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For a majority of his years, Castiel was a commander. A warrior who fought valiantly against the forces of Hell whenever they threatened to rise up and defile his Father's creations. And for many years, he was content with his job. Orders came like clockwork and he settled into the easy routine of leading his garrison in whatever actions they may take.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, Earth time, he begins to hear whispers. He hears his superiors talking about the end of days, of Lucifer rising from his cage in the pit and ruling over all. They talk of a righteous soul whose destiny it is to defeat the devil. On the day this soul is brought into the world, Castiel is chosen to watch over it. His brethren see it as a great honor and while Castiel acknowledges it as such, he has no experience as one of the Guardians whose job it is to watch over souls since the beginning of their existence. He is a soldier, suited for battle and well-versed in strategies that will sway wars in their favor. He hasn't the first clue of how to look after something as powerful and fragile as a human soul. Nonetheless, he's been given an order and as always he must follow it. With a flap of his great white wings, he flies to Earth and stands in the nursery of the person whose destiny it is to save the world.

It's only natural that the soul that is so highly valued in Heaven is that of a Winchester's. Their story in Heaven has always been one of great import, even before John Winchester had ever met Mary Campbell, he knew the role they played in the fate of their world. The child, Dean, is no doubt destined for great, impossible things. He feels a surge of something like pity for the human. While he is not as omniscient as Father is, he can sense the struggle that Dean will have to endure in his lifetime. It's his duty to protect Dean from bodily harm and prevent his soul from reaching Heaven before his time, but concern for others' emotional well-being has always been a part of him that most of his brothers and sisters consider a fault.

Castiel walks over to the crib where Dean stares up at the mobile hanging from the ceiling. The child's eyes widen when he sees the angel and reaches for him, perhaps somehow already aware of the role Castiel plays in his life. He reaches down into the crib and Dean's tiny fingers wrap around one of his own, the human making tiny cooing sounds as he wiggles in his bed. Castiel can't help but smile and he thinks that watching over Dean won't be as impossible of a task as he had first thought.

~~~~

On the eve of his third birthday, Dean toddles over to where Castiel stands in the corner of his room. Castiel crouches down and smiles as the child hands him a stuffed animal. It's becoming a more common occurrence where Dean likes to play with him before he goes to bed. Dean sits down in front of him and nibbles on the corner of his lovingly named 'blankie' when Mary walks in. As always, her eyes glide right over the space which Castiel occupies. Only Dean is able to perceive him.

"Hey honey, ready for bed?" she asks.

Dean shakes his head, pointing in Castiel's direction.

"Uh uh," he says, "wanna play with Cas."

Mary smiles warmly and nods.

"Okay, but only for a little longer."

She leans down and kisses Dean on the forehead before leaving the room. Castiel watches her go, but his attention is soon drawn back to the toddler sitting in front of him.

"Mommy can't see you," he observes.

"Only you can," Castiel tells him.

"Why?"

He asks that a lot these days. Why can't Mommy and Daddy see you? Why do you have wings? Castiel doesn't tell him much, because he's not old enough to understand yet. He does tell Dean that he's an angel. That much he does get. When he first told him, the child lit up, because it meant his mother was telling the truth, that angels were watching over him. Castiel tries not to find the smile too endearing. He's supposed to protect Dean, not form any sort of attachment to him.

"Because I'm your special angel," he finally says.

"Okay."

His answer seems to satisfy Dean for now and he indulges him by playing with him and scooping him up in his arms much like his parents do. Dean squeals in delight when he does that and it makes Castiel feel warm all over. He wonders if this is what John and Mary feel when they look upon their child.

"Time to go to bed, Dean," he tells him after another few minutes of play. "Go find your mommy."

He nods and wanders away to find Mary. A moment later, she walks in with him in her arms, singing Hey Jude to him as she lays him down to sleep.

"Say night to Cas, Mommy," Dean tells her with a yawn, flapping a hand in his direction. Mary smoothes his blonde hair down, smiling at him. She stands and turns to look where Dean had gestured. For a moment, Castiel wonders if she truly can sense him somehow, because she looks straight at him, her green eyes piercing.

"Good night, Cas," she says.

"Night Cas!" Dean echoes, making her laugh softly. She smoothes his hair one last time, telling him goodnight before she turns the light off, plunging the room into darkness save for the nightlight, and shutting the door. Before long, the only sound in the room is Dean's breathing and Castiel moves to stand over him, smiling down at the child.

"Good night, Dean. Sleep well," he murmurs, leaning down and pressing a kiss to his forehead like he'd seen Mary do.

~~~~

The night of the fire, Castiel is summoned to Heaven. He is told, ordered, that he is not to interfere, that Dean must become a hunter so he can become strong enough to stop Lucifer. Horrified as he is at such a trauma happening to his charge, he knows that he cannot disobey. Disobedience would mean they take him from Dean and assign another, less caring angel. He will not allow that. But it still doesn't make things any better when arrives back on Earth, when he has to watch Azazel drip blood into young Sam Winchester's mouth. He watches Mary burn on the ceiling, John hand their youngest child over to Dean and tell him to run outside as fast as he can and don't look back. Castiel teleports himself outside in time for Dean to come out from the front of the house holding Sam in his arms. He looks up at his burning home, despite direction otherwise until John comes rushing out and gathers both his children into his arms.

Later, when the cops are trying to find out what happened, Dean sits alone in the back of an ambulance. He is uninjured, Castiel has made sure of that, but he is still broken all the same. John is not that far from him, cradling Sam in his arms while he talks to the police. Tears stream down Dean's face as he wails and Castiel sits down next to him, embracing him in his wings and making shushing noises as he rocks him.

"Why?" Dean asks. "Why didn't you save her?"

It's the one question he desperately wishes he can answer. One that cuts him deeper than any blade ever could. He hugs Dean tighter, whispering apologies into his ear and combing fingers through his hair.

"I'm sorry. I wasn't allowed to."

"Why?"

"Later, Dean. Rest now," he says, pressing a soothing kiss to his forehead, channeling his Grace to send Dean into a peaceful slumber free of nightmares of fire and death. He keeps Dean tucked closely against his side and for the first time in centuries, he cries for his human, questioning His plan and why Dean has to suffer to play a part in it.

~~~~

When Dean turns eight, John is gone hunting a rougarou. Sam tells him happy birthday but Dean hushes him and tells him to eat his spaghettios. He walks into the other room and hops onto the couch, turning the TV on. There's not much on and even the cartoons that used to make him laugh bring him no amusement. Castiel crouches down next to his chair and takes the child's hand in his.

"Happy Birthday, Dean," he says.

Dean doesn't answer but he does squeeze Castiel's hand, communicating all the things he can't say. Castiel conjures up a cake a few hours later and a few candles. He and Sam sing him the song and Dean can't help the smile that appears on his face. Castiel doesn't mean to pry into his charge's mind when he blows out the flames and makes his wish. But Dean's wish is loud, practically screaming it to the Heavens as he wishes with all his might to be home safe again, for his mommy to come back and to not have this life. Castiel bites his lip to stop himself from demanding the same thing from his superiors.

That night, after Dean tucks Sam in, he climbs into bed. It's been a long time since Castiel was a silent guardian that did nothing more than smile at Dean from the corner of his room. Dean locks the door and checks to make sure that he has weapons at the ready for protection. Castiel hates that he has to do so.

When Dean joins him, he wraps his wings around him like he always does and sings Hey Jude to him until he falls asleep.

~~~~

"Dean, you're thirteen and too old to have an imaginary friend," John scolds him.

He'd come back from another hunt to find Dean in a conversation with Castiel about whether or not Sam's current cold was anything serious. Castiel had assured him that everything was fine and that his younger brother just needed some sleep and probably a little cough syrup to ease the sore throat. That was when John had walked in, quiet enough that Dean didn't hear him from where he was helping Sam take his medicine in the kitchen.

Dean tried to tell his father that Cas wasn't imaginary, that he was an angel there to watch over him. John only scoffs and tells him to stop being a child. Angels aren't real, he tells him. If they were, they wouldn't have let Mary die. That quiets Dean down quickly and John goes to the bathroom to cleanse the dirt from his recent hunt away.

Dean sits on the couch, arms crossed and a scowl on his face. Castiel sits next to him and Dean unconsciously leans into him like he used to when he was younger.

"Sorry bout that, Cas," he mutters. "Wish I had some way to convince him."

"It's fine, Dean. He's not ready to know just yet."

Dean sighs and Castiel pats him on the shoulder. The teenager had grown out of the hair ruffling and forehead kisses a few years ago. He's still tense and he turns to look at Castiel, green eyes shining.

"Why didn't you save her?"

It's the same question he'd asked that terrible night and Castiel's heart twinges in pain.

"My superiors ordered me not to," he says again.

"Why?"

"They said you had a part to play in God's plan and you had to become a hunter to do it. Which meant-"

"Mom had to die," Dean snaps. He stands abruptly and Castiel can sense that he doesn't wish to talk anymore. He goes to make sure Sam is okay again, the whole time mumbling in anger about God's plan and how much he hated it. Castiel would normally chastise Dean for such blasphemy, but for some reason, he can't find it in himself to do so.

~~~~

John Winchester never physically hurt Dean. If so, Castiel would have no choice but to smite him. But that never meant he didn't abuse his oldest son. Ever since the incident with the Shtriga, he no longer looked at Dean the same way. He started talking down to him, like he'd somehow lost the ability to do his job correctly. Every time, the words cut his human worse than any injury he might have received on a hunt.

While John was busy comforting Sam, Dean would stare at the television, not really seeing it and Castiel could feel how much Dean hated himself, how much blame he put on himself.

"It's not your fault. Your father is wrong," he says. Castiel's been telling him that a lot recently. Dean never answers aloud, he's learned not to, but he still shakes his head as if to say 'you're wrong.' Castiel sighs and plants himself on the couch next to Dean, flicking the TV off with a thought and wrapping one of his wings around Dean protectively. Unfortunately, it's never been quite enough to protect him from his own monsters. He pats Dean's shoulder and Dean shrugs him off before deciding to get ready for bed.

Dean's stopped letting him stay in the same bed and it's back to that distance he'd maintained when Dean was a baby. Only this time, it's colder and he feels each inch of that distance like a slap to his face. He sighs and leans back against the wall, watching as the years fall from Dean's face. During the waking hours, he always looks much too old for his age. At least when he rests, he looks like just a normal eighteen year old.

He monitors Dean's dreams carefully, changing them when they take a turn for the worst. He presses two fingers to his charge's forehead, chasing away fire and monsters and darkness and wishes that he could do the same when Dean was awake.

~~~~

When Sam leaves for Stanford, effectively destroying what little bit that kept Dean and John at peace, he watches his human fall apart. His hunting is better than ever and while he's never in danger of being injured on a hunt, both due to his expertise and Castiel's protecting, he'd be blind if he couldn't see how much his brother's departure had devastated him.

John often mutters about Sam's poor choice to leave when he could be here searching for the thing that killed Mary and hunting down monsters. Dean always defends his brother but Castiel doesn't have to look that far into his mind to see that the older sibling feels the same. Castiel stops following Dean wherever he goes, unless it's on a dangerous hunt. Much like his father, Dean has taken to alcoholism. While he's not at danger of any sort of long term damage, thanks to Castiel's healing hands, the angel still dislikes the road Dean has taken.

Whenever he tries talking to him about it, Dean shuts him out and ignores him for the better part of a few days. It's been happening a lot recently, like Dean is steadily distancing himself from Castiel. One day, he fears that Dean will confess to not needing him, for him to go away and never return. Impossible, given his assignment, but he's never been able to deny his hunter anything. He'd have to cloak himself, remain invisible to Dean's eyes. The force with which he doesn't want that shocks him.

~~~~

Castiel feels the first pangs of what he determines to be jealousy when he sees Dean reunited with his first love. Sam teases him about it and Castiel wishes he was emotionally detached enough to do the same, to make light of things. But over the years, Castiel's feelings for his human have steadily changed. He never says it in words, but in the way he heals Dean's wounds when no one is looking. He wants to be angry with Dean for the hunter telling him to stop interfering so much on hunts. But the man makes a good point. For a hunter to come away from every fight without so much as a scratch is suspicious and he doesn't need to start protecting Dean from other humans as well as monsters.

Instead, he'll sit on whatever motel bed they've procured for the night and treat his wounds. He runs his fingers over the gashes on Dean's cheeks, knits skin and muscle back together from where he's been injured. He leaves scars behind, just so no one will question things. He only treats the life threatening injuries most days now. The little scrapes and bruises stay and he hates it, hates seeing the man whose protection he's been charged with in pain.

It hurts in an entirely different way when he sees Dean with various people. He will not use the term lovers, because he knows that they don't love him and that he doesn't love them. Perhaps Cassie is the only exception, but once she broke off the relationship with Dean, the love from him abruptly ceased.

"You shouldn't give yourself away so freely, you know," he says one night after Sam has fallen asleep.

"Why not, Cas? A man's gotta have some way to relieve stress," he mutters with a chuckle. He brings the bottle of whiskey to his lips and drinks. The substance is starting to become more like water to him every day and Castiel hates how easily he's let it happen.

"I'm only expressing my opinion. You shouldn't 'sleep around' as I've heard others put it. You should-"

"You calling me a whore, Cas?" Dean snaps, eyes hardening.

"No. Never," Cas rushes to amend. Damn him and his lack of understanding over human phrases. "I'm only saying-"

"Don't care," Dean cuts him off. He downs the rest of the bottle and sets it on the table.

"Dean-"

"Good night, Castiel."

It's the first time Dean has ever called him that, at least since the first failed attempt at saying his full name as a child. He decides that he hates the way it sounds, how formal and detached it makes things feel between them. He sighs and his wings droop in sadness as he watches diligently over Dean's dreams.

~~~~

Cas watches Sam Winchester die for the first time. He watches Dean weep for him and desperately wishes that he could do something, but just as with his mother, he was forbidden to do so. Dean has a specific part to play in all this and while he despises that he must allow this, he watches Dean drive to a crossroads after screaming himself hoarse for Castiel to bring his baby brother back.

He wants to tell him to stop, but only watches in agony as Dean sells his soul to a demon to bring Sam back. He stays silent for the days after that, to give Dean space and time to look after his brother. They should be able to relax after killing Azazel, but now another fate looms over their heads. Dean's inevitable fate to be cursed to Hell.

During one of their hunts, Castiel flies to Heaven. He stands in his superior's office and demands to know just how he's expected to stand by and watch his charge die and his soul be dragged to the pit. As always, the angels remain calm and collected, so sure of themselves.

"Have faith, brother," they say. "All will happen just as Father wishes it to and no one, not even you, shall interfere with His plan."

He wants to yell at them. He wants to destroy something, find some way to vent his anger at what Dean has to suffer through. But as always, he nods and returns to his post on Earth, watching as Dean gives himself over to unhealthy habits because he knows that he only has a year to live now.

~~~~

Castiel and Sam watch as Lilith sets her hellhounds on Dean. Sam cradles Dean's body in his arms and weeps. Castiel flees to an abandoned field and lets out an anguished scream that turns into a sob, the calm weather turning dark with the force of his sorrow, sinking to his knees with his face hidden in his hands.

~~~~

It is only after the first seal is broken, after the Righteous Man spills blood in Hell, that the angels give the command to rescue him. Castiel leads his garrison into the pit, vanquishing any demon who dares to stand in their path. He leaves his soldiers to battle, distracting the demons so he can carve his path to his human's soul. Even in Hell's cursed, eternal darkness, he can see Dean shining brighter than the others. It's beautiful, as it was the day he was born and it makes him nearly weep with joy to see it after so many years of being forbidden to save Dean.

He cuts through demons with ease as he descends deeper and deeper into Hell. And when he finally reaches his human, an overwhelming sense of sorrow takes him. He watches Dean, with his beautiful and bright soul, torturing another human soul, a gleeful smile on his face as he does so. Alastair watches him with pride and Castiel snarls at him, sword drawn and wings spread wide as he prepares to smite him. The white-eyed demon flees before he can do so much as put a scratch on him and rather than chase him down he focuses on rescuing Dean. He grabs his soul tightly, so tightly that his Grace burns a mark into it that will remain for eternity.

Ignoring the gravity of the bond he's just created, he leaps into the air cradling Dean's soul close to him like he always had. His soldiers keep the demons at bay as they retreat and finally, they reach the surface. Dean's body has been destroyed by decay over the past four months, but it's a simple task to restore him. He gets rid of every wound, every scar and imperfection. He knits skin back together, muscle and sinew reattaching to bones refortified with Grace. He returns Dean's body to peak physical condition before finally settling his soul back to its rightful place. He presses a kiss to Dean's forehead to wake him up and as soon as it's done, he's pulled back to Heaven.

Now no longer Dean's Guardian, but simply another angel in the ranks, they tell him that the time has come to fully reveal himself. He watches over Dean in Heaven and it's only when his true voice threatens to deafen who he still views as his human that they allow him to descend to Earth again.

Bobby and Dean summon him to an old barn with every symbol from religions all over the world sketched onto its surface. But not a one of them is designed to keep angels out. The wind picks up as he flies in and as he forces the door open, striding straight over the devil's trap at the front of the room, they start shooting. The impacts don't even make him flinch and he walks over to finally stand in front of his human again. He smiles slightly, happy to finally see him alive and well after so long.

"Who are you?"

The words hurt so much that even if he needed to breath, he wouldn't be able to. He's not sure if Dean not remembering him is due to his time in Hell or if his superiors have altered his memories, but to look into those green eyes and not see a single trace of recognition nearly destroys him. Still, he has a task to attend to here, so he locks away his pain and forces his face to remain neutral.

"I'm the one who gripped you tight and raised you from Perdition."

~~~~

Working with Uriel is a tiring task and even worse when Dean doesn't trust either of them. He wishes to tell his human the truth, to restore his memory with a touch, but every time he gets the idea, Uriel reminds him of their orders. But every day, he doubts these orders and his faith in his Father diminishes

Cas isn't sure when he went from indifferent soldier to some desperate wreck pining for what Uriel and the others so fondly call a mud monkey. Every time he sees Dean, he stares into those emerald greens and wills him to remember their time before he had failed to save him from the pit. And every time, Dean snaps at him to back off.

~~~~

When Famine rolls into town after Lucifer rising, he feels hunger for red meat, courtesy of the last vestiges of Jimmy's consciousness fading from his vessel. He still has enough control to stop himself from acting on the hunger he has for Dean, in an entirely different sense of the word.

~~~~

When Cas becomes God, he loses all of that affection for Dean. He only sees him as his brethren did, another human who will not bow to him. When he learns of their scheming against him, of their plans to bind Death and kill him, he feels nothing but wrath as he raises a hand to snap Sam and Dean into oblivion.

It's only after he murders a building full of humans that he comes to his senses. Never before has he felt such a profound amount of regret. When Dean helps him return the souls to Purgatory, he can feel the Leviathan writhing inside him, still holding on. He wants to tell Dean everything then, but there's not enough time. He watches after the Leviathan take over. He watches his own hands throw Dean and Bobby across the room. He feels himself suffocating as he walks into a lake and everything goes dark.

~~~~

Emmanuel marries Daphne, but he never sleeps with her. For some reason, it feels wrong, like he's cheating on another. He wonders why he feels this way, like something major is missing from his life. Every night, he lies awake, unable to sleep and unable to shake this feeling of pain and longing for something that he hasn't the first clue of what it could possibly be.

When he does manage to sleep, and even then, it feels more like a meditative state than anything, he dreams of green eyes and freckles, the face of a man who is achingly familiar yet a stranger at the same time.

When the very same man shows up at his front step, knife plunging into the heart of another one of those things, his heart very nearly stops. Because that longing aches inside and he knows this man. He knows that he does. The name 'Dean' triggers emotions in him that he can't explain and he wishes that he knew why Dean is always staring at him as if he's trying to tell him something he can't bring himself to say out loud.

~~~~

Cas watches the bees after he gets his memory back. Meg keeps an eye on him and he develops a fondness for her. She indulges his spontaneous whims to play games with her and cleans up broken glass after he convinces her to pull his finger. He wonders if Dean would like to play with him sometime or if he'll visit sometime soon. Meg always looks at him with something like sadness or pity and sometimes even anger when he says things like that.

~~~~

Purgatory cleanses him of his insanity and he wonders if it can cleanse him of his sins as well. He runs the first chance he gets to protect Dean from the Leviathan and other unspeakable evils that pursue him here. But as always, Dean finds him. He doesn't return his hug because he knows if he does, he'd never let go and that's precisely what he needs to do to keep his human safe.

He hates having to lie to Dean again, but he knows that he won't be following him back to Earth. He deserves to be here. After hurting so many, angels and humans alike. After allowing himself to follow orders so blindly instead of doing what he should have done so long ago and save Mary Winchester. The first step in his atonement is to let Dean go, to push his hand away and watch as the portal swallows him up.

~~~~

Freed from Purgatory, the angel Naomi demands that he be fixed. Her method of doing so is conditioning him to kill Dean. Over and over and over again. He refuses at first, but soon comes to realize that he will never escape here if he continues to do so. And when he can't even make his first kill, Naomi decides that he may be more broken than she originally thought.

After the tenth time he's had to kill Dean, he sinks to the floor and sobs, whispering apologies over again to the hunter's corpse. After the fiftieth copy of Dean, he turns his angel blade on himself. Naomi stops him and straps him down. Even now, he still has nightmares about that buzzing drill and the pain of her reprogramming his very being.

~~~~

He watches as his brothers and sisters fall to Earth. Strangely enough, his first concern is to get to Dean, to make sure he's unharmed. However, as a human, things are infinitely more difficult and it takes him months to finally find his way back to the bunker. He loses both his virginity and his life on the way. And in the end, he loses Sam and Dean too.

~~~~

When he learns that Dean is a demon, he very nearly screams at Sam. But it's not his fault. He reigns in his anger and focuses all his attention on getting back to the bunker to help. With his newly stolen Grace, he decides that for the moment, he's strong enough to proceed on his own. He leaves Hannah in charge of Heaven and drives day and night to return to his human. Human, because he refuses to think of the man he's guarded since childhood as anything else.

~~~~

After he's returned to normal, Dean worries that Sam will leave him. He worries about that a lot. Cas blames it on Sam leaving for Stanford all those years ago. But he assures Dean that Sam is his brother and he would never do that, even while the both of them are uncertain of that supposed truth. But there is one thing that he knows will always be true.

He steps closer to Dean, sitting next to him on the bed and wrapping a wing around him protectively like he used to.

"I will never leave you," he whispers. He ruffles Dean's hair fondly and presses a kiss to his forehead. With that action, he watches recognition light up in Dean's eyes. The hunter pulls back and stares, as if he's seeing Cas for the very first time. But the opposite could not be more true. Dean flounders for an answer for a moment when he finally manages to gather himself enough to speak clearly.

"I remember you," he says.

Cas smiles and a surprised, pleased laugh escapes him. Tears spring unbidden to his eyes and he pulls Dean closer, leaning his forehead against his human's.

"You do?" he asks.

Dean nods and takes Cas' hands in his, squeezing them tightly.

"I remember everything. I never did thank you, for staying with me all that time."

"You don't need to," Cas says.

"That's where you're wrong, angel," Dean replies.

He reaches up to cup Cas' cheek and fits their mouths together. Cas sighs against his lips happily and his wings form a cocoon around them. Dean kisses him a few more times and then hugs him, humming happily.

"I love you," he says. It's the first time he's said that to anyone since he was very little, but somehow, the words aren't hard to say at all.

"I love you too," he replies, combing fingers through Dean's hair.

Dean moves so they're both lying down and he blinks slowly, tired from the day's exertions. He traces senseless patterns on Cas' shoulder and looks up at him through his lashes, blushing and almost shy. Cas can't help but feel giddy at the sight and he leans forward to kiss Dean again.

"Hey Cas," he mumbles when they separate. "I'm tired and well, I was wondering if..."

He trails off, feeling nervous, but Cas only laughs softly. He knows without Dean having to ask.

"Of course, my beloved."

He tugs his human closer, clothing him in proper sleepwear with a thought, and draping a wing over him. He cradles Dean's head to his chest and starts singing the first lines of Hey Jude.