Author's Note: This story has been percolating in the back of my mind for months now. I'd been hesitant to write it, as 1. A lot of other awesome writers have already tackled the 'what happens after' scenario for Crowley, and done AMAZING work, and I wasn't sure if another take would be welcomed or needed, and 2. My whole concept was quite esoteric, and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it coherent.
In the end I decided to go for it because the world NEEDS more Crowley stories, and it couldn't hurt to try, right? I feel like I've achieved what I set out for, and so now here I am, sharing it with you all. It's still a tad experimental in style and a bit weird, but I think it works.
It should be noted that this entire fic would NOT have happened were it not for the album "Plans" by Death Cab for Cutie, which I listened to ON REPEAT. SO. MANY. TIMES while writing this. It was a massive source of inspiration. If you are into the whole atmospheric concept, listening to it while reading would not be the worst of ideas.
Okay! With that LONG note done, let's get to it! Hope you enjoy :-)
Crowley has no idea where he is.
The pavement at his feet is wet and shining; bathed in the flickering neon pink glow of the word 'NO' next to the steady yellow of the word 'VACANCY' above the backlit black-block letters spelling out 'MOTEL' on the sign overheard.
Crowley has no idea where he is, or how he got here. But he can think of no other place he should be, can think of nothing else he should be doing. Nothing else that he wants to be doing, nothing that he wants period.
That in and of itself is a little odd, he thinks, but he can't seem to bring himself to care that it's odd. Can't bring himself to care about anything at all really, so he stands there until the blip-blap-plop of rain smattering down in uneven rivulets onto his shoulders, like so much spittle dribbling down a baby's chin, soaks him through his coat, leaving his skin feeling clammy. Only then does he pick his feet up and head towards the structure a hundred meters ahead.
There's no breeze. No movement of air around him, yet a shudder runs up his spine all the same. It makes him tuck his hands into his pockets to ward off the imagined chill. The fingers of his left hand unexpectedly wrap around an oblong piece of plastic with an uneven piece of metal attached to one end. He knows it's a key without having to look, but he does so anyway.
The sight of a room number raised along the edge is equally not a surprise.
He keeps walking until he reaches the sidewalk of the motel, glad for the reprieve from the dripping rain that the overhang provides. He casts a glance up and down the row of rooms to get his bearings. Room 16 is to his left, and room 18 is to his right, so he heads in that direction. He keeps the key in one hand, while he trails the fingers of the other along the stucco exterior of the building, counting off the numbered rooms one by one. His feet slap up water with every smack of his heels against the ground.
He finds Room 24, slots the key into place, and swings open the door. The room is the standard 1970s reject that's just this side of a roach motel like the ones favored by the plaid-loving brothers that were, in the end, the death of him.
Oh. Right. I'm...dead?
The thought is not nearly as disturbing as Crowley knows it should be.
He moves into the room, closing the door with a quiet click behind him. A step later finds him sitting on the thread-bare comforter of the only bed, though he's not sure why he's done so. The television set a few feet in front of him switches itself on.
On the screen there's a redheaded beanpole of a man drunkenly stumbling down a cobblestone path into a ditch sloppy with muck and refuse. The man burbles out an incomprehensible complaint as he fades into unconsciousness.
Watching it makes Crowley's stomach hurt. But he can't change the channel.
Or turn it off.
So he just keeps watching.
Crowley's standing in an empty motel parking lot. A street lamp over head buzzes at an annoying frequency, and the 'NO' on the vacancy sign keeps switching from on to off and on again. Flaring the wet world around him with a pink halo of light like the pulsing of a heart.
Crowley walks, shoving his hands in his pockets as he does. His hand wraps around an oblong piece of plastic with an uneven piece of metal attached to one end. A room key. The number 45 emblazoned along the side.
He finds the room, settles on the bed, and watches in uncomfortable silence as images of a young boy crying and cowering behind the back of an angry man skitter by on the television set six feet in front of him.
As far as afterlife's go, it's rather lackluster.
Crowley checks his coat pockets, feeling as if there should be a key amongst their folds, for no real reason he can discern. But there's none to be found. So he turns left at the walkway and makes his way to the poorly lit office at the front.
A little bell over the doorway dings out his arrival, but the room is empty, and no one comes running to greet him.
"Hello?" Crowley's voice falls flat in the space around him. The sound absorbed by the faux wood paneled walls and the vinyl tile underfoot. He ducks his head around the counter, but other than a small sign-in book, a blank page facing up, there's not much to be found.
Still, something makes him walk around the side, where he finds a stool, and a small black and white TV. It's on, and tuned to the desolate parking lot out front. Raindrops coat the lens of the security camera feeding it.
Crowley sits on the stool, and watches the feed.
There's a key in Crowley's pocket to room 7.
When he opens the door, he's already sitting on the bed. Watching the television with red-rimmed eyes.
Crowley blinks at himself. The other him looks up at the intrusion. "Hello."
"...I must have the wrong room."
The other him moves his head from side to side in a slow motion shake of denial. "Your key opened the door?" Crowley nods. "Right room then. Have a seat. There's space enough for two."
Without really meaning to, Crowley sits beside himself on the bed, and watches the fall of a king play out on the screen.
Crowley climbs the stairs to the upper level and heads down a long, concrete walkway slick from the rain, until he reaches the door with a number that matches his key. Room 67.
There's no bed in the room. Just a wooden bench, an ancient looking television with rabbit ears on top, and a green shag carpet that's seen better days.
The bench creaks and wobbles when Crowley sits on it. There's no remote, so Crowley reaches out and twists the knob on the set.
White static fills the screen, but tinny music pours out of the one lonely speaker.
'And though the course may change sometimes, rivers always reach the sea.'
Of course it would be Zeppelin, he thinks.
There's a key in his pocket, but there's no number on it to tell him which room is his, so Crowley heads for the main office.
He's sitting behind the counter when he walks through. The bell overhead announces his arrival, and his doppelganger - chin resting in the palm of his hand, elbow propped up on the counter - casts bored eyes his way.
"Broken TV, no key, or did the disaster in room 5 get loose again?"
"None of the above. No room number on the key."
"Well that's a new one." The other him stands up, and stretches out his hand with a 'gimme' gesture, so Crowley hands it over.
The other him looks the key over, flipping it back and forth, but doesn't seem to find anything that Crowley himself hadn't. With a shrug, he tosses it in a basket where it finds itself a home in a sea of lost and damaged things: a busted remote, an empty salt packet, two congealed gummi bears, an over-chewed doggie toy, a toothless comb, and a stray toy soldier man.
A book is slid along the chipped formica countertop in front of Crowley, a black-feathered quill layed on top, and a new key slipped beside it. "Go on and sign in. If you hurry, the room might still be empty when you get there."
Crowley pauses, quill in hand, and meets his gaze head on. "Why would you give me a room that isn't empty?"
The Counter Crowley shrugs. "No Vacancy. Sometimes."
Crowley frowns, but leans over the book and signs his name at the bottom of the almost full-page anyway.
The room key in Crowley's pocket says 15.
The television is on, but Crowley doesn't recognize the show on the screen, though the actors seem familiar somehow.
Their names flash beneath their faces, the floppy haired one has a Polish sounding surname, while the pretty one has a name that sounds entirely made up.
He settles in for the show. The premise is a little 'meh' for his tastes, but the acting makes it enjoyable nonetheless.
And when the pretty one laughs, Crowley fancies that the still heart in his chest thumps out in time.
Crowley throws open the door to room 93, casting his eyes around the small space before entering.
It's not much to look at, but the television set has promise. He eyes the bedside table, happy to see copper colored metal covers over the legs. A radiator at the back of the room clangs out as it kicks on. That too may be of use.
He closes his eyes for a beat of three, gulps in a deep breath of stale air, slides his dusty coat from his frame and crosses the threshold. He tosses the jacket on the bed and rolls up the sleeves of his shirt as he goes, pointedly ignoring the way that it sticks to his abdomen where blood has congealed around a wound that's no longer there.
"Let's get to work, shall we?"
Despite the room being empty, Crowley swears he hears a familiar hiss of 'Yes' in the air.
Crowley hasn't the foggiest idea how long he's been here, situated behind the counter of this place. He assumes that it is some amount of time between one day and several thousand years.
One option seems as likely as the other.
Either way, he feels like he's seen it all at this point. The good, the bad, the very very drunk. The pathetic, the lovelorn, the angry, and the lost.
So very many versions of himself have walked across the parking lot and through the doors of the motel, everyone of them just a little different from the last. All of them more than a little bit the same.
Still, no matter how many hims he's encountered, arguing with himself - in the literal sense - is always an intriguing activity.
In so much as he can feel intrigued by anything here.
(Apathy. It's a hell of a drug.)
"I am not your, mate-"
Crowley rolls his eyes at the newest arrival. "No, you're just me, in a slipshod afterlife populated solely by an infinite number of me, which pretty much makes me the only friend you've got."
The other Crowley stops pacing across the tiny room, shoulders slumping and the irritation that had been coloring his cheeks fading to a low-level peachy hue that makes him look more alive than the dead that he is. "Bollocks."
Crowley sighs. "Agreed. I've never been a big fan of me either, but I believe that's part of the point."
"This is all those bloody Winchesters fault." The other Crowley growls the words out, but they lack any sort of real heat. Crowley even suspects that there may be a smidge of fondness in their depths.
"That does seem to be a recurring theme."
"So what now?"
"Well, mate, near as I can tell, that is entirely up to you. You can go to your room, or go..." Crowley twirls his hand in the air. "Somewhere else."
His counterpart gives him a considering look through narrowed eyes. "And where would that be?"
Crowley shrugs. "How should I know? I'm here aren't I?"
"You must have some idea."
"I have my suspicions, yes." He lets the rest of the statement go unsaid. No point in speculating with himself, as they're both capable of coming to the same conclusions as to what may lay in wait for them beyond.
The other Crowley's face goes thoughtful, before a slow smirk spreads across it, and he drops his key on the counter with a clack. "In that case, I'll just be on my way."
Crowley arches an eyebrow. While he's not particularly invested one way or another, he does feel enough of a kinship to the other man that he doesn't want him making any rash decisions.
(And if he's somewhat impressed by the fact that the other him is still capable of being rash in this place, well, that's neither here nor there.)
"Are you sure? No telling where you might end up, especially with that attitude. At least here your outcome is a known quantity."
The other Crowley's smirk falters. "And that would be?"
"You get a room. Probably a bed. And there's usually a TV showing a nonstop clipshow of your life. Or similar. It does vary a bit, or so I'm told."
"You expect me to stay in a roach-infested cesspool with my life's greatest hits as my only entertainment? For eternity?"
"Holy mother of sin, no. The greatest hits collection is an exclusive to those feathered swots upstairs. Here you get the whole lot. Misdeeds and not-so-missed alike. No holds barred. In full, technicolor and occasionally gory detail."
The other him scoffs. "That's your upsale? Your pitch needs a polish."
Crowley knows he's right, but he's beyond caring overly much about such things. He scans his counterpart up and down before continuing. "You might also end up with a roommate at some point, depending."
"Why would I want that?" The other him looks positively disgusted at the concept. Crowley can relate. Still, he tries to sell it. Best he can.
For old times sake.
"Potential long-term companionship with a version of you that you share at least one major thing in common." Crowley doesn't elaborate, waiting for the other him to pick up the chain.
It doesn't take very long.
"Mmm. And, as I am sure you can guess, same deaths? Typically means-"
"So that's it? A room, maybe a bed, a crappy unending video montage, and possibly another me to share it with at some point?'
"In a nutshell."
"As charming as that sounds, think I'll pass."
"If you're certain."
Crowley nods and reaches for his sign in book, picking up the quill, and dragging a bloody red line through one of the entries.
A moment later, the other Crowley fades from view, but not before Crowley catches sight of wide eyes and a mouth open in a soundless shout.
Crowley huffs out a breath of air.
I did warn him.
His motel lobby now empty, Crowley goes back to watching the security feed.
Crowley stands beneath the motel sign, watching the 'NO' blink on and off; the rain sluicing over the fixture and onto his head. He's not sure how long he stays there, unmoving. Could be minutes. Might be hours. Time is...fuzzy wherever he is. All he knows is that his shoes are soaked by the time he makes it to his room. 66.
He doesn't even get as far as unlocking the door when the sounds from the room next to his permeate the air. Loud thumping rock music reverberates through the walls making the water drops on the panes of glass on the front-facing curtained window bounce and merge and slide away.
He looks at his door, and back to the room next to his. A moment (or a lifetime) later, he slips his room key back into his pocket, and knocks on the door of room 67.
The television set in room 12 doesn't work. Crowley's spoken with the him that works in the lobby about it, but aside from an offer of a room change, there's not much to be done.
Crowley's opted to stay where he's been assigned, wary of what - or who - he may encounter in a place not meant for him.
So instead of watching whatever programming had been intended for him, he sits on his bed, legs stretched out in front of him, eyes closed; allowing the silence surrounding him to thicken until it breaks, cracked open wide by the repetitive drip drip drip of the faucet in the bathroom.
The sound offers him a strange sort of comfort in the place.
He sits, and he ponders. On his life. On his death. On the type of rotten human he had been. On the impressive demonic salesman he'd become. He thinks on his rise, and meteoric fall from the throne of hell.
He thinks about how that may just have been the best thing that could have happened to him. How after centuries of living a life that was vacant of anything but momentary, fleeting pleasures; absent of anyone he could trust - or anyone who cared - he'd managed to find just that. In the least likely of places, with the least likely of people.
It had only been a blip on the radar of his life, relatively speaking. But that blip held more meaning for him than all the previous years combined. It had given him something like a home. Something like purpose.
And if the price of that was dying so that a certain pair of hunters could live to save another day? So be it.
He has no regrets.
When the noise of dripping water stops, Crowley opens his eyes. The room around him fades from view, and is replaced with a soft, all-encompassing light.
When the light recedes, room 12 remains, Crowley is gone, and the 'NO' on the vacancy sign out front switches off.
The bell over the door dings, signalling a guest in Crowley's lobby. There's no need for him to look up from his security feed to know who it is, seeing as how he just watched the anomalous man arrive via said feed. And so he allows him the chance to announce himself instead. As he would for any other guest.
"The Crossroads Motel? Really? Little on the nose, even for you, don't you think?"
Crowley looks up, eyes scanning the long, lean length of the man waiting at his counter with a pang of long-suppressed yearning. He lifts an eyebrow, and drawls: "Denim and flannel. Little on the nose for a hunter, don't you think?"
Dean Winchester laughs, the sound a release of pleasant noise in an atmosphere packed dense with the absence of all things. " Damn, Crowley. It's good to see you."
"Is it?" Crowley forces nonchalance, and Dean's easy smile slips. "Well, I suppose it may be at that. Unfortunately for the both of us, I'm not the Crowley you're looking for."
Dean tilts his head. Light from the dangling bulb overhead glints like a sunbeam off the water drops in his hair. "Huh? What do you mean you're not…?" He closes his eyes, and shakes himself, from the top of his head down to his feet, like a wet dog shaking out its fur. "Man, why can't I keep my thoughts straight?
"Because you're somewhere you're not meant to be."
Dean squints. "Yeah. Maybe…maybe that's it. Feels..." Dean's voice trails off, grasping for the thread. Crowley can pinpoint the moment he catches it. Slippery thin thing that it is. "Listen, it took some serious mojo to get me here, and the longer I'm here, the harder it'll be to get us out. So grab whatever you need, and-"
Crowley shakes his head. "I'm not going anywhere, Dean. I already told you, I'm not the me you're looking for."
"What the hell does that even mean? Of course you're you!"
"I wish I could articulate for you have very accurate and yet entirely wrong that statement is. Oh look, I just did."
Dean growls, the sound too appealing by far. "Crowley, quit screwing around. You sent us a message-"
"I assure you I haven't sent any messages, darling. But I do believe you that someone here did. We just need to locate him. Which, lucky for you, I can do with little difficulty. One of the few benefits of this being my waypoint and all."
"Waypoint?" Dean blinks, his head and upper body swaying back with the action. "Is that what you call this place?"
"Good a name as any."
"Sam and I - Cas too - best we could come up with in the lore is that this is like a waiting room for displaced souls?"
Crowley gives Dean a loose shrug from across the counter. "Different names for the same place. But to be clear, this one is mine. I've no idea what anyone else's might look like. But this is the place where me, myself, and I come when we die."
Dean's eyes widen until they are bright spots of green swimming in a sea of white. "All of you? From full-on every reality? Like, ever?"
Crowley gives him a half-smile. "Not quite. Just the undecided ones. The rest…" Crowley lifts his shoulder and tilts his chin in a facsimile of a nod. "Go elsewhere."
"Oookay. " Dean looks around the small lobby, gaze lingering on the padded, yellow vinyl chair with a tear down the center, and the discolored popcorn ceiling. "Gotta say, this ain't exactly what I was picturing for you, man."
"No? You didn't think that I'd end up consigned to a rattrap of a motel? Complete with scratchy sheets, and paper-thin walls? With televisions whose channels can't be changed, and whose programming is highly specific?"
"Not really, no." The sides of Dean's mouth tick up. It makes something warm swell in Crowley's chest. It's a feeling he never thought he'd experience again.
He loves it and loathes it in equal measure.
Crowley clears his throat. "Yes, well. I believe I have you to thank for that somewhat."
"Huh? How's that?"
"The vast majority of the me's that end up here? Waiting to figure out where to go next? We're here thanks to you and yours. You Winchesters have a way of messing about with our sense of self just enough that figuring out our final destination isn't so easy. Heaven, Hell, the Empty? If it's too close to call, we end up here. Stands to reason that it would bare a striking resemblance to your favorite homes away from home."
"So what you get for not being entirely awful people when you die is-"
"A motel where the decor is drab, the lights are dim, the sun never rises, and everything is covered in a perpetual thin coat of lukewarm rain."
Dean scratches a hand at the wet hair on his head. "I had noticed that last part."
"Oh, you really haven't." The corners of Crowley's lips almost (almost) tick up into a smile. "But yes. This…" Crowley gestures with limp hand at the room, "Is ours. Peeling wallpaper and all."
Dean's jaw works up and down, his face contorting in that oh-so-expressive manner Crowley recalls his own version having on the rare occasions he'd let his guard down. "How many of you are here?"
Crowley lets go of a slow breath to steady himself. Having the encapsulation of all his hopes and failures standing so near, and knowing it's not meant for him is a special kind of torture. "More than a few." Crowley stares at the other man for several seconds, savoring his presence, before opening his mouth to burst the bubble once more. "So, I ask again. Which one of me are you looking for?"
Dean blinks, and Crowley sighs again. "How did your me die?"
Dean's voice is a low rasp, the color of it tinted gray with grief on the exhale. "Angel blade."
"Uh...no. You-" Dean clears his throat, looking away. "He stabbed himself. To save us."
"Ahhh. One of them."
Dean's brows lift high. The perfect, comedic accompaniment to his too-open eyes. "Them?"
"Yes. That particular death seems to be a favorite. Don't see the appeal, personally. But then again, no one will be coming for me like you are for him, so I suppose it has its charms."
"Uh, yeah." Dean swallows, and Crowley watches as confusion settles over him like a wet blanket, thick and heavy and uncomfortable but offering security in its own way. "So, where do I find...him? Them? You?"
Crowley pulls the guest register up and drops it on the counter. He swirls it around to face Dean, who takes him up on the offer and flips through page after page, heavy with red ink. Line after line after line of the name 'Crowley' scrawled out in a neat script - interspersed with an occasional 'Fergus' written in a decidedly less steady hand. Block numbers etched in the margins beside each entry. Dean drags his fingers down the pages as he goes, fingertip stuttering over the ones that have been crossed out.
"How do I…"
"You don't." Crowley says, voice soft but firm, watching the way the world vibrates around the hunter as he peruses the book. "I do." When he's sure he's got the lay of it, Crowley places a key on top of the book, next to Dean's hand, resisting the urge to make direct contact, knowing it'll just make things more difficult in the end.
Dean's eyes dart back up to Crowley's. "How do you know...how do you know which one is, umm…"
Dean shifts from foot to foot, a rush of color filling his cheeks at the question, highlighting the freckles over his nose.
It's a lovely sight.
Crowley taps the plastic tag with the tip of his finger. "I've been here a long time, Dean. And I'm good at what I do."
A warm expression flits over Dean's face as he smiles at Crowley. "Always have been." His fingers curl around the key, and he drags it and his hand back to his side, stepping away from the counter. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it." After a beat, the hunter nods and turns towards the door. Before he can push it open, Crowley decides to offer one last bit of advice. "Don't go looking in any other rooms. No matter what you see. Or what you hear."
Dean furrows his brow. "Why?"
"I know who you are, but not everyone here will. And some of those that should? They won't be able to remember you even if you stand in front of them and say your name. Memory. It's a funny thing. Especially when you're dead. The rest...well, you'll just be taunting them with what they can't have."
Dean purses his lips together and gives a curt nod. "Yeah, yeah okay. No other rooms. Got it." Satisfied, Crowley nods back, and prepares to watch Dean Winchester walk out of his afterlife for what may very well be the last time.
Only this time it's Dean that turns back, his hand on the door handle, and a deep frown firmly in place on his handsome face. "Why's no one coming for you?"
Crowley allows the question to settle over him, making certain that Dean is meeting his gaze when he answers. "Because I got you killed. You and Sam both. Castiel didn't last much more than a few seconds beyond that. I - I did what I could, but…" He shakes his head a moment before meeting the eyes across the way again. "Too little too late. World went to hell in a handbasket right quick after. And yours truly ended up here."
He tilts his chin in the direction of the rest of the motel. "Those rooms? Those are for the me's that still need to figure out who they really are, and where it is they belong. Their fates, such as they are, are still undecided."
"And yours isn't?"
Crowley shakes his head. "Not for me it's not. This is my fate - my choice - for better or worse." He taps his fingers against the counter. "It's what I deserve."
"I don't believe that."
Crowley huffs out a laugh, the sensation surprising him with how good it feels. "While I appreciate the sentiment, tell it to the me that's waiting for a lift."
Dean chuckles. "Yeah, I'll do that." A beat goes by where they simply watch each other before Dean tips his head. "Be seeing ya, Crowley."
The bell over the door rings out as Dean exits, and Crowley is left alone in his lobby once more.
Dean opens the door to room 93.
Crowley is on the floor, his back against the bed, head tilted to the side and eyes scrunched tightly shut. There's no rise or fall to his chest, and for a second, it sets Dean's heart racing in a panic, until he remembers.
Crowley's already dead. That's why they're both here. And even before that, it's not as if his breathing patterns followed those of a human. He was (Is? Will be?) a demon after all.
Scattered about on the floor surrounding the (resting?) man is an absolute disaster of disassembled parts from what Dean thinks is every last mechanical item that may have conceivably once been located in the motel room.
Some parts he can readily pick out. (That one is clearly from the TV remote, and that one is a knob from a radiator, and that... is that the track from a drawer?) But others have been broken so far down that there's no use in trying to guess what they once were.
The multitude of parts all lead to some ET phone home contraption resting in Crowley's lap.
The scene knocks the breath from Dean's lungs, and he finds he needs to lean against the doorframe for a few moments until he can get his legs steady.
While he's working against the sudden jelly in his knees (if anyone were to ask, he'd blame it on this place, and the weird way it keeps screwing with his head) Crowley cracks open heavy lids to lock puffy, bloodshot eyes on Dean. "Squirrel?"
Crowley's voice is burnt and bruised. Dean can't keep his own from falling into a lower register in response. "Hey, Crowley. Got your message."
"Took you long enough."
Dean sucks in a breath and snorts, pressing the heels of his feet into the ground and pushing himself off the door frame and into the room. "Don't blame me. We had no idea this part of the afterlife even existed before we started looking."
"You're not the only one."
Dean crouches down next to Crowley's exhausted form. He lifts a hand, hesitating for a second before letting it drop on the other man's shoulder and applying gentle pressure.
A knot in his chest he didn't know was there dissolves at the contact. By the way the pained grimace on Crowley's face eases several notches at the touch, Dean thinks the same thing may apply to him as well. "How you holding up?"
"I'm dead, and stuck in this shithole, how you think I'm holding up?"
"Well, MacGyver, you managed to hail a cab from this shitthole, so I'd say not bad."
"The Impala parked out front then?"
"Oh, yeah. Right around the corner." Dean holds the other man's gaze for a few moments, half-smile sliding away as he does. Crowley looks like he's gone ten rounds in a boxing ring against a troll. "What happened to you, man?"
Crowley's tongue licks out against his dessicated lower lip. "I don't think this place likes it when you mess with its things. I took something apart, or broke something? It...hit back."
Dean's eyes widen as he scans over the mess about them, calculating the amount of damage Crowley must have sustained to accomplish what he did. "Damn."
"No thank you. Been there, done that. Think I'd like a holiday instead."
"Hah! Yeah." Dean leans his head down and forward, further into Crowley's personal bubble, without quite closing the distance between them. "Yeah, think you've earned that." He squeezes his shoulder. "But first, let's get outta here."
Crowley tries for a smirk, though it falls a little flat. "My knight in Carhartt and denim."
Dean just smiles, and stands, not hesitating to offer Crowley both hands to help the injured man off the floor.
Crowley sways forward once he's vertical, but Dean's there to offer him support. The look on Crowley's face is tired but grateful. He makes a motion like he's about to step back, but Dean keeps one hand on his forearm, not allowing him to go far.
Crowley tries to clear his throat, but it's clear that it's too dry to do much good. "I assume you have some sort of retrieval spell at the ready?"
Dean nods, digging his free hand into his coat pocket and pulling out the device they'd put together for just that purpose. "Got it right here. I just need to turn it on, and it's back to Kansas we go. In theory. Couldn't really test it out beforehand."
"Of course. Well then, let's get this show on the road."
"Anything you need to grab before we go?"
Crowley shakes his head, eyes never leaving Dean's. "Better not. Who knows what this place would do if I tried to make off with something."
"Good point." Dean adjusts the device in his hand, finger ready to activate it and get them home. "It's good to have you back, Crowley."
"You'll forgive me if I withhold returning that sentiment until we actually get back." Crowley glances away and then back again, "But, for what it's worth, I'm grateful you came."
Dean slides his other hand down from Crowley's forearm into Crowley's hand, wrapping his fingers tight around the other man's. "Better hold on in case this Portkey thing Cas and Sam cooked up tries to throw us across reality or something."
Crowley squeezes Dean's hand in response. "I'll hold your hand anytime you like, darling, no need for excuses."
Dean laughs, not caring about the heat he can feel in his cheeks at the statement.
It really is going to be good to have Crowley back.
Hand in hand, Dean presses the button, and the room around them fades to black.
A repair ticket appears on Crowley's counter for Room 93:
Television: Disassembled, parts broken/missing; Remote: Disassembled, parts broken/missing; Radiator: Disassembled, parts broken/missing; Thermostat: Disassembled, parts broken/missing; Faucet (tub): Missing; Shower head: Broken; Table lamp: Parts broken/missing; Table: Broken; Dresser: Disassembled, parts broken/missing
Ticket in hand, Crowley looks at the rain-smeared security feed.
The 'NO' on the vacancy sign is off once more.
Crowley smiles, and stands.