These are Castiel’s troops:
The imprisoned angels, all isolated, all alone in the middle of uncharted universe, listening to the radios in their heads – “Castiel,” they hear, and some remember him. Quiet, unexpected, but Castiel was in Anael’s garrison, and she wasn’t quiet. And they couldn’t catch him the second time. And now he’s been made an archangel. Raphael is immensely unhappy about this, but he can’t change what happened.
“Things are going to change,” they say to themselves. And change they do. Castiel finds them, one by one, somehow, and he tells them that the world was saved through Free Will.
Not one refuses.
“Hey, Cas,” Anna says from her cell. “Wow, look at you. Exile’s been good to you.” She sounds a little conciliatory.
Castiel says nothing. He doesn’t know if their father has forgiven her, if he should.
“So are you going to break me out?”
“Have you seen that you were wrong about Sam Winchester’s role in our father’s plan?”
She purses her lips. “Yes. Please, Castiel.”
He does not move.
“I did it for our father’s creation.”
“I know what you thought you were doing.”
“Castiel,” she says, voice lower, stronger, and once again he realizes he’s misjudged her. “We’ve both rebelled against Heaven. We both love our father above all. We’ve both earned our share of enemies. So let us be allies. I can help regroup Heaven. I want what you want. I swear.”
It is dark in that cell except for her bright eyes, bright voice, gleam of grace. It’s been a long time since they met like this, in Heaven. It is strange to be so much brighter than her.
“Yes,” he says, because she is right that he needs her. Even if the rest remains to be seen. “Yes, I’ve come for you.”
The prisoners emerge and come together, a little ragged, a little weak, and very bitter. Some are downright angry. Some want only freedom. Some have their own ideas of what heaven should be. Some of them doubted for love of God, but some went against heaven's orders for their own misguided ideals - criminals, not revolutionaries. He tells Balthazar as much, and Balthazar nods, but Balthazar frowns.
"Have you spoken to Him? To know what plan your love leads you to enact?"
Castiel pauses. He looks Balthazar in the eye. "No. But it is Our Father who has placed me here, in this form, with the will he has given me. I was remade in his glory, because I gave myself to save the world his creation. And so that is what I will bring all my brothers together to do.”
Castiel knows he’s an outsider, a foreigner; that's how he can do these things and no one will question him to his face. He's been on earth walking among men long enough. He's been mortal, molded and hammered into the image of God, the most beloved of all creation. Maybe he doesn't have all the answers, but if anyone can get close it's him.
Sometimes Balthazar sees through him with a piercing gaze he’d forgotten.
“You miss it,” he says, after Castiel finishes telling the troops about Ellen and Jo Harvelle, who chose no side but each other, who helped save the world from the apocalypse.
Castiel frowns, but says, “Yes.”
“Look at me,” Balthazar says. “You never look me in the eye anymore.”
Castiel sighs. "Sorry." It's that he's gotten used to slaps on the back, almost. Angels are all gaze and light. They don't make contact so much as commune. In his more weary moments, Castiel misses touch, but he won't admit that to anyone but Balthazar and Anna, who understands.
"Where are Raphael’s defenses centered?"
"Heaven, of course."
Balthazar says, "But where?"
Anna singsongs, “I never spoke with God,/ Nor visited in heav’n, / Yet certain am I of the spot / As if the charts were giv’n. Emily Dickinson,” she says with a small smile to their blank looks.
Castiel turns back to Balthazar. "Most places.”
"He can't be everywhere."
Castiel feels the impulse to laugh, which he doesn't get much anymore and feels strange here without Dean or Sam to smile or joke and encourage it. "Of course. He's obviously not here. But he’s sending out garrisons from a few points, so we must scatter," just as all these maps and legends are scattered before them. Castiel, though, is not scattered. Castiel is composed, composed by the hand of God.
When they find a garrison or fragments of one, hiding out in the Ice Age, in Marrakesh Market, in Betelgeuse, there is almost always someone who asks, Why?
Anna paints for them the glorious picture of God’s earthly creation. Of star-gazing and snail-watching. Of the wonder at all that is unknown to humans and the wonder of discovering it. Of what it is to know one’s father and mother.
Castiel tells them the exquisite burn of nerves, the miracle of his twice rebirth, and the story of two brothers who loved each other as much as Lucifer and Michael once did, and more, for they let each other go to save their home.
Balthazar only says, The apocalypse was a lie. We must find the truth.
The stories get better and better each time they tell them, but soon enough they stop needing to be told. Their numbers are convincing enough.
Still, now and then, someone will ask, “But have you spoken to Our Father?”
Castiel is an archangel. He remembers what the garrisons think, that the archangels give their orders directly from God himself. But he is not hiding anything now.
“I have known him. He is speaking, and he is speaking all the time, but because he says things we do not want to hear, we do not know how to listen.”
“You never found him,” Anna says.
“He found me.”
“Will you go on trying?”
Castiel frowns. “Is it any good trying, if he does not want to be found?”
“Why should we listen to this Castiel who’s speaking on behalf of Heaven? They’ve done enough harm with their apocalypse.”
“Yes, well,” Raven says, “a little bird told me that he was the only angel who walked away from the big showdown.”
"They even say he was mortal, and he walked away an archangel. He says his father resurrected, restored, and exalted him. Doesn't happen every day." Coyote snorts.
"Mysterious ways, indeed," Olofín says, rolling his eyes.
“Well,” says Quetzalcoatl, “I’ll talk to him.”
"The rumor is, you're the expert on averting apocalypses," the feathered serpent tells the angel Castiel.
"Ah," Castiel says. "So it's that."
"We know we're small gods anymore,” Heart of Sky says. His hurricane eye is unblinking. “You don't think we have problems compared to you, but don't tell me you haven't been noticing the earthquakes."
"Well, that’s it. Earthquakes that end the current version of this world, swallowing it up because it’s hungry for the blood it hasn’t been getting. We're hesitant on the deadline, you may have heard some of this 13th b’aktun rumor, but it’s looking pretty soon, cosmologically speaking. You're interested in saving all this, right?"
"Yes," Castiel says, looking out over the endless forests, the wrinkled mountain ranges. "It is a priority. Yes, I will provide you help." He tries to remember the last time he dealt with earthquakes. That time, he was probably causing them, crumbling Jericho’s walls or a revered statue. The heat of the mantle, the pressure of the plates: the refiner's fire. The single-mindedness of battle. He was not made for the bureaucracy of heaven, but for the righteousness of the field. He sighs. Quetzalcoatl turns a gleaming eye on him.
“I must mention, though,” he says, “that heaven’s own chaos will continue, even after your apocalypse. So if I come to you for help then, you will be indebted to my father and my armies that serve him. Not Raphael’s.”
“Your infighting is petty,” Cociyo says from behind his fangs. Seven Macaw behind him nods.
Castiel looks at him sternly. “Petty? You know what it was like. You wouldn’t have a world to save anymore if Sam and Dean Winchester had not caged Lucifer and Michael. Now if you’ll excuse me,” and he’s gone.
“He’s rude,” Seven Macaw says.
“Takes one to know one,” says Quetzalcoatl. Seven Macaw bares his jade teeth.
Heart of Sky rumbles. “What makes him think we respect his war with his brother any more than Michael and Lucifer’s squabble?”
Near Tehuantepec, the earth trembles.
Castiel’s army sings praises, but even though Raphael has been captured and is wrapped in chains of light, Castiel knows that the capture of one angel is not the end. There’s a whole world out there, and they will not forget it again.
"What do we do with them?" Remiel asks. Raphael glares at Castiel, who returns the gaze of the unbeliever, the usurper, the corruptor, with only the nominal pity accorded to those who do not realize the error of their ways.
"And then?" Balthazar murmurs in his right ear.
"Justice will be carried out."
"And what is justice?" Anael stands at his left.
Castiel looks her full in the face. "Those who followed him have a choice. If they have not killed they may follow us, or be imprisoned. Raphael and those who have killed will choose execution or mortality."
He can see in her eyes she is reeling.
“Castiel,” she says. “You can’t. Imprisonment is enough. We are all angels. Our Father made us all angels and who are you to take that?”
“But Heaven has that power, Anna. I am sorry they did it to you but you doubted out of love. He doubts out of pride. We must have a new start. Would you have kept Uriel alive?”
Anna shakes her head but not to reply, No. She is trembling, in horror, fury. “You don’t know what it was like.”
“I know what it was like!” Now Castiel is trembling. He breathes deep to calm himself, if angels could breathe. “I know. You fell and you felt pain, but then you grew up knowing no better. I sank into it like burning, and when I died I felt it, I felt it. I know the pain of the glory of the lord.”
“You think I don’t know his grace? You think you’re special, reborn to greater glory. You think you’re the only one who knows how to love him.”
“I am not special,” Castiel says, hard and still as stone. “I am only what he has made me.”
“And I am what our Father has made me.” Anna grips his arm. “I will not let you do this.”
Castiel shakes her hand off and it sends her flying. “Then you are rebelling again. I will send you back to your prison.”
“You can’t –“ but Castiel does in a flood of light, and she is suddenly gone.
Like Castiel used to wonder about Him, they now wonder about Castiel. He must have a plan, when he declares that Heaven will restore its glory through free will. Some say He made a mistake, but they’re the ones who would see the firmament of heaven fall to anarchy.
When anarchy still exists, when demons are still roaming free: He must not know what’s happening. He’s being misinformed. The bureaucracy is overwhelming him, the government is failing him.
He can’t know, or else he’d fix it.
Castiel would have thought this blasphemy, once. But with this work, there is no time to doubt.
When he visits her, Anna spits something about the zealotry of the born-again and he is torn between laughter and anger. "Anna. Have you already forgotten your own rebaptism? You believe yourself restored through your own works?”
“No. I believe myself forgiven. I don’t assume a reward. When did you stop searching, Castiel?”
Castiel thinks suddenly of a story he read in one of Bobby’s books, the story of the Prodigal Son. But Heaven never speaks in parables. Only their Father, and he remains silent.