Author's Note: Starts out a bit theologically and mythologically heavy. Bear with me, the post-fall chapters are far more plot and relationship based! Cas just has a great deal to think about on the long fall to earth. . .
At times it is difficult even for an infinite creature, a spirit of near divinity, to understand for himself what is myth and what is truth of Creation.
The humans had gotten much of it wrong, of course, in establishing their early Judeo-Christian lore. The Third Book of Enoch was little more than fantasy and speculation, ascribing seven levels to a Heaven that was a protective bowl above a flat world, conveniently held up by 'celestial pillars.' It was the fanciful interpretation of a fledgling race (in the greater scheme of things, to beings who watched them rise from the seas as fish with legs) attempting to understand the revelations given them and misinterpreting Metatron's teachings and the patient explanations of Seraphs to the few who could understand.
The human concepts changed as scientific learning advanced, attempting to incorporate the rational into the spiritual and always failing, always falling short of the truth. It was the work of men attempting to quantify things that one simply had to take on faith.
Nevertheless, Castiel thinks as his hands claw at his blade, perhaps it would have benefitted those ambitious religious scholars to know that his own descent from Heaven began somewhere in the Thermosphere, though plummeting towards the Earth below he couldn't have said if his travels took him through the layers of the shamayin, or if he'd passed Asgard or Olympus on his way.
He wondered if he had. Some small corner of his mind, too broken by doubt, too stained by disobedience to cling to the gravity of the situation and the immediacy, wonders if all the Heavens of the world took notice at the plummet, the light streaking down towards the earth. If his screams disturbed Valhalla as they broke into the choirs of his family. There were others who could have explained it better, who could have shown him the complexities of the cosmos, but Castiel was never the scholar: he was a warrior.
A simple soldier, who thought he could play at being God.
This is foolishness, that niggling piece of his self-conscious interjects coolly into his thoughts, as he turns the blade in his hands, but he dismisses the notion. That same voice had led him astray in the past, was responsible for this. No, he tells himself: this is just. He deserves every agonizing moment, corkscrewing down through the air like a wounded dove, pressure tearing at his spirit, agony burning through his mind, and the sharp thrust of the knife into his own stomach.
There is a sense of madness to this act, however, that Castiel cannot fail to concede as his bloodslick hands lose grip on the knife as he hits the Statosphere. This is suicidal, even for a rebellious child like himself. For angels who chose to Fall, like Anael, they fell as spirit in two halves, Grace and Soul. One ripped away and discarded, one guided by will into a new life, a simple spark. For those like Lucifer, cast bodily from Heaven, they too fell through the metaphysical to the depths below. Castiel knows this: he has experienced it, though his vessel was reformed around him just before he hit that fishing boat, by a Father who saw fit to keep him alive. Castiel had proven himself a far more brutal deity. . . he sees no reason why his judgment for himself should be any more gentle.
There is another reason for it, however. One that as he presses his hand over the wound, eyes stinging with tears, voice raw, he loathes himself just a bit more for admitting. Even as he draws the glowing warmth of his Grace forth, ripping and tearing at his very being, he reaches out shamefully, seeking. This isn't simply penitence, he thinks as he exerts his will once more, anchoring himself covetously on a familiar resonance below.
This is base selfishness.
In the last moments, as he enters the Troposphere, Castiel prays quietly to a Father he has no right addressing, closes his eyes to the spiraling stars above, and gives up the last of himself as-he-was in a desperate man's final play. Wings unfurl, slowing the very last of his descent, their form giving way as the last Grace, held on for this purpose, leaves him. He can feel the phantom snap of bone, the tear of muscle, and as the ground rises up to swallow him and consciousness flees, Castiel knows this: he has Fallen from Grace now in every possible way.
The sharp screeching of interference through the speakers in a nightmarish desecration of Led Zepplin's wafting guitar riffs is the only warning before a wave of force smashes into the Impala. Spiderweb cracks crawl across the window, and tires skid on the abandoned blacktop back road. The chorus of sharp curses from both brothers rings out at once: Dean for the damage to his baby, and Sam for the pain running through both kneecaps as he draws his (freakishly long, his brother will helpfully interject later) legs back from where they smashed into the glove compartment, accidentally loosing the catch and sending false identities and spare cell phones scattering across the interior.
Hearts pounding, Sam with his hands braced against the dash, Dean white-knuckled on the wheel as he deftly steers them to a halt on the shoulder of the road, the Winchesters exchange looks of alarm before Dean gives voice to their identical thoughts with his usual eloquence.
"What the hell was that?"
Wiser men would hesitate before throwing themselves out into the wilderness in the dark, following the red glint of fire and dark stain of smoke across the moon and stars, but Dean and Sam act in tandem: there's no such thing as 'Hunter's Wisdom.' Both clamber out of the car in unspoken agreement, Dean hooking his gun out of his holster, and Sam offering him one of the flashlights now rolling around on the floorboards as he pulls his own pistol from beneath his denim jacket.
Cresting the steep rise to the side of the road, stepping over the single strands of barbed wire that act more as a symbol of private property than any true barrier to it, the brothers both lower their flashlights for a moment as they soak in the image below them in a fallow field.
Fire rises in dancing curls and eddies at the edge of an area dark as smoke in the pale grass shaped in the perfect impression of extended shadow-black wings, scorched away if they ever truly existed at all. Sprawled in the grass at the center is a figure stained with black soot and soil and bubbling blood that seems black in the moonlight and startlingly scarlet as their flashlights sweep over the figure again, glassy blue eyes that stare up at the sky above unseeing.
"Cas!" It's irrational, the immediate need to close the distance without wariness, unquestioning, but Dean Winchester has never been rational when it came to the very short list of people who are his family. For as poorly as they parted and as terrifying as Castiel had become, the immediate stab of panic has the hunter sliding down the rocky slope, dropping the flashlight to free a hand out to brace himself for the descent, gun loose within the grip of his other hand. Sam's fingers close on empty air rather than leather sleeve as he tries to make Dean hesitate, and it's with a warier step that Sam follows his brother, flashlight and weapon cutting left and right, and seeming to gravitate again and again back to the figure at their feet as no other threat is identified.
Just the fledgling wrathful god who had once been a friend, then.
Dean has taken a knee, hand already coated in blood as he presses it over the open wound in Castiel's stomach, other hand reaching to check his pulse, his words a nonsensical rumbling string of curses and abortive pleas that might be seen as prayers. All his words fall short at the first slow flutter of lashes, a dazed blink up at the night sky, and a hoarse word offered in a familiarly graveled voice.
"Holy fuck. You're alive." Dean has been blaspheming his way through every theological figure he could find for years, now, and Castiel has never been exempt. "What happened to you, what…?"
"Pride, Dean. . . it was pride." There's a faint furrow between Castiel's brows, as his eyes flit to Dean as if wondering what part of his statement was confusing, and too agonized to clarify farther. It's Sam, finally dropping to a crouch beside them, who contributes the obvious answer to Dean's question as he draws his knife and begins to cut the smoking and bloody remnants of Castiel's shirt away, strips of cloth to pack it temporarily.
The furrow deepens slightly in Castiel's brow, and though he stares blankly at the sky again, blood bubbling on his lips with his breath, he gives the faint impression of a nod after a contemplative moment. "It was. . . uncomfortable."
It's that remark which strikes Dean and decides for him, as Castiel seems to take that confession and the sharp pain of exploration of his wound as invitation to lapse into unconsciousness. The flat comment, caught between incomprehensible levels of understatement and deadpan that he never quite honed as a form of humor.
It's the first time in a while that Castiel has sounded like himself.