When it starts, he can’t quite tell. All he knows is that there is a fierceness and a warmth to her that he doesn’t understand—it’s far too human. His Father never granted them the capacity to understand humans. To walk amongst them hidden within willing vessels, yes; to love them from afar as objects worthy of His love, and therefore of angels’ love, of course.
But she is different.
She is angry and loud, she is coarse, harsh, roughened by hardship and pain, and love that is too hard to bear for long. She fights him on everything, demands to know why this and why that and why me.
Because you are the Righteous One, he says. She who begins it is the only one who can end it. He has enough sense by now to know that telling her she is the one called the Righteous Man in the scriptures would not be a wise choice. Not right now. Not while she has had her spirit broken so deeply, even if only temporarily.
And why—why does it hurt within his Grace to see her lying so still on the hospital bed? Why does he feel the torrent of anger upon being ordered not to heal her—anger he only just manages to conceal from the rest of the Host? What does it mean when he aches at the sound of her voice when she says she can’t do this, to find someone else, she’s not strong enough?
He remembers walking through her dreams, dreams of hellfire and the stench of sulfur that she believes still clings to her skin. What possessed him to take it from her, to leave her instead on the dock of a calm, quiet lake, he had no idea. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She wasn’t supposed to have power over him the way she did, where he broke rules left and right that he had upheld for countless eons before she’d ever existed. And now look at him. Felled by a human, Uriel had said, with an edge of derision. What has she done to you, Castiel?
Castiel had no answer for him then. Just as he had no answer now, even after Uriel’s treachery had been revealed and Anna had struck him down.
Deanna Winchester is a mystery to him, a mystery that normally would have meant nothing to him. She is human, and therefore unreachable. Unfathomable. But he sees her soul more clearly and more brightly than any other human’s, and the enigma of her only increases. Perfect clarity, with Deanna, seems only to make things more muddled.
He remembers the first time he saw her, soaked with blood to her rotting bones in the Pit as she tore the knife through the latest victim on her rack. She, too, was still shackled to the rusted iron construct, but her hands were free and she was still able to draw out the screams of Hell’s newest tormented souls.
She’d grinned at him, but it dropped from her features at once as she recognized him for all that he was. Even underneath the filth and the gore and the withering flesh of her ersatz body, he could see the shine of her soul. Still as good and righteous as the day she’d been born, the day she’d sealed her fate, the day she’d died.
I’m here to take you home.
Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper? she mocked him, and slammed the knife into his Grace. Almost at once she’d screamed, feeling the ashes of Hell burn from her hand where his Grace brushed against her. Without thinking, Castiel had gripped her shoulder tightly, and she’d looked at him—not with black eyes anymore, but with bright green ones that were so wonderfully human.
The question he did not ask was held between them for a single, unending moment. His brothers and sisters fought off demons nearby—he could hear them, feel them—to give Castiel this short time with her. She nodded, a short jerk of her head, giving her consent. She wanted to leave.
And then they were flying up, up out of the Pit, her soul wrapped tightly within his Grace; she screamed as the filth of Hell was burned away and her broken, too-bright soul was filled with tendrils of Castiel’s Grace. It was wrong, too wrong, he knew, but he had felt a sudden, overwhelming desire to see her as she was before, and Hell had chipped away small cracks in her soul that he knew he could mend. A brand appeared on her shoulder where he’d touched her, searing itself into her very soul, and the twinges and emotions emanating from her were too pure and strong without a human body to dampen them, and Castiel was overcome. He could feel her deep in every part of his being, and it was too much, all of it too much, and they both knew it.
Deanna next woke within her wooden coffin, within her own newly-made flesh covered only in the dust of the earth. Nothing like Hell.
And despite what she believed, there was never even a hint of sulfur near her. Nothing but the scent of her clean, bright soul and the emotions Castiel still could not protect himself against. She had fought her way in, found the heart of his Grace and barricaded herself there, where he truly was, and there was no hope of her ever letting go.
He remembered falling into a restful state once—not sleep, for angels did not sleep, but a meditative state where his Grace could reconnect to the Host—sitting next to her in the backseat of her beloved Impala, and when he awoke, she was completely asleep, the faint light from the streetlamps casting an eerie glow on her face. She was fascinating to him, and to see this side of her—seeing her without the burdens and the worn-down edges that she always seemed to carry whilst awake—twisted his insides in a way he could not understand. And he knew he should leave right then, should return to Heaven before she could sink into him even further and bring him down, as Uriel said, he could not bring himself to fly away. And they’d stayed like that, in the silence and the dark, for a very long time.
Castiel could see everything etched onto her face as they waited for the world to end, the utter trust she’d handed him when he’d backed her against the wall with his hand against her mouth (lest she shout and have the other angels hear), watching carefully as he’d spilled his own blood to banish Zachariah. He hadn’t missed the pain in her eyes before that, when her voice cracked and she said we’re done, and the twisting knife was back in Castiel’s Grace. It was worse now, and it wouldn’t leave him alone, and she’d broken something in him—something he hadn’t realized ought to be broken.
She broke his chains to Heaven, and he hers, and they locked eyes for no more than an instant before he’d sent her to stop her brother.
To stop the world from ending.
All for the sake of a human, and what was right.