Characters: Dean, Sam, Crowley, Castiel
Summary: In which rituals have side effects and Crowley is on surprisingly good terms with Castiel.
Response to this prompt on one of mad_server 's comment memes:
Sam and (for some reason) Crowley team up and delve into purgatory together. They find Deanerooney in rough shape, with Cas protecting him. Crowley zips them all home and then he and Cas and Sam all somehow, together, improbably, take care of Dean together, who is feverish BTW and maybe suffering other mysterious ill effects or injuries, which Crowley and Cas know more about than Sam and Sam is like WHAT WHAT TELL ME.
First thing Dean feels is this stretching, like something's grabbed hold of his insides and thinks they're play dough. He had time feel the first threads of panic and open his mouth for Cas. Then nothing.
As far as inter-dimensional doors go, Crowley puts this one at about a seven. It's certainly not as polished as the door to Lucifer's cage, or as controlled as Death's personal doorways. It's definitely flashy. Crowley's standing just behind Sam, slapping a halfhearted bandage on his meatsuit's hand. The runes are in his blood, spiraling out several meters on the cement floor, and he's feeling a bit dizzy in spite of himself (he's been in this body too long).
From the center of the spiral a blinding white beam shoots up and hits the ceiling hard. The room shakes and pieces of the roof break off; fall around them. They're going to have to leave to soon. Fast. But Sam hasn't so much as twitched, staring at that spot like it's his last hope at sanity.
Crowley smirks a bit at that. As if the Winchesters were ever sane.
The light widens and there's a pulse (just one) and Castiel walks out of it with Dean draped over both shoulders. Their clothes are both ripped and caked with something brown. Crowley has a bruise that radiates up his left cheek to his temple and gashes on his arms that tell Crowley he doesn't have enough juice left to heal. Strike Purgatory off my vacation list, Crowley thinks wryly.
Castiel pauses outside the doorway and takes them both in. He walks straight to Sam and crouches to lay Dean down at Sam's feet. He stands up and takes one step back.
“He's alive.” Said quietly as Sam throws himself to Dean's side and puts two fingers to his neck. Sam blows out a breath; starts patting Dean down, hands moving desperately over his head, his chest, his arms.
“What's wrong with him? Cas, what's wrong with him?” But Castiel is staring up into the sky, weaving slightly.
“I tried,” he says, forlorn. “I tried to bring him back, but Purgatory wouldn't let go.” He stills. Glances sharply at the symbols on the floor. “The door won't stay stable long enough for us to get out.”
He doesn't really wake up completely. Not right after. Mostly he remembers the cold, creeping up and then consuming him, like he's freezing from the inside out and he'll never be warm again. He's got the vague impression of voices, annoyed, above him. Cas is there, and that's good. That means things are under control. But Dean thinks he hears Sam and Crowley, too, above and around him. And that's just crazy, is what it is. He might be more alarmed, but it's just too hard to think right now.
Castiel had enough power, apparently, to build a makeshift shelter just outside the old gas station. The walls are only partially anchored in Earth's dimension, and so when the doorway collapses in on itself seconds later the shelter holds strong. The gas station does not.
Dean starts shivering soon after that; a constant, unrelenting tremor that has Sam hovering helplessly at his side. But he doesn't have a fever. He's not coughing, and Sam has been over every inch of his body looking for something wrong. He pulls out every piece of clothing in their duffels and arranges them over his brother's body. Tucks them around his neck and rubs his back through the cloth. Then he rounds on Castiel.
“What the fuck is wrong with him?” Sam's eyes are wild; terrified. Honestly, he's probably not firing on all cylinders. Crowley's been in the same room as him for almost all of the last 48 hours and he doesn't think Sam ate during that time. He certainly didn't sleep. Honestly, Crowley's on the verge of taking bets on how long it'll take before Sam collapses where he stands. He wonders if Castiel will take a bet like that.
“What happened to him?” Sam's got his hands fisted in Castiel's trenchcoat, but Crowley can see they're shaking.
Castiel looks Sam straight in the eye, dead lucid, and says “Sam, I don't know. I don't know. I'm sorry.” And for the first time since Crowley first laid eyes on him, Castiel looks human. He feels an unexpected, intense stab of disappointment, because Castiel is an angel, a rebel, one of the only beings to outsmart Crowley. He's not supposed to be human. (Humans are fragile. Breakable, because they have the ability to feel pain).
The Winchesters are more trouble than they're worth, there's no doubt about that. Everything they touch goes crazy.
But Crowley remembers Death's parting words, when he gave Crowley the ritual. The Winchesters had to survive this. Crowley's not stupid enough to try and double cross Death. Not now, at least.
He looks at the thin wall that's standing between here and chaos. He looks at the Winchester huddling under his makeshift blankets, and at his brother and the angel up against the other wall, both at the end of their rope. He supposes he'll have to save the day. Hell knows nobody else in their sorry little group is up to it.
“When did this start?” He sends the question in Castiel's direction. Sam has backed away, raking both hands through his hair, and he looks startled. Probably he'd forgotten Crowley's here. Nasty mistake, that. Castiel gives him a blank look, blinking rapidly like he's trying to shift gears. “The unconsciousness. When did it start?”
“I-I don't-” Castiel pauses, searching. “He was awake. Just before the doorway opened, he was awake. The light blinded me. When I looked again, he was on the ground.”
“So it was the doorway,” Crowley nods. It makes this somewhat easier, though he's hardly an expert on dimensional side effects. He steps forward to feel the kid's temperature, but Sam's there in an instant.
“Stay away from him.” And Crowley so doesn't have time for the 'don't touch my precious brother' routine.
“Look, do you want to know what's wrong with him or not?”
Sam looks torn. Glances between Dean, Crowley and Castiel.
“It's okay, Sam.” Castiel's voice is clear, but his eyes have started to wander. He closes them and leans back against the wall. “Given the circumstances, he almost certainly won't hurt Dean.” Sam's lips thin, but he steps aside.
“Finally.” Crowley moves efficiently, resting a hand on Dean's forehead and then on the back of his neck. Dean mutters a little and turns into Crowley's touch. Crowley can feel Sam's glare boring into the back of his head, but he pushes the sensation aside. Dean's skin is far too cold. Crowley widens his senses, wincing as he feels the supercharged gate fragments blasting at their sanctuary, and...yes, there it is. They'd given Dean as the gate's target. Stupid thing doesn't know when to let go.
He straightens and turns, and nearly rams his nose into Sam's chest. Sam is like a wall, unmoving and staring down at Crowley. He rolls his eyes and glances around that huge bulk to Castiel.
“It's not your fault, angel. Stop moping around already. It doesn't become you.”
Castiel frowns at that but he's back in the land of the semi-sane, at least. “Are you saying-?”
“Naturally. Worse than usual, but then Purgatory's nasty about letting things go.”
“What do you mean? What is it?” Sam's wedged himself between Dean and Crowley again, one hand wrapped around Dean's wrist and glancing worriedly at him. Crowley angles himself so he's facing both angel and Winchester again. He notes that the shivering's stepped up. Dean's trying to curl into himself for warmth. Crowley idly tries to remember what temperature it is that hypothermia sets in. He thinks he remembers something about blue lips. Peers at Dean's – they look red enough to him. Maybe a tad darker than usual?
“It's not fatal.” Castiel's sagging against the wall in relief. Insanity has done nothing for his poker face. “At least, it shouldn't be.”
“Shouldn't?” Sam squeezes Dean's wrist and lets go. He glances between Crowley and Castiel. Blinks rapidly; Crowley can practically see the gears trying to turn in that sleep-fogged brain of his. “You said Dean was fine before the gate. So we caused his.” He stops. Narrows his eyes at Crowley. “You caused this with your ritual.”
“I didn't know this would happen! You think I'd go to all that trouble to bring him back just to kill him? He was already out of my hair.” Crowley sighs at Sam's skeptical expression. “I have to explain everything, don't I? It wasn't my spell. Obviously, if I had an easy way into Purgatory I'd have used it last year. I cut a deal with Death. He...neglected to mention any side-effects.”
Sam whips his head toward the wall. “It's draining his life force? Is that what you're saying? So he's going to die anyway.”
“Not his life force, actually. Body heat. The gate's sucking it out faster than his body can make it, damned if I know why. Trust you Winchesters to screw up a side-effect.”
“Body heat. Body heat.” Sam rubs a hand through his hair and presses his palms into his eyes. “That's good. I mean, it's not good good, but we can fix it. We can-” He trails off at that; stares at Cas. Then his eyes roll back into his head and he goes down like a stone. A very large stone, with long, stoney limbs that flail out and grab at one of his moose hoodies, dragging the lot off of Dean. Dean starts at the movement and pushes himself up, looking around groggily. He zeroes in on Sam pretty quickly.
“Sam?” Dean's shivering far too hard to really support himself, but he makes a valiant effort to fight free of the rest of his 'blanket' and get to his brother. The blanket wins.
“Having some trouble there?” Crowley grins. Best entertainment all night.
“F- you.” Pause. “C- Cas?”
Castiel's been hovering two feet away from the brothers with a torn look. At Dean's question their eyes meet. Crowley gets the feeling like he just walked into an argument two thirds of the way through. Purgatory had to have been a constant fight to survive, but apparently these two found time to have a lovers' tiff along the way.
“Better see to your boyfriend,” Crowley suggested when Castiel didn't immediately move.
The angel picks Sam up without ceremony and places him on the bed beside his brother. Then he begins to methodically remove all of Sam's clothing except for his boxers, adding them to the clothing-blanket Dean's still tangled up in. Dean gives him a vaguely scandalized look when the angel starts unbuttoning what's left of his flannel jacket. Mutters something about dinner first; terribly unoriginal of him. Castiel shushes him. Says, “you're too cold, Dean. We need to warm you up.”
Dean hums thoughtfully at this, but doesn't make any further comments. Closes his eyes and moves closer to Sam while Castiel carefully threads his arms out of the jacket. All three of them. Like one big codependent orgy.
As if he can sense Crowley's thoughts, Castiel looks up. “You will help.” Crowley doesn't even have a chance to open his mouth in response before Castiel goes on, his eyes narrow and cold and a little bit crazy. “You will help or I will leave you to the portal's fury.”
Crowley almost blasts him right there, white hot rage bubbling up like it hasn't since he first got on the rack. He forces it back ruthlessly. Plenty of time to put things in order after this. He keeps his clothes on, though, thank you very much. “We're never talking about this again.”
Dean's surrounded on all sides by warmth, tucked securely under outstretched arms and lulled by soft breathing. He dreams of soft sheets and his mother's lips gentle on his forehead after a nightmare,his father a bulwark behind him that chases away the monsters in the closet. He smells Sammy, close and safe and sleeping.
It's quiet. There's a bright flash of light from the windows and the loudest thunder Crowley's ever heard – the unmistakeable sounds of a dimensional door closing. Dean suddenly relaxes – whole body, as if his strings had just been cut. Sam sniffs once and throws an arm over Dean's stomach. Dean sighs. Outside, the wind dies down to a whisper.
“Our part is done.” Castiel stands and materializes his trenchcoat. “We should leave them to themselves.”
Sam looks older, Dean thinks, watching his face through slitted eyes. He always does when Dean's been away for a while. He's got a crease between his brows even in sleep, like he's worrying in his dreams. Dean'll do something about that, maybe. Later. Right now he's comfortable and warm, and it feels like the best thing in the world. He closes his eyes as sleep pulls him back under.