Often I feared I would drown beneath everything: the pressure, the loss, the pain. I found things that kept me going, like helping Dean, laughing with Sam, and flying. I enjoyed what I was, but I lost it, all of it, because of one foolish mistake. I just wanted things to be like they were before. Before this.
The mental institution embraced the color white. I hated white. I asked Meg why they kept everything such an empty color, but she didn't answer me. Maybe she wanted me to think it over myself, and I eventually decided that everything was white because everything is that way in the beginning, when everything that you you were had just started.
After my birth, and after my wings began to grow, they were white. White as fresh snowflakes in that moment when they haven't touched the earth yet. The earth is beautiful, but it is tainted in some ways. When the snow reaches the soil, it becomes dirty and is no longer pure and white. My wings were snow. And then I witnessed the world for what it was, and I laid eyes on Dean Winchester.
My wings turned black just a few years after I began. I could remember that.
White represented a blank slate, a calm state of mind, and freshness. When everything is white, you can see the stains more easily. It's as if they are screaming to be noticed. I think I had more stains on my soul than anyone else, but nobody noticed, nobody mentioned them. These stains I carried with me, no matter what color I wore. But here, they wanted me to carry them on a white background, so that someone could see. Like they were flags, a testimony to my craziness, a testimony to everything terrible I had done that I had buried in a human memory.
If I would escape from here, I would let my victory flag be white, and I would let the world shape my beginning this time, instead of doing it myself. My hands were incapable, obviously enough.
"You over-think things," Lucifer said in the corner, with that smug expression he wore so well. He tossed a rubber ball against the wall, catching it and repeating the motion. Over and over until the constant slap against the plaster echoed in my mind again and again. I winced unintentionally.
"I mean, all you do is think. Why don't you say something? Sam talked to me."
I dared not think of Sam having to deal with his perpetual chatter, mainly because the ordeal was a product of my mistakes and I couldn't bear to think I had hurt both of the Winchesters so severely.
"Oh, you hurt them all right. Don't get me wrong, they have a soft spot for you because you're kind of like a lost, kicked puppy. But remember, their kindness is spawned from pity."
"You aren't real," I told him.
I ignored him as he growled and sprang towards me, bringing his face close to mine in a sudden fit of anger.
"I am real." His voice was venomous. "I will always be real, and you've let me be real. You've let me creep into your mind hour by hour, and I'm going to drive you right over the edge."
I didn't dare tell him that he already had, that he had wounded my spirits beyond repair. A polite young woman knocked on my door and offered to walk me to the recreation room where I could do a puzzle or play a game with the other delightfully crazy people.
I accepted her offer, grateful to be out of the room.
The more space I put between myself and Lucifer, the saner I became. In fact, when I tuned him out to the best of my ability, it didn't hurt as much. He became a song that once moved me beyond all else, but after several listens, I adapted; I knew what came next, and I knew the melody. The things he said were cruel, but I found myself singing along, trying to convey to some part of myself I was sane, that I just needed someone to argue with, someone to believe me when I said I was sorry.
I followed the woman into the room-which was white-and sat down at a low table and pulled a puzzle close to me, examining the box. It announced that it had 2,500 pieces, but I felt bemused thinking about how many of those were missing. The patients at the hospital were a broad spectrum of crazy, from voices in one's head to sociopaths to people I didn't believe were crazy at all, just misguided prophets.
One sat down across from me, a petite girl with choppy black hair that I had become good friends with. She had stated to me in the first week that she had cut her hair herself and if she could get out she would be a cosmetologist. Lucifer had a field day and offered many unkind words, not that she heard them. But I told her then that her hair was lovely and she would excel at such a profession. I thought maybe I was getting better at the human conversation thing.
"You aren't going to try that, are you? You know Jim ate some of the pieces?" she asked, eyeing the box.
Jim Lopez. He tried to kill his wife because the voices told him to do it. I could see him in the corner, watching me angrily as if he had a special claim to the puzzle.
"I have decided to start trying new things," I told her, opening the box and dumping the pieces out.
She observed me a moment before shrugging and scattering the pieces with me, arranging the brown pieces with the other brown pieces and placing the green pieces near the blue.
"What's this puzzle of?" she asked.
I halted in my sorting and held the puzzle up to show her the picture of two birds sitting on a branch; blue jays. I thought they were very pretty birds, personally. Maybe one day I could take up the odd hobby of bird watching.
"How many pieces do you think are missing?"
The girl, Lenora, constantly demanded that I be talking, almost as if she could sense that Lucifer hung nearby, trying to fill his own words in every gap that he could.
"Then why are you doing it?" she asked a heartbeat after I replied.
She didn't watch me as she talked. Instead, she started on the corners of the puzzles intently. She questioned my motives, but she encouraged them all the same.
"I think it's okay if something is defective or incomplete. It still deserves a chance. I don't think it shouldn't be ignored because someone else took a part of it. If this puzzle has a few pieces missing, that is okay. I believe it only makes it that much more complete."
Lucifer rolled his eyes, snorting. "It's just a puzzle that psycho over there tried to make a snack out of."
I disregarded him and scrutinized Lenora as she deftly worked, her pale face skewed with intense concentration. Though, as Lucifer had stated, it was just a puzzle.
Lenora took in the silence and must have felt compelled to conqueror it with her next words.
"So, you wanna break out?"
Her proposal threw me, but I righted my trails of thought quickly before I did something foolish, like instantly agree and make a run for the nearest exit.
"You know. Break out. Maybe that one chick who is always obsessively watching you can help us."
Meg. I could feel her steady gaze on my back. She must have followed the other nurse that led me to the room. I didn't acknowledge it, however, and took in the girl sitting across from me, studying her for the first time. What brought the question on?
Focusing on Lenora's face, I realized, for the first time, that she had freckles. Light ones that gathered around her nose more than any spot, but they were there all the same, and they seized my attention.
Her eyes were green.
"C'mon Castiel. We could get out of here. I have a mom waiting on me, a father I'm going to chew out for dumping me in this shit hole. And you have…"
She trailed off, unsure.
"Well…do you have anybody that you love? Somebody that loves you?"
Lenora always made me think, an ironic fact considering the words that stumbled from her mouth were often not thought out at all.
Did I have someone that loved me? No. I didn't believe that for a second, but I did love Sam and Dean, and even though they had left me here for reasons that I hardly understood, I wanted out. I wanted to be back by their sides.
"Yes, and we all know you looooooove Dean."
Lucifer puckered his lips at me, but I didn't acknowledge him in anyway; it would only encourage him.
"Yes, I have someone that I love. Maybe we should break out. Meg could get us out, I am almost positive. I will ask her tonight."
Lenora beamed at me and returned to the puzzle, which we finished after only two hours, spent under Jim's almost jealous stare. He fascinated me, but I felt that it might be unwise to approach him in a friendly manner.
The result of our work revealed only five missing pieces; two on each bird and one golden piece of the distant sun. I thought it looked just fine.
"Meg, I wish to leave," I announced that night when she brought my medicine. She laughed me off, like I had told a joke, but narrowed her eyes when she noticed my expression.
"You aren't going anywhere. You're insane. Literally."
"She's right," Lucifer crooned from the corner, where he was performing a series of yoga stretches.
I refused to give up. Now that Lenora had made the offer, the prospects of my escape and finding the Winchesters consumed me thoroughly. I wanted nothing else but to escape.
"No, not a chance. You're better off zapping yourself out of here."
This jolted me as memories crashed through my mind like waves; my fingers on Dean's head, the feeling of wind swinging through my feathers, and the light that flashed by while I flew at speeds that simply did not exist. I could 'zap' myself out of here, couldn't I?
Meg watched me warily, and I knew she was suspicious.
"I just thought it would be fun to hunt," I explained in my most innocent voice. It worked; her shoulders relaxed and her frown tilted up a bit.
"Yes, of course. You can hunt later, okay? Now, take your meds and go to sleep."
Lucifer yawned as he performed another erotic stretch.
"I have to say. It's gross that you love a man and all, but if I were a human, I would get sick of women like her. Maybe I would try the different flavors of humanity."
"You annoy me," I replied, climbing into bed.
"And you are delusional. You actually think that if you broke out of here the Winchesters would want you around? They ditched you here for a reason, and you just can't seem to understand that, can you?"
He knew he had hit a sore spot, so he continued digging, his voice becoming fiercer as he went on.
"You do not exist to them," Lucifer hissed. "You will never again exist. You are just a shadow behind them, and believe me, Cassy boy, they like the light. They deal with enough darkness."
"You do not exist," I snapped, placing the flat pillow over my head, praying to my brothers and sisters that it could block him out. "You do not exist."
I repeated it again and again, waiting for it to mean something, waiting for it to hold me above the waters that threatened to pull me under.
Lucifer remained mercifully silent.
The morning dawned with no further words from him, so I took the opportunity to practice 'zapping' places. The gaps in my memories were filled each day as I dreamed and followed trails of thought that sometimes Meg and Lucifer left by accident, and I knew I could do this.
My wings were still there, but they were just damaged and hurt. Stretching them out timidly, I felt the air around me shift with their presence.
Focusing intently, I pictured myself outside in the parking lot, willing my wings to somehow take me there. After a moment of almost painful concentration, I gave up and considered other methods that might work. Lifting my wings, I felt the muscles in my back roll with them, bringing a smile to my face. Yes, I remembered this. I stretched them to their full length, and then folded them back to me, around me. They shimmered in the faint sunlight, coal black with highlights of purple and blue.
They were not the clean white of beginnings, but I enjoyed them. The rest of me had been marked clean by this place, but I still carried everything important in the feathers. They represented me, and the bond I shared with Dean. I had carried him out of Hell, empowered by these wings. I had shown them to him, shown him what had aided me in saving him. I had never shown a human my wings before.
"Hey, I had wings, too," Lucifer called from my bed. He flipped through a magazine Meg had left for me, taking various quizzes that told him what type of kisser he was and how he should approach men.
"You didn't deserve them."
I thought that he might be angry, but he only shrugged, uncaring.
"How do I fly out of here?" I asked him, not expecting an answer. I had mainly asked out of frustration.
"You tap into your grace. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, listen to your vessel's heartbeat and then imagine the wind taking you away."
I turned slowly to stare at him, rather lost and confounded.
"Is that really the way? How can I trust you?"
He shoved the magazine off the bed and sat up straight, watching me cautiously. I didn't understand why I was listening to this small, shattered fragment of my mind, but maybe, if those shards reflected me, they held the secrets to flight.
"You didn't hear that from me. And I just love rebellious angels. Like the way you love Dean."
"I don't understand why you repeat that constantly. I love Sam and Dean. They have been very good to me, despite all I have done."
I tilted my head, trying to see him at a new angle. He disgusted me, and stood for all that I had fought against as a soldier of Heaven. But he had become a part of me, literally, and I couldn't help but to be curious as to what my mind was trying to tell me.
"You love Dean like Sam loved Jessica. That is, If Jessica was an angel and Sam was a bitch who didn't care and left her in a mental institution. Shows how fucked up your relationship is, huh?"
"I am in love with Dean?" I inquired. Lucifer had really taught me a lot about myself the past few days.
He refused to answer with anything more than a rolling of his eyes. This had become his trademark 'you're a fucking idiot' gesture before he vanished.
I was hesitant to take his advice, but the thought of flying free, to Sam and especially to Dean appealed to me enough that I sucked up my pride and closed my eyes.
Taking a deep breath, I focused on my heartbeat and the warmth that filled my chest-my grace-and imagined the wind taking me away, brushing against my feathers and carrying me to the parking lot. I had pegged it as a nice starting point for me to practice.
I felt no shift in the atmosphere, to my immense disappointment. I waited a moment more before accepting defeat. Blinking open my eyes, I took in the surroundings unconcernedly before I felt my face stretch in shock. I had done it! I stood in the parking lot, welcoming the sun in a way I hadn't done in such a long while, though I had not been in the institution for a long span of time.
I wondered what Dean would say when I found him.
I slipped back into my room before Meg could notice my absence and ruin the plan. Not that Lenora knew just how we were getting out; I could be sure that it would shock her, but maybe a little crazy was something we were all used to.
"Would you like to go do another puzzle?" Meg asked me around two o'clock. I had not dared practice anymore in case she realized I had tapped into another old power. She didn't look wary about the possibility anymore; she had returned to her sly self, and I indulged her.
"Yes, please. I want to do the ocean one."
"That's nice," she responded, fixing her ponytail absently.
Lenora sat at the table when I walked in, drawing on a sketchpad. Her tongue poked through the corner of her mouth as she shook her head and erased something. I started towards her, but Meg called me back and bent down to whisper in my ear.
"Hey, Cas. That chick is a bucket full of crazy. Why don't you avoid her for a bit? Why don't you play on your own this time?"
I shook my head and turned to join Lenora, not even considering her subtle order. I appreciated her staying with me, but I had a sinking feeling in my gut that told me that she wanted to use me for something, and the fact of the matter was I had learned not to trust demons.
"Hello, Lenora," I greeted.
She perked up, beaming.
"Oh, you can call me Leo, you know. That's what Mom called me. Like a lion, yeah?"
I nodded. I was familiar with lions, though she didn't exactly resemble one.
"So, are we going to escape?"
She propped her elbows on the table, letting the sketchpad fall to the floor, and gazed at me with eyes brimming with excitement. She already knew the answer.
"Yes. We will wait until they call everyone back into their rooms and then I will transport us out."
"You will?" her eyes widened with surprise, but she didn't question me beyond that, and because she didn't, I simply told her. She must have known what angels were anyway.
"I'm an angel of the Lord. Half-way at least."
She blinked rapidly, opening her mouth and closing a few times before finding an appropriate response.
"Well that's just fucking dandy, isn't it? I'm a prophet and your brothers and sisters are the most talkative little shits I have ever known."
I was overcome with laughter: something that was startling but welcomed. I enjoyed laughing very much.
"Have you not heard yourself, Leo? So, while we are waiting and passing time, tell me about your family."
She chuckled with me, eyebrows raised and an awkward smile adorning her face. I believed she thought she had insulted me by insulting my family, though I could care less.
"Well," she began, pulling another puzzle in front of us, "my mom is a famous author and she loves parties. We have a huge house in Maryland. She's my best friend in the whole world. She divorced my dad because he insisted on bringing me here and he kind of just lost his mind, but in the end I told her I would stay here until I had a handle on things, and I think I do. But the thing is I think someone wants to keep me here."
I wondered how long it would take her to figure that much out; the demons were here for the prophets just as much as they were me. No archangel resided over Leo yet. She wasn't experienced, from my observations. They certainly wouldn't want her going anywhere.
"I can't wait to see Mom again."
The wistfulness in her tone hurt me, and I decided that she would see her mother again, no matter what. I had come to truly care for Leo.
After a few hours, the patient s began to slip away, back to their rooms, their prisons. Leo and I did not budge, to the discomfort of several of the nurses. They watched us through narrowed eyes, whispering to one another. Meg watched me angrily with her arms crossed. I didn't think she approved of my new friendship at all.
"We are leaving now," I informed Leo calmly, reaching for her hand just as Meg took her first steps towards us. She would stop us, keep me confined here until Dean and Sam decided to come back for me, and who knew when that could be? They might forget about me, or they might be ashamed of me. Maybe they would never come back. I couldn't stay confined in white walls waiting for the answers that may not come. I had to go.
"Castiel!" Meg called desperately, before I closed my eyes and imagined the wind taking me away, which, mercifully, it did.
Leo gave a startled yelp and tugged away from my grip, and only then did I dare open my eyes to survey my surroundings: an abandoned gas station with rusting signs.
"Where are we?" she demanded, watching me from the corners of her eyes. I believed I owed her an explanation, but I couldn't form one in my mind just then. They all sounded so far-fetched.
"I agree," Lucifer said from behind me.
"We are on the outskirts of a small town in Maryland. I thought you said your family lived in this area."
Leo relaxed a little, and, as she spun to take in the sights, she nodded as if the terrain were familiar upon closer inspection.
"Yep. We can walk to my house from here. Mind you, it's going to be a two hour walk at the least, but exercise never hurt anybody. And I want you to meet my mother."
"How sweet," Lucifer yawned, looking around as well.
"Why?" I asked, genuinely curious. The question was not meant for Lucifer, but he felt the need to answer before her.
"Because no one else wants you. Better take the kindness before she gets sick of you, too."
"Because you just helped me big time! I can finally go home! Come on, Cas, let's get going."
She beamed, and I decided maybe Lucifer was right; maybe I should take any kindness I could get. The Winchesters might be good to me, but I didn't deserve it, in my own opinion.
Lucifer trailed behind us as we began our walk, sneering.
But I had helped Leo. We were friends. Maybe I did deserve this.
"Maybe," Lucifer conceded.
During the walk, Leo sang old folks songs, such as 'Sweet Chariot'. She had a high, sweet voice that split the quiet night air and made the long walk more comfortable, more bearable.
Cars drove past, some slowing with interest but they decided to keep going pretty fast when they took in our white scrubs and our messy hair. I suppose we looked more the serial killer type, but I still felt wary of them. Any of them could be a demon, or have means to harm us. I longed for ignorance against those possibilities, but it was too late for that. I had spent over two thousand years reveling in my ignorance, right up until I first laid my hand on Dean Winchester. Then, everything was different.
"I'm out of songs to sing," Leo admitted after a lapse of silence I hardly noticed. "So let's talk. You're really an angel?"
I nodded curtly, gauging her expression before continuing.
"I'm not much of one anymore, though. I rebelled against Heaven."
"Hey, me too. Join the club," Lucifer interjected.
"Why would you do that?" Leo asked, tipping her head.
"Oh, do go on, Cassy. Tell someone the truth for once," Lucifer said mockingly.
I didn't take orders from the likes of him, but I decided to believe that those words were from my subconscious and not his spite.
"I fell in love with the human I was meant to save."
Her face glowed with interest, but she restrained herself for once and only gave a breathy sigh, placing her hand on her chest.
"That's so romantic."
Lucifer hummed in agreement, mimicking her gesture, more to mock than encourage me.
I grasped for a topic, unfamiliar with human banter. Focusing on her small frown, I asked, "Why did your mother call you Leo?"
She brightened at that, like we were back on that familiar ground that she could work with, something normal for her to discuss.
"She used to read me that story about the lion. Oh. I suppose you don't know that one, being an angel and all. There was a story about a lion who tried to be king of the animals, but in the end he ran away."
My insides froze; Lucifer had a laughing fit behind me.
"He got lost for a long time and tried to find his mate, but she had thought he had died, since no one had seen him for a long time. He searched and searched for her, hoping that they might run away together, but try as he might, he couldn't find her. He worried that he had lost her because he had been a coward, but he loved her so much that he returned to the kingdom, to try to fix things. He wanted to make her proud."
"Maybe her mommy was a prophet, as well," Lucifer commented breezily from right beside me.
"Did she come back for him despite everything?" I asked from numb lips.
"Oh yes, she loved him. But she had been angry, you see. The lion had made mistakes, and even his mate wasn't sure he deserved forgiveness. But when she saw how strong he had become, despite everything, she knew that she loved him. She stayed, and took back all her unkind words. She loved him, despite all the opposition and his scarred soul, because he truly had a lion's heart. A heart of pure gold."
"Your story won't end like that. Don't even dream it, little brother. You don't have a future outside of me. I'll always follow you. You can walk to the ends of the earth and I'll be right here, breathing down your neck."
It was getting harder and harder to ignore him, but I couldn't acknowledge him in front of Leo.
"I am glad the lion found peace."
"Oh, yes," Leo smiled dreamily. "He was very happy in the end. But he had to face a lot of terrible things before he found his peace. My mom hoped I could be strong like the lion. I think she knew what was going to happen to me. She doesn't speak of it, but I think the angels speak to her, too."
"Bingo," Lucifer said, exasperated.
We walked in silence for a bit longer, until Leo surrendered and repeated her songs.
Leo's mother easily owned the largest mansion in the town; it was four stories and had tall archways and marble floors. Seeing it, I found myself dumbfounded. How could a woman of such wealth let her now ex-husband send her daughter away to a mental institution?
Leo ran the length of the driveway, unable to suppress her excitement another instance. She flung open the door and disappeared around a doorway, leaving me to follow reluctantly behind.
"Leo, my darling!" I heard someone cry in delight. Yes, her mother loved her. It enriched her tones and I felt it as I could feel the temperature of the room. It must have been hard for her mother to know that Leo remained at the institution for an indefinite time.
Turning into the large living room, I could see Leo in her mother's lap, their arms thrown around each other while tears streamed down their faces. I recalled that Leo couldn't be older than 21, so young to have dealt with so much.
"You have a friend!"
Her mother caught sight of me, albeit not eagerly; she took in my clothes and knew that I had come from the same place she had. That led to the questions.
"Did you two break out?" she asked hesitantly.
"Yep!" Leo chirped, not giving away anything else.
"That's my girl."
Her mother's hazel eyes twinkled, and I knew that we would get along just fine; she acted a lot like Leo, and that suited me perfectly.
She led me eagerly to a guest bedroom, chatting about how brave we were, and then disappeared, only to return a few minutes later with clothes.
"My ex-husbands," she explained when she saw my curiosity. "I kept them to burn or maybe give to charity, whatever happened first. But the years passed and I couldn't quite say goodbye to them."
Sighing, she vanished again, this time to give me space. I paced the room, taking it in with wonder. The guest bedroom had an adjoining bathroom with marble countertops and a fancy shower. A shelf contained a dozen shampoos and soaps for both men and women. Picking one up, I wondered if I should attempt to take a shower. Did I stink?
"Yes, terribly. But I wasn't going to say anything," Lucifer said, perching on the counter.
Reluctantly, I pulled back the curtain and peered inside, studying the faucet. I supposed I needed one, if I was staying in such a house for who knew how long. I needed to look my best. I twisted the knobs so that the water tumbled out in hot sheets from the shower head, fogging up the mirror in minutes.
I shook my trench coat off, folding it very carefully and placing it in the towel cabinet so that nothing could happen to it. I'm not sure why, but it became important to me that it be kept safe. It became a symbol that told me that Dean hadn't forgotten me. Not just yet.
The scrubs, I folded not so carefully and stuffed them in the tiny trash can. I ripped my ID bracelet off and tossed it in on top of them. I had to find a way out of my insanity, before it overcame and claimed me. What would I do if I couldn't escape my own mind?
"You would get to keep me, lucky bastard. Hell, I would love to have another me around. I'm great."
Lucifer smirked as I stepped into the shower and drew the curtain, shutting him out for a glorious few minutes while the scalding water crashed over me. I liked the feeling of warmth. I had been very cold for so long, submerged in dark waters and then crushed beneath my repressed memories of being an angel.
I stayed in as long as I could, testing the different soaps and smelling them carefully, thinking about the cologne Dean wore and what smells he tended to enjoy. I felt like I had only been in a few minutes, but when I stepped out and back into the room, I saw I had been under the water for an hour. Not bad, compared to the past few months I had been lost, but still too long. I could do so much with an hour now that I had a better handle on who I was.
Leo's mother had given me a variety of clothes, which were not my forte'. I had never exactly changed clothes. I took what Jimmy had on at the time and that was that.
It was only when I forgot myself that my mind told me I was human, and my body believed it. Emmanuel might know what to wear, but I had forgotten him too. In fact, I wondered who I even was then.
"Oh God, you aren't going to over-think this crap again, are you?"
Lucifer pulled out a sweater with an odd pattern wrinkling his nose.
"I might," I admitted, and I did.
Maybe I had stopped being Castiel when I first saw Dean, when I first grasped his arm. I hadn't expected the mission to mean that much, for him to mean that much. He had been placed in a darker part of Hell, had been in the middle of torturing a misguided man who had killed his wife and didn't think he deserved Hell for it. I didn't see much of Dean that was left, just a ghost of a man struggling and crying out in his own pains, but when I grabbed him, saw his eyes widened and dilated with the fear and exhilaration, I drew in a sharp breath and simply reveled in his EVERYTHING for a moment. I left my mark there, to say I had done my mission. But that, I realized was the end of the angel Castiel.
From the moment I began to care about Dean, more than angels ever, ever should, I was Cas.
Cas, in my own opinion, was a better person, a better human, though many would disagree right then, than Castiel could ever hope to be. I had been shattered, and all my pieces rearranged until the image in the mirror cracked. I had pieces of an angel, of a human, of a friend, of a mental patient. The picture, however broken and distorted, was still Cas. I could still be the person that Dean relied on.
I picked out black slacks and a white button-up shirt, and then searched for a blue tie. Leo's mother had only brought a red and black one, and in the end I decided the shirt did not need a tie. I retrieved my trench coat and put it back on. It felt like a safety blanket.
Leo knocked on my door, inviting me down for dinner. I hadn't eaten much since I recovered my memories, but my stomach ached at the thought of food, so I hastily followed her down the winding staircase and into the elegant dining room. The table was far too long for a woman living alone, but with Leo and myself sitting beside the chair at the end, one part of it became loved.
"So, Castiel," her mother began after I had scarfed down my dinner, "where are you heading next? You know, you are welcome to stay for a bit longer."
By the glint in her eyes, I could deduct that she thought something had happened between Leo and I, and I knew setting the record straight might just end my welcome, but it wasn't fair for her to think more than what was going on.
"I appreciate it ma'am, but I only wanted to escort Leo home. I must leave in the morning; I have someone waiting for me."
Her mother seemed disappointed, but my courtesy toward Leo still had won me a place here, until tomorrow when I could begin my search.
"Ask her about being a prophet," Lucifer whispered to me. I didn't exactly want to listen to him, but I couldn't help my own curiosity.
"Are you a prophet as well?"
She coughed, slightly choking on her food. Perhaps I should have waited until she had finished chewing. After Leo hastily leaned over and patted her on the back, she cleared her throat and nodded reluctantly.
"Yes. But a minor one. Leo, dear, why don't you go get ready for bed?"
She opened her mouth to protest, probably a bit angry at being treated like a child, but she obliged, silent for once. We waited in the quiet until she had ascended the stairs and we heard the very faint closing of a door before her mother began to speak again.
"Sarah Wilson. That's my name. Leo informed me what you are so you must know of me, and don't think I can't tell exactly why you are here."
Tilting my head, I tried to figure her out. How could she know why I was here when not even I knew? Last I checked, I had only ended up here because her daughter had been insistent that I stay.
"Do tell me."
Closing her eyes, she took a sip of wine as if she needed it to get through what she had to say. She was not a liar; the names of the prophets were still floating in my memory and hers was among them, but why had she told my story? Had my fate been bound to this woman, and had it really been that predictable?
"Yep," Lucifer chimed in.
"The prophecy spoke of an angel that would rebel against all of Heaven," she began at last. "He would turn against his brothers and sisters, who thought they were doing what was right. And it would all be because of a human. A human pulled from the darkness of Hell. The angel would do many terrible things, but in the end his mind would become warped, and he would think himself God. He would run from the kingdom, his memory gone, but he would still feel something missing. The human that changed everything. He would try to return to his kingdom, to the angels, but they no longer wanted him. He would search for Dean Winchester, to fix things. But to find Dean, he would need a prophet to guide him, to shed light once more, for his mind had gone dark again."
As she spoke, her eyes grew dark and focused, like she was reading from a script that she had looked at many times. I refused to let her know how badly I had been affected by the story, by my own past and present. Why did she predict such a thing in such detail? But one real question hung between us, and it was the only answer I cared for.
"Where is Dean?"
Smiling, she shook her head regretfully.
"I can tell you, but what would happen? The prophecy says that you will find him, but not peace. You love him, but when the feelings are not returned, you don't have a chance to achieve a peace of mind."
Lucifer barked out a mocking laugh, and I again wondered how tuned into me this prophet was. Despite her words, the darkness of them, I still had to know. I had to make Dean forgive and understand me before I could go wherever I needed to go next. I wasn't sure what fight he was facing then, or what he struggled with, but I had to do something.
"Tell me where he is. Tell me how to find him."
Sarah placed her chin in her palm, watching me with pursed lips for what seemed like an hour. It might have been. I watched her back, studying her features and seeing Leo in them, but more than that I saw that she should have been named Leo. Her eyes were wide and a brilliant hazel, her hair thick and golden, and her face tanned.
"His cell phone number."
She flashed a smile at my start of surprise.
"I had a fit yesterday and carved it into one of the kitchen cabinets, and I knew you would soon be here. Though…" She stood, rounding the corner table to bend down beside me, her eyes level with me.
"I had no idea an angel would bring me such a precious gift. Thank you for bringing my daughter back. I would have gotten her out myself….but I wanted to know that she would be okay. And you have confirmed that. Thank you, Castiel. Thank you."
She kissed me on the cheek, and I could feel her tears sliding down her face. When she pulled away, I still felt the wetness, but I didn't think I was capable of crying, so I wiped them away with the sleeve of my coat and retreated to my room.
At some point while we were eating, it had begun to rain. By the time I folded all the borrowed clothes back, a storm began to rage full force. I wanted to leave immediately, but I didn't want to pressure Sarah, so I crawled into bed and waited, clinging to my coat and trying to be patient.
"You should wash that thing," Lucifer said, sitting on the dresser.
I shook my head; a big mistake. Now he would be tempted to carry on a conversation.
"Dean may have given you the coat back, but I wouldn't think of it as a welcome home gift. Maybe it was him finally saying goodbye. And when I say goodbye, I mean 'get out of my life and don't come back.'"
I pulled the blanket over my head, trying to steady my breathing and pretend he didn't exist, that he hadn't voiced my worst fears. Thankfully, he remained quiet, his voice lost to the noise of the storm. Perhaps it was midnight when Sarah crept into my room, shaking my shoulder tentatively.
"Castiel. I know where he is. I know you must be anxious to go, so I thought I would wake you."
I didn't bother telling her I hadn't even slept, that I couldn't even begin to try for fear that Lucifer might slip into my nightmares, where I couldn't ignore him, where he could not only tell me what he thought, but show me as well. I couldn't handle that.
"Thank you, Sarah. And I will leave as soon as I say goodbye to Leo."
She nodded, her eyes soft with affection, and I knew that I would have to come back and see them, if my mind had not all but vanished by the time I apologized to Dean and Sam.
"He's in a small motel in Kansas. Here's the exact address," she said, handing me a slip of paper. Studying it, I saw that he was staying very close to his first home, something that unsettled me.
"Thank you, Sarah Wilson. I won't forget this. You have been kind."
I felt a lump in my throat, and swallowed stubbornly. I didn't get attached to people before Dean, and now I felt as if I could feel sympathy and a fondness for anyone who talked to me long enough.
Leo must have known something was up, because she was sitting up when I walked into her room. Her black hair stuck up at odd angles, but she didn't bother fixing it. She truly behaved as a child, but she had passed the point where most grow up. I liked her for staying young, and I envied her. I had never been young. I had been born into civil wars and obedience and training. I had been born to be a solider and nothing else. How furious Heaven must be that I had found something more than they could never have, all because of the rules they set forth. I had my freedom, and I could have Dean. With any luck, I could have Sam's forgiveness as well.
The only drawback was that I lost my sanity, but I could handle that with time.
"You're leaving," she accused, crossing her arms and trying to look motherly but failing miserably.
"Yes. I have to find Dean."
"And what happens when you do?" she demanded.
That was a good question. The more I thought everything through, the more I thought to myself that Dean and Sam would not forgive me, that Dean would be sickened if I told him that I loved him, but deep down I knew I had to try. If they rejected me, if they welcomed me, I could not stay. I had done too much wrong. I had hurt Dean's trust. I had destroyed Sam's mind. I didn't deserve them, and I didn't belong with them.
I suppose I would walk the world and try to figure out what to do next, but the thought of it being just me and Lucifer was not appealing.
"I have to try and make Dean understand. Then I will probably leave. Maybe try to help people. I could heal, before I lost my mind."
Leo smiled sadly, stretching her arms out for what I assumed was a hug. I never really hugged people, but I tried for her, patting her back gently before I closed my eyes and imagined the wind taking me away.
There were no cars parked at the motel when I arrived, but that could mean that Dean went off by himself. I needed to speak to Sam anyway, so I knocked on the door, trying to be polite, and waited. He opened the door, glancing back into the room at his laptop before turning to see me. His eyes grew wide as he took in my appearance and he struggled to say something.
"Cas! How did you…I mean….when did you leave? HOW did you leave?"
"I flew. Sam, may I come in?"
He nodded, confused, but stepped back and ushered me inside where I sat on the messier bed, which I guessed was Dean's. Sam brought me a beer, trying to be polite but mostly acting out of habit. Looking around, I confirmed my thought that Dean was out somewhere. Maybe a bar, picking up a random girl to relieve stress. The thought sent jealousy coursing through me, so I pushed it away and focused on Sam.
"Sam…" I began, and he looked up from his laptop, confused.
"Cas, do you understand that there are demons after you? Why did you leave? You were safe with Meg in the hospital."
He was worried about me, and that just made everything worse.
"I have been staying with two prophets, so no demon had dared get near me for fear of the archangels. But that's not important now."
He looked up, waiting, puzzled, but not expecting me to even say anything.
"I am sorry for everything," I began. "I'm sorry I didn't inform you about everything that was going on. I'm sorry I couldn't help you when I should have. I'm sorry-"
Sam held his hand up, sighing, and my stomach twisted in knots. So he wouldn't forgive me, and that meant I had no right to even go and beg for Dean's forgiveness. If I didn't have Sam's, then everything was pointless.
Instead, he smiled, softly and kindly.
"It's okay, Cas. I mean it. Yeah, it kind of sucks what happened, but we all make mistakes. I mean, me and Dean kick-started the apocalypse for crying out loud. So, we can't be too judgmental."
We sat in silence for a moment, while I basked in relief and joy, repeating over and over in my head Sam's words. He had forgiven me, but he shouldn't have. And I still had only taken the road halfway, I still had miles to go, a whole lifetime of walking.
If I left Dean-and Sam-how far would I walk alone? Probably as far as I deserved, but the prospect was painful. I had so much left for the world, if only I could deserve it.
"Dean went to our old house, Cas. Why don't you go talk to him?"
Meeting Sam's eyes, I felt another ache, one that said what I know. Sam was too kind for this world. Not like he was when he was younger, but Sam's heart knew nothing but kindness from the moment it started beating. Even soulless, he was kinder than most people that walked the earth today.
"Yes. Thank you Sam."
He smiled, almost amused, before his mouth turned down.
"Just be careful, okay? You really are in danger."
Dean had parked across the street from his home, watching it through eyes half-closed with sleep. I could sense the memories brewing in his mind, the sorrow threatening to break through the surface. He had lost so much, had gained next to nothing. He had once been the angel's puppet, but he still had been kind to me. The Winchesters were far too compassionate.
I tapped on the glass of the passenger window, restraining a smile as he jumped and whipped around in his seat. When he saw me, his jaw dropped and glanced around like he thought I had brought more people with me. Leaning over, he opened the door and I slid in, shutting it back behind me.
"Cas," he said hoarsely.
"Jeez. He needs some water," Lucifer remarked.
I refrained from cursing; I had hoped Lucifer would stay out of this. That I might not see him and I would get to apologize without his contemptuous comments. Instead, he sat in the backseat, studying the back of Dean's head.
"What are you doing here? We left you for a reason!"
He was angry; that was understandable, but I flinched all the same, bowing my head and trying to find how to explain.
"I had to find you and Sam. I had to apologize to Sam and then to you and make you understand."
He pressed his head against the head rest, watching me warily. He probably thought demons were going to attack us any moment, but I refused to think about that. I wanted a normal moment before I had to go, before everything I had ended my life for more than once said that he hated me.
"Make me understand what, Cas?"
He was confused, he had no idea, not a slight clue that anything would happen.
"That I'm sorry about everything. I know you still haven't forgiven me, and I understand. I know you might never forgive me, but before I go, I need you to know that."
He blinked, still confused, but guilty as well.
"Thank you, Cas."
He didn't forgive me entirely, but I could leave with that, with him knowing everything. I should have left then and allowed myself to go to the earth and visit nature, to just wander the world until I met the edges, where I could jump if I needed to, but I found myself rooted to the seat, watching his green eyes as they took me in. Maybe he was thinking that I almost appeared normal again, that the clock had suddenly reversed.
Just then, I didn't want to see the world yet. There was enough green and blue in the car to fill all the spaces of the universe, and this I could claim it in moments, rather than a lifetime. The world would take many years to walk, but the earth Dean and I had could be crossed in moments in a second, in a split intake of breath as I leaned into him and kissed him.
Lucifer whistled in the backseat, trying to distract me, but it wouldn't work now. I had focused on Dean, and as I moved my lips against his, I could scarcely remember why Lucifer was there.
Dean responded hesitantly; I had caught him off guard. I didn't plan for him to react at all, but after I moment, he relaxed and placed his hand on the back of my head, bringing me closer; I could feel a smile on his face, something that shocked me.
I intended to leave it at that-one kiss-and leave, but as I drew back, his eyes were shining and his breathing quick.
"Do you know what you're doing?" he asked reluctantly. A part of me hoped he wouldn't ask that, in case I really didn't know, because that would mean that he would stop me, but I nodded, and that was all he needed.
Lucifer all but scrambled in his haste to leave as Dean pushed me into the back seat, crawling behind me and shedding his jacket at the same time. It could almost be comical; two grown men-sort of-crawling around in a car, but I couldn't even try to care. I had never touched a human in such an intimate way, but it was appropriate that the first human I had ever laid my hands on would be the first I let lay his hands on me in such a way.
In the darkness, his face shadowed, he kissed me again and again, more than I ever thought he would, if he would at all. Nervously, I reached under his shirt, sliding my hands up to his shoulder blades and gasping as he ducked down, kissing my neck. I had been reluctant about taking the coat off since he had given it back to me, but as he lifted me up, I had no hesitations.
"How did we end up here?" Dean asked, for once very serious and thoughtful. His eyes swept the length of my body, and I knew it didn't matter how we ended up here. It didn't matter that the road we took had been paved with good intentions gone wrong. We ended up in the right place, and I couldn't be more pleased.
When the sun started to rise, I found myself reluctant to leave him, to say goodbye to the only sanity I had. Lucifer had been gone since the second kiss, and I relished in the silence, but I would have to face him again soon. Dean had fallen asleep, arm wrapped around my waist. Maybe he didn't want to go back and face Sam, and maybe we had enjoyed the moment too much.
It might have been a bit much for anyone passing by to have looked in and seen two naked men in the backseat, so we had gotten dressed almost immediately after we were done. Dean had been hesitant, but I told him it would be okay, and he believed me.
"I'm sorry I can't stop lying to you," I told his sleeping form. He snored lightly, and I had to chuckle, at his innocence. I wondered if he was dreaming.
"And I'm sorry that I'm leaving. I can't stop apologizing because I just keep making mistakes," I continued, feeling the need for him to hear this, whether he was awake or asleep, before I left for good.
"I made them all the time, and I acknowledged them, but they didn't mean anything. They just told me that I needed more training, to be a better soldier. I didn't even know that people apologized for them, went to extreme measures to seek forgiveness. I didn't know that until I knew you."
He slept on, the sunlight turning his face shades of gold, highlighting every freckle. I would miss seeing them, absentmindedly counting them when I was thinking, way back when I still had a connection to Heaven. There was one spot where two touched, and I debated whether to count it as one. I would miss every little thing.
"I'm sorry that I'm sorry. I shouldn't have to ask forgiveness. I shouldn't have wronged you or Sam in the first place. Goodbye, Dean."
I thought that, for just an instance, his eyes fluttered as if he were waking up, but I left before anything more was said.
It was better that way.
A month would be a long time to be alone, but I would have preferred it to Lucifer following me, appearing at every turn, chatting while I tried to sleep. I had done some good for the world, had ended up helping in a lot of places I never saw myself being, helping people that I did not know, seeing the good left in the world. Lucifer, my mind, my hallucinations, my insanity in bodily form, did all it could to discourage such acts, but I had to stop listening to my mind and listen more to my heart. It usually led me to good places.
"This place is booooooring," Lucifer whined one day; we were sitting in a quaint park somewhere in northern Canada. "Why don't we go see Leo again? She was at least a bit interesting."
I didn't like to agree with his words, but for once he proposed something tempting. We, no, I, had been visiting Leo for several weeks, eating dinner with her and Sarah, who I discovered dated often. She threw exotic parties that I tended to avoid, but I ended up at a few of them. Sitting down to eat with my almost family sounded very tempting.
Without saying anything, I left for the mansion, hearing Lucifer's mocking laughter in the wind.
When I arrived, Leo was sitting on the table eating cereal from a crystal bowl, chewing sleepily. As she caught sight of me, she gave a cry of happiness, some of the cereal spilling back from her mouth into the bowl.
Like I've said before, she's no lady.
She placed the bowl down and skipped over to throw her arms around me, just as Sarah marched in, wearing a cocktail dress and ridiculously high heels. One of her many assistants scurried behind her, scribbling on a clipboard.
"Be sure the servers are here on time, okay? If they are a second late all our hard work- Hello, Castiel! Welcome back! Leo, honey, don't eat on top of the table, sit in a chair- will go to waste."
She passed by, waving her hands in the air as she talked.
Leo threw me a wicked smile, and I abruptly decided I had not made the best decision by coming back that particular day.
"A fancy costume party! A lot of people are coming to this one. I really hoped you would come back for it and I guess you just made it, huh?"
She tugged my hand, leading me towards the staircase as she continued to talk.
"I'm going to be a cat! Or maybe a vampire. What would you like to be? Oh! How about a doctor? But wait…"
He pressed her finger to her chin in thought.
"There will be a lot of skanky nurses…more than likely. They will be asking you crude things so it's probably just best to avoid that. But damn, you would make a sexy doctor. Hmm…lemme think it through, okay? I just have to go call someone."
I nodded, heading to what I guess had kind of become my room since the first time I had stayed here. I retreated to the elegant shower and lost myself in the hot water once again. How odd it was that this had become my shelter, because I had more or less turned Dean down.
It had been unfair that he had almost forgiven me, and then shown me how much he cared about me, and I left. But he needed to understand that being with me could end his life, and that could not happen. I couldn't let Dean suffer because of me anymore. Sam either, for that matter.
An hour before the party started, Leo remembered me and came into my room, dragging a large garbage bag behind her that I assumed was filled with costumes.
"Is this party a big deal?" I asked.
"Oh, yes," she replied, giving the bag a final heave so that it landed at my feet. "We have it every year about this time. Everyone loves it and Mom likes interacting with all the people. I think she gets new ideas for her books from them all."
I didn't say anything as she pawed through the contents, shaking her head absently as she held up one costume after another.
"What do you want to be?" she asked after we had gone through everything and I still remained undecided.
"I don't see the point of this. But I suppose I would want to be an angel again. Just…one more time."
Her eyes softened with sympathy, something I didn't exactly want, but appreciated. Leo had become a good friend to me, and I owed her honesty.
"I think my dad had something that might work. Hold on."
I wasn't expecting her to actually have a solution, but she returned a moment later with a leather-styled jacket with angel wings etched on the back. Humor danced in her eyes, provoking a small laugh from me. Close enough, I guess. Technically, I was still an angel, but I wanted people to just know what I was like they used to, maybe not in the same way, but one way at least.
The party took place in the ballroom, which, despite its colossal size, was packed at thirty minutes past the start time. Leo had changed her mind at the last moment one last time and decided to be Snow White. She had asked me if she looked like her, which prompted a lecture on never seeing Disney classics and a brief showing of the horrid movie.
Though she did get the look spot-on.
Many guys hung around her, admiring her and urging her to dance, but she came off more bored than interested, looking around and yawning.
"Are you the guy from Grease?"
A tall girl with light brown hair, dressed as some mammal, approached me, her eyes sweeping over me in the same manner Dean's had. Normally, I wouldn't be able to tell when a girl liked me. I tended to be oblivious, as Dean had once put it, but this time around it was clear.
"I don't understand that reference," I told her honestly.
She narrowed her eyes and smiled politely.
"Nothing," I replied quickly, trying not to feel awkward. I didn't know how to interact with most normal people. I had been surrounded by either my own kind or Sam and Dean, or people who had a basic handle on what I was, people who were forgiving of my ignorance to human culture.
"So…um. Do you want to, like, dance, maybe?"
She glanced over her shoulder with a grimace; a group of girls that must have been her friends were giggling and winking at her. They had to be in their mid-twenties, but they were behaving as teenagers.
She squealed and grabbed my hand, dragging me onto the main dance floor just as a slow song started. Resting her head on my chest, she sighed happily, and I felt a pang of alarm at what was happening.
"Wait," I said, pulling her gently away from. "I don't think you should dance with me."
She transformed instantly from gentle and flirty to hurt and deadly, her tone dangerous.
"And why not?"
I tried to explain, but I couldn't place that feeling I had in my stomach right off, trying to figure it out reminded me of the puzzles Leo and I did in the hospital.
"You're feeling disloyal to Dean, dumb ass," Lucifer scoffed.
He stood nearby, wearing cat ears and occasionally dancing with no one but himself. I continuously forgot he existed (sort of) in the moments he stayed quiet and I was talking to other people. Now, he pegged it just right. I felt disloyal to Dean, even if we were nothing.
"I'm sorry," I told her, wincing at the words. How many more times would I say them? "I am still very much in love with someone."
"Yeah. So beat it, "said a voice from behind me.
For just a moment, I dismissed the voice as Lucifer's, but as my mind turned it over, I knew it was not.
"Dean," I gasped, whirling around and coming face to face with the hunter. As I did, his face broke out into a delighted grin, crinkling his eyes and showing his teeth; a genuine smile from him.
He placed a hand on his chest and thrust his chin in the air, and I understood it as him modeling his outfit for me which was, to my utter astonishment, a suit. I had only seen Dean in a suit once and it had been more or less against his will. He was breathtaking.
"Do you like my costume?" he asked with a teasing tone.
Picking up on his good humor, I shrugged and nonchalantly said, "I guess it will do. What are you doing here, anyway?"
He smiled another genuine smile, and my heart nearly stopped. This, I knew how to do. I knew how to talk to Dean, how to be with him. It had been told very long ago that I would, and I welcomed that destiny.
"I," Dean said, almost proudly, "am dressed as your date."
He took my hand, ignoring the shocked brunette, and pulled me to a more secluded spot. I never claimed to know how to dance, but, like everything was with Dean, it became easier with time.
"Why did you leave?" he asked later on that night. We were laying on my bed, his fingers in my hair and his arm behind his head as he looked down on where my head rested on his chest.
"I had to. I didn't have your forgiveness and I didn't deserve it. I'm no good for you, Dean. I bring trouble and pain wherever I go. I would end up hurting you again, and I might hurt Sam even worse than I have already. I don't want to cause any more pain."
Dean sighed, but didn't say anything for once. I thought he might be mulling my words over, for which I was grateful. I didn't want him to jut insist everything was okay when it wasn't.
"What have you two been doing?" I asked, though I had a basic idea through my travels and overhearing demons. Some nonsense about a tablet and Leviathans, but nothing I thought I could help them with.
"Oh, nothing much," Dean replied breezily, and I knew he didn't want to talk about it just then. It turned out he didn't want to talk about much anything; within fifteen minutes he was snoring, bringing a smile to my face. He behaved like a child sometimes, like Leo, but he was an amazing person. He and Sam didn't have to be this way after everything they had been through, but they were.
I decided to sleep as well, listening to his heartbeat and feeling very content.
"I already told you," Lucifer said, just as I was dozing off, "you don't get happy endings, Castiel."
I wanted to tell him to shut up, but I fell asleep a second later.
The next morning, I awoke to find only a faint warm spot where Dean had been. I sat up, worried, before I heard him singing from the shower.
"He's off-key," Lucifer commented dryly.
"I don't care."
I jumped up, walking towards the bathroom, but stopped when I saw his duffel bag by the door, packed and ready to go. It might have been unfair for me to walk out of Dean's life and not explain myself, but when I saw the signs that he was leaving me, I felt sick.
He emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later, grinning from ear to ear, another Dean smile that cut off when he caught my expression.
I tried to glare at him, but the ache in my heart refused to let me do anything more than look away, ashamed at my weakness.
He tipped his head, expression troubled as he tried to register why I was upset.
"Of course. I have to go. Sam is waiting for me and we still have a lot to do. Not that I don't want to stay with you," he added hastily. "I just can't stay here. But…hey…look…"
He stepped towards me, placing his hands on my shoulders and gently spinning me so that I had to stare at some part of him even if I refused to meet his eyes.
"I want you to come with me, with us, really badly. But that decision is yours. I know you aren't the epitome of mental fitness anymore, but you are still Cas. I just can't guarantee you'll be safe. I'm scared for you, and I'm scared that someone is going to hurt you. Damn, Cas, I would…"
He swallowed unsteadily.
"I just…I don't know what I would do without you, okay? And I sound like a pansy right now but I don't want you to think I am just shoving you off on different people. I don't want you to think that that night we had wasn't probably the greatest damn thing that has ever happened to me. I need you, and I need Sam. But I don't know if I'm strong enough to protect you both."
He broke off, shaking his head and closing his eyes briefly, overcome with emotion I had no idea he possessed. He picked up his bag, throwing it over his shoulder and turning back to me.
"I only want you to come after me if you know what it means. It means you're going to be fighting demons all the time, you're going to have a hard time and you're going to have to do some terrible shit. I know you're strong, but I don't know if you can handle any more right now. If you can't, I'll come back here. And see you. But you can come with us. Just be ready to face hell if you do."
He kissed me lightly, drawing away before changing his mind and grabbing me around the waist, pulling me closer. He sighed, tracing the outline of the wings on my jacket, before pulling away. He was reluctant, but we both knew he had to go, and I had a decision to make.
"See you, Cas," he mumbled. I thought I heard a question inn his tone, but I couldn't be sure, couldn't ask him; he was already gone.
Leo didn't bother me for a few days, but on the fourth day after Dean said goodbye, she tracked me down in the garden just as the sun was going down, casting long shadows onto the rich grass. The garden was beautiful, filled with flowers in every color and apple trees. It might as well have been called a park, as it also had benches, sidewalks, and even a fountain as the centerpiece.
"Why haven't you left yet?" Leo asked as a greeting.
I shrugged, not really wanting to admit anything to her but then again wanting to talk to someone desperately.
"I'm afraid of the danger I will put them in. I'm afraid that I might get him killed, or that something might kill me before we get enough time together."
She scoffed, sitting on the bench next to me.
"The way you two were dancing, I don't think you could ever get enough of each other. Not in a million lifetimes. You're welcome for me calling him, by the way. I didn't think he would make it here in time."
That, I did not know. I had not even wondered about how Dean had gotten to the party; I had only cared that he was there.
"But you need to go, because you're wasting minutes by pouting and personally, I think it's time the lion went home."
I started, surprised at her reference to the prophecy.
"Yes, of course I know," she said, rolling her eyes. "You need to go and you can be strong together. You can't make things right by staying here. You won't get an apology until he's around you enough for him to know how sorry you really are."
The wind rustled the trees, distracting me. They sounded almost like the rustle of feathers, but I had been delusional for far too long to separate such thing from reality. From beside me, Lucifer let out a gusty sigh, standing up and brushing his pants off. He twisted his head to the sun, as if waiting for something.
"Don't you want to be with him, Castiel? You won't know how things could have turned out unless you're brave."
She waited impatiently another minute before I decided and answered, my voice strong.
"I'm going. I'm going home."
Lucifer shot me an exasperated look before he shoved his hands in his pocket.
"I'm out of here, little brother. Archangel orders. See you soon." His tone was menacing, as usual.
At that, a searing pain ripped through my head, boiling in my skull and sending me to the ground, screaming with agony.
"Castiel!" Leo cried; her voice sounded far, far away.
I heard shattering, like mirrors being dropped on concrete, over and over, and a distant call that I had heard before. My vision went white as the pain spread to the rest of me, and then I saw only black. The darkness was welcoming, and the sounds, the pain, stopped, and I stood in the darkness, waiting. Distant lights began to shine overhead, and light slowly seeped into the surroundings, revealing dark grass and a lake, reflecting the stars in a million shades of gold.
"Where am I?" I asked aloud.
"A very small part of your mind, the only part that is at peace."
The voice was achingly familiar, and I turned to see Michael himself strolling to me, still in the younger Winchester brother's body. Adam. He radiated a burning essence that seared the grass around him, blazing a trail as he stopped beside me and prodded me forward until I stood at the edge of the lapping lake.
"You're trapped in Hell!" I protested.
He smiled with amusement, but said nothing else, so I tried another tactic.
"Did you send Lucifer away?"
He nodded at me, then at the lake.
"And Heaven is being righted again. I couldn't allow it to go on like it has been, and I couldn't stand to see the angel that has God's approval himself suffer any longer. So I offer you a choice, but I will never make it again, so think carefully. Look into the lake and tell me what you see."
We leaned at the same time, peering downwards. His reflection showed his true form, his wings sparkling like diamonds and stars, shifting and moving with the ripples of the water.
I expected to see my true form as well, but instead I saw Jimmy, scrawny from walking the earth, tired and run down, his hair, my hair, ruffled. The trench coat in the reflection was immaculately clean, and I had a blue tie, just as I had before. This was not Castiel the angel, but Cas, the being that had laughed with Dean and defended him time after time.
"I see Jimmy," I told Michael, and he nodded approvingly.
"Then the angel part of you is gone. I can offer you a place back in Heaven, as an angel again, but that is obviously not what you want. Go home, Castiel. Go where you belong. Lucifer will not plague you anymore. And bear with me, this might hurt."
I was cut off by the searing pain again, this time tearing at my insides and all but ripping them from me. I heard the glass again, the swishing of air, the tearing of feathers and the agonizing ripping of my wings, and then the blinding pain overcame me entirely.
The stars spun in their places before they winked out in patches, and I was back in the garden with Leo.
"Castiel!" she cried when I opened my eyes; I could see she had been crying in frustration. "You're awake. Oh my God, are you okay? You just fell over and started screaming."
She helped me up, shaking enough for the both of us. I stretched my limbs, hardly believing what had just happened. Michael could not have escaped from the cage. It was entirely impossible. But Lucifer was nowhere to be seen, and I could no longer feel the ghostly presence of my wings, or the warmth of my grace.
"I'm human," I told Leo, dazed. My words incited a gasp of astonishment from her as she studied me.
"Wow. Castiel, now what are you going to do? How will you tell Dean, and how are you going to catch up to him? Are you going to be strong enough now?"
She was just talking to fill the silence, as she did often. She wasn't aware how the words were stinging, but I pushed the thoughts away.
"I made my decision. I'm going back to Dean," I said stubbornly, and once I said that, I felt the need to carry on in excitement, the words tumbling from my mouth with vigor.
"We can hunt together, and Sam can show me how to work his laptop. Me and Dean will have more time to learn about each other, and we can face whatever it is together. I can still be strong, Leo. I can be strong if that's what Dean needs, I can be a soldier again."
She shook her head in amusement, and I thought about how much I would miss her, that I would have to come back and see her again, if Dean, Sam, and I found the time. All the same, I was itching to go tell Sarah, to get her to track his cell phone number again so I could start on my next road, this time entirely alone. There would be no devil on my shoulder to mock my decisions, nothing stopping me to make things right. I could do this.
"I can be a soldier again," I repeated firmly.
Leo laughed lightly, and I knew she would always be here if I needed her, that she approved of my choices. Maybe I could find a happy ending after all. Her eyes glowed with the last bit of sunlight.
"I know you can, Castiel. You have a lion's heart."