Cas stared off the edge of the seventh Heaven and looked down over the different levels, it was healthy again thanks to him. He wandered down to look at it, lacking angels entirely but still a beautiful sight. He couldn't imagine the structures and craftsmanship that went into it all. Everything was practically recreated from scratch, new material used and a solid base remade. It was stronger than it had ever been and Cas wished he could have been part of the building process.
But he'd already done his part; maybe it was better the way it went down.
He couldn't really wrap his head around it all; he saw a different set up than what his mind had conjured for him to begin with. The old way it worked was like a completely separate system, the human souls used to be in their own space, a duplicated version with no angels inside. Now it looked as though everything worked together, humans could pass through to the angelic side though there were many section that required wings to reach. Which meant that angels would have to interact with the souls of humanity. Cas was grateful to see it.
But all it did was remind him of one thing; his family. They were still on Earth and Death said it'd been six years. Six. Cas rolled that number around in his head like a pinball; Dean wasn't 16 anymore. Dean and Jet were 22 years old. Sam was an adult, 18 officially in May. Was it past May already? Had he missed it?
"You're going to come back, right?"
"I'll do what I can, I promise."
The last words they exchanged face-to-face, Cas' promise. How long could he wait until he was a liar? Until Dean was dead? Cas silently wished and hoped that Dean's soul wasn't among the many that walked Heaven's floors.
He wanted to see them, all of them. He wanted to see how Sam had grown; he wanted to know how Jet was dealing with the trauma he went through and if Nikki had survived, if she was still walking. Had his parents made it? Was Mary still as supportive and happy as he remembered her? Or John, was he still the family's rock? Cas wanted to hug them, to be held by them and know that it was all okay. It was all worth it in the end because they made it.
And Dean… Cas wanted to see Dean most of all. See that beautiful face smiling at him, big eyes tearing up from relief and joy, and to hear Dean laugh. He wanted to experience Dean again. Cas missed his scent, missed his humour, and missed his voice. Cas wanted Dean's touch, he could imagine resting his head against Dean's shoulder and crying, exhausted and renewed all at once.
Everything flashed in his mind, Dean's stupid grin as they played dumb games, his laugh every time Cas embarrassed himself, and even the seriousness of his tone as they talked about monsters. He could see Dean across from him, 13 years old and a spun bottle pointed his way. Their first kiss. That first moment Cas remembered falling; Dean was blushing and his lips were so soft. It set Cas on fire and left his skin tingling like nothing else ever had.
Cas remembered that horrible Christmas, the one he denied over and over again for so long. Dean had died without him there, Dean had stopped breathing and was going to be taken away but Castiel refused Death access. Castiel shouted down the horseman in their first meeting and it was something he'd never forget. He would always know what it felt like to hold Dean's body, unmoving and broken like it was never meant to be. That was something that happened because Castiel existed in his life but Dean never regretting it. Dean would never ask to repeat his life without Cas in it, and it broke Cas' heart to know it.
His pulse had raced when he realized Dean liked him too, that moment he looked into Dean's mind and into his soul. Dean's soul was always so lovely and drew Cas in every time. It sparkled like nothing else and he wished he could see it again. He wanted to touch it and know Dean better, know him at all. Six years really could change a person. Six years was a very long time.
'I've stayed here long enough.' He told himself and spread his wings; it was time to go home. He soared toward the gates faster than he'd ever flown before.
With the angels' return the world erupted into chaos again. The demons that had grown comfortable sitting atop their throne were in a dizzying rush. Each one emerged again and attacked anything that moved, anxious and terrified of what was to come. After the destruction in Heaven there were still more demons left on Earth, they were outnumbered.
Angels were on Earth for only a day but already the obvious was imminent to everyone; they could still lose. "We can't relax yet," Dean said at a settlement meeting, all the fighters were present and deciding what their next move would be. Most were hoping for a chance to take a break and let the angels handle it; Dean was against that. "The demons are just coming out of hiding, we've already gotten transmissions from other settlements that they're being attacked from all sides and you want to take a vacation?"
"But the angels are here, we'll be fine." One of the other leaders stuttered out with a half smile, one that quickly vanished when Dean turned a deep frown on him.
"No we won't be. These people still need us to fight until someone tells me that all the demons trying to kill us are dead." Dean looked around the room, "We were going to continue fighting every day of our lives as of 48 hours ago. Just because the angels are here to help doesn't mean we can give it up, the war is still going and they need us to keep going."
The room was quiet other than a single; "Damn right," from Jet who was grinning as he watched Dean tell off the entire room of cowards. Dean felt a twinge of pride spike in him from that, Jet was the person he would credit for it to begin with. Having his 'take no shit' friend supporting him only made him more determined; he was doing the right thing.
"So the question then is do we focus on defense or do we attack?" Gordon asked and gained just that much more respect from Dean for joining in.
"Defense for now," Sam added, "Demons are coming out of the woodwork and we don't know where they're at. If we send everyone out to fight with the angels then no one's here to save our people. The angels are the frontlines, let's wait here like we've been doing."
"I'm with Sam," Dean agreed and looked around at the others, "We'll need as many people as we can muster, but I'm not your boss. If you want to quit now I can't stop you, though I just want you to know that if you do it's pretty messed up."
The room was quiet for a bit as the others looked at one another or stared at Dean, "We're with you." Jody Mills stepped out from behind a few people and gave him a firm nod, "We can relax once our families are safe."
Dean smiled at her, his eyes showed the relief in his mind. Just before he could thank them the ground rumbled in a way that was all too familiar to everyone present. Dean's eyes snapped to the window where Jet was already peering outside.
"I can't see anything…" Jet squinted, "But I think there's something coming…"
"Hey," Meg opened the door, she generally stayed out of the meetings and just listened from outside – the amount of dirty looks she got wasn't worth the hassle. "We got some demons coming out of the ground to the south, it's either a swarm of 'em or a few big ones, can't tell yet."
"Goddamn it," Dean grit his teeth and moved to gear up with as much ammunition as he figured he'd need. He exchanged a quick look with Jet who offered a smirk; Sam leaned over and gave Dean a strong hug before grabbing his shit. They never knew when the last fight would be, Dean wasn't ever sure he was a fan of Sam's method, if it meant giving up or if Sam was just prepared. But he couldn't tell his little brother not to do something that made him feel better, what kind of dick move would that be?
"Alright people let's move!"
Dean rushed out the door with the others right on his heels; everyone had preplanned positions in the event of something like this. He ran to his post and aimed a scoped rifle toward the south; with the greatest of Winchester luck his post was on the south side of the settlement. He watched as the ground bubbled about half a kilometer away, like it was made of liquid and coming to a boil. Dean swallowed past a growing lump in his throat and steadied himself, he'd fought a lot of demons over the past six years and it wouldn't be that different. Except he hadn't fought them so close to home.
His mind wandered to his parents but he knew they'd pick up guns if they had to. Once the alarm in the small town went off he knew John would be at his post too. Mary had asked him not to go out on expeditions if he wasn't needed, that he just stay home and help if something happened close to home. John had accepted, he said it was a good idea to leave some fighters at home at all times. Nikki was on board with it too, so the remaining adults willing to fight grabbed weapons and went on the defensive for the rest who couldn't.
Sam, Jet, and Meg were fairly close to Dean's position, all looking out over the wave of earth that started to rupture from the pressure. He knew they were going to be in for a hell of a fight. He could just feel it.
A light overhead flashed, there were a few angels that sensed out the danger and were engaging the monsters as they poured out. From where he stood Dean could see several small demons, approximately average human size, darting out of the opening. It was reminded him of when Castiel stood over their family in his angel form and the sky was darkened with creatures he could barely understand at the time.
Since then he'd seen so many grotesque things up close that it was hardly a surprise anymore. It was like playing a video game, except in real life. He missed the simple times of video games.
"You look distracted, man," Jet called to him and Dean had to laugh.
"Just remembering the days when I kicked your ass at Mario Kart."
"Fuck off, I didn't have a console to practice with at home." Jet jabbed back at him and Dean just grinned.
The following minutes were a calm before a storm, Dean's eyes were focused and his body was loose. Meg was perched on the wall ready to leap off as soon as it was needed; she was hesitant though. Dean knew why without having to ask, the angels out there might mistake her for one of the others and attack her instead. It was a different game for her now, Dean almost wanted to ask her to stay put, yet he knew she would have none of that bullshit.
No harm in trying though. "You know you don't have to go if you don't want to," he said without looking away from his scope.
"Considering it," She laughed anxiously, "But how would that look after you speech back there?"
"Your situation isn't the same as ours, I mean you're in this like we are but the angels aren't attacking humans."
"I can't win, can I?"
Dean smirked and scoffed at it, "Sounds like Winchester luck to me, you might be an honorary member of the family already. You know, if you wanna be."
Meg was quiet for a moment and Dean thought she might be ready to hit him but that wasn't the case. She flew past him seconds later and soaring faster than he'd ever seen her go. He'd struck a nerve, maybe.
It wasn't even five minutes later when Dean found himself firing his first shot. He hit a demon right in the forehead and signaled to the others at his side that it was time to engage. There was an uproar in the people of their settlement, battle cries tearing apart the sky and echoing loud over the landscape.
Dean kept shooting as long as he could but a long barreled rifle was only so useful as the demons closed in. He grit his teeth and hoped he could use it until he was out of bullets but out of the corner of his eye he saw Jet toss his to the ground. His best friend pulled a machete he'd strapped to himself and leapt off the wall. Dean's heart was in his throat, as he had to resort to smacking a demon off with the barrel of his gun.
Jet flew by on the back of a winged demon; he had a hell of grip on part of its head while swinging his blade at everything that came too close. Dean would have watched longer but couldn't risk being distracted.
A shotgun blast sounded a few times and a demon hit the wall next to Dean and fell over. He looked down to see Mary reloading, "Thanks mom!" He shouted before tossing his rifle down and switching to a sawed-off. It was loud and bloody, body parts flew in random directions, human and demon alike. Every now and then a flash of light blinded him, angels launching energy attacks and doing nearly as much damage as the demons to the settlement. People weren't harmed by angelic attacks but their homes were decimated far quicker.
Another demon hit home a few feet away, this one the same that Jet had been riding. Dean looked for his friend quickly and realized that Jet was still very much airborne, except he'd just jumped to a new ride because his had taken too many hits. It occurred to Dean that Jet's way might've been the most reckless but it was also more effective.
Dean took a deep breath and tried to ready himself for what he was about to attempt. Flying was a pretty big fear for him but to save his family he might have to do it.
He stared intently at the flying beasts and slid into a ready-to-run stance, eyes intense and fiercely focused. He stood there for about two seconds and realized it didn't matter how badly he wanted to do it, he'd never have the nerve. And just as he decided standing his ground with a gun was more his style he saw Sam follow Jet's entirely irresponsible lead.
Before he could rush after his brother what must have been a 2-ton demon crashed into their wall. Dean stumbled and hit his knees; he could hear the undeniable crack and rumble of the ground as it backed up to do it again. He tried to stand up but he wasn't able to get his balance soon enough, falling over another time.
Dean's heart raced as he scrambled to get up, finally able to get his feet under him but only seconds before a passing creature knocked him down. This time the wall slipped away from his feet and there was no hard surface to land on except for the ground. Dean had been taught different techniques for a safe landing but it still didn't save him the hurt from the impact. He groaned and struggled to get up again, staying still wasn't an option that equaled living through an attack scenario.
The ground shook again, this time far more prominent. He looked up to see the massive beast rearing to charge the wall one more time; he was directly in its path. Dean only had a split second to make a move but he knew that it wouldn't matter; he wasn't fast enough to get out of the way. Instead he rose to his feet and glared the monster in the eye as it charged him, prepared for an imminent fate.
While he expected everything to go dark it actually blinded him, a brilliant light and an ear-splitting explosion blasted out from his location. Dean couldn't feel anything but a gust of wind, and as his eyes readjusted to the sudden light he realized who was standing in front of him.
"Cas!" He nearly shrieked the name, his readiness for death washed away with so much joy he didn't know how to control his own voice anymore. Tears were immediately in his eyes, as he couldn't help the smile on his face.
Castiel turned around to look at him; his human body was what he controlled then, plus the addition of wings. Cas' form had aged the six years; he looked just like Dean would have thought, probably even better. "I'm so sorry, Dean." Cas' eyes were as teary as Dean's, "I've been gone so long."
Dean grabbed Cas' hand and pulled him into a hug, holding tight enough to bruise and burying his face against the curve of Cas' neck. "What matters is that you're home," He whispered brokenly, "Just like you promised."