He just stared at him. At Cas at his angel that he’d been looking for since the second he rolled out of Purgatory and he was just…here again. Right in front of him like he’d never left.
"Cas," he repeated. He couldn’t get anymore out at this point. He staggered toward, him, his heart pounding. His expression twisted into confusion. "I…I’m fine. I was til you walked out in front of me," he breathed. "Now…"
Now what? Was he happy? Angry? Upset? Relieved? He didn’t know. He just didn’t know. He swallowed and stared at the angel.
"Now I’m okay. I…" He stepped closer still, reaching out to touch his shoulder, just to see if he was real. When his hand closed around the trench coat he sighed. "I’m okay."
There’s a sense of… well, he’s not sure what it is, as Dean approaches. It seems to be a mixture of uncertainty and trepidation. There’s a flight reaction trying to kick in, but Castiel manages to keep himself grounded. He did ask for a sign from his father… perhaps this was it.
The hunter’s hand on his shoulder just causes more tension as does the words spoken to him. “You… went from fine to good. Isn’t that a decline?” He inquired as his own hands clench while he struggles with the emotions warring within. He expected an awkward conversation if he ever ran into the Winchester again, but that didn’t mean he was prepared for it. Before he left, he did want some of his questions answered.
"Did you find Sam, Kevin? Are they okay?" He could remember the events leading up to Purgatory. How they had gone to track down Dick while Sam went to find Kevin. Had he found him? Were they safe or is that why Dean was traveling alone?
Intelligent golden eyes raked over the younger angel. The vessel, slender, dark-haired, human, was unfamiliar still, but his Grace he could have picked out anywhere, defiant because of his loyalty, now so shattered and broken. The gravelly voice was nonchalant and contrite but the Archangel knew better, read between the words and stiffened slightly, not liking what he saw. Sacrifice. Monster. Oh, how he would have loved to chide him for it, and would have, before the imagery of misery-drenched blue eyes floated into his mind. Well, little brother, he thought, because in his mind he was unable to think of him as anything else, looks like we aren’t that different after all. The arrogance of angels, their choices. They weren’t meant for this. The tin soldier, crafted to fight and die without a question passing his lips. Castiel. Shield of God. Shields proceeded swords, and could be broken and shattered. Replaceable. It wasn’t then for the first time that Gabriel wondered if they had truly been created without the capacity for free will when so many angels displayed it, willingly or no. Perhaps that was the greatest lie, that they had been born deprived, when it was closer to learned nature. Watching what had happened to the last angel who had exercised it in fury and in choice.
The tin soldier that had broken the ranks and torn to pieces the rulebook for all of him, but he was not the first, and would not be the last. Look at him now, a broken wind-up doll that formulated his own command, look at them both. Falling to rank now because it was the only order in the chaos, the last thing that made any sense. Brothers hurt too much—-so, general and soldier. He nodded to him then, as a wager of wars and a destroyer of nations. Castiel had done what a good soldier would do for his commander, but that knowledge ached far more than he expected. A good soldier. But not because he loved him, why would he?
Not because he wanted to see him safe.
A general, but he was still that fledgling playing dress-up and stumbling in his older brothers’ footsteps—-strong Michael, bright Lucifer, cunning Raphael. A creature of war did not fit the Messenger any more than this desperate meaninglessness suited Castiel. I was once a creature of order as he was, but less so, built not to question but to have freedom, to herald and warn of change. I am the creature of heart, of emotion, Lucifer’s legacy without his logic and my kingdom is built on corpses and on sand. He did not want a war. His weapons were words, shiny, subtle and quick. Nonfatal. Diplomacy was his mother tongue, the sharp edge of his tongue whetted like a sword, the keen cast to his mind. No one need die—--an angel blade always felt so alien in his hands.
“I felt them,” he said softly, and his eyes left the other angel, drifting to the sky, which was rapidly darkening. Far off, the first fragile stars had begun to come out. “Winking out of existence, one by one. I felt them die. Their names are imprinted in my skull, Castiel, I remember.” There was a time once when I might have killed you for your arrogance. I might have played with you like a cat toying with a mouse, letting you run the extent of my reach before closing my claws around you. There was a time when I thought that punishment for sin mattered—-but what does it matter now? What does it accomplish? I don’t want you to suffer. I want you to forgive yourself.
There was enough hatred in the world. Enough suffering. Enough pain. The words resonated in his heart and he turned his head away, eyes bright with tears that would never shed.
The angels are tired. We just want it to be over.
Heaven, Hell, I don’t care who wins! I just want it to be over.
And it was so close. So close to being over. He looked at for a long moment, thin, weary, broken. It would be finished soon, it had to be—-
It will never stop.
“Almost over, little brother.” He had forgotten, or perhaps he didn’t care. If their Father was merciful, they would succeed, or they would die quickly in the face of the brewing rage. Heaven’s justice is not my justice.
How’s the search for Daddy going?
He closed his eyes.
Azure eyes slipped closed at Gabriel’s words. No, he knew the truth. It would never be over. It never was. They stop the Apocalypse and the Leviathans were freed. Now there was another war waging in Heaven. The second one was taken out of power, another stepped up to take their place. It would be a never ending cycle until the world ended.
Though it seemed like that was what his father wanted, Castiel -for all the pain he was in- couldn’t bear to see humanity end. If it had to, he’d rather be dead then watch it happen.
Slowly, he pushes himself away from the trunk supporting his weight and turns to face Gabriel. “Go recover. I will do the same and when the time comes, you’ll have the soldier you wanted ready to fight.” He wasn’t quite sure where he would go. But at this point… he deserved and wanted to be alone.
Dean was driving just to drive at this point, just flooring it down the highway just to watch the world pass like it can’t catch him. Like nothing can ever catch him again. He swallowed and stared out the window, trying not to think about anything.
He didn’t want to think about Crowley. He didn’t want to think about Sam. He didn’t want to think about Jack or Hell or how alone he felt or that he hadn’t eaten in three days and slept in five, he didn’t want to think about trying to numb himself to sleep again tonight when he finally stopped.
He just wanted to drive his car and end up somewhere. That’s it.
That was, however, before the beige shadow appeared in his headlights and he slammed on the breaks with a shout of, “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!”
He twisted the wheel and skidded to a halt, the car stopping just inches from whatever had walked out in front of him. He scampered out, his heart pounding, blood rushing in his ears.
That stopped when he saw Castiel on the asphalt. The sound stopped because the blood had drained from his face and his heart had stopped. He…he couldn’t…
He blinked several times, just staring at him.
Finally, after minutes of silence save for the nature around them and the rumble of his car, he croaked out,
The sound of screeching tires is the only sound he can hear. And then…
Nothing. Nothing but the sound of his vessel’s blood rushing through his veins. But he’s still standing, exactly where he was before, with no sense of pain or damage. His arms lower and his attention shifts to the vehicle mere inches away from his leg. A very familiar vehicle.
His gaze shifts up to the skies as he silently stares at it with a ‘are-you-serious?’ expression that shifts to one of resignation as he focuses on the driver emerging from the sleek black Impala.
"Dean." he returns the statement of name, though his isn’t a question. He knows exactly who is in front of him. Someone he’s been trying to avoid since leaving Purgatory. He can’t think of something else to say, an excuse for his absence or even an apology. Instead, his head inclines slightly as he studies the other. "You seem tired. Are you sure you should be driving in your condition?"
The Archangel took a few deep breaths, breathing slowly in and out. His back ached, and slowly he felt himself heal from the impact. He was laughing softly, his eyes closed for a moment. He picked up some soil, soft and crumbling in his hand and brought it to his nose, earthy and sweet. The soil in Purgatory was strangely odorless, heightened, just like the silver, terrifyingly cold water. Everything was brought to its elements in the land of monsters, pure. Pure as the adrenaline racing through his veins and the taste of the blood in his mouth. This was earth, rock and organic matter, and they were back. Dirt was smeared over his bloodstained jacket, there was a stick jabbing him in the small of his back, and they were safe.
He saw Castiel recover quickly, leaning against the tree, eyes scanning the perimeter, and he realized that they could be still in danger, and so dragged his body upright, coughing, sitting up on his elbows, the world spinning in front of his eyes, dizzying. He waited until it had stilled slightly, calmed by the quiet rustling of the trees, the fresh scent of the air, the far off trickle of water. He shifted, glancing at Castiel, the world shimmering lightly like heat over the desert, golden eyes disoriented for a moment, still chuckling softly at the mere fact that they were out, that they were all right. “Forest in upstate New York.” His chest was rising and falling rapidly, skin pale, his eyes glittering deep and feverish in shadowed sockets. “No, just grabbed the first place popped into my head that’s nearby—-” He felt another wave of faintness wash over him, causing him to close his eyes briefly, lowering his head, hair disheveled. “Your boys are in town. Motel. Maybe a few hours by car away. I can snap you there in a second, give you somewhere to go—-can’t fight now, not right—not right now.”
The Archangel dragged himself up again, eyes opening, grabbing his angel blade which had fallen to his side, thrusting it through a belt loop. Haltingly, he got to his feet, stumbling heavily, his lips dark, blue-tinged. He moved over to a tree, sitting against it, resting his head back, exhaling slowly. His face was drawn and skeletal in the drifting light of the moon, and he was shaking. “Thanks for the…the help back there.” He smiled wanly. “Couldn’t have made it without, not that you’re overjoyed about that.” He stretched slowly, meeting his eyes, weakened and pale. “We’ve got a few allies, not a lot, but a few. But you’re right to be cautious. It’s not safe for you, Castiel. For either of us.”
You also realize we’re in no condition to go to war at the moment.”
Gabriel chuckled, coughing raw and wet. “Yeah, it’s…it’s crossed my mind. But that’s not what’s important right now. I—-I only have so much time, and we’ve got to get you somewhere safe. Get your strength up. Get to the point where we might have a fighting chance. And Castiel—-”
He looked at him, golden locking azure, genuine. “I’m sorry I did this to you, and I—-I don’t want you to have to go back there. But when this whole show is over, if that’s what you what—-I won’t stand in your way. I owe you at least that.”
At the mention of the Winchesters, Castiel’s gaze falls away from the Archangel. “No. I can manage on my own. Just point me in the general direction.” It was a lie of course, he had no plans to find Dean nor Sam to discuss anything with them. Not only was he now a target of Heaven, he just couldn’t bring himself to face his failures. “It will… give me some time to think, and recover, if I just walk there myself.” His focus shifts back towards Gabriel, taking in the others condition. “And you need to find a place to recover. I would suggest just using your energy for that.”
The gratitude he hears next cause Castiel to automatically shake his head in disagreement. “There’s nothing to thank me for. If anything, it was just to get you out and safe.” That’s all it was. Nothing more. It would never be anything more. He would return himself to factory settings for this war. Just be the good soldier needed until the war was won. Then he could return himself to his personal hell.
"It’s where I belong." he murmurs quietly as he pushes himself away from the tree he’s resting against. "You may not think so, but you didn’t witness my crimes." He glanced up towards the sky, towards the place he used to call home. To the place he left in ruins. Strewn with the bodies of his siblings. Angels who had lived for millions of years were now less than half of what they were because of him.
"Go find a place to rest. We will meet up again when we’re both in better shape. I will find out what I can. I’m not going to sit by and wait to end this. I’m tired of fighting. I just want it to end. I just… want it to be over."