A/N: This is it, guys, the last chapter to this story. It's set in Season 6, so heads up for spoilers if you're not caught up. It's after episode 6x10, after Sam walks off leaving Dean by the Impala. There's also some references to what happens in 6x11. Let me tell ya, after writing the last chapter and shifting into the tone of Season 6, this chapter went under a couple revisions especially when dealing with souless Sam's perspective.
Also, I just want to say thank you all for hanging in there between chapters and writing all the great reviews. Really, it's because of you guys that this story went beyond the planned ten chapters. So thanks you guys :)
Chapter 20: Soul Train
Sam needs to get away, take a breather before he does something regrettable. He wants to scream at the sky, beat it into Dean's head that he doesn't want his soul. Doesn't understand what the big deal is about having a soul in the first place. Because all he sees is grief and complications creating a world of gray. It's best to do it the way he's been doing it for the past year and a half. Go in, get questions answered and fix the problem. Kill the monster. Period. The end.
Oh, he remembers the past years, how they fought the Devil and won. Sam watches the memories like a movie playing out, an outsider seeing all the pain and suffering overcoming the happiest of times. He likes the happy times but doesn't want all the pain that comes with it. He doesn't want to be this Sammy person Dean yearns for or the Sam Cas reminisces.
Speaking of Cas, Sam slams his fist hard into the metal siding of the massive warehouse. Dean's with the Impala on the other side of the building, probably calling up Bobby to complain. But Cas should know what it's like to be him, how it's a great relief to be without a soul and be focused solely on the mission. Take the little things like not comprehending social etiquette or how certain missions require drastic measures like soul searching a kid into account. The angel should be backing him. Instead, Cas is once again taking Dean's side. And it seems, so is Dean all of a sudden.
Despite the year apart, the trust is stronger than ever. No matter the fights and conflicting goals, Sam verses Civil War; the youngest Winchester notices tiny acts that speak louder and contradict spoken words. Dean backs up Cas, telling him or Crowley to answer the angel's questions. There's the belief Dean has on every word the angel says, not once debating it. Bobby is on speed-dial, but Cas's name falls easily and firstly off Dean's lips. How Dean steps into Cas' personal space, as if seeking shelter and strength to face this thing called Sam Winchester.
Now there a new thing, of Dean saying he understands Cas' plight and wanting to help, telling the angel they're friends. It's these little things that make Cas confess to Dean, laying out the entire picture of the soul situation. A mixture of past and present, Cas is blunt but sympathetic at the same time, the latter at the forefront instead of hidden.
It seems these acts, Sam deduces, is what makes Cas respond and weather Dean's issues rather than his. Because supposedly tricking and threatening an angel is not what it takes to gain his respect, even though it worked for his brother. It's a little thing, Sam realizes, is why there is tension between them. Cas must have sensed something off and didn't bother with the false pleasantries. Why the angel doesn't treat him like the old Sam, as a trusted friend.
It shouldn't surprise Sam, but he recalls a time when they were on the same page about protecting family. But no, Cas forgot about his promise in watching out for Dean and Bobby. The angel left them and went back up to heaven, not even bothering to answer Sam's prayers.
It's this little thing out of all the others that makes Sam's blood boil. He knows it is anger, something that has always haunted him. And now without any moral compass or barriers, this emotion flares bright and harsh. Sam welcomes it because really, why should he fight it. This anger has served him well in the past, makes him focused on hunts and not distracted by trivial things like motive, third parties or feelings.
Turning around the corner, Sam pauses at the exit door spotting the wide open door. Stepping up to the entrance, he peers down the flickering hallway that held a good size collection of alpha monsters. Eyes narrowing, he sees the faint outlines of jail cells ripped off their hinges, tossed like trash onto the ground.
Fists tightening, Sam heaves in a heavy breath. He wasn't joking when he told Cas he would hunt him down and kill him. And if Dean can kill an angel, so can he. Folding his body slightly, Sam marches off into the warehouse.
Dean stares up at the broken windows of the large warehouse. It's been two hours since Sam left, walking away again. Yet this time, Dean finds that he's not that upset. Truth is, he expected it.
"You mispronounced the last word."
Sighing, Dean glances to his side where Cas is sipping away at a beer. The angel is covered slightly in dust and grim, a slight splatter of blood here and there. Dean's learned if anything these past two years, that if Cas is dirty it means the angel is tired.
Taking a sip of his own beer, the two are leaning against the trunk of the Impala, the happy gibberish talk of Bobby John at their feet. The baby shape shifter is knocking around large pieces rock, sitting comfortable in a pair of jeans and a green tee-shirt. He's all too oblivious at how close he was at Death's door.
"I thought you might want to see this little one again, one more time. I only killed the ones that put up a fight or were a serious threat, while the others took off. I don't need any more enemies after me."
It's a testament, a tiny glimpse into how bad things are going up in Heaven. It's something, Dean feels, that he's finally allowing himself to comprehend. Because, let's face it, he's been more a dick towards Cas, than the other way around.
The older Winchester snaps out his thoughts, rolling his shoulders to shake away the train of thought. Accusation lines his tone, but there's no longer the driving snap behind it. "Don't you have to go somewhere?"
Cas picks at the label, "I did leave in mid-battle. I should go back." There's a pause, a freeze of a finger curling over the blue logo. It's a type of pause Cas wouldn't have done in the past. And it surprises Dean, these little nuances of sarcasm, air quotes, porn and kissing that shows how Cas has never been this 'human,' even when he was powerless.
The bottle rises to his lips, sipping ever so slowly as if savoring the cheap flavor, blue eyes fall into a distant look. "I highly doubt my presence can change anything at the moment."
Dean gives a curt nod, seeing the stark appearance of weariness over the angel. It wasn't as apparent as before. Then again, he admits quietly, he has been a bit tunnel-minded with searching and retrieving Sam's soul. Anything outside of Sam's plight has been pushed to the side in typical Winchester fashion. Nothing new there.
On a cliff note, if Bobby is narrating the tale, he would say that Dean and Cas are in the same boat. He would explain that Dean yelling and calling Cas names is because the angel is family. In Dean's book, family is number one. And if a family member does not help in protecting a member, he gets upset and angry. But Cas is torn, much like Dean was, between two families: that of the old and new. Dean with Sam and Lisa and Ben, Cas with the angels and the Winchesters. It's a hard choice and no balance can be maintained. At least Lisa pushed Dean away gently. Cas, though, is still attached to the angels, not having such a clean break.
It's this torn existence for the past year and a half that if visible, one would see the once majestic wings shimmering in the colors of the Northern Lights dim and drag on the metaphorical floor. Stress and alertness force Cas to become snappy, irrational and procrastinate in returning back upstairs. It's why he seeks the mundane of television and the curiosity of humanity in kissing. Why he let a few alphas go in hope of avoiding another front of this war. The threat of a leaderless Hell, missing weapons and the issue of Purgatory still loom in the back of his mind, a heavier pressure than that of the Apocalypse.
If the angel is honest with himself, Cas wants to flee, hide down here like Gaberiel did. He's breaking, falling into desperate measures that make him sick and ashamed. He doesn't tell Dean how some of his brethren are comparing him to a certain angel. How, Lucifer's words ring truer and truer each day. The nightmares that he is not suppose to have haunt him with each call of his siblings. So, Castiel forces himself to stand still, to cling to this little thing called friendship, even if it's strained and one-sided. He'll take what he can get because he would rather have a ghost of what the three used to have than a weak intimidation he has in Heave.
Draining the bottle, Cas bends down and hands it to Bobby John. The baby's eyes brighten as his cubby fingers grasp onto the neck. A tiny curl perks his lips, a dull happiness shines in his eyes as the shape-shifter begins to the bottle on the ground, hard enough to make a noise but not enough to break.
Sighing, Cas stares at a tiny blemish on the rear bumper. "You seem to pick up Enochian faster than Latin. But I highly doubt you wish to talk to a Sphinx." Secretly, Cas hates this plan. He doesn't want Dean to die once again only to have a one-on-one chat with the Horseman Death. But his inquiries have lead to dead ends and Dean's getting desperate. And truth be told, so is Cas. Ever since that threat, he misses the old Sam, yearns for the quiet reassurances that the youngest Winchester was willing to give.
Cas wants his friend back, just like Dean wants his brother. "You think this will work?"
Dean chuckles, but there's the nervous tick tightening his frame. "Why not? Out of all the crazy stuff I've done, this is simple. Besides, we can't let Sam run around like this anymore."
A dark frown lines the angel's face, his shoulders lowering even more. "But what if Death does not agree?"
"We'll deal with that when we get there." There's that optimistic streak once again peeking through. And Cas finds himself yearning to know how to find such bright little things in such dark circumstances. He could use such morale boosts to strengthen his troops.
Licking his lips, Cas does what he does best. "And the emotional repercussions? Dean, the Cage is not like the Pit. They are totally two different entities. What you experienced under Alistair's blade and onwards is nothing like what Lucifer and Michael are doing. What you think he's gone through, you are wrong in assuming."
Dean stares at the ground, his default motion in not knowing how to respond. Cas wants to give himself a slap on the shoulder that he hasn't lost his touch in reading Dean. "I don't care. I just-I can't drop it, Cas. Even when I lived with Lisa, I looked everywhere for a way to pull Sam out. And this was my last measure, one concrete thing I could come up with. I was just missing-"
"Yeah, I mean it's not really something some scholar would write down. I mean what kind of schmuck would summon Death?" Dean's glancing up at him, a watery smile on his face, a contrast to the terrified expression shining out from his green eyes.
"You," Cas cannot help cocking an eyebrow. Dean sneers back, "Dick," before bending down to pick up Bobby John, plucking the bottle out of his hand and throwing it off to the side. Bobby John doesn't cry at the loss of his toy but instead giggles at the new height advantage.
"Just be careful." Cas spares a glance over to one of the windows, "Sam is not in his right mind. I've been around many creatures, Dean, and they all react the same way when pushed into a corner they don't want to be in."
Dean pauses in straightening out the baby's clothes. "Something happened when he summoned you."
"He threatened to kill me." Cas speaks without reservation or any hesitation as if a death threat is a common occurrence. Dean knows Cas has a suicidal streak to match his, but the almost flippant tone tugs at him. It's a little thing Dean finds himself not liking. Cas is home in Heaven, there shouldn't be death threats. Once again, the hunter feels as if the blinders are being pulled away, the cotton pulled from his ears, for him to finally get a shaky grasp on what's been happening to Cas.
Dean lowers his voice, his body curling over Bobby John who stares between the two full-grown me. "You too huh?"
The surprise and concern that bursts forth makes Dean want to smack himself for doubting Cas' stance. "What?"
"Sam stood by and watched me get turned into a vampire." Dean tries to keep out the rage, "Hell, the only person he hasn't gone after is Bobby."
"We should warn him." Ah, that old familiar conviction is back.
Dean nods, "Yeah but Bobby can take care of himself pretty well."
"I do not doubt that, considering he is the only human I have ever heard that has been able to free himself from a deal." Admiration shines in those blue eyes.
"That's Bobby," the baby coons as if happy to hear his name. Dean laughs, ruffling the baby's hair. With one pass, a loud wet pop ricochets off the walls followed by a full burst of crying as the shape-shifter flaps his arms around sending mucus, blood and flesh flying everywhere.
Spitting off the guck, Dean holds a wailing Bobby John away from him, groaning at the disgusting mess all over his clothes, arms, hair. "What the heck, this is disgusting!" Glaring at Bobby John, Dean snarls, "You couldn't wait a few more minutes."
Tears running down his cheeks, Bobby John mutes his cries by sticking his thumb into his mouth. Shaking his body slightly, Dean eyes the new appearance, taking in the shocking blue eyes with the soft tuft of brown hair. It's almost like a mixture between him and Cas. "Oh very clever, Bobby John!" Turning, Dean holds the baby out to Cas, "Here. Man, I need new clothes-"
Glancing down, he takes in the clean state of his clothes. Even Bobby John is clean, not a speck of the change on either of them. The baby glances down at himself, a tiny giggle escaping his mouth before going back to glancing around, tears and pain forgotten. Fixing his stare at the angel, Dean takes in an expression he hasn't seen in a long time. A content, peaceful look washes away the dark cloud that has been hanging over the angel.
The words fly out before he has time to think. "I mean it Cas, this time I do. If…" Dean feels his throat tighten, not sure how to go about an apology. Because he and Cas, they just don't do this thing. They haven't in a long time and honestly, Dean still feels a bit bitter at the angel leaving him.
Still, Dean's surprised that Cas hasn't yelled at him like Bobby did. He also doesn't like the changes he's seen in the angel. Kissing Meg had been a line he wasn't aware of. If Cas felt the need to kiss a demon out of all creatures, it's as if a bomb siren went off in Dean's head. The whole thing is a twisted deja-vu of Sam and Ruby and the demon blood all over again, except Cas isn't hiding or denying anything.
If Cas isn't careful, Dean can see him having a meltdown pretty soon. And it's something Dean doesn't want to happen to his friend, doesn't want to lose him like he lost Sam by becoming an unrecognizable person in a familiar meat suit.
Cas reaches out and plucks Bobby John from Dean's grasp. "Recite the summoning again."
Back to buisness, like usual. Dean nods, licking his lips, the words spilling out clear and concise while he mulls over the insight. Unbeknownst to them, Sam watches quietly from inside the warehouse peering through a broken window, his large frame hiding behind a cluster of discarded furniture. He waits till Cas flutters away with Bobby John in tow, a few more minutes while Dean throws away his empty beer bottle before pushing open the exit door.
It's there, that tiny pesky little thing called survival. Dean spots it amongst the emotions of fear and disbelief fixating down at him. For someone who says he doesn't feel anything, he wants to laugh, take a picture and show Sam that there are just some things too engrained into a human's body and mind that even the removal of a soul can't vanquish.
Curling his fingers over the cold metal of Death's ring, Cas' words about desperate creatures is on replay in the back of his mind. And despite not trusting this Sam, when it's clear Sam doesn't want his soul and is not likely to stay still, Dean finds himself sending up a tiny prayer that he'll ace this new job quickly before something terrible goes wrong. For a split second, Dean finds himself wanting to call Cas. But Sam knows how to get rid of the angel and the tension between them is rough enough. Besides, the angel neglected his duties last time. Dean doubts he can pull it off again. Which is fine because he has to do this alone. It's his job.
Straightening his shoulders, he takes in one final look at this empty version of his brother. Pivoting, Dean walks up towards Bobby, whispering a stern order and a hidden warning. "Watch him."
It's amazing how such little things like brothers, family and friendship will push a person to do the unthinkable and the impossible.