A/N: Sorry for the late update but thank you for the reviews! Okay, before we get to the final chapter, I want a guarantee from all of you guys that you won't kill me once you've finished reading it. Promise?
Disclaimer: Supernatural and all its affiliates belong to Eric Kripke.
The word in and of itself was derived from Latin, ars medicina, meaning the art of healing. If the deepest-rooted fear in human existence was the fear of what lay beyond the mortal veil of the shadow of death, the most fervent enterprise sought after by man was a means by which to prevent or put off the inevitable end. At the dawn of civilization, prehistoric medicine followed simpler traditions such as herbalism, while exploring the spiritual aspects of healing through divination and animism.
Medical thinking shifted after the failed attempts of the Church to cure the plague that overtook every civilization in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Black Plague that would not dissipate or be swept away by crying out to the invisible God above or through repentance or desperate self-flagellation. The disparity between Eastern and Western ideals upon the subject was great indeed, practices spanning over the entire length of the spectrum from the art of connecting with one's inner charkas in Chinese medicine to the Father of Medicine himself, Hippocrates of the ancient Greeks.
Much time has progressed since the ages when physicians opted to utilize leeches and cutting to let out "bad" blood or when they used to drill holes in patients' skulls in futile attempts to relieve a headache. As of present day, doctors boasted of the ability to be able to do more than ever before, aided with the most cutting edge technologies and the wonders of modern science.
Physicians, however, even with all their CAT scans and transcranial dopplers, could never boast of being miracle workers. Sometimes, the best thing to do was make the patient as comfortable as possible in his last hours upon the Earth and contact and priest.
"I could really use some NoDoz right now…"
"Pass the sugar; no, not the Splenda, the real sugar-"
"Is that hazelnut creamer?"
The low murmurs of conversation and percolating liquid brewed from the magical bean found deep in the jungles of Latin and South America filled the break room, as did the wonderful aroma of the roasted beverage, what so many individuals depended on to survive and just get through the day. Nurses and surgeons, orderlies and physicians all mingled together in this one safe haven from the blood, from the trauma and from the tragedy that so encompassed their daily lives. There was no hierarchy of individuals in the medical field here, no echelon of elites that broke off into their own cliques- here, all was discussed among the chatter of pregnancy stories, interesting cases, and the run of the mill gossip.
However, for the past few days, all everyone could seem to focus on was the patient that suddenly appeared right in front of the hospital's emergency doors close to three days ago, looking like he'd been spirited away to Guantanamo or back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
"I'd never seen anything like it before."
"Nelson said that he crashed on the way to the OR and they had no idea how to resuscitate him because there was no way to use the defibrillator; they couldn't turn him onto his back without risking dumping his organs out of his body…"
"He can't possibly be another victim of a mobbing or a motor vehicle accident; Henry told me all of his posterior ribs were ripped from his spine. Something deliberately snapped the connective ligaments-"
He sat there wearily, listening to the words that came floating over from the microwave, where a trio of nurses were congregating around a bag of popcorn and speculating in stage whispers. None of them would truly know the patient's condition; how they actually had to call their neighboring hospital to send over more AB negative, exactly how many tubes had to be inserted into the man's still form just to make sure that he kept breathing, that his internal organs didn't decide to stop functioning.
Thomas Hartley liked to think that he'd seen his fair share of the shocking, the unsightly and the grotesque. Never had he ever imagined that he would one day be attempting to wire and screw a man's ribs back to his thoracic spine. Sitting there staring into the murky depths of his black coffee, all the ER doctor could see in his mind's eye was the layers of erector spinae and thorax muscles peeling away from each other, the waxy pallor of the patient's face and painstakingly making sure not to puncture a lung as he tried to piece back together the mess of bone and torn ligaments on the operating table.
"The man who brought him in- wasn't that the patient that went missing on Marie's watch?"
"She's still on suspension for that, isn't she?"
"But I saw her earlier; she was in the ICU -but there seemed to be something different about her, I couldn't quite but my finger on it-"
Different? Thomas resisted the urge to scoff. Well, that's certainly an understatement. There'd been a rumor a couple of years back that the two of them were maintaining a relationship closer than professional protocol allowed, but in reality, their connection was a friendship based on much more than romance alone, something far deeper and more resilient to the weathering forces of life. He'd known Marie since she showed up in the Dean's office, fresh out of nursing school; he'd been there for her first breakdown when she'd gotten too attached to a child with a terminal illness, she'd been there to support him when his marriage fell apart. The young man found it safe to say that he knew Marie Elena Cortez pretty damn well, and that the woman keeping vigil at the strange new patient's bedside was not her.
"Marie! Marie, are you okay?"
There was something about the way she'd turned to look at him as she stood there by the door as they were wheeling the gurney in, something about the set to her jaw and the eerie light in her dark brown eyes that wasn't the Marie he knew. Thomas could've sworn they carried a hint of a startling shade of glinting grayish-white, or maybe it was just the neon lights reflecting off of the wet pavement, but there was definitely something foreign about her voice when she spoke. Gone was the warmth of the friendly bedside manner; gone was the spunk of the self-assured, confident young woman punctuated by the occasional rolling of r's indicative of her native tongue.
"I am without injury. My brother is in need of medical ministration."
The doctor shook his head, remembering. Who'd taken his spirited, fiery-tempered friend and replaced her with a robot that sounded like the Oxford Dictionary? And where did this blue-eyed, pale-skinned "brother" come from all of a sudden? And who was this patient to Marie that she would lie to one of her best friends as to his identity? Thomas brought the styrofoam cup to his lips and swallowed the lukewarm bitter liquid, casting a sideways glance at the nurses filing out of the break room. Maybe one of them can figure out what's going on with her; do some girl talk or something just to find out who the hell this stranger is-
Was he jealous? Of course not; what a ridiculous notion. Confused? Definitely. But more than ever, the young man was concerned, and for his friend's sake. Most of the time, Marie's pretty face and gentle smile was one of the last things her patients saw when their time drew to a close. He knew she had the bad habit of forming close bonds with patients simply because that was simply the way she was, how she stubbornly refused to sit back and just watch someone die. Each death hit Marie personally because she was apt to feel more deeply and care with far more compassion than the average woman. She not only showed support, she shouldered a part of the burden and the sorrow, inevitably setting herself up for the grief and all the tears that came with such a task.
Thomas knew that while many other physicians and medical caregivers used pills, IV drips, and fancy terminology, Marie healed with all of herself. He'd had seen the way she lingered by the newly arrived patient's bedside, gazing steadily at the dying man with something strangely akin to fierce protection in her poise, in the shadow of her intense, unreadable expression and he was scared for her because he knew, because everyone knew that the patient wasn't going to make it.
The moisture condensed from the atmosphere fell visibly in separate drops from the grey sky, running in rivulets down the hunter's face, into the collar of his shirt and soaking past cloth to chill the skin. Dean's shoulders were slouched, his posture defeated, face lined with weariness and other unnamable emotions he was trying to keep quelled deep within his chest.
His eyes were dry as they gazed upwards at the weeping heavens; there were no tears. It seemed like all of creation was crying enough for everyone and everything, as if the water could wash away the blood staining the floor of a glass cell down in the underground bunker of a now demolished mansion so many miles away, as if drowning the Earth could put one of Heaven's soldiers back together again and erase all that had been done in the past week, in the past month, year.
But Castiel wasn't some Humpty Dumpty that could be patched up with childish hope and duct tape; there were no king's horses or king's men to make sure the angel was all right and goddamn it all to Hell because there wasn't anything he could do about it. There wasn't a damn thing he could do to dispel the image of his brother thrusting his arm into Castiel's back with a maniacal grin stretching his face that was already smeared with the blood of an angel.
My brother. Dean laughed bitterly, the sound hoarse come from vocal chords strained from choking back the sobs and smothering down the screams, bottling up the urge to rage against the unseen God above, against the injustice that had been dealt to an angel whose only fault was caring too much about the human in his charge. I don't even know who my brother is anymore.
"Think that I won't, that your dear Sammy is too weak, that I haven't got the nerve? You should have been here when I tore him open."
He never would have thought, even after hearing the words coming out of Sam's mouth while under the siren's spell, that Sam was capable of committing such atrocities. Dean hunched up his shoulders against the rain, which was falling faster now, rounding his back against a gust of wind. He would have never believed it had he not been standing there, watching with speechless horror. Truthfully, he would have gone on believing that it was all a farce, a dream, an illusion- if not for the reality of the raw fear and pain in Castiel's broken gaze.
"You took care of Sammy, you took care of me. You did that, and you didn't complain, not once. I just want you to know that I am so proud of you."
John's words rung out in his mind again, a ghostly echo of a whisper from the past and Dean swallowed hard at the bittersweet memory. I'm sorry Dad; I can't take care of Sam anymore. He could put up with a lot of bullshit from his pain in the ass little brother in the past but this was something he would never forget, and Dean wasn't at all certain it was something he could even find it in himself to forgive. I don't know what's happened to him; he's become something that I don't recognize and can't tell apart from what you trained me to hunt because goddamn it, he was killing an angel…
A foot depressed soggy ground a little ways behind where he stood on the hospital's lawn, a rather large-sized imprint into the mud and his throat tightened because he knew who it was, he knew all too well the hesitancy that emanated from the other person, tingling like currents of electricity upon the air.
He didn't answer. The only indication he gave of having heard his name called at all was in a stiffening of his shoulders and clenching of his jaw. The other's voice was uncertain and cautious, a bit rough, and with an underlying tone of intellectual persuasiveness that was just so Sammy- but Dean didn't turn around. He refused to face this stranger that was wearing his brother's features, just as he had no desire to retrieve him from the ruins of Mason Todd's mansion. Sam must have walked the entire way here after waking and he should've been relieved that his brother made it safely, but deep within the darkest corners of his mind, a part of Dean was wishing he hadn't arrived here at the hospital at all.
"Don't do this, please; just- just…talk to me?"
"Not now," was the frosty reply. Just leave, go somewhere else other than here because talking is the last think I want to do right now.
There was silence for a moment, then- "Dean, please let me explain-"
Suddenly, he was absolutely and uncontrollably livid. "I said 'not now', okay Sam?!" Dean yelled, hollering the words out from deep within his chest into the rain. I don't want to talk, I don't want to hear your excuses or listen to you trying to lessen your own blame; I don't even want to look at you right now. He couldn't simply stand there and have a conversation with the one who had wreaked irreparable, unknowable damage upon an angel who'd dragged him out of Hell, to whom he owed so much-
What the hell are you thinking, man? The rational part of his mind protested, but standing there in the rain, listening to Sam's footsteps trudging away, Dean knew he couldn't strive to make a dead man proud this time. He wouldn't. Not until the man he knew to be his brother had returned, not until the elder Winchester made sure that Castiel was going to be alright. And if putting an angel over Sam meant breaking his promise to John, so be it.
His eyes were glued to the floor as he walked the shiny linoleum floors, down the hallway and once again inhaling the fumes of disinfectant and death. The latter though, didn't just permeate his surroundings but rather clung to his form like an unwanted shadow. The walls lining the corridors down to the Intensive Care Unit were painted a depressing taupe color in contrast to the whitewashed panels of the hospital's other hallways; the only color that stood out against the dull background of the entire setting was the red etched into the whorls of his fingers, into the lines of his palms and carved in so deep underneath his fingernails that no amount of soap and water would be successful in removing it.
Sam avoided the eyes of the nurses and doctors walking past him, giving the medical personnel a wide berth, and not wanting to distract them from their duties or draw their attention to the suspicious dark brown markings of dried bloodstains on his clothes. He had yet to encounter Dean although he knew the other had seen him. He didn't blame his brother for not wanting to meet him though; he didn't blame Dean for leaving him to wake up in a dark, dank glass enclosed room, lying in pools of blood that clearly wasn't his. He would've done exactly the same thing.
The soles of his worn down leather boots squeaked against the waxed floors as he came to a stop in front of the first door on the left, just as the receptionist had instructed. Sam lifted a hand to grasp the handle, but hesitated. What in the world was he doing here? Did he honestly think that an apology would fix Castiel and make right all the wrong that had been done and erase all the horrors he'd inflicted upon the other? Would the angel even be awake to receive his expression of shame and regret? Slowly, he gripped the doorknob with unsure fingers and slowly began to turn it-
"Should you make another move, Samuel Winchester, you would do well to pray for God Almighty to have mercy upon your damnable soul because I-will-not."
It was a voice ringing with all the authority of Heaven; the voice of the deliverer of the Annunciation, of the holy warrior who spoke God's command- but right now, there was nothing but the cold promise of death and the steely threat of all the pain of an archangel's might resounding in the tone. Sam could feel the heat of a thousand suns at his back, two orbs of piercing light boring holes into his spine and slowly, slowly he turned to face the individual standing not more than five feet behind him.
The Latina woman was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over her chest, chin lowered and mouth set into a thin, tight line as she glared dangerously at him, daring him without words. Dark eyebrow were drawn toward each other in a frown so deep one could have cut it with a knife and piercing eyes shone with a driving force. It was no trick of the light this time; instead of the warm obsidian shade Sam had seen so long ago from the nurse who tried to comfort him when it had been Dean lying in a hospital bed, now there was something ethereal about the way she glowered at him, a glint in her hard gaze that could have obliterated him from the face of this Earth.
"Gabriel," Sam breathed in realization as he took a step back, partially in awe but mostly in pure terror. He remembered then in a brief flash of an instant, Marie lifting an arm and suddenly he was airborne, being flung away from Castiel's still form, his skull cracking hard against the wall. "I-"
"Do not speak." Pushing off and away from the wall, the archangel moved forward, unbridled power limited within the human capacities of a vessel and somehow contained within the slender frame of a petite young woman. Gabriel's voice was flat, emotionless, but Sam flinched because it was the same tone Dean used when confronting any supernatural force that had dared to harm his pain in the ass little brother- full of inconsolable rage that had been melded into a forced calm that was even more frightening than the violence that always inevitably followed.
He'd seen angels teleport before, but witnessing an archangel's power was certainly different than anything that could be conjured up by the imagination of mere mortals. All that suddenly in a whisper of breath, Sam found himself standing toe to toe with the other, with the wall at his back and feeling invisible tongues of flame licking at his being. The younger Winchester's muscles froze, unable to perform the fight or flight response the adrenaline spiraling wildly throughout his system demanded; he held his breath, just waiting for the killing blow.
"I know what you have done to gain corrupted power; I know of the depravity in your blood." The words hit Sam as hard as any blow and his knees actually shook. Gabriel pinned him with a stare that laid bare his soul, stripping away his defenses and dragging out his darkest secret from his innermost being no matter how hard he tried to resist-
"Heaven commands that you are to come to no harm." The words were spoken coolly, with a calm so chilling that it made Sam's flesh crawl. Gabriel's voice dropped an octave lower as the archangel leaned closer; Marie's obsidian eyes shifted colors entire for one, blinding instant- "But dare you touch my brother, nay, dare you lay eyes upon Castiel again, and I will lay waste to your soul."
Sam leaned against the sink counter, once again staring at himself in the glass, at the deep bags under his bloodshot eyes. God, he looked like shit. Stumbling away from the reflective surface, he more or less fell back against the stalls, sliding down into a seated position and trying to curl himself into the smallest position possible. A leaky faucet dripped steadily. This was where he first lost his senses, where he first drank deeper than ever before and even now he could feel the thirst tearing apart his insides like a pack of wolves-
The angel's eyes were clouded with pain as the claws of the invisible mongrels of hell sunk deep into his mangled chest, shredding it all to nothingness and ripping through the breastbone. A cold laugh rang out through the glass chamber and Sam turned his head to the nearest transparent panel to see that it was coming from him.
No. He clenched his fists and shoved them against the concaves of his stomach, pressing his forehead against his knees and trying to banish the mental images from his mind but they kept coming, unbidden and unwanted. Sam's shoulders shook and he tried to stop the shudders wracking his frame; the floor was tilting in and out of focus, vision blurring and suddenly all he could see was the blood against chalky white skin and pained sapphire twin orbs.
Dean's frantic shout drew his attention to the corner of the room, where the OR's spotlight was illuminating Alastair as the white-eyed demon stood there, digging his hand casually around in Castiel's chest, making the angel jerk in uncontrollable spasms. Sam's eyes widened and he gagged because there was just so much blood, too much blood to believe-
He could see the glassiness of the sapphire eye as they grew bright with moisture; they turned upon him and something in Sam's heart clenched tight. By some extraordinary power, Castiel's lips formed shapes and his diaphragm contracted.
"The Lord forgives you for what you have done, Samuel. As do I."
The angel convulsed suddenly, and Sam pulled back in shock, so happening to look down- it wasn't the demon's hand fishing around in Castiel's torso anymore but it was his own, fingers dragging through the thick crimson fluid and a scream of denial, of horror was rising up…
Faded red stains against his hands still stood out starkly in the glow of the luminescence of the restroom lights and, filled with an irrational desperation Sam scrambled up off of the floor and hurled himself against the counter, wrenching the sink faucet so hard that the water came spewing out in a rush. Shoving his hands under the rush and moving his fingers against the coolness. There was something inside his mind though, probing against his consciousness and pushing hard against the natural mechanism of dissociation and repression; he turned his hand over and bent his fingers inward toward his palm, forming a fist-
It was a strike of lightening straight into his mind and his legs buckled, hearing the echo of Castiel's cry of pain because it was nothing he'd ever heard before, holding no more dignity than the howl of a wounded animal. I ripped away Castiel's grace. Sam literally fell to his knees, the realization pounding like a hammer at his temples. I've killed an angel.
Hands settled on his shoulders and he jerked around to see Ruby's dark eyes staring at him. Helplessly, he fell to pieces in her arms. Laying his head on the demon's shoulder the younger Winchester cried like a child, shedding tears because his brother hated him, because of all that he had done when blinded by power and because of what he had to do to kill Lilith, because he had no one left except for her.
"Oh, Sammy." Ruby sighed, rubbing a hand over Sam's broad, shaking shoulders. "Come on." They had to leave now, and quickly at that before Heaven's messenger archangel decided to smite both.
The steady, rhythmic beeping of the many machines was much different from that chorus of angels' voices that praised the Father with tongues of fire and the twenty-four elders who cast down their crowns of gold at the feet of God. Countless tubes fed fragile life to the individual in the hospital bed, paler than the sheets he lay upon and the bandages his broken body was swathed in. One would've expected the bedside curtains to be pulled for privacy's sake, but no one protested the presence of the petite woman standing right next to the unconscious man's still form.
Light brown hands crossed and then re-crossed, an easily identifiable gesture of discomfort; a sign of nervousness that wasn't expressly unique to any particular individual for it was a universal gesture in mankind. Dark brown eyes flickered over the patient's numerous wounds that still bled red through layers upon layers of gauze and the hands re-crossed again. Right thumb over left. Separate. Left thumb over right.
Soft hissing from the oxygen mask was the only sound that filled the room, the whisper of artificial breath from tanks and into nostrils, down into lungs that no longer had the power to expand upon their own accord.
The archangel's gaze lifted upwards and away from Castiel, toward where the murmur came and as he listened, Gabriel's features suddenly tightened. His vessel's long, elegant fingers gripped together so firmly that Marie's nails were digging deep grooves into the skin, drawing forth small crescent shapes of blood; eyes that were suddenly large and uncertain strayed back toward the bedridden patient but Gabriel nodded. Yes. I understand Heaven's command. A moment passed and the archangel bowed his head, as if such an action could hide the grief twisting his heart. I shall obey.
A light footstep outside the door brought him out of his internal struggle and a glint of silver appeared in dark brown eyes. Without hesitation, Marie's arm was lifting, her palm was thrusting forward and the door to the room was flying open to lay bare the path for the archangel advancing upon the door down the length of the hallway that was swinging shut, through which Gabriel had just sent an individual careening back through.
Dark red hair seemed to blend in with the dull beige of the stalls in women's bathroom and hazel eyes widened upon seeing the tense figure of the Latina nurse stalking into the lavatory, muscles taut and jaw clenched so tightly it was a wonder her teeth weren't shattering. "I see you're inhabiting another vessel, Gabriel," Anna observed. "Interesting choice."
"Why are you here." It wasn't an inquiry or a polite question; it was a flat statement whose undertones didn't not require an answer, but a course of action that demanded the other's absence.
"I was just on my way to see how our little brother is doing," Anna replied smoothly, getting to her feet. "I heard from here and there that he'd gotten himself into yet another terrible scrape and I thought that checking up on him would be a good idea." She smiled gently with what appeared to be sincerity and concern. "Because you know how much I care for dear Cas."
Both mirrors over the sink cracked like someone had smashed his fist into their surfaces; the automatic sensor faucets broke off from the counter, rocketing up into the air and sending geysers of water shooting forcibly up into the air. The lights flickered, casting shadows upon Anna's milk complexion as she glanced at her surroundings in mock surprise.
"You hate me, don't you Gabriel?" She crossed her arms and leaned casually against the wall of the first stall, tilting her head to the side and giving the fuming archangel a knowing, catty little smirk. "It's such a strong feeling… isn't it?"
It might have slipped past the attention of the mere mortal eye, but she saw it- the flicker of uneasiness that crossed over Gabriel's features beneath the face of the nurse being possessed, the foreign tumult of what could have been categorized as emotions clashing in the other's usually blank, composed countenance. Anna laughed aloud then, tossing her head back and letting her eyes shut with mirth. Oh my, my, my. What's God Almighty going to think when word gets back that the archangel who stands at his left hand; his precious, powerful messenger has fallen prey to the sentiments of man?
"I know what you're thinking," she said slowly, dragging out each syllable with evident mockery. "I heard the command from Heaven too, about what must be done to Castiel- but you can't do it, can you Gabriel?" The redhead stepped forward jauntily, clicking her tongue as if she had just caught a child with one hand in the cookie jar of the dish of forbidden sweets. "And you're wondering why the Father you love would ask you to do such a thing to your dear little brother, am I right?" Anna leaned in close, whispering the next words. "And I felt it, Gabriel; I felt your uncertainty. That strange sensation you feel, gnawing away at your resolve? That's called doubt."
"No." All the color from Marie's dark eyes vanished for one blinding instant; the brown fled from the irises and pupils vanished as they shone pure silver, the light alone knocking the fallen angel away. Gabriel lifted a hand then, gaze steely as his fingers closing and thrust the fist forward, toward that small, mocking pink smile and the hazel eyes of the traitor, of the blasphemy against the Lord.
Light flooded the small interior of the ladies' washroom and was all that reflected in the starred, fractured mirrors that stood as silent witnesses to the happenings within.
He had no idea how long he'd been standing there but when the sound of another footstep reached his ears, Dean turned around with a sort of weary resignation, ready to tell Sam to get away because he still wasn't up for talking to his brother yet- only to find Marie standing there.
Well, Gabriel actually. The hunter's brow furrowed. He'd gotten so used to seeing the blank face of the archangel-possessed young blonde man, so used to the white suit and gold silk tie. Now, seeing the nurse standing in front of him, dark hair getting plastered to her high cheekbones and finely shaped features by the pounding rain but with the recognizable gaze-
Hold that thought too. Dean blinked and wondered if it was the stress of sleepless nights getting to his head because the eyes that stared at him were anything but piercing and resolute; they were downright miserable. He'd seen emotion flitting across Castiel's features plenty of times but this was the first instance in which he could state, with confidence, that the archangel Gabriel was expression an emotion, that of anguish. Horrible fear arose and the words burst forth, hurried and urgent. "How's Cas?"
Fading. Dean swallowed and tried to find the saliva to speak, clearing his throat and trying to still his pounding heart. "Well, can't you patch him up like you did last time; you know, take him to angel hospital up in the clouds somewhere or something?"
"Castiel now bears unclean blood. He is unable to enter into the Father's halls."
Some internal organ, maybe his liver, socked the elder Winchester's stomach. Hard. "What do you mean, unclean blood?"
"Uriel injected him with the blood of a demon in an effort to convert his soul. Castiel's spirit is now too weak to fight against the call of evil."
Dean really didn't like the way Gabriel's eyes were darkening with something eerily akin to sorrow, how the archangel was focusing on something off in the distance, refusing to meet his own probing gaze. His tongue felt thick and clumsy in his own mouth. "Well… Cas is a lot stronger than most of you chuckleheads give him credit for. Being an angel has to mean that you guys have some sort of built-in defense system against that shit. He'll be up acting like a pain in the ass in a couple of days again, right?"
Gabriel turned away, silent. Five seconds passed. Then ten. Twenty. Thirty-
"…what are you going to do?" Dean asked, terrified that he already knew the answer. Don't say it, don't say those four words; I'm warning you, you son of a bitch: don't say it-
"What must be done."
Maybe it was the way the archangel said it, the way Gabriel's voice was once again steady and resolute, or the rain that chose at that moment to intensify until it felt like the droplets were bullets falling from the gray clouds. "You're out of your goddamn mind!!" Whatever it was, the fear he felt was transformed into terrible anger, irrational brashness that goaded his hands into grabbing Marie's shoulder and spinning the slender nurse around and fisting his fingers into the front of her shirt. You can't kill Cas!
"It is an order from above."
"Heaven, Hell, my ass! I don't give a flying fuck where the order comes from!" Dean jerked their faces together so close that he could see his own reflection in Marie's dark brown eyes, but not in Gabriel's gaze that was now closed off. "Does Cas mean so much less to you than some divine command? Oh yeah, hell of a brother you are-"
His hands were burning then, the palms red and raw like he'd stuck them in a roaring fire and the hunter let go of the nurse with a hiss of pain, jerking away and lifting his eyes back up to the archangel who stood there, something that wasn't quite fire but wasn't quite ice in his face. "I FOLLOW my Father's orders, Dean Winchester. YOU did not. This is what has become of your inaction." Gabriel was the one bearing down upon him now but Dean's mind was to occupied to recognize fear; it whirling, whirling, because how did the archangel know of John's orders concerning his brother?
"Sam is my brother."
"And do you know what he has done to mine?" They were now toe to toe again, eye to eye, hunter and archangel. Dean could see the hurt; such hurt and so much pain. "He has destroyed Castiel's grace."
What? His entire body grew cold with horror and Dean's breath faltered. No. That can't be true. "That's impossible. Only demons can do that."
"And what do you think your brother is turning himself into?"
The hunter blinked once but there wasn't lava overflowing in his veins at Gabriel's words; it was something dangerously calm, a feeling that steeled his jaw and sharpened his glare until his eyes became shards of flinty emerald, as he reacted with pure adrenaline. If you weren't wearing Marie right now I'd stab you in the face, you lying bastard.
Making a move on an archangel wasn't exactly the smartest thing he'd ever done or considered doing. Before his fist came within striking range of Marie's face, a palm was slamming against his forehead, blinding him to the here and the now as visions of the unseen past swam into his mind and unveiled the truth for Dean Winchester about his brother once and for all.
"It's been weeks, Ruby. I need it."
"It's okay, Sammy. You can have it."
The flash of a steel blade, the backward folding of skin and Sam was seizing a hold of the demon girl's arm, mouth latching upon the wound and sucking the crimson liquid like a parched man emerging from a desert; the younger Winchester's teeth ripped savagely through the flesh of Ruby's host and drank thirstily. Blood was overflowing from his mouth, staining his teeth and covering the entire lower portion of his face; he looked downright insane, looked like a vampire. Like a monster.
Dean latched back to the present with a more than unpleasant bump, reeling in shock from what he'd seen. No… Sammy, what the hell have you done to yourself?! And why? He knew one thing though as his hand clenched into a fist; he was going to kill that bitch Ruby if it was the last thing he ever did on God's green Earth.
"I suggest you move quickly." He looked up, squinting against the rain at Gabriel. The archangel pinned him with one last unreadable stare before Marie disappeared.
The hunter stood there, feet rooted into the ground and frozen for an instant before his mind kicked into overdrive. "CAS!" Dean was racing into the hospital, bypassing the bewildered staff who took in the image of this soaking wet madman dashing into the lobby and hurtling himself up the stairs, two at a time. Don't do it God, don't do it; don't kill him, don't take Cas away because he's the only one who I know is on my side and has always been-
Gabriel stood there, gazing at Castiel's form, at the lines of suffering that were still deeply etched into the other's face even in unconsciousness, at the dark bangs sliding across the pale forehead and the pain so clearly displayed on his little brother's features. Grief colored the archangel's face; Marie's light brown hand reached up and slowly, slowly removed the oxygen mask. Outside, lightening struck, it's magnificent tendrils streaking out across the sky as the rain fell harder than ever before.
"Am I getting too heavy for you Gabriel? You worry too much, brother." A gentle chuckle, the warmth of brilliant sapphire blue eyes-
Silver orbs closed in anguish. "Forgive me, Castiel." A whisper of brokenness, a plea for understanding. Forgive me, my brother. Gabriel pressed his palm gently against the other's forehead; the room filled with impossible brightness-
The heart monitor went flat.
A/N: Yes, that's really the end. Now what kind of a terrible person would I be if I just left things at that? Of course there's going to be a sequel! But I'm going to need some major reviews and feedback! Hope you enjoyed this story!