AN: This little number is fifth in the Tripping 'verse and will likely make little to no sense to anyone that hasn't read the prequels.

Thanks go out to Writeroost and Poisongirll for the beta as well as to you beautiful human beings who deign to stick with me through this epic slog of a 'verse. You guys are the bomb.

On a side-note, I have a few PWP stories that I'll be adding to this 'verse from time to time. Given the shitstorm that has hit recently concerning adult content, I'm not going to be uploading them here. If y'all want to keep up to date with my dirty pr0n musings as well as things with - y'know - actual plot, 'tis best to follow me on Tumblr (hatteress dot tumblr dot com) where I link off to my other archives.

As always, the characters and show aren't mine.

Bobby had called late the night before – something about a snag in the plan to get his soul back. Granted the plan had been to summon Crowley and just freaking ask him for it, so Dean could see where things might have gone downhill. They always did with demons.

"What do you mean he won't give it back?" Dean demanded. "We took care of the Devil, deal done."

"That's what I said," Bobby said wearily, pouring himself a good three fingers of scotch.

"And that's where you'd be going wrong," Crowley piped up. Dean shot a glare at the demon. Somehow the slimy prick was managing to look arrogant even ensnared in a devil's trap, something Dean thought wholly unfair. "The deal was Mr. Singer would get his soul back when Hell was off my arse." Crowley spread his hands. On anyone else it might have been a helpless gesture. On him, it just came across condescending. "You see my predicament."

"The demons are still gunning for you?" Sam asked.

Crowley rolled his eyes. "Yes, funny that - helping to kick Daddy back in the box did NOT immediately put me on the Christmas card list."

"And you want us to do what exactly?" Dean asked. Out of the corner of his eye he watched Bobby down his drink in one - the first sure indicator that he wasn't going to like Crowley's answer. The demon's smirk was the second.

"You're the Winchesters," Crowley explained. "That name's probably one of the only things capable of making a demon think twice before stepping into a fray."

Dean's eyes widened as Sam spoke up. "So what, you want us to play bodyguard?"

Crowley batted his eyes like a fucking prom queen. "Be my Kevin and I'll be your Whitney."

Dean grimaced. "Fuck that."

Crowley's smirk made Dean want to take a swing. "Then fuck Bobby's soul," the demon retorted. "If I get dragged back to the pit for punishment it'll be coming with me, likely claimed by one of my colleagues. And let me just say, they may not have my impeccable scruples."

Yep. Dean definitely could have dealt with hitting something Crowley-shaped right about about then. He swore as his eyes shifted to Bobby. The old hunter looked ill, no doubt at the idea of having dragged Dean and Sam into his mess. Dean would have to remember to kick him later – Bobby was family, his mess was theirs whether they were dragged in or not. Even so this situation was all kinds of screwed.

As nearing-stable as they were now, he and Sam were in no shape to baby-sit a demon let alone one with as many enemies on his tail as Crowley. Hell, they were living in Stu's old house - vacant since Stu turned out to be less old man and more celestial creator - next to Lisa and Ben. There was just no way in fuck Dean was bringing that to their doorstep.

He was about to order Sam and Bobby into the kitchen for a brainstorm when Cas spoke up for the first time since entering the house. And if Dean only just managed not to jump it wasn't his goddamn fault because seriously? That fade into the background shit was not okay.

"Your logic is flawed," Cas said, stoic as ever and even Dean had to admit the hard stare the angel pinned on Crowley was pretty freaking impressive.

"Oh?" Crowley raised one eyebrow casually but Dean wasn't fooled. For all the demon's nonchalance it was obviously more than a little forced. Not that Dean could really blame the guy. Cas had accompanied him and Sam on a couple of hunting trips since the aborted Apocalypse and had proven himself a bit of a bad-ass when it came to taking out demons. The last one to come up against him had taken a flying leap out a second story window rather than deal with Cas and all his newly souped-up mojo.

"Sam and Dean are not the only beings capable of protecting you," Cas said.

Dean's eyes widened. Oh HELL no.

"You?" Crowley said, the nonchalance dropping from his voice. "You can't be serious."

"I'll second that," Dean spoke up. "Cas, what the hell?"

Cas's eyes ticked from Crowley to him and something in Dean's gut yanked him in a seriously inappropriate direction at having all that intensity directed his way. So sue him – bad-ass Cas did it for him.

"I can do this," Cas said.

Dean snorted. "I know you can, I just don't want you to," he said. "This is dangerous shit."

"It would be more dangerous for you," Cas pointed out and yeah, fine - even Dean couldn't refute that. He crossed his arms with a glare.

"If I were to offer my protection, I would have my own stipulations," Cas went on and Dean watched as Crowley's eyes narrowed.

"Do tell," the demon said, voice ticking with warning. If anything Cas's eyes seemed to grow harder and while Dean could have made a spectacular pun at the observation he instead slouched against the wall and thought studiously unattractive things.

"You will relinquish your claim on Bobby Singer's soul," Cas said, voice a low certainty even in the face of Crowley's snort of a reply. "In exchange - I will keep you from harm to the best of my ability."

Crowley scoffed. "To the best of your ability?"

Dean watched as Cas's head ticked to the side, the normally innocent gesture made slightly less so by the steel that hadn't left the angel's eyes. "I am the most powerful Angel in existence," he said. "My abilities are hardly trivial."

And yeah, so Dean could admit to sort of loving the way Cas did that – spoke about his power in such a matter-of-fact way. It wasn't bragging – it simply was, just like Cas himself.

Crowley scoffed again. "And what, pray tell, is to stop me from sticking to the original plan?" The demon asked. "I'd wager you'd be a little more careful of my safety if the soul depended directly on it. Hmm?"

A number of things happened at once then. Cas straightened out of his lean, his eyes narrowing as he fixed Crowley with a stare that could have frozen the Atlantic. Dean shivered slightly as the air in the room seemed to gain a weight to it – falling on the group with an almost tangible crackle of power.

"Let me make this very clear," Cas spoke and Dean swallowed hard at the low growl. "You can either accept my terms – give up claim to the soul and gain protection or," Cas paused, and fuck but if Dean wasn't expecting a clap of thunder when he did, "I can rip it from you and leave your remains at the gates of Hell for your kin to find."

Dean had to admit, he almost admired Crowley's ability to sneer in the face of that sort of threat. "You're bluffing," the demon said. Dean almost cracked a grin at the blatant thread of nervousness in his tone. "You'd destroy the soul as well."

Dean just about swallowed his tongue when Cas's gaze slid to him and the angel's lips tipped upward. "I'm very good at restoring human souls," he said lowly. Dean couldn't even try to pretend he was able to breathe. "I've never had to deal with a demon before though," Cas said, almost nonchalantly, switching his gaze back to Crowley. "Things might get a little...messy."

And yeah, now Dean really was grinning because this? This side of Cas right here? Something to be fucking ADMIRED. Dean watched gleefully as Crowley swallowed heavily, looking like he'd just gained a mouthful of lemon.

"So we'd make a deal," the demon said with distaste. Dean blinked. Wait, what? "I give up the soul and you keep my arse intact and out of the pit."

"Yes," Cas agreed. Dean's stomach dropped.

"What? No!" Dean interrupted. "Cas, we do not make deals with demons!" For a full three seconds there was only awkward silence in the room while Crowley smirked like the goddamn Cheshire cat. Dean growled. "Well, okay, we do," he conceded, "but look at how fucking well that's worked out for us."


"No Cas – this is... just no. We'll figure out another way."

"Dean–" Sam pitched in, and Dean turned a glare on him because fuck it, he knew that tone.

"Sammy..." he warned.

Sam raised his hands like Dean was a wild animal to be reassured. "Look, I hate to say it–"

"Then don't," Dean growled, only to receive patented bitch face for his troubles.

"I hate to say it," Sam repeated pointedly. "But Cas is probably our best option here. You and me might be able to hold our ground against a few demons. But the number that'll be coming after Crowley now?"

Dean had to remind himself that he loved his brother and would regret punching him in the face. Probably. "So we stick him in a warded box and dump him in the damn ocean or something," he said.

"Well yes, that won't be happening," Crowley scoffed and Dean clenched his fists, feeling his nails bite into his palms. This whole situation was so beyond the realm of un-fucking-fair. Just when they'd survived one celestial mess of fuckery...

"Dean." Dean looked up into Cas's eyes and read the conviction there; the same conviction he saw every damn time Cas was in a position to put himself in the line of fire for their sorry asses which, he was coming to realise lately, was far too goddamn much. Fuck it all.

"This is a bad idea," Dean said, already knowing he'd lost.

"It's the best course of action," Cas said. Knowing he was right didn't make Dean feel any fucking better about any of it. Particularly with what came next.

Crowley cleared his throat. "You know how this has to be sealed don't you?" He said, voice painting his aversion to the concept. Not that that was anything to the punch of disgust Dean was suddenly hit with.

"Oh fucking hell," he growled, looking to Cas, hoping desperately for some angelic revelation about loopholes around the whole sucking face clause. But Cas's mouth just twisted as he studiously avoided Dean's gaze. "Oh well that's just perfect."

Dean didn't stop to think; just grabbed his jacket off the couch and bee-lined it straight for the door.


Dean spun, stabbing a finger at Sam. "No," he growled. "I may not be able to stop it but I'll eat a fucking bullet before I have to watch it."

Dean didn't – couldn't – look at Cas as he stormed out. About the only compensation the moment offered was the bottle of Jack sitting on the cabinet beside the door.

Over the past couple of months, Sam had been witness to Dean and Cas sucking face far too much for his own sanity. It was one thing to know his brother was gay-boning an angel of the lord, it was quite another to be walking around corners and finding one or the other of them pinned to a wall being beaten to death with tongue. There'd even been one horrific instance involving Cas on his knees that Sam had pretty much relegated to the FUCKNOPE section of his brain for all eternity.

This? This was worse.

It wasn't so much a kiss as a train wreck. Cas hadn't wasted any time pulling Crowley in by the lapels of his jacket, 'let's get this over with' a flashing neon sign over his head. What followed was perhaps the most awkward, traumatising mashing of lips Sam had ever been witness to, and he'd lived through five different high schools.

Sam spared a glance to Bobby only to find the old hunter looking back, the horror all but holding a mirror up to the expression Sam was sure was on his own face. Because...Jesus...

Sam didn't know if there was some sort of time limit on these things but nonetheless Cas and Crowley seemed to know the split second it hit. Sam didn't know who wrenched away faster, or who looked more like they'd just made out with a toilet. Crowley made a sound like an angry, wounded dog before giving up any pretense of class and spitting at his feet. Sam couldn't help his bark of laughter which earned him a death glare. Cas seemed to have settled for scrubbing a sleeve violently across his mouth, probably out of respect for Bobby's carpet.

"Bloody HELL," Crowley swore. "I didn't know anyone could actually taste righteous."

Cas glared and Sam was half surprised Crowley didn't burst into flames. "Our deal," Cas reminded, none too gently.

Crowley took one last swipe across his mouth, shooting Cas a scathing look before he raised his hand toward Bobby. Bobby grimaced before straightening, eyes wide with shock before he was suddenly shoving out of the desk chair and staring down at his still-functioning legs. Huh. All eyes turned toward Crowley.

"What? I can be nice," the demon said with a smirk. "Think of it as an olive branch," he continued, turning to Cas. "Saves you fixing him up yourself."

Sam watched as Cas seemed to assess Crowley for a moment before nodding. Then, with a wave of Cas's hand the devil's trap was broken. Crowley smirked as he stepped out of it. The expression didn't last long. Cas raised one hand to his chest and the demon buckled with a yell of pain.

"What the BLOODY HELL was that?" Crowley demanded as Cas stepped back.

"In order to protect your 'arse' I'll need to be able to find it," Cas explained. Sam tried very hard not to giggle like the freaking schoolgirl Dean always accused him of being at Cas's impression of Crowley's accent.

"And you decided to skip the warning because you're a bloody sadist?" Crowley growled, one hand still clutching at his chest.

Cas's head tipped again. "Your expression was rather satisfying."

Sam couldn't have helped his snort of laughter if he'd wanted to. Crowley threw him a filthy look and Sam grinned his best shit-eating grin at the demon because hell, while he didn't particularly like the thought of Cas being bound in any way to Crowley, the look on the demon's face right then was freaking hilarious.

"Best be off now," Sam taunted. "And don't you worry – angels are watching over you."

Crowley gave him the finger before disappearing with a snap.

And just like that, it was over. Bobby's soul was his own again, Cas had acquired a demon ward and Dean...Dean was going to be pissed. Sam sighed, catching Cas's eye and seeing his own thoughts mirrored there.

"I'll go," Sam said. Cas hesitated before nodding. That, more than anything else made Sam feel awful about his vote in all of this. While he knew they hadn't really had a choice, anything that got between Cas and Dean these days wasn't in his good books. Not least because a heart-wounded Dean was a pain in his ASS.

"C'mon feathers," Bobby said as Sam headed for the door. "I owe you a drink or ten."

It didn't take Sam long to find Dean – his brother was nothing if not predictable and the beaten down station wagon on the west end of Bobby's lot had been Dean's perch of choice since they were kids.

Dean didn't acknowledge Sam as he approached, instead taking a pull from the bottle in his hand. Sam was surprised to note the thing was still mostly full. Dean Winchster too upset to drink? Sam was half expecting winged bacon to swoop past.

"Crowley's gone," Sam said and Dean grunted, not looking up. Sam frowned. "I think Cas is worried you're going to punch him."

Dean didn't answer, taking another swig. And suddenly, Sam didn't have it in him anymore to put up with Dean's bullshit. "He did this for you, Dean. The least you can do is act fucking grateful."

Oh yeah, that got Dean's attention. "Grateful?" he growled, glaring up at Sam. "I should be grateful that he's putting his ass on the line again for us when–"

Oh for fucks sake.

"He's in LOVE with you, Dean," Sam shouted. His words hit Dean like a brick to the face. Sam watched the impact; watched as Dean seemed to flounder, the fingers around the bottle in his hand slackening until he almost dropped the thing. Sam took a breath - because as much as Dean lived to frustrate him, seeing his brother in any kind of pain was never easy. Even when said pain was self imposed and utterly stupid.

"This is how this goes," Sam said, gentling his voice. "He's going to look out for you; tear strips off himself to make sure you're not hurt; sacrifice everything–" Dean swallowed heavily at that and Sam brought a hand up, giving Dean something to lean into. "But it's okay, because y'know what? You'll do the same. We're Winchesters – we don't do anything by halves"

Dean's next breath seemed a struggle as he ducked his head. "I don't- I don't know what to do with this."

The words cost him, Sam could tell. Dean wasn't very forthcoming at the best of times – emotions all but equated to nuclear waste and for him to be speaking like this now... Sam's heart broke a little when he realised just how on edge Dean was.

All at the prospect of someone caring enough about him to meet him stroke for stroke at the self-sacrificial Olympics.


Sam clenched his jaw as he looked away, the slump of Dean's shoulders killing him... And–shit. Of course Cas was staring back, standing barely six feet behind Dean. Sam could attest to the fact that Cas's poker face was right up there in terms of impressive but just then? Sam hadn't realised how accurate he'd been with that whole 'tearing strips' analogy.

And just like that, Sam knew what to say.

"Do you love him, Dean?"

Sam didn't know who froze more completely at the question – Dean or Cas.

Dean seemed to struggle for a moment. "I...fuck..."

And Sam would have grinned under any other circumstances because as answers to emotional declarations went, Dean's was as close to a yes as he – in all his emotionally-stunted glory – was ever going to get. Cas must have realised it too because suddenly his eyes were getting big and full of this stupid, twinkly wonder. Sam was the best brother in the fucking universe.

"Then the rest of it doesn't matter," Sam continued. "You've been looking after everyone else your whole life, Dean – it's not going to kill you to let yourself be on the receiving end."

"Yeah, well, it might kill him," Dean said, and Sam read the fear in the statement like it'd been written in mile-high, neon letters.

Sam squeezed Dean's shoulder. "Most badass angel in all of creation remember?" Dean snorted. "I don't know about you but I'll be betting on Cas here on out." Dean seemed to sag a little at that and Sam knew at least a few of his points had made it past the Great Wall of Winchester. Not all – because hell, Dean was still Dean; but hopefully enough. Sam felt his own lips quirk. "Especially since he seems to have been practicing his ninja skills."

Dean looked up at that, frowning in his usual what the fuck, Sam? way until Sam nodded at Cas. The short hurricane of realisation that crossed Dean's face before he turned had Sam snorting.

"And that is my cue," he said, pushing away from the station wagon as Dean and Cas glued eyeballs.

Seriously, best brother ever.

Dean opened his mouth to say something along the lines of 'how the fuck long have you been standing there?' but what came out instead was, "Ah..."

Cas stepped closer, all body heat and blue eyes and Dean wasn't surprised when a sure grip closed over his on the bottle of Jack still in his hand because apparently Cas had a fucking fetish about Dean's goddamn drinks. That changed of course when Cas raised the bottle to his lips, took a swig and then – like it was the most normal thing in the world – fucking gargled bourbon whiskey.

Dean's bark of laughter was loud in the silence of the night. "That good, hey?"

Cas shot him a withering look as he spat the mouthful out. "Do you know what rot and malevolence taste like?" he asked. Dean shook his head, half amused that the thought of Cas and Crowley locking lips suddenly had a whole dollop of hilarious to add to the disgust he'd been stewing in since storming out of the house. Cas's face twisted. "I do."

Dean snorted. "Funny, I'd've thought Crowley would taste more like asshole."

It was a full second before Dean registered what he'd said; a full second that saw one of Cas's eyebrows raise almost to his hairline.

"Son of a bitch, I didn't mean–" One corner of Cas's mouth turned up in what could only be called a smirk and Dean was suddenly grinning, hard and wide because Jesus, what the fuck was his life? "You filthy motherfucker!" he accused. "You're supposed to be an angel!"

Cas's head did the little tip thing – the one Dean would die before admitting he liked – as he stepped forward, getting all up in Dean's personal space like he belonged there.

"I am an angel," he said, fisting one hand in the lapels of Dean's jacket to pull himself closer. "Most badass angel in all of creation."

Dean felt the words brush across his lips, but it was the meaning behind them that hit him low in the gut.

You won't lose me.

When Cas licked into Dean's mouth he tasted sure.