Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural.

Darkness.

There is nothing but the most oppressive and despairing darkness here. It thickens the air with its weight and drives what little hope Dean has right out of his body because this, this is one of the most fucked up situations he has ever been in. The wrist in Dean's grip is the reason why.

Cas. Cas.

This wouldn't be as fucked up if Cas wasn't the one who is stuck with him in this goddamn cave. A fucking cave, with no light, no signs of life –

Except for the growls.

The growls come every fifteen minutes or so, rumbling through the cave like an avalanche. The first time Dean heard them he nearly shit his pants because they were one of the most horrible sounds Dean has ever heard, and he's heard a lot of scary shit. He doesn't know what or where the thing is and he doesn't know how to kill it. Hell, he can't even see where he's going, and he's the only one with all of his senses in tact. A slight shuffle of motion brings Dean's attention to back to Cas.

Something had cursed him. Something powerful enough to curse an angel. Whatever it was took away Cas' ability to communicate. He can't talk, he can't understand what is said to him, and even some of his mojo is gone. The one time he did try to talk to Dean he nearly deafened the hunter with his true voice. It seems that is the only way Cas can 'speak'.

Ain't that a bitch.

The only other thing Dean has noticed is that Cas hasn't lost his hearing. It's better than nothing.

The loud growling starts up again and Dean tugs on Cas' wrist, leading him blindly through the cave and away from whatever the hell is responsible for the chilling sounds. Cas has been following him willingly this entire time, never hesitating, even when Dean jerks to a halt in uncertainty. The trust he has in Dean is enough to unsettle the hunter. And he can't disappoint Cas, he has to do his job and he has to do it well. In this case his job is simple: protect Cas. Dean always does his best when it comes to his job because he can't stand failing. So he vows to get Cas out of this alive, even if it kills him. Dean isn't sure if Cas knows what it is, but the way the angel tenses every time it growls does nothing to soothe Dean's nerves.

That, and the fact that he can't fucking see.

The pair continues down what seems like a narrow passageway. Dean uses the arm unoccupied with keeping Cas close to feel along the rough and slightly damp walls of rock. He has no idea of where he's going, but the important thing to him is keeping Cas away from that…thing. Dean has always been protective of anyone close to him, and Cas is no exception, even if he happens to be an angel of the Lord. And that protectiveness has shot up tenfold because Cas is utterly helpless like this, stripped of his powers and any means of communication. He's about as vulnerable as a baby lamb. Dean can't fail at this; he can't let anyone else down. Protecting Cas is the most important thing right now, and he has to be good at it, he has to get it right or he'll never be able to live with himself.

So Dean trudges on with these thoughts skidding across the forefront of his mind, keeping Cas as close as possible. The angel hasn't been much of a hassle at all. When he first showed up at Sam and Dean's motel room, he seemed a little more morose than usual. The brothers knew something was wrong because the angel had knocked to be let inside. Knocked. Cas doesn't knock.

Ever.

And when he simply stood there in front of them, not saying a word and remaining unresponsive to their questions, it was obvious that something was wrong with with him.

Dean stumbles over something hard, almost making Cas trip also.

"Shit," Dean mumbles. He bends down to pick up what his feet knocked into. It's long and rough against his hands, but that's all Dean can tell. He feels Cas step closer to him and then the angel takes the object out of Dean's hands. A moment passes where Dean has no idea what Cas is doing, and then a fire erupts from above Cas' hand and Dean startles at the close proximity of the flames.

A torch. Someone must have left it.

Dean tries not to think about what made them drop it.

In the firelight Cas' eyes seem to glow eerily, filled with centuries upon centuries of knowledge. Sometimes Dean forgets how old Cas is. He must have seen so much, much more than Dean can ever comprehend, yet he's chosen to put himself in the company of humans over his brethren. Dean can't understand that, because if he had a huge family like Cas he wouldn't trade it for the world. But if they were all gunning to kill him, Dean supposes that would be enough incentive to stay away from them. He tries to think about a life without Sam.

Honestly, he'd rather die. And that causes a thought to wiggle its way into his brain.

Does Cas ever feel that way? Dean knows he can feel, even if he'll deny it with everything he's got. He may not understand it, but Dean does. Dean really does.

Cas extends the torch to Dean, his ancient gaze unblinking as he stares at his charge, head tilted slightly to the side. Dean takes the torch and surveys their surroundings. Turns out they are in a narrow passageway, and it looks pretty extensive from where Dean is standing. He estimates that they've been in here for almost two hours now. He doesn't know how they'll get out of here, only that they have to. Little scratching noises come to Dean's attention and he looks up.

Hundreds of beady eyes stare back down at him. Bats.

"Aw, fuck," Dean whispers. Bats freak him out, the creepy little fuckers. He checks to make sure Cas is behind him and motions for him to follow. They start making their way down the tunnel, Dean taking great care to keep from startling the bats above them. Cas doesn't make any noise at all as he moves, something like a phantom presence at Dean's side. Dean doesn't mind the silence.

As they continue to walk, Dean grows increasingly aware of the fact that Sam must be freaking out right now. Hopefully, he's doing it somewhere safe and out of harm's way. They haven't been in contact since they split up to hunt the Wendigo.

Dean really wishes they would have left Cas back in the room. But Dean didn't want to leave him alone, and now he's stuck in the mess. A weary sighs escapes the Winchester and he absently checks to make sure Cas is beside him. The angel is staring listlessly ahead, and Dean knows he must be feeling pretty crappy. After all, how often does something as powerful as an angel end up in the state Cas is in right now? It has to suck. And Dean can't get in touch with Sam because there's no chance of getting a signal down here. He still can't quite gather how they ended up down here anyway. One moment he and Cas were walking through one of the many forests in Montana and then the ground gave way under them and they were falling.

Pretty goddamn far too.

Dean doesn't know how he ended up unscathed, but he figures Cas had something to do with it. But the worst part about the fall was the five or so minutes of not knowing where Cas was once they reached the bottom. He was just gone. Dean had worked himself up in a frenzy and then Cas was suddenly there again, staring at Dean as if he had been there the entire time. Dean doesn't know where he went or what he was doing, but he was just happy that the sneaky little bastard wasn't hurt. After that he never let the angel out of his sight.

Dean can't fail.

The tunnel begins to widen as they walk and Dean keeps to one side, still mindful of the bats. As they walk Dean can make out an open space ahead of him. Then the growls start up again. Dean quickens his pace but notices that Cas isn't following. He turns around to see the angel standing there, staring past Dean with narrowed eyes. Dean looks to the open space beyond the tunnel and then back at the angel. That has to be the way out.

"Cas, come on." Dean waves him over. Cas remains motionless, like a stubborn dog who refuses to come when called. Dean huffs and turns around to stare into the inky blackness before him. He takes a step forward and Cas grabs his arm, yanking him back. Dean almost drops the torch in his surprise. "What the hell, man?" Cas continues to pull Dean away from wherever the tunnel leads to and Dean is reminded that Cas is still a lot stronger than him as the angel drags Dean back a few feet. Cas presses Dean to the wall and turns back to look at the end of the tunnel, his features tense under the soft glow of the torch. The growling has stopped. Dean can feel moisture creeping through the fabric of his shirt and he shivers, suddenly aware of the cold temperature. "Cas, what –" The angel presses one hand to Dean's mouth to silence him. He keeps it there, still staring into the darkness ahead of them intently. A few more moments pass and then Cas slowly removes his hand. He then turns fully to Dean, who holds the torch up a little bit to better see the angel.

"Are you finished with whatever that was, Cas?"

The angel stares blankly at him. Dean sighs and continues forward again. Cas follows.

As they walk down the tunnel a faint orange light begins to show. Dean speeds up a little, anxious to get the hell out of here. Of course he is disappointed when the light turns out to be more torches. They're placed along the walls as the tunnel widens, and when Cas and Dean finally come out of the tunnel and into what must be the center of the cave they see that the torches continue along the walls, illuminating everything around them.

Including the skeletons.

Dean stares at the large amount of bones littering the ground with apprehension. Some of them are blackened, obviously burned. Dean drags his gaze up from them and studies his surroundings, counting a total of six other tunnels leading…somewhere. The torches don't extend down the tunnels, so they'll be back to using what little light emits from their own torch.

At least the bats are gone.

Shuffling from behind him causes Dean to turn around. Cas is walking around, overturning rocks and bending down to inspect the charred bones scattered along the ground, his lips pulled into a frown, expression taut. When this continues for a few more minutes Dean walks over to the angel. Cas is crouched on the ground staring particularly hard at what looks like a human skull. He prods it with his finger and the bone crumbles in on itself in a puff of black smoke and ash. Dean looks at the pile.

"Gross," he comments. Cas looks up at him solemnly. Dean gestures over to the six tunnels and Cas stands and walks towards them. He stares at each tunnel and then points to the one furthest to the left. Dean grins at him. "Thanks, Cas." They start towards the tunnel, only for Cas to stop suddenly, gaze on the middle of the six tunnels. Dean stops too, already reaching for his gun. Everything is quiet as they wait tensely. Cas suddenly pulls at Dean's arm, a rare panicked expression on his face. His blue eyes are wide as they dart to the tunnel and back at Dean.

Then the growling begins. And it's the most hellish thing Dean has heard and it's so loud and evil and holy shit

Dean watches in horror as a large and horrendous monster tears into the area from the center tunnel, red eyed and snarling. It's fucking huge and it looks like some freaky science experiment gone wrong. Its body is that of a lion's but it has a fucking goat head protruding from the middle of its back. Its tail is a goddamn snake and it's making these really loud hissing noises that send chills up Dean's spine. The beast rears back and roars, its front paws bringing up a cloud of ash and dust as they slam onto the bones and dirt beneath it.

Dean doesn't know what the fuck it is, be he decides that he has to get Cas out of here. Now.

He turns to grab Cas but the angel isn't there. The beast shakes its heads and snaps its jaws at Dean and all he can think about is where the fuck Cas went. So he shoots at the monster, not really surprised when the bullets bounce of its shaggy golden mane.

"Oh, goddamn," Dean mutters and he takes off into the closet tunnel, the beast's thundering footsteps behind him. It's roaring again, terrible and loud, and Dean is running as fast as he can because he doesn't want to get eaten. The monster doesn't get the chance at a snack because there's suddenly a piercing sound shooting through the air and Dean slaps his hands over his ears as the ground shakes beneath him.

Cas.

Dean loses his footing and tumbles to the ground, rolling over to face his adversary flat on his ass with his hands still plastered over his ears. The monster is screeching at the constant sound of angel voice, whipping its heads from side to side as it growls deep in its throat. Dean takes his chance and gets to his feet, wasting no time as he darts down the tunnel. Maybe Cas is there. He can make out a light as he runs and he realizes that it's the way out. He turns around to see the beast banging its heads against the wall, trying in vain to make the sound stop. It finally turns around and runs the other way, obviously planning on getting rid of the noise. Which is coming from Cas. Who must still be back there.

That shit doesn't fly with Dean.

He takes off after the fucked up lab experiment and forgets about the promise of sunlight ahead of him, gritting his teeth as Cas' voice splits his head in two. Then it cuts off abruptly. Dean sprints faster. When he reaches the center of the cave it feels as if someone dumped liquid nitrogen over his head.

That… thing has Cas pinned on his back under one of its giant paws and it's crushing him.

"Cas!"

The angel cranes his head back and catches eyes with Dean, and the hunter realizes that Cas didn't want Dean to come back for him. He wanted Dean to escape without him.

Well, fuck that.

"Get your paws off my angel, you fugly ass son of a bitch!"

The beast roars at Dean in response and its tail darts out, hissing as its jaws open to reveal two huge fangs. Dean rolls out of the way and notices his torch lying on the ground a few feet away. The snake is coming at him again and Dean leaps for the torch in time to slam it into the snake's head. Dean doesn't stand to watch it thrash around; he's charging straight at the monster, eyes fixed on Cas. He doesn't see the tail coming and it knocks him back against the wall, his head hitting the rock hard. He drops to the ground on his back. Spots burst before his eyes and he groans, trying to roll himself over. Snarling reaches his ears and he looks up in time to see the beast shoot fire out of its mouth, aimed at Cas.

"Cas!" Dean shouts, fearing the worst. But Cas was able to get out of the way, and Dean is glad that the angel is so quick, even though he's wounded.

He isn't quick enough to dodge the next blow.

One of the thing's paws rake across Cas' chest, bringing the angel down. Dean forces himself to his feet in an effort to get to his friend. But the beast is already on Cas, the lion's head descending to its prey, jaws lined with razor sharp teeth opened wide.

It's going to fucking eat him.

Dean stumbles over there, swaying as he clutches his head. He has to save Cas. Can't let him down, not now, not ever, he has to save him, he has to…

The smell of smoke reaches Dean's nose and he realizes that Cas is about to get a face full of flames. He's not going to make it. He's failed, again, he's failed so many times and he's sick of the bitter taste.

But just as the first tendrils of fire leak out of the beast's jaws, Cas frees an arm and throws what looks like a small rock into its mouth. With a strangled growl it rears back, small flames erupting from its mouth. A small flutter of hope rises in Dean's chest and he makes it over to Cas and grabs his arms, dragging him away so he won't get crushed by the beast as it stomps around. Dean doesn't stop until he's against the opposite wall and there Dean collapses with Castiel sagging against his chest, breathing harshly.

He did it. Cas is safe.

They watch as the monster thrashes wildly around, creating a small whirlwind of black ash around its feet.

And then, suddenly, its features alter and twist and it slows, swaying dangerously on its feet. Its tail thuds to the ground and it sags back on its haunches. A low whine escapes its throat as both of its heads lower, unable to hold them up any longer. In a huff of air it releases a thin and wispy puff of smoke and then it collapses on its side, facing Cas and Dean. Its red eyes blink at them once, twice, and then they close. Its chest heaves once and then the creature stills, dead.

Everything is silent, save for Cas and Dean's harsh breathing. Dean lets his head fall back against the cool rock and forces out a hollow laugh.

"A thing that size and a freaking pebble takes it down? I'm gonna need a beer or six when we get back." Cas is deadweight against Dean's front and the hunter shakes him a little. "Cas?" When he gets no response he carefully props Cas against the wall, a pang of worry settling in his chest when his hands come back bloody. "Cas, you should heal these. Like, right now." One sliver of blue meets Dean's gaze. "Hey, buddy, come on. Can you fix yourself?" Dean keeps his eyes on the gashes across the angel's chest. After a minute or two the bleeding slows a little. Relief floods through Dean. "That's my boy," he murmurs. It might take Cas a while to heal, but they have time now, with that thing dead. "Okay, let's get you out of here."

Dean loops an arm around Cas' back and under his knees. He lifts and an audible crack from his back has him cursing. "Fatty," he mumbles as he lifts with his knees, successfully getting Cas airborne. The little dude is heavy.

Dean can't hold the torch with his arms full of angel, so he'll have to wing it down the tunnel and hope he doesn't trip.

Which he does. Twice.

Grumbling and shifting Cas in his grip, Dean makes his way slowly across the rocky and uneven terrain. A distinct popping noise startles him and he peers down at Cas. His rubs must be correcting themselves. Another pop sounds and Dean winces. The angel isn't stirring at all, in fact, at the steady breaths at Dean's neck he must be sleeping. Or…whatever angels do.

Whatever.

Eventually the terrain smoothes out and Dean can see the light ahead of him.

"Yes!"

Dean moves as fast as he can without dropping Cas (but he really wants to because carrying him ain't a walk in the park) and then he's standing out in the sunshine, fresh and blinking in the world around him like a newborn calf. He simply stands and soaks in the sun's rays for a moment, letting it warm his cold skin. They made it. They're out. Dean is suddenly really, really tired as the urgency from before leaves his body. He walks over to a patch of grass and kneels, settling Cas on the ground. He collapses beside the angel, flat on his back and he closes his eyes, content to just lie there.

Sam.

Sammy, got to call Sammy. Dean fumbles in his pocket and holy shit, nearly thirty messages. Dean decides to save those for later and he dials Sam's number.

The first ring isn't even done when Sam picks up.

"Dean! Where are you? Are you okay? I thought you were –"

"Dude, chill, I'm okay. I have Cas and he's…fine. Just…can you come and get us?"

Sam's voice is relieved and earnest. "Yeah, of course, where are you?"

Dean twists his head around in the grass to look at his surrounding. "Well… we're still in the forest in front of this cave –"

"I'll be there in ten minutes." The dial tone sounds in Dean's ear.

Well damn.

Dean sighs and stuffs his phone back in his pocket. It's still early in the afternoon and there are huge fluffy white clouds in the sky, and one in particular looks like a hippo to Dean. No…maybe it's a…

"Dean."

Dean jerks and looks over at Cas, who has his head turned towards him, blue eyes clouded but focused.

"Hey! You can talk now! How come?"

Cas opens his mouth –

"You know what, don't answer that. Just heal yourself. You took a real beating there."

"Dean –"

"And what the hell is wrong with you? That thing was way bigger than you; you had no business trying to make it eat you. And it almost did, and I'd never forgive myself if –"

"Dean! Shut up."

Dean falls quiet.

"I will be fine," Cas says slowly, in his odd way of speaking that makes every word seem important. "We will talk further when we are back in your room."

Dean nods, and they end up watching the clouds float lazily above them until Sam shows.


"So you're alright now, Cas?" Sam asks as he cleans a few cuts along Dean's arms.

The angel is propped up against the headboard of Dean's bed. "Yes. I encountered a very powerful warlock during my search for God. I had to fight the spell of using my grace. It was very…tiring."

Sam nods. "Why did he curse you?"

Cas shakes his head, eyes narrowed in confusion. "I don't know. I guess he did not like me."

Sam can't help but smile at the expression on the angel's face. Dean jumps as alcohol is applied to a nasty looking cut above his elbow.

"Ow! Watch it, Sam!"

"Shut up. Baby."

Dean grumbles and takes a sip of beer.

"Tell me what happened back there," Sam says. Dean explains and by the time he's finished Sam's eyes are huge.

"Dean, that was a chimera!"

Dean snags his burger off the table gulps down a bite. "Yeah?" he says, bits of bacon falling out of his mouth. Sam makes a disgusted face.

"Gross, dude."

"You know you like it."

Sam rolls his eyes and hikes up Dean's shirt to look at his stomach.

"A chimera…I can't believe it. What the fuck was a chimera doing in Montana? How big was it?"

"Fuckin' huge. It had red eyes and the snake's fangs were ginormous. Like you, Sam."

Sam doesn't respond to the jab. He's having a field day with this.

"Chimeras are from Greek mythology. They can breathe fire too."

"I noticed," Dean mumbles. Sam doesn't seem to hear him as he rambles on, letting Dean's shirt back down after he doesn't find any wounds.

"The Greeks told of a hero named Bellerophon who killed a chimera by thrusting a lead tipped lance in its throat."

Dean perks up at that. "Cas threw a rock into its mouth. Must have been lead."

"You killed it?" Sam's voice is incredulous.

"Well, no. Cas did. Didn't you, Cas?"

"Yes, Dean." The angel is staring at them with faint amusement.

Sam shakes his head. "That's crazy. Both of you are crazy."

Dean grins.

Later on that night while Dean is leaning against the Impala staring at the sky, Castiel comes to stand beside him. They both stare up at the twinkling orbs. Then Cas turns to Dean and offers a brief smile.

"Thank you for offering me your protection, Dean. You've done very well today."

That's really all Dean needed to hear.

The end.


I enjoyed writing that. What do you think? :)