Thanks go to SnarkyMuch2 for encouraging (forcing) me to start writing for Supernatural and for beta'ing this fic.
~ Chapter One ~
There was a thudding crash from the other side of the room, and Dean jumped to his feet. "Sammy?"
He dashed around the partition wall and stopped dead in his tracks as he saw his brother convulsing on the floor. Sam's hands were fisted in front of him, and his face was contorted with pain.
"Sam?" Dean's fear ratcheted up another level as Sam failed to respond to him. "Sammy!"
With a heaving indrawn breath, Sam stilled. His eyes slid closed and an expression of blank indifference spread across his features. The blankness scared Dean more than anything.
"Sam, dammit, talk to me!" Dean demanded.
He tapped Sam's face none too gently, and Sam's head rocked to the side, but there was no other response. With a trembling hand, Dean reached out and placed his fingers at Sam's throat, searching for a pulse. He exhaled in a gust of relief as he felt the steady thrum of life against his fingers. He pinched Sam's earlobe, studying his face for a sign of the pain he had inflicted, but there was none. With regret, he ground his knuckles against Sam's sternum, pressing deep, knowing he was hurting his brother, but desperate for a sign of life. There was none. Sam lay quiescent and still on the dusty floor.
Dean's heart clenched in his chest. Something was wrong, something was very wrong. Castiel's warnings echoed in his mind. 'Paralysis. Insanity. Psychic pain so profound that he's locked inside himself for the rest of his life.'
Was that what was happening here. Had Sam damaged the wall so completely that he had become locked inside his own mind?
"Sammy, please talk to me. You're… you're scaring me." Dean hated to admit it, but he was desperate. For all the difference it made, he may as well not have spoken.
Dean placed his hand on his brother's chest and watched the steady rise and fall as Sam breathed.
"Okay, that's enough now," he said firmly. "You've had your fun. Now open those eyes and talk to me. Come on, Sammy, nap time's over. Sam, please." His voice broke on the last word, and his next breath was a shaky gasp. Wetness pooled at the edges of his eyes, and he fisted it away without thought. As tempting as it was to let his pain take over, it would not help Sam, and that was what mattered most.
Help! The thought flashed through his mind. Whatever it was that had happened to Sam, it wasn't something he could fix alone.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and a dialed the first number he came to. A moment later, Bobby's gruff voice came over the receiver. "Dean?"
Dean had intended to throw himself into an explanation of the dire situation he found himself in, but the words would not come. At the sound of his surrogate father's voice a choked sob broke from his chest and the tears began to fall again.
"Dean, what's wrong." There was open fear in Bobby's voice. "What's happened?"
"Sam," he choked. "It's Sammy."
"He's okay. Isn't he?"
Dean tried to respond, but it was like a dam had broken inside of him. He couldn't form words.
"Dammit, Dean. Talk to me!" Bobby ordered. "What happened?"
"The wall…" Dean whispered. "I think it broke."
There was a stream of cuss words from the phone as Bobby gave voice to his fear. Dean didn't interrupt him; he allowed Bobby his release. When Bobby spoke again, it was in a voice laden with sadness. "How is he?"
"I don't know," Dean admitted. "He's unconscious."
"Okay. Let's think about this rationally," Bobby said, reverting to his calm voice of experience. "First things first, where are you?"
"We're still in Rhode Island."
"We need to get you out of there. Have you called Castiel?"
Dean cursed inwardly. He had completely forgotten about the angel. He had been so focused on finding comfort from his surrogate father he hadn't thought to call the one person that had a real chance of helping.
"I'm on it," he said abruptly, ending the call.
Dean pushed Sam's hair out of his eyes and let his hand linger for a moment on his temple. "Don't worry, Sammy. We're going to help you. Just hang on a little longer."
He raised his eyes heavenward and called for his friend. "Cas! I need you."
There was a soft rusting sound and Dean felt another presence in the room. He jumped to his feet and spun on his heel. Castiel was standing behind him, looking down as Sam with an expression of deep concern.
"What happened?" Castiel asked.
"I think…" Dean's voice broke. "I think he did something to the wall."
Castiel crouched beside Sam and gently pulled back an eyelid. Sam's pupil was dilated, and it didn't react to the sudden burgeoning of light. Dean cursed. He knew this was not a good sign.
"This is not good," Castiel said redundantly.
"You think I don't know that?" Dean growled. "Dammit, Cas, look at him. I think 'not good' is a bit of an understatement here."
"Damn right I am."
Castiel frowned at the floor. "I am sorry for it."
"Never mind sorry. Help him."
With a deep sigh, Castiel laid a hand on Sam's forehead and closed his eyes in concentration. His brow furrowed and his mouth pressed into a thin line. After a full minute of silence, he opened his eyes and rose to his feet, casting Sam a regretful look.
"I cannot help him," he said.
"What do you mean you can't help him? You're an angel for crap's sake. Heal him."
"This is beyond my ability," Castiel said. "Your brother has delved too deep behind the wall. I can't reach him. He is—"
At that moment, Sam drew in a deep, heaving breath and his eyes snapped open.
"Sammy! Oh, thank God." Dean dropped to his knees beside his brother and gripped Sam's arm. "You okay, buddy?"
Sam's breaths stuttered, but he didn't speak.
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean said in a tone heavy with relief. "Take a deep breath. You're okay. I'm here."
Sam either didn't hear, or was unable to listen as his breaths continued to come in raspy gasps.
"Sammy?" Now there was fear in Dean's voice.
Castiel crouched beside Sam once again and rested a hand on Sam's heaving chest. "Calm," he said gently, and immediately Sam's breaths slowed into a gentle rhythm.
"Sammy?" Dean waited for a response, but there was none. He felt new fear creep into him as he watched his brother. There was still something wrong. It was as if Sam was absent from their trio. His eyes were open, and he was breathing steadily now, but something was missing. His eyes were wide and staring; he didn't seem aware of his surroundings. "Dammit, Sam, talk to me!" he ordered.
"He can't," Castiel said simply.
Dean leapt to his feet and grabbed the lapels of Castiel's coat, shoving him against the wall. "What do you mean can't?"
"If it would comfort you, feel free to strike me," Castiel said calmly. "But it won't help your brother."
As fast as it had come, Dean's anger dissipated. As the prone figure on the floor demonstrated, it was not helping. He dropped to his knees beside Sam and cupped his cheek in his hand. The skin felt cooler that was normal, and he realized it probably wasn't helping Sam to be lying on the floor.
"Help me get him up," Dean said. Castiel moved to Sam's other side and between them they lifted Sam onto the bed. Throughout it all Sam remained floppy and unresisting, still staring blankly into nothing.
When Sam was situated on the bed, Dean turned his attention to Castiel again. "What did you mean he can't?"
"I mean, Sam is not in there. This is just a shell."
Dean stomach dropped to somewhere in the region of his boots. "A shell? Like a vessel? Has he been possessed?" He searched Sam's eyes for a trace of the black that showed a demonic possession but there was none.
"No. I mean your brother's spirit is gone. He is not here with us."
Dean gasped. "His soul?"
Castiel looked at the ground. "I do not know. There is only one way to find out, and as you know it is not without cost."
Dean frowned, he knew for Castiel to touch Sam's soul would cause his brother excruciating pain, but he needed to know for sure. If soulless Sam was back… Well, he didn't think he could go through that again.
"Do it." Dean's voice was a low rasp. Regret for what was to come hung heavily over him.
"I shall, but I think we should move first. Sam's cries may draw undue attention to us here."
Dean hated to think of those cries and what they would mean: that his brother was suffering unbearable agony. Again. It seemed to him that that was all that Sam did suffer these days. As if his sacrifice in diving into the cage wasn't enough, the universe demanded more of him.
"I can take you to Bobby's," Castiel offered, and Dean nodded. Closing his eyes, he gripped Sam's shoulder and prepared for the disorienting sensation of being moved through space in the blink of an eye.
"Holy hell!" A gruff voice exclaimed. Dean opened his eyes and found himself in Bobby's small lounge. Sam was now lying on Bobby's threadbare carpet and Castiel was kneeling beside him. Easing his arms under Sam, Castiel lifted him onto the couch. It was a ludicrous sight to see Castiel lifting Sam as if he was a child; Sam was a good foot taller than the angel. Castiel positioned him so he was lying back with his head resting on a cushion.
"How is he?" Bobby asked, staring over the back of the couch at his adopted son. "He's awake?"
"In a manner of speaking," Castiel said distractedly, unbuttoning his cuff and rolling the sleeve up.
"Hold up!" Bobby said. "What are you doing to him?"
"It's his soul," Dean explained. "We think it may be gone."
Bobby cursed. "Is that even possible?"
Castiel turned his world weary eyes on Bobby. "I have come to believe that anything is possible where Sam and Dean are concerned."
"Well have at it then," Bobby said. "Do what you've got to do. God knows we don't need him running around without a soul again." Memories of Sam standing over him wielding a knife flashed through Bobby's mind, and he stifled a shudder.
Castiel looked regretfully at Sam and laid a hand on his chest. "I am sorry for this," he said, and then he allowed his hand to make the practiced move to plunge into Sam's chest.
Dean looked away, feeling like a coward. He couldn't bear to see his brother go through the unimaginable torment that he knew he must be feeling. He waited for the howls of pain to come, but there was nothing. He spun to look at his brother and saw Sam was still, laying back on the couch with a look of serene indifference to his surroundings, despite the fact Castiel's arm was elbow deep in his chest.
"What the…" Dean trailed off as Bobby clapped a hand on his shoulder.
"Easy boy," he said. "He's okay."
"That's my point," Dean said. "How can he be okay with that happening to him."
Bobby looked troubled. "I don't know, but it can't be anything good."
Castiel stepped away from Sam and rolled his sleeve down. "Good is the opposite of what we are dealing with here," he said.
Bobby's heart sank. "It's gone."
Castiel shook his head slowly. "No. Sam's soul is in place."
Dean exhaled in a rush. "Thank God."
Castiel frowned. "You may thank him, but he is not at work here. Sam's soul is in place, but that leaves us with a greater problem."
"What's the problem then?" Bobby asked. "'Cause something isn't right. I watched as you played peek-a-boo with the soul and Sam didn't even twitch."
"That is deeply concerning," Castiel said. "His lack of reaction to painful stimulus is a symptom."
"A symptom of what? Dammit, Cas! What's wrong with my brother? You said something was missing."
"His spirit," Castiel said simply.
"What the hell's a spirit?" Bobby demanded. "I thought it was all about souls."
"It is, but it isn't at the same time."
"Well, that was helpful," Dean said bitterly, looking down at the shell of his brother. He was staring out into space, completely indifferent to the conversation surrounding him.
"A human is made up of three entities: a body, a soul, and a spirit," Castiel said with the patient air of someone dealing with unruly pupils, which to his mind Dean and Bobby were. "As you know, the soul is the conscience and emotion of a person. It is why Sam was such a good hunter when he was soulless; he was able to think on a logical level without emotions clouding his judgment."
Dean scowled. He knew all too well how soulless Sam had thought without his soul. It had led to him almost being doomed to life as a vampire. It may have made him a better hunter, but it made him a crappy brother.
Oblivious to Dean's dark thoughts, Castiel continued. "A spirit is the awareness of a person. Their being. That is why Sam retained all the memories of his life even when he was soulless. It enabled him to play the part of your brother for a while."
Dean well remembered how he had been taken in by the soulless version of his brother. How it had taken time for him to see the subtle differences. "So Sam's spirit is missing?" he said.
Castiel nodded somberly. "Wherever it is, it is not here. This is just the body of your brother. His essence is gone."
"How do we fix this?" Bobby asked. "How do we get him back?"
Though it was Bobby that had spoken, Castiel turned to look into Dean's hopeful eyes as he replied.
"I don't know."
Thanks for reading. If you would like a teaser of the next chapter let me know in a review or a PM.