Thanks go out to Like-A-Raven-14, who holds a black-belt in Beta.
In the end, there was nothing left but a void. Like one of the deep wells in space that not even light could escape.
Anna had sought him out the night before as Castiel kept vigil, silent and unseen, in a darkened sickroom.
Those were their orders now – to observe without interference. But even though there was nothing he could do, Castiel held on to a small belief that an angel's presence might lend some strength and comfort, even if no one knew he was there. Whether that belief was justified or not, in this case, human resilience had won out. The child, who had ailed for two days, slept, her thumb popped determinedly in her mouth. Her parents had passed the night exchanging smiles and quiet words across her bed, not caring that their bodies were exhausted and their chairs were hard and uncomfortable.
Anna had joined him in time to witness the tableau. Just as they had once walked upon the Earth together, and fought by one another's sides, now they often kept watch together over scenes of happiness, vice, pain, and peace. It was not that the task required the strength of numbers, or that Anna felt that Castiel required supervision. They spent time in each others' company for the enjoyment of it.
Among the Host of Heaven, even though all brothers and sisters were supposed to hold each other in equal regard, siblings still had their favorites.
And so they had watched through the night. This small family that, for the time being, remained whole.
"For all that they found this unendurable," Anna had observed, "they will all heal. And they will carry on."
Anna had seemed serene, in a way that she hadn't been in some time. For the past century, she had been showing more and more signs of discontent and restlessness. She had always been careful not to let others see, but Castiel had known. And he had watched. And worried.
So he had been grateful for the easy companionability, and that he could share this happy watch in the night with his sister. The child had awoken at dawn, demanding breakfast, and Castiel and Anna had parted ways.
To meet up later. Or so he thought.
He hadn't realized until later that she had been saying good-bye.
If he had known then what she planned to do--what, looking back, she must have been planning for some time…
He does not know what he would have done.
Everyone knew when it happened. There is no mistaking a Fall.
And it was Castiel who was called to account for it. Summoned by his superiors' superiors to explain.
You saw her but moments ago. You confide in one another. Did she tell you?
And the thing was, she had. Not in so many words, but looking back she had. For a century, she had been telling him. The times when she had shown her frustration at being barred from taking a hand in the working of the world. The times when she had stood aside and left a decision to him that ordinarily she would have made. Right up until the very end, she had told him.
For all that they found this unendurable, they will all heal. And they will carry on.
He understands now.
In the end.