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Voco Familiarem

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Third time’s the charm has always been a saying that Dean’s never particularly liked. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t, right? At least with magic, he thinks. Either the spell will work and everything’s fine and dandy or it doesn’t and it either backfires or the goddamn monster laughs in your face before it chomps down on you. Either way you end up in a hospital bed with a grumpy little brother complaining that he’s running dangerously low on Cure scrolls. Well fucking forgive Dean, it wasn’t like he meant to become Bulette chow.

Anyway, the point is that Dean hates do-overs and yet here he is, attempting this goddamn spell for the third fucking time. At this point it’s more about the prestige than nothing else. Sam had managed to summon his familiar on his first try and Dean is usually better at the execution of spells so what gives?

He grits his teeth as he adds the expensive incense to the mixture of herbs and charcoal already burning in the brass brazier. The fact that he, with his still fairly limited magical powers, only can attempt this goddamn spell once a year is weighing on him too, aside from the monetary expenses.

When he and Sam expanded their family’s little magic item shop into the Winchester Emporium, they both agreed that they would need help but that they also didn’t trust that many people to help them. A familiar instead seemed like the next logical step, they had after all grown in their magical prowess to a level where they would be able to acquire one with great powers of its own. And a familiar is the perfect companion to a Wizard like Sam and Dean. Loyal and intelligent, familiars work both as a conduit to the Wizard’s magical powers and as a dependable ally and even friend. And in some cases, like Sam and his familiar Jessica, lovers.

Dean is not jealous of that because he loves his brother and wants what’s best for him at every turn but goddamnit, it would be nice if he could get someone like Jess too. She’s a beautiful barn owl in her animal form and a stunning woman in her human form. Smart as a whip and very helpful, curious about humans but also sensitive about the fact that magic isn’t the norm and that they need to keep a lid on their affairs. Since familiars are very in tune with magic she can easily spot when a customer comes in to look at their front shop, dealing in antiques, or if they’re there for what’s behind the curtain in the back. Simply put, she’s the perfect business partner.

Yeah, she’s all-round awesome and Dean had thought he would end up with someone similar. Someone he could bring with him when he goes out into the world, hunting monsters and gathering magical artefacts to sell in their store. But no one had come at his summons and he’d had to wait a whole year to try again and no one had showed then either. Sam says it’s normal but Dean is starting to think there’s something wrong with him.

Not every Wizard has a familiar after all and with Sorcerers going around summoning familiars at their goddamn convenience maybe they’re running out? Dean doesn’t think that’s how it works but who the fuck knows? Jess would, he supposes, but he’s not gonna go cry on her shoulder. No, he’s gonna try this one last time and if it doesn’t work he’s gonna go out and get shiftfaced and then get over it, like a man.

In the last second he decides to add some catnip along with the customary fat and he watches as the flames flare up to a satisfying two foot before dying down and it’s time for him to start his incantation.

The words are easy enough, the trick is that you have to stick to them for as long as it takes for a familiar to answer your summon or the fat burns out. The longer you have to repeat the same words the harder it gets not to stumble on them. As the fat burn steadily to a little foul-smelling lump the words stop sounding like words but Dean persistently shuts out the sound of his own voice and keeps at it. He’s always been good at this, the execution of spells. Sam is the real wiz with the reading and learning and memorizing. Dean has his spell list and he mostly keeps to it, and very rarely pokes around with scrolls because it’s difficult to read scrolls outside your magic school.

As Dean starts in on the tenth round of the incantation and the fat burns low in the brazier, something flickers in the spell circle he’s drawn on the floor around the brazier. Hope sparks in his chest and he raises his voice, adds a commanding tone to the steady chanting. The symbols in the circle flare up a bright blue, so bright it’s almost white, and fuck yeah, that’s supposed to happen.

The light evens out as he finishes the incantation and suddenly the ingredients in the brazier poof out in a cloud of smoke. Dean coughs once, almost more because it feels appropriate, and waves away the smoke as it comes drifting towards him. As soon as the smoke clears and the light goes out, leaving the basement room he’s in illuminated only by the candles he lit prior to the summoning, Dean steps forward and his heart lodges in his throat at the sight of an adult cat.

The cat is entirely black, from the tips of its ears to the tip of the tail it’s got tucked around its black paws. It’s got long whiskers and a very sleek-looking fur. It looks lean and fit and when it turns its head up to look at Dean, Dean’s met with a pair of the bluest eyes he’s ever seen. They’re illuminated by the poor candle light but Dean can see the magic behind those eyes, making them shine even more.

Hell fucking yeah, he scored a cat! Cats are awesome familiars. Every magic user with a familiar gains some abilities depending on their familiar, like Sam has better night vision because of Jess being an owl, and cats top that by far. Night vision, superior hearing, easier to move stealthily, all of this will be helpful for Dean when they’re out hunting monsters.

To say that Dean is stoked would be an understatement, which is perhaps also why he immediately put his foot in his mouth.

“A puss all for me?” he mumbles in what almost constitutes as a purr as he steps up to the cat. Well fucking excuse him for being excited. Cats are good familiars and how hot won’t the human form be? Dean can already see her now, with thick black hair and the smoothness of a feline. “Hello there sexy mama,” he almost snickers at himself but the cat just levels him with an incredibly unimpressed glare and in the next moment it has transformed into its human form and that is no woman, that is no woman at all.

“I assure you,” the very manly man says in an incredibly deep and decidedly manly voice. “That I am, nor will I ever be, anyone’s mama.”

Fuck Dean’s life.

 

*****

 

“And this is the living room.”

Castiel, as the familiar had introduced himself, looks around with a coolly polite aura. Dean, for his part, can’t tear his eyes away from the guy’s ass. Not because it’s perfectly taunt and looks totally spankable because Dean generally doesn’t notice those things in men. No he’s just staring because of the fact that he can, because Castiel is fucking buck naked.

“It looks lived in,” Castiel comments when Dean offers nothing more in terms of explaining the living room.

“I’m sorry but I just…” Dean pinches the bridge of his nose, trying his best to ward off the headache that’s knocking on his temples. Castiel’s eyes reflect light unnaturally when he turns back to Dean. “Why the fuck are you naked?”

Castiel looks down at himself as if he hadn’t noticed and knowing familiars he probably hadn’t. They don’t exactly possess the same kind of modesty that humans do and being part animal is the explanation for that, Dean supposes.

“Because I didn’t have any clothes on when I transformed into my cat form,” Castiel explains as if Dean is stupid. “If I had, then it would have been assimilated into my form and I would appear as dressed the next time I took this form again,” Castiel tilts his head to the side, a motion which actually reminds Dean more of a bird than a cat. “I’m sorry, did you not know this? Am I your first familiar?”

The questions irritates Dean because 1: yes, and 2: shut up.

“Dude I was just asking because I don’t wanna look at your floppy bits,” he gestures immaturely at Castiel’s package, which, fuck him, is bigger than Dean’s.

“Well excuse me,” Castiel says much too calmly for Dean’s liking. “I didn’t know you were so sensitive, aren’t we both males?”

“We sure as fuck are,” Dean exclaims in a fake happy voice and Castiel scowls at him.

“I may not have met humans in a long while but I still recognize sarcasm.”

“I’m sorry,” Dean sighs and drags his hand down his face. “It’s not your fault, I was just expecting a hot woman as my familiar.”

“Yes, well, I believed I was retired and enjoying it so don’t color yourself the only one disappointed,” Castiel snarks and walks off, leaving Dean standing in his living room feeling both puzzled and like an ass. But hell, retirement? Dean didn’t even know familiars could get retired, how the fuck old is Castiel anyway?

“This room is messy,” he hears coming from upstairs and he jolts when he realizes Castiel has gone exploring without him. He takes the flight of stairs two at a time and catches sight of Castiel letting himself into Dean’s room. “This must be yours.”

“Why the fuck would you say that?” Dean demands as he stops in the doorway, blocking escape as if Castiel seemed likely to try.

“Intuition,” Castiel mutters and looks around without even trying to hide it, openly looking at Dean’s private things. “It’s very important for cats, we rely heavily on it when it comes to survival.”

“I bet,” Dean mumbles grumpily. “So how does this work anyhow? You’re my familiar now until what?”

Castiel regards Dean cautiously. “Until I die or you break the contract, either by dying or on purpose.”

“I ain’t breaking it,” the words are out of Dean’s mouth before he can think about it. Is he mad that he didn’t get a hot lady? Yes. Will he let that ruin this? No. Not when he’s finally managed to get the summoning right. Castiel might be somewhat of a snarky ass and he’s got too little boob to make Dean happy but he’s still a familiar and Dean can already feel his magic weaving itself with Castiel’s, growing stronger and sharper.

Castiel shrugs as if he doesn’t care either way. “Then I guess I’ll have to die for it to break.”

Dean shakes his head because it sounds ridiculous to even think about. Familiars don’t die, not on Dean’s watch, because no one does. Period. Also, familiars don’t actually die, they just get banished back to their dimension but he’s sure Castiel already knows that.

“You’re working for me now and I need you, no suicides.”

“I couldn’t even if I wanted to.”

This whole conversation is making Dean feel iffy. “Anyway, I’m getting you some clothes and then we’re talking about what I expect of you. Any questions before we begin?”

Castiel turns to pick up Dean’s phone from the nightstand. “Just one, which century is this?”

Oh Dean doesn’t like this question one bit… “21st, why? How long ago was it since you were here in this dimension?”

Castiel shrugs again, putting down the phone with care. “I’d say about 400 years, give or take.”

Fucking great, Dean thinks sourly. Not only did he not get his sexy female, he got a grouchy retired old dude. At this rate Dean’s gonna be lucky if Castiel can even assist with a simple cantrip. Just fucking great.

 

 


 

 

Castiel is getting the distinct feeling that Dean is disappointed in him. Well, since Castiel is very unimpressed with this whole development he can’t very well fault his new master for not being thrilled about this arrangement either. Still, it would be nice if Dean would stop eyeing him as if he’s either going to drop dead or bolt at any moment. He’s got a little more dignity than that.

Dean gave him a pair of what he called sweat pants that were a bit too big on Castiel’s slightly smaller frame. He likes them, though, they’re soft and snuggly. What he doesn’t like is the underwear Dean had forced on him too. Dean’s face had been red and Castiel is left wondering if that was an actual blush, on a grown man.

Dean spent a lot of time staring at Castiel’s hips where they poked out whenever the sweat pants slid down and Castiel is vain enough to admit that he liked the attention. He remembers his first master and how she used to caress him and he likes those memories. Then Dean had thrown an oversized shirt at him and mumbled something about food and now here they are, in what Dean calls his kitchen, sharing “leftovers”.

Castiel isn’t so sure about that device Dean called a “microwave” but the tuna casserole tastes wonderful. If anything the food has definitely improved over the centuries.

“From what you’re telling me, your brother’s familiar seems to be enough to operate your shop,” he says between bites. Dean shifts on his chair and Castiel feels the human’s magic trail across the air, searching for him. Yes, Dean might be uncertain about this but his innate magic ability knows what’s best for it and the enhancing capacity Castiel has is a good start.

“Jess is great,” Dean concedes easily as he shifts around his casserole on his plate. “And truth be told, there isn’t all that many magic buyers. We also front as an antique shop.”

“So you want me to move around some furniture with you?”

Dean splutters in an unattractive way and even so Castiel can’t find it in himself to look away. Dean has freckles that stand out when he blushes.

No,” Dean exclaims harshly enough for Castiel to forget the freckles. “We also manufacture and repair magic items.”

“Oh,” Castiel thinks about that for a moment which Dean spends eyeing him warily for some reason. “I could be helpful with that.”

“Good. And I go out and hunt down monsters, I need backup because Sam usually has to stay here and man the shop.”

“You hunt them for treasure?”

Dean shrugs. “Sometimes. Sometimes I just kill ‘em because they’re eating the locals and I don’t like that. There’s not much profit to it but money’s not everything.”

“You…” Castiel leans back a bit in his chair, regarding the man whom he had previously discarded as a bum with some magical luck. “You sacrifice your safety for people who don’t even know who you are—what you are—and who won’t pay you?”

“When you say it like that I sound like an idiot,” Dean sneers and Castiel thinks over his words to try and understand why Dean would jump to that conclusion. When he comes up empty he just shakes his head and goes back to eating.

“I can be of help with killing monsters too.”

“I sure as fuck hope so.”

The conversation kind of tapers off at that and even Castiel, rusty as his people skills might be, can sense the awkwardness. They finish their meals quietly and Dean gets up to gather the dishes. A quick Prestidigitation takes care of cleaning them and though it’s a low level spell Castiel once again feels a need to reassess Dean’s magical abilities.

Dean startles when he turns around only to find Castiel staring openly at him. “Going to the shop next,” Dean mumbles, almost sounding shy, and Castiel tilts his head to the side, regarding the human and all his quirks. “You need to see it and meet Sam and Jess.”

Castiel nods because that seems prudent. “Does Sam live here too? I noticed the second bedroom.”

“He used to but I was thinking you could take that room now,” Dean leads Castiel out to the hall where he shrugs on a jacket and picks up some keys from a chest of drawers by the front door. “When we got a bigger shop it came with an apartment above it so Sam moved in there, both to keep an eye on the shop and to get some privacy, you know? Seemed smart, considering he and Jess, uh…” he trails off, eyeing Castiel oddly.

Castiel represses the urge to roll his eyes. “He and Jess are intimate?” he asks because he knows that’s common, though he doesn’t know why Dean keeps blushing about it. “Like you were hoping to be with your familiar, I assume?”

“Shut up,” Dean mutters and opens the front door, offering nothing more on the subject so Castiel supposes he was right.

Outside Castiel is practically bombarded with impressions and smells and he can’t help but revert back to his cat form. It’s mostly involuntarily and simply because he handles his magic best in that form and he needs his magic to understand this world as quickly as possible.

He stays seated on the front steps of Dean’s little house, concealed by the railing around the porch and he’s momentarily dazed as his innate magic abilities try to sort through all the new information that’s forced on him. Some things, like the microwave, he still doesn’t understand, but most things get sorted easily enough. He sways as if caught in a breeze and when a finger pokes him on his head he jerks as if he had been asleep and just woke up.

“What’s going on, kitty?”

“Don’t call me kitty.”

Dean grins. “Oh so we can communicate, I wasn’t sure I was powerful enough for that.”

Castiel squints up at Dean’s boyishly proud face. “If you weren’t powerful enough you wouldn’t have gotten me.”

“Uh, okay,” Castiel doesn’t know why Dean sounds and looks surprised, it’s the truth after all. Maybe he would have managed a lower tier familiar but certainly not someone as seasoned as Castiel. “Anyway, what’s up with the cat form?”

“I need to stay like this for a while,” Castiel says as if that answers Dean’s question. He ignores the eye roll and stretches languidly. “Are we going?”

“I can’t talk to you like this,” Dean states and Castiel tilts his head to the side. “I told you, magic is hush-hush in this century, no one non-magical can know you’re a familiar. And since no one else is able to hear you speak I’m gonna look stupid if I keep talking to a cat.”

Castiel flicks his tail in annoyance. “So don’t talk, we still have the Empathic Link to share emotions and impressions.”

“That’s not the same, though, is it?”

Dean is really grating on Castiel’s nerves right now. “Look,” he thumps his tails harshly against the porch and sees that Dean notices. Good. “I haven’t been out of my dimension for a very long time, there’s a lot for me to take in right now and that’s easier when I use my magic, which I access easier when I’m in this form. You will just have to deal with it. Now, let’s use Teleport to get to your shop before your neighbors start wondering what you’re doing.”

Dean looks like he’s got a snarky reply to that but instead he snaps his mouth shut and goes up to close and lock the door.

“I ain’t wasting a spell slot to teleport us there, we’re driving.”

Frugal, Castiel thinks with respect, and trots after Dean to what reminds him of a horse coach minus the horses. A car, Dean explains and though Castiel understands what it does he’s wholly unprepared for the feeling of the fast vehicle tearing through the streets.

He stands on his hind legs the whole ride, front paws and nose pressed against the window looking out the side as the world goes by in a blur. He doesn’t even care that Dean laughs at him, that was fun.

 

*****

 

“And these Winchesters, they’re good people?”

Jess clicks her beak. “They are, you’re going to get used to their crude manners.”

Castiel wonders about that but doesn’t say anything, it would be rude considering Jess’ close relations with the younger Winchester. Instead he turns to look out over the shop. He’s perched on the high shelf where Jess apparently usually sits, pretending to be a stuffed owl as she surveys the customers. The shop is bigger than Castiel expected, crammed full of old furniture and knickknacks, most of which seem irrelevant to him. It’s clean and airy, though, and he likes that.

Dean is currently in the back, speaking to his brother, and Castiel itches to see their workshop. With previous masters he spent a lot of time making magic items, living in cozy huts or towers. He supposes Dean’s house is technically nicer but it doesn’t feel like home, not yet. This century brings a lot of new things and he thinks he’s a bit slow to acclimate.

“Dean mentioned going out and hunting for treasure.”

Jess ruffles her feathers. “It’s not like in the old times, no questing and no rewards. Not even honor.”

Castiel looks back at her, takes in her golden eyes made to look wider by her plumage. There’s no malice or condensation in her voice or eyes, though he senses a reluctance concerning this topic.

“You wish they’d stop.”

She sits motionless for a moment. “I wish they would learn Divine spells, they get hurt too easily.”

Ah, concern, Castiel can certainly relate to that. His last master had been an elderly man who had treated Castiel like his son and when his master had died, he’d felt sadder for him than any of his previous masters. Humans are altogether too fragile for Castiel’s liking.

“They are both Arcane users only?”

Jess bobs her hear. “They have learned how to use scrolls, though. They get by.”

Scrolls. Castiel flicks his tail as he thinks about that. Scrolls are a great complement to any magic user’s arsenal but they’re cumbersome to use and who has the time to pick out a scroll and read it when you’re chased by a fire-spitting dragon? Castiel can see he’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to keep Dean alive, which he supposes he does.

“Hey kitty, you comin’?”

Castiel scowls down at Dean as the human emerges from behind a shelf, looking up at the two of them with a grumpy expression of his own. On the other hand, he thinks as he slinks down the shelf, if Dean would die on one of his hunts, Castiel would be automatically released from his contract.

“Be nice,” he hears Jess call, as if she can hear his thoughts.

He scrunches up his nose and launches himself off the shelf only to bounce off Dean’s chest and land perfectly on his feet a few paces ahead of Dean. Dean looks stunned and Castiel scoffs at the human’s poor reflexes, he better outperform that on their future hunts or Castiel might find himself without a master faster than expected.

 

 


 

 

Sam of course loves everything about Castiel and somehow it makes Dean even more irritated that the two get along so very well. He wants to yell at his brother that he already has a familiar and that he should keep his mitts off Dean’s but what would be the point of that?

Dean’s just annoyed in general that he got a guy, that’s all there is to it. That Castiel is also proving to be a grumpy know-it-all is just icing on the fucking cake. Well at least he’s gonna be helpful with the creation of magic items and on hunts, Dean thinks grouchily as he watches Sam explain his latest project, a pair of slippers that would allow the wearer to scale walls almost like a spider. He got the idea from Spiderman and Dean’s complaining of that time when he got stuck in a hole and had to wait the night for his magic to recharge so he could get out. Since then, Dean always carries a few extra scrolls of Spider Climb and doesn’t have that problem anymore but Sam wanted to take a shot at the slippers anyway and Dean’s not one to stop him since Sam’s little projects usually sell well.

Sam is hunched over his workbench and the slippers he has spent countless hours methodically stitching with magical thread. This is why Dean’s the one out killing monsters, he doesn’t have the patience for stitching. Castiel is sitting by Sam’s left shoulder, almost leaning on him as Sam explains his method and Dean feels a pang of jealousy.

He might not be happy about getting a male familiar but Castiel is still his familiar, right? Aren’t familiars supposed to be extremely compatible with their masters? Especially chosen based on their master? Well, with that logic Dean’s apparently the most compatible with a guy and he ain’t buying it. He loves the ladies and they love him, period. Castiel is just some kind of deviance. Or maybe magic compatibility isn’t as closely linked to physical compatibility as Dean previously thought? Granted, he hasn’t known that many familiars but shouldn’t they at least get along? Like, personality-wise?

Dean squints in annoyance when Castiel’s tail flips restlessly as Sam speaks. He’s got one ear trained on Sam but the other swivels as he catches sounds from outside the shop too and when Dean shifts his stance Castiel actually looks up and stares straight at Dean for a moment. It catches Dean off guard, just like that little pounce from earlier had, and he just kind of stares back until Castiel releases him. Damn that kitty has bright eyes.

“But there is something wrong with the composition,” Sam finishes his own evaluation, leaning back with a huff. “They stick to the wall fine but not for long and they can’t carry any significant weight.”

Castiel puts his left front paw inside one of the slippers and it almost looks like he’s trying it on. Dean snorts to hide a laugh but Castiel just ignores him and flips the slipper over, quietly assessing them.

Sam turns his head to the doorway leading out to the shop. “Jess says we have customers.”

Well, not says as in telepathic speak, Dean assumes. Masters and familiars can speak normally or they can share an Empathic Link but Dean supposes Sam and Jess have learnt to interpret each other’s feelings by now.

“So go.”

Sam glares at him. “I’m working with Castiel, you go.”

Dean resists pouting but only very barely. “We’ll be fine.”

Castiel looks up between the brothers but doesn’t say anything and it makes Dean feel even more like a third wheel. Stupid cat probably wants Sam to stay too. The feeling of jealousy returns and it rubs him the wrong way that he’s even feeling it after only knowing Castiel for half a day. He stares into Castiel’s blue eyes and almost misses how Sam huffs in annoyance before leaving.

“Sam is probably better with the customers anyway,” Castiel says after a moment spent in silence and though Dean suspects the familiar is trying to placate him it only makes him feel worse.

“Whatever.”

Castiel flips the slipper over again and pushes it towards Dean. “There’s a flaw in the stitches.”

That catches Dean’s attention and he sits down on Sam’s chair. “Where?”

“This sigil,” Castiel puts his paw on one of the incredibly small runes Sam has painstakingly stitched with the magical thread. “It’s upside-down.”

Dean stares at the rune for a moment, trying to decipher the magic, to follow the flow of the weave. It takes him a moment to understand because it looks correct to him. He has to start from the beginning and Castiel just lies down on the table, tucking his front paws under him and wrapping his tail around his body as he curls into a ball.

“Well I’ll be damned,” Dean mutters when he sees it.

“I should hope not.”

Dean huffs out a chuckle at Castiel’s matter-of-fact tone. “So what do we do about that? Aside from turning it the right side.”

“Nothing,” Castiel says, still in his flat tone. “The whole line has to be redrawn,” he looks at the slipper and it looks like he scrunches up his face. Dean finds himself wondering what that looks like in Castiel’s human form. “Or re-stitched.”

Dean can’t help but smile. Castiel might not be a hot ass woman willing to indulge in Dean’s dirty fantasies but he’s still one heck of a familiar and since his main reason for summoning a familiar was as an assistant this is maybe not so bad. After all, if all he wanted was a sex slave he would have summoned a Succubus and bound her to him. No, Castiel is by far the better option, Dean thinks.

“Not bad for a kitty who hasn’t been topside in like four centuries,” he grins and Castiel levels him with the kind of glare only cats can manage.

“This isn’t my first pair of Slippers of Spider Climb,” he states as if it’s obvious and proceeds with jumping off the table and trotting out into the shop, leaving Dean to sit back feeling like a fool for thinking Sam was original with this idea.

Clever or not, Dean could do without the attitude, though. He sighs and inspects the slippers and all the stitching that needs to be redone. He contemplates doing it for Sam because damn, this is a lot and Sam was probably hoping to be done with them, but he decides against it, knowing Sam thinks Dean’s handiwork is sloppy. It’s enough that Castiel twitches his nose at him, he doesn’t need Sam huffing and puffing as well.

“At least I got me my familiar,” he says to no one in particular and is startled when he feels surprised happiness flood through the Empathic Link his magic has established with Castiel. He turns on the chair and manages to catch sight of the tip of Castiel’s tail as he slips away from the doorway. “I’m gonna call you Cas,” he calls after the cat and though he gets nothing in response he still interprets that as consent.

Smiling to himself he picks up the slipper and starts the tedious work of unraveling the stitches.