Heaven's Last Hope
Purification of Hell had taken a tremendous amount of his energy but Cas couldn't feel the difference. In fact he felt stronger than he had before; it didn't make sense to him. At least not until he looked at it another way; it was the same kind of thing he was about to do to Heaven. The world's source had been pulled into him and his own grace acted like a sieve, sifting through Hell's particles. He'd internally destroyed and absorbed what wasn't useful; the rest was inside him and feeding the remainder of the purifying process.
It was all so incredible, the sheer power residing in him giving him the ability to do whatever he needed to. He'd never imagined he'd have that kind of skill when he just thought himself human.
Lucifer's departure bothered him, though. He held the energy of every being of salvageable worth from Hell within himself; Lucifer's grace was part of that mixture and was the only portion that was readily available to him. He could see Lucifer's fading mind, everything the archangel had to offer was there and open to him. Castiel examined it mentally, quickly scanning for something immediately important.
He hadn't lied, Cas knew that but he could now see it for himself. Every angel was accounted for, every type of grace and even the essence of Heaven itself was present. So then why would an angel give all of that information away? It would damn them as well as the rest. There wasn't an answer readily available to him and that was slowly eating at his mind.
But that wasn't all Lucifer's life force had to offer him. Lucifer had been created like all the other angels, except he was made with the unfair flaws that he had. He'd had the nerve to stand up against God and that was what ultimately wound him up in an icy, lonely prison. He had been created that way, made to disobey and then punished for it as if it were his fault. Castiel could see the young angel far back before anything had gone wrong with him. Lucifer's life was perfect but there was always that dark seed within him. The thing that would turn him against the rest and pour evil from his core; a seed he was born with.
Cas wished he could offer some kind of solace, but he'd already given it. The monster within Lucifer, the devil and prince of darkness was no more. Castiel had already taken it apart. What was left, however, was the center of the archangel Lucifer, the angel that he should have been. Cas cradled the stunned grace and placed in safety within himself, he'd help Lucifer heal. It was the best he could do.
As soon as he emerged from the gate he could feel the weight of its decay, and God was there to greet him.
"Castiel… What have you done?" He looked tired, and a mixture of many other things.
Castiel tilted his head curiously; some of God's feelings of were anger and anxiety. He didn't understand his supposed Father yet but he wasn't sure that rage should have been a reaction. Maybe he was mad about Hell, since he was the one who had made it. "I didn't see the purpose of a place that tortured people's souls for eternity, so I removed it." Cas explained, keeping eye contact with the Almighty. "I had meant to talk to you about it after I went through it the first time. But that's not as important now, it's been purified." He'd taken the situation into his own hands and made a choice, it's what he'd been doing since he realized he was an angel. It just came naturally to him, asking for permission wasn't something he'd ever done before because there was no one to ask. God was there now, Cas could have talked to Him about it but part of him didn't see the point. Not to mention he didn't really have the time.
God's eyes looked dark for a second, as if something had crossed His mind. He nodded and tried to calm Himself. "I created it for a reason, souls that require punishment need to go somewhere," Cas could tell that there was something He wouldn't say, something He wasn't willing to talk about. Hell couldn't have been so important to Him, could it? But even if it was, God wasn't the only being that Cas was concerned with. There were far more souls hurting, too many people to count, as well as Lucifer himself. Cas was sure he'd make the same decision each time if he'd ever have to re-do it.
"I don't think punishing them should go as far as you've pushed it." Cas walked past Him, partially surprised by his own actions. Was he sassing God? That sure was what it sounded like. "Now, the heart of Heaven is in the seventh, right? In your chambers?"
"Castiel!" The Lord protested his leaving but Cas didn't listen the way he was expected to. He angrily looked over his shoulder, his mind racing with words that he could have said. He could have asked right then and there, what kind of God are you? Are you benevolent? Are you omnipotent? Or are you all-powerful?
"If you didn't want me to do it, why did you make me with the ability to do so?" He didn't wait for an answer, instead he took flight shouting back "Come on, we don't have time." He rushed higher, still surprised by his speed.
He stepped down in the seventh Heaven in front of the doors, the two beaten archangels resting close by. "I can't believe it," Michael gasped weakly, Gabriel was slouched next to him but still conscious. "You… you beat him so… so quickly…"
"I did," Cas smiled sadly, "I did what I could to redeem him, but it might take time."
Gabriel wiped his eyes and nodded, his smile still going pretty strong, "I can feel him… Thank you, Cas. I think it's better he's with you."
Michael blinked slowly as he looked at Cas, sensing out Lucifer's grace, "Did… you save him?"
"There is no longer a devil, and there is longer a Hell. Lucifer will come back in time, but it will be a while." Cas watched Michael as the archangel let that sink in; he had tears in his eyes. "I'm sorry, I need to go." He told them, knowing he could get to know them better later. But before that he'd have to save them, they didn't appear to protest.
Cas rushed into God's chambers and was nearly overwhelmed the moment he walked in. He could feel everything at once, his grace spiked again and he stood still in the center of the large room. He could see all of Heaven; parts of it had already fallen away, lost to them and waiting to be rebuilt. The mirrored levels of Heaven created for humanity's souls were separated and adrift, floating adjacent but not connected.
He sensed all of the angels; many had already lost their lives and lay wasting away in the holy lands. It was heartbreaking but he couldn't focus on it, he'd lose his nerve.
Castiel felt the source of Heaven; it pulsed slowly and diminished bit by bit. It was still incredible despite its weakened state; Cas could hardly imagine what it could have been in its prime. He closed his eyes and let it come to him, slowly sinking into him – or was he inside of it?
Not that it mattered; they were connected, him and his homeland. Heaven was so clear to him that it hurt, but now he could see the Earth too. His grace seeped out of him and into the rivers of Heaven's energy. At first it was slow and he hardly noticed the change. He was too focused on his real home, his real world. Earth was below him and the life that surrounded it was incredible at worst, but it was so much smaller than he'd anticipated or knew it should have been.
He could see how many souls were escaping and they were going at such a rapid rate he didn't know how to differentiate where they were coming from. Demons were everywhere; many had fled from Hell and ravaged the Earth. Some had been taken out by human militaries but not nearly enough. Large cities were devastated, massive storms and elemental forces blasted through the rest.
How could all of that have happened already? Had it been going on while he was still there?
Where was his family? He scanned for them as his grace drained inside of Heaven's source, purifying it from the inside. It made his legs feel weak and his stomach turned, Heaven's life force was basically going through a blood transfusion.
Cas tried to center himself; he needed to know where they all were.
There were handfuls of souls clumped together in different places around the globe; he knew they'd be in the United States, maybe still at Cal's place. At first he felt like he'd never find them but there was one light that glowed brighter than the rest. He was drawn to it and knew better than to doubt himself; it was Dean. Of course it was Dean. Cas' heart jumped into his throat, he wanted to focus on them and see them but what if something had happened? What if he'd caused more pain than he'd meant to?
No. It didn't matter if he did or didn't because there was nothing he could do from there. He'd apologize later. He'd always apologize later.
So he looked and saw them all. Dean was talking to Mary; they were still in the shelter. John was alive; he was resting in the bedroom. Without Castiel there with them they didn't draw in any more demons other than the ones flying overhead. There were dead bodies outside deterring them. Bodies of demons and the bodies of the Singers. Castiel felt sick and cringed, he knew he had to look away from it but he couldn't. That was his fault. They were dead because of him. He'd apologize later, for the rest of his life he'd be sorry.
His grace flowed out of him like a waterfall and he felt weak. Cas turned away from them and back to Dean, watching Dean's soul and Dean's movements to try and ease his own pain. It was comforting and soothing; tears welled up in his eyes but stayed there. It was a relief to see his family. Dean looked just as he had before Cas left, or at least mostly. He didn't know how much time had passed but maybe it wasn't as much as he thought.
He saw Sam down there; he was sitting in the bedroom that John had been laid in. Jet was there too, not unconscious but still injured; Nikki had wrapped his head up and was checking on him. Cas remembered Meg had been hurt too, very badly. He looked for her frantically, fearing the worst until he caught her energy. She was alive and sitting in the room that Cas had gone to hide in from Shimizu. She was looking at Death, the horseman wasn't awake but he was still alive. Cas couldn't quite explain the way she felt, her energy was all mixed up and twisted, she was thinking hard about something but he couldn't tell what from where he was.
Cas wished he could have heard them too. He wished he could ask them how they were doing, how long it had been, if they were okay or not. He'd ask Meg what was on her mind; he'd figure out how Sam was feeling, if Jet needed healing, and what Dean and Mary were talking about. But none of those things were going to happen, at least not any time soon.
Cas found that his mind was hazy and his eyes were tired.
He wondered what he'd say to Dean if he could say anything at all? Would it be something like 'I miss you'? Or would he tell Dean he was afraid? Maybe he'd say nothing true and that he had everything under control. Cas smiled and touched a hand to his lips; maybe they'd just share a kiss. Words weren't necessary; being close to Dean was all he really needed anyway.
The edges of his vision started to waver; his energy was out of him now. He stood motionless with nothing keeping him upright but his own natural balance. His wings felt heavy and they started to droop, slowly he fell backward.
He was the cure Heaven needed. Cas could feel it, the poison was gone, it was inside him like the worthless parts of Hell. Except this time he didn't have the energy to absorb it, Heaven didn't remain within him the way Hell did. He'd left it to be rebuilt; he didn't purify it the same way.
Castiel sensed the angels again, the pain fled their bodies. Angels were rising to their feet, flying like they were supposed to. He sensed Gabriel as the archangel entered God's chambers. Cas was staring at the ceiling, wings spread across the floor and unmoving. He blinked and realized that he only had one set of eyes now. He'd fallen back into his human form, unable to hold onto the real thing.
"Cas?" Gabriel lifted him up and cradled his head; Cas could see Gabe's true form for the first time. It was beautiful and golden, he was so happy he could see it. There were three faces, his vision was fading fast but he could see they were all humanoid and so pretty. "Hey, stay with me! You did it! C'mon, Cas!"
Gabriel's voice grew quieter as Cas' eyes closed. He thought he'd be afraid but he had heard what he needed to; you did it.