Okay, yet another one-shot from me. Don't worry mates, this is not a new series... having a hard time keeping up with Grass and Aiji. This is a little something I've been working on and off since Swang Song and before I realized "oh good! They're not stopping at a fifth season!"

WHAT! I just wanted to give the boys a happy ending... or the start of one at least.

I just couldn't resist. Don't worry, I'll still keep going at it with Grass and Aiji.

Since this is a oneshot and I might not continue this 'verse, anyone that wants to make a longer story of this is welcome to it. This almost became a saga before Aiji and Yuusuke and Harry and Jasper all reminded me that they've been negelcted long enough.

Gulp.

Here you go!

OOO

Dean would be surprised to know that it wasn't the Host that made Castiel into the rule-abiding soldier he was today. It had been humans.

Well, no longer so rule-abiding, Castiel conceded to himself. A year ago he wouldn't have even considered saving Samuel Winchester on the dubious hope that Lucifer could be defeated without sacrificing either brother.

As much as he tried to mourn for Aniel, he couldn't. She'd made her bed, much like he did, now she had to lie on it.

Always the preacher, only sometimes the doer. Castiel might have been her comrade, once, but he wasn't blind to her faults. Even though she claimed to want the best for humanity, she was always following her own agenda.

Although, Castiel amended, she wasn't in the wrong to take that kind of attitude. He too was growing weary of waiting for some sign of life from a Father he'd never met.

He just hated how Aniel was irresolute with her loyalties.

"So," Sam started, unsure, "About Anna…"

"She shouldn't have gotten close enough to kill you," Castiel said, "I apologize, Sam. I should've killed her back at the warehouse."

Dean tensed but he didn't move from the bed, feigning sleep though he knew his brother and his angel knew he was awake.

"No, no, that's not what I," Sam sighed, "You don't have to apologize for that, ever. Just… you two were close, and—"

"I had three decades to forget she was ever my sister," Castiel said, "At least this time, she truly is a traitor."

"Traitor?"

"She owed you her life," Castiel said.

"I get that part," Sam said, "But what did you mean about forgetting her for thirty years? She just wanted to be human and feel. I mean, maybe she was a traitor to the cause but don't you think that's a bit extreme."

"When Aniel tore out her Grace, she was leading our garrison to battle against Azazel's," Castiel said, "Our previously airtight strategy had enough holes for demons to attack, seventeen of our brothers and sisters were killed, and Azazel left the battle with nary a scratch and went into hiding."

He paused, "I was one of the lucky ones. Sachiel dragged me to Israfel, our team healer, before my wing became obsolete."

Dean's breath hitched. His fingers clenched the duvet with a white knuckled grip. Sam paled, his previous offer of comfort forgotten.

"So, that's why," Sam swallowed, "I see."

Castiel stared at him, head tilted, unsure what to do now. He didn't know if it was the right thing, to let the brothers know about Aniel's indirect involvement in Azazel's continued existence.

"Why?" Dean asked, his voice almost a growl, "Why did she do it then? Why not another time?"

"The Host would've gone after her," Castiel said, "Every angel who tears out their Grace is assumed to be in league with Lucifer. Even without the seditious connotations, they'll be liabilities, open books with too much sensitive information for any demon to look at."

Castiel was neither. If worst came to worst, he made plans to insure nothing about the Winchesters or his old home would come near Lucifer's ears. He hoped he never had to use them.

He had to appreciate the irony of his present position.

"I see," Dean looked at his hands with a frown.

"Dean?" Sam asked.

"Look at the bright side Sammy," Dean smiled wide, too wide to be sincere, "At least you're not alone in the backstabbing fuck-buddy club."

Dean stood up and grabbed his worn leather jacket, "I'm going out for a bit."

"Dean, I don't think—"

"Think the diner down the road'll have some pie? Any diner worth their salt has got to have pie," Dean said, "Cas, you haven't had any yet right?"

"I don't believe I've had the pleasure," Castiel said, finally deciding to let Dean set the pace. If he wanted comfort, Castiel would be there, but he wasn't going to force Dean to talk. Dean didn't need to feel condescended, even if that was not what Sam or Castiel intended.

Dean's smile turned more grateful before he turned to Sam, "Yeah, I know, you want a salad and all the other girly health food, right?"

"Dean—" Sam sighed, "Whatever. Just, be careful out there, okay?"

Dean saluted him and left the flower motif motel.

Sam and Castiel shared an uncomfortable silence. More uncomfortable on Sam's end than anything. Castiel just stared at Dean's golden necklace, fingers tracing the old edges.

"You're not a liability, you know," Sam said.

Castiel's fingers stilled, "Not now, I'm not."

"Cas, you're not and you won't be," Sam said.

"Thank you, Sam," Castiel said, a gentle smile in his eyes. "Don't worry, I'm not planning on being one."

He wasn't. His stint in the past had destroyed any lingering arrogance within him. It wouldn't be long before he couldn't use even a quarter of his angelic abilities.

He couldn't even help the brothers track down their parents, that's how weak he was. Aniel might have been weakened, but she still had the strength to get the job done.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Just that," Castiel said, "I will be taking precautions for the near future."

"Like learning how to use a gun?" Sam couldn't see Castiel using one. At least not without accidentally shooting something or someone.

"I am not the prophet," Castiel frowned.

"Right," Sam choked back a laugh, though it wasn't as funny as it could be.

Castiel held back a snort, the previously alien human action now as much of a reflex as drawing seals.

But it wasn't a purely human reflex, he knew. The Hyuuga Clan demanded that no one in the family ever mimic such uncouth behavior. Or any behavior that belied the famous emotionless exterior the Hyuuga showed to the world.

"What are you doing?"

Castiel looked up from the floating pendant to Sam's perplexed face. The golden trinket floated seamlessly above the angel's hand, as if it was lazily gliding over water instead of thin air. Castiel inwardly smiled, he still had it.

"Practicing."

"Shouldn't you save your mojo for, you know, when our lives are in actual danger," Sam said.

"It's not the angelic 'mojo' I'm using," Castiel smiled, he actually smiled using his face. It was fond, as if he was gazing at a treasured friend he hadn't seen in years. Even though the body wasn't originally his and his Grace was dwindling, Castiel was still able to use it.

"What is it?"

"Chakra."

OOO

When Lucifer was cast down to Hell, their Father's wrath was not abated, not by a long shot. No matter what anyone said, Lucifer was always the favorite. Not even Michael held a candle to Father's undying affection for his wayward child. Had it been any other angel aside from Lucifer who had rebelled so blatantly, they would have been annihilated from the get go.

Instead, Lucifer got his own realm to rule. Albeit, a desolate and dark realm, but his father had nonetheless granted Lucifer's wish to never bow to anyone. It was a twisted punishment and a blessing all in one.

During his search for this Earth's primary god, Castiel often wondered if maybe his low sense of worth stemmed from being just another grunt to his own father. After all, he was no angel of importance. He had nowhere near the massive power Uriel had commanded. He wasn't the head Healer like Raphael.

He was just Castiel, the 124th angel his father created. Another angel of Thursday, another angel of travel, another angel of change.

True, he was a seal master, perhaps not at Gabriel's level, but who was? He was an analyst, a tactician, and he'd lead his garrison to more victories than Aniel had over the past three centuries.

But no one had expected him to be the one to pull Dean Winchester out of Hell. Asasiel had been one of the expected victors. Castiel could still remember her destroying levels of Hell with her bare wings, strength singing in every wing beat. Raziel the ruthless, the angel whose name froze demons with terror. Iophiel, well, Iophiel was capable of breaking mountains with her conviction alone.

For a second, Castiel wondered how Dean would have coped with an angel just as pigheaded as him for a guardian. For some odd reason, blood and tears kept cropping up in his imagined scenarios.

Instead of any of the seraphim powerhouses, it had been Castiel, scholarly Castiel who happened to be faster and wilier than the rest of the chosen angels, who had raised Dean from perdition.

When he'd told Dean this, his human had laughed, "You showed them," he'd grinned while swallowing a beer.

Sam, though, had wondered why Castiel hadn't been able to kill Alistair on Earth if he'd been able to steal Dean from him.

That was because he hadn't fought Alistair. He'd tricked the demon with an exploding seal caving in the torturers and victims behind the abomination and Dean. It only took a second, but Alistair hadn't seen Castiel coming until the angel froze the specter's celestial gates and paralyzed him for a few seconds. Seconds Castiel took to grab Dean and fly away.

Last he'd heard, Raziel had razed the level Dean had been held captive. Alistair had a refresher course on experiencing pain when Asasiel and Iophiel attacked him to help Castiel escape with his precious cargo.

Castiel landed near an alleyway, keeping in mind that humans of this era didn't appreciate someone appearing out of the blue. The pendant was warmer than usual.

"Well, well, well, if it ain't the angel who can't," that sickeningly singsong voice drawled.

Castiel turned and sure enough, there was Meg in her current brunette glory. Her front was scarred with burn marks, ugly red tissue glaring out of previously peach skin. She was more open tissue than skin, with teeth visible from cut lips and her burnt hair sticking close to her broken mobile body.

Castiel felt a pang of pity for the poor woman forced to suffer through the abomination's possession.

"Not looking too hot aren't I," Meg cackled, "Too bad too, I liked this body! It was hot wasn't it? Even you were tempted to tap this ass, but then you had to be mean and use me as a bridge. Tsk, tsk, didn't your daddy teach you better? Oh, I forgot, you never even saw him."

"The fire didn't kill you, pity."

Meg snarled, looking more grotesque and more true to her real form then ever. "You know, Cassie, I bet that I could kill you right here, right now, and take you to Father. And you know what, he'll actually reward me for a job well done."

Castiel let the baiting roll off him like water rolled off a duck. He placed the pendant inside his shirt and parted his legs and bent his knees. He was in a sort of cat stance with his feet planted on the ground, his bottom parallel to the ground like a horse-stance. His left arm was bent, pointing at Meg with his palm open. His right, open-palmed, was tucked next to his ribs.

Time to test out his theory.

"Gonna fight me, big boy?" Meg sang, "It's not nice to hit girls."

"That is a sexist remark," Castiel said, "Especially coming from a warrior."

"Maybe, but it does help me," she lunged at him with a right jab.

Castiel smacked her wrist away, he barely felt the demonic strength behind the blow, and struck her left shoulder with his stiff fingers. Meg's left punch didn't reach his stomach, she pulled back from the pain. Her knee aimed for his groin, he slammed his palm to her stomach, near her kidneys.

Meg elbowed him with her left side. Castiel took the hit, grunted, and struck her right shoulder and hip before flipping her. Meg tried to land on her feet, but only her left leg was cooperative. She fell and rolled, avoiding another hit from the angel. Meg wheezed, feeling as though her burns were bothering her, but that was ridiculous. She didn't have time to ponder when she nearly passed out from a kick to the head.

Castiel took advantage of her momentary dizziness to strike her left hip, her throat, her chest, and her forehead.

Meg's vessel felt like dead weight, her limbs were slow and weak and injured. "What did you—" she coughed, blood pouring out of her broken mouth.

Castiel took out the knife Dean insisted he keep with him at all times. Funny how something so simple will cause a demon so much agony.

He slashed knife on her skin, forming a new Enochian sigil. With eight strokes, he was done and Meg's eyes widened in genuine abject terror for the first time in centuries.

Meg gurgled, the blood asphyxiating her, the white in her eyes turning yellow from multiple organ failure.

"Interesting how both of our species rely on vessels and yet we never feel their pain," Castiel said, "If only it were that easy to kill us as it is to destroy these bodies."

Meg's inchoate gurgling took a whimpering sound. The merciless monster was pleading for mercy.

"If there's one advantage a sleepless existence has, is the amount of time it gave me to plan ahead," Castiel said, "Even if this doesn't work on Lucifer, it should still be enough for his demons."

Meg stilled, the body stopped twitching. Orange light sparked for a second from Meg's open orifices, indicating her demise. She was as dead as her vessel, for once the torturer suffered the same as her victim. No, the vessel's soul, that of one Juliet Smith, would go on to the afterlife, probably to Heaven. Meg, or Andriel as she was originally named, was annihilated. No soul, no specter, nothing was left.

Castiel went on autopilot. Even though it'd been millennia since he'd needed to do this, his soul still remembered. He was Hyuuga. He was ANBU.

Castiel found some trash bags near them and put one on top of the corpse and two bellow it. He looked at the dark sky, thankful that it was late at night even though Chicago was a busy city. He checked himself, pleased that he'd managed to avoid getting a smidge of blood on him and that none of his clothing was ripped.

Jimmy's fingers worked with the same dexterity as his own used to make the proper seals. "Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu."

The fire spread from the flammable trash to the decomposing cadaver. Castiel took flight, moonlight catching his face, illuminating the clear veins on his temples and his white eyes.

OOO

Bobby carved the newly invented caging sigil on the bound demon before him. The demon was a low level lackey, hardly anyone of importance in the grand scheme of things. But so had been Ruby, and look at the shit that whore brought in her wake.

This particular demon, who took over a young lad named Mark Whitaker, had started giving power to a coven of born-again hypocrites in return for human sacrifices. Oh, and the witches' souls, but that was in the small print.

Cherub had "incapacitated" the witches, whatever that meant, and brought the demon over for an experiment. Apparently Castiel created a new sigil, one that bound demons to their vessels. He'd tried it one Meg, may that bitch never resurrect ever again, and her essence was destroyed the second her vessel's body died. Bobby didn't grow to be his age without second guessing a good thing. Always make sure the new shit isn't a fluke before using it on another ugly bastard.

Mark started screaming when Bobby sunk the knife in his stomach. The demon raised his head up with his mouth open, trying to escape his vessel. He couldn't. Bobby sunk the knife in the demon's neck, orange light sparking out of his mouth and eyes. It was dead, as dead as if he'd used the demon-killin' knife.

"I'll be damned, it worked," Bobby cleaned the knife, "Only one problem. Hunters don't have a demon's supernatural strength, ya idjit. Humans can't hold a demon still long enough to carve a sigil into them. And I'm not even talking about when the demons know to watch out for your pretty drawing."

"I though so," Castiel said, "I was only thinking about being the only one to use it. Seeing how Dean already has the Colt and Sam has the knife. Although, I do suppose you could use this sigil if a demon is under a devil's trap."

"Go Team Freewill," Bobby drawled. He drove his wheelchair to the kitchen and got himself a cold one, "Want one?"

Castiel took the proffered drink. "I've been thinking of changing this stroke to a broader one. That way, theoretically, the sigil can be put in a place and the beings in a borrowed body in the area will be locked into their vessels."

"And share their fate."

"Yes and no. If the vessel's body is destroyed, the being's… essence will be destroyed. Meaning that the being will not go to Hell, or Heaven, or anywhere else. It will just cease to be," Castiel said, "The vessel's soul, however, will still exist. Therefore it can go to Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, the Wheel of Reincarnation, or whichever other path it must tread."

"What about the demon's strength, you forgot to mention that. No way could normal ropes hold a demon trapped. Or did you mojo it up?"

"That was me," Castiel gulped the last of his beer, "I… my Grace has been dwindling. Therefore, I've been using another power source. Best to get used to it now rather than in an emergency when I realize I have no more access to my Grace."

"Chakra."

"Sam told you."

"Was it supposed to be a secret?"

"No."

"So what? Does this chakra weaken demons or something."

"No," Castiel sighed, "Chakra is simply energy. It's how you use it that makes it into a weapon."

He paused, "I use a fighting style called Jyuuken Ryu, Gentle Fist Style. The idea behind it is to utilize chakra in every part of the body to seal the opponent's chakra pathways, therefore sealing the opponent's ability to use chakra. Using that method, instead of sealing chakra, I seal the same chakra pathways, called the celestial gates, since they are filled with demonic essence. Unfortunately, it doesn't exorcise demons, but it does render their supernatural strength useless since the vessel's body won't channel it."

"So with the celestial gates sealed, the demons lose their mojo?"

"While within the vessel, yes," Castiel said, "But, in order for the demon to lose all of their strength in the vessel's body, I must strike all of the key points."

"Key points?"

"A hit to the shoulder will incapacitate the whole arm," Castiel said.

Bobby assessed him, "This chakra or whatever mojo it's called, what is it?"

"It's a balanced combination of spiritual and physical energy," Castiel said, "I have never seen humans in this realm utilize it, however they do hypothetically have the ability to harness it. Every living being does."

"So the boys could use this chakra?" Bobby challenged, "I could use it?"

"I don't know," Castiel said, "In the realm I learned it, the practitioners started training to produce it while they were still children."

"What, were you stuck in an alternate dimension or something?" Bobby snorted over his beer.

Castiel nodded, missing the sarcasm. "Father was not pleased with Lucifer's incarceration, even though it was necessary. He punished all of us but a few. On the grounds that some of us had either sympathies with Lucifer's cause or that we could have prevented his fall."

Castiel looked at the wall, lost in memories. He missed Bobby's hardened wide eyes.

"The only known angels that were exempt from this punishment were Michael and Joshua," he said, "There were more, but they didn't make it known."

"How come?"

"To avoid internal dispute perhaps, or avoid as many as we could," Castiel said, "There were… tensions between us, as even the rest of the archangels were punished."

"Don't tempt the lynch mob, smart guys," Bobby said, "So why did big daddy send you to another dimension?"

"I learned everything to do with seals from Gabriel," Castiel said, "Likewise, Lucifer taught Gabriel all of his tricks. I suppose Father blamed us for not pressuring Gabriel to ascertain everything was alright with Lucifer."

Bobby clamped down the urge to tell Castiel just what he thought of his lovely father. He hadn't let the boys know exactly what he thought of John as a father, even when the man ruined his family every step of the way. He wasn't about to do so to Cas' old man.

"So he sent me and some of my siblings to another god's dimension," he said, "It was a dimension rather similar to this one, only more primitive for obvious reasons and humans were aware of other supernatural creatures."

"This is the dimension where you learned about chakra."

"Yes," he said, "The humans there managed to channel the energy within their bodies and produced chakra. With chakra, they created techniques and spells that allowed them to fight evenly with other supernatural beings. For the most part."

Bobby digested Castiel's words, his sharp mind already analyzing the information and cataloging its usefulness for the future.

Castiel let him, his mind conjuring up Uriel in his original angelic glory. Uriel. He'd been among the eldest, one of the most powerful archangels. He'd never have been so close to Uriel if the archangel hadn't been constantly getting demoted for his violent behavior and decisions. But that's what had happened. Castiel hadn't tried to think about his old friend often, the wound too raw still.

His hands clenched, hidden by the voluminous pockets of his beige trenchcoat. Uriel had been a traitor in the end, an archangel had cast his lot with the Morning Star. Sometimes, Castiel wondered if he was the only one who mourned Uriel's death. True, he'd betrayed the Host, but he had still been Castiel's friend for years, ever since the older angel had joined his garrison.

To Aniel, Castiel had been a valuable advisor and analyst. Aniel had appreciated having a level-headed soldier who was willing to look for plans that wouldn't cause too many human casualties. But that was the extent of their relationship. Uriel and Castiel, on the other hand, couldn't have been more different. Yet, despite all of their spats and disparities, they were still close friends, they still trusted one another to make the right call.

When Uriel keeled at Castiel's order back off when Anna Milton became Aniel again, that had been Uriel's show of love and trust towards his little brother.

Castiel inwardly shuddered, missing Uriel's icy blue Grace and his friend's cool conviction. How ironic, the one time Uriel had gone easy on an opponent was when he was killed.

Looking back on it, it was obvious that Uriel had been holding back. Had the archangel gone all out, Castiel would've been dead within seconds and Aniel would've been found and slayed.

How much of the fight had been for Zachariah's eyes? Uriel had always distrusted him, called him a "Gatou in angel wings." It was this mistrust that helped Castiel deal with the bureaucrat as long as he did.

Castiel felt a surge of guilt, he knew that if Uriel hadn't been playing with him Aniel wouldn't have been able to sneak up on him. Uriel must have been bidding for time, waiting for Castiel to retreat. Uriel hadn't wanted to kill him.

Castiel never planed to kill Uriel either.

He didn't know if he could ever forgive Aniel for killing Uriel.

Because at the end of the day, no matter what Zachariah preached or what Aniel accused, angels did play favorites. Uriel was much more important to Castiel than Aniel ever was.

"So what did you do, play guardian angel in that other dimension?" Bobby's gravelly voice thankfully cut through Castiel's musings.

"No," Castiel huffed a chuckle, "No, I wasn't an angel. We were punished with humanity. We were all reborn as humans and we had to survive in these dimensions as humans."

OOO

It was hard to say how much of Castiel's personality was forged by his time with the Host previous to Father's wrath and how much of it was due to his human upbringing. He could barely remember the former time, the time before Lucifer rebelled. He didn't know if it was only an affliction he suffered, but he never dared ask any of his siblings.

No one spoke of their time as humans. No one spoke of Lucifer unless if it was business related. No one spoke of the past Before Father's Wrath.

No one dared to.

The only ones that could were Michael, Joshua, and Aziraphale. Michael brooded and relived the past. Joshua tended the Garden and looked ahead. Aziraphale went native on Earth and lived in the present.

Castiel had guessed that at least five other angels had been sent to Bishamon-dono's human dimension.

Tzadqiel had returned with a quiet hatred for slavery and monarchic practices. The archangel found ways around the rules and tried to influence human societies to change barbaric practices. It wasn't until recent centuries that he made any headway at all.

Castiel had recognized his once clansman at first sight. Hyuuga Hizashi always displayed his seething fury under his impassive veneer.

Even centuries later, Tzadqiel was unable to hide his love for his human son. Tzadqiel went to Bishamon-dono's realm to peek at his son while the boy lived. No matter how much time passed or how many reincarnations the boy went through, Neji will always be Tzadqiel's most precious child. His cherished treasure.

No one dared to contradict him on his choices regarding Neji, especially not after the massive beating Zachariah received for his callous words.

Tzadqiel had an odd relationship with Sachiel. Sachiel, another grunt like Castiel. Sachiel, who was always his garrison's first line of defense. Sachiel, Castiel's littermate and close friend. Sachiel, who was once Rock Lee.

Rock Lee, Hyuuga Neji's teammate, rival, and best friend.

Demons quickly learned to fear Orphiel when she took prisoners. She still retained her memories as Yamanaka Ino, the Nightmare Mistress of Konoha's Torture and Interrogation Squad. She never harmed the specters for information, she didn't need to. Her mind spells were more than enough. Years of experimenting with her demon captives had allowed her to replicate the Mangekyou Sharingan's famous illusion Tsukiyomi.

There was a reason garrisons had scrambled to get Lilith in Orphiel's clutches.

She still retained her infamous temper. Back when Gabriel was still attempting to knock some sense into his scattered family, he'd never been able to resist peeping at naked female humans. Orphiel's knee-jerk reaction was to hit him over the head.

Gabriel was Jiraiya and Jiraiya was Gabriel. He still kept the men, the women, the booze, the sex, and the pranks. He just didn't pick up strays anymore. Instead, he channeled his frustrations with his acts as a vigilante Trickster; erasing the helplessness that arose from his self-destructive family by forcing changes in the human world.

Castiel wondered why no one guessed that Loki was Gabriel. But then, who knew where the real Loki was or what he felt like? Loki was half Vanir and half Aesir. His godly aura was different due to his mixed heritage. In retrospect, Gabriel chose the right god to masquerade as. All he had to do was change the shape of his Grace and no one was the wiser.

And Uriel… Uriel's bitterness stemmed from his own time as a human. Castiel wasn't too sure if Uriel was more disgusted with the humans in his life or in himself. As much as Momochi Zabuza was influenced by the senseless violence and the power struggle in Kirigakure, he'd still done more than earn his title as the Demon of the Bloody Mist.

Even in Heaven, Uriel's bloodlust hadn't abated. He found a hidden blessing in demons, slaughtering them to forget everything. To forget that he wasn't in the same place as Haku.

Heaven was never so unwelcome.

Upon being assigned to the same garrison, Uriel had immediately taken Castiel under his wing. He wasn't Haku, but it was close enough. Castiel had needed someone tangible to serve; he'd needed someone he trusted to lead him.

From necessity spawned their friendship. A friendship that gave Castiel confidence and Uriel some temporary peace.

Castiel had an idea that Dean and Sam weren't killed by Uriel in 1973 thanks to the faint wisp of the younger angel's Grace that surrounded the humans like a protective blanket, warning other supernatural beings of an angelic guard.

Uriel only condescended Aniel and never considered her a capable commander. Just like he was always wary of Zachariah and his schemes.

Uriel and Zabuza were wrong but they were also right.

"What was your name?" Dean asked.

Dean trailed his fingers over Castiel's side. The angel snuggled closer to his human, chests brushing and lips kissing.

Funny. Castiel was receiving more human contact with Dean than he ever did as a human.

Castiel nosed his way to Dean's ear. He kissed the appendage, nibbling the soft flesh before whispering, "Hyuuga Kazuki."

Castiel kissed Dean, tongue twirling inside his lover's mouth like he'd been taught by his surprisingly patient hunter. "Or Kazuki Hyuuga for Westerners."

"Kazuki," Dean tasted the name, "Still Cas no matter how you look at it."

Castiel smiled and nuzzled his lover's throat, purring like a satisfied cat. Dean gripped Cas' hips, pulling him closer and cuddling him to his chest. Although it was cuddling, Dean would still claim that it wasn't cuddling, he was just cold and Cas was nice and warm.

It was an angel thing, really. All angels were warm. Castiel just happened to be the fluffiest and the warmest of them all.

Castiel nipped his nose. "A cuddle is a cuddle, Dean."

Dean curled his thumbs behind Castiel's ears and softly stroked. His angel was sensitive there, it only took a gentle pull and Castiel was mewing in his chest. Whether it was a Castiel thing or a remnant of Jimmy Novak, he didn't know. And frankly, he stopped caring about that ever since his lover came back to life.

Castiel bit down on Dean's neck. His hand met its puzzle-piece and clutched the marked shoulder. It always pleased him to know that Dean would always wear his mark on his body, even if no one else could see the tangible proof of their bond.

Dean was his. He was Dean's.

Dean reached up and placed butterfly kisses on his forehead, right where the Caged Bird Seal used to mar his skin.

It wasn't there. It couldn't hurt him anymore. No one could use a seal or any other form of magic to control him. That hadn't stopped Castiel from inwardly cringing the first times he disobeyed.

The Hyuuga never existed in this realm and yet he still irrationally feared a Main Branch member would torture him with the seal if he didn't fulfill his orders to the letter.

His time in Konoha became his formative years, replacing the previous years with the Host.

Castiel kissed Dean, deep and languid. He never wanted anything to replace this.

OOO

His Father had abandoned them. He'd abandoned everything, including his beloved Earth and humans.

Fuck him.

Castiel had always understood his cousin Neji's rage. The learned helplessness and beaten obedience couldn't force him to deny the obvious anymore. Neji did have a point, sometimes the old bastards need to be killed in order for peace and fairness to have a chance at reigning.

He felt fuzzy. He was only on his fourteenth bottle. The last time he was this much of a lightweight was when he was an actual human.

"You heard the news?"

Castiel turned his head, he couldn't muster enough panic at the sight of the archangel. Tzadqiel had been, and still was, his favorite uncle for a reason.

Castiel gulped the last of the 40 rods whiskey, "Forgot to thank you for distracting Zachariah long enough."

"My pleasure, Castiel," Tzadqiel said, "Pity I can't kill him without incurring Michael's wrath."

"That's the general consensus," Sachiel appeared next to Castiel. He wasn't startled. Though fast, Sachiel was hardly subtle.

"Are you trying to cheer me up?" Castiel said, "I'd say it's a lost cause."

"Kazuki, I'm not going to insult your intelligence by telling you everything is going to be alright," Tzadqiel said, "Millennia of obedience, sacrifice, protecting ungrateful humans, and being the perfect soldiers… all for what? What has that being done to warrant our loyalty again?"

"I'd say create us, but even that excuse won't fly with human social services," Orphiel said. She pouted, her vessel's face had an uncanny resemblance to Ino at her most manipulative. "No fair."

"Three-hundred and sixty degrees," Castiel said, "If you wanted to sneak up on me, you shouldn't advertise your Grace."

"And lose my vessel's head thanks to a paranoid ex-Hyuuga?" Orphiel said, "No thanks, Seri's a nice girl, she doesn't deserve a ruined pretty face."

Castiel actually got a good look at his companions. It was eerie, how all of them were wearing vessels that resembled their past human bodies. Castiel and Tzadqiel could pass for brothers.

"Someone is going to do something irrevocably stupid," Castiel said, "And I doubt I'm going to be the only one."

"Knowing you're doing something stupid and going through with it anyway is a sign of desperation," Sachiel said, "God's left the building. I'd say this is as desperate as it gets."

Tzadqiel looked at Castiel as if he couldn't decide to resign himself to something unpleasant or to keep hope in his heart, "Is Dean Winchester worth staying here?"

Castiel twirled the golden amber liquid in its glass, "Yes."

Tzadqiel had expected as much. "I understand."

He did. Although the type of love was different, had Neji lived in this realm, Tzadqiel would be making the same decision as Castiel.

"You're leaving?"

"Yes," Tzadqiel said, "One of Lady Morrigan's subordinates owed me a favor, so I'll be going to her Earth-Realm."

Castiel tilted his head to the side. He didn't want to know what Tzadqiel had done to procure such a favor.

"Neji is going to be reborn there," he continued, "I need to reanimate a corpse there and use it as a vessel. Shouldn't be that hard, there's a magical war going on in that realm's European continent."

"Do you know who Neji-itoko is going to be?"

"If he's born a girl, Alyssa Potter. If he's a boy, Harry Potter," Tzadqiel said, tenderness in his eyes.

Castiel smiled, "Even if he doesn't remember, send him my love and take care of yourselves."

Be happy this time.

Tzadqiel smiled, "You know, I could include you, the Winchester brothers, and Robert Singer in the deal. Lady Morrigan is feeling spiteful enough against our father."

Castiel's smile turned sad, hope clearing out of his eyes, "As much as I want to, I can't. Sam and Dean… and maybe even Robert, they love this world. No matter how ungrateful and sometimes monstrous humans are, they still strive to protect them. They wouldn't want to run away, not if the apocalypse isn't averted."

The angels sat in a comfortable silence. The world-weariness an old comfort blanket that they never managed to dispose of. It was as though all of them were back in Konoha, recounting failed and successful missions over cold sake.

"You just had to fall for a noble idiot," Orphiel said.

"Pardon me, I didn't have the foresight to love a rational and former emotionless Ne ANBU," Castiel said.

"Sai would've done the smart thing and told humanity to wipe its own arse years ago," Orphiel said.

Sachiel leaned away from the whiskey. He never went near anything resembling alcohol, the Suiken with angelic superpowers behind it was not fun among allies and friends.

It wasn't fair that one whiff of sake could get Sachiel tipsy while it took bottles to get Castiel drunk.

"I'm staying," Sachiel said, "So we've been abandoned by our father. So we're stuck with an apocalypse thanks to our war-hawk of a brother. It doesn't matter, with the FLAMES OF YOUTH we'll vanquish the overgrown toddler from Hell and end this nonsense once and for all!"

Sachiel swayed as he stood up, his vessel's muscled arms keeping him from kissing the ground. "That old goat thinks he can take a vacation now of all times? He better prepare for mutiny, because this is the last straw. He wants us to clean up after Lucy and Mickey? We'll do it, with youth on our side, we'll do everything better than the old fogies!"

The rest of the patrons inched away from the too butch drunk and his "youth will prevail!" ranting. The bartender nervously scratched her head, she was sure she hadn't given him a single drink.

Orphiel smiled indulgently, "Sachiel, you're tipsy."

"Am not!" he exclaimed, "I'm not hitting anyone, see?"

He broke a chunk of the bar's island.

Castiel merely took the bottle away from the table, "One sniff of the barmaid's apron…"

"We'll pay for the damages, madam," Tzadqiel said.

"Right," she said, glancing at Sachiel in horrified stupor.

"Forgive him," Castiel said, "He's a natural at Drunken Fist, as such, even a sniff of alcohol inebriates him and therefore gives him too much combative energy than is wise."

"You drank fourteen bottles of whiskey," she said slowly, "You're not supposed to say something so eloquent!"

Orphiel slapped some cash for the repairs and started dragging her brothers out, "C'mon you lush, no more happy water for you."

As amusing as it would be, Sachiel destroying the bar in a drunken fit would only bring Zachariah's nosy attention to them.

"He has a point, you know," Castiel took unsteady steps, "Konoha had so many problems because of the old goats who didn't know when it was time to die already. Maybe we should get rid of our own old goats."

"Castiel," Tzadqiel steadied him, "You're drunk."

"So? We're right," Castiel said, "Zachariah's a pest. Michael wants my Dean. Lucifer is bitching about Sam. And now our own father's too lazy to fix his own mistakes."

"If I have to hear another of Michael's "I'm the good son" speeches, I'll hand him over to Lucifer myself," Orphiel conceded.

"What about Gabriel?" Tzadqiel said, "What? I want to leave this place with something resembling a peace of mind. I might not like the planet but I do want you lot safe."

"He's the only smart one in the family," she said, "What makes you think he wants to deal with daddy's new bullshit?"

"Uzumaki Naruto's reincarnation was born in this realm nine months ago."

The younger angels stilled.

"That could work," Orphiel said.

"HOPE! There's still hope. YOSH! I'll find Jiraiya-sama or I'll fly around the Earth fifty times backwards!"

"Try wherever there's free alcohol, sweets, men and women," Castiel said, smiling from ear to ear.

"Sweets?"

"New obsession."

"YOSH!" Sachiel flew off at light speed.

"I'll keep you posted," Orphiel said.

"You're staying?"

"Yeah," she smiled, "Someone's got to plan for a new order without deadbeat dads and traditionalists screwing us over."

Castiel smiled and hugged them. He lingered on Tzadqiel, not knowing when and if he would see him again. Tzadqiel's tender and unyielding royal purple Grace embraced his deteriorating pastel green one like a gentle hug.

He'd miss him. But Neji needed him, had always needed him more than anyone. He wished them the best.

OOO

He hated Zachariah, he really did.

Adam shifted nervously, Castiel's ominous glare took out all the bravado left in him. Somehow, he got the feeling that the angel was more than willing to kill him. Adam wasn't stupid, he knew the only reason he was safe from the delphinium-eyed being was due to his half-brothers.

"You're an imperfect reanimation," Castiel said.

Dean, Sam, and Bobby glanced between the two, unsure how to proceed. Cas was nearing his last rope, and Sam sincerely doubted Dean could stop the usually docile angel from doing something drastic.

"What?" Adam asked.

"Reanimation, a technique angels use on corpses. It heals the body to the point that even a fatal wound is nonexistent. Usually, this technique is used when an angel doesn't have the time to spare in order to find a suitable vessel whose life energy is compatible with the angel's Grace. The angel reanimates a corpse and the body becomes the angel's," Castiel said, his white byakugan eyes perusing Adam up and down. His mind was analyzing and categorizing every glitch he saw.

"However, there are exceptions, such as Dean," he continued, "Where a corpse is reanimated with the intention of bringing a soul back to its original body, therefore bringing it back to life."

Castiel narrowed his eyes. He could see Sam itching to question him about the process, but the tall man kept his peace.

Castiel didn't let himself remember Dean's rotting remains.

Forcefully keeping his manner cool and detached, he continued, "If the reanimation is done for the former purpose, there is no need to involve the departed soul in the reanimation process. The cadaver no longer belongs to the soul that previously inhabited it, therefore, there is no need for permission from anyone to possess it. If so, since the angel possessing the corpse can keep it alive and together with its Grace, there is no need for the reanimation to be perfect. Granted, if the Gates are too open, the angel in question runs the risk of feeling the vessel's pain directly into their Grace."

Castiel looked at Adam's torso, "However, if the reanimation is done for the latter purpose, it has to be done perfectly. The celestial gates, the inner spiritual gates that hold the body and the soul together, must be tightly tethered together. Not to mention that the eight inner gates must be aligned properly, without any of them leaking excessive energy. The reason behind this is because humans, unless if extensively trained in spiritual arts, can't correct these imperfections within their bodies and will inevitably die without correcting them."

Dean's growl reverberated through the living room. Sam's fists clenched and Bobby's breath hitched.

Adam took a moment to process the angel's words, paling but remaining resolute. Michael had chosen him—

"Your Shimon, otherwise known as the Gate of Death, is leaking excessive energy without anything to limit it," Castiel said, forgoing any human boundaries over personal space and traced Adam's heart. "Anyone spiritually aware can tell you've died and that you will die. What that gate does, is to produce mental and physical limiters to protect yourself from death. It is only open during times of extreme duress, the fight or flight system you could say. While it gives you greater strength to combat death, if opened continuously it will destroy the body."

Castiel finger traced down to the middle of Adam's torso and traveled up near where Adam's neck met his body, "Mental defects caused by incessant use are disregard for own life, desperation to complete a goal, inability to feel emotions that would deter the completion of "the last goal" such as regret, and, depending on the amount of energy leaked per minute or the amount of time the Shimon is not tended to, the victim will develop tunnel vision and will do everything humanly possible to complete the "last goal.""

Adam slapped Castiel's hand away, "You're telling me I'm only thinking of becoming Michael's vessel because of some, what, Death Gate in my body?"

Castiel ignored the scoff, stuffing his hands in his trenchcoat pockets, "No, that is incorrect. The desire to become Michael's vessel is yours. You've already been convinced and therefore have made up your mind to fulfill that goal. The opened Gate of Death is simply impeding you from considering other, safer options."

"Dirty bastard," Dean hissed.

Sam concurred his brother with a stormy expression, fingers twitching with the need to garrote Zachariah's slimy neck.

Castiel's hands detached themselves from behind his back, patted Adam's shoulder with more force than was necessary, and then grabbed Dean. He dragged his lover to the panic room.

They had plenty to discuss.

Namely how Castiel did not give up everything, including a chance at peace in another world, just for Dean to lose his will to live.

OOO

He really wished he had killed the bastard when he had the chance.

Maybe then he wouldn't be fighting a garrison of angels with half his Grace at once.

He didn't hesitate to plunge his sword into his former comrade and slashed at another's throat. Didn't have time to mourn.

Another angel attacked. Castiel lunged his sword upwards, blood trailing the swing like a wave. His opponent took the bluff and backpedaled.

"Mikazuki no Mai." His three clones attacked in tandem with the original, all swords angelic in nature, the clones' pilfered from his fallen foes. Five angels died under the Crescent Moon Dance, one lost an arm.

Castiel's eyes widened when a sword sharp tip appeared from his belly. Porosa smiled, smug that she'd managed to kill the traitor, even if the cost was both her vessel's arm and hers. She cried out in pain when "Castiel" turned into thunder and electrocuted her.

When born in a Clan of geniuses, any edge is a matter of survival.

Porosa didn't have the time to recover when Castiel's second clone killed her.

Castiel waited until three angels were close enough before the chakra in the air started cackling. His arms were parallel to the ground, one in front of him and the other facing his back. "Kaiten!"

The miniature tornado that was Castiel threw the garrison back, all of them landing on the concrete walls. It gave him a breather.

Sumimasen, Ino-chan, Lee-kun, Castiel called out his two particular siblings, You'll have to find Jiraiya-sama without me.

Castiel opened his shirt, revealing a gaudy banishment sigil carved on his chest. He bit his thumb, broke the skin, and slammed his hand to his chest.

OOO

"Troublesome doesn't even cut it, kiddo," that annoying voice pounded in his ears.

He was never so glad to hear that pervert.

"Jiraiya-sama?"

"Wow, did I scar you that badly that you won't even admit we're brothers?"

A smack. A groan.

"After all these years, you'd think a guy would get a hug, at least a kiss from his adorable siblings. But no, Orphy has to be mean and hit me!"

"You deserved it, you insensitive jerk."

"See, this is why you've always been the uncute one."

"Er, Gabriel—"

"And you nearly got killed by the overgrown baby back there, rumors of your powers are obviously an exaggeration!"

"Oh shut up, it's not my fault Lucy and Mickey got all the special training and techniques from daddy."

"And you haven't used your Sage powers because?"

"Gabriel, Orphiel, this isn't the time—"

"Right, use my trump card in front of him in a fight I'm not too sure I'll be able to kill him. That's real smart."

"STOP! I order you two cease this YOUTHLESS BEHAVIOR right now!"

"There's no need to shout," Castiel scowled, "What happened?"

His siblings looked at each other.

Gabriel cleared his throat, "Good news or bad news?"

"Did Dean say yes?"

"… Stop looking like a drowned puppy, dammit. Your boy told Michael to go piss up a rope, killed Zach in the process – "He deserves a spot in Heaven for that" – but Johnny's whoops son is now Michael's angel condom."

Castiel sighed in relief. Dean said no. That was all that mattered.

"There's more, isn't there?"

Castiel got himself acquainted with events. As much as the gods dying at Lucifer's hand was a tragic event, it wasn't much of a loss. They weren't really the all powerful primary pagan gods that could create and destroy dimensions with a wave of a hand. They were minor deities that took advantage of realms where certain gods didn't tread and took up powerful names.

Really, how could a god be killed by a simple bloody stake when hunters needed special weapons to do the same to demons?

If that worked on all gods, Gabriel would have done his old man in eons ago.

The good thing was that Castiel's binding seal had become a hit with hunters. Now that it worked in an area instead of in a particular body, Bobby had seen fit to spread word of its use.

Success of demon hunts had gone up by 78 percent.

Hell was starting to feel the loss of some of its heavyweight fighters. Azazel, Alistair, Samhain, Lilith, The Whore… they were dead and the Michael's angels weren't giving Hell an inch.

Of course, when Castiel heard that Sam and Dean were seeking out the Horsemen for their rings and using Crowley for help, injuries or not he wasn't going to stay idle.

"Whoa, there cowboy, easy. You're in no shape to walk, nevermind fight," Gabriel said, "Think, kid, at this point you'll be more of a hindrance than a help."

"Dean, I've got to get to Dean. I need to…" he deflated, nose reaching his knee, "I didn't mean it, I still have faith in him."

"Cas, he was about to say yes to the asshole," Orphiel said, "I'd say the harsh words helped."

"That's right, Castiel. Do you have any idea how many harsh words and fists TenTen-chan's given me for my own good," Sachiel said with a big goofy smile on his face, dreamy eyes gazing at his imaginative version of his very sweet and attentive (snort) wife.

Gabriel coughed, his fist not quite covering his smirk, "Not touching that one."

"If Crowley is aiding us, shouldn't Aziraphale also be present?" Castiel asked.

"Now that you mention it, big brother got a commendation for 'converting' the demon Crawly," Sachiel said.

"Who d'you think's been keeping me up to date in family affairs?" Gabriel smirked.

"Aziraphale!" his siblings cried.

"But he's so, so fussy and he's as much of a do-gooder as Casti and he'd always been a daddy's boy…" Orphiel gapped.

"That was eons ago, Orphy. You didn't think millennia of going native hasn't changed him? Yeesh, you need to crack the sociology books," Gabriel said.

"There have been rumors that he was involved in averting the apocalypse in 1990," Sachiel pointed out.

"And it only took me barely a year's worth of time to change my perspective on… nearly everything, really," Castiel said.

"But Aziraphale?" Orphiel shook her head, "Next thing you're telling me that he's Crowley's lover."

"Well…" Gabriel grinned.

"But they're—" she cut herself off, "Sod this for a lark, if you and the snake pervert could still have that whatever-that-was-about relationship years after his betrayal, I suppose it's not much of a stretch if Aziraphale found comfort in his archenemy."

"Kinda like the civilized version of Sasuke and Naruto," Sachiel said.

"It makes sense," Castiel said slowly, "After all, Crawly was the only constant in Aziraphale's life ever since he was charged with guarding Earth whilst living amongst humans."

Gabriel let out a disappointed huff, "Wow, you guys have really fallen low if a demon/angel pairing isn't that much of a shock."

"You're just disappointed because you didn't shock us, you dirty old codger," Orphiel said.

"Old! Does this body look old to you?" Gabriel spun around and thrusted his face forward, showing a lack of wrinkles, "I'm barely hitting forty, a proper age for a man of my standing wouldn't you say?"

"No matter how you look at it, it screams 'dirty old man with occasional bouts of stupidity.'"

"Aside from playing informant and saving humanity from unwelcome apocalypses," Castiel cut into the argument, "What has Aziraphale been doing?"

"Oh, you know," Gabriel shrugged, "Relaying utterly useless information without informing our feathered siblings of the context or its importance a la Agnes Nutter."

"How so?" Sachiel asked.

Gabriel smirked, "When he was asked where to find the Colt, he told Zach to 'search for the English horse that was roving about with its colt.'"

His siblings all blinked in tandem.

"The English horse?" Sachiel asked.

"What does that have to do with a gun?" Orphiel asked.

Castiel pursed his lips, "Was the horse referring to a car?"

"I didn't know you were good at crossword prophecies."

"How did you know?" Sachiel asked.

"Dean noticed a, how did he put it, 'bitchin' ride' at Crawly's garage," Castiel said, "All I remembered was that he mentioned it being English. Since we now know it was Crawly who helped Daniel Elkins find the Colt in the first place, that was the only logical conclusion I could come up with."

"That's the beauty of it, Casti," Gabriel said, "They're the type of prophecies that make sense only after the event has passed, therefore rendering the information useless."

There was an appreciative pause as the siblings awed over their usually stalwart brother doing something so sneaky.

"He makes a bloody good spy," Orphiel said.

"He's been covering up for Crawly and you," Castiel said.

"Call him Crowley, Casti, he prefers that name," Gabriel said, "But, yeah, Azi's been holding the fort so to speak. And he's been going through his books, you know, trying to find a way to avert this apocalypse."

"He managed to save his books from the fire?" Sachiel asked.

"It was his reward," Gabriel shrugged, "Personally, I think Raphy's scared shitless of what that bibliophile would've done otherwise."

"So the rings…"

"Got the info from Azi."

"At least it's not the sword, the scales and the crown from last time," Orphiel said, "What happened to the horsemen anyway, they're different than last time."

"This time Death's the real deal, it's not Azrael playing a joke; War and Famine got new meat suits since they lost their last ones; and Pollution got his old job as Pestilence back under Lucy's orders," Gabriel said, "What? I told you, Azi's been hitting the books."

"So Crowley's genuine?" Gabriel nodded. That was that.

OOO

It was a shock to actually fight wounded without any of his injuries healing themselves automatically. Castiel's mind called upon the cool pragmatic Hyuuga Kazuki's ANBU training, ignoring the pain and focusing on the demon and the Horseman.

The demon in a nurse's body attacked. Castiel waited for her to come to him, not wanting to waste energy. He sidestepped her lunge and dug his fingers right where her heart was. The nurse flew back from the force of the blow.

Castiel made sure not to waste a single drop of chakra if he could help it.

To Pestilence's surprise, Castiel ignored the fallen demon and attacked the Horseman. Castiel dug his fingers on Pestilence's pressure point, making his arm go numb. He whipped out his old wakizashi and cut off the finger holding the magical ring. Pestilence punched him away, Castiel threw the ring at the brothers and used the blow to perform Kaiten.

His chakra was nearly drained. Castiel spat out blood.

The demon raised her head to escape her vessel but couldn't. Horror filled her eyes as she died. Cause of death: cardiac arrest induced by the closed arteries leading to heart failure due to Castiel's chakra attacking her celestial gate and therefore clogging her arteries. The human authorities would just put on their records that nurse Deidre Cameron mysteriously died of an unprovoked heart attack.

Pestilence laughed from his position in the cracked wall. Delighted at the sight of the coppery red liquid that came from Castiel's mouth. "Doesn't matter. You're too late," he crowed and disappeared.

Castiel collapsed, panting and bleeding. His panicked eyes didn't register the brothers freeing themselves, grabbing the ring, and calling out his name urgently. His chakra was going haywire, messing with his human organs and making it hard to breathe.

Orphiel slammed the door open, showing the sealing sigil previously written by Castiel on it, "Castiel!"

Dean immediately put himself between his angel and the stranger. Sam drew the demon killing knife. "Stay away from him!" Dean snarled.

Orphiel ignored them, "You bogtrodding idiot, you should've let me handle 'em!"

The brothers tensed, looking between Castiel and the voluptuous blonde.

"Alert Lucifer… more angels… pant… our side," Castiel coughed blood.

Sam immediately ran to the angel and tried to ascertain where he was hurt. Dean wanted to turn around and help his lover but he didn't dare turn his back on the new angel, not when she could attack them any time she felt like it.

Orphiel's eyes widened, "Chakra overload."

Castiel managed a nod.

Orphiel looked Dean in the eye, "Do you love him?"

"What?"

"Do you love my brother?" Orphiel pressed, "Because if you do, you'll let me take care of him before his own body kills him."

Dean snarled, "And why should I trust you?"

"Dean," Castiel pleaded.

Sam stared between them, "What's wrong with him?"

Good old Sam, always diplomatic and rational.

"Chakra overload," Orphiel explained hurriedly, "The short of it is what happens when a human being uses too much chakra to the point that they drain their resources. If that happens, the body begins attacking itself in near-fatal ways. If it's not treated, Castiel will die!"

Warily, the brothers looked at Castiel for confirmation. The angel's weak nod didn't put them at ease. Sam and Dean both came to the limited conclusion that they needed this woman to heal Cas, but they weren't going to trust her at all.

Dean stood aside, the gun pointed at her, "Heal him, now."

Orphiel marched over to her brother and her hands glowed a smoky blue, the color of her Grace. Remembering every lesson with Tsunade-sama and every unfortunate experience during the war, Orphiel concentrated on unknotting the coils and reestablishing the natural chakra flow. She might need to transfer some of her own at this point. She ignored her kunoichi self-preservation that screamed at her for weakening herself while in the presence of two strong predators. Castiel needed her and she'll be damned if she loses her brother to something as petty as chakra overload.

She whispered, "Sneak away like this again and I'll kill you myself."

OOO

Crowley cocked an eyebrow, "Well, isn't this a jolly little reunion."

Sam sputtered, "You, but, back then, Lucifer – he—"

Gabriel beamed, "Aw, were you that broken up by my demise? I'm touched!"

"It's not funny, asshole," Dean growled, all of a sudden remembering why the Trickster always got on his nerves, "We thought you were dead!"

Because of us was left unsaid.

"Okay, so maybe that last pleasure tape was a bit overkill," Gabriel mused, "But I wasn't too sure about the outcome so I planned ahead just in case."

Crowley sipped his cognac, not even bothering to feign disinterest. By the gods, he loved the 21st century.

"Just out of curiosity," Crowley drawled, "If you were to use your angel powers along with your sage powers who would win, Lucifer or yourself?"

Sachiel tightened his fists. Orphiel scowled. Castiel didn't look up from Dean's shoulder. Gabriel grinned. The human trio narrowed their eyes.

How did he know that?

"Y'know Crowley, lil' bro won't be happy to know you smooched Bobby," Gabriel smirked.

That's how.

Dean blanched. Sam coughed. Bobby sighed resignedly, "Do I want to know?"

Crowley looked pointedly at Dean, "You didn't honestly think he was the only one bumping uglies with an angel, did you?"

"But you're a demon!" Sam choked, "At least Dean's human."

"So?"

"I'd say the apocalypse is much more important than Crowley's liaisons with Aziraphale," Castiel said, "Or my relationship with Dean for that matter."

"There's a good sport," Crowley beamed, "Finally, someone who doesn't forget we're in the middle of Armageddon."

Sachiel decided to intervene before that blood vessel in Sam's temple finally popped, "Right, what are our orders? Who is going with Crowley to retrieve Death's ring and who is going to neutralize the Croatoan Virus?"

"Well," Gabriel started, "According to Azri—"

"Who?" Sam asked.

"Azrael," Gabriel scowled at the interruption, "You know, Angel of Death? Anyway, before I was rudely interrupted, I was going to say that according Azri, Death's an alright sport. He kinda, he is a he this time right? Anyway, he doesn't feel like destroying the world, especially not if it's, and I quote, "under the orders of a five-year-old with a temper tantrum." He's kinda not impressed at his imprisonment, if you get what I mean."

"See? This is why everyone upstairs wants you back," Orphiel said, "Even Lucifer was never this good of a spy."

"Information gatherer, sis," Gabriel corrected, "Spy is such an ugly word."

"A spy is a spy is a spy is a spy," Sachiel said. His once gullible eyes narrowing playfully.

"So where is Azrael?" Sam asked, "I mean, if he's a buddy of Death's maybe he can help us get the ring."

"Why didn't I think of that before?" Gabriel sarcastically said, "Maybe because Azri and a good deal of other angels said 'fuck it' and flew the coup?"

Dean, Sam, and Bobby stilled, breath halted.

Castiel shifted within Dean's embrace, "Was this because of what Joshua said?"

Sachiel didn't quite manage to hide the guilty look on his face, "Yes. When we – and by we I mean Orphiel, Tzadqiel and myself – protected the Winchesters from Zachariah until Joshua would see them, some of the others got curious and overheard your conversation."

Orphiel nodded, "The general consensus was something along the lines of 'really? We don't have to follow Assariah and we're no longer humanity's slaves? Why didn't anyone say so!'"

"Slaves," Dean demanded, more than just a bit offended.

"Look at it from our perspective," Sachiel said before Orphiel could open her mouth and say something unnecessarily scathing and alienating, "We've been fighting your fights for you for thousands of years. Sometimes, the more powerful demons come out of Hell because humans knowingly help them. There's no reprieve for us and many of our siblings die so that humanity doesn't have to fight the high ranking demons like Samhain or Asmodeus while hunters neutralize the weaker demons. It's a relationship that only benefits humanity and, as we're all immortals, none of us can get any reprieve from this unwanted task."

"Maybe you two didn't get the luxury to choose to become hunters," Orphiel said darkly, "But generally, hunters decide of their own volition to defend their fellow humans."

Sam looked away, guilt in his eyes and mentally berated himself for every derogatory thing he ever thought about angels. Of course they were tired, the drafted soldiers in Vietnam killed their officers because they didn't want to fight in a war they didn't believe in. Why shouldn't the angels also have the right to be tired of this shit?

Dean tightened his grip on Castiel. He nosed Castiel's brow. Cas squeezed his hand, letting him know that it was alright.

Bobby just sighed. Feeling older than his creaky bones felt and younger than a greenhorn all at once.

"Wow," Crowley said, "If even heaven's troops can't be arsed to believe humanity's worth fighting for, it's no wonder we're in the middle of Armageddon."

Gabriel shrugged even as Orphiel and Sachiel filled the room with bloodlust, "What'd you expect? I'm the only one that's done something other than smiting for the past millennia."

Bobby cleared his throat and gained everyone's attention, "Now that we're all done having our collective pity-parties, how 'bout we actually plan what we're gonna do."

Crowley sighed, "That's easy, I'll take Dean and Gabriel to Death and they can parley for the ring. Everyone else can stop that lovely little virus from spreading. Any angels aside from you four still around?"

"What about Iophiel?" Castiel asked.

"She hates this place!" Sachiel said.

"But she doesn't believe in leaving a job halfway done," Castiel said, "She's invested too much time and pain on this planet to let Lucifer destroy it."

"This Earth is the rock to her Sisyphus," Orphiel nodded.

OOO

Dean brooded. His routine consisted of brainstorming, drinking, hunting, drinking, learning the spell to open the gate of Hell, drinking, trying to keep Sammy from even thinking of trying such a fool-ass plan, and did I forget to mention drinking?

"Imbibe anymore alcohol and you won't come up with a safe plan," Castiel breathed into Dean's ear. He took the bottle from Dean and interlaced their fingers, partly in comfort partly to prevent Dean from taking another swing.

Iophiel had gotten a couple of angels to stay and fight. With their help, the Croatoan virus didn't spread even a centimeter away from the medical warehouse. Crisis averted. For now.

"Gabriel is distracting Sam," Castiel whispered, "He thinks that if Sam is too busy evading his pranks, he won't think about sacrificing himself."

Dean snorted, "Good luck with that." He appreciated the archangel's efforts nonetheless.

Dean leaned back into Castiel's embrace, needing the loving security of the angel's arms. Even with his Grace dimmed Cas will always be an angel to him, a source of warmth and safety.

Castiel kissed his neck and rested his cheek and Dean's shoulder.

"What are our chances of cheating Death?"

"None," Cas said.

"Thought so," Dean closed his eyes.

Castiel sighed, "I've been… consulting, shall we say, with my siblings. I had placed a tracking seal on Adam last time we were together. It's small, barely noticeable and we've been monitoring Michael's movements. That's not the only thing I've done to him either… I know he's your brother but I had to assume the worst. I was going to take it out if nothing happened to him."

Dean shifted, looking his love in the eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"While Adam was among us, the walls had ears. And the rest…" he shrugged.

"Yeah."

Castiel rubbed his forehead to Dean's shoulder, "Azrael didn't leave us hanging as you put it. She, Raziel, and Asasiel destroyed Abaddon, Rahab, and Mastema."

"Shit." Those three easily ranked among the most powerful demons down the Pit. They were only a rank bellow Lilith, much like Alastair.

With those three dead, Hell's forces took a damn beating.

"Much as Michael would like to chase after you," Castiel didn't bother to hide his scorn, "He's not so arrogant to pass up on an opportunity to attack Lucifer when he's down."

"'Specially not when he's found an adequate meat-suit, right?" Dean snarled.

Dean leaned back into the comfortable stable chest that he knew would always catch him, no matter what.

"So what you're saying is, we've got time to plan?" Dean verified.

After all, not all angels decided to say fuck it to their old jobs. A good deal of them struck by Michael as if he was the new god. That was probably Metatron's fault, since he decided to cast his lot with the asshole.

"Yes and no," Castiel said, "We could use their fight to our advantage. Maybe even use their respective arrogance against them."

"I'm all ears."

Castiel tightened his grip on Dean. "Adam is not the ideal vessel but, like Nick, he'll do. And despite popular belief, the most arrogant of our eldest brothers has always been Michael. If we make him believe that both of them are on even footing—"

"He'll fight Lucifer without getting Sammy in the middle of it," Dean concluded, "Lucifer's not gonna fall for that."

"True, but if he's too busy fighting Michael, he just might not notice the portal to Hell opening until its too late."

"…That's a little too optimistic, Cas."

"Hope's the last thing humans cling to," Castiel said, "I suppose the same goes for angels."

"You're also forgetting one thing, Cas," Dean said, "Michael's pretty damn adamant that it's his destiny or some other fatalistic crap to kill Lucifer, not send him to the slammer a second time."

"Who said Lucifer would be the only one we're sending to the Pit?"

Dean stilled. Castiel's voice took a ruthless timbre he hadn't heard in a while. It reminded him of when the angel had threatened to throw him back down the Pit, so many years ago.

"This time, if we seal them, they might not come back out," Castiel said, "Finding a demon as powerful, as knowledgeable, as cunning, and, most importantly, as loyal as Lilith is going to be near impossible. At least for the next couple of eons, maybe longer."

Dean nodded. He too couldn't imagine any demon willing to make Lilith's sacrifice.

"So," Dean lifted his hand entwined with Cas' and kissed his angel's fingers, "Here's to crazy plans."

"I'd say Sam's is even crazier with lesser chances of success."

Dean smiled over waxy skin, "That's why Death can't complain."

He just hoped they weren't forced to use Sammy's plan.

OOO

Bela Talbot had always resented Dean Winchester. Everything about him raised her hackles like a particularly vicious cat. How he was dealt with shoddy cards in life, yet never as bad as hers. How he still had enough goodness in him to take care of others, his baby brother in particular. How he had his vices but never allowed them to rule him in the moment of truth. How the bloody tosser even stayed true to his human nature and withstood torture for thirty-effing-years.

If she had been lucky to get such an offer Down Bellow, she would've taken the knife the second she felt the chains on her wrists.

Bela glared at the Winchester brothers from her position inside the devil's trap. She couldn't believe she'd been tricked into the trap like that bogtrodding imbecile Meg, but the idiots had long since stepped up their game.

Dean ignored the glare. Any hint of pity he'd ever felt for her died the second she tried to kill Sam in order to save herself. He carved the binding seal on her flesh, and if he was too rough or enjoyed the sight of her vessel's pixie face twisting in agony, no one had the right to comment on it.

Bela's wide black eyes frantically searched the room for any hint of help. Even Sam's eyes were cold. She cursed Ruby for reinforcing his hatred in all demon kind. She also cursed the former Ava Wilson, her now incompetent commander, for sending her on this suicidal reconnaissance mission.

Bela was convinced Azazel only spawned idiots.

The Colt was useless to their side at this point. Even she was noticing the way that Lucifer eyed his army with disgust.

"Look, boys," Bela started, "You know me, I don't work well with threats. But if you offer me a deal, I'm sure we can come to an understanding."

"Like you did with Gordon?" Dean smirked derisively, "Or Lilith? Or maybe Crowley? Too bad for you, he never expected you to hold your end of the bargain."

Bela hissed, demon eyes flashing in warning.

"It's useless," Sam said, "You're not high up enough to be of any use and we'd trust you as far as we can throw an angel."

So here she was, de-clawed and at their mercy. And to think, demonic strength had been the only pro she'd get in Hell amidst the sea of cons.

"I'm not alone."

"You mean Ava?" Sam gave her an ugly smile, "And Jake, and Anseem, and the rest of your team?"

Fuck.

"They're already dead."

Bela started thrashing, losing her calm like the night when the hellhound's howls reached her ears. Whimpers and pleas fell from her lips and met stone cold faces.

Dean shot her point blank in her third eye.

OOO

The angels now waving Team Freewill flags didn't understand the cold hostility that emanated from Gabriel in turbulent waves whenever he was in the prophet's presence. Even Castiel, who'd been around Chuck the longest of them, didn't see what Gabriel found so distasteful that he was a step away from leaking killing intent.

Even Sam, Dean, and Bobby were starting to notice that Gabriel's smiles around the author were a twitch away from maniacal.

Chuck, however, was oblivious. At least, that's what he projected.

"So," Gabriel said, the night's darkness doing nothing to cover his natural angelic glow, "This is where you've been."

Chuck shrugged, sucking another cold one. He didn't bother to offer Gabriel one, it was inevitable that he would smash Chuck's head in with one. "Only for this century."

"Thought so," Gabriel didn't move from the wall. Even without Jiraiya's former imposing height, he cut an intimidating figure.

"Is that it?" Chuck raised an eyebrow, "You're not going to destroy the room, break my neck, or any other violent reaction?"

"You'd like that, wouldn't you," Gabriel snorted.

"Gabriel," Chuck sadly shook his head, "Lucifer made his choice to defy me and humanity. That's the price of free will."

"Just like you're now choosing to let Lucifer and Michael have at it, damn the consequences," Gabriel said, "That's the price of your free will."

"All a part of the ineffable plan."

"That only works when the one who says it doesn't know the ineffable plan, if there is one."

"There is one," Chuck smiled as though he was privy to a particularly humorous secret.

Gabriel didn't bite.

That was fucking it.

"You remember the Iliad, right?"

"Achilles' wrath," Chuck said, "It's a bit too late for threats, kid. You and I both know you won't leave Uzumaki Naruto's reincarnation at either of your brothers' mercies."

Gabriel chuckled, "Nah, I kinda want to send Mickey and Lucy to Hell. It's a matter of principle, y'know."

He pinned Chuck with a venomous stare. This wasn't a discussion between father and son, creator and creation, or superior and subordinate. Gabriel couldn't care at this point what Chuck could and would do to him. It's been too damn long.

"But as soon as this unpleasant business is over," Gabriel whispered, forcing Chuck to strain his ears in order to properly hear every word, "Consider any bonds between us shattered. Even if you decide to pull a Deus ex Machina at the last minute, we're all leaving you and your ineffable plan."

Chuck stiffened, "You might leave. But they won't."

Gabriel smiled, malicious humor in every pore. "If you say so."

"I created you," Chuck said, "And I am in control of the story, if you'll remember."

Gabriel smirked, "You're not the only author 'round here, dad. The best books are led by the characters, not the author."

"Like your Icha Icha series?"

"Eh, Naruto became a hit a few years before I kicked it," Gabriel smirked.

The next day, when Chuck left to finish his last Supernatural novel, none of the angels followed him for protection.

Dean rubbed his thumb on Castiel's hand, "Wanna tell me why you're so pissed off?"

Castiel exhaled, eyes tightly shut, "It's nothing that will help or hinder us."

"So?"

Castiel looked ahead. Sam was glancing at Gabriel worriedly, the worry changing to outrage when the archangel superglued the hunter to his seat. Orphiel was debating the finer points between death by flora or electricity with Crowley. Sachiel was carrying around a car while doing squats, Bobby trailing amused behind him. Iophiel challenged her garrison to physical spars, no magic or chakra or Grace allowed.

Castiel smiled and kissed Dean. He took out a scroll with his own notes on seals and opened it in front of him. He needed to revise the spell for the upcoming battle, though the words were forever etched into his soul since the first time it was used on him.

"Cas?"

"I'm alright now."

He meant it.

OOO

Chuck stopped drinking when the endgame changed, "Maybe I did go a little too far."

OOO

Lucifer and Michael were at the cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas. Still riding Adam and Nick.

Castiel really wanted to get this over with already.

"You," Lucifer spluttered, "I killed you!"

Gabriel smirked, "See, bro, this is why I'm the Trickster and you're the Devil."

Michael looked down his, Adam's really, nose at Castiel, "Still alive?"

Castiel shrugged, "I've got people to protect."

Michael raised an incredulous eyebrow, "Your Grace is gone, what good are you to them?"

Iophiel groaned, "You still don't get it, even after all these years?"

"Idiot," Orphiel said.

Lucifer ignored them, feeling smug that his brother was still the same idiot with the emotional range of a teaspoon as usual. "You can say yes Sam," Lucifer said, "Michael's not going to bother with Dean."

Sam glared, "Do the words over my dead body mean anything?"

"We can't fight like this," Michael huffed, frustrated, "Lucifer is not in his appropriate vessel."

"Unbelievable," Dean muttered.

"Puh-lease," Gabriel snorted, "Nick and Adam'll do in pinch. Neither of the Winchesters is gonna say yes. So why don't you both kill each other already!"

Michael's eyes flashed, "Watch your tongue, brother."

"Bugger this for a lark," Orphiel grumbled, "Metatron and Beelzebub are already fighting somewhere near the Pacific."

"What?" Lucifer and Michael exclaimed. They finally lost their cool.

Dean smirked, "Funny story. Both of them got summons from both of you. And, well, you know how rowdy things get when the armies of heaven and hell meet up in the same place."

And if they decided, on the highly unlikely event, that they should make peace until their respective leaders are present, Sachiel, Crowley, Bobby and the rest of the rebel angels had no problem giving them reasons to fight.

Michael paled, his lips tightened in anger and he was a step away from smiting Dean. Lucifer grimaced but had an appreciative look in his eyes, almost as if he was applauding them for out-foxing him.

"So," Gabriel clapped his hands, "Now that the distractions are out of the way, can you guys please get that whole epic battle on the way?"

"Do you know what is going to happen?" Michael demanded to Dean and Sam, "Your world's future, Heaven's future, rests on this battle and you're going to let this happen?"

Dean nodded, "Yep."

"Why?" Lucifer asked.

Dean smirked, "I'm not like you, Mike. I'm choosing Sam over everything else."

"Fair enough," Lucifer said, envy coloring in his voice. If only Michael had chosen him.

Michael bristled and stepped in front… only to collapse with scream and a hand grabbing his shoulder.

"Michael!" Lucifer grabbed his fallen brother. He ripped off the shirt sleeve and his eyes widened at the seal on Michael's shoulder. It had an X in the middle and its sides were two straight lines with a hook on the end that was near the X. Michael cried out in pain when Lucifer touched it.

Castiel chanted fast under his breath. Lucifer growled, his hand extended to smite Castiel.

Gabriel counteracted Lucifer's smite, Castiel continued chanting while Michael continued writhing.

It was strange, being the one who used the Caged Bird Seal instead of the receptor. It almost felt like a betrayal. Almost, because then he'd remember all the grief Michael visited upon Dean and Castiel's convictions steeled.

Michael panted, tried to get up but the pain was too much, too tied to the vessel. Because of Adam Milligan's opened Eight Divine Pathways, Michael felt his vessel's pain directly in his Grace. The previously human pain became his.

Michael gasped, pain and realization coming together in that gust of air.

Castiel had further opened Adam's Pathways.

Iophiel sent a snake made of thunder at Lucifer while Orphiel finished her seals, "Dokugiri no Jutsu!"

Lucifer raised a hand and slammed the electricity away. He teleported away from the poisoned mist with Michael, landing a few feet from Team Freewill.

Sam had already lighted the strip of cloth on the bottle's opening when Orphiel finished inhaling and threw the improvised holy oil Molotov at Lucifer.

Dean aimed the Colt and shot Michael.

Neither brother was able to dodge.

Michael dropped to the ground, a bullet wound appearing between his eyes. Lucifer shrieked, the holy fire eating at his Grace like nothing in Hell had ever managed before.

"Doton: Yomi Numa," Gabriel trapped them in his swamp of the underworld. He added his Grace to the swamp, making it impossible for the angels to escape.

Castiel didn't let up on the seal, attacking Michael's Grace now that Adam's chakra coils weren't cushioning the pain.

Sam took out the four rings of the Horsemen and threw them at the swamp. The brothers chanted the words to open the gate of Hell.

"No! Don't do—" Lucifer shrieked when the swamp disappeared and the endless hole to his abyss dragged him down, "Michael!"

Michael screeched, flailing as he fell.

Iophiel and Orphiel flew away. Gabriel grabbed Sam and flew up, Castiel did the same with Dean.

The gate closed. Lucifer was gone. So was Michael.

It was over.

"Next time," Dean said, "Don't let that sonovabitch get out."

OOO

Some caged birds didn't even realize they were in a cage, flying around in circles without the real sky in sight. Others loved their cages so much that the free skies scared them more than death.

Castiel had fooled himself for eons into thinking he was of the former persuasion. But really, he'd been too scared of being hurt by the bars and his captors.

Before Dean, Castiel was a caged. Caged by the Hyuuga. Caged by an uncaring father. Caged by the Host.

Before Dean, Castiel hadn't given himself permission to think for himself, to disobey, to love.

The cage was open, the bars bent out of shape with muddled cuts from a bleeding beak.

The bird was wounded but not broken.

It took flight, leaving behind other resisting birds in their cages, flying away with the lucky flock, separating with a shower of feathers when it chose a different path.

OOO

...Wanted to give Sammy a nice lover, but apparantly I can only juggle so many pairings with the plot. Besides, Dean and Castiel are practically dating as is!

Sorry Sammy. Maybe next time...