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Feathers & Gunpowder

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Silver glinted in the flames of hellfire as Dean slowly dragged the blade along the soul strapped down on the rack in front of him. The soul sobbed, begged for him to stop, but Dean ruthlessly continued. Layer by layer of skin, he removed it until red muscle was the only thing visible.

41 years had passed since Dean first went to Hell. 12 had passed since Dean got off the rack and started torturing himself. In the beginning, Dean had felt guilty, but after all that time, he didn't feel anything.

Behind Dean, Alastair stood and watched his best apprentice. He was a quick learner, Alastair had only needed to show him once before he could do it himself. 

Alastair smirked as he saw more and more of Dean’s bright soul become darker and demonic. The master of torture had known Dean was the righteous man the moment he appeared in Hell, that Dean was the key to breaking the first seal. And it had been broken. Alastair was proud of himself and Hell when Dean Winchester broke after only 30 years. John Winchester hadn't even been close to breaking at 30 years.

Alastair became aware of blades clashing from somewhere up in the green thundering skies. Bright lights swirled around along with black smoke of demons. Alastair squinted, trying to see what the bright lights were and caught sight of feathery wings. Angels. They were invading Hell, searching for Dean, to try and get him out of there.

Alastair abruptly turned around and went over to Dean. Dean was finished with the soul, the soul was broken, had said yes to getting off the rack. The righteous man looked up at his master with a blood splattered face when he came close, proud at how quickly he had made the soul break. Alastair couldn’t help but smile. His student was very promising.

Alastair sauntered over to his student, tilting the younger’s chin up so he could see the young man in the eyes. The former green eyes were clouded with black, dark but not complete. The white eyed demon leaned down to brush his lips against the younger man’s. “Listen now, little one,” Alastair breathed against Dean’s lips. “Angels are coming. And they’re gonna try and take you away from me.”

Dean pulled away from the demon in shock. “Angels?” He asked. “They’re real? And they’re here to take me away? Why?”

The torturer smirked as he traced Dean’s plump lips with the tips of his finger. “They’re very real. A real pain in the ass. And they want to take you away because they think you can save them, that you’re the special.” Alastair paused, thinking of Dean’s need of praise and his low self-esteem. “And you are special,” He continued, “Just not in the way those feathers believe.” 

Alastair leaned forward to kiss him, but never had the chance when one of the angels descended and landed just a few feet away from the demon and his student. The angel was a huge ball of light, but shrunk down to Alastair and Dean’s height to accommodate the demon and it’s apprentice. Alastair growled at the angel, forcefully taking the knife Dean still held in his hand.

The demon stepped in front of Dean, using his body to block the angel’s way to Dean. “Get the Hell out of Hell! Dean is not yours to take!” Alastair roared, the sound reverberating around in Hell.

The angel spread it’s wings, two big black appendages, and held out a silver knife. “Dean is ours to take, he belongs either on Earth or in Heaven, not in Hell. For he is the righteous man.” The angel said in a strong voice, the ground beneath Alastair and Dean shook with the power of it.

‘The righteous man’ . Dean looked between Alastair and the angel. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay down in Hell with Alastair or leave Hell to get back to Earth and be the Righteous Man. It sounded like a lot of work, but also like a huge honor.

The angel turned to look at Dean and the human had to look away from the bright light burning his eyes. “Dean, Sam needs you. Lucifer is going to rise and your brother needs your help to stop the Devil.”

“Sam…” Dean breathed. This was the first time in almost 20 years he heard that name. At first, when Dean was on the rack, Alastair would taunt him and say that Sam had continued Azazel’s plan, but when the demon realized that Dean knew Sam wouldn’t do that, Alastair stopped mentioning the man at all, which was an even crueler torture for Dean, not knowing if his brother is alright or not, of Sam is dead or if he truly did continue Azazel’s plan.

Dean looked at the angel, at where he believed it’s eyes were. “Take me to Sam.” He pleaded. Demon or not, Dean cared about his younger brother, his family.

The angel stepped forward and was about to touch Dean when Alastair snarled. “You’re not taking Dean. He’s mine!” Alastair snarled and attacked the angel, blade clashing against the angel’s silver one. The angel grabbed Dean’s shoulder and shoved him to the ground to get him away from the demon and angel’s fight. 

With just that simple touch, the dark demon essence in Dean’s soul burned away and it was as if Dean’s head exploded. Memories of a life before he was Dean Winchester, a life as God’s fifth creation and as a powerful angel, billions of years worth of memories flooded Dean’s brain.

‘Amara, my aunt and most parental person in my life who’s locked away in a cage since before the Universe's creation
God, my father, who abandoned me and my siblings
Michael, my oldest brother who’s the cause of my fall, who always hated me and cut out my grace in a failed murder attempt
Lucifer, my second oldest brother and my torturer, the reason I no longer have wings...
Gabriel, my older brother, my former lover who died and caused me to fall into depression
Castiel, the love of my life and my fiancé, the reason Michael tried to kill me
Heaven, 1483, when I met Castiel in one of Heaven's gardens
London, September 1887, when Castiel proposed to me’

 Dean fell to the ground while Alastair and the angel fought. “Jensen…” Dean mouthed, his own name, his real name. He breathed heavily, shock seeping through his brain as tremors wracked his body.

The clashing of blades stopped and Dean heard a body falling to the ground. Dean turned his head and saw Alastair’s unconscious body lying just a few feet away from him.

The angel bent down and put a hand on his shoulder, grace burning the skin into the shape of the angel's hand-print. It grabbed his upper arm and pulled Dean back onto his feet and when Dean looked up at the giant angel, it came into more focus, not just a bright light anymore. Instead, Dean saw three faces; one zebra, one bull and one that vaguely looked human. It had a grey-blue thin and skinny body, with patches of glowing blue covering it's chest and arms.

The angel turned it’s human like face to look at Dean, making sure Dean was okay and Dean sucked in a sharp breath. He knew this angel. Intimately.

“Castiel?” Dean’s voice was hoarse as he looked at the angel in front of him. Said angel looked at him, frowning at the use of his name; he hadn’t told Dean his name yet. He didn’t have time to react as Dean leant forward and kissed him deeply. The angel quickly pulled away, was about to yell at him. But Dean’s soft Enochian whisper stopped him. “Ol hoath…” My love. My love? My love!

Castiel quickly looked up into the green eyes of Dean Winchester. “Jensen?!” The angel asked, shocked. Looking closer at the soul in front of him, he realized it was strikingly similar to the true form belonging to the fifth and youngest archangel. How did he not notice it before? 

Dean quickly nodded, in slight shock from the memories still assaulting his senses. “Yeah, it’s me.”

“How are you- What- I thought you were dead!” Castiel stuttered out, shock emanating from each word.

Dean shook his head, as he remembered how he ended up as Dean Winchester. “Michael, he tried to kill me. He slit my throat.” Dean whispered and touched his neck, phantom pain from the slash of a blade making him wince. “But the cut wasn’t deep enough, it didn’t kill me, obviously, but my grace was cut out instead and I fell. And I was reborn as Dean Winchester.”

Castiel frowned as he looked at him. “If you’re Dean Winchester, then that means you have to stop the Apocalypse.” Castiel pointed out.

Dean nodded solemnly. “It also means I will lose everyone I’ve ever loved and cared about if the Apocalypse happens. It’s the curse of the Winchesters.” Dean added, knowing full well about the painful prophecy ahead.

Castiel glared at him, as if he didn’t need the reminder. Then he sighed. “We don’t know what the last seal is yet. Maybe we can stop Lucifer from rising and the curse of the Winchesters won’t take hold.” Castiel thought out loud. “And since you have your memories and knowledge from before you fell, then you know where the archangel blade is. If Lucifer rises, then we can kill him instead.”

“But even if we have the archangel blade, we need an archangel to kill him.” Dean reminded him, being the pessimist in their conversation. Like always.

Castiel gave him a look that said he was stupid. “We have you. You’re an archangel.”

“Without it’s grace.” Dean pointed out.

Castiel shrugged. “Then we find it.” Castiel sounded so sure, like he had back-up plans on top of the back-up plans. But of course he did, he was a soldier of Heaven. And like a boyscout, he was always ready.

Dean opened his mouth to point something else out, but stopped when he heard the fight from up above come closer. He looked up and saw several bright lights fading out, but also black smoke burning away. Dean turned his head back to look at Castiel -- oh my father, he’s handsome -- and gave him a pleading look. “We have to get out of here.” He insisted.

Castiel nodded and pulled him close to his chest, Dean clutching at his shoulders. With a strong beat of his wings, Castiel took flight and soared up. He swung his blade at every demon that came close while Dean clutched onto Castiel’s chest, silently begging the angel to not drop him. 

They reached the surface and burst up through the crack in the ground created by the angels so that Dean’s soul could come out. The angels could come out by themselves with their teleporting.

"Dean Winchester is saved!" Castiel yelled out, letting all angels in Heaven, Earth and Hell hear him. Wherever they were, they heard.

They came up in a huge grassy field, a simple wooden cross marking Dean’s grave. Dean looked around, seeing trees surrounding the field. Dean looked down at his grave, at the newly turned dirt his body rested underneath, that wasn’t burnt based on the tugging motion he felt at being this close to it and the thought of entering his body while his chest was still ripped open and his body decaying made Dean shudder, and as if Castiel had heard his thought he asked, “Shall I heal your body before I place your soul in it?”

Dean nodded and loosened his tight grip on Castiel’s body so the angel could move. The angel leant down and touched the freshly turned dirt of the ground. The ground shook and pieces of dirt floated into the air, lifting away from the hole to Dean’s earthly grave.

Dean stood in his soul form and watched as Castiel used his grace to dig into the ground. In his soul form, he could see the grace carefully lifting the pieces into the air.

“I had forgotten how beautiful it is.” Dean commented, eyes still glued to the levitating dirt. “To be fair, I had forgotten everything about my life as an angel.” Dean added with a shrug.

Castiel smiled down at the ground with a fond smile. The floating pieces of dirt were thrown to the side, out of the way for Castiel’s digging. It looked less glamorous being thrown to the side than it was when the grace was wrapped around it.

Sam and Bobby hadn’t buried Dean’s body very deep, four feet instead of six. The handmade coffin that was supposed to be Dean’s final resting place looked like it was done in a rush, the boards the coffin was made out of were cut in rough edges, too many nails were put in the material and splinters stuck out. A box of tetanus, Dean concluded to himself.

Castiel leant down and pried his long fingers into the space between the lid and box and pried open the box, lifting the lid out of the way and putting it down on the ground with a loud thud.

Dean frowned down at his body once it came out into the light. It was beginning to decay, but he could still see that it had been cleaned, the cuts on his face wiped clean and the dirt he had on his face was wiped away as well. He could clearly remember that his shirt had been ripped open, but now he had on a whole black t-shirt.

Dean's stomach clenched when he thought about how Sam, having seen his brother be ripped apart in front of him, also had to clean his brother up and dress him in new clothes.

“Sam didn't want to give you a hunter's funeral.” Castiel interrupted Dean's thoughts. “He wanted you to have a body once you got back. So, he convinced Bobby Singer to simply bury you and then he set out to search for a way to bring you back.”

“Sam left Bobby?” Dean asked, uncertain if he missed some information.

Castiel nodded sadly. “Yes. After a month of staying at Bobby's house, he left to search for answers.” The angel straightened and looked into Dean's eyes. “You do know that most Angels will be against Sam?”

Dean smiled sadly. “Yeah.” Dean huffed. “Sam Winchester, the boy with the demon blood. Azazel’s favorite child and destined boy king of Hell. Heaven has many reasons to be against him.”

Dean watched as Castiel leaned down and pressed two fingers against Dean's body’s forehead. The decay process reverted, making it look fresh and alive. The small cuts on his face healed and disappeared, as did the huge claw marks on Dean's chest. Dean knew all internal stuff was healed too, like his alcoholized liver and the remains of his heart attack.

Castiel straightened and turned to look at Dean. He stretched out his hand to Dean, wordlessly telling him to come over. Dean took his hand, feeling a shock of electricity shoot out from Castiel’s true form and buzz into Dean’s arm, causing the sense of pins and needles across his arm and chest.

Castiel grasped Dean’s soul firmly, making it go from it’s human appearance to the blue ball of light humans see, and lowered it into the handmade coffin. Dean’s body glowed bright blue as Castiel’s hand entered his chest and released the soul inside. A pulse wave of power was released, angelic grace and soul essence strong enough to knock down the surrounding trees and would have burnt any human close by to ash with the power.

Castiel pulled back his hand and sat back on his heels to watch the human. For a second, nothing happened, then Dean bolted upright as he inhaled as much air as he could hold before letting it out with a heavy cough.

Once he caught his breath and stopped coughing, Dean looked around. There was no sign of Castiel. “Cas?” Dean called out in a hoarse and weak voice.

Light flickered in front of him, and he had to squint at the brightness. His eyes quickly adjusted and he opened them fully to see Castiel sitting on his heels, head tilted to the side like he was studying an interesting painting or text.

“What are you looking at?” Dean asked as he pushed himself out of the coffin and out of the grave. Huffing, Dean looked back down in the hole. He could almost see Sam’s long fingers working the boards together as he carefully built the coffin meant to be Dean’s final resting place.

Castiel smiled, eyes trailing over the human body. “You.” Castiel smirked. Dean turned around when he spoke, eyes fond and loving. “I’m looking at you. Your soul is almost as beautiful as your true form but not quite.” He clarified.

Dean chuckled and looked down at the ground, embarrassed.  He had never believed he was beautiful. Not when Castiel said it, nor Gabriel, not when one of his lovers said it.

Straightening up, Dean felt his senses sharpen. Far sharper than normal, he could feel the wing beats of a bird closeby vibrate through the air. “Woah.” Dean whispered. He turned to look at Castiel with a raised eyebrow.

The angel smiled. “I gave you a piece of my grace so you can heal yourself if you get injured.” Castiel frowned. “Please, try and not get yourself killed.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “I solemnly swear to not hunt like a bumbass and get myself killed.” He replied, though his reference was lost on Castiel.

Dean looked around the large field, trying to find any sign of human life, but finding none. “Uh, where are we?” Dean asked.

“Illinois.” Castiel answered, simply.

Dean licked his lips, to no avail. His tongue was as dry as sandpaper, his mouth completely parched. Come to think of it, his body felt weak from dehydration and starvation. “You don’t have any water and food with ya, by any chance?” Dean asked the angel.

Castiel frowned and shook his head. Dean felt like groaning, but controlled himself. “Okay, where is the nearest place to get supplies? Mainly water and food.” Dean asked.

“There’s a gas station down the road. The humans abandoned it earlier when we evacuated them.” Castiel explained. “We wanted to be sure no humans were harmed when we got you out of Hell.”

“Well, thanks.” Dean smiled slightly. At least no one got hurt. “Can you take me there?” Dean asked. He wasn’t sure he could make it to the gas station without passing out from dehydration.

Castiel smiled warmly. “Of course.” Placing a huge hand on Dean’s shoulder, they flew away in a flutter of black wings.

They landed outside the deserted gas station, looking like so many other Dean had seen on the road. A phone booth stood a couple of feet away, sparking the idea to call his brother and Bobby to let them know he’s alive. A beat-up white pick up stood parked outside and if Dean hadn’t had Castiel there, he would’ve probably hotwired the car and used it to get to Bobby’s.

Dean spared a quick glance at the newspaper stand, checking the date, wondering how long he’s been gone. September 18. Dean had been in Hell for 4 months. Two weeks under 5. Dean swallowed, Sam had been alone for almost 5 months. Hopefully, he hadn’t done anything stupid.

Inside the gas station it was messy, things dropped on the floor as the people there probably just had dropped all their things. Dean stepped over a few bottles of soda and made his way to the fridge the drinks were stored in and pulled out a bottle. He gulped it down quickly, almost choking on it.

Castiel watched him from the doorway as Dean walked around, taking some candy bars and beef jerky, which he ate quickly, as he went behind the cash register. Pushing a few buttons, it opened and Dean pocketed the cash he took.

He turned around, a protein bar in his mouth, and saw Castiel looking at him disapprovingly. “What?” Dean asked around the bar in his mouth.

“You shouldn’t steal the money.” Castiel said with a frown. “You can take the food and drinks, that can be replaced, but the clerk worked hard for the money.”

Dean smiled slightly. “Cas, I gotta eat. There’s no food here so I gotta get money to buy something from a diner or whatever else we may come across. Protein bars, beef jerky and candy bars might be good to get energy, but they’re not very good if you’re hungry.” Dean explained. He shrugged slightly, “Besides, it’s not like they can’t get the money back.”

Castiel sighed but nodded his head in understanding. Dean grinned and leaned against the checkout counter, water bottle held loosely in his hand.

“Well,” Dean started, with a smile. “Cheers! To a new beginning!” He exclaimed and took a gulp of water.

Castiel just smiled softly and shook his head.