The soft sound of wings filled the room before Bobby even finished speaking. "What do you mean, missing?"
The voice came from so close behind Bobby felt breath on his neck; for a second he thought his heart had stopped, that a damned angel was finally going to be what did him in. And one that was supposed to be on their side, at that. "Dean's right, we have to get you a bell," he said, spinning around to face Castiel.
Who for his part, looked as agitated as Bobby had ever seen him, his shoulders tense and the muscle in his jaw twitching. "You prayed to me to come, that Dean was missing. I only wanted an explanation."
"Not much beyond that to explain." Bobby leaned against the back of the couch; the last forty-eight hours had been hell and his hands were shaking, a fine trembling he couldn't stop. "He and Sam were on a hunt right over the border in Nebraska and it seems like things went real bad. I got a call from Sam not making any kind of sense, finally found him on the side of the road concussed to hell. Said Dean had been 'taken.'"
Bobby raised one eyebrow at the angel. "Sam's fine, by the way."
"I didn't...you would have said if he was also in danger." He looked away, and Bobby wondered if that was actually a flash of guilt on his face. "Where is Sam? I would expect him to be here."
Bobby sighed. That had been petty, especially since he would have to be blind not to see that Castiel was every bit worried as himself. "Parked in the panic room for the time being," he said, softening his tone as a means of apology.
Castiel's brow furrowed. "You said he was fine."
"Fine for being concussed, sure. He's in no shape to go tearing out looking for Dean, which is the first thing he'd do if I let him." Bobby let out a long breath. "And besides, he got whammyed good by something, a spell, some kind of magic. It's not that he doesn't remember, more like he can't. Like something's preventing him."
"I'll heal him."
Bobby shook his head. "Not until we know what it is. For all we know they'd be expecting it."
He saw Castiel accept the wisdom of that, however reluctantly. "How long?"
He clenched his jaw. This would be fun. "Two days."
Emotion sparked to life behind the angel's eyes, shock and something very close to fury. "Why didn't you call me sooner?"
"Because I've been a little busy taking care of Sam and trying everything I knew to find Dean myself. I've invented a couple of locating rituals over the past couple of days and still nothing. He's still got the symbols on his bones, right? The ones that keep you all from finding him?" Castiel nodded, arms folded across his chest. "So I knew you wouldn't be much help there," he said and Castiel dropped his gaze, misery written all over his face. "Frankly, I was hoping that you not fluttering around meant you knew something I didn't."
"No. I've heard nothing."
Bobby ran his tongue over his lips. He wasn't sure he wanted the answer to this next question. "Would you know if he'd..."
Castiel shook his head. "He's not dead. I would have felt his soul pass." The crease between his brows deepened. "At least we can be sure he's alive."
"We can be sure that whatever has him is keeping him alive," Bobby corrected.
"Perhaps..." He glanced at Bobby. "Perhaps he's in a hospital, as I was," he said, clearly grasping at straws and no happier about the implications of kept alive than Bobby.
"I've called every emergency room and clinic within one hundred miles of where I picked up Sam, and nothing."
Castiel nodded, as if he hadn't actually expected that to pan out. "I presume simply tracking his phone is also not an option."
"Only if you want to be led right back here. Found it on the ground right next to Sam."
Castiel's shoulders hunched, the lines around his eyes sharp as he ran through his options and came up with the same nothing staring Bobby in the face for the past two days. "So we have no leads at all."
Bobby felt his stomach twist into an ever tighter knot. "Like I said, I was hoping like hell you knew something I didn't."
Castiel paced the room, eyes darting along the walls and into the corners looking for something Bobby couldn't see. Then, to Bobby's surprise, he sat on the floor against one wall, elbows on his knees and his fingers steepled in front of his face. Oh, what is this now? "Something up?"
Bobby felt his eyebrows shoot up. "You can hear Dean?"
"If I focus. Dean is...loud compared to other humans," he said, lips quirking up by a fraction and Bobby almost smiled himself because yeah, he could see that. "Give me a moment. I have six billion voices to filter through."
Castiel's moment stretched over an hour, long enough that Bobby brewed some coffee to keep from passing out on his feet. Every minute that passed had Castiel curled into a tighter ball on the floor; beads of sweat wound down his face and he didn't even seem to notice, too focused on trying to pick Dean out among every other person on Earth.
Bobby made two mugs. If angels could take to whiskey he figured they could handle coffee, too.
Finally, he heard Castiel exhale a sharp breath. "There," he said.
"You got him?"
Castiel nodded. "There's some kind of warding in place. That would explain why your own divinations failed."
The angel's lips thinned. "No."
He didn't elaborate and Bobby didn't know what to say.
It was almost twenty minutes before Castiel spoke again. "Witches," he hissed, so much venom in the word Bobby could almost taste it.
"He got grabbed by witches? How do you know?"
"Because Dean just told one of them to do something profane and anatomically impossible."
Good boy. That almost reassuring, that wherever Dean was he still had some fight in him. Bobby was make that comment to Castiel when the angel full-on flinched, his breath forced out between his teeth. "What's wrong? They catch on you're listening in?"
Castiel shook his head. "No, it's just..." He wrapped his arms around his knees, fingers digging into the folds of his coat. "It's difficult to hear him in pain."
Bobby crouched next to him. "Let me hear." Castiel opened his eyes, his brows drawing together, and Bobby cut him off before he could argue. "I want to hear what you're hearing, right now. I want to know for myself that Dean's alive."
Castiel gave him a sharp look, as if he resented the implication that he was lying, then Bobby felt cool fingers against his forehead. "If you insist."
His senses heightened until he could feel individual sound waves hitting his ears. Bobby thought he was going to pass out; the air was so thick he couldn't breathe, snatches of voice and noise and vibration hammering against him until he couldn't understand how he wasn't bleeding. And he understood it all: a child's lament in Mexico. A monk's whispered prayer in Tibet, secret and private and hurried. A woman singing a lullaby in France, the tone as pure as any opera singer, so beautiful Bobby felt tears burn his eyes. Thousands more, millions more, each distinct, shouts of pain overlapping cries of ecstasy and drowned out by stark screams of terror, voices laughing and whispering and sobbing and choking and dying.
Then it it all snapped into focus and the only voice he could hear was Dean's.
...tell me what you did with my brother you miserable-
The words were cut off by a grunt of pain; from the way he was breathing Bobby guessed someone had just punched him in the face. He heard Dean swear under his breath, then there was a groan, as much of annoyance as pain.
Don't want to do this. He was talking to someone, trying to talk someone out of something. Bobby didn't like how hard he was breathing, harsh, gasping breaths between each word. He would put money on broken ribs. I know you don't. You unstrap me from this thing, I can get us out, you don't have to do what they...No, c'mon buddy, you don't...no, no don't...
Dean screamed, grating and jagged, the sound sinking under Bobby's skin like thousands of needles. There was a fast, faint thudding sound Bobby realized with a start was Dean's heartbeat. Son of a bitch. The words came out in a soft, moaning sob that tightened Bobby's chest.
The way his breath shuddered made Bobby think he was hanging, not just trussed up. Fucking hell. Dean was whispering to himself. Don't pass out. Don't pass out, lost too much fucking blood, don't pass out...
Castiel withdrew his hand, releasing him. Bobby staggered backward into the couch, the sudden blunting of his hearing so profound that for a second he thought he'd gone deaf. It took several long moments to remember that this was how humans were supposed to hear, that it was normal not to have a cacophony of six billion in your head. "Is that how you hear?" he asked Castiel, still breathless.
Castiel titled his head. "I am sorry, Bobby. I should have tempered the experience earlier. We instinctively know how to filter the multitude." He wrapped his arms back around his knees, his eyes pools of abject misery.
A lightning storm beat down against the windows, rolling thunder almost shaking the house and Bobby didn't even remember it being cloudy an hour ago. "What are they doing to him?
"If I'm correct, they're working a spell. The bloodletting is ritualized and comes at regular intervals."
That was the biggest non-answer Bobby had ever heard; of course they were working a spell. They were witches, not girl scouts. Hopefully. "I didn't think they'd invited him over for tea," Bobby said. "What kind of spell? Do you know?"
Bobby waited for him to elaborate until it was clear he had intention of doing so. "You mind telling me what exactly it is you suspect?"
"I would rather not."
"Not an option."
Castiel's eyes went hard. "I believe that one or more, most likely three, demons are using the witches to recapture Dean's soul. At the climax of the spell he'll be sacrificed, his soul will be dragged to the Pit and hidden so no force can find it," he said, an unmistakable are you happy now tone to his voice.
And actually, Bobby was. Relatively, anyway. No matter how bad it felt to have that knowledge settling in his gut like a poison, it was nothing compared to the clawing helplessness of not knowing. "I'm gonna make some calls." When Castiel looked at him questioningly he said, "We know we're dealing with witches and we know they're mixed up with demons. That's a hell of a lot more than we had an hour ago. We've got something to look for now."
He saw the angel's eyes brighten by a fraction. "That's true. It hadn't occurred to me." He rubbed his forehead, almost like he fighting off a migraine. "I don't seem to be thinking very clearly."
"You're worried. I am, too. I'm gonna make some calls, see if anyone knows anything about covens in the area. You keep your ears open, maybe someone will slip."
Castiel nodded, closing his eyes as he wrapped himself back into a tight ball of concentration, and Bobby started calling every hunter he'd ever met for the second time in two days.
After four hours two things were clear as day for Bobby: if they were dealing with a coven, it was a damn quiet one. And careful, too; no one even had any demon omens to report.
The second was that it had probably been a mistake to encourage Castiel to keep listening to Dean. Wind still buffeted the windows and Bobby was half-convinced a tornado was about to pick the house up and toss it into the next county; it wasn't until he'd talked to someone local and commented on the freak weather only to hear puzzled silence on the other end of the line did Bobby realize the lighting had less to do with actual weather than with the increasingly agitated angel camped out on his floor.
Sometimes he would overhear Castiel talking to Dean, generally admonishments along the lines of Dean, that's not helping, but most of the time he was spookily quiet. Except, of course, for making the wind howl outside like a dozen banshees.
And almost as if it was on cue, all of the windows blew out.
After a few moments of ducking for cover Bobby made his way over to Castiel and shook him by one shoulder. Castiel startled, his eyes snapping open and the look in them made Bobby step back. Something dark and angry roiled in that look, like the storm outside was only a fraction of what was happening inside. Then he came back to himself, blinking in confusion. "Did you learn something?"
"No, and you need to tone down the show outside."
"I need to..." His brows knitted together, then he seemed to finally realize there was a hurricane going on. "I didn't realize." He closed his eyes, letting out a deep, long breath and the wind calmed down.
"It's not going well, is it?"
Castiel shook his head. "We're running out of time." He looked up at Bobby. "You've discovered nothing?"
"Not for lack of trying. Still have a few last ditch calls to make but they're long shots at best." He crouched down so he was at eye level with the angel. "Does he know you're hearing him?"
Castiel shook his head. "Between the non-detection sigils and their own warding I can't communicate with him. He's not aware of my presence." The frustration was almost palpable, rising from him in waves.
"You can't help him by torturing yourself," Bobby pointed out, keeping his hand on Castiel's shoulder.
Bobby felt him tense, his mouth pressing into a thin line; he could see Castiel trying to reject the truth of the argument until his shoulders slumped forward. "It would be like abandoning him," he said softly, as if he knew the illogic of the words but was helpless to do anything about it.
All the same, it was a very human brand of irrationality Bobby couldn't bring himself to fault. "Just take it easy on my house, okay?" he said, patting his shoulder once before straightening up.
Castiel nodded, closing his eyes again. Bobby watched him for a long moment, then went back to his phone, extra motivation burning in his gut. It wasn't just about saving Dean now; Bobby was convinced that if Castiel actually heard Dean die he was going to crack, and Bobby had no idea what the hell he was supposed to do then. A pissed-off witch was a problem but it was something that could be handled.
A grief-crazed angel was in a category all its own.
Exhaustion finally got the better of Bobby; he startled awake on the couch, not even remembering falling asleep. It took a second to pinpoint the sound that had awakened him, a strange, harsh, rasping laugh. He looked over the couch at Castiel, fear lancing up and down his spine. The angel's body was tense, his eyes open, staring at nothing, and Bobby had the horrible, lurching thought of It happened. "Cas?" he said, careful to use Dean's nickname for him. "Did..."
Castiel shook his head. "No. He's still alive."
Bobby couldn't keep back the sigh of relief. "Then what-?"
Castiel looked at him, a strange jubilation in his eyes. "They let him fall asleep."
Dean knew he was dreaming. The light was too intense, that weird, oversaturated quality that only came in dreams.
And Cas was standing there glowering at him, which was always a good clue. "Hey Cas, so what's-"
"Dean, where are you?"
Dean looked around, the familiar field pricking at his memory, then he laughed. "Jesus. This is the ball field out in the park back in Lawrence. I used to play T-ball here when I was little." He quirked one eyebrow. "Why the hell am I dreaming about T-ball?"
Cas shook his head. "No, Dean that's not..." He stepped forward, closing the distance and Dean could see he looked like a wreck, his hair a mess and his eyes bloodshot. If he was human Dean would have said it looked like he hadn't slept in days.
He felt his stomach drop. Much as he didn't want to think about it, Cas was at war. Something must have happened. "Cas, you okay? You look like shit." Dean put one hand on his arm. "You hurt? Did one of your son of a bitch brothers get a hold of you?"
Cas blinked, then his eyes softened. "No, Dean. I'm fine." The churning in Dean's stomach got worse; something was wrong, Cas didn't get emotional but he was now. He put one hand against Dean's forehead and Dean could feel him trembling. "Forgive me."
The dream ripped away; Dean felt the last two days come back in a sick rush, the pain spiraling, the smell of that room making him gag. The mocking smiles on the witches' faces hovered in front of his eyes, the demon's black eyes and that knife coming at him. He staggered forward, felt Cas' hands on his arms holding him up. "Fuck. Fuck, Cas."
"I'm sorry," he whispered, his voice sounding like someone had just stabbed him. "There wasn't time to explain." He tipped Dean's chin up, forcing Dean to meet his eyes. "Dean, I can't find you. Tell me where you are."
He remembered being dragged into a van, Sam motionless by the side of the road. "Sam," he forced out. "What happened to Sam?"
"Sam's safe. He was injured but Bobby says he'll recover."
"He's with Bobby. That's good." He groaned; everything hurt so much. He could feel the stabbing pain from the broken ribs, the burn in his shoulders from the harness he was hanging from. "Don't let me get killed by some pissant little witches, Cas."
"I don't intend to let you get killed by anything." Dean felt Cas' hand back against his forehead.
"Can you heal me in a dream?"
"Not as such, no. But I can reduce the pain." And just like that Dean felt the pain let him go, like Cas had found a dimmer switch in his head and turned it all the way down. "Is that better?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I can breathe, at least." He took a second to catch his breath. "I'm all fucked up, Cas."
"Is it a triune, Dean? Are there three humans and three demons involved?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, that's right. How did you...?"
"I've been listening to you for the past several hours," he said, as if that was the most obvious thing in the world. "It wasn't difficult to put the pieces together."
"You've been listening? Cas, what the hell..."
"Dean. Focus. There were two sacrifices before you?"
Dean remembered the girl hanging on the wall to his right. God, her eyes when the knife had gone in her chest. He'd promised he'd get her out of it, because he was an idiot who made promises he couldn't keep, and she'd stared at him the entire time it took her to die, like Dean had been the one who'd stabbed her. "One was already dead when I woke up there, and they killed the other one right in front of me. I couldn't do anything."
Cas' hand was still on his forehead. "I know. I'm sorry. Dean, please, where are you?"
Dean couldn't remember Cas ever begging him for anything before. "I don't know. I swear. They knocked me out in the van and I woke up already strung up. I have no idea where they've got me."
Cas' jaw tightened, then he nodded. "Then pray."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Buddy, I don't think God's really going to..."
Cas almost laughed. "Not to God, Dean, although you should do that more often. Pray to me. Use my name. I'm listening, I'll hear you and I'll be able to follow the prayer to you."
"There's all kinds of magical crap in that room, Cas. You won't get through."
He inclined his head, an almost insulted glint in his eyes. "I fought through the defenses of Hell, Dean. Three demons can't keep me out."
Dean nodded. "Okay. Look, Cas, the kid they've got holding the knife, he's not a witch, he's one of the witches' brothers. He's...I don't know, slow, maybe. He doesn't really understand what's going on, they're using him. He's as freaked out as I am, he's just too scared of them to do anything about it. I told him I could get him out of this and I don't want to break any more promises today. Just...don't hurt him okay?"
The muscle in Cas' jaw tightened, but he nodded. "Very well. I'd wondered how they were getting around the 'innocent shedding innocent blood' stipulation.'"
looks like he's having a pleasant dream let's see what's going on in that head of his, shall we
let's see what's going on in that head of his, shall we
"Shit. Cas, I think they're on to us."
Cas tilted his head. "What do you mean? Are they waking you?"
He felt something dark force its way into his mind. "More like one of the demon bitches is trying to eavesdrop on what I'm dreaming about."
"One's trying to see into your mind?" Cas said, a strange, eager tone to his voice, like this was the best news ever. He clamped one hand over Dean's eyes and the other tight against the back of his head. "Don't fight her, Dean. Let her in."
"You want me to let a demon in my head?"
Even with his eyes closed Dean knew Cas had that not-smile on his face. "She wants to see. Let her."
It wasn't like Dean knew how to keep a demon out of his head if he'd wanted to. He felt her touch in his mind, like a slick spreading oil stain.
Then he felt the light.
It was like standing under a million floodlights, all focused on him. He instinctively tried to flinch away but Cas' hands held him still; he heard something strong and solid cut through the air, realized it must be his wings and felt a suicidal urge to rip Cas' hand away from his eyes and look at them. Dean knew that if Cas hadn't been holding him up he would have been on his knees, not because of any religious nonsense but because he just couldn't take this. The light had mass and force, pressing against him until he was sure he going to be crushed. And it just kept getting brighter.
The felt the demon shrieking in his mind; she tried to escape but Dean felt some of the light dart out and wrap around her, as if Cas had grabbed her face and was forcing her to look. The demon kept screaming and Dean felt like his mind was on fire; he could feel the demon burning in his mind, like he'd been injected full of lava. The light was so blinding now his own eyes ached. "Cas," he shouted, having to be loud over the screaming in his head. "Cas, I...I can't, it's too much..."
"I know it's uncomfortable," he answered, his voice a low, rasping rumble that Dean felt rather than heard, "but it won't harm you. I promise." The screaming slowly faded until the demon left his mind with a final screech of agony. The light blinked out and Castiel removed his hands, catching Dean when he staggered backwards. Dean felt Cas cradle his head, anxious blue eyes examining him until they closed in relief. "Good. She didn't leave any traces."
His voice sounded far away, like they were talking over a bad line. "Think I'm waking up," Dean groaned, the pain already creeping back. Castiel's hands tightened on his shoulders, as if he could hold Dean to the dream but the surroundings were already warping around them. "If this goes bad you take care of Sammy, Cas, we just got him back. You promise me."
The last thing Dean saw before the dream ended was Castiel's blue eyes bright with helpless fury as lightning streaked across the sky.
Waking up was like being thrown into a pool of razor wire. The pain was so bad that for a second Dean couldn't breathe, let alone talk.
And all around him was chaos. Dean forced his eyes open and saw one of the demons twitching and smoking on the floor, her eyes black empty craters; he guessed only a few seconds had passed in reality and no one seemed to be able to process what had just happened. Dean remembered those demons in that diner back when they were all still trying to figure out what Castiel was, how that one had been so scared she hadn't even been able to say the word angel. He felt spiteful joy rush through him as he watched the panic, the witches screaming and cowering against the back wall and the demons not holding it together much better.
It didn't last very long. The ringleader witch pulled herself together and dragged her brother out of the corner, putting the knife in his hands and shoving him at Dean. "Finish this," she hissed, then turned to the demons, "I told you, you'll have your soul."
Dean hadn't had water in two days and to his horror his throat was so dry he couldn't make any sound come out. He saw the kid approach him, eyes uncertain, the knife held in a loose grip. The demons watched on, clearly waiting to see whether they should cut their losses and Dean ignored them, eyes focused on the knife. He locked eyes with the kid holding it, shaking his head, and felt a flare of hope when he paused.
Then the witch spoke up. "Johnny, do not disappoint me." The kid's eyes darted back and forth between them, then his hand tightened on the handle of the knife.
Dean fought his body's disastrous urge to pass out again. He kept holding on to the thought that Castiel was out there listening, that he was waiting for Dean to open that door for him and Dean ground his teeth together. He could do this. All he had to do was talk. No sweat.
"Cas," he whispered, the word burning his parched throat like sandpaper. "Castiel," he forced out through his teeth, supposing that maybe it needed to be the whole name. The kid looked at him quizzically for a moment, then raised the knife. Adrenaline was a wonderful thing. "Cas, you sonofabitch, if you're coming, it's gotta be now."
Dean supposed it wasn't much of a prayer but the room started shaking, wind blowing from nowhere. The kid paused, looking back at the head witch, then stabbed down with the knife.
One second Dean was watching the blade come down into his heart, then before he could blink his view was blocked by a tan trenchcoat. He felt Cas jolt slightly as the knife plunged into his chest instead of Dean's (Dean remembered doing that to Cas himself once, what seemed like a thousand years ago); he saw Cas glance at him over his shoulder, as if apologizing for taking so long, casually, like he didn't have a dagger sticking out of his chest. He put one hand against the kid's forehead and simply said, "Sleep," watching impassively as he dropped to the floor, then slid the knife out of his chest and dropped it.
The screaming started again.
He turned to Dean. With a gesture the restraints fell apart; Dean tried to stand but his legs buckled and he fell against Castiel, which ranked up there among the least badass moments of his life. "Getting blood all over you," he murmured. He was so tired. He saw Bobby in his peripheral vision and figured he was pretty much hallucinating now. "Fucking hurts, Cas."
Warmth flooded though him and he took a deep, pain-free breath for the first time in what seemed like forever. "Rest now, Dean."
Dean shook his head. "Too many of 'em. Help you fight."
It was the second time that day he'd heard Castiel almost laugh. "Thank you, but it won't be necessary."
He felt Castiel's fingers against his temple. He had just enough time to bitch that Cas was making him miss all the fun before it all went black.
It took a second for Bobby to get his bearings, and not just because the room was in chaos. He almost regretted demanding the angel take him along; the flight had felt a hell of a lot more like flight than he's expected, only stomach-churningly fast. By the time he'd pulled himself together Castiel had already subdued one of the humans and had Dean free; Bobby saw Dean mumble something, then go limp in Castiel's arms. One of the witches, an acne scarred boy in a high school sweat shirt, tried to make a run for it and Castiel saw; with a wave of his hand the door slammed shut and the bar lock slid into place, same with the windows. One of the demons made a desperate lunge at Castiel, sliding a rune-carved knife out of her belt and sinking it into his back; he staggered forward a step, then Bobby saw his expression close. "Watch over Dean," he said, glancing at Bobby as he gently lowered him to the ground, then pulled the knife from his back with a wet, stomach-churning sound. He turned around, looked at the demon and made a quick, flick of the wrist gesture.
The demon exploded. Gore flew in all directions and Bobby had a flashback to that horrible day in Lawrence, watching Lucifer wearing Sam's face and snapping his fingers. The witches started screaming, clinging to each other and cowering against the far wall; the remaining demon erupted from its host in a plume of black smoke.
Castiel tilted his head. "No." He slowly closed the fingers of his right hand into a fist, forcing the smoke inch by painful inch back into its host. He strode over to the gasping demon and put one hand on its forehead. Light exploded from the demon's eyes with a blood-curdling screech and it dropped to the ground, dead.
The lightning storm from the house was happening here too, violent, deafening cracks of thunder, and Bobby had to fight impression that Castiel was bigger. He wasn't, his body was still the same, but his presence, that filled the room until Bobby felt it pushing everything else out. Lightning illuminated the room as he turned to the screaming witches and Bobby saw enormous, shadowy black wings on the wall behind Castiel.
One the witches, the girl, started begging. "Please, please don't kill us, we're really sorry, we won't do it again, they told us we could have anything we wanted, please, we-"
"No more words." The witch's voice stopped like water from a turned-off faucet. Both of their eyes went wide with panic as they clutched at their throats and cowered desperately on the floor. Castiel looked back at the two bodies having on the wall, sorrow on his face, then he looked at Dean. His expression changed, and Bobby felt his insides turn to ice.
He'd heard the word before, but aside from that quick flash from Lucifer this was his first time really seeing wrath.
Castiel took two steps forward, extended one hand towards the witches, and Bobby finally found his voice. "Don't." Maybe he was getting soft in his old age, but he couldn't stand there and watch Castiel tear two teenagers limb from limb. "Don't do this. This isn't right." If pressed, Bobby wouldn't have been able to tell which of them he was trying to save, the humans or the angel.
To his relief Castiel paused, his hand still outstretched. "Why?" he asked, genuinely not understanding, and Bobby was forcibly reminded that this wasn't a person in front of him, this was a storm wearing someone else's skin. Bobby didn't remember when he'd stopped thinking of Castiel as a thing and wondered if that had been a mistake. "Their souls are already brokered to the Pit. I can smell the corruption."
"They're kids. Stupid, evil, idjit kids, maybe, but ripping them apart doesn't fix anything."
"You mean it would be vengeance," Castiel said slowly, nodding his head. "You mean this needs human justice." He took another step forward. "What would justice be? Tell me and I'll abide by it. You be the arbiter and I your instrument, Bobby Singer."
Bobby stared at the two witches mutely begging him for help and felt crushing responsibility. Going to the authorities was useless, Bobby knew that as well as anyone, but they couldn't just be let go. There needed to be some kind of punishment, and they were dangerous. "Just...just keep them from hurting anyone else."
Castiel nodded. He stalked between them, looking at them like they were particularly repulsive bugs. "You should be kneeling to me," he said, and they fell to their knees as if invisible hands had yanked them to the ground. He place one hand on each of their heads and their mouths opened in mute screams; his hands glowed with white light and suddenly they dropped, prostrate and trembling.
"I have traveled to the depths of the Pit and emerged unscathed," he said, his words heavy with power. "I remember the way." He moved to stand before them, his coat swirling around him. "If either of you ever again seek to harm another soul, either in deed or in thought, I will hear the sin in your rotten hearts. When the day comes, I promise you, I will appear before you. And I will throw you into the Pit myself."
Then without looking back he walked back to Dean and Bobby. "We should leave," he said, touching them both, and Bobby heard the sound of wings unfurling.
He realized too late he hadn't asked Castiel to give them back their voices.
Dean woke to a dark room at Bobby's, full of the good drugs and Castiel suddenly in the chair beside him. "Where'd you run off to?"
"I apologize. I went back to sanctify the site."
Dean winced, trying to find a comfortable position. "Thought you fixed me. Why do I still feel like crap?"
"I did what I could. You were exposed to dark magic for over two days. That and the effects of the blood loss will require time to overcome."
Dean groaned. "Figures." He looked up at Cas. "Bobby said you went pretty Old Testament on those witches."
Castiel tilted his head. "Some of the New, as well." He frowned. "I disturbed Bobby. That wasn't my intention."
"Bobby'll get over it," Dean said. "Think you just surprised him. Easy to forget sometimes, y'know? Y'haven't broken out the badass angel of the Lord thing in a while." He chuckled. "And he said he's sending you a bill for the windows."
Castiel was quiet for a moment and Dean took a deep breath; Cas had the same look on his face Sam got when he decided they needed to discuss things. "Dean, why didn't you call for me sooner?"
And honestly, Dean wasn't sure. "I was trying to escape by myself, I guess. And I was worried like crazy about Sam."
It sucked sometimes, trying to fib a mind reader. "That wouldn't have stopped you in the past."
Dean sighed. "I don't know. Things have been weird, I guess. Different. You with the whole war thing, me dealing with Sam, we don't get along as good as we used to."
Cas leaned forward, his hands folded together. "Dean," he said, his voice very patient, "if we were quarreling - and I wasn't aware we were quarreling - but if we were and you received word I had been captured by my enemies, if you heard me in pain, would you leave me to my fate?"
Just the thought of Cas screaming in pain made Dean want to kill something. "You know the answer to that."
"Do you believe my regard for you to be so much less?"
There was something raw in Cas' voice that went through Dean. "Hey. I'm sorry. I suck. Next time I really screw up, I'll send up a flag. Okay?" Cas nodded and Dean closed his eyes. "Good, 'cause I can't take any more of this touching moment crap." He heard Cas huff out an amused breath and almost chuckled himself. "I'm really tired, buddy, so if I pass out mid-sentence don't hold it against me."
He was almost asleep when he felt Cas' hand on his chest, right over his heart. "Cas. I'm not dying."
"You're not dying now," Castiel corrected softly. "Towards the end I could hear your heart slowing. It was..." He let out a long breath. "I was very afraid for you, Dean."
He made to move away and Dean stopped him, holding his hand against this chest. He wasn't sure which of them was more surprised. "This is probably a total dick thing to say, but I'm glad you were hearing me. I know it had to suck, and God knows I couldn't have done it, but...I don't know. One of the things Alastair used to say is that it didn't matter if I screamed 'cause no one was listening."
He heard Cas' breath catch. "I was listening, Dean. Remember, we were laying siege to Hell. Even then I could hear you."
Dean wanted to make a joke about Cas starting the stalking early but didn't trust his voice to keep steady. "Well...thanks," he said, after a long moment. "Y'know, for looking out for me. Don't know why you bother sometimes, you gotta have more important things going on, but...just thanks." He decided he'd blame the inarticulate mushiness on blood loss later.
Dean heard Castiel shift, then a moment later felt breath against his ear. He heard Cas take a deep breath and hold it; Dean's heart started pounding, because it was almost like Cas was working up to something.
Then Castiel whispered a string of words in Enochian, the strange syllables running into each other in Cas' rasping voice. Dean didn't understand the words but he felt them, a warm rush of energy vibrating under his skin and wrapping around his soul. "Hey. What's that mean?" he asked, a little breathless.
"I've never found the translation satisfactory."
"Oh." He let a few moments pass by. "Could you say it again?"
There was that amused huff of breath again. "It's not something one says twice." The blanket was pulled up around his shoulders. "You need to rest, Dean." He felt Cas' fingers trail through his hair before stopping at his temple.
Dean drifted back to sleep before he could say another word, Castiel's hand warm over his heart.