will greatly speed up the healing process, and his gentle fingers apply it to the dog’s wounds and rubbed-raw paws. Its fur is still matted with dried blood and dirt and now a mixture of herbs and creams, and it looks so small and exhausted on Castiel’s workbench. His heart twists with sympathy.

He may not be a proper healer, but it would be remiss of him not to at least try to help this creature further.

Before he attempts any spells, he consults one of his many spellbooks, dragging his fingertips over the rows of spines until he finds the one he’s looking for. He purchased it many years ago—a true gem hidden away in an old, second-hand bookstore and being passed off as nothing but superstition and falsehoods. Castiel had recognized some of the spells as ones his grandmother had sworn by, and bought it on the spot. Even if he hadn’t inherited her gift for healing, it would still be useful.

And he’d been correct.

The spell he’s looking for is simple. It doesn’t let him fully heal all of the animal’s wounds, but it does encourage and speed the body’s natural healing processes, and when paired with the poultices it will be just as good. Castiel checks the incantation once, twice, then a third time just to be sure, and then sets the book open but off to the side so he can turn his attention to the dog.

Its side rises and falls gently with the rhythm of its breathing, and Castiel can feel it beneath his palms as he settles his hands onto the dog’s fur. One on its shoulder, one on its hip, splaying his fingers out into soft fur and focusing his magic into his hands, ready to leash it with the words of his spell and let it loose to do its job in helping the German Shepherd.

The words of the spell rise up to the surface of his mind; without thinking, Castiel closes his eyes and lets them roll off his tongue, word by word, until the last syllable of the spell falls from his lips.

His magic is loosed like a broken dam, and with it comes the crackle of ozone and the feeling of electricity so strong that all the hairs on his arms stand up on end. His breath hitches involuntarily—he shouldn’t be feeling this from a simple healing spell.

Startled, Castiel breaks his contact with the dog and stumbles back a step. He opens his eyes to stare at his hands—flickering with the electric blue sparks that signify his own magic, but strangely also flecked with a green he’s never noticed before—and then looks up at his workbench.

Where there was once a German Shepherd lying on the wooden surface, now there is a naked man sitting there, staring at Castiel with the greenest eyes he’s ever seen.

He sucks in a sharp breath as they lock eyes, and something pulls in his magic, something raw and barely-bridled, urging him forward. It’s all that Castiel can do to resist it, for how deeply-seated the impulse is, but he’s not stupid enough to give in.

This man who was once a dog and has somehow inextricably ended up in Castiel’s garden, sheltered by his plants…

There’s no doubt in Castiel’s mind that he’s looking at a familiar.

He’s your familiar, a little voice whispers in the back of his mind. That pull, the way the familiar had reacted to Castiel’s magic, the flecks of green in its manifestation that have to be the same colour as this man’s eyes…

“Who are you?” he breathes, his eyes wide. He’s reeling from this turn of events, caught on uneven footing. Those eyes captivate him like nothing else.

The man doesn’t reply, just keeps fixing Castiel with that wide-eyed stare, like he also can’t believe what’s just happened. For a few long seconds, neither of them move.

Then, before Castiel can react, the familiar shifts his legs and swings off the table. Castiel can tell that he’s still hurting—the wounds on his animal form have translated across to his human body—but he seems to move without noticing or acknowledging them. Instead, he moves with determination and purpose as he crosses the space between them, taking Castiel so completely by surprise that before he can even take one step backwards, the man is right in front of him.

He crowds up into Castiel’s personal space, fingers curling into the front of his t-shirt. It’s not a threatening gesture, more… anchoring. Like if he doesn’t hold on, Castiel is going to float away.

“Do that again,” the man implores, with a voice scratchy and roughened by disuse. “The magic.”

Castiel obliges, too stunned not to. He lifts his hand palm-up into the space between them and brings his magic to the surface with the barest thought. Blue-green sparks dance over his palm and between his fingers, and the familiar shudders, his eyes hooding.

“You felt that too?” Castiel asks quietly, watching the familiar’s reaction to his magic. It feels foolish to hope, after so many years of accepting that there wouldn’t ever be a familiar out there for him. Is this man the one who will have the strength to refine Castiel’s power?

“Felt it?” the man says, still entranced by the sparks that dance over Castiel’s skin. “Feels like it lit me up like a Christmas tree. I’ve never met any witch whose magic felt like that.”

Any lingering doubts that Castiel had had about this man not being a familiar fade away. He knows magic, and he’s familiar with witches, and his reaction to Castiel’s magic is exactly how a compatible familiar would be feeling.

One of the man’s hands uncurls from the front of Castiel’s shirt, and he reaches for Castiel’s hand before he has a chance to pull it away.

“Wait—“ is all he manages to say before the familiar’s hand passes into the field of sparks, then settles against his palm.

Castiel holds his breath and waits for him to pull away, or pass out, or cry out with pain, but…

The familiar just sighs, his eyes drifting closed. Their hands are pressed together now, palm-to-palm, blue-green sparks dancing around their intertwined hands. Instead of feeling his magic spike up and attack the unfamiliar entity, as it has with every other person who has ever touched it, it simply… settles. Like a roaring ocean gone so still that even a single breath would ripple the surface.

“You…” Castiel breathes, unable to quite believe that this is happening. That there’s a familiar touching his magic, and not only not being driven away by it, but actually managing to calm it. Harness it. 

“You’re strong,” the familiar murmurs, a barely-there movement of his lips. His hand flexes against Castiel’s and when his eyes open just slightly to show hints of green, the corners of his mouth also quirk up. “Good thing I’m stronger.”

It feels like all the oxygen has been sucked out of the room when the man looks at him like that. “Who are you?” Castiel breathes, repeating the question that the man had ignored earlier. It feels much more important now that he knows just how resilient and how perfect of a match this familiar is.

The man opens his eyes fully, but he doesn’t take his hand away from Castiel’s. For the first time in Castiel’s life, his head feels quiet—the kind of quiet that he only notices now that all the static and distractions are gone.

“I’m Dean,” he says, and Castiel knows instinctively that he’s telling the truth.

“Dean,” he repeats, testing out the syllable on his tongue. Even that feels perfect. “I’m Castiel. I’m a witch—but you probably knew that already.”

Dean’s smile turns more amused. “I had an idea, yes.” Finally, he pulls his hand away from Castiel’s, and the clarity that he had brought disappears almost instantly. Castiel mourns its loss, and has to take a second to reorient himself.

“Did that help you?” Dean asks cautiously, tilting his head and watching Castiel’s reaction as he tries to readjust. It’s such a dog-like movement that it throws Cas for a second. “I’ve never tried to bond with anyone. Was that what that was?”

It must have been, right? Even now, Castiel can still feel the faintest effects of Dean’s touch lingering around the corners of his magic, smoothing out the edges that spike and jar. And that had only been a few seconds—what would a full bond feel like?

He can’t get ahead of himself. Dean is injured and probably only passing through. It would be foolish to entertain thoughts of a bond with someone he’s just met.

Even so, that doesn’t mean he won’t tell Dean the truth. “I think so,” he says quietly, closing his fist and extinguishing the sparks. His magic reluctantly retreats, but stays thrumming excitedly just beneath his skin, as though it longs for Dean’s touch again. “It’s like you… you calmed my magic. I’ve never felt it that strong or that malleable before. You’re the first familiar I’ve met who was even able to touch it, let alone have that effect.”

Dean stares at him for a few seconds, the expression in his green eyes unreadable. When he does speak, all he says is: “Huh.”

Huh indeed. This is not how Castiel had expected this day to go. He takes a half-step back so that he can get his head on straight again after what just happened. Now that his magic is quieting, he realizes that even after taking on his human form, Dean is still injured, poultices smeared over his skin near the wounds and his skin stained with dirt.

He’s also still very naked.

All at once, Castiel feels his cheeks heat, and he clears his throat. Possible bond or no, that has to be set aside for the moment while he looks after Dean.

“Let’s get you cleaned up and then I’ll take another look at your wounds,” he says, redirecting himself. First and foremost, he’s here to help Dean, not to bond with him or make things weird—though the situation is, arguably, already pretty weird. 

What a day this has turned out to be.

~~~

Once he’s had a shower in Castiel’s bathroom, Dean is much less dirty but no less beautiful.

Castiel had given him privacy in the bathroom but made sure he was nearby just in case Dean needed him. He’s still a little weak and wobbly, despite drawing some strength from both Castiel’s half-finished healing spell and the touch of his magic, but insistent on not needing help. In the meantime, Castiel had gone about finding Dean some clothes to wear and tidying up his house quickly—he hadn’t really been expecting to have a guest over any time soon, and it’s not quite as neat as he would like.

When Dean comes out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist, Cas tries his hardest to look at him with a clinical healer’s eye, his gaze catching on the visible scrapes and wounds and the mottled bruising that colours his skin in some areas. If he happens to linger on the strength of Dean’s biceps or the way his freckles stand out now that he’s not stained with dirt, well. He’s only human.

“Feel better?” he asks, to which Dean just nods. The occasional quiet isn’t something that Castiel minds—he’s used to living by himself, and if he’s to hazard a guess, Dean has spent a while in his animal form. He might not quite be up to chatting just yet.

“I found you some clothes to wear,” he continues, showing Dean the pile of cloth in his hands. “Do you want to get changed now, or let me have another look at your wounds first?”

Dean looks briefly down at the clothes, then back up at Castiel. “Wounds,” he says decisively, already moving in the direction of Castiel’s workshop.

The corners of Castiel’s mouth tick up into a smile and he follows after Dean, who already seems to know his way around the little house. When he reaches the doorway to the workshop, he pauses, standing just outside the threshold. His gaze traces the shape of the doorframe, and Castiel watches as he reaches out to touch the wood.

When his fingers pass through the wards and into the space designated as protected, Dean shivers.

“Your whole house feels like your magic,” he says, partly over his shoulder and in Castiel’s direction, “but this room is… something else. It’s so strong.” He reaches further in, then steps through completely, passing through the wards as if they weren’t even there. They barely even trigger on Castiel’s end—just the faintest lingering feeling, telling him that something is a little different.

Again, he reminds himself that he can’t get his hopes up.

“This room is heavily warded,” Castiel says as he follows Dean into the workshop, still a little dumbstruck at just how easily Dean fits in with his magic. “There’s some powerful stuff in here that I’d like to keep protected. I’m… not quite sure how you managed to cross my wards so easily without you touching me.”

Dean looks over his shoulder at Castiel with a look in his eye that says you know exactly how, his lips curled up into the barest hint of a smile, then turns away to examine the rest of the room.

There are bookcases and shelves and drawers and trunks all full of items—many of them locked away even despite the wards protecting this room—and Dean turns his curious eye on each and every one. “You’ve got a lot of different books from a lot of different disciplines,” he observes absently. “You were born a witch?”

“I don’t practice dark magic, if that’s what you mean,” Castiel rebuts calmly, watching Dean explore the room. “I come from a coven, my whole family are witches. We just… didn’t really get along. They didn’t like that I was so powerful and unpredictable, especially without a familiar.”

Dean chuckles quietly. “You got me,” he admits. “It doesn’t feel like dark magic, but I had to make sure. I’ve had… bad experiences with that in the past.”

Castiel wonders absently if that’s the reason that he’d found Dean in his garden this morning, exhausted and injured, as though he’s been running for days and days. He decides not to ask—if Dean wants to share, he will in his own time.

Instead, he says, “Well, I can assure you that all my magic is home-grown. You’ve felt it—no human could contain that much power without imploding if it had its roots in necromancy or demonic energy.” He doesn’t mean it to be a brag—it’s simply the truth. Castiel may be content to live a quiet life with his plants and his seclusion, but he’s still strong.

“Fair point,” Dean concedes with a smile. He turns away from the bookshelf and lets his hand fall back to his side. “Where do you want me?”

With your hand back in mine, his brain unhelpfully supplies. Bonded to me, by my side, entwined in my magic. He still can’t get over how much Dean’s touch had calmed his magic, and how complete he’d felt with even that slightest of connections.

“Up on my workbench, if you wouldn’t mind,” he says instead, and makes his way over to where he keeps his salves and herbs. “You’re welcome to change into those boxers if you’d like. I just have to mix together some things, I won’t look.”

Behind him, Castiel hears the sounds of movement and rustling fabric. He takes his time organizing his ingredients and double-checking that he knows the spells he’ll need—humans are easier for him to heal than animals, simply because he’s had to use these spells on himself so many times.

By the time he turns back around, Dean is sitting up on the edge of his workbench, bare-chested and wearing only a pair of boxers.

Castiel’s breath catches in his throat, and the corners of Dean’s mouth curl up in response. There’s interest in the depths of those eyes.

“How are you feeling now?” he asks, in an attempt to divert himself from Dean’s attractiveness and focus on the matter at hand. It feels futile, but he has to try anyway.

Dean hums and tilts his head to the side, thinking the question over. “Not quite as sore as I was when I was a dog,” he decides after a few long moments. “Still hurts, though. My muscles ache, and my hands and feet sting, and these bruises are no fun, either.”

It’s fair enough—half-done healing spell from earlier or no, Dean still looks like he’s been to hell and back. Castiel winces sympathetically. “I can definitely help you with those.” He shifts the salves and poultices he’s been working on from the side table to the sturdy workbench where Dean is sitting and sets them down, then appraises him with a critical eye. “I’ll start with the wounds and scrapes first, and then I’ll see if I can do something for the bruises and the muscle pain. Does that sound okay?”

“Sounds fuckin’ fantastic,” Dean says. He shifts his body, leaning back on his hands for a second before a pained expression flits quickly across his face and he straightens up again. “Keep forgetting that the cuts on my paws end up on my human body as well,” he mutters, resting his rubbed-raw palms face-up in his lap.

Castiel doesn’t reply, just steps in close, reaching for a small pot of salve as he does so. He’d made it himself from his own herbs and the beeswax from the apiary across town, and it’s just the thing for Dean’s hands. “Hold still,” he murmurs, scooping some out onto his fingertips and reaching for Dean’s palm with his other hand.

Again, when their skin touches, there’s that electric feeling, Castiel’s magic dancing beneath his skin at the contact and then settling just as quickly in Dean’s presence. He sighs quietly, resisting the urge to close his eyes and instead focusing on Dean.

When the salve touches his skin, Dean sighs, and all the lingering tension seems to drain out of him. His eyes slide closed as Castiel rubs the salve into his palms, sparks from Castiel’s lingering magic flickering across his skin before fading away. “Is that okay?” he asks quietly, and Dean nods.

The scrapes on Dean’s hands heal within in a minute with the help of the salve, and then Castiel moves onto his feet, cradling Dean’s heel in one hand while he smooths the salve onto his skin. Again, the magic creates tiny blue-green sparks that sink into Dean’s skin after a few seconds, and Castiel watches, mesmerized. This is his strong stuff, heavily imbued with magic, but he’s still never known it to take effect this quickly, or for his magic to manifest physically in it.

If it’s affecting Dean, he doesn’t notice—he keeps his eyes closed while Castiel finishes healing his feet, then reaches for a fresh poultice to apply to the wounds on his sides. Apart from a shiver when the cool poultice touches his skin, he doesn’t otherwise react. Just sits there with his eyes closed, breath even, warm and pliant to Castiel’s touches.

It’s only once Cas pulls back that he shifts, half-opening his eyes and finding Castiel with a gaze that feels almost distant and meditative. “Feels good,” he murmurs, his lips barely moving around the words. “The salves… but mostly your magic. Could sit here all day.”

“You like it?” Castiel asks quietly. He sets the dish holding the leftover poultice aside and absently wipes his hands on his ratty jeans. “It’s not too strong?”

The corner of Dean’s mouth curves up. “Strong? Yeah. Too strong? Not at all. I’ve never been around a witch whose magic feels like yours.”

Castiel’s heart double-beats against his ribcage, and he has to force down the proud, possessive part of himself that rejoices at Dean’s words. Instead, he says, “You’ve been around a lot of witches, then?”

Dean’s smile turns tight, and Castiel immediately regrets his question.

“Don’t think I’m quite ready to talk about my past yet, Cas. No offence.” His eyes, once he opens them fully, are apologetic—but still a little guarded. For all that they’ve fallen so easily into each others’ orbits, Dean is still a stranger.

“None taken,” Castiel is quick to say, giving the familiar a reassuring smile. “I didn’t mean to pry."

“You’re fine.” Dean’s gaze softens. “An injured dog shows up in your backyard and turns into a naked dude, you’re bound to ask some questions.” He looks down at himself, at the injuries that are already beginning to heal beneath Castiel’s administrations, and sighs. “I’ll be outta your hair soon enough.”

Castiel’s heart sinks.

He hasn’t even known Dean for half a day, but already he can feel the beginnings of a bond forming, and more than that—a friendship. He wants to keep Dean around because he’s an amazingly compatible familiar, but also because he simply likes him for who he is.

But if Dean doesn’t want to stay, Castiel won’t force him to.

He will, however, make sure that Dean knows just how much Cas wants him to stick around.

“You don’t have to go, you know,” he says quietly, keeping his gaze lowered as he packs up the last of his materials, setting them back on the side table or his shelves. He doesn’t want to see Dean’s reaction, just in case it’s a negative one—but he can still feel the familiar’s gaze weighing heavy on him.

The silence stretches out between them. Dean is the one to break it.

“What do you mean?”

Castiel runs his thumb along the edge of the jar he’s holding in his hands, then gently sets it down and turns to face Dean. He meets the familiar’s gaze, even and steady, and gives him a tiny smile.

“I mean… You could stay. Here. If you want. For as long as you need.”

Dean looks at him for a few long moments, hope in his eyes, as though he doesn’t dare to believe the offer is real. When he inhales, his breath hitches slightly, and then he smiles, so soft and happy that it melts Castiel’s heart.

“I think I’d like that, Cas.”