Threw Stones At The Stars But The Whole Sky Fell
Extended coda to The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Title taken from "Stable Song" by Gregory Alan Isakov.
In the few tense seconds before Cas, for whatever reason, abruptly looked up at the ceiling and vanished in a flash of crackling, white-hot lightning, it felt as though all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the room—everything about Cas' now-formidable presence felt oppressive, terrifying, wrong. The very air seemed to be thrumming with power—the electric charge of a billion souls.
And despite the fact that all Dean, Sam, and Bobby could do while Cas was still standing there was gape at him in dumb disbelief—with one thought bouncing between the three of them, holy-shit-we're-gonna-die-he's-gonna-paint-the-walls-with-our-guts-if-we-don't-do-something—the back of Dean's mind was screaming, Are you KIDDING me?
If they all made it out of this one piece, Dean was going to kill him.
Because, as Sam had demonstrated, running him through with his own sword wasn't going to do much good.
And speaking of Sam…
If for no other reason, Dean was going to rip Cas a new one for Sam's sake. Whether or not Sam was actually going to be alright lay to be discovered, but for betraying Sam like that, Dean had an overwhelming urge to waste Cas on principle.
Even if that meant losing yet another member of his family.
But right now, that "family member" was glaring around at them imperiously, eyebrows raised, shoulders squared, radiating deadly power. Clearly he expected something of them.
But they were all too stunned to move. Sam was breathing hard; Bobby's eyes looked about ready to pop out of his head. Now the smart thing to do, Dean realized, would be to just suck it up and play along, maybe kneel or something, humor him long enough to save their lives. Probably not the best idea to test Cas' benevolence right now. Because it wasn't like this was really Cas they were dealing with right now, not by a longshot.
Still didn't mean Dean was about to bow down to him. Cas had another thing coming if he thought otherwise.
At any rate, it didn't end up mattering whether any of them bowed down or not, because about five seconds, with a blinding, but unnervingly silent, burst of light, Cas was gone. And Dean wondered if it was because Cas had decided not to waste his time with them, or if it had been the merest remnants of the old Cas still in him that had given him the self-restraint not to do anything he'd end up regretting—like smite them.
But even when they were left blinking away the blinding glare seared into their retinas to find themselves in a now-empty, fluorescent-lit, blood-splattered room, Dean couldn't feel much relief at their apparent deliverance. Because it couldn't be that easy. It was never that easy. They'd be hearing from Cas again soon, he was sure of it.
He didn't have too long to dwell on it, though, because a second later—with some horrible irony—Sam had fallen to his knees, as if in some demented, belated act of worship.
It took Dean a beat or two to fully snap out of it and realize what was going on, but when he did, he was on his own knees in front of Sam in about two seconds. He'd gone pale, his arms limp at his sides, and his eyes were completely, terrifyingly vacant—a thousand-yard stare directed somewhere past the opposite wall.
It was bad, but still, not quite as bad as he expected. At least he wasn't seizing on the floor. And to be honest, Dean would take whatever he could get at this point.
Dean grabbed Sam's shoulder with one hand—thanks to Crowley, he was pretty sure his other arm was broken—and shook him. "Hey, hey, Sam. Hey." No response. Sam just kept staring right past him. Or through him, really, when Dean put himself directly in Sam's line of vision. "Sam, hey, look at me. Sam. Sam." Still nothing. He shook him harder, and when that didn't work, slapped him, hard. It was loud, and sounded like it'd hurt, but he had no time to waste on feeling bad about it now.
And it seemed to work, marginally; he blinked once, winced, and slowly raised a hand to his now-red cheek. His eyes were still unfocused. Dean shook him again. "Dude, snap out of it. Come on."
For a long, painful moment, nothing happened. Sam's hand had fallen back down from his face, and he was still staring into space, pupils dilated. Dean held his breath, squeezed Sam's shoulder tighter. Come on, man. I can't lose you again.
But then, almost as though a switched had been flipped, he saw awareness immediately light up Sam's dull eyes. His gaze snapped to Dean's face. His body jerked violently forward, and he let out a rattling gasp as though he'd been drowning. He grabbed Dean's (broken) arm to catch himself as he pitched forward. Dean bit back a hiss of pain and a slight wave of nausea—damn thing hurt like a mother—but he didn't withdraw his arm. Not yet, anyway.
Sam's head snapped up, eyes locking onto Dean's. He looked….confused. Alert, but very confused. And freaked. Definitely freaked.
"Hey, Sammy," Dean said, tone gentler now. "You with me now, buddy?"
"Dean—" His voice sounded wrecked, and his gaze slid over Dean's shoulder to scan the room around them. His eyes got huge, and Dean didn't have to turn to know what had gotten his attention—the sigil in blood, angel guts decorating the walls and floor, all that fun stuff… "What's happening? What's going on?" His grip tightened on Dean's arm, and Dean bit the inside of his mouth, hard, to keep from passing out at the feeling.
"Nothin' you need to worry about, Sammy," he ground out. "Hey, uh, do me a favor and let go of my arm?"
Sam looked down at Dean's arm, blinked, and let go. He looked back up at Dean, now blearily concerned. "Are you hurt?"
Dean shrugged with one arm, now holding his other to his middle. "Eh, I'll live," he said.
But Sam was suddenly preoccupied, staring at a bloody smear on the floor near them that must've been from some projectile chunk of Raphael. Slowly, he reached out and raked his fingers through the blood, then raised it to his face to examine it. "What's happening?" he repeated.
Dean frowned. If Sam really couldn't remember what had happened literally a minute ago, that didn't bode well. "Not 'happening,' dude. 'Happened.' Everything's fine now." Everything was not fine, everything was almost hilariously far from fine, but Sam didn't need to know that right now.
"Okay…" Sam said absently, not taking his eyes off the blood.
"Tell you what," Dean said, shaking Sam's shoulder. "Let's get out of here, and I'll fill you in later, okay?"
But Sam had zoned out again. His eyes had widened, and he was staring at his bloody fingers with an expression of near horror. He shook his hand a few times, spraying Dean with blood droplets, then started scrubbing it hard, manically, against his pants-leg. "No," he muttered. "No, no…"
Dean's frown deepened.
"Hey," he said, as gently as he could manage. "Hey, just relax, okay? Just some leftover angel-goo, is all."
"Angels…" A tremor ran through Sam at the word, and he only scrubbed harder.
"Sam, stop—" Dean let go of Sam's shoulder and grabbed for his wrist, forcibly dragging his hand down to his side and pinning it there. "There's no angels, okay? We took care of 'em. So just chill out, alright?"
Sam's arm went limp in Dean's grasp. He was staring at the floor.
"He okay?" came Bobby's voice, worried, from behind them. Obviously Bobby knew better than to get too close right now, when there was no telling what was going on in Sam's head.
"Dunno yet," Dean said carefully, unsure of whether to let go of Sam or not. "Guess we'll find out." He wrung Sam's wrist a little. "Hey, Sammy, let's get you outta here, huh?"
"What?" came the barely-audible response.
"I said let's get out—" But without warning, Sam's head whipped back up, and he was now looking at Dean as though he did not even recognize him. There was a manic, almost feral, gleam in his eye, and he wrenched his hand out of Dean's grip.
Dean flexed his hand a little, baffled, wondering if he ought to be lucky that Sam hadn't broken any of his fingers just now. "Dude, what the—"
Without warning, Sam shoved Dean away from himself, and hard, hard enough to knock him down and send him sprawling. A few dazed seconds later, Dean was blinking up at the dusty fluorescent lights hanging above their heads, wondering what the hell had just happened. And Bobby was suddenly hovering above him, offering him a hand, but his eyes were focused somewhere past Dean, his expression slightly shocked but calculating. Dean followed his gaze as he took Bobby's hand to pull himself back up, head spinning a little and arm aching fiercely where it had hit the floor on his way down.
Sam had apparently fallen backwards, flat on his ass, but he was scooting back and away from them as fast as he could, still glaring at them both as though they were something hostile and alien. His breathing, already rapid, had reached the point of near hyperventilation.
Dean took a slow step towards him, both hands held up in a nonthreatening gesture. "Sam…"
Sam edged even further away.
Bobby took an equally slow step. "We ain't gonna hurt ya, kid," he said, tone placating.
"Just us, Sammy, okay?" Dean crouched down onto one knee, hands still in the air. "Dean and Bobby. Alright?"
And that seemed to strike a chord with Sam, at last. He looked between them, mouthing something, and finally croaked out, "B-bobby?" His eyes finally settled on the older hunter.
"Yeah," said Bobby, apprehensively.
"'M sorry," he mumbled softly. And Dean was sure that, no matter what the hell else was going on, or how confused his brother might be, that "sorry" came straight from the heart.
Bobby's brow knit. "What for?"
And Dean couldn't think "what for" either.
But that hardly mattered now. Sam's eyes had slid back out of focus, drifting to somewhere on the dirty, bloody floor, and Dean knew he was gone again, stuck in his head. His arms were wrapped around himself, and he was rocking back and forth slightly.
"Sam. Sam," Dean repeated, shuffling over to him and shaking his arm hard and then grabbing him under the chin, trying to get his attention once more. But it looked like a lost cause.
"Shit." He stood back up, scrubbing a hand over his face and suddenly feeling an overwhelming urge to call Cas's holier-than-thou hide back down here and punch him in the face for this. The risk of a smiting hardly fazed him at this point.
As it stood, he had more pressing things to deal with than retribution.
He looked down at the huddled form at his feet, hoping that there was some shred of his brother left somewhere in there, and shook his head. "What are we gonna do, Bobby?"
For several minutes, Dean and Bobby just stood there, looking down at Sam. Neither of them could say what it was they were waiting for, really—maybe for Sam to wear himself out, fall asleep, they didn't know.
"We gotta get outta here," Dean said after awhile, breaking the stifling silence. "We don't want you-know-who change his mind and come zap our asses with a lightning bolt. Let's hope Sam took a car, because I don't think ours is gonna do much good." And it was stupid, he knew, and in light of the current situation, comparatively trivial, but the Impala being totaled, again, was enough to make him see red.
"What I wanna know is how he even got himself here in one piece," Bobby said, shaking his head down at Sam in wonderment. "How the hell'd he pull himself together enough to—"
"Bus," came Sam's voice, abruptly.
Dean started. "What?"
Sam peered up at them from beneath the hair that had fallen into his face. "I took the bus," he said, words slow and shaky.
Dean let out a sigh of relief at the sight of Sam's now mostly-clear gaze. "That's good, Sam," he said. "That's real good." He held out a hand to help him up.
But Sam just stared at the offered hand, blankly, then up at Dean, as though unsure what to do.
Okay, maybe Sam wasn't all here, but they'd work with what they had. "How far's the bus station from here, dude?"
Sam bit his lip, obviously concentrating. "Fifteen miles…maybe…." he said, haltingly, after awhile.
"Well how'd ya get here from there?" Bobby asked. "You rent a car or somethin'?"
Dean's blood ran cold. He hadn't given any thought as to how Sam would get himself here when he'd left him the address, more focused on the desperate hope that he'd show up at all instead of the seemingly likelier option of never waking up at all. But if he'd been anything like this while trying to drive, however short the distance, he could've easily gotten himself killed. "And you got here okay?" Dean asked quietly. "No accidents or nothin'?"
Sam shook his head tightly. "It's late. The roads are pretty empty. And I…I pulled over, when I needed to."
Oh man. Dean quickly pushed aside sudden, vivid mental pictures of Sam collapsed on some dashboard, with a mind full of hellfire, on the shoulder of some godforsaken country road. Or worse, of this car flipped over in some ditch, tires still spinning, Sam trapped inside.
Bobby glanced at Dean. It was clear he didn't like hearing that anymore than Dean did. But he half-smiled down at Sam, nodded approvingly, and said, "You did good, kid. Now what do you say we go find that rental car, yeah?"
It took another two or three minutes to get Sam's flustered brain to remember exactly where he'd parked the car—about a block away—and Bobby set off to retrieve it and pull it around closer to the building's entrance. In the meantime, Dean sat with Sam, trying his damndest to keep him lucid. Usually, the keep-Sammy-lucid protocol—which tended to be necessary more than Dean would've liked to see in his lifetime, Sam being the danger-magnet that he was— involved Dean rambling on and on about something stupid and mundane, which for whatever reason Sam seemed to like to listen to. Always had. But for one of the first times in his life, Dean came up short, too overwhelmed to think of a single damn thing to talk about. Which was bad, considering this was probably the one time Sam needed it most, because if he retreated back inside his head, there was no telling if he'd make it out again. So he just started talking, and just about kicked himself for the first thing that came unbidden out of his mouth.
"You came back," he said absently, then winced. Way to go, moron. The idea is to get him OUT of his head, not remind him he got stuck in it… But he couldn't deny that, as shitty as the situation had been, the moment he saw Sam, sneaking up behind Cas with a weapon in hand, a hundred percent focused, he couldn't have been prouder.
Sam looked at him, a strained smile on his face. "Had t-to, didn't I?"
Dean returned the smile. "Yeah, I'd have kicked your ass if you didn't."
The smile melted as Sam glanced at the blood-splattered walls again. "F-fat lotta g-good it did, though, huh?" Sam was having trouble forming his words, and his eyes kept squinting as though he couldn't focus them. In any other circumstances, that would've been Dean's cue to check Sam for a head injury. But as it stood, he was about 95% sure that wasn't the issue here, and at any rate, he had no way of knowing that Sam wasn't going to freak out at physical contact again.
He sighed. "Don't say that," he told Sam. "Cas is so hopped up on soul-juice right now that none of us coulda stopped him. And for the record, dude, you coming up behind him with the sword like that? Totally badass."
"Didn' work…" Sam growled. He was tracing a crack in the floor with an unsteady finger.
"That's just 'cause Cas is a bigger douchebag than any of us thought, dude. Woulda worked otherwise. Anyways," he said, "I'm glad you came back. What would I do without my one-man Geek Squad to back me up, huh?"
Sam didn't say anything for a long time. Then, "He was wrong."
"Who?" Dean asked cautiously.
Sam looked up, eyes haunted but jaw set, resolute. "He s-said I couldn't handle it, but he was wrong."
Dean just stared, not sure he even wanted to know what the hell Sam was talking about. He could think of a few likely candidates as to who he might be, none of them good.
But a few seconds later and Sam was drifting again, eyes sweeping languidly somewhere over Dean's head.
"Who?" Dean asked urgently, in an attempt to reign in Sam's focus once more, whether he wanted to hear it or not. "Who said?"
"The other one," Sam whispered, still looking over Dean's head.
Sam's tone sent an involuntary chill down Dean's spine, but he kept pressing. "The other what?"
"The one who remembers," Sam said.
The question was out before he could stop it. "Remembers what?"
"Hell," Sam said simply, eyes on the ceiling.
Dean felt sick.
Sam kept talking. Fast now. Babbling, almost. "But he was wrong," he insisted. "H-he said I couldn't handle it, but I told him. I told him I had to. Had to handle it. Dean, I had to. I could do it. Could try. He was wrong." His eyes, now bright, had finally settled on Dean once more.
Dean didn't trust himself to speak. He wasn't sure anything would come out if he tried. He didn't have a clue what this was about or what brought it on, but if he knew one thing, it was that he friggin' hated this.
"S-so I killed him. He let me kill him. And then all the pieces were back together again, and then….and then…" His breath hitched. "He was wrong. Dean. He was wrong, wasn't he?" He looked desperate, searching Dean's face for some sign of confirmation.
"Yeah, Sammy," Dean managed, voice hoarse. "He was wrong."
To Be Continued.