What Little Remains
'He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.'
Without a Prayer
The house is a war zone
Dean and Sam stand rooted to the spot. Across Dean's face blood slowly trickles, running sluggishly down to drip to the floor. Sam's ribs are broken, his breath comes out in a wheeze. Neither of them care. In the life they live this is barely noticeable, can be considered more common-place than unusual.
They only care about Castiel.
'Let him go, you dick!' Dean supplies. He may have well tried to command the sun for all the good it would have done.
'Dean Winchester,' she intones, a coy smile playing her face. 'Enough of your anger, you have no power here.'
'Let him go!' Sam echoes.
They don't know who she is, they don't know why she's here, but with a sharp snap of her hand Sam's leg collapses and he bites back a cry of pain. Dean makes a move towards her, never one for thinking, but is stopped by Sam's to-tight grip on his arm. Neither take their eyes off of her though, she stares them down but they wont crack, wont give her the satisfaction of looking away.
They don't know who she is, they don't know why she's here, but they know she's an angel.
She raises her hand again.
'Naomi!' Castiel gasps.
She turns to him then, stern and gentle, beautiful and horrifying. He would have said more, they all know that, but he can't control his voice over his wrenching gasps. There are two other angels, robotic puppets filled with heavens intent, who each grip one of Castiel's arms. His hands hang uselessly in the air, white and bloodstained under his detainees' grip. Even if he had the strength to try and struggle he wouldn't be able to move. So instead he kneels on the floor and blinks rapidly through the blood in his eyes.
'You were warned, Castiel,' she soothes. 'You knew the consequences.'
Castiel opens his mouth to speak but only moans feebly instead. His face screws up and his eyes un-focus, it's all so pathetically human. The angel - Naomi, they now know - kneels fluidly before him and presses a perfect hand to Castiel's blood soaked chest. It seems to calm him, like she's holding back the flood.
'For me, not them,' Castiel finally manages to answer. Its a plea.
'Cas!' Dean barks, because he doesn't understand anything.
Naomi tilts her head, twitch her lips into a smile that is nothing but control. 'You will stop fighting now,' and the question mark is implied rather than said. Like she already knows the answer. 'For them.'
Castiel cringes, his body tensing in on itself as it fights the inescapable pain. The angels watch him like he's a fascinating new discovery. Eventually he chokes out a grated 'yes.'
And they still don't know what's happening or why. What anything means beyond Castiel's wild-eyed appearance only an hour ago, with blood already staining his skin and desperate words in his mouth. Words he never even got the chance to speak before the angels attacked. And now there they are, talking of a conversation that Sam and Dean were never privy to.
Naomi stands, beautiful and poised, before turning back to the Winchesters. With a lazy sweep of her fingers their injuries never existed, so not even a ghosting impression of them remain. She fixes them with infinite eyes.
'Sam and Dean Winchester, we are here to reclaim Castiel,' this is a closing speech, this is not a conversation, not even a debate. 'He is to return unto heaven and will never set foot upon this plain again.'
'He is of no more use to you, and we have use of him. You will continue with your lives, search for the tables, destroy lesser things. Whatever whim takes your fancy. But you will do it without him.'
Its all to sudden and all to unceremonious. For a moment as momentous as a falling grain of sand, the brothers lock eyes with Castiel. He is everything and nothing, a naked heartbeat in a sea of inky black. Then the angels disappear and don't even leave the lingering thump of wings as a parting comfort.
Sam and Dean are left in an empty war zone.
And the world pitches, then fades.
And everything is more muffled than before.
The first week is spent in red and fury. They scream at the heavens, send torrents of pleas to every one they know, and everyone they don't, every name that might hold a glimmer of hope. They find demons and alphas, consort psychics and ghosts, even call Crowley because they know heaven won't answer. They are words and threats and anger bubbling because they will get him back they will get him back. On the seventh day they find a feather pinned under their windshield. Its as long as Sam's arm, and as Dean plucks it from its hold, his fingers are met with dark blood.
The second week is spent in dust and age. They turn to books and research. They read a thousand words and then a thousand more. They learn new languages in the space of an evening in the vain hope of finding more answers hidden there. Kevin and Garth know nothing, can help with nothing, leave them with nothing. Black shapes squirm and squiggle over their vision until even the letters of their own names make little sense, but still they try because we can get him back we can get him back. On the seventh day they find a trench-coat folded neatly on the back seat. Its almost black with dirt and blood, the left arm melted and burned away.
The third week is gray, stretching on infinite. They argue until they have no breath left, argue the same idea over and over until they are coiled and fevered. And on the seventh day with no longer a blink of hesitation, Sam shoots Dean in the chest.
Thirty seconds pass.
Sam only has time to re-cock the gun before the world goes haywire. The lights explode and the ground heaves as lighting splits the sky. Dean gasps into life and an angel appears in front of them.
'Silence,' it commands, and their voices vanish.
It takes a careful step forward and speaks as though addressing a child.
'Heed us, Winchester's. There is no way you can enter heaven's gate while purposefully seeking death yourselves. If you come by natural cause, and still hold some intent of finding Castiel, we will send you away to a place darker than Earth. If you attempt to interfere whist still alive, we will punish those you love, the souls we harbour that are tied to you,' it's eyes pierce them with each new name. 'Robert Singer, Jo and Ellen Harvelle, Pamela Barnes… many more we will punish. Do not doubt what the host are willing to do. Do yourselves a favour, and do not look. You will not find. You will never succeed.'
The days melt and bleed, there is an unaccounted time where they exist only in numbness before they have to accept the inevitable; that they can't do anything. So they continue hunting. They continue their lives. They follow Naomi's orders with as much rage and malice as they can stomach, and take the only comfort they can in a cosmos of sloshing emotions by praying to Castiel.
They do it every night. Without fail. Sometimes together, sometimes alone, but always they pray. And often they wonder (or fear) that its the wrong thing to do. Whatever is happening to Cas, whatever he's suffering, maybe hearing their voices does more harm than good. The angels will know they're praying, Dean and Sam don't doubt that for a second, and maybe they'll use it against Cas, make him suffer from them, make him detest the sound of their voices and the life he can never have. And in those moments the brothers grow quiet, because if they can't even prey then theres nothing left they can do. The silence stretches on ineffable as they weigh up the possibility that the best thing to do is simply forget. For him. For them. But in the end they always break, and their steady mantra returns;
'Hey, it's us…'
Cas, it's me…'
'Its a thursday down here…'
'So, it's raining today…'
They gave up offering encouragement and empty promises, they talk instead of nothing, letting words spill out in the shape of mindless pleasantries. There's no point pretending they can ever save him, now they just talk for the selfish comfort that its the least they can do. That its the only thing they can do. And though they never say it, to each other or to Cas, they know the prayers will continue till their dying breaths.
They know they'll never stop.
Three months later and they'll never stop.
Seven months later and they'll never stop.
Eight months later and two hundred miles away, a meteor strikes the Earth.
Here we go guys!
Quote is from Psalm 91:4