Castiel had won the war in Heaven, and for the time being there was a tentative peace. After acquiring the weapons of Heaven, defeating Raphael's hordes was done easily and quickly. They folded like a house of cards, not wanting to be killed, and offered to bow down to a leader of Castiel's choosing. Of course the animosity remained, but being calculative and intelligent in the ways of warfare, Raphael's army played submissive to save their asses.
Castiel had thought naively that winning would make things easier. He was wrong. Now everyone was looking to him. He had somehow inherited a throne of authority in Heaven that he was very much uncomfortable with. The more Castiel learned about himself the more he realized he did not like to be the center of attention. He did not like everyone looking to him for the next step. Unlike many of his brethren, Castiel was capable of admitting that he didn't have all the answers. But now that he had defeated Raphael, the other angels looked at him as if he did.
Some of the highest ranking archangels now treated Castiel like a General, a war-hero, the Cesar of Heaven. And Castiel took on the role gracefully, by delegating to those he knew were good, that could be trusted to do the right thing. This was a very human thing to do however, and the archangels were concerned by that. Angels are soldiers of God, they thrive on hierarchy and strict, decisive, certain orders. The archangels became concerned that Castiel's pension for advising his brothers and sisters to essentially 'follow their hearts' was bringing the angels down to the level of humanity. This could not be allowed. They were quick to see that Castiel's behavior was a result of his relationship with the Winchesters, specifically the elder. It was easy to blame Castiel's fondness of Dean for his strange methods of ruling and reasoning, because he often put Dean before the turmoil of Heaven.
It was clear to the high-ranking angels that the relationship between the two could not continue if Castiel was going to rule Heaven. He needed to be able to be ruthless, forceful, and not distracted by Earthly concerns and human emotions. These top angels discussed what was to be done and decided they must end Castiel's distraction for the sake of their, even now, very questionable peace in Heaven Then they decided how it would be done. They sent one of their most authoritative and respected, but softer spoken Archangels to relay their decision to Castiel.
The Archangel looked at his younger brother, who had become more important to Heaven than anyone could have anticipated. "You have a choice, Castiel. Dean Winchester's role is done. Any further fraternization between you two is nothing but a distraction from your true duties. Let us take him home."
"You mean kill him," Castiel responded darkly.
"He will be in Heaven, Castiel. He will finally have peace."
"Peace? He'll be dead."
"Such things did not used to matter to you. He is one human. One man. Your value here is unmeasurable. It is a small price to pay to have your undivided attention."
"Dean has exceeded our every expectation, done everything we asked. And you intend to repay him by cutting his life short."
"His mortal life. He will be forever calmed and comforted in Heaven." The archangel could see that reasoning with Castiel was getting him nowhere, so he dug into his Angelic bag-of-tricks and tried guilting him into it. "You are obligated, Castiel. You owe Heaven and your Father the duty of bringing Heaven back to its former glory. You are obligated to put the good of the Host of Heaven before this one man."
Castiel's heart throbbed for the pull of that obligation to his Father, never wanting to disappoint. But in truth, he'd already made up his mind. It was done. "I am obligated, and yet I can't. I cannot agree to this."
"Whether you are able or not is of no matter. It will be done. You cannot be allowed to muddle your concerns with those of humanity. It will bleed into your role here. It will lessen your strength as a soldier and a leader. We must stay definite and removed from them. I know you care for Dean Winchester. I am sorry. But as I said, it will be done."
Castiel knew from his tone it was true. "You will kill him now, because I am affected by him, and you don't want his effect on me to interfere with Heaven. You will kill him because of me." Castiel said it out loud to clarify for himself; the Archangel let him think. Castiel looked at the Archangel suddenly, straightening his stance, his eyes hard and resolved. "Very well," he said flatly. "I will do it."
"We are willing to do this for you brother. To spare you -"
"No. I will do it myself. I owe him that much. He's going to die because of me."
The Archangel smiled, impressed with the younger angel. "Soon," he demanded. And then he was gone.
In Castiel's heart he knew that he could never kill Dean. In his soul he knew that he felt a loyalty and affection toward him that outweighed that of a soldier to his general. As a result he lied to his general, the Archangel. He would not follow this order. And he knew it wouldn't be long before they realized. He went immediately to the Angels of his garrison, the troops he lead in the war against Raphael, and spoke to those he most trusted. He whispered in a conspiratorial tone of what they were to do, how they were to carry on, in the event that he should no longer be able to lead them. They agreed with fervor to follow his guidance. To always do their best and keep away the selfish corruption that Angels like Zachariah had allowed in Heaven before now. To try not to let fighting be the first instinct and to have mercy on their brothers and sisters and most of all, man.
Then Castiel went to a favorite place of his. It was an isolated edge of the Kingdom of Heaven, where he could focus, and see Dean tuning-up the Impala after it's recent brush with a State Trooper's Patrol Cruiser. Castiel clutched a charm in his hand - something that would allow him to fall and yet still keep his vessel. It would do him no good, he thought, to rocket down to Earth a disembodied soul. His reasons for keeping this vessel were selfish really. The desire to keep Jimmy Novak stemmed from nostalgia and the knowledge that this was the face Dean would know, the form he'd be used to. And Castiel desperately wanted to be known when he crashed down. He wasn't sure if he'd even remember his own name let alone Dean's, but even if he didn't, somehow he felt like everything would be better if he ended up with Dean looking after him.
He breathed deep and clutched the charm, and he fell.
As he rocketed down toward Earth in a blaze, like a comet, he ripped the Grace from his body, which felt like ripping off his own skin and pulling out his own bones one at a time. When he did he felt his wings burn off and flake away as ash. He lost all strength. He vaguely felt himself plummeting and then - - -
Dean was hot in the sun. It was two in the afternoon and the sun was radiating off of all of the twisted metal and glass in Bobby's scrap yard. He was leaning under the hood of the Impala cursing to himself as sweat stung his eyes when suddenly there was a crash that shook the ground and vibrated in the Impala's frame. Dean hit the deck, crouching in front of his car, peering out across the junkyard to see if he could find where the crash had come from. It sounded like a bomb, or like a satellite had fallen out of the sky and landed twenty feet away. But he was Dean Winchester, and he didn't have falling-satellite kind of luck. He had crash-landing-demon kind of luck. There was no way that this explosion was not in some way supernatural. So he grabbed a shotgun from the trunk and headed warily into the maze of wrecked cars to where he could see the mushroom cloud of dust. He noticed one tower of hopeless cars had been crunched down to only a few feet of scrap metal with the force of what hit it. As the dust cleared Dean could make out a figure, laying across the top of this pile and he cocked the rifle, but when the dust cleared he dropped it again, his eyes wide.
It was Castiel, lying there crumpled and unconscious across the hood of the pancaked cars.
Dean rushed over and checked if he was alive, not sure if Angels even had a heartbeat. He had a pulse. "Cas?" he called desperately, praying he'd wake up.
Cas' eyes fluttered open. He blinked several times, adjusting to the light, and then his eyes found Dean and focused on him. "I made it." His voice was barely a rasp but somehow, the tone was light.
"Cas, what the Hell! Are you ok?"
Castiel smiled to himself. He was almost delerious with the realization that he'd succeeded in falling, staying Jimmy, and staying alive - not to mention the heat was getting to him, and the brightness, and the fact that he was in extreme pain. This is what it felt like to have no Grace - sore. He was human. He let out a dizzy chuckle.
"Cas, you're freakin' me out. What happened to you?"
Castiel unclenched the hand that had held the charm, and Dean saw the little gold coin had burned its image into Castiel's palm. He gingerly removed the charm, shoving it in his pocket, and then helped Castiel up. Once standing, Castiel swayed on his feet, having to lean heavily on Dean.
"I made it," Castiel said smiling at Dean.
"You said," Dean said in a sharp tone, demanding an explanation.
"Dean," Cas stared at him, his smile reaching his eyes. Dean was utterly baffled, not only by the circumstances but by the look of Castiel - he looked...different. Something was off. Castiel looked like he was going to say something important so Dean stilled, leaning in to listen... "I think I'm hungry."
That was not what Dean expected. "...What?"
"I've fallen a long way, Dean. It's not unreasonable -"
"Woah! Wait - you 'fell'? You mean like, City of Angels, plummeted to Earth, ripped out your Grace and became mortal kind of 'fell'?"
"Exactly. I am...man."
"Cas - how? - why? Dude! This is the kind of thing you discuss with your friends before you just do it!"
"There was no need for discussion. I wanted it. It had to be done."
"Yes. Dude, indeed."
Castiel wanted to say For you. but he didn't. He simply smiled at Dean and shook his head. "Dean, just help me inside."
"Fine. But don't think you're getting out of explaining this 'cause you're not -"
"Yeah, yeah..." Castiel let out, and it sounded oddly natural.
Dean shook his head and slung Cas' arm over his shoulder, pulling the swaying man along toward the house. "Ten minutes as a human and I'm already catching attitude."
Cas chuckled to himself and Dean smiled at the sound.
Castiel's whole body hurt, he was hungry, his eyes were burning and it was so friggin' hot - but Castiel felt more like himself now than he ever had before. He would have to explain this somehow, have to learn how to be human, and how not to get killed, and probably have to go find his Grace (wherever it landed) just to keep it out of the wrong hands. But somehow, he felt happy. He was finally one of his Father's beloved. He was finally with the person who meant the most to him.
His Grace, for Dean. It was a fair trade.