Title: Stupid People
Characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel
Category: Gen, Crack, Humor, CRACK
Warning: This story is freakin' ridiculous. Also language.
Spoilers: Set post 5.06
Summary: Some people are cat people. Some people are dog people. And then there are people like Dean....
Word Count: 7000
Disclaimer: This is my Father's world, but it's Kripke's playground.
Author's Note: Inspired by this fandom secret (maychorian dot livejournal dot com slash 153108 dot html) and the discussion of it. Title and summary from a dimly remembered Garfield comic strip.
Another town, another bar. This bunch of yahoos were ripe for hustling, credulous, cocky, loud. They bought Dean as the clueless, drunken out-of-towner just looking for fun at the pool table so easily that he almost felt bad about it, even letting him break after he spectacularly lost the first game. Two stripes went in on the break and Dean let a wide, goofy grin cross his face, his eyes glazed and unbelieving, like it was all some fantastic dream. "Whoa, lucky! Never done that before." He pounded a local on the shoulder in celebration and bent back down, lining up his next shot, cue wavering over the felt green to keep up the drunken play.
Sam was at the bar, sipping lager like a pansy and keeping an eye out, making side bets with anyone who ventured too close or talked too loud. It was good to have his brother at his back again, though Dean's eyes strayed to him more often than was really safe. They didn't want to tip the other bar patrons to the fact that they were in cahoots, but Dean just couldn't help it...
Dean hunched his shoulders and bent over the table, ignoring the voice. Oh, no no no no. He did not do that. He did not just blow their cover in a crowded bar when they were in the middle of making some honest cash. He didn't, he couldn't have, that idiot.
"Dean!" the voice said more insistently, closer, and then the hand was on his shoulder, trying to tug him around, demanding his attention.
Like a damn cat, Dean thought, cautiously rolling his eyes. Ignores you for days, off doing his own thing, hunting God, but when he wants you to pay attention to him he wants it now, begging and crying and rubbing up against you, for Christ's sake...
He let Castiel pull him around, putting a tipsy wobble in the movement that had the angel gripping the fabric of his jacket in a sudden fist, holding him upright. "Dude, I dunno who you think I am. M'name's Carl Emerson, and 'm playing pool here. And whoo-eeee, I am drunk!" He laughed, deliberately perfuming Castiel's face with beer-breath. "Just lea' me 'lone, 'kay? I don't want your trouble."
Castiel drew his head back at the smell, clearly appalled, but then his eyes sharpened and his mouth set and oh this was so not working at all. "Your name is Dean Winchester. I'm Castiel. Do you not remember me? What's wrong? What happened to you?"
"Duuuuude." Dean slung an arm around Castiel's back and pushed him over to the bar where Sam sat, discreetly glaring. "Siddown. Have a brew. I'll talk to ya after I lose this game, a'right?" He grabbed Castiel's shoulders and shoved him down on a stool, careful to make it look casual, though he had to use pretty near all the strength he had to force the stubborn bastard down. As they moved he bent to murmur in the angel's ear, making it look like he was just tipping over, clumsy with drink. "It's okay, Cas. I'm runnin' a scam. Don't bust me anymore than you already have, or Sam might kill you."
Sam corroborated this by giving Castiel just about the evilest eye Dean had ever seen from his baby brother, and that was saying something. Wow, the kid was really pissed. Dean couldn't imagine why.
Dean gave him a quirk of the eyebrow and stumbled back over the pool table. Surprisingly, the locals had waited for him, watching his return with obvious amusement. "You get that a lot?" one of them asked, giving him a shoulder-pound in return for the one Dean had laid on him earlier.
"Got one o' those faces," Dean said, peering blearily at the table. "Hey, 's it still my turn?"
"Yeah." The guy laughed, watching keenly, waiting for Dean to flub his shot. Aww, he still thought he had a chance. It was cute. "Go for it, man. Table's yours."
Dean cleaned him out.
Fortunately, Dean had done such a good job of selling the character (and the people here were so gullible) that they totally bought his astonishment at winning. They weren't even all that mad about losing their money to him—one of them went so far as to buy him a congratulatory drink. Dean drank it at the bar, elbow to elbow with Sam and some guy who had been watching the whole thing with a little smirk, probably an out-of-towner himself. A couple of the guys from the pool table clapped him on the back as they passed.
This town was great. Dean would have to remember the name in case they ever came through this way again.
"Dean!" Again the urgent angelic voice, Castiel on the other side of the younger Winchester, jostling Sam's arm and making beer slosh over the sides of his glass. "Dean, I must speak with you. It's very urgent."
Sam gave a pissy look at the layer of beer and foam covering his hand, then turned on Castiel before Dean could formulate an answer. "Dude," he hissed, getting up in the angel's space with one of his most potent bitchfaces, the one Dean privately called The Bathroom Is Out of Soap, Oh My God. "Back off! I have had it up to here with you!"
It was a pure John Winchester Special, right down to the ferocious tone of voice forced out through the clenched front teeth, the voice that would have had even young Sam at his most fractious and sullen leaping to immediate obedience. It served to bring the angel of the Lord up in his tracks, and Sam took his arm and hustled him out of there before he could blow everything to little pieces. Castiel, thankfully, let himself be dragged, though Dean was under no illusions that he couldn't have stopped it if he'd wanted to.
Dean watched them go with his peripheral vision, careful to keep his head bent down over his drink. Sam was all elbows and impossibly broad shoulders, still growling in Castiel's ear and practically hauling him around by the scruff. He was like a dog with a bone, sometimes, hanging on and refusing to let go. That grudge of his was going to fester if he and Castiel didn't figure out a way to get it out in the open and deal with it.
A little sigh slipped out as Dean tipped back the glass, letting the pure delight of free liquor burn down his throat. The sudden quiet was nice. If it was a choice between being alone and watching his brother and his friend square their shoulders and glare at each other and make little sniping comments, Dean picked this.
"Friends of yours?" asked the stranger at his elbow, the smirk cutting across the lower half of his face seeping into his voice, now.
"Never seen 'em before in my life," Dean muttered. For a second, he kind of wished it was true. Just a second.
"Sure, sure." The guy nudged his arm with a friendly fist. "No worries, mate. I won't bust ya. I'm not from around these parts, either. Full admiration given for your technique at the pool table, though. That was a beautiful sight."
Dean tilted his head sideways to peer at his companion with one eye. Brown hair and eyes, shadow of stubble, long pink scar crossing from the corner of his eye to his ear with a detour around the cheekbone. He had a strong accent, but Dean couldn't quite place it. Kind of Australian, kind of Cockney. Not American, though, unless he was an American badly imitating a British accent. Always a possibility.
"Thanks," Dean said cautiously, pulling his drink in a little closer.
"The clueless one in the trench coat... He doesn't quite get the con, eh?"
Dean gave a grudging shrug. "There's a lot of things he doesn't get. He's not stupid, just...inexperienced. Really inexperienced." At being bad and rebellious and human, anyway.
"And the tall one..." The stranger chuckled, deep and warm. "How long's he been your partner? Good one, he is, but I guess he don't appreciate the changing times."
Dean leaned away along the counter, trying to get some distance between them without being obvious about it. This guy was way too perceptive. "Guess you could say that."
"Like to go back to a simpler time, would you?" The stranger tipped him a wink, leaning toward Dean, not letting him get away.
"Uh, yeah. Sure." Dean squinted at him. "I wouldn't mind things being simple again. But you got what you got, right? Life is what it is. Can't change it."
"Ah, no," his companion said regretfully, sucking at the cherry stem hanging off his lips. "Life is, as you say, unchangeable. The only thing that changes are the folks who play the game. But those, now... Those can change quite a lot."
He grinned. His teeth were too sharp.
"Uh huh." Dean held his drink protectively to his chest, still trying to lean out of grabbing range. "Hey... I didn't catch your name, friend."
"I didn't give you one, Dean Winchester. That'd be a bit too much power handed over for nothing in return, don't you think? But I like you. You're one of mine. So here, let me do you a favor, and then I'm off."
He stood, sucking the cherry stem into his mouth with a wet slurp—and now that Dean thought about it, that slender little line might actually look more like a rodent's tail. An inexplicable breeze surged through the bar, and Dean smelled sage and sweetgrass. The spicy lilt hit his eyes, making them water, and he blinked it away. When his vision cleared, the stranger was gone.
What had he said? Something about life not changing, only the players, and doing Dean a favor, and how Dean wanted things to be more simple...
Sam and Cas.
Double shit. Dean gulped down the rest of his liquor, because there wasn't any use in wasting booze, then bolted for the door. Of course, it was already too late.
Dean's boots thudded on the wet asphalt, pausing as he looked down an alley. He wasn't panicking, he wasn't. Just because he couldn't find either of them and it was dark and foggy out and the streetlights were too dim and his brain kept insisting on reminding him of backwoods inbred crazy people with cages and guns and fucking jars full of teeth... They were fine. Of course they were. They just...weren't here.
The streets were deserted, too late for the early home-goers, too early for the late ones. Moonlight struck the fog and refracted, creating a bluish-white haze that Dean strode through, impatient, peering all around. He heard only sporadic traffic from the state road outside of town, animal scuffling noises in the garbage cans just down the alley, the growl of a dog, the hiss of a panicked cat. Nothing useful, nothing that could help him find his people.
"Sam! Castiel! Sam!"
No answer. But the garbage cans clattered noisily, the animal sounds getting louder, more flurried. And then a little cat shot out of the alley, chased by a leggy young dog. The cat's fur was all on end and the dog's teeth were bared, slavering.
"Whoa! Hey!" Dean tried to get out of the way, but it was too late. The animals circled him a couple of times, the dog almost knocking him over as it bumped against his legs, and then the cat leaped for Dean. It dug incredibly, painfully sharp claws into his leg, then scrambled upward, perching on his shoulder and hissing down at the dog with its back arched, claws digging deep into his flesh.
"Ow, ow, hey! Watch it!" Dean braced himself, expecting the dog to jump on him, knock him down to get at the cat. But instead the dog suddenly sat on its haunches and peered up at him with soulful brown eyes, a low whine deep in its throat, trembling all over. The cat crouched on Dean's shoulder, still digging in. It was shaking, too.
Dean backed off a few steps, hands spread and cautious. "Hey. Hey. Let's just calm down now, all right? Let's not do anything hasty here."
The dog got up, tail wagging hopefully, and followed him a few steps, then sat back down when Dean froze. It looked like a chocolate lab, maybe a couple years old, grown to its full size but still lacking the maturity and wisdom that old dogs earned with age. Floppy ears lifted from its head, eyebrows raising as it stared at Dean. It was really a very expressive doggy face, and it looked like, maybe...the dog wanted Dean's approval?
"Good boy, good boy," Dean said soothingly, holding one hand out toward the dog, hoping to keep it still. "Sit. Stay. We'll figure this out, okay?"
He turned his head to look at the cat, who was now all but sitting on Dean's shoulders, four fistfuls of claws still digging into his army jacket. The cat was a mottled white and light gray, small, practically a kitten. Its eyes were wide and fixed on the dog, but as Dean stared the little white head slowly tilted to face him, revealing round, bright blue eyes, still terrified. "Mowww," it said, mournfully, and rubbed the top of its head on his cheek.
The dog growled, and Dean looked back to it. He raised one hand to hold the cat on his shoulder, fingers tightening nervously. "Hey, now," he said. "Why can't we all just get along? I didn't mean to get between this, whatever it is, and I'd love to help you guys out, but I'm looking for my brother and my friend and I don't really have time..."
The dog whined, jerking forward again, tail thumping on the ground, and the cat rubbed against him harder, giving a high-pitched little mew. It was totally insane, but Dean could have sworn that they were reacting to what he'd said, their attempts at communication stepping up a notch when he mentioned his brother and his friend.
"Uh, right, yeah," he said hesitantly. "I'm looking for Sam..."
The dog gave a little bark and stood up, tail wagging frantically.
The cat started to purr.
Dean groaned and covered his face with his other hand. "Oh, God. Oh, Christ on an ever-loving crutch. He thought this would make my life more simple?"
His brother and his friend didn't respond to that, but hey, it wasn't like anything they had to add to the conversation was going to be all that helpful, anyway.
"You know, sneaking you guys into the motel room would be easier if you'd quit trying to kill each other."
Castiel mewed, tiny and plaintive, trying to stuff himself even further into Dean's jacket. Sam leaned against his legs, snuffling dangerously, attempting to nip at the cat through the thick material.
"Seriously, Sam, if you make him pee on me, you're sleeping outside tonight!"
Sam huffed through his nose and just leaned, letting Dean get the key into the lock before someone could come around the corner and catch him in the act. He had no idea what the motel's policy on pets was, and he didn't want to find out. Better to keep this one on the down low.
They tumbled inside. Dean shut the door and unzipped his jacket, dumping Castiel out on the nearest bed. The little cat stood stiffly, back arched, watching the chocolate lab sniff methodically around the room, checking every corner. The white and gray fur was thoroughly mussed from being stuffed in Dean's jacket, standing up on Castiel's head and back in little waves. At least he was a short-hair, though, so the shedding might not be too bad.
Dean looked between them, the young dog full-grown but still a little clumsy on his big feet, the small cat barely a tenth of the dog's size. "Geez, Cas, how old are you in angel-years, anyway? Like this, it looks like you're younger than Sam. Just a baby, huh?"
The cat stared at him with those blue, blue eyes, tilting his head slightly to the side. He looked tiny and needy and just too damn cute to handle.
Dean groaned and flopped down on the bed, one hand covering his eyes, the other automatically reaching for the amulet that wasn't there. "And where's my necklace, anyway?" he asked accusingly. "Did you have it on you when you got changed? I want it back!"
He just lay there for a moment, breathing, trying to see a way through this. His brother was a dog and his angelic ally was a cat. He knew what had done it, but had no idea where the magic man had gone, no idea how to change them back. He felt incredibly naked, and it wasn't just because his amulet was gone.
The dog snuffling sounds slowly grew louder, and closer, and suddenly there was a huge wet tongue in his ear. "What the hell...!" Dean jerked his head away and turned to look, and there was Sam, his long snout resting on the bed by Dean's head, eyebrows wrinkled together and eyes sad. Aw, hell... He'd been trying to comfort Dean by licking his ear.
"Uh. Wow," Dean said. "Thanks, Sammy. That was nice. I really appreciate it. Just. Don't ever do it again."
So of course, Sam licked him again.
Dean raised his head to look at Castiel. "You gonna help me without this? Animals can talk to each other, right? Tell Sammy that... Oh, God. If he can't understand me you probably can't either. But wait, you guys understood me before, didn't you? I said your names and you definitely acted like you understood me.... Ow, my head hurts." He dropped his head back down on the pillow and covered his face with both hands.
After a moment he felt small points of pressure, the cat climbing on his arm, onto his stomach, up to his chest. Then Castiel settled down right below his chin, tucked his paws in, and started to purr. Oh, yay. He was trying to comfort Dean, too.
Dean opened his eyes to look at them, the cat on his chest, the dog on his pillow. His friend and his brother, setting their differences aside and trying to make him feel better. Like Sammy and Dad used to do when Dean got hurt on a hunt, even when Sam was a pissy teenager with a chip on his shoulder the size of that big red rock in Australia.
"You guys are ridiculous," he informed them, because it had to be said. "I have ridiculous pets. You realize that? You freakin' got yourselves turned into pets. This is where your stubbornness got you. I hope you're happy now. Coupla dumbasses."
Sam nuzzled his cheek. Castiel purred harder, little body vibrating with the effort.
They were trying to kill him with their cuteness. It wasn't going to work. Dean Winchester was a tough son-of-a-bitch who had spent decades in Hell and hunted monsters for a living, and he would not be killed with cuteness.
Castiel licked his chin, and Sam climbed up on the bed to lay along Dean's side, resting his head on Dean's arm. Okay, so maybe they were kind of close to succeeding in killing him with their cuteness. It wasn't Dean's fault. Their cuteness was just...too overwhelming.
"Freakin' ridiculous," he repeated weakly, and fell silent.
Dean was woken by loud scratching and whining. He opened bleary eyes, felt a warm, limp weight on his chest, and looked down to find Cas fast asleep there, having apparently gained twenty pounds in unconsciousness. More scratching and thumping, and he saw Sam standing by the motel door, scratching frantically at the wood and eyeing him hopefully.
Dean groaned and pushed himself up to sit, making Castiel slide down into his lap. "Urgh. Too early. No coffee. You need to go out, Sammy?"
The dog wagged his tail, whacking it on the door three times in quick succession. Well, that explained the thumping noises. Dean looked down at Castiel, who was still limp in his lap, staring at Sam and kneading Dean's thigh with his front paws. "How 'bout you, buddy? You gotta use the great outdoor litter box?"
Castiel stared up at him, eyes wide and innocent. "Oh, right. Angels don't need to make poopy. I'm glad that transferred over."
Dean carefully shifted the kitty out of his lap and went over to let the dog out. Sam bolted for the bushes on the other side of the parking lot, and Dean stood in the doorway, shivering in the autumn air. He felt grody from sleeping in his clothes. And still really freakin' ridiculous, all things considered.
He glanced back, saw Castiel sitting primly on the bed with his tail curling around his paws. He appeared miraculously well-groomed. Dean hadn't even seen him licking himself. "Huh. Hey, Cas, you still got your angel powers goin' on?"
Castiel tilted his head, staring at him with unblinking blue. "I mean, I know you can't heal people anymore. But you could still fly, or whatever it is you did to beam yourself all over the country, before...you know...last night. Can you still do that, even in this body? It's just another kind of vessel, isn't it?"
The blue eyes narrowed, the small body tensing. There was a fluttering sound, a rush of displaced air, and the cat disappeared from the bed.
And re-appeared two feet away, looking startled, on the carpet by the television.
"Oh, awesome. Can you go any farther than that?"
The cat tensed again, disappeared...and popped back into existence, on the bed again.
"Huzzah," Dean said wearily. "I have a kitten with superpowers. Really. Limited. Superpowers."
Castiel's entire body slumped, looking surprisingly hang-dog, for a cat. A cool nose nudged Dean's leg, and Sammy pushed past him into the room again. Dean shut the door and rubbed his hands on his arms. "You too, little bro? Can you still exorcise demons with your adorable little doggy paw?"
Sam gave him the most reproachful look ever.
"Oh, right, right. You're not doing that any more." Dean waved a hand in dismissal.
Now they were both looking at him as if he'd stepped on their chew-toys. Never mind their cuteness—they were trying to kill him with their big, sad eyes. Castiel actually stared away from him for a little bit, as if ashamed to meet his eyes. And if dogs could cry, Sammy was definitely on the verge.
Well, shit. Dean felt like he'd kicked a puppy. And a kitten.
"Aw, c'mon, you guys. Don't look at me like that. Just...let me take a shower, and I'll go get us some food." He pointed at Sam. "Scrambled eggs, right? That can't hurt a dog, can it?" His finger panned over to Castiel. "Cream? Tuna? Hashbrowns smothered in gravy? Do you even need to eat at all?"
Castiel just looked at him with those big eyes.
Dean shrugged and spread his hands. "You gotta help me out here, dude. I have no idea what angel cats like to eat."
Castiel settled down on the bed and tucked his paws under his tiny chest, eyes half-lidded, tail curled around his side. He looked serene and cool and freaking untouchable, just like always.
"Right. I'll figure it out on my own." Dean shook his head and went for that shower. "And no killing each other while I'm busy," he added over his shoulder.
Sam made a doggy grumbling noise and abruptly sat down, in the middle of silently sneaking over toward Castiel's bed. Oh, yeah. Dean still had the touch.
"And you left them alone while they were acting like that?" Bobby's voice over the phone was incredulous. He didn't even have to add "dumbass" or "idjit"—Dean could hear it in the tone.
"Hey, I sat down and had a talk with them before I left." Dean stuffed another piece of crispy, salty, delicious bacon in his mouth. It had felt really weird, sitting at the diner table with no one across from him, no one to talk to and discuss the case with, but fortunately Bobby was only a phone call away. "I told Cas that Sam was only doing what he thought was right, and I told Sam that Cas was only doing what he thought was right, and if they could just imagine themselves in each other's shoes for a little bit, it might help them. Or paws. You know, whatever."
Bobby snorted. "I'd love to have photographic evidence of that. Dean Winchester, sitting on a motel bed having a serious discussion with a big dog and a little cat."
"Yeah, I'm sure I looked pretty stupid," Dean said easily. "Don't care, as long as they were listening to me."
"You think they were?"
Dean mulled that over, taking a long sip of coffee. "Well, maybe. It's possible. I didn't hear any death yowls as I went out to the car, anyway." He sighed. "I think I might find those Garfield comic strips a lot funnier from now on, though."
"Hmm. I prefer Get Fuzzy, myself."
"Never mind. Go over the details of the guy you met last night again."
Dean described the encounter again, remembering a few details that he hadn't picked up on the first time around. "...And then he just vanished. Poof. And I got worried and went outside looking for Cas and Sam, and found out they'd been changed into the stupidest pets anyone has ever seen."
"Sage and sweetgrass, you say?"
"Yeah. That ringing any bells?"
"Sharp teeth? Looked like maybe he was eatin' some kind of rodent?"
"You in a Midwest state right now?"
"Nebraska." Dean put down his fork, still loaded with syrup-soaked pancakes and a chunk of sausage. "What're you thinking, Bobby?"
Bobby grunted. "Sounds like you met a trickster demi-god."
"Oh, dude." Dean threw down his napkin in disgust. Even the bacon didn't look good anymore. Well, figuratively, since he'd already eaten all of it. "Oh, dude. Another one?"
"Coyote, a folk figure of the Plains Indians. Known as a transformer, really enjoys messing with people, teaching his idea of 'lessons' to the young and stupid."
"Dammit, Bobby. Do we gotta stake this one through the heart, too?"
"I'll have to do some research and get back to you on that."
"Great. Thanks, man. So glad to hear it."
Dean could practically hear Bobby's eye-roll over the phone. "Oh, don't take that tone with me, you brat. I'm doin' the best I can. You're the one who called me, and I already helped you identify the bastard, which is more than you'd managed on your own. Show some respect."
"Yeah." Dean picked sullenly at his pancakes. "Sorry. You know you're awesome, Bobby."
"It's just that having Sam and Cas like this... Bugs me, y'know? They're so...little. And..."
"Vulnerable!" Dean hesitated, bobbing his head back and forth before forcing it out. "And...yes, okay, they're frickin' adorable. I just don't want anything bad to happen to them."
"Nothin' will." Dean could admit, if only to himself, that he was grateful for the certainty in Bobby's voice, the utter surety of it. "Just don't leave 'em alone too long."
"Yeah, that's a good..." Dean glanced at the clock on the diner wall. "Crap. It's probably been too long already, knowing those two." He signaled for the waitress. "Got any last minute advice for me?"
"Eh, not much. Just...try to learn the lesson Coyote is teaching you. And then maybe it'll stop."
"I'm not sure the lesson's even for me, though. He said he was doing me a 'favor.'"
"Then... Yeah, I got nothin'."
The waitress brought Dean his check and his takeout boxes. "Guess I'd better get back and see how much damage they've done."
"Good luck, kid."
Dean pulled up across the street from the motel and just stared. Flashing lights, three police cars, barricades, and a fucking fire truck?
Well. Quadruple shit.
"Sir, you shouldn't be here." The lady cop was hot, a black woman about Dean's age, petite but fierce. She held out a hand to keep him back behind the barricade.
"Officer Bill Ward," he said smoothly, flipping open his Wyoming state police ID. "I'm off-duty, just passing through on my way to visit my sister in Illinois. Well, I was off-duty, anyway, until I came back to find this mess. What's going on here? That's my room right there." He pointed toward the door in question, the one where most of the activity was centered. The one that was practically broken in half. The one where he'd left his brother and his friend not even an hour ago.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Officer Ward." She drew back a little, stepped aside to let him in. "Cathy Hall, Lexington PD."
"Please, call me Bill. As long as I can call you Cathy, of course."
She gave him a slender smile, leading the way toward one of the police cars. "Oh, you might as well. Since you're off-duty and all."
"It's a good thing you showed up. We really weren't sure what to do about these guys. They're yours, right?"
They came around the corner of the cop car, and there they were. Big brown dog. Little gray-and-white cat. Curled up together in a heap of fur and innocence.
Dean fell to his knees, barely feeling the sting of asphalt through his jeans. "Sammy! Cas!"
Okay, so maybe he was stretching his arms out like a girl in a chick flick getting back together with her true love after the whole break-up scene and painful miss-you-so-bad montage. Maybe he was grinning like the biggest idiot in the whole damn state. Maybe he'd forgotten all about the hot lady cop and her cute little smirk. Whatever. Sammy and Cas were okay. The rest was just details.
They leaped for him, Sam barreling into his chest, Castiel jumping lightly up to his shoulder and clinging there like the world's furriest, purriest barnacle. Dean patted his brother down (no injuries, thank God), then took the dog's head in his hands and rubbed roughly at his ears and cheeks. "What did you do?" he asked, shaking him gently back and forth. "What did you do, you big furry oaf?"
"We're still figuring that out," Cathy said, smiling down at him with the "aww, adorable" face he hadn't seen aimed at him since he was nine years old and still had buck teeth. "Witness reports are pretty confusing, so far."
Dean looked up at her. "Well, what do you got figured so far?"
She nodded toward another car, where an officer was leaning down to talk to someone hidden in the backseat. "Far as we got, that guy there tried to break into your motel room. Something about getting back some money you took from him. Only I'm thinking he's a little confused, 'cause he said the guy he's after is named Carl Emerson."
"Musta got the wrong room," Dean said. "Too bad for him." Guess not all the locals were as easy-going as I thought. Too bad for me.
"Well, we're pretty sure he's still drunk. Because he swears—swears—that he startled your cat and she just vanished into thin air. Pop! Like a ghost."
"Wow... That's... Pretty messed up."
"Then when she reappeared on the other side of the room, he took a shot at her. And your dog attacked him. And knocked him right through the door."
Dean blinked. "That's crazy."
"Oh, it's pretty obvious that your dog...Sammy, right?...it's pretty obvious that Sammy attacked him. Perp's got the bites to show for it. But knocking him through a solid wood door? Yeah. His story needs some work. And then somehow someone dialed 911? We're not sure. The call came from here, and the dispatcher heard the sounds of the fight in the background, which is why she sent everybody, but no one spoke. We're still knocking on doors, trying to figure out who made the call."
"Wow." Dean looked back at Sam. Who tried to lick his face from only inches away, giant pink tongue flapping in the air. Dean held him off with a hand in the fur of his throat, holding tight but not too tight. "Gah, I told you not to do that anymore!"
Cathy bit her lip to keep from laughing. "Well, I'll let you have your reunion."
She moved off, and Dean looked back to his brother. "Geez, Sam, what did you do?" he repeated wonderingly. "And what did Cas do, huh?" He gave the little kitty an accusing look. "You still got that cell phone on you somewhere? Hidden in your fur? Some kinda feline Bluetooth?"
Castiel let out a long, warbling meow that sounded distinctly annoyed, then batted at his forehead with one paw.
Dean burst into laughter, nearly shaking the tiny angel from his perch. "Are you trying to send me back in time or what, dude? Looks like that one isn't working."
He reached up to scratch Castiel's ears, which the angel tolerated patiently for about five seconds. Then he let out an irritable little ffft sound and leaped down. And he walked calmly under Sam's stomach and just stood there, completely protected by the dog's bulk.
"Oh, I see how it is," Dean said, immeasurably delighted. "One would-be robber takes a pot shot at our angel, and Mr. Sammy-kins goes all Mr. Protective Growly Face, huh? You guys are so..."
Just in time, he cut himself off and coughed into his fist. Not in public. Can't say that in public. "Freakin' ridiculous," he finished, making his voice as smooth and cool as possible. He did a pretty good job, under the circumstances.
A commotion caught Dean's attention, and he looked up to see a portly man he vaguely recognized coming around the corner, escorted by yet another police officer. It was... Oh, yeah, he knew who it was. The motel manager, and Dean had probably not signed his name as "Bill Ward" or "Carl Emerson" when he checked in yesterday. He honestly didn't remember what name he'd given the guy, and the police were about to get mighty, mighty suspicious.
Dean wasn't sure what came after quadruple. Whatever. Five times shit.
"We gotta skedaddle," he informed the troops.
He crouched low and made his way swiftly into the motel room to grab their duffles, Sam and Castiel at his heels. Fortunately, he and Sam hadn't unpacked much last night before heading for the bar, so he just zipped the bags and headed out. In two shakes of Sam's tail they made it to the Impala, and Dean opened the back door to let his furry pals inside. "Go, go, go!"
The folks by the police cars were just starting to figure out something was up and shout after them when Dean put the car in drive and peeled out. Once safely away on the highway out of town, he opened the takeout boxes and set them one-handed in the backseat. "There you go, guys. Scrambled eggs, sausage...everything a carnivore could love. Cas, I'll have to give you your milk later. Don't want to spill it on my baby."
Two hours later...
"Oh, for the love of Christ, Sam! How can your farts smell even worse as a dog than they did when you were human? I didn't think it was possible!"
"Bobby, I hope you have some good news for me."
Dean held the cell phone to his ear as he glanced in the rearview mirror. Sam and Castiel were curled up asleep together, the cat resting in the circle of the dog's paws, like a chocolate donut with a spot of creamy filling poking out. Both front windows were still rolled partway down, autumn air rolling crisply through the car, but Dean would swear that the stink of sulfurous doggy farts still lingered.
"I'll assume you're asking about how to deal with Coyote, not checking up on my health," Bobby said. "Yeah, not really. He's got pretty much a free rein as long as he doesn't stray outside his territory, which you are smack dab in the middle of. Some lore talks about the Creator god being able to tell him off, punish him, reverse his antics. But mostly the folks he messes with just have to deal. Or learn their lesson."
"So our options are either waiting this out...or finding God."
"Well, that sucks."
"I told you it wasn't good news. Are you taking care of them, at least? Making sure they get balanced food, exercise, fresh water?"
"Yeah, yeah. They got scrambled eggs for breakfast. That's healthy, right? Protein..."
Bobby sighed loud enough to make Dean wince and hold the phone away from his ear. "You're gonna end up with pet yark all over your car. And I'm gonna laugh."
"Hey, Sam already farted up the worst gas cloud ever. You're saying that was the eggs?"
"Yes, idjit," Bobby said with exaggerated patience. "That was the eggs."
"So what lesson do you think Coyote was trying to teach them, anyway?"
They were coming up on a stoplight at a junction, already turning yellow as Dean got within stopping distance, and he eased down on the brakes. Thing was probably going to be a couple minutes' wait. "I dunno. I thought it was about them getting along or something, but they are now, and they're still...you know...furry."
The Impala came to a gentle stop and Dean slung his arm over the seat to stare back at his brother and his friend. The animals stirred sleepily, roused by the pause of motion despite Dean's care. As he watched, Sam blinked big brown eyes, then nuzzled Castiel's tiny head and gave it a gentle lick, almost absently. The gesture was weirdly familiar, affectionate and comfortable. Unexpected, too, after the way Sam had been trying to chomp Castiel to death only a few hours before.
Something ached in Dean's chest, deep down and quiet. It was a good ache, though. And somehow, inexplicably, it reminded him of Dad.
Then Castiel opened his baby blues, too, blinking serenely as Sam's tongue rocked his head back a little. He kneaded his paws into the dog's shoulder. And licked him back.
"Dude, get off, get off me! How can an angel be so damn heavy? Aren't you, like, half made of feathers or something?"
"My apologies, Sam, I did not intend..."
"Just...just straighten your arm out, there, get your coat untangled from my shoes..."
"This is very uncomfortable..."
Dean laughed until he cried. Cars honked around them, the blare of a semi truck's air horn, angry yells for holding up traffic, and he waved them past with tears streaming down his cheeks. Best. Day. Ever.
"So the lesson Coyote was trying to teach us was...what? Mutual affection? Hugs, not slugs? I don't get it."
Sam's hair still stood out from his head in stupid little spikes as he wolfed down a plate of "real food," as he called it, though to Dean it looked a lot like salad, which wasn't real food at all. Castiel had fluttered off pretty much the instant they had untangled themselves enough to sit a foot apart on the bench seat, and Sam had immediately demanded food. Dean had been okay with that, and here they were.
Dean shrugged, sipping his milkshake as noisily as possible. "Mutual understanding, maybe. The value of simplicity. Or maybe he just wanted to mess with you two."
Sam drizzled even more vinaigrette over the corner of his plate not already saturated with the stuff and stirred it angrily. "Mess with us, don't you mean? All three of us? It wasn't exactly a picnic for you, either."
"He said he was doing me a favor. And he did, really. I didn't have to listen to you two yak-yak-yakking for a whole twelve hours." Dean sighed, fluttering his eyelashes. "It was heavenly."
"It was the worst twelve hours of my life!"
"Aw, Sam. Was it really all that bad?" Dean couldn't keep the true disappointment out of his voice, though he couldn't even have said why he felt it. He just knew it was there, hidden under a thin film of smartass remarks and big-brother dickishness.
Sam paused momentarily, fork poised in the air. "Well. It wasn't completely horrible. Parts of it were okay." He lowered his head, the next words muttered grudgingly. "I haven't slept that well for years."
"Well, there you go then," Dean said with mock cheerfulness, hiding his relief.
He hadn't slept that well in years, either. Forty, to be exact.
"At least it's over now," Sam said, stabbing forcefully at his plate.
"Oh, I wouldn't count on it. Bobby says that Coyote, you know, he likes to keep tabs on people. Once he marks you, you're his. He's territorial like that. And if you ever backslide again..." Dean waggled his straw like a schoolmarm's finger, warning and scolding at once.
Sam's eyes widened in horror. "Oh, God. I hope Bobby's wrong," he said fervently.
Dean lowered his head to suck on his milkshake again. Bobby hadn't said anything of the sort—he'd made it all up just to mess with his brother.
But now that he thought about it, he kinda hoped it was true. A little bout of utter simplicity every now and then wasn't bad at all.