What if the righteous man wasn’t who we led to believe it would be?
Lawrence, Kansas, November, 1983.
Castiel watched silently on what he knew would be their last day as a happy family. He knew that he would stand there that night, watch as Azazel appeared in the child’s room, watch as he tainted his soul, watch as his mother was engulfed in the raging fire. This was the night it all began.
Michael and Lucifer.
Once brothers, now destined to battle at Stull cemetery, Lucifer would fall under Michael’s heavenly wrath, he thinks, and the earth would be saved. All it cost was the utter destruction of this one family. It was heaven’s will and it is just. Castiel knew this, he knew the divine plan and how it was meant to play out, yet… a profound sorrow bubbled up in his throat, but he swallowed it down, just like a good soldier.
His grace stood still as Mary fled up the stairs, her mind rife with terror, it pulsed with her scream of helpless… of a mother trying to protect her son. The righteous man pummelled up the stairs after her, staring in abject horror at his dead wife on the ceiling. When Mary burst into flames, Castiel wasn’t sure that John would even find the willpower to get his children out of the house. But he does. He is the righteous man after all.
In other room, slumbering peacefully, is somehow Dean. His young mind not yet trained to spring awake at the slightest noise. Castiel extends tendrils of his grace, waking the child slowly and taking away any weariness he might feel.
“Take your brother outside as fast as you can! Now, Dean. Go!”
Castiel watched over then as they bolted out of the house, carefully outing any flames that licked too close to their vessels. Heaven would be disappointed if they should perish now.
22 years later
Dean was driving away. Lines of disappointment etched onto his face. Castiel was so engulfed by this human’s profound emotions that he almost did not sense the demon that was waiting for Sam in his room. Dean was already speeding away, the steady purr of the Impala and a symphony of Led Zeppelin drowning out the sound of his brother’s departing words. Castiel’s grace shot out and with one decisive motion the Impala’s engine stuttered and the lights surrounding them flickered. He knew that interference was strictly prohibited… but he also knew that the brother’s needed each other to survive… to find their father. Castiel almost could not believe his actions.
Yes, he would say it’s for the greater good… to use the boys to find the righteous man, who was now warded against angels, yet deep down, at the core of his grace, he knew how fallacious that was. His real thoughts… well they were too impetuous…too blasphemous to even be considered.
But as Dean suddenly swerved, gripping the wheel tightly as he raced back towards his brother, Castiel could not help the way his grace pulsed brightly as his essence seemed to expand and contract all at once.
2 years later
Castiel felt tainted. Interacting with demons would do that to an angel. Azazel had wanted the righteous man, and so he had taken him. Given him ten minutes when he was rightfully entitled to ten years. Of course no one would bat an eye at this, after all, Hell was just as dedicated to starting the apocalypse. Once again Castiel had convinced himself that he was just following orders. Being a good soldier. Making his father proud.
The reality though was that he was not in fact perpetuating Heaven’s will in this instance. The only real reason that
Castiel had done it was that it aligned with his own errant sentiments. Shame burned bright in his chest as John willingly complied.
The first seal was on its way to bring broken.
And Castiel was indifferent, so indifferent that he missed the cries from both heaven and hell as his grace sought out the once more beating heart of Dean Winchester.
The angels stood ready for months, waiting for the righteous man to break so that they could begin the incursion into hell.
His was in charge of his very own garrison and he was more than ready to dive into the depths of hell to retrieve the Winchester’s father.
But the righteous man refused to give in. Almost fifty years passed and the angels wilted more with every passing day. Surely the tortures of hell would unleash abject horrors upon John Winchester. But as time passed, it seemed less and less likely that he would break.
The day he was summoned to the most sacred halls of Heaven was the day that he thought his true feelings were revealed. His sympathies… his shortcomings. They knew he was different, right from the start, they had surely predicted his incompetence and abject failures as an angel.
Castiel was more than prepared for the inevitable chastisement… possibly being cast out onto the earth in a ball of fire that would shred his wings and catapult his grace from his vessel. What he was not prepared for was the soft words of Raphael telling him that there might be another way.
Sam Winchester was dead.
And Dean Winchester was on his way to make a demon deal.
Schooling the motions of his grace into gentle waves, he asks what Raphael means to accomplish with this new development.
“Dean Winchester in hell.” Says Raphael, “if anything will break John Winchester it’s his son, the one he died for suffering at the hands of a torturer worse than his own.”
Castiel bristled at that. No. Could they mean –
“Alistair will handle the boy personally. Offer him a chance of escape that he will never let himself take.” Raphael suddenly moves closer, his mere presence pinning Castiel. “He must make this deal Castiel.”
He couldn’t allow it. Just couldn’t. This human. This self-loathing, self-sacrificing piece of flesh whom he had watched over since birth, was about to damn himself to the most macabre of tortures. Castiel had healed him when he was a baby, fighting off infections that might have otherwise killed him, sometimes comforting baby Dean as he screamed himself blue in the face. He was more than prepared to do it again, to comfort him after the loss of his brother, to let him grieve as he should. More importantly, they would not allow Sam to remain dead. They needed him. But Dean didn’t know that.
And they needed Dean, he thought. Raphael’s plan was as clear as day. If hell could not break John in time, Dean would be Michael’s vessel. It was always supposed to be Dean… brothers like Michael and Lucifer. But Michael knew Dean… knew that he would never in a million years say yes… he knew it even before Dean’s birth. But if John would not break, then Dean would have to.
Except… it was as though something had possessed Castiel. He knew that was impossible. He marched towards the gates of Heaven, his grace fluctuating and thrumming with indecision.
“Castiel.” The stern powerful voice commands his attention.
Curiously, the angel before him was not one of his brethren. He had never before seen this being.
“I’m Naomi.” Says the angel, “we’re due for a meeting Castiel.”
A few months later
Castiel blinks. His grace has folded over itself time and time again and he feels like a lion trapped in a bird cage. His searching gaze flits around the darkness in bewilderment.
In a flash, a soul appears before him. It radiates pain, animosity and a special brand of dejection that is characteristic of only one human. Clarity pulses through him as his eyes flit over the form of the soul… the soul that he has memorised since birth… the soul that Heaven punished him for.
His garrison falling.
It all flooded his mind.
“What are you?” the soul asks, with a subtle quirk of his head, successfully distracting Castiel from his revelations.
“I am Castiel, angel of the Lord.” He says, half in wonder.
How could a soul be in Hell for this long, torture and maim, yet still radiate purity? How could he leave Dean here?
If he returned with anyone but the righteous man, Heaven would kill him and launch an incursion into Hell. It would be pointless to save Dean. Catastrophic to his very existence.
He steels his voice, “I am here for the righteous man.”
A bitter laugh resounds. Dean glares at him almost in disappointment. “Well ‘angel dude’ you’re in Hell if you hadn’t noticed. There’s nothing righteous about this place. What are you really, and don’t you dare say angel you son of a bitch!” he barks as Castiel opens his lips to repeat the introduction.
“You can see my form Dean.” He says, beginning to feel uneasy in his bonds. “I’m clearly not a demon and no soul looks like this.”
“Then you’re a monster.” Dean says flatly. For the first time since arriving, Castiel takes stock of the room. It is dank with an overwhelming sense of fear.
The rack. The place where countless souls were tortured; shredded apart countless times until they turned a smoky black.
Dean’s hands hover over a blade, as raucous noises drift closer.
“Your mother – she told you that angels were watching over you.” Says Castiel, panic seeping into his voice. From what the archangels had said, the instruments in hell were designed to inflict uninhibited physical torments onto anything that touched them. Castiel was fairly certain that angels were included in ‘anything.’ “She sang ‘Hey, Jude’ to you at night when you were sad.”
Dean’s entire soul flickered and for a moment Castiel believed that he would be freed.
The noises moved closer and Dean slashed the blade clean through his grace. A scream tore up his throat and echoed in the space around them. Dean’s entire visage was dimmed, subdued and he moved with almost mechanical motions.
Castiel had never been victim to such profound pain in the millions of years he had been alive. There were very few weapons that could hurt an angel. What Naomi had done to him was painful, but incomparable to this. Castiel’s wings thrashed on instinct, attempting to shield his grace.
At the appearance of his wings Dean stopped reigning down slashes of pain and stared at him.
“Maybe you are an angel.” Murmurs Dean, eyes glinting dangerously, “I need you to scream.”
After moments of silence it began again.
Dean was right, Castiel did scream, he screamed long and bloody, his grace twisting and writhing in a futile attempt to avoid the blade and the pain. Castiel screamed for days, endlessly, the torture never ceased. His eyes remained closed to avoid looking at the soul before him, except for when Dean had carved them open or rendered them blind.
Ever so slowly his grace dimmed, the fight slowly draining out of him.
Abruptly, it ceased. Yet Castiel still screamed as his being struggled to adjust to the notion of not being in pain.
“How’s Sam?” Asks Dean, his voice low and controlled.
Castiel keeps his mouth shut, for fear of his tongue being ripped out.
“If you answer… I’ll take you to the righteous man.” He adds.
Castiel shouldn’t believe a word of it. Should keep his mouth sealed… but his mind drifts back to Dean’s soul, a pure beacon of light shining in the depths of despair. If he didn’t know better Castiel would say that Dean had been here less than a day. Dean was asking about his brother. The only thing he had left to love. The boy that Dean had protected all his life, just as Castiel protected Dean. How would he take this though? To know that his sacrifice was utterly unappreciated by Sam?
“He’s drinking demon blood.”
Dean inhales sharply, in disgust, he reels for many moments, digesting the news. “You have to help him.” says Dean, his hands still stiff on the hammer. “If I let you go find the righteous man, promise me.”
“I swear it.”
“We need to wait a few hours for the halls to clear and I have somewhere to be.” Says Dean, his eyes shining with determination, “Stay here and stay silent.”
The door creaked open and Castiel eagerly perked up, turning to great Dean. In his time alone,
Castiel had come to a few conclusions. Firstly, that the demons had somehow convinced Dean that Sam was well… possibly as a way to placate him, secondly, that he could forgive Dean for torturing him and thirdly, he would take Dean with him.
“An angel.” A voice sneers, “This is what he’s been hiding. I bet he carved you up real good, taught him everything he knows.”
A chill runs through Castiel at the words of Hell’s most infamous torturer.
“Come on bitch, let’s have some fun until Deany- weany comes back for you.”
Castiel gulps, a new type of terror surging through him. With Dean, everything was clinical, robotical, in a way that led Castiel that he actually did not derive pleasure from torturing. However, Alistair displayed a worrying zeal to inflict pain and after all he had heard, torture was the only thing that brought Alistair any pleasure now.
From the first stroke of the pliers, Castiel knew that this would be much worse than before. Instead of tearing off fingernails or eyelids, curishing his grace or any of the other options, Alistair directed his attention to Castiel’s wings; the only territory that Dean avoided suring their time on the rack. Chunks of heathers and grace were mangled by the blunt instrument, the pain wasw so immense that Castiel couldn’t even muster a scream. The most intimate and sensitive part of an angel was their wings and his soon lay in disrepair.
“Can you die like this?” chirps Alisrair sounding way too interested.
Castiel remains motionless.
“That wouldn’t be very fun now would it?”
Alistair heals Castiel with a single breath, but the demon is Hell’s greatest torturer for a reason. Before healing his wings, he leaves Castiel a nice surprise.
The flesh of his wings knit together, his grace helping it along, but it hurts, sears his entire being in fact.
Fragments of an angel blade have been interwoven with his grace and his grace instinctively tries to repair it, rushing thorough his nerves to heal him but as soon as the pain dulls the shards shift and his grace moves to alleviate his suffering. The vicious cycle repeats itself leaving Castiel hollow and discombobulated. Too shaken to do anything but whimper from a pain that radiates ceaselessly.
And that’s exactly how Dean finds him. Trembling. Shamelessly babbling Enochian pleas. Castiel hadn’t even noticed that Alistair was gone, but he surely noticed Dean’s presence.
Dean’s lips purse into a sort of angry pout and his eyes flash. “Dammit. Alistair.”
Castiel nods, not able to get any words our in his present condition.
Methodically, Dean surveys the damage, eyes dancing over his wings with a pinched expression.
“We have to move quickly.” He says, matter-of-factly, “If anyone knows I let you go…”
He trails off.
“Dean…” the voice is a plea, a whimper. Castiel is shocked that he no longer even sounds like an angel, a commander of the host. Upon his arrival he could not fathom why Dean would torture him in such a manner, but now it was as clear as a crystal; Dean had wanted him to scream, to avoid any unnecessary attention while he decided on a plan of action. Clarity spread through his being with a sense of joyfulness not intended for the pits of
Hell… Dean had been going easy on him, doing the bare minimum to avoid suspicion.
“There’s too much to take out all at once. I’ll pull the ones closer to your spine first ok?”
He bites his lips to prevent any more shameful noises from escaping, unwilling to listen to the shameful pleas he had been reduced to, but as Dean extracts the first shard of metal, Castiel trembles and faints, his body no longer able to process such agony.
Castiel woke to a litany of explicitness and a crippling pain.
Thankfully, he’s no longer strapped to the table.
“Who the hell is this ‘righteous man’ anyway?” Dean’s voice is tinged with bitterness and scorn.
This moment would decide everything. The rest of life as it is known hinged on whether he could convince a man as arrogant and stubborn as Dean Winchester that he was the righteous man.
Dean was the true Michael’s Sword. Heaven just preferred John as he would be more pliant, less doubtful and suspicious. Moreover, Castiel would not leave him here, not after he noticed the way Alistair spoke of Dean whilst torturing him. Castiel knew his thoughts at that moment went against the Almighty’s plan but could not muster the slightest bit of guilt.
He knew why. Naomi had known why as she stripped him of his memories.
Castiel was in love with a human, with Dean Winchester.
That human had tortured him to keep him safe, the one who wanted to die but now wanted to live the one he had a soft spot for.
“You.” Says Castiel, laying his hand firmly on Dean’s shoulder. That one word held more meaning than either could comprehend in that moment. It was the end. It was the beginning… of a bond so profound that not even death could break it.
Joshua closed his eyes, as he sent out the prayer.
“It is done, Father.” He says, surrounded by the evergreens, his hand resting atop a pile of moss. “Castiel has chosen Dean Winchester. You were right to sense his disobedience, he did not even search for John… a good thing too as he would not have been found.”
Unbeknownst to anyone, after Dean had killed Azazel, John finally achieved peace and now resided in Heaven with his soul-mate, Mary.
Chuck closed his eyes in bliss, as the words of Joshua’s prayers reached him. Everything, as always, had gone according to plan. Of course, Castiel’s memories would be cleansed as soon as they entered Heaven, but Chuck knew how impermanent it would be.
A smile slipped onto his face.
Just think of all the storylines this opened up. Slow burn. Angst. Heart-break. That spicy will-they-won’t-they that every story needed. After all, what good is a journey without at least one trail-blazing, sappy, forbidden love-story?