Rain slated across the window, obscuring his view. He grips the wheel tightly, forced his eyes to remain open, even if all he wants is to curl up someplace warm and sleep.
Dean navigates the car into the garage, gives it an affectionate pat for a job well done. He curls his hand around his neck, feels the tension creep up along his back and settle on his shoulders. He told Cas he’d be home by eight and it’s almost ten. He’s late again and he braces himself for another row.
He tugs the collar of his jacket up against the wind and hurries around the house to the kitchen door. It’s locked and he fiddles with the keys, cursing the cold and the rain. As soon as the door, the sharp smell of disinfectant hits him.
He had promised Cas he’d do the cleaning this time. Another thing he’ll pick a fight about.
“Hey, Cas, you home?”
Dean takes a deep breath, tries to sort out the familiar scent of his mate from the sterile soap, but his human nose isn’t sensitive enough.
He moves through the dark house. Turns the light on in the living room. Catches his own reflection in the dark television. Oil stained overalls, a streak of dirt across his jaw. Castiel dislikes the poignant scent of oil and grease and Dean realizes he’s dragging the scent all through the recently cleaned house. Shit. He’s going to end up sleeping in the basket in the kitchen again.
There’s nothing out of place in the living room, newspapers piled on the table, books sorted alphabetically in the shelves. Dean stops, tilts his head, lets his ears pick through the usual sounds of the house, the hum of the air conditioner, the constant buzz from the fridge, the clock in their bedroom.
In their bedroom, their mingled scent is still strong. Even if they fight during the day, even if they go asleep on opposite edges of the bed, they’ll always find each other during the night. But, the bed is made with military perfection and the basket is empty.
Cas usually leaves a note if he’s going out.
Dean sighs. For the last couple of weeks, things between them have been strained. Dean spending too much time at work. Cas feeling cloistered and guilty by his inability to find a new job. He’s been a rollercoaster of moods, short and snappish, hissy fits and sulks so acidic it could have peeled off the wallpaper. Dean feels like he was living in a minefield.
Dean moves over to the bedroom window and pries it open. The wind blows drops of rain through the gap and onto the floor, but Cas prefers to sleep in a cold room, even if Dean thinks it’s a pain in the ass to wake up and be unable to feel his own face. He closes the door, trapping the chilly air. Maybe it will be enough to stave off another argument.
He goes to the back door. On a small peg hangs his green collar, while Cas’s blue one is missing. Dean frowns, even as the unease in his chest settles some. Cas is adamant about his nightly trek through the woods, no matter the weather. Christ, the guy had even gone out in a goddamned blizzard once and come home with a mangy hare.
Dean throws his dirty clothes into the laundry hamper and steps into the shower, allowing the heat and pounding water beat away the aches of a long day bent over the hood of cars. He likes his job and doesn’t mind the extra hours to make up the loss of an income, but the work takes it toll on their relationship.
Afterwards, he flops down on the sofa, stretches until he feels every kink in his back pop into place. He lets his eyes drop shut, tries to stave off a headache as the weariness of the day eases out of his bones. Just twenty minutes and then he’ll start dinner. To make up for not cleaning the kitchen, like he had promised.
He wakes with a start.
Light filters through the curtains, stretching cold, pale fingers across the room. He wipes his hand across his face, blinks the room into view. It’s been years since he lost control of his internal clock and the effect is jarring and disorientating. There is an uneasy feeling in his stomach, raw and sharp like the lingering remains of a nightmare he cannot quite shake.
Dean pads across the room to the kitchen. The smell of disinfectant is less poignant, but it still makes him wrinkle his nose in disgust. Cas always boasts about of his superior sense of smell, how could his wolf stand this?
He makes a cup of instant coffee, pours some milk and two spoons of sugar into it. A peace offering and a shield for a no-doubt grumpy mate.
He nudges the door to their bedroom open with his foot.
Fear flares, bright and dangerous and Dean feels the cup explode in his grip, warm water and shards spilling over his hand. He’s oblivious to the pain. The bed is still made, the room is icy and the last trail of his mate’s scent is drifting through the open window.
Castiel didn’t come home last night.
He moves to the back of the house, wrenching off his clothes with each step. Cas’s collar is still missing and Dean snaps his own around his neck. He closes his eyes and tries not to think about the violent and aggressive transformation ever nerve, cell and bone in his body is forced through as he Shifts.
The world is blurrier as a wolf, everything a hue of grey and black, but some things are sharpers: the sound of fridge, the burring of the damned air condition and every heavy toll of the clock. He sees the trails of his own scent, dark green and vibrant. He slips through the flap in the door, gives himself a heart beat to sort through the smells until he finds Cas’s blue one, so faint it is almost undetectable. A few traces of it linger outside the door, wafting in the silent morning breeze. The rain. Dean curses; the rain and the wind have almost washed the streets clean.
But there is something, thin and faint, ribbons of blue twisting along the path to the woods.
He follows the faint trail until it disappears among the trees and the world becomes a kaleidoscope of dark greens and browns. Pines, dirt, wet soil, rocks, moss, rain, animals, all drowning out the blue trail that his mate’s scent would have left.
Dean turns back home, tries to summon his last strains of restraint. Wolves are all instinct and power, and it wants to leap into the woods and run until it finds his mate. Dean needs his human mind to think logically about this situation. There has to be an explanation for this.
Maybe Cas has decided to visit his sister and then decided to wait out the rain.
Without telling Dean.
A faint sliver of hope blossoms in his chest.
He goes back to the house, presses his nose to the ground - there, the faint traces of Cas, almost seeped through the moldy stench of the wet wood on the porch. Strange. Did Castiel go out, return and then leave again?
He nudges his way through the flap in the door, finds himself in the kitchen again. The white cloud of the bleach is all encompassing and burns ever nerve in his nose.
Dean is about to Shift and find the phone.
He’ll call Sam and he’ll tell him that Cas is in the barn with Anna. It wouldn’t be the first time the two siblings caught up in some game.
But then he sees something. It drifts along floor by the cabinet, small and faint. Almost twelve hours old. A dark fleck. He breaths in the scent and fear coils along his spine, settles in the pit of his stomach. He recognizes the smell well enough after hours on the range with his father who always insisted that they needed to know how to protect themselves against hunters and collectors.
It’s gunpowder. Somebody fired a gun in his kitchen.