A/N: So, my hand slipped and I accidentally wrote another chapter. This one is set at the end of 9x10 Road Trip.
Sam almost brought it up on the pier, but he could not bring himself to push the words out of his mouth. He was too tired, too broken, hurting too much as the rain fell harder and harder and still he did not move. Castiel just stood beside him, saying nothing. His presence was a comfort, but it also added to Sam's confusion.
He had been leaning motionlessly against the wooden railing for more than half an hour before Cas finally spoke.
"Are you all right, Sam?" he asked gently, placing a hand on the hunter's shoulder.
Sam huffed a breath that was too tired to become a bitter snort.
"Don't ask stupid questions," he muttered, quoting the angel's words from years ago, during the height of the apocalypse. Castiel sighed and let his hand drop.
Of course Sam was not all right. Not only had he been an unwitting 'angel condom', as Dean had once put it, but he had been used to kill one of his only remaining friends, the young man that Sam had sworn to himself he would protect, would save from being another casualty in this endless war. Try as Dean might to convince him otherwise, Kevin's death was his fault. Another life weighing on his soul.
And then, of course, there was Dean himself. Sam was having trouble processing the depths of his brother's betrayal. Dean had lied to him before, but this was on a whole new level. Dean had known that Sam was ready to die, but had still tricked him into letting himself get possessed by another angel. And not just any angel either. As far as Sam could tell, Gadreel was the one angel who was actually worse than Lucifer, the one who had screwed things up in the first place.
It would have been funny, if it weren't so damn tragic. The devil, the destroyer of the universe, and the king of hell had all possessed Sam. The worst of the worst, and he had hosted them all. He wanted to inject himself with bleach, to purge the taint from his already corrupted system.
But he could not, and he would never be able to. And now he did not even have his brother to help him through it.
He understood why Dean had done what he did. He knew the raw panic and desperation of losing his brother, knew why Dean had not been able to let him go. But he could not forgive him for it; not yet. Nor could he forgive himself for letting Dean talk him out of closing the gates once and for all. But that did not mean that it hadn't hurt to see his big brother walking away from him and knowing how utterly and devastatingly broken the man was.
The silence stretched on and on between Sam and Castiel. It was only when the rain had stopped and they were both soaking wet that Cas spoke again.
"We should go home, Sam."
Sam had no idea what that word meant anymore. Dean had wondered why he had so stubbornly refused to call the bunker that, and now here was the reason. Any home, any stable and contented life that Sam tried to create eventually went to hell one way or another. Including his home at Stanford.
"I remember you," Sam said abruptly. Castiel looked confused.
"Why would you have forgotten me?" he asked. "We've been friends for years."
"Yeah, but I remember you from before that," Sam said, not looking at the angel. "I went to college because of you."
Castiel sighed, confirming Sam's suspicion that he knew exactly what the hunter was talking about.
"How long have you known?" the angel asked.
"How long have you?" returned Sam heatedly, rounding on his friend. "You had orders to kill me, Cas, but you saved my life and watched out for me and answered my prayer and told me to go to school, and then you were just gone. An angel came to me the night after I moved into my dorm room at Stanford and wiped my memories. I met you seven years later and you didn't say a damn thing. Hell, you treated me like demon spawn for the first few months. I've had enough of the lies, Cas, so just tell me the truth. Were you in on it? Were you one of the people who've been manipulating me my entire life?"
Castiel had remained silent throughout Sam's tirade, but at the last question he looked up, his expression akin to the one that had been on his face when Sam had asked him if he had intentionally raised him from hell without a soul. Sam relaxed by a fraction, realizing that Cas was sincerely hurt by the idea that Sam thought his friend had been playing him.
"Of course not, Sam," the angel said earnestly.
"Okay, Cas," said Sam, looking away from his friend. The last thing he wanted was to alienate another member of his miniscule family, but after what Dean had done, how could he take anything for granted? "I'm sorry."
Castiel nodded his acceptance of the apology, before giving Sam and explanation.
"Everything that I said at our first meeting was true," he said. "I had intended to keep an eye on you; make sure that you had gotten to college safely and then check in on you periodically, as I had been doing in the years before that. I had hoped, foolishly I now realize, that you could have that normal life you so desired. But a few days after we talked, I was ambushed by three soldiers from another garrison. They took me to Naomi, and she…"
Castiel trailed off, and Sam shuddered at the realization that his friend had been tortured because of him.
"I'm sorry," he whispered again. Cas gave him a tired smile.
"It wasn't your fault, Sam."
He was wrong, of course, but Sam was not going to call him out on it. He just waved for the angel to continue.
"Anyway, Naomi made me forget about you, and remember my duties to heaven. I did not have any contact with your family after that, until I was sent to break Dean out of hell. I knew of you, of course. You were something of a talking point in the garrison. I just never imagined that I actually knew you personally. I assure you Sam, we were on the same level for the progression of our friendship. I did not grow close to you because of ulterior motives."
"I believe you, Cas," Sam said softly. "I do. But when did you remember?"
"The day I first laid hands on the angel tablet and freed myself from Naomi's control. I still don't know how many memories she stole from me, but I remember some of them. I remember you."
"Why didn't you just tell me?" Sam demanded, really and truly sick of all the deception, even if it was just by omission. "If it wasn't enough to stop you from taking off with the angel tablet, you could have at least told me everything after you came back, when you were staying with us in the bunker."
"I thought about it, believe me. It felt wrong to keep it from you. But I had no way of returning your stolen memories to you. I didn't want you to have to take my word for it."
"I would have believed you, Cas."
"I know," Castiel said quickly. "But it was more than that. I was afraid…"
"That you would hate me."
Sam stared incredulously at the angel.
"Why the hell would I-?"
"You said it yourself, Sam; I was responsible for you going to college. That means I am partially responsible for the death of Jessica Moore."
Sam's mouth fell open.
"You really think that Jess's death was your fault?" he asked. "Cas, that is not on you! It's on Azazel, and Lucifer, and Brady, and me, but not you."
"You would never have met her if not for me," Castiel insisted.
"Cas, you gave me the courage and confidence I needed to make my own way in life. It's my fault that the way I chose has resulted in so many deaths."
Castiel opened his mouth to protest, but Sam raised a hand to cut him off.
"Cas, please," he said, the exhaustion that had been eating at him truly starting to set in. "Please don't put this on yourself. I don't blame you, and I sure as hell don't hate you. And right now I need you."
Castiel nodded, but Sam could still see the sorrow in his eyes. Of course, that could have been due to other, more recent events.
"Let's get you back to the bunker," Cas said, and Sam appreciated the fact that he did not call it home this time. "You should rest."
Sam could not argue with that. He felt like a herd of elephants had hosted a party and used his body as the dance floor. So he nodded to his friend.
The angel took Sam by the arm, helping to support his weight as they walked back to the car that Cas had acquired. Sam fell into the passenger seat while Castiel slid behind the wheel. Sam leaned his forehead against the cool glass of the rain-speckled window. Then he frowned, looking down at his clothes, which were inexplicably dry, though they had been dripping with water a few moments ago. He looked over at Cas, who just shrugged.
"You would have gotten cold," the angel said by way of an explanation.
They drove in silence for a while before Castiel repeated the question that Sam had ignored earlier.
"How did you find out about our forgotten interaction?"
Sam grimaced. While the memory of Cas was pleasant, the means by which he had recalled it were not.
"Apparently having an angel and a demon crawling around in your head shakes some things loose," he said, his voice tinged with a trace of bitterness. "I guess when Crowley was poking through my brain, he uncovered the memory that Naomi had her lackey bury, and when I took back control from…Gadreel," the name caught in Sam's throat, choking him momentarily, "it came back to me, along with all the other memories he stole from me."
They let the silence fall between them again. The misery that Sam had been trying so hard to ignore was clawing at his chest, fighting its way up his throat. He felt the prickle of tears in his eyes, and he turned his head away from Cas, hoping his friend would not see as they began to fall silently.
"I'm sorry that you're hurting, Sam," he said gently. "And I understand why, but you can't blame yourself for this. None of it is your fault."
Sam shook his head.
"You should have just killed me when you were told to," he said, his voice lifeless. "If I'd died when I was twelve-"
"This planet would be so much the poorer for it," Castiel interrupted. "Truly."
"Cas, even if you overlook all of the other crap I've pulled in my life," he said, "which is really a lot, by the way, I killed Kevin. It may not have been my brain, but it was my body, and Gadreel wouldn't have been able to get close to Kevin if it wasn't for me."
Castiel's grip tightened on the wheel, body tense with frustration.
"Fine," he said at last. Sam turned to look at him, mildly hurt. It was one thing for Sam to blame himself, but for Cas to agree…
"Fine," the angel said again. "If you claim responsibility for Kevin's life, you must also claim responsibility for mine."
Sam winced, remembering the day, a lifetime ago, when he had been possessed by another angel. He remembered snapping his fingers and watching Castiel explode into nothingness. But apparently that was not what his friend had been referring to.
"If Kevin is dead because of you, then I am alive because of you," the angel continued, his eyes never leaving the road. "Dean told me that Gadreel brought me back to life after the reaper stabbed me. That was also your body."
"Yeah," said Sam slowly. That had been one of those memories that he had reclaimed from Gadreel. When Cas had been killed by April, Gadreel had used part of his weakened grace to heal the fallen angel.
"I'm not saying it's an even trade," Castiel went on. "Kevin probably deserved life more than I did. But it is something to remember."
The angel left it at that, for which Sam was grateful. The reminder had not exactly made him feel better, but it had given him more to think about. Because Gadreel had saved Charlie too, when she had been killed in the bunker by that witch. Sam hated feeling grateful for anything connected to Gadreel, but he could not deny that two of his closest friends were still alive because of the angel.
And another one was dead.
Sam sighed, choosing to let his exhausted being slip into the relative peace of unconsciousness, rather than continuing to wrestle with his impossible and heartbreaking thoughts.
Castiel's gentle voice pulled Sam from his fitful sleep. He blinked his eyes open, wincing as he moved his stiff neck. He looked around, realizing that they were not in the garage of the bunker, but in a brightly lit gas station. He looked back to Castiel, whose gaze was apologetic.
"I'm sorry to wake you," the angel said. "But I believe the car is out of fuel again. Dean took care of this last time, and he didn't have the time to show me how to do it properly."
"That's all right, Cas," said Sam, sitting up and pulling the car door open.
He truly did not mind being woken up. His dreams had been plagued by the sight of his own hands on Kevin's head, burning the life out of the young. He fished his wallet out of his pocket.
"Here, let me show you how to fill up the tank," he said, and Castiel followed him to the pump. As Sam was showing the angel how to put gas in the car, a thought occurred to him. "Weren't you working at a gas station for most of this time?" he asked.
"Yes, but I worked in the store, and I never had a car. Dean taught me how to drive when he came to work the case of the Rit Zien angel that was killing unhappy people, but he never showed me how to refuel."
Sam glanced at his friend, wondering if he realized that he had just exposed another one of Dean's lies. His brother had told him that he had not even seen Cas while he was working that case, even though the angel had been the one to give Dean the tip. Sam supposed he understood though. He knew the ultimatum that Gadreel had given to Dean, and he was glad that the older hunter had not abandoned his friend entirely despite it.
Shaking off the thoughts of Dean, Sam returned to teaching Cas how to complete one of life's necessary tasks. He also gave his friend one of his credit cards, in case he ever needed money when he was on his own.
Once they got back on the road, it only took about half an hour to get back to the bunker. Sam could barely keep his eyes open as Castiel cut the engine, climbing out of the car. When the angel realized that his friend had not moved, he walked around to Sam's side and pulled his door open.
"I think I'll just sleep here," Sam muttered, every muscle in his body screaming in protest at the idea of moving.
Castiel sighed, leaning forward. Before Sam knew what was happening, he had been scooped into the angel's arms and was being carried through the garage and into the bunker itself. He was at least four inches taller and twenty pounds heavier than Cas, but apparently angel mojo had its perks.
"Cas, what-?" Sam protested weakly, but his friend cut him off.
"Just rest, Sam," the angel told him.
Sam did not have the strength or inclination to argue. He let himself be carried, more like the twelve year old he had been when Castiel first met him than the ancient man he was now. And while he knew that he might feel awkward about it in the morning, at that moment he was just grateful that he did not have to keep putting in the effort to hold himself upright and together, grateful for the gentle hands that deposited him in his familiar bed and smoothed the covers over his bone-weary body.
"It will only get better from here," Castiel promised. Sam looked up at him, not sure if he believed him, but desperate for the hope that his words provided. The angel looked back at his exhausted, shattered friend, and sighed. "Would you like me to stay?"
Sam nodded, and Cas gave him a small smile. The angel leaned against the wall, arms folded in front of him as he faced the door to Sam's room.
Sam let his eyes close, feeling safe with the knowledge that his guardian angel was back on the job.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Reviews are always appreciated.