Without sleep – without rest – the mind goes on forever; every possibility for anything at all lingers in the soul, each option captivating on its own, for better or for worse. Every thought enraptures the mind and ensnares any kind of restraint or restriction, revealing weakness after weakness until orders and regulations fall apart, leaving nothing but one's own sense of truth.

Nothing should have happened like this.

There had always been doubts.

There had always been fears, twisting around in Castiel's being until he'd finally been able to shut them all down. It was his one job as an Angel of the Lord to carry out his Father's wishes with mindless obedience – never questioning, never doubting, and never thinking for his own personal benefit.

(A part of him recalls a moment, distant and faded – almost forgotten as he was only a fledgling – of him seeing two angels doing just that, the eldest muttering about how he'd fall with the other before Castiel was being pulled away and hissed at to keep quiet.)

Mentioning these doubts would have meant blasphemy, however – which was something so unspeakable that Castiel had never really considered the risk worth it.

In every way, Castiel was a soldier – he was perfectly capable of going through with any order or any command, mindless faith all he had to lead him through the dark patches of his mind.


Castiel had remained stoic, had remained the perfect soldier until one particular order had demanded his presence downstairs; Castiel been commanded to visit Lucifer's domain.

Of course he remembered his brother; he'd been the fallen angel who had questioned their Father and all of their brothers and sisters, insisting it was only out of love.

Lucifer loved?

Just a few short years ago, the very notion of Lucifer being able to love would have made Castiel furious. The idea would have seemed ridiculous and blasphemous, and he most certainly would have said that Lucifer deserved what he got for his heinous betrayal.

Lucifer, he remembers, Lucifer had been inexplicably avoiding Michael that day.

Presently, however, Castiel wasn't so sure about anything – and the doubt, oh, Father, the doubt – it was suffocating.

What about all those meetings between his fallen brother and Michael?

What about when the two remained locked away and out of reach from the rest of the Host, even when each archangel had their own orders and sides?

Had that been love?

Castiel's own order, at the time, had seemed simple enough. "Retrieve the soul," he'd been told, "of Dean Winchester. That is our Father's wish." More information followed, of course; Lilith, the seals, Lucifer, the apocalypse, Sam, Michael. For most, it would have resulted in some sort of informational overload; but for Castiel, large amounts of information were commonplace.

Castiel could still remember Hell.

The screaming had rippled through the Pit and pierced him, his vessel's deep blue eyes troubled as the other angels and himself fought to locate the righteous man. The task was daunting – never before had it been so vital to rescue a soul, so pivotal to stop it from turning; yet the demons were relentless in trying to delay them – the second the blood was spilled, the Pit rocked.

Every angel knew instantaneously that the apocalypse had begun.

(Castiel tries – with shaking fingers on his own clammy temples – to tune out Michael's euphoria, because he must be sensing that wrong, since Lucifer walks the Earth once more.)

For some reason, the blood spilling and his eldest brother's odd emotion was not what troubled Castiel the most; moreover, he found himself concerned with the question of how this human man – Dean – would handle knowing what he had become in Hell. Was it right to rescue him and leave his memory intact? Would it not be more just to erase the horrors, erase the pain, and let him continue living?

Yet there were no questions allowed in regards to both Heaven's and Michael's orders, and so Castiel did as he was told.

Castiel could still remember Hell. The blood, the demons – the agony.

It had been years since he'd seen it last, but the angel found himself wishing he had stayed put. Then, in his mind, he would never have been able to cause the destruction of Heaven and Earth.

"Talk to me."

Dean's voice brought Castiel to the present, his mind snapping back from its wandering thoughts to full attention. The human was so close, across from him, his green eyes concerned with his forehead creased. That was Dean – always thinking everything was his fault. Always thinking that, for some reason, he was responsible for everything.


Castiel's still shaking hands put down John Winchester's journal before he met Dean's gaze. "Dean –" But how would it be possible to make him understand? To make this man understand all the devastation his own mistakes with Crowley had caused? "The death toll, in heaven, on earth – Dean. I can't go back. I won't go back."

"The angels will kill you?" Dean's tone was matter of fact – proud, as if he'd thought that was all there was. Castiel found himself smiling, in spite of himself, wondering if it could ever be that simple. If Castiel merely thought the angels wanted to kill him, he would have returned long, long ago.

But, he thought, they want me alive – that much the angel knew.

(Really then, his only fear was quite logical.)

"Dean – I'm afraid I might kill myself."

The words were quiet, but the truth in them was obvious. After all, Castiel had stayed in Purgatory to punish himself, and now he was contemplating putting himself up on the rack, longing to do even more penance. And yet – Hell seemed like nothing compared to the hurt, the flash of mortification that crossed Dean's features. The man was about to say something, but the angel pressed a finger to his lips, sensing Sam Winchester's presence.

"Soon, Dean. All in good time." Dean was about to argue – his mouth was opening, eyes hardening with that stubbornness that had won Castiel over in the first place. "I promise," he added, the door to the motel opening just seconds later. Trembling hands picked up John Winchester's journal once again, the angel too afraid to meet Dean's eyes. He waited until the two brothers were talking before drifting back into his mind again.

Castiel could still remember Hell.

Hell is less than I deserve.