Sometimes, on the rare occasions Castiel can spare for hir own rest, ze goes to Balthazar. In the past, it was always Balthazar, and then Balthzar was dead, ze thought. Then, Castiel went to Dean, but Dean never quite understood.
Now, with every inch of this Civil War pressing down on hir, ze goes to Balthazar, as ze once did.
Tonight, Balthazar strokes hir slender hands over Castiel's back, mostly chaste, between the sharp shoulder blades of hir vessel. Ze presses soft kisses, open mouthed, but still so innocent, against that sensitive space, too close to Castiel's wings, hir true form.
"You haven't shown me your wings, Castiel," ze murmurs, "Not since Hell."
Castiel sighs, so close to broken, "They would only upset you. I don't want that."
"Cassie," Balthazar whispers, right in hir ear, close to reprimanding, "No part of you could ever upset me."
And Cas laughs, in the silent way ze's developed, and drenched with bitterness.
"I haven't shown them to anyone, since Hell," Ze tells hir, "Briefly, to Dean. But only their shadows."
Balthazar presses hir face close at the base of Castiel's wings, where they grow invisible.
And ze sighs, and lets them unfurl. Initially, Balthazar's concern is only for the disarray of hir feathers. Ze frets over them like, Castiel supposes, a mother hen. But, shortly.
Castiel feels the second Balthazar's fingers brush over the thick, ropey scar tissue hidden under hir feathers. Ze barely feels it, really, but ze knows the sensation, and either way, the way they both freeze instantly is telling.
"Cassie," Ze murmurs, pitying in a way Castiel has never wanted, "Castiel, are these? These are from Hell, aren't they, Cas."
It isn't really a question.
Castiel doesn't answer.
"How," Balthazar hisses, "How can they treat you the way they do? How do those Winchesters not appreciate you as they should, when - "
"They don't know."
It's a whisper, barely, but Cas knows Balthazar can hear.
"Cas," ze murmurs, one finger under hir chin, tilting hir face toward hir's, questioning.
Castiel meets hir eyes, briefly.
"I don't want them to."
And Balthazar nods.
"Alright," ze mutters, resigned, and then kisses down the forward edge of hir wings, "But they don't know what they're missing."
Cas stutters, only just, casts a questioning look at hir brother.
"Your wings are beautiful," and ze stills Castiel's shiver, "They are. You are beautiful."
And, if only for tonight, Castiel surrenders.