There’s nothing sweeter than the hunt. Than tracking down some monster, ripping out its throat, and then getting a reward for something he would have done anyway. It’s intoxicating, pleasure racking his body as he watches the vamp’s head fall to the ground with a heavy thud. This is pure, and he won’t let a distant memory of a close call and razor-wire ruin it.
There’s no time to revel in his victory, though. The dead thing at his feet wasn’t his target, who must be hiding somewhere nearby. It’s somewhat annoying, really. His sharp eyes catch the freshly crushed twigs and leave, ears hear the quiet panting. It’s too easy, and Dean wishes he could get a more difficult contract one of these days.
He catches sight of a shadow moving in his periphery, and the chase is on again. By will of mind and flicks of his hand, Dean forces tree branches to snap, attempting to obstruct the vampire’s path, slow him down, maybe even get lucky and hit the bastard. But the little shit is fast, and fuck, Dean’s losing him.
There are a few seconds where the vampire is completely out of sight, and Dean already has a stream of curses ready in his throat when he can hear screaming. Several yards ahead of him, bright light is shining through the brush, blinding in the night. Dean stops, staring in the direction of it, too shocked to move forward. The scent of burning flesh hits his nose, and as the light fades, so does the screaming, and the forest is silent again.
He has no idea what to expect, so Dean reaches down and pulls the gun from his thigh holster, ready to fight. His mind is whirring, and he knows he should probably be concerned, maybe even a little scared. However, all he can feel is excitement, anticipation, curiosity, and it drives him forward.
When he sees it, he has to take a reality check, because there’s no fucking way.
He tries to convince himself that the huge wings sprawled across the ground really mean that this is some kind of harpy, maybe even a dragon. They almost look like smoke, vaguely transparent and nearly hiding the body beneath. They crackle sometimes, what looks like electricity flicking between transparent feathers.
But Dean only knows of one creature with wings like this, wings that seem to be made out of pure, condensed energy, and if he had any doubts, the nearby body of the vampire he’d been chasing, eyes and face burned to a crisp, would be a dead giveaway.
He mumbles to himself, “Son of a bitch.”
The creature moves, quickly pulling up onto its haunches. Now Dean can see that it’s a man, though he seems barely alive. He’s coated in blood, and blue light throbs dimly beneath some of his wounds. His suit and coat are torn and splashed with red, but Dean can make out the symbol of Heaven embroidered onto the jacket, just over the heart.
“Don’t come any closer,” the creature rasps, though his heavy panting makes him less than terrifying. He raises his wings, spreading them across the space in a show of power. They move like ghosts, fading through the trees and crackling with energy. Dean’s heard stories about these things, and he’s not risking getting too close.
Still, the creature looks like it’s barely holding on. His face is obviously pained, and he holds up a shaking silver blade as a threat. The pale, trembling figure tries to get to his feet, but just as his knees straighten, he coughs and falls back down, spurting blood across the grass. After some retching, the creature falls flat on his face, unmoving.
It’s not until the wings fade and disappear that Dean realizes the thing is unconscious. He mutters to himself and takes a few cautious steps forward. Nudging it with his foot, he flips the body over and squints at it. The dude’s not dead. That’s for sure (he’d heard that when they die, they burst into light and burn their wings into the ground).
“Well, what the hell am I going to do with you?”
It’s a good question. After all, how often does anyone come across one of these? As he pries the sword out of the creature’s hand, he wonders what got it out here in the first place. It had to be something bad. After all, there are very few things that can harm it, and they’re rarely found outside of the capital and major cities. Luckily, Lawrence hasn’t gotten big enough to qualify for constant watch, but some big wigs will swing by every once in awhile to scope out the city. Dean’s usually on a hunt, though, and by the time he gets back, they’ve flown the coop.
So, this guy… He either got separated from his group and then got jumped by some seriously badass monster, or he’s a renegade. The latter is the most probable option. After all, no one gets the jump on one of these guys except… Well, one of these guys.
The decision Dean makes after coming to this conclusion is quick and easy. It’s going to be a pain in the ass, but the reward is going to be so worth it. He tucks his gun away and uses the monster’s blade (Dean’s blade, now) to cut the head off the vampire. He holds it by the hair, then turns and struggles to get his arm around the unconscious creature. The walk home is miserable, but as soon as they’re within a reasonable distance, Dean teleports them the rest of the way.
The thing doesn’t stir in the slightest, not even when Dean unceremoniously drops him to the floor. He stands there a moment, thinking of what to do. When he wakes up, he’s going to be in no state to run—let alone fly. However, Dean’s still got the head of a vampire in one hand and an impatient client waiting for him, and it wouldn’t be smart to risk leaving the creature here alone. Besides, he looks like he’s going to bleed out any minute.
Dean sets the head down by the front door, and then moves the thing (he’s still not exactly comfortable with the A-word) to the couch. He strips the creature down to its underwear, unable to resist taking an admiring peek at the stained, damaged skin. He spends the next hour sewing and patching him up, stopping some of the bleeding. Normally, there would be some spells he could use to speed up the healing process, but he can’t be sure that they’ll work on this.
Once he’s done, he slaps some chains onto the creature and tethers him to the wooden frame of the couch. If he was that weak earlier, he shouldn’t have enough energy to do too much damage when he wakes up. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take some precautions.
Dean licks his lips nervously and runs a towel over his face and neck to remove the blood that dried there. With one last look at the creature, he grabs the fang’s head and leaves. He doesn’t want to be away for too long and risk losing his one-way ticket out of Hell, so he doesn’t even bother counting the money that’s given to him when he shows his client that the vampire is well and truly dead (and he expertly avoids all questions about why it looks like it got into a fight with a blowtorch).
Yet, he does have to make one stop.
+ + +
Even being near this place makes Dean’s skin crawl. It’s impeccably clean and reeks of pretention, a mansion that can barely contain the ego of its owner. Making his way past the guards, Dean can feel their eyes on him. They know him, of course; Lawrence is far from being a big city. And his reputation precedes him: a contract killer with a blood lust, trained under Alastair and known to get into more than a handful of drunken bar fights. Not to mention he and the owner of this house aren’t exactly friends.
The woman at the desk in the foyer looks up as he enters, lips immediately pulling into a grimace.
“Dean Winchester,” she sighs, raking her gaze over his blood-splattered figure. “What do you want?”
“Just wanted to see your face, sweet cakes,” he smirks, placing his hands on the desk. “I’m here to see Crowley.”
She cocks her head to the side, flashing a none-too-pleased smile as she pushes his hands away. “He’s busy.”
“I’m serious. He’s gonna want to talk to me.”
“Oh, really?” She raises a brow. “Why? What could you possibly have to offer him?”
Her voice is venomous. Dean licks his lips and takes a moment to glance away and gather himself. In a quieter voice, he says, “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t call you. Things came up.”
She barks a laugh, eyes flashing black for a moment. “Things came up. That’s real cute, Dean. It doesn’t matter, though. Really. After all, why would I care about getting a call from a two-bit hunter like you?”
“Ouch. You’re hurting my feelings.” She doesn’t take well to his mocking, so he puts his hands on the desk again and leans down. “Look, Maggie—“
Oops. “Marilyn. I really need to talk to Crowley. And I don’t exactly have a lot of time.”
“Well, obviously, since you couldn’t find time to call me.”
He takes a deep breath, not doing a great job of keeping his temper. Luckily (or not so luckily, since Dean would never call a day where he has to see the most arrogant asshole on the planet lucky), the clearing of a throat interrupts them. They both look up, and Dean barely restrains a frown as the newcomer says, “My, my, my. Dean Winchester in my abode. What makes me so fortunate this evening?”
“Crowley,” Dean nods.
The owner of the house looks as posh as ever, dressed to the nines in his finely tailored suit. His shoulders are set back and relaxed, and he holds himself with the demeanor of a king standing among roaches.
Dean adds, “I was actually here to talk business.”
Crowley looks amused, smirk pulling at the edge of his lips. “Is that so?” He waits a moment, looking at the younger man appraisingly before nodding. “Fine. I have a few minutes to spare.”
When Crowley turns his back, Dean flashes Marilyn a self-satisfied smile and follows her boss, closing the doors to the office behind him.
When he turns back to approach the desk, the other demon is pouring a glass of liquor. Dean’s about to take it, but Crowley quickly lifts it to his lips and takes a sip, sitting in the huge leather chair behind the desk.
“Now, what did you want?”
Dean takes in a deep breath. He’s not too keen on dealing with Crowley. It’s not because he thinks the guy will gyp him; on the contrary, the guy’s notorious for being the most reliable and influential man involved with the black market. Still, the two have never really gotten along, and Dean wouldn’t put it past Crowley to screw him over just for the hell of it.
“I was out on a hunt earlier today—“
“Why, I would have never guessed.”
Dean takes a slow breath through his nose. “And I stumbled upon something that might interest you.”
There’s a beat of silence where Crowley raises a brow, staring at the young man over the rim of his glass. “Well?”
There’s some satisfaction in seeing the King of the Crossroads nearly choke on his drink.
“Bull,” the man coughs out.
“No lie. Dude was barely alive, too. He’s passed out on my couch right now, but I stitched him up.” Dean takes a step forward, feeling a bit more confident. “And I know you deal in more than holy weapons and crossroads deals.”
Crowley takes a moment to collect himself, squinting his eyes as he looks the Winchester over.
“Where’d you find him?” he finally asks.
“Out in the woods. I was on a hunt down near Ottawa, chasing a fang. Next thing I know he’s getting his eyes burned out, and I’m standing in front of an angel passed out in a puddle of his own blood. He’s from Heaven, too—got the symbol right on his shirt. Had to have been some kind of… Guard or officer, I guess.” Dean takes a few steps forward, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I thought you might be interested in making a purchase.”
The demon smirks and shakes his head, setting his glass on the desk. “That depends—how close to death is this fellow?”
“Well, I’m pretty sure the guy would've been dead if I hadn't come around. He seems stable now, but I’m not sure when he’s going to wake up. I was actually kind of in a hurry, you know.”
The man hums quietly, then turns. Stepping behind his desk, he pulls out a sheet of paper and pen, writing something down. “How much do you want for him, then?”
Surprised, a quickly suppressed grin spreads over Dean’s face. “Well, how much are you willing to give me?”
The hunter snorts, shaking his head quickly. “Two grand? You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
Crowley looks up, rolling his eyes. “No, you moron. Million.”
It’s Dean’s turn to choke. He stares wide-eyed at the other demon, brain completely unable to process such an amount.
“Of course, that’s if you give him to me in mint condition. I don’t have time to waste on nursing a creature back to health that wants to burn the life out of me.”
Dean blinks a few times, finally remembering how to speak. “So, how do you expect me to do that, then? I doubt he’s going to be thrilled about having to play house with a demon.”
“That’s what I’m doing right now.” Crowley finishes scribbling onto the paper, then holds it out to Dean. “Those are Enochian sigils—language of the angels. I wrote down the instructions and descriptions for each one. Inscribe a few of those on a collar, a bracelet, something, and keep it on him. That will essentially clip his wings, keep him from being able to use his powers.”
Dean looks them over, then folds the paper up and slips it into his pocket. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Oh, don’t thank me. You’re the one who is going to be dealing with an irritable, violent angel,” Crowley replies. “But… We have a deal?”
Dean smirks. “We don’t have to seal it with a kiss, do we?”
“I would rather bathe in holy water—no offense,” he says smoothly. “No, I will write up a contract. Come back in a few days, sign it, and then we’ll be golden. I will, however, want to see him. Make sure you’re not duping me.”
Dean waits a moment, then nods. “Alright, then. You’ve got yourself a deal. See you in a few days, I guess.”
+ + +
When his house is within sight, Dean lets out a groan of frustration. He jogs to the porch, stopping a few feet away to assess the damage.
The angel is lying on his stomach across the deck (luckily, his wings are gone). An iron cuff hangs around his left wrist, part of the chain dangling uselessly from it. He looks up and narrows his gaze at Dean, seeming only slightly less dazed than he was earlier. He’s just as naked as Dean had left him, wearing only bandages and his underwear. Fresh blood is seeping through the gauze on his shoulder, and the young man shakes his head.
“Dammit! You tore your fucking stitches,” he grumbles. The angel looks up, obviously confused, especially when Dean leans down and wraps an arm around his shoulders, heaving him up to his feet. “You’re lucky I came back when I did. You look like you’re about to bleed to death.”
The angel mutters something, staring at Dean for a long moment before his feet trip up and he has to lean against him. Dean ushers him back into the house and fumbles with the keys for a few seconds before they can get inside.
Luckily, nothing else seems out of place. The couch is looking a bit more tattered than usual, but only the one chain is broken, nothing else. Dean sits the angel down on the couch with a grunt, then takes a moment to look him over.
“How’d you even get out?” he mumbles. He turns to the supply kit he’d left out on the coffee table, grabbing some fresh gauze and stitches.
Dean jumps slightly, having not expected the thing to actually respond. Glancing back over his shoulder, he raises a brow before turning around. The angel is leaned back against the couch, hand kneading at his injured shoulder as he hisses through his teeth. “How’d that work out for you?”
“Terribly, obviously,” the other responds matter-of-factly.
Dean can’t help but chuckle, and he gets on his knees in front of the angel, laying the supplies out next to him. When he goes to try and peel the bandage away, the creature flinches slightly, and he shakes his head.
“Look, you can either let me help you, or you can bleed to death on my couch. Your choice, dude,” Dean sighs.
They stare at each other for a long time, but the angel finally removes his hand from his shoulder.
Dean works in silence, removing the soiled bandages and stitching the flesh back up. As he works, hands gentle, the man above him says, “I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”
“Well, if I didn’t, you’d be dead,” he shrugs. “I don’t see why you’re complaining.”
“I am not complaining. I am simply confused,” the angel huffs, and then gasps quietly when Dean is a little too rough with the needle. He grits his teeth and looks towards the front door. “After all, you’re a demon, correct?”
Dean glances up for a moment, eyes flashing black for just a second before he goes back to closing the deep cut. “Well, you’re just a regular Sherlock Holmes.”
They’re both silent again. The angel doesn’t speak until Dean cuts off the end of a suture. “Why?”
“Well, you were gonna die. I guess you could say it was the goodness of my black heart.”
“Then why did you restrain me and leave me tethered to your furniture?”
“Well, like you said,” Dean replies, beginning to rewrap the shoulder. “You’re an angel. I’m a demon. I doubted you’d ask questions before you tried killing me… There. How much can you move it?”
The angel raises his arm, but can’t lift it higher than his chest before he has to let it fall back down. “It’s very badly injured.”
Dean nods, but returns his tools and supplies to the kit, fitting the lid back over it. He sits on the coffee table, knees nearly brushing the angel’s as he looks him over.
“So, how are you feeling?”
“I have certainly been better,” the angel responds, staring at his hands in his lap. He flexes his fingers, turns them over to look at the tiny nicks and cuts that have scabbed over. He swallows, then looks up at Dean. “Thank you.”
Dean shifts awkwardly, the sincerity in the angel’s voice not sitting well with him. “Hey, don’t mention it.”
“No,” he responds, shaking his head. “I would have died if you had left me out there. And yet you have brought me to your home, not killed me or enslaved me… I am indebted.”
Dean’s really glad that he doesn’t feel guilt like he used to. “Seriously, it’s no big deal,” he shrugs. His mind is reeling, though, trying to find a way to get this guy to stay. After all, if he can just play off of this “kind demon” charade for a few days, that will make his job a whole lot easier, but…
“My name is Castiel,” the angel introduces himself.
“Dean Winchester.” The demon offers out his hand. Castiel stares at it before taking it, giving it a firm shake. As soon as they break contact, Dean stands and heads for the kitchen. “Hey, you hungry? Or, you know, cold? There’s some clothes in the spare bedroom down the hall, if you want them. Your stuff was ripped to hell, but I put it next to the couch just in case you still wanted them.”
“Food would be much appreciated, yes,” he hears as he rifles through the fridge. “I will take you up on your offer of clean clothes.”
Dean glances back only briefly as Castiel hobbles to the bedroom with his dirty clothing cradled in one arm. Once the angel is gone, the man sighs to himself, shaking his head as he pushes a frozen dinner into the microwave. He leans back against the counter as he waits, staring around the kitchen and living room. This is obviously a risky plan. The moment Castiel finds out Dean’s lying, his goose is cooked. But this is much better than fighting him, imprisoning him, forcing him to be here, right? The more cooperation there is, the better this whole thing will run. Of course, there is the problem of how the hell Dean’s going to get this guy to stay here.
He’s switching the cooked dinner for another frozen one when Castiel comes back out. The angel’s wearing jeans, the belt pulled as tight as possible around his hips, and a flannel shirt that’s at least two sizes too big on him. The sight makes something hurt in Dean’s chest, but he pushes that feeling down, buries it like everything else.
The angel looks awkward as he comes forward and stands next to the dining table, staring at Dean.
The demon grabs a fork out of a drawer and hands it to the angel along with the cooked dinner. “It’s nothing fancy, but it should do,” he says.
Castiel nods and takes it. He sits down but doesn’t begin to eat, looking intensely at his food for so long that Dean thinks he might have had an aneurysm.
“Dude, you okay?” he asks. The microwave beeps loudly behind him.
Glancing up, the angel says, “I was under the impression that it is polite to wait for all parties to be at the table before eating.”
Dean huffs a laugh, shaking his head. He doesn’t say anything, though. Instead, he goes to the fridge and grabs two beers, placing them in the middle of the table. He grabs his dinner from the microwave. Once he’s seated across from Castiel, he pulls the clear wrap off the top of his meal and digs in.
Castiel, however, doesn’t begin to eat, and Dean can feel his gaze boring into the top of his head. When the demon finally looks up to grab a beer, he sighs.
“It’s not poisoned or anything,” he says. “Although I can’t say whether or not having too many of these will kill you. These things probably have all kinds of chemicals and preservative stuff in them.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, food companies make these things in bulk. I mean, my brother used to talk all the time about the shit they pump into—“
“No, Dean… That’s not what I meant." The angel purses his lips. “I still don’t understand why you chose to save me.”
Dean shrugs, looking back down to his food. “I don’t know. It was kinda heat of the moment, I guess. What were you doing, anyway? I mean, you guys are supposed to be pretty tough, aren’t you?”
Castiel looks to his own food, cutting a piece of ham with the side of his fork. “There must be some way I can repay you for what you did. I cannot let that sort of kindness go unreciprocated.”
Dean can’t help snorting, giving the angel a look of amusement. “I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever been called kind. The whole ‘demon’ thing usually throws that out the window.”
“I see no other way to describe it.”
“Well, how about this,” Dean says after a long drink of beer. “You’re gonna need time to rest up. Seeing as you won’t tell me what happened to get you like this, I’m going to make a wild guess and say you don’t have anywhere to go. I’m a contract killer; people tell me who—or what—they want dead, and I go do it. If you wanna help me with that, you can pay me back. How’s that? Work for me until you’re completely healed, and then we’re even.”
It’s a good plan, one that Dean hopes will work. It’d be perfect if it did. Having an angel by his side while he goes on hunts? If he thought it was easy before… And at the end, Dean can hand him over to Crowley, collect his money and then… Well, he doesn’t know what he’ll do. Go somewhere else. Blow all the money in Vegas. Maybe go to the Grand Canyon…
He stops that train of thought. He doesn’t want to go any further with that idea, knows exactly where it will lead him. If he’s being honest with himself, though, he knows that he wouldn’t mind having some company around. It’s been lonely these last couple of years, just being by himself. Sure, that means that he’ll be living with some dick angel for a couple of weeks, but it’s still better than sitting here alone. When he looks up to get an idea of what Castiel might be thinking, the angel nods.
“If that is what you think is fair, then I suppose that is what I must do,” he agrees.
Dean holds in the sigh of relief he wants to release. That was definitely easier than he thought it’d be. To think, this might all work out after all.
“Awesome. But we’re going to have to set up some rules, okay?” he says through a bite of lukewarm mashed potatoes.
“Rules?” Castiel asks, head tilting to the side.
“Yeah,” Dean nods. “I took your sword. Hope you don’t mind, but I can’t trust you with it for obvious reasons. You’re going to have to keep those wings of yours tucked away. No one else can know you’re an angel. I might be willing to keep you here and tolerate you, but don’t think anyone else will.”
“That seems… fair,” Castiel concedes. He shifts in his seat, but continues eating.
The paper in his pocket feels like its burning, reminding him that it’s there. Dean takes in a deep breath. His eyes wander to the cuff that’s still around the angel’s wrist, and he decides he’ll have to put it there. He could remove the rest of the chain, leave just the iron cuff. Etch the symbols into it and then be done.
“How long do you think it will take you to heal?” he asks, looking to his food.
Castiel finally grabs the other beer and pops off the cap to take a cautious sip. “I would say it would take a month for me to reach optimum performance. However, I could be functional in two weeks, if it were required of me.”
“You can stay for a month, then. And if you’re still feeling shitty after that, you can stay for a bit longer, if you want.”
They finish their meals quietly. Once Dean sees that Castiel has finished, he grabs the trays and silverware. He pitches the remnants of their dinner and throws the forks into the half-filled sink that probably should have been cleaned a few days ago. Well, hey, maybe he could even get Castiel to do dishes for him. Wouldn’t that be a sight: Almighty Angel of the Lord going domestic.
“Hey, there’s one other thing if you’re going to live here,” Dean says. He turns from the sink and leans back against the counter, arms crossed over his chest. “I actually know some, uh, Enochian. I know you’re not going to like this, but I’m going to have to bind your powers, at least until I can trust you not to blow my brains out in the middle of the night.”
Castiel bristles at that. He sits up straighter in his chair, chest puffing out slightly like he’s trying to seem bigger than he is.
“I can’t do that, Dean. That puts me in danger, as well. It would be one thing if I were completely healthy, but even still it would be unlikely to happen,” he says, tone sharp. “I’m sorry.”
Dean shrugs. “Well, then, the door’s over there. Good luck finding a place to stay.” It’s a gamble, he knows. After all, this angel could very well say, “Okay,” and actually leave. Granted, Dean wouldn’t let him. He’d have to hurt him, find a way to keep him here, something. But it’s worth a shot.
And it works, because after a few long, tense seconds, Dean can see the angel’s resolve crumble in the way his lips twitch down, his brow relaxes, his shoulders slouch. Castiel leans back in his chair slightly, flinching at the way it stretches his wounds. Ocean-blue eyes flicker to the window, the fridge, the table—anywhere but Dean.
“Fine, then,” he mumbles. “How do you want to do it?”
Dean could practically jump for joy. He smiles and reaches into his jean pocket to pull out a small key for the set of cuffs he’d used to hold Castiel down, as well as a cloth (he’s grown a sort of tolerance for iron over the years, but it still hurts like a bitch to touch it). “I’ll etch them onto that.” He nods to the cuff. “If we ever have to go into town for some reason, I’ll have to find something else for you to wear. I doubt there’s a lot of demons out there familiar with Enochian, but it would still look weird for you to be wearing it around. We don’t need people asking questions.”
The tension in the air has skyrocketed five-hundred-percent, and Dean wonders if Castiel is going to renege on this whole thing. Dean carefully removes the cuff, but Castiel doesn’t stir. He stares at Dean’s hands, then at the demon himself, and the man feels oddly like some specimen at the zoo.
“It’s going to take a bit for me to get this done. You’re probably pretty tired, especially after using that energy trying to fly. You can sleep in… in the spare bedroom. Just call it yours for now. Whatever you do, don’t wander out of the house. We’re going to have to get those bandages replaced when you wake up, I’m guessing, so if I’m not out in the living room, just wait for me. Sound good?”
Castiel continues to stare, pale lips pulling into a tight line again. He finally nods, though, and gets slowly to his feet, leaning on the chair for support. “Again, thank you, Dean.”
The angel turns around and goes to the bedroom, the door closing quietly behind him. For a moment, Dean chooses to stand there, fiddling with the cuff in his hand and wondering if all angels are this weird, or if Castiel is just a special case.