Disclaimer: I do not own any recognizable characters. I am earning no profit from this.

Timeframe: This takes place during a hypothetical season 5. I have made a number of assumptions about the first part of the season: that Sam has detoxed, that Anna has been put back into play, and that Cas has been around pretty much constantly and at the same time has been gradually losing his connection to Heaven. I wasn't interested in writing all that, so I decided to set this fic slightly in the future.

Summary: A demon attack leaves Jimmy an unfit vessel for Castiel. Now Sam must help Jimmy detox from demon blood, and Dean must cope with some odd feelings when Cas returns as a woman. Dean/Cas (male and female). Warnings for language and violence.

In the Wake of Angels: Part I

In the beginning, when God had first created angels, He had made them to feel nothing but love. For God was love and the angels were God-- His children, His extensions, His miniatures. And so all angels came into being knowing nothing else. But soon after the creation of other creatures, love in the heart of one angel twisted and became something new. And Lucifer learned hatred, and fell.

The wars began, and the angels were called upon to become soldiers. And there was no longer only love in their hearts, but fear as well. And this was how it remained for ages, with love and fear the only acceptable emotions for angels to experience. But as all things do, angels evolved, and they began to learn new emotions: strange, conflicting emotions for a strange, conflicting world.

For Castiel, the third emotion learned was confusion. It seemed to it an offshoot of fear, but less frantic, more prolonged. It was also how Castiel learned that emotions connected, for fear made it easier to be confused, and confusion made it easier to be afraid.

Castiel did not like being confused; it did not like that it could no longer be sure of what to do or whom to trust. It did not like the way that confusion ate away at one's soul, leaving it bare, vulnerable. And it most certainly did not like how confusion could flare up at the most inopportune of moments, leaving one dizzy, unaware, minds on matters far from relevant.

***

Spring 2010, West Virginia

"Cas! Behind you!" At Dean's cry, Castiel spun in place, swinging his arm out as he went to sucker-punch a demon that had been lunging at him in a sneak attack while the angel had been glancing over at Dean instead of paying attention. As though Dean really needed his constant protection in battle. Although, Dean had to fight a protective urge as well when he tried to look away; as his connection to Heaven grew looser, Castiel grew less and less able to protect himself and his vessel, and Dean couldn't deny that his instincts for keeping the angel safe had intensified to nearly rival the instincts he had to protect Sam. But he couldn't; he couldn't watch Castiel's efforts and keep up with his own at the same time, and so reluctantly he looked away, thankfully just in time to avoid a groin kick from the demon in front of him.

They were closing in on Lucifer now, Dean though, but naturally the more of a threat they posed, the more demons were deployed to keep them away. It seemed that these little ambushes were happening a few times a week now, and with Sammy's skills seriously diminished without a steady regimen of demon blood , it was weighing with increasing severity on Dean's mind that they might never make it to the final battle, slaughtered instead in some undignified show-down with an anonymous underling demon.

This particular demon, in fact, seemed keen on being the one to do it. It was a simple black-eyes, but possessing a giant bodybuilder of a man, the vessel's natural abilities making the demon just that much harder to take. Dean was throwing at it all the hand-to-hand combat he could think of, but he had already taken a rib-cracking blow to the chest, and blood in one eye from a punch there was making it hard to see.

"Sammy!" Dean howled. He hated to do it, hated to ask his brother to use up one of his an instant exorcisms when, video game-like, he seemed to be allotted only a few per battle before his newly shallow energy reserves ran out. But Dean couldn't get a handle on this one-- couldn't get out the Latin between ducks and punches-- and so he saw no other choice. So he shouted, Sammy noticed, and they smoothly executed what Dean had begun to secretly refer to as a bait-n-switch; as quickly as they could, they began to back their respective fights towards each other, until they were close enough to pull it off. Then Sam turned, arm already extended, and instantly the gigantic demon was held fast in his spell. Dean, meanwhile, had taken the demon Sam had been fighting by surprise, whipping his neck back and pouring holy water down his vessel's throat, buying him enough time for an old-fashioned verbal exorcism. When that demon was gone, he looked to Sam, and found that he'd successfully handled the giant as well.

They realized in the same moment that something was wrong; no more demons came at them, when there had been dozens waiting in the wings for their turn to spar with a Winchester brother. The park where they'd encountered the demons was far too quiet for a battlefield now, far too early into the battle.

"Where's Cas?" Sam asked breathlessly. Dean looked to the spot where he'd last seen the angel and found it empty.

They ran. Calling the angel's name, they sprinted through the park, listening for breathing, watching for a flash of tan trenchcoat in the dim, post-midnight light. "Castiel!" Dean screamed, his heart pumping now. "Cas, where are you?"

"Dean!" His brother, not the angel, had called his name. Dean turned and was tripping towards the sound of Sam's voice before he even heard the next words: "he's over here!"

The scene that Dean stumbled upon had him instantly sick with fear and repulsion; he barreled in without thinking, attacking the first demon he could reach, but was simply thrown back. Sam, similarly, was having little effect on them, going at the exorcism full-force, nose bleeding, chest heaving.

Before them, in a cluster of trees, demons swarmed Castiel like ants on a crumb-- no, like vultures on roadkill. Cas lay prone, pinned to the ground and unable to lift his arms, while a dozen or so demons absolutely assaulted him. And as Dean and Sam watched, they all drew knives and cut on him. Shallow cuts, mostly, but they were everywhere: his arms, his chest, even his face. And in the frenzy, it seemed, they were cutting each other as well, so that blood was flying everywhere, staining the grass in the clearing.

"Cas!" Dean shouted, but something strangled the sound in his throat-- bile, maybe, or maybe he trying not to cry. "Get away from him, you fuckers!" But as before, his attacks had no effect on the demons; in fact they seemed to ignore him, so that he fell to punching and kicking their writhing backs, screaming as he did so.

Then something happened that Dean could not immediately wrap his head around: there was a sound like a tornado ripping through the clearing, then a flash of blue-white light that left Dean temporarily sightless. And a moment later when his vision began to fade back in, his found the demons gone, and Castiel alone and unmoving in the grass.

"Cas!" He choked, lurching forward to the angel's side. But something caught him back unexpectedly.

"Dean, wait." It was Sam's voice.

"What?" Dean growled.

"Are your hands cut?"

"What?"

"Your hands-- are they cut?"

Dean blinked, confused and still half-blind, and looked down at his hands. "No."

"Okay," Sam said, and released him. Dean rushed to Castiel's side, assessing the damage, sighing with relief when he found him breathing, wriggling slightly in pain.

"Careful," Sam warned, coming up behind him. "He's covered in demon blood. Don't get any on an open wound." Understanding why Sam had held him back now, Dean looked briefly back at his brother and saw his mouth working. He knew that it was taking incredible willpower for Sam not to lunge at Cas and lick up every drop he could, and Dean felt both heartbroken and incredibly proud. He didn't dwell on it, though, instead turning back to Castiel, who was moaning now, coming around. He looked like a victim in a horror movie; blood covered him from head to toe, soaking his clothes, freshly oozing out of cuts all over his skin, beginning to congeal in the crevices of his face and tangles of his hair.

"Cas," Dean said roughly. "Cas, can you hear me?"

"No..." Cas moaned in reply.

Nervous laughter bubbled out of Dean's mouth at his answer. "No, you can't hear me?"

"No," the croaking voice repeated. "No… not… Cas."

Even as he tried to find another possible meaning behind the words, Dean knew it was true, and his heart sank. "Jimmy?" he asked quietly.

Jimmy nodded.

A sudden, inexplicable loneliness flooded over Dean like a bucket of cold water. He looked around at Sammy, just confirming his presence. "Cas is gone," he marveled. "Sammy. What happened?"

"I don't know," Sam admitted. "But we've got a bigger problem, Dean: last time Jimmy was by himself, he was gutshot. Without Cas in there, he might be…"

Sam didn't finish his sentence, but he didn't have to. Dean's pulse, if possible, quickened further. He thought of Meg; thought of all the other demons who had held their vessels bodies together with their presence, leaving them to die when they fled. Did it work the same for angels? Dean didn't know. Frantically, he ripped Jimmy's shirt open, pulling away the ruined, reddened fabric. Here too, blood was everywhere, and Dean resorted to using his hands to wipe some away, checking the wounds underneath for severity, for anything that wasn't made by a knife. But a minute later he had to stop and sigh in relief at what had been obvious all along. Although it seemed impossible for them to have any sort of good luck nowadays, Jimmy's bullet wound was nowhere at all to be found.

"He's okay, Sammy," Dean breathed out, although cut to pieces did seem to be stretching the definition of 'okay', just a bit. To Jimmy, he said, "on your feet," and Jimmy complied, shakily, leaning on Dean for support.

"What… happened?" He groaned, clutching at his left bicep, which seemed to bear the largest wound.

"Let's get you cleaned up first," Dean said, gently but with an air of command behind it. Slowly, together, they began to limp towards the car, Sammy scouting along the path a safe distance ahead of them. "Then," Dean added, almost as an afterthought and almost to himself, "we will find out."