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Cats in the Closet and the Sulfur Stick

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Clutching his bleeding arm, Castiel reaches for the phone on his nightstand. He punches the number in haste, receiving an answer almost immediately: “911, what’s your emergency?”

“Hi yes, I’d like to report the misuse of fireworks.”

“Did someone sustain an injury?”

“As a matter of fact, I did.” Careful not to make a bigger mess, Castiel just ghosts his fingers along the long red puncture marks in his forearm.

“Do you need an ambulance?”

“No, no.”

“Walk me through what happened, sir.”

Castiel glances over at his cat, Clarence, who’s hiding in his closet, hissing. “Well, fireworks have been going off close to my backyard for the last twenty minutes. I have a cat who’s thunder shy and enjoys The Girl on the Train and, consequently, scratched me while he was laying on my lap.”

“Sir, cat scratches are not life-threatening and fireworks are legal all times of the year. Is anyone seriously injured?”

“Well, no, but—“

“Goodnight, sir.”

Castiel peels the phone back with a scoff. Did 911 just hang up on him?! “I’ll restore your rightful justice Clarence.” With a huff, he shoots up from his bed, pries the slippers from underneath his cat’s plump body, and marches out into the backyard.

“Dean?!” Cas guffaws, “What’re you doing?!”

Dean throws his head back, as if Cas is the one lighting off legal TNT in their backyard hours too early. “Uh… lighting off fireworks? What’re those, scratches on your arm? Clarence again?”

“Papa’s the coolest, Dad!” yells Ben before repositioning the drooping sleeve of his oversized shirt. It’s the same one Cas bought for Dean at an ACDC concert, and now belongs to another super fan.

Jack’s excited, higher-pitched exclamation follows suit, just with a little less teeth, sending rockets of spit flying out of his mouth: “Yeah! He even let us wuse spwinkwers!”

Cas delegates his own explosive gaze on Dean. “Sprinklers? You mean the ones that got recalled last year because a child’s face got boiled by second-degree burns?”

“Someone’s face got boiled? That’s so sick!”

“No, not sick, Ben. Can I talk to you in private?”

Like the forest in his eyes is at risk of extinction with the fire in Cas’s, Dean nods swiftly before turning back to his sons. “Yeah, yeah. Go on boys, I’ll catch up with you.”

“No—no!” Cas sterns with a stiff finger. “Ben, Jack. Don’t go on. You hear?”

Jack and Ben aren’t biologically related, but they still manage to in sync and dejectedly respond, “Okay.”

Once they’re closer to the back door, Dean gestures to their sons and says, “You see?”

“Oh I see,” Cas says, “just not what you’re seeing.”

“Cas, they’re kids. Our kids. They didn’t wanna be inside today, hearing another lecture. They want a day off from homeschool. To enjoy the outside, the summer breeze, the fireworks... it’s Fourth of July! It’s a day of magic for kids.”

“I understand that, but they have to learn before they can have fun.”

Dean scoffs. “Why are you such a—”

“A what? Totalitarian?”

“A buzzkill.”

“Schooling is important, Dean. I know you may not believe that since you dropped out early—”

Cas sucks in the rest of that sentence, but the damage is already done. There’s no need to buy a vowel. It’s clear from the expression on Dean’s face he’s ready to cash out. “Dean, I... I didn’t mean...”

“No, Cas, you’re right,” Dean insists. “I mean, that was a dick thing of you to say just then...”

Cas laughs, but it’s just the byproduct of a forced vibration in his chest. “Thanks.”

“...but you’re right. You put a lot of time and effort into your lectures, and I should’ve asked your permission before I made them cut class.”

Caught off guard, Cas takes a moment to reply, “Well... thank you. I appreciate that.”

“But you have to know there’s a reason I’m doing this,” Dean says, shifting his gaze to the Crayola chalk-covered patio pavement, “and it’s not to be spiteful towards you.”

“What is it then?” There’s no infliction in his words, or in the step closer towards his husband. “Tell me. Tell me why you’re hiding right now.”

Dean looks up with equal parts panic and shock clouding his eyes. “You know.”

“No, I don’t,” Cas replies honestly, “I know you.”

Instead of speaking right away again, Dean turns to face their sons, who have now taken to playing an unprompted game of tag. Dean smiles softly, and Cas realizes why. It’s not only a beautiful night, rich with the colors of summer—from the white-orange cloud stretched in a wide, faded five, waving to the people below, to the tall, green grass in their lawn, dancing to an unheard melody—but it’s a beautiful family they have to share a beautiful night with.

“My dad was ex-Marine,” Dean says, eyes never leaving his boys. “So, growing up was hard. Me and Sam were two young boys, you know. We loved anything loud, but we’d be promptly reprimanded if we turned the TV up a notch, or put baseball cards the back spoke of our bikes. So fireworks were definitely a no-go.

One night, on this night, my old man was out so we decided to go into town to buy some fireworks and light them off. It was the best night of my life. And I’ll never forget it because that was the year before Sam went off to college. I didn’t see him for 8 years after that. We still don’t talk much, but when we do, he’ll bring up that night.”

Cas opens and closes his mouth, as if that’ll brush off the dust settling on his tongue. “Dean, I didn’t know...”

“How could you have?” Dean shrugs as he turns back to Cas. “I kept this family drama backstory from you since we met five years ago.”

“Dean.” Cas makes a point reaching for his hands, to sandwich them between his own, and look directly at him. “You never have to feel like you need to keep anything a secret. I mean, I still hate the sprinklers, but we can still light off some fireworks. After I give Clarence some cat Xanax.”

“Really?”

“Of course. I could loosen up a bit too. Lotta papers to grade. Jack actually taught me the word totalitarian. Don’t ask me how, but we wound up with some pretty smart kids.”

“I’m staring at how right now.”

Flustered as his face is red, Cas changes the subject. “No sprinklers, though.”

“No sprinklers,” Dean promises with a small, but content smile as he turns back to their kids. “Happy hundred-some years of independence, America.”

And if that doesn’t sober up Cas’s face to a pale white: “We really need to brush up on your history.”