Castiel is both terrified and in awe of Raphael. The glow emanating from his beautiful wings hurts Castiel’s borrowed eyes and the ring of light that shines around him could easily be used as fuel for an entire city.
He has never been more afraid of anything else than he is of the archangel at that moment.
He expects Raphael to immediately raise his arm and summon the powers of the Host into his hand but he’s surprised when it doesn’t come. Not yet. Instead, the archangel simply observes him like he’s a creature no one has ever encountered before. Then again, rebellious angels have been rare and far-between for a millennium. Castiel wonders if he, too, will be cast down into Perdition like the Morningstar or if he will be erased from existence. After all, being one of the youngest of the Host, he will not be missed quite as much as Lucifer had been so what use would the angels have with him alive?
Finally, Raphael nods his head, having figured out the answer to an invisible riddle. “I see now,” he declares to no one in particular.
When Raphael takes a step forward, Castiel does the reverse. Just behind him in the living room, he can hear the prophet’s heart hammering loud and fast while he’s cowering behind his couch. It’s foolish—the man has nothing to be afraid of. He should know that no angel will ever dare touch him. “What is it that you see?” he asks Raphael, though he is certain that he won’t like the answer. Nonetheless, it surprises him to hear Jimmy’s voice come out so even and strong, giving little of his fear away.
Raphael laughs, the sound echoing around the house like thunder. “Be not afraid, brother, for I understand now what I must do.” His voice is calm like a lazy summer breeze. “I do not know what the future holds but I wish you all the luck in the world.” He finally raises his hand in a gesture Castiel is all too familiar with—index and middle finger straight; thumb, fourth, and fifth fingers curled. Raphael can do anything from sending Castiel back to Heaven for punishment to burning him right out of existence.
He launches himself at his brother with a cry, determined to stop him before he has time to perform the act he had been sent here to do. He has no illusions that he will come out of this battle alive, but he will fulfill his promise to Dean Winchester.
He will hold them off.
But Raphael is much quicker than he anticipated and grabs his arm, twisting it easily like a corkscrew. Although Castiel feels no pain, Jimmy’s body certainly does and it makes its silent cries of anguish known. He crumples to the ground like a rag doll and the last thing he sees before being engulfed by cold, cold darkness is Chuck Shurley staring at him in horror.
For the first time since he came into existence, Castiel sleeps.
Dean had expected a lot of things to walk through those doors. What he hadn’t expected was to see that face again after eleven years. His heart stopped beating when those blue, blue eyes rested on him and it was like he was eighteen again. He could recognize them anywhere.
But they didn't recognize him.
It was even the same fugly trench coat, suit, and tie he wore when they—him, Sammy, and Dad—first found him. Except it couldn't be, because he stood for hours watching that coat burn months later. He was the one who lit the match.
Dean raised his gun and fired.
This... This thing didn't even seem to notice that he just got salt rounds lodged into his chest. He just kept on walking, back stiff and so sure of himself, just like him.
Over a million questions and possible answers were running through Dean's mind but none of them made sense. So he did the only thing that did make sense and continued firing along with Bobby, but the next few rounds had about as much effect on this guy as the first one did.
He stopped long enough to bark, "Who are you?"
"I'm the one who gripped you tight and raised you from Perdition,” was the reply.
The man said all this calmly, as if raising people from Hell was a normal, every day occurrence. A walk in the park. Dean never thought he'd hear that voice again and hadn't realized just how much he missed it until now. It was the same deep, haunting tone that he had and it didn't fail to send shivers down Dean's spine like it did all those years ago.
No! Snap out of it, Winchester, he told himself ruthlessly, this is just some twisted freak who knows exactly how to push your buttons. Anger flooded him. Whatever this thing was, it had no right to wear his face and taunt Dean with it. With a speed that surely would’ve made Dad proud, he dropped the gun and reached for his knife, stabbing the monster where its heart should've been. He stepped back to survey his handiwork but those piercing blue eyes never left him, questioning but mostly amused.
Bobby and his crowbar didn't stand a chance.
The thing watched Bobby fall like he was nothing. After the ‘thump!’ that followed, he turned to face Dean again like he had never been interrupted. "We need to talk, Dean. Alone."
Dean wanted to throw up. Of all the times he'd heard his name roll on this man's tongue—assuming it was the same man, but it couldn't be, he won't believe it—he never imagined it could be said with so much nonchalance. Dean missed the way he said it, with reverence, like Dean was his whole world.
This is a nightmare, he told himself resolutely, just a really fucked up nightmare. But even after what seemed like forever and a day passed and he still couldn’t escape the other man’s gaze, Dean realized with sinking dread that no, this was very real.
When Castiel awakens, he is instantly aware of two things. One, he is no longer in the prophet’s house. Instead, he is lying in what appears to be a small clearing in a forest. Two, he isn’t dead, not by a long shot. He can see the air dancing around him the same way the old worshippers of Beltane danced during the fire festival. He can hear the trees and grass singing softly to him, sharing all the things they’ve seen over the centuries.
He can still feel, something he had never been able to do until he slipped inside Jimmy’s body.
As Castiel slowly rises to his feet, he is able to take in more of his surroundings. He knows instinctively that it is eight-twenty in the evening and he is somewhere near a place called Kittery Point in Maine. It is past dusk but not exactly dark yet. The sky has melted into a deep blue shade with strips of orange, red, and yellow still visible in the horizon. He is surrounded by thick trees that block most of the light but enough is left so that he can see a few feet in front of him.
He closes his eyes and concentrates on flexing his wings. He has to get out of here, go back to Dean and Sam, keep the younger Winchester from killing Lilith—if he hasn’t already. But an invisible force pushes his Grace back when he attempts to take flight and flings him against a tree across the clearing. It groans against his weight as he collapses to the ground. Castiel is immediately back on his feet and reaches out with his Grace to find the perpetrator. His body tenses up, preparing itself for battle but no enemies approach. He can see the pure white swirl of his Grace blanketing the clearing and weaving through the trees like snakes, but he doesn’t feel the presence of anything else except for himself and a few stray animals in the vicinity.
“Where are you?” he bellows. He patiently waits for a reply as his voice echoes through the trees but hears nothing except for the shrill cries of some seagulls in the distant. He repeats his question but gives up when, after a few minutes, he concedes that whatever attacked him is either long gone or too well hidden for him to find. “I will find you,” he promises.
He begins to walk.
Castiel registers that Jimmy’s body is tired, that it is thirsty and hungry, but the sensations don’t mean much to him. The man himself is dormant, tucked away in the deepest corners of his mind, asleep for as long as Castiel inhabits his body. He is glad for that. Jimmy Novak has already suffered much in the Lord’s name and does not need to know what else lies in wait for him.
Not that Castiel knows either, but he knows he will get out of here.
He continues to walk in the direction of the seagulls’ cries. It unnerves him that although he knows where he is, he still doesn’t know where he is. If he’s going north, south, east, or west. So he does the only thing he can and makes his way toward the ocean. His chances of finding someone there are much higher than they would have been if he had remained stationary.
The sun has completely disappeared by now and if he were human he would have nothing but the light of the moon and stars to guide him. He can just make out the sound of water splashing against rocks when he hears a scream. Briefly suspending his plans to seek help, he begins to run in the direction of the sound. He’s rarely had to run since arriving on Earth and the sensation is strange to him.
But he doesn’t have time to ponder over it because the next thing Castiel knows he’s reached another clearing—and he’s not alone. A Wendigo, ugly and sick past the point of any kind of cure, is on all fours, stalking towards a frozen, bloody figure trapped against a boulder.
If Castiel had a heart, he knows it would’ve stopped beating right then and there because the creature’s prey is none other than Dean Winchester.
“Get away from him.”
The Wendigo, sensing more potential prey, pivots its head toward Castiel. There’s nothing human left in those eyes anymore—they’re glassy and burning with hunger. The creature growls at him but remains in front of Dean, who looks more terrified for Castiel than he is for himself.
“Get outta here!” he yells. His voice is higher, not nearly as gruff and worn as it should be, and it’s then Castiel knows for certain he’s not in the year 2009 anymore, but that doesn’t matter because right now because Dean’s in trouble.
Castiel ignores his warning and makes his way toward Dean and the Wendigo in confident strides until he is only a few feet away from them. The Wendigo growls again and its mouth curls into a disgusting smile, revealing all its sharp, grime-covered fangs. Finally, finally, it forgets about Dean and begins to edge toward Castiel. It narrows its eyes and regards him calculatingly, trying to decide the most efficient way to take this prey down. Castiel knows the Wendigo is confused—his scent must smell differently from all the other unfortunate humans it’s hunted before.
“Come and get me,” he challenges, his voice barely above a whisper.
The Wendigo snarls and leaps at him, claws outstretched and mouth wide open. Castiel doesn’t move an inch. He can vaguely make out Dean calling for him to run! What’re you doing? but he ignores him and waits for the creature to get close enough. Once it does Castiel seizes its arm and swings the Wendigo in a circle. It lands on the ground in a daze, unsure of what had just happened, but Castiel doesn’t give it a chance to recollect its senses.
Still gripping its arm tightly with his left hand, he leans down and presses the palm of his other hand against the creature’s forehead. He looks straight into its eyes as he starts chanting an old Enochian spell. The Wendigo doesn’t realize what’s happening until it is too late and begins to thrash wildly against Castiel. He continues to chant, unperturbed, as the monster’s skin begins to burn, along with what’s left of its soul. “Neither Perdition nor Paradise awaits you,” he pauses to say, calmly but coldly. He can feel the thing’s soul fading away into nothingness, just like its body, and does not deny the grim satisfaction that settles him. This thing hurt Dean and probably killed dozens of innocent humans as well. For someone to sacrifice his humanity simply to satisfy his hunger—it’s unforgivable.
He finishes the spell the same time the Wendigo lets out a piercing shriek, letting go just as its body crumbles into a pile of ashes. Castiel steps over it and hurries to Dean, dropping down in front of him when he reaches the other man.
He’s only a child, he realizes in awe. Now that he can see Dean more clearly, he is shocked by the significant lack of wrinkles etched on his face. Castiel almost doesn’t recognize his soul. Although the sight of it always pained him, he’s been so used to seeing the man’s soul in tatters that he is stunned to see it whole and intact. Pure. Dean’s face is younger, a little rounder, but no less handsome than the one Castiel’s grown accustomed to seeing in the present (or is it the future?). Dean’s eyes, green as ever, aren’t exactly innocent anymore—the boy lost his innocence when he was four—but they haven’t yet been tainted by Hell. They shine with the same righteousness the Dean Winchester he knows possesses. That, at least, will never change.
“Are you alright?” he asks. He extends a hand to help Dean up, only to be met with the barrel of a gun in his face.
“What the fuck are you?” Dean demands.
“Who are you?”
The words are familiar yet so foreign that Castiel can’t help but grin, just a little. If he had any doubts that this is Dean, he doesn’t anymore. This young man, straddling the line between childhood and manhood is so very Dean Winchester. “I’m... a friend,” he answers lamely. He wants to say, I’m an angel from the future, but he knows the declaration will only be met by disbelief.
Dean cocks the gun and glares at him. The fear in his eyes from earlier is still there but it’s different now. Stronger, even. Castiel can see confusion and terror broiling in his soul, battling against logic and what remains of his courage. He may not be human, but he thinks he can understand where these human emotions are coming from—when a strange, mysterious man appears from nowhere to dispel a monster that usually takes at least two human hunters to kill, he’d be worried if Dean wasn’t suspicious.
“Yeah, how ‘bout you give me a real answer before I blow your head off?” Dean asks. Castiel is impressed he can keep his voice so steady, but there’s no denying the fear laced in it.
Castiel doesn’t look down, he doesn’t need to, the shock on Dean’s face is enough. His eyes are wide open and filled with fear. His breaths are coming in quicker, more erratic and his knuckles are beginning to turn white over gripping his gun so tightly.
“What are you?” he asks again. This time his voice is as small as a mouse.
It doesn’t suit him, Castiel decides. “I can’t tell you anything more than that. Please, Dean, you—”
“How do you know my name?” The gun is back up again, this time pressed right against Castiel’s forehead, but Dean’s grip is shaky.
“I know many things,” Castiel replies smoothly, “but you shouldn’t concern yourself with that. All you need to know is that I’m a friend and I will never hurt you, Dean Winchester.”
“Sorry, but my dad taught me better than to trust creeps like you.”
“John Winchester is a very wise man.”
Dean narrows his eyes. All traces of fear are gone, replaced by anger. Castiel isn’t surprised—family is the root of Dean’s heart, after all. “How do you know my dad?” is what he says, but what Castiel hears is If you hurt either him or my brother, I will kill you, you son of a bitch. He doesn’t doubt that threat for a second.
“I—” But Castiel is interrupted when a child’s voice behind him shouts, “Dean! Dean, is that you? Dad, I think I found Dean!” The sound is quickly followed by frantic footsteps running towards them. They stop suddenly, only a few feet behind Castiel, and the familiar ‘click!’ of a gun being cocked rings in Castiel’s ears for the second time within the past five minutes.
This time another voice, much deeper and older than Sam’s, shouts, “Get the hell away from my son!”
A wry smile curls on Castiel’s lips. He’d never met John Winchester personally but he is almost as big of a legend among the Host as his sons. He stands up and turns around slowly. John has far more grey hair than the average man his age and his face, once young and innocent, is unshaven and scarred by time.
A much younger Sam Winchester stands behind him. When Castiel’s eyes meet his, the boy gulps and brings his gun up, mimicking his father in training it on Castiel’s chest. Castiel can barely recognize him. The boy’s hair is light and he’s far shorter than his future counterpart. Azazel’s hold on his soul is barely visible but it’s there nonetheless, like a thin layer of dust. Other than that Sam’s soul shines almost as brightly as Dean’s. There is so much goodness and innocence there that Castiel almost can’t believe that this is the same Sam he knows in the future.
“I mean you and your family no harm,” he says calmly.
John narrows his weary eyes and only tightens his grip on his gun. “Sorry, but I find that hard to believe—”
All eyes turn to Dean, who has remained silent since his family’s arrival until now. “He... He took out the Wendigo like it was nothing and... ” He waves his gun uselessly, “... guns don’t work on him.”
John and Sam stare at him in astonishment. Before Castiel can explain—even though he’s not sure how—John decides to test his son’s theory and shoots him at point blank range in the chest. He ignores Sam’s shouts and Dean’s Dad!, watching Castiel intently. He isn’t disappointed when Castiel simply cocks his head to the side, one eyebrow raised.
“Shit,” says Sam. He’s staring at Castiel with unabashed curiosity and it reminds Castiel of his first meeting with the man called Sam Winchester.
John doesn’t give any physical indication that he’s shocked. Only by being able to see his soul does Castiel know what he’s really thinking. He’s much more alert now, his mind working hastily to find a plausible explanation. When no answer comes to him, he reluctantly asks, “What are you?”
“My name is Cas—” No, Castiel chastises himself. He can’t give them his true name. He needs to keep as much information about himself and the future secret. Running through the billions of names in his mind, he eventually settles for one that will help repair the damage caused by his blunder. “Caspar, and I’m a friend.”
Dean snorts, “Caspar, really? You mean like the friendly ghost?”
Castiel blinks, confused. “No, as in one of the three Magi who traveled to Bethlehem on the night of the Christ child’s birth,” he explains.
He’s met with another snort. “You say that like it actually happened.” While Dean’s lack of faith doesn’t fail to disturb him as it usually does, Castiel finds he isn’t as surprised by it as he used to be.
“Dean.” At John’s admonition, Dean immediately closes his mouth and has the decency to look sheepish. The older man regards Castiel coolly. “Sorry, ‘Caspar’, if that really is your name,” he says, “but I don’t exactly trust you and I have half a mind to lop your head off right now. Still... you saved my son’s life.” Both he and Castiel turn to look at Dean at that.
“Yeah, um, thanks for that,” Dean mutters as he tries to make himself as small as possible in order to escape their scrutiny. For all the confidence he usually displays, he’s unused to being the center of attention. Even in the future, he still isn’t.
“But,” continues John, voice loud and commanding, “as far as I’m concerned, that’s that. Now how about you let us go on our merry way and we’ll let you go on yours?”
“But Dean is hurt,” Castiel points out. There are multiple cuts and bruises on Dean, though a quick sweep over his body tells Castiel that they are nothing serious. His broken leg, however, is. “He needs medical attention.”
“No shit, Captain Obvious,” hisses Dean.
It doesn’t escape John’s notice that Castiel, without being told, knows his son’s name. In fact, Castiel can sense that the man is beginning to suspect he knows both his and Sam’s names as well and the revelation unnerves him. Yet he doesn’t address that. Instead, he makes his way to Dean’s side, grunting out a “We’re fine”. Sam shoots Castiel one last inquisitive glance before following suit, though he keeps his gun trained on Castiel, earning himself a brief nod of approval from his father.
“I can provide some assistance if you wish,” offers Castiel. He makes his point known by taking a meaningful step forward. He still doesn’t know why Raphael had sent him to the past, of all places, but he knows it can’t be a coincidence that he had stumbled on the Winchesters. Whatever reason the archangel sent him here for, it must have something to do with the hunters.
John’s glare, though undeniably fierce, has no effect on Castiel. “We can take it from here,” he growls out, the tone in his voice signalling the end of the matter, at least to him. He kneels down to inspect Dean’s wounds, ignoring Castiel’s presence.
“No, Dad, we can’t.” As one, the two oldest Winchesters turn to glare at Sam, who throws a challenging glare right back at them. “We’re out of supplies for the first aid kit, remember? Unless we go to the hospital—”
“No!” This time, it’s Dean who speaks up. “No hospitals! And Sammy, please, let’s just do what Dad wants—”
“Which is to do absolutely nothing when you could be getting help!” Sam directs his narrowed eyes at his father in a challenge.
John’s face is as set as stone. “Sammy, you know we can’t do that. We’d draw too much attention to ourselves.” John’s voice is quiet but its tone reminds Castiel of a viper ready to strike.
He knows John and Sam have had this argument before. Their voices are loud and ugly, cutting into each other like knives and re-opening old wounds. They are playing the same song but with different instruments.
John is like a rock—once he’s made up his mind nothing, not even the strongest wind, can move him. But that doesn’t mean he is completely immune to nature. Castiel can see a few small cracks dotting the edge of his soul, which at first glance may appear harmless. But he knows that given enough time, they will spread like spider webs—pulling the man’s spirit taut until the only thing keeping him together is the memory of his wife. John’s arguments with Sam are already starting to wear him out and this is only the beginning of a long string of painful fights.
The anger that Sam keeps inside himself is a small amount now but Castiel knows it will only grow and grow until it has nowhere else to go and ruptures, lashing out at everything in its path—demons, loved ones—without remorse. Like his father, he doesn’t give up easily.
Castiel and Dean are momentarily forgotten as father and son argue. Dean’s soul screams for them to stop but the boy himself is unable to do anything. This is nothing new to him yet his soul withers a little more with each fight. Dean catches Castiel watching and lets out a tired, frustrated sigh, “Hey, buddy, not that I’m ungrateful to your or anything, but you’re done here.”
“Yeah, it means you’re not needed anymore.” The words were said with the intention to hurt but they sound half-hearted to Castiel’s ears.
Castiel ignores his words and kneels down in front of him. That finally catches John and Sam’s attention and they stop mid-argument to stare at him. “What are you—”
Dean’s breath hitches when Castiel closes the distance between their bodies until their breaths meet. What little air there is between them crackles with energy and neither of them can deny there is a spark of something there. Dean gulps, clearly nervous, but never breaks his gaze. Castiel places his hand on top of the knee of Dean’s right leg, the broken one, and Dean lets out a hiss at the contact.
Castiel closes his eyes and begins to whisper in Enochian.
Dean could feel the man’s—if he could even be called that—eyes boring in the back of his head as he inspected Bobby’s prone form. It was creepy but at the same time he couldn’t help but get a thrill out of it. God, it was like he was regressing back into his hormonal teenage self and there was nothing he could do about it.
He couldn’t stand the silence anymore and finally had to break it. “Who are you?” he asked again, but the words somehow felt heavier on his tongue. A part of him desperately hoped this was Caspar. There were so many things he’d wanted to tell him after... after he died. They were all variations of the three dangerous words: ‘I’, ‘you’, and ‘love’. At the same time, if it did turn out to be him, he didn’t know what he’d do. He didn’t trust himself to keep from pulling the man into his arms and never letting go. Still, if he’d been alive all this time, why hadn’t he told Dean? Why had he not aged at all since the last time Dean saw him? It hurt that he might’ve even wanted to hide himself from Dean.
They’d trusted each other, hadn’t they?
The man looked up from his perusal of one of Bobby’s ancient-looking Bibles and the look he gave Dean sent shivers down his spine, and it wasn’t the good kind. Just like Caspar, he looked at Dean like he could actually see through him—mind, body, and soul, and it never failed to make him feel vulnerable and naked. Except unlike before, there was no warmth or recognition in those blue eyes now, and that was what hurt the most.
“Castiel. I’m an angel of the Lord.”