He comes in the night, the only appropriate time for such a visit, and gently unfurls Dean's fingers from their hold on the scraps of a photograph mere hours old.
He brings a hand to his mouth and stares in shock, confusion, and something that makes him uncomfortably warm as Dean licks his lips and says that it was like licking a battery.
"I do not need to sleep," he protests, but allows himself to be pulled down onto 'fucking 500-thread count sheets, Cas -- I don't splurge like this for just anyone, so the least you can do is pretend.'
The rock salt beneath his skin and the knife in his chest are not felt, but that Dean Winchester does not recognize him hurts like the burn of holy fire.
"How in the crikey fuck can you like these more than pie?!"
He closes his eyes against the onslaught and uses it wash the blood away from Dean's forehead; it is the only baptism will ever perform.
He savors every bite of the Hershey bar, then leans forward to consume the confection of the swell of Dean's bottom lip.
He brushes a fallen leaf from Dean's closed eyelids and leans his head back against the rowan, almost as old as the very world, to soak in the sunlight; he thinks that he finally gets it.
"No, I do not need anyone else in my Fave Five, thank you, but I will most definitely consider your extended warranty plan."
He traces the dawn in the shell of Dean's ear and wonders at the brilliance of the human design.
"Naming is power," Uriel snaps, but Castiel does not hear him, too caught up in the wonder of his new, shortened moniker.
He takes Dean into him with everything the frail shell he wears has to offer: he breathes in the sharp scent of gun oil and lighter fluid; he slides his hands up battle-scarred skin and delights in the trail of gooseflesh he leaves in his wake; he closes his eyes and savors every rough word murmured into his borrowed ears; he opens his mouth and tastes salt and sex and desperation; he captures every movement made with the precision and clarity of the tiny camera he discovered in his cell phone a week ago.
"Let him go," Tessa says softly, holding out a hand, and Castiel buries his face into Dean's blood-matted hair and whispers, "I will not."
The taste of sweat is a heavy weight on the back of his tongue, and the brush of Dean's chest against his back in parallel to the thrusting cock inside him makes him tip his head back onto a strong shoulder and weep for all that his brothers and sisters will never know.
When Dean casually, absently, brushes his fingers up and down his side while watching Dr. Sexy MD, Castiel feels the muscles in his back lock up, sinew over tendon constricting with the fear that if he moves it will stop.
The Consulation has begun and Haniel has started his opening speech, the words "Behold, Castiel, as the Grigori once were, brought down by base, animal weakness" drowned out by the thought that rides up, unbidden, I was never so strong as when I lay in Dean's human arms.
Dean stands over Lucifer's prone form, more beautiful than Michael could ever hope to be, sword embedded in the soft flesh of Nick's mortal throat, and Castiel wipes curiously at his eyes, which appear to be leaking.
The moment Dean Winchester's soul is cast into the Pit, he careens out of Paradise like a fireball, like a human bullet, like a falling star, far ahead of the garrison, far ahead of anyone in the hopes that the swiftness he has always been lauded for will not fail him.
"Open your eyes, Dean," Castiel says, unable to laugh as Dean clutches him tighter and buries his face into his shoulder as the wings holding them at the mercy of the sky catch a thermal and send them up, up, up.
"When it is over, no one will deny you this; I will see that it is so," Michael says with a mouth that does not belong to him, and Castiel bows, shaken, but unable to control a nervous laugh at the added, "but be advised, brother, that if he hurts you I will come back down and break his face."
He will surely be scolded for straying this far out, too young to be alone, but he has heard that the 29th Gate has the best viewpoint to see into the Mortal Plane and the Righteous Man has been born.
Anna's wrongwrongwrong touch closes over a mark she did not leave, and Castiel apologizes silently to Jimmy Novak for the bloody wounds their fingernails leave in their shared palms.
Up, across, over, repeat; Castiel swallows hard as Dean drags the strip of cloth down the gleaming hood and thinks that he would very much like to be that car.
Flavor explodes over his tongue, a sharp tang that makes his jaw ache, and he closes his eyes to fully experience the Bakewell Diner's summer berry pie, ignoring Dean's smug "When I'm right I am fucking right, right?."
"Who is it that you serve," Uriel demands, and Castiel knows his hesitation will cost him dearly.
As an angel, eternity is carved into every pinion, every modicum of power bestowed by the Father, the lifeblood coursing through their intangible forms, but Castiel would rather spend the last days of recorded time arguing with Dean the merits of Deep Purple against Led Zeppelin.
He paints the walls of the Green Room red as Dean watches with a wide, almost-comprehending gaze, and Castiel wants to stop and shout, "the least you can do is take a step back so I may have some breathing room while I give you everything there is of me!"
"I have brought you chicken noodle soup, Dean, for I was told it is what all contractors of the flu ought to eat in order to relieve certain symptoms," he announces, then at Dean's wide-eyed, disbelieving expression looks down at the cup of soup and wonders if he should have purchased the vegetable beef instead.
"Cas, what is it," Dean mumbles into his shoulder, his newly-human heart pounding under Dean's warm hand, but Castiel does not have the words to describe his utter terror when the song of the Host is lost to him.
He lies alongside Dean on the roof of the Impala, eyes closed as Dean points out as many celestial bodies as Castiel can name, and wonders how much Dean would rage against him if he confessed that he plans on giving them all up tomorrow morning, Thursday, so that he and Dean can do this every night.
"It's not, you know, Heaven or anything," Dean says to his shoes, and Castiel soothes away the barely-hidden tremors in Dean's shoulders with his mouth, murmuring in reply on the porch of the ranch Dean has just purchased, "It is more."
"He watches you," Zachariah sneers, "and you watch him in return"; Castiel has no idea what is wrong with this, why Zachariah looks at him without the trust that Dean does.
He slides on top of hotel sheets and cradles the body thrashing on the bed, whispering songs not meant to be known by God's favorites, sighing gratefully as the nightmare is driven away to be replaced by an image of bodies entwined that is… Castiel disappears, flustered, shaken, clutching his human chest and waiting for the feeling of vertigo to pass.
"My dad used to say that it's the angels bowling," Dean says through a mouthful of macaroni and cheese, one eye on the sky, and Castiel nods absently, not quite sure what bowling is and whether or not his brothers do it under a different name.
His restraints blaze at him in warning as he glares deeply at the one he once called 'brother' and says "I will not let you take Sam Winchester" but thinks of another.
"Dean," Castiel hisses, gripping Dean's arm with wide eyes as they survey the Oak Park Mall, and Dean sighs heavily, "if you're going to say 'den of iniquity' then you're not telling me anything I didn't already know."
Castiel clicks the bauble beneath his palm as instructed and starts in surprise as the window changes, "Google Search" disappearing in favor of "PornoTube", which causes Sam to choke on his Pepsi and puts a big smile on Dean's face.
"You're starting to look like you live in a gutter," Dean says gruffly, thrusting a Macy's bag at Castiel, who takes and opens it, blinking down at the new trench coat folded within.
He gazes up at Dean and reaches out to trace the lovely upward curve of his mouth, unable to help his own lips from parting around his teeth in a grin.
"I used to watch you," he says quietly, feeling Dean's smile against his skin as he says, "perv", but Castiel settles back and thinks of Dean at three months, at two years, at six years, and at seven when the light in those impossibly green eyes was stripped away the moment a weapon was placed in small hands.
He shivers on deft fingers, gasping in surprise as they curl upwards and send rays of light through his entire being.
"I see pie and naked chicks, but you probably see home," Dean says, pointing with a grin, and Castiel does not wish to break the good mood by saying "not anymore."
They are losing and Castiel calls upon the only help he knows: his feet leave the ground, wings unfurling, and he screams out into boundless gray, the reply coming in the rising of the sun; the cavalry has arrived.
As he navigates each level, every step bringing him closer to his goal, he sees the unspeakable suffering of these souls at the hands of these monsters and wonders just what else Heaven has neglected to tell him.
The day he flies through the gate to come to the aid of the Righteous Man is the day the sky fractures; he does not think anything of it and in hindsight it was a foolish thing to let slip by unquestioned.
He is covered in blood and unable to heal what could be life-threatening wounds, but they all fall away in the face of Dean standing gilded atop a hill with Michael's sword held up against the sky.
His fingers chase after the wash of silver cast over a trembling hip, mouth following, tasting sweat and the heat of the sun through a cold filter.
"Dude, I haven't hit the beach in years," Dean exclaims, rushing for the shoreline, while Castiel stands on billions of shards of history and muses that eternity began with the sea.
"I don't even know how you make it look like that without gel or sticking a penny in a light socket, but I'm impressed."
It is later, much later, when Dean smiles at him under a clear night sky and asks to see; Castiel holds that gaze, the shade of green still unmatched by anything the universe may have to offer, for as long as he is able before closing his eyes, lifting up and letting go.