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Sweet Home

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Things come to a head in Fultondale.

It's hot as hell, and Alabama has never been Dean's favorite, and his state trooper uniform is too tight in the crotch, and Sam — fucking Sam.

"You know, I'm doing okay," Dean says, louder than he really intends. Which is unfortunate, because they're in public. They're at a diner called Mandy's off I-65, and Dean is eating a terrible chicken-fried steak. That's also unfortunate; Dean has always believed chicken-fried steak is kind of like sex, in that even when it's bad it's still pretty decent, but Mandy's early bird special is currently showing him the error of his ways.

Sam frowns at him over a sweaty glass of iced tea. "What?"

"I said, I'm doing okay."

Dean has been human again for a little over two weeks. Sam has spent every hour of that either aggressively acting like Dean didn't pull a Jack Torrance while hopped up on sulfur or staring at Dean like he's going to disappear into thin air. It's making Dean itch.

"All right," Sam says. Around a mouthful of salad, because Dean apparently raised him in the jungle. "If you say you're okay, then —"

"Yeah, I'm okay."

"Okay."

"Okay."

Sam sighs, leaning his elbow on the table. Its top is cracked formica with the usual greasy spoon patina: fry oil, amateur knife graffiti, old cigarette burns. "It's just that —"

"Jesus Christ," Dean snaps. His fork clatters around as he pushes his plate away. "I'm fine."

"Oh, that's too bad," their waitress says, popping up out of nowhere. She has a coffee pot cocked at her hip, ready to fire; Dean only jumps halfway out of his skin. "I was about to ask you if you wanted dessert."

+

Predictably, they're out of pecan.

Also predictably, the cherry is worse than the chicken-fried steak.

+

Dean answers his cell without bothering to see who it is; if it isn't Sam calling to say he can't find Fultondale's Historical Society, then it's Sam calling to say Baby has left him on the side of the road. Again. She's still in a snit about the six weeks of neglect she suffered while Dean was indisposed.

"Yeah?"

"Dean," Cas says, his voice rough. He follows that up with forty-two seconds of solid silence, which is pretty much standard Cas. Six or so years on earth, and he still forgets that phone conversations work best when both parties participate.

Dean flops down on the bed, which reeks of dust and industrial-strength detergent. "What's up, man?"

"I called to see how you're feeling," Cas says, because he also forgets that Dean prefers to be the mother-hen in his relationships. "My search for rogue angels has brought me to Hastings, Nebraska. That's close to you, so if you need me to stop by, I —"

"No." Dean bristles a little at need, like he's just another one of Cas' angelic projects. Of course, Dean wouldn't be surprised if that turns out to be true; Cas hightailed it out of the bunker pretty fast that night. Dean's magical blood transfusion had barely even settled in. "I'm doing fine. We're on the road, anyway."

"On the road? Are you hunting?"

Dean bristles again; Cas sounds about two parts disappointed and three parts annoyed, and that's a taller drink than Dean can manage in one swallow. "Yeah," he says, picking at a loose thread on the bedspread. It's the same was-probably-yellow-once beige as the carpet and the lopsided daisy centers on the loudly-flowered wallpaper. Dean reminds himself it could be worse; the only other vacancy in town had been at a shithole so hourly the curtains in the dirty windows were black. "It's a stretch of haunted highway. We just need to find the fucker and salt and burn his bones."

"I worry about you, Dean."

"Don't. Sam already has that angle covered."

Another forty-two seconds rolls by. This time, Dean hears roadside noise underneath the hum of Cas' breathing — a car door slams, a big rig blares its horn, a woman murmurs something Dean can't quite pick out. Her voice is too close for someone just passing by. He knows Cas is traveling with a friend; he's just been choosing to ignore it. If he spends this hunt eating Phish Food and watching telenovelas, Sam will probably start jabbing needles full of purified blood into him again.

Finally, Cas says, "Take care of yourself, Dean." He rumbles it out, all gravel and salt, and Dean grits his teeth against the sudden flare of heat in his gut.

"You too, buddy. You too."

+

Eventually, Sam lumbers back to the motel with a book, two cups of coffee, and hair that looks like birds have been nesting in it. He pauses in the doorway and does that thing with his mouth, probably because Dean is lounging around in his boxers with the pillows from both beds piled behind his back. Also, he might have left his boots in the middle of the floor.

Whatever. He refuses to apologize for the boxers; that tight-ass uniform has chafed a sore spot on the inside of his right thigh.

"Who called?"

Dean blinks at him. "What?"

Using the book, Sam points at Dean's cell. Which Dean is still holding in his lap, because he spent the last half-hour hoping Cas would call back like the complete sad sack that he is.

"Oh, I — um. Cas."

"Huh." Sam sets the stuff on the kitchenette counter and starts digging through his bag. "What did he want?"

"Nothing. Just checking up on me," Dean says, tossing his cell on the nightstand. "Did you two form a nursemaid club while I was down and out?"

Sam sighs, tucking his hair behind his ears. "Dean, you were —"

"Yeah, a demon. I know. I was there, remember?"

"Dean."

"Look, I get it," Dean says, sitting up a little. One of the pillows slides to the floor. "I was fucked up, and I —" he clears his throat and rubs his hand over his face "— I'm all good, now. You and Cas, you both fixed me up. It's not like I'm gonna go darkside again."

"What's he up to?"

"What — oh, Cas? He's still tracking down runaway wingnuts. He said he was in Hastings and offered to stop by, but —" Dean shrugs and gestures at the room "— you know."

"Huh."

Dean doesn't appreciate his tone, so: "All right. Tell me about this spooky county highway."

+

The case is a mess. If it even is a case; at this point, Dean isn't too sure anymore. All they've got is a stretch of highway with more accidents than a low-traffic, decently-lit straightaway can explain, and a few reports of something lurking nearby. The jury is still out on what the something actually is; they did interviews all morning and never heard the same story twice.

"Well?" Dean asks, stretching his legs. Because it's a piece of shit, the bed creaks in complaint. "Did you get anything from the old ladies?"

Sam frowns at a sheet of Historical Society stationery. "Not much. Fultondale started as a mining town, and it held on after the coal ran out because of the interstate. Its violent crime rate is about average for its population."

"That's it?"

"One suspicious death, about eighty years ago."

"Go on," Dean says, perking up a little. "Suspicious deaths are always good."

Sam shakes his head. "I doubt it." He's working at the rickety table in the kitchenette; he's too big for it, and his knees are bent at awkward angles. "So, back in the day, the mining company was owned by two brothers. They had a falling out, and then one of them conveniently disappeared."

"Murdered?"

"Probably, yeah. But the local legends say the body was dumped down a mine shaft. That's the opposite side of town."

"Damn it." Dean glances at the North Jefferson News waiting beside his knee; it's folded open to an article about the latest wreck on that area of the road, a high school senior who wrapped her father's prehistoric pickup around a tree in broad daylight. Without any evidence of a second vehicle, it was ruled an accident, maybe the result of texting and driving, but Dean isn't sure he's buying what the coroner is selling. The girl lost control right in the middle of the dead zone, and the coroner had acted cagey when Sam asked to see the body. "What about the road? Does it cross anything funny? Sacred ground? Unmarked graves? Civil War battlefield?"

"Nope. Nothing like that," Sam says. "The land used to be some dude's farm." He leans back in his chair, knocking his knee against the side of the table; all his stuff jolts to the left. "What about the cemetery?"

"What about it?"

"A couple of the kids we talked to said it was haunted."

Dean snorts and reaches for his coffee. "I'm sure they did." The cemetery is another five miles down the road, too far from the area causing all the trouble. Besides, stories about haunted boneyards are a dime a dozen, and they almost always come back to drunk teenagers jumping at shadows. "Invisible hands grabbing their ankles? Voices in the trees? That kind of shit?"

"Yeah."

"Kid's stuff," Dean says, sliding off the bed. He gathers up his newspapers and police reports and tosses them on the table, right beside Sam's laptop. "See if there's anything connecting these accidents — the phase of the moon, the day of the week, the drivers all went to the same church, whatever you can get."

Sam does that thing with his mouth again. "Where are you going?"

"To the morgue. I want a look at that body."

+

Because Dean's life is literally a cosmic joke, Cas calls back while Dean is crawling through a morgue window. Dean's cell is on vibrate, but the morgue is typical in that it's all white tile and stainless steel and absurdly sharp corners; with approximately seven million flat surfaces to choose from, the buzzing echoes around and around so loudly Dean can feel it rattling behind his teeth.

"Little busy right now."

Cas considers this briefly, then says, "Dean? What are you doing?"

"Breaking and entering."

"What?"

"Never mind." Dean hops down to the floor, then closes the window enough to make it look undisturbed from the street. "I'm kind of in the middle of something."

"Oh. Sorry," Cas says. He sounds it, his voice slow and sad. Dean suddenly wants to kick himself in his ass. "I don't want to bother you."

Dean flicks on his flashlight and points it toward the wall of freezer drawers. "You're not bothering me." Which is a lie. But, Cas doesn't know that and Sam isn't here to see it, so. Victimless crime. "What's up?"

"I just — earlier, you told me you were on the road, but you didn't say where."

"Alabama," Dean says, ignoring the flutter of hope in his chest. Hastings to Fultondale is a two-day haul as normal people fly — four, when driving a temperamental car that refuses to accept Dean's sincere and heartfelt apologies — but Cas doesn't sleep anymore. If he leaves now and drives straight through, he could make it by tomorrow afternoon, and — yeah. Dean shakes his head like he has water in his ear. "Fultondale, Alabama."

"You dislike Alabama."

"I really do." Dean squints at the tags on the freezer doors: Harold Smith, Martin Cisneros, and — ah. Holly Jameson. "And I gotta tell you, this trip isn't making me like it any better."

Cas pauses for a moment, then sighs. "I shouldn't keep you from your work. I — please be careful, Dean."

"I'm always careful," Dean replies. That's another lie, and Cas lets him know it by snorting right in his ear.

+

The injuries to Holly Jameson's face are consistent with someone taking a header through a windshield.

That doesn't explain the gaping hole in her abdomen, which is ragged around the edges in a way that looks chewed.

+

"Okay," Sam says slowly, his toothbrush halfway to his mouth. "That's a wooded area, so — what? Chupacabra?"

"No way." Dean shakes his head. "Too much blood left in her body. Chupacabras don't waste."

"Neither do vampires," Sam points out, heading back to the bathroom.

Sighing, Dean sits on the edge of his bed and starts unlacing his boots. "Yeah."

"Werewolf?"

"It went for her gut, Sammy. Not her chest."

The plumbing clatters and groans as Sam runs the water. A few seconds later, he shuffles out of the bathroom, wiping his face with a towel. "You said her ribcage was crushed. It could've just" — he makes a slow, grabby gesture that Dean waves off with a wince.

"No. I checked."

Sam sputters a little, then says, "You? You actually —"

"If you'd been there, I would've made you do it."

"Gross." Sam drops his towel on the floor — right next to Dean's boots, and now who's the fucking slob — and wanders over to the geek station he's set up at the table. "So, werewolf is out."

"Yeah," Dean says, frowning. Wraiths only care about brain juice, and — aside from that freakshow family that ate Adam and his mom — ghouls only snack on the dead. "We're running out of chompers. The usual suspects, anyway."

Sam grunts under his breath, then mumbles, "Wait," and digs through the newspapers scattered around his laptop. Eventually, he surfaces with a weathered copy of The Birmingham News; the headline screams MISSING COUPLE FOUND BY LOCAL KIDS! "So get this," he says, shaking the paper in Dean's face until Dean snatches it away. "Three years ago, this couple disappears while walking their dog, right about where that Holly girl crashed her car. Some kids found the bodies a week later."

"That's a touching story, Sammy. Very Stand By Me. Why do we care?"

"We care because they were partially eaten. The cops decided they were mauled by a bobcat."

"A bobcat?" Dean heaves himself off the bed and grabs a beer from the cooler. He fucking needs it. "You think a bobcat killed that girl?"

"What? No. I think cannonballing into a tree killed that girl." Sam snags a beer for himself, then leans back against the counter, his elbows propped on the daisy-painted top. "I think there's a monster living in those woods, and when it runs out of hikers and dog-walkers, it scares people into crashing their cars and then drags their bodies off."

"Great," Dean says. "That's just fucking great."

+

Cas apparently has a lead foot, because he makes it to Fultondale before breakfast. Dean finds this out the old-fashioned way; he walks out of his motel room and right into Cas' chest.

"Dean."

"Cas, I — huh." Dean just blinks at him for a second, trying to make his mouth work. "What are you doing here?"

Cas pauses uncertainly, then says, "Our search for Janaiel has reached a... dead end." He doesn't actually do the air quotes, but that doesn't stop Dean from hearing them. "We thought perhaps we could help you with your hunt."

"Oh," Dean says, a little startled. "Yeah, that's — that's great. We were just heading out for pancakes, and —"

"Hey, Cas!" Sam says, crowding in to clap Cas on the shoulder. Their motel room faces the tired bank of vending machines, so that section of the walkway is too narrow for three grown men, would be even if Sam was normally-sized. He elbows Dean in the arm and steps on Dean's foot, and Dean ends up tucked along Cas' side while the ice hopper hums against his back. "It's good to see you."

"It's good to see you too, Sam," Cas replies, his mouth too close to Dean's ear. "Have you found the ghost haunting the highway?"

"Actually, we think it might be —"

"Castiel!"

Abruptly, Dean remembers that Cas had said our and we, and it feels like a knife to the gut. Then he sees who it is, and it feels even worse.

"Dean," Cas says carefully. "I'm sure you remember Hannah."

+

The ice machine gurgles and coughs as water splashes from its outtake to its drain. Leaning forward, Dean peers down the walkway toward the parking lot, where Sam and Hannah are eyeing each other across the Continental. Sam opens his mouth once, but Hannah frowns him into silence before he even gets started.

"— and I'm not asking you to understand," Cas says, his voice quiet and sharp.

"Well, that's good, because I don't understand. She made you give up your army."

"Dean, I never wanted that army."

"She tried to lock you up in jail."

Cas makes a face that, for an angel, is awfully close to a grimace. "That was a... misunderstanding."

"She asked you to stab me!" Dean snaps, shivering as an angry heat crawls up the back of his neck like a spider. "You gonna tell me that was a misunderstanding too?"

Cas moves closer and motions for Dean to keep his voice down. Like it fucking matters; Hannah is an angel. She could probably still hear them halfway across the country and buried under six feet of concrete.

Which — hey. There's an idea.

"Dean," Cas growls, frowning like he's eavesdropping on Dean's horrible thoughts, and — wow. He hasn't rolled out that cranky, angel-of-the-lord voice in a while; it's good to know it still makes Dean harder than a rock. "The things Hannah did — she was doing what she thought she must, based on the information she had. I know what that's like. I believe you do as well."

"Yeah," Dean says, deflating a little. He absolutely knows what that's like, and Cas must really dig this chick if he's going for the throat like that. "Look, man, its —"

"Castiel," Hannah says, the heels of her boots clicking on the walkway. "Sam Winchester has promised me something called pancakes."

+

They grab a corner booth at the Biggerson's off US 31.

It's one of the most awkward meals of Dean's life, and that's including Garth's home-cooked werewolf family dinner. On a scale of one to ten, it rates somewhere between the chicken piccata Cassie made the night Dean told her about the family business, and the McDonald's his dad picked up the morning after Sam bailed for Stanford.

On the bright side, the pancakes are fucking delicious.

+

Because the universe wouldn't give Dean a break even if he had a double coupon, Hannah figures out what they're looking for as soon as she gets out of the car, and it's just about the last thing Dean wants to hear.

"The creature you seek is a rougarou," she says, the woods quiet and still around her. "I can smell its rotted flesh."

"Fantastic," Dean complains, scrubbing his hand through his hair. He fucking hates rougarous. They like to brain people on coffee tables, and they look perfectly normal right up until they have maggots crawling out of their faces. "This trip keeps getting better and better."

"Don't mind him," Sam says. "He came down here thinking we'd just have to open a grave."

Hannah frowns at them, narrowing her eyes. "You two are very odd, even for humans."

"Thanks," Dean grunts.

"Dean," Cas calls out, waving at them from a tree about fifty yards away. "I found something."

It's a human leg bone, almost completely buried beneath the underbrush. At first glance, the rounded end of it looks like a stone.

"We gotta find its lair," Dean says, looking around. "Maybe there's a shed or a root cellar — something left over from when it was still a farm."

"I don't think so." Cas tilts his head to the side and makes that vague, unfocused face that means he's communing with creation. Plugging into the matrix. Whatever. "Its stench is strong, but not concentrated in one place."

"It feeds here," Hannah says, nodding. "It feeds here, but it dwells someplace else."

"Right," Sam agrees, leaning his hip against the tree. "When those dog-walkers went missing, the cops canvased this whole area. If it was shacked up here, they would've noticed something."

Dean considers this for a minute, trying to piece it all together. "Okay, so. Not here. Where would the ugly sonofabitch go?"

"Ugly," Hannah repeats slowly, giving Dean a curious look. Then: "Dean is right. If it has fed on human flesh, it has fully transformed. It will be monstrous."

"So, somewhere hidden," Sam says, leaves crunching under his boots as he shifts from foot to foot. "Somewhere no one goes."

"God damn it," Dean snaps, just as Cas says, "The abandoned mines."

+

They tramp through the woods for another hour just in case. Sam takes the lead, using his giant arms to wrestle the brush out of the way, and Dean brings up the rear, hanging back just enough to watch Hannah and Cas.

As a child, Dean had always picked his scabs. He'd poked at his bruises too, and worried his tongue in to the holes left behind when his baby teeth fell out. This is the same kind of compulsion, trying to navigate the place where discomfort blooms into pain, wanting to see just how much more he can take. He lets his gut twist when Cas speaks to Hannah in a soft voice, and he lets his chest ache when she tilts her head up to reply, and he swallows the sour taste at the back of his throat when their shoulders bump as they duck under the sweep of a branch.

Cas steadies Hannah as she scrambles up a low rise, his hand hovering at the small of her back, and Dean finally has to look away. He ends up leaning against a tree, his head tipped back, his fists clenching as he tries to catch his breath.

"Dude, are you all right?" Sam asks.

"Yeah," Dean says, clearing his throat. Tree bark is digging into his scalp. "I, um — I turned my ankle on a rock. I just need to walk it off."

+

Because he's enormous, Sam decides he's hungry on the way back. They stop at a nameless burger hut a few blocks away from the motel, which has about four things on the menu and outdoor seating that rubs elbows with the Starbucks next door. Dean skips lunch entirely; he orders the largest, blackest coffee he can buy, hoping it will at least put a dent in his headache, and he drinks it by the car so he doesn't have to watch Hannah and Cas smile at each other over a basket of cajun fries.

Alabama is still hot as hell. The Impala's hood is warm to the touch, and Dean flattens his palm there as he leans against it, murmuring yet another fucking apology. Maybe this time she'll actually listen. She hasn't had a tantrum in nearly three days, but Dean isn't taking anything for granted. She'd been acting like her old self for almost a week before they took this trip, but two days in she'd stalled in Fuckall, Arkansas, and Dean had spent about six hours trying to negotiate her surrender on the soft shoulder of I-40.

"I really am sorry," Dean says quietly. "I didn't mean it when I said you were just a car."

Baby doesn't deign to reply. Dean sighs and taps his thumb against the curve of her hood.

"I wasn't myself, okay? I was —"

"Is she giving you trouble?" Cas asks, right beside Dean's left ear, and Jesus fucking Christ, Dean's going to have a heart attack before he's forty if these angels don't start making some noise. It's not as bad as it used to be, back when they could still fly, but it's bad enough. He's going to get them all bells. Or a fanfare of trumpets, just like in the Bible.

Cas is a Grade A, 100% USDA Choice creeper, so he just stares placidly while Dean hunches over the Impala and tries to breathe his pulse back to something approaching normal. His eyes are wide and bright, and his hair is disheveled from poking around the woods and from Alabama's pathetic excuse for a breeze, and Dean wonders what Cas' wings would look like if they were feathers instead of light and celestial intent. Probably solid black like a crow's, but ruffled all the time, unsettled, sticking out in every direction.

"Is she giving you trouble?" Cas asks again.

"Not today," Dean says, shaking his head, "but she's been a little sniffy since I, um — since I got back. I wasn't taking care of her right."

Cas is silent for a moment; carefully, he rests his hand on the car, just over the jut of her headlight. "It might not be about her. It might be about you."

"What?"

"Perhaps it worried her, to see you so... different."

Dean sets his coffee on the hood and rubs both hands over his face. "Cas, don't."

"Are you well?"

"Yeah," Dean says quickly. That's not the tack he expected Cas to take, but he'll roll with it if it means not getting a lecture on the perils of letting yourself become a demon. "Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just —"

"You seem tired."

Dean is tired; humanity had only waited one night before calling in their old friend insomnia. If there was an upside to being a demon, it was the fact that he'd never needed to sleep. He'd slept all the time, but only because he wanted to. It's not like he'd had other shit to do. The Black Spur's happy hour hadn't started until three, and Crowley had been less irritating when one of them was unconscious.

"Cas, we talked about it. I'm back, and I'm fine, and I don't need a babysitter."

"You have shadows under your eyes," Cas says, leaning close.

"Cas," Dean starts, but Cas just murmurs, "Hush," under his breath, and then his hand curls around the side of Dean's neck, his thumb stroking up the center of Dean's throat. Dean is half-hard immediately, and incredibly confused, and then he's gasping, clawing at Cas' sleeve as a familiar burst of icy-hot grace jolts through him like an electric shock. His headache drains away, as does the jittery, wrong-inside-his-skin feeling he's had since coming back, and the dull, arthritic throb in his right knee, which has nothing to do with demonic influences and everything to do with being on the wrong side of thirty-five.

"It worried me," Cas says, his mouth almost touching Dean's forehead. "I only saw you as a demon for a moment and I hated it."

Cas is standing too close; his hand is still touching Dean's neck, and the back of his other hand keeps bumping Dean's thigh, and Dean can't get enough air. He shifts his weight from foot to foot, unsure if he is moving closer or away, but he catches his heel on the parking block and stumbles back against the car. It puts Cas farther away than Dean wants but not as far away as he probably needs; he reaches for Cas out of some kind of fucked up instinct, but Sam and Hannah pick that moment to come out of Starbucks, and Cas frowns and takes another step back.

+

"They've got the room right next to us," Sam says, waving in that general direction as he comes through the door.

"Yeah," Dean says tightly.

The part of his brain that hasn't turned to mush knows that booking another room makes sense. Cas wants Dean to rest, because grace-healing fixes immediate problems but can leave behind a kind of jet-leg, and the sun doesn't go down for another five hours, so they've got some time to kill before they heading out to the mines. This room isn't big enough for four people, and Dean isn't sure he could sleep with Hannah staring at him. It still wigs him out a little when Cas does it, and Cas is — Cas is Cas.

It makes total sense. Dean just doesn't want to think about it.

"Cas is getting pretty good at this human thing," Sam continues, pulling off his shoes. "He even had his own fake credit card."

Dean really, really doesn't want to think about it.

"It's just a single, but it's not like either of them sleep."

Well, great. Now Dean is thinking about it. Sam is right, they don't sleep, but Dean can think of about five hundred other things they can do on that bed, and they're all making Dean feel a little queasy. With his luck, their bed is right behind his and he'll be able to feel their headboard banging against the wall.

He pours a short one into one of the motel's plastic tumblers and flops down on his bed while it's still burning the back of his throat.

+

He dreams of Cas, which isn't unusual.

He dreams of Cas fucking him, which isn't unusual either.

What is unusual is the place: they're in the beautiful room that once lived in a muffler shop in Van Nuys, California, the one with the white walls and the gilt furniture and the crystal bowls of cheeseburgers and beers. There is blood on the panel beside Dean's head, smeared messily into an angel banishing symbol. Distantly, he hears Zachariah bellow as he gets shunted back to heaven, but instead of telling Dean to leave, Cas crowds in close to him and kisses the corner of his jaw.

This can't be right; he hasn't wanted Cas nearly this long. Except for the part where he probably has. He'd been so angry back then — at Zachariah, at Michael, at heaven, at everything — and he'd been pretty sure the apocalypse was going to kill him one way or another, so he hadn't wasted a lot of time thinking about the other areas of his life. Like how something about Cas' smile made his stomach tie itself into a knot.

Cas pulls Dean's coat and overshirt off, and tugs Dean's t-shirt over his head, and works the button and zipper on Dean's jeans, pausing once he has shoved them halfway down Dean's thighs to wrap his hand around Dean's dick, stroking it steady and slow, rubbing his thumb over the head until Dean's legs start to shake. He kisses down the length of Dean's spine, soft lips and hints of tongue, then noses in to lick Dean open, everything slow and slick and perfect, first his mouth, and then his fingers, and then both, his other hand flirting with Dean's dick, just his knuckles grazing up from base to tip, again and again and again.

Dean is desperate to come by the time Cas finally nudges inside, the head of his dick tagging against Dean's hole, then all of it sliding in once, a single thrust that punches the air out of Dean's lungs. He scrabbles at the wall, his fingernails scratching the fancy paint; Cas wraps an arm around him, his hand sweaty and warm at the center of Dean's chest, and Dean stops trying to hold himself up, stops trying to keep his feet. He relaxes into it instead, losing himself in the slow slide and drag of Cas' dick inside him, the wet brush of Cas' lips at the back of his neck, the blunt pressure of Cas' teeth at the curve of his shoulder.

The lights flicker when Cas comes, the air cracking with the smell of ozone. He curls his hand around Dean's dick again, stroking him hard and fast, murmuring that he wants to see Dean come, that he wants to feel it, and —

— the alarm on Sam's cell phone starts shrieking in Dean's ear.

+

Dean wakes up furious and hard enough to hammer nails, but Sam is up and about, so his only option is to slink into the bathroom and beat off like he's fifteen. He's kind of resentful about it, bracing himself against the wall with a hand that's balled into a fist, gritting his teeth because he's hunched over the toilet in the john of a shitty motel and he can hear his brother puttering around the other room, packing a bag so they can kill a thing with maggots for a face.

When he finally comes, it's short and perfunctory and it fails to make him feel better so badly that it almost makes him feel worse.

+

"What the fuck," Dean demands, when Cas suggests that Sam and Dean guard the perimeter while he and Hannah search for the rougarou in the mines. "Are you fucking kidding me?"

"The mines will be dangerous and dark," Cas says, and his patient, elementary-school-teacher tone only pours more gasoline on the fire in Dean's gut. He doesn't even know why he's so angry, he just is.

"So what? It's not like you fuckers can fly anymore."

"No, but if we fall into a deep hole we possess the strength to pull ourselves out."

"And I'm a stupid, squishy human, so I should just wait in the car with my thumb up my ass while you and your girlfriend do all the work?"

"Dean, Hannah isn't —"

"I don't want to hear it."

Cas sighs loudly, and it's so human that Dean wants to smack him right in the face. "We came here to help you."

"Help me?" Dean shouts, his voice cracking around the motel parking lot like a whip. "Listen, pal. I don't need your help. Hers either."

"Dean."

Dean's hands clench at his sides. "Look, I hunted for years before I met you, and I plan to keep hunting well after you fuck off back to heaven. I don't need you. I'm not one of your stupid projects."

"Dean," Cas growls. It's his angel-of-the-lord voice, all indignation and wrath, and Dean punches the ice machine so the blood rushing to his dick will redirect itself somewhere else.

"Just go." Dean gestures at the Continental, where Hannah is watching this shitshow from the passenger seat. "Just take your girlfriend and go back to Nebraska."

Cas is silent for a long time. Then, he says, "If that's what you want, Dean Winchester," and then he is gone, and Dean punches the ice machine again.

+

"What is wrong with you?" Sam asks, like that isn't a list Dean would need five or six hours to compile.

"Nothing's wrong with me, Sammy," Dean replies, defaulting to bluster. It's never worked before, but there's a first time for everything. "I'm doing fine."

"Dean, I'm serious."

Dean knows Sam is serious; his hair is doing that thing it does when he's serious. "Just leave it, all right?"

"No. I want to know why you sent Cas away."

"I, um." Dean grabs a beer from the cooler, taking his time to open it so he doesn't have to look Sam in the face. "I don't know."

"I heard you out there," Sam says, which — yeah. That isn't a surprise. Deaf people down in Birmingham probably heard him. He's lucky the motel manager didn't call the police. "Why did you have him come up here if you didn't want his help?"

"I didn't. He asked where we were when he called last night, and then he was here, and she was —"

"Oh, my god." Sam's expression is a trainwreck, a little bit of amusement smashed into a lot of disbelief. "You really think they're —" he makes a vague but still fairly obvious gesture and Dean suddenly feels queasy again.

"No, I — no."

"And it bothers you because —"

"Sammy," Dean warns, his voice sharp. He's always figured that Sam knows — in fact, Sam is the smart one and so probably knew before Dean did — but Sam has never tried to talk about it before.

"Dude, it's not like that," Sam says.

Dean snorts. "You can't tell me she —"

"Yeah, she might, but he — no. No way." Sam's mouth slides into a smile. "I mean, come on. He's been in love with you for years."

Dean hides behind his beer, embarrassed by the heat rushing to his face and the way his throat seems to be closing up. He drains it, then sets it on the counter with a clink, and worries his thumb against the wrinkled label.

"Oh," Sam says quietly. "Oh, wow. You really didn't know."

Dean waves him off. "Don't. You're imagining shit."

"Listen," Sam says, his bed creaking as he perches on the foot of it. "He drove five straight days while he was dying just to help me find you."

"Dying?" The word catches in Dean's throat, and something cold curls up in the pit of his gut. "I knew his grace was giving him trouble, but I didn't — he was dying?"

"Yeah, and he came for you anyway."

"That's not — he just didn't want another demon hanging around."

Sam makes a short, irritated noise. "Don't insult yourself by pretending to believe that."

Dean stands there for a minute, drumming his fingers on the daisy-painted counter and missing Cas like a phantom limb. His anger had left him in a sudden rush as the Continental roared out of the motel's parking lot, and Dean hadn't known what to do with himself after, except feel lonely and stupid and small.

"Come on," Sam says, tossing Dean one of the bags. "Let's kill this thing before it causes another car crash. After that — well. I know apologies aren't really your thing, but you call him and say you're sorry."

"He probably won't answer."

"If he doesn't, I'll call him and tell him he's dumber than you."

+

Predictably, the rougarou is ugly as hell.

Also predictably, Dean trips while chasing it, stumbles into a rusty pile of mining equipment, and ends up sprawled across an old cart track with a mouthful of dirt and something incredibly heavy pinned across his back.

+

Dean can smell the rougarou once it gets close enough. He doesn't have Cas and Hannah's enhanced senses, but the thing reeks like a week-old corpse, and once it approaches the stench crowds into Dean's nose until it's the only thing left.

He tries to squirm onto his back, hoping that will give him the leverage to lift whatever is pinning him down, but it's too large and too heavy, and then an agonizing pain flares in his leg. It's probably broken, which — fuck. Even if Sam manages to kill this thing, they're going to have a hell of a time getting back to the car.

The thing doesn't try to talk, it just crouches over Dean and grabs Dean's arm in both maggoty hands, pulling his sleeve until it rips at the seam, exposing his skin. Sam shouts from about halfway down the tunnel, and Dean hears the dull thud of his sasquatch footsteps; a gout of flame streaks out of his torch like a circus trick, but it stops about a foot shy of the rougarou, who is hunching closer to Dean's arm.

"Sammy! You gotta get closer!"

Dean gropes around until his hand fumbles over a wooden handle — a shovel, maybe, or a pick-ax. He swings it over his head and the rougarou grunts and shuffles back. Another stream of fire shrieks down the tunnel; it licks at the rougarou's leg, and it screams, but the flames don't catch, and it scrambles toward Dean again, so angry it's foaming at the mouth.

There is another burst of light; this one is solid and white and too bright to look at, and something about it rumbles at the ground. Dean shouts, "Cas," before he can stop himself, then feels stupid and ridiculous, because that's impossible, just wishful thinking. Then, there's another flash of light, and Cas rises up behind the rougarou like a shadow; he grabs it by the back of the neck and hurls it away, and before it can find its feet, Hannah gets her hand under its throat, and then smoke is pouring out if its eyes and nose and mouth.

Cas lifts the debris off Dean's back and runs a quick, grace-filled hand over the break in Dean's leg. Dean shivers with it, squeezing his eyes shut; when he opens them again, Cas staring like the professional creeper he is.

"One of these days," he says quietly, "I might not be able to heal you."

Dean lets Cas help him up, then pulls him into a hug. "I don't care about that. I never have." His mouth is too close to Cas' ear, and he doesn't care about that either. "I'm just glad you're here."

+

Once they get back to the surface — after they've dusted themselves off and stowed their gear in the cars — they stand around in an awkward silence that Sam finally breaks by clearing his throat in a way Dean immediately finds suspicious.

"So, Hannah has never had Chinese food," he says, shooting Cas a look that suggests this is some kind of heinous crime. "That Happy Wok off the interstate should still be open, so we're going to grab some take-out."

"Sammy —"

"We'll bring enough back for everyone."

With that, Sam slinks into the Impala like the traitor he is. It starts up with a purr and then rumbles off toward the road, leaving Dean and Cas alone with the Continental and a heavy, starless sky and a bunch of apologies Dean can't quite pry out of his mouth. Behind them, cicadas buzz angrily in a half-dead bush. Cas' collar is crooked and his face is streaked with dirt.

"Cas," Dean says finally, but Cas kisses him before he can put his foot in his mouth. He crowds Dean back against the car and balls his hand in the front of Dean's shirt; his tongue flicks over Dean's lips, and Dean pulls him closer, knots a hand in his hair, decides they can talk it out later.

+

They end up in the back the Continental, and it isn't really big enough for two grown men, but somehow, Cas gets Dean tucked into the corner of the seat, and somehow, he folds himself up enough to fit between Dean's legs. He sucks Dean in all at once, eager and clumsy and absolutely perfect, and Dean slides his hand over Cas' jaw, strokes his thumb from the corner of Cas' mouth to the dip of Cas' cheek, feeling the stretch of Cas' lips, the shape of himself, everything.

He comes hard, mumbling Cas' name over and over, his back arching, the seat hissing where he claws at it with his fingers. He tries to return the favor once he can breathe again, but they don't have the space to shift around. They end up tangled together, slumping over until Dean is lying flat on the seat with Cas stretched out on top. He rubs himself against Dean's thigh, shameless, holding Dean's hands above his head, sucking at the skin just below Dean's ear.

"Dean," he gasps, coming warm and wet against Dean's hip. "Dean."

Dean's wrists are going to be bruised tomorrow, and it's going to feel great.

+

In the morning, Dean eats cold shrimp fried rice in his boxers while standing at the daisy-painted counter, and Cas presses up behind him and noses at the back of his neck.

Sam freezes on his way out of the bathroom, then says, "Gross," and Dean laughs and throws his chopsticks at Sam's head.