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Chuck hates prologues.

Even before the shit with the apocrypha, he never used them. Prologues are the ducks of the writing world: fun to look at, but ultimately serve no purpose. Prologues belong in bad blockbuster movies where an explanation is needed for the audience about backstory, or because generally movie audiences have a collective IQ of 4 and can't be thrust into the middle of the action. Stories don't need prologues.

This is not a prologue.

"You're not in this story."

"We're making it up as we go."

Castiel lowers his gaze to the floor, eyes cutting through the dirty tile, foundation, and earth, casting a heated stare full of blame upon the hordes of Hell. Maybe. Well, that's what he would write, anyhow.

This one single scene is a goldmine. It would put him on the New York Times Bestseller's List for a fucking decade. For this alone he'd be mingling with J.K. Rowling and Paul Auster while Dan Brown would be crying in a bathtub somewhere.

"I'll hold him off! I'll hold them all off!"

He likes Castiel. The little he knows about Castiel has come from the angel's dick-ass family, but it works. The whole "I'm a mysterious mystery straddling the line between my duty and what I believe is right" thing makes for a great character. Once he publishes Lucifer, Rising, the fanbase for Castiel is going to explode. Next year at Comic-Con, Chuck fully expects to see at least fifteen people walking around in the tax accountant get-up.

But it's more than just being likable, because every character in the stories he wrote before all this was likeable. It's a fact -- he used to be a good writer. To some extent, he still is, but now the plot and the characters are not his to claim. Sam's likeable, Dean even moreso. They're the heroes, after all. They're the constant around which his words revolve. For all that Dean and Sam have done -- and they've done a shitload -- they don't change. Characters that don't change can still be likeable, but they aren't relatable.

Castiel is relatable because he's changed. Is still changing, faster than the words can be written. People like change. People relate to change; it's a very human thing.

And as Castiel places his hand firmly but somehow gently, like the caress of someone who has the feelings but not the knowledge of what to do with them, upon Dean's forehead and thrusts him away from the kitchen, away from what will certainly be a scene worthy of the CSI season finale, Chuck thinks that Castiel will surprise everyone by being the most human of them all in the end.

There are only the two of them now, Castiel staring at the smudges of dirt on his palm left behind from Dean's skin, and Chuck hoping that there will be enough of his cabinets left to salvage when this is all over. He's never been a handy guy. Giving him power tools can only end in tears and a trip to the emergency room.

"Perhaps you should move from this room," Castiel says quietly, dropping his hand to his side, but not before curling his fingers into a loose fist, thumb rubbing almost absently at the slick in his palm, the curious leavings behind of Dean Winchester. That little gesture, meaningless in almost every context, could be a whole chapter. A character piece. The ponderings of an angel in mid-Fall, contemplating whether or not it's been worth it; why his brothers and sisters can't see the problem of ending an entire world because they've simply grown tired of the blight in the universe that is Humanity; if the odd crackle of electricity that irritates Castiel's borrowed heart whenever his human charge enters a room is normal human behavior or perhaps an indication that something is wrong with his vessel. Or something. Castiel looks kind of like he has a chronic case of heartburn all the time.

Chuck watches dumbly as the thumb passes over the two horizontal creases once, twice, three times before he drags his eyes away to stare at Castiel, illuminated by the coming of his death squad.

"Where would I go? They'd find me," he says, glancing around the kitchen. A half-empty bottle of Skyy vodka convulses its way off a counter, slamming against the floor and spattering glass like diamonds in the light, pouring through the blinds of the little window above the sink. And wow, if Castiel had been kind enough to give him a heads-up about the whole rebelling thing, Chuck would have cleaned up a little. He feels kind of bad that Castiel's resting place has dirty dishes in the sink and empties rolling around on the floor.

Castiel's resting place. God. Castiel is going to die.

His fans are going to be pissed.

The room's so bright now that it's like staring directly at the sun, his eyes burning and demanding that they be shut, temples pounding with the effort to keep them open. He needs to see this. He needs to see it because he's going to be the only one who will know what happened here. He needs to be able to tell the world that something has gone horribly wrong in the universe for a son loyal to an absent father to be slaughtered like this.

Castiel doesn't seem worried. Castiel shows nothing on his face, just blank anticipation and maybe a little bit of relief. Chuck really isn't sure -- what the angels give him doesn't really cover emotions.

"You're awfully calm for, you know, being minutes away from a probably very painful death."

"It was bound to happen sooner or later."

"What was?"

"My death."

The light grows impossibly bright, like, full-on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but Castiel simply turns his head and nods at Chuck, as if to say 'I apologize in advance for exploding all over you.'

The blinds framing the little window over the sink catch fire and dissolve, the ceramic just turning to dust right then and there.

Chuck swallows, mouth impossibly dry, his Adam's apple bobbing with an audible click. For some weird reason, he smells roses. "I feel like I should say something. Or, like you should."

Castiel's head does that tilty-thing, like a bird or a dog hearing a noise for the first time and unable to place it. "Say something? Like what?"

"Dude, I don't know. Something, like, profound. I mean, when I publish this you're going to want to… be remembered, right? Well, you need to leave a really good quote behind." It may be the dumbest thing he's ever said in his entire life, including that time when he tried to ask Jeanne Christopher to prom through a series of Star Wars references.

Castiel's head rights itself and he stares at the window for a long moment, not even twitching when the light begins to retreat from the kitchen, from Jimmy Novak's impossibly blue eyes. "They are here."

"Totally not what I had in mind."

"I'm not concerned about being remembered. All that matters is that Dean stops Sam from killing Lilith," Castiel says, but something flickers in those freaky eyes at the mention of Dean's name and Chuck jumps on it like a fat guy after a velour jogging suit.

"Well, think about Dean, then! He's going to want to know what your last words were and believe me, the first thing he's going to say is, "Did he say anything good?"!" He pauses, then rakes a hand through his hair. He seriously needs a shower. "Dude, I can't believe we're talking about your death like this. You're going to die."

Castiel's eyes dart to the blindless window, then the floor, then the window again. Chuck totally calls character development. "If… If I were to give you a message to relay to Dean, would you…"

This. This is it. The money shot. The fans are gonna freak. "Dude, yeah, of course."

Castiel nods, swallows, and it's such a human thing to do that Chuck rethinks the whole 'Castiel is totally unafraid to die' thing. His heart clenches tightly, a zing of pain cracking against the inside of his ribcage. It's so not fair. For two-thousand years, Castiel did his job, did everything that was asked of him, and when he tries to take a little something for himself? He gets his fucking death warrant signed.

"Please… Tell Dean --"

"Castiel."

In all honesty, Chuck was expecting Zachariah to pop out of a hole in the floor and shout, "BOO!", a big grin stretching his douchey face as he ushers in the main act of the evening.

But no. Standing in the kitchen doorway is the skinniest girl he's ever seen. Her arms legitimately look like someone broke off tree branches and stuck them into her shoulders. She might have been cute if she'd had anything to eat in her life except water seasoned with tapeworms. And yeah, that's an awful thing to think and he's so going to Hell for it.

The hard look Castiel cuts him says the angel would love nothing more than to spend his last three minutes alive by casting him into the Pit.

He turns back to the girl, avoids looking at her freakishly tiny wrists, and suddenly it comes to him as if it's always been there, the name slip-sliding through him like light bursting through cobwebs, a single pulse coming from the end of the universe. Barachiel. The Lightning of God.

In that frail body, trapped by bird bones and sinew, is an archangel.

Suck it, Dan Brown.

"Barachiel," Castiel says, completely without inflection, chin tilting in the most respectable of nods. Got to hand it to the guy. He's pulled Dean out of Hell, disobeyed Heaven's orders by thinking for himself for a change, kicked Zachariah's smarmy ass in the green room, and is currently staring his own death in the face. And what does he do? He's nice to his would-be executioner. It's like some store of bad-ass no one's ever tapped. Sure, Chuck Norris and Dean Winchester can both kick your ass, but Castiel? Castiel will do it with manners.

"I am glad I got to you first," Barachiel says, gaunt jaw working around a mouth full of strangely perfect, white teeth.

"I must admit, I am surprised they sent you. Forgive my impertinence, Barachiel, but the Seven have never involved themselves in our matters." Castiel's eyes dart from Chuck to the door to Chuck again, obviously saying get the fuck out of here while I distract her with politeness. Bad. Ass.

Barachiel tilts her head. Must be an angel thing. "Would you have preferred Zachariah?"

"No," Castiel says, chastised, voice drawn low and almost soft.

The dark head tilts even more and Chuck waits to hear something crack. It looks like the angel doesn't know the limitations of the human form, because they're approaching Exorcist levels of creepy now. "Where is your Righteous Man?"

Lips pinched tightly, Castiel lowers his chin and gives her a dark stare, dark enough that even Chuck has to take a step back, because damn, Cas. If they survive this, he's starting the Castiel Facts. Fact One: If you mention Dean Winchester in a negative way, Castiel will start a second apocalypse. Okay, it's not a good one, but once they catch on the internet will do the rest of the work for him. Like, Fact Two: Killing Castiel won't make him dead, just incredibly angry. Fact Three: Castiel can eat beer with chopsticks.

Yeah, totally not focusing on the matter at hand. It's completely understandable -- what normal, sane person could? Sometimes this whole thing is just too big.

As if on cue, light explodes from Castiel's back and knifes through the air, a great bolt of what looks like fuzzy lightning that splits in two, fanning both left and right before finally coming to a rest, buzzing with pure energy. Chuck can't figure out what the hell he's looking at for a moment, then, oh. Duh. Wings.

He's seeing an angel's actual wings, not just half-formed shadows on the walls.

"He's not here," Castiel announces loudly, and something cracks outside. Maybe thunder. Chuck covers his ears about a second too late and now his ears are ringing like someone just struck a gong next to his head. So not helping the hangover. "He's stopping what you allowed to start. What you wanted to start."

Barachiel's mouth convulses awkwardly, trying to grimace but failing to understand how. "I freely admit that things… have not been cohesive in Heaven, but I am not here to --"

"I will not allow you to usher in an undeserved end to this place, these people," Castiel vows hoarsely. Chuck's heart starts pounding, possibly even louder than the bug zapper hum of Castiel's wings. "It is not the place of the Host to make such a decision. It never has been."

"The Righteous Man broke, as was foretold," Barachiel murmurs, fingers clenching at her sides, darting out to touch the air before withdrawing as if burned. Was Castiel like this during his first few hours in a vessel, testing and pushing against human limitation and sensation? "Castiel, brother, I have not come to --"

"Dean Winchester will stop this."

Chuck's heart tightens and cracks at the absolute surety in Castiel's voice.

Barachiel fixes Castiel with a cool stare, head tilted, nearly non-existent eyebrows furrowed in what could be interpreted as confusion.

Castiel's chin lifts. "What?"

"You. Your vessel. You. I cannot distinguish between you. You do not wear that body as you ought; you wear it as if you own it. As if it is yours. As if you were human." Barachiel frowns. "How close are you to them? How close are you to the edge, brother?"

Ouch. "Hey, we're not that bad!"

Barachiel turns, and oops. In the pantheon of bad moves, this one's right up there, because now the archangel's attention is on Chuck.

"Prophet," Barachiel says, blinking, as if realizing he's been here all along. She turns back to Castiel. "It does not matter now! It is over! I came because --"

And --

Hey, wait a sec.

Chuck puts a hand over his eyes, unable to help it. His head's two seconds away from exploding all over the walls. Information overload's never fun, especially while he's awake and sober.

Then he knows.

Oh.

Oh shit.

"Prophet?"

"Chuck?"

He looks at Castiel the angel, at Cas the friend, at the only being left in existence with faith in the outcome of humanity. It doesn't matter anymore.

It's over. It's all over, and he was wrong.

This is totally a prologue.