Supernatural Hellatus Pain Relief, part 3

Part 3 of Supernatural Hellatus Pain Relief, where Sam and Dean get some fun in the sun, but the good times end in harsh reality.

Read parts 1 and 2 here

and here




Safely back in the Bunker after rescuing Dean, Sam discovers that his brother is infected by the Darkness and nearly kills him forcing it to leave him. Using the Staff of Moses blows up the Men of Letters library. Cas recovers his senses and heals both brothers and wards them against the Darkness with the symbol of the infinite π. Cas negotiates the help of Heaven to contain the huge swath of Darkness that cuts through the country’s midsection, but with the stipulation that the Winchesters are not involved in the fight. Cas takes Sam and Dean to Cozumel Island, Mexico where they will be safe, since the Darkness doesn’t appear to be able to cross salt water. Sam and Dean are stunned to find themselves in a tropical paradise! While Dean heads out to play in the sand, Cas alludes to Sam that something might be wrong with his brother. Even though the Mark of Cain is gone, the damage caused by removing it is greater than any of them imagined.


Soul Searching

I’m looking for something, can’t find it anyplace

It’s there in the distance staring me in the face

Right in front of me but it’s way beyond my reach

And I know that I must try to find it …

Little River Band

“Come on, wake up.”

Dean peeled his eyes open to Sam standing over him. “What? What is it?”

“We’re going scuba diving.”

“We’re…” It took Dean a second to remember they weren’t in the Bunker but on an island in the Caribbean. “We’re what?”

Sam hit his foot. “Breakfast is ready. There’s coffee. Get up.”

Dean only shook his head, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Is this going to be one of those non-vacation vacations where you’re going to be annoying and drag me around all over the place?”

Sam paused in the doorway, grinning like an idiot as he glanced back and nodded. “There’ll be sharks. You’ll love it. Get up.”

Dean readily admitted that he did love it, after the somewhat abbreviated and expensive – Sam paid the trainer off to get them on a boat – training time they spent with an instructor going over the equipment and procedures, before they found themselves on a boat with eight other people doing the same thing. There were sharks; two that didn’t seem to care to make a snack out of any of them, along with every kind of tropical fish in existence and a couple sea turtles. Sam was just giddy the whole day, making Dean laugh over the unadulterated joy that poured off of him. He couldn’t remember a time where he’d seen his brother that happy.

The boat captain and dive master, whose name was Emilio, invited them out to dinner that evening after three dives that left them awestruck and exhausted. That led to the first of a few hook-ups with an attractive and quite talented senorita. The language barrier didn’t prove to be a problem at all. He stumbled back to the casa some time before dawn and got the requisite four hours in.

“Dean, wake up.”

A crazy few hours at a zip line park followed that second wake-up call, which was also more fun than Dean thought it would be and then they toured the island via a jeep that Sam rented, stopping at every seaside bar along the way. These were mostly huts, complete with thatch for a roof. They were quant and filled with attractive, unattached women who openly gave both he and Sam ‘the look’. As usual, Sam ignored them or was just plain oblivious to the silent appraisals. Fearing his brother was a candidate for monkhood, Dean decided that if Sam wasn’t going to go shopping, he’d have to do it for him.

While Sam was off climbing around some rocks that jutted out into the water, Dean found a couple of likely prospects and then narrowed it down to a pair of lovely brunettes. Turned out, they were sisters and the elder of the two was trying to do the exact same thing Dean was.

“I’m just trying to get her to go out,” Erica said while little sister wandered off to the beach to look for shells.

“Same here,” Dean said. “Life’s too short, right?”

“It is. Kate, well she just went through this terrible thing; her best friend died in a car accident and then her boyfriend, this jerk she’s been dating for 5 years now, dumped her out of nowhere. I’m not sorry to see him go, but well, it’s hard on her. So my husband and I brought her along on our vacation – It’s our 5th wedding anniversary – and this place is, you know, the best place on earth to come to forget about real life for a while.”

“That was really nice of you.”

“Oh. I guess.” She shrugged. “It’s what you do for family, right?”

Dean smiled at that and nodded. “You see that guy out on the rocks. That’s my brother. Same sort of situation, rough time, lost a good friend, could use a break. That’s why we’re here, between jobs and all.”

“What do you do?” Erica asked.

“Research analyst for … uh … Bunker Brothers, Inc. It’s really boring stuff. Sam’s a bit nerdy but under that he’s an okay kind of guy.”

Erica watched him for a few minutes. “It’s funny. She noticed him earlier.”

“He’s kinda hard to miss.”

“He is at that. No girlfriends, or anything?”

“Nope. Our job makes it a little tough to get involved long term, or hell, even at all. The hours suck.”

She nodded at that and slugged back the shot of tequila she’d been nursing. “All right then. Wish me luck.”

“Just don’t mention I had anything to do with it. You might stand a chance.” She nodded and Dean raised his shot glass in salute and watched her go, wondering how it would turn out. Maybe Sam would say yes for a change.

Her husband, Brian joined him, watching her arrow in for the set up. “Sorry about all that. She’s been trying to get Kate a date since we got here.” He smirked a little, which told Dean what kind of ‘date’ he meant.

“No problem here,” Dean said. “She’s doing me a favor, since the last thing I want to do is play cupid. They’re real dicks, so I … never mind.” He raised his glass and slugged another shot down, watching while the two women made their way out onto the rocks where Sam was still soaking it all in.

“You been hearing about all the crazy crap that’s going on in the States?” Brian asked.

“No,” Dean said and really didn’t want to hear about it now. He already knew it was bad enough that he and Sam shouldn’t be here lazing around. Then again, he figured Cas would either come get them or let them know they had to bail on the vacation if things got to a point the angels couldn’t handle.

“There’s this crazy storm front just sitting there, not going away or moving. Except it’s not raining anymore, and then a friend of mine told me that half the people in his hometown are going crazy from being in it. It’s weird stuff. I’m a little worried about heading back there – if we can even get back with all the airports shutting down. Fogged in everywhere, except the west coast and the east coast. We’re going to Chicago.”

“When are you heading back?”

“Day after tomorrow – but the airline already said the flight might be cancelled. Not that I mind, as long as we can find a room.”

“There are worse places to get stuck,” Dean said, glancing out to the matchmaking expedition. Kate and Erica were out with Sam now, talking it seemed and then Kate pulled a damsel in distress move, tripping a little on the rocks and nearly falling. Sam automatically reached to catch her, at which point, she didn’t let go of him.

“That’s for sure,” Brian went on. “But you know that’s not the strangest I’ve heard. There are reports of people going into other people’s homes. I mean, straight up walking right in and get this – touching them, like two fingers to the forehead and then leaving. All over the place, but only inside this storm.”

“That is pretty strange,” Dean said, hiding a smile.

“You don’t believe me – it’s all over Facebook and YouTube man. There’s one video of these two guys moving through a bar, two fingers to the forehead of every single person in the place. One guy tried to fight them off and they just stopped him cold. Big guy too. Never seen anything like it.”

“I believe you,” Dean said, but nodded to their surroundings. “But I think I’m going to stick with thinking about what’s going on right here instead of back home – while I still have the chance.”

Erica had turned around to leave her sister and even at the distance, Dean saw her smile and give a two thumbs up. Sam and Kate were absorbed in – Dean didn’t know what – the rocks it looked like. They were both stooped down examining something and then she stood and pointed to the end of the outcrop, which went pretty far out into the water. She started that way and Sam went with her.

“You want another round?” Dean asked as Erica made her way back. “On me.”

Erica arrived as the drinks did, waxing poetic over the lovely attributes of one Sam Winchester. Brian listened with about as much enthusiasm as Dean and when Sam and his future date aimed back for shore, Dean excused himself to the other side of the hut. “Remember, I had nothing to do with it,” he said as he left.

Sam found him and they left for the next bar down the road, and then Dean let himself be dragged around the Mayan ruins they stopped at, which he then realized was the whole point of the jeep tour. He didn’t mind. With an ample supply of tequila along the way, some incredibly good food, and the company of his brother, it was another golden day in paradise.

Before they left the ruins, Dean pulled Sam over, grabbed out his cell phone and took a picture of the two of them sitting on some really old rocks. Neither of them were the picture taking type, mostly because the places they ended up weren’t exactly good memory-making situations. No, those were more the things they didn’t want to think about. From that moment forward, recognizing the absolute rarity of this experience, Dean kept his phone out and took so many pictures that Sam started making faces at him in each and every one.


The sand castle lasted for three days – until a huge storm swept in and wiped it and everything else on the beach, completely clean. Dean checked on it every morning after getting dragged out of bed.

On the evening of their third day in paradise, he and Sam sat on the second floor in the living room area watching the massive lightning display until the rain started pouring down. Dean closed the curtains after that. It reminded him too much of the Darkness flowing over them and all that had followed. He turned on the tv and Sam went back to research, which he’d only just gotten started on after three days of fun in the sun.

Too much fun it turned out. Sam had a bad sunburn on his back that made wearing even a shirt uncomfortable. Every now and then, Dean glanced over at him, which Sam didn’t notice, being too absorbed into what he was reading.

“You find anything yet?” he asked after an hour of Spanish tv he didn’t understand.

Sam absently shook his head, clicking between tabs and open programs. Sam sat facing him, so Dean couldn’t see what he was looking at on the laptop, except that the screen was reflected against a big mirror behind him. The symbols from the codex flicked by, followed by the scanned pages from the Book of the Damned.

Dean couldn’t believe it. After everything they’d just been through, with the world or maybe even the whole damn universe at risk because of that book, he couldn’t believe Sam was calmly sitting there studying the damn thing or so smoothly lying about it.

It was the same thing he’d done to get the Mark off of Dean in the first place, throwing caution out the window, charging ahead in full-on Winchester fashion, the consequences be damned. Dean knew without a doubt that he was doing the same thing again, trying to find something to reverse the catastrophe he’d helped unleash. Dean knew it was the wrong way to go about it. The Stynes hadn’t been lying about the biblical-scale repercussions. Dean figured the same cost still applied in any attempt to use the Book again.

“Nothing at all, huh?” he asked again to give him the chance to come clean, but Sam just shook his head.

“It’s the same problem we had with finding anything on the Mark,” he said. In the mirror, Dean saw him clicking closed all the Book tabs he had open. “This stuff predates creation, so there’s nothing on it. Nothing that’s reliable, anyway. There’s no reliable record so far of any battle fought by God or the archangels. The only thing we do know is that two beings still in existence know all about it.”

Sam glanced up at that. Dean made sure he wasn’t looking in the mirror. He picked up a book from the side table next to the couch; a book on soul restoration that Cas had put in the duffle though Dean didn’t know why. He opened it and paged through it to hide the fact that he was incredibly annoyed.

“Lucifer and Michael,” he said in answer to Sam’s statement. “Not like we can ask them about it.”

Sam didn’t say anything to that and when Dean glanced at him, his face was a mask. He was looking at more open tabs that Dean couldn’t quite make out.


His brother pulled in a breath. “I know we can’t ask them, Dean. The problem is that we may end up having to figure out a way to do just that. The only other alternative I see right now, which is five times more unlikely to happen, is finding God and asking him about it. Or I don’t know, Metatron, which is also unlikely that he’d help.”

He closed the laptop and leaned back, wincing slightly. He sat and stared at nothing for a moment until he pushed to his feet. “I have a date,” he said and seemed a little confounded by the idea.

Dean knew he had a date, although Sam still didn’t know that he was being set up. Dean paused at that thought, aware that irony and hypocrisy had just coalesced into one, with him doing the same exact things Sam was doing; not being honest, going behind his back, not talking. Dean tried to tell himself that it was different because his intentions were good, but then Sam’s intentions were also good and had always been, so that excuse didn’t hold up.

He internalized an annoyed growl over the fact that somewhere along the way he and his brother had fallen into this habit of never really being honest with each other. Dean didn’t tell Sam what he was doing to protect him from something that would hurt him, and Sam did the same thing.

Underneath that there was a much more selfish reason involved. It was easier. He didn’t want to deal with Sam’s inevitable reaction to Dean looking out for him, which Sam very often twisted into Dean somehow not believing in him or thinking him incapable. That wasn’t the case at all … was it?


He looked up at him, so lost in thought that he hadn’t seen Sam leave his laptop and walk over. “What?”

“Are you okay?”

“What? Yeah, Sam, I’m fine.”

“You know I don’t have to go,” he said, but Dean shook his head at that.

“No look, I’m just a little worn out. Taking a vacation is more tiring than I imagined, what with all the running around yesterday and then today’s swimming with the dolphins.” He rolled his eyes at that just to give Sam a hard time about it. He wasn’t about to admit out loud that it was one of the coolest things he’d ever done in his life and even thought he’d made a couple lifelong dolphin friends. “Go. I’m fine.”

“All right. I’ll see you later then.”

“Tomorrow, Sam,” Dean corrected.

“Right,” he said and smiled for a second, aware of what Dean thought the night held. Really, there shouldn’t be any question.

“You’re nervous?” Dean asked, surprised at first but then not at all. He tried pretty hard not to laugh and partially succeeded.

Sam bit his lip and nodded, reminding him of the 17 year old who’d come to him before a big date, wondering how to make it all happen. Dean hadn’t been very helpful then either.

“You know it’s like riding a horse,” he said. “You fall off, you get right back on—”

Sam turned from him, hands up to make him stop. He made it to the doorway that led downstairs to his room.

“Hi-oh silver!”

“Shut up, Dean.”

“Go get ‘em, tiger,” he called after him as he disappeared and laughed. “Ah Sammy.”

The laughter was short-lived as he sat there waiting to be sure Sam had gone. Unbidden, the thought came in that the last time Sam had claimed he was going out, he’d actually gone to Charlie and gotten her even more mixed up with the Book and the Stynes than she already had been. Gotten her killed.

Dean knew that wasn’t entirely fair. Charlie herself had a share of the responsibility. So did Cas. The three of them had gone in on it together without anyone there to tell them that it was a really bad idea. And yes, it was Dean’s fault too. He knew why they hadn’t told him what they were doing. It was easier that way. He would have told them point blank to stop, without listening to any of their reasons, all of which he did. Maybe if he’d been in on it with them, things would have been different.

There was enough blame to go around.

But there he sat, debating on whether or not he should spy on his brother. He almost talked himself out of it, but fear and worry and habit won out in the end. He opened the laptop, cracked the new password without any trouble at all because he knew where Sam wrote them down and had all the tabs and files open a moment later.

He went straight to Sam’s notes on everything he’d found so far and none of it was good. Not at all. Even in the slightest. Sam was looking up ingredients for a spell from the Book that might work to slow the advancement of the Darkness, or contain it to a smaller area. There were a number of such notations, all of them delving into the Book’s use, but lacking the ‘what happens if’ scenarios that were likely very big, bad, and should have been a deterrent to even contemplating using it at all. Granted there were plenty of side notes of ‘more research needed’ but Dean couldn’t believe that Sam was even thinking about it. Or seemed to be.

He turned to the scans of the codex and the actual Book, half afraid that even the digital version would still whisper to him the way the real one had the one time he’d picked the thing up. He understood now, knowing the full story behind the Mark why he’d heard it at all. But the Mark was gone and so too was the tremendous pull the Book had attempted to exert over him. He looked at the scans and didn’t feel anything. A relief there.

He saw that Sam had been busy. Several of the scanned pages were already fully translated, the spell ingredients listed, a horror waiting to be unleashed.

“What the hell, Sam,” Dean muttered under his breath.

The one thing that remained mostly incomprehensible were the uses of each spell, the purpose, and the final outcome. They had the spells but didn’t know what they would do. Or maybe Sam did, but Dean couldn’t make head or tales of it. They were grouped in pairs, or a progression of spells that shared any of the same symbols and so shared part of the same incantation. Some shared more than others. He began to see as he looked through the groupings that the second spell of the pair had in common one particular symbol with the others.

Dean sat back and grunted at that finding. The second set of each had a common symbol. In each case though that symbol was attached to either the same symbol or other different symbols that had nothing in to do with the other. But that one mark was present on every single page of the Book. That made him wonder what that particular symbol meant. It was an upside down Y with the bottom filled in, like a heavily footed lower case l. It was used extensively throughout the Book, upside down, sideways, on a slant, but he couldn’t find a single meaning for it in the Codex. The most common meaning was defuse. He took that to mean put out, like defuse a bomb. Sam had listed every possible meaning of defuse in a list.

“Dude is a walking thesaurus,” Dean muttered, reading that whole section.

He tried putting that meaning in context with all the other surrounding symbols that were half cave drawings and half Sumerian mashed up in a jumble. It was the oldest damn language on earth and Dean didn’t think anyone really knew what it meant. Sam, admittedly, was way better at this sort of thing than Dean ever wanted to be.

That thought gave him pause. Maybe, instead of trying to decipher all these spells in what would be an insane to attempt to use them, Sam was doing it for the sake of understanding. That was so Sam’s way of doing things, whereas Dean just picked out the points that fit the situation and moved on that information. There’d been a few times lately where Sam’s quest for the greater picture had saved Dean’s life. More than a few.

He felt bad then for immediately assuming his brother was about to do something stupid, which was kind of his go to reaction with Sam, that then led to Sam not telling him what he was doing to avoid that reaction. This past year especially, Sam had been walking on eggshells to avoid setting Dean off. The Mark had definitely amped up his responses.

Dean muttered to himself over all the deep soul searching he’d been doing lately. He wasn’t a fan. At the same time, he didn’t want to go through the rest of his life acting like he didn’t trust his brother, which in turn meant that he had to actually trust him.

Dean felt like he did trust him, but had to add mostly to the thought. He trusted Sam with his life all the time, any time they were on a hunt together. They had to trust each other to avoid getting killed. So it seemed to be the smaller scale items, a kind of complacency maybe, had taken over the way they dealt with each other. Like a wheel stuck in a rut, they each had their own fall-back behaviors. Dean’s was to say no immediately to anything he thought would end with Sam getting hurt. Sam’s was to lie about anything he thought would lead to Dean saying no. It was a kind of cowardice even, meant to keep the boat from rocking. Lying took less time than working out their differences.

It was the job too, since half the time there was some new disaster about to strike and they legitimately didn’t have the luxury to stage a long debate. So it was a thing borne of what they each viewed as necessity. Sam knew what to lie about to avoid an argument with Dean and Dean knew the same things of Sam.

Lying was easier.

“What a pair of chicken shits we’ve turned into,” Dean said aloud to the empty room. He made a silent vow then to face the music with Sam and try really hard to change a few things, like his usual first reaction to any given situation.

“That might be asking for too much.”

He reached for the laptop to close it, thinking this might be a good place to start. Instead of breaking into his computer, Dean would have to get it out of him the old-fashioned way and if Sam absolutely refused to tell him then that was that. Dean didn’t really think, that when confronted, Sam wouldn’t tell him. It was the confronting part neither of them liked.

He stopped though, mid-reach because he saw another file he hadn’t noticed before. Reasoning that he’d already broken into the laptop and having a second pair of eyes on the research was a good thing, he decided to keep going. He’d come clean in the morning.

The folder was the whole enchilada. An app popped open that seemed to be running some sort of correlation program that was trying to match all the different symbols with possible meanings, cross referenced to the book based off the codex. It actually hurt his eyes to look at it, but he searched for the one symbol, that upside down Y with its filled in triangle base. Took a while. There were a lot of symbols, some of which had more than one meaning depending upon their placement with other symbols, but he finally found it off by itself. Again, it had a couple of different meanings attached. Smooth was one of them, rather than defuse, but smooth was a synonym. Or smooth out, rather.

Dean rubbed his face, trying to think it through.

What reason would the Darkness have to convey to a crazy nun that something needed to be smoothed out? What did that mean?

“What happens when you smooth something out?” he said, musing aloud again. “It flattens.” But that didn’t seem right. “It straightens.” He blinked at that. “It gets bigger. It spreads out.”


He jerked, looking to the stair doorway where Sam now stood. For a second, he didn’t understand why he was back so early until he realized it wasn’t early. He’d been staring at this stuff most of the night.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“This symbol,” he said, going straight for what he thought he’d discovered rather than explain the why and how part of it. At the same time, he recognized he was doing exactly what he’d just told himself he wouldn’t; skipping the parts he knew would piss Sam off. “Just come here.”

“What are you doing on my computer?”

“I found something. I think it’s a second spell. I think it’s a spell that’ll let the Darkness that’s already here get out of the box. Look.”

Clearly annoyed, Sam joined him. “How did you get onto my computer?”

Dean flashed him a look, the one that said ‘stupid question, Sam’ and chose to ignore it. “This symbol,” he said and pointed to it. “I don’t think it means what you think it means.” He paused at that, aware he’d just quoted The Princess Bride. Sam rolled his eyes and glared at him. “As inconceivable as it may be, it means diffuse. Not defuse. As in ‘spread out’. It’s a second spell, Sam.”

He got over his annoyance as the realization sank in that Dean was right. He sat down and pulled the laptop over, tapping keys and searching all the files he had amassed and came to the same conclusion. “Well that’s bad.”

“You think? What are the chances that Rowena will be able to resist doing what they tell her to?”

“What makes you think she’d want to resist?” Sam countered, but shook his head. “There are counter spells on each page, as near as I can tell.”

“Really? I thought it might be on these second pages you grouped together.”

“No. Those are just similar symbols. But the counter spells are just as impossible to decode. I have the counter spell translated for the spell we used to get rid of the Mark, but well, we obviously don’t want to reverse that one.”

Sam glanced at him when he didn’t immediately agree. Not that Dean was actually considering it, but the thought had crossed his mind that maybe, just maybe taking the Mark back on, just as a stop-gap until they figured out a way to get rid of it and not open a damn door to catastrophe, might not be such a terrible idea. He wished he’d known what its true purpose was all that time. Maybe it would have helped.

When he looked at Sam all he saw was something as close to abject terror that Dean had ever seen. His jaw clenched. He sat so still he wasn’t even breathing. Dean found himself smiling over it and he shook his head to reassure Sam that he didn’t have any intention of being that stupid again.

“I can’t go down that road again, Sam. No one can. No human at least. No demon. No angel either. Look what it did to Lucifer. Maybe if God hadn’t planted the Mark on his arm the whole damn world would be different right now.”

“I don’t think so,” Sam said quietly, breathing in relief even though he tried to hide it. That made Dean smile again. It wasn’t so long ago that he’d acted like he didn’t give a damn what happened to Dean. That wasn’t the case any more and it was a nice feeling. For a change. “Lucifer made his own choices, even with the Mark. Just like you did. You could have given in to it a long time ago, but you didn’t. You fought it off right up to the very end, Dean.”

“A whole lot of good that did,” he said with a smirk. “We should warn Cas.”

Dean was about to pray to him, falling back into that habit more easily than he thought he would, but Sam already had his phone out and texting. “He really likes getting texts,” Sam said. “So I humor him.”

“He might be a little busy at the moment anyway. It’s kinda weird, isn’t it? Having him back in full-on angel mode?”

Sam nodded to that and hit send. “It’s kinda nice.”

“Good timing there.”

“What’s good timing?” Cas said behind them, making them both jump.

“Damn it, Cas.”

“We found something,” Sam said, recovering faster and pointed to the computer.

Cas leaned over him to look, putting a hand on his shoulder for stability and Sam cringed in pain. He didn’t say anything, gritting his teeth.

“What’s … It’s a dispersal spell,” Cas said, leaning even closer. “From the Book of the Damned. Sam, why are you even looking at this? Didn’t we learn—”

“Because Rowena has it,” Dean said, coming to his defense.

“And they already have her,” Cas said, looking especially constipated.

“What?” Sam stared, still wincing as Cas straightened.

“She was inside the blast zone. I don’t know if she went voluntarily. The Darkness is attracted to the Book, so regardless, it’ll find her and take her, willing or not. We have to get to her.”

So much for the weeklong vacation, Dean thought. He wasn’t really surprised though. He hadn’t expected it to last as long as it had.

Cas turned to Sam. “Is something wrong with you? You’re abnormally warm.”

Dean snorted at the way he worded that and volunteered, “He has a sunburn.”

“I’m fine.”

“A … sun … Oh.” At that, Cas rolled his eyes a little and set his fingers on Sam’s back, who jumped at being healed, but then sighed in relief. “I thought there were lotions.”

“There are,” Dean said, still laughing. “He fell asleep on the beach today after the dolphin swim.”

Cas’ expression turned wistful. “You swam with dolphins? I wish I could have been here to translate. They’re really remarkable creatures. So intelligent. Far more than humans at times and—”

“Cas,” Sam interrupted. “We should probably think about getting out of here.”

The angel nodded, but Dean noted a sense of hesitation. “You should go get packed then.”

Dean nodded Sam to go on, but not before he closed his laptop and handed it up to him. “I’m sorry I broke into your computer. I thought you were doing something stupid when you weren’t. I’m sorry for that too. It’s a habit. I’m not sure I can break it. I’m going to try, but you may just have to suck it up and explain. Deal?”

Sam was so surprised by the unexpected admission that he didn’t know what to say, but he nodded. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what I was doing when you asked.”

“I know why you didn’t,” Dean said and nodded him to the stairs. “Go get our stuff.”

Dean waited until Sam was all the way down the stairs before he turned to Cas, who had something to say as well. “I don’t think you should go.”

That wasn’t what Dean expected and paused to consider why. “Have anything to do with all the research Sam is doing on soul regeneration?”

Cas didn’t want to answer but he nodded. “The Mark of Cain—”

“Cas, I already know.”

“No, you don’t.”

“I’m going to end up soulless,” Dean said, figuring that was it, but Cas shook his head and very clearly didn’t want to go on. “What then?”

“Not soulless in the sense you’re thinking, like Sam was soulless. That happened because his soul was—”

“I know what happened.”

“This is different. This is…” He squinted for a moment and then started rolling up his sleeve, pushing the coat sleeve back, unbuttoning his shirtsleeve. Dean knew what he intended.


Cas put a hand on his shoulder and easily pushed him back down into the chair he’d tried to get out of so he could get away from what was coming. “I need to know the extent of the damage.”

“No, you don’t.”

Cas pulled his belt off and handed it over. “Bite down on this and think happy thoughts.”

“I’m not doing it.”

“Then you’re going to bite your tongue off.”

“I don’t want to know, Cas.”

“Then I won’t tell you.”

That was the last forewarning he got before Cas stuffed the belt into his mouth and white-hot pain struck his entire body. It was unlike any other kind of pain he’d ever endured and lingered into an eternity of agony where he was trapped and couldn’t escape. He was being ripped apart from the inside out. It went on and on and on longer still, until the white light frayed toward black that coalesced on the edge of inner vision. Dean thought for certain he was about to die. Really, the only coherent thought he had was that he didn’t want to scream. He didn’t want Sam charging up the stairs into the middle of this.

He felt Cas let go of him. It took longer to realize the pain was ebbing, though not very quickly. The belt fell out of his mouth, or maybe Cas took it. Dean didn’t know anything except he could hardly breathe and leaned over his knees, shaking from it.

“I’m sorry,” Cas said, but his voice was muffled and when Dean looked up at him, Cas had his back turned.

“Don’t ever do that to me again.”

“I can’t promise that I won’t,” Cas said. He was staring up at the ceiling.

A chill of fear raced down Dean’s spine, landing in the pit of his stomach and making it hard to breathe again. Cas wasn’t acting like himself and Dean found he couldn’t find his own bearings. He didn’t know what was happening.

“Cas? What’s wrong?”


“Okay, you’re going to have to narrow it down there, man. What does that mean?”

Cas turned around finally, and Dean was stunned and then afraid to see that Castiel, Angel of the Lord was crying.

“It means,” he said, “that in order to save you, I should kill you right now.”




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