Genre: AU (of canon AU)
Warnings: mentions of betrayal, forced soul bonding, imprisonment (house arrest)
Prompt: H/C Bingo, "forced soulbonding"
Summary: This future is not one Heaven forewarned against. A shining golden band links Castiel to Dean, but not one placed there willingly by either of them. Castiel can usually ignore it, until they day he can't.
Author's Note: This is set post 5.04, and can be seen as either a 'what happened next in that 'verse' type of story or an Au of canon's Au, of what life is like after Lucifer won. Basically, it's a 2015 fic.
He has shadows under his eyes when he looks outside.
Castiel doesn't catch Dean staring outdoors often. Maybe once, twice a month. Just long enough for Cas to begin to forget that look was ever on Dean's face and have its re-emergence brutally remind him that their idyllic isolation is not voluntary.
This future is not one Heaven had forewarned against, at least not to the Winchesters. It had been considered a somewhat obscure outside possibility to Castiel, one that he'd only begun to seriously consider after he and Dean had received word Sam had said yes in Detroit. During that first week, while they fled across the United States, barely staying ahead of the sudden uprising of Croatoan stricken, Castiel began to formulate contingency plans. He was almost completely fallen even then, but he'd still sworn to himself when he'd left Heaven and cleaved himself to Dean that he'd protect the man, no matter the personal cost.
This resolution was why he carefully and secretly began treading between loyalties. Playing at being the stoner hippie for Dean's survivor camp, Castiel was also a sharp-minded, astute and heartless double-agent for Lucifer and his demons. He'd feed enough details of the camp's going-ons to keep Lucifer happy, and managed to gather enough information to keep the camp and occupants, and most importantly Dean, alive. It was a delicate balance, and more than once Castiel had slipped in Dean's presence (luckily the man had played off his aberrations in behavior as brief spells of lucidity from whatever drugs he thought Castiel was ingesting). Knowing it was a dangerous game on both sides didn't stop Castiel from playing; the consequences of not doing so, the ever-pressing possibility of what could happen to Dean if he didn't take the chance and Lucifer won was motivation enough.
The night they prepared to leave Chitaqua for the final time, Castiel tried to take Dean aside, tried to explain to him just why the Colt wouldn't work. Dean, though, would have none of it, and in the end Castiel's steady work of gathering scraps of intel didn't matter. Dean insisted, as Dean does, and they played their hand. And Dean lost. Spectacularly. Only Castiel's quiet implication in the aftermath that he'd been integral in getting Dean with such a small crew of survivors at the meeting point saved them.
Lucifer knows Castiel doesn't have any real loyalty to him or his cause beyond simple survival, of course, even now. None of his forces do, so it'd be ludicrous to think that Castiel is the exception. The fallen angel is still 'rewarded' for his 'foresight', in the form of a monthly stipend to make the rest of his human life as comfortable as possible in their brave new world: a small house on the outskirts of the pristinely untouched Lawrence, Kansas; and his very own soul-bonded slave in the form of Dean Winchester.
Sunny days are the worst. The light glints off the engraved collar around Dean's neck, the markings that legally and spiritually in all the realms left in Creation mark him as Castiel's property. It is a long wished for dream played out and twisted by the circumstances of their twisted reality. A shining band of gold links Dean to him, but it was not placed there willingly by either one of them, and that makes what it represents tarnished even if the metal itself gleams.
Usually Castiel can allow outside-looking days to pass without comment. He'll turn away, force his own gaze elsewhere, go through his mental lists of their supplies or, on the days he feels especially guilty, put in a requisition for something he hopes will temporarily amuse or distract Dean.
Today, though, Cas looks over at Dean and on seeing the long shadows on Dean's face hears himself say, “It won't be forever, Dean.” Because nothing lasts forever.
Dean blinks, shifting away from the window. A full turning of the seasons has passed since Castiel sold Chitaqua and all of its residents (and along with them the last hope of humanity overtaking the Devil) in order to save Dean. It's spring again, the last traces of patchy snow fully melted away. Bright purple-blue crocuses and blood- red tulips are in bloom in their front garden, kept tidy by a low ranking demon spawn that'd been a landscaper before he sold his soul. Castiel sees a few stray blades of grass peeking through the bulbs, and regretfully notes that he'll have to call the demon to come take care of them very soon. Appearances are everything on Lucifer's Earth; the Morning Star will be most displeased if he hears something amiss or growing wild around Castiel's abode. Order, Lucifer once told Castiel in a confidential tone, is what their Father lacked and what he possesses, and why he succeeded where Heaven failed.
Castiel hopes that Lucifer doesn't come to the house in the near future; Dean is always more withdrawn than usual in the days following his visits.
“Not forever,” Dean agrees, startling Castiel back into the present. He hadn't expected a response to Dean when he'd spoken, because Dean so rarely says anything to him these days beyond begrudgingly given requests for certain foods or drink. “But long enough.”
Dean turns back to look outside the window again, Castiel's presence seemingly forgotten. Despite how hardened he himself had grown in the last months of their sojourn at Camp Chitaqua, Dean has not forgiven Castiel's duplicity or his decision to sell the others for Dean's safety. Some part of Castiel is glad for this; his guilt and anger shows that the Dean Winchester he fell for is still present in that hunched over and downtrodden body somewhere.
With the dredges of grace that Castiel still clings to and the copper-penny metallic taste of the soul bonding that was placed between them, Cas gets a jumble of images and sensations from Dean, a rapid fire assault that threatens to send him into sensory overload. He rides the waves of emotions and picks out the predominant ones—resignation is there, along with a touch of wistfulness. A dash of lust and the dark blue of the deep ocean, a familiar sensation that Castiel has long since decided to purposefully leave undecipherable is there, too. The dream of chilled air on Dean's face is what makes Castiel's heart the heaviest, though. All of Lucifer's highest ranking minions were given their choice of slaves from what was left of humanity on one condition: that they never be allowed to step outdoors. Humans, he said, were the cause of the Earth's deterioration, and he would not bear even the mark of their footsteps upon the soil any longer. Even Castiel is not allowed to tred upon the bare ground, although Lucifer occasionally (when it amuses him to do so) allows him to be transported without Dean by a small group of demons on a litter to various 'functions' he hosts.
Several of the original Fallen had been very angry that Castiel had been given the Righteous Man as his pet, but Lucifer had simply smirked through their screeches and told them if they continued to complain then they could forgo the advantages of a pet altogether. Cas sometimes, on days when he was less sober than others, convinced himself that whatever sparks of Sam had been left in his form was the real reason he didn't back down, that he wanted Cas and Dean to at least have each other to cling to as they watched everything they worked to prevent come to pass. Most often, though, he knows it's because Lucifer is a sadistic bastard who enjoys the thought of Cas being permanently tethered to the man he'd sold the world for, the one who would forever hate him for it.
“That goes both ways, you know,” Dean says. He rubs at the collar around his neck, wincing slightly as though it hurts him. It might; Castiel has never wanted to ask, as though by refusing to acknowledge it he can pretend the band isn't there. Standing, Dean slowly advances towards Cas and the fallen angel does everything he can to stop himself from drawing back in surprise. Dean can't incite violence against him—the collar prevents that—but there are other ways to hurt someone, and Dean learned them all during his lifetimes. He kneels before Cas, a knee joint popping as he comes to rest on the floor with a wet, meaty sounding crack. Green eyes seek out Castiel's of Dean's own volition for the first time in a year. Castiel is afraid to blink, terrified of breaking the moment.
“Nothing lasts forever,” Dean repeats back to Castiel, hands reaching forward. His fingers gently and hesitantly wrapped around Castiel's own, wriggling into Cas' limp grasp until their hands were linked together. Looking down, what Castiel sees in their linked hands, what has been lurking behind Dean's green eyes astonishes him. Dean hasn't forgiven him, not by a long shot—but he's starting to think about doing so.
Not that he wants to ruin Dean's tentative advances by poking too harshly at the man's actions, but just moments before Castiel thought that they'd co-exist in a tense, strained partnership of necessity for the rest of their lives.
“Not right now, Cas.” Dean's voice is hoarse from disuse, but Castiel's heart positively soars at the sound of his shortened name spoken in that rumbled whisper, even attached as it is to a denial.
It is more than Castiel has ever dared to allow himself to hope for, that spare possibility that one day he and Dean's bonding won't feel like heavy fetters around their necks. He looks down at their clasped hands and, for the first time since he'd truly fallen, prays.
Father, please. May he understand, someday.