After the Apocalypse fails to happen, after Dean and Sam Winchester defy all expectations of them and save the world, Castiel sprouts four more wings. As soon as he feels their presence, he recognizes that this is a sign: his Father has changed him, made him into a seraph, and this assigns to him a duty, one that he owes his family. It's just as well. With Sam trapped in the Pit, Dean wants to have a normal life. For all he's done for the world, Dean deserves that, and Castiel can ignore his own feelings to give it to him.

The promotion is not the only difference in his state, but it's the only one that matters to him.

Castiel doesn't even notice that anything else has changed throughout the battles that he wages to put things back in order. For the most part, his true form feels as it always has; the warmth of the Spheres washes over him and his Grace only pulses harder at the clanging sounds of swords, the screams of his brothers and sisters as they lock in battle. He ends this fight for dominance when he defeats Raphael in a duel and, acknowledging his victory, all six of Castiel's wings shiver. He pays them no mind and sets about gathering his council — a Heaven like Michael's, one of bureaucracy with an autocrat on top, will only fall to anarchy and ruin in the end.

At Castiel's left is Raziel, carrying his tome that contains all of history, and at his right sits Camael, his direct superior from his days as a Power. The elder angel turns his steely gaze up to Castiel, and for a moment, Castiel pauses, his own expression bemused at the affection and the paternal pride in Camael's smile. With a beaming grin, Barachiel, the Cupids' representative, leans around Midael and waves. Castiel sighs. He straightens his papers and prepares himself to speak...

Then, he feels the jerk around his middle that's always preceded a jaunt down to Earth, and as he falls, Castiel can't help thinking that he should've expected this. Good things haven't lasted very long since the Winchesters entered his life. Castiel closes his eyes and starts counting down until he should hit the ground, but instead of reincorporating as he'd done before, he hits ground so hard it knocks him out.

And as his consciousness fades, he's vaguely aware that whatever this is cannot be good.

Castiel comes to courtesy of a glass of cold water splashing on his face. He groans, finds sitting too uncomfortable; he winces as a sharp pain shoots through his head, and for some reason, the sudden movement makes him feel like throwing up would be the best solution for everything. He doesn't complain, or even vocalize this, just slumps back into a more comfortable position. Really, he'd be content to rest propped up on his elbows, but, instead, someone yanks him up by the collar of his trenchcoat and hugs him from behind. He need only hear the incoherent whimpers and blubbering to identify it as Barachiel. Comforting him seems an option for a moment. Castiel even raises a hand to pat his arm... and then he glances at his own lap.

First of all, someone has decided to unbutton his shirt for him, which Castiel would worry about if not for two things: 1. the only boundaries Barachiel doesn't respect are the ones involving hugs, and 2. of everything about the sight that greets him, that is the least shocking. When he last took on his human body, Castiel had red, angry scars carved across a slender torso with a subtle musculature. Furrowing his brow, Castiel still sees the scars — they've faded to a more passive-aggressive purple shade, and moreover, something has distended his abdomen, enough to get noticed, enough that his trousers seem uncomfortable, and enough that Castiel does not appreciate it. Nothing else has changed, but the bump protruding from his middle confuses and frustrates Castiel like only Dean can do otherwise.

"Barachiel," he sighs. "Return Home and find Suriel. Don't come back without her. I appear to have contracted some demonic infection." This would, he thinks, explain perfectly why he got dragged to Earth. Anything demonic can't stay in Heaven, and it's probably a miracle that he made it up there at all. But, no matter — Suriel can put him right. Due to her appointed position as the angel of healing, she knows everything about every possible affliction and how to cure them. When all Barachiel does is whine, Castiel snaps, "Now."

"But..." Barachiel starts, with a whine. "But it's not that, brother, and... you must've felt it, right?"

"Felt what?"

Barachiel's hold on Castiel's shoulders tightens and he makes the noise that usually precedes his crying jags. He buries his face in Castiel's neck and starts going off again: "But it's a part of you, and him, and it's made out of love — I saw it as soon as you came back to Heaven, and just... I know it's not supposed to be kicking or anything yet, but how could you possibly not notice it—"

"Notice what?" Nothing about the way that his voice sounds sits well with Castiel — maybe it's how his syllables quiver, or how something seems to have settled quite firmly in the pit of his stomach, or how some indescribable sensation has started gnawing at his nerves, an anxiety that says he knows exactly what he's about to hear, but there's still the feeling of being smacked upside the head when Barachiel squeals:

"The baby, silly! ...The nephil."

Having never been in a crashing car, Castiel cannot say what it feels like, but the reaction he has to this news, he thinks, must be similar: a chill rushes through him, his head feels like he's being held underwater — alive and not in danger, because angels don't need to breathe — but still out of its natural environment and surrounded by a world that's speeding by while he's stuck moving at a glacial pace. Wrenching out of Barachiel's hold, he lurches forward. He doesn't pick up the wastebasket's presence, or question who put it there, until he's finished vomiting in it, pale, shaking, and staring up into the face of Haniel's vessel. It's a symmetrical face, with full lips and a halo of dark curls surrounding it. She wears a modest, light blue dress that hits just above her knees.

"Sister," Castiel says, "what in our Father's name is wrong with me?"

She blinks, and gives him a furrowed brow. "Castiel..." Her voice is sweet, but hesitant. "Don't you see? It's a miracle." He shakes his head, still puzzled. Her gaze locks onto his. "You're pregnant, brother."

The phrase, "Son of a bitch," falls off Castiel's tongue so easily that he almost considers blaming the half of Dean currently borrowing him as an incubator.

In retrospect, Castiel always thinks that he should have seen Dean Winchester coming. The problem with thinking like this, he knows, is that no prophecy could have predicted all of what Dean Winchester is, or what he'd do to Castiel.

They fell into a union, of sorts, almost as easy as breathing. It started that night after the brothel, before they summoned Raphael, and then several times afterward. Through everything, all the times their lips met or they rutted against each other in a desperate search for something real, both of them insisted that it didn't mean anything. Dean started it, by pointing out, "It was just sex, Cas." Castiel agreed, and came to toss in his own explanations: "Love is different for angels. We don't fall victim to it due to repeat sexual encounters. Don't be afraid; this changes nothing about our relationship, Dean."

And, finally, before they ventured toward Detroit, they had one last, desperate tumble in the bed at Bobby's that Dean claimed as his own. He led Castiel up the stairs, yanking on the sleeve of his trenchcoat, leaving his demands unspoken because, maybe Castiel couldn't peer into Dean's mind anymore, but he didn't need to, not tonight. What Dean wanted — what both of them needed — made itself evident in every line on his face and in the slamming of the door.

Dean kissed Castiel with a ferocity that the angel hadn't expected, yanking him over by the lapels of his trench-coat and shoving their mouths into one another as though the space between them was a poison — his teeth grated on Castiel's lower lip, gently at first and then harder, demanding that Castiel do something back. The message came through, and Castiel didn't hesitate: he snaked his hands down Dean's sides, rested them briefly on Dean's hips, and had Dean's belt on the floor before either of them really noticed anything. As Dean had pulled him over, Castiel jerked Dean into himself, grinding into him. Thigh knocked into thigh as both men tried to slide a leg between the other's, but still Dean managed to get Castiel's coat on the floor and found that his jeans soon joined it.

Castiel pulled away from the kiss for long enough to yank off Dean's t-shirt; he started undoing his own tie and buttons, but Dean took over, and Castiel's clothes joined the growing heap on the floor. Dean put one hand on Castiel's jaw, the other at the back of the angel's neck, and the kiss he bestowed on his Cas came softly, sweetly, like a whisper on skin. Nothing about it seemed wrong, but it was still not-entirely-right enough that Castiel had to find some way to change the encounter — he trailed his palm up the scars and muscles of Dean's arm, relished the warmth of Dean's skin… and finally, he found the burn mark on Dean's shoulder.

It was still brilliant red, even after all the time that had passed — and, insofar as Castiel knew, it would always have that bloody, violent color. Castiel drummed his fingers on the scar, all over the raised skin with its tender, sensitive nerve endings — he let his hand ghost over its imprint and as he worked, he could hear the reactions it elicited from Dean. Here, he rested his whole palm over the marking and Dean gasped, sighed, smiled against Castiel's cheek without kissing him. There, he gripped onto Dean just as he had when pulling him out of Hell, and Dean moaned — a deep, thick, guttural noise, darkened with lust and with longing. A soft kiss met Castiel's ear, and Dean muttered — "God, Cas, it's always — why'd you have to do things like that? ...Don't you know what you do to me? ...Where'd an angel learn to treat a man like that?"

Castiel smirked, and leaned in to steal a long kiss; he started slowly, brushing his lips against Dean's with precision and delicacy, as though the Righteous Man might break beneath his efforts. He ran his tongue along Dean's teeth, clenched the scar that much harder in his hold, let his tongue and Dean's fight against each other; he kissed Dean until both of their knees started wobbling and Castiel felt his lungs writhe around from lack of air. That sensation was new — and Castiel jerked away, panting. As his breath returned to him, he dragged his finger down the whole length of it and Dean gasped, knotting up his fingers in Castiel's hair, tugging as though this would bring him some kind of relief.

(It didn't, but it did make Castiel moan. The strange union between pleasure and pain still made no sense to him, that night, but he let it go without a question.)

Their congress that night didn't feel any different than any previous encounters: they hit the mattress and tussled with each other; they knew each other intimately, knew the relief and distraction from the pressing Armageddon, and even in the afterglow, even with Dean's arm around his waist and Dean's breath against the back of his neck, Castiel knew that this would probably be their last time together. He slept against Dean's chest, and, after his revival, didn't think before returning Home.

The homestead Haniel and Barachiel have procured is comfortable, Castiel can say that. Leaning his head against the wall, he sits on the sill and just listens to his sister going over the precautions that they'll need to take in order to see that the nephil successfully completes its gestation and gets its chance at life. Even with the civil war having ended, the Spheres have been chaotic and Castiel supposes that he can't begrudge his siblings any happiness they can find. According to his siblings, prematurely ridding himself of the thing is entirely out of the question, and neither of them will let Castiel forget that he's sharing his body with a miracle.

"This sort of thing, brother," Haniel explains, fussing around the kitchen with their Father only knows what, setting about cooking, from the sounds of clanging pans. "Now, I don't want you to think that I'm exaggerating — I know, you know, Barachiel knows... all of us, we all know that I am more than capable of doing so—"

"You once raised an alarum because Gabriel taught Cain and Abel how to throw rocks at sheep," Castiel says. He does not look up, instead watching the utter lack of activity in the backyard. Idly, his hand drops to the bulge at his waist. Aside from the protrusion, his skin doesn't feel any differently beneath his fingers — maybe warmer. It makes sense enough; his contribution to the child was most likely Grace in place of genetic material. Mostly, he wishes that Barachiel would hurry back from wherever it is he's gone to get some so-called maternity clothes.

"And I was right to do it, wasn't I?" she protests. Although her true voice lacks the flaws of her vessel's, Castiel likes listening to her speaking now. She sounds tightly-wound, but, then, she always has, and there's a quality of hope and mourning to this voice that reminds him of some of the slower songs in Dean's cassette collection — like the tape of Billie Holiday's greatest hits that they listened to while driving up to Maine. "Of course, by the time anybody bothered doing anything, Cain'd already smote his brother dead, and it could have been prevented, but did anybody want to listen to me? No."

"It was our Father's will that Cain kill Abel," Castiel points out.

"Not the point!" Haniel snaps and cracks eggs into her pan; they sizzle, and the smell hits Castiel upside the head. Odd… he's been around eggs before and they've never smelled quite so pungent. "My point is, Castiel: there hasn't been a nephil conceived since Azazel and his garrison impregnated human women — and you know how that turned out—"

"It is rather difficult to forget being trapped in holy oil and taunted by Belial—"

"Which goes without saying that you are the first — and I mean, the absolute first angel to carry one of the nephilim—"

"Which apparently ignores the fact that I identify with the masculine elements of our Father's aspects."

At this, Haniel slams her spatula into the counter and shakes her head. The curls bounce around her neck and graze her shoulders, and though she doesn't look his way, Castiel can feel the growing frustration that radiates off her. He knows that he shouldn't smile — irritating his siblings does nothing to promote peace or unity or any vague sense of organization, and it's possibly a show that he doesn't deserve to be in charge of the Heavenly Host (perhaps Camael can simply take over; someone needs to do so, considering Castiel's temporary exile) — but even so, the heat of her annoyance brings a little grin to the corners of his lips. It even requires concentration to bring his face back to a neutral expression. Sighing, Castiel rests his palm over his belly and splays his fingers over where he assumes the child is developing — and without meaning to, he loses himself in the thought of what it might be like when it's born. He loses himself in Dean's jaw, his own blue eyes, Mary Winchester's lips, and different permutations of features, and Haniel's presence slips his mind entirely.

"I swear," she mutters after a lengthy silence, "you Powers are so infuriatingly single-minded." Castiel points out that the modus operandi of his choir is seeing the tasks completed where others might be too incapable of handling them. "It's not about getting jobs done, Castiel; it's about looking outside of your little... sphere of efficiency. I mean, if you would bother talking to Lailahel outside of full family functions or matters of business, you would know that he's written a text on the nature of angelic pregnancies and you would know that gender isn't a factor."

Castiel rolls his eyes and begs her to, please, indulge him with an explanation of how in the ever-expansive mind of God this business works and why he's apparently carrying Dean's child. Picking her spatula up again, she goes on: "It's not a matter of sex or gender identity; we don't have the former—"

"I know that—"

"Shut up. ...Anyway, we don't have it, and since gender identity is subjective, any angel can get pregnant, given the right circumstances. Usually, it only happens with other angels, because usually, we have some insane cultural aversion to taking on vessels—"

Nodding, he interjects, "It is rather jarring to become corporeal after so long spent as a multidimensional wavelength of divine—"

"As I was saying..." She narrows her eyes, glares at him. The egg smell hits him again, joined by the scent of frying bacon, and, for a moment, Castiel thinks that he might vomit again; he manages to swallow the impetus in time to hear the rest of her information: "Obviously, one means of creating a nephil is forcing one's Grace on a human woman, like Azazel and his group did, but those children come out wrong — demons." She prods at the eggs, and thoughtfully flicks her wrist, adding in chopped vegetables and cheese. Castiel has a suspicion that this is not how Haniel should be making her concoction, but he can't tell. It could just be that he hates how the onions and the peppers smell.

"What normally happens is... see, when an angel and its partner form a bond, sooner or later, they experience a deep feeling of love, which places us in a state to communewith our partners — with other angels, our Graces intermingle, and... it was only ever a theory, based on Belial's generation, but with a human partner, we should contribute Grace and they should contribute genetic material, and now, with you and the Michael Sword—"

"I can't be pregnant," Castiel insists, as soon as the thought crosses his mind, without hesitating. Haniel shoots him A Look, one that's inscrutable beyond her narrowed eyes, and he forces himself to sit up straighter on the sill. "It would require love, sister, and Dean and I... we were not in love."

"You were in love enough to procreate." She huffs and frowns at him, scoops her handiwork onto a plate and lets it drop onto the table. "Come on. You need to eat."

As he relocates, a rush of wings echoes through the kitchen. Castiel wrinkles his nose, and glances from the plate of breakfast foods to Barachiel, standing in the doorway with several bags of shopping. Turning his gaze up to Haniel, he says, "Aside from my encounter with Famine, I've never needed to eat before. And then it wasn't that I needed to eat, there was simply a compulsion—"

She rolls her eyes and tosses a fork his way; Castiel catches it without any effort on his part. Hazarding to insert himself into the conversation, Barachiel says, "Well, brother, you've... never really had a half-human depending on you for sustenance before. …Would it be easier for you if we called Dean?" Castiel's knuckles go white as he clenches his fingers on the implement, and Barachiel just barely manages to duck out of the way as it goes whizzing by. He whimpers, "It was just a suggestion…"

Haniel glares as she goes to help their brother back to his feet. Castiel grimaces. "Just... don't make it again." In response to the perfectly reasonable point that Dean is half-responsible for the nephil's creation, too, Castiel responds: "Yes, and he's having a life now. A normal one, with the mother of his other child." This time, he doesn't notice his hand falling to his stomach. "Angels aren't normal — and certainly not nephilim."

Looking up to his siblings, he whispers, "Leave Dean alone. I can handle this, and he doesn't need it."

Routine is something that comes naturally to angels, and Castiel finds one with his siblings without much effort. He sleeps at night, on a comfortable mattress that he has entirely to himself, and he can only fly short distances, because much of his Grace goes into feeding the unborn thing, the miracle baby. Exhaustion happens too easily for his liking. Every morning, and at different intervals during the day, Haniel makes him eat, and he inevitably makes that process difficult for her with some complaint or other. It's not that she's a bad cook, she isn't... but food is a very inconvenient thing. The only positive thing Castiel can say is that much of the food ends up with the nephil.

At Haniel's insistence, he goes for walks with Barachiel, who spends much of the time complaining about how pants are confining and unnatural, how nudity isn't anything but the way their Father made everyone, and how people can be so close-minded about everything. Castiel is simply thankful that their temporary home doesn't have that many neighbors; there are fewer people to notice the odd goings on and comment on them. Even with the physical activity, the "bump," as Barachiel calls it, continues growing, and Castiel has to wonder if the rate at which it does so is normal. The rest of his human body doesn't change, and whenever he brings up his concerns, Haniel points out that the nephil couldn't grow properly with him in Heaven and that it needs to compensate.

"Besides," she keeps reminding him, "you're the first one of us this is happening to — we don't have any accurate previous samples to judge from, and it'd probably just be different for every angel anyway."

It takes three weeks for this routine to change, and when it does, Castiel wakes up to shouting. It makes him jolt out of an otherwise sound slumber, and he spends a moment rubbing his eyes before he manages to make out bits and pieces of the conversation:

"Dean, I know you're upset, but..." Haniel's voice strains to get at that volume; her vessel, Castiel thinks, was built for intimate conversations and not for screaming matches, especially not with an irate Winchester. Silently, Castiel curses his siblings for their audacity. "...Castiel didn't want us to get you, but he doesn't trust anybody else, okay? We had to—"

"At least don't be mad at Haniel," Barachiel chimes in. Castiel imagines him trying to hug Dean, only to get set alight with holy oil, and sighs when his brother continues his ridiculously noble display: "I went and got you, and—"

"And I don't give a damn if Lisa threw my ass out and I was sleeping in the Impala!" Castiel sits up straight; the muscles in his back stiffen — thoughts rush through his mind of things that he should have done... checked in on Dean, for one thing, or looked into ways of making his swollen middle look less ridiculous. Dean's voice keeps him from thinking too long: "Listen, birthday suit, you can't just zap me over here at six AM and tell me I can't see him!"

"He's resting—"

"And you're fucking around the house with no clothes on instead of carving your little... whatever sigils on people's hearts! Let me see Cas!"

Castiel closes his eyes and tries to still his breathing. His hand drops to his belly. Even feeling the warmth beneath his palm, he trembles. He counts off the footsteps as they echo down the corridor, Haniel's soft, rushed gait and the heavy falls of Dean's boots — unwittingly, he cradles the curve of his stomach, brushes the tips of his fingers underneath the hem of his t-shirt, then up and down his soft skin. The door slams against the wall, but as quickly as it opened, Haniel pulls it shut and skitters back down the hall.

Castiel doesn't look up, only mutters, "Dean, I—"

Dean takes him by the arm and jerks him to standing. The sky outside starts purpling, and their mouths collide; Castiel could swear that he feels an electric charge between their lips. He runs his along Dean's, grazes his teeth along Dean's lower lip as though they'd never separated. Although he'd never admit it aloud, Castiel feels relief warming him throughout his body at this contact, heat reaching places that he didn't realize felt cold until Dean had come close to him again. Every motion of their lips brings another wave of comfort, contentment, and Castiel's content to keep this up until Dean pulls back. Dean's hand slides to where Castiel's was before; the calluses on his palm rub right over where Castiel suspects the nephil is.

"Cas," he whispers. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Castiel leans into Dean, knocking his nose against his hunter's. "It's complicated," he says. "And I'm unfortunately quite tired—"

"Oh, I feel you on that. FYI, I'm castrating whoever taught Cupid to use a computer to track a cellphone—"

For the first time since the nephil dragged him back to Earth, Castiel's grin is genuine, and its source is more the hand that cups his jaw than the thought of violence befalling his siblings. "I would not begrudge you that." He sighs. "I'll explain everything after we sleep, and then you can decide... whether or not you wish to stay."

Dean slips his hand onto the back of Castiel's neck, gives him a longer, slower kiss. "Cas..." He twines his fingers up into Castiel's hair. "If you can only believe one thing, believe this..." He presses his fingers into Castiel's belly. "I am not going to leave you to deal with this alone."