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Magic Quarantine Ride

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Dean sags against the walls of the elevator, blinking blearily up the red numbers flashing up to his floor. He stumbles out at the last second, and the sight of his plain apartment door has never been more welcome.

Whatever hospital administrator made up 12-hour shifts and thought stacking six of them in a row was a good idea should be taken outside and shot.

He fumbles in his pocket for his keys, grumbling under his breath as his fingers refuse to cooperate. He groans and lets his head thunk against the door, half-supporting his weight as he searches for his fucking keys.

The door opens.

Dean would’ve made a noise of alarm as he almost falls forward, but he’s too tired.

“Dean?”

Dean regains his footing and drums up a weak smile for his roommate that Cas can’t see. “Hey,” he says through his mask.

“Hello.” Cas steps aside to let Dean in, the worry clear in the lines around his eyes and on his forehead. “How was your day?”

“Long.” 

Cas wordlessly hands him a plastic bag for his mask, labelled with the date so Dean can reuse it in several days.

Dean toes his shoes off and makes a beeline for the bathroom. He elbows open the door, blocks it from shutting completely with his foot, and tugs off his scrub shirt.

As he shuffles out of his pants, Cas’s hand thrusts Dean’s laundry bag through the opening. “How are you feeling?”

Dean guides his soiled clothes into the bag, careful not to touch any part of Cas. “Fucking exhausted.”

Cas withdraws as he takes Dean’s laundry back to his room where he’ll dump it in the far corner. 

Dean hops into the shower and resists the urge to stay under the hot water forever. Instead, he gives himself a quick rinse and steps out.

Cas’s voice calls, “Do you want dinner?”

“Did you cook?” Dean shouts, the ghost of a smile flitting over his mouth.

Cas’s voice comes from much closer as he says, “I had a salad. We don’t have any meat, but we still have some vegetables left over. I could make you one as well?”

Dean wraps a towel around his waist and opens the door wider to hear Cas better. “No fucking way. Not after the week I’ve had.” 

“You could win the lottery, and your good mood would still not extend to salad.”

Dean scowls at his reflection as he runs a comb through his hair. “Do I look like a rabbit to you?”

The door opens fully, and Cas leans against the frame, just inside the threshold of the bathroom. His pants are covered in grey cat hair even though there’s no sign of Cas’s silver tabby. “You haven’t had any of the lasagne Kate and your father sent over.”

Dean puts his comb down. “You can have it.”

“They made it for you.”

“And I don’t want it,” Dean says, a slight snap in his tone he doesn’t mean.

Cas lets it roll off his back without a word. “I can order in.”

Dean shakes his head. “No, it’s fine.”

Cas’s finances are much more strained than Dean’s, with his online store hardly making a profit. In the beginning, his customers bought his homemade soaps, lotions, and candles as they realized they’d be stuck at home with their smelly pets and stressful kids. But as quarantine descended, fewer and fewer customers wanted to spend on non-essentials, despite Cas’s assurances that his products would help their health and auras.

Privately, Dean thinks Cas’s products are full of BS and not healing properties, but at least they smell nice and feel good. When the coronavirus picked up steam on this side of the world, Dean made sure to check whether Cas's hippie dippy soap would kill it in thirty seconds or less. 

Dean should’ve taken a picture of Cas’s face when he suggested the soaps lacked the juice. He was lucky Cas couldn’t shoot laser beams from his eyes.

Cas shakes his head at Dean. “You have to look after yourself.”

“I am,” Dean says defensively. He turns to leave. “I didn’t even stay late.”

“Because you’re about to fall over from exhaustion.” Cas steps back as Dean passes him on the way to his bedroom. “I’ll make you a PB and J,” he calls to Dean’s back.

“Dude,” Dean says, loudly, as he grabs his pajama pants, “They’re your favorite food, not mine!”

“I could heat up soup?” Cas tries.

After pulling on a worn tee shirt, Dean ambles out of his bedroom and down the hall to their combined living room and kitchen.

As Cas catches sight of him, he sets an empty pot down on the counter.

Dean’s face lights up as he takes in the luridly neon blue liquid sloshing around the clear container in Cas’s other hand. “You made your miracle soup? I thought you were talking about something in a can.”

“It’s not tomato and rice,” Cas apologizes as he steps out of the way, “But I think it would help.”

“Fuck yeah,” Dean says eagerly as he plunks the pot back on the stove and turns on the flame, “I can make my own damn soup. Gimme.” He blindly makes grabby motions behind his back with his hand.

The first time Dean had Cas’s miracle soup, he blamed exam week weakness. Normally, he wouldn’t ever let anything that looked that funky anywhere near his lips. But Cas cornered him before his last one - fucking pathophys  - and all but begged him to try it. Dean had a begrudging sip, and it was like the soup lit a crackling fire beneath his ribcage. Warmth spread through his whole body, burning off his persistent fatigue and propping up his flagging energy levels.

Ever since, Cas has only busted out his miracle soup for special occasions.

Cas yanks the container out of Dean’s hand before he pours the whole thing into the pan. “Don’t waste it,” he chides. “That’s more than enough.”

“Says you,” Dean grumbles, but he lets Cas stow the rest of it in the fridge.

“I’ll make toast, too.” Cas fishes two slices of bread out of the bag. “You shouldn’t have that on an empty stomach.”

“Why?” Dean asks. “What’s in it?”

Cas merely turns to face the toaster, a small smile playing around his mouth.

Dean didn’t really expect an answer, so he goes back to stirring. As steam starts to rise, he turns off the burner and pours the soup out into one of their larger mugs. Cas hands him the toast, buttered and everything, and Dean takes a bite before he raises the mug to his lips.

He moans, winking at Cas as his roommate goes a little red in the face. “I swear,” Dean says as he breathes in the vapors coming off the soup, “You could open a store and just sell this. You’d make a killing.”

Cas shakes his head. “The raw ingredients are too costly to be a viable source of income,” he says matter-of-factly. 

Dean takes another sip. “More for me then.”

“Careful,” Cas says, “it can be addictive. I'll make another batch in a week, but you should portion the rest out.”

Dean eyes his mug speculatively. “How much caffeine is in here, anyway?”

“Enough.”

Dean stuffs his mouth with another bite of toast, garbling, “No illegal drugs, right?”

Cas rolls his eyes.

Dean grins. “Just making sure.”

* * *

Dean lounges in bed the next morning until noon, listening to music with his headphones and catching up on various feeds and updates, staying far away from the real news. The last time he did a deep dive into current events, Cas barely wrestled his phone away before Dean could throw it at the wall.

When his stomach rumbles, he hauls himself to his feet to make his way to the kitchen. As he passes Cas’s door, he catches a few seconds of his weird yodel-y folk music.

Dean opens the refrigerator with a frown. They have some eggs for breakfast and a truly pitiful amount of milk left. He grabs the packet of bacon, untouched since Dean’s last bacon-filled day off.

Dean sings to himself as he slaps bacon in the frying pan and flips on the coffee maker. “You don’t know what we can find, why don’t you come with me little girl, on a magic carpet ride…"

He lets the bacon sizzle and pop for a few more seconds as he hits the chorus, holding the spatula like a microphone. 

“Is that breakfast?”

Dean slaps the grease-covered spatula against his chin. “Fuck!” he swears, half from the surprise, half from the burn. He spins around on bare feet to stare at Cas, leaning against the refrigerator like he’s been there the whole time.

“Sorry,” Cas says, not looking at all sorry. 

Red-faced, Dean hastily scoops the bacon out of the pan and flips open the carton of eggs. “Want some?”

“If there is enough,” Cas says as he peers over Dean’s shoulder.

“Grab the milk,” Dean says, “I’ll make it stretch.”

“There’s not much left,” Cas says doubtfully as he hands the carton over.

“Good thing I like my coffee black,” Dean says as he pours milk into a bowl, quickly followed by the rest of the eggs.

“You don’t-” Cas says, breaking off as Dean whips the mess up with a fork. “I can fend for myself for breakfast. I didn’t want to ruin your coffee.”

“Impossible,” Dean declares before adding with a dramatic shudder, “Unless it’s decaf.” He pours the scrambled eggs into the pan and grins as they soak up all the bacon grease. “You could make yourself useful and get started on the toast. We have enough bread left, right?”

Cas eyes the bread bag speculatively. “I would say so. I’ll add it to the grocery list anyway.”

“Probably a smart move.”

“Is it too late to add vegetables to the eggs?”

“What?” Dean doesn’t look up from the stove. “Why would I do that?”

“Because you need vegetables.”

“Says you.”

“You are an advanced practice healthcare provider," Cas says, scandalized. “Adequate nutrition-”

“Nurses have statistically worse health than the general population,” Dean interrupts. Somehow he picked a bigger vegetable freak than Sammy for a roommate. Karma, or something, for putting itching powder in Sam's pants too many times. “Who am I to argue with the numbers?” 

“Don’t embrace the statistic because it enables your high cholesterol.”

Dean snorts. “I’ll add veggies to dinner. Happy?”

“Marginally,” Cas deadpans.

“Good enough,” Dean pronounces as he slides the finished eggs onto a plate. 

They settle on the couch to eat. Dean reaches over to grab the remote and turns on the television, making sure the volume is low enough to allow conversation. He grimaces as it opens to a news channel and flips instead to cartoons. 

Dean kicks his feet up on the coffee table, ignoring Cas’s disapproving look. Cas wasn’t standing or walking around for 12 fucking hours yesterday. And Dean’s ultra cushioned, ugly-ass shoes can only do so much.

“What are your plans today?” Cas asks.

Dean shakes his head. “‘M rockin’ the no-plan plan.”

“So you have a call with Sam and absolutely nothing else.”

“You got it.” He shovels more eggs in his mouth. “‘O bou’ you?”

“Very little as well,” Cas says. “I have one order to mail out, but I will probably wait until I take a trip to the grocery store.”

“Get it all done at once,” Dean surmises. “Smart man.”

Cas rolls his eyes. “Yes, I do occasionally demonstrate moments of common sense.”

Dean’s wiseass remark is cut off as Cas’s cat - named Guinea Pig because honestly Cas sometimes doesn’t have the sense God gave a donut - makes a daring leap for Dean’s bacon strips.

Dean rescues his plate just in time. “Where the fuck did you come from?” he demands as GP lunges for Cas’s eggs next.

Cas gently elbows GP out of the way, off the couch and onto the floor. “I bet she’s hungry.”

“Did you forget to feed her?” Dean asks, eyes trained on the wannabe bacon thief.

“No.”

GP meows. Her silver and black striped tail thrashes behind her in protest.

“She’s a sociable eater, though,” Cas continues, “so maybe she didn’t have her breakfast when I set it out for her. She’s been in my room.”

Dean grimaces and holds back a psychosomatic sneeze. He is allergic to cats, but GP weirdly never set off his symptoms. He definitely hasn’t grown out of his allergy; the last time he visited Charlie at the end of February, he had to leave early because her new kitten made him sneeze his brains out.

“If she eats my bacon, I’m throwing her out the window.”

“Don’t be silly,” Cas says, “She’s far too inept an athlete to achieve such a goal.” He pats her on the head with the sole of his bare foot.

GP backs up in disgust, out of reach of Cas’s feet, and cleans her hind leg.

Dean crams the rest of his bacon in his mouth before the cat can get it. The Meat Man doesn’t leave his bacon up to chance.

* * *

“Hey, Sammy,” Dean says with a wide smile. Over his right shoulder, Cas gives the screen a little wave before he gets back to cleaning the dishes from breakfast.

“Hi, Dean,” Sam says as Eileen skids into view behind him. She shoots him a finger gun because Sam married a total nerd, and picks up little Bobby from out of frame so he can wave at the camera too.

“What’s up, bud?”

“Uncle Dean!”

“How’re you doing?” Dean signs with clumsy fingers. 

His ASL has never been great - Sam got together with Eileen around the time Dean started on his Family Nurse Practitioner degree, and between part-time work as an RN, master’s level night classes, and scrounging together a few hours a week for Charlie’s D&D campaigns, he never got around to getting the sign language tutoring he promised Sam he would. Then came the promotion once he’d graduated with his FNP with more advanced clinical responsibilities. And to Dean’s regret, the spare hours for ASL classes had to take the backburner if he wanted to stay sane.

“We’re doing great,” Sam says brightly, signing along with his words so Eileen doesn’t have to crane her neck to lipread. “Bobby is learning how to write his last name.”

Dean grimaces in sympathy. “That’s a lot of letters.”

“You’re telling me,” Sam sighs as Bobby nods vigorously. He nearly bashes into Eileen’s nose, but she dodges just in time.

“Gonna go into a career in teaching, Sammy?” At Sam’s groan in response, Dean asks, “Lawyering still hasn’t picked up in a pandemic?” 

Sam shakes his head. Wryly, he says, “I’m sure just as many people want to get divorced and adopt kids, but for some reason they’re not knocking at the firm’s door anymore.”

Eileen, who works in labor law and specializes in disability cases, shakes her head. She signs, “I’ve been pretty busy.”

Dean grimaces in sympathy. “At least you don’t have to teach a five-year-old?”

“Yeah,” Eileen says, a sly smile spreading across her face. “I get to be Fun Mom.”

Dean snorts. “As if Sam has ever been the Fun Parent.”

“I can be fun!”

Before Dean can respond, Eileen pats Sam’s arm. “Sure you can, sweetie.”

Dean laughs.

“How are you doing, Dean?” Sam asks.

Dean’s heart sinks. “Can’t complain.”

Sam’s eyes narrow. “I’ve been watching the infection rates in New York. You’re not sick, are you?”

“No, you paranoid bastard.”

Sam covers Bobby’s ears with his giant sasquatch paws. “Hey!”

Eileen also looks a little peeved around the eyes, so Dean signs a quick, “Sorry,” before continuing, “It’s not great at the hospital. I’m sure you’ve seen the news. I’m doing fine, though. I’m not sick, and we have enough PPE.” The last bit is kind of a lie, but it’s not like Sam can hack into the hospital inventory to check.

Sam’s face says he doesn’t believe a word out of Dean’s mouth. “You’d better keep me updated. I mean it, Dean.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he waves Sammy’s concerns away. “If I drop dead, I’ll text first.”

“That’s not funny.”

“It’s a little funny.” 

* * *

“How was this week, really?” Cas asks as they lounge on the couch after getting takeout for dinner. GP purrs on the armrest closest to him.

“Huh?”

Cas turns to him, his face serious. “I’ve barely spoken to you at all since Monday.”

“I’ve been busy,” Dean says shortly.

“You’ve been avoiding me.”

“Bit hard when we’re quarantined together, dude,” Dean protests even though it’s useless; he’s seen Cas in this mood before, like a dog with a bone.

“You have put in a remarkable effort.”

“Look, I don’t want to talk about it, okay?”

“I’ve been reading-”

“Drop it, Cas,” Dean growls.

“No,” Cas says mulishly. “You can’t distance yourself from this - or me. It’s not healthy.”

“I think I’m the expert on health here,” Dean says wryly, “I am certified in it. A coupla times over, actually.”

“You told me this morning the majority of nurses don’t maintain their own health.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “To get you off my back about vegetables. Not,” he gestures between them, “this.”

Cas sighs. “This is equally as important as your physical health.”

“Thanks for the lesson. I’ll just put on Grey’s Anatomy for more medical advice.”

Cas refuses to get derailed. “I’ve been reading about PTSD,” he barrels on, unmoved by Dean’s flinch, “They think frontline workers are at serious risk.”

“I know what PTSD is,” Dean says shortly. “We had a seminar about it.”

He doesn’t tell Cas how the speaker, a retired flight nurse with the VA, said they hadn’t seen comparable situations since 9/11, or in Kenya when the US embassy was bombed. But then, those mass casualty situations didn’t require this sort of protracted emergency response. Once the victims had been triaged and bandaged up or put in body bags, everyone could go home. With this virus, surges could come in waves for months.

“Right, well,” Cas says, sounding a little wrong-footed, “Then you know the best way to treat it is-”

“CBT, yeah, I know. I don’t think you’re qualified to give it, Dr. Cas.”

“CBT?”  Cas repeats in a strangled voice.

Dean’s eyes narrow. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”

“Oh.”

Dean snorts derisively. “Talking it out doesn’t work, so you can quit the Dr. Phil routine.”

Cas bites his lip. “Still, bottling it up can’t be the right way to cope.”

Dean’s anger flares. “Oh yeah? Why don’t you tell me how to cope when you have to call three separate families in one day to tell them grandpa kicked the bucket? Or when a six-year-old tells you it feels like an elephant is sitting on his chest when he tries to breathe? Or when you come back from lunch to hear your own fucking Chief of Medicine is on a vent?”

GP hops off the armrest and picks her way across the couch, dodging dropped rice and sniffing at probable pieces of chicken.

Cas blinks. “Bobby is on a ventilator?” he asks, his voice hushed. 

Dean's shoulders slump. “Yeah. He got himself admitted on Friday - by Sunday morning he had to be hooked up.”

GP settles squarely in his lap. He stares straight ahead as he runs his fingers along her back, and she purrs like the furriest internal combustion engine.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, well, sorry doesn’t fix coronavirus,” Dean mutters. He buries his head in his hands. “I caught Jack crying in a supply closet yesterday.”

“Oh no,” Cas breathes. “Is he - is his family...?”

“No, no, nothing like that,” Dean says quickly. "He's just a sensitive kid. Do you know what he told me when the waterworks stopped? ‘I just want to help everybody.’” Dean inhales a shaky breath - goddamn GP, he can almost feel his eyes start to itch. “And at any other time, I would’ve laughed, told him, ‘what do you want next, world peace?’ but I couldn’t do it.”

“I don’t think he would have appreciated that,” Cas says slowly.

“He probably would have offed himself with a scalpel,” Dean sighs. “So I just said that’s what we all want and got him cleaned up.”

Dean didn’t have the greatest relationship with the kid. It’d been getting better over the past month, but they didn’t start in a great place. Jack started at Edlund Memorial Hospital in January fresh out of nursing school, and he’d rubbed Dean the wrong way from the start - too overeager, too cheerful, too fucking naive for the daily grind of being a good nurse. But Dean always saw himself as duty-bound to help out new male nurses. Nursing across the board is like 90% women. The guys gotta stick together.

Naturally, when Jody saw Jack Kline, RN, on the roster of new hires, she made Dean his nurse preceptor.

Dean would have called the assignment sexist if he wanted to get punched in the face.

He’d just finished precepting Jack, orienting him to the ways of the hospital and showing him how things are done, when the virus hit.

Cas licks his lips. “Is Jack going to quit?”

Dean shakes his head. “This is gonna color his whole nursing career. He’s not gonna be the same after this.”

“He will be alright, though,” Cas says quietly. 

Dean stays quiet.

“He has you looking out for him.” 

“That doesn’t guarantee shit,” Dean says under his breath.

Cas’s eyes narrow. “You’re a good mentor, Dean, and an excellent teacher. Why wouldn’t having you in his corner help Jack get through this?”

“Because have no idea what the fuck I’m doing?” Dean slumps back in his seat. “I’ve dealt with respiratory viruses before. I can intubate and put someone on a ventilator. But it’s not good enough. They just keep dying, Cas.” He swallows around the lump in his throat and repeats lamely, “They just keep dying.”

“Would you like a hug?”

“What?”

Cas stares at him expectantly and raises his arms a fraction. 

Of the two of them, Dean’s by far the more touchy-feely roommate. He’ll clap Cas on the shoulder, do the one-armed hug in greeting, and occasionally ruffle his hair before Cas has had his morning coffee and isn’t awake enough to stop him.

Dean can count the number of times Cas initiated a hug on one hand.

“Yeah, sure,” Dean says, fighting to keep the tide of gratefulness out of his voice. “I could use a hug.”

* * *

After some not-so-gentle prodding from Cas the next morning, Dean texts Sam about Bobby’s condition. Sam named his damned kid after the man; Dean didn’t have much of a choice.

He tries religiously not thinking about the hospital for the next couple of hours. It doesn't work.

Finally, Cas all but locks him in the bathroom in the middle of the afternoon. “Take a bath,” he says through the door, his words slightly muffled. “It’ll help.”

“I don’t stink that bad,” he protests.

“Do it!” Cas thunders. “Use the bubble bath I left on the counter.”

“Come on, man,” Dean picks up the unlabeled bottle (undoubtedly one of Cas’s concoctions) with two fingers, like it might bite him, “I’m not doing that.”

“Why?"

“B-because!” he splutters. “I’m not!”

“For a man so in tune with his co-workers,” Cas muses, “who are almost entirely women, I do not understand this holdout of toxic masculinity.”

Dean gapes at the closed door. “It's not toxic masculinity,” he protests hotly, and thank you Jody for teaching him what that means.

“Prove it.”

Dean knows Cas set him up. He knows it’s a trap. He doesn’t fucking care. 

“Fine,” he grinds out before he stops the drain and starts the water. 

Smugness radiates from outside the door. “I'll get your phone so you can listen to your music.”

Dean smiles to himself as Cas’s footsteps take off in the opposite direction. What the hell, this might be nice after all. It’s not like he has anything else to do, shut up in his apartment during all his free time.

The tub is about a fourth of the way full by the time Cas’s knock comes. “I have your phone,” he says as he cautiously opens the door the barest sliver to allow his hand to thrust through.

Dean kicks the door open wider with the side of his foot. “I’m not undressed yet - calm down.”

Cas freezes on the threshold, his eyes wide as he takes in Dean sitting on the toilet. He holds Dean’s phone in a death grip in his right hand. 

“You wanna keep me company while this fills up?” Dean asks, eyebrows raised. “I forgot how long it takes.”

Cas leans against the sink, a stupidly pleased expression on his face.

Dean turns the bottle over in his hands thoughtfully. “What's this one do?”

“Excuse me?” 

“This,” Dean shakes the bottle slightly so the liquid inside sloshes around. “Come on, every one of your products is supposed to do something - serenity now, and whatever.”

Cas looks a little spooked around the eyes. “I didn't think you noticed.”

“Dude, I pay attention,” Dean says, a little offended. 

“But you don’t exactly believe in it,” Cas says delicately.

“Well no,” Dean admits, “but you do.”

Cas hums to himself. “It’s to encourage relaxation.”

“Oh.”

Cas raises his eyebrows. “What were you expecting it to do? Help you fly?”

“I dunno,” Dean taps the bottle restlessly with his fingers. “Something more exciting than relaxing. Aren’t baths already supposed to do that?”

Cas deadpans, “You need the extra help.”

Dean chuckles as he dips his hand in the water to test the temperature. “How much do I put in? I think I was four the last time I had a bubble bath.”

“About half a teaspoon.”

Dean gets off the toilet, shaking his hand dry. “Gotcha.” He gestures to his pants, his expression wry. “Are you waiting for a show?”

“No, no, of course not,” Cas says hurriedly, a little red in the face. He pushes off the sink. “I’ll leave you to your bath.”

Dean grins as Cas all but slams the door behind himself.

He strips, leaving his clothes in a pile on the floor. Screwing up his face, he pours a hearty drip of Cas’s bubble bath into the water.

Neon. Pink. Bubbles. Everywhere.

Aghast, Dean can only watch as a bubble gum factory explodes in his bathtub.

“Cas!”

“Dean?” Cas asks as he bursts through the door.

For a split second, neither of them move - Cas, fully clothed, and Dean, naked as the day he was born.

Cas’s gaze dips down, and Dean is shouting, “Dude, get out!”

Cas slaps a hand over his eyes. “I - you’re not - I’m sorry!” He edges blindly back the way he came.

“Jesus Christ,” Dean gripes as he wraps a towel firmly around his waist. “Cas! Get back here, I called you over for a reason, you son of a bitch.” He storms out of the bathroom and almost bumps straight into Cas.

“Dean?” Cas says in a small voice. “I’m so sorry. Last time I entered, you were,” he swallows, “wearing clothes. I didn’t realize I should have knocked first.”

“Nothing gets past you, does it?” Dean grumbles as he grasps Cas firmly by the upper arm and hauls him back into the bathroom. “Explain this.” He gestures emphatically towards the tub.

“Explain… how to take a bath?” Cas turns back to Dean. “You said it’s been a while but-”

“I know how to take a bath, Jesus,” Dean interrupts through gritted teeth. “It’s not gonna turn me pink, is it?”

“Not unless you have some sort of allergic reaction.”

“Well, good,” Dean says gruffly before he screws up his face. “Sam didn’t put you up to this, did he?”

“No,” Cas says, looking honestly baffled. “You thought he did?”

Dean shrugs helplessly. “We used to pull pranks on each other all the time. Itching powder in his underwear, wasabi in my mouthwash. You know.”

“Would he really try to pull a prank on you now? He was,” Cas pauses, searching for the right word, “loud when he called about Bobby this morning.”

Dean winces. “That was my bad. I shouldn’t have told him over text.”

“People might try to find humor where they can, in these times,” Cas says, his tone carefully level, “but long-distance pranking by proxy doesn't seem especially wise. Sam is usually smarter and more practical.”

Dean almost throws his hands in the air before he remembers his towel. “I have no idea what he’d do. That’s why I asked. Everyone responds to trauma in weird ways.”

“Including paranoia about bubble baths?” Cas asks innocently.

“Shut up.” Dean hitches his towel higher.

After Cas leaves, Dean carefully lowers himself into the water. The last thing he needs after two weeks of being on the frontlines of a once-in-a-century pandemic is to slip, bash his head in the bath, and die, naked, covered in pink bubbles. Sam would never let him live it down.

He sits back, the barest inklings of boredom already tickling at his consciousness.

* * *

The next thing he knows, Cas is leaning over him, shaking his shoulder.

“What the fuck?” Dean startles. Water splashes, and he hurriedly makes sure all his bits are covered. He didn’t need to worry - the bubbles have mostly subsided, but his Pepto-Bismol bathwater hides everything except his twin island knees, jutting out into the open air.

“I didn’t want you to drown,” Cas says matter-of-factly. His nose is still inches from Dean’s face.

Dean splutters, “I’m not going to drown, asshole.” He tries to back up, but there’s nowhere to go in their stupidly small tub built for gnomes and preteen girls.

Cas raises his eyebrows as he sits back. “You’ve been in here for almost an hour.”

“What?”

“You fell asleep,” Cas adds unnecessarily.

“It felt like five minutes,” Dean murmurs. He wiggles his fingers in the water, only now noticing how cold it’s gotten.

“Are you relaxed?”

Dean blinks. “Yeah, I guess so,” he says as Cas turns on the tap, sending a hot stream over his feet. “Damn,” he murmurs, sinking a little deeper.

“Don’t prune,” Cas says, even though it’s a little late for that. He gets to his feet. “And turn off the water before it overflows.”

Dean flips his middle finger at Cas’s back. He knows how not to flood the bathroom for christ’s sake. After letting hot water gush over his lower extremities for a few more seconds, he gets to work washing his hair and soaping the rest of himself in a sort of deep-clean his daily rinses don’t cover.

By the time he emerges from the bathroom fifteen minutes later, clad in his trusty robe, he’s gloriously relaxed and clean, and pinker than normal - mostly from his vigorous scrubbing. The memories from the past week seem a little more distant, and he can’t be bothered to be angry at Sam for being angry at him in the first place.

“Cas?” Dean calls as he pokes his head into the living room. No Cas. He tiptoes to Cas’s closed bedroom door and raises his hand to knock. He freezes at the murmur of voices.

Cas’s room has always been strictly off-limits. Ever since Cas moved in two years ago, it’s been his only hard rule. He’s made various excuses over the years, but Dean has never pushed. Cas has always maintained clear and distinct boundaries - he's mentioned his large family only twice; he’s never had any friends over; and he sometimes takes off every couple of months without telling Dean where he goes, only when he’ll be back.

As far as Dean’s concerned, the forbidden room is just a physical reminder.

So Dean will wink and flirt even though it won't go anywhere. Cas hasn't told him to knock it off yet, and Dean's always been a guy who gets an inch and takes a mile.

Dean lowers his hand and shoves it in his pockets instead. 

He's not going to screw it up and invade Cas’s privacy because of his stupid curiosity. If Cas doesn’t trust him, Dean won’t worry about it. He has better things to lose his shit over, like a fucking pandemic.

Resigned, he turns away. 

* * *

Dean’s first day back at the hospital passes at its normal breakneck pace - one emergency after another. No patients on his watch die, though, which Dean counts as a win.

Cas is pretty cheerful when Dean gets home. The grocery store had flour back in stock, so Cas bought enough to open a bakery. For dinner, he makes chicken pot pie from scratch. 

Dean burns off half his mouth but he doesn't care. Pie.

And then Cas busts out the real cherry pie.

“If I didn't know better,” Dean groans as he settles back in his chair, “I’d think you were buttering me up for something.”

Cas’s last bite of pie stutters on its way to his mouth.

Dean’s eyes narrow. “What are you up to, Cas?”

“Nothing,” Cas says quickly. “I’m not up to anything.”

“Tell me a third time, and I still won’t believe you,” Dean scoffs.

Cas sighs, caught. He digs around in his pocket to hand Dean a long string with a black pendant dangling on the end. It catches the overhead light, reflecting shades of brilliant blue and grey.

Dean holds it up to eye level curiously. “Aw Cas, you made me a friendship bracelet?” 

“It’s a necklace,” Cas huffs, shoulders hunching. He shoves the last of his pie into his mouth.

Dean drops the joking attitude. “Thank you,” he repeats before saying, honestly, “I really like it.”

“It’s for protection,” Cas says, squarely meeting Dean’s eyes. “When you go outside, wear it. It’ll help.”

“Uh, of course.”

Cas busies himself gathering together the crumbs on his plate into a little pile. “I was thinking of branching out my store into minor jewelry making to supplement lost sales.”

Dean slips the necklace over his head. It hangs next to the amulet Sam gave him when he was twelve. “Happy to be your guinea pig any time, Cas.”

GP, of course, takes her name as an invitation to jump on the table. She gets one good sniff at pie tin before Cas gently pushes her to the other side. “That’s not for you.”

“Mitts off my pie,” Dean warns as he reaches for a second helping.

“The fruit isn’t good for your digestive system,” Cas tells her seriously as she watches Dean finish off the rest of his slice, her huge yellow eyes unblinking.

GP makes a disgusted brrp sound and leaps off the table in a huff.

“I’ll clean up,” Cas says as he watches her go.

“No, no,” Dean says in a rush, as he gets up too. “You did all the cooking.”

“And you just got off a 12-hour shift.” Cas wrangles the tin out of Dean’s hands. “I can handle a couple of plates and the silverware. The rest has to soak in the sink anyway.” 

“That’s not fair,” Dean complains. “You made me dinner and gave me a present. The least I can do is the dishes.”

Cas dances out of the way of Dean’s reckless swipe for the plates Cas holds in his hands. “Haven’t you ever heard, 'You can’t always get what you want?’”

“Don’t quote my own music back at me!” Dean says, scandalized. “I introduced you to the Stones!”

Cas laughs before sobering. He nods at the necklace. “Can you promise me you’ll wear it for all your shifts?”

Dean blames his exhaustion for the uncontrollable burst of warmth in his chest. “’Course, man.” He smiles weakly. “I need all the protection I can get.” 

Like that has anything to do with his desire to wear something Cas made for him.

“Good,” Cas says seriously. He inhales a deep breath. “Thank you, Dean.”

* * *

Dean sags onto the bench, staring out at the small enclosed garden with its wimpy-looking trees and patchy grass. Even though it’s almost spring, the hospital probably fired all the non-essential grounds crew that would normally spruce it up.

He carefully removes his mask and its covering, breathing in real air for the first time since he left his apartment at six am, nearly seven hours ago.

“Hey Dean-o!”

Dean violently pushes down his irritation at being interrupted. Donna doesn’t deserve that. He smiles instead.

“Getting some fresh air? I don’t blame ya,” Donna says cheerfully as she parks herself on the next bench over, a good ten feet away. She wiggles her paper bag lunch in his direction and takes off her own mask. “Whatcha got today?”

Dean raises his plastic-wrapped sandwich, bag of chips, and cookie from the hospital cafeteria. “Ran out of groceries yesterday.”

“Shucks,” Donna says, an exaggerated frown crossing her face as she pulls out her own homemade sandwich. “I’d trade, but…”

“No, I get it,” Dean says with a weak grin as he unwraps his lunch. “How’ve you been?”

Donna throws him an exasperated look for asking such a stupid question. “Been better.”

“At least it’s warmer here than in Minnesota?” Dean tries.

“Sure is.” Donna beams before she turns a little apprehensive. “I spoke to Doug this morning, and he said it was colder in Stillwater than Mars. Can you believe it?”

“Ex-husband Doug or,” Dean hesitates, “boyfriend Doug?”

Donna’s face scrunches. “Ex -boyfriend Doug,” she says firmly. “We broke up before I came here. He,” she pauses, “didn’t want me to leave Stillwater.”

Dean gets it. If Sam thought he could get away with breaking into Dean’s apartment, kidnapping him, and bodily dragging him off to live with him and Eileen, he’d do it in a second. “I’m sure he was just scared for you.”

Donna bites into her sandwich with relish. “It wasn’t his decision to make. I kept seeing you guys on the TV, over and over. Eventually,” she swallows, “It was either turn off the news or get my behind to New York City. Wasn’t really much of a choice, you know?”

“Well, we’re glad to have you here, Donna,” Dean says as he raises the second half of his sandwich in a toast.

“Aren’t you sweet?” Donna says, entirely guileless. She turns her head at the sound of footsteps. “Jody-o!”

Dean grins. “Hey Dr. Mills.”

Jody scowls. “Can it, Dean.”

Donna blinks. “Doctor?”

Jody rolls her eyes. “I finished my DNP last year. Dean’s being a smartass. He knows ‘Jody’ works just fine. No ‘Dr. Mills’ bullcrap.”

Dean puts down his sandwich. “What’s our esteemed Director of Nursing doing out here?”

“If I had to stare at the walls of my office for one more minute, I was going to throw my computer out the window,” Jody says as she sags onto a bench across the walkway. “I thought I would get some fresh air. Calm the homicidal rage.”

“A good idea,” Donna says. “That’s why we’re here.”

Jody nods once. “How’re you settling in? It’s been, what, two weeks?”

“Something like that,” Donna says. “And it’s been a-okay.”

“Right,” Jody says gruffly, her eyes narrowed, “If any of the staff give you trouble, let me know.”

Dean would bet on his life that Jody feels responsible for all the out-of-state nurses, Donna included, brought to Edlund Memorial to deal with the surge. According to Donna, she’s been living in a deserted Midtown hotel with about 200 other nurses from Texas, North Carolina, California, and who knows where else.

Donna stiffens. “I’m not a snitch.”

Dean hides his smile behind his sandwich.

Jody rolls her eyes. “Dean’s keeping an eye out for you, at least, right?”

“Sure am,” Dean chimes in easily, ignoring Donna’s open-mouthed stare. “Donna brought donuts her second day. ‘S the least I could do.”

“Congrats, Donna,” Jody says with a laugh, "you’ve made a friend for life.”

* * *

Dean’s next few shifts are a rollercoaster. 

On his first day back, one of the docs on his unit gets admitted. Dean never got along with Dr. Talbot - she came in from plastic surgery to help with the pandemic surge - but he’s not a monster

Dean wakes up the next morning with a text from Jody - they took Bobby off the ventilator overnight. In the afternoon, Dean video calls Sam from Bobby’s bedside. Sam, the true genius of the family, uses his son as a shield to keep Bobby from being too surly over the camera. 

Bobby musters a grin for his namesake but flips Sam off when the kid looks the other way.

On Dean’s fourth shift, Jack has a panic attack after mixing up meds. It’s a novice mistake - one Dean himself has made before - so Dean catches it before it reaches the patients, but Jack’s so rattled Dean has to spend twenty minutes talking him through it.

By his fifth day, Dean’s almost a zombie. He doggedly makes it through, focusing on one task after another.

On Day Six, Dean realizes how fucked up he is when he only remembers to brush his teeth halfway through his commute to the hospital. He checks his suspiciously light bag, and discovers he completely forgot the lunch Cas packed for him the night before. To make sure he hasn’t completely lost it, Dean glances down at his shoes: at least they match. He has his keys and phone, thank god. And Sammy’s amulet.

Overnight, two more patients were admitted with the virus, and one more is admitted in the morning. Up to his neck with crap to do, Dean only sees Cas’s text as he scans in meds with his phone.

Cas 9:07
You forgot the protection necklace.

Dean 10:20
Shit. my bad
Todays been crazy busy

Cas must be watching his phone. He texts back only a few seconds later. 

Cas 10:20
You need to take it with you.

Dean 10:21
I’ll remember tomorrow
Relax! Brush the cat or something

Dean rolls his eyes, pockets his phone, and turns back to take Mr. Devereaux's vitals. Whatever crystal-healing, chakra-aligning, aura-cleansing the necklace does is less important than evidence-based medicine.

Twenty minutes later, he spots Jack waving enthusiastically from the nurses’ station. Dean hides his sigh behind his mask and makes a mental note not to get too waylaid from checking on Mr. Blake’s labs.

“What’s up, kid?” Dean asks. “You need somethin’?”

“There’s someone down at Information for you,” Jack says. “They said you left something at home.” 

Dean pales. “You sure?” he rasps. He clears his throat. “Did you see him?”

“Well, no,” Jack falters, “but the lady at Information said they were very insistent about seeing you.”

“Son of a bitch.” Dean grimaces behind his mask. “Can you see if the labs I ordered for Mr. Blake are back yet? I’ll be back in five.” He turns on his heel and marches to the elevators.

He cannot believe Cas. Of all the stupid, dumabss things to do, he had to come here? If he didn’t have the virus already, he’ll be coughing tomorrow and unable to breathe by next week. 

Dean jabs at the elevator button, foot tapping.

He didn’t think he had to tell Cas not to go to the hospital. It was common fucking sense! All the sick people are at the hospital, so don’t go to the fucking hospital unless you wanna be sick too.

The ride down to the ground floor is excruciating.

Like a man on a mission, Dean strides down the main hall towards the entrance and information desk. He doesn’t spot Cas immediately, masked, with a red hoodie pulled over pretty much the rest of his face. 

“Cas,” Dean growls. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Cas whirls around, and Dean has never been more thankful for the expressive nature of Cas’s unearthly blue eyes. “You forgot this,” Cas says hurriedly, rushing forward, necklace in hand.

“Fuck the necklace,” Dean hisses, hands automatically rising to stop Cas before he can get too close. “What the fuck is wrong with you, you psycho? Go home - where it’s safe!”

Cas waves the fist clutching the necklace in the air like a crazy person trying to ward off demons. “You need to have this on you at all times.”

“You are insane,” Dean says flatly. 

“Dean,” Cas says - pleads, really, “take it, and I’ll leave.”

“Fine,” Dean says, resigned, “Toss it to me. Then I’d better not see your face until I get home, capisce?”

“I capisce.” Sheer relief shines from his eyes as he throws the necklace over.

Dean catches it against his chest and scowls behind his mask. He points a menacing finger in the general direction of Cas’s face, still a proper six feet away. “Don’t pull shit like this ever again, you hear me?”

Cas dips his head as he backs away. “I’ll see you at home.”

Dean shakes his head at Becky behind the Information desk. Her eyes are huge above her mask.

“Not a word,” he thunders at her before stomping back the way he came. Cas’s necklace weighs like an anchor in his pocket.

* * *

Dean barely manages to swallow down enough of his anger at Cas to deal with the rest of his shift. He snaps at Jack - but he apologizes after Jack gives him the sad eyes - and is a bit terse when Mrs. Wilson asks when she will be discharged. Never, if you keep whining about it, Ava.

He almost trips over GP as he steps inside their apartment. Confused - she’s never greeted Dean at the door in the whole two years he’s lived with Cas - he nudges her out of the way with his foot. As he gets further into his apartment, there’s no sign of Cas. But at least he left Dean’s laundry basket outside the bathroom door.

Dean violently scrubs himself down in the shower in record time.

“Cas!” he calls as he makes his way to his bedroom, clutching his towel in a white-knuckled grip around his waist. He searches for clothes. “Quit hiding!”

“I’m in my room!”

Dean jumps and nearly bangs his hand against the underside of his underwear drawer. Cas's voice wouldn't have carried that clearly unless both bedroom doors were open. In a flash, Dean pulls on a pair of boxers and his trusty robe. It’s his goddamn apartment; if Dean doesn’t want to wear pants, nobody’s gonna stop him.

When he leaves his bedroom, Cas’s door is standing wide open.

Dean pauses just outside. “Can I come in?” he asks, feeling a little stupid as most of the fight drains out of him, replaced by confusion.

“Yes.”

Like an armored knight venturing into a dragon’s cave, he tiptoes inside. The hairs on the back of his neck stand on end as he looks around. “What the hell,” he breathes.

Cas spins around in a normal roller office chair - the only normal piece of furniture in the whole goddamn room. 

Cas’s work surface is an enormous desk built into a giant hutch, full of cubby holes filled with plants and jars. His bed is too small, more of a cot, shoved against the far wall to make room for an enormous open middle space. An ornate mirror hangs on the wall, weird scribbles carved into the frame. As Dean’s eyes rove around the room, he almost catches a flicker of movement in the mirror even though he’s standing stock still.

Cas’s room is also two times too big to fit in their apartment building.

Dean nearly jumps out of his skin as GP lets out a meow and headbutts his shin. He grips the door frame for support. “This is your room?” Dean asks in a strangled voice.

Cas nods solemnly as GP leaps for his lap. “You can see why I have been reluctant to show you.”

“What the fuck?”

“I’m a witch,” Cas says matter-of-factly.

Dean stares. 

Cas pats the top of GP’s head. “The necklace I made you... it has a powerful protection charm on it. It will keep you from getting sick.” He ducks his head and focuses on petting GP in the exact right spot. “It’ll also protect you from physical assaults and magical attacks, but those are less relevant right now.”

Dean tries to breathe, but it’s like all the air has gone from the room. “You’re a witch,” he repeats, his gaze still jumping around the room in an adrenaline-fueled craze. 

Since when does Cas’s window overlook a mountain?

Cas nods in agreement.

Dean inhales a ragged breath. “How long?”

“My whole life,” Cas says simply. “My family has been magical going back to biblical times.” He bites his lip and gestures to his bed. “Would you like to sit?”

Dean is already shaking his head and backing away before he registers what he’s doing.

Cas frowns as he gets to his feet, letting GP fall unceremoniously to the floor. “I wasn’t sure how to tell you,” he says as he walks towards Dean. “So I thought this would be the easiest and most convincing.”

Dean takes a few more hasty steps backwards, but Cas just strides past him and tips his head towards the living room. 

Cas closes his bedroom door. “Why don’t we talk out here?”

“What if I don’t want to talk?” Dean demands before he swallows nervously, half-expecting Cas to start waving his arms and spitting curses. 

Dean can’t see Cas’s expression, only his back, but Cas’s shoulders slump. Without turning around, he says, defeat ringing from every word,  “If you think you need time to process on your own, I understand.”

Dean fingers Sam’s amulet at his throat, the one Sam said brought good luck. And, despite his common sense, Dean follows.

Cas leads him into the kitchen. When he turns around, his face is troubled. “If you’d like me to leave,” he says to his hands, clasped tightly on the countertop, “I can pack in a few minutes. The spells on my room should dissipate within a day.”

Dean unsticks his tongue from the roof of his too-dry mouth. “I think I’ll hear you out first.”

Cas nods, doubt and maybe fear lurking in his downcast eyes. He bites his lip. “I’m not sure where to start. Do you… have any questions? I’ll answer anything.”

Dean’s mouth purses. “Have you ever used magic on me?”

Cas gives a tiny nod.

“When?” Dean asks, fighting to keep his voice even.

“Other than the necklace,” Cas begins, “the bubble bath solution from last week had a minor relaxing spell on it. The soup - you’ve asked me what’s in it - the active ingredient is dehydrated dragon scale.”

Dean sucks in a horrified breath. “What?”

“I’m sorry,” Cas says miserably. “I know I shouldn’t have.”

“That’s disgusting!” Dean gags. “You made me eat dusty old dragon bits?”

“Dehydrated,” Cas corrects.

“Dragons are real?”

“They mainly live on reservations now,” Cas says with a dismissive wave. “They’re a protected species.”

Dean’s mouth opens and closes before he sighs and shakes his head. “What else?” he asks, resigned. 

“Your birthday present this year,” Cas says quietly. “The record player is spelled to prevent your records from degrading or wearing down.” He takes a bracing breath. “The set of candles I gave you for Christmas will prevent nightmares.”

“So everything you’ve given me, basically,” Dean, his voice flat. He makes a face. “The gift card you gave me for my birthday right after you moved in?”

Cas tilts his head. “That was a normal gift card.”

Dean runs a hand down his face. “So, are you more like Sabrina or the Sanderson Sisters?”

Cas’s brow furrows in puzzlement.

“You know, Sabrina the Teenage Witch?” 

“I’m not a teenager,” Cas says, which, thank you Captain Obvious, but that doesn’t tell Dean anything. He resists the urge to facepalm. 

“Should’ve known,” Dean mutters to himself. He tries again, “How about Harry Potter?”

“Highly inaccurate,” Cas pronounces. “There are hardly enough of us to form an entire secret society. And I went to a normal public high school.”

Dean taps his fingers against the countertop. “So… I guess, are you more of a Harry Potter or a Wicked Witch of the West?” He shoots Cas a stern look. “Please tell me you’ve seen the Wizard of Oz.”

Cas dips his head. “I was very disappointed when I found out the flying monkeys did not exist.”

Dread trickles down Dean’s spine. The film definitely got some things wrong - for one, Dean has for sure seen Cas spill water down himself once or twice. And as far as he’s heard, no buildings have recently gotten sucked into tornadoes in New York City.

“I wanted to rehabilitate them,” Cas continues, “Since it wasn’t their fault they were raised in that environment. When I was younger, I once made Guinea Pig fly around the room. She did not care for it.”

Dean’s train of thought comes to a screeching halt. “GP’s part of…” he drifts off and gestures helplessly up and down in Cas’s general direction.

“She’s my familiar,” Cas says like it was fucking obvious.

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Most times she’s a normal pet-”

An indignant meow comes from behind them.

Cas shakes his head. “She is more intuitive than a non-magical cat, though, and her intelligence is significantly higher than the standard.”

Dean glances down to see GP glaring up at the pair of them.

“She can usually sense when I’m talking about her,” Cas adds.

“Got it,” Dean says faintly. He slumps over the kitchen counter, burying his face in his hands. 

Cas is a witch. Cas can do magic. Cas casts spells. What the ever-loving fuck is Dean supposed to do with that? Could he turn Dean into a toad if he forgets to take out the trash again?

When Dean looks up, for the first time he takes in how tired Cas looks. The bags under his eyes are more pronounced than normal, and his forehead furrow hasn’t let up since Dean came home. 

Dean’s heart twinges. He straightens. “How about I make us some tea, and we can sit down and talk some more?”

The furrow deepens. “You hate tea.”

“So? It’s supposed to be calming and shit.” Dean freezes. “It’s not magical tea, is it? Like, if I make it instead of you, will I get boils or something? Will it taste like crap?”

Cas’s mouth twitches. “That’s not how magic works - or how tea works.”

“Well I don’t know!” Dean throws his hands in the air. “You make it, then, since you’re the magic and tea expert.”

* * *

“Have you ever cursed anyone?”

“I gave my cousin Anna a terrible haircut with magic once. Does that count?”

“Depends. Was it right before a job interview or something?”

“We were six.”

* * *

“Could I ride a dragon?”

“Prehistoric dragons were as big as houses. The modern species is the size of a large dog, so no.”

“Bummer.”

* * *

“Then could you curse Sam for me? I’d finally get back at him for super-gluing my hand. That’s gotta be worth at least a little curse - hex? Jinx?”

“No matter what you call it, Sam doesn’t deserve magical retribution. You are creative enough when left to your own devices.”

A pause.

“You just don’t want to get on Sam’s bad side.”

* * *

“So what’s the online store for?”

Cas’s mouth purses. “I still need to make a living, Dean. Magic doesn’t directly pay bills.”

* * *

“How does it work?” Dean asks almost lazily.

“The metaphysical properties of magic or more simply how I do it?”

Dean groans. “No metaphysics. I’ll need more alcohol and less fucking leaf juice for that talk.”

Cas offers a small smile. “A standard spell requires an incantation, a magical base and, of course, a magical caster.”

“Base? Like the dragon parts?”

“Dragon is very expensive since scales are only available during the molting season. For alternatives, I could also buy jackalope antler or kraken ink. For most minor things, I use Guinea Pig’s fur.”

“What?” Dean whips his head to stare at GP, currently splayed across Cas’s lap on her back and apparently dead to the world.

“She is a magical creature,” Cas explains as he runs a single finger down her belly. Her whiskers twitch. “And she’s more conveniently located and apartment-sized. It’s why we bred familiars in the first place, to have a magical source close by. The company doesn't hurt either.”

Dean yawns. “Are you going to get in trouble for telling me all this? With, I dunno, other witches and stuff?”

Cas shrugs. “It depends on you.”

Dean snorts. “Even if I blabbed to every newspaper in the city, nobody would believe me,” he says frankly.

“No, I’m not worried about that,” Cas says, as he twirls her tail around a couple of fingers, “I could make you forget.”

Ice freezes in Dean’s veins. More alert than he’s been all day, he stutters, “I don’t  - you could do that?”

Cas meets Dean’s horrified gaze and nods. “If you wanted.”

“If I-?”

“If you’d rather live without knowing all this,” Cas sweeps his hand up and down himself and Guinea Pig, “I would make you forget and move out the next day.”

Dean gapes. “There’s a pandemic going on,” he says weakly. “You can’t leave.”

Cas’s eyes narrow. “I can protect myself against the virus, Dean.”

“Yeah, but,” Dean searches for the right words to get Cas to stay. “Couldn’t you just wipe me, and bippity boppity boo, we’d go back to normal?”

Cas full-body flinches, and GP’s ears twitch in alarm. “I may be many things,” he says in a low voice, “but I am not a masochist.”

“What?”

Cas stares straight ahead at the dark television screen, ignoring GP’s insistent headbutts against his stomach. “I can’t live here with the knowledge you’d rather forget than know the real me.” He inhales a shaky breath. 

“Cas…”

Cas closes his eyes. “Whatever you choose, I will abide by your decision. I know I haven’t exactly respected your boundaries in the past, and I regret that, but I don’t regret the past two years getting to know you.”

“Cas,” Dean repeats, “Come on, buddy, look at me.”

Cas complies, his face bleak.

Dean leans in. “Hex me or something if you don’t want this,” he murmurs before he presses their mouths together.

Dean draws back almost instantly, waiting for Cas to react, an apology on the tip of his tongue. As Cas lunges for him, he swallows it down.

GP squeaks and darts off Cas’s lap.

Their mouths collide together again, noses bumping. Dean lets out a little noise of surprise, and Cas wastes no time slipping his tongue between his lips. Dean sags back against the couch, nearly going horizontal as Cas climbs on top of him. Blindly, Cas pushes open Dean’s robe, his hands reaching for his bare torso. One settles at his hip while the other snakes up to cups the back of Dean’s neck.

Cas’s thumb presses into Dean’s skin, right above the waistline of his boxers.

Holy shit, Dean isn’t wearing pants.

They’ve gotta stop. They’ve gotta talk about this. 

Cas has gotta do that thing with his hips again.

Dean’s dick twitches under its feeble layer of fabric, and he’s so fucking hard there’s barely enough blood left in his brain to let him string two sentences together.

Before he can do something stupid, he pulls away. “Hey,” he says. He reaches up to trace Cas’s sharp jawline with the pads of his fingers, smiling.

“Hello,” Cas says, his eyes dancing.

Dean cradles both sides of Cas’s face in his hands. “I’ll eat all the dragon scales you want - just don’t make me forget you.”

“Never,” Cas promises.