Reeling from his Fall, Castiel contacts a brother...
"I swear, if you even think the word 'Midol' I will end you."
It was disconcerting at best, and almost terrifying at worst. Before, any sensation that ze–he – had taken notice of had been coloured through grace, separated and muted by that impermeable barrier of an angel's true self. Now, though, he experienced everything with the most personal intensity imaginable.
He had already decided that he truly disliked the sensation of being cold; when he had been near mortal the first time, enough of his grace had remained that he hadn't noticed it. He had been too weak to heal himself or stave off hunger, but there had always been that muted thrum in the background, the last vestiges of zir – his self that had kept him warm.
Wrapped in several layers of Jimmy Novak's and Sam's clothing, along with one of the blankets from the motel bed, he was still having trouble staving off the cold. Along with undergoing hunger and exhaustion, the latter of which was returning despite spending half a day asleep in the back of Dean's car, the cold was becoming one of his least favorite experiences.
Sam had tried to assure him it wouldn't last, although there had been an unsure note in his tone; Castiel supposed it came from the fact there had never been a Fallen Angel who could remember what their grace felt like.
His current shivering was only one of the reasons he was so anxious to return to the Winchesters; their room was much warmer and more comforting than the one he sat in now. Dean had picked the lock to get in while Sam had brought the summoning materials. The blinds were drawn tightly shut and the furniture had been moved out of the way for him to carry out the summoning ritual.
Convincing the Winchesters to allow him to do this alone had been nearly impossible; frustratingly so. It was only when he finally managed to convince Sam that by reaching out to his brother he would be able to reopen some of his former channels of information that Sam began to agree with him. Having Sam arguing on his side meant that Dean's acquiescence soon followed, but it had taken so much time that Castiel could have completed the spell and finished with it by the time they finished deliberating.
It seemed that along with certain physical sensations, more emotional ones were beginning to manifest in him as well, impatience being the forerunner.
Once the room was set up, Sam had dragged Dean off, supposedly to find sustenance. Castiel was glad for this, as it would take the brothers out of the general area. Although the sigils he had carved into their ribs would hide them from any angel, even if it were pressed up against their motel room door, Castiel did not wish to take more chances than necessary.
He knew that Dean would have the most trouble with this plan, not liking to receive information second hand, but Castiel trusted Sam to keep his brother tempered; setting down a circle of holy oil that Castiel only had to ignite in event of trouble also helped. Castiel doubted he would need to make of use of it, but as long as it gave Dean some measure of comfort, he would go through the motions.
The ritual itself was familiar as breathing was to a human, but as he finished adding the final ingredient and began to chant, Castiel had to force himself to relax. There was a possibility, given what the Winchesters had said about Raphael's machinations, that Balthazar was no longer…
He shook his head, not allowing himself to think it.
Denial, another human affectation.
Uttering the final syllable, Castiel pressed his eyes closed; he doubted his brother would manifest without his vessel, but Balthazar's sense of humour was somehow quite similar to how Uriel's had been. And Castiel was weakened enough without having his eyeballs burnt from their sockets.
The flimsy room shuddered and creaked, and the glass within the unlit light fixtures burst; he heard cracks appearing in the walls and windows of the room.
"If you're going to be all cowering and pathetic, you might have first considered questioning the wisdom in summoning a…" the familiar, unimpressed drawl suddenly trails off, softening. "Oh, good Lord."
When Castiel did open his eyes, he realized immediately the overwhelming disorientation that came with facing an angel, in a way he hadn't even felt that afternoon at Stull. Instinctively, as he stared at his brother's vessel's face, he knew that despite Dean's initial doubts and suspicions during their first meeting, there was no way the man couldn't have known exactly what Castiel had been. There was just something so other about angels when looking at them through human eyes, that it left no doubt.
Balthazar's vessel was a human male in his late forties, tall and broad-shouldered and clad completely in black. His light hair seemed rumpled, and his clear blue eyes stared at Castiel in what he supposed was disbelief. Without his grace, he could not reach out and instinctively know his brother's thoughts; he needed to rely on all-too-inadequate human senses to do so.
"Brother, what have you done?" Balthazar asked, his vessel's expression carefully blank, but his words dripping with disapproval or perhaps grief.
"I have done what I had to," Castiel told him earnestly.
Balthazar stared at him in uncomprehending silence, before looking around, his face drawn. "Where is he? I'm going to kill the bastard."
It took a moment for Castiel to realize Balthazar was talking about Dean. Although they had never met before, the Winchesters were known by the entire Host and Castiel had told Balthazar much about his charge. "Brother –"
"That he would ask this of you is more than blasphemous!" Balthazar snapped, his expression not unlike the one Dean had been wearing most of the night. "And let me tell you, Cassy, I've gotten rather familiar with that particular spectrum in the past few weeks."
"He asked me nothing. I made the choice," Castiel replied, a firm edge of warning in his words. He would not let anyone harm Dean. "In exchange for Sam's soul, I gave what I could. I do not regret it."
Balthazar was almost gaping at him, jarred from his anger by that particular piece of information. "How is that even possible?"
It took less time to explain how he had secured Sam's soul from the cage to Balthazar than it had taken with Crowley or the Winchesters. Part of the reason was because they spoke in Enochian, which was a more economic language than most of the human tongues Castiel had spoken.
Still, Castiel was vague on certain specifics. While the Winchesters would heed his request to not go after the de facto King of Hell for the time being, Balthazar would not. If Balthazar believed it was for Castiel's own good, he would pursue whatever avenue he could to bring about a desired result.
"…which brings me to the reason I summoned you," Castiel finished quietly. "They are worried for their adopted father. He has not been returning their calls."
"I expected you did not want me to take any chances," Balthazar hedged, clearly still unimpressed with his discovery. "But to answer your unasked question, yes, he's safe and sound and has been swearing delightful backwater blue streaks at me whenever I pop in to move him to a new location – which, might I add, is rather inconvenient given the circumstances."
Castiel let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding.
"Now that that's out of the way, let me ask you a question," Balthazar drawled. His expression changed to something more serious, but his tone remained almost elaborately casual. "What the ever loving fuck were you thinking?"
Castiel frowned; the harsh human vernacular was unusual for his usually aloof brother, a sign of stress and something else. Still, he answered him as confidently as he could. "I have already told you –"
"Yes, yes, helping out a friend and all that human tripe," his brother made a deliberate, dismissive gesture. "But did you stop to think what might happen without you upstairs to speak for your little monkey friends?" He paced back and forth, the gesture so human that Castiel wondered exactly how close Balthazar had come to following in his footsteps. "You've made a serious tactical error, brother. Now that you're down here living it up with mudfish, there's no one to even considering saying 'boo' to Raphael. Big brother's been slaughtering anyone he finds that disagrees with him."
"I had heard," Castiel allows. "Raphael would have done this whether I retained my grace or not. And I believed it to be of supreme importance to reunite the Winchesters. Why else would our Father have brought me back again? To lead a civil war in Heaven? Or to set something in motion to protect his most prized creation?"
Balthazar sighed, clearly unhappy with the implications. "I'm tickled that you have some sort of long-term idea of how things are going to go, but in the short term I believe we're what the humans like to call 'screwed'."
"Do not devalue your contributions, Balthazar. I have faith that you can hold the line for now."
"I've been trying – but I'm at my wits end on morale, Cassy – I was never meant to be a general," Balthazar confided, and Castiel felt a twinge of guilt. He decided he didn't like that emotion at all. It was true that Balthazar's expertise had always been in areas of subterfuge, not strategy.
"Are there no others you have to help you?"
"Rachel, Hester and Inias have spoken out against Raphael's new world vision, but you know as well as I do that they are soldiers, not leaders."
"I was a soldier for just as long as all of you. Perhaps it is time you look into yourself and find the strength to lead."
"Not everyone has a conveniently rakish mortal in their back-pocket to teach them how to be insubordinate to the Host," Balthazar deadpanned. "Much as you don't want to hear it, brother, our forces needs your help. If you would just tell me the name of the demon that holds your grace –"
"No," Castiel cut him off. "As much as I wish to help rectify the turmoil of Heaven, I made a choice. If I were to go back on it now, Sam would be sent back to Hell. I will not return him to a fate he was never meant for in the first place."
"But that's just it, isn't it?" Balthazar probed. "His destiny was either to be destroyed or walk around with Lucifer inside him for eternity. You've already thrown a wrench into the grand plan – what if this is Father's way of putting things back on course?"
"If you truly believed that, you would not be hiding from Raphael," Castiel replied without hesitation.
Balthazar was silent a long moment, contemplating this, and then nodding. "Very well. If you've washed your hands clean of us, we'll need a leader that believes Father wants us to have free-will. And one who is sympathetic to the hairless apes."
"Despite your ostensible disdain for them, I know you have taken to some aspects of humanity rather well," Castiel pointed out.
"Yes, but as we've established, I'm no leader – and I wasn't the one who rebelled against the Host over a few crocodile tears from my charge," Balthazar reminded him. "This should have been your job before you flushed it all way."
"There has to be someone else," Castiel replied. "And there must be a way to do it. There is always a way."
Dean's words warmed him even as they rolled off his tongue.
"While that's adorably upbeat, kindly remember that we've spent eons making sure that everything goes according to Father's plans. This is rather new territory and we're not all lovingly supported by our brutish human lovers."
"Dean is not my lover."
"So you say…and my rather squeamish stomach hopes for your sake that's true. It's a rather foolish thing, to fall for a mortal," Balthazar tells him seriously. "And I'm not talking about the rip-your-grace-out kind of Fall, either. Remember how cocked up that bit with the Nephilim went?"
"I do not know what you are talking about," Castiel says, bewildered. "My decision may have been influenced by Dean, however in the end it was the right thing to do. Dean and Sam are my friends."
Balthazar rolled his eyes. "I'll be sure to ask you if you still believe that a few months from now when the humanity's sunk in a bit better. That is, of course, if any of us are still alive."
"You should have faith."
"Says the bloke who cashed in his angel chips to ride out the end of days with the most faithless mudmonkey of them all," Balthazar sighed. "What's it like, anyhow?"
"What's what like?"
"It's…quiet," Castiel said after a moment's deliberation, focussing on the one immediate change to his existence. He could no longer hear the songs of the Heaven. He looked down at his many layers and then back to his brother. "And…cold, at the moment."
"I had wondered why you were doing an impression of a caterpillar," Balthazar said dryly, before his vessel's expression turned to an approximation of concern. "Castiel, are you sure –"
"I have an idea," Castiel interrupted, not wanting to have a repeat of the discussion. "But before we attempt it, there is someone you need to find."
"It's not another flannel-wearing hunter, is it?" Balthazar asked, allowing the change of subject. "Because I must say, my patience with the last one you sent me after is growing dim."
"No. But they will likely be hiding from angels. If you manage to bypass those protective measures, you must relay this message."
Castiel quickly spoke the words and then fleshed out the beginnings of his plan.
Balthazar's eyes went wide. "Is such a thing even possible?"
"I believe it is, however, it is difficult to retain the exact specifics," Castiel said, grimacing in what he realized must be frustration. "The longer I am human, the more of my prior knowledge seems to be slipping away. I do not know how much of it I will retain, either from my time as an archangel or before."
"Yes, well, those are the perks of the newly mortal. Felicitations." Balthazar sighed, his head cocking to one side. "I must be off. Your crotchety old human is complaining about something again. I swear, if he banishes me one more time, I'm sending him back in time to drown on the Titanic."
Castiel frowned. "Using that much power would draw Raphael's attention to you."
Balthazar rolled his eyes. "It's an exaggeration, Cassy. Honestly, now that you're human, look into learning some of the norms."
He disappeared, the familiar sound of wings beating across the planes of existence; before Castiel could really remark on the absence, though, he reappeared. He strode forward and pressed a hand against Castiel's chest.
A searing, scraping pain radiated out from his chest, knocking the breath from his lungs and making his eyes tear as he gasped.
"I'm not going to pretend I didn't take a modicum of satisfaction in doing that," Balthazar told him as Castiel struggled to recover himself. "But consider that a parting gift in case Raphael finds me and tortures me for information on your whereabouts."
This time when he disappeared, he didn't return.