Two Kinds Of Light
Prompt from innie_darling: there are two kinds of light. This was the first thing that hit me. Very very late for her birthday (sorry, doll). Gen, 4800 words, and PG-13 for language, because Dean is in it.
Futurefic. Dean discovers that there’s light...and then there’s light.
Had someone said, hey, Dean, a year from now, you’ll not only be out of hell, you’ll be fighting alongside angels and your brother against freakin’ demon hordes, with a freakin’ sword that can do better than Ruby’s dumbass knife ever could, he’d have hit them right in the forehead with the heel of his hand.
Yeah, well. Weird was what Winchesters did.
He’d always thought the word ‘horde’ was kind of funny, maybe stupid to even consider using unless you were watching, like, Army of Darkness or the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but shit, this, headed for them? Was a horde. Castiel had taken over from Uriel after the latter’s whole ‘blah blah today we go to war in the open, this battle decides much’ shtick had made Dean want to switch sides so he didn’t have to hear that jackass anymore. He couldn’t even look at Uriel or hear his name without thinking dick, dick dick.
Castiel stepped in a lot for the Winchesters, whenever the other angels got a little too close or curious. And they did get curious. It wasn’t like they didn’t all have their own duties or whatever, herding other humans around (plenty of the ‘special kids’ had signed up on the non-hell ticket...yeah, go figure) so even with Sam’s status as The Little Antichrist Who Decided He Couldn’t, they had other things to look at and worry about. One of them had sniffed Dean, early on, and he had snapped and finally punched him right in the face. He hadn’t been sorry, either. You just didn’t do that, to a guy, especially when frickin’ Azazel had done the same thing, once.
Castiel had stepped in on that one, too. Lots of glaring and terse comments on both sides in formal tones about respect and understanding, blah blah fucking blah; Dean just wanted to know when they were going to fight, already.
Fighting was good. Fighting meant winning, most of the time. If there had to be war, well, he was in it with both feet and felt as alive as he’d ever been. No chasing things in the dark, anymore, no secrets left to keep. He had Sam and it made the whole thing seem less like a struggle and more like one long chance to kick ass and ruin everything Azazel and Lilith had set into motion.
He didn’t dare qualify what he felt as happiness. It wasn’t okay to call it that while they were in the middle of a damn war, and all. But...hey. He’d been born for this and it was fine to be satisfied with it.
Demons had become progressively bolder, especially when it came down to the last ten seals. They roamed around in groups, taking over an occasional town and finally cities, forcing scrimmages and ultimately entire campaigns. Like the one they were currently about to enter just outside Chicago. Plenty of those joining the ranks were religious types, sure, but just about anybody who wasn’t either physically unable or a complete asshole was bearing salt and holy water or drawing devil’s traps all over the streets and covering them with rocks, debris, and whatever else they could find.
Castiel kept talking about how Dean needed to be a leader, and this battle would be his big test. Cas, with his solemn eyes and ever-growing capacity for human fits of temper or humor. Dean could even get the guy to crack a joke, occasionally. There had been one moment weeks earlier when Dean had quite possibly rested a hand on the back of the angel’s head and told him it would all be okay. Maybe – and this was a big maybe, because you didn’t strictly get friendly with anything supernatural, good or not – they had become friends. Sort of. Inasmuch as anybody could be friends with a creature that had never been human, didn’t really have an affinity for the gestalt of physical existence, and spent most of his time trying to stay on task.
Still...the guy sort of grew on people, after awhile. There had been a moment in New Mexico two weeks earlier when a high-level badass had gone straight for Cas, and had plowed through three other angels before making it that far. Sonneillon, a fallen fourth-order Throne, well known to the angels who had been there, had decided to take up an old grudge with a former echelon-brother.
Dean and Sam had taken exception to that. Sonneillon was cooling his heels wherever it was that dicks went after being split up the middle with a demon-killing sword.
Maybe the three of them had kept their arms around each other a little longer than they’d needed to. Strictly speaking, they’d been pretty tired.
“This is very pivotal,” Castiel said, gazing out the tenth story window holes of a burned-out apartment building. It was their most recent slapped-together HQ.
“Would you lighten up?” Dean said, again.
Castiel turned to face him. “You will continue to be the one everyone looks to.”
“I’m not fuckin’ Captain America,” Dean said. “Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do.”
He could tell by the look on Castiel’s face that he didn’t get the reference.
“We must be prepared to give everything to halt the tide,” Castiel said.
Sad eyes, again. Sam had never been so emo, even at the worst of things, and where was Sam, anyway? “I told you, we’ve pretty much been trying to get ourselves killed since Kansas. Unless you’ve got the real hotline on when we’re all going to buy it, you have to cut it out with the fatalistic stuff.”
Stull, three months earlier. Yeah, saw that one coming, but it had been close; hallowed ground had remained hallowed. His shoulder would never be quite right again, and Sam had been buried in rubble deep enough that it had taken angels to pitch in and get him out. Dean had made sure they’d felt deeply invested.
Their dad should have been there, should have been the one everyone looked to. Dean shoved the thought down every time it hit him, though, because God knew if anyone deserved his rest, it was John Winchester.
Dean smiled. God knew.
“Few will ultimately survive this,” Castiel said.
“Yeah, but so long as there’s still two of everything, we’re good, right?” Dean said. “Do we need to hug? Because you’re getting that whole ‘I’m an angel of the Lord who needs a hug’ look.”
Castiel smirked. That was something that Dean considered one of his greatest victories: teaching an angel to smirk.
“Quit worrying,” Dean said. “Where the hell did Sam go?”
“Sam is making sure there are no breaks in the line,” Castiel said. “There aren’t. But he is thorough.”
The last was said with a hint of approval. Sam, the best damn tactician God’s army could hope for.
“Say the new password,” Dean said with a grin.
Castiel drew his brows together slightly. “You already know it, and it’s not– ”
“Say it,” Dean said.
“This is hardly the time– ”
“For good luck,” Dean said. “C’mon, say it.”
Sam’s voice was suddenly a low, reassuring murmur from just over his right shoulder. “Why can’t you let him off the hook?”
“Because he loves it,” Dean said without glancing back. He didn’t realize how tense he’d been until he’d felt Sam there, warm and blocking everything else off.
Castiel sighed, but it wasn’t an impatient sound. “Very well. If it amuses you that much.” He folded his arms and pursed his mouth in resignation. “‘Cockamamie’.”
Dean laughed. Sam shoved him forward a step. “C’mon, we have troops to rally.”
Horde was totally the right word to use.
Things went very much to hell. Figuratively and sort of literally.
Sam heard Castiel even over the sound of a demon shrieking as he sent it back to hell. He was in a close press of others, two guys from Poughkeepsie and a woman from Lansing who’d managed to help him corner a brace of demons in an alley.
He could recognize that voice anywhere. Inaudible to some, incomprehensible shriek to others, Sam understood it as a Voice even if the words weren’t always fully understandable. Angels had their own language. Sam had heard Castiel Speak on one occasion, in dream form, early on in the war. They had understood each other better, after that.
Castiel had words in his own language for Dean and Sam, things that sounded like musical assignations, and right then the angel was screaming for Dean.
Angelics did not use their Voices while in host forms. It was too much for the host to handle.
Sam grabbed another to take his place, and he ran.
Brick at his back and a sea of black-eyed bastards for him to hack away at, Dean was cornered.
Ranks had broken south of him – he still didn’t know what had caused it – and a river of the bastards had gotten through. So instead of a staggered front, one whole section had buckled, and it had been him, Cas and a handful of others left to deal. Dean hadn’t realized he was alone until he’d hit the wall. He was still holding his own even with them pressing in on every side, with and without hosts, icy fingers and insubstantial claws grasping but carefully avoiding the blade he was swinging.
Demons did not approach Dean in singles or pairs or even double handfuls. They had learned that if they were going to be stupid enough to get near him, there needed to be a suicidal commitment, an all out congregation.
He knew he was screwed when one of them caught him by the shoulder and managed to get a grip on his shirt, tearing right into the skin beneath before he could kick them away. It wasn’t the wound itself that worried him; it was the anti-possession tattoo that was there.
He felt the charm break as the lines of it were torn, felt the mood around him change as the demons realized what had happened.
He heard Castiel shouting and couldn’t make it out at first, but figured he didn’t need to. He didn’t hear the words until he lost the last of his personal space and was crowded right up against the wall, still stabbing wherever he could but surrounded with a cloud of black while every nearby demon tried to find a way in.
“Close your eyes!”
Dean ignored the shouting.
“Dean close your eyes!”
He ignored it when it became screaming, too. He wouldn’t have closed his eyes, even if someone or something hadn’t driven a long, wicked set of claws right into the middle of him and out the other side to scrape the wall behind. He still needed to see what he was doing. He would not go down blind. He had to take as many of them with him as he could.
He didn’t see it, right away, and when he did, he thought it was his vision whiting out because he was dying. Colors refused to resolve, and the demons began to part as if pulled. They began to burn, wave after wave of them, screaming as they went, and he could hear the peculiar and mind-numbing sound of an angel using their True Voice. He slammed the sword into the ground blade-down as a barrier and clapped his hands over his ears as he slid down the wall, the pain in his guts second to the icepick in his brain, but he didn’t close his eyes. The light swept toward him and the closest demons vaporized in a visible wind.
When it hit him, it was gentle and warm.
All sound vanished, and he dropped his hands while his eyes tried to make sense of a light that was bright enough to blind, but didn’t make him so much as blink; white-gold shapes spun in front of him in wheels until they filled his entire vision.
Beautiful. He’d never seen anything so beautiful. He meant to say it aloud, but nothing would come.
Something like fire whipped into a ribbon, the blast-force of it destroying everything around him but leaving him soothed even though he was sitting there holding his guts in.
He felt seen.
Black and gold threads twisted along each other, leaning close in overarching sunspots, covering him, and just before the unmistakable feeling of a hand landed on his chest, he realized...
They were wings.
Sam found emptiness.
The incorporeal demons were gone. The ones with hosts left dozens of bodies behind, eyes burned away until the sockets were hollow. Nothing moved; the entire area had been scoured. He shouted for Dean, feeling an uncomfortable and all too familiar leap in his chest.
It was the flash of light from the blade Dean carried that got his attention; Dean was slumped against the wall of something that had once been a Starbucks, clothes torn and bloody.
Sam ran, dodging bodies without a second glance, knowing none of them could be helped.
Dean’s eyes were open, clear and staring but didn’t track Sam. He didn’t even blink when Sam cupped his face or spoke his name. Sam pulled at his clothing and found fresh blood on it around claw marks but no wounds, not at shoulder or chest or waist. When he pulled the shirts up, there was a red, raised, angry-looking handprint over Dean’s heart. It matched the one on his shoulder, the one that had pulled him from hell.
Sam looked at Dean’s eyes again. There was nothing aware, there, but his brother had a look of nearly ecstatic wonder stamped on his face to go with a set of slowly trailing tears.
He carried Dean to the nearest barricade, away from the rest of the fighting that went on about a block away. New reports came in over his headset. The tide had already turned in their favor. Thousands of demons were dead or had vanished in a widening circle from Dean’s position. The remainder of the demons were running in terror and being slaughtered, wholesale. Whatever had happened in that one small area between Castiel and Dean had hallowed miles of earth and left things feeling clean.
Sam found Castiel among the bodies of the demons. Or, he found his host; Castiel was no longer there. There wasn’t a mark on him, but the body was long cold. He retrieved it anyway, because whether they had the resources to give anyone a proper burial or not, both the vessel and the former occupant had been brave...and loved.
“Castiel has ascended.”
Uriel, helpful as ever. He at least had the grace to look mildly troubled.
Sam waited. Sam had learned to wait, with Uriel. Anything else just delayed hoped-for information, or turned into some personal affront.
“It was his decision. Things will continue as planned.”
And that was that.
Ruby was not going to be able to help, with this one; she had been human, once, and demon, but even her witchcraft background wasn’t going to give him the scoop on this one. She’d made herself scarce with the angelics around, and had kept to the fringes for months. Sam needed an angel for this, one that didn’t care what it said to the mortals.
Of the few angelics that would speak to the humans at all, Ielahih was the most unpredictable. She was also the only converted Fallen in the ranks. Like Ruby, she had sided where she felt she should.
He found her already outside, among the scattered bodies of demons, standing with her hands folded, gazing off across the street as if it was toward a distant horizon. She rarely appeared when requested, even though all anyone had to do to request an angel was to say their name.
The humans knew very few of their angelic warrior’s names.
“There are no seraphs among us,” she said when he approached. “When we do finally see one, it will be the end.”
Sam stood beside her and watched her hair catch the breeze, the strands long and ashen brown. She had chosen a demur-looking and slender woman as her vessel, one with wrists that looked as if they would snap if not held carefully.
He didn’t comment. He didn’t know what she was getting at, and he didn’t care about the different orders of angels anymore. She was purposely talking nonsense, anyway; Uriel was a seraph.
“He’ll be fine, you know,” she said without turning. He knew she was talking about Dean.
“No, I don’t know,” Sam said. “He still hasn’t come around.”
“When he can process what he’s seen, he will,” she said. “He’s already seen more than most, like you. If it didn’t blind him, then he’ll be fine.”
“Where did Castiel go?” Sam said.
She did turn to him then, with a brilliant smile. “Nowhere and everywhere, Sam. We can burn like stars when we’re ready. We know love.”
He looked down at her, waiting for something else, wondering if he really wanted to know.
His skin wouldn’t stop tingling, and there were sparks along the edge of his vision that wouldn’t dissipate no matter how he tried to rub them away.
Dean had come back to himself in someone’s bed. It looked like an abandoned condo that had survived better than most, and it was more comfortable than he was used to. They used whatever buildings they needed to, bunking down in homes and hotels and apartments where the occupants had either fled or been driven away by the invasion. He and Sam rarely separated themselves from whatever group they were with, but Dean knew right away that this space was not shared.
He rubbed at his head and tried to remember what had happened. Nothing came until he tried to get up and found his sword propped against the wall next to the bed.
He had never really seen an angel before. People were not supposed to look on the true forms of these things, not when they were made of holy fairy dust or whatever, and a mortal form wasn’t built to withstand the sheer awesomeness. They melted the eyes right out of the skull with the force of their existence if anyone even peeked. He remembered, too well, that psychic writhing on the floor, and Castiel hadn’t even meant to hurt her.
He remembered Castiel screaming for him to close his eyes. It had sounded like panic, but he couldn’t trust memory on that; he had never heard Castiel sound afraid. Cas was unshakeable and didn’t succumb to things like fear.
“Sam?” he said.
Like the angels, Sam was often just a request away.
Sam came into the room, whole and looking unhurt, and the relief on his face told Dean how worried he’d been.
The regret on his face when he asked where Castiel was...told Dean the rest.
He didn’t spend much time looking at the new handprint on his chest. Things had gone wrong and the demons had essentially finished him off, and he had another damn handprint to show for it.
He hadn’t asked the jackass to save him. Not the first time and not the last time.
Stupid, beautiful angel.
They moved on. The demons were being pushed back all the way to the eastern seaboard. Something had changed.
Dean tried not to look at the other angels, when he ran across them. They all sparked auras in his vision, a shifting light that didn’t behave the way he was used to seeing it. He didn’t tell anyone. It didn’t serve any purpose.
The angels stared at him as if they knew, though.
At least they didn’t try and sniff him.
West Virginia was damn near clear of demons and fourteen of the previously broken seals had been reset before the week was out. Not all of the seals were the type that could be restored – anything involving a summoning was forever broken. Still, there would be enough to put a balance back in place, sooner or later. The war wasn’t over, but hell on earth was further away every day.
Dean made a new habit of taking a good long look at the sky before turning in every night. Sam watched but didn’t comment on it.
“So, who exactly do I petition, or whatever?”
Uriel looked at him like he was a bug. But, he always had.
“You ask questions like a child,” Uriel said. “Your arrogance never dwindles.”
“He pulled me out of hell,” Dean said, not bothering to take offense. “He’s done nothing but what God and anybody else has asked of him. Nobody seems to be able to tell me whether he’s gone on to something better. If he has, and he’s happy that way, then just say so and I’ll drop it. Because fine, who wants to be stuck down here? I get it. But if he’s dead or messed up because of what went on down here, then I get to cash in a get-out-of-heaven-free card.”
Uriel finally looked at him. “This is beyond your understanding. Focus on the task at hand.”
Dick, dick dick.
Dean walked away, but he didn’t give up.
“So, what’re you gonna do, when this is over?”
People had started asking the question again. It meant other things could be imagined, that there was hope. There would be a world left to salvage. They sat around the fires and stopped looking so hard at the dark, worrying so hard about the wards.
They weren’t looking to Dean for every little thing, anymore.
Still, some idiot had actually started calling Dean Captain, and it had spread, and he couldn’t decide if it was funny or annoying or both. Sam tried to squash it because it singled Dean out, and Dean didn’t need any more singling out. He was popular enough with the demons as it was, and pointing him out to them with a leadership title wasn’t smart.
Dean had thought about what came after, and had come up with nothing different than the life he’d already had. He figured the angels would wander away and stay gone unless the seals started popping open again. He’d be patrolling with Sam and making sure the last of the demons stayed gone from his world.
There had been a small part of his mind, though, that had imagined a smirking tax accountant tagging along. If he’d wanted to.
Instead, there was a shallow grave and a rough wooden cross, much like the one Dean had crawled away from the previous May.
He started carving Castiel’s name in doorways in angelic script. Tribute or summons, he wasn’t sure. There was power in names.
After a month or so, there were no longer forces opposing them. They were just cleaning up.
For the seals that were irreplaceable, new ones were set by the remaining angels until there were 66 again. It was a hell of a lot of work and humans weren’t allowed except for the occasional blood donation, since there was actual sealing involved. They preferred Dean’s...or a virgin’s. When they could find one. Sam had a ball with that one.
Dean asked them if they wanted to make it a higher number, maybe 67, like the hidden track on an album that the demons would never find. He got the same blank or concerned looks he usually did. Since Sam was there when he did it, he pushed a little further and asked if they wanted to make it 69 for fun. Sam gave him that tried and true bitchface, the one where he couldn’t believe someone didn’t smite Dean where he stood, and it made Dean laugh for the first time in a while.
The last seal was set with the sword Dean had been carrying. He wasn’t sorry to give it up. He didn’t need it to handle small numbers of demons, and that’s all that was left.
When the rebuilding started and even Uriel quit showing up, Sam and Dean dropped back off the map and went back to hunting. There were more hunters than ever. Most of them wouldn’t last, and sooner or later a lot of things would be up to Sam and Dean...again. But for the moment, things had started to look as if humans had their world back.
“Now they can go back to screwing everything up again,” Dean said.
“Spoken like a true member of heaven’s army,” Sam said.
Motel in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and a knock on the door.
Sam answered the way he always did when he couldn’t see who it was through the peek hole or the window: fully armed and expecting trouble.
The form standing there was covered in dirt, his hair sticking out all over, face smeared with mud, trenchcoat and suit ruined beyond repair. His blue eyes were solemn but cordial as he nodded in greeting.
“Hilarious,” Sam said, cocking his shotgun. “Not buying it. Tu autem effugare, diabole; appropinquabit enim judicium Dei –!”
Castiel held up a hand. “It’s me.”
Dean came out of the bathroom and stared. The aura was there, the angelness was there, but there was no way it wasn’t some kind of scam. “Great. Shoot it, Sam.”
“Honestly,” Castiel said, “this is not necessary.”
“You’re not Castiel,” Dean said, voice low and furious.
“What causes you to doubt me?” Castiel said.
“You knocked on the door,” Dean said. “He’s never used the goddamn door!”
“Cockamamie,” Castiel said.
“You have to fuckin’ be kidding me,” Dean said.
“I’m recently earthbound,” Castiel said. “You’ve been summoning me everywhere you go, in script and with your voice. I am answering.”
“So you’re trying to tell me I made you real?” Dean said, finally shouting. “What are you, the fuckin’ Velveteen Angel?”
“I am an angel of the Lord who has walked a very long way and needs a hug,” Castiel said with a stern line between his brows.
Dean blinked. Sam blinked.
Dean slammed the door the rest of the way open and nearly tackled the figure in the doorway, hugging him hard enough to lift him from the ground.
Castiel laughed, although breathlessly, and the sound made Sam join in more out of shock than anything else.
“So everybody’s pretty much gone,” Dean said.
He was standing shoulder to shoulder with Castiel in front of the Impala. Sam was lying across the hood, looking at the sky with a bemused expression.
“Back to, you know, heaven or whatever,” Dean said.
“You have done very well,” Castiel said. It was hard to read anything in his tone.
“Wow, thanks,” Dean said. “You too.”
Castiel looked at him, steady and unblinking. He wasn’t quite as intimidating while wearing Dean’s jeans and one of Sam’s extra hoodies.
“So, where’d you go?” Dean said. “After you pulled that dumb stunt and gave me another really special tattoo.”
Sam leaned up and forward and gently slapped the back of Dean’s head.
“I was on a type of sabbatical,” Castiel said. “And do not condescend to me, Dean Winchester.”
Dean was unapologetic. “I’m just saying, the whole martyr thing is overrated.”
“I am not a physical entity,” Castiel said, looking away. “I required time to...regroup after expending that kind of energy. Some do not return from such an event.”
“But you only showed up because I was bugging you with all my summoning.”
“No,” Castiel said. “Although you were very persistent, I am still here of my own free will.” He looked at Dean again, narrowing his eyes questioningly and tilting his head. “You missed me.”
Dean made a noncommital noise. “I was just wondering where you’d – ”
Sam slapped him again. Dean closed his eyes and pressed his lips together in annoyance, but he relented.
“I missed you. So if you’re not busy, it would be okay with me and Sam if you hung around as long as you want.”
Castiel seemed to consider the words.
“If you don’t get reassigned somewhere else.”
Castiel sighed. It sounded thoughtful.
“C’mon, Cas,” Sam said. “Go easy on him.”
“Will it make him happy?” Castiel said, glancing over his shoulder at Sam.
“Yes,” Sam said. “You’re adopted.”
“Very well,” Castiel said, folding his arms.
“That’s it?” Dean said. “Can we go get beer now?”
“My assignment here is not over,” Castiel said, looking up at the sky. “It has merely...changed.”
“Good,” Dean said. “Just keep using the door.”
Castiel leaned in toward Dean just a little. “I’m glad you were able to look at me without being harmed,” he said softly.
Dean felt a blush creep across his face, and his throat dried out.
Sam swung his legs over the edge of the hood and rested an arm across the shoulders of both angel and brother. “He loves you too, Cas,” he whispered. Then he shoved them both forward so he could jump off the car. “Dean’s right, let’s get out of here for awhile.”
Castiel still failed to find any relevant interest in the lyrics to Stairway To Heaven, but he did finally admit that the bridge was fairly melodic after Dean made him listen to it a handful of times in the car. He didn’t really care about beer, either, but now that they were no longer completely consumed by defending the seals or planning the next attack, it was fine to sit around with the Winchesters for once and listen to their voices, which he also found appealing.
They gave off their very own light, dazzling to his eyes, and he was content to bask in it while he could.
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