Welcome to my new story. I know that a time-travel-change-it-fic isn't The most original concept in the fandom, but this idea occurred to me and—as has happened with pretty much all my stories—I had to write it.

Thanks to Jenjoremy for beta'ing. She not only makes all my missing commas appear and fixes all my misspellings, she genuinely makes the story better with her ideas.

Side note: A pet peeve of mine is Castiel being referred to as Cas in narrative. I have peeved myself with this story for reasons that will become obvious in future chapters. Hope it doesn't ruin the story for you.

I hope you enjoy.

Chapter One

So, that's everything. I believe it's what you would call a… tragedy from the human perspective. But maybe the human perspective is limited. I don't know. That's why I'm asking you, Father. One last time. Am I doing the right thing? Am I on the right path? You have to tell me. You have to give me a sign. Give me a sign. Because if you don't...

Cas sat up and rested his palms on his knees. There was no sign. There would be no sign, as God had forsaken them. Cas, the host, the humans were living in a world devoid of the divine now. Cas had never felt more alone or confused. His path was laid about before him, but he couldn't help but wonder if it was the right path. That was why he had come here, to pray to his Father, but there was nothing. No voice telling him he was doing the right thing. No voice, except…

'Castiel, Cas, please answer. I need you. We need you. We have to talk.'

The voice was steeped in sadness and concern. Cas had only heard Sam sound like this a handful of times before, and that was always in the direst circumstances. Cas was worried.

He was in motion before he even thought of what he was doing. His vast wings spread at his back and he took flight. It was a moment of motion, nothing to a human. Sam's words had barely left his lips before Cas was standing in the kitchen of Bobby Singer's house. On the table was an empty bottle of whiskey and a dirty glass.

He had made no effort to conceal the sound of his arrival, but Sam wasn't waiting for him. He was standing beside the couch in the library, speaking softly. "There's more water here, and the can beside you if you need to puke again. I'll be close if you need me." In answer there was a familiar gritty voice mumbling about not being a kid, and Sam huffed a laugh. "No, Dean, you're not a kid. You're a grown ass man that just replaced all the blood in his body with Four Roses." There was a groan and the sound of the couch cushions readjusting as Dean shifted and then a soft snore. "Out like a light," Sam said with satisfaction, and then he turned. He was smiling softly, a remnant of his interaction with his brother, and then as he caught sight of Cas his expression hardened. "Cas."

"You prayed to me."

Sam ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah, I did." He cast his brother a quick glance and then walked into the kitchen and opened the back door. "Come outside. I don't want to wake him."

Cas followed Sam outside onto the porch and they stood in silence for a moment. Sam hugged his arms around himself to ward off the chill. He was wearing jeans but he had foregone his usual plaid in favor of a thin t-shirt. Cas had noticed in the past that Dean slept in his day clothes more often than not, whereas Sam tried to at least dress down a little for sleep. Cas didn't think it was a matter of comfort as much as it was a desire to maintain a façade of normality, as if they didn't need to be ready at all times to jump into action. Cas admired Sam's pretence.

"You prayed," Cas said again.

Sam nodded. "Yeah. I figured we needed to talk."

"I already spoke with Dean, Sam."

Sam's jaw tightened. "I know, and I'm guessing that talk is why Dean almost drunk himself into alcohol poisoning tonight, and I know I'm a poor substitute, but I just thought maybe we could talk, too."

Cas stared into Sam's eyes, seeing the swim of emotion there. Unlike Dean, who guarded every emotion he had, Sam was open with what he felt. Right now he was angry—possibly because of Dean's intoxication at Cas's impetus—but determined.

Cas disregarded Sam's mention of being a poor substitute. It wasn't true, not anymore, but Cas needed to remain impassive. He couldn't allow himself to feel affinity or affection for Sam at the moment. "What do you want to talk about, Sam?"

"The cage."

Cas frowned. "Are you remembering?" Despite his determination to remain controlled, he felt a flicker of fear for Sam. Those memories would destroy him mentally and spiritually, He would be crushed.

"No. I wanted to ask you about it. You were there, right. You know what it was like. I want to know, too."

"You cannot know," Cas said firmly. "It would be your destruction. I will not do that to you."

Sam smiled grimly. "I thought so. You won't destroy me, will you, Cas?"

Cas shook his head. "No, I would never do that."

"Thanks. I appreciate it. But, you know, if you were to tell me about it, to destroy me, it would be no more than I deserved." There was no sympathy for himself in his tone, no doubt or need for reassurance. Sam was stating a fact.

"You're wrong," Cas said. "You have paid for your mistakes. You may not remember, but the cage absolved you."

Sam looked out across the junkyard. The sun was rising now, casting gleaming light on the metal of hoods and glass of windows. He shook his head. "There are some things beyond absolution, Cas. Things like I did." He took a deep breath and released it slowly. "That's not what I want to talk about, not really. I want to talk about what I did before the cage."

Cas waited as he seemed to steel himself to talk. He wondered what Sam was going to say, and at the same time he wondered where this would lead. Was this his sign? Could God be working through the mortality of Sam to help Cas?

"You think you're doing the right thing, working with Crowley, right? But you're forgetting what I did and what happened after."

"I have not forgotten. It is because I remember too well that I am doing this. I remember the apocalypse and what happened to all humanity. I know how much worse it would have been had you not made the sacrifice you did. I remember, Sam." How could he even think he could forget?

Sam disregarded him. "You know, when I was with Ruby, I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought Dean was wrong. I thought Hell had ruined him, stolen his nerve, and I had to do what he couldn't. So, I went with Ruby, and I killed that poor girl and I drank all her blood and I became something more than human. I was prepared to do it, to kill Lilith, and then…"—he grimaced—"Dean called me. I don't know what I was expecting him to say, maybe to tell me it wasn't too late, that we could fix things."

Cas opened his mouth to speak. To tell him Dean had said all those things and more in the real message, before it had been wiped and replaced by the vitriol Sam had heard in his brother's perfectly mimicked voice. He couldn't bring himself to say it though. He couldn't admit his part in that anymore than he could tell Sam it was him that had freed him from the panic room.

Sam shook his head as if shaking away the memory. "The point is, that was my last hope at doing the right thing, and it wasn't there. I'm not blaming Dean," he said hurriedly. "It was all down to me and my arrogance, but that was my last chance." He locked eyes with Cas. "I want to be your last chance. I know you spoke to Dean already, he was rambling about it earlier, but I also know Dean's not the one you need to talk to. He's never done this to the world. He never screwed up so completely that it took such a hefty price to fix it. I have. So, I'm asking you to listen to me, I'm begging you to, because we're family and I don't want to lose you, and I don't want to lose my brother."

Cas was confused. "How will you lose Dean? I would never hurt him."

"There's more than one way to hurt someone, Cas. He's been through so much, too much. I betrayed him and started the apocalypse. He had to deal with all the things I did when my soul was still in the pit. He lost Lisa and Ben. He has had this weight on his shoulders since he was four years old, and I think one more thing will be what breaks him. You can't do this to him, Cas. If you go on the way you are, working with Crowley, doing whatever you're doing, it will end badly, and we'll all pay, but none so much as Dean, and I really don't think he can take one more knock right now."

How was it that Sam Winchester knew him so well, could speak to him this earnestly and play on his exact fears and drag them into the bright light of day? If Cas had been asked, he would have said Dean was his greatest chance of averting him from his path, and yet Sam was here, saying all the right things. How was it that he knew? Could God have chosen this human as a mouthpiece?

Cas turned away from Sam and closed his eyes, searching for the touch of God upon him. He had felt it before, long ago, when God was in His Heaven and all was good. There was nothing there. He opened his eyes again, and sighed. "I don't know what to…" he started, and then he trailed off. The sun reached its peak and light flashed across Cas's eyes and the junkyard. The grimy cars came to life with light for an instant, flashing across his vision. It was beautiful, a creation of man in God's glorious freedom. How could these objects of ruin, victims of time, speak to him the way they did?

"Father?" he murmured.

"Cas, please trust me," Sam said, and yet Cas thought there was another voice there, too. A voice he hadn't heard in the longest time calling him by his true name rather than the human truncated version that he had grown to like as it was born of the bond he had with these humans.

"I will." He wasn't aware that he had spoken aloud until he heard Sam's breath of relief. He didn't try to take back the words though. It was all so clear to him now. He had received his sign, at last, and he knew what he had to do. He looked at Sam, seeing the relief and something indefinable in his eyes.

"Cas, man, I don't know what to…" Sam started. He rubbed his hands across his face, smoothing away the lines.

"I will trust you, Sam," he said. "But I don't know what to do. How do I leave my path and still save?"

Sam sat down on the steps, stretching his legs out in front of him. "Okay, Dean's filled me in on a little of this, but I don't know the full story on account of being, you know, soulless at the time. What's Raphael's deal?"

Cas considered. He would have to do this carefully. He could not risk Sam's wall with a repeated conversation that could trigger something, but he needed to tell him. "Raphael's goal is to rule Heaven and recommence the apocalypse," he said. "He is a traditionalist. He believes in the foretold battle."

"He wants Lucifer and Michael fighting?"

"He does."

"Okay…" Sam said slowly. "How would he do it though? How would he get them out?"

"I do not know," Cas said. "I am a seraph. I do not know the secrets held only by the archangels. It is entirely possible that there is another way to open the cage other than the rings."

"But then why didn't they use it before?" Sam asked. "Why wait until I killed Lilith, breaking the seal? They could have had Lucifer out long ago."

"Perhaps they could. But they would not have acted until recently. You and Dean were needed to be the vessels. That is how it was foretold to happen. Michael would not have wanted it to happen any other way."

"But he used Adam," Sam said. "He didn't get Dean in the end."

"True, I think that was an act of desperation. His desire to commence battle was too much for him. Also, archangels have a level of precognition. He could have seen Dean would never say yes to him."

Sam looked down at his knees. "But I was always bound to say yes to Lucifer. I see."

Cas wanted to say something to comfort Sam, but he didn't know what to say that wouldn't be a lie. Sam was always destined to say yes, for whatever reason. It could have always been foretold that he would say yes in order to lock Lucifer away, but Cas did not know that for sure. It was also entirely possible that Sam changed fate's path.

Sam shook his head. "It doesn't matter. It's done now. What does matter is what we do next. We need a way to neutralize Raphael. How are we going to do that without Crowley?"

Cas smiled slightly. "If I knew the answer to that, we would not be having this conversation. The only physical thing that can kill an archangel is another archangel's blade. I don't have one."

"And yours can't do it?" Sam asked.

"It would be akin to attempting to kill Raphael by jabbing him with a needle."

Sam laughed softly. "Okay. That's not going to work. We need something else." He was silent for a long time, thinking Cas guessed. Then he sucked in a breath and slapped his hand down on his leg. "I got it. We can't change what's happening now, so what if we changed what happened then?"

Cas frowned. "How?"

"Send me back," Sam said hurriedly. "Back to before it all went wrong." He got to his feet and paced. "Dean broke the first seal, right? If he never did that, Lilith couldn't have broken the rest, and I couldn't have ended it all. I need to go back, to Cold Oak maybe, or before. I need to talk to Dean, stop him making that deal to save me. I stay dead and Dean never goes to Hell, and none of it can happen."

Cas smiled sadly. "It's not possible, Sam. You are forgetting Dean's base drive. No matter what you said, what anyone said, he would make that deal for your life. He will exercise his free will to save you."

Sam cursed. "But if I tell him…?"

"I don't think it would make a difference. Dean could not leave you dead. Why do you think you have never succeeded before?" Cas asked. "Free will. Dean could not stop your mother making that deal. Neither of you could change your parents' fate to have two sons that would become what you are now. The people you tried to influence had their own free will and that was more powerful than anything else God bestowed on humanity."

"But if I told myself," Sam said, "If we went back later, to before I killed Lilith?"

"Do you think you would listen? Do you think the possibility of it going wrong would overpower your need for revenge for your brother's death? I don't believe so. Now, it would, because you are armed with the knowledge of the price, but then…"—Cas shrugged—"you would do the same thing all over because your brother is worth it."

Sam looked forlorn. "He is. He always is. He is worth a better world, though. I have to do this, Cas. We have to find a way."

Cas heard movement inside the house. Dean was moving on the couch and a low moan was escaping him. "Dean is awake," he said.

Sam nodded and closed his eyes. "I should go take care of him."

"You should," Cas agreed. "Sam, don't give up hope. I will find a way to make this work. I will find a way to…" He trailed off.

"What, Cas?" Sam asked eagerly.

Cas smiled. "I think I know… But it would be difficult, perhaps even impossible… But it would be your free will, no one else's."

"Not making much sense here, Cas," Sam said impatiently.

"Tend to your brother. I need to think. I will return as soon as I can."

Sam smiled widely and made for the house. He turned with his fingers wrapped around the door handle. "Cas, thanks, I mean it. Really. Thanks."

"I am not sure it will work," Cas said soberly. "Don't get your hopes up yet."

"No, no hopes," Sam said, but Cas could tell it was a lie from the way his eyes gleamed.

Cas shook his head. He could have driven home the point, but he found he didn't want to. Let Sam have his happiness for a while.

He watched Sam walk into the house and he heard his voice as he spoke softly to Dean, then he spread his wings at his back and took flight.

Dean was sitting on the couch, cradling a mug of coffee in his hands and blinking blearily. Bobby was seated beside him, looking alert if a little doubtful.

"So you just said the magic word and Cas gave up a plan he'd been working on for months, that he believes the world rests on?" Dean asked.

"Well, when you say it like that…"

"He's probably just yanking your chain," Dean said tiredly, "keeping us off track so he and Crowley can work."

Sam rubbed at his eyes. "I don't think so. Like I said, he seemed like he meant it. And it looked like he had a plan at the end. I really think we have an answer to this whole crap-storm."

"Well, I sure as hell hope so," Bobby said. "'Cause I don't know what else to do."

Sam hadn't told them about his plan to let nature take its course following Jake. That would only serve to piss them both off, and it would make it sound like he was ungrateful for what Dean did for him. It couldn't be further from the truth. It was the most incredible thing anyone had ever done for him, even if he hated what it had cost. He hadn't told them anything much other than Cas was off track with Crowley now and they maybe had a plan. He figured vague was the way to go. He wasn't lying exactly; he was just… yeah, lying.

"More coffee?" he asked in an upbeat tone.

Dean nodded and held out his mug.

Bobby shook his head. "Nah, I figure we should keep the pot full for Mr. Alcohol Poisoning over there."

Dean grumbled and Sam laughed as he handed Dean a fresh mug. Sam went to sit down at the table, but there was the sound of rushing wings and he lurched to his feet again and spun to take in the room.


"I am here, Sam." Cas appeared in the doorway between the kitchen and library. Despite his dour tone, he looked wired and happy.

"You worked it out, didn't you?" Sam said, a thrum of excitement building in his chest.

"Yes. I have found the solution. I think we can make it work. It does not come without a cost, though."

Sam nodded eagerly. "Okay. That's okay. What do we have to do?"

"Hold up!" Dean said harshly. "What are you thinking, Cas? What are you getting my brother into?"

Cas looked at Dean as if seeing him for the first time. "I am saving us all."

Sam watched the color build in Dean's face and he knew the explosion was coming. He mentally counted down as Dean hands fisted and his eyes narrowed. "What the hell? You spend months, months lying to us and hiding things and working with Crowley, and you expect us to trust you now? You're not doing it Cas. I don't know what dumbass plan you've come up with this time, but you're not doing it, and definitely not with my brother."

Cas merely looked at him, and Sam said, "Dean, this is the only way apparently. We've got to do it."

"It? We don't even know what it is yet, Sam. And besides, this is a plan cooked up between Mr. Amnesia and the angel that's been screwing us over lately. What part of that screams 'good idea'?"

Sam's jaw tightened but he bit back the retort. Dean wasn't thinking what he was saying, he was hung-over and stressed, that didn't mean his cruel words had no affect though.

"What is the plan, Cas?" Bobby asked.

"We change the present by changing the past," Cas said. "By diverting the path where it all went wrong, we can change what is happening now."

Dean shook his head. "We've tried that before, with Mom and Dad. I couldn't stop her going into that nursery and we couldn't make her leave Dad. Michael put the nix on that."

"That was different," Cas said. "Then, you were working with others' free will. This time Sam will change his own actions by being the Sam of the past."

Dean shook his head. "So, you're going to dump Sam in the past and hope no one notices the fact he's aged years?" He gestured Sam up and down in evidence. Sam had spotted the same problem, but he assumed Cas had a solution, so he stayed silent.

"I will not dump Sam's body anywhere. It's his soul that will be taken."

Sam nodded eagerly, understanding. "So I will actually be there? That makes sense. I can change it all, but"—he looked pointedly at Dean—"how do I change what he does?"

"You don't. You will be able to affect only your own actions. I will take you later than you suggested, to before Samhain was risen, and you will change your path from there. I believe that is the pinnacle moment, your exorcism of him, it strengthened your belief in yourself and it trained your abilities. Without that, you may not be strong enough to kill Lilith."

"Whoa, crazy train, last stop," Dean said, raising his hands. "You're not taking Sam's soul anywhere! 'Like it had been flayed alive', remember, Cas? What makes you think he can handle any of this?"

Sam frowned, not understanding. "Flayed…?"

"Your soul," Dean explained. "When Cas got a feel of it, it was all messed up. The cage did that to you, Sam, and I'm not letting you yank it out again and go stuffing it anywhere. No. Not happening."

Sam shook his head slowly. He knew Dean was acting in his best interests, that it was said with concern not malice, but it was time for Dean to realize he didn't let Sam do anything. He'd said so himself, before they'd gone to Detroit. Sam was a grown ass man and he could make his own choices.

"If this works, Sam's soul will never be injured," Cas said. "This present, this path we are on, will be averted. We will be living in a better world."

Dean got to his feet and moved into Cas's space. "What part of no don't you understand?"

"The part where you are the one saying it," Cas said calmly, unaffected by Dean's air of poorly suppressed rage. "This is Sam's choice. He is the one that gets to say no."

Dean rounded on Sam. "Don't you dare, Sam! I mean it. You don't get to do this to yourself. You don't get to make this choice."

Sam felt a wave of remorse. He'd told Cas that one more thing might break Dean, and he thought perhaps this would be this thing. He would have liked to reassure Dean, to promise he wouldn't do it, but what choice did he really have? This could save more than his brother, this could save the world. He didn't want to hurt Dean, that was the last thing he wanted, but now there was a solution, he had to grab at it with both hands.

He clapped Dean on the shoulder and squeezed it for a moment and then let his hand drift back to his side. "I'm doing it."

"Haven't you listened to a damn thing I've said?" Dean asked in a growl.

"I've listened," Sam said softly. "And I understand why you're scared. That doesn't change it though. I'm doing this."

Bobby cleared his throat. "Why do you have to do it? I get that the world right now isn't a picnic, but is it worth losing you to fix?"

Sam smiled at his surrogate father. "It's worth it, Bobby. I can save the world. How can I say no to that?"

Bobby stared into his eyes, testing him, knowing him, and then he nodded. "Okay."

"Okay?" Dean said incredulously. "You're kidding me right. You're on board with this?"

"How is this worse than what's already happened?" Bobby asked. "This isn't the cage. This is a walk in the park compared to that. And like Sam said, it's saving the world."

Dean turned away, disgusted.

"Don't you see?" Cas said, impatience making his voice harsh. "If this works, there will never be any cage for Sam. Lucifer will never rise and Sam will never have to return him to Hell."

Dean opened his mouth, to argue Sam was sure, but he spoke over him. "I'm doing this Dean, whether you like it or not. I need your help though. If you can't do that, I'll understand, but I'd really appreciate it if you could."

Dean scowled at him. "What do you need me for?"

"Well, I'm assuming something taken from the present to go to the past will have a price. " He looked at Cas. "I'm losing my soul in the present, right? And I'll go back to how I was before? I don't remember any of that, but I'm guessing I'm going to need someone to take care of that on this end."

"Yes," Cas said. "You will be soulless again. I am not sure how time will readjust now while you are changing the past, but for the safety of others, you should be restrained."

Dean looked sickened. "Soulless? Again?"

Sam disregarded him for the moment. He knew some of the things he had done while running around without his soul, but he was sure there was more that he didn't know about, things that would make Dean look the way he did now, like he wanted to throw up.

He could have argued the point until the sun set, but it would change nothing. He would never persuade Dean of the rightness of doing this. Dean couldn't let him, so he would have to take the choice out of his hands.

He girded himself and left the room, calling Cas after him. The angel followed, and after a moment and a muttered curse, he heard a chair scrape back across the linoleum that told him Bobby was following.

He went to the basement and walked unwillingly into the panic room. The cot was pushed against the wall, and Sam dragged it into the center of the room, away from anything that could help his escape.

"Lock me down," he said to Bobby and then lie down on the thin mattress.

"Are you sure about this?" Bobby asked.

"Damn sure," Sam said.

Bobby nodded regretfully and reached for the leather restraint at the foot of the bed. He wrapped it around Sam's ankle, tightening it almost painfully. Sam relished the pain. The tighter the better, anything that would stop him getting away.

Cas strapped his wrist in place and then stepped away, unbuttoning his cuff and rolling his sleeve up. "Are you ready?" he asked.

"Yeah. Let's do this," Sam said, hoping they didn't hear the quaver in his voice.

"Wait!" Dean shouted, and Sam heard the pounding of footsteps on the steps. He rushed into the room, red-faced and wild eyed. "Sam, I'm begging you, don't do this!"

Sam shook his head sadly. "I've got no choice." He turned away and closed his eyes. "Go on, Cas," he said. "Get it done."

"Wait!" Dean shouted again. "What about the wall?"

But Cas was already in motion. His hand was on Sam's chest, forcing its way into him. There was unimaginable pain, excruciating agony, and then nothing at all.

So…who's with me on the journey this time? The story is completely written so there's no danger of me abandoning it.

I have been very lucky with readers and reviewers with my past stories, and that really helps motivate me to work on new stories, so I hope some of you have followed me here this time.

Until next time…

Clowns or Midgets xxx