Summary: Post-S6 AU where Castiel turns Dean into an angel so that Dean will love him. The thing is, forcing someone to "love" you isn't all it's cracked up to be when neither of you are who you were. The title may be misleading, it's not a happy fic. Written for a kinkmeme prompt.

Spoilers: All through 06x22.

Warnings: Language, sexual content, violence, dubcon, blasphemy, mutually unrequited affections (yes), gratuitous mentioning of Dean having wings /shameless.

Word Count: 15,526

Disclaimer: I own nothing and I'm not profiting off of this. I borrowed 3 lines of dialogue from canon.

Author's notes:

This was written before the S7 premiere and, as such, doesn't take any of that into account. This was written for a prompt at the Dean/Castiel kink meme (FFdotnet doesn't seem to like links, though). Gist of prompt is that Castiel, now declaring himself God, has loved Dean, who doesn't return the feelings. He turns Dean into an angel so that Dean will love him. The prompt called for a sad fic, so I hope this is darkish enough.

Note that this is told in alternating time perspectives (distinguished by use of present vs past tense). In spite of the flip-flopping, it's pretty much chronological. I took a crazy amount of liberties with Godstiel, by the way.

Fortunate Angel

Sam's voice is disbelieving, resigned, and accusing all at once. "You really don't see it." And man, that's just rich coming from him.

Dean doesn't pay attention to time much anymore – he's got an endless supply of it nowadays – so he's not sure how long it's been. That said, Sam's expression hasn't changed a bit since that first night where everything changed – for the better; he would scream it out into the sky and make everyone on the planet understand if he thought it'd make a lick of difference – and no matter how much time he gives his brother, he's getting this sinking feeling that the guy just doesn't fucking get it.

Sam's the one who can't see anything. He never has, he never will, and Dean isn't sure why he's trying at all. Sam stands there as if it's the same old Dean who went to hell and back for him – good ol' Dean, who'll forgive pretty much anything from family in the end. Dean really understands now, how Cas – he sends a reflexive, reverent prayer just at the thought of his new god's name – must have felt when he said they needed to de-nuke him. He never should've said that, he knows that now, would wince with apology if he wasn't standing a stride away from Bobby's porch with the wrong end of a shotgun between him and his brother.

Doesn't Sam realize that he's something new, something different, terrifying and awesome but better? He's not a monster they need to hunt, dammit. I went to hell for you, Dean wants to shout. I carried you out of the house, but that's a card he should probably keep to himself. He's back to square one each and every time a possible barb dies on his tongue: he doesn't get why Sam can't understand, can't be happy for him. Instead of trying what he's been failing to accomplish for weeks or months or days (saying something relevant to it all, that is), he waves his hand and sends the shotgun off to the Andromeda galaxy (because he fucking can) in the blink of an eye. "You know that wasn't going to do anything to me."

Now Sam's arms just hang at his side uselessly after he found himself just grasping at air and looking like a spoiled brat reaching for something that didn't belong to him. Every breath Sam and Dean and Bobby and the world at large take is breath allowed by Castiel and Sam just doesn't get it. Dean's always been able to read his younger brother like a book, but now it's even easier since he can just peer into his soul. He can see it – souls are something indescribable even (especially) when they're on their own – twisting and writhing like a beached fish, but it's not like the set to Sam's shoulders isn't telling enough. He relaxes back into a (mostly) human perspective, even though, the other day, he noticed that rainbows span several extra colors for each he doesn't have a name for.

Dean's really not sure why Sam's so upset about this because it could've gone so much worse. It really, really could have. Even though he's at a bit of a loss as to what he needs to do here – why can't Sam just see? – he wants to smile, he wants to laugh, he wants to summon rippling breezes and soar with the giddiness of relief and joy and gratitude that threatens to overwhelm him in a tide of feeling. Cas gave them mercy, where he owed them none, can't you see, Sam? "You're not you, Dean."

"I thought we were past the pleading and the soul-searching crap. I'm not like you were, Sam," he bites back a smirk at the visible flinch that garnered, "I'm not possessed or hopped up on demon blood or anything. I'm totally me. I can feel." Why is he the only one who knows to appreciate that? "I feel what I've always felt, except I can see. I'm strong, stronger than you can imagine," stronger than he himself can even imagine sometimes, he has to watch it, "and, anyway, look. I'll let what happened last time go, okay?" He's an angel, after all. But he's Dean, so he continues: "But you, bitch, have lost your right to bear anti-angel arms and –"

Sam shoves a hand into his too-long hair in clear dismissal. His voice is strained when he dares to cut the newest angel off: "Dean, are those things really necessary? Can't you, you know, hide them again?" Dean only just notices that his brother's been looking at a fixed point on his forehead (best he can figure) – not at him, not really. He clenches his fists and he just doesn't fucking get it, doesn't get how his brother can't accept this, accept that life's better, that Dean has everything now and of all that everything – it's his wings that he has to get prissy about? They're still on this, really?

"Yes, they're fucking necessary. And no, I don't know, and I won't." He adds with a snarl, "They're mine," and that's reason enough, plus they're a fucking gift from the single greatest being in the world and he really doesn't get why Sam doesn't get it. In the span of a second, he thinks a thousand things – he's truly infinite now, if he needs a moment he can just pause time and take it – but he just can't decide, just can't figure out if he really needs this – he doesn't – and fuck it, he doesn't need his brother – after everything he did – to judge him for being grateful, for being smart enough to enjoy what he's got now that he realizes what he needed all along.

Dean's wings are massive, modeled after an eagle's in shape but colored like a hawk's. The feathers range through various rich browns and are flecked creamy tans in some areas, tipped with black in others. They're flawless, he knows that much is true, and unmarred, and proof of how much he's been healed. He knows he's lucky for them alone, luckier than those silly test runs who've tried to run the show since the start, because they're meant to manifest into something physical. He's not trapped in this body; he's even free to take it between planes as he pleases. He raises his wings high over his shoulders in a display of warning, up enough to block the sun even to cast a dark shadow over his Sasquatch of a brother. He does it because he can, because they're real and the idea of hiding them, hiding him, is insulting.

Sam shrinks back at the sight of them, as though they're repulsive, and while he the idea of being frightening warms him – he can tap into endless power, why can't his brother see? – maybe he's a bit vain about it all. Okay, he's really vain about it all and the idea of his wings being something that inspire revulsion makes his stomach sink.

It would be so easy to shout something, but he's just not sure what to say, where to begin, and he's been over it, over everything, but all he's gotten for it from here is Sam pointing guns at him and spouting stupid shit and Bobby nursing his beers and upgrading the sigils on the walls of the house. Fuck it, he doesn't need this anymore. Maybe he never did.

Travel for an angel takes just the forerunner of want. He doesn't have to think about it (any more than he would think about extending an arm to grab something) to flip off gravity and meld into the fabric of the universe. Wings outstretched and alight with energy, Dean burns through the space of an instant. Infinity stretches in all directions, curving and parallel all at once. He doesn't even have to think about where he wants to go; he knows where he needs to be; goes where Cas is. It's as if his god's current location, at all times, is written across his very soul in a language only Dean can read.

This wasn't fucking happening. "Look, next to Sam, you and Bobby are the closest thing I have to family – that you are like a brother to me. So, if I ask you not to do something... You got to trust me, man." Dean's eyes were locked on Cas, caught somewhere between wariness and fury.

"Family," Castiel echoed, expression unreadable.

Dean shifted his weight between his feet for a beat. "Uh, yeah, that's what I said." Dean gave Cas his best I-don't-really-know-what-you're-going-on-about face. Actually, he'd been wearing that face for a while up to that point so it wasn't really something new. He scrubbed at his hair with a restless hand. He had done a lot of impossible things – defied fate, defined free will – but reconciling that Cas with the Cas he thought he knew might have been wishful thinking at best. He swore under his breath before noticing that Cas was back to the staring thing, and it was almost like the old days except that there was something appraising, something speculative in those freakishly blue eyes of his – of Jimmy's. Is Jimmy still in there, wondering if this is really what he signed up for? He was, after all, strapped to a comet that was in league with a freaking demon.

He said he wasn't going to logic him, so he just scowled back at the destined-to-go-against-every-faction-he-aligns-himself-with angel. Castiel's voice dropped twenty degrees when he repeated: "Brother." The word was said flatly, but it hung in the air like a question.

"Yes," he spat gruffly, because that's what I just said and it wasn't like it was some big surprise. It shouldn't have been, after everything. Honorary Winchester in his book and all that. He dragged his gaze downward, sick of the staring thing. He opened the palm of one hand to spare a glance at the where he'd apparently been digging in with his fingernails, winced at the sting he was belatedly experiencing.

When Castiel advanced a step forward – are they really back to the personal space thing? Really? – Dean backed off by two.

They were both still, for a long moment, when Dean just threw his arms up and went: "Cas, you got to –"

Dean swung his fist out when Castiel moved again, all reflex, but the angel caught his wrist in an effortless, vise-like grip. His face was irritatingly placid and it rankled against the fury that was steadily burning in Dean's veins. He struggled, briefly, but Cas wasn't letting go. When he tried to swat at him with his free hand, Castiel fixed it with a weighted stare for all of an eye-blink and the arm fell obediently – fucking traitor – to Dean's side. Try as he might, Dean couldn't move an inch.

Through gritted teeth: "The hell are –"

"I'm not your brother, Dean." Castiel interrupted in a low voice that was at odds with how he looked so calmly upon the hand he'd ensnared. Dean didn't know where the hell the guy was going with this, but Cas was, by all appearances, docile as he traced two fingers along the glaring red crescents that formed a line across Dean's palm. Each indentation disappeared like a dismissed servant in Castiel's wake. Dean was momentarily stunned into bewildered silence.

"You're..." What the hell was he supposed to say? Going to open up freaking purgatory? Making business arrangements with Crowley? Willing to lie to me and Sam's faces? He'd yelled his piece before, made his fucking plea, but the accusations – no, the fucking truth – were having some irrational stage fright and died in his throat. So, he went with a quip. "And you're feeling up my hand?"

Castiel donned a disapproving expression like he was some professor at a stuffy-ass university. "I'm not..." The angel blinked, once, and if Dean hadn't been restrained to stay put by some really fucking annoying angel mojo, he might've had to back off under the new weight in Castiel's gaze. "Am I?" For some unknown reason he – it was Cas, unknown reasons were kind of the guy's thing, dammit – had dropped his voice into something at least ten times as low, ten times as gravelly. Freak of nature was what he was, given how weird he talked anyway. Could angels get sore throats? Was he getting a cold? That's Karma with a capital "K," you lying – "'Feeling you up?'"

Dean stared for a second. "... What?" It was familiar enough – Cas unintentionally saying something potentially hilarious – but Dean wasn't going for it, and he didn't look like he was clueless. If you're dumb enough to go behind my back, you're smart enough to have some sense of what you're saying. That didn't help, however, the perplexing question of what Castiel was saying, exactly. Was he trying to be funny? Think he could make nice with some bungled wisecrack?

Castiel advanced another step, still kept a hand snug around Dean's wrist, and despite Dean's best efforts it remained locked in place. The angel's face was inches from his own, angled so that Cas's – Jimmy's – nose was pointed at Dean's shoulder. His breath was too warm against the hunter's neck; he murmured, "You heard me."

Utterly baffled, he was unable to resist the usual reminder that hadn't been usual for a while: "Dude. Personal. Space." He enunciated each word slowly and tried injecting enough condescension to (hopefully) get the weirdo to back up.

Castiel was, evidently, unfazed. His – Jimmy's – intense eyes were steady on Dean's own and, at that point, the hunter's head was a pretty steady mantra of what the fuck? Perturbed by the weighty gaze, and so fucking done with the weirdness, Dean summoned up his willpower, jerked his head all of 3/4" out of minor courtesy and because it wasn't like he could move much further, managed a holler through clenched teeth: "SAM!"

Sam came running, gun drawn, thank God, but only to just catch the tell-tale flutter of angel-ninja-exit. Paused stupidly mid-stride, Sam watched in puzzlement as Dean slumped to his knees, who was simply relieved at being able to use all his muscles again. Gigantor rushed to his side. "What happened?"

"Weird-ass, two-faced angel – that's what." Dean dubiously studied the hand Cas had been holding. "We need to fix the damn sigils."

The great in-between is impossibly vast and startlingly brief, but Dean's always been good at getting in a few words anywhere, so he comments under imaginary breath. There's no noise to be found in the yawning cosmos and it's not something Dean misses when he materializes on a rocky ridge. In the physical plane, there's always sound, however slight.

Castiel is standing atop a nameless peak in the Himalayas, looking through the mists and off into the horizon. The trench coat, the very one that will see every end of the world at this rate, flaps briefly from the gusts of air that kick up around them thanks to Dean's sudden appearance. Apart from that, there's no reaction, and it doesn't really count because the coat's an inanimate object. His god is as still as a statue, but the vessel he took those years ago and keeps as his own body will never crumble and will last longer than any carving.

The anger he felt about Sam vanishes almost instantly, slinking away from Dean's thoughts like a shunned, stray dog. Instead he feels warm in the face of the altitude's winds, content to admire the one responsible for his ascendance. His wings are loose and lax at his back, too lazy to fold without undesired effort and he only keeps the ends from touching the ground just so. With feline-like grace, Dean dares to walk closer, coming up alongside Castiel. It doesn't sting as badly as it sometimes does when Cas' back goes ramrod-straight thanks to his proximity in a bizarre reversal of roles. It's still new coming from him, he guesses, that's all.

He waits because he never wants to risk inspiring annoyance or worse. He waits in case his presence is unwanted – the prospect sends an eddy of anxiety to his stomach but he resolutely ignores it because he's not a fucking girl. He waits an eternity and he waits a heart beat both as one moment, 'cause they're pretty much the same to the youngest, strongest angel. In a daring move, Dean rests his cheek against Castiel's shoulder and tries not to think of how Cas doesn't look at him.

It's enough, he tells himself, enough and more than he's ever deserved to bask in his god's presence. He'll take it and he'll be grateful and he'll want for nothing because this Lord is his shepherd and all that jazz. Without making a sound – because he's a creature of flesh, but he's a being of light and spirit now, too – he sings a litany of praises and thanks in languages he's been gifted with even as his wings – his badass wings – droop behind him.

It was like a really, really bad twist ending to a book, or a movie, or a TV show. Given the shamelessness of the world at large, maybe all three – it was all about adapting things into multiple mediums or whatever, right?

"I'm your new God – a better one. So, you will bow down and profess your love unto me, your Lord, or I shall destroy you."

"What?" It was all Dean could sputter as he threw his hands up in the air for no reason other than he wasn't sure what to do with them. Maybe if he asked again, he'd get a totally logical answer: "What?" Or, more likely, Dean was stupid-optimistic.

Neither Sam nor Bobby had anything to say, apparently, so that was great.

If Dean had ever thought that Castiel had a creepily soul-piercing stare, it was nothing – it was nothing on the look that the ang–wannabe-God was pinning him with now. Dean opened his mouth to say something, anything, and he didn't know if it was going to be a yell or a plea or a question or what. He wasn't sure what game Cas was playing, wasn't sure what one he was playing, but all he knew was that whatever he was going to say died on his tongue when the Soul Sponge 9,001® grabbed him by the shirt collar and hauled him close. Wait... when had Cas moved at all?

"Kneel, Dean." The rumble of Castiel's voice hair-lengths from his face made Dean wonder, dazedly, is this is how an ant feels during a 9.0 earthquake? Dean was nothing without his absent thought-to-spoken-word filter, so his answer was automatic.

"Fuck yo–oof!" Had he ever been this close to the toes of Jimmy Novak's shoes? Dean really wasn't sure. He got the sensation that the ground might be shaking – or maybe he was shivering, he wasn't really sure at the time – then he noticed that Cas, or the millions of souls masquerading as him, was talking, no, asking something. Or shouting something. Dean wasn't sure, but he vowed to deny (beyond his dying breath) that he didn't tremble under the force of it. Okay, so he did, but he wasn't the one to tell nobody.

"Can't you see, Dean? Why don't you see?" Mr. I-want-to-be-just-like-my-daddy growled something indecipherable – another language, maybe Enochian or Purgatorian for all he knew – so Dean kept his eyes on the ground because (lo and behold) he had a self-preservation instinct, awoken from its lifelong hibernation, that was making itself known for a second. Dean's head was yanked up and back by his hair so that he was staring up into equally fathomless-and-frenzied blue eyes.

"Ow," Dean grunted. He was grateful for the warning – not. Hair-pulling had never really been his kink, to be honest, and he'd never really been into guys (except for that one time when I was 19 – why am I thinking about my sex life?), and it was distinctly uncomfortable to be that close to Purgatory's latest vacuum cleaner. For some reason, the souls that Ca–Go–he had "inside of him" weren't the only reason for his discomfort. Wait, what? Memories flitted through his brain, unbidden, and he wasn't sure that now was the time to reflect on past lovers. This whole situation was nine kinds of surreal, actually, all in all.

"I need you to see." Okay, seriously friggin' weird: it was as if God Junior's voice was ricocheting around in his skull and exploding behind his eyelids in dizzying light – so, yeah, not pleasant. "I can make you see, Dean." The guy was having some serious delusions of grandeur, and to top it off, he was accusing the hunter of being blind?

See what? He thought desperately, grumpily, because ripping speech out of his own seized-up throat didn't seem like a viable prospect.

And, because it was like a really, really bad twist ending to a book/movie/TV show/iPhone app, Castiel pressed a palm to his forehead and Dean was 100% sure he was about to be smote like a freaking demon – what the fuck is this, world? So fucking typical was what it was. Heat seared across his skin and he might have screamed – maybe – because what the hell else was he supposed to do when a former ally goes darkside by pulling a Sam – 'cept that angels are too cool for demon blood so when they hop up on extra juice they go for the good stuff – and is about to burn his freaking brains out. There weren't enough fuck, fuck, fucks repeating in his head to even begin to let him think about this shit, except he didn't even have time to think because fuck, fuck, fuck!

He could have sworn that everything glowed green – green? – for a split-second before his eyes rolled back into his skull. Here he was going again, checking out of the Did You Have a Nice Life Motel and he almost thought he could hear the concierge ask if he had enjoyed his stay.

Wonder which way I'm goin' this time?

Some hours pass, maybe, when Castiel teleports to the Sahara without a word. Dean finds himself leaning on thin air, but apparently angel powers come in handy when it comes to keeping from flailing around like an idiot.

He shakes out his wings, a bit stiffly, then follows.

It's probably unnecessary, since he's angel'd up, but he takes a long, deep breath when he arrives. The difference in climate should shock him, Dean thinks idly, but all he can sense is the greatness of the company that he shares. His gaze roves over the horizon, which is predictable flat and hazy where heat's blending the sky into the distant sands, and he almost doesn't notice Castiel stepping closer.

Almost, because he's the righteous man and fortunate angel whose god supersedes the earth and His proximity sends any observations of their surroundings out the window.

"Cas," he breathes. While it takes herculean effort to stand still when Castiel's this close – he's always been greedy with the physical things – it's enough, he reminds himself. It's everything he can ever want, more than he deserves, and it's enough to be here, ready and willing to serve.

Unhurriedly, Castiel presses a hand to Dean's forehead. The grip is firm and weighty, but Castiel isn't digging into the skin. Dean leans into the touch, head bowed and knees slightly bent thanks to their height difference. He's careless of how the bridge of his nose squishes against the heel of Cas's palm, takes a breath of adulation.

The scent of scorched grace lingers on Castiel's skin. It's across his knuckles, like a ghost in the fleshy part between his fingers. Dean can sense that his thoughts are being broadcasted, offers no resistance, lets on that he's curious for an explanation but not necessarily expectant of one. A flighty sensation skirts around his insides. His god's presence is metaphysical yet like the wind, swirling and without limit.

"One of Raphael's." Castiel's voice evokes the image of a glazed ice sheet encasing the face of a mountain; cold and smooth and utterly beyond reach. The pad of his thumb rubs along the ridge of Dean's brow, stills where the hairs end. "The last of Raphael's."

His words don't come as a surprise in the slightest, because Castiel's been taking care of them on his own with ruthless efficiency. Dean considers making a wisecrack about feeling useless with Cas doing all the work, but isn't sure such a thing would really be wise. Some had thought to surrender, in the beginning, but they found no mercy from the new god.

"Dean." Right. Now he feels kind of silly, what with that open door to his mind and all. "You're on my side," Castiel says this as one would say that the sky is typically blue.

I am, Dean reiterates, because it's true.

"I can fight my battles. I am not like Him." His voice is cool, but there's an underlying fire about it, something Dean would never challenge, so the angel just nods his agreement. "You're not just another foot soldier, Dean." The way Castiel says this is simultaneously fierce and quiet. "Don't you see?"

Dean outright gapes at him, startled breath hot on the skin of Castiel's forearm. "Wh– yeah, yes. Of course I do, Cas."


After the air inside his lungs hit critical mass and exploded, Dean drifted.

"Where am I?" His voice echoed everywhere and nowhere at once; he even felt the sound bounce off the tip of his nose a few times.

What, was he in some kind of freaky limbo? He'd averted the apocalypse, after all – maybe that lost him any credit he may have once had with heaven. Fucking figures.

"You are not going to heaven, Dean Winchester."

"Huh. Okay. That's..." Dean flops down on his back, though he wasn't entirely sure what he was laying on. Grass, he wouldn't mind grass. He crossed his wrists behind his neck – sure enough– felt blades of grass poking up into his skin. He launched forward, as if rushing a sit-up, then twisted his head to see nothing but blackness beneath him. Shit. That was trippy. He guessed, belatedly, that that – not going to heaven – only left one other option and nonononopleasenoSamnononono

He caught the ghost of a chuckle, he thought, maybe, but it was eclipsed by the shadow of a sigh. "You are not going to hell, Dean Winchester." The voice was completely solemn, low and flat and familiar somehow... "You know me," the voice said, "and I know you. I know your soul better than any other being in existence, Dean Winchester." That was great. "It is."

Silence reigned, briefly, and Dean settled back down to lay back on the not-grass and stare up into the nothingness.

"Do you see?"

"See what?"

There was no reply. Dean drummed his fingers against dirt that wasn't there beneath the not-grass.

A few moments passed, or at least Dean thought they did. He really couldn't be sure; there wasn't a clock or anything, but he'd done enough stakeouts to be able to have a decent internal clock. "Do I know you?" He asked, because he might as well make conversation and, hell, he was curious.

No hesitation: "You do."

"So... do you have a name?"

"I do."

"Care to share?"

"You know my name."

"I do?" Dean wasn't convinced. He wracked his brain, but drew up a blank. There really wasn't much he was thinking about, actually.

"You do."

Dean thought for a moment, again, because the voice sounded so sure of it. Still, though, Dean just drew up a blank. "I don't think so, buddy."

"You do."

He waited in case the voice would offer an explanation or something. It didn't. Dean switched tactics. "Hi."

There was the slightest fraction of pause longer than the other responses. "Hello."

"I'm Dean."


Dean waited, but got nothing more. Fine. I'll explain like you're five. "This is an introduction."

"I suppose it is."

He was trying to be patient, he was, but this was getting annoying. "I was introducing myself."

"I already know that your name is Dean Winchester. My knowledge of your name was never called into question."

"Usually, when someone introduces themselves and says 'hi,' you return the favor."

"But I..." Dean rolled his eyes at the nothingness around him. He could've sworn he heard something like a huff. "Hello, Dean."

"By 'return the favor,' I mean that you're supposed to say your name, too, back."

"You already know my name as I know yours."

"Gee, that's helpful." A thought struck him: "What, are you my conscience?"

The voice gentled by a touch, but maybe Dean was imagining it. "No."

"So... what are you?"


Didn't the voice just say it wasn't his conscience? "... you're me?" That didn't sound quite right at all.

Infinitely patient: "No."

"You gotta give me a clue, man." Dean thought for a second. "Are you even a man?"

"Gender is irrelevant."

"Uh, yeah, okay, Cleverbot." If there was anything worthwhile left in the world, something would ensure that the message that he could really use an explanation was ringing loud and clear.

"Do you see?" The voice repeated, eliciting a decidedly world-weary sigh from Dean.

"See what?" He repeated right back, before he sighed. "What is there to see? There's nothin' but blackness."

"Is there?"

His brows drew up a bit, or he thought they did, maybe. They would have. "Uh, yeah. I'm not seeing anything."

"Not even you?"

"Not even me," Dean answered not without a shade of reluctance. Was he blind? What happened?

"Dean." The voice was unshakably calm and without reproach.


"Dean, you're not looking."

"Sure I am."

"If you were looking, you would see."

"Easy for you to say! You're the creepy, disembodied voice who's going on about my freakin' soul."


"Don't 'Dean' me," he paused, "whoever you are," because he didn't have a freakin' clue, "and really? You can't be helpful?"

The voice rose in volume and lowered in temperature. "I have done more than you know for you. Do not ever accuse me of being unhelpful."

Someone was touchy. Grumpy as he may have been, his insides twisted a bit as if he'd just been scolded by someone he really looked up to. Which was silly, really, considering this was a total stranger, or something.

"You know me."

"Or so you claim."

"Do you truly not see? Not even now?"

Something niggled at Dean's brain, but he wasn't entirely sure what it was. He shrugged it off. "I'm not seeing a thing, man, and it's not bothering me half as much as it should."


"I told you–"

"Do you want to see?"

"Uh... yeah? That'd be great."

"Do you trust me?"

"Hard to trust someone I don't know."


"And, yeah, you said." Dean heaved a sigh. What do I have to lose? "Sure. Sure – man, woman, Swamp Thing, whatever you are – sure. I'll trust you."

"Do you want this from me?"

"What, you holding my eyeballs captive?"

"No, I'm not. I can make you see, but only if you trust me."

"Yeah, and I said–"

"You assumed I was forcing this upon you."

"I – what? Dude, that was a joke." Silence was twenty times quieter when it was actual silence, so, naturally, his tolerance wasn't exactly snappy. "What? Do I have to prove it?"

For a moment, there, uncertainty gnawed at his stomach thanks to the prospect of if he'd scared the voice off (or just become self-aware enough for the figment of his imagination to disappear, take your pick). "We are in-between planes, currently, and while this area is indefinite and spans a distance you cannot fathom in your current state, there are defined regions."

"Uh, what?"

"It is generally considered... risky... for one such as yourself, an otherwise-unguarded soul, to go too deep." The voice continued on as if he hadn't interrupted, as if it wasn't talking to him, really, and just thinking out loud. And I got that sense how? Maybe he was tapping into freaky psychic abilities. "We are connected, you and I. You know me and I know you."


"Trust me." Dean would have rolled his eyes if he thought he could. Yeah, okay, I've only had to say – The voice cut the thought off. "Follow me, Dean."

Maybe he'd been wrong when he'd considered that to be "true silence," because there was suddenly a gaping emptiness alongside him, cold and dark – even amongst the black nothingness – and desolate. Where it wasn't, there was something else like a pull, the outer edges of a singularity. Reflexively, Dean pulled back and away, like he was avoiding the edge of a cliff. The thing was that it was either a yawning chasm or a black hole – there was a difference, but he couldn't quite tell what it was. "Dude?" He asked, because he wasn't sure what the voice had asked.

There was no reply.

He grumbled something indecipherable and thought to flip a coin – except, you know, he didn't have one. "Son of a bitch..." He was becoming distinctly aware that both sides of... whatever that was... were becoming even more distinct, as if one was going to give way and disappear at any moment. "Couldn't think to tell me which one you are?"

If he wasn't a disembodied voice, too, he'd probably be shifting his weight from foot to foot, because there was this impending sense of choice, this or that, one or the other, and it wasn't like he had enough to make an informed decision or anything.

There was the faintest tug, the faintest give, and Dean made his decision without the faintest idea as to how he was supposed to act on it.

Luckily, it seemed that knowing what to do wasn't exactly a prerequisite, because the emptiness was gone and the pull softened to a presence, something he recognized for what it was now that he knew what its absence felt like. "Hello, Dean."

Snarkily: "Thanks for the help out there."

"You're welcome." Dean huffed. "Would you do something for me?"

"Sure." What do I have to lose?

"Trust me," the voice repeated, because it was never going to be enough – was it? "Dean."

"Yeah, yeah, what do you need me to do?"

Something both warm and cool enveloped him, like a knitted blanket in that it was made up of thin parts with the faintest hint of gaps. Unlike the scratchy material of an afghan, though, it was impossibly smooth. It was shapeless and rippling like the surface of a wave, carrying with it the weight of a thousand oceans and the promise of an endless horizon.

Apparently, Dean was going to channel Keanu Reeves. "Whoa."

"Do you want this, Dean?" It was more vibration than voice, felt in his bones rather than heard in his ears.

"Want what?" The silence was more effective than a buzzer alerting him to a wrong answer. "Uh... sure?"

Maybe he wasn't supposed to want "it," because everything – the nothing – dropped out from the bottom up.

The picture of those old cartoons popped up in his head, since he was distinctly reminded of a character racing right off the edge of a cliff without realizing it, only to hang in the air for a second before gravity kicked in.

Yeah. That sounded about right.

Down, down, down Dean went, and he was probably screaming his head off, when a flash of hothothothotpainhothotPAIN slashed at his shoulders like dual blade-tips. At that point, he was definitely screaming his head off.

The void gave way to blinding green light, which seared through his eyelids and didn't bother stopping there. Any sound he made was lost to the indistinct, all-consuming cacophony that rushed around in his ears.

Then it stopped.

The light and the sound and the pain, at least. His stomach felt like it was taking residence in his throat; he was still falling. His eyes shot open only to see the ground rushing up to meet him. Dean didn't even have time to think when something unfolded behind him, inside of him, around him – he had no freakin' clue, but air slapped against him stubbornly as he came to an abrupt halt inches from grainy sand. Impossibly, he hovered for a second, before landing flat on his face, albeit with much less momentum than he would have previously.

When Dean moved to haul himself to his feet, he found himself grasping something soft and light and was part of him. He hissed, having put too much pressure, and let go to flounder on his belly for a second as his legs kicked out uselessly under the weight of something equally foreign and familiar.

He caught a glimpse of a feather, no, two feathers – a whole fucking lot of feathers! "The hell?" Dumbstruck, Dean craned his neck to see... no freaking way.

WINGS. He had wings attached to his back! On trembling arms and knees, he stood, only to stumble backwards thanks to his newly-abysmal balance. The wings arched and flapped uselessly, reflexively, and then he was flat on his back again, gritting his teeth at the way grains of sand were getting between some of the feathers. Cussing a blue streak under his breath, he wrestled himself around until he was kneeling, still overwhelmed by the sheer heaviness of the things.

Dean twisted around uncomfortably, trying to get a good look at them. Unfortunately, they were kind of attached, so all he succeeded in doing was nearly landing flat on his ass all over again. "Son of a bitch," he grumped. These suckers were going to give him a complex; they dwarfed him! Tentatively, he reached out a hand to poke one of the longer flight feathers. A jolt of verdant light flashed at the contact, like an electrical spark, and Dean jumped back – well, forward, technically – away from the thing in surprise. Both wings flailed for a second, before drawing up close against his shoulders like apologetic puppies.

A shadow passed over the "sky," as if Dean was in some cheap Sci-Fi flick and a UFO was eclipsing the sun. All he needed was a comically grand soundtrack and – "Son of a bitch...!" He repeated, a tad breathlessly with a start, when he looked up to see the canyon-esque landscape give way to smoldering blackness. The dusky edges of the horizon were completely obscured by the hulking, seemingly oil-coated cloud that rose up and out like a frozen tsunami.

No, not frozen at all. Flashes of cyan-blue light burst here and there, like smothered lightning strikes, and traces of amber-orange glow reflected here and there, like the ghosts of flame. It curled and undulated restlessly, in motion even as its sheer size gave the illusion of stillness. Dean's gaze jounced about wildly as he struggled to find a central point to focus on.

The inky billows swirled and moved in vaguely serpentine patterns, stretching now almost as far as Dean's eyes could see. He backed off a step, only vaguely aware of the wings puffing out in a muted display. His stomach sank when he noticed that the massive thing before him seemed to be trying to encircle him. Shit.

The wings fluttered anxiously. Think you two can be useful again? Maybe he was certifiable for talking to what appeared to be two brand-spankin'-new limbs, but it wasn't like this whole thing wasn't a scene out of an acid trip anyway.

He looked over to the gap in the cloud some distance away, that last trace of desert, and it was all it took. He gave off a few thunderous beats of the wings to start with, they propelled him, at a fathomless pace, toward it. Unfortunately, the cloud – whatever it was – was faster, and he was forced to stop, hover, swear as he found himself fully trapped. Should've moved faster!

This close to it, whatever it was, he found it wasn't as solid as it looked from a distance. His gaze traced faded outlines here and there, though they shimmered in and out of view so quickly that he couldn't identify many of the details. He managed to catch the tips of bones, the occasional flash of teeth.

With a few panicked threshes of wings, Dean spun around to find himself staring into a pair of dizzyingly blue eyes. They were ethereal and glowing and without pupils or scleras, level with his own but utterly piercing. Something spoke in a language – a thousand voices chorusing and howling and screaming and whispering – he didn't understand. It lasted for but a second, shot through him like a bullet, and then he understood.

The fight went out of him. "Castiel."

"Do you remember?" The voice was like a curtain, with countless more behind it. It was the clearest, though, and the only one Dean wanted to hear, so he focused on it alone over the din of distant, numerous others.

Castiel had been an angel, once. He had died, fallen, fought, and died again.

"I rebelled, and I did it – all of it – for you."

Green lined Dean's vision again, seeping in and out of his mind, his soul, his being. Grace. He was being given his own special brand of Grace.

"Do you see?"

He flared brightly, spread his wings, and let wisps of green flicker out in curly wisps against the shadowy form that was Castiel, that was his friend, that was his God. "I see."

Something yanks Dean's feet out from under him and has him into falling into something so bottomless that his wings might as well weigh a thousand tons for all the use they are. He's gasping on nonexistent air right up to the instant that he bursts back into existence somewhere – his mind's rocking with disorientation, like a compass spinning out uselessly. He's breathless with how constricted his grace is, it feels like it's coiling up deep inside like a garden hose. It's just about as useful for his somersaulting stomach right now, too.

"Sorry, Dean." Sam doesn't sound apologetic at all as he – son of a bitch! – drops the lighter on the super-duper-clever ring of holy fire they've, evidently, set up. Something grates worse than road rash in Dean's stomach at being on the other side of all this. Being summoned fucking sucks. He surveys the room, guesses they're in an old warehouse, judging from abandoned stacks of crates along one wall, and huge double-doors on another. Ghosted, rectangular outlines of the bases of equipment long-removed are plainly visible to Dean's enhanced vision.

"We don't have a choice here. We just want what's best for ya, and that's all we're gonna do." Oh, lookie who this is, it's Bobby standing alongside Sammy looking – maybe – a touch more contrite than Dean's so-called brother. God, this fucking sucks. Dean's wings have drawn up so close to his back so fast that a few feathers got knocked loose and now hang halfway at funny angles in some spots. "Don't get yer feathers all ruffled, idjit, this won't take long."

"Real funny." There's no humor to Dean's voice since he fails to steady his breathing, particularly as his gaze skitters across the writhing flames that surround him. While he desperately wills away the flighty sensation that flutters in his stomach, the muscles along his arms lock up so bad that his fists begin to tremble. Dean's been locked up with walls of fire before, been trapped in the inferno for 40 fucking years and he's not going back, he's not going back, he's not doing it again. He's not. Fuck. He can't. No, no, not this – not again! No, please, no; the fluorescent tubes of light that dangle from beams overhead hiss and fizzle out. Now that the orange, flickering glow of the fire is the only source of light on the spacious floor, Dean's heart ramps up to a crescendo because it's too fucking close to what he remembers, all he saw, darkness and fire and helplessness. God, Cas, pleaseplease, Cas, please.

"Great job," the saccharine-sweet voice behind him brings ice to Dean's gut. He spins on his heel to face Crowley. "Now you've got him going full-on 'Nam on us. Such a brilliant idea, this was."

"You'll regret this." Dean snarls in a dangerously close-to-inhuman voice. The angel curls his lip to bare teeth like a dog, then shrinks into himself. Pinions shudder and tense restlessly as he curls his wings tight 'round his shoulders as a massive shield. He pulls them down so low that the farthest-reaching feather-tips are forced to bend against the concrete. He's not going to tempt the orange-hot tendrils that rise up from the circle. Crouching low to the ground, he swivels to keep his back from facing anyone. Through a gap between marbled-beige feathers, he glimpses Sam; takes in the puckered brow, white-pressed mouth, hovering hands. Something feral pounces on this nervy opportunity, so he appeals to this one of the three. Gentling his voice as best a growl-defaulted throat can manage, he rasps, "You got to let me outta here, Sammy."

The man's voice is pleading in reply, as he says a single syllable like it means something, but it's not what the angel wants to hear.

"Don't listen to him, boy." Bobby says, putting a hand to the taller man's shoulder, and the angel revises his early assessment immediately.

Sam takes a shaky breath, rips his eyes off of the imprisoned angel to look over behind him. "The incantation better work the way you said it will, Crowley." Something flighty and terrifying bubbles up in the angel's throat; white-knuckled panic washes away any sense of restraint on his part. The fuck are they gonna do? Wisps of pulsating green line his vision when he fixes a concentrating stare on the ground. He sends faint ripples of grace-propelled momentum down deep into the earth. While the sight of Sam and Bobby swaying on their feet is momentarily satisfying as the ground heaves and rolls, the flames merely curl closer towards him, so he's got no choice but to leave it be or risk getting scorched on accident. A wave of crushing disappointment settles into something dense and heavy in his ribcage.

Earthquake done with, Crowley continues on as if he isn't a touch paler now than he'd been a few seconds ago: "Yes, yes. I know: 'or you'll rip me out and into –'"

"If you don't let me go right this fucking second, I'm making you a promise right here, right now." The angel's voice is even with studious, veiling calm: "I'll unmake each and every one of you." He's the youngest angel of them all, but Castiel's made him, him alone, to be the strongest. His god's fed him power from deep within his own reservoir – unadulterated energy that's unimaginably ancient – so that it's something unseen but perceived deep in all their bones. This angel's grace is volatile and unknowable. It's crackling at the angel's fingertips and ricocheting off the walls. "It'll be as if you never existed at all." They make a show of dismissing his words, but they don't see it, probably don't even consciously feel it, that power that the angel wears like a second skin. Still, Sam steadies his stance needlessly and Bobby's pupils have shrunk to tiny pinpricks and there are newly formed cracks to Crowley's air of nonchalance.

There's something else humming in the trapped one's veins, too, cold and poised despite its vibration. It's steadying, like an opposing frequency that offsets the turmoil in his mind. Idly, the angel remembers that his name is Dean Winchester. PleaseCasplease.

"You're not going anywhere, bub. What, you planning on calling up your master?" The self-proclaimed king of Hell's voice is haughty, but there's nervy weight to his eyes even in the brief glance he spares at Dean before he whips out an old tome. The angel seethes, volleying a choice insult to no immediate reply. Whilst flipping through some dusty pages, Crowley adds, "You're not going to reach him, by the way."

"We've got some damn good sigils you'd never even dream of," Bobby mutters, barely able to pretend to look at Dean at this point, but it's enough to distract. The old man continues in an even enough voice, but Dean doesn't miss the way he's not able to look at any one thing for long. "So, there ain't no signal 'round here. He can't get to you – it'll be okay, boy, trust me. We're doin' this fer you 'cause you ain't yourself."

Interrupting the angel's confusion, Crowley snaps his finger and shouts: "Growly! Fetch me those supplies!" It's a testament to the strength of holy fire that Dean hasn't noticed the hellhound's presence in the vicinity, but he spots it immediately as it comes barreling through a newly-open door. It's hunched over and pushing a decaying wooden trunk like a four-legged bulldozer. The chilled electricity inside Dean melds with and assuages the wave of blinding rage that rises, reflexive, at the sight of the beast. The beast whose kind Dean knows far too well. It's a hell of a thing, because Dean doesn't give in to the fury even when Crowley catches his eye amusedly. Out loud, anyway. Fucker.

"Don't worry, you'll be back to normal soon enough." Crowley assures him without a trace of concern, while smoothly reaching for the enclosed supplies. He waves the panting, gruesome mutt away. When it disappears out the door again, he snaps his fingers and the door slams shut. "Though, I have to say – it's real interesting, but not too surprising, the way this has gone. Your feathery master's always been awfully tetchy about you. Now we all know why." The demon's meat-suit's expression turns thoughtful: "I don't see why it's such a bad thing, really, if we can get you playing for the right team again. Perhaps we should consider –"

"Hurry up." Sam snaps, raking his hands through his hair and clenching his jaw like grinding his teeth is going to solve anything. Only at that thought does Dean realize that his teeth are tight against each other, too. He winces as he tries to force his jaw to relax to no avail.

The cold charge hissing inside is peculiarly soothing against the mounting pressure of rage, but his nerves are still too raw beneath his skin. What was Crowley leading up to? "What do you think you're gonna do?" He demands, opting to hunch a bit more behind his feathers without further hindering his field of vision.

"We're goin' to fix ya," Bobby promises in a tone that expects those who hear it to be relieved. The angel nearly chokes on the indignant growl that erupts from his throat. There's nothing about him that needs to be fixed!

His brother looks like he's preparing to ask him if they can buy a puppy at some pet store; pleading, cautiously hopeful: "What-what he did to you, listen to me, it's wrong. Dean, it's –"

Gravity might as well shift; outside, Dean's storm howls exultantly in welcome.

Castiel is here.

They stood inches apart, angel and god, sheltered in the shade of an ancient tree from the placid sunlight. "Do you know me?" Castiel asked, eyes alight with expectation.

Dean grinned. "I do," he answered without hesitation.

"Do I have a name?"

"You do." Mirth flourished deep in Dean's chest, shone in his eyes, lingered in his throat as the ingredients of a laugh – although he had no need for it as such at present.

"Care to share?"

"Always," Dean promised. Loathe as he was to look away from the great one before him, there was more than just the physical. His eyes slid shut, lazy and not squinted, and reached out with the parts of himself that were infinite. Castiel. He didn't notice the handful of leaves that rattle loose from the branches above and land with a rustle on the grass around them, so focused was he on the connection to his god.

"Do you know my name?" The challenge wasn't a reprimand, was lighthearted (this much he knew), but the repetition still inspired the faintest trace of unease in the form of a twist in the gut.

He was an angel made to serve; made to obey; made to... Castiel, he repeated loud enough for the ground to quake and for some younger trees in the vicinity to break into halves. Neither of them spare a glance.

"Can you see you?" Castiel's voice was closer, lighter than air.

Dean's face remained split by his grin as he opened his eyes, delighting in the sight of joy upon Castiel's face as he spreads his wings out on either side. Cas's gaze traces the wings, wings he himself formed cell by cell, and his chin rises almost imperceptibly. Such a small gesture of pride is enough to make Dean want to revel in it, tuck his head between his god's shoulder and jaw and bask in the light. Perhaps he felt daring, for he curved his wings forward and around his and Cas's shoulders. He left a good few inches of space between them, closed it in increments while keeping his eyes locked on Castiel's. It was a game of red-light-green-light, and those baby blues are shining nothing but green. "I see."

"Do you?" His wings were finally flush against Cas's back, so that the god and angel were both fully encased, fully shielded from the world. No, it only looked like that. Dean knew better than to think he could ever do such a thing as to isolate something – someone – so powerful, didn't even desire it. A new god. A better god. The tips of Dean's feathers touched, briefly, and dragged against each other as he tightened the embrace. He chewed his bottom lip, idly, at the curious sensation. Castiel's then-dark eyes tracked the movement with lowered lashes and a slightly parted mouth.

The angel's voice was rough: "I do."

"Do you see?" Castiel's breath tickled Dean's mouth; their faces were hair-lengths apart.

The angel reached out without hurry, measured time by the tattoo of his heart, clasped his hand along the line of Castiel's jaw. "I see."

His god was still, had been, but his gaze was warmer than the sun. "Do you trust me?" There was no point in answering and Castiel knew it, but Dean gave a nod all the same. "Do you want this from me?" Impossibly, Castiel leaned a fraction closer. Neither took a breath, for delay of touching where they wanted nothing more to.

Dean was careful, so very careful, but dared not form human speech. Instead, he reached out where there was nothing tangible to touch. I want for nothing, Castiel, his grace reached along, but not over, the edges of his god's mind. He respected the distance, yet remained in orbit around his superior without moving an inch, all the same. But I'd take what you'd see fit to give.

Castiel huffed a laugh, movement enough for their lips to have ghosted against each other. All the air in Dean's lungs escaped in a sharp exhale, which was invitation enough. Castiel promptly kissed Dean wholly and without pause, as though to share bated breath to replace that which had fled from the angel; kissed him as though to seal them to each other permanently, in addition to what they already had.

Castiel's arms slid atop Dean's shoulders and over the wings' bases to hook around the back of the angel's neck. His hands splayed to then grip each base of Dean's wings possessively, stilling the massive limbs from their restless shifting to quiver – just so – at Cas's mercy. He thumbed reassurance along lines of muscle to earn a breathy, but ultimately muffled into his god's mouth, groan from the angel.

Dean used his free hand to feel along the edge of Castiel's trench coat for all of a second before not only was it gone, but Dean's clothing was gone as well. He grinned against Castiel's mouth, sent a cheeky prayer of thanks, and effectively ruined that kiss as they were then no longer lined up just so. By means of apology, Dean arched forward since he was all too eager for more skin-on-skin contact and – judging by the hasty, heated kiss that Cas initiated – he wasn't the only one.

Neither of them showed any sign of noticing that Dean was projecting a great deal – at least, until torrents of out-of-the-blue rainfall began to pour over the forest. The storm clouds had been invited, unwittingly, as an audience.

Even then, neither of them showed any signs of caring.

Later, when they laid in a cocoon of wings and tangle of limbs, Castiel murmured, "You have been known as the righteous man." He traced an idle finger along the edge of Dean's shoulder, down toward his chest. "But you will be known as the fortunate angel, who was given the greatest gifts –" he leaned down for an all-too-brief peck, let the next word ghost against Dean's lips. "Mercy." The angel surged up to meet Castiel, who slotted a hand against its matching print on the angel's shoulder. "Grace." Castiel's voice roughened as Dean trailed open-mouthed kisses along his god's neck. "Love."

The double-doors blow wide open, causing everyone – except Dean – to start. "Balls." Crowley doesn't stay long enough to even make a smart comment and Bobby's scowl only intensifies, but the angel notices this only out of his peripherals. He only has eyes for Castiel.

The angel realizes, with no small amount of relief, that the air around him has cooled markedly; the fire's been extinguished. Both humans stumble backwards on floundering feet when his wings flare out wide and high, now that there's no danger of them getting roasted for Sunday dinner. His mind's a one-track road to the word vengeance, when Castiel lays a staying hand against one shoulder. Distance is nothing to a god, after all.

"You would fight them?" Cas asks, and it's no contest for who the angel's eyes lock onto – the most powerful being he's ever known or the two humans holding their arms out as flimsy shields. The angel's thought processes are answer enough.

He's not sure what he's expecting – Castiel's even less forthcoming with his emotions than when he was the angel out of the two of them – but the sense of could-maybe-just-be disappointment is a kick to the gut. "You don't need to," Castiel says shortly. "Dean," he adds lowly, which is reminder enough.

A pair of hellhounds sprint through the door – probably a parting gift from Crowley, the coward – but Sam and Bobby are the only one to turn to look. Dean snaps his fingers and appreciates the answering crunch of each of their necks. The canines' snarls choke off and they fall limply to the ground with twin thuds, quickly-forgotten corpses as soon as Castiel speaks.

"So," Dean knows he's not the only one picking up on the smug undercurrent to even just the starting syllable, but while the humans frown Dean's biting back a grin. "Do you understand now?" At the paired blank stares: "There's always a bigger picture. Working with unsavory types can bring savory ends, assuming one is suitably vigilant. You're all-too-willing to do what you condemned me for when you feel that the ends justify the means. The only difference is that you are mistaken, and what I did was just."

"Are we." Bobby doesn't bother to make it sound like a question, aiming for blasé and drawing the angel's steely gaze. Castiel's hand remains firm on Dean's shoulder, so his wings resist the urge to tense.

There's no hesitation in his god, he's swiftly dismissive. "You are." Dean still can't shake the picture of distant mountaintops. "I have shown unimaginable mercy to all three of you, therefore I am most undeserving of any animosity."

"Mercy," Sam spits.

Equable, "Yes. I have eradicated my enemies and those who resist without hesitation, save for you. To what end do you think your lack of gratitude will lead, Sam?" Looking away from the slack-jawed humans, Castiel gazes at Dean expectantly. "They are your family, Dean, misguided as they may be."

Family. The angel juxtaposes his notions of the word with the two who would trap him in fire. He reflects only on his time with grace infused with his soul, paying his past no mind.

"Dean." Dean nods, once, accepting Castiel's point with a sent prayer of thanks. His god visibly warms; Dean's mouth goes dry. It's short-lived, but it's been a while, and at least now the warehouse doesn't look as dark. Castiel turns back to Sam and Bobby. "There is no reason to refuse my mercy."

Unlike when he was an angel, there's no sound, no rustling – Dean's god lost his wings to Purgatory – so when he disappears and reveals himself beside Sam, it's beyond instantaneous, so impossibly fast that it could almost be wagered it never happened at all. Sam's unnaturally still; it's likely that Castiel saw no reason to risk needless dramatics. A quick, impersonal tap to the forehead is all it takes to make Dean's brother crumple to the ground.

Bobby bellows something, but Dean flicks a wing his direction to send him back a few stumbled steps by way of warning. The old man gives him the stink eye, but there's too much anxiety for there to be any weight to that gaze.

"Sam will be fine," Castiel announces. He looks to Dean, discloses intent in the silent dialect of just them two, and away they go.

Castiel got him a house, once.

It was a sprawling estate, much too luxurious for its remote location, with every amenity imaginable. It was perfect, by all standards.

"Do you like it?" Castiel asked, before they'd even taken two steps into the place.

"Uh, yeah. Yeah, Cas. It's great." Dean grinned, desperate to avoid a lack of gratitude.

After the initial tour, neither of them stepped foot in there again.

Something new snaps into existence at the fringes of Dean's mind. It quickly centers around his ears, sounding in an incessant buzz that is both annoyingly persistent and faintly inviting.

The angel is killing time in some of heaven's ruins – sections, reserved for angels, that were caught in the crossfire – so it's not like he's in the middle of something important, but this bizarre development feels too close to the makings of a migraine for comfort. Dean hesitates. Shouldn't he be totally protected from such a mundane thing as random pain?

"Dean." Dean's head snaps around so fast – which is funny, really, since he's currently incorporeal but interprets everything as remotely physical nonetheless – at the sound of his brother's voice that he nearly flies right through the barrier of this plane in his surprise. "You there? Does this work?"

"Sam?" He asks, even though it's stupid because there's no way he can be up here.

His brother's sigh is crackly, like a radio transmission that just isn't getting picked up all the way, and only then does Dean recognize this for what it is.

Dean shows up in the passenger seat of the Impala, again amused at the surprise on Sam's face. "You called?"

"I'm surprised you came." Sam admits, keeping a tight grip on the steering wheel. "This could've been a trap." The angel takes a breath, catches traces of perfume – cherry – in the air. He arches a brow. You sly dog...

"It could've been." Dean agrees. "Angelic spidey sense. I knew there wasn't any this time," now that he knows what to look for. Since it was just a prayer, he had time to take a peek before he landed.

Sam's brows furrow. "Angelic."

The angel sighs and props an elbow against the window. "Yeah. I'm only cloaking the wings so that I can fit, by the way." Sam's nod is awfully quick. Dean studies him for a moment. "You pick this spot on purpose?"

"Maybe." Sam hedges. "Look. I am sorry, for how it's gone," Dean nods impatiently, "but not for the reasons you think."

He stills. "That right?"

"Hear me out. I think... I think you don't see what's wrong with this."

Dean makes a noncommittal sound and stares resolutely out the windshield, at the starlit night that isn't anywhere near as dark as it would be for a human.

"I know you might think it's... cool, or... you know, maybe it's not just..."

"Not just what?" He's not gonna sit here hemming and hawing needlessly.

"Not just the wings, Dean. You're different –"


"And did you ever stop to think that maybe you're really different?"

"What? Oh, nooo, Sammy, no, of course I'm not different. I can move faster than light and hear just about everything and, man, I'm not gonna list it all, but no. Not different at all." Dean snorts. "What's your point?"

"I don't just mean..."

"Are we back to this again? Really?" Dean squeezes the bridge of his nose, lets his hand drop, and shakes his head. "Drop it." Hearing the indignant breath that's prelude to a fit of some sort, "I'm serious. It doesn't have to be all... that, you know, he's a smarmy bastard but Crowley had a point. These wings aren't just for show."

Sam looks at him like he's gone crazy.

"I mean I can be helpful on hunts. Won't be needing to drop in and out as much as Cas did," he chooses to ignore the way his brother flinches at the name, for the sake of peace, "might be fun to get my smite on."

"... I guess."

Might as well get out while he's on top. "Glad we're on the same page on that. I'll be seein' ya," he promises, and is gone in that tell-tale rustle of invisible feathers.

"What of your family?" Castiel asked, out of the blue, in a crisp and all-business tone. His hair is neat and his trench is as immaculate as it had ever been and he carried himself like a politician. Dean was seated on the porch, wings partially hidden. To the average onlooker, he fit in easily enough, but to Castiel and most other supernaturally-inclined beings, his wings were in plain view.

"Family?" Dean asked, while eyeing his god with watchful, but not suspicious, eyes. Family. Did Cas want something with Sam?

"Sam and Bobby." Castiel supplied vaguely.

"What about them?" When Dean moved to stand, Castiel only shook his head.

"I won't be here long." The angel recoiled just a hair, but chased the reaction with a pleasant enough grin and a forced shake of his wings. He wasn't trying to cover up his emotions – his god wasn't one easily fooled; there was no reason to lie to the center of the universe – but, rather, show no ill-will. "Have you visited them?"

Dean's answer was immediate, without defensiveness but laced with some curiosity. "No. Why?"

"Perhaps you should. It has been some time." Inexplicably, Dean pictured test papers and quizzes under the keen gaze Castiel was fixing him with.

"Sure." Dean nodded easily, rolled his shoulders and shifted his wings by way of a half-hearted shrug.

Castiel didn't spare a farewell. He merely inclined his head and disappeared between one second and the next.

Dean finds Castiel at a vacant park, in Europe, in the middle of the night.

"You spoke with Sam." It's neither a question nor an accusation.

"Yeah," Dean says, "I did."

"He is your brother."

"Yeah, he is." Under the weight of Castiel's expectant gaze: "Yeah?"

"You weren't there long."

"No...? You know, last time, he kinda got the drop on me –"

"He is your brother."

Dean sighs. "That's not the answer to everything." He sits on the bench next to Cas, rubs at the stubble on his chin absently. He doesn't even need to glance at Castiel to feel the insistence of his gaze, so he doesn't. "Why are you looking at me like that?" His chest tightens automatically. "Is everything cool?"

"Yes," he says crisply. "I must go."

"See ya," Dean says to empty air, then remains seated until dawn breaks over the skyscrapers.

Dean acquiesced because Cas had a point, but it was something outré to cloak his wings. It was something that came easily enough – when it came to a lot of things, for angels, simply thinking something was enough to make it happen, but that didn't make it feel right. Still, caution might be good to exercise, especially when the two people you considered family are hunters.

He appeared in Bobby's living room, because he knew that both the old man and Sam were in there, talking or drinking or something, and kept his now-invisible wings folded tightly against his back. They seemed to have forfeited the anti-angel sigils in favor for some different, more obscure ones. That worked out great for Dean in that he could show up here in the first place. That would've been awkward, otherwise.

"Hiya, guys." Sneaking up on people is going to be his new favorite form of entertainment, Dean decided when Sam spun around so fast that he was obviously dizzy. Bobby jumped to his feet a beat later than Sam did, reflexes likely dulled with age. Trippy. He could see all the differences between the body of an elder and one in the prime of his life, down to the minutiae in each and every cell. Dean blinked, having newfound empathy for Castiel's soulful – literally, he knew now – stares.


"I'm kinda hopin' we can skip the slicing and water-spraying routine?" Sam whipped out Ruby's knife at the same time as Bobby splashed some holy water at him from a previously-pocketed flask. Neither actions came as a surprise, and it wasn't like they didn't telegraph the actions with infinitesimal tensing in key muscle groups that Dean's angel-enhanced vision picked up like neon signs. The water landed on his face because he allowed it – because ducking to avoid or, worse, zapping it away harmlessly – would have been just a bit damning. "Or not. It's just a hassle, you know, no biggie."

"Last we saw of you was when that damned angel – not-angel or whatever he is now – beamed off with ya in green light. Can't be too careful with 'God,'" Dean's wings, which were luckily hidden, bristled at the way Bobby said the word, "on the loose. Now sit."

Dean considered, briefly, testing the wills of their minds to maybe just sneak in some supposed memory of them subjecting him to the various tests. It wouldn't be so bad, would it? Just save them time in the long run, anyway, and it wasn't a lie. He wasn't a demon or a shifter or anything. No harm. "Sure," he said, then snapped his fingers.

Everything in Bobby's house stopped, except Dean, and he ambled over to them. He imagined how it might go, ran through the list of necessary checks in his head, came up with something plausible, and inserted the false-memory in each of their heads with a tap to the forehead. The human subconscious was great at filling in the blanks, anyway. He sat on the couch, loose and easy like this was just another visit, and proceeded to wait a few minutes to lend credence to the whole "something actually happening" thing, since time "flying by" might not actually fly. He flexed his hands a bit and adjusted a few crooked feathers idly in the meantime. Then, he unfroze that section of time and space to let it back up into what was the real present.

It was surprisingly simple, really.

"Whoa," Sam said. He scratched his head dazedly, blinking and pressing a hand to his forehead. "For a sec, I was totally convinced that your walls were pink?"

"What?" Bobby stared at the taller man as if he had two heads. "Don't you know they're blue?" He proceeded to blink dumbly not-blue walls around them, mouth working without sound for a second.

Dean coughed awkwardly into the sleeve of his jacket. Whoops. So, maybe he didn't have the whole mind-whammy perfected just yet, and maybe their subconscious didn't fill in the blanks just right, or something. "Heh." Should've practiced... He straightened a bit and aimed for casual: "I think you've had a few too many, the both of you."

"Huh." Was all Bobby said, before retiring to an armchair, evidently satisfied enough that Dean was in the clear. Sam, too, seemed content that Dean was himself – he was, too. So, yes, it wasn't as if he had lied. He'd saved them some time, that's all.

"So." He rested his elbows on his knees and leaned forward so that his wings weren't squished awkwardly into the cushions as much. He shifted them so that they curved out and over each shoulder and was distracted, briefly, at how disorienting it was to see through them on each side of himself, even though he knew, without a doubt, that they were there. The dichotomy of seeing them and not seeing them was trippy as hell, and it must have shown on his face.

"What's the matter?"

"Nothin', Sammy," Dean chirped, fixing a nonchalant grin on his face after tearing his eyes off his own feathers. "Everything's fine."

"Fine, huh? What happened with Cas?" Bobby grunted something like agreement, though he didn't say anything just yet. Both pairs of eyes were on Dean and he was finding the temptation to peek into their minds again harder and harder to resist when under their gaze. It'd be so, so easy... but what was he going to find in there, anyway? "Where'd he take you? What did he do to you?"

"Hold your horses, man, jeez." Dean shook his head. "It's fine."

Bobby was far from the picture of patience as Dean felt content to let it hang in the air for a bit. "You plannin' on telling us anything today or are we gonna have to schedule a later appointment when your schedule's cleared up some? Would hate to be a bother, 'cause we know you're a busy man. Would it've killed ya to call? Leave a message? Show you weren't dead?"

"Where is he? Did you kill him?"

Flabbergasted, Dean jerked his chin up and goggled at his brother. "Did I what? No! No, I didn't kill him." He scoffed and rubbed at his chin absently while dragging his gaze along the coffee table. "Why would I do that?" He genuinely wanted to know.

Sam was staring at him as if he was the one asking stupid questions. "Why would you – Dean, he declared himself 'God.' He tore down the wall in my mind." Dean stared at him, because bits of memories flitted through his head at that, and only then did the angel catch that haunted flash of his brother's eyes, noticed for the first time the sway in his stance and the set to his shoulders. ... Right. He probably wasn't doing too good, mentally. It probably hadn't been Dean's brightest idea to poke around the guy's head ten seconds ago, too. Guiltily, he worked at the back of his neck with his knuckles a bit as he tried to think of a new game plan. "He's all hopped up on soul-juice, Dean!"

"Where'd he take you? We gotta ice him, you idjit."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Dean held out his arms, palms-up, "let's not get too carried away here." He stood up too quickly, sent some loose papers on a nearby table flying with the unintended flourish of one wing. He surreptitiously tucked it back in, trying to keep the movement that required independent from the rest of his body – way harder than it sounded, he'd have anyone know. "There's no need to talk about icing or –"

"There's plenty need!" Bobby barked as Sam backed off a step. Both their faces were all scrunched up and weird and distrustful and Dean didn't get it.

Sam's voice was low in spite of its shakiness. "Where did he take you, Dean?"

"Everything's fine, guys, really. He stopped the apocalypse, I'll get him to fix you," he looked meaningfully at Sam, "and he's still a good guy, not the monster of the week. We're not going to kill him." That "option" was totally off the table and, the way he saw it, those two were out of line for even suggesting it. His expression better have been suitably reproachful as he leveled a stare to each of them.

"... What?" Sam choked, knuckles white around the knife he'd never gotten around to setting down.

"I don't speak stupid, boy. You're gonn' have to translate that for us intelligent folk."

Dean bridled at the insult, spent double the effort to keep his wings narrowed and tight together. It seemed that their natural reflex seemed to be to draw out. It reminded himself too much of a peacock or something silly, to be honest. "We're not going to kill him," he repeated stonily.

"Dean, man, whatever he's been telling you... the guy's off the rails. He doesn't –" This was stupid.

"This is stupid." Dean was the kind of guy to just rip off bandaids, get things over with, and so he did what he should've done earlier. Screw subtlety.

Unfortunately, uncloaking his wings without preamble was – evidently – the fastest way to turn a semi-civil conversation into angel-killing blades popping out of freakin' nowhere (where did Bobby hide those things?) and being lobbed everywhere, so Dean got the hell out of dodge.

"Never let it be said that Dean Winchester isn't a badass motherfucker." Dean declares, managing to not only keep from losing his breath from the summoning but also zip out from where Sam and Bobby had "hidden" their circle of holy oil. He frowns at Sam when he turns around so quick it was a wonder he didn't get whiplash. "Where'd you guys get that shit, anyway?" He'd snuffed out containers of the stuff from Bobby's attic, a few closets, some cupboards, behind the seat of a toilet. I don't think I missed any. Cas had made it out to be such a rare thing, too, back in the day.

"Dean," Sam breathes before raking a hand through his hair. "You have to let us help you."

"You have a funny definition of the word 'help' –"

"Quiet." Bobby snaps. Dean frowns down at the ground; it's incredibly quiet, actually, apart from the sounds of breathing.

When Sam goes: "The oil wasn't our endgame." Dean's blood runs cold.

"Look up, boy."

Dean does. "A circle? In chalk? On the ceiling? Really?" He scoffs. "I'm shakin' in my boots, guys."

He's sure Sam means to look apologetic, but the draw of his brows sparks only ire in Dean's gut. "Dean –"

"Why don't you try and leave it, then, if it is but a mere circle?" A new voice, distinctly feminine, rings out.

Dean catches a whiff of cherries just as a middle-aged woman strides out from the living room – oh, they're just pulling all the stops, aren't they? So dramatic. He sneaks a peek at her soul, because hey, who wouldn't? "A witch? You have to be kidding me."

Nonchalant, the witch twirls a strand of raven-black hair with a perfectly-manicured finger. "This house has been warded, Dean Winchester: 'badass motherfucker,'" her gray eyes, sparkling beneath dolled up lids, and heavily-accented voice are both so very amused. "No sound, in any form, shall escape. Where you stand? Only a human will leave that circle."

"This is just adorable, Sammy," Dean deadpans, "got yourself a sugar momma. Now, now, this was all unnecessary. You didn't need to worry; I won't judge. To each their own and all that."

Huh. The witch's eyes have narrowed into slits, but Sam's passed up the opportunity to pull a bitch face. It's the apocalypse for real, this time, isn't it? "Just 'cause he ain't gonna be hearing nothing, don't mean he's not going to suspect something." Bobby says in his your-pointless-yapping-is-just-pointless-yapping voice. "We'd best be quick 'bout this."

"Right." Sam says. "Eva, you're sure about the incantation?"

"I suppose. I have added twin wards to assist. They are no... what is the word?" This "Eva" drops her voice to a whisper, looking uncertainly at Sam and Bobby. "Chafe-guard?"

"Safeguard?" Bobby supplies, not lowering his tone in the slightest.

"Yes. That." She nods shortly, speaking normally again. "But I am confident that this will act as your demon friend suggests. My extra wards are merely precautions to protect us... should something go awry."

Dean doesn't like where this is going. "As much as I like being kept in the dark –"

"No sense in wasting time."

Sam nods his agreement, though Eva chooses to voice hers. "I agree."

"Wasting time until what?"

"Go on, Sam."

Sam goes and starts reciting something in Latin, and Dean gets it – gets it too late – and thinks he knows it. He sees Cas in his mind's eye, back when he was heaven's favorite little bitch, pinned against the wall by Alastair's words, and shit, that's gonna be me.

His throat constricts, he fights a cough with all that he's worth because he knows it's not a hock of snot that's going to come out – no, it's something much more critical. His stomach heaves restlessly and his body, quite simply, locks up. He can feel, quite distinctly, which muscle groups are lost to him with each syllable of the incantation. He's aware of something inside of him getting pulled until it's so taut that it's just screaming for relief, to snap, to break.

"Balls!" He barely hears Bobby's shouted warning (of sorts), because whatever it is that has him freaking out, it's not stopping Sam, who soldiers on though the incantation to what must be the end.

All he can see is green, ripping him from every which way – it's worse than seeing his own blood, worse than being cut up on the rack – and it's over, it has to be.

The boundaries of each reality were plain for Dean – the youngest, most fortunate angel – to see.

His wings formed massive, flattened arcs that were spread out on either side of him as he ripped right through the fringes of heavens. No inch, tangible and incorporeal, was off-limits to the new angel and he was half-drunk with the knowledge of that liberty. He glided through stormy clouds in the section of Heaven carved out for a tornado-chaser, teleported off to the endless, coniferous forests of a hiker's eternal camping trip.

Dean remembered, faintly, being afraid of flying, but being in a plane was nothing like beating wings and warm air currents and pure, unadulterated freedom.

The angel didn't worry too much, even in the wake of his disastrous reunion with Sam and Bobby. He made a mental note to clear their place of anti-angel blades on the sly, but that could wait a bit. They would come around, eventually, and things would settle down enough to let Dean make things up with Castiel.

He had faith.

"I'm not your brother, Dean."

"I can make you see, Dean."

"Do you see?"

"You have been known as the righteous man, but you will be known as the fortunate angel."

"Do you like it?"

"He declared himself 'God.' He tore down the wall in my mind. He's all hopped up on soul-juice, Dean!"

He had faith.

"You really don't see it. You're not you, Dean."

It was enough.

"You're not just another foot soldier, Dean. Don't you see?"

"What-what he did to you, listen to me, it's wrong."

"There is no reason to refuse my mercy."

"Not just the wings, Dean. You're different – And did you ever stop to think that maybe you're really different?"

"He is your brother."

It's over, it has to be.

Dean stumbles forward, reaching blindly – and wouldn't that be just typical? Getting blinded by his own grace?

He falls against something – someone. "Dean." He promptly recoils with recognition, but his head's spinning and his shoulders are raw, too light in weight, and God damn it, he's gonna hurl, he's just a – "Look at me." He does, no hesitation, opens his eyes and takes in how dull the world actually is; how worn Jimmy Novak's face actually is these days.

Castiel grips Dean's jaw – he's holding him up firmly – and lays a palm across the man's forehead. There's no question, no need, Dean's eyelids drop shut and he accepts, he takes, he goes with it. There's less fanfare this time around, just a burst of light and a heady sense of relief. Puzzle pieces slotting back into place, that's all.

At least, until he realizes they are alone about 0.3 seconds post-grace-restoration. He staggers back, an accusation leaping to his lips, "Where's –"

"Kansas," Castiel says quietly, "for... their safety."

"They better be –"

"They are fine."

Dean retreats a few more steps, sparing a few side-glances to check where he's going. He can feel Castiel's eyes on him, doesn't even know where to start.

"I fixed you."

"Did you?" Dean shoots back, immediate.

"Yes," Cas growls, utterly sure, "I did. Do not pretend for a moment that you don't believe me, Dean. I know you."

"Do you?" He can't resist challenging. It's like he's rearranged the furniture around in his head, can see behind the couch for once. "Know me?"

It's worth it, he decides, even if the flinch is almost too fast for angel-eyes to catch. It's worth it, even as Castiel lunges for him, hand outstretched. No doubt, he's about to – Castiel freezes, mid-step, and the halted threat hangs in the air.

"I–" He looks around in bewilderment, remains in place. Castiel looks up, and – no freakin' way.

"Ha, nice." There's no humor to Dean's voice.

"Dean –"

Dean throws caution to the wind and steps back into the circle, grabs Cas by Jimmy's throat, and pulls.

His grace is raw and electric, fresh from being stretched past its limits, but Dean sees – he fucking sees – and this has been long overdue. It might be the steel of his resolve or the flakiness of Castiel's surprise, but he stares deep into those blue eyes and pulls, pulls them closer in the world beyond sight, dives into the onyx cloud with purpose.

The stolen souls shriek with fury at the intrusion, rip and slash and tear in every which way – but Dean isn't here for them, not yet. His soul was a damned one, once, so he knows eternities of pain – all kinds – and their thoughtless attacks are nothing.

He finds Jimmy Novak's soul first, barely there and clinging by little more than a frayed thread. Dean tucks the battered soul beneath one wing and plunges further, batting away the razing souls of some vampires before swooping through the tiniest of gaps and reaching further into the core, where he'd first glimpsed the true eyes of a once-angel, where he senses him deep within himself.

Castiel shrinks back, drawing onto a cache of skinwalkers as a flimsy shield. Dean's grace blazes true and sends the stricken souls off to the sidelines. "Castiel," you idiot, "it's over."

The eyes widen, narrow, and threaten to disappear into the shadows. "No."

Tendrils of lime-green grace ensnare Castiel, because Dean's not taking "No" for an answer, and that's it, time to go. The souls reach a near-unbearable crescendo now that the muzzle's gone, but Dean's faster, races beyond the stampede and breaks for the surface of reality.

Before he closes the connection, even if only temporarily, he reviews the two he's hanging onto. Jimmy Novak's soul is faded, crumpled like tossed garbage. Poor bastard never deserved this. The soul is so weak that it's not remotely conscious, been stashed aside too long for it to truly remember. Castiel is, for the moment, passive. He's little more than a scorched corpse that once passed as grace; Dean doesn't linger on him.

"How do I get him to heaven?" He asks, grudgingly. He's keeping Cas close, whose mind is open. Dean nods, reading what he needs in a heartbeat. He sets Jimmy's soul loose with whispered apologies and hopes that he won't stick around to haunt their sorry asses. His hold, all the while, remains firm on Castiel.

"What are you doing?"

"You're coming with me, pal, until I can get rid of them."

"Dean, you can't –"

"Shut up." Dean snaps. He rips Cas free of Jimmy's body, of the souls, while stretching himself thinly to prevent them from taking control. The last thing the world needs is some Vampinator waltzing around, after all. The throngs of monsters shudder and screech, though their screams become more plaintive with each passing second, and, as some kind of Creeper Collective, they start singing the same tune.

Deeeeaaan–. Winchester – Dean, Dean, Dean!

"You guys, shut up, seriously." Dean blinks at the onslaught of sensation from keeping both his physical body aware and using his grace as some kind of creature-shield. "I'm in charge here, alright? And this'll be as temporary as it gets, trust me."

Noooooo! No, no, we adore you, Deeeaaaan Wiiinchesterrrr, we adore – he loves you – we understand why, we do, we do! You are strong, Dean Winchesterr – strong, strong, we –"

"Alright, whatever. Can it." He doesn't have anything against fan clubs, but having werewolves and wraiths and all the things that go bump in the night wax poetic about him? No. Just... no. "There are millions of you fuckers, surely one of you knows the backdoor home?"

NO! . NO, don't say such things, Dean Winchester, nonono – we'll make you stronger, stronger than you can imagine, DeanWinchesterDeanDeanDeanDean! Don't you want revenge, Dean Winchester? We will follow you, Dean, because you are strong, please, keep us, DeanDeanDean!

"I'm not going to ask again." His knees are dangerously close to buckling under the strain. His wings are flexed and trembling.

Dean Winchester – please, keep us, take us, we can be yours, DeanDeanDeanDeanWinchester so that you will be strong. Please, Dean, Please!

Castiel is restless; unused to being the houseguest in another's mind for once. "There is no way, Dean."

"Shut it, I'm not talking to you, yet."

"You don't want this, Dean."

"I said –"

"I can control them."

"You honestly think I'll just hand them right back ov–"

"I am sorry. This is for the best." On the outside, Castiel might be something tattered, but Dean gets the sense – too late – that he might've judged the book's cover a little too much. It's the warehouse all over again – that vibrating hum in his veins, steadying cool, and electric calm. Dean's grace is of Castiel's creation – it recognizes him above all else, rolls over harmlessly under the weight of his will.

Dean drops to his knees, boneless. Castiel disengages and assumes control of Jimmy Novak's body once again. With a flash of white-hot light, a tremor wracks Bobby's house, cracks the ceiling neatly, and the unassuming circle is no more.

"Get out," Dean snarls, not bothering to look up as he tries to catch his breath.

"Dean," the sound of Castiel's tremulous voice is wrong in every sense of the word, "you must understand." The god-again genuflects, places a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Dean, I lo–"

The angel cuts him off with a derisive, "I don't love you." Except: he does, he does, because he has no fucking choice, to him Castiel shines brighter than any sun and he owes him for everything, the good and the bad. "Stay away from me," but he doesn't want him to go, he doesn't, because he has no fucking choice, and his god's worth a thousand worlds, and Dean fears such a loss more than anything in existence.

Castiel leaves.

And Dean will follow, eventually – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe he'll hold out a year or two. It's simply that he knows, so they know, deep in his soul, that there's no other option. There never has been, and there never will be.