"What are you laughing at?" Dean snarls. He's been nursing the same beer for the last twenty minutes, holding a rag to the cut above his eyebrow.
"Was I laughing?" Castiel asks, pulling a cigarette out of his shirt pocket and lighting up. Dean shakes his head, sighing into his glass. "Did you get it?"
"Course I got it," Dean huffs. "No thanks to you."
"I offered to help," Castiel argues.
"You offered to be bait, Cas."
Dean scowls at him, taking a long drink. "I'm not letting you be a human target for whateverthefuck."
"Why not?" Castiel asks, and then takes a long drag from his cigarette.
"Because," Dean snaps.
"That's not an answer," Castiel says. Dean tenses and Castiel almost expects Dean to punch him, never mind that they're in a bar. He almost welcomes it, because other than traveling in the car and sitting close enough that their arms brush when Dean shifts gears, Dean never touches Castiel, or allows himself to be touched. He'd have to be bleeding out and unconscious for Castiel to be able to patch him up.
"Shut up, Cas," Dean mutters, turning to watch the drunks shoot darts.
"The hunt would have been easier with me, Dean," Castiel says.
"Not if you'd gotten yourself hurt, Cas," Dean retorts.
"I wouldn't have."
"Seriously, dude," Dean says, "shut up."
"I wasn't aware Team Free Will had a chain of command," Castiel says, and Dean flinches. He probably wishes he never told Castiel about that, because Castiel won't stop reminding him of it now. They're a team, even if the other third of it is gone.
Like every time Castiel comes close to mentioning Sam, Dean gets up and walks away. He commandeers the pool table closest to the door. Castiel watches him for a few minutes -- skulking around the table and sinking so many balls that there's no way they can work this bar now -- before deciding that he'd rather walk home than wait for Dean to stop being such a bitch. He makes sure Dean sees him on his way out, meeting the hunter's eyes as he opens the door.
It's really cold out. Castiel never used to understand Dean's penchant for wearing multiple shirts over each other, but he gets it now. Midwestern American weather tends to go from too hot to too cold in the blink of an eye, and Castiel's picked up a few shirts for the express purpose of layering them over his other shirts. He can't tell if it's steam or smoke in his vision, but it's beautiful.
Castiel takes the long way back to the motel, looping around a block or two, taking special care to run his fingers over the bricks of the walls and the trunks of trees, savoring the roughness. He smokes his cigarette down to the filter and throws it neatly into a trash can without looking back. He hears the soft footsteps of whatever's following him, too soft to be wearing shoes, so probably not human. He flips the collar of his jacket up, covering the back of his neck.
The motel is three blocks away, and Castiel knows he's good for about a two and a half block sprint, so that's out of the question. If he can lose his tail somehow before he gets the motel in sight, then he might have a chance.
Or he could go with the more direct approach.
Castiel leans against a wall, lighting his last cigarette. The whateverthefuck creeps closer, breathing heavily somewhere around the level of Castiel's shoulder. Castiel takes a drag, the ember of his smoke flaring bright, and whips around, crushing it out on the creature's face. It looks like a glob of living smoke, vaguely human-shaped and oil-spill dark. It screeches when the ember touches it, and Castiel has just enough time for a final twist of the filter before he turns and runs for it.
Castiel's running on the straightaway, no good, so he makes an unnecessary turn looping around a building. The whateverthefuck is definitely chasing, he can hear its heavy footsteps behind him. He swerves across the manicured lawn of an office building and leaps the fence at the opposite end and, ow, that was not a good idea. His ankle is still fucked up from a ghoul back in Topeka that actually bought Castiel's corpse routine and tried to eat him from the feet up. And thus, Dean doesn't let him play bait anymore.
Whatever it is, it can jump. It clears the fence at a steady pace, gaining on Castiel. He's tiring; his stupid smoke encrusted lungs are burning and refusing to hold air. He has about a block left in him, and he can see the motel and Dean's car. Castiel really hopes it's his room key that he feels in his shirt pocket.
As long as he's probably going to die anyway, Castiel slams his hands on the hood of Dean's car and pushes, landing hard on his ass and skidding over to land on his feet on the other side, his knees taking the impact a lot harder than they should have.
"Dammit, Cas," Dean screeches, sitting up in the passenger seat, shotgun in hand. He points the barrel out the window and fires at the creature. "You better not have dented her."
Panting, Castiel drops and leans on the tire nearest the driver's side window. Dean fires a few more times, then sticks his head out the other side and scowls down at him, so Castiel assumes the monster situation is taken care of.
"What did I tell you about playing bait?" Dean snaps.
"I thought you got it," Castiel says, accusingly.
"I did," Dean argues.
Dean makes a strangled sound that Castiel has learned to associate with rage and steps out of the car. "Stop trying to get yourself killed," he hisses.
The fact that the whateverthefuck seems to have dissolved when it died makes cleanup a lot easier and Dean wants to head out less than an hour later. He never feels the need to unpack, or sleep whenever they get to a motel, and Castiel has stopped bothering to try and make him.
His duffel is in the back seat of the Impala as soon as Dean's done bitching at him for nearly denting her hood. He hasn't seen Dean this pissed off since the last time he put his car back together. After Bobby dismantled it and Dean nearly wrecked trying to drive out to Stull Cemetery while it was still missing a vital part.
Dean had still managed to get to the cemetery, not that Castiel ever figured out how he did, but not in time to stop Michael and Lucifer's final battle.
"I can drive," Castiel offers, staring pointedly at the bags under Dean's eyes.
"No, you can't," Dean says stubbornly. He doesn't believe Castiel when he tells Dean that he taught himself with one of Bobby's junked vehicles.
"Pull over when you're tired this time," Castiel reminds him.
"Whatever," Dean says. Castiel would translate that to a 'no'.
They don't have any money or current credit cards, so they end up stopping at a bar before Castiel gets any decent sleep. Not that he'll be doing anything other than watching Dean hustle, but he doesn't appreciate being stuck at the bar.
He settles himself at the bar and decides to get drunk as fast as possible, for as long as possible.
The first time he ever got drunk was completely an accident. He was so used to his angelic tolerance that he nearly gave himself alcohol poisoning before he realized what had happened. He woke up three days later with an absolute bitch of a hangover. Bobby almost laughed himself sick, which is saying a lot for a man who rarely even smiles. Since then Castiel's been working on building his tolerance back up.
Dean walks in with a wobble that Castiel envies, he still has his moral opposition to lying and Dean makes it look so easy. He takes a pool stick from a rack on the wall and steps over to the table, grinning drunkenly.
Normally this is where Castiel would play the straight man and tell Dean not to waste his money, but his face always cracks, because he always knows that Dean's stone sober. He's not allowed near the tables when Dean's playing anymore.
"Friend of yours?" someone asks gruffly, from Castiel's left.
"You could say that," Castiel answers.
"He's gonna get his ass handed to him," the man remarks, and Castiel turns to face him.
"You be surprised."
The man grins, wickedly, and Castiel thinks that he's probably seen this con before. "Buy you a beer?"
"Thanks," Castiel says, giving him a smile in return that hopefully doesn't look as stiff as it feels. That's one of the things he has to work on before he can really interact with people, but this guy doesn't seem to mind. If the way his eyes are crawling over Castiel are any indication, it's going to take more than one botched smile to throw him off.
"Come here often?"
"Not really," Castiel says. The bartender slides a mug in front of him and he takes a long drink. "And I prefer a more direct approach."
"If you're trying to pick me up, say so." It's taken Castiel a while to learn human signals, but now that he has, he doesn't have any patience for them. Why people just don't say what they want will always be a mystery to him.
The man laughs, quietly, like he doesn't want everyone to know he's enjoying himself. He bumps his shoulder against Castiel's companionably. "Yeah, I'm trying to pick you up," he murmurs, leaning in close. "There's a spare room in the back, if you're interested."
Castiel wishes he could still down a glass of beer in one gulp, because he thinks the situation calls for it.
"I'm interested," he says, doing a quick check over his shoulder to make sure Dean's not in trouble and allowing himself to be led away. The guy, whose name he should learn sooner or later, wastes no time once they're in the back room, which isn't much bigger than a closet, and pushes Castiel against the wall. There's a brief look, asking for permission, before he presses his body against Castiel's.
He's hot and hard and demanding. Castiel groans into his mouth, going pliant. He lets himself be moved where the man wants him, until he's propped against the wall, his arms wrapped around the other man's waist and they're grinding together. The friction is teasing, just barely enough. Frustrated, Castiel unzips his jeans, and takes himself in hand. The man bites at his neck at the sight.
Wordlessly, Castiel fumbles at the other zipper as well, and the man laughs, the sound turning into a pleased sound as Castiel gets a hand around his cock. He wraps his hand around both of them, letting the man set the pace with his hips stuttering against Castiel’s.
They both come quietly, and the man leans into him while they shudder through aftershocks.
“What’s your name?”
“Rick,” the man laughs, standing straight. He offers a hand to Castiel and pulls him upright. “Nice to meet’cha, Castiel.”
“Likewise,” Castiel says absently, tucking himself into his jeans. He could go for the rest of that beer now, but Dean frowns upon walking around in public looking like he just had sex, especially if it’s true. Rick seems to be immune to the awkwardness that afflicts most of Castiel’s partners and helps him straighten himself out.
“How do I look?” Rick asks. Castiel shrugs. “I’ll take that as ‘good enough’.”
Castiel heads back to the main area of the bar a few seconds after Rick does, but Dean still notices and waves Castiel over to the booth where he's now sitting.
“Did you just fuck that guy in the back room?” he asks.
“Yes,” Castiel says, staring enviously at Dean’s beer.
“All right,” Dean mutters. His smile seems a bit strained, but Castiel doesn’t ask.
“Can I have some of that?”
“Bad lay?” Dean asks, pushing the glass towards him.
“Thirsty,” Castiel corrects.
Dean is slowly losing faith in motels. As a result, he and Castiel spend a lot more time camped out in old, abandoned houses. Usually just outside of town, near woods if it's possible. The fact that Dean has arranged their stay and paid this time makes circumstances just different enough to throw Castiel off.
“Why are we staying here?” Castiel asks as they pull into the gravel driveway. Dean hates driving on gravel.
“Because it’s a perfect base of operations,” Dean answers. “Secluded, easy to guard, running water.” He steps out of the car, smiling faintly up at the old house, fringed with trees. “And I barely had to pay because the guy thinks it’s haunted.”
“‘Course not,” Dean scoffs. “Don’t tell him that, though.”
Castiel sighs. Now he’ll have to concentrate around their temporary landlord to avoid letting on that they’re scamming him.
“Are you sure?” Castiel asks.
“Would we be sleeping here if I wasn’t?”
Castiel doesn’t want to answer that. Since Sam died, Dean’s been more and more reckless.
“Don’t make that face, Cas. It’s fine,” Dean snaps, moving to take his bag out of the trunk.
“Okay,” Castiel agrees. The last house he had stayed in that didn't look like it would collapse under the weight of its own accumulated filth was Bobby’s. This one is fine enough on the outside, but he has his doubts about the inside.
“Get your shit,” Dean huffs. Castiel grabs his duffel from the back seat and follows Dean inside warily.
“What’s the case?” Castiel asks. The house is worrying at first glance, and there is no furniture other than the thick layer of dust coating the floor.
“There’s a retirement community ‘bout a mile and a half out from here,” Dean says. “A lot of the old folks who live there have been acting weird. Sudden personality changes, and then they disappear a few weeks later.”
“Any bodies?” Castiel wonders if there’s anywhere he can put his sleeping bag down that’s not toxic.
The stairs are rickety and Castiel half expects Dean to fall through on the first step. The wood lets out a long groan under his weight.
“We’re sleeping upstairs,” Dean announces. Castiel follows him, trying to map out in his head the places where he can step without making noise. For no real reason other than that Dean will be doing the same thing, making sure he can get in and out of the house without alerting anyone.
The rooms upstairs aren’t much different. Dusty enough so Castiel can’t quite discern the color of the walls, but there are beds. There’s a bent spring sticking out of the side of Castiel’s.
“Don’t give me that look,” Dean says, heading towards his room. “Mine’s worse.”
Dean closes the door behind him, and Castiel sets his duffel down on the floor. The mattress is small enough that he could easily flip it and not sleep in the dust, but there’s a smell in the room that suggests the underside might be just as bad. He can hear Dean moving around in the other room, and he knows that, for right now, he’s safe. Dean can’t leave without him knowing.
In a few days, when Dean learns the stairs, that will be another matter entirely.
Castiel digs his sleeping bag out and sets it on the bed before he sits down, flicking his phone out. He speed dials Bobby for his report.
“You make it?” Bobby says instead of a greeting.
“What state are you in?”
“No idea,” Castiel answers truthfully. He stares at Dean’s door, as if he could see Dean through it.
“Boy,” Bobby says, without heat.
“Human,” Castiel answers, and Bobby huffs. The joke stopped being funny months ago, but he can’t seem to stop saying it.
“Don’t get yourselves killed,” Bobby demands.
“We’ll try,” Castiel says.
Detectives Steve Walsh and Dave Hope show up at the Sunny Skies Retirement Community bright and early. Walsh is still blinking sleep out of his eyes between sips of coffee.
“You sure you’re all right to do this?” Hope asks, flatly.
“Dude, stop acting like my wife.” Hope doesn’t quite have enough time to figure out if that was an insult or not before Walsh is stepping out of the car. “Try to keep up, and don’t talk this time.”
Hope frowns. You’d think he’d tried to convince a mark of the existence of angels and demons more than once, with the way his partner is carrying on.
“You got me, Cas?”
“Yes, Dean,” Castiel says. So much for trying to convince himself that he really is Detective Hope. He’s a method actor; he’s learned this about himself since he fell.
“Good,” Dean says gruffly, pitching his paper coffee cup in a trash basket.
Sunny Skies’ main office is painted a light shade of blue that Castiel supposes is to reinforce the name, but is too speckled with dirt to accomplish its task effectively. The insides are a harsh yellow that makes Castiel’s eyes sting with the sudden adjustment.
“Who the hell’re you?” someone demands. Dean steps forward and shows his badge, nudging Castiel to remind him to pull his too.
“Detective Walsh, this is my partner, Detective Hope.”
“Like those guys from that band?” the man slowly appearing in Castiel’s wounded vision asks.
“I wish," Dean says, wryly.
“I left something in the car,” Castiel says. Dean stares at him, but doesn’t comment. Castiel turns to leave and hears Dean making excuses for his behavior.
Castiel takes a left, into the enclosed housing area; a series of small apartments circled by a fence. He feels something strange in the pit of his stomach and follows it down the street. He stops in front of one apartment, visually indistinguishable from the others, but with a feeling of wrongness about it.
“Who are you?” asks a woman sitting on the porch.
“Detective Hope,” Castiel says, just barely remembering his new identity.
“That’s impressive,” she says. The door to her house opens and a large, white cat walks out, nuzzling at her side. “Are you here about Steven and Gloria and those other people?”
“Yes,” Castiel says, stepping closer. The woman seems fine enough, her face happy and careworn, but something about the apartment. “Have you noticed anything strange?”
“Just you,” she laughs. “You gonna sit down?” She pats the porch steps next to her.
“No, thank you.” The cat sniffs at Castiel’s shoe and the old woman laughs.
“This is Whiskers,” she says, “and I’m Norleen.”
“Did you know the missing persons?” Castiel asks.
“Some of them. Not really, though. The ones who've gone missing are mostly reclusive,” Norleen says with a sigh.
“You mentioned Steve and Gloria?”
“Yeah, because this is Gloria’s cat.” She scratches idly at Whiskers’ ears. “Was Gloria’s cat.”
“Where the hell you been, Dave?” Dean calls from behind him.
“I have to go,” Castiel says.
“Good luck, Detective,” Norleen says absently, stroking Whiskers.
“Find anything good?” Dean asks, sliding into his side of the booth.
“One of the victims owned a cat,” Castiel informs him, picking up his menu. A bacon cheeseburger sounds good. Even without looking, Castiel knows Dean is rolling his eyes.
“Anything useful,” Dean clarifies.
“I think the woman I was talking with is going to disappear next.”
“You couldn’t have said that first?”
Castiel shrugs. “I don’t have proof. Just a feeling.”
“You don’t think it was the woman herself? Maybe she’s a witch,” Dean says.
“I don’t think so,” Castiel says.
“You don’t know?”
“I’m not as... sensitive to these things as I once was,” Castiel says. Dean’s mouth goes tight, for a second. He doesn’t like to be reminded of what Castiel was, and what he isn’t anymore.
“So... bad vibes from whatshername?”
“Norleen. And yes.”
Dean nods. “I’ll find out more about her tomorrow.”
“What about you?” Castiel asks. “What did you find?”
“Nothin’ good,” Dean says, frowning at his menu. “That guy wouldn’t know his own ass from a coffee table.” Castiel refuses to ask for clarification. “He barely even knew half his people were gone.”
“Perhaps he’s feigning ignorance,” Castiel suggests.
“He must be a pretty damn good actor, then,” Dean says.
The day Castiel feels the last of his grace slip away he’s standing in Bobby’s kitchen, scrambling eggs for breakfast. He’s thinking about how he needs to earn his keep if he wants Bobby to continue letting him live at his house, and it’s just gone. His last connection to who he is, was, is just not there anymore.
Castiel finishes scrambling the egg, slides it onto a plate, and takes it to Bobby with two slices of toast and a glass of water.
Castiel wishes he could cook at the house Dean’s rented, but the space in the kitchen where the stove should be is just a blank space in the wall with differently colored paint. The refrigerator is the same, and the cabinets are all hanging by single points.
Dean doesn’t see it as quite the problem he does, infatuated as he is with diner food.
“You just don’t want me to go back and see that hot waitress again,” Dean complains.
“Why wouldn’t I want that?” Castiel asks, confused.
“Never mind,” Dean says, rolling his eyes.
Castiel frowns in concentration. Perhaps if he bought a grill.
“Why do you want to cook, anyway?”
Castiel shrugs. “I enjoy it.”
“When did you even learn to cook?”
“Same time I learned to drive.”
“You break it, you’re putting it back together, boy,” Bobby snaps, slapping the dashboard of the old truck.
“Of course, human,” Castiel says, trying not to sound as angry as he feels. From Bobby’s responding slap on the shoulder, it didn’t work.
“Hit the clutch, idjit, the clutch.”
“I’m hitting the clutch.”
“Obviously, you’re not.”
Castiel shifts too fast, grinding the gears.
“Don’t do that.”
Castiel glares at him over his shoulder.
A few days later, Castiel’s prediction comes true. Norleen Matthews goes missing.
"She was acting so strange,” her neighbor, Ms. Parker, says. “Just shut herself in the house and wouldn’t talk to anyone. No one even knew she was gone until an aide had to break her door down to check on her.”
“Did she mention any reason for her behavior?” Dean asks, politely abstaining from the teacup in front of him. Castiel quietly looks around the room, unable to help.
“No,” Ms. Parker says, emphatically, drawing the sound out. “She just changed overnight.”
“Was there anything... new or strange about her in the last few weeks?”
“Well, she was pretty broken up about Gloria,” Ms. Parker says. “But I thought letting her take care of that old cat would help.”
“So you think it was a suicide,” Dean says.
“Maybe,” Ms. Parker replies, sadly. “It’s not too uncommon around here. Actually, when the first person disappeared, I think it was Mr. Eastman, most people thought it was a suicide until they announced that there wasn’t a body.”
“I see,” Dean says, looking into his cup. “Could I get some milk for this?”
“Of course, honey.” Mrs Parker laughs. “I mean, Detective.”
“Thanks,” Dean says, smiling brightly as she goes to leave the room. “Cas,” he whispers.
“I don’t feel anything,” Castiel says, quietly.
“You sure there’s no vibes or nothing?”
Ms. Parker bustles back into the room, a small jug of milk in her hands. “Here you are, sir.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Dean says, taking the jug.
“Oh please, call me Dottie,” she says. Dean pauses, midway through pouring a generous dollop of milk into his tea.
“Sure, Dottie,” he says. His smile looks slightly forced.
“What is that thing doing in my car?” Dean asks, pointing through the window. Whiskers, Norleen and Gloria’s cat, is curled in the front passenger seat.
“It’s the dead woman’s cat,” Castiel says.
“Great,” Dean snaps, “now get it out of my car.”
“It isn’t hurting anything,” Castiel points out.
“How did it even get in?”
“Your open window, I would guess.”
Dean scowls. “Shut up.”
Castiel opens his door -- slowly -- giving the cat every opportunity to run away. It doesn’t. He reaches down and awkwardly picks it up out of his seat, cradling it by its chest and back legs. He feels the soft vibrations of its purr in his hands.
“Maybe we can scare it away,” Dean says.
“It doesn’t currently have an owner,” Castiel points out, scratching at the cat’s chest.
“... We’re not keeping it,” Dean says.
Castiel ignores him and continues to pet Whiskers.
“Seriously, man, put it down. I’m not kidding!”
“Dean,” Castiel says sadly, bringing Whiskers’ small face closer to his own.
“Don’t pull that on me, Cas. C'mon.”
Castiel moves into his seat, setting Whiskers on his lap. “We have a house.” he says, firmly.
“Doesn’t mean we need a pet,” Dean argues. Castiel scratches the top of Whiskers head, making him purr even louder.
“He needs a home, Dean,” Castiel says.
“... What’s its name?” Dean asks flatly.
“Oh hell no. We are not having a cat named Whiskers,” Dean snaps. Castiel starts to protest, but Dean silences him with a glare. “We’re calling it Eddie.”
The day Dean comes back is thirty-seven days after he left. The first thing he does after he gets out of the shitty blue car he drove into the lot is punch Castiel in the jaw, clacking his teeth together and splitting the skin on Castiel's mouth.
“Jesus, Dean,” Bobby shouts, pulling at Dean’s shoulders. “The fuck’re you doing?”
“He let Sam out of the panic room, Bobby. He did this.”
Castiel doesn’t deny it. Bobby shut Dean away in the spare room that Castiel’s not living in, where the Winchesters used to bunk when they stopped by for a rest.
“I’m guessing Sam’s not coming back,” Bobby says.
“No,” Castiel agrees. “I don’t think he is.”
He wears his bruise for a week and a half and the cut for longer still.
From the attic window of their house they can see all the way into the center of the community with the single pair of binoculars that they pass back and forth.
“I’m not sure what purpose this serves,” Castiel says, peering through the lenses.
“We’re on a stakeout, from the comfort of our very own home,” Dean grins, “and this chair is a hell of a lot comfier than sitting in the car for six hours.”
The attic is packed with old furniture, and Dean’s managed to find one of the few pieces that doesn’t kick up clouds of dust when sat on. Castiel is settled on a low table, his vertebrae protesting the angle they're bent into.
“If something does happen we can’t help,” Castiel points out, not for the first time.
“But it won’t,” Dean says. “This thing has a pattern. We’re just waiting for it to find a new target.”
“It may change its habits, Dean.”
“I doubt it,” Dean says. Castiel can hear the soft crunch of whatever Dean’s eating to pass the time.
“It’s your turn soon,” Castiel says.
Castiel hasn’t seen anything move in the entire time he’s been watching. Not even a night patrol, even with the disappearances.
“It may be invisible,” Castiel says.
“Nah,” Dean answers. “You getting any vibes?”
“No,” Castiel sighs. He feels unsettled, but he has for a while. It’s too vague for him to place, or put a warning to. He can feel Eddie nudging his foot with his small head. “Is it your turn?”
“Fine,” Dean sighs, wiggling out of the indentation he’s made himself in the armchair. Castiel moves into his seat, scooping Eddie up as he goes. The cat settles happily on his lap, nuzzling at his chin. Dean groans unhappily as he settles into Castiel’s perch and Castiel’s stomach flutters. “Don’t eat my chips.”
Castiel dislikes the overly processed taste of most things Dean eats. “I won’t.”
“Man, you have these focused all wrong,” Dean complains. “No wonder you didn’t see anything.”
“There’s nothing to see,” Castiel snaps. Eddie paws him gently, reacting to his tone, and Castiel scratches behind his ears.
“Easy, Cas,” Dean says, smirking. “Did someone not get their beauty sleep last night?”
“I slept, Castiel says, unsure if the fitful rest he experienced could be considered beauty sleep.
“Drink some coffee,” Dean says, jerking his head at the paper cup on the floor. Castiel leans forward to take it, gently nudging Eddie aside. The coffee is bitter; smooth and black and burnt. Almost the exact opposite of what he would expect Dean to drink. He likes it, and he likes that Dean likes it. He takes a few more sips from Dean’s cup and sets it down.
“What are you trying to see?” Castiel asks. Eddie flops onto his back, purring loudly.
“Bad shit, Cas. I can’t fucking see anything with you talking to me.”
Castiel rubs his forehead, feeling an impending headache.
He wakes in the armchair with Eddie sprawled over his legs, nearly liquid in his comfort. Dean’s laying stretched out on the floor, one hand under his head as a pillow. The sunlight from the window has only reached the bottoms of his boots. His face looks soft, for once; open and relaxed.
“Picture’ll last longer,” Dean says, cracking one eye open.
“See anything?” Castiel asks, fully aware of his own obnoxiousness.
“Bite me,” Dean says, reaching over and pulling on Castiel’s leg. Castiel kicks, halfheartedly, failing to dislodge Dean’s hand. It’s warm through his jeans. He’s tempted to tip Eddie over onto Dean’s stomach, but he’s content to stay where he is. His stomach is empty and his bladder is full, but he doesn’t want to move.
Dean seems to feel the same, lightly running his fingers back and forth across Castiel’s leg. Castiel feels himself relaxing back into sleep as Dean’s fingers slow and still.
“You hungry?” Dean asks.
“Yes,” Castiel grunts, unhappy with the prospect of getting up.
“Donuts sound good?”
“Sleeping sounds good,” Castiel says, honestly. Dean laughs, slapping the side of Castiel’s foot as he gets up.
“I’ll get us food. You keep watch.”
Castiel glares at Dean as he walks out of the attic, stirring dust up with his heels. He scritches his fingernails down Eddie’s stomach, waking him gently. Eddie nuzzles his arm, mewling.
“Good morning,” Castiel says, unable to help himself. He sets Eddie down on the floor, waiting for him to run away before he stands and moves to the window. He picks up the binoculars just to confirm that nothing’s happened since he and Dean fell asleep. His back seems to be angry with him for his bad posture and he misses his uncomfortable mattress.
Castiel moves to the hole in the floor that leads out of the attic, and sees Eddie sitting at the bottom of the ladder, staring at him.
“No one has fed you,” Castiel sighs. Eddie runs and pounds his way down the stairs, so Castiel takes it as a yes. Maybe they have something in the kitchen for him. Castiel takes the ladder slowly, still stiff with sleep.
He’s wondering what exactly cats eat, or, at the very least, what cats are capable of eating that would be in the house. He sets his hand lightly on the stair rail and his foot snags on something. Castiel falls forward, landing harshly on his side. The ridges of the stairs dig into his leg. He starts to slide down the stairs, head first, and grabs the rail to stop himself. He swings his legs around to get some traction and his foot slams into the wall, bending it painfully.
“The fuck just happened?” Dean shouts, slamming the front door open. Castiel wants to speak, but his leg is throbbing with pain. Dean spots Castiel lying on the stairs. “Jesus, Cas, you forget how to work your feet?”
“I tripped,” Castiel grunts, sitting up. He can move, but his foot is radiating a slow, sickening sort of pain.
“Y’alright?” Dean asks, hovering at the foot of the stairs.
“Stand up,” Dean says, frowning. Castiel doesn’t even bother trying. “We’re taking you to the hospital.”
Castiel loses his virginity in the back seat of an old car half a mile from Bobby’s house to a woman who came to Bobby’s junkyard to buy spare parts. She doesn’t believe him when he tells her it’s his first time.
“Lookin’ like you, there’s no way you've never had sex before,” she purrs, pinning him to the seat.
He comes back to Bobby’s house an hour later, fully prepared not to tell him about it.
“Your shirt’s on backwards,” Bobby says, chuckling.
“They gave you pain meds, didn’t they?”
“I think so,” Castiel says. He feels himself smiling and sees no reason to stop. “We need cat food. For Eddie.”
“Didn’t think it was for you,” Dean snaps, climbing in the driver's side.
“I don’t like cat food. I don’t like the way it smells.”
Dean switches on the radio. “No more talking, Cas, okay? Wait until we get back.”
“Don’t forget the cat food,” Castiel argues.
“I won’t,” Dean says, turning the radio up.
“I like Eddie. I want him to have food.”
“You’re stoned, Cas, be quiet.”
“I haven’t been stoned,” Castiel says, frowning. “I broke my foot.”
“Not in the biblical sense, dude,” Dean says. “You’re high.”
Castiel leans back in his seat, stretching his legs out. The cast on his lower leg is cumbersome, knocking against the underside of the dashboard. “Can I roll the window down?”
“Whatever,” Dean says. “Would they sell cat food at a gas station?”
“How would I know?”
Dean sighs and pulls into the parking lot. “Stay here,” he orders.
Angry, Castiel rolls his window down and lolls his head out. “You’re not my boss,” he says, loudly. A woman in the parking lot titters, but Dean pays no mind.
“That’s funny,” a man says, walking up to the car, “I thought he was your boss.”
“We’re a team,” Castiel says, frowning. The man smiles, extending a hand to Castiel, who reaches his left arm out the window to take it.
“You’re one of the Detectives that's been working at the nursing home up there, aren’t you?”
“Castiel. Detective Hope,” he corrects.
“I’m Stan, Detective,” he man says, letting go of Castiel’s hand. “You... feelin’ alright?”
“I broke my foot,” Castiel says.
Castiel didn’t even notice Dean coming back to the car.
"You that other Detective?” Stan asks.
“Yeah,” Dean says, handing a bag of cat food through the window. “We’re going now, Dave.” He’s talking to Castiel and frowning at Stan, and Castiel feels like he’s missing something.
“I thought his name was Castiel,” Stan says.
“That’s his middle name,” Dean snaps, climbing into the car.
Castiel’s mattress isn’t any more comfortable when Dean moves it downstairs; setting it up so Castiel can sleep in the living room.
“I’ll get mine too,” Dean says.
“Why?” Castiel asks. He’s flat on his back, propping his foot in the air as the feeling slowly bleeds back into it.
“So you’re not alone on the ground floor with whatever we’re hunting.”
“You don’t want to sleep down here with me, Dean,” Castiel says. “Where are the pills the doctor gave you?”
“No more pain pills, Cas.”
“Why not?” Castiel snaps. He hears the soft clink of Dean pouring a bowl of food for Eddie, but no reply. Castiel pulls a cigarette out of his shirt pocket and clamps it into the corner of his mouth, so it hangs out over the mattress.
“You’re gonna set yourself on fire,” Dean says, peeking his head out from the kitchen.
“Maybe,” Castiel says absently, searching through his pockets. “Where’s my lighter?”
“They took it away from you when they drugged you up.”
Castiel sighs. “That was my last one.”
Dean walks back into the living room, standing over Castiel. He kneels down and gently plucks the cigarette out of his mouth. “I’ll take pity on you.”
He puts the cigarette in his own mouth and pulls a lighter out of his jacket pocket. Castiel wants to ask how stealing his shit is taking pity on him while Dean lights up and takes a long pull. He takes the cigarette out, blows smoke over his shoulder, and pops it back into Castiel’s mouth. “Better?”
Castiel blows smoke in his face. “I want my pills.”
“Bitch,” Dean mutters, standing up. “You can sleep down here by yourself.”
“Fine,” Castiel says, quietly. He’s completely sure Dean didn’t hear him. That unsettling feeling is on him again, spinning around his stomach. Eddie nuzzles Castiel’s cheek, begging for attention.
“You get any vibes off that guy at the gas station?” Dean asks.
“No,” Castiel says, quickly.
“You can’t tell people your real name, Cas,” Dean chides. “You could have fucked over our entire case.”
“I’m not a child, Dean,” Castiel says, warningly.
“You sure act like it,” Dean snaps, sitting on the stairs.
“Fuck you, Dean,” Castiel spits. “I don’t know how to be Sam.”
It’s a mistake, and Castiel knows as soon as it comes out of his mouth. Dean’s face pales, his mouth drawn tight.
“Bite me, you stupid son of a bitch. You don’t know how to be fucking human in the first place.”
“It’s only,” Castiel says, “because I learned from you.”
He half expects Dean to kick him as he storms out. Castiel wishes he could follow, but his fucking foot hurts.
Soon, too soon, after Dean comes back to Bobby’s he tries to leave again.
“I promised--” Dean stops, his mouth working wordlessly over Sam’s name, “I promised to try this, okay? I have to go.”
“Fine,” Bobby says, “but you’re taking Cas.”
“What? Why?” Dean asks. Castiel feels about the same, but he trusts Bobby’s judgment.
“So you don’t do anything stupid,” Bobby scowls. “He probably ain’t too happy to have to go with you, either.”
“I’ll go,” Castiel says.
“Great,” Dean snarls.
They drive overnight to Indiana, and Castiel doesn’t know why until they pull up outside of a house in Cicero. There’s a woman and child visible through the kitchen window.
“Who are they?” Castiel asks, quietly. He knows what sacred ground feels like.
“My normal life,” Dean says.
They sit in the car for a long while. Dean never does get out.
Even after what feels like hours of restless shifting, Castiel can’t fall asleep. He’s too uncomfortable. He's thinking too much. His fucking foot hurts and he has no pills. Eddie’s curled into a ball of heat on his chest, sleeping quietly.
Castiel thinks he might be able to sleep if Dean would come back already.
There’s light shining in the window from the lamp at the end of the driveway and right into Castiel’s eyes. He tries to sit up and move out of the way, but Eddie digs his claws into Castiel’s shirt, making himself into an unmovable mass of hot fur. Castiel could have sworn he was asleep a second ago, but he’s purring like the crackling of a furnace.
“Nuisance,” Castiel huffs, pushing him away. He thinks he’ll go for a walk. It wouldn’t be surprising if Dean was in his car, idling at the end of the driveway and waiting for Castiel to fall asleep so he can come back inside.
Castiel hauls himself upright using the wall for support. His foot throbs painfully. He’s going to get Dean to give him some of those fucking pills. He takes a few slow steps to the door and Eddie launches himself off the mattress and attacks Castiel’s undamaged leg, sinking his claws into Castiel’s ankle.
“Fuck,” Castiel hisses, trying to shake the cat free.
Eddie growls, low and frightening, and bites him. Castiel kicks his leg out, just barely dislodging the cat. Eddie lands back on the mattress and snarls, his mouth opening impossibly wide. The sound slowly changes from dumb, animal rage to discernible words. “I’m just playing.”
Castiel backs against the door, resting his hand of the knob. “What are you?” he says, calmly. He still can’t sprint for shit, especially with a broken foot. His cell phone is in his duffel, upstairs.
“Just playing,” Eddie hisses, stepping closer. The hair along his back is standing straight up, like spikes. “Just playing just playing.”
“Okay,” Castiel says, letting go of the handle, “you were just playing. I understand.”
“No. Bad.” Eddie spreads his paws and raises his hackles, appearing even larger. “I was just playing.”
“Just playing,” Castiel repeats, inching along the wall. If he can get up the stairs and into Dean’s room, he’ll have the knife under Dean’s pillow and a door between him and Eddie.
Eddie is larger than he was. It’s barely noticeable, but he’s growing. “Bad bad bad.”
“I’m bad?” Castiel nearly has a straight line between himself and the stairs. A few more steps and he’ll be able to make a break for it.
“Bad,” Eddie agrees. He paws closer as his snout elongates, and his teeth grow long and sharp so his mouth can’t seem to close, garbling his words. “My turn.”
“Your turn?” Castiel asks, stilling. He braces his bad foot against the wall for a running start. “Your turn to be bad?”
“My turn to be Cas.”
Eddie crouches, and Castiel makes a break for it, pushing off the wall and throwing himself towards the stairs, not sprinting so much as lurching. He falls on his hands and feels Eddie soar over his head, slamming into the wall. It growls, and Castiel is half crawling to the stairs. He makes the first few and hears the pound of Eddie’s footsteps behind him. Without thinking, he kicks out with his casted foot, plaster connecting with soft flesh as a bolt of pain shoots through him. It’s worth it for the howl Eddie lets out.
Castiel scrambles up the stairs, leaning heavily on the banister, not risking a glance behind him. Unless Eddie got a lot quieter in the last few seconds, he’ll hear him coming. His foot feels like it’s been filled with broken glass. It refuses to move the way Castiel wants it to. He gets to the landing and pauses, pressing his back against the wall. He can’t hear anything but a soft, sustained noise, like the low sound of an engine.
Castiel was hoping it had been stunned by the blow he landed, but now he thinks it might be waiting. For what, Castiel doesn’t know or much care to find out. He walks backwards down the hall to Dean’s room, keeping his eyes on the stairs. He has to lean on the wall just to move. The low purr has developed a beat, buh buhn, like the pounding of a heart.
The knob of Dean’s door touches Castiel’s side and he pulls at it, slipping inside as fast as he can. He nearly trips on Dean’s duffel; half open and lying next to the door. He scoops it up and moves to the other side of the bed, flipping Dean’s pillow out of the way to reveal the curved hunting knife Dean sleeps with.
Castiel flips the bed over and pushes it against the door, making himself a barricade. He braces himself with his shoulder to the underside of the bed, smelling mildew and soured sweat as he goes through Dean’s bag, hoping for more weapons. The heartbeat purr has turned into a low chant of my turn my turn. Castiel’s hand closes over the cold metal of a handgun and he pulls it out, noting its weight as far too light to be loaded. He hears a creak that he can identify as either the first or third stair.
Impatient, he turns Dean’s bag over, dumping the contents on the floor. Clothes and scraps of paper tumble out. Castiel searches through them, looking for ammunition. When he’s unsuccessful, he opens a smaller pocket of Dean’s bag, finding another, smaller knife in a sheath. The seventh stair groans distinctively, momentarily blocking out my turn my turn. Eddie’s voice sounds more human, and Castiel tries hard not to think of what that must mean.
Just as Castiel concedes that Dean probably keeps his ammunition on him, he finds a full clip and quickly loads it into the gun. Eddie is close to the landing, probably on the eleventh of thirteen steps. Castiel backs away from the door, staying low to the ground so he doesn’t have to work his bad foot.
A slow succession of lights flash through the windowpane and onto the wall. Loud music is playing.
Dean’s back, and about to walk into the house, drunk, with a monster waiting for him.
Castiel stands, quickly, losing track of Eddie in the haze of guitar and bass. The fucking window won’t open and Castiel doesn’t hesitate to break it, smashing the glass open with the handle of Dean’s knife. Between the crack of the glass and the music, Castiel hears the sound of Eddie’s claws punching through the door, MY TURN MY TURN echoing through.
“Dean!” Castiel shouts. He can see Dean getting out of his car, music still turned up as loud as it can go. He can’t hear Castiel. Eddie claws the door again. Castiel turns around, fast, and he can see the thing that used to be a cat peering through. Its white hair fading to black, its eyes a startling blue color in a grotesquely human face. Castiel points the gun where he estimates its forehead to be, and shoots.
He turns back around, leaning out the window. Dean is on full alert, and Castiel waves the gun to him. “Turn the music off!”
“Jesus, Cas --”
The radio turns off just in time for Castiel to hear another claw stab through the door.
“It’s Eddie,” Castiel shouts. “We’re hunting Eddie.” He doesn’t have time to wait for Dean to get it, he’s warned him. Now all he can do is hope Dean gets his shotgun out of the trunk before he comes storming in. Castiel fires another shot through the door, and it pauses.
“Cas,” Eddie says, its voice familiar, “it’s my turn, Cas. Be good, Cas.”
“No,” Castiel says, emptying the rest of the gun into the creature. He pulls the trigger even after the chamber is empty, hearing only a dry click. Eddie shrieks in pain and anger, dragging its claws down the door, peeling away long strips of wood. There's another shot, and it wails, feral and animal and completely inhuman.
A few seconds pass before Dean speaks. “It’s dead, Cas.”
Castiel stands, supporting himself against the wall. His hand is cut from the window, but other than that he’s unharmed. The bed is hard to move, but he scrapes it away from the door with the last of his strength. He can see Dean through the tatters of the door before he opens it.
The corpse on the floor, save the fangs and claw like fingers, is Castiel’s.
Dean doesn’t let Castiel help him burn the body. Not that Castiel doesn’t try anyway. Eddie still has Castiel’s appearance, and Castiel hasn’t seen Dean this distraught in a long time. He batted Castiel’s hands away and took the body into the woods, leaving Castiel to try and fall asleep on his mattress. When he closes his eyes he sees Eddie coming back to life and attacking Dean.
He’s still awake when Dean comes back. He hears him close the door and walk towards Castiel, his boots clanking against the floor. Dean lies behind him on the mattress, throwing an arm around Castiel’s waist and pressing his forehead to the back of Castiel’s neck.
“Dean?” Castiel asks, almost afraid to move.
“It looked like I killed you, Cas.” He sounds like he's been crying. “For a second, I thought I had.”
Castiel takes Dean’s hand in his own, twining their fingers together. “I’m still here.”
The first time Castiel shoots a gun without his Grace to help him aim and steady his hand, he misses the tin can he was aiming at by an embarrassingly wide margin.
“Way to go, Hawkeye,” Dean says. He’s standing just behind Castiel, and has assured him that it might be the only safe spot in the whole field.
“Be quiet,” Castiel says. His hand is shaking and he hates it. He hates that he can’t even hold himself still anymore.
“Jesus, Cas, it was a joke.” He steps forward until his breath feathers over the back of Castiel’s neck. “You need to loosen up,” he says, his hand resting on Castiel’s forearm. “Relax. I’ll help you.”
With one hand on Castiel’s arm, and one around his waist, Dean gently adjusts his posture.
Castiel does. Their bodies fit together perfectly for a moment.
“Exhale and fire.”
The tin can jumps off the fence, and Dean whoops, loud and joyous, in his ear.
He’s not sure who wakes first, but he knows that Dean kisses him, soft and hesitant on the back of his neck. Castiel turns his head slowly, meeting Dean’s mouth with his own. He can feel the soft buzz of Dean’s nervous laughter and ignores it, turning himself towards Dean’s body. His foot hurts, but he doesn’t care.
“Cas, you know it’s me, right?” Dean says, half joking.
“Shut up, Dean.”
Dean pulls him closer, slinging a leg over Castiel’s hips and Castiel crowds in. He wants to be as close as he can. He wants to be under Dean’s skin. Their hips slide together, slow and smooth, as they kiss. Frantic, Dean pushes Castiel back against the wall, as if he’ll disappear, and shoves his hands up Castiel’s shirt to run them over his overheated skin.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Castiel murmurs. He pushes Dean back, lies him flat against the mattress, and Dean just lets him, holding Castiel’s mouth to his as they move together. Castiel can’t manage with his cast, though, and Dean seems to know it, pushing Castiel back onto his side.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” he chides.
“I know what I’m doing,” Castiel whispers, half reprimand and half promise.
“Whatever,” Dean says, trying to hide the quick shiver that runs through him. Castiel runs his fingers over Dean’s jaw, quieting him. Dean’s hand is still under Castiel’s shirt, lying still over Castiel’s heart. Castiel trails his hand down -- moving it over the curve of Dean’s neck, over the hill of his shoulder, to the fading shadow of a hand print -- and hopes Dean understands. I’m here. I’m not leaving you.
He wishes he could read Dean’s mind still. He wants to know what Dean’s thinking when Castiel reaches down and tugs at his zipper. Dean sighs into Castiel’s mouth, scratching his fingernails into Castiel’s chest. Dean’s legs shift as he kicks off his boots and slides one leg between Castiel’s, pressing hard into Castiel’s hip. Castiel slides a hand between them, wrapping it around Dean’s cock. Dean hisses, pulling them closer.
“Cas?” Dean says, his breath hitching.
“Don’t,” Castiel whispers, because he can’t hear Dean tell him to stop. He can’t. He flicks his wrist, pulling a long shudder out of Dean.
“I,” Dean starts, his eyelids fluttering shut. His mouth is hanging open and soft, and Castiel kisses him until he can’t feel his lips, quieting him. Dean stops trying to protest and lets Castiel do this for him, lets himself be taken care of finally.
Dean presses his forehead against Castiel’s shoulder, hiding his face as he comes.
Castiel wakes sweaty and disheveled and alone. He’s lying under one of Dean’s over shirts, the makeshift blanket he fell asleep with since his was still upstairs. He feels a fuzzy, sleepy panic diffuse over him, because not only is Dean gone but so are his shoes, and the knives he had laid out by the door for sharpening aren’t there and Castiel’s bag is laid neatly at the foot of his mattress like an apology. He’s trying to stand almost before he can hear the adrenaline pounding in his ears, and nearly falls because his leg is so sore.
“Jesus, Cas, don’t fucking die,” Dean snaps, coming silently down the stairs, carrying his duffel bag. His feet are weaving a circuitous pattern that manages not to hit any of the weaker parts of the steps, all without looking down. He drops the duffel near the door, and offers a hand to pull Castiel up. “C’mon, man --” is all Castiel gives him a chance to say before looping an arm around Dean and pulling him into another kiss. He’s waited too long to dance around anymore.
“G’mornin’ to you, too,” Dean slurs, his scowl softening.
“Where are we going?” Castiel asks, leaning against the wall to give Dean a chance to move away. He does, but slowly.
“Bobby called. Weird shit in Sioux Falls.”
“He needs our help?” Castiel asks incredulously.
“He didn’t say as much, but yeah, that’s about it,” Dean says, grabbing their bags. “Can you make it to the car by yourself?”
“Do I get my pills?” Castiel asks.
“No,” Dean says stubbornly. “But if you’re up for arguing, you can carry your own damn bag.”
Castiel runs a hand through his hair, rolling his neck to work out a kink. “Fine,” he says.
“Fine,” Dean agrees.
Dean whines for nearly fifteen miles about having to go to two separate restaurants because Castiel wanted a Big Mac and Dean ate two of them the day before and was going to vomit, projectile vomit, if he ever ate another, and why wouldn't Cas just eat a fucking Wendy’s burger. They're basically the same thing anyway. Castiel doesn’t feel like pointing out the logic flaw in Dean’s argument and waits for him to burn himself out, which he finally does, just inside the Iowa border.
They stop for gas in the smallest town Castiel has seen in his past few months as a hunter. When Dean plops himself back down into the driver’s seat Castiel leans over and brushes their lips together, chaste, just to see what Dean will do.
He pulls away and Dean licks his lips, his eyes half lidded and hazy. Then he scowls. “You taste like McDonalds.”
It starts raining around the time they arrive in Des Moines. Dean pays for a motel room with two Queens and sleeps in Castiel’s.
They speed and make it to Bobby’s around lunch time the next day. Castiel tries to call Bobby on both his and Dean’s phones on the way. He knows how pissed Bobby gets when they just show up without warning, even though Bobby was the one who called them, but there is no answer.
The junkyard, when they pull in, has a strange sense of stillness to it.
“Cas?” Dean asks, scanning the immediate area.
“It doesn’t seem bad,” Castiel says, reacting to the feeling in his stomach. “Just very... strange.”
“Something that’s going to eat us strange or sudden snowfall strange, Cas. I need specifics.”
“Neither,” Castiel answers, frowning. Dean sighs, but continues to drive at a crawling pace. His shoulders settle into a defensive position. Castiel pulls the handgun from the glove compartment and holds it carefully in his lap, loaded.
“Bobby’s got to be here,” Dean says, quietly. “He didn’t sound like he was in trouble.”
“This isn’t trouble.”
Dean snorts in disbelief.
The car rolls up in front of Bobby’s house. All the windows and doors are shut, the curtains pulled, and a line of salt that's thick enough to be seen from the car bars the door. It's barely out of the ordinary for Bobby, but enough to worry Castiel. Dean too, if the way he sneaks out of the car is any indication. Castiel follows, bringing the handgun just in case.
“Hey,” Dean shouts, heading towards the door, “you in the fortress, Bobby? Can we come in the front or do we have to go through a window?”
“How am I related to such an asshole?”
Castiel’s head turns so fast that he expects to feel his neck crack. He has the handgun pointed out in less time than it takes to think, pointed at the apparition of Adam Milligan. He thumbs the safety off.
“Whoa,” Adam says, holding his hands up, the simple motion radiating sarcasm. “Don’t taze me, bro.”
“It’s not a taser,” Castiel says.
“This is what I get for trying to be funny around people without the internet.”
“Adam?” Dean says, his voice gone soft and open. “But you...”
“Yeah, I know,” Adam says. He lowers his hands, and Castiel sees that he’s holding a fresh, half-devoured green apple. He’s never seen a spirit eat.
Dean takes a cautious step forward, into Castiel’s line of fire and Castiel reluctantly lowers the gun. “Are you... dead?”
“Nope.” Adam takes a quick bite of his apple as if to prove it. A thin trickle of juice runs down his chin before he wipes it away with a sleeve. “And before you ask: no, I didn’t come out of the hole alone.”
Castiel’s sure his heart stops at the same time Dean’s does.
“Oh, and Cas,” Adam says, gesturing with his empty hand. “I have a message for you.”
“What?” Castiel asks.
“Your dad wanted me to remind you that he works in mysterious ways.”
“You comin’ in or what, boys?” Bobby snaps, poking his head in the door. “And keep quiet.”
Dumbstruck, Castiel and Dean follow Adam inside, watching as he hops lightly over the salt line. Adam looks back at them, daring them to comment on it. Bobby claps Castiel lightly on the shoulder, nodding at Adam. He’s human.
So Castiel has to assume that Sam, stretched out asleep on Bobby’s couch with a book lying open across chest, is also who he appears to be.
Dean takes a shaky step towards his brother, passing a hand over his mouth. “Sam?”
Adam pulls at Castiel’s sleeve, silently, and Castiel allows himself to be pulled from the room.
Bobby banishes Castiel and Adam to the back porch, to give Dean and Sam time. Adam lazily crunches his apple. He's laid out across the plain and warped wood like it’s a cushion, his legs hanging over the edge and his feet planted in the uncut grass. Castiel sits next to him by necessity, nursing the mug of coffee Bobby made him.
“Why are you so depressed?” Adam asks, his voice filled with more bitterness than should be possible for someone his age. “I know I’m not your favorite person. Shouldn't you be in there partying with Dean and Sammy?”
Truthfully, Castiel knows he should be happy. Dean has spent nearly a year mourning his brother, and now he’s alive; around to make sure that Dean doesn’t forget to eat or sleep and that he stops hating himself. If anyone can do it, it’s Sam. And they can resume their hunting, pick back up from where they were before Azazel enacted his plan, and go back to the family business like Dean’s been longing to. Castiel just doesn’t know what will happen to him.
“No,” Castiel says, “it’s not my place.”
Adam sighs. “I know what you mean. They don’t let anyone else in, do they?”
“They don’t,” Castiel agrees.
“Y’know,” Adam says, sitting up. Castiel can hear the cartilage in his back cracking lightly. “I spent years with Sam in that cage, and as soon as we got out, he would have left me by the side of the road if it made it easier to get to Dean.”
Castiel nods. “Did you really see God?”
“Yeah,” Adam says. He doesn’t clarify.
“What-” Castiel has to stop and take a long drink of coffee to steady himself. “What was He like?”
“He was like everything,” Adam says. He takes a quick bite of his apple and throws the core into the yard. “He’s... everything.”
“Few people have been in His presence,” Castiel points out.
Adam grins wryly, looking so much like Dean for a moment that Castiel has to look away. “Nah. I think a lot of people have.” He nudges Castiel’s leg with his own. “They just don’t know it.”
The door creaks open behind them.
“Am I interrupting something?” Bobby asks.
“When’s dinner?” Adam asks, leaning back to stare the older man down.
“You’re eating me out of house and home, brat,” Bobby says.
“So... now?” Adam guesses. The disgusted look on Bobby’s face makes Castiel laugh. He hides his face in his coffee mug.
Castiel, upon entering Bobby’s kitchen, finds it very hard to stop himself from going over and checking on whatever good smelling thing is in the oven. It’s like the last year hasn’t happened, and he’s cooking dinner for the two of them to eat while Bobby leafs through one of his thousands of old books and Castiel reads one of the old detective novels he found in a box in the attic or a magazine that Bobby’s going to scoff at because Castiel’s more interested in learning about pop culture than deer hunting.
Adam plops himself down at the edge of Bobby’s dining table, sitting rigidly in his chair. Castiel chuckles, aware of Bobby’s suspicions about how easily broken his furniture is, and the extent to which he goes to prevent misuse. He sits next to him and watches Bobby pull a casserole dish full of shepherd's pie from the oven.
“Smells good,” Castiel says.
“Smells burnt,” Adam complains, and Bobby smacks his shoulder with an oven mitt.
“Just because you like your food raw,” he starts, the rest of his sentence lost while he searches through his cabinets for plates. Castiel catches Adam rolling his eyes, smiling a very small and fond smile.
“Can we eat already?” Adam asks petulantly.
“If you want to burn your mouth, be my guest.” Adam moves to get up and Bobby scowls, waving the oven mitt at him. “Sit down and wait for the damn thing to cool off.”
Castiel pulls a cigarette out of his shirt pocket, looking around for something to use as an ashtray. He remembers that he still doesn’t have a lighter and wonders idly if Bobby would let him use the stove.
“What the hell d’you think you’re doing?” Bobby snaps. Castiel raises an eyebrow at Adam, who smirks back at him. Bobby plucks the cigarette out of Castiel’s mouth and throws it into the garbage can.
“Bobby?” Castiel asks, dumbfounded.
“Not in my house, boy.”
“I’m not a child,” Castiel reminds him.
“And this is my house,” Bobby snaps. “That shit’ll rot you from the inside out.”
“Damn, Bobby,” Adam whistles.
“Mouthy brat,” Bobby says, without heat. Castiel feels very, very close to smoking despite Bobby’s rule, but he doesn’t want to interrupt this. Adam and Bobby seem content with their bickering. He chews on the ragged edge of his thumbnail, waiting until he can go back outside.
The food is still piping hot when it gets to them, and Adam digs into his with relish.
“Can you even taste it?” Bobby asks, drizzling ketchup over his plate.
“No, thank God,” Adam says between bites. Castiel flinches a little, his food burning his tongue, but still good.
“Watch it,” Bobby grumbles, “next thing you know He’ll be showing up for dessert.”
“You wish,” Adam snorts.
“Where are Dean and Sam?” Castiel asks. It’s unlike Dean to miss a meal, and even more unlike Bobby to allow him to.
Bobby shrugs dismissively. Adam, for once, is silent.
Castiel is sitting on the front porch, chewing a toothpick and ignoring his body’s complaints. He’s waited and watched for centuries at a time; he can sit on a porch for a few hours. The car still hasn’t returned, but it’s going to, it has to. Dean wouldn’t just leave Castiel without saying goodbye.
He was sure he’d at least be able to say goodbye.
And he still hasn’t said a word to Sam since before Sam sacrificed himself. He doesn’t even know if Sam’s the same person anymore.
They left with their phones sitting on Bobby’s coffee table, and no one knows where to. Adam brings Castiel a plastic tube full of blue slush to combat the heat. It tastes sickly and unnatural as he eats it.
The sun was still up when he finished his dinner, high and proud in the sky. Now it hovers just over the horizon. Castiel would guess he’s been waiting for a few hours. He knew he’d be left behind eventually, but now that it’s finally happened he doesn’t want to accept it. He both knows and doesn’t know that Dean’s coming back for him.
So he waits.
He’s too tired to fight back when Bobby orders him to come inside. The spare bedroom is occupied by Adam, so Castiel sleeps in Sam and Dean’s room. It’s neat, Spartan; nothing but beds and a dresser and a single poster on the wall over what he assumes is Dean’s bed.
Castiel knows he’s been standing in the doorway for too long when Adam throws a pillow at him, hitting his back with a soft thump.
“Go sleep,” Adam orders, contemptuously. Castiel doesn’t move, and Adam lowers his voice. “I’ll keep an eye out for them.”
“You don’t -” Castiel starts.
Adam shoves a blanket against Castiel’s chest, making him catch it. “Yeah, I do. Sam owes me money.”
Castiel’s reasonably sure that was a joke, but he’s tired.
He’s the first to wake the next morning and he habitually makes enough scrambled eggs for three. It’s comforting to know that Bobby’s refrigerator is still exactly the same on the inside. Castiel makes himself a plate and leaves the remainder on the stove to keep warm, and then settles at the head of the dining room table.
Through the window Castiel can see the old truck he learned to drive with and wonders how far it can travel. In Dean’s car, it would only take a day and a half to get to Wyoming. Castiel’s only been there in the flesh once, but he likes Wyoming. They make good food there. He hasn’t yet hunted alone, nor does he have any identification, but there isn’t a choice. He won’t be Bobby’s house guest forever.
Castiel leaves his plate on the table, shading his eyes as he walks outside. He’ll need sunglasses if he’s going to be driving. The metal sides of his truck are orange tinted with rust, and it has no headlights, but it’s also the sturdiest vehicle in Bobby’s lot. The steering wheel feels familiar under his hands, worn into the shape of fingers that are only a little larger than Castiel’s.
“Hey,” Adam calls from the front porch. Castiel hadn’t noticed him standing there. “You going somewhere?” he asks, walking over to the car. He doesn’t wait for permission before opening the door and swinging himself in.
“No gas,” Castiel says, tapping the display.
“Too bad,” Adam sighs, closing the door behind him.
“Why?” Castiel asks, frowning.
“I can’t stay here much longer,” Adam says. “Bobby’s a cool guy, but I need to get home.”
Castiel frowns and just barely stops himself from reminding Adam that he has no home to go back to.
“But before I do,” Adam says, resting his hand on Castiel’s arm, “I have a message for you.”
“You gave me my message,” Castiel says.
“Part of it.”
“Only part?” Castiel asks, his throat feeling suddenly tight.
“You have to have faith in something, Cas,” Adam says, smiling. “So chill. It can’t rain all the time.” He pauses, and Castiel doesn’t think he’s ever seen the youngest Winchester look this happy. “That last part wasn’t the message, that was me.”
Ever so slightly, Castiel can see through Adam, out the window behind him and into the horizon.
“Now you can go home?”
“My mom’s waiting. In heaven,” Adam sounds almost like he’s bragging. “I just... had to do this first.”
“You had to pass on the message?”
Adam shrugs. “It’s better than forty days in the desert.”
And he’s gone.
Castiel’s forty years turn out to be closer to forty hours, and Dean’s car pulls into the lot not much later. Castiel’s unsurprised to see Sam asleep in the front seat. He’s just finishing the last Popsicle Bobby had in the freezer -- red cherry-flavored slush this time -- when Dean gets out, content to leave Sam sleeping, and joins him on the porch.
“Hey,” Dean says, shoving his hands in his pockets. He lowers himself onto the top step, bunched up and uncomfortable, staring into the lot.
“Hello,” Castiel says. He tips the last of the slush into his mouth as he waits for Dean to speak.
“So, uh,” Dean starts, “I guess you’re mad.”
Castiel shrugs. “I understand.”
“Did Sam have a message for you?” Castiel asks, watching Dean carefully. Dean flinches.
“Yeah,” Dean says, quietly. He doesn’t elaborate. “But he gets to stay.”
“Good,” Castiel says, crumpling his Popsicle wrapper.
“And we’re gonna keep hunting. No more trying to settle down,” Dean chuckles, rubbing his chin. “If I knew this is what it would take to get him to agree with me...”
“You still wouldn’t have let him do it,” Castiel finishes. Dean nods, dipping his head to hide his smile.
“We’re heading out in a few days. Rest up, say our goodbyes,” Dean says.
“Good luck,” Castiel says. They’ll need it.
Dean frowns. “You’re not coming?”
“You have a partner,” Castiel says. “I didn’t think I was wanted.”
“I still want you around,” Dean says, vehemently. “We’re... y’know.”
“Lovers?” Castiel asks flatly. Dean scowls like that was the word he was trying to avoid.
“Yeah. You don’t have to come with us.”
“But you want me to,” Castiel repeats. Dean nods, shifting. His hands come out of his pockets to tap idly on the porch, and Castiel doesn’t have to hear the entire beat to recognize it as Metallica. Castiel brushes the tips of his fingers over Dean’s knuckles, stilling them. Worrying his lip between his teeth, Dean turns his hand palm side up, and lets Castiel tangle their fingers together.
“I want to stay with you,” Castiel says.
Dean nods. “Good.”
They don’t let go for a long time.