The sun hit Cas’s eyelids like a brick to the head.
“Today’s the day, Benny,” he told his forearm, thrown over his eyes in self-defense. “Today’s the day I finally fire you.”
A quiet mmhm and the sound of fabric rustling came from somewhere to his left. Cas steeled himself and manfully opened his eyes to the sight of his butler drawing the last of the curtains back, then turning to face him.
“What,” Cas croaked, rubbing the sand out of his eyes.
“You have a visitor,” Benny drawled, face carefully blank.
“I told you, send them home,” Cas said, falling back against the pillows. “I need at least another four hours to recuperate.”
“Not one of them from last night,” Benny said. “A man from town.”
Cas frowned, and turned his head. “Who?”
Benny allowed himself a small smile. Cas’s frown deepened.
“You’re here to insulate me from country bumpkins, all-out lunatics, and general stupidity,” Cas said. “It’s one of the perks of being a recluse. Send him away.”
“I tried,” Benny said, fighting a grin. “He was very persistent. Says he needs to speak with you now.”
Cas’s disdain battled with his curiosity and lost. He sat up, stretching, and said, “If this turns out to be a psychopath who murders me, my father is definitely going to dock your pay.”
Benny mmhm’d again and turned, tossing over his shoulder, “He’s waitin’ in the drawing room.”
“Which one is the -” Cas said, before the door clicked shut and he sighed.
It was either the fanciest or most disgusting room Dean had ever been in - he couldn’t decide.
Cigarette butts littered the persian rug. A bra that looked like it had been dipped in some kind of oil hung off the edge of a clock that would definitely get you five figures on Antiques Roadshow. Prescription bottles and glow sticks (really? glow sticks?) peeked out of the bottom of dusty maroon drapes, and the room smelled... a little like the hallway of Sammy’s dorm had smelled the last time Dean had visited, except a thousand times worse.
He ran a hand through his hair and tapped his foot. He’d been so angry on the drive up here, so ready to be turned away by a squad of security guards or a snobby butler. When the cajun guy had answered the door and shown him up to this den of iniquity, it had transformed all his righteous fury into a ball of anxiety. And the now-twenty minute wait wasn’t helping.
He jumped as he heard a bang from somewhere nearby, followed by a hiss, and a gravelly voice saying, “Fuck. Benny!”
Dean glanced around. Was he supposed to be doing something?
The knocking continued in a circle around him, with more curses and shouts for Benny. Finally, the door across from him opened.
A man staggered in who precisely matched the room. His white dress shirt was stained and rumpled and sort of hung off his frame. His feet were bare beneath expensive-looking but wrinkled slacks. His eyes were blue and the bruises under them were purple. His black hair stuck up pronouncedly on one side, and his stubble was at least three days gone. Still, he had a look about him - expensive. Like the room underneath the trash.
The man blinked at him, and Dean stared back. The man spoke first: “Is this the drawing room?”
Dean’s mouth opened. “... um, I dunno?”
The man frowned at him. “Are you the man who wouldn’t leave until I spoke to you?”
Just like that, Dean was jolted back into the present. He straightened, fixed the man with a glare, and said, “Are you Castiel Davies?”
The man - Castiel - smirked, started patting his pockets and circling around the room, and said, “This should be good.”
He continued puttering around, as if searching for something. “So what’s your problem? Noise complaint? Immoral behavior? Corrupting the youth?” He bent and picked up a few of the prescription bottles, shaking them until one rattled. He tipped the pink pill into his palm, and then said, “Sorry, hick moralizing is much less fun when sober. Or worse, hung-over.”
“Hick - what - hang on!” Dean said, as the guy clapped his palm to his mouth and tossed his head back to swallow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m not here to -”
“Wait a minute,” Castiel interrupted. “I know you.”
That shut Dean up. “I saw you the other night, at that hideous place in town, what was it...”
“The Roadhouse?” Dean supplied.
“Yes, yes, you were one of the scandalized natives,” he said. “But I don’t think it was you who told us to, ah, get lost, faggots?”
Dean swallowed. Castiel continued, “It hurt Ian - Ion? - whatever his name was, he was very upset. I had to ply him with single-malt to get him to put out.”
Something cold snaked down the back of Dean’s neck at Castiel’s tone - so bored, so calm, as if they were discussing the weather. He ground his teeth and said, “That wasn’t me.”
Castiel’s gaze snapped back to his, and he smiled serenely. “Of course it wasn’t. I remember you vividly - I never forget a pretty face.”
Dean clenched his fists and decided to get to the point. “I’m here about the mine.”
There was a long pause. Finally Castiel blinked and glanced down at his shirt, as if expecting the mine to be there, then back up, and said, “What?”
“The Little Branch Mine?” Dean supplied. “Just north of town? Owned by Blankenship Energy, a subsidiary of Gilvary Global, which is part of...”
“Davies International,” Castiel finished, smiling slightly at something just over Dean’s shoulder. He turned to look, but it was the same slightly sticky wood paneling. Castiel kept staring. “Fancy that,” he said. “We own a coal mine. How quaint.”
“It won’t be quaint when you’re responsible for hundreds of people dying,” Dean hissed. Angry satisfaction jolted through him when that finally drew Castiel’s eyes back to his. But the man was still more surprised and confused than horrified enough for Dean’s liking.
“What?” He said.
“The mine’s a disaster waiting to happen,” Dean growled. “The ventilators are shot, tunnels cave in all the time, Zach doesn’t care when the meters show there’s not enough oxygen to breathe - it’s a miracle all that’s happened is a few broken bones. That, of course, and the fact that every miner who manages to ‘retire’ dies hacking their lungs out,” he finished.
There was a much, much longer pause. Castiel’s eyes seemed to shift, finally taking on a depth that they’d lacked since he entered the room. Dean rolled his shoulders but kept his glare fixed on the man, staring him down, daring him to disagree, to push him, to make it a real fight. Castiel’s head tilted slightly to the side.
“What did you say your name was?”
“Dean.” he said. “Dean Winchester.”
“You work in the mine?”
Dean blinked, then glanced at the floor for a moment. “My dad,” he said. After a moment his eyes returned warily to Castiel’s face.
“That’s horrible,” he said finally. “I don’t envy your father. But I’m not sure what you want me to do about it.”
Dean frowned. “You’re Castiel Davies. You’re the Davies who, I dunno, overseas all the operations in this neck of the woods?”
Castiel laughed. “Oh, Dean,” he said. “More like I’m the Davies who got banished to this neck of the woods, to rusticate in obscurity until I’ve learned my lesson.” Dean’s frown deepened. “I’m sorry, but my parents oversee all the ‘operations’, and I doubt they care about the safety conditions at the... the -”
“Little Branch Mine,” Dean ground out.
“You could talk to them,” Dean said. “Tell them -”
“No.” Castiel said. It was the most forceful word he’d uttered since entering the room, as if he hadn’t been fully awake until that moment. “Now, my head is splitting and this room’s just a bit too bright for my enjoyment, so if you’ll please -”
“I’m not leaving here until you agree to help,” Dean said. “It’s your family’s mine and your responsibility. There must be something you can do.”
“But is there anything I want to do?” Castiel mused. “Is there anything I’m going to do? It doesn’t sound like me. I’ve nearly mastered the art of doing nothing at all.” His eyes skated around the room. “Nothing of substance, anyway,” he grinned.
“The hell is wrong with you, man?” Dean wondered. “You just going to stew in your own juices while people are getting hurt?”
“They’re not just my juices,” Castiel winked.
Dean made a face. “So what, you threw a few too many wild parties, and Daddy stuck you in a corner for time-out - that’s why you’re going to let innocent people suffer on your watch?”
Castiel’s eye twitched, but Dean blinked and his face had slid back into wax-like calmness. “You’re so angry,” Castiel told him. “So full of fire. Don’t you understand, Dean? None of it matters. It always ends the same. Why not bang a few gongs before the lights go out?”
Gongs? “The hell are you smoking, dude?”
“Everything.” Castiel assured him. “Now that we’ve cleared that up, please -”
“I’m not leaving,” Dean said. “You are going to do something about the mine if I have to beat it out of you.”
“Really,” Castiel asked flatly.
“Yeah,” Dean said, glancing from side to side.
“Then I’ll call Benny in here to throw you out. Which would be hilarious, because though you’re big strapping men, I have the feeling you’re both the kicking and slapping type of fighters at heart.”
Dean scowled. They stared each other down. What was weird was that while Dean felt like it was killing him to hold Castiel’s gaze, the other man looked like he was drinking him in, fascinated, as if there was no room or mansion or town around them, just Dean.
Dean cracked first. “Please,” he said quietly, then swallowed reflexively. “We need your help. I’ll do anything.”
Castiel smirked. “Anything?”
Dean felt his face heat, and his gut prickled with anger. “You’re joking.”
Castiel sighed, though his smirk remained. “Yes. I don’t pay for sex, even in the form of coal mining safety regulations.”
Dean glanced around the room and quirked an eyebrow. “So these folks were here just for the pleasure of your company?”
Castiel grinned. “As a matter of fact, they were.” Dean grimaced and looked away. He could feel the tips of his ears burning.
“But you make an interesting point,” he heard Castiel say. “You’re so indignant. So comically uncomfortable.”
Dean met his gaze again. “Hey man, your place, your rules. I’m not judging.”
“Yes you are,” Castiel said. “And so are the people of this town. I’m the lunatic, miscreant, billionaire playboy who blew into town and am dragging you all into Hades.”
“We don’t use that many words. We’re more like, “that guy, he’s weird.””
Castiel didn’t seem to be listening. “Do you really think this town is worth saving?”
Dean dropped the smirk. “Yes.”
“Live with me,” Castiel said. “For... six months. See what the citizens of Lawrence think of you after you’ve been shacked up with the devil incarnate, sinning our brains out. Then, if you still think they’re worth it, I’ll fix your coal mine.”
Dean felt ice running through his veins. He managed to stutter, “I thought you said we didn’t - you wouldn’t - “
“Oh, I wouldn’t actually extort you into sleeping with me,” Castiel said, “although of course if you changed your mind I’d be happy to oblige.”
He frowned. “I don’t get it.”
“That’s my price,” Castiel said. “Live with me for six months - and of course, you can’t tell anyone why you’re doing it - you don’t have to pretend we’re sleeping together, but you must let them draw their own conclusions - and I’ll find enough money to sink into the mine that all of the safety measures will be top-notch.”
Dean couldn’t decide if he was relieved or infuriated. He shook his head slowly, unable to tear his eyes from the languidly crazed look on Castiel’s face. “Is this all some game to you?”
“Yes,” he said, smiling. “But don’t feel bad, everything’s a game.”
“You’re one soulless bastard.”
“That’s what I thought,” Castiel said, turning on his heel. “Have a pleasant day, Mr. Winchester.”
Dean’s panic, fear, confusion, and disgust welled up in his throat and came out as a barked, “Wait.”
Castiel stopped in the doorframe and looked over his shoulder slowly, his face all pallid skin and stark shadows.
“Then you gotta start fixing the mine right away.”
Castiel took a few steps back into the room. “If I did that, what would keep you from leaving, breaking your end of the deal?”
“You could still pull your investment out at any time,” Dean said. “Place isn’t gonna get fixed overnight, right?”
Castiel nodded slowly, and crossed his arms. “Fine. But then I want something more.”
Dean winced. “What?”
Castiel walked toward him slowly. “You really don’t think the townspeople will turn on you, do you?”
Castiel stopped a foot away from him. “You’re so sure of them. But how sure are you of yourself?”
Dean frowned, but his heart gave an uncomfortable thump. “Dude, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Do you even realize how often you’ve been staring at my lips?”
Dean sputtered and took a half-step backward. “No I haven’t!”
Castiel didn’t laugh. He said, “I want a kiss.”
“What, now?” Dean asked, incredulous.
“No. Once a day,” Castiel said. “You’ll live with me for three months and let your friends and family think the worst. And you’ll let me kiss you, once a day, whenever I want. You can say stop at any time and I will, and I won’t touch you again until the next day. That’s what I want.”
Dean slowly became aware that his mouth was hanging open, and shut his jaw with a click. “Okay, don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but if I agree to do this, are you going to chop me up and bury me under the floorboards?”
Castiel laughed. “No. I prefer to pull people apart in other ways.”
“You’re definitely nuts if you think there’s a chance in hell I’d want to kiss you.”
“Then it will be a mild annoyance and nothing more,” Castiel smirked. “Surely not too high a price to pay to save your precious mine.”
“No,” Dean heard himself saying, then decided that he was right. Three months living in an - okay, disgusting cesspool, but fancy disgusting cesspool - and delivering daily smackdowns to this poor bastard? And improvements at the mine start right away? “You’ve got a deal.”
Castiel smiled like the cat in the cream pot as he extended his hand. Dean shook it, and wondered belatedly if the daily kiss thing would start now. “Um -”
“Don’t worry,” Castiel - hell, he was gonna live with the guy, Cas - said. “We can start the clock tomorrow. I’ll expect you with your things by tonight.”
“Yeah,” Dean said, the bits and pieces of his plan now dawning on him. He was going to have to move. Crap.
“And remember,” Cas said. “You can’t tell them why.”
And lying to Sammy and Dad. Awesome. Must be Tuesday.
He realized they were still shaking. Cas smirked at him again, and Dean dropped his hand like it was burning.
“Okay then,” Dean said. “See you tonight.”
Cas merely stared at him as he backed away slowly and left through the door he’d come in. He momentarily panicked as he realized he had no idea how to get back to Baby, before he saw the butler - Benny - casually leaning on the wall next to the door.
“Were you listening to that whole thing?” Dean asked.
“Mmmhm,” the guy said. “I’ll show you out.”
They retraced their earlier steps through dusty halls, past occasional glimpses of the remains of last night’s bender. When they finally reached the cavernous foyer, Dean felt a tap on his shoulder and turned.
Benny was staring at him with his hands in his pockets. Dean raised his eyebrows after the silence started to linger. “You sure you know what you’re doing, brother?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Dean said. “Sure.”
Benny stared at him a moment more, then nodded. “I’ll make up a room for you,” he said, and faded back into the shadows of the house.