Castiel wasn't used to running. Not long distances, and definitely not in his long coat. He waited for the material to catch around his legs, tripping him, entangling him, possibly landing him flat on his face. Instead, the coat flapped behind him like angel's wings but did nothing to urge his flight on. His shoes smacked the pavement uncomfortably. He couldn't transport himself from one spot to another in any other fashion. It was no longer an option to him. He had to run, and he had to run fast.

Dean was just behind him, huffing loudly, launching himself forward as though the hellhounds were once again on his tail. His face was strained, his arms pumping like pistons. His legs were churning beneath him, nearly a blur. And yet Castiel seemed to outdistance him with little more than a casual stride, though the stride taxed him.

Sam was standing on the corner in the distance. Castiel saw a long arm flagging them down, but they sped right past him. Only then did Castiel allow himself to pitch forward, his arms wind-milling wildly, his gait slowing. He braced his hands on his knees and doubled over. Dean collapsed beside him and lay on his back, right in the middle of the abandoned midnight road. Sam merely sauntered over to them with a mild smirk on his face, tucking his fingers into denim pockets.

"Score one for Team God," Dean forced out between harsh breaths. "Next time I wear the coat. I swear you're hiding something underneath it. Some sort of heavenly jet-pack."

"So I'm not a - punk-nosed ass-wiping angel-wannabe?" Castiel wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and frowned as he recalled Dean's exact words.

"You may not be angelic anymore, but you sure as hell can run. I'll give you that." Dean rolled over and pushed to his knees. "They say when a bell chimes an angel gains his wings. What the hell had to chime to make you lose yours? Not that I think you've lost them. They probably just transferred to your damn shoes."

Castiel felt his nostrils dilate as he tried to control his breathing. He straightened, aware of the odd pops in his back that hadn't been there before. "Hell does not have a doorbell. Therefore, no chimes."

Dean looked up at him. "You know, Pan's a flute player. Maybe he hit a wrong note."

"Pan's not from Hell, Dean," Sam corrected.

"Oh, come on. He's got those little horns and hooves and everything."

"So do goats."

"And you're going to try and convince me they're not from hell?" Dean stood, arching his back, then clapped Castiel on the shoulder. "I lost , so looks like drinks are on me."

Castiel was confused, but knew Dean wouldn't bother to explain. Instead, the older Winchester pointed to the Impala parked half a block away, and signaled with a crooked finger for them to follow.

"I see no point to this running," Castiel muttered as the three walked alongside each other.

Dean turned and blinked at him in astonishment. "Cas! Did you just complain about something?"

The former angel didn't want to admit it. He put a hand to his lower back. "I'm experiencing a strange sensation, just here."

"Yeah. It's called getting older. I say it's about time you felt your age. Just how old are you, anyway?"

Castiel thought about it. "To which calendar are you referring?"

Dean stared. "Just get in the damn car," he said, jerking at the door without looking at it.

Castiel conceded.

The truth was, he knew why Dean was making him run. He might be human now, but that didn't quite make him a fool.

Unlike Anna, becoming human didn't strip him of his heavenly knowledge. He could remember it all, and it was slowly driving him crazy. He didn't know how these empty vessels survived. "We just do," Dean had answered once, when questioned.

"But to lose that heavenly glory," Castiel pressed. "To know what it was, and to not have it - how do you cope with the pain?"

Dean's reply had been stern. "Okay, Cas. Let me spell this out for you. What you've experienced, I've never had. I just take your word for it. There's no halos or harps for me. There's been hell. Oh, there's been a lot of hell, both up here and in the pit. So don't question me about what I know, or how I cope, because I really don't think you want to go there." The Winchester glare was in full force, and for the first time Castiel felt himself backing down. Dean couldn't understand, and he couldn't make him understand. It was stupid of him to think he could.

He wished he could. Even as a renegade angel, he never felt alone. Now, he was utterly alone.

Anna had come to him one time only, a physically painful vision, making him wonder how he'd originally appeared to Dean. But she was beautiful and she'd smiled at him sadly, not saying a word as she slowly vanished. It was only an acknowledgment of his idiocy. That was when he found himself was sitting on a curb, rain pissing down cold on his body, and all he could do was reach toward something that was forever lost to him. It had been a goodbye to his old life. A goodbye to the Angel Castiel.

That was the hardest part. They'd tossed him away, abandoned him. Kicked him out of the halo club, as Dean would say, these beings that he worshipped and fought alongside. His brethren. So much for infinite compassion.

It was funny, what these humans thought angels should be. Countless times he would walk past a store front window and see pictures or small statuettes of cherubs, little fats kids holding golden harps and wrapped in windblown sashes. "Why do humans need something to cuddle?" he'd griped at Sam during one of their long walks. If only they knew what the cherubim really looked like, he thought to himself, and what they really represented. These humans wouldn't be so keen to idolize them.

"I think we need a way to identify with things we don't understand," Sam said, after giving the question some thought. He'd been walking with his head down, listening to whatever the disgruntled former angel had to say. "Heaven and hell, angels, good and bad, it's all too big for us. We have to sort of…" he paused.

"Dumb it down?" Castiel offered.

Sam grinned. "Nice one, Cas. Yeah, something like that."

It made sense, but it was demeaning in the extreme. Much like the "training" he was undergoing, the running and fighting, though he proved time and time again that he was physically as fit as the Winchesters. Maybe a touch off-balance.

But he wasn't invincible, and that was a hard lesson. Especially when it wasn't an angel that kicked his ass.


How did the Winchesters discover he was human? It wasn't through a radiant blast of ethereal light, or a self-sacrificing tearing of his wings. They'd found him beaten and bloody, laying in a back alley behind a convenience store.

There had been three men. Thugs, Sam had called them, cradling Castiel's broken head in his lap. They had jumped him and demanded his wallet, which of course he didn't own. They pummeled him into the spiny gravel. As an angel, he had been expected to watch over humans. Now, this wonderful sample of humanity tormented him, kicking him in the gut, spitting in his face, punching him in the jaw and slamming his head against the rough asphalt over and over again. His last thought before he passed out was, he was glad he was human now, just like these bastards. The revenge he sought would be sweet in coming.

He vaguely remembered being found by the brothers, hearing the confusion and panic in their joined voices as they poked at him like meat in a store, checking for injuries. They only had to look at him to see he was hurt! Sam held him, and Dean questioned him, his face carved in stone, his eyes bright with worry. It set off yet another unfamiliar feeling inside him, but one he liked. It was worth laying there for a moment more just to see the concern on their faces. Then he realized with a shocking jolt that he had no choice but to lay there. His new, injured body wouldn't let him do any different.


"Cas, do you still have faith?" Sam asked him several weeks later.

"That isn't a fair question," Castiel said. He was studying his hands. He'd taken no notice of them before. The lines were infinite, yet he knew they would last just a few years. Fingernails reflected the light above him. He could bend the knuckles and feel the stretch of skin, and wondered if that was normal.

"Sure it is," Sam countered, leaning forward in his chair and resting his elbows on his knees. His dark eyes were probing, half-hidden by floppy hair.

Castiel gave it some thought. "Do you still believe in your father? Even with everything the two of you have been through? Do you still believe what you were told, what you know?" Thumbs were odd things. He flexed them.

The question stilled Sam. "He's dead. You know that."

"Yes." Castiel raised his head and met Sam's gaze evenly. "But, do you still believe in him?"

"That's different. I've seen him. I knew him. He….he's my dad."

"And so for that reason alone, you have faith in him?"

"It's obvious that he exists. Or - did. "

"That didn't answer the question."

"I've seen him. I've touched him. Have you seen God?"

"No." Castiel glanced upwards. "But something gave birth to me. And some high power put me here, like this." He spread his hands, his fingers. "So do I have faith? Yes." The dark head shook ruefully. "But it does not mean I approve of his actions."

Sam said nothing. Castiel continued to study his hands.


The angels were coming after Dean and Sam, and he could only watch.

As a once powerful being, the sudden feeling of utter helplessness was overwhelming to him. These weren't even angels of the higher caste; they were lower forms, no more than orderlies, mere black-winged soldiers sent out to dispatch and clear the way for the coming troops. They were pawns, shovels. One choked Sam by the neck, while the other held a livid Dean by his upper arms as he strained to get to his brother. Castiel was laying on the ground on his stomach, slowly recovering from an unearthly bolt of energy that should have, by all rights, killed him. The third angel stood over him, looking like he was ready to deal a heavy boot to his back if he so much as moved. The angel choking Sam slowly raised him off the ground, so his lanky legs dangled over the dirt, his scuffed boots kicking in panic. It made Castiel realize just how huge these pawns were, to be able to hoist the grown man into the air like that. Sam was no guppy. Dean fought with everything he had, but was pressed down to his knees, his arms held tight behind him. The words he spat out were venomous, but no one cared. What was venom to a demon, or an angel? They were one in the same.

Sam's eyed widened as his fingers wrapped desperately around the hands holding him, prying at the long grip that crushed his windpipe. The familiar eyes then darkened, the grimace of pain widened, and suddenly the angel's hands were flung off of him. Sam landed hard on the ground in a quick puff of dust.

The angel pawn looked stunned, but instantly came back for Sam. Sam flung out his hand, yelling a word that Castiel had never heard before, one that stopped the angel in his tracks. Sam's hand stayed up, his expression intense and frightening. The angel fought against an invisible barrier. Castiel tried to sit up, and could only watch in wonder.

The two that held Dean suddenly released him and he fell forward, then quickly pushed to his knees, his face contorted in fear at what Sam was doing. Castiel felt the angel who hovered over him take a step back. Sam yelled another incomprehensible word, and all four angels flocked away in a distorted flurry of black wings and shrieks.

The three men stared at each other, breathing heavily. No one asked if the other was okay, because they weren't.


Sam's odd ability grew exponentially as their battles continued over the next several days.

"We lose our angel mojo, and gain some strange demon mojo. Nice. That'll improve our standings with the higher ups. Now there's definitely no question as to whose side we're on." Dean shoved Sam in the back. They were suffering from yet another confrontation, beaten and bloodied but not down, though exhaustion was weighing heavily on the three of them.

It seemed Sam's power was a double curse. They knew he could exorcise demons. And now, he could do the same to angels. After saving Castiel's ass, again, by riding the celestial beings of their powers, they fled the scene.

They'd been fighting for days. The Impala was lost to them. It was sitting on the ground far behind them, crushed like a can, squashed between the two powers.

It had been a nightmare, even for Castiel. They'd started out in the car, just pulling up to the barren field. Dean had barely had time to yell out "son of a BITCH!" before he was caught in the crossfire, watching as the top of the car dented in over his head. Castiel was crawling out of the back window and had turned to tug at Sam's tall frame as he forced himself out through the passenger side. Only when the car had been crushed to a height of fifteen inches did they know if Dean was safe, and that was when they saw his shocked face over the flattened metal.

Castiel had instantly focused his rage on the angels, only to be tossed helplessly aside, as usual. He landed with an enraged yell and punched at the ground before climbing to his feet. The angel facing him sneered and lunged for him, receiving a painful blow in his stomach which doubled him over, but not for long. Castiel was quickly on his back, the angel on top of him, hands at his throat, his airway constricted. He'd torn at the hands, seeing Dean laying near him in the same predicament, seeing him going limp under the attack.

Sam came alive in that moment, not with the righteousness of a brother seeing his sibling hurt, but with the full rage of justice. These weren't angels in his mind, they were aligned with the demons. And he treated them as such.

Castiel had never heard such screams. The angel holding him down suddenly threw his head back and erupted into ethereal flame before the empty shell collapsed on top of him. He quickly shoved it off and watched as Sam's face seemed to grow and expand before his eyes into something ugly, something that should never reveal itself on a human.

Now, as they fled the scene, the linger thought in his mind was - maybe they should be fleeing Sam.


It led to a much needed heated discussion that night as they sat under the stars, each one nursing their hurts.

Sam was playing doctor, and it annoyed Castiel. He winced and shoved Sam away. In turn, Sam just yanked Castiel's arm back around. "Hold still."

"That stuff hurts me." He tried to snatch away the tube of antiseptic.

"It stings, you mean. Welcome to our world."

"I don't like your world," Castiel groused, snatching again.

"Then why the hell were you trying to defend it?" Dean asked grumpily. His wrist was bandaged. He wouldn't let Sam care for the wound on his head.

"I honestly don't know." Castiel studied the gash in his upper arm before Sam could slap a white bandage on it. "I have to ask myself, is it worth it?"

There was no answer for a moment, prompting Castiel to look up. "Thanks for that," Dean snapped at him. "You know, you can always go back to - oh wait! You can't, can you? You're stuck here with the rest of us peons. So how does it feel, huh?" His sneer was ugly.

"This isn't funny," Castiel muttered.

"Oh, listen to mister comedy central, here! It's not funny! Here's a newsflash, buddy. If you hadn't pissed them off we wouldn't be in this mess!"

Castiel bristled. "They were pissed off before what happened to me, or don't you remember? Does Hell ring a bell, Dean?"

Dean smirked. "Hell's bells. So now you're a poet. Nice."

Castiel shook his head in frustration. "My situation makes no difference to what is happening."

"Oh, don't underestimate yourself, Cas!" Dean insisted sarcastically. "Sure it does! " Dean leaned over him. "You know why it makes a difference? Because before, we had some sort of defense against these assholes! Now what do we have? Huh? A crushed car! MY crushed car!"

"Forget your car," Castiel practically growled. "There's much more at stake."

"Which you can't do anything about! So don't tell me your situation makes no difference!" Dean rounded on Sam. "But you, suddenly you're out there emptying angel cans!"

"Dean. . ."

"You promised me! You promised, Sam! And you broke that promise. But wait, it gets better! Because you promised again, and now look at you!"

"I promised once. I never promised you again."

"Exactly. - What?"

Sam looked up from bandaging Castiel's arm. "Dean, I never said I wouldn't do what was necessary."

Dean sputtered. "Oh, so this is necessary?"

"Do you see Cas doing anything to help?"

"I do believe I'm still sitting here," Castiel said in irritation. He couldn't understand why they were suddenly talking around him. And they continued, ignoring his comment.

Sam stood and faced his brother. "What do you want from me? Do you want me to make this go away? Or do you want to bail? There's no running from this, Dean. Not now."

"Don't I know it," Dean muttered, but Sam stopped him by grabbing his arm.

"No, you don't! Don't turn from me. You have no idea what this is like for me! Are you going to become Lucifer's vessel?"

Dean jabbed a finger at him. "No, and you're not either!"

"But I will if he has his way about it! And who's going to stop it? Cas? You? You want me to sit around and do nothing because I might go all dark side? I'll go all dark side if I don't, Dean! So what the hell do you want from me?"

Dean's eyes darkened. "You son of a bitch."

"Answer me!"

"I want things like they used to be, okay?"

"Like what? Hunting bad things? Isn't that what we're doing?"

Dean flung out his hands. "It wasn't this big before, Sam!"

"And you can't handle it," Castiel filled in. He met Dean's angered expression with an equally enraged one. "Admit it. You've told me once before that this was too big for you. Now it's become much larger than anything you've ever imagined. Of course you want to run. It wouldn't surprise me if you threw me to the wolves, and your brother as well, so you could leave."

The comment stunned Dean. "What the hell, Cas? That's not true."

"Then prove it!" Castiel insisted. "Stop your whining about how it isn't fair, and do something about it!"

"What am I supposed to do?" Dean yelled.

Castiel rose slowly. "For one, you can stop blaming everyone for every bad thing that's happening. Shit happens, Dean. It always has, it always will. Get over it. I'm not much help right now. I know that. But I'm still trying. Are you?" He saw that his words stung. He stood beside Sam, both making a barrier which had the sole purpose of getting through to Dean. "You can help us. Your brother needs you, now more than ever. And as loathe as I am to admit it," he rolled his eyes at the sky, "I am in need of assistance. We can't do this individually. It has to be all of us. Together."

Dean stepped forward, his body language screaming the tension he felt. "I thought we were doing this together. But when Sam holds something back like this - power, what am I supposed to think? Huh?"

"You did exactly what he expected you to do. I can see why he chose to keep this ability to himself." He noticed a stressed look cross Sam's face, and wondered at it. "Rather than figuring out this ability, you are demeaning it as a burden, because you don't understand it. You're not trying, Dean. Not remotely. This is what we have to work with. So work with it."

Dean's hands were on his hips, his gaze on the ground before him. He was silent for several moments. When he spoke, his voice was low. "Tell me this, Cas. Do you remember losing your abilities?"


Dean looked up. "Ever wonder how it happened?"

Castiel swallowed. Of course he wondered. There wasn't a time when he didn't wonder, question, curse . . . "God - was angry with me. Somehow I've dissatisfied him."

"Uh-huh." Dean took a single step closer to him, his head cocked in a particular tell-tale way which warned Castiel that a point was coming, something he wouldn't like. "It's funny how this happened right about the time Sam discovered these powers, isn't it?"

The sentence stopped Castiel cold. He realized he had to consciously take a breath. It was an unnerving feeling. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying I think Sam knows more than he's letting on. I'm saying it's quite a coincidence that he can rip apart these angels, when you've lost your own power. I wonder who he practiced on? I wonder what Ruby managed to convince him to do? I wonder what he's kept from you, and just how understanding you'll be then."

Sam stared silently at his brother. His chest was rose and fell heavily with each breath.

It was unthinkable, yet it made sense. Castiel looked at Sam, really looked at him. "What did you do?" he asked calmly.

"Nothing," Sam denied, glaring at Dean.

Castiel stared at him, studied him, noticing the way Sam held himself like a coiled spring. "I don't believe you."

Sam glanced at him, then let his head drop. His shoulders curled in a admission of guilt that took Castiel's breath away. He had to turn away from the brothers to compose himself. "You took my power from me," he said stiffly. "You stripped me of everything I knew. Just like that."

"Cas, I'm so sorry," Sam whispered.

"You put me here, made me like this." He looked down at his upturned palms. "You did this to me. I wasn't wrong. . ." He turned back, seeing Dean now standing beside his brother. The realization that he wasn't being punished, that he was a victim, sunk in deeply. It seeped into his scars. "I didn't do anything wrong! I didn't do anything to deserve this."

"See? Now who's placing blame?" Dean asked. "Hey, at least you didn't die."

"In this case, the blame is deserved!" Castiel eyebrow raised. He was surprised by depth of his own anger, and he relished in it.

"Oh, I see. He could keep this ability it from me, and I should understand. But he used it on you, and suddenly you're questioning it?"

"He changed me!" Castiel flung out his hands. "He changed the essence of who I am!"

"The essence of who you are? You were a heavenly being living in a dead man!" Dean yelled. "What sort of essence is that?"

Castiel stared at his upturned palms, then shook his human hands at them. "It was a heavenly essence!"

Dean burst into laughter. "Sounds like a freakin' perfume! 'Heavenly Essence'. I gotta tell you, Cas for such heavenly essence you smell like shit! How are you keeping that body alive, anyway? If you're human, now. Oh, right! Jimmy's dead. So, if the original spirit died, does the body decompose faster? You know since you don't have the heavenly energy to keep it going?"

Enough was enough. "You mock me," Castiel said in a low voice that caught Dean's attention. "And you mock God. I'll neither tolerate it nor listen to it." He gazed at his hands once more. "You're right. I can do nothing for you. You're on your own, both of you." He turned away.

"Where are you going?" Sam asked softly.

"I don't know." He eyed them both over his shoulder. "At this rate I can just as easily fight this battle on my own."

"Don't be ridiculous, Cas," Sam sighed.

Castiel spun. "Ridiculous? How? I'm tired of your questions. I'm tired of fielding your doubts. What you both need is a hard dose of reality. Thanks to you both, I've had mine." He glared at Sam. "Now, I'm going to leave you and - fix myself. Without interference." He turned on his heel, and walked. It never occurred to him to ask Sam why he did this to Castiel, when other angels were around to "practice" on.

"I thought you said we needed to stick together!" Dean yelled out, but Castiel kept walking.


It wasn't as easy as it should have been. He slept wherever he lay, be it on a park bench, under a tree, or in a bed of a hotel room that had been neglected and therefore was easy to enter. And he prayed. He prayed, and for the first time felt the frustration that humans did when their prayers went unheeded. Not that he'd spoken directly with God before, but there had been word from him through others. News, a message, something. Now, there was nothing but silence. He didn't know what to do with that silence. It made no sense to him. If his Father created all this, if he wanted all of this defended, why didn't he take part?

It was like the fishbowl he'd stared at one afternoon. The fish inside merely gazed back. It couldn't comprehend this huge being staring in at him, even when food was provided. It just knew it had sustenance. The fish didn't understand where this sustenance came from, that there was an intelligent being providing it. These humans, they were fish in a bowl, forever looking out but unable to make sense of the greater power looking in on them, providing them with sustenance. Now he could understand that view, and marveled at humanity's ability to maintain their faith with no real guidance other than devout belief in a book which had been manipulated, and was more wrong than right.

And Sam? Innocent, naïve Sam? Sam had done this to him? He had stripped Castiel of his angelic power? What did he think he would do, strip Lucifer of his? It was a thought that took Castiel aback, and made him blink in surprise. He suddenly wondered if it were possible. Sam was killing angels left and right, Lucifer's own brood, but could he take on the king of Hell himself? Such power would be needed, and it was power that Sam could get a hold of. But it would change him.

It would change him. Castiel held his human hands to his face, and decided in the best possible, vindictive, human terms that what was good for the goose…..

He was in a motel room. He had no idea where. Everything swam around him, all fuzzy around the edges. Different. He didn't know how long he'd been there.

Ruby smirked at him, gloating. Her arms were folded across her chest, her raven hair falling starkly around her oval face. She was pleasant in human form, pleasant as he now saw her. "You said before that Sam was bad. But you! I had no idea."

"We never talked." Castiel's words sounded slurred to his ears. He was confused by the woman in front of him.

"Are you sure we're taking now?" She smiled. "Recreational drugs. Is this how you talk to God these days?"

"I - do what is necessary to open my mind to the possibility." Since God wasn't answering him.

She knelt before him. "And where is your mind these days? You said Heaven doesn't want you. Hell doesn't need you. You're useless. That's why you're doing this."

His eyes fixated on her blurred image. "Sam needs more blood. But I need to know what it'll do to him."

She stood and looked down at him. "Why are you asking me this? Are so you high that you've lost control of your faculties?" She was frowning.


"Do you care?"

"If it means killing Lucifer, no. I don't care."

Eyes widened. "Lucifer." She snorted, then continued in a bored tone, "They won't like you anymore."

Castiel's brows raised in irony. "They don't like me now."

"So you're not doing this out of friendship."

"Of course not."

"This is for a God you can't see, can't feel, and who has abandoned you to your own fate."

He sought out the hallucination as it faded in and out of view. "This is what's right."

"By who's design?" Ruby leaned over his chair and plucked the small white stick from his fingers. She took a long drag, held her breath then slowly exhaled, and coughed. "Look, my hour's about up. When's this role play end?"

Castiel frowned. "What?"

Ruby Reinhold stood, jutting out one hip. "You're too fucking metaphysical and religious for me. I just wanted to get high." She took another puff and shook out her hair. "Either way, I hope you found your answers, Cas - whatever your name is. I won't charge you since you brought the drugs, even if you do need to find the business side of a man's ass. Obviously the ladies don't do it for you." She leaned over him, her breast inches from his mouth. "Take my advice. I'll keep the joint. You go find you a sugar daddy, and get laid." The prostitute ran a finger over his jawline and left the room in a tilted flourish.

Castiel let his drug-hazed stare linger on the door.


He had to dose Sam up. Somehow.

He watched them for several days. They had a rental car, a model that wasn't familiar to him. Not that he knew much about cars, but the Impala was distinctive. Or had been. Either way, they were easy to find thanks to Anna, who had taken pity on him. She claimed it was her last favor, but he was willing to bet it wouldn't be. Not with the little sidewise glance she gave him, almost cheeky in a heavenly way. He knew about the sex between her and Dean, and found himself wondering if the raven-haired girl was right, that he needed a good lay. He shoved the thought away and cursed his humanness. Not that angels never had desires, right? Well, it wasn't the same. He'd noticed an uncomfortable…burning…when he saw Anna. An urge he didn't appreciate, and one he wasn't sure he could ignore.

The brothers were in another cheap motel. Castiel knew funds were low, but the cheap motel motif was redundant. If anyone wanted to find the Winchesters, they only needed to know the city then aim for the lowest, rat-bagged place on the map. With their combined ingenuity, conning their way into a more elaborate cover should have been standard practice.

They didn't leave the room. Food was delivered in. Castiel walked around the parking lot of a gas station about half a mile down the flat road, his eyes on the car in the distance. He stayed and paced until the owner of the convenience store ran him off. So he pulled up in the motel lot and slumped down in the car, and waited.

Learning to drive the car had been an experience in itself. Anna hadn't been very helpful, telling him what she thought she saw people do from time to time. It took a few angelic interventions to keep the car on the road. She finally left him, saying she didn't wish to witness his demise. He understood. It was by the grace of the unseen God that he made it to his destination, and he wasn't eager to try again. He could've been a bloody mass on the side of the road.

His head jerked up.

That was it.


The next evening the bait was set, and the trap worked. But the punch that laid him out was surprising. It shouldn't have been, but it was getting harder for Castiel to see these things coming.

"What the hell did you do?" Dean was livid, standing over him. Sam was drenched in blood. His face was crimson. He was unconscious.

"I did nothing. He was protecting me." A half-truth, something that was becoming easier for him. It had been easy to get Sam's attention in the desperate state he was in. Sam, being the compassionate one, agreed to meet him to talk. When he walked in on a group of demons holding Castiel prisoner. . .

"You just happened to walk in on a bunch of demons?" Dean propped Sam's head in his lap, patted his cheek, checked him for injuries.

"I didn't know."

"You're a liar!"

Yes, Castiel thought. Congratulations. The strings are cut. I'm now completely human.

Dean was still looking at him. "You did this to him. You led him here, didn't you?"

The former angel propped himself up on one elbow. "You're very perceptive, Dean."


"We need him. Like this."

"Like what? A monster? You know what this stuff does to him?"


"You - stupid, arrogant son of a bitch! He's my brother! Where do you get off? Are you that pissed that he took your wings?" Castiel pushed himself to a seated position and watched as Dean carefully manipulated his brother's limbs, raking his fingers through the unruly hair. The expression changed to relief, then disgust when he realized the blood that covered Sam's face wasn't his. He stood slowly. Castiel watched as he took a few steps backwards before steely eyes found his.

"Yes." Castiel spoke the truth. "And it's good for humanity. Now he can fight properly."

"Don't give me that. There is no good for humanity." His eyes were drunk with anger. "You know that ultimately, we just care about getting what we want."

"Yes," Castiel agreed.


Sam was killing angels, and loving every minute of it.

Or that's how it seemed. Castiel lifted a limp body and jerked it over to a pile of more limp bodies while Dean tried to talk Sam down from his wild state of mind. He was becoming harder to control, harder to pull back. Castiel could see the fear in Sam's eyes when he snapped back into himself. More and more he saw Sam's need to return to the powerful being who was single-handedly bringing the whole apocalypse to a pause. He didn't want to come back. And it was killing him.

Dean could only watch. Castiel half-expected him to run sobbing into a corner and wring his hands, but he stood fast alongside Sam, using whatever useless weapon he had at hand until Sam could save him from the angel's grip. Or the demon's grip. Castiel was near useless as well in his human state, and could sympathize. But he couldn't really understand the torment Dean was experiencing. He could only watch as the brothers fought side by side, and yet were ripped away from each other. Dean would physically catch Sam after each battle, easing him to the ground, wiping his sweaty hair back from his forehead and talking to him, urging him to hang in there.

Months later Sam was unrecognizable, and Dean had stopped talking. During one of their final battles, Castiel left them. For good.

He could no longer watch what he'd done.

At least the beach was calm. He would sit and wait for the end. He would have his answer in a matter of minutes, all of his answers. Sand puckered between his curled toes. The surf stopped. The world was suddenly silent, like his prayers.

and then. . . .