With autumn coming closer, Dean found his evenings dedicated to chopping wood and stocking up for the winter. Sam could have his fancy city living, but Dean preferred living out in the woods, away from people. Only people who truly needed him or his services would venture out to him, and he didn't have to deal with being disappointed by seeing the worst in people.
Dean lifted the ax over his head and brought it down, cleanly splitting the log in twain. Looking over to his pile, he took note that had a few more to do before calling it for the evening, and then he could kick back and read or pull up something on his laptop to watch. As he started to lift the ax over his head to finish the log he started, an unholy caterwaul and the screech of a large bird caught his attention.
Without a second guess, Dean sprinted in the direction of the cry, ax still in hand. The cries of the animal in distress were getting louder and more desperate. Dean skidded to a halt in a small clearing near his home. A large hawk was circling and slashing at a small, malnourished cat. The raptor was able to stun the cat with a sharp wing clip, causing it to tumble back towards a tree.
Before the hawk could go in for the kill, Dean jumped into the clearing, shouting and waving his ax. "Shoo! Get out of here you dumb bird brain!" He chased after the bird, startling it into flight.
Dean cautiously approached the cat. It had been knocked out and was mewling pathetically in its unconscious state. Kicking himself for getting involved, Dean took off his flannel shirt and gently wrapped it around the small black feline, picking it up and gingerly carrying it back to his cabin. Healing this little guy or gal took priority. The wood would still be there tomorrow.
Once inside the cabin, Dean delicately laid the cat down on his workbench. In the better lighting of his home, he could see the damp fur and easily deduce that he was looking at blood. He scrunched up his nose as a sneeze started to build and shook his head. "Damn Allergies. Can you please wait long enough for me to look at this little guy?"
Dean grabbed a clean washcloth, a bowl of warm water and a bottle of one of his mixtures - lemon juice and oregano oil - and set it next to the cat. "Hey, I'm sorry little guy. I know cats don't like water or other shit on their fur, but I need to treat you before I can heal you, ok?" He gently pet the fur at the nape of the cat's neck before dipping the cloth into the warm water.
About halfway through cleaning and treating the wounds, the cat started to stir. It let out a very confused sounding meow, causing Dean to chuckle. "I know, right? Last thing you know, you were outside with a big bad bird swooping in over you." The cat turned to look at Dean. "Aren't you a bright little guy? Sorry, I figured that out while cleaning you up." Dean tended to a final spot along the cat's rear leg. "Almost done, and I can get you something to eat."
The cat chirped in response and tilted its head.
"All done." Dean held up a finger and turned his head before sneezing. "Sorry little guy, I'm allergic to cats. But you do need some strength. I'm pretty sure I've got a can of tuna or something around here." Dean wandered over to the kitchen area and looked through his cabinets.
The cat rested it's head on its paws and watched as Dean dug through his rations. "Here we go. One can of tuna. I guess that's a little cliché, but you work with what you've got." Dean opened the can and drained out the excess water. "While we eat, I'm gonna look for a spell to heal you up a little more so you can be on your way, okay?"
"Oh, you do speak. That's good to know." Dean laughed at himself. "And I'm talking to a cat." He dumped the contents of the can onto a plate and brought it over to the workbench. "Look, I'm not even going to make you move. Full, four-star treatment. Just don't tell your friends." Dean turned and sneezed again. "I would prefer not to sneeze constantly if I can help it." He turned back around to watch as the cat devoured the tuna. "When's the last time you had a good meal, huh?"
The cat purred loudly in response.
"That long, huh? Well, you savor that." Dean gave the cat a quick scratch between the ears and turned to grab some dinner for himself. After fixing himself a bowl of stew and grabbing a couple of books out of his shelves, he sat down at his workbench to eat. The cat finished eating its own food, and sat at the top of the book, looking down as though it were reading the pages along with him. The thought made Dean's heart flutter for a moment. The cat showed no signs of its own magic, so there was no reason to believe that a familiar had stumbled across him, let alone want to bond with him.
Dean paused as he came across the spell he was looking for. "Alright, Tuna Breath." He tapped the other side of the workbench to see if the cat would follow. When it did Dean smiled. "You're a smart cat. I bet someone is missing you something fierce." Dean grabbed the plate and his bowl and took them to the kitchenette. "I'm gonna draw a little circle for you to stand in, and then I'm gonna finish healing up the big injuries, okay?"
The cat tilted its head and meowed, appearing to observe as Dean drew out the casting circle for his spell. "It's been a while since I've had to heal an animal. Most people can stick to the city and do that. People come to see me for special spells." He finished the details and tapped the center of the circle.
When the cat walked over, Dean tilted his own head before shaking it. "Someone has trained you well, little guy." He gently scratched the top of the cat's head before muttering the words to the spell under his breath.
A green light emanated from the lines Dean had drawn. When Dean finished the spell, the light faded and the cat let out a high pitched, happy meow, headbutting Dean's Hand.
"No need to thank me, little guy. You just need to be more careful out there."
Dean laughed again before turning his head to sneeze. "Let me double-check those cuts, and then we can get you on your way?"
All of the significant cuts and contusions from the run-in with the hawk had cleared up. "I think now is going to be your best time to make a run for it, little guy." Dean scratched the cat under the chin. "Your fur will blend in nicely with the night, and it'll be harder for the big, mean, birds to catch you."
Dean scooped up the cat and tucked it under his arm before walking towards the door. "I appreciate you keeping me company today, but I need you to go and find your home." The cat squiggled in his arm and tried to escape free from Dean's arms. "Sorry, buddy. You make me sneeze. I can't keep you around." Dean pouted. "Besides, it's clear you've got a family. Don't you know where they are?"
Dean got outside and closed his door behind him before setting the feline down. The cat ran figure eights around Dean's legs. "Nice try, Cat. Tripping me up isn't going to get me to let you back into the house." Dean squatted and pet the cat one more time. "It was nice to have company for the day today." He gently patted the cat's hindquarters. "Be careful, little guy."
The cat slowly padded down the stairs of Dean's cabin before looking back up at him. If Dean didn't know better, he would have sworn that he saw a sadness in the cat's eyes before he turned off and ran away. Dean sighed and headed back into his cabin, hoping to read a chapter or two of his book before heading to bed.
The next morning, Dean was woken up by scratching at his front door. At first, he thought nothing of it, but the sound grew louder and more persistent. He slid out of his bed and moved to the door, looking out and seeing nothing there. But once he opened the door and looked down, his little friend from yesterday had returned, bearing a gift.
"Hello, Cat. What do you have there?" Dean crouched down and took the ball of fluff - a freshly caught rabbit - while the cat scampered in and hopped upon his bed. Dean shot a look from the door to the rabbit to the feline laying on his bed. "What part of allergic, didn't you understand?" Dean asked the cat.
"Yes, you brought a rabbit. But I can feed myself, thank you." Dean crossed his arms over his chest, slightly embarrassed that he was conversing with a cat.
The cat rolled on his back and stretched, pawing at the air. "Meeeooow."
"Cute isn't going to cut it, mister." Dean sighed. "I'm not in the market for a pet, you know. Big, tough dude like me doesn't need a little fluffball."
"Mrrrrr." The cat had rolled back over and curled up.
"You going to keep sassing me?" Dean crossed into the kitchen and placed the rabbit in the sink before grabbing a large pot.
Dean filled the pot with water and placed it onto the stove, turning the dial to catch the flame. "I'll remember this, Cat." He walked back to his workbench and grabbed a bottle marked eucalyptus oil. "I guess I might as well make it so I can at least breathe in here."
"I'm glad you agree," Dean added a couple of drops of oil and some lemon to the pot of water. "Guess I'll see if I can find a recipe or a spell to keep myself from dying from sneezing too."
After prepping the rabbit, making himself some tea, and grabbing a book of remedies, Dean lounged back in his bed, looking for anything that could help with his allergies for the long haul. He didn't know how long the cat was planning on sticking around, considering it wasn't planning on going anywhere.
At some point, Dean must have dozed off, as he woke up to the cat sitting on his chest and swatting gently at his nose. "My nose is not a wild animal, fluffball."
"I don't snore, nor if I did, would it sound like an animal in distress." Dean cracked an eye open and saw the cat actually glaring at him. "Okay, so if I was snoring, it's because there's an animal I'm allergic to sitting on my chest."
"Meow." The cat walked down Dean's chest and curled up on his lap.
"You can't even get sassy at that one, Cat." Dean ran his fingers through his hair before sitting up. He started gently stroking the fur down the cat's back, taking notice of how much difference a day had made. "You know, if you're gonna stick around and not go find your family, I get to name you."
The cat turned it's head and looked at Dean.
"Oh, now you're intrigued." Dean looked around the room. "I got it. Déardaoin."
"Mrow." The cat turned around and sat down facing Dean.
"You gonna live here, I get to pick the name." Dean scratched behind Déardaoin's ear, causing him to purr. "Yeah, you'll get used to it. Especially if you want scratches and pets."
Déardaoin batted at Dean's nose pulling a chuckle out of him.
While Dean continued reading his book, Déardaoin curled back upon his chest. At one point, while stretching, Dean was able to catch a good look at the cat's eyes. They were a gorgeous shade of blue that he hadn't noticed previously.
"Hey, pretty boy," Dean pet under Déardaoin's chin, getting him to hold steady long enough to take in the color. While cats could certainly have blue eyes, there was something utterly different about his shade. "Your eyes are so pretty."
"Is that you saying 'Thank you?' Well, you're welcome." Dean closed the book and laid it next to him. "I get the feeling you're not a hundred percent cat, though, are you?"
Déardaoin froze and looked at Dean.
"You aren't. You act too... human." Dean ran his hand down the cat's back. "I mean, maybe I'm just a little crazy, l live out here by myself. I only see other people maybe once every other week. Maybe I'm just hoping you're more than a cat." Dean waited for a reaction. "Maybe you're cursed. That would suck being cursed as a cat. But I say that as being allergic to cats. Imagine being allergic to yourself."
Déardaoin curled back up on Dean's chest.
"Or perhaps you're a familiar." Dean felt the cat tense on his chest. "One that never resonated, so you ran so you wouldn't be forced to? Or you can hide your magic. That would explain why I can't figure it out." Dean sighed.
"I never resonated. I think my mom and dad were embarrassed." Dean gently played with Déardaoin's tail. "Sam hasn't either, but they don't know that. They're dead. So Sam got to miss out on that."
"Sorry, Déar." Dean smiled softly. "This is a little crazy and all. Just seeing you yesterday over my book while I was reading made me wonder how much I was missing."
Déardaoin stood up and headbutted Dean before hopping down and jumping up onto the windowsill of an open window. He let out a sad meow before slipping out of the window.
Dean spent the rest of the evening doing his regular routine. He made his dinner, setting aside a small portion for Déardaoin in case he came back, going through his stocks to see what he needed from town, before standing in front of his bookshelves. He was confident at this point that his cat wasn't, in fact, a cat. Nor was the cat in fact his. He could have been anything.
Dean ruled out shifter almost immediately. He had wards set up all over his land to keep away evil and malicious creatures. While not all shifters were wicked, any creature with therianthropy would trigger them. He knew it wasn't a Wampus or a Sith, they couldn't break through the salt lines that he buried around the perimeter. That meant that Déardaoin was either a cursed human or a familiar.
While Dean secretly hoped for the latter, he pulled out a book on curse breaking and climbed back in bed.
Dean woke up in a rush, looking around his cabin. Sitting at his workbench was a gorgeous man, peacefully watching over him. "Hello, Dean."
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" Dean slipped out of his bed and crossed the cabin.
"In a sort."
Dean looked the man up and down. Even in the pale moonlight, he could make out his dark brown hair, and beautiful blue eyes. "What does that mean?"
"It means that you know me."
"I feel like I do," Dean admitted. "Your eyes. I know those eyes."
The man offered a sad smile and nodded.
"Why are you in my home? How did you get in here?" Dean looked around. "I should have been alerted."
"That's because we're not really in your home, Dean." The man stood up and closed the last bit of distance between them. He gently placed two fingers against Dean's temple. "It's more of us being in here. You're dreaming at the moment."
"You can't dream someone you don't know."
"You're doing more than dreaming, Dean. I can't stay here anymore, but I promise to explain as soon as I can." He leaned in and softly kissed Dean on the lips. "Wake up."
Dean woke up, sitting up and pinching himself. He was actually awake this time. He traced his fingers over his temple then his lips; his dream fresh on his mind. Dean had no clue who the guy in the dream was, he would remember someone that beautiful.
He got out of bed and walked over to the kitchen, grabbing himself a cup of water. The bowl that he had left on the floor with food for Déardaoin was empty, and after he finished his drink, he looked around his small cabin, searching to see if the cat was hiding anywhere.
With no luck searching inside, Dean decided to take a quick look outside. He opened the door and found not only Déardaoin, but a giant of a younger brother squatting down to pet him. "Sam?"
"Hiya, Dean." He stood up and climbed up the stairs, pulling his brother into a bear hug.
"You're here like, a week early."
"Yeah, well, Ellen and Missouri sent me out." Sam let go and walked past Dean into the cabin, followed by Déardaoin. "Also, when did you get a cat? I thought you were allergic?"
"I rescued him from a hawk. He seems to think that means I'm keeping him." Dean crossed his arms and stared down at the cat who let out a quiet meow in response.
"Well, maybe the hawk is what I'm looking for. I'm not entirely sure, and I kinda need your tracking skills. These are your woods, after all." Sam sat on the stool at Dean's workbench.
Dean sat on his bed and faced his brother. "I don't own these woods. I inhabit them. Now tell me, what's going on."
"So get this, Ellen and Bobby caught wind of a clan of familiars that went missing."
"A whole clan?" Dean crossed his arms.
"Yeah. From what Bobby found, the clan was either forced into bonding with members of Abaddon's coven or... worse." Sam shuddered while Dean shot a quick glance at Déardaoin.
"Okay, so they're not all accounted for?"
Sam shook his head. "Missing four to be exact. Ellen and Missouri tracked them here. Probably ‘cause you keep these woods safe."
"I mean, Ellen is the best divining witch I've ever met." Dean shrugged. "I can track, and I can heal. I'll help. But I have a feeling that there's someone else who can help us more."
"Who? Bobby's on his way back, and we want to get these four safe before they're found."
Dean looked down at Déardaoin. "Is that where you went last night? To check on your friends?"
"Dean, that's a cat." Sam shot his brother a bitchface.
"Stop sassing, Déardaoin, let's go." Dean pointed at the door.
Sam opened the door and let Déardaoin out. He looked at Dean before following. "Are you sure he's one of them?"
"I was like fifty percent sure that he was a familiar last night. Now I'm like ninety percent after hearing about this situation with an attacked clan."
The two brothers stepped outside to see the cat waiting patiently at the bottom of the steps for them. Sam looked at Dean, surprise barely contained while Dean shrugged and gestured to follow. The group trudged through the forest, heading towards an abandoned thicket that Dean was familiar with.
"This would be a perfect place to hide. It used to be a deer grove before they moved on."
"Mrow," Déardaoin called before stopping, causing the two brothers to stay in place. The cat moved forward a couple of steps, a blue light enveloping him before a familiar-to-Dean man, wearing black slacks with a white shirt and black waistcoat, stood in his place.
Dean's jaw dropped. "You?"
"Hello, Dean." Déardaoin turned to Sam, "And a pleasure to meet you, Sam."
"You two know each other?" Sam looked back and forth between the two men.
"I did overhear Dean tell you that he rescued me from a hawk." Déardaoin smiled. "However, this is the first time that Dean has seen this form in person."
Sam tilted his head and looked at his brother, who threw his hands up in defense. "Dude, we're witches. Weird is what we do."
Déardaoin laughed softly in response. "I must say, I appreciate the mirth you've brought me the past couple of days. It's been unpleasant for myself and my surviving clan members. We're all but drained, and we need safety and rest."
He turned back to the thicket. "I'm going to go get them. They may be a bit wary, but please don't hold it against them." Déardaoin disappeared into the stand of trees.
"I don't even know how you do it, Dean." Sam ran his hand through his hair while shaking his head. "You had no clue of the situation going on, and you still managed to get wrapped up in it."
"Pretty sure Mom wanted my middle name to be Trouble, not Michael."
Sam snorted, as Déardaoin came back out, a fox and a corgi walking by his feet and a ferret in his hands. "The rest of the Clan Angelus, at your service."
The fox cautiously sniffed the air and walked up to Sam while the corgi came bounding through, running around in circles around the two brothers. The ferret scampered up Déardaoin's arm and sat on his shoulder. "I'll complete the introductions when we're back in the safety of your home, it's not safe to say our names in the open air."
Dean nodded and lead the way back to his cabin, careful to not trip over the hyperactive corgi.
Once back at the cabin, Sam headed towards his car and started pulling out some of the extra rations he had brought for the trip. Ellen had warned him that he would be searching for the familiars and that Dean would probably cooking for them. So she sent him with enough food for a small army.
Dean chose to set up and cook outside, with so many bodies and not that much room inside the cabin. It was awesome for him, and great for a plus one, but it was iffy at three and not meant for more than that. As prepped and cooked the food for the group, his eyes kept traveling back to the familiars. They had been through so much, but they looked at peace.
It brought a spark of joy to his heart that he could help them heal, but it reminded him of what he believed he could never have. And watching Sam with the fox of the group stung him even more. Dean started to lose himself to his moping when the startled squeal of a ferret on the back of corgi and the laughter of the two men brought him back to reality.
Déardaoin cleared his throat. "Alright, as promised, especially since you three appear to be settling in." He pointed at his clan members. "I said there would be introductions." He started by picking up the ferret and setting it on the table. "This little trouble maker is Charlie. She's feisty, and always getting into trouble."
The ferret squeaked, apparently in defiance, then scampered her way over to Dean.
"He can't understand you, Charlie.”
Dean put his hand down and let her scamper up and sit on his shoulder. "I think a shoulder ferret is cooler than a parrot. Does that earn me points?"
"With Charlie? Yes." The familiar in human form smiled. "The fox, who is currently resting her head on your lap, Sam, is Amy."
"Hello, Amy." Sam gently scratched behind her ear. "I can't wait until your strength is back so we can talk."
Dean smiled at his brother and could have sworn that he heard the ferret on his shoulder sigh contently.
"The assbutt Corgi that is running around is my older brother, Gabriel. He came under the bribe of sweets, and that we would help him find his witch, Kali. He's cut off from restoring his power until he's with her again."
Gabriel barked and chased his tail.
"No, Gabe, you're not going to stay a dog permanently. You'll get enough power to change back to your human form if you rest for two seconds."
Gabriel sat down for precisely two seconds before running around again.
Finally, Déardaoin looked at Dean and gave him his full attention. "As for me, I am Castiel. Youngest son of the Angelus Clan."
"Castiel." Dean tested the name out on his tongue. "It suits you."
"You're the first person to say that. Even Gabriel makes fun of it." Castiel smiled. "I apologize for intruding on you like I have. You've been so kind."
Dean rubbed the back of his neck. "Dude, I fed you canned tuna, I'm sorry."
"You had no idea that I was a familiar. Even then, it was like ambrosia to me. I hadn't eaten in at least a day. My magic was so weak, I'm surprised I had anything left. I had been using my powers to keep us hidden." Castiel shoved his hands in his pockets.
"Then why did you come to me?"
Castiel blushed and looked down. When he didn't answer, Dean felt a little nudge against his cheek from the ferret on his shoulder.
"Hey, Castiel. What did you mean when you spoke to me in my dream? That I was more than dreaming?"
"What all do you know about Familiars?"
Sam looked up at Castiel's question. "We don't know much. We've never resonated."
Castiel turned and smiled at Sam. "You will soon, Sam." He turned and looked back at Dean. "And you started last night."
Dean's heart skipped a beat. "You, in my dream?"
"You knew me, but you didn't know my human form." Castiel moved closer to Dean. "You recognized something, though."
"Your eyes." Dean closed his own eyes remember the not-a-dream from the night before. "I would know those eyes anywhere." Dean felt the ferret sigh on his shoulder again. "What is she? A hopeless romantic?"
Castiel chuckled. "Charlie very much believes in true love, soulmates, familiar bonds." He held his hand out to Dean's shoulder. "Come on, Charlie." When she refused to move, he leaned in and stage whispered, "I can't kiss him if you're on his shoulders."
The ferret scrambled across Castiel's arm and ran down on to the table, turning around and watching them expectantly.
"Sorry Kiddo, you're not going to see that. I need to finish cooking dinner. You guys need to get your strength back." Dean patted Charlie's head before walking back to his makeshift kitchen.
The ferret exploded into angry chirps and squeaks, disappointed at being duped.
Dean finished cooking and plating up the food, and more than happily helped feed Charlie while Sam fed Amy and Castiel fed Gabriel. Sam joked about having the weirdest family dinner ever.
After dinner, Charlie ran off to play with Gabriel again, and Amy came over to finally meet Dean. Sam took that opportunity to call Ellen and give her an update on what was happening. Castiel, being in human form, was able to speak somewhat on Amy's behalf, like he had for Charlie and Gabriel, and confirmed that Amy was resonating with Sam.
"The reason Sam hasn't felt it yet is that, like I was, Amy is still weak and needs to regain her strength. Once she has a little extra magic to spare, the bond will form naturally." Castiel paused and thought on his next words. "I will say being in your wards is rejuvenating. I felt guilty leaving them alone as long as I did, but between getting injured, you healing me, and then, well..." Castiel blushed.
"Perhaps another night here for all of you will do you good?" Dean blurted out.
Cas raised his eyebrow. "All of us?"
"I feel the pull now, and of course I want you to stay. But I know that you won't be ok unless they're ok. And I want them to be ok also." Dean shook his head and shrugged. "I have a loft that Sam sleeps in when he stays. I'm sure he can get up there ok, and I don't think you're going to pull this beautiful girl away from him." Dean scratched Amy behind her ears.
"And Charlie and Gabe?"
"You've been in there. I have tons of baskets for storage. We can give one to Charlie to nest in for the night. Gabe, I mean, I know it's not pleasant, but I have spare blankets and pillows, I can set him up with a bed on the floor out of the way so no one trips." Dean looked at Castiel. "I can make everyone fit."
"You mentioned everyone but me." Castiel tilted his head.
"Oh. Uh. I assumed." Dean turned bright red. "I'm sorry, Cas."
"What did you assume?" The corner of Cas' mouth quirked up into a sly smile.
Dean shook his head. "The familiar bond thing, and you know." He stumbled over his words. "You can have the bed. I can steal a pillow and sleep on the floor."
"No." Cas shook his head. "Absolutely not."
"Well, you're not..."
"No, I'm not," Cas interrupted.
"You were just messing with me, weren't you?" Dean asked, his face twisting into a fake pout.
"I was." Cas leaned across the table and kissed Dean softly on the cheek. "How did I get so lucky that I have a witch who is all about family, and willing to take in what's left of me and mine when I need it the most?"
Dean blushed. "How did I get so lucky that my familiar was able to charm me as a cat? And put up with the fact that I have an allergy to cats?"
"You did not just ruin my attempt to be ruin romantic, with reminding me of the fact that you were barely able to breathe through your nose."
"I think that's actually quite romantic." Dean smiled, biting his bottom lip to keep from laughing. "It means that I'm willing to show my gross side for you."
"Well, luckily, that shouldn't be an issue once we're fully bonded." Cas reached his hand across the table, offering it to Dean.
Sam returned, and Amy bounded back over to him, walking back with him. "Who's fully bonded now?"
"No one yet, Sammy. Go set up the loft. You and Amy can crash up there." Dean took Cas' hand and stood up, pulling Cas to his feet. "Let's go get the rest of the family settled in for the night. We have forever to figure out you and me, Cas."
Dean pulled Cas into a warm embrace, starting the steps to completing their bond with a real, waking-world, first kiss.