Interlude: What a Quack

"What are you gonna do, Cas?"

"I don't know. Isn't that amazing?"

Castiel stood by a duck pond, watching several of the waterbirds leisurely swimming about, in a place called St. James's Park. It was a lovely, if overcast, day.

He didn't think much on Dean's inquiry; he preferred discovering the answer himself by traveling the world, perpetually in awe of the beauty of his Father's creation, though it was no easy task. The amount of suffering he'd seen, how so many people struggled daily, was something he'd already known – he'd previously reasoned that it wasn't his place to interfere. Now, however, he couldn't understand what the harm would be in granting small blessings to those truly in need. Like he'd done for that indri lemur.

Perhaps he should visit them, see how they've been doing...

He was distracted, however, when a dark-clothed human walked up and took a place beside him, shoulder nearly brushing his. Turning his head to take a closer look, Castiel noted that the somber-looking human was a man, though it was rather difficult to discern – the only visible part of him was the bottom half of his face, and even that was partially obscured by a thick, plain black scarf. And, despite being hidden behind a large pair of sunglasses – the sun isn't even out – he could tell that the human was casting him a few furtive glances. How strange.

Castiel was no stranger to the oddities of Man, having been in the presence of the Winchesters, so he paid no mind to this human.

Instead, he watched in wonder as the idle ducks suddenly perked up upon spotting the human, quickly beginning to make their way toward him. He heard a low grumble and, from the corner of his eye, watched as leather-clad hands produced a plastic bag of breadcrumbs from a side pocket.

The drakes swarmed, quacking loudly.

As the stranger threw several handfuls of breadcrumbs, he gestured toward the feasting birds and commented with an accented voice, "Ducks fly at midnight."

Glancing over with a slight smile, he mildly replied, "Do they?"

The man stared at him, hands clenching around the plastic bag. "Um, the cheese is in the trunk?"

When Castiel simply tilted his head, unresponsive, the man abruptly walked away.

Confused, the angel briefly wondered whether or not he should have offered to do something about the cheese.

"Oh, don't mind him," another voice emerged, soft and cultured and reminiscent of Harry. Following the voice, an interesting man came around to take the other human's place, smiling warmly at Castiel. "The poor lad thought you were a fellow operative – it's a wonder they haven't caused an international incident yet! Honestly, they never learn."

He absently paid attention to the words, focusing more on the familiar feeling he received from the new arrival, teasing at the edge of his senses. To anyone else, this man would just be another unassuming face in a crowd – he had a kind-looking disposition, amplified by his slight pudginess, with blond curls that framed his soft features. Dressed in a tartan sweater, and smelling of old books, Castiel felt a certain kind of comforting joy and serenity in his presence. It was enough to have his wings unfurl of their own accord, though not to flee – no, it was in greeting, excitement – and he took a closer look at the man. Looking beyond the earthly plane, he saw something uncomprehendingly old and shining and exquisite and home

– and he knew this wasn't an ordinary man. No, not a man at all.

It was an angel.

Castiel wasn't sure why his sibling was masking his presence – he wasn't able to recognize which angel it was, and it'd be rude to ask which garrison he hailed from – but he decided not to question it, choosing to embrace his happiness in the presence of family. Giving a slight nod of acknowledgement, to which his brother returned with his own radiant smile, Castiel belatedly replied, "Well, everyone makes mistakes."

His sibling simply nodded, though his gaze was tinged by sadness.

They stood in companionable silence, save for the occasional quack. After a while, the unknown angel manifested his own bag of bread crumbs, tossing them to the impatient gathering of ducks. Wordlessly offering the bag of bread to Castiel, who experimentally threw a few pieces, the other angel quietly mused, "I find myself visiting this place quite often."

"I understand why," Castiel agreed, content. "It's elegantly peaceful and beautiful. It reminds me of Father."

"Yes, well, there is that," the blond hedges awkwardly, fiddling with the edges of his sweater. "But, I – well, aside from that, I suppose it's rather nostalgic of me."

"I see." He didn't. "The ducks appear to be displeased."

His brother hastily accepted the change in subject, observing the rebellious group of drakes. The majority were ignoring the bread crumbs that they had thrown, quacking loudly in complaint. In response, the other angel tsked with fond amusement shining in his eyes. "Missing the Marmite, am I?"

Castiel watched as he waved a hand, and the ducks happily began diving for the crumbs. A warm sensation enveloped him at the sight, along with childlike admiration – his sibling took care of these animals, benevolently tending to their needs, even though it wasn't required of him and it wasn't necessary for their continued existence. The ducks would have been fine without the treat, but their happiness would have suffered.

There was a lesson in this, he realized.

Yes, he could grant small blessings to those in need – like that injured lemur – but he could also do the same for others. For their happiness.

"I have to go," Castiel announced, turning to face his kind brother. "But I'd like to thank you, first."

"Oh?" the other angel seemed puzzled. "But I haven't done anything."

"You haven't tried to kill me, which is more than I can say for our brothers and sisters," he responded patiently, oblivious to the alarmed expression his sibling adopted. Still, he offered a rueful smile. "I don't blame them, they have every reason to be upset with me, but I wish they wouldn't resort to such violence."

"That's horrible," his brother frowned in concern. "Why would they – why?"

Castiel tilted his head, intrigued. "You don't know?"

"No, I – I've been out of touch. Just for a bit."

Odd. Even when Gabriel had been in hiding, he'd established ways of getting news from Heaven – but then again, he had been an archangel – either way, Castiel helpfully relayed the events of the past few decades, leading all the way up to the opening of Purgatory, as well as his part in everything. It was relieving, in a way, to explain the whole situation from his point of view. He felt better.

"Oh dear," the other angel seemed on the verge of tears. Castiel stopped feeling better. "I hadn't realized..."

He quietly started to panic, feeling guilty for causing such distress. He didn't mean to, he was only trying to help – but he could fix this! Gathering as much calming grace he could, he took his brother into an embrace usually reserved for fledglings – with his wings forming a cocoon around them. It was a protective gesture that older seraphs would utilize to soothe those who were still learning to fly, but it was rarely employed at any other time. Angels were discouraged from displaying too much emotion, after all.

When they parted, his sibling appeared more composed, if crestfallen.

"I apologize for being the 'bearer of bad news'," Castiel intoned sincerely, then paused, adding, "And for trying to make myself the new God. That wasn't a very good idea."

"Good intentions," the other angel countered weakly.

Castiel continued as if he hadn't spoken. "But now I know what to do – what my new duties are. And I have you to thank for that as well."

"Er, you're welcome?"

Beaming, he ruffled his wings, fully prepared to leave.


He paused in his action, watching as the other angel patted his pockets in search of something. "If you ever feel like a cup of tea," his sibling produced an embossed card with an address, elegant letters spelling: Mr. Fell's Bookshop. "Stop by, would you?"

Castiel carefully tucked away the card, delighted by the open invitation. "Thank you."

A few minutes later, St. James's Park was deprived of two angels and a mortified MI6 agent.

A/N: So I just realized that my email has been marking every notification from FF as spam, which means I'd missed every single follow, favorite, or review since August. But don't get paranoid – that's not why I hadn't updated! According to my profile, ahem, "School is kicking my ASS." So there. Seriously though, I'm so sorry to those I've missed. I wasn't ignoring you! Honest!

In other news, I'm currently working on an Avengers/Supernatural crossover bunny that bit down on my ankle and wouldn't let go. It's an idea that made me giggle, and I don't think I've seen it anywhere before. I'm also keeping it under wraps until I actually get around to publishing it. Interested? :P