Meg heard Castiel before she saw him. The familiar squeak-squeak was unmistakable; it happened whenever he was too tired to stand fully upright. She put the half-assembled lightning gun on the work bench and went to open the door. “Hi there, Cas,” she said, drawing out the last syllable. “Just the angel I hoped would drop by.”
He scowled uncertainly. “I need—”
“My hands all over you? Welcome to my parlor.” She waved him over in the general direction of her ragged but serviceable divan. Decent for naps, great for unexpected guests. Not that she’d ever managed to do anything on it with Castiel besides, well.
He settled onto it with a clatter, and she straddled it to face him. “What’s the trouble?” she asked.
“The right one. The joint, it’s stiff, I can’t—”
“Dispense divine justice on the sinners and unworthy?” She reached up to his wing, brushed aside weightless golden feathers on their minute hinges to look at the structure beneath. Immediately, she could see the place where the joint has been sticking: there was circular shiny spot, courtesy of metal rubbing against metal. “Oiling would help, but it’s an old joint, and it’s wearing down. What you really need is a replacement.”
And who the hell knew where that was going to come from.
He looked down. “That's contraband. You know I don’t have those kinds of funds.”
And that heavenly host better known as Raphael’s Regiment would torture Castiel, maybe even mesmerize him, but they wouldn’t do a damn thing to fix him. Meg heaved a sigh. “I can oil you up, anyway.”
Meg went for her oil can and a rag. After she’d taken her seat again, she squeezed a few drops of oil onto the joint and used the rag to poke it towards the places the oil can spout couldn’t reach. Then she gripped his wing. “Need to work it a little bit, right? Get it all worked in there.” Castiel hunched a little more, relaxing so she could swing his wing open and shut, open and shut. He was helping her do it; she couldn’t have lifted the weight of his wing on her own. After a few more iterations of this, she squeezed some more oil in, and then they worked the joint some more.
Finally, Meg sat back and said, “Better?”
“Better make sure.” Meg shoved off the divan and stepped back a couple of feet. “Okay, spread ‘em wide.”
Obediently Castiel straightened and fanned out both wings. He couldn’t extend just one; they’d tried that before. For a beat Meg just stood back admired the breadth of them, the warm glow of her lamp on the feathers, bright despite spots of tarnish. While she was at it, she admired Castiel’s pecs, too, straining to hold his wings aloft.
Then she felt a little bad about that, and she said, “All right, that looks good.”
He folded his wings again, and then he sagged, as if even like that he could barely bear their weight. Meg scowled. She was a Brimstoner, avowed to destroy Raphael and all her might. She didn’t have time to feel sorry for Raphael’s discarded toys.
Already Castiel was pushing to his feet, his hand going for his trousers pocket. “Not yet,” Meg said. He hesitated, and she put hands to shoulders and pressed, and down he went, confused but compliant. That was a look a girl could get to liking. Meg put that thought aside for later perusal and sat down behind him. She poked his spine. “Okay, let ‘em go.”
“What are you doing?”
“That’s for me to know and you to find out – if you’re very, very lucky. Let ‘em go.” She waited through his internal debate, and finally he let the wings collapse. Suddenly they weren’t golden light creaking and whirring and fluttering on his back, but dead weight drooping from it.
She put her hands to a part of his back she could see. Living alchemical metal flexed just under the skin. She pushed tentatively, but there was no give.
“I don’t need this. I’m modified to withstand—”
“Shut up.” So living metal didn’t get muscle cramps. So Castiel wasn’t made only of metal. His shoulders were bone and flesh, mostly, except for some tendons, but when she put her fingers to them they were nearly as tight as the metal between his shoulder blades. That was all right. She handled iron and bronze all day; she could work out a few knots.
She knew she was doing well every time Castiel flinched under her fingers, every time she dug into some particularly tight bit of muscle. He grunted, too, now and then, sounds that she could like a lot in other circumstances.
Some days she didn’t know whether it was Castiel or herself she was teasing.
When his shoulder started feeling more like flesh again, she worked up into his neck. Castiel wasn’t protesting anymore; he hung his head and let her work. She couldn’t see it from this angle, but she amused herself imagining him a particularly shiny vulture.
When she’d worked all the muscles she judged worth working, she let her fingers trail down the center of his back again, along the seams where wings met skin. The factories of heaven did good work, no question. The border between living and unliving was flawless, clean, not swollen or reddened. What she wouldn’t give to get her hands on some of that tech.
But that was work, and this was, if not play, at least a little vacation from the kind of thing Meg spent the rest of her hours on. “Better?”
It took Castiel a moment to respond. She wondered if he’d fallen asleep, but eventually he said, almost surprised, “That is better.”
“Told you.” Meg crawled off the divan and prepared to receive the price she’d unthinkingly suggested that first time Castiel had come around asking her to oil his wings. These days she’d have done him for no charge, but his heavenly honor or whatever wouldn’t stand for it. Castiel had glowered the one time she’d made the suggestion.
When she came around to face Castiel, he was staring at the coins in his hand. “They seem so few,” Castiel said. “For what you do for me.”
Meg grimaced. Earnestness was well outside her wheelhouse. “It’s not like I miss a few drops of oil.”
“It’s not just that,” he said, looking up to meet her gaze with eyes as blue and fathomless as the celestial skies. Was that another mod, or did Raphael choose her soldiers special, or was that just Castiel, best- and worst-suited angel there ever was? It wasn’t like Meg knew lots of them to compare.
Instead of any of that, she said, “Don’t go getting awkward on me.” And then, because this was a night for breaking routines, she said, “Listen, Harvelle brought me some chowder from the Inn. You want?”
His eyes filled with want before his lips could open to say no, and that was all the answer Meg needed. “This way, angel,” she said, wandering off towards the other room, the one with a bed and a stove and a half-full pot. In a moment, Castiel followed heavily behind her.
She’d sit him down, and she’d feed him chowder, and then tomorrow or the next day she’d start hunting down a replacement joint for him, angel or no angel. What kind of mechano was she, if she couldn’t do that?