elementalv: Screenshot from Sherlock of "You know where to find me. SH." (Default)
[personal profile] elementalv
Title: Choice
Author: elementalv
Rating: PG
Pairing: Gen
Spoilers/Notes: Post-ep for 5.18; nothing specific for the episode, but it does assume the reader has seen the episodes up through 5.18, because the story doesn’t make a lot of sense otherwise.
Summary: Cas knows there’s a trap, one that goes beyond the obvious, but he isn’t sure what it might be.

~*~*~

Cas regains consciousness with no small amount of resignation. He wishes he could at least be grateful to still be alive, but the truth — and he’s never shied away from the truth, no matter how much he might wish to — the truth is that part of him hoped that the other angels would take him out well before the endgame. It’s not that his memories of oblivion were all that fond, because he doesn’t have actual memories of oblivion. Instead, it’s more that he thinks oblivion must be better than watching his faith drain away faster than his grace has.

He rolls over to push himself up, and then he groans, because his chest hurts. It shouldn’t, though. The cuts should have healed up by now, considering how much effort he’d had to go to in order to keep them fresh and the blood intact. But that isn’t the case; what he’s suffering makes him think the cuts went deep enough to scratch his angelic form, and that doesn’t make any kind of sense. Box cutters just aren’t that impressive in the grand scheme of things. Still, there’s pain, and he can’t ignore it, no matter how much he wants to.

“Manna?” At the sound of the question, Cas jerks around, making one of the cuts tear open a little further.

“Joshua. What —” It’s then that Cas finally sees where he landed, and if anything, he’s even more confused. By all rights, the cuts on his chest should be healed and his grace fully restored. Instead, he feels more diminished than he ever has, feels almost human, in fact, and for the first time in his life, he thinks he might understand bone-deep terror.

“I know you haven’t been home in a while, Castiel, but I felt certain you would remember manna.” Joshua holds out a piece, and Cas takes it, biting into it without thinking. “Does it still taste the same, or is it different?”

“Different from what?” Cas asks after swallowing.

“Different from when you were an angel.”

“I’m still an angel,” he says, fear and anger the driving forces behind his response.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yes.” And he is sure, which is a minor revelation on its own, considering his physical state.

“Nice to hear it,” Joshua says. He cocks his head to the left, and suddenly, Cas’s injuries are healed, and his grace is fully restored. The shock of his grace being renewed makes him collapse in on himself. He’d known he was losing bits and pieces of it all along, but until that moment, he hadn’t realized just how far he’d fallen. “Feeling better?”

“Yes.” Cas thinks about that response, automatic and trusting, and he wonders what happened to his learned and nearly automatic distrust of Heaven and her inhabitants.

“Good.”

They stare at each other for a time, Joshua blank and incomprehensible, and Cas doing his best to match that blank stare. He has to admit that as far as pissing contests go, it isn’t nearly as interesting as the ones Dean inevitably gets into. Even so, it’s emotionally draining and difficult to keep himself purposely cut off from Joshua when all Cas wants to do is sink himself into his brother’s grace and let the weight of free will slip from his shoulders. Given how much higher is Joshua within the host, Cas knows he won’t be able to remain apart for very much longer, and really, he doesn’t want to. No matter what Johua’s reasons were for bringing Cas to the Garden, Cas decides that he will take the time to enjoy this connection for however long it lasts.

He relaxes his will and asks, “Why am I here?”

“I like you, Castiel.” Cas twitches an eyebrow. “No, I do. I always have. I remember when you were first created. I remember how curious you were about the universe and how absolutely relentless you were in getting the answers you sought. You were a breath of fresh air.”

Cas remembers his earliest days with more than a little disbelief that he could have been so naïve and trusting. “From what I’m told, the air around me these days is tainted with the scent of brimstone more than anything else.”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s something else.”

He sighs and asks again, “Why am I here?”

“You’re being given a choice.”

“By whom?”

“By me,” Joshua answers, not bothering to dissemble.

“You.”

“Me,” he agrees. “The Garden is my responsibility, and none may gainsay my decisions.”

“Except for God.”

“No, not even God. He relinquished the Garden to my care and will not question my judgment as to what I do with it.”

That surprises Cas, though not as much as it might have at one time. God, as Dean put it, has left the building, so he supposes it makes a certain amount of sense that He would have assigned permanent duties beforehand.

“What do you plan to do with it?”

“Offer it as sanctuary to you,” Joshua says gently.

“Sanctuary?” Cas knows there’s a trap, one that goes beyond the obvious, but he isn’t sure what it might be. “And in return for being granted a place within the Garden, I don’t return to Earth?”

“Of course not. You’re well out of the fight and whatever fallout there might be once Michael and Lucifer meet.”

“Fallout?”

“You rebelled,” Joshua says. “There has only ever been one punishment for rebellion. You know that.”

He does know that, knew it even as he took his stand at Dean Winchester’s side. Once the apocalypse is over, there is only one place left for Cas. It makes him sick to think of his wings changing, of his grace turning to rot, and there are days when he wants to run from it, hide from his future. And Joshua now is offering Cas a way out, a future that doesn’t involve perdition. Cas thought he understood what temptation meant, but it’s clear to him that he didn’t have a clue. He only thought he knew based on human behavior. It was a mistake on his part to think that angelic temptations were in any way similar to human, and it’s one he won’t make again.

“This is the trap,” he says simply, and Joshua nods in agreement.

“You have a great deal to consider. I’ll leave you to it.”

“Wait.”

Joshua is right that it’s a lot to consider, but he’s wrong if he thinks Cas hasn’t already thought about it. He’s thought about it every time he chased after another inkling of God’s presence, every time he answered one of Dean’s summonses, every time he looked at the apocalypse in motion and realized just what was at stake if he and the Winchesters failed. Cas is horrified by his personal future as a demon in Hell, but it’s nothing compared to the horror of seeing his Father’s creation collapse under the onslaught of Lucifer’s hatred. God may no longer care, but Cas does, so he gives Joshua the only answer possible.

“I have a duty on Earth,” he says.

Joshua takes in a sharp breath even as sorrow fills his eyes. “I wish you would reconsider. Your future —”

“Is not bright. I know.” He also knows that there’s a chance that Raphael may smite him if given the opportunity, but if not, Cas thinks he might be able to extract a promise from Dean to kill him before the end. He thinks oblivion at the hands of a friend — and Dean is a friend, despite Cas’s loss of faith in him — would be far better than what Raphael would do.

“And if Dean will not act on your behalf?”

“Would you?” Joshua doesn’t say anything. He just touches Cas’s forehead, and the next thing he knows, he’s standing in Bobby Singer’s kitchen, his wounds healed and his grace replenished.

As Cas stands there, listening to Dean and Sam and Bobby bicker in the living room about the best way to track Cas down and get him back from “those self-righteous bastards, because there’s no way in hell they’re letting that little bastard Raphael near him again,” he realizes that somewhere along the line, his faith underwent a renewal as well. It’s no longer as perfect as it once was, but it’s true and it’s strong, just like his friendship with Dean.

It isn’t a lot to go on, Cas knows, but he thinks it might be enough, and in the end, that’s all that he’s ever needed.
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