Characters: Dean, Castiel, Lisa and Ben Braeden; with cameos by Bobby, Michael (Adam), Rachel, Balthazar, Amelia and Claire Novak, and a few OCs.
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine. I just shake them out and play with them.
Word Count: around 120k (I think)
Content: AU/AR (alternate ending to Season 5), death, h/c, language, polyamory, violence (including attempted rape, attempted kidnapping, and non-consensual drug use); spoilers for up to 6.01
AN: Written for mortar on livejournal who promised to read something longer than 3,000 words if her conditions were met. She wanted a different take on Season 6 with no soulless!Sam, no Campbells, and no Godstiel. Well, this isn't quite that, but it's certainly longer than 3,000 words!
This one isn't beta'ed, so if you spot any errors, let me know.
Posting schedule is once a week, probably on Sundays. I'm anticipating 17 chapters but I'm still working on the ending so it might go up (or down).
The hotel was old and weary, dripping stained wallpaper and mildew. The floorboards, occasionally covered in chipped linoleum tile, creaked and bent under their weight. Dean was tempted to make a joke about how it would be just their luck to fall through the rotten floor and die when they'd finally decided to do this thing.
He'd laugh except it would probably sound too much like crying.
He and Sam were on their way to meet the Devil. The living, breathing embodiment of Evil that was determined to destroy everyone. Starting with his brother.
Jesus fuck, he didn't want to do this. He didn't want Sam to do this, but it was too late to back out now. A demon, size XL, walked in front of them, and two more, size XXL, were behind, herding them up, up, up into the dark decay.
The huge-ass demons didn't make the stairs groan when they walked on them.
'To whatever's out there, if anything is,' Dean found himself praying, 'please let this work. Preferably without Sam having to… to jump into the Pit. I won't make a deal, I promised him that, but just about anything else you ask of me, I'll do it. I'll shave my head, go celibate, join the Hare Krishnas, if that's what it takes."
It was a litany of outrageous promises that he knew he was making because there was no one listening. Nothing was going to jump out of the ether and save them when the timer clicked to 0:00:01. There was only him and Sam.
Soon there would only be him.
He nearly opened his mouth to plead with Sam to turn back, escape with him, to stop, but they'd finally reached the Devil's floor. He was visible at the far end of the hall, leaning near a window and making pictures in its frost-covered surface. Considering it was May, the frost was an ominous touch.
"Hello, boys," the Devil purred, using Nick's voice, Nick's body... Poor Nick.
"I told you this would always happen in Detroit." He barely looked at Dean, all his attention focused on Sam, his perfect vessel, Dean's baby brother.
"Sam?" Shit, he hadn't meant to say anything out loud, especially not in that wimpy-worried tone of voice.
Sam raised a hand without looking at him. The hunter was focused on his target, vibrating with readiness and demon blood. "We're here and I'm ready, but I have a couple conditions first."
Lucifer laughed. "Conditions? Really."
"Yeah," Sam stuck his jaw out obstinately. "Dean, my friend Bobby, and a couple other people that are family. I want them safe."
The Devil pursed his lips and tilted his head in the classic pose that meant 'pretending to think about it'. "Would you believe me if I agreed?"
"You said you'd never lie to me."
Actually, neither one of them thought Lucifer would stick to it even if he did agree, and they were pretty sure he wouldn't. But Lucifer's agreement wasn't important. What was important was Sam throwing out his arms dramatically and pulling all the attention to him.
"That's what you said, right? You'd never lie?"
Dean moved away from his brother's long, flailing arms, just like any sane guy would. He peeked sideways at their demon escorts and they were watching the show. Dean swallowed down the bile that threatened to come up despite him. They were actually doing this. It wasn't just a theoretical discussion anymore. It was real. God…
"Maybe I should be asking if you would lie to me," Lucifer asked.
Sam huffed and dropped his arms dramatically. "Look, Judgment Day's a runaway train," he bit out angrily. "We get it now. We just want off."
"Meaning?" the Devil asked, voice and manner mild and reasonable. Too fucking reasonable.
"Deal of the century," Sam answered, stepping forward. "I give you a free ride, but when it's all over? I live; he lives. The people I care about are unharmed."
Lucifer nodded slowly, considering. Then he shifted, taking his own step forward. "It's a good story, Sam; delivered well—earnest, believable—but unfortunately for you, I know you have the rings."
Dean tried not to freeze like a guilty deer.
Sam didn't back down. "Does it change anything? Maybe I can beat you, maybe I can't. In the end I'm your vessel. And I'm here, willing to say 'yes'."
Lucifer chuckled. "You're right. It changes nothing. And I kind of like the idea of a wrestling match inside your noggin. Just you and me, one round, no tricks. You win—you jump in the hole. I win... Well, then I win."
Dean's heart-rate ratcheted up another, equally impossible, level. "Sam," he pleaded, warned, whatever.
"We don't have any other choice," Sam responded not even turning to look at him.
Lucifer didn't look at him either. He kept his eyes on his vessel. "What do you say, Sam? 'A fiddle of gold against your soul says I'm better than you'."
'Say no. Say no. Say no,' the voice in Dean's head begged his brother. He kept his mouth shut tight on the actual words.
Sam took a deep breath to brace himself. "Yes," he said and the moment expanded like a bad special effect.
Light, the kind Dean had learned to associate with an unvesseled angel, filled the dingy room, illuminating the rotten furniture and the broken walls. The force of it blew the demons out of their host bodies. Bright as the sun but cold, cold, cold.
Dean didn't look at it, didn't look at anything. He dug into his pocket and pulled out the rings. He threw them down on the floor near his brother—his brother, whose hair was lifting and whose skin was almost glowing from within.
He still had time.
A deep breath of his own. "Bvtmon…tabges." He said the words carefully because Enochian was a damned hard language to pronounce. And because he was doing this: he was opening the door into the deepest, darkest pit Hell had to offer so that his baby brother could jump into it… and never come out.
He couldn't look. He couldn't.
But he could keep on going. Do what Sam had asked him. Make the sacrifice worth it.
He felt the change in air pressure and finally had to open his eyes. Was it the door? Or was it Lucifer?
It was both.
The glow was inside Sam now, and his face was contorted as the hunter tried to grab hold of the entity in his head. Small sounds escaped, grunts and gasps and cut-off moans filled with Sam's struggle.
Dean couldn't do anything to help, could only stand here and make sure Sam wasn't alone. "I'm here, Sam," he said. "I won't leave you." Then he said it again.
And again… again.
"I won't leave you."
The hole was a void in the middle of the hotel. Dean could see the floorboards stretching down into infinity. He pulled his gaze away because looking down into that wasn't making him happier about this whole thing.
Sam's voice was nearly unrecognizable, like he had to pull the sound out of the Grand Canyon and across a desert to speak with it. It meant he was fighting Lucifer, fighting hard and Dean couldn't help but take a step forward. "Sammy?"
There's no wind, no lightning or rain inside the building, but Sam's hair was still flying around him and his clothes were rippling as if there was a tornado just around the corner.
"I can feel him."
Oh god. Sam!
"You've got to go, man! I mean, right now." It killed him to say it, to urge his brother to do this, but it would hurt worse for Sam to sacrifice himself and still lose.
"Dean!" Sam repeated, big body lifting as if on strings.
Dean pulled in a breath, felt tears clogging up his lungs and throat. He forced out the words. "Come on! Go now, Sammy. Now!"
Then it changed. Sam's body dropped to the ground, his hair and jacket fell still, and his face smoothed out into cool amusement.
"Sorry, Dean," Lucifer said. "I was just messing with you." He smirked. "Sammy's long gone."
Castiel knew he wasn't much of an angel anymore. He'd been cut off from Heaven for too long to be able to rejuvenate himself and his… 'mojo' to anything close to what he'd known as a member of the Garrison. But he had enough power for this.
He followed the Winchesters and their demon escort up the stairs of the old hotel, unseen, unheard. Not even a whisper of displaced air marked his passage.
He stood silent in the shadows as his dis-Graced brother taunted his friends. He watched the realization sink in that Lucifer knew they had the rings. He witnessed the stoic firming of Sam's features when he decided to go through with it and the bleak emptiness in Dean's when he didn't stop him.
He knew, even before Lucifer stopped the show, that the Winchesters had failed.
"Sorry, Dean," Lucifer said. "I was just messing with you. Sammy's long gone."
Then the Devil's smirk turned into a triumphant smile as he focused on Dean and enjoyed his triumph. Castiel knew this was it. This was his moment.
In a blink he left the shadows, gathered all that was left of his true Self, and flung it at Lucifer, pushing the Devil with his Being and, yes, with his hands. Pushing him with everything he could, into the opening the Winchesters' sacrifice had made. There was a flash of blue-white light so bright it nearly obscured Lucifer's look of angry shock.
Then the Devil was flailing, struggling, tipping, and finally falling, falling, falling into the infinite hole.
Castiel fell with him.
Not into the Pit, although he would hardly have cared at the moment. No, he fell to his knees, breathless, boneless, and blind. He gasped for air that he'd never before needed for more than talking. He felt as heavy as the world and yet as if he was floating in the Heavenly abyss.
The Enochian words, even mispronounced the way Dean did, made his body thrum. An odd, painful sensation that Castiel decided he didn't like. It did manage to bring him back to his vessel, however, to find that Dean was now kneeling beside him, holding him up, and whispering-shouting-praying desperately at him. "Cas! Cas! C'mon, man. Don't check out on me now."
Castiel knew they were in a hotel, but they hadn't actually checked in, so how could he check out? He tried to ask but maybe he had hallucinated Dean's presence because he could not see him.
There was a sharp pressure on his cheek, quickly removed. "Open your eyes, Cas," he heard. "Let me see those baby blues."
It was Dean.
He had not imagined him after all.
He used the last of his energy to lift his eyelids. He tried to speak and was sure his lips parted, but nothing emerged.
"You've got a pulse now, dude," the hunter said. "And it's chugging like a bullet train."
That was probably not a good sign.
"Take a couple breaths, nice and even. C'mon, Cas. With me," and Dean breathed in and out in a steady rhythm that Castiel didn't realize he was following until his vessel calmed.
"That's the way, dude. Think you can walk?"
He stared at the freckles on Dean's face. Humans called them angel kisses, but as far as he knew, no angel had ever kissed Dean except, perhaps, Anna. But that would have been before she recaptured her Grace so it would hardly count.
"Okay, I'm thinking that's a no on the whole walking thing."
Dean lifted his arm and placed it around his own shoulders. Castiel continued to look at Dean's face and discovered liquid tracks from his friend's eyes to his chin. They were tears, Castiel recalled, a physical manifestation of extreme emotion.
He would like to cry, he thought. He would like to shout and stamp his feet in anger. He would like to collapse into nothingness and know certainty once again.
He would like to fly.
"There's no way we're getting on an airplane, Cas," Dean said and all Castiel could do was blink at the oddness of the remark. "At least you're easier to manhandle than S– Than my dad ever was."
S… S equals Sam. Sam. Sam is gone.
"Yeah," Dean's voice cracked. "Yeah, He's gone. We did it. We saved the whole crappy world from the Apocalypse. Hoo-fucking-rah." The words were filled with bitterness and a cold, aching grief, and Castiel understood exactly what Dean was feeling.
Later on, Castiel could never remember exactly what happened. His perfect memory, his preternatural senses, failed him utterly in the aftermath of Lucifer's recapture. There were blurs of sights (waves of lights flowing over them in a soothing flow), sounds (a mechanical purr occasionally interrupted by soft thump-thumps), and smells (leather and living, coffee and gasoline). At one point, he realized that he was in the back seat of the Impala and he was uncomfortable, but that knowledge drifted away with as little effort as it had arrived.
His body felt heavy and uncoordinated; his mind sluggish and his senses dull.
It was similar to what he'd felt after banishing the angels from the warehouse in Van Neys during their attempt to rescue Adam Milligan. Yet, after that battle, and even through the pain and the weakness of his near-human healing, Castiel had felt the connection to something larger than himself—the Host, through what remained of his Grace. Now he tried to find the spark that he'd taken for granted for so long, but there was nothing. The spot was empty so he couldn't heal himself. He couldn't do anything except lie where he'd been left and breathe. He was alive.
When oblivion attacked him, he surrendered willingly.
Eventually, Dean made him drink water. Later he made him stand at the side of the road and get rid of the by-product that resulted from drinking water. He'd never had to do that before and he didn't think—couldn't believe—that it was an indicator that he would ever get better.
The brightness he saw beyond his eyelids dimmed. A sunset, he was missing, perhaps. He'd enjoyed sunsets, once. Especially sunsets over the ocean, watching his Father's creations crawl out of the tide.
He didn't want to be here. Not like this.
"Jesus, Cas. You're a freaking ice cube," a familiar voice said.
Don't blaspheme, he wanted to say, but it was too much effort.
Another voice joined the first; this one was older, gruffer, but equally familiar. They were both distant though, muffled. Castiel decided that he didn't care what they were saying. He didn't want to know. The future looked better from a distance.
They moved his body, wrapping him in something warm. He didn't care. It helped him drift off and away.
Then he got the shakes.
Full body convulsions that made him curl up then kick out. Even dazed as he was, Castiel knew that he was hurting himself along with the car. Dean's precious Impala. He would have worried about the damage but all he could think was that it hurt. He hurt.
"Shh, man. It's okay. We'll get through this."
He tried to respond but all that came out was an unrecognizable groan like an animal in pain, which was, unfortunately, an apt description.
"Here." It was the other voice. Bobby, he suddenly realized. Bobby was with them. Of course he would be. The older hunter had been in Detroit with them, after all.
There were mutters; about shock and trauma that Castiel knew were about him, but he didn't care, couldn't care.
He was alone.
He couldn't hear the Garrison; couldn't feel his brothers and sisters through his Grace because, he no longer had his Grace—any of it. He had well and truly Fallen.
And unlike Aniel—Anna—his Grace wasn't safely ensconced in a tree in a remote location.
It hadn't been his physical body that had pushed his twisted brother into the hole Dean had opened. It had been the force of his Grace, ripped from his body and used as a battering ram. Now his Grace was in the Pit with Sam and Lucifer.
Beyond his reach.
Perhaps it would give Sam some comfort.
"You're sure?" Bobby asked from somewhere above him.
"Yeah. Blue-white, just like that time in the barn with Anna."
Ah good, Castiel thought dimly. He wouldn't have to explain it to them. Maybe they would let him fade…
"Right then. You'll need to get him someplace safe so he can recover. I'd offer you my place but it's been angel-proofed. "
"I know a place. She might… They might take us both in." His weight shifted on the surface he was lying on and Dean's voice drew closer.
"Do they know?" Bobby's voice faded.
"Yeah," Dean answered. Castiel's upper body was lifted and a warm liquid was tilted into his mouth. Strong fingers massaged his throat and he swallowed without conscious effort. It was still as disturbing as the first time Dean had done this.
"Then they won't have any problem with you putting up some protections."
Beneath him, Dean shifted in discomfort. "Bobby," he protested then stopped.
"Save it. You two managed to make some powerful enemies by doing what you did, and I can't think of a monster-of-the-week who wouldn't want to get their claws on an honest-to-God fallen angel. So, if you're going to start to live that apple-pie life you promised your brother, you're gonna have to set up some decent protections."
Dean's supporting arm went from soft to rigid in a beat of a hummingbird's wing. "Bobby," his voice cracked.
"It'll be alright, son. You may have promised him not to try anything, but I didn't. So you call me and I'll let you know."
Castiel tried to point out what a colossally bad idea that was but Dean was pouring more warm liquid down his throat, and by the time he had swallowed it the world was drifting away again.
It was almost like flying…
Then it was like death.
Lisa didn't live in Cicero anymore. Dean wasn't sure if she'd moved out right after the changelings, or if she'd been hit hard when the banking crisis thing happened. Didn't matter. He'd found her just down the highway in Noblesville.
He'd first found her to say good-bye, and now he was heading to Indianapolis to move in. He didn't know if that was irony, or just pathetic.
He was still debating when he pulled up in front of her tidy bungalow.
He got out of the car, but that was it.
He didn't know what he should do next. Not really. Drive away and never come back was at the top of the list but he already knew that wasn't going to happen. He'd promised Sam and he couldn't… He couldn't help Cas if he was on the road. Cas had ripped his Grace out to make Sam's sacrifice work and that meant Dean owed both of them so, so much—the whole frigging world.
So here he was: in the driveway of a woman he barely knew (who maybe had given birth to his son) about to barge into their lives with a half-dead former angel and a fucked-in-the-head former hunter.
What the hell was he thinking?
The door opened while he stood there frozen in doubt. "Dean?" The voice was feminine and familiar, filled with concern and, oddly enough, hope.
Too late to go back to the car and drive away. "Hey, Lisa."
She hadn't waited for his response, already half way up the walk before he'd finished speaking. She put out a hand and let it hover close to his chest. "Oh, thank god," she breathed. "Are you all right?"
No. Fuck no. But he was alive. And he was here.
"Yeah," he said in an obvious lie. "Uh, if it's not too late, I... Think I'd like to take you up on that beer." His voice wouldn't straighten out, and his eyes hurt and his chest was a massive fireball of pain, and he just wanted to collapse and let it all go away.
When Lisa gathered him in, he let himself lean on her. This strong woman with the bright smile and the warm heart that he hardly knew. It was to her that he poured out his grief in great, heaving sobs. He told her, without words, that he wasn't all right. He wasn't even close, but she didn't seem to care. She just rubbed big circles on his back. She stroked through his hair and told him he was doing good.
He tried to tell her that he was toxic. Just about everyone he'd ever cared about or let into his life had died or been swallowed up in the evil cloud that the angels called destiny and he called his life.
She just hugged him closer and whispered "I know," but she couldn't know. She couldn't. Because Sam was gone (trappedtorturedforeverandeveramen) and Cas was human and the world wouldn't end, but they had.
"Shh," she murmured. "We'll get through this." And then she hummed something soft and soothing.
It took time, but it worked. His breathing eased into a more normal rhythm and he could almost pretend he hadn't just had a complete meltdown on Lisa's shoulder while a sick angel waited in the car–
"Holy shit. Cas!" Dean exclaimed in a rough whisper, pulling away from the comfort Lisa offered.
"What?" she asked, bewildered.
"My… my friend Cas—Castiel. He's in the car. He helped and-and now he's grounded. For good, we think. He's not doing so good."
"Are you asking if he can come in too?" She stood straighter, more resistant. Dean got it, he did. It was one thing to take in one messed up guy that you kinda-sorta knew, but something else to take on his equally messed up friend.
"He's okay, like, not a pervert or a hunter. I swear. He's a– He was…" Well, Hell... How to explain Cas?
"He was an angel, but he lost his Grace when he helped us to-to defeat…" He couldn't say it because they hadn't defeated Lucifer. They'd tricked him and trapped him and he shouldn't bother the world for another few millennia, but he wasn't defeated. And his brother was down there trapped with him.
He blinked hard and rapid, forcing the tears back because he'd already cried fucking enough.
"He's the most polite guy you're ever going to meet," was all he said.
Lisa snorted in surprise. "Really? Polite?"
"And clueless. And loyal." And kind of awesome but he couldn't say that out loud. "I can't leave him."
Jesus, his face was wet. He wished he could lie to himself and say it was because it was raining, but the air was bone dry. He ran a hand over his cheeks, squeezing the moisture off. He wanted to be here, he did, but not if Cas couldn't come too. They'd find someplace else if Lisa couldn't take on both of them. He knew that she'd been staring at him, assessing him with her sharp, seeing eyes.
Finally, she sighed, a quick huff of breath. "Bring him in too. I'll set up the couch.
He didn't wait for her to change her mind, but stumbled back to the Impala where his friend was curled in a painful ball in the back seat.
Bobby had put him under an electric blanket plugged into an adapter in the cigarette lighter. It took a lot of juice to run the thing even at low temp and he knew that leaving it on might have run the battery down, but if it kept Cas alive… Well, then. It was worth it. He was all Dean had left.
He was also heavy.
Or maybe Dean was just exhausted. Not that he didn't have an excuse to be tired beyond all reason. After all, every time he closed his eyes he saw Sam strapped to Alistair's rack, tied down, cut up, bleeding out, and screaming for him. Screaming for his big brother to come save him like Dean had screamed for Sam.
And that was the nicest dream he'd had.
Dean slammed his hand against the roof of his baby and let the sharp pain pull him out of his maudlin funk. He didn't need to cry anymore tonight. He crouched down and pulled the angel and his electric blanket out in one bundled heap. He folded Cas over his shoulder, and stood, one hand hovering near the Impala in case his legs didn't hold. A breath, and then he staggered up the path, up the shallow stairs (a bit of a wobble but no one saw) and into Lisa's house.
This was a much smaller house than her last one, but it smelled the same. It smelled of her and Ben, and the ordinary life most people knew.
If Sam had his way, soon it would smell like Dean's new home.
"Here. I've opened up the futon in the living room," Lisa said and rescued Dean from another humiliating break-down. "It's a double, so it should be big enough for you both. Is that okay? I figured you wouldn't want to leave him alone. You said he was in rough shape."
Dean pulled his attention off his comatose friend and nodded once. "Yeah, no. You're right. This'll be good." He threw his thumb over his shoulder. "I just have to grab a couple things out of the trunk. Will you… Will you stay with him?"
She smiled softly at the hunter. "Of course."
Dean nodded, but didn't move. "He's been really cold," he said, keeping his gaze on Cas. "We picked up an electric blanket. Is there any place to plug it in?"
"I'll do that," she responded. "You go get your things. I have an extra toothbrush if you need one, but no PJs that'll fit. Except for some granny-style nighties that are big enough for a cow. My mother gave them to me," she explained.
He finally looked up at her. He managed a smile. "That's okay. I got what I need in my duffel bag." And he did, so he went and got it, because standing there looking down at Castiel was stupid.
There was a familiar dark head sitting on the stairs. "Ben." He stopped.
"Dean." The boy rubbed his hands on his pajamas. "You moving in?"
"Yeah. For a while." Dean frowned as something occurred to him. "Is that okay with you?"
Ben shrugged, pulling his shoulders nearly up to his ears. He didn't look at Dean. "I guess. Mom says it's okay."
"Your mom's a good person. A good friend." Better than he probably deserved considering what happened to all his friends.
"Do you need a hand with anything?" Ben asked, still not looking at Dean.
"Nah. I got it," Dean answered. "Thanks for asking."
A smaller shrug this time. "No problem." Then nothing but glances sneaked from under dark eyelashes.
Again Dean tossed his thumb over his shoulder. "I'm just gonna get–"
Dean could feel the dark eyes follow him out the door. He didn't hesitate though, just walked out to the Impala, grabbed his bag, locked her up, pocketed the keys and walked back in.
Ben wasn't on the stairs. He wasn't in the living room with Castiel or Lisa. Light footsteps above gave away the boy's location and Dean let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. At least the kid wasn't dead and he hadn't been grabbed by anything.
"I got some of his clothes off but he's really heavy."
"He was an angel," Dean said without thinking. Fuck, he was tired.
"Yeah, you told me." Lisa said. She frowned first at Castiel then at him. "Why do you have an angel–" She stopped herself, hand lifted. "No, don't explain. Not tonight. Tonight you need to sleep. You are going to sleep, aren't you?" She was still frowning at him, dark eyes searching his, looking for the truth in that way she had.
"I'm gonna try."
She looked away, nodding lightly. "Good. Good. I have some herbal tea that'll help. I might even have a Valium stashed away if you need it."
How about whiskey? Dean was tempted to ask but alcohol lowered too many barriers and he didn't want to dream tonight. Wasn't it Shakespeare who said that sleeping was fine; it was dreaming that sucked?
"I think I'll try it solo first," he said mildly. "See how it goes."
Lisa's head bobbed in acceptance and Dean's followed suit.
"Bathroom is there–" she pointed to a hallway tucked on the back side of the stairwell "–across from the office. Towels are in the cupboard. Help yourself to whatever." She twisted her hands together before rubbing them on her sleep-pants. "If you need anything…"
"I'll call," Dean promised but what he really needed Lisa couldn't provide. He'd have to make do with what she had: a bed, a welcome, a friendship…
He waited until she was in her own bedroom before stripping off the rest of Cas' clothes. Lisa'd been right: he was heavy. Maybe it was a result of having an angel occupying his body for so long; maybe all that Heaven juice had soaked into Jimmy's muscles and bones and made them extra dense. Dean didn't know, couldn't really care at the moment. For now it was just a pain in the ass, because his own muscles weren't feeling up to manhandling a ton of limp flesh.
Eventually, he got Cas stripped down to his boxers and undershirt. He set the electric, and rolled Cas into it. Then he sat on the bed and waited to have the energy to do the same thing for himself.
He waited a long time.