A figure was perched on an old, broken bit of wooden fencing at the edge of a small clearing; nothing more than a hunched silhouette in an ill-fitting overcoat against the setting sun, were there anyone around to see him. But the angel had made sure there was no one and nothing that would be able to see him here. He was out in the middle of the woods surrounding the academy proper for the sole reason of solitude. What he'd come here for required it, at least in his mind.


Deep blue eyes seemed to almost glow as they took in the beauty of the pastel-splashed snowdrifts at the edge of the clearing, though it was only the way the dying light caught them. With a sigh, he slipped down off the railing and stepped to the middle of the clearing. He allowed himself a moment's amusement at his very human reactions to what should have been a very simple thing. He was anxious, even a little afraid, and he was avoiding what he'd come to do because of that.


Enough, Castiel decided. The angel shed his trenchcoat, then the suit jacket, letting them both drop to the ground. Slowly, he pulled the tie from around his neck and dropped it onto the pile of clothing on the ground. Then came unbuttoning his shirt, one button at a time, until it, too, was allowed to slip from his shoulders to join the pile.


Drawing on his grace, letting it writhe through the vessel that was purely his now – and had been for many years, since his first violent death and Jimmy's departure to Heaven – he reveled in the feeling of it, of the power that increased daily. It may only be in infinitesimal amounts, but he could still feel the bit-by-bit increase. More importantly to him, however, was the feeling of his wings healing.


With the healing of his wings came the restoration of his grace, and the lessening of the hollowed out feeling of being hapless, hopeless, and lost. And he wasn't lost. He had human family now, and he had a home here at the academy, as well as his home with the Winchesters in their bunker. He had those who cared about him, and more importantly to him, he had those he could care for and watch over. Thoughts of that widening circle of charges to guard over – of Jody and of Donna and of Dean and Sam, and, especially, of Claire – brought a small-but-genuine smile to his lips. Thoughts of his family brought him the courage to finally do what he'd come here to do.


He tilted his head back to the darkening sky and closed eyes that now showed a glimmer of blue-white shining within them. With a thought and the barest use of the power twisting through his grace, he unfurled his wings and allowed them to manifest on the physical plane. He stood like that, still as a statue, for several minutes. The only movement was the slight breeze barely ruffling the smallest of his covert feathers, which he took in with pleasure.


There was nothing quite like the feel of air through feathers, he mused, even as he slowly stretched the wings out to their limits. The stretching burned, a little, the muscles used too little of late, though through necessity rather than by choice. No longer were his wings the ruined, almost skeletal wrecks they'd been after the spell that caused the Fall. He hadn't had the courage to look at them since that terrible time, but now, he felt, it was time. It was time to see to the healing of his wings much as he'd finally had the courage to see to the healing of his very self.


His head tilted back down and his eyes opened, the faint glow still visible within them. Castiel arched his wings forward, his lip quirking as he was met with the sight of midnight black strong, straight primaries and secondaries. He pulled the wings around, as though embracing himself with them, and felt the stiff, yet silky soft, tertials brush against his bared arms. The feathers were all in, his months long molt finally complete. All that was left was to stretch the muscles, the tendons and ligaments, until he was able to fly again.


He didn't even try to disguise the flare of joy that shot through him. Instead, he let it be expressed in the briefest of displays of power. Lightning cracked once overhead through the clear night sky as he flared his wings up and outward. His lips twitched into a faint, pleased smile and simply stood for a moment, eyes closed once more as the breeze caressed his feathers gently.


Then, with a sigh, he pushed against his grace and his wings vanished from sight, back into the aethereal plane to continue their work of gathering Heavenly power to replenish his grace. Another push of grace, and he was fully clothed once more, his clothing dry, though no less rumpled than normal. He stuck his hands onto the pockets of his coat, and looked up to the sky, to the stars shining brilliantly overhead now that full darkness had descended.


A smile, full and genuine with pleasure and satisfaction, played on the angel's lips as he turned and started to make his way back to the cabin. Claire was there, and he hoped to see her before she took off on yet another hunt. His smile softened as he fingered a small box hidden within the depths of his coat pocket. Tomorrow, he decided firmly. He would see her tomorrow, and give her the medallion he'd crafted himself, carved with his own hands, and imbued with all the protective magics he could reasonably fit within the small silver object. Yes, tomorrow.