He’d had an inkling of what to expect from Dean and Sam’s panicked prayers, but Castiel is still unprepared for the sight of his human charge… no longer looking human.
Dean is sitting in the middle of a motel bed, sheets and blankets piled around him so that only his face is visible, but the bedding does nothing to hide the changes to his form from Castiel’s angelic perception.
He can see them, curled around Dean’s body where he sits hugging his knees like a frightened fledgling. Wings. Castiel flutters his own for a moment, let’s himself drift outside of time briefly, and stares. They are a deep bronze and gleam with the golden radiance Dean’s human soul. A soul Castiel knows from first-hand experience is near blinding in its purity and strength. After all, it was not for nothing that Dean Winchester was called the Righteous Man.
Castiel drinks his full, taking in the unexpected beauty that is Dean given an angelic form, and then flares his wings, slipping into focus in the motel room. It has a musty unpleasant odor and like most of the accommodations the Winchester’s obtain - is marred with the lingering residue of decades of fitful rest, fornication, violence and sin. Castiel shuts out the taint of the previous guests and settles his full attention upon his charge.
“Oh thank god Cas!” Sam Winchester exclaims in relief, pausing mid-stride in his pacing. “You have to help!”
Dean remains silent, staring at Cas owlishly from under his nest of motel blankets. His wings shift restlessly though, and Castiel wonders how they would present themselves if Dean were not using them to shield himself in his fear and unease.
“What did you do?” he asks with a sigh, glancing from Dean and Sam. It is a wonder that the Winchesters can still surprise him with the trouble they can get into.
Sam pushes at his hair in a manner Castiel has learned to interpret as embarrassment or unease and Dean scowls fiercely, bottom lip protruding slightly. The blankets shift as his wings twitch again. “It was Sam’s genius idea,” he mutters defensively, glaring at his brother.
“You were eager enough half an hour ago!” Sam snaps back, crossing his arms.
Castiel huffs. “I do not have time for this.” Already Rachael is calling to him. Time flows differently in Heaven and his absence from the Eighth Sphere has already been noted. His Lieutenant tells him that Raphael is amassing his malakhim for an attack. If Castiel does not return to their stronghold swiftly, they will not have the strength to maintain the barricades between the Seventh and Ninth Spheres. They have already lost too much ground to Raphael, to fall back further would mean defeat.
Rounding on Dean he impatiently demands “What did you do?”
Dean glowers and pouts some more, shooting daggers at his brother.
“It was a ritual,” Sam says. “A powerful summoning one. It was meant to draw off Dean’s soul…” the human waves a long arm towards his brother’s huddled form. “But instead there was this really bright light and now Dean has wings.”
Cas stares at Sam in shock and irritation. Now that he knows to look for it, he can sense the power of deep magic in the room. He glances at the small table near the window and notes the bowl stained with Dean’s blood and certain potent herbs. “You attempted to use soul magick?” Sam looks sheepish, but it does nothing to calm Castiel’s ire. “I thought you more intelligent than that.”
Dean grunts in agreement but Castiel turns his glare upon him. “And you,” he says. “You of all people should have known better. You have only just managed to return your brother’s soul to his body and now you risk your own!”
Dean’s wings vibrate and twist beneath the blankets, barely kept under control. “It was important!” he snaps. “And it was only a little bit. Less than what you took from Bobby.”
“You could have died!” Castiel hisses. “Or exploded! A soul like yours –“ he makes a sweeping gesture, “-that much power. You might have taken out half the state!”
“Well I didn’t!” Dean snaps, shoving away the blankets and rising up to his knees so his wings can stretch out across the room. His chest is bare and the contrast between his wings and smooth skin is… compelling. “It didn’t work and now I’m part fucking pigeon!” He gestures wildly at the bronze appendages erupting from his bare shoulders. “So are you gonna help or not!?”
Castiel is not aware that he has manifested his own wings until they are flared high above his shoulders, arched out to display his anger at his infuriating charge, to demand his obedience. Since the human cannot usually perceive them, Castiel has rarely manifested his wings around Dean and as such he is entirely unprepared for the hunter’s instinctual response to his display now that he apparently can.
Dean’s eyes widen and he stares in awe, but otherwise his expression does not change and his body remains motionless, stubbornly maintaining the illusion of his defiance. His wings though, his wings snap down and curl forward immediately in a gesture of abject submission, displaying the vulnerable areas underneath to Castiel, the pale gold feathers there that contrast sharply to the dark bronze of the rest of his wings
A shocking thrill crackles through Castiel’s grace. His wings arch higher, demanding, and Dean’s instantly flatten even more in response, golden feathers spreading out across the messed blankets of the bed. Dean is still frowning, but he might as well be begging Castiel’s forgiveness, offering his neck. In the way that matters, he is.
“Uh guys?” Sam asks
As Dean turns to face his brother, his wings stretch back and settle into a neutral position at his back. Sam watches, enraptured, but Dean flushes bright red at the scrutiny. The wings wrap around him in a protective cocoon once more and he begins tugging at his blankets, trying to cover them.
Rachael sends a cry of alarm – Raphael is moving his forces against them – and Castiel makes what is undoubtedly a hasty decision. “I must take you to heaven,” he tells Dean.
“What? You’ve gotta kill me?” Dean asks, sounding far less alarmed at the prospect than he should.
“If you delay me further I may,” Castiel growls.
“Wait, wait wait!” Sam interrupts, “What’s going on?” He looks at Castiel. “Why do you need to take Dean to heaven?”
Castiel does not have time to explain. Ignoring Sam he settles his full attention upon Dean and snaps his wings aggressively. Dean flinches, his eyes going wide again as he stares at them. “Dean,” Cas calls, demanding his attention. Green eyes snap to his own obediently. “Come here.”
The bedding goes flying, the lights burst, the windows crack and the television explodes as Dean’s wings beat the air with sudden explosive energy and he flies for the first time at Castiel’s command, vanishing from the bed to reappear at his side. Sam lets out a shocked yelp and nearly falls over himself.
The look Dean gives him as he straightens himself is part shock part horror, but his wings remain folded lowly, trustingly, meekly, and Castiel does not have time to explain things slowly and politely. “I will fix this and return him,” he reassures Sam. “Do not do anything in the meantime.”
Sam looks confused and annoyed, but he nods anyway.
Castiel raises a hand, intending to press his fingers to Dean’s brow and guide his flight in that manner, but Dean’s wings shiver at the movement, the right curling out towards him a little in a gesture that is as inescapably intimate as it is submissive and Castiel finds himself settling his grip firmly across the back of Dean’s neck instead. Dean’s pupils dilate a fraction and his breath catches. Quite pointlessly, Castiel tugs him closer, so his charge is pressed against him, before he spreads his wings. “Follow,” he orders, and flies.
Dean responds instinctively, wings beating in time with Castiel’s, chasing after him, clinging. They soar towards heaven entwined with one another as closely as a mated pair in flight. Warm golden light, Dean’s soul, rubs up against Castiel’s grace and he very nearly crashes into one of the Pillars of Creation at the jolt of ecstasy the contact inspires in him. He barely gets them through the wards barring the Eighth Sphere, so utterly distracting is the feel of flying with Dean.
They do not land as they left Earth.
Castiel still has Dean gripped by his neck, but instead of standing beside him and glaring, his charge stands directly in front of him, hands upon his shoulders, pressed against Castiel from chest to hip. Close enough that his breath is a warm breeze against Castiel’s face as he gasps. When he realizes how entwined they are, Dean jerks in shock, eyes widening, and tries to push himself away, but Castiel buffets him with his wings, cocooning him black feathers, and Dean stills, his own wings tucking themselves beneath Castiel’s.
He has never held anyone like this, has never wanted to. His wings, his grace, wrap around Dean in a barrier that is both restraining and protective.
And Dean, bright, golden, stubborn, unyielding Dean - the man who’d defied Heaven and Hell alike - has bent before him like sapling to the wind. He could dislodge Castiel if he so desired, could spread his wings and deny him, but instead they lay acquiescent, pinned by Castiel’s. Something hot twists deep in Castiel’s grace and he tightens his hold upon Dean, digging his fingers into the warm flesh of the nape of his neck and crowding him further with his wings. The human’s mouth opens slightly and he lets out a low whimper. His bottom lip is red and wet and Castiel is staring at it. An ache of want arrows through him. He wants to know what Dean tastes like.
“Castiel!” Rachael lands beside him and again Castiel finds himself responding on instinct. He pushes Dean to his knees and hides him from his Lieutenant’s sight with his wings. In Heaven he has six instead of two and concealing his human behind them is a simple thing despite the way Dean splutters indignantly.
Rachael’s wings flare in surprise at Castiel’s actions. She looks down at where Dean is hidden curiously. “That is Dean Winchester?” she asks, her vessel’s head twisting to one side.
“Yes,” Castiel returns shortly.
Rachael waits for a moment, but when her Captain offers no further explanation, she simply nods and settles her wings into the subservient acceptance expected of an angel in the presence of her superior. “Inais and Nuriel lead the garrisons barring the Spheres,” she says. “I will return to Inais and lend my strength there. Nuriel will require your aid.”
“Very well,” Castiel tells her, simultaneously reaching to Nuriel to inform her of his return and to Inais to offer encouragement.
“Shall I have someone watch over your…” Rachael trails off, wings twitching in uncertainty as she struggles for an appropriate term for Dean, who is struggling futilely to free himself from Castiel’s hold, arms pushing but wings clinging.
Castiel reaches out and summons Samandiriel, biding him come guard his charge. The younger angel appears in an instant. Of Castiel’s followers he is one of the more curious and interested in humans and when Castiel draws back his wings and reveals Dean, he peers at him with delighted interest. Samandiriel will not only guard Dean with his life, but will not treat him with disdain.
Dean glares up at Castiel, his expression thunderous, but his wings remain flattened to his back. “Dean,” Castiel says, “Samandiriel will see to you for now. I will return.”
Dean opens his mouth, no doubt to complain or demand explanations, but there is a booming crack as Raphael’s forces attempt breach one of the Sphere’s wards. Dean shuts his mouth with an audible snap and nods, holding his tongue for the moment. Castiel can see how much effort it takes for him to restrain his curiosity and unthinkingly, he sweeps one of his wings across the span of Dean’s smaller ones in a gesture of affection.
Dean’s head jerks up in surprise, his face set into an expression that suggests Castiel’s touch is not welcome, but his wings broadcast his real feelings obviously. They twitch and flutter in coy delight, golden feathers rubbing back against black affectionately. Castiel cannot help the smile that pulls at his vessels lips. Dean blushes and huffs, crossing his arms. “Well off you go then,” he mutters dismissively.
When Castiel draws his wings back in preparation for flight however, Dean’s curve over his head, reaching towards him, begging him to stay. Castiel cannot of course, but the gesture makes him want to.