Chapter One

Considering that Dean was pretty sure he still had those nifty Enochian symbols stenciled onto his ribs, he couldn't be blamed, at all, for the less than manly shriek he'd let out when not one, but two angels of the Lord appeared behind him. His heart was hammering wildly in his chest, but it picked up double time when he realized Cas was slumped against the side of a - last he'd heard - dead arch-angel.

"Well, don't just stand there Dean-o," the pain in the ass former Trickster snapped impatiently. "Cassie here might have the lithe body of a prima ballerina, but he's still dead weight at the moment."

"What the hell happened," Dean demanded, grabbing Cas' other arm and draping it over his shoulder. He shifted slightly and the unconscious angel's head flopped into the crook of his neck. Unnerved by this show frailty, Dean bit out sharply, "Come on, let's put him on the bed."

"You're just full of fabulously innovative ideas," Gabriel answered back with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. "And here I was thinking you were nothing but a brainless, low-browed Neanderthal."

Dean gritted his teeth angrily, but said nothing because right now he was more concerned about Cas than he was about the asshat giving him shit. They reached the bed in less than two strides at which point Gabriel basically flung the other angel at him. Dean staggered briefly, swearing colorfully and mumbling about asshole angels and their asshole agendas and their serious asshole assholedness.

Dean laid the unconscious Cas out on the bed as gently as he could, alarmed by the sickly pallor of his friend's face. Yeah sure, Cas was generally on the pale side, but nothing like this.

"What happened," he asked again, tearing his eyes away from the fallen angel and glowering angrily at the other one who was casually stripping a wrapper from a candy bar.

"Dunno," Gabriel managed to get out around a mouth full of Snickers, "but, I have my suspicions."

Running a hand through his hair, Dean asked with a worried frown, "Is he gonna be okay?"

Shrugging his shoulders, the angel mumbled another cavalier, "Dunno," as he chewed and rolled the candy around in his bulging cheeks.

"Do you know anything," Dean snapped, pretty pissed with this shit-heads attitude.

Gabriel's eyes narrowed dangerously at Dean's tone, and while it was sorta nerve wracking Dean wasn't one to cower whether he was facing off against a demon or an angel. Sure, this particular angel had killed him a trillion times over in order to get a message across to Sammy. Sure, he'd zapped them both into Prime Time Purgatory Pleasantville style. Dean Winchester did not give a damn how powerful he was because when you got right down to it, Gabriel was still nothing but a dick and dicks did not deserve respect.

Pinning Dean with a dark look, Gabriel swallowed his mouthful and said, "I wasn't there when it happened, you moron." Dean's brow drew together in a tight knot. "I heard Cassie call for me, and since I had nothing better to do, I answered it. He looked like hell when I got there, but he was still conscious. Passed out on me during transit, and let me tell you, there's nothing more difficult than lugging around an angel meat suit while you're bending space and time especially as it was Cassie here who set the Delorean's flux capacitor to this destination. It's a miracle we both made it here in one piece."

Dean glanced down at Cas once more. "Why's he look so awful?"

Reaching in his pocket, Gabriel pulled out a handful of Rolos and began to peel away the gold foil of one before saying matter-of-factly, "Well, if I had to take a wild stab in the dark, I'd say his Grace has been compromised."

"What," Dean bit out, baffled.

"His Grace… His angel mojo, isn't that what you call it?" Dean nodded. "Poor Cassie, clearly he was put through the ringer." Chewing thoughtfully, he added, "I'd guess it had to have been at least five of 'em to do so much damage cause Cassie's no slouch when it comes to fighting; the little guys pretty fierce."

"Are you tellen' me that Cas took on five angels by himself," Dean asked, incredulous.

"Exactamundo, Dean-o," was Gabriel's blithe reply. If that was the case, Dean was wondering how in the hell Cas was in even here and not off somewhere in the great unknown with his wings burnt to a crisp.

Gesturing toward the bed with his finger, the former Trickster went on to say, "If you pull Cassie's flasher attire aside, you'll see what tangling with several sharp objects wielded by a bunch of religious zealots'll get ya."

Dean's eyes widened. "He's been wounded by angel swords?"

Gabriel stopped mid chew, giving Dean a 'are you for real' look before saying, "Well, duh. It does happen to be my bro-bros weapon of choice." Taking another bite of his candy bar, he mumbled, "Good thing you're pretty cause you won't get far in life with that damaged noodle of yours."

"Damn it all to hell," Dean muttered in frustration before sitting on the edge of the bed and reaching for the lapel of Cas' trench coat. Pulling it back, Dean let out a hiss. Crap, this looked really bad. "Why didn't you heal him," Dean demanded without taking his eyes off of the blue, iridescent light streaming from no less than ten wounds of varying size.

"Listen, beetle-dung for brains," Gabriel snapped hatefully, "I tried, but for some reason it didn't work. Which gave me the notion that Cassie here isn't sporting your run of the mill boo-boos, that and the fact that his Grace should have started healing him by now, which in case you haven't noticed, isn't happening." Casting his gaze around the room, he wondered aloud, "Speaking of brains, where's the Moose?"

"Out," Dean bit out tersely while loosening the knot of Cas' blue tie so that he could get to the buttons of the formerly white dress shirt. There was a shit-load of blood mixed with all that blue light, and Dean was worried out of his skull. If what Gabriel said was true, and Cas couldn't heal himself, and the arch-angel couldn't either then they were definitely dealing with something unknown.

Gabriel rolled his eyes again even though Dean's attention was on his injured brother. "Clearly," he remarked, throwing more gold colored paper over his shoulder. "Y'know I realize that conversation isn't your forte, but the least you could do is give me a more verbose answer than that." Then, that dick totally unnerved Dean by adding, "I kinda like Gigantor."

"Stay away from my brother, jack-ass," Dean ordered as slipped the last plastic disc from its hole. "Christ almighty," he exclaimed on seeing the damage done to Cas' torso. Running his hand along the back of his neck, he asked in a voice that shook, "Is he gonna die?"

For the first time, Dean detected a note of sympathy when Gabriel said, "Probably, we seldom recover from that much damage without the assistance of our Grace. To be honest, I'm surprised that he's lasted this long."

"Cas isn't like the rest of your asshat family," Dean informed the arch-angel with unmistakable pride. Reaching under the bed, he pulled out the first-aid kit he and Sam had fashioned from an old tackle box. Flipping it open he blindly reached for, and found, a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Sam was out gathering up supplies which included beer and whiskey as Dean'd finished off the last of both last night otherwise he'd be dumping cheap scotch on the guy. "Cas," he whispered to the unconscious angel. "Come on, buddy," he said more loudly, gently slapping his face.

Dean was rewarded with a slight moan and a fluttering of lashes. "Dean?" Cas' voice sounded strangled, the thin line of blood escaping down the side of his mouth was major worrisome cause that could mean only one thing; massive internal damage.

Dean put on a brave face and twisted his lips into cocky grin before saying, "In the flesh, dude." In what he hoped was a casual gesture, Dean used his thumb to wipe away the streak of red, then cupped Cas' cheek with his hand. "I'm gonna fix you up good as new," he proclaimed with a certainty that he was far from feeling.

Cas smiled weakly, leaning into Dean's palm, taking comfort from his touch and whispered, "I think that's highly unlikely, my friend. I'm much too dama…"

"Shut up, Cas," Dean interrupted brusquely, his brows lowering into a frown. "I don't wanna hear that crap from you; have a little faith, man." Which was kinda ironic coming from him, but a negative attitude wasn't gonna help the situation any.

Cas' pain filled eyes closed briefly, before settling back on Dean with new-found determination; blue eyes blazing. "My faith in you, Dean Winchester has never wavered, not once. It's been the only true constant in my life." Dean swallowed hard, fighting the burning sensation behind his eyes. "I will carry that belief to wherever it is that I go after my demise."

"Damn you, Cas," Dean growled, gripping his face with both hands now, "shut the fuck up with that dying bullshit!" He willed with his eyes, with all of his might, for Cas to believe what he was saying. That he wasn't gonna die. That he could be saved and most importantly that Dean needed Cas to survive this!

Placing his hand over Dean's, Cas squeezed it reassuringly before saying, "As you wish."

It wasn't much of an admission, but it was enough for Dean and he latched onto like a life-line. "That's better," Dean said gruffly, releasing his hold on Cas' face, before adding, "Now, this is going to sting some." As he held the rubbing alcohol up, Cas gave him a nod which Dean took as the okay to continue. "Here we go."

The agonized groans and whimpers that followed the repeated pouring of alcohol tore Dean's guts apart more thoroughly and gruesomely than any Hellhound ever could've. Knowing that it was a necessary step did nothing to assuage his guilt at causing the angel such excruciating pain, and he was probably almost as thankful as Cas when he was finally done.

"You're doing great," Dean assured the shivering angel with a small smile of encouragement as he carefully used a square piece of gauze to remove the surplus liquid. "I'm just gonna stitch you up now."

"It won't do any good," came a voice from behind Dean.

He'd totally forgotten that the other angel was even there. Glancing back, Dean saw that Gabriel'd decided to make himself comfortable in one of the two chairs in the room. He was slouched low in the seat, one leg crossed over the other, his foot bopping up and down as if sitting still was an impossibility for the douche bag.

"If you aren't gonna help, then shut the fuck up," Dean snarled.

"I am trying to help," Gabriel declared snidely.

Dean snorted in disbelief and reached into the kit for needle and thread. He did not have time to indulge in verbal sparring, not when Cas was shaking as if he'd just been pulled outta the Artic ocean; the covers beneath him drenched with a messy mixture of sweat, blood, and rubbing alcohol and Dean ignored the fact that it had started to seep through the material of his jeans.

"Listen up shit for brains," Gabriel snapped at Dean's back. "You can embroider away at Cassie's meat suit all you want, but it won't make a bit of difference because the real damage is to his Grace."

"Dean," Cas whispered hoarsely, "he's right." When no answer was forthcoming, Cas made a weak grab at his friend who was concentrating on pushing thread through the narrow eye of the needle. "S…stop," he stuttered, exhaustion written all over his strained features. "Just, let me go." Cas slumped back, eyelids standing at half-mast over quickly dimming, dull blue eyes.

Sparing a glance back over his shoulder once more, Dean questioned urgently, "There's really nothing you can do?"

Pursing his lips, Gabriel shook his head from side-to-side before saying in a broken voice, "I'm sorry."

Dean's heart clenched up so tight in his chest that the pain was damned near crippling. He let out an agonized, inarticulate cry that shook even the implacable Gabriel, before screaming at the ceiling. "You goddamned fucken' bastard! He never stopped believing in you! Did his best to do whatever the hell he thought you'd want him to, and this is what he gets?!" Dean cleared the bedside table with one swoop of his arm, the base of the lamp shattering as it hit the floor, books and papers flying haphazardly through the air. "You fucken' don't deserve his loyalty!" Dropping to his knees, Dean did the one thing he swore he'd never do; he prayed.


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