lilyleia78: Cas in sepia tones with outline of white wings behind him (Supernatual: Cas sepia)
[personal profile] lilyleia78
Title: The White Dove
Fandom: Supernatural
Pairing: Dean/Cas
Genre: AU, fairy tale, romance
Warnings: None
Word Count: 14716
Summary: A Dean/Cas retelling of the fairy tale The White Dove in which Castiel is a prince traded to a demon to save his brothers, Dean is a Hunter trapped in the shape of a dove, and a little more than True Love's Kiss is required to save them both.
Note: Written for the [profile] dc_everafter challenge. Many thanks to [profile] erasmus_fried for the quick beta. Any and all mistakes remain my own.

The White Dove

Once upon a time in the far off kingdom of Heaven, there were two beautiful princes. Beloved by their Father and subjects, feared and hated by their enemies. They lived in a palace of golden spires and lush gardens. The kingdom was lovely, peaceful, and...

"Boring...." Lucifer, eldest child and heir apparent, huffed. He spread his large tawny wings in a stretch mirrored by his arms. "This is so boring."

His brother, younger by less than a year, and the more patient and sensible of the two, nodded his agreement absently, eyes never leaving the book he was pretending to read. "Yes, Luc, living the life of luxury is such a chore. We suffer so."

"Don't patronize me, Michael, I am aware of the many blessings," he sneered the word, "that comes from being Our Father's sons. That doesn't mean I can't find it tedious at times."

"Of course," Michael said. He shrugged his own golden wings in a display of indifference. "You are free to be as petty and ungrateful as you like."

"Bite me, brother," Luc said with a sigh, bored even by the fight. "Mike-y," he whined, changing tactics, "entertain me."

Michael sighed heavily but closed his book, giving in without a fight. For all their bickering, he truly loved his brother. "Very well. Would you like to play a game?"

"No. I tire of beating you in everything."

Michael raised an eyebrow but let the comment pass. "Shall we call for the jester Chuck?"

"He's the worst fool ever. He's only entertaining when he's gotten into Father's wine cellar."

"Would you like to write a letter to Ana?" Michael asked, knowing the answer already.

Lucifer sneered. "No, if our charming little sister wishes to spend her time playing house with the humans she can do so without my support."

Again Michael let the comment pass. To do otherwise would lead to a fight. "A ride? Perhaps a change of scenery would do you some good," Michael suggested.

Lucifer considered for a long while. "Yeeesss," he said finally, "I think a ride might be amusing. But only if I can pick the destination."

"Of course," Michael agreed, his first - but not most grievous - mistake.

***
"Don't you think we ought to turn around, Luc? Daylight will already be gone before we have the palace in our sights." Despite his words, Michael was content to trot his horse along the rocky beach at his brother's side for a little while longer. The weather was beautiful and it felt like ages since he'd left the confines of his Father's home.

Lucifer was ignoring him, staring intently out at the water, searching the horizon back and forth as if looking for something just out of sight. "There! Michael, do you see?" he called, pointing out to sea. "There's a light out on the water."

Michael squinted in the direction Lucifer was staring, but he could see nothing. "The sunset is playing tricks on you brother. It is past time we returned home."

"No, look! It's right there I tell you." Lucifer pointed vehemently toward the water again.

Michael urged his horse closer to his brother and followed the line of his arm. "Luc," he began, but then, there, he spotted the mysterious light as well. "Could it be Earth?" he asked doubtfully. Earth could be seen from Heaven, but only if one knew exactly where and how to look, and Michael had never had the time or the inclination to learn the trick.

Lucifer scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous. It's much too close for that."

Michael nodded, acceding to his brother's superior knowledge, and the two brother princes studied the light flickering on the bobbing waves in silence.

Finally Lucifer broke the quiet, saying, "I'm going to find out what it is." And he spurred his horse back the way they had came, toward the royal docks where they had a small boat anchored. A gift from their Father last Yule.

Surprise made Michael slow to react, and by the time he caught up to his impulsive older brother, Lucifer was already aboard the sailboat, readying it for launch.

"Lucifer! Stop. This is madness. We've nearly lost the light already. Father will be worried."

"Aw, Mikey, don't be a spoilsport. The weather's fine this evening and we have plenty of time before sun fully sets," Lucifer argued.

Michael looked around uneasily. Lucifer was blatantly lying about the amount of daylight remaining, but correct about the weather. Then Lucifer said the one thing to which Michael could not say no. "Mike-y, please, what if someone is in trouble out there?"

Michael didn't believe for a moment that Lucifer was concerned for the safety of one of their subjects. But that didn't mean that someone out there didn't need their help, and Michael did try to be a good son.

"Fine, but we turn back at full dark, whether or not we have achieved success in our hunt," he said.

"Of course," Lucifer demurred.

So it was that Heaven's two Princes - brave, beautiful, and very foolish - found themselves caught up in an unfriendly wind, lost on a dark sea with a storm beating at boat and body alike.

"Go ahead and say it," Lucifer groused, wrapping a rope around his waist in hopes of keeping himself attached to the boat while it was tossed about like a child's plaything. "You did tell me so."

Michael didn't answer and Lucifer looked up quickly, panic at his brother's non- response filling his head with visions of Michael - his Mike-y - throw into the water, ripped by the tide, drowned in the sea spray. But Michael was maintaining his precarious perch on the ship, staring in amazement at something in the water behind Lucifer.

Slowly, a little afraid at the hope in his brother's face, Lucifer turned to see what had left Michael speechless.

There on the water was their mysterious light, growing larger as it moved toward them. It's journey was swift and smooth. Whatever the light was, the storm seemed to be having no effect on it.

Within minutes the light revealed itself to be a single lantern on the bow of the most beautiful dough trough either brother had ever seen. The sea around the vessel was calm and serene, and it brought the pocket of calm to them as it approached. On the dough trough sat a most peculiar creature.

"Good day, young masters," the creature greeted.

"Demon," Michael hissed, for that was the only explanation for the unholy thing before them. He was a man in shape and size but with eyes that burned black as coal.

Lucifer scowled briefly at his brother before addressing the demon in the dough trough. "Good evening, sir, you seem to be having no trouble in this horrid weather."

"Not at all Prince Lucifer. This sea is my friend and I know how to bend it to my will. Perhaps that skill could be of some use to you now?"

Lucifer laughed, delighted at the offer, but Michael answered before Luc could speak. "At what cost? Our Father's coffers? The run of Heaven?"

The creature put a hand to its breast as if shocked and the eyes it turned to Michael were filled with reproach. "I would never ask you to endanger your kingdom like that, Prince Michael."

"Of course not," Lucifer jumped in, "forgive my younger brother. We would be sincerely grateful for any help you could offer."

"At once, sire, I want nothing more than to offer you the comfort and safety of the shore," the demon said. He stretched one hand out to the storm and paused. "However, it does seem like such a large favor should come with a reward."

Michael made a wordless sound of protest, but Lucifer spoke over him. "Name it."

"I want the next child of Heaven your Father brings forth."

Michael pushed Lucifer to one side and shouted angrily. "Never, get away foul creature and return to your shameful exile."

At once, the demon's agreeable smile changed to rage, and the sea around them raged with him. "Then you can rot at the bottom of the sea, both of you. See if your Father or your feathers can save you now."

Even Lucifer made no move to stop the demon as he retreated away from them. Before long the storm seemed to rage even more fiercely than before, waves threatening to spill the princes into the depths, lightening promising to make the ending fiery.

"Perhaps," Lucifer ventured mildly, clinging to but not looking at Michael, "Father would rather keep the two sons he has alive, rather than save the freedom of one he has not yet, and indeed might never, bring froth."

Michael said nothing in agreement or protest, and he kept his silence while Lucifer called out to the demon to rescue them.

That night both brothers lay warm and dry and safe in their own beds, more miserable than they'd ever been in their lives. Neither slept and neither told their Father of their foolish promise.

***
As the years passed without the blessing (or curse) of a new sibling, the brothers' fear and guilt retreated to the back of their minds, pushed aside in favor of Luc and Ana's latest fight or the occasional uprising on the border with Hell.

Michael tried to bring up the subject of their deal just once with his brother - on the joyously dreadful Thursday their Father finally brought forth another child - a third brother as the demon had predicted.

"What will we do, Luc?" he whispered helplessly as their new baby brother was presented to them.

Luc looked at him blankly and for a moment Michael thought he wouldn't answer. But then a servant placed the fledgling in Michael's arms and Luc looked at his new brother with determination. "No demon can breach the gates of Heaven to take away what is ours, brother," he said with a calm that Michael didn't believe. "Castiel is safe with us."

Michael wasn't sure he believed that either, but he nodded and handed the baby over to Luc.

Castiel, like all of his siblings, was beautiful and unique. His dark hair was a few shades lighter than the black of his wings, feathers reflecting all the colors of creation when he flew. He grew up solemn and serious beyond his years, devoted to his brothers and their Father, but his blue eyes often shone with affection and curiosity. He was more beloved even than his elder brothers - by both their subjects and their Father. Even Ana, who preferred the company of her adopted human family returned often to visit with the newest addition of their flock.

For the first years of Castiel's fledging Michael jumped at shadows, fearing the demon's appearance around every corner. Lucifer showed his agitation in subtler ways, constantly seeking out Castiel and then ignoring the boy once he had his attention. But Castiel's only contact with demons came from his training as a solider and Crowley - the royal tutor in demonic language. And once again, the elder princes relaxed, daring to believe that they had avoided the consequences of their deal with a demon.

In fact, Castiel was fully grown even by angelic standards before his peaceful world was disrupted by an eerily familiar storm one night when their Father was away.

The rain fell in blinding sheets around the palace, pounding against the walls of their home with such ferocity that the brother princes could barely hear each other over its fury.

This made it even more surprising and disturbing when there came a calm and steady knock at the front door, clearly heard despite the fury of the storm. Michael and Lucifer looked to each other, suspicion and fear sharpening their instincts. But Castiel, unaware of the price paid for keeping his brothers alive, moved at once to help whatever stranger might have been seeking sanctuary from the storm.

"Castiel, no," Michael shouted after his younger brother, panic making his heart pound wildly in his chest, but it was too late. Castiel had already pulled open the door to reveal the demon who had once been their savior, his beautiful dough trough strapped to his back.

"Hello, young Prince Castiel," the demon greeted. "I have come to collect the debt owed me by your royal brothers."

Castiel frowned at the new arrival before glancing back at his brothers. "I was not aware that my brothers had dealings with a demon."

The demon smiled dangerously. "They have dealings with me," he assured Castiel.

Castiel looked to his brothers again, but neither of them seemed capable of simple speech, much less an explanation. "If my brothers do owe you a debt, I'm sure they are anxious to repay it."

The demon smiled widely. "That is good to hear, young prince, for the debt they owe me is you."

Castiel took a single step back but showed no other reaction to this news. "Me?"

"Yes, my boy, you." And the demon told the youngest prince the story of his brothers' foolish foray onto the ocean on that stormy night so many years before his birth.
"As you see, your brothers are in fact alive and well, and they did promise me you in return for their lives."

Castiel nodded slowly. "If you did in fact save my brothers, and they did promise me to you, then I will go with you." And he turned to his brothers for confirmation.

Lucifer refused to met his brother's eyes, staring stonily at the creature in the doorway with hatred turning his eyes nearly as black as the demons. Michael had gone pale and he was shaking his head, but the sadness and guilt in his eyes said more than his silence and Castiel turned back to the demon with another nod.

"Very well, I will honor my brother's promise," he said, and with barely time to bid his brothers farewell, the two set out on foot in the direction of the sea. After a day's travel, they reached the same ocean in which the elder Princes had once nearly lost their lives, and they climbed into the demon's dough trough.

The demon - 'you may call me Alastair' - sailed himself and his new acquisition over the sea to his home. Castiel was surprised to be on Earth and not in Hell, but he said nothing, grateful to be that much closer to home than he had expected. And away from the eternal torment of Hell, of course.

Castiel was herded quickly into Alastair's home before he had a chance to look at his surroundings properly. The house itself was quite large, though much smaller than the palace Castiel was used to, but the rooms were small and cramped, giving the structure a claustrophobic atmosphere. It was dark inside and the smell of fear and sulfur was as overwhelming as it had been during Castiel's one trip to the borders of Hell.

"Welcome to your new home, Princeling," Alastair said, "you are now my servant, and as such you will be expected to perform certain tasks for me. Complete them successfully and you'll be rewarded. Fail me and the punishment will be swift. Understood?" Alastair's smile never wavered as he spoke, and Castiel suspected that he might find it disturbing if he were not a warrior son of his Father.

Castiel nodded his understanding of the situation. He may have been raised a prince, but he had also been raised a warrior - hard work and sacrifice went with the territory. Castiel wasn't happy with this twist of fate, but he would make his family proud in any capacity in which he could still serve them.

Alastair smiled that disconcerting smile again and opened a door onto a narrow staircase that spiraled up and out of sight into what Castiel suspected was the tower he'd spied on the north side of the house. "Then get some rest, Princeling. Tomorrow will be a very busy day for you."

Standing at the base of the dark and dusty staircase, Castiel felt the despair and loneliness of being taken away from his home threaten to overwhelm him for the first time. He had never before been so cut off from his family. His brothers had their faults - not the least of which was selling their brother to save themselves - but they were still his family and he loved them very much.

Castiel climbed the stairs with his back straight and head held high, afraid to show any sign of weakness until he obtained the relative privacy of the tiny room at the top. Once there he took a moment - and a moment only - to grieve for the way his life had turned, and for the loss of his family. Then he pushed it all down and examined his new room.

It was furnished with a single bed, a large table, a small chest of drawers and a mirror. Small and cramped like the rest of the house, it had one major advantage over the lower floors, one for which Castiel was exceedingly grateful - four large windows offering an almost panoramic view. None of the windows were large enough for him to escape out of, of course, but Castiel had no thought of escape anyway. He wondered if Alastair had hoped to taunt him with the freedom of the skies, or if this was simply the only room available for hosting his… His what? Servant? Hostage? Plaything? Castiel shied away from that train of thought and turned away from the windows.

Castiel caught his reflection in the mirror as he turned. A forlorn little thing with droopy wings, wrapped in his older brother's too-big coat, stared back at him. Castiel straightened his spine and extended his wings as far as the cramped space would allow. "I am Castiel, angel of the Lord. This too shall be endured," he reminded himself sternly. His reflection gazed back at him solemnly for several moments, urging Castiel to believe his own words.

A fluttering in the window above his bed caught his eye, surprising a gasp from Castiel. He was sure for a moment that one of his elder brothers had come to rescue him. But it was a bird, a large white dove, that had landed on the window sill.

Castiel pushed aside terrible hope and bitter disappointment with a surprised bark of laughter, and addressed the bird's reflection in the mirror. "Hello, little bird, have you come to rescue me?"

The bird cocked his head to one side curiously, and flew in closer to perch on the dresser. Castiel turned away from the mirror to speak to his visitor directly. The bird was quite large for a dove, his white feathers dirty and askew as if he'd flown through a small storm to arrive at Castiel's prison.

"You look like you've had a rough day," Castiel observed. The bird fluttered his wings in exactly the way Michael did when he was disgruntled. The gesture was so familiar that it made Castiel's Grace ache, and he found himself wishing to help the bird. "I'm afraid I don't have much to offer." Castiel looked around his little room and spied the pitcher of water and basin on the dresser next to the bird's perch. "Would you like a drink?" he offered, "Or I could groom you?"

The bird hopped back a few inches when Castiel approached, and Castiel stopped to gesture to his own wings. "I have lots of experience, as you can see. I will be very gentle."

The bird and the angel contemplated each other for a few moments, and Castiel had the ridiculous thought that the bird was judging him. Even stranger, Castiel hoped he'd be found worthy. After a long moment, the bird hopped forward again and extended one wing in Castiel's direction.

It was Castiel's turn to tip his head inquisitively in the bird's direction. "What a remarkable bird you are," he commented mildly, stepping forward to collect the pitcher and basin before settling on his bed. Having decided to trust Castiel earlier, it now showed no hesitation in flying across the small space to land on Castiel's knee.

Castiel set the pitcher and basin on the floor near his feet and began with his hands. The bird held still under his ministrations, but with his fingers buried in sleek white wings, Castiel couldn't help but notice the minute trembling of the bird. He began to speak in a low soothing voice to distract the bird from what his hands were doing.

"Did you run into a storm, little bird? I have found myself caught out in bad weather more times than I can remember. Especially when I was just a fledgling. It happens less frequently now that I'm older, but I admit I'm not always as observant of the sky as I should be. A family trait, apparently, as that is partially how I came to be here."

The trembling had subsided, and the bird's head turned halfway toward Castiel in a manner that Castiel chose to interpret as interest.

"Shall I tell you my story, little bird?" Castiel asked. Then he frowned, hands stilling on the dove's right wing. "Perhaps I should call you something else? Would you like a name?"

The bird didn't answer, of course, but turned in place to face Castiel fully. "Let's see…Gabriel?" he ventured, trying the name of a favorite cousin.

The bird cooed violently.

"No, not Gabriel. Joseph?"

The bird fluttered his already disarrayed wings.

Castiel shook his head. "No, then. John?"

This time the dove cooed and ruffled his wings.

Castiel smiled, amused despite himself. "I believe we will stick to little bird for now."

The dove cooed once softly and then extended it's right wing - the one Castiel had been working on before the naming debacle. Castiel felt his eyebrows raise in surprise. "A remarkable bird indeed," he said reaching for the offered wing again.

"Well, my remarkable friend, I believe I was going to tell you my story," Castiel commented. "It begins before my birth, with my elder brothers - Michael and Lucifer..." Castiel found himself telling the entire story to the dove as he groomed, repeating the tale Alastair had regaled him with so recently. The telling of it relieved something inside of him, as if the story were a weight that he'd been dragging around all day and the telling of it made him lighter for it.

By the end of his tale, the dove's wings were clean and dry and Castiel found that he'd been simply stroking them for quite sometime. "...and here I am now, talking to a remarkable bird," he finished, reluctantly drawing his hand away from the dove's feathers. "Thank you for listening, little bird, and thank you for allowing me to help you."

The bird cooed at him and pecked at his hands in a friendly fashion before flying back to the windowsill. He paused there briefly, turning back to look at Castiel once more before flying away.

Castiel stood to stare out the empty window. "Goodnight, little bird," he said into the night, and turned to prepare for bed.
***

"Do you know where we are, young prince?" the demon asked the next morning, leading Castiel into the kitchen- a small, sooty room with a large pot of something foul smelling sitting on the fire. "This house, did you recognize its location when we came in yesterday?"

"The shores of Earth," Castiel said immediately.

"Oh, the princeling is well educated," Alastair laughed, "Your royal tutors would be proud."

Castiel said nothing and the demon continued. "Earth can be a dangerous place for a demon. And an angel I should think. Hunters are prejudiced against anything not human, always trying to kill what they don't understand." Alastair sighed dramatically at the shortcomings of the humans.

"No mere human could destroy me," Castiel said bluntly, chin raising in easy dismissal of the thought.

Alastair raised an eyebrow and studied him silently, his inky gaze making Castiel feel tainted and dirty. "Perhaps," Alastair said finally, "perhaps not. There are ways after all, and humans can be so… tenacious sometimes. Traps laid in holy oil, swords taken from fallen comrades…poisons slipped into a harmless meal." Alastair gestured toward the steaming pot significantly. "Today while I am out, you will create for me an antidote - one that will cure all poisons - so that I may eat and drink what I wish without fear."

The demon stared at Castiel, waiting for something, so Castiel nodded. "Of course."

"Fail to complete the task before I return at dusk and you will have to test my food for me."

"I understand," Castiel answered.

"Do you?" Alastair asked, "In case you're thinking of failing on purpose I suggest you remember that there's more than one way to pluck an Angel, and humans aren't the only tenacious creatures around." The demon turned on his heel and left without waiting for an answer.

Despite Alastair's departing threat, Castiel was not overly concerned with his task. He had, in fact, had several very good tutors in his youth. Knowledge of healing and antidotes was required for all soldiers, and Castiel knew how to make an antidote guaranteed to cure all poisons. It was not an easy concoction to make, and it would take some time to gather the necessary ingredients in a strange land, but he felt the allotted time would be sufficient for his purposes.

Castiel started with the holy water, because that was the easiest to obtain. Venturing through a small door in the back of the room Castiel found himself standing in a small and surprisingly kempt garden, with the well he'd been seeking standing almost exactly in the center. There were flowers blooming all around and the area surrounding the house was thick with green trees. Castiel felt a rush of gratitude that he'd landed on Earth where this small beauty could exist instead of the desolation of Hell. As he drew a bucket up from the well, he felt almost at peace.

Once drawn, Castiel dipped a finger into the full bucket, and said a quick prayer, turning its contents instantly into Holy Water - the main ingredient in every remedy he knew. A quick glance around the garden revealed three more of the most common ingredients - devil's snare, barley, and mandrake root - all growing in wild, but separate beds around the well.

Castiel hauled everything inside and set the water on the fire to boil. He washed, chopped and measured out the plants before adding them to the Holy water. Next he searched the cupboards and set aside some honey and cinnamon to sweeten the concoction as well as a small sprig container of dried dandelion to be added later. Now came the hard part.

Castiel returned outside and surveyed the woods surrounding the cabin, searching for an indication of where to start. There was nothing in particular to recommend one section over another so he simply marched forward into the cool shade of the trees.

A white dove appeared almost as soon as he stepped out of the sun. Cas had no reason to think it was the same bird as before, but nevertheless he was certain that this was his friend. "Hello, little bird," he greeted. It cooed at him, and flew down onto his shoulder to peck at his hair before lifting off again.

"Feeling better today?" Castiel asked. The bird swooped low over his head and circled a tree a few times, cooing with enthusiasm. "Yes, you seem better," Castiel agreed. "I am glad of it. Today I have to concoct a potion to cure all poisons. Would you like to help?"

The bird settled down on a tree stump and watched him with what Castiel fancied was curiosity. "I've started the main portion of the cure already," he told the bird, "I need three more things to add before drinking. A stone from untainted water, the leaf from an uncut angelus nemus, and a token from a friend, freely given." Castiel frowned at his own recitation. "That last one will be difficult." He looked down at himself. "This coat was a gift from my brother, Lucifer, perhaps…"

The dove derailed Castiel's ponderings by fluttering his wings in agitation until Castiel looked at him. "Yes, little bird?" Castiel asked. In answer, the dove held his right wing out in Castiel's direction. Castiel frowned. "Is there something wrong with your wing?"

The dove's answering coo sounded suspiciously like irritation and the bird dug into his own wing with his beak, emerging a moment later with a single pure white feather. Castiel stared at the feather, not quite believing what he was seeing until the bird flew up and circled around Castiel, dropping the offering at his feet.

"Thank you, my friend," Castiel said gravely. He picked up the offered gift reverently, surprised to find his hands shaking, and placed it in his pocket. "I did not expect such generosity. I will repay this kindness if I can."

The bird cooed at him again, head ducking in a manner that would have spoke of embarrassment in an angel or human and flew off to the west. Castiel watched him go, strangely disappointed to have been abandoned by the bird, and then headed east. He'd gone but a few yards when the bird returned, cooing at him crossly. "Hello, again," Castiel said, joy making his voice warm, "have you come to keep me company?"

But almost immediately the dove flew off again to the west and Castiel was left alone to continue on his path to the east. This time he barely made it a few steps before the dove returned, cooing and flapping past his head frantically. Castiel stopped walking immediately. "You wish me to follow you," he said. The dove flew past close enough for his wings to ruffle Castiel's hair and headed west again and this time Castiel turned to follow.

As he walked, Castiel found himself again filling the time with stories of his brothers - of the open but distant affection of Michael, the apparent disinterest of Lucifer that was contradicted by the small tokens of affection he brought Castiel from time to time. "Now I see that both of my brothers were reacting to the fear and guilt they must have been carrying this whole time," Castiel mused. "It must have been very difficult for them." The dove squawked in outrage. "I know, little bird, but they are my brothers. I must love and forgive all their faults. Isn't that what brothers do?"

For some reason that seemed to calm the dove, and he flew over to Castiel's shoulder again and cooed quietly into his ear as Castiel talked. An hour and a half later found them standing at the mouth of a spring - pure untouched water gushing out of the depths of the earth.

"Thank you, again, little friend. I find myself more indebted to you by the hour," Castiel said to the bird as he carefully selected a stone from the stream. "Now there is one thing left. I don't suppose you've seen an angelus nemus around here?"

The dove cooed again, sounding confused to Castiel's ear. "They are quite common around my home," Castiel said, "they are usually found near springs..." he trailed off as he surveyed his surroundings. "There," he said, pointing to a short sapling with heart shaped leaves. He crossed to it and removed three leaves. "That's everything."

He looked around the forest carefully, assessing his location relative to the house by the sea, and started in that direction. When the dove didn't harass him immediately, he decided that he must have chosen correctly. Indeed, his feathered friend followed him all the way back to the cabin without incident and then followed him inside to perch on a chair back and watch as Castiel cut and chopped and mixed and boiled. "This recipe is very old," Castiel said to the bird, "it was taught to me by my tutor in demonic languages - a demon named Crowley."

The bird flew around the kitchen once in agitation before settling restlessly back on the chair. Castiel paused to stroke down the dove's back with the tip of one of his own wings. "Crowley is different," he assured his friend. "Not trustworthy, of course, but different. It is difficult to explain."

The bird still shifted uneasily on his perch and Castiel continued to stroke the dove with his wings as he spoke. An hour passed, and then two, as Castiel's story of Crowley led to the story of Crowley's first meeting with Castiel's cousin, Gabriel, then to their epic love triangle with the goddess Kali, and so forth until Castiel was surprised to find the sun hanging low in the sky and his potion nearly completed. He was known as the quiet one at home, and he marveled at how the silence around him loosened his tongue.

No sooner had the thought occurred to him, than the door to the tiny kitchen slammed open, the door hitting the wall with such violence that the dove was startled off its perch and into the rafters. Castiel straightened and turned to the door, putting himself between it and his feathered friend, wings spreading out automatically to shelter the bird. He expected hell hounds heralding Alastair's return at the very least. But it was only the wind.

Except there was no 'only' about the fierce wind that gushed into the tiny room, forcing Castiel to pull his wings in close or risk damaging them. The wind tore through the kitchen, scattering Castiel's leaves all about the floor and knocking a chair into the hearth with enough force to tip the potion onto the fire, destroying all of Castiel's hard work and dousing the flames.

Castiel surveyed the devastation with open dismay, wings drooping nearly to the floor. The dove glided down from the rafters to land once more on the chair. "Little bird," Castiel said gravely, "it looks like the end may be very near for me. I fear I have no way of recreating the potion in the time left to me. I don't suppose you have any ideas. Do you, little bird?"

"Actually," the bird said, "I really do."

Castiel took an involuntary step away back, barely managing to maintain his balance when his foot caught the edge of the table. "Little bird?" he asked quietly.

"It's Dean. Dean Winchester," the bird said, and Castiel hadn't even known a bird could sound amused until then.

"Hello, Dean," Castiel said automatically, mouth running on autopilot.

"Hey, Cas," the dove answered, "sorry I didn't say anything before, but you know, talking bird and all. I wasn't sure how you'd react."

"Of course," Castiel answered mildly, eyes narrowing as he studied the bird - Dean.

"Apparently you'd react like the world's calmest freak. Good to know," Dean said. "Does anything faze you?"

"Not much," Castiel said immediately, "Although..."

"Talking bird, weird, I get it," Dean said, shaking his feathers dismissively, "We've covered that. More importantly, I have the solution to your problem."

Castiel snapped out of it, reminded abruptly of the very real danger he would face when Alastair returned at dusk. "You do?"

"Yeah, ever heard of a bezoar?"

"A stone from the stomach of a goat that can cure all poisons," Castiel answered at once. "But that is a legend. They don't really exist."

Dean snorted - a very disturbing noise coming from a bird - and said, "Yeah, well back where I come from, we say the same thing about angels. It seems you're both real. Come on, angel face, there's not much time."

Dean flew out through the still open door and into the darkening woods. Castiel hurried after him, following the light of the setting sun as it flashed on Dean's beating wings. They had only been walking for fifteen minutes when Dean stopped.

"Wait here, Cas," Dean instructed and then he flew into a seemingly solid line of nearby bushes. Castiel was only alone for a moment or two before Dean popped back through. "Coast is clear. Come on in," Dean called before swooping back through the foliage. When Castiel cautiously approached and pushed back the hedges, he found himself standing at the entrance to a small cave. It was maybe ten feet deep and no more than three wide, but he saw at once what Dean wanted him to have.

"It's beautiful," Castiel observed, pushing inside to kneel next to the small, glowing blue stone.

"It's the color of your eyes," Dean answered distractedly, hopping toward the door as he spoke. "Just drop it into that slop Alastair has brewing in his kitchen and it'll render anything nasty in there useless."

Castiel looked at it doubtfully. "Really? I cannot believe we've never heard of them actually existing."

"You're going to have to trust me on this one. Most people around here think they're the stuff of legends and fairy tales too," Dean said, flying back outside and forcing Castiel to follow if he wished to continue the conversation.

"How do you know about them?" Castiel asked.

"I'm in the business of legends and fairy tales," Dean answered distractedly. "And we need to hurry, the demon will be back soon.

Castiel checked the sun and hurried to obey. Dean was right, the light was fading fast.

"Now just drop throw the stone in the stew and you're good to go," Dean said as they arrived back in the demon's house. Castiel obediently dropped the bezoar into the concoction. "Just in time too," Dean said, "sun should be down in about twenty minutes."

"Yes," Castiel agreed, setting himself to righting the wreckage of the kitchen. Under an overturned bowl, Castiel found the single white feather Dean had given him for the potion and he slipped it into the pocket of his shirt for safekeeping. A gift freely given was a rare treasure, and Cas did not intend to let it go to waste. "Thank you, Dean," Castiel said, meaning the feather and the help and everything else.

Dean flapped his wings dismissively. "It was nothing. Should have spoken up earlier and saved you the whole morning."

Castiel cocked his head to the side in unconscious imitation of the bird's own questioning posture. "The secret of your enchantment is your own. I do not begrudge you withholding it from me," he said.

"Now I really feel like a jerk," Dean muttered. "Listen it's not..." Dean cut off abruptly, the reason why quickly evident to Castiel as a heavy tread made its way up the front walkway. Dean flew out the window without another word.

Alastair entered and surveyed his tidy kitchen with suspicion and asked, "Were you successful?"

"Yes. The soup should be quite harmless now," Castiel answered.

Alastair's eyebrows rose in a mockery of surprise. "Very well then." He crossed the room to the soup and ladled out a generous portion before turning back to Castiel. "Prove it," he said, and handed the bowl to Castiel.

Castiel looked down into the bowl and back up at Alastair. "I thought I would only be required to test the food if I was unsuccessful," he said.

"If you're confident, prove it to me. And you best eat up, because that's your dinner for tonight." Alastair grinned maliciously, "Unless you'd rather not risk it."

Castiel, as an angel, didn't need to eat, of course, but it was sometimes…pleasant to do so - comforting even. And a passing check of Alastair's face suggested that turning down the food would be a very bad idea.

Castiel glanced out the window through which Dean had recently departed. He didn't see the bird, but Castiel wasn't really looking for him, just pondering Dean and the value of his word. It all came down to how much he trusted Dean. And it was probably crazy to trust a bird - even an enchanted one, perhaps especially an enchanted one - but Castiel did, bone deep in the place where reason didn't matter. He took a big spoonful of the stew and swallowed before he could change his mind. It was much better than it smelled.

Castiel was still alive and well five minutes after his first bite, and he dug into his meal with gusto. All the cooking and gathering and chasing after talking white doves had left him with a healthy, if unnecessary, appetite.

Alastair watched him with interest and mild anticipation the whole time, but ate nothing himself. When Castiel was finished, Alastair dismissed him to his bedroom. "Sleep well, little Princeling. Tomorrow will be another busy day for you."

Castiel made his way back up the tower steps to his room, tired in body but not in mind as he thought of the days revelations. He wasn't surprised when he opened the door to his room and found Dean perched on the bed.

"Hello, Dean."

If Castiel hadn't know it impossible he'd swear that the bird was smiling at him. "Hey, Cas," he answered. "I just wanted to make sure everything went okay."

"Alastair made me eat the stew myself to prove the effectiveness of my remedy, but thanks to you all is well. So thank you again."

Dean shuffled across the bed sheets and flew up to the table. Castiel sat on the bed he'd vacated and waited. His feathered friend seemed agitated.

'Why'd you do it?" Dean finally blurted.

"Do what?" Castiel asked, honestly confused. "Eat the stew?"

"No, why did you help me?" he asked. "Last night, why'd you help with my wings? If I found a dirty bird in my room I'd have pitched him out the window."

"I doubt that," Castiel said, "But to answer your question - because you needed it." Castiel hesitated before adding, "and because I really needed a friend."

"Yeah?" Dean asked.

"I miss my brothers," Cas admitted, dropping his gaze to the hands in his lap. "I have never been away from them for so long."

"Yeah," Dean said again, sadly this time, "me too."

Castiel's head snapped back up. "You have brothers?" he asked eagerly.

"Just one," Dean said, "Sammy. He's younger than me. He's the reason I'm here."

"Oh?" Cas asked, wondering if Alastair was in the habit of tricking people into selling out their siblings.

As if he'd read his mind Dean said, "No, not like your douche brothers." Dean caught himself, "No offence."

Cas raised his eyebrow in amusement. "None taken."

"You know what? Screw that. Offence. Selling out your little brother is a real dick move. You're supposed to protect your brother, not sell him out to save yourself." Dean spoke with considerable passion for such a small body.

"Is that what happened to you? You were protecting Sammy?" Cas asked, deflating Dean's anger with the question.

"Yeah," Dean said. "Sammy is... Sammy is special somehow. I don't really understand it myself but this bastard has been after him practically since he was a baby. The last couple of years he's really been hounding us: we've barely managed to stay ahead of him."

Dean shifted uncomfortably on the table and instinctively Cas reached out with one wing to offer comfort. Dean allowed it for a few minutes before shaking the wing off and continuing his story. "About a month ago, we weren't fast enough. Bastard cornered us in this shit hole little village about a day's flight south of here. He was flinging spells and vials of stuff at us left and right. Sammy managed to get away..." Dean trailed off.

"But you did not," Cas concluded.

"Lucky shot," Dean said, and Cas could hear the shrug his bird shoulders couldn't make in his voice. "There was some green light and suddenly the world looks a lot bigger and I'm sprouting wings. Alastair decided to keep me, hoping Sammy will attempt a rescue. Like Sam would be that stupid."

"Couldn't you fly away?" Castiel asked.

"I tried, some sort of enchantment. Can't fly more than a mile any direction before the winds pick up and I'm blown out of the sky. Nearly broke a wing the first time I tried it."

"I see," Cas said.

"Yeah," Dean agreed. Then he fixed Cas with a very serious bird stare. "Here's the thing, Cas. Sam is stupid enough to attempt a rescue. I gotta get out of here before that happens."

"Of course," Cas agreed at once. "Then we must get you out of here."

Dean shook his head. "We're both getting out of here, Cas, I promise."

Again, Castiel had no reason to trust Dean - whom he hadn't even know was human a few hours ago, but he nodded anyway. "I believe you will Dean Winchester."

Dean fluffed up his feathers the same way Cas did when he was both proud and embarrassed. "Yeah? Good. That's good."

Cas turned away to give Dean time to collect himself and began preparing for bed. "Tell me, Dean, how is it that you knew about the bezoar? How exactly are you in the business of legends and fairy tales?"

Dean let out a sigh like a soft coo and fluttered up to the headboard as Cas made himself comfortable on the bed. "Found the bezoar a few days ago, just poking around for anything that might be useful. The other stuff, you might call it the family business," he answered. "Sam and I - we're hunters, we protect other humans from the stuff most of them don't even believe in."

"Stuff like what?" Castiel asked curiously.

"Oh, you know, weird shit, like demons and witches and ghosts."

"And Angels?" Cas asked with amusement.

Dean looked away, "Yeah. Can't say I believed in those until a real live one helped me out."

Castiel looked up at Dean's perch and blinked at him. "Why not?"

"My Mom believed in angels," Dean said by way of answering.

"And you decided to rebel by not believing?" Cas guessed.

"No," Dean said quietly, "She died when I was four. Demon," he explained. "Sammy was just a baby." And Dean quietly told him the story of the fire that had changed his life forever, inadvertently setting him on the path that eventually led him here - held captive by a demon with no one but an angel he'd never believed in for a friend.

"I'm so sorry for you loss," Castiel said.

Dean's wings rippled. "It was a long time ago," he said.

"That does not make it any less of a tragedy," Cas said, reaching up with a hand to stroke a comforting finger down Dean's back.

Dean didn't answer for a long time, but he held still and allowed the comfort of Cas's hand on him. Eventually he spoke again, "That was a hell of a bedtime story."

Castiel frowned and dropped his hand back down to his lap. "I do not require a bed time story, Dean."

"But I can't leave you with that one," Dean argued.

Cas huffed in amusement, shifting around until he was laying comfortably on his back. "Fine, tell me something happy then. Something about Sammy."

Dean fluttered down to the bed near Castiel's pillow. "So many things to choose from," he said with pleasure in his voice, "There's the incident with the bad haircut, the time he laughed so hard he peed himself in public, the other incident with the bad haircut, the time he bought the creepiest, ugliest painting ever created to impress some chick...."

Cas felt his lips twitch in a smile, though his eyelids were growing heavy. "Perhaps something less embarrassing for your brother?" he suggested.

"Now where's the fun in that?" Dean protested. "I know the perfect story," he declared. "Did I ever tell you that Sam's a gigantor? No? Cause he's freakishly huge...."

Cas drifted off to the sound of Dean's voice, falling into dreams where he and Dean flew side by side over the ocean, searching for a giant puppy with long floppy ears who answered to the name of Sam.

When Castiel awoke the next morning Dean was gone. He dressed slowly and made his way back downstairs to the kitchen. The demon was nowhere in sight, so Cas helped himself to some leftover stew for breakfast and wandered outside to the garden.

"There you are, young Princeling," Alastair greeted with a cheer that made Cas's breakfast coil in his stomach. "Ready for your next task?"

Cas felt his face fall into a blank mask as he nodded. "As you wish," he answered. "What do you require of me today?"

"Nothing too mentally taxing," Alastair promised, "I just need a bit of firewood. It does get chilly here with the breeze off the ocean, don't you think?"

Castiel, who hadn't noticed a particular chill - or breeze for that matter - nodded his agreement. "I'd be happy to help."

Alastair smiled again and waved Cas to a pile of wood against the back of the house. It was quite large, and Castiel was surprised that he hadn't noticed it the day before.

"Just have that split before I get back," Alastair said, "and I'll give you a reward."

Cas tilted his head. "What kind of reward?" he asked.

Alastair threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, little Princeling, so suspicious! Anything that is in my possession will be yours for the asking. Does that suit you?" he asked.

Castiel's impulse was to say no, not to trust any gift Alastair might offer him, but Alastair didn't require an answer. He was already walking away, leaving Castiel to his work.

Dean appeared almost at once. "Hello, Dean," Cas greeted, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth at the sight of his friend.

"Hey, Cas, what's today's meaningless task?"

Cas removed his coat as he spoke. "This wood pile," he answered, draping the removed coat over the pile in question and starting to unbutton his shirt.

"Yeah, I don't think I'm gonna do you much good with that one," Dean commented.

"On the contrary, your company will keep my mind as busy as my hands," Cas countered, removing his shirt and putting it with his discarded coat, leaving him bare to the waist as he hefted one of the axes piled next to the logs.

Dean cooed appreciatively. "Whoa, Cas, nice."

Castiel blushed despite himself. "Dean," he said in admonishment. But he found himself warmed by the appreciation.

"Sorry, no fair trying to seduce you when I'm not equipped to follow through."

Cas shook his head at his friend and swung the axe at the first log. "Tell me about hunting," he requested.

Dean flew closer, perching on pile itself, and began. "Have you ever seen a vengeful ghost?"

Castiel admitted that he had not and he spent the next hour rhythmically swinging his axe and listening to Dean's tales.

"Cas," Dean said, "wait. Stop."

Obediently Cas put down his axe. "What's wrong?"

Dean flew up to Cas's shoulder and surveyed the wood pile. "I don't think it's going down." Cas studied the pile himself through narrowed eyes.

"It's only been an hour," he reasoned.

"Yeah, but still..." Dean said.

Cas raised his wings in a shrug. "Perhaps it is our imagination."

The next hour was much quieter as both angel and bird watched the wood pile carefully with each log Cas pulled off and split.

At the end of the second hour, Castiel stopped again. "You are correct. This woodpile is enchanted."

"Yeah," Dean agreed.

"I don't suppose you know a secret Hunter's trick for splitting wood?"

Dean made that impossible snorting sound again through his beak. "Yeah, get help."

Cas smiled. "Ah, so all I have to do is turn you human again and we're all set."

"Exactly," Dean agreed, sounding amused.

"Dean?"

"Yeah, Cas?"

"Do you know a secret Hunter's trick for turning someone human again?" he asked, suppressing a smile at his own joke.

Dean didn't laugh though. "According to the legends, true love's kiss does the trick every time," he answered.

Cas didn't hesitate, he leaned down and kissed the top of Dean's feathery head.

To his surprise, there was a flash of white smoke and when it cleared he was staring into the most remarkable green eyes he'd ever seen.

The man before him was a little bit taller than Castiel, a little bit younger, a little bit wider, and a lot more beautiful than he had ever imagined.

The man - Dean - looked down at himself, hands grabbing various body parts as if to assure himself that he was in fact human again and then his eyes caught on Castiel. He looked up, eyes raking over Cas's naked chest with a smirk. "Hey, Cas," he said when he'd finally raised his eyes high enough to meet Cas's again.

Cas found himself walking toward Dean until he was close enough to make out a scattering of freckles on Dean's face that he instantly found unreasonably adorable. "Hello, Dean,"

"True love's kiss, huh?" Dean said, grin wide and teasing.

Castiel felt his face grow hot, but he ignored it. "It is more likely that my angelic nature reversed the spell."

Something like disappointment flicked in the depths of Dean's green eyes, and his smile faltered. "Should've made out with an angel a long time ago then," he said gruffly.

Castiel wanted to say something to put the smile back on his face, but nothing occurred to him and the silence between them stretched uncomfortably until Dean turned away from Cas and picked up Cas's discarded axe. "Let's see if this spell can keep up with two of us."

Cas stared at his newly human friend. "Don't you want to get out of here? Now that you're no longer a bird."

Dean shrugged, relaxed and easy. "What's to say that being human will magically allow me to get out of here? Then I'll have wasted a day out there instead of helping you. Besides, I told you, Cas, we're both getting out of here." The absolute certainty in his voice warmed Castiel's Grace, and he picked up a new axe feeling freer than he had since the storm had blown up in Heaven.

The spell, it turned out, could not keep up with the two of them working together. A serious flaw in the enchantment, but Cas couldn't complain about it. There were few words between them as they worked their way through the stack. It was difficult work, slow and hot, but they had every log split well before sundown.

Dean grinned at Cas as he swung the ax into the pile of freshly split logs. "Done with time to spare. We are awesome."

Cas stared back. "Yes, you certainly are," he agreed quietly.

"Let's get a drink. See if we can..." Dean's words were lost in another puff of green smoke as he was transformed back into the white dove that Castiel had met on his first night in the tower.

"Dean!" Cas yelled, startled and inexplicably frightened. He crossed over to Dean and quickly kissed the bird's head again. Dean turned back into himself at once.

Dean staggered back, and would have fallen if Cas's arm hadn't come up to catch him around the waist. "Are you alright?" Cas asked.

"Yeah. Thanks," Dean said.

"It seems the kiss was a temporary solution," Cas observed.

Dean shook his head. "I think more drastic measures are called for."

Castiel frowned. "Like what?"

"Hell, I don't know Cas. This isn't exactly my area of expertise," Dean said. "Normally I'd say we need to find the source of his power and salt and burn the shit out of it."

"The source of his power is nothing physical, Dean," Cas said at once, "It's ownership. Right now we both belong to Alastair. Even though it's against our will, it gives him power over us," Castiel explained.

"Really?" Dean said, looking thoughtful. Castiel didn't answer, letting Dean think the problem through. It didn't take long before Dean took a deep breath and then wrapped his arms around Castiel. "Do you trust me?"

"Yes, Dean," Castiel answered without hesitation, hands sliding up Dean's arms to grip his biceps just below the shoulder.

Dean's lips twitched up in a half-smile at Castiel's quick answer. "Then I think I can break the spell and get us both out of here. You just need to agree to one - smallish - thing."

"Anything," Castiel promised.

Dean grimaced and looked away, although he didn't let Cas go. "Wanna get hitched? Belong to each other instead of some demon?"

Cas's heart leapt at the question. All the suitors - male and female - that his Father had brought before him, all the beloved friends he'd known from fledgling, none of them made his stomach flutter the way Dean's voice did, none of them made him flush like that first look at Dean's true form. Besides, it was a good plan - one that might just work. "Yes," Cas breathed, "I do, Dean."

Dean looked up, eyes wide and startled and filled with something that Cas hoped was more than gratitude. "Cas, I... Thank you." Cas tipped his head up, and then Dean was kissing him with a gentleness that belied the bruising grip he himself had on Dean's biceps. "Thank you," he whispered again when they parted.

Cas was too overwhelmed to speak. He nodded and leaned in for another kiss. Dean obliged with a smile and then pressed his forehead into Cas's shoulder. "When Alastair comes back, you have to ask for me Cas. As your reward, ask for the hunter he has flying around in the shape of a dove. Okay, Cas?"

"Yes, Dean, of course," Cas said.

"We'll have to find something - a ribbon or a string - to tie around my finger so that you can recognize me if Alastair decides to change me again," Dean said, pulling back to look around the garden.

"There is no need, Dean," Cas said, wrapping a hand around Dean's wrist to pull his attention back to himself. "Now that I have seen your soul in your true form, I would never fail to recognize it."

To his surprise, Dean shrank away from him. "You can see my soul."

"Yes," Cas said, sensing Dean's discomfort, "and it is beautiful. Like you."

"Yeah?" Dean asked, still disturbed but with amusement creeping into his voice.

"Yes," Cas said firmly, stepping in closer again. "Your soul is the brightest thing I've ever seen, strong and light - like your feathers when you're a dove."

Dean blinked at him once and then threw back his head and laughed. "Obviously not a reflection of me then, cause there's very little bright and light about my life."

Cas tipped his head to one side and stared at Dean. "You doubt what I see?"

"No," Dean said, "I didn't say that."

Cas nodded to himself. "You doubt your own worth then."

"Nah, I'm awesome and I know it." Dean laughed again. "Just look at all the good things in my life."

"Sam," Cas said at once and Dean stopped laughing, but his smile turned genuine.

"I'll give you that one. But don't ever tell him I said it - he'll be insufferable."

Cas nodded solemnly. "It'll be our little secret."

"Yeah," Dean said. He shifted his weight from side to side and rubbed the back of his neck. "Like my wings, huh?" Dean's eyes flicked up over Cas's shoulder and he reached out a hand in question. "Can I?"

Cas extended his wings toward Dean and nodded. "Of course. You are to become my mate after all."

That half smile made another appearance at that and he reached forward again, but his hand stilled before making contact when they both heard the approach of Alastair. Dean threw a hasty look back over his shoulder. "I've gotta go. I should be a bird again soon. Ask for me, don't forget," he commanded.

Cas nodded his agreement, and with a last short press of Dean's lips to his, Dean disappeared into the trees.

Cas met Alastair in the kitchen. "Hello, Princeling, how was your day?" Alastair asked jovially.

"Productive," Cas answered.

"Oh?" Alastair's eyebrow rose in exaggerated surprise. "Let's see what you've accomplished then."

Cas led the way out back to the pile of freshly chopped wood and Alastair whistled appreciatively. "Well, well. A productive day, indeed. And from royal hands unaccustomed to labor as well. Well done, Princeling, well done."

"Since you are so well pleased," Cas said, "perhaps you will remember your promise?"

Alastair smirked, an unfriendly expression, and nodded. "Of course. What is it that you would like?"

"The human hunter who is held captive here in the shape of a white dove."

Alastair froze momentarily and surprise flitted across his face, but he waved a hand dismissively in Cas's direction. "What story is this? That's quite an imagination you have there, Princeling. A hunter flying about as a dove? Nonsense."

"Nevertheless, I request the hunter as my reward," Cas said.

Alastair scowled. "Fine, then we shall find you a hunter." And he stalked off around the side of the house. Cas didn't know how long he remained standing alone in the back garden, but the moon was high in the sky before Alastair returned with a wolf on a leash. "Here's a hunter. Would you have it?"

Cas looked beyond the short brown fur and pointed teeth and saw the brightness of Dean's soul burning within. "Yes, I will accept this Hunter in the shape of a wolf."

Alastair jerked the wolf's leash back angrily. "No, this isn't right. You asked for a human hunter, let me find something else." He fled again and returned this time almost at once with an old man, face marred with lines, hair wispy and white. "Would you like this hunter?" Alastair asked.

The transformation into an old man did nothing to disguise Dean's soul from Cas and Cas nodded before Alastair had finished asking the question. "Yes, I will take this hunter."

Alastair reared back in surprise at that, his face becoming twisted and ugly in his fury. He shoved Dean toward Cas, and Cas had to rush forward to catch him before he fell. Alastair raged around the back garden, throwing the wood from the pile in all directions, ripping up herbs and flowers and weeds indiscriminately. Cas kissed Dean's aged and weathered face gently and when he pulled back he was holding his Dean again and the old man was gone.

"Hello, Dean," Cas said, ignoring the raging demon and the chaos around them.

"Hey, Cas," Dean answered, smiling and leaning back in for another kiss. He was pulled away viciously by Alastair.

"Ah, ah, boys, can't have that," he scolded, calmer now. "You asked for your Hunter, and you shall have him," he said to Cas. "Tomorrow we celebrate your wedding."

Alastair wasted no time fulfilling his promise. Before Cas rose the next morning the house was filled with demons. Cas had no idea how Alastair had contacted them or where they had come from, but Dean said it was best not to think on it. Cas and Dean stole off to the tower room as soon as the kitchen started to fill with the disturbing black and yellow eyed demons that Alastair summoned as if from the air itself.

Laying across the bed were two suits, one white as snow, the other black as midnight. Dean eyed them warily before turning to Cas.

"Cas, listen. Tonight… I know this isn't what you wanted…"

"Don't presume to tell me what I want Dean Winchester," Cas growled.

Dean's breath hitched and Cas found himself with an armful of hunter without ever seeing Dean move. "Cas," Dean growled, mouthing at Cas's jaw, "Cas."

Cas tightened his arms around his betrothed and kissed back as Dean's lips found their way up to his own. "Dean," he whispered between kisses, "I believe we are supposed to be preparing for the ceremony."

Dean snorted. "Yeah? I'm preparing for the wedding night."

Cas pushed Dean away reluctantly. "Get dressed, Dean. We have a long night ahead of us."

Dean smirked at that. "Yeah?"

"Yes," Cas insisted, "getting out of here."

Dean pouted. "That couldn't wait 'til tomorrow night?"

"I do not believe Alastair intends to let us live that long."

Dean sobered immediately. "Yeah, right." He moved to the bed and picked up the white suit. "I think this one is for you."

Cas took it. "Thank you Dean."

There was nowhere in the room for privacy and, reluctant to separate, they settled for turning their backs to each other while they dressed. Cas was pulling on his white dress shirt when Dean spoke behind him. "Hey Cas."

Instinctively Cas turned toward Dean's voice and caught sight of Dean bent over, pulling up his dress pants. He turned away quickly. "Yes," he answered, hoping Dean couldn't hear the breathless tension in his voice.

'Tonight, at the wedding feast, there's a good chance Alastair's gonna try something. Slip something in the food to kill me, or to make you forget about me."

"You don't think he'd kill me as well," Cas asked, frowning as he attempted to tie his tie with no mirror.

"You're his prize," Dean said, arms coming up under Cas's to help with the offending tie, "I'm just his Sam bait."

Cas frowned. He was nobody's prize. And Dean was no one's bait. "So we shouldn't partake of anything offered to us," Cas concluded.

"Exactly," Dean agreed, expertly adjusting Cas's suit and tie until both were settled to his liking. Only then did he step back, allowing Cas to get his first look at his betrothed in a suit.

"You like?" Dean asked with a smirk, doing a quick turn so Cas could admire the full package. Cas was speechless, taking in the way the suit clung to Dean in all the right places, and could only nod in agreement.

"Not so bad yourself," Dean said, eyes raking over Cas, making him burn with unfamiliar emotion.

Somewhere below them a bell rang. Both men turned toward the window overlooking the back garden. "I believe it is time for the ceremony," Cas said.

Dean reached out and laced their fingers together. "Let's go get hitched," he said, and led Cas out of the room.

The ceremony itself was mostly a blur to Cas. He knew a moment of surprise when Alastair - who had insisted on performing the ceremony himself - launched into the angelic mating vows.

"Bound to me for all eternity and always in my care," Cas recited, eyes never breaking their hold on Dean's. Whatever their reasons for marrying, saying those words made everything real, and Cas wished it was his Father presiding over their joining.

Once Dean had echoed the vows back to him, in a voice gruffer than Cas had previously heard, Alastair lead them in another set of vows - unfamiliar to Cas, but clearly words that meant something to Dean.

"I do," Cas repeated solemnly, watching with interest as Dean shivered at the two simple words. He squeezed Dean's hand in comfort and Dean offered him a wan smile back.

"You may now join your Grace and/or kiss the bride," Alastair announced.

Cas frowned at the term 'bride' but Dean had already stepped in close to gather Cas in his arms for their first kiss as a mated couple. With Dean's lips pressed firmly but chastely to his, Cas reached out tentatively with his Grace and brushed gently against Dean's soul.

Dean gasped and Cas took advantage of it to plunder Dean's mouth with his own, but he pulled his Grace back. No matter what they'd just done, Cas would not force a bond that Dean didn't understand upon him.

Their 'guests' quickly abandoned the spectacle of man and angel making out, headed outside for the feast. Cas was glad to see them go, clinging to Dean like a lifeline.

"Cas," Dean breathed, pulling back from the kiss but not letting Cas go.

"Dean," Cas answered. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Dean said, but he sounded so uncertain that Cas pulled back to study his expression. Dean looked away and shrugged. "It's stupid. I just wish Sam had been here, even if it was… You know?"

"I too, wish for my brothers to have witnessed our joining," Cas admitted.

"That sounds kinky," Dean said with a grin, breaking the slight melancholy that had been stealing over them.

"Dean," Cas scolded, but there was no heat behind the word.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm a terrible human being," Dean said, "Let's make an appearance at the feast and then get out of here."

Cas nodded his acquiescence, and they wandered outside to the sounds of a party already in full swing. They took their places at the head of the table and endured several toasts in their honor, taking care each time to not partake of anything offered them for fear of it's effects.

Several hours and countless toasts later, Alastair nudged Cas. "I believe it is time for you to toast your new husband before you adjourn for the night." He said it with a smile, but it was clearly a command.

"What should I say?" Cas asked. He'd never made a toast before, and had no desire to repeat the bawdy and slurred toasts he'd been subject to throughout the night.

"Just wax poetic about his eyes and smile and promise to love him forever or whatever," Alastair said with a bored shrug.

Cas stood slowly, and Alastair tapped a fork against a glass to call for attention. When the crowd a had quieted, Cas lifted his glass and turned to Dean.

"Dean," he began, "you have beautiful eyes." Dean flushed bright red and there were a few twitters from the audience. "and an attractive smile. I promise to be your friend always and be there when you need me," Cas finished, sitting down at once.

There was silence for a moment and then Dean lifted his own glass and called loudly, "To my husband, Castiel."

"To Castiel," the crowd echoed and Cas, forgetting the danger, automatically raised his glass to drink. Dean lunged forward, knocking it from his hand.

Over the laughter of the crowd, Cas heard Alastair's scream of rage. Dean must have heard it too because he stood quickly, pulling Cas up with him. "Now I want to take my husband to our rooms and strip him out of his soiled clothes," Dean said to the crowd, winking dramatically. "Or maybe just soil them further."

There were more bawdy jokes and catcalls, but Cas heard none of them over the pounding of his heart, forgetting for the moment their plan of escape.

Dean had not forgotten, and led him not to the tower bedroom but into the kitchen. "Quick, change clothes and grab all the salt you can find," Dean instructed urgently, dropping Cas's hand at once and retreating into the hall.

Cas stood blankly looking at the empty doorway until Dean returned, already changed and carrying a shotgun. "Cas!" Dean barked, "snap out of it. It was your idea to leave tonight, and we need to go now, while Alastair's promise is still in effect."

Understanding blossomed in Cas's mind. "You will not be fully given to me - or I to you - until consummation," Cas observed.

Dean's face flushed red again and he looked away. "Yeah," he said, "so the demon won't bother us tonight. But by tomorrow he'll be looking to take his revenge." Dean was searching the cabinets now and he threw a few jars at Cas. "Here, find a bag or something to carry these in."

Cas nodded and began opening drawers until he found a knapsack. He shoved the two jars of salt inside as well as a jar of water, which he sanctified with a touch and a whisper. Dean took the burden from him and added a few items. "Is there anything you can mojo up so that Alastair thinks we're still upstairs? It'd buy us a few hours head start."

"Yes," Cas answered at once, picking up two of their split logs from the hearth and rushing upstairs. With a few words and a touch of Grace, the logs were tucked into the bed, enchanted to answer simple questions with sleepy words and soft noises.

Cas changed and snatched the feather Dean had given him - was it really only a few days ago? - into a pocket before rejoining his new mate downstairs. "The deception will be discovered in the morning," Cas told Dean as they slipped outside.

"We'll be long gone by then," Dean said grimly, grabbing Cas's hand and pulling him into the dark of the fast fading night.

Dean was leading them through the mouth of a cave when dawn revealed the first sight of their pursuers. "Dean," Cas said, tipping his head in the direction of the demons swarming behind them.

Dean looked round and pulled the knapsack off of his shoulder. He pulled out a jar of salt and drew a line across the mouth of the cave. The demons were closer now, terrifyingly so, but Dean didn't rush, taking time to make sure every inch of the opening was covered and the line unbroken. He stepped back as the first of the demons, led by Alastair himself, charged at them.

Cas reached out to tug Dean out of harm's way, but to his surprise Alastair stopped short just on the other side of the salt line. He spat and hissed at them in like a feral beast, but he made no attempt to come closer.

"Come on, Cas, that'll slow them down, but they'll find a way around." Cas watched Alastair pace outside the cave with wide eyes for a moment and then hurried to catch up with Dean. Another hour of walking revealed the cave to be a tunnel, and they emerged into the sunlight right at the water's edge, a sleek black boat moored at the end of a long shabby dock. Dean climbed aboard without hesitation and beckoned Cas after him.

"Dean?" he asked, looking around them uncertainly. "Is this yours?"

"Yep," Dean said with a proud smile. "This is my baby. She can outrun anything Alastair can throw at us. Sit tight and point the way home, Cas."

"How did it get here?" Cas asked.

"She's enchanted to always find me," Dean said, pointing to the charm hanging from his neck, "this heats up and glows to help me find her. Now get in."

Cas joined Dean, and turned to survey the shoreline, watching for any sign of Alastair or his companions. Dean had barely pushed off the dock when they appeared from above, obviously having gone over the hills instead of through the caves.

"Don't worry. They can't catch us," Dean said, but he sounded uncertain.

"They've come faster than you expected," Cas surmised.

Dean shrugged. "The Impala will get us to safety. She always does."

Cas nodded and reached for the knapsack that Dean had discarded at his feet. The first of the demons were already splashing into the water behind them. Cas retrieved his jar of holy water and dumped the contents into the sea. Dipping his finger in, he whispered a blessing in Enochian.

The effect was immediate. The demons in the water shrieked and thrashed as the sea appeared to boil around them. Those on the dock stopped and retreated, nervous eyes on the suddenly treacherous water.

Dean stopped what he was doing and turned to gape at the scene behind them. "Cas," he said, voice filled with awe and something uncomfortably like fear, "did you just turn the sea into holy water?"

Cas shook his head. "Only this cove."

"Oh, is that all?" Dean asked, rolling his eyes.

"The effect is temporary," Cas said pointedly.

Dean got the hint and went back to the helm. By unspoken agreement they aimed the boat toward Heaven, leaving the demons and their prison far behind them.

Dean was right about the speed of the Impala, and they made it to Heaven's familiar shores in good time. It was a nervous and mostly silent journey overland as Cas wondered for the first time what Dean's plans were now. Find Sam, certainly, but would that be an endeavor they'd take together or would Dean walk him to the door and kiss him goodbye, like the past few days had been nothing but the world's longest, most frightening first date.

A half day's walk found the palace in sight, but Dean fading fast. Cas had forgotten that they hadn't slept since before the wedding. "We should stop," he said.

Dean shook his head, but couldn't contain a yawn. "We're nearly there. I can make it."

"Of course," Cas agreed, despite the way Dean was swaying dangerously on his feet, "But I find I'm not quite ready" to let you go "to face my brothers."

"You think they're going to be trouble?" Dean asked, tone and stance going cold and defensive.

Cas smiled. "No, of course not. They love me."

"They got a funny way of showing it," Dean muttered.

"I was not yet created when they made the deal," Cas reminded him. He thought for a moment how best to explain. "I love them. But I find myself uncertain as to my feelings about what they've done. I would like some time to prepare before facing them again."

Dean shrugged, pulling a blanket from the pack and spreading it on the ground. "I don't think they're gonna be any less douchey in the morning light, but whatever."

"Thank you, Dean," Cas said, stripping off his jacket and offering it as a blanket. Dean ignored it in favor of pulling Cas down to lay on the blanket with him. Cas's Grace warmed and automatically reached for Dean. Cas was surprised when Dean's soul reached back.

Cas immediately tried to pull back, but Dean gripped him harder in body and soul. "What's that?" Dean asked, wonder mixed with weariness.

"My Grace," Cas admitted. "It's been reaching for your soul since the joining."

Dean's eyes widened in surprise, and Cas could feel nervous excitement swirling in his soul. "Oh? Is that what that 'join your Grace' stuff was at the end of the wedding?"

"Yes," Cas said.

"Why didn't you?" Dean asked, voice even but hurt coloring his soul.

Cas's Grace surged forward to reassure his mate. "I did not want to take advantage of what you did not understand."

Dean laughed, a low, sleepy sound. "Baby, you can take advantage of me anytime." He yawned again.

Cas smiled against Dean's shoulder and slung an arm over Dean's waist. Dean hauled him in a fraction of an inch closer. "Perhaps after we've returned to my home," Cas said, "if you still want it then."

There was no answer, and when Cas looked up Dean was fast asleep.

When Dean awoke in the morning, Cas was already up, staring at the palace. Dean came up close behind him, but didn't touch. "Ready to go home?"

Cas, having spent the night watching Dean sleep and thinking about his brothers not at all, thought about mentioning last night, thought about reaching out again with his Grace, but in the end all he said was, "Yes."

They started out again at once, walking close together but with few words spoken until they arrived at the palace. Dean wrapped a hand around Cas's wrist before he could reach for the door. "Cas," he began, pulling Cas closer to him. "Before we go in…"

The door swung open to reveal a tiny, pale redhead with the wrath of the Father in her eyes. Ana stared in shock at her returned brother, but in an instant she had relaxed, pulling him into the circle of her arms, shouting for the guard and her brothers.

Cas hugged his sister back tightly, his Grace rushing out to brush against hers in greeting. Hers surrounded him like a blanket, warming him inside and out until she brushed against something new and pulled back with a questioning glance at Dean. A look over his shoulder revealed that his mate was shouting angrily at the guards who were keeping their distance but eyeing him warily.

With a final squeeze, Cas stepped back. "This is Dean Winchester, my mate," he said. He didn't raise his voice, but the room went silent at the announcement anyway. Dean was still behind him, so Cas had no idea how he was reacting until he heard an exasperated exclamation from behind him. "That's what I've been trying to tell you." Dean took a step to stand next to Cas, hand sliding past wrist this time to clasp Cas's. "Husband, mate, whatever. I'm with him. Is this how you treat everyone your brother brings home?"

Cas turned a fond expression to his mate. "I've never brought anyone home before," he said honestly.

Dean smiled and squeezed his hand before leaning in to whisper, "Lucky me," right into Cas's ear.

Michael pushed to the front of the crowd, Luc in tow, and fell to his knees before his brother and glared until Lucifer followed suit. "I dare not ask for your forgiveness," Michael began. Cas leaned forward to assure his older brother that an apology was not necessary, but a squeeze of Dean's hand stopped him. Lucifer watched the interaction with interest but kept his silence as Michael continued. "I hereby give up my right to the throne and swear fealty to Castiel, Angel of Thursday."

Castiel gaped at his brother in shock. Dean grunted, a satisfied noise, "It's the very least you could do, you dick. Apology not accepted."

"Dean," Cas said in disapproval. Dean looked back at him levelly, clearly not sorry for speaking his mind. Cas turned his attention to his kneeling brothers. "Whether you ask for it or not, my forgiveness is freely given. But your fealty is unnecessary."

"Too late, little brother," Lucifer said, speaking for the first time. "I too abdicate, and swear loyalty to Castiel, Angel of Thursday, and to his consort, Dean Winchester."

Dean's smug smirk quickly faded to dismay. "Consort!" he squeaked.

Cas's heart fell at the horror in Dean's voice, but there was no time to discuss the matter. First they had a celebration to attend.

"What's with everyone wanting to throw parties in our honor?" Dean whispered during the feast.

"Clearly we are just that awesome," Cas answered deadpan, earning himself a surprised laugh and a kiss from Dean.

"Yeah, we are," Dean agreed.

After the feast there were musicians and dancing, an impromptu play written in their honor by Gabriel, and an endless parade of servants making excuses to approach Castiel and express their joy at his return. Cas didn't have the heart to refuse their attentions, but eventually the crowd thinned and Cas was able to drag his mate away from public rooms.

He tugged Dean through the palace halls and into his old chambers, and for the first time since their escape they were alone without the threat of violence or recapture hanging over them.

Cas barred the door behind them and turned to find Dean standing near his bed, examining the room with interest. "Not exactly what I was expecting from a royal bridal chamber," he remarked, sweeping one hand over the simple cotton sheets on the bed.

Cas blushed despite himself. "These are my childhood rooms. The bridal chambers are probably being prepared as we speak. We could ask a servant to take us there, if you prefer."

"No," Dean said quickly, sitting on the edge of Cas's bed. "This is fine. I... This is fine," he repeated, eyes lingering on Cas's bookshelf which was lined with family history. Cas felt his wings move restlessly with embarrassment. The motion caught Dean's eyes and he stared at them wistfully.

Remembering that Dean hadn't gotten a chance to touch them earlier, Cas crossed the room to stand in front of Dean and turned his back in offering. Cas heard a sharp inhalation behind him and then felt the tentative touch of a fingertip tracing the top ridge of his left wing. "Beautiful," Dean whispered, so softly that Cas wasn't sure he was supposed to hear.

"Thank you," he answered anyway and Dean laughed behind him.

Dean pushed both hands into Cas's feathers now, stroking and soothing without rhythm or intent. Cas relaxed into the touch, leaning back to get more of Dean's hands on his wings and humming with the sheer pleasure of being touched, being appreciated, in such a manner.

"I'm afraid of flying," Dean admitted to his back and Cas let out a soft noise of distress. "Or I was," Dean corrected, stroking lightly over Cas's pinions, "but having my own wings… I think I'm going to miss it."

Cas thought of Dean's feather, still tucked into the pocket of his jacket, and an ancient spell he'd seen in one of his Father's books, and said, "Nothing that was once a part of you is ever truly lost."

Dean laughed again. "Well, that was cryptic," he said. He leaned forward to wrap his arms under Ca's wings and around his waist, pressing his full body into Cas's wings. "I guess you'll have to take me flying once in a while, just so I don't miss it. I promise not to molest your wings in mid flight."

Cas smiled, letting himself imagine wrapping Dean in his wings and soaring high above the palace and the responsibilities that were about to be heaped on them - on him. He let the fantasy go and stood to face Dean.

Almost at once, Dean's hands moved up to bracket his hips. "I," Cas began, distracted by the sweep of Dean's hands over the jut of his hipbones. He forced himself to back up a step, out of Dean's reach. Dean frowned, but allowed him the space. "I know that the bonding..." he licked his lips, "was a way out for you - for the both of us. And I made those vows freely and of my own will. But I want you to know..."

Dean, sitting quietly on the bed, coiled and tense like a trapped animal, interrupted. "Don't presume to tell me what I want Castiel," he said.

Cas hesitated at the warning edge in Dean's voice but pushed on, determined to give Dean an out if that's what he needed. "I will not hold you to your vows, if you wish to leave."

Dean stood slowly and took the single necessary step to put himself squarely back in Cas's personal space. "Are you saying you want me to leave, Cas?" he whispered, the hurt masked with anger evident in his voice and the hard set of his jaw.

"You must - to find Sam."

Dean grunted, irritation marring his expression. "Princess Sammy's probably busy washing his hair in the Kingdom of Singer. We'll go collect him soon enough. Unless…" Dean closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Are you saying you want me to leave you?"

Castiel shook his head; then, realizing that Dean couldn't see it with his eyes closed, said, "I would keep you with me always, given the choice."

Dean's smile was a revelation, bright and beautiful as his soul, as he opened his eyes and brushed his lips softly against Cas's. "Then what are you doing?"

"I love you," Cas said, "I don't want to be something else you have to escape."

Dean kissed him again, all fire and possession, arms wrapping to pull Cas in closer. His soul reached out to begin their joining with nothing but desire and the force of its will to guide it, and Dean said gruffly, "Nothing here to escape."

It sounded a lot like "I love you" to Cas.




***
The complete list of my Supernatural fiction can be found here.

Date: 2011-04-09 09:03 am (UTC)
scaramouche: Kerry Ellis as Meat from We Will Rock You, singing (meat belts out a tune)
From: [personal profile] scaramouche
Eeek! This was adorable, I really enjoyed Dean and Castiel's easy interactions, how they found comfort with each other and bandied together as allies against Alastair. Your Castiel voice is lovely.

Date: 2011-04-17 02:23 am (UTC)
dossier: the ancient ancestor of Herbatus Unimoosis (Default)
From: [personal profile] dossier
I really enjoyed the flow of this cool story! Castiel is so imperturbable, taking events as they come, and the way that Dean slid into his life was smooth and sweet. Dean as winged creature seems a little at odds with his normal canon self, but it really works here.

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