They stood watching the skies as the horizon burned, flashes of light shooting out of the earth as the angels touched down. The shriek of demons echoed into the darkness, a distant but comforting sound to those listening. It meant monsters were dying but they also sounded very far away, both sources of contentment for the people.
"Holy shit," Dean gaped as he felt the earth shift; there was a new kind of energy in the air that kind of reminded him of Cas. Angels. He still couldn't believe it, how could they be back? Was it real? Maybe Cas was with them…
"What the fuck took them so long?" Jet muttered, his arms folded in annoyance. The comment came as a surprise to Dean; he thought the overwhelming unanimous thoughts would be of relief. His eyes could barely be pulled from the sight in the distance but he turned to see the pissed expression on his friend's face. It was the kind of look Dean understood without having to ask, Jet had a reason for his remarks and it made Dean smile. Whatever that reason was he was sure Jet would share shortly.
"Be grateful they're here at all," Sam nudged him angrily; if anything was going to set Jet off it was someone telling him to be grateful for something he didn't believe in. "They didn't have to come and help us."
"Yeah. They did." Jet argued and Sam was taken aback but didn't stop him from speaking his mind. Jet looked at them and made eye contact with Dean before turning his attention to Sam. "This whole thing is connected to the angels; Cas wouldn't have had to do any of the stuff he did if they'd had their shit together! And if they'd done that much then Hell wouldn't have spilled over onto Earth and we wouldn't be dying!" He gestured wildly at their settlement, "Humankind is fucked, most of us are dead and the rest are praising that these angels decided to grace us with their presence? Castiel is the one we should be thanking; he's the one we need to be grateful for, not these guys. I don't k now a goddamn one of them and until they do something to clean up their mess I don't give a shit that they're here."
"Ditto," Meg reached over and fist bumped him.
"Damn," Dean laughed and ran his hand over his mouth to try and hide his smile, "Cas would probably hate to hear you say that."
"He'd say he hates it but he'd probably secretly approve," Jet grinned for a second before cutting it short as a light closed in from above. Most of the angels were scattered around the sky but it looked like one was headed right for them.
Dean would've been lying if he said his hopes weren't up for it to be Cas, his heart was in his throat and he could see the same look on everyone else's faces. Please let it be Castiel, and if not then they'd better have news about him.
"Yo," The angel landed a few feet away from them and folded in his multiple sets of wings. The human form of this angel was shorter than Dean would have thought, regardless though he looked right at Sam and Dean. "You must be Winchesters, name's Gabriel."
"Gabriel? Like the archangel?" Sam gawked but didn't get to do so for very long because Dean was long out of patience.
"Yeah we're Winchesters, where's Cas now?"
"Calm down there, tough guy." Gabriel waved a hand at him, "That's why I came over here; I'm the one that dropped Cas off in that old muscle car of yours, I know you're his family and all that junk."
"Thank you," Sam said before Dean could growl out something along the lines of 'so what?'
"For…?" Gabriel raised an eyebrow curiously as he trailed off, "Dropping Cas off?"
"Yeah, if it weren't for you we never would've met him."
"You know he's the reason anything demon-level bad ever happened in your family, right?"
Dean grit his teeth and tried to bite his tongue but couldn't quite do it, the spark that Jet showed moments earlier lit Dean's mind on fire. He agreed with his friend, Castiel was a gift to them; he was the one they needed to show gratitude to. To hear even a subtle suggestion that they should be mad at him for anything brought out a monster in Dean's head. "Cas isn't the reason bad shit happens, he isn't the reason demons attacked. Cas is a victim of this just as much as anyone else. He didn't ask to be what he is; he didn't ask for some big stupid destiny to be dumped on him, so don't you dare blame him."
"Not to mention Cas has done more to fix any of that shit than anyone else, who the fuck are you to say that?" Jet joined in, Dean was grateful for the backup.
Gabriel stepped away, his hands raised in surrender, "Whoa, whoa, okay I get it. We fucked up, alright? What do you want me to say here? I'm sorry shit went wrong but we don't know what happened either. Heaven just started falling apart and all of us started dying, there wasn't anything we could do." The archangel's eyes darkened and his hands clenched into fists as they dropped back to his sides, "Do you really think I wanted to drop my baby brother off with some humans and leave him there? Or that any of us wanted to die? I would've been fighting right at his side if I could've, but I couldn't, okay? There wasn't anything I could do for him."
Gabriel held their gazes; his jaw trembling until he slowly unclenched it, whatever wrath he might've unleashed it wasn't something humans were prepared for. "Look, I'm sorry. I'm sorry this all happened and I'm sorry that Cas isn't here."
"Where is he?" Sam asked a little more gently than Dean would have.
"He's in Heaven, we think he's resting but he hasn't moved since we healed and got Heaven into a stable condition."
Dean exchanged a look with Jet, they both felt a little bad for being rude but Cas was the primary thing on their minds. "How bad is he?"
"His grace was the antidote we needed, it got Lucifer's poison out of our systems and Heaven stopped falling apart, but it was still in pretty rough shape. The souls already there were in trouble and we had to stay and fix it before we lost any more of them." Gabriel's gaze wouldn't stay in one spot and he barely wanted to make eye contact at all.
"Gabriel, how bad is he?" Sam repeated and Gabe just shook his head.
"No one knows, not even God can tell me what's going on with him. Maybe He just won't, but I wish I had more news for you. Cas is lying down, eyes closed and isn't moving." Gabriel sighed and rubbed at his eyes, Dean felt worse about being a dick.
How bad could Cas be that even God didn't know whether he was okay or not? Why wasn't Castiel moving? Was he just created to fix Heaven for that one moment in his life and that was it? He'd remain motionless until the next crisis? Dean wanted to throw up.
"So then did you just come over here to tell us that he's alive but in a coma?" Jet's voice had softened but he was still pretty aggressive.
"Basically, yeah." Gabe shrugged and looked like he wanted to get out of there, Dean didn't blame him. "Now that Heaven's stable enough to exist without us and we've taken out the demons up there, we knew we had to get down here to help. You guys have been doing a great job, by the way."
"Thanks," Meg wasn't pretending to be sympathetic or excited by Gabriel's comments; her arms were folded over her chest and one eyebrow quirked at the archangel. "What happened to Hell? Or Lucifer?"
Gabriel glanced toward the horizon, Dean guessed he was gauging whether or not he had time to spare. He then looked back at Meg, curious at first but unquestioning, "Cas purified it, all of it. The whole thing is pretty mysterious at the moment but it looks like Hell is gone. The souls are being looked after in Purgatory, and that's about all I know right now."
For the world having been a disaster for six years an archangel sure didn't know a whole lot. Dean's nose scrunched up, something was a little fishy but he couldn't quite put his finger on what. "Is there anyone who might know more?"
"I wish," Gabriel laughed, an honest tone of voice that caught Dean off guard. He thought maybe there was something the angels were keeping to themselves, if anything Gabriel was probably going to be the most open to them. "Let me give you a summary of what I know; Lucifer got his hands on the essence of everything in Heaven, we don't know who gave it to him yet. He made a poison to tear us apart from the inside out and so the big man upstairs sealed everything up. Cas was made separately; a new angel means big changes so we were all pretty excited. I dropped him off on Earth and cut to 16 years later he breaks all the seals. We continue dying and he goes off to fight Lucifer, they ended up falling into Hell and next thing I know Cas comes out alone saying he's fixed it. Even Lucifer got purified in that whole thing. After that he went and fed his grace into Heaven's core. We didn't get in there until afterward, though."
"Cas?" Gabriel ran into the room, already feeling a hundred times better than he did seconds before. He looked around the space he was barely allowed into on a normal day, nothing was particularly familiar but he was able to recognize the collapsed figure.
Castiel didn't have enough energy to hold his angelic form anymore; he lay without wings unconscious, and appeared to be almost too perfect for the floor he was on. The last of his grace seeped out of him, glowing like nothing Gabe had ever seen before in his lifetime. "Cas," he whispered and stepped closer, unsure of his own strength, wondering if he'd be able to handle it if Castiel were dead. Gabriel knelt down next to his motionless brother and placed a hand on him.
He felt something strange, something human inside the new angel. Gabe's hopes were up but he didn't want to get them too high, he nudged Cas but there wasn't any response. "Hey, get up kiddo, c'mon." He smiled anxiously and shook Cas' shoulder a little rougher, "I can feel you in there, little guy. C'mon, just get up."
"Gabriel," Michael's voice was shaky as he walked up behind him, placing a hand gently on Gabe's shoulder, "Don't."
Gabriel grimaced and ground his teeth together, "He's alive, I can feel it."
"His grace would come back but he also gave his life energy," his older brother uttered softly, still weakened from the fight and disease. "You know what that means…"
"There's something else, you can feel it if you touch him," Gabriel barely managed to squeak, "He's alive, he is…"
Michael didn't have the heart to continue telling him no, and instead humoured his little brother by placing a hand on Castiel's head. "Wait…" his eyes lit up and he looked at Gabriel earnestly, "I feel it too, he has a soul."
Gabriel furrowed his brow and stared down at Cas intently, "No angel's ever had a soul…"
"He might live," Michael slowly rose to his feet, "Gabriel I need you to take him to his room, I'm not strong enough right now."
Gabriel nodded and carefully lifted Castiel up, trying not to pay attention to how light the boy felt. "What do we do now?" He asked as they exited God's chambers, looking down over the Heavens from the seventh.
"Our Father requires rest, but he said that Heaven is in shambles. We'll need to rebuild a lot of it, make most of it from scratch, and try to make a stable space for the souls of humanity. They're disconnected from us now; we need to get them back."
"What about Earth?"
"Hell is gone and there are a finite number of demons, Father says that they'll have to hold their own. If we don't take care of Heaven now then all of this has been for nothing and there won't be anything left." Michael was tired and Gabe wished he could carry him too, but he only had enough strength for one lightweight.
"So…" he offered a smile in the hopes it would get Michael to do the same, "I guess we get Raphael to start the Heaven Salvage plan, you know, since he did just about nothing during this whole thing."
Michael did smile but it wasn't a happy one, he shook his head and opened the door for Gabriel to walk into Castiel's old room, "Raphael perished early on in the siege, I'm afraid. He won't be around to help us."
Gabriel bit his lip and did his best to hold himself together. He didn't want to know how many were dead. He didn't want to know any of it.
"So wait, Cas isn't all angel?" Jet tilted his head a little, something he'd undoubtedly learned from watching Cas.
"His power is archangel level at the very least; but we're not entirely sure what he is. Dad went into hibernation so there's no asking Him any questions at the moment." He shrugged and kicked the dirt absently, "Cas is a new kind of angel, he's a completely different model. Different kind of grace, most beautiful wings I've ever seen, and he's got a soul. To be honest… I'm not convinced he was made like we were."
Dean wanted to say something, he wanted to ask more about Cas, he wanted to be taken to see him. How could they just leave him there alone?
"I have to go now," Gabriel's wings flared out again, "I'll be back later, maybe I can take you up to see him once we've got this demon thing under control." He gave a quick wave and just as he'd arrived he took off. Dean stumbled back from the force of his launch but managed to keep his balance.
"So that's it?" Sam asked quietly, "Are we saved?"
"We'll see," Jet ruffled his hair playfully, a light hearted gesture that didn't go unnoticed by anyone. None of them were quite sure if they'd just gotten good news or bad, but they'd manage it regardless.
"I hope they hurry up," Dean watched the horizon again with renewed determination, "One of them better take me to see Cas…"
"Chill out man," Jet grinned at him, "You wanna be in one piece when you get the chance to see him again, don't stress out now."
"I guess you're right," Dean smiled back but couldn't shake the anxiety in him. Cas was so close but still so far out of reach, it was agonizing.
"I want to see him, too." Sam went to his side and gave his shoulder a squeeze, "But Jet's right, if we start pushing ourselves too hard now we might not make it 'til then. We don't know how long this will take."
Dean didn't reply he just turned and gave his brother a hug.
A few feet away from the Gordon just shook his head and looked at Meg, "You know, even though the world' overrun by demons and monsters 'n shit," he turned and looked at the sky as more angels came down, "I still can't get over the fact that Castiel wasn't human. I used to pick on him pretty hard, he was always so forgiving about it… I need to tell him I'm sorry."
"Yeah," Meg smirked and watched the Winchesters hug, "Don't worry about it too much, you'll get your chance to apologize but I've got a feeling he's always kind of known."
"Guess you're right."