It's going on 3 a.m. when Dean's phone starts vibrating violently against his nightstand.
Not yet fully awake, he burrows deeper into his covers and buries his face in his pillow.
This, unfortunately, does nothing to quell the sound. Groaning, he sits up and stares at the too bright illumination.
The number on the display is the Gas N' Sip, which closed hours earlier. No one should be there. He frowns as he tugs his phone to his ear. "This better be good."
"Dean," it's Cas, and it takes that one word for Dean to know something's definitely wrong. He throws off his covers and reaches for his shoes.
"Cas, what's going on?"
"Dean, I...Dean," Cas' voice is hesitant and strange, and Dean doesn't know what to do with that. "I couldn't stop them. I tried."
"Couldn't stop who?" Dean asks. His heartbeat is ratcheting.
"The teenagers. They broke in. They took the tills and the alcohol and the cigarettes, and I, there were four of them, and they ...I couldn't stop them."
He tries not to panic as he grabs his keys and asks, "Did they do anything to you? You hurt?"
Cas doesn't answer immediately, and Dean about throws the phone. He's going to kill these damn kids. And then he's going to kill Cas, because why the hell is he even at the gas station six hours before his shift?
He should be at home, in bed, like a normal person.
Not that Cas has ever once been normal.
He presses, insistently, "Should I be calling 911? ...Cas, come on. Talk to me."
After a hesitation far too long for Dean's comfort, Cas says, simply, "No."
And Dean sighs in frustration. "But you're hurt?"
Cas sighs in resignation. "My arm...it may be broken. It's bleeding."
"Okay," Dean says, and he can do something with that, at least. It gives him some focus.
He brushes past Sam, who's dazedly stepped in the hallway outside his bedroom, and pulls the phone away from the speaker long enough to explain, "Some idiots robbed the store, roughed up Cas."
Sam's whole face screws up before he whispers, "Why's Cas even there? I mean, isn't it the middle of the night?"
Dean shakes his head. "Don't know. Don't care."
"Well, is he okay?"
Dean shrugs helplessly as he pushes the phone back in place and runs out the door.
"Towels, Cas. We sell 'em. Get one. Wrap it around your arm until I get there. Putting you on speaker. Don't hang up."
"You're coming here?...now?"
Dean raises his eyes as he jams the keys in the ignition. "Uh yeah. Some yahoos took you and the store down. What did you think I was going to do?"
Cas doesn't answer, and, after nearly a whole minute has gone by, he says, "I pulled the tape for the police. I've made a note of everything that was taken."
Dean scrubs at his face. "Not really worried about the store right now. Kind of want to make sure you're in one piece."
"You...you may wish to watch the tape first," Cas says. "I believe, as they say, 'the jig is up.'"
"What the hell is that suppose to mean?" Dean asks as the line clicks. "Cas!"
Dial tone fills the Impala, and Dean flings the phone onto the passenger seat.
"Damn it, Cas!"
When he gets to the Gas N' Sip, he's half afraid Cas will be gone, since the end of their call certainly made it sound like he was about to fly the coop.
But he's there, sitting sullenly on the floor with his back pressed against the donut display, clutching his left arm with his right.
Dean crouches down next to him before snapping, "What the hell, man? Why'd you hang up?"
Cas knits his brow and sighs. "You're going to be angry."
He's already angry. But he tries to take a mental step back, because he and Cas are clearly not on the same page. "What? With You?"
"Hey, you did anything to those kids, they deserved it. They were the ones in the wrong here."
"Not for that," Cas says quietly.
"Okay," Dean says. "You want to clue me in here? Because you lost me."
"You'll find out when you watch the tape," Cas says.
"Well, how about I find out now instead?" Dean says.
"I'm not certain that will improve matters," Cas says.
"Humor me," Dean says.
"Dean... I'm not here in the middle of the night 'for kicks,'" Cas says. "I...I, uh, I live here."
Dean really had no idea what Cas was getting at, but if had had a million guesses, that would not have been one of them. His eyebrows shoot to his hairline. "You live here?"
What the hell?
"I have a sleeping bag in the stockroom, under the boxed pasta ... my toothbrush is taped to the mirror in the restroom," Cas' words spill out, somewhat frantically, in harried confession.
Dean's certain he's somehow misunderstood. "You live here? In the store? That we both work in?"
"My clothes, though, those I keep in the car."
Once he starts to grasp the gravity of what Cas is telling him, and that he might really be serious, he feels like it's important to get one thing straight. "How long?"
After a moment, Cas says, "A month, give or take."
"A month?" Dean repeats.
He feels sick.
How could he possibly have not known?
For that long?
"Of course, I'm angry," Dean says, as he stands up and paces across the front counter. "Why the hell didn't you say something? I could have helped you. We all could have."
"Oh," Cas whispers quietly, and Dean feels like he's been punched in the gut.
"Wait...did you think I was going to be pissed that you'd been sleeping here?"
Cas averts his gaze. "I've been abusing the store's resources... you did entrust me with a key..."
Dean scrubs at his forehead. "Cas..."
"I should give it back to you," Cas says. "I'm certain you'll have to terminate my employment..."
Before Dean can even try to convince him that that just isn't remotely the case, Cas is reaching for his jeans' pocket. And it's only when he hisses in pain, as he accidentally jars his injured arm, that Dean remembers that they have more pressing issues than Cas' living situation.
Dean crouches down next to him again and taps lightly at his shoulder. "Mind if I take a look?"
Cas gestures for him to go ahead, and Dean handles his arm as gently as he can. He winces at every pull and nearly cries out in pain when Dean asks if he can turn it. "Okay, cowboy, let's get you to the E.R. Come on."
Several hours later, a heavily medicated Cas is dozing fitfully on Dean's couch while he and Sam are going through two egg boxes full of what they assume to be everything Cas has to his name. It's what Charlie and Jo managed to find after volunteering to comb the store for him.
Dean scrubs at his face as he lifts up Cas' toothbrush in dismay. To say it was gently used would be a vast understatement. He can't take the fraying bristles. "He needs a new one of these...and..."
More clothes - he only has three days worth. A new razor - his blade is dull and rusting. A pillow - a bag of rock salt certainly ain't going to cut it anymore.
A frigging roof.
"Yeah, that's a good idea. I'm going in late if you want to go now," Sam says, waving vaguely at Cas' sleeping form. "Do you want me to talk to him about staying here?"
A roof that could have easily been provided whenever hard times had fallen, if Cas had only said something.
"Frigging dumbass could have been sleeping on memory foam..." Dean mutters, shaking his head.
"Dean, I'm sure there's a reason he didn't say something."
"Yeah," Dean huffs, "thought I was going to fire him."
Dean shrugs before shouldering the door open. It may not have been the only reason, but it certainly had been a reason.
The actual reason, Sam works out, an hour later, as he's shuffling through his mail and finds his most recent medical bill, is that, about a month ago, he'd been in the hospital with a bad case of pneumonia, and Cas, being Cas, had probably assumed that took precedence, for Dean, over anything and everything in his life.
Sam gives the still sleeping Cas a disparaging look from the other side of the living room. "Dean's right. You are a dumbass."
When Dean gets back to the store, Charlie and Jo are still so worked up and worried about Cas that they simply brush off all of his 'thank yous' for covering their shifts before insisting they help him make a toiletry filled care package.
They have a mostly full basket when Dean's making the apparently life altering decision between soft and hard bristles, and Sheriff Mills nudges his shoulder, "Know your guy's had a rough go of it, but he's my only witness. The video pretty much confirms what you told me he told you, but I've got to get it straight from the horse's mouth."
"Knew you would," Dean sighs, wishing Cas didn't have to deal with this right now. "He's at my place. Sam will let you in."
She nods at that. "But, before I go, Dean, you should know what happened with his old place. Would have told you before if anyone had kept me in the loop..."
Once Jody finishes her explanation of how Cas had been unceremoniously escorted off the premises, Dean high tails it to Paradise Lake Apartments and pounds on the door of the leasing office until Metatron finally deigns to unlock the door.
Dean slams his fist on the man's desk and glares at him. "How do sleep at night?"
"Like a baby," Metatron says. "Why?"
"You asked for Cas' help," Dean gestures to the colorful and brilliantly arranged garden outside the window - all Cas' handiwork, "improving your complex..."
"He has quite the green thumb," Metatron agrees.
"...then you go and change his lease so that he'd never be able to afford to live here, and you frigging evict him."
Metatron sighs dramatically and sadly before shrugging. "No one ever reads the fine print."
"Unbelievable. You're unbelievable."
Dean storms out of the office only to hear Metatron offer, "He's welcome to come back to garden anytime."
Jody's still at the house when Dean makes it back, badgering Cas into letting her make him a decent lunch. "Don't tell me you haven't been living off nachos. I know better."
"Taquitos too," Cas says defensively as he tries to wriggle loose from his blanket. He succeeds in getting it caught on his sling.
"I'm with Jody on this one," Dean says as he drops Cas' care package on the coffee table, "you need to eat something that doesn't need to be nuked and didn't come from the store."
He reaches down and helps Cas pull the blanket away, "Lucky for you, I make awesome burgers."
"He does," Jody agrees.
Although Dean offers to make Jody a burger as well, she declines saying that she really ought to get back to the station to file her report.
Once she's out the door, Cas stares and stares at the basket, his eyes looking progressively more watery. "Dean..."
"Talk to Charlie and Jo about the wickerwork. Not my idea," Dean says as he darts into the kitchen. "You want macaroni with these?"
He's setting a skillet on the stove when Cas places his hand on his shoulder. His voice is choked. "Dean...thank you."
"Bad for business, it gets out my employees are sleeping on the stockroom floor and don't have any soap," Dean says as he turns the stove on.
Cas' lips curl slightly, and Dean thinks he gets it. That he cares so much more than all that.
But as he pulls the hamburgers out of the bag, Cas is still right behind him, and the words tumble out anyway, "You know, don't you?" He places the patties evenly across the stove. "Well...guess you don't or this wouldn't have happened..."
Cas squints at the counter. "Know what?"
"That I'm here for you, whenever you need me. And this..." he waves his spatula wildly at the space around him, "This is home...whenever you want it to be."
Cas' lips are chapped and rough against his skin, tear tracks line his cheek, and the spatula falls on the floor.
It's going on 3 a.m. when Dean's phone starts vibrating against his nightstand. Cas' name lights up on the caller display, and Dean heads for the stairs. "Want me to get you a bell?"
"I believe this gets your attention more efficiently," Cas says. Then he sighs wearily. "I need help."
Dean covers his mouth to stifle his laugh when he turns the corner and sees Cas standing at the bottom of the stairs, his phone pressed against the crook of his neck, holding his pajama bottoms up with one hand, clearly struggling to get them back on, and decides that the doctor's advice that Cas sleep on the couch is a total crock. "You're sleeping up here."
"That sounds amenable."