AN: I've hit a little writer's block, but I'm hoping I managed to work through it! HTank you for reading and liking this!

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Cufflinks
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Karen viciously stabbed at a potato. There was a demon in her house, staying under her roof, eating her food, and sleeping on her linens! And not just one. Oh, no. There were two of them. She took a calming breath and stared at the unfortunate potato.

'Hey, Karen…uh…' Dean cautiously approached Karen.

Karen turned to face Dean, a bright smile on her face. 'What is it, sweetie?'

Dean eyed the knife in Karen's hand. 'Er…I was gonna ask what was for dinner, but uh… I think I'll just go find Cas…'

Karen followed Dean's gaze to the knife and her white-knuckled grip. She quickly set it on the counter. 'Here, how about you help me?' she offered as she pulled out a bowl and filled it with water. 'Meatloaf, broccoli, and mashed potatoes. You can cut the potatoes!'

Dean's shoulders slumped in defeat. He just wanted to know what was for dinner. He wasn't ready for a heart-to-heart with Karen. He picked up the knife and set about cutting. 'Sorry…about all this…'

Karen gave Dean a smile and a shrug. 'You didn't know. I didn't even know. About Castiel, that is,' she said. 'I could feel he was different, but… I never would have thought…' She shook her head as she pulled out the ingredients she would need.

Dean let out a quiet laugh. 'Yeah… I didn't find out until the other day. It just…hit me. Looking at his wings…I just… It was like looking at some…dark angel or something, and it just clicked. So, I was able to fix the cuff.'

Karen frowned and looked at Dean. 'Fix…? Dean, what was wrong with the binding cuff?' she asked.

'Er…' Dean swallowed self-consciously and gave Karen an uncertain smile. 'It uh…didn't work that well,' he replied. 'S-sorry I didn't say anything. I just…I didn't want you guys to have an excuse to make him leave. And I didn't want you to worry.'

Karen sighed as she shook her head. 'We wouldn't make him leave, and you know that.' She rolled some breadcrumbs between her fingers, thinking. 'If you don't mind my asking…how did it not work? You said you were feeling each other's thoughts, but…that couldn't be what was wrong.'

'Yeah… It was weird,' Dean eventually replied. 'I guess…he could ignore orders, and he could lie when asked a direct question. He said he could feel the pull of the spell, but he didn't have to pay attention to it.'

'And the cuff didn't fall off?' Karen asked, confused.

Dean stared at Karen. 'Fall off? No, he… He took it off himself a while ago, but it never fell off. Um, why?'

'The cuff falls off if the connection's not strong enough,' Karen explained as she turned back to the pile of breadcrumbs.

'What?! I've never heard of that!'

Karen laughed as she set about mixing ingredients. 'Of course not,' she replied. 'Angels refuse to tell Hunters that there's more to it than just a little binding spell, and a Hunter that loses an angel won't tell anyone out of embarrassment.' She looked up at Dean and grinned. 'Bobby wasn't my first Hunter.'

Dean stared at her, dumbfound. 'W-what…?'

'You know how he found me at the theatre in town?' At Dean's nod, she continued. 'I was there looking for a Hunter. My first Hunter was a jerk. Not just to me. To everyone. I acted out. Fought the pull. Before that first week was up, the cuff cracked and fell off.'

'So…that's what was up with Gabriel at the beginning.'

Karen nodded. 'He was testing the bond. Anything to make Sam snap at him, order him to stop…' She smiled to herself as she cracked a couple eggs. 'I burned the house down during my first week with Bobby,' she admitted. 'We stood outside, staring at the smoking remains… I hadn't meant to burn it down. I meant to cook the most god-awful pot pie, but I didn't know anything about cooking!'

Dean quietly cut the potatoes, listening to Karen. He couldn't begin to imagine Karen not being able to cook.

'And Bobby… Bobby just laughed,' she said. 'We managed to save the more important books, but everything else? Gone. I was cryin', helpless as could be, wailing on about how I just wanted to cook a bad pie!' She laughed, and her wings spread out, making Dean duck. 'The next day, Bobby got me five cookbooks. Said I should learn to cook good before tryin' to cook bad.'

'I don't get it.'

Karen smiled up at Dean. 'He forgave me. He was willin' to make it work. To him, I was more important than the house. Not as an angel, but as a person. He only went in for the books after he knew I was safe.'

'So…you're sayin' that…' Dean trailed off, staring at the potatoes. 'I have no idea what you're sayin'.'

'The link demands more than just obedience in order to work,' Karen patiently explained. 'You have to care about Castiel. There's something in the spell to protect us angels from those who would abuse it.'

Dean nodded. 'Oh, yeah! That I saw. I just didn't get what it did, exactly.'

Karen stared at Dean. 'You… What do you mean?'

'I've been researching these damn binding cuffs and their spells for a week!' Dean replied. He scooped up some potato chunks and set them in the bowl of water. 'I know way too much about the spells that go into them.' He shrugged as he started on another potato. 'But…it helped with coming up with a new spell.'

'A new spell… You mean for Castiel's demon side?'

'Yeah… I essentially put a devil's trap on the other side of the cuff, but, y'know…with bits of the original spell tacked on.'

Karen stared ahead at the wall, pausing from kneading the meatloaf. She never thought Dean would be able to come up with something like that on his own. Or anyone. No Hunter had ever attempted to change the spellwork. She looked back at Dean, clearly impressed. 'The cuffs haven't been changed in centuries!'

Dean slumped forward a little. 'Tell me about it!' He jabbed at the potato a little more harshly than he should have. 'And there's almost no information on it, either! I had to dissect the damn spells myself. I can't believe no one's ever tried changing it before.'

Karen shrugged and moved to the sink to clean her hands. 'If it ain't broke… But…yeah, I can see what you mean. It…' She glanced over at Dean and bit her lip. 'It'd be nice to have the connection, but not the compulsion,' she quietly admitted. 'Bobby's real careful, and he takes it back when he does slip up, but…I wish he didn't have to.'

'So…what Cas and I had before I…fixed it.' Dean stared at the knife in his hand. He never thought about it from the angel's perspective.

Karen laid a hand on Dean's shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile. 'But you changed it,' she said. 'You made it work on an angel with demon blood! Imagine what you could do to lessen the original spell. Make it so we have a choice!'

Dean stared down at Karen, shocked. 'I…I didn't know you felt that way…'

Karen quickly looked away. 'I… Don't go gettin' the wrong idea. I'm happy. I love Bobby so much, and…we're good an' happy together. I mean… Bobby and I…we're married, but…I wish I could wear a ring instead of this,' she said as she raised her wrist, showing off the tarnished cuff. 'It's beautiful on its own, but…it's more a mark of ownership than of partnership.'

'And he can't release you, 'cuz another Hunter would take a go.'

Karen nodded. 'You…you and Sam are such bright boys… If anyone could change things…I think the two of you would be the ones to do it.'

Dean sucked in a breath. 'C-change things? Us?' he weakly asked.

Karen smiled at him and glanced over his shoulder to the doorway. 'Why don't you and Castiel help his father get settled? I'll finish up in here.'

Dean looked over his shoulder to find Castiel hovering just behind the doorframe. 'Hey, Cas…'

Castiel bit his lip as he waited for Dean. 'I need somewhere to hide,' he said. 'And not the panic room.'

Dean could feel the urgency wafting off of Castiel. 'What's wrong?'

'Father's asking questions.'

Dean raised his brow. 'Okay…'

Castiel looked down at the floor, blushing. 'Sexual questions.'

Dean couldn't stop the snort of laughter that surfaced. 'Like what?' he asked, grinning. This was a good change in pace. Nowhere near as heavy as his previous conversation. He could talk to Sam about it later once he'd wrapped his head around it.

Castiel made a distressed tone, and his wings fluttered. 'L-like sex. Penetration. He's asking if we're using protection!'

Dean laughed and leaned against the wall for support. 'You told him we haven't done that much yet, right?'

'Yes! He doesn't believe me!' Castiel cried out. He straightened and glared as Dean broke out into a new fit of laughter. He stamped his foot and the light above them burst. 'Dean!'

The popping of the bulb calmed Dean slightly, and he grinned at Castiel. 'That's just…wow! I'm sorry, Cas, but… That's priceless!' He roughly wrapped an arm around the angel's shoulders and guided him toward the stairs. 'Tell ya' what, we'll hole up in my room.'

'No, I'll be cornered!' Castiel replied. 'That's why the panic room won't work. He'll have me cornered, and he'll start interrogating me again!'

'Heya, Clarence.'

Castiel stared at the stairs in dismay. Meg sat in the middle of them, effectively blocking the way. He felt Dean stiffen next to him and hint of distrust from the Hunter. 'Meg.'

'Don't worry, Dean,' Meg said. 'I'm not after your boyfriend.' She turned her attention back to Castiel. 'I see my advice worked.'

Castiel shifted uncomfortably. 'Your advice yielded better results,' he replied.

'What advice?' Dean asked, confused.

Castiel growled in frustration at the cuff's tug. 'Advice on flirting,' he quietly snapped.

'Oh, shit. I'm sorry!' Dean said, backing away from Castiel.

Meg giggled from her spot on the stairs. 'I told him he should show an interest in what you like. Ask questions,' she added.

Castiel could feel his cheeks burning. 'Yes, you were very helpful.'

Meg stood and approached Castiel. She reached up and ruffled his hair. 'C'mon, don't be like that.' She leaned in despite the glare she received from Dean. 'Why don't you just jump him?' she asked quietly.

Castiel squeaked and looked at Dean. 'Um…'

'Let him groom your wings,' she whispered into his ear. 'That's your fantasy, right? Do it. He'll love it.' She backed away and gave Castiel a wink before walking off.

Castiel could feel confusion through the link and could only imagine what Dean was feeling from him. 'All right… L-let's hide in your room,' he stuttered. He started up the stairs and looked behind when he noticed Dean wasn't following.

Dean stared up at Castiel. He wasn't quite sure what he was feeling from the angel. Embarrassment, uncertainty, lust…a large helping of lust. What did Meg say to Castiel?

Castiel breathed deeply and slowly extended his wings, drawing Dean's attention to them. 'W-would you like to…uh…groom them?'

'Yes!' Dean blushed lightly at his outburst and rubbed at his neck. 'Er…yeah. That sounds…fun?'