A.N. ...I'm alive? I feel like I shouldn't even try to seek forgiveness because this is kind of a really big fAIL on my part, and I'm sorry I haven't updated in so long. I have more or less the rest of the story planned out, but this chapter was sort of an interlude, and it wouldn't come out. TAKE OUT YOUR ROTTEN TOMATOES I won't even try dodging.
There is not a sound that can be heard in the whole house. It's unnaturally quiet. Only the light and fast heartbeat of the small creature under his hand can reach Sam's ears as he raises the angel blade over his head.
Wide blue eyes meet his and the bird-like flutter under his palm slows down. Suddenly calm. Suddenly unafraid.
No. No, no, no, no, this didn't happen. This isn't real, I didn't do this. Dean, stop me. Dean, where are you? You're supposed to stop me!
"I'm sorry, Castiel."
A flash of silver. The sound of flesh giving way to a sharp edge. A small, narrow chest that heaves one last time before stopping altogether.
Empty blue eyes.
"NO!" Sam jerked awake, his heart racing in his chest as he managed to get out of his head long enough to see he was in the panic room. On the old cot, tangled in sweat-soaked sheets.
A dream, it was just a dream.
Letting out a shuddering breath, Sam ran a hand through his hair. He remembered the look on Dean's face when he'd said he wanted to sleep in the panic room. The way the color drained from his face like everything was finally falling apart, and while at the time he'd been too horrified by his own memories to think about it, now he realized Dean had probably taken the desperation in Sam's voice to mean that the Wall was coming down.
At least, not as far as Sam could tell. He hadn't remembered anything else. And, other than the nightmare, there hadn't been any more blackouts since the first one that had brought those two memories back to him.
He could only imagine how worried Dean had to be by now. Probably downed a whole bottle of whiskey.
Getting up with a groan, Sam hesitated before stepping out of the panic room.
The reason he'd wanted to be locked up in there in the first place was that he feared what could happen if his…his soulless self took over again. It was crazy, and now that he had his soul back, would probably never happen, but Sam still shivered at the thought of what he'd done in the last year and a half.
Walking up the stairs like his feet weighed a ton, Sam finally made it to the living room to find Bobby sitting at his desk with a book. It didn't look like he was reading, as his eyes were staring blankly at the pages. Didn't even look like he'd noticed Sam at all, yet.
Clearing his throat, he watched as Bobby startled in his seat and looked up at him. "Sam," he studied his face, as though checking they were still as soulful as they should be, "How're ya feeling?"
Heaving a sigh, Sam proceeded to sit down on the couch. "Good. I mean, I'm pretty sure everything's still where it should be, you know."
Bobby let out a relieved breath, "Good," he nodded, "That's good. So," old eyes examined Sam once again, and Sam suddenly felt shame burn in his chest, "You wanna tell me what exactly happened that made you lose it like that and decide to take a nap?"
"I uh…" he swallowed. At least now he knew why Bobby had been less than friendly when he'd woken up from his soul-redeeming coupon moment with Death, "Crowley was here." Bobby stiffened, but Sam kept his eyes on the ground, "He told me about…well, about my time without a soul."
"Aw, hell—" The old hunter took off his hat to run a hand through his hair. "Sam—"
Sam didn't want to hear it, "And from what he insinuated, I owe you an apology." He finally looked up to meet Bobby's eyes. "I don't…have all the details yet, but I have a rough idea of what happened, and I—" he took a breath, "Bobby, I'm so sorry."
"I know, boy." Sam felt hope reluctantly swell in his chest, "I didn't really get hurt, in the end, so," Bobby managed a smile for him, "It's alright. It wasn't you."
Sam swallowed, nodding his gratitude because suddenly words refused to move past the knot in his throat. "Anyway, I—Dean wouldn't tell me what I did to you, or Cas so," he grimaced, knowing now what a stupid idea that had been, "I went to Cas to…" he sighed, "I don't know, ask him? I don't even know what I was thinking. I just knew that I'd done something to hurt him and that it was bad enough that Dean didn't want to tell me. I had to—I had to know what it was. I had to apologize."
A long silence fell upon the two hunters, and Sam kept his eyes firmly on the ground as he waited for the other's words.
"Did you find out?"
For some reason, the question pulled a strangled laugh out of him, "Yeah," he nodded, "Yeah, you could say I saw it all pretty clearly." He rubbed his face, "Bobby what I did—And Dean said that Cas forgave me for it! How can—How can he forgive me so easily for that, I almost—" he rubbed his eyes, angry at his own weakness as he felt the burn behind his eyelids. Bobby stayed blessedly quiet, not offering false comfort for something both he and Sam knew still needed to be resolved, "But yeah. That's what I saw." He looked at the old hunter. The light of the afternoon that fell on Bobby's desk made him frown. And it suddenly hit him like a sledgehammer that Dean and Cas were not here and it wasn't even nighttime yet.
As though he could read the question in the younger man's eyes, Bobby shook his head, "They're upstairs."
The words filled Sam's stomach with dread, "Why? Is Cas okay?" But the hunter was having a hard time meeting Sam's eyes, "Bobby?"
Bobby heaved a sigh, finally looking at Sam with a helpless shrug, "We don't know." It took him a moment to elaborate, "He hasn't woken up yet."
Sam was out of that room and up the stairs barely a second after, his heart beating a death march inside his ribcage.
Dean jumped when Sam practically stumbled into the room, hand going to his hip on reflex before a look of annoyance and relief spread over his face. Sam could see the second Dean remembered Sam's meltdown from that morning.
"Sam, what's wrong? You okay?" The way Dean's eyes roamed his face like he was looking for visible cracks on a wall made something in Sam's chest tighten. Is this how it's going to be from now on?
"Yeah, I'm fine." He cleared his throat, "Just woke up." He didn't want to look at the small form on the bed. "How is he?"
Dean deflated, turning tired green eyes to the little angel. "I don't know." He shook his head, rubbing his face with a sigh, "After you left he sort of…it was like he was in shock. He was shaking so hard I thought he was having a seizure, Sam." The younger man felt his chest tighten at the thought, "Then he just…" Dean shrugged, "Passed out."
Knowing he had to face up to what he'd done, Sam forced himself to look at Castiel. The sight of the little boy, limp and unmoving on the bed, robbed the breath from Sam's lungs. "Christ…" He took another step into the room and closed the door behind him.
It was only once he'd started moving closer to the bed that he remembered the hellhound.
A deep, bloodcurdling snarl made the hair at the nape of his neck stand on end, and Sam found himself staring into the blood red eyes of the gigantic wolf that now stood between him and the angel.
If he needed another pointer that this had been this fault, this one took the cake.
"Hey. Fen, cut that out." The harshness of Dean's voice made one of the wolf's ears twitch, and to Sam's surprise the giant hound lowered its head and turned back to its place beside his brother.
"Um…did the hellhound just listen to you?" He asked with a shaky smile that was more hysterical than amused.
Dean seemed too tired to even grin smugly at the beast's favor, opting instead to pet the dark fur on the hellhound's head distractedly, eyes still fixed on Castiel.
"Yeah, guess she's figured out there's no keeping me away from the little guy." Sam was more surprised by the fact that Dean had accepted the thing's presence at the angel's side. "Anyway, she's not that bad."
As though she understood what Dean had said, the hellhound nudged the hunter's knee almost playfully.
…What the hell.
Since trying to find the sense in this scene would probably break something in his brain, Sam opted instead to just lean against the door and keep his distance. Just in case. Turning his eyes to the little angel once again, Sam found himself blanching at the pallor in Cas' cheeks, the shallowness of his breath. This wasn't a peaceful kind of rest.
"So, what are we gonna do?" he finally asked.
"I don't know." Dean made a face like he'd swallowed a lemon, "Call Balthazar, I guess. He's not just unconscious, something else is keeping him under."
Sam got the irrational urge to press his hand to Castiel's cheek, certain for a moment that it was the thing to bring Cas back. He shook the thought away. Cas was in this condition at all because Sam had touched him and had shifted something inside his soul.
As though he could feel Sam struggle with himself, Dean turned piercing eyes his way. "Sam?" The hellhound looked at him, "You got any ideas?"
Shaking his head, Sam avoided the wolf's red eyes to look at his brother, "Just…thought maybe if I touched him, it'd bring him back. You know, since…since I was the one that did that to him."
"You think?" Dean frowned, like he was considering it, but Sam could see the hesitation in his eyes, "Is that what you did last time? Is that what happened?"
Sam nodded meekly, "I touched his hand and…you know." Got memories of trying to kill a fledgling and molesting an angel of the Lord.
"You okay?" It took him a moment to realize he'd gotten lost in his own head again, and when he looked at Dean he could see the concern in his eyes.
"Dean, did I—" he swallowed, "Did I really do that? To Cas?"
Dean's jaw clenched, and Sam could swear he almost hear the bone creak under the pressure. "Yeah." He stared at Sam, eyes suddenly cold, "Yeah, you did." He let out a long breath, forcing himself to relax by looking at Castiel instead, "But he forgave you." A smile slipped past Dean's lips, "He forgave you, Sammy."
Sam chanced taking a step closer. The hellhound's eyes were on him the whole time, but she didn't growl at him this time, so Sam slowly made his way to Dean and sat across from him, on the other side of the bed.
"I think…I think he didn't remember," he swallowed, "What I did before the dragon did this." He kept his eyes on the little angel, feeling Dean's stare burning a hole in his face. "I think I made him remember."
"Shit," Dean breathed, burying his face in his hands for a moment before pulling himself together. "So, do you still want to try touching him?" It wasn't meant to be hostile; Dean was really just asking if he still wanted to do it. But Sam felt a pang of hurt in his chest anyway.
Heaving a breath, he nodded minutely. "Just…it's my fault," Dean didn't deny it. Somehow that hurt even worse, "I want to try."
"Okay." Still, Dean tensed like he was getting ready to do damage control. And Sam knew his brother had to be desperate to be putting Castiel at risk like this. Because for all that Sam thought it would work, this could go terribly wrong and blow up in their faces. And maybe there'd be no fixing Castiel then.
Glancing at the hellhound to make sure his hand would not be bitten off, Sam reached for Castiel, a lurch in his chest at the sight of his large hand engulfing the tiny angel's.
For a second, nothing happened. But then Sam flinched as he felt a current pass through him. Like static electricity. And suddenly, Castiel's eyes opened, hazed and clouded with the remnants of unconsciousness.
"Cas?" Dean immediately moved closer to the angel, hands hovering over his small chest like he feared Cas would be pulled under again if he touched him. Fen let out a concerned whine, nudging Cas' shoulder with her nose.
"Dean?" Sam winced at the angel's voice. Jesus, he was so small.
"Hey, Featherbrain. You gave us quite a scare, you okay?" Dean's voice shook with relief and worry, a smile plastered on his face for the angel's sake.
Castiel's lip quivered, and something in Sam's heart broke. Dean placed his hand on the angel's chest, visibly shaken at the sight, "Hey, hey, it's okay, I'm here. You're okay, we're all here."
At the mention of 'we', Cas looked around. The second those blue eyes landed on him, Sam could almost feel the angel freeze up.
"Hi, Castiel," He mustered, voice quiet, "I'm—" before he could apologize, a tiny hand latched onto his fingers.
"Sam." Something in the fledgling's voice reminded Sam of a rougher, older version. A firm and absolute note in the sound of his name that reminded him that he was in the presence of a warrior of God, not a toddler. "Light. You have Light. I can see it."
There was such confidence in those words, not an ounce of doubt or resentment in them. And suddenly Sam felt so overwhelmed with relief he had to let out a harsh breath to keep himself from crying like a little boy.
"Yeah?" He croaked, barely managing to make a sound at all.
"You were empty. That's why you hurt." Blue eyes filled with warmth as a small hand squeezed Sam's fingers, "Not anymore. You're not empty anymore. It's okay, Sam."
Feeling like the younger of the two (and he probably still was), Sam ducked his head and pressed his forehead to the mattress, just by the angel's side, like a child that asks for reassurance and is still unsure that he deserves it.
And Sam just knew that his brother would find a way to tease him about this.
Gentle fingers tangled in his hair, petting him with the unpracticed hand of someone so young they're still clumsy even in a motion as simple as giving comfort.
"It's okay, Sam." Castiel said again, and Sam could feel his shoulders shake at the forgiveness he could still receive from his friend. Another larger, stronger hand squeezed his shoulder. And Sam felt his breath hitch at the thought that maybe Dean had forgiven him too.
"Thank you." He choked out, "I'm so sorry—thank you."
Once Sam managed to pull himself together, Dean had to push his sentimental butt out of the room and towards the bathroom because "Yeah, you need a shower, man."
Sam had given him a kicked puppy face, but otherwise agreed, fortunately. And Dean managed to keep the smile on his face until his brother disappeared out the door. Heaving a sigh, Dean turned to face the pair on the bed.
Fen had hopped onto the bed and was now curled up behind Cas, acting as a furry pillow. And Cas…
Cas' mask had cracked, and his eyes were looking down at the rumpled sheets with a lost expression.
The hunter rubbed his face, preparing himself to offer the support his friend needed from him, then walked back to the bed and quietly sat down next to Castiel. After a while, when Cas still kept silent, Dean decided to intervene.
"Cas…" He started, voice quiet so as to not startle the fledgling. "You okay?"
It was a stupid question, really. And Dean could almost feel the dog giving him a judging stare. Yeah, yeah, I know.
Still, Castiel blinked out of his trance to look up at Dean, and there was a brokenness in those eyes he hadn't seen since the night the dragon had done all this. Since before he'd been turned into a child and lost all the pain and memories of the war. The memory of what Sam had tried to do.
"C'mere." He sighed, pulling the little angel to his chest and closing his eyes as the fledgling clung to him like a lifeline. "It's okay, Cas…" It wasn't. It really wasn't. "You did good…you really did, buddy, you were so brave." He kissed the messy tufts of dark hair, holding Cas tighter when the angel started shaking.
"I killed them, Dean." And God, but hearing a three-year old say something like that so brokenly was just wrong. It also meant Sam's little flashback touch had given Cas his memories of the war in Heaven. And considering Cas' reaction when he'd dreamt about Raphael killing angels, to know that he himself had done some of the killing as well must be tearing him apart. "My brothers." His little voice broke, and Dean picked up the fledgling from the bed, feeling his throat tighten as little arms wrapped around his neck.
"It wasn't your fault, Cas." And really, how do you explain to a child that he'd killed his family to save the world. "It wasn't. You had no choice."
"You're not mad?" The tentative question broke his heart, and Dean remembered that Crowley said Cas would probably shift between his old wisdom and his childish innocence. But to hear Cas ask if he was mad at him for killing his brothers...as if Dean had any right to punish him for anything. It made him realize once again just how much the angel had relied on his support. How much it must have hurt to hear Dean undermine his efforts.
"No." He whispered, stroking the boy's hair and kissing his head. "No, buddy, I'm not mad. I'm not mad, this wasn't your fault." Rocking gently where he sat, Dean kept the little angel close, listening to the hitch of his breath, his hiccuped apologies as he clung to the hunter's shirt like he was the only thing keeping him afloat.
After a long moment, Castiel pulled back slightly, face flushed with tears as he looked at Dean with those deep blue eyes, "…Promise?"
It was such a childish thing to ask; such a human thing to do, that Dean couldn't help the twitch of his lips that called for a smile, despite himself. "Yeah, Cas." He assured him, lips pressed to soft dark hair, "Yeah, I promise."
By the time they made it downstairs, Sam had apparently finished with his shower and was eating Bobby out of house and home. The older hunter seemed too busy with his books to bother berating the idjit and demanding he refill his fridge once he was done. He immediately looked up from the yellowed pages as soon as he heard them come in, though. The relief that spread over Bobby's face was such that Dean could swear some of his wrinkles disappeared.
"Mornin' Sunshines." The older man greeted, not even really trying to hide a smile. Where was a camera when you needed one?
"Morning Sunshine." Cas echoed, apparently figuring this must be a common way to say good morning, ever since Dean had explained him what it meant. The look on Bobby's face was a poem, and Dean shrugged with a barely suppressed smile as the older hunter glanced at him inquisitively.
"How you feelin', Feathers?" The little angel rubbed his eyes—still puffy from crying—and simply let go of Dean's hand to walk over to Bobby's chair and bury his face on the man's thigh. Dean had to cover his mouth with his hand, clearing his throat when Bobby sent him a glare while he brushed the fledgling's messy hair. "You hungry?"
Bleary blue eyes blinked up at the bearded hunter, and Dean could practically see Bobby melt, "Chocolate?" He laughed. Apparently Cas had as big a sweet tooth as Gabriel had had. He was really starting to think it was an angel thing. Maybe they could try luring Raphael into a trap with chocolate bars.
"How 'bout we try somethin' else today, huh?" Bobby suggested with a reproachful look towards Dean. What? It wasn't like he'd been the one to corrupt Cas with sweets. Little bugger had done that all on his own.
"What else?" Despite having been unconscious most of the day, Cas still sounded sleepy—though it hadn't seemed like he'd been resting, while he was passed out. Squinting at Bobby as the older hunter rose from his chair, the angel easily grabbed his hand as Bobby started walking to the kitchen.
"Whatever's left on the fridge, I guess." Dean shook his head an followed them, "Or maybe Sam could take a moment away from gobbling down my food and take a trip to the store." He said, louder than necessary.
The guilty look on Sam's face as he turned to them was only made more hilarious by the smudge of mayonnaise on his chin. Cas giggled at the sight, and Dean could see his brother relax considerably at the sound. He wasn't so sure that Cas had completely let go of what had happened—soulless or not, Sam had really scared him—, but at least Sam could start forgiving himself, if only a little.
Dean immediately took the chance to tease his brother mercilessly, reveling in his hybrid puppy/bitch face, and not even trying not to grin like an idiot at the sound of Castiel's delighted squeals of laughter. Bobby was judging them all from his seat at the table, hiding behind a newspaper, but unable to keep himself from chuckling as a little angel suddenly appeared on his lap, intently reading an article about Wall Street. Fen nudged Dean's leg as she came to sit next to him, and the hunter patted her side and grinned shamelessly at Sam's distrustful look at the hellhound.
It couldn't last, of course.
The phone rang, and Cas immediately fluttered over to Dean's lap as Bobby stood from his chair to take the call. Silence fell over the table while they all listened to Bobby's side of the conversation.
Rufus had found something.
Something that made it sound like the Mother had actually made it topside, after all.