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No Rest for the Wicked (The Coffin, Candle, and Cross Remix)

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The briefing was troublesome and dull, and Castiel wished to be anywhere but in the middle of his garrison, listening to information he already knew. Anael was a dedicated soldier and successful leader, but she was decidedly pedantic under the best of circumstances and downright mind-numbing when it came to presenting a full and factual account.

“Shadowfolk — monsters,” Anael added in a pointless attempt to garner sympathy for the human view of Lucifer’s children, “have been sighted in greater numbers on the Western Continent.”

A quiet murmur of concern rippled through her audience, as they considered the implications of her statement. In past years, the mystery was in whether the numbers had actually increased or whether the shadowfolk were simply spreading out. Lately, the general consensus was that while there seemed to be more and more each year, an accurate count was impossible. Humans disposed to hunt the shadowfolk — or monsters, as Anael put it — regularly disposed of individuals and smaller groups without waiting for angelic assistance.

Regardless of human activity, it was a pointless discussion far as Castiel was concerned. Until Lucifer’s portal from Heaven was found, it didn’t matter how many were killed by humans; Lucifer would always send more. He was just about to point that out when Balthazar took care of it for him. After an incessant and repetitive exchange between all of the angels, the garrison finally agreed, for the time being, to put the discussion aside until better information could be obtained.

The next item was a rumor that the newest of Lucifer’s creations could now survive the sight of angel light and had to be physically touched to be banished. Castiel didn’t react — he’d already seen the early reports from the Western Continent and knew for a fact that the rumor was true. But this newest ability, combined with increased activity, was enough to raise everyone’s hopes that at long last, their brother may have slipped up and revealed, at the very least, the general location of the portal through which he sent these monsters to Earth.

"Lucifer is smarter than that," he heard Uriel mutter next to him, and Castiel wondered if his brother had decided there was an alternative to this endless war for Heaven. Uriel glanced at Castiel then quickly looked away when he noticed Castiel’s regard. No doubt he was worried that his comment could be misconstrued, and Castiel approved of that concern. It showed a definite bias toward self-preservation, which was a quality that was sorely lacking in many of their brothers and sisters.

The briefing went on for an interminable time longer, and when it ended, Zachariah pulled Uriel aside for private conversation. Castiel would have left but for a signal from Zachariah, so he settled himself to wait. However, it wasn’t very long before Uriel departed with a look of concern and consternation on his face.

Castiel asked, “Does he have potential?”

“Perhaps,” Zachariah answered. “I’ll know more when he reports on the activities of Balthazar.”

“That seems a bit cruel, even for you.”

“Uriel needs to loosen up a bit. Following Balthazar around will open his eyes, at least, to some of the possibilities available to us.” At Castiel’s quiet murmur of assent, Zachariah said, “He’s not why I asked you to stay.”

“Oh?” Castiel held himself still. Zachariah, for all that he was fond of Castiel, was also fond of object lessons, and he wouldn’t hesitate to “adjust” Castiel’s mindset if it suited him.

“Indeed, no. Tonight, I would like you to follow Anael.”

Castiel relaxed slightly. “To gather evidence for the Hierarchy?”

“Absolutely not,” Zachariah said with a smile. “I believe she is on the threshold of falling, and I want you to do what you can to encourage her.”

“Sir?”

“Castiel,” Zachariah said in an avuncular tone, “You have been her second-in-command since the end of the Pliocene epoch, isn’t that right?”

“I believe the exact period was —”

“— Something that doesn’t matter. It’s been quite a while, right?

“I suppose,” Castiel said cautiously. Then again, it wasn’t as if he were setting some kind of record. Zachariah held that honor, having been Michael’s second since Lucifer’s rebellion at the beginning of the Aquitanian age.

The Earth still bore evidence from that time of The Lightbringer’s rage, and Castiel sometimes wondered if the glaciers would ever truly go away. He hoped not. Despite their origin, they were rather beautiful in their destruction, and he sometimes liked to spend a quiet moment solidly in the heart of a glacier as it continued its slow progress forward.

“The point is it’s time for you to move up in the world. With Anael gone, you can take over the garrison. Once that happens —”

“— I can shape the attitudes of the garrison,” Castiel finished. It was a good plan, solid, even, because if his part in her fall were to be revealed, he could still claim he was merely attempting to council her to do the right thing. Given that the Hierarchy was extremely unlikely to ask Castiel to define what he meant by right thing, he was safe. “I like it.”

“I thought you would.” Zachariah patted Castiel’s shoulder. “Time to go. Remember, take a gentle approach with her.”

Castiel stared at him.

“Right. Well. Do the best you can,” Zachariah said before flying off.

~*~*~

Following Anael was actually a rare pleasure and reminded Castiel exactly why she was the garrison leader to begin with. Her movements were subtle and created levels of distraction on multiple planes of existence. Had any other angel been trailing her, Castiel was certain the angel soon would have been completely turned around. For Castiel, however, it was an exercise that teased at his limits but never fully challenged him. This was for the best, since it gave him at least a bit of time to consider how best to explain why he followed her.

If she were truly that close to falling, she would be extremely defensive and ready to fight. At the same time, she couldn’t simply attack, because that would raise too many questions — not only about her activities, but also about why she hadn’t informed her second of her destination. As the full implications of Zachariah’s request that he follow Anael started to play out in his mind, Castiel felt something akin to reverence for a mind that could create a trap so well crafted that it would be invisible even after it was sprung.

With his mind so wrapped up in following both Anael’s trail and Zachariah’s logic, Castiel landed clumsily — clumsily enough that she spotted him immediately. Though she didn’t immediately draw her sword, he could see by her posture that she was willing to do so at any moment.

“Why did you follow me, Castiel?”

“The shadowfolk,” he said. “I wished to talk to you about their apparent increase in numbers and strength.”

“Oh?” Her skepticism was obvious, and Castiel wondered if it would be enough to help her overcome her aversion to killing another angel, especially if she felt threatened. “That doesn’t explain why you followed me.”

Castiel once heard an angel proclaim that the best defense was a good offense. It was good advice, particularly now, and he said, “Once I started following you to talk, you immediately took evasive measures. Your efforts to deceive concern me, Anael. Have you at last succumbed to our brother’s invitation to join him in Heaven?”

She recoiled, as he hoped she would, and said, “Never!”

“Then explain,” he said plainly. He would never be able to generate the sympathetic tone that Anael used when talking to her inferiors, and even if he could, it would ring false. He had, after all, been her second for a very long time, and she knew quite well how unbending he could be.

Anael stood for long moments as she considered her options. Castiel already knew her only path was that of the truth, and he waited patiently for her to discern this on her own.

Eventually, she sighed, saying, “It might be good for you to see. You must stay near, however, and not let anyone see your true nature.”

“I don’t understand,” he said. And he didn’t. If they were going among angels, then all would know him immediately. If they were going among humans, then all should know him immediately so as to pay him proper respect.

“I’m — I’ve been working among humans,” she said, her voice breaking a bit as she realized the enormity of her confession.

Fortunately, Castiel didn’t have to attempt to feign shock at her words. When Zachariah said to encourage her to fall, Castiel had only considered it in the abstract, not in the day-to-day reality of an angel living among humans.

He didn’t bother to repress a shudder when he asked, “Why? Why would you do such a thing?”

“I know that you — that a lot of angels see humans as little better than the mud from which they were created,” she said, “but they aren’t like that. They have such short lives, yet they are capable of so much in that time. It was only a few thousand years ago that they were living in caves, yet now they’re traveling among the stars. They can hear the music of our Father’s creation, Castiel, and they can improve on it.”

That was blasphemy, pure and simple, and if Castiel hadn’t been under orders to encourage her to fall, he would have killed her where she stood. This must have shown, because Anael added quickly, “Please — please don’t be hasty in your decision. Let me show you the wonders of the human world. You will see for yourself why they are God’s favorite children.”

Castiel still needed time to collect himself, and so he said, “You still haven’t said why you’re working among humans. Your fascination isn’t enough to explain your aberrant behavior.”

At that, she stood up straight. “I plan to join them.”

“To fall,” he corrected.

“Yes. To fall. But I need to establish myself first, so that I will have a place. After.” She put her sword away and said, “If you feel you must kill me for this, I won’t fight you.”

Again, he was tempted, but Zachariah’s plan was sound and far more certain than something Castiel came up with in a bare moment. Anael’s fall wouldn’t wreak near as much havoc on the garrison as her death would, and Castiel would be able to use her defection as an object lesson for the others.

“You won’t return, you know, once you die,” he said.

“I know.”

“Even when we win Heaven back, your soul will remain in Purgatory.” Of course, so will all of the human souls, if Zachariah and Lucifer have their way, but Anael didn’t need to hear that.

“It will be worth it,” she said.

After a long pause, he said, “I remain unconvinced, Sister, that this is a righteous course of action for you to take.”

Although the words sounded false to his ears, they were enough to give her hope, and she said, “Please. Come with me tonight and see for yourself what I see in humanity. Even if you never fall yourself, perhaps you will gain a small measure of understanding for those who do.”

Castiel doubted that very much, but it didn’t matter. He was well on his way to achieving his mission, and no amount of blasphemy on her part would change that.

~*~*~

They’d initially landed in the center of the Western Continent, a region designated Nebraska by the humans, but they still needed to travel to Anael’s destination.

“Make sure the cloak covers your wings at all times,” she said.

“I still don’t understand why,” he grumbled. Though the fabric was of the finest linen, he didn’t like the weight of it. His wings felt far too constricted under the cloak, and he wanted nothing more than to throw it off and fly high into the sky.

“We hold ourselves like gods above them, and some resent that,” she said quietly with an unexpected note of guilt threading through her words.

“Some?”

“Not everyone loves us, and having witnessed the behavior of our brothers and sisters, I can’t blame the humans for their distrust.”

“I can,” he grumbled. “I take it this concealment means we will be going into an area with a high concentration of humans?”

“I work in a bar.” At his blank look, she sighed and added, “It’s a public establishment where humans gather to imbibe alcohol and watch sporting events on television.”

“This — was this the only job you could find?”

“Don’t be so judgmental. The building was under siege by shadowfolk some months ago. I saved the business and the owner. In exchange, she offered me the chance to start building a life as a human. It’s a good job, and I’ve learned a great deal about humans in general.”

“Including the fact that they resent us.”

“Can you blame them? We act as their overlords instead of as the grateful refugees we should. Think about it, Castiel. We were never meant to live here, and it’s only on human sufferance that we’re able to maintain a base of operations against Lucifer.”

He bit back the obvious retort that humans had about as much chance of killing an angel as the pair of them had meeting God. Instead, he asked, “What do you do at this — bar?”

“I serve drinks.” Her confidence faltered a bit at admitting to facilitating human intake of an intoxicant. Castiel couldn’t understand why that confession bothered her yet not the blasphemy of comparing human achievements to their Father’s creation.

“I see.”

“You don’t, but perhaps you will,” she said. “When we arrive at The Roadhouse, we’ll land in the back. There are rarely humans back there, so no one will see us land.”

“Fine,” he said. “Let us fly.”

“It’s more of a hop, really.” With that, she flew off, and Castiel followed as quickly as he could, cursing her ability to catch him off guard.

However, she was right about the distance. It was only a few wing beats away, hardly enough to be worth the exertion it took to fly. She settled his cloak around him once more, and he had to concentrate on not twitching it off. He wasn’t sure which offended him more — the notion that he had to hide his nature or the feel of the cloth weighing down his wings — but he tolerated both as he kept his mission at the front of his mind.

Satisfied with his appearance and her own, Anael at last led him to the front of the building. When they entered, a female human gave them both a sharp look. Anael went to the human, and Castiel followed.

“Ellen,” Anael said, “let me —”

“I thought we had an agreement,” the human said.

“We do. But Castiel is curious about humanity.”

Anael’s lie rang hollow, and Castiel was astonished that the human couldn’t hear it for herself. So much for human ability, he thought.

“Fine,” she said, a sour look on her face. “But he best not be calling himself Castiel, not here. We got too many hunters in tonight for that to end well.”

“I don’t understand,” he said.

The human answered, “Just call yourself Cas and try not to get yourself killed.”

It took a supreme effort not to flare his wings in offense as the human walked off. Anael grabbed his arm and added, “Remember, they resent us. And they have good reason. Now go, and try to blend in.”

Castiel was quickly reaching the point where Zachariah’s plans meant less than the desire to smite the building and everyone in it, including Anael. As a way to distract himself from the luxury of complete destruction, he looked around the room and took in the sight of all of the humans who had gathered there. Many were unwashed and stank of years of unhealthy living. Some pushed their anger into the open, bright and hot for everyone to see, while others sat hunched in on themselves lost in a miasma of despair.

He was about to write off humanity entirely when he caught sight of a human male standing at a table. The male held a stick and stared at a number of balls on the table, and when another male said something, the first shook his head and laughed. Humans didn’t ordinarily merit more than a glance from Castiel, but there was something about this one — something about the way human’s body seemed almost too small for the soul it held — that caught Castiel’s attention and held it.

With Anael’s instructions firmly in mind, Castiel approached the two humans with caution. The male who sparked Castiel’s interest was the shorter of the pair, and as he bent over the table with his stick, he looked up and grinned at Castiel, winking before using the narrow end of the stick to poke at the white ball on the table. With that, Castiel realized he was watching a practical demonstration of physics, and he thought he might have an inkling of why Anael was so drawn to humanity.

The rest of the demonstration went quickly, with the shorter human male sending each striped ball in turn down a hole along the edge or corner of the table. Once all the striped balls were off the table, the male took aim at the black ball, and it, too, disappeared down a hole.

The male held out his hand to the other, taller male and said, “Pay up, Sammy.”

“Fine, but you’re buying the rest of the night. You just cleaned me out,” the male said, as he withdrew scraps of paper from a leather pouch and handed them over.

“Yeah, no. I don’t think so. I’m guessing you’ll have to sweet talk Jo into buying the rest of your drinks for the rest of the night.”

“Dean!”

“You snooze, you lose,” he answered. Then, while looking directly at Castiel, he said, “Besides, I’ve got other things to do tonight than carry your drunk ass home.”

The other male followed the first one’s gaze and said, “Please tell me you’ll get your own room tonight.”

“Sure thing. Got lots of cash now, don’t I?”

“Whatever,” he said before wandering off to where Anael handed out drinks.

The male approached Castiel with a grin and said, “My name’s Dean. Like what you see?”

The challenge in his voice and attitude was as attractive as the glimpses his soul, and that aggression reminded Castiel of the posturing to which younger angels were prone when they first started training. Castiel decided to treat the human the same way he treated those under his wing.

With a hint of disdain he said, “I haven’t seen enough to make a determination.”

Unlike the angels under Castiel’s supervision, the male — Dean — didn’t back down. In fact, he seemed to take it as a dare and said, “Well, now, I think that’s a crying shame. Can’t have you standing there without enough information, can we?”

Anael approached with a bottle. She handed it to Dean and said, “Be polite. Cas is my younger brother.”

The order for civility was for Castiel’s benefit, no matter what Dean thought. The male was evidently important to Anael, and Castiel would honor that. For now.

“Hey, Anna, sure thing.” When she walked off, Dean moved a little closer to Castiel and said, “Now that big sis has had her say, why don’t you and me get to know each other a little better?”

Castiel’s nose flared as he caught scent of Dean’s arousal. The aroma was unexpectedly heady and reminded him of Heaven before Lucifer cast them all to Earth. The light of Dean’s soul seeped through his skin, and it was incredible to Castiel that no one else in the room, aside from him and Anael, could see just how strong and vibrant Dean was.

“I would like that,” he said, wondering just how far Dean might be willing to go to allow Castiel to truly get to know him.

Dean smiled at that and said, “Got a table back here.”

For the next stretch of time, Castiel deflected questions, asked questions, and listened as Dean described himself in such glowing terms that anyone else might think the human was the sole savior of the planet. The attempt to make himself more sexually appealing was as ridiculous as it was pointless. Castiel was fully prepared to bed the human if it meant he had a chance to explore that soul more directly. Too, he was certain that such a soul hadn’t been seen on Earth since the arrival of the last Christ child, so it was entirely possible that Dean’s description of himself as Emmanuel wasn’t entirely wrong, even it if was misguided. More importantly, if Dean was the next iteration of the Christ child, it meant that Father might possibly be nearby and watching.

So yes, Castiel would happily bed this human male if it meant having the opportunity for a more direct connection with God. He was about to suggest coupling when the other human male — Sammael? Sammy? — came to the table.

“Call just came in. Guy was attacked on the south side of the river, back behind Olson’s Pharmacy. Gotta roll.”

“Fuck,” Dean said. “You sure they’re still there?”

“They’re trying to break into the pharmacy, but Olson has too many wards up to make it easy for them.”

Castiel looked at the pair of humans and said, “I don’t understand.”

“Sammy — he’s my brother — and me, we’re hunters, right?”

“Yes, of course,” Castiel said, though judging from Dean’s words earlier, he had thought Sammy wasn’t a hunter as much as he was a liability, considering the copious tears Dean claimed he wept whenever they killed another of the shadowfolk.

“Attack like this, we need to respond,” Dean said. He stood to put his coat on.

“Your local angelic council can surely handle this intrusion,” Castiel said, seeing his chance to get closer to Dean slip away.

Dean let out a bark of laughter and said, “Oh, right. They’ll show up tonight, and next year, Santa Claus will deliver our Christmas presents through the exhaust pipe of the Impala.”

“What? I don’t —” Aside from the confusion of an impala having an exhaust pipe — surely Dean didn’t mean the animal’s anus — Castiel was trying to understand the anger behind Dean’s words.

“They aren’t exactly responsive around here,” Sammy said. “It’s safer for everyone if we take care of it tonight and ask forgiveness tomorrow.”

Castiel was appalled by their casual dismissal of the local council. Granted, the local councils had orders to allow the humans to handle as many of the shadowfolk as possible, but that didn’t mean a complete withdrawal from the battle.

“Yeah, and that way, we don’t get bitched out for dragging them away from all their little angel games,” Dean said. The bitterness in his voice was reflected in the brief dimming of his soul, and for the first time, Castiel began to question the wisdom of Zachariah’s plan.

“Hey, look, Cas. I think we both know where we were headed tonight, and it’s a bitch we didn’t get there. You gonna be back tomorrow night?”

“I could be,” Castiel answered, glad that his chance was only delayed, not ended.

“Cool. I’ll catch up with you then.”

“Of course.”

After Dean and Sammy left, Castiel went up to Anael and said, “Did you hear?”

“I did. Go. Do what you must,” she ordered.

Castiel was happy for the order, especially since Zachariah would be irritated when he found out that the shadowfolk were dead by an angel’s sword instead of human agents. The leader of the local council would be even angrier, but it didn’t matter. Castiel on his own, as second to Anael, had authority to act; supported by Anael’s orders, his position was unassailable.

Outside, he listened for a moment before hearing Dean and Sammy around the side of the building, arguing over whether to walk or drive. Dean’s refusal to let Sammy drive ultimately meant Sammy’s insistence that Dean needed the walk to sober up some won the day. The pair of them headed to the road to start walking; both carried weapons, and both had flasks hanging from their belts.

Castiel could have flown ahead and dealt with the issue himself, but with Dean and Sammy already on their way, it would have been difficult to explain. So he followed, easily blending into the night by shifting slightly enough to straddle two planes of existence.

When they reached the site of the attack, they found the shadowfolk, five in number, were gathered near the back entrance of a building — presumably Olson’s Pharmacy. One of them periodically dipped a claw into the dead human at its feet; it was using the blood to draw sigils on the entrance, and it would no doubt be able to remove the wards shortly.

Dean and Sammy, moving in perfect concert, split up to draw the shadowfolk away from their night’s work. Four of the beings took the bait while the fifth continued its spellwork. Castiel hung back in the hope that an intervention wouldn’t be required, and for a time, it wasn’t.

Dean and Sammy were both excellent shots, and the ammunition they used was sufficiently blessed to cause anguish to the shadowfolk they fought. Ammunition, however, ran out quickly, and they were left only with knives and holy water to defend themselves. Sammy managed to disable his pair to the point where he could bind them with an iron and salt circle, but Dean had managed to dispatch only one. The other was able to get close enough to rake its long claws down Dean’s back, and that was enough to move Castiel to action.

Stepping fully back into Dean’s plane of existence, Castiel dropped his cloak to the ground and spread his wings to allow the light of God’s grace to shine fully on all who were there. Dean and Sammy both winced and covered their eyes, but the shadowfolk turned out to be of Lucifer’s newest stock. Judging by their lack of reaction, Castiel thought it likely that Lucifer had somehow infused just enough grace into the beings to protect them but not kill them.

The skill alone of that effort was enough to garner Castiel’s admiration, but he frankly would have preferred to fight the lesser shadowfolk just then. The being that attacked Dean swept its own wings up and generated enough wind to destroy Sammy’s salt and iron circle. The pair broke their remaining bonds and started walking toward Castiel.

With all four back in play, Sammy ran toward Dean and said, “We need reinforcements!”

Dean nodded and stumbled off with Sammy, not looking behind him to see what was keeping the shadowfolks’ attention.

The leader, the one that damaged Dean, said to the others, “Don’t let it touch you,” before it began hissing out an Enochian spell. Again, Castiel was torn between admiration for Lucifer’s abilities and irritation that he was the one suffering at the moment. Castiel pulled out his sword and was able to behead two of the beings before the spell not only took down the building they were trying to enter, but also bound Castiel to the Earth.

~*~*~

Being buried was inconvenient. Being buried and cut off from the Host was irritating. Being buried, cut off from the Host, and having his wings still bound by a corrupt Enochian spell was incentive for Castiel to rethink his position on a number of issues, starting with Zachariah’s plan to regain Heaven.

Clearly, Zachariah had lost what common sense he once had if he thought Lucifer’s new and improved shadowfolk were, in any way, a good thing. Castiel should not have been taken out as quickly as he was, which meant Lucifer had lied to Zachariah about the relative strength of the new breed. Castiel was bitter about that but not as surprised as he should have been, given Zachariah’s constant assurances that Lucifer didn’t lie — not to angels, anyway.

The only real surprise for Castiel was that Lucifer had learned to lie convincingly. Or perhaps it was Zachariah who lied. Either way, they both had to be stopped from corrupting the angels who still believed that God had a direct hand in the battle. Zachariah alone was proof enough that God had stepped back. What that meant in the long term was something that would have to be sorted out at a later date.

Castiel was about to start toeing a very fine line, indeed. And it would have to be him, and him alone. Anael absolutely had to fall if Castiel was to start a rearguard action against Zachariah. He wondered if Michael was part of this farce or if he was still grieving over Lucifer’s betrayal. Castiel doubted he could count on him for any help, but it would be useful to know how far gone Michael was before setting his own plans in motion.

Lost in his thoughts, Castiel barely noticed the passage of time.

~*~*~

Eventually, humans came to remove the rubble of the building and search for those who might have died when it collapsed. He heard Dean call out, “Hey! I found a foot. Looks like it’s still attached to a leg.”

With his wings no doubt visible, even under the layers of wood and plaster, Castiel was left with a choice of accepting Dean’s disdain for angels or wiping his memory clean. Certainly, the memory wipe would be easier, but Castiel thought human assistance might be useful at some point, and one way to ensure it was available when he needed it was to earn Dean’s trust. He thought that might mean an unfortunate end to his plans to bed Dean, but given a choice between stopping Zachariah and Lucifer and satisfying his curiosity about his Father’s will, Castiel knew which path was more urgent.

A short while later, Castiel saw daylight, and almost immediately after that, he saw Dean’s face harden as he looked down on him.

“An angel? You’re a freaking angel?”

“You can’t honestly believe a human being would have survived having a building fall down on them,” Castiel said, as he struggled out of the debris. Thankfully, no one from the local angelic council was in attendance; he hoped, however, that Anael would return soon. He would need assistance to loose his bindings, and this would provide the perfect opportunity for him to convince her to fall.

“Why not? Other people have.” Dean’s belligerence, while annoying, was also rather intoxicating. He asked, “Are you the one that brought the building down?”

Sammy said, “Dean —”

“No, seriously, was it you?”

“No. It was not me,” Castiel said, his momentary ardor for Dean dissipating as he grew conscious of the filth coating him from head to toe. He was testy and all together unhappy with the fact that he would have to walk back to The Roadhouse. “It was shadowfolk that did that. They’re changing. Getting stronger.”

“Let me guess — that’s why the council doesn’t give a shit anymore. Because they can’t be sure of a win if they go up against these guys. Am I right?” While Dean’s pose was confrontational and meant to be threatening, Castiel could only be amused. He found Dean’s manner to be that of a kitten arching its back at a large predator, because despite the fact that his strength greatly diminished by the spell, Castiel could still reduce Dean to his component molecules.

“You are wrong, in fact.” Castiel made a brief attempt to dust himself off then gave it up as useless. “There is more going on than you know, and the shadowfolk that wrought this destruction are only a small part of it.”

“Oh really,” Dean said, his voice thick with disbelief and betrayal.

“Really.” Castiel stumbled then righted himself, and then he started walking back to The Roadhouse. The human female, Ellen, would be able to help him contact Anael if she weren’t already there. He raised his voice so that Dean and Sammy could hear him and said, “If you wish to know more — especially about how to get angels back into Heaven and off this world — feel free to join me at The Roadhouse.”

He heard a brief, vicious argument between Dean and Sammy, and then he heard Dean say, “All right, damn it. We’ll hear what he has to say, and that’s all.”

“Fine,” Sammy said. “But just remember, if you decide to have sex with him, be careful of the wings. You’re allergic to down, remember?”

“Oh, fuck you.”

Despite Sammy’s insulting comment about his feathers, the exchange was enough to make Castiel smile. Perhaps he had a chance with Dean after all. And if he had a chance with Dean, then perhaps he had a chance to defeat Zachariah and Lucifer at their own game.