Another Angel Down

Chapter Two

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still

When Sam pushed the cabin door open after coming back from his jog he thought something was strange. There was no sign of Dean or Castiel, and no answer when he called them. The car was gone, so Dean was probably out. The soft hiss of the shower told him somebody was having a wash… Castiel? Had he finally tired of the couch? The former angel's crutch lay discarded on the floor… Thoughts and possibilities assaulted Sam, and none of them good. He looked to the top of the cabinet and found the pill bottle missing. Shit.

Rushing through to the shower Sam found Castiel unconscious, wet through, and clutching the pill bottle in a lax grip. After turning the water off Sam slapped Castiel's face, his breathing was shallow and he was cold. The flow of water had been icy. Sam slapped Castiel harder after getting no response, this time he was rewarded with a faint moan and fluttering of eyelids.

"Cas? Cas, wake up! How many did you take?" He shook the ex-angel, but Castiel's head lolled. Speech seemed beyond him.

Sam swore and dragged Castiel's dead weight to the toilet. Then prying the former angel's jaw open he forced his fingers into Castiel's mouth. Sam suddenly had a vision of his first meeting with the angel. He had been so struck with the power and grace of the being stood in front of him… Sam practically fell over himself to offer a hand, anything to gain his approval. Castiel had been slow to take it, but when he did it was like absolution. Now here Sam was sticking the same fingers down Castiel's throat so he wouldn't die from an overdose. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Castiel gagged and coughed, bringing up the contents of his stomach. Sam could only hope he'd managed to get to the ex-angel in time to stop most of the drugs getting into his system. As Castiel finished retching Sam grabbed a towel and sat on the floor with his back to the wall. He pulled Castiel round to lean against him; it felt a tainted embrace after what had just happened. Sam gently wiped at the former angel's mouth, and the tear tracks against his cheeks. Castiel drew in a shuddering breath and gazed up at Sam with glassy eyes, so full of guilt and innocence. His lips moved as if he was saying something, but no sound came out.

"Cas… what did you go and do that for?" Sam didn't expect an answer from the angel in his arms. "We just got you back… Don't do anything like that again, ok?"

-oOo-

When Dean returned he found Castiel back on the couch, wrapped in towels and his familiar red blanket. He was pale with shadows marked beneath his eyes. Sam was making a meal in the kitchen and turned to glare at Dean as he stepped inside.

"Oh so you actually took a shower and got back to the couch. Don't tell me, Sam helped you?" Castiel just closed his eyes and looked away.

"Yes, Sam helped. Sam had to stick his fucking fingers down his throat to help". Sam waved a knife in Castiel's direction then slammed it down on the counter. "What were you thinking Dean, leaving him like that? I thought you might have learnt your lesson from before but…"

"Wait, what? What happened?"

"Cas got his hands on the pills. I found him half dead in the shower. Go talk to your angel Dean". Sam turned back to his cooking.

Dean looked shell shocked. Then the guilt slammed into him. He imagined he would come back to find Castiel still sitting in the shower… He hoped Castiel would have got the message and made his own way back to the couch. But he never would have thought the former angel would go for the pills and try to end it all. Dean took a seat next to Castiel on the couch and reached out for his hand.

"Look at me Cas…" The ex-angel's hand went rigid as he touched it, but Castiel turned to face Dean. "Why? Why did you do it? I know it must be hard being human after being so much more… but is death really any better?"

"I didn't mean to…" Castiel's voice was small and tired, it was a million miles from the commanding angelic one he used to wield. "I just wanted to be free from the pain. I just wanted to feel that ecstasy. I didn't care…"

"So you didn't try to kill yourself, good. But not caring… that's almost as bad. I've been there Cas, I've thrown myself into things not caring whether I lived or died. I was reckless, and hurting those around me as much as myself". He spared a glance at Sam's back before continuing. "Please just try to understand that I care, and when you don't it hurts me too".

"I don't want to hurt you Dean, but this pain… this hole where my grace should be, the phantom feeling of wings that are no longer there… it's too much. I need to escape this body, it ties me down to the ground, it confines me, suffocates me… The pills help".

"Pills aren't the answer Cas. I never found the answer to anything at the bottom of a bottle, same goes for those that hold pills. It gets better. It'll get better as you get better. You've just experienced the crappy side of humanity so far. When you're up and about again I'll take you to see the good stuff. We can find ourselves another Chastity eh? Just try to get better for me ok? I'm only asking for you to try…" Dean felt Castiel's hand relax under his own.

Then Castiel met Dean's eyes with a little hope and a small smile. "I think I can try".

Dean gave Castiel's hand a reassuring squeeze then looked up towards Sam. He expected his brother to be glaring daggers, but Sam watched them with a small smile of his own, and then he gave Dean a nod as if to say 'you done well kid'. Dean bit back the urge to say 'bitch' and just gave a nod in return.

-oOo-

And so began Castiel's road to recovery. This time Dean helped Castiel around the cabin at his own pace. It was slow going, but every step Castiel took was cause for celebration in Dean's mind. He could have jumped for joy when he returned to the cabin one day and found Castiel hobbling about by himself using the crutch. The former angel was beginning to enjoy more than just ice cream too. Things seemed to be on the up, though Dean made sure to keep the bottle of pills in his jacket pocket at all times. He loathed giving them to Castiel, but the ex-angel had good and bad days, and on the bad days he needed them. Castiel knew better than to ask for the pills, but Dean could tell… The former angel's frame would go rigid, he gritted his teeth and his eyes flicked continually to Dean's pocket. Castiel wouldn't ask, but he cried out for them in other ways.

After the pills from the hospital ran out Dean had managed to source some more from a contact of Bobby's. If their father's journal was a sort of guide to hunting, Bobby's was a 'Who's Who' of the hunting world. Dean had found the number for a nearby medical contact that dabbled in patching up hunters. Steph was a vet actually, but at the end of the day people and animals were both just flesh and bone. She had been so saddened to hear of Bobby's demise and vowed to get them whatever they needed. When Dean went to meet her for a refill she said she had a few good stories to tell him about Bobby, but Dean was in a hurry to get back to Castiel, and so he said he'd listen to them another time. Steph was only a slight thing, blonde hair, gentleness personified. It had to be the first time Dean passed up on flirting to rush home to a dude. But since the overdose he had been reluctant to let Castiel out of his sight, even knowing Sam was there he still felt he needed to get back… Whether it was concern or guilt he wasn't sure. He just knew he needed to make sure that Castiel was alright.

Dean sat watching television while the rhythmical thunk and huffing of Castiel crutching his way around the cabin interrupted. He wouldn't tell the former angel to pipe down or stop though. Not even when he crossed in front of the television, blocking it from Dean's view for a few moments. The angel had gone from not wanting to use his legs at all to this continual need to be on his feet. Sometimes he would overdo it and retreat to the couch; his foot throbbing and feeling like a vice was crushing it. In those moments Dean would tell him to take it easy, but as ever Castiel didn't listen. He seemed to grow frustrated at his lack of progress. Dean supposed Castiel was used to things happening in an instant. The former angel could be across the globe in the blink of an eye, and bones used to heal with but a thought.

As Dean watched Castiel cross the television once more he could see the frustration mounting. The former angel disappeared behind Dean, and then with a cry and a crash he hit the ground in a tangle of limbs. Dean was on his feet in an instant, reaching down to Castiel.

"Don't touch me!" the former angel turned to spit at Dean.

Dean stayed his hand and straightened, taking a slight step back, a little hurt though he wouldn't admit it.

"I… I can do this". Castiel's voice softened, and Dean realised he didn't mean to lash out, he was only angry at himself.

So Dean stood by watching silently as Castiel struggled to his feet. He wanted so much to just reach out and give him a hand, but the ex-angel wouldn't allow it. When Castiel was finally upright with the crutch under his arm, he limped to the couch and collapsed with a sigh. "These human bodies are so fragile, slow, and… infuriating!"

"We take time to heal Cas. You can't get better by going at it like a bull at a gate. You'll only strain yourself and make it worse".

"I just want to get better… I just want to be useful again. I'll never be as useful as I was before, but this… this is worse than being useless. I am a burden".

"Stop talking like that, you're not a burden. You just got hurt…"

"I was meant to protect you Dean. Now I can't even walk… I've been relying on my charge to take care of me. It is not meant to be this way". Castiel's head dropped back on the couch, a sign of defeat.

"Did you hear me? I just told you to stop talking like that. You're not a heavenly dickwad now Cas. God ain't pulling the strings, and he probably never was. You don't have any orders and you don't need to perch on my shoulder any more. You've got a new family, a better one, and in this family we look after each other when we're hurt". Dean said it all with a matter-of-fact voice Castiel wouldn't be able to argue with. The former angel opened his mouth to disagree, but he couldn't find the words.

"You've been doing so well Cas. You'll be ditching that crutch in no time at all. Just give it a bit more time okay?"

"Okay… but I still have to protect you Dean, I'll always have to protect you". Castiel raised his head and levelled a stare at Dean.

"Fine, but if you're protecting me then I'm protecting you. Heck, Sam can protect us both. You're in a real family now and families look out for each other". Dean met the stare and emphasised his point. The former angel said nothing in return; he just gave a slight nod and reached for his crutch.

-oOo-

Sure enough Castiel ditched his crutch. He walked with a limp at first, but it seemed to be getting better every day. The former angel tried hard to hide it, but as was typical Castiel would overdo it and then quietly slink to the couch hoping he could sit before the boys noticed. With his increased mobility Castiel wanted to do more and go further… but he hadn't managed more than a few short walks in the surrounding wood. The first time he set out strong, Dean could barely keep up. It wasn't long before he slowed… Castiel insisted he was alright, even though Dean ended up supporting his weight on the way back. Dean gave him the usual line about these things taking time, Castiel tried not to let the frustration get to him…

Rain had been pelting the windows of the cabin for most of the day. Although it had all but stopped now it was still too wet to enjoy a walk in the woods, so Castiel and Dean sat in front of the television. At the table Sam dutifully worked away at their leviathan research. Dean's attention was rapt until the familiar Smoke on the Water riff issued from his phone, interrupting the dramatic music of the telenovela. Cursing Dean took it from his pocket, but after seeing who it was he stepped off to one side and picked up. "Hey Steph, what's up?"

"Dean… I'm so sorry, I knew I should have told somebody, but he asked me not to and now I think he's dead…" Steph's soft voice had a frantic edge to it.

"Woah there, slow down, start from the beginning and tell me what happened".

"There's a hunter, Mick, he lives round these parts. I started patching him up pretty regularly, he got really beat up a few times and he had these gashes… I suspected a werewolf, but he wouldn't talk about it. Eventually Mick called me out to this place in the woods; he was in a real bad way and couldn't get to me. He had to admit it then, he told me his girl had been bitten. He was keeping her in a safe house out there… but he begged me not to tell anybody. Mick was so sure he was going to find the cure, and he was so scared another hunter would kill her. I should have said something…" Steph started out slow getting quicker and quicker as she went on.

Dean tried his best to be reassuring. "Look, don't beat yourself up. If this is anybody's fault it's Mick's. He was deluding himself holding out for a cure. We've been there, done that, and got the t-shirt - there isn't one. Let me guess, he's gone missing and you think the were-girlfriend got him?"

"Yeah... I made him check in with me regularly, I was worried about him. I haven't heard anything, and he won't answer his phone. I think she killed him…"

"Let's not jump to conclusions. He might have just lost his phone or something right? We can take a drive out there and check it out". Dean had visions of the poor guy lying dead in the middle of the woods, his chest a gaping cavity…

"Can you come by and pick me up?" Steph's voice turned pleading. "I can show you where it is".

"I'm not sure that's a good idea, can't you just tell us?" He really didn't want to inflict the aforementioned sight on Steph, or potentially put her in the path of a werewolf for that matter.

"Please… he's a friend, a good friend. I need to be there". She had the sort of voice a kid uses to get round its parents.

So Dean reluctantly agreed and told Steph they'd be right there. He put the phone down and turned to get Sam only to find Castiel blocking his path. The former angel was standing just a few inches away, personal space seemingly forgotten again.

"Take me". His voice was firm and the words were spoken as if a 'no' wouldn't be accepted.

"Geez, am I running a werewolf tourist attraction or something? Everybody wants to come. Cas, you can barely walk, it's out of the question".

"I can walk-"

"-with a limp-" Dean chipped in.

Castiel ignored him. "- I need to do this. To feel useful again… to get out there and do something. Please Dean, let me come".

"You don't need to do this to be useful Cas. And if you want to get out and do something I can take you to the shops on a supply run, hunting isn't exactly a walk in the park". Dean was trying to stay firm, but Castiel's pleading blue eyes were a force to be reckoned with. "Ok, tell you what, if you can go outside and walk all around the cabin without your crutch and without limping then you can come".

As Castiel quickly headed for the door Dean tacked on: "But you can stay in the car and protect Steph!" Just in case the stubborn ex-angel actually succeeded.

And of course he did. Castiel took his time and grit his teeth, but he made it round the cabin. The look on Dean's face was worth the pain.

-oOo-

After picking Steph up she gave Dean some directions and they drove off into the night. Castiel had offered her his hand to shake and gravely informed her that he would be her guardian for the evening. She took his hand with a nervous laugh and asked after his foot. Dean butted in, interrupting their "bonding time" as he called it, to talk about the Mick situation.

The road became bumpier and bumpier as they went further into the trees. Eventually the road narrowed to a dirt track the car wouldn't fit down. As Dean pulled up Steph told them a smaller path ran off the dirt track heading east. Then if they turned north at a distinctive large, dead, tree Mick's safe house would be right ahead. Sam and Dean got out of the car and Steph followed suit.

As Sam went to the trunk to gather the usual, Dean held a hand up at Steph and pointed back at the car. "No objections. You're stopping here".

"But you'll miss the path if I don't show you, it's really hard to see at night and…"

"Look, we've done more hunts than you've had hot dinners. I think we can find a path between us. I'm not risking your life if there's a werewolf out there".

Steph bit her lip as if nervously revealing her real motive "… I need to look for him, he'll need me".

"If he's out there, and in one piece, we'll take care of him. We'll bring him right back here to you ok? So get back in the car, and stay". Dean almost felt like he was yelling at a dog to stay put, but she seemed to respond and slipped back in the car beside Castiel. Maybe it was the vet thing.

Once Steph was back in the car and out of earshot Dean went to the trunk and muttered to Sam, "eesh - girl loves guy, guy loves werewolf. Write this down Sammy, it'll be the next Twilight, we'll make a million".

"She's just concerned about him". Sam finally grabbed a flashlight and shut the trunk.

"Yeah right, I thought you were supposed to be the one in touch with your feelings and everything? She so likes him". Dean clicked on his flashlight with a chuckle.

"Come on Stephanie Meyer, lets get moving". With a smirk Sam clapped Dean's shoulder and pushed him on.

"Oh wait up". Dean slipped out a silver knife and passed it to Castiel through the window. "This is a last resort you hear me? First thing you do if a werewolf comes sniffing around is stop in the car and hide. You lay low and pretend you're not here right?"

Castiel gave him a firm nod, and seemingly satisfied Dean headed off down the dirt track with Sam.

-oOo-

After turning north at the dead tree – which was creepy as all hell – the brothers came across Mick's phone. It was discarded in the bushes but its hopeful ringtone gave the location away. Though it could still ring, the face was cracked… not a good sign. Cautiously Sam and Dean advanced until the safe house came in sight. It was not unlike Rufus' cabin, maybe a bit smaller, and a bit more reinforced… or a lot more reinforced. Metal lay across the windows, clearly intended to keep something strong in. But a deathly silence said there was nothing there now… The two of them circled the cabin, trying to catch a glimpse through the small cracks left by the reinforcements. However there was nothing to be seen in the pitch black interior. The door looked recently broken though.

While Dean stood off to one side, knife and gun at the ready, Sam gave the door a slight knock. With no reply he pushed at it, harder and harder he pushed until it gave a little and sprung back into place. "I think there's something blocking it on the other side, give me a hand Dean".

With the two of them heaving at the door something gave way. It was accompanied by the unmistakable whine of furniture moving across the floor. Sam shone his flashlight through the gap, it illuminated a pair of legs across the room. "Shit, there's somebody in there. Mick? Mick is that you?"

No reply came from the body slumped against the wall. The two of them pushed against the door again, increasing the gap to a size they could get through. While Dean watched the door Sam rushed to the man's side, checking for signs of life. He was a bloody mess, but shallow breaths said he still lived. Sam patted at his cheeks "Mick? Mick, can you wake up for me?"

Mick stirred for a moment, but he didn't make it back to consciousness. A bloody rag that looked like it used to be a coat was clutched between Mick's hands and pressed against his chest. It seemed as if he'd attempted to stem the bleeding at least. Sam looked under the coat at the mess and then pressed it back down. At that Mick's eyes flew open and he gasped.

"Hey, it's ok Mick, we're friends… Steph sent us to look for you". Sam tried to be reassuring despite the circumstances.

"Where is she?" Mick managed to choke out.

"She's back at our car, she's safe…"

"No… no, where is Hayley?"

Sam caught on - Mick must have been talking about his girlfriend. "We don't know, she's not around here, we haven't seen her".

"Don't hurt her… it didn't work this time, but I'll find it, I'll cure her… please don't hurt her". Mick gave a wet cough and winced.

"Mick, I've been there, we've tried… there is no cure. There was a girl once, Madison, we were…" Sam struggled to find the words, they had been so intimate, and maybe he could have been happy with her. He clearly remembered the weight of the gun in his hand as he faced Madison for the last time. It brought the pain back. "… we looked for a cure, we did everything we could, everything. There is no cure Mick, the only way to free them from the curse is to…"

"I love her". Mick reached a blood stained hand up to clutch at Sam's coat. His tear filled eyes pierced Sam. "I won't do it. I won't let you… I love her".

"We don't have a choice Mick". Dean interrupted from the door. "Sam we gotta get moving, if she's out there she's going to smell his blood and come right for us".

"Just give me a minute" Sam shot over his shoulder.

"Mick… I told Maddie I was going to save her. I couldn't… she didn't want to live like that. She asked me to save her by shooting her…"

"And you did it?" Mick seemed halfway between disbelief and resignation.

"I had to. She killed people. She didn't mean to. Maddie didn't know what she was doing, but she took lives and if we left her she would have taken more. I know you love Hayley, but don't let her become a killer. Sooner or later it will happen… look at yourself Mick, she's nearly killed you".

"Sammy…" Dean gave him a gruff warning.

"I hate this". Mick whispered, his hand twisting in Sam's sleeve. "I hate keeping Hayley here locked up like an animal. I feel as if I've lost her to the wolf completely… but she doesn't change on the full moon. Since things got weird with the monsters werewolf changes have become so unpredictable. I know Hayley's not safe back home. I know she might hurt people, but I can't do it, I can't…"

"Then let us". It hurt Sam to say those words, to offer this man an end to his love so easily. Sam could see himself reflected in Mick. If Sam refused to kill Madison, if he tried to keep her under control, is this how things would have turned out?

"Too late! Sam, get your ass over here!" Dean slammed the door shut and Sam quickly joined him in heaving the heavy furniture back into place. A great jolt ran through them as the werewolf collided with the door, but thankfully it stayed in place. A frustrated growl rent the air, quickly followed by the scrabbling of claws against the door. Sam could only give his brother an apologetic look.

"She'll go… when she realises she can't get in, she'll leave". Mick shifted uncomfortably.

"Yeah, wonderful, and where's she going to go to huh? We left Cas and Steph out there in the car!" Dean's voice shook with the assault of the werewolf going against the door at his back.

"If you want to open the door and get a face full of werewolf be my guest". Sam muttered under his breath. "Wait until she stops, then we'll go out there".

-oOo-

"They've been gone too long". Steph was getting restless. "It's not that far, they should be back by now…"

Castiel wasn't picking up on her hint that they should go and look for the brothers. He remained silent, his eyes intently watching the surrounding darkness for movement.

"Something could have happened. We should go after them…"

"Dean said we have to stop in the car". Castiel put it bluntly.

"What if they're hurt? They might need our help". Steph kept needling away at him.

"I have to protect you Steph. We need to stop in the car". He met her eyes then, trying to emphasise the point.

"You're a hunter, you can protect me out there just as well as in here".

"I am… not what I used to be". It was said in a dejected manner, his gaze fell from Steph's eyes to his lap.

Steph must have assumed Castiel was talking about his injury. In a sympathetic move she reached out to place her hand on top of his. But Castiel didn't respond, he was too busy thinking how easily he would have dealt with this as an angel, and how vulnerable they were now he wasn't. Steph gave his hand a little squeeze; his other one simply gripped the silver knife a little tighter.

-oOo-

After the werewolf had ceased attacking for a few moments Sam and Dean moved away from the door. The animalistic growls were starting to fade and so the two of them pushed the furniture out of the way. Then Sam took the door while Dean aimed his gun.

"Ready?" Sam asked his brother. Dean returned a nod, and so Sam gave a forceful pull at the door. As it gave way with a creak Dean stepped forward to take a shot at the werewolf. But instead of firing his gun he stood frozen in the doorway.

"Shit… she's gone". Dean kept his gun raised just in case, though nothing faced him but the surrounding trees.

"She sure moved fast… Hey Mick? Mick you ok?" Sam noticed the hunter's eyes had slid shut. He went over to check Mick's breathing.

Dean peered into the darkness, the gun following his line of sight. Every shift of leaf and branch in the slight breeze called for his attention. But Dean would only heed the inhuman speed of a werewolf rushing forward. Nothing came. His flashlight revealed no prowling creature in the shadows, and the patches of weak moonlight across the grass exposed little. Dean judged it to be as safe as it was going to get out there.

"Ok, lets just get Mick and the others out of here. We can come back for her when we haven't got so much collateral to worry about. Grab him and I'll cover you". Dean took a step outside after issuing his instructions. Sweeping his flashlight and his gun from left to right he made doubly sure it was clear before telling Sam to come out.

-oOo-

A companionable silence had descended on the two in the car. Though Steph quickly succumbed to a restless fidgeting. Her hand flitted to the door handle and Castiel tensed. For a moment Steph seemed to battle with the idea of opening the door. Nervously she bit at her lip, then thought better of it and withdrew her delicate fingers.

"They will find him". Castiel took a stab at comforting and reassuring her. He was usually the herald of doom with the Winchesters so he didn't get much practice at it.

Steph turned to him and offered a small smile. He couldn't have done too badly then. But just as she opened her mouth to reply the window shattered and a clawed hand reached in to slash at the air. Glass showered the frightened vet and she cried out as Castiel lunged forward. The former angel grabbed Steph and pulled her closer to him, away from the searching talons. Then he lashed out with the silver knife. It was done blindly with Steph clutched protectively in his arms, but a howl told Castiel he had hit his mark. The hand withdrew and the werewolf quieted… eventually he could only hear Steph's anxious breaths against his ear.

Castiel slid into the centre of the car, pushing Steph lower into the footwell. "Stay down" he urged under his breath. He could imagine the werewolf stalking around the car and trying its luck on his side. Keeping a relaxed grip on the knife Castiel got as close to the window as he dared, trying to catch sight of the creature. The former angel cursed his feeble human eyesight as the darkness concealed the woods from him. Had he been an angel the shadows would offer no hiding place for the werewolf. Then sadly Castiel thought… had he been an angel he wouldn't be cowering in a car, afraid of a monster, with nothing but a knife to protect Steph. He would step out there and end the creature with a touch. The sadness gave way to anger - that he was so impotent in the face of something so insignificant.

As the rage started to build in Castiel the werewolf finally launched itself at his side of the car. The collision sent their car rocking on its wheels; the window gave way as the other had done. But this time Castiel didn't recoil, he stabbed out at the wolf until silver struck flesh again. As the werewolf shrunk back Castiel took a moment to turn to Steph "When I open this door you get out the other side and run. Run as fast as you can and don't look back".

"No! Castiel you'll be killed! Don't you get out of this car!" Steph's eyes were wide and her face pale. Together with her blonde hair she almost looked like a ghost.

So now she wanted to stop in the car, Castiel noted with a hint of dark humour. "I'll be ok, I've faced worse and lived" …and died too… though he left that unsaid. Castiel put his hand to the door handle and as he pushed he yelled: "RUN!"

Thankfully Castiel heard the other door opening as well as his own. Steph was out and away. Leading with the knife the ex-angel stepped out of the car and slashed at the werewolf as it came for him. When Castiel caught the creature it jumped back with a whine and paused, glaring, as if sizing him up. Castiel did the same, taking in the hard yellow eyes, and the sharp teeth of the werewolf… With dismay the former angel noted he would have to make sure he stayed clear of the creature's bite now. Standing there looking at Hayley with her long brown hair and ragged clothes he could see the human beneath… He felt so sorry for her. The moment soon passed as a snarl lit up her face, there was nothing human in that… Apparently the werewolf had decided she could take the nasty man with the hurty knife and rushed forward.

The rage came back full force to Castiel then, he rushed forward to meet the werewolf and the two clashed with a yell and a roar. Castiel stabbed with the knife while she slashed with her claws. His furious thrusts to the heart were repeatedly deflected by her swipes, then she caught Castiel across the arm and he hissed, falling back a step. The werewolf threw a blow at him, pushing Castiel further back. The momentum took his feet from under him but Castiel rolled as he hit the ground, the werewolf sensed weakness and followed quickly. Castiel was quicker. He got back to his feet and struck at the werewolf, his blade sunk satisfyingly into the flesh of her forearm. With a howl the werewolf lashed out again, Castiel once again found himself on his back, the wind knocked out of him. As the creature rushed forward Castiel instinctively raised his leg. The werewolf ran into his foot and Castiel used its momentum to throw the creature over his head. He let out a yell as a stab of pain told Castiel he had used his bad foot… the werewolf hit the ground with a heavy thud all the same. Castiel was slower to get to his feet this time, thankfully the werewolf rolled away as it hit the ground, giving him the extra time he needed.

"CAS! RUN!" Looking over at the car Castiel spotted Dean dashing towards him from between the trees. Sam, with a man slung over his shoulder, and Steph, followed behind at a slower pace, worried looks etched on their faces.

Castiel didn't run though. Adrenaline was coursing through him, almost as good as the pills he'd succumbed to. He felt alive, the ache in his foot and the gashes on his arm were forgotten. Castiel knew he would end this creature or die trying. By now the werewolf had gained its feet and stood across from the former angel, it stared at him growling deep in its throat. Dean bellowed something again, his voice was laced with terror. The hunter raised his gun, but before Dean could take a shot the werewolf moved forward… its eyes were fixed on Castiel.

Waiting for his moment Castiel stood motionless, he was almost beckoning the werewolf on. Then when the creature was close enough for Castiel to feel the spittle flying from its sharpened teeth he forcefully thrust the knife forward with everything he had, directly at its heart. The werewolf's flesh gave way and an inhuman shriek rent the air, but even as it was dying the creature collided with Castiel and they both fell to the ground.

A few moments passed with the werewolf's lifeless body atop Castiel. The creature was still, while Castiel's breaths were frantic, his ears pounding with the last of the adrenaline running through him. He felt a warm wetness seeping across his chest from the werewolf, and then mercifully its weight was lifted from him. Dean pushed the carcass off to one side; his worried face looked down at Castiel. "You stupid son of a bitch! What did you think you were doing?"

"Protecting… Steph". He really was out of breath now. The adrenaline had worn off and Castiel's foot and injuries were making themselves known.

Dean pulled the former angel into a sitting position and started passive aggressively checking him over. Castiel winced when Dean reached the gashes on his arm. But seeing there was nothing life threatening Dean's face softened and he stood, reaching out a hand. "Alright Rambo, come on, lets get out of here".

Castiel took Dean's hand but when the former angel was hefted to his feet his leg gave way and he sank back down. Dean went to give him a little more support, pulling Castiel's arm over his shoulder. "I guess hunting werewolves ain't exactly approved physio huh?"

He might have been reading Dean wrong, but Castiel couldn't help but detect a hint of pride in the hunter. The exhausted former angel just offered a wan smile and let Dean lead him back to the car.

-oOo-

They went back to Steph's clinic to get Mick and Castiel patched up. Dean left to take care of the werewolf's body while the rest headed inside. Steph took them through the barn into the back of the clinic. Sam carried Mick while Steph fussed at him and Castiel limped after them a few steps behind. He paused and sat down on a hay bale as the others rushed ahead. Mick was the priority right now, and Castiel would rather wait out here than in there, the white walls and scent of disinfectant reminded him too much of the hospital.

The former angel looked round with an air of curiosity. This was where the larger patients were housed. All the stalls were empty but for one. A small chestnut horse looked out at him; its foot was encased in a poultice. The horse waved its head up and down a couple of times before pawing the air with its bad foot. It almost seemed to be saying 'yeah, me too, this sucks'.

Castiel smiled, they were one of God's most beautiful creatures, and their history with the human race was something to behold. He remembered watching man's first attempt to ride them, a few angels had gathered to watch and wonder at what they were doing. With delight they saw the two species forge a bond to last the ages, but delight turned to dismay as the creatures were ridden to war and slaughtered along with their masters.

The door creaked open and broke Castiel from his thoughts. Steph stepped out with a pill bottle, a glass of water, and some gauze. "Hey, what are you doing out here? Why don't you come on in?"

"I'm just keeping him company". Castiel nodded towards the horse, it raised its head with a soft snort.

"'Her' actually, she's called Nirvana, beautiful name for such a mischievous horse… poor thing has a badly abscessed foot". She handed him the glass of water and cracked open the pills, shaking a couple out. "Here, I can see your foot's hurting too, and it'll help for when we do the stitching".

A little voice at the back of Castiel's head told him Dean wouldn't like this, but he took the pills without question. Steph placed the bottle on the hay bale next to him while she pulled out a length of gauze. The bleeding had stopped while they were in transit, but the wounds still oozed a little. Steph asked Castiel to hold it against his arm while she pulled scissors and tape from a pocket. As she finished sticking it in place Sam's voice yelled for Steph through the door. It seemed Mick had started bleeding quite badly again. With a worried look Steph assured Castiel she'd be back and hurried away to the clinic. Once again Castiel was left with Nirvana.

The former angel looked up at the horse and put his hands by his sides. Castiel froze at feeling his fingers brush the pill bottle Steph had left behind. Slowly he looked down at it. It would be so easy to slip it into his pocket… Dean wouldn't like it, Dean would be angry. He didn't want to hurt Dean. But the bottle contained elation and freedom from suffering… it contained nirvana. He looked up at the horse and the horse looked back in a way that made Castiel feel guilty. It almost seemed to be judging his soul… if he had one now. Castiel noticed his hand had thoughtlessly worked its way into holding the bottle. Its attraction was undeniable. The former angel's mind was warring over Dean and the pills, but the war ended abruptly when he heard the door creak open. The bottle was slipped into Castiel's pocket before he really knew what he was doing.

Steph held the door open, relief written all over her face. "Boy does that man like to scare you… we've got Mick all stitched up now, your turn". She beckoned him to the door. Castiel got to his feet and met Nirvana's eyes for one last time before he left. A whispered "I'm sorry" was said under his breath.

-oOo-

Once everybody was stitched up and goodbyes had been said the boys headed home. Dawn was beginning to sweep the sky as they got out of the car and made for the cabin. Castiel reached the door first, but Dean pulled back on Sam's arm for a moment.

"Sam… There's something we need to do". It was said with a sad and reluctant tone that was quite uncharacteristic of Dean.

Sam looked back at Dean with concern before following his brother into the trees. Dean stopped at a clearing the sun was just beginning to touch. "This whole thing has got me thinking… sometimes we have to let people we love go. Mick let Hayley go, and he's got Steph there for him now. You let Madison go… I think we're going to have to let Bobby go". Dean almost had to choke the words out; he didn't want to be saying them.

The daily ritual of calling on Bobby had become a weekly ritual, which then became more sporadic and had ceased altogether. The flask was a weight on Dean's heart as well as his pocket. It was always there, always reminding him Bobby was gone and tormenting him that there was a remote possibility Bobby might come back. But he couldn't keep holding on and hoping for something that realistically wasn't going to happen. He was no better than Mick keeping his girlfriend locked up, convinced he was going to cure her. Obviously Bobby's flask was a lot less dangerous, but emotionally speaking it was still leaving Dean a wreck. He couldn't say goodbye and move on. And he needed to… they both did.

"I think you're right". Sam sounded just as dejected as his brother. "We should put him to rest once and for all… I'm sure he's up in heaven enjoying a drink and laughing at us 'idjits' down here".

Dean gave a sad smile. "Yeah, I'm sure he'd find it funny… us getting all sentimental and precious over a flask".

"It is a nice flask though". Sam tried to lighten the mood.

"Yeah, shame to burn it…" Dean took it out then, gave it a long look and handed it to Sam while he built up a fire.

Sam stepped forward once the fire was burning; it was time to say their goodbyes. "Bobby, you've been like a father to us, you've saved our necks on more than a few occasions… For that we're forever thankful. We're going to miss you down here, but we'll see you again. Just save us a seat and make sure there's a cold one ready for when we get there". Though blinking away tears he had tried to speak lightly.

Then Dean took the flask from Sam and held it up. "Bobby… you know I'm no good at chick flick moments, and there's nothing I can say that will ever express what you mean to me. As you once said: family don't end with blood, you're part of the family, you always were and always will be". He paused and took in a deep breath, as if he were going to continue. Dean seemed to think better of it, crouching down to place the flask into the fire instead. His face told of a spirit that was shattered, his eyes held back tears, and his mouth seemed as if it would betray him with a sob instead of words. In any case, Dean's expression said more than words ever could.

The two brothers watched until the flask had melted and the sun came up. Not another word passed between them until they turned to leave the clearing behind.

-oOo-

It was midnight, and Castiel stood at the foot of a hill. A full moon was high in the sky above it, casting pale shadows across the ground. The former angel took in the chilly air and looked up in wonder. In all his years watching the earth and walking the earth he had never seen anything so beautiful. Though something in his pocket burned against his leg… Castiel felt the ground shake, the thunder of hooves against dirt reached him and a horse appeared at the brow of the hill. It stood there proud, head held high. Castiel could not make out its features; the horse remained a silhouette against the bright moonlight. But as it watched him the burning at Castiel's leg intensified.

Then a clattering pulled him to wakefulness.

"Here you go Cas. Cas? Wake up dude, it's melting".

Castiel opened his eyes to see a bowl of ice cream on the table in front of him. Then Sam took a seat next to him on the sofa and handed beers around. The brothers held their bottles up and looked expectantly at Castiel, so he followed suit. They clinked their bottles together as Dean announced solemnly: "To Bobby". Sam uttered a quiet "Bobby", and Castiel joined in.

Then respects having being paid to Bobby the three of them dug in to their ice cream. Dean looked across at Castiel, as if wondering whether to say something. Eventually he opened his mouth. "Hey Cas, good job with that werewolf".

It momentarily stunned Castiel. "Thank you… but I thought you wanted me to stay in the car?"

"Yeah well… maybe I underestimated you. Hey, how about tomorrow I take you outside and teach you to shoot? Sam can teach you to… I dunno, hug brave little soldiers or something".

"Jerk" Sam shot at him.

"Bitch" Dean shot right back.

Castiel smiled, ignoring the sibling sniping going on. "I would like that very much Dean. I am glad you are putting your faith in me, and I will try my hardest not to let you down".

It was perhaps verging on chick flick territory as Dean changed the subject. "Great, now we need a word for Cas… he can't have 'idjit' that was Bobby's".

After a few moments of thought Castiel suddenly shouted out "Assbutt!"

"Ok… good one, that'll do. Now shut up and eat your ice cream. It's going to be a busy day tomorrow. We got work to do".

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky

-oOo-

Note: Well there we go, this was a quickie to get Cas back on his feet (uh, it was meant to be a quickie - a short one shot grew into a two part 10,000+ word monster, heh). I'm in the middle of writing the next installment that will take them to purgatory :D I'm on the third chapter, but it's another long one so it's probably going to take me a bit longer to write (I don't like posting WIPs - I go back and change too much! eg this was originally called Lark Ascending *g*). I was hoping to get it out before season 8 starts and show's version of purgatory pees all over mine, hehe. Not sure that'll happen, but we'll see how it goes :) Thanks for reading y'all! :D