So, no sooner do I finish my Verse, I start a new fic. This is another multi-chapter, but unlike the last one, I have only a few definite scenes that I am going to use and I'm undecided on an ending, still trying to think if I want the happy ending or not (for a change and all that). Since The Hand of Sorrow Verse lacked severely in Dean/Cas love, something that I was told off for, I am dedicating my energies to this.

A word of warning, rating may go up and there will possibly be season five spoilers, because I read them and get excited. This is set after season five, so will become a most definite AU within moments of being posted. Anyone else unbelievably excited for Thursday?

Disclaimer: I don't own them, really, I would love to though. At this point I have only got a laptop and a jar of coffee to my name, it is sad, but that would be life.

Trade In My Halo

Chapter One: Opportunity.

Two months have passed since the Apocalypse was averted, two months since God locked Lucifer back into his cage. It has been eight weeks where the Earth has been gradually beginning to set itself right, to pull itself back together, and eight weeks that God has spent moving through the ranks of His Host finding those angels who blindly followed orders, those who gave the orders and those who decided that the Apocalypse was a brilliant idea in the first place.

Two months should be little more than the blink of an eye to an angel. To Castiel, however, these two months have felt like an eternity. During that time he has waited, confined to Heaven with no contact with others of his kind and not even the smallest idea of what is happening, of what has happened, to Dean Winchester since he has been gone.

It is frustrating, not knowing what has happened to Dean, but it has also given Castiel the opportunity to think on why he took the actions he did, on why he disobeyed, on the things that he felt when he was helping Dean. The fact that, for the first time in his existence, he has felt real and has felt close to being complete and that feeling was not when he had seen his Father's face for the first time.

That feeling had been when he was with Dean. It is something that he had known long before now, long before he had been able to settle and think on the matter, but now he has had the chance, and two months is plenty of time for self reflection. Too much time, really, and Castiel has begun to put a name to the feelings that he has experienced, that he is still experiencing. Doubt, fear, pain, sorrow, grief, despair, happiness, joy, lust, love.

The last in that list has not gone away, he still feels it every hour of every day and it is not the love for his Father that so many expect him to feel, that he thinks he should hold, it is the love for another, for a man, for Dean. It hurts. It hurts and it should not and it hurts all the more when he thinks that he has been here, away from Dean, for two months even though he knows that the man could have no idea of the angel's true feelings.

So he has been here, waiting for the judgement of his Father, of his brothers, for two months and has not seen Dean, has not had word of him, he is nervous, he is on edge and then Michael comes for him, tells him that it is time, and Castiel does not know if he is eager to hear the judgement, or afraid. He follows his brother to his Father's side, is surprised when God commands that they be left alone.

There is no way to describe the peace that he feels in the presence of his Father, no way to describe the sight of Him, He simply is. When Castiel was taken back to Heaven, before he could say goodbye, before he could comprehend exactly what was happening, he was not taken from his body, a body that is not really a vessel anymore, given that Jimmy's true body was destroyed by the archangel, so he stands next to his Father, in a body that is borrowed but is not and awaits His word, awaits His judgement.

Castiel does not have to be told that his superiors are disappointed in him, he knows that already, knows it by the way that they look at him, the way that they avoid him at every turn, knows it because he has heard it more than once since he pulled Dean out of Hell, let alone over the last few months. Even though he has been torn between two things, torn between his feelings for Dean and his sense of duty since the day this all started, since he realised that Dean would not be cowed or pushed into doing what he ought, his superiors, unlike his Father, will not acknowledge that, they still want him punished.

Still, his position in the whole mess has not been enviable, and his Father has taken it into account even though the others would not, so he will not be punished, not severely, not to the degree that he should be for disobeying orders. Just as he will not be punished to the degree that he should be, he will not be rewarded either, at least, that is how it will appear, and it takes Castiel a while to understand that.

He says Castiel is loyal, even though the angel knows differently, knows that He knows it too. This is a front, an illusion, his Father protecting him from the words and judgements of his brothers and sisters who simply will not understand, who cannot ever know the truth. Castiel, and therefore God, knows that his actions were not out of loyalty, not completely anyway, they were because the angel cared, cares, about Dean, even if he did not know the true extent and depth of it at the time. The angel's actions were taken because some small part of him wanted to make Dean happy, make him proud, make him call the angel 'friend', and if that meant disobeying Zachariah, trying to prevent Sam from becoming a monster and fulfilling his destiny, then that was what Castiel would chose to do, every time.

As for finding God, in the most literal of ways, that was not out of loyalty either, not really. It was done because Castiel was afraid, feared the things that he was beginning to feel and a part of him had hoped that finding his Father and being close to him, would allow him to understand the emotions. Getting Lucifer locked back in his cage was only, really, the secondary reason and Castiel knows that it should have been his first thought.

His Father, however, had simply smiled, commented on how much he had grown, and turned His attention to the sticky problem of Lucifer, all the while berating Zachariah and others who had helped him, for trying to push the humans into something that they were not ready for. Castiel understands that, now he does anyway, they were cast from the paradise of Eden as the cost of their sins, they have to earn the right to return Paradise once more. His Father had explained that at least.

So apparently, even an all knowing Father can stand to learn a few things and one of them seems to be that he made his angelic children capable of growing in such a way for a reason and while Lucifer did it all the wrong way, Castiel seems to have succeeded in starting out the right way. This is not the way that Castiel had allowed himself to imagine things would come to pass. At the very least he had expected to be cast into Perdition. God appears to have different plans and Castiel does not know whether to be relieved or worried about those.

So when his Father tells him that he is to reward his loyalty, Castiel cannot help the surprise that comes with that revelation, does not believe that he deserves such a thing when all is said and done. Nor will any of the others and his actions, though the right ones in the end, were not taken for the right reasons, not completely. This reward is not going to be without conditions, to the extent that when Castiel hears them, he almost believes that this will be more like a punishment.

The angel is to be given six months on Earth, six months where he will have the chance to ascertain whether or not Dean feels for him as he does for the man, six months to hear that declared freely, without coercion or knowledge of the consequences of action or inaction. Should Dean not return Castiel's feelings, or not admit to it, Castiel will return to Heaven and not see the man again, not even on the day that he dies and gains his entry to Heaven. If Dean does feel the same, does admit to it, then Castiel will get to spend the rest of Dean's natural life, and an eternity in Heaven, at Dean's side.

The downside to all of this, is that Castiel will have to do it all as a human, no grace, no wings, no way to protect himself other than the skills he can learn and Dean's natural protective streak towards anyone he may care about, friendship or otherwise. To much of the Host the loss of grace, whether through choice or not, would be a punishment, an unacceptable one, but Castiel understands, knows, that he will never be able to convince Dean of the way that he feels if he is still an angel.

It does not make him any less afraid of it though and for a long moment he debates asking if he can refuse it, asking if he can simply watch over Dean as his guardian, watch as Dean finds love and happiness elsewhere and wait for him in the halls of Heaven. His Father makes it clear that this is not an option, Castiel will do this, as a reward and a punishment for his actions.

The binding of his grace, to remove it would cause him to fall and that is not the purpose behind this exercise, is painful, drags screams from a throat that is all too human and Castiel wonders at how his Father can allow this, how he can permit this agony. All the same, even through the pain, he knows why his Father is doing this, knows that it must also be the punishment that all others see.

He is still screaming when he lands, naked, on Earth and he is still half sobbing with the agony of it when the motel room door opens.

To continue or not to, this is the eternal question.