AN: This here marks the first part of my follow-on writings of Tripping (which, yes, you'll have to read that first to understand what the hell's going on). Everything from here on out is going to be AU though I'm planning to borrow bits and pieces from season 6 as you'll see.


Disclaimer: I don't own the boys or show, I'm just bringing 'em back out to play.

If there's one thing Castiel should have learned in all his years it was that peace never lasted. The apocalypse may have been over but life went on and with it came...complication.

It started with a job, as such things with hunters often did – the group's first since recovering Sam and fittingly enough it was the younger Winchester who stumbled across it.

"The staff of what now?"

"Moses," Castiel repeated, frowning down at the tabletop, the coroner's photos before him gory but telling. Blood, boils and plague. Castiel had recognised the signs immediately – recognised, but not understood. He had left the weapons under proverbial lock and key in Heaven; how the staff of Moses had found its way to Earth he had no idea.

But he knew where to start asking questions. Unfortunately.

"Moses... as in 'part-the-seas' Moses?" Sam clarified and Castiel nodded.

Even without looking he could feel the brothers' twin stares of incredulity boring into the top of his head. "I need to make a call," Castiel said, not without distaste.

He could almost hear Dean's frown. "A call to who?"

Castiel looked up then and met Dean's gaze – a gaze he had come to know far more intimately in the past weeks than he'd ever thought possible. He had seen everything in those eyes – annoyance, anger, care, passion... And now Castiel found himself under a painfully familiar worried stare, one he had foolishly wished as Dean lay curled around him in the darkness that he would never have to see again.

But then, Dean was a hunter and Castiel an angel. Two harsh certainties that weren't going to change any time soon.

Castiel sighed. "Raphael," he said heavily. "I need to speak with Raphael."

Things for Team Free Will, as Sam had taken to calling the three of them in his head (not without mild annoyance at Dean for planting it there in the first place), had settled significantly from the chaos of their earlier, apocalyptic lifestyle.

Following the revelation that God had been masquerading as Lisa's next-door neighbour Stu, the three of them had taken the opportunity to bunk down in his newly vacated house. Dean had called it "fringe benefits". Sam called it squatting. Whatever it was though, Sam couldn't deny that the stability was a nice change from the blur of rundown motel rooms that had been their usual fare. The fact that God, for whatever damn reason, had a stupidly well-stocked library and an entertainment system that had Dean drooling all over the living room carpet didn't hurt either.

He and Dean had claimed a room each and Castiel, despite having no need of sleep, had claimed whatever bed Dean was in. And Sam couldn't even try to take Dean's over-acted eye-rolling at that seriously at ALL. He found it… well, almost cute. In an extremely gross sort of way.

The house was large – more than enough to accommodate the three of them and if Dean or Cas had noticed how unusual it was for one man, deity in disguise or not, to own a house capable of accommodating them perfectly then they didn't mention it. Sam, for his part, wasn't going to look a gift library in the mouth.

The days following were some of the best and most awkward in Sam's memory. Dean had made it his mission in life to educate Castiel about science fiction in film, which was endlessly amusing what with Cas's no-nonsense attitude and in-depth understanding of battle techniques. But then Castiel had made it HIS mission to educate himself on how to rip every breathy moan and bitten curse from Dean's lips, something that was never NOT going to turn Sam's stomach no matter how happy for the two of them he was.

But, brotherly horror aside, for a while things were...peaceful.

Of course it didn't last. Not that it was anyone's fault but his own. But really, the case had practically thrown itself at him...

"Raphael?" Dean squeaked incredulously. And Sam might have made fun of him for it but for the look of very real horror on his brother's face. "The same Raphael that tried to smite my ass?"

Ah yes, probably not the best of memories.

Sam caught sight of Castiel's jaw clenching a little at the reminder even as the angel nodded calmly. "He will have assumed a position of power in Heaven," Cas explained. "If anyone knows why the Staff of Moses is on Earth, he will."

Dean huffed and fell into what Sam knew was supposed to look like a casual lean on the bench, but the white-knuckled grip his brother had on the bench-top was a dead giveaway. Sam had never met Raphael but he'd heard stories and, he had to admit, anyone that earned a 'badass motherfucker' from Dean had to be pretty scary.

"So what? We just bring him down here for a friendly little chat?" Dean scoffed. "What's to stop him from taking another swing?"

Cas didn't even look up from the photos spread out on the table. "Me."

It was said simply and without emphasis and yet even Sam felt like taking a step back at the crackle of power that accompanied the word. It was sometimes easy to forget just how terrifying Cas could be nowadays. Then again, most anyone would probably have trouble matching the most badass angel in creation with the guy that let his whatever-the-hell-Dean-was-to-him drool on his shirt when the man fell asleep draped all over him in front of the TV.

Sam looked over to Dean to find his brother waging war with one hell of a blush, the awkwardness all over him as he shifted uncomfortably. It was a good look on him – one that definitely warranted teasing later on. Sam grinned.

Yeah, Cas playing hero to Dean's damsel was just NEVER going to get old. Ever.

Dean cleared his throat with all the composure of a drenched cat. " do we call the dick down?" he asked valiantly. "We need to find his Vessel again or what?"

"No." Cas shook his head, straightening from his perusal of the autopsy photos. "A prayer should suffice."

Sam watched as Dean's eyebrows almost hit his hairline - not that his own were probably much better. "You're going to pray to him?" Sam asked - and yeah, so his voice was a little disbelieving, but seriously?

Then Cas gave him that look - the one that said clearly "you're the stupidest human in creation, why do I even bother". It was the same look Sam had received upon asking about the damn liquor store so many months ago. "I'm an angel," he said. "I am not capable of prayer."

Sam rolled his eyes.

"Then what?" Dean interrupted. "We can't do it – you took us off the airwaves with your little bone-carving trick."

Castiel frowned, obviously thinking. Then his eyes ticked downward to Dean's chest and his head sort of…quirked. Like an artist taking in a painting that needed a different stroke.

Sam didn't blame Dean for his groan in the slightest. "This is gonna hurt, isn't it?"

Dean had done a lot of ridiculous shit in his life, but this? This had to take the cake. Or at least a pretty damn big piece.

"Before I lay me down to sleep, I pray to Raphael to get his douche-y ass down here…"

His chest still ached from Cas's little edit session. A scratch through here and an extra rune there had been all it had taken to put him back on Heaven's radar apparently. Funny how he hadn't even noticed the freakin' things the past year and a half but now that he was back in the limelight he felt weirdly naked.

"Come on Raph, Cas needs to talk to you. Don't be a dick." And then, because Dean was Dean, he cocked his head, eyes still closed as he smirked. "Well, a bigger dick than you already are anyway –"

He was cut off by the sound of wings, louder and somehow more violent than the noise Cas's usually made. Dean didn't even have to open his eyes to know it'd worked. Being met with Raphael's customary glare when he did just sorta made him regret it.

"You pray like a heathen," Raphael growled, glowering. And it was an impressive glower - the type to sink right into Dean's bones and turn his spine to mush. It was an expression that reminded him that, in no uncertain terms, here was a creature that could rip him to pieces at a truly cellular level. Hell, here was a creature that had almost succeeded once.

Dean felt his stomach drop even as the customary smirk took up its rightful place. "I try," he grinned, because yeah, he was nothing if not an instinctual pain in the ass when faced with true fear.

Raphael's eyes sparked a bit in response but the archangel wasn't given a chance to retaliate.

"Raphael," Cas said, voice as stoic as ever but ticking with low warning. Raphael certainly didn't miss it, a sneer pulling at his lips even as he turned his attention very pointedly from Dean.

"You called -" the sneer gained a bit more twist, "- brother."

Dean exchanged a look with Sam, relieved to note he wasn't the only one feeling the tension when his brother shifted awkwardly against the bench. Unfortunately Raphael's eyes flickered to the Sasquatch as he did and the big brother in Dean sat up pretty damn sharply at the look he directed Sam's way. Then Cas tossed the coroner's photos very pointedly onto the table before the archangel, effectively pulling all attention down to them.

Raphael's eyes ticked over the spilled photos for a moment. "Oh, dead humans – how tragic," he dead-panned.

"It's less the 'what' and more the 'how' you should be focusing on," Cas directed, a twitch of his hand rearranging the photos before Raphael into three piles. It was a blatant show of juice that had Dean raising one eyebrow, but Cas either didn't see him or ignored it – gaze hard on Raphael as the archangel bent over the table. It only took a moment.

"Ah," Raphael muttered lowly before straightening. "That's where it got to."

Even Dean couldn't help but grasp the ridiculousness of that particular understatement. "What?" he scoffed. "You left it in your other toga?"

The look Raphael turned on him spoke very clearly of the archangel's wish that he would spontaneously combust. Of course, that seemed to be the douche's natural state of being so Dean couldn't say he was surprised. Didn't stop him from swallowing a bit heavily though – so sue him for having a healthy nervousness around murderous archangels.

"The staff was in Heaven when I left," Cas pressed, drawing Raphael's gaze back. "How is it now inflicting Heavenly death on Earth?"

Dean watched as Raphael seemed to challenge Cas with his silence for a moment before the archangel sighed, low and angry. "The staff was stolen," he admitted grudgingly.

"Heaven was infiltrated?" Cas demanded, a thin note of urgency in his voice. Not that Dean could blame him. If Dean lived in the celestial equivalent of Fort Knox he'd be a little freaked out by a theft as well.

Raphael made a noise somewhere between a snort and a scoff – a sound Dean never would have associated with the archangel under normal circumstances. "Heaven stands as fast as it ever did," he sneered. This only seemed to confuse Cas, whose frown deepened. Upon spying it Raphael's glare got harder – if that was even possible.

"Really." The archangel spat. "What did you expect, brother? You're the one who showed the legion the power of choice."