This just popped into my head when I was looking at churches on one of my trips... Even an atheist like me is not ignorant to the total beauty and wonder a place like that can possess. :) It made me wonder how a certain former angel might feel in that environment and well, this is what I came up with.
Once again unbetad, so sorry for any errors. Enjoy!
On a sidenote I totally hope something like this will happen in Season 9 ;)
That was the first thing he had come to love about churches in the human world. The quiet, tranquility. The peace. The silent devotion that existed in only few other places on this earth.
In most places in society his Father had ceased to behold the importance over every day human life that He had had at other times during history. Humanity had used to build magnificent, ornament churches for Him all over the world, declaring their awe and undying devotion. Now things were much less simple. Most of the human kind no longer believed that his Father even existed.
He couldn't blame them. His Father had left a long time ago and that was almost an equivalent to nonexistence. Nothing was run by Him anymore. Though he himself had once been so sure of His love and care after having been brought back from certain death, he had now lost all such hope and faith.
If God were still listening, he would've interfered by now. If God were still listening he would never have let it come this far.
What amazed him was how some humans could still remain so firm and doubtless in their faith. It made him happy to see how small groups of them still honored his Father and his brothers in whatever way they could, like in the small and cheerful service he had just experienced.
He had smiled several times, an experience that was very foreign to him during the last two hours in this church. Some of the smaller rituals thought out by the humans almost amused him, for he kept asking himself where they had come up with stuff like that. Eating bred and wine for closeness to Christ. The well thought out and ever-same formulas in prayer. The way prayer was carried out in a large chorus of community.
He supposed it was more about the group experience than what they were actually saying.
A few smiles had also been coaxed out of him at the countless speeches and sometimes the utter absurdity emitted from them. As if his Father really cared about the frequency of sexual intercourse. As if God really cared about sexual orientation. All these rules and sins and devious little ways of life that these followers had worked out for themselves… it would truly have been amusing had he not known how many human beings had suffered because of this throughout history.
However there had been moments during the service where he had been nothing short of impressed by the amazing humility and trust these people could still devote to a Father they couldn't even know existed. They gave the word of faith a whole new meaning. The way they could be so fearless and sure of His love, knowing that this was the right way for them to live, that this was how they found meaning in life… Castiel almost envied them.
He had listened to their words and looked at their awe-stricken and happy faces, wishing that he could be a part of it. Even after the service had ended and the mass of human beings had slowly started to filter out of the church, chatting and socializing as they were, he had remained seated and merely stared ahead at the artful images, trying to make sense of it all.
He had waited until the last of them had trickled out of the church, leaving him sitting on his own on one of the many wooden benches and simply enjoying the almost elevated silence. He wanted so bad to be a part of it all, the contentment, the inner peace and the sense of absolute belonging.
He possessed none of those luxuries lately.
His heart thumped heavily in his chest and the feeling was still unfamiliar to him, despite having been human for several months now. Everything felt constricting, the clothes, his throat, this entire body, which he was still not used to being confined in. It had gotten better after a few weeks, but the feeling never ceased, constantly reminding him of what he had once been and what he would never be allowed to be again.
If God were still listening, he would never have let any of this happen. He could not believe in a Father who would allow his children to destroy each other like this, to let them all be cast from their home and plummet to earth. His Father would never have allowed the world and humanity to be stripped of all of its guardians.
God was gone, he truly was. He had no one to blame but himself for all of his endless failure. He had tried so hard to do the right thing, but he had failed again and again and again. He had no right to sit here and look up at the beautiful image of his brother Michael painted to the church wall, however soothing he might find it. Perhaps it would be best to just stop trying.
"Hey," he suddenly heard a familiar voice cautiously speak behind him.
Castiel was surprised to not have heard him earlier with the complete silence that had fallen over the interior of the church, but then again his favorite human did possess a great amount of stealth.
"I, uh… I figured I'd find you here," Dean murmured and Castiel could hear that he was now only a few steps behind him.
When the hunter had arrived at his side, the fallen angel slowly turned his head to look up at him from his seat, blue eyes locking onto questioning green ones. Dean wore a concerned, yet wary frown on his face, evidently trying to figure out what to say.
"What's up, Cas?" he asked quietly. "I mean, you kinda just… took off on us back there. You wanna tell me what's wrong?"
Castiel bashfully averted his gaze and looked down at the slightly too large cuffs of the flannel shirt he was wearing. It was just another thing that made him feel weird and uncomfortable in his new skin, the fact that his familiar beige overcoat was missing. It wasn't like the coat had meant much in the sense of protection, being an all-powerful creature as he had been, but somehow it still had become a part of him over the course of the last few years in his vessel.
"I'm sorry," he said honestly.
Dean let out a large sigh and moved to sit down across from him on the bench on the other side of the aisle.
"Come on," he said leaning down to place his elbows on his thighs. "Talk to me."
Castiel hesitated, not really knowing what to say. "Nothing," he murmured. "Nothing's wrong really, I… I just needed some time alone."
Dean nodded. "All right," he responded casually. "But don't forget, I know how that creepy brain of yours works and sorry, dude, I'm not buying it. I know you."
"Dean, I…" The fallen angel felt extremely self-conscious under the hunter's scrutinizing gaze. "You know what's wrong. There are thousands of angels walking earth, terrorizing earth… trapped here because of me."
Dean shrugged, pursing his lips in an indifferent expression. "I know."
Castiel looked at him, trying to understand his behavior. "It's all my fault," he said helplessly.
Dean nodded, this time more serious. "I know."
With anyone else the words would have been a mere gesture, a conversational input to let the opposite know that one was listening, but with him it was different. Dean really did know and understand him, he knew exactly what the fallen angel meant.
"So, what?" Dean went on slowly. "You came here to try some kind of absolution and forgiveness stunt?" There was a slight note of sarcasm coloring his voice.
Castiel chuckled softly and humorlessly. "Maybe," he murmured. He risked one more glance up at the shining and awe-striking image of the archangel Michael and knew that he would never be entitled. "It doesn't matter, though."
At Dean's questioning and awaiting frown, he continued to elaborate. "Forgiveness is not something I would ever ask for," he said quietly. "I would neither receive nor even want it."
"What do you mean?" the hunter wanted to know, green eyes deeply grim.
Castiel hesitated for a moment before starting out on the heavy subject that he mostly liked to avoid and suppress. "I would never ask you for forgiveness," he said cautiously. "Because I know I don't deserve it." He risked a quick glance at his friend before dropping his blue eyes back down to look at his fingers, still fumbling with the oversized shirt cuffs. "I know you haven't forgiven me for everything I did… For what I did to Sam," he whispered. "And I know you never will."
The silence that now hovered in the church had ceased to be peaceful, it was bordering on painful and deadly.
"But I wouldn't want you to either." Castiel took a deep breath. "Because I could never accept forgiveness for all the atrocities I committed."
When he finally dared look up at the hunter again, he saw a deep understanding having formed in the warm green eyes, though there was also a stiff and hardened distance there that he knew would always remain. The reason for this understanding was simple: even though he knew Dean could never forgive anyone who had brought harm to his brother, there was always that ever-lasting guilt over his dark deeds during his time in hell hovering over him like a sickening reminder, forcing him to know exactly how the fallen angel would feel in a situation like this.
"I just thought that…" Castiel murmured once he thought it was safe to go on. "Something would present itself, you know, so…"
He let out a big sigh during which Dean remained silent, still listening and waiting for him to finish.
"Dean, I've been trying so hard to fix things," he said helplessly, eyes pleading for some form of understanding. "To make right all the horrible wrongs I committed. But it seems like… Everytime I try…"
"…you make the mess ten times as crappy," Dean finished the sentence grimly for him. "Yeah, I get it."
Castiel gave a silent nod of agreement, his head hanging low with all the shame that he was experiencing. "So what are you saying?" Dean then wanted to know.
The fallen angel contemplated this for a moment, listening to his own still-beating heart and comparing it to the graceful silence of this place of worship. "I don't know," he then decided. "Maybe it would be best… if I just stopped trying."
The words sat between them with depressing weight, the sheer gloom of their hopelessness extinguishing all possibility of joy. After a few moments Dean loudly cleared his throat and shifted in his position, making it clear that he was about to end this dooming silence.
"Well, geez, you're being fucking dramatic, Cas," he piped up and Castiel almost felt the urge to smile because he knew the elder Winchester was about to hold one of his famous talks about what mattered. He was grateful, for he deeply longed to hear it.
"Stop trying?" Dean stated incredulously. "Now that's a load of crap I don't wanna hear again, you hear me?" He waited until he had Castiel's gaze firmly locked with his before going on. "You fucked up, that's great," he shrugged. "We all do."
When Castiel opened his mouth to interrupt, the hunter immediately raised a hand to silence him and pushed him down with a louder voice. "I'm not saying your fucking up wasn't one of epic proportions, man, cause you're right, it was!" He paused for a moment, analyzing Castiel's face and slightly softening his behavior into something more understanding. "Hey, believe me, I get it. I've been there," he huffed grimly. "I know what it feels like, being so… tired. Thinking that nothing matters anymore, wishing it would all just stop."
Castiel looked at his friend, suddenly feeling the need to comfort him, for the still present pain that was now visible in his eyes was worse than anything. However the impulse vanished as soon as Dean straightened himself up, evidently not wanting to discuss his own feelings at the moment. "So yeah, I, I know how you feel about messing up, Cas," he returned to the issue at hand. "And I know it sucks, but… it happened and you can't change that now."
He shrugged indifferently. "Hey, maybe you're right," he said. "Maybe you won't be able to fix it. But I can tell you, it sure as hell won't help anyone if you sit here moping in the dark and feeling sorry for yourself!"
At those words Dean gave Castiel a stern gaze, making the latter suddenly feel ashamed of himself, like a little child caught in some mischievous action it knew was not right. Dean was right, of course he was right. "You can't achieve forgiveness," Dean went on, displaying that same who cares? sort of tone that he often used in conversation. "So what? Doesn't mean you can't keep trying to make things right. I figure guys like us are so screwed to hell – we might as well help some others be happy." He smiled cockily before finishing with a more earnest expression. "That's the only thing that matters."
Castiel did not smile but his eyes lit up with the type of understanding and gratefulness that made the hunter see he had gotten through to him. They both sat staring at each other in mutual agreement while the tranquil silence in the large church lasted, awakening the illusion that they were cut off from all space and time in here.
"Besides," Dean suddenly said with a slight smirk, tearing them both out of their chick-flick moment a few minutes later. "Life as a human isn't all that bad, man! I know you're seeing it as some kind of a, a dooms-day punishment or whatever, but dude! Plenty of fun things about life too!"
Seeing the highly skeptical and ironic gaze that the fallen angel was casting his way, Dean immediately lifted his hands in defense. "Ok, ok, so maybe the fun moments don't make a case of showing up all that often… or, you know, ever," he chuckled in amusement, cause it was so fucking sad it was almost funny again. "But they exist, I promise!"
Castiel had to smile at Dean's sudden enthusiasm, wanting to convince him of the benefits of human life. It was highly amusing, considering how little Dean seemed to enjoy his life himself.
"There's loads of awesome stuff that you get to do now!" the hunter continued, still sounding excited and cocking his eyebrow at his friend. "Hmm? Booze, women… and oh my God!" He suddenly had a look on his face that consisted of a strange mix between shock, disbelief and a gleeful sense of amusement. "Man, I cannot believe that you are still a fucking virgin!"
Castiel raised his brows at Dean's enjoyment, trying hard not to blush from embarrassment. Blushing, that was just another thing humans possessed that he could've done without.
"We should get to work on that, dude!" Dean insisted with almost childlike amusement.
"If you say so, Dean," Castiel responded with a slight chuckle.
"Oh, I do say so!" Dean pressed on, raising his finger to point at the fallen angel. "No brother of mine is gonna walk around on my watch without at least getting laid a few times! Mostly cause I couldn't stand the constant bitching."
The hunter was too caught up in his own joke to notice the other man's stare for at least a few minutes. He kept going on and on about conquests Sammy had made only thanks to him until he finally realized that the look on Castiel's face was one of high disbelief, bordering on uncertainty and insecurity.
"What?" he wanted to know, brow furrowing in confusion.
"Did…" Castiel said slowly, self-consciously, not wanting to enjoy the warm feeling within because it had to be a mistake. "Did you just call me your brother?"
Dean stared back at him for a long moment, the creases on his forehead deepening first, but then slowly dissolving as he realized that the fallen angel was right. He hadn't even noticed himself saying the word, it had come automatically, naturally. Through all his time of understanding he noticed that Castiel's expression was deeply guarded and hesitant; he was obviously very nervous about his friend's reaction.
"Huh," Dean said finally, giving a slight shrug. "Weirder things have happened."
Again no smile showed up on Castiel's face, but the instant warmth of affection in his eyes seemed to light up the whole area around them. Dean soon averted his gaze to not create any kind of awkward moment and Castiel respectfully did the same. There were no further words spoken and they didn't need any. They were both perfectly comfortable to sit in silence and enjoy the quiet church atmosphere.
"Come on," Dean said after a while, rising from his seat. "Let's get outta here, I'm starving!"
While the hunter excitedly started counting down places where they could get some pie, Castiel rose to follow him out of the large church with a simple smile, not bothering to spare the shining, beautiful yet cold and distant image of his brother another look.