A/N: The final bit. I think I'm actually going to miss this monster baby of mine.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Consider this a late present.
Christmas in Kansas City is not exactly the Hallmark ideal. It only snows just enough to cover everything with a nice layer of misery, grey slush caking car tires and hiding, but not actually covering, the patches of ice that make sidewalks and porch steps literal murder. Dean's gone sliding through two red lights so far- the unfortunate thing about the Impala in winter is her sheer weight; if she hits a patch of ice, she's not stopping until she hits something, damn what Dean has to say about it. The sun hasn't come out in days, the sky covered with a continual thick grey blanket of low-hanging clouds. The seizure-inducing blinking lights and the canned music and the Santas at the malls and on street corners are doing a fine job of slowly driving everyone mad. Dean kind of passively-aggressively hates the Christmas season, when he isn't aggressively-aggressively hating it, and if one more person calls him a Scrooge…
There are good things about it, though. Even Dean has to admit the Christmas lights and decorations on the houses are pretty cool, all lit up at night, at least when they aren't gaudy and overdone and a serious fire hazard. And getting presents is awesome, of course, because Dean is still a child inside and giving is nice but getting is so much better. Also, Christmas is the time of year where everyone forgets about crap like calories and trans fats and eats whatever the hell they want.
He's in the back, hunched protectively over a plate of Ellen's orgasmically good cookies that he has to defend with his life because he is surrounded by cookie thieves, when Jess sticks her head in to tell him Cas is here.
He grabs the plate and comes out front.
Cas looks worn, as he always does these days- he's breaking in a new partner, some blond British nut who is pretty much Cas' polar opposite- but he lights up when he sees Dean. He circles around the counter as Dean's putting the cookie plate down and hooks an arm around Dean's waist and pulls him into a peppermint-flavored kiss.
Someone in the corner of the shop starts whispering, no doubt asking if that isn't that one serial killer's little brother. Cas still gets grief over that, but he ignores it for the most part, and what he can't ignore, he shuts down with one long stare. Mostly people just accepted it and moved on. Michael had bowed out and was long gone but Cas had stood his ground and weathered the storm, and even if it never really goes away, at least it's no longer a big thing. Cas doesn't take anyone's crap and doesn't let anyone's opinion of him bother him and doesn't notice the whispers that follow in his wake, and his captain, as it turned out, was willing to go to bat for him once it became obvious that Cas wasn't running away.
It's still rough, in some ways, and probably always will be- cops are paranoid and superstitious in their own weird ways, and Cas pings all their radars in all the wrong ways now. But all the same, the same thing that drove Michael away is what protects Cas- people think better of him for staying than they would for his leaving. Kansas City is the only city in the country that has a serial killer's brother on the force and they take a sort of perverse pride in it.
"You kill Balthazar yet?" Dean asks, offering up one precious cookie. Cas takes it and braves Dean's wrath to snatch another.
"Not yet," he says evenly. "I kind of like him, in a way. He reminds me of you sometimes."
"Okay, ow," Dean grumbles. Cas ignores him and takes a bite of his cookie.
"That's sweet," Jess says. Behind her Sam- or Cousin Itt; it's getting hard to tell these days- starts gagging like a five-year-old. Dean makes a mental note to call up Pam and ask if there are any young non-psycho female ghosts hanging around, and if any sort of ghostly hooking up is possible. The very idea of ghost sex is scarring on so many levels, but Dean is an awesome big brother, and unfortunately offering romantic assistance to helpless hairy moose- mooses? meese?- is an awesome big brother's responsibility.
"I need a ride home," Cas says. "Balthazar borrowed my car."
"He finally figured out convertibles aren't good for winter, huh?" Dean asks smugly. "And Mustangs are shit at handling snow."
"If you start talking about how your car is superior to all others, you will sleep on the couch tonight," Cas informs him bluntly, not even bothering to look up at him. Jess sniggers as Dean snaps his mouth shut. Cas isn't joking about that, just as he wasn't joking when he said he'd arrest Dean if there was ever call to. That had been simultaneously one of the hottest and most embarrassing moments of Dean's life.
"I've got it handled here, if you want to go," Jess says, smiling knowingly at them. Cas finishes off his second cookie and leans on Dean, gently pushing him away from the plate, and makes a sneaky ninja-esque move for a third. Dean lets him have it, because he's warm and comfortable, all pressed up against Dean like that.
"I think I'll stay here," Sam offers, clever boy, probably knowing where this will be heading once they make it home.
Dean leaves half the cookies for Jess and shepherds Cas outside. As always, Cas seems utterly indifferent to the cold, which Dean will never understand and will always think is massively unfair. Once they're at the Impala Cas stops and turns and kisses Dean again, a real kiss this time, the kind that takes a moment to recover from once it's over. Dean licks his lips, chasing the peppermint flavor.
"Peppermint tea?" he asks. Cas produces a large baggie full of tea leaves.
"Secret Santa," he says, enunciating carefully, like he's never heard these words before and he wants to make sure he gets the pronunciation just right. He'll always have that, Dean thinks, that streak of alien weirdness in him. "Jo drew my name."
"Huh," Dean says, like he hadn't spent two hours down in the station, hunting people down and making damn well sure the person who got Cas in that exchange knew him as something other than the devil's little brother. He'd paid some rookie beat cop fifty bucks to switch with Jo, who had declared him 'adorable'.
He'd given Jo the tea, too, so really he'd done all the work there, but it was worth it in the end.
"Freakin' herbivore," Dean grumbles. "Put that down before someone accuses you of using pot."
Cas gives Dean a dark look- the tea thing will always be a thing between them, but it's all Cas' fault anyway because he's the guy who drinks tea and decided to go out with the local coffee shop owner- and Dean wraps a hand around Cas' and slides it into his pocket. He keeps his hand there for a minute or two, his fingers like ice and Cas' hand nice and warm, and slides the other up under Cas' coat.
It's not perfect. Dean's brother is still dead and stuck in limbo, and Cas' brother is still the one who put him there. Cas' whole family is still a disaster zone, and now the whole world knows it. People still stare and whisper and point at both of them because now they're both officially the town weirdos. Jess got drunk at the Christmas party last week and informed Dean very solemnly that she thinks Cas' new partner is kind of hot, and ever since both Sam and Cas have been looking at her like she'd sprouted a second head. Cas still drinks tea and watches history programs with Sam and works unpredictable hours and he still says I love you to Dean in a soft, almost timid voice, like he really thinks Dean's answer is ever going to change.
"Get in the car and turn on the heat if you're cold," Cas tells him pragmatically, gently pushing his hands away. Which really just sucks all the fun out of winter and being cold, but Dean's pretty used to Cas being a total joykill.
Dean gets into the car and starts the engine and fiddles with the vents as Cas gets in. Then he reaches over and hauls Cas over, halfway onto his lap, earning a startled grunt. He wraps his hand around the back of Cas' neck and kisses him, focusing only on the way he shifts in Dean's lap, trying to find a more secure position. Then Cas' elbow hits the steering wheel just right and the horn blares, and a moment later Sam is there bitching.
"For Christ's sake- go home! You can wait that long, can't you? God, I thought the honeymoon phase was supposed to be over by now."
"We're going," Dean yells as Cas slides back to his side of the bench seat. Dean glances over at him. "My brother's a whiny bitch, did I mention that?" he asks conversationally.
"You have, yes," Cas says, and Dean can see it now, that glint in his eye. He's got the driest delivery of all time, but he does indeed have a sense of humor in there somewhere. He doesn't mention his own brothers, any one of which would easily trump Sam in the horrible sibling category, kindly allowing Dean his moment.
They're halfway out of the parking lot when Sam comes galloping back out of the shop, face pale and eyes wide and hair flying. He skids to a stop and starts waving to them, gesturing towards a man heading to a gold SUV with dramatic, sweeping arm gestures, like some sort of spastic air traffic controller.
In a rare moment of stubborn immaturity, Cas sinks low in the seat and folds his arms over his chest. "He's your brother," he says petulantly.
"You've got the badge," Dean counters, and Cas growls- actually, literally growls, and Dean will never not think that's the hottest thing he's ever heard- and jerks the door open. He leaves it open on purpose, because a tired and sexually frustrated Cas is cranky and definitely not above such petty retributions. Dean has to slide over to the passenger's side to get it- thank god for bench seats. Then he pulls back into his parking space as Cas pulls out his badge and talks to the man.
"Sorry," Sam says as Dean gets out of the car.
The unfortunate thing about winter is there's about a million more ways to die than any other time of the year, especially accidental deaths, and Sam is useless at predicting the method of death. If this is something accident-based, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, they will never know. They'll be here for hours, if Cas can keep the guy here that long.
Dean still remembers when saving someone's life was a thrill, not just so much work. Then again, back then he had about as much to live for as Sam did.
"Yeah, you owe us," he says, and goes instead to start brewing some tea, because Cas is definitely gonna need it.
Three hours after their first attempt to leave the shop, they finally make it home. Cas, wild romantic that he is, is almost asleep by then. Dean can't blame him- he's been working his ass off these past five months, trying to erase the stain of his family by proving his own worth. Dean hates that it's necessary, and occasionally reminds him that Texas is still an option. It isn't, not really- Cas has been through too much crap to back down now- but he's enough of a jerk to find it amusing how Cas gets all sniffy and disdainful because Sam explained to him the only reason Dean suggested Corpus Christi in the first place is for the beach and the local nightlife.
Dean steers Cas inside, still mostly asleep and pliant and trusting in Dean's guidance. He collapses across the couch and smiles sleepily up at Dean, who goes to get a blanket from the bedroom.
On the dresser is a postcard from Vancouver. It's addressed to their house but names Sam as the recipient; there's no writing on it other than that, but of the select handful of people who know about Sam, they could think of only one who would send a ghost a postcard. It's kind of intimidating, that a serial killer knows their address and feels comfortable sending them stuff, but Dean gets the feeling there's nowhere they can go to give him the slip, and running will only encourage him to chase them. Neither Cas nor Sam need Nick in their lives, ever again, and Dean certainly has no desire to run into Nick's pretty little friend anytime soon.
They haven't told the cops. They'd have to explain the whole Sam thing if they did. So long as it's only postcards, a petty harmless amusement to keep a sociopathic killer busy, there's no need. It's not like anyone's going to catch him.
He leaves the postcard on the dresser- he'll burn it later, just to be safe- and drags the blanket off the bed and heads back out into the living room where Cas, inhuman freak that he is, is asleep on the couch and apparently not bothered in the slightest by the fact that it's about four degrees above freezing in the room.
Dean pushes and shoves his way onto the couch, because sleeping Cas has no manners and trying to be polite with him will only end in bruises and someone sleeping on the floor, squirming about until he's partially beside and mostly under Cas, the blanket on top of them. Cas mumbles sleepily against Dean's throat and nuzzles his neck. Dean buries his face in Cas' perpetually messy hair and breathes in deep. A year ago, he wouldn't have thought, wouldn't have dared to hope, that he could have this.
"Night, Cas," he says, even though he fully intends to be up again within an hour, to get something to eat if nothing else.
"G'night, Dean. Love you." Cas mutters back, and Dean doesn't try to stop his stupid grin at that. He whisper love you too and shifts once more, until he's perfectly comfortable, and closes his eyes and lets himself drift off to sleep.