Time of Angels

Heaven is in chaos, hell is rising, and earth is about to go nuclear.

A/N: Hi! *waves cheerfully* This is the fourth story in the Angel of Truth Cycle, and it might help if you went back and read the first three before moving on with this one. They are, in order: "Little Girl Lost," "Where Angels Fear To Tread," and "Courage of Fools." This story might make a bit more sense of you do.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!


Skull Cemetery, Lawrence, Kansas.

They'd done it. The world hadn't ended. The Apocalypse had been stopped. Michael and Lucifer were trapped in the Cage, unable to wreak any further havoc. The only problem was, they'd been wearing Dean and Sam at the time.

Mary Winchester stumbled forward, still in shock at having to watch her sons fall into hell. She dropped to her knees besides Amitiel's still body, sprawled where Lucifer had left her. With shaking hands, the woman turned the angel over, pressing two fingers against the pale throat.

"Bobby," Mary called brokenly. "Bobby, she's alive!"

Bobby joined her, reaching down to pick the girl's head up out of the grass. "We should get her out of here," he said, his voice hoarse.

"Let me see her."

Both humans jerked at the sound of the voice so close to them. Castiel stood over them, staring down at the unconscious young woman with a sad expression. He was dressed once more in his original dark suit and tan trench coat, long ago ruined from Marax's tortures. Bobby moved aside to allow Castiel to kneel beside Mary.

He touched the girl's forehead, and then held his hand over her chest, a frown gathering on his face. He released a long breath before sitting back. "Amitiel is dead," he said softly.

"Are you sure?" Bobby asked hesitantly. "She's fooled us before."

"No," Castiel said. "Her Grace has fused to Mallory's soul. That could not happen if Amitiel lived."

"It what?" Bobby stared up at the angel. "Is that even possible?"

"I did not think so until now," Castiel admitted. The girl stirred faintly and opened her eyes. They were blank and empty, dark and clouded. Castiel touched her cheek. "Mallory? Are you well?"

She stared at him for a long moment without replying. "Mallory?" Castiel tried again. Her gaze wandered away from him to the sky. A tiny frown creased her brows. Her lips moved soundlessly for a moment before she closed her eyes again.

"Is she—is she all right?" Mary whispered.

Castiel hadn't removed his hand from her cheek. "No," he replied tightly. He stooped to gather the girl in his arms before getting to his feet. Bobby and Mary scrambled up after him. There was a blink of movement, and they were in Bobby's library. Castiel laid Mallory down on the couch.

Mary passed her hand over her eyes. "What do we do now?" she asked, her voice hollow.

Castiel shook his head. "With Michael and Lucifer in the Cage, the Apocalypse is over. Life may continue as normal."

Mary dropped her hand and looked at the angel. "No, Cas. What do we do now?"

He looked down at the girl. "Recover. Rest. Heal," he said softly. He smoothed her hair back from her face. "I have to go. Heaven will be in chaos. They'll need someone to put things back in order."

"They gonna let you back in?" Bobby asked sceptically. Castiel gave him a faint, mysterious smile.

"Yes, I think so," he said cryptically. He reached over and put his hand on Mary's shoulder. "I will return as soon as I can. We'll discuss our plans for the future then." He looked over at Bobby. "We'll deal with this together."

The grizzled hunter nodded. "All right. We'll hold you to that."

Castiel reached down one last time to touch Mallory's forehead. He frowned at what he sensed within her mind, but there was nothing he could do at the moment. She would have to wait. He took a deep breath, and began the journey home.

He'd been right. Heaven was in chaos. Castiel stood on an open walkway in the angel sector and simply observed for a long time. Voices echoed among the buildings and the air was full of wings. He had not seen such activity since the First War. He tried to make some sense of it all but could find no one who seemed to be taking charge.

Even in the chaos, someone still managed to notice his arrival. Rachel landed beside him, folding her wings behind her, and stared at him in shock. "Castiel?" she all but whispered, her eyes wide. "How is this..? Is it really you?"

"Yes, it is," he told her. "I've returned. And it seems just in time. What is going on?"

She shrugged with shoulders and wings "No one knows. After Michael vanished... No one knows what to do."

Castiel nodded. "Gather up everyone left from our garrison. And anyone you believe will be sympathetic. I will need their support."

"You intend to make a claim of authority?" she demanded, stepping forward. "Even after you were cast out?"

He gestured towards himself. "I should think this is proof enough of the legitimacy of my claim."

"Yes, of course," she corrected herself quickly. "I will do as you ask."

"Thank you." He watched as she flung herself into thin air, wings snapping out to catch her. He took a deep breath. Now that Rachel would spread the word, it wouldn't take long for the others to hear of his return. Sure enough, mere moments after Rachel's departure, another of his brothers touched down beside him.

"Raphael summons you to the Hall of Scribes," the angel announced. Castiel nodded.

"I will meet him there," he said.

"I am to escort you," the angel continued, eying Castiel suspiciously. Castiel resisted the urge to roll his eyes (Dean was beginning to rub off on him. He winced. The thought of Dean was painful) and sighed.

"Very well," he growled. "Escort me."

The Hall of Scribes was one of the oldest rooms in heaven and, in the architecture that changed constantly to suit the angels' needs, was one of the few consistencies. Raphael waited for them, seated in a magnificent wooden chair in front of the dais. On the dais, sitting on a humble stool, was one of the Archives. Castiel frowned at this, wondering what Raphael's game was.

"Hello, Sophia," he greeted the Archive. She did not speak, only inclining her head with a neutral expression, but Castiel did not take this as a sign to be worried. No one had heard Sophia's voice since Lucifer's fall.

"Castiel." Raphael drew his name out, staring at the angel over steepled fingers. "We have a bit of a dilemma."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Castiel replied promptly. Yes. Dean was definitely beginning to affect him.

Raphael's gaze darkened slightly at the other angel's flippancy. "With your reinstatement, some of our brethren may take it to mean that they may rebel and escape repercussions."

"It was never my intention to encourage rebellion," Castiel told his older brother. "I only did what I believed was right."

"It is not your place to decide what is right or what is wrong," Raphael said, his voice low and dangerous. "Your place is to follow orders. Archangel orders. Which, thanks to you, at this moment means me. So. This is what is going to happen. You are going to swear your allegiance to me in the presence of this Archive, and then you are going to open the Cage to release Michael and Lucifer."

Castiel waited a moment to insure that Raphael would be giving him his full attention. "No," he said simply. Raphael blinked at him and lowered his hands.

"You dare?" he demanded in disbelief. "After you have been granted mercy and allowed back among us? You would rebel again?"

"It is not rebellion, Raphael," Castiel replied calmly. "It is revolution. The old ways are over. That alone has been proven. Would our Father have allowed two humans to defeat Michael and Lucifer if He did not approve? I have been brought back to show our brothers that the time has come for us to begin making our own choices."

"You speak blasphemy!" Raphael roared, lunging to his feet. Castiel shrugged.

"Only because it needs to be said."

Lightning crackled among the indigo pinions of Raphael's six wings as they spread to fill up the space behind the archangel. "This will not be tolerated," he hissed, raising his hand. "Castiel, by the Father's authority invested in me, I condemn you to destruction." White energy gathered in his palm and he flung it at Castiel, sizzling through the air.

Castiel caught it in one hand and curled his fingers around it. It glowed brightly in his fist for a moment before fizzling out with a brief sputter. Raphael stared at him in utter shock. Sophia shot to her feet, the stool clattering to the ground.

One by one, six massive wings unfolded from the tight bundle at Castiel's back. They were silver-white, as pristine as fresh-driven snow, and gleamed like burnished metal in heaven's soft glow. White flame flickered along the feathers, wreathing Castiel in a pale aura.

"It appears," he said evenly. "That I have been promoted." He turned to look at the Archive. "Sophia, please take note. I, Castiel the angel of Thursday, Archangel, do make a claim of authority on this day, in the presence of an Archive and a witness, to lead the hosts of heaven in the name of our Father, Yahweh, the Lord of Creation."

Sophia closed her eyes and for a moment was shrouded in an orange glow. Enochian sigils traced in fire raced over her skin before fading away and she opened her eyes again, nodding at Castiel. Raphael took a step forward, his wings still raised aggressively.

"I will smite you where you stand," he growled.

The sound of wings filled the Hall, and suddenly Castiel was backed by dozens of angels, some determined, others looking confused, but all very clear as to whom they supported. "I had hoped we could come to a peaceful conclusion," Castiel said sadly. "The last thing I wanted was to cast us into another war." He squared his shoulders. "But I am sorry, Raphael. If you are not with me, than you are against me."

Raphael's face twisted in rage. "Lucifer's wings were white once, too," he spat, and then he vanished.

Castiel exhaled heavily and folded his wings carefully. The extra limbs felt alien and clumsy, but he expected he would grow used to them in time. He allowed the flames to die out, leaving him to all appearances once more his normal self.

Sophia stepped of the dais and walked over to Castiel. She took his face in her hands, her eyes boring into his as if reading his Grace. He kept nothing from her. At length she dropped her hands, stepped back, and bowed low before him. A murmur ran through the crowd behind Castiel at the Archive's approval. He turned to face them.

Rachel stepped forward and bowed as well. "What are your orders, my lord?" she asked.

"I need you to gather everyone who will support us. Tell them of what occurred here today, and prepare for battle. Raphael will not rest until he's destroyed us all. When I return, we'll begin planning our strategy."

She frowned. "Where are you going?"

Castiel reached into his pocket and closed his hand around the object resting there. "To keep a promise."


She was drawing again, or at least trying. Her breaths came in ragged gasps and her hands shook so hard the pencil tip broke against the paper. She cried out in frustration and flung the offending object from her. She stared down at the page and growled, ripping it from the sketch pad and crumpling it into a ball. She threw that, too, and narrowly missed the man standing in the middle of her room. She gasped and jumped to her feet.

"What is happening?" she demanded. "Why are they all so upset? I can hear them in my head and everyone is shouting..." She clapped her hands over her ears with a sob, tangling her fingers in her bright hair.

He walked over to her and took her wrists in gentle hands. "It's all right. It'll be over soon. I've returned, just as I promised. I have something that belongs to you."

She stared at him, puzzled. "Did you take it from me?" she asked.

He didn't meet her eyes. "Yes. But only because I had to. I had no other choice." He showed her the object nestled in his palm. It was a tiny vial on a silver chain, filled with liquid light that moved and shifted with a life of its own. Glimmers of blue and purple and green shown through, coloring her pale skin. On instincts she didn't know she had, she reached out and plucked it up with trembling fingers, undoing the stopper.

The light flowed from the vial, far more than it should have contained, and into her mouth, burning down her throat. It filled her to the brim and kept growing until her frail flesh could no longer contain it. But when it felt as if she must explode from it all, she could feel him there, holding the atoms of her body together until the shock wave faded and she was herself again.

His face was the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes. "Castiel," she whispered. He stepped forward and put his hands on her shoulders.

"Anna. I am so, so sorry for what we did to you. It wasn't right and it wasn't fair. My only defense was that I was defending Amitiel's Marked."

She almost didn't hear him, she was so distracted. "Castiel...you...you've changed. You're..."

His lips quirked in a wry smile. "Yes. I know."

"Is Amitiel..."

His smile faded instantly. "She's dead," he said flatly.

Anna blinked. "I'm sorry." And she found she was. "Castiel, I'm sorry. What I did, tried to do. I was wrong, I see that now. I should have trusted you, as you once trusted me."

"I still trust you," he told her. "And I need you now more than ever. Raphael wants to restart the Apocalypse but I cannot allow Dean and Sam's sacrifice to be for nothing. Will you fight with me?"

"Yes," she said without hesitation. "Always, Cas."

"Thank you."

A third presence joined them and they turned to look at Rachel. Her vessel was a tall, elegant blonde woman around Jimmy's age and, like Castiel's vessel, seemed to favor dark suits. "We've found something," she said, sounding slightly out of breath. "You're going to want to see this."


Mary clutched her cup of coffee and peered through the doorway into the library. Mallory was curled up on one end of the couch. Her black German Shepherd, Crow, lay beside her, head in her lap. One pale hand stroked his ears but she did not seem aware of her actions. She stared directly ahead, eyes still dark and empty.

It'd been three days since they'd stopped the Apocalypse. Three days that Dean and Sam had been trapped in hell. Three days since Castiel had promised to work something out and then vanished. And three days since Mallory had entered this state of shock. She ate if you put food in front of her. She slept every ten or twelve hours. But otherwise she did nothing but stare straight ahead and occasionally whispered something in a language Mary didn't recognize. Bobby guessed it to be Enochian, but he wasn't familiar enough with it to translate.

Mary wasn't sure what she was supposed to do. She'd spent the last few days cleaning Bobby's house from top to bottom for lack of anything else to keep her mind off her sons. Bobby had spent the time reaching out to all of his contacts, trying to figure out what was happening on a global scale now that the Apocalypse was off the rails.

Mallory suddenly drew a sharp breath, startling Mary. The girl stopped petting Crow, her entire body going still. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened as if she was trying to scream, but now sound emerged. She began to hyperventilate.

Mary lunged into the library, setting her mug down on the table on her way towards the girl. "Mal?" she called, dropping to her knees in front of her. "Mal, can you hear me?"

The girl stared straight past Mary, trembling all over. Crow recoiled from her, jumping off the couch and barking. Mallory's hands curled into fists and the tremors grew into full-body shakes. Mary grabbed Mallory's arms.

"Bobby!" she yelled. "Bobby!"

He burst into the room at a run and saw Mallory seizing. "Get her onto the floor," he barked. "Lay her on her back." Together they lowered her to the rug, Mary cradling the girl's head in her lap to protect it. The convulsions lasted for over a minute before Mallory suddenly went stiff, back arched. The lights flickered wildly, a couple of bulbs popping. Papers flew off the desk and books tumbled to the ground. A scream tore free of Mallory's throat, raw and inhuman. Then she went limp and still, breath coming in shallow gasps. She opened her eyes and they were once more her own, pale silver-gray.

"Good God, girl," Bobby panted. "What in the hell was that?"

Mallory blinked at him and frowned in confusion. "Uh...what am I doing on the floor?" she asked hesitantly.

"You had a seizure," Mary informed her.

The girl blinked again. "Can I get up now?"

Mary and Bobby sat back to allow her to rise. Her confused expression didn't clear. "Did something happen?" she asked, looking from one to the other. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"You've been practically comatose for three days," Mary said, eying the girl closely.

Mallory's eyebrows shot up. "It's only been three days? Holy crap. Felt like longer." Crow chose that moment to bully past Mary and shove his nose against Mallory's neck. "Oh, hey, buddy," Mallory cooed, ruffling his ears. "How you been? I missed you."

"Mal," Bobby said sharply. "What d'ya mean, felt like longer? What the hell's been going on with you?"

The girl sighed and stopped petting her dog. "I just needed to sort some things out, that's all."

"Uh-huh," Mary said sceptically, crossing her arms. "That's not going to cut it, young lady. The truth. Now."

"What, are you my mother?" Mallory mumbled crossly. She looked over at the adults and winced at their expressions. "I had to sort my memories out from Ami's," she explained reluctantly. "When she...died..." she stumbled over the word, her voice breaking, "She did something to me. I'm not sure what. But all of the sudden I've got all her memories crowding up in my head and I couldn't..." She shook her head. "I need some air," she blurted suddenly, and lunged up from the floor, bolting toward the door with Crow on her heels.

Bobby and Mary exchanged completely bewildered looks and followed her out onto the front porch to find her clinging to the railing, leaning over to let the wind ruffle through her white-blonde hair. Mary walked over to her and laid a gentle hand on the girl's back. "Are you all right?"

Mallory frowned. "No." She waited a long moment, and then continued. "What happened to me, Mary? What did Ami do to me? Why do I feel like—" she cut herself off with a noise that sounded suspiciously like a sob.

"Castiel told us...he said that part of Ami's Grace fused with your soul," Mary told her delicately.

The girl's head jerked up. "It what?" she echoed in shock. Her mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. "Oh my God," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

"Mal?" Mary demanded. "What is it?"

"It hurts," Mallory replied thickly, the tears spilling over. "I didn't know what it was but it hurts, all the time and it's—" She began to hyperventilate. Mary grabbed the girl's shoulders and shook her gently.

"Mal! Stop. Just breathe. What hurts?"

Mallory struggled to remain calm. "Sam," she whispered. "Sam hurts and I can feel it." She doubled over, clutching her stomach. "I wasn't supposed to be alone," she moaned. "We were going to do it together. Ami..."

Mary gathered her into her arms and just held her as the girl wept.


"I don't understand what I'm doing here," Jimmy said for what felt like the hundredth time.

Castiel didn't even look up, still doing...something...with the 3D holographic map that hovered in the middle of the room. Or the thing that Jimmy had decided was most like a 3D holographic map and couldn't come up with anything more analogous to refer to it by. Whatever it was, it was constantly shifting, either on its own or in response to a command from Castiel as the angel passed his fingers through it.

Jimmy looked around the room. It was a perfect cube and had a door in each side, including the ceiling and floor. There actually was neither, as each side held furniture (half of which Jimmy couldn't identify). "Cas," he tried again.

"I thought you would be more comfortable here," the newest archangel finally replied distractedly. "Otherwise you would only be in storage."

"Storage," Jimmy echoed, walking closer to Castiel. As he'd already had the experience of running around heaven with the angel looking like his identical twin, finding himself once more in that situation had not disturbed him as much as it should have. "You're still not holding all of this conversation out loud."

Castiel finally met Jimmy's gaze across the ethereal display. Okay, Jimmy would admit, it was more than a little disconcerting to see such an alien expression in his own eyes. "While an angel is in heaven, their vessel must be stored until their return to earth. Otherwise they would have to release the vessel. I still have need of you. I thought you would be more comfortable here, awake and aware, than contained in a pocket dimension in dreamless sleep."

Jimmy blinked. "Oh."

The angel went back to studying his holographic thing. "Besides, I find your company pleasant." He circled the...thing...and reached out to touch a shape, causing it to morph into something else. "I believe we are in desperate need of a more human perspective."

Jimmy blinked again. "I want to see my family," he blurted. Castiel's eyes darted to him and then away.

"At the first opportunity," he promised. "But I must warn you, heaven is on the brink of war. Such opportunities will be few and far between."

"Yeah," Jimmy sighed. "So. What's your plan?"

Castiel stepped back from the holograph. "Gather support, claim as much ground as possible, and cut off Raphael's access to the Cage."

"How are you going to do that?"

The archangel took a slow, deep breath. His wings fluttered once, feathers fluffing up in a wave before settling again. Jimmy couldn't deny that they were magnificent, and his fingers had been itching to touch them since he woke up in this place.

"I don't know," Castiel admitted. "I cannot send angels down into the Cage. I don't have the strength for a full assault, and it will undermine my stance that Michael and Lucifer must be let alone."

"So you're going to leave Sam and Dean down there?" Jimmy demanded. He still wasn't sure if he actually liked the Winchester brothers, but he sure as hell knew they didn't deserve to rot down there.

A brief flash of sapphire flame burned in Castiel's eyes. "No," he replied harshly. "Never." He closed his eyes and sighed. "I thought..." he trailed off. "I did not expect to survive the Apocalypse, Jimmy. And I thought that, if by some miracle, I did, then I would still be cut off from heaven. Amitiel and I discussed it...and we would have gone into hell to free them. We would have most certainly perished, but we would have brought them out."

He opened his eyes and stared at Jimmy, his expression almost lost. "I never thought I would return to heaven and I never thought it would be without her. Live or die, we were going to stand together. But this..." He spread his wings, all six limbs spreading out to take up most of the available space. Jimmy's breath caught when he found himself surrounded by white feathers and reached up to run his fingers over the gleaming fronds. They were incredibly soft and warm, but strong and heavy at the same time, like silk spun from sun-warmed metal. When they retracted, Jimmy felt strangely disappointed.

"I never expected this," Castiel went on. "As an archangel, I have...obligations. Certain things are expected of me. I may be powerful, but there are limitations. There has to be, for archangels. Otherwise, I'd be no better than Lucifer." And the thought troubled him to his core, Jimmy could see it on his face.

"'Lucifer's wings were white, once, too," Jimmy said softly.

Castiel's gaze sharpened. "You heard that."

"Yeah," Jimmy replied. He stuck his hands in the pockets of his suit pants and rocked back on his heels. "Why are you telling me all this? You aren't exactly the type to share all that much."

Castiel shrugged with shoulders and wings. "You are my vessel. If I cannot be honest with you, than who?"

An angel strode through one of the doors, crossing the left-hand wall as if walking on a floor. Jimmy tried to suppress the swoop of nausea in his stomach and racked his memory to identify the newcomer. He finally dredged the name "Rahab" up from the muddle of his first few moments back in heaven.

"My lord," she greeted respectfully as she crossed the gravity threshold. Castiel's expression briefly darkened.

"There needs to be another title," he told Jimmy privately. Jimmy rolled his eyes.

"What is it?" Castiel asked out loud.

"There is a human soul," Rahab began hesitantly. "He is demanding to speak with you. We found him wandering between heavens. He says he will not cooperate until he sees whoever is in charge."

"Bring him to me," Castiel ordered. "I will take care of it."

Rahab nodded and hurried off.

"I should have gone to visit Ash earlier," Castiel told Jimmy. "From what I've heard of his skills, he will prove invaluable."

"No doubt," Jimmy said dryly. He'd only heard bits and pieces about the hacker, but in his opinion, anyone that bucked the system was an ally right about now. When he heard footsteps approaching, he tried to figure out which doorway they'd enter but gave up and picked one at random. He was in luck. Rahab re-appeared, a human in tow.

Jimmy instantly knew something was wrong, not even taking Castiel's reaction into account. The man standing in the doorway did not at all match the mental picture Jimmy had formed from what little information he had. There was no way this broad-shouldered, hard-eyed man with two weeks of stubble could be a stoned hacker who had, in the past, slept on pool tables.

The man instantly zeroed in on Castiel, possible due to him being the only other winged one in the room. "Are you in charge here?" he demanded, pushing past Rahab and striding into the room. He glanced around himself with keen notice but didn't seem bothered by the strange geometries.

"I am," Castiel replied simply.

"Then maybe you can tell me what the hell is going on," the man continued gruffly. His eyes finally settled on Jimmy and there was a frown, a darting look between angel and human, before an obvious dismissal and his attention turned back to Castiel.

"Raphael wishes to restart the Apocalypse. I will not let him. Heaven is about to devolve into civil war," Castiel replied crisply.

"Yeah, and what does it have to do with my sons? That's all I hear any of you talking about. I keep hearing their names everywhere." He took a threatening step forward. "What happened to Dean and Sam?"

"Your sons are the ones who defeated Michael and Lucifer, John Winchester," Castiel said. Jimmy's eyebrows shot up. His muttered, "Holy crap" was drowned out by Castiel as he continued, "But at a price."

John's eyes narrowed. "What price?" he growled.

"They are currently trapped in the Cage along with Michael and Lucifer," Castiel told him, his voice emotionless.

John went pale. Castiel nodded at Rahab, who bowed and excused herself. John continued staring at Castiel in blank shock for a long moment. Then he managed to pull himself together. "Well, what are you going to do about it?" he demanded. Castiel raised an eyebrow. "The way I figure," John went on, his voice a low rumble. "You didn't want the Apocalypse to happen. With Michael out of the equation, there's less competition for power. I don't care who calls the shots up here, you or Raphael. But you owe my boys for giving you the opportunity to step into this power vacuum so you're gonna get them back home."

Before Castiel could reply, Jimmy calmly stepped forward and punch John across the jaw as hard as he could. John stumbled sideways, one hand coming up to probe the bruise forming on his chin. "What the fuck—" he spat angrily, only to have Jimmy step right into his face and glare up at the taller man with furious eyes.

"If you ever suggest that Castiel fought this war for selfish reasons again, I will end you," he said in a deadly voice.

"Jimmy," Castiel said, putting his hand on his vessel's shoulder. "That wasn't necessary."

"Yes, it was," Jimmy replied through gritted teeth.

John glowered at Jimmy but seemed wise enough not to pick a fight in the presence of an archangel. Castiel looked from Jimmy to the other human man. "It was never my intention to leave Dean and Sam in the Cage," he said coldly. Jimmy smirked, knowing that he wasn't the only one who'd taken offense to John's obtuseness.

"Then what was your intention?" John demanded.

Castiel's expression suddenly went calculating. "Your sons had an ally. A warrior who would be willing to venture into hell for them. I am sure the company of an experienced hunter would be appreciated. Especially one who has seen and knows hell."

Jimmy looked sharply at Castiel, wondering who he meant, but said nothing, reluctant to undermine whatever the angel was playing at.

"You're asking me to go with this warrior of yours into hell to get Sam and Dean?" John said slowly, his eyes suspicious.

"Yes," Castiel replied promptly.

John continued to stare narrow-eyed at Castiel, and then growled, "Fine. I'll do it. But no tricks."

It was Castiel's turn to narrow his eyes and growl. "I am not a crossroads demon," he said warningly. "I don't deal in trickery."

John eyed Castiel for another moment, and then nodded. "All right. Let's get to it, then."

Castiel turned to Jimmy. "We will return to earth now. With your permission?"

Jimmy rolled his eyes. "Cas, you don't need to ask every time now. Just get it over with."

Castiel huffed in amusement. "Very well." Ignoring John's confused and suspicious expression, Castiel extended one wing to wrap around Jimmy and draw him close. "This may be disorienting."

"I remember," Jimmy told him.

The next moment, Castiel stood with his feet in the dry, dusty grass of South Dakota, reacquainting himself to be contained once more in human form. Beside him, the spirit of John Winchester flickered a few times before stabilizing. He looked around. "Where'd the other one go?" he asked.

Castiel reached up to tap his temple. "Jimmy is within," was all the explanation he offered. "Come. We don't have a great deal of time."