Castiel stood on a crest overlooking the Devil's Gate. The initial horde of demons had made its intrusion onto the Earth and spread out in every direction. The gaping portal glowed red along the ridges of the crater it'd left behind in its formation, pulsing every so often as a slacker emerged late. More would continue to come, and eventually Lucifer himself would rise.
Castiel clenched his fists, evaluating how he might close the gate. Because Heaven wasn't going to.
A displacement of air heralded the arrival of someone behind him. Castiel turned, but it wasn't Anna as he'd been hoping.
Uriel's mouth twisted into a disparaging sneer. "Are you down here feeling sorry for these mud monkeys?" he spat. "They are despicable, Castiel. Every last one of them deserves to burn."
He bristled. "No."
Uriel snorted. "Zachariah knows you betrayed Heaven, Castiel. You deserve to burn, too."
His grace erupted with an explosion of light and thunderous roar. Castiel ducked under the first strike before unleashing his own grace. Each clash was a collision of lightning. Castiel took a slash across the chest before he retaliated with a score down Uriel's face. The other angel reared back with a bellow of pain and rage, silver liquid leaking from his ruined eye. Uriel fled.
Castiel took to the slipstream of the ether as well before the scent of blood drew any ravenous demons.
"So is prayer real?" Dean asked. "I mean, if God's not around, who's manning the phones upstairs?"
Castiel frowned. "Angels hear prayers. Though they aren't likely to answer anymore."
"Yeah…but you'd answer, right?"
Castiel pursed his mouth ruminatively. "Prayer is…like tossing a bottle in the ocean. You don't know who will hear it. But if you wanted to contact me directly, there is a prayer ritual, one that focuses your message to an intended recipient that can't be intercepted by others."
"Sounds handy," Dean replied.
Castiel proceeded to show the human how to write his name in Enochian for the ritual.
"Food's a big one," Gabriel said. "Obviously. Uh, weapons, blankets, batteries…" he continued to read off a list in hand.
"Are we really to become errand boys here?" Hester interrupted.
Gabriel narrowed his eyes at her. "You don't think providing for these human survivors is worth our effort?"
"We should be focusing on fighting demons."
"And after you've killed all the demons, love," Balthazar piped in, "just pick up any items you spot lying around the carnage. It shouldn't be that hard."
"I don't mind gathering supplies for the humans," Hael spoke up. "I'm not really a fighter, anyway."
"We all chip in," Gabriel said sternly. "Heaven has turned its back on the Earth; we haven't. And that includes the humans mule-headed enough to survive the end of all things. Now, there's also medicine, and…"
Castiel exited the ethereal slipstream and landed outside an old warehouse on the edge of what used to be an industrial district, back when human civilizations were captains of industry. Now the property lay abandoned and in disrepair. It was an odd place for a meeting.
Castiel tilted his head back to sweep his gaze across the star-studded sky, then lowered it to scan the vacant area. All was quiet. He made his way toward the building. A side door hung open on rusted hinges, and he turned sideways to slip through without disturbing anything. The interior of the warehouse was dark and cold, thick concrete walls making up three-fourths of the structure. The remaining wall was mostly broken windows that let in the faint aura of moonlight. Castiel didn't see anyone around.
He heaved a piqued sigh. Ezra had made it sound quite urgent that they meet, and yet he wasn't here already. And if it was so important, why was he reluctant to say it in front of the other members of the garrison?
Castiel turned in a slow circle. He had half a mind to go back to the compound and resume more important work, such as fusing ethereal energy into bullets, or searching for information on Azazel and the special children. Not playing 'cloak and dagger' as Gabriel would say.
The door creaked all the way open, admitting an angel of a somewhat short stature and blonde hair. Ezra gave a jittery smile as he approached.
Castiel tried to keep his irritation tamped down. "What is so important and why couldn't you share it in front of the others?"
Ezra slowed to a stop, and cast a fidgety gaze around the warehouse. "Castiel, there's…there's a mole. In the garrison."
Castiel's brows rose dubiously. "I have a hard time believing that."
He'd been serving with most of the other angels under Gabriel's wing for a while now, and they were a family as much as a military unit.
"Believe it or not, it's fact," Ezra said tetchily.
Castiel frowned at his compatriot's continued agitation. "How can you be sure?" And why was Ezra bringing this concern to him, and not Gabriel?
Ezra grimaced, his hands flexing and clenching almost compulsively.
"No one else is here," Castiel said.
"Are you certain about that?" a deep, baritone voice spoke from the shadows.
Castiel whirled, but the only thing he was able to register was a hand slapping down on a painted sigil he hadn't noticed before. Blinding light engulfed him like white fire, searing across every inch of his body. Castiel couldn't hold back a cry under the scorching assault. It was over in an instant, but the moment the nova winked out, he dropped to his knees, gasping for breath.
Meaty hands grabbed him from behind before Castiel could recover, and he was yanked up and slammed back into a concrete pillar. Cold steel snapped around one wrist. Castiel tried to jerk away, but a right hook to the side of his head left him seeing stars. A second cuff was latched around his other wrist, and with it, Castiel felt his grace get locked down tight.
His arms were then pulled taut with a clink of chains, suspending them above his head. By the time Castiel's vision cleared, he was caught.
He blinked furiously as the last floating specks receded and the dim warehouse solidified into distinct shapes again. Castiel stiffened at the sight of the angel standing before him.
"Uriel," he growled.
The dark angel leered at him through his one good eye, the other milky and disfigured by the scar transecting the left side of his face. "Hello, Castiel. It's been a while."
"Not long enough." He gave a half-hearted tug against his chains, but the Enochian sigils carved into the metal completely numbed his grace, not to mention the sigil attack left every nerve fiber tingling as though mildly burned.
Castiel turned his attention to his betrayer. "Ezra, why?"
The angel that had been on edge only moments before now looked incredibly smug. "What can I say? Zachariah appreciates my talents more than you lot ever have. There's room for advancement under his leadership."
Castiel gaped at Ezra in dismay. The small angel had always had a somewhat ingratiating attitude around Gabriel, but to betray them for a gold star from Zachariah…
Castiel increased his struggles against the chains. "Heaven is not a corporate ladder for you to climb!"
Uriel stepped in front of him. "Oh, brother, there's that idealistic naivety that makes you a pathetic example of a soldier."
Castiel narrowed his gaze sharply. "My battle record speaks for itself. And I am not your brother."
Uriel sneered. "No, you're a rebel traitor." He leaned down so that his hot breath wafted across Castiel's face. "And I am going to enjoy paying you back for this," he hissed, gesturing to his ruined eye. Uriel straightened, and pivoted back to Ezra. "But first, you'd better get going if you're going to get Gabriel out of the way in time."
Castiel's spine went rigid. "In time for what?"
Uriel slowly craned his head back around, mouth twisting with triumph. "Thanks to Ezra here, Heaven knows where your little secret compound is, and it's long overdue for an extermination."
Castiel's heard seized, and he shot a desperate look at Ezra, silently imploring him not to do this.
"As soon as Gabriel is away on a wild goose chase," Uriel continued blithely, "we will move in."
"Gabriel won't be tricked so easily," Castiel argued. The archangel had been a Trickster himself.
Uriel smirked. "Sure he will. After he gets a message from Castiel, his most trusted lieutenant."
"Ezra, don't do this!" Castiel pleaded. "Gabriel took you in!"
"His dog would've been treated better than I am," the angel spat in return. Ezra puffed his chest up. "No, I'm important now. A valued member of Zachariah's inner circle."
Castiel sputtered in disbelief at how deluded he was being. Even Uriel rolled his eyes, but his back was turned to Ezra, and so the other angel missed it.
"Yes," Uriel ground out. "Now go do your very important job of getting Gabriel away from the compound."
Castiel struggled against his bonds, furious at his own helplessness while those he cared about were in danger. But it was futile, and only seemed to amuse Uriel more.
The dark angel waited until Ezra was gone, and then slowly pulled out an angel blade. "It seems I have a little time on my hands," he said silkily.
Stalking forward, he placed the tip of his blade right underneath Castiel's eye. Castiel gritted his teeth and held rigidly still.
"An eye for an eye," Uriel murmured, slowly turning the blade this way and that. Castiel couldn't help but flinch slightly.
But then Uriel paused. "Well, we'll get to that, eventually." He moved the blade away and sliced it across Castiel's torso.
The bite of celestial steel was like molten fire piercing his flesh and grace. Castiel clamped his teeth together against a cry of pain. He would not give Uriel the satisfaction. Only grunts and strangled sounds garbled in his throat as the other angel carved into him with a sadistic, sculptor's glee. Frustration more than agony brought tears to Castiel's eyes, as he could barely focus his thoughts enough between brutal cuts to come up with a plan of warning the others, let alone for his own escape. But if he didn't, the garrison would be caught unawares, and who knew how many would die in the attack.
Uriel grabbed a fistful of his hair and yanked his head back against the pillar. "Do you know why I had Ezra bring you here instead of leaving you at the compound with the others?"
Castiel struggled to swallow at the awkward angle of his exposed throat. "Do tell," he grunted.
Uriel's lips curled upward. "Because Zachariah plans to execute all the rebels together. Snuff out your pathetic resistance in one fell swoop."
Castiel frowned. Then why did Uriel want to lure him away?
The dark angel grinned as though he could tell that was exactly what Castiel was wondering. "But then I wouldn't get my revenge."
Castiel would have rolled his eyes if the movement didn't make his skull explode with an extra burst of pain.
Uriel leaned closer. "And I am going to enjoy taking my revenge for a long, long time."
To punctuate his statement, he dug the tip of his blade underneath Castiel's collarbone and torqued it.
Castiel choked on a strained cry. His chest was heaving with labored breaths, his body cold and drenched in sweat. He wasn't sure how much longer he could endure this.
But to his surprise, Uriel stepped back and produced a cloth, which he used to wipe down his blade.
"I can hear Zachariah summoning me now," Uriel said casually, pocketing his weapon. "It's time to pay a visit to the other rebels. We'll pick this up when I get back."
With that, he slipped into the ether.
Castiel continued to hang limply in the chains for a few more moments as he tried to catch his breath and focus. He tugged at his restraints, but was too weak to barely make them rattle. Now he did let out a long cry as he tried again, only to expend the precious energy he had left, and he sagged, shoulder muscles on fire from their elevated position. There was no way he'd break free. No way he could get a message to the others.
…But, maybe there was someone else he could contact…
Dean had once found Castiel through their bond, and Castiel could do the same for the hunter. But maybe Castiel could open it even further, and get a message through. The chains may have been inhibiting his grace, but the bond was something internal, a connection deeper than what these sigils could nullify.
It was the only chance he had, and so he had to try.
Dean sat in a comfortable lawn chair at the end of the dock, his fishing lure bobbing tranquilly in the water. There was a cooler of cold ones at his feet and his mind was as peaceful as the placid lake stretched out before him. An amber haze suffused through the air, bathing everything in a sepia tone.
Dean let out a small sigh of contentment.
The air beside him wobbled, and suddenly Cas was there, too. All that was missing was Sam, and this relaxing afternoon would be complete.
Except that when Dean looked up to tell the angel to grab a beer and have a seat, he noticed Cas was swaying blearily. And he was bleeding.
Something in Dean's awareness shifted, like coming out of a fog. This wasn't real…he'd had this dream before. Though Cas didn't typically feature in it.
Dean surged out of the lawn chair. "Cas, is that really you?"
Cas squinted at him. "Yes," he said, voice even more gravelly than usual. "I…needed to…reach you."
He started to pitch forward, and Dean lunged to catch him.
"Whoa, easy." Dean gripped the angel's arm and tried to hold him up. "What the hell happened to you?"
"I've been captured," Cas said wearily. "I'm…being held at a warehouse…outside Sheridan County." He started to go translucent, and Dean's lungs seized. But after a moment of Cas screwing his eyes shut, he solidified again. "This dream link is…harder to maintain…than I imagined."
"Okay, okay." Dean's brain started whirring a mile a minute. "Sam and I will come get you. Sheridan County, you said?" That wasn't on the other side of the mid-west, at least. But they'd have to figure out exactly what they were going up against.
"No!" Cas jolted ramrod straight, but it upset his already precarious balance, and Dean had to quickly adjust his grip to keep the angel upright. "You have to…warn the others." Cas sucked in a pained gasp. "There's a mole, in the garrison. He's leading…Zachariah…there now. You have to get a message to…Gabriel."
Dean's heart dropped into his stomach. Oh, shit.
"Alright, yeah, we can warn Gabriel, and then come get you." Crap, they didn't know how to contact the archangel. "Cas, what's Gabriel's name in Enochian?"
Cas's eyelids started fluttering, and he was growing heavier in Dean's arms.
"Cas? Cas!" Dean gave him a small shake. "I need Gabriel's name."
But in the next instant, Cas disappeared, and Dean stumbled as his arms were suddenly empty. The landscape around the lake bent and refracted, tilting Dean into a blur of gold.
He bolted upright in bed with a gasp. Soft daylight was suffusing through the gaps in the cabin curtains, and Sam was still asleep in his bunk along the opposite wall from Dean's.
What the hell? Was all that just some crazy dream, or…or was Cas actually in trouble? Dean's gut said the latter, as did the subtle ping in the back of his mind he hadn't felt since he'd intentionally tried to access the bond with said angel.
Dean wrestled the tangled sheets off his legs and scrambled out of bed. "Sam! Wake up."
His brother let out a muffled noise as he jerked awake. "What? What's wrong?" he asked groggily, immediately responding to Dean's urgent tone.
"Cas is in trouble." Dean shoved his feet into his boots; he was already dressed, as he'd gotten in the habit long ago of sleeping in his clothes.
So had Sam, who started putting his shoes on without question, though he did ask for details. Dean did his best to explain as quickly as he could.
"Gabriel's name is somewhere in the bypass warding," Sam said once he was up to speed. "But, crap, along with a bunch of others, and I don't know how to tell whose is whose."
Yeah, so that wasn't an option.
"We don't have time to figure it out, either," Dean replied. "Cas was in bad shape. And it sounded like the attack was happening now." He snatched his duffel from under his bunk and double-checked all the weapons and gear he kept stocked in it. "So we'll have to get Cas first, then figure out what to do next."
In an angel war, right.
Sam grabbed his own go-bag. "Sheridan County is big, Dean. Did Cas say where he was exactly?"
Dean pulled up short in the doorway, furrowing his brow in concentration. "No. But I can feel the link in the bond more easily this time. Maybe because Cas initiated it through the dream, I dunno. But we'll find him."
He turned and strode outside, mentally running through the routes he had memorized from years driving these highways to and from hunts. They were on a case again, this time a rescue mission.
Hold on, Cas.