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Title: Loyalties
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating/pairing: PG/gen
Spoilers: through all aired episodes; limited speculation (but no spoilers) for future.
Summary: The final fight is between good and evil ... except for how it's a bit more complicated than that. Castiel draws some lines, and Dean draws others. Written for spnflashfic's fight challenge.

Dean awoke to the flutter of wings -- a familiar sound by now -- and he knew, even without opening his eyes, what he'd see.

"Dean." Castiel's voice, quiet and persistent. "It's time."

Dean sighed and sat up. Castiel stood half in shadow, but the half that was illuminated looked *exhausted*, and his shoulders were bowed with a weight human shoulders weren't meant to carry. Maybe angel's shoulders weren't either, Dean thought, and then shoved the sympathy out of his mind. He owed Castiel his current freedom, maybe, but that didn't mean he had to feel sorry for the guy.

"Time for what?" Dean said, even though he knew the answer.

Castiel gazed at him. Behind his eyes there was an impossible, unreal depth, an infinity of infinities. "For the end. Or the beginning. Or both." He tilted his head. "You know our orders, Dean. You know *yours*."

Dean felt a flare of adrenaline, wasn't sure whether it was fear or anger. "Yeah, well, fuck that," he said. "I don't care what he does, Sam isn't dying. Not by friendly fire."

"When he strays--"

"*If*," Dean corrected grimly.

Castiel acknowledged the correction with a slight nod. "If he strays, then. Which is likely, given his ... choice of counselors."

Meaning Ruby, of course; not that Dean had any fondness for her, but he still felt himself bristling a bit. "Then what?" he challenged, because Castiel's statement felt half-finished.

"Then he will die. If you will not do it, we will. It must happen, for the sake of all on heaven and earth."

Dean looked at him for a long time. There was a clock in the other room that should have been ticking but wasn't; the silence felt like a weight. "Fuck you," he said finally, low and angry. "Fuck you *and* the horse you rode in on. -- do angels have horses, or is that just the apocalypse guys? -- never mind. Sam *is not dying*. I'm not going to kill him, and I won't let you, either. I've already watched him die; I went to *hell* because he died; I'm not going to watch it again."

"You are making a mistake," Castiel said. He sounded as sincere as he always did, with grief this time.

"Not as big as the one you're making."

Castiel was silent for a long time. Then he said, "This war ... you know what it means to me. To my brothers. To the ones that have died, and the ones that still fight."

"Not to mention what it means to us puny little humans."

The angel's expression was unreadable even before he dipped his head in acknowledgment, casting the entirety of his face in shadow. "I think," he said carefully, "that some on the side of Good may have forgotten that."

"No shit," Dean said. "Look, if you're not going to help, I'm fucking done with this dream business. I don't care that you're the only reason I'm not dreaming about hell. You can just go away, I don't need your help."

There was a long silence, and then Castiel spoke slowly, like the words were being dragged from him. "When I first came to you, I ... didn't fully accept my orders. Now I do."

"So, what, you're threatening me, now?"

"Far from it." Castiel straightened up, stood for a moment facing Dean, and then slowly, gracefully, knelt, bowing his head. "I was not supposed to tell you this, but Heaven was very clear in this regard. I have been instructed to follow your orders, Dean Winchester."

Dean stared down in disbelief, and had to clear his throat before he could speak. "So, uh, if I told you to protect Sam as well as protecting me..."

Castiel looked up, and he didn't say a word, but in the depths of his eyes there was an answer. "Go with God, Dean," he said, very softly.

And Dean awoke.

It was morning. The sun was shining, very much like an ordinary day, and Dean took a few shaky breaths before sitting up.

"You okay?" Sam asked him. He was sitting on his own (neatly-made) bed, half-dressed, very much awake.

"Got a visitor." Dean rubbed the back of his neck. "He says it's time to go save the world."

"Great." Sam shrugged his shirt on and started buttoning it; his head was down, and he wasn't meeting Dean's gaze. "Let's go kick Hell's ass."

"We may have to kick Heaven's ass too," Dean said, just to see Sam's reaction, but there was none, aside from a slow nod. "Hey," he said, and Sam looked up.

There were a hundred things he could have said; words of encouragement, or reassurance, or fear, or any number of other things. They rose simultaneously in his throat, choking him for a moment.

We're going to be awesome.

We might have an ally.

You aren't evil, or a monster; you're my brother.

I'm not going to let you die.

I trust you.

I'll take care of you, like I always do...

"Never mind," he said finally, and looked down.

Sam pulled his leather jacket on; it made a rustling sound against his shirt, sounding like he had his own set of wings.

"Yeah," Sam said. "Me too."


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