Spy Guy: Here's the next chapter. Not much action here, but we get to see what happened to Dean and Cas. Balthazar's a bit ooc here, but...yeah.
No longer was he on the hunt...there was raw fear racing through his system as he stumbled across the sand, struggling to keep his footing on the insubstantial terrain. The hounds would pull at his clothes, urging him on whenever he fell. He knew that they felt the fear too...he knew that they could also see the burning ball of light that lingered just beyond his vision, the pure energy that was chasing him.
Dean tried to climb the steep sand dune before him, hands bleeding and broken as he struggled to reach the top. It was so far out of his reach, and he kept slipping, hands grasping at insubstantial grains of sand, arms flailing as panic overtook him, and the ball of light grew closer. One of the hounds grabbed his arm, black teeth digging into burned skin, and pulled. Dean screamed in pain, but let it drag him, let it attempt to save him...
But it wasn't enough.
The light consumed him; ate away at his feet, and gorged itself on the darkness nestled in his soul. Dean screamed again as the black was ripped away, destroyed, and he was left feeling empty. With a howl, the hell hounds abandoned him, scampering away, saving themselves, their hunting partner no longer tainted, too pure to run with.
Dean cried out one more time as the light consumed him...and everything turned white.
Slowly, Dean opened his eyes.
He felt like he was floating, his body suspended on air, no longer surrounded by hard unyielding stone. Above him, he could see the sky, filled with white, fluffy clouds, and the promise of freedom. He couldn't help but allow himself a small smile.
He was free.
He wasn't sure how, but suddenly, his soul didn't feel like a stone in his chest. It felt light, airy, unburdened by the darkness that had once eaten away at his mind and body. Dean wanted to lay there forever, staring at the endless sky, allowing his eyes to drink in it's perfect baby blue hue; to find shapes in the clouds, just like he used to do when he was four-
But...the hunter quickly realized that all was not as it seemed.
The clouds weren't moving, and, as he blinked a few times, his vision cleared, and Dean could clearly see the obvious brush strokes left by a painter's hand. It was only a mural, carefully created on the ceiling above him, and instead of floating on air, Dean was resting on a large velvet cushion, surrounded by tasseled pillows.
"Either you're simply a noble creature among the brainless, or you're the one we're looking for. Is your name Dean Winchester?"
Everything came back to him all at once; the meatsuits screaming, the sounds of battle.
"Ah, you're awake."
The young hunter looked up, only to see a tall, somewhat portly, man standing before him, silver hair slicked back. The man was wearing a finely tailored suit, smiling slyly as he brushed an imaginary speck of dust from his lapel. But, that wasn't what had Dean's eyes widening, both in shock and fear.
"Don't look so surprised." The man said, chuckling as he caught the hunter's reaction. "Didn't your mother ever tell you about angels?"
Dean glared at the stranger.
His mom had always talked about angels...she had told him every night that they were watching over him. He had believed her, then, but, after a lifetime of immersing himself in the dark world of the supernatural, having to watch innocent after innocent be taken by evil forces, he had stopped hoping that there was something good out there to counteract it.
The man smiled, his lips pulling just a little too wide for a human, and spread his large silver wings, flapping them lazily.
"My name is Zachariah." The man continued, strolling to the grand dining table at the center of the room, selecting a steaming bowl of soup and a roll from what seemed like an endless buffet of food. "I was the angel in charge of finding you, Dean. Took longer than I thought it would."
"I don't believe in angels." Dean spat, narrowing his eyes. Zachariah simply nodded, holding out the food for the boy to take, but when Dean refused to move, his grip on the bowl tightened until his knuckles shone white.
"You need to eat." The creature said, his voice suddenly cold.
"My Dad told me never to take food from strangers."
Dean had missed being able to bite back, to hurl insults just as effectively as bullets. In this place, he was feeling stronger, bolder, his body not quite as weak, his soul not quite as heavy. Zachariah, however, didn't seem at all amused by Dean's bravado.
"We saved you." He said, face turning red from anger. "The least you could do is be grateful."
"Why should I be grateful?" The hunter snarled. "You just took me from one prison to the next."
The angel huffed.
"What makes you think this is a prison?"
Dean's eyes snapped around the room, confirming his previous suspicions.
"There's no door." He said. "Unless there's one hidden behind a painting or something, there's no way for me to get out of here. So, it's a prison."
Zachariah took a deep breath, recollecting his composure, that sickening inhuman smile curling over his lips.
"Hunters are always too observant." He scoffed. "But, this is much nicer than your last prison, isn't it? A comfortable place to sleep, all the food you want? No worries of demons, or possessions? No more having Azazel torment you? What more do you want?"
"I want to go back to my Dad." Dean spat. "I sure as hell don't want to be here."
"You're not leaving," Zachariah hissed, holding out the bowl of soup. Dean batted it away, spilling the broth onto the cushion. With a snarl, the angel tossed the bowl aside, seizing Dean by his collar, shaking him viciously.
"I saved your soul, you ungrateful little imp. Your soul and your body. That demon would have worn you like a suit, and then thrown your carcass away, and left you to rot. You don't remember how far gone you were, do you? How it felt to waste away?"
Dean gasped as hunger pains tore through his stomach, all of his energy suddenly gone. The darkness was back, festering just behind his ribcage, devouring his soul, bit by agonizing bit. He could smell sulfur, feel the cold touch of a raw demon on his skin. He tried to vomit, but there was nothing but acid, and the hunter could only writhe weakly in Zachariah's grasp, body trembling.
"This is how you were in the pens." The angel said with a chuckle. "Nothing more than a half-dead shell of a human. I could leave you like this. You wouldn't die, but you'd never heal. And maybe I could throw in a few other ailments, just for good measure."
Dean suddenly felt cold, then hot. He coughed, a deep rattling sound emanating from his chest. His skin itched, redness creeping along his arms, his flesh peeling away.
Then as soon as it had set in, everything was gone. Zachariah dropped a stunned Dean onto the cushion, setting the roll by his trembling hands.
"You shouldn't underestimate my power." The angel hissed. "I can do ten-times the damage that demon ever could. Your father never taught you how to behave around angels, did he?"
Dean could only stare, his throat still burning, mind fuzzy and confused.
"You can't fight an angel, Dean." Zachariah whispered. "You shouldn't even try."
Then, with a flash of light, he was gone, and Dean was alone.
Balthazar tried to be careful as he cleaned his brother's wings, carefully removing damaged feathers, and washing away all the blood. It was a long, painstaking process, but one that Balthazar wouldn't have given up for the world. Every so often, Castiel would whimper in pain, and his elder brother would stop to soothe him, reminding him of the brighter times they had spent together. How they would play in the clouds, or watch the humans down below for hours on end. Castiel had always dreamed of venturing to Earth and walking among them...it was sad that he had gotten his wish in the worst way possible.
Once all his wounds were cleaned and dressed, Castiel lay nested in his brother's arms, still trapped in his human vessel. Balthazar wasn't sure if Castiel would ever be able to be free from it again...The sigils carved into his throat were powerful and ancient, too much for a mere warrior to break. The elder angel had done hours of painful research, finding only dead ends, and he worried that his brother would be trapped forever. Perhaps, when Castiel was stronger, they could attempt to burn them away, but many sigils had protection against such means.
"You'll grow older in this body." Balthazar whispered, running his fingers through the young man's hair. "Like a human. Isn't that what you always wanted?"
Castiel weakly gripped his brother's arm, and Balthazar instantly regretted his words as the young angel began to cry.
"Not like this." Castiel said. "I didn't want it like this."
"Hush." Balthazar whispered, cradling the young man to his chest. "We make the best with what we've got."
"I couldn't even complete my mission. I let that demon capture me...and I was so close..."
"Demons are the scourge of the world, Castiel." The elder man growled. "They can break down anyone, even angels-"
"Father must be so disappointed in me" Castiel sobbed. "That's why I'm in this body. It's punishment for my weakness."
Balthazar held his brother tighter, cursing Azazel for what he'd done; cursing Zachariah for sending an inexperienced angel on what was clearly a suicide mission. He'd never forgive his superior for putting Castiel in such a position, for promising him honor and glory, filling his head with dreams and ideas. What angel didn't wish to help his Father in the war against the demons? What angel didn't wish to bring Michael's sword up to the heavens?
Eventually, Castiel fell into a light slumber, his eyes flickering shut and his body going lax in his brother's arms. Balthazar slowly carded his fingers through the young man's dark hair, blinking away the tears in his eyes that he had been trying so hard to hide.
He didn't like his brother being trapped in such a fragile shell...he didn't like knowing that any moment, the heart in his chest could stop beating, and Castiel would be locked within dead flesh for all eternity. Humanity was so weak, their bodies insubstantial. They weren't meant for angels. Castiel deserved to sing, and fly through the clouds again.
"I cannot stay in this heaven run by Zachariah." Balthazar whispered to his slumbering brother. "He threw you to that demon like you were nothing...like you were worthless. I'm going to get you out of here...and you can live on earth just like a human. You can have your wish without the fall."
Saying his thoughts out loud suddenly made it all too real, but Balthazar found that he wasn't afraid. He simply held his brother tighter, and rested with him through the rest of the night.