First, I want to say I was completely blown away by the season finale of Supernatural. The purest of both worlds, pain and pleasure. I loved it! I can’t wait until October to find out what happens next. Can Not Wait. So much so that I was compelled to imagine what would happen and then had to write it all down. Doing so has helped ease me into the long haul that will be the coming months of no new Supernatural. I hope the following does the same for you. (In the world of FanFic this is categorized as GenFic and follows show canon)
Also known as; When the Winchesters Break the World.
Before there was light, before there was God and the archangels, there wasn’t nothing. There was the Darkness; a horribly destructive amoral force that was beaten back by God and his archangels in a terrible war. God locked the Darkness away where it could do no harm, and he created a Mark that would serve as both lock and key, which he entrusted to his most valued lieutenant – Lucifer. But the Mark began to assert its own will, revealed itself as a curse and began to corrupt. Lucifer became jealous of man, God banished Lucifer to Hell, Lucifer passed the Mark to Cain, who passed the Mark to you – Death
There’s an open road that leads nowhere,
So just make some miles between here and there.
There’s a hole in my head where the rain comes in…
The last thing he felt was his brother’s hand ripped away from his arm where he had a death grip on the fabric of his jacket. Didn’t do a damn bit of good to stop whatever was pulling Dean out of the car. It was odd because the doors were still closed and the windows rolled up.
The wind had hit first, the noise a terrific roar that combined with the shriek of metal shearing from the blast wave. The car had lifted off the ground, flipped over and then over again, right back on to four wheels. The thought occurred, as sound and light vanished, at least she’s out of that hole.
It was so dark and so utterly silent; Dean thought for a moment that he was dead. He actually put his fingers to his neck to check, realizing in the same motion that he could still feel. His heartbeat was zooming right along, pounding in his ears. His hand traced over to his face, down his chest, over and across, then reaching behind and under his jacket to the place in the small of his back where his gun rested tucked into his jeans. It was a familiar and comforting feel to curl his fingers around the grip. He kept it there for a time, there in the dark, waiting for whatever the hell was coming next. Something was. No doubt.
That was his life. Just his kind of luck. Out of the frying pan and right into the inferno.
He tried not to think about Sam, or his obstinate stubbornness, that had once again broken the whole damn world. Dean shook his head at himself. He was just as much to blame for this mess as his brother. He tried harder to blot out that whole moment with Death and Sam, down on his knees waiting for Dean to take his head off, but it all flashed across the blank screen of the mind’s eye, run rampant in all this darkness.
A shudder ran down his spine. It was such a narrow thing. It didn’t feel real to him, except the residual emotion was still there, the absolute conviction centered in his brain that Sam had to die. In that moment, it felt like he was trapped inside his own mind, screaming at himself to stop, but unable to until Sam set those pictures down. If he hadn’t, Dean was certain the terrible prophecy of Cain, the thing that would have turned him into a monster, would have happened and Sam would have died.
Those pictures, images he’d carried the whole of his life since he was four, aged and damaged, nearly destroyed by the Styne break-in at the bunker. If the match had fallen then, if Dean hadn’t arrived just when he had, Sam would be dead now.
Looking at them, he heard his mother’s voice seeping through the chaos of thought, growing clearer and stronger.
It was one of his earliest memories and one of the few that remained of her. He was four and Sammy was just a few days old. Dean poked him to see what would happen to the little, scrunched up alien creature they kept telling him was his. His little brother. Of course he started crying. It wasn’t a gentle poke. Mary had come and Dean confessed. She didn’t get mad. She just told him to say he was sorry and promise that he wouldn’t hurt him again. ‘He’s yours, Dean,’ she said. ‘Your little brother. You have to look out for him. One day, you and he will be all that you both have, so you have to be good to him. If you are now, when he’s little, he’ll always look up to you. You’re his big brother. Go on. Tell him you’re sorry. Get him to stop crying.”
And she left him alone again, shuffling back into the kitchen and looking back at him expectantly. So Dean did what she told him to. ‘I’m sorry, Sammy,’ he’d said and it worked. Sam stopped crying, blinking up at him with wide eyes that seemed to ask, well why did you do it in the first place?
It was in that instant, hearing her voice and those words, that cleared the Mark’s stranglehold that had put Death’s scythe in his hands and he saw Sam in front of him, ready to die. Ready for Dean to kill him, because his big brother told him it had to be. When he asked Sam to forgive him, he was that little four-year-old boy again saying he was sorry.
He let go of his gun and reached inside his jacket pocket where those pictures had been carefully placed for safekeeping. They were still there. He didn’t bring them out because he still couldn’t see a damn thing and he was afraid if he dropped them, he’d lose them forever. The thought flashed through his mind, thank God he gave Sam the Horseman’s ring. The only thing to survive the scythe, found amongst the weird ash particles as a breeze blew across the floor.
Dean didn’t want to think about killing Death either. He didn’t know what it meant, or what would happen with Death dead, but he knew it wouldn’t be good. Instead, he blinked his eyes and rubbed his face to make sure he was still real. It didn’t feel like there was solid ground under his feet, or anything. He wondered again if he was dead after all.
A crackling hiss intruded, the first sound he’d heard that wasn’t his own breath and heartbeat, panning from left to right in an arc over his head and then full circle. That was followed by a thrumming noise, like a jet powering down in midair. Off in the distance directly ahead, a frayed speck of light appeared, dimly at first but growing, only it wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t a ray of sunshine that was for certain.
Dean reached for his gun again, but didn’t draw it, trying to think through the sudden uptick of fear. He didn’t know what he would be facing. Maybe he’d need the knife that was strapped to his left hip. Maybe he’d need the flask of holy water he had in his inside pocket. Considering what Death had said about the Darkness, an amoral force that had taken God and his archangels to beat … Dean rolled his eyes at that … he had to wonder if maybe none of the weapons he had would do him any damn good.
The light came at him. It was grey and surreal and didn’t seem of this world, wispy and smoky and reaching for him; it yanked him out of the dark and threw him down onto a very hard surface that turned out to be a bloodstained stone floor.
Dean blinked at the horror on display all around him. Bodies hung suspended from bloodied hooks everywhere he looked or were splayed on metal frames, chained by the extremities – if the arms or legs were still intact. He knew this place from a memory forever seared into his brain. This was hell. More than that, it was where he brought souls to torture. His own personal creation.
It was exactly how he remembered it, but at the same time, everything was wrong. The strange light flickered on and off, punctuated by wisps as black as night. That darkness grew every time the light changed until it was all around him and solidifying into a form. Dean instinctively backed away from it, this thing that was as tall as he. For an instant, with the flicker of black to white to grey, he looked at a replica of himself.
That changed with the next flash. The creature before him slimmed down, with eyes that blazed white looking out at him. The shape of a woman emerged, long blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. He stared into the face of his mother.
He understood then what was happening. The thing was reading his memories and somehow creating them. The torture room, his mother were both things he’d recently had on his mind.
The Mary clone took a step toward him and Dean backed up again, banging into a large metal frame that sprang into creation behind him. The next instant, he was shackled to it, an unseen force raising each arm and locking him down in place until he stood, just as Alistair had, like Jesus on the cross.
As quickly as he thought it, the reality of that imagery followed. A spike drove into his left hand, another pierced his right and he screamed in pain. Blood poured from the wounds, dripping to the rock.
He was searched; the knife at his belt removed by invisible hands. The gun tucked into his pants dropped to the ground next. The flask of holy water produced a hiss from the surrounding darkness and it was thrown. The shadows fell away from it so that it gleamed dully in the half-light. The pictures of his mother were examined and tossed aside.
He thought – he hoped – if he got through this one alive, the only thing he’d grab on his way out were those memories captured on film so long ago, flung carelessly to the floor. He didn’t care about anything else.
Shadows coalesced at each hand. Dean could have sworn he saw mouths open, drinking the blood that flowed from each wound. It was hard to tell with the light spazing in and out the way it was, but then there seemed a whole line of them; these shadow forms cued up for a turn. As they drank, they congealed into something less than a wisp of smoke, still dark but almost solid and then they vanished. With each one that disappeared, a jolt of pain struck him, slowly at first but then coming one after the other so that he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see, and couldn’t keep from screaming. Through a haze of pain, Dean realized they were disappearing into him.
“Enough,” Mary barked and the shadows receded. She smiled and stood before him, a hand caressing the side of his face. “That’s enough for now.”
She changed then, morphing into a thing lacking substance, but having form that was loosely human, but shifting as though in a wind. Flashes came through of a woman, wrapped all in black, her face abnormally pale, a sickly shade of grey, and dark flowing hair that undulated all around her head. Her eyes were white fire and then blue before they turned brown. Every time his gaze shifted to a different part of her and then back, she changed.
“Where is your master, Gatekeeper?” she demanded. Her voice was lower than normal for a woman, which he knew she wasn’t and it didn’t sound right. Her hand stroked along his arm.
There came with the question a very strong compunction to answer her and he would have. He wanted to. A lot. Except he didn’t know what the hell she was talking about.
“I don’t have a master,” he said, really wishing he could tell her what she wanted.
The shadow hand on his arm tightened. It was a loathsome touch, a thing of pure hatred and evil, and made him recoil, except he couldn’t get away. More pain tore through him. She took the discarded knife and drew it across his arm, through two layers of cloth and into skin. He didn’t have the Mark of Cain anymore. The new holes bled and wouldn’t magically heal themselves and it hurt way more than usual, like normal he realized. The fact of his mortality, something he hadn’t thought about since discovering the Mark would keep him alive, returned in full measure. Fear followed. If he didn’t give her, whoever she was, what she wanted – she would kill him.
“You’re human,” she said in a tone dripping with derision. There was hatred there too, as if he was personally responsible for everything bad that had ever happened to her. Her hand slid along his right arm, stopping over the exact spot where the Mark had once been. Her eyes closed and she drew her head back, sneering. “A human gatekeeper,” she hissed. “A creation of Elhoim. The one who locked us away. You will take us to him.”
Dean blinked at that. Death told the story and somewhere in the back of his mind, Dean recognized the name she used. “God?” he said before he could stop himself. She was not amused by his tone. “You want me to take you to God?”
That earned him a backhanded fist across his jaw, exploding lights in his eyes. More blood gushed into his mouth. But then he couldn’t breathe because she grabbed him by the throat and slammed his head into the rack.
“You will take me.”
“I … don’t … know where …” He meant to say the rest; he didn’t know where God was, but couldn’t get it out. He thought for sure she was going to snap his neck. His last thought as black specks poked holes in his sight and his vision narrowed – Sam is going to lose his mind. I’m in some sort of alternate dimension and he’ll never know what happened to me. And he’ll spend the rest of his life, what little we all have left, looking for me. Dean knew it for certain and the feeling was both good and bad.
The pressure released and he sucked in a breath, sagging against the metal cuffs around his wrists and the nails in his hands. Pain sapped his strength, and he realized he hadn’t slept in a long time, or eaten. Not in days. The Mark didn’t require it, but now he was weakened from it, giving this creature a distinct advantage. Maybe she sensed it.
“Who gave you the key?” she asked and he assumed she meant the Mark after what Death had said. He didn’t want to tell her. He was afraid giving her so much information would make stuffing the proverbial genie back in the bottle an impossibility. Not that it wasn’t impossible enough already.
His hesitation earned him another jaw-breaking blow across his face that nearly knocked him unconscious. She was having none of that. She slapped him a couple of times to regain the proper attention. It was more like being clawed. There were four of her now, zooming in and out of focus.
“Cain,” he said and she squinted at him.
“And who gave it to him?”
“The damn devil,” he quipped but one raised hand changed his mind about giving this lady/thing his usual dose of snark. If she hit him even a couple more times, it’d be lights out. “Lucifer.”
She recognized that name, a smile curling her lips. “And where is he?”
She didn’t know what that was either even though she’d somehow plucked the real memory of it from his mind. This was a creature who’d existed before creation, before hell ever was. In his muddled brain, he wondered how she knew about humans.
“You’ve been there,” she said, glancing around at the carnage.
“I was taken.”
“And you will take me there.”
“I can’t,” he lied, knowing he shouldn’t tell her anything else. She could get inside his head, he knew, but maybe there were limitations. He started praying for that and kept talking. “It’s not a place of this world, all right? It’s not like I can walk through a door. I can’t. But I know someone who can.” She had her hand clamped on his throat again. “His name is Crowley,” he told her, not feeling at all bad about giving him up. He would recognize the danger she posed to demon kind, to all kind, and he stood a better chance of standing up to this creature. “He’s the King of Hell. He can take you to Lucifer.”
She let him go after a moment of judgment where it seemed she was trying to decide if he was telling the truth. “If you try to deceive me, I’ll rip your heart out,” she said and her hand went right inside him.
Pain exploded through his whole body. He could feel her fingers wrapped around his heart, or maybe it was his soul she was about to shred. He thought again that this time for sure, death would take him. I’m sorry, Sammy. I wish I could say that to you just one more time. I’m so sorry I got us into this mess and I’m sorry you’re going to be left alone to figure it out. You tried so hard to save me and this is what you get for it. God, help my little brother, please.
She let him go just when he thought he couldn’t stand the pain another second. “Are you lying to me?”
“No.” He almost said yes, but bit it back. He knew … He stopped the thought from forming, afraid she’d read it. All he knew for certain was to stall for time. He’d figure a way out of this if he just had a little more time.
The she-devil punched him in the face again, just for fun it seemed. She raised her hand, gesturing, and the black things came at him, lapping up the blood he was still spilling. In the agony that followed, a corner of white caught his eye, lying on the ground at his feet – the only thing he could see anymore; his mother, holding his little brother in her arms, her beaming smile the last light in the dark. He stared hard at the image, pulling the memory from so long ago to his heart and held onto it, and held on for dear life.
He heard her voice again, ‘Angels are watching over you.’ In pain, afraid and feeling like death would be a mercy, he listened. But it had been a long time since he prayed to anyone, much less an angel.
Listen Gone Again
Story of my life
Searching for the right
But it keeps avoiding me
Listen Gone Again
Sorrow in my soul
Cause it seems that wrong
Really loves my company …
The black cloud of death zipped away or dissipated, Sam didn’t know which. Only that it was gone and Dean with it. A torrential downpour followed in its wake, pounding the already saturated ground.
He’s outside, he thought. He had to be, though Sam didn’t know how Dean would have gotten outside the car with all the doors closed. They’d been sealed up inside. It didn’t make sense at all. But he’d get out of the car and find him right outside. He kept saying that to himself when in the back of his mind, he already knew. He meant to move. He couldn’t seem to get his hands to let go of the dash. He got in a gulp of air then, pried himself off the car and fumbled for the door latch.
He practically fell out of the Impala. His legs weren’t working so well. His head was still ringing from the beating Dean gave him, but he forced himself to move and searched all around the car, getting drenched in the rain. The circuit of the Impala only confirmed his second worst fear. Dean wasn’t there. He was just gone. Taken by the black swirling darkness that barreled over them.
Sam got down on his knees and looked under the car just to be sure. He got back up, covered in mud and circled Baby once more. He knew calling for him wouldn’t work, but did it anyway, yelling DEAN at the top of his voice. He heard his own desperation and felt like he was standing on the brink of insanity.
On his second trip around the car, simultaneously looking for his brother, he checked to see what the damage was to the Impala, which was surprisingly little. She’d flipped sideways, rather than end over end. Both windshields were cracked, but still intact. The side mirrors were bent to hell. There was a big dent in the back driver’s side passenger door. She was covered in dirt, roof to frame, but all the wheels looked sound.
Sam looked after the receding darkness again, his face hardening and eyes narrowing. He rushed to the Impala and slid in behind the wheel. He paused a second, fingers grasping the keys that were still in the ignition where Dean had thankfully left them.
“Please start,” he said, closed his eyes and cranked her over. He breathed again when the engine roared to life.
Resisting the urge to throw it into drive and floor it, he carefully drove the car out of the quagmire. The second he hit hard packed road, caution flew out the window and once out on pavement, he pushed the car up to 70 as fast as she would go and then 80 when he hit the long straight stretch of road heading south on Highway 14, chasing shadows. It was through a driving rain that the car careened, tires slipping on slick pavement. The wipers couldn’t keep up, but Sam didn’t slow down, pursuing a stain of night down the road.
Two miles later he was back in Kansas and pushing the Impala up to almost 90, but the darker smudge across the distant horizon was already fading and it seemed to Sam, expanding as it rolled south. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up this speed. He already had the gas pedal on the floor. The engine roared at the upper end of a good sound right before it was going to head over into the sheering of metal bits being ground up.
He didn’t slow down for another 15 miles. He forgot about the railroad tracks, launched the car over them and remembered the stop sign dead ahead as the Impala came back down with a loud thunk and rattle. Sam hit the brakes, hard, and ended up skidding the car sideways – Dean yelling ‘steer into it!’ in his head – finally grinding to a halt only a little into the intersection.
There was no one else stupid enough to be out driving in this mess.
This was the road to home, just another 30 minutes west. Sam strained to see through the rain, even rolling down the window to clear the fog and only saw a solid wall of grey. The clouds seemed like they were on the ground.
He sat there, mind furiously trying to figure out what to do to find his brother. It didn’t take long for the sick awareness to flow through every part of him; he didn’t know. He recognized the feeling well enough. When Dean went to hell, nothing he did to get him back worked. Nothing. When he vanished with Cas after killing Dick Roman, Sam didn’t even know where to begin. Just like now.
He pulled in a breath, trying to think. “Cas.”
Sam straightened and looked to his right, down Highway 36. Mankato was barely 10 minutes away and where he’d stashed Rowena. The warehouse hideout was far enough from the Bunker that Dean might not find out about it but close enough that Sam could get there and then back home without causing suspicion. That had been the idea anyway. Cas would be with her, or at least he hoped so.
“Cas will know what this is,” he said, talking aloud to himself. His voice cracked and he realized he was nearing the brink of collapse from exhaustion. “Maybe he’ll know what to do. He’s an angel, right? Death said the angels fought this stuff. He’ll have an idea.”
A few more miles down the road and the Impala seemed to sigh in relief when he put her in park and turned off the engine. Steam rolled off the hood, the rain popping and hissing against hot metal. Sam grabbed his gun off the floorboard on the passenger side where it landed during the flip, checked that he had his phone and climbed out. He looked at the keys in his hand and really felt like he should be tossing them over to Dean, who always held onto them. Didn’t matter if Sam was going to keep driving, Dean always kept the keys. Sam pocketed them instead and hurried to the warehouse door.
That was more like a staggered walk. He was already soaked and still covered in mud. The face he saw reflected in the door window was battered and bruised. He blinked because there were three door handles swirling as he reached for it/them. One worked. His knuckles were pretty banged up too.
Up the long flight of stairs was too quiet and inside the warded room was utterly empty. Rowena’s chains lay dumped on the floor. The remains of the spell were strewn across the table. The Book of the Damned and the Codex were gone. A smear of blood staining the floor in front of the entry stairs caught Sam’s eye. An angel blade, Cas’ angel blade, was over by the wall under the windows where the warding was still in place.
Suddenly it was too hard to breathe. Rowena was gone. Cas was gone. And Dean. All of them. If he’d had anything to eat lately, he would have been sick. As it was, the wall caught him when the room spun and the full weight of the horror he’d wrought pressed him down to the floor. All this was entirely his fault.
Fifteen minutes later, the details of the room came back, only at the wrong angle because he was lying down. He sat up and put his head in his hands only knowing one thing. He would keep going until he dropped. This time he wouldn’t give up like he had in the past. He left off the no matter what part, since it was that kind of thinking that ended up breaking the world. Again.
One day he’d learn. Maybe.
He knew if he did find Dean, his brother would likely want to tear him a new one.
Sam pulled himself to his feet using the stair railing and groaning like an old man. He retrieved the angel blade from the corner, listening to his bones crack and pop, but as he did, he thought he heard something. Jerking upright, instantly tense, he looked all around the room.
There it was again, a muttered and indistinct voice coming from the half open door across the room. Sam shifted the angel blade into his left hand, pulling his gun out with his right. Creeping along so he wouldn’t make any noise, he made his way across, then to the door and took a quick glance around the frame.
A narrow hallway that had other rooms along its length ran down the side of the main room. Cracked and pealing puke green paint covered the walls. Most of the doors were open or non-existent. All except one. That door was closed and warded with enochian symbols. Angel warding, but these were placed in such a way that Sam didn’t immediately recognize.
He listened again, heard another moan but feared a trap of some sort. Every muscle taut, blade and gun in hand, heart suddenly pounding, he turned the latch with a few fingers and charged in.
Relief that Cas was curled up on the floor inside a ring of the same type enochian symbols was instantly replaced by concern. There was something wrong with him. Dried blood caked his face that had streamed from his eyes. He was periodically shivering and in apparent pain.
Still feeling a trap, Sam approached carefully, calling the angel’s name in a whisper.
“I wouldn’t do that.”
Sam whirled around, recognizing Crowley’s voice, and lashed out with the blade as he turned hoping he’d get lucky. With one flick of his wrist though, Crowley threw Sam across the room away from Cas and into the far wall. He just managed to keep both weapons. Before he could even think to climb back to his feet, Crowley raised his hand, fingers poised to snap. The implied threat froze Sam in place.
“Ah Moose. When will you ever learn?”
“What did you do to him?” Sam demanded, looking at Cas who seemed completely unaware, still shivering, curled up on the floor.
Crowley looked with him, drawing in a measured breath. “I saved him,” he said, which wasn’t what Sam expected and the King of Hell pursed his lips, perturbed. He moved over to the far corner, watching Cas shake. “Just like I saved you, just now.”
“What are you talking about, Crowley?”
“Mommy dearest cast a spell, turning your little angel into a raving lunatic. I disarmed him and put him in here for safekeeping, figuring you lot would show up eventually.” His eyes slid toward the doorway. “Where’s Squirrel?”
Sam clamped his mouth closed, refusing to answer, but being a Demon meant Crowley could see inside Sam easily enough.
“He’s gone? Again, he’s gone?” he bellowed. “Removing the Mark caused a calamity. Have you checked Purgatory? Hell maybe? Or are you going to go off and find yourself another dog?”
“Do you know anything about this? The Darkness? Death warned—”
“Death?” Crowley threw his head back, even more annoyed. “You Winchesters. Always playing with forces that have been around since before the dawn of time and never knowing what the bloody hell you’re doing!”
“He told Dean he’d send him away, like to a different planet away, so that he wouldn’t hurt anyone else because the Mark couldn’t be removed without letting out the Darkness.”
He calmed at that news, pausing to consider it. “Ah … Well that explains a few things.” His eyes narrowed, starring at Cas for a moment. “The spell will wear off in time. He’s an angel. These things don’t stick long with their kind. My advice? Don’t go near him until it does.” He stepped away from the wall. “Have fun dealing with this one, Moose. And remember; you’re alive because of me.”
With that he was gone and Sam collapsed back against the wall. That was followed by a sudden, deep urge to break something, so strong was his annoyance that Crowley both existed, still, and he was right. The thought played in the back of his mind that in order to stop what was happening, they’d need Crowley’s help. Again.
There wasn’t anything to do but wait though. Sam got up, straining to get his feet under him. He closed the door to offer at least a little protection from unexpected visitors. He jammed the back of a chair up under the doorknob. He paced the room to keep moving, but that soon led to leaning against the wall, which turned into sitting in the corner. He tried looking at his phone to check weather reports, but his vision was so blurred he couldn’t make anything out other than it was raining, pouring torrentially, in a large swath from the Midwest all the way south to the Gulf. He saw a few headlines in bold: Unusual clouds cover massive area. Heavy downpours prompt flood warnings. Odd storms reported from Northern Canada to Louisiana.
It all added up to a lot of people dying. Because of him. Again.
That was the last coherent thought he had before merciful sleep claimed him.
Don’t know where the Angels Sleep
I don’t know why I always run
Is it fear of the fall or fear of the touch
I don’t know where the angels sleep.
I don’t know where the angels sleep …
The process of inner self-regeneration was sometimes longer than others and wasn’t an entirely pain-free experience. It was always easier when he could just turn his angel powers on himself, rather than wait it out. Every time he surfaced he could still feel the effects of the spell Rowena had cast and every time he retreated back within to his core, where he didn’t exist in a human body but as pure angelic energy.
From there, where the spell’s madness couldn’t reach him, he sought to reduce the grasp it had on the outer shell. Being an angel, it wasn’t so much difficult as it was time consuming. And Cas felt the progression of time in a way that wasn’t normal. Usually, time passed in a kind bubble, forward and back with the present expanding in waves. It had taken quite a while for him to adjust to human perception of time’s passage. Maybe he’d gotten too used to it, dulling his ability to see both ahead and behind as well as now.
At the moment, he felt an urgent need to find out what was happening – with Dean, with Sam, with the world. He felt a dissonance that hadn’t been present before, a low thrumming discord that filled him, Castiel, Angel of the Lord, with fear.
But he was stuck with his present circumstances until such time as he wouldn’t be. So he occupied himself with other matters. Every spare moment he had, and admittedly there’d been few since he’d gotten his full grace back, he set about the repair of his wings. He wasn’t even sure it could be done. The power to move through time, from one place to the next without time passing came not just from within but from heaven. It remained to be seen, even if he could repair the damage to his being that the loss of his grace had caused, whether or not heaven’s power remained within him.
It was meticulous work, concentrating his energies to that degree, and it was draining, but in the few weeks since recovering his grace, he gauged his progress as halfway.
At the moment, he didn’t summon any energy to continue the repair, feeling that he would need all his strength for what was ahead, but only noted what had yet to be done. Then, when the damage was healed, he’d find out if God’s will was still with him.
Most angels thought no, but Cas still wanted to believe that his Father was still out there and more importantly, still cared. It was a deep-seated thought, a whispered premonition, that in the days and weeks ahead they would all need God’s mercy.
He warned Sam about the consequences of using so powerful a spell to release Dean from the Mark of Cain. Cas didn’t know what that cost was. Not yet. But he felt a shift into the very core of his being, a change in the fabric of the world. Perhaps even the universe.
Finally, with this dissonance humming in the recesses of his being, he became aware again and felt himself. He opened his eyes and sat up.
Only to discover he was trapped. He remembered then; the spell released to remove the Mark, the blast wave, Rowena’s spell, and then attacking Crowley like a maddened dog. Somehow, the King of Hell had fended him off, knocking his angel blade away and then kept him at bay for long enough for the witch’s spell to dissipate. A normal human probably wouldn’t have ever escaped the binding spell, but this was Crowley, not human at all and a power unto himself. What Cas didn’t understand was why Crowley had bound him within the angel wards, in effect saving him and everyone else from the effects of the spell where Cas couldn’t escape and cause more havoc. He’d long ago given up trying to figure out why Crowley did anything though, and turned to survey his surroundings.
He saw Sam, slumped over on the floor and for an instant, thought he was dead, but he reached out to him and discovered he was only asleep. Alive, but wounded, though not critically. He had a bad concussion. His face, what Cas could see of it under the mop of hair, was cut and bruised. He had three broken ribs, a badly strained shoulder and a hairline fracture of his left wrist. The right side of his face under all the bruises was broken, with eight teeth loose and two missing altogether. All easily repaired, except Cas was trapped.
He hesitated, knowing how little the Winchesters appreciated it when Cas invaded their minds. They didn’t like knowing that he knew their inner most thoughts. It was awkward too, when Cas walked in on Dean dreaming about some female he was having sex with. Unlike his brother, Sam’s dreams were almost always dark and so Cas learned to stay out of them. The current situation required it though. Sam could sleep for days, injured as he was, and this location wasn’t at all secure. Carefully, Cas reached outward again and entered Sam’s mind.
To his surprise, a bright blue, cloudless sky broke open over head. Off in the distance, Cas heard the laughter of children and the gentle rush of water. He stood in an open forest glade beside a wide brook. Cas heard a splash and saw them, Sam and Dean, only as children, six and ten, playing on a rope swing and wearing only ragged cutoff shorts. They were such scrawny little things it was hard to believe the men they had grown up to be. Cas found himself smiling as he watched. It was a rare, happy memory of their childhood.
Dean clambered out of the water, racing around the tree and catching the rope as it swung. “Come on Sammy. You do it.”
But Sam wasn’t convinced by Dean’s enthusiasm, eyeing the water with trepidation. “I don’t wanna. You go again.”
“Next time? It’s fun.” Dean held the rope a moment, looking down at his little brother. “How about I stay in? I’ll wait for you. I won’t let anything happen to you, Sammy.”
“I promise. Just catch the rope.”
At that, Sam got the courage to give it a try, ever trusting, nodding up at his brother. “Okay Dean.”
Dean took a couple steps back, reaching up as high as he could on the rope and then running at full speed, launched himself off the bank and into the air. He let go the rope at just the right time and plunged in with a big splash, yelling at the top of his lungs. He came right back up, shedding water, treading in place while Sam caught the rope as it swung back.
As Cas watched, he wished he could take them both back to this moment in their lives and let them stay here for longer than they were given. He knew, of course, that it wasn’t possible. He took a step closer, meaning to wake Sam.
Suddenly, Dean struggled to stay up and as Sam watched in growing fear, he was pulled under. The water went from clear grey to black. A fast current rose up, sweeping Dean out and away from the bank before swallowing him.
Little Sam chased after his brother, screaming his name as he dashed between trees along the brook that had swelled to a wild torrent.
Because it was a dream, Cas could teleport ahead of him. Sam crashed into him full force, fell, but scrambled right back to his feet. He would have raced off again, but Cas grabbed him firmly by the arm. “Sam,” he said and shook him. “Wake up.”
The little boy tried yanking away, never once taking his eyes off the roiling waters. Cas knew that this was all deeply subconscious fear, but at the same time, he was afraid it might also be real.
Abruptly, Sam was no longer a child, but a grown man and raging against the restraint. A massive fist flashed toward him, but Cas blocked it and grabbed Sam by both arms. As calmly as he could manage, he said again, “Wake up, Sam.”
The sky disappeared, along with the flooding black tide and the trees. The warehouse room reappeared around him. Sam sucked in a gulp of air and bolted upright. He stared around, wide-eyed, but slowly regained his composure, shoving his hands through his hair to get it out of his face.
Cas waited him out but he saw immediately that there was more than pain and exhaustion weighing him down. Fear and grief came off him in waves, superseding a heavy burden of guilt by only a little. He was on the verge of collapse.
“I need your help,” Cas said, looking down at the wards. It was a simple thing for Sam to scrape away part of the sigil, rendering it inert, but Cas wasn’t sure he could make it the few steps across the room to do it.
Sam nodded, digging the knife he always carried out of his front pocket. He didn’t bother standing and winced as he half-scooted, half crawled across the floor, focusing hard on reaching the symbols. He set the knife’s edge to the nearest arc in the circle and then had to press down even harder when the first attempts barely scratched the surface. It was painful to watch how difficult this simple task was for him, but he did finally manage it.
The ward lifted. Cas stepped out and immediately crouched down beside Sam. With a hand on his shoulder and two fingers pressed to his head, Cas flooded him with angelic energy, healing all the wounds in barely the blink of an eye. But it did nothing to ease grief and fear, or relieve acute exhaustion. The human body required sleep and Sam hadn’t had any in days.
“He’s gone,” Sam said in hardly a whisper.
“Dean? Is he alive?”
Another wave of grief washed over his face as Sam blinked. “I don’t know.”
Cas could only nod to that. No matter what calamity had struck, and he now knew with Dean missing, there’d been one, the requirement of rest had to be met before anything else. He thought how Dean might handle this situation. Cas nodded. He had a new mission.
He restored his blade to its usual spot, pocketing Sam’s gun, and then picked the younger Winchester up off the floor.
“We’ll find him.” That, he realized, was mission number two, as he all but carried Sam out to the Impala.
As they struggled along through the pouring ran, Cas felt it start within, long dormant and still not at full strength but there; the ability to warp space and time. He teleported them both five feet closer to the car in a blink.
Sam didn’t seem to notice. “I don’t know what happened to him.”
“We’ll figure it out. You’re not alone, Sam. I’ll help you,” Cas said and took the keys from him when he fumbled them out.
That revived him a little. “No. No way.”
Cas flashed him a look and opened the back door driver’s side. It was badly dented but still functional. “I can drive, and right now, you can’t.” He stuffed him in without any difficulty at all and he fell right over.
“He’ll kill me if he finds out I let you drive her.”
Cas had to smile at that, both because Sam would forever be the little brother worried about doing something wrong in Dean’s eyes – and this was probably pretty high up on the list of things to never allow – and because with that admission, the underlying belief still existed that they would find Dean so that he could get mad about Cas driving his baby. Through all the fear and anguish, Sam was still capable of hope. Cas knew he wouldn’t give up. Ever. That was a Winchester trait.
“I won’t tell on you,” he said. He was a younger brother too, after all. He knew the feeling.
Baby roared to life. He sat for a moment, letting the engine warm, looking out at the falling rain and seeing within it darker patches that behaved almost like smoke, and not at all benign. It was there one moment and not the next, phasing in and out as though it didn’t quite have a full firm grasp on this reality. It was everywhere. It grew stronger in places, gathering it seemed, closer and closer until it was all around them.
“Cas,” Sam’s voice reached through the chaos of sudden realization and fear, “put it in drive.”
He glanced back at him, prone on the back seat, and managed a brief smile while the darkness encroached. The Impala barely needed any gas to start moving, seemingly aware of their peril. Cas decided to find out how fast she could get them out of there and tires squealing, pulled the car out onto the road for home.
In the Arms of an Angel
Fly away from here, from this stark, cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of an angel
May you find some comfort here …
The smoke alarm bleating woke Sam from a dead sleep. He threw the covers off, stood in the same motion, and grabbed his gun, running toward the source, in automatic hunter mode. He was halfway to the kitchen, aiming around each corner, glancing briefly down each long corridor before the fog of sleep cleared and he remembered.
He arrived in the kitchen, aimed and ready to shoot the intruder but realized it was Cas and the alarm was going off because the angel was burning something on the stove. Sam reached up over the door and silenced the alarm by detaching its battery. It wasn’t hardwired into the system; just a cheap Wal-Mart brand that Dean had installed after Sam burnt a roast. Cas was waving his hand through copious smoke but then had the sense to move the frying pan from the fire. He didn’t know what to do with it after that, turning this way and that, smoking pan in hand.
Sam moved quickly to intercede, turning on the exhaust fan over the stove and killing the gas. He took the pan and set it down on a back burner, wincing at the remains of half a pack of very burnt bacon. Cas had an apron on over his trench coat and looked completely ridiculous. He had that expression where he was both annoyed and befuddled that he usually got when he was certain he could manage some mundane human task and it didn’t turn out that way.
Sam couldn’t help but smile over it and Cas’ consternation. He shook his head, setting his gun down on the counter while Cas continued to wave at the smoke. He ditched the apron, wadding it up into a ball that he dumped on the prep table.
“Uh, good morning, or well afternoon. Actually it’s 4:10. I, uh, I did make coffee and I was trying, as you can see, to make you breakfast because I know you haven’t eaten. So, here. I’m going to clean this up.” He was talking fast in an almost manic way, moving and explaining. He touched the edge of the frying pan and it was instantly scoured clean. They’d probably be able to eat off it for a week before needing to wash it again. “You need to eat.”
“Yeah, Cas, I know.”
“I was distracted,” he went on. “I was doing research on this thing we unleashed.” He moved to the kitchen table where he’d set up Sam’s laptop and turned it to him. Sam noticed he didn’t place the blame where it belonged.
“The thing I unleashed,” he said, looking at the weather map that showed an even bigger swath of the country completely enveloped.
In the silence that followed, he glanced at Cas when the angel didn’t respond. “I knew, we all knew that there would be consequences to removing the Mark, in using such a powerful spell to do it. Dean knew. It was one of the last things he said to me before he left, that using that kind of magic came at a price that would end in blood, and he didn’t want to be responsible for more people dying anymore than you.”
“That’s right. He didn’t. But I didn’t listen to him or you.”
“Sam, you were right.”
“Right? Right about what? That I broke the whole world? Anyway, that’s not what Death said.”
Cas didn’t answer at first but then nodded. “Dean summoned Death to try and get the Mark off and Death said no. I know what happened. Death is not all seeing and all knowing,” Cas said, getting Sam a cup of coffee because he hadn’t done so. He handed it over, nodding Sam to sit at the table. “While you slept, I went and looked at something. It’s difficult to put it into terms you can understand … The closest reference would be a great Book of Time. It’s not really a book though, or anything actually written. It’s more a metaphorical roadmap, for angels watching over the world. I went and I looked and saw what would have happened, Sam. Dean, wearing the Mark, would have become such a force of destruction. More terrible than you can imagine and even worse than this thing we’ve let loose.”
“Death was going to—”
“Send him away, yes. I saw it. But the thing that Death asked of him would have been the very thing that destroyed who Dean Winchester is. Killing you would have been the antithesis of everything he ever stood for. You said it yourself. He’s spent his whole life looking out for you, saving you when you were lost and alone. It’s his thing. You told me that, Sam. If he’d actually done it, if he’d killed you, the monster he would have become … you wouldn’t have recognized him, and I know for certain that he wouldn’t have gone with Death or allowed Death to take him. And in his madness and grief, he would have ruined the world. The devastation I saw … So you did the right thing, Sam, and I’m sorry I ever doubted you. I should have known better. After all, it’s not like we haven’t been told before to let the two of you go your own way.”
Sam blinked at that, hardly able to believe what he was hearing or accept it as anything more than Cas trying to ease his guilt. “What?”
“I might be saying too much,” Cas said, squinting over it.
“Who has told you to let us go our own way?”
“Well, Michael – mostly. Gabriel, Raphael. Even Lucifer. It was Michael who called you and Dean … the spear of destiny, and that where you go, I should follow. It was a long time ago. You weren’t even born yet.”
“Why would he say something like that?”
Cas looked at him then, maybe judging if he was capable of hearing what he had to say. He smiled a little over it and then turned serious, looking Sam in the eye. “He said it was God’s will.”
Sam gasped at that and pulled in another breath, realizing he’d been holding it. “So is it God’s will that Dean’s gone now?”
Cas’ whole face lit up. “He’s alive Sam. I’m certain of it.”
“How do you know that?” The question came out a whisper and he felt himself start to shake.
“I heard him.”
That was another revelation, stunning in it’s implications.
“He prayed to you,” Sam said, knowing it had been years since Dean had called for Cas that way. The last time, Sam had been lying in a hospital bed, dying from the Trials and Cas hadn’t answered, but a pack of angry angels had, Gadreel among them. Before that, Cas had taken off with the Angel tablet. That was the last time Dean prayed to anyone.
Cas sat beaming as he nodded. “Twice now.”
“Where is he?”
“Well I haven’t been able to pinpoint that exactly. Not yet anyway. That’s the bad news.” He paused there, trying Sam’s patience even more, but he had to wait for the angel to sort out how best to explain it all. Sam sat and drank his coffee while Cas thought it out.
“God created light first,” he began and Sam couldn’t believe he was hearing the story of creation, a bible story, but then on second thought, shouldn’t have been surprised or that it was slightly different from the one he knew. “The Darkness is primordial. It existed before creation.”
“I got that from Death,” Sam interjected and Cas frowned at him.
“Yes, well, that light brought into being order on a chaotic universe. Time and space is a function of that order, created at the same moment. Chaos fought against what seemed a rigid stricture that was alien and unwelcome. Dark against light.”
“Good versus evil.”
“Yes and no. Chaos isn’t inherently evil but neither is it good. If you want to put an emotion to it to better understand, it would be uncaring, indifferent. It doesn’t care if it obliterates the stars or the planets, the galaxies, all of it, and would, simply because those things stand in its way. It is antithesis to the organization of, well, everything. And now it seeks to destroy what God created.”
“Did you know about the Mark? It’s real purpose?”
“No. I wasn’t created yet either. I heard stories about the battles my brothers fought, but nothing about the Mark, other than Lucifer gave it to Cain. I think maybe he was going to give it to Abel but Cain took the Mark to save his brother, just like Dean took the Mark to save you.”
“To kill Abaddon, who was a threat to you, and to keep you from—”
“Taking the Mark myself.”
“Because Dean knew you would. It’s how he perceives the world,” Cas said, smiling over it. “Keeping you safe is his first instinct. His first priority.”
Sam heard Dean’s voice in his head saying ‘Don’t you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you’ like an echo from the past that was still present.
“You should know by now that this can’t be changed.”
“Oh I know,” he said and had to clear his throat. “I know, Cas.”
“You should probably stop trying.”
“What does any of this have to do with where Dean is now?”
“Look at the map,” Cas said, pointing to the laptop screen.
The entire middle section of the country, up through Canada was swathed in a giant cloud, according to the NOAA map. It was a thousand mile wide band that was moving east and west, another anomaly the scientists couldn’t figure out, and it would cross the Mississippi soon.
“What do you see that’s odd about those clouds?”
“They stop at the Gulf of Mexico,” Sam said immediately. He’d noticed that before.
“And on the edge of the Hudson Bay and at the Arctic Ocean.”
“Salt water,” Sam said. “It’s not crossing any body of salt water.”
“So God had a reason for making the planet mostly water. They don’t cross Holy ground either.” Cas zoomed in on a local church and cemetery where sure enough, the cloud cover thinned. “It’s much more noticeable with larger cemeteries.”
“All right. And?”
“My theory is that the Darkness hasn’t been fully unleashed. Otherwise, it would already cover the world. What we have now is only a rift that is allowing in this small portion.”
“But why do think … Did the spell not work?” Sam asked, alarmed at the thought.
“Maybe not, but I know the Mark still exists on someone else.”
“But Dean killed Cain,” Sam said and then he had it, blinking over the ramifications. He stopped breathing again. “Lucifer.”
“Yes. The Darkness knows who Lucifer is and it will try to destroy him so that the rest can consume the universe. It has Dean now because he was the last bearer of the Mark.”
“In the void, or half in the void. From what I’ve been able to find out, the rift is not stable. It’s opening and closing. That’s why I could hear Dean but not find him. But a prayer is like a homing signal, so I know approximately where to start looking. The place where the rift first opened.”
Sam sat silently for a moment, thinking it all over; first that he would get his brother back, but second that they might be put in the mind-bending position of having to protect Lucifer from the Darkness. “Light bringer.”
Cas nodded to that. “The Angel of Light. Now you know why he was called that. When I come back, we’ll head to Nebraska—”
“Wait, where are you going?”
“To Heaven,” Cas said. “There’s something there that I need. You need to collect as much holy water as you can, salted, and holy oil. Make some of those special bullets with it, and somewhere in the bunker is a heavenly weapon you’ll want to bring. It’s a dagger. It’s in here somewhere. Find it.”
“God’s toothpick,” Sam muttered under his breath, smiling and shaking his head at the same time. Another thought occurred though. “Cas how are you going to get into and more importantly, out of Heaven after what happened with Metatron?”
He smiled broadly. “I meant to tell you.”
And with that, he vanished with a familiar whoosh and sound of wings, only to reappear on the far end of the kitchen and making all the pots and pans that hung over the prep table clash and clang together.
“You got your wings back!”
Cas grinned. “I’ll explain how later. There are other things I have to tell you and quickly. We have to be ready to move soon or Dean isn’t going to last. They would love nothing more than to take him over, but right now, they can’t. He’s protected, somewhat, from them getting all the way in.”
“By the anti-demon tattoo?” Sam asked.
“No. That doesn’t work against anything but demons and doesn’t protect him at all, or you for that matter. It’s the angel warding I carved into your ribs. There are a number of generic protection symbols built in, but one is missing.” He bent over the computer again, typed for a second and hit enter.
Sam blinked. “That’s the symbol for pi.”
“It is. It’s also the symbol of order and the infinite, which makes perfect sense when you think about it. This symbol will, I think, hopefully, protect you from being infected. It’s already started, Sam. People in the path of this are already starting to behave erratically. If you look at the news you’ll see. As far as I can tell, everyone inside is at risk, though some resist it longer than others. Including you.”
Abruptly, Cas reached over, setting his fingers against Sam’s chest and he felt the surge of power rip into him and hit his ribs. At the same time a blob of wispy darkness was expelled from his body. It took aim at Cas but bounced right off him and then started whizzing all around the kitchen looking for a way out.
Even as Sam lurched to his feet, Cas was already powering up, eyes flaring to blue, hand outstretched toward it and the next instant blasting at it. It wasn’t like demon smoke, lacking the same cohesion, similar only in color, and it writhed under the assault until, just a brief moment later, it crumbled. What was left was a pile of ash that reminded Sam very much of what was left of Death after Dean hit him with the scythe.
The flare of light ebbed and Cas stooped down to examine the remains, running his fingers through it and then rubbing them together. He tilted his head to the side, squinting in thought as though the examination garnered some extra information.
“That was inside me?” Sam said, easing back down to sit at the table.
“I didn’t feel any different at all.”
“The angel warding helped there, but eventually … Regardless, now you’re protected.”
“But no one else is.”
“No. That includes animals too. There’ve been a number of dog attacks reported. Cats don’t seem to be as affected but I’m not sure about that. Birds, bees. Everything it touches. Maybe even plants. You’ll have to be very careful if you go out, which you shouldn’t do until we go to get Dean back.” He reached into his coat pocket. “Here’s the key to the bunker. You should use this symbol to ward all the entrances, everywhere you think it should go, magically if you can but by any means if you don’t have time. The car is parked out front,” he said and put those keys beside the bunker key. He noticed Sam’s inward groan. “The car is fine. I even fixed her for you, and—”
“What? How? We only take her to one mechanic and he’s three states over.”
Cas didn’t answer except to cast him one very steely-eyed glare. “I warded her too in case the Darkness can infect mechanical objects. I don’t think it can, but it’ll protect anyone inside. And this…”
He set Death’s ring on the table and Sam understood its importance. They had the other horsemen’s rings locked up in the bunker vault and warded to the extreme. Here again was the key to Lucifer’s cage.
“You shouldn’t keep them together. Separate the other keys and ward them against everything. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He paused in his departure, turning back to Sam. “And get something to eat.”
With that he was gone, whooshing away and leaving behind more rattled pots. Sam decided to get another cup of coffee instead, turning to his laptop to see what the Darkness wrought, but then Cas popped back in. He had in hand a full plate of food, steak and eggs, diced potatoes with a side of toast that he set down on the table beside him. Before Sam could even say thanks, Cas left again.
Sam looked after him, laughing quietly over the gesture. The delicious smells suddenly assaulting him reminded him that he was in fact starving. He was about to get up to get a fork when Cas popped back in once more. He placed a set of utensils wrapped in a napkin beside the plate.
“Do you need anything else?” he asked and Sam started laughing again.
“No Cas. I’m good.”
He nodded to that and then clapped him gently on the shoulder. “We’ll get him back, Sam,” he said because the angel could see right through him. “I promise.”
Cas left again, knocking three pans off the rack this time, but Sam left them, doing exactly what he’d been told and smiling to himself as he dug in. He ate every last morsel and because he was alone and no one else would see, licked the plate clean.
When the Angels Play
When we strike
We’re ready to try, c’mon let’s fly
No one can stop us
When we’re sliding by…
“I’m sure you remember Hannah,” Cas said and Sam could only nod. He remembered all right and wasn’t quite sure why she was here. It was a newer meat suit, another man than the one Sam had met at the playground, where she’d told Cas he couldn’t go back to heaven. So much for not taking another human vessel, he thought.
“I remember,” Sam said tightly, letting her know that he remembered everything. She didn’t look at him for much more than a glance.
They stood outside what he viewed as the field of battle. The cantina, what was left of it, stood behind them. The Impala was parked on a thin stretch of gravel. No need to put her in the mud again. After a thorough inspection, after Cas’ repairs, Sam didn’t want to put the car in another hole, so he parked her on the hard pack. He kept hearing Dean in his head telling him what to do to protect the car, don’t give her too much gas before you park her so she won’t backfire, as if he didn’t already know all that, but he listened anyway.
This was the last push.
After everything, he’d get his brother back. That’s all he wanted. Dean, no Mark on his arm. Even if it was just a residual left over, Sam would take that. He remembered saying all those terrible things to him, how he wasn’t his brother, how the idea of family didn’t mean the same thing to him as it did to Dean and none of it, not a word of it was true. Sam needed to be able to tell him that when he was himself and not some shadow of the man he used to know. He leaned against the Impala and prayed to anyone who would listen, ‘Please, just let me get my brother back.’
A gaggle of birds announced the dawn. Cas hadn’t been exaggerating when he said everything was affected. The damn birds, after they woke up, tried to kill themselves off – the whole group, but they still sang for the sunrise; right before the cutthroat fighting started and they dropped dead at the foot of the tree they roosted in. It touched everything, this darkness. He saw it now, the darker patches amongst the grey mist, trying to get at him. And it was furious that it couldn’t reach him, winding itself up into little vortexes that spun around him.
Cas held in hand a walking stick, light red in color, rough hewn. Sam almost asked him if the staff was what he thought it was, but decided it was a question both beneath his intelligence and something he didn’t want to know so specifically. He wore the dagger of God at his hip. He had four flasks of holy oil and holy water that he’d added salt to. His gun was loaded with holy oil bullets. He had more ammo tucked into various pockets, carrying on his person everything he thought he might need to keep his hands free.
Heavenly weapons, Angels fighting against the Darkness; Sam thought back to a time when it was just wendigos and vampires and ghosts, and how easy that seemed now.
But Dean waited on the other side, and so anything, no matter how convoluted or crazy it seemed, was worth it. That’s what he told himself anyway, while he waited for wings x 2 to get themselves ready for the battle ahead. Sam still didn’t know how they were going to enter an alternate dimension to reach his brother. That was a crazy time/space equation that even he couldn’t put together, math wizard though he was. He was still sorting out the ramifications of pi as a ward against chaos. 3.1415926535897932384626433. In all its infinite wisdom.
To pass the time, waiting for the moment, he thought about Dean, wanting him back in this world, wanting things to be back to normal or Winchester normal at the very least. He’d been striving for it, searching for some aspect of it the whole of his life. He knew now what some semblance of normal was and all of it involved his brother being there with him. After all this, that’s all he wanted. Was that so much to ask? He’d thought that battle was over when the Mark was removed. He felt betrayed by his own stupidity in firmly believing it would all work out
Please, he begged. Let me get him back. He’d been saying those same words every day for over a year now.
The dark grey of early evening swirled around them. The darker patches that he could see now, clearly evident. They were waiting for the rift to open again, to leap into it. Cas knew something more about it, but wasn’t saying, but since he’d brought along an extra angel to help, Sam wasn’t questioning. Or no, that wasn’t true. He questioned everything, but he trusted Cas.
It was chaos from that moment forward. Cas nodded. It was go time.
The rift cracked open.
Getting into it was like nothing he’d ever experienced – and he’d experienced quite a lot. Cas, slamming the staff of Moses – the fucking staff of Moses – into the ground to keep the rift open was more than enough to skew Sam’s brain. It reminded him too much of the battle to stop the apocalypse, but he went with it. The staff stayed behind, acting as both a gateway and a barrier. It would hold the rift open so they could get back out and keep the darkness within from getting into the world.
They leapt in.
Disorientation followed fast. It was black as night. It was as if they’d entered a sensory deprivation tank, where there was no sound and no light. If Cas hadn’t had a firm grip on his arm, Sam would have spun away in the ever dark.
It was that grasp that kept him grounded and then light broke into the void. Cas and Hannah stood with him, lit from within.
This was both good and bad. They could see, but two angelic beings glowing like candles brought the whole damn horde down on them. It was like a thousand bugs smashing into the Impala’s windshield, only all around them. Cas pulled Sam closer, keeping him inside the protective circle of light. The angels withstood the assault, but the circle contracted until the three of them were squeezed inside it back to back waiting for it to collapse.
Cas turned abruptly, gazing off to his right. “I’m here, Dean.”
A room opened around them and they all recoiled from the grisly tableau of mutilated bodies that were strewn everywhere. Arms and torsos were strung up on meat hooks with nothing else attached, dripping blood. Sam knew instinctively that this was Dean’s hell. At the end of a row of carnage, they saw him, nailed to a metal rack and surrounded by the shapeless dark. Sam realized, to his horror, that they were feeding off of him and then going into him. He didn’t look alive.
Even as Sam took a step toward his brother, he was grabbed from behind and thrown. If Cas hadn’t had a hand on him, he would have flown off into the void. As it was, Cas just barely managed to snatch him back out of the air. Sam landed in a heap amidst the carnage of bodies just as another of the things, black on black swirling around them, attacked Cas and Hannah. Rolling to a crouch, Sam reached for his gun. Taking careful aim at the more solid darkness that hovered around Dean, he fired.
An explosion of black ash rained down, soiling the stone floor. But then another took its place and another and another. With Cas and Hannah to protect him, Sam kept shooting, careful not to accidentally shoot Dean, expertly exchanging clips until the bullets ran out. That happened way too fast.
He was tackled from behind as he reached for the holy water. Something latched around his throat, but he managed to get the flask out and the lid off, slinging it at the black shape on top of him. It shrieked, a subsonic, ear popping noise, but it moved off him and he could breathe again. He rolled back to his feet, staggering a step or two toward Dean before he was hit again.
The blow propelled him forward, in the right direction at least, but he heard the crack and pop of bones as he landed again. He ignored the stab of pain that rolled up his left side, desperate to get to his brother. Cas saying Dean wouldn’t last much longer kept going through his mind. If he didn’t stop what was being done to him, he’d die. Sam came up with God’s Dagger in hand and slashed at the monster sucking the life out his brother.
It exploded in a shower of ash. Cas was behind him, angel blade flashing, with Hannah by his side, both of them fighting off one beast after the other. In the momentary respite, Sam grabbed Dean, lifting his face and shaking him.
At first there was nothing, no reaction. Unconscious or dead, Sam couldn’t tell which. He shook him again, looking over his shoulder at the same time, trying to judge how much time he had to revive him or get him off this rack.
“Come on, man. Dean!”
His eyes opened, but only to slits and he mumbled something that sounded like ‘get out of here’ before he went back under. But he was breathing. Alive, at the moment. Frantically, Sam tried to find the mechanism on the shackles to open them but they seemed all one piece, welded to the frame. The spikes through each hand were the same.
Cas crashed into the rack, gritted his teeth and launched himself back into the fray. There were monsters everywhere; big, black hulking shades. These were different from the others they’d fought so far. They were denser, had form and substance. When Sam looked, he thought he saw eyes. He turned back to Dean, grabbing one of the shackles and pulled as hard as he could, which had no effect at all.
“Sammy, get out of here,” Dean whispered.
“Shut up. I’m here to rescue you, Princess,” he shot back and then froze.
He felt it behind him and when he turned, the thing reared up, towering over his head. Before he had the chance to defend himself, two arm-like appendages swung up and then down like clubs, pounding him down the floor. He was hauled back up, dropping God’s dagger in the process and slammed into the rack beside his brother. A black hand wrapped around his throat and squeezed.
As it became impossible to breathe, not for the first time in his life, Sam thought he was about to die. He saw Cas thrown back, hurled into the rack on Dean’s other side before he crumbled to the floor. Hannah was tossed into the darkness, flung aside like a ragdoll. A buzzing whirlwind enveloped her and Sam watched as his vision narrowed while the swarm ripped her limb from limb until her light extinguished. There was no big angel flare, no explosion. There was only the dark and it consumed her.
Sam turned to Dean, to look the last with living eyes on his brother. But Dean was glaring at the thing before him, the monster about to kill his little brother. Sam recognized that death stare, saw the muscles in Dean’s arms bunch. They hadn’t shackled his legs, and despite the pain that moving caused him, he did what he always did when Sam was in danger. He tried to save him. He lifted himself up, legs curling upward and then striking out, boot punched the shade.
It wasn’t much, but it jostled loose the grip the monster had and allowed Sam to suck in a breath of air, buying precious moments. It was enough to clear his head. It was enough that he could get his hand in his pocket, around the flask of holy oil and the cork popped free. He had it out and pouring in that split second.
In his other hand, he held a lighter, flicked open, lit and then dropped precisely where it needed to be. The oil caught, flared, and ate the shade from the bottom up. A column of flame rose and exploded, sending hot ash embers in every direction.
Shying away from the ball of flame and trying to shield Dean at the same time, Sam slipped on remnants of oil and fell. It was a good thing. He needed to get the dagger back in hand and falling kept him from getting hit by another monster that rose over them.
Cas staggered up to his feet, angel blade in hand and skewered it, and the one that came after. “Sam! We have to go! Now!”
Sam grabbed the dagger and was about to haul himself to his feet when he saw them; the pictures of his mother strewn on the floor where they’d been thrown. Dean’s gun was right beside them. With seconds left to live, he lunged for them, scooping up the pictures and the weapon in one hand. A fist pounded into his side as he tried to stand, but Cas took care of the shade responsible. Another was on top of him.
Sam grabbed the last jar of holy oil, uncorked it and slung it across the stones, scrambling for his dropped lighter in the same motion. It lit on the second try and a wall of flame rose in front of them. Cas reared away from it, dragging Sam back with him. He didn’t wait for Sam to get to his feet and reached for Dean.
Light flared all around them, spitting them out the next instant onto the gravel drive of the half-demolished cantina; Cas, Sam, and Dean, still attached to the rack. It felt like being steamrolled and for a moment, Sam couldn’t move. Dean was unconscious and Cas doubled over, puking up blood.
“Go get the staff,” Cas said in a voice more gravely than usual. “Hurry.”
Sam scrambled up, taking the warning to heart. They weren’t safe here. He reached the staff and yanked it out of the ground. A massive booming noise blew him off his feet and back ten feet. He landed on a rock headfirst that left him with a gash over his left eye and too stunned to move.
Until he looked up. A boiling column of darkness coalesced overhead. Like a tornado punching to the ground, it barreled down at them. “Oh shit.”
Above the roar, he heard Cas yelling at him, the words indistinct but the meaning clear. Sam hauled himself up and ran, careening like a drunkard. A terrific wind slammed into him but he put his head down and plowed through, stumbling to Cas’ side moments before the black column would land on top of them.
Once again, Cas summoned his strength, probably the very last bit of it he had to command, grabbed them both and got them the hell and gone out of there.