Summary: Dean has to rescue Castiel from the Whore of Babylon, but does Cass even want to be saved? Hurt / comfort, angst, family.

Author's Notes: AU of "99 Problems" from season 5. The Whore of Babylon really wounded Cass during that episode! I was surprised that they didn't explain why her Enochian chant hurt him so much, so this story explores what harm she could have done.

This scene takes place right when Castiel returned from Babylon with the stake of cypress wood. He's still hung-over from that bender.

Reviews are appreciated!

Castiel's Choices

Castiel stumbled for a moment when he landed in the Winchesters' motel room. The alcohol was taking its time exiting his system and it left behind a headache, nausea and dizziness that Cass had never imagined. Briefly he wondered if he'd accidentally poisoned his vessel's body, and decided to ask Dean and Sam how much liquor was too much. If he had his way he'd drink enough to cause amnesia. He wanted to forget about his Father's apathy, his fruitless efforts on behalf of Heaven, his siblings' betrayals, Lucifer and Michael, the Apocalypse, everything.

And if he couldn't forget about his troubles by using alcohol, he might just find another way…

In the two seconds that Cass contemplated all of this, his guard was down. It didn't matter if the alcohol was to blame or if it was just the angel's recklessness. Either way he wasn't paying attention. And right then the Whore of Babylon pounced.

She'd been standing behind him, between the door and the sink of the suite. She jumped onto his back and knocked him onto his knees. The cypress stake rolled out of his hand and across the floor to where Dean and Sam lay, hogtied to a table with thick rope. Just as Dean shouted "Cass, look out!" the Whore dropped a lighter onto the carpet.

A ring of Jerusalem oil exploded into flames.

Cass was trapped.

The Whore, in Leah Gideon's body, strutted to the edge of the circle, put her hands on her hips and laughed. "That was so easy," she said, "it was pathetic."

Cass climbed to his feet and glared at her through the flames and smoke. "How did you find us?" he demanded.

Leah tapped her temple with a forefinger. "Mind reader, remember, Castiel? These two told me everything." She looked down at Dean and Sam and smiled at them. Sam struggled with his bonds and Dean glared daggers.

"I must not be the first angel you have encountered," Cass observed, gesturing to the oil. "You knew how to trap me."

"A few soldiers from your garrison have already tried to stop me from damning this town," Leah said. "I confiscated this from them." Leah reached into her back pocket and withdrew a silver archangel's blade. She looked at it lovingly, as if it were a treasured pet. The blade was stained with red blood.

Both of Cass' fists and his stomach tightened at the sight of the weapon. Leah tutted at him. "That language in your head is unbefitting an angel, Castiel." At the look on his face she nodded. "Yes, I can read the thoughts of angels as well as men and no, I'm not going to let you or the Winchesters out of here alive."

Cass raised his chin defiantly but his fear was revealed in his eyes. "If you hurt them I swear I'll-"

"You'll what?" Leah shrugged and twirled the blade in her hand. "Spit on me? Your wings are clipped, angel. You can't do anything but watch." Her smile widened. "And after they're dead, I have plans for you."

Dean spoke up. "I get that you want to condemn us and this whole town to Hell, but what do you want with Cass?" he demanded. "You can't drag him into the pit." Dean made eye contact with Cass and was shocked to see the angel lower his eyes and stare at his feet. Dean knew that look. "Cass - she can drag you into the pit?"

Leah raised her face to the ceiling as if enjoying a beam of sunlight. "Harvesting human souls is all well and good," she said, "but that's not the only part of my job description. Let's just say I get a big bonus from my boss when I bring an angel's spirit in."

The Whore turned back to Cass. "I've decided to give you something that I denied your brothers and sisters, Castiel: a choice. You can either swear your allegiance to Lucifer or I can send you to Hell right now. If you join me, I'll damn the town but not your two little friends. If you don't, they'll be coming to Hell with you. Which do you choose?"

Cass' lips parted slightly and his eyes widened. He looked down through the smoke at Sam, then at Dean. He stared into Dean's desperate eyes and kicked himself for getting them in the situation.

Dean saw the look on his friend's face and shook his head vehemently. "Don't do it, Cass. We're dead either way. Fight her."

Castiel pursed his lips, looked the Whore straight in the eye and said, "If those are my only options, I choose damnation."

Leah smiled and shrugged. "Have it your way." She pointed a finger at him and chanted something in Enochian.

Cass fell to his knees, clutching his chest, gasping for air. He felt like his vessel's ribs were on fire and every vein was being pulled taunt. Beyond that, something was clawing at his energy, ripping up his being from his deepest insides. He yelled in pain and spit blood onto the carpet. He heard Dean and Sam calling his name as if from far away. His vessel's heart beat as quick as a hummingbird's wings. Leah raised her other hand and shouted more Enochian, spitting the incantation down Cass' spine. His back arched and his limbs writhed in pain. For several moments he was completely blind and when he could see again, it was barely through a darkness that seeped in from the sides of his eyes. Leah shouted one more sentence and then dropped her hands. Cass screamed one last time and collapsed completely onto his side, shaking with pain.

"Cass? Cass!"

Castiel didn't realize that his eyes were clenched shut until he turned his face towards Dean's voice and only saw darkness. When he opened them, Leah was dousing the fire. The ring of oil disintegrated and Cass would have been free if he wasn't paralyzed in every other way. Through the remaining fog of smoke, the angel and the elder Winchester stared at each other, both desperate to communicate something but unsure what.

"You ok, Cass?" Sam asked. His lower lip trembled for a moment before it went rock solid still again.

Castiel opened his mouth to speak and found that his throat was burned. He swallowed a half dozen times then managed to whisper, "Dean, Sam...I'm sorry."

Suddenly Leah hauled Cass up into a sitting position by his collar. With quick strikes and stabs of the archangel blade she ripped the trench coat and suit jacket off. Then she tore off the tie and ripped the buttons off of his shirt, exposing his bare chest. When she let him go, Cass collapsed backwards and smacked his head on the carpet. He lay exposed with his limbs twitching from effort to get up. Leah straddled his stomach, gently inserted the blade into the side of Cass' neck and cut an inch of skin millimeters deep. It wasn't enough to kill the angel, but it hurt enough to make him cry out in pain.

"Stop!" Dean begged. He tried to crawl forward but couldn't move more than a few inches. "Stop it!"

Leah ignored him. "Call for Him," she whispered to Castiel. "Call for God." She rolled Cass' sleeve up and used the knife to carve an Enochian word into his skin. Light as bright as the fire shone from Cass' arm and neck, and blood flowed off his skin.

"Last chance," Leah hissed. She punched the tip of the knife through the angel's chest and stomach in two dozen places until it looked like his whole torso was leaking blood and light. "Last chance to join Lucifer."

Cass stared at her through half-lidded eyes. "Never," he whispered. "Never."

Leah pocketed the knife, stood up and raised both of her hands over his body. "Then I'll see you in hell," she said. She began the last verse of the Enochian curse.

Out of the corner of his eye, Cass saw more fire. For a moment he thought that he was already in Hell, but the slight haze of smoke in the air was not sulfuric. He saw a pair of hands pick up the cypress stake.

With the last of the strength in his spirit, Cass kicked Leah in the stomach. With a loud "oomph," she crumpled forward, clutching her gut. Just then Dean jumped up behind her and stabbed the cypress wood through her back, into her heart and out her chest. Her mouth dropped open in shock. Blood sprayed across the carpet. With a roar and a few twists of her real demonic face, the Whore collapsed and died in a haze of flame and smoke.

"Bitch," Dean grunted at her. He stumbled over to Sam and untied his brother's bonds. After helping him to his feet, they both hurried to Cass and knelt on either side of him.

"The lighter?" Castiel whispered.

Dean nodded. He held up his hands and Cass saw that his wrists were covered in third degree burns. In the fray he had managed to get close enough to snatch the lighter that Leah used to start the fire. Dean had burned through the ropes binding him, as well as a couple layers of skin during the process.

"Thank you," Cass whispered. He closed his eyes and sighed quietly.

Dean and Sam exchanged concerned looks. "Ok, let's stop the bleeding," Dean ordered, his voice trembling slightly. He grabbed what was left of Cass' coats, pulled them apart into strips for bandages and pressed them gently against his injuries. "Hang on, Cass."

"Do not bother," Castiel whispered. He pointed at the ceiling. Sam and Dean followed his line of sight and looked up to see a few swirls of ashes.

Cass' wings were slowly disintegrating. He was dying.

"Oh no," Sam whispered.

Dean cupped Castiel's face between his hands. "She didn't finish the curse. You can't die."

"I will die," said Castiel, "I just won't be hers in Hell. The blade did too much damage."

"We'll find you another vessel." Dean pointed at himself. "Use me. Use me as your vessel until we can find you a new one."

Cass smiled slightly. "I'm too weak to return to Heaven, let alone move to another person." Cass grimaced then. He clenched his eyes shut and breathed quick and shallow.

"Dean, look," Sam whispered. He pointed at a spot beyond Cass' shoulders. A shadow was slowly creeping across the floor: the angel's dying wings.

"No," Dean whispered. He took Cass' hand between both of his and squeezed. "Cass, come on, no!"

"I'm sorry," Cass whispered. "I'm so sorry, Dean."

A flash flood of tears filled the older brother's eyes but he blinked them away. "You listen to me, you son of a bitch. I can't do this without you so here's what's going to happen." Dean snatched the nearest bandage and wrapped it tightly around the angel's wounded arm. Blood and light seeped through it but the fabric held. "You are going to fight to stay alive. You're going to fight with everything you've got because I need you, Cass."

Cass and Sam stared at Dean. Neither blinked.

Dean grabbed another bandage and gently secured it around Castiel's neck. "We're going to take you to Bobby's, patch you up and get you some beauty sleep and in a few days you'll be fine."

Cass snorted. A trickle of blood ran out of his nostril and down to his chin. "Dean, even if I do survive it will take weeks for me to recover."

Sam sat up straight. "Is there a chance? Cass, is there a chance that you could survive this?"

Castiel closed his eyes but Dean shook him. "Well?" he demanded.

Cass' eyes flew open and blazed at Dean. "Who says I want to survive?" he whispered just loud enough for Dean to hear. "My Father abandoned me. My brothers and sisters betrayed me. I'm not fit anymore to protect you two so why - why should I do anything but succumb to alcohol, or to this..."

The tears returned to Dean's eyes and he didn't even try to get rid of them.

Cass slid the palm of his thumb across Dean's cheek. "Just leave me," he whispered. "Dean... I have nothing, and nothing to give. Just leave me."

Dean's lips trembled. "You would never let me leave without a fight." He leaned in close so that his mouth was only inches away from Cass' ear. "You're like a brother to me, Cass. You're part of my family. And I don't give up on my family." Then Dean sat up and barked, "Now, fight!"

It was 4am when the Impala pulled into Bobby's driveway. The elder hunter watched from the doorway as Sam popped out of the driver's seat and opened the back passenger-side door. Dean emerged with an unconscious Castiel in his arms. Soft white light shone from underneath bandages that crisscrossed Cass' body. Without a word, Dean carried the angel into the house and down to the basement panic room. Sam brought him a first aid kit and soap and water but then he and Bobby left him alone. Dean spent hours patching Cass up. He cleaned and re-bandaged every wound and washed all of the blood off the angel's body. Then he sat by Cass' bed by lantern light, and waited.

It was eight days before Cass woke up.

Dean was asleep at the time. It was early morning, mere seconds after dawn. Dean sat in a chair at the head of the bed with his boots propped up on the mattress. His left arm was folded against his stomach but his right was outstretched. With two fingers he grasped the sleeve of Cass' shirt. Every few seconds, even in sleep, he rubbed the fabric to reassure himself that the angel was still there.

For a few minutes Castiel just watched his friend. He observed the tired shadows under Dean's eyes and the deep worry lines on his face. Not for the first time that month, even that week, Cass was amazed by Dean Winchester. He often accused Dean of having little faith, but that wasn't really the case. Dean didn't have faith in God or angels, but he did have faith in his family's strength and perseverance.

Weakly, Cass lifted his hand and grasped his brother's fingers. "Dean," he whispered. "Dean."

Dean must have only been dozing because he woke up immediately. "Cass?" He fell to his knees beside the bed and took the angel by the shoulders. "Cass, you're ok?"

The corners of Castiel's lips ascended slightly. "I will be..." Cass tried to sit up but didn't push himself when he couldn't. "I will be...eventually."

"Good." Dean bit his lower lip and stared down at the floor. "Thanks, Cass. For fighting. I meant it when I said I can't do this without you."

"Thank you, Dean, for calling me your brother." Dean looked up to see Cass nodding at him. "I can think of no higher honor."

Dean smiled.

Cass suddenly reached out and grabbed Dean's wrists. The burns were healing, but still painful.

Cass repeated his "thank you" by healing Dean.

The End