Dean can feel blood running down the side of his face. He knows that it comes from a deep cut right above his left eye. He is past feeling the pain. Castiel is still towering over him, one hand at Dean’s throat, blue eyes cold and merciless, looking down at him with what can only be described as disgust. Dean closes his eyes and steels himself for the next blow, hoping it will be the one sending him into the sweet relief of unconsciousness. The blow never comes.
"Castiel, stop!" Castiel lets go of Dean, who slumps down against the wall, and spins around in fury.
Dean takes the chance to raise a shaking hand and wipe blood and sweat from his eyes. Then he looks for the owner of the voice, who just potentially saved his life for the moment, but is more likely just as dead as he is.
Balthazar looks exactly the same, unruly blond hair, blue-grey eyes, even the same damn v-neck. But something about him is different. Maybe it is the way he holds himself. Maybe it is the strange golden aura caused by the sun that shines through the high dust covered windows behind him.
And then there are the wings Dean cannot quite see, spanning the entire length of the old abandoned warehouse, more like a thought than actual feathers. Dean decides that the blows he has taken have messed with his head more than he has been aware.
"What are you doing here?", Castiel growls, voice dangerously low. "I already killed you once. Do you really want to repeat the experience?"
Balthazar just stands there, wings that weren't really there in the first place folding into themselves and disappearing completely. And then he waits, looking directly at Castiel, calm and unconcerned as if Castiel couldn't kill him with a single thought.
For a few seconds the angel and the new god just stare at each other, and Dean wonders if there is an entire conversation going on that he can't even begin to understand.
It is Castiel who finally breaks the silence. "How are you alive?", he demands to know.
Something like a half smile plays around Balthazar's lips. "It seems you are not the only one our father deems worthy of bringing back to life."
"Our father is dead." The words cut through the air cold as steel. "I am God now."
"Are you?" Balthazar still shows no sign of concern, and Dean starts wondering if the angel is reckless or just stupid. "Then shouldn't you be able to tell me how I'm back?”
A hint of uncertainty flashed through Castiel's eyes, but it is gone again so quickly that Dean isn't sure if he only imagined it.
"I could strike you down right here and now!" Even though their vessels are roughly the same height, Castiel appears so much taller than Balthazar at that moment. The room goes dark and cold, and Dean feels himself shivering.
"I'm sure you could.", Balthazar agrees.
Castiel hesitates, visibly confused by the answer. Finally, he settles for an annoyed “What do you want?”
“Cas, Cas, Cas.” Balthazar shakes his head sadly. “Do you still not understand?”
Castiel just looks at Balthazar, stone-faced, and Balthazar sighs.
“Where you go, I will follow”, Balthazar says, and takes a step towards Castiel. Dean isn’t sure if Castiel realises he takes a step back in response, eyes wide, before he straightens himself even more and squints his eyes.
“Do you now?” Every hint of the old Castiel is replaced once more by the grimacing mask of Castiel the god. “The way I remember it, you tend turn your back and flee. Which is exactly what you should do now if you want to live.”
“I thought you were dead.” Balthazar sounds uncharacteristically frail and full of regret. There is no doubt that Castiel’s comment has hit home. But still Balthazar stays firmly where he is, ignoring Castiel’s threat.
“You learned I was alive soon enough, yet you did not return. And when you did, it was only to turn your back on me once more. Or do you deny that?”
Balthazar lowers his gaze. He is clearly fighting to keep control. “No. I can’t deny that I lied to you.”
His voice is pleading when he goes on. “But please try to understand, Cas! Try to understand what it felt like, your grace being ripped away from mine without warning, after all those millennia. Can you imagine what it took to drown that pain? And once I had you back, do you have any idea what it was like to watch you slowly destroy yourself? How could I just stand by and – “
“Enough!” Castiel’s voice cuts through the air like thunder. “I do not care to hear your reasons. And I care even less to hear about the… emotions you claim to have felt.” He spits out the word ‘emotions’ like it is poison.
Balthazar takes a deep breath and looks back up. His eyes and voice are clear again, and soft. “I really think that you do.”
For a moment nobody says a word, and the silence hangs heavily between them. Dean looks at each of them in turn. Balthazar is tense and worried now, such a stark contrast to the calm sound of his voice, but he looks hopeful as well, and Dean doesn’t understand how. Castiel doesn’t seem to know where to look, but his eyes are full of hate and something else entirely, and his fists are clenched at his side.
Seconds run by, turning into minutes and the tension is so thick that it is almost impossible to bear. Just as Dean wants to make a sarcastic comment simply to break the silence, Castiel’s eyes fix on Balthazar again.
“You betrayed me! You all betrayed me!”
The words are so loud and sharp that they echo back from the walls, and Castiel himself looks almost shocked to hear them.
“I know.” No apology, no explanation. Just two words.
“Balthazar.” It is barely a whisper. Castiel looks small all of a sudden, the trench coat too big, and for a moment Dean wonders if Castiel will simply disappear in it.
“I’m here, Cas.” Balthazar takes another step forward, and this time Castiel doesn’t back away.
“I won’t leave you again.” He closes the last of the distance between them, until he can reach out and place a hand on Castiel’s arm.
Castiel looks down at Balthazar’s hand like he doesn’t quite know how to react. He tenses up again, and Dean fully expects him to fling Balthazar against the concrete wall with enough force to break his back, angel or not. But he doesn’t.
“You’ll always have little old me. Remember?”, Balthazar says softly.
“I’ll always have you”, Castiel replies, carefully feeling the words before he lets them out.
The two angels stand there for what could be hours or no time at all. Then Balthazar slowly raises his other hand to Castiel’s neck. It fits there perfectly, and his thump starts drawing soothing little circles right below Castiel’s hairline.
They are so close now that they almost seem to melt into one being in the half-light that surrounds them. Noses almost touching, eyes closed, as they try to adjust to a closeness that they haven’t felt in a long time.
When Balthazar leans in to kiss Castiel it is so soft that it seems almost innocent. Not more than a press of lips against lips. Two angels moving and breathing in the perfect unison only possible through eons of knowing each other inside out. The scene is so painfully intimate that Dean has to swallow hard and look away.
When he looks back up at them, Balthazar meets his gaze. His eyes are the dark gray of an oncoming storm now, expression unreadable. One of his arms is wrapped around Castiel, in a gesture that is mostly protective, and a little possessive. The other hand is still in Castiel’s neck, fingers gently stroking skin and tangling in dark hair.
Castiel’s face is buried at Balthazar’s shoulder. He is clinging to Balthazar with both hands like he is hanging on for dear life. Balthazar turns his head, eyes leaving Dean. His undivided attention is back on Castiel when he places another kiss on his brother's hair.
The two angels have gone completely still now, like they are frozen in time. The golden light from the window is embracing them, leaving everything else in shadows. Dean hardly dares to breathe or move. The room is so quiet that it feels like the entire world has withdrawn to give them some privacy. The only sound is Balthazar’s calm and reassuring voice, slightly muffled by Castiel’s hair.
“It’s okay, Cas. I got you.”