Disclaimer: Not making any profit off the characters and no, I don't own them.

A/N: Um. Well, aside from thanking c00kie(28) for betaing this for me, (thanks again!) I've got nothing to add. Please enjoy :)!

Former Things

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." –Revelation 21:4

Something is wrong, here. Castiel can sense it, even as he feels the urge to be worshipped, to protect those who will bow to him. Even as he feels the power that soars in him, feels the strength and the desires of every soul he has collected. He knows it is wrong, knows that this is not what he wants, not really. What he wants is to be accepted, for once, by someone he considers his family. What he wants is to let it end, now that he has finally stopped the Apocalypse once and for all. What he wants is to have his brothers back. What he wants is his life with Dean and Sam and Bobby.

What is he asking for? Love and idolization are so very different than what he truly yearns for. He would never ask that. He would never insinuate that he is God, that he is a better Father than the one that he has called to countless times, that he calls to even now.

Father, stop me. I have become that which must be destroyed. Father…please.

He sees Dean's fear and disbelief, can feel it like a weight in the seat of his core, where his Grace has become something more and still remains rotted and scarred. How long has he been this way? How long has his Grace been so ill? How could he do the things that he has done to get to this point?

He knows that he has been steeling himself for this for months, that he took precious moments to strengthen his resolve after Balthazar fell under the weight of his blade.

Oh, Balthazar.

He wishes that it would stop hurting. He wishes he could just end it. What he once was and what he has become, they seem to be separate entities and are both warring for dominance within his essence.

For a moment, he sees himself letting go and there is peace and tranquility. There is divine wrath raining upon those who would dare to defy him. There is his name, the name that his Father gave him, and it is no more—it is lost to him. There is Dean, and Sam, and Bobby and yet—and yet they are not individual. They are all fragments of a whole, the Host that he will now govern.

"Cas—this isn't you. Please."

The Cas catches hold of what he was and he sees the humans he has claimed to be his kin have fallen to their knees. Good that they bow to me now, lest I have to destroy them.

No. They aren't bowing—he is forcing them down. The gravity of his power is holding them to the ground, where they belong.

When have I ever asked Dean for more than simply his attention?

Dean…

Dean.

Dean!

He feels the souls rising up, feels their power swell within him. They're unstable, angry, violent. He struggles against it, barely notices as Dean is able to struggle up to his feet as he himself collapses to his knees, gripping the angel sword in hand. It will no longer kill him, but maybe…maybe if he…

I just want this to be over. I just want this to end.

It no longer matters how.

He wills what he can of the old him, the Cas he remembers but cannot properly cling to, to use the energies swirling inside him. He pulls at pieces of himself, all of it coming undone. When the sharp tip of the blade pierces his flesh, he feels it so intensely that he chokes on a sob. When it tears along his vessel's chest, he gasps and vibrates apart. The light within him, the power and the souls, they all start to bleed bleed bleed away.

"Cas! Stop! What the hell are you doing?"

Saving us. Saving us all, Dean. I'm doing what I must, what I should have already done.

He is no longer righteous. He is no longer faithful. He has no place as the angel he once was, and he certainly does not deserve what he has become. It is beyond him. He simply desires Cas again. No more Castiel. No more worry, responsibility. No more death.

The souls are leaking away, leaving him pooled on the floor of the compound only inches away from where his brother had fallen hours ago. He shivers, sobs, and comes undone. The pain is tremendous, it is shattering. It is the end of everything he has done, everything he has come to represent.

He is sorry. He regrets what he has had to do, the choices he has made. He is so sorry for it all. He realizes he is speaking, repeating the words in a broken litany.

"Please forgive me, I'm so sorry, so very sorry, forgive me…"

The blade is tugged from his hand at the same time as the souls slip back through the cracks in the universe he's opened. He is tugged at, cradled against something warm and strong. He is held, rocked like something precious. Something he no longer can be. Something that has broken.

"C'mon, Cas. Stay with me. We'll fix this, just hang on…"

He can't—he can't do this. He can't hang on. Something is about to pull away from him—something that is the last of everything he is. He shoves, pushes away from the warmth as firmly as he can. He falls when he breaks free of it, scuttles away from it because he knows he is trying to save it.

"Cl-close your eyes," he rasps, one final warning before the light within fills to bursting and rupturing and spilling through the air like a wild, captured thing fleeing its confinement. There is a din on the air, hanging and lingering there while what he was comes to the same end as what he is. The light burns incandescent like a star, then fades back to darkness.

He fades with it and succumbs to the pitch black.


Dean stares in bewilderment at the thing that Castiel has become. The twisted joker's smile, the impassive eyes make up a being so unfamiliar that it unsettles him deep inside to see it wrapped in Castiel's skin. He tries to talk Castiel down, tries to convince him to let the nukes go back where they came from. He fails, sees Castiel look down his nose at the idea of giving this power up.

Dean wonders how they're going to gank Cas and hates himself for the thought.

Castiel demands that they bow to him. They refuse, Dean going so far as to say, "Cas—this isn't you. Please." Castiel says that if they will not bow he'll make them. And then his eyes glow bright and he releases a fraction of the power he's obtained. It brings Dean smacking to the floor on hands and knees. He feels he may break under the weight of it. He wonders how long Castiel can hold himself together under all this, thinking privately that Castiel never seemed the type to want something like this. It feels terrible, it feels bitter and angry and lost. Dean wants Castiel to let it go, and so he struggles to look up, to beg Castiel to see him again.

For an instant, those blue eyes catch his and latch on. He sees something in them, something that swirls like doubt. Something not calm, not this God-creature that Castiel has created. It reminds him of before, when he first asked Castiel to help him and to rebel against the rest of Heaven. Just you and me and Sam and Bobby against the world, Cas. He hopes desperately that Castiel remembers that.

Castiel's eyes widen and he begins to quiver. His body burns bright, so bright that Dean has to shade his vision with his hand in order to keep watching. He fights his way to his feet, startled to see Castiel stumble to the ground like he's hurt.

His astonishment grows when he sees Castiel take up the angel sword he'd discarded after removing it from his own back. He takes a tremulous step toward Castiel, wondering what the former angel is about to do. When he sees Castiel pierce his own flesh with the tip of the blade, Dean freezes. He stares in morbid fascination for an instant as Castiel drags the sword downward, splitting himself open from clavicle to belly. Then Dean freaks out, rushing forward.

"Cas! Stop! What the hell are you doing?"

He moves forward and works to pry the sword from Castiel's clutch as Castiel slumps to the floor in a trembling, sobbing heap. To Dean's eyes, it seems the very edges of Castiel's foundation begin to glow and fray almost as if ready to rip free of the slight confines of his vessel. Castiel's lips are moving, forming over words that are barely a whisper of breath—Dean hears them anyway. "Please forgive me, I'm so sorry, so very sorry, forgive me…"

Dean manages to pull the silver blade free from Castiel's hand as the glowing seams of the angel brighten. He grapples with Castiel, grabbing up fistfuls of trench coat to haul the angel into his lap. He winds his arms around Castiel and holds him tight, as if Castiel will slip through his fingers if he relaxes his grip at all. Castiel murmurs around a soft cry, and Dean clenches his eyes closed against an overwhelming wave of emotion.

He knows that Bobby and Sam are nearby but he can't call out to them, can't offer them anything in the way of comfort. His whole focus is drawn to Castiel. Castiel, who is keening low and pained in his arms like a child. Sweet Castiel, who has always given so much and to whom Dean has offered nothing. He's furious at Castiel, still piqued with feelings betrayal and hurt. But under all those feelings, he remembers what it's like to feel safe and content with the angel. He remembers the affection he's never expressed, the trust he'd been asked for. For some reason, Dean sees every moment and missed opportunity to tease, to play, to simply be with Castiel and he wonders if maybe this is what it's like to die slowly. If it is, he's glad he's always managed to die on the fast track. Dean hates the missed chances he recalls, hates the hurt he remembers in Castiel's eyes as he continuously denied the angel whatever he's asked for.

Dean wishes for a do-over. He wishes for it fervently. "C'mon, Cas. Stay with me. We'll fix this, just hang on…" He holds onto Castiel even tighter when the angel squirms. It takes him a moment to realize Castiel is trying to pull free. Dean goes slack, relinquishing his hold and unable to quell the slight hurt he feels as he watches Castiel struggle to crawl across the floor, pulling his broken body away from Dean.

Weakly, Castiel murmurs, "Cl-close your eyes…"

And as usual, Dean has to be contrary, his eyes widening as he realizes what is about to happen. He makes a dive for Castiel, trying to reach him to pull the pieces back together and keep Castiel whole. He doesn't make it, and a crystalline light fills his entire vision for a brief moment before he buries his face in the crook of his arm and blacks out what he can of the enormous burning luminescence.

He can't block out the piercing sound of Castiel's screams or the choked off noise that he makes when everything stills.

He lowers his arm cautiously and blinks away the daze as he seeks out the form of the angel. Castiel stays limp against the floor where he fell. He doesn't look like he's breathing.

Dean forgets everything else—may even forget his name if that's what Sam and Bobby are calling out—as he stumbles down to Castiel's side and turns him over. Blood, Oh, God, there's a lot of blood. There is still a faint blue-white light around the rims of the tear Castiel pulled through his chest. Dean pays no attention to that. What matters the most to him is that Castiel's chest is moving—very shallowly, very slightly, but God yes his angel's breathing.

"Dean!"

Dean finally manages to pull it together enough to notice Sam tugging at him insistently. He turns his gaze up, wondering why Sam looks so steady on his feet even though he was an unconscious disaster just hours ago. Sam ignores the questions in Dean's eyes, and says sharply, "If you want him to make it through this, Dean, we've gotta get him out of here."

And yeah, Sam's got a point there. Dean and Sam each take one of Castiel's arms, pulling him up and walking him between them. Bobby is there too, eyes cast in shadows and lingering reservation as he stares at Castiel's limp form. Dean figures they can deal with all the mistrust later.

For now, he's just happy that Castiel is breathing and that he let those damn nukes go free.


Castiel remembers sensation. He remembers that human sensation isn't muted like what an angel experiences. He remembers that there was once a veil that was lifted the first time he lost his Grace, and he remembers the burning ache of pain.

It is nothing compared to this agony.

Castiel feels raw, hollowed out. He feels as though someone has pulled him from his skin and scrubbed at his insides with something sharp and brittle. The pain is elaborate and difficult to put words to. Castiel cannot adequately describe what he is experiencing, except to say that he has forcibly expelled millions of souls from his body.

That he can feel any of this means that Castiel must have let his Grace slip free, as well.

He stirs as the blackness of unconsciousness recedes, feels it through his entire being like lightning shocking its way through every atom. He is very surprised to be waking up at all. He thought his next bout of awareness would be tinged with the bleakness of Hell, for surely a being such as he would not be allowed to return to Heaven.

He hears the shuffle of clothing intermingled with a light snore nearby. The sound strangely brings liquid heat to his eyes and he forces them open. The light, lurid and startling, burns his eyes and he pretends that the liquid that pools there come as a response to this discomfort. When he adjusts to the strange sensation of the glow the pull of a needle in his arm, and the plastic cannula tucked against his nostrils, he turns his gaze slowly.

He is in another hospital, not unlike the one he awoke in when he fully lost his Grace the first time. He recognizes the oddly sterile scent of plastic and cloth, the underlying musk of illness and death. He recognizes the garish lights overhead and the strange beeping of human machinery monitoring his vital signs.

What he doesn't recognize, what he is alarmed and grateful and so relieved to see, is the sight of Dean sleeping with his head tucked against Castiel's arm, his fingers loosely manacling Castiel's wrist.

Castiel also fails to recognize the strange sound that spills from his lips. He feels an odd lump form in his throat, and it oddly restricts his breathing to breathy, stuttering gasps as another sensation unfurls deep within his chest, warm and bittersweet. His eyes begin to leak the liquid that had been gathering there and he suddenly recognizes this scene from playing its counterpart and watching a broken, battered Dean cry.

Cry. Castiel is crying.

He tries to keep still, but cannot help the hitching breath that skips from his chest or the pained whimper that follows it. Dean's fingers twitch against his wrist, and he watches the hunter's eyes flutter before Dean sits up, blinking sleepily at Castiel.

Then Dean's beautiful green eyes go wide. "Cas?" Castiel has no right, but when Dean leans forward Castiel stretches his fingers toward the hunter. Dean's eyes flicker down at Castiel's proffered hand and darken as he hesitates. Castiel despairs, begins to withdraw. He turns his eyes away from further rejection.

A warm weight settles over his hand, turning it up so that his palm slides against Dean's. Castiel shudders in unexpected pleasure and surprise, and he glances back to try and decipher Dean's thoughts in his gaze like he has always been able to. Dean's mouth lifts in his typical smirk, the one that conceals many truths that Castiel is so familiar with. Castiel can't read his mind now, can only see the vague impression of emotions drawn in colors across Dean's soul.

All the colors are bright now as Dean says, "Welcome back, Cas."