Disclaimer: Not mine.

Notes: Written for the Dean/Cas Fireplace, beta'd by oceansex.

Curse of the Black Purl

It's a hat, or at least hat-shaped.

Dean stares at it. It sits on his nightstand, innocuously, and he wonders what sort of world-shattering disaster is going to happen if he touches it. He also wonders how the Hell it got here.

"Hey, Sammy," he yells, in the general direction of the motel bathroom, because seriously, Sam is a fucking girl, and he spends like half his free time in there. "Sammy!"

Sam opens the door with a bit too much force, bitchfacing at him. "What?"

Dean gives him a shit-eating grin. "This yours?"

Sam squints at the knitwork.

"No," he says. "Dude, what is that?"

"It's a hat," Dean says, "or a weapon of mass destruction. I'm not sure yet."

"How did it get here?" Sam asks. He walks over to the hat – and he's wearing pants, thank God, Sam's always been a bit too easily distracted by whatever mystery is in front of him and Dean really doesn't need that, ever – and gives it a look like he expects it to start explaining. Dean shrugs.

"I don't know," he says, and there is an uneasy feeling growing in his stomach that probably isn't as strong as it should be, but with the kind of monsters they've come across lately, this is nothing.

Sam pokes at the hat with a pen and slightly exaggerated caution. There is a definite lack of explosion.

Alright. Dean picks it up, half expecting it to take his hand off or something. It doesn't; instead, there is something like a jolt of electricity. It feels weird and vaguely familiar, and Dean almost drops the hat.

"You okay?" Sam asks, like he's expecting him to faint like the heroine in a trashy romance novel.

"Yeah," Dean says. "It's just a really ugly hat - someone must have left it behind."

They burn and salt it anyway, just in case.

Dean forgets all about it until two weeks later, when he finds a scarf on his bed. It looks like someone started knitting and forgot how to stop, because – and they measure it – it's almost as long as Sam.

There are almost no holes in it.

It's only the beginning; over the next weeks, scarves, jackets, hats, sweaters, socks and blankets start appearing in their hotel room at a pretty alarming frequency.

Castiel shows up at the beginning of winter. They're in Newport, Michigan, and it's fucking freezing; whenever it's windy, which it is, all the time, it feels like being repeatedly stabbed in the face. Mother Nature is a vicious bitch, but they're in the middle of the fucking Apocalypse, so Dean supposes he should just be grateful that it isn't raining dead babies or something.

Dean left Sam chatting up some chick at the diner, because it's about time his younger brother got laid by someone who isn't an evil Hellbitch. (Knowing their luck, she'll turn out to be some kind of soul-eating monster in the morning, but Dean tries to be optimistic. Maybe nothing happens. Maybe this is the actual truelove of Sam's life. Hell, maybe Lucifer explodes in the presence of their love and they ride into the sunset on unicorns, vomiting rainbows.) Castiel is standing outside their motel room, and Dean wonders how long he's been there.

"Cas," he says. Castiel turns around. His eyes flick briefly to Dean's hands, or, more accurately, his gloves.

"Dean."

"Bad news?" Dean asks, feeling strangely self-conscious and a little bit like his hands are burning. (The thing is, these are nice gloves, and it's fucking cold. If they were cursed, something would have happened by now.)

"No," Castiel says, and that's a first, "I just wanted to make sure that you were … all right."

He looks kind of awkward, but then he always looks kind of awkward, like he's wearing a suit that doesn't fit right. (And yeah, technically he is, but Dean tries not to think about that.)

"We're fucking fantastic," Dean says and grins, bitter and sharp like smoke. Castiel, who has all the social awareness of a toaster, misses any possible nuance the statement may or may not have. He watches Dean with his usual unnerving intensity – on anyone else, that look would be enough to get them committed – head tilted like Dean is some kind of inexplicable riddle he's trying to work out the answer to. Dean used to hate that shit, but now he finds it almost reassuring. (It says, I am not a sex-crazed, joyless junkie. It says, I am Castiel, angel of the Lord.)

"That's good," Castiel says.

There is a pause. It feels like it's so full of some profound and hugely important truth it might burst, but Dean can't for the life of him figure out what the hell it's supposed to mean.

"What's with the smile, anyway?" Dean asks, because there's a faint smile on Castiel's face and it's been there for so long Dean kind of wonders if it has gotten stuck that way.

Castiel isn't looking at him. He's staring past him, past the parking lot behind him, looking at – or for, because who really knows what goes on in the angel's head – something Dean can't even begin to guess at, and he's – yeah, still smiling.

"I'm happy, Dean," he says, like he's telling him that the sky is blue. Like they're not in the middle of the Apocalypse and probably going to be dead this time next year. Dean stares at him.

"You're a freak," he says, and for a moment, he almost thinks he's given himself away, because Castiel suddenly refocuses on him, and holy crap. To call it a look would be like calling Doctor Sexy kind of attractive; it doesn't really do it justice. It feels like being stripped naked and having layers carefully peeled off your soul, and while Dean is just fine with the first one, the second one makes him a bit uncomfortable. He tries really, really hard not to fidget.

"I suppose we are," Castiel says, finally, his gaze softening almost imperceptibly. Dean thinks maybe he's fucking with him, because "we"?

Castiel is looking at his hands again, and Dean has a sudden, unexpected flash of insight.

"Cas," he says, very carefully, "have you been knitting?"

Castiel is very studiously not looking at him. "You said I should get a hobby."

And yeah, Dean kind of remembers that, but that doesn't prevent the silence from stretching out between them, vaguely embarrassed of itself. Dean could be imagining it, but Castiel is starting to look a bit pink.

"Dude," he says, "seriously?"

"Knitting reduces stress," Castiel says, stoic. Of course, he is always stoic, but this is the "soldiering on" kind of stoic, the kind that suggests extreme internal bleeding caused by the stick up his ass. Dean barks out a laugh, because this is fucking hilarious.

"Come on, Needle Boy," he says, throwing a hand around Castiel's shoulder, "it's fucking freezing out here."

And that's the end of it, or at least it's the end of it until they're cornered by bounty hunting demons three days later in the local pie shop. The demons have a look to them that Dean and Sam have seen more and more frequently over the past few months – the razor-sharp, sadistic happiness at the misfortune (read: death) of others amplified by the slippery, sociopathic knowledge that none of the rules apply to them.

There wouldn't have been a problem if it had just been the usual one or two assholes – even Castiel is with them, for once – but there are fifteen. Dean barely has the time to curse before one of them throws him into a wall. In fact, he's pretty sure they are all going to die until Castiel stabs a demon with his knitting needles.

Its head explodes. There is no warning; one moment, Castiel is ramming the needles home, and the next, the walls are covered with sticky, pink globs of what used to be demon flesh.

It's gross.

It's fucking awesome.

There is a resounding silence – Dean spares Sam a surreptitious glance in case he's had a relapse and acquired a sudden taste for demon brains, but he looks mostly disgusted. Dean tries not to feel relieved.

Then, with the quiet, insistent precision of a librarian refiling books after finding them misplaced for the nth time, Castiel picks up the needles – the blood at the ends sizzles gently – and makes short work of another demon before anyone really has the time to process what the hell is going on.

The rest is almost a good time.

Castiel has been standing outside for an hour, staring at the parking lot. Even his trench coat looks kind of depressed. After some quick deliberation - "Dude, he's your angel." – Dean joins him.

"Hey," he says, leaning on the railing beside him.

"Dean," Castiel says, and Dean doesn't know when Castiel decided that "Dean" was a good substitute for "hello", but it looks like it's going to stick. He wonders idly if he'll ever hear him say "hey".

"Nice work with the Holy Knitting Needles of Antioch back there."

"I didn't know that it would work," Castiel says. Dean can't read the look on his face – it's like staring at a wall.

"Good thing it did, huh?" Dean says. The grin feels glued to his face.

"The needles are useless now," Castiel says, and the look on his face is fucking heartbroken. (Or constipated, but Dean is pretty sure that doesn't happen when you're an angel.) Son of a bitch.

"They're just knitting needles, Cas, stop acting like someone pissed in your cornflakes."

Castiel exudes silent judgement like a radiator of disapproval.

"They were important to me, Dean," he snaps, and wow, he's been actively mourning them. Dean claps him on the shoulder in a purely man-angel-friendship way.

"Don't worry," he says, smiling, "I'll get you new ones. Hell, I'll even make them engrave them."

Dean isn't sure why he's doing this, but the tentative smile on Castiel's face makes him glad that he is.

"Thank you," Castiel says, like Dean has just promised him the world on a fucking string. Dean feels awkward under the weight of his gaze, and if this were anyone else, he would mock them mercilessly, but -

"Don't mention it," he says. His voice comes out scratchier than usual. "Really, don't."

His hand is still on Castiel's shoulder, and he itches to do … something. Fuck it, he thinks. Fuck it. It's the goddamn Apocalypse, and by some crazy miracle they aren't dead yet. He's always been good at taking risks, especially the suicidally reckless ones.

He slides his hand sideways, brushing against the collar of Castiel's shirt, and finds his tie, pretends to straighten it. His hands don't shake, and he isn't grinning as he leans down and presses a kiss against Castiel's mouth. (Castiel's lips are chapped, and Dean finds himself surprised at how human that is.)

When he pulls back – full of defiance and steeled for defeat – Castiel tilts his head to the side and studies him intently (goddamn angels) for what feels like hours.

And then he pulls Dean back in.