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Dean Winchester the Puppydog

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Dusk shrouded the motel’s parking lot, the shadows of shrubs and the building itself already fading into a deep and all-consuming indigo. Castiel strode out from between the cars, pocketing the keys to his own vehicle. He looked around him, breathing in the briny air. He could smell the sea; he’d driven past on his way here.

He followed the pathway alongside the motel rooms on the lower level, his tread quiet and every sense alert. There was nobody around. Apart from the distant sirens, the yip-yip-yip of a small dog barking and someone shouting in one of the rooms here, the courtyard was silent.

Room 18. Aha.

Castiel knocked on the door, then stepped back in alarm as a loud ruckus started up inside. A human voice – Dean’s voice – yelled, “Hey! Hey! Door! Door! Door door door! Sam, get the door! Person!

Sam tried to quiet Dean, commanding him to “Sit! Stay. Good boy—

Dean went quiet.

Castiel curled his hands into fists, apprehensive about what he would see once Sam opened the door.

The door’s chain clacked back, and a crack of light grew to a few inches wide, shining over Castiel’s face. Castiel saw Sam blink before a smile spread across his face. “Finally,” Sam breathed, opening the door wide. “I was wondering when you’d show up.”

“I dropped everything as soon as you called,” Castiel said, stepping inside the motel room. He saw the two motel beds, one with its covers messed up and the other untouched; the door to the bathroom was half-open; Dean’s jacket had been discarded on the floor and there was a roll of toilet paper shredded across most of the carpet.

Sam shut the door with a sigh. “Dean,” he called.

Dean leapt up from the left by the window, his eyes mad with excitement and a massive grin across his face. He was wearing a grey henley and boxer shorts, nothing else. Castiel thought he was going in for a hug, so raised his arms to guide him in, but Dean slammed himself into Castiel’s chest, panting hard on his neck.

“Cas. Cas Cas Cas Cas.” Dean nuzzled Castiel’s shoulder with his nose like he was wiping off snot. “Hey. Hey Cas. You smell good. You smell so good, Cas.”

Castiel embraced Dean unsurely, wide-eyed as he heard Dean inhaling his scent with great force. “It’s... nice to see you too, Dean?”

Dean hummed lengthily and nuzzled Castiel again. This time, his nose rubbed on Castiel’s bare neck rather than his trenchcoat.

Sam gave Castiel a sad look. “It’s been getting worse over the last hour. He took his clothes off about twenty minutes ago. I had to undo the belt for him because he’d lost motor control in his fingers.” Sam turned away, going to the table by the window and pulling out one chair, then another one closer to the TV. He gestured Castiel to sit in the first, then sat in the second.

Castiel extricated himself from Dean’s warmth, needing to pry his forearm off his waist in order to step past. Dean whined and tried to cling to him again.

“Dean,” Castiel said – Dean’s face brightened, his eyes shining, all his attention on Castiel. “Dean, I need to go over there.”

Dean blinked; he didn’t appear to understand what Castiel had said. His expression hadn’t changed.

Castiel swallowed, touching Dean’s shoulder with a hand. “Come,” he said, then stepped away. Dean followed at his heel, so close that Castiel felt him treading on the back of his shoes.

Castiel sat heavily in the chair, sinking back as Dean loomed over him, mouth open, panting. He wore a dopey grin, looking expectant.

“Sit,” Sam said.

Dean knelt on the floor.

Castiel reached out, tentative at first, but then Dean predicted his movement and nudged his nose forward so Castiel touched his hair. Dean shut his eyes in what looked like bliss.

“At least he’s obedient,” Castiel said, throwing Sam a half-smile.

Sam didn’t smile back. “If he could see himself now, he’d be begging me to shoot him out of shame. We were both so sure the potion would wear off after a few hours, like it did last time.” Shaking his head, Sam ran a hand back through his long hair, then went on, “We went into the pet store, Dean got the witness statements we came for – from the animals, you know—”

“I know,” Castiel nodded.

Sam gave a grim smile. “Turned out it was a vampire we were after. It wasn’t preying on humans, but it was still a bloodsucker, so we gave it a Winchester-style warning and told it to get lost. Sent it packing. By that time we thought the potion would start to wear off. Dean spent those last few minutes making intelligent conversation with a snake, cackling at me that he was a Parselmouth—”

Castiel chuckled, understanding the reference.

“But then he talked to a gerbil, then a cat. Did you know cats could get depression?”

“Yes,” Castiel said, running his fingers back through Dean’s hair. It was intriguing that Dean was so responsive to such a simple touch.

“...Right,” Sam said slowly, his gaze hopping between Dean and Castiel. “Anyway— By that point he was more comfortable sitting on all fours, and every time he spoke to me he would pant like a dog or whine because I wanted to make him leave the store. In the end I had to take him by the scruff of his shirt and practically drag him out of there.”

Castiel hummed, scratching Dean under the chin. Dean smiled, leaning forward until his chin rested on Castiel’s knee.

“His ability to communicate in English has been degrading ever since,” Sam said. “I’m worried that if this potion doesn’t wear off, it’s gonna consume him completely. Irreversibly.” He took a breath, hands together on the tabletop, forefingers pressed to a point. “So – that’s why I called you, Cas. You have some angel mojo left. I’m hoping you could fix it.”

Castiel looked up, meeting Sam’s eye. “Fix it?”

“Put him back to normal.”

Castiel swung his gaze back to Dean, who was busy finding a good place to rest his cheek against Castiel’s thigh, his body slumped in an easygoing crouch. Castiel felt a soft smile crawling up his face. He liked seeing Dean so at ease.

“Cas,” Sam said warningly.

“How long has he been affected?” Castiel asked, ignoring Sam’s tone. He knew what Sam was afraid of. Obviously Castiel shared the same fears, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to find other options.

“About, uh... nineteen hours,” Sam said. “We left the pet store ten minutes before it opened this morning. Last time this potion’s effects wore off in ten, maybe twelve hours, give or take.”

“Hm,” Castiel murmured. He cradled Dean’s skull in his palm, thumb stroking over the ridge directly behind Dean’s ear, over and over. Dean seemed to find it soothing, and Castiel found it satisfying to soothe him.

“Cas,” Sam said again, that same edge in his voice. “I know it’s cute and all, but we can’t leave him like this.”

Castiel smiled, feeling Dean’s heavy exhale run warm over his thigh. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this comfortable. Or this affectionate.”

“And like I said,” Sam bit out, “if he knew how he was acting now, he’d never look us in the eye again. This potion’s taken away his personality, Cas. There’s nothing alpha-male left about him.”

“Yes, he is somewhat... submissive, isn’t he?” Castiel mused with a smirk. He ran his thumb pad over Dean’s soft eyelashes, a thrill lifting in his heart when Dean opened his eyes and gazed at him, every bit of his body language illustrating his utter adoration.

“Doesn’t it bother you?” Sam said, exasperation now bleeding into his words. “This isn’t Dean! He barely lets himself hug you when he sees you, let alone tell you that you smell nice!”

Castiel looked up, meeting Sam’s eye with a pointed sternness in his expression. “But would you deny that he wants to hug me, on any given day? Or that he does, in fact, think I smell nice?”

Sam spluttered. “That’s not—” He frowned. Then his breath flew from his mouth in silence, eyes drifting across the room.

His jaw set firmly, and he swallowed. When he looked back to Castiel, there was something in his eyes that gave the impression of defeat. “He’s never said it aloud, but yeah.” His eyes lowered. “Yeah, I think there’s a lot of things he wants to do or say that he doesn’t.”

Castiel couldn’t help grinning around his reply, “And some of those things might include telling me I smell nice?”

Sam snorted. “Yeah.”

Castiel felt a bright beam of gladness forming in his belly. The thought that his feelings for Dean might in some way be reciprocated was of monumental satisfaction to him.

“Point is,” Sam said, the side of one hand flat to the table, “If Dean’s become unable to repress any of his— his urges, then what part of him is still Dean? The Dean Winchester I know isn’t a happy person, Cas. He’s twisted, angry, and he’s... severely damaged.” A exhale fluttered from Sam’s throat, emotion releasing. “Him being a happy dog, it doesn’t follow. This guy...” Sam pointed off the table towards Dean, who tried and failed to lick Castiel’s hand, “This guy isn’t my brother.”

“On the contrary,” Castiel said. He allowed Dean to lick a finger, then chuckled and booped him on the nose. Dean retracted, confused by the touch. Castiel’s wide smile lingered as he turned his eyes on Sam again. “This is Dean with the mentality of a young puppy. Given he recognises me, and understands basic commands, we can assume he has the memories of his life – but his instincts have been reduced to... Well, as you put it, he responds to the most basic of urges. I can’t imagine he would have all the physical energy of a puppy, however.”

“He’s thirty-six, so that figures.”

Castiel’s smile wilted a bit. “In those mere thirty-six years, he’s been through a lot.”

“You’re telling me,” Sam muttered.

Castiel was quiet for a moment, watching Dean bite at the shoulder of his henley, tugging at the fabric with his teeth.

“Tell me, Sam,” Castiel started. “If you had the opportunity to let go of every worry you ever had, and place yourself in the care of the two people you trusted most in the world... would you do it?”

“You mean if I were in Dean’s place, would I want to go back to normal?”

Castiel nodded.

A breath burst from Sam, his shoulders slumping. “If I didn’t know what was at stake, no.”

“What is at stake?” Castiel asked gently. “Really, I mean. For nearly a year, Dean’s life has been plagued by that mark on his arm. The mark of Cain. But now he’s a dog. What is this, if not for a reprieve? He’s safe like this, Sam. And it’s not as if you and I couldn’t hunt like we always do. Dean—”

“Cas!” Sam stared at Castiel like he’d lost his mind. “Dude! You can’t seriously be telling me he should stay like this?! I get that he seems happy, or whatever, but how do we know the real Dean isn’t trapped inside, clawing to get out?”

“We don’t,” Castiel replied. “But does any part of you honestly think that’s true? Look at him, Sam.”

Sam looked, watching as Castiel reached forward to stop Dean from tearing his shirt with his teeth.

“Dean, stop that,” Castiel said, guiding Dean’s chin straight. “Do you want to take your shirt off?”

Dean kept trying to bite at the shirt, clearly disturbed by it.

“All right,” Castiel said, standing up. He shed his own trenchcoat, unbuttoned his collar, then undid his shirt cuffs and rolled them lazily to his elbows. “Come here, Dean.” He walked closer to the nearest bed and sat down on the corner, thighs set apart so Dean could sit between them. Dean panted, one hand scrabbling at Castiel’s knee.

“Shh-shh,” Castiel said, reaching for Dean’s waist. He took hold of Dean’s henley and lifted it, but Dean wasn’t compliant enough to know to lift his arms. Castiel scrolled the cloth over his head, ignoring when Dean struggled and growled worriedly. “That’s it, Dean.”

With the henley tugged to Dean’s wrists, Castiel bent at the waist and lifted each of Dean’s hands in turn. His fingers were kept together, heavy like paws. Dean set each paw down on the carpet again, his tongue lolling from his mouth. He lapped at his upper lip, eyes shining with gratitude.

“That’s better, isn’t it?” Castiel smiled, scritching at Dean’s hair.

“Wuf!” Dean said.

Castiel looked over at Sam, sharing his expression of concern.

“English seems to have failed him,” Castiel remarked, setting the henley beside him, then bending to remove his boots. “I was hoping the degradation would’ve stopped before we got to this point.”

“You’re still holding out for the potion wearing off?” Sam leaned back in his chair, one hand scrunching at his hair. “Cas, we already established Dean’s stuck with this.”

Castiel considered that while setting his boots aside. Dean sniffed at the boots curiously, then looked back up at Castiel.

“If I use my ‘mojo’ to return Dean to his normal self,” Castiel said, “I will be that much closer to falling.”

“So?” Sam shrugged. “You’ve been human before. Look, I know it’s an issue for you, but I know you. You care about Dean more than anything. Like, anything. He’s your whole world, practically.”

“So don’t you think I should be a little wary about dooming him to a life of misery?” Castiel snapped, glaring at Sam. “Figuring out Dean’s happier as a dog than a human doesn’t take a great leap of intellect. You said it yourself. Maybe this is a sign. Maybe this is the point where we should take a good look at what we do on a daily basis and figure out once and for all that it isn’t worth it. Bad shit happens, Sam. All over the world, every day. As a human yourself, you should know by now: monsters are the least of your problems.”

Sam’s mouth opened slowly, a frown forming.

Castiel took a quick breath, collecting himself. Dean gazed at him with the same expression of affection as he’d worn a minute ago.

“Perhaps it’s getting to me,” Castiel said. “The neverending fight against the inevitable end.”

“Perhaps,” Sam said, tonelessly.

With a huff, Castiel concluded, “I don’t want to make Dean suffer through what we always suffer through. If he’s content like this, I’m happy to leave him.”

“Cas, that’s... You gotta see the flaw in that. You might never talk to him again.”

“His happiness comes first,” Castiel said with utter conviction. “Sam, if you were to drink a potion and become a dog, then I would make you a vow; I would care for you with as much devotion as I would for Dean.”

Sam was wide-eyed in disbelief now. “You’d— You’d what? Keep us as your pets?”

“Yes. If it would keep you safe, then yes. The world will go on without you. It gets messier every day and nothing any of us do will ever be able to change that.”

Sam began to smile. “That’s sweet, Cas. But I think I speak for Dean as well as myself when I say we’d take humanity over whatever it is you’re offering. Pain and all.”

Castiel sighed. He hadn’t expected anything different. “Of course,” he said, hearing his own bitterness. “That’s a Winchester’s greatest trait, isn’t it? You would rather carry the weight of the world than let someone else suffer its burden.”

“That’s what we do,” Sam said around a breath. “You included.” He leaned forward in his chair, making it creak. “But, that’s not going to be an option today. So: bringing Dean back to normal. Are you in, or are you out?”

Castiel chuckled under his breath. “I’ve said what I think. If you’re convinced you know what Dean wants then I won’t argue.”

Sam slapped his hands to his thighs and stood. “Good.” He ran a hand down over his mouth, then set his fingertips to the table. “I’m... grateful. I get the feeling you could’ve made this a lot harder for me, but you didn’t.”

“I know,” Castiel inclined his head. “Although, I should warn you, Sam, I don’t know if this procedure is even possible.”

“Try,” Sam said. “Please.”

Castiel exhaled through his nose. “All right.” He reached to touch Dean’s face. “Come here. No, no— It’s okay, Dean. Just relax, we’ll have you back in no time.”

Dean whined and backed up a few steps out of Castiel’s reach, scraping his bare knees on the carpet.

“Dean,” Castiel said, slipping off the bed and kneeling in front of his friend. “Stay, Dean... Staaay...”

Dean yipped and retreated from Castiel’s hand again.

“I don’t know how you’d interpret that,” Sam said cautiously, “but to me that’s a pretty clear message.”

Castiel sighed and sat back on his heels, hands on his thighs. “He doesn’t want to be put back.” Castiel peered up at Sam, seeing the worry in his eyes.

“Dean,” Sam said, coming forward and sitting at the foot of the bed, knee against Castiel’s back. “Dean, c’mere, boy!” He whistled and patted his thighs.

Dean pounced forward, tongue shivering, a smile on his face. “Wuf!” he yapped, both front paws up on Sam’s lap. “Sam. Sam Sam Sam.”

“Oh-ho!” Sam grinned, ruffling Dean’s hair roughly. “So he does still speak.”

“You know, I think he may have understood us this whole time,” Castiel said, feeling a stir of amusement inside him. “Maybe—” His sentence cut off as a dozen thoughts took over his mind. A subtle smile twitched onto his face, then slid away.

“What, what is it?” Sam asked, following Dean to the ground as the elder Winchester rolled over and waited for a belly rub.

Castiel watched Sam rub at Dean’s stomach, making Dean chuckle and yap and squirm, apparently ticklish.

“I think,” Castiel said, still busy refining his theory, “rather than the potion... I think Dean may be under the influence of something else altogether.”

Sam paused in his frantic belly-rubbing, a small grin on his face. “What sort of something?” Dean nosed his hand and demanded he carry on. Sam complied, but his eyes remained on Castiel. “Can you fix it?”

“I can reverse it,” Castiel nodded. “I’ll need some time alone with him, though.”

Sam narrowed his eyes. “Uh. Okay? How long?”

Castiel swallowed, then shrugged. “A few hours, at a guess.”

Sam blinked a few times, both relieved and confused. “So, what...? If it’s not a potion, then what’s making him act like this?”

Castiel bit his lower lip, unsure if Dean would want him to say. Then again, the whole point of it was that in this state, he wouldn’t care. “How shall I put it?” Castiel murmured to himself. “Um. Okay, how about this— Imagine it’s a kind of hypnotism. At first, Dean took the potion, and he got his job done. You said you banished the vampire, and then—”

“Then it wouldn’t wear off.”

“Yes. But... Imagine for a moment that Dean found a kind of... comfort in the potion. In what it did for him.”

“Talking to animals?” Sam smirked. “I know he’s always had an affinity for Disney princesses, but I can’t believe he’d give up his life to become a furry sidekick.”

Castiel shook his head, spreading out the fingers of one hand over Dean’s chest. “The effects of the potion must’ve worn off when they were meant to.” He felt Dean’s excited heartbeat and the first squirm of delight as Castiel’s hand rubbed alongside Sam’s. “His body is as human as it’s meant to be. But Dean’s headspace remained where it was.”

“So he is stuck like this.”

“By his own volition,” Castiel said. When Sam looked nothing but baffled, Castiel continued, “Dean’s had a lot weighing on his shoulders lately. Cain, the mark. Crowley. His time in Hell, his time in Purgatory. The past thirty-six years of his life as a whole. He wanted to be free of everything, and understandably so.”

Sam nodded along, with him so far.

“So when he was given the chance to be something else for a while, to be a dog – a puppy... a creature with a sense of loyalty to its pack, a love of games and a desire only for attention, love and food...” Castiel chuckled. “Well, look what happened.”

Sam sat back, letting Castiel take over the belly-rubbing. “You’re saying he’s acting. Pretending to be a puppy.”

“Yes. But also no.” Castiel sat back too, his shoulders against the bed’s overhanging comforter. “He’s probably aware of what we’re saying, and part of him is processing it. That’s why he pulled away, he knew I was going to use unnecessary power to bring him back. But he’s not ready to come back, Sam. If I’m correct then he might come out of it himself once he’s satisfied.”

Sam crossed his legs. He folded his arms, then unfolded them again. “What— Uh. What would it take to satisfy him?”

Castiel shrugged, smiling as Dean nuzzled against his hand, licking at his wrist and cooing at the back of his throat. “At a guess? Affection. Being treated with the same care you or I would show a puppy. I can’t know for sure until I try everything. It might even take wearing him out until he sleeps. Sleep might... reset him.”

Sam’s smile was brief, but it shone bright before it faded. “That’s why you want me to go somewhere else for a few hours, isn’t it.”

“It could become quite private,” Castiel said, eyes down. He felt vulnerable to his own feelings now. “Especially if Dean decides he wants to be rid of his underwear too.”

“Hey, I’ve seen him naked before,” Sam huffed. He slid a fist over his mouth, then let it slump down. “It would be kinda weird though, given I’m his brother. Now I think about it, this is almost... almost kinky. Eugh. As if this situation wasn’t already weird enough.” His eyes flicked up to Castiel’s face. “You’re okay with seeing him naked?”

Castiel nodded, unable to look Sam in the eye. “There was never a time I didn’t know what Dean looked like unclothed. Nudity has never bothered me as much as it bothers him.” For Sam’s sake, Castiel kept silent after that. The words ‘He’s always been beautiful to me,’ went unsaid.

Sam pushed his lips together in a tense smile. “Guess I’ll be leaving him in your capable hands, then.”

“Now?”

“When else?” Sam got to his feet, tugging the hem of his t-shirt straight. “I’ll go take a stroll around the park or something. Get you some food.”

“I don’t eat.”

“But he does,” Sam said, gesturing to Dean, who padded about at his feet. Castiel stood up too, one hand stretched down to stroke Dean’s head. “Oh, and on the subject of digestion—” Castiel looked up, and Sam grimaced. “There’s a little grass patch at the corner of the motel. Last time I got him into the bathroom, but I doubt he’ll know what to do this time around.”

Castiel nodded, accepting the responsibility. “I can handle it.”

Sam made his way towards the door, grabbing his jacket off the back of his chair. “He likes those little chocolate animal cookies as treats,” he said, pointing towards the kitchenette. “And I put a bowl down so he’s had some water, but—”

“Sam,” Castiel interrupted. “We’ll be fine. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken care of a dog.”

Sam seemed surprised. “When was the last time?”

Castiel waved the question away, opening the front door for Sam. “It’s a long story, I’ll tell you another day.” Sam posed insistently, and Castiel gave in. “It was around the time wolves were first domesticated. I was much younger, and... Gabriel was involved. Now, go and enjoy your evening. I’ll call you if I need you.”

Sam thumped his hand on the motel’s door, keeping Castiel from shutting it between them. His eyes lingered on Dean, who sat patiently at Castiel’s feet, panting.

“Bye, Dean,” Sam said softly, bending to pet his brother. “You be a good boy for Cas.”

“Wuf,” Dean said, chasing Sam’s hand with his nose.

Sam waved, then stepped out into the night. “Bye, Cas.”

“See you later,” Castiel said. He watched Sam take the car keys out of his pocket and head for the Impala.

With the door closed and Sam gone, the room seemed quiet. Then came the roar of the Impala’s engine, the sound of which made Dean bark and bark and bark, paws scrabbling at the door.

“Quiet, Dean,” Castiel said, touching Dean’s lower back. “It’s okay, he’ll be back later.” Dean yapped and spun around; Castiel smiled, sitting on the bed and leaning forward over his thighs. “Just you and me, now.”

“Cas,” Dean barked, his back end wriggling like he was wagging his tail.

Castiel laughed. “You’ve had quite a day, haven’t you?”

Dean scampered up to Cas on all fours, pouncing up to lick Castiel’s face. “Cas! Cas Cas. You’re the best. Best ever.”

Castiel smiled, bringing Dean into a hug. Dean panted on his shoulder, paws batting helplessly at Castiel’s stomach as Castiel squeezed him.

Castiel let him go and Dean barked, spinning around in a circle. He was excited, either by the physical contact or by the prospect of a new carer to play with.

“Shall we play?” Castiel asked, tickling Dean under the chin. “Do you like to fetch?”

Dean heard the word ‘fetch’ and he started bouncing about, enlivened and undoubtedly enthused. Castiel grinned, looking around for something to throw. He found a screwed-up bit of paper on the bed, slightly damp; Sam must already have used it for this purpose.

“Fetch!” Castiel said, tossing the paper across the room. He felt the skin around his eyes tighten as joy overtook him. Dean was delighted to dart across the room and grab that ball of paper. He trotted back to Castiel with the paper between his teeth, giving a cheerful shimmy of his shoulders as he set the ball back in Castiel’s lap.

“Good boy,” Castiel said, rubbing Dean’s bare shoulder. “Good boy.”

Dean made a gruff noise of satisfaction. Castiel wanted to go again, so he lifted the ball. Dean’s eyes followed it, and as Castiel lifted it higher, he discovered that Dean followed it up, sitting back on his haunches.

“What about if I do... this?” Castiel balanced the paper ball on Dean’s nose, and chuckled when Dean held still so it stayed there. “Oh, very good boy. Clever boy.”

Dean murmured, smiling.

“Now—”

Dean let the ball drop, and Castiel grabbed it to throw it. “Fetch!”

Dean shot off, grabbed the ball, then brought it back.

They must’ve played that for ten, fifteen minutes? There was something great about it, Castiel thought. Repetitive. Mesmerising. It was pointless and yet it still brought them both happiness.

In the end Castiel called an end to their game, because Dean had developed rug burn on his knees and the heels of his hands, and he was too old to rush around on all fours anyway. But despite that, Dean had other ideas.

He barked, chest down to the floor, ass in the air. He wiggled about, eyes set intently on Castiel. “Play!” he demanded. “Play with me. Please please please.”

Castiel smiled. “What would you like to play?”

“Play!” Dean jumped up, barking as he leapt to another spot and put his chest down again. Wiggle-wiggle-wiggle.

Castiel sighed, slipping off the bed and kneeling at Dean’s side. He laughed as Dean slobbered on his hand, nuzzling and rubbing his nose and face and hair all over his arm.

“Roll over?” Castiel tested, and beamed when Dean obeyed. “Ah! Well done, Dean.”

Dean chirruped, a not-quite-canine sound, but a sound of pleasure nonetheless.

Castiel rubbed at his belly, tickling a little. Dean yapped and kicked his legs in tiny spasms of delight. Castiel grinned when Dean’s persona slipped ever so slightly and he laughed in his own voice – the sound seemed to startle Dean, and he rolled back onto his front, his posture guarded and his eyes wary.

“It’s all right, pup.” Castiel shuffled closer on his knees, fingers reaching for his friend. “There’s nothing wrong with being human. You can laugh if you like.”

Dean hesitated, resisting a quick lick at Castiel’s hand. Castiel now realised there had been a significant break in Dean’s armour, going beyond the laugh itself. Perhaps was the presence of Castiel, perhaps Dean knew he would usually feel shame acting like this in front of him and couldn’t bear the thought.

“Shhh,” Castiel whispered, sitting back against the bed and beckoning Dean closer. “You can lick me if you like. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Come on. Come!”

Dean padded closer. Obviously he had no tail, but Castiel imagined it would be tucked between his legs if he did.

Dean sat by Castiel’s side, hunched against himself in residual discomfort. Fatigue seemed to have hit him, hard.

“This won’t do,” Castiel said. “You’re a good dog, Dean. Puppies shouldn’t need to feel bad, not ever.” He scuffed at the hair behind Dean’s ears, ruffling him up until Dean’s lips parted and he started panting again, a smile spreading over his face. “Oh, yes. There’s a good boy.”

Castiel glanced over his shoulder. “Let’s sit up here, Dean. It’ll be more comfortable for your knees.”

Castiel kicked back on the bed and sat himself against the headboard, a pillow stuffed behind his back. He clicked his tongue to his teeth to call Dean. When Dean was close, Castiel patted the bed beside him. “Up-up!”

Dean leapt up, his legs clumsy. The force of him hitting the mattress bounced Castiel out of position, but he got comfortable again, and not a moment too soon: Dean wormed his way closer, his eyes ever-adoring, his smile sweet and calm. Castiel set a hand on Dean’s back and guided him to lie beside him. Of course, Dean decided it would be better if he were lying in Castiel’s lap. His cheek rested on Castiel’s thigh, his paws neatly tucked against Castiel’s abdomen.

Castiel stroked Dean’s hair, running his fingers through it over and over, in a way a human would enjoy rather than a dog. “You make a wonderful puppy,” Castiel told him. “I’ve always wanted a companion like you, Dean.”

Dean blinked, his eyes shining with all the love in the world.

“You know, this is kind of calming,” Castiel said, tilting his head and resting it back against the wall, hand still working through Dean’s hair. “I suppose dog owners would do this, too. Sit back, drink some tea, read a book. All the while with their canine friend lying at their side, enjoying every minute of their company.”

Castiel exhaled slowly, a smile gentle on his face. “I wish we had that life, Dean. Days where we could read for fun, brew cups of tea from fresh leaves picked only that morning. If this were over, if this constant battle for humanity were finally at its end, then I would do that for you. With you. We’d go somewhere else, a distant island or a far-away country. Some place you’d find exotic. I’d show you the world you never got to see. There’s a hundred million things out there I know you’d love, if you ever got the chance.

“Still.” Castiel bowed his head, running a thumb over Dean’s freckled cheek. Dean shut his eyes. “That would be one means of escape. One way of many for me to show you I love you.”

Dean sighed, relaxing against Castiel’s thigh, paw curling over it. He understood.

“This is another way,” Castiel said quietly. “Just to hold you. I think this is a perfect way to say it. If only we could do this more often.”

Dean hummed, snuggling closer.

“Are you cold?” Castiel touched Dean’s back, and it was no surprise to feel a chill on his bare skin. “Here...” Castiel slid down the bed, stirring Dean from his rest. Castiel held his eye as he lay beside him, wrapping his arms around him. “I’ll keep you warm. Just lie down, Dean. I’ve got you.”

Dean lapped at his upper lip again, tongue reaching for his nose before it tucked back into his mouth. His lips were left shiny, his eyelids drooping. Castiel could see he was tired. His canine headspace may have been simpler than his human one, but being a puppy for over nineteen hours was a lot for Dean to cope with the first time. He lay his head tenderly on Castiel’s arm, sniffing at Castiel’s face and his breath before getting comfortable.

“Hush now,” Castiel sighed. “Go to sleep, there’s a good pup.”

Dean whined, nuzzling Castiel’s arm.

“It’s okay,” Castiel assured him, his hand cupping Dean’s neck, scritching him gently. “Everything’s okay. I’ll still be here when you wake up. I’ll still love you the same.”

Dean blinked sleepily, eyes trying to keep focus but failing. Castiel smiled as he watched Dean’s eyelids roll closed, mouth falling slack over a period of perhaps a minute.

Castiel wondered if this would even work. Would a nap return Dean’s puppy mentality to its own little compartment, or would it do nothing? One sad, lonely part of Castiel wished it wasn’t over yet. He might never experience this level of affection from the human Dean, nor so many clear indicators of love. Whether it was romantic or platonic love remained to be seen, but there was no doubt that dog-Dean loved his master dearly.

His master.

Castiel mulled that term over in his mind, watching Dean take slow, deep breaths.

He liked it. Castiel enjoyed the sense of purpose it brought him. Master. When Dean was a dog, Castiel was his carer, responsible for the life of his ward even more than usual. It wasn’t just relieving for Dean, it was relieving for Castiel too. He couldn’t put his finger on why.

It just felt... good.

Dean sniffed awake, eyes wide. He squirmed, trying to sit up. He seemed spooked, like he’d awakened from a two-second nightmare.

“What’s wrong?” Castiel asked, reaching for Dean as he plopped off the bed and landed on all fours on the carpet. “Dean?”

Dean trotted over to the motel’s door, and he sat back on his haunches to scratch at the wood, whining.

“Is there something outside?” Castiel slipped off the bed. “Is Sam back?”

Dean carried on scratching, every few seconds looking back over his shoulder, a needy look in his eye.

Castiel stepped closer to the door. “Let’s take a look, shall we?”

“Wuf!” Dean barked, scampering backwards so Castiel could open the door.

The moment the door was open, Dean crawled out on his hands and knees, eager to leave.

“Dean— Wait, where are you going?” Castiel grabbed his trenchcoat and swung it on, straightening the lapels, then he reached for his boots. As soon as they were on his feet, he ran off after Dean, pulling the motel door shut only enough so it rested closed; he didn’t have the key.

“Dean!”

Thankfully Dean wasn’t too fast. He’d made it twenty feet along the side of the motel, his bare back illuminated by the a light over the walkway. Castiel caught up and walked beside him, eyes darting about to make sure nobody else saw them. They would make an awfully strange sight, no doubt. Not only was Dean wandering around outside in his underwear, he was on all fours.

“Where are we going?” Castiel asked. Dean didn’t reply.

For a split second, Castiel wished he had a collar and leash. He banished the thought the second it arrived, feeling uncomfortable about getting so comfortable.

He had to admit, though, this wasn’t the worst way to spend an evening. Dean might come to regret his actions and turn red with embarrassment once he was back in his human headspace, but still, being a puppy had to beat going up against Cain or Crowley for an unwinnable fight to the death.

Realisation flipped in Castiel’s belly the moment he saw the grass patch at the end of the motel’s walkway. A floodlight cast bright white over the whole area, a corner of the parking lot included. Dean and Castiel were not shielded from curious eyes, not by any means – but, blessedly, Castiel didn’t see anyone in the parked cars.

“You really want to do this here, Dean?” Castiel murmured.

Dean was clearly too involved in his task to care. He crawled onto the grass and started sniffing around for a good place to do his business.

Castiel wasn’t one to get embarrassed, and he wasn’t. He did feel an odd sense of attachment, though – the way a master might feel for their puppy. For a few minutes, Castiel allowed himself to believe Dean was his pet rather than his best friend, the Righteous Man, and ultimately the only one who could keep Castiel’s lovestruck heart beating in his strong hands.

Castiel waited patiently, wondering what would make Dean decide on a place to relieve himself. Did the ground smell darker, drier, cleaner? It was a mystery.

“Wait,” Castiel said, before Dean could do anything. He went to Dean’s side and bent down, pulling Dean’s boxers to his knees. “There.”

Dean looked at Castiel gratefully, then did what he came here to do.

Castiel looked away, sure there was some element of politeness still to be upheld. He listened until Dean was done, and then reached into his pocket for tissues. He knew there were some in there somewhere. Aha. He pulled out the packet and took one tissue, then looked down to find Dean—

“Dean! Come back here.”

Castiel hurried after Dean, who had left his boxers on the grass and had wandered off to sniff at other things.

“Stay,” Castiel said sternly, shoving Dean’s boxers into his pocket. “I know dogs don’t need to wipe, but you do. You’re a very special dog.”

Dean panted, looking elsewhere as Castiel wiped him as carefully as possible. He didn’t even react to the touch on his penis, which Castiel worried about, deep down. How much of Dean was still conscious? Was he ever going to return to normal?

“Let’s go back. And quickly – you’re wandering around naked and I don’t particularly desire police presence.” Castiel whistled sharply, and Dean followed at his heels.

For the time it took to walk back to room 18, Castiel felt like an actual human with an actual pet. A smile pulled at his lips. Perhaps there could be an upside to being human, once the time came. Whether or not Dean was human by then, Castiel would have himself a dog. There were rescue shelters around. A hunter could always do with backup, regardless of species.

Pushing open the door to room 18, Castiel headed inside first, Dean following behind. Dean thought Castiel was the alpha around here. There was something satisfying about that, too.

Castiel shut the door and headed straight for the bathroom, tossing the used tissue into the toilet and flushing it away. He washed his hands, catching sight of his reflection as he did. He looked the way he always did, but there was a sparkle in his eye. He smirked, then reached for the bathroom towel and turned around with it in his hands.

Dean was waiting outside the bathroom door, sitting back on his heels with his palms on the floor in front of his knees, similar to how a dog would sit but not quite the same. He was completely naked, his chest rising and falling as breathed. That look of devotion hadn’t once left his expression, and he wore it now, more proudly than ever. Castiel was well and truly his master.

Castiel set the towel aside, shucking off his coat as he entered the main room again. “I do believe we were in the middle of a nap,” he said, toeing his boots off his heels and leaving them where they dropped.

He crawled onto the bed and lay down, waiting for Dean to join him. Dean put his front paws up, but then stalled.

“Something wrong?”

Castiel sat up, a frown appearing on his face. “Oh... Oh, you’re hurt.”

Dean had injured his knees and hands crawling on the concrete outside. He didn’t want to get up on the bed because it hurt too much. Dean Winchester could tolerate a lot of pain, but that didn’t mean he wanted to. As a dog he was at the mercy of every discomfort, no matter how small.

“Poor pup,” Castiel breathed, running his fingers through Dean’s hair. “I’m sure Sam has some bandages in his bag. Give me a minute...”

He stood and went to Sam’s bag, which was set on a chair in the corner of the room. It only took him a few seconds to find what he was looking for. He set the med kit on the bed with the tidy sheets, then went to get a fresh roll of toilet paper from the bathroom. With a wad of it splashed in water, not enough to render it a sopping mess but enough to make it thoroughly damp, he returned to Dean.

Dean looked forlorn, his body angled uncomfortably so he could lick his own wounds.

“No— No, don’t do that. You crawled on the grass, if you ingest that dirt you’ll probably get sick.”

Dean paid him no attention, so Castiel took matters into his own hands.

“Hey! Hey!” Dean yelped, as Castiel picked him up off the floor and put him on the bed. More calmly, but with a disgruntled tone, Dean said, “Hey.”

“Lie down,” Castiel instructed, pushing Dean onto his back. Dean struggled like any dog would, not understanding. “Stay!” Castiel snapped.

Dean paused, watching Castiel’s face.

“Good boy,” Castiel said, speaking softly now. “Stay.”

He started to wipe Dean’s knees, and Dean seemed to get the idea soon enough. He relaxed, still curled up on his side. He shut his eyes and sighed, one front paw moving to hang over his face.

“It’s not too bad,” Castiel said. “It’ll scab over by tomorrow.” He folded the tissue back as it started to disintegrate, and he used the other side to dry off what he’d cleaned.

He left Dean in a sorry silence as he went back to the bathroom. He returned with fresh tissue and cleaned Dean’s front paws for him. Reddened fingers, sore palms.

All the while, Dean watched Castiel with a slow, steady gaze, blinks coming sudden and all in a rush. He was fighting sleep, and the battle looked nothing short of adorable.

When Castiel had cleaned Dean’s hands and bandaged his knees to the best of his ability, he crouched lower and raised both of Dean’s front paws to his mouth. He kissed Dean’s knuckles, shut his eyes, then opened them again to watch Dean.

Dean smirked, just for a moment.

Castiel let him have his paws back, then threaded his fingers through Dean’s hair. It was greasy now due to all the petting over the day. Dean closed his eyes at the touch, taking comfort from it as always.

“I love you, Dean,” Castiel said, stroking Dean’s cheek with the back of his hand. “I love you no matter whether you’re human or animal... Even if there’s a part of you which you think is a monster. I love that monster too, despite how twisted that sounds. I hope you know that.”

With a gulp, Castiel then tried to reassure Dean, “I won’t ever make you feel ashamed for being a dog if you decide to return to humanity. Sam wouldn’t either, not if he values your return as much as he seems to. You’re safe with us – both of us. And I know you know that already. You’d never have allowed yourself to sink so deeply into this if you weren’t okay with being take care of.”

Dean’s eyelids fluttered, but he didn’t speak or look up. Castiel stroked his cheek again, crouching by the bed to watch him.

“You don’t have to become human again,” Castiel said, his words as soft as they could be. “The choice is yours. But unless you’re human I won’t ever know if— if you love me too.” Emotion got the better of Castiel, and he turned his face down, taking a shaking breath. “I want to hear you say it, Dean. Show it, even. I want that so badly I don’t think I can even explain it.” He sighed. “I never told you because— Well, you know. You’re an unpredictable human. It wasn’t until today I could even be certain you wouldn’t turn me away for loving you.”

Dean opened his eyes, startling Castiel. Castiel stopped stroking Dean’s stubble, now feeling as if he was waiting. Waiting... for what?

Dean licked his lips apart, a small lick – like he usually did as a human. “Cas,” he said, his voice cracking under the weight of the name.

“I’m here, Dean,” Castiel said earnestly, inching closer, turning his head. His breath bounced back against his face, reflecting off Dean’s cheek.

Dean sighed, then swallowed as he shut his eyes. A frown crossed his forehead, but it was forced away the moment it appeared.

“Dean?” Castiel asked.

Dean turned his face into the bed’s comforter and whined quietly, fingers screwing tightly into the fabric. Human, or puppy? Castiel couldn’t tell any more.

“Dean...” Castiel caressed Dean’s jaw with his palm. “How are you feeling?”

Dean opened his eyes again, the flash of green absorbing all of Castiel’s attention. Dean swallowed again, then rasped thickly, “I’m... okay.”

Castiel grinned. “Welcome back.”

Dean whined again and hid his face, hands over his head.

“Dean— Oh, Dean, it’s okay. It’s okay.” Castiel lifted himself and sat on the bed in front of Dean. He folded himself over Dean’s body and squeezed him, trying to offer security. He kissed Dean’s shoulder, watching his face. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

Dean squirmed, and Castiel let him go free. Dean rolled over, staring at the ceiling.

“Do you know where you are?” Castiel asked.

Dean nodded.

“Do you remember what happened?”

Dean nodded, eyes closed. “‘f course.”

The only disorientation he seemed to be suffering came from being human again.

Castiel slid his hand into Dean’s and held him, aware that Dean was troubled by having fingers again. All of a sudden, Dean breathed too fast, then took breaths too deep, gasping. He was only prevented from passing out when Castiel hushed him and told him to copy his own breathing pattern.

“Too much panting,” Castiel said with a smile. “You’ll adjust.”

“Wh... When’s Sam comin’ back?” Dean asked, slurring his words.

“Whenever I tell him you’re ready to see him,” Castiel said. “I can call him now, if you want?”

“No.” Dean shook his head, eyes half-closed. “I wanna... Wanna sleep... first.”

“All right.” Castiel touched Dean’s forehead, checking his temperature. A slight flush, probably caused by his brief panic attack. “How are you feeling now?”

“Weird,” Dean said, accompanied by a smirk. “Sick. Sad.”

“It’ll pass,” Castiel promised. “Have some rest. You’ll feel better in the morning.” He started to stand up, hands still gripping Dean’s.

Dean whined, pulling Castiel back. “Don’t leave me.”

“Okay. Okay,” Castiel whispered, cradling Dean’s torso. “I’ll stay. Is there anything else you need?”

Dean sniffled, eyes opening enough that Castiel saw their shine.

Castiel climbed over and arranged himself at Dean’s back, lying in the bed with his body positioned to shield Dean, arms around him. Dean curled up small, wanting Castiel’s arms draped around his shoulders so he could bury his nose against his wrist.

“Shall I wake you when Sam gets back with food?” Castiel whispered.

Dean shook his head. “Don’t wanna eat.”

“We’ll go out for breakfast first thing tomorrow,” Castiel said, giving Dean a squeeze. “I saw a waffle place on my way here.”

“Ngh.”

Castiel smirked, nosing at the back of Dean’s neck. “How are you feeling now?”

“‘m fine, stop asking,” Dean said.

“All right,” Castiel whispered. He slid a hand to touch Dean’s heart, checking his pulse. Steady, if a bit fast. It began to slow, but then it began to speed up.

“Dean, what are you thinking about?” Castiel asked. “I know you’re not asleep.”

Dean’s breath shook out of him, and he turned over in the bed so he was facing Castiel. Castiel looked from one gleaming green eye to the other, able to sense little more than an elevated pulse; either fear or excitement had caused Dean’s pupils to dilate.

“What is it?” Castiel asked under his breath. Dean was only an inch away, their bodies practically entwined. “Dean, whatever it is, you can tell me.”

Dean shut his eyes and inched forward, exhaling on Castiel’s lips. Then he turned his head and licked a soft, shivery, hot stripe up Castiel’s cheek.

Castiel came away flustered, eyes wide. Dean nuzzled his face against his neck, whether out of shame or because he needed the security of closeness, Castiel didn’t know.

Castiel gulped. “Um. Dean... You’re human now. Whatever you’re trying to say, you should should say it... the way a human would.” His own heartbeat was in his throat now, expectant and thumping with anticipation.

Dean snuck back from Castiel’s neck, taking a breath. Their eyes met for a moment – a quiet, breathless moment, more intimate than any other moment they’d shared together since the day they met.

Again, Dean shut his eyes and leaned close, breath gushing over Castiel’s lips. This time Castiel closed his eyes too.

They kissed. Softly, slowly.

It was a warm and gentle kiss.

Dean breathed out, relaxing completely. He sank out of the kiss rather than breaking it, and it was only when Castiel opened his eyes that he realised Dean had fallen asleep.

A protective kind of pleasure overtook Castiel, and he cradled Dean’s head in his hand as his other arm held him, pulling him close to keep him warm as he slept.

At last, the true distinction was made. Human, animal; a beast either way. Then, there was love, and... love.

• • • • • •

Sam pretended as if nothing had happened, and Castiel couldn’t be more grateful. There was no easy way to address what had happened, not for Dean. It wasn’t his fault, even if somewhere along the way it had been his decision to let the puppy mentality take over.

“If I couldn’t fight that,” Dean said, forcibly shoving leftover waffles into the microwave, “then how in the hell am I meant to fight the mental terrorism of the First Blade, huh?”

“The two are entirely different things,” Castiel said gently, standing with his lower back against the kitchenette’s prep table, arms folded. “One, you can fight. And you will fight it, Dean. Cain’s mark is only as powerful as you let it be. But the other... you can allow.”

When Dean looked up with curiosity in his eyes, Castiel smiled. “I mean, it’s not as if you came out of this any worse for wear.”

“Apart from scraped knees and an annihilated sense of self-pride, you mean,” Dean said, a harsh edge to his words.

Castiel tipped his head in semi-agreement. “You’ll admit you felt better at the time, right? And even after?”

Dean lowered his eyes, head down. He glanced around the motel room to check Sam wasn’t actively listening, and when he was sure the laptop held Sam’s full attention, Dean nodded. A shy grin flashed across his face. “Felt kinda great, actually.”

Castiel reached closer and set his hand in the dip of Dean’s back, pressing, then patting as he moved away. “Good.”

• • • • • •

“If you’re going out, get Baby some gas, would you?” Dean called across the motel room, tossing his brother the keys. “And check her tires while you’re at it, she’s been rolling low this last week.”

“Will do,” Sam said, heading for the door. “Oh – do you want some more of those animal cookies? I can get you a box or two if you need them.”

Dean’s lips parted and he glanced up from the laptop balanced on his thighs. “Uh. Wh... Why’d you ask?”

“No reason,” Sam shrugged nonchalantly. “Just...” He cleared his throat. “Packet’s empty.”

Castiel scoffed from nearer the window. “That would be my doing,” he said, inserting a bookmark into his reading book. “Falling from grace apparently comes with a side-serving of the munchies.”

Sam smirked, eyes revolving towards Dean. With another smile, he looked back at Castiel. “So, more animal cookies?”

“Two boxes. If you wouldn’t mind.”

“No problem,” Sam said. Then he headed out to the car, closing the door behind him.

Dean sighed at length as soon as Sam was gone. “Goddamn cookies. I get the impression he’s testing me.”

“He is,” Castiel smiled, putting his book down on the table and pacing closer to Dean’s bed, adjusting his rolled-up shirtsleeves as he went. “None of us have any idea what your trigger was. We can’t go running into battle not knowing if Cain could trip a puppy meltdown in ten seconds flat.”

Dean snorted. “Not gonna happen.”

“How can you be sure?” Castiel asked, sitting on the bed beside Dean without needing an invitation. He shuffled closer until their shoulders touched.

Dean shrugged. “Just am.” He closed the lid of his laptop before Castiel tried to look at what was on the screen. “I did some research. I think there’s a proper way to do it. Like... a safe way. Controlled environment, that type of thing.”

Castiel squinted. “You mean... become your puppy persona on purpose?”

Dean nodded, fingers rubbing nervously along the sleek edge of his laptop. “For like, stress relief or something?” He chuckled, his grin too subtle and too fleeting to be caused by real amusement. “I dunno. There was something... satisfying about it.”

Castiel inhaled, realisation taking hold. “You want to do it again.”

Dean nodded, but tension lingered at the sides of his mouth, and he wouldn’t lift his eyes from his closed laptop. “It freaks me out a bit.”

“I think it’s fair to say you freaked us all out a bit,” Castiel joked, bumping Dean’s shoulder with his own. For a few seconds, he watched Dean’s face, and even though his expression didn’t change, Castiel sensed there was a particular reason for his apprehension. “Tell me what’s bothering you?”

Dean swallowed hard. “Say I wanted – hypothetically – to go back into that whole puppy-zone. God knows why I’d want that, but say I did decide to become that pathetic, helpless mutt all over again...”

He struggled to continue, so Castiel tried to help him, setting his hand over Dean’s and squeezing.

Dean let out a caught breath. “Would you do it again? Would you be willing to put up with that?”

Castiel felt an unshiftable fondness radiating warmth inside him. “Whatever means of escape you choose, Sam and I will support you, Dean. So long as it’s temporary and it doesn’t hurt you or us, we’re all for it. You deserve a break.”

“No, but—” Dean touched his forehead with his hand, embarrassed. “I mean you.”

“Me? Of course.”

Dean practically trembled. “No... I mean— Cas, I— I don’t think you get it.”

“Then explain.”

Dean bit his lip. His shut his eyes tight, frowning deeply. He held that expression for a full second, then released it and opened up his laptop.

“Look,” he said.

The screen was black, but came back to life after a moment. The active browser window showed search results on what looked like a trading website, with product listings so numerous that they went on for several dozen pages.

Dean swivelled the laptop so Castiel could see better. “I wanna get one of these.”

Castiel’s eyes widened as he realised Dean’s search had brought up images of pet collars and harnesses and leashes, all floating past as Dean scrolled down the page.

“They’re for humans,” Dean said quietly. “People all over the world, they do this kinda thing for fun. They don’t have potions, but the puppy headspace thing? Apparently that’s legit. The— The idea is...” He took his hands off the laptop, rubbing his palms on the bedsheets. “I put the collar on, and I’m a dog. I take it off, I’m human. Unless Cain or whoever else we’re fighting goes and slaps a collar on me, I’m subservient to no-one.” He paused, hesitating before he took a breath and added, “I mean, subservient to no-one... except the person holding the leash.”

Castiel’s eyes flicked from the screen to Dean’s face. “Are you asking me what I think you’re asking?”

Dean smirked, a genuine sign of happiness this time. “Uh-huh,” he uttered, nodding slightly. “You’d be my... owner, I guess.” He tensed. “Handler,” he corrected, relaxing again. “You’d be my handler.”

“Oh, Dean,” Castiel whispered, yet more warmth flooding him from head to toe. “Dean, I’d be honoured.”

Dean sighed, relieved. “Well, hallelujah, ‘cause I already placed an order. One collar, one leash, and a pair of protective kneepads.”

Castiel took a breath, smiled, then let his breath out again.

Dean grinned at him, eyes alight with a soft passion. Without even looking, he set the laptop aside and turned his whole body towards Castiel, a glow in his body and soul that outshone all the brightest stars, even on a clear night.

“We good?” he asked, eyes dark.

Castiel nodded. “We’re... spectacular.”

“Awesome,” Dean murmured, easing himself closer to Castiel, eyes trained on his lips. With his breath shaky and his voice low, he murmured, “So, um... Sam’s out.” He gulped. “And you know, Cas – being a puppy for a while ain’t the only way to relieve stress.”

“Oh?” Castiel smirked, sliding a hand over Dean’s hip, guiding him closer, close enough that their chests touched and Castiel’s shirt buttons clacked against the buttons on Dean’s henley.

“Nuh-uh,” Dean smiled, pressing himself into Castiel. He paused then, needing to collect himself. A pink blush had emerged across his cheeks, putting a heated shimmer in his eyes.

“Hm,” Castiel said, tilting his head inquisitively. “Is... kissing something that would relieve stress, perhaps?”

Dean nodded, breath fluttering as he tried to restrain his enthusiasm. “Yeah,” he breathed, face nudging closer in tiny increments, apparently aching to fall into Castiel’s lips and smother him with affection. “Yeah, kissing would help.”

“How about a kiss on the lips?” Castiel asked, nosing at Dean’s nose, toying with his breath. “How would that make you feel?”

“Real good,” Dean moaned, surging forward for a kiss – but he found himself denied.

Castiel grinned. “Will you fall asleep this time?” he asked.

Dean looked put-out. “No.”

Castiel blinked acceptingly. “Good. Good boy.”

Dean’s breath hitched, and he shut his eyes, that pink blush only getting brighter.

Since his eyes were closed, Dean never saw Castiel leaning closer to kiss him. Dean inhaled in surprise, and Castiel took advantage of his lips parting to slip the tip of his tongue in, tasting the flavour on Dean’s lips.

Chocolate animal cookies.

They didn’t taste too bad, actually. Castiel supposed he might even try one once Sam came back with a new box. The first box had been scarfed under Dean’s pretence of comfort eating (which Castiel sensed he wanted to hide from Sam, hence him taking the blame for the empty box), but if Castiel had his way, the second and third boxes were designated as treats, rewards for good behaviour.

Dean laughed and broke the kiss, wiping his mouth on the pillow by his shoulder. “No offence, buddy, but you’re kind of a sloppy kisser.”

“I think you’ll find that’s you,” Castiel said, arching an eyebrow. “Only one of us uses dog-like tongue-lapping as a show of affection and it’s certainly not me.”

Dean pursed his lips and looked guilty.

Castiel coaxed him into a smile with another kiss (gentle, close-mouthed and reassuring), and it only went on from there.

There were hard kisses and long kisses, bitey kisses and butterfly kisses, but soon they found their rhythm. They worked out how they liked it. The game was easy once they knew the rules. And when that collar and leash finally arrived in the bunker’s mailbox, they’d figure out a whole new way to play.

• • • the end • • •