Title: Against a Stone
Author: fandomlver
Rating: PG-13 Genre and/or Pairing: Angst
Spoilers: General for S4. Set somewhere between 4.10 and 4.16, but no episode specific spoilers.
Warnings: Angst, angst and more angst.
Word Count: 6752
Summary: Castiel pays for his friendship with Dean.


"This is not right."

"You have your orders, Castiel."


"The plan is just. It comes from Heaven, there can be no question."


"It is just."



"Cas! Start wearing a bell, man."

"Dean, keep your brother with you tonight."

"Why? Cas, why?"

"Stay close to him, Dean."

"Castiel! Damnit."

Dean was starting to get used to waking to Castiel standing over him. The angel had little or no sense of personal space, appearing whenever it suited him and vanishing when he'd passed on the newest set of orders. Uriel was worse, but he tended to avoid them as much as possible.

So waking to find Castiel by the window wasn't unusual. What was unusual was that he hadn't woken him, apparently content to let him wake on his own timetable.

"Cas," he said warily, glancing automatically at Sam's bed.

"Your brother's not here."

"Yeah. Should I be worried about that? I hung onto him when you told me to, but that was days ago and nothing's happened."

"No. You did very well."

"Ok. What's going on? New mission?"

"No. No missions."

Dean sat up, studying him. "Cas?" What's wrong, he wanted to add, you're acting like a crazy guy.

Somehow he didn't think that would go over too well.

Castiel turned to face him, leaning against the window. "I've come to say goodbye, Dean."

"Goodbye? What, like, you've got a new mission?"

"No. Not a new mission."

"Cas..." Dean stood, slowly, watching him. "You're freaking me out a bit here. What's going on?"

"My brothers are coming."

"Your brothers. Uriel, and the others?" Dean reached for his clothes, not daring to take his eyes off Castiel.

"Yes. Uriel, and the others."

Goddamn angels. Getting information was like pulling teeth.

"Cas, think maybe you could share more than the two syllable answers? I'm not sure I have time to drag this out of you."

Castiel focused on him for the first time. "Sam has demonic blood. He has demonic powers."

"Yeah, I know all that," Dean said impatiently.

"There has been much debate. And some time ago, a decision was reached."

Dean froze in the act of reaching for his gun. "And?"

"Sam is too dangerous. Angels were dispatched to take care of him."


Dean started for the door, but Castiel was already there. "He's in no danger, Dean."

"You just said..."

"I said they were dispatched some time ago." Castiel stepped forward, herding Dean away from the door. "They did not reach him. Sam has been...protected."

"Protected," Dean echoed. For a moment he couldn't follow, and then he saw Castiel's expression"”that guilty look that was the only one he ever seemed to really mean"”and realised what he meant. "Protected by you." Castiel didn't answer, eyes flickering away. "Cas, why did..."

"My brothers are coming." His voice was more urgent now. "Find Sam; once I am gone they'll come for him again."

"Cas, I can't just let them take you."

Castiel frowned. "I disobeyed."

And he actually believed it. Dean grimaced, fighting the urge to launch into a rant against Castiel's beliefs...that really wasn't what they needed right now.

"No, you protected an innocent man. Don't go anywhere, we're not done." He punched a number on his cell, listening to it ring. "Sam, get your ass back here, now. I don't care, just hurry up."

He dropped the phone on the bed, studying Castiel. "How long do we have?"

Castiel looked away. "Not very. If we are lucky, an hour."

Dean nodded, turning to stuff his belongings into his bag. "Ok. You got any mojo can keep them from finding us?"

"They know where we are, Dean."

"Not if we go somewhere else. Look..." he hesitated, turning back to face Castiel. "You can't just let them do this, Cas. Shake it off and start helping me, alright?" Please, Cas, let me help you.

"I disobeyed," Castiel said again. "I prevented my brothers from obeying."

Sam burst in, Ruby on his heels. "What's going on?"

"Castiel's in trouble, we gotta split. Get your stuff." He glanced at Ruby. "You coming with?"

"Where are we going?"

"We need to hide him. Uriel's coming to..." He stopped, looking at Castiel. "Kill you?"

"Remove my Grace," Castiel supplied.

"Right. So we have to go."

"Uriel wants you to Fall? Why?" Sam slung his bag over his shoulder, tossing a smaller pack to Ruby.

"Not Fall. Lose my Grace."

"Cas has been protecting you," Dean told him. "And they're after him for it. Now we have to go."

Sam blinked, twice. "Yeah. Uh...Bobby's?" He hadn't really absorbed it, Dean knew, just filed it somewhere in that freakishly large brain of his. It'd come back later, when he had time to think about it. Sam compartmentalised a lot better than most people thought he did.

"We've got an hour. Tops." And they were most of a day from Bobby's.

"I know a place," Ruby offered. Dean turned to look at her, and she shifted, crossing her arms defiantly. "What? Look, I hid you from Lilith, didn't I? I know a place we can hide him."

Dean looked at Sam, who shrugged helplessly. "And you want to help because...?" he asked, turning back to her.

"Because Sam's going to whether I help or not. I'm not going to stand by and watch them hurt him."

To trust her, or not to trust her? He didn't really have time to worry about it, so instead he thought as hard as he could, If you lead him into danger, you will pay.

From the way she glared, he thought she'd got the message.

"Alright. Let's go, then. Ruby, show me." He tossed her a map, crossing to Castiel. "You with us?"

"I disobeyed," he murmured again.

"Think of it like creative interpretation," Dean suggested. "Come on." He took Castiel's arm, urging him out of the room.

"I'm really starting to hate barns," Dean muttered, finishing the last rune.

"Yeah, they're wearing thin," Sam agreed, checking the mark. "There, that should work."

"You sure? Bobby and I tried this, man, didn't stop Cas."

"These are different. Trust me."

"Too late." Castiel backed up, eyes on the door.


"They're here. I must..."

"No!" Dean caught his arm. "No vanishing. You're not facing this alone."

Castiel twisted free of his grip. "They won't allow you to interfere, Dean."

If Dean had been facing a man, he might have said he saw fear. Castiel, of course, couldn't feel fear, but the effect was the same; Dean began to worry.

Ruby caught Sam's arm, yanking him to the floor as the windows imploded. Dean ducked, cursing; Castiel didn't move, watching the glass shards. The pieces flew around the room, embedding themselves in the walls and destroying the runes.

"Sam?" Dean called, brushing himself off. The fine shards stung his fingers and he cursed, shaking them out.

"We're fine!"

The door burst in; Castiel took a step forward, standing in front of Dean, as Uriel entered with several other angels behind him.

"Castiel." Uriel paused, watching as Ruby and the Winchesters joined him. Sam and Dean slid in front of him, watching them warily. "Hiding behind the monkeys, Castiel?"

"You can't take him," Dean said firmly.

"I don't want to take him."

"Sam," Ruby said warningly. The angels were spreading out, moving to surround the little group.

"Walk away, Dean," Uriel advised him. "You cannot protect all of them."

Dean glanced at Sam for a moment, grinning. "You wanna bet?"

"My money's on him," Sam agreed.

Uriel smiled grimly, waving. Dean shot through the air, crashing into a stall. Sam made to go after him, and the nearest angel sent him flying through the hayloft.

"Ruby, go," Castiel murmured. "You cannot win here."

"I can keep them from Sam," she hissed, holding out a hand. The dagger Dean had dropped flew into her grip.

"There are too many. They'll kill you."

Ruby studied him for a moment. "One for all, and all that."

Castiel blinked; Ruby hated him, or so he'd thought. Why would she want to help him?

And then Uriel was there, and Ruby was flung back into the arms of the nearest angel.

"You were my brother, Castiel," Uriel said, and there was something like sorrow in his tone.

"I'm still your brother, Uriel."

"Not when you choose companions like these. Turn your back on them, Castiel, and you can still come home." Uriel was almost pleading, as much as he ever did.

Castiel glanced at Ruby, still fighting desperately to protect the unconscious boys, and shook his head. "No."

Uriel's face hardened. "Last chance."

"No. I cannot turn my back on Dean's brother, or his friends." He caught Ruby's surprised look from the corner of his eye, but he didn't turn.

"You will Fall from grace," another angel said urgently. "Castiel, you must..."

"I have followed orders," Castiel said quietly. "I have protected Dean and kept him fighting. That is my mission."

"When did your mission call for you to protect demons? Or to help them?" Uriel glanced away as Ruby was slammed into the wall, falling in a heap.

"When Dean made it his mission." Castiel lowered his head. "I do not regret it, and I will not."

Uriel slammed a hand into his chest, driving him backwards until his back hit a support post. Castiel grabbed at his wrist instinctively, struggling to break free. It felt as though Uriel was peeling his skin off.

"Castiel!" Ruby gasped, but she couldn't get to her feet. Castiel tried to pull free, but Uriel leaned harder, forcing him against the post.

The light of his Grace burned Castiel's eyes and he turned his head, struggling to catch a breath. Uriel was drawing it out, taking longer than he needed to, and Castiel didn't know how long he could last, how long he could bear this...

And then it was over, and he was on his knees, and his Grace shone in Uriel's hands. Castiel struggled to draw a breath, trying to force air into lungs that hadn't needed it in months.

"Let's go," Uriel said, turning his back on Castiel.

"What about them?" one of the angels asked, gesturing to Sam and Dean.

"We've no orders about them," another said. "We are only here for Castiel."

"We can take them any time," Uriel said. "Now that the traitor is not protecting them."

And then they were alone.

Ruby struggled to her feet; she didn't think she'd lost consciousness, but things were hazy and she wasn't sure how long the angels had been gone. She stumbled across the barn to the stall, dropping to her knees beside Dean; he was out, and bleeding, but he was breathing, if a little roughly. She could see Sam, lying on the edge of the hayloft, could see his chest rising and falling steadily.

Castiel was on his knees in the centre of the barn, staring blankly straight ahead. Ruby crossed the floor, sinking down beside him. "Castiel?"

Cas blinked, slowly, lifting his head.

"Cas, you in there? We need to get going, can you..." She trailed off, reaching out to touch his shoulder. "Cas?"

Castiel was weeping. Absolutely soundless, he was shaking with the intensity, breathing ragged and uneven.

Ruby let her body's instincts rise, reaching out to touch his cheek. "Castiel..."

He turned into the touch, and she moved automatically to catch him when he crumbled. "Sssh, sssh, it's alright. Ssssh."

When Sam picked his way down out of the loft Cas was cradled in her arms, heads bent together as she tried to soothe him.


Dean woke at Sam's touch, rolling over and freezing half way. "Shit," he muttered.

"What's wrong?"

"Bruised rib. You?"

"I'm good. Here..."

Sam got him upright, leaning awkwardly against the wall of the stall. "What about them?" Dean asked, nodding towards the other two.

Sam looked over his shoulder, squinting. "Dunno. I'm guessing Uriel got what he came for."

"Yeah. Get me up."

"That a good idea?"

"No. Up."

Sam scowled, but he helped Dean to his feet and over to the others. Ruby looked up as they approached. "I don't think he's all here right now," she said quietly. Sam eased Dean down beside them and crouched to examine Cas; he was dry-eyed, at least, but the blank look was back and he was clinging firmly to Ruby. Sam could sympathize; he didn't much want to face what had just happened, either.

"You ok?" he asked, touching Ruby's cheek.

She smiled quickly at him. "Never better. We should go, though, Uriel'll be over his snit pretty soon."

"Can you manage Cas?"

"Yeah, but I can't get up."

"Alright. Here."

It was awkward"”Cas wouldn't let go of Ruby, and Dean couldn't help"”but Sam got them on their feet. Cas' balance was off, but Ruby got him heading towards the door after a couple of false starts; Sam turned back to Dean, holding out a hand to get him off the floor.

"I hate barns," Dean said angrily, pressing one hand against his ribs as he caught his balance. "No more hunts in barns, deal?"

"Deal," Sam agreed. "Come on, let's get those wrapped."

Ruby got Cas as far as the car and then stalled; she couldn't get him in without him letting go first. Sighing, she propped him against the door and waited.

He still wasn't responding; the blank look in his eyes was starting to creep her out, and the death grip he had on her sleeve was getting annoying. But he seemed suddenly very fragile, and she found herself feeling sorry for him"”and oddly protective.

The boys were only a minute behind them; Dean let go of Sam, pausing in front of them. "Cas? You in there?"

"I think he's in shock," Ruby offered.

"Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised," Dean agreed, touching Cas' chin and lifting it lightly to meet his eyes. "Hey. Hi, Cas."

Cas blinked several times before focusing on him, drawing in a shaky breath. "Dean..."

"Hi. Back with us?"

"What's...I can't..." He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. "It's all gone," he whispered, and he sounded utterly broken in that moment.

"Yeah," Dean said softly. "I know. Come on, we've got to get out of here." Cas frowned, and he added, "Get in."


"Get in the car," Dean said patiently. "We'll worry about everything else later."

Cas turned, looking at the car. "Where are we going?"

"Motel. Somewhere. For now. We'll figure it out later on. Just get in, Cas."

"I should go," Cas said quietly.

"No. You should get in the car."


"This isn't a debate, Cas! You're human now. We're not leaving you here. Get in the car."

Cas flinched, looking down; Dean sighed, turning to Sam, but before anyone could say anything Cas was sliding into the Impala's backseat.

"Careful, Dean," Sam murmured. "He's in shock."

"Yeah, Sam, I know. We've just got to get him out of here, let him freak out in private."

"And get your ribs bound," Sam added.

"Yeah. I'm looking forward to that." Dean got in beside Cas, letting Sam drive.

"Are you hurt?" Cas murmured, watching the way he sat.

"Yeah. Bust a rib. It's nothing."

"I'm sorry."

Dean studied him for a moment. "I'm not. You're alive."

Cas began laughing softly. Once he'd started he couldn't seem to stop; he was still chuckling when Sam pulled into a Motel courtyard, almost twenty minutes later.

Sam leaned back over the seat, eyeing Cas warily. "Dean, you got a card?"

"In my jacket in the trunk. Get two rooms."

"Yeah. You ok?"

No, Sam, I'm sitting with a hysterical angel and I don't know what to do.

"Yeah. Take Ruby with you," he added. Sam nodded, climbing out. Ruby followed him without looking back at them.

"Cas? You ok back there?"

"I can't..." Cas broke off, breathing very fast and shallow.

"Yeah. Look, just hold on for a couple minutes more, ok? Sam's getting us rooms, you can freak out in private."

That started him laughing again, and he was still laughing when Ruby came back with the key. "Ground floor, nineteen and twenty," she told him. "Need a hand?"

"Yeah. Get me..."

She helped him out of the car, bracing him while he caught his breath. "Ok," he said finally. "Cas?"

Cas climbed out under his own power, but the sight of the sky seemed to paralyse him and Ruby ended up towing him to their room. "Sam's coming to look at your rib," she told Dean.

"Thanks, Ruby." He turned to look at Cas, barely registering the click of the door as Ruby left. "Cas?"

"I feel..." He laughed softly, but the hysteria seemed to have died down. "I don't know. How do you tell?"

"You learn. You're probably tired. Sit down."

"Tired," Cas repeated quietly, but he sat down, staring straight ahead.

Dean found a bottle of water in the mini fridge, holding it out. "Drink some of this, and lie down."

Cas took it, studying it carefully, but before he could drink anything there was a tap at the door. "Easy," Dean said, seeing him tense. "It's probably Sam."

"Yes, of course," Cas agreed, watching warily as Dean opened the door.

"How's it going?" Sam asked quietly.

"Not sure yet. Come on."

Dean wasn't really sleeping. Even wrapped, the pain in his rib was enough to keep him on the edge of wakefulness. Besides, he was worried; Cas had taken some of the water, but they couldn't get him to eat and as the day wore on, he'd fallen silent. By the time they'd turned in, Cas in one of Sam's old t-shirts, he hadn't spoken in hours.

So when Dean drifted awake to hear Cas muttering, he stayed still, listening.

"Deus meus, ex toto corde poenitet me omnium meorum peccatorum, eaque detestor," Cas murmured. Dean eased upright, back to the other bed, listening carefully. "Quia peccando, non solum poenas a Te iuste statutas promeritus sum, sed praesertim quia offendi Te, summum bonum, ac dignum qui super omnia diligaris."

His voice was shaking. Dean grimaced, staring down at his hands as the quiet recitation went on.

"Ideo firmiter propono, adiuvante gratia Tua, de cetero me non peccaturum peccandique occasiones proximas fugiturum. Amen."

God, I repent my sins and detest my weakness, Dean translated mentally, as closely as he could. He was missing chunks, he knew"”Sam was the Latin scholar"”but he could get the sense of the words. Guide my penance, help me do better, and lead me from temptation. Ah, Cas...you don't need to confess. You didn't do anything wrong.

"Deus meus..."


"Ex to...Deus meus, ex toto..."


Cas shuddered, turning to look at him. "I cannot hear my brothers."

"Your brothers aren't talking to you. Cas, you remember what's happened?"

He looked away. "Yes. I have Fallen."

"You didn't Fall, Cas, they stole your Grace."

"It was commanded. I disobeyed."

"Yeah." Dean sat up, scrubbing a hand through his hair. Cas was probably still in shock, but they did need to talk about this. "Look, you really..."

Wings outside alerted him; he stood as an unfamiliar figure appeared in the room. "Dean Winchester."

"Just what we need, another of you guys. Where's Uriel?"

"Reassigned. We have need of you."

"Have you." Dean flipped on the lights, studying the man. He probably fit the standard definition of tall, dark and handsome, but he had the air of arrogance that had set the brothers against Uriel at their first meeting. Dean was already pretty sure he wasn't going to like him. "You are?"


Castiel laughed softly, the hysterical tone edging back in. "Angel of mercy, benevolence, and tolerance."

"Uh huh," Dean said flatly. "Were you in the barn, Zadkiel?"

"You are needed..."

"Were you in the barn, Zadkiel?" Dean's tone hadn't changed.


"Were you in the barn, Zadkiel?"

"He will continue until you answer," Cas advised him. Zadkiel ignored him, watching Dean.

Sam slipped in behind him, carefully circling him to join Dean. Ruby stood in the doorway behind him, eyes dark. Zadkiel studied Sam, eyes narrowed as though disgusted, and glanced briefly at Ruby before turning back to Dean.

"Yes. I was in the barn," he said finally. "I laid no hand on you, nor your brother, nor the demon."

Dean was already turning away, though the gesture was only dramatic; the room was too crowded for him to actually go anywhere. "I'm not working with you."

"Dean," Cas protested.

"I have been assigned to you," Zadkiel said flatly.

"Yeah, but I'm not working with you. If Uriel sends more angels after Sam, what are you going to do?"

Zadkiel hesitated, clearly aware that this was important. "I will not harm Sam," he said finally.

"You going to protect him? Sam's been killing himself saving your Seals, you going to return the favor?"

Zadkiel's lip curled. "I won't harm him," he repeated. "You have no right to demand protection for a halfbreed."

"Get out," Dean said shortly.

"I did not harm you."

"You hurt my friend," Dean said sharply. "I'm not working with you."

Zadkiel tilted his head to one side. "Why do you think you have a choice? We can simply place you anywhere you are needed."

Dean smiled grimly. "You can pop me anywhere you want, Zadkiel, but guess what? I have free will. I'm not working with any angel who would stand by and allow Uriel to destroy one of your own. I'm not working with any angel who will try to hurt my brother, and I'm not working with any angel who can't at least acknowledge what you did." He gestured towards Cas. "You haven't even looked at him. See? Castiel. He's right there."

"Castiel is dead," Zadkiel said flatly.

Dean hissed, aware that Cas had paled, aware that Sam had moved to support him. Ruby took a step forward, fury darkening her face; Dean waved her back, mildly surprised when she went.

Zadkiel ignored the sudden movements, eyes on Dean, who nodded suddenly. "Yeah. Maybe Castiel is dead. But Cas is right here, and we like him a whole lot better than any of the rest of you. Now buzz off."

Cas rose shakily; Sam silently supported him until he found his balance, standing beside Dean. "You will not compel Dean Winchester to obey, brother," he told Zadkiel.

Zadkiel's gaze was locked somewhere over his head, refusing to look at him. "Anyone can be compelled."

"Not the Winchesters." He turned to Dean. "He can't understand. I didn't, either, at first."

Dean was still watching Zadkiel. "You look at him. Look him in the eye, or leave, right now."

"Dean," Cas protested.

Zadkiel vanished.

"Pansy," Dean snorted, catching at Cas' arm as he swayed. "You ok?"

"I feel..." he hesitated, closing his eyes.

"Dizzy?" Sam guessed.

"Dizzy," Cas repeated thoughtfully. "Yes. I believe I feel dizzy."

"Good cure for dizzy is sitting down." Dean steered Cas to the bed, pushing his head down. "Take a few deep breaths."

"You cannot refuse to work with them," Cas said, voice muffled by his knees.

"I can do anything I want, Cas, God gave me free will."

He lifted his head. "They will take you. They'll give you no choice."

"Head down," Dean snapped, alarmed by his color.

"Dean," Sam said softly.

"I'm not..." Dean rounded on him, cursing when his rib flared. "Ow, damnit! I'm through letting those guys run our lives, Sam."

"Cas is right," Ruby told him. "They'll just take you. They don't care about your free will."

"Let me see," Sam muttered, pushing Dean's hand out of the way and lifting his t shirt. "Stop yelling," he added, very softly. "You're freaking Cas out."

Dean bit back his instinctive response, taking a deep breath. It took several more before he trusted himself to speak without yelling. "Cas," he said, voice more level. "There anything I can do to keep them away?"

"No. They are angels, Dean, they cannot be stopped."

Dean shook his head, but he didn't argue. "Sam, go back to..." He glanced at Ruby, changing his mind about what he'd been about to say. "Your room. We're fine here."

"You sure?" Sam asked.

"Yeah. We're good."

He waited until the door closed to turn back to Cas. "How're you feeling?"

"Not dizzy," Cas said, head still down.

"Good. You can sit up. What?" he added, when Cas stared at him. He hadn't lost the penetrating stare, and it still made Dean feel uncomfortably as though Cas were peering into his mind, rummaging around to see what was in there.

"Zadkiel was not trying to be difficult. He doesn't understand. None of us did, to begin with, and he has not been dealing with people."

"Cas, are you saying I corrupted you?" Dean grinned.

Cas smiled, very faintly, before turning serious again. "You can't refuse to work with them simply because..."

"Simply because nothing," Dean cut him off. "Uriel stole your Grace. He killed an angel, Cas. Why does no one see how screwed up this is?" Why aren't you pissed?

"We're fighting a war. No one has time to grieve one soldier...one who arguably brought his fate on himself." He glanced down at himself. "I don't think I'm tired anymore."

"You haven't even slept yet," Dean pointed out. "Yeah, it's almost time to get up anyway. You want a shower?"

"A..." Cas blinked. "Yes."

"Your body remember how?"

"Yes." He caught the towel Dean threw to him, rising and heading for the bathroom.

"Cas." Dean's voice halted him at the door. "I have to ask, man. What happened to the guy who used to be in there?"

"I don't understand?"

Dean gestured vaguely, trying to explain without actually saying anything. "The devout man. The vessel. He still in there?"

Cas blinked. "No. The..."˜guy who used to be in here'...has been gone for some time. His spirit was removed to Heaven shortly after I...moved in."

Dean smiled at Cas' attempts at slang. "Alright. I had to ask."

"Yes," Cas agreed, turning to go into the bathroom.

"Don't lock the door."

Ruby was standing by the window when Cas came back out, dressed once again in borrowed clothes. He glanced around, but Dean was gone.

"Where's Dean?" he asked.

"They went to get some supplies. They won't be long." She turned, arms folding as she studied him. "How are you doing?"

Cas sat on his bed, frowning. "Is there...should I be doing something?"

"No. I meant, how are you feeling."

"Small. And very mortal." He tilted his head, studying her. "I can see you."


"I can see Ruby."

"You can see demons." Ruby sat on Dean's bed, facing him. "That might be useful."

Cas closed down, staring at the floor. "Yes, of course," he agreed, tone absolutely neutral. "It's important to be useful."

Shit. "Cas, that's not what I meant."

"I'm tired, Ruby." He turned away from her, curling onto his side.


He sighed, sitting back up, and she closed her eyes, trying to get her thoughts in order. This was important; if she got this wrong, now, with Cas so fragile...

"Dean lets me hang around because I'm useful. Because I can fight, and I know the rituals, and I can sense things, sometimes."

"Sam loves you," Cas protested.

"Yeah. But if Dean wanted me gone, I'd be gone. I'm not stupid enough to think Sam would pick me over him."

"I'm not useful," Cas whispered. "I'm not anything." One hand reached for his shoulder, searching for his wings.

"You're Cas. They don't need anything else."

"I'm nothing," he murmured again.

Ruby moved, coming to sit beside him. "I'm sorry," she whispered, gingerly touching his shoulder.

Cas laughed, hiccupping a little. "Yes. Everyone's very sorry. Everyone understands." He rubbed his face, smearing tears across his cheeks. "Lilith wouldn't do this to you."

"Lilith would knock me back down below to the rack. She wouldn't do this. So no, I don't know what you're feeling, but I am sorry you're feeling it."

He nodded slowly. "Thank you, Ruby."

In the barn he'd cried from shock. Uriel had hurt him, yes, but the full impact hadn't hit him yet, he hadn't really known what was happening.

Now he knew. Now he'd felt it, now he understood. This time when he wept it was fear and anger and loneliness and grief, and the loss of the faith that had always been his rock.

And again, the only thing Ruby could do was hold him, whispering useless platitudes, and let him cry.


"Dean?" Ruby tapped on the door, leaning around it.

"Coming. Cas, I'll be right back."

"Careful. I might vanish if you leave me alone."

Dean ignored him, stepping outside to join Ruby and pulling the door almost closed.

Two days had passed since Uriel's attack. Cas was struggling; with no experience of emotions, he couldn't control himself and it made everything so much harder. He wasn't eating, he wouldn't drink anything but water, he couldn't sleep.

Dean had basically locked them in the room and was trying to wait him out. His rib was keeping him more or less in one place anyway, and Cas wasn't physical; he barely even raised his voice, even when he was angry. His anger never lasted long, anyway, washed away by the next emotion to claim him.

"Sarcasm," Ruby observed. "He's obviously feeling better."

"Yeah, that's one way to look at it. What's up?"

Ruby looked away. "I have to go, for a while."

"And you're telling me because..."

"Cas was an angel, Dean. Any demon can tell. They'll be coming, they won't be able to resist. An angel you can kill?"

"No one's killing him," Dean said automatically.

"I'm going to lay some false trails. So to speak. Keep your hex bags on. Here, I made one for Cas." She tossed him the little pouch. "Sam can find me if you need me."

"Right." Dean weighed the bag for a moment. "Thanks."

She glanced past him at the door. "How's he doing?"

Dean laughed softly. "He's doing ok. I mean, he's got no emotional control and he doesn't know how to do anything, but apart from that..."

"His body should know how to do things."

"Yeah, it did, but he's...blocking it, or forgetting, or something. Go lay your trails. We'll work it out."

Ruby nodded, turning away.


Cas was standing in the doorway.

"Yeah, Cas. I'm coming. Here, Ruby made this for you." He tossed the hex bag; Cas caught it, studying it for a moment before looking up.

"Where are you going?"

"To draw some heat off you guys."

"Heat," he repeated slowly.

"I won't be long. A day or two."

She turned to leave and he took a step forward, suddenly looking worried. "Wait..."

"I can't, Cas, I have to go. Here." She took the hex bag from him, looping it over his head. "Don't take this off, ok? I'll be back in a couple days."

Cas nodded, fingering the bag as she turned away. Sam was standing in the door of his room; she glanced at him as she passed, but she didn't stop.

"Sam," Dean said quietly. "Can you..."

"Dean Winchester."

He turned, eyeing the blonde behind him. " "˜Scuse me?"

"Dean," she repeated. "I am Armatt."

"Angel of wisdom, truth and goodness," Cas supplied from the door.

"You're twelve."

Armatt looked down at herself. "The vessel was quite young, yes, but I am not intended to enter combat. Only to guide you."

"You're twelve!"

"I believe the vessel was sixteen."

"Dean," Cas said quietly. "She's telling the truth."

Dean caught her arm, yanking her towards the room. Cas retreated as they came in, Sam carefully closing the door and standing in front of it.

"Armatt, huh." Dean let go, stepping back to join Cas. "Were you in the barn, Armatt?"

"No." She shook her head quickly. "I was not corporeal at the time."

Dean looked to Cas, who nodded. "Armatt is...you might call it "˜reserves'. I was unaware she had been dispatched."

"You guys have reserves?" Sam demanded. "We're losing Seals left right and center, and you have reserves? How badly do we have to lose for them to be called up?"

"No. Armatt is a...special case." Cas sat abruptly, bracing both hands against the mattress. Dean half-turned, watching him concernedly, but Armatt was speaking before he could say anything.

"Two thousand years ago I almost Fell," she explained. "I was removed from this world, never to return, but...I spoke in Castiel's favor, before his fate was decided. When you refused Zadkiel, I was called in."

"They choose an angel who almost Fell to deal with the man who's already made one Fall?" Cas laughed. "You must really have scared them, Dean."

"I'm not supposed to fight," Armatt explained. "They think dealing with Dean alone won't be enough. And I'm to report to Zadkiel; he'll make sure I'm not behaving...inappropriately."

"And Sam? What about him? You gonna attack him?" Dean asked.

Armatt turned to look at Sam. "You protect the Seals, Sam?"

"Yes, of course."

"Then there is no conflict. We can work together."

"And Ruby?"

"Yes, and Ruby. Where is she?"

"Not here," he said shortly. "She'll be back."

"One more thing." Dean took a step to one side. "You look Cas in the eye and acknowledge what's been done."

Armatt nodded. "Zadkiel was cruel"”though I don't believe that was his intention." She moved past Dean, kneeling easily in front of Cas. "It's not worth much, Castiel, but I am sorry for what's been done to you."

Cas nodded slowly and she knelt up, leaning forward until her forehead brushed his. She whispered very softly to him; Dean frowned, unable to hear the words.

Cas smiled, though, so whatever she was saying, she wasn't upsetting him. Dean watched, twitchy at having anyone that close to him, but as long as Cas was alright with it...

Sam moved, coming to join Dean. "Deep breaths," he murmured. "He's fine."

"Right," Dean muttered.

Armatt rose, inclining her head to Cas before stepping away. "Now, Dean Winchester, can we be allies?"

"Cas?" Dean asked.

Cas blinked as though surprised before nodding. "Yes. Armatt is a good choice, though subordinate to Uriel and Zadkiel."

"We won't be talking to them," Dean told him. "That's the deal," he added when Armatt started to protest. "We deal with you, and that's it."

"I will do my best," she promised.

"You do that." Sam opened the door, glaring pointedly at her.

"They want you to leave," Cas told her.

"Oh! Very well." Armatt moved past them. "Until next time."

Sam closed the door on her, looking back at Cas. "She's the best choice they have?"

"Armatt almost Fell for love of the human race. Had she been left in her assignment she would certainly have Fallen. She'll be watched, but she is the most"”sympathetic, the most likely to be able to work with Dean."

"You're shaking," Dean noted. "You ok?"

"Yes. No," he corrected himself. "I could"”sense her. Sense Armatt, within the vessel. It felt like..." he gestured helplessly. "Your language is so imprecise. I cannot explain how it felt."

"Yeah, language is like that," Sam agreed. "It feel like something crawling over your skin, inside, where you can't get at it?"

Cas pointed at him. "Yes. Like that. How did you know?"

Sam shook his head. "Lucky guess."

"Sam?" Dean said warily.

"It's nothing. Here." Sam tossed Cas the water bottle. "Drink this."

"I should go," Cas murmured.

"Go?" Dean repeated. "Where'd that come from?"

He gestured vaguely. "Armatt will not be able to keep the others away. Most of them dislike you already; they will not look kindly on you for helping me."

"Screw "˜em. Drink your water."

"Dean." Cas stood, planting himself in front of the brothers. "You know you can't stay out of the war, and I am useless."

"You're not useless. You're Cas."

"My name aside, I cannot fight. I cannot tell you what's coming. I cannot sense the Seals. I can't help you."

"We're not keeping you around because you're useful, Cas," Sam told him. "We're keeping you because we want you to be here. And, honestly? You need help right now, and we're all you have."

Cas dropped his gaze. "This is obligation."

"No, this is family," Sam corrected him.

"No, this is me barfing," Dean muttered. "Cas, sit down and drink your water, ok? We'll talk about this when you're not about to collapse."

Cas did sit, and he even took a sip of the water. "I've spent so long protecting you, Dean."

"Yeah, and you've paid. Our turn."

Sam caught Dean's eye, stepping away towards the door. "He's right," he said quietly. "Armatt might like us right now, but sooner or later there'll be a mission or a hunt, and he's not in any shape."

"Yeah, well, right now I'm worried about getting him on his feet. Look, can you do a dinner run? We really need to get some food into him."

"Yeah. No problem."

"Cas, you got any dinner requests?"


Sam grimaced, turning to go.

Dean followed him to the doorway. "Sam."


"Something crawling on your skin?"

Sam shrugged, looking oddly guilty. "It's nothing."

"No, it's something. Why is that the first thing that occurs to you?"

He grimaced, stepping away from the door. "Because that's how I feel when Cas is in the room."

"Cas is setting off your supernatural radar? He's not an angel anymore!"

"I know. But Ruby said the demons would be able to sense him."

"Yeah, demons, Sam." Sam gestured pointedly and Dean sighed. "Yeah, alright. You feel it from Armatt too?"

"Yeah, Armatt, Uriel, Zadkiel, all of them. It doesn't hurt, it's just there. I pretty much ignore it now."

"You get anything from demons?"

"No. Just angels."

"Right." Dean sighed, glancing over his shoulder. "Well, between you we'll know if Junkless is spying on us, I guess."

Dean let himself back into the room, locking the door behind him and dropping onto his own bed.

No, this is family.

Cas woke, startled to hear Sam's words again so clearly. Dean was already awake, watching him warily. "You ok?"

"Yes. I'm...I believe I was dreaming." He frowned, thinking. "Why do you dream, Dean?"

"Beats me. Don't you know?"

"No. Angels know so little of what it is to be human." He sat up, reaching for the bottle of water on the bedside table. "Dean."


"This is not obligation?"

"Jesus, Cas. Jump a guy while he's asleep, why don't you?" He levered himself upright, scrubbing a hand through his hair.

"Sam's right," Cas said reflectively. Dean sat, watching him; they had to hash this out, but not until Cas knew exactly what he was asking. "I've nothing but you. But if you're helping me only because you think you must, or should...I can't do anything to help you, Dean, but my presence can bring you great harm."

Dean reached for the bottle of water, taking a mouthful. "Cas..."

"I would leave, Dean."

"Yeah. I know you would. That's not the problem. Look, I'm grateful for what you did for Sammy. And I'm sorry you lost your wings. But this, this is not obligation, Cas. If you want to leave, we'll find you somewhere. But you're welcome here, if you want to stay."

"Demons will sense me."

"Demons know where we are all the time. You're not adding anything." He gestured to the hex bag. "Keep that thing on, we're fine."

"I don't...know how to be a man."

Dean sighed, taking another mouthful before passing the bottle back. "We can work on that. First lesson; humans make choices, all the time. Do you want to stay here, Cas?"

"Here?" Cas glanced around the room.

"With us."

"Yes. I want to stay with you."

"Alright. There's a choice right there. See? You're getting the hang of it already."

Cas smiled suddenly. "Thank you, Dean."

"Yeah, no sweat. Now get some rest. We're checking out tomorrow."

"Where are we going?"

"Haven't decided yet. Bobby's, maybe, till we get a handle on things. We'll see in the morning."

Cas leaned back, staring at the ceiling. "I think we should go west."

Dean frowned, watching him. "West? Why?"

"Because...because. It's a choice."

"Yeah." Dean flipped off the light, listening as Cas' breathing evened out. "Yeah, it's a choice."