A 'new and improved' Castiel makes a sacrifice for Dean's sake.
"I swear, if you even think the word 'Midol' I will end you."
Summary: When Castiel mysteriously disappears the same night that Sam inexplicably returns from Hell, Dean decides to abandon the 'apple pie life' in favor of the road, desperate for answers. Hoping not only to find Cas, but to save their younger brother Adam from Hell, the Winchesters hit a snag when they realize they're on the hit list of almost every demon, angel and resentful hunter out there. In an effort to buy themselves time, they enter a kind of supernatural witness protection program with the help of a pagan goddess, but it comes with its own complications. All the while, Dean finds himself coming to terms with what the nerdy angel really means to him, while Sam is given a chance for forgiveness – if he can just forgive himself.
Rating: R for violence, graphic scenes, coarse language, suggestive adult themes, multiple religious blasphemies and calling the Judeo-Christian deity all manner of bad names (Note: No spirits, shape shifters, werewolves, demons or angels were armed in the making of this fic.)
Pairing(s): Dean Winchester Castiel, Sam Winchester Sarah Blake
Genre: Adventure Drama Romance / Humor
Spoilers – Extensive spoilers from Seasons 1 – 5; some spoilers for certain events in Season 6 & 7
Alternate Reality / Canon-Deviation – Takes place post 5x22 and completely reimagines what happens after. Because Season 6 and Season 7 displeased me greatly.
Genderswap – It's (long-term) temporary. With a twist. That is twisty. I don't generally like genderswap fics, but I read this one called Walk A Mile by cloudyjenn and a plot-bunny attacked me. So here is the result.
Temporary Use of Gender Neutral Pronouns – After careful consideration, I have decided to keep my gender-neutral pronouns in the fic (ze/zir/zirself/etc.) becase they really show the difference between Castiel the angel and Cas the Winchester's friend. For those of you who don't like these, don't worry, you don't see them very often. Just two and a half chapters worth.
Resurrection of Canonically Dead Characters – Enough said.
Blanket Disclaimer: This story utilizes characters, situations and premises that are copyright Eric Kripke and The CW. No infringement on their respective copyrights is intended by the author in any way, shape or form. This fan oriented story is written solely for the author's own amusement and the entertainment of the readers. It is not for profit. Any resemblance to real organizations, institutions, products or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All fiction, plot and Original Characters with the exception of those introduced in the books and graphic novels, are the sole creation of erthechilde and using them without permission is considered rude, in bad-taste and will reflect seriously on your credibility as a writer. There may or may not be a curse in your future as well, so be warned. Remember, all things come in threes, good and bad. Plagiarizing is considered bad.
Beta Reader: Lonely Elf
GM Renaissance Center
Friday 14 May 2010
The angel Castiel folded away wings formed by smoky tendrils of grace and stepped out of the aether, alighting soundlessly upon the rooftop of a Detroit skyscraper. It was nearing dark, the air cool and damp from the rain that had been falling for hours now; the sky was clear enough that Castiel imagined Heaven to be visible from the vantage point.
It was likely the closest ze would ever get to seeing it again.
Resigning zirself to that knowledge was surprisingly easy, even as the immense power of zir enhanced grace thrummed in response to the hymns of the Host in the eternal distance. It was the first time in a mortal year that they were audible, and though Castiel longed to join the chorus and add zir news that the Apocalypse had been averted, now was not the time.
Because Sam Winchester was in Hell and his brother Dean was bound to drive himself to insanity and agony with that knowledge.
After everything that Castiel had sacrificed for Dean, from the moment ze laid hands on him in the Pit and hauled him up from perdition, Castiel was still unable to abide Dean's misery. In practice, the suffering of any soul was troubling to an angel, but Dean was different. It was true that his soul shone brighter than any other Castiel had ever seen, but it was also more than that. There was a bond between them – forged in the moment when Castiel used threads of zir own grace to stitch Dean's body and soul back together – which made the angel particularly sensitive to the emotional state of the human.
It made interactions with Dean easier to forge, and yet at the same time, more painful.
'God gives you a brand new, shiny set of wings and suddenly you're his bitch again.'
Dean's words had hurt more than they should have. Even now the memory was abrasive. Despite knowing that it was anger and grief at the loss of Sam which had fueled his verbal attack, Castiel imagined Dean blamed zir for everything that had happened. And so while Castiel had known that by default of zir second resurrection ze was meant to return to Heaven and oversee its reorganization, the very human emotion of guilt had prompted a change of course, bringing zir to this empty rooftop.
Although angelic presence interfered with the various electronic security measures that mortals used to guard their possessions, Castiel doubted ze would present a very worrisome threat in zir current guise if seen. James Novak, the man whose body Castiel wore and whose soul had been cleaved by an archangel's sword, had not been an imposing figure. The body was incrementally taller than was average for a human male, with delicate bone structure and below average strength. Its dark hair and particular skin pigmentation were unassuming, and had it not been for the peculiar blue eyes that all of Castiel's human vessels were born with, the face would have been considered plain by mortal standards.
In spite of the brisk night air, Castiel could still smell the particular aroma of Dean's automobile on the vessel's clothing. The blend of leather, human sweat and gun oil was not the most enticing scent ze had ever encountered, but it was far from the worst. In fact, Castiel was irrationally comforted by it.
'An illogical sentiment,' the angel chided zirself. Obviously the time spent in a human vessel had altered more than just zir allegiances. Nostalgia was a concept that had been foreign up until now.
Shaking zir head to clear it, a gesture left over from Jimmy, Castiel's attention returned to the problem at hand. Midnight was still a few hours off, and if this undertaking was to succeed, ze had to act quickly.
Digging into the pockets of the trench coat, ze brought out the coin that had been hidden within the Impala. Dean had explained how such a listening device had been used by Crowley for months before he offered them his aid. While the King of the Crossroads demons had removed that particular coin, Castiel had not put it past the demon to place another. It had taken little effort on Castiel's part to locate it without Dean noticing.
"I wish to speak," Castiel said clearly, considering the coin in hand, "and I would rather avoid the trouble on both our ends if I were to summon you."
There was silence on the rooftop for an eighth of a second, before the wind suddenly carried upon it the distinct smell of sulfur. Castiel turned quickly but forced back the usual reaction to a demon's presence by calmly taking in the swarthy body of the demon; killing the one creature that could offer assistance was not the best strategy at the moment.
To angelic eyes, the heavy-lidded face of his vessel appeared morbidly stretched over the ruination that was the demon's true form. The well-tailored clothing seemed inadequate to contain the perverted essence. Still, even Castiel would concede that Crowley's form was better kept than other demons tended to do. Likely it was left over fastidiousness from his time as a mortal.
"Ah, Castiel, Angel of Thursday," the demon pronounced as Castiel finished assessing him. His tone oozed self-satisfaction, yet there was a steely glint in his eyes, which flickered critically over Castiel's borrowed form. He whistled. "Or is it Archangel of Thursday now? I guess it's true what they said about size."
Castiel's augmented grace bristled with a combination of modesty and impatience. "Crowley."
"I assume from the fact you're all in one piece and from the amount of jabbering down on my end that our boys' Hail Mary worked then?"
"It worked, but do not act as though your minor involvement allows you any claim over them." Castiel did not like the notion that Crowley had any kind of connection to Dean or his brother.
Crowley smirked. "Is that so? Because my sources say it's not just Lucifer sitting pretty in the boom right now; seems he's got a cellmate, and they're both wearing Winchester this season."
Castiel felt the vessel's jaw clench at the not so subtle reminder that at the moment, a majority of the Winchester line was ensconced in Hell. Crowley's eyes gleamed at the acknowledgement, and he waved an impatient hand
"Well? What was so important that it required a tête-à-tête?"
Castiel paused, conscious that now was the point where ze could still walk away and return to zir responsibilities in Heaven without upsetting the status quo too badly.
Instead ze fixed Crowley with an intense stare and declared, "I want to make a deal."
There was a beat during which the only sound was an airplane rumbling far overhead.
"You want to make a deal," Crowley repeated, slowly, as though he wasn't sure he had heard properly. When Castiel nodded, the demon's sly smile tightened. "I know you've been slumming with the hairless apes for a while now, luv, but you're an angel. You don't have a soul to sell."
"No. But I do have grace."
Crowley barked out a laugh, but when Castiel merely tilted the vessel's head to one side expectantly, the demon sobered. "Oh, you're serious."
Only the nearly imperceptible widening of the demon's eyes showed that he understood the gravity of the offer.
Crowley recovered the loss of composure that a mortal wouldn't have noticed, and cleared his throat. "Right, well, that's very Neo-Faustian and all, but what the hell am I going to do with something that can burn me up on contact?"
"As with a human soul, if you were to take possession of it, you would be immune to its effects," Castiel responded. "Given your situation, I'm sure you would be able to find a use for it."
Crowley's eyes narrowed. "And what 'situation' is it that you think I'm in?"
"Your hand in stopping Lucifer may have created a power vacuum in Hell, but it will not take long for other interested parties to step in," Castiel maintained neutrally. "As many supporters as you have, I am sure there are ten times that number who lost everything the minute the Devil failed. Ancient demons, almost as old as the Fall, who are more powerful than you and who will not be impressed by your gilded tongue."
"Let's keep my tongue out of this for the moment," Crowley suggested silkily. "What exactly is it that you want, sweetheart?"
"I want Sam Winchester and Adam Milligan out of the Cage."
"So go get them out yourself. You're not exactly the littlest angel anymore."
"I am attempting to do so; unfortunately, it requires your aid. Believe me when I say I would not be considering this otherwise."
Castiel could almost hear the demon's ears perking up at that stipulation, as ze had known would occur.
"Say for an infinitesimally short amount of time I pretend you're not off your rocker," Crowley finally suggested, back to his would-be calm drawl. "It took generations of planning on your side to open the Cage the first time – not to mention nearly having the world implode on itself to do it again. You want me to just waltz down there, pick up Moose and Dean-Two-Point-Oh and waltz out, easy as you please? All while the two most powerful angels in existence are riding their bones?" His expression turned unimpressed. "Do I look like God to you?"
Castiel ignored the blasphemy. "No, you look like a demon. Which is why I came to you. Otherwise this could not work."
"I hate to burst your bubble, but juiced up on archangel's grace or not, it's not going to work," Crowley snapped. "Even for me, it's suicide going down there – and not the nice kind that you come back from with a slight Hell-tan, either. Now, you might not have a problem offing yourself in some kind of grand gesture, but I have no intention to try to break into the bucket just to make a former Fallen Angel feel better."
"My feelings have no bearing on this matter, as in the event that you agree I will cease to exist."
Angels who were careless with the gift of immortality, whether by accident or by design, were punished with oblivion; there was no Heaven or Hell waiting, not even for those who gave up their grace to experience one short, final lifetime as a human. Having died twice, Castiel knew better than most exactly what oblivion meant.
Rather than cede that point, Crowley continued on as though he hadn't heard. "Do you even know how bloody hard it is to pull a soul out of Hell on a good day? And that's just a soul, not the body it's attached to."
"I do have some idea, yes," Castiel replied without a hint of mortal irony.
"But you want me to go down there and haul up two humans, body and soul." The demon crossed his arms. "Even if I could, I wouldn't, just on principle."
"And yet judging by your continued presence here, you are obviously willing to listen to my proposal."
"Well, I am a businessman – ludicrous or not, it's usually in my best interest to know the long and short of something before I completely write it off."
"I do not think you will write this off."
"I will if you don't start talking. You angelic types love to have your bit of suspense, don't you?"
Castiel paused thoughtfully, not completely sure how to begin this discussion. Given the demon's impatience, it seemed prudent to get directly to the point. "Lucifer's prison was not created for the sole purpose of imprisoning the Morningstar."
"I suppose you're going to tell me it doubles as a soup-kitchen, then?"
Castiel ignored the jibe. "God constructed the Cage as a lesson, one that was not just for Lucifer. The Six-Hundred Seals and the Sixty-Six that had to break in order to open it were only ever a failsafe. Michael and the other archangels were unwilling to make known what the true key to the Cage was."
"And you neglected to mention this when we were scrambling around trying to stop the bloody sky from falling, why?"
"Because I did not know it then," Castiel hedged. "My…promotion has accorded me an increase in knowledge, it seems. Even had I known then, I still would not have said anything, because it was an impossible option at the time."
"Collecting the rings and tricking the Devil were also impossible, but your flannel-clad crush and his brother seem to have pulled it off fine."
"That was not impossible, simply improbable. What I am proposing was truly unfeasible at the time."
"But it's not now?"
"Alright, my interest is slightly peaked," Crowley granted, making a gesture with his hand that invited Castiel to continue his story.
"From the moment of Lucifer's betrayal, God entertained the hope that reconciliation would be possible. Not only between those that we lost in the Fall, but between angels and demons as well."
"I don't see that happening any time soon," Crowley scoffed.
Castiel inclined zir head in agreement. "Neither do I. However, God decreed that should this resolution ever take place, and either Lucifer served his punishment and repented or Michael and the Host clamored to welcome him back to Heaven, then a key would be created."
"Don't hurry to get to the point on my account, or anything."
"The key to the Cage is in the grace of an archangel," Castiel revealed, increasingly conscious that every word out of zir mouth was a betrayal of Heaven. "If the archangel were to bequeath their grace to a demon, that demon would have the power to open the Cage."
"Which would be equivalent to suicide, considering the archangel would be dead."
"So basically, you're propositioning to hand me over the keys."
"I cannot think of any better suited," Castiel allowed. "Other than the Winchesters, you have the most to lose if Lucifer were to break free. It stands to reason you would be a better jailer than some of the higher powers in Heaven."
"And all you ask in return is for me to do a little sweep of the Cage for you before I take possession of it?" Crowley smirked.
The silence that followed was heavy with implication.
"So…a deal, then."
"Exactly." Castiel nodded. "You can see why such an act would have been impossible. Even if Michael ever chose to take advantage of that option, no archangel would ever voluntarily give up their grace. Even for their brother."
Crowley's eyes squinted in understanding. "But you would."
It wasn't a question.
A silent conversation passed between them.
For a long moment, Crowley stared at zir, the façade of arrogance slipping briefly as he processed the implications. Castiel prepared zirself for a disparaging remark about how ze must be desperate to consider this course of action; after all, never had an angel – and an archangel at that – so blatantly corrupted themselves for the possibility of saving a human from pain.
Then again, no angel had ever forged such a particular bond with a human before.
Crowley groaned. "Bollocks, I thought I'd seen it all, but an angel in love is something I could have done without. It's absolutely sickening."
Castiel felt the vessel's eyebrows draw together at what seemed like a non sequitur. "I love all of God's creatures."
"Yes, because obviously you would pervert your grace if anyone off the street asked you to do it," Crowley retorted dryly.
"It is true, I have some attachment to the Winchesters," Castiel granted. "We have fought together as brothers in arms, and I would consider Dean in particular to be a friend."
"I can guarantee that that attachment you feel is anything but friendly or brotherly," Crowley leered, but when Castiel did not rise to his bait, the demon sighed and continued, "Does said kept-human know what you're planning?"
Castiel ignored the implication. "No."
"Let me rephrase – is he going to be summoning me up here in righteous fury over your dead carcass?"
"Even if he does, there's nothing he could do about it. Once you use my grace to open the Cage, I will cease to be."
"I take it you've made peace with that fact, then."
Castiel smiled. "I have died twice for the Winchesters; extinction does not worry me."
Crowley harrumphed thoughtfully, scrutinizing Castiel for several seconds before rolling his eyes in acceptance.
"Alright, you've made a compelling argument – and considering the benefits I'd be reaping from this little arrangement, I'm liable to take it," Crowley decided. "But not without an adjustment."
Castiel frowned. "Which is?"
"Snagging both boys out of the Cage is asking too much. Deal or not, too much could go wrong – I could get killed. Besides, I'll need some kind of insurance if they ever decide to come after me. So it'll be just the one damsel I'll be saving from distress."
"The Winchesters will not leave family behind," Castiel warned, the vessel's fists clenching. "Once they realize he remains down there, they will find a way to save Adam. Given their usual unorthodox methods, it would be in your interest to save him now."
"I'll take my chances," Crowley groused. "It's enough that I'm considering returning Lucifer's meat topside, but Michael's spare as well? If that's not a shot in the foot to begin with, I don't know what is. Besides, what does it matter to you? Your precious Dean will have his better half back and you'll be dead. Everyone already wins."
Castiel pursed zir lips, seeing that the demon would not budge on this point.
"The choice is yours – the moose or the runt?" Crowley challenged.
"Sam, then," Castiel said without hesitation. Ze had known when first offering up the terms for both of Dean's brothers that Crowley would only agree to save one. "But then I will have some provisions of my own to add."
"Oh?" Crowley quirked an eyebrow, but by the amused twitch of his mouth he had expected this as well.
"If the covenant is to bring Sam Winchester up from the Cage, it will be done properly," Castiel dictated. "He is to be alive, completely whole and not missing any part of himself, physical, spiritual or mental. He is to be purged of the addiction to demon blood and you will see to it that he does not retain any memories of the Cage. Furthermore, once you have returned him to his brother, you will instruct your underlings to leave the Winchesters and any of their immediate allies in peace. They are not to be permitted to make any more deals with your kind."
Crowley roared with laughter, and Castiel briefly thought the demon was expressing his amusement at Castiel's demands, but instead, an expression of respect flickered over his borrowed face.
"It's a shame you're an angel, Cas," Crowley said, and Castiel shuddered at the sound of the nickname Dean had given zir as it rolled over the demon's tongue. "You might have made a good Crossroads Demon – or a lawyer."
"I have known your kind to find loopholes in everything – for example, the soul of Robert Singer that you have yet to return."
"Now, now, precious, you know I can't discuss other clients with you," Crowley chided. "I'll agree to the rest of it, but I have business with our Mr. Singer as of yet."
There was another heavy silence, this time where Castiel had to weigh the potential cost of pushing the point. In the end, ze decided to leave it; as with the situation of Adam, the Winchesters were unlikely to allow Crowley to retain their adopted father's soul once they discovered the demon's intentions. As it was, time was becoming a constraint; the longer Sam remained below, the more difficulty there would be in bringing him back up.
"Very well," Castiel finally agreed.
Crowley watched zir, amused.
"You'd really tip the scales on a cosmic scale, just to keep one angsty, damaged human soul from having to cry himself to sleep at night?" he inquired. The implication that Castiel was handing Hell a potentially game-changing weapon remained unsaid.
"I believe the Winchesters are as important to the cosmic balance as all the forces of Heaven and Hell," Castiel replied earnestly. "That much has been proven already."
"Point," Crowley conceded. "However, seeing as how this is a deal, I'm required to make sure you fully understand what you're doing. Events could just as easily turn out in my favor if you do this. In fact, it's more than likely they will."
"I have faith."
Crowley chuckled humourlessly. "I thought you would have lost it ages ago."
"I have faith in Dean," Castiel corrected. "Dean has faith in Sam. Together, they will endure. And I would rather Dean didn't sell his soul this time, considering the trouble I went through to get it back before."
"Which brings us back to what he's going to say when he finds out you brought his brother back by giving up your life," Crowley pointed out.
"I don't imagine he will say much," Castiel shrugged, ignoring the vague sense of hurt that flittered within zir grace at that knowledge. Dean would likely not care how it had come to pass, so long as his brother was safe. "Not that it will matter. I will be dead."
"And you're all calvin with that, then?"
"I have made peace with the likelihood, if that is what you wish to know," Castiel agreed. "Death does not frighten me; if anything, the peace of oblivion will be a welcome change. Besides. I believe God knew I would do this when he brought me back the last time. He knew I would be the only one who could carry out this act without truly dire consequences."
Crowley shook his head. "There are always consequences, Feathers. In fact, what exactly are the consequences if I don't actually agree to any of this?"
"Then I will be forced to explore a different avenue," Castiel said frankly. "I am still an angel, as yet, and there are those who would support me in laying siege to Hell. It may be unlikely that we would succeed, however I'm sure that the destruction caused by another assault on your demesne would be detrimental. I would imagine that Hell's foundations are still unstable after our last foray into the Pit."
Crowley sniffed. "I'll admit, that sounds a mite bit messier than I generally like my affairs."
"Yes, your reputation is known even in Heaven," Castiel agreed. "That same reputation assures me that you honor every deal you make."
"Them's the rules," Crowley acceded. He sighed dramatically. "Alright, then, we have an accord. Give me twenty-four hours and I'll drop the Boy Prince Who Wasn't right on his brother's doorstep, in mint condition, and all will be right with the world. D'you need a moment to look over the contract?"
Castiel shook zir head. "The stipulations are clear to me. You will take immediate possession of my grace and the deal will be fulfilled instantaneously."
"Anything else you'd like to add? I'm surprised you didn't demand your pets to lead the lifestyle of the rich and famous once you're gone."
"They would not be happy in such a life," Castiel replied vaguely. Ze squared zir shoulders and focussed on Crowley. "The usual methods will suffice?"
"Well, you sure know how to make a girl feel special, don't you?" Crowley mock-sighed. "I swear, you feather brained git, if I end up burned up by this I will find a way back into being for the sole purpose of giving you a good kick up the bottle."
Castiel ignored the threat and slowly approached the demon. Zir forays into the art of embracing humans was limited to the incident at the den of inequity with Dean, but it was unlikely anything more complicated than that would be required to solidify the deal.
Ze hesitated a few inches from the demon, unable to ignore the festering maw of its true face. Obviously sensing Castiel's uncertainty, though, Crowley reached forward, fingers gripping none-too-gently into the vessel's neck and hauling Castiel's face to within an inch of his own.
"Last bit's gotta be all you, ducky, or it won't work," the demon smirked.
Steeling zirself, Castiel closed the last bit of distance and crushed their mouths together.
Castiel was briefly aware of the scrape of stubble and the taste of sulfur, blood and something alcoholic, before zir senses were overloaded.
There was a searing pain and blinding light.
And then everything went dark.