When Castiel gets the orders from Uriel, he fails to comprehend them. Uriel repeats himself.
“You cannot be serious, brother!” Castiel protests.
“Do I look to be joking?” Uriel asks menacingly. Castiel briefly reflects that while Uriel indeed has an immaculate sense of humor, he rarely ever looks to be joking. Castiel tries a different tack.
“Dean Winchester cannot be forced to do this. The effort would destroy him-”
“In that case, brother, you can inform our superiors why we have extracted no information from the demon Alistair,” Uriel says with the air of one who has just won an argument, gesturing expansively upwards. (Which is, of course, ridiculous; Heaven is not above the clouds or in space, it is in another plane of existence entirely.)
“You cannot make him relive his memories of Hell,” Castiel begs Uriel. “He is suffering enough as it is.”
Uriel fixes Castiel with a cold, hard stare. “Your opinions are of no consequence,” Uriel dictates. “You are too close to the chargers. Your part to play is that of a soldier.” Uriel turns to shift in space to where the Winchesters are located and adds, “Take care you remember it.”
Castiel feels a deep regret inside his being, but he’s not sure if it’s directed at himself for having tried to disobey orders, or for the pain he is about to cause Dean.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
Alistair wasn’t supposed to be killed. Uriel wasn’t supposed to betray them.
And nowhere in the plans does it say that Dean was supposed to be broken.
Castiel had left Sam to get Dean to a hospital while he reported back to his superiors. Divine wrath comes nowhere close to expressing their rage. Sam confronts Castiel outside his brother’s room, demanding that Castiel heal him. Castiel answers that he cannot- and the truth is that if he could, he would, because seeing Dean in pain is the only thing that has made him consider rebelling.
Castiel waits for Dean to awaken. “Are you alright?” It’s a stupid question for him to ask, because Castiel knows the answer. Dean is not alright. Dean will never be alright.
“No thanks to you,” Dean mumbles after a moment. Castiel understands Dean’s anger at him and at Uriel for making him do what they did.
They are silent for a moment, then Castiel says, “You need to be more careful.”
“You need to learn to manage a damn devil’s trap,” Dean says in a tone that clearly would have been much louder had he not nearly been killed. Castiel decides not to explain how Uriel had disabled the trap with a small drip of water- it’s too much information for now.
“That’s not what I mean. Uriel is dead,” Castiel says shortly.
“Was it the demons?” Dean asks, a strange tone coming into his voice, as though he regrets having been so snippy with Uriel in the past.
“It was disobedience.” Castiel isn’t sure how to explain what Uriel did, but he knows Dean is waiting for an explanation, so he looks at Dean and continues. “He was working against us.”
Dean doesn’t answer to that. Instead, he asks a question. “Is it true?” Castiel looks at Dean questioningly. “Did I break the first seal?”
When Castiel doesn’t answer immediately, Dean asks again. “Did I start all this?”
Castiel cannot hide the truth from Dean, especially not this one, because Dean deserves to know. “Yes.”
The look on Dean’s face destroys Castiel so greatly that he has to continue explaining so as to take the weight off Dean’s shoulders. “When we discovered Lilith’s… plan… for you, we laid siege to Hell. And we fought our way to get to you, before you-”
“Jump-started the Apocalypse,” Dean finishes, and he sounds so broken, and Castiel knows you can repair the body but there are some wounds that never heal. Dean is human and no amount of healing grace laid on his soul can change that.
Castiel looks up to the sky, not wanting to see Dean’s expression any longer. “And we were too late.”
“Why didn’t you just leave me there, then?” The question is so unprecedented that Castiel tries to comfort Dean.
“It’s not blame that falls on you, Dean. It’s fate.” Castiel knows how this must sound to Dean, telling him he had been destined to torture souls in Hell. Castiel quotes the prophecies listed in the Scripture. “The Righteous Man who begins it, is the only one who can finish it.” Castiel looks at Dean. “You have to stop it.”
“Lucifer?” Dean whispers. “The Apocalypse? What does that mean?”
Castiel doesn’t answer, because he doesn’t have an answer to give.
“Hey, don’t you go disappearing on me, you son of a bitch, what does that mean?” Dean growls, trying to sound like his normal self and stopping when a sharp pain rips through his side.
“I don’t know.”
“Bull!” Dean snaps.
“I don’t.” Cas turns his face to Dean and locks eyes with him. “Dean, they don’t tell me much. I know our fate rests with you.”
No no no…
“Well then, you guys are screwed,” Dean whispers, trying to find his voice from whatever deep pit it fell down. Cas looks away from him. Disappointed, probably. Just like everyone else.
“I can’t do it, Cas, it’s too big,” Dean says weakly. “Alistair was right. I’m not all here. I’m not strong enough.”
Cas looks back at Dean at this, a pitying look in his eyes. Dean looks away, feeling his lip quiver.
“Well, I guess I’m not the man either of our dads wanted us to be,” Dean tries to joke, even though he’s never felt less like joking.
“Find someone else. It’s not me.” A single tear falls over his cheek.
“I’m sorry, Dean.” Cas reaches out to Dean’s face and brushes the tear away with a feather-light touch. And then he’s gone.
When Sam comes back, it’s all Dean can do not to call Cas back so he’ll stay too.
But he wouldn’t come anyway.
When Castiel arrives back in Heaven, his mind is buzzing with Dean’s words.
Find someone else. It’s not me.
But it has to be Dean.
The rest of the garrison- or what remains of it- converges on Castiel. “Where have you been?” Rachel demands. “We received Revelation ten minutes ago.”
“I… apologize,” Castiel replies, struggling to find words. “The mission did not go as planned.”
The angels around him tune into Castiel’s consciousness and Castiel broadcasts the memories he holds.
If they had been humans, Castiel suspects they would have blasphemed. As it is, they settle for ancient Enochian curses muttered under their breaths.
“Why would Uriel betray us?” Inias asks. Inias is the youngest member of the garrison next to Castiel and has retained his young innocence despite the work he’s done in the fight against Hell.
“He wanted to raise Lucifer,” Castiel says shortly, and the small crowd around him gasps and hisses.
“You should not have allowed Anael to leave unharmed,” Rachel scolds Castiel. “She has committed many crimes and must be brought to justice.”
“Enough, brother,” Castiel snaps. A few angels tense up and move between Castiel and Rachel.
“We have been transferred to a new battle,” Eremiel tells Castiel. “Haniel is our new superior for the time being. We must move.”
“I will… catch up with you,” Castiel murmurs. Eremiel nods and the garrison flies away.
Well, most of the garrison.
Inias approaches Castiel cautiously. “Castiel? What were those memories… right at the end?”
Castiel had repressed a good deal of the talk he had with Dean, along with the emotions he’d felt. Emotions would do nothing but get him into trouble. “Uriel tried to kill the Righteous Man,” Castiel explains softly. “His brother took him to a center of healing. I made certain his safety, then I came here.”
“No, I mean… you spent a length of time with the Righteous Man. What did you tell him?” Inias asks curiously.
Inias, Castiel reflects, is far too curious for his own good. “What he needed to hear.”
Inias doesn’t leave, only arches an eyebrow, so Castiel continues. “Dean is… suffering. And what we have planned for him will only make him suffer more.”
“You care for him.” It isn’t a question. It’s a statement, and Castiel knows Inias can see through anyone quite easily.
“I do not wish to see him broken.” Castiel turns and flares his wings. “We must catch up with the others. They will be wondering on our whereabouts.” Inias nods and they both fly into a ferocious fight filled with flashes of angelic grace and bursts of flame from some of the higher-ranked demons.
As Castiel slices his way through a number of demons who are hell-bent on ripping the feathers from his wings, Castiel reaches a portion of his grace out to Dean to heal his injuries.
Heaven doesn’t need to know everything.