"I think too much heart was always Castiel's problem." - Samandriel, "What's Up, Tiger Mommy?"
"Let it steal your heart away." – The Rolling Stones, "Torn and Frayed"
The story spread quickly through Heaven- that the final seal had been broken, that Lucifer had risen, that the great war was upon them. There were angels choosing sides and gearing up, some ecstatic, some apprehensive, and one gravely worried who kept his head down as he ghosted through with an earthly duffel bag and a mission.
"Castiel?" he heard from behind him as he slid an angel blade into the bag. He turned to see a younger brother, fear in his eyes and worry fluttering at his fingertips. Though the other angel had no vessel at the moment, he appeared as a young man barely out of his teens.
"Samandriel," said Cas, grabbing for another blade and putting it in the bag. "I assume you've heard about the apocalypse."
"I heard you were dead," said Samandriel, and there was distinct relief in his voice that surprised Castiel.
Shaking it off, he said only, "So did I" before collecting a few jars of oil from the weapons shelf above him.
"What are you doing?"
"Alive?" said Castiel. "I honestly don't know. If you're asking what I'm doing here, well, I… did some things." He said it not with the shame-faced guilt he'd expected from himself but with a twinge of pride and conviction. He'd rebelled, teamed up with the Winchesters, and it felt good. "The other angels are upset with me, I'm sure, and I'm sure they'll be locking me out of Heaven any time now, so I want to stock up." He nodded to a third angel blade in his hand.
Samandriel began to speak, but he was cut off and Cas's point was proven when another angel burst into the weapons' room, seething. He towered over the other two, and his rage only made him seem taller. "Castiel, how dare you show your face here? After what you did on Earth?"
Almost subconsciously, Castiel shifted the angel blade in his hand. "Azrael, those angels were-"
"Leave him alone," said Samandriel, sounding like a mouse in front of a lion. When Azrael had made a move towards Castiel, he'd stepped out to block him, a testament to the centuries Castiel had spent teaching and protecting him. The older angel's eyes sparked when he took in Samandriel.
"You should not be associating with this traitor," said Azrael, reaching out to grip Samandriel's arm in a way that made the kid-angel cringe. "Zachariah could teach you a lesson." Whatever he was going to say next, whatever threat he was about to make, died in his throat when he saw Castiel gripping an angel blade out in front of him, very deliberately pointed at Azrael.
"No, Azrael," he said in a voice like the metal of the blade in his hand. "Your fight is with me."
For a moment Azrael looked sorely tempted to take him up on the offer, but then his face melded into a sick grin. "Zachariah and the others have better plans for you. As for young Samandriel here-"
"Let him go or I'll kill you," said Castiel bluntly. When Azrael looked skeptical, he added, "You know what I did earlier today. You wouldn't want to test me."
He wouldn't, reluctant as he was about leaving the rebel Castiel get away with this. A moment later, Azrael had vanished, leaving behind a shaky but intact Samandriel, who turned to his brother and said, "You shouldn't have done that. Threatened him like that."
"He was going to hurt you."
"Then I would have gotten hurt," said Samandriel in answer. "Azrael's above both of us, you know that. We're supposed to do what he says, aren't we?" It was really a question. For the longest time, Castiel had been the one to whom Samandriel had posed his questions, no matter how difficult or awkward. It had been Cas who told him about Lucifer's falling, and who had broken the news to him that only Noah would survive the great flood. For the longest time, Castiel had always been able to reassure him in his answers.
Not this time. "Listen to me," he said, glancing out the open door of the weapons' room as if Azrael would come back at any moment. "If you remember nothing else that I've told you, remember this. We can make our own choices, and there's a difference between loyalty and blind obedience." He leveled his gaze with the other angel to make sure his point was getting across. "There's such a thing as freewill."
Samandriel nodded. "Then I'm coming with you," he said.
"It's my choice," he said, stubborn as ever.
"I'm falling," said Castiel, and saying it out loud made the truth in the words really sink in for the first time. He shook it off. "I won't take you down with me." He sighed then. "There is a war coming, though, a bloody and terrible war, and I don't want you in the middle of that. You should get somewhere safe and stay there until it's all over. If that's even possible."
Samandriel still seemed upset, but he nodded. "Are you going to be okay?"
"Probably not," said Castiel, and his mouth twitched up as he reached out to lay an affectionate hand on his little brother's shoulder. Without even thinking about it, he said, "Be safe, Sammy."
He smiled as he turned to leave, realizing yet another habit that Dean Winchester had taught him, and the next time Samandriel- Sammy- saw his older brother he was being carried by him, bloody and battered, out of a warehouse.