Author's Note

This idea has been bothering me since the scene in 8x17 Goodbye Stranger when Castiel is ordered to kill Dean, but he manages to stop himself in the last minute. My imagination came up with an idea of what he could have done instead.

Summary: Torn between obedience and loyalty, Castiel has to choose a side, but disobedience comes with a price he may not be ready to pay.

Story type: strictly canon, no slash etc. Hurt/Comfort, which means a reasonable amount of angel whump. Bear with me.

Characters: Castiel, Dean, Naomi

Warnings: May contain coarse language, but nothing worse than Dean's usual manners.

Disclaimer: Guess what, I don't own Supernatural.


Sanctus Espiritus, redeem us from our solemn hour

Sanctus Espiritus, insanity is all around us

Sanctus Espiritus, is this what we deserve, can we break free

From chains of never ending agony?

– Part 1 –

"Bring me the tablet!"

Naomi's words keep echoing in his mind; everlasting, cruel words. They are orbiting tenaciously around the spot where Castiel is standing, blade frozen in his hand, in a whirlwind of time. He is both here and there; Naomi's office and Lucifer's crypt at the same time and feels reality shattering around him.

His reality.

In front of him is a horrible yet familiar image; a beaten, bloodied Dean Winchester shaking on the ground, one arm lifted in front of his face trying to protect himself, the other one hanging limply and uselessly beside him. It looks broken, and Castiel vaguely remembers breaking it with one graceful twist of his hand, though the memory is hazy and distant, as if it was not his own. Different words creep into his resisting mind, stifling Naomi's temporarily; words coming from another person, words Castiel unsurely feels he can hold onto.

"We're family. We need you. I need you."

Words of a pleading man, but the pleas are not meant to beg for sparing a life. There is no selfish fear in them, there is a different kind of fear; a fear for losing someone. Fear for losing him.

Castiel staggers mentally. He has done it a thousand times back there; a thousand punches, a thousand sweeps of arm, a thousand dead Deans. A thousand scars on his soul that he has managed to cover when his boss was watching. And yet he stands here and hesitates, because something holds his will back upon hearing the word family. Killing someone who is your family is just simply, plainly wrong. This is the law of God, and that is more powerful than anything.

An eternity passes.

"You have to choose, Castiel – us or them!"

The compelling voice hammers ruthlessly against his mind, and he is violently pulled back to himself. Naomi orders, Naomi commands, Naomi makes him do it. The blade holding arm stirs; his body wants to obey before his mind does, and yet he still can't bring himself to act. Dean's eye, the one that is not swollen thanks to his beating, is locking with his, and it's full of untold stories. Castiel blinks; the fingers around the hilt of the sword loosen a bit.

You have to choose –

The fingers tighten again, and Castiel feels like being torn apart. He can't fight it. She is way stronger than him, and she will have what she wants eventually, no matter how hard he tries. And he is trying now. He has seen a thousand dead Deans; now he can't seem to bear the sight of one more.

The hand trembles and starts moving downwards. Castiel stares at it aversely, as if it was not a part of his body, and he is unsure of whether it is actually him that makes the blade descend. He knows he has to stop it before it kills his friend against his will.

And has to obey at the same time.

Us or them!

The pressure reaches an unbearable level, and it is only a heartbeat later when Castiel realizes that he has lost. He is unable to make this choice. He can't make it, because either way he chooses, he will lose. But the urge to obey and the urge not to are now equally strong in him, and he can't stop them anymore. He needs to stab. He also needs to save.

It all happens in the blink of an eye, but to him it feels like forever. The blade changes direction mid-air, and on the edge of breakdown, using up the last of his composure, Castiel drives the sword into himself.


"Cas!"

An eerie, screeching sound is heard, light bursts out and sparkles erupt all around in the crypt. Something cracks behind his eyes, followed by a sudden, blinding pain in his skull. Castiel stumbles backwards and collapses, eyes squeezing shut and back falling heavily against the stone wall. Somewhere in the depths of his tormented mind he swears he can hear Naomi scream for a brief moment before silence descends on him.

"Cas!"

A horrified cry flies up somewhere near him, but he is not sure it is not only his ears ringing. His hand that has been still holding the sword – something he has been unaware of until now – lets go and sinks sluggishly into his lap. He is panting, and he is dying, but he almost cracks a triumphant smile because he can finally feel the intoxicating sensation of liberation. Whatever he did, it has torn Naomi away from him, pushed her aside, made her will disappear from his mind. Castiel feels something strange and it is physical this time; a single tear, probably of joy, escapes his right eye and gutters down along his nose.

"Cas, what the hell?"

The person who has cried earlier finally reaches him, grabs him, forces him to look at them. It takes seconds for Castiel to recognize Dean; not only because of his beaten up face and swollen eye, but because time has seemingly slowed down for him and his dazed senses refuse to cooperate. Dean is rambling about something but the angel can barely follow over the stunned feeling of cleanliness and freedom.

And pain.

"You in there? What's wrong with you?"

The voice finally manages to break through the fog clouding his mind; Dean is already fumbling with the hilt of the sword still embedded in the angel's left shoulder. Castiel is unable to answer him, just looks on with mild interest, panting slightly, though he feels a hint of surprise as he is fairly convinced he has been aiming for the heart. It seems like Dean is preparing to pull the blade out; he has taken off his jacket and tucked it around the weapon, although he is in obvious agony due to his broken arm. Castiel's heart sinks with regret.

"Stay still Cas, I'm going to pull it out on three, okay? One… two… three…"

"I'm sorry Dean." Castiel manages to rasp out, ignoring the counting, his voice barely above a whisper. He fixes his gaze onto Dean's face and their eyes lock. Dean's expression is rigid, unyielding, frozen in a mixture of pain and desperation. He does not answer, just tries to hold jacket and angel in place with his injured arm and starts pulling the sword out.

Castiel's body tenses involuntarily, his vision swims and his heels dig in the ground, but his right hand finds its way to the hunter's arm, groping up to his shoulder and neck, until it reaches the side of his face.

And then while the blade is still being extracted, Castiel gathers power from the pain and lets his grace flow free like a warm river through his arm and into Dean kneeling above him, healing all his injuries. As the cuts and bruises and bloody smudges disappear and the swelling above the eye subsides, revealing the old features of the familiar face, Castiel holds Dean's gaze all the while and refuses to let go. Only when the tip of the sword has come out of his shoulder and the last wound has vanished from the hunter's face does he let his arm fall down tiredly and his eyes close.

Sharp pain in his shoulder yanks him back to the cold reality of the crypt, but for the first time in the past minutes, Castiel can feel his mind clear. He blinks and pants and feels more teardrops flow from his eye, and looking up he finds the newly healed Dean, pushing fabric against the stab wound that is throbbing and bleeding and shining –

"I'm so sorry Dean."

"What the hell just happened?" The hunter bursts out. "What's wrong with your eye?"

Castiel doesn't understand. He summons up some more strength to reach up to his face where he feels the wetness of tears still pouring from his right eye. When his hand comes away, there is blood on his fingers and he winces at the sudden memory of a long, sharp metal object closing in on his face.

"It's Naomi," he says simply.

"Who is she?"

"An angel of higher ranks. She was the one who rescued me from Purgatory. She demanded… obedience and I couldn't deny… I didn't even remember her when I was down here."

Castiel is struggling with the words. He barely understands himself what has been happening to him in the past months, and he can't even come close to accurately describing the feeling. It is like waking up from a deep, long coma, at least he guesses it must be like that.

Dean also looks confused and a little lost, but lets the angel gather his thoughts, urging the process with pushing down on the wound even harder. Castiel inhales sharply.

"So this Naomi has been controlling you since she got you out of Purgatory?"

"Yeah."

"What broke the connection?"

"I don't know," Castiel breathes and shakes his head weakly. "But she'll be back… she'll be back for me."

He grabs the side of Dean's arm, because he has to say something important; more important than him almost dying, more important than almost killing his friend.

"Whoa, easy there, Cas," Dean is trying to calm him down, sensing the agitation that has suddenly arisen in the angel. "Don't move, you're bleeding heavily and I have a feeling you won't fix it as smoothly as you fixed me–"

"You have to get out of here." Castiel's voice is low but determination glints deep in his eyes. "She can't find you here. She won't find you if you leave now, she can only get to me. Take the tablet to Kevin, have him decipher it. Don't let anyone else touch it!"

The long talk exhausts him; he lets himself fall back against the uncomfortable hardness of the wall, panting heavily. Dean should be leaving, he should be grabbing his brother and running, but just like he feared, that stubborn righteous man is still kneeling there, having not moved an inch. Castiel can already hear his stupid words that deep down he always knew he was going to hear.

"I'm not leaving you here."

"Dean," he pleads and hopes the hunter will miraculously understand that Naomi can be here any moment; that there is no time to waste.

"I'm not arguing about that. You just tore yourself away from some crazy bastard controlling you by nearly killing yourself. There is no freaking way I'm leaving you here."

Castiel shakes his head and tries to push him away and make him leave already. "You don't understand. She can't have the tablet. It's more important than me."

"Bullshit," Dean interrupts him. "We're getting up and go back for Sam."

He lifts his hands briefly from where he has been pressing down on the angel's shoulder, his efforts of trying to stop the bleeding proving to have had little effect. Bluish white light is still beaming through the hole in the tan trench coat and blood continues to seep freely the moment his hands are taken away. And a split of a second is all Castiel needs.

He looks up, meeting Dean's eyes once more and mutters "I'm sorry Dean," before summoning up what it feels like the very last of his strength, unfolding his wings and hurling himself away in a wild rush of feathers.


A/N: Okay, that's all I thought of in the first place. But I'm starting to think I really can't leave it like that. What do you think? Should I continue? Please leave a review!

Song quote at the beginning is from Our Solemn Hour by Within Temptation. Go listen to it, and have a nice day,

FFV