Warnings: blasphemy (God-as-Chuck, and all the things that come with it), swearing, violence, violent imagery, gore, slash for later chapters (both f/f and m/m), as well as het
Pairings: I'm intending Dean/Castiel. Possible Sam pairings later on, but it's really being played by ear.
Spoilers: This fic starts immediately after season 6, episode 11 (the mid-season finale). Everything up to and including that episode, but none afterwards.
Notes: Title taken from the Tori Amos song of the same name. This is my first Supernatural fic, and I wasn't actually going to post it... at least not yet. But a friend of mine convinced me otherwise, so here we are! Please let me know what you think. I'm rather nervous.
Summary: When Raphael throws both Jimmy and Cas into Hell, it's up to Dean to return to the place of his nightmares, and save them both.
Two figures of light pierce through sky.
They collide, and lighting crackles in white-hot arcs through the clouds, a sharp thunderclap rolling over the mountains below. People stare upward, mouths gaped and their eyes sparking in wonder, but in the sky, a shriek is released from one of the figures, something alien and high-pitched that makes them clap their hands over their ears in pain.
The shriek is cut-off abruptly. A lifeless body tumbles towards the Earth, its speedy decent whistling in the atmosphere before it slams into the ground, and the impact bursts a mushroom cloud of flame, smoke and uprooted shrapnel that roars across the landscape, temporarily blocking the afternoon sun.
The people scream, fleeing, and those closest are silenced abruptly as they're swallowed by the growing fireball.
The other figure, dark and hovering in the sky, frowns sharply at the destruction below, its face deformed with sorrow.
"I'm sorry, brother," the figure mutters. "But you should have known it would end this way."
It vanishes with the flutter of unseen wings.
Sammy's curled up in Bobby's guest room under a huge pile of blankets. He drags in deep, reassuring breaths, but otherwise hasn't twitched since Death had shoved his ragged soul back where it was supposed to be.
Leaning against the door frame, Dean can't help but perceive him as the tiny little boy he used to patch up, train, and take care of during all the times that Dad hadn't been there. Sammy had been so tiny, back then. Not helpless--Winchesters never were--but tiny, and in need of reassurance, brotherly hugs, and all the things that Dean had sneered were too girly for his tastes.
In that little boy's place is the too-tall, too-strong, too-big man that Sam had grown into after he'd set off college, their father's harsh words echoing at his back like a pulsing wound. But maybe Sam had been better off in the long run. He's big enough now to defend himself during all the times that Dean has failed to be the big dependable brother the world expects him to be.
And Sam must be getting used to that.
Death had left some hours ago with one last terrifying glance at Dean. He'd mentioned souls again, his black eyes glimmering with a strange urgency, and Dean shivered, averting his gaze away. Death clearly found him intriguing--fucking Death, which was somehow even worse than the angels--and wasn't that just the story of his life.
And Death had left in the whisper of a cool breeze. Bobby stared at the space he'd vanished and then looked to Dean, the older man's face drawn pale, clutching a rifle, his breath stifled in the back of his throat. It was the same look Bobby had worn when the angels started interfering with their lives, when Sam went demon blood junkie, when Lucifer walked the Earth, when Armageddon seemed to be upon them, and everything--everything--about the Winchester family was revealed to be preordained in effort to fuck over humanity.
Uncomfortable though it'd been in parts, Dean longs for the days when their biggest worry was finding Dad and dragging Sam away from the fiery inferno of Jess's bleeding corpse fused to the ceiling. But even that had been planned from the start. It's enough to make him sick, and lately, he can’t stop thinking about it.
Bobby trudges down the hall, clapping a hand on Dean's back. "No change?"
"Nah," Dean says, and turns to give Bobby a shrug. "Maybe it's for the best. He hasn't slept for over a year. Not since--"
Dean wince, then, abruptly taken by the mental image of both his brothers tumbling down into the Pit, and he knows this isn't over yet. Sammy's safe now--as safe as he'll ever be with his soul so thoroughly destroyed, Death had to build a wall in his mind to block the memories of Hell resurfacing--but Dean will most likely die trying to bring back Adam. That's how it works, how it's always worked (whether or not he wants to begrudge his grandfather the same thing), and maybe he won't come back this time. But when they're safe... when they’re finally safe, and Dean’s job is finished... well, he's starting to think of it like an extended vacation. Death, that is, assuming he actually stays that way this time. There’s really no point without Lisa and Ben anymore, and he’s a shit hunter now. It'd be nice to see Ellen and Jo again. If he goes up instead of down. Christ, he’s crossing his fingers for Heaven.
It probably doesn’t matter--Cas would kick his ass six ways from Sunday if Dean gave up like that (did it before), and Heaven doesn’t sound like much of a party anyway these days. Point being, his life fucking sucks no matter which way he looks at it.
But at least Sammy’s safe.
Bobby, oblivious to Dean's thoughts, is looking through the doorway at Sam's scruffy mop peaking from just below the covers. Bobby's eyes seem to glimmer, and then he sighs something that sounds far older than it should. "Kid'll be fine, Dean, and anyway, there's nothing you can do about it right now. You should rest. Been a helluva day."
With that, Dean looks at Bobby again, noting the bruises mottling his neck and a suspicious lump on the side of his head. Sam 2.0 had done a number on their surrogate father. "Speaking of which. What the hell was that patricide shit about?"
Bobby shrugs at him, though his eyes darken at the memory. "You know that bit. Had to do with keeping the soul out. Don't know where the hell he'd got the notion--"
"He got it from someone else. Had to, he came up with it too quickly." Dean slides out of the doorway and away from Sam. Bobby follows him, and they both head down the stairs and towards the front of the house. "He must have summoned someone for advice. Crowley's dead, I doubt he'd deal with Meg, and Cas would never... so that leaves..." Dean's eyes widen, and he pauses in his tracks. "Balthazar? Shit."
Bobby's confused for a moment, and then he recalls Sam's summary of the events some weeks ago. "That sonuvabitch trading the weapons of Heaven for souls?"
"Yeah. Things didn't go very smoothly for any of us last time around. It doesn't make sense he'd help Sam."
"Unless Sam threatened him," Bobby mutters, rubbing at the bruises on his neck again.
"Or Balthazar thought it might be amusing. He seems the type. Bit like Gabriel that way. Or Crowley."
"Damn," Bobby mutters, and finds an overstuffed chair. He collapses into it with a weary groan, swiping a hand across his forehead. "S'what we need, someone else with a shitload power finding an interest in us."
"I know," Dean mutters, thinking of Death again. He thumps down in the chair next to Bobby and grabs the remote from the TV stand. He sets his dirty boots on the coffee table, and Bobby glares at him. Dean rolls his eyes, and for a moment, the air is warm with family again.
But then he turns on the television.
Castiel's battered and bruised body is being pulled on a gurney into an ambulance truck. Dean feels himself become disembodied with shock as he watches it happen on screen, unable to breathe. Beside him, Bobby curses.
"--Jimmy Novak, suspected for a series of murders in Pontiac, Illinois. He's the sole survivor so far from this area, and police are saying his previous allegations and this attack are completely unrelated. His family has been contacted, Mark."
It's a news cast, and Mark Browning, the hour's anchorman, gives the young brunette sympathetic eyes.
"Wow. How bad is the damage, Sofie?"
The reporter stands before an ambulance driving Castiel (and Jimmy) to a hospital. The text on the bottom of the screen reads: DUPREE DEVESTATED BY LARGE METEOR STRIKE.
Marie gestures to the apparent destruction surrounding her. "Very bad, Mark. It looks like most of the city has been leveled, and the death toll is still rising, especially in this area where the city was hit directly. Dispatchers have been called from as far as Montana, and many victims from surrounding areas are being transported between Gettysburg and Mobridge, where there are better means of care. The hospital here is still standing, but--"
Dean is out of the chair and marching towards the weapon's cabinet before Bobby can say a word. The older man walks after him, begging reason. "Dean, wait a minute. You can't just go marching in without a plan--"
He ignores Bobby’s protests as pulls a rifle from the cabinet and grabs a large box of shells, his eyes skimming over the other guns and lingering on an old machete. "Raphael must know he's there, Bobby. It's a huge bullseye on Cas’s back, even without the cops, and you heard her. Jimmy's family's involved now, which means they're flying in. If nothing else, Cas would want us to protect them. I've gotta go now."
"What about Sam?"
He pauses, glancing at Bobby and then the stairs to Sam’s room, but only for a moment. Then he's swiping his duffel from the couch and adding the box of shells to his collection. In the bag's contents, something shiny catches his eye, and Dean pulls out the angel-killing dagger etched in Enochian that Cas had given him after turning human last year. He'd said it used to be Uriel's sword, and the angel's face had been creased with pain at the remembered betrayal and subsequent death of his closest brother. Cas had given it to Dean because he hated the sight of it.
But Dean likes the feeling of it in his palm. Uriel's sword is warm to the touch and it vibrates slightly on contact, as if itching to tear into the grace of another angel. He wonders if that's the last remnant of Uriel left behind, bloodthirsty with forgotten rage, or the weapon itself fitting entirely too comfortably in the hunter’s grip.
It doesn't matter either way.
"You take care of Sam," Dean says, zipping the duffel bag again. "I'll take care of Cas."
"Be careful, boy." Bobby's got that wobbly look on his face, like he's trying his best to keep the stiff upper lip, but is failing miserably out of worry for the safety of his two would-be sons. "You come back, or Sam an' I'll kick yer ass."
Dean mock-salutes, the screen door banging like gunshot behind him. He feels Bobby's eyes follow him in the Impala until he drives off out of sight. He tries not to think about Sam, or Adam, or anything but Cas.
Then he slips in some Zeppelin on the tape deck, and tries not to think about anything.
The roads into Dupree are flooded with medical personnel, firetrucks, contractors, frantic family members, and well-meaning good Samaritans. According to the radio, there's a road block on nearly every highway, so Dean doesn't bother trying to avoid it and heads straight into the traffic jam. It takes him over an hour to clear it, and he drums his fingers on the steering wheel in growing agitation. As he finally reaches the road block, an officer stops him and knocks on the window.
The worry must be scrawled all over his face, because the officer asks, "Looking for family?"
Dean nods, but can't bring himself to say the words. It isn’t family. It’s Cas.
"All the victims have been flown out of the city, most of them towards Gettysberg. You're better off heading back that way. Check with the Gettysburg Memorial Hospital." When Dean looks stubborn, the officer shakes his head. "The FBI will be here soon, kid, and they're planning on locking up the city. Huge investigation. I'm telling you, you're better off turning around."
And so he does, bitching mentally that he'd already come from that direction and it was a waste of time. He should have called ahead checked things out--he’d never make a mistake like that if he weren’t rusty--but his worry and exhaustion blinds him. Dean hits the pedal, speeding eastbound.
He makes the drive in an hour and a half, even with all the traffic clearly on the same path and purpose as he. When he finds the hospital, he veers into a parking space with the whine of skidding tires and reaches into the duffel for Uriel's sword. He hides it under his clothes and runs for the hospital doors, greeting the woman at the front desk with a frantic look. "My brother, he was in Gettysberg, they said he'd be here--I need to--I need--" Most of it is exaggerated for the purpose of getting to Cas, but the rest of him knows his performance isn't up to good acting. His mind is coming up with all sorts of horrible scenarios, not the least of which is Cas's untimely death at the hands of the warring angels desperate to reclaim Heaven for themselves. Cas has tried repeatedly to warn him of this, he remembers that now... and Dean didn't listen, didn't even care beyond--fuck it all, but retrospection is a bitch.
The woman holds up a hand and smiles calmly at him.
"What is his name, sir?"
"Jimmy Novak. They said--"
The woman's face flickers with recognition, and she bobs her head quickly, pointing at the elevator. "Oh, him!" The bizarre celebrity status of Castiel's 'miraculous survival' at the heart of the so-called meteor impact sends a sharp stab of worry into him. Well, it’s either that or Jimmy’s outstanding alleged murder case, and wow, Dean had forgotten the poor bastard took the blame for that mess with the demons in Pontiac two years ago. It won't be easy smuggling him out of here, because if it isn’t the staff, it’s the FBI. They’ll be crawling all over Cas soon enough, and Dean doesn’t feel up to busting an angel out of prison.
"Yes, his wife and daughter just arrived," the woman says. "Head up to ICU, it's on the fourth floor."
He doesn't wait to say thanks, making an only half-acted mad dash for the elevators. The cab plays what someone had once declared soothing music while he watches the numbers go upward in a slow and painful manner, and Dean quickly decides right then and there that this must be the same kind of music played in Hell, in sections even worse than the one he'd visited. By the time the door opens again, Dean's ready to rip out his own hair, but refrains and instead approaches another desk and ask for more directions. Another woman points him towards room 409, and it's there, with a police officer guarding the doorway and in a large room with six beds separated by flimsy blue curtains, that Dean finds Amelia and Claire sitting in ugly orange plastic chairs, staring at Cas's--at Jimmy's--face, Amelia holding tightly to her husband’s hand.
At the sound of Dean’s approach, both of them turn around. Claire is wide-eyed.
Amelia marches up to him with a furious, wet glare, jabbing a finger at his face. "You!! What happened? Why is he--"
Dean quickly shushes her, looking around at the other patients, but they're all either sleeping or comatose. He shuts the door behind him, ignoring the protect from the police officer, and holds up his hands at the two women. "I don't know what's going on any more than you do. Last I saw Cas, he said he was losing the war in Heaven."
"War...? What do you mean, war? That doesn't even--"
Dean shakes his head, impatient. He looks at Cas's--no, Jimmy's frail body, bruised and pale against the off-white sheets, and he grimaces. Cas is dressed in a hideous flora blue hospital gown, an IV stuck into one arm and pumping what looks like a sedative into his body. "We don't have time for this,” Dean says. “He's an easy target here. We need to move him quickly before someone--"
"Ah. I'm a little late to the party, I see."
Dean spins on his heel and pulls Uriel's sword from his back.
Balthazar distances himself, his eyes widening a fraction when he sees the blade. "Where did you get that? Morals don't usually--ah, yes. Sword of Michael. Naturally."
Dean is confused for a moment. Sam had used them too; they had both Anna's and Uriel's swords between them, and Cas had more that he carried with him, taken from other angels that he’d personally slain. "This isn't--" But then Dean shakes his head, and slides in front of Amelia and Claire. The younger girl is pale, clutching her father's slack hand with her eyes downcast, as if in prayer. He wants to tell her that it won't help--it never does, and God certainly doesn’t give a damn--but Cas had always answered, hadn't he? Maybe he'd answer Jimmy’s daughter, too.
Balthazar takes that tiny shred of hope and sneers at it with disgust. "We are a sad bunch, aren't we?" His eyes land on Castiel's comatose body, and then Dean sees something linger there--something that looks suspiciously like worry, maybe even grief. "I must admit, it isn’t looking very good," the angel says quietly.
Dean glares at him and gestures with the sword. "What the hell do you want?"
"Bullshit," he scoffs. "Was that you helping when you put the idea of killing Bobby in Sam's head?"
"That's different. That was your soulless abomination of a brother. This is Castiel."
And somehow, the look in his eyes tells Dean everything he needs to know, even if he is furious about Sam. Everything between Balthazar and Cas screams 'history' in some form or another, and it’s out of respect to Cas that Dean doesn’t spear the arrogant prick in the gut with Uriel's sword. "It's not fucking different. You think you'd win brownie points from Cas for trying to ruin my brother? Newsflash: it doesn't work that way."
Balthazar rolls his eyes, and the way he does it reminds Dean of Gabriel, which only serves to enhance the hatred even more. "Newsflash: your brother is already ruined." The angel mock-frowns, and pretends to ponder it, one finger tapping at his chin. "I wonder how long a year and three months is in Hell?"
The truth of it rips him to the core, and Dean takes a step forward to vent this knowledge on Balthazar's corpse, Cas be damned. But Amelia seizes his arm and tugs him back again. She stands in front of Dean, glaring at the angel is if she could destroy him by will-power alone.
"Hold it! Who are you? Do you know what's wrong with my husband?"
Surprisingly, Balthazar frowns at her, and it’s genuinely concerned this time. "Yes," he says, and glances at Claire, who still silent and clutching at her father's hand. "But the little one should leave the room, because it isn’t pleasant."
Claire looks at him, at her mother, and then back at her father’s gaunt face. She shakes her head, stiffening her little body into a wall of determination.
"Whatever you have to say, you can say it to all of us," Amelia grits. She grasps her daughters hand, and Dean stands at her other side, firming himself back into a defensive position between them and Balthazar. Not that Balthazar seems interested in harming the girls, but Dean wouldn’t trust him as far as he could fucking throw him, which isn’t very far at all.
"My name is Balthazar," the angel tells Amelia. "Castiel and I are brothers in arms. I care for him very deeply, and--"
Dean growls at him. "Get to the point."
"If you would stop interrupting," Balthazar sighs, looking put-upon. "I don't suppose you remember Cas going mortal last year?"
Amelia and Claire both look startled, but Dean just nods grimly. "Your point?"
"Vessels aren't meant to contain two mortal souls," Balthazar says, and he glances briefly over at Castiel again with another sharp frown. "It's supposed to be an angel and a mortal. The angel suppresses the mortal soul, putting it to sleep. That's the way it works. But when an angel goes mortal too, things get complicated. The angel no longer has the power to suppress the mortal soul, or keep it separated from their own consciousness. The body can no longer contain them both safely. So there was this theory going around that he and Jimmy Novak..."
Amelia is pale, clutching Claire's hand a bit too tightly. The little girl winces and asks in a hesitant voice, "What happened to Dad?"
Balthazar gives them his back, glancing at the other patients with an odd slump to his shoulders. "There was a rumor that he and Jimmy... fused together. Became one."
"What?” Dean can’t take this lightly, because if it’s true, then it’s all his damn fault, and he’s tired of being goddamn guilty. “That's impossible! That's--"
"Bit nuts, yes," Balthazar says, and turns back again to nod at the star of the hour passed out on the hospital bed. "But it worked for Raphael, didn't it? Must be a ring of truth in there somewhere if he’s--"
Amelia is furious. "What did that son of a bitch do to my husband?" Dean and Claire both look at her in shock, but the woman isn't deterred. She steps closer to Balthazar, fists balled, and growls, "What's going on?"
The angel holds up his hands. "Look, I only know what I hear through the grape vine, yeah? Word is, Raphael figured he couldn't take Cas one on one--not with our Father playing favorites, or the Winchester’s interferences--so he went through that Jimmy fellow. Raphael called in some favors, pulled a few strings, and..." Again, Balthazar is hesitant, and his mouth grimaces like it's got a bad taste in his mouth.
Time is running out, and Dean's surprised they haven't already been interrupted by staff, police, or worse. "Spit it out, we don't have time for--"
"He cast Jimmy into Hell."
All three of them don't know how to react to that. Dean stumbles backward, as if dealt a blow, and Amelia's eyes begin to glisten with tears. Eerily, Jimmy's daughter Claire doesn't seem to react at all. She just stands there and stares at Balthazar as if he'd spoken Pig Latin.
"I'm sorry," the angel says, and he still sounds genuine. "I think the theory was if they cast Jimmy out, Cas would be pulled down with him due to their prior connection. And it seems like that’s what happened. Neither of them are in that body, not quite."
It's Claire that speaks up, after a moment. "What do you mean?"
"Cas is still tied to the vessel. I can sense a resonance of him, but not Jimmy Novak. It's like... it's like a string. As if he'd secured a piece of his grace to the vessel, before he descended."
"Why would he do that?"
It's Dean who asks the question, but he already knows the answer. Balthazar shrugs, and flicks a wrist at the hunter's obvious stupidity. "Why else? To find his way back home, of course."
The angel finally crosses the room towards them again, ignoring Dean's threatening wave of the sword in his hand. They both know he won't use it, not if Balthazar plans on helping Cas and Jimmy, and it sounds like he does. Dean has no choice but to go with it; he’s out of options, and it’s Cas.
When he approaches the bed, Balthazar gently brushes Jimmy Novak's bangs, and bends to kiss the absent man's forehead. Kissing the last remnants of Cas.
Dean has to look away, a little disturbed, but Amelia does not. Tears are now streaming down her face with absent fury, and she’s obviously restraining herself from pulling Balthazar away from her husband with great difficulty. "So what now? How do we get them back?"
"Follow the yellow brick road, perhaps?"
Without warning, Balthazar dives his hand into Jimmy's body the same way Cas had done at least three times this year, feeling for the mortal souls they contained.
Dean waits for the screaming to start. It never comes.