Here’s a couple more chapters for your Supernatural Hellatus relief wherein Sam saves Dean – again, Cas has an idea and the boys get an unexpected surprise.
Be sure to read part one here first. (Pt 1 & 2 word count 20K. In the world of FanFic this is categorized as GenFic and follows show canon)
Dean is taken by the darkness. Cas recovers from the spell Rowena cast on him due to the help of Crowley, who traps him in angel warding to keep him contained. At the brink of exhaustion, Sam finds Cas. Crowley learns of the removal of the Mark and the Darkness from Sam. Cas drives Sam back to the Bunker in the Impala. Cas recovers his full powers, including his fully repaired wings. Using the staff of Moses as a means to enter and exit the rift, Sam and Cas mount a rescue and manage to extract Dean from the Darkness. The Angel Hannah is destroyed.
Now rise again for this darkened heart
It bleeds fast for all my family
Now rise again for this darkened heart
It bleeds fast for all humanity…
All That Remains
They landed inside the Bunker, rack and all.
Cas immediately collapsed to the floor, spitting up more blood until he stopped moving. Sam lurched to his feet, throwing his weight against the rack Dean was still attached to, trying to keep it from crashing over on top of everything. The precarious balance tipped in his favor. Through straining muscles and just sheer willpower, he managed to keep the thing from falling and possibly crushing his brother. As carefully as he could, he leaned it back until it canted over against a pillar.
He stood frozen for a moment, waiting to see if it would stay put and then he was at a loss as to how to get Dean off the thing. The shackles and spikes were welded. With Cas unconscious on the floor, Sam couldn’t move the rack to a less uncertain angle and had to find a different way. So he went for the hacksaw and started in on the back of the spikes. When that proved both difficult and beyond his current physical capacity, he dug out the saws-all, slapped a metal cutting blade into it and went to work.
The noise revived Dean to the point he knew what was happening. “Don’t slip.”
Sam smiled grimly. “Don’t move.”
It was perilous and nerve-wracking work, cutting the spikes that still pierced Dean’s hands off the rack and not accidentally chopping into skin. Sweat beaded on Sam’s brow, dripping down into his eyes, making him have to stop to mop it off with his shirtsleeve. Dean woke periodically, mumbling about wanting to keep all his fingers. Finally, Sam got one arm free, which was both good and bad.
All Dean’s weight shifted to the one arm still trapped, pressing that arm harder against the one shackle left and making it more difficult to miss cutting him. Sam dragged over a chair, climbing onto it to get better leverage. He nicked Dean’s wrist despite the care he was taking and his brother jumped.
“Skin, Sammy. That’s skin.”
“Sorry. I’m sorry. It’s not bad. You’ve had worse.”
Dean grunted at that, wincing. He drifted out again and Sam went back to work. He cut through the top of the shackle, releasing Dean’s arm and managed to not cut off his hand. Tossing the saw aside, not caring where or how it landed, he tried to keep Dean from thudding to the floor. His brother was a heavy guy, but Sam managed a more or less controlled descent.
Having him unconscious on the floor was way better than having him unconscious on that rack. He set about tending the wounds. Dean’s hands were bleeding around the spikes. Sam didn’t want to pull those out until Cas woke up. The angel showed no signs of moving though. Sam opted for makeshift bandages.
“That’s got to be a first,” Dean said as he raised one spiked, bandaged hand to look at it. He was really pale. His eyes were glazed and he was blinking like he couldn’t see, but Sam noticed he kept looking over at the jug of water on the far table.
“Hey, are you thirsty? Hang on a sec.” He finished wrapping the other hand and retrieved the water. It was plain holy water, left over from making the salted batches that went into the flasks. He pulled Dean up to sit halfway, got an arm behind him and gave him a drink.
He started coughing because he drank too fast but abruptly his body contracted, curling inward and he couldn’t breathe as if he was in pain. It wasn’t until Sam saw black smoke tendrils spilling from his mouth that the realization slammed in than he was infected.
Sam hauled him up again and forced the jug of water to his mouth. “Drink it! Dean, you have to drink it,” he said, yelling in his ear when he probably didn’t need to. He didn’t know what else to do to get it out of him. Dean seemed to understand and started chugging the water down.
Forced ejections were never pretty. This one was worse than anything Sam had ever seen, made that much more horrifying since it was his brother going through it. Smoke poured out of him, but not at all like a demon leaving its meatsuit. This was everywhere. It came out of his mouth, his nose, his ears, even through his skin, blasting pellet-sized holes in him. It was like he was being shot from the inside out. Dean screamed in silent agony. All Sam could do was hold on and keep pouring water down his throat until it really started to feel like he was drowning him.
The Darkness coalesced in a buzzing, furious stream and streaked at Sam. The warding protected him and it bounced off, though the attack knocked him back. He fumbled for God’s dagger that he’d left on the floor by the rack and lurched to his feet when the black smoke sought to go after Dean. Sam put himself between them, dagger in hand.
It zoomed around in an arc, ricocheting off warded walls, then took aim at Cas but bounced off him too. Dean was its only target, the only one not warded against it. Sam stood over him, waiting for it to try. It changed shape, solidifying into the semi-human form he’d seen before in the rift.
The staff of Moses was on the floor just out of reach, but Sam glanced at it, judging the distance and wondering if it might be the better weapon even though he didn’t have any idea how to set it off or if doing so would be a good thing or a really, really bad one. He shifted toward it, but the second he did, the Darkness attacked.
It hurtled at him, striking him midriff and knocking all the air from his body. He swung the dagger around at it, missed, and was struck again. The dagger flew wide, skittering across the floor and into the rack. Ignoring pain and an inability to pull in air, Sam dove for the staff, came up with it, and swung it around in a big arc while the darkness hovered over his brother.
A roaring blast erupted with a blinding flash of light that tossed Sam off his feet and into the bookshelf on the wall. Other things blew by him; books, papers, a couple of old swords clanged down next to him. An ax thunked down into the floor an inch away from his fingers. A high-pitched ring took the place of regular hearing. When he could breathe again, he was the one coughing up blood.
Vision slowly sharpened into focus. The tables that used to stand in the library were upended and broken. Chairs lay scattered in a semi-circular blast pattern. The rack had disintegrated and lay in a crumbled heap of smoking ruin. Dean was flat on his back, staring sightless at the ceiling. The realization came that Sam might have just killed his brother trying to save him.
He clawed his way across the floor to his side, grabbed him and started shaking him. “Hey, Dean. Hey, hey, wake up. Dean, wake up.” Sam saw at a glance that he wasn’t breathing and didn’t find a pulse at his neck.
All the CPR training he’d had over the years flew out of mind. He put his fist into his chest, hard. Nothing. Sam hit him again, and again, and again, panic settling into his mind. “No.”
After the fifth hit, desperation set in. By the sixth he was shaking so badly that the seventh had little force to it.
Dean’s eyes popped open and he sucked in a breath, but Sam ended up hitting him again because he couldn’t stop in time. “Ow! Damn it, Sammy. What the hell!”
He couldn’t speak by then, sagging down beside Dean as relief released pent up breath that ended with him coughing up more blood. He was trying pretty hard to keep it together, afraid some other bad thing would rear up and strike.
Recognizing blind panic, Dean took his hand in his, and Sam realized the spikes were gone, leaving a dark stain against the bandages. With the two fingers he could still move, he held on, Sam’s hand over his heart while he sat shaking. For several long moments, neither of them moved.
“I’m okay,” Dean said. His voice was quiet but calm and brought some measure of his own. Dean smiled when Sam looked down at him. “Man, you look like hammered crap.”
Sam laughed at that, wiping blood away from his mouth. “I feel that way too.”
Dean didn’t look so good himself. He was still sickly pale and small blooms of blood stood out practically all over him, through his shirt, up and down both legs, dripping down his face from where the darkness had forced itself out of him. He grunted and leveraged himself to his elbows when Sam thought it would better if he just stayed down. Sam couldn’t tell him that though and so he helped him sit up instead.
The moment he got there, he put both arms around Sam and pulled him over, half collapsing against him. It was uncharacteristic of him and usually the other way around where Sam was hanging onto him for dear life. Sam grabbed hold again and held on.
“I’m sorry, Sam,” he said very quietly. “For everything. I nearly killed you. I’m sorry I ever doubted you. Thank you for not giving up.” He pulled away, looking him in the eye. There was so much regret there, but foremost above all the pain was love. Sam hadn’t seen that look in his brother’s face in a long time and knew then, for certain, that the Mark was truly gone. “I owe you one.”
Sam felt a laugh bubble up and he let it despite the pain in his side. “Oh I think you owe me at least five,” he said and Dean shoved at him.
“This last go around counts for three in one.”
Dean smirked at him, bit his lip and nodded, but Sam wasn’t finished. He made a promise to himself that if he ever got his brother back he’d make it right. They were never very good with soul baring truths and Sam was afraid to lay the wound open again, but maybe that was the only way to help heal it. He pulled in a breath.
“I need to say something to you,” he began and felt tears in his eyes. He let those happen too. “I’ve made you feel, more than once, like I didn’t look at us as family, and worse, I made you think that I didn’t want to be your brother. None of it is true, at all, and I’m sorry I ever made you think it was. You’ll always be my brother and I promise you, I swear, I’ll never make you feel like you aren’t ever again.”
He could have cracked a joke, since that’s what he always did when emotions ran too raw for his comfort, but this time he only looked Sam in the eye again and let some of the pain show through that those words, spoken in anger over a year ago, had caused him. But then, a half smile made the wrinkles at his eyes deepen. With his broken hands he reached over and wiped away the tears. “You’re a good man, Samuel Winchester,” he said and he almost never used his given name. The smile broadened. “And a great brother.”
He cracked a smile then. “Of course, you’re my only brother and … oh wait. That’s not true.” He grunted under his breath. “Maybe I should trade you in.”
“Maybe you should,” Sam said, smiling as he shook his head.
Dean grunted again and his eyes grew distant. It was a familiar look and one that came over him whenever the subject of their younger brother Adam entered into the thought process. There was a list they went through; how to solve the problem, the consequences of trying to solve it, the danger involved and the answer always came back the same. They couldn’t. The Darkness might be upon them, but letting Lucifer or Michael out of the cage was a known catastrophe they just couldn’t risk. Sam wondered how Dean would take the idea that they might end up having to protect the devil. Not well.
Dean winced then, groaning as he leaned over, mumbling about getting too old for this shit. “Cas’ll wake up soon,” Sam said, knowing that didn’t help with the pain he was in now.
“Not soon enough,” Dean said. “Because now, little brother, you have to help me to my feet. After the water boarding, I have to piss.”
We’ve crossed these battle lines too many times
It passes through the heart
But it never leaves a mark …
There followed several extremely awkward moments where Sam helped Dean to the bathroom, which was much too small for the two of them, and had to unbutton, unzip, and pull his pants down so he could answer the call. Half afraid he’d just topple over, Sam stayed outside the door listening to him grumble that even his dick had holes in it.
“You want to check baby in a trench coat there and see if he’s up yet?” Dean said hopefully while he examined himself.
All Sam had to do was glance over. He shook his head. “He’s still out.”
A whole string of cursing followed and then they had to reverse the process to get clothes back in their proper place. Sam started laughing halfway through it.
“Well hey,” Dean said once the task was completed, “at least I’m not in diapers.”
“Yet,” Sam said and pulled Dean’s arm over his shoulder again. “I’m not wiping your ass. Sorry. Not part of the job description.”
“Oh we’ll be long dead before it gets to that,” he said and then yelled, “Cas! Wake the hell up!” to no effect.
“We keep saying that,” Sam said about dying young as they staggered back toward the library. He wasn’t in the best shape either and every time he breathed too deeply another pool of blood landed in his mouth.
“Hope I die before I get old,” Dean sang, laughing about it.
Sam was about to deposit Dean in the only upright chair in the library when Cas stirred and sat bolt upright. He stayed there for a second, blinking up at them while they stood for a second watching him.
“You bellowed?” Cas said, climbing to his feet. The blood on his face vanished, and he stood, perfectly clean and angelic. He squinted at them, making Sam wonder if he couldn’t see or needed glasses. “You two look terrible.”
“You think?” Dean growled and started toward him, but Cas turned to Sam first.
“He has a punctured lung,” he explained and Dean started at that.
“You should have said something.”
Sam shrugged, muscles tightening in preparation when Cas set his hand against him. It hurt a little, angelic healing, but it was over fast. It was always startling to go from feeling like death warmed over to fine in the blink of an eye, although there remained a little stiffness that would work itself out in a day or two.
Cas turned on Dean next, healing him of all his wounds and branded him with the ward. The first thing Dean did, after he stopped complaining about the pain of being branded without warning was to turn his back to them, unzip and check himself. He threw his head back, shoulders slumping in relief.
But Cas wasn’t finished with him yet, and not very gently yanked him back around. He put his hands to either side of Dean’s face, holding him there and refused to let him back away even though he tried. For a fairly long while, he just stared at him and they both knew that the angel was looking into his inner being, a thing that made Dean extremely uncomfortable.
Dean rolled his eyes, but dropped the usual wall. He stopped resisting and returned the steady gaze with one of his own. Cas set one hand on Dean’s right arm where the Mark used to be, his eyes flared blue, and Sam found himself holding his breath again.
It seemed to take too long for him to issue the verdict and for a split second, Sam saw a shadow cross the angel’s face, but it was fleeting, enough so that Sam wasn’t certain he even saw it.
Cas pulled in a breath and relaxed, powered down and he turned to Sam. “It’s gone. There’s a slight, very slight sort of resonance, a scar if you will, that shouldn’t cause any more harm.” He smiled then, and there again was the briefest strain around his eyes, but he held out his hand, surprising Sam with the gesture. He accepted and shook his hand. “If there was ever a time for you not to fail, Sam, this was it. Thank you.”
“Sure Cas. Thanks.”
The angel turned around and caught Dean smirking over the display and for some reason that really pissed him off. “Do you have any idea what kind of hell you put your brother through, put me through, asking me to kill you if it came to it? All because of your pigheaded idiocy of rushing into something you knew nothing about. And now, look what came of it!”
Dean met the angel’s wrath without really batting an eye, but Sam knew he was surprised by it. “You low on sugar or something?”
Cas turned on Sam, who was barely able to contain a burst of laughter. Dean was definitely back. “Did you tell him?” Cas demanded. “About what would have happened? I think he should see it.”
He turned back, hand raised, fingers ready to press into Dean’s head, but Sam stepped between them and grabbed his arm. “No, he shouldn’t. Cas, no. He’s seen enough bad things already, really awful things. He doesn’t need to see any more.”
Cas relented but turned from them and walked away. Sam answered Dean’s silent ‘what the hell’ with a raised brow and a shrug, gesturing with both hands to Cas that Dean should go fix this. His brother rolled his eyes again, having had enough of heartfelt moments for one day. But he knew Sam was right and went to stand beside a very disgruntled angel.
Dean put an arm around his shoulders, shaking him a little. “I already told Sam and now I’ll tell you. I’m sorry, Cas. I know what I put you through, both of you. I almost killed you too. And I’m grateful that you stuck with Sam on this. I know what I did,” he said and Cas glanced at him. Under the weight of guilt that showed so starkly on Dean’s face, Cas melted. “You know I’m going to do everything that I can to set this right, don’t you?”
Cas wagged his head back and forth. “Yes.”
“We’ll fix this,” he said, though the confidence was feigned. He slammed Cas on the back, done with the touchy feely moment and left Cas shaking his head after him. “I have got to get something to eat. Do we have any food?”
“No, not really,” Sam said and watched Cas stalk over to the staff of Moses and snatch it up.
The angel waved it around the destroyed library, startling Sam and making him cringe, but instead of an explosion, all the books, the chairs, the two tables righted themselves in a great burst of flurry and motion.
“Oh I need me one of those,” Dean said, but turned back to Sam. “We need to go out.”
“You can’t,” Cas growled. “It’s too dangerous. I’ll get what you need, but you’re staying here. I need to take the staff back to heaven and … tell them what’s happened here.”
“I’m sorry about Hannah, Cas,” Sam said. “I know she was your friend.”
He nodded to that. “She was a good angel. I’ll be back.” He looked back at them and snapped, “Stay.”
With that, Cas turned and whoosh, he was gone.
“So he got his wings back,” Dean said, turning for the carafe of whiskey. After he’d poured one for himself, he glanced at Sam to see if he wanted one too and Sam nodded. Dean brought the glasses and the carafe over to the table, and plopped into a chair. “Here’s to not dying,” he said, clinking his glass against Sam’s.
“And pissed off angels.”
“He’s so cute when he’s mad.”
“I’m not mad,” Cas said, dumping two bags of dinner on the table.
He sat down with them while Dean attacked the bags, dragging out the food, which turned out to be a massive bacon cheeseburger loaded with onions and fries. Sam got a big cobb salad, something he’d been craving, and he smothered it with the ranch dressing that came with it. Cas produced a bottle of catsup out of thin air, uncapped it, and handed it to Dean, who was already stuffing in fries.
“Thank you. Really, Cas. Thanks,” Dean said around the food and Sam nodded.
“How are you getting in and out of here anyway?” Dean wanted to know. “I thought that wasn’t possible.”
“Oh, I installed a special ward that let’s me come and go. It seemed easier. It only let’s me in. No other angels can use it.” Cas looked back and forth between them. “Is that … all right? You don’t mind, do you?”
It was the oddest thing sometimes, that an angel would care so much about what they thought or that it worried him that they wouldn’t want him to have that kind of access into the only home they’d ever known. It didn’t at all, but Dean had a few reservations.
“No, it’s fine,” he said after getting a consenting nod from Sam. “But you know, just stay the hell out of my room.”
Sam smirked at that. “Oh I think you should go in his room and rearrange all his things so that he can’t find anything, tape his phone down, rub his toothbrush in your armpit.”
Dean looked a little surprised at being caught, but grinned over his trickery. “You should know better than to say that to me.”
“So should you.”
Cas wasn’t paying attention to their banter though, preoccupied with something else.
“What is it, Cas?” Dean asked after he chewed and swallowed. “Something else’s bothering you. What is it?”
“They want me to lead them.”
They both paused eating. “The angels?” Sam said, considered it a moment and nodded. “Makes sense.”
“No it doesn’t.”
“Who else is there?” Dean asked him. “Look, I know what you’re worried about, but the thing is, the best leaders are the ones who don’t want the job. You don’t want all that power.”
“I did once.”
“You were punch drunk on too many souls back then. You don’t have that problem now. You’re also not leading angels against other angels. This is different. And you’re a soldier, Cas. You’ve always been one, just like me and Sam. You know battle tactics, studied them for thousands of years, seen countless wars won and lost. You know what you’re doing.”
Cas wasn’t convinced, but the plain fact was, another option didn’t exist. With Hannah gone, there wasn’t anyone else. “They’ve agreed to help,” he said. “I need the two of you to stay out of this. Just for the time being. One, it’s too dangerous outside. The warding won’t do anything to stop them from simply ripping you limb from limb. It only protects you from being infected. Everyone, every creature, and perhaps even every single thing that’s outside these walls will be programmed to come after you and you can’t fight them all off. Two, I can’t protect you if I’m leading the angels down here and three, they don’t want you involved. They’re a little annoyed with the two of you at the moment and I’d just as soon not have to worry about them tearing you limb from limb along with everything else out there.”
“If you think I’m going to sit on my ass and—”
“That’s exactly what you’re going to do,” Cas said and then held up his hand. “But it’s only temporary. Please, let us get a handle on the size and scope of this thing, try to lessen the battlefield. Dean, right now it’s a thousand miles wide and nearly 3000 miles long. How are you going to fight that?”
“I don’t know yet!”
“He’s right, Dean. We need to lay low, rest up. It’s not like we don’t need a break.”
“Not when there’s a war going on out there.”
“One you can’t do anything about,” Sam said. “I know it goes against every instinct, but if we can’t even walk out the damn door because ground zero is an hour from here, we should probably take the time to regroup. We’ll stay here, we’ll stay safe, and we’ll try and figure out how to put a stop to this.”
“You mean research,” Dean muttered but he grudgingly agreed.
Cas was frowning though and tilted his head to one side. “Can you access the bunker’s database on your laptop from anywhere?”
Sam nodded, unsure why he asked. “Yeah, sure. As long as I can get into a secure wifi.”
“What about all the books? I’ve seen you using them often enough, so would you need them?”
Dean snorted. “No, that’s just Sam’s idea of a good time; feeling up the files.”
“Everything is uploaded, Cas,” Sam said, frowning at Dean. “Why?”
“I have an idea. One that’ll serve two purposes. You’ll be perfectly safe and you’ll get that break you deserve.”
Dean noticed Cas didn’t include him in deserving of a break and decided he’d have another drink instead of argue the point. Cas grabbed the duffle and started loading it with extras, only he was zapping all around the bunker to do it.
“Maybe he still is punch drunk,” Dean said and had more food.
Cas popped over right next to him. “Where’s your gun? The one you usually use? Yours too,” he said to Sam, which reminded Sam that he still had Dean’s gun in the pocket of his jacket. He produced both weapons, sliding Dean’s across the table to him.
“You keep racking up the awesome points, Sammy,” he said, but before he could even hold the weapon, Cas picked it up and put it in the duffle.
“Well then these ought to put me on top for a while,” Sam said to distract him and handed over the pictures of their mother.
Dean couldn’t believe it and stared at him, incredulous and even hesitant to pick them up. When he finally did, he ran a finger over the damage that marred them. Cas paused to look and Dean held them up. “You want to know what saved the world? That would be this right here.”
Cas took them, smiling at the portraits. It was a better time, but so long ago. When he handed them back, they were free of the stains caused by the Styne break-in. “She was a beautiful woman,” Cas said, clapping Dean on the shoulder. “And had two sons she’d be proud of.” He held his hand out to Sam, switching gears. “Give me the car keys.”
Sam winced and gave Cas one unbelieving look. Dean was staring at him and instantly knew somehow that Cas must have already driven his car. Cas gestured impatiently and after a brief hesitation, Sam started to hand them over.
Cas reached by him and plucked the keys from Sam before Dean could do anything about it and then he was gone.
Dean stood up, shoving his chair back, and took two paces after him, but it was too late. “I can’t believe you just let that happen!”
“No angels, Sam. No angels driving my baby. It’s a rule. An unbreakable rule! Where the hell is she anyway?”
“Nebraska. Ground zero. He’s just going to go bring her back here is all. And he can drive.”
“Not my car!”
“Nothing is going to happen,” Sam said, trying to sooth him, which only made him angrier. “He even fixed her from being flipped.”
Sam heaved a sigh and decided he’d finish off the rest of his dinner while his lunatic brother ranted and raved over his car being manhandled by an angel even though that angel was one of his best friends. Only best friend, Sam amended. He finally calmed down enough to listen to the story of how Sam had chased the darkness down the road, found Cas, encountered Crowley, which led to expunging a long list of secrets they’d kept from each other over the last few months that included telling him that Rowena had the Book of the Damned.
Dean halted the nervous pacing, plopped back into the chair and gave Sam one unbelieving look. He didn’t say anything except to shake his head. He drew his hand down his face, rubbing his eyes along the way.
“Well, we’ll be dealing with that too, somewhere down the road.” Sam only stared down at the table, feeling the full weight of that disaster rest squarely on his shoulders. “We’ll figure it out Sam,” Dean said, raising an eyebrow at him and waited until Sam agreed.
They talked about Charlie and her death, but this time Dean put the blame where he thought it belonged – on the Styne’s and apologized for the things he’d said at her pyre. Hardest of all for Sam was telling him about Bobby and his fear that the angels had taken retribution for his help in breaking Metatron free. He gave him the letter Bobby wrote, but instead of getting angry about it like Sam expected, Dean smiled and looked over the top of the page at him.
“He’s smarter than the both of us,” he said, carefully folding the letter up and handing it back. “You don’t need to worry about him, Sam. It’s Bobby. He can handle anything.”
Sam would have laughed at that, having said nearly those exact words to Cas, but Dean understanding was the thing that drove him right back to tears, reminding him of that little boy who could always go to his big brother when he felt bad. Dean always made him feel better.
“Do you think we can add that to the list of things we need to find out about?” he asked, wiping his face on his sleeve.
“Absolutely,” Dean said.
They laughed and cried and talked like they hadn’t in years. It was cathartic, but draining. They both had a few more drinks to help get them through it. That led to the release of some of Dean’s guilt over getting Rudy killed and the other things he’d done. He might be free of the Mark but he’d forever be burdened by it.
About an hour later, Cas came back with the Impala and Dean insisted on being the one to pull her into the garage and then give her a thorough inspection that Cas barely restrained his impatience with. Dean pronounced the car in pristine condition and even thanked Cas for fixing her.
“You’re welcome,” he said and popped out.
“What the hell,” Dean muttered and turned to Sam. “What the hell, man. Is it just me, or is he completely different?”
“I think he’s just back to the way he used to be when he had wings. We have to get used to that again.”
“Get used to what?” Cas asked, startling them both from behind when he popped back in. He handed the duffle over to Dean.
“You!” Dean said. “Look, just slow your roll there, Cas, and tell us what we’re doing here.”
But the angel only smiled. “It’ll be easier and far quicker if I just show you,” he said. He put his head down, eyes closed in concentration, pausing for just a second before simultaneously setting his hands on them and took them both.
Out of Reach
Now the world is out of reach
When you step down to the beach
Sunny sky and sea all blue
And those palm trees swinging by in front of you …
A wide white beach opened before them, broken only by a smattering of palm trees. They stood on a spacious ground floor balcony of a nicely appointed apartment suite and the crystalline jade sea rolled in barely 30 yards away.
An intense heat struck them at the same time as realization that their clothes were different. They both wore white-sleeved shirts, already rolled up mid-arm and shorts, something neither of them ever wore much less owned. Sam had flip-flops on while Dean sported a pair of slip-on sandals with the Nike swoosh emblazoned across the top strap.
For a moment, they both stood there, frozen in place and staring.
“Where the hell are we?” Dean asked like they’d been taken to an alien planet.
“An island in the Caribbean Sea,” Cas said behind them. He stood on the other side of an open glass door that was part of a floor to ceiling glass pane, and they turned to him, still wide-eyed. “Cozumel. The Darkness can’t reach you here, so you’ll be safe.” He walked outside pulling two huge wads of cash from his coat pockets and handed it over.
Sam stared again, fanning out over $4000 and Dean had as much. But Dean wasn’t paying attention to the small fortune he held and handed the cash almost absently over to Sam. Instead, he took a step off the balcony. He ditched the sandals and drilled his feet down into the sand. Laughing, he turned back around and it was if he’d suddenly shed ten years.
“This is a beach, Sammy,” he said as if it were a foreign word. Sam supposed it was and laughed. He remembered the conversation easily enough, not too long ago though even last week seemed like ages had passed, where Dean talked about wanting to go to a beach. They’d been close enough times, but in the sand, by the water – never. Sam didn’t think tropical paradise ever entered into the realm of possibilities Dean had considered.
“Holy crap,” Dean breathed. A pair of women clad in strings strolled the shore near the waterline. They weren’t stick thin model types either, but well endowed in all the right places.
“Do you think the two of you can stay out of trouble for a week?” Cas wanted to know.
“Not a chance,” Dean said and stuffing the sandals back on, he left them. He did turn back once, pointing Sam to Cas and made Sam laugh again.
“We’ll be fine,” Sam said, watching his brother’s path intersect with that of the two girls, Dean acting as if that hadn’t actually been his intention. Even at that distance, it was easy to see that they were just as interested. Dean never had any difficulty attracting women. Sam looked down at his hands, overflowing with money. “Where did you get all this?”
At that, Cas looked embarrassed and reluctant to tell him. “From a bank,” he said and fidgeted.
The angel rolled his eyes, but capitulated. “I … robbed a bank, several of them in fact, but only the ones that are dishonestly over charging their customers and only from the managers who are skimming, so—”
“It’s okay, Cas,” Sam said, laughing at him. “You’re talking to a professional scammer here. I’m not judging.”
“Well now they’ll get investigated, so I don’t feel bad at all. I understand the value of a dollar better and how hard it always is for you two, so I just wanted to make sure you didn’t have that worry. The rooms are both paid for. I think that’ll be enough for food.”
Sam nodded to that, thinking it’d be enough for a lot more than food. “More than enough,” he said, looking around the resort. The suite, a two story affair, was detached from the other buildings and somewhat secluded. “This is incredible.”
“It is beautiful,” Cas said, watching after Dean, who had left the ladies and moved to the water. He ditched the sandals again and walked in up to his shins, just standing there looking out while the waves sloshed onto shore around him and the sun drifted lower toward the horizon. “Maybe it’ll help.”
There was something in his tone that sounded off, like he was more concerned about Dean than he should be and reminded Sam instantly of his reaction back in the bunker. “Help with what?”
At that, he hesitated and Sam knew he hadn’t meant to say anything at all. “Oh, you know, give him a break. Both of you. After everything you’ve been through.”
“It’s nothing for you to worry about, Sam.”
“Too late,” he said and turned the angel toward him so he’d have to stop looking away. He really was a terrible liar. “What is it?”
The hesitation was longer this time, driving the worry factor straight to acute.
“It’s the Mark,” Sam said, taking a guess since that seemed most likely. “Is it gone or not?
“Yes, it’s gone. For the most part anyway.”
“The scar it left is … not easily repaired.” He relented then, went and sat down at the edge of the balcony, leaned and ran his hand through the sand. Sam joined him. “The human soul is one of the most powerful forces in creation. It’s incredibly strong and all but indestructible. They can be damaged. Yours, for instance,” Cas said and glanced at him. “There was hardly anything left of you after I broke the wall Death put up. When you finally succumbed to all that horror, by the time I reached you in the hospital you were hardly more than dust.” He scooped up a handful of sand and let it sift through his fingers.
“But you fixed all that.”
“Your memories of hell were of one time and place,” Cas said. “It was an easier matter to take all that, the things that had happened to you that had damaged you to such a degree and remove it all. Dean’s is different. The damage is more cumulative and not something I can lift from him the same way I did with you. I think it started when he went to hell and then he was there for so long. We couldn’t find him. We couldn’t get to him and I realize of course that there were some angels who worked against our rescue attempts, because they wanted the apocalypse. And he remembers it all, Sam. I should have taken it from him then, but … I wasn’t allowed to and I listened. I followed orders. Purgatory was another unimaginable horror. He changed there. When he thought he was going to lose you to the Trials and what he did to keep that from happening – all of it weighs on him. Taking the Mark – it wasn’t ever meant for a human soul to endure, Sam. Cain was a demon before he took it. Then when Metatron killed Dean, he turned into a demon in part because of all those terrible things, which damaged him, and now again, in removing the Mark, even though that’s a good thing, it hurt him even more. And then on top of all that, the Darkness used him to strengthen themselves, to send their lieutenants through the rift, which they did in numbers.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to say anything at all. Especially not here when the whole point is for you to not worry about everything.”
“What can we do?”
“This,” Cas said, looking out over the beach. Dean was still wading. He had company again, another beautiful girl in a skimpy bathing suit. Every now and again, she’d point to something in the water and he’d leaned down close to see better. Sam could hear him laughing. “These kind of moments, the ones that make the good memories will help. Just like the memory of his mother saved us all, it saved him too.”
“That sounds way too simple,” Sam said, not really believing that creating good memories could be all there was to it.
Cas nodded to that, but didn’t elaborate. “Of course it is, but here’s something for you to keep in mind, since I know telling you not to worry won’t do any good. Despite everything, even after all the horrors he has endured, he still has the capacity for joy.” Cas nodded to the beach where Dean was now sitting at the water’s edge building a sandcastle. “That more than anything saved him and will again should it come down to it. So go have a good time with your brother. It’ll do you both good. Let me deal with the madness of the world. Have fun, Sam.”
With that, Cas stood, took a step out into the sand and vanished, rustling the palms in his wake.
Sam sat for a moment, trying his hardest to follow that advice, to quell the places inner turmoil wanted to take him. He knew that Cas hadn’t told him everything. Leaving that abruptly, even for Cas, meant there was more to it that the angel didn’t want to say, which generally meant it was very bad news. Sam thought he knew, but didn’t want to think it. He closed his eyes against the idea, putting it behind a wall of his own making. He wasn’t sure he could stand his brother facing another catastrophic danger, worse than the Mark, but then of course, he realized that Dean faced some sort of menace every single day, practically the whole of his life. This was just one more in a long line of dangers.
Sam nodded to himself, adding another item to his research list. Watching Dean play in the sand, he accepted the method of treatment, knowing it was merely a dressing for the deeper wound. It might not be the full cure, but that didn’t mean the bandage shouldn’t be applied.
With that in mind, after securing their rooms and stowing the nearly 10 grand in cash in the safe, he joined his brother on the beach, plopping down in the sand by the newly forming castle. Dean grinned over at him like a little kid, hollowing out an enormous moat for the foundation. Sam couldn’t help but laugh and realized it felt incredibly good to do so. Maybe Cas was right after all.
He dug in, building the sand up until it was a massive mound, with battlements and spires that might, for a time, withstand even the incoming tide.
Part 3 is now available here