Author's Note: Er, I just happened to wander back around in this fandom, and decided to do another word challenge. This time, it could be around 3,000 words, and so I only went past that limit by a little. Um, and by little; I mean almost another thousand.
Uh... this is technically a complete story because it's a challenge response, but I am so seriously tempted to make a sequel or something!
That being said, I apologize beforehand in how it ends, almost like a cliffhanger. *sigh*
NOTE: This story is set in an Urban Fantasy AU. You don't need to know too much more than that; everything important pertaining to this little ficlet is within. I left a few open-ended hints of a backstory in here, only so I could establish something should I make an actual full-length story... but other than that, you should be good.
The word for the challenge? Trouble.
Go home, Winchester. You're on forced leave for the next week. Consider it… a vacation.
Bracing his hands on the marble countertop, Dean stared out through the window above the sink, grinding his teeth so hard that his jaws clenched. Vacation his ass. How could Everson do this to him? She, among only a few other detectives in their district, knew how much he preferred to be out on the field, actually doing something with his time. He'd come a long way since his training days, and having long since lost any trace of over inflated ego that came automatically with a fresh young naïveté, he could say with pure sincerity he was damned good at what he did.
What on Earth- or, hell, even the Other Realms –did she have against him?
For Dean, it was nothing more than an additional nail in the damned coffin of why he was currently standing alone in his apartment, muttering to himself instead of being assigned a new case to look into. Evil never sleeps, and with the way things were settling with the fey and humans as of late, he was sure that Everson wasn't lacking in any cases.
As soon as I see that woman again I'm going to-
Whatever thoughts Dean was intent in indulging in was forgotten when a small beep reached his ears, turning his attention away. Blinking with a start, Dean turned his head to look at the island counter in the middle of his kitchen, where he could see his coffee machine finishing up his favorite brew.
Even from his distance to the coffee maker, he could smell the thick, earthy scent so strongly it was only a step away from being able to taste. Strong, black and bitter- just the way he loved it.
"Just a little heaven to hold me over…" Dean muttered to himself, grabbing his favorite glass mug- a gift from his younger brother for winter solstice two years ago, and began pouring the coffee into it. The mug was pitch black with his name emblazoned on it with fancy silver script, but the reason Dean truly loved it is because he's sold on the theory that it had been enchanted.
How else can he leave his coffee in it unattended for hours on end, only to come back and find it still scalding hot and steaming?
When the coffee was poured and the heat was soothingly seeping into his fingers from his tight hold around the mug, Dean started to lift it to his face. As fate would have it, just as soon as the rim touched his lips, though, there was a heavy knock at his door.
"Hey! Open up!"
The heavy knocking continued, and Dean narrowed his eyes as the door actually rattled from the force of the blows. He settled his mug down on the counter and ran a palm over his face.
"You mess up my door, you're buying me a new one," Dean sneered loud enough that he was sure his visitor could hear. Goddess knew that the man on the other side of the door would be able to afford it with his outrageous salary.
Moving out of the kitchen and to the foyer, Dean shook his head and tried to think of any reason for the sudden, unexpected visit. Another knock rattled the door, and Dean jogged the last few feet before reaching out to unlock it. Pulling the door open with almost a flourish, Dean glared at the man standing in the threshold.
"What do you want, bitch?" he asked gravely. The man just smirked.
"Can't I come to see my brother, you jerk?" Sam asked, and without as much as a "by your leave", the taller man eased his way past Dean and entered the apartment. Dean rolled his eyes before closing his door behind Sam, and then turned to face his brother. He crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes.
"It's good to see you, Sammy," Dean admitted. "But, I thought you didn't have time for any personal excursions at the moment? What with that big case the FIA called you in for?"
Sam's face scrunched distastefully, and Dean only grunted in acknowledgement. He didn't have any particular problems with Fey Internal Affairs; they usually stayed out of his way and he theirs, unless their cases mixed with jurisdiction. All in all, Dean preferred not to be bothered with them if he could help it, but he knew his brother could hardly ever turn down a case.
What with him being such a bleeding heart and all. And his empathic abilities didn't help, either.
"Yeah, about that…" Sam started, running his fingers through his wavy, dark brown hair sheepishly. He must have come from either his house or another place of informality, because instead of his usual crisp dress outfits he wore when around his co-workers or at any office, he was wearing a gray sweater and black jeans. The clothing was still regal and tailored enough that it probably cost more than Dean made in a month, but the older brother didn't have a bone in his body that could care less.
It wasn't about money for him. He did was he did because of the service it provided, and he didn't want someone else having to deal with the things he saw almost on a daily basis. And he knew that his brother was a lawyer for the same reason- it was just his great fortune (figuratively and literally) that his job paid more and had better benefits.
"I heard from Becky that Everson put you on leave,"
Dean's breath hitched and he narrowed his eyes.
"Really? Does everyone know what goes on at my job, or am I somehow broadcasting it live without even being aware of it?" he asked sarcastically, turning abruptly and heading into his kitchen and going straight for his coffee mug. As soon as the familiar warmth drenched his throat as he gulped down the bitter liquid, he felt minutely better.
Sam gave Dean a look.
"Please," he snorted. "You know as well as I that Becky knows shit that goes down before it happens. If she hadn't been tested as a child, I'd swear she was psychic. The only other person in the office who knew of Everson's decision- before she made it I might add -is Pamela. At least she has an excuse."
Dean paused, before conceding that Sam had a point with a nod. Becky certainly was no psychic- nor was she even an Unnatural or fey- merely a woman who loved to fucking gossip about anything that caught her fancy.
And lately, that fancy was Dean's personal and professional life. Bitch.
"What does that have to do with your current case?" Dean asked after a moment, bringing the conversation back on point. He watched Sam glance away, his brow furrowing deeply like it did whenever he was deep in thought about something.
"I… was wondering if I could ask you a very big favor?" Sam started slowly. Hesitantly.
Dean blinked slowly, and lowered his eyes to his mug. He knew, and he knew that Sam knew, how seriously Dean took his promises. While there was only a thin trace of fey blood in their family line, Dean took his vows as seriously as any true fey, and it was sometimes a troublesome thing.
Even if it allowed the people and beings he worked with to trust him more easily than they would with another human.
"Depends on what your favor is, Sammy," Dean said softly.
No matter how reserved or professional he had trained himself to be in any situation, whether on the field or just dealing with the people he knew away from work, he still found it so hard to deny his brother almost anything. And, honestly, as long as it wasn't another attempt to get Dean out into the dating scene again- (and Goddess above what a disaster that had been) -the man was betting he was going to agree with whatever Sam asked of him.
"This case I'm working on- it's big. As in, joint jurisdiction; Homeland Services and FIA working together on this."
Dean stared at his brother, his eyebrows raised. He let out a slow, impressed whistle.
"Who died?" he asked, but then felt stupid as soon as the words left his mouth. Whereas Dean was serious when it came to his promises, Sam was just as loyal to his sense of discretion and client privacy. When Sam pressed his lips tightly together, remaining silent, Dean just waved his hand breezily at him.
"Forget I asked," he assured his brother, and Sam nodded, his face melting back into an open, readable one.
"The favor?" he inquired, and Sam nodded.
"Well, let's just say that one of the FIA's top guys has been called in on the case to represent them, not so much as an integral deal breaker- merely a peacemaker I believe." Sam said vaguely. "In fact his part, as far as I know, is simply to watch the goings on of our legal department, and report back to his people, make sure we don't over step our legal prerogatives in this."
"Okay…" Dean said slowly. "Sam, we both know I was never the smart one of the family, so please help me out here a little. As interesting as all of this is, what do you need?"
"I have to leave to visit the Inland Courts," he started, and Dean just stared. "And I'll be gone for a few days- the FIA agent whose been sent to us, a Sylph named Castiel, can't come with me."
Dean continued to stare, confused. He knew of Sylphs of course; fey beings descended from the Air, and quite the emotionally removed folks if he ever heard of another kind. Word had it that they were quite capable of deep passions that were intrinsic in all fey culture, but also wielded magic and bloodlines that equally rivaled the Sídhe. However, since they were so private and conserved about their society and culture, it was hard to take any of the rumors and hearsay as more than just that- rumors and hearsay.
"Okay, so have him stay at one of those fancy schmancy hotels or something," Dean said with a one-shouldered shrug. "Problem solved."
But something heavy settled into his stomach uncomfortably when Sam's face scrunched up into one that immediately made Dean wary.
Another sigh escaped him, and he swore he could feel the hair at his temples shrivel up and turn gray.
"I… offered to let him stay with me, at my house, and he accepted. But that was before I was called into the Courts. I don't really want him staying alone, and I kind of…"
Dean sat his cup down on his counter before he could do something stupid, like drop it, and gawked at his younger brother.
"Sam, if you finish that sentence the way I think you are going to, I will-"
"I said that you'd at least show him around the city while I'm gone and until I can return," Sam finished hurriedly.
Dean paused, and thought, Okay, so not as bad as what I thought he was going to say, before he shook his head.
"What would possess you to offer your home to a complete stranger?" Dean rounded in bewilderment, wondering if his brother had suffered from a head wound and hadn't mentioned it.
"Dean, did you not pay attention in any of your Culture Accommodation classes?" Sam asked with an eye roll. "Sylphs generally get along better with you if you make a move to make them feel at home when they are abroad. If you show them generosity, you can expect them to show it back to you, especially when you need it the most. If I have to work with the FIA, you bet your ass I'm gonna try to make it as painless as possible by buttering up their agent's opinion of me."
Dean's lips turned into a half smile, and he chuckled.
"For a lawyer, you're pretty sneaky," Dean said, and Sam laughed.
"It's in the job description," Sam returned, and Dean snorted.
"So?" Sam asked softly after a moment. Dean sighed, before running his hand over his short, gold-brown hair.
"Who am I to say no?" he muttered. "It's not like I have anything else to do- my schedule is pretty free." The words were bitter in his mouth, but he forced a smile he didn't feel onto his lips anyway.
"So this Castiel- what's he like?" Dean asked, wanting to know what he was getting himself into. Thank all that was holy and good it would only be for a few days- Dean found that as the years have passed the only people he was good at dealing with were the ones he worked with and the families of the victims in his cases.
Anyone else, he just could never seem to connect, and it was no wonder he hadn't been with anyone intimately in so long that he'd never own up to it in fear of public embarrassment.
Sam's devious grin suddenly made the hair on the back of Dean's neck stand on end, pulling him from his thoughts abruptly, and Dean suddenly had the feeling that something bad was about to happen.
"Don't ask me," Sam said lightly slipping his hands into his jeans' pockets oh so nonchalantly. "Ask Castiel. No time like the present, and all that jazz?"
"What-" Dean started, but was cut off when Sam called out loudly, "It's all clear! You can come in now."
Dean started violently, his eyes cutting dangerously at his brother when he heard his front door open slowly.
"He was waiting in the hallway until I gave him the all clear," Sam explained softly, and Dean had the sudden urge to punch his brother in the face for springing all of this on him at the last moment.
"Hello?" the visitor- Castiel –asked softly from the foyer.
Every muscle locked in Dean's body, and for a moment he felt strangely lightheaded.
Goddess, that voice.
If he had been questioning Castiel being fey before, there was no way he could now. That voice was such a smooth, deep baritone that even from the foyer Dean could hear the melody in it, so immersed in the notes, that he was sure it was touched by magic.
Had to be.
"In here," Sam called, not taking his eyes off his brother. When his eyes narrowed and Sam tilted his head slightly, Dean feared his brother was trying to read his emotions. And, close as they were, there were some rules of etiquette that you just don't break, even if you are family.
"Sam," Dean said warningly. Sam held up a hand in a show of surrender.
"I'm not reading you," Sam said softly, already knowing what Dean was getting defensive about. "I don't have to, you know."
Dean wanted to know what he meant by that, but couldn't find the words in time before the new visitor made his way into the kitchen. Dean's eyes were still on his brother as Sam turned his face to greet the FIA agent, so he was a second late in turning to look at the sylph himself.
But when he did-
All he could take in, for a long moment, was that Castiel was near his height and fair skinned. His head was covered with wild, fly away near-black hair that looked soft as silk and his tall body was slender built, as was the common case with almost all of his kind. Slim or not, though, Dean paid enough attention in his classes to know that their slender builds were deceptive; that even the most average of their kind were still easily up to five or six times stronger than a grown human man.
The agent wore a tailored black trench coat wrapped tightly about him, with the white collar of his uniform shirt peeking out over the trench coat's collar, and his long legs were covered by expensive, pressed black dress pants. His loafers were black and polished so perfectly that Dean found himself hoping he didn't have any dirt or dust on his floors to scuff them up.
But what had Dean staring so intently, before Sam had to clear his throat to get is attention, were Castiel's eyes.
They were an unsettling azure blue, so dark as to be almost a stormy black, and when those eyes focused on him, he was again reminded that Castiel wasn't human at all.
Dean found himself licking suddenly dry lips before he was even aware of it, and he saw Castiel's nostrils flare for a moment.
Get a hold of yourself, Winchester, Dean scolded himself. It's been such a long time since he's been struck speechless, and he prayed it was only because he'd never met a sylph up close and personal before.
And not… something else.
"Dean? This is Castiel," Sam's voice brought Dean out of his weird trance, and the older brother was extremely grateful. The last thing he wanted was to look foolish. "And, Castiel, this is my brother Dean. He was thrilled to be able to keep you company for the next few days,"
Dean narrowed his eyes at his brother for his exaggeration of the truth, but turned his attention to Castiel when he saw the sylph lower his head slightly in a half-bow. His arms were folded behind his back, and the rest of his body was so effortlessly still, Dean imagined he'd be a perfect candidate to stand for a sculpture imitation. His eyes, however, did not leave Dean's and the man only hoped he imagined the small searing heat lighting the sylph's gaze.
Because if he wasn't imagining it, then he'd have to tell Sam no and turn Castiel down. He couldn't afford to slip up like before. Not now, after finally being able to piece himself back together.
"Be that as it may," Castiel said, and it was only then that Dean noticed a slight accent in his voice. It was lilting and sensuous, close to French but not, and Dean immediately decided he liked it. "I apologize if I have made myself a burden to you. That was not my intention when I agreed to your brother's offer, Mr. Winchester."
Huh. So maybe the rumors about sylphs being conserved and shit weren't entirely off the mark.
Dean waved his hand.
"Please, call me Dean," Dean said, and winced when his voice came out a little breathless. Sam's eyebrows lifted in surprised, and Dean hastily cleared his throat, mortified when he felt his cheeks heating up.
Castiel's face did not change from its politely removed mask, but something in his eyes shifted- turned darker and infinitely feral. It made Dean's heart pound harder, and that in turn only made his cheeks burn more fiercely.
Dean whirled around to face his coffee cup, keeping his back to his brother and Castiel in pretense of refilling the mug.
What the hell was that? Dean thought, angry with himself. Since when did he blush like a fucking schoolgirl? Never- that's when.
So there was no reason for him to start now.
"As you wish," Castiel intoned from behind him, sounding unruffled at his current host's strange behavior. "Dean."
And Dean knew, right then and there as if someone had painted it in bright letters on his kitchen wall, that he was in serious trouble. Because the way his name rolled of Castiel's tongue, and the way it sent shivers through his body with a hot shock against his will, Dean just knew.
Feeling his breath leave him in a near sigh of surrender, Dean lowered his head, his hands still on his coffee mug. Maybe… just maybe he could last for just a few days in Castiel's company?
Really- all he had to do was keep the sylph with him, and it wasn't like they had to be alone, right? Besides- Dean had plenty of self-control, and even if his rather involuntary celibacy as of late was extremely… taxing, he wasn't that desperate and he refused to give in just because-
When Dean turned back around to face his brother and guest, hiding his face partially by keeping the coffee mug over his mouth, his eyes unerringly found Castiel's.
Nothing about Castiel's calm demeanor had changed, but when he tilted his head just so and a sliver of the kitchen's overhead light caught his irises, Dean saw them flash iridescent silver. Dean's breath caught painfully at the display, and he felt his blood begin to rush south with a vigor he hadn't experienced in a long, long time.
His eyes reluctantly turned to Sam, only to see his brother give him a knowing look. Sam didn't know- as no one did -about Dean's celibacy, so Dean was sure it had nothing to do with that. And he was also sure that Sam wasn't reading his emotions,-but could probably know what was going on through Dean's mind anyway. Dean glared at him, feeling that he was being set up or something.
Of course, he was probably being paranoid as Castiel was here for a case, but still.
He'd just have to dig his heels firmly into his resolve, push whatever... this was back into that little box he'd long ago since learned how to keep tightly shut, and keep everything formal and professional.
After all, it was something that came to him like second nature after all this time.
It shouldn't be too much of a challenge- he wouldn't let it be. And in a few days, Castiel would be gone and out of his life, hopefully, for good.
When he finally tried to man up and face Castiel again, however, he couldn't stop another shiver from a mere glance at those vibrant, inhuman eyes. Inhuman eyes that narrowed for just a tiny fraction as Dean felt his groin twitch slightly, even if the rest of Castiel's face was as serene as a summer pond.
The sylph was most likely completely unaware of Dean's sudden- and stubborn -inner turmoil, and Dean fully intended to keep it that way. No slip ups now, or ever again.
After all- it was a promise.
Castiel's nose flared again, and his eyes zeroed in on the cup in Dean's hand.
"You have excellent tastes, Dean," Castiel said, his voice seeming to rub all over Dean's skin and nearly making him want to climb up the wall. "I, myself, enjoy a strong cup of coffee now and again. If it is not too forward, may I join you with a cup?"
"Uh, y-yeah," Dean coughed to cover up his stutter, and grabbed another mug that had been on his counter. He poured Castiel a cup, and when he motioned at the sugar next to the coffee machine, Castiel shook his head. Instead, he came to stand next to Dean, turning his back and leaning it against the island counter in an imitation of Dean. He was close enough that Dean could feel the sylph's warmth, and immediately remembered that due to them being similar to avians, their body temperatures were higher than humans.
"You two should get along great!" Sam said with a smile, and Dean rolled his eyes.
"Indeed," Castiel said, and Dean glanced at him sideways. When Castiel dipped his head to take a drink of his coffee, Dean's eyes moved to the nape of his neck, and stared.
Just at the line where Castiel's hair met neck, Dean could see the little hints of feathers, an array of dark, dark blue and jet black, meshed among the silk thin tresses of his hair, nearly invisible. More were sure to be in the rest of his head, nestled closely against his scalp among his hair, if Dean's memory of sylph anatomy from his classes were sufficient.
If those little feathers were blue and black, were the wings that Castiel had folded within the same color?
Dean's mouth went sand dry at just the mere thought of it, but he knew enough not to ask.
Castiel turned his gaze to Dean, and his lips hesitantly lifted into a ghost of a smile. He jerked his coffee upwards in Dean's direction, in a silent sign of thanks.
"I look forward greatly to spending time in your company, Dean." Castiel said, and Dean wasn't sure if he was being merely polite as custom dictated, or was being sincere. Either way, however, those words made Dean have to think about old ladies and dead bodies in order to keep himself from springing a hard-on and giving himself painfully away in front of everyone.
Such a simple statement, and Dean could only stare at the sylph as if he'd proposed or something else really, really not helpful.
He was in deep, deep trouble.
*sigh* Well... how did I do? Sorry for the slight OOCness and stuff- this being an AU, it only makes sense, I think. Uh, yeah.
So... there ya go! *shifts eyes*
I hope to see you guys on the flip side of SPN again, soon, eh?