The day Dean Winchester had been waiting for all his life had finally come. Truth be told, it had been so long that Dean had begun to lose hope the day even existed. But here it was, written down in black ink on a yellowing scroll: proof that it was the day the Winchesters finally caught a break.
“Sammy, have I ever told you, you’re a genius?” he muttered admiringly, and because his brother was so awesome, even pretending he didn’t see Sam’s cheeks flush red.
“Well, what are ya waiting for? Call your bloody angel already!” Bobby grumbled in an attempt to cover his own excitement.
Dean squeezed his eyes shut and started praying. After a second, a flutter of wing beats told him Castiel had arrived. He opened his eyes and was met with Cas’s blazing blue gaze. Stepping out of the heat radiating off Cas, he gestured at the parchment.
“We think we’ve got a way to stop the apocalypse,” said Sam. “Apparently, angels can’t take a vessel if the body has already been claimed by another angel – and this tells us a way for them to claim anyone they want!”
Cas snatched up the paper and peered at it intently. After a second, his eyes widened almost imperceptibly and his stony façade shook minutely. For the usually stoic angel to falter, this had to be good.
Then he put the paper down and started shaking his head, “It wouldn’t work. No angel can bond with anything demonic. Sam is still tainted by his demon blood.”
Sam’s face fell, guilt rising up once again. Quickly, Dean interrupted.
“We don’t need it to be Sam. I’ll do just as well – if Michael can’t take me, there’s no apocalypse. The angels won’t get their big finale and so they will just focus on putting Satan back in his box the way they should have done all along!”
“I don’t even know if I am still enough of an angel for it to work.”
“Oh for crying out loud… why are you being such a Debbie Downer today?”
Averting his eyes, Cas began to mumble, “I don’t understand that reference.”
There was an agonisingly long pause. Dean glanced at Sam and Bobby and received helpless shrugs. Gingerly, he stepped forward, knowing how the angel’s guard fell when Dean invaded his personal space. Softly, his eyes sought Cas’s, which were still staring at the floor. He fell for the bait and Dean reeled the connection in, pulling Cas back into the conversation.
“It’s worth a shot, right?” he pleaded gently. “For me?”
A battle waged in his bright blue eyes until, finally, Cas bit out an agreement. The rush of victory felt somewhat hollow. Dean shook off the nagging guilt and started arranging everything for the ritual. He didn’t want to upset his best friend but this was the end of the world, desperate measures and all that. They didn’t have time to start fretting because the angel was getting his knickers in a knot. He could always find out what was going on with him after (though, as a Winchester, Dean was far more likely to ignore the subject until it endangered someone’s life.)
When everything was set out, Dean stepped into the circle of salt in the center and, unhappily, Cas followed. The candles placed around the ring gave off a dim glow that licked across Cas’s face and turned his features to bronze. It was a pale imitation of the halos angels were always depictured with. Bobby wheeled his way towards them and began to read. Normally, God would do the reading, but in his absence Castiel had said a different father figure would do. Bobby had tried not to look proud that the host of Heaven effectively decreed he was the Winchester’s father. He failed miserably.
“Ego haec duo simul animas. Erunt simul usque ad finem seculi, adversus iram et dolorem et laborem. Inter se omnino pertinere. Nemo potest venire ad invicem…”
As Bobby continued to drone on, Dean was startled out of his thoughts as a small, cool hand slipped into his. He swung round to find Cas clamping on to him rigidly.
“Dude,” he hissed, “what the hell are you doing?”
If Cas heard him, he didn’t show it, steadfastly staring straight ahead. Dean went to pull his hand away, angel strength or no angel strength, when he caught a proper glimpse of the guy’s face. He looked terrified, vulnerable and… small. It was a word he hesitated to attach to him, as Cas had always seemed to fill the whole room wherever he went. His vessel bristled with unseen power. Yet now, for the first time, Dean felt powerful compared to the fragile porcelain of his skin. God, it was like trying to kick a puppy. Sighing, he folded his fingers round and gripped him tight. He met Sam’s questioning look with a shrug and a face that said, ‘He’s an angel. He doesn’t know you don’t do this.’
Bobby stopped chanting and picked up a bottle of holy water. He poured a trickle over Cas’s head and he gave a full body shudder. Dean braced himself as Bobby’s attention turned to him. The water splashed on to him and suddenly Dean could feel. A gaping, cavernous hole inside Dean he’d never even known was there was filled and Dean felt lighter than a cloud. Everything he thought he’d lost in Hell was regained. It felt like, like… like ice cream bought by his mother on a sunny day whilst she watched her two children playing happily together. He fought back the prickle of tears.
“Dean?” Sam asked, his voice sounding small and worried, “Are you alright?”
He turned and quickly reassured his brother, “Of course I’m alright. In fact, I’m better than alright. I imagine I’m probably about to start pooping rainbows.”
Castiel huffed, “Only you would describe a deep celestial bond with a reference to excrement.”
Laughing, he slung his arm around Cas’ shoulders. They’d stopped the apocalypse, his friend seemed to have gotten over whatever was worrying him and Dean felt better than he had in years. All was alright with the world.
It didn’t last.