A Supernatural AU by Lywinis
(Original idea by Astroize on tumblr)
The voice came through the bars, and Castiel ignored it. He hadn't slept in the past two days; napping in fits and starts prevented the nightmares that his now mortal brain tormented him with. He could hear his sister's screams when he closed his eyes, feel the heat of the lit oil on his face. He woke shaking, soaked in sweat and grasping at his wrists as if to throw Hasmal's grip from his arm once more.
It should have been him.
He should not be here.
"I said, wake up."
More insistent now, the voice forced itself into his thoughts. He rolled over, wincing as his seared side came into contact with the rough linen sheets. The bandages Sam had put on the wound needed changing. The skin had blistered, become raw and tender, and the cloth pads needed to be changed lest the burn become infected. Castiel suppressed a snort. Infection taking him now would be the ultimate irony.
"Good, you haven't decided to curl up and die on me, at least." Castiel looked up to find Dean staring down at him through the bars of his cell.
Castiel turned and faced the wall. "If you're not here to kill me, get out."
"Shut the fuck up." The rattling of keys in the lock and the clacking slide of the door as it opened didn't rouse Castiel's interest. "Your bandage needs changing."
"Let it rot."
Dean gave an exasperated sigh. "You really think I want to nurse you back to health? You're a fucking baby, whining about how it's so tough being where you are. Got news for you, dude, the apocalypse happened. Everybody's got it bad. I know, because I started it."
His voice caught on the last words, causing Castiel to look up. He knew the prophecy by rote; two brothers born into this world to be the vessels for his brothers' final battle on this earth. They would usher in the end of the world, freeing their Father's creations to the heaven they so deserved. Michael and Lucifer would battle, and Lucifer would lose.
Except it hadn't happened quite that way.
The Righteous Man, Dean Winchester, the human that stood before him glaring at him as though he were a petulant child, had done his part. He had gone to hell to save his brother, but something in him had changed when he was pulled from the lake of fire. Castiel had no idea if it was Uriel's influence or perhaps just the famous Winchester stubborn streak, but Dean had not allowed Michael to take him as his vessel. He had denied the angel his weapon. His brother, following Dean's lead, had done the same.
The world was in limbo. The stalemate caused by the refusal to fulfill the prophecy was tearing both heaven and hell apart. Angels warred with one another just as much as they warred with demons, vying for power in the vacuum left by Michael, Gabriel, and Lucifer. Demons roamed the earth, torturing the innocent in their search for everything they'd always wanted.
Castiel couldn't bring himself to care any longer.
He realized he was staring at Dean, but the hunter met his gaze with tired eyes, unflinching. Dark circles ringed the man's eyes, bruised and weary, the symptom of sleepless nights. Castiel caught the scent of stale beer, saw the tinge of yellow in the whites there, knew what it meant. Dean drank himself to sleep; if that didn't work, he didn't sleep.
Everyone has their ways of coping, Castiel thought to himself. It could not be easy, being one of two actual humans surrounded by the very things they had been raised to snuff out. Castiel had seen no other humans that weren't either being used as an angel's vessel or a demon's suit. He frowned, looking away.
"I can wait all day. I got nothing else to do."
He sighed, lifting his tank top off his body, revealing the gauze that Sam had wrapped around his chest to hold the cloth pad to his side. He raised his arm to give the hunter access to his side. Dean sat next to him on the bed, the mattress creaking under his weight. He carried a first aid kit, the gauze and clean cloth pad coupled with the polysporin enough to dress the wound. To his surprise, Dean rose again and washed his hands in the sink, scrubbing under his nails and patting them dry on a clean towel before he touched the gauze on the angel's skin.
Castiel hissed in pain as Dean tried to lift the gauze pad from the burn on his side.
"Damn it," Dean muttered. He rose, turning on the hot tap and soaking a towel in the warm water. "Lay on your side, it's stuck. I need to soften the bandage."
Castiel did as he was told, propping his head on his pillow, his gaze fixed on the far wall. He had grown heavy with muscle over the past six months; he had no doubt he could rush the human standing at the sink and free himself, but to what end? He could not escape the complex. He had no idea where the exits were, and there were too many of his brothers and sisters captured for him to think about trying. He ground his teeth as the warm, wet cloth was placed against the gauze glued to his side.
"You'll be all right in a few days," Dean said. "If not, we can have someone take another look at your side."
The silence stretched, like a thread about to snap. Dean seemed content with ignoring Castiel's stubborn silence. Castiel could catch a glimpse of work-roughened hands or hear the creak of the man's leather boots. The quiet stretched out forever, and Castiel's keen ears could pick up Balthazar in the next cell over, his breathing deep and even as he slept.
He could hear Balthazar shifting in sleep. He had seen his brother's legs a day ago. One more thing he couldn't prevent. He grit his teeth again. Dean sighed and rubbed his face with his hands. He reached into the kit and found a pair of latex gloves. He put them on and checked for the telltale softness that would allow him to pull up the gauze.
Castiel frowned as the warmth of the water soaked through to his skin. Dean tapped out a beat on his knee as he waited, content to let Castiel sulk.
"Where is Sam?" Castiel curled his legs up and kept his eyes on the far wall. Dean's hands were gentle, careful not to push or prod the burn too much as he tested the bandage for give. There was a wet slurp as the gauze came free, but there was no pain save for the slight tug as the last corner pulled away from his skin.
"Business meeting with Crowley," said Dean. He snorted, a soft sound that ghosted past Castiel's awareness. "Your blisters have ruptured. Gross. Gonna have to clean this up. Don't squirm."
A cloth was dipped in the warm water, and Dean rubbed a bar of soap with it, lathering it up. He pressed it around the wound, rubbing the skin clean while being as gentle as possible.
"Why are you here?" Castiel said, his eyes still turned toward the wall as Dean worked. "You could have left this for Sam."
Dean had never touched Castiel before. He never seemed interested in the angel's welfare, leaving the majority of the training and nutrition to Sam. He never touched the angels if he could help it, save to snap their cuffs on to change the sheets. Yet, here he was, cleaning Castiel's wound with the same care he had seen Dean show Sam.
"Can't. Sam's busy. Shit's gotta get done, and if I don't, someone else will, and they'll probably fuck it up." Dean inspected the wound, the skin bright red and shiny. Castiel looked too, and saw it was a long strip across his ribs, fading down. Hasmal's last gift to him. He swallowed and looked away.
"It's not too bad," Dean said, applying the polysporin cream. "Shouldn't scar too bad. You took a beating, though."
"Not bad enough," he said. "I still breathe in this cage."
"And here I thought you were sour, Peach Pit." Castiel looked up to see a woman standing at the door to his cell, her arms folded as her dark hair fell in her eyes. He could sense the corruption, and flexed his fingers, resisting the urge to scramble upright.
"Fuck off, Meg." Dean laid the clean gauze pad across the burn. "Sit up so I can bind this."
"Aww, but Dean, I wanted to see your little pet! Not every day my favorite crusty hunter gets all soft and goopy over one of Crowley's toys." The woman let a chuckle loose, pushing her hair out of her face. The demon's chosen form was pretty, in a way. Castiel regarded her in silence as Dean tied off his bandages.
"And here I thought you never left the kitchen." Dean packed up the first aid kit and glared at Meg. "Get out, you know how he feels about his kids snooping around the barracks. Daddy's gun cabinet isn't safe for little girls to play in. Run along back to the bar."
Meg snorted. "Fine. I'm here because Alastair wants to see you."
Dean's spine became like iron, and Castiel could hear the brittle touch in his voice as he gave a curt nod. "I'll be there."
"Make sure you don't linger too long. You know how he hates to wait." Meg seemed to repress a shudder of her own, but turned and slipped away. She waggled her fingers at Castiel before she left, grinning at him like she had a secret he was privy to as she walked away.
Dean sighed and dumped out the water into the sink before he cleaned up the soiled bandages. "It's healing okay, just avoid laying on that side, if you can."
"You hate him," Castiel said. It wasn't a question.
"More than anything on Earth," Dean said. "More than you."
Castiel was left to ponder this as Dean locked the cell and strode away.
The prison's infirmary looked like an abattoir. Blood was rusty on the walls, splattered there by a madman's brush. Dean ignored the gore, stepping over the congealing pools and making his way to the back office. There were no bodies; Alastair always worked in singles, and he never let his guests know what was coming.
That was part of the allure, part of the terror. Alastair was personal; he was able to cut you open from the inside out before he ever broke out the tools. The tools were just his way of finishing. Your happy ending after the main event. Alastair was considerate like that.
Dean felt his skin start to crawl, and he willed himself still, firmed his jaw against the chattering of his teeth. He remembered how it felt, how well Alastair knew all the things that would hurt him the most. With his whispered words, his commands to give in, there was always the threat of him going after Sam. It was never an outright statement, but the way Alastair had driven right against the heart of him, torn it out and dissected it while it beat and bled out on the table in front of him, it got to you. He knew Dean in a way no one ever could, and the hunter repressed the sick thrill that shot down his spine.
He remembered how it felt.
He remembered how the razor fit in his hand like it was an extension of his arm.
He remembered how all his victims looked like Sam.
He remembered how he enjoyed it.
He shook his head, trembling as he approached the closed office door. He rapped on the glass.
The quavery voice sent a chill across his skin. He'd scoffed when he first heard Alastair speak; that was before the demon had gone to work on him. He sounded like Don Corleone with a head cold, but there, underneath the comical voice, was a menace that wasn't apparent until it was far too late, like the undertow in a peaceful bay.
Dean opened the door. Alastair sat, hands folded, looking every inch the pediatrician waiting for his next patient. He gave a warm smile that set Dean's stomach roiling.
"Come in, my boy," Alastair said, his eyes crinkling in fondness. "Have a seat. Would you like a drink?"
"What did you need, Alastair?" Dean slumped into the chair, feeling the demon's eyes raking over him as though Alastair was checking for weakness. It was a futile exercise; Alastair already knew the darkest nooks and crannies, and well enough to exploit them with no mercy. Dean gripped the arms of the chair with white knuckles.
"You never stop to chat, son, and that's a shame," Alastair grouched, but smiled again, baring yellowing teeth before he reached into the desk and pulled out a sheet of paper. "I have more deliveries for you to make."
Dean picked up the sheet that Alastair slid over to him. On it was a list of names, all belonging to the C wing. Dean swallowed.
"One at a time again, like last time?"
Alastair nodded. "Make sure you lash them down good. One of the last batch got free, and it got...messy."
Dean rose. "All right."
"You sure you don't want to stick around, for old times' sake?" Alastair was pleasant, but the offer turned his stomach.
"No." Dean rose, almost too fast, almost losing his balance and skidding into the desk and across it. He straightened, catching himself, and headed to the door, shoulders stiff.
"Pity, you were the best student I've had in centuries," Alastair leaned back in his chair. "Hurry back, now."
Dean couldn't repress the wince as he closed the door behind him and made his way to C Wing.
The C Wing was the largest wing of the prison, housing the general inmate population before the war. Now, however, it housed angels.
Or what had once been angels.
These were broken remnants, the lame and the mad. The branding drove them insane, made them mortal in entirety, or cut them off from their powers so much that they might as well be human. They shuffled around their cells, each one different, and yet each one blurring into another under Dean's vision. The demons fed these, tossing scraps and cast offs to them for them to squabble and fight over.
Dean paced down the long metal walkway, passing cell after cell. He knew which ones Alastair wanted, and he cursed the demon for choosing the ones so close to the center. As soon as he entered the complex, the more unhinged angels began gibbering at him, howling as they clutched at him through the bars of their cells, heedless of the sigils that scorched their skin. He shrugged them off and kept to the rail as much as he could, avoiding the large cage suspended in the center of the room.
He didn't look in the cage, but he could feel the occupant staring at him, eyes boring into him. It would have been unsettling if he hadn't numbed himself to it months ago. He would not look. He kept his eyes from sliding to the cage.
Somehow, Adam Milligan's eyes met his as he passed the cage. Dean would swear that he was looking at the floor, the other inmates, anything but his half-brother as he passed the cage. The pale blue reflected Dean's gaze back to him a thousand fold, Adam's eyes unearthly as the being behind them.
"Dean." There was no accusation there, only a greeting. Michael stood in the center of the cage, as he always did. Dean had no idea how he could find the exact center every time, but he did. Just like the archangel could find his face in a crowded arena, he seemed unfazed by the multitude of scarred brands that crawled up and down his arms and across his back like macabre ivy. Words of power, words of binding, curses and invectives carved there by Alastair and Crowley. Lucifer had watched, his face blank, as Michael screamed.
"Michael." Dean couldn't help himself. He had spent far too much time in this room over the last eight months.
"Alastair needs more, doesn't he?"
Dean swallowed. "Yes."
Michael sighed, the sadness in his eyes apparent. "We could have stopped this, you and I."
"Too late for what might have been," Dean said, giving a half-shrug. "The answer would still be no, even if you weren't bent on destroying my brother from the inside out."
"You didn't seem to care so much when you left him."
"I came back."
"You were late." There was no malice in the tone, only acceptance. Michael had long come to terms with Adam on the subject, even before the brands cut off his link with his human host.
"Yeah, I somehow always am. Too late to save Sammy, too late to save Dad, too young to save Mom. Too late for Bobby, or Adam." Dean grit his teeth at the admission, guilt flooding up like the backlash from a storm drain during a flood. He still felt that panic when he looked at Sam, that helpless, hopeless, hollow sense that he would never get it right.
"Adam didn't blame you, Dean." Michael's voice was not unkind; he turned his face to the shaft of light that illuminated his cage, keeping him visible. The cage was wrought spring steel with silver runes carved into the bars, just like all the others. There was the added measure of suspending him on the second story, away from the railings, and keeping the cage small and cramped for added discomfort.
Crowley had thought it hilarious when he had Michael strung up in the midst of his slobbering, demented brothers and sisters. The demons tossed food to keep them stirred up, and Dean knew that Michael did not get much sleep. The cage was wide enough to sit tailor-style, but not much bigger. Michael had never, to Dean's recollection, been seen sitting, however. He was always standing, in the center of the cage, waiting to speak to him.
"You say that like it's supposed to make me feel better," Dean said, his grin wide and humorless, a slash on his face, teeth white behind cracked lips.
"I say it because it is the truth." Michael rolled his shoulders, the phosphorus brands rolling like waves with the motion of his muscles. "Adam never knew you, but he didn't blame you. He was very brave to say yes to me."
"Bet he regrets it now," Dean said, turning away to collect Alastair's first guest.
"He wanted nothing more than to help. He cannot be faulted for that." Michael gave a faint smile. "He is just as stubborn as his father and brothers, in some respects."
Dean shrugged and unlocked the cell closest to the cage. "It runs in the family."
"So it does. Goodbye, Dean."
Dean bound the inmate's hands behind it, the mortal angel jerking against the bonds like an animal. He hoped he wouldn't have to gag this one. Last thing he needed was a biter. He ushered the broken angel through the cellblock, the howls of its inmates and Michael's gaze following him out the door and into the warm summer night.
Sam sat in the plush visitor's chair, uneasy as Crowley went through his reports. He kept tabs on food and maintenance around the prison yard, and his margins were higher than ever. Crowley squinted at the expenses, his lips pursed.
"Seven thousand just on food alone, on top of what the others eat," he said, musing to himself as Sam frowned. "Are you still feeding C block?"
"No, your lackeys throw them leftovers." Sam had been feeding them, but had balanced the numbers to account for it. "Upkeep is the main concern. We're going to have to forge into Croat territory in order to get more supplies for repairs. The towns around here are tapped out."
Crowley's frown deepened. Even demons avoided the rabid Croat packs that ravaged the major metropolises. The demon virus couldn't infect them, but if a hungry pack fell on a lone demon, or even two or three, there was no guarantee that the demons would escape with their chosen meatsuit intact.
"What about Yarborough?" he asked. "I thought there was a quarry there."
"Tapped out a month ago. Repairs were needed on the stadium, and it ate through what stone and other materials we had. The riot after the Uriel/Camphiel match did a lot of damage to the infrastructure."
Crowley's eyes narrowed. Sam remembered the punishments being meted out. Alastair had been happy to oblige the irate games master, and the screams had been broadcast over the loudspeaker system. Sam and Dean didn't sleep well for a week.
"Timber, but nothing like the stone we found in Yarborough. We could raid a couple of hardware stores for quickcrete, but it's no good for the big jobs like the stadium." Sam shrugged. "We have the manpower, but without the materials, this place will fall apart."
"Bloody demons," Crowley muttered. The demon population of the place ebbed and flowed based on what Crowley had planned, but there were anywhere from three to five hundred lesser demons on site at any given time. Restless demons did two things: drink and gamble. The fights had been a partial measure to keep their bloodlust in check, but it also made Crowley wealthy. Most demons didn't use actual currency, and so they traded favors.
Sam knew no one wanted to owe Crowley. There was no telling what he'd cash his chips in on.
Crowley tapped the map of the area. White shaded areas were overrun, filled with ravening packs of Croatoan zombies. Major cities would have supplies, things Crowley's supply chains couldn't get without a lot of trouble, like building materials. He sat, deep in thought, while Sam waited to hear if he and Dean would be doing this supply run themselves. It wouldn't be the first time; demons saved them the hard labor.
"Millville, then," Crowley said. Sam nodded. From what he knew of the area, there were several warehouses that served construction sites, providing brick and mortar for building, as well as a new place to scavenge for canned food and parts for the water pumps. The prison freezers were spacious, and demons had no trouble bringing in game, but there were other necessities that needed to be seen to, and Crowley enjoyed his creature comforts. Meg would probably need a liquor run for the bar, and Dean would more than likely squirrel away some in a private stash. Sam frowned at the thought.
"I'll send Gomez and his crew tomorrow morning." Crowley made a note of it in his appointment book. "How's your pet?"
"Castiel hasn't eaten in three days, and he barely sleeps." Sam frowned. "I think the one fight is the most you'll get out of him."
"No," said Crowley. "I trusted you two goons with this, and you'll not screw it up, Moose. He's made me almost as much as when Michael used to fight. They like him. You'll have him ready to fight again once his wounds have healed."
"He'll fry himself before he does."
"I think not. He hates me too much." There was a feral sort of pleasure on Crowley's face. Sam felt the mild irritation he held for Crowley boil over into overt dislike. "He'll fight, and you'll be the one to convince him. Tell him whatever you have to, I want him back in that ring posthaste."
Sam sighed. "Fine."
"If he suicides, consider your work schedule cleared for six months." Crowley's smile was bland. "Better get down there and hop to it, before he finds you."
Sam didn't need to be told twice. "You have a meeting with him?"
"If I can find him, yes. Go on, get back to work." Crowley flicked a hand at him, and Sam did as he was told, his steps heavy as he descended the stairs to cellblock A.
How could he convince Castiel to fight again when killing one angel left him near comatose? He and Dean would have to find the answer, and soon. He sighed as he looked down into the cellblock. All was quiet, but that could mean anything.
Balthazar was awake when Sam unlocked the door. He leaned against the bars, his expression lazy. Sam nodded to him, and received a grunt in acknowledgement. Castiel was facing the wall, his arms pillowed on his knees as he stared at nothing.
Sam had no idea how he was going to convince the angel to fight again.
"Castiel's been like that for days now." Balthazar threaded his arms through the bars of his cell and leaned on them. "I told you it was a shock, and there were those of us who couldn't handle it."
"I know," Sam replied. He glanced into the cell to find Castiel watching him. "But it's his best chance to survive."
"I only want to survive long enough to kill Crowley," said Castiel, his voice flat. All inflection was gone from the angel's voice. Sam repressed a shudder at the promise in that tone.
"If you don't fight, you may not get that chance." Sam folded his arms, a frown creasing his features.
"He's right, Cassy," said Balthazar. "As much as I hate to agree with a Winchester, he has a point."
Castiel didn't reply, he just turned his face to the wall again. Sam looked at Balthazar, who shrugged and hobbled back to his cot. The hunter rubbed a hand over his face in exasperation and went to find his brother, leaving the two angels to their own devices.
This was going to be harder than he thought.
A/N: Have some more Gladius, Constant Readers. I'm moving all this week, so updates are sporadic, as they have been. Hope you enjoy the chapter, however!
Till next time,