Title: the war in your head that I did not understand
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2,717
Characters/Pairings: Castiel. Dean, Jimmy, Sam. GEN.
Genre: General, character study
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or its characters.
Warning: This is unbeta-ed. But it should be a-okay to read considering English is my first language and all... Nevertheless, even though I reread it, if someone notices a mistake (typo or other), let me know and I'll fix it.
Summary: Through the lives of Jimmy, Sam, and Dean, Castiel comes to understand just why he decided to help Dean in 4x22. "People. Families. That's real," Dean says, louder now.

"You know what's real?" he whispers, and you know by the resolve in his eyes and the way he briefly runs his tongue over his lips, giving his dry mouth the strength to continue, that it is a statement, not a question.

"People. Families. That's real," Dean says, louder now. "And you're gunna watch 'em all burn?"

This coat is way too big for me, Amelia, your vessel once said to his wife of three months.

Sorry, hon. It looked smaller in the store.

Sure it did, Jimmy says, eyebrow raised and mouth pulled to one side.

Amelia chuckles. Well, are you start going to stand there and gawk at it or are you going to help me get these groceries into the trunk before the rain comes pouring down?

Sorry, he says, readjusting the bags in his arms so he could unlock the trunk of the car. It's uncomfortable and distracting.

I wouldn't worry too much about it, Jimmy. After all, in nine months, give or take, I'll be able to wear it.

Jimmy's arms turn limp and the bags drop from his clutch, messily into the empty trunk. What?

And as if on cue, the rain begins to pour. Jimmy hears powerful thunder overhead, but doesn't quite register what it means. The water falls harder and Amelia shrieks, dumping the groceries into the trunk and racing to open the backseat door.

Her husband slams the trunk shut and runs to join Amelia.

Are you saying that … I mean … are you…

While Jimmy can't stop stammering, Amelia can barely say a word. So she nods excitedly, instead.

Really? he says, voice high-pitched and not bothering to hide it.

Yeah, she breathes, shivering in her wet clothes.

His eyes shift over to the outside world for second. He watches the rain and the people scurrying off to safety, sees his wife's unusually dark and heavy hair (and glowing skin, he thinks, but it might just be his imagination), and he pulls her close, deeper into his own dripping and oversized coat.

Amelia smiles and unzips the coat and places her head on her husband's dry, cotton shirt. She wraps the coat around herself, the inside of it warm and soft. See? This coat is useful already, she says and Jimmy's arms wrap around her and pull her closer.

From the corner of his eye, Jimmy sees his wife's loose wedding band slowly descend from her finger. Instantly, he entangles his hand in hers, and keeps it in place.

He's a lucky man.

You're peering at him through his daughter's eyes.

Jimmy is … a mess, to say the least. The wound in his abdomen is bleeding profusely and it follows a downward path (like moving water running down a hill in a tempest). There are crinkles around his eyes, making him appear older than he is. You run a child's hand through his hair and discover it is damp. And his skin - his skin is moist and chilled (like the snowy park bench you sat on with Uriel, what feels like ages ago).

You start to explain to him. You will now inhabit this body, for the blood that is spilling from Jimmy's injury is the same that runs through Claire's young veins.

This makes her worthy.

Like that, Jimmy is unburdened from his duty. He will be forgiven for all his sins and released into paradise, rewarded for his services to the Good Word.

And yet, there is distress in Jimmy's expression as you explain. You believe it is due to the physical pain caused by the bullet wound, but something like empathy tells you differently.

A raspy and weak voice pleads: Take me, Castiel. Take me. Please. You know he wants to make it seem like an order, but it vocalizes itself like a pathetic cry. It's a whimper, accompanied by a slumped and trembling body; it's an imploration for the salvation of this mortal life.

But if he requests it, then he shall have it. With his daughter's small hands on his temple, you restore yourself into Jimmy Novak's body.

You think that he is a stupid imbecile, sacrificing heaven for this deplorable world.

As you glance at your surroundings, you take sight of Claire and you feel Jimmy sighing in relief, deep down inside.

You don't understand this.

For all his shouting, Dean's words bounce off of you just as his fist had only moments earlier.

You retort with a tone of equal fervor: "What is so worth saving? I see nothing but pain here!"

Indeed, this world has displeased you. It has given you plenty to scowl over, but nothing to smile over.

The creatures here … they not only cause suffering, but they breed it (like caged animals during mating). Their grief is wild, their anger pervasive. There is chaos inside and it floods their minds until no room is left. Until this internal madness spills over into the world and consumes it, piece by piece.

As far as you're concerned, nothing here merits salvation.

When Sam moves to Stanford, he is satiated.

He's completely full. Full of hope. Full of regret. Full of rage.

He had enough. Enough of John Winchester's senseless, damned, crusade; enough of his outrageous orders (in no other household, Sam thinks, would staying late at school to work on a project result in a punishment of 10 extra laps after regular training).

Sam had enough of his older brother's utter obedience and devotion to a man so obviously flawed; enough of Dean's constant coddling, trying to calm the waters between John and Sam when the waters were far too disturbed to be settled that easily (Sam imagines that these tumultuous waters would be able to consume the largest of ships, devour it like a snack that one sneaks in quickly at night – and Sam didn't want the same to happen to his ambitions and desires).

So he leaves (things already packed from his wasted life as a nomad).

For months, he doesn't look back. Every time he thinks of his family, emotions arise that Sam cannot keep in check (such uncontrollable rushing waters) and he works hard to bury them back inside – that guilt and anger and confusion, pushed deep down.

When Sam meets Jessica (on a scorching, sunny day in September), he feels happiness, and it's an emotion he allows for resurrection.

When Sam finds out he has an interview for law school, he feels optimism.

This – right here – is all he needs.

There is no logical reason for Sam to help Dean find their father.

Sam knows: Dad is the best there is; he wouldn't have gotten himself into a mess couldn't get out of.

Sam knows: Dean is capable; he has the skills and tools necessary to look for any man of mystery, no less, the man they spent their entire lives with.

Dean's explanation is flimsy. There is nothing said that drives Sam into a panic about Dad's well-being.

Dean's excuse about how he needs help to find their father, on the other hand, pulls Sam in.

Mentally, Sam screams: Let me be, Dean! I have a life here. A real, honest-to-God, law-abiding, future-wide-open, happy and normal life. Don't come and ruin it, please!

When Dean exclaims, I can't do this alone, Sam replies, through gritted teeth, Yes, you can! The anger inside bubbles to the surface and the aggravation of this disturbance to his happy and normal world accelerates Sam's heartbeat.

And then, in less than ten words, Dean makes Sam's happy and normal illusion shatter.

Yeah, well, he says, a flicker of his tongue across his lips, I don't want to.

And that's when Sam knows.

Despite the many years he's spent trying to tell himself that his past life doesn't matter, it doesn't change the fact that it does.

Sam can't turn his back on them.

And you don't understand why.

You have family of your own (brothers and sisters dead from battle against the wicked), and you regretted their loss for they were magnificent warriors against the forces of evil (or so you hope; Uriel's traitorous rebellion makes you now doubt the allegiance of others).

You do not wish harm upon this world's people or wish to "watch them burn," as Dean so callously accused.

But why tolerate the madness in this world when those worthy enough to survive will be blessed with the serenity of paradise?

Why not accept the havoc that Zachariah has planned if it yields such a sanctified greater good?

Isn't that worth the sacrifice of asinine mortals, leading a mess of a life?

But Dean, with wild flames in his emerald eyes, shakes his head at you.

"If there is anything worth dying for …" he breathes, with every fiber of his being, "… this is it."

And just like that, you are torn.

Torn between ridiculing the absurdity of his words and applauding him for the determination (and love, you think curiously) with which he said them.

Dean hates Thundercats. He loved that cartoon at eight, but at nine years old, he is sick of it.

But little Sammy isn't.

In actuality, it is all that Sam watches when he's stuck in a motel (being fed sugary junk by Dean, and waiting for their father to come back home from some business that young Sam does not concern himself with).

Young Dean does, though.

Dean remembers that smile his father had given him when he was six after practicing shooting. And he longs for it to return. Dean longs for an exclusive invitation to the hunter's world. He dreams about Dad and him taking down some badass demon, Dean distracting the thing while Dad reaches for the shotgun.

Dean aches; wanting to be somewhere else. Anywhere else but here, stuck babysitting his little brother.

Besides, Dean's sick of Thundercats. And giving up the last of the cereal.

It's not that Dean would've starved if he didn't have that bowl of cereal. But he really loves Lucky Charms, and he just doesn't see why Sam should get everything he wants. (And what was wrong with the Spaghettios Dean slaved away on, anyway?)

He remembers his parents telling him he would be a big brother, an eternity ago. They told him that Dean would have to love his little brother, look out for him, and take care of him. And in return, Dean would get reciprocal love, gratitude, and a chance to play all the baseball in the world with Sammy.

Dean's pretty sure Sam hasn't given him any of this stuff. (And in fact, when their dad's not listening, he usually calls Sam a girl because he sucks at baseball so badly. Samantha Winchester, Dean taunts, and Sam wails and complains. Only perpetuating Dean's point.)

But today, Sam's actions surprise Dean. Today, Sam spots a shiny plastic bag at the bottom of box, digs his hand in and pulls it out with equal excitement. And yet, without even taking a look at what he holds, Sam extends his right hand, with sincerity in his puppy dog eyes, and asks his big brother: Do you want the prize?

For an instant, Dean is paralyzed (touched, but scared, not knowing what to do with the feeling). But a chubby smile from Sam (and a push forward with his extended hand) is contagious and Dean responds by smiling back and taking the prize.

Eat your cereal, dork, the eldest says, awe and joy stuck in his throat.

Dean thinks that maybe he's the one who's been underestimating his brother all along.

All the demons and angels below and above know that Dean Winchester is an idiot.

Sacrificing your soul. It's not something that's laudable.

The demons are laughing; stomachs clenched in joyous pain, smiles stretched until the ends of mouths reach their eyes. This wasn't exactly the plan. Having Jake kill Sam Winchester wasn't Azazel's goal, but, hot damn, they always say that the devil's in the details; no one counted on Dean Winchester's reaction to his brother's murder. And his reaction – this whole unworthy, self-sacrificing deal … it works. In a year's time, Azazel and his followers will have everything exactly the way they want them.

But the angels … the angels are cursing, minds ravaged with frustration and disappointment. There's a war coming, the angels feel it long before it happens, and Dean Winchester, one of the more important hunters in all of this, willingly condemns himself into the pits of Hell. Damn fool. No different than the man who raised him (and dealt himself the same fate, no less. A fate of endless torment; fire and ice, jagged knifes and blunt mallets, soft, light, tempting whispers in an ear, promising to lift the weight of the pain).

And what for?, you inquire of no one in particular.

You and some of the other angels have watched them – the Winchester brothers – for a while now from above. You've never been given orders to intervene and so you never have, but your eyes have rarely left their world.

You absorbed the every minutiae of the day Sam Winchester was killed, attention completely fixed on the events transpiring below.

You'll forever remember the way the eldest seems to be in a competition with time – the Impala flying (wheels practically inexistent), his mind scrambled (every word and thought about his brother; like a chant; like a prayer to a god that he did not even believe in), his heart racing (beating so fast, you were sure the not-even-30-year-old man would give himself a heart attack). You'll remember seeing Dean's relief and utter joy at the sight of Sam in one piece; and how quickly that joy shattered when the blade wrenched its way through Sam's spinal cord and the breaths that Sam struggled to get out eventually ceased.

You'll remember the days after, when the man who had rescued so many lives could not even begin to salvage his own. (Hair unwashed and unkempt, breath reeking of alcohol, eyes rimmed with tears.) You'll recall his insufferable grief, his vicious self-loathing, his absolute devotion to raise the motionless man on the worn mattress, if not by the means of their Heavenly Father, then by his own; by surrendering his own life with the help of the very creatures he slew.

You don't understand the motive, the overwhelming urge and plea to condemn one's soul, and the only one thought comes to mind: what a fool this Dean Winchester is.

The force with which you slam Dean against the wall takes him by surprise and he looks at you with trepidation.

Left hand clasped over Dean's mouth, you use your right hand to slowly lift a knife hidden at your waist, and he stares with disbelief, wondering what your next move is.

This mortal vessel that holds you allows you to feel the pain as you slice through your arm, releasing the blood necessary for what you're about to do next.

Despite the physical pain, you don't feel a thing.

Dean's words (There is a right and there is a wrong here, and you know it. You know it!) echo in your ears and you feel you are doing right.

You think about Jimmy and his daughter (you imagine him deep inside this vessel, dreaming about the endless possibilities of Claire's bright future); you think about Sam, tempted by the happiness of normalcy, willingly bonded to Dean and John (as if the blood that flowed through their veins was glue). You think about Dean, giving everything he's ever had to Sam, and accepting him no matter what (I'll even take Sam as is!, and the intensity in his voice told you that he said it for more reasons than to prove a point. He meant it; wholeheartedly.), and you know, with the greatest certainty of your existence, that you are doing right.

You work with speed and accuracy (fingers smoothing the wall with coagulated blood) and you don't even flinch when Zachariah approaches you with deadly ire.

Because stronger than all the pain and guilt and anger and confusion, stronger than the forces of hell, stronger than the angels' commands, is people; family; love.

You finally understand.

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