The question dawned on him; could all angels do what he was doing?
It wasn't a big question, it wasn't something he absolutely needed the answer to but it was a curious thought. If angels looked the way he did, if they had several sets of eyes like him and were as large and strong, how could Hell even pose half the threat he'd heard of? If all angels could turn demons into dust like he'd done then why were demons so bold in the way that they were?
Castiel could see things now he'd never imagined, he could see behind him, to his left, right, and ahead all at the same time. It was a little overwhelming and nauseating at first but he'd grown used to it as the void of Hell swept past him.
He couldn't keep going at that pace though, it was a strain on him to hold Dean's barrier but if he let it go Dean wouldn't make it. That was probably the only thing keeping him going at that moment, he felt like it was never ending and the weight of all the damned souls tried to drag him down. His mind hurt, his heart ached and ever part of his being wanted it to stop, would've done nearly anything to make them stop.
Demons were rushing by him in a crazed effort to escape their prison of over a decade; he wondered how they could be so fast. He was moving at incredible speeds already, how were they moving by him? Maybe he wasn't going as quickly as he thought, his energy spent on Dean's life drained him slowly and his transformation wasn't without its costs.
"Dean," he tried to speak to his brother again but no reply came. Cas could tell Dean was awake, he could feel Dean's mind rushing back and forth, panicking as Dean would. He was awake, so why wasn't he responding? Could he not speak?
Dean's head was a mess, Cas realized, as he looked closer.
I'm in Hell. What happened to Cas? What is that sound? Is someone talking to me? What's going on? Cas? Cas are you okay? Cas why aren't you talking to me anymore? Cas?
Cas? Is that even you anymore?
Cas? What's happening?
Cas? I'm scared.
Castiel knew when energy needed to be spent and that was a moment he had to do it. He reached inside Dean like he'd done so many times and eased the pain. He gently soothed the bristling fear and did his best to show Dean that he was there, just like he'd said before.
"I'm here Dean." He said but he realized it didn't sound the way it should have. Was he even speaking the same language anymore? "Can you understand me, Dean?"
No. He wasn't speaking English, he wasn't speaking any language he recognized but it still made sense to him. What the hell was he saying? Dean certainly didn't know and if it weren't for Cas' own mind thinking the words first he'd never know, either. So speaking to Dean wasn't going to work, he couldn't say anything that would help and God knows he might be making it worse.
Instead he continued to try and pacify the panic attack that was pushing up inside his brother's head. I love you, I'm here, don't worry. Repeating statements like that he sent it through to Dean's mind and into his understanding. And that was all Cas could hope to do, he couldn't stop the demons from speeding by, he knew where they were going. Earth was a new home to monstrosities and nightmares now, it held the worst humankind could ever offer and the good would be drowned out by new evil.
Castiel pounded the air with his wings as he sailed through passageways and over horrendous scenes he wished he could forget. He wasn't sure if he'd stopped feeling ill from the sight, if he'd gotten used to seeing it, or if he'd become accustomed to the sickness in his stomach. How could anyone come up with something so awful? How could God do something like this? Cas didn't want to believe it was a result of free will, that sounded like a cop-out bogus excuse. Had God ever been down there? Had He seen what Hell did to people, to his beloved humanity? If He'd seen it then why didn't He do anything to save them? It made him even more angry than it did sick, which was probably what kept his insides where they belonged.
Could an angel even be sick?
His ponderings stopped when the air suddenly became thick and milky in a way only the dirtiest water could. It was like mud, the pit had become some kind of swamp and they were flying right through it. People thrashed around in the darkness, struggling to breathe and grasping for Castiel. They were so small, their souls had dwindled and their humanity hung pathetically by a thread of the past. Were they even human anymore?
It didn't matter at that moment, he strengthened the space around Dean and fought his way through, he was so tired. His wings ached, they were brand new, only a day old – or had more time passed? Maybe it'd been a week, maybe it'd been a few seconds, he had no idea. It felt longer than it should've been, or it was shorter, all he knew was that time didn't pass the way it was supposed to and Cas was starting to get tired of it. To sum it up; he was tired. He was motivated to keep going, he knew what he was meant to do but it was all weighing him down.
Why couldn't freedom find him? Locked down in a school for 8 hours a day, a prison for ten months in a year that sucked the life out of him. And if that wasn't enough he had to live with this stupid prophecy, this awful thing called destiny. He was the last angel free, the last one able to roam the Earth and the only one able to save Heaven – and by extension every soul of the dead in between. He would never be free to do what he wanted, would he?
The surface, he finally reached the end of that awful swamp water. Cas erupted from the waste with a burst of light, demons of the area scattered as soon as they realized what he was. He wasn't even sure anymore, he could feel the changes in his body as they kept happening but he wasn't sure what to say about it. He had at least three heads now – the frontal head was the original and it had one set of eyes, he wasn't entirely sure he had a mouth there anymore. The second head over his right shoulder didn't have its own neck, it was based off the same elongated neck as the first head and was unable to move about, it had three sets of eyes leading down its face. The third head was over his left shoulder and was similar to the second except he could feel a mouth there. The more they developed the more he felt they weren't terribly close to human features, either. They weren't fully there yet, he could still feel them forming, seeing more things than just the physically present.
Also there were wings everywhere – the main two on his back, two on the sides of the front head, and a second pair below the first, smaller, a bit more flexible with an extra joint and mostly sprouting from his hips. If he could really call those hips, the bone structure felt wrong but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Whatever the case he was still getting used to just using two of the wings, he was sure he'd be far faster with all of them working but he got them all a little confused if he tried. It was probably best to just use what he knew for that moment.
As Cas pushed himself he failed to see something as big as him coming from behind. Unused to the new eyes and senses he couldn't prevent the collision and was knocked to the nearest ground. Luckily for him he'd come to a ledge very recently or he would've fallen a great distance.
Cas managed to keep Dean in his hands and close to him, absorbing the shock of the impact both times. He looked up at the grinning face of a creature he felt he shouldn't have ever met. Overall its base reminded him of a skeleton in long dark robes, flowing and ragged at the ends. It had spiked wings though they didn't look like they helped in flight in any way, flying must've just been an internal thing. Its face was the part he was most aware of, however. Its long, narrow mouth - like a dog's - curled up in a grimace as the beast edged closer to him. Four sunken eyes blinked vertically and flashed a reddish glow.
"You aren't getting anywhere, angel boy." Its voice was oddly calm, almost human like it knew how to speak to him.
"And you are?" Cas wasn't sure if it'd understand him but he wasn't in the mood to tango with this thing.
"Something that's been stuck down here for far too long," It loomed over him, emanating such malice it nearly sent him into flashbacks about Caplan and his grandpa. "I don't intend to let you hinder our escape; you won't be going on to Heaven any time soon."
Castiel's first reaction to remove this thing like he'd done to the others, smiting didn't come quite as naturally but he had the motion down pat. Energy sparked up his arm stronger than he'd seen it before but it did nothing to the demon in front of him. He froze, heart raced and the monster's grin stretched.
"Doesn't always work so easily on stronger demons, sweetheart." It lunged for him and he panicked. Rolling off the ledge he fell again, his wings thrashed and his mind all but shut down. Auto pilot ran his next movements, no permission granted from the rest of him. He pulled Dean into himself, his body and skin acted as more a membrane than a physical and solid object. His brother floating in a strange limbo space within Castiel, he could sense everything about him. He could feel every time speck of Dean Winchester and it set his fantasies on fire.
Cas watched as a long, uncoloured arm reached forward as the demon dove down after him. It'd already proven its speed and strength by knocking him down the first time; he wasn't going to take it a second. Without knowing what was happening he caught the monster's head in his hand, an originally solid limb that looked like all the fingers had been fused into one digit. The skin split like a liquid dripping down his wrist and his fingers dug deep into the demons screaming face. It flailed at him, clawed hands swiping at his arm and torso but barely leaving a mark.
He couldn't describe or explain the senses rushing through him or the things that came out of him, it was the strangest feeling. Like something had hacked into his mind, some kind of information poured in like something he should've known all along. Angelic knowledge, he realized. It was the start of knowing what angels know and being one. It was power and helplessness; it was strength and weakness all at once. But more than that, it gave him the ability to what he had to.
Energy spilled through his arm, grace his mind knew it as now. It filled his attacker like a poison; the creature squealed an unnatural sound as it tried desperately to get away. It'd realized its mistake far too late; it knew nothing of the kind of angel that Castiel was.
It was a bell in his ears and ringing through his soul.
I'm different than my family. I'm different than humans. I'm different than demons. And I'm different than angels.
The demon melted in his hand, like toxic waste had been dumped into its system it corroded. Castiel's wings forced him up again, past the place he'd already been and higher. Hell was a deep pit, lower and lower you fell to the place where Lucifer slept. Climbing out was no easy task, the air itself weighed on him but he kept moving.
Dean was safely tucked away inside him, his abdomen glowed where his brother rested and healed. Cas would keep him safe. They were almost there. He was almost out, he could feel it.
Just a little longer, Dean.