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Heaven is in an uproar.

Of course, Heaven is always in some sort of uproar, so usually Castiel doesn’t pay much attention. He doesn’t much have the mind for politics, he is more of the type who liked to have enemies pointed out to him so that he could stick them with something pointy.

But this is a special uproar, the uproar of the millennium.

This is the day that marked the Holy and Blessed Union of Dean Winchester and Jo Harvelle.

The merging of prominent bloodlines is always a grand occurrence, but breeding pedigree hunter families like Winchester and Harvelle is something to be rejoiced. It is also something to be meticulously planned, which thankfully the Host is very good at.

Dean Winchester and Jo Harvelle will meet at the Harvelle’s drinking establishment, just as has been intended since the two of them were mere scraps of ideas. There, a preselected putto will be waiting with a celestial arrow to strike the rapturous chord between them, sparking an immediate and intense romantic and sexual interest. After that they will fornicate and produce two sons who will eventually be the Michael Sword and Lucifer’s Vessel, if all goes according to plan. Which it usually does when the all masses of Heaven are striving towards it.

Castiel finds the entire thing incredibly dull, and wishes that someone would point him towards something to stab.

The putto selected to stir their respective loins is one with an exemplary track record. All of his marks were targeted, shot, and married within the month, and even Castiel is impressed with the fact that none of his charges went crazy and killed each other after a few years. Humans have a nasty habit of doing that, with their silly biology and uncooperative neural chemicals getting in the way of divine destiny.

Castiel knows that his arrows are strong, his bow is flexible, and his aim is true. All of the Choirs in all of the Spheres are watching with baited breath, Power and Principality alike, and even the warrior Seraphim like himself have been pulled from their battles to keep their eyes on the joyous and wondrous meeting of Dean Winchester and Jo Harvelle, whose children will bring about the end of days.

Balthazar slides into nonexistence beside him, incorporeal wings buzzing with excitement.

CASTIEL, he says cheerfully, TODAY HISTORY IS MADE.

Castiel wonders how history can be made when this is predetermined and they are angels and history and time are fluid concepts. He says nothing because he’s been reliably informed that he is a party pooper.

On the mortal plane, Sam and Dean Winchester break into a bar. They split up. The barrel of a shotgun is pressed against the older brother’s back.

The entire Host watches, enraptured. The putto, unseen by the humans, draws his bow and aims, celestial arrow shining and singing with the manifest of Love; motor oil and new leather, the taste of whiskey, the feeling of rolling a bullet between your fingers, the scent of homemade apple pie and the sound of a mother’s laughter carrying down a warm hallway. These are the things that mean Love to Dean Winchester, and he’s about to get shot full of them.

BROTHERS AND SISTERS, Raphael breathes reverently,WITNESS THIS, THE UNION OF OUR FATHER’S GLORY.

Winchester twists, grabbing the shotgun. Harvelle punches him in the face. The putto looses his arrow.

It sticks Winchester right in the chest, and they all feel what Dean feels the moment it connects; the awed, amazed, powerfully overwhelming pain of getting punched in the fucking face. The arrow, still unseen by the two mortals, stays lodged in Dean’s chest instead of dissolving into his soul like it should have. Instead of absorbing that feeling of Love, Winchester is just surprised.

So is every single angel in the entirety of Heaven.

This is unprecedented. The putto stares in horrified shock, his marks very much not in love. Chaos erupts. In the Second Sphere, the Hashmallim immediately begin screaming for order and for some sort of answer. Castiel and the other Seraphim withdraw from the tumult with a sort of lame numbness.

SHOOT HIM AGAIN, Castiel’s immediate superior, Seraphiel, shouts, and apparently that is the most logical order given because the putto quickly readies his bow and fires another arrow. Again, it lands and sticks but there is no change. Dean Winchester’s soul is markedly unaffected.

There is a very long, very painful moment of silence. All Choirs cease movement and murmur. Sam Winchester is held at gunpoint by Ellen Harvelle. Dean Winchester is decidedly not in love. Thousands upon thousands of years of carefully laid plans crash down on them.

WELL SHIT, Raphael says finally.

Castiel thinks that that most adequately sums up the situation.

------------

After the shock and horror subside, it becomes kind of funny.

Funny in that way where it’s not funny at all, but Castiel knows that if they don’t try to find the humor in something then the malakhim will instead turn to rage and smite a large city or two.

Castiel is voting for Chicago, personally.

There will be other vessels for Michael and Lucifer, eventually. The higher-ups have already plotted and planned for the next great union, as sort of a back-up plan. Obviously, the hopes are that one day the arrows still stuck in Dean Winchester will absorb like they’re meant and the apocalypse will be back on schedule, if a bit later than originally planned.

The putto assigned to them had turned in his bow and is now glumly playing guardian to some chapel or something in a human city called Rome. It is a big step down, and Castiel pities him.

However, dozens of other angels have taken up his mantel, each determined that their arrow will be the one that causes Dean Winchester to fall in love with Joanna Harvelle. Some have even taken to shooting her, just to see if it changes anything, though it was always meant to be Dean who fell first.

It’s almost a game. Let’s see how long Dean Winchester can walk around looking like a celestial pincushion.

Even Balthazar takes a crack at it, telling Castiel cheekily, I HAVE EXPERIENCE INSERTING THINGS INTO HUMANS FOR PLEASURE.

He fails, of course, but no one was actually expecting him to succeed, himself included.

Eventually some angel, probably a cherub, ups the ante by taking a vessel and trying to matchmake Winchester and Harvelle the old fashioned way. Or, rather, the human way, since technically angels are far more old fashioned.

She flirts with Winchester while in the presence of Harvelle to try and stimulate jealousy. This fails, as the two hunters are closing in on a vampire nest together and neither of them have the patience to pay attention to a random bar bunny.

It starts up a new round in their game though, and suddenly there are a lot more humans running around with amnesia because the angels are grabbing vessels left and right to try and push Dean and Jo together.

Sorath sends Jo flowers with a card signed with Dean’s name. She calls him to confirm the delivery is his, he says its not, and they burn the flowers as ingredients for a spell.

Dinial takes the form of an infant and poses as the orphaned child of a victim of a poltergeist, in hopes that the two hunters will care for it together. Dean dumps the infant off on Jo, who dumps the infant off on her mother, who dumps the infant off on Bobby Singer, who it turns out possesses a fantastic singing voice and knowledge of a variety of different lullabies.

Nothing works.

The closest they get is after Virgil snarls, SOFT FOOLS, PASSION IS BORN IN BATTLE and tricks the two of them into a skinwalker ambush. Winchester and Harvelle shoot and slice and bleed together, back-to-back, and again the Host watches avidly as they dance around each other, every bit the perfect hunters to breed the perfect vessels.

They fornicate afterwards, and there is brief jubilation, but it’s just as quickly gone when Castiel’s brothers and sisters realize that the celestial arrows are all still firmly intact in both of the humans. Not a shred of Love has absorbed.

IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING, says Aziraphale, an eccentric principality who has lived as a human for several centuries and owns a bookshop, and is therefore Heaven’s leading expert in human culture, THAT FORNICATION DOES NOT NECESSARILY EQUATE TO LOVE. THEY COULD HAVE SEX AND STILL BE ENTIRELY EMOTIONALLY PLATONIC.

There is a resounding groan of despair.

Castiel thinks that they are all being a little silly, and should just move on.

------------

YOU SHOULD TAKE A CRACK AT IT, CASSIE, Balthazar tells him thoughtfully.

I WOULD RATHER ROLL IN GOAT DUNG.

SO SERIOUS! NO ONE EXPECTS IT TO WORK ANYMORE. WHY NOT HAVE A LITTLE FUN? THE PUTTI HAVE TAKEN TO USING THE TWO WAYWARD HUMANS AS TARGET PRACTICE.

Castiel flexes his feathers, banishing a demon who was about to possess a pregnant woman from existence. He contemplates it.

All malakhim of every Choir or Garrison have the ability to manifest swords and bows and to will arrows of celestial intent into existence. The putti are just the class who are assigned the roles of matchmakers, like the Seraphim are assigned the role of warrior. Each has the capacity, if not the strength necessary, to fight or wield either weapon.

If given the choice, Castiel prefers fighting in his true form, with his antlers or his wing spurs. Balthazar likes to fight with his tentacles, because he is inappropriate.

YES, CASTIEL, chimes in Uriel, whose judgement on such things Castiel trusts much more than Balthazar’s, PERHAPS THE INSIGHT OF YOUR ARROWS ARE WHAT THE WINCHESTER FLEA NEEDS.

(Uriel is just sore because when he’d aimed at Dean, he’d missed.)

I DO NOT HAVE A VESSEL, Castiel reminds them. With a flick of his Grace he diverts a car crash that would have resulted in the death of a man who would eventually start an incredibly influential social rights movement.

Castiel’s last vessel had been several million years ago. He thinks it was a dilophosaurus.

SO GRAB ONE. Balthazar drops down into his own vessel, though his Grace is still connected to Castiel’s so that they could speak. WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVORITES, AND HUMANKIND IS FILLED WITH THE FAITHFUL BEGGING FOR OUR INTERVENTION.

YOU WOULD NEED A HANDS-ON APPROACH, Anael tells him thoughtfully. YOU SHOULD SPEAK TO HIM, PERHAPS THAT’S WHY ALL OTHER ATTEMPTS HAVE FAILED. TRY TO CHOOSE A VESSEL THAT WINCHESTER WOULD BE MOST RECEPTIVE TO.

Castiel takes a moment to observe Dean Winchester’s soul, and gleans from it as much as he can. Then he casts his many eyes across the earthly realm, speeding this way and that, until he alights on a potential vessel that he thinks will best fit his needs.

------------

JAMES NOVAK I AM CASTIEL-THE-SHIELD-OF-THE-LORD, ANGEL OF HEAVEN, FIRE AND WRATH AND FORGIVENESS, DO YOU HEAR MY VOICE?

Jimmy Novak stares unblinkingly at a television screen that jolts from image to image rapidly. The lights flicker on and off and the floorboards shake and groan. He doesn’t move. He can’t.

I hear your voice, Castiel-The-Shield-Of-The-Lord.

AND YOU ARE FAITHFUL TO YOUR LORD AND FATHER AND HEAVEN AND ITS DESIGNS?

Jimmy was raised a good Catholic boy. He knows what the right answer is.

I am faithful to my Lord and Father and Heaven and Its designs.

THEN GRANT ME PASSAGE TO YOUR BODY SO I MAY WALK WITH YOUR LEGS AND SPEAK WITH YOUR TONGUE, TO FULFILL OUR GREAT AND GLORIOUS PURPOSE.

Yes.

For the first time in millions of years, Castiel’s lungs expand and he breathes in air.

Humankind, he decides as he flexes his fingers, is much superior to the dilophosaurus.

------------

So what is our great and glorious purpose?

TO FACILITATE THE UNION OF DEAN WINCHESTER AND JOANNA HARVELLE THAT THEY MAY BEGET THE DESCENDANTS OF CAIN AND ABEL TO HOST MY BROTHERS FOR THE COMING WAR.

Wait. We’re matchmaking?

ESSENTIALLY.

You possessed me so that you could convince two random people to have sex?

MARRIAGE WOULD BE IDEAL AS WELL THOUGH I SUPPOSE AS LONG AS TWO SONS ARE BORN OF THEM IT IS NOT REQUIRED.

Oh my God.

I AM NOT GOD, I AM CASTIEL-WHO-IS-THE-SHIELD-OF-THE-LORD. IT IS A WORTHY PURPOSE, JAMES NOVAK, I CAN FEEL YOUR SHAME AND ASSURE YOU THAT IT IS UNFOUNDED.

You motherfucker.

I HAVE FUCKED NO MOTHERS.

------------

Seeing Dean Winchester through mortal eyes is an experience. As an angel, Castiel spends a lot of time looking at souls to determine if they are just and worthy of divine intervention. Dean’s soul, while blemished and tattered and mottled with pain and regret and sadness, still burns brightly, almost spitefully, as if determined to remain righteous despite the darkness in him. Secretly, Castiel has always respected him for this. Truly the best candidate to father The Righteous Man.

However, Dean Winchester also has green eyes and an easy smile and a deep voice, which is something Castiel had known intellectually but is striking in person and on the mortal plane.

He’s pretty.

THIS FACT IS UNRELATED TO OUR GOALS. ALSO, YOU ARE MARRIED.

I can look, I just can’t touch. Not much else to do while you’re in the saddle anyway.

He appears to help Dean on a hunt. Jo Harvelle is nowhere to be seen; in fact, she is several hundred miles away at the Roadhouse bar. Dean Winchester is alone, save for an exceptionally angry Shishi, and Castiel himself.

This is on purpose; while Castiel might not be one for politics, he is a tactician on the battlefield with the ability to plan ahead, and anticipate moves and act accordingly. He thinks that the many failures of his brothers and sisters is due to their abundance of subtlety. They’ve poked and prodded quietly from the shadows for too long, and it is time to step out and spread their wings, so to speak.

Castiel has always been of the opinion that the straightforward answer is usually the best one.

The Shishi charges for Dean, who ducks behind a fallen tree, shouting as the monstrous dog-lion throws all of its weight and bulk into the log. He shoots wildly, but silver bullets do little but annoy the monster. Castiel lands with a flap of feathers, and with a burst of Grace he wills the Shishi to transform into a teacup poodle.

Dean Winchester peeks out from his hiding spot.

His brothers and sisters begin to watch, interest piqued. They mutter to each other about how bold Castiel is.

“Dean Winchester,” Castiel says calmly, rolling his borrowed shoulders. “I am Castiel, an Angel of the Lord.”

Dean blinks. “Pull the other one.”

Castiel brings his wings onto the mortal plane to cast their shadows across the forest, feathers rustling. Dean shoots him in the head.

That’s not going to scar, is it?

Castiel sighs. The angels twitter in amusement.

The teacup poodle pees on the tree.

------------

“So you’re an angel?” Dean stares at him, chin propped up on one hand while the other taps against his beer bottle. “You’re not shitting me?”

They are sitting at the bar of one of few drinking establishments Castiel could find that allows pets inside. The drinking establishment happens to be in France. The teacup poodle is settled comfortably in the crook of Castiel’s arm, chewing on Jimmy Novak’s trench coat.

“I am not defecating, no.”

“Huh.” Dean sips at his drink.

TELL HIM THAT GOD HAS CALLED HIM FOR A HIGHER PURPOSE, Raphael says urgently, eager to get the show on the road.

If you tell him that you showed up to make him bang some girl he’s going to freak out, Jimmy points out helpfully. Castiel relays his advice to Raphael. Raphael sputters at being shot down by a possessed human. Balthazar laughs.

“So what’s an angel want with me, anyway?” Dean asks. He sounds unconcerned, but Castiel can see in his soul that he is wary and apprehensive. Dean Winchester is not used to good things happening to him, and has likely never witnessed a miracle.

“Your soul was righteous, and you were in peril,” Castiel says.

TELL HIM TO FORNICATE WITH THE HARVELLE GIRL.

ZACHARIAH HAVE PATIENCE, HUMANS ARE DELICATE CREATURES.

TELL HIM TO FORNICATE WITH HER DELICATES.

Castiel shuts out his bickering siblings.

“And who’re you wearing?” Dean’s hand sneaks into his jacket, where Castiel knows he’s hidden the magic demon knife. He’s faintly amused that Dean would try to stab and kill him in a crowded pet bar in France. A sheep bleats from a corner. “Everything I’ve heard about angels, you guys wouldn’t go around possessing poor bastards.”

Castiel glances down at himself curiously. He hasn’t really taken the time to familiarize himself with his vessel; he picked James Novak because he was roughly the same age as Dean, give or take a few years, and was unassuming but (Anael had assured him) fairly attractive by human standards. He chose James Novak, because according to Dean’s soul, James Novak was his “type”.

“Read the Bible,” Castiel suggests. “I’m sure it will be an enlightening experience for you. But no, we cannot possess humans. Angels must ask for permission to enter a vessel. I am currently residing in the body of James Novak, a devout man. He is not dead, merely… in the backseat, so to speak.”

Tell him I said hi.

“He says hello.”

Dean stares at him like he’s trying to work out a particularly difficult puzzle. Castiel doesn’t understand why, because he’s been rather upfront. “Well heya, Jimbo.”

THIS IS GETTING US NOWHERE. Raphael’s irritation and impatience is bearing down on Castiel, threatening to pull him out of his vessel and back to Heaven with the force of his ire. Some other angels agree with him and are pushing to wipe Dean’s memory of Castiel, but others are curious to see how it will turn out. They argue amongst themselves and it gives Castiel a headache.

“So, what?” Castiel forces himself to return his attention to Dean. “I say my hail Mary’s and ring my bell and then I’ve got my own pocket angel to fuck shit up if I need help?”

HE WILL BE MORE OPEN TO INFLUENCE IF HE TRUSTS YOU, Anael says quietly. The rest of the Host pauses their fighting to think about this. BEFRIEND HIM.

WE SHOULD HAVE SENT SOMEONE ELSE TO DO THIS, Uriel says, disgruntled. CASTIEL IS TOO OBLIVIOUS TO THE HUMAN CULTURE. HE’LL PUT HIS FOOT IN IT. LET ME GO INSTEAD. I CAN BETTER CHARM HIM TO OUR CAUSE.

Castiel doesn’t feel too insulted because this is largely true.

Balthazar comes to his defense, snapping, SENDING TOO MANY ANGELS DOWN THERE WILL CONFUSE AND OVERWHELM THE WINCHESTER. CASSIE WAS THE ONE WHO WAS SMART ENOUGH TO MAKE CONTACT.

BECOME THE FRIEND, CASTIEL, Raphael determines. THEN THE FORNICATION.

“Yes,” Castiel tells Dean with a shrug. “That about covers it.”

------------

Making friends with Dean is surprisingly easy. Castiel will be the first to admit that his standoffish indifference to humankind and their evolution has led to him being significantly less versed in their culture and traditions than some of his more curious siblings, but all Dean seems to require in a friendship is someone at his back in a fight and someone at his side to celebrate the win afterwards.

Sam Winchester has gone back to California to finish his education, and while Castiel can tell that Dean is proud of his brother, he can also tell that Dean is floundering without the company. So naturally he clings to the nearest source of companionship like a pilot fish, and given his ulterior motives to befriending Dean, Castiel chooses not to make a big deal out of it.

So they hunt, Dean never staying in one place for long and Castiel following him placidly, and Dean opens up over the next few months of their burgeoning friendship to tell Castiel things that he already knows.

Mother and father killed by a demon, hunting his entire life, probably never going to settle down, blah blah blah. Castiel can take a quick glance at Dean’s soul and learn all of this, but somehow the fact that Dean has voluntarily supplied the information means something.

You did it, Castiel, Jimmy says sarcastically, growing more and more annoyed with how long he’s been riding bitch in his own body. You did the friendship.

And the thing is, he really did. Dean is as much his friend as he is Dean’s, he thinks. At least, they’re friends as angels define friendship; they hunt and they bleed and they kill together and after a long day of battle they clean each other’s wounds and Castiel keeps watch over the world while Dean rests.

EASY THERE, CASSIE, ELSE YOU’LL MAKE ME JEALOUS, Balthazar warns good-naturedly.

At first, his angelic audience didn’t really bother him. Castiel is used to being in constant contact with his family, as angels are not private creatures and it’s easy to use the excuse of all-seeing to justify what basically constitutes as spying. In fact, the brief moments where Castiel is cut off from his siblings, usually in battle when their connection can be more distracting than helpful, often leave him feeling lonely and bereft.

But now he feels way too much like he’s living in one of the sitcoms that Dean is fond of, with the heavenly host providing the canned laughter.

It doesn’t help that they keep trying to give him critiques and advice.

YOU’RE MOVING TOO SLOWLY, CASTIEL, Zachariah chastises.

HE TRUSTS YOU NOW, Rachel says soothingly, BROACH THE TOPIC OF THE HARVELLE GIRL.

So, over the course of a month, Castiel gradually leads them back towards Nebraska. After they cross the state line, Dean seems to suddenly think of something.

“Oh, hey. I have friends a couple hours from here.” He turns down the radio, but still taps his fingers against the steering wheel of the Impala. “Remember, I told you about Ellen and Jo?”

Of course Castiel remembers, he is an all-knowing celestial being who has existed since the very beginning of existence. He has closed his eyes and blinked for longer periods of time than Dean has been alive. If asked, he could name every molecule of every atom of every element on the Periodic Table, and most elements not it it to boot.

“Yes,” is what he says instead. “They own a bar.”

Dean seems pleased that Castiel listens and retains the information he’s shared, and he shoots him a grin, green eyes bright and teeth showing.

Castiel experiences something in his lower stomach resembling indigestion.

JAMES NOVAK, he says, concerned. THERE IS A WORRYING SENSATION IN MY ABDOMEN, BUT I SENSE NO SICKNESS WITHIN THE VESSEL THAT COULD CAUSE IT. I BELIEVE THAT YOUR BODY MAY BE BROKEN. MY CONDOLENCES.

You’re a fucking moron, is all Jimmy says in response, and then sullenly grows quiet.

“We should visit them after this hunt,” Dean says. It’s a suggestion, but a hopeful one. Castiel knows that Dean will drive on past the Roadhouse without stopping if he even hints that he doesn’t want to meet the Harvelles. Thankfully, meeting the Harvelles is an essential part of Heaven’s plan.

IF YOU DON’T GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD I’M HALF AFRAID THAT RAPHAEL WILL CHEW HIS OWN FEATHERS OFF, Balthazar mumbles, his voice soft enough that Castiel is the only one to hear it. Angels rarely speak directly to each other without shouting into the entire Host, but it’s been several months since Castiel has descended from Heaven to talk to Dean. When he cautiously pulls at the empathic connection between himself and his siblings, he can feel that there is a nervous buzz.

He’s made progress on their mission, but not enough, and now he’s stalled.

“I would like to meet them,” he answers Dean finally. Thankfully, Dean is used to his awkward silences while he convenes with his family.

Anael, who is the most helpful with her advice regarding human relationships, pipes up, BRING UP THE GIRL, MAKE HIM THINK OF HER! So Castiel continues, “Especially Jo, I am most curious about her.”

Dean smirks and taps his fingers a bit harder. “Heh, yeah. Jo’s a firecracker alright.”

COMPLIMENT HER APPEARANCE! Anael urges. Castiel frowns minutely.

I’VE NO IDEA HOW TO COMPLIMENT A HUMAN. THEY DON’T HAVE WINGS OR PRONGS AND THEY’VE ONLY GOT ONE HEAD, THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME.

HER EYES! Inias suggests. TALK ABOUT HER EYES!

NO, FOOL, WINCHESTER WON’T CARE ABOUT THOSE. THEY ONLY HAVE TWO. WHAT DO HUMANS FIND ATTRACTIVE? TOES? THEY HAVE A LOT OF TOES. COMPOSE A POEM ABOUT HER TOES!

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY, BALTHAZAR, DEAR, Aziraphale scolds gently.

DISCUSS HER BLOODTHIRST AND HER KNIFE COLLECTION, roars Virgil, who Castiel thinks is developing something of a crush on Jo himself.

He’s slept with her, right? Jimmy hums thoughtfully. Talk about her boobs. That’ll get him going.

Castiel’s headache is getting significantly worse.

“Hey, Cas. You okay?”

He blinks, shoving the mental argument aside for the moment. Dean is staring at him with something resembling concern, eyebrows pulled inwards in worry. Castiel nods shortly in answer to his question. “I’m fine, Dean. My siblings are… rowdy.”

Dean’s lips thin out and he stares back out the windshield to the long stretch of road in front of them. “They sound like dicks, dude,” he says bluntly. “Like two or three times a day I turn to see you sittin’ there looking constipated.” He slams on the gas pedal to pass a sedan that’s now honking its horn at them, then flips the driver the bird out the window. “They yell at you that much?”

Castiel shrugs. “At me, at each other, at themselves, at humanity. There are a lot of us, and we all have something to say, so there’s generally a lot of shouting.”

“You guys ever tried whispering?”

Castiel frowns and looks out his own window. “The only one who whispers is Lucifer, who is the Fallen One and the Prince of Darkness and the Morning Star. Sometimes, every few centuries, when he grows strong or we grow weak, we can hear him murmuring to us from the Pit, and he burns at us with frigid fire and temptation.”

Dean has fallen silent in shock, and the Host has as well, a sort of quiet discomfort that talking about their lost brother often brings. Despite himself, and his own private sadness over Lucifer’s falling, Castiel finds the silence damn near peaceful.

But he is on a mission, and so he finally continues, “But yes, I am looking forward to meeting Jo. I’m sure she has nice breasts.”

Dean turns to stare at him so fast that Castiel is sure he’ll need to be curing whiplash soon, and Jimmy crows through his laughter I wasn’t being serious!

Castiel believes that he is developing a migraine.

------------

“So you’re the angel guy?” asks Jo Harvelle in amusement as she wipes the bar clean with a rag.

Dean is somewhere near the jukebox, trying to decide between one hair band whose lyrics have heavy religious subtones and another, leaving Castiel sitting alone on a barstool. This is the first opportunity that Castiel has had to speak to Jo alone, as every hunter in the midwest seems to be passing through the Roadhouse today, and they’re all eager to meet Dean Winchester’s fabled pet angel, poking him with silver and splashing him with holy water.

They’ve even made him fly just to prove that he can; he flaps his wings and lands in Honolulu, grabs a lei and a margarita in a coconut, and flies back to the Roadhouse with them. A hunter named Walt gets the lei, and another named Roy gets the margarita. Ellen Harvelle threatens to kick them out for bringing in outside alcohol, so Castiel flies to Israel and then presents her with a jug of holy oil, which he feels she will appreciate far more than a lei.

(Wow, you’re like a carrier pigeon mixed with an eager-to-please puppy, Jimmy tells him.

Castiel is lucky that dealing with his siblings has seen fit to afford him with near-endless patience regarding small-minded creatures and their silly habits.)

“Yes,” he answers. “I am the angel guy.”

“Cool,” Jo says with a smile, but it’s a bit hard to see around all of the celestial arrows that are sticking out of her face and chest. Dean’s are still there as well of course, but Castiel has learned enough of his mortal body through observation that he can see Dean without the arrows in the way. If he spends enough time with Jo he’ll be able to ignore hers too, but right now the arrow sticking out of her eyeball is disconcerting. “Dean’s told me about you.”

Castiel nods. He is a new and exciting development in Dean’s life, and his existence is a discovery for hunters everywhere. It’s only natural that Dean has discussed him. In fact, Castiel would be disappointed if his charge was so foolish as to keep information about the angels to himself.

“And he has about you to me, as well.”

She winks at him. “All good things, I hope.”

THIS IS GOOD, VERY GOOD, Zachariah says excitedly. Castiel barely refrains from startling. For a moment, he’d forgotten that he has a perpetual audience. INQUIRE AS TO HER MARITAL STATUS.

Before Castiel can open his mouth, Anael quickly adds, BUT BE SUBTLE! ASK IF SHE’S SEEING ANYONE CURRENTLY.

With his siblings coaching him, Castiel manages to ask somewhat casually, “So, in regards to your relationship status, is there anyone that you have your sights on?”

Jo’s eyebrows shoot up and she sends a fleeting glance to Dean, who’s been engaged in conversation with another hunter. His eyes slide over to their place at the bar and he lifts his head in acknowledgement, a slight smile playing at his lips. Castiel’s about to tip his own head in answer, but Zachariah nearly shrieks SHE MADE EYE-CONTACT WITH THE WINCHESTER AFTER YOU ASKED THE QUESTION!

SHE WISHES TO ENGAGE IN FORNICATION! Raphael booms triumphantly, but Aziraphale says tiredly, THEY’VE ALREADY DONE THAT, DEAR. LOVE IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

WE’VE GOT A FOOT IN THE DOOR ANYWAY, Balthazar placates them, and several dozen other angels feel the need to give their input as well. Castiel reaches over to Dean’s beer, which is still sitting at his empty stool, and takes a hearty gulp.

It doesn’t do much to settle his nerves, but it always seems to calm Dean, and perhaps that will carry over as a placebo to Castiel.

Jo, who’s not as used to Castiel’s thousand yard stare as Dean is, now looks faintly concerned and even somewhat wary. “Um, no,” she answers shortly. “Not really. Why?”

PLAY IT SAFE, Rachel hisses.

Castiel shrugs, staring down at his pilfered drink and trying to ignore the cacophony of voices rattling around in his head. In his true form he’s better able to filter them out, to remain aware without paying attention, but trapped as he is in his vessel the bickering and arguing and snipping of his family is like a handful of jackhammers drilling away at his skull. “No reason. Just, you know…” He gestures vaguely. “Dean.”

Jo’s eyes narrow at him and he meets her gaze languidly. After a few seconds she seems to relax, a tiny smile flitting across her mouth. “Yeah. Dean.” She shakes her head. “But no, he and I aren’t together. Maybe once, but…” She looks him up and down, then glances back over to Dean. “Not anymore, I think.”

The whole Host immediately wails disparagingly. I DON’T UNDERSTAND, Raphael whines, THEY WERE THE PERFECT MATCH. WHAT HAPPENED.

“He’s a really good guy, though,” she continues on hurriedly. “I still care about him, you know, one of my best friends. But,” Jo’s voice drops and she stares into Castiel’s eyes meaningfully, “you don’t have to worry about me liking him.”

Castiel tries not to let his disappointment show on his face.

Dean slides onto the stool beside him, swiping his drink back with a cheeky grin. “You guys talkin’ about me?” he asks before taking a long sip.

“The world doesn’t revolve around you, jackass,” Jo snaps, but her voice is playful, and she whips her towel at him.

LOOK, Samandriel says easily, ever the optimist. COMRADERY. WITH CLOSE FRIENDSHIP, LOVE IS ALWAYS AN OPTION. WE AREN’T DOOMED YET. This rouses another chorus of bickering and shouting.

Dean laughs and glances over at Castiel, who responds with a small, barely-there smile of his own, eyes softening at the prospect that his mission is not a complete failure. To have gotten so far, farther than any of his siblings, and fall short now would be terrible. Dean grins even wider and goes back to cheerfully bantering with Jo.

Fucking morons, the whole lot of you, Jimmy grumbles.

------------

Castiel likes to watch documentaries when they stop at motels, because it annoys Dean and Jimmy both when he constantly corrects the laughable mistakes and points out the incredible inaccuracies.

“Zebras aren’t black and white to confuse their predators,” he says conversationally. “My brother, Gazardiel, designed them to have iridescent colors of the rainbow. But he got in a feud with our sister Anpiel, the patron angel of birds, and she stole the zebra’s colors and dyed the bird’s feathers with them.”

(In Heaven, Gazardiel sends Anpiel a nasty look that she merely giggles at.)

“Wait,” Dean says, rolling over to face Castiel on his bed. “I thought God created all of the animals?” Castiel shrugs.

“He supplied the power, we supplied the creativity. This was before you humans came along, when we were still His favored children.” He hums thoughtfully and watches as several lions team up to take down a zebra. “We were much more carefree then, and so too were the animals. Then Lucifer Fell, and we became warriors.”

Dean puts his chin in both of his hands, ignoring the television in favor of paying attention to Castiel. This is one of their quiet moments where nothing exceptionally exciting is happening, which Castiel is grateful for because it means that his siblings are uninterested and he doesn’t have to deal with them chiming in all the time.

The Choirs are all paying attention to their own duties; the Seraphs and Cherubs are in battle, the Virtues tend to their Gardens, and the Hashmallim deal with the bureaucracy. Only a few angels are watching them at the moment, perhaps a hundred or so. Castiel has a feeling that his brothers and sisters are starting to view Dean and himself as a source of entertainment.

He’s gone from feeling like a character on a sitcom to a fish in a bowl.

“So did you make any animals?” Dean asks curiously. “Which ones?”

“Well, we didn’t really create animals. We just inspired them to exist in a way we found pleasing, and evolution did the rest.” A commercial comes on and Castiel changes the channel with a flick of his finger. Dean glances at the remote, which is on his bed and several feet away from where Castiel is sitting, and grins. He thinks it’s hilarious when Castiel uses his Grace to do ordinary human things. This is probably why Castiel does it so often.

“Tomato, tomahto,” Dean tells him, flopping sideways onto his pillow, still smiling.

“I personally never cared much for the process; I appreciated the concept, but I never really had the patience for it. I modeled the elk after my left head, the golden eagle after my right, and the jackal after my middle and then called it quits.”

Dean stares at him. “You have three heads?” he asks blankly. Castiel nods.

“They’re not exactly the same, of course, but those three animals were the closest approximations I could conceive. Balthazar was much more enthusiastic, and there are a slew of animals running around that can credit themselves to him. The bearded vulture, for instance, and many birds of paradise. Also some fish. He has a penchant for anything that’s colorful.”

Balthazar, who is always paying attention, even if it’s only very slightly, preens. YOU SHOULD TELL HIM ABOUT THE PEAFOWL.

“Yeah, okay. But three heads.”

“And then Gabriel got it into his head that he wanted to create something, and that’s how Australia happened. None of us were really sure why our Father gave him the okay on that one, but the Lord does work in mysterious ways.”

“What else do you have three of?”

Castiel lets out a very slight smile. In Heaven, some of the angels watching him exchange knowing glances, but he tunes them out in favor of Dean, who is here with him and infinitely more interesting.

------------

They poke around the midwest for a few more weeks, but there isn’t much in the way of work that hasn’t already been taken care of by other hunters. The Roadhouse acts as a sort of hub, Ellen and Ash sending people out across the country from there to handle the supernatural. A few times Dean offers their services to other hunters and once or twice they fall into a group to take out large nests, but hunters are mostly solitary predators and angels fight best when alone where they have enough room to spread their wings, or occasionally with a close partner.

Every now and then someone will attempt to convince Castiel to leave Dean to travel with other hunters, and while Dean merely shrugs and says it’s his decision, Castiel never takes them up on any of their offers. He’s grown used to the way Dean fights, how he reacts to stimulus and what decisions he will make, and Castiel can act accordingly. Besides, his true purpose is to get Dean and Jo together, which he can’t do if he’s travelling with other hunters.

Even though Dean never really fights to keep Castiel close, he always seems somewhat smug when he chooses to stay.

Even beyond his duty, though, Castiel is growing… attached to Dean. He keeps those emotions hidden away from his siblings for fear of how they’d react. Even Balthazar is ignorant to the fact that Castiel is becoming anxious over the fact that his goals will eventually lead to him no longer seeing Dean.

Of course, even after Dean and Jo conceive the vessels of Michael and Lucifer, Castiel will still be able to visit. Just not as often. Or for as long. And not just for Dean. (He will probably not visit.)

The only one privy to his growing insecurities is Jimmy. The nature of the angel-vessel bonding sort of meshes their thoughts in a way that even his connection to his siblings can’t; Jimmy can draw away and put distance between them, but nothing is ever really hidden.

Jimmy regards his feelings first with disdain, then with amusement, then with sympathy.

But no matter that Castiel will regret the loss of Dean’s companionship. He has a mission and a purpose and it’s incredibly important, and he will see it through.

------------

Castiel gets trapped in a ring of holy fire in Minnesota.

They’ve been tracking demonic omens for the last week and Castiel had just caught the scent of the demons responsible, but when he flew in pursuit after them he’d landed in a circle of unlit holy oil, which promptly became a circle of incredibly lit holy fire.

Demons, he thinks wearily, have gotten much smarter in the last few centuries.

He’s not all that worried, though. While he can’t spread his wings too far without fear of scorching them, likewise the demon guarding him can’t hurt him unless it crosses over to his side of the ring. Besides, Dean knows the warehouse Castiel had chased his query to and is no doubt raising hell to get there.

Castiel wonders what the appeal is to warehouses. Because it’s always, always warehouses.

Inside the holy fire he’s cut off from Heaven, and the absolute and complete silence is deafening. Even when his siblings are quiet, Castiel can always feel them pressing against his consciousness. But now he is well and truly alone.

Well, except for the demon.

What am I, chopped liver?

And Jimmy.

Can this guy kill us?

NO. HE DOESN’T HAVE AN ANGEL BLADE. TORTURE AND SEVERELY MAIM FOR INFORMATION ON HEAVEN? YES. KILL? NO.

Oh. Well at least there’s a bright side.

IF THAT COMES TO THAT I WILL TAKE THE BRUNT OF THE SENSATION. YOUR SOUL WILL REMAIN LARGELY UNSCATHED.

Is that healthy for you?

NOT PARTICULARLY.

Hopefully Dean will get here before that. I wonder where he is?

Outside of the room Castiel is trapped in, a scream breaks through the air, and then dies just as quickly. The demon guarding Castiel jerks in surprise, black eyes reflecting the fire as it swivels towards the door.

JUST THERE, IT WOULD SEEM.

The door bursts open and Dean charges in, a veritable freight train of rage and plaid. His knife slashes through the air but the demon ripostes, twisting at the last second to avoid Dean’s blade and strike out with his own weapon, a jagged ugly piece of metal.

The two dance around each other for a few tense moments and Castiel wonders why Dean’s so out of form when suddenly Dean’s right leg, bloody at the knee, buckles under his weight. It sends him tilting to the side and when the demon catches sight of the injury it kicks him square in the knee, face twisted with contempt.

“Dean!” Castiel shouts helplessly, a pure and unbridled fear shooting down his spine. Dean crashes to the ground with a grunt, then gasps as the demon’s makeshift blade sinks into his side.

Castiel screams.

There is a bright flash of light and the entire building rumbles threateningly. The demon blinks out of existence from an abrupt force of pure Heavenly Grace. Castiel stares numbly as the ceiling begins to collapse, because that Grace wasn’t his own.

A piece of debris falls in front of him, across the holy fire and breaking the circle. Immediately the Host begins to chatter in his mind, surprised and panicked, but he isn’t paying attention. Castiel leaps towards Dean, then spreads his wings and flies.

Outside, he ignores the groaning, creaking wreckage of the warehouse in favor of running his hands, charged with his Grace, over the bloody mess of Dean’s side. It sings over his skin, knitting the broken flesh back together easily, and within seconds Dean’s ragged breathing is calm and even again.

Castiel breathes a sigh of relief when Dean’s eyes open again. Then he looks up.

“Fancy meeting you here, stranger,” Balthazar smiles easily, standing in his vessel a few feet away. Castiel feels even more relief, and after checking one more to make sure that Dean is okay he climbs to his feet and embraces him.

“Brother,” he greets, an answering smile tugging his lips. “You knew where to find me?”

Balthazar shrugs his vessel’s shoulders in a way that seems far more casual than Castiel could ever hope to achieve. Unlike himself, Balthazar has always had an easy time with the navigation of wearing a vessel. “We knew the general area of where you’d been cut off from us, and when you screamed we heard it even through the fire.” He claps Castiel’s arm, grinning. “Saved your arse, didn’t I?”

HE WAS JUST THE FASTEST ONE OF US, Anael assures Castiel, and he’s nearly overwhelmed by the rush of relief and happiness that she sends him. The sentiment is echoed by Rachel and Inias and many more of his siblings, and even Uriel is pleased that he escaped unharmed.

YOU ALMOST LET WINCHESTER DIE, Raphael snaps. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HIM, CASTIEL.

Castiel frowns.

IGNORE HIM, Hester says gently. WE’RE WATCHING OVER YOU CLOSELY NOW, BROTHER. WE WON’T LET THEM CATCH YOUR WINGS AGAIN.

Castiel sends them all a wave of gratitude and gratefulness, but he can’t help but feel like he deserves Raphael’s ire. Dean is his responsibility.

Speaking of which, Dean is now on his feet and watching them warily, eyes darting from Castiel to Balthazar as if he’s not sure how he’s supposed to react.

“Dean,” Castiel says, “this is my brother, Balthazar. He broke the circle of holy fire and allowed me to escape.” Dean relaxes, his shoulders losing some of their tension and his eyes becoming less cautious and more curious.

“Charmed, I’m sure,” Balthazar simpers. Dean frowns again.

“Man,” he grumbles, “your family really is full of dicks.”

“Balthazar saved us,” Castiel reminds him. There’s a cut on Dean’s head, one that he missed before because it wasn’t bleeding heavily, and he reaches out with a hand to heal it. Dean makes an annoyed sound, but lets Castiel touch him gently and he closes his eyes against the glow of Grace.

Balthazar watches them with a secretive grin, arms crossed, and when Castiel meets his eyes again they’re annoyingly smug. Despite his gratitude it rankles him.

“What?” he asks gruffly, feathers twitching in enough agitation that Balthazar can surely feel it.

His brother just grins wider, head tilted. “Nothing, Cassie,” he purrs. “Just… on my way to winning a bet, I think.”

Balthazar flaps his wings and vanishes, leaving Castiel annoyed and Dean looking around in surprise.

“Cas?” Dean asks, touching his arm nervously. Castiel huffs.

“You’re right, they’re all dicks.”

In Heaven, Balthazar laughs.

------------

It takes a while for things to come to a head. Despite several trips to the Roadhouse, and despite his attempts at gently pushing Dean and Jo together, Castiel has officially hit a plateau on his mission.

Dean and Jo laugh and flirt and slap at each other like children, and there is obviously a great amount of affection between the two of them, but for whatever reason they just refuse to fall in love. It’s incredibly frustrating, and also incredibly painful.

Because Castiel is beginning to recognize that his own feelings of affection for Dean go beyond simple friendship. And this is very much not a good thing; not for the mission, and not for Castiel himself.

Nearly a year after alighting on Earth and taking a vessel, they’re joined by Bobby Singer for a hunt in North Dakota, and afterwards he and Dean make the trip back to the Roadhouse with the old man in tow. Bobby immediately gets into an argument with Ellen, shouting and screaming and throwing things.

Dean and Jo, obviously used to this behavior, watch from the sidelines with their beers, unimpressed. Castiel, who has developed a fondness for the sweet-flavored drinks called appletinis, sips at his delicately. If you stick your pinky out it makes you fancy, Jimmy tells him. Jimmy is ignored.

“They’ll be married before you know it,” Jo says slyly. Dean clinks their beer bottles together.

Castiel looks between the two of them, disbelieving. “What? They can’t stand each other. Look, Ellen just punched him in the face. That is not love.”

“There are different kinds of love, Cas,” Dean tells him, nudging his arm with an elbow. Castiel snorts into his appletini. “Theirs is just the violent, disrespectful kind. But if you liquored them up they’d be going at it like rabbits.”

Jo hits his arm. “Dude, gross!” she says, frowning, but the wheels in Castiel’s head are turning.

“Jo punched you in the face when you first met,” he says slowly. “Does that mean you two are in love?”

Both the humans stare at him in shock. “H...how did you know that?” Dean asks, voice worryingly low. Castiel blinks at him.

“I’m an angel, I know everything.”

For once, the angels are quiet, but Castiel can feel them watching the conversation avidly, eager for an answer.

“We’re not in love, Cas,” Dean snaps, his tone growing darker. “Why do you keep hedging at that? Every few days you ask about it like something is gonna change. What do you care?”

Castiel has no clue how the conversation has gone so sour. He looks from Dean to Jo for some sort of hint, but she’s just watching them with a sort of sad look in her eye. Even Jimmy has gone silent, and for once Castiel wishes he had some advice to share, even if it was insincere.

He stammers uncomfortably before trying, “I… I don’t?”

Obviously that was the wrong thing to say. Dean slams his beer on the counter, grabs his jacket, and storms out of the bar. Even Ellen and Bobby, who’s bleeding heavily from his nose, pause their snarling to watch in bemusement. Outside, the Impala rumbles to life and then thunders out of the parking lot and down the road.

The angels begin to twitter nervously. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? Balthazar asks.

I DON’T KNOW, Castiel responds numbly. AT LEAST I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO’S CONFUSED.

Castiel repeats Balthazar’s question to Jo, who just shakes her head sadly.

“Cas,” she starts, then closes her mouth. “You know that I like you, right? We’re friends?” He says nothing, because he’s pretty sure Dean is his only human friend and he doesn’t want to offend her. “But I’m not, you know. Interested in you. Like that.”

Oh my god, Jimmy finally says, while Zachariah roars, CASTIEL WHAT DID YOU DO?

He blusters. I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING?

Jo continues, unaware of his confusion, “I know you keep asking about me and Dean because you don’t want to come between us, but I don’t really have any feelings for you at all.” She reaches out and pats his hand, almost upsetting his appletini. “I’m sorry,” she finishes, sincerely apologetic.

….WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON, Raphael says finally. Castiel is in full agreement.

“No,” Castiel says dumbly, at a loss for words. For once none of his siblings have any input. They’re all just as fucking confused as he is. “Not you. Dean?”

Jo stares at him in incomprehension, then her face clears and she even smiles. “Oh. You… you like Dean?”

“No!” he says, far too loudly and far too quickly. Now Bobby and Ellen are looking at them in suspicion. “No, not me! You! Dean-you!”

Jo’s not smiling anymore. Now she’s just looking at him like he’s stupid.

Human emotions have finally broken you, Jimmy sighs.

Castiel clears his throat and tries to put his words in order. “I don’t like you. Dean likes you. You like Dean. You and Dean. Together.”

Jo frowns and shakes her head. “Cas, no. No, I don’t like Dean like that. He’s like my brother. He…” She exhales sends him a hard look. “Maybe you should talk to him yourself.”

Castiel stares at her, then lowers his head. With a quick flex of his Grace, he does what he probably should have done months ago at their first meeting: he slides into the metaphysical, unseen, and readies his bow.

Into his arrow he pours everything that Jo Loves; the rasp of a knife on a whetstone, the taste of hops and grain, an old leather jacket worn soft with age that still vaguely smells of William Harvelle, the gentle arms of her mother and a soft lullaby at night. Since Dean is not here in this room, Castiel must add something extra, something to tie her to him.

But he doesn’t add what he knows about Dean. He adds what Dean has told him, because he knows that whispered secrets and memories are far more powerful than knowledge gained without permission.

Alongside Jo’s love, he mixes in what Love Dean has shared with him; the memory of teaching Sam to walk, of their father cutting their hair in a motel bathroom with sewing scissors to save money, the sun-warm metal of the Impala beneath his bare skin on a hot Kansas day, of tucking back against Castiel himself in the middle of battle and the elation of having someone you trust watch over you.

The amount of emotion that Castiel pours into his arrow leaves him drained, leaves the Host awed and breathless, for no putto in existence has ever given so much of themselves to ensure a union.

Castiel draws his bow and fires.

It hits Jo Harvelle straight in the chest.

She blinks.

It doesn’t absorb.

There is complete and utter silence from his brothers and sisters. And then, finally:

I THINK, Aziraphale murmurs, THAT WE SHOULD GIVE UP ON THIS PARTICULAR VENTURE.

------------

Castiel flaps his wings and chases after Dean. He doesn’t have to go far; his charge is parked on an empty stretch of the highway maybe ten miles down the road. Dean is leaning against the Impala, arms crossed and head down, and Castiel lands with a rustle of feathers loud enough to signal his presence. Dean doesn’t look up.

“You should be with Jo Harvelle,” Castiel says firmly. Dean tilts his neck to look at him out of the corner of his eye, silent. “It’s your destiny.” Dean scoffs, but he continues anyway.

“It always had to be the two of you, Dean. You’re to be married and have two sons to carry the line of Cain and Abel. When your youngest son is six months old, a demon named Azazel will enter his nursery and bleed into his mouth and he will become the vessel of Lucifer. Your eldest will be the vessel of Michael, and the two of them will unleash Armageddon. As it was written, so shall it be.”

He keeps expecting to be interrupted by his siblings. Raphael is no doubt furious that Heaven’s plans are being shared, and Zachariah is probably salivating at the opportunity to rip Castiel a new one. But no angels come to take him, though Castiel can feel every single one of the malakhim watching intently.

Maybe they want to see how it ends.

“...are you allowed to tell me this?” Dean asks finally, glaring down at his boots.

Castiel shakes his head. “I will have to wipe your memory so that you have no knowledge of this conversation. And, most likely, I will be severely punished when I return to Heaven.”

At that Dean looks up fully, the entire force of those green eyes boring into Castiel. Dean is simply a human, but even as a Seraph Castiel feels intimidated.

“Fuck destiny,” Dean says, full of conviction. “I don’t care about destiny. Jo is one of my best friends, but I don’t want her.”

Castiel huffs and he feels his face tighten in frustration. “Dean--”

Dean steps forwards, determined, and puts a hand on Castiel’s shoulder. “I don’t want her,” he repeats, slowly.

Castiel’s eyes widen.

“Oh,” he says weakly.

OH, Balthazar breathes.

OH, Raphael growls.

OH, Anael whimpers.

Oh my god I fucking knew it.

“I-I don’t,” Castiel starts. Dean opens his mouth to say something else, but Castiel panics and flaps his wings hard, carrying him far, far away. He finally lands at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, hidden away at the very bottom of the world with nothing but silence weighing him down. His vessel is having trouble handling the pressure, so he slides into his true form, wings spreading across the deep, Jimmy’s body tucked safely between his ribs. His feathers shiver with his stress.

His siblings keep chattering in varying amounts of surprise and anger, and some even with acceptance and excitement, but he doesn’t listen, he can’t, because Dean Winchester wants him.

Then, a voice that he hasn’t heard in millennia cuts through his concentration, surprising him and all of his brethren.

HA HA HA, the archangel Gabriel laughs in delight. YOU GUYS ARE FUCKED.

------------

You’re moping.

I AM NOT.

Cas, we’ve been down here for three weeks. Do you even know how bored I am?

THERE ARE MANY INTERESTING CREATURES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.

Glowy specks don’t count.

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN’T SEE THE INTERESTING CREATURES DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE NOT THERE.

Stop moping and go talk to Dean.

I’M NOT MOPING, I’M PLANNING A STRATEGY. ALSO, NO.

Go talk to Dean.

NO. I DON’T WANT TO.

But you need to.

NO I DON’T. THE MISSION IS A FAILURE. OBVIOUSLY WINCHESTER AND HARVELLE ARE NOT GOING TO CONCEIVE THE CHILDREN NECESSARY. WE’LL MAKE ARRANGEMENTS FOR OTHER VESSELS.

The mission doesn’t matter, you need to talk to him.

JAMES NOVAK THIS IS NOT YOUR CONCERN.

I’m tired, Castiel. Make this right. I want to go home.

...I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

What do you want to do?

I DON’T KNOW! I AM A SERAPH, A WARRIOR AND A TACTICIAN, NOT ONE OF THE PRINCIPALITIES THAT REGULARLY DEAL WITH THESE… HUMAN THINGS. EMOTIONS, AS YOU SAY, SUCK.

So wing it.

YOU ARE NOT HUMOROUS.

That was punny and you know it.

NO IT WASN’T.

Dean would have laughed.

DEAN OBVIOUSLY HAS ISSUES WITH POOR JUDGEMENT.

Look, I’m not gonna lie and say that I’m totally pleased with the way this whole thing has turned out. When you asked to possess me and I said yes, I was expecting to go into battle, not have this twenty-something twink coming after the angel wearing my ass.

WHAT’S A TWINK? IS THAT A TYPE OF WARRIOR?

…..yes, Castiel. That’s exactly what a twink is. Anyway, what I’m saying is that I think you need to see this through. Can you honestly tell me that if you went back to Heaven right now, you wouldn’t regret it?

NO.

Then go talk to him, Cas. For all of our sakes.

------------

Castiel lands in Palo Alto.

This is where Dean is, but it’s definitely not Dean who falls off of the couch in shock when he arrives. This person is much smaller, and blonder, and more female. He looks over her soul and comes up with Jessica Moore, nurse, engaged to Sam Winchester.

Whoa, hey there pretty lady, Jimmy says in appreciation. Castiel sends him a lash of irritated Grace.

MARRIED, he reminds Jimmy.

And you’re about to use my body to mack on Dean, so who’s really in the wrong here?

THERE WILL BE NO MACKING, Zachariah interrupts forcefully. Jimmy, who isn’t used to being spoken to by an angel who isn’t Castiel (or Balthazar, worryingly enough) falls silent.

“Jessica Moore,” he greets her. She’s still on the floor staring at him in surprise. It’s so discomfiting that he has to take a moment to make sure that his three heads are still carefully tucked away, but no, it’s still just Jimmy’s body. “I’m Castiel, Angel of the Lord.”

She gapes at him, mouth opening and closing like a fish. Castiel fidgets uncomfortably before trying helpfully, “I’m looking for Dean Winchester?”

“I didn’t think you were real,” she breathes, shaking her head lightly. “He just showed up and started drinking and I thought he was crazy, but you just appeared.” She gestures at him and he looks down at his vessel. Yes, his pants are still on, nothing is unzipped, the trench coat is firmly in place, so why is she staring at him like that? “Like teleportation."

“I flew,” he corrects.

“Oh,” she giggles, a little hysterically. “You flew.”

A door opens to the side of them and a tall man steps in, eyebrows furrowing in confusion. Sam Winchester, law school, engaged to Jessica Moore.

“Who the hell are you?” he says, clutching at a machete. Cas tilts his head in disappointment, as this is also not Dean.

Before he can introduce himself again, Jessica says cheerfully, “This is Castiel, Angel of the Lord.” She throws her hands up into the air with the manner of someone who no longer gives a fuck. “Duh!”

WHERE IS THE DEAN BOY, THESE TWO ARE BORING.

PATIENCE, THELIEL, PATIENCE.

Sam lowers his machete. “Oh. I didn’t actually think…”

“Neither did I!” Jessica continues, voice growing higher. “Ghosts I can see happening, vampires I can kind of handle. Hell, even demons I’ll accept. But angels?!” She points at Castiel in accusation and he holds up his hands defensively. As seems to be the trend lately, he can feel his control over the situation rapidly deteriorating.

“Hey, I didn’t know about them until recently either!” Sam tosses the machete on the couch. (“What have I told you about weapons on the furniture!” Jessica admonishes.)

“I’m looking for Dean,” he reminds them.

Sam puts his hands in his pockets and looks at Castiel assessingly. “So you’re Dean’s fake angel boyfriend?” he asks, then corrects himself with, “Well, obviously not fake, since here you are.”

Castiel considers that. He has primarily masculine qualities and his vessel is male, so he feels sufficiently comfortable with using male pronouns, and he’s definitely Dean’s friend. Or at least, he hopes he still is. So he nods at Sam, saying, “That is correct, yes.”

Or at least he tries, because he gets halfway through the word correct before Sam pulls out a gun and shoots him in the chest.

Please tell them to stop doing that!

He glances down at his vessel, which is bleeding sluggishly, with a raised eyebrow. When he looks back up he gets splashed in the face with holy water. Virgil laughs viciously.

A HIDDEN WEAPON! I LIKE THIS BOY!

Castiel spits out water.

Sam and Jessica are staring at him in horror. Within a few seconds, Dean bursts through the door Sam just came through, pistol drawn. “Sammy!” he barks, but stops short when he sees Castiel, who lifts one hand and waves weakly in greeting.

“Hello Dean,” he mumbles. Dean drops his gun to his side and sighs.

“Hey, Cas.” He turns to Jess and Sam, who are huddled together on the couch. “Can you guys excuse us for a second? Feathers and I gotta talk.”

“I agreed to marry into this,” Jessica says numbly as Sam gently ushers her out, glancing over his shoulder as he does so. “I’m gonna have an angel as a brother-in-law.”

Dean grimaces and scratches the back of his neck with the barrel of his gun. Castiel looks up at the ceiling, which has water stains from the apartment above. They both very carefully don’t look at each other.

Finally, Dean breaks the silence. “Look, Cas, about last time… I shouldn’t have laid it on you like that.”

TELL HIM TO LAY SOMETHING ELSE ON YOU, Hester says in amusement. Castiel inwardly balks.

SISTER!

WELL I’M SORRY BUT IF HE WERE ANYMORE OBVIOUSLY IN LOVE WITH YOU IT WOULD BE NAUSEATING.

HESTER, THIS IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE TO THE INTENT OF CASTIEL’S MISSION, Zachariah snaps. ALSO IT IS DISGUSTING.

YOU’RE DISGUSTING, Inias grumbles. He and Hester mesh their Grace together in a way that reminds Castiel of a high five. Zachariah trembles with rage.

Dean is continuing, ignorant to the angels. “But I’m not a big fan of this destiny crap, and Jo’s my friend but we’re not ever gonna be anything more than that.” He takes a deep breath, then steps forwards and grabs Castiel’s hands between his own, face screwed up in determination. “But I want to be more than that with you. You’re my best friend and the only person other than Sammy that I trust explicitly with my life.” Castiel stares at him in shock and he bites his lips but plows ahead anyway, nervous. “And maybe I’m reading too much into this but I like to think that you trust me too, and we get on well together, and you know my flaws and accept me anyway and you make me want to be better, to be more, than I am.”

His mouth opens and closes a few times before he drops Castiel’s hands and turns away. “And I’m sorry I fucked up your mission, or whatever. And also our friendship. And also possibly your relationship with your family.” A few moments pass in uncomfortable silence, then Dean’s eyes lift back up to his, green and sad and maybe just a tiny bit watery. “But, you know. I love you and stuff.”

Castiel knows what his mission is. Castiel knows that Zachariah is gearing up for a rant of enormous proportions. Castiel knows that what Dean is telling him is probably turning Heaven upside down and inside out. Castiel knows that his siblings are fighting, shouting, screaming different opinions of how they think this needs to play out. These are all things that Castiel knows. What he doesn’t know is what he’s going to do next.

Castiel reaches out, grabs Dean’s shirt in his hands, and shoves him up against the nearest wall. Dean stares in surprise. Castiel’s siblings fall silent, breathless and preparing to intervene in case he decides to smite Dean for being so presumptuous.

He doesn’t know what he’s going to do. He doesn’t know.

Then, from the silence, comes a Voice. A Voice that Castiel knows, that all Angels know, that all of the malakhim in all of the Choirs know. A Voice that they know and fear, for it is seductive and quiet and it whispers in their ears, burning with frigid fire and temptation, for it is the Voice of the Morning Star and the Fallen One and the Little Horn and Lucifer. The Voice slithers across the Heavenly connection, slow and sure, and Castiel feels it like ice in his veins, clutching at his Grace, sinking into the very fabric of his existence as his brother Lucifer whispers, you should touch his butt.

There is a massive, collective inhalation.

CASTIEL DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH HIS BUTT! Raphael screams in rage.

CASTIEL TOUCH IT TOUCH THE BUTT!

CASTIEL IF YOU TOUCH THAT HUMAN’S BUTT I’LL RIP YOUR ATOMS INTO SHREDS!

Raphael stop being such a snit.

SHUT UP LUCIFER!

I’LL GIVE YOU A DOLLAR IF YOU TOUCH HIS BUTT.

GO AWAY GABRIEL!

TOUCH HIS BUTT CASSIE YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!

Satan's right dude just touch his butt already.

Castiel has never been very good at dealing with peer pressure.

He touches Dean’s butt.

Heaven erupts into an all-out war.

Zachariah and Raphael are shrieking threats of Sodom and Gomorrah proportions. The Hashmallim are turning the Second Sphere inside-out trying to keep the peace. Cherubs and Seraphim are leading riots against each other. Balthazar is screaming I WON YOU FUCKERS I WON NOW PAY UP, and Samandriel, who is sensitive, is crying in a corner of the First Sphere while Rachel drops down into her vessel and drinks the entirety of a Las Vegas liquor store.

Dean sticks his tongue in Castiel’s mouth. Castiel, who has never experienced this phenomenon before, thinks that it is pretty damn awesome.

CASTIEL THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO DO!

Their mouths slide together, an outpouring of desperation and need. Castiel has never felt these sensations before, has never particularly felt the desire to, but something about Dean Winchester’s soul sings to him, draws him closer, urges him to press up and against.

CASTIEL STOP!

He ignores his siblings, ignores his purpose, ignores Heaven.

Castiel pulls back slightly, and when Dean chases after his lips with a quiet whine it draws out a tiny smile. He cups Dean’s face between his hands and kisses again, softly and gently. After the intensity of their first kiss, this one is less charged, but also more intense. Dean’s hands are running through his hair, just barely pulling, and Castiel buries his face into Dean’s shoulder and just breathes.

CASTIEL YOU HAD ONE JOB AND YOU RUINED IT.

I’m wondering, does this count as infidelity? It seems like kind of a moral gray area.

“I think I love you and stuff too,” he tells Dean Winchester very seriously, and Dean Winchester smiles.

------------

...DOES THIS MEAN THAT HARVELLE IS SINGLE?

SHUT THE FUCK UP, VIRGIL.

------------

Castiel flies them somewhere private, somewhere that’s not Sam Winchester’s apartment, and they make love. (Castiel’s siblings watch with a mixture of fascination and disgust, offering insults and encouragement in equal measure. (As Castiel spent most of the time with his dick in Dean’s ass, he found it exceptionally easy to ignore them. (Jimmy spent most of the time feeling pleased but also incredibly uncomfortable since it was technically his dick in Dean’s ass.)))

When the early morning light begins to shine through the windows of the motel room and Castiel is sure that Dean is totally and completely asleep, he flaps his way to the Himalayas. He’s always loved these mountains because he thinks it’s the closest place on the mortal plane to Heaven, and he doesn’t have to deal with his siblings there.

With the cold wind whipping at his face and rustling his feathers pleasantly, Castiel takes a deep breath, sinking away from his brothers and sisters, and lets himself feel at peace.

HELLO BELOVED SON.

Castiel very abruptly stops breathing.

OH. FATHER.

YOU SEEM RATHER UNENTHUSIASTIC.

Castiel swallows and bows his head. His Father has never seen fit to speak to him directly before.

ELOHIM, HOLIEST OF HOLIES, HE-WHO-IS-GOD, FORGIVE MY INDISCRETIONS--

FORGIVEN, MY SON, FORGIVEN. ALL IS FORGIVEN. AND I HOPE YOU CAN FORGIVE MY CURIOSITY AS TO THE NATURE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DEAN-WINCHESTER-WHO-IS-RIGHTEOUS.

I HAVE NO SECRETS FROM YOU, BELOVED FATHER.

A Presence fills Castiel. A Presence that encompasses him, sweeps past the consciousness that makes him him, and begins to sift through his memories. Castiel offers them up eagerly to Him, all at once timid and hopeful and wanting approval so very much.

I KNOW THAT THIS GOES AGAINST YOUR PLAN, ELOHIM, BUT DEAN IS VERY ADAMANT ABOUT NOT GOING ALONG WITH DESTINY.

AND HE’S DRAGGED YOU WITH HIM, I SEE, He says, but His Presence is gentle and kind and loving, a caress over Castiel’s feathers that makes his Grace thrum excitedly and dance beneath his skin. Castiel is starlight and moonbeams cradled in flesh, but He is the Sun and the Moon and the Earth and the Sky and All and Nothing and He needs no flesh to contain Him for He cannot be contained. NO MATTER, He continues, THERE ARE AN INFINITE NUMBER OF WAYS FOR DESTINY TO PAN OUT. THIS IS ONLY ONE OF MANY PATHS THAT YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN.

FATHER?

IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE THAT DEAN COULD HAVE BEEN THE RIGHTEOUS MAN AND MY SON’S SWORD.

Concern shoots through Castiel, concern for his charge who just recently became his lover. IS THAT STILL POSSIBLE?

NAH.

BUT… WHAT COULD HAVE…

WHO CARES IT’S NOT IMPORTANT.

Castiel feels a little underwhelmed.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS THAT NO NEPHILIM COME OF YOUR UNION.

Castiel stops and thinks, and then suddenly realizes that he’s getting the talk.

REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME, BELOVED SON?

YES. YOU KILLED PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE.

YES, YES. NASTY BUSINESS. WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED IF YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS HADN’T DABBLED. OF COURSE, IF CERTAIN PRECAUTIONS ARE TAKEN NOTHING WILL COME TO BE.

BELOVED FATHER, ARE YOU TELLING ME NOT TO GET PREGNANT?

BELOVED SON, I’M SIMPLY SAYING THAT WHEN IT COMES TO LAYING WITH HUMANS, PERHAPS IT IS BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE. IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT.

Castiel feels an incredibly human amount of embarrassment and buries his face into his hands.

NOW, ON THE MATTER OF YOUR VESSEL, JAMES NOVAK. IT SEEMS RATHER UNFAIR TO KEEP HIM FROM HIS FAMILY, DOESN’T IT?

Ashamed, Castiel nods. He’s thought about this, struggled with the decision about what to do, but he’s guilty of the fact that for the most part he’s taken Jimmy for granted. He remembers now more than ever, in the face of his Father, that this is not his body. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ME DO?

YOU? YOU’LL DO NOTHING. JAMES NOVAK IS HOME NOW, IN HIS OWN BODY. YOU HAVE BEEN BEREFT OF HIM SINCE I BEGAN SPEAKING TO YOU. HIS FAMILY KNOWS WHERE HE HAS BEEN AND HE HAS RETAINED ALL MEMORIES. HE IS DEVOUT AND FAITHFUL AND HE HAS WEATHERED YOUR STORM THIS LAST YEAR WITH LITTLE RESENTMENT, CONSIDERING. HE IS FREE OF YOU, AND YOU OF HIM. IT IS MY GIFT TO HIM.

Castiel stares down at his body, which is definitely Jimmy’s, but now that he reaches for the human’s consciousness he realizes that he can’t feel it. For the first time in a very long time, he is completely alone within himself, save for His Presence. I DON’T UNDERSTAND. HOW…

THIS IS YOUR FAVORED APPEARANCE, AND DEAN WINCHESTER’S, TOO. I AM NOT SO VENGEFUL AS THE HUMANS SEEM TO THINK. JAMES NOVAK IS NO LONGER A VESSEL BECAUSE THIS SHELL IS THE VESSEL. HIS BODY IS FRESH AND NEW AND YOU MAY KEEP THIS EMPTY ONE. THIS IS MY GIFT TO YOU.

THANK YOU, BELOVED FATHER. TO HEAR YOUR VOICE IS MORE THAN I EVER COULD HAVE HOPED.

YOU GUYS NEED TO STOP WITH THAT HERO WORSHIP STUFF, SERIOUSLY.

Before he can say anything else, the Presence slips away from him, and his Father disappears back into the void of nothingness that He seems to dwell in. Castiel’s breath shudders in his lungs and he feels small, too small, standing here at the top of the world, so he flaps his wings and lands back in his motel room, where Dean stirs at the sound of feathers.

“Cas?” he rasps, throat sore and voice rough. Despite himself, Castiel feels a thrill of pleasure, and he allows Dean to pull him into the bed and fold up against him.

“Yes,” he murmurs reverently, inexplicably tired from his conversation with his Father. He cards his fingers through Dean’s hair and smiles at the hum of contentment that the action draws out. “It’s just me.”

------------

“So can I be the best man?” Jo Harvelle asks with a shit-eating grin. “Since I did kinda get you two together?”

Castiel sips at his appletini. “I suppose, if you want to fight Jimmy for it. He’s already sharing it with Sam, though.”

Jo frowns and picks at Cas’s hand, twisting the plain silver band around his ring finger idly. “Lame. I guess I can settle for maid of honor.”

I ALREADY CALLED THAT.

“Balthazar has claimed that position as well. And I should warn you, he's adamant about wearing the dress.”

I LOOK FETCHING IN IT.

She sighs in disgust and leans back in her chair. “Whatever. Virgil said he was going to show me his weapon collection during the ceremony anyway.”

Castiel has a feeling that he should be worried about that.

But instead, he just smiles.