“This can’t end well for me,” Crowley says, staring dubiously down at the sheet of paper on which is written the words to the spell. “Really, whose idea was this, anyway?”
“Yours, if I recall,” Castiel replies in an even tone, though his lips twitch as though he’s fighting a smile. Crowley should not in any way find that endearing.
He scowls. “I meant, whose bright idea was it to stash a holy relic in a box that can only be opened by a demon who is, and I quote, ‘pure of soul’…which, by the way, is an impossibility?”
“Then you are talking about God. And that, I think, was probably the point.” Castiel’s eyes are every bit as intense as usual as he stares Crowley down. “Are you backing out?”
“Of course not,” Crowley scoffs, leaning back in his chair and taking a very deliberate sip of his brandy. “Near as I can tell, I’m the best chance you morons’ve got.” Not that Crowley is under any illusions about himself being pure of anything. But he genuinely wants to help, he likes this world, and damn it all, he likes the Winchesters and their angel – especially their angel – and hell, maybe that will count for something. He hopes, anyway. Either way though, he wasn’t lying. He is the best – more accurately, the only – chance they’ve got. Because having the keys is one thing, but unless they have a way to lure Lucifer back into his prison to start with, the keys are worthless.
If someone had told Crowley two years ago that he’d be looking at the possibility of sacrificing himself for the good of humanity, he would have killed them just on principal. The irony is not lost on him, and he releases a deep sigh.
Castiel’s lips are twitching again, Crowley’s glare doing nothing to stop it. “The spell will release a hidden aspect of your soul, something that will reveal whether or not you’re worthy enough to be allowed access to what lays inside the box.”
“And I simply love how stunningly vague that is.” He also loves how the ritual will require him to speak in Enochian, a language that doesn’t exactly fall easily from the tongue of a demon, and that he be blessed with holy water, an act that will no doubt be painful enough to rival all the worst tortures of Hell. Good times all around.
The angel is quiet for a moment, blue eyes bright enough to burn where they rest on Crowley. When he speaks, his voice is low and sandpaper rough, and full of something Crowley is afraid to put a name to. “Crowley, I’ve come to consider you a friend over these past months. And as your friend, I’m asking you to have faith. This will work.”
Something inside of Crowley trembles at Castiel’s absolute conviction, at his unfaltering faith in a demon of all things. Faith he doesn’t even have in his own family, in his own father. Crowley’s not willing to admit how much that faith has come to mean to him. Admitting that would mean admitting to other things as well, things no self-respecting demon would ever dare to admit to. “Well, let’s have at it then,” he sighs, waving one hand carelessly and taking a final sip of brandy with the other before carefully setting the glass back down.
“Now?” Castiel asks, tilting his head in that dreadfully annoying – very not attractive – way he has.
Crowley rolls his eyes. “In case you hadn’t noticed, we haven’t exactly got an abundance of time. We’re both here anyway, your boys are out hunting and can’t inadvertently sabotage the ritual, and I’ve got little better to be doing with my day than getting myself killed in the most painful way possible.”
“Get on with it, Castiel,” he growls.
Castiel’s look is unreadable, but he nods and reaches across the table, grasps Crowley’s arm, and brings them to Bobby Singer’s living room, where the relic and the spell components are both waiting. Angel travel isn’t vastly different from how he himself gets around, but it still leaves him feeling uncomfortably off-balance. Or maybe that’s just because Castiel’s hand is still on his arm, the angel’s too-blue gaze holding his, and he pulls away before that line of thought can go any further.
Glancing around, he takes in the candles that circle the room, the black shroud covering the area of the floor that holds the box. The box itself is solid oak, inlaid with silver spellwork and a single large stone, diamond-bright and beautiful. Next to the box is a wooden bowl filled with holy water, and that he eyes warily. “Is everything ready?” he asks.
“Yes. It is a very simple ritual, considering what it’s to be used for.”
Crowley sighs once more, nods as he removes his coat and tie. “And Singer, I trust he won’t be back anytime soon?”
“Bobby has given his word that he will remain away for as long as we have need of his house,” Castiel replies, a corner of his lips tilting up. “Though he did not seem happy about it.”
“Shocking,” Crowley says, tone dry. He waves a hand, and the lights go out, the candles flaring to life around them, casting flickering shadows on the walls. “I can’t imagine why a hunter of his reputation would be ill at ease opening his home to a demon.”
“He trusts you,” Castiel says firmly. “As do the Winchesters. As do I. You’ve proven yourself to us, Crowley. More than once.”
Crowley shifts, feeling awkward in a way that he hates, in a way he hadn’t felt for centuries before this ragtag group of outcasts and renegades came traipsing into his life. He wishes he could be more bitter about it. “So are we ready?” he asks, trying to dispel his discomfort.
Castiel nods, walking over to kneel next to the bowl of holy water. Eyes closed, he traces a sigil in the water with one long finger, murmuring something in the language of the angels, and Crowley thinks he sees the water glow for a brief moment. He swallows. Castiel glances over at him with another of those inscrutable looks, and says softly, “You’ll need to remove your shirt.”
Crowley does so, the buttons coming undone easily despite the way his fingers don’t seem inclined to work properly, and he shrugs it off and lets it fall to the floor, his gaze sliding away from Castiel’s as he kneels on the floor in front of him, on the other side of the bowl.
“You remember the words?” Castiel asks, and when Crowley’s eyes find his, he’s surprised to find the angel flushed. Or maybe it’s simply the candlelight.
“I remember,” he says. A breath, a nod from the angel, and Crowley begins to recite. Within moments, it feels as though his throat is on fire, his tongue tripping over the words as he forces them past his lips. It’s agony, but it’s not the worst thing he’s ever felt, and he clenches his fists in his lap, pushing the words out with brutal force, until finally he finishes, breathing harshly, sweat rolling down his face.
Castiel’s eyes, when he can finally raise his own enough to meet them, are wide and worried, and Crowley reassures him with as much of a smile as he can manage. Castiel sighs softly. If either speaks now, it will interrupt the ritual and all of this will have been for nothing, but Crowley can easily enough read the apology on the angel’s face. He raises an eyebrow, a clear sign to get on with it already. Castiel picks up the bowl and dips his fingers in before bringing them towards Crowley’s chest. He hesitates inches away, and the demon grabs his wrist, guides his hand gently to skin. Tries not to cry out at the touch as it burns into him.
The sigil is uncomplicated, and smaller than Crowley would have expected, but by the time Castiel finishes, he’s trembling, gasping brokenly. Castiel pulls away, looking pained, but stills at Crowley’s stern gaze. Finish it, damn you, he thinks, and maybe Castiel hears him because he very slowly dips his fingers in one more time and comes close again, radiating tension as he begins drawing the second sigil on Crowley’s forehead.
This touch is blinding, and Crowley can’t help the cry that escapes, but as soon as it’s released, he bites down on his tongue and squeezes his eyes shut until it’s finished. Finally, finally, he hears the bowl being set back on the floor, feels Castiel come closer, feels his hand at the back of his head. The angel murmurs something in Enochian, some blessing Crowley doesn’t recognize, and then leans down, pressing warm, chapped lips to the demon’s forehead in benediction.
After that, there is only fire that burns and tears its way through him, shattering everything that holds him together as an inhuman scream rips from his throat. He falls forward onto his hands, which dig and claw at the floor, as rippling agony shreds its way up his spine, radiating out to his shoulders, getting worse with every moment, until everything goes finally, blessedly dark.
He never feels Castiel’s arms come around him before he hits the ground, never hears the angel’s voice whispering his name over and over again.
The candlelight is still dancing around them when Crowley stirs and forces his eyes open, so he assumes he can’t have been unconscious for long. He feels warm and comfortable, and he can’t understand why until he feels gentle fingers tracing the curve of his face, and he realizes abruptly that he’s lying with his head in Castiel’s lap, turned on his side facing away from the angel. He tenses, and feels the abrupt halt of fingers moving against his skin. “Crowley?” Castiel’s voice is soft.
He makes himself sit up, his muscles sore and aching, but still so much better than what he can remember before passing out. “M’all right,” he mutters. “Though if you happened to see the license plate of that truck…” Castiel, when Crowley finally works up the nerve to turn toward him, is wearing a blank, somewhat confused expression, and he snorts. “Never mind. What happened?”
“The ritual was successful, but your body couldn’t handle it, causing you to black out,” Castiel replies, and yes, all right, Crowley figured out that much for himself, thanks. Although the bit about the ritual working, that sounds like possibly good news…
“How do you know it worked?” he asks, wondering if there’s a mark or something on his skin he hasn’t seen.
Castiel’s eyes slide to a point over Crowley’s shoulder, and something sparks in those azure depths. Something hungry. Crowley’s heart rate triples, and with a vague sense of terror, he turns his head to see whatever it is Castiel is looking at.
Oh… Oh. There are… He has… He swallows, not even able to think the word. And then wonders how could he have missed this upon first waking? He turns back slowly, eyes wide. “You gave me wings?” he asks in disbelief.
Castiel at least has the good grace to look somewhat abashed. “I…didn’t know. And I didn’t give you anything. They are a manifestation of your soul.”
Which explains why they’re black as night, and sleek, shining brilliantly in the low light. But not why they so closely resemble an angel’s wings in almost every other respect. He looks behind him again, manages to flex the correct muscles, stretching the wings out in the large room. They’re a good size, almost as large as an angel’s wings, easily large enough to… No, he refuses to think of that. This is temporary, they’ll be gone as soon as he gets the thrice-damned box open – or dies in the attempt, in which case it will hardly matter anyway – and he certainly won’t miss them. A demon with wings, the idea is positively ludicrous. If he weren’t staring right at them, he’d never believe it. Behind him, he hears Castiel make a small sound, and he turns back with a curious look.
There’s that same look again. That same desperate, wild look that Crowley would swear was lust if it was anyone other than Castiel. But it can’t be. It can’t be, because –
All thought is abruptly cut off when Castiel comes forward on his knees, reaching a hand up and toward one wing, and it’s instinct that has Crowley flinching back as the angel comes into his personal space, making Castiel pause abruptly with a horrified look on his face. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t mean –”
Crowley catches his wrist before he can go too far, his eyes searching Castiel’s face, though he knows by now that trying to read the angel is next to useless. “You can, if you want,” he finally says, his voice low. “Touch them.” He might be begging, doesn’t have the presence of mind not to if he is.
“Are you…” But the angel stops himself from asking if Crowley is sure. He swallows, such a human reaction that Crowley wants to capture it in his mind and keep it forever in his memory, and then his hand creeps forward again, until it’s gently touching the wing over Crowley’s right shoulder. Castiel gasps a little, his fingers trailing over bone and feather and something otherworldly.
Crowley’s eyes slide closed, repressing a shudder at the unexpected sensation that curls through him at the touch. Castiel is all but pressed against him, and that combined with his hand carding through feathers – feathers, of all the godforsaken things – is too damn much. Each movement of that hand is sending sparks of trembling awareness down his spine, through his stomach, straight down to his cock, and in moments there will be no more hiding these inappropriate thoughts he’s had for ages about the angel in question. He needs to put a bloody stop to this, needs to –
And then Castiel curls his fingers into a fist, tugging gently, and Crowley can’t help the moan that escapes, the way it shivers out of him. Everything suddenly goes very, very still, and Crowley drops his forehead to Castiel’s shoulder, which is conveniently right there. “Bloody hell,” he manages to say after a long moment.
“Crowley?” The angel’s voice is hesitant, his hand pulling very slowly away from the wing, dropping to Crowley’s waist, fingers digging in lightly as he pushes himself away, forcing Crowley to look up at him.
There’s no way Crowley can hide the lust burning in his dark eyes, no way Castiel won’t catch it. When the angel confirms it with a startled noise, he turns away, prepared to stand and finish what they came here to do and then disappear for as long as possible, but then Castiel is taking his hand, tugging gently, and, bracing himself for whatever excuse he’s about to be given, Crowley makes himself turn back.
The sudden press of Castiel’s mouth to his own shocks him out of every negative, fearful thought he’s been harboring, and he makes a noise that is certainly not a whimper, which Castiel swallows greedily, tongue darting in when Crowley gasps at the feel of hands running up his chest, curling over his shoulders and then back down his sides in a steady caress.
Crowley is barely capable of coherent thought, but he thinks he should put a stop to this, no matter how much he wants it. He thinks that corrupting an angel of the lord, even one as far fallen as Castiel, won’t go a long way toward his ‘purity of soul’, and he still hasn’t opened the box, he still needs that purity, if it even exists. If that’s what the wings mean.
And then Castiel is pushing him back, his mouth sliding away to kiss down Crowley’s neck, over his shoulders, then dropping further to mouth over his collarbone, and he thinks, bugger it. He may die by the end of today, and he’d rather go out with a bang, thanks very much. Surely a bit of consensual fun won’t count against him in the grand scheme of things, compared to everything else he’s done.
With this in mind, he finally allows himself to touch. His hands come up, push Castiel’s ever-present trench coat and suit jacket off. The tie comes off easily as well, and he almost tears the shirt in his haste to get the buttons undone and get his hands on all the tantalizing skin that lies beneath. Meanwhile, Castiel’s mouth never leaves him, sucking gently at his neck while his hands continue to map Crowley’s chest.
Crowley has never been a particularly patient demon, and he pushes Castiel back, kisses him deeply at the murmured protest, then pushes him gently to the ground. Castiel gazes up at him as Crowley goes for his belt, and the trust gleaming in those eyes is almost the demon’s undoing. He leans down and kisses him again as he gets the pants unbuttoned and Castiel lifts his hips, allowing him to drag them down and off, until finally the angel is naked beneath him. His own pants and underwear swiftly follow, but before he can go back to worshipping Castiel spread out on the ground, the angel sits up again, wraps his arms around Crowley’s neck, pulling him onto his lap and claiming his mouth in a kiss that seems to reach into the darkest corners of his soul.
Without any sort of consent he’s aware of giving, Crowley’s wings stretch and curl around the two of them, circling them in warmth and softness and beauty, all things that as a demon, he should scoff at. The feathers graze Castiel’s back and the angel trembles, his mouth releasing Crowley’s as a whispered, “Oh,” sighs out of him.
Crowley presses closer to the angel, kissing his shoulder as his hands caress up and down Castiel’s sides. He’s desperately hard, shifts so that his length rubs against Castiel’s, revels in the broken sound Castiel makes as Crowley’s wings continue stroking along his back at the same time. “Crowley…Crowley, I need…”
“Tell me. Tell me what you need, Castiel,” Crowley murmurs, nipping along Castiel’s neck as one hand trails down Castiel’s body, circles close to his cock.
“Everything,” Castiel cries, throwing his head back when Crowley takes them both in hand and gives a firm stroke.
The wings circle in tighter as Crowley shifts and presses Castiel back so that he’s reclining against them. They take his weight easily, and he gazes up at Crowley with dark eyes as Crowley moves, lifting himself off of Castiel’s lap and pushing him farther back simultaneously. He leans down again, takes Castiel’s bottom lip between his teeth. “Everything?” he whispers against the angel’s lips after a moment.
The demon’s lips turn up and with one hand pressed to Castiel’s chest, he slides down onto his cock, using his other hand to guide it into him. It’s painful – he hasn’t had any sort of preparation – but it’s a welcome pain, and he happily drowns in it for a long moment as he body adjusts. Beneath him, balanced on wings that Crowley knows thrum with an ethereal energy neither of them fully understand, Castiel is trembling, his eyes wide and glazed with want. “This is your first time, isn’t it, angel?” Crowley asks softly, suddenly realizing it must be true.
“Yes,” Castiel breathes, his eyes closing, breath shaking out of him as Crowley moves very slowly up, then back down again. “Ah…”
Crowley presses his fingers to Castiel’s lips to quiet him, swallows back a moan when Castiel takes them into his mouth and sucks, his tongue swirling around them. Those ridiculous blue eyes open again and he releases the fingers with a small pop. Then he shifts, lifting his hips just a little, just enough for Crowley to realize he himself has stopped moving, caught as he was in that powerful gaze and the things Castiel was doing. His hands both go to Castiel’s chest, stroking hardening nipples as he and the angel find a rhythm together. He wants to talk Castiel through this, wants to tell him that he’s not bad for a beginner, wants to say something, but words have left him, and he finds himself completely incoherent as fire sweeps through him, as his body burns in the heat of Castiel’s grace.
So caught up is he in this sheer ecstasy that Crowley fails to notice how close he is until he’s suddenly coming against Castiel’s stomach, without ever being touched. He squeezes down hard around Castiel’s cock as he sinks back down once, twice more, and then Castiel cries out and follows him over the brink, filling Crowley with something that feels like more than just his vessel’s seed. It feels like grace, feels like Heaven, and no demon should know what it feels to be surrounded by such light. It breaks him open, remakes him into something he knows he won’t recognize the next time he looks, and he falls to Castiel’s chest, breathing heavily, both of them collapsing to the ground as Crowley’s wings loosen their hold.
Castiel is still shaking, fine tremors running up and down his body, but his hand moves to caress Crowley’s face, the side not pressed to his chest. Crowley doesn’t even realize he’s nuzzling into the touch until Castiel’s chuckle rumbles through him, breathless and free in a way Crowley doesn’t think he’s ever heard the angel be before.
They don’t exchange words, only a deep look that becomes a deeper kiss, and then they stand and get dressed in silence, exchanging small touches and private smiles that worm their way so far inside Crowley, he feels their warmth like a living thing in his soul.
And then Crowley is faced with the box again, the reliquary that started this whole mess, and his wings flare out behind him as he stares at it for a long moment, unwilling to admit how afraid he is of being found wanting in a test such as this. He feels Castiel come up beside him, the angel touching his waist gently, and he sighs. “Best get on with it, I suppose,” he says.
“Have faith,” is the soft reply, and Castiel turns him with a gentle hand and kisses him one final time, tender and sweet and everything Crowley has never been.
When they pull apart, Castiel gives him another smile and nods toward the box, stepping back when Crowley kneels down in front of it. There’s a moment of indecision while his hand hovers over the top, a moment where he desperately wants to pull away, to put the box back where they found it and never look at it again, never know for sure, and he scoffs at himself and presses it down firmly, wincing when light flares immediately from the silver markings wrapped around it. A sound almost like…singing fills his ears, and he closes his eyes as it pulls him in, pulls him under and wraps around him and fills him with warmth not unlike what he felt lying in Castiel’s arms.
He hears a clicking sound, and his heart stutters in his chest, his eyes flying open as he drags his hand away. He stares in disbelief as the top of the box flies open, revealing what lies within.
There are two items. One is a stone, black as night and radiating power. What it is, what purpose it serves, Crowley doesn’t know, but he knows instinctually that this is what they came for. With care, he removes it, wraps it in a silk cloth he removes from his pocket. And then he stares in stunned amazement at the second item.
It’s a vial. A very small vial that glows brilliantly against the dark wooden backdrop of the box itself. It’s redemption, it’s salvation, something no demon has ever, ever been offered in the history of existence. It is grace, meant solely for whoever opens the box.
He stares at it, the light blinding him, making spots dance in his vision after a while, weighing his options, wondering at his hesitation at such a gift. He’ll never have this opportunity again, would never take it even if he did. It’s his chance to never again worry about the darkness that beckons him with every breath, his chance to forever be free of the control Hell tries to have over him.
If he takes that chance, he won’t be him anymore. He has already irrevocably changed, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of the angel behind him, and he does not need this gift to know that. Just being offered, just being able to open the box…that’s enough.
Very gently, he closes the lid, listens to the locks click back into place. The light burning from the sigils goes out, and his heart rate slows as he takes a deep breath.
The weight of Castiel’s hand falls to his shoulder, and he looks up at Castiel. He stands gracefully and wraps himself, wings and all, around the angel who he thinks may love him – and who he almost surely loves back – for exactly who he is.
That alone is all the miracle he needs.