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"Okay, okay," Charlie says, leaning back in her chair. She has pizza sauce at the corner of her mouth. "Weirdest hunt."

"Um." Sam frowns thoughtfully and points at Dean with his beer. "What do you think... invisible Japanese booze monster or giant suicidal teddy bear?"

"Definitely the teddy bear," Dean says, shaking his head. The booze monster is a close second -- either that or the fairies. "Man, that job was something else."

Charlie reaches for her beer, splitting a suspicious look between them. "No way. You're making that up." She turns toward Cas and pokes him in the shoulder. "Are they making that up?"

"The shōjō is incredibly rare, but it's real enough," Cas says, his knee bumping Dean's under the table. "However --" he tilts his head to the side, narrowing his eyes "-- I'm not so sure about the teddy bear."

Dean folds a pizza slice in half and takes a bite. "The town's wishing well had some weirdo hoodoo on it," he explains, chewing. Sam makes a disgusted noise and pings a bottle cap at his head; Dean ducks, flipping Sam the bird as it whizzes past his ear. "Everyone's wishes came true, but some of them went kinda wackadoo."

"This one little girl," Sam says, tucking another bottle cap beside his plate like Dean wouldn't notice, "she wanted a real teddy bear. You know --" he gestures widely "-- life-size and talking, or whatever, but it went into full-on existential crisis mode."

"Yeah," Dean says. He sneaks a glance at Cas -- because he can, because Cas is there. He's still wearing his suit jacket, but he finally loosened his tie a little, just enough to hint at the line of his throat. "It kept stealing skin mags and asking about the meaning of life."

"There was also this freakishly strong kid, and a guy who would pull an Invisible Man and creep on women in the shower."

"Gross," Charlie says, snagging a mushroom off the pizza slice Cas has mostly been ignoring. "Okay, what about... most embarrassing hunt?"

Dean considers this for a second, then snorts out, "Oh, god," and waves his hand at Sam. "Remember that rabbit's foot thing?"

"Really? That's what you're going with? The rabbit's foot?" Sam leans back a little, crossing his arms. "What about the time you got ghost sickness?"

"You lost your shoe in a storm drain! Our motel room caught fire just 'cause you were in it!"

"You were afraid of everything! You screamed at a cat!"

Dean also got chased by a savage yorkie, but that is absolutely not the point. "Dude, you were --"

"Hey," Sam cuts in, smiling as he lets the bottle cap fly. It bounces off Dean's shoulder and hits the floor with a clink. "What about that shifter with the B-movie monster fetish? Why don't you tell Charlie about the lederhosen?"

"Yes, Dean," Charlie says, her voice full of sugar. "Tell me about the lederhosen."

Dean hunches over, his elbow slipping in a puddle of beer, his shoulders shaking so hard the table starts to rattle. He can't remember the last time he laughed like this -- really, honestly laughed. It feels good, easing something deep in his chest, loosening the sharp, angry-hot knot that's been living beneath his ribs for the last few months. When he finally looks up Charlie is watching him expectantly; he tries to get it together, but she snorts and Sam makes a weird, half-strangled sound and that's enough to set him off again.

"Fine," Charlie says, turning her attention back to Cas. "What about you, Feathers?"

"You wouldn't find my hunting stories interesting," Cas says, his knee bumping against Dean's again. He pauses, then adds, "They only invite me to the boring cases."

Sam blinks; Charlie frowns. The silence drags on for another few seconds, cut by the dull hum of the refrigerator, but then the corner of Cas' mouth twitches and Dean nearly chokes on his beer.

"You," he says, sputtering. "You --"

"I was joking, Dean."

"Jesus Christ," Dean says, and then he's laughing again.

 

+

 

"All right, bitches," Charlie says, plopping her feet in Dean's lap as she stretches out on the couch. "It's tv time. What've we got?"

"Let's see," Sam says, flipping through the box of DVDs. It's nearly full; Dean doesn't remember buying that many. "Game of Thrones --"

"The books are better," Charlie points out, her voice creaking around a yawn, "but Martin is such a slow writer. I was sure he'd finish Winds of Winter while I was in Oz."

Digging deeper in the box, Sam says, "We're stuck at the end of season two. Someone still isn't over Stannis losing at Blackwater."

"Listen," Dean starts, sitting up straight, "Stannis --"

Charlie waves him off. "Nope, no way. I was promised tv time, and I'm not awake enough for a full-on A Song of Ice and Fire argument." She leans up on her elbows and narrows her eyes at Sam. "What else is on the menu?"

"Star Wars, Star Trek --"

"The original series?" Charlie asks.

"Yeah."

"Wait, Star Trek?" Dean asks, because he definitely doesn't remember buying that. "Where'd that come from?"

"Cas likes it."

Cas shrugs, the gesture very nearly human. "It's amusing."

"Hey, no, that's cool," Dean says quickly. He doesn't know why, but he's weirdly pleased about it -- that Cas bought something he liked and brought it here, that he keeps it here. "Star Trek is cool."

"Star Trek is cool," Charlie agrees. She yawns again, then says, "Hey," to Dean, digging her heel in his thigh. "Before I fall asleep and forget -- in the morning, I need a ride to the Omaha bus station."

"Oh," Dean says, deflating a little. He'd hoped Charlie would stick around for a while. Cas, too. "Yeah -- I mean, if you're headed somewhere, I'll drive you. You don't have to take the bus."

Charlie just stares at him for a second. "What? Dude, I lost my apartment while I was in Oz, so you guys are stuck with me. For the foreseeable future, even." She rolls over a little, digging a small key out of her pocket and tossing it on the coffee table. "Everything I still own is in a luggage locker. I dumped it there when -- oh, crap." She frowns, her mouth pulling sideways. "Styne's goons nearly nabbed me there. They might still be watching the place."

"I'll go," Cas offers.

"Are you sure?"

"Those men can't hurt me." Cas leans forward, his armchair creaking as he reaches for the key. "Besides, it will give me something to do while you guys are sleeping."

 

+

 

Dean wakes up in the lounge alone; the lights are off and Charlie's feet aren't in his lap anymore. He sits there for a minute, listening to the silence, trying to decide if he should bother going back to his room, or if he should just fall back to sleep on the couch. Eventually, he catches a soft shuffling from what sounds like the kitchen -- footsteps and creaky, old linoleum and a quiet clink like beer bottles.

It's Cas, tidying up the mess they left at dinner. Pausing in the kitchen doorway, Dean says, "You don't have to do that," in a tired, bleary voice.

"I'm restless," Cas admits. He looks a little sheepish, like he's embarrassed by it. "My grace --"

"Is everything okay?" Dean asks, shuffling into the kitchen with a sick feeling rustling in his gut. "Are you --"

"I'm fine. This grace --" Cas touches his chest "-- it's mine, so my body is... eager to have it back, if that makes sense. It's left me a little -- I don't know." He pauses, flexing his hands and rolling his shoulders. His suit jacket is off and his sleeve are pushed up to his elbows; now that they're alone, it's harder for Dean to ignore how badly he wants to touch. "Something."

"Jumpy?"

"I suppose, yes."

Dean opens the pizza box on the table; the three and a half slices inside it are cold and sad-looking, so Dean closes it and walks it over to the trash. "Are you still going to Omaha?"

"I already went."

"What?" Omaha is good five hours round-trip; there's no way Dean slept that long. "What time is it?"

"Almost seven."

"Huh," Dean says, collecting the last of the beer bottles. "Any trouble?"

"Just one man. He won't bother Charlie again."

"That's -- that's good." Dean stacks a few dishes in the sink, then turns back toward Cas, leaning his hip against the counter. "What about you? Are you heading out?"

Cas pauses; a complicated look crosses his face and he sets the plate in his hand back on the table. "I have a... loose end I need to tie up, but it can wait a few days. I'd like -- I'd like to stay here, if that's okay."

"Yeah, of course -- yeah," Dean says, and he should hate how excited he sounds, but he can't help it. He gave up on his old school apple-fantasies years ago, but that's only made room for a new dream, one where everyone more or less lives under the same roof, where they do dumb, normal-people stuff when they aren't on the road, like eat dinner together and play Monopoly, he doesn't even care what. "You don't have to ask. Just come -- you know, whenever." Taking a breath, he makes himself say it. "I like having you here."

"I like being here," Cas says, gathering the dirty napkins on the table. The cootie-catcher is lying the middle of them; Cas pauses over it a second, slipping it into his pocket before balling up the rest of the mess.

Dean smiles; Cas is light and intent and a million years old, so it should've been ridiculous, watching Charlie tell his fortune with a game meant for kids, but Cas had watched her attentively, and he'd seemed pleased at whatever she revealed at the end. "Did Charlie give you a good future?"

"Yes, I -- yes." Cas fidgets a little, looking away. "She predicted something I've wanted for a long time."

Dean almost asks, but the words catch in the back of his throat; he doesn't know what he'd do if the future Cas wants is back up in heaven, away from him. He says, "Cool," instead, the word breaking on a yawn, which gives him an excuse to go back to bed. He should anyway; he has a crick in his neck from knocking out on the couch. "I think I'm going to hit the hay." He reaches past Cas to grab his phone from the table, but Cas turns, leaning in a little, and his hand ends up tangled in the front of Cas' shirt.

"Dean," Cas says quietly.

It's been a good night, the kind of night where pressing his luck doesn't sound too stupid, so Dean kisses him, mumbling, "Fuck it," as he leans in, holding Cas' face in his hands.

 

+

 

They end up making out right there in the kitchen, kissing soft and slow and easy under the dull hum of the fluorescent lights. Dean has imagined this a million times, but he's always pictured it happening in his bedroom or at a cheap motel, even in the backseat of the Impala, but Cas just nudges him back against the fridge, pressing in close, his hands pushing under Dean's shirt as he mouths at Dean's throat, as his teeth catch the corner of Dean's jaw.

Dean knows this should scare him a little, with everything that's still on his plate, but the Mark has been less than a hum all night, and Cas keeps making soft, gorgeous noises in his ear. So he lets himself open Cas' slacks, and he lets himself run his fingers up the length of Cas' dick, and when Cas does the same to him, he lets himself mumble Cas' name and suck a kiss into the hollow of Cas' throat.

 

+

 

"I know you don't sleep," Dean says, gesturing at the bed, "but I, I -- um."

Cas doesn't say anything; smiling softly, he strips down to his boxers and slips between the sheets. Once Dean is settled, he presses himself against Dean's back, his mouth at Dean's shoulder and his hand at Dean's hip.

"I lied earlier," he whispers later, just as Dean is falling back to sleep. "I do have an interesting hunting story. I rescued you from hell."

Dean's breath catches. "I don't remember," he says, but that's only partially true. Every so often, he dreams of an impossibly bright light, of feeling safe in a way he can't put into words.

"It was incredible," Cas says, hiding a kiss in Dean's hair. "A thousand angels laid siege to hell -- a thousand, and I'm the one that found you."

 

+

 

"It was you," Cas says in the morning, setting the cootie-catcher on the nightstand. "It's always been you."