Title: Hunting for Salvation
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sarkywoman
Artist: [livejournal.com profile] angrydumpling
Fandom/Genre: Supernatural AU
Pairing(s): Castiel/Dean, one-sided Michael/Dean, Sam/Jess
Rating: R
Word Count: 36560
Warnings: Non-con (drugs), swearing, captivity

Summary: Earth-Country is still recovering from the Demon War when the Angels attack. Severely outmatched, the Hunters are taken to Heaven, the glowing land across the seas. King Michael keeps Dean as leverage, guarded constantly by his loyal soldier Castiel. But Dean's influence and Michael's erratic behaviour begins to stir doubt in Castiel's mind and with Lucifer making dangerous plans of his own, disobedience might be the only way to save the Hunters.

Thank you so much to [livejournal.com profile] angrydumpling for the art! I was lucky this year! :D

Art link: Art Masterlist


When not clad in their battle-gear, the Angels looked absolutely ridiculous. In his captivity, Dean had examined them from the window as they wandered the courtyard. They had strangely patterned trousers under baggy, flowing shirts, with a high-collared robe that tied around the front using a sort of gaudy brooch. On their feet most of them seemed to wear boots with a slightly elevated heel. They completed the look with weird headbands of differing precious metals and gems. Dean was told by his guard, Castiel, that such garments were typical court wear for the Angels. Dean figured that when you were the most powerful race in the world nobody liked to say to your face that you looked like a moron.

Yet again Dean had chosen not to wear the clothes Michael had allocated to him. The clothes changed subtly from day to day, but there was always a restrictive, unflattering feel to them. The fabric was always rough and unpleasantly coloured. It was like Michael was trying to cover up his body and make him uninteresting. Dean wasn't going to be swayed on the issue. His clothes were symbolic of his place in the Clan. It would be an insult to his people to ditch them and they were suffering enough.

Castiel had outright pleaded with him to reconsider that evening. He had tried everything short of physical force to get Dean into the Angel holy clothes. They had been invited to dinner at the Royal Table. Castiel seemed stunned by the invitation, but Dean didn't give a shit. Captors were captors. All the Angels were the same to him. Even Castiel, who came across as harmless, was a knowing participant in the capture of the Hunters. None of them could be trusted. Dean didn't care if he ate at the Royal Table or out of the gutters of Heaven. They were all murderous bastards.

That evening, Castiel marched Dean down through the palace to the banquet hall. On the way, Dean kept an eye out for any Hunters or any doors that looked guarded. He was disappointed to see neither. Obviously he was being kept in the classy part of the palace, far away from his family. The guards that were wandering around seemed to be ceremonial. That or they did it for kicks. One of them had the task of opening the door to the banquet hall when people arrived. Dean nodded to him, but after a brief glance at the Hunter's clothes, the Angel ignored him and stared straight ahead.

“For your own safety Dean, I recommend you behave,” Castiel said sternly. “These are the most powerful Angels you will ever meet.”

Before Dean could say anything snappy, the door swung open and the bright light from within made him close his eyes. He blinked and squinted, but couldn’t focus. Castiel guided him inside.

“There he is,” said Michael's voice from somewhere ahead, slightly to Dean's left. The Angel sounded more jovial than Dean had heard so far. Perhaps dinner parties were his thing. “Our little prize. The spiritual leader of the Hunter people.”

“That's how they dress their spiritual leader?” This voice was higher-pitched, but still male. Somewhere to the right, as Castiel steered Dean left. Dean squinted but still wasn't able to make out more than a blur sat at a larger blur, which was most likely the table. “I like. Maybe we could learn something from them.”

A laugh, then another voice chimed in. It sounded familiar. “The robe makes him such a tease too, wouldn't you say? Underneath that flimsy white fabric we know there is a realm of smooth skin, obstructed only by scraps of red material. Scandalous.”

“Enough, both of you,” Michael said firmly. Castiel had moved Dean far enough into the room that Michael was now directly at his right. Close enough to touch, by the sounds of things. It was like being blind. Why did they need rooms this bright? “Castiel, I left more appropriate clothing for him.”

“He wouldn’t wear it, my Lord,” Castiel said quietly, his words rumbling past Dean’s ear. Dean couldn’t quite decide what it was about the way Castiel said it. Maybe it was the way the Angel’s hand tightened on his shoulder. Either way, Dean picked up on his nervousness. For the first time, he felt kind of bad about being so stubborn. Only kind of, though.

“A rebellious one,” mused someone that Dean had walked past already. Another familiar voice, but not someone he’d heard recently.

Dean felt like some sort of pet. No, a conversation piece. That was obviously why he had been brought here. Castiel was probably invited because he was the one keeping Dean on a leash all the time. Michael had only visited a few times early on, when Dean was still ready to hang himself to make a point. Once Dean had calmed down, Michael seemed too busy to drop by, though Castiel occasionally alluded to visits that occurred while Dean slept.

“Maybe we aren’t being firm enough with our commands,” said a deep voice.

“We?” Michael echoed, calmly. “I wasn’t aware you were in charge of his imprisonment, Uriel.”

“I…no, of course, my Lord. I spoke out of turn.”

“Don’t worry yourself. After all, this might be the last time you are invited to my celebratory feast. You should enjoy yourself.”

Something bumped against Dean’s knee, startling him. Castiel reached an arm past him and the sound of wood scraping along a surface clued Dean into the fact that it was probably a chair in front of him.

“Is he okay?” asked the lighter voice from before.

“Oh, my apologies, Clan-Mother,” Michael said before the glare of the room dimmed to something far more manageable. “I forget that Hunter eyes are not capable of withstanding the brightness of our holy light.”

Now that he could see the ridiculously large room, Dean could count five guests already at the long table and one empty seat. Three of the guests he knew by name already. At his left, sitting up straight and playing the part of gracious host, was Michael. Across from the one remaining empty seat sat the posh guy who dropped by occasionally to flirt with Castiel. His name was Balthazar and now Dean saw him, he realised he’d been the one to call Dean a tease. Next to Balthazar, in the seat furthest from Michael, sat Lucifer. Although Dean liked to say all Angels were the same, he would happily recognise that Lucifer was more of a dick than the others.

Across from Lucifer sat a dark-skinned Angel that Dean had seen in the battle over Earth-Country. He had no idea what his name was though. Perhaps he was Uriel, if he was the dude Michael had reprimanded before.

In the seat directly opposite Michael sat a short Angel with golden hair and a smirk on his face for no apparent reason. Dean had never seen him before, but if the other was Uriel then this guy was the one who had asked if he was okay, which probably made him slightly less of a dick.

“Did you wish for Dean to be seated here?” Castiel asked, one hand on the back of the chair, the other on Dean’s back. Lucifer snorted with laughter.

Michael shook his head, a fond expression on his face. “Don’t be foolish Castiel. That seat is for you.”

Castiel frowned, looking around the table. Dean could see there were no more available chairs. “Then where will…”

“Dean can sit here,” interrupted Michael, pointing at the floor between his own seat and Castiel’s. The floor was clean to the point of shining, but it was still the damn floor. Dean’s jaw clenched at the insult.

Surprisingly, Castiel met his eyes with a look of apology. Then he looked away and sat in the chair chosen for him, though his awkward posture gave away how tense he was.

“You have been told where to sit, Hunter.” Yeah, that was confirmation of Dean’s assumption. Big guy at the end was Uriel. Dean scowled at him.

“He’s Clan-Mother, why would he settle on the floor?” said the short dude at the opposite corner from Uriel. “It’d be like Hunters snatching us from Heaven then making us sit in the dirt.” Okay, so Dean liked this one.

“It would be,” Michael agreed. “And if Hunters were capable of such a feat I’m sure we would already be on the ground. But that is not the way it has happened. Dean, sit.”

“Make me,” Dean snapped back before he could stop himself. He knew it was a dumb thing to say even before he heard Castiel’s gasp.

The scraping of Michael’s chair echoed loudly around the hall as the ‘Archangel’ stood. Dean took a quick glance around the room, but while Castiel, Balthazar and the unnamed one looked nervous, they didn’t seem like they were about to jump to his defence. Lucifer and Uriel just looked excited by the prospect of Dean being beaten.

Michael stepped forward until their noses almost touched. Angels had no personal space boundaries. Dean could have shoved at him, but he might as well try to shove the whole palace away. Instead he stood tensed in readiness for the pain that was sure to come.

But Michael just leaned in to whisper into his ear. “Disobey me again and I will have your father killed.” The King moved back and gestured to the floor again. “Sit.”

Dean had no option. Slowly, feeling nauseous from the humiliation, he lowered himself to his knees on the shiny wooden floor. He kept his eyes fixed on his own hands clasped in his lap. He didn’t want to see the Angels staring at him.

“See?” Michael addressed his guests with a smile. “They can be taught! And this is one of their most stubborn. Imagine, if he’s…”

Commotion outside brought Michael’s speech to a halt. Guards could be heard yelling moments before there was a thud against the door. It happened again, like someone was trying to force their way in.

“Now who could that be…” Michael mused. He raised a hand slightly and the door swung open, leaving the uninvited guest to stumble gracelessly into the room.

“Dean?”

“Sammy?”

Three guards appeared directly behind Sam and grabbed him roughly, forcing him down into a sort of crouching position. Michael wandered over to inspect his unruly prisoner. He smiled at Sam and said, “I’m glad I didn’t have to resort to these measures to get your brother on his knees.” Dean’s cheeks burned with shame, not at the false insinuation, but at how he must have looked to Sam in that moment, clean and healthy, kneeling at the Angel’s table.

“You son-of-a-bitch!” Sam yelled, struggling against the Angels holding him in a futile effort to get at Michael.

“Do not speak of our heavenly Father that way,” said Michael, manifesting his Angelic blade in his right hand. Dean began to rise from his place on the floor, but was pushed back down by Castiel’s hand on his shoulder. No matter how he tugged, Castiel’s arm wouldn’t budge.

“Let him go, Michael, please,” Dean begged. “He was only trying to get to me! He’s my brother, doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

At the end of the table, the Angel without a name looked uneasy. “Michael…”

“Silence, Gabriel. You didn’t participate in their capture so you have no say in their treatment.”

“Please don’t hurt him,” Dean repeated. He wasn’t above begging. He wasn’t above anything, as far as Sam was concerned. He’d run over there and die trying to free him if Castiel would just let go of his fucking shoulder! “I’ll take his punishment!”

Michael turned his head slightly to look back at Dean. “A devoted brother indeed. But then I suppose you are brother and mother both, aren’t you? A strange duality your father has bestowed on you.”

“I’m begging you,” Dean said again, desperately.

“As my sister Anna begged your brother when he cut her down in the wretched forests of Earth-Country?” Michael asked, eyebrows raised.

Sam pulled again at his guards, enraged anew. “She attacked us! You all did! How many Hunters died down there because of your decision to force your religion onto us! All the Hunters that died, all the Angels that died, that’s all your fault!”

In a blur of movement, Michael had his blade to Sam’s neck. Dean cried out with dismay, but still couldn’t dislodge Castiel’s grip which held him in place.

Now Lucifer stood. “Brother, if you don’t mind my saying, this isn’t conducive to your goals. Don’t we seek to teach these heathens? He won’t learn anything if he’s dead. I’m livid about the loss of sweet Anna too, which is why I propose you hand him over to me. I’ll be sure to impart your lessons with great force.”

After a moment of hesitation, Michael withdrew his blade from where it had drawn a thin line of blood along Sam’s throat. He smiled at Lucifer. “You may have a point. Very well, see what you can make of this one. I’ll leave him in your capable hands.”

But Dean wasn’t going to be so easily pacified. “And what will you do with him?” He asked Lucifer.

Lucifer didn’t respond, though Dean knew the Angel must have heard him. He nodded to the guards and gestured out of the door. Dean could only watch as his brother was dragged out of the room, calling his name. Once Lucifer was gone, the door slammed shut and Michael returned to his chair. Castiel’s grip eased slightly but his hand remained hovering over Dean’s shoulder, ready to grab the Hunter if Dean got any ideas about chasing after his brother.

“It seems we still have much to teach your kind,” Michael said with a sigh as he rearranged his napkin idly. “But this incident wasn’t without its perks. I’ve learned something too.” He smiled down at Dean and ran a hand through his hair, as if petting an animal. “I now know you will do anything to ensure your family’s wellbeing.”

Dean continued to stare at the floor, mind whirring with fear. The time was rapidly approaching when he might have to choose between what was right for the Clan, or what was right for Sam.

*

“Let me go, you bastards!” Sam yelled as he struggled against the Angelic guards. It was embarrassing, how difficult they were to shift. Or rather how impossible, as Sam found himself dragged down corridors without pause until he was far away from the room where he had finally found Dean.

All the while, the Angel called Lucifer followed with an expression of mild curiosity, as if Sam was the only thing of vague interest in an extremely boring day. He didn't say a word as Sam thrashed and cursed. If anything, the display seemed to amuse him a little. That made Sam force himself to be still. He had no intention of providing entertainment for these sick freaks.

“In here,” Lucifer said to the guards, waving his hand towards a door on Sam's left. The guards didn't comment or question. The one that wasn't holding Sam in a vice-like grip stepped forward and opened a door so that the other two could drag Sam into the dark room. Then they dropped him heavily onto the stone floor. It was only through quickly turning his head that Sam managed to avoid breaking his nose.

“That'll do,” Lucifer said from the doorway. “You can all return to your posts.”

“You will not be requiring us to escort the Hunter back down to the dungeons?” asked one of the guards while the other two backed away nervously. Sam spent a moment pushing himself up into a seating position and checking that his new aches and pains were only bruises.

Lucifer regarded the questioning guard with disdain for a few moments, until the man fidgeted under the cool gaze. “No. I'm perfectly capable of restraining and escorting one disorderly Hunter. But thank you so much for offering.” The smile that came after was oddly sincere and it clearly made the guard ill at ease. The three of them scampered away pretty quickly then. Sam hadn't seen Angels scamper before.

Then Lucifer turned to face him. The Angel stepped into the room and closed the door, plunging them both into total darkness. Before Sam could decide on the best course of action, Lucifer lit a candle and placed it down on a wooden desk. Now that Sam could see, he realised they were in a small storeroom of sorts. Simple chairs and plain desks lined the walls. Furniture that was fine by Hunter standards, but clearly not up to the ornate standards that Angels required.

“What now?” Sam asked, when the silence had become stifling. Lucifer hadn't done anything but stare at him so far and Sam doubted that was the punishment Michael had in mind.

“A good question. One I was about to ask you, actually.” Lucifer leaned back against one of the desks and looked down at the Hunter without the disdain that Michael had displayed. “There are various ways this could go. I’m great at torture.”

Sam shuffled back, but there wasn’t really anywhere for him to go. He had known from the moment he broke free from the prison that his future was not promising, but for Dean’s sake he had convinced himself that he had a chance. “And what are the other options?”

“In order to escape you must have had three things. The physical aptitude for battle, the intelligence to figure out a plan and a support network amongst the other Hunters to help you carry it out. Am I right?”

“If you think I’m selling any of them out, you’re going to be disappointed. Everyone down there wants to escape and would slit an Angel throat to get back home.”

“You would be signing Dean’s death warrant,” Lucifer said, unfazed by Sam’s words. “That’s why Michael has him. As leverage. But then I guess that’s an acceptable loss for getting your Clan to freedom?”

Although Sam said nothing in an attempt to keep Lucifer from spotting any weakness, he knew he couldn’t keep his face expressionless at such a thought. Of course they couldn’t sacrifice Dean. Dean kept them all together and kept them safe. Dad resolved the disputes and organised the battles against the invaders, but it was Dean’s ideas and devotion to the Clan that kept them all in one piece. Without Dean, Sam wouldn’t give a damn about the Clan. He knew it was entirely the wrong attitude for a Clan-Father-to-be, but he couldn’t fight how he felt.

“Of course,” Lucifer went on, drumming his fingers against the table, “If you’d rather take Dean with you when you get out of here, I might have one or two suggestions.”

Sam narrowed his eyes up at the Angel. “And why would you want to help us? You only brought us all here about a month ago.”

“Ah, ah, ah.” Lucifer held up his index finger in admonishment. “I wasn’t behind that. That was my brother’s ridiculous idea. Believe me, I don’t want you here anymore than you want to be here. No offence or anything Sam, but I find you and all your Hunter buddies offensive to my sense of sight, sound and smell. I’d happily dump you all back in Earth-Country today.”

“So why don’t you?”

“My brother would have me killed for treason. My brother is the problem, Sam. Not me. It’s his grand plan to elevate you all to our level. While he’s King and the chief Archangel, his word is law. You won’t be home until another Archangel takes over, one that’s sympathetic to your cause.” Lucifer shrugged. “Sorry.”

“Who are the other Archangels?” Sam asked, well aware that he was being led into a verbal trap, but curious to see where Lucifer was going with this.

“Since we lost Raphael to Demons, that would just be me and Gabriel. But he’s selfish and weak. He wouldn’t help you.”

“Let me guess… you would?”

Lucifer smiled. “Yes. I knew you were a clever one, Sam. Problem is of course, most Angels are too set in their ways to consider a shift in the status quo. Michael will have a slight advantage on me in numbers if I tried to take his throne by force. I can persuade a fair amount of my brethren to side with me, but I would need to throw in something else. An unpredictable element.”

“You want me to sign the Hunters up to your coup.”

“That’s right.”

Sam could see one slight problem with that idea. “The last time we fought Angels we were slaughtered. I’m not using my Clan as cannon-fodder.”

“Daddy’s Clan, surely. Dean’s, at a push.”

“Whatever, goad me all you want. I’m not stupid enough to persuade the others to die for your little glory-quest. Just torture me.”

“Well, aren’t we the cutest little martyr,” Lucifer teased. “But before we do anything we might regret, let me just make a few things clearer for you. You aren’t the first person I’ve approached about Michael’s megalomania. And if you agree to this, you won’t be the only help I have. I told you, I have plenty of influence here. Just not quite enough. If all that fails, I have a Demon army providing reinforcements. I’m going to win, Sam. This is just a chance for you to escape the cells when I do. Trust me, if you knew what my brother was doing to Dean, you’d jump at the chance to slit Michael’s throat for me.”

In any other situation, the course of action would be clear. Lucifer was an enemy, one that was working with Demons and the very Angels that had the Hunters prisoner. Dad would condone spitting in the bastard’s face then taking the punishment. But how would that set them free? How would it help Dean, stuck in the King’s clutches?

“What do you need us to do?”

*

Michael surveyed his court from the comfort of his throne, the tall back of the chair reaching up to the ceiling. Reaching through the ceiling, creating a new tower to celebrate his majesty. His subjects sat in their pews, calmly awaiting his teachings in their humble Sunday clothes. All of them wore the same expression and Michael could not recognise a single face in the sea of mediocrity. His gaze had run over the same faces so many times that it had worn them smooth and featureless, fossils turned to sand under the might of the sea.

Somewhere there was beauty, but it was not here.

He stood and stabbed his golden sceptre at the floor, sending the chime across the cavernous room that his sermon was about to begin. Silence greeted him. The Angels would never dare interrupt the transmission of their Father's Word.

Yet, as Michael began to speak, he could hear the dull murmur of distant noise. A low thud, like an erratic march. A pounding sound that resounded in his chest.

Continuing on regardless, he spoke of Father's love. Holy love. The love that had been bestowed upon them so that they might bestow it to one another. His subjects sat like statues, absorbing his speech as he spoon-fed it to their ears. They had to listen, he was their ruler.

But somewhere, someone was not heeding him. Someone out there had something to teach him, and would not hear a word that passed from his lips until he had lent them his ear.

Michael went on. He spoke of Father's love. Holy love. He could think of nothing else as the pounding became louder. All around him the other Angels sat staring at him blankly as the thumping noise became almost deafening.

“Can none of you hear it?” he exclaimed, when the noise became too distracting.

“Hear what, brother?” asked Lucifer, one of the faceless creatures in the front row.

Michael dropped his sceptre and rushed down the steps from his throne and lecturn. The pounding moved through his blood, forced his heart to beat faster, urged him onward towards... towards...

The doors burst open before he reached them. Although light streamed into the hall through the tall stain-glass windows, outside it was dark as night. The thumping sound was coming from somewhere ahead, in the trees. Without looking back at his flock, Michael stepped into the night. He swam in the sound, the beat that carried him on across the grass, across the dirt, into the place that the Hunters called Haven.

Their tents and huts formed a large circle, casting shadows by the flicker of the bonfire. The flame moved in time with the thumping, which Michael now saw was the stamping of Hunter feet. It was not music, this pounding of the ground, but it provided enough of a beat for the Clan-Mother to dance.

Moving deeper into the circle like a man bewitched, Michael ignored the depravity around him as Hunters fell to fornicating with one another, their skin smeared with Demon blood and reeking of liquor and vice. The beat continued, and Dean continued to dance.

Dean’s body glistened in the firelight, slick with sweat and the blood used to mark him with symbols. It was old magic, a superstitious ritual designed to protect the Clan’s fortune. It was barbaric, but Michael found himself unable and unwilling to intervene. He could only stare as Dean moved instinctively, with utter abandon, high on the potent magical cocktail of demon blood, holy oil and firewater.

Michael didn’t even realise how close he had moved until Dean reached out and grabbed his arm.

“I’m here to save you,” Michael said by way of explanation. But the words meant nothing. They were nonsense and he felt embarrassed just speaking them.

Dean tugged at his sleeve and pulled him along, nearer the fire where a werewolf pelt had been laid.

“I want no part of this,” explained Michael again. “I’m an Archangel, a King, and…”

Dean’s fingers pulled at the red cloth vest he was wearing. It was lifted up over his head and cast aside, revealing the Hunter’s remarkable physique. Then, with two graceful steps of his bare feet, Dean was close enough to kiss.

Plump lips, red with smears of demon blood, framed a whisper. “You can go back.”

Michael looked over his shoulder, back towards the island of Heaven. It glowed bright and ethereal in the distance while Dean stood before him in the darkness, emanating warmth from his fire-heated skin. “I could…”

“Or I could finish disrobing for you.”

His gaze fell to the red shorts that sat snugly around Dean’s hips and thighs. All around them the Hunters hollered and howled. It was barbaric and irreligious and demeaning…

“Undress,” ordered the King.

Dean leaned away as he slid the fabric down to his ankles, bent over and revealing all of himself to the King. The lack of shame set Michael’s blood aflame with desire. When Dean stood straight once more, he was utterly naked. Michael reached out, his right hand shaking, until his fingertips hovered a breath away from the Clan-Mother’s skin.

With a sly smile, Dean shoved him roughly and Michael fell onto the soft fur on the floor. He lay there stunned as the Hunter straddled him, strong thighs snugly around the King’s hips.

“You’re no King here,” Dean murmured as around them Hunters stamped and shouted.

Before Michael could argue the point, the Clan-Mother shifted and led him into a realm of rapturous physical pleasure, the likes of which was outlawed in Heaven. The body above him twisted and arched in the firelight, hot and soft and slick around him. Michael was lost to it, mind awash with ecstasy.

But not entirely lost. He twisted around, easily putting Dean on the floor beneath him.

“I rule where I please,” he said, breathing harshly into Dean’s ear before spearing the Clan-Mother with a more brutal thrust of his hardness. Dean gasped out and dragged his fingers down Michael’s back, wanton and encouraging.

Around them the Hunters fell silent as their Clan-Mother was taken. They could do nothing but watch as Michael claimed Dean for the Angels.


The Archangel snapped out of his vision with a sharp gasp, sat at his desk surrounded by books of Hunter lore. Clearly he had been fatigued for such a trance to fall on him without warning.

Standing from his ornate table, Michael was surprised to find his body afflicted with symptoms of sexual arousal. His penis had stiffened within the loose silken confines of his casual clothes. He had never experienced a vision that could cause such intense desire that it carried over into his waking moments. Yet, as he thought more upon what he had seen, he shuddered again with feelings of lust. The image of Dean beneath him, pliant and helpless for all his bravado, was an idea Michael found difficult to dispel.

As he revisited the vision in his mind, Michael tidied his desk. He closed the books of speculation on Hunter fertility rituals and set aside the scrolls detailing their heathen orgies. Castiel had tried to dissuade him from reading such texts, describing them as ‘an inaccurate portrayal of Hunter culture’ and heavily implying that they had been written for the purposes of propaganda and titillation.

But Michael’s vision told him otherwise. He had no doubt now that what he had read was fact. The sinful nights of carnal pleasure were a feature of the Hunter life. When the Hunters begged to be allowed their culture, what they actually begged for was the right to indulge themselves with perverse practises. It was an affront to all that was holy, one that Michael would have to prevent.

He left his chamber for a walk in order to collect his thoughts and found himself minutes later approaching Dean’s bedroom door. Michael opened it without announcing his presence and was surprised to find a blade pressed to his throat.

Immediately Castiel withdrew his sword, clearly embarrassed by his overzealous aggression. “Forgive me, my Lord. I wasn’t expecting you.”

Michael ignored him and walked over to the bed where Dean slept. His blankets had been shifted aside by his movements and left his naked upper body exposed to the night, while his hip and upper thigh were partially revealed. He was sleeping naked, oblivious. Helpless.

“My Lord?” Castiel spoke in a quiet murmur, so as not to wake the sleeping Hunter. “Is everything alright? You seem…dishevelled.”

Glancing down at himself, Michael realised that he was still clothed in the casual grey silk he wore in his chambers. He never usually ventured out in anything less than formalwear appropriate for the Court or his more humble attire for the holy sermons.

“I am well, Castiel,” Michael replied, equally hushed. “Tell me, how does Dean feel about his imprisonment now? It has been six weeks that he has been our treasured guest. Surely he has grown tired of despising us.”

Castiel seemed awkward at the line of questioning. “He distinguishes between us, liking some more than others. He still feels a certain bitterness towards Angels in general, but I suppose that is to be expected.”

“In time he will learn that we only had his best interests at heart,” Michael said softly, reaching out to trace a finger across Dean’s full lips.

“Their.”

The interjection distracted Michael from his contemplation of the Clan-Mother and he frowned over at Castiel. “What?”

Their best interests. You speak of the Hunter Clan.”

Michael blinked, feeling himself wake fully as if he had still been in the grip of his vision. He snatched his hand back from Dean’s face and stood from the bed.

“Of course.” He marched towards the door. “In future Castiel, be sure that he wears clothing to sleep in. I want him fully-clothed at all times!”

Behind him, Dean startled awake, but Michael was already slamming the heavy door shut between them.

*

Dean always thought that if an Angel called him for help, he'd be the first to tell them to go fuck themselves. But when the Archangel Gabriel banged on his door violently one evening and demanded his assistance, well... he was curious. The door had been warded thoroughly by Michael so that only the King and Castiel could open it. When Gabriel knocked, Castiel looked to Dean for guidance, which in itself was odd. Dean nodded and the Angel lifted whatever barrier prevented Gabriel's entry.

The Archangel barrelled in, shoving Castiel aside in his haste. “We have a situation.”

“How nice for you,” Dean replied with a smile, no intention of making their ‘situation’ any easier.

Gabriel sighed. “Let me be clearer. Your Clan have a situation.”

Okay, so he had Dean’s attention. Dean climbed off of the bed, where he had been sat cross-legged examining some boring books of Angelic art that Castiel had brought him as a weak attempt at entertainment.

“What's happened?”

“Nothing yet. Well...” Gabriel shifted awkwardly. “See, we're not sure. It shouldn't be possible, but the Clan are pretty insistent that one of your Hunters is possessed by a Demon.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean saw Castiel wrinkle his nose as if disgusted or confused. He couldn't tell which.

“Motherfuckers. Who is it? Have you exorcised him yet?”

Both Gabriel and Castiel stared at him blankly before echoing, “Exorcised?”

What? Were Angels all morons? “Yeah, you know, exorcised him! Has anybody extracted the Demon?”

“It is commonplace for Hunters to become the puppets of Demons?” Castiel asked, looking alarmed. “I had thought that a myth.”

“No, it’s not a myth,” Dean snapped. They were wasting time. “What, you guys don’t have Demon possession around here?”

“Our Father protects us,” Castiel explained.

Gabriel continued. “Demons shouldn’t even be able to get into Heaven. The place is quadruple-layered with holy wards.”

“Obviously you need another layer. Take me to the possessed guy. I’m gonna need some water to bless on the way. Who did you say it was?”

“I don’t know his name,” Gabriel said, looking amused at the suggestion. “You should just be grateful I came to get you. Uriel’s all for smiting the poor bastard and I don’t think a Hunter can survive that kind of holy blast. Your brother’s wife told me you were the one to call about this sort of thing, so here I am. Let’s get a move on, shall we?”

They left Dean’s chamber, Gabriel leading the way. Though concerned about the Clan, Dean made sure to memorise the path they were taking, just in case he had a chance to get free later. Who knew, he might catch Castiel with his guard down at some point, though the Angel had been increasingly attentive lately. They took a brief detour to grab a jug of water, but Dean was confident he could remember the route.

“Did Michael permit this?” Castiel asked as they moved through the palace. “He is especially… concerned about Dean’s welfare of late. He will not react kindly to an unscheduled outing.”

“Relax, Castiel. Michael’s not the only Archangel around these parts. If he’s got a problem with this you can blame me. Say I bullied you into letting Deano out to play.”

“It is not my safety I care for,” Castiel said firmly. When Dean glanced over, he realised Cas was staring at him intently.

“Aww,” cooed Gabriel, “Well ain’t that just about the cutest thing I’ve seen all year. It’ll all end in tears, mind you. Michael has plans for Dean and I’m pretty sure they don’t involve you.”

Castiel looked like Gabriel had hit him, shocked as he stuttered out, “I don’t… I don’t understand what you mean.”

They reached a locked door. Gabriel clicked his fingers and it swung open before them, leading to a steep, dark stone staircase. Before descending he paused to waggle his finger in Castiel’s face and say, “That, my dear brother, is why you won’t get what you want. You don’t even know what it is!” Then he walked off down the steps. Dean followed before Gabriel could get too far ahead and Castiel was right behind him.

“Tell me it’s not this cold in the prison,” Dean said, his breath leaving little clouds in the air as he spoke.

“I’m sure they have been provided with blankets,” said Castiel, in a failed attempt to reassure him.

“Are you telling me that for all the fancy powers of Angels, none of them could be bothered to zap up some warm rooms for the race of people they’d just kidnapped?!”

Snapping at Cas was kind of like hitting a Shifter pup. The guy was too good at appearing meek and harmless. Often Dean forgot that he was complicit in the capture of the Hunters. Sometimes he forgot Cas was in his chamber as a guard, not as company.

“I am certain Michael has his reasons.”

“I’m certain his reasons suck.”

They reached the bottom of the steps and walked through a doorway into the most soulless, bleak place that Dean had ever seen. There were no windows down here. The expansive stone room was lit and heated by a few torches on the walls. The Hunters were all in cages, huddled under blankets with metal grids in the floor nearby for the collection of waste.

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” Dean said quietly. His Clan. His people. He was supposed to care for these people, nurture them. They were supposed to roam the plains of Earth-Country. He was being kept in a damn luxury suite while his Clan were stored like cattle.

Gabriel took hold of his arm. “Come on, the Demonic one’s down this way.” Around them, the Hunters perked up at the sight of their Clan-Mother.

“Dean?”

“Dean!”

“Hey look, it’s Dean!”

“He’s okay!”

It felt like running from camp all over again and the naked hope in their voices twisted Dean’s stomach. Especially when their calls were followed by hacking coughs. They walked deeper into the prison, past cells holding people that Dean cared about more than his own life. Eventually they reached a cell where Uriel stood with his foot on a Hunter’s chest.

“Gordon,” Dean whispered, recognising the man immediately.

“He’s possessed, son,” said John Winchester from the adjacent cell. It stung Dean deeply to see the Clan-Father, his dad, stuck in the same craphole as everyone else. “We don’t know how it got to him. Gordon should have the tat, just like most of us.”

“Tat?” Uriel echoed with a sneer.

“A protection sigil we mark on our chests,” Dean explained. “Up until now it’s always worked to prevent Demon possession.”

“Your time’s over, scum,” hissed Gordon from the floor. “You’ll all fall. I’m just the first, the one that ran before the start of the race. The others’ll be here to wear you all like dresses!”

“Just let me kill him,” Uriel said, lifting his boot to stamp down.

“No!” Dean shouted. “You’ve killed enough Hunters!”

“That’s subjective,” the Angel replied sullenly.

“Uriel, let him try,” Gabriel said from the doorway of the cage. “We can’t just resort to killing them off whenever something’s wrong with one. Michael won’t like that.”

“Michael won’t care as long as this one stays pretty,” Uriel replied.

Dean didn’t even want to think about the implications of that. Michael’s recent weird behaviour was worrying enough already and besides, he had a Demon to deal with. He finished blessing the water with a charm from the end of his scarf, thankful again that he had been able to wrangle another day in his Clan-Mother robes from Cas. Michael would have had him in a weird baggy shirt thing and thick long pants today, despite the warmth. Having said that, Dean was feeling a chill in the depths of the Hunter prison.

“Okay, hold him firm, this could get messy.”

Sure enough, the Demon responded to the exorcism chant with the usual angry theatrics. Uriel almost broke a sweat pinning Gordon to the dirty floor. But one ancient chant later, the Demon was pouring out of Gordon’s mouth in a plume of thick black smoke. Dean was focused intently on it, waiting to see where it would go, when Uriel thrust his fist into the cloud. It lit up and crackled like a storm-cloud cooking up some lightning. Then it was gone.

“No wonder you guys have no problem with Demons,” Dean said, awed by the display.

“Some are more powerful than others,” Castiel said from behind him. “I don’t understand how such a weak Demon penetrated our wards.”

Dean shuffled forward on his knees to Gordon. “Hey, Gordon. You hear me, man?”

“Check his tattoo,” his Dad called from the next cell.

Obediently, Dean pulled open Gordon’s tunic and examined the man’s chest. He knew exactly where he was looking and what he was looking for. It was his duty as Clan-Mother to make sure everyone was protected against the Demon menace. That included checking their tattoos every few months so that Demons couldn’t infiltrate the Clan using the bodies of Hunters. The incident with Bobby in the last Demon war was enough to scar that lesson into their minds.

But Gordon’s chest was smooth and unmarked, like he had never been inked at all. Dean reached out and smoothed his fingers over the skin, but could feel no bump or cut. “It’s gone,” he said to the small audience, utterly mystified.

Gordon groaned as he regained consciousness and he blinked up at Dean blearily. “You couldn’t grope me when I was conscious, Dean?”

Rolling his eyes, Dean moved his hand from Gordon’s chest and pulled him up into a sitting position. “You were possessed. Remember anything?”

“Not a damn thing. Went to sleep here, woke up just now. I don’t get it, my tattoo oughta prevent possession.” He tapped the same area of his chest that Dean had just examined. “Well I’ll be damned, where’s it gone?”

“This is all very suspect,” Castiel said gravely.

“Agreed,” said Gabriel.

Although Dean was obviously worried about the implications this had for the safety of his Clan, he had another concern. Moving over to the bars between Gordon’s cell and the next, he spoke to his Dad.

“I didn’t see Sammy on my way in. He tried to save me. Michael gave him to Lucifer.”

The Clan-Father’s brow wrinkled as if he was pained. He looked like he had aged ten years since Dean last saw him. Dean put a hand around the bars so that his fingers would be slightly closer to touching his Dad.

“Sam’s taken all of this very badly. I tried to stop him from doing anything stupid but you know what he’s like. He’s been calling me an unfit leader for years. Now that we’re all locked up in this damn dungeon, other members of the Clan are starting to agree with him. Starting to hatch all kinds of crazy plans that are gonna get ‘em all killed.” John put his hands over Dean’s on the bars. His fingers were like ice. “I’m worried, Dean. Lucifer takes Sam out of here every once in a while, but your brother comes back without a mark on him. It’s almost like…”

“That’s enough,” Uriel snapped, tugging Dean back from his father. “You’ve done what we needed you to do now it’s back upstairs with you.”

Dean shoved back against the Angel. He had to hear the rest of his Dad’s thoughts. “Just let me…”

Uriel’s hand hit him like a sledgehammer and Dean fell back against the bars.

Two different voices shouted Dean’s name, then Castiel was pulling him up to his feet. Gabriel stood between them and Uriel.

“He’s just a Hunter,” Uriel sneered.

“Take him back upstairs, Castiel,” Gabriel ordered.

Castiel led Dean out of the cage and took his hand, striding on ahead and pulling him along behind.

Up front, in one of the cages to the right, Bela was frantically waving for Dean’s attention. Dean leaned to the right as he walked, hoping Cas didn’t just tug him right past.

He needn’t have worried, as Bela just shoved a dusty, thin book into his hands then backed away into the cage. Without glancing at it, Dean shoved the book into a pocket inside his robe.

Cas didn’t notice a thing.

*

Castiel was ill at ease. He had been for a while now. Ever since the Archangel Michael had announced his intention to bring Father's light to the Hunters, Castiel’s mind had been heavy with an emotion he was beginning to recognise as doubt. He had studied the Hunter lore for a long time. They were impressive people, capable of brilliant things with few resources in difficult circumstances. Castiel had always imagined that when he visited Earth-Country for the first time, it would be as an invisible observer. It always made him happy to imagine a less realistic scenario where he was welcomed as a friend.

Instead he had assisted in slaughter. He had joined Michael in the attempt to crush the culture that he had admired from afar for so long. What else could he have done? Michael was the legacy of their Holy Father. His Word was Law. Obedience was ingrained in all of them. The mere fact that it was Michael who had planned all this would imply that it was a course sanctioned by their Father.

But Castiel was no longer sure. In part this could be blamed on Dean Winchester, the Clan-Mother. Since his imprisonment, Dean had not ceased in his criticism of the Angels, as was to be expected. The problem was that Castiel found it more and more difficult to argue with him. At first it had been very easy to explain that everything they did was for the sake of the Hunters. They would learn and evolve using Father’s teachings. Then they would be safe from the Demons. They would be Angels.

Except now, when Dean claimed they had been better as they were, Castiel was silent. He had begun to agree with him. Not only that, but Dean’s grief and anger over the state of the Clan’s accommodation was contagious, awakening an empathy in Castiel that he never knew he possessed. He found it aggravating that none of his peers would listen to him when he explained that the prison was too cold. At first he thought that perhaps they had simply not realised, as he had not. But once Dean had educated him, Castiel found it impossible to impart that knowledge to his fellow Angels. They were deaf to concerns for the wellbeing of the Clan. It all made Castiel wonder why they were doing this. Was it really Michael’s intent to simply break Dean’s spirit, that he might lead the Clan to convert out of resignation and weariness?

Michael had been more inscrutable than usual in his behaviour. While never the most happy and frivolous of the Angels, he had recently been strangely quiet and sullen. Before he had been prone to confiding small facts to Castiel, but now his thoughts were walled up inside his head and Castiel was permitted no access. Michael would ignore and evade Dean through the day and then arrive unannounced in the night to sit at his bedside.

Perhaps – and this was a dangerous idea indeed – Castiel was not the only one with doubts? He didn’t dare ask, even when Michael made a particularly peculiar request of him one day. Presenting Castiel with a vial of rose-coloured liquid, he requested Castiel add it to Dean’s bath. “To calm him,” Michael had said. But Castiel was not to mention it to the Hunter.

It seemed a harmless enough request. Dean had been on edge since the Demon possession in the Clan quarters. He wanted to go down there and stay with them, that he might keep an eye on his people and ensure they were not harmed any further. After days of having his requests refused, Dean had simply fallen mute again, studying a book he had found and ignoring Castiel’s attempts to converse.

So Castiel added the potion to Dean’s bath as Michael had ordered, before the Hunter entered the room. Even in his darkest moods Dean liked to soak in the waters. The liquid had a sickly floral stench that quickly dissipated as it mixed with the larger pool.

At first Dean showed no signs of relaxation. He remained tense, glaring at the wall as he floated around the bathing pool. He seemed deep in thought. Castiel watched him. Though he would usually avert his gaze for the sake of decency, he wanted to be alert in case of any ill-effects from Michael’s well-intentioned gift. Due to his vigilance over the course of Dean’s bath, Castiel saw the gradual change in him as the tension ebbed from his body and his expression grew more peaceful.

“Dean?”

“Mmm?”

“Are you well?”

The Hunter nodded, slow and deliberate, splashing slightly in the water. Then he stretched his arms up high, steam rising from the hot water on his skin. Castiel felt a sudden inappropriate urge to help Dean dry himself. But inappropriate urges arose around Dean all the time lately and Castiel was becoming quite adept at ignoring them.

“I feel…good, Cas.”

“That’s good.”

“I’m kinda sleepy.”

Castiel moved over to the small stone bench where he had folded a large thick towel and picked it up before returning to the side of the bath. “Perhaps it is time to leave the water. You have been in there for an hour, which is the approximate average time you spend bathing.”

Dean looked up at him, water dripping off of the end of his nose and glistening in droplets that magnified his freckles.

Then he laughed. His joy made the most beautiful sound Castiel had ever heard. To think, if Dean were still at home, surrounded by his Clan, he might have been making that sound often.

“You time my baths?” Dean asked incredulously.

“Your towel is here,” Castiel replied, inexplicably embarrassed by the question.

With slow but graceful movements, Dean waded to the stairs and moved up them with careful steps, as though he was feeling unsteady. When Castiel spread the towel wide and offered it to him, Dean didn’t take it as he normally would. He stepped into it, so that Castiel could wrap it around him. This meant, of course, that Castiel’s arms wrapped around him too. It was something like an embrace with a towel between them.

Castiel’s breath hitched as he was flooded with sensation. Dean was warm in his arms. Where he wasn’t covered by the towel, the Hunter’s skin pressed moisture into Castiel’s clothes. While Dean smelled of the scented water, his body held the unexplainable hint of Earth-Country. Lost in the moment, Castiel pressed his nose to the soft skin of Dean’s neck and inhaled deeply.

“Mmm… Cas…”

The Angel drew his head back immediately, mortified that he had dared such intimacy. But Dean didn’t seem upset with him. The Clan-Mother’s eyes were half-lidded, giving him a look of sleepy contentment.

“D’you want me? ‘Cause you’re my favourite. I hate all the Angels but, like, you’re my favourite. Pisses me off that you’re you. If you were Clan…man, I’d be all over that…”

Dean swayed, his balance determined solely by his grip on Castiel, so the Angel held him closer. Firmer.

“I suspect this is due to some unexpected effect of…” Castiel stopped speaking, remembering he was supposed to stay silent on the subject of the potion. He was incredibly distracted, in all fairness.

Resting his head on Castiel’s shoulder once more, Dean’s green eyes seemed to look deep into Castiel’s soul as he murmured, “You’re not like them, are you, Cas?”

Castiel shook his head, though he wasn’t certain exactly what Dean meant. He only knew that he wanted to keep that fond look on Dean’s face for as long as possible.

The sound of the door shook Castiel from his perfect moment. “I’ll take him, Castiel.”

At hearing Michael’s voice, Dean blinked blearily in the Archangel’s direction. None of the usual hostility was present in Dean’s expression but instead of feeling relief about it, Castiel felt alarm. Michael was his Lord, yet Castiel wanted Dean to be on his guard. All these feelings were confusing and Castiel fell back to his most tried and tested form of behaviour: Obedience.

“Of course, my Lord.”

He stepped back as Michael stepped forward and the towel exchanged hands. Michael ran the fluffy white material over Dean’s shoulders, chasing the droplets of water which Castiel so envied in that moment. After a period of uncertainty, Dean relaxed into Michael’s grasp and leaned his head on the Archangel’s shoulder.

“You may leave us, Castiel,” Michael said quietly. Something in his tone of voice made it clear that it was not a request, but an order.

“I… My Lord, his mind is clouded.”

“I’m aware of that, Castiel.”

Michael pulled Dean close so that the Clan-Mother’s naked chest was pressed to his shirt. He put his arms around Dean and slowly rubbed the towel in circles on the Hunter’s rear.

“But…”

“Don’t worry, I will take good care of him. Nobody is more conscious than me of how helpless our little Clan-Mother is.”

Doubt was no longer a whisper in Castiel’s mind. It was a full scream, desperate and fearful.

“Is there a reason you are disobeying me, Castiel?”

The word sounded so horrendous. Disobeying. It sent a wave of revulsion through Castiel’s body and he shook his head, “No, my Lord, I…”

“Then go and I will ignore this indiscretion.”

And Castiel did, though the shame did not abate, even when he had flown a full five miles from Dean’s chamber. If anything, he thought upon his fleeing and began to hate himself for it. He tried to tell himself that Dean would surely be safe with the King, but even that notion was now riddled with doubt and suspicion.

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