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Cas and Sam are assholes

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It starts around four in the morning: a distinct scratching sound from the vicinity of the closet. Not nails-on-a-chalkboard type scratching—it’s not grating—just an impatient scritch scritch scritch, kinda like the way it sounds when he’s itching his own scalp, only louder.

The scratches come in sets of three. At first, Dean thinks he imagined it—one of those freaky dreams that follows you out like an STD—but there it is again (scritch scritch scritch) and again a few seconds later. He’s been woken up by countless weird noises over the years, hazard of the job, and he’s ready to write this one off as a tree branch on the roof or an animal on the other side of his motel door, when he remembers that they’re underground, buffered by a gauntlet of enchantments. It’s not possible that what he’s hearing is something off the standard nighttime soundtrack. He pushes up on an elbow and squints into the dark, listening.

Nothing. Maybe something got into the HVAC system and is rattling around. He rolls over to ask Cas if he heard anything, but dude’s outta bed already. He doesn’t sleep more than a couple hours a night, then grinds his eyes open with coffee and is generally bitchy until he’s sucked down three cups. After that, he’s just petulant. Freaking dork. Sammy’s talked about upgrading to an espresso machine, so Dean mentioned that someone needs to upgrade his damned bedtime. He stretches into Cas’s half of the bed. The sheets are cold; he’s been up for a while.

The noise, whatever it was, has stopped. Dean yawns and rubs at his face and wonders if he’s hearing things.

A rattle signals the door opening. It creaks closed under its own weight as Cas climbs back into bed, fits himself along Dean’s side, and sighs contentedly. Dean fists Cas’s shirt, mouths the hollow of his throat. He nudges his head between Cas’s neck and shoulder and leaves it there.

Cas smells good, sleepy and warm, and maybe this qualifies as cuddling, but Dean’s decided that’s permitted before 8am. Besides, Cas has never been big on personal space, and these sessions usually end with orgasms, anyway.

 


 

The noise is back a few hours later, when it’s properly morning and Dean’s actually considering getting up. It’s definitely scratching, but now there’s another layer to it, like someone dashing back and forth across a room. The origin has moved. It sounds more like it’s coming from inside the wall than the closet, and Dean considers the pain in the balls it’d be to get an exterminator in here. The pattern is too regular to be ambient household noise, but it’s not Cas and it’s definitely not Sam—doesn’t sound heavy enough. Maybe Sammy’s just got his TV turned up loud.

Cas is already back out of bed, earlier than usual—he likes to be there when Dean wakes up—which leaves Dean’s cell phone as his only witness, but he’s not sure the sound’s loud enough for his phone’s mic to pick it up. He fumbles it and presses his thumb to the red record button anyway and shoves the phone at Sammy across the breakfast table.

“What is this?” Sam asks, one eye open to a slit, mouth sealed around his coffee.

“Shut up and listen,” Dean orders and wonders how much rock salt they’ve got on hand.

Sam looks unimpressed. “I don’t hear anything,” he says.

Dean sighs and sets the phone down and goes to make toast. Cas shows his feathers a few minutes later, freshly showered and stony faced, just in time to hear Sam say, “So get this” and ramble about a suspicious death about an hour outside Omaha. Cas falls into the chair next to Dean and gropes a coffee mug.

“Could be a siren,” Sam says with a troubling degree of hope, proving that he still has two eyes by opening them both. Dean rolls his before Sam can shift from catatonic to Labrador mode and holds up a hand.

“Alright,” he says. “We’ll take a road trip.” He nudges Cas’s leg under the table.

Cas has the grace to glower at him and add more sugar to his coffee.

“You coming along for the ride?” Dean prompts.

There’s this weird moment where Cas shifts in his chair like he’s got a back cramp or he’s trying to hide a boner, before he glances up and across the table at Sammy, who very obviously makes an “it’s up to you” face. Which very obviously pisses Dean off, because why’s it matter if Sam cares whether Cas comes with them or not? Dean’s the one sleeping with him.

He rips off a corner of toast between his teeth, dropping a hand to Cas’s knee, and is three drafts into a hilarious “coming” joke when Cas clears his throat and grunts, “You two go. I’ll stay here, if it’s not a problem.”

“Course not,” Sam consoles him.

It’s a problem. It’s a big freaking problem that his—that Cas and Sam have apparently invented their own private Cas and Sam language and are keeping secrets now. Cas was probably in Sam’s room this morning when Dean woke up alone, cross-legged at the end of Sam’s bed, moon-eyed, talking about feelings like they’re best girlfriends, and Dean’s twelve, isn’t he. Christ. Is he honestly losing his shit because his brother and his angel do stuff that doesn’t involve him?

Winchester, he counsels himself, your insecurity is showing.

“No problem,” he insists brightly, then pulls Cas in for a kiss. Gives him tongue in front of Sammy. Jerk deserves a show. He knots his fingers into Cas’s hair and sucks on his lip for good measure.

Cas has no shame when it comes to sex. It’s just another aspect of being human, like hunger and thirst, so when he turns in his chair and gropes Dean’s crotch, it’s on. Dean throws a parade in his head, groaning as Cas palms his dick. The moment’s crowned by Sam’s mumbled, “Guys, seriously,” and the unceremonious scrape of chair legs, echo of a moose in retreat.

 


 

Impromptu kitchen sex lifts the funk, so Dean’s almost sweet to Castiel as he’s tossing a bag into the Impala’s trunk and does a last-minute sweep of the trunk’s weapon store. Beretta, check. Glock, check. Ithaca and bag of salt shells, check. Grenade launcher (you never know), check. Flare gun, check. Bronze dagger, good to go. Everything’s accounted for, but they could always use more salt.

“Call if you need anything,” he says to Cas. “Or if you ... don’t.”

“Why would I call you with no purpose?" Cas asks through a frown, with a minute head shake, like he thinks Dean thinks he's an idiot.

Dean slams the trunk closed with an injured scowl and barely cringes when Sam says, quietly, “He means you can call him just to say hi, Cas.”

“Oh. Of course,” Cas says knowingly and nods.

Dean’s pissed he’s staying behind. He knows Cas feels weird about hunting now that he’s running grace-free, but he’s still helpful, even if all he manages is to make Dean laugh while he’s scrubbing blood out of his clothes. Wish you were coming, he thinks and terrifies himself with the sentiment.

What comes out is “Don’t burn the place down,” which spurs the unavoidable “Why would I—?” that Dean kisses silent. Not too soft, not too hard, the good kind you replay in the shower. Sammy’s screwing around with his laptop case’s zipper, so Dean takes his time with it, teasing Cas’s mouth open, and hovers playfully. He doesn’t quite dive in. Cas lets him linger, hooking his fingers through Dean’s belt loops, and tugs so their hips are flush.

The erection against his hip is proof that Cas is aroused. He kisses Dean generously, with feeling behind it, oblivious to Sam’s attempts to signal them when he’s finally ready to leave. But when Sam clears his throat a third time, Cas growls and it makes Dean’s stomach flip. He goes half hard and doesn’t bother to conceal it as he pulls back, winks, and gets into the driver’s seat. Cas leans in through the open window, so Dean kisses him again, sloppily this time, until Sam looks appropriately homicidal.

“See you on Sunday,” Dean promises and swipes a wrist across his chin. Cas waves as they roll out.

 


 

Cas doesn’t call him that night, but he does call in the morning to gripe that if the highest toaster setting will inevitably burn the bread, why didn’t the manufacturer stop at level four?

“I dunno, babe, just keep it on three,” Dean mutters with the phone tucked between his shoulder and ear, shocking himself with the endearment.

Sammy’s looking at him with a smug expression across the scuffed diner table, so Dean flicks egg yolk in his face. That makes Sam blink with disgust and exhale heavily as he works it out of his hair. Dean thinks about alleging that Sam and Jess probably used pet names — it’s not like he just invented them — but it feels sacrilegious, even perverse, to invoke her. And why’s he equating Cas with Jessica, anyway?

He tries not to think about it as he snags Sam’s last strip of bacon and raises a hand to flag down the waitress for their check.

 


 

Welcome home sex is a new and wondrous side effect of Cas’s humanity. Dean’s laid out on his back, wrecked, waiting for his heart rate to return to normal. Cas maps Dean’s chest and shoulders and face with his hands. He’s got one cupped around Dean’s cheek. In his post-orgasmic daze, Dean turns his face to kiss the dip of Cas’s palm, his wrist. He feels a rough line against his lips and scowls.

He switches on the light and examines Cas’s forearm. He’s got a series of scratches from his wrist to his elbow. Most are superficial, but a few are deep enough they must’ve bled. They’re scabbed over, the others faint pink trails across his skin.

“What the hell happened?” he asks.

Cas lifts a shoulder, lets it fall.

“How do you not know?” Dean demands. “Did you disinfect them, at least?”

When Cas shakes his head, Dean herds him into the bathroom and pours peroxide over his arm. Cas hisses as the cuts bubble and turn white.

“Better than it getting infected,” Dean snaps, but his thumb is gentle where it presses against Cas’s wrist, brushing lightly over the roadmap of veins, cord of tendons. Youre not invincible anymore, he wants to say but digs out a box of bandages instead. They’re the off-brand kind with shitty adhesive. He sticks five of them on Cas’s arm before they go lie down again. They’ll probably peel off before morning, but it’s something.

Dean rests his head on Cas’s shoulder and is two seconds from unconscious when he hears it: that same distinct, repeated scratching.

“There,” he whispers, “do you hear it?” but Cas kisses his ear and murmurs “Sleep,” which seems a lot more appealing than sourcing mystery noises.

 


 

Forty-eight hours later, Dean’s convinced the bunker is haunted. Again.

Despite its warding, from all the shit that’s been tracked through here over the years, the place might very well have its own army of ghosts trapped in the walls, in the artifacts, in the spaces between floorboards, waiting to be stirred up. Anything that can retain energy is fair game. Between the scratching, the weird pacing, and Cas waking up with mysterious cuts, it screams intelligent haunting. Nothing else makes sense. Hell, Kevin managed it. Dean starts to suspect it’s a poltergeist when he finds Sam gluing together the lamp from Cas’s old room.

“Fell off the nightstand,” he says, pressing his lips into a line as he joins two broken pieces together and holds them until the glue sets.

“Think we got ourselves a ghost, Sammy.”

“That's pretty unlikely.”

“Yeah?” Dean challenges. “Explain Kevin.”

“Kevin’s an exception,” Sam says. “I really think you’re spending too much time indoors. You need to get out more.”

You need to get out more,” Dean shoots back.

Sam huffs, unimpressed. Dean sighs and makes a fresh pot of coffee. He sneezes as he waits for it to start brewing, wiping his nose on his robe (Sam glares but looks sympathetic), then sneezes again.

“If I’m getting a cold, I’m gonna be pissed,” he mutters and pours a bowl of cereal. He opens the fridge door for the milk but finds the empty carton next to the sink. “Dude, not cool,” he gripes and exhales in defeat.

“I’ll pick up more when I’m out,” Sam offers, so Dean settles for oatmeal (it’s supposedly good for his cholesterol level and isn’t actually that disgusting once you get past the gluey texture) and wonders why Sammy’s bothering to fix such a fugly lamp.

The ghost or whatever obviously agrees, because it’s broken again by early afternoon. At least it shares Dean’s taste in home décor.

 


 

Dean decides to conduct a preliminary EMF sweep of the bunker. He starts with the bedrooms, checking his closet first (nothing), then heads next door to Cas’s old room. Cas catches him just outside in the hallway, wide-eyed, and immediately offers to help scan half of the bunker.

“It’ll go faster,” he promises and takes the meter from Dean’s hands. Dean shrugs, says “Okay, smart,” and shows him how to work it.

Cas offers to take the bedrooms and kitchen, so Dean takes the library, main hall, and the computer area. The needle doesn’t move. They meet up in the storage room. Cas reports that he found nothing and switches off his meter, hovering at Dean’s shoulder while they scan the rows of shelves, holding Dean’s meter up to box after box.

“Thought you said it’d go faster with both of us working?” Dean says when Cas kisses his neck. He tilts his head to give Cas better access.

Many of the items have residual energy, but nothing strong enough to manifest as sounds. The needle flickers but doesn’t jump. Place has no hot spots. Dean jots down the readings and switches off the meter, worming out of Cas’s arms, and makes them both a sandwich.

Cas stays behind in the kitchen to wash up. Dean’s nose is still running, so he lines his pockets with cheap tissues and prepares for the onslaught of congested airways, landslide of mucus. He gathers his favorite books and DVDs and stakes a claim on the couch.

Sam goes out for groceries and comes back with an armful, tossing a bottle of antihistamines to Dean on his way to put the groceries in the cabinets. Dean scowls at him.

“What the hell is this?” 

“I asked at the pharmacy,” Sam calls from the kitchen. “You can have one every four hours. Should help with your sneezing.” He brings Dean a cup of water. “Find anything earlier?”

“Nope,” Dean says and grudgingly swallows a pill, but thirty minutes later when he’s woozy and his nose has stopped running, he slurs “Thanks” and passes out on the couch.

 


 

He’s startled awake by the sound of breaking glass, the grit of Cas’s voice biting out a curse. Cas emerges from his room pissed off and mulish, muttering, “It fell over” as he portages handfuls of pottery shards to the trash.

That pretty much rules out residual energy, but if breaking lamps and vases is its MO, it’s pretty tame for a poltergeist. They're usually nasty spirits, fucking all kinds of shit up, plus there's still the question of how it could get into the bunker in the first place. And why weren’t there any hot spots? If this thing is strong enough to break shit, it should register on a damned meter. It doesn’t add up.

Dean’s nose is congested. He can’t breathe out of the left-hand side, and it feels like something heavy is sitting on his face, but not in a sexy way. He doesn’t have the energy to get up and go investigate Cas’s old room or the hallway, so he sniffs and sinks back further into the couch.

“It’s just a vase,” Dean says when Cas slumps, sullen, next to him, all up in Dean’s space. He drapes a heavy arm around his shoulders and tugs Dean into his side. Dean sniffs and Cas produces a pack of lotion-infused travel tissues, the really soft kind, from his pocket. He hands them to Dean.

“What’s up with the two of you?” Dean asks and gratefully wipes his nose. It’s like touching a cloud. He’s never buying single-ply again.

“Nothing,” Sam says too quickly. “Do you need another pill?”

“How much money did you blow on the bottle?” Dean asks, looking at it suspiciously.

“It’s only $3.00 for a hundred pills,” Sam says. “Beauty of generics.”

“Huh,” Dean says, groaning as he snatches up the bottle, and chokes down another chalky yellow tablet. He falls asleep on Cas’s shoulder, but he’s got a virus as an excuse, and it’s not like Cas is bothered by chick-flick stuff.

 


 

“...should just tell him. He’ll find out soon enough,” Sam’s saying in the low voice he breaks out when they’re playing feds and he takes Dean aside to point out roadblocks like ethics and local ordinances.

“He’ll be upset,” Cas says in a cautious tone. Dean has just enough energy to crack open an eye and glimpse the line of pearly buttons down Cas’s shirt before it falls closed again. So he’s napping on his former-angel boyfriend in the living room while Sam and Cas talk about shady shit, and everyone’s okay with that. Super. At least he can sort of breathe right now.

“He’ll be pissed,” Sam agrees, but he doesn’t sound concerned. Whatever messed-up situation Cas and Sam have going on, it’s not apocalyptic level. If they put a dent in his Baby, Dean’s pitching Sam’s laptop off the nearest bridge. He can’t summon anything more than a grunt in protest, which earns him a hand ruffling his hair, an awkward kiss to the crown of his head.

“I’m happy for you guys,” Sam says, voice warm with affection, so Dean strikes the possibility that Cas and his little brother are skulking around in a sordid affair. He doesn’t realize Cas is actually holding him until his arms tighten around Dean’s chest. He grips Cas’s shirt and drowsily rubs a cheek into it. “Thought he’d never let himself ...”

Dean mercifully drifts off before he has to endure any more of Sam’s Hallmark card baloney.

 


 

Cas carries him to bed, which is its own grade of humiliating.

“I’m fine,” he insists. Cas hums something under his breath and pulls at Dean’s shirt, untucking it from his jeans, and eases it up and over his head. Dean’s lungs hurt. He can actually feel them, their exact shape, where they’re positioned in his chest. It’s painful when he coughs.

“Ugh,” he groans as Cas helps him into bed. “I feel like crap. How's your arm?”

“Healing.”

“Any new cuts? What about bruising?”

“I’m fine,” Cas assures him. He tugs the blankets up to Dean’s chest. “Can I bring you anything?”

“No,” Dean says miserably. He rubs at his eyes, which itch the way his throat is beginning to itch from the gunk dripping down the back of it. At least the thing isn't currently making any noise, so he can get a few good hours of sleep.

“Do you want me to lie down with you?” Cas asks.

Dean shakes his head, mutters, “Don’t care,” but Cas is already undressing, sliding under the covers, and pulls Dean against him.

“Is this alright?” he asks.

Cas is warm, and though Dean hasn’t developed a fever yet, he burrows into the juncture between Cas’s neck and shoulder. “Yeah.”

 


 

The next morning, he feels slightly better. Last night is foggy. On his way to the bathroom for a shower, he steps on something small and hard. He swears and stops to brush the whatever-it-is from the ball of his foot, deciding from the shape of the grains that it’s rock salt. Sam and Cas were probably filling rounds and got sloppy.

He pops one of his pills and whistles his way into the shower, scrubbing his heels with this green foot-shaped lady tool Sam picked up — it’s effective as hell at sloughing away dead skin, and Dean will never admit that as long as he’s breathing. He steps on more salt on his way back out of the bathroom.

“Hey, dicks,” he snaps at Sam and Cas over breakfast, dispatching a steaming waffle onto a plate. He wasn’t gonna let the waffle iron go unused, Sammy’d hit up this organic market for overpriced strawberries, and whipped cream sounds impressive but is stupidly easy to pull off. He douses Sammy’s plate with syrup and slides it across the table to him, then sits down himself. “There’s a broom in the utility closet. Use it. I stepped on freakin’ rock salt twice today.”

“Of course. I’m sorry,” Cas agrees. He holds a strawberry to Dean’s lips in atonement. Dean sighs but swipes his tongue over Cas’s fingertip, teasing it between his teeth, and feels a little better.

“I’m eating,” Sam says, pained.

“Better eat faster,” Dean advises, but Cas withdraws his finger and prepares a buttery mess that he shoves down his craw like a starving man.

Dean stares at him with a mix of disgust and amusement. It’s a good thing he already loves Cas, because decapitation is more attractive than watching the guy eat. He indicates Cas should chew with his mouth closed by tapping under his chin with an index finger. His stomach does a weird twist when Cas compliments, “You make delicious waffles, Dean,” and smiles all soft.

It’s an hour later, when he’s face down on the mattress and Cas is panting wet against the back of his neck, gasping “Dean, Dean” in time with the roll of his hips, gripping Dean’s hands against the sheets, that Dean realizes he thought of love and Cas in the same sentence.

So that’s unsettling.

 


 

He can’t get the thought out of his head. He’s self-conscious about it by the time he wanders into the kitchen for lunch, like Sammy’ll be able to read it on him, like it’s raised on his face like that friggin’ handprint that still rises to the surface sometimes when he adjusts the shower too hot. Healed, his ass.

“What?” he snaps when Sam looks at him a second too long. Dean snags a beer from the fridge, falls into a chair and fidgets with his collar. It’s obviously out to choke him. He unfastens it and clears his throat.

“Nice to see you too, Dean,” Sam says and sips from a glass of suspicious green juice. He’s poking around his laptop, scratching something into a notebook. “You know, you shouldn’t be drinking on that medication.”

“Got a case?” Dean asks, ignoring Sam’s last statement, leaning forward on his elbows. Sam’s eating some kind of pita-bread-stuffed-with-salad nonsense. Dean spots an empty plate next to the sink and deduces Cas has already eaten lunch, then wonders what the hell he’s up to. He vanished again after Dean nodded off, totally expected behavior that shouldn’t cause this small, wretched feeling in Dean’s gut. He ignores it and drinks his beer.

“Maybe,” Sam says, turning the laptop around like Dean wants to read headlines right now. “Animals going missing. Could be witches.”

“Could be coyotes,” Dean replies, then adds, “but we can check it out” so Sam doesn’t think he’s gone soft.

 


 

So it’s witches, the real dickish kind that’re into blood sacrifice and hex bags stuffed with severed fingers.

“Nice,” Dean says, pinching one by the drawstrings before a spell hits him square in the solar plexus, crackling like an electric shock as it slams him into the wall. He wheezes, “That all you got?” and doubles over, bracing himself with hands on his knees while Sam runs the asshat through with an iron knife.

Dean comes home with a gash across his forehead, just above his left eye, that Cas cleans with a cotton swab and tense expression. Dean spits protests, “I got it. I said I got it, Cas—” but Cas keeps at his ministrations and replies, seriously, “Let me take care of you.” It makes him go still and watch the corner of Cas’s eye, the seam of his lips as Cas works, tosses a bloody swab and gets out a new one, soaks it in peroxide, repeat. He affixes a butterfly bandage to Dean’s forehead and steps back, satisfied.

“There,” he proclaims. Some of the tension eases. His mouth lifts at the corners.

It’s gotta be weird for Cas, not being able to heal Dean anymore, not since his mojo dried up. Dean’s quiet for a long time, lets Cas look at him, plucks a few errant strands of hair from his shirt—what the hell did he get into? Dean presses into his hands when Cas takes his face, kisses him, says, “Come on” and guides Dean to the kitchen for dinner.

 


 

They eat veggie pizza because Sam ordered and he doesn’t believe in gustatory pleasures. They'll tackle the dishes later and crash out on the couch for movie night. Sam takes the arm chair. Dean positions the bowl of popcorn between himself and Cas and cranks up the volume. He shovels handfuls into his mouth. Pieces of it tumble and fall onto his lap. The floor. Sam shoots him a nasty look that Dean acknowledges with an air kiss.

Dean’s cold symptoms all but disappeared while he and Sam were on the road—probably because of adrenaline—but they’re coming back tenfold. His cough is a low, wet rumble in his chest, and his nose is completely blocked. He winces.

He inadvertently touches Cas’s hand when they both reach for more popcorn, which Cas misinterprets as intentional. He sets the bowl on the table, out of the way, and pulls a blanket over their legs. He slides up next to Dean’s side and takes Dean’s hand between both of his on top of the blanket.

Cas is holding his hand like they’re kids on a first date, not a couple of guys who about break the bed every night. They never touch like this outside the bedroom. It’s one thing to make out in front of Sammy, but this feels intimate. This feels like a relationship. Dean’s throat tightens, and it’s not from the cold.

Cas’s hand is about the same size as his, but smoother. His grip is loose and easy, undemanding, gay as hell, and Dean likes it. Fuck everything, he likes it.

He lets himself slump against Cas’s body. Cas looks perfectly at ease, sitting quietly with Dean’s hand on his lap, stroking it while they watch a planet explode, while spaceships dart past.

“Beer?” Sam offers after a while, getting up. Dean clenches his jaw, tense, waiting for it. Sam’s gotta see the way they’re sitting, he’s got to, but he doesn’t say anything, doesn’t make a face, like it’s no big deal his big brother is engaged in sixth-grade-level PDA with another guy.

Which, Dean concedes after muttering “Sure” and listening to Sam shuffle to the fridge, feeling Cas’s fingers tighten around his incrementally, it really isn’t.

 


 

He terrifies himself with a flagrant display of affection that night as they’re lying in bed, and gives in to the urge to trace the arch of Cas’s eyebrow, the shell of his ear. He’s felt a lot of ways about a lot of people, but not like this. Never quite like this.

He never questioned his dad’s obsession with revenge because the yellow-eyed demon had killed his mom. Of course his dad would avenge her.

But when Sammy lost Jess, it was months and months before he stopped having nightmares about her death, before he could even think about touching someone else, let alone feel something. It was like Sam wanted to die in her place. Dean was perplexed. He couldn’t imagine laying down his life for anyone outside his family.

That changed with Lisa. He would’ve died to keep her and Ben safe, but even when they’d gone missing, he didn’t have the gut-wrenching nausea that wracked him after the Leviathan destroyed Cas, or when Cas disappeared in Purgatory. Dean knows he’d do anything to avenge Cas’s death, anything to prevent it, willingly give his own life just like he’d do for Sam, because Cas is his family now.

And he’ll wait in Heaven or hell or wherever they end up, sit his ass down and wait for as long as it takes Cas to find him, because Dean doesn’t want an eternity without him around. He thinks he finally gets why it took Sammy so long to move on after Jessica died, the truth of it barreling into him full throttle, awesome and terrifying — he loves Cas, he loves Cas — and wonders how he possibly deserves this.

He doesn’t realize he’s crying until Cas brushes a thumb beneath his eye and asks, “What’s the matter?”

Dean laughs desperately and answers, “I don’t know,” which must be enough for Cas, because he kisses Dean tenderly, licks his mouth open, whispers, “Okay.”

 


 

He’s disappointed but not surprised to wake up alone.

He drinks from the water glass Cas left thoughtfully on his nightstand, thinks about rolling out of bed when the scratching starts back up (scritch scritch scritch) from the direction of his closet. His lungs ache and his throat is raw. He feels like hell, but that’s it. He’s not imagining things.

He tears open the closet door, shoving the clothes aside, but the noise isn’t coming from there. Sounds like it’s behind him, maybe through the wall. He puts an ear to it, to the one that adjoins Cas’s room, hears the thump, thump, thump of something running, and then a very obvious, very not-imagined crash.

Dean busts through the door with a shotgun up to his shoulder, cocks it once, aims, and finds himself in an aggressive stare-down with a cat.

He opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again and points the shotgun accusingly. The cat’s just a kitten, a scrawny ball of white-and-brown stripes with blue eyes, peering at him timidly from the center of the bed. Maybe it got in through the vents, he considers, before spotting a water bowl and a food bowl and a freaking litter box.

Litter is tracked across the floor, small white pebbles that look suspiciously like the rock salt he stepped on in the hallway. The horrible lamp is broken again, and Dean’s immune system prepares him for a sneezing fit. He thinks about the bottle of allergy pills Sam was all too happy to buy him, Cas conveniently armed with tissues, his frequent disappearing acts, mystery cuts and stray fur, empty cartons of milk, and it all makes sense.

Cas and Sam are assholes.

The kitten stretches and mews, and Dean mutters “Oh, hell no,” when it leaps off the bed, darts past his ankles out the open door. How’s he supposed to catch the damned thing? he wonders with fleeting panic and tries to remember if he shut their bedroom door.

“How did you get out?” he hears Cas ask a handful of seconds later, before the traitor walks through the door with the cat in both hands, held awkwardly in the air with a “help me” expression on its tiny cat face. Cas sees Dean standing at the foot of the bed, shotgun still clutched tightly, and sighs. He shuts the door and places the cat on the floor.

“So,” Dean says. “You got anything to say?”

“She was on the side of the road,” Cas answers as he gathers the tragic remains of the lamp, stands up, and actually has the gall to leave the room. The cat takes an interest in Dean’s shoelace and bats at it.

“Hey!” he says, jumping back, “watch the leather.” Cas comes back with empty hands and pockets stuffed with tissues, then looks from Dean to the cat, and smiles.

“Her name is Tiger,” he says and hands the tissues to Dean. “Of course, she’s not actually a tiger. I chose that name because of her stripes.”

Dean’s mouth twitches. “You don’t say.”

“I was going to call her Cat, but Sam suggested that I choose a name.”

Well, that sketchy couch conversation suddenly makes a hell of a lot more sense, and it explains why Sammy was reluctant to believe something paranormal was going on. Jerk.

Dean swallows his anger and watches Cas stoop to stroke a hand along the cat’s back, thinks of him in a blue vest behind a gas station counter, doling out taquitos, and thinks he gets it.

I had nothing.

“I was going to find her a home,” Cas offers, apologetic, standing up again. "I still can."

Dean knows before he even has a chance to think about it that they’re keeping this damned cat, that she’ll slink around the bunker and put claw marks in the woodwork, that Dean’ll invest in name-brand tissues and off-brand allergy meds and stock up on lint rollers because the scruffy dander lump makes Cas smile.

He bites his lip and twists up his mouth. “I like her eyes,” he concedes.

Cas looks at him: hopeful, adoring. His hand is large and warm on Dean’s neck, breath stale from too much coffee.

“Keep it out of our room,” Dean orders against his mouth. Cas answers by nuzzling his cheek, nodding into it. The cat flops onto its back and begins to purr at their feet.

 


 

Dean and Tiger bond gradually.

She stays out of their room (except for the time he finds her rolling around with his shoes), but she catches flies when they get through the door, so he counts that as a plus. She scratches a relief into the inside of her door, so Dean picks up a cardboard scratch pad when Sam sends him out for groceries. She shreds it to oblivion and tracks the carnage throughout the bunker. Cas dutifully sweeps up after her.

Life in the bunker goes on. On a Tuesday morning while Dean’s drinking coffee, Cas rests an absent hand on his thigh. Dean skims the paper and eats too much bacon while Sam flips pancakes, and Tiger leaps onto the table and sprawls on his keyboard.

“Hey!” Sam says and nudges her to the floor only to have her circle back, stretch across the keys, and swat at him.

“Think she likes you, man,” Dean says. Sam sighs, scratches under her chin, and washes his hands before resuming his post at the stove. Tiger stares after him, unimpressed.

So they’ve got a cat who can bitchface as good as Sammy, Cas stays in bed for longer than two hours altogether, Dean’s a little in love, and they’re all still breathing. He grins and holds the last strip of bacon to Cas’s mouth. Cas licks the salt from Dean’s fingers and chews with his mouth closed.