Thank You was originally meant as a one-shot but I wanted to write what happened next and explain why I think some things happened at all. I am certain it will all be rendered wrong when the new season begins but for now… Disclaimers in Part 1
Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again.-Saint Augustine
When Sam walked into the spare room at Bobby's, the one that he and his brother used to stay in when they were younger, he wasn't expecting to see Castiel standing at the window staring down at something in the yard. He wasn't surprised the angel was in the room, since he helped carry the practically comatose ex-self-proclaimed deity up the stairs and dump him on one of the rumpled, unmade twin beds; it was that he was standing.
He had not previously shown any signs of stirring for the two days he had been up here.
Sam stopped abruptly just inside the doorway. Castiel glanced over at him but then turned back to the window without further acknowledging the younger Winchester.
Feeling rather awkward, after all what do you say to a one-time friend that you had recently tried to kill, Sam cleared his throat. "I…we…weren't sure if you would be hungry or anything…but I was bringing you up some oatmeal…and water…you know, just in case when you got up…any way, I'm going to sit it down here." Sam stumbled over the words as he set the small tray on a side table.
Castiel continued to stare into the yard. "Nourishment is not necessary. I have been much diminished from what I was even before Death reclaimed the souls of purgatory…but I can still maintain my vessel. For the thought, however, thank you." He finally turned away from the window and faced Sam. Castiel's face was impassive but there was redness around his eyes. He found he could not bring himself to look Sam in the eyes, so he dropped his gaze to the floor instead. "Why am I here, Sam?"
Castiel had always been both very easy and simultaneously very difficult to read. It was always subtle cues that gave away what he was feeling: a widening of his eyes to indicate he was uncertain, a slight tilt of the head when he was curious or confused, or a thinning of the lips when he was angry or determined. However, Sam had never seen such utter despair haunt his former friend's features.
Sam shook his head and held his palms out and open in sincerity. "You aren't a prisoner. You can leave any time you want. We won't stop you."
"I have nowhere else to go." Castiel shook his head, dismissing the thought of leaving. "No, Sam, why am I here?" Castiel asked again. "Why didn't you just leave me there, after what I did to you… to Dean. Why didn't you pick back up the blade and…use it...again?"
Sam took a few more steps into the room and then dropped to sit on the bed closest to the door. "After Death showed up and took the souls and, apparently, drained your Grace, you were wrecked; penitent, remorseful, you wouldn't respond to anything. Dean didn't want to leave you there, helpless, in case Crowley or one of Raphael's cohorts showed up."
Castiel turned back to the window. "I don't understand why he would show me such mercy, after I betrayed him, betrayed you both."
"If you don't understand that, then despite your profound bond, you really don't understand my brother." Sam stifled a sigh. "Besides, here was no reason to do that, not after you realized what you were doing, what you had done. You weren't a threat anymore," Sam explained carefully, wishing that Dean had been the one to bring the food up and find Castiel alert and aware, even though Dean hadn't stepped foot back in the room since he and Sam had dropped the angel on the bed.
Castiel nodded slowly. He had received more compassion from these destiny driven brothers than from his own family. He felt humbled and wretched. He could never make amends. He dropped his head, resting his forehead briefly against the warm window pane. "I am sorry for what I did to you Sam. Truly sorry. You were my friend…once… and yet I was willing to sacrifice you by destroying the barrier between your sanity and your memories just as a distraction; and I did it for power. I remember every decision that I made and they all seemed right at the time. I can't understand how it ended so wrong."
"Castiel, you don't need to apologize to me. I'd be a big hypocrite to judge you," Sam said slowly, emphasizing each word. "I know what it's like to be so desperate that you're open to the subtle lies and manipulations of evil. Thinking you know how to be careful, that you're playing the demons rather than them playing you; thinking that you're the only one that can do what needs to be done." Sam shook his head at the memories before continuing, "It feels good to think you know exactly what you need to do, to finally have a little power and not feel so afraid anymore and then, next thing you know, you're strangling your brother and leaving with a demon to unintentionally start the apocalypse, while telling yourself it's up to you to save the world."
"I am an angel, Sam, I am not prone to self-delusion. Unlike a human," Castiel said matter-of-factly in the same tone that he had once called Sam an abomination, "I should not have been vulnerable to the demon's lies. You are not to be blamed for being vulnerable to manipulation. I, however, do not understand how I could have fallen so low and still not be Fallen."
Sam scowled slightly, feeling like he might have been insulted, however unintentionally, again. "Dean told me that Crowley gave you a taste of soul-power to charge you up before you faced Raphael the first time."
"I don't know how Dean would have known this, but yes, he gave me fifty thousand souls that were in his keeping. They gave me the power to protect myself from Raphael when he demanded that I submit to him or die."
Sam nodded as if that explained everything. "Exactly, Cas, they were souls Crowley was keeping, hell souls, tainted souls. I figure they made you vulnerable to being manipulated by a demon and started changing you, just like Azazel feeding me demon blood when I was six months old made me susceptible."
A slight frown of concentration graced Castiel's forehead, suggesting that he was considering his whole interaction with the one-time King of the Crossroads and self-proclaimed new king of Hell in a new light. "So I was corrupted by the tainted souls and after they were removed, I was able to think clearly again." He slowly tilted his head. "Thank you, Sam. I had not made such an obvious connection. Perhaps not all of my decisions were the true result of free will.
"There is still the matter of my destroying Death's wall." Castiel said contritely, determined that his sins be acknowledged.
Sam swallowed nervously; thinking about what happened after the wall came down was uncomfortable but not devastating. "That was actually probably for the best. You were out of it so you probably don't know what Death did." That got the angel's attention and he turned from whatever was holding his interest outside.
"What did Death do after retrieving the souls, Sam?" Cas asked somewhat urgently. The answer seemed to be very important to him.
"He filtered all my Hell memories through the part of me that was soulless. I remember everything but it's almost like it happened to someone else. I feel bad that it happened but the memories…well, let's just say I can live with them.
"So I forgive you for bringing down the Great Wall of Sam, as Dean used to call it. I wanted to know what happened during the year my body was wandering around without me. I would have scratched at the wall until I eventually brought it down, at least this way…" Sam shrugged as if that said everything.
"I had wondered why you seemed remarkably sane and coherent, all things considered. Death's tinkering with your psyche would explain it."
Sam's face fell and his eyes darkened as his words became harsh. "So, I forgive you for bringing down the wall but I don't know yet if I can forgive you for the rest. Dean made a deal with Death to fix me. You would think he would learn but no…"
"Dean made a deal with Death? What kind of deal?"
"Death thinks that if God can take an extended leave of absence then he can take a vacation too. Whenever the Grim Reaper decides now's the time, Dean will stand in for him until he gets back, no matter how long that might take."
"That likely explains why he is entertaining a reaper in Bobby's junkyard." Castiel said softly, almost to himself. "I was half afraid that I might have hurt him before Death came and that she had come for him."
"Nope Dean's fine, maybe better than fine since I doubt Death will let anything happen to him until after he's taken his vacation. As for the reaper, that's probably Tessa. Apparently Dean can see her now without, you know, actually being dead or I guess, being Death. She showed up about a day ago. Dean said she's supposed to teach him what he needs to know. He was a little pissed about it at first but he seems to be spending a lot of time out in the yard with her." Sam stood and joined Castiel at the window. He could see his brother leaning casually against a rusted Ford truck that was missing both fenders. He couldn't see anyone else in the yard. It looked like his brother was talking to himself.
"Sam," Castiel said slowly, "do you think that Dean will ever forgive me for breaking Death's wall, for hurting you?" The angel had held Dean's soul in his hands. He knew that he would forgive those he cared about almost anything, anything but hurting his brother.
Sam thought before replying. "Normally I'd say no, but I'm alive and whole and you did try to pull me out of Hell, even if you didn't get it right. So eventually, yeah, I think he'll forgive you. He had us bring you here. If he didn't still consider you a friend, he wouldn't have bothered."
"Thank you for your honesty, Sam. You and Dean have been the friends that I need and better friends than I deserve.
"Sam, I have one more question." Castiel finally forced himself to meet and hold the youngest remaining Winchester's gaze.
Castiel took a deep breath. "You have said you had no need to forgive me for my betrayal. You give me hope that Dean will eventually forgive me." He paused to gather his courage to ask his question. "You have been where I am, having betrayed those you care about; tell me, how do I forgive myself?"
Sam turned and headed to the door. He paused before leaving the room. "Once I figure that out, I'll let you know."
SPN SPN SPN
Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read this and special thanks if to those who take time to review.