Suggested mood music: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons and "Babel" by Mumford & Sons. Because Welcome to the new age, and I'll believe in grace and choice.
Coming Down on a Sunny Day
Epilogue: What About the Moon and Stars?
Castiel rose through the sky above Colorado Springs, moving leisurely, reveling in the ability to fly once more. The night around him was cloudless and full of stars, but a small raincloud tumbled in his wake, loosing a mist of spring rain to fall on the world below like the softest of benedictions. He wasn't causing it intentionally, but the existence of it made him laugh and spin as he flew. Now he was the one powerful enough to bring omens and storms, but his were light and warm and welcome, not cold and brutal and overpowering.
Jimmy laughed with him. The light of the human's soul was not merely a spot in the back of their shared mind as it usually was with Castiel in charge of the vessel, but spread throughout, strengthening every limb, every movement. His thoughts and emotions informed everything Castiel did. It was an amazingly free and effervescent feeling, as if Castiel's being was buoyed and upheld by his vessel, no longer contained and restricted by the physical body he was forced to inhabit.
It would not last forever. Castiel knew that their new, intense intimacy was too much for either of them to bear for long. This closeness and partnership was meant for times of need, and eventually they would have to separate again. But now they could separate, which was a gift in itself. Jimmy would be able to have a life. Castiel would be able to revisit his long-forgotten home. Neither was afraid that they would ever be in any danger, for whenever the need arose, they would join together again faster than the eye could blink. The connection between them would be a tether, a line of communication always open. It was no longer a chain.
At the moment, though, they were happy and at peace, enjoying their power and the utter freedom of flight. They had left their dad and brothers on the ground saying that they would be back soon, and they fully intended to be. First, though, they had a task to do.
There he is. Jimmy sensed the entity in the same moment Castiel did.
Castiel had already performed a hairpin turn in order to fly in the correct direction, not up but sideways. He created a tidy slice in reality and passed into the next plane, one of the neighboring spatial dimensions. It was the plane angels used to travel instantaneously from place to place, and Castiel had been unable to visit it since he'd jumped back in time. Now he could do anything.
The cosmic entity, the powerful being who had caused that storm of omen earlier today, was waiting here invisible and enormous, looming over the city as if he had any right to be here. Castiel knew the creature well. As soon as his grace had been returned, he'd known that this was the bringer of storm and that he was still waiting above the city. Castiel had come to send him on his way.
The high-ranking angel had not chosen a vessel for this visit to Earth. He was roughly the size of Pike's Peak. His six wings, each twice as long as he was tall, drifted behind him and anchored him in space and time. Of his four faces, his human one currently looked down on them. Castiel flew upward in order to hover before his face.
Castiel remembered a time when he had been afraid of this creature of vanity and pride. It was difficult to recall, so distant it was, so impossible. He felt nothing for Zachariah now, neither fear nor pity nor anger. Zachariah and his small-minded machinations had helped cause the defeat of Heaven and the triumph of evil in the original timeline. Yet now, to Castiel, Zachariah was of no more significance than Nur-Ayya.
"Castiel." Even without a human voice, Zachariah's communications seemed smarmy and slimy to Castiel's perceptions. Ever the middle-manager, the victim of his own ambition. But Zachariah was wise enough to be still, watching Castiel without making any move to attack or defend.
In another lifetime, Zachariah could have swatted Castiel out of the sky or sent him to the relearning rooms, the dungeons of heaven, with only a touch, a thought. Now, Castiel shone brighter than any archangel, so full of power that the excess flowed from his fingertips, the tips of his wings, the ends of his toes, in long spiraling curls of glimmering light. Even Michael or Lucifer would be cautious of Castiel in this state, and Zachariah was nowhere near their stature.
"You made an alliance with a demon in an attempt to wipe me out," Castiel said.
Zachariah did not try to deny it. "You were a problem."
"I still am, I imagine."
Jimmy's hidden chuckle warmed Castiel, moving through every fiber of his being in a wave of amusement. It was quite a funny joke, for Castiel.
Zachariah did not respond.
Castiel flapped his wings, just because he could. He didn't think he would ever tire of it. Splinters of light fled from the edges of every feather, shattering the night around him in wing-shaped fireworks.
"You must stop trying to bring about the Apocalypse, Zachariah."
Here's Zachariah's eyes flashed in indignation. "How dare you presume… You are a child."
But Castiel flared, too, his entire body releasing a blinding flash of light like the pulse of a neutron star. Zachariah flinched, but did not move. "Do not call me a child, you calcified creature, slave of envy. I have lived longer and traveled further and suffered more than any angel currently in existence. When you became aware of me, did you investigate who I was? Did you even know my name before I entered this plane and approached you?"
"None of that mattered," Zachariah said, grinding and slow. "You were a liability that had to be eliminated. I found the creature Nur-Ayya, which had been trying to destroy you without success for years, and offered my assistance. That was all."
"You must have known I was an angel, though. You were willing to annihilate one of your brethren to further your plans without even knowing your victim's name." Now Castiel felt something for Zachariah, but it was only disgust.
"It didn't matter," Zachariah said again, and there was a note of sullenness in his expression that Castiel found repugnant enough to lower the Seraph in his estimation even more. He hadn't thought that was possible.
Castiel flew higher so that he was no longer looking straight into Zachariah's face, but gazing down upon him. Zachariah was forced to look up to keep an eye on him.
"If you had done your due diligence, if you had bothered to talk to me, or even to find out my name… Perhaps you would have noticed that the Castiel from this time is still with his garrison. Perhaps you would have realized that I came from the future, and therefore probably had a reason for being displaced in time not for a single mission but for years upon years. If you had talked to me, I could have saved you from this."
"Saved me from what?" Petulance, arrogance, pride. Zachariah was inches from stopping his ears like a human infant. Jimmy found it amusing. Castiel did not.
"From this humiliation." Castiel leaned forward and touched Zachariah's forehead.
Zachariah's head reeled back and his eyes flashed to white as Castiel's grace invaded his mind. In the split second it took for Castiel to do what had to be done, the Seraph's mouth opened wide in a silent scream. That mouth was large enough to swallow Castiel whole. But Zachariah had no such thought on his mind.
Castiel withdrew his hand, and Zachariah came back to himself, gaping up at Castiel in dismay. "You...what did...what did you just show me? What was that?"
Castiel smiled, grim and unflinching. "That was the end. That was the result of your machinations, following the will of your superiors to destroy the world with all the petty glee of your childish, grasping heart. That was the nightmare that chased me backward through time, that compelled me, through every terror and agony, every moment of doubt, to pursue my quest to avert that future."
"There were...so many blackened wings…"
"So many dead angels, I know. So many fallen brothers and sisters. Including you. Did you see yourself through my eyes? Did you see the downfall of what you hold the dearest to your little self?"
"I…" For once in his long life, Zachariah had no words.
Castiel nodded in satisfaction and flexed his wings, pulling himself away. He no longer wanted to be in touching distance of this repulsive being. "You wanted to make a paradise on earth, not for all of God's creations but for yourself and those you deemed useful to you. Instead, you brought destruction down on all, humans, angels, everyone. All dead because of you."
"You lie," Zachariah snarled. Castiel was not surprised. Of course the only response Zachariah had to the truth was flat denial. "You conjured these images out of the air in order to deceive me."
Castiel tilted his head to the side. "Then how do you explain my existence? You can see a great deal. How did I come to be?" He spread his arms and flicked his wings again, sending away another shower of brilliant sparks.
"I don't know. I can't explain it. I only know that you are lying."
"No. You only know that you want me to be lying, because that is the only way that you can continue to hold on to your delusions of future power. Come, now, Zachariah, why is that I am so powerful? I'm even inhabiting a human vessel. That ought to be limiting me. Yet you have never encountered anything in the universe as strong as I am. None of the other angels promoted me. I fit into no known category of creature, angelic or demonic or earthly. From whence did I come? Look at me and tell me what you see."
Again the childish defiance as Zachariah turned his face away, refusing to look. "I don't know what you are and I don't care. Some mutated little cupid up-jumped by a quirk of reality. A worthless scrap of nothing that somehow managed to wedge yourself in exactly the wrong place. You are meaningless."
"And yet you are afraid of me." Castiel shifted his position in space with barely a thought, appearing before Zachariah's hooded eyes. "I bid you to look on me, brother. What is it about me that is so strange and new and utterly unheard of?"
Zachariah actually closed his eyes. "I refuse. Tell me what it is that you are trying to tell me. I have no desire to look upon you."
Castiel drew back, his jaw clenching in displeasure. It was worse than trying to reason with a toddler-age Sammy at his most disagreeable and rebellious. "Very well. I will tell you what you know is true but are unwilling to acknowledge."
He spun away, flying around Zachariah in joyful little loops and rolls. If he had to stay here and deal with this most irritating of creatures, he could at least enjoy the pleasures of flight while he was doing it. "I am not merely Castiel, the angel, limited by my current vessel. I am become more than that. You see it when you look at me—it is impossible to miss. Therefore you have turned your face away.
"Shall I tell you how it happened? It seemed a mistake to me at the time, and perhaps it was, but it was meant for a higher purpose. I faced the scene you saw, the death of my sisters and brothers, but worse than that, the death of my most precious charge, Dean Winchester. Dean's brother, too, was lost, possessed by Lucifer. It was the worst of all possible ends.
"I saw only one possibility for amending these terrible events. I had to go back to the beginning and change the course of history. I knew that it was a fool's errand. I had been on enough missions to the past to be aware that time has a way of self-correcting, fumbling its way to destiny despite all efforts to turn it away. But I had to try. There was no one to seek guidance from, no one to ask permission. Everyone I could have asked to advise me was dead.
"So I made a choice. I exercised my free will, and I leaped."
Castiel performed an aileron roll and floated lazily through space, staring up into the depths of the stars above. Their light was visible in this dimension, though it would have startled any human to see it, the spectrum of colors, the lines and whorls that crossed between every point of light, connecting them all in a mosaic of netted celestial bodies. Jimmy hummed, fascinated and soothed by the sight. Castiel found it relaxing as well, which was good, since the memories he was delving into were quite difficult to deal with even in his current state of peace.
"Then it all went wrong. A demon seized me in the same moment I jumped. It clawed me as we traveled, doing a terrible injury to my grace. In my panic and agony, my intentions went awry. I meant to travel back within the vessel I had inhabited in 2009, but somehow we became separated. I reached 1983 and slammed into something, then fell unconscious.
"I had planned, if it could be called a plan and not simply a desperate, last-chance gambit, to fight Azazel in the nursery of Sam Winchester, to prevent the child's infection with demon blood and save his mother's life. I hoped that without a suitable pair of brothers to act as vessels for Michael and Lucifer, the angels and demons would be forced to postpone the Apocalypse.
"Instead, I was wounded and unconscious that night and for several months afterward. I woke to discover just how far off from my plans I had landed. I was in my vessel, Jimmy Novak, but he was ten years old. My injuries were such that I was trapped, unable to leave, and so weak that the boy was able to take control of the body we inhabited whenever he wished. Not only was Mary Winchester still dead, but the demon I brought back with me in time had slain Jimmy's parents. He had been horribly abused by the person who had charge of him. We were both orphans, both grievously hurt."
Jimmy's warmth cradled Castiel, protecting him from the full of impact of these memories. Castiel returned his affection in kind, an infinite feedback loop of emotion. In another life it would have been alien to Castiel. He wouldn't have known what do with it. In this life, he had been all but raised on the milk of human kindness, much of it Jimmy's. It was nourishment and strength.
Zachariah snorted. "Why am I not surprised to hear this tale of woe? You are as pathetic as those creatures of dust."
"Creatures of dust, you call them? They are children of God, second-born, perhaps, but still His sons and daughters." Castiel ceased his looping flight and returned to hover before Zachariah. The other angel still refused to look at him, but Castiel stared at him anyway, silently condemning his cowardice. "This is where the story changes. This is where history took another road through the wood.
"Did you never wonder, my brother, why it was that God created angels to have a need for human vessels? We understand why demons need to possess people. They are creations of Lucifer, and he can only twist and pervert and corrupt, never make something from nothing. And so he made the possession of a human into a violation, a rape.
"Angels, though, always have to obtain permission. Yes, in these latter days, it has become a mere item of protocol with no true intent to honor the sacred trust human vessels are giving us. It can even be deceptive in the way we present it, telling the human that this is a way to show their faith in God, when God truly has nothing to do with it, and the angel only intends to use the body to serve their own purposes.
"But why would God do that in the first place? He created angels after an aspect of His own image, just as He created humans. He must have known that some of our number might abuse the abilities He gave us. Lucifer did so almost immediately, and a third of the host followed with him. The way angels treat their human vessels in these days cannot possibly be honoring to God and His original intentions for us."
"Stop speaking in riddles, little angel." Zachariah's voice was a low growl, rippling through the plane in sonic waves. "I tire of your voice."
Castiel and Jimmy chuckled, a sound so full and astonishing and rich that it traveled to every edge of the sphere, and even angels in heaven took notice and turned their ears to listen to the first new sound they had heard in thousands of years. "There is no riddle. I am here to unlock this secret to you now."
"Then get on with it."
"The reason God requires angels to take human vessels is so that we can learn to love and be loved by humanity."
For a moment only, Zachariah was silent, stunned into stillness. Then he threw his head back and laughed, long and loud and hard. It was an ugly sound, enough to compel the angels listening in on the conversation to wince and cringe away. Castiel waited patiently for it to pass. He had expected nothing else.
"I don't blame you for being skeptical," Castiel said kindly. "I myself did not understand the truth until this very hour."
"Oh, didn't you?" Zachariah calmed, then stared at Castiel in contempt. At least he was meeting Castiel's eyes again. "Please, do try to explain how you came to this conclusion."
Castiel floated in the ether. This was the part of his story that was easy to tell and enjoyable to remember. "Despite my failure, I decided to seek out John Winchester and attempt to help his family in any way I could. Jimmy agreed to this, though we knew that it would be far from easy. And John did not leap to accept us. But soon enough, he did, and Jimmy and I became Dean and Sam's older brothers.
"We grew up together, the four of us. A strange thing, perhaps, that an angel could grow, but my injuries were such that my vessel's body was not frozen at the age of ten years. In due time both Dean and Sam learned that their brother, whom they had called Jimmy from beginning, was also an angel named Castiel. They accepted me with very little hesitation. Eventually, Jimmy and I both came to call John our dad. We cared for and protected our younger brothers, and the Winchesters took care of us in return. The five of us fought monsters and demons of all kinds. The others even gave me a nickname, Cas. Now I am not merely Castiel, an angel of the Lord. I am also Cas Winchester, brother of Sam and Dean and Jimmy, son of John." The pride at being able to say this rang in his voice, chiming through the entire plane.
Zachariah snorted. "This is how you have become 'more' than a mere angel? The acquisition of human words, meaningless noises to add to your name?"
Castiel flashed, releasing a beam of light in all directions. "No. Be silent and listen."
Zachariah winced and shut his mouth.
"For one thing, the giving of a name is not meaningless, you enormous buffoon. I have been adopted into a new family, one much better than the broken brotherhood of the angels. We were supposed to love, too. Our utter failure to do so led to the end of our entire species in the future I came from.
"I did not only learn to appreciate Sam and Dean and John as family, as brothers. That would have been valuable enough, but I had already begun to do so in 2009. No, in traveling to the past and becoming injured and trapped in the body of my young vessel, I also learned to love Jimmy Novak, now Jimmy Winchester. And he came to love me, as well."
"I said be silent." Castiel had had enough. He lent a touch of power to the words, and Zachariah no longer had a voice. Castiel leaned back in the ether, relaxing, as the Seraph stared at him with eyes wide and terrified.
"Yes, it is precious. Love always is. My wounds forced me to share everything equally with Jimmy—every hardship, every kindness. We were unable to hide anything from each other. We traded control of our shared body when necessary, always giving and receiving permission, and in time it came to be as easy as breathing. I fought the monsters and warded our dwellings. He cooked the meals and sang to our brothers when they were uneasy. We both hurt when our brothers hurt and rejoiced when they rejoiced. We comforted each other when our memories became too much to bear. We reveled in our rare moments of peace and appreciated the beauty of the world around us wherever it could be found. We loved and guarded and protected.
"No angel in history has ever lived so with his vessel, not for thirteen years, not even for thirteen minutes. No angel has ever tried. We've always been so focused on our mission, our orders from above, that we never paused to consider what it was all leading to. But I've had a lot of time to ponder."
Castiel watched the silent Zachariah in contemplation for a moment. He did not feel superior to the other angel. Instead, looking back on his history, the long journey he had taken from there to here, he felt immensely humbled. It had taken extraordinary circumstances, extraordinary relationships, to open Castiel's eyes. He did not blame the other angels for their failings, for they had once been his failings as well.
He could feel the attention of the other angels now, listening in with great interest. In coming to this plane, it had not been his intention to broadcast his story to the entirety of the host. He had only wanted to warn Zachariah away before the Seraph did something truly idiotic. But this was as fine a way as any to inform Heaven that the Apocalypse was off the table. Forever.
Castiel broadened his voice, speaking loud and clear, so that all with ears to listen could hear and understand. "Then you decided to intervene, my brother. With the intention of killing me, you allied with a demon. You cloaked its presence so that it was able to cross the boundary of my wards and deceive me and my little brother out into the wilderness, where it attacked me. It corrupted my mangled grace, trapping me in my own hell of isolation, believing my family was in danger and unable to help them. It was agony and torture, and it was the cruelest fate you could have condemned me to. Not only did my prison cause me immense pain, but I also believed I was alone, utterly and completely.
"But I was not. I was not alone. I was never alone." Jimmy's presence glowed behind Castiel's eyes, and the unfathomable strength of the human's spirit sent light beaming out from them as from a lighthouse, a band of brilliance to guard the wary and warn the foolish. Through Jimmy's eyes, Castiel saw the events of the day after he had been imprisoned.
The Winchesters had fought for him. He'd never seen them fight for anything quite so furiously, so relentlessly. It warmed him through and through, and that heat also expanded from Jimmy and Castiel, spreading out into the universe in all directions.
They, too, were a star, connected and bound up with all of the other celestial bodies.
"Because of our unprecedented relationship, our compassion for each other, Jimmy was able to reach me in my prison. He made the trek several times, becoming a messenger between me and the outside world. Meanwhile, our dad and brothers harrowed Earth for a means to save me. They found it. You made a fatal mistake, Zachariah."
Zachariah raised his eyebrows, and Castiel smiled.
"No, it wasn't trusting a demon with this important task. That was a very stupid thing to do, yes, but it wasn't fatal. Your fatal mistake was attacking the Winchester family. They fight for their own. And I am theirs.
"Not an hour ago, Dean and John Winchester found Nur-Ayya and forced it to return my grace. When it became obvious that they would succeed, Jimmy entered my prison one last time. In the extremity of hope and fear, a final barrier was crossed. Over the years it had weakened and thinned as our minds rubbed against it, and in this last day, it finally became permeable, trembling in the ebb and flow of our spirits, our desperation, our furious efforts to communicate with each other. In the final moments, Jimmy and I both pressed against it, willing it away, reaching for each other through the last distance that separated us. And the barrier fell.
"We became one. The power of a human soul and the glory of angelic grace joined immutably, like two waves mingling on a beach.
"We walked out of the cage together. Every wall crumbled to dust. Nothing could have stopped us. We received my grace and purified it.
"It was easy."
Castiel glided back into the ether, looking down on Zachariah with solemnity and joy. He spread his arms and his wings, letting his light and voice become a beacon throughout this entire dimension, and all dimensions. He felt the eyes of the angels, and a few other creatures who could perceive such things, and he smiled. Zachariah no longer looked away but stared at Castiel with dread, unable now even to blink.
"Look upon me, brother." He proclaimed it across the stars, a triumph-song of life. "This is your doing. What you meant for evil, God used for good. Your schemes and plans have led not to the end of the world, but to the completion of my destiny. I am the first angel to fulfill God's plan, but I will not be the last."
Zachariah shook with fury, and Castiel nodded gently. "Yes, I know what you would say now. You would object that this could not be God's plan, that the existence of such a powerful creature as I have become is too much for the universe to bear. But in truth, this is the only way that so much power can be allowed to exist. I would never use this power to hurt humanity, because it is born from love for them. Likewise, Jimmy would never use it against the angelic host, because he has no desire to hurt me. Any angel and human who attain this power will not use for evil, because the very nature of it precludes harm.
"So much better than trying to attain power through those ancient trinkets left scattered about, or through more dangerous and esoteric means, isn't it? I shudder to think what I could have become if I had been facing the Apocalypse alone, instead of with these brothers of mine, and felt that I had to do something, anything, to save the world. I would have taken any risk, grasped at any opportunity that seemed to offer even the slightest chance."
For a moment, Castiel let himself imagine it. He'd known from the beginning that his jump backward in time had very little chance of succeeding, but he'd done it anyway. What if some other option had occurred to him first? He could have escaped the battlefield and pursued another path, one that would have had terrible consequences. He'd have tried anything to save the world, once Dean had convinced him that it must be saved. He would have thrown himself away without a moment's hesitation, on the faintest of possibilities. He could have been lost.
In coming to this end, instead, Castiel had been saved as well.
He narrowed his eyes at Zachariah. "But that's not going to happen. This is how it is, and this is how it is going to be." With the gentlest motion of his wings, he lowered himself to hover before his brother's face. "There will be no Apocalypse. You and the other angelic leaders will cease your vain attempts to end the world and bring about your conception of paradise. You will no longer lie to the lower angels. You will not consort with demons and monsters. You will not manipulate humans and deceive them into seeking their own destruction. You will not release Lucifer from his cage."
With each command, Castiel released a short burst of memory into the ether, broadcasting it out in all directions so that the other angels would witness the truth of his words. The moment he realized that Zachariah had been orchestrating events to start the Apocalypse. The betrayal of Uriel and their fight to the death. The demon Ruby, manipulating Sam Winchester, manipulated by the angels and Lilith in her turn. The opening of the cage and the subsequent breaking of the world.
Zachariah winced minutely at each one.
Castiel raised his chin, staring him down. "I have grown beyond your command, and so I am appointing myself to Earth. Permanently. I will remain with my family, the Winchesters. I will guard them for as long as they live, and then I will guard their children, and their children after that, and their children after that. There will be no Apocalypse, and if you or anyone else tries to start it again, I will end the threat by any means necessary. Do you understand?"
He released Zachariah's voice. Yet the Seraph did not reply. Zachariah remained still, staring back at Castiel mutinously.
"I'll ask again. Do we have an agreement?" Again Castiel flashed with light. This time it was not quite so brilliantly pure, but red-tinged with the edge of a threat.
Zachariah's nostrils flared. "We have an agreement."
"Good." Castiel nodded and turned away, ready to return to Earth. He could hear the angels on the edge of his perception, buzzing in agitation and discussing all he'd shown them in whispers that were excited, fearful, angry, and doubting. "Angel radio" was going to be crowded with gossip for decades to come, and now Castiel could hear it again. What a pleasure that would be.
Dean's sarcasm was rubbing off on him.
"Wait," Zachariah called, and Castiel turned back, raising an eyebrow. Zachariah grimaced, but did not back down. "How do I know that what you're saying is true, about how you joined with a human to gain this power? How do I know that you're not lying, and you actually found one of those trinkets or some obscure ritual, or even opened the gates of Purgatory?"
"Why, brother, I did not realize that your senses had become so dull." Castiel returned to Zachariah for a final time. "Can you really not sense that the power streaming from me is that of a human soul? Shall I have Jimmy come forward and speak to you himself?"
Zachariah scowled and leaned back, so desperate he was not to be forced to interact with a human. Castiel's sense of disgust for him heightened further. "That will not be necessary."
"Then what more proof do you require? You know just by looking at me that I am a new creature, hitherto unknown in the entire cosmos. I told you my story from beginning to end."
Zachariah's wings flapped in agitation. "You have given me no proof, only words upon words, while your insolence is such that it make it difficult for me to listen to you…"
"Enough!" Castiel thundered. "Let us have done with talking. I will give you a final gift, my brother. It's more than you deserve, but Jimmy has asked me to try the gentle approach one last time. After this, if you still do not accept the truth, I will take more drastic measures. Your continued arrogance and denial of reality makes you a threat to all I hold dear, and that I cannot abide."
"What are you talking about, what gift could you possibly…"
Castiel reached forward and placed a hand on Zachariah's forehead once more. This time it was not a single memory, a single isolated scene, that he pressed into the other angel's mind. He gave him his life.
Not the entire thing—that would have been too much. Not even the entire thirteen years he had spent with the Winchesters, fourteen if he included the year before he jumped back in time. Castiel gave him important moments that stood out in his memory, a string of impressions and emotions and epiphanies all strung together like links in a slender golden chain, each binding Castiel to Earth and to the humans he called his family.
He had already shown the angels moments from the original Apocalypse that proved just how bad it had been. Now he showed Zachariah the moments that had taught him to value humanity to the point that he chose to sacrifice himself for them at Dean's request. Dean and Sam's reunion after Dean's resurrection. Sam's immense goodness of spirit, despite what had been done to him. Children playing in a park. Bobby Singer's quiet wisdom and dogged tenacity. Ellen and Jo Harvelle's courage and kindness. A woman giving a homeless man the last of her money so he could buy food. And Dean, Dean, always Dean, fighting and fighting to save his fellow man no matter what it cost him, only to go down at the bitter, broken end.
Then, after the leap back in time, Castiel's experiences as a broken angel trapped in a wounded boy. The first waking in the closet, his terror and anguish and guilt, met quickly by Jimmy's faith and hope. How swiftly the boy had given his permission to Castiel, how sweetly he had trusted the stranger who had appeared in his head. Then John Winchester, wary at first, too stricken by loss and fear to open his arms and his heart to the two orphans who showed up on his doorstep. But he took them in anyway, cleansed their wounds, listened to them, and believed what they had to say.
Other moments throughout the years. Reading books to Sammy before bedtime. Eating food cooked by Dean's young hands. Using what shattered bits of his grace he could gather up to heal and protect, then being looked after by John and Bobby when his body could not bear the strain, and later by Dean and Sammy as well. The hard conversation with John Winchester, telling him not to indulge in alcohol any longer because it was taking him down a dark path—the fear that he would not listen, the relief when he did. That particular period had been very hard on Jimmy, and Castiel had comforted him many times in the shelter of their mind, telling him that he would always keep him safe and never let him be hurt again.
The illness Castiel suffered when his body was sixteen and the tender way Dean had cared for him. That instance had prompted many realizations for Castiel, many reflections and new understandings on the nature of love, the failure of angels and the success of humans. Pontiac, Jimmy's slow, sweet romance with Amelia, then the way Dean and John and even Sammy fought for Castiel and Jimmy against Nur-Ayya. More hunts, more monsters, more moments of bravery and strength and sacrifice and love. The car crash last summer and Jimmy's fortitude in the midst of his own suffering as he struggled desperately to save Castiel's life.
Colorado Springs. The Winchesters' protectiveness of Castiel, unwilling to use his abilities to complete their task because it would hurt him. Jake Talley, valuing and befriending Castiel because of the flaws he witnessed, not in spite of them. The children in the park instantly dropping their plans in order to help a crying little girl.
Then the fight against Nur-Ayya. John Winchester's sheltering comfort. Dean Winchester's protective fury. Sam Winchester's compassionate intellect. Jimmy Winchester's unwavering courage.
All leading to that final moment when Jimmy and Castiel joined as one and shattered the prison that had bound Castiel in a blinding burst of light and joy. They had known then that nothing would ever be the same.
They were just waiting now for the rest of the world, of the universe, to catch up.
Castiel raised his hand and moved back, watching Zachariah's face. The other angel was still and silent for some time, struggling to absorb all that Castiel had shown him. When he finally raised his head and met Castiel's eyes, Zachariah's face was drawn with dismay.
Castiel watched him. "Do you believe me now?"
Zachariah said nothing.
"This was your last warning, brother. Feel free to share those memories with any of the other angels. It's important that they understand. You can even travel back in the past thirteen years and observe the moments as they happen, if you need further proof. Just be sure to keep your distance. The Winchesters are well aware of the threat most angels pose, and they know how to fight them. They will not take any interference kindly, neither now nor in the past."
"We're done here."
Castiel turned away from Zachariah and flew back to Earth, slipping through the cracks in reality to return to the dimension that now felt like home. He carried the connections of the stars with him, beads of light glimmering in his wings, strung outward into space in all directions. Jimmy laughed as they descended through the atmosphere, spawning misty, rolling rainclouds in their wake. Everything was beautiful.
Behind them, the angels talked and discussed and argued and debated. Castiel tired quickly of their chatter and chose to ignore it, "switching off" angel radio to revel once again in the power of flight. They floated over the city of Colorado Springs, watching the thousands of points of light shining in the darkness like so many fireflies, each distinct and shining, a signal through the darkness that life still thrived and moved and had its being.
What now? Jimmy asked. What if other angels take your challenge and come to Earth, seeking vessels with whom to live and grow so that they too can know this power?
"Then they will be better off for the journey, as I am," Castiel said easily.
What if an angel without good intentions finds a like-minded vessel, and together they grow to attain this power with the intent of doing harm?
Castiel considered. "I find it very difficult to believe that any creature that desires power for the sake of it will be able to fully trust and love another being, even one with the same goals and aspirations. Such spirits would necessarily be self-absorbed and inwardly focused, which would make such a relationship very difficult. Nigh impossible, I would say."
Still. It's possible, however remotely.
"Perhaps. If such a strange creature does arise, we'll deal with it. In the meantime, perhaps others of my brethren with pure intentions will make the same journey, and we'll have allies."
Wouldn't that be nice.
Having had his fill of gamboling in the air, Castiel stretched his wings out straight and sped off over the dark landscape below, heading east. The wind of their passage roared around them like a freight train, like a hurricane, like a tidal wave carrying them along. The joy of it brought more laughter from Jimmy and Castiel, welling up to bubble over like a clear-water spring.
Where are we going? Jimmy asked when it was clear that they had left Colorado far behind them. He shouldn't have needed to ask, but Castiel was veiling his intentions, not cruelly, but with something like a mischievous twitch of his hand.
Lands of prairies and trees and fields of grain passed below them in less time than it took to describe, and then they were descending on a cluster of lights, much smaller than Colorado Springs, but larger than most of the villages and towns they had passed over. Jimmy began to get a glimmer. Is this... It's Indiana, isn't it?
"West Lafayette. Purdue University."
Where Amelia is finishing her degree... Castiel...
"The war is effectively over, Jimmy. I think it's time you finally had that first date. I don't suppose she'll mind if we show up at her door uninvited?"
A pulse of joy began to burn between them, hesitant at first, then louder and stronger. But still Jimmy could not quite believe it, could not quite grasp the opportunity with both hands. I don't think she will. But, but what will you do? Are you going to just hang out while I spend time with my girlfriend?
"I am healed now, Jimmy. I can leave you if I choose, and so I will. Not forever. Just for a time. I will watch over all of my brothers, and when you're ready, I'll retrieve you. We'll go back and celebrate with our family. We'll turn the entire city of Colorado Springs on its ear with our racket. But first, I want you to have this moment. You can finally have the privacy to say what you need to say and do what you've been longing to do. Tell her you love her. Kiss her. I won't watch."
Okay, okay, you big goon. Stop talking now. You've convinced me.
Castiel smiled and did the spiritual equivalent of ruffling Jimmy's hair, buffeting him briefly with the rough force of his affectionate joy. He closed his wings, tucking his limbs in close to his body, and they plummeted toward the ground like a stooping hawk.
They alighted in the hallway of a dorm room, illuminating the plain fixtures and neutral decorations with the starlight they carried in their wings. Jimmy laughed, and sparks flew from their face and hands, causing no harm where they landed, only shimmering for a moment, then disappearing. And they reached out to knock on the door.
Seconds later, it opened.
This concludes Coming Down on a Sunny Day. There are still many stories that could be told in this AU, of course. I never even had them meet the Harvelles, though I thought about it. Bobby and Pastor Jim and Caleb and plenty of other hunters never showed their faces. It's entirely possible that Gabriel noticed the spark of a fellow angelic exile and came by to check things out. The boys faced plenty of other hardships and fights and good times. This thing I wrote spanned thirteen years, after all, and I only examined a few days through that entire span, and spent over 40,000 words on a single day—this last one.
Still, I hope that this is satisfying for you all. I may write more in this universe, but if I do, it will be in a different form. Perhaps I'll look at a few other days in that span. Perhaps Samandriel or Rachel will be inspired by Castiel's example. Perhaps I'll start reinterpreting canon events, since this was entirely pre-series. But with such a leveled-up angel on their side as Jimmy/Castiel, the Winchesters are going to have a much easier time of it this go-round. It'll be pretty boring. There's a reason poor Castiel constantly gets nerfed on the show. Kind of lowers the stakes when you take the Apocalypse off the table forever. And everything else bad that powered-up Cas would never let happen to his family, like, you know, going to hell and stuff.
Unless Jimmy's fears about a bad-intentioned angel finding a like-minded human and following Castiel's footsteps turn out to be true, of course. Or something else bad happens.
But rest assured that the Winchesters will keep having adventures. They will continue to save people and kill things, the family business, now just a bit expanded with a couple more members. If you ever find yourself feeling lonesome for this version of the Winchesters, I advise you to go to YouTube and look up a Supernatural fanvid called "What About Everything." (At the end of the playlist linked in my profile.) That vid pretty much sums up how I see things going for them from now on. I think the other fanvids in that playlist are pretty appropriate for this story, too, especially super-powered Cas looking all badass and stuff.
Thanks for reading and reviewing and sharing and everything. I love this story and I hope you had even a fraction of the amount of fun reading it as I did writing it. It might have ended on a bit of a weird note, but it all felt inevitable, in the end. These last two chapters did make me nervous, I'll admit. It felt pretty risky. But I hope it all made sense to you, as it does to me. I didn't realize where it was going until I was halfway through writing Book 4, but once I understood, there was nothing else that could have happened.
I started writing this concept, in its original form, before Season 5 even started airing. I've retconned very little (possibly nothing? I'm not positive), just worked in new concepts as they appeared in the show. I remember that there was a very plausible fan theory about Lucifer wanting to possess Sam, and I included that in my Apocalypse long before it was canon. It's been pretty interesting to see how things shaped up in the two parallel universes of the show and this story. I think I needed to wait those three years, though, to finally find the right ending.
If you'd like to read another Supernatural time travel AU with Cas going back to try to fix things, I suggest All in the Details by Colleen, which is in my favorite stories. A very different take on this idea, but I enjoyed reading it very much. There's also If I Knew Then What I Know Now, which has Dean traveling back with his grown-up memories to inhabit his four-year-old self. (Cas comes too.) Check 'em out.