Dean is sprawled on Bobby's couch, turning the bottle of phoenix ash over in his hands, when Castiel appears.
"Hey, how's..." Castiel waves a hand and Dean's voice disappears. He chokes lamely and mouths 'son of a bitch' as hard as he can, but Castiel barely seems to notice.
"I need you to be silent." He says, as if that explains everything.
Dean fixes his face firmly in a 'what the hell' expression and stands up threateningly. Castiel sighs.
"If I return your voice, do you promise to remain silent until I'm finished?" He says, gravely.
Dean nods and Castiel waves his hand again, apparently restoring whatever he'd taken from him.
There's a long expectant silence. At least on Dean's side it's expectant, Castiel appears to be gathering himself for something.
"I killed an angel today." He begins. Dean looks down at the floor, knowing that the division of heaven is prompting Castiel to fight his own brothers.
"Rachel...you met her." Castiel sighs. And Dean looks up, shocked. "Yes, she was one of my own." Castiel says softly. "I...have committed myself to strategies that some angels...Rachel included, find...objectionable. She tried to force a stop to it and I...couldn't let her."
"I'm using human souls to power the army that supports me." Castiel says, as if he's stating that he ate a sandwich Dean had been saving. "Most of them are bought...some stolen..." he sighs. "Balthazar saved the ship, the Titanic, on my orders – to create more people, more souls, for the war."
Castiel curls his hands into fists and looks down at the table between them. Dean tries to grasp what's happening.
"Are you..." he pauses, expecting a rebuke for speaking, receiving none, he continues. "Are you confessing? To me?"
"I need to tell someone." Castiel says, wearily and with a new edge of despair. "Balthazar...knows, but does not care in the way that I know you do." He swallows and looks up at Dean's eyes, boring down on him. "I need someone with a soul, Dean...someone who knows me."
"For what?" Dean scoffs, angrily slapping his hands down on the back of a chair. "Sounds like you've got everything worked out, squared away all neat like a freaking automaton."
"I don't have the luxury of humanity." Castiel says, his voice so dead that Dean almost believes it, accept...
"Your hands are shaking." He points out, and it's true, Castiel's fists are trembling, he looks paler than he did earlier when he had just yanked them forwards in time.
"Cas, this war..."
"Is over." Castiel concludes.
"You won?" Dean can't keep the surprise from his voice.
"I killed Raphael." He says, "I wouldn't exactly call it winning." He swallows. "Two billion souls, Dean...two billion people...and I feel nothing."
"Not true." Dean growls. "If it was you wouldn't be here, you'd be up there sitting quietly, or whatever angels do to celebrate." The joke falls flat. "What are you here Cas?"
Castiel pauses, then produces his angel sword from with his coat and lays it on the table between them.
"I'd like you to kill me now." He says softly. "Please." He adds, and then looks expectantly at him.
"Because I don't wish to..."
"Yeah, got that part...I thought you didn't feel anything for this? For them?" Dean insists.
"But I remember what it was like, to care about things...personally." Castiel says delicately. "I think I still can, after all you should have been expendable...you should have been beneath my attention during the war, and yet I continued to help you..." He grimaces. "I need you to do this for me now."
"You won." Dean says quietly.
"At the expense of two billion people." Castiel states gravely. "You've killed other monsters for less."
"You're not a monster."
"I hold a great similarity to one." Castiel says, and Dean thinks he detects a slight crack in the other man's voice. "I feel like one."
Dean picks up the sword.
Castiel lets out a short sigh, like he's relieved this is moving forwards.
"No." Dean says, and feels Castiel's sudden edge of desperation.
"No." He repeats. "People die in wars, someone has to make tough decisions..." he's grasping at straws and he knows it. "You saved the world!"
"I...mortgaged it, to save heaven." Castiel spits. "I betrayed angels under my command, soldiers who believed in me..." he pauses, lips pursed in self disgust. "Three years ago...that would have been me, I would have been in Rachel's position...and I would have died for my morality." His eyes crease as he fights to make Dean understand. "My Father, resurrected me, time and again, and I believed it was because I was right in helping you."
"Now I've become like them, like those I fought against, who I thought myself superior to..." he sucks in a breath. "Zachariah, Uriel, Raphael, Anna, Michael...Lucifer..." he flinches at the name. "Please do this, because I cannot..." He shakes his head. "Dean, I cannot...become the Morning Star, I can't tolerate the idea of being known for this...for carrying it with me for the rest of eternity."
Dean weighs the sword in his hand.
"So...don't live for eternity." He says slowly. "Cas...you can fall, Anna did and..."
Castiel looks pained.
"Do you honestly believe I deserve another chance? I've had so many Dean."
"You deserve a shot at life, Cas...not just being let back into the army, given back your damn mission statement." Dean growls, "If you fell, you could be have a family, people who love you...you could grow up and live your life and then die...you'd get to go to heaven, actual heaven, not...boot camp."
Castiel furrows his brow sadly and Dean's surprised to see an extra shine to the angel's eyes.
"We don't know that." Castiel says quietly.
"No one, would send you to hell Cas." Dean tries to reassure him. "And you deserve a chance at this...I'm giving it to you." He says firmly.
Castiel glares at him.
"I mean it Cas...you're better than this." Dean cajoles him.
Castiel doesn't move.
"Close your eyes." Castiel murmurs.
Dean pauses, but does anyway, out of the darkness comes Castiel's voice.
"Don't open them until it's over."
He's about to ask, 'until what's over' when there's suddenly a roaring light that makes his eyelids flare with flesh tinted radiance. Angel screech fills his ears...
And he can hear Castiel screaming.
Screams he remembers from hell, the kind of screams that speak of inhuman torture that will never end because the victim is already dead. Castiel screams like a man who's heart is being eaten from his chest while his eyes are peeled open and his teeth broken off as his body is raped in every conceivable way.
Dean feels hot tears run from his closed eyes and burn away from his skin in the force of Castiel's light.
And then it stops.
"Cas?" he tries, but no answer comes.
He opens his eyes.
Bobby's living room, is gone. The back wall is blown open, shards of wood littering the floor and the furniture half torn apart. Through the gaping wall Dean stares out at the broken ground of Bobby's yard.
A hole in the ground suddenly disgorges ten feet of roaring water, straight up into the air.
Dean, despite the tension of the last half hour, lets out a quiet huff of laughter. Castiel, billion year old virgin, lets loose his grace as a freaking geyser.
Give it ten years and he might find that hilarious.
A hundred miles away, Pastor Ian Gellson is smoking at the bottom of a graveyard, sneaking a few quiet moments to himself after a particularly long and gruelling funeral. A squalling sound disturbs him and he turns to find a wriggling bundle of beige fabric balanced on a tombstone.
He picks up that wriggling baby and looks down at it, a boy, now quiet, and with a face almost entirely taken up by blue eyes.
That morning he and Ellie had received a letter saying they were too old to adopt.
He looks up at the sky, towards a heaven that doesn't really care about him one way or another, and thanks God for the blessing of a son.
A hundred miles away, in the opposite direction to Dean Winchester and an irate Bobby Singer. Charles Shirley, avatar of the lord, closes the book he was reading in the corner of a diner. A waitress brings him his third cup of coffee and he smiles, tipping her with a twenty dollar bill because she's already working overtime and her kid needs braces.
She looks down at the book on the table.
"I love that story." She says quietly, always modest, always pleasant. It's one of the reasons he likes coming here.
"It is a good one." Chuck says, taking his glasses off and setting them to one side.
As the waitress (Mindy) walks away, Chuck looks down at the picture of Moses in the reeds on the cover of his book. He touches his fingers to it and, one hundred miles away, the baby Castiel (shortly to be re-named Moses himself) quietens and begins to suck his thumb.