Title: Supernatual: Heart to Heartless
Time Frame: Late Season 9
Warnings: Mild Language
Word Count: 2357
Author's Note: This is for the May Mayhem Writing Challenge over on Tumblr. My prompt was "Are you drunk?". The story had to feature Crowley and another character in some sort of relationship (not necessarily a pairing). I chose a form of 'brothers in arms' relationship between Crowley and Castiel, drawing on a commonality that they share (although, in canon, it has not been explored).
Hell was, well, hell. Of course, there were the screams, the fire, the blood, bones and gore. Mundane stuff. The real torture came with the paperwork, the mountains – endless, towering mountains – of paperwork. If it weren't for quality control issues (damned souls were not known for their merits), Crowley would use those stacks as a new torture. However, the bloody work actually needed doing, and doing well. Abaddon had properly screwed Hell over during her thankfully short reign. Crowley didn't enjoy reassembling the trampled scraps of his kingdom. The universe hated him, apparently, as those scraps had resolved themselves into a myriad of forms and urgent requests, reports and documents. Every one of them – every damn one – desperately needed his attention. Right now.
Hell was about torture, true, but not of its own King, dammit!
One of his minions – Jack? Jacob? Bob? Who cared? – shuffled forward, holding an opened folder out to Crowley. The sheets inside fluttered and he caught a glimpse of tower schematics. Again. He'd gone over those same damn plans five times already, but always, something came up. Crowley's narrowed gaze shifted back to Jack-Jacob-Bob-Whoever. How long would it take to skin the lackey with a vegetable peeler, if Crowley took his time? No need to rush things, after all. Jack-Jacob-Bob-Whoever stammered out a few incoherent sounds, but – after a look at his boss – held his tongue.
A cell phone rang.
Crowley glanced down at his pocket and grunted. He waved a negligent hand at the assembled demons. "I'm done." They cast unsure looks to each other and their overflowing handfuls of documents. Crowley narrowed his eyes. "Go. Away. I will personally dismember, centimeter by centimeter, anyone still here by the time I count to one, and feed them bit by tiny bit to the hellhounds! Oh, and any new bodies you imbeciles slink into, as well!" Before his final word left his mouth, Crowley was shouting to an empty room. But, just in case… "One!"
Pulling out his phone – excellent service they had in Hell, thanks to many a dark ritual and sacrifice – Crowley contemplated the screen. The name 'NOT MOOSE' flashed across it. Whatever could Dean want now?
His thumb hovered for a moment between the 'Accept' and 'Reject' buttons. He shrugged.
"Did you miss me, Squirrel?"
"Why do you answer when Dean calls?"
That … wasn't Dean.
Even through the bad reception – not on his end, thank you – there was no mistaking that gravelly voice.
"Cas? Why are you on Squirrel's phone?" And, more importantly… "Why are you calling me on Squirrel's phone?"
"Why did you answer? You always answer." The angel's voice cut in and out, but his gist was clear.
"You called me, bird. It's considered polite to answer when one's phone rings. Although, I admit, I'm not polite, and I hardly 'always answer'."
Silence, broken by the hiss and crackle of static, answered him for several moments. "…What?"
Conversing with Castiel was never mundane, but even by the angel's unique standards, this chat was odd. Crowley scratched his beard.
"Are you drunk?"
"No." Pause. "Not successfully."
Crowley smirked. "Cas, pet, did you drunk dial me?"
"No. I don't …" Castiel's voice faded into static. "… did dial you."
"I can't do this. Your reception is hideous. And I live in Hell; I know hideous. Where are you?"
"The factory roof."
Crowley pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. "Perhaps you haven't noticed, but this planet suffers a small infestation. There's only about, hmm, seven billion of the pests, or so. And they have this bad tendency of littering the landscape with buildings, including factories. Now, I haven't actually counted those, but I'd guess there's probably several thousand of them. Care to narrow it down a bit, darling?"
"Above … unker."
Horrid reception. Couldn't Dean afford a decent phone?
Crowley slipped into the nether, feeling out the ways through the shadow realms. Many paths twisted and wound through this non-place, coiling and knotting back on themselves, so very easy to lose oneself in. Once lost, a demon would never find their way free. Teleporting was not for novices. Crowley, however, was no novice.
Between one breath and the next, Crowley stood on the factory roof above Moose and Squirrel's little hideout.
Castiel stood near the roof's edge; had he been human, Crowley would have called it suicidally close. As it was, the angel would only injure himself if he toppled over. Seriously, yes, and not easy to heal (not with that stolen grace of his), but he'd live. It'd be fun to watch, though.
"You do remember you can't fly anymore, yes? I don't fancy explaining to Moose or Squirrel why you're splattered over the cement." If Crowley even bothered to try.
Castiel's eyes swept over the Kansas scenery. "I used to flit across this world in a mere moment. And now, this is the closest I can get to the sky."
"Try a plane, perhaps?" Crowley suggested.
Castiel scowled over his shoulder. Crowley shrugged.
On a concrete lip next to the angel, sat a half-drunk bottle of something that – judging by the plastic bottle and the horrid smell – could best be described as rotgut. Crowley's face twisted.
"That," he pointed at the bottle, "is disgusting. If you're getting knickered, couldn't you find something at least halfway decent?"
"I'm not drunk." The angel picked up the bottle and raised it level with his eyes. "When I was human, it took very little alcohol to achieve inebriation. At my full potential, it took an entire liquor store. Now, it doesn't take as much, but still it is more than Dean and Sam have available."
"From the boys' stash, huh? That explains the swill."
Crowley regarded said swill with raised brows. Really, one of these days those boys aught to grow up and drink like adults. Nothing good came of cheap booze. Witness Castiel, still perilously close to the roof's edge. (But not drunk. Oh, no, not that.) Maybe if the idiot fell, Sam and Dean might think better of their stockpile. Or, more like, they'd figure out Crowley had been here. Hmm. He didn't feel like dealing with grumpy Winchesters at the moment.
"Fine," Crowley said. "If you're going to drink, you may as well have something decent. Come on."
Without waiting for a reply, Crowley slipped both of them away, teleporting them to the study of one of his many private estates. A black marble fireplace dominated one wall, which Crowley lit with a wave. Two leather and mahogany lounge chairs sat to either side of the fire. A matching settee rested against the far wall, behind a round, black marble-topped cocktail table. Opposite of the room's sole door, a mahogany bar ran the length of the room. Crowley approached the bar as he gestured for the angel to sit.
He grabbed a bottle of Craig – not the really good stuff, of course, but good enough – and two tumblers.
The angel had seated himself on the settee and placed his bottle of rotgut on the table. Crowley grimaced at it. He poured some Craig into both glasses and, taking one for himself, he settled into one of the lounge chairs. Crowley rose the fine scotch to his nose, then sipped it. He waited for the angel to follow suit.
"What are you doing, Cas?"
"What do you mean?"
"Getting knickered off cheap booze."
"I'm not drunk."
"Well, you're not exactly sober."
Castiel contemplated his glass for several silent moments before taking a sip. He shrugged.
"I've been an angel since before humanity crawled from the ocean. It was all I knew. I never wanted anything more." He paused again. Crowley held back a sigh. At this rate, they'd be here all night. Well, he had his Craig, at least. The angel (finally) continued, "Then, Metatron stole my grace. I was human. It was … hard."
"Humanity is a curse."
"I miss it."
"I felt, Crowley. I felt everything. Good, bad, I felt it all." Castiel leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "And now," he looked at his hands, "it's gone. For humans, feelings come so easily. I have to fight for each one." He tipped his glass back, downing its contents.
"Oi! That's thirty-year old Craig." Crowley used his glass to point at the bottle of scotch. "You don't chug Craig! We're not frat boys at some kegger."
Castiel looked up from pouring more. "It is meant to be consumed. What difference does the speed of consumption make?"
"It's about savoring the flavor."
"But I can't taste it."
"You can't …?" Crowley raised his brows. "Why the bloody hell are you drinking my private stock – my fine, best-your-feathery-ass-will-ever-not-taste, private stock – seeing that you can't taste it?"
"You gave it to me." Castiel tilted his head in confusion.
Crowley leaned forward, reached out and nabbed the tumbler from the angel's grasp. He poured Castiel's fresh drink into his own glass and handed it back. Pointing at the plastic bottle of cheap whiskey, he said, "Drink your swill."
Castiel took the glass and regarded it for a moment, then poured a generous amount of the rotgut into it. Crowley wrinkled his nose at the reek. Horrible stuff.
"So," Crowley began, bringing his own drink to his nose, trying to clear it, "you're getting all sentimental. That doesn't explain why you filched Dean's phone and called me, of all people."
The angel tapped his fingers on his tumbler. "You remember when you were addicted to human blood."
"I try not to." Damn angel. What was he playing at?
"You felt then."
"If you have a point, make it."
"You know what it's like to have feelings. Do you miss them?"
"No." Crowley's eyes narrowed.
"But you did," Castiel insisted. "Once you were free, you sought more human blood. You wanted those feelings–"
"Enough! It was an addiction – that's all! – and I'll thank you kindly never to mention it again!" Crowley slumped back in his seat and stared into the fire. He twisted back around. "And why the bloody hell do you care?"
Castiel regarded him for several silent moments (damned angels and their damned eternal patience). After a short eternity, he said, "You never answered my question. Why do you answer when Dean calls? Speaking with a well-known and highly-regarded hunter, one who has literally helped save the world from the Apocalypse, seems like an odd thing for a demon, particularly the King of Hell, to do."
"I know what this is." Crowley bounced a finger at the angel. "You're not getting all mopey over your feels, or lack thereof. It's guilt. You're feeling guilty over that grace you nipped. That's it, isn't it?"
"I beg your pardon?" Castiel tilted his head.
"You sliced that angel's throat and stole his grace, all so you could get your glow back."
"There was more to–"
"There always is, darling. I'm a demon; I know all about rationalization. I hear it all the time. 'I had to.' 'There wasn't a choice.' 'If I didn't do that, then this…' Blah, blah, blah. I've heard it all. You chose to kill your brother, slit his throat, and now, what? You're sad? Pining for the good old days when you had simple human thoughts and emotions? Is that about right?"
Castiel stared into his glass. "It's not just rationalization. I had no choice."
"Answer the question, Cas." He tipped his tumbler towards the angel. "Tell you what. Answer it, and I'll answer yours, about if I miss those moronic feelings you keep blathering about. Promise."
"Very well," Castiel took a generous drink from his glass. "Yes, I feel guilty, regardless that I was presented no other choice. In a way, I miss my days as a human. It was simpler. But I didn't lie. I miss my human emotions, too. That longing lead me to," he glanced first at the cheap whiskey, then his surroundings, "this." He nodded to himself. "That is my answer. Your turn."
"Me?" Crowley smirked. "I'm – how did you put it? – renegotiating the terms of our agreement. I'm paraphrasing now: I get my answer. You get nothing."
"At least I left out the 'flee or die' part."
"But you promised." The angel blinked at Crowley. "You always keep you word."
"You broke faith with me first, so do forgive me if I feel no need to keep my agreements, promises or bargains with you. You owe me." Crowley narrowed his eyes. The unlikely drinking companions sat, not looking at one another, sipping their drinks. Crowley sighed. "Bugger all. Yes. Rarely. And that's all you get."
"Are you lonely?"
Crowley scoffed. "Are you serious? I'm the King of Hell. I'm constantly surrounded by demons. I have to work to be alone. The idiots are everywhere!"
"It's just that you do answer Dean when he calls, and sometimes Sam. And when an angel uses Dean's phone to call you, instead of hanging up, you seek him out and end up offering him a drink."
"Shut. Up." Crowley tilted back his glass and downed its contents.
"If you wish to chug your drink like a frat boy at a kegger – whatever that is – I have more swill available." Castiel held the bottle of rotgut out to him.
"Thanks, but no." Crowley chuckled. "I'd rather gouge my eyes out with a dull butter knife. Appreciate the thought, though, love." He refilled the tumbler and took a sip. He shook his head. "Thank you."
"But you don't like it."
"I don't like any of this." The demon shrugged. "But, still, thank you."