A/N: apologies-i know this update has been long overdue. chapter 9 is in progress, but if you weren't aware i recently started yet another destiel fic so


Hey, Sparkles!

The rather jeering call came not from Uriel this time, but from Eremiel. Damn Balthazar for that fucking nickname. Dean spread his wings—back to their normal color and completely clean now—and took off. The rest of the garrison, including Uriel, was gone; only Eremiel remained, looking down on Dean with unpleasant, sneering disdain.

"Uriel gave us a mission." Eremiel's tone suggested that the last thing he wanted to be doing right now was telling this to Dean. "There's a horde of demons gathering in Chicago, and he wants us to eliminate them."

Dean snorted. "Eliminate" them? You couldn't just say "kill"? "Yeah, sure. Just you and me, then?"

"I'm not looking forward to it, either. If you ask me, anyone who can be made a fool of by a couple of humans shouldn't be going into battle."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, 'going into battle'?" repeated Dean. "Let's not get melodramatic here, okay, Romeo? Two angels don't make an army."

Eremiel's eyes became icy. "You're right, Sparkles. It only takes one angel to make an army. But as I said, Uriel gave this task to the two of us, so it seems you don't have a choice but to leave your pet monkeys alone for a few hours."

Dean's expression hardened at that, but he let the quip slide. There would be time for beating on Eremiel later—for now, there were demons. "Alright then. Let's do this thing."


Dean had almost forgotten how huge cities could be, and it wasn't until he and Eremiel were searching for demons to kill that he realized this could take some time, even for two angels. They split up to cover more ground, which was just fine with Dean, but it wasn't long before the other angel was calling him back to his side again.

"What—" Dean was cut off when he noticed the group of demons clustered before them. There were at least ten, black-eyed and glaring, watching and waiting to see the angels' move. Dean noticed one of them slowly withdrawing a weapon from its coat, a jagged glistening knife made of some sort of pale gray, lackluster metal. He instinctively took a hasty step back before remembering he was an angel and setting his shoulders in a determined sort of way. It would be a rough fight, but he was confident that they could handle it.

Dean glanced at Eremiel, and he seemed to instinctively know what the other angel was planning. He nodded. There was a flash of silver as Eremiel whipped out his angel blade and charged forward, but Dean took off, reappearing directly behind the aggressive demons.

As Dean had anticipated, it was a brutal fight. A demon on its own was no match against an angel, but ten of them? That was a whole other ballpark. They had five demons each, and those bastards were ruthless: punching, kicking, clawing—hell, he was almost positive he felt fucking teeth on his arm at one point. For a good ten seconds at least Dean couldn't even concentrate on trying to smite any of them, he was so busy fighting them off.

Seeing Cas fight demons had struck Dean as something infinitely more impressive than the dirty, desperate, scrabbling hand-to-hand tussle that was going on here. Cas had been faster than a flash, coming out of nowhere and gone before you knew it, devastation in a hurricane of holy wrath. But Dean—Dean was just the same old hunter with a pair of strap-on wings, still clumsy and messy and slow. Even the demons seemed to realize this, because he noticed several of them jeering at him.

He saw by the flash of light off to the side that it was Eremiel who landed the first blow, and it wasn't long after before Dean, too, managed to land his palm flat on a demon's face. From then on it only got easier as the other four demons fell, one by one, at his touch. After standing from the last one's body, he turned to see Eremiel still facing off two demons, one of whom was wielding the strange gray knife. The demon lifted it above its head to strike Eremiel—and Dean was there, his fingers locked around its wrist. They grappled for a brief, tense moment during which the demon managed to slice Dean down the arm with the knife. Then Dean's hand was clasped over its face and it was gone, the blood-stained weapon clattering to the floor. Eremiel took care of the last demon, and the two angels were left standing amidst ten scattered bodies.

Eremiel was looking at Dean with a reluctantly appraising expression. "Thank you." He indicated the unusual blade. "I'm not sure what would've happened if I'd been stabbed with that."

Dean's attention turned to the knife, as well. "What is it?"

"I'm not sure." Eremiel squatted down next to the blade and peered at it. "I've never seen anything like it. There are no markings or symbols to indicate spellwork, yet… There's something—" He broke off when he looked up at Dean and frowned. "Dean, you're bleeding."

Sure enough, Dean looked down to see that the cut on his arm was still oozing blood. "The hell…?" It should've healed by now. He touched his fingers to it and, as was to be expected from a fresh cut, his fingers came away smeared in red.

Eremiel stepped uneasily closer, trying to get a better look at it, but before he could, another voice said sternly, "Don't take another step, Eremiel."

Both angels turned to see Uriel standing a good distance back, his expression unreadable. "Why?" asked Eremiel, glancing back at the cut as though expecting a demon to pop out of it.

Uriel didn't answer at first. He stepped carefully around them so he could get a good look at the blade, which he refused to stand within three feet of. "Step back. Step away from Dean."

Dean didn't try to follow as Eremiel hesitantly obeyed and moved to stand by Uriel's side, but his growing lack of understanding of the situation was pissing him off. "You wanna tell me what the fuck is going on?"

"If you want to help us, Dean, you'll stay away from Heaven and not attempt to meet with any other angel. Someone will contact you shortly."

"What? But—" Dean broke off as Uriel disappeared. He looked back down at the cut on his arm, which was still bleeding. What do I do now? The building was silent and filled with dead demons and hell if he was just gonna stand there and wait until Uriel deigned to give him the lowdown. He opened his wings impatiently and set off for Heaven.

To his astonishment (and further confusion), he did not budge an inch from where he stood. Instead of appearing in Heaven, he found himself still standing inside the empty building. He tried again, but his flapping wings only stirred up dust from the floor. He felt like a child hoping to fly to Neverland by waving his arms. Okay, seriously, what the hell…

Focusing instead on Sam and Cas, he tried again. This time, thankfully, it worked, and he ended up back in that little motel where he'd woken up earlier. Sam was nowhere to be seen, but Cas was sitting cross-legged on the bed—still wearing his trench coat—and staring off into space, apparently lost in thought. Some things never change. He looked up at Dean's arrival, keen blue eyes trying to read the other's expression. "You look troubled. Is everything alright?"

Dean wasn't sure how to answer that question, and he was even less sure he could form words when Cas was looking at him like that. The memory of the dream resurfaced all too easily, and he remembered those eyes boring into his at a much closer proximity... Get a hold of yourself. He looked around the rest of the room, mostly just to avoid looking at Cas, but he saw no trace of his brother. "Where's Sam?"

"Out," replied Cas. "Though I do not know where. Probably to the library. Dean, what is it?" He stood from the bed and stepped up to Dean, who reluctantly met Cas's gaze. God, those eyes…

Dean, remembering why he was here in the first place, extended his arm, revealing the blood that was now dripping the length of it. Cas looked even more worried when he saw it. "I… I'm not sure."

Cas disappeared into the bathroom and returned with a wet towel, which he wrapped tightly around Dean's arm. "What happened?"

While Cas cleaned and bandaged the cut, Dean told him what had occurred. When he described what the knives looked like, Cas faltered and froze for a moment, and Dean knew it was bad by the subtle look of panic just faintly sharpening his features. He seemed to recover his composure very quickly and went back to wrapping Dean's arm in gauze. When Dean was finished, he sat in silence for a moment, but Cas seemed to be deliberately avoiding broaching the subject.

"You know something, don't you?" Dean asked, flexing his hand. He was amazed by how fast Cas had picked up on this kind of stuff.

Cas sighed wearily and took a seat on the bed. "I have an idea." He sounded resigned. "Have any of the angels contacted you yet?"

Dean shook his head. "Soon as I found out the pearly gates were closed, I came here."

Cas opened his mouth to say something, but there was an abrupt knock on the door. "That's probably Sam." Upon opening the door, however, he found that it was not Sam at all, but a rather harried-looking rabbi.

"Is—is there an angel here by the name of Dean?" asked the rabbi in a rush. Cas simply stepped aside and looked quizzically to Dean, who shrugged. "I have a message for you from Heaven. They say—they say it is the poison of the Pale Blade. A-and that they're very sorry."

None of this registered with Dean, who was still trying to puzzle out why Heaven was talking to him through a Jewish priest, but it apparently meant something to Cas, who stiffened in alarm. "The poison of the Pale Blade? You're absolutely certain that that is what they said?" The rabbi nodded, looking flustered. "What about the cure? Surely they have enough to spare."

"They told me it was a limited supply, and—well…" He looked at Dean. "I'm just repeating what they said, but… they said they didn't want to waste it on you."

Cas lifted his hands to his face and ran his fingers down it. For someone who was normally as cold and emotionless as marble, he looked immensely distressed as he turned away, his blue eyes focused intently on something on the floor.

Dean, ignoring the flashing red lights and the siren in his mind that was screaming dangerdangerdangerdanger, looked up at the rabbi. "Uh, thanks, dude." The guy nodded again, swallowed, and left, closing the door behind him. "Cas, what is it? What the fuck is this 'poison of the Pale Blade'?" He had a creeping suspicion as to what was going on, but he wanted to hear it from Cas.

There was a watery sheen in Cas's fearful eyes that made Dean's heart drop into his stomach. "During the battle against Lucifer," he began, in a very controlled voice despite his obvious anxiety, "Pestilence—one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—was forced to assist the demons by creating a weapon impregnated with a highly contagious virus which only affects angels." He paused here, and Dean could see he was gathering his composure. "This virus acts as a fast-acting poison which passes from angel to angel by touch or ingestion. Many of my brethren fell by this 'poison of the Pale Blade,' as they called it. Dean, it's… it's fatal." Cas moved his hand as though he wanted to touch Dean, but instead he dropped it to his side awkwardly. "Within days."

Dean swallowed thickly. It's fatal. In a few days, he'd be dead, all because of some small-fry demon and its poisoned pig-sticker—and the fact that Uriel didn't think he was worth saving, he realized. And this time, no angel in a trench coat was going to pull him out of wherever he was headed. He'd be gone for good. Sammy'd be left alone, and he wouldn't even know it. Once I'm gone, who'll look after these two dumbasses? He personally hoped it'd be Andy, but he doubted Uriel would be so lenient. The douchebag would probably assign Eremiel to watch them—or, worse, Uriel would take on the task himself.

Cas was watching him with a sad look in his eyes, studying him for any signs of breaking, he suspected. Dean took a deep breath, pulling himself together. Right. Down to business. "What's gonna happen to me, Cas?"

Cas seemed to realize he was deliberately avoiding talking about the fact that his death was imminent, and he apparently respected this wish, because his eyes flicked to the ground and he said calmly, "The poison will disable your grace. As you can tell, your ability to heal yourself has already been affected. Soon you won't be able to fly anywhere or smite demons. In your last moments before you lose consciousness you will completely lose contact with the other angels. Physically…" Again he paused, his eyes still focused on the carpet. "You will begin to cough and vomit blood. Tomorrow I expect you will start to hallucinate and become delirious, and it will grow worse with every hour. You—"

"Whoa, hold on—hallucinations? We talkin' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or bad acid trip?"

Cas's eyes narrowed. "I don't understand what either of those mean."

"I mean are they gonna be mild hallucinations or… traumatizing hallucinations?"

Cas sighed reluctantly. "Most likely the latter." He took a moment to study Dean's face again before continuing hesitantly, "You will grow rapidly weaker as time passes. By tomorrow I suspect you will be bedridden. The day after, unconscious. At that point you'll have maybe twelve hours before…" He trailed off hopelessly.

"Right." Dean nodded slowly. "Right." It was starting to really sink in that he was dying. In a couple short days, it'd be like he was hearing the howls of hellhounds again, and he'd be gone. Back on Halloween, he'd been able to use his "Righteous Man" status as leverage to save an entire town, but he wasn't the Righteous Man anymore. He was just another angel, another soldier wounded in battle, and he couldn't even save himself.

Still… Better me than Sam or Cas.

"Dean, I'm sorry. It should be me." Dean looked up in surprise at this. "It would be me, if the Trickster hadn't—"

"Can it, Cas. Cause you know what, the Trickster did, and we'll just deal with what we got, okay?"

Cas looked conflicted, but hopeful. "Maybe—maybe if I made a deal, your life for my soul—"

"No, absolutely not. I've been down that road, Cas, I'm not letting you go down there for me."

"Just listen for a moment. I'm supposed to be an angel, Dean, I'm not supposed to have a soul. Perhaps, when the Trickster reverts us back to our original states, the deal will be void—"

"Yeah, or maybe Lilith'll just take my soul again instead. Trust me, she'll find a way to make you pay the price, and it ain't worth it."

This seemed to utterly crush Cas, and the look in his eyes was enough to dent Dean's resolve, if not shatter it entirely. For a second, they saw straight through to each other, to the raw despair that was eating at them. Then Cas grabbed Dean and hugged him tightly, his arms around Dean's shoulders, and Dean didn't hesitate to return the embrace.



Ever since Dean had left, Castiel had been thinking over what he'd seen. He knew almost nothing about romantic or sexual relations—and everything he did know he'd gathered from watching television. If Dean was sexually attracted to him, did that mean he was romantically interested as well or just that he wanted to—as Balthazar put it—fuck him right there on the floor? Were the two feelings separate somehow or directly related? He suddenly found himself wishing he could talk to Balthazar again. It seemed like the unruly angel always knew the answers to these kinds of questions.

It didn't take much thinking for Castiel to determine that he reciprocated it in some form. Even that much was obvious enough to him, after all the time they'd spent together. He'd noticed changes in the way he perceived Dean ever since their first run-in with Alistair: sometimes the things Dean said to him resonated far more deeply than he could say; sometimes he would watch him for minutes straight, because he felt like his eyes couldn't get enough; sometimes he felt like he melted just a little on the inside whenever Dean smiled.

It was often as painful as it was wonderful. When Dean was gone, Castiel found that he yearned for him to come back. He never knew what Dean was doing out there in his place or when he would return. When Dean was gone for too long Castiel often wondered if he would return. Is this how Dean felt when I would disappear without warning?

He hadn't known what to call these feelings before now; he'd always assumed it was just a sign of their growing friendship. Who was he to know the difference between romance and companionship? But then, just because Dean wanted to 'fuck' him didn't mean Dean felt romantically attracted to him, did it? And what did 'fucking' even entail, anyway? Television was very vague about it, and no one ever seemed willing to talk about it openly. It was all very confusing to Castiel.

About an hour later, when Dean showed up again, he still hadn't sorted out exactly what everything meant, and he doubted he'd be able to unless he actually talked to Dean, but that didn't seem to be an option. Dean never seemed to want to talk about anything like that. Anyway, he'd always seemed interested in… well, in women. Surely he wouldn't be interested in Castiel since he'd chosen Jimmy Novak as his vessel instead of an attractive female. But then, why had the feathers of Dean's wings stood up like that…?

He shoved aside this puzzling notion, because the expression on Dean's face was nothing short of disturbed. When he discovered why, his concern for Dean multiplied tenfold. Angels bled, yes, but angels also healed themselves quickly, especially minor cuts such as the one he was sporting. This continuous flow of blood from a simple scratch was not to be dismissed lightly.

When Dean mentioned the pale gray knife, he froze up for a moment. It couldn't be. The demons couldn't have possibly dug up that weapon, not after all these years. Castiel thought it had been cleansed from the earth long ago, or at least confiscated with the rest of Heaven's weapons. How could the demons have gotten a hold of it? And why Dean, of all the angels? He wasn't even supposed to be an angel…

Then the rabbi had showed up and confirmed all of Castiel's worst fears. A cold stone of dread had settled so heavily in his chest that for a moment he couldn't breathe. He almost lost it right then. The stone turned into an icy fist that twisted his stomach in its grip when Dean asked for an explanation. Castiel didn't want to tell him, but any form of deception was out of the question. So he quelled the storm of grief and bared the harsh truth for what it was. For a moment he was nearly overtaken by the sudden urge to pull Dean into his arms, to hold him tight and close and whisper how sorry he was. But the situation didn't call for it, and he wasn't sure how Dean would react, so he just watched Dean, studied him carefully for any sign that the angel would require such behavior.

Dean seemed to ask the most painful questions, but Castiel knew why he needed to ask them: he wanted the honest-to-God-truth, wanted to know what his last few days on earth would be like and how he'd be able to spend them. There was a moment of crippling hope when Castiel thought he came up with a plan, but it was crushed and ground to dust under Dean's next words. The urge to embrace Dean was back, to envelope him in his arms because Dean didn't seem to realize exactly what he was worth. Why couldn't he see? Why couldn't he see that Castiel was more than willing to risk the consequences for Dean's sake, especially since he felt as though it was his fault in the first place that Dean had suffered so long in Hell? But Dean could never live with himself if anything happened to Castiel, and Castiel had to respect Dean's wishes.

This time, he didn't try to resist the impulse. He grabbed Dean and clutched him tight, and something cracked open inside of him as he felt Dean's arms wrap around his chest. He buried his face in the crook of Dean's neck and almost—almost—cried.


Sam returned shortly thereafter and Dean was able to explain the situation to him as though he'd known what it was all along. Sam, though not as broken up as Castiel, still looked visibly devastated as he regarded Dean with new eyes, his face displaying all the vivid emotion Dean and Castiel had been trying to cover up. Dean, as expected, tried to brush it off like it was nothing, like his death would have no effect on them outside of a bit of mourning, but Sam would have none of it. Sam hugged Dean as well, briefly but firmly, and expressed sincerely how sorry he was and how he would do anything to change it.

Then Sam turned to Castiel. "We should go to Bobby's. He might know what to do."

Castiel hesitated, but agreed. He doubted Bobby would have anything, but he'd be damned if he let Dean die without trying everything they could. Dean was reluctant to go, and Castiel knew it was because he didn't want them getting their hopes up, but nevertheless he waited patiently as they packed up their things and then zapped them all there in the blink of an eye.

Upon arrival, Dean swayed slightly and sank into the nearest chair, his eyes slightly unfocused. His grace must be waning already. Bobby, who was standing at the stove, looked around and started in surprise, nearly knocking his grilled chicken to the floor. "Ain't you boys ever heard of knockin'?!"

"Sorry, Bobby," grunted Dean, who seemed to be getting a hold of himself.

Bobby's attention turned to Dean, and he scowled, switching off the stove and turning to face them.

Sam spoke up. "Look, Bobby, it's an emergency. Dean's got some sort of deadly angel virus and we need your help."

Bobby looked to Dean again, who sighed and clasped his hands on the table in a longsuffering way that clearly said he thought all this was futile. "It's called the 'poison of the Pale Blade,' and they seem to think you can do something about it."

"Look, if anyone can help you, it's Bobby," said Sam before Bobby could interject.

"I'm just saying, don't get your hopes up, okay?"

For a moment Castiel could almost imagine they were bickering brothers again. Then Bobby stepped up to the table, gazing sternly down at Dean. "How long you got, boy?"

"Couple days."

Bobby whistled, grimly impressed. A moment passed. "I'll see what I can do." Castiel almost felt as though they were discussing the fate of a dying pet and felt suddenly sick to his stomach.


Castiel never let Dean out of his sight after that, a fact which seemed to annoy Dean more and more as the night progressed. At first he seemed to be trying to get rid of Castiel—getting up frequently and moving from one room to another, trying to slip quietly through doors without being noticed, even going outside a number of times for no other reason than just to walk. Castiel was very close to snapping at him to just sit still for more than five minutes, but he held his tongue. Dean had spent his entire life looking after Sam; it was probably unfamiliar to him to be cared for in the same way he cared for others.

They were sitting by the television when Dean started coughing. It was nothing at first, just normal, innocent coughs that could be passed for something in his throat. Dean even showed Castiel his hands when it first happened, saying dryly, "Look, see? No blood." Nevertheless, Castiel watched him carefully, and over the next two hours he noticed Dean growing steadily more lethargic, shadows forming under his eyes and red patches appearing on his cheeks.

He kept moving around, despite Castiel's insistence that he should rest, but that was put to a stop after a particularly violent fit out by the Impala during which Dean doubled over, hacking, barely breathing, and eventually spat out a reddish glob. He allowed himself to be led inside to the sofa, where he laid down a little too gratefully for Castiel's liking. His temperature was alarmingly high; it felt as though his blood was boiling under his skin. Bobby still hadn't found anything, but he was scouring every book he knew and making calls to every hunter who might have something on the subject. Sam, meanwhile, disappeared for a little while and returned bearing pie, to Dean's obvious delight.

"Pie!" He sat up in his seat and took the dessert eagerly, devouring an enormous bite with a moan of satisfaction. Once he'd swallowed, he looked up at Sam in wonder. "How'd you know?"

"Know what?"

"That I like pie."

Sam shrugged. Castiel wondered for a moment if this was a sign of some sort, but Sam showed no other signals of returning memories for the rest of night, so he assumed it was just a coincidence.

The sky had blackened outside the windows before Dean settled into a fitful sleep on the sofa. Bobby was still looking up possible solutions to the issue while Sam had gone to his bedroom, presumably to get a bit of rest. The peace didn't last long, though—just as Castiel had begun to relax and crack open another Supernatural novel, Dean suddenly bolted upright and vaulted off the sofa, his hand jumping to his mouth as he staggered down the hall. With a shout of Dean's name, Castiel pounded after him; before he reached him, he heard the sounds of violent retching coming from the bathroom.

Castiel found Dean hunched over the toilet, sweaty and panting and swearing under his breath. "Dean." The trembling figure before him twitched and fell silent, but otherwise didn't respond. Castiel gave up on any attempt at conversation and instead filled a glass with water from the sink and tried to get Dean to take it. He resisted at first, turning away with mumbled protests, but Castiel was persistent. "Drink it, Dean. You need to hydrate." Finally, Dean took it and gulped it down with a grimace. Castiel sat him down on the edge of the bathtub where he stayed, his head in his hands, while Castiel flushed away the bloody vomit. Then he took a cloth, wet it with cold water, and sat down next to Dean, using it to wipe the sweat off his brow and the back of his neck. As was expected, his skin was still frightfully hot.

Dean's voice was rough and croaky. "Didn't taste nearly as good the second time up."

Castiel could manage no more than a strained smile.

Sam appeared at the doorway then, squinting in the light, his hair mussed on one side. "What happened? You alright?"

"Yeah, fine, Sammy, just puking up my small intestine," said Dean in an attempt at a light-hearted tone.

Sam must've felt bad for him, because he didn't bother trying to correct him this time about saying "Sammy." Instead, his eyes softened slightly when they met Castiel's, and he gave a small nod before vanishing into the night once more.

Castiel took most of Dean's weight as he led the bedraggled angel across the hall to the spare bedroom, where Dean collapsed onto the mattress with a groan. Castiel grabbed a chair from outside and placed it by the door, where he sat down and watched and waited. The coughing died away and Dean's chest rose and fell evenly. That lasted for about an hour before he was up again, running to the bathroom.

This happened all through the night, every hour almost on the dot. A few times Castiel began to nod off in his seat, but was jerked violently awake as Dean rushed past him once more. He prayed each time would be the last, but it continued steadfastly until dawn, by which time Dean looked so worn and sick that Castiel was scared to take his eyes off him for even a second.

He was afraid for Dean. Actually, a better word would probably be terrified. Bobby hadn't turned up any information yet on the poison of the Pale Blade as far as Castiel could tell; otherwise he would've said something. Tomorrow, he realized with a glance at the clock radio. Sometime tomorrow, Dean will be dead.



Sam's sleep had been interrupted the first few hours by the sound of Dean's thundering footsteps followed shortly by the wet sound of stomach contents hitting water, but after the first few times he slept through it. Cas, on the other hand, appeared to have stayed up the entire night. Sam caught a glimpse of him helping Dean back to bed and saw that the shadows under his brother's eyes were almost as dark as the ones under Dean's. He felt bad for leaving the job to Cas—but on the other hand, his brother seemed perfectly happy to do it. He found he wasn't all that surprised by that fact when he looked back on their developing bond.

He took a peek into the room. Dean was coughing weakly, his breathing irregular, and Cas was sitting in a chair next to the bed, a concerned look on his face as he pressed his palm flat across Dean's forehead. "Shh." Sam barely heard his rumbling murmur above Dean: "I'll be right here. Go to sleep." The words didn't seem to have any effect on Dean, who shifted restlessly, and Sam realized his shoulders weren't shaking because of his breathing; he was crying. It was the quiet, despairing, inconsolable crying of someone who could see no hope, someone who just wanted it all to end.

Cas ran his fingers soothingly through Dean's hair, much as a mother would her son, and began softly singing the unmistakable tune of Hey, Jude. He didn't have the best singing voice—it was gravelly and slightly off-key—but it was calm and low and comforting. Sam remembered Cas telling him once a long, long time ago about how their mother had sung the same song to put him to sleep. It seemed to do the trick for Dean, whose shuddering breaths gradually slowed and evened out until he was quite clearly asleep. The last notes faded into silence, but Cas remained where he was, still gently stroking Dean's hair with a look of such heavy sorrow in his eyes that Sam wondered how he was still sitting upright.

His throat feeling suddenly constricted, Sam moved away from the door before Cas could notice him standing there. He found Bobby asleep at the desk in his library, three empty bottles of beer on the desk next to him. "Bobby." Sam shook him cautiously, but insistently. "Hey, wake up."

Bobby woke with a snort, looking around him in surprise before his eyes landed on the open book he'd been sleeping on and he seemed to remember how he'd gotten there. He groaned.

Sam knew he should give Bobby time to pull himself together, but he couldn't help himself: "Did you find anything?"

Bobby pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and shook his head, gesturing hopelessly at the scattering of papers and books before him. "Sam, I hate to say this, but I don't think there's anything to find. I mean, I've checked every source I got and I ain't found jack squat."

"Bobby, this is the angel that pulled Cas out of Hell and saved his ass two more times besides. We can't just sit back and watch him die!"

"Look son, I'm sorry, I really am. I like Dean, he's a good kid—reminds me of your dad. But there ain't nothin' more to be done." At the look on Sam's face, he sighed heavily, his tone and expression softening. "You might have to just accept the fact that we can't save this one."

Sam glared at Bobby for a moment, disbelief and desolation bringing him to the verge of tears. When Bobby's face, more lined and aged than ever it seemed, didn't falter, Sam turned away and stormed from the room. It wasn't fair. Dean had done so much for them, and the one time he needed something from them, they couldn't deliver. Now he was going to die, withered and suffering in that stuffy old bedroom. Seeing him curled in on himself like that had been like watching a crippled bird flop and flail helplessly on the side of the road. An angel should never have to die with broken wings.

He passed by the bedroom again on his way back to his own and saw that Cas had put his head down on the side of the bed and was sound asleep, his head turned towards Dean's. If it weren't for the situation, Sam would've thought it was sweet.

Sam took a seat on the edge of his bed, elbows on his knees and face in his hands. He had never felt particularly attached to Dean, but the angel had done so much for them. And he didn't even want to think about what Cas would be like after he was gone.

"Is this your room, Sasquatch?" said a voice, followed shortly by a whistle. "You could really use some advice on interior design…"

Sam, once again wishing he had a stake on hand, sighed heavily without looking up. "What do you want, Trickster?"

"Is that how you greet everyone, or just me?"

Sam lifted his face from his hands, frustrated. "Damn it, just spit it out, I'm not in the mood."

The Trickster frowned. "Touchy today, are we?"

Sam ground his teeth to keep from snapping something revealing. He didn't want every monster in a five-hundred-mile radius knowing they had a sick angel on their hands.

His caution, evidently, was unneeded, because the Trickster added, "It's perfectly understandable, of course. Can't be easy dealing with a dying angel—especially that one in particular." The smile twitched away, and for a moment, he almost looked serious. "Relax. I'm not here to flaunt anything."

Sam sighed wearily. "Then what are you here for?"

"A peace offering—another one."


The Trickster looked irritated at his questioning, but he answered nevertheless. "Because I've got a soft spot for you knuckleheads, that's why. Anyway, I wasn't expecting your Charlie's Angel to get stuck with a blade from Pestilence himself." Sam's brow furrowed, but before he could ask the meaning of that sentence, the Trickster said quickly, "What I'm trying to say is—there's a cure for Dean. And it is one hundred percent handicap-accessible."

Sam almost fell over in shock. "A cure—here on earth? What is it? Where can I find it?"

"Slow down, kiddo, I'm getting there." A grin spread across his face the likes of which Sam wasn't sure he trusted. "We're gonna perform a heist."