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Familiar Shelter

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The days leading up to Halloween were always especially stressful at the animal shelter. Normally, they didn’t get a witch for months. But as Halloween approached, lots of witches needed help, and the magic pull was so strong that they came from far away, like moths to a flame.

Cas, like all familiars, could tell when he was in the presence of a witch—it wasn’t like they needed a secret handshake or anything. Although, they did have to keep what they were doing a secret. After all, cooperation between witches and familiars was forbidden since people were scared of witches becoming too powerful.

Of course, what humans didn’t realize was that sometimes, a witch and a familiar just needed each other. Not because they were power-hungry and wanted to take over the world, but because their magic was out of balance and they needed help to keep it in check. Yin and yang and all that.

Hence, when Cas had opened the animal shelter, he had come up with the idea to use it as a cover to bring witches and familiars together when they were in need of help.

They had seven familiars working at the shelter, which was more than enough to get them by from December through September. But now, on October 30th, all of his familiars were busy with witch-helping duties through the end of November.

Of course, that’s when yet another witch came by the animal shelter. One that hadn’t been in before, so Cas assumed he had to be from further away or had to have moved here only recently. After all, Cas knew all the local witches by now.

“Hey there.” The witch smiled at him brightly, his aura so fascinating that Cas kept staring at it before he realized he was supposed to look into his eyes and—whoa! Those eyes were something else.

“I’m looking for a dog for my brother,” the witch continued while all Cas could do was gape at him.

“Dog?” he repeated dumbly.

“You do have dogs here, right?”

Finally, Cas cleared his throat, giving his brain time to come back online. “Yes. Yes, of course. Follow me, please.”

It had been a while since he had worked with a witch. That had to be the reason for his awkward blundering. As the owner of the animal shelter and the supervisor of the familiars, his task was mostly to delegate, but since he was responsible for the shelter, he hardly ever helped a witch himself. He sent out Charlie or Samandriel or Rowena instead.

Maybe his own familiar was getting lonely. It wasn’t just witches who needed familiars from time to time—it worked the other way around too.

There was only a tiny trace of magical residue Cas could feel coming from the witch. He was either not a very powerful witch or it was way past time for him to seek help.

“So, who’s this?” the witch asked.

Cas hadn’t even realized that his feet had brought him to the dogs on autopilot.

He told the witch the stories of some of the dogs who were desperately in need of a loving home (which, let’s face it, were most of them). While his mouth said all the right things, keeping it professional, his mind imagined what it would be like to have the witch pet him and connect their essences in order to recharge his magic.

“So, Cas-teel,” the witch said, reading the nametag wrong.

“Castiel,” Cas corrected.

“Cas,” the witch decided. “Which one would you take?”

“Freckles,” Cas said, which was coincidentally also what he had been thinking about.

“Excuse me?” the witch said, eyebrows shooting up, and Cas quickly motioned to the dog in question.

“He has such a sad—past,” he caught himself just in time before ‘aura’ could slip out. “He deserves all the happiness in the world.” Something to take away the sadness.

They continued talking, about how most people only wanted puppies and about how hard it was to find volunteers to walk or play with the animals. Then the conversation somehow moved away from animals and to family because the witch (“Call me Dean.”) was trying to find a good fit for his brother.

When Dean laughed at something Cas said (even though he hadn’t intended it as a joke), the corners of his eyes crinkled and his aura pulsated in rhythm with his laughter.

Maybe the fact that all of Cas’ familiars had already been assigned witches to help wasn’t a problem after all. Cas’ familiar could take care of one witch.

“Hey man, you okay?” Dean asked. “You keep looking past me.” He looked behind himself, searching for what it was Cas had looked at.

When he didn’t see anything, he turned back around, eyebrows raised.

“No… I mean yes… I… Sorry,” Cas babbled.

He felt himself turn red. It wasn’t polite to stare at someone’s aura. But he kind of had the feeling that Dean hadn’t even picked up on the fact that he was a familiar. It was a lot harder for witches to recognize familiars than the other way around because there was no magical residue for them to pick up on.

That was fine by Cas. Rule number one when helping a witch was never to show them your human form. If all they ever saw was the animal, they had no way of tracking them down and if the witches didn’t know who the familiars were in human form, that just offered more safety for their whole operation. Plausible deniability. “No, there are no familiars here, officer.”

After the witch had chosen a dog (Freckles, Cas was happy to note) and filled out the paperwork, Cas peeked over to see that luckily, he didn’t live far away.

“Moved here recently?” he asked.

“Yes. How did you know?”

Cas shrugged his shoulders. “Small town.”

“Well, maybe we’ll run into each other again,” Dean said, doing something weird with his eyebrows and tone of voice.

“I’m sure we will,” Cas said.

He had off tomorrow after six. Dean needed a familiar’s help and what better day than Halloween to give it to him?