AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have to admit, I was waiting for the most recent episode before writing this chapter.

Also, threw in a small reference to 'Buffy, the Vampire Slayer'—one of two shows that remind me of 'Supernatural'.

As for Cas's archangel friend, I had to do a little research for the right angel. Raguel is the angel you'd call for creating harmony and resolving conflicts.

Chapter 5

Castiel came to some hours later, still hearing muffled screams. Slowly, his vision focused and he found himself, not in Hell, but lying on the floor of the operating theater of an abandoned hospital.

"Wakey, wakey, partner," Crowley's smug voice said, brightly. "Thought you were going to sleep all week."

Castiel quickly got to his feet, looking around in amazement. No Hell… no fire… no cage. He was back on Earth. "I'm alive," he muttered under his breath.

"Good for you," Crowley said, wondering what was going on with his partner in crime. "Now maybe you can explain why—instead of us getting Eve to open the door to Purgatory—I now have to do a bloody autopsy to find out what makes her tick!"

"I'm ending our partnership," Castiel said, calmly.

Crowley said nothing for a moment and then laughed. "Good to see you've developed a sense of humor, Cas," he said, going back to work. "Maybe your time with the Winchesters is good for something after all. You know, other than totally screwing up our plans for Heaven and Hell!" But before Crowley could say anything else, he found himself slammed against the wall, the angel's arm pressed against his throat. "Finally," Crowley said, quietly with a twisted smile. "I was wondering when you'd eventually see what you were really doing."

"Our contract is ended," Castiel said, firmly, increasing the pressure against the demon's neck.

"Do you really think it's that simple, Cas?" Crowley asked, looking rather amused. "It's not over. Not by a long shot. You need me to win your war."

"I will find another way," Castiel swore as he backed away from the demon.

But Crowley wasn't about to let the angel off the hook so quickly. "Like what? Your options are almost nonexistent. Your list of friends keeps getting shorter and shorter. You're in even more of a mess than before. How in the world are you going to win without me?" When Castiel looked away, Crowley straightened his suit and sighed. "Face it: You need my help. You've never wanted it, but instead of going to your friends first, you came to me. You've got nothing left. No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away… what's left?"

Castiel could feel the cold sting of the words, the truth they held. Crowley was right, of course. Without the King of Hell's aid the war would be won by Raphael and the apocalypse would be kicked off once more.

But if Castiel had learned anything from the Winchesters it was that all it took was one person to win the battle if they had the courage to stand up.

Gabriel had stood against his brother, knowing the odds were hopeless.

Castiel looked at Crowley, fresh determination and resolve in his eyes as he said, "There's still me."

Leaving the room, the angel found himself in a park nearby. There was still snow on the ground but the crocuses were in full bloom. Sitting on a stone bench, Castiel bowed his head and said, "I can't imagine you're happy with me right now, Father. The things I've done… the people I've hurt… If I could go back and change everything, I would." Looking up toward Heaven, he asked, "What do I do now? Can I stop this? Can I get back all that I've lost?" He could hear the crack in his voice as he asked, "How do I make this right?"

Bowing his head again, he kept up the silent prayer, wondering if it was even reaching God.

"Big shoes to fill, aren't they?"

Castiel looked up and saw a woman standing before him. She wore blue jeans, a mottled brown shirt, and worn sneakers and her blonde hair hung about her shoulders, the faint sunlight almost making it glow like a halo about her head. "Raguel," Castiel said, quietly, watching the archangel sit down next to him and look at the flowers.

"I've always thought that the crocus should be the flower of angels," Raguel said with a smile. "No matter how bad the snow gets, no matter how cold the winter, they come back—fully renewed and welcoming to spring."

"Raphael sent you to kill me?" Castiel asked, not looking at the other angel.

"Raphael's… taken care of," Raguel assured him as she looked over the park. "You're safe."

Even though he wanted to know what that meant, Castiel said nothing. In his mind he wanted to know what happened now, but he also knew that the archangel sitting next to him wasn't really the 'giving orders' type.

"You've left me one hell of a mess to clean up," Raguel went on, looking over at Castiel. "Pardon the expression. But I'm working on settling things between the two factions. Joshua's helping as best he can, but God's not saying much." After a while, she added, "It makes you wonder, doesn't it?" Catching the younger angel's look, she nodded towards the park and clarified, "God. Everything that he has to control. Makes you understand why he never gave angels free will to begin with."

"What happens to me now?" Castiel asked, looking at the world his Father had created.

"You stick with the Winchesters," Raguel replied, simply. "You're still their guardian and you have a lot to atone for." Looking at her brother angel, she added, "But you're on probation. Any more contact with the other side and you will be hunted."

Castiel nodded in understanding and before he could thank Raguel, she was gone.


Winging to Bobby Singer's house, Castiel was disheartened to note that there were numerous Enochian sigils all over the windows. But noticing that some of the angel-proofing was incorrect, he was relieved when he found he could enter the house.

On the couch in the living room, he found Dean asleep and noticed with dismay that the hunter's right arm was in a cast and his left knee was wrapped and propped up on a worn pillow-the results of Castiel's assault earlier the previous day.

"How did you get in here?" Sam asked from a darkened corner.

Castiel turned to look at the younger Winchester before nodding at the windows. "The angel-proofing you put up on the house. You got a few things wrong."

"It's too bad we have to angel-proof in the first place, isn't it?" Sam replied, coldly. "What do you want?"

Castiel wondered if it was even worth coming here when he saw Sam's face, but knowing he had to try, he said, "I was the one who brought you back, Sam. I never meant to leave your soul. But I didn't have a choice."

Sam's fist clenched and only the knowledge that punching the angel would be useless kept him from swinging. "Why are you here?" Sam asked, thinking of the repelling sigil pained on the wall nearby.

"I want to give you… a peace offering," Castiel said, tentatively. When Sam looked reluctant to believe him, he said, "I can reinforce the wall, Sam. It would be impenetrable. You wouldn't have to worry about what might happen."

"Why should I trust you?" Sam asked, doubtfully. After everything the angel had done, how could any of them trust him?

"Because Dean still regards me as a brother," Castiel replied, simply. "Because of all the things I have lost in this war, our friendship is more valuable to me than anything else. You, Dean, and Bobby are the only true family I have."

But Sam didn't want to believe it. Everything in him was screaming that it was a trap. That Castiel was saying whatever he could think of to get back in the Winchesters' good graces. And yet, Sam could see something in Castiel's eyes—even in the dim light—that hadn't been there for a while. It was the strange look of longing that Sam had seen before when the angel first saw the Winchesters together.

"Angels… don't regard family the way you do," Castiel explained after a while. "We believe that too much emotion—too many ties to our fellow angels will…"

"You think you'll become like Lucifer," Sam finished, understanding what the angel meant.

Castiel nodded. "I was wrong, Sam. About everything."

"Cas, you can't just go with one big apology and think everything will be forgiven," Sam said, shortly. "It doesn't work like that." At Castiel's forlorn expression, he added, "Small steps, Cas. Give it time."

Castiel nodded and after being true to form and 'shoring up' the wall in Sam's mind, he did return to Heaven where he handed over the reins—so to speak—to Raguel.

Afterwards, he made frequent trips back and forth to aid the Winchesters and help rebuild Heaven.

He often wondered if God would ever forgive him for what he'd done in the war against Raphael.

But when Castiel thought of the Winchesters and Balthazar, he realized that it didn't matter what God thought.

Castiel's brothers had forgiven him. And that was good enough.