Gladius

A Supernatural AU by Lywinis

(Original idea by astroize on Tumblr)

Chapter One


The farmhouse was old, dusty with years of disuse, but Sam and Dean Winchester hadn't wavered from a target yet. Their connections were solid, their research thorough. This was the place. No vehicle was parked in the yard, and the paint had long since peeled away under the blistering summer sun of years past. The grass, however, was new, fresh and green while the rest of the plains were browning in the July heat.

"Hard to believe this one dared to show its face," said Dean around a mouth full of burger. "You'd think they didn't teach common sense up there."

"They don't, remember?" Sam took a swallow of his soda, his Adam's apple bobbing with the movement. Both sets of eyes were fixed on the house, rotting away under the Nebraska sun. "All they teach is combat and how to be a condescending dickhead."

Dean snorted. The Impala was parked out of sight of the house behind a rolling spit of land. All they had to do was wait until they had their signal. Their bang sticks sat in the back seat, along with the ropes.

Their CB chirped. "Winchesters, the Eagle has landed."

Dean rolled his eyes and picked up the mic. "Shut the fuck up, Gomez."

Laughter echoed over the channel, and the brothers exited the car with gear in tow. It was time to go hunting. Dean shrugged his leather gloves on, flexing his fingers in the thick material. Better safe than sorry with the bang sticks, he knew. He loaded a phosphorus charge into the capsule and screwed it down tight, handing it to Sam. He did the same with another one, keeping it for himself.

"Right, I'll distract it, you tag it. Easier than a salt and burn." Dean flashed a grin at his little brother, hiding the uneasiness he felt. Few hunts were cut and dry these days, especially these. He hadn't forgotten how it felt, though, and the adrenaline coursed through his body as tension seeped into his shoulders.

"Yeah, like a salt and burn." Sam frowned at his brother's shaking hands and Dean forced them to stillness. They had been shaking a lot more in recent months, and Dean tried to keep it from Sam. Sam fetched the holy oil from the trunk of the Impala, and he helped Sam soak the rope and wind it into a loose coil. A small fire extinguisher joined it, and they turned toward the house.

Dean made his way up the rotting wooden porch steps while his brother jogged around to the back. He braced the bang stick against the wall of the house before rapping two knuckles against the door. Paint flaked away at the impact, floating down to his boots in a lazy swirl.

"Hello?" he called. "Is anyone in there? My car broke down and I was wondering if I could use your phone."

No answer. He knocked again, harder. The sound of footsteps across the floorboards sounded, the groan of a dying man, and he wondered how stupid this thing actually was for half a moment before the door opened. A thin, disheveled man stood there in a trench coat and suit, his eyes an impossible blue against the glare of the Nebraska sun. His dark hair was messy, sticking up in ducktails and curls that followed no known pattern Dean had ever seen. His tie hung around his neck like an afterthought, limp against the sweat-stained dress shirt. Had he been clean and his suit unrumpled, he might have been called handsome.

"Can I help you?" the man asked, his voice rusty from what sounded like disuse.

Dean put on his best winning smile. "Hi, my name's Rob Halford. My car's broken down, and I was wondering if I could use your phone?"

"I'm afraid that's not possible," he said. The door swung shut, only to be blocked by Dean's foot.

"Listen, man, I know it's not cool, but I really need to use your phone. It'll just take a second, and then I can be out of your, uh, lovely home and on my way. I just need to call a tow truck."

"I don't have a phone," the man said. "I don't need one."

"Well, that's all right. I just remembered I brought my cell with me, but it's dead. Can I borrow some juice?"

The man scowled, but Dean saw Sam in the shadows, creeping forward with bang stick in hand. He didn't betray his brother's presence, instead shifting his weight so the man would have to block the door with his body to prevent Dean's entrance. Sam was almost there…

The floorboard creaked under Sam's weight, and the angel whirled, stiff-arming the younger hunter. Sam went down with a grunt, poleaxed by the force behind the blow. Dean went for his bang stick, kicking the door open all the way. It shrieked off its hinges, clattering off the angel as he turned to Dean.

"Hunters," he growled.

"Yeah, we are." Dean readied his bang stick, palms sweaty in his gloves.

"Not many these days," said the angel, glancing down at Sam. "I don't want to kill you."

"Good for you. Not going to save you." Dean feinted to the left and the angel took the bait, lunging to the right to escape. Dean kneed it in the stomach.

It was like kicking a steel pole, but Dean ignored the spike of pain that lanced up his joints, instead working on pressing the angel back with jabs from the bang stick. The angel was quicker than most, light on his feet and wary, but Dean had him in sheer determination. He darted forward, and as the angel back-stepped, the hunter stumbled as a rotten floorboard gave way. The angel's hands snagged in Dean's t-shirt and lifted him off the ground. Dean struggled, but he was well aware of how strong angels were. He could hear his t-shirt tearing as the angel looked up at him with something like pity in its bright blue eyes. He wasn't getting out of this one.

There was a flash of brilliant chemiluminescence and Dean found himself on the floor as the angel curled in upon itself, screaming in agony. Sam tossed aside the spent bang stick and helped Dean up. The Winchesters watched the angel writhe and thrash upon the filthy floor, its trenchcoat flapping about its legs in a pair of shredded wings. The trench coat burned away, as did the dress coat and shirt beneath it. Sam sprayed it with the fire extinguisher, and the flames began to die.

The process had started, though, and Dean watched impassive as the angel suffered. Its back bowed upward, its shoulders and heels rooted to the floor as its grace was bound to its vessel. Its face twisted in pain as it howled its misery and loss to the mildewed ceiling. Sam looked away, hands clenched into fists. Dean didn't blame him; Sam still thought they were people. Dean knew better.

"Where'd you tag it?" asked Dean as he watched the angel's back draw up tight as a bow.

"I got him on the hip," said Sam, holding his ribs. He grunted, his breathing labored. "Think he broke something."

"Well, we'll fix that once we get it into the truck. Help me tie its hands."

They flipped the limp angel onto its front, Dean crossing its arms as Sam knotted the rope around the thin wrists.

"Why?" The angel was still conscious, and Dean gave a mental shake of his head at the creature's tenacity. Most of the ones they caught had passed out from the pain by now.

"Because it's what we do." He jerked the angel upright. "It's nothing personal."

It swayed on its feet for a moment, dizzy and confused. The angel looked at him, eyes red-rimmed and bleary. Then, it focused on him like he'd been painted with a laser. There was recognition there now.

"I know you," it said.

"No, you don't." Dean sighed. Here we go.

"Yes, I do." The angel wriggled against its bonds, struggling to get free. Sam grabbed it and forced its arms still. It was still focused on Dean's face. "You're the Righteous Man. You were supposed to stop it. You were marked, you were destined to stop it."

Dean ignored the statement. "These ropes are soaked in sacred oil. You so much as look at me or Sammy wrong and I will light you up like a Fourth of July barbecue, you got me?"

"Why didn't you stop it?" it asked again, sorrow drenching its voice in bedraggled feathers.

"Shut up," Dean said. "I don't have to answer to you."

The angel's head snapped forward before Sam or Dean could stop it, and Dean's world exploded into bright, delicious pain as the angel splattered his nose across his cheek. Dean punched the angel hard, rocking the creature back on its heels, and clutched the ruins of his nose. The angel had broken it good, and he could feel the cartilage shift under his fingers as he swore a blue streak.

The angel shook its head in shock. "You…hit me."

"Hurts, doesn't it, asshole? You're just shy of human now, and that means everything I do to you is going to hurt." Dean tipped his head back to slow the bleeding. Sam handed him a rag scrounged from the house, and he pressed it to his nose.

Dean tasted pennies, and he spat red onto the dusty floor. "I swear to - if Crowley didn't want you alive, I'd kill you myself and be done with it."

The angel swayed on its feet. "Hurts."

"Yeah, it will. We're not even done." He glanced around. "Where the fuck is Gomez?"

"Truck's outside, Dean." Sam limped forward and tugged the angel along. It shuffled along behind him, weak and confused. Dean followed, picking up the bang sticks as he went.

Gomez grinned at them from the converted paddywagon. The demon wore a chemist from outer New York State as his preferred body. It was lean, fit and handsome with soft brown eyes and dark hair in a high widow's peak, but the smile the demon had on his face was anything but handsome. He hopped out of the truck and grabbed the angel by its hair, jerking it back so that its throat was exposed.

"Looks like he ground you into hamburger before you got him."

"Shut the fuck up, Gomez." Dean glared around the rag at the demon. "It still isn't as bad as the one you idiots tried to capture yourself. I'd love to see you sneak up on an angel."

The swarthy Italian meatsuit Gomez was wearing sneered, his eyes flashing to black sclera.

"Maybe I should tell Crowley that you're not cut out for hunting anymore, huh?"

"Maybe I should tell Crowley that you're the one who broke my nose?" The reliance on Crowley to put the fear of the divine in the demons that worked these jobs with them rankled. "Or you could always just get a dose of holy water in your next latte. You never know."

Gomez scowled, but he said nothing more, instead unlocking the back of the paddywagon to the Winchesters. They heaved the swaying angel into the back of the truck, and it landed on its chest with a pained cry.

"Why?" it asked again.

Dean didn't answer, just slammed the door shut. He helped Sam to the Impala as Gomez roared off in a snit. It's not like it mattered. They got it done, and that's what Crowley cared about. He put his baby in gear and ached for a shot of whiskey as he pulled onto the Nebraska highway back to base.


It was full dark when the truck stopped swaying. Castiel opened his eyes, looking around him in the shadows. He was in pain, searing pain from the burn of whatever had caught his hip. It was unlike anything he had ever felt since he had taken Jimmy Novak as his vessel. Now, though, Jimmy's presence in his mind had shrunken from a voice to a whisper that he had to strain to hear. He had managed to roll over onto his other hip, his arms still bound in the oil-soaked rope. The jostling ride and the pain in his hip had caused him to fade in and out of consciousness, and so he had no idea how far they had traveled or in which direction.

The heat and dust of the truck were another irritant, the grime caking his body itched and mingled with the sweat that ran from his vessel's pores. He ached everywhere else, another new sensation. He had never felt fatigue before. It was unsettling. The Righteous Man, Dean Winchester had called him 'just shy of mortal'. He didn't know how accurate that statement was, he just knew he hurt. He couldn't even summon the energy needed to transport himself out of the truck and away. Every time he tried, his hip lanced pain into his entire body, setting his nerves on fire with the same pain as when he had been branded by the younger Winchester.

Instead, he took stock of his situation. His eyes were still preternatural, and he could see everything in the shadows as well as if it were still daylight. His vessel's clothing, what was left of it, was charred beyond recognition. The pants held on by virtue of a belt that managed to keep together. His shoes and socks had melted in the wake of the fire; his feet were bare. His coat and jacket were gone, along with the shirt and tie beneath it, leaving him bare to the waist. The skin was unharmed beneath it, save for the fire in his hip. He offered Jimmy a silent apology - it had been his favorite suit, and he could feel the faint upset at the human's loss. He didn't understand the attachment to personal items, but Jimmy's memory revealed the loving hands of his wife smoothing the jacket across his shoulders, kissing his cheek before they went out. So, he supposed that an apology was necessary.

There were no burns, other than the searing brand on his hip. Castiel did not know how that was possible, but he was glad of it for the moment. He heard the crunch of footsteps outside the van, and willed himself to stillness. The keys rattled in the lock, and he tensed.

The doors creaked open, and a spotlight blinded him. He winced and flinched away to a chorus of laughter. His ankles were seized and he was dragged from the truck, hitting the dirt of the hard-packed courtyard with the whoosh of air leaving his lungs. Another new sensation, not being able to breathe. He struggled to get air into his lungs as the pack of demons circled them, the humans they wore leering down at him.

Just as sudden as they had appeared, they parted like oil on water. Castiel blinked the spots of light from his vision as air entered his lungs at last. A pair of shined patent leather shoes stood by his head, and he followed their owner's legs with his eyes until he met his face. A clever looking man, his hands behind his back, looked down at him with a critical expression. Dark hair, an expressive face, and eyes that could be darker than black in the light. His suit was impeccable, tailored to perfection, and he brushed a speck of imaginary lint from his sleeve before addressing the angel.

"Castiel," he said, and the vague British accent was soft on Castiel's ears. Most demons were harsh, brash and loud. The quiet ones radiated power without having to shout about it, and this one radiated plenty of power, demonic energy wafting from him in waves. Castiel had the feeling that it was for show, however. Someone who held himself like that often let his deeds do the talking instead of allowing his mere presence to intimidate.

"Angel of Thursday," the demon continued. "So happy you're able to join our little family. Name's Crowley. I run the games here. We'll get you all settled in. Be a good boy, and you'll be rewarded. Act out, and…well, it won't be pleasant for you."

He'd heard of this one. This one was bad news. He studied the demon's face through the pain of his hip and the spotlight in his eyes, ignoring the chatter of the lesser demons that surrounded them. This was between the two of them, and everyone there knew it.

"I'm an angel, you ass. I don't have a soul to sell. I don't make deals."

The smile that spread across Crowley's face was beatific, a row of perfect white teeth. Pain exploded in Castiel's stomach as the demon delivered a vicious kick to his solar plexus. Castiel heaved, retching bile as he gasped for air again. A hand fisted in his hair and jerked his head back so that he was looking Crowley in the face.

"No, I don't think you understand. This isn't a deal, it's indentured servitude. You belong to me now, until I say otherwise, and then I'll end you like any of my other animals. We'll take you out back by the woodshed and put a bullet in that almost-mortal head of yours."

Crowley held up a revolver, one that was familiar to all supernatural beings. The Colt glittered cold in the spotlight, and he pulled the hammer back, the click of the mechanism locking into place loud in the sudden silence of the square. All eyes had locked onto Crowley, and he pointed the gun at Castiel.

Castiel braced for death.

It never came.

Crowley kicked him again, his foot connecting with the searing pain in the angel's hip. Castiel howled, curling up on himself.

Crowley turned around. "Winchesters! Where the hell are you?"

"Right here." Castiel struggled to look around, still gasping for air, and saw the scuffed brown boots of the Righteous Man stop next to his head. The larger boots of his brother joined them, and he looked up to see the younger one giving him a mournful look. He returned his attention to Crowley to block out the human's pity.

"Eurgh, you two look beaten to hell." Crowley clicked the hammer back down on the Colt, replacing it in his tailored suit jacket. "Sloppy work doesn't get you bonuses, Dean, you know that."

"He jumped us," said Dean. "We almost had the drop on him."

"Almost only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and government work, boys. Go get Choir Boy here cleaned up, then see to yourselves. You know how Lucifer gets if he sees Gigantor hurt. He'd mope for a month."

Dean's jaw flexed, but he knelt and grabbed Castiel's arm. "Don't make trouble, there won't be any trouble."

Castiel remained limp, and the two brothers hoisted him between them and dragged him into the dark.


The hallway was concrete and bars, echoing footsteps and the clanking ratchet of the cell door sliding open. It was dim, light slanting through the high windows above the cell block, but Castiel could see well enough to know that this was his new prison. He still ached, but did not resist as the Winchesters dragged him along.

They shoved him in a cell, iron bars carved with warding sigils limned in silver, layers of precaution spelled out in meticulous Enochian. He stumbled in and sank upon the cot, looking around him. There was a mattress, thin and hard against the cot, a sink, and a toilet in the six by six square foot enclosure. The cell was grimy, dirt gathering in the corners and along the bottom of the walls. Water dripped somewhere close.

They weren't gentle, but provided him a change of clothes - a cotton tank top, rubber soled slippers, and a loose pair of cotton pants, as well as a bar of soap, a rag, and a towel.

"Use 'em," Dean said, tossing them on the bed next to where Castiel sat. "Chow time is at dawn and dusk. You don't like it, you don't eat."

He turned to go, avoiding the intense gaze of Castiel's eyes. It was Sam Winchester who locked the cage, his brother limping down the hallway toward the door at the end. He looked through the bars at Castiel for a moment. Castiel met his gaze, curious that the younger brother would take an interest where the older would not. The rumor around the garrison had been that the younger one would follow the older into hell, and vice versa, but there was obvious remorse on Sam Winchester's face.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry," he said.

Castiel said nothing, the ache in his hip a constant. He watched Sam follow his brother, holding his ribs and shuffling out of the room. Castiel looked down at the floor, shifting on the hard cot. The door slid shut with the grinding of more metal, leaving the cell block in silence. The water continued its steady, monotonous drip, leaving Castiel alone with his thoughts. He rose and turned on the water in the sink, grimacing at the rusty red slurry that poured from the spigot. He let it run until it was clear, then soaped up the rag and set to work cleaning the dust and grime from his face and hands. He rinsed off, patting himself dry with the towel, then turned to the clothing. The cotton was soft enough, but he didn't bother with the shoes, instead choosing to remain barefoot as he paced around the cell.

He hummed a resonance, something he did while he was thinking; something he had always done without noticing unless one of his brothers and sisters pointed it out. Enochian in its purest form, sound without words, clarity of intent in the tone instead of in words, which were bulky and prohibitive.

A resonance from across the hallway answered him. His head snapped up, his eyes widening. He hadn't heard that voice in years, not since the Great Fall.

"Who is there?" he asked, his hands on the bars as he swept the cells looking for the source of it. He knew who it was, he could have told anyone who it was with his eyes closed. No two angels had the same frequency, each different in tone and subtlety.

"Even after all this time, Cassy, you haven't forgotten me, have you?" The figure stepped into view, and Castiel's eyes widened.

"Balthazar?" he asked, not daring to believe it. His vessel had been wiry and muscular, but now the flesh was sallow, the chest sunken. Balthazar gave a small smile, a shadow of his quirky grin that was signature to his brother. "We all thought you were dead."

"Not quite, just MIA." The other angel rested his forearms on the crossbar of his cell. "What in the world possessed you to set foot on this forsaken mudball? After we lost? You know Heaven is safer."

"It isn't," Castiel said. "There is infighting, disorder and disobedience in the ranks. The only archangels left vie amongst themselves for control. No one is strong enough to keep order, not after Michael was captured. He was the only one we knew for sure that Lucifer had taken."

"Lucifer has taken a lot more." Balthazar's eyebrows drew down in a scowl. "Have you heard what they're going to do to you yet?"

Castiel frowned.

"Obviously not. They're animals, Castiel. They're going to butcher us like animals, too. We're the prize pitbulls in Crowley's little dogfight." He swept a hand at the door the Winchesters had disappeared through. "Uriel should have left that one down there."

"Uriel failed, it's true," Castiel said, reluctant to agree with Balthazar about the human being Uriel had pulled away from Alastair in hell. "But no one could have forseen -"

"We have prophets for a reason, Castiel, don't give me that bunk. Uriel was one of the first to be captured."

Castiel frowned again. Uriel had been close, even though he had been more prone to violence than Castiel himself.

"We were all captured and marked. Where did they get you?"

Castiel winced and shifted the weight off his hip.

"I thought so. Have you taken a look at it?" Balthazar rolled his arm over, revealing the glossy pink of scar tissue on his left forearm. Raised letters, the elegant script spelling out hatred instead of his father's word.

"Allar bab," Castiel said, looking down. To bind up power. Is that what had been done to him?

Balthazar nodded, answering his unspoken question. "They've bound your grace to your vessel. As far as I know, there's no way to reverse it. If you're obnoxious, you get more brands."

He rolled his other arm over, and in the mirrored flesh, Castiel read another phrase.

"Adrpan caosg."

Cast down upon the Earth.

Balthazar turned his forearms back over. There was another stripe of raised flesh across the top of his wrist.

Amma. Cursed.

Castiel bowed his head. "I am sorry, Balthazar."

"Not as sorry as you will be. You haven't been subjected to what Alastair can do yet. Spend half an hour on his table and you'll be begging for the brand." Balthazar's face was grim in the half-light of the cell block. "That's not even the worst of it. Crowley is all business, you see. He keeps his horde happy by staging pit fights in the arena outside. Circles you in a ring of holy fire, forces you to fight your brothers. Two angels enter, one angel leaves."

Castiel's jaw tightened. "You mean…?"

"Yes, he's forcing us to kill each other for sport."

Castiel leaned his forehead against the cool bars. The Enochian script didn't cause pain, just a small tingle of discomfort at the back of his mind that he knew would only get worse if he tried to free himself.

"You're stuck here, Castiel, sorry to say."

"How many?" he asked.

"Since I've been here? Sixty. Since Michael was captured? Who knows." Balthazar gave a half-shrug. "If you get chosen to fight, at least you stand a chance. You get chosen by Alastair? Not so lucky."

Castiel nodded. "When are the fights?"

"When Lucifer feels like it." The curt reply said all Castiel needed to know. Lucifer, their fallen brother, torturing them for his own amusement. Castiel had never interacted with Lucifer much while he was still in heaven, but the thought of his brother running a ring of torture for the amusement of demons was almost too much to bear.

"Who else is here?"

"Michael, as you know. Scuttlebutt is they're tracking down Gabriel, but he's been long dead. None of us have told them, I think, but who knows. Zachariah was caught early, he went to capture Dean Winchester and was tagged instead. Gazardiel, Zuriel, Hadraniel, Iofiel, Camael, Rehael. Countless others of our brothers and sisters live in this complex. They send the Winchesters most of the time, if they want them alive. No one suspects the humans."

Castiel shook his head. "All captured?"

"Captured or killed." Balthazar pushed away from the bars, moving to his own cot. "You had better get some rest. You'll need to get used to sleeping, Castiel. You're the closest thing to human that an angel can be without Falling."

Castiel lay down, his hands behind his head as he stared at the damp, moldy ceiling. The harsh reality of it was crushing, suffocating, but he took a breath and blanked his mind, allowing himself a moment of clarity. He exhaled into the darkness, fatigue taking hold faster than he had expected. Being mortal, or close to it, was taking its toll.

"Balthazar," he said.

"What is it, Castiel?"

"I mourned your death."

There was a silence for a moment. "So did I."


A/N: So I accidentally a kickboxing!Castiel AU first chapter. The updates will be slow, as I will only be writing fic when the mood takes me, but it will be finished. That said, I am enjoying this far too much. More to come. This won't be Destiel, even though I know Astroize ships it hard. I can't write a lot of SPN ships, and when I do they come out awkward. (Look at Kairos, seriously.) But I will do my best to tell an entertaining story nonetheless, Constant Readers.

More to come.

Lywinis