A/N: I'm not sure if anyone remembers or is still interested in this fic, but I had a chapter started just sitting there for ages so I thought I'd finish that up for the sake of semi-completion. Let me know if you're still interested and I'll try to make some time for it.
Dean danced his lazy fingers along the bar, occasionally brandishing one at the kitten, who was prancing his own little paws along the worn surface. The kitten retaliated time and time again by batting one of said paws at Dean's offending finger and then crouching, awaiting a time in which to pounce.
He never pounced, though. Dean never gave him the chance. He skittered his digits up to the adorable bastard and prodded at his sides until the kitty dropped down and lazily accepted Dean's offerings of tummy rubs and crude terms of endearment.
"M'naming you Cooter," he informed Cooter, which was clearly now the kitten's name. "Sam? I'm naming him Cooter."
Sam was sitting beside Dean, in front of the knife and Ash, who was on the other side of the bar with a big goddamn microscope and an expression that was trying not to appear puzzled.
"That's disgusting, Dean," Sam said. "Disgusting and unnecessary."
"Makes sense, though."
Sam scowled. "Can't you name him something respectable, instead?"
"No." Dean refused. Then, "Respectable like what?"
"Like...I don't know." Sam looked away, but Dean saw the pink flush to his cheeks, and knew for a fact that Sam actually did know. He punched his baby brother in the thigh. "Ow!"
Dean jabbed a finger into the guy's side, took in Sam's surprised giggle with delight and sheer amazement. "Are you ticklish, Sammy?" he asked, even though he already knew the answer. He remembered this. He remembered Sam being ticklish, remembered how clingy he used to be and Dean would...er. Forget he ever mentioned that. That never happened.
That only happened when it was just Sam and Dean and nobody else.
But Dean stuck his finger into Sam's side again, wiggled it a little, and found himself to be greatly amused by the squeal that emitted from his sweater-vest-laden sibling. "Spill," he insisted.
"Albert!" Sam finally spewed amidst titters and tee-hees. "Stop it, Dean. You're such a freakin' dickface."
Dean stopped. He was too amazed by Sam's choice of "respectable name" to keep going. "Albert?" he asked. "Seriously?"
Sam sniffed. "What's wrong with Albert?"
"Where do I begin?"
Ash cleared his throat. Dean turned his head in the mullet's direction. Not the man's, mind you, but the mullet's.
"As in Einstein, I'm guessin'," Ash said. "S'a good name. Strong name. Smart name."
Dean looked between the two of them, wide-eyed and disbelieving. His head swerved for a few moments until the kitten became impatient for more tummy rubs and batted Dean's small hand with his wee paw. "You're both geeks," he grumbled, and then smirked at the kitten. "Aren't they, Cooter?"
"Albert," Sam corrected.
Ash cleared his throat again. He was doing a lot of throat clearing today. Dean and Sam both turned to him at the same time, raised their eyebrows. "You probably shouldn't name him," he said, shifting on his feet nervously.
"Why not?" Dean asked, tapping one of Cooter's paws with his finger.
"'Cause I'm probably going to have to dissect him."
Dean went stock still at the words, his finger frozen on his furry friend. He couldn't believe his ears - he didn't want to believe his ears, and part of him, inside that small head of his, somewhere inside this teeny tiny body with its teeny tiny bones and big, big feelings, Dean knew that if he were his normal self, he wouldn't be half as bothered as he was right now. Right now, it seemed like the end of the world. Right now, it seemed like someone was planning on ripping Sam away from him.
He felt a pain that wasn't physical, but it was hot and burning, like fire was searing his insides up to his throat and his eyes welled with a horrible water that he quickly swiped away.
Sam, however, looked sad, but understanding. "Not comin' up with anything?"
"Nothing. Albie there might be our last hope."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Sam said reasonably. Dean wasn't looking at either of them. He was looking at Cooter, at his innocent eyes and his playful stance, thinking of the way he nuzzled his little face against Dean's hand, and the way Dean named him for a woman's genital region and how that was funny, but it wasn't really a name you give someone you don't want to die, not ever.
John, after Dad.
No. No, that was way too personal. But it was the first thing that came to his head. Because Dad was Dean's hero. Dad was half of Dean's everything. Dean couldn't name a kitten after him, though, Dean had to go with an old faithful.
"Nobody's killing Angus," he informed Sam and Ash. "And I'll beat the living crap out of you if you try."
They looked at him like he was...well, like he was six. Even Sam, who was also six, was looking at Dean like he was six, and the little shaggy-haired asshole even reached across the bar to pat Dean placatingly on the hand and say, "Dean, I know...I know it sucks, but we might not have a-"
"No," Dean snarled. "There's always a fucking choice. Don't give me that shit."
But Dean was gathering the newly-dubbed Angus in his arms and slipping off the barstool, his mind awhirl with awful thoughts of someone taking the kitten away from him, of letting them, of the resultant mess of blood and tufts of fur and lifeless eyes and no meows. His ribs were drums that his heart beat against and he tucked his nose into the kitten's little neck, felt the soothing rumble of a purr. Dean felt truly fucked up. He felt so small, but so big all at once, with this life in his hands, and this knowledge that if he wanted to, Ash could easily take it away. Especially with Sam backing him.
Dean needed backup.
This is what went through his mind as he walked deliberately into the back of the bar, through the swinging doors, trying to blink away the tears that kept threatening their stupid way to his eyes, sniffing, clutching Angus tighter to him still.
Dean was a little bastard. Dean has been a bastard ever since he's been little. It's been a couple of days now that he's been little, a lifetime that he's been a bastard. And it's always Ellen that gets dealt the brunt of his impertinence, but it's Ellen now, that he turns to.
"Baby, what's the matter?"
Shit. Fucking tears. Fucking images of blood and dead kittens and Dad all in his head at once.
"They might kill 'im. Ash said. Said it might be necessary."
He felt Ellen's hand on his shoulder, felt the warm pressure of it as it gave him one soothing squeeze. "Sweetie, I-"
"You won't let him, right? I'm sorry...I'm sorry about everything, Ellen. I don't mean it. I don't. I'm sorry I'm such a little douche all the time, but I...you won't let them, right? Please, don't let them."
Dean couldn't deal with another dead thing. Especially not one that was so warm in his arms right now.
Speaking of arms, Dean was wrapped in some. Soft arms, gentle arms, strong arms. He lifted his face from the kitten and buried his nose in a neck that smelled like his mother's used to, blinked wet lashes against soft skin and resisted the urge to drop Angus and cling to Ellen like a desperate child.
Dean was a man after all. A big, good-looking one with lots of guns and a smart mouth. It's not his fault he was presently in the shape of a little boy with too many feelings and an overwhelming fondness for kittens.
"I won't let them," Ellen said softly, and Dean felt lips against the side of his head, warm, maternal lips that held promises of endless love and protection. Dean soaked the kiss in, didn't want to move.
And in that moment, he silently vowed to stop being a little douche. Or at least try.