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Felix in Aeternum

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Chapter one

"Hey Cas, check this one out!"

Castiel turns away from the pumpkin carved like Jack Skellington and raises one eyebrow at Charlie. She beckons to him from further down the display.

Honestly, she's like one of the kids here at the Lawrence Pumpkin Festival rather than acting her thirty-two years, but it's one of the things that Cas loves about his best friend. He smiles fondly as he walks over to her, admiring the Death Star pumpkin she's pointing to.

"That's pumpkin goals, right there," she says, moving excitedly on to the next part of the display.

Cas stifles a yawn as he follows her around. He had been all for dinner at Waffle House with his best friend on this Friday night, but it’s been a long, irritating day at work and he could really have done without the trip around this festival she’s dragged him to, no matter how cleverly designed the thousands of jack-o-lanterns are. There’s a chilly breeze blowing up the street which seems to be blowing right through his jacket. He shudders.

The lights flicker, with an odd fizzing noise.

Cas stops, looking around where he’s standing. He’s lagging behind Charlie at the moment, and the only other people are a long way behind him. He should probably find someone to warn, if the electric lights are faulty—someone could get hurt.

The lights fizz again, and Cas takes a step back from the pumpkins, their leering faces suddenly a little ominous. Something rustles in the bushes just behind where he stands. He turns and hurries to catch up to Charlie, who has been chatting animatedly to a girl who appears to be the current attendant.

“So basically, Kylo Ren should’ve kept his mask on to stay way more badass!” Charlie says, while the other girl nods along, smiling. They both turn to look at Cas as he approaches, Charlie saying, “You okay, Cas? You look a little spooked.” She turns to grin at the other girl, who smiles at Cas apologetically.

“Um, yeah, I’m fine. The lights back there are flickering a little, though. Might want to check them out,” he says to the girl as he gestures back over his shoulder.

Charlie speaks up before the girl can get a word in. “Really? They were fine here. Sorry, I didn’t introduce you. Dorothy, this is my bestie, Castiel. Cas, this is Dorothy. She’s also at KU, just looking after the pumpkins while they’re here.”

“Hi,” Dorothy says, reaching out to shake Cas’ hand.

He smiles at her. “Nice to meet you. Sorry Charlie, but is it okay if we go? I’m freezing.”

Charlie frowns. “Okay then.” Her smile returns, sunny as always. “Nice to chat with you, Dorothy. See you around sometime!”

They head back towards where Charlie’s car is parked in a side street, but on the way, Charlie stops and grabs Cas’ arm.

“Wait. Just…one sec?” She takes off back up the street.

Cas calls after her, “Why? What’re you doing?”

“I’ll be right back!” she yells.

Cas stands on the sidewalk, the street quiet, dark and empty around him. “I’ll just wait here then,” he mutters, then hears a soft mew from behind him. As he turns, a cat bumps its furry head into his shin. He blinks down at it.

It’s not like he has anything against cats—his mother had one when he was growing up, but it would never come near him, always hissed and ran away. This one doesn’t seem to have the same aversion to him as it rubs its head all over his legs.

“Hey there,” he murmurs, letting the cat sniff his hand before it nuzzles into his palm. Its fur is soft and perfectly black under the orange street light, and as he runs a hand down its back, he feels a crackling kind of static under it. That’s funny, he would’ve thought it was too damp at this time of year to be getting a static charge like that. He rubs the cat behind the ears, smiling as it starts up a loud purr, its eyes almost completely closed. “You like that, huh?” he asks, blinking in surprise as the cat opens its eyes to stare at him, its bright green eyes shining.

The cat stays still for longer than Cas might have expected a cat to, just staring at him. He feels pinned in place by the gaze.

“Aw, you made a friend,” Charlie says behind Cas, making him jump. The cat seems to snap out of its staring match as Charlie continues, “What a sweet little kitty. Here, puss puss,” she calls, leaning down next to Cas and holding out her hand for the cat to rub its head on. “He doesn’t have a collar or anything. I wonder if he lives around here.” Charlie stands up and looks around. “Okay, mission successful. I got her number,” she says, grinning and holding up her phone.

“Nice work,” Cas says, getting back to his feet. Charlie starts heading off towards her car, but Castiel looks down at the cat. It’s sitting on its haunches, looking up at him, its big, green eyes still gazing up at him. “See you ‘round,” he murmurs, reaching down and scratching the cat’s ears again.

He stands and walks away after Charlie, and when he turns to glance back over his shoulder, the cat is still sitting there in the pool of light from the streetlamp, still and quiet.

***

Castiel’s life is boring, he’ll be the first to admit, but that's just how he likes it. He has a steady job as a technical writer, works with his best friend, and lives alone in a comfortable, ground-floor apartment. Each morning he grabs coffee from a place on his walk to the office, and eats at the cafe downstairs for lunch, often with Charlie. He keeps his place tidy and attempts to keep the potted plants around his back courtyard alive, with mixed results.

It’s all very predictable, which suits him. He’s okay with living alone—has for a few years now. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happens to him. Which is why, when he’s walking home from work on a rainy October thirtieth, he’s surprised to see a black cat sitting on his doorstep, staring at him.

Castiel struggles with his umbrella as he fumbles with his keys, trying not to get wet in the drizzling rain as he puts the key in the door then stops, looking down at the wet, miserable-looking cat that has now stopped staring at him and is now staring out into the busy street instead.

It couldn't be…could it? It certainly looks like the black cat from a few nights ago—black fur, green eyes, about the right size—but the pumpkin festival had been two neighbourhoods over. How would the same cat have got here? It couldn't be, he chides himself. What a stupid idea.

The cat looks up at him again. It meows quietly, pitifully, and Castiel’s heart clenches in his chest, despite knowing full well that animals, especially cats, might look cute but will happily kill you in your sleep.

He sighs. It's supposed to be cold out tonight, maybe even below freezing. He may regret this.

He unlocks his front door and walks inside, putting his umbrella down to shake it out and making the cat flinch at the shower of droplets. "Sorry, kitty," he mutters, moving further inside to put his laptop bag down on the coffee table

When he gets back to the partially open door, the cat is peering inside. It doesn't flinch when Castiel opens the door a little wider, just looks up at him with those wide, green eyes.

"Would you care to come inside?" he asks formally, bowing at the waist.

The cat makes a noise that Cas thinks is a sneeze, but also sounds a little like a laugh. He blinks—where the hell had that come from?

The cat gets to its feet, pushes one front paw out in front in a languous stretch, then the other, and struts into the apartment, head high and looking around with curiosity.

"Huh," Cas says, closing the front door against the rainy evening, and follows the cat as it checks out each room of the apartment in turn—the living room, the kitchen, and down the hall to the bedrooms and bathroom. It pads back into the living room and stops on the carpet in front of the radiator, where it sits down and starts to clean its wet fur.

Cas isn’t quite sure what to do next. Should he try to dry the cat? It seems to be doing a great job of cleaning its own fur, so he heads into the kitchen in search of dinner. He certainly doesn’t have any cat food in the house—he vaguely remembers that cow’s milk is bad for cats, so he finds some minced beef in the freezer to defrost and dump in a bowl. Filling another bowl with water, he places them on the floor in the kitchen, hoping the cat will find them eventually. He doesn’t want to rush it.

He grabs leftover pizza from the fridge and heads back to the living room, settling in front of the TV and opening his laptop to do a little work.

After a few minutes, the cat pauses in its tongue-bath to jump up on the couch and walk over to Cas, sniffing at the pizza in his hand. Cas holds the food away from the cat, saying, “Uh-uh, pizza is not for cats.”

The cat fixes him with a flat stare.

“Your food is in the kitchen!” he says defensively before wondering why he’s justifying himself, but it seems to work, because the cat jumps down and disappears for a little while.

When it returns, it jumps back up on the opposite end of the couch from Cas and resumes cleaning itself, licking its paw and rubbing at its face.

Cas watches it for a moment, distracted from the TV. “I wonder where you came from. Are you the same cat I met the other night?” Cas asks, and the cat resolutely ignores him. He continues speaking softly, “Are you a boy cat or a girl cat? You’re quite tall for a cat, but I guess that doesn’t mean anything. Do you have a name? Maybe I should name you.” Cas stops sharply. No, you only name pets, and this cat was certainly not a pet, and wouldn’t be staying here. This was just while it was cold and wet outside. He wasn’t even sure if the building association would let him keep a cat here.

The cat finishes its bath and curls up in a circle, tucking its head onto its front paws. Cas would reach over and pat it, but it’s just out of reach, and when he tries to shuffle over and puts a hand out, the cat lifts its head and glares at him. He retreats back to his end of the couch, disgruntled.

“What the use of having a cat if it won’t let you touch it?” he asks, giving the cat the side eye. "You'd better not have fleas."

The cat glares right back, then puts its head down and goes to sleep.

When Cas’ show finishes, and he gets up to shower and get ready for bed, the cat doesn’t stir.

***

Castiel wakes up slowly, aware of his alarm going off but not willing to move, even to turn it off. He'd been dreaming, but the content was hazy—all he knows it that it left him uneasy, like something had been after him, but he was barely keeping ahead of it.

He should get up, but it's so warm and comfortable in bed. He rolls onto his back and freezes when something moves beside him. The cat stretches out long on the bed, then curls up where it had been tucked into Cas' back, and goes back to sleep.

Cas stares at it, not sure what to do next. He should really kick the cat out, if not out of his apartment, certainly out of his bed—what if it really does have fleas?

But as he looks down at its soft ears, the peaceful look on its sleeping face, he finds he can't bring himself to disturb it. He tries to get up carefully, but as soon as the blankets are disturbed, the cat is awake and staring at him again.

"Morning, puss," he murmurs. "I should really give you a name. How about…" He pauses, trying to remember fictional cat names. "Felix? Phantom? Maybe…Binx?"

The cat turns its nose up and sticks one foot in the air, licking its butt clean like it was telling Cas exactly what it thought of his ideas.

Cas snorts a laugh and gets up, heading for the bathroom in just his boxers. "Fine, I'll keep thinking."

The cat is still sitting in a warm puddle of blankets when he gets out of the shower, watching him carefully as he crosses the room to his closet. He pauses, work clothes in hand. "Could you just…look away, please?"

Cas is sure he must be going crazy, because he's sure he saw the cat's eyes widen before it lies back down, snuggling into the blankets and closes its eyes again. "Huh. I guess you think you live here now, don't you," he says as he throws on his black suit pants and a white dress shirt. As he selects his blue tie, he adds, "I can't let you stay inside all day in case you need the bathroom, I'm afraid." He glances at the bed. The cat's head is still resting on its paws, but its eyes are open, regarding Cas. "You're gonna have to go out."

Why the hell is he talking to a cat? He wonders if this is how crazy cat ladies are born—one day a cat adopts you, then you start losing your mind.

The cat follows him out into the kitchen, rubbing up against his legs as he makes some toast. He steps around it, wondering what he should do. He could take the cat to a vet, or a shelter? But didn't they just put stray animals down? He doesn't want to be responsible for a death—besides, a beautiful, healthy cat like this must belong to someone. Perhaps he could ask around, see if anyone's lost a cat.

The toast pops and he reaches for it, but as he grabs it a spark jumps from the toaster, burning his fingertips. Dumping the toast on the bench top while cursing loudly, he turns on the the cool water faucet and sticks his stinging fingers into the stream. Is there something wrong with the wiring in his apartment? The toaster shouldn’t be faulty—he’d only bought it recently.

As he stands there, the cat jumps up on the counter, sniffing at the water running in the sink.

"Hey, get down from there, Felix!"

Ignoring Cas completely, the cat butts its head against his wrist, making a shiver travel along his arm. Cas stares as it jumps down again, heading over to its water bowl, drinking in a few long laps.

Castiel removes his hand from the water and inspects his fingertips, finding only completely smooth, ordinary skin. It mustn’t have been as bad a burn as he thought, he muses as he turns off the faucet and wipes his hands dry.

As he finishes getting ready for work, the cat follows him around and sits near him, licking its paws or just watching him in an unnerving way. It jumps up on the counter again and watches him as he puts on his shoes, then slowly, deliberately, pushes the salt shaker off the edge of the counter with one paw, watching with interest as it clatters to the floor.

Salt sprays everywhere as the top pops off, and Cas jumps to his feet. "Hey!"

The cat flinches at his shout, but gives him a smug kind of look.

"That's it, you're definitely not staying in here while I'm gone," he mutters, shrugging on his tan trenchcoat and slinging his laptop bag over his shoulder. He moves warily over to the cat and puts his hand out slowly, giving it a chance to back away if it wasn't interested, but the cat puts its wet nose right into Cas' palm, nuzzling into it. He strokes across its head and scratches behind its soft ears, and wonders why this feels so comforting. He'll be sad when he finds the cat's real home and has to say goodbye.

He carefully fits his hand around the cat's middle, picking it up against his chest. It's faint, but Cas can certainly hear, can feel, the cat purring.

He sets the cat down outside the front door and closes it firmly behind them both. "Sorry, puss, but you can't stay. Go home, be happy."

He walks off down the street, but when he turns just before the corner, the cat is still sitting on his front step, watching him.

***

Cas sighs, pushing his chair back. He refuses to take his laptop home with him tonight—he's sick of trying to get this document finished.

He's had meeting after meeting today, and even when he'd managed to avoid the stupid dress-up lunch for Halloween that Charlie had been so excited about, he hadn't been able to get much work done because both of his monitors had been on the fritz, randomly turning off and fuzzing out now and then.

He put his trenchcoat back on and walked over to Charlie, putting his hand on her shoulder with a little squeeze.

"I'll see you tomorrow. Have fun tonight."

She looks up at him, smiling. "You sure you don't want to come along? I have it on good authority that there'll be lots of eligible guys there?"

Castiel lets out a short laugh. Charlie's always trying to hook him up with someone or other, and while he's well and truly moved on from his last disastrous relationship, the idea of trying to meet someone at a party just fills him with dread.

"No, that's okay. I've got candy for the kids and Making a Murderer with my name on it."

"Okay then! Enjoy snuggle time with your kitty!" Charlie grins.

Cas shakes his head. "I hope it's long gone now, honestly. I have enough trouble looking after myself, let alone a pet."

"I dunno, Cas, it might be good for you," Charlie says with a shrug.

Cas huffs. "Sure. I'll see you tomorrow."

He heads out to the elevator, but when he reaches out his fingers to press the button there's a crackling snap and a visible arc of electricity to his fingertips.

"What the…?" he mutters. He's not game to try the button again so he heads back to the office door to call out, "Charlie? Don't use the elevator, something's wrong with it."

He gets a garbled affirmative response—Charlie must be head-down in code again. He heads back to the lift but turns to take the stairs instead, hurrying down the several flights to the ground floor.

"Hey, Benny?" he says to the security guard behind the concierge desk. "Could you get someone out to look at the elevators? It nearly electrocuted me when I tried to press the button on level five."

Benny nods amiably. "I'll call someone out, Cas. You have a good night now, brother."

"Thanks. You too," Cas replies, and heads out to the street.

Thankfully the rain has cleared, and even in the few blocks to his apartment he sees kids dressed up in various costumes—mostly superheroes, but there are several witches and one kid dressed as a convincing vampire, with red blood dripping down his chin.

As Cas gets closer to home, he sees a group of trick or treaters at his door, clustered around something on the ground. Even from across the street, he sees the black cat, weaving between legs, and hears the delighted sighs of the children as they pat it.

Little social butterfly, Cas thinks, smiling to himself. Looks like he'll have company for another night. Crazy cat lady, here I come.

A shout from higher in the building distracts him just before he crosses the road—the noisy neighbours two floors up seem to be having a Halloween party, although he really wishes they weren’t drinking out on the balcony at five pm when the kids are still around.

As Cas watches, a girl leans out over the balcony with a glass bottle in her hand, and a kid jostles her from behind making her fumble the bottle. She drops it, and it spins lazily in the air towards the children and cat below.

Cas sees this and rushes forward onto the road, shouting "look out!" with his hand stretched out in front of him, wishing he could catch the bottle.

A zap of electricity shoots down his arm and crackles between his fingers for barely a moment…and the glass bottle slams against the side of his building next to his front door, smashing into pieces and coating the brown brick in something blue.

A few of the kids shriek and jump back, and the adult with them turns to look around behind her—right at Cas, who is rushing across the road towards them.

Her eyes widen. "Did you throw that bottle at us? What are you, some kinda psycho?!" she shouts.

"No, no, it was falling—" Cas begins, but she cuts him off, holding a couple of the children closer to her.

"Come on, let's go, this guy's dangerous. Expect to hear from the cops, mister!" She marches the kids away, a few of them looking back at him with open curiosity.

Cas looks down at his hand, sparks of electricity still arcing faintly between his fingers. Maybe she's right, he thinks, panic starting to claw its way up his throat. He fumbles his keys out of his coat pocket and opens the door, and is nearly tripped over by a furry black streak as the cat darts into the apartment.

Cursing, Cas dumps his keys quickly and moves into the living room, switching on the light as he goes and earning a small zap as he does. He stands in the middle of the room and stares at his hands as bright, fizzling electricity arcs between his fingers like a plasma ball he'd once seen at the science museum. The prickling feeling as it moves across his skin is not unpleasant, but there's a tightness in his chest, expanding slowly. His heart hammers as he looks down at the rest of him and sees more lightning rolling across his trenchcoat and down his legs.

He slowly brings his palms close to each other, watching as a ball of light between them grows so bright that he can barely look at it. The light bulb above his head blows with a pop, sparks raining down around him. The cat hisses and runs behind the couch as Cas feels something warm and bright roaring along his limbs.

He closes his eyes tightly and cries out as it erupts out of him, pouring out of his fingers and down into the earth.

After what feels like hours but may have only been a few seconds, Cas hears a scuffle behind his couch, and he opens his eyes to find that the electricity has gone. There’s still something powerful racing along his veins, but he’s not on fire, so that’s a start.

The pitch dark inside the apartment presses in on him, stifling. Waiting.

He hears the scuffle again, then a long, drawn-out groan. A human groan.

“Freaking finally!”

A man’s voice.

Cas stands completely still, his heart thundering in his ears. His hand goes slowly to his pocket, fishing out his phone. Amazingly it’s still functional, and he fires up the flashlight, holding the phone up to shine around the darkened room.

A man is standing behind the couch. A tall, naked, man.

“Hi,” he says, grinning disarmingly.

A tall, naked, very attractive man.

“I’m Dean,” he says.