Minor character death. Mild language.Author's Notes:
Thanks to sameuspegasus
for the beta and to briarwood
for running this fic exchange.Summary:
Mostly prompt three (Cas and Crowley as frenemies) with smatterings of prompt two (gap year between season five and six).
Crowley comes to Castiel with a different idea for taking down Raphael.Shifting Allegiances
"You want us to create a new being from a bonding of my grace to your demonic soul?" Castiel looked at Crowley, confused. Crowley had come to Castiel while he was on Earth watching Dean, hoping to ask the man for help and unable to bring himself to do it.
"Hell no," said Crowley. "I've been a father. Once was more than enough. No, no, no. I'd take a little of your grace and you'd take a little of my demonic soul and together we'd both be more powerful than Raphael."
A single frown was all Castiel needed to convey how stupid an idea he thought that was.
"Temporarily of course, feathers," said Crowley. "Don't get your halo in a knot."
"How would defeating Raphael benefit you?" asked Castiel.
"I happen to like order," said Crowley. "Whether it's up there or down there."
Castiel pursed his lips.
"And of course I would want a little something in return. A tiny favour, really," said Crowley. "The demon you call Meg is a threat to my Hell. If she were to no longer be a problem, you could say your debt to me was paid."
Castiel frowned. "I'll think about it," he said, returning to Heaven.
Crowley smirked. That meant he'd already won.* * *
When Crowley and the angel next met, Castiel proposed that Crowley help him remove Sam Winchester and his bastard of a brother from the cage formerly known as Lucifer's. Crowley didn't particularly want a couple of Winchesters roaming around, but he knew he could twist this to his advantage when the time came.
Unfortunately, Castiel also seemed to have investigated the bonding ritual. And of course the angel chose to focus on Crowley's one white lie rather than the bigger picture.
"Okay, so it's permanent," said Crowley with an expansive shrug. "What can you do? If you saw that then I'm sure you saw the part where the demon and the angel have to be the same age. If I pop down to Hell for an Earth month, the decade will put me on par with your friend Balthazar. I'm sure he'd
be willing to take advantage of all that power."
"Balthazar is dead," said Castiel, the closest to emotional Crowley had ever seen him.
"Is he?" said Crowley. "But then, you know that's what they said about Gabriel."
Castiel's frown deepened and his brow furrowed. "I could find another demon."
"Why settle for just any when you can have the King of Hell?" asked Crowley, though he'd already taken the precaution of killing any demon remotely similar to him in age . "It's only fair, really. You'll keep an eye on me, I'll keep an eye on you, and together we'll make sure there won't be another apocalypse."
"Very well," said Castiel. The angel shut his eyes and it looked to Crowley like he was going to go through with the ritual right there, in a fire devastated forest.
"You're joking," said Crowley. "We can't do this here."
Castiel pursed his lips. "Where do you suggest?"
Crowley clicked his fingers and brought them to a lavish room in the the mansion he was reconstructing for himself on Earth. Castiel looked as though he didn't understand the difference in location. Crowley decided not to take the time to explain comfort to the angel. When the ritual was over, they'd each have an inside track on the other's mind and hopefully Castiel would understand. Crowley thought letting Castiel in on some of his innermost thoughts was a fair price to pay for the knowledge the angel possessed.
Performing the ritual wasn't difficult. Or rather, it wasn't difficult for an angel to release part of its grace. It was harder for a demon to release part of his soul, but Crowley had been practising. (Not that he'd let anyone catch on to that.) Crowley thought there might have been a dramatic bang, maybe the two of them passing out. But there were no theatrics of any kind. One second they were two separate beings, and a split second later they were connected.
They were still two individuals. But they were, for lack of a better word, now bonded. Their lives were no longer their own. If one died so did the other. But they each had their own thoughts, though they could hear the other's buzzing around the edges like an undercurrent and would be able to contact one another even if Crowley was in the deepest circle of Hell and Castiel in the highest of Heaven. And, of course, there was the power. Crowley flexed his fingers as he felt strength he'd never known before, now within him.
Castiel was similarly staring at his vessel's fingers. He looked at Crowley. They locked eyes and it was more than just hearing the susurrus of another's thoughts. It was being and knowing everything they were. Crowley broke the eye contact and made a mental note to never do that again.
"Raphael first," said Castiel.
Crowley couldn't argue with that. It felt like he'd had the idea himself.* * *
Raphael went down too easily in Castiel's opinion. Castiel had lived his whole life loving and revering his brother and it took nothing more than an unholy alliance to have him lying before them, burned wingprints on the ground.
With no time to mourn the passing of his brother, Castiel was drawn by Crowley into Hell where they laid waste to the demon the Winchesters called Meg, and to those who could not be convinced to redirect their loyalty.
The trickiest part was heading into the cage with two angry archangels. Crowley wasn't about to stick around for that suicide mission, so while Castiel held the door open, he quickly grabbed the two Winchester souls and let the angel shut the door behind them.
Castiel frowned at Crowley. The two souls hovered between the demon and the archangel, adjusting to their new surroundings.
"What?" asked Crowley, feigning ignorance.
"You left their bodies behind," said Castiel. "Now they will not be able to return to Earth."
"Oh was that why you wanted to rescue them?" asked Crowley. "Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that one dead?"
Adam looked at Crowley. The soul was still disoriented from his time in the cage and though he appeared mostly human, his edges were faded, tapering off in the way an angel's grace did.
Even disoriented, Sam's soul still knew to get between his brother and the demon. Crowley huffed his amusement.
"We have to retrieve their bodies," said Castiel.
"What for?" asked Crowley. "I think you and I can agree flesh and blood aren't really important." He indicated his literary agent and Castiel's ad salesman. "The two of us might be better than one archangel, but if those two figure it out and team up, we're goners. I'm not risking my life for that."
"What's going on?" asked Sam, the idea of trouble pushing him into responsiveness.
Castiel explained the situation and Sam frowned at Crowley.
"Don't look at me like that, Moose," said Crowley. "I got you away from Lucifer. You should be thanking me."
"If you can't get our bodies back," said Sam. "Then what are we supposed to do? Hang around and go vengeful?"
"That won't happen if you are in Heaven," said Castiel. "Or in Hell," he added for the sake of completeness.
"Why would I want to be in Hell?" asked Sam.
Crowley smirked. "I've got a proposition for you."
"I'm not making a deal," said Sam.
"Did I say that?" asked Crowley. He adjusted his jacket. "No. Hell is a multi-billion soul enterprise. As King of Hell, management of all those souls falls to me. I could use an assistant. A deputy, if you will."
"And what about Adam?"
"You could employ an assistant of your own," said Crowley.
Sam looked at Adam.
"No," said Adam, having gathered enough of himself to pay attention to the conversation. "I'm not going to Hell."
"You didn't sound like you were having such a great time in Heaven," Sam pointed out.
"My mom's there," said Adam. He looked at Castiel, steeling himself. "She is still there, isn't she?"
Castiel nodded. Though the upheaval in Heaven's hierarchy had taken the form of a battle through the personal heavens, all human souls were still accounted for, if perhaps displaced.
"Then that's where I want to go," said Adam.
"I'll go with you," said Sam. "Sorry, Crowley."
"No," said Adam. "It's okay. You don't have to come with me." There was too much nervousness in his voice. Castiel examined his soul further and saw the ties he had to Sam. Somehow, in the cage, Adam had become dependent on his brother and didn't wish to be so.
Sam frowned. "It's not like I want to go to Hell and tell a bunch of demons what to do."
"Are you sure?" asked Crowley. "Some of them have been waiting for you to take control for a very long time."
Sam's soul shuddered for a second, but Sam regained control of himself quickly. "I'm not going to be the Boy King," said Sam.
Crowley shrugged. "Suit yourself."
Castiel could see that this had been Crowley's plan all along. It was all politics. Meg had been the main source of his opposition but the factions in Hell would re-form and rebel soon enough. Those who objected to a demon being in charge would again try to free Lucifer. Having Lucifer's vessel in charge, the one who'd freed Lucifer from his cage the last time, would stave off the rebellion a little longer. Though Castiel had no dominion over the denizens of Hell, he could only see benefits to the delay.
"I think it would be prudent to join Crowley," said Castiel. "For Dean's sake."
"I'm pretty sure Dean doesn't want me becoming the ruler of Hell," said Sam.
"Right hand man," substituted Crowley. "Second in command."
Sam ignored him.
Castiel explained his reasoning. "I have seen him with Lisa Braeden. He is content. With the delay, Dean could live out his natural life before the demons revolt. He could live his life in peace."
And with that, Sam agreed to become Crowley's deputy. Castiel offered a similar position to Adam, who accepted, Castiel understood, merely so that he could keep an eye on the other angels. Adam didn't trust angels, and Castiel thought that working closely with them might bring Adam a new understanding.* * *
Almost overnight, peace reigned in both Heaven and Hell, and angels and demons alike became used to the idea of following the lead of a Winchester. But peace never lasts, and idle hands long for playthings.
"Crowley," said Castiel over their link one eternal Tuesday afternoon. "Why are there hellhounds galloping through the heavens of the saints?"
"I can't say that I have the faintest idea," said Crowley.
Crowley could hear Castiel's frown. "One of them answers to the name Growly. She is very insistent upon licking my ear and sniffing my lack of genitals."
"Imagine that," said Crowley.
"Crowley," said Castiel. "Come over here and get your hellhound."
"Oh darling," said Crowley. "If you wanted to see me you could have just called." He severed the link as much as was possible, and turned to Sam. "I'm going to Heaven. Don't let them burn this place down while I'm gone." At the last second, he turned back to Sam. "I'll say hi to your brother for you."
Sam wondered what the demon was up to. It didn't sound like good news for Castiel, and Sam suspected he would be the one bearing the brunt of the annoyance to come.* * *
Whatever Crowley was up to, he seemed to have a nemesis in Castiel. Their peacetime treaty meant that no demon or angel could attack the other without provocation. This didn't prove to be a problem for the most part as angels were content to stay in Heaven and most demons (Crowley being the only known exception) weren't able to get there.
Demon deals still took place at crossroads, though. And for reasons Sam didn't quite understand, Cas seemed to be rather against them. Considering Castiel rarely spared a thought for the human race except in the very general or very specific sense, Sam didn't know why he was so bothered. Chances were those souls wouldn't have ended up in Heaven, anyway.
But Castiel was definitely bothered. Every time someone went to a crossroads and summoned a demon, an angel was suddenly there. And when most people were faced with a demon and an angel on the same night, the idea of Hell became more than just an idea. Not a single one of Crowley's crossroads demons had been able to seal a deal for a month.
If Sam had still had his body and was on Earth, he wouldn't have minded Castiel's interest. In all likelihood, Sam would have tried to help Castiel. But now it meant he had to deal with every single one of Crowley's crossroads demons filing incomplete mission reports. Sam had wanted to be a lawyer, but he'd never wanted to do the paperwork. The part of him that still wanted to be a lawyer forced him to double-check every single one, too, even though he knew that they always said the same thing.
Sam didn't wait for permission from Crowley; he simply followed the path to Heaven himself. He wasn't sure that there should have been one so obviously and clearly marked, but no one ever took it. Sam wondered if it was because he'd been to Heaven before. If it was because his soul would have gone there if he'd been parted from his body through death.
"You have to stop with the demon deals, Cas," said Sam when he found him in the usual place. If Sam ever did get his body back and died a natural death, Sam wondered if he'd still remember how to traverse the different heavens the way he could now.
Castiel put on his best 'I don't know what you're talking about' face. It was one he'd learned from Dean so Sam knew better than to fall for it.
"I get that you're trying to--" Sam threw his hands in the air. "Okay, I don't get what you're doing at all. But it's obviously between you and Crowley and I'm the one who has to clean up the mess. So please just let it happen."
"Thank you," said Sam. But he knew better than to think it was over.* * *
"Crowley," Castiel growled over their link.
"Yes, my love?" asked Crowley. He'd been enjoying a snifter or five of Craig and was in the mood to tolerate his favourite now partly demonic angel.
"My Winchester asked me for a puppy."
"El Deano?" said Crowley. "I thought he was all about the no supernatural thing."
Castiel didn't say anything and Crowley could imagine the way his non-existent feathers were puffing up. Crowley could take a peek, but he preferred his imagination. "Adam Winchester asked for a puppy." There was a pause long enough for Crowley to get curious so he tuned in on what Castiel was hearing. It was the human complaining that his name was Adam Milligan.
"I fail to see how that's my problem," said Crowley. He eyed his bottle. Someone was going to have to go and fetch him a new one pretty soon.
"I believe he was inspired by your hellhound's recent adventure through the heavens."
"Ah, can't say I blame him," said Crowley. "Growly is rather charming. Friendly as anything." It hadn't been Crowley's idea that Adam ask for a puppy but the sheer amount of irritation emanating from Castiel was too amusing to pass up. And now that he'd thought about it, he had an even better idea. "Of course, hellhounds are really rather more suited to Hell," he said as though Castiel were a parent asking another for advice on which pet to select for his child.
"I do not wish for Adam to have a hellhound," said Castiel.
"No, no, of course not," said Crowley. "There's the constant maintenance involved. Growly gets antsy when she doesn't have her daily walk. And half the time she's just begging for affection. It's really rather pathetic. No, you don't want a hellhound."
"I do not," said Castiel, too confused by Crowley's answer to even delve into the mostly demon's soul.
"I've got just the thing," Crowley said. "It'll just be a minute then I'll bring him up for baby Winchester to meet."
"Crowley I do not want him to have any pets."
Crowley stopped listening.* * *
Castiel frowned at the hellcat currently seeking out the warmest patch of sunlight in his favourite heaven. He'd taken a look inside Crowley's thoughts and knew that the demon hadn't put Adam on the path to pet ownership. But he also knew that Crowley had completely taken advantage of the situation the way any good demon would. Castiel wasn't too bothered by the idea, but he did rather wish he could do something in return.
"What is that?" Adam asked, too tentative to walk closer to the hell animal.
"Crowley informed me that his name is Malice."
"Malice?" said Adam, cautiously approaching the hellcat. Castiel watched as the human treated the cat as any might treat a house-cat. He stuck out his hand for the hellcat to sniff, and Malice seemed to find the scent of him pleasant enough. Adam smiled and petted the cat in return. "I think I'll call him Mal."
The cat turned up its nose and wandered away from Adam. Adam watched the cat go with a smile. "He's awesome."
Whenever Castiel was in Adam's presence, he shifted his appearance to that of the human Jimmy Novak to avoid overwhelming him. Though Adam pretended he was unaffected, angels still made him nervous.
The hellcat leapt at Castiel. It batted the end of the belt hanging loose from the overcoat the way it always did, almost knocking Castiel over in the process.
Adam grinned. "I think he likes you."
Castiel couldn't let a thing like a hellcat roaming the heavens go unpunished. Unfortunately, he wasn't good at 'pranking' as the Winchesters would call it. Although he could know everything about Crowley the human or the demon, he didn't know how to turn it to his advantage. It was times like these that he missed Balthazar. They had always been close. Balthazar always had a tendency to interpret his orders in ways that no one else could.
As Castiel attempted to get away from the hellcat, he remembered that Crowley had implied Balthazar was alive. And whatever Crowley knew, Castiel could know now, too. While Crowley was occupied talking to Sam about his plans to remodel Hell, Castiel delved into his memories. He discovered Balthazar had been posing as a crossroads demon, learning how to barter for a human soul. Anger filled Castiel. Balthazar was alive and had abandoned him.
Castiel flew to Earth before he realised he'd made the decision to leave Heaven. With his greater ability to sense things after the ritual with Crowley, it was easy for him to locate Balthazar, engaged in a human act of intercourse. With one flash of Castiel's eyes, Balthazar's partners disappeared.
Balthazar smiled at Castiel, easily as though Castiel had never mourned his death.
"You should be contrite, Balthazar," said Castiel. "I was your friend."
"Come now Cassie," said Balthazar, placating. "We can still be friends." The other angel seemed to sense the difference in Castiel caused by his new bond with Crowley.
"Very well," said Castiel. "I am in need of some assistance in the human art of pranking."
Balthazar looked at Castiel as though that was the last thing he'd been expecting but he recovered quickly. A second later Balthazar was putting his arm around Castiel's shoulders and offering him a sip from his glass. "Just tell ol' Balthy all about it."* * *
At first Crowley wasn't aware of what he was missing. It wasn't until he realised that Castiel had ceased their game of one-upmanship that he realised that there was something going on that he didn't know about. And Crowley just knew it had something to do with the fact that that bastard Balthazar was hanging around Heaven with Castiel again.
For all that Crowley had intended for the hellcat to stalk about the heavens as though he owned the place (cats in every dimension were the same), it hadn't done much of that at all. It seemed even the youngest Winchester had the genetic power to make everything turn out in his favour. Malice turned out to be a rather friendly sort of cat. He was practically tame, except in Crowley's presence. Apparently Malice was too good for Hell and thought Heaven to be heavenly.
Crowley thought it was cheating to delve through Castiel's memories to find out what the angel's plan was, so of course it was the first thing he did once he realised there was something going on. As soon as Crowley did, his memories all slotted into place. Craig. Castiel had sent his little friend Balthazar back to the past and eliminated his favourite vice. Just the thought of a bottle of alcohol that no longer existed was enough to set Crowley's tongue watering. He frowned. You did not mess with a man's liquor. That was the rule, perhaps the only rule. And while Castiel was not one to follow rules any more than Crowley was, he'd over-stepped the line.
It had been purely business before. Now it was personal.* * *
Crowley sat in the back of Castiel's consciousness for days, watching as the sheriff of Heaven catered to the rest of the angels' needs. It was reconnaissance. It was there that Crowley realised that Adam's hellcat was actually more irritating to Castiel than he'd led Crowley to believe. Crowley had a moment of admiration for his rival before pushing that back where Castiel wouldn't be able to feel it. Cunning bastard.
The cat rather enjoyed playing with the trenchcoat the angel manifested whenever he needed to speak with the youngest Winchester. And since Adam was Castiel's second in command and the only one who seemed to know what needed to be done (Balthazar was more of a hindrance than a help in most circumstances), that was often. That was something Crowley knew he could take advantage of.
A week. That was as long as Crowley would give Castiel to notice Crowley's next move in their game. It was too bad his Winchester was too busy being a pouty bitch to appreciate what Crowley was doing. He would have liked to have a wager with someone and, though Crowley hated to admit it, the Winchester was the only one he could trust with the information he had. After all, if anything happened to Castiel it would happen to Crowley, too. No matter. When it was over he would take a moment to relax with more Craig than he'd ever ingested in his human life.
The beauty of the idea was that Crowley was the only one in every dimension who could help Castiel out. Even if he was the one who'd caused the problem in the first place.
"Crowley," said Castiel, sounding slightly panicked, six days after the demon had started his revenge.
"Yes, my dear?" Crowley secretly decided that he required more pet names for the feather-head. Nothing got him more worked up than a term of endearment.
"I seem to have lost control over my vessel," he said. "I cannot return to a multidimensional wavelength of celestial intent."
"That does sound a little troublesome," said Crowley. "But I'm afraid I'm a little busy dealing with a faction of demons who think it would be a lot more fun if Hell was on Earth. You understand."
Crowley could hear the moment Castiel realised that this was all Crowley's fault. "What did you do?" Castiel asked. There was a noise like the spitting up of a hairball and Crowley had to tune in to see it. His glee was worth the temporary loss of Craig. Dear old Malice had hacked up all over Castiel. And since Crowley had bound him to his vessel, the angel would definitely be feeling it. Smelling it and-- oh yes, tasting it.
"I'm finding myself very attached to my vessel lately," said Crowley, looking down at his very human fingers. As long as he was tying himself to his meatsuit, Castiel wouldn't be able to remove his. "I just can't seem to let go of him."
"End this," said Castiel.
"I don't see what the problem is," said Crowley.
"You know what the problem is."
"Actually, I'm afraid I do not. You'll have to spell it out for me."
"The problem is the hellcat," said Castiel, spitting out the noun as though it was something worse than hellspawn. Of course, Crowley did have a soft spot for hellspawn. "It refuses to stop harassing me."
Crowley watched as the (rather larger than a human) hellcat pounced on Castiel. The worst part for the angel was the fact that the cat was only playing and had no... malice intended at all.
"And may I remind you, I did not ask for a cat."
"Could have sworn you did," said Crowley.
"Remove the binding at once."
"Or what?" asked Crowley, honestly wanting to know.
Castiel clenched his fists and let out a long breath. "I won't give you the satisfaction of telling you."
"Shame," said Crowley. "Of course, I might be persuaded if we were, say, to make a deal."
Castiel seemed to catch on that Crowley knew what he had done. "I'll have Balthazar restore your favourite brand of alcohol."
"What, this?" said Crowley, conjuring a bottle of substandard whisky. "I can't imagine what you're talking about."
"I had Balthazar remove it from existence."
"Well," said Crowley. "I can't miss what I never had."
Castiel sent varying memories of Crowley enjoying his favourite beverage over their link. Damn did Crowley miss Craig.
"All right, fine," said Crowley. "I will release the vessel bond in exchange for my Craig. Sound fair?"
"Extremely equitable," said Castiel.
Crowley smirked to himself. The memories really were worth it.* * *
No one could have predicted what Castiel did next. Sam was completely shocked by his audacity. Crowley by his imagination. Adam by his arrogance.
Sam actually made a very rare trip to Earth just to see it. And he couldn't believe his lack of eyes. Castiel had eliminated every single crossroad on the planet. On every island there was now a single road connecting every single stretch that had previously contained a grid of the things. Sam was kind of impressed, but as he watched the traffic jam of the entire population, he knew that this was one step too far. This was not personal; this was global, wanton chaos.
Crowley was too busy plotting his revenge to see that Castiel had gone too far, so Sam went to the only person who might be convinced to see his way: Adam.
"We can't let them keep doing this," said Sam, watching Dean (strangely not driving the Impala) stuck in a traffic jam that extended throughout both the North and South Americas.
"It's a little funny, though," said Adam.
"No," said Sam. "It's really not."
"They're going to do what they're going to do," said Adam. "What do you really expect us to be able to do about it?"
"I'm not sure," said Sam. "But Castiel learned the term 'prank war' while he was with me and Dean."
"So, what?" said Adam. "Are you really suggesting that we prank the Sheriff of Heaven?"
"And the King of Hell," said Sam. "He's as much to blame for this as Cas is."
A devious smirk spread over Adam's face. "I'm in," he said. "Serves them right for thinking they're so much better than us just because they're more powerful."
It was amazing how similar Sam's own smirk was. "I think I know just the place to start."* * *
Crowley found himself locked in a room on Earth with Castiel. He had no idea how the Winchesters had managed it, but it was definitely well-played. There wasn't much spellwork that would contain either of them, and they were effectively in time out for the next week.
"What say you and I combine forces," said Crowley to Castiel. "I don't think the Winchesters really know who they're dealing with."
"I think," said Castiel, staring down at the hand of his that was handcuffed to Crowley's. "That that would be agreeable."* * *
Dean Winchester rolled over in his bed at Lisa Braeden's house, all the while unaware that there was a multi-dimensional prank war in progress that he really should have been winning.