“That’s the man who is going to teach you how to love, Castiel.”
Hushed words were spoken close to the angel’s ear as he neared the end of his journey. He could see the ragged figure close now, covered in chains and blood and filth. Hidden within the depths of the darkest expanse of space. Fire blazed around the angel, in defiance of his actions, scalding his true form to it’s core. He could feel himself starting to burn up, to fade, to die. It wouldn’t be long now before he was just another puff of smoke in the cascades of darkness. But the mission - his one true purpose - pushed him forward, closer, closer, until his hand rested on a shoulder. Solidly grabbing as his touch seared into flesh, marking the man down to his soul.
Dean Winchester has been saved.
Nearly nine years later the miracle happened in a barn - as miracles are wont to do. He’d laugh at the irony if he wasn’t so busy dying. He could feel himself fading, his grace burning out like coals. Only small sparks remained, contained under bleeding and cracking olive skin.
He stared at the man before him, speaking in low tones with his mother and brother. A man who’s panic he could feel through the chill of the midnight air. Dean’s hands flexed at his sides as he spoke. He was going to miss those hands.
And suddenly Castiel remembered that small moment of Dean’s rescue. Or perhaps, he’d never forgotten but had let the memory fade softly as something of little consequence. Either way, it was a memory he’d not revisited in years. But he held onto it now like a precious jewel, examining it in his mind’s eye anew. Who had spoken those words? Was it his brethren?
Was it his father?
…did it really matter?
Because as he watched Dean nervously glance his way, lips pulled tight, back stock straight - he knew. Unequivocally. Undeniably.
It was true.
And he was suddenly overcome with the emotion it - the sheer beauty of the path he’d been sent on. He’d watched millenniums worth of human lives transverse like he’d experienced in his short time with the Winchesters - one mistake and fortunate happenstance after another, all blending together to push a person to their best potential. To teach them to be their best selves. And he’d envied their progression, how they could change and love and hurt and grow. Evolve.
But now here he was. A completely different angel, a completely changed man, from the one who dove into hell head first simply because he was commanded.
All because of knowing Dean.
Castiel hardly recognized himself and yet, he felt more himself than he’d ever been. Some might call him an abomination.
But in truth he was proud of the man he’d become - a man who knew what true love really is.
So he didn’t mince words, he didn’t stop them from flowing once they’d started. He told Dean he loved him with the conviction that moment demanded. With the sincerity that the righteous man deserved.
He wasn’t stupid - he could see the pain and the hesitation across Dean’s face when he spoke them. Knowing that they were as rare to Dean as anything in this world. Knowing he’ll toss this moment around his mind like a hot potato for a long time to come.
But mostly knowing that he will leave this world having given Dean the second greatest gift he could - the knowledge that he was undeniably, unconditionally loved.
Second only to the gift that Castiel was capable of it.
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