"What is lost through pride is regained through humility." St. Louis de Montfort.
Something woke me up.
I was in a fake wicker chair out on Lisa's back porch, watching over Sammy. I'd been sleeping, but something woke me up.
I looked first to Sam, but he was still sound asleep, camped out on the glider that seriously was not meant for somebody his size to sleep on. He had a couple pillows under his head on one arm of the glider and another one under his feet at the other end. Well, one foot; his other foot rested on the wood porch floor. One hand had slid off from his across his chest and was stretched out toward me. He was sound asleep. Nothing there had woke me up. A quick look around showed me -
Sitting in the shadows in the other fake wicker chair.
He stood up and walked a couple of steps closer to me. He looked the same as he did when he winged out of my car that night that Sammy saved the world. I was surprised. After going back to Heaven, I thought Cas'd look different. Shinier maybe.
"Is Sam all right?"
I knew the answer but I looked at Sam again. He hadn't moved. Nearly a dozen water bottles, some full, most empty were scattered on the floor between us. He'd been drinking water almost constantly all night.
"There didn't seem to be enough air in the house for him. We came out here to sleep, instead."
"Does he know how he got out?"
I didn't like that question.
"You didn't do it?" That was not good. "What did?"
"Sam did. Sam removed himself."
"No. Sam doesn't know how he got out.""No, he wouldn't."
"All right Captain Cryptic, what does that mean? How would Sam get himself out that he doesn't remember?"
"He got out by being simply Sam Winchester."
"And that means what?" I was losing any shred of patience I had stored up. "Tell me if Sam is safe, and tell me now."
"Dean?" Sam's voice interrupted me getting ready to rip Cas's wings off if he didn't start giving me clear answers.
"Hey, Sammy. Didn't mean to wake you up. Go back to sleep."
I thought he would slip back to sleep, but he caught sight of our unforthcoming visitor and he was sitting up in a heartbeat.
"Cas! Dean, did you ask him? How did I get out? What'd he say? Cas? Dean?"
"Hang on, Sam. We were just discussing that."
"But - no - Cas? Do you know? Dean - does he know?"
I moved over to sit next to Sam. I grabbed one of the bottles of water off the floor, cracked it open, and handed it to him.
"Just slow down." I told him. "Oma Desala here is giving me nothing but riddles."
"Why? What?" Sam looked at me, at Cas, and back at me while he drained the water. "What're you talking about? Cas? What's he talking about?"
Cas started to answer, but I held a finger up to stop him. I was gonna tell Sam.
"He says you got yourself out."
"No - how? I didn't do anything. Did I?" Sam's eyes got wide. "I'm not - I'm not still - Dean?"
"Lucifer remains in the cage, where you put him." Cas said.
"He is? Really?" Sam asked - me.
"I don't know, Sammy. We hadn't gotten that far." I caught Cas' gaze and stared hard at him. "He was just about to explain himself."
"What do you remember about being in hell?" Cas asked Sam, instead of explaining.
Sam looked at me again; he still had that answer on his tongue. I answered Cas for him.
"It was weird."
Cas shook his head like not only was that the wrong answer, it was a 'duh' answer.
"What did you feel?"
I'll tell you what I felt - I felt Sam push so close to me that his arm pushed behind my arm, like he was trying to physically get away from the question. I automatically reached across him to protect him.
"Don't ask him that." I told Cas. "What's that got to do with how he got out? What do you think he felt?"
"Not the external. What did you feel?"
Sam looked at me again, confused and more than a little worried.
"I don't know what - Dean? What does he mean?"
He was getting upset, so Cas was getting gone.
"Enough of this crap, Cas. Talk or fly."
Cas kind of nodded sideways, like he was finally getting the idea that we couldn't read his mind.
"In the simplest terms, Sam - your humility saved you."
"Yeah, right." Sam laughed, and I didn't like the sound. "You've got me confused with somebody else." He drank some more water and looked at me like he expected me to agree with him.
But - Cas wasn't sounding crazy to me.
"What do you mean?" I asked Cas.
"Sam - do you know what humility is?"
"The quality of being modest or respectful." Sam the human dictionary answered him back immediately. My geek little brother. I bet he knows how to spell 'supercalifraji-whatever' too.
"True humility is true knowledge of self, of knowing one's strengths and one's weaknesses, and being proud of neither, but merely accepting them, understanding them, using the strength, curbing the weakness."
Sam shrugged and shook his head.
"So? What's that got to do with me? That's not me. God - if that was me, none of this ever would've happened."
I looked at Cas, and really hoped he knew where he was going with all of this. He didn't look back at me though, he kept his eyes on Sam.
"Sam - did you feel you belonged in hell?"
"I - uh -." Sam only glanced at me this time. He knew I wasn't going to like his answers. "Yeah. Yeah. You know? I - I let him out. I needed to put him back.""Sam."
"No, Dean. Even if I hadn't let him out, if I was the only chance to put him back, I would've. He needed to be recaged, and my life was sure a small price to pay for that. I'm not sorry for that. I never would've been sorry for that."
I couldn't argue with him - I knew that was true, that was Sam straight up and down. He would have gone down into the pit to save the world, to save a continent, to save one person, if that was the only way to do it. And with not one regret.
"Were you angry to be in hell?" Cas kept on.
"No. I just said - if that's what it took, that's what it took."
"And you don't feel there's anyone who deserves to be in hell more than you?"
Enough with the questions and riddles; I still wanted to rip Cas' wings off to make him get to the point. Sam dropped his head and took a quick sip from his nearly empty water bottle, and only kept answering him.
"That's not my place to say. I'm the last person who should judge anybody else. I mean - obviously, it's all I can do to take care of myself. And sometimes more than I can do. I'm not -." He shook his head. "No. If you need an actual answer out of me - no."
Something changed about Cas. I couldn't put my finger on it. He stood straighter, or more relaxed, or something.
"That is humility, Sam. To judge oneself and no one else. Whether you choose to believe it or not, you are a humble man, and hell cannot abide a humble man. It will vomit him out."
Next to me, I felt Sam tense up. Maybe he was surprised that humility was how he got out. Maybe he was just relieved that he was permanently out. He stood up and took a step towards Cas. Maybe he was going to hug him in gratitude.
"So now I'm vomit?"
… maybe he was just going to get pissed. Really really pissed.
I stood up next to him. He was using his 'wrath of God' voice and Cas had a slightly shocked look on his face. I think the only two people never intimidated by that voice - apparently angels included - were Dad and me.
"Sam - stop scaring the nice angel."
"No. No. Where does he get off? Where do you get off calling me that?"
"Sam - really." Cas lifted his hands and wisely took a step back away from him. "That is in no way a derogatory remark. Indeed, it is the highest compliment - ."
"It's a compliment to be called vomit?"
"Dean - ." For the first time tonight, Cas decided to actively include me in his conversation with Sam. Me - I was hoping that humility couldn't be retroactively rescinded. "Please make your brother understand - ."
"Yeah okay, Cas. I'll take it from here."
"Truly, this is a miraculous occurrence and not one to be greeted with incredulity and disdain."
Judging from the glare Sam was trying to drill into Cas' head, 'incredulity and disdain' were the least of his worries.
"Thanks for stopping by, Cas. Sam and I have some catching up to do. So - bye byeThoe."
Cas actually grumbled in his throat. He sounded aggravated. Talking with Sam could be aggravating? Really? Welcome back to Planet Winchester.
"Fine. Yes. You and Sam - discuss - this. I will -." He stopped talking and I thought maybe he didn't think we were worth the trouble of telling us where he was going. But he lost the aggravated look and I think he might've even started to smile.
"I am glad you've come back, Sam."
And then he was gone, leaving Sam to whisper a confused and sarcastic 'thanks' into empty darkness.
"All right, c'mon. Sit." I tugged on Sam's sleeve and pulled him back to the glider. He came, still all tensed up, but he came back and sat down next to me.
"So?" I asked when he didn't say anything, only kept fuming.
He didn't look at me, only gave me that sidewise glance that I knew meant that he knew what I meant.
"C'mon, man. After everything we've been through these past - hell, these past five years, being referred to as 'puke' bothers you?"
"Yeah, well…" He tapped one foot on the floor and crackled his empty water bottle in his hand. "I never liked being called names."
Like I haven't known that since his first day of Kindergarten.
"Technically, he wasn't calling you a name. He was naming hell's reaction to you."
He only shrugged. His feelings were hurt and by golly they were going to stay hurt. Humility isn't retroactively rescindable is it?
"Want some more water?" I asked, and when he nodded I took the empty bottle and handed him another full one.
"Thanks." He popped the top and took a long gulp. When he capped it again he said, "I just kinda hoped it was God. You know?"
"Yeah. I just - you know - thought maybe after everything, maybe God, maybe God, maybe did care."
"No - yeah - no, I know. I know it's - stupid. After everything - everything I've done - yeah, I know." He sighed. "I know."
"NO. No, Sam. That is not - just- just - no. Okay?"
"It's OK, Dean. Really. I'm mean - I've been to hell. It's not like you have to try and spare my feelings."
He tried to make that be funny, tried to make it a serious joke. It wasn't funny and I wasn't laughing.
"Sam -" I started to rip him a new riot act, but just looking at him, I didn't have the heart. I remembered how happy Sam was when we found out an angel pulled me from the pit. How happy he was for me, because if God wanted me out of hell, I'd finally have to believe I was worth as much as Sam always said I was worth. So - of course he wanted God to save him. If he was worth God saving him, then he could really believe in his own worth.
"Sam…" I started over. "Dad escaped hell. I got dragged out. But you - hell kicked you out."
"Yeah." He shrugged and drank more water and sounded as interested as if I'd asked him to a muscle car rally. Never mind that God was not currently on my "A" list. Never mind that the fact that Sam got himself out of hell confirmed every good thing I already knew about him. Sam wanted God to have pulled him from the cage. I'd see what I could do.
"God set up the rules that said you wouldn't stay in hell. That you couldn't stay in hell. Sammy - from the beginning of time, God knew you, knew the choice you'd face and He set it up so that you - YOU - would get out again. God did that."
What I thought was that I didn't care how Sam got out. I only cared that he was out and that he was staying out. But he sounded hopeful, so hopeful.
"Yeah, I do. I think that's how you got home."
He nodded. He sighed. He drank more water. I could feel all the tension drain out of him.
"You ready to go back to sleep?" I asked him. He nodded but it seemed distracted. "What? You're not still pissed about the 'vomit' remark are you?"
"No. No - I'm home? Home?"
I was tired. I decided to forgo lengthy explanations and elastic arguments.
"Home. You're here, I'm here, the car is here. You got another definition of home?"
I was rewarded with an honest to goodness smile.
It was the single best word I'd ever heard.