"Are there hunters on this planet?"

"No."

"Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?"

"No."

"Nothing is perfect," sighed the fox.

(The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

i.

It's colder in this place than in the hall, surely than in the bedroom, hot and stuffy because of reasons he does not appreciate at all. His skin welcomes the chill, the lack of Castiel in its proximity. His back, pressed against the bland blue tiles of the wall, feels nearly relieved. Dean shuts his eyes and slides down, part in tiredness of the body, part in the exhaustion of his soul, which, at this point he's experiencing on a cellular level. If he's being over dramatic, he doesn't care. Hard not to call his life a telenovela, anyway. Cas might've as well already legally changed his name to Isaura by now and simply failed to mention that. It's not like it hasn't happened before.

So quiet here. Castiel did not need to spit many words at Dean to have that ugly patronizing voice keep ringing annoyingly in his brain, kind of like it did in that gas station all those years before. It's just so nice to not be in imminent threat of listening to it again, at least for a little while, for however long he's safely allowed to take to get himself pristine and holy for his husband God, so he could be with so much joy beheld and be fucked. He doubts there are any other reasons for that. Soon he'll find out but not just yet. Now he's tuning into the silence, savoring it.

And these doors, they're the only ones in this house which have a lock that is specifically for Dean to use. Another small blessing. He counts those very carefully and cradles them like they're something to hold dear, mindful of his words and actions not to lose them even if he loses everything else. He needs to be aware at all times that if he can count them, so can Castiel.

There is no small mercy in this house not accounted for. The realization hits him harder than he thought it might. If he could sink any lower down the bathroom floor, he would.

"Fuck you, Cas," he grits through his teeth; deflated but not yet defeated.

The moment he starts to think he can never win this, not even in fifty years from now, is the moment he consigns this planet into death.

Because Ego McPowered-Up is simply too short-tempered to not drive this mud ball into the first fucking tree there is. He's just that bad at driving. Dean has to stay here, mournfully alive, to yank the wheel last second as much as he would rather chew down a few handfuls of apple seeds. As much as he would gladly sign out permanently in this tiny square of solitude, secretly sliced under his knees and wilting away in the bathtub because it is the only fucking thing it is good for.

Who is he fucking kidding. Castiel's wedding ring and his invisible strings would have stopped Dean even if he tried to pull a Miss Jones intro.

He begins to feel the floor tiles in his bones, even though this body is brand new and unfamiliar to him, it's not twenty six anymore. He's still stuck in a model that's thirty three and has been thrown against walls and shit way too many times. The fact that Cas, regardless of whichever part of this house he's currently haunting, is unrelentingly keeping Dean's "disposition" at "two", is not helping at all.

It's a great moment for his mind to try and catalogue all these things that are off right now, and by great, Dean means totally uncalled for because damn it he was keeping that part buried away for hours for a reason, despite of what his hunter instincts and human experience were trying to tell him. But, tough shit, with no potentially lethal problem currently at hand and with no crying from the little squirt at the moment, it has slipped into his consciousness and isn't willing to get the fuck out of his doorstep until Dean acknowledges it.

It's a big, big problem, actually, now that the cat is outta the bag and Dean can't help but listen to its meowing.

He's sore, uncomfortably sore, in parts of his body that have no business being achy neither weeks nor days after being last violated. Only one explanation comes to mind and it hardly makes sense. Dean's disappointed with himself for still remaining naive enough to feel surprised. What was he trying to accomplish, holding this monster to any standards at all? So many human casualties, so many manipulative leg-spreading done to him already just within the span of five weeks, and yet?

And yet Dean Winchester, the Consort Queenlike Fucking Idiot, was dumb enough to believe that for some reason (decency? Inevitably getting what he wants anyway? Years of friendship, maybe? Who the fuck knows) Castiel the All and, most of all, Dean-loving God would be at least minimally above violently raping him while he's unconscious.

The saddest goddamn thing is that in the past days of his countless spells and wards, picket fence life there was nothing, absolutely nothing, solid enough to support that stupid conviction, and Dean knew it, but foolishly went for benefit of a doubt as if Castiel in any way deserved it at this point. As if giving it to anyone who he ever let close to himself and then got double crossed by wasn't the exact thing that always, without a single exception and without abuse of trust, would come back to bite him in the ass so hard there was very little of him left to gather later.

He can't wait to hear how Castiel spins it around, directly against Dean, in a cunning and disgusting mimicry of love, care and attention or whatever smash hit of an argument is supposed to play out fourteen consecutive times with just one single red herring distraction to make it look like Dean is nothing but a prude, scandalized bitchling and Castiel is, of course, a martyr for love and Dean keeps trying him like he's Job.

That or he can always shrug and say Dean was well awake and begging for dick on his very own but weirdly doesn't remember it now.

Or, if Sunshine doesn't feel particularly chatty and understanding today, Dean guesses that as last resort, instead of flimsy explanations of any kind, he can always get his face smashed directly into year 3000 to learn the wonders of flying cars, colonization of outer space and his fucking place. As a possibility it definitely ain't all that far fetched, considering how his technically first officially married day spent together began.

After taking all of this into brief consideration, he's not even sure if there's a point in bringing any of it up. Not that he trusts himself to be able to keep quiet because he doesn't. What he is sure about is that he's never felt dirtier in his topside life. It still doesn't beat some of the rack's biggest surprises or the first days playing the butcher, before his body understood it's not going to be tortured anymore and spiralled into euphoria. But it's a very close second.

Dean collects himself from the floor to take the long due piss. Not feeling any better afterwards, he pulls the bathtub curtain and freezes in confusion if not anything else.

He just doesn't fucking get it. Is this supposed to be a Winchester House ripoff? Some bad last name-based joke he doubts Castiel is capable of making on his metaphor-impaired own? What's with the house remodeling?

Good to know the veiled bath-fucking threat wasn't empty because the new tub is large enough to not turn bumping uglies into an issue of quantum physics and risk of a need for medical aid.

Speaking of which. What are the goddamn safety mats and railings for? Dean's at a complete fucking loss. Is this supposed to help him not accidentally kill himself when he's so far pregnant he develops his own orbit? Or is Castiel's plan so considerate of the future it's meant to keep osteoporosis at bay when he's literally too senile to move without creating injury hazard?

Wow in a way that it is scary both regarding few months and five decades from now. But actually it might come in handy, since this is a moment where he can barely—

Oh fuck. That son of a bitch.

It's for now. For all his days of misbehavior when every single step will be marked with regret and, hopefully, deep reconsideration of choices.

He just stares. Stares as he lets the water run; stares as he, void of any thought, frees himself from the dress and disgusting mormon porn underwear.

Temperature on the tiny screen doesn't even budge beyond 97 degrees. Course it doesn't. So much for boiling his old bones a bit into something akin to numb relief.

Dean sighs wearily and descends into the tub using the stupid railing but hating it every second as he goes.

"Guess I can't make us into a mean chicken soup just yet, huh small thing? You think your other old man might actually be reading preggo lady magazines in his evil lair? I mean, what gives?"

What's a chicken soup?

Dean isn't sure whether to start with chicken or with soup. Maybe he'll just start with the point.

"It's a health bomb in a bowl, kid. Puts you back on your feet in no time, magic killing all the crap that bed-ties you and you feel so much better," he explains as he sits down and stares at the control panel, wondering if he should take it for a spin, just for the sake of raising Castiel's electricity bill at this point. Because of spite and nothing else. Maybe if Dean won't take Castiel out of the game, capitalism will.

You need chicken soup, mommy. It won't hurt you anymore when you have it, mommy?

There's a pause. Silence of tiny monster baby cogs turning, thinking. Dean doesn't remember what words are, in his mouth there's just sandpaper and thorns. He looks at the surface of water again, livid that he can't let it take him dead gone and away. It's just not fair.

...Can it stop daddy?

He wonders if this is what his mother felt like: struck with ache and panic like a deer trapped in headlights, seeing that he, the child, was already deep in the family mud even though all she wanted to do was to keep him out. He remembers her face, the widest smile, the most cheerful tone, no light in her eyes, only tears.

"Oh, and it's the only sort of food where chicken actually has a right to be and tastes well. It's, uh, you eat that. It's awesome. My favorite. Tell you what, sport. I bat my lashes real pretty at god-zilla and get you some if you behave."

And he remembers her ways. Repeated to Sam, John's binge after binge, hunt after hunt, until his baby brother would grow big and wary and buy it no more.

It beams.

I love chicken, mommy, it decides.

Yahtzee.

Dean laughs in small, desperate half hiccups and wants to die in a way he hoped he would never have to crave death again ever since Sam learned the truth.

"Sure you do, little rascal! Everybody loves chicken, because we eat chicken here, not people. Remember that for me, buddy."

He can hear it babble happily: chicken, chicken, chickennnnnn, just like temporarily excited human rugrats do. Except of feeling like he's the worst person on Earth aside of his husband, he doesn't much know what to do about it. It acts like a duck, it talks like a duck but it's no duck. It's at least a velociraptor. He can't kill a fucking baby. But it's a monster and he knows the rules. Maybe there's a spell? There has to be a spell. If you can unmake a vampire, you can unmake… well, whatever the fuck this is, right? Before it feeds on non-chickens.

He leaves the kid to its innocent poultrious wonder and relegates his remaining scraps of energy to pretty himself up according to the newest standards of Amish Vogue. If he wants a lifetime supply of chicken, he well knows he's going to have to earn it first. Just like the right to eat dinner in his father's eyes. Except that this time, not by being a good hunter.

But by being good prey.

Dean decides it's time to man up, grab the soap and think of England. As he lathers the bar in his hands, he closes his eyes. Nowhere it says he needs to actually see on what kind of a body he's operating. Feeling it under the touch is mind-scorching enough. So it goes (and god, he really doesn't like the fragrance of this soap). Thorough, deliberate and sharp with his movements because he needs to be clean, because he hates himself. He slows down at his chest to not have his lousy, swollen excuse for tits (apparently it would be a waste of luxury to shape him into a Victoria's Secret model) hurt even more than they already do. Same with his aching abdomen, the space where his junk should be, his thighs-

Hold the fuck up.

He runs his hands carefully over his inner thighs again and again for good measure. Curses under his breath. It feels too delicate there, too smooth, even. Not like good old well-worn skin, but kind of… Dean opens his eyes and lifts his leg, supporting it on the edge of the tub, in hope that the muted bathroom lights will deliver enough of an answer. They do, although the "enough" is relative because living his life with injuries in stereo he knows what he's looking at, but he still doesn't know what the fuck, which obviously would be the point of the whole exercise. There are large patches of pink, just a tone away from the rest of his skin, visibly only if one knows how to look and Dean sadly does. They're shinier, more fragile, the soft gleam the only thing that makes the wrongness stand out at all. He gives his other thigh a cursory glance and yeah, same.

Something happened here, a lot of it, judging from the size. It healed but didn't scar. Anything this large would leave much more ugly behind. And it would take time. This layer of skin is brand new. Other than that his legs are unscatched.

There's no way to tell what went down. Or why Castiel made it happen and then just gone.

"I don't get it," he huffs in plain defeat as he rubs the sensitive skin over and over, his level of exasperation only that of facing a mildly annoying puzzle because his mind just doesn't have the horsepower to allow him more.

He would throw up, but there's nothing in his stomach, nothing. He washes his face and hair instead, infuriated over how troublesome this is with a cut that isn't anywhere near close to his scalp. He's got no idea how Sam survives this every other day.

Someone else in this house does the job for him now. Dean isn't even allowed to do basic caretaking. His hands itch for it all the time like they know nothing but that. They don't, at least not much. They only know how to kill and how to keep dead things living.

A knock on the door interrupts his silent grief.

Dean's neatly folded anger spreads to the surface and leaks in tiny rivulets into the water he's stupidly standing in, into his mouth.

"You weren't so shy when you fucked me while I was roofied unconscious!" he snarls at the door. "Or when you burned down my legs and the insides of my cunt!" That's a wild guess there but it makes as much sense as any. "So why the fuck do you play nice knocking, you fuck damn pharisee?!"

On the other side, silence stands still, swollen and thick like bad air. The voice that answers Dean isn't Castiel's.

"I've been sent here to assist you," Nadya says with amazing calm as if nothing moved her at all. "He said you're feeling unwell and might need help." Dean doesn't respond with anything so it gives her time to think. "If you got nausea or cramps I can make you some herbs and give you a few tips later on," she adds softer, but not much softer in general. "I've been there."

Dean grimaces as he dries himself with a towel as fast as he can. This pile of shit really fucking stinks and he's sure that if a miracle won't happen, he will literally shriek with steam any moment now, the boiling kettle that he is. He puts a fresh pair of underwear on, knowing the forties are gonna call and tell him to give it back. Forgoes the bra and slips into another shitty dress of paranoid length and eye-bleaching white. Must've been hospital gown inspired or something what with the need to tie it on the side to make ends meet. But then he thinks: no, it's not that. It's practicality. Just one dangling bit to pull for easy access. God ain't got time for pulling long dresses up.

"It's the jerk, he did this, until then I was fine," Dean announces as he pops out the door with no warning like a very pissed off mole.

Nadya's face tells him he's gonna get whacked like one if he doesn't shut up right now. He doesn't know how she managed to form such a thin unimpressed line out of her at some point heavily injection-improved lips, but she just fucking went and did it like it's no big deal. She's mimic talented even if scarce, he'll give her that.

Dean wonders what her life was before, sometimes. She's so well preserved. Only when her face goes sour or when she thinks he isn't looking, age and weariness crawl on her skin, letting him know she faced at least ten more winters than he did.

"Why haven't you combed your hair?" she asks as she maneuvers him into a steady grip, leading him to the kitchen in tiny, considerate steps.

"Impossible," Dean snorts bitterly.

Blink and you miss it, but there was a smile on her face. Dean won't call her out on that.

"He's in a good mood," she says; a bit of spark in her voice, as if it was a secret just for him, a helpful tip.

Of course he's in a good mood. Teaching his bitch a lesson does give that kind of an endorphin high.

"Guess then I can tell him to jot that down," he tries to shrug and winces. "What's the worst thing that can happen?"

"Ask your garden, Dean," she answers, aiming for not cold and failing.

That shuts him up.

Until he sees the kitchen.