Dean was out of the car almost before it was completely off. The junk shop to which Cas had sent them was just that - junk. It was a dilapidated old building, the shingles crumbling and the painted name peeling off the windows. It was sandwiched between two large apartment buildings, leaving darkened alleys on either side.
“Cas?” Dean called.
The angel-turned-human, stepped out of the open doorway of the shop, his feet crunching on broken glass which littered the front step. “Dean. Sam,” he greeted, seeming slightly more enthusiastic than usual. “Thank you for coming.”
“‘Course,” Dean said dismissively. “You okay?” he asked, eying the blood on his side with worry.
“Just a scratch; I’ll be fine,” Cas promised. “Though, if you don’t mind, we ought to get out of here. It’s been a few hours since I slipped the angels, but they’re bound to catch up soon.”
“Fine with me,” Sam said, heading back towards the Impala. “I’m not really in the mood for dealing with angry angels anyway.”
Cas headed down the low front steps gingerly, wincing ever so slightly. Dean watched him worriedly without realizing he was doing so until Cas met his eyes questioningly. To cover himself, Dean blurted, “You need some help?” He offered a hand.
Cas waved it away. “I’m fine.” He straightened up, barely allowing a limp to show as he headed for the back seat of the Impala. Dean shrugged and followed. As he put the car into gear and pulled out, he glanced into the rearview mirror at Cas who had his head leaned back and eyes closed.
“We should probably head straight back to the bunker,” Dean said to Sam after he was reasonably certain that Cas had fallen asleep. “The black dog was a long shot anyway.”
“I don’t know, Dean,” Sam said. “I was tracking that article,” he said, gesturing at his phone, “and there have been two more deaths since we set out. Are you sure it’s not worth looking into?”
Dean mulled it over for a minute. He glanced at the mirror again. “I’m starting to think it is, but… Cas is hurt. He’s human now, Sam. He’s gonna need some time to recover.”
“I’m fine,” Cas said again from the back seat. Dean’s eyes shot to the mirror yet again, and this time they were met with the startling blue of Castiel’s. So, not quite asleep, then. “It was selfish enough of me to ask you to come rescue me; I wouldn’t think to ask you to drop whatever case you are on in order to see to my health. It is no worse than I have seen the two of you deal with on multiple occasions. I can handle it.”
“But Cas,” Sam said, “you’re new to being human. New to pain and all that. Are you sure you’re alright?”
“How many times do I have to say I’m fine?”
Dean sent Sam a sideways glance, trying to read his decision. “The man says he’s fine. I say we take him at his word and keep going. You don’t mind working a quick case, do you, Cas?”
“Anything to help,” Cas replied.
Sending Sam a look that said, “See?” Dean raised a brow. With a half shrug, Sam gave in.
“Alright. On to Pennsylvania, I guess,” he said. “But when we get there, we’ll have to get Cas some new clothes and bandage him up.”
“You got it,” Dean agreed, pulling back out onto the highway. The knot in his stomach had unwound upon finding that Cas was okay, but something still lingered there, something that would flare up whenever Dean caught a glimpse of Cas in the rearview mirror. It was annoying, so he did what seemed natural when it came to feelings he didn’t quite understand: ignored them and turned the music up.
“Listen, we shouldn’t waste any more time,” Dean said as they pulled into the town of Huntingdon. “How about I drop you off at the station and you see what you can figure out,” he told Sam, “and I’ll get Cas some fresh clothes, check us into a hotel, then meet up with you, okay?”
“Sure,” Sam agreed. He pulled open the glove box. “I’m taking the Agent May ID, in case you need to address me later.”
“Got it,” Dean said. He turned onto a side road, then pulled up smoothly in front of the police station. “Call me if anything happens.”
Sam got out and shut the door, saying, “Will do.” He straightened his Fed suit jacket and tucked his badge into his pocket, walking confidently towards the police station.
Dean pulled out, saying, “Well, Cas, whaddya say we get some clothes that actually fit you, huh?”
“I was unaware that my clothes were unsatisfactory,” Cas replied.
Dean glanced up, looking amused. “And therein lies the problem.”
Cas frowned, but didn’t protest as Dean led him through the nearest clothing store, navigating the aisles with efficiency. “Something functional, probably,” he mused, glancing at the selection. He grabbed a soft gray V-necked t-shirt and tossed it to Cas who caught it with a bemused look on his face. “We’ll get a few.” Dean threw him a plain button down and another T-shirt in blue before steering him towards the jean section.
They moved out of the clothes quickly, and picked up some bandages and first aid material on the way out, glad that it was an all purpose store. After they paid and were heading back to the car, Dean looked over at Cas. “You still doing okay?”
“Were you expecting much to have changed in the past half hour?” Cas replied dryly.
“Just checking, man,” Dean muttered.
The perks of being in a town as small as Huntingdon was that everything was nice and close together. They were at the single hotel within minutes.
“Two rooms, please,” Dean said, leaning his elbows on the front counter.
The concierge typed a few things into the computer before giving Dean a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, we’re nearly all booked,” she said. “There’s a business convention being held at the moment and they’ve bought up nearly all our rooms. We’ve only got one left.”
“How many beds?” Dean asked.
“Two twins, but with a pull out couch,” she replied.
Dean glanced at Cas who was looking around complacently. “We’ll take it,” he said. The woman smiled and handed over the key. Shopping bag in his hand, Cas lingered for a moment, awkwardly nodding his thanks to the concierge before following Dean down the hall.
As they walked, Dean idly tried to figure out what kind of conference this was. People in business suits passed him, most carrying briefcases. One heavyset man was sweating so profusely that it was starting to show through his jacket. A high stakes profession, then.
“Here we are,” Dean said. “One twenty six.” He inserted the key, then pushed open the door, holding it for Cas who was moving a bit slow. Dean dropped his bag on the nearest bed, then pointed to the other and commanded, “Sit.” Cas sat. Dean made a motion with his hand. “Get that shirt off,” he said, realizing a few seconds late how it came out. He added, “Um, so I can see how bad you’re hurt.”
Cas looked at him blankly, so maybe he hadn’t caught that. There was no reason for Dean to be embarrassed, but he couldn’t help the heat rising towards his cheeks as Cas stripped off his bloody shirt. He forced down a blush. Calm down. It’s just Cas.
The gash ran from about the middle of his left ribcage to his navel - a jagged line raised in a bright red welt. Blood was caked around the edges, and the tissue was inflamed. “God, Cas. That’s no scratch,” Dean breathed. “Maybe we should get Sam and head back. Or at least find you a hospital.”
“Please, Dean,” Cas said. “Just bandage me up here. I swear I’m alright.”
Dean hesitated, but agreed. “If you say so. It’s going to hurt, but you probably ought to get a shower first. Get the dirt outta there.” And wash away all that blood.
Cas nodded. “Give me a few minutes, then.”
“Sure,” Dean said, flopping back on the bed with his duffel on it. He kept his eyes glued to the ceiling as Cas walked past, forcing himself not to watch him go. As he heard the water start up, Dean closed his tired eyes, hoping for a few minutes of shut eye before he’d be back on the black dog case. He tried to think over all the lore he knew about black dogs, but somehow his mind kept drifting…
The water shut off all too soon, and when the door to the bathroom opened with a squeak, Dean initially felt a stab of annoyance for having to open his eyes. He sat up, and his annoyance instantly vanished.
Cas stood at the foot of the bed dressed in his new jeans, his skin shining and clean. His hair was obviously still wet, and stuck up in every direction like he’d just ruffled it with a towel. Ignoring the cut on his abdomen, Cas seemed to glow with healthiness, his blue eyes bright. …And Dean suddenly realized he was staring again. He instantly looked away, covering with, “The jeans seem to fit well.”
Dean worked frantically to gather his shattered thoughts. “Okay, sit back down. Let me bandage you up.”
Cas sat obediently as Dean got out the first aid kit and roll of gauze. He ripped open a disinfectant pad and crouched down in front of Cas, noticing for the first time just how muscular he was. Maybe it was an after effect of being an angel and all, but he was ripped. Dean swiped the pad over his cut and noticed Cas trying not to wince. “Good thing this isn’t much deeper or you’d need stitches,” Dean said encouragingly. Cas merely grunted in return.
Dean picked up a tube of antibiotic cream and squirted some on his fingers. “This might sting,” he warned. Cas nodded, but didn’t say anything. Dean was suddenly a little hesitant to touch him, but got over it, spreading the gel over the cut. He smeared it gently onto the skin around the cut as well, perhaps letting his fingers linger just a little too long. Cas didn’t seem to notice.
“Okay, raise your arms,” Dean said. Cas obeyed, and Dean pressed a strip of gauze to the sticky substance, then went to wrap it around his stomach. For a brief moment as Dean was passing the roll from one hand to another behind Cas’s back, they were practically hugging. He could feel the heat coming off of Cas’s clean skin, and was all too aware of the fact that if he tilted his face up just a few inches, they would be nearly touching. He grasped the roll in his left hand and quickly pulled back, finishing the bandaging as fast as he could. “Feel okay?”
“It feels great, thank you,” Cas replied, studying Dean with those terribly blue eyes. Why hadn’t he noticed their color before today? For a moment, they just stared at each other before Cas broke the silence. “Are we meeting up with Sam now?”
When Dean replied, his voice was a little unfocused. “Yeah. Yeah, we’ll meet up with Sam now.”
But suddenly there wasn’t any place he’d less rather be than checking in with Sam.