Happy birthday Enkidu07, fellow Dean-fantasizer and expert quilt maker and haver of the same socks as me. You (beat, beat) rocked me all year long.
She gets home from work and finds him on her couch, dirty-socked feet up on the cushions, muddy boots toppled by the door. His face is drawn and pale and it takes him a second to lock onto her eyes, for that smile to spread in.
"Hey," he says.
"You broke into my house again." She pushes her hair behind her ear, catches her purse strap where it starts to slip. "What's wrong? Are you OK?"
"I'm more than OK now that you're here."
"Uh huh." She puts down her bag and pulls off her shoes and moves further into the room. He's got some papers in his lap and she pushes them aside, sits on the edge of the couch and snakes a hand halfway inside his flannel shirt, between the buttons. She runs a thumb over the material. "Cause you look a little... Is that blood?"
She glances up. He's staring at her mouth.
"Show me your shoulder."
"Well, well, well. The lady wants a striptease."
"And I'm seriously-"
Dean sighs, eyes darkening. "Yes, ma'am." He undoes his buttons one-handed and teases away the checkered wool. The T-shirt underneath is stained red.
"Oh my god." She soothes a palm up and down his ribcage. "What happened?"
"Evil dead pets. They got frisky." His good hand settles behind her waist. "I'm starting to think every Stephen King book is gonna come true."
"Did you go to the hospital?"
"It's not that bad."
"You might need a rabies shot."
"Trust me. I don't have rabies."
She takes in his cracked lips, the dark smudges under his eyes. "I really think-"
"Hey, hey. I'm OK." He reaches up inside her hair and fondles her earlobe.
She shrugs him off gently and points at the wound. "I'm washing this with soap."
He's perched on her toilet seat with a towel around his waist. The bad shoulder's a spaghetti splash and the rest of his torso glistens under a light sweat.
"Where's Sam?" She wrings out a warm cloth and drapes it over his torn skin. He flinches under her fingers and clears his throat.
She peels the cotton away delicately, like it's rice paper, and runs it under the tap. "What's in Hartford?"
"Vengeful spirit. Bobby needed a hand."
"How is he?"
"Bobby?" Dean hisses as the rag slides over his cut. "Getting there. He's hunting again. Guy's got guts."
"That's amazing." She works the cloth around and lifts it away, squeezes pink foam into the sink. "Are you still having nightmares?"
"Who isn't?" He twitches under the cloth and squeezes his eyes shut, then blows out a breath. "Am I clean yet?"
A hot shower and a couple of pills and Dean's loose and limber on the sofa. He's snuggled up in her red hoodie, looking at those papers again. His eyes keep sliding shut.
She's in the armchair, drawing up an exam for her students and stealing looks at him while she can, while he's there.
Her cat slides in and rubs up against her leg. She reaches for him and he mews his squeaky meow.
At the sound Dean jerks halfway up and steadies himself with his hands on the pillows. He grunts and falls back with a wince, clasping his injured joint. His squint fixes on the animal.
"It's Gabe. You OK?"
The cat's staring at Dean and Dean's staring at the cat.
"He's not undead. I promise."
Dean sighs haltingly. "Right."
Gabe runs to the couch and jumps up on Dean's belly.
"Whoa, hey. Hey, buddy. Yeah, I remember you. It's Mr. Metro."
The feline walks up and down Dean's trunk and head-butts his biceps, then hops down and meanders into the kitchen. Dean grins a faintly silly grin and watches him go.
Ten minutes later Dean's fast asleep, his papers scattered on the floor. Gathering them up she sees pages about banshees and one about her dojo. She tucks a quilt around his feet, smoothes back his hair and grazes his forehead with her lips. No fever.
She thinks about making him a key.