Title: Like Some Thoughts Wearing Thin
Pairing(s): Gen (Dean/Sam/Castiel)
Genre(s): Five and One, Nebulous Season Five, Slice of Life, Humor, Horrible Teeth-Rotting Schmoop, Winchester-Flavored Domesticity, (AKA the Type to Be Found at Highway Reststops and In Grungy Motels), Alternating POV, Fluff and Crack, Cuddling as a Survival Technique
Summary: Five times Castiel showed up when it wasn't an emergency, and one time it really, really was.
Note: Condensing these all into one chapter, and adding the fifth. Pardon my construction dust, lovelies!
"So, this never gets any less weird," Dean mutters, flipping a few more pages. "Or creepy." Reading a sex scene starring you and your bad decision of the night from an outside perspective was freaky enough, but when that 'outside perspective' was a guy like Chuck— "Really fucking creepy."
"No one's forcing you to read those," Sam reminds him, tossing another shirt into the growing pile on the counter. "Hell, I stopped three books back." He grabs the detergent from the counter, filling the measuring scoop precisely to the line before dumping it into the empty washing machine.
Dean glances down into the drum, and back up. "You, uh, working on the invisibles first, Sammy?"
Sam slants him an annoyed look and starts slotting quarters into the machine's sliding handle. "This is why I never let you wash my stuff," he says primly. "You have to let powdered soap dissolve in the water first, or it spots."
Dean snorts. "Oh, yeah, God forbid we get soapspots on our bloodstains."
And there's a good glare, a classic bitchface that says, 'Why do you always have to be such an asshole about everything, Dean, seriously, why', but then Sam just snorts and goes back to his meticulous sorting. Dean sighs loudly, looking around the room for something else to focus on.
It's cool for a summer night in Galveston. A humid breeze blows through the laundromat's propped-open front door, and it smells like wet asphalt and the sea. Dean's sitting on an asthmatic old dryer, legs swinging idly as it thump-thump-thumps beneath him. He lets the book fall into his open bag and leans back on his hands, eyes tracking across the long room just in case he's managed to miss a detail the last twenty or so times.
Unfortunately for him, a 24/7 laundromat at 3am is not exactly the most dynamic scenery— no matter how many times he looks, there are still just two exits, a storage room, a grungy bathroom visible through a cracked-open door. A bulb flickers intermittently in the back right quadrant, and pastel blue tile with dingy yellow flowers covers every flat surface.
It's seedy without being dirty, a plus considering what they usually have to make do with, and it's utterly deserted but for the two of them and an attendant at the front desk. She's been asleep since they slunk in at fifteen to two, feet propped on the counter and reruns of Cheers going static-y on her tiny television. Dean squints. A rerun of a rerun, 'cause he swears the same episode was playing when they came in.
In a word, boring. Back to Sammy-baiting.
"All I'm saying," he says, leaning in towards Sam who's still pointedly ignoring him, "is that, if someone was going to be watching me every single moment of every single day—"
"Dean," Castiel said, six inches away from Dean's left ear.
"You would flail and fall off your dryer?" Sam asks dryly as with a startled yelp, Dean does just that. "Hey, Cas," he greets the angel, earning himself a slight nod.
From the floor, Dean massages the arm he's landed on and glares up at the two of them. "Not cool, Cas. We talked about this."
"What's up?" Sam asks the angel, paused in the middle of dumping his oh-so-carefully separated medium darks into the washing machine. "Do you have a job for us?"
"… I am unaware of any tasks requiring your assistance," Castiel says after a minute's hesitation. "At least on our part."
"So, what? You just showed up to say 'Boo'?" Dean asks as he climbs to his feet, using the edge of the dryer to haul himself up.
Another pause. "I am not sure."
"How can you not be—?"
"Hey, let me see your coat," Sam says, overriding Dean's incredulous question.
The angel blinks owlishly at him. "To what purpose?"
Sam holds out a hand and wiggles his fingers. "C'mon, I just want to see the tag."
Vessel Occupancy 101 had apparently never covered the complex task of removing arms from sleeves, and in the end Jimmy's good sports jacket and very nearly his pants get peeled off with the trenchcoat.
"Yep, it's machine washable," Sam says, reading the label. "Why don't we add it to this load?"
Castiel looks confused, and a little cold. "Load?"
"Yeah, Cas," Dean grins, good humor restored after seeing an angel outsmarted by his own buttons. "Samantha over here got fancy New Zealand Spring dryer sheets on sale. We'll all smell like pristine alpine passes or someshit."
Castiel appears to deliberate on this. "And how would one characterize the smell of someshit?"
Dean is startled into laughter, and Sam shakes his head as he stuffs the coat into the washing machine. "Flowers," he said firmly. "Someshit smells like flowers, shut up Dean, yes it does."
"I do not understand why you find that amusing," Castiel tells Dean sadly. Dean only laughs harder and Sam glares at him, bitchface very much in evidence.
"Oh man," Dean wheezes, wiping tears from his eyes. "Never change, Cas."
Castiel regards him solemnly, hair in total disarray from the fraught removal of the coat. "I shall endeavor not to."
"Just be careful you don't cut an ear off," Dean grumps, swinging a leg over the picnic table's bench and settling in with gracelessly.
"I'm not going to cut your ear off, Dean," his brother sighs behind him. "Relax. It'll all be over soon."
"Your bedside manner sucks, Sammy-Loo-Who."
Sam tests the edge of the scissors against a thumb and, satisfied, began combing his fingers through the hair that's grown over Dean's collar. "It's a haircut, Dean, I'm not performing brain surgery on you. It's fine."
"Why won't you let me cut your hair, then?" Dean huffs, folding his arms across his chest.
Sam sighs and starts snipping, determined to do as much as he can while Dean's distracted by pouting. "I like my hair the way it is."
"It's shaggy," Dean accuses, John Winchester's tone and choice of words to a tee. "You're going to have dirty hippie hair before long."
"Dirty hippie hair."
"Dean, you're the one who wanted a haircut," Sam says, utterly exasperated. "You said it was growing over your ears and sticking up funny in back and making your neck itch. You've been bitching about it for hundreds of miles. We stopped in the middle of nowhere," and here his outflung arm encompasses all of the squat and ugly rest area, deserted highway, straggly trees and acres of cornfield surrounding them, "so I could cut your hair. Put up or shut up."
"Whatever." Dean kicks at the ground and gives a petulant sigh. "Better not give me a mullet or something."
"I'm giving you a mohawk," Sam says darkly, and resumes cutting.
Dean makes a face and picks at the peeling red paint on the bench, antsy without knowing why. They're in between cases, headed west on a ghost of a thread of a lead; maybe it was the combination of inactivity and aimlessness that did it. A little bit longing, a little bit restless.
A soft susurrus of sound catches his attention, and he glances up and straight into Castiel's blue, blue eyes, the angel sitting nose to nose with him on the bench.
"Dean!" Sam yells. "Don't fucking jump when I'm trying to— oh, hi Cas."
"Hello, Sam," Castiel says gravely, while Dean tries to swallow his heart back down into his ribcage.
"Jesus— what the— Cas, what have I said about doing this to me?"
Castiel appears to ponder this. "I felt… drawn to your company. I thought you might perhaps be praying."
"Well, as you can see," Dean says with an angry gesture, earning himself a curse from Sam, "No rosaries, just a trim."
"If you can hold still for five freaking seconds, Jesus," Sam mutters.
"I can freeze you in place," Castiel offered, reaching with two fingers for Dean's forehead.
Sam swears again as Dean jerks back. "No, I'll be good, I promise."
Castiel's faint frown indicates a certain level of doubt in Dean's ability to 'be good', but otherwise he seems to be content to sit in silence, and he turns to study the dun-colored rest stop buildings as though they were of the highest architectural significance. Dean braces his hands on his knees and traces the knotted surface of the bench with his eyes, letting his mind wander. The thrum of cicadas is loud, the air warm and still. Gentle fingers smooth over the round curve of his skull, and Dean's eyes slide shut.
"Remember when Dad used to do this for us?" he asks into the easy silence.
Sam is quiet for a moment, though his hands never stop moving. "How could I forget?" he says with a chuckle. "'Sit down, Sam, your head looks like a haystack—'"
"Whatever motel we were in, we'd sit on the toilet, he'd sit on the edge of the bathtub—"
"—and he's tape my bangs down, with Scotch tape—"
"—and he'd do that stupid accent, remember? 'I am ze barber Jean-Claude, I come to make your hairs short—'"
"Oh man, I forgot about Jean-Claude," Sam laughs. "That was when we were really young."
"This sounds like a very strange ritual," Castiel says, frowning.
"It was just a thing he did," Dean says, smiling a little. "That, and hum the one Looney Tunes theme. Bugs Bunny."
"Dude," Sam says, still cutting. "You realize that's an actual classical music piece, right? 'The Barber of Seville?'"
Dean tries to turn his head, earning himself a smack with the butt of the scissors. "Seriously?"
"Seriously! If you don't stop moving—"
"My offer still stands," Castiel pipes up.
"Hell no," Dean says, leaning away back into Sam. "The last time you angel mojo-ed me everything smelled purple for a week—"
Sam slams the scissors down on the table and steps to the side. "You're done, okay? Done!"
Dean runs a hand over his head, surprised, and then turns to grin up at Sam. "But where's my happy ending, sweetheart?"
"Goddamn it, Dean—"
"Is there not sufficient happiness in a task well completed?" Castiel wonders aloud. A very angelic answer, that.
Dean turns to him with a leer. "No, see, Cas, a real happy ending is when—"
Sam reaches to clap his hands protectively over Castiel's ears, glaring fiercely down at Dean. "Do not tell the angel about— about—"
"Handjobs?" Dean says loudly, thoroughly satisfied by Sam's indignant face and Castiel's curious stare.
"Handjobs?" the angel parrots, his head tilting under Sam's hands. "Ah! Is this an allusion to favors sexual in nature?"
Dean falls off the bench laughing, and goes on laughing until his sides ache and he's gotten grass in his mouth.
Sam wearily pats Castiel on the shoulder. "Well, at least you're learning," he said sarcastically.
A fat drop of rain hits his cheek, and Sam squints warily up at the darkening sky.
"Hey, Dean?" he ventures. "How's it going down there?"
His only answer is a muffled grunt and the scrape of leather over asphalt as Dean wiggles further under the Impala, most of his body hidden from view by the undercarriage.
"It's just, these clouds are looking kind of bad." An understatement; the thunderheads amassing on the western horizon are looking murderous, black and purple and green like a mottled bruise on the heavens.
When he still gets no response, he kicks the boot nearest him. "Dean."
A series of metal-on-metal squeals, and another grunt, this one slightly pained. "Hey, hand me the sender wrench, will you?"
Sam looks down at the toolbox full of wrenches of every size and description, and back at Dean's legs where they stick out in front of the back left wheel. "You realize I'm just going to pick one at random and hope for the best, right?"
A tired snort. "Slide the whole thing over here, then."
Sam nudges the box towards the wheel well with a foot and watches as a grease-stained hand emerges from under the car, feeling around until it locates the edge of the red plastic. Blackened fingers rifle through the mess until they pull out something that looks nothing like a wrench, thank you kindly, and retreat back under the Impala. The metallic shrieking starts up again.
Sam settles back on his hands on the Impala's warm hood, staring out across the desert at the mountains that rise up like a line of broken teeth in the distance. The storm is rolling off their peaks and onto the low plains, sheets of rain trailing underneath them like veils. Cracks of thunder and searing flashes of lightening illuminate the roiling clouds as they billow up to flatten against the upper limits of the atmosphere. The wind is picking up markedly now, blowing wildly across the immense open stretch of wasteland and long, lonely highway, the smell of wet earth and ozone sweeping along with it.
It's an awesome sight, in the old sense of the word, and Sam closes his eyes and lifts his face to the next few drops that fall on him. After the arid and dusty morning they've spent stranded here, the rain feels like a benediction.
The car rocks slightly under his palms, and Sam cracks an eye open. Castiel, sitting on the hood with his knees drawn up to his chest, stares impassively back.
"I can see why Dean doesn't really like this," Sam says evenly.
"Doesn't like what?" Dean asks from under the car, voice strained. "Hngh, fucking move, you God-damned mother-fucking sonova-BITCH!" Something clangs loudly and comes free, a litany of curses following.
"Hello, Sam," the angel says with a nod. "Dean, the severity of your oaths does you no credit."
"What the— Cas?" Dean says, wiggling out from under the Impala. He has black streaked across his face and a raw-looking scrape on his jaw. "When did you get here?"
Castiel regards him with somber, unblinking eyes. "I am always close to you."
"And that's not disturbing at all," Dean deadpans, levering himself into a sitting position and rubbing at the blood and dirt on his cheek. "Anyway, Sam, it's the fuel pump. Which means we're fucked."
"What? You can't fix it?"
Dean glowers at him and tosses the sender-whatever back in the toolbox. "I could, but the pump failed, dingus. They last about ten years a piece, so excuse me if I don't just happen to have another one on hand!"
Sam glances uneasily upwards, and the next few drops hit him square in the eye. "Hell, when did we even last pass a ranch or farmstead? Five miles back?"
"Less than that," Dean says, getting to his feet and stretching. "We'll get wet, but if we leg it we can make it before dark."
Somehow Sam seriously doubts that, but they've been here for four hours and not a single car had passed them. He knows it's either walk now or spend the night twisted into a pretzel, listening to the rain drum on the Impala's roof.
They grab a few indispensible things (salt, hex bags, Dean's lucky Glock) and the ragged plastic ponchos Sam vaguely remembers buying in Portland. Seattle? Someplace green and wet.
Castiel remains on the hood, watching interestedly as they loaded everything into packs, and when they start down the highway he clambers awkwardly off the car and follows them.
"What, no all-important angel business to get back to?" Dean asks, half-turning towards him. Lightening spears down only a few miles away, nearly blinding Sam with its intensity.
Castiel's answer, if he does answer, is drowned out by an earth-shattering crash of thunder Sam can feel in his bones. As if it had been waiting for just that cue, the rain comes pouring out the sky like someone's upended a celestial bathtub, and Dean lets out a surprised "Shit!" and leans into the wind, trying to hold the poncho down over his legs as the violent gusts whip it around him. The dark green plastic that's short on him is laughably tiny on Sam, and Sam's shoes and jeans below the knee are soaked through in a matter of seconds.
Behind them, Castiel makes a garbled noise of protest, and Sam looks back to see him holding up his hands in front of his face with an expression of alarmed confusion.
"Why is it doing that?" he asks, bewildered.
"What, falling?" Sam asks, turning fully towards him and putting the wind at his back. "It does this every time it rains, Cas."
"But it's hitting me," the angel says, sounding almost betrayed. "It hurts."
"Dude, it's a thunderstorm," Dean calls back, fighting to move forward against the stinging downpour. "It's not gonna hand you a bouquet and apologize for the inconvenience!"
Castiel still looks somehow wronged, like the rain plastering his hair to his head and soaking through Jimmy's cheap suit has broken some kind of sacred trust.
"You don't have to stay," Sam started, and Castiel looks down.
"I was just…" the angel begins, and flounders to a stop. Sam, with a sudden burst of clarity, thinks of Anna, and 1978, and how it takes Castiel longer and longer each time he passes out to wake up again.
He glances over his shoulder at Dean, trudging doggedly onward into the storm, and back to Castiel, dripping and starting to visibly shiver.
"Here," he sighs, lifting the edge of the poncho. "If you're going to stick around instead of flying off to the Pearly Gates or whatever, get under here before you freeze to death."
"I don't think I could," Castiel mumbles, but tucks his body in against Sam's.
It's like trying to run a three-legged race with a cold, sopping wet granite statue, but they eventually catch up to Dean, who looks over and mouths What the fuck?
The angel trods heavily on Sam's foot for the fourth or fifth time and Sam says, "That is it," and reaches out to yank Dean's poncho up. "Your angel, your problem."
He listens to Dean bitch and moan for the next five miles with a certain malicious glee, even when he has to shoulder both packs so Dean can bodily haul an unresisting but completely clueless Castiel up onto his back ("Cas! Put your arms around my neck or you'll fa—rrk! N't tha' t'ght! Y' tryin' t' K'LL ME?").
They make much better time after that.
Sam's lungs inflate slowly, shallow breath catching as his stomach twists.
He exhales unsteadily and swallows hard against the cough that wants to break free. It feels like he's breathing sand, air hot and gritty where it grates against his raw throat and chapped lips. He's breaking out in chills, now, and the shudders don't help the swelling nausea. He bites his lip, and swallows again.
He's curled on his side on the floor, knees tucked into the narrow space between the bathtub and the toilet base. His cheek is pressed against the bathroom's blessedly cool tile, the contrast between his burning skin and the mint-colored ceramic almost too sharp a sensation. It'd been months, probably, since housekeeping had bothered to run a mop through here. The tile is grimy under his head, the grout gone suspiciously fuzzy behind the toilet. Their life doesn't leave much room for squeamishness, but this place would have made him cringe on a good day— but it was amazing, how little a guy could give a fuck when he'd spent the last three hours (days?) hanging his head over an rust-stained toilet bowl, throwing up everything he'd ever eaten and then some.
Instead, Sam focuses on simply breathing. In and out. In and out.
It'd been Dean bent over the bowl this morning (yesterday morning?), shaky and pale and refusing even the water and crackers Sam tried to offer him. When the fever set in, his skin had turned an awful boiled-lobster red under the freckles he swore up and down he didn't have. Sam feels a bit like a lobster himself, steam-burnt and aching.
Come to think of it, he hasn't seen Dean for a while now. He has the vague hope that his brother is still alive and functioning, somewhere in the outside world that isn't these tiles and this toilet, because he really doesn't see himself moving from this spot anytime soon to go check. He feels so horrible, actually, that he'd suspect a curse, but there's a saying about hearing hoofbeats and thinking zebras. During their last job, ghouls in Baton Rouge, they'd saved a kid less by luck and more because even ghouls apparently disliked being repeatedly puked on. The kid had been tiny, too, the amount of vomit she produced should not have been physically possible—
At the mere memory, his touchy stomach roils and he hauls himself into a sitting position with a despondent moan of "Oh God—"
Several miserable minutes (hours?) later, Sam becomes aware of someone's hands on him, stroking the sweat-damp hair back from his forehead and rubbing tiny soothing circles between his shoulder blades.
"Dean?" he asks, exhausted and dizzy. He slumps back against the body behind him and knows immediately that it isn't his brother; the smaller, the disconcertingly fragile-feeling planes of muscle and bone barely take his weight.
"No, Sam," Castiel says gently, hand moving to rest over Sam's rebellious stomach. The jagged, grinding pain eases until it all but disappears, and Sam breathes out in a rush of exquisite relief.
Half under him, Castiel suddenly sags. Sam, no longer in pain but definitely not up to moving yet, mumbles, "Cas? You okay?"
"I am sorry," Castiel says, breath coming fast and thready. "First I— Dean, just now. And I can't— take it all. But, I can take the pain."
He sounds so apologetic, and Sam shakes his head woozily. "No, Cas, it's—"
"You should be in bed," the angel pants, and grips Sam under the arms.
It's a sad kind of hilarious, how many false starts and sudden stops they make between the bathroom and the bed. When Castiel finally heaves Sam's legs up on the motel mattress, the angel is red-faced and actually gasping with the effort.
"S'like Three Stooges reruns," Dean slurs from the other bed, extra linens tucked around him in a bulky, bulbous cocoon. "S'fucking hysterical."
"Good, you're alive. Also, fuck you with a shovel," Sam manages, closing his eyes against the revolving ceiling. "You did this to me."
"I... do not feel well," Castiel says, bafflement coloring his voice.
"Welcome to th' freaking club," Dean mutters, but Sam cracks an eyelid and sees the angel sway in place.
"Aw, shit. Dean!"
The angel starts to crumple, and Dean wiggles wildly, lunging as soon as his arms are free and catching Castiel around the waist. He's overbalanced, though, and they begin to slide towards the floor. "Crap, crap! A little help, Sa—?"
Sam drags himself to the edge of the mattress just in time to see Dean, sheets, comforter, angel, and an unlucky lamp all go down in a tangled heap. As Dean curses and flops around in the tangled bedding, and Castiel does his best impression of a coma patient, Sam curls himself into a tight ball and wraps his arms around his knees. His head is swimming, the blankets at once suffocatingly hot and not quite warm enough. "I'll just... offer moral support, okay?"
Sam nods, mostly to himself. "Okay then."
He lets his eyes close, just for a second, and when he opens them again the room is dark and quiet, the only illumination from the flashing vacancy sign just outside the window.
"Dean?" he asks groggily. The alarm clock on the bedside table reads 3:21am.
No answer, but the bed opposite his is definitely occupied. Sam squints in the red-edged light, aware of a pressing need to piss and more urgently that his brother isn't where he left him.
"Dean?" he tries again. "Are you—?"
A sleepy, angry grumble, one Sam would recognize anywhere, and Sam relaxes. "Right," he sighed, and stumbles out of bed.
On his way back from the bathroom, he glances at Dean's bed as he passes it and pauses, staring down at the mess of sheets and legs in confusion. It takes him an embarrassingly long time to realize he's seeing two bodies, and longer still to remember that Castiel had been unconscious the last time he'd seen him.
Dean is sleeping facedown, splayed out on top of the comforter with an arm thrown over Castiel's chest, his head on the angel's shoulder and a leg crooked over one of his knees. Castiel—
Castiel gazes up at Sam, one hand spread so that his fingers just brush Dean's where they're clenched in the trenchcoat. He looks caught out, guilt riding the edge of his downturned mouth and pinched brows. He looks as though he expects Sam to say something, to tell him off, to tell him to get up and get out.
"I wouldn't let him do that," Sam finally offers, turning back to his own bed with a yawn. "He drools like a fucking faucet."
"It figures," the heavily-swaddled lump on the other end of the couch says gloomily.
Dean twitches awake, then grumbles, "Goddamnit." It comes out muffled, courtesy of the approximately seven hundred mildewy blankets, sleeping bags and towels he's layered over himself. He still isn't really warm, but at least he isn't in danger of losing his nads anymore, and fuck it all he's tired. Fuck Sam, too; he'd been almost asleep this time.
The Sam-lump shifts around a bit, and his brother's unhappy eyes appear in a gap between two threadbare comforters. "I said, it figures," he repeats, louder, and Dean, who'd started to let his eyes slide closed again, grunts in annoyance.
"Shut up," he says, squinting across the couch. "'M sleeping."
"It's fucking freezing! How can you sleep?" the lump demands, voice breaking into that piercing whine he'd perfected at age three. Dean rarely hears it these days, but when he does it still makes him want to put the pissy bitch down for a nap.
"Only by strangling you, apparently," he mumbles under Sam's continuing tirade against the cold, the storm, the cabin, and the dead body upstairs. Which was a bit unfair; it wasn't like the poor guy had died in his bed deliberately, just so the two hunters who stumbled by a decade later would have to share his crappy couch. Granted, there was also a loveseat, but it was tiny.
"What did you say?" the lump asks, Sam's eyes glittering murderously.
"I said, 'What figures, Sammy?'" Dean answers sweetly.
The lump lurches threateningly. "I'll tell you what figures! It totally figures that today, of all days, we'd fall in a frozen pond and the Impala would get iced shut and we'd get stuck in some tiny rotting cabin in the middle of a freaking snowstorm!"
Dean stares back, unimpressed. "What's so special about today?"
Under the blankets, Sam's eyes bulge out. It's not an attractive look. "Dean! It's Christmas Eve!"
Huh. "Is it December already? Feels like we were just shoplifting a turkey from Boston Market."
"Did you seriously not notice the giant inflatable snowmen on every freaking corner?" The lump jiggles wrathfully. "Or the stupid fairy lights on every house? How about the, the same five carols on loop in all the stores? The Salvation Army Santas, the toy commercials—"
"So what you're saying is that you hate Christmas," Dean reasons, and Sam kicks him. "Hah, I barely felt that, Mr. Grinch."
Sam kicks him harder. "What I'm saying is that our Christmases always suck."
"Not all of them," Dean protests. "I remember this one time, my homeroom teacher invited me to her place and— ow, stop, I swear it wasn't like that! Well, it wasn't until she told me she wasn't wearing any—"
Something hits the window behind them with enough force to crack the pane, loud and sudden. They whip around to stare at the spider-web fissures radiating out from a single high, broad point of impact.
"Did a… did a bird just fly into the glass?" Sam asks incredulously, hands slowly falling from their attempted deathgrip around Dean's neck. "In this weather?"
Dean reaches for his shotgun, set within easy reach just in case the dude upstairs was feeling restless. "If it did, that's one big-ass bird, Sam."
They stare at the window. Snow continues to pelt the glass with the faintest whisper of sound. Outside, nothing else moves.
"Someone should go check it out," Dean says, eventually.
"Yeah," Sam agrees, and doesn't move.
Dean considers his options. He can't exactly carry his seven hundred layers with him to the door, and all of his clothes are drip-drying in the kitchen. He's still a little damp from the pond, and damn, it is cold in here— even colder out there.
He eyes his brother, who eyes him right back. As one, they both stick out a fist.
"One, two, thr— God fucking damn it."
"Give my regards to the Abominable Snowman," Sam says, the smug bastard, and steals all the bedding Dean sheds as he gets to his feet.
Dean ties a musty old camping blanket tightly around himself, trying to cover as much skin as humanly possible. Behind him, Sam says, "Nice toga, Julius."
"Nice t-tortilla, burrito-man," Dean snaps back, already starting to shiver.
"Weak," Sam says dismissively, wriggling deeper under his ill-gotten gains. "Go on, check for yetis. I'll be right here."
Dean minces his way across the cold floor and steps back into the sopping boots he'd left by the door, swearing ripely; he'll be lucky if he has any toes left after this little adventure. He grabs the knife he'd left next to them, too, and cautiously reaches for the doorhandle.
It turns, but the door doesn't move when he pulls. "Fuck," he says, planting his feet and putting his weight into it, "I think the damn cabin is icing shut—"
The door breaks free with a splintering crackle, and a limp body covered in snow rolls onto his boots.
"H-h-h-hello, D-d-d-d-dean," it chatters out.
"Oh my God," Sam says from over the couch's back, "is that Cas?"
"I s-see you r-r-remembered your angelic c-c-c-c-c-containment sigils," Castiel says through bloodless lips.
"What the hell are you, the little matchstick girl?" Dean yells, and drags him inside.
He gets Castiel propped up, hands on Dean's shoulders to keep his balance as his entire body is wracked with shudders. "Lose the shoes, buddy," Dean says, and takes care of the trenchcoat, tie and sportsjacket in the time it take Castiel to toe off one oxford tip.
"Sh-sh-shouldn't I b-be putting more c-clothing on?" Castiel asks plaintively as Dean kneels down to wrestle off the other, and pull his slacks off while he's down there.
"Nope," Dean says, standing and tugging Castiel forward.
Dean takes a special kind of delight in the high yelp and wild flailing that occurs when he rips the blankets off his brother and dumps a Cas-sicle right into his selfish little cocoon of warmth.
"It's Christmas, Sam!" Dean says merrily, untying the blanket-toga from around his chest. "Can't let the angel freeze to death!"
"Dean, you fucking— gah! Cold hands!"
"S-sam," Castiel shakes out, frowning up at him, "why are you nak—?"
"Please get your hands off my—"
"Dogpile," Dean announces, and makes sure there's a layer or three between him and those cold, cold hands when he lands.
"I hate you so much," Sam squeezes out, crushed deep into the couch cushions.
"I am finding it d-difficult to breathe in this position," Castiel says.
"But none of us will freeze to death," Dean says, tucking all the bedding and terrycloth and old unzipped kip bags in tightly around them. "And isn't that what's important?"
Granted, it is a little weird to let his head fall and realize it's resting on Castiel's shoulder, and one of his legs is draped over Sam's or Cas' bare calves. But it's warm, and he's warm, finally, and Dean can feel his eyelids drooping as his tiredness returns full-force.
Sam sighs, inches from Dean's ear. "This is ridiculous. I'm already starting to lose feeling in my arm."
"Sh'up," Dean orders, tugging a camo-printed comforter over his face.
"You are not sleeping," Sam says, aghast.
"Bet me, bitch."
"Is this… cuddling?" Castiel asks, like he's been mulling it over.
"No," Sam says immediately. "It's Dean being a giant fucking douchebag."
"Or Sam being a whiny fucking brat," Dean says, belatedly realizing that he's nuzzling his face into the crook of the angel's neck, just a few thin sheets between them. "And… and, 's not cuddling when it's a survival technique," he adds, and nods, pleased with his logic. God he's sleepy.
"I see," Castiel says, in a tone that indicates he really doesn't.
"Then you're the only one," Sam gripes, squirming. "Cas, seriously, hands."
"Whiny," Dean feels compelled to say again.
He's slipping out of consciousness and doesn't quite parse Sam's venomous-sounding reply or Castiel's concerned answer, but he is aware of his mattress shifting and then sinking abruptly beneath him. He makes what he hopes is understandable as an inquiring noise, but doesn't open his eyes.
"Sharing body heat, okay," he hears Sam mutter from somewhere in the room. "We can do that. But there's no way I'm letting you park your fat ass on top of me, Dean." There's a grunt of effort and long, drawn-out screech that might be furniture moving. Or, you know. Godzilla. "Perfect," Sam says, breathing hard. "Shove him over, Cas."
This is mildly alarming, but when a hand lands on his shoulder and rolls him off, instead of landing on the floor he bounces on another set of saggy springs. Aha. Sam's butted the loveseat up to the couch.
"Lookit you, big brain," Dean mumbles, burrowing back into the body next to him. Mmmm, warmth.
"God, it's freezing," Sam grumbles as the blankets rustle, and Dean jumps a little when icy-cold toes brush his ankle. "Cas?" he says from much closer. "Are you warming up okay?"
"Yes. This is actually quite pleasant," Castiel responds. "What do we do now?"
"We shut our frickin' traps," Dean says, because his head is on Castiel's chest and each time the angel speaks it vibrates just under Dean's ear. "Some people are tryin'a sleep."
"You're such an asshole," Sam says, but halleluiah, he's starting to sound drowsy too.
"I see," Castiel says seriously, and maybe this time he does. "I'll take the first watch."
"Knock yourself out," Dean says.
And just before he slips completely under, he feels a hand come to rest on the back of his neck. "Hngh?"
"Go to sleep," Castiel says softly.