Okay, well sorry for the late update but I was on a school trip to America which was pretty cool. I also did this whilst jet-lag and meaning to do revision for exams I have in less than a month. But oh well, I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
It was early afternoon when Sam decided to take a break away from the stifling atmosphere of that room; Castiel still hadn't woken up yet, and as such he had been left with Dean, who was tense as it was. Still, Sam trusted that Cas was in good hands with his brother- he never had any doubt about that. Although he was still having some difficulty comprehending how Dean could have just kicked Cas out like that. And he didn't think he could let that go so easily.
His feet brought him to their makeshift living room and he paused; the tv flickered in the corner of his eyes, a low hum of conversation drifted over to him from the set. But his mind was diverted to the gentle clattering sounds in the kitchen, and the vague smell of baking. He raised an eyebrow, but decided to enter nonetheless.
Gabriel looked up at him with a smile that seemed oblivious to the mess that was scattered around the place; chocolate wrappers were thrown haphazardly all over the counters, and there were numerous bowls which held the remnants of ice cream, and some even retained some honey and the faint residue from pancakes. The smell of baking emanating from the oven; it had the obvious aroma of a freshly baked cake. Amongst the littering of food stuffs throughout the kitchen, there were also various bottles of alcohol (empty) that protruded from seemingly random places in the cabinets, as though they had been placed there as some form of complex game that Sam couldn't even try to comprehend.
"I can't conjure food anymore." Gabriel explained in response to Sam's disapproving stare, taking another bite of chocolate that was already starting to melt and stick to his fingers and lips.
"I thought the sweet tooth thing was only a cover." Sam pointed out, leaning against one of the less messy cabinets and observing Gabriel carefully. The angel still looked a little rugged, though he seemed strangely at home amongst the piles of food. Gabriel shrugged, licking the melted chocolate off of his fingers.
"I'm a method actor." He said with a devilish grin, eyes gleaming with that same mischievous spark that was so familiar of the trickster turned angel. It made Sam vaguely uncomfortable to be at the end of that stare again and he was having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that Gabriel appeared to be on their side once more.
"I still don't understand why you faked your death." Sam said bluntly; his eyes narrowed as he scrutinised the archangel in a way that portrayed his deep-rooted suspicion. Gabriel cringed slightly, though there was a gradual acceptance that graced his features, as though he had been expecting the question to come at some point.
"Lucifer was still my brother; he always will be. I was never destined to be the one to finish him." Gabriel explained in a rare moment of seriousness. Sam stared at him for a moment, their eyes meeting briefly before Sam broke the contact.
"How did you do it?"
"An illusion within an illusion." Gabriel responded simply, fidgeting with the wrapper in his fingers. Sam raised an eyebrow, waiting for a more thorough explanation. Gabriel rolled his eyes, as though the information should have been obvious. "Double-bluff. I replicated myself; I talked to Lucifer straight on, whilst my 'clone' snuck up on him. My brother assumed that the replication was actually me so he killed the clone whilst I snuck away."
"Then why come back?" Sam asked sharply, his voice still edged with distrust though his discomposure was softer; less threatening as he learnt more about the archangel. Gabriel looked at him, scrutinising him in a way that was beyond human ability.
"When the angels fell I lost a lot of my powers, which meant I had lost some of my safety and protection. I needed to find out what had happened; my interests happened to evolve as I learnt more."
"Metatron. The spell which made the angels fall, and Castiel's part in it. It's why I helped him; if the spell can be reversed, it seems likely that Castiel will be a necessary component." Gabriel explained, turning his back on Sam momentarily as he turned to take the cake out of the oven. Sam noticed that the archangel didn't bother with oven mitts, but merely grasped the boiling baking tray with his bare hands, and seemed to have no adverse side effects to the extreme temperatures.
"What about us? Dean said you saved me immediately after the angels fell..." Sam asked, remembering the hushed conversation they had had in what was now Cas' room. That was another reason to be annoyed at Dean, but for a moment he needed to focus on Gabriel and assess whether he could trust him.
"Well...It seemed likely that you two had something to do with it; I thought it might be an advantage later on." Gabriel responded with a small shrug, his expression carefully crafted into a mask of nonchalance.
"And what about now? Why did it take you so long to make contact?"
"I was reluctant to make contact due to the extreme trust issues you two seem to have; and I must say you haven't changed much in that regards. That and the fact that I had other angels actually watching what I was doing, and I couldn't alert them to Cas' whereabouts." Gabriel explained, retrieving a spoon and eating the cake from the baking tray, as it seemed they were out of clean plates. "But I've been off the radar for a while now, so no one knows where I am. Best case scenario is that they assume I'm dead and don't bother looking."
"What about trying to reverse the spell?"
"I haven't found a way to do it. I'm starting to doubt that there even is a way; though I'm certain I would need Cas in a fit state of mind to actually perform any potential spell." Gabriel said patiently, but there was a clipped edge to his voice. Sam shifted uncomfortably at the mention of Cas' mindset, especially with the knowledge of the PTSD that they still had to deal with.
"What if the spell requires Cas to be a sacrifice; whose side would you be on then?" Sam questioned, his features hard as he awaited Gabriel's answer. Gabriel looked up at him, swallowing his mouthful of cake with deliberation. He wiped a tongue over his lips as though thinking of the answer.
"I doubt that will be the case." Gabriel said, though it was not altogether satisfactory. But Sam got the sense that it was best to drop that line of thought whilst they still somewhat needed Gabriel on their side. Yet, he made a mental note to ensure they had defences in place should Gabriel choose to turn on them.
"You said you couldn't heal Cas, but a while ago another angel managed to heal him and he had that same mark on him." Sam added, the inflection in his voice making it quite clear that he wanted a proper answer.
"Adriel." Sam said, watching as a flicker of understanding shone in Gabriel's eyes before he turned his attention back to the already half-eaten cake.
"Adriel is a virtue- an angel of healing, so to speak. Angels have multiple ranks, and there are some differences in the subgroups of angels. For most of the subgroups it is just a difference in the level of power or maybe just a different function, but with the virtues they operate on an entirely different frequency. The sigil, or rather the magic infused into the wound only blocks the frequency of the most common angelic magic, but virtues can bypass that magic due to not operating on the same frequency. It is probably possible that certain forms of non-angelic healing could bypass that sigil as well." Gabriel explained, and despite Sam's looming suspicion he couldn't help but be fascinated by the knowledge he was being gifted. There was a strange glow in Gabriel's eyes- calmer, almost more controlled. It made him seem less like a spoiled child, and more like the holy angel he was meant to be.
Sam turned his thoughts to Adriel, and wandered what the angel was currently doing. Adriel had made no attempt to contact them, and though Sam had prayed to tell him they had been unsuccessful, there had been no response. He hadn't mentioned Gabriel for obvious reasons, and he had been reluctant to mention the full extent of Cas' injuries. But with this knowledge he would try to see whether he could get Adriel to come and help them out.
Gabriel threw the now empty tray to the side, twisting his body around as he did so. As his torso turned, a wince exploded over his features and he stopped in his movement, carefully realigning his body in order to place the tray down more delicately without the need for any violent movements. Sam watched this little display, noticing how Gabriel's hand drifted to his side as though feeling for something.
"You're injured, aren't you?" Sam said, voicing the suspicions he had carried for the last day or so. Gabriel flinched slightly, and took the smallest step back, his eyes narrowing defensively. "Let me see." Sam requested, raising his hands in a form of solidarity. Gabriel observed him for a moment longer, visibly relaxing, though it seemed forced.
"There is no physical wound." Gabriel countered, his eyes scanning Sam carefully. Sam raised an eyebrow, his gaze pointedly lowering to Gabriel's abdomen where he suspected the injury to be. "I assure you that my vessel is in perfect health. It is my true form which has been damaged." Gabriel explained reluctantly just as Sam was about to voice his doubts.
"How did that happen?"
"The hunters are getting very advanced with their knowledge of angels. They know how to extract an angel from it vessel and tap into its energy." Gabriel said, leaning back against the cabinet and tapping a restless beat with his fingers, his eyes trailing over the scattered remains of food remorsefully. Sam hummed in acknowledgement, but his mind was troubled by this new information. "Is Castiel awake yet?" Gabriel asked when the silence dragged on for too long.
"No." Sam said, rubbing the back of his neck uneasily. Gabriel chewed his lips in an almost sympathetic gesture. "If Adriel can heal physical wounds, could he heal the PTSD?" Sam asked, contemplating whether this was actually a reasonable possibility. Gabriel frowned, and shook his head.
"It's too dangerous to heal mental illness; to heal you need to be able to locate the exact injury and cause, which is difficult when it comes to the mind, and you could end up doing more harm than good." Gabriel explained, effectively dashing Sam's hope for any quick cure. They delved into a silence once more, and Sam took it as his cue to leave, satisfied that for the moment Gabriel wasn't about to turn on them.
Dean rubbed the bridge of his nose, his eyes heavy with a need for sleep as he leant back in the uncomfortable chair which gave a groan of frustration at his movement. His gaze remained on Castiel, but occasionally it would flicker to the digital clock on the bedside cabinet, counting the hours that the ex-angel had remained unconscious. Each hour that went by increased his own sense of nervous energy that coiled around within him, but he regularly checked Cas' vitals and found no cause for concern.
Castiel had however been breathing quite heavily for the last hour or so, his hands clenching and unclenching into the sheets as a bead of sweat trailed down his forehead. His face was screwed tight in distress as his body trembled in his sleep, slight murmurings escaping his lips every few seconds. Dean had been tempted to wake him, but he knew that Cas needed the rest, and he wasn't moving in a way which would aggravate any of his injuries.
He glanced at the door when Sam re-entered, his face betraying nothing which would allow Dean to deduce the state of their current relationship. His eyes trailed after Sam as he sat down in the chair opposite, and opened his laptop which had been resting on the bedside cabinet. Dean looked away before Sam could notice his gaze, shifting uneasily in his chair. He knew that Sam was angry with him, and he knew that he deserved it. But he still wished that Sam would find a way to forgive him so that they could move past this.
"You should get some sleep." Sam commented, not looking away from his laptop. Dean hummed, but made no attempt to listen to the advice. His brother didn't mention it again, but merely returned to typing on his laptop. There hadn't been any concern in his voice, merely the tones of a stranger relaying facts. Dean sighed, his gaze drifting back down to Cas.
"He's still having nightmares." He pointed out. Sam looked up briefly, pausing in what he was doing.
"It's a symptom of PTSD."
"He doesn't have it." He retaliated, despite the signs which pointed that way. Sam furrowed his brows, a look of frustration shadowing his features.
"Why is this so hard for you to believe?"
"Because he's not insane. I mean, he isn't acting any different, he's just Cas." Dean responded, struggling to express his reasoning. He knew what people with PTSD were like; they were irrational, angry and aggressive, yet down-right scared of everything. His dad had worked with the marines, had seen men develop the disorder and he had told them what it was like. They were crazy cowards as his dad said; Cas definitely wasn't like that.
"What the hell do you expect him to act like?" Sam all-but yelled in his exasperation, his voice only managing to stay low due to the fact that Cas was still in the room. Dean grinded his teeth together, sensing Sam's anger about to reawaken.
"I don't know!" Dean growled back, leaning forward in his chair. "But people with PTSD don't act like him."
"You don't know anyone with it." Sam hissed back, his eyes shining with rage. Dean chewed his lips, his own eyes narrowed. "Your knowledge comes from ignorant stigma." Sam continued when Dean failed to respond.
"And where does your knowledge come from?" Dean asked, a touch of anger to his voice.
"Medical websites, Dean. Actual, true information." Sam responded, straightening his back with a note of arrogance as though he had successfully won the argument. Which he probably had, because Dean didn't know what to say anymore. But still, his own stubbornness kept him glaring at his brother as though unsatisfied. "Either way, we're going to have to talk to him about it." Sam added in a softer voice, chewing on his lips.
"Yeah, I know." Dean agreed with a troubled frown. "Don't know what we're meant to say though."
"It would help if you acknowledge that he's actually ill." Sam pointed out, causing Dean to internally groan with frustration. Why couldn't his brother just drop it? "Dean, he fits the criteria."
"Perhaps. But why would he develop it? We never did." He asked, his thoughts still troubled. Castiel was not weaker than them in any way, so why would he develop it instead of them, when they had all been through so much?
"It's an illness Dean. It's like asking why someone develops cancer." Sam responded, his voice significantly calmer now and with a greater deal of patience. Dean hummed in agreement, though he was still unsatisfied about this whole thing.
"What symptoms does he have then?" Dean forced himself to say, coming to the conclusion that this was now a very real possibility and he couldn't keep denying it. Sam blinked, his face softening with a sense of relieved gratitude.
"The main ones are panic attacks and nightmares; they're the ones we can see externally at least. That might include flashbacks, but I wouldn't know for sure without asking him. I would argue that he is hypervigilant, and that he is avoidant of the event considering the fact he failed to mention anything about it. The rest would be emotional so it's up to him to tell us." Sam explained, coming to stand beside him with the laptop which was opened to a page about PTSD. Dean's eyes flickered over the words, feeling considerably tense as he started to notice some patterns.
"He's been quite irritable at times as well as restless." Dean admitted, his mind flickering through all of the experiences he had with Cas, and trying to pinpoint the ones which seemed disordered in light of this new information. There was quite a lot. In fact, there had been multiple times where Cas had startled- not entering a panic attack, but jumping nonetheless- at loud noises, or when people had accidentally managed to sneak up on him. It didn't happen often, because Castiel was often fully aware of what was around him, but that once more linked quite strongly to the possibility of PTSD.
"Dad always said PTSD only happens to cowards..." Dean muttered, staring down at Castiel who was still lost in the throes of sleep. Sam glanced at him, running a tongue over his lips.
"Dad said a lot of things that were never true." Sam reasoned, his voice quieter as they wandered over into that dangerous territory of which they never spoke. Dean grunted in agreement, his lips twisting into something that mimicked a smile. "Dean, he wasn't exactly the most open-minded in regards to mental health. He didn't even believe in depression or anxiety. You can't believe everything he said."
"I know." Dean sighed. "But I can't help linking it to what he said, even though none of that applies to Cas." Dean admitted, wringing his hands together nervously. His dad had always believed it was a matter of just getting over it, working on the assumption that if he could manage after the life he led, than so could everyone else. But his entire life had shown him that his dad's judgement had been flawed in many ways, and Sam was right. He needed to distance himself from that belief, but he couldn't completely shake off the preconceived notion.
"Dean, we can't help him if we don't accept the facts." Sam stressed, a hint of desperation to his voice. Dean stared at Castiel, letting the words wash over him. But he knew that Sam was right.
"Alright. He has post-traumatic-stress-disorder." Dean accepted, rolling the words around his mouth as though it would let him fully comprehend the situation. But it didn't; the whole thing still seemed so overwhelmingly wrong.
Castiel awoke quite suddenly; his chest heaved, and his eyes shot open with a sharp inhale. He blinked the sleep from his eyes, wearily looking around his surroundings as his limbs groggily returned to life. The lingering sense of fear that accompanied his nightmares remained with him for a while, refusing to fully dissipate until he was able to become aware of his surroundings and assess his relative safety.
He turned onto his back, grimacing slightly at the pressure which was applied to his wounds which throbbed in complaint. He lowered the cover, and loosened its tight grip around his body which was far too restricting. He became aware of movement to his side, and shifted away from it, his gaze coming to rest warily on the two Winchesters who stood beside him with concerned faces.
"Hey Cas." Dean greeted with a smile, but his voice was tight with tension. Castiel blinked, tilting his head as he observed the hunter. His gaze drifted to Sam who shifted uneasily beside his brother, but mumbled his own greetings. He frowned, aware of the strained atmosphere immediately.
"What happened?" He grumbled, the events of the last few days catching up with him. Dean hadn't fully explained anything at the time, and he was still lacking some vital information. The brothers shared a look which Cas did not understand.
"Gabriel has been helping us; he told us that you got captured. Apparently you helped him out as well and he was repaying a favour. We managed to get you out, but he couldn't heal you." Dean explained, though Castiel got the sense that it was the shortened version of events. He furrowed his brows, unaware of actually helping Gabriel, or even meeting him during his imprisonment. Unless Gabriel had been amongst the angels who had been trapped without vessels. That was actually quite likely now he thought about it.
"I thought you were angry?" He questioned, struggling into an elevated position in order to observe Dean. He still didn't understand why the brothers had helped him after what he had done. But Dean rubbed the back of his neck with his hand, averting his eyes in a shameful droop of the head. Sam on the other hand turned to glare at his brother, his lips pursed in expectation of Dean's answer.
"No. I misunderstood the situation; I was wrong to do what I did. I'm sorry." Dean garbled, though his gaze met Castiel, expressing his sincerity. Though he still didn't fully comprehend what Dean meant, and his features scrunched up in his confusion.
"I don't understand." He admitted with a frown, glancing between the two brothers. Dean chewed on his lips, and sent a look towards Sam, who seemed equally concerned. Castiel felt a cold pit of anxiety start to engulf him, and he sat up, a distinct sense of foreboding settling over him. "What is it?"
"Cas, we know what happened." Dean said, his voice controlled but underlined with a gruff edge. Castiel blinked at him, and looked towards Sam for a better explanation.
"Gabriel told us what happened immediately after the angels fell. He showed us everything that happened when you got tortured. He was the one that rescued you." Sam explained, his brows lowered in sympathy. But Cas' whole body had seized up, his mouth going completely dry as he felt his heart start to pound within him.
"He told us you have post-traumatic-stress-disorder." Dean added, but Cas couldn't understand the words. He was too busy trying to keep his body under control. The muscles in his face twitched, trying to morph into an expression of anguish, but he forced back control, trying to keep his trembling bottom lip steady. He looked away, breathing heavily under their gazes which were too penetrating. He felt exposed; he needed them to look away. He needed to get away, to escape. To be alone. They were still talking, but the sounds were distorted and did not force their way through the fog which had engulfed his mind.
There was something lodged in his throat. It was suffocating. He couldn't breathe. His heart continued to pound, each beat seeming to tear his chest apart as he struggled for air which he just couldn't seem to get. His breath hitched in a notable way, and he felt their gazes sharpen on him, and he wanted to squirm away. Shame exploded throughout his body, intensifying the need to escape. Tremors wrecked his body, despite how tightly he was gripping the sheets to keep from shaking.
They were still staring at him; maybe they were still speaking, but he didn't know anymore. He was just trying to breathe. His gaze was blurring and he panicked, feeling like he was going to drown. But he was so exposed; so vulnerable to attack. He couldn't tell friend from foe, there was just fear pounding through his system, and sweeping away his surroundings. Someone touched him on his arm, and his whole body imploded, mind swept into overdrive, certain that he was once more under attack.
"Get off!" He yelled, his voice shattering as it rebounded around the room, much louder than he had ever shouted before. His throat burnt in protest, and he struggled to breathe through it as he hurriedly scrambled away. The hand shied away, but it still hovered too close; its touch teased over his skin which was ignited by the vague sensation. He growled, his chest reverberating in his anger and he yanked the hand away, his nails digging into the skin in a painfully cruel, yet amazingly satisfying way.
He scrambled off of the bed, landing on the ground with a thump but not caring for the way it sent a dull burn through his body. There was a burst of movement from beside him, and he struggled away even further, but then there were hands on him again. A voice which was trying to be soothing, but failing under the weight of his anxiety tried to get his attention, but he couldn't listen. There were hands on his wrists, gripping him in a way that severely limited his movements and left him completely constrained and vulnerable. They were trying to pull him up- something about wounds being torn- but he fought against it with the desperation of a dying man.
He was dragged up, but he yanked back, managing to break free off the grip, but he only ended up falling back into the bedside cabinet; the edge of it connected viciously with his shoulder blade. His whole body trembled, and he pressed himself further against the cabinet as he sensed hands reaching for him again. Someone was crouching in front of him, but he closed his eyes, blocking out the words which told him he was safe.
There was a gust of wind, and a familiar flutter of feathers which sent him into another spiral of panic. Angels were here for him. He squirmed away, abandoning the false safety of the cabinet in favour of just getting away. He dragged himself to his feet despite his trembling legs and the pain which engulfed his feet, and tried to run, but he was blind as to where to go, too terrified to even open his eyes.
He merely ended up crashing into someone, and they took the chance to tightly grip him around the waist, preventing him from being able to escape. He clawed at the figure, trying to break free, adrenaline pumping through his body but unable to do anything to help him. There was another voice next to his ear, but he shied away, flinching at the sound, soft as it may be. The voice stopped, but the grip remained unrelenting.
There were voices behind him, and his back seemed to shiver in fearful anticipation as he felt them come nearer. He lashed out again when a hand gripped his head, exposing his neck, already knowing what was to come, and desperate to fight against it. But he couldn't move when he felt the needle pierce his soft flesh, feeling the bitterly cool liquid enter his bloodstream.
He cried out something incomprehensible, his words lost behind a sob as he fell into the figure holding him, the remaining energy evaporating from his body as the drug took hold. There was a hand stroking through his hair now, and he tried to squirm away from the touch, but the figure was enveloping his entire body. He knees collapsed beneath him, but the figure gently lowered him, but not enough to let him touch the ground. He tightly gripped the figure's clothing, trying to tug and pull at it, but his limbs were no longer responding as his entire mind slowed to a halt, throwing him into that terrible black void of unconsciousness.