Dean can’t pinpoint the day when a haunted hotel stopped meriting more than an eyebrow raise. But when Sam bounds into the kitchen, inserting the laptop between Dean and a skin mag, wildly gesticulating at some fugly purple blog, his reaction is an uninspired, “Eh.”
“Eh ?” Sam echoes and jabs a finger at the first headline.
Massive EM burst in historic hotel in Nevada .
Ten years ago, they would’ve raced to the Impala, but Dean merely exhales. He rearranges his hands so the magazine is positioned on top of the keyboard and resumes ogling.
“Dean,” Sam says, predictably making a grab for the magazine. Dean thwarts the attack by tucking it behind his back. “ Dean ,” Sam repeats. “Will you just listen?”
“I’m trying to read,” he says with feigned innocence.
Sam sighs his disapproval and gives this barely there head shake, but he slides the laptop away. Dean spreads the magazine open to the centerfold and whistles, holding it up sideways.
“You know, it’s true what they say, Sammy. The articles in this rag are top-notch.”
“There isn’t any editorial content on that page,” Cas says as he stomps into the kitchen, breezes past Dean, and parks himself in front of the coffee pot. Dean startles and cranes around in his chair, glaring daggers at Cas like that’ll alter his behavior. Cas refills his mug and drinks it black.
“I’ll have you know there are photo captions,” Dean says. “And what have I told you about sneaking up on people? Don’t make me tie a damn bell on you.”
Cas scowls at him over the chipped rim. If looks could kill, Dean would be back on the rack: strung up, flayed open, ready-to-serve.
“If my presence here is a burden, I’ll go.”
“Shut up and drink your coffee.”
“So, Cas,” Sam chimes in. “You game for a road trip?”
“We just got back,” Cas says.
“Life of a hunter,” Dean says. “You can’t handle it, no one’s forcing your ass in that car.”
“What is your preoccupation with asses?” Cas asks sourly, which makes Sam snicker into his coffee.
“You know what?” Dean snaps. “You can both blow me.”
Cas levels him with a knowing look.
“You have a preoccupation with that, as well.”
“Cas, I swear to god, you kick my seat one more time, I’m pulling this car over,” Dean grunts.
“I have no leg room.”
“Then kick Sam.”
“Thanks,” Sam says and smacks him across the front seat. Dean groans and turns up the volume until Sam winces and Cas appears to seethe, pulling at his tie and fidgeting with his sleeves.
“What the hell’s up with the diva routine?” Dean asks. “You never used to complain about the backseat before.”
“I had my own grace before,” Cas says with irritation. “This body is uncomfortable. My legs are cramping.”
“Eat a banana,” Sam says and tosses one to him.
“Why?” Cas and Dean ask simultaneously, which results in twin glares.
“Potassium. It helps with muscle cramps.”
“Thanks, Martha,” Dean says.
He catches the reflection of Cas with the banana upside-down, pinching the tip.
“Jesus, can you do anything ?” Dean says, jerking the car to the shoulder. He throws it into park and whips around, snatching the banana away before Cas destroys it. He snaps the stem, peels the skin away in four sections, and shoves it back in Cas’s hands.
“Thank you,” Cas says and brings it to his mouth, unaware it looks like a live goddamn peep show, the way his lips form an o-shape, slide forward a couple inches. He bites down with his eyes locked on Dean’s. “I’ve never understood how humans learned to peel bananas wrong.”
“It’s more efficient if you split the tip.”
“He’s right,” Sam chimes in. “I saw it on Animal Planet.”
Dean has had it. “Do I look like a damn monkey to you?” he says.
Cas just chews quietly. Dean frowns and swallows, swatting him on the head before he sits forward again.
“Do you want me to drive for a while?” Sam offers, mouth tight.
“Both of you,” Dean says, “just shut up. Alright? No one’s allowed to talk for the next hour.”
“That seems unreasonable,” Cas says around a mouthful of banana mush, which shouldn’t be hot and isn’t hot and Dean can’t get out of this car fast enough.
“What?” he yelps when Sam shoots him an impatient stare, then points to the keys. “I’m driving,” Dean insists and shifts back into gear.
Half a day in a car with his brother and a sullen Angel of the Lord would cause anyone to down a bottle of Jack or two. Dean scours the landscape as they drive further and further from civilization, convinced that he could’ve filled the trunk with booze and it wouldn’t be enough to make these two assholes tolerable.
Sam is drumming the rhythm to a song that is not the song Dean is listening to, and snapping his gum. Dean doesn’t even know where he got gum, but he whipped out a pack and handed a piece back to Cas, whose chewing is a noisy, wet distraction in the rearview mirror.
“Can you chew with your mouth closed? Please?” he asks when Cas begins to work the gum with his tongue, stretching it balloon-thin between his teeth, then snapping it.
Cas meets his eyes and blinks and looks out the window.
He snaps his gum again.
Sam snaps his.
“You two can bite me,” Dean says.
He’s answered by two more snaps.
“How much farther?” he asks Sam, who has thrown the map onto the seat between them, lifts a shoulder and blows a fat, pink bubble
“Alright,” Dean mutters. “I retract the no-talking rule.”
“About a half hour,” Sam says.
“I need to urinate,” Cas says, squirming.
Cas sighs heavily.
“Right, the grace thing. Why didn’t you say something?”
Cas gives him a dark look. They’re in the middle of no-man’s-land, so he pulls over. Cas hurries out of the car and walks to a tall thatch of weeds. He fumbles with his zipper and tilts his head back when he starts, mouth parted in relief.
“Dean,” Sam says. Dean jerks his head back, reddening.
“So, are we staying at this place or what?” he asks, motioning to the printouts Sam brought along. He rubs his cheek like it will remove the incriminating blush.
“Make sense to. It’ll give us the most observation time.”
Cas slips into the car and resumes his slouched, unhappy posture in the center of the backseat.
“All set?” Dean asks.
“Yes. Thank you.”
“How did you find this case, anyway?” Dean asks Sam as he pulls back onto the road.
“It’s like a radio show,” Sam explains, “but on the internet.”
“Says the resident Trekkie.”
“Hey. Everybody likes Star Trek .”
“I don’t like Star Trek ,” Cas mutters.
“You’ve never seen it.”
“Metatron gave it to me. I don’t find it to be an accurate forecast of humanity’s future. Your species is too violent to achieve peace.”
“And your technology isn’t advanced enough to achieve interplanetary travel within two-hundred years.”
“One more word and I’ll use the Vulcan death grip on you.”
“There’s no such thing,” says Cas, smug. “ The Enterprise Incident , season three, episode four.”
“Nerds,” Sam says. “Anyway, yeah, this blog I follow has a forum, and I found a guy who makes these podcasts about all the weird stuff he’s come across. Seems to have a preoccupation with EMFs. Says this is one of the biggest spikes he seen since 2009.”
Dean quirks an eyebrow. “He was tracking the apocalypse?”
“Looks like it. Anyway, he follows up on his findings; they’re almost all paranormal. I messaged him and he said he could use our help.”
“Why are we wasting our gas if this guy’s already checking it out?”
“He’s a scientist, Dean, not a hunter. He’s out of his league.”
“Whatever.” Dean covers a yawn.
It’s dusk when they finally pull into the hotel. Dean is starving, but there are no signs of a diner or even a convenience store. If Dean starves to death in a rundown desert hovel, he’s haunting Sam for the rest of his natural-born life.
“I brought granola bars,” Sam says, like he can read Dean’s mind.
A dinner of rabbit food. Well, that’s just peachy.
“Better than not eating,” Sam adds when he notes the expression on Dean’s face.
Cas is catching flies on the back seat. Dean jerks his head toward him. “You think it’s normal that he’s sleeping so much?”
Sam shrugs and tucks an errant strand of hair behind his ear. “Like he said, it’s because of the borrowed grace.”
Dean shrugs. “Yeah, I guess.”
“If he weren’t okay, he’d say so,” Sam tells him. Dean’s mouth twitches. “He did last time,” Sam says, which Dean interprets to mean when he was sporting a pair of black eyes.
“How bad was it?”
“Does it matter? He’s okay for now. Let’s get inside before it gets dark.”
“Yeah,” Dean mutters and unlocks the trunk. He shoulders his bag and Cas’s, tosses Sam’s to him, then opens the back door. With one knee resting on the seat, he leans over to shake Cas awake. Cas jerks upright, sniffing and blinking wildly before focusing on Dean. He smiles.
“Hello,” he murmurs.
“We’re here. I got your bag. C’mon.”
“Alright.” Cas stalls to wipe his eyes, twisting his knuckles into them. At the front of the car, Sam has his phone out, probably messaging that guy.
“Come on,” Dean says again and holds out a hand. He means it as a gesture of impatience, but Cas latches onto it, maintaining a death grip from the gravel parking lot all the way to the hotel’s entrance. He yawns generously and stumbles every few feet. When Dean stops just outside the door, Cas bumps into him and stays crushed against his side.
“Are you carsick?”
Cas makes a noncommittal noise.
“Don’t puke on me,” Dean says, and Cas nods into his shoulder. Because Cas has his head on Dean’s shoulder. Dean’s not going to survive the night at this rate.
Sam jogs up to them and quirks his head. “Something you want to tell me?”
“He ain’t feeling well.”
“Right,” Sam says. He pushes the door open, holds it wide enough for Cas and Dean to pass through without separating.
They’ve stayed in a lot of old hotels over the years, but this place is top-of-the-line: modern leather upholstery with plaid—plaid!—throw pillows, elegantly carved wooden tables, and built-in bookshelves on either side of a roaring fire. The woodwork extends floor to ceiling, painted a deep, glossy green—nearly the same color as the uniforms that indicate employees. They quietly traverse the lobby. Beside the door, the bellhop wears a hat with a gold chinstrap. Dean gets a tighter hold on his bag and refuses the offered luggage cart.
Something smells delicious. The grumbling in his stomach increases tenfold.
They shuffle up to the front desk, which is being manned—womaned?—by a twenty-something blonde with a fixed, plastic smile.
“Good evening,” she says. Her tone is polite. “Welcome to Le Nouveau. Checking in?”
“Nah, we just want to use your bathroom,” Dean says, nabbing a matchbox from a dish on the counter. It has a fancy looking “n” on the jacket. He slips it in Cas’s pocket and grins. The clerk’s smile doesn’t falter, but she shifts her attention to Sam.
“Yes,” Sam says through a sigh. “We’re checking in. I have a reservation under Smith.”
The clerk opens a ledger and scans down a column with her right index finger, polished as red as her lips.
“Sam Smith, party of three. I have you down for one standard room.”
“Actually, is there any way I can switch the reservation to two rooms?”
Dean’s about to balk when Cas yawns into his neck. Two rooms will be pricey, but they can stick Cas in his own and let him sleep off whatever this is, minus the snuggling. The clerk purses her mouth and re-checks their availability.
“I have two standards with a connecting door on the second floor,” she announces. “Will that work?”
“They don’t have to connect,” Sam says quickly. Dean shoots him a look.
“Ah,” the clerk says with a knowing smile, nodding toward Cas and Dean. “Newlyweds?”
Dean can’t even think of a comeback. He gapes while Sam nods sagely.
“We welcome all couples,” she says without irony. “Congratulations. And to help you celebrate, we’re happy to give you an upgrade to our Executive Suite.”
“That’s really not necessary,” Dean says.
“Dean—” Sam interrupts. “That is so sweet ,” he says to the desk clerk. “Thank you. I know it means the world to my brother here.”
He fixes his puppy eyes on Dean.
“The world ,” Dean parrots and kicks Sam’s ankle.
“That also comes with a complimentary bottle of champagne,” she continues. “I presume you’re both of legal age?”
“Cross my heart,” Dean says flatly, glad Cas is passed out on his shoulder, burrowed into his goddamned neck , and not available to inform her of his actual age. Cas is exhaling warm puffs against Dean’s skin, making it prickle. Dean gulps and wonders how much longer this is going to take.
“Please sign here, and note the make and model of your vehicles,” she says, sliding a piece of paper across the counter for Sam to peruse. He scribbles some name on the line and slaps down the good Visa. “Any expenses will be charged to the card on file,” she informs them.
“Is there anywhere to eat around here?” Sam asks.
“Our dinner service has already started. It’s buffet style, right through there,” she says and points to her left. Dean perks up at the mention of a buffet. “All meals are included with your stay, due to our remote location.”
She tucks a brass key into a small, rectangular envelope and hands it to Sam.
“Room seven,” she says. She does the same with the second key and presents it to Dean. “And the Executive Suite. Both are located up this staircase; the suite is on the third floor,” she says and motions with two fingers. “Breakfast is served from seven-thirty to nine. If there’s anything you need during your stay, please don’t hesitate to alert a member of our staff.”
“Awesome. Thanks,” Dean says, and they start toward the staircase. Cas is a dead weight on his shoulder. “Dude, pick up your feet,” he orders. “I’m not dragging your ass up two flights.”
Cas detaches himself from Dean’s side long enough to climb to the third floor, but once they’re at the top and Dean is distracted reading the sign that points them toward the suite, Cas collapses into his side again. Dean gives up and puts an arm around Cas’s waist to guide him forward.
“C’mon, Sleeping Beauty,” he says, but it’s useless. He rolls his eyes and shoves their bags at Sam, works Cas’s arm behind his neck so he can hold him by the wrist.
The hallway is wide and well-lit by fixtures every few feet, and smells faintly of wood polish. It’s lined with a dark short-pile carpet that is hard underfoot—really dense, maybe wool. It looks like it was laid down yesterday, no wear or signs of foot traffic.
“Place is nice,” Dean says under his breath. Sam nods in agreement. “Real nice. Was it expensive?”
“No.” Sam sounds surprised. “Cheaper than most, actually.”
“Must be because we’re in the middle of bumblefuck.”
“I guess. I mean, this was a town once, but it’s gone except for this hotel.”
“Wonder why they bother.”
“I think they were hoping it would revive the town. Their website said they first renovated in the early sixties. Someone dumped a lot of money into it.”
They march to the swish of his jeans against Cas’s coat. Dean’s not used to staying in hotels of this caliber, but in his limited experience, they aren’t typically this quiet. Maybe everyone’s down in the dining room.
“Winner winner,” Dean says when they reach the suite. He maneuvers so that he can support Cas with one arm and simultaneously unlock the door with the other. He kicks it inward.
The suite’s like something he’s seen in a magazine: twin cowhide chairs flanking a fireplace, generous windows obscured by white draperies, dark-stained furniture, and a chandelier over a huge-ass bed that could practically swallow his whole room in the bunker. With a grunt, he heaves Cas onto it, taking a moment to look around while Sam sets down their luggage and gives the room a quick sweep. Dean spies a jacuzzi tub through the open bathroom door. The floor and counter look like real Carrera marble.
“Cas, man, you lucked out,” he mutters, stepping back.
“No phone.” Sam scowls. “And I still have no signal.”
Dean lays the key next to Cas, who has started to snore.
“Aren’t you holding onto that?” Sam asks.
“I’m bunking with you ,” Dean says, retrieving his bag.
“Not happening. I had enough of your flirting in the car.”
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“Let’s go to dinner,” Sam says, ignoring him. “We can bring him a plate. Don’t forget your key.”
“I’m not sleeping in here.”
Sam clucks his tongue. “That’s not very gracious They gave you a free upgrade.”
“You are not right in the head,” Dean says, but he lets his bag drop back to the floor, picks up the key, and thrusts it in his pocket.
“So what’s this guy look like, anyway?” Dean asks, glancing around the dining room for a seat.
Place looks like a five-star restaurant. Nine lanterns hang suspended in the middle of the room; against the walls, the wood tables have individual pendant lights, and there are throw-pillows on the benches. The chairs are wing backs with plaid detailing—Sammy must be in home-decor Heaven. The wood floor is polished to a shine.
The buffet itself is a line of neat warming trays on spotless tablecloths. Dean piles his plate with two kinds of beef, fried chicken, mashed potatoes with a whole ladle of gravy, and not a green vegetable in sight. Sam crafts himself a farmers’ market.
“I’m not sure,” he says. “He doesn’t have a picture on his website. We’re meeting up later tonight, according to his last email, but that was six hours ago. He was going to let me know when he checks in, but with my phone out of service...where do you want to sit?”
Despite it being dinner time, only one table is occupied—the other guests must’ve eaten already. What is this, a freaking retirement home? Dean picks a two-top next to the wall and heads toward it, but he stops a few feet away and backs up.
“Thought you were in bed,” he says to Cas, who is sitting by himself at a table for four, surrounded by a mess of paper. “How did you beat us to the dining room?”
Cas looks up at Dean and squints.
Cas’s hair is still mussed from sleeping in the car, but he’s switched into jeans and a blue shirt, a gray jacket Dean doesn’t recognize. Maybe Sam took him shopping? But Dean’s pretty sure he didn’t see any clothes like this in Cas’s bag. He checked to make sure Cas had the sense to pack a toothbrush, at least.
No such luck.
What he had packed was a field ID guidebook of wildflowers, despite his encyclopedic knowledge; the spare blanket he prefers to use when they sit on the couch; and his FBI badge. Maybe this is a grace thing. Or maybe Cas went through his shit.
“Are you wearing my clothes ?” Dean continues, pulling up the chair and falling in across from Cas, who appears affronted. He places a hand on top of one of the various stacks of paper and draws it closer to him.
“How did you get past us on the stairs?” Sam asks, sitting down.
“I’m sorry,” Cas says, scowling. “Do I know you?”
“Yeah, it’s hilarious, you’re incognito,” Dean says and starts cutting up his steak. “Did I pack that shirt?”
“If this is some sort of joke, I don’t get it,” Cas says, glancing between them. “My name’s Jacob Miller. I don’t know either one of you.”
Dean frowns but Sam blinks a few times, then points with a fork.
“ You’re Jacob Miller!”
“Uh, yeah,” Jacob says, unimpressed. “I just said that.”
Sam laughs and shakes his head, then explains, “I’m Sam. I’m the one who emailed you.”
“Oh, Sam. Hey,” Jacob says, but he still looks confused, which is good, because Dean is fucking baffled. Is this guy a shifter? Dean keeps a hand on his gun. He’s got a silver bullet in his jacket pocket.
“Nice to meet you,” Sam says, extending a hand. Jacob shakes it hesitantly. “This is my brother, Dean. Sorry for the confusion. It’s just, I’m not even sure how to say this—”
“We’ve been driving all day,” Dean interrupts, which stops Sam’s rambling. He feigns dropping his fork and bends over to retrieve it, depositing a silver blade on the table. He clears his throat to get Sam’s attention.
“Yeah,” Sam says. “I’m beat.”
He feigns removing the silver knife from his roll of silverware.
“Does this look dirty to you?” he asks and holds it out. Jacob takes it from him, holds it up to the light, and shrugs.
“Looks fine to me,” he says and resumes eating.
Both Dean and Sam sit back, a little perplexed. Whoever this guy is, he’s no shifter. They’ve encountered some weird shit over the years, but this is right up there. Dean's brain is about to short-circuit, so he opens with, “What’s the deal with this place?”
“I was alerted about a massive EM surge by an associate,” Jacob says quietly, glancing around, probably to check if anyone is listening in. Now that Dean is paying attention, he’s aware that Jacob’s voice is higher than Cas’s, lacking the roughness that always makes him sound like he just rolled out of someone’s bed. But the resemblance is uncanny, right down to the color of his eyes, the bags underneath.
Dean tears a chunk out of the fried chicken to distract himself and just manages not to moan over the flavor. It looked kinda subpar in the warming tray, but it’s fantastic—crispy, not too hot, so juicy it’s practically running down his fingers. He catches Jacob watching him and flushes.
He reminds Dean of Cas when they first met, when human grooming mystified him and he couldn’t manage something as simple as combing his hair or getting his tie on straight. Thinking of Cas back then causes a lump in his throat. He scrubs the sleep out of his eyes and tries not to stare, but it’s unsettling. This guy could be Jimmy’s twin brother.
Shit, maybe he is Jimmy’s twin brother. That would make a lot of sense, actually.
“You got any siblings?” Dean asks.
Damn. “Just making conversation.”
Jacob gives him a strange look. He leans forward, resting both wrists against the edge of the table, and folds his hands together. “You said you’ve dealt with hauntings on this level before?” he asks Sam.
“Yeah,” Sam assures him. Dean can tell he’s trying to hide his amusement. “A few times.”
“I appreciate the help,” Jacob says. “I’ve handled a few small incidents, but with something this big…”
“Are these your readings?” Sam asks, pointing to the papers.
“And some history on the building, though what I’ve been able to find is scarce, and I can’t get a Wifi signal in here. I’ve been trying to email you.”
“Hotel have any historic documents on site?”
“Nothing they’ll let me see,” Jacob says. “I’m hoping to get into their office, but the clerk never takes a break.”
“Leave that to us. Dean’s pretty persuasive.”
Jacob looks him over with a thoughtful gaze. “Is that so,” he says. His stare is every bit as intense as Cas’s, but unguarded, blatantly interested. Dean is instantly aroused and horrified. This guy’s peeling Dean’s skin away with his eyes like that damned banana, and Dean’s into it.
He shouldn’t be into it. This ain’t Cas , he has to remind himself, but he licks his lips out of habit and Jacob grins. Shit.
It’s a fucking miracle that Cas chooses that moment to appear table side and fixes an angry glare on Dean’s forehead.
“There’s our little angel,” Dean says, relieved. “Cas, Jacob. Jacob, Cas.”
“Hey,” Jacob says, though he sounds uneasy, eyes bugged out in disbelief.
“I know the feeling,” Dean mutters and tries the pot roast.
Jacob clears his throat and sticks out a hand that Cas ignores in favor of stealing a chair from an adjacent table. He deposits it between Dean and Jacob, and sighs heavily.
“Feeling any better?” Sam asks. He’s got spinach overlapping his bottom lip and looks like a frigging cow.
“Somewhat.” Cas pinches a chunk of steak from Dean’s plate.
“Get your own,” Dean says and tries to block him from seconds.
“It’s all-you-can-eat.” Cas bats Dean’s hand away and helps himself to another piece. “You can get more.”
“Cas, how do you like your room?” Sam asks, because Sam’s a shit.
“It’s very comfortable. Thank you,” Cas says, which doesn’t give Sam further ammunition. He begins talking EM fields and methods of eliminating ghosts with Jacob, whose eyes dart to Cas every few seconds. Cas continues to eat from Dean’s plate, and Dean continues to glare at him.
“So,” he says when there is another lull in conversation, because everyone is apparently too chickenshit to say anything. “Are we just gonna ignore the elephant in the room?”
“ What elephant?” Cas says, narrowing his eyes.
“The resemblance?” Dean mutters, wagging his finger in the general direction of the offenders.
“It’s, uh, freaky,” Jacob says.
“It’s curious,” Cas says but doesn’t appear bothered by it. He makes a swipe for more beef. Dean groans and surrenders the rest of his plate.
“He must be related to Jimmy!” Sam says. “Do you think?”
Jacob looks at him. “Who’s Jimmy?”
“My vessel,” Cas replies simultaneously with Dean’s response, “Cas’s cousin.”
He kicks Cas’s ankle. Cas kicks back. The silverware and plates rattle.
“Guys,” Sam warns, steadying the table.
All Jacob says is, “It’s going to be one of those nights.”
After twenty minutes of discussion and some holy water for good measure, they’ve established that Jacob is human, doesn’t have any cousins, and as far as they can tell, the resemblance is just a coincidence.
“I mean, the term doppelgänger exists for a reason,” Sam poses. Dean excuses himself to the buffet for a third round before he throttles Sam in front of an audience.
This hotel might be haunted, and it might have the highest EMF readings Jacob has ever registered, short of the apocalypse, but the buffet is brimming with ten kinds of pie . There’s apple and cherry, of course, but also lemon meringue, blueberry, and Boston cream. Coconut cream and strawberry rhubarb. Chocolate custard and lemon curd and a berry tart. Not a slice of pecan to be seen, but Dean’s not picky.
He starts with a slice of every fruit variety, even nabs a piece of cake that doesn’t look half bad. Cas raises an eyebrow and stirs a puddle of what used to be vanilla ice cream.
“Are you going to eat all of that?”
“Hell yes,” Dean returns and proceeds to try.
“How’s the cherry?” Jacob asks without looking up from his notes. Dean slides the plate over to him.
“Knock yourself out,” he says, because while he likes cherry okay, this apple kills and he’s going in for seconds. But Jacob shocks him by parting his mouth and leaning forward a couple inches, like Dean’s going to feed him. His face goes instantly hot, hand tightening around the fork as he collects himself. He can’t tear his eyes away from Jacob’s lips.
Cas’s lips. Jesus.
But before he has a chance to respond, Cas cuts a reasonably sized bite of the pie and holds the fork out to Jacob with a hard look. Jacob takes it and feeds himself.
“Thanks,” he says as he chews, giving Cas a sideways glance before meeting Dean’s eyes again. “That’s not bad.”
Cas settles back in his chair and crosses his arms over his chest. He’s clearly sulking, so Dean slings an arm behind him and squeezes his shoulder. It’s been a long day. Cas leans into his side for a beat. He exhales, then announces he needs a cup of coffee and gets up.
“So I was thinking we should sweep for hot spots,” Sam says, drunk on the hunt. He’s too excited for someone who just sat on his ass—there’s that word again—for eight hours.
“I agree,” Jacob says, stretching his arms over his head. His shirt rises slightly, teasing at his stomach. Dean has to force himself to look away, but not before Jacob notices him looking. His mouth quirks up at the corners, and he drops his eyes to Dean’s lips before grinning at the table.
The coffee doesn’t improve Cas’s mood but the pie lifts Dean’s spirits. By the time he’s scraping gelled blueberry and blackberry and apple bits from his plate, sucking them off the fork, he’s happy to go along on the ghost hunt.
Cas drags behind them, catching up only when Dean hisses his name. He repeats the same childlike behavior he pulled outside: holding onto Dean’s fingers. Dean yanks him forward a few feet, just enough to get him moving, before extracting himself and concentrating on the meter.
“Energy here is stronger than just about anything I’ve seen, short of you.”
Cas yawns, unimpressed.
“If you’re so beat, go back to the room,” Dean says, but Cas hangs like a stale refrigerator odor. Dean shakes him off and lets the wall support Cas for a while.
“I’ve never seen that model before,” Jacob says, motioning to Dean’s meter. He sidles up next to him and holds out his own: a sleek, handheld unit. He doesn’t smell like Cas—sharper, like some name-brand cologne. He presses his shoulder into Dean’s too firmly to be accidental and looks at the Walkman with interest.
Dean turns it over in his hands, shifting his weight so their shoulders drift apart. “Built it myself.”
“ Really ,” Jacob says, voice sinking dangerously close to Cas’s octave.
“Yup.” Dean can feel Jacob’s eyes on him and swallows.
“I have an older model in my room,” Jacob says. “You might be interested in it. You should come by when we’re finished, check it out.”
Dean’s stomach twists when Jacob touches the dials, twisting them and humming his appreciation.
“This is a good piece of equipment,” Jacob continues. “I’m impressed.”
“Bet you thought I was just a pretty face.” Dean laughs. Oh, god—he’s flirting. He’s flirting and Cas is right there, watching through half-lidded eyes.
“That too,” Jacob says. His eyes flicker to Dean’s mouth, then back to the meter.
“I’m a regular Einstein,” Dean says. The idea forms in his sugar-high brain and spills out of his mouth without another thought. “That’s why Cas loves me. Ain’t that right, Cas?”
“Isn’t what right?” Cas asks, blinking.
Sam is clearly eating this up, covering his mouth with a hand and focusing unnecessary attention on the ceiling. Jacob, on the other hand, looks disappointed. His mouth flattens into a line.
“That you love me for my mind, not just my body,” Dean says, tugging on his sleeve.
“And your soul.”
Good , Dean thinks. He’s playing along.
“Ah,” Jacob says, smile gone. “So you two are...?”
“Yup, me and Cas. We’re together. Just got hitched, actually.”
Dean joins Cas on the wall and slings an arm around his shoulders for effect before he notices Cas’s saucer-wide eyes. He’s stiff with confusion, not a damn clue what’s going on. Fan-freaking-tastic. Dean forces a grin and squeezes Cas’s bicep, leans into his ear and mouths, “Go along with this and I’ll get you a guinea pig.”
“Yes,” he says to Jacob after a few seconds, then adds, “It was a private ceremony.”
“Hey, good for you,” Jacob says, though his expression is somewhat accusatory.
“Why don’t you two hit the sack,” Sam says. “Cas looks exhausted.”
“I’m fine,” Cas says through another yawn.
“No, really .” Sam is smirking. “We got this.”
“Thank you, Sam,” Cas says with gratitude. He adjusts within the confines of Dean’s arm, speaks so close to his face that Dean can feel Cas’s breath. “Are you coming?”
“’Course,” Dean says. “Cause we’re married. So we sleep in the same room.”
“Did you work that out yourself?” Sam says.
“I hope breakfast is all carbs,” Dean mutters under his breath, then says loudly enough for Jacob to hear, “Come on, babe.”
He keeps his arm around Cas’s shoulders until they’re out of sight, then drops it like a one-night stand who wants to do names. He is not blushing.
Cas stalks up the staircase and starts down the hall and doesn’t check to see if Dean is following.
“If you don’t like him flirting with you, why don’t you tell him that directly?” he says outside their door.
“This is easier,” Dean snaps, patting down his pocket for the key and unlocking the room.
“I question your definition of ease.” Cas walks past him through the door. “I’m tired.”
“I’m going to sleep,” Cas clarifies.
“We flip for the bed. Loser takes the floor.”
“I’m not sleeping on the floor, Dean.”
“I sure as shit ain’t either, not after driving all day.”
Cas looks three seconds from smiting him. Can he still do that?
“If you’re uncomfortable sharing a bed, you can sleep in the car,” Cas says. He brushes pink and red rose petals from the coverlet that someone sprinkled on the comforter and floor while they were at dinner, and pulls back the sheets.
“Why do you need to sleep anyway?” Dean kicks off his boots. “Thought you had enough mojo you didn’t have to do that.”
“I—I don’t know.” Cas looks away. He tugs his striped tie, winds it from his neck. Shrugs out of the trench coat. The suit jacket. Cas stands in front of Dean in suit pants and dress shoes and a damn collared shirt, but he might as well be naked the way Dean’s gawking.
“What?” Cas asks, hands stilling on his chest. He meets Dean’s eyes again.
“Nothing.” Dean’s aware that he’s staring and his face is hot. He takes off his jacket and drapes it over the back of a chair, smooths it unnecessarily, and refuses to let himself look at Cas. “Never really seen you undressed before, except that one time,” he mumbles.
“When April stabbed me,” Cas guesses.
“Oh, yeah,” Dean says, remembering. “I was thinking of that time you carved yourself into a sigil.”
“Ah.” Cas nods.
“I try not to think about April,” Dean admits, conjuring the memory of Cas’s face in his hands, of practically crawling into his lap with grief.
“No.” Cas takes off his shirt and pants and gets into bed—right in the damn center. “The mattress is supportive,” he says. “Very comfortable.” He turns on his side, away from Dean, and goes still.
Dean considers sleeping on the stiff three-tone striped carpet, but it’s got about as much padding as the hallway, which means his back will hurt like a bitch in the morning—he might as well sleep in the parking lot. The bed is big, with clean sheets and a heap of pillows, but it contains one groggy angel he might have a thing for.
Does. Does have a thing for.
It’s early fall. He probably wouldn’t freeze to death if he opted for the Impala’s backseat, but Sam would laugh him into the next apocalypse if he found out Dean lacks the self-control to sleep next to Cas for a couple nights. While pretending to be married—what the hell was he thinking?
There must be something in the pie. Maybe it’s cursed like Snow White’s apple, but rather than fall comatose and wait for some prince—princess?—to rescue him, he’s trapped himself in a lie, stuck in a fancy hotel room with his best friend slash pseudo-husband and having a panic over it.
He kicks off his jeans, yanks the jacket and shirt over his head, and gets in bed before he can change his mind. He’s overreacting. Cas isn’t freaking out. Dean pulls the sheet up to his chest and bunches a pillow underneath his head, into the crook of his neck. They’ll only be here a day or two, just long enough for Sam to ride out his geek-gasm, find them a grave to burn. Then Dean can pick up a chick or two, drink himself stupid, and stop thinking about something he can’t have.
There’s a knock on the door. It’s probably Sam coming to tell him about what he and Jacob discovered. Dean answers the door in his boxers.
“Oh, hey,” he says to an apathetic employee pushing a cart of champagne, two glasses, and a plate of strawberries.
“Champagne for the newlyweds,” the employee recites. He notices Cas asleep in bed and lowers his voice. “Should I come back later?”
“Nah, you’re fine. Just keep it down. He wasn’t feeling well.” Dean crosses his arms over his chest while the employee wheels the cart into the room and positions it dead center, then gives a half-bow.
“Goodnight, sir. Enjoy your stay,” he says and exits.
Dean pops a strawberry into his mouth and gets back in bed. Was he supposed to tip the guy? He tucks his hands underneath his pillow. Cas exhales noisily, a peevish sigh. He’s awake. Dean is acutely aware of how close their legs are, that if he rolls over during the night, he’ll certainly roll into Cas. He yawns and stretches, positioning himself on the very edge of the mattress.
“Stop moving,” Cas says.
“I’m trying to get comfortable.”
“You should’ve considered that before you informed everyone that we’re married.”
Dean rolls over to glare at him. “For your information, the front desk clerk said it first,” he says to the back of Cas’s head.
“That doesn’t mean you had the right to claim it.”
“Are you honestly pissed about this?”
“You should have talked with me about it first.”
Dean is incredulous. “Cas,” he hisses, “we pretend to be something we’re not all the time. You pretend to be human.”
Cas rolls over and glares at him in the dark. “That’s different.”
“It doesn’t hurt anyone.” Cas’s eyes glint angrily in the moonlight.
“You’re not actually worried about that guy’s feelings !”
“No,” Cas says with a sigh and turns away.
Dean doesn’t want to have this conversation right now, not when he needs to sleep. Sam will be banging on the door before he knows it.
“Don’t worry,” Dean says, punching his pillow into a better shape. “I promise to be a model husband while we’re here.”
Cas buries his head under the sheet and doesn’t speak again until morning. Dean hugs the edge of the mattress and prays Cas isn’t a clingy sleeper.
He’s out of bed and dressed when Dean opens his eyes and squints into the sunlight spilling through the curtains.
“What time is it?” he croaks.
“Just after seven.” Cas has dragged the cart next to one of the cowhide chairs and fiddles with a pyramid of strawberry leaves. His hair is damp and tousled, not combed smooth like usual. He closes a binder and sets it aside. “I was about to wake you.”
“Feeling any better?” Dean asks, scratching his stomach. His dick is awake and raring to go. He rolls onto his stomach and stretches until it softens.
“Yes. I took a shower. There are very nice bath products in the bathroom. Breakfast is in twenty minutes, but I was hungry.” Cas motions to the strawberries and the unopened bottle of champagne.
“We should stick that in the fridge,” Dean says into the pillow. “Do we have a fridge?”
“I think so.” Cas stands up with the bottle neck in his fist and strides across the room. He’s got on his dress shirt but no tie, bare feet, and what look like Dean’s pants.
“You’re in jeans?” Dean says, propping himself up on an elbow. He scratches his chest and blinks until his eyes water.
“You brought three pairs.” Cas crouches in front of the mini fridge and wiggles the bottle inside. “I like how the cotton feels on my skin. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Did you borrow a pair of boxers too?”
“Yes,” Cas says, rising and coming closer. He stops several feet from the bed. “Is that okay?”
Dean’s cheeks feel hot. “Yeah Just didn’t want you to catch yourself in the zipper. Hurts like hell.”
“Where’re the weapons?”
“In your bag under the bed.”
“Great. And listen, man, sorry I dragged you into this. If you want me to fess up, I will.”
Cas shakes his head. “I was tired. You’re right. We’re just playing a part.”
“Awesome,” Dean says with relief. He throws back the sheets, treads on rose petals on the way to the bathroom. “I’m gonna grab a shower, then we can head down.”
Cas nods toward the window.
“There’s the happy couple,” Sam announces over a glass of orange juice. Flecks of pulp stick to the sides, and it’s a sunny, vibrant color—the hand-squeezed kind. This place is awesome. Do they have pie for breakfast? He’ll get to hunting in a minute, but first he needs something in his stomach.
Cas settles in across from Sam. “Would you bring me coffee?” he asks Dean.
“The coffee’s right there.”
“You said you’d be a model husband,” Cas reminds him through his teeth.
“Yeah, when Jacob is around.”
“Dean. If you expect me to play along, I expect you to uphold your half of the agreement.”
“When we’re in public, you’ll act like we are in a committed relationship.” Cas folds his hands together. “In exchange, I won’t tell Jacob that you fabricated a relationship with me because you’re uncomfortable with his flirtations.”
“That sounds fair,” Sam says.
“Nobody asked you,” Dean snaps.
“Cas needs coffee. And I’ll take a refill,” Sam adds, handing Dean his mug in a bid for silence.
“Fine,” Dean says and stomps off.
He’s square in front of the coffee pot and can’t remember what Cas takes in his—doesn’t he usually drink it black? He throws a handful of creamer pods and sugar packets on the tray, fills the three cups to the brim, and marches back.
“Your coffee, dear .”
“Thank you,” Cas says, drinking before it’s cool. He looks enraged but takes another sip.
Sam fusses with his coffee until it looks like a barista had his wicked way with it.
“Why don’t I have a ring?” Cas asks.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“A ring. If we’re married, we should have rings.”
Sam nods in solidarity.
“D’you see a jewelry shop around here?” Dean asks, throwing his arms out.
He leaves them in favor of the buffet. He loads up on comfort food: bacon, French toast and sausage, half a plate of fried potatoes. There’s a parade of danishes, bagels, cinnamon rolls and muffins. He helps himself to a couple for now, pockets a bagel for later, snags one of those single-serving cream cheese packets and an extra knife.
“Don’t know about you two, but I’m digging this place so far,” he says, settling in across from Cas and Sam. They give twin grunts. He ignores them, plants both elbows on the table, and goes to town on his plate.
“Is that all for you?” Cas asks. Dean’s cheeks are puffed full of grease and starch.
“By all means,” he says through a full mouth. Cas peruses the selection with the serious look and plucks a danish from the middle.
“It’s sticky,” he says, pondering his first bite.
“It’s delicious ,” Dean corrects and winks as Cas takes another.
“Top of the morning, fellas,” someone says behind him. Dean has to double check that Cas’s mouth is full of danish, and that he can’t possibly be the one speaking. That’ll take some getting used to.
“Hey,” he says without turning around. He stuffs more potatoes in his cheek. Sam brightens and points to the empty chair next to Dean.
“I don’t want to intrude,” Jacob says with hesitation, coming into Dean’s peripheral vision, but Sam waves off his comment.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Sit down.”
Dean tries not to bristle as Jacob settles in beside him. He polishes off his potatoes, the rest of the sausage, and offers Cas the last strip of bacon. Cas eyes it, then parts his lips. That fucker. But Dean’s not gonna let Cas outplay him. He reaches across the table with the whole damn strip.
“It’s too long,” Cas says.
Dean smiles through clenched teeth, snaps the bacon in half, then quarters, and presses a bite-sized piece to Cas’s lips.
“Sorry, baby,” he says, which makes Cas blink in surprise. He tongues the bacon into his mouth. “More?” Dean adds sweetly.
Cas nods, so they repeat the farce until the strip is gone, and his finger is in Cas’s mouth, thumb tracing his lower lip. Dean wants to die a little. His cheeks scald when Cas licks his fingertip, and his dick goes hard.
“Maybe you need to go outside, Dean,” Sam says. “You look a little flushed.”
“Eat your sticks,” Dean says, taking his hand away—he’s careful not to do it too quickly. He’s just a guy feeding his husband some bacon. No big thing. Sam’s chewing granola with vigor. Dean doesn’t even remember him getting up. He cleans his hand on a napkin while Cas sips his coffee with a blank expression.
“So,” Jacob says, curving a spoon into a poached egg. It vomits yolk on the plate. “I’m going to try and get access to the hotel office, get pictures of as much as I can find.”
“We’ll distract the staff,” Sam says.
“Could go the Fed route,” Dean says.
“We’ve already checked in. If we were going to play Feds, we should’ve done that from the get-go. This way, their suspicions aren’t raised. We’re just regular guests.”
“I’ll talk to the staff, see if any of them have had personal experiences,” Sam continues. “They’re here every day. They probably have a sense of the hotspots.”
“Assuming they want to talk to you.”
“Why wouldn’t someone want to talk to Sam?” Cas asks, frowning.
Dean snorts. “Not everyone likes admitting they see something regular people consider crazy.”
“What’s with the Q&A?” Dean snaps, then sighs at his error. He reaches for Cas’s hand. “Some people care too much what other people think,” he says and rubs his thumb over Cas’s knuckles, the way he’d do when he and Lisa argued. Cas appears to settle.
“Wh—” he starts, but cuts himself off in time. Dean shrugs and drops his gaze to the table, gives Cas’s hand a final squeeze before dropping it.
“Because they want people to like them,” he explains.
“Recognition can be validating,” Jacob says.
He spears a chunk of tomato and fusses with his necklace. Dean catches it out of the corner of his eye, a thick gold ring hanging from a chain. Sam’s eyes, which are already fantastically wide, practically bulge out.
“Oh my god,” he says. “You’re Jacob Glaser .”
Jacob looks up, startled.
“Who?” Dean asks. Sam pins him with laser eyes.
“Jacob Glaser,” he repeats, quieter. “The astrophysicist? Youngest recipient of the Prevolich Award?”
“It’s like you’re trying to communicate,” Dean says, “but all I hear is blah blah blah.”
Sam rolls his eyes and shifts his attention to Jacob. “I read about what happened to you in England—they said you were dead.”
“Legally, I am,” Jacob says with a sardonic laugh. “Last thing I remember is reaching for the antikythera mechanism.”
It’s a miracle Sammy doesn’t have a stroke. Dean snorts.
“I woke up a few miles away, somehow got myself to a hospital. Figured it would be easier if I went underground, assumed a new name, one that didn’t carry the stigma.”
Sam is shaking his head. “I can’t believe it’s you.”
“Had we met?” Jacob asks, squinting.
“No, no—I was a big fan of your show. Your other show, The Real Story , before Dr. Leeds took over.”
“Yeah, Kaycee kept it up for a while,” Jacob says. “I didn’t have a big following. I’m surprised you remember me.”
“Are you kidding? I caught it every time we were out your way. You’re part of the reason we were able to track all that crazy stuff a few years ago.”
“What stuff?” Cas asks.
“The big stuff,” Sam says with intentional ambiguity.
“Oh,” Cas says. “You mean the events that heralded the apocalypse.”
“Thanks, Captain Discretion,” mutters Dean.
“Discretion is a human invention.”
“Are you not human?” Jacob asks, squinting again.
“What gave it away?” Dean says, deadpan. Jacob laughs and scrapes his plate.
“They used to call me crazy,” he says.
“Oh,” Dean says, remembering a detail that Sam used to blab about. “You’re the guy who found aliens on the moon.”
“It wasn’t aliens ; it was—” Jacob begins, then holds both hands up. “You know what? I’m tired of saying it.”
“Then what the hell did you find?” Dean asks, perplexed. Jacob rubs his forehead.
“I discovered a sign of a previous culture, not a member of the culture itself.”
“So, no Vulcans.”
“No,” Jacob says.
“Dean, Vulcans aren’t real,” Cas says, touching Dean’s hand. Dean pinches the bridge of his nose.
“Thanks for pointing that out, sweetheart.”