Be Not Afraid
MAJOR SPOILERS for the Season 4 finale
Disclaimer: These characters and situations are owned by the CW and Kripke, not by me.
Roaring. Blinding light. An explosion in slow motion. Dean hefts the knife and throws a Hail Mary into the center. The knife can kill anything. The knife scared even Lilith.
It doesn't even touch her dad.
Sam and Dean wake in daylight, bruised and aching, in a field that was a forest before row after row of trees were flattened, their tops pointing outward from the center where they lie. Dean has seen it before; Sam knows it by report.
"Lucifer," Sams says in horror. "He's free." He picks himself up stiffly from the disturbed ground.
Dean hears him as if they're under water. Something is wrong with his ears. "It's apocalypse time, I guess. You all right?" His own voice echoes loudly in his skull.
Sam turns an anguished gaze on him. "Am I all right? Am I all right? I just caused this. I did it. Not Lilith, me!" Sam almost trips over a boulder-sized piece of rubble and sits down on it, hard. Ruby said … oh, God." He hides his face in his hands.
Dean gets painfully to his feet, surveys what looks like ground zero. Some rubble persists from the convent, but most of it is gone, vaporized. "Yeah, you did, you dumbshit," he says without real rancor. "Damn, if I could've just got that door open quicker. Couldn't Cas have put me down in the same damn room?" He kicks at a stone. The sky on the horizon is turning burnt umber.
"What locked it? They were wide open." Sam looks up, and sees the sky. "Oh, no."
"Ruby did it. She saw me out there. Didn't you hear me yelling?" Dean's hearing is returning to normal. So something in the apocalypse can return to normal.
"I heard you. Dean, I just – I'm sorry, but after that phone call I just couldn't …" Dean has never heard Sam sound so miserable. The red color is in the sky in the other direction, too.
Dean smells smoke. But what else is there to do than bicker with his brother? It feels normal, and oddly, a relief. An island of normalcy as the world literally goes to Hell. "Phone call, what phone call? You don't mean the one from me. The one where I apologized like a little girl."
"That's not what you said." Sam gives him that look, the one from eons ago when Dean would assure him Dad was coming back for his birthday. But this time, Dean isn't wrong.
"Yeah, it is, Sammy. She played you, man." Dean watches the realization spread across his brother's face, watches him grow sick on memories, and savors his own memory that, at the end, it was Sam who held Ruby while Dean killed her.
"She … she knew." Sam's face is ashen. "She knew what I was thinking. She knew exactly what to do." Sam turns away and retches. Dean nods. He thinks he should be angry, but he can relate.
Dean studies the sky. The glow is in all directions. "Well, we are all royally fucked, now," he says. He wonders if the whole world is burning. He thinks he ought to care more.
Sam gestures at the smoldering sky, the killing field of trees. "I did this," he cries. "Dean, you were right all along. I am so sorry." Tears water his face. "I made these choices. Ruby said …" he shakes his head. "I should have known." He stumbles toward Dean. "I think … I think you'd better kill me."
Dean's numbness is wearing off. "You think so, do you? And when did your choices start being the right ones?"
Sam flinches at that, but stands his ground, still weeping. "Dean, I'm a demon. I am. I can feel it. There's no going back. I can't fix this." He looks Dean in the face, his eyes black as sin. "See?"
And Dean flinches at that. He can't help it. The eyes are the windows to an evil soul, and for too long the sight has meant run for your life, to him. "Shit!" he gasps, his heart pounding. He swallows. "Well, I don't care. Some of my best pains-in-the-ass are demons." Sammy, oh Sammy.
To Dean's further dismay, Sam gets down on his knees in front of him. "Dad told you to. It was his dying wish. Please. I don't want to live. It's what Dad wanted."
"Oh, get up. Dad didn't know everything." Dean looks around wildly for the knife, not to use it, but to make sure it's nowhere near Sam. He doesn't see it anywhere. "Besides, I think he meant for me to do it before we brought Hell to Earth. I've already screwed that up." Dean turns away because Sam isn't moving and he needs to dismantle this medieval tableau where Sam practically puts his head on a chopping block. "Damn, why couldn't I get that door down?"
With his back to his brother's misery, Dean can think of himself again. "Sam, I think Cas gave up his life to buy me time to stop you. I screwed that up, too." The old self-loathing fills him. "I failed him."
"You didn't fail me, Dean."
The voice is low and expressionless, as always, but sounds weary. Dean whirls in astonishment and sees him there, loose necktie, open raincoat, bedroom hair and five-o'clock shadow. Somehow he looks more haggard than usual. "Cas!" Dean cries.
Sam stands, takes two steps toward the angel, and drops prone on the ground, covering his eyes. The wind shifts, and Dean can hear the rumble of a fire. "Sam," Dean exclaims, "what are you doing?"
Castiel approaches, stops a few feet from Sam, looking down at him. "It is the appropriate response, Dean," he says mildly. "My line is, 'Be not afraid.'" He looks at Dean across Sam's prone form and his tone is no longer mild. "But there is much to fear. All is open warfare on the Earth between angels and demons. Humanity will be mere collateral damage." Castiel reaches down and when he stands again, he holds Ruby's knife. Dean feels cold.
"Don't touch him, Cas," he says, picking his way swiftly to stand at Sam's feet. Sam's shoulders tense.
"Sam has nothing to fear from me," Castiel says. He holds the knife in his right hand.
Dean studies Castiel, feeling his failure keenly. "You look like H – shit," he says. "What did they do to you?"
"I was cast aside when the final seal broke."
Sam has not moved. Dean kind of wishes he could hide his face, too. "Look, Cas, I –"
"You did not fail me, Dean. With the hosts of Hell and the captains of Heaven arrayed against you, your chances were small, yet you fought on. You led me. I let you lead me. To this." Castiel crouches by Sam's head, puts a hand beneath Sam's shoulder and effortlessly turns him and pulls him to rest Sam's back against his knee. Sam appears limp, but shoots Dean a frightened look.
"What?" Dean rushes forward, but a short gesture from Castiel pushes him back a step and erects an invisible wall. "What are you doing? Cas, don't." Sam's expression returns to one of misery. He hangs his head.
Castiel looks at Dean. "Trust me. As I trusted you," he says.
"No." Dean scrambles frantically along the unseen barrier as it curves around the two forms. Smoke wafts across the clearing. Beyond the felled trees the forest is in flames, but it means nothing to Dean. "You – I never know what side you're on. You used my trust before." There's nothing Dean can do. He can't approach nearer than a few feet. "I'm not trusting you with my brother," he yells.
Sam lifts his head. "Dean, don't, please," he begs, weeping again. To Castiel he says, "I'm so sorry, I swear. Do whatever you have to with me."
"There are rules I will not change, Sam."
"No!" Dean cries, anguished, as Castiel brings up the knife.