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the god of loneliness

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Green eyes stare up at him, strong and fierce and passionate even until now, and Castiel hears the words in his head even before the human says them.

“I love you.”

Castiel can only put a thin smile on his face as he responds quietly to the three words that he’s always wanted to hear (once upon a time).

“I don’t.”

Sam’s the one who discovers the ritual. Then again, Sammy’s always the one who figures it out. He’s the Geek Boy in the group, after all. Whenever there’s a problem, Sammy’s always the one who goes burying himself in books for the solution.

Dean sometimes wishes that his baby brother would stop doing that.

“This might be the only way to stop him,” Dean hears his brother say as he gestures at the book that’s on his lap. The book had been a chance find, something they had dug up from the dustiest parts of the old Campbell library. Dean doesn’t even want to know how the book (hidden so deeply inside in the first place) can look so old on the outside but have its pages so new and fresh on the inside, the ink still fucking shining as if it had just rolled out of the fucking printing room. A million and one thoughts and ideas fill his mind—none of them comforting—but Dean keeps his mouth shut as he listens to his brother continue to blather on.

Sam picks the book up from his lap and flips through the old-new pages again, and Dean can see his brother’s eyes darting across and over and around the miniscule print of the words, can hear that giant brain of his already chugging on like a steam train as it works inside his brother’s giant head. “I mean, since he’s God we can’t kill him, but this—”

“You already told me what it’ll do, Sammy,” he quickly shoots back, cutting in before Sam can say out the words because he doesn’t want to hear it. He doesn’t even know how his brother can say it so casually even after his experience with Lucifer. Okay, so sure; he knows that this is their sure fire way to put a stop to Cas and put an end to all the havoc he’s wrecking around the world—but still, Sam doesn’t have to keep harping about it. Dean knows very well he’s the reason why they haven’t got to it yet even though they’ve found this book a while ago, and he knows that Cas is still out in the world doing his bullshit crap job of God because he doesn’t want to go through with this.

Is this how things are going to end? This shitty, horrible way that Dean can’t bring himself to say out loud. Call it a necessity, call it a desperate measure, call it anything else—but Dean doesn’t want to do this, if he had a choice in the matter. If it wasn’t necessary. But it is.

Sam gives his brother a moment to gather his wits back before speaking up again, his voice low and prodding, asking without the words. “Dean?”

Dean sucks in a breath at the mention of his name and closes his eyes, holding it in for a second before letting it out in a hiss. “Alright, Sammy,” he returns as he pushes himself up from the couch and slaps the back of his hands against his jeans, letting the momentary flash of pain help him focus. He doesn’t want to do it, but he has to do it. Not even for the world, but for Cas who’s too hopped up on soul juice and is destroying the world with every passing second. They—no, he needs to stop Cas before it’s too late.

He raises his head up and focuses his gaze properly on his brother before nodding, and putting all the strength he can manage in the next three words that he speaks. “Let’s do this.”

For Cas.

They don’t bow down before him when he tells them to, and instead of feeling anger Castiel instead feels a vague sense of amusement bubbling at the back of his mind. These are the humans who have stared down even the most fearsome of beasts; these are the humans who went up and against both Lucifer and Michael, who’ve braved the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and literally rewrote destiny with their own two hands. Of course it would be like them to stare back at God and stay defiant even though he can feel every part of them trembling in fear at the power that he holds. They are afraid, but yet they do not show it to him.

It does not matter, though; he understands, and that is enough for unlike the old God he is kind and understanding and just. The world will soon learn this, and they will understand his intentions.

He turns his gaze on Dean, his Righteous Man, watching quietly as the hunter edges forward, fear and defiance written across his face at the same time. The dichotomy between Dean’s thoughts and his actions is always something that intrigues Castiel from the beginning, and now like this… he can only find himself be more intrigued. With the way things have changed, there is yet another layer of meanings in the actions that Dean displays to him—gestures and responses and ticks that Castiel dutifully notes down in his mind, adding on to the list that continues to expand and grow without pause in his head.

Truly, there is no human quite like Dean Winchester.

“Cas,” the hunter starts, and Castiel sees his eyes dart to the figure of Sam Winchester, green eyes glancing at his brother to ensure that he is alright before that gaze returns back to Castiel. He looks back, curious and inquiring. If Dean will not bow down to him, then what are his intentions? Castiel is interested to know.

Dean takes another step forward, closer to him, closer to Sam who stands behind him. Castiel knows what the man’s intentions are: Dean is trying to get to Sam, to reach for his brother and take him to safety before Castiel can do anything to him. The nuances of those actions makes Castiel think, has him pause and consider. Does Dean have so little faith in him that he thinks that he might hurt Sam? The idea of that amuses Castiel, just a little—he knows that they are powerless before him; he knows that they won’t dare try anything now that they’re up against such immeasurable might. There is no reason for him to cause them harm, even if they had went up against him earlier. He is, after all, a merciful God.

“C’mon, Cas,” Dean repeats himself, eyes fixated on nothing else but him now, and Castiel can only smile at the attention that the hunter gives to him now. Attention given to him because of fear and uncertainty—so unlike the attention that Dean had given him before, attention given out of mutual respect and understanding and everything else Castiel desires more of. He can see the faint awe in the hunter’s eyes, the understanding of the power that Castiel now holds in his hands. It is not what Castiel wants, but he can make do with it for now. Dean will come to look at him as more in the future, that Castiel can be certain of. He will make it happen.

Castiel takes a step forward himself, closer towards Dean—closer towards his Righteous Man. He watches Dean step back quickly in return, green eyes half-staring, half-glaring in defiance. Castiel feels the corners of his lips twitching upwards in response, amusement bubbling once again. Certainly if he wishes to, all that Castiel needs is a snap of his fingers to send Sam reeling back to Hell in order to get Dean at his side. But he does not want to break Dean or to change the way that the Righteous Man is supposed to be. There is truly no other way that Dean can be, except like this.

“Dean,” he begins, serene and calm and infinitely patient because he has all the time in the world now and he can wait. He will wait. “If you need time to think, I will be willing to give you that.” He tilts his head slightly, smile stretching wider as he adds on. “As long as you ask of it I will be willing to give you anything.” Anything, anything at all, so long as Dean understands all that Castiel’s done for him—even becoming God.

The hunter clenches his jaw in response, looking right back at Castiel with unwavering determination as Dean replies. “How about I ask you to return all the souls back to where they belong? Back to Purgatory?”

He’s been expecting this question, of course. Castiel shakes his head in response. “They’re all absorbed into me already, Dean. I can’t let them go.”

“Can’t or won’t?” Dean instantly snaps back, his eyes narrowing into thin silts.

Castiel only shrugs. “Does it matter?” he prompts in return, gaze still never leaving Dean. “Their strength is mine now, Dean. I’m much more than who I used to be.” He widens his smile and adds on. “New and improved.”

“Fuck ‘new and improved’, Cas,” Dean quickly growls, now scowling outright. “There’s no need for something like that. The world doesn’t need something like that.”

The former angel tilts his head at that, giving Dean a brief glance before returning the comment with a question of his own. “You won’t even give me a chance?” he asks, frowning ever so slightly. “I can do this, Dean. I can prove it to you.”

Dean’s only response is to scowl even more. “This isn’t about proving anything, Cas,” he hisses out, waving an arm in a bid to emphasize his point. “The souls are mixing up your brain, Cas. Let them go.” The hunter pauses there, looking at Castiel and biting on his lower lip for a moment before speaking up again, his voice going much softer. “Please.”

He won’t even allow him one chance, Castiel realizes. He knows that Dean will change his mind once the hunter sees what he is capable of doing for him, knows that Dean will see that he is right after all is said and done. Dean will understand that this is necessary in time, will know that everything—everything, Castiel has only done for him and nobody else. Dean wants the world safe, wants the world the way it is even with the countless flaws that dot the surface and under the cracks. So Castiel will keep the world safe, and he will perfect it for Dean’s sake.

“My Father created this world in seven days,” he starts, breaking his gaze from Dean in order to turn his head around to look at Sam and Bobby as well—his friends, his most precious subjects. They will understand once they see the error of their ways. Castiel raises his hand, and continues. “And so I will perfect this world in seven days.”

Dean’s already starting to move, eyes going wide as his mouth starts to form words that will deter him. “Cas—”

“I will right this world within seven days,” Castiel cuts in swiftly, disallowing Dean his chance to speak as he presses his thumb and finger together. “And when you see what I have done, you can give me your answer again.”

“Cas—” he hears Dean speak again, but before he can say anything else Castiel snaps his fingers and sends the three humans back to their place—and of course, Dean’s car as well, because he loves it so much.

In seven days, he will see them again. In seven days, they will learn.

In seven days, Dean will choose him.

They spend the next two or three days (Dean’s not counting, but his mind just can’t help but keep a mental tally) preparing the items that they need. The list of ingredients are wide and varied, requiring Sam and Dean to do a lot of running around as much as they can while Bobby had to run through his entire list of contacts. Castiel had only promised them amnesty for seven days—once those seven days were up, who knows what could happen then. Dean wasn’t intending to stick around and find out as well.

Right from the first day reports were already streaming in from all over the world—the contained destruction of nuclear factories in places like America and Russia, amongst other places; the miraculous lowering of water levels across the Netherlands; sudden, unexplained deaths of countless New Age motivational speakers and many corrupt political leaders all over the world. The healing of leper colonies in Africa, of sick villages in India saved and granted salvation by the new ‘God’; illegal poachers mauled by their own targets, drug dealers committing abrupt suicides. The reports never seemed to end, and something new always came up each time Sam refreshed CNN or BBC or any other news channel in the world.

After spending one evening reading through all the things that Sam has rounded up through the internet, Dean can only let out a snort and mutter out darkly. “Looks like he’s keeping himself busy.”

“Very,” Bobby murmurs out in return. The older man manages to keep his eyes pinned to the paper he’s holding for a few beats longer before closing his eyes and letting out a sigh. “Seven days, huh?”

Dean lets out another snort. “Yeah. Seven days.”

Bobby makes a low hum in his throat, returning his gaze back to the reports he has in his hands. “Cas’s making good use of his seven days, at least.” He sighs then, placing the papers onto the top of his desk and spreading them out as sharp eyes glance through all of them in one go. “Ending droughts and suppressing wars and putting a halt to nuclear production—any human’d be able to relate to that.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this conversation is going, and Dean bites back a sigh before he speaks. “Bobby—”

“I’m not saying that I agree with our new ‘God’,” the older hunter returns, tuning his gaze around to give Dean a notably pointed glance. “But you got to agree that there’ll be a whole bunch of people out there who do and who will, and I ain’t just talking about the States here, boy.”

Dean scowls and quickly turns away from Bobby’s gaze, directing his attention back towards Sam’s laptop as he tries not to think about what the older man had just said. At the way Cas is going, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the situation would get out of hand; already people are starting to form groups and communities dedicated to him—he doesn’t want to think what would happen when the entire world is rocking to Cas’s warped tune.

He hears Bobby shuffling closer towards him, remains purposefully silent as the man drops a hand to his shoulder and squeezes it briefly in a reassuring manner. “I know you don’t want to do this, Dean—hell, I wouldn’t do this too if I had a chance.” Bobby pauses here, sucking in a breath before he manages to continue. “But we gotta stop Cas before he wrecks any more havoc. If we had any other way…” If they had more time, but the last day is soon going to dawn upon them and there’s no more options for them let to choose.

Dean knows this as well as Bobby does, but that still doesn’t stop him from cursing loudly in his mind and voicing out his displeasure and distaste to the other hunter. “I don’t like this, Bobby.”

“None of us do, son,” Bobby returns with a sigh, eyes closing briefly. “But things as it is, we ain’t got a choice now. This is the only sure fire way we have, so we gotta take it.”

“I know,” the hunter replies, and a grim smile crosses his face there and then. “Cas’s going to hate me for this.”

Bobby gives out an affirming grunt. “He’s going to hate all of us, I reckon.”

Dean can’t disagree with Bobby on that account.

Castiel crosses the world and back while he gives Dean his seven days to consider his decision, all the while showing him (him and him, everything was always only for him) just how much he can accomplish, how much he is able to do with all the power that’s now available at his fingertips. He punishes the wicked and saves the good; he heals the believers and revitalises the sick. He puts an end to the things that threaten to destroy the world and helps those who deserve that help. He ends the lives of those who lie to their flock and the ones who plot and scheme to end the tenuous peace that Dean had sacrificed so much to keep.

Everywhere he goes Castiel performs his miracles and works to the ones that will see, to the humans that have come to understand his intentions for them and for the world. He doesn’t tell them that this is for Dean, for his Righteous Man and his most beloved. That this is to prove to him that he is a better God, a more deserving God, a God who Dean can trust in and believe in properly.

He hears the world talking about him and chanting his name over and over again, hears the world speaking about him in awe and wonder and disgust in others. He hears their prayers and their questions and hopes and he does answer those who deserve it, but they are not Dean’s. None of them are Dean’s, but it is Dean’s prayer that he is waiting for. It is Dean’s words that Castiel desires to hear more than these prayers, more than these praises and worship. He wants to hear Dean calling for him to come, and he will come because he has told Dean that he will always come for him.

The days pass by one by one, each of them marked with Castiel’s blessings. On the first day he reshapes the ice caps in Antarctica with the waters from the seas and oceans, pulling down the tides that threatened the swallow up the Netherlands in the process. During the second day he goes around the lands of Europe, melting down nuclear reactors and giving divine punishment to those that deserve it (and there were many, far too many for his liking—but he is a forgiving God, and he will make them learn). The third day has him moving over Asia and doing roughly the same thing, but also stopping by India and Indonesia and China and everywhere else he encounters in order to heal the sick and the poor and the helpless that have been abandoned by their own people. It is certainly something to think about, how humanity can be so cruel to abandon one of their own like this so easily. As far as Castiel remembers, Dean has never done that, nor has he ever had the desire to do it—which is why he is truly the Righteous Man.

Africa (a place that is both beautiful and also equally terrible at the same time—just the way humans are, he thinks) is his next destination when the fourth day dawns upon him, and that continent has Castiel expanding more of his energy than he had expected. Battles and skirmishes constantly take place here with a frequency that alarms even Castiel, and he quickly puts an end to them before even more lives are taken. He spends his day going around the continent to heal the sick and injured and save the dying while giving justice to the ones who had tormented these people. On this day he had ended the lives of many, but in doing so even more people were saved from the oppression that had weighed them down for decades. The people praise his name and honor his power in both gratitude and worship, but Castiel only takes them kindly before he moves on. These are not the people he wishes to hear his name from, at least not now.

His next two days are spent in the two American continents, north as well as south. Though he is close to Dean here Castiel does not intrude on the Righteous Man’s dreams and thoughts; he allows Dean his privacy and concentrates solely on sweeping up the messes that his Father had left behind in his long absence. There is much work to do still, and Castiel uses his time wisely, going across the lands to perform his work and right the countless wrongs that still remain in this world. This is just the beginning—there will still be more to do, and Castiel isn’t naïve to think that the end will come so quickly. His work will never end, but Castiel is alright with that. He has all the time in the world on his hands.

On the seventh day Castiel walks along the shores of the Australian coastline, watching the waters sparkle in a mix of red and orange and yellow as the sun slowly sets in the distant horizon. The silence is palpable around him, only broken by the sound of waves lapping up at the shore. Here, there is a quietness that Castiel can appreciate, a silent calm amongst the torrent of changes that he is bringing to this world. There is still work to be done, but right here, in this place that is remote from humanity—Castiel can welcome this moment of tranquillity as he contemplates about Dean.

Today is the seventh day—today, he will hear Dean’s answer. Castiel has no doubt that Dean already has an answer in mind. After all that he has done to show Dean his worth, he is certain that the man will see once and for all that Castiel is right. If Dean still needs persuasion Castiel will be more than willing to show him, to prove to Dean that he can and will change the world into a better place for Dean’s sake. He will make Dean understand, and he will have Dean know that this is all for him and him alone.

As the last bits of the sun sink under the horizon Castiel brings out his wings and prepares to fly himself over to where Dean is—but right before he does so he hears the human calling for his name. The voice is soft, hesitant and tentative—but it is Dean nevertheless, and the realization of that brings a smile to Castiel’s face. Dean, it is Dean who is calling him. Dean is calling for him, and Castiel can only think of one reason why.

He doesn’t even think twice about responding to the call, bringing out his wings (bigger and better and never to be broken under the hands of his former brothers and sisters again) entirely to fly at where Dean waits for him. The world instantly shifts around him, colours and shapes melting and blending before his eyes before they reshape into the familiar surroundings of Bobby Singer’s panic room.

“Dean—” the name is barely out from his lips before he feels the air around him reacting to his presence, but before Castiel can say anything else the air moves and he feels his wings being bound down by magic even he cannot recognize.

The ritual is old—positively ancient, even. There’s really no way to tell where it came from, even after all the references that Bobby's pulled out from his shelves. Wherever it comes from, though, Dean has to admit that it’s certainly effective—especially considering the fact that he isn’t dead yet even though Cas is glaring at him with an intensity that he hasn’t seen from the other before.

Dean,” the former angel growls at him dangerously, and Dean can almost swear that he sees Cas’s wings (is it just him, or do they actually look different?) attempting to ruffle up dangerously as well. He holds his ground though and stares right back at Cas, green clashing against blue with neither attempting to budge or give in one another.

It takes a few moments before Dean can actually respond to Cas. “Sorry, Cas, but you ain’t going anywhere.”

Another growl comes out from Cas in return, and the former angel attempts to struggle once again at the bonds that now hold him down. Dean watches blue eyes flash in fury as Cas finds himself unable to break free, looking back unflinchingly at the other once again as Cas bares his teeth in a snarl. He’s too caught up in his power and in his own self-righteousness to see anything clearly—it reminds Dean too much of Sam who is currently standing at his spot in the circle and trying very hard not to twitch at the sight of their former friend—the very same person who broke the wall in Sam’s head and is the reason why his brother barely manages to get any form of decent sleep these days. Dean knows well enough how bad the dreams about Hell can be.

But even with all of that, after everything that he has done—a part of Dean still wants to forgive Cas because he can understand. He does want to give Cas his chance and let him prove himself properly, but how can he do that when it’s clear that Cas isn’t even sorry for all the havoc that he’s unleashing on the world? Cas may think that he’s helping the world, but all that Dean can see is chaos and destruction—everything that Cas is doing now is accomplishing nothing more besides pushing the world back to the brink of destruction again, and Dean isn’t exactly inclined to go for Armageddon: electric bugaboo so soon.

Cas’s voice brings Dean out from his thoughts, the former angel scowling in an expression of rage as he snarls. “Release me, Dean.”

“I already said you’re not going anywhere, Cas,” Dean instantly replies, forcing the bravado out from his chest even though a part of him is scared. He’s scared of how things are going to be after this, scared that he might not be able to go through with this properly, scared that he might fail—and he can’t afford to fail, not right now. He pushes down the hard lump at the back of his throat and shifts himself subtly, pressing his weight at the heels of his feet instead while he keeps his gaze locked on Cas and speaks up once again. “I—we’re not letting you go anywhere.”

The angel snarls at him again, anger and rage and fury all boiling into one emotion that’s so intense that Dean can feel it burning in Cas’s eyes. “Why, Dean,” he seethes out, still trying to struggle even though they both know it’s a futile effort. “Why do you do this?”

It’s a genuine question, Dean realizes. Cas really doesn’t understand why Dean is doing this, and he doesn’t know if he should laugh at the irony of that. For all the godly powers that Cas now has on his fingertips, he still doesn’t understand him? The thought would be funny, if it also wasn’t unbelievably Cas at the same time and for a moment Dean almost finds himself hesitating, but eventually he pushes on because this is the only way he can go now. He’s already at the point of no return.

He glances at Bobby for confirmation, who gives it out with a nod and Dean slowly makes his way to Cas, walking up to the former angel who now glares defiantly at him and Dean has to clench his jaw and steel himself. There are many things that Dean can say right there and then, answers to Cas’s question and so much more, but Dean remains silent and grabs Cas by the back of his head, fingers twisting and digging harshly into the other’s hair. It’s not a gesture of comfort or affection—it’s a way of staking a claim, in the best way Dean knows how.

Dean senses Cas stilling a little under him, caught off-guard by the move and thrown into momentary confusion. He doesn’t voice out the question but it shows in the momentary flicker of uncertainty that crosses his face, a break in the façade of godhood that Castiel now wears. Once again Dean feels a shard of hesitation prickling against his conscience, but he quickly shoves it out. Now isn’t the time for him to pull back.

Instead, he starts speaking. “You remember the first time we saw Balthazar, Cas? During that whole thing with the Staff of Moses? You recall what he told us about the value of human souls? How much they’re worth?”

Cas doesn’t respond to him, but he sees the other catching onto his words anyway. Dean goes on talking. “Apparently from what I’ve learned, human souls are the most powerful things in the world—even stronger than Grace. But I guess you already knew that.” After all, Bobby had told Dean of the time when Cas used the older hunter’s soul to charge himself back up. It almost seems like a lifetime ago now when he recalls that incident.

His free hand drifts back to the handle that sticks out from the back of his jeans and Dean wraps his fingers around it, tightening his hold on it before he lifts up a leg and quickly knees Cas onto the ground before the other can respond. Both Bobby and Sam move into action the moment Dean acts, both men chanting out their individual incantations as Dean and Cas wrestle on the ground. The first few seconds are the most dangerous moments, with Cas still pumped up with all the souls in his body and Dean being nothing but a mere human. But Cas’s hesitance to hurt him is something that Dean makes full use of and it works perfectly—once the initial few seconds has passed the spell begins to work its magic, and soon enough Dean realizes the former angel’s faltering strength, his energies being siphoned off by the ritual and that’s exactly what Dean needs. He needs Cas at his weakest, brought down to the very core of his being.

The former angel quickly puts two and two together now as the spell takes a stronger hold and his struggles become more pronounced even as his strength is sapped away, both Grace and souls taken and kept separate from him. It hurts Dean more than he can bring himself to admit to have Cas be forced into this, but he knows that it is necessary. Somebody has to stop Cas, and it’s better that its him who does it rather than some other hunter who’ll see Cas as nothing more than some big fish to fry.

Still, he almost stops again when Cas stares at him with those unnaturally blue eyes of his when the last bit of strength leaves him and forces Cas down on the ground. The familiarity of that look nearly makes Dean pause as he sees the fear now being reflected in those eyes, instinctively understanding the wordless plea that Cas sends to him through his eyes alone. It reminds Dean of his time back down in Hell, of the terrified faces of those who had broken under his whips and chains and knives. He had told himself to never do this again, but yet here he is now, about to make a whole new Hell for the former angel pinned below him.

“Dean,” Cas pleads below him quietly, his voice nearly lost in the silence.

“Dean!” Sam calls out loudly from behind him, urgency and desperation mixed in that shout as Bobby finishes his part of the incantation.

The hunter shakes his head to clear out the last of his doubts and raises the knife in his hand, looking straight at Cas as he bites on his bottom lip and directs the tip of the blade right over where Jimmy Novak’s heart lay in his chest. He sees the blue eyes still staring right at him, the fear already dissipating into an entirely different emotion that Dean knows he will see for the rest of his life.

Nunc et in aeternum,” he whispers the last words of the spell before he plunges the knife into Cas’s chest.

“You’ve really done it this time, Cas.”

Castiel turns around from Rachel to glance towards Balthazar, where the other angel is now looking at him in a mix of being both impressed and amused at the same time. He only gives his friend a brief acknowledgement first before turning back and finish up on imparting the last of his orders to Rachel. It’s only when she leaves then does he acknowledge Balthazar’s existence once more. “Balthazar.”

“I see you still haven’t died yet,” the other angel returns far too cheerfully for Castiel’s tastes, and he frowns at the flippant tone that his friend constantly likes to employ so much. It reminds him a little of Dean, who does roughly the same thing as well—humanizing his foes so as to make them seem smaller and not-so-indestructible in his eyes. Despite their mutual dislike of each other, there are some ways in where Balthazar and Dean are perhaps not so different from one another.

Castiel watches his friend move around and casually lean himself against one of the nearby pillars, hands tucked into the pockets of his vessel’s pants. Castiel has no idea where and how Balthazar had managed to get a vessel that would house him, considering that the angel had never bothered to track down his vessel’s bloodline. Then again, the weapons of Heaven are vast and varied, and it would be no surprise that there could be a weapon that would aid Balthazar in this. It’s not as if Castiel has all the weapons of Heaven at his disposal—just the majority of them, as per his agreement with the other.

Balthazar gives him a cursory glance there and then before speaking up. “Penny for your thoughts, Cas? And before you ask, I do not mean a literal penny.”

The angel closes his eyes and forces out a sigh from his lungs. “I do not understand that reference, Balthazar.” Human words never fail to confuse him, even until now. Sometimes Castiel has to wonder how humans can even make up such things when the words do nothing but confuse and contradict one another. It’s one of the things, perhaps, that Castiel has a feeling he might never come to truly understand.

From his spot Balthazar lets out a disdainful snort and rolls his eyes. “Really, Cassie. Sometimes even I need to wonder why you’re so pro-humanity when you don’t even understand a lick about them,” he drawls out.

“They deserve to be saved,” Castiel instantly responds, the words coming out from his mouth even before he properly registers them. But it is the truth, nevertheless—humanity, even with their flaws and countless imperfections, deserve their second chance. Castiel has no intention of letting Raphael steal that second chance, not after Dean has given so much to earn it for the world.

Rather than dignifying his words with a proper response, instead Balthazar gives Castiel another look that seems to show so much but also tell so little at the same time. The angel pushes himself off the wall that he’s leaning on, taking a moment to straighten his attire before he looks up and replies with an audible sigh. “If that takes you though this, Cassie dear.”

Castiel, of course, finds himself instantly suspicious of those words and frowns once again. “What do you mean?” he questions, sensing that he should know what his friend is trying to imply.

The angel in question rolls his shoulders in a shrug, taking his steps towards Castiel while he replies in a tone that is far too casual for it to be normal, even by Castiel’s standards. “From Azazel to Lilith to dear old Lucifer—do you want to know what’s the one thing they all had in common?” he questions, and once more Castiel finds himself lost in his friend’s words.

He takes a few seconds to consider the question first before he answers. “What, Balthazar?”

“Love,” Balthazar returns simply, pausing in his steps at the same time so that he’s standing right besides Castiel and flashes a wry smile at him. “The demons loved Lucifer, and Lucifer loved our dear old Dad in the same way Michael did—or maybe even more than Michael did. It doesn’t really matter at this point.” He pauses for a moment then and tilts his head, looking almost as if he’s debating on something. “But that’s the key point in this thing. Love. Such a terrible emotion, don’t you think?”

Castiel only frowns even more at those words, still not entirely certain what to make of it—although, to talk about something as divine as love in this matter… “Balthazar,” he starts, a wordless warning edged at the corners of his voice.

Balthazar, however, takes his friend’s warning with little effort and continues on without any shred of concern. “I’m not saying that its bad, Cassie, but too much of a good thing won’t end well for anybody. Too many cooks spoil the soup, and all that.” He swiftly raises a hand to stop Castiel from talking again, giving the other angel a briefly exasperated look while he’s at it. “Just think about it, Cas. The demons—especially the big ones like Azazel and Lilith—loved Lucifer. Lucifer loved our Dad. Michael loved our Dad. And look what happened to all of them.”

“State your point, Balthazar,” Castiel returns sharply, quickly growing tired of whatever it is that his friend is trying to say. There are many other things that he needs to attend to, battles and plans and meetings that he has to work out with the others. He has no time to sit here and listen to his friend the whole day—his friend who refuses to fight for some reason that Castiel can’t even understand.

A sigh escapes from his friend’s lips again as Balthazar tucks his hands back into his pants and starts walking again, brushing past Castiel before he speaks. “Too much love will kill you in the end, Cas. For your sake, I hope that you can stop before it really does kill you.”

The words catch Castiel off-guard and he turns around, but by the time he looks around Balthazar is already gone, with not even the sound of his wings to signal his departure.

He visits Cas only three days after the binding.

In those three days Cas’ been locked down and kept in the mess that had once been Bobby’s panic room, and after the resulting incident during the binding, Bobby now has to make another one—it’s not a task that the older hunter is all too happy about, but considering their current situation it’s necessary since the old one is all but useless now. Dean tries to help out as much as he can, but the binding’s worn him out; even until now he’s still not wholly recovered yet, and Dean’s pretty sure that it’s going take a while. After all, he’s just bonded (using his soul, even, and the thought of that is admittedly terrifying) himself to possibly the most dangerous being in the world as far as he’s concerned.

The metal door swings open far too easily, barely making a squeak at his touch. Dean pushes down the hard lump that’s formed at the back of his throat before he takes a step past the threshold and into the room, trying not to notice how the lights instantly flicker on the moment he steps inside. He sucks in a deep breath and lets it out quickly enough, opening his eyes to properly regard the figure of Cas sitting on the ground, his back leaning against the bookshelf.

Dean starts to make his way towards where Cas is, but he barely manages to get two steps in before the door behind him slams shut and the sound of the lock clicking into place echoes in his ears. There is a moment when Dean finds himself caught in alarm, years of instinct making him tense and wary—and Dean knows that he should be wary, considering his situation, but he forces himself to calm down and put his instincts on hold. If he runs away now, then who knows when he’ll ever have the courage to do this again?

“Cas,” he starts slowly, taking two steps closer to where the other’s still sitting. The former angel doesn’t respond, but Dean knows that he is listening nonetheless—he can sense it in the mental link that he now has with Cas. Dean takes another few steps more, stopping a couple of inches away from where Cas is brooding and crouches down to the other’s level. He looks at the figure before him for a moment, staring at the bowed head and the bits of dust that has settled on Cas’ stretched legs; it does surprise Dean a little that Cas hasn’t even moved at all since that day.

He drops his gaze lower, shifting his eyes so that he now looks at the mark that’s burned right into the backs of Cas’ hands, the brand that binds them together in the cruellest of ways. There’s nothing nice or glamorous about this, Dean knows—it’s a leash, plain and simple, and Cas’ the one who’s wearing the collar. Dean’s bound one of the most powerful things in the planet to him, and Dean really doesn’t want to think what this’ll mean for him. For Cas.

For them.

Dean pulls his gaze away from the hands to stare back at the untidy mop before him that is Cas’s hair, and he gives himself up to five before he speaks. “I guess some gloves would be good for you, huh? I’ll ask Bobby later to see if I can get—” Before he can finish the question, however, Dean finds himself cut short as a sudden force throws him to the opposite side of the room not at all gently. Air forces itself out from his lungs as he slams against the iron walls, feeling the pain that instantly runs up his back when Dean crumples down to the ground after that violent outburst.

Pain, at least, is something that Dean understands and tolerates quickly—it only takes a few moments for him to ignore the throb of pain that’s currently running up his back as he pushes himself back onto his feet, palming one hand against the wall for a second so as to steady himself. He glances at the former angel who continues to sit stubbornly still against the bookshelf, head still bowed down even though Dean can easily feel the anger that’s rolling off from Cas in palpable waves.

“Look, I get it that you’re angry,” Dean starts again, although he doesn’t make a move and stays right where he is. He maintains his gaze at the other, watching him for a sign—any sign—in response, but gets nothing in return. Dean closes his eyes and lets out a bitter sigh. “I’m not really A-OK with this thing too, you know? But—”

“—it’s necessary,” Cas cuts in before Dean can finish his words, and the human stops, blinking. He watches the former angel finally move, dust falling off his clothes as Cas finally shifts and bitter, resentful blue eyes now glare straight at him. Dean looks back, finding it hard to ignore the guilt that swells up at the back of his mind as he sees Cas for how he is now; chained, shackled and brought down to possibly the lowest of levels.

As if having heard his thoughts (and he most likely did), the corners of Cas’ lips only curl in displeasure and his eyes narrow into silts. “Is this what you want, Dean?” he asks—demands it, even, and it’s hard to not feel the bite in that question. “To break me at your heel? Force me into servitude? I am not your dog, Dean.”

Dean clenches his jaw. “I don’t want you to be, Cas,” he returns, feeling a scowl starting to form on his face.

Cas lets out a disbelieving snort in response. “It doesn’t seem to be that way to me,” comes the dry answer.

The hunter turns away and rubs at his chin with the heel of his hand, his jaw still tightly clenched. “It’s not as if we can kill you,” he replies in a mutter, voice just loud enough for Cas to hear. “And you can’t just go around the world doing as you please. This is the best option.”

The silence that stretches after those words is perhaps, far too telling for Dean’s liking. It feels far too heavy and far too long for him to handle, and as far as he can understand there is really no turning back from here now. Cas is now collared to him, bound to his will. There’s no way to sugarcoat this nicely—he has practically made Cas his dog. He, the Righteous Man, forced God into servitude at his feet. If he isn’t going to Hell for this, then Dean has no idea what will.

Knowing that conversation that this point is all but useless, Dean bites in a sigh and forces himself to move, making his way towards the door. He stops at the handle, hesitating for a moment before he pushes the door and pauses when it swings open with barely a squeak. At least now he knows that the sentiment is shared.

He throws a last glance at Cas, quietly looking at him for a few seconds before he turns back and makes his way out of the room—before he can cross the threshold though, Cas speaks up again, and this time his voice is loud enough to echo across the iron walls. “You would give Sam a chance. Why would you not do the same for me?”

Dean closes his eyes and lets out a shaky breath he wasn’t aware that he had been holding in until now. He takes a few moments to compose himself before he turns around to look right back at Cas who is staring straight at him likewise, letting their eyes meet as Dean answers the question. “Because I gave you too many chances, Cas, and you screwed it all up.”

He exits the room after that, closing the door behind him with a slam that echoes in his ears for the rest of the day.

There are many times that Castiel wishes that he can dream—but he cannot sleep, so in turn he is also unable to dream. Even during his (admittedly brief) time as a human dreams have always managed to elude him, caught up and busy as he is with the approaching Apocalypse back then.

Still, in the times during the middle of the night when he can (which is perhaps far too often these days), Castiel closes his eyes and lets himself immerse in whatever dreams that Dean is experiencing. Dean’s dreams are wide and varied, ranging from the scars of Hell to the recollections of sexual intercourse. There is nearly nothing that Dean does not dream about, and Castiel lets himself take in every one of them, watching them and doing nothing even when Dean is plagued by his memories of Hell, because he cannot touch Dean now, can’t do anything on Dean ever since the seal has been strengthened by Sam a few months ago.

In the years that have passed since the first day Castiel has since acknowledged his role amongst the Winchesters, although acknowledging it is not the same as accepting it and as each day passes by Castiel’s anger does not fade. He still cannot forgive Sam and Dean for forcing this life onto him, even if at the same time a part of him might perhaps understand the reasoning of their actions. But they have chained and collared him, brought him down from Godhood to this; there is no way he can ever forgive them for doing this to him.

He watches almost all of Dean’s dreams and can see nearly all of his memories, but nothing hurts him more than that simple, quiet dream where there is no blood and no violence and no guilt but only the image of Dean and him sitting on a pier with fishing rods in their hands, and the sky above them is cool and refreshing. It is perhaps late March, or perhaps a bit more into April, but the timing of this dream does not matter so much than the smile that’s on Dean’s face and the quiet smile that the image of him wears. It’s a smile that Castiel doesn’t ever remember himself having. Where and how Dean finds the capacity to imagine that smile, Castiel does not know—and he also knows that now, perhaps, he will never find out.

Castiel can only make himself watch the dream for a few more moments before he turns away and opens his eyes back to the dim lighting of his room. He shifts his gaze to stare down at his hands, his left clutching around a piece of cloth while the other holds and empty gun magazine. He hears the silence of the house, only broken by the footsteps of the night time guards and maybe the sound of Sam pacing around his library upstairs.

He unclenches his hold of the wiping cloth, placing it onto the table along with the magazine before pausing to stare at the intricate seal that’s burned at the backs of his hands. The symbols and words that line within the areas between the two outlined circles are a mix of both Enochian and Latin, the power of those words concentrated by a seven pointed star (each point adorned with one of the Enochian symbols that spells his name) that restrains his powers and hands it over to Dean. It’s unlike anything that Castiel has actually seen before, even with his countless years of existence, and ultimately this is what that had proved to be his downfall.

Balthazar’s words float back to him there and then, and he recalls the words of his friend back then and perhaps realizes the meaning of them far too late.

(“Too much love will kill you in the end, Cas.”)

“It’s too late, Balthazar,” he mutters out, quiet enough so that only he can hear even though he’s the only one in this room. “I’m already dead.”

With the Apocalypse coming and going there already hadn’t been a lot of monsters or demons left on Earth, and after Castiel’s brief run as God there had been even less of them running around. The population of things left to kill by now is, at best, minimal, and if things were simply left like that it would only be a matter of time before the entire population of vampires, werewolves, sirens and everything else would simply die out.

But there are few things as dangerous and vicious as a cornered, wounded beast; doubly so when there’s a whole bunch of them now scattered across the world. With their numbers thinning so drastically the monsters fight back twice as hard and with just as much desperation, and unlike before now the number of hunters that are left doesn’t really give a lot of hope to anybody who knows the figures.

Still, that’s not really the worst thing. What’s worse is that the lack of hunters also mean that the number of supernatural cases actually being dealt with is despairingly little, and without the hunters to kill off and properly clean up the tracks of their targets its only a matter of time before somebody else discovers the existence of things that go bump in the night.

That’s what happens on the night of April 4th, 2015, when a fully recorded and documented evidence of a werewolf attack that takes place in Hammonton, New Jersey hits on the public airwaves across the United States of America. In less than an hour that same footage is uploaded nearly a hundred times on Youtube, and in the next hour after that the video links pops up in places like Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, Tumblr and just about every social networking site that exists on the internet. Within twenty-four hours the entire world is in an uproar about the possible existence of the world of the supernatural, and it is from there when the world starts to change.

In the days and weeks following the appearance of the footage the agencies of the US government track down its originator to one Harry Spangler and his friend/partner Ed Zeddmore, leaders of the self-proclaimed ‘Ghostfacers’. They inform the press and the government in the details of their take, and they also tell the public that ‘monsters are real’.

Not just monsters too, another article would add on later, this one published after conducting an interview on a certain Becky Rosen. There’s also angels and demons around, and the Apocalypse nearly happened but then Sam stopped it. She also alerts to the world about the existence of the Supernatural book series published by Carver Edlund—better known to people as Chuck Shurley, and tells everybody to read the books.

What follows after that article is like a dam breaking and letting out all the water that it’s been holding back. People start talking, and others slowly connect the dots one by one. Slowly but surely the truth is brought out to the light, and then there are names starting to come out—Haley Collins, Evan Hudson, Paul Dutton, Wes Mondale, Julia Wright—amongst many others like Claire and Amelia Novak, the daughter and wife of James Novak, who is still missing to the world. They speak up and tell their side of the story, each of them aligning to one of the books within the Supernatural series. Police reports, by now old and forgotten, are unearthed and checked, and every one of them is found to tally with the stories written in the books.

Once the pieces are put together a nationwide—no, worldwide—call for Sam and Dean Winchester is put out for everybody to hear, and for a few weeks there is nothing but frauds and scams responding to the call, and everybody waits with bated breath as they wonder about the existence of these supposed saviours of the world.

Then finally in the morning of December 8th of the same year, Sam and Dean Winchester appear without warning within headquarters of the US government with the once-missing Jimmy Novak at their side, and five days later a full DNA test confirms the validity of their claim. Proof of the Winchesters’ existence sends the world into an uproar yet again as it shifts once more, rolling with the waves of change that’s about to sweep the entire world.

Following from that would be a long series of talks and discussions between the US government and the remaining hunters around the United States of America. These discussions would be known later as some of the fiercest and most intense talks to have ever taken place in the country, perhaps even besting the 2008 presidential elections. Days, weeks and even months pass as the talks and demands and disagreements arise and shoot between the hunters and the government, and it’s nearly a year later before anything can be agreed on between both parties.

Starting from the beginning of the year 2017 the Supernatural Hunter’s Support Act is put in place along with various and plenty addendums and amendments to many of America’s older laws. At the same time, the Winchester Organization was also formed—it would be a mostly autonomous unit of its own with power that would be equal to the FBI, and under the jurisdiction of the US government the Winchester Organization would be committed to solving and dealing with all manner of supernatural cases that the other agencies would not be able to handle.

And it went without saying that the head of this new organization would fall to the ones that saved the world; or more specifically, one Dean Winchester. Sam Winchester would be a facilitator and mediator between the organization and the public and any other liaisons that it has.

As for the (former) angel Castiel—he would soon be known as nothing more than Dean Winchester’s top hunting dog.

Dean mutters a few choice words under his breath as he checks his gun for bullets, trying to determine if he’s going to be reckless or plain suicidal later when the rugaru catches up with him. Not for the first time in the last hour Dean realizes that perhaps following Sam’s suggestion to bring in a few more people is possibly the better option—but damnit, this is just a normal hunt; there’s no need to bring out the friggin’ cavalry just for one of these suckers. Just because he’s the boss of this stupid organization that the government’s forced on him doesn’t mean that he needs freaking guards twenty-four-seven. Not for the first time in the last eight years or so Dean wonders to himself once more just what the fuck he had been thinking to go ahead and appear before the government of this country and let himself be dragged into their goddamned world of politics. This is really more of Sam’s thing.

Still, because of this now hunting’s officially recognized as a legitimate line of duty and now there was no longer a need for the credit card frauds and the requirement to lie and lie all the time. They were small victories overall, but they are still victories nevertheless. At least now Bobby could retire in proper peace and get a pension plan while at it. Not that he ever stopped being a hunter, of course—nobody could ever really stop being a hunter once you’re into it.

A burst of static comes through from the headset tucked around his ear, and Dean momentarily winces at the sound before Sam’s voice comes through the speaker, replacing the static. “Dean, you copy?”

“Yeah, Sammy,” he replies, looking at his gun once again as he uses his free hand to rummage around his pockets for bullets to reload his firearm. “I copy. What’s up?”

“Raymond told me that the rugaru ran off in your direction earlier,” Sam returns, and despite the professionalism in his voice Dean can all too easily hear the concern and terseness that his brother tries and fails to hide—Sam is concerned, and it shows. “I’ve gotten both him and Royston to go after it. They should be nearing your way soon.”

Dean grunts out an affirmation, taking two bullets in between in fingers as he gets them out from his pocket and starts to set them in the magazine of his gun. “Got it.”

“Contact me if there’s anything you need.”

“Go check on the vamp hideout in Ohio if you’ve got nothing better to do.”

He doesn’t even need any video to be certain about the exasperated eye roll that Sam’s doing right about now. “On it already, Dean.”

“Go keep yourself busy,” the older Winchester returns with an eye roll of his own, although the humour in his voice soon dissipates as soon as he hears a familiar growl in the distance. “Time to go, Sammy. We’ll catch up later.”

There’s a small sound of acknowledgement from his brother. “Alright. Over and out.” Another small burst of static buzzes through after those words, a signal to him that Sam has indeed turned off communications. Dean tugs the headset away from his ear and swiftly pockets it as the growl sounds out again, readying the gun around his hands before he starts to move, darting around the trees expertly while he keeps his ears out for the approaching rugaru.

He doesn’t have to wait long; just a few minutes after Dean starts running the rugaru is well and hot on his trail. It’s easy enough to hear its harsh breathing, the sound of its feet thudding heavily against the forest floor. The one thing Dean is thankful for about rugarus is that they’re not werewolves, and their humanlike bodies still put a bit of a limit to what a rugaru is capable of accomplishing. It’s not the most appealing thought, Dean knows, but it’s something that he can be content with in his life.

Dean uses the sounds to judge where the rugaru is behind him as he continues to run, using the familiarity of the terrain to his advantage as he tries to lead the beast around towards where the fire pit trap is waiting for it. He glances around, trying to spot the markers that would point him in the right direction—it’s something that he always makes a point to stress to everybody, because like hell memory’s going to be any use to you during the heat of the moment. That’s the theory Dean had both tried and failed to prove one too many times during his time still on the road.

The sounds of the rugaru echo much more closer to his ears now at the next turn, and Dean hisses out a curse under his breath as he darts his eyes around once more, attempting to notice the marker that should be here. Where the fuck could Jonathan have put it?

Too caught up in his search, Dean fails to notice the tree root sticking out in front of him and finds himself caught in surprise when his boot catches around it and the man trips. A grunt forces itself out from Dean’s lungs as he lands on his chest, palms slapping roughly against the ground as he reaches out due to instinctive reflex. The sudden momentum of the fall prevents him from being able to properly secure his landing, but fortunately the passing shower earlier in the day had made the ground muddy and wet, so Dean finds his landing somewhat cushioned. Still, that doesn’t exactly manage to stop the throb of pain that runs up and around his jaw due to the impact of his fall.

Dean manages to recover himself quickly enough, untangling his boot out from the tree root as he regains usage of his foot, scowling as he rubs at his jaw with one hand and quickly pushes himself back onto his feet. “Friggin’ tree roots,” he manages to swear out, right before the rugaru’s growls ring out and they sound far too close for comfort.

No point running now, the former hunter thinks grimly to himself right before ducking when a dark figure leaps right towards him from the shadows of the trees. Dean throws himself forward to avoid the rugaru’s attack, using the momentum to push himself right back to his feet as he readies his gun, index finger curling around the trigger. He keeps his eyes peeled on the rugaru as the beast recovers from the failed attack, black eyes flashing as it glares back at Dean with nothing less than undisguised hatred in its too-dark eyes because there’s no way that the rugaru won’t recognize him unless it’s been living under a rock.

Dean the Hunter. That’s what the monsters (and even some humans, though they don’t do it quite as openly) call him these days, and Dean would be lying if he said that the name isn’t fitting. Ever since the formation of the Winchester Organization supernatural activity has been an all time low, and anything that so much even moves a hair wrongly would be instantly dealt with. Instantly not being an expression at all. After all, there is—

The rugaru launches itself at him once more and Dean quickly ducks to avoid the attack, twisting around expertly as he does so and fires his gun. The sound of the gunshot echoes far too loudly in the forest, and there’s no doubt that the other hunters would have already heard it. The beast stills itself after the sound of the gunshot, staying tense and alert as it regards him cautiously, and Dean himself stays still as well even though he never relaxes the hold on his gun. “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way,” he states as calmly he can in-between breaths, keeping his gaze locked on the rugaru’s. “Stay quietly and we’ll make this quick; struggle and you’ll regret it.”

All that the rugaru does in return is to snarl stubbornly before springing forward in another bid to attack Dean, and the man curses as he fires his gun in a futile effort to make the beast stop. The rugaru takes the bullets without even so much as flinching, a roar tearing from its throat as it jumps, jaws wide enough to snap Dean’s head into two.

Dean is wholly prepared to throw the gun at the rugaru (even though Sam is most likely going to bitch at him about that later) and jump away while he has the chance, but before he can do any of that another figure suddenly appears before him without even so much as a sound. Before Dean can even react to the figure’s sudden appearance it moves, darting forward in a speed no human would ever be able to manage as a hand snaps out and grabs the rugaru by its skull. There’s a loud, sickening crunch of a skull getting cracked as the rugaru is slammed violently back down to the ground, and the beast barely manages out a sound before a sharp flare of light envelopes its entire body, so sudden and bright that Dean has to screw his eyes shut before his eyes get hurt (and they have been before—Dean knows this better than anyone).

The smell of charred flesh hits him first before Dean can open his eyes back, and the man has to blink for a few times in order to get the afterimages out from his vision. He doesn’t need to look to know that the rugaru is dead, and isn’t surprised at all when Sam’s voice crackles through from the headset in his pocket, the forest silent enough that he can hear his brother. “Dean?”

A couple of moments pass as Dean fishes the headset out of his pocket and fumbles with putting back on, but Sam is patient enough and doesn’t seem to sound that all annoyed when he prompts again, this time in Dean’s ear. “Dean? Things okay there?”

“Just peachy,” the older Winchester replies as he turns his gaze towards the figure now standing before the charred remains of the rugaru, the light just enough for Dean to make out the basic features of the newcomer—although really, Dean could still know who it is even without the light. “Get the guys to retreat; the rugaru’s dead. I’ll meet them all back at headquarters for the debriefing.”

Sam lets out a sigh, and the sound comes out as nothing more than another rush of static on Dean’s end. “Alright. Don’t stay out too long.” It’s easy enough to hear the underlying words under that voice.

Dean, however, pointedly chooses to ignore it. “Will do, Sammy. Later.” He quickly pulls out the earpiece as soon as he’s done, keeping it in his pocket again before he steps forward. It’s only then does the figure actually more, turning around to regard Dean with bright blue eyes that stand out far too much against the shadows of the forest.

Taking another few steps closer, Dean keeps his gun back in its holster as he gives the figure another glance before finally grunting out. “Shouldn’t you be in Nevada?”

The figure scoffs lightly. “The situation isn’t as bad as what the reports say. I’ve already dealt with it.” A pause. “Perhaps a bit too quickly, but I sensed that you were in danger.”

Dean lets out a snort in return, rolling his eyes. “It’s just a rugaru, Cas. Nothing that I can’t handle.”

“It could have still snapped your neck into two,” Castiel replies rather matter-of-factly, sending another glance back at the burnt corpse behind them. The former angel tucks his hands into the pockets of his pants as he adds on placidly. “My main duty is to ensure your survival, above everything else.”

Even though Cas says that, it doesn’t take Dean much to hear the almost robot-like way in how Cas just says that, almost as if he’s reciting that off a book rather than something that the other actually commits himself to. The whole spiel about protecting him is, of course, Sam’s work, done when he strengthened the seals holding Cas’s powers in place. Ever since the initial bonding Sam has put himself into improving the binds and making sure to cover every loophole so that Cas wouldn’t have a chance to break the seal and would never be able to turn against either of them. The part about ensuring Dean’s survival is also part of the seal, a forced instinct that’s seared into Cas so that even in the worst of situations, Dean would always have Cas protecting him even if it would cost the former angel his life. Although to be honest, Dean isn’t sure if there’s actually anything that can kill Cas. Seal or no seal, the Godhood had never really left Cas at all; it’s simply forced into servitude.

Dean doesn’t like it one bit, but there’s nothing he can do. It’s this or letting Cas rampage around the world once again, and now that the world is aware about the existence of the supernatural, it’s pretty clear how well that will go through.

The human stops himself before his train of thought can go any further, shaking his head to get rid of said thoughts before he glances back at Cas again. The former angel has his gaze cast back at the rugaru once again, the expression on his face almost thoughtful while he looks at the burnt remains of the creature. “It has been a while since a rugaru has appeared,” he remarks idly. “I think they’re getting sparse now after the pack I wiped out back in Utah.”

Utah. That’s one mission Dean knows he’ll never forget. It had been one of the rare times when Dean had let go a little of the leash that held Cas’s powers in check—the situation had been desperate, and most of the guys already dead—and what follows from that is something that scared even Dean. Cas had easily went through the entire place in a matter of minutes, tearing apart every non-human with little regard for anything else. What had been a week-long fight had been settled in nearly a heartbeat, and Dean hadn’t blamed the remaining survivors for turning in their badges and collecting whatever pensions that were granted to them. What Castiel did at the end couldn’t even be called a fight; it had been an outright massacre.

Its times like then when Dean has to wonder just what the hell he’s doing, having somebody (something) like Cas bound to him. More than the organization, more than being a leader, it’s simply this that terrifies Dean more than anything else. He’s the one human in the world who holds the leash to the most dangerous being ever known, and there’s no telling where or when Cas might just break the seal and turn against him. It’s a thought that he really doesn’t want to think about.

Dean clears his head—again—and focuses back on Cas, giving himself three seconds and then speaks up. “You informed the Nevada guys that you’re here?”

Castiel pauses for a moment. “I suspect Sam already has after contacting you,” he eventually replies, sounding as if he hadn’t just randomly popped like halfway across the friggin’ country in order to save Dean’s ass. It’s one of the things that the other guys in the organization have never been able to get used to, and Dean can’t really blame them. Even until now he still thinks it’s pretty disturbing, especially since Godhood seems to have taken out Cas’s wings—he hasn’t heard them in years. Dean does wonder what happened to Cas’s wings ever since his ascension into godhood, but he’s never found the courage to ask the other directly.

Damnit, there he’s already starting to think too much again. Dean stops himself for the third time, blinking as Cas regards him with a quizzical head tilt that looks both too familiar and too foreign at the same time. The former angel blinks back at Dean for a moment before talking. “Are we returning to headquarters now?”

“We probably should,” Dean returns with a small sigh as he rubs the back of his neck, quickly turning his gaze away from Castiel. “Sam’ll bitch if I don’t return soon.”

“Of course,” Cas replies in that bland, too neutral voice of his as he steps closer, just around the perimeter of Dean’s bubble of personal space and reaches out for the human, zapping them back to South Dakota without another word.

They call him the Hunting Dog.

Castiel would be lying if he says that he doesn’t see the irony of that name.

It’s not a compliment or a title to be proud of, and Castiel knows that—it’s an insult, a disgrace; he’s a God who’s been bound and chained to humans against his will, forced to do their work for them even without so much as his consent. To them he’s nothing more than a tool at their disposal, a weapon that’s treated with the utmost care because they do not want their dog to bite the hand that feeds it.

He can easily see and taste and smell the fear that rolls off the waves of the humans before him as Dean introduces him to them and briefs about the training exercise that’s about to be conducted. Castiel is the target, and the humans are supposed to surround and capture him with minimal casualties. Of course, had this been real, capturing him would be next to impossible; he’s still God, after all, despite everything. This is just a simulation, however, and these humans were fresh from their basic hunter’s training regime with this exercise being the test to determine the trainee’s worth. It’s something that’s been in place ever since the organization’s creation, something that Castiel has gone through millions of times at Dean’s request.

In a way, Castiel does like the challenge—there will always be some similarities at how the recruits move, but there are times when they do something that does catch him off guard. Having to hold himself back against them is also something that he likes at times, although most of the time he thinks that Dean is still far too soft on the trainees. Out there there is no second chance, no continues or retries; the moment when you’re taken down it’s over for you. Many of the trainees die in their first or second missions, and only a handful from each batch ever manage to come out as true hunters.

Still, he supposes that it’s not really his place to say anything. He is but a mere hunting dog—even if he is the best—and nobody has ever treated him as a proper human being aside from Dean. Even Sam tends to forget at times now, so taken he is with keeping the organization in check and maintaining relations with the human government. Whatever camaraderie he used to have with the younger Winchester had already been thin from the moment he broke the wall in Sam’s head, and the following years have all but snapped it altogether.

Only Dean ever talks to him nowadays, but even then their conversations no longer have the easy air that they once used to have. It hasn’t been there ever since the binding, and while there are times there are still snatches of it here and there, most of the time now there’s nothing but a quiet professionalism between them. They are not friends, nor are they comrades anymore than they are soldiers. Dean is the Hunter and he is the Hunting Dog, and that’s how things are supposed to be between them. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less as well.

Castiel does his best not to think about it, but sometimes in the middle of the night when he remembers Dean’s easy smiles and touches into Dean’s simple, idyllic dreams he stares at the seals at the back of his hand and wonders where it had all gone wrong, and why Dean had never managed to understand him.

It’s only a matter of time before this issue rears its ugly head, but Dean always hopes that it would be later rather than sooner. After all, with Cas around being the impenetrable, immovable mountain that the former angel is it’s not like he’s going to be in danger of dying anytime soon. There’s no point in dragging a kid to this world so quickly when he’s still a while ahead of him.

Sam, of course, disagrees, and as much as Dean tries to protest otherwise his brother constantly brings up one very strong and quite irrefutable point: even with Castiel around there’s no way the former angel can go against Death, and now that he’s nearing fifty years of age it’s pretty clear that Dean’s no longer the spry man he used to be. Even with all the energy and passion he still has there is no way that the Righteous Man can beat the natural pains of aging, and after one harrowing incident that had resulted in Dean fracturing his ankle pretty badly it’s pretty obvious that he can’t ignore this issue any longer.

“Anything can happen, Dean,” Sam stresses to him for what seems to be the millionth time in this conversation, hands gesturing wildly as he states his point.

Dean, of course, only grunts and attempts to avoid eye contact with his brother. “It still doesn’t mean that I’m just going to drag a kid into this, Sammy, blood or no blood. It isn’t right.”

The younger Winchester lets out a sigh at that, moving a hand to push away the bangs that cover his eyes. Even from a glance Dean can see the wrinkles that line around Sam’s eyes and the streaks of white that his brother doesn’t bother to cover up anymore. He knows very well that the two of them are getting old, and it’s only natural that the organization is going to need an heir in the near future—but still, to put that kind of responsibility to a kid? Dean sure as hell doesn’t want that to happen to any kid.

“Look, Dean,” Sam starts again, already starting to pull out the puppy dog eyes; how he still manages to do that in his forties, Dean has no idea of knowing. “We both know that it’s not about the organization here. We can let the government handle that. What’s more important is Castiel.”

Castiel. Of course. Dean bites down on his tongue before he can answer with a smart ass remark, although he still does scowl quite visibly. “What about Cas?” he eventually asks, attempting to keep his voice neutral. It’s harder to do that, these days.

Sam instantly puts on the old bitchface. “You know what I mean, Dean. Stop playing dumb.”

“Can’t we just let him go?” the older Winchester returns, his voice half-questioning. Cas has been bound and enslaved to them for nearly two decades already; surely there’s no more need to keep him like this. Cas deserves his life again, no matter what it may be. If there’s anything that Dean’s at least certain about, it’s that Cas isn’t their dog. He’s never been anything like that—to think of him as such isn’t just fair to him.

His brother, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to see that. “And let him loose on the world?” Sam quickly retorts, the corners of his lips already curling in displeasure at the mere thought of letting Cas go. “Dean, you know we can’t.”

The anger lashes out from Dean before he can stop it. “Can’t or won’t?” he shoots back, facing his brother properly as his scowl deepens. “We weren’t supposed to be keeping Cas like this, Sam.”

“He’s too dangerous,” Sam replies, his voice terse. “You know better than anyone else just how powerful he is, Dean. We can’t risk letting something like that loose on the world.”

“Stop talking like he’s a threat!” Dean snaps out now, irritation flaring through him. “He’s our friend, Sam. Do you even remember that? He isn’t just a weapon for us to use.” When had that line even appeared? Cas was—is—still supposed to be their friend. When had that connection disappeared?

Since you bound him, the traitorous voice whispers back in his mind in an answer he knows but chooses to not acknowledge, and Dean continues to ignore it in favour of listening to his brother’s response. “Everybody knows that he’s not human, Dean,” Sam explains, attempting to be logical and calm about it even though that’s the last thing his voice seems to be. “He hasn’t even aged at all ever since the organization started, and it’s not a secret to anyone how powerful he is. Even now people aren’t certain about Castiel at all. If we let him run around the world free, nobody’s going to be able to sleep peacefully at night.”

Logically, Dean knows that Sam has put out nothing but reasonably valid points, but he just can’t help but think how entirely unfair all of this is to Cas. Nothing has been fair to Cas right from day one now that he thinks about it—and fuck, Dean can’t believe it’s already been that long. How the hell has Cas made himself go through all these years while being treated like this?

Sam gently breaks through his brother’s thoughts then, glancing at him with an understanding look on his face as the younger Winchester slowly speaks up. “I know how you feel, Dean, but we can’t risk it. It’s not just about us anymore, not like it used to be.”

Knowing that there’s nothing he can say to that, Dean can only close his eyes and let out a hiss of breath in-between gritted teeth. “I know, Sammy,” he says in a near mutter. “I know.”

Sometimes Dean wishes that he wouldn’t know too well.

Castiel has known about the child since the moment of his creation. Even when the child is nothing but a growing cluster of cells in his mother’s womb, Castiel can already feel the bond forming between him and the child. This child has been conceived with the knowledge of what will be thrust upon this boy’s shoulders, and he will be brought up for the day where he takes over Dean’s position as the head of the Winchester organization, and as Castiel’s new master.

Certainly, Castiel knows that there are others who could have taken Dean’s place easily—there is Benjamin Braden, for one, but that child is now an impossibility, his right of blood taken away the moment Dean had asked him to remove all traces of Dean Winchester from both the boy and his mother. Any child of Sam Winchester’s would have had the right as well, but Castiel knows that the bond will not be as strong then, nor would it be as suitable. It has to be a child born of Dean’s blood for the seal to hold and remain in place.

The link slowly forms itself during the nine months when the child is still within his mother’s womb. Castiel does not tell Dean this, but he senses the child’s every emotion, every action and feeling and sensation. It is a strange thing to be going through, to be feeling what an unborn child does and experiencing the world through his eyes. In another time, Castiel knows that this would have made him sympathetic, would have made much more receptive to the child in time to come.

But what Castiel feels when the child is born is not sympathy, and neither is it understanding. He recognizes it as loathing, plain and simple, and the painful realization that no matter how he wishes for it this child (Jacob, he hears the name being whispered and he knows that will be the boy’s name) will never be Dean. Jacob will never see him in the way Dean does, and Jacob will never understand what it is that Dean feels no matter how often his father attempts to explain to him. Jacob will feel no empathy for the supernatural, and he will not understand what is truly like to have a God that is bound to only to obey you and nobody else.

He watches Jacob grow up in the days and months and years that pass, seeing him turn from a toddler to a child and then a teenager and finally an adult. The bond grows and solidifies with the passing time, finalizing on Jacob’s twenty-first birthday when he finally takes over the organization and Dean can finally retire from his line of duty. Castiel continues to perform his duty without fail, still bound to the blood that enslaved him, forced to serve the son of the man who he can never disobey.

Castiel knows that this bond he has with Jacob will never fade; it will always be there, just as it has always been there with Dean from the moment the man bound him—and even earlier before then, when Castiel had dived into Hell and raised the hunter from perdition. Through the bond and in watching the boy grow up he knows Jacob perhaps even better than he will ever understand Dean, but all the same Castiel can only feel nothing but hate and disgust as he dwells in the knowledge that Jacob can never be, and will never be Dean Winchester.

For all the things that he’s been through, the last thing Dean expects is to witness hunting changing the way it had—and even less so for the fact that he’s the main instigator of this entire change. Tales and stories about the supernatural is no longer just a story told to kids and over campfires deep in the night—the whole world knows of its existence now, and with specialized branches being set up across the world now Dean can feel more assured than ever that people will be able to sleep safely in their beds at night. Jacob’s excellent direction contributes to the feeling as well; knowing that his son (Jesus, his son) is proving himself to be the leader he deserves to be can let Dean at least feel proud of the fact that he’s raised his kid well.

Years ago Dean wouldn’t have thought that he would ever be in a situation like this; but time is a strange thing, and now Dean more or less finds himself comfortable enough with the idea and his position. Of course, half the time he still has no idea at all what he’s doing—but somehow things have managed to run smoothly enough through all these years, and that’s more than what Dean can bring himself to ask for.

Ever since his official retirement and with Jacob taking over the helm, he hasn’t been able to talk to Cas as much as he used to. Of course, Dean knows that this is to be expected since Cas still works for the organization, serving Jacob as required of him in the seals that hold the former angel in place. In the years that’s passed Cas still looks exactly the same as Dean remembers him to be, right from that moment on a certain September night when an angel walked through a shower of sparks and took bullets, rounds of rock salt and a demon-killing knife to the heart. Dean knows that Cas’ unchanging nature has most of the organization shunning him, but somehow Dean can’t imagine Cas ever changing from who he is now. There’s no way he can ever change, not while the former angel is still bound under his blood.

The thought of that fills Dean with guilt. Even after all these years Cas still isn’t given his freedom and denied of his rights, things that Dean would have given in a heartbeat had he been able to. But duty and responsibility prevents him from doing so—and maybe even fear, because for all that he is now Castiel is still a God in his own right. Dean doesn’t know what has happened to the other angels or Heaven or Hell, but he supposes that’s something he will know once his time finally comes.

Dean starts ticking off the days in his head on the day when he turns seventy—after having died countless times already and knowing more or less what’s waiting for him, the thought of his death doesn’t terrify him at all. It’s either Heaven or Hell for him and Dean knows what both of them offer, so he feels no need to worry or concern. Wherever he ends up in that’s where he’ll be, and Dean will accept his fate regardless of his destination.

To his credit, he manages to last until he’s nearly ninety despite his long-standing alcohol habit. It doesn’t surprise him that it’s his liver that fails him first, and Dean sees himself spending his last days in bed. John—Jacob’s son, named after Dean’s father—visits him daily and begs for him not to leave, but Dean won’t do the little kid any favours. As much as he loves his grandson, he knows that it’s no longer up to him to fight against fate and destiny. He’s already done it once and the world had nearly suffered in the consequences of that action, and Dean’s certainly not dumb enough to go against Death this time round. It’s his time, and Dean knows it.

He feels his strength leaving him with each passing day. Sam tries to be at his side but he doesn’t fair much better, old age taking its toll on him as well as his brother struggles to stay strong for both of them. Dean knows the truth though—they’ve been through everything together both thick and thin, and death will be no exception. Either they are going to pass on together or minutes from each other. The organization is going on strong, and Dean can trust in Jacob to set a fine example for everybody else. He can rest easy in that fact.

His only regret will ever be the fact that even with his death Cas will never be free, and he’s not that much of an optimist to think that it will ever change.

The years pass by in the blink of an eye, and as time rolls on Castiel feels the very world shifting around him even as he remains immovable, unchanging for he is a God and Gods have never needed a reason to change. He remains the same as he has always been—the obedient hunting dog that everybody makes him out to be, the Winchester Organization’s most powerful weapon.

Jacob is not Dean but Castiel tolerates him for Dean, because Jacob Winchester is Dean’s flesh and blood and he has been taught by Dean well. Castiel can see it in his words, his manners, in the way he directs the organization—they all remind him of Dean, and in that manner Castiel tries not to think of how he’ll never truly see it from Dean again once his time comes. He can sense it from the energy that drains off the man’s body, in the way at how Dean can no longer bring out the effort and stamina to accomplish even the simplest of human tasks. He’s been bedridden for the last week now, and Castiel knows that the time has finally come.

The time and date pops into his mind naturally when he brings himself to the corner of Dean’s room. It’s January 27th of the year 2067, a mere three days after Dean’s eighty-eighth birthday. At 3:02 in the morning the sun has not risen yet, and would not be for a few hours yet. From the moment he appears in the room Castiel knows that Dean has registered his presence, his senses clear for the first time in months. Castiel also knows that this is the first time in years when Dean is awake at this hour, and that the both of them can sense the reaper who is waiting patiently from one of the other corners of the room.

It does not surprise Castiel that Dean is the one who eventually breaks the silence between them. He sees the human turning his head towards him, a corner of his lips curling into a small smile as he greets him. “Hey, Cas.”

Castiel steps forward, moonlight highlighting his features as he walks into the light that streams through the open windows. He continues to remain silent as he looks at Dean, watching those green eyes light up in recognition as the smile on his face widens in mirth.

“Still haven’t changed your attire, huh?” the human asks, and Castiel only nods his head in response, unable to say anything else.


“You are dying,” he states plainly, because there is no other way to put it. Castiel lets himself take one step closer to the bed, eyes unblinking as he looks over at Dean. “Sam is still sleeping, but he will pass on a few hours after you.” He pauses and tilts his head, regarding the human much more closely. “The organization will fully pass to Jacob once the both of you move on.”

Dean only lets out a snort and closes his eyes. “You really haven’t changed at all,” he states, and Castiel doesn’t respond. There’s nothing in that statement to respond to. Hadn’t Dean said something to that extent before, some time ago? Something about never changing, and that’s what he has simply done. He has never changed, even until now.

Without anything else to say, Castiel only continues to state the facts that lie in his head, voicing them out because he wants Dean to hear them for some unknown reason Castiel cannot comprehend in his mind. “There is not much to do for me these days. Most of our targets have gone into hiding, and unless they strike then there will be no action against them. That is the policy you have put in place.” He finds himself pausing again. “Jacob will continue to uphold that policy, even after your passing.”

“Damn straight he’d better,” Dean returns with a fondness that Castiel knows well enough—it is the fondness from father to son, something that Castiel himself can never truly understand. “If he doesn’t I’m going to get myself right back here and kick his ass one way or another.”


The answer comes out from Castiel before he can recognize it. “That would not be a good choice of action. Jacob would shoot you with the rock salt first.”

A grin is what Castiel sees from Dean in response. “If he doesn’t shoot me that’s when I’ll really get mad,” he replies with too much ease in his tone.

“Your body will be cremated,” Castiel states once more, wondering how the answers come out from him so easily when he hasn’t so much as talked to anybody before the line of work in years. “Putting your spirit back to rest will be hard if it happens.”

“I’m sure you’ll manage,” the human answers easily, waving it off with a bony, wrinkled hand. At one glance Castiel can already see the calluses and scars already long gone and faded from the combination of both age and time, replacing the marks with nothing but wrinkles that tell him of Dean’s old age, and of the minutes that now tick down to Dean’s last moments.

Castiel brings his gaze away from Dean’s hand to look at Dean again and reply. “It is not beyond me.”

The human snorts yet again. “I didn’t think that it would.” He attempts to shift in his bed then, but to no avail as his limbs fail to respond to his waning strength. Castiel makes no notion to move and help, but he takes another step closer, his eyes still unblinking as he looks at the spluttering flames which had once been Dean’s soul. In a matter of minutes, the soul would dissipate, and the spirit will move on with the reaper that still waits at the corner.

Dean looks back up to him once he realizes his failed attempt to move, a mirthless smile on his face as the human stares back at him. “You really need to stop doing the staring thing, man. People are never going to feel comfortable with that.”

“But you are,” Castiel returns without thinking, his gaze never leaving Dean. The moonlight doesn’t fully hit him but Castiel can see Dean well enough—darkness has never been an issue to him. He sees the grey hairs where they had once been dark, the wrinkles and lines that shape around Dean’s face and the bags that hang down from the human’s eyes. But the eyes themselves have never changed even once, and now it is the only thing about Dean that Castiel recognizes wholly as he looks at them and he sees Dean looking back at him, and for a moment the world seems to stand still around him.


Dean blinks once and Castiel unconsciously does so, and when he opens them again he finds himself standing next to Dean’s bed and looking right down at the human who’s about to pass away. For a moment the eyes seems to glaze over, but Dean blinks again and they’re clear once more, bright and brilliant and it’s everything that Castiel remembers about those eyes.

He watches as those green eyes stare up at him, strong and fierce and passionate even until now, and through their now-fading bond Castiel hears the words in his head even before the human says them.

“I love you.”

Once upon a time, that had been the only thing in the world that Castiel wants to hear. Dean had been his reason for rebelling, for fighting, for continuing to fight, for living on. But Dean had bound him and he had enslaved him and then had treated as somebody much more than that. He is just a weapon to the world, nothing more than the organization’s top hunting dog, but Dean has never stopped treating him as a friend, as a companion, as a comrade. Once Dean passes on it will just be Castiel, and for all that Dean has tried to teach his son, Jacob will never look at him the same way that Dean does to him.

He will remain in this world, bound and held to the orders of the Winchester bloodline. Jacob will be the first, and he will treat him fairly in his father’s memory. But Castiel is no fool—the sentimentality will only last for so long, and as the memory of Dean fades to nothing more than a story so will any compassion for him, and from there it is but a matter of time before he will be treated as nothing more than a mere weapon for their use. And finally, when there is no longer anything of the supernatural to kill, he will be thrown off and shunned, put away out of fear and uncertainty over the power he wields. It might take years or decades or centuries, but eventually Castiel knows that this will be his fate. He will never be free from the Winchesters now, and it is Dean who has placed this fate on him.

But even then, Castiel cannot hate him, for it is because of Dean he is like this, and it will be for Dean that he will continue to be like this. There is no other way to live his life, and Castiel knows that better than anybody else. Castiel loves Dean Winchester too much to hate him, but at the same time it is because of this love that he is placed in this life now, and he hates Dean Winchester for making him live through all of this.

So all Castiel can do is stare back down at Dean and put a thin smile on his face, replying to the words that he’s always wanted to hear, be it as Castiel the angel or as Castiel the new God.

“I don’t.”

Dean only smiles back in response, his expression both wry and understanding at the same time as he slowly closes his eyes and answers in a near silent whisper that echoes far too loudly in Castiel’s ears.

“I know.”

Dean Winchester passes away on a Thursday at 3:12am, January 27th 2067.

At that same moment, the angel once known as Castiel dies along with him and the being that remains is the enslaved god that the Winchesters bound to their will.