Character/Pairing/s: DeanxCas (Sam and Bobby help)
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers through S6; hints at an imagined S7. Futurefic. Domestic fluff, established stuff. All the things that make your teeth hurt. Also unbeta'd, so the many mistakes are all mine.
Word Count: 11,180
Summary: The one where there's a dog that may or may not be out to ruin Dean's life.
Dedication: mclachlan, because I owe her fic for successfully finishing DCBB. I don't know why she chose this one, but I love her anyway. XD
A/N: I don't know. Fluff shouldn't go on this long. But it did. Oh it did. This is apparently what 2 days of post BB writing will yield me I guess?
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.
The hunt itself had been nothing mind-blowing or out of the ordinary for them, just a weekend stint Bobby called them up for because it just happened to be a couple of counties over from the ranch and no one else on the still-active hunters list had wanted to drive up to do it when three perfectly good Winchesters were lounging around in their lavish post-apocalyptic split level on the three acres of land someone they'd helped with a poltergeist problem ten years ago had left them in her will after she'd died.
"Or are you knuckleheads so damn out of practice from lying around on your asses that you think a little haunting's gonna be too tough to handle on your own?" Bobby had groused to Dean over the phone in challenge when he'd called about the job, and Dean had sighed and hung up and looked across the room at Cas, who had this expression on his face that he clearly thought was unreadable and calm but that obviously wasn't at all since he isn't angelic and enigmatic and douchy anymore. And possibly because Dean is just fucking good at reading the little shit's expressions now, too.
"I will cancel the reservation," the ex-angel had said calmly at the look on Dean's face, and in such a way that made Dean feel ridiculously and unnecessarily guilty. Cas had been wanting to try this Ethiopian Restaurant off of 3rd and Main for a while now and apparently it's tough shit to get a reservation to unless you know someone or can afford to slip someone a hundred bucks at the door. Dean had been putting off on going there for as long as humanly possible because a big part of him believes that date night should also be burger and fries night in order to properly reward him at the end of a long week's haul at the autoshop.
Cas had promised some truly epic after-dinner sex on this particular occasion if he'd just let Dean take him to experience some culture, and it figures the time Dean actually caves they have to take their names off the month-long waiting list to go on a salt and burn three hours away.
"Next week, Cas," Dean had promised as Cas had gone to call the restaurant. Then he'd wordlessly headed down to the basement to unearth their supplies.
From there, they'd gathered up Sam from the university and headed off on the hunt in the middle of some goddamn Friday afternoon traffic.
By using the notes and articles and random testimonies that Bobby had sent Sam, the giant nerd manages to figure out pretty quick that what they're dealing with is the bleeding-heart ghost of a dead SPCA veterinarian who had been killed by one of the pricks that she'd helped convict on like, thirty counts of animal cruelty or something. Now her ghost is going around killing a bunch of animal abusers in the surrounding suburbs who had all been involved in the cases she'd been working to get convictions on before she'd died. Most of those bastards don't get their day in court after all as it turns out though, because they end up face down on the ground instead, more often than not drowned or asphyxiated in either the rancid water bowls or the feces of the poor animals they'd messed with in retribution for their sins.
Part of Dean had been cheering her on a little bit, because c'mon—there are monsters and then there are monsters— but their job's the same job no matter who is killing who, and now, after about 16 hours of admittedly not-that-hard hunting work, the poor dead vegan is no longer smashing puppy kickers or cat hoarders into piles of poop and leaving their dead bodies locked in rooms with their wronged animals to eat until help arrives.
And hey, it's only late Saturday afternoon by the time they finish, which means if they start driving now, they can get home and Cas can catch whatever gross reality show has captured his imagination this season, and Dean will maybe see if he can find something ethnic sounding that delivers to get Cas some more of that human culture he's always curious about this weekend after all.
Sam, who didn't even have to do any digging or salting or burning, groans something unintelligible about his back as they walk through the halls of the SPCA shelter on one last sweep, mostly because they'd come in pretending to be potential pet-adopters, and a little because Dean is pretty sure Sam had been flirting with that cute lab-tech the entire time they'd been digging up information on the case and wants to grab her digits or something.
And as much as he is up for his brother getting laid sometime this millennium, Dean would like to maybe hurry this along a little bit for his own sake, because he's pretty sure if the Indian place on Brooke and 5th delivers, he's going to end up getting some of that mind-blowing post dinner sex as promised anyway.
Which is, of course, when some grim-faced guys in those ridiculous animal-print scrubs come out with a double harnessed, tightly muzzled blue pitbull that looks like he wants to bite everyone's faces off. The two dudes who are marching him down the hallway seem to be having trouble keeping this massive dog from slamming himself against some of the other kennels along the way, making like he wants to jump in there and tear the other dogs or cats inside to shreds just because he can.
Sam frowns when the dog catches his cute lab-tech's eye—Dean thinks her name is Sandy or Sally or something wholesome like that— and asks, "What's going on now?"
Sandy or Sally or whatever gets this completely sad look on her face that is comparable to the ones Dean had seen on some of the puppies' faces earlier, when they'd had to get shots or enemas or whatever it is this place does for puppy health. "That's Duke," she murmurs eventually, like that will explain why this is some intense tragedy to everyone here. "We rescued him and a couple of other dogs from this horrible underground dog fighting ring last month. And well, you know, we've been trying to rehabilitate them and stuff, but the shelter's overcrowded as is and they just aren't figuring it out fast enough. Duke's next to be euthanized since he's the most aggressive and was ruled completely unadoptable."
Well that sucks, Dean thinks, at the exact same moment Sam goes, "That sucks."
Sandy or Sally or whatever looks like she's going to cry, while Cas gets that little furrow in between his eyebrow that means he's probably imagining that he's just like Duke because he's a puppy that used to kill other puppies because someone basically mind-washed him and made him do it. Dean gets this uncomfortable feeling in his chest when that regretful look in Cas's eye a second later only confirms Dean's suspicions that he's over-identifying with the giant, shackled beast that two grown men are having trouble keeping in line despite their best efforts.
"He should not have to die," Cas says out loud after a beat, before Dean can put a hand on the small of his back and usher him outside.
Sandy or Sally or whatever gets this look in those big watery eyes that says she completely agrees and that she doesn't eat meat for the same reasons or something. "It's just not fair. I mean, it's not like he chose to be like this. They made him this way, and then they just abandoned him at the first sign of trouble and now what is he supposed to do?"
"Indeed," Castiel says, and looks at Dean thoughtfully.
"Dean," he says, after a moment.
"No," Dean says, because he knows exactly what Cas is thinking.
"Dean," Cas adds again, with some reproach now, and Dean figures that means there is definitely going to be no mind-blowing sex for him ever again unless he explains this just right.
"Cas," he says, "they're not going to let you take the angry puppy no matter how bad you feel for him because he's a menace to society."
"I was a menace to society once," Cas reminds him calmly, though with an underlying edge of rumbly angel-scary voice that obviously makes this about Cas's stint as God and seeking redemption for that and not about the horrors of puppy euthanasia at all.
"He bites people," Dean argues, lamely.
Cas arches an eyebrow. "I was under the impression that you rather enjoyed biting."
"Okay woah," Sam says, and holds up his hands to stop that train of thought before it explodes in a fiery wreck in his brain or something. "Cas, there are procedures to this," he adds in Dean's defense, not ungently. "They have like, an entire evaluation system that they have to go through before a dog can get adopted out. One that's so badly socialized will never get released short of a miracle."
Sandy or Sally nods at Cas sadly. "He's just too dangerous to place," she sighs, as the guys finally give up on being friendly with Duke and just sort of start yanking him down the hallway towards the needle waiting to take him to a very long nap.
Cas's brow furrow gets even more severe. Dean would call this a category three storm brewing. "So if he were to prove that he was perfectly sociable, you would release him?"
"That's generally how it works," she informs him. "Evaluations take time though. He doesn't have the time before he's-"
Cas doesn't hear that last part because Cas is too busy stepping in the way of the giant blue dog covered in battle scars that is trying his damndest to destroy the humans yanking him down the hall. Cas is doing that angel walk of his again too, the one where he thinks he's invincible or whatever and makes his trench coat billow out just so. And while Dean will concede that Cas still has some of his angel mojo somewhere deep inside after they finished that giant purgatory drain on his grace, the fact of the matter is, he's pretty sure the guy is more human than angel these days, especially as the last of his heavenly power leeches out of him over time, now that he's an abomination to heaven or whatever.
It doesn't stop him from crouching down right in front of the angry pitbull and grabbing its face between his hands though.
"Hey!" one of the guys protests the minute he sees what Cas is doing. "You can't…"
Cas ignores him and looks right into the dog's eyes.
The dog snarls and makes Dean really anxious, mostly because he does not want it to attack his boyfriend, but also because he does not want to have to shoot an already doomed dog with the gun tucked into the back of his jeans right in the middle of this hallway in front of all these animal lovers if it does indeed attack his boyfriend.
"That's danger…" Sandy or Sally starts by way of protest, but stops when the growling eventually dies down altogether.
"Huh," Sam and Dean say at the exact same time, as Cas continues to kneel on the floor and like, mind-meld with the dog.
"Dude, you can't do that," one of the guys holding onto one of the pitbull harnesses continues to protest, weakly.
"He's uh, he's a professional," Sam offers quickly, because in the event of surprising ass shit going down in front of civilians, Sam is the one in charge of coming up with any vaguely plausible explanations. "Kind of like the dog whisperer? I guess?"
"Woah," Sandy or Sally and the two dudes breathe when they hear that, like it's a magic word or their safe word or something. Dean officially has no idea what's happening anymore.
Eventually, after a long moment of Dean holding his breath, Cas finally lets the dog's face go and stands. The dog makes this whiny sound in the back of its throat and sits back on its haunches, eyes following the former angel's movements the entire time. "I have explained what is going to happen to him if he continues this behavior. Duke understands his situation," Cas reports to the awed on-lookers after a beat.
Then he turns to Dean.
"Dean, I would like to take him home now."
And that is how Dean ends up owning a dog that is not quite a hell hound, but can probably put one of those fuckers somewhere towards the top of his family tree all the same.
They don't get to adopt Duke right away of course, because they have to get the behavioral specialist to come in and make sure it's not just some random fluke, but after Sandy or Sally gets the head vet in to witness the miracle, the lady promises to take Duke's name off the chopping block until Monday, when they can schedule an evaluation for him.
Cas says he'd like to stay until Monday and be here for that. Dean wants to argue, but Cas gives him this look that promises great rewards for the correct answer, so he sighs and goes to call out of his shift at the garage on Monday morning.
Sam makes that cracking whip noise at him that was only cool in the 90s as he walks past his brother to phone the garage.
But Dean agrees with him so much in that moment that he can't even be indignant about any of it.
During the evaluation, the pet psychologist or whatever her title is looks skeptically at Duke and even more skeptically at Cas, and then leads them into the evaluation room while talking in soothing tones about how they have many adoptable pets in the shelter and that Cas and Dean look like retriever people to her.
Dean kind of wants to punch her in the mouth, but the look on her face when Cas gets Duke to bark out the answer to "What's 2+2?" in the room basically does it for him.
When Dean and Cas leave the shelter with Duke on a harness, Sam is waiting in the parking lot with a giant kennel in the back seat and about seven billion pounds of dog food because apparently there's a sale at the local feed store or something. Dean is too busy looking at the receipt in his pocket to be impressed with his brother's shopping exploits. He can't believe that they fucking charged him 400 bucks for a dog they were going to throw away anyway.
He almost complains about it, but the satisfied look on Cas's face as he sits in the back talking to Duke about second chances shuts him right up again.
This time, Sam doesn't make the whipping noise, but he does the motion.
Dean punches his brother in the arm.
Dean realizes that Cas has adopted the spawn of Satan dog halfway through the drive, when Duke pisses in his car.
He glares at the dog through the rearview the entire time Cas is apologizing for it. And he is pretty sure the dog is grinning back at him.
This means war.
When they get back to the ranch, Cas promises to shampoo the seats and the carpet. Dean tries to lay down some ground rules because they clearly fucking need some ground rules.
One- The dog doesn't step foot inside the house until he's house trained.
(Cas comes up with a counter argument of how they have no fences or any outdoor structures to protect Duke from the sun or wind. Dean grudgingly concedes that rule number one will have to be put on hold until he can build a dog house and get some chain link set up or something.)
Two- The dog is no longer allowed in the car.
(This is where Cas points out that Duke will have to go to the vet sometime in the future and that Cas would take him in his own car except that Dean did not want him to get a license or a car and thus he cannot do it himself. Dean concedes that rule number two is a general thing, vet and grooming appointments excepted.)
Three- There will be no baby talking to the dog or acting like its parents because that is creepy.
(Cas points out, very reasonably, that the only one who likes being called daddy amongst them is Dean anyway. At which Sam balks and retreats to his room citing that he has to get up for an early shift at the library tomorrow.)
Four- The dog stays outside when they're at work.
(This is the one rule Cas agrees upon, mostly because the thought of being stuck inside by yourself for eight hours a day while Dean is at the garage and Cas is lecturing in dead languages would be incredibly depressing. At least outside, Duke can chase squirrels or something.)
By the time these ground rules are agreed upon and the Impala is clean again, it is almost dinnertime and Cas is sitting on his side of the couch flipping through the TIVO for the episode of So You think You Can Dance that he missed while they were waiting on Duke's evaluation. Duke is spread out all over Dean's side of the couch, with his giant, battle-scarred head resting pretty in Cas's lap.
Dean, relegated to the arm chair, congratulates himself on laying down the law.
When Duke chews through his vintage Zepplin T-shirt, Dean grits his teeth and tries not to yell, because the last time he'd yelled at the dog in full, righteous fury, Duke had basically shriveled up in a corner with his tail between his legs and Cas had gotten this wounded bird look on his face and sniped, "That's exactly the sort of tone the people who had him last used with him, Dean," before coaxing the dog out of the corner with treats and making Dean feel about two inches tall for the rest of the afternoon.
So this time, instead of yelling, he counts backwards very slowly from ten and deposits the shreds of the shirt he's had since Sam was eight into the trash.
Cas finds the remains the following morning and gets this absolutely mournful look on his face, but then he jumps on Dean in the shower before work and gives him a truly amazing blow job, so Dean supposes he can make peace with the loss. In the name of oral or something.
He still kind of hates the dog though.
When they had finally managed to yank all of the souls of purgatory out of Cas last year and seal them away without killing him in the process, a lot of what made him an angel got taken away with them. Sam and Bobby had likened it to mixed paints; once one color got into another they were basically stuck in whatever configuration and concentration they ended up in.
So Cas had lost the super powers mostly, all the things that kept him uninjured and alive and able to go places, all of the things that Dean imagined were awesome about having angel mojo. What he did get to keep though, was the knowledge, all the languages and history and eons and lore that came pre-installed in every angel like Windows 7 on Sam's laptops.
Cas had called it divine punishment for his sins; to have all the knowledge of an angel and none of the power to properly implement it. He'd gotten rueful and sad and wouldn't stop apologizing to the Winchesters for about six months after, up until Dean had finally had enough of that shit and decided it was high time to shut Cas's mouth up with his mouth.
And don't get him wrong, Dean is pretty happy with where they are, divine punishment or no.
It's just sometimes, on nights like these especially, he kind of wishes it had been the other way around, that Cas had maybe lost all the knowledge of the ages and kept his super powers instead.
And maybe it's petty of Dean to wish it like that, but at the time when Cas had been explaining it, Dean hadn't realized keeping all the knowledge of the angels meant being able to talk dog on top of the Latin and the Hebrew and French and Spanish, German, Chinese, Italian, Foo Chow, Chu Chow, Cantonese, and whatever else is in that nerdy little head of Cas's.
But yeah. Dog. Cas speaks it. And ever since Duke's taken to sleeping in their bed with them, Dean feels like he's missing out on about 50% of the conversations that happen in his bed.
He'd kick the dog out, but Cas has this freaking convincing argument about it, where he reminds Dean of all the nightmares he'd had those first few months he'd been living purgatory free, and how sleeping next to Dean those nights had kept them at bay.
"Why does Duke deserve less for what he has been through? He has seen horrible things as well, and should not be left alone in the dark." Cas would say over the ridiculous rims of his nerdy reading glasses, looking at Dean like he only expected wise and generous things from him, like he was still the Righteous Man at heart or some shit like that.
Which is some dirty fucking pool.
Dean always lets Duke stay though, even though the dog is massive and too warm and likes to sleep right in-between him and Cas.
T-shirts and dog piss are their own things, but one thing Dean can never forgive Duke for is the fact that the big dumb animal is like, the ultimate chick magnet somehow.
Despite being scary looking and huge, the scars and the big scowly face apparently make women curious whenever Cas goes running with Duke in the park, which prompts questions, which leads to conversations, which inevitably always moves on to, "Oh my god you rescued him, that's so amazing!" followed by lots of hot chicks who also like running and dogs giving Cas their phone numbers and wanting to know about what Duke used to be like, since he's such a sweetie now.
Dean finds like, a stack of these numbers in the pockets of Cas's jogging shorts when he's doing the laundry one Sunday afternoon; they're all in neat, feminine hand that tells a lot about who wrote them and what they want. He fights back the urge to tear them up into little pieces and throw them down the garbage disposal because he is not supposed to be the wife in this relationship and sets them aside because Cas hates it when Dean makes assumptions about things on his behalf now that he's human or something, and Dean supposes that he is too damned old to be throwing wild, psychotically possessive hissy fits about the fact that Cas is his.
It does make him think about ring shopping though, just so that other people will know that Cas is his, but Cas would probably forget to wear it anyway, like he forgot to give back Dean's amulet, or something.
So he contents himself with being grumpy about the whole thing and putting Cas's stack of phone numbers in a pile on his nightstand for him to go through when he's got the time.
When he sees them all swept carelessly into the trash can the following morning, he gets this totally gross and immature thrill of satisfaction that means he probably isn't too damned old to be throwing psychotic possessive hissy fits after all.
There are two things Dean realizes he and Duke agree on. One is that sausage and pepperoni pizza is awesome.
Another is that Cas is their favorite person (though Sam isn't half bad either, when he has treats).
That still doesn't mean he likes the stupid dog yet though.
It's on a Friday afternoon as Dean is sitting in front of the TV routinely cleaning their weapons when Duke nearly kills himself like a moron. Dean leaves his shit alone on the table for five minutes so that he can go to the kitchen to get a beer while he waits for Cas and Sam to get back from their jobs in the middle of academia. In his defense, it's date night, and this time Cas wants Greek or something, which is why Dean figures pregaming the event of eating meat with freaking yogurt on it with beer in order to settle his hamburger withdrawal is fair, all things considered. Cas had already called saying he'd be kind of late because he had to set up off-hour office hours for his students since it's close to midterms or whatever, and Dean had decided to spend the time productively by going through their cache of tools and making sure everything was clean and in working order.
Anyway, somehow, in those five lousy minutes, Duke decides that he will rise from his royally soft, way too expensive pet bed by the door and look upon what Dean is doing with interest, even though the stupid mutt can barely be bothered to give a damn about anything that happens in the house that doesn't have to do with Cas or Sam and treats (because Sam is convinced he will buy Cas's dog's love with food).
And maybe gun oil smells delicious to dogs or something, because when Dean comes back, his firing pin and several bullets are missing and Duke is standing over the ruin of Dean's carefully honed system with both ears perked upwards and a look on his face that says he just experienced something truly and unexpectedly terrible.
Dean manages not to yell by biting down hard on the inside of his cheek and doesn't think before he grabs his phone, his wallet, and his keys. He unceremoniously throws Duke over his shoulder on the way to the Impala.
Duke yelps indignantly and tries to bite him; Dean ignores the dog and gets Dr. Faun on the phone so the vet will be ready for them when he pulls into the emergency entrance of the clinic.
Dr. Faun sounds surprised that Dean's going to be the one to bring Duke in today; Dean tries not to freak out while he's explaining what the stupid dog did even though he's pretty sure that killing your boyfriend's beloved pet is somewhere in the top five of the top ten most evil things you can ever do in a lifetime.
Halfway into his semi-hysterical declarations that he didn't think leaving the gun parts out would be a big deal because he didn't think anyone would find them delicious, Duke starts chewing on the upholstery.
Dean is too busy freaking out into the phone to notice.
The X-rays (fucking expensive X-rays) show that the shit will all probably pass, but Dr. Faun is worried about the firing pin getting lodged somewhere in Duke's intestines and ripping things so they decide to go in after it while Cas paces the waiting room looking like he wants to blame Dean for being careless but knowing that won't help in the long run. Dean apologizes anyway and feels like a tool and Sam offers to get them dinner from the taco truck that parks on the corner until midnight on Friday nights because he's probably the best brother ever.
Cas looks all broken up inside, almost as broken up as he'd been after they'd purged purgatory from him and he'd been aware enough about everything that had happened to realize what he'd done. Dean wants to sling an arm around him and tell him the doc said his stupid dog would be fine and this isn't the end of the world, like it had nearly been that other time, but Cas doesn't look like he wants to be comforted, least of all by the guy who got his dog in trouble in the first place.
So Dean offers to go with Sam to get tacos instead and he must have his face of imminent self-loathing on because Sam pats his shoulder like a complete girl and says these things just happen and that it's not really Dean's fault.
Dean mutters something about why the hell a stupid dog matters that much in the first place, not because he means it but because it's easier to say than "I always fuck up everything for Cas and he's going to realize that tonight and then I will become a bigger alcoholic mess than Chuck when he leaves. Please clean up my vomit so I don't drown in it. I did the same for you when you were a baby, it's the least you owe me, you giant nerd."
Sam seems to get the imminent and complicated meaning behind his words anyway though, and orders four carne asada tacos and a large horchata for Dean before saying, kind of ruefully, "Maybe you just have to look at Duke like he's Cas's version of me." He sounds all philosophical about it too, and not at all insulted that he just compared himself to a giant, evil, face-eating asshole dog.
Dean stares at him like he's grown two heads while Sam gets his change and tips the cashier behind the window a dollar.
"Uh, what?" Dean asks eventually, after Sam steers him out of the way so the people in line behind them can order too. He shoves the Styrofoam cup of horchata into Dean's hands; Dean sips automatically.
"You know," Sam shrugs, "Duke's the big evil thing that Cas loves that he's trying his hardest to save despite everything."
Dean wants to sputter protest, but that would only succeed in getting cinnamon-y goodness all over Sam, which he is pretty sure his brother will not appreciate. So he waits until he swallows and says, "Dude, you are not the same as a dog."
Sam goes to the self-help buckets of onions and cilantro and lemons and starts scooping up a bunch to wrap in foil to bring back to Cas since they're freaks that like veggies in their tacos. "Well…it's like this," his giant nerdy brother continues, concentrating on picking out the juicier lemon wedges, "Cas loves you, but I kind of come with the package, right?"
Okay, that is true. Marry one Winchester, get the second for free! It's a gift with purchase. Dean is pretty sure Cas would go crazy for intelligent conversation if Sam didn't live with them, so this argument clearly has no basis.
Sam pushes on anyway. "So, you love Cas, and now his dumb dog that you hate is part of the package."
"Not the same at all," Dean insists.
Sam shrugs. "Cas didn't much like me in the beginning either, and with way better reason than you have for not liking Duke," he points out. "Duke fought to survive in a dog fighting ring. He didn't exactly unleash the apocalypse on the world."
"He drools on my pillow," Dean points out around the straw in his mouth, like that's just as bad.
Sam snorts and finishes wrapping lemons and onions and cilantro, and moves on to the sliced turnips next, even though no one in their right mind should eat those when there is carne asada available. Sam, like the giant freak—who is comparing himself to the world's most evil dog— he is, pops one of those turnips into his mouth and crunches on it as they wait for the tacos. "Okay," his brother says eventually, in that tone that means he's not getting through to Dean this way, so he's going to do a U-turn on the interstate of his brain and try that gas station by the other exit he passed a few miles down the road but didn't want to at first because it looked like the kind of place where murder happens.
"Try looking at it from Cas's perspective, then," Sam attempts, as their order number finally gets called and they get handed a bag full of foil wrappers and little sauce containers of red and green salsa, "there's this dog, and all this dog's life, he's been trained to kill and to fight and to do whatever it is his master or his masters told him to do. He doesn't know anything else. He just thinks this is how it's supposed to be."
Dean has a sinking feeling he knows exactly where this is going.
"And so this dog fights and kills and does some horrible things without meaning to, and one day, the people around him are like, this dog needs to die."
Sam sounds vaguely guilty as he says this, like he's remembering that moment where he'd jammed an angel sword into Cas's back without thought or hesitation, while Dean had been busy trying to talk the guy down from his God ledge. Sam eventually clears his throat, runs a hand through his hair, and pushes on. "But you know, someone steps up suddenly and decides that maybe the dog doesn't have to die. Maybe they can…fix what's wrong with him. Change his way of life." He pauses to give Dean a significant look. "You know, give him a second chance. Like you did with Cas."
Dean thinks that Sam is losing his ability to make subtle metaphors in his old age. This is some straight up ages 9-12 comic book literary crap.
"Cas is not the same as a dog either," Dean persists, stubbornly.
Which prompts Sam to throw his hands up in the air like he gives up on everything. "Fine. Never mind. Hate your boyfriend's dog forever. That's working so well for everyone." He reaches into the bag and pulls out one of the foil containers before thrusting it into Dean's hands. "Eat your tacos out here and think about what you've done." He turns around and marches back into the clinic to give Cas his dinner.
Dean eats his tacos outside and thinks less about what he's done and more about the fact that his brother is an asshole.
But at least he bought him tacos.
Dean doesn't leave the dog alone in the room with any small instruments he can swallow anymore and Duke doesn't try to swallow anymore things that aren't food after that, which means that they're both the kinds of guys that learn from experience (as well as the kinds of guys that enjoy having Cas rub their bellies, but that is not relevant to the situation).
Duke seems pretty forgiving about the whole thing, though Dean suspects that's only because the bastard spent the subsequent week basking in all the glory of Cas babying him and Dean occasionally feeding him steak under the table. Horrible, horrible guilt steak. Apparently it's now officially a tradition that guilt and near death experiences help bring Winchesters closer together, or something.
And Cas, following in his dog's footsteps, forgives Dean for the whole thing pretty quick as well, but then again, it's Cas, and it seems like he's always forgiving Dean; Dean suspects that it has something to do with the "I threatened to kill you once when I wasn't in my right mind and almost succeeded in doing it" residual guilt that makes him kind of a pushover in the grand scheme of things. Dean has to constantly remind him that they're basically even, because "I gave up heaven and died twice for you" basically wipes out any lasting debt that Cas's thing might have held over the former angel's head, and really, they shouldn't be keeping score on anything between them unless it's in the bedroom where everyone's a winner in the end.
Regardless of the motivation behind it, Dean decides he will take the handicap this time like a loser if it helps him get back into Cas's good graces even a minute faster, though just to make sure, he also spends the week groveling and being like, the world's best boyfriend in every possible way. Laundry? Done. Yard? Done. Dinner? Done. Leaky faucets? No longer leaky. Driving lessons in the Impala. Chocolate cake. Good morning blow jobs. Human culture? An entire freaking weekend of various Asian foodstuffs delivered right to their door and so many goddamned National Geographic documentaries that Dean had the fucking theme stuck in his head for hours.
In any case, Cas seems to deem this ample payment for the trauma of nearly having his dog die and Dean gets cuddles again as early as Sunday night (not that cuddles had been precisely what he'd been after so much as that warm look in Cas's eye whenever he curls up close and settles in for the night, but hey, the cuddling part is not bad on its own either, despite how it kind of makes Dean's manhood shrivel up and die inside a little whenever he thinks about how he's gone from badass road-roving hunter to domesticated cuddle-enjoyer afterwards).
Duke gives him this perk-eared look from the end of the bed as Dean and Cas cuddle that seems to say he knows exactly what Dean is going through right now.
Dean supposes he kind of does; his dog used to beat up other dogs for a living and now he has to struggle through the indignation of Cas putting him in gross fuzzy pastel knitted sweaters and walking him around the park while he's wearing them in public.
Dean blinks back at Duke and figures maybe the dog is not so bad after all, just misunderstood, or something.
(Also, Dean discovers that as the months get colder, this dog is probably the best foot warmer of all time, when Cas remembers to make him sleep at the end of the bed.)
They pack up to drive out to Bobby's a week before Christmas with Sam and Duke in the backseat. Dean is still leery about having the dog in his car but after that tentative truce in October he's willing to chance it, mostly because Cas will have his balls for breakfast (not in the fun way) if he suggests boarding Duke off at a kennel or something over the holidays.
The drive is slow and tedious because snow is a bitch and ice is a bastard and Bobby calls them halfway through Nebraska saying that he's got a possible holiday shapeshifter for them to deal with before he's letting any idjit Winchesters and their demon dogs through his front doors, Merry Christmas.
Dean sighs and takes the exit heading east towards Iowa instead.
Duke sleeps half slumped over Sam in the backseat while Cas sleeps half slumped on Dean the entire way.
Sam complains that he's getting drooled on.
Dean doesn't complain.
Shapeshifters are tricky and annoying under the best of conditions, but under Midwest winter conditions in shopping malls crowded with last minute Christmas shoppers, shapeshifters are officially the worst.
He loses sight of the bastard in the parking lot after the world's worst game of crowded-mall tag ever and starts cursing up a storm beside the Impala that makes a middle-aged housewife glare at him like she's imagining shooting him with her eye lasers while she clamps both hands firmly over the ears of her wide-eyed ten year old. Then she literally humphs and marches herself and her child brusquely towards the entrance of the fucking GAP.
Duke perks up at the sound of a familiar voice from his current nap in the backseat but looks highly disinterested when he sees that it's just Dean having a fit out in the snow by himself with no Cas in sight. Duke huffs once against the glass and then rests his head in between his paws and shuts his eyes again.
Dean glares at the dog for being so blasé about everything and pulls out his cell to let Cas know that he'd gotten sight of the dude—at the time wearing a hot blond number in a Mrs. Claus outfit— and tells him he'll meet him back in their hotel room just as soon as he gathers up Sam from wherever the big loser got lost in the shuffle back inside because he'd been too effing scared he'd hulk-smash a family of five into oblivion if he started charging down the overcrowded aisles at full speed.
Cas agrees, citing that he hasn't found any clues in the shifter's apartment pertaining to why said shifter is killing off a bunch of college frat boys. Then he adds that college apartments smell bad, possibly even worse than public transit. He also tells Dean not to forget to let Duke out of the car to do his business within the next hour and that he is off to catch the next bus back to their hotel. Dean chuckles a little at that, waits for Cas to say his customary, "I love you, goodbye," into the phone, and then hangs up, pink-faced (mostly from the cold) just in time to see Sam lumbering up behind him looking bewildered and with his shoulders and arms all covered in tinsel, like someone in that shopping mall had mistaken him for the tree.
"Did you get it?" he asks Dean, breaths puffing out in little wisps of smoke in front of his face as his heart rate returns to normal. "I lost sight of him after I tripped on the elf."
Dean snorts and thinks that it's nice that even as Sam hits his 30s, he still has all this faith in his big brother's hunting abilities. Then Dean makes a sweeping gesture of the post-apocalyptic looking parking lot and all the angry shoppers buzzing around for spots in a chaos of gray snow and black moods. "I'm not a freaking miracle worker, Sammy," is all Dean says by way of explanation, before some dude in a silver Prius waiting for their parking spot slams his palm against the horn and gives them a dirty look for taking so long to leave. Dean resolutely flips him off in response while Sam looks apologetic and hurries to get into the car.
Sam insists on getting dropped off at the campus library to try and find some link between the shifter and his victims that he swears has to be there, which leaves Dean to walk Duke around the block near their hotel so that he can have a glorious time picking up dog poop and getting cute coeds who are way too young for him to laugh at the look on his face and give him appreciative once-overs that clearly speak of issues regarding their fathers not paying enough attention to them as children.
Duke takes his sweet time exploring this new and strange-smelling place called Iowa, and Dean thinks that he might be freezing his balls off. Eventually he gets impatient and growls "C'mon, already, asshole!" to his loitering pitbull, who is currently busy shoving his snow-covered blue nose around a frozen piece of dog shit that less responsible pet owners forgot to take with them when they walked their dog around this same block. Dean wonders if this is Duke making a friend.
But then Duke pisses all over the piece of shit and pauses to look like he's accomplished something great and meaningful before he pads on towards the hotel like he's already made this entire town his own with his urine or something.
Dean snorts to himself and lets Duke pull on the harness back towards the room, because apparently now that the big bad pitbull has properly laid claim to the neighborhood, he would like to see his mommy again, please.
When they get back to the room Dean can hear the sound of water running from the bathroom so he's assuming Cas is trying to wash the itchy sensation of public transportation off of him or something, which leaves him to unharness Duke, who is staring at the bathroom door like it's the most interesting thing in the world right now.
His phone rings right about then too, and the display says it's Sam, which probably means his nerdy little brother is done researching (either that or the library closed early on him on account of the holidays coming up), and now he needs a ride back because it's cold and two miles has become too damn far for any of them to walk in any weather as they approach middle age or something.
Dean picks up his phone while Duke does his damndest to constantly be underfoot. "Yeah, Sam."
Cas comes out of the bathroom toweling off his hands and smiling at Dean; Dean grins back before Sam interrupts his Happy-Cas-Looking-Time by talking. "So I was looking at some of the records of the students our shapeshifter killed…"
Dean rolls his eyes but grabs one of the motel memo pads and a pen by rote, because sometimes Sam says important things in between the jumble of word diarrhea and pointless facts. "It looks like all of them lived in the same Residential Hall at the beginning of the semester? Three of them moved out to apartments after midterms though, and two of the other victims moved into fraternity housing after they pledged."
"Fascinating," Dean drawls, and decides maybe the paper and pen were unnecessary after all.
"Just listen," Sam urges, while Dean does exactly the opposite, mostly because Duke is still frozen at his spot in front of the door and not flopping all over himself to insinuate himself into Cas's space like he usually does whenever they've been separated for more than an hour.
Instead, Duke is standing perfectly still, ears back, and growling softly. Dean absently wonders if his dog still needs to poop some more or something.
"Hey Cas," he begins, removing the phone from his ear for a second so the screechy song stylings of the Ballad of Sam Winchester are no longer monopolizing his ears, "What's wrong with…"
He does not get to finish the question.
Not because Sam interrupted him or anything, though that would be a fair guess on anyone's part as to what happened.
But this time, it's actually because Cas is about to stab Dean in the back with one of the steak knives that he knows comes in a set of two inside the dusty drawers of their motel room's grossly understocked kitchenette.
He manages to twist out of the way at the very last moment, Sam's faint cries of, "Dean? Dean, are you listening to me? God you're such a jerk!" coming from the phone's speaker as he drops it onto the floor in lieu of grabbing Cas's arms and holding them up so they can't pull back enough to go for a second round of stabbity stab. Dean stumbles backwards in the meantime, the backs of his knees hitting the edge of the mattress and causing him to fall back onto the bed with Cas's weight pinning him down. Duke starts barking like a lunatic, which definitely means the manager is going to hear him and kick them out because Duke is the noisiest dog of all time.
"Good reflexes," Cas—or Not!Cas in this case, Dean realizes, as his brain finally catches up to the situation as a whole— chirps, still trying his or her—or whatever— damndest to shove the blade into Dean's neck.
"Where's Cas?" Dean demands, and thinks that if this fucking shapeshifter hurt Cas in order to take his place here, he's going to freaking tear the mother fucker apart in what is probably going to be a very gory, very prolonged episode of Dean Winchester from Hell: The Sequel.
"He's around. For now," the shapeshifter responds, while Duke goes nuts at the foot of the bed.
Dean is pretty sure he's going to fuck this mother fucker up.
He starts by forcing the knife sideways and away from where it is trying to insinuate itself into his eye. It gets deflected and then stabbed through the comforter instead, which tears with a faint ripping noise as the blade imbeds itself through the top of the mattress. With the most pressing threat out of the way, Dean takes a deep breath and slams his knee hard into the creature's stomach after that, wincing a little to himself at how the explosion of pain on its—Cas's— face makes his heart flop in bad ways, and rolls them sideways so he can freaking get some leverage and some answers.
"Not bad for an old man," the shapeshifter wheezes, when Dean is on top of him and pinning him down with his knees tight around his ribcage. "I expected all that middle-aged pudge to slow you down some."
Dean does not have the time or the desire to engage in monster-of-the-week witty banter. He squeezes his knees more painfully into the shifter's ribcage. "Cas. Where is he," he demands again, voice low and dangerous.
"Probably sitting in a bathtub bleeding out from the razor blades in his wrist by now," the shifter responds with a grin, and when Dean balks at the image, takes advantage by rocking back and then up again to slam their foreheads together with a really gross sounding crack. Dean falls backwards off the bed and onto the floor with a thud and a groan that sounds a lot like all of the air being shoved out of his lungs on impact at once. Then the shifter's standing with his foot on Dean's chest pinning him down; he's got the knife in his hands again and a grin on his face that means he's going to enjoy taking Dean apart.
Dean supposes that maybe he is too damned old for this now, because it is really hard to see or even think about getting up. The mental image of Cas cut up and bleeding out in a bathtub kind of makes trying seem like it isn't worth the effort anyway.
But that is the moment Duke goes fucking nuts.
Like, not barking and whining and being constantly underfoot in his regular bugfuck crazy way, but like, in an old-school, I'm going to rip out your throat, pulled back teeth, drooling, growling, folded-back ears kind of crazy as all 100lbs of fighting pitbull takes a flying leap right at the shifter wearing Cas's face, just as the shifter is preparing to stab Dean in his.
From there, there is a lot of snarling and biting and pained sounds from both creature and animal, and Dean only lets himself revel in the feeling of breathing again for a second before he's scrambling to his feet dizzily and fumbling for the silver knife hidden in the waistband of his fake JCPenney issue FBI slacks.
The duo struggling on top of the bed now is a mess of blood and teeth and growling noises that speak of this truly epic and horrible struggle to survive. Dean is pretty sure he sees that steak knife tear into Duke once or twice or more in the midst of all this chaos and his vision is suddenly drenched in red because what kind of an asshole monster stabs a dog?
Duke is still outweighed and probably even slightly out-muscled by the shifter though, and before Dean can blink, his dog is flying through the air and hitting the bathroom door with this wall-shaking thud and this pathetic, heartbreaking sort of whine.
Dean's reaction—and to this day he will realize it was kind of reckless and a little bit stupid—is to basically take a flying leap onto the bed belly-flop style and use his rage and the auspices of gravity to bury the silver blade three inches deep and right into that fucking shifter's shriveled black heart. He may or may not twist once or twice while it's in there.
The shifter dies with a pained sort of wheeze a moment later and Dean has to look away because it's still wearing Cas's face, and that is the moment—timing, fucking timing—that Sam yanks the door open, nose bright red and cheeks flushed from basically sprinting all the way here from the library in the snow. He's holding his phone to his ear and gets this incredibly disturbed expression on his face when he takes in the crimson-stained mess that is now their hotel room.
"Dean?" he murmurs, and is at his brother's side in a second, hastily closing the door behind him before witnesses can see the blood and the body.
Later, Dean will realize that what his brother must have walked in on was the domestic abuse scene from hell, but in that moment all he can do is pull his knife out of the shifter and look kind of lost and pathetic as he shakily says, "Sam, I think it got Cas and…"
Sam thrusts his phone at Dean without a word before crouching down at Duke's side, because the dog hasn't moved and Dean just kind of stares at the phone because that reaction makes no sense at all. "What…"
"Dean?" Cas's tinny, worried voice chimes in from the other side. "Dean, is everything okay?"
Dean chokes on his own air in what must be a very crude, almost wild sound of relief as Sam—bless his giant, nerdy, proactive heart—gathers Duke up in his arms like he weighs nothing and says, "We gotta get him to an ER."
Dean is too busy staring at the phone, while Cas's voice gets increasingly agitated from the lack of response on the other hand. "Dean?"
"Hey, Cas," Dean manages after a beat, in what can only be a very unsexy croak.
Sam sighs and puts one of those meat-hook hands on Dean's shoulder before gingerly pushing the body of his dog into his brother's arms. "Go. I'll uh, I'll clean up here."
Dean is in no position to argue.
On their way out to the car, Duke perks up his ears a little bit and despite everything, somehow manages to sit up and lick some of the blood from Dean's face for no apparent reason.
Dean and Cas are sitting outside the animal ER or whatever it's called waiting for news about Duke's surgery while Sam is down the hall, explaining to Bobby over the phone about how there had been two shifters, peaceful types who had just trying to live normal lives up until they'd moved into the Residential Hall at the beginning of the fall and shifter number one—a cute girl who'd wanted to become a rocket scientist apparently—had been date raped by a couple of guys on her floor. Her older brother had apparently taken exception to that and the two of them had gone on a bloody revenge quest soon thereafter.
Cas had been caught by the sister back at the apartment right after Dean had phoned him from the mall, and apparently the duo had decided that they had to get rid of the hunters before the hunters found them. The brother had taken Cas's form and gone to the hotel, while the sister had prepared to execute the former angel in the bathtub of their apartment, fake suicide style.
Luckily for Cas, college apartments have small bathrooms with lots of hard surfaces and the former angel had used both that as well as his size and weight advantage to take out out his captor, free himself, and call Sam. All on his own, even.
In the meantime, Dean had been busy failing with his shifter and letting Duke have another near death experience in the process.
It's enough to give a guy a complex about his competency.
Cas holds his hand as they sit outside the ER together this time though, and looks both pensive and relieved after having to explain to the clinic staff about how Dean had been attacked by a mugger and Duke had sustained several stab wounds in order to save his master's life.
Dean had muttered a few vague words of agreement and from there, the vet assistants and lab techs had rushed Duke away with pitying looks and a promise that they would do their best to fix him right up.
Even still, two hours later, Dean thinks Cas is never going to forgive him for getting his dog killed, because that is way outside the scope of any potential "I threatened to kill you once when I wasn't in my right mind and almost succeeded in doing it" guilt Cas may still have from the previous year.
Dean has horrible mental flashes of the two of them standing on opposite sides of the service in the rain at Duke's funeral, Cas glaring at him and saying "Dean, I will never forgive you," before he runs off (literally) with that cute blond triathlon runner who's always flirting with him at the park when he jogs in the mornings. They'll get married and run a pitbull rescue together and have cute blond babies with blue eyes and chubby cheeks.
These horrible thoughts must show on his face as he thinks them or something, because Cas squeezes his hand suddenly—in a really hard sort of way and not a comforting one at all— and hisses in Dean's ear, "Whatever you are imagining, stop it. Everything will be okay."
Then he presses a kiss to Dean's temple when no one is looking and Dean almost—almost— feels reassured.
But it isn't until the head surgeon comes out and tells them that Duke will be fine— and that the procedures that saved his life will require them to take out four mortgages on the ranch—that Dean finally allows himself to relax.
Sam and Cas both seem to notice too, because that is the moment they both shoo him off to go clean the blood off of his…everywhere.
Dean is the one who is there the following morning when Duke noses at the door of the kennel he's convalescing in and makes a noise that means he demands food and cuddles. Then he blinks a little, realizes he's hooked up to some weird tube that's taped to his leg, and gives Dean this expression of utter disdain that Dean completely and utterly sympathizes with because hospitals—no matter who they are for—suck to wake up in.
He surreptitiously pulls out the sausage and bacon Egg Mcmuffin he'd purchased on the drive back over here this morning (and that Cas thinks had been entirely for Dean) and slips the sausage patty to Duke like a ninja while keeping the bacon for himself.
Duke whuffs in dissatisfaction once, sniffs the sausage, and then—eventually— decides it's better than nothing. He scarfs it in one go before one of the vets can walk by and see while she's busy talking to Cas about outpatient care, the cost of antibiotics, and how to be very precise about pain medication dosage.
Cas is being creepily attentive and taking notes and asking all sorts of questions about wildly improbable scenarios that might arise in the interim and how he might deal with those should they arise. To her credit, the vet patiently answers each one of his inquiries.
Duke's tail wags at the sound of Cas's voice asking all those questions but when Cas doesn't come over to say hello right away, he harrumphs and rests his head back in his paws and looks levelly at Dean like his neglect is all Dean's fault.
Dean kind of grins back because he can't really help it—that's Sam's bitchface right there— and tells the dog, "You're in for the most miserable few months of your life, buddy."
Duke just stares back at him in this totally expectant way and Dean ends up giving him the rest of his bacon too.
He supposes this means they're totally keeping the dog after all.
They get to Bobby's a few days late but just in time for Christmas Eve dinner as delivered by the new Boston Market that opened up on Sioux Falls' main drag like a godsend three weeks ago. They'd apparently offered Bobby 50% off menu price to cater his Christmas dinner as a grand opening special and who the hell can say no to a 10lb turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cornbread, stuffing, and green beans for $29.99+tax?
Bobby, usually as mortal an enemy to Duke as Dean had been, simply eyes the limping, grumpy pitbull as he shuffles through the door and says, "I hope you like turkey, you ugly son of a bitch," by way of greeting.
Duke ignores him professionally and goes to sit at the foot of the table closest to the turkey, looking expectantly at Dean, like he knows Dean owes him so much for not only saving his life, but saving his relationship by not dying.
Cas frowns at Duke and says, "Duke, no," and Duke lets out his big puppy sigh and obediently settles himself down in a lying position so it doesn't look like he's begging anymore.
Dean slips him dark meat and turkey skin under the table all through dinner anyway.
On Christmas morning, Dean makes use of the luxury of sleeping in until noon before happy sounds from downstairs prompt him to get up and live in the daylight like a normal human being. He brushes his teeth, showers, and then trudges downstairs to make himself a sandwich out of turkey and leftover mashed potatoes before wandering into the living room to join the others with a sleepy, "Merry Christmas."
His greeting is returned in like, though in slightly distracted tones, mostly because Sam is opening his impressive stack of presents like he's all of five again and Duke is being forced into a hideous but seasonably appropriate sweater that mommy just got him for this special and adorable occasion. Dean grins and takes a seat to watch that show while Bobby admires his fancy new shotgun instead of the seasonably appropriate sweater Cas had originally wanted to get him. And would have, if not for some very quick thinking and very persuasive arguing on Dean's part.
As for Cas, he'd gotten his present last night while everyone else had been asleep because even Dean knows that it would have been some damned irresponsible parenting if he'd let Cas open it in front of the kids. Or in public at all, really.
It is while he is munching happily on his sandwich and watching Duke huff despondently to himself in his brand new Santa Claus and Reindeer sweater when Cas takes a moment to beam and shove a box into Dean's hands with a soft, warm-voiced, "Merry Christmas, Dean."
The box is big and decently heavy and full of weird looking holes. When Dean's first instinct is to shake it, Cas already knows that's his first instinct and tells him, firmly, "Don't shake it, Dean."
Dean had been pretty sure he'd gotten his present from Cas last night too if the awesome ache in the backs of his thighs says anything, but after a minute of panicking over the thought of oh shit was I supposed to get him something he could open in public too?, Cas makes an impatient noise in the back of his throat and Dean automatically shifts his sandwich to his left hand. "Thanks, Cas," he says, remembering his manners long enough to press a kiss to Cas's forehead when Sam and Bobby aren't looking. Then he pulls the lid off his box.
The minute he does, he is attacked in the face by an overly enthused Husky puppy that seems to think he might be the tastiest thing on the face of the planet.
Cas beams and Sam makes these girly cooing sounds about how adorable that puppy is. Duke seems unimpressed and too miserable in his sweater to care.
Cas on the other hand, is very obviously pleased with himself as he picks the puppy out of the box so he can move it out of the way and properly settle the little furball in Dean's lap. The new puppy even has a big red bow tied around his neck ala Lady and the Tramp.
And the little guy's tail is wagging so hard Dean is almost afraid he'll wag himself right off of his lap and onto the floor, so he reaches out automatically to keep his free hand on its back because a puppy hitting the floor while in his care is so not out of the question given his track record with them. That's when he notices the weird jagged line of bald skin right down the front of the puppy's chest, like someone had gotten at him with a box cutter or some wire or something, and it's just starting to heal up properly. Something in Dean's heart seizes up at the thought of it in an unpleasant way. The puppy doesn't seem to care about it at all though, seeing as to how it's still wagging its tail so hard Dean thinks the little guy wants to use it like a propeller and take flight.
"He's uh, he's an excited fuzzball isn't he?" Dean manages, and kind of feels like the only guy in the room who hasn't held the baby and talked about how adorable it is because he doesn't really want to hold the baby because he might fucking drop the baby (the last "baby" having nearly died twice in his care, mind).
"She is very glad to meet you, I think," Cas answers, and can't take his eyes off of what is, apparently, a she baby.
Dean isn't exactly sure what to do or say, but as it turns out, he doesn't have to do or say anything, because at that moment, she puts both her little paws up on his chest and snaps the rest of his sandwich right out of his hand like that's all she'd been aiming for with the cute and innocent act the whole entire time.
Then she sits back on his lap, scarfs it down—bread and all—like a fucking champ, and after all that, still has the gall to look at Dean curiously—head tilted just enough to remind him exactly of someone else— like he should be giving her even more sandwich now.
Dean, admittedly, takes in the angle of that precisely tilted head and those big, curious blue eyes and thinks he might be a little bit in love now, all of a sudden, without meaning to be. Or a lot in love, maybe, all things considered.
Which is probably a good thing, because he's since learned that he has zero say whatsoever in whether or not they keep the dogs.
He supposes that for the sake of consistency they can call this one Daisy.