Put the Apocalypse On Hold
Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine. I do not profit from this story.
Characters: Balthazar, Castiel
Spoilers: 5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight
Summary: Balthazar and Gabriel help Sam and Dean take Pestilence's ring, but the truth is that it's not about the Winchesters. It's all about Castiel.
Note: This is the sequel to Skipping Out of Heaven, the Second, which you need to have read to understand this story.
Balthazar searched for days. He knew that Castiel had blasted himself and four other angels away to free the way for the Winchester brothers but where he had gone, Balthazar had no idea. He cursed the lengths his brother would go to for a bunch of humans.
Like he had told Gabriel, he wasn't interested in the Winchesters. In his opinion, they were both spoiled, head-strong and ignorant. Ultimately, they were also broken. The older brother had been broken in Hell, starting the whole apocalypse in the first place – and if only he had had the guts to move on without his brother like ordinary people he would never have been there to begin with – and the younger one would be tainted with demon blood up to his death, no matter how long he remained clean.
Balthazar just didn't understand what Castiel saw in them. But Balthazar wasn't helping the Winchesters after all, he was helping Castiel. Unfortunately, a banishing sigil like the one Castiel had used could transport an angel virtually anywhere with the exception of Heaven and Hell. And no matter how quickly Balthazar could fly over earth, this required a more thorough search. Everyone in Heaven knew that their wayward brother had been losing his grace for some time now. And after his suicidal fight with the other angels, Balthazar didn't know how much grace Castiel would have left and whether he still had enough to be tracked.
In the end, Castiel wasn't as far away as he had feared. Balthazar found him in a hospital in New Orleans, fast asleep.
He looked pale and worn out, somehow diminished dressed only in a hospital gown and hooked up to various machines. The smell in the room was terrible, a mix of disinfectants and sickness and various other things that Balthazar didn't want to think about too much. Balthazar hesitantly reached for Castiel's forehead just as a nurse entered the room.
"Oh! I didn't know we had a visitor," she said.
Balthazar smiled superficially at her. "Sorry, I must have forgotten to say hello."
"It's okay," she assured, but it was evident that she remained suspicious of the angel and wondered how he had entered the room without being seen passing the nurses' station.
"Are you a family?"
"Perhaps you can help enlighten us then. We don't even know his name, let alone what happened."
"I'm not too sure about that last one myself. Do you know anything?"
"It seems that he suddenly appeared on a fishing boat near Delacroix Island. The sailors completely freaked out." She laughed a bit. "Said he appeared out of thin air." The nurse shook her head.
"Any idea when he'll wake up?" Balthazar asked.
A look of pity crossed her face. "You should really talk to a doctor about that. I'll let Dr. Caine know you're here."
Balthazar saw it as the deflection it was. Technically she wasn't allowed to tell him the details on a patient's condition; but most of all she didn't want to be the one to tell him that, in their eyes, Castiel was brain dead.
Balthazar gazed worriedly at his friend. But to his relief, he could feel a small amount of grace still lingering in the vessel beneath his hand. Of course, the vessel was empty save for the angel; that would account for the supposed brain death. Hopefully Castiel would wake once he had had some time to rest and gotten the chance to 'recharge his batteries'.
But it was unnecessary for Castiel to remain here. In fact, Balthazar would prefer taking him away from the hospital and get him to a place which was better protected.
"I'll wait here for the doctor then," Balthazar said, eager to end their conversation and get rid of the nurse.
The nurse nodded. She checked on the patients in the room, took some notes and then finally moved to leave.
"Just one more thing," the angel stopped her.
She would never know what happened after that. In fact, she wouldn't even remember that there had ever been an unknown, brain-dead patient who had appeared unexplainably on a fishing boat, and she would never know that a tall, handsome, blond man had come to visit him. As far as she was concerned, nothing unusual had happened that entire week.
"Castiel, come on, wake up already."
"Sleeping beauty..." he whispered into the angel's ear in a sing-song voice.
He sighed. "Please. Castiel."
At last, the angel moved. His fingers twitched and he moved his arm slightly. He mumbled like a human in dreams, then settled again into deeper sleep.
Balthazar sighed again. Three days had gone by since he had collected Castiel from the hospital and brought him to this hideout. At least their hiding place had class. It was a huge mansion protected by every last sigil Balthazar could think of and Heaven's weapons under its roof.
"No change, hm?"
Balthazar swung around cursing under his breath. He couldn't afford losing all awareness of his surroundings. But there was Gabriel, who had arrived without the other angel even noticing.
"Next time, knock first," Balthazar snarled.
The archangel smirked briefly before turning his gaze back to the seraphim lying prone on the bed.
"His grace still needs time to recover," he said.
"Well, how much longer is it going to take?" Balthazar burst out angrily.
Gabriel shrugged. "We'll see." Turning fully to face the other angel again, he continued: "We're going after Pestilence first."
"So?" Balthazar imitated the archangel's shrug.
Gabriel rolled his eyes. "So are you helping us or not?"
"Someone has to stay with Castiel."
The archangel raised an eyebrow. "As I said, Castiel won't wake up for a while and when he does, I'll know. This place is warded against anything and everyone save us, so no one is going to kidnap him and the Winchesters would appreciate some help."
Balthazar nearly sneered. "Oh, really? Doesn't look to me as if they appreciated Castiel!"
Gabriel narrowed his eyes. "All right, listen, I'm definitely not the most stout defender of the Winchesters either. But this isn't just about them, it's about Michael and Lucifer and their epic bitchfight which will leave the entire earth in shambles! So if you want to continue to enjoy food and sex and vessels, I suggest you get to it!"
The other angel rolled his eyes. "What do you need?"
With two angels working together it was not quite as difficult to overcome the horseman and get the ring as it would have been for the Winchesters alone. Nevertheless, it wasn't a child's game. Pestilence had holed up in the Serenity Valley Convalescent Home, a nursing facility, with several top demons as his henchmen. But the angels didn't hesitate before burning out their twisted counterparts, and when Sam and Dean crept along the floor, wracked with at least three different illnesses at the same time, Balthazar leapt over them and caught pestilence long enough to cut the ring off.
The horseman reappeared shortly after, holding his bloody hand in a protective grip and said:
"It doesn't matter. It's too late."
By the time the Winchesters had returned to headquarters – Bobby's – the effects of Pestilence had worn off. Balthazar didn't even bother coming with them and Gabriel would have followed him as well if Dean hadn't caught him by the sleeve.
"I want to see Cas."
"I figured. He's awake, I can tell you that much. So how about you let me go to him and I'll tell him that you miss his strong, looming presence?"
"No. I'm going with you!"
Gabriel raised an eyebrow.
"Careful with your tone there, Dean. I don't see a ring of holy oil around me and nothing less is gonna make me do anything."
"Gabriel!" Sam warned. "We've got a right to know how he is more than you do."
"Says who?" The archangel sneered. "You because you've spent about a year with him? That's nothing to an angel!"
"As we see it, the time we spent with him was a lot more worth to him than any time he spent with the angels."
Gabriel shook his head. "You bozos have really no idea, do you? You know what, I'll ask Castiel whether he wants to see you and go from there. And next time we see each other, perhaps I'll be in a good enough mood to tell you a little bedtime story of Castiel growing up in heaven. And you definitely weren't there for that."
He disappeared right under Dean's hand.
Both Balthazar and Gabriel had known the moment Castiel woke and discovered his surroundings. But Pestilence had kept them of coming to him immediately. Balthazar was of course the first to arrive while the archangel dealt with Dean.
"Balthazar!" Castiel's human vessel showed little expression but his grace flared as brightly as its weak state allowed with delight at the unexpected visitor.
"Brother! You're safe," Balthazar told him immediately. He reached for the other angel and their hands entwined in a lesser expression of what it meant to touch souls in Heaven. "You're safe here and you can rest for as long as you like."
"How did you find me?"
"I found you in a hospital. You risked a lot when you used those sigils on yourself."
"It was worth it!"
Balthazar merely sighed. "I've met your little humans. Can't say I'm too impressed."
"Then you have not looked at them closely enough," the other angel insisted.
Balthazar shrugged. The sound of wings heralded Gabriel's arrival.
"Good to see you awake, Cas," the archangel greeted.
"Gabriel! You are on our side then." He sounded content with the thought.
Gabriel grinned as he snapped up some chocolate. "I guess you could say that. Want some?"
Castiel clearly didn't see the point in eating, but he accepted a piece anyway. Balthazar was obviously more experienced, as he did not hesitate in stuffing his mouth.
"Small favors, Cassie. Gotta accept them if you really think there's something worth saving here," he explained as the taste of chocolate filled his taste buds.
"There is! Where are Sam and Dean?"
"At Singer's," Gabriel told him. "We took care of Pestilence today. Looks like there's a demon hanging around that house; I'll have to take a closer look next time."
Castiel only nodded. "Crowley. Are the brothers well then?"
Gabriel rolled his eyes. "As well as they can be what with their perpetual overload of angst. Dean asked about you. He was quite insistent that he wants to see you, in fact."
"I want to go then!"
"Not so fast," Balthazar protested. "Your grace still needs to heal; it's far from the state it should be."
"I know." But even in admitting his weakness he would not back down. The angel remained as fierce and steady as he had ever been when he was just a simple soldier, one among many in the ranks.
"We can help you." Balthazar reached for his shoulder. "You just have to let us."
Castiel looked back at him.
"He's right," Gabriel joined. "A bit of rest and communion and you'll be as good as new."
Balthazar's eyes lit up with mischievousness. "We could have a ménage à…"
"Not that I haven't come to appreciate sex myself," Gabriel interrupted him, "but we don't want to wear little Cassie out so soon, do we?" He winked.
Balthazar's shoulders slumped in mock disappointment. But he had gotten what he wanted: Castiel was smiling softly. As far as he was concerned, everything was all right. So what if there was still an apocalypse? It would just have to wait!