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Sleep does not come easy to Castiel. He spends most of the night twisting restlessly between his bed sheets, haunted by the image of Dean's unconscious body lying limp in his guards’ arms. He'd looked so fragile, so small. Nothing like the vibrant Dean Winchester that Castiel knows.

Dark smears of blood had painted the globes of his backside, more dripped fresh and bright down the inside of his thighs, obscene against the ghostly pallor of his skin. Lord Singer had to support the king and escort him away once he'd seen the damage he'd inflicted on his son. Many of the guests, the people of Winchester, had wept.

Castiel had left the ballroom as quickly as he could, sickened by the celebratory mood of his father, Zachariah, and their sycophants. They'd been shouting for music and more drink as Castiel fled, laughing about the ruination of an alpha prince, talking excitedly about the next night already.

The knowledge that Prince Dean's ordeal is far from over, that he still has nights of this torture to suffer, plagues Castiel's thoughts.

Just before sunrise Castiel admits to himself that he's slept what little he can. He showers and dresses before deciding to explore the castle grounds, with the faint hope that watching the sun rise and breathing in the crisp morning air will lift his mood.

His journey out into the gardens is unimpeded. The handful of soldiers stationed in the hallways watch him with tired eyes, but do nothing to stop him. And nothing to help him when he takes a wrong turn and has to retrace his steps. The sun is just beginning to rise when Castiel finds his way into the walled gardens. The chilly air, damp with promise of a beautiful day ahead, clears his head somewhat and goes a little way toward refreshing his dulled and exhausted senses.

As the sweet pink early light from the sun casts a revealing glow over the gardens, a tickle of unease prickles at the back of Castiel's neck. There's someone else close by. He's sure of it. He may not be the great warrior that his older brother was, but his senses are sharply trained. He follows his instincts and, treading quietly, ventures deeper into the gardens, past the flowerbeds and the speckled roses, towards a dense copse of evergreens. As he nears, he realizes that the trees are hiding a low stone bench, and subsequently hiding Samuel Winchester.

He doesn't note Castiel's presence at first so Castiel has a minute to take in the young prince’s disheveled appearance; his hair, much longer than his soldier brother's, is a tangle of wild waves. His clothes are the ones he wore last night only now his suit is creased, his white shirt rumpled and hanging loose and untucked, and his tie is lying in a sad knot on the dirt at his feet. Samuel is slumped on the hard bench, his head in his hands and his shoulders heaving.

Castiel coughs softly, subtly alerting the prince to his presence.

Obviously surprised, Samuel's head jerks up. A second later, he throws his hands up and scrubs them over his face, not quickly enough to hide his tear-marked cheeks and blood-shot eyes however. "What do you want?" He snarls at Castiel like a petulant teen, which in actual fact, he still is.

"I'm sorry," Castiel says. "I did not mean to disturb you, Prince Samuel. I was enjoying a walk in the gardens and I thought I heard someone."

"A walk? In the middle of the night? Yeah, right." Samuel spits.

Castiel looks up at the sky pointedly before commenting. "It is early, but hardly the middle of the night, Prince Samuel."

Samuel's eyes widen when he realizes that the sun is indeed rising, but he doesn't apologize, simply shrugs as though it’s inconsequential. Castiel has to wonder how long the boy's been sitting out here that he thought it was the middle of the night.

"And," Castiel admits when Sam does little more than scowl at him. "I was having a great deal of trouble sleeping."

"Why?" Samuel sneers. "Too excited at the thought of owning my brother. Too horny after seeing him fucked and humiliated in front of hundreds of people? I bet you can't wait until it's your turn, until-"

"No," Castiel snaps. "No, Samuel. I thought you of all people would know better. I was Dean's friend. I am Dean's friend. I hate what they're doing to him."

Samuel looks at him for a minute, his expression stony. Then, his shoulders slump and the anger in his eyes slowly drains away. "Really?" He asks, voice suddenly unbearably young.

"Really," Castiel nods. After a second's hesitation he takes a seat beside Samuel on the bench. "Last night was...it was truly awful. Seeing Dean hurt like that, it was.....none of this was my idea, Prince Samuel, I promise you. If I had any power I would never have allowed this to pass."

"Sam," The prince says. "Call me Sam. You always used to call me Sam."

"You remember that?" Castiel asks, surprised. Sam was only a small child the last time that Castiel had talked to him. A chubby five year old with perpetually sticky hands and a stuffed brown dog called Bones that he carried everywhere he went.

Sam shrugs, a distant smile on his face. "I remember you and Dean dumping me. I was insanely jealous; he used to have so much fun with you. He talked about you all the time when we were younger. When you lost touch, when you didn't write him back, he was distraught. Not that he admitted it, but he was an insufferable jerk for months. Even Mom got fed up with him, and she had the patience of an angel."

"He wrote to me?" Castiel says.

"Well yeah." Sam says as though it's obvious. As though he hasn't just shone a light on a subject that Castiel hasn't thought about in years. "And you know Dean," Sam continues. "He hated writing letters. It was usually June before mom nagged him into writing the last of his birthday thank you letters. But after he found out about your mom and brother, he wrote to you religiously, every week for months."

"But...but," Castiel stutters, a sudden cramp squeezing his heart into a tight ball in his chest. "I never....I never received any letters. I would have....that would have meant so much."

"Oh," Sam breathes out, his eyes widening. "Oh Cas," And then his hand covers Castiel's where it sits between them on the stone bench. "He loved you, man. You had to know that. You were his very best friend."

Castiel stares at the tree in front of him, watching as rays of sunlight start to illuminate the dark foliage. He can't think of anything to say. He wonders why his father, for it surely couldn't have been anyone else, why he would have stopped Dean's letters from reaching him. They were harmless letters from a child. "He....Dean....he....he was mine too. My very best friend."

Castiel and Sam sit in silence a few minutes longer, both lost in a distant world of their own thoughts. Eventually Castiel draws in a shaky breath and asks, "Are you alright, Sam? You were upset, when I first saw you, and you....well, you look as though you've been sitting out here a while."

Sam sniffs, and when he answers, his voice is choked and wet, tears threatening to fall from his red-rimmed eyes again. “They wouldn't let me see him. He was hurt, Cas. Really hurt. And they wouldn't let me go to him. He wasn't even allowed back in his own rooms. Apparently-" Sam's voice drips with disgust as he quotes, - "He's no longer an alpha prince. He's nothing. Not alpha or omega, he's no longer heir to the throne or part of my family. He's no-one until this ritual is finished and you marry him."

"That's garbage, Sam." Castiel says, shocked at the cruelty. "Complete nonsense."

"I know that, but the guards, they wouldn't listen. And now, tomorrow...tonight," Sam shudders, "I've got to....it’s my turn. I'm supposed to stand up there and f..fuck him. I can't...can't do it, Cas. I can't." Sam's sobbing by the time he finishes. Castiel can't blame him. He loops his arm around Sam's shoulder and holds him until his tears dry up and breathing evens out.

"I know it's awful, Sam. I know. But maybe it's better - for Dean - if it's you. You love him, you'll be careful, gentle, maybe that's better than-"

"Would you want that?" Sam looks at him earnestly. "If you were Dean, would you want your kid brother to...to....do that to you?"

No, Castiel thinks, if he were Dean he would not. Dean is deeply devoted to his brother. Since Samuel was a baby, Dean has put his little brother's wellbeing far before his own. He may tease him relentlessly, but Dean would die for Sam. In fact, Castiel suspects that Dean sacrificed himself more to secure his brother's future than his country's. No doubt, his brother's forced involvement in the ritual is one of the most horrific parts of this whole nightmare for Dean.

As dawn chases away the last of the night, a veil lifts from behind Castiel's eyes. A decision is made. One that seems obvious in the light of day.

It's time for Castiel to make a stand. His silent compliance in this debacle has to end. If not, he's not fit to ever be king. If he can't protect his future husband, then how can his countrymen expect him to protect them? His father may be king, but Zachariah is not. If King Charles is handing over the reins to anyone it should be to his son and heir, not an advisor. If his father's enthusiasm for rule has dwindled then it's time for him to step down, not allow a petty, cruel man to make his decisions for him.

Castiel knows he should not have stood idly by for so long, but he was never groomed to be king. Michael was destined to be a great and fair leader; one Castiel would have gladly followed. When he died, the whole country, including Castiel, had been left reeling. Castiel doubted his worth to rule, doubted he was as skillful, strong or as brave as his brother. He still doubts that. But he is a good man, and he knows the difference between right and wrong. It may well be too late to stop this farce of a ritual, but this will be the last act of a king who has lost his way. A king who has lost his sense of duty, fairness, and honor. It's time for Castiel to act with the same braveness that Dean has. He owes him that much.

Castiel inhales deeply and straightens his spine. "You're right," he says to Sam.

"I am?" Sam says, looking at Castiel strangely, as though he's just grown horns or wings.

"Yes. I may not be able to stop this ritual, but I will ensure that you are not forced to take part in it. Who would Dean prefer do you think? Is there someone who can take your place?"

"How," Sam asks. "How can you possibly-"

"Who, Sam?" Castiel repeats, because right now he's not sure of the how, just that he will do it.

"Well, there's Uncle Bobby I guess." Sam says slowly.

"He's too old. Our doctors already ruled him out." The list of Alphas had to be approved by both Hell and Heaven, or more specifically Crowley and Zachariah. While Lord Robert had done his best for Dean, there were still a couple of Alphas that Zachariah had insisted on, for the sole reason they were not Dean Winchester's biggest fans.

"Maybe Sir Cain then. He's a third cousin, but on the Winchester side so it should be close enough to satisfy the royal blood stipulation. He's a guard, but so is Benny, Lord Benjamin, and he's due to take part in the ritual later."

Castiel nods and stands, determination thrumming through every fiber in his body now that he's decided to act.

"Cas, what are you gonna do?" Sam looks up at him through his too long bangs with a mixture of hope and trepidation on his face.

"I'm going to pay my father a visit, and sort this mess out and then I'm going to see Dean. I think we need to talk."

"Will you tell him I tried....I tried to get to him and that I'm proud of him, and I....I love him."

Castiel smiles. "He knows that, Sam, but yes I'll tell him. And don't worry, I'll make sure he receives all the care and attention he needs. I doubt the ritual can be stopped, but I promise I will do everything I can to help him, and I swear that I will protect him in the future."

Sam raises his eyebrows doubtfully.

"You don't trust me to keep my word, Sam?" Castiel asks, undeniably hurt.

Sam snorts a wry laugh and shakes his head. "I trust you, Cas. I just don't think Dean's gonna take too kindly to anyone swearing to protect him. Not even you."

"I understand he's a capable soldier, Sam, but he will be an omega."

"He'll still be Dean Winchester, and if I know anything about my brother he'll kick your ass before he lets you treat him like a delicate flower."

"You are right as usual, Sam, but still I swear I'll protect him, just....without him knowing maybe?" Castiel flips Sam a small smile and Sam laughs.

"Good luck, Cas; you're sure gonna need it."

Yes, Castiel thinks as walks back to the castle to face his father, he is.

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Dean is glad to wake in the morning, if only because it brings an end to the increasingly horrific nightmares that have plagued his sleep. Dreams in shades of red and black. Gnarled fingers grasping at him, clawing through his clothes, shredding his skin, peeling away his flesh in delicate layers until he can see his own bones, his own beating heart. He regains consciousness gasping for oxygen like a dying man, his sheets twisted like rope around his ankles, sweat dripping down his face, clinging like tears from his eyelashes.

He takes shuddering breaths until his pulse stops hammering in his ears and the phantom smell of blood fades from his nose. He runs his tongue over his lips; they're dried out, cracked and stinging, and his throat feels as though he's been swallowing crushed glass. It's the thought of finding water, blessedly cool water, that propels him out of bed before he's fully awake. The bedsheets do their best to slow him down, tangling around his feet and almost sending him falling in a heap on the floor. He lurches awkwardly, trying to regain his balance, and sharply discovers that staying in bed might not be such a bad idea. He aches everywhere. Everywhere. Every one of his muscles feels as though it's been squeezed through a mangle. And his ass - Dean groans and curls back down on his bed. Except it's not his bed. This is not his room.

He vaguely remembers waking briefly in Cain's arms. Flashes of awareness that his ordeal was over. Being laid out and sponged clean. Remembers shame engulfing him as strange fingers spread cold numbing cream across his ass. Inside his ass. Remebers the humiliation he burned with when a plug was pressed into his hole, sealing his father's come deep inside of him. He remembers someone forcing a bottle of water to his lips, water that he'd gulped down and almost thrown back up as the faint but bitter taste of semen had hit the back of his throat. When a pill had been pressed to his tongue with the promise of sleep, Dean had swallowed it down gratefully.

The intrusion of the plug in his ass is still there. Holding his father's seed inside of him. Dean's stomach heaves at the thought. At the thought of how much more he still has to endure.

He looks up as the door handle turns, hoping to see a friendly face. Sam maybe or Benny. Probably not his dad; Dean doubts the king will be able to look him in the eye any time soon, if ever again. Maybe Jo or Charlie, hopefully with more painkillers or even just some chilled water, something to soothe the dry fire in his throat. He's disappointed.

"Well, good morning, Deano. Nice to see you awake at last. You were pretty out of it last night. Fucked senseless by daddy dearest I guess." Meg saunters into the room, white uniform on and tray in her hands. Dean remembers her clearly. Alastair's nurse, the sadistic bitch who laughed as the doctor talked about castrating him. He doesn't want her anywhere near him.

"It's Prince Dean to you, bitch." Dean rasps, the words scraping against his raw throat. He snatches at his blankets and hauls them up to his chest, covering his nakedness from her roaming eyes.

"Now, Deano that's no way to speak to the girl with the drugs is it? And I think if anyone here is the bitch, well that would be you, princess."

Dean scowls up at her, a barrage of insults on the tip of his tongue, fingers twitching with the need to curl into fists that he'd never use on a female, even one as detestable as Meg. But she doesn't give him a chance to do so much as open his mouth. "I'm here to examine you Dean, so drop the blanket, roll over and let me see that peachy ass of yours. I bet you're feeling a little tender this morning, huh? Is that plug holding all of daddy's come in there? He gave it to you real good, didn't he? You think he's been saving it up special, dreaming of filling you up-"

"Look nurse Ratched," Dean snarls. "Why don't you just leave the drugs and go fuck yourself!"

Meg places the tray on the wooden table beside Dean's bed, and stares down at him, hands on her hips and her smug little smile firmly in place. "Are you being uncooperative, Dean? Do I need to send for Doctor Alastair, have him examine you?"

Dean simply scowls back at her, ignoring her threats, refusing to acknowledge that the mere thought of the doctor makes his stomach clench and his pulse rate spike.

"You know, Dean, he's still in charge of your medical care. It's in writing, a contract, signed and sealed. And you know what else is in writing, buried in itty bitty small print - Alastair has the power to stop this whole thing. If he thinks the ritual isn't working, he can take other measures. That's right, sweetie, he can wait and watch as they all strap you down over that breeding bench, fucking you, and filling you up with come until you're swollen with it, and then," Meg drops her voice to a whisper, leaning down so he sees the flash of sick excitement in her eyes. "And then, Dean, we can make you watch as we slice you up. Maybe we'll go the whole way, get rid of that little dick of yours as well as yours balls. It's not like an O needs a cock."

"That's enough you nasty-ass skank," Dean says through gritted teeth. He's not gonna lie down and take that kind of crap from anyone. Hoping that he's hiding the pain shooting from his ass down the back of his legs and up every nerve in his spine, he pushes himself upright and out of bed, his blanket clutched to his chest. "Get out of my room before I have the guards drag you out."

"I don't think you're in any position to do that. Take a look around, Dean." Meg laughs saccharine sweet and chilling. "This isn't the royal quarters. It's not even the best of the guest quarters. You’re not a prince now, you're nothing. Plugged up and full of Alpha come. You're nothing but a filthy embarrassment. One your family wants to hide away and forget about."

"You're lying." Dean says, reaching out to grasp the headboard of the bed to steady himself. "My family would never do that."

"Well they're certainly not here holding your hand or mopping your brow are they?" Meg gestures around the small room, making her point clear. "They don't care, Dean. You're not an alpha any more. Not a prince of Winchester. You’re nothing but a whore now."

Dean isn't in the mood for this. He's exhausted, sore and he still stinks from last night. All he wants is a hot shower, coffee and lots of drugs, not necessarily in that order. "Maybe that's true, but at least it's only my ass I'm selling. Not my soul. And I know that my sacrifice makes a difference. When all this is over, I'll still be able look at myself in the mirror and be proud of who I am, of what I've done. What about you, Meg. Working for a bastard like Alastair, how does that make you feel? What's that done to your soul? Can you look in the mirror without seeing a monster staring back?"

Meg's expression turns ugly, her lips twisting into a feral smirk. "You think you're a real hero, don't you Dean?"

"No, no I don't." Dean says. "But I do know right from wrong. And I know-"

"Know what, Deano?" Dean's head jerks up as the door swings opens again. His heart sinks and his knees collapse, the bed softening his fall only a little as his legs give way. "I hope you're behaving yourself, boy. Not giving my delectable Nurse Meg any trouble."

Doctor Alastair, black leather medical bag in his hand, strolls into the room, stopping by Meg's side to run a proprietary hand across her backside. "She's a real spit fire isn't she? And an absolute pro with a scalpel."

"What do you want?" Dean asks, his voice distant and muffled through the dark cloud of panic forming inside his head.

"What do I want?" Alastair laughs. "What I want is for you to learn your place. To realize that the only thing an O has to worry about is doing what it’s told."

"That's not....I'm not-" Dean says faintly

"Maybe not yet, but you will be soon, Dean. And it's my job to make sure of it." Alastair places his bag on the bed, takes his jacket off and hands it to Meg. He rolls the sleeves of his white shirt up methodically, precisely, watching Dean as he does it. "Now O, hands and knees - present."

Dean stares, dumbfounded.

A beat of nothing. Silence. Expectation.

Alastair draws his arm back, and although Dean sees him do it, sees the movement clearly telegraphed, the back-handed strike across his cheekbone stuns him senseless.

"Let's try again," Alastair says, calmly. "Turn over, ass in the air, present."

Dean raises his hand to his cheek, feels the heat below his palm, even as his brain is struggling to catch up with what's happening.

"You really are a dumb O, aren't you?" Alastair says, just before he smacks the other side of Dean's face with a blow so hard that's Dean's ears ring, and he tastes blood.

By the time Dean regains his focus, Alastair is rummaging in his bag, and speaking to Meg. "-the gag and restraints. It's a stupid bitch, looks like we'll to have to do this the hard way."

No, Dean thinks. This isn't right. This isn't supposed to happen. He isn't going to lie here and let this happen, not again, not now. He's not tied down this time. And he's definitely not helpless.

He is sore though, and exhausted, muscles drained and reflexes dulled. He manages to kick Alastair in the face as he leans over his bag, manages to get his feet on the floor, and shoulder his way past Meg. Almost manages to make it all the way to the door before Alastair throws a wooden chair against his back, sending him crashing into the wall. Lurching upright, head spinning and shoulder throbbing, he dodges Alastair once, but not twice. The doctor throws himself at Dean, knocking the wind from him and dropping him to the floor, Alastair on top, pinning him down.

"You are feisty aren't you, bitch," Alastair laughs.

Dean shudders as he feels the doctor's foul breath on his face, seeping up his nose, the taste rancid in the back of his throat. "It's going to be such fun breaking you." Saliva drips onto Dean's face as Alastair emphasizes each word. His hand shoving down in-between them and grabbing hold of Dean's flaccid cock, crushing it in his fist.

Dean struggles, but it's useless. Alastair is too strong, and the pain is too much. Tears spring to his eyes and the air rushes from his lungs. Meg giggles in the background and all Dean can do is pray for help.

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As Castiel expects, there are two guards posted outside his father's guest rooms. For once luck is on his side and he knows them both well; Gadreel and Inias. He wouldn't go so far as to call them friends, he doesn't believe that he truly has friends. Other than Dean. His father had never really encouraged it, and after his mother left, had all but forbid it. ‘You have family and duty Castiel, that is all you need. Friends will just betray you.’ If it hadn't been for his mother, for his older brothers, he would never have known what friends were. He wouldn't have known what love was either. Or laughter. And once his mother and Gabriel vanished all of those things were in very short supply.

The guards may not be his friends but they do respect him enough to let him enter unnannounced. And also to do him a small favor without question.

His father, still dressed in pajamas, is seated by a window where the early morning light spills in, casting a pale yellow glow over the open pages of his journal. He looks up at Castiel questioningly, fountain pen poised mid-air. "Castiel?"

"Father." Disregarding etiquette, Castiel approaches the king without bowing or addressing him officially. He doesn't even sit so as to be as it the same level as King Charles. He towers over the man, holding himself rigid, knees locked and arms straight by his sides. "Sam Winchester will not be participating in the ritual tonight."

"What?" The king’s eyebrows draw together in confusion. "What are you talking about boy?"

"I'm not a boy, father. I haven't been a boy for years.”

The king shakes his head dismissively. "Well, you're certainly acting more like a child than a grown man now. And why on earth are you babbling about Samuel Winchester."

"Listen to me father!" Castiel spits, years of frustration and anger are boiling below his skin and his only fear is they'll consume him before he can make his feelings clear. "I've had enough. I will not allow you to continue making foolish decisions...decisions that ruin lives, that hurt people."

The king's face slides from confusion to stony displeasure. "I make decisions that benefit my country, my people."

"Tearing the Winchesters apart, and humiliating Prince Dean? That has nothing to do with the good of Heaven."

"It will bring peace."

Castiel huffs out an exasperated breath. "No, handing over Raphael brought peace; the turning of Dean Winchester only kindles more bad blood between neighbors that should be friends. That were once friends."

"John Winchester was a traitorous bastard, and no friend of mine." The king rages slapping his pen down carelessly on the table and rising to his feet. "And it was Winchester that declared war on us. The old fool started this whole bloody mess."

"After your cousin killed his wife! If you had extradited Raphael in the beginning, all of this would have been avoided."

"I’m not going over this old ground with you again, Castiel! It's done. A treaty has been signed." His father turns away from Castiel as though dismissing him, and paces across the room.

Castiel stands his grounds, inhales and exhales shakily, fights to adopt a calmness he doesn't feel. "A treaty that demands the suffering and degradation of a man who has done nothing wrong."

"He killed my son!" The king yells, spinning back, a red hue climbing up his neck.

"He did not."

"He helped lead the Winchester army into battle. He helped his father seize our lands. He fought against us. He-"

Castiel cuts him off with the plain truth his father must accept. "He did not kill Michael."

"He was responsible. Him and his father."

Castiel's calmness is deserting him, his even tone degenerating into blunt anger. "Then you are just as responsible. You sent Michael into war. You and Zachariah. You sent him to attack the Winchester outpost. Did you expect them not to defend themselves?"

"I...I..." The king stutters, face now violently red. "Zachariah assured me the mission was a simple one. That the outpost was scarcely defended. That-"

"Zachariah!" The mention of the man shatters Castiel's last fragile sliver of patience. "How can you not see? How can you not see the ways in which that man manipulates you? He's a snake, Father. A self-serving deceitful snake! He doesn't care about Heaven, about our people. He cares about himself. And you're a fool for trusting him. For sitting back and letting that scum make decisions that result in war and death and hatred!"

"Don't raise your voice to me, Castiel."

"Yes, Castiel, I think you forget your place." Castiel had not heard Zachariah enter, but as he'd asked Inias to fetch him, his appearance is no surprise. Twisting around to face the man who secretly thinks of himself as the real power in the room, he straightens his shoulders, and takes a deep breath to regain some modicum of self-control. "No, Zachariah. I believe you have forgotten yours. I am son and heir to the kingdom of Heaven. You are an advisor, nothing more."

"You are a child. An ignorant naive boy. You aren't fit to fill your father's shoes. And I doubt you ever will be."

"I am a man, Zachariah. One with my own mind. And I will be king. And Dean Winchester will stand by my side and we will rule Heaven - together."

"Do you hear him?" Zachariah snorts to King Charles. "Do you hear what the young idiot is saying? I told you he was soft on that Winchester whore." He turns back to Castiel, "Winchester will never stand by your side, you imbecile; he's an omega. A maggot. He's barely fit to breathe the same air as the ruler of Heaven. He can kneel collared and cowering at your feet, or be chained naked to your bed, or locked in the stocks to entertain the troops, but he will never stand by your side."

"Is that why mother and Gabriel left?" Castiel asks his father quietly. "Did you tell them the same thing? That because he presented as omega, your own son wasn't fit to breathe the same air as you?"

"He wasn't my son!" The king hurls back. Castiel sways, stunned, reeling like his father has just slapped him. "Your mother, that...that slut, she spread her legs for someone else, for half the damn palace apparently. I could never...never...have fathered an O. I'm a Royal alpha. The king of Heaven. My blood line is pure."

Castiel stares in disbelief at his father. "Of course Gabriel was your son. He looked more like you than any of us. He was almost your double as a child. His eyes were the same exact shade of hazel as yours, his nose the same shape, his ears even stuck out the same way."

"It's not possible," The king shakes his head adamantly.

Castiel can't belive that his father, an intelligent man, can be so dangerously ignorant. "Of course it's possible. Where do you think omegas come from? They all have alpha fathers. They are the same blood as us, they're no different. It's just a fluke of genetics, like a switch getting flicked off or on. Every alpha blood line has omegas in it somewhere."

"No!" The king paces again, talking down to the floor now, rambling. "No, he wasn't, he couldn't have been my...my....boy. She must have.....he said....he said-" Suddenly the king stops dead and turns to Zachariah, pointing. "You said. You said it proved she was disloyal. You said the boy presenting as omega was divine punishment for her betrayal."

"You're not listening to him, are you?" Zachariah says, stepping towards the king. "He's lying. The O was not your son...she-"

"She loved you," Castiel interrupts. "Mother loved you even though she didn't always agree with you, even though she wanted some things to change. She said you were a good man, that you were just so steeped in tradition you couldn't always see that change was necessary. She said you were the best father we could ever hope to have. She was devoted to you, to us, and to Heaven."

"No! No, that's not...she loved me?" King Charles sounds confused, lost, the cornerstone of his beliefs crumbling in front of his eyes.

"This is ridiculous," Zachariah snarls before Castiel can speak, "What difference does it even make if he was your son. The boy was an O."

"He was my son." The king's says. "You knew he was my son, and you lied and about her...but why?"

Zachariah is the one pacing now, sweat dripping down his flabby face. "I lied to make it easier for you. He was an omega, an embarrassment. He needed to go and she....she....wouldn't have allowed it. She was already trying to talk you round. Filling your head with omega rights nonsense. Trying to persuade you to overturn decades old laws and traditions. There would have been chaos if she'd succeeded. She would have brought the country to its knees. I did what needed to be done to keep the throne safe."

"What did you do?" Castiel asks.

"It's none of your damn business, boy!"

"Then tell me," the king demands.

Zachariah gasps and splutters, but finally admits, "I told her to leave. I told her to take her disgrace of a child and leave before the guards arrested her for treason and I had her son sold on the market."

This is...I can't..." The king stutters, wobbles unsteadily and leans his hand against the wall for support as his knees threaten to fold beneath him. "You...you...came to me and told me that my wife had betrayed me. You told me she'd even screwed around with John Winchester. You told me she had been making a fool of me for years and I believed you. You were my most trusted advisor. My friend. And I believed you. Good god."

Castiel watches the color leech from his father's face, mottled red to deathly white, as he stares at Zachariah's bulging eyes, looking to find answers, or maybe a simple apology.

Unrepentant, Zachariah doesn't appear to appreciate how tenuous his position has become. "I've always done what was best," he insists. "I've made the decisions no one else was strong enough to make; given the orders that defeated our enemies. I've kept this country great."

"You had no right to make any decisions." Castiel says as his father simply gapes open-mouthed. "No right to do anything. You're an advisor to the king. You hold no power."

"Of course I have power." Zachariah rants, his ego outstripping his sanity. "If it wasn't for me-"

"If it wasn't for you, my family might still be whole." The king says, finally regaining his senses. "If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have lost my wife and son, would never have gone to war. If it wasn't for you Michael would still be alive!"

"You have to see reason. Everything I did was for you, for the throne-"

"Castiel, call the guards," the king commands. "I want you gone, Zachariah. Out of my sight. And if I see you again I will have you arrested."

Castiel all but runs to the door, calling on Gadreel and Inias. Zachariah is bearing down on the king when the three of them rush back, his arms wind-milling wildly as he tries to convince the king to reconsider. The guards seize his arms, one on either side, forcing him out of the room backwards, his desperate claims of innocence deteriorating into a barrage of insults and threats as they drag him away.

"Father," Castiel says, not quite believing what has happened despite witnessing it with his own eyes.

"Just...just give me some time, Castiel. This has all been....well...it's a lot to take in."

"Father, Prince Dean-"

"Castiel, I can't...I can't...the ritual must go ahead. It's too late now to stop it anyway, and if I'm seen to back down, after agreeing to this and signing the treaty, it will make me look weak. Do you understand, Castiel. I can't afford to look weak....especially not now with Zachariah."

"But father," Castiel pleads.

"We'll speak later. I promise. But I need time to think. And to plan. I can't stop the ritual, but do what you can to make it easier for the prince. Offer him comfort. Ensure his family can see him. I'll allow you free reign to look after him. He is to be your husband after all."

It's not as much as Castiel wanted, but it's more than he dared hope for. He thanks his father profusely, all the way out of the door, then takes off at a sprint before realizing he doesn't know where Dean is. It's fortunate that he all but trips over Lord Benjamin, the bear of a guard, Dean's friend and cousin, who's been so protective of the prince. He can tell that the guard isn't sure about disclosing Dean's whereabouts but when Castiel insists he has a message from Sam, Lord Benjamin finally relents and shows him the way.

When he sees there is only a single guard posted outside the small guest room that Dean is sequestered in, and that he's one of Heaven's, Lord Benjamin curses most imaginatively. He raps on the door, shouldering the soldier out of the way when he tries to prevent him. Castiel opens the door while Benny's fist is raised to knock a third time, pushing his way in.

He doesn't know what he expected to see, but it certainly wasn't Doctor Alastair pinning Dean, naked and whimpering, to the floor.

Next Chapter >

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