Dean and Sam find out the Mark has caused more damage than anyone thought, but there’s no time to dwell on the possibility of non-existence. The Darkness is released from its narrow containment and the Winchesters find themselves in a desperate battle to survive.
Calm Go the Wild Seas
Cut my heart out but it’s still beating
On and on and on and on
My sails are tattered
They’re worn bone thin…
“I’m … I’m okay, Sam.”
He didn’t look okay and the next moment, he was unconscious. He was the same sickly shade of white now as when Sam got him off that rack. It didn’t help that he was still bleeding; enough that red streaks ran off him, tracking along the water slick deck of the boat. It didn’t help either that they were now bouncing over a moderately rolling sea, jarring everyone on board.
After a few minutes of that and after leaping over one particularly large wave, Sam looked in their wake, judging that they were far enough off the dock and not being pursued so that he could slow their escape just a little. In that brief glance, he didn’t see Cas, or anything – no shadow monsters or people getting eaten alive. The only evidence that what amounted to a bomb going off was the echo of numerous car alarms. He pulled back on the throttle and gestured to their Mexican passenger.
“Hey, you, uh … sir, senor, come here,” he said, motioning him over. “What’s your name? Cual es tu nobre?”
“Mi nombres es Miguel,” he said and then went on, gesturing back toward the dock. Sam thought he caught something about angels, but Miguel was speaking too fast for him to translate.
“Okay, listen,” Sam said, trying to calm him and get the right words out. He pulled Miguel to the helm and pointed away from the island, hoping he was asking him to steer them out of there. Miguel got the idea and took over.
Sam glanced up at the sky, solid blue overhead, looking for danger, before he crouched down beside his brother. The white shirt he wore was shredded to ribbons, front and back, but the cuts didn’t look too deep, except in a few places where blood still flowed. Quickly, Sam found some semi-clean towels in a bin and some duct tape. Dean remained unconscious throughout the bandaging process and Sam feared there was something worse than the obvious wounds causing it. The minutes rolled by in time with the sea and still, he didn’t move.
“Hey. Dean. Hey, hey, hey. Come on. Stay with me. Stay with me, Dean.”
As many times as he’d watched his brother careen, crash, or slide right up to the brink of death, Sam thought he ought to be used to it by now, but the same sense of dread-filled panic swept over him. He felt for a pulse and didn’t find one. He wasn’t breathing.
More seconds ticked by. Sam looked in every direction. Cas didn’t come.
Once again, Sam pounded his fist into Dean’s chest, hard. This time he remembered the CPR training he’d taken a million years ago in college, and what he’d read about it just a few days ago, got his hands into place and started pressing down even harder. Ten compressions in, he heard and felt the horrible snap and pop of bones. He kept going for what seemed an eternity, but the second hand on his watch told him it was only a minute.
The thought seeped in after the next excruciating minute that he was gone. The shadow bitch had done something, taken the last speck of his soul, killed him without anyone knowing it.
Another minute, another eternity, another hundred compressions, more broken ribs, and still, there was nothing.
Sam sucked in a breath, pulled Dean’s head back and breathed into him, twice. He’d been without air for too long. Sam went right back to pressing down on his chest, blind refusal to give up taking hold.
“Cas, I really need you right now,” he said and kept going.
The next minute elapsed in a strange sort of slow motion where nothing existed except the terrible sound of a body being smashed; ribcage, breastbone, everything felt loose, completely disconnected, sloshing around under the relentless force of each compression.
“Don’t you give up on me,” he said and breathed for him again. He heard the edges of panic in his voice and pushed it aside.
Seconds ticked by. The noise of time’s passage beat through him like a claxon. Sam wanted it to stop. He needed time to stop blasting by at its unmerciful pace. The longer it kept on, pressing inextricably forward, the harder it became to deny the one truth he couldn’t bear to accept.
The sun blared down on them. Everything was so still. The water smoothed to a flat calm. The air barely moved, the gurgle of the boat’s engine a distant thrum hardly breaking through the pounding of his heart in his ears. Through the sweat in his eyes, Sam looked to Miguel. He’d stopped the boat and he was on his knees, hands clasped together, fervently praying.
The futility of that gesture struck Sam, sapping his strength, but still he didn’t stop. He couldn’t. He refused, doggedly hanging on to the only thing left to him. He’d abandoned it before, more than once in his life and every time he had, it’d been the wrong thing to do. He’d lost his way without it, but not this time. Not ever again.
He could still hope.
He could still believe.
He still had faith in the promise of tomorrow.
“I’m not going to let you go. You hear me?” he said and starting pressing down harder than before. “I am not going to let you go!”
Dean’s eyes popped open. The breath he pulled in was cut off by a choked cry of agony. His eyes rolled back and his hands balled into fists from the abrupt assault of pain. “I can’t … breathe.”
“Easy. Easy. I’m sorry. Dean, don’t move. Just try to take slow breaths. Look at me. Slow and shallow. Breathe. That’s it. You’re going to be all right.”
Miguel started praying louder, happily, almost singing from joy, which made Sam smile a little and Dean stare at him like he was crazy. “What’s his problem?”
“Don’t try to talk. That’s Miguel. He’s just glad you’re not dead.” Sam turned to the Mexican, holding a hand out to get him to stop with the praying. He pointed to the island. “We have to go back,” he said and then repeated the command in Spanish. Dean needed a hospital. Despite the danger the island might still hold, they couldn’t stay out here on the water and Mexico was over an hour away by boat.
“Si senor, si,” Miguel said, nodding and returned to the helm. He pushed the throttle up slowly. The boat heeled over the way a slow moving craft did that didn’t have the speed to cut through the waves.
Sam looked out at the swells, squinting at the fact of them and that moments before there hadn’t been any. The thought occurred that maybe, just maybe time had stopped after all, just as he’d asked. Just for a few precious seconds. Long enough.
He shook his head though and smiled again, aware he wasn’t thinking straight and probably wasn’t capable of it. He leaned against the hull of the boat, allowing for a moment of relief even when they weren’t out of danger. His arms felt like led weights.
“Sammy,” Dean whispered, “listen to me—”
“No.” He cut him off. “Shut up. We don’t have a choice here. I broke your ribs and everything. Right now, the only thing holding you together is that duct tape. We have to go back.”
“You can’t go back,” Cas said and startled all three of them.
Miguel stopped steering the boat, turning to stare wide-eyed at the angel, right before he dropped back to his knees. Cas reached around him and pulled the throttle to neutral and then ignoring Miguel, knelt down beside Dean.
“Took you long enough,” he muttered.
Cas only smirked and set a hand on him. His eyes widened and he glanced at Sam. “Were you trying to kill him?” He shook his head and concentrated. Miguel gasped at the light coming from Cas’ hand, but then it went out and Cas leaned back.
“Your battery’s low?” Dean muttered, clearly not healed. “Now?”
“Yes,” Cas growled, but he put both hands to Dean and tried again. He grew visibly weaker, but it worked, at least a little.
“That’s better,” Dean said and seemed to breathe easier. He nodded and thought to sit up, but Cas put two fingers to his head and he slumped right over.
“What … Why did you do that?” Sam asked.
“Because he needs to rest and he’s too stubborn to do that on his own. She got to him, didn’t she?”
Sam blinked at the sudden shift of gears, but he nodded. “On the dock before you got there, yes. She was the one who had him, in the rift, wasn’t she?”
“Yes. Sam, we can’t let that happen again. I’m not completely sure why they want him back. Maybe they need him for something, to completely open the gateway. Whatever the reason, they mean to kill him. If she reaches him again…”
Sam listened as he trailed off, leaving the specter of Dean’s non-existence unspoken but well understood. “How is it that she got through at all?”
“She’s their leader and she’s powerful, so the warding won’t completely protect either of you from her. She’s not really a she. That’s just the form it’s taken. She is … Sauron. And she wants to spread darkness across all the land.”
“And we don’t have a ring to throw into Mount Doom either.”
Cas shook his head. “She’s not alone.”
Sam paused to think what he meant and it wasn’t good. “So there’s a Morgoth.”
The reference stumped Cas for a moment, but he nodded. “A bigger bad, yes. We haven’t seen that one. Not yet anyway.”
“So I guess Rowena cast that spell.”
“Yes, but against her will. From what I could tell, at least. She’s on the run.”
“What about Crowley?” Sam didn’t want to even ask, but thought it better to know what his enemies were doing. The thought had already occurred that they might need his help.
“Preparing for a siege,” Cas said. “They’re going for Lucifer, which we can’t let happen. It isn’t going to take them long to find out how. Did you ward the Bunker?”
Sam nodded to that, thinking of the four horsemen’s rings. They were as safe as he knew how to make them. “Cas, shouldn’t we get to Lucifer and Michael first?”
It surprised Sam that he didn’t say no instantly, but he clearly didn’t like the idea. “And do what with them?”
“I don’t know. Talk to them? Michael at least might be willing to help.”
“Why would he? He did want the apocalypse.”
“But does he still? Does he really want the planet destroyed? I don’t know Cas. What other options do we have?”
Cas shook his head to that, looking especially perturbed. “It’s one thing for me to attempt it. Crowley would likely cooperate, making it only slightly less difficult to endure, but you? Or Dean? That’s actually out of the question with the condition he’s in. It’d kill him. That leaves you going alone. Even if I was with you, your brother would look at it that way. You think he’ll go along with that?”
“No, but he might have to. I don’t have a choice, Cas. After what I did—”
Sam pulled in a breath at the correction. “All right. After what we did that led to all this, how can we not take the chance that the only two archangels left in existence might be willing to help. We have to find out.”
“The only way Michael will agree to help is if we let him out. The only way he gets out without letting Lucifer out with him is if he takes a vessel.” Cas gestured pointedly to Dean. “It’ll kill him.”
“You don’t know that. Maybe it’ll help him.”
“We need Michael and we may need Lucifer.”
“They fought the Darkness once and won.”
“They fought with God and won.”
Sam didn’t answer to that, but Cas gave him a knowing look. “Maybe we’ll need to find him too.”
“It’s been tried.”
“Why do you think the amulet didn’t work for you?” Sam asked. He already had a theory.
“God doesn’t want to be found. Joshua said so, magic amulet or not.”
“Maybe he was just saying that because the wrong person was looking.”
Cas was a little put out by that and maybe even hurt. “He’s my father, you know. Why would I be the wrong person?”
“The amulet didn’t work for you because it wasn’t yours,” he said and glanced a Dean, who was peacefully sleeping it off, though baking in the blaring sun. He clambered to his feet. They needed shade and water. “Just a thought. Are we stuck here until you get powered up?”
Cas squinted up at him. “Yes.”
Sam nodded to that and went to the kill switch on the motor. Miguel was still on his knees, staring in rapt awe at Cas. Sam needed his help though. Together they found a tarp, some rope, and a couple net hooks they could use as tent poles, and managed to rig a canopy over the back end of the boat. The water was a different problem, but Cas solved it when he found a canteen. He handed it to Sam.
Cas looked at the sea and gestured, so Sam filled the canteen with salt water. He rinsed it out a couple times first, since it was a little musty and rusty smelling. There was no need it turned out. Angel purification cleansed the whole package. He seemed well pleased with himself and Miguel was once again awed beyond speaking.
Sam sat down next to Dean, watching to make sure he was still breathing. He checked under the bandages and found the wounds mostly healed, except in the deepest parts. To pass the time, he got out his laptop, paired it with his cell phone and thought to find out what was going on in the world. After ten minutes of that though, he closed the computer, unable to take the solid stream of wall-to-wall bad news that flooded the headlines of every news organization all around the globe.
“That bad?” Cas asked.
Sam nodded. “You warded all the world’s leaders though, didn’t you?”
“Even the really horrible ones,” Cas said. “Whole governments too. I thought it would help.”
“I’m sure it did.”
“Lessens the likelihood of massive worldwide instability.”
“Or someone getting their hands on the nuclear bomb codes,” Sam said and tucked his laptop away. He leaned his head back, wishing he could go back to the vacation in paradise. It didn’t seem so idyllic now, but an environment hostile to their survival. Still, the three days they’d gotten, especially a couple moments in those three days would last him a lifetime and the memory made him smile.
“You should rest,” Cas said.
He nodded to that and closed his eyes, letting those memories hold his mind, diving, the ruins, a pretty brunette, until it all drifted away with the gentle sway of the boat.
He woke again to the sound of the motor running and the flap of the tarp against the pull of the wind. He heard Dean talking then and snapped awake.
“There’s sleeping beauty,” Dean said, smiling as he reached over and clapped Sam on the leg. “Up and at ‘em.”
His shirt was still torn to hell but the bandages were gone and the scars that should have been there were missing. Sam turned to Cas guessing he was full-up again and he’d healed Dean, only Cas wasn’t there.
“Where is he?”
“He said he wanted to check the Bunker before we land. He’ll be right back.”
“That’s what he said the last time,” Sam said. It was close to nightfall, so he’d slept the whole rest of the day. He also knew the real reason Cas had gone ahead without them. “He’s after the horsemen’s rings,” he said and Dean stared at him. “I talked to him about taking a trip downstairs to see Lucifer and Michael. He doesn’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Everything’s on the table, Dean. You were unconscious during the discussion so don’t look at me like that. I was going to talk to you about it but you died – again – and I haven’t had the chance.”
“Hey Miguel?” Dean said. “Is there anything left to eat? Grumpy here needs some food.”
To Sam’s surprise, Miguel nodded and produced a bag of chips from another pocket along the hull. “They’re only stale a little,” he said and handed them over.
“Cas did a thing,” Dean explained. “Warded him too, and I already gave him ‘the talk’.”
“Oh. Sorry,” Sam said knowing what that meant for this man’s life and nodded his thanks for the chips, which he started eating because Dean was right.
Miguel smiled easily. “In my culture we already know these things and many know how to fight the spirits. In some sects, Lucifer is not considered pure evil and has even been known to do some good.”
“See?” Sam said turning to Dean. “See?”
“Yeah, that’s why he tortured your soul for over a hundred and twenty years, Sam. He’s a great guy.” He pointed to the tarp. “Give me a hand with this. We have to take it down. We have to move.” He jerked his head and when Sam looked, he realized they were too close to shore. “Mexico mainland,” Dean said untying the ropes holding the tarp in place.
“What’s the plan?” Sam asked and moved to help. They got the tarp down and underway while Dean explained. Cas would come back, get Miguel back to his home and then take them back to the Bunker.
The angel reappeared, looking a little put out, but they said their goodbyes to Miguel, wishing him luck and Cas left again with him. He was back only a few seconds later.
Dean seemed to sense an oncoming confrontation, especially since Cas took a step toward Sam, and got between them. “We made an agreement,” he said before Cas could say anything, “about no more sneaking around. No more lying. And definitely no going into our home for the purpose of taking something from us just because you think it’s a bad idea.”
“It’s a terrible idea,” Cas snapped at him.
“I get that. But it’s just an idea. There’s no plan. Sam’s not going to go off on his own and go after Lucifer. Are you Sam?”
“Because we agreed we wouldn’t do that anymore. Since it turned out so great last time and all. You being able to get in and out of the Bunker whenever you feel like it means we trust you. It’s team free will here, Cas. So are you in?”
Cas was completely taken aback by that. Maybe he was surprised Dean wasn’t a 100% against even the idea of going to Lucifer and Michael. But he took a step back at the challenge and his anger evaporated. “Of course I’m in.”
“Then let’s go home, but, do you think I can have my clothes back? Really, just the boots. They’re my favorite boots and…”
Cas could only roll his eyes at all that and took them each by the shoulder.