The Winchesters take a vacation, enjoying tropical paradise while they can, but old habits die hard and Dean discovers Sam’s research is leading him into dark areas, places best not revisited. While Sam is out on a date, Dean hacks his computer and makes an important discovery; about the way he thinks of his brother and a possibly catastrophic spell that will release the Darkness completely. When they summon Cas, the angel arrives and discovers something far worse.
Against the Wind
The years rolled slowly past
And I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home …
“Okay, I’m sorry for whatever I did to piss you off,” Dean said and stood. Cas was serious and even thinking about doing it. He was upset. Dean had seen him sad before, for an angel anyway, happy, confused, annoyed, angry, enraged even, but he couldn’t remember one time he’d seen him cry. Ever. “I know all this Mark of Cain business is my fault and everything that’s followed—”
“Your soul is broken,” Cas said, cutting him off and his words left Dean blinking in confusion.
“Okay, Dr. Phil. What does that mean?” Dean glanced over his shoulder to make sure Sam wasn’t coming back up.
Cas took the chair Dean vacated, sat, and leaned on his knees. “If you die right now, there’ll be enough of your soul left to take to heaven. If you don’t die right now, even two weeks from now, a month maybe, but not much longer than that, there won’t be anything left of you.”
Again, Dean needed a minute to work out what that meant and couldn’t exactly. It didn’t add up. He never thought he’d get into heaven anyway. “So I’m taking a trip back downstairs.”
“No.” Cas looked up at him then. “No, you won’t. You won’t exist anymore.”
It should have come as more of a shock, he supposed, but having grown up never really believing there’d be something better after death, finding out that non-existence waited for him didn’t really surprise him. It wasn’t until he met Cas that the possibility of making it to heaven even occurred to him. Even though a trip through the pearly gates had been promised to him and to Sam too, Dean hadn’t spent a whole lot of time believing that either. Especially not after everything he’d done. Oddly enough, he was only relieved that hell wasn’t in the cards.
“I’m sorry,” Cas said in the silence that followed. “This is my fault.”
“What are you talking about? No it isn’t.”
“I have failed, completely, to protect you,” Cas said, not listening to him. “That was my job. Michael told me a very long time ago. He said, ‘Castiel, this is your purpose, the reason for your existence. Your task is to save Dean Winchester.’”
“Getting me out of hell wasn’t enough?” Dean asked with a slight smile. “Getting the Mark off my arm not good enough? It isn’t your fault. It isn’t Sam’s fault. It isn’t even my fault. It’s the job. It’s just the job, Cas.”
“Man, you and Sam … I swear the two of you have this pie in the sky thing going, where you think all of this is going to turn out okay. It was never going to end well. Not for me. Maybe not for Sam either. Or even you. What happens if you get angel bladed?”
Cas glanced at him and shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“So non-existence for you too?”
“Resurrection more likely. It’s punishment. For never getting it right.”
“Then you’ll get another chance to screw things up to hell and back.” Dean smiled at Cas’ exasperation. “Come on, man. I gotta month to live? I’ll bet you another vacation in paradise that you’re wrong.”
“Why don’t you just stay here?” Cas said and stood. He moved to the window, looking out as the first blush of dawn touched the sky, the storm clouds blown to sea.
“And let you and Sam go fight the good fight? You know I can’t do that.”
Cas stood in silence for a time, shaking his head the whole while. “Are you going to tell Sam?”
“I’ll tell him.”
He wasn’t sure how though, knowing Sam’s reaction wouldn’t be calm, like at all, and he’d get it in his head that he’d be able to find a way to fix this too. Dean tried to push the thought that bubbled up from the back of his mind that maybe, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Cas turned then, but stood staring off at nothing, head tilted to one side as if listening. Of course, he probably was. Whatever he was hearing, he didn’t like.
“I have to leave. There are angels calling for me. Something’s happening. I’ll be right back. Be ready to go.”
He was gone before Dean could stop him or suggest that maybe they should just go now. “He needs a tether or something. Angel on a leash.”
Dean shook his head at that idea. He looked around the room to make sure they weren’t leaving anything important behind and found the book on soul regeneration. “A little light reading for the trip home,” he muttered and took it with him downstairs to Sam’s room.
He found the duffle all packed but no Sam. He tossed the book in and checked his own room with the same result. Everything was packed, but his brother wasn’t there. Just when he was starting to get worried, Dean spotted him outside, standing at the water line on the beach.
As Dean went out and walked up behind him, he recognized by the dejected slump of his shoulders, his head bowed, hands stuffed in his pockets that he must have overheard everything Cas said. “Oh crap.”
He’d really wanted to save this particular conversation until they got home. Mostly he wanted a day or two to wrap his mind around it all. He didn’t know what he could say to Sam either, but he was going to have to try.
He stood beside him, looking out over pristine water, marveling again over how clear it was. Standing where the waves broke he could see straight to the bottom, even the tiny particles of sand stirred up by the in-out pull of the tide. A school of tiny silver-white fish scurried along the shallows. Just a little further out there was a Dori fish, flat, blue, and darting around like it didn’t know which way to go. He pushed the ‘last time I’ll ever see that’ thought from his mind.
“We can’t seem to catch a break, can we?” he said while Sam stood there trying pretty hard to keep it together.
“I can’t … I don’t think I can talk to you about this right now.”
Dean nodded to that. He felt a weight settle on his chest and swallowed back the sudden ache rising in his throat. He could handle a lot of things, really awful, terrible things, but Sam having his heart broken wasn’t one of them. This time, there wasn’t anything Dean could do about it … Or maybe there was.
“You know what’s odd?” he said, turning back to watch the fish in the water. “I feel all right. Great in fact. Hell, I haven’t felt this good in years. But with this job, you know, there’s always going to be something coming for us, right? This business with the Darkness – we’ll figure it out, because that’s what we always do. The stakes are about as high as they’ve ever been on that one, but we’ve been down that road before too. The fate of the world hangs in the balance. As usual.”
He stopped talking for a moment, not sure Sam was listening. He wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do, giving Sam hope when maybe there wasn’t any, but for his brother he thought he could fake it. Like old Frank once said, fake it until you make it.
“So I need your help here, on this little save my soul side job we’ve been handed.” He heard Sam draw in a breath at that and knew he’d hit the mark. “What? Did you think I was just going to roll over? I mean, Cas is smart, for a nerd angel, but Sam, he doesn’t know everything. Any more than you and I know everything.”
“You think he’s wrong about this?”
“I don’t know. I think it’s important to find out though, don’t you?”
“Yes. Of course it is. I didn’t think you’d—”
“I know what you thought. I just need one favor.”
“No going off on my own behind your back,” Sam said before Dean could.
“You know I was not in my right mind because of the Mark and a lot of the things I said to you were driven by that way of thinking. It wanted me to give up. Give into it. Wanted me to fight you every step of the way. But now, I’m about as clear as I think I’ve ever been in my life.”
“So you’re all ‘I want to make it to heaven’ now?”
“No.” Dean laughed and shook his head. “I don’t really know about all that. I mean, hell’s off the table, so that’s a bonus. Heaven? I don’t know. What is it? A room they stick you in where you’re content to do I don’t know what? Maybe it’s one long party, like Pamela’s, or maybe it’s a place to hang out like the Roadhouse and Ash is still there breaking into places he’s not supposed to. But for me, I just never got the appeal. So the thought of not existing doesn’t really bother me.”
He pulled in a breath then, ready to speak the truth of it. “But I know it bothers you. You believe in it, the whole heaven thing. You always have. And Sam, I don’t want your eternity to end up being you trying to figure out a way to get me there. So I’m in. I mean, as long as you’re sure you want me around, being a pain in your ass – forever – then I’m in.”
Sam finally smiled at that and nodded. “I’m in too.”
“But we fix this together, Sammy. We figure out a way to agree on the way to do it and if we can’t, we find another way. Above all that, we do our best to not screw the world over in the process. Deal?”
Sam smiled again and held out his hand. Dean accepted the gesture as a solemn vow and shook his brother’s hand. “Deal.”
“Okay then. Let’s get this show on the road.”
“Speaking of,” Sam said, looking back toward their rooms. “Shouldn’t Cas be back by now?”
Dean turned from the water, looking with Sam. With the curtains open, he could see that the rooms were empty. Cas taking too long to do anything generally meant very bad news.
Sam’s phone went off; some sort of alert he had on it and at the same time a shadow cut across the brightness of the day. While Sam dug his phone out, they both looked up expecting to see clouds, but it was a solid blue canopy overhead.
Moving in a line from horizon to horizon north to south, something that couldn’t be described as anything normal rolled across the sky. It wasn’t dark. It didn’t have any shape or color. It was like a fun house mirror cut up into a million pieces, a layer of distortion that confused the deepness of blue behind it. The sun blinked out and blinked back on.
“What the hell,” Dean muttered and then Sam shoved his phone at him. The swath of clouds that had blanketed the middle of the US was gone. “Oh shit.”
The sand shifted off to their right and then to the left, and then again smack in front of them. The thing that rose up didn’t have a cohesive shape. It wasn’t black either, but a mirrored reflection of everything around them, the color of sand one second, the color of the sea the next.
Sam grabbed Dean and shoved him to the side of the thing in front of them. “We gotta move!”
“Where? We’re on a damn island.”
They raced for their rooms to grab the duffle, two steps ahead of pursuit, in the back and right out the front, hardly slowing. They both discovered that running in sandals was not easy. Dean lost one and then the other as they hit pavement. Off in the distance and closer to hand, people started screaming. On the other side of the palm-lined street, three people were gobbled up and disappeared, shrieking as they vanished.
Sam pointed to a jeep, idling outside the main resort building with a middle-aged Mexican standing beside it, staring wide-eyed as people left and right were taken and consumed. Dean was a few steps behind Sam and from the jeep he was already diving into, when something grabbed him from behind.
Pain tore across his back as he went down and then across his chest as he rolled. Skin flayed open. Blood poured out of three clawed slashes, stem to stern. Through a haze he heard the distinct sound of a gun being racked, followed by the immediate explosion of noise as it was fired right over his head.
The mirage dissolved, but it was replaced by another and another. Sam kept shooting, one handed, and simultaneously reached down to Dean to haul him up off the pavement. “The federales are not going to like this,” he muttered and then staggered to the jeep.
Sam raced for the driver’s side, shoving the stunned Mexican into the back without asking. He got them going in record time. “How bad is it?” he asked, looking at the blood soaking the front of Dean’s shirt.
He didn’t really know except his guts weren’t spilling out of the wounds, so he guessed not as bad as it could have been. “Just a couple scratches,” he said, reaching for the duffle for the other gun and more ammo. “Where are we going?”
Sam didn’t have an answer to that. Where could they go to get away from these things that were erupting out of thin air all around them? The air shimmered right in front of them. Dean managed to get the sawed-off up and fired over the windshield. Bits of something hit him, but he couldn’t tell what, that felt like molten led against exposed skin. He saw another shimmer of air off to his right as they sped by and he blasted it before it could eat the family in front of it. The Mexican in the back was talking rapidly under his breath, a prayer it sounded like, but Dean couldn’t quite tell.
As they careened along, Sam started looking off to his left as they raced by a marina. Dean kept shooting and reloading, aware that they were going to run out of shells, probably before they ran out of monsters. Without warning, Sam took a hard turn to the left, jumped the median and cut across the other lane of traffic, aiming for a parking lot adjacent to the marina.
Sam slammed the jeep to a halt, jumped out shotgun in hand and rushed around to Dean’s side to help him at the same time he grabbed the duffle out of the back. He yelled at their passenger to get moving and dragged them all to the first dock that had a whole line of midsized boats berthed. They raced down the line all the way to the end.
Dean ran half backwards, blasting away until he didn’t have any shells left. Shimmer monsters were popping up everywhere in pursuit, but the moment they hit the pier, they stopped, a seething mass of them. The only good news – it seemed they were no longer attacking the locals.
One solidified, phasing into a recognizable human form and Dean knew her. A pale face shown through the shadows that surrounded her with cruel eyes that seemed to leap toward him. She raised her hand and clenched her fingers into a fist.
Abruptly, the ability to breathe left him. Pain hit him square in the chest and Dean felt himself dragged toward her. Warded or not, she could reach him still. He tried to turn but couldn’t. He was pulled a step toward her and then another and another. He couldn’t stop it.
Sam, who’d been trying to get the boat started and off the dock, realized what was happening. He grabbed up the last loaded salt gun and charged onto the pier. Taking dead aim at her, he got in front of Dean but didn’t fire.
“Let. Him. Go.”
“He’s mine, little man.”
The blast of the gun echoed over the water and against the buildings on the far side of the road. The pressure holding Dean in place evaporated and he collapsed, knees smashing into the wood planks of the dock. He would have toppled over but Sam was there again, yanked an arm over his shoulder and then heaved upward. That was followed by Sam all but throwing him onto the boat, where he landed in a heap on the deck.
The queen bitch reappeared while their new Mexican amigo was desperately trying to start the boat, only this time she was on the dock, striding out toward Sam who was frantically shoving the last shell into the gun.
A high-pitched whistle came through the chaos, changing to a noise akin to an incoming rocket. Like a bomb going off, Cas landed right in front of Sam, fully powered up, blazing bright. He rose from a crouch, massive black wings outstretched – not the shadow of them, but the real thing.
The air around them crackled. The light around Cas grew even brighter. Sam leapt onto the boat and stumbled for the wheel. The Mexican yanked on the pull cord at the engine and it roared to life. Sam threw the throttle all the way open. The boat lurched forward. Dean yanked the Mexican, who kept staring back at Cas, down to the deck in the midst of crossing himself.
Dean threw an arm over the guy to keep him from looking and going blind, squeezing his own eyes closed a second before the light blast hit them. The last thing Dean heard before the sound wave struck was a breathless prayer, no translation needed;
“Dulce madre maria de dios. Un angel! Un angel!”