(Note: A tag because the whole finale felt rushed. This is more what I wanted to see…)
The 'door' to purgatory is still painted ghoulishly on the wall. Dean is sort of shell-shocked by the last 10 minutes or so. Cas double-crossing Crowley, eating up all the souls of purgatory, getting that weird-ass smile on his face as he told them they will bow down and worship him or die? What the hell?
Worship Cas? The angel that could barely use a cell phone and liked using pop culture references? That Cas?
Bobby moved past him, went over to Sam. Who was looking sort of…wrecked, really. But, still. He was here, upright and standing. And, Dean may have been exhausted, his head pounding, pretty sure a couple of ribs were broken, and sick over the betrayal of Castiel…But, the sight of his brother gave his heart a much-needed lift. Because after Cas had demolished the Great Wall of Sam, Dean had seriously thought Sam's future would consist of soft food and diaper changes. But now? Just his gigantic little brother standing across the room brought a genuine smile. "Hey, Sammy. Glad you made it, dude."
Sam nodded, but didn't answer. He abruptly turned his head to the side, grabbed at his hair with his fist and groaned. Before Dean could move to him, he shook it off, closed his eyes tight and breathed deeply.
Bobby had a hand on Sam's shoulder. "You okay, son?"
Sam sighed, opened his eyes. His voice was low and raspy when he spoke. "We've got to get out of here before he comes back." He did the cringe-to-the-side thing again, and closed his eyes.
Dean went to his other side. "You okay to walk?"
Sam straightened. "Yeah. Just, hang on, okay? I'm having a hard time figuring out what's real, right now…"
Okay, that did not sound good.
He took Sam's arm over his shoulder, and the wave of fury at Castiel came roaring back. It was bad enough that Cas had tossed aside everything they'd been through together, all the hard lessons won about trust and loyalty. But, that bastard ruined Sam just to distract Dean. And, honestly? Dean probably could have forgiven the deal with Crowley. Probably. It wasn't like any of them were pure as the driven snow when it came to making deals with demons. He could even, if he squinted, see why the angel felt he had no choice but to go after the power of the souls in purgatory. But for doing what he did to Sam? For opening him up to probably a lifetime of torment and god-awful memories of hell? For that, Castiel was his enemy. End of story. He was forever on the side of things that Dean would never trust again.
He started walking toward the stairs, wanting to get out of here as soon as possible. Cas might come back and none of them were in any shape for that confrontation. He was uneasy to discover that Sam was hot to the touch. Sweat was pouring off him, and yet, he was shivering. He gripped Sam's jacket as he moved him toward the stairs. "Hang in there, Sammy."
Sam nodded. "Tryin'."
They got out of the building/plant/factory, whatever the hell it had been in its heyday, and Dean was 20 feet from the Impala when he remembered it was trashed. A stab of anguish went through him. He hated seeing his baby, his one real possession, all bent up and abused. But, when Sam groaned again, hands pulling at his shirt, eyes closed, the car was forgotten. "Sammy? You with me?"
Sam made himself stand upright again, released his manic grip on Dean's shirt, opened his eyes. "Yeah. I have a car. Just, a little ways down the road…wasn't sure where you guys were."
And, Dean felt a sort of heartbreaking respect for Sam in that moment. Messed up as he was, and he seemed to be pretty monumentally messed up, he'd kept it together enough to come and find him and Bobby. To help, in whatever way he could. To have Dean's back. Again, Dean's heart lifted. Life was pretty screwed up, true. But, here they were, the three of them had lived through another angel/demon cage match. The car could be fixed, and, Dean determined, so could Sam. They would find a way to help him. But, first, they had to get the hell out of Dodge.
They walked a little longer, and Dean saw the late model sedan Sam had brought. It would do. Sure as hell beat walking. Putting the Impala from his mind, for now, Dean steered Sam toward the car.
The drive was hellish. Whatever had kept Sam together enough to find him and Bobby was nowhere in sight now. Dean had gotten in the back seat with him, and, the longer they drove, whatever was assaulting Sam's mind grew worse and worse. Sam had bitten through his bottom lip, blood dripping off his chin. He was trying to stay quiet, but his grunts and moans were almost worse than any screaming or yelling. His left hand gripped Dean's leg, and the ache there told Dean he'd have a hell of a bruise by morning. Sam's right hand kept going to his head, banging against his forehead or pulling at his hair. He was hyperventilating and his head banged against the seat back or the window, when he couldn't control the seizing. When he'd have moments of calm, he'd softly apologize.
Dean didn't know how to help him. All he could do was keep him from hurting himself. Finally, he'd pinned Sam's legs by throwing the leg Sam was gripping across Sam's knees. He held Sam's massive shoulders in a death grip with his left arm. He held Sam's head across the forehead with his right arm, bracing it on his chest. He had him as secure as he could get him in the car. All he could was lean down and talk softly in his ear, trying to calm him. "It's not real, Sammy…You're not there…Hear the engine? Feel the wind on your face?...He can't get to you anymore…"
Sam would go still, try to get a grip. And then, he'd seize up, grunt or groan or say, 'no, no…'
Dean didn't know what else to do. Sam was strong, and Dean was hurt and tired. He didn't know how much longer he could hold him like this.
And then, Sam's hand came up and grabbed at Dean's wrist. He turned his head slightly. "Dean?"
Dean leaned his head down, practically resting it on Sam's. "Yeah, man. Right here."
Sam's tired, hoarse voice had come after another long moment. "Don't let go, kay?...Please…don't let go."
Okay, so maybe Dean could hold on a little longer. It was only another hour or so back to Bobby's. "I gotcha, Sammy. I gotcha."
Sam nodded and then, more jerking and cringing and confusion. By the time they pulled into Bobby's yard, Sam was panting and dripping with sweat.
Bobby got out, opened the back door. They helped Sam inside. Dean was amazed that Sam was still mostly walking under his own steam.
Once they got inside, though, it was like Sam's sense of purpose disintegrated. He slid to the floor, landing on all fours, his head hanging down between his arms. "What's happening to me?...Why can't I make it to stop?"
Dean dropped down beside him, put his arm across his brother's back, and looked up at Bobby with imploring eyes. What do I do?
Bobby sighed. "Maybe we should knock him out, let him get some sleep?"
Sam breathed deeply. "Don't want to sleep. Harder to know what's real."
Dean wasn't even aware of the soothing strokes he was rubbing across Sam's back. "Bobby, do we know of anything that could have an effect on something like this?"
Bobby shook his head as he went to his desk and poured himself a whiskey. "Well, it took Death to build the damn thing. And, I don't think he's going to come back and to do a patch job."
Sam fell all the way down onto the floor, rolling on his side. "I just…I can't…Dean?"
Dean leaned down until he was practically laying on the floor next to Sam. "Yeah, Sam. Right here."
Sam sighed. "This…is gonna be harder than I thought."
Dean went with his instincts. He pulled Sam up to a sitting position, sat cross-legged directly across from him. "Tell me."
Sam cracked open one eye. "What?"
"What's going on in your head. Tell me. Maybe hearing yourself talk about it, you'll remember you're here. That it's not real."
Sam sighed. "That's the stupidest thing I ever heard…"
Dean punched his leg. "Come on. Better than getting all lost on the inside. Just…" Sam cringed and tried to turn away. His eyes slammed shut. Dean grabbed his shoulders. "Right there. What was that?"
Sam panted. "Burning…"
Dean put his hands on Sam's face. "Okay, that's an easy one. You aren't burning. Right? You're at Bobby's. Not burning, right?"
Sam opened his eyes. "Yeah. Okay."
Dean moved his hands back to Sam's shoulders. "Okay. Keep your eyes open. Don't fall down into it. Stay here with us."
Sam started another cringe, but kept his eyes on Dean. "Bleeding…there's no skin on my chest…my hands are gone…"
Dean kept the horror out of his gaze by sheer willpower. "Nothing bleeding now. Just a busted lip. You're okay."
Sam nodded, kept his desperate eyes on Dean, tried to even out his harsh breathing. His shoulder dipped, like he was going to curl in on himself. Dean grabbed his shoulders and kept him upright. Using his best 'Dad' voice, he barked, "Eyes on me, Sam!"
Sam's eyes locked back onto his. Tears were leaking now, but Sam stayed with him. "You're burning. Dad's burning. Jess and Bobby and…everyone's screaming and burning in front of me…"
Dean set his jaw and kept his eyes calm. "Bobby get down here. Sam, we're fine. See? No one's burning today. We're okay. See Bobby's cheap-ass rug? See the dusty curtains? No burning."
Sam nodded. "I see them. I see you. I see Bobby. I'm not there…"
Dean nodded back. "That's right. You're the brainiac, Sammy. You can figure this one out. It's just coming too fast right now. Try to slow it down. Try to focus on what's right here."
Sam looked so tired, so scared and shaky, but he kept his eyes on Dean. "I'm trying. I'm really trying."
Dean gave him as much of a smile as he could muster, watching the torment on Sam's face, the way it attacked his whole body. Castiel, you bastard, if I ever get my hands on you, I swear…"You're doing good, Sammy. You can do this. Bobby, turn on some music, will you? Something calm…"
Sam shook his head. "No. Ozzy."
Dean's smile got a little wider. "Ozzy it is. Bobby?"
Bobby shuffled off, grumbling. "What? I've got music at my fingertips, now? Give me a second to get on the internet and find an album or something…" Bobby was making a show of being his gruff self, but Dean heard the tremor in his voice.
Sam closed his eyes, leaned his forehead on Dean's. "Wonder if Bobby has itunes…"
Dean let himself pet Sam's sweaty head…since Bobby wasn't here to see it and all. "What's itunes?"
Sam actually huffed out a small laugh. Then, he seized again, and Dean dug his fingers into Sam's arms, leaned back to look at him. "Eyes on me, Sam!"
Sam's eyes snapped open, but they were rolling back in his head.
Dean shook him. "On me! What are you seeing? What's happening?"
Sam forced his eyes to stop and focus on Dean. He was panting hard. "Bones, all snapping. Legs, then arms…ribs, my neck…"
Dean makes sure he keeps his eyes calm. "Nothing breaking, Sammy. We're just sitting here on Bobby's dirty floor…"
Bobby, sitting at his computer in the next room, speaks up. "Well, it wouldn't hurt either one of you to pick up a mop once in a while…" From his speakers they suddenly hear "Crazy Train," and it fills up the room. Dean's impressed and thankful. Besides, Bobby has a pretty good speaker system.
The music washes over both of them, and Sam's shoulders relax slightly. Dean feels another small smile when he realizes Sam is humming the tune. Dean lets his grip relax. "You've got this, Sam. Just, keep your focus. We're right here, Ozzy's on the crazy train, and hell is behind you, man."
Sam nods. Then he gives Dean a look like he hasn't seen since Sam was about six. He lets Dean see his fear, his hope-against-hope face. "Is it going to be like this forever?"
Dean doesn't have an answer, not really. But, for Sam, he puts on his serious game face. Sam has to believe this, so in the instant he's speaking the words, Dean believes it, too. "No. No way, Sam. You're going to ride this out, just like always. I gotcha, okay? I'm right here."
Bobby has come back and crouches down, his knees popping. "Hey, what am I? Last weeks' one night stand?"
Sam glances over at Bobby. Gives him a nod and a barely-there smile. He closes his eyes reflexively as another memory assaults him. This time, he lifts his head and opens his eyes. With a bit more strength, he says, "Babies are screaming as their skin melts, and I can't help them…they're disintegrating in my hands…"
Dean's sense of helplessness flares again when he sees the tears come out of Sam's anguished eyes. "No babies here. Well, just Bobby when he runs out of whiskey."
Sam nods, slumps. "Sorry. This is…sorry."
Dean fights off his own tears. "Not your fault, Sammy. Not even a little, okay?"
His head falls forward and rests on Dean's chest. "How long you think we can do this?"
Dean stroked his head again. "As long as it takes. Just, hang in there. We'll-"
There is a sudden flutter of air in front of Dean and some of Bobby's papers go flying. Standing over Sam is Castiel, that creepy smile on his face, his aura brighter than Dean's ever seen it. And, if he pulls Sam closer, wraps his arms more protectively around his little brother? Well, who would blame him for that?
Dean just glares, afraid to say anything to the thing that used to be his friend. Because once he starts in on all the crap that Castiel has done, he won't be able to shut up. Castiel puts a hand out toward Sam, and Dean leans away from it, pulling Sam with him. Castiel looks confused. "I said I would fix him, did I not?"
Dean wants to stand and rip into the former angel. What was it he said he was? The 'New God?' Dean barely refrains from snorting. "Yeah. You said a lot of things."
"He served his purpose. My goal was attained. I will heal his mind."
Dean is torn. He doesn't want Castiel anywhere near Sam when he's hanging on to his sanity by a thread. But, he's probably the only one powerful enough to really help him, too. Dean looks up beseechingly. "Don't you hurt him, Cas."
Castiel, still smiling serenely, nods. "That is not my aim." He leans forward, touches his hand to Sam's head, rests it there a long moment. Sam convulses and falls to the floor, right out of Dean's grip.
Dean stands up. "God damnit! What did you do?"
Castiel tilts his head to the side. "You ask me to damn it?" Then he gives a creepy little chuckle. "That's ironic, isn't it? When you want me to heal him?"
Dean clenched his fist to keep from going for the eerily grinning thing in front of him. He forces his voice to be calm. "What. Did. You. Do."
Castiel bent down, touched Sam again, and again, Dean's instinct is to get between him and Sam. But, Castiel looks up at Dean, and straightens to his full height after a moment. "I merely eased his memories, made them smaller and less powerful. Healed the breach between his memories and his present. It is what you wanted, isn't it?"
Dean sighed. "Yeah. We'll see."
Castiel looked around, saw Bobby standing in the doorway, neither looking scared nor aggressive, just watching. He nods to Bobby, looks back at Dean. "Because of the bond we once shared, I will not come for you first. I will give you time to consider your actions. But, in the end, your allegiance must be to me. If you refuse…well, things will not go well for you."
Dean felt his energy draining. The long hours of trying to keep Sam sane. The disappointment in Castiel's actions. The frickin' aching in his ribs. He looks at Castiel and feels weary to his bones. "What does that even mean?"
"It means, you will pledge your allegiance to me, or you will die." He looked back down at Sam. "I will take care of you, never fear. If you but follow my guidance, things will go well for you."
Dean and Bobby exchanged a glance. From the floor, Sam groans and looks up at Castiel. "What ever happened to Team Free Will, huh Cas? What about letting each person choose his own destiny?"
Castiel smiled. "That was before."
Sam pushed himself to his knees. Dean and Bobby both moved to help him, and then stand on either side of him. Dean glanced at Cas. "Before what? You became the newest, bestest religion?"
"Before I had the power to destroy my enemies." He looked each of them in the eye. "Don't become my enemies. Good bye. We'll meet again."
And he was gone.
Sam shook off Bobby and Dean's supportive hands and shuffled his way over to the sofa. Dean walked over and plopped down next to him. Bobby sat on the corner of his desk and poured another whiskey.
Dean looked over at Sam. "How you doin', Sammy?"
Sam nodded. "Better. It's a lot quieter. I can only see this room, right now. So, that's a win, I'm thinking."
Bobby cleared his throat. "So, now we have a God we have to dodge? That'll be fun."
Dean scoffed. "Dodge, my ass. If Cas comes for us, we take him down or die tryin.'"
Sam closed his eyes, looking tired and worn. "Dean…"
Dean shook his head. "No. We aren't gonna start sneaking around like fraidy cats just so Cas doesn't smite us, or whatever. I'm not spending the rest of my life playing hide and seek."
The corner of Sam's mouth went up in a tired grin. "And, I'm guessing we're not going to bow down?"
Dean smiled back. "Damn straight."
Bobby poured another whiskey. "Well, gotta go out somehow, I suppose."
Sam said, "Unless…"
Dean raised a brow at him.
Sam's smile became a little more natural. "Unless we figure out how to take out a God?"
Bobby gave him a long stare. "Sure. Why not? We've done every other damn thing."
Dean felt himself calm and settle, for real. Because having a job to do? Having something to hunt, with his brother and Bobby at his side? That was like heading to work with a hot cup of coffee and a newspaper under his arm.
Sam sighed, his eyes closing. "Can we sleep for, like, six months first?"
Dean 'tsked.' "Such a lazy ass."
Sam laughed reluctantly, but his eyes stayed closed. "Screw you. I've had a hard week."
Dean nodded. "Yeah." And he had a brief vision of Sam pulling on his hair and gasping for breath while he watched some horror from the cage. And, reluctantly, he was grateful to Castiel. He had at least remembered his promise. And, maybe, there was still something there that Dean could reach. Some piece of the renegade angel who defied heaven and hell so that freedom would win.
But, right now? He had to get his battered and beaten brother to bed. He stood up. "Come on, Sammy. Time for shut eye."
Sam let himself be pulled to his feet. "You think…you think I'll really be able to sleep?"
Dean ushered him out of the room, nodding to Bobby as they went. As they slowly made their way up the stairs, like two old men who'd had too much to drink, Dean kept a hand on Sam's back to steady him. "If you can't, I'll read you a story."
Sam stopped at the top of the stairs and looked over his shoulder, and the bitchface he gave made Dean laugh out loud, it was that great to see it. "Come on, man. Don't front. I know you love Little Red Riding Hood. You like to pretend you're the woodsman who saves the day. Or, you know, unless it's that you've always wanted to wear a pretty red cape…"
Sam shuffled down the hall toward their room. "I liked you better when I was a freakin' wreck drooling on your shoes…"
Dean swatted the back of Sam's head. "Go shower, sweaty McSweaterton."
Sam rolled his eyes, grabbed some clothes from his duffle. He went toward the door, turned. "You'll be here, right?"
Dean nodded. "Right here, Sammy."
Sam nodded. "Okay." He went out in the hall. Quietly, he said from the doorway. "Thanks, Dean."
Dean pointed toward the bathroom. "Shut up and shower. You smell."
Sam rolled his eyes, went into the bathroom and shut the door.
Dean sat and the bed, heard the water turn on, and smiled.