Dean strolled into the library, light reflecting off the amber glass of a couple of craft brews he held—beer that Dean would swear, if asked, was some mistaken purchase of Sam's and nothing to do with him—and his face set in a look of such nonchalant innocence that Kevin was instantly on edge. "What?"
"Yeah, hi to you, too." Dean set a bottle down on the table and slid the other over to Kevin, whose eyebrows nearly climbed off his forehead at the gesture. Dean sat, cocked his own eyebrow at Kevin until he cracked the bottle and took a tentative sip. He'd barely set it back down before Dean said,"So, you know how an angel can't be kicked out by anyone but the person that said yes?"
Kevin swallowed convulsively and stared at Dean. "I...okay?"
"Okay, what if, say hypothetically, I wanted to talk to the vessel, without the squatter listening in? That there was a way to like, power down an angel, enough so that it wasn't in charge for a few minutes?"
Kevin took another sip, eyeing Dean over the bottle. "...Why?"
"Kevin, we've got tons of possessed humans out there, and—aw, fuck. No, you know what? Screw it. Kevin, I got Sam possessed by an angel—"
Kevin spat a mouthful of beer across the table, spattering Dean and his notes." WHAT?"
Dean flinched, grimacing as he wiped a sleeve-covered hand across his chest. "There's an angel inside Sam," Dean repeated slowly, those few words heavily inflected with 'duh'.
"What do you mean, there's an angel inside Sam? Dean…? Dean...I think you’d better start from the beginning."
"The beginning. Yeah, sure, soon as I figure out where the fuck that is. So. Those trials. Um...Sam was fucked up when we quit, and...I did something. And, unh, in my defense, I thought I was doing the right thing. At the time."
"Dean. What the hell did you do?"</i>
Baba O'Riley blasted from the direction of his nightstand; his phone jittered across the bare top—wiped clean when he swept everything off trying to find the damn thing. Sam flopped onto his back, glancing to his right despite himself, the same way he'd done every morning since he could remember; turning his head towards Dean, or where Dean would have been if they were in a motel room together.
The ringtone repeated. A reluctant smile started to tilt the corners of Sam's mouth until he remembered that, yeah, changing his alarm had been one of Dean's favorite pranks; something he'd stopped doing around the time this entire shitstorm went down. The dick probably didn't even remember fucking around with his phone now. The thought sent a wave of weariness skudding through him, made Sam feel like he hadn't slept at all.
The dim bluish gleam of a baseboard nightlight cast just enough light for him to spot his phone, perched on the very edge of the nightstand. Every morning he woke to that light and the feeling of being sunk undersea— sometimes it kinda bothered him that without his phone, he'd never even know what time of day it was. He pushed himself upright with a deep sigh, his back gifting him with a spastic twinge as he did, pulling a frown out of him.
Sam palmed his phone with one hand and rubbed at his eyes with the other, clearing tangled hair from his face. He spent a few minutes skimming his messages before putting it aside with a sigh. "Shit," he murmured. "Up and at 'em, Sam. Deep breath; hit the bricks." He winced at how much he sounded like his dad had, bullying them out of bed and onto those fucking early morning runs.
Coffee first, then everything else. He wondered if Dean was in, rubbed the sudden sharp pain out of his chest. His brother had been a little odd – odder than usual – lately. Kind of...distant, while also being clingy. Sam grinned wryly. Yeah, only Dean could pull that off.
Sam made for the kitchen, schlepping around barefoot as he flicked on lights, set the coffee pot to brewing, making sure there was enough in the pot for him and Kevin, and then Dean when he finally came in. The sink and the counters were clear—a sure indication that Dean hadn't been back to the bunker yet. The man could cook like nobody’s business, but his cleanup? Left a little to be desired. He turned towards the meatlocker fridges, figuring he'd have cereal and wait for Dean to show up, when he was sideswiped by a sickening roll of vertigo. Gasping, he grabbed a counter edge, leaned against it and waited for the feeling of being in a canoe on choppy seas to fade. "Fuck, fuck that a lot," he groaned.
That had been...unpleasant, to say the least, but not totally unexpected. The world doing sudden barrel rolls was part of the continuing fallout of his failure with the Trials. Stopping the Trials was still having a negative effect on him, but oddly not as intensely as he'd expected. What with watching the angels fall one minute, and the next, waking up in a hospital bed, feeling like ten pounds of crap in a one pound bag, Sam wasn't really surprised to still be feeling off. Yeah, so, sudden vertigo was nothing, definitely not as big a deal compared to coughing up his lungs or spitting up blood on a daily basis. This was…
"Pfft," he said to himself, waving it off. "Peanuts. And stop talking to yourself," he muttered.
He decided to toss a few slices of bread into the toaster so he could say he had a hot breakfast if Dean asked. At least he was hungry, and that was in equal parts a strange feeling and a good feeling. He forgotten what it was like to eat because he wanted to, not because he had to. He wondered if maybe Cas had sneaked in some low-key healing he wasn't talking about. Sam thought it was a distinct possibility. He'd never actually told Dean then just how bad he'd felt most of the time; he'd felt like – like—
Truthfully? He'd been dying. Sam knew he'd been dying—he wasn't a fool. He wondered if Dean knew just how close he'd been to it…that he hadn’t been in danger of dying, that’d he’d actually been right there, knocking at Death’s door, so to speak. He shrugged. He’d recovered; he was, if not fine, then...pretty good, so it was old news, now. Water under the bridge.
Sam took the few steps up to the war room, set his stuff down on the map table and sighed, feeling something like ease. He liked the warm glow of the light panels over the bank of ancient control consoles, as well the dim, soft, light the map table gave off. It was nice actually; the MoL managed somehow to make functionality feel cozy, despite the machines and files and mysterious devices tucked into alcoves. Well, at least he found it so.
Sam scrunched a little deeper down into the rolling chair he'd claimed as his. Realized that he'd used that chair so much the leather was almost molded to his ass. They’d really settled in here, put down their bags, put up their feet. Sipping coffee, slowly nibbling on dry toast, he thought about the bunker. How the place had become more than just a base of operations. It had a feeling of home—well, to Dean at least. He had to admit, it was...comfortable. A good working space. He liked how clean it was, the privacy it afforded. He liked the access they had to books, to necessary materials, in a way that they'd never had before, not even at Bobby's. Bobby. Sam huffed a soft laugh. The old man would have loved the fuck out of this place, no doubt.
The bunker was safe, remote, but thank god, not in the middle of ass-back nowhere—well mostly not. Lebanon wasn't exactly the Vegas of the heartland or anything, but they'd spent enough time in their lives sacked out in falling down shacks, squatting in abandoned hunting cabins, that the bunker was actually luxurious. Living in it was almost as good as the year they'd spent living...Sam's mind skittered away from the half-formed thought. Going down that road was never a good trip.
Anyway, The bunker had advantages besides its retro charm. Here they had Chinese food every Friday that they weren't on the road, along with a standing...date...for movies that sometimes Sam was even allowed to pick, and a choice of clean, dry, comfortable beds. Dean's bed even had memory foam. Sam stifled a small laugh with a piece of toast. Well, okay—Dean thought it did. Sam had never had the heart to tell him his mattress was actually mildly, sort-of-vaguely, sentient due to magic, and ensorcelled to adjust to the body on it. The Men of Letters seemed to have had a bit of a hedonistic streak, and apparently did not subscribe to the notion that using magic for your own pleasure was wrong. Sam took a long sip of heavenly coffee. Pleasures like endlessly hot water, self-adjusting room temperatures, a pantry always stocked with the basics, and coffee: magically, ever fresh beans, so damn good that drinking it bordered on an erotic experience, judging by the look on Dean's face every morning.
Or maybe that was just him….
Sam stood, set his tablet aside, and stacked his empty cup atop his crumb-covered plate. He'd been idly checking out local papers and news feeds the last few days, looking for the odd and inexplicable and he’d found that in spades: a rash of miraculous healing, sudden mental upset, unexplained amnesia, Weekly World News-style spontaneous combustion—some more liquid and less fiery than others—which he figured all pointed to the evicted angels.
Damn angels. Almost as bad as demons.
He carried his plate and cup back into the kitchen, set them in the sink. He felt more than heard a movement behind him and glanced over his shoulder, and dropped a plate—crockery hit the cast-iron sink and shattered.
"Jesus fucking Christ, Dean!"
Because yeah, his fucking brother had suddenly appeared in the doorway like a damn apparition, the sneaky-ass sonofabitch, looking at him in that new, kicked-kitten way he had that was driving Sam crazy. And any second now he was going to do that other thing he'd started doing late—yep. There it was.
Sam picked the pieces of plate out of the sink and tossed them, cursing quietly as he did. It was fucking driving him crazy the way Dean said his name these days, like he was always half expecting it not to be him. It was really, sincerely fucking annoying. He didn't even know why, just that Dean uttering a single, little, tentative ″Sam" was enough to flip his switches...Sam bit his lip. Maybe Dean sounded so insecure because of what had happened in the church, specifically how he'd talked Sam out of finishing the trials and how he'd...done whatever it was he'd done to get him out of that churchyard. The only thing Sam really remembered about it all was what his brother had said in the church, and how at the time, it'd felt like Dean sealing what they were to each other, and then...kissed him, like they hadn't really since...since that year in their real home. The only place Sam really thought of as his and Dean's. Their home, that they'd created together.
Then it was the hospital, Sam drowning inside his head, and—God, he'd really thought he was dying. He'd thought that Bobby told him he was good to go, that he'd talked with Death himself who'd...well, that had to have been a dream, because Death had sounded honored to take him...Sam blushed slightly. Hubris. Sam knew anytime anyone had told him how worthy he was, how special, it'd always been a dream or a lie. Except for Dean. On the fucking rare occasion when he said it.
And somewhere in a state between waking and dreaming, he remembered Dean grabbing him, and was pretty sure Dean had told him, 'There ain't no me if there ain't no you'.
Which led him back to this thought: why didn't Dean remember what he’d said in the church? Why was he so hell bent on pushing Sam away while at the same time giving him this...imitation of their real home? He blinked back to the here-and-now when Dean cleared his throat, asking, "Hey...Sammy, can I uh...talk to you? I mean, talk talk-to-you talk?"
"What? Look, Dean—" Sam said.
And Sam blinked, rubbed his eyes. He hated that they felt so dry and gritty and...and what the fuck was he doing in the garage? Hadn't he just been in the kitchen? He remembered doing dishes...but here he was cleaning out the car. Dean was digging through the trunk, muttering to himself and sounding like he was pissed. Sam blinked harder, trying to drive the grit out of his eyes, squinting against the sudden glare of light. "Dean?" Had he done something to piss Dean off?
Yet a few seconds later he felt fine again. In fact, better than fine. He stretched, wondering why he felt so good, like he'd had a long, deep sleep in a comfortable feather bed instead of risking touching something gross under the seats. He inhaled, and it smelled like fresh, air-dried cotton linens, the smell of a summer afternoon when a slight breeze cut the heat. It reminded him of Saturdays with Jess. Sam shook his head and frowned. Stanford was not a thing he liked thinking about. Happy as he was with his brother, like, really, really, this-is everything-I-wanted happy, he still felt a prick of sad nostalgia for his life back then, the way it'd been so easy, normal...until it wasn't. He'd loved Jess, he really had, but deep down, he knew it was never the way he should have. Whether he’d wanted to admit it or not, Dean had always been the center of Sam’s world, and letting go, learning to love this life of his, had probably been the most honest thing he’d ever done.
Sam shook off the last bit of introspective weirdness, took a step and almost stumbled. He slapped a hand down on the car to steady himself, realizing that under all the fizzy, giddy, good feeling he was tired. So fucking tired and had been for a while. More and more, there came these times he wanted to stop, let someone else carry the load, just for a little bit. No one had to tell him how selfish that was.
He tossed the bag full of candy wrappers and gnawed up straws into the trash drum by the garage doors, made a mental note it was time to take the "safe" garbage to the dump, and tossed Dean a "Gonna lay down, maybe read."
Dean looked up and smiled. "Okay. Lay down in mine; I'll be a bit, but maybe we can watch a movie?"
Sam flipped him a thumbs up, and headed towards their bedrooms, but veered towards his own at the last minute. All of a sudden, he needed to be alone. He had an odd, irrational feeling of being crowded, like his attention was being pulled all different directions—despite the fact it was only him, Dean, Cas and Kevin in the bunker, and none of them were dogging him. Even Dean was giving him more space than normal and instead of it feeling weird, it felt...good. And he hated that it felt good. The wave of irritation and anger that was becoming second nature to him crawled over his skin like hot ants. He shook his head. His brother could be a bit much. So space was good.
He nodded, kicking off his boots and spreading out on his bed. Except.
Maybe there was a hair too much space? Like, it was not so much Dean giving him space as Dean avoiding him. There was a serious lack of random squeezes or hugs, or stopping Sam in the hall or the shower to tilt his head down for a kiss. No sex. No cuddles. No sex.
Sam rolled to his side, and was mildly surprised to see his tablet and empty coffee cup sitting on the desk. He could have sworn he'd left all that in the kitchen. Hadn’t he dropped a plate…?
Whatever. His thoughts drifted back to Dean, and the way he seemed to be avoiding Sam lately, and the odd issue of sex—or more to the point, no sex...
Honestly, he'd not even really felt the desire for it lately. Just a vague, slight interest from time to time. Dean wasn't touching him, and Sam wasn't touching himself. Not that he'd shrivel up and die without it a certain someone he could name. He was having odd and vivid dreams about Dean and himself, though, like sex dreams that took a turn into weirdness. Dean and he kept turning into some kind of being made of energy, and the sort-of-sex seemed to involve Sam poking bits of his energy into the energy-thing his brain tried to tell him was Dean when he was pretty sure it really wasn't. The energy-not-sex stuff was. Well. Pretty good actually, and he'd felt mildly superior for a few minutes after waking from each dream. It was neat and not sticky, and therefore preferable – and when had that ever mattered to him? Especially when he liked it sweaty, slippery, and stinking hot?
He was being weird. Weirder.
Should he tell Dean about these possible Trial side-effects? Or maybe Cas, who was less inclined to morph into a solid wall of worry, and couldn’t give a shit what track Sam's sex life took, thank god?
What the fuck. So much for sleeping. He got up again and slipped his feet back into boots—he left the dead guy slippers to Dean—and headed to the library. Maybe Kevin was up. Gone was the desire to be alone. Right now, he could use some company.
Sam was heading towards the library when Dean came at him from the kitchen. "Sam, hey, Sam—can you give me a hand in the storeroom? I was trying to find some...some…"
"More vintage porn?" Sam huffed, and Dean pasted on a look of insulted innocence.
"No. Well, not just porn. Besides, I'm grown—I can do what I want."
″Yeah, yeah, Cartman. So, storeroom? And what are we looking for besides your misogynistic and borderline-racist porn?"
Sam made a little sweeping gesture in the room's direction and Dean grinned wider and took the lead. He pushed the door open, sarcastically copying Sam's lead-on gesture as he did. "I was shoving around some of those boxes stacked up over there by the wall and found a stash of books I think Bobby used to have—you know me when it comes to books, though." He tilted his head to the side and faked snoring.
Sam laughed. "Jerk," he chuckled, and elbowed his goofy brother out of the way. "Let me see what you got. It'd be great to replace the books that burned or got water-damaged."
Sam headed over to wall, wondering if maybe there'd be a copy of the Liber Paginarum Fulvarum. He hadn't found a copy yet on the MoL shelves; he was beginning to think the book was a one of a kind. Considering what Bobby's book had been bound in, he kind of hoped that it was. He was bending to kneel next to a pile of musty old tomes when he was startled by a weird noise behind him, a squishy slap, like something wet hitting the wall and he—
"Dean!" Kevin shouted as Dean tried to slip past him.
Shit! He almost lost his grip on the cup he held, topped to the brim with hot coffee. And maybe a splash or two or so of Jameson's. He fumbled, steadied it with a pleased smirk at not losing a drop. He thought briefly, longingly, of his bed, which he was obviously not going to be visiting any time soon. Sam was off somewhere on one of his weird-ass grocery runs, Cas was in the ether, and Dean was just fucking tired. Five minutes, that's all he wanted, five damn minutes to lay the fuck down and not think about a goddamn thing. But, yeah, no. Not happening this day.
He shook himself. 'Stop being a dick,' he thought. With any luck, the kid finally found what they've been looking for.
"Dean!" Kevin waved him impatiently into the library, and swung a thick, dusty book that smelt vaguely of incontinent cat around on the table to face him, stopping him in his tracks. "I found something—I think—"
The look Kevin gave him made his gut clench. He bought himself a few seconds, sipping too-hot coffee, wiped his mouth. "Okay...so, give. What thing did you find?"
"I'm pretty damn sure this is it," Kevin said. His eyes were full of hope, even a little triumph; one corner of his mouth pulled up in that sarcastic little curl he'd learned since living with the Winchesters. "Actually, I know this is it. It's...it's not even that big a deal, you know. We don't have to hunt down a golden ram or a medusa's eyeballs, or, or…"
Forcing down a jab of irritation, Dean rubbed his eyes, carefully set his cup down. "Kevin. What the fuck are you talking about?"
"Never mind. We probably have everything we need, it's such a little bit of a spell. It's coupled with these sigils that power it up to snooze an angel. We just need a brush and...your blood, but again, just a little bit."
"Of course we do," Dean sighed.
Dean ached all over; his head was doing its best to kill him with the motherfucking queen of all migraines. The pain was so intense he wanted to curl up in a miserable, self-pitying, little ball. But fuck if he was taking the easy way out; he was gonna sit right the fuck there until Sam woke up, and he was gonna shut the hell up about how much he hurt because he didn't deserve not to hurt. He didn't deserve a fucking thing, not after all the shit he'd put his brother through.
Dean raised his head from his arms, squinting as he rubbed careful circles into his temples and gritty-feeling eyes. Christ, he thought, at least the lighting in the hospital room was dim—a blessing there—and the non-stop beeping/chirping of the various monitors had actually gone from annoying to kinda soothing over the hours he’d spent crouched over Sam's bedside.
Dean shifted, propped his elbows on the edge of Sam's hospital bed and rested his chin on his fists. Sam had the nerve to look almost tiny in it...god, so thin and pale, swathed in white like, like he was barely darker than the damn sheets. There was only Sam’s bed in what was supposed to be a two person room, and it made the room look so big, Dean felt kind of uncomfortably exposed. He pulled himself in tighter, instinctively making a smaller target.
"Fuck." The hand over his mouth smeared the word into his palm. He couldn't keep his eyes off Sam, the way he looked like death barely warmed over. Because of him. If he'd stopped Sam from right from the get-go from doing the Trials. If Dean had been faster, stronger, if he'd told Sam sooner about Gadreel...all of this was his fault, and Sam was right to hate him.
Dean ground his palms against his aching eyes, smearing brusquely wiping tears tears away. "I'm so sorry, Sammy, I'm so fuckin' sorry…I put you right back here, all my fault."
When Kevin had given Dean what he wanted, the relief he'd felt went so fucking deep, it was painful. What he'd found in that book had seemed like the Hail Mary they’d been looking for. Kevin had found sigils that would freeze an angel, even one at archangel level, long enough to give Sam time to force Gadreel out—to lock him out of Sam forever and ever, And then Kevin had told Dean he was fairly certain that besides powering Gadreel down, the book contained spells that, combined with the angel tablet, would explode his lying ass right back to wherever angels went when they got forcibly kicked out—and he thought maybe, just maybe, create a way to not only open heaven back up to the angels but to send them back en masse.
Truthfully, at the time, Dean had barely given a rat's ass about heaven and angels; all he'd heard was they'd found a way to free Sam, and going back to the way things had been was some barely perceived icing on the cake.
Dean swallowed hard, and stroked Sam's cold, limp hand, dragged his thumb over Sam's thankfully steady pulse. He closed his eyes against the hot sting of fresh tears, and remembered. He'd been sure that he was in the right, practically shoving Gadreel down Sammy's throat. Ignoring Dean had ignored the voice in the back of his mind that screamed it was wrong, wrong, wrong. Someday he was going to learn to check his over-inflated surety when it came to Sam.
He remembered too, how he'd weasled Sam into the storeroom he and Kevin had warded, how he'd explained everything about what and why he'd done what he'd done, how Sam had reacted just about the way he'd expected him too, namely, had clocked the shit out of him.
"Okay, ow, I deserved that." Dean leaned against the wall he'd painted with his blood, just missing smearing the sigils with his head. The pain from Sam's spot-on punch settled like a big throbbing block in the middle of his face. Dean kept his eyes on Sam and his ass on the floor. With Sam looming over him like a hugely hacked-off yeti, his shoulders curled in and his arms out to the side in the way that screamed, 'c'mon and piss me the fuck off some more', it was the only smart thing to do.
"You deserve more than that, you...you fucker. How could you? You know how fucked up it is to do this to me, you know!" Sam shouted, and Dean winced. He lowered his voice, tried to appear little and defenseless and not worth an ass-whipping.
"Okay, Sammy—Sam— I know it sucks, and I get that you're pissed off at me taking the reins without telling you, but—"
"No! That's not even—it's like—you, you let me get violated! You were complicit in *arranging* for me to get violated, god! I'm, I was trapped, Dean, it didn't matter whether I knew it or not. Trapped in my own head and again, I'm getting my will *shit* on, because of YOU." He grabbed fistfuls of his hair and squeezed his eyes shut; he was shaking all over. "I can't—I can't go through this again," he cried, stumbling back until he hit the opposite wall. Dean stared at him—Sam's lips moved, frantically, but he couldn't hear what Sam was saying—
"God, no, it wasn't like that, Sam. I had to, you were dying and—please, please let's do this another time, please! Now you got to—to throw him out," Dean's voice dropped from a shout to a whisper, watching as Sam's furious gesturing slowed, his frantic whispering slowly gained volume; he could make out Sam was muttering over and over again, "Get out…" and then his brother just...froze.
"Sam." Dean stared in horror, his eyes locked on Sam, who was deep in a fight that Dean was not a part of; a fight he prayed that Sam was going to win, and afterward, that Sam would forgive him.
Sam stormed through the bunker hallways; they looped and dropped and rose and looped in a way that they didn't in real life. Suddenly the hallway opened wide and bright, light reflecting off sparkling tile. He took a moment to think, "I'm definitely in the dreamscape, it's never this damn clean—" but his thoughts were derailed by catching sight of a tall shadow flickering into being at the end of the hall. The dream-like quality dropped away; for a moment Sam thought he was back in the real-time bunker until the doors melted and disappeared. Rage flared through him like a wildfire when he realized he was still deep in the dreamscape, in fact, he was coming to realize he had been there on and off for a long time, and it was because of the sonofabitch striding away him. Sam charged after him, caught him just as he was trying to escape through one of the doors. Digging both of his hands into the dick's jacket and yanking him in, Sam roared, "You! Get out, you bastard, get out!"
*Gadreel.* In the instant Sam touched him, he knew that this was the angel Gadreel. Sam knew why he was there and how he was there, and he didn't give a flying fuck.
"Sam, if you throw me out, you'll die," Gadreel begged, hands wrapping around Sam's wrists, wincing when Sam jerked out of his reach. "You have to understand that I'm helping you. What I'm doing, it's healing you, and me too, but you're benefiting the most, I promise."
Sam took another step away from the angel, dragging his hands through his hair, clawing it off his face. Taking a deep breath before trusting himself to speak, he whispered, "You? You're...healing me?"
Gadreel stood a little taller, a faint wash of hope coloring his expression. "Yes! I'm not taking anything from you, I'm just...I'm healing you. You know what the Trials did to you. You were dying."
"Not taking anything from me?" Sam asked and Gadreel shook his head. "But...you tricked me into taking you in, you and Dean." He laughed bitterly. "You needed my permission to be here, and Dean made that happen."
"Yes, but look at all it's done—"
Sam's stood taller, his blood boiling with anger. He hissed, "I rescind my permission. Get out."
"Get. The. Fuck. OUT."
Dean stood close to the wall, hovering over the sigils he had smeared into the walls under Kevin's direction, the ones that with any luck would send that asshat back to angel jail the minute Sam tossed him out. His palm burned, his lungs ached—he kept forgetting to breathe.
Sam suddenly stumbled, eyes flaring that acidic angel-blue, the unbearable flood of pure grace pouring out of him like an ocean wave. Dean slammed his hand onto the trigger sigil with a wet splat, and all hell broke loose. The closet pulsed with ferocious light. Dean dropped flat against the floor, head jammed in the crook of his arms, shielding his eyes and hoping like hell he’d still have them after this. He felt the light streaming over him, risked a peek to see it just as it flared out against the ceiling.
The air rushed back with a roar. It appeared that Gadreel had been ejected, and according to Kevin, should’ve been shot back into heaven. Well, wherever the fuck he went that wasn't Sam, Dean was just fine with.
Dean dragged himself to his knees, then slowly upright, blinking like mad. His vision was a little blurry, his eyes felt like they'd been lightly sanded and rolled in breadcrumbs, but he could see, thank god. Across from him, he could just about make out Sammy, saw him waver, then fold up gently to the floor, like a stop-motion puppet. He hit soundlessly, rolled to his back and in a second, was snoring slightly.
Dean's heart started beating again, relief sweeping over him and leaving him fucking weak and kinda weepy. Sammy was okay, he was fine, fucking *sleeping.*
"How 'bout that,″ he muttered, laughing a little wetly, gratefully. When his boy woke up, Dean was gonna rag on him mercilessly for snor—
A spastic shudder ran down the long length of Sam's body, his limbs twitched; under his tightly closed lids, his eyes jerked back and forth, shot open, and a second later Sam was seizing, hard, his back bowing so he was touching the floor at his shoulders and ass and nothing but air in between.
Dean felt Castiel coming in behind him, the sound like leaves in a wind storm giving his arrival away. His overly-concerned expression was barely visible in the dim room. His tie was a little more askew than normal, and he had a hand resting on the shoulder of a rather nauseated young Prophet of The Lord. The sight of Kevin, slightly green and disheveled, pulled a brief flash of a smile from Dean before sinking away. He felt too hollowed out to feel anything but worry for long.
"Hey, fellas. What are you doing here—not that I'm not glad you came, it's just…" He caught sight of the thick, suspicious-looking book Kevin was clutching to his chest like a middle-school girl with her super-secret journal. "What's with the moldy scrapbook, dude?"
"Kevin has found an exceptionally useful spell," Cas spoke up, beaming at the young man like he'd performed an especially clever trick.
Kevin and Dean rolled their eyes, nearly in sync, but Kevin was definitely pleased under his mask of indifference. "So, I found another book, and this one’s got what looks like a counter-spell, thing, sort of, to Metatron's original spell. We can return the angels—I think we might even be able to seal heaven and hell, if we wanted to. No more demons, no more angelic interference. No offense," he said to Cas, who waved him off with a small smile.
Dean felt a flash of fury on Sam’s behalf, over the way he’d suffered trying to do those trials. Dean crammed it down, swallowed the rage like all the shit he’d swallowed since he was four years old and his life had been destroyed. "Just fucking reverse the fucking spell, get them the fuck out of here, and fucking get Metatron back in his fucking dungeon where he belongs."
Kevin’s eyes went wide, he paled a little before managing to croak out a weak, "Right. Yes, as soon as possible, I swear.″ He held out the thick, moldering book with a tentative smile, gently tapping an open page. "This is how we get rid of the angels," and carefully turning a few more of the thick, greasy-looking pages until he came to a marker, Kevin said, "and this is where we get rid of Metatron." The grin he turned on Dean was now a little more assured, almost cocky. "I think you'll be happy to know it doesn't require Winchester blood or angel grace," he said, cutting his eyes at Castiel.
"Good," Dean said, "Go for it. You guys can handle it."
Cas stared at Dean. "But...what about you and Sam?"
"What about me and Sam? What about us? The minute, the goddamn second Sammy can stand on his own two feet, we're fucking out of here. Hear me? We're out."
"But you can't—"
"Fucking try and stop me," Dean snarled. "We're done. For now. Until Sam gets back on his feet again—to my satisfaction—maybe, maybe even longer. Look, we did it before, took off when we needed to, and the world didn't end, and nothing got worse. And I'm sayin' now we need to do it again."
Cas stared at Dean, that unblinking, reptilian look he got sometimes when he was thinking very, very hard. He finally took a deep breath, nodded. He reached out to Dean, wrapping fingers around Dean's wrist in a gentle, but strong grip. Dean startled—it wasn't often that Cas touched him and it felt...oddly comforting. "Of course. You'll want to go back to the bunker. You have everything you need there. And we'll make sure that nothing disturbs you while we work."
"Yeah, about that. I mean, the bunker's great. I love the bunker, it makes a perfect base to work from. But for Sam...I love our place better."
"'Your place'?" Cas stared at Dean and then his brow cleared, his mouth moved silently a few seconds and then he slumped a bit. "Of course. Your place. I see."
He raised his head again, his eyes were full of pain. But he just nodded and said, "I understand. Kevin and I will...sweep up here." he said and Dean could practically see the quotes vibrating in the air. "Don't worry. And I may not be able to do what Gadreel did in terms of healing Sam, but I can examine him now, and make sure he did what he said he would do for Sam. I won't be able to totally heal him, but I might be able to boost whatever healing grace Gadreel left behind."
"Thanks, Cas. I appreciate it."
"Cas, why don’t you…" Kevin swallowed, went a bit paler. "Guh, take me back to the bunker first, and then take care of Sam? Sound all right, Dean?"
"Thanks, Kevin, more than I can say, dude."
Kevin nodded, bracing himself as Cas touched fingers to his forehead and they were gone.
Dean sighed, rubbing his nose against the quickly fading scent of storms lingering in the air; he stepped back as the nurse came in.
She worked around him, quietly, efficiently. When she was done, she looked up at Dean, her stern expression softening. "How are you doing?" she asked and Dean nodded at her.
"Doing okay. Just. Y'know, waiting on him."
"Umh, your brother, right?" she said it in that way that used to annoy him when he was younger. That lifted eyebrow and faint hint of your brother, riiiight in her voice. It didn't bother him anymore. It was true, wasn't it? Sam was more than his brother, but shit, he always had been. It just took a year in a home of their own to figure that out, and they’d been happy there. They'd slogged through neck-high shit and fucking deserved some rest. And okay, when they’d hit the road again, some stuff had to drop by the wayside, and he’d expected it. Being out and dealing with the real world again, well...Dean didn’t have much to offer. He wasn’t exactly a great prospect. Didn’t matter—he'd never changed in feeling that Sam was his everything, and he was pretty sure Sam had felt something close to it, once. Too bad Dean had screwed any chance he’d had of getting Sammy back there again, Dean thought, grimacing at the memory of the look in Sam’s eye when Dean had explained Gadreel.
There was a presence at his back that wasn't the nurse. That distant flicker of many wings, and again the scent of thunderstorms in the air. "What's up, Cas?"
"Yes, it’s me. Do you want to stay with Sam while I work…?"
"Nah, nah. You do your thing, you don't need me for this. I'm going to get some coffee."
"Yeah, and coffee,"
"Food," Cas repeated, his lips tightened in a resolute line. "You need food, Dean," the angel insisted.
"Yes, food too, for fuck's sake, Grandma."
Cas looked momentarily confused, before his expression shifted into a bitchy little squint he had to have learned from Sam. It made Dean grin.
He sat in the cafeteria for a while, leaving Cas to quietly heal as much as he could of Sam. Dean rolled the cup in his hands back and forth, tipping it to watch the black liquid slosh around in the white cardboard. At least Zeke—Gadreel—had told the truth about healing Sam, or so Cas said. Cas also thought that Gadreel could have healed Sam sooner and more completely, but Dean wasn't going to spit on what little good came of it. All he needed was to have Sam ambulatory, and out of the hospital and then—well, they'd talk about then.
Days later—sooner than he had expected, actually—Sam was home with him again, walking, talking, and bitching him out about everything and nothing. He fucking loved it. Somewhere in there, Kevin and Cas managed to send the angels back. And adding to the upheaval, Crowley sealed most exits in Hell—"we're going back to the pre-Azazel shenanigans, boys"—
Afterwards, Dean and Sam had to endure long, dreary, lectures from Cas and Kevin. In fact, fucking everybody left who knew them had to throw in their two cents, revolving around how 'they’d done enough for a million lifetimes and taking away the world’s belts and shoelaces was not their concern anymore’, and that 'ordinary hunters were perfectly capable’ of handling the everyday monsters and madness that had happened since the dawn of time.
After hearing how much they’d done, and how much they deserved a rest, and how it was past time they were due it over and over and over, Dean decided what the fuck, might as well go for broke. With heart-felt prayers repeating on a loop in his brain that this wasn’t going to be the thing that finally broke them, he broached the idea of retiring to Sam….
"So, that's where we are right now." Dean waited, staring at Sam. They were sitting side by side in the high-back leather chairs in the library, both clutching cups. Sam’s was full of gently steaming tea, and Dean’s was full of...not-tea.
Sam was still weak and kinda pale, his knees trembling under the blanket Dean had insisted on tucking around his legs. Strictly for Sam’s comfort, not at all because it made Sam look like all he was missing was a cat and a shawl. Dean could be an ass with Sam now if he wanted—Cas swore that Sammy would rapidly improve now, and that was great. Dean was doing his best to treat his little brother like always, his usual mix of concern and dickery. Sometimes, though, he still felt like Sam was standing on the edge of a cliff, and he was just waiting at the bottom to catch him…he shook himself and concentrated on Sam again, just as Sam answered.
"Okay, well, that's...that's great," Sam said, hands shaking as he set his cup down in the ashtray stand they were currently using as cup holders. "So. Retiring, hunh?″ in a way that sounded a lot like, so we’re just walking away instead of yay, we’re owed a break.
"Well, retiring...I...you know, we want things, a-and the world, I mean, I know the world is a sketchy motherfucker with really bad impulse control, but...yeah. As much as we can? We're callin' a halt. And not because of you, damn it. Because we need it. Me, I want it. Fuck, Sammy, don’t you think it’s time?″
Sam leaned back in his chair, chin tilted down as he thought. Dean didn’t like that it was taking so long—first thing outta Sam's mouth should’ve been hell the fuck yeah, as far as Dean was concerned, but Sam was silent as he traced the brass inlay in the floor with one socked foot, lip tucked tight between his teeth.
Dean waited, barely breathing, for Sam’s answer. He finally looked up, his eyes locked on Dean’s like lasers. Another uncomfortable silence went by before Sam finally spoke.
"Okay. Yeah. But not here."
"Look, I, I love this place, I do. It's...great. But...I want to be somewhere where all the memories are good. You know? Where I wasn't trapped...I mean…"
"I know, I got you," Dean said, holding up his hands. "Okay. We can’t stay here. So...let's go home." He dropped his head into his hands, rubbed his face. He looked up at Sam, and let it all go; the worry, the guilt—for a moment, he felt the most certain he had in ages, ready to go. He smiled. "Fuck, I'm such an idiot. Let's go home, Sammy."
Sam looked confused for maybe a half second before his face lit up, and he grinned so wide, he looked beautiful. Happy. Happier than he’d looked in a long, long time.
"Yeah, yeah Dean. Let's go home."
on to part two