Inspired by the episode 4.07 It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester

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"None knows the weight of another's burden." - George Herbert

The Weight

The voice was low and throaty, rumbling forth from centuries of superiority, brazen and pompous as the angel settled into his new body. "Don't you find it odd that the one who always followed orders without question is now supposed to save the world? Find the true path and show us the way?" Uriel questioned, huffing his irritation as his fierce eyes darkened with a threatening menace. "This is a mistake!" he loudly proclaimed, his contempt telegraphed by every surly word and the dismissive wave of his hands. "He's mindless… an attack dog. He can't be depended upon."

Castiel's eyes concentrated on his brother beside him, boring through him, tearing apart his words and digging deeper to the underlying cause. His voice was calm and controlled, soft yet forceful. "Odd? Perhaps. Mindless? Hardly. Just because he followed orders doesn't mean he is mindless." He moved forward, pushing into Uriel's personal space, standing toe to toe with him and even though his smaller stature seemed dwarfed by the imposing presence of the larger man, his tone commanded respect, if not obedience. "He is not how he appears." He leaned forward slightly for emphasis before casually stepping back and expelling a breath. His face showed no emotion aside from curious eyes as he considered the hunter and his traits, his mind still processing the information gathered. "I've been studying him. He's industrious, creative…"

"He's dangerous," Uriel interrupted. "Unpredictable!"

"Exactly," Castiel replied with conviction. "Perhaps that is what is needed." He gazed then across the green grass before them, observing the children playing soccer in the park, his eyes constantly following them as they raced about the field, captivated by these creatures that roamed the earth. He turned his attention back to his companion, his voice steady, no evidence within of the severity of their conversation, how the world's fate rested on their actions. "Defeating Lilith, containing Lucifer… it takes… special skills."

"And this Winchester.., he's our messiah? The One? Puh-leese!" Uriel snapped back.

Castiel's eyes flashed, danger burning within them. "I've warned you before… don't be blasphemous."

Uriel continued, unfazed by Castiel's anger, his disgust overwhelming any attempt to contain him. "What makes him so special?"

"He has many unique qualities."

"Like what?" he grunted.

Castiel again looked out at the children playing, his eyes growing softer as he focused on the carefree youth before him… soaking up their innocence, reveling in their purity, as yet untarnished by all the evil in the world. He found it mesmerizing how they moved, how their energy surged forth from their laughter and the simple joy of living. He could spend centuries here on earth and not fully understand its people, and this Dean Winchester, despite or perhaps because of his hard exterior, was the most fascinating. He sensed so many conflicting emotions when he was in his presence, so many layers contradicting each other, intricately woven into the tapestry of his personality, making this man the most puzzling of them all.

Both of the brothers were intriguing. When he finally met Sam, clasped on to the outstretched hand of the boy with the demon blood and read him, he wasn't what he expected. A childlike wonder was coursing beneath the surface, buried deep by the stark reality of his life as evidenced by the warrior who stood before him, toned and ready, ruthless in a fight, but bubbling briefly to the surface as the young man finally came face to face with an angel of the Lord, proof that his fervent belief through the years was justified. His soulful eyes and exuberant smile betraying a tender innocence left over from that wistful child, long after all hope had seemed to dry up for the younger Winchester.

The loss of his entire family and his final descent into darkness after witnessing his brother's violent death and entry into Hell would seem to be more than enough to thwart any trace of innocence and yet there it was, that childhood hope still lingering long after it should have been obliterated by the tragedies in his life; instead beating at his very core, even after using Azazel's powers. That in itself was surprising, signaling an unknown element, a strength and resilience, a fundamental goodness. He needed to study him further, exchange more words with him and possibly witness him in action… if time allowed and the young hunter stayed the course and refrained from using his powers.

For now, he was forced to focus on the older brother, the one he gripped tight and raised from perdition on God's orders. The one destined to do God's work.

God's chosen warrior.

Castiel looked up and smiled a tentative half-smile, full lips parting and softly sighing, his eyes dissolving into tender orbs brimming with sensitivity and a newfound enlightenment as he considered what he'd discovered about Dean Winchester. His statement was simple and cut straight to the heart of the man. "He cares."

Cruel laughter bellowed from Uriel's lungs. "He cares? Like that matters?"

"It's more important than you know. It drives his actions, makes him who he is."

"A mud monkey."

"You should show him some respect."

"For a man? This man? Surely you jest?"

"He is noble. He's earned your respect." Castiel gently released a breath, his voice low but sure. "He is selfless. He cares more for others than for himself. It's been the pattern of his entire existence." He narrowed his eyes and stared directly into Uriel's, his intense look reinforcing his words. "He is God's creation. They both are."

Uriel whipped forward at the mention of the younger Winchester, his eyes glared with contempt, his lips turned up in a sinister snarl. "We should dispose of the other. There is too much danger there."

Castiel looked down for a moment, silent before raising his eyes to again lock with Uriel's. "Yes, there is danger… but also hope. We wait to see where his path leads him." His voice turned solemn as he firmly added, "It is commanded."

"It is foolish!" Uriel scoffed.

"You doubt the wisdom of God?"

"He is resting the fate of the world on these men?"

Castiel calmly repeated himself, even more forcefully, "It is commanded. It is God's will."

"This Dean with his foolish belief in his brother will bring about the end… not stop it! He is arrogant and vain."

"You're only looking at the surface. He is more… complex."

"They are all simpletons. All they know is base survival."

Castiel quirked his head to the side deep in thought, his mind searching through his memories of this Winchester, sorting through the maze of conflicting images. "He does know how to survive. Don't dismiss the value in that." He again looked off at the children, his tone even and slightly detached as he continued, "He has sacrificed his entire life… since he was a child." He glanced back at Uriel, his intent gaze casting forth from sensitive eyes, his voice filled with an underlying wonder. "And with no hope of salvation.., no expectation of a heavenly reward. He did it simply because it was the right thing to do. The noble thing."

"Mud monkeys."

"You are blinded by hatred… and fear."

"Fear?"

"Of what you don't understand." Castiel stood tall, his eyes staring out at the children, a gentleness evident within his gaze. "He is pure."

"Pure? You've been among them too long, Castiel."

"And you've not been among them long enough."

Uriel rose to his full height, his shoulders squared off and his posture stern. "You forget, Castiel… I've seen his file. He's broken most all the commandments. Lying, cheating.., whoring…" he spat out with total disregard and disgust.

"Human's are imperfect," Castiel agreed with resignation.

"Imperfect? They are but animals."

"He does what he must to survive. To face one more day… of this." Castiel raised up his arms with a heavy sigh, glancing back toward the concrete and the grime of the city, gazing further to where the eye can't see, a world far removed from where these children played, carefree and innocent, looking far beyond to the dark world where the Winchesters spent their childhoods. "Most of his sins have a purpose. Done for good instead of hurt. It matters to what end. Intent can justify actions."

"Thou shall not covet."

"God offers forgiveness."

"And this boy is worthy? In addition to being saved from Hell? Why? What makes him so special?"

"I've told you. If you refuse to see it…"

"What? You want me to bow at his feet?" he mocked, cold eyes void of any human compassion or understanding. Not willing to bend an inch, preferring to break like a mighty oak in a storm than ever admit there might be a redeeming quality in either of the Winchesters. Willing and able to smite them off the planet with nary a care if the opportunity presented itself.

Tensing from Uriel's obvious disdain for the Winchesters, Castiel reaffirmed his rightful place as the lead on this mission. "No. I want you to follow your orders… follow His orders."

"As you do?"

"Yes."

"I am not a mindless mud monkey."

Castiel arched his brow as the implication settled. Uriel seemed to falter only slightly, never one to backtrack on a comment, yet aware this might be over the line.

In a rare move he attempted to clarify, "Castiel, I wasn't referring to…"

Cutting him off, Castiel again took charge. "It doesn't matter what you think of me… or him. You will follow your orders."

"He is the mud monkey. It is an insult to ask us to follow a man's orders… especially this man."

"You have your orders."

"He disrespects us… he defies God."

"He is fearless."

"Fearless?" Uriel choked out, his eyes bulging from the anger steadily building. "How can you say that? You saw what Hell did to him."

The pain in Castiel's eyes glimmered under the barest hint of moisture. The plight of the older Winchester beginning to tear at him as he witnessed the toll first hand, every nightmare bringing clarity to his anguish. Dean's stoic determination to ignore his own considerable pain and continue the fight more admirable than the angel had ever before witnessed from a human. "He survived… Even now, with the memories assaulting him, he still wants to do good."

"He does? And why is that? Because it's what he should do, or because he needs to redeem what he did in the pit?"

Sadness washed over Castiel in a wave of emotion new and unknown, this body reacting to feelings he was unaccustomed to. His facial features remained unreadable, belying the depth of his concern while his eyes revealed the empathy he now felt for Dean's time in Hell, unable to deny the truth of his sacrifice. He focused on the ground to compose himself and consider what he'd witnessed as he grabbed hold of the hunter and pulled him out. As his control resumed he raised his head and gazed out at the unblemished children before them. "Doesn't matter. What matters is he is good… he wants to do good."

"He can't be trusted to know what good is. Look how he defends his brother."

"He sees more clearly than you or I. He's not blinded by faith or expectations or rules." The admiration was clear in his voice, his support something he'd yet to let the hunter see. "He follows his heart."

"Emotion? That's what will save us? There are reasons for rules… procedures."

"Yes, his emotions drive his decisions, but his training and instincts also play major roles. It is how he uses his emotions that make him unique. We have to follow the rules… God's rules… and here and now, that is to follow his orders."

"Do you really trust the world to him?"

"You forget, God chose this… God chose him."

"We are more powerful."

"True.., but for now the world needs this… needs him." Castiel looked out across the field, his mind travelling over his time with the hunter, observing him and trying to decipher the process he used when faced with a quandary. How he would intuitively know the right course even in the face of certain doom, and once the decision was made to defy logic, he never wavered, a certainty ever present that he was doing the right thing, even when the end result fell short.

In the short time he'd had to observe him, Castiel had tried to determine his true purpose as a hunter, why he did what he did, why it was so important to him to do good and save people. It was something he wasn't quite sure he understood himself, let alone was capable of explaining to Uriel, especially with the older angel refusing to consider the possibility that this Winchester was special. He offered up what insight he'd gained, hopeful Uriel would at least listen.

"Many seek fortune and glory. Some seek acclaim and thanks. To be remembered with their names on buildings or walls. Or with notations in history books. He is one of the few who take noble action for unheralded reasons. To simply do good for the world. To make a difference. Those individuals are truly rare. Such is Dean Winchester."

Uriel glared at him, his eyes fixed and deadly. Even upon first meeting him it was no surprise he was the one chosen to smite towns, his stare alone almost capable of accomplishing the feat. His voice was low and gruff, trembling with unrestrained disdain. "He won't succeed."

"He must. It is a heavy burden. A huge weight has been laid upon his shoulders, but he will bear the pain." Castiel turned back to the children. The game they were playing coming to a close, their final gasps of joy drifting across the playing field as they celebrated their win, coming together to revel in victory. They playfully slapped each other's backs and shared high-fives, jumping about with delight before settling down again to the business at hand as they gathered up their belongings and started to disperse. He offered a sideways glance at Uriel for one final comment. His voice strong while his face masked his growing apprehension for what lie ahead. "He will rise to the challenge. He's trained his entire life for this. He will not fail, he can't. It is a heavy weight, but sacrifice and facing the unimaginable are all he knows. This isn't any different for him.., the decisions, the direction he will take. He's triumphed over impossible odds before, he will again." Castiel nodded toward the children. "They're depending on it."

The End

bjxmas

November 2008

Personally, I think the world depends upon the combined strength of both brothers, holding tight to their family and doing their job. Thanks for reading, reviews would be lovely. Take care, B.J.