will give you rest.
- Matthew 11:28
[ it has been one month on earth, and ten years in the pit since the angels began to lay siege to hell, a breath of time for castiel, whose mind spans eons, a much shorter period than the innumerable great wars he has taken part in, a brief window in the scheme of all that he knows, and yet the garrison grows restless. not only his, but all those chosen to answer the call. with no word from heaven nor stirring in hell to proclaim the first seal broken there is little enough reason to worry, and yet there is much that rides upon this mission.
for all intents and purposes, it is a small one. five garrisons of angels, roughly one hundred angels like himself and a handful of powerful seraphs have been given this task, and castiel has watched his brethren dive into the pit and come back battered and empty handed, or not come back at all, and still there has been no sighting of dean winchester. castiel has fought, and he has healed, and he has fought again and like his brethren, turned up nothing.
do not worry, castiel, samandiriel says, a breath of fresh air in all ways, his grace a warming presence, uplifting and inspiring. we fill find him.
but castiel is not so certain. there is an unsettling weight in his breast. things have been far too quiet, too much time has passed for them to have learned so little, and the demons do not fight as they should, but castiel does not question his orders, never questions his orders, and he fights with cool ferocity and destroys demons by the handfuls and thinks that that, at least, is enough to make the expedition worthy. and yet he worries still, though his brothers and sisters continue to tease him and proclaim your grace is too heavy, castiel, you will never have the strength to carry dean winchester from the pit, but he has always been more careful than the other members of his garrison, more thoughtful and prone to melancholy gloom. they do not take this as seriously as he does, and castiel feels the weight of the importance of this mission with every fiber of his being. this is no mere pickup, the apocalypse itself rides upon the prompt rescue of one righteous man, and both heaven and hell are too quiet for him to rest easy.
it has been one month by hell's time since castiel has resurfaced for healing and for fresh orders. hester had said he was being reckless, the last time he had burst free of hell, that he was taking too long, spending too much time down there, that he's going to get himself killed, but castiel is done with waiting. perhaps she's right. perhaps he is reckless. but as far as he is concerned there is no greater task to warrant his recklessness, no better time to risk himself than now; they may tease him all they want, but he takes this seriously, doesn't understand why they don't, but then the angels have never had a great love of humanity, and that they should suffer greatly should the apocalypse come to pass (if it does, they will win, of course, michael will destroy lucifer utterly, so what is there to worry about?) does not concern them. truth be told, castiel has no strong attachment to humanity either, but he has always had a healthy respect for life, and watching them die in droves will bring him no joy. these are his father's creations, after all, worthy of care and respect even if they are inferior in all ways, and castiel would see them protected.
so he fights with more and more determination with every subsequent dive into the pit. he is weary and wounded but repels demons with ease, running them through with a blade of light, blasting them apart with the holy fire of his grace as he continues his descent, digging further, deeper, taking the paths less trodden, finding the furthest nooks of hell and scouring them entirely, turning up nothing, nothing, nothing.
he thinks to turn back for now, for he is fatigued beyond words, has gone too long in this dark and bloody place, risked much even by his own standards, and the demons here are dead. it's quiet, and there were too few of them for him to think that they could be hiding the righteous man in this dark corner when all of hell must know by now that the angels are everywhere, searching relentlessly. castiel thinks to turn away, to resurface for air and a much needed rest.. but there is one more path still, one more crater to search, and so he summons the dregs of his strength and descends one more time, one more level.
this floor is barren and bloody, reeking of cold despair and broken flesh and bone, but for all intents and purposes it seems empty. three demons are stirred up from the darkness, they fly at his face like crows but even so tired they are no match for him, for even the weakest, smallest of angels are far greater in power than the smallest of demons, and castiel is an ancient seasoned fighter. he runs them through, skewers two on his blade and snatches the third from the air with his fist and as it disintegrates in a burst of divine flame it howls like a jackal. there is silence afterward, heavy and miserable, and castiel thinks despondently that this must have been another waste of time, another dead end, and he is near to unfurling his wings to begin the long climb back toward the light when he sees it - the warm flicker of something bright and small and hidden, a stirring in the darkness, a soul. a soul alone, and brighter than it should be, bearing the warm white lick of light that marks it as different, as not belonging.
it happens often enough - souls end up in hell that do not deserve to be there, for one reason or another. those with pure hearts, who sacrifice themselves for loved ones, make poor mistakes, or are pulled here against their will. the innocent are at times incarcerated, and that is a great shame, but heaven does not have the time to search every nook of the pit for those who were wrongly shuffled, and save for instances like this, heaven and hell operate separately from one another, and generally do not interfere with the business of the other. but he has found this soul, as he has found a few others before it during his ten years here, and as he did to them, so he will also offer this soul its chance at salvation.
so castiel reaches. to a soul in hell he must look a very foreign thing, a massive creature of light, in shape vaguely humanoid but in movement strange and surreal, not quite the correct proportions, a little to the left of what a human shape might be, too long, too disproportional, but wrapped up and hooded to keep its truest form concealed. but he has two arms that end in two hands with long fingers and palms like points of light to match those at his feet and shoulders and brow, like a constellation given form, stars given life. from his hood peer two blue eyes, the color of the depths of the ocean lit from behind like candle flames, and a halo of white light wreathes his head, thin as thread but bright as the sun itself. castiel unfurls his wings, and they are as shadow made form and lined in silver light, and in their depths shines the cosmos itself reflected and across countless feather forms, stars and galaxies made manifest and moving, painted into him, endless.
castiel leans toward this little soul, and casts his light down softly to peel the shadows away from it like filthy clinging garments, his palms open and gently pulling. his voice rings out in the space between them, unspoken but heard, rough like crushed glass and yet sonorous as a bell.
Come with me. You are safe, now. I will not harm you. ]