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Castiel loves to fly. It's hard to describe just what he means by that to Dean, who lives quite firmly in the four dimensions that humanity usually inhabits for all that his soul burns bright enough to cross those boundaries. It's not physical, not in the sense that Dean understands it. It's not feathered wings beating against empty air.

It's allowing himself to stretch out, to unfurl to his fullest extent: a being of light and energy that exists on multiple planes at once. It could be considered spreading his wings, or simply reaching out his arms wide enough to encompass everything. Then comes the moment he moves, a flexing of intangible flesh, and reality shifts around him. He slips through dimensions like they aren't even there, but he can still feel them. It feels like the slow hush of sand falling through an hourglass, sometimes even flowing backwards. It's the sounds and shapes and textures of a thousand different locations, painted in a thousand different shades of light all at once. He moves through their solidity with fluid ease, tastes them as multi-coloured, multi-toned flavours; feels possibilities brush against the outer edges of himself as if they brushed against his outstretched fingertips, and knows that all he has to do is reach a little harder for them to be there.

It's exhilarating.

All Dean perceives is that one moment he is in one place, and the next he is somewhere else, apparently with some sort of intestinal discomfort. Castiel wonders if his own vessel would feel the same were it not currently being maintained by his grace, rather than its own natural processes. It's a disturbing thought, not the least because natural human processes appear to be quite messy and unregulated.

Indeed, Dean is muttering something about regularity right now, as he steps away from Castiel and towards the nearest building.


* * *

Castiel has died twice now for Dean, and the hunter doesn't seem quite sure how to handle that. It hangs heavily on him, an uneasy mix of wonder, disbelief and guilt. Castiel is unsure if he realises that it is far more significant that Castiel defied orders for Dean. Angels are made to serve, to obey, and the consequence for defying orders is falling.

Cas, as Dean names him, thinks dying was easier.

Once again, human terms cannot begin to describe what is happening to him, yet the concept of falling as they understand it seems curiously apt. If he truly did fly in the way that birds did, the way that the feathery angels of human depictions, then it might be the same as finding himself in a high place while his wings fail him. What he does not share with Dean – what he is not sure he should tell Dean – is that he thinks it is something that started well before the choices that led to his (temporary) demise.

It started when Castiel first reached out and pulled him out of Hell, and the fact that he had orders to do so was only part of the reason why. The other was the thought that any soul who shone like that, so brilliant despite the stain his actions had left, needed to be saved before Hell could succeed in destroying it utterly. It's something that Castiel might have done even without orders, on his own initiative.

Angels aren't supposed to show initiative.

A very high place, so that for the first few endless seconds (days, weeks, months) he might not even realise he was moving, until suddenly he realises he's free-falling, the ground growing ever closer with alarming speed. Unlike flying, no matter how far he stretches, his world narrows down; now possibilities slip through his fingers like water, and he knows that somehow, he never would have managed to grasp them at all, no matter how hard he reached.

If angels really flew like birds, Castiel thinks it might have been exhilarating. He watches them sometimes, the way they wheel and soar, and can picture it in his head. The idea takes a surprisingly firm hold in his mind, anchored by physical examples. A steep dive towards earth followed by the sudden snapping open of wings, just in time to prevent the inevitable impact. But when the time comes, he won't have wings to save himself, feathered or otherwise. That makes it terrifying.

But despite the knowledge that he grows smaller with every passing day, that he will never again spread himself across the planes and fly with his almost-metaphorical wings outstretched, he still clutches one possibility - one certainty - to himself and falls willingly because angels have always been creatures of faith and he still has that, even if it's no longer focused on his Father and the supposed Divine Plan.

And so he adjusts to riding in the small space that is the Impala, sometimes in the back and sometimes in the passenger seat with the music Dean likes turned up loud enough he can feel it, while Dean increases the speed and takes corners with deceptive ease, landscape flashing past. There's an expression in his eyes that Castiel understands all too well, even if this seems terribly limited by the standards he's used to.

He wonders if maybe, one day, this will feel like flying, too.