Whatever it was, it had a lot of claws, and a lot of teeth, and Bobby was currently on the wrong end of both. He'd already lost a whole damn lot of blood, and was wondering at what point "a whole damn lot" became "too damn much" except the clawing and the biting stopped. Honestly, he wondered for a minute if he had died. Then he opened his eyes.
"Are you going to stand there cowering, or are you going to thank me?"
The only British accent Bobby had ever heard that wasn't on television, or belonging to one Bela Talbot.
"What do you want?" he snapped.
"Gratitude," snapped Crowley right back. Bobby stared at him for a minute, trying to figure out his game. Quite frankly, Crowley looked a little… embarrassed. "If I hadn't been passing through, you would be in pieces in the stomach of this wee sodding beastie."
It lay on the ground. Spines stuck out of its back, and its huge eyes were blank and dull.
"Chupacabra?" guessed Bobby.
"I honestly couldn't care less."
And then he disappeared. Bobby wondered if he ought to call Sam and Dean, but decided against it and burned the corpse.
A few months later, Bobby was taking out a nest of vampires that turned out to be larger than he'd expected. He'd planned on three, but it turned out to be eight.
"Stupid hunter," one of them hissed, red eyes glinting in the dark. Her hair was dark, and matted with clumps of blood and God-knows-what else. Bobby grimaced. Once, she might have been kind of pretty.
A sharp pain at the back of his head, and Bobby thought, this is the end.
It wasn't. When he came to, there was a man in a black suit fighting a last vampire, and the corpses of several vampires, their heads detached and lying quite far away from their bodies. It was kind of impressive, and, to tell the truth, sort of heartwarming.
"One of them got away," said the man. "Nasty buggers, vampires. I don't much care for them."
"You again?" asked Bobby, trying to forget that he had ever thought what he just thought.
"Passing—through," said Crowley, and punctuated it with the swipe of his knife.
"Why are you so helpful?" asked Bobby.
"I hate vampires," said Crowley. "Do you know, one ate my mother. When I was alive, of course."
"You were alive once?" asked Bobby.
Whoo boy, if looks could kill.
"Don't forget to take care of the one that escaped, Singer," said Crowley, and disappeared.
"Balls," said Bobby.
"Uh, why do you ask?"
Dean sounded tired.
"Just a question." Bobby tried to keep his voice light and casual, but honestly, there was no such thing with these two.
"Bobby, it's 5 a.m. where I am."
Bobby glanced at the clock. Oops.
"Uh… sorry, kiddo."
"Just ask your damn question."
"Don't get smart with me."
"You wake me up at five in the morning, and I ain't going to be the nicest guy."
"Shut up," moaned someone in the background. Sam, of course. "Answer his fucking question and get back to sleep."
"Demons are all people who've sold their souls. Most don't remember," said Dean. "But some do. Can I go back to sleep now?"
"Sure. Take care of yourself."
"You too, Bobby."
When Crowley showed up for the third time because a werewolf was wandering around town, Bobby began to wonder.
"Coincidence," said Crowley lightly, and that was perhaps the most frightening thing of all. Besides the fact that the werewolf just sort of explodes. There's that, too.
Bobby never believed in coincidences, but when the alternative is weirder he generally goes with them. After all, they've got to happen sometimes, right? But when coincidence happens twice, and then three times, that's no longer a coincidence.
Bobby grabbed Crowley's arm as the demon tried to leave. It was terribly awkward and the distance between their faces jarred back memories of the sealing of the deal. More to the point, that kiss had been the only, uh, action Bobby had gotten in about the past five years or so. Hard not to think about, given the circumstances. Which were Crowley's face. Inches from his. Bobby knew what those lips felt like. He knew the tongue that swept out over them in a brief flicker of something a little like fear but a little not. Good God, thought Bobby, he might even be kinda sexy if you listened to the voice and didn't look too hard.
Oh, except for the fact that Crowley was looking mighty pissed.
"What the hell do you want?"
"I want to know," said Bobby, trying to phrase himself properly, and also trying desperately not to blush with Crowley so close, "what in God's name is going on here. Why are you always here? It ain't 'cause this place is any kind of tourist trap, that's for damn sure. Ya got my soul, and demons don't just do stuff because they want to."
"Honestly? I've taken a bit of a fancy to you," said Crowley, the pissed look sort of fading.
"The hell does that mean?"
Crowley shrugged, with a little smile on his face.
"You actually sing in the shower," he said. "It's... endearing. We have the same favorite swear word, though I like to think mine's got a bit more style. I've got what the kids these days call a 'thing' for the grizzled old man types. And you're quite the kisser. Has anyone ever told you that?"
Bobby squinted at him. The part that confused the hell out of him, the part that made him question what Crowley was saying, was how positively smug the bastard was while saying it. Anyone else admitting those things would've only done it under pain of death, but Crowley made it a challenge.
"You sayin' this is some kinda crush?"
Crowley raised his eyebrows and smiled that infuriating little smile, cocking his head a little to the left and spreading out his arms. Here I am, it looked like he was saying. All open and unguarded, like what he was asking wasn't one of the most painful things Bobby had ever been asked. Bobby hadn't even been on a single date since Karen's first death. And Crowley... well, maybe he didn't know that, but he did know about Karen. He had to guess.
Then again, maybe it didn't have to be about Karen. Maybe it had to be about Bobby. Even then though, it wasn't like Bobby would ever even consider...
God, this had to be a joke. Nobody looked that confident when asking out someone who had previously tried on multiple occasions to kill them.
Crowley was still waiting.
"What d'ya say, love? Take it or leave it."
"You still got my soul," said Bobby. "But I ain't that desperate. No way am I... hooking up, as the kids say, with the likes of you."
Crowley sneered and folded his arms again.
It hit Bobby like a train. Light. Warmth. Gasping for air.
When he opened his eyes again, Crowley's arms were crossed, and he looked an awful lot taller. Bobby shortly realized this was because he was crumpled on the floor.
"Shame," Crowley said, back to the cool businessman, "If you'd become a demon, you'd have been under my command, and I would have treated you nicely. Well, nicely for a demon, anyway. Probably wouldn't even have made you torture anyone. That's not necessarily true of the other side, you know."
And then he was gone.
Bastard, Bobby thought, just because I don't return his freaky little crush, he took away my legs. He sat up, and wondered where his wheelchair had got to. He sat there for a while until his legs fell asleep, and then nearly fell over dead of shock when he realized what that pins and needles tingly feeling was. Maybe it wasn't a joke after all.
Then he got on the phone again.
"I got my soul back," he told Sam and Dean.
"Bastard took this long?" asked Sam.
"We oughta gank the dick," said Dean. "As a frickin' late fee."
No, Bobby didn't really want that, he realized.
"He let me keep my legs, though," said Bobby, finding himself a little defensive.
"Oh, well that changes everything," said Dean sarcastically. "Should give him a fucking Nobel Peace Prize for that. Regular Mother Theresa."
Bobby thought about it for a minute.
Actually, he realized, it kinda does change everything. He didn't have to do it in the first place. He didn't have to let me keep 'em. He didn't have to do all that other stuff, but he did. For a demon, he ain't so bad after all.
Besides, Bobby kinda had a thing for accents.
So the next time a lamia was in town, wreaking havoc on all the neighbors, Bobby knew who to expect. Or he hoped he knew who to expect, anyway.
Though really, he wanted to take care of the lamia before Crowley got there. It kinda bugged him that Crowley thought, after 40 years of this mess, Bobby couldn't handle himself. He led it to his front yard, and managed to get it pinned down with a minimum of damages sustained to his own body. The car would need a bit of fixing, but Bobby did that kind of thing for fun.
Crowley arrived right above him, wild-eyed, right at the moment that Bobby watched the life die out of the eyes of the lamia.
"My God," said Crowley, "I thought I was going to be too late. But it seems you've taken care of it yourself. I suppose I should have expected it. You are, after all, a big boy." He raised a hand to snap his fingers for the teleportation out. It was a show, Bobby knew, Crowley didn't really have to go through with the finger-snapping, but he was pretty damn grateful for Crowley's vanity at that moment.
"Wait," said Bobby, and kissed him.
"Changed your mind, I see?" said Crowley, breaking it off. He looked a little bit flushed. Bobby suddenly realized he'd sort of bent Crowley into a bit of a dip.
"Thanks for giving me back my legs," said Bobby, a little breathlessly. He was getting a bit old for this, after all.
"Yes, well," said Crowley, straightening up and stepping back. "I. Er. You've managed to surprise me, I think I should let you know."
"Oh," said Bobby, realization dawning. "You ain't... Uh, sorry."
"Oh, no," said Crowley, and a slow smile spread across his face. "No, no. You've got it all wrong. No, love, I most definitely am not 'ain't.' I absolutely am. I just have a sneaking suspicion that you may want to continue this inside, where your mates can't see."
Bobby glanced behind him.
Marcie stood there, wide-eyed with shock, and the sheriff, too.
"I, uh," said Marcie.
"Heard the commotion," finished the sheriff. "And she called me. Seems that you fellas got the situation in hand, though."
There was a pause.
"So that's why," said Marcie, knowingly.
The sheriff took her arm and led her away, listing off all the other eligible middle-aged men of the town and their positive and negative traits.
"Balls!" said Bobby, with a scowl. "It'll be everywhere by dinnertime, I guarantee it."
"Now, now," said Crowley. "By dinnertime, I can almost guarantee that you won't care."
Bobby gave him a hard stare.
"You don't mean that in a you-won't-care-because-I'm-planning-on-ripping-your-guts-out kinda way, do ya?"
"Good God," said Crowley, covering his face with his hands, "no. I meant as in, I've found an interesting restaurant that I've been meaning to try out. Have you ever been to New York?"
"Uh," said Bobby, "No, I haven't. I guess that means I gotta find a nice suit."
"Nah," said Crowley, "It's a casual one. I don't figure you for a fine-dining sort of guy."
"Oh," Bobby said, relieved. "Good thing."
"Right!" said Crowley, also looking incredibly relieved. "So, er, I'll pick you up at... sevenish, then?"
"Sounds good," said Bobby.
They stood there for a moment, the silence growing heavy and awkward.
"Look," said Crowley, "If you just feel guilty about getting a ripoff from a demon, don't. I didn't-when I let you keep your legs, it wasn't about this. Well. I hoped, but it wasn't like that. Don't get me wrong, I am a manipulative bastard. But it was a gift in the first place."
"If I thought it was just about this," said Bobby, "I woulda ganked your sorry ass the minute I saw you again."
"Ah," said Crowley.
"And by the way," said Bobby, "I can handle myself, ya know. I've been doing this for forty-something years."
"Right," said Crowley. "I'll just let you get ripped to shreds by a bunch of nasty beasties. Don't worry, I'll make sure you get one of the chillier lava pits after your inevitable trip Downwards."
"That's the spirit," said Bobby, and kissed him again.