A/N: I got the idea for this story from a gifset series by the very talented tumblr user, thespywhospies. This will be told almost entirely from Castiel's point of view, though I may add Dean or Sam's in at some point. It can be read as friendship or pre-slash for now, but will probably take a turn for the romantic later. Though this is primarily a story about Cas and Dean, I am also very much a fan of Sam, so you will find that he is treated well here, unlike many of the destiel fics that I have read. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: Though I highly doubt that it needs saying, nothing from the show belongs to me.
Lost in Time
Castiel's whole body ached as he slowly regained his senses. He had been wounded in battle before, had even been killed once, but he did not remember ever experiencing this utter lack of awareness. He believed it was what humans called 'unconsciousness'. He did not find it to be an enjoyable sensation.
The angel sat up with a groan and looked around, brow wrinkling in confusion as he took in his surroundings. The room he was in was reminiscent of the motel rooms that Castiel had seen the Winchesters stay in, but something about it seemed off. He searched his hazy mind for a memory of how he had gotten to this strange room, but there was nothing. The last thing he remembered was fighting his way through the raging torrent of time, struggling to protect the oblivious Winchesters from being burned away or torn from him by the raw power. After that, there was only the bright flood of sunlight, and the Winchesters' hazy, concerned faces, then simply blackness.
The angel's journey through time must have cost him. Time travel was difficult enough when he had the might of heaven behind him, but alone Castiel had been forced to exhaust the power of his grace to make the trip. He had very nearly lost himself in the process. He had deemed it worth the risk however, to save the Winchesters and their parents. The angel did not know exactly when the two humans had become so important to him, but somehow it had happened, and he had realized that he was willing to give everything for them. He was still not convinced that it was a good thing. It made him more vulnerable, but when he gazed upon the beauty of Dean's soul, or sat quietly with Sam going over old books or simply watching humanity, he could not bring himself to mind.
But now the Winchesters were gone, and Castiel was alone. He knew instinctively that he was still in the past, but he did not know what had happened to his friends. The angel took a moment to focus more carefully on himself, taking stock of his condition and his powers. He was in a considerable amount of discomfort, and he could feel how weak the power of his grace had become.
He gingerly stretched out his wings one at a time, examining them closely. Though they were sore, and every single feather was ruffled and bent at odd angles, they seemed to be in working condition. Castiel was about to test them out, but was stopped by the sight of a note hastily scrawled on hotel stationary and left on the bedside table.
If you're reading this, you woke up before Sam and I could come back for you. Hope you're alright – you looked like crap. We're headed out to our parents' house, so if you're in good enough shape, come find us and lend us a hand. If you can't, just stay put, and we'll come back for you; as long as we don't, you know, die.
A smile tugged at the corner of Castiel's mouth. The note was very much in Dean's style: blunt, while still managing to convey concern. The angel glanced at the old clock beside the bed, comparing the date on it to the one that Dean had written down in the corner of the note. Worry ripped through him when he realized that three days had passed. It should not have taken the Winchesters that long to stop Anna. Unless they had failed, and failure meant…
No. Conjecture served no purpose. Castiel closed his eyes and extended his senses, hoping to detect the familiar sparks of Sam and Dean's souls. The worry intensified into chilling fear when he could find no sign of them. Even in is weakened state, Castiel should have been able to sense the Winchesters' existence, even if the Enochian symbols on their ribs prevented him from locating their exact position. But there was nothing.
Except…Castiel frowned, deepening his focus. There, at the very edge of his awareness, was the faintest hint of Dean. It would have been undetectable if it had not been coming from so close to the angel's current location. The signal should not have been that weak, and another stab of fear twisted in Castiel's stomach. That weakness could mean that Dean was close to death, in which case, he would need immediate assistance.
The angel took a deep, centering breath, and shook out his wings cautiously. He made the short flight to the source of Dean's essence, swaying unsteadily as he landed on the porch of a neat little house. He heard a sharp gasp and turned to face a young woman, staring at him cautiously with a gardening trowel raised defensively. Castiel, recognizing Mary Winchester, raised his hands in the customary human gesture of peace and surrender. It did not seem to placate her though.
"Who the hell are you?" she asked.
"I'm Castiel," the angel told her distractedly. "I'm looking for my friends, Sam and Dean. Have you seen them? They intended to come looking for you."
He glanced around the small yard, looking for some sign of the boys. He saw nothing but a neatly kept lawn and bright flowerbeds. No gravely wounded Dean, no bloodthirsty enemies, just a wounded angel and a frightened woman. But then the truth dawned on him, and he returned his focus to Mary.
"You're pregnant," he told her wonderingly. That was why he could sense Dean's soul; it was residing inside of Mary. Now that he was so close, the angel could feel the newness of it, the purity that had yet to be darkened by the bleak turmoil of the world.
"What the hell are you?" Mary asked as she backed away, one arm curling protectively over her abdomen.
Despite what Dean had tried to teach him about deceit, Castiel was still not good at coming up with acceptable lies, especially on such short notice. Besides that, Mary had been a hunter, and was therefore familiar with the supernatural.
"I'm an angel of the Lord," he told her gently, echoing some of his first words to Dean. His mother had a reaction similar to that of her son.
"Right," she scoffed, her eyes hard. "And I'm the queen of England."
"I believe that position is currently occupied by someone else," Castiel told her. He remembered Elizabeth's coronation well. He had not been tasked with attending, but he had wanted to see the beginning of what he knew would be a long and successful rule. But when Mary's disbelief became even more pronounced on her features, Castiel realized that she had been using sarcasm. He sighed. He did not have the power to waste on a display of his wings like the one that he had given to Dean in their first encounter.
"Your name is Mary Campbell Winchester," he began, hoping to convince her with the facts instead. "You married John Henry Winchester over four years ago, after you made a deal for his life with the yellow-eyed demon Azazel, who killed both of your parents. You had been praying for heaven's guidance for years before that however, because you did not desire the hunting life that your parents raised you in."
Castiel paused thoughtfully.
"You deserved a better answer," he said, more to himself than to her. "But instead you were set upon by the forces of hell. Had we given you the assistance that you asked for, much suffering could have been avoided. And for that, I am sorry."
Mary stared at him for a long moment, before she slowly relaxed and lowered the trowel.
"An angel?" she repeated softly, awe creeping into her face. She took a hesitant step forward, and in that moment she reminded Castiel powerfully of Sam, and his childish wonder at his first encounter with angels. This time though, Castiel did not feel worthy of the amazement. He felt like a poor excuse for an angel, and an even poorer excuse for a friend to this woman's sons. But this was not the time to go into that.
"Yes. Mary, I'm looking for two men, Sam and Dean," he said, returning to his mission. "I need to know if you have seen them."
Still staring at him, Mary shook her head mutely for a moment before finding her voice.
"N-no. I've mostly been here for the last few days. I've only seen my neighbors."
But something flickered in her eyes, and Castiel looked at her more closely, examining her soul. Her mind bore the marks of angelic interference.
"Would you mind if I searched your memories?" he asked. "I suspect that you know more than you realize."
Wariness closed off Mary's expression, and Castiel hastened to reassure her.
"It won't hurt," he said. "It will not harm you in any way; I just need to know what you've seen."
The young woman relaxed slightly, but still looked cautious.
"Will it hurt the baby?" she asked, looking down at the stomach that did not yet show the presence of the child within.
"No," said Castiel gently, admiring her protectiveness of Dean. She would have made a very good mother, had she been allowed the proper chance. "It will have no effect on your son."
Mary gasped and stared at the angel.
"It's a boy?" she whispered, her eyes glistening. Castiel wondered if he had made an error. Perhaps the Winchesters had wanted their child's gender to remain a surprise. But Mary did not seem upset.
"I'm going to have a son," Mary said quietly, her voice full of tender wonder.
"Your son will be a great man," Castiel told her. The words did not properly convey all that Dean would grow to be, but it was all that he could give to Mary.
"How do you know that?"
Castiel merely smiled gently at Mary, slowly extending two fingers towards her forehead.
"May I?" he asked, halting before he touched her. She nodded slowly, eyes still shining.
Castiel moved his fingers the last few inches, and closed his eyes as he immersed himself in Mary's mind. He ignored the inane surface memories, focusing instead on the iridescent mass that had been tucked away into the back corner of Mary's consciousness. Castiel recognized the sign of hidden memories, and knew that he had been right to look closer. He delved cautiously into the recollections, careful not to shake them loose into Mary's general awareness. Whatever Castiel was about to see, it had been hidden for a reason, and it was probably for the best that Mary continued to forget. She deserved to spend her few remaining years in peace.
Suddenly, Castiel was through the sticky angelic barrier, and he found the memories of Sam and Dean that he had been looking for. The boys had shown up at the Winchester household, much to their mother's dismay. Mary still blamed Dean for what had happened to her parents, and she had not wanted John to be exposed to the supernatural world on which she had firmly turned her back. But it had soon become apparent that Sam and Dean were there to help. When Anna had lured John out of the house, they had gone to protect him, and the four Winchesters had fled to an old Campbell safehouse, where Dean had revealed his and Sam's identities to their mother.
Castiel was stunned by the force of the grief that Mary had felt upon hearing Dean's words. The pain was not because she only had a few years left to live, but because of what happened to her family after her death. She had married John because she had wanted a life completely opposite of the one in which she had grown up. To find out that her children would be forced to join the life she despised was utterly devastating.
And then the angels had come. Anna had enlisted the help of Uriel, still alive in this time. They had attacked the Winchesters. Castiel flinched in horror as he watched his sister plunge a pipe into Sam's stomach in what was clearly a fatal blow. But before he or Mary had any time to feel anything but shock, Michael had arrived, wearing John Winchester's skin. Michael smote Anna and banished Uriel before putting Mary to sleep, and Castiel snapped out of the memory, breathing hard.
"Are you alright?" asked Mary in concern.
Castiel barely registered her words over the storm in his mind. I've lost them, he thought, the words pounding through his brain, tearing through his heart. I've lost them. I've lost them. I've lost them.
Sam's death played over and over in Castiel's flawless memory, pain tearing through him at the sight of blood pouring from his friend's mouth as that familiar face went pale and slack. But then Michael, heaven's most powerful archangel, had gotten involved, and that meant another devastating loss for Castiel. Dean was strong, incredibly so, but Michael was in another class entirely. Castiel did not dare to hope that Dean could have resisted him, especially with Sam dead.
The thought of Dean, locked screaming in a suffocating cage inside his mind, his body controlled by a cold, cruel, mechanical archangel sickened Castiel. And Sam's fate could not be better. Either he was dead, most likely in hell after all that he had done, or he had been resurrected and handed over to Lucifer and was in the same torment as his brother. As the magnitude of what he had lost began to sink in, the agony of his grief stunned Castiel. His breath began to come in sharp gasps as he fought to make sense of the fact that the two people he cared about most were gone, that he had failed them, had let them fall to a fate worse than death.
But maybe…maybe there was a chance that they were alright. Maybe Michael had recognized that the time was not yet right for the Battle of Armageddon. Maybe he had healed Sam, and returned him and Dean to the present, so that they could play their roles there. It was a long shot, Castiel knew, but he would take anything that allowed him to believe that the Winchesters were alive.
He needed to get back to the present, needed to make sure that Sam and Dean were truly safe. Even if Michael had returned them to their proper time, they were still in danger, still needed their guardian angel. But their mother, oblivious to her sons' peril, was staring at Castiel in concern, waiting for him to speak.
"Yes," Castiel answered finally. "Thank you for your assistance, Mary."
He prepared to take flight, hoping that he was strong enough to make it all the way back to 2010, and strong enough to deal with what he found there.
"Wait!" cried Mary, clearly sensing that he was about to leave. "You don't look well. Isn't there anything else I can do to help you?"
Castiel was extremely touched that she would put aside her abhorrence for the supernatural to care for the broken angel that had shown up at her door. He should not have been surprised though. Sam and Dean had to have gotten their propensity to give all that they had from somewhere.
"Trust me, Mary; you have already given me more than you know," said Castiel with a tiny, sad smile. He gazed at her for a moment, realizing that there was one last, small thing that he could give to her. "I will watch over your son."
And with one last look at the incredible woman, Castiel threw himself back into the churning tide of time, praying for the strength to make it back to the Winchesters. He focused on the spark of Dean's soul, following its thread forward as he was buffeted about by the current. Castiel was astonished by how quickly the flight drained his grace. He lost track of where he was, when he was, simply clinging tightly to Dean's timeline. It was not long before Castiel's wings could take him no further, and he was forced to stop, hoping that he had landed in the right year.
The angel looked around after his feet made contact with grassy earth. He seemed to be in an empty field behind a somber brick building. He sighed in frustration, then gasped in surprised as his knees buckled under him. He was unaccustomed to this kind of weakness. He felt a strange pressure in his chest, and his vessel convulsed weakly, emitting a spray of blood from his mouth. Castiel frowned, sure that this could not be a good sign.
"Are you okay, mister?" asked a young voice from behind Castiel.
The angel realized just how weak his senses had gotten. No human should have been able to surprise him like that. He turned his head, startled to find himself staring at a very familiar face. Though it was not so much the face that was familiar, but the soul that shone through it, lighter and less damaged than Castiel remembered, but still instantly recognizable.
"Dean?" he asked, struggling to his feet and staring down at the young boy in front of him. "You're…" safe, innocent, unblemished, happier, whole "small."
Dean instantly grew wary, pulling a knife from his jacket pocket and assuming a defensive stance.
"What are you?" he asked, the bravado almost masking the fear in his voice. "How do you know my name?"
Castiel did not like to see Dean so afraid, so mistrustful of him. He backed away unsteadily, unsure of how to convince this cautious young boy that he was not a threat. Apparently though, his appearance was pitiful enough that he did not have to do anything. As Dean watched the crippled angel stagger weakly away from him, his face began to soften. He stepped forward, and as Castiel began to dissolve into another fit of what he realized were coughs, he felt a small warm hand on his shoulder. Dean kneeled next him as he sank to the ground again.
"What's wrong with you?" Dean asked. "You look like crap."
Castiel could not help but smile at that, because those were the same words that a much older Dean had left him in that note.
"I feel like crap," the angel told Dean ruefully. "But I'll recover."
Sure enough, his breathing soon eased and his wings stopped feeling like they were about to fall off. He began to rise, anxious to get back, but Dean tugged firmly on his coat, holding him in place.
"Slow down, buddy," the boy said. "I don't know much about sick people, but I do know that it's not a good idea to get up and walk around right after you've been coughing up a lung."
"Don't worry," said Castiel, trying to reassure him. "It was only blood that I was expelling; both of my lungs remain intact."
Dean raised an eyebrow at him.
"It's an expression, dude," he said dryly.
Of course. Because Dean could never express an idea properly; he always had to say something else and expect others to understand him. Apparently, it was a problem that he'd had for his entire life.
"Well regardless, I'll be alright," he told Dean. "I'm stronger than I appear."
"Because you aren't human?"
Castiel glanced sharply at Dean.
"You appeared out of thin air, man," the boy said, raising his hand. "Doesn't take a genius to figure it out. What are you, though?"
"A friend," Castiel replied. He knew that he could not tell the young Winchester who he really was. A random conversation could easily be forgotten, but an encounter with an angel could alter Dean's entire existence. "My name is Cas."
The nickname felt strange on his lips. When Dean had first started to use it, the butchery of his name had been a bit jarring, unfamiliar, but now it filled him with warmth whenever he heard one of the Winchesters use it. The name made him feel special, accepted into a small but remarkable family. It would have felt wrong for this young version of Dean to call him anything else. He just hoped that he would get the chance to hear the old version of Dean call him Cas again.
"Good to meet you, Cas," said Dean.
The angel felt a twinge of sadness. The older Dean was not nearly this trusting. He had tried to kill Castiel several times, and it had been months before the hunter viewed him even remotely as a friend. Castiel did not like to think about what had caused the closing off of Dean's heart, but it had no doubt involved a considerable amount of pain for the young hunter. Eager to distract himself, the angel examined their surroundings again. There really was not much more to look at, other than a row of scraggly trees and a rusty chain link fence bordering the sparse field.
"Where are we?" he asked.
"You don't know?"
"I was uh…pretty out of it," replied Castiel, using a phrase he had heard from the Winchesters. He was not exactly sure what "it" was that he was supposed to be out of, but the phrase seemed to make sense to Dean, because he did not question the angel further.
"Well, we're behind the Elwood County Elementary School."
"Oh." Castiel glanced over at Dean appraisingly. "You're supposed to be inside the Elwood County Elementary School, aren't you?"
"What, you going to turn me in?" asked Dean defensively. "Because I'll tell everyone you're a perve, and you'll get in trouble."
"I have no intention of reporting your behavior to any authority figures," Castiel assured him. "I don't believe that this school is of much use to you anyway."
"Yeah, try telling them that," said Dean, relaxing slightly.
"I doubt that it would be very effective," said Castiel. "They have no reason to listen to me."
He would be willing to try though, if it would make Dean happier. But the young hunter just raised an eyebrow at the angel again.
"You're pretty literal, aren't you?" the boy asked.
Castiel sighed. Dean must have been saying something that he did not mean again. He wished that his friend would at least give him some warning before he did that.
"I suppose I am," the angel replied. "I am still fairly unaccustomed to interacting with people."
"Well, you're not missing much," said Dean, his tone suddenly bitter. The boy tore up a fistful of the grass that the two of them were sitting on, his face stormy. Castiel feared for a moment that the anger was directed at him, but he realized that Dean was glowering not at the angel, but the back of the dingy school building.
"There's a reason you are skipping school on this particular day, isn't there?" he surmised.
Dean sighed and nodded, still frowning at the offending structure. Castiel remained silent, not wanting to press his friend. After a few moments however, words began to spill forth from the boy in a tide that had clearly been building for some time.
"It's just, they all treat me like I'm stupid," he said angrily, tugging up another handful of grass and shredding it in his fingers. "The teachers act like I'll never become anything because I'm not good at math and I don't read as fast as everyone else. They say I should pay more attention in class. Well, maybe I would, if they were teaching anything worth learning. But when am I going to use any of this stuff? Never. I could be spending the time learning useful things, but instead I have to sit in a stuffy room going over multiplication tables a million and one times!"
Dean paused, slightly out of breath from his tirade. He still did not look at Castiel, violently tearing up more grass instead, scattering clods of dirt onto the edge of the angel's trench coat.
"They laughed at me," he muttered eventually.
"Thirteen times seven. Mr. McGallagher asked me what thirteen times seven was, and I didn't know, and everyone laughed at me, including Christina Bell."
This must have been why Dean's reaction was so strong. He could handle insults and challenges, but being derided by someone he probably admired must have wounded the boy deeply. Castiel felt his fingers curl into fists, and a spike of anger pierced him. Whoever this Christina Bell was, she was unworthy of Dean's affections, and should not have had the power to hurt him like this. But there was nothing he could do about it. Dean would not take kindly to having his battles fought for him, and despite his anger, Castiel would not harm a child.
"It's 91," Castiel told Dean, hoping to spare his friend from another such incident. It was apparently the wrong thing to say however, because Dean threw up his hands in frustration, showering them both with bits of grass.
"I know that now, Cas!" he exclaimed. "Despite what everyone thinks, I'm not an idiot. I figured it out, I just couldn't do it in two seconds with everyone watching me."
"I don't think you're an idiot, Dean," said Castiel firmly. "Quite the opposite, in fact."
Dean glanced over at the angel, not seeming to believe him, but his face softening anyway.
"Whatever," he said. "I don't even care. We won't be here much longer."
But this time, Castiel could tell that his friend did not mean what he was saying. Dean's soul was in turmoil, and the angel could sense the boy's hurt, embarrassment, and self-doubt.
"Your teachers are wrong about you," he told Dean. "You will have a future more important than they could have imagined, and you will be a great man."
Dean laughed, though Castiel had not intended for his words to be humorous.
"Yeah right, Cas," Dean said. "I may not be stupid, but I'm nothing special."
Castiel sighed. He had sighed more in the past year and a half than he had in the thousands that had come before them; the cost of growing close to the Winchesters, apparently. But Dean was so wrong about himself. He would grow to be a peerless hunter, brother, and human; a man so remarkable that an angel who had been loyal since his creation would rebel against everything he knew for him. Perhaps his brilliance could not be quantified by human measures, but it was certainly there. But there was not much that he could do about Dean's lack of self-confidence now. He could not tell Dean about his future, and the boy had no reason to trust a stranger.
An angry buzzing sound began to emit from the dull school building, and it was Dean's turn to sigh.
"I have to go to my next class," he said ruefully. "Otherwise they'll call my dad, and he'd be mad."
He clambered to his feet before turning to help Castiel from the ground. But then his face split into a grin. He leaned forward, and Castiel felt small fingers brushing through his hair. The angel leaned into the contact, watching as scraps of greenery fluttered to the ground around him.
"Sorry about that," said Dean, dusting the last of the grass from Castiel's coat. The angel smiled at him, not minding the vegetation, but happy that he could at least bring some measure of amusement to his friend, happy to be close to him and know that for the time being, he was safe.
Castiel accepted Dean's hand, allowing the boy to help him to his feet. He staggered slightly, his vessel informing him in no uncertain terms that he was not fully recovered.
"Are you sure you're gonna be alright, Cas?" asked Dean in concern as he steadied the angel. "You still don't look good."
"I am weaker than I would like," the angel admitted. "But I still have enough strength to get where I need to."
He extended his wings experimentally, and when they did not cause him too much pain, he took off. It was not until he was being buffeted about by the river of time that he realized he probably should have given Dean some kind of farewell. But it was too late to worry about it. It was all that the angel could do to cling to the thread of Dean's timeline, letting it pull him forward to the family that needed him.
But the angel was still weak, and he suddenly found himself tumbling from the timestream. His feet slammed into the ground and he collapsed, scraping his palms on what turned out to be pavement. More blood dribbled from his mouth as he coughed, and Castiel ground his teeth in frustration. Even cut off from heaven, he was still an angel, and this frailty was beneath him.
"Cas?" asked an almost familiar voice.
Castiel whipped his head up, finding himself face to face with what was clearly a teenaged Dean Winchester.
A/N Thanks for reading! I would love to hear what you think. I'm not sure yet how long this is going to be, but it will definitely have at least a few more chapters.