Dean wondered just how long the angel had been standing in front of the window, watching. He was glad that Sam was asleep; he wasn't sure what his brother's reaction would have been upon seeing their former friend.
Dean stared speechlessly at the angel for a moment. He didn't know whether he wanted to hug Castiel or punch his lights out.
He looks smaller without that trench coat; Dean thought and bit down on his knuckles to quell the hysterical laughter threatening to bubble up between his pursed lips. Beside him, Sam shifted on the bed, curling himself tighter. Dean brushed his brother's long bangs away from his face, frowning at the dark circles beneath Sam's eyes.
"Why are you here?" Dean hissed, glaring at the angel.
"I came to apologize-" Castiel began in his gravelly tone but Dean stood abruptly and headed for the doorway, stepping out into the hallway.
The angel tilted his head a second and then followed the human. Dean waited until Cas was facing him before closing the bedroom door.
"What the fuck do you want with us?" Dean demanded, his voice still quiet but angry all the same.
Castiel's shoulders slumped, "I want to apologize for what I did to you… for what I did to you and Sam."
Dean folded his arms across his chest but did not reply.
"I know I did some terrible things, things that I would never normally do and I want to… need to make it up to you," Cas told Dean, his blue eyes wide and almost childlike in their sincerity.
"What do you want me to say, Cas? Do you want us to hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya' and reminisce about old times? Do you want me to say I forgive you?" Dean spoke the last three words with such loathing in his voice that even the angel cringed.
"If that is what you want-" The angel began; not recognizing the sarcasm in the human's voice but Dean stopped him as he barked a laugh.
"I don't want your apologies, Castiel," Dean snapped, using the angel's full name, something he had not done in a long time, "What good does it do to tell me how sorry you are, how you know you fucked up and come sniveling back like you want me to just forget everything that's happened?"
"I can see you are upset-" Castiel pointed out but Dean cut him off again.
"No shit, Sherlock!" Dean raised a hand to his brow and rubbed his face, "I don't care what you did to me. I'll live, I'm a big boy and I can handle it but what I can't forgive is what you did to Sam."
The angel's eyes dropped to the floor.
"God damn it, Cas! You destroyed him… you ruined him," Dean exclaimed and Cas looked up to see tears gathering in the human's hazel eyes.
Cas struck up the courage to ask Dean the question that had been troubling him since he had seen Sam practically bedridden:
"Has it been like this since I… since the wall came down?"
Dean shook his head, "He was hanging in there for a while… it wasn't too bad. Nothing we couldn't deal with but then Bobby died and… and…"
Dean didn't finish but Cas knew the end. The stress of Robert Singer's death had been too much for the younger Winchester and the memories of Hell he'd been holding back had found a chink in his armour.
Cas shifted and Dean's sharp-eyed gaze pinned him. The angel had never felt so uncomfortable under a human's scrutiny before and he hated it.
"Okay, so you've apologized now leave us alone," Dean sounded exasperated. His eyes roved to the closed bedroom door, his worry for his brother clearly visible on his face.
"Dean, please-" Cas began but swallowed the rest of the sentence when he saw the look on Dean's face- a look not so different from the one that crossed the hunter's features moments before he killed a demon or monster.
"I've heard just about as much as I want to from you," Dean growled.
Cas watched the hunter's hands clench into fists convulsively.
"Has anything helped?" Cas said softly knowing Dean would understand.
The human blinked and sighed. He felt his heart clench in his chest with the now-familiar feeling of fear and guilt.
"No," Dean answered, his voice sounding wasted.
Castiel nodded in sympathy.
"Have you thought about taking him to a hospital?" The angel asked.
Dean glowered, "The day I stick Sam in a psych ward is the day Dick Roman and I become Facebook friends!"
Castiel had no idea what Dean was talking about but decided it would be best time for him not to ask.
"Besides, Sammy's not getting any worse. I can take care of him… I have been taking care of him. I understand what he's going through and anybody else would just over-medicate him or give him a lobotomy or something," Dean's anger was wearing thin. He was just too damn tired to stay angry these days, even at the angel who'd betrayed his brother.
Castiel tilted his head, "Do you really, Dean? Do you really understand what is happening to Sam, inside his head?"
"Hell! That's what's happening! Sam thinks he's back there half the time and the other half he just stares into space… or has seizures or… or…" Dean took a deep shuddering breath, "Or he has horrible nightmares."
Castiel wanted to say something comforting, something encouraging but he wasn't sure it would be appropriate.
"What do you want Cas?" Dean asked, "You've seen the consequences of your actions so why don't you just leave us alone, okay?"
"I truly am sorry, Dean," the angel ventured, "I regret what I did to your brother."
Dean smirked sadly, "Well, if only that made it all better."
Cas hung his head in shame. He didn't know what had been going through his mind when he had decided to destroy the only thing keeping Sam's memories of Hell at bay. He hadn't been thinking straight, hadn't been thinking about the young man he was about to hurt. He had only been concerned with the power that he would gain from the souls trapped within Purgatory.
The angel looked up to see that he was alone in the hallway- Dean had returned to the bedroom- and willed himself invisible as he moved to the doorway to watch the two Winchesters.
Sam was sitting up, eyes wide and terrified, his fingers twisted in the fabric of Dean's shirt. The older brother had one hand on Sam's back and the other on his head, leaning close to his younger sibling.
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean soothed and Cas heard the desperation in the young man's voice.
"I'm here," Dean whispered, "I've got you."
Tears leaked down Sam's cheeks and he buried his face into his brother's shoulder.
Cas quickly retreated to the hall, one hand going to his mouth in a very human gesture.
Oh Father, what have I done?
Dean looked up tiredly as he walked into the kitchen and saw that Cas hadn't left, that the angel was currently sitting at the table, a contrite look on his face. Without saying anything to his former friend, Dean checked the coffee pot and sighed when he saw that it was empty, not recalling when he had finished it. Preparing a new batch, Dean kept his back to the angel as the wheels in his head turned.
If Cas was strong enough to pop into Rufus' cabin and spy on them for however long, than surely to God he had enough juice to heal. Dean didn't know how Cas had survived the Leviathans bursting from his vessel like a bad horror movie effect and he wasn't about to ask but if the angel was here maybe he could do something other than tell them how sorry he was.
"Can't you just use your angel mojo and fix him? Build Death's wall back up again or make Sammy forget?" Dean demanded; he wanted the angel to repair what he'd broken. The eldest Winchester poured himself a large mug of coffee once the pot was full and sat down at the table across from Cas.
"Dean, this goes far deeper than Sam's memory," Castiel tried to explain. He watched the human's frown grow darker.
Castiel sighed, "It's Sam's soul, Dean. It is scarred from the torture… it is the soul that cannot forget what happened in Hell- if that makes sense- and such damage is nearly impossible to erase."
Dean bit his lip and wrapped his hands around the coffee cup, warming his fingers, "You said nearly impossible, so it can be fixed."
"It is probable, but Dean, no one I have ever heard of have has withstood that amount of torture without succumbing," Castiel warned, "If Sam had not been in the Cage, he surely would have become a demon."
"But… Death's wall seemed to be working," Dean continued, unable to give up on his brother, "I mean, sure there were a couple of close calls but it managed to stay whole until you decided to do a little demolition."
Castiel's eyes narrowed at the anger in the human's voice but thought it best not to address it at the moment. Dean was asking for his help and if Cas could do anything to ease Sam Winchester's suffering, he would.
"Although Death's intentions were good, his knew that his wall would not hold back the flood forever," Castiel said, wishing Dean had paid more attention to the Horseman's words.
"The wall could never have been permanent," Castiel explained, "Your brother had suffered too much… it was an act similar to that of putting a Band-Aid over a shrapnel wound; yes, it would hold back the bleeding for a short time but it could not possibly heal the trauma just beneath the surface."
Castiel waited, hoping that Dean would understand him. The angel did not know how he could make it any clearer.
Castiel watched the human as he words sunk in. Dean's shoulders slumped and his eyes filled with water.
The angel wanted to comfort his friend but he hesitated. He knew that Dean was still angry at him and any uncalled-for consolation could be disastrous.
Dean took a gulp of coffee, groaning when the hot liquid burnt his mouth and squeezed his eyes shut. Cas watched as tears slipped out from underneath the closed lids and hit the tabletop. Dean's shoulders began to tremble and he began to sob.
Dean couldn't hold it in any longer. He had been holding back his own emotions for Sam's sake for so long but with Cas' arrival and the revelation that there was nothing he could do, Dean had felt his flimsy façade slip and allowed all the pent-up sorrow and hopelessness to overflow.
Cas didn't know what to do. He tried to think of which gesture would be the right one for this situation. He had seen the brothers hug one another if they were sad but he wasn't sure he should try to embrace Dean so he settled for words, those seemed to be the safest path to take.
"Give me some time, Dean," Castiel whispered but he was sure the hunter was listening, "I will find a way to heal your brother."
Dean didn't reply but he didn't need to. Cas took his silence as permission and he disappeared, praying that he had not just given the human false hope and that somehow there was a way to repair the damage done to Sam Winchester's soul.
Dean told himself not to hold his breath while he waited for the angel to come back. Sure, Castiel's return had created a wellspring of conflicting emotions in Dean but the eldest Winchester reminded himself that the angel had been wrong before.
The young man decided that he didn't really care if Cas ever came back or not. The angel didn't seem particularly confident that there would be any way to heal Sam and so Dean prepared himself for yet another disappointment. In the meantime, Dean would do what he did best, look after his little brother.
Standing up and stretching the stiff muscles in his back, Dean picked up his coffee cup and climbed the stairs. The wooden floorboards creaked under Dean's weight but otherwise the eldest Winchester's movements were silent. He entered the bedroom where his brother was and sat down on the edge of the mattress, happy that Sam was still asleep.
Sam's breathing was fast and shallow- no longer the deep breaths of a peaceful rest- and his bangs stuck to his brow with a cold sweat.
Careful not to disturb his brother, Dean brushed Sam's bangs back, checking his brother's temperature as he did so. He always worried that Sam would get sick, fearing that the lack of sleep would wreak havoc on his immune system and leave him more vulnerable to illness. Dean knocked on wood; they had been lucky so far.
Settling down for a long vigil, Dean sipped at his coffee and stared out the window at the bright green leaves of oak and alder trees just beyond the glass, the sky above a clean robin's egg blue with a butter-yellow sun warming the summertime flora.
"C'mon Sammy," Dean plied, holding the cup of milk up to his brother's mouth, "Just a couple of sips, for me?"
His younger brother stared at him with his kicked puppy expression and refused to drink the offered beverage. It was one of Sam's bad days.
Dean sighed and set the cup on the bedside table.
"Will you have some water?" he asked, hoping his brother would at least drink that.
Sam hesitated for a moment before nodding, "Yeah."
Dean gave his brother an encouraging smile. He picked up the glass of milk and went down the hall to the bathroom, pouring the milk in the sink and rinsed the cup before filling it with water from the tap.
Returning to his brother's side, Dean handed over the cup of water and watched as Sam gulped down the cool liquid as though he hadn't had anything to drink in days.
Dean raised his eyebrows as Sam held the glass out to him, "You want more?"
Sam nodded. After making three more trips to the bathroom to fill up the cup with water, Sam told Dean he'd had enough. Although Dean would have liked to see Sam drink something more substantial than water- and maybe even eat a little- he didn't press his brother.
With a belly full of water, Sam seemed ready to give into sleep and his eyes began drooping. Dean knew better than to try and keep his brother awake; Sam needed to get as much rest as he could, especially if this wasn't going to be one of his better days, so Dean helped him lie back down in bed and pulled the blankets up to his brother's chin.
"I'll be right here," Dean assured Sam as his younger sibling's eyes closed all the way, "I'm not going anywhere."
Sam gave a ghost of a smile- the gesture looking more sickly than anything on his pale, drawn features- and shifted so that his shoulder came into contact with Dean's hip.
Sam stared up at Dean with unadulterated terror in his eyes. He sat crouched in one corner of the room, knees pulled up to his chest and his arms gripping his legs tightly.
"Sammy," Dean spoke softly, crouching down to his brother's level, "I'm not going to hurt you."
Tears streamed from his brother's eyes. Sam was trembling fiercely and Dean was concerned he was having a fit.
Sam had barely slept for an hour when he had awoken with a startled cry and flung himself out of the bed in a tangle of limbs, away from Dean so fast that the older Winchester couldn't grab him before he'd crashed onto the floor and scrambled into the corner.
"Sam," Dean tried again, smiling in what he hoped was a friendly way, "It's alright."
"Get away from me!" Sam all but screamed- his voice thin and reedy- and Dean cringed at the fear and desperation in his tone.
Dean knew he should give his brother some space, not make him feel trapped, but he didn't want to stray too far in case Sam got hurt somehow.
The older Winchester settled for sitting on the edge of the bed, facing his brother but a couple of feet away from him. Dean was used to Sam thinking that he was not really who he said he was but it never got any easier. Every time, Dean felt a little bit more of his heart break, a piece chip off, leaving a raw, open wound that never seemed to heal.
Dean wondered if that was what Sam's soul was like: raw and bleeding and full of pain that never ended.
Sam eyed his brother warily, as though he was sure Dean would attack him at any moment. The expression on his brother's face made a lump form painfully in Dean's throat and tears sting his eyes.
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean croaked, "It's going to be okay."
Sam obviously didn't believe him. He pulled his arms up against his chest and dug the thumb of his right hand into his left palm, grimacing in pain.
Dean knew that the 'hand trick' wouldn't work anymore and he guessed Sam just did it out of habit (or desperation).
"Please go away," Sam begged and Dean wanted to do just that, if it would give his brother some peace but he knew he couldn't, "Please… please."
"You're safe, Sammy," Dean said quietly, "Nothing's going to hurt you. I promise."
His brother stared at him and his lower lip trembled even as the rest of his body shook, "You're not Dean."
Dean closed his eyes for a moment and his hands formed into fists. He wanted to hit someone. He looked to his brother when Sam gave a squeak of fear and turned away from him so that he was facing into the corner.
"Oh, no," Dean tried to calm his sibling, "No, Sam, it's okay… I'm not going to hurt you."
His brother wasn't listening though; Sam dug his thumb into his palm, teeth bared in a grimace of pain. Dean wanted to grab his brother's hands and stop the young man from hurting himself but he dared not touch Sam, knowing that it would only frighten him more.
"Please, Sammy," Dean begged- usually that got his brother's attention- and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, "Let me help you."
Sam shook his head, his breath hitching as tears streamed down his face.
"S-Stop b-being D'n," Sam choked out, "Y-you're nuh-not D-Dean."
Dean's eyebrows knitted together in concern.
"It is me, Sammy," he attempted to make his sibling see reason, "The real me… the real Dean."
Sam shook his head once and then slumped onto the floor, his eyes rolling into his head as his shaking started to grow worse, turning into a seizure.
"Sam? Sam!" Dean all but leaped off the edge of the bed and was at his brother's side in seconds, rolling his sibling onto his side as he continued to thrash.
Dean knew there was little he could do but wait until the seizure ended so he eyed his surroundings, making sure that Sam had enough space and wasn't likely to hurt himself on pieces of furniture.
Dean hovered over his brother, the lump in his throat seeming to increase in size with every second the fit continued, threatening to choke him, until finally Sam grew still. Placing a trembling hand on his brother's neck, Dean breathed a sigh of relief when he felt a pulse thrum beneath the clammy skin. He hated how motionless Sam turned immediately after a seizure- as if he were dead- and Dean always felt for a heartbeat to reassure himself that his brother was still with him.
"Sammy?" Dean whispered softly, leaning over his brother making sure he was the first thing Sam saw upon opening his eyes.
Dean rubbed his brother's back soothingly as he waited for Sam to recover. He knew it could take some time, from a few minutes up to a half-hour for his sibling to respond to him again. Dean didn't know what kind of damage the seizures caused but Sam was always shaky and clingy for hours afterwards.
He reached out and carded a hand through his brother's long hair, murmuring comfortingly to Sam as he did so; waiting patiently for his sibling to wake up.
Dean startled awake when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Squinting up at whomever was touching him; Dean's eyes grew wide when he saw Cas standing beside the bed.
"What're you doing here?" Dean whispered, his gaze shifting to his right side where Sam was curled up against him, fast asleep.
"I told you I would return after I found out a way to heal your brother," the angel answered, his gravelly tone sounding far too loud in the small bedroom.
Dean swallowed thickly; he hadn't thought that Cas would actually come back. He hadn't been prepared for this… hell, Sam wasn't prepared for this.
Sitting up carefully, Dean stared dumbfounded at the angel for a moment.
"You actually found something that can help Sam?"
Cas bobbed his head once, his expression sincere.
Dean wiped a hand over his mouth and peered down at his brother, pausing to pull the covers up to Sam's chin before standing.
Out in the hallway, Dean crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall casually.
"Don't keep me in suspense," Dean prompted, drawing the angel's attention away from the closed bedroom door.
Castiel, as usual, did not mince words and spoke plainly.
"I could give your brother a new soul," Cas said, excitement sparkling in his blue eyes.
Dean let the words sink in for a moment. He sighed. He should have known it would all come down to souls again.
"What do you mean?" Dean asked suspiciously, "You want to rip Sam's soul out and stuff a different one inside?"
Castiel shook his head, "Not exactly, Dean. As you are already aware, souls are malleable. A demon may inhabit a host body without pushing out the soul already residing inside. I do not think it is necessary to remove Sam's soul."
Dean's expression turned to one of tentative curiosity, "Okay, so how do you a get another soul?"
Dean didn't want to trust Cas… everything was warning him to tell the angel to fuck off. Once bitten, twice shy and all that but Dean knew this wasn't about him. This was about Sam and if Cas had a way of healing his brother, the eldest Winchester decided he could overlook the angel's past mistakes long enough for his sibling to become healthy again. Besides, how much more damage could the angel do?
"Not another soul. A new soul, from the Guf," the angel answered as if that would mean anything to Dean.
"What's the Gruff?" Dean asked. He had never heard of it before- Sam might know what it was- and wanted to know if it was dangerous.
Castiel blinked at him for a moment before speaking.
"It is called the Guf, Dean, not the Gruff," the angel corrected.
Dean shrugged, a sneer on his face, "Guf, Gruff, whatever. All I want to know is what it is."
"It is the home of all new souls created in Heaven. There are thousands of souls in the Guf, waiting for a new life to be born," Castiel explained patiently.
Dean still looked confused so the angel continued, "When a human life is conceived, a soul from the Guf descends to Earth and enters into the new being."
The human nodded. He guessed he got the gist of what happened in the Guf.
"That's a really nice bedtime story," Dean smirked, "But how's some pre-made soul going to help Sammy?"
"Souls from the Guf are very pure, Dean. They are very strong and I believe that that power may help heal your brother's own soul," Cas answered, bristling slightly and Dean decided he should tread carefully with the angel for the next little while.
Although Dean was somewhat skeptical about the Guf, Cas seemed to believe that a brand-new soul would help Sam and since the eldest Winchester had no other bright ideas hidden up his sleeve, Dean told himself he would go along for the ride.
"Okay, so say I trust you and we go get a mail-order soul from the Guf? What happens to Sam?" Dean asked.
"Your brother's soul should begin to heal from its trauma, as I have already mentioned," Cas answered somewhat vaguely. The angel remained calm though, aware that the human was under a great amount of stress and liable to need him to repeat himself many times over.
Dean grimaced, wasn't that the whole point of this? To heal his brother's damaged soul?
"So Sam won't have any more hallucinations or nightmares about Hell?" Dean asked, trying to clarify what Cas intended.
The angel nodded nodded, "If everything works accordingly, yes."
"What about Sam's memories of being soulless?" Dean raised an inquiring eyebrow.
To Dean's disappointment, the angel shook his head, "Those are memories of the mind, Dean and they will fade in time, as all memories do. What is causing Sam the greatest distress is memories of torture to his soul."
Dean nodded. He would have liked Sam's memories of his time without a soul to be erased as well but he decided he would take what he would get.
"So you're just going to fly up to Heaven, kidnap a brand new soul and come back here and shove it into my brother? What could go wrong?" he commented with a humorless smirk.
Cas, taking Dean's rhetorical question seriously, answered, "The new soul could be too weak and become overwhelmed by Sam's memories of Hell or Sam's body could reject the soul altogether."
Dean stared at the angel for a moment and then closed his eyes, wiping a hand across his face.
"How certain are you that this is going to work?" Dean opened his eyes again and asked his might-be friend.
The angel tilted his head as he though, "I will not lie to you Dean; there is a good chance that this will not help your brother."
Dean heaved a sigh, "Of course. That'd be just our luck."
The angel's expression grew irritated, "Dean! I am not saying these things to dissuade or dishearten you! You should know the risks involved, you deserve to know. I am telling you this because there is also a chance that it could work. There is always hope, Dean."
The young man peered at Cas and nodded, "I'm sorry, it's just… we've always grabbed the short straw, you know. This sounds good, Cas, real good and I'm worried that it's too good to be true."
The angel's expression turned sympathetic, "I understand, Dean."
"I just don't want Sammy to get hurt," Dean whispered.
Cas's blue eyes seemed to widen, "I would not do this to hurt you or Sam."
Dean's throat tightened and he nodded, "Alright Cas, go get us a soul."
The angel nodded and disappeared, leaving the eldest Winchester alone with his thoughts.
Dean hoped that he wasn't gambling with his brother's life. Cas seemed fairly confident that his idea would work but then again, the angel had been confident about other things in the past. No one had ever attempted what Cas was suggesting and Dean knew that the millions of things that could go wrong would go wrong because the Winchester luck was like that.
Dean sighed as he stared down at his brother's prone form. Sam's bangs were sticking to his forehead with sweat and his chest heaved up and down with each quick-drawn breath. Although loath to do so, Dean gently shook his brother's shoulder, rousing Sam from sleep. The younger man rarely got any quality rest but Dean couldn't bear to sit by while Sam had a nightmare.
The younger man blinked tiredly up at his brother and Dean smiled softly.
"D'n" Sam mumbled and shifted so that his head lay on his brother's lap. Dean didn't disturb his sibling further.
You better know what you're doing, Cas; Dean thought somewhat bitterly and carded his fingers through Sam's damp hair.
Castiel felt the warmth radiating out from the newborn soul hidden in an inner pocket of his trench coat. The hardest part of his plan had been entering Heaven without being seen. He was no fool; he knew he had no friends there anymore and was forced to tread carefully.
The Host had been in such disarray though, that not even a cherub had noticed Cas' presence. He decided sadly that his actions towards his brothers and sisters while 'juiced-up' on the souls of Purgatory had come to some good after all. Good for him at least. He would have to return and try and repair the damage he had done to his home but first he had to make things right with the Winchesters.
At first the little soul had been wary of him. It had trembled, its light flickering in fear. There were no guards surrounding the Guf, no one save the angels could enter and they would never have harmed the souls residing there.
Eventually Castiel gained the soul's trust and it glowed happily with purpose once the angel explained he needed it to help out a dear friend. Slipping the soul into his pocket, the angel had retreated somewhat guiltily from the Guf. His actions were essentially kidnapping. Souls were to remain in the safety of the Guf until they were sent down to newly created humans.
You have already betrayed your family tenfold, Castiel thought, what is another crime to add to the list?
Rain pelted down in fat, icy drops. Castiel hugged his coat closer to his body- a very human action- to protect the soul. It was the middle of the night, just past twelve, but the angel could see light burning inside the cabin. Castiel was not sure if he should go inside- how would Sam react upon seeing him- and walked up to the wooden porch slowly. Standing under the overhang of the roof, Castiel carefully opened his coat and peered down at the soul. It's bright light illuminated the interior of the pocket it was resting in and it made a mewling sound not unlike that of a kitten. Frowning, Castiel reached into his pocket and stroked the small soul with one finger. Rays of light stretched out from the soul, wrapping around the angel's hand.
Shocked, Castiel realized that the soul was growing weaker.
Of course it was! A soul could not remain outside of flesh for long without negative effects.
Drawing his hand away from his pocket, Castiel took hold of the door handle, regardless of what he might find on the other side.
Sam couldn't sleep. He was inconsolable. Dean didn't know what to do. His brother hadn't wanted to stay in the bedroom so Dean had brought him downstairs into the living room. Actually picking Sam up with one arm underneath his knees while the other supported his back and carried his brother down the stairs. Despite Sam's long limbs, he was surprisingly- frighteningly- light.
Settling his brother on the couch, Dean watched as Sam curled in on himself, knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around his legs as tears fell ceaselessly down his face.
Sam couldn't or wouldn't speak, couldn't or wouldn't tell Dean what was disturbing him so.
Dean reached out a hand to grip his brother's shoulder comfortingly but Sam cringed away from him, whimpering.
With tears pricking at the corner of his eyes, Dean sat back and watched over his brother as Sam suffered. Dean listened to the rain pounding on the tin roof of the cabin and tried to keep from crying himself.
The eldest Winchester startled when the front door of the cabin opened and a slightly wet angel stepped inside.
"Cas!" Dean hissed and leaped from the chair he was sitting in.
The angel looked up sharply, surprised when Dean grabbed the collar of his coat and whirled him around so that he was facing the door.
"Sam's down here!" Dean told him in an urgent whisper.
"That's good," Catiel answered in his usually gravelly tone. Dean shook his head.
"He's having a meltdown," he said pointedly, "If he sees you…"
"Dean," the angel replied, "I understand that you are worried Sam will react adversely if he sees me but I have the soul."
Dean blinked, "You do?"
Castiel bobbed his head, bird-like and opened his coat so that the human could see a pure light glowing from within it.
"Cas…" Dean managed to say through the lump in his throat, "I…"
"You did not believe I would be successful," the angel said blandly.
Dean nodded and glanced over his shoulder at his brother. Sam's eyes were open but the green depths were dark, seeing nothing. He had zoned-out again.
"C'mon," Dean dragged Cas back around, "We have to hurry."
The angel stared across the room at the youngest Winchester. Sam was very far away. He was completely lost to the world.
"You've got the soul, right?" Dean asked distractedly, tugging on Cas' lapels.
"Yes, Dean," the angel said, following the hunter along.
The two stopped in front of the couch. Dean's eyes pinched in concern and he ran his fingers through Sam's hair.
"Hey, Sammy," he whispered, "Cas is here. He's going to help us. He's going to make everything better."
"I will try," the angel corrected but Dean didn't appear to be listening. He wiped the sleeve of his plaid overskirt to wipe drool from Sam's chin.
Looking up at the angel, Dean raised an eyebrow expectantly.
"Well, where is it?"
Cas glanced into his pocket, "Here."
The angel reached into his coat and extracted the soul. It clung to his hand, flickering with fear.
Dean gaped at the ball of light in Cas' hand, squinting at how bright it was.
"It's small," he commented; the soul was only the size of a golf ball.
Cas blinked at him, "It is only a newborn, Dean."
"Okay," Dean said uncertainly, "Just do what you have to do."
"Lay Sam down on his back," the angel instructed and Dean carefully positioned Sam so that he was lying on the couch with his head pillowed beneath a cushion and his hands at his sides.
Dean patted his brother's chest, "It'll be okay, Sammy."
The younger man did not even blink.
Castiel pushed Dean back so that he had room, the new soul balanced on the flat of his hand.
"Don't hurt him," Dean said in a pleading tone and the angel nodded.
If Dean recalled Death returning Sam's soul to his body, there was going to be pain but hopefully the young man would not be in agony for long.
Dean pressed a fist against his mouth as he watched the angel lower the soul towards his brother's chest.
Sam's body jerked, his back arching off the couch, as Castiel pushed the soul into his chest. Dean could see the tendons corded in his brother's neck, his jaw clenched tightly.
The ball of light- the soul- disappeared inside Sam's chest and his brother fell back against the couch cushions limply.
"Sammy!" Dean couldn't stay back any longer. He pushed Cas out of the way and fell onto his knees at his brother's side.
He brushed Sam's bangs back from his brow. Sam's eyes were now closed and his face was utterly expressionless, blank.
"Cas? He's going to be okay, right?" Dean asked urgently, "Right?"
"We will have to wait," Castiel answered.
"I do not know," the angel confessed.
Dean sat down on the hardwood floor, one hand entwining with Sam's fingers.
"C'mon Sammy," Dean whispered, "Be okay… please… you can do it. I know you can."
Castiel watched over both Winchesters. Dean had his forehead leaning against Sam's arm while he held tightly onto his brother's hand. The younger man remained completely impassive, unaware of the world around him despite the fact that his eyes were open.
He prayed to his absent father that Sam Winchester would be alright. He could not bear Dean's anger any longer. They had once been friends. Castiel had protected Sam Winchester against his fellow angels, not because Dean had asked him to, but because the young man had somehow endeared himself to the celestial being.
Castiel smiled sadly.
No matter what mistakes Sam made, he always strove to fix them, even when it would be far easier to let someone else clean up his mess.
The young hunter did not deserve to be tormented by visions of Hell for the rest of his days.
The angel's gaze was drawn to movement by the couch but disappointingly it was only Dean standing up and stretching. Early morning sunlight shone through the glass in the door and the windows, sending golden rays slicing across the living room.
Dean turned tired, worried hazel eyes on the angel and Cas fought to keep his expression blank.
"Is he going to be okay?"
The angel stepped forwards and laid a hand on Sam's brow.
"Give the soul time to do its work," Castiel told Dean.
The hunter nodded and reluctantly turned away from his brother, walking into the kitchen. Castiel did not move but he listened to the sounds of Dean preparing the coffee maker.
"I tried my best, Samuel," the angel whispered to the youngest Winchester, "I hope you will understand that."
Dean poked his head out of the kitchen, "You say something, Cas?"
The angel did not answer. The human shrugged and retreated again.
Looking down, Cas frowned at the sheen of sweat covering Sam's brow. Placing a hand on the young's chest, Cas felt Sam's heart beat race beneath his fingers.
Eyes narrowing, the angel took in Sam's appearance again. The young man's lips were pale and his skin was beginning to turn a disturbing shade of grey.
"Dean," Castiel called, his voice tight.
"What?" the older brother asked, stepping into the living room, concernedly.
"You're brother," the angel indicated, "He does not look like he is recovering."
"Sam!" Dean cried and rushed to his brother's side.
Hazel eyes scrutinizing his brother, Dean turned to the angel fearfully, "What's happening?"
"You're brother is trying to reject the soul," Castiel answered.
"Stop it! Help him! Do something!"
"I am sorry, Dean," the angel apologized, "I am not strong enough."
"Bullshit!" Dean growled and pulled his brother up, "C'mon Sammy, snap out of it! You're going to be okay!"
Castiel watched as the eldest Winchester hugged his brother to him, Sam's chin resting on Dean's shoulder.
"It'll be okay," Dean murmured, "Yeah, it's going to be fine."
Castiel, unable to do anything to help Sam now, could only watch as his brother begged with him to heal. The angel lowered his head as an unpleasant dark feeling rose in his chest.
I'm so sorry, Sam, he thought. I have failed you.
Dean ignored Cas as he sat with his brother. He was sitting on the couch and had Sam's head cushioned on his lap, watching in horror as sweat poured down his younger brother's face and his skin grew grey and cold.
"Sammy," Dean moaned in agony, "Sam, c'mon… don't do this. Wake up."
The younger man did not give any indication that he had heard his brother's voice. Dean picked up one of Sam's icy hands and pressed the knuckles to his cheek.
Dean tried to be angry with Cas. Really he did. But he simply didn't have the energy anymore to fuel his rage against the angel. All Castiel had been trying to do was help.
The angel remained quiet, allowing him the last few hours with his brother without distraction, Dean guessed.
Maybe its for the best, Dean thought; at least Sam won't be suffering anymore.
Tears welled up at the thought of losing his baby brother.
What was he going to do without Sammy? Bobby was already gone, he couldn't lose his brother as well.
Dean must have fallen asleep. How, he didn't know. Grimacing as he pushed himself up higher on the couch cushions, he immediately looked down at his brother.
Sam's eyes were closed and although his skin was still slick with sweat, it no longer had that unhealthy grey tinge.
"Cas!" Dean called loudly.
"Yes, Dean," the angel was at the couch in an instant, "Has Sam's condition changed?"
"He… he looks better," Dean told him, his tone both excited and uncertain.
The angel tilted his head curiously, "He does."
"Is the soul helping, do you think?" Dean asked and smoothed his thumb over Sam's brow.
"It would seem that it is," Castiel blinked his large blue eyes, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Atta boy, Sammy," Dean murmured to his brother, "You're doing great."
Tears welled up in Dean's eyes yet again and he didn't bother wiping them away as he stared at his brother's bland expression.
Dean couldn't help but gape in shock when Sam's forehead creased and his nose crinkled, drops of water hitting his cheeks.
"Sammy!" he exclaimed, hands fluttering around his brother's shoulders, not sure if he wanted to shake Sam or hug him.
"Uhhh…" the sound was so quiet that Dean almost did not hear it.
"That's it Sammy," Dean encouraged, "C'mon Sammy, c'mon."
"Deee…" the older brother smiled at the sound of his name.
"You got it," Dean continued and looked up at Cas, giving the angel the thumbs up.
"D'un," Sam mumbled, his lips barely moving, his eyes remaining closed.
"Okay, Rip Van Winkle," Dean joked, "Time to get up."
"D'n… D'n…" Sam slurred and his eyes opened to green slits.
"Sam," the older brother said and squeezed his sibling's hand.
Dean hoisted Sam up, resting his brother's back against his chest to give him support. Sam was still out of it and his head dipped down, his eyes rolling.
"Perhaps you should allow your brother to rest some more," the angel suggested but Dean glared at him, he knew what he was doing.
Dean wrapped one arm around his brother's waist while the other began rubbing soothing circles on the younger man's chest; something he used to do when his little border had been sick when they were kids.
"Hey Jude," Dean began speaking, not really sining the words, close to his brother's ear, "Don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better."
"D'n," Sam mumbled again and shifted in his brother's hold.
"You with me?"
"D-Dean," Sam said more clearly, trying to tilt his head back to see him, "Wh-What hap…. happened?"
"You were experiencing-" Cas began and Dean felt his brother tense in his grasp.
"Hey, hey," he murmured in his brother's ear, "It's okay. Cas is the good guy, remember?"
"He- He h-hurt me," Sam whimpered and struggled against Dean.
"I am sorry for the way I treated you, Sam," the angel said, "My actions haunt me everyday."
Sam froze as if he were gauging the truth in Cas' words.
"He helped you," Dean assured him, "You don't remember but Cas helped you… wait, what do you remember… about Hell?"
"I… I…" Sam stammered, "I was in Hell… but… but… I don't know…"
Dean glanced at the angel, his expression worried.
"It is alright, Dean," Cas said, "The soul is helping Sam to heal."
"Dean? What's wrong?" Sam asked fearfully and Dean hugged him tighter.
"Nothing's wrong, Sammy," Dean whispered to him, "It's good that you can't remember the Cage."
"Okay," Sam murmured faintly and slipped into unconsciousness again.
Carefully, Dean settled his brother onto the couch once again and smiled lovingly at him. Sam would be alright now, he was certain of it.
"Cas?" he said without looking away from his sibling.
"Yes, Dean," the angel answered.
"Could you not watch us, its kind of creepy."
Dean smiled, imagining the angel's confused frown.
Turning around, he grabbed Castiel's shoulders and pulled the celestial being forwards.
Dean felt the angel freeze for a moment in his grasp but then Cas reciprocated the hug, patting Dean's back, still slightly awkward with such displays of affection.
The young man swallowed down the lump in his throat, telling himself that he would not start blubbering like a baby.
The young man laughter out loud at the angel's confused expression and clapped his friend on the shoulder. Although Dean would never forget what the angel had done to his brother, he decided that he just might be able to find it within himself to forget him.
Dean smiled; he'd taken a gamble trusting Cas again and once more he and Sam had come out on top.
I should buy a lottery ticket, Dean thought and chuckled, earning himself another bewildered glance from the angel.
Checking on Sam again, Dean smiled when his brother turned his face towards him as he cupped the younger man's cheek.
You're going to be okay, Sammy, Dean thought, just like you always are.
1. I do not own Supernatural. I am only borrowing them.
2. Fanfic title taken from an Iron Maiden song of the same name.
3. Please leave a review!