hurt?” Dean asked in a small voice.
Cas was drawing Enochian symbols on the walls and windows of the house in the hopes that it could offer some protection against the angels, but Dean’s question made him pause.
“My Grace is depleted enough that the warding impacts me little,” he said. It rendered him powerless, but what power he’d had was not enough to make a difference in this battle anyway. At least this way he was making some sort of contribution to the war effort.
“That’s good,” Dean said. “But I meant… does it hurt to be possessed by an angel?”
He tried to sound nonchalant, but Cas could hear the anxiety in his voice. This boy had endured far too much pain already; he didn’t deserve to suffer any more. Cas turned to face him and tried to be as reassuring as possible.
“No one is going to possess you, Dean. Once the warding is complete no angel will be able to reach you here. We will keep you safe.”
“Cas, you and I both know that this is a temporary solution. Sure, you guys can lock me up in here forever if you want to, but sooner or later someone is going to have to go out to buy groceries or toilet paper or something and as soon as they do the angels will be all over them. They’ll be tortured and maybe even killed unless I do what the angels want. If I refuse to cooperate, they will take you guys out one by one until I’m left starving and alone. If I’m stubborn enough to die that way, the angels will just bring me back to life and torture me until I give in. They have all the time in the world. We can’t win this siege.”
As much as he hated it, Cas knew that Dean was right. Angels were immortal and their patience could last centuries.
“If our defeat is inevitable,” Dean continued, “I don’t see much point in sacrificing my family for a lost cause. I might as well surrender before I have to watch everyone I love suffer and die. At least maybe then I can make arrangements to keep you safe. Maybe I won’t lose everything.”
“Dean, if the Apocalypse happens the world will burn. Millions, perhaps even billions, will perish.”
“You don’t think I know that?” Dean’s voice cracked. “All I ever wanted to do was protect innocent people, but this is too big, Cas. I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough. You know it, I know it, my family knows it. When the pressure is on, when the pain starts, I’ll break easy. I don’t have what it takes to stand against them anymore, if I ever did. I know people are gonna die. I know their blood will be on my hands. I know that my weakness will destroy the world. But there’s nothing I can do, except maybe try to save a small handful of people by giving myself up early. I’m just trying to make the best of a bad situation here.”
“We will find a way, Dean. You cannot lose hope.”
“I lost hope five years ago,” Dean said flatly. “I’m not going to find it again now. All I want to know is if possession hurts so I can be prepared.”
Pain would not deter him, Cas realised. If anything, Dean would embrace it as punishment for his failure to save everyone.
“It doesn’t hurt,” Cas said softly. “It will feel just like falling asleep.” But Dean would never wake up, not even after Michael left his body. He would be in a permanent vegetative state.
Saying yes to Michael was an act of suicide.
“Dean, if you choose to leave I will not stop you. But please at least give us a chance to find a better option. We don’t want to lose you.”
Dean hesitated. “Three days,” he said finally. “Then I do what I have to.”
“Okay, what are we up against, exactly?” Dad asked.
They had been bogged down in books and research for days without making any significant progress and Dean was getting antsy. No one had said anything yet, but the supplies in the cupboard were running dangerously low. There were no Lucky Charms left for Sam to have for breakfast the next morning, only the barest scraping of peanut butter in the jar for sandwiches and they were going to have to resort to boiled eggs for dinner because they had virtually nothing else.
Dean was determined that he would give himself up before he let his family draw straws to see who would risk making a run to the supermarket. His life was not worth any more than theirs and the only way he could cope with becoming an angel condom was if he had the assurance that his family would be okay. He had meant what he said; he was not going to watch the people he loved die for him. No way in hell.
“Michael,” Cas said. “Raphael. Zachariah. A host of angels that will obey orders without question.”
Dad nodded, writing the basic stats down on a sheet of paper. “Their powers include…”
“Teleportation. Invulnerability to most human weapons. Regeneration. Super strength and senses. Invisibility. Dream walking. Telekinesis. Should I go on?”
Dean massaged his temples, feeling his headache intensifying. With every moment that passed he became more and more convinced that there was no way out. “Please don’t.”
“Okay, so angels are some tough SOBs. But they do have some weaknesses.”
“They cannot pass through angel warding. They can be trapped within a ring of Holy Fire and cannot heal easily if burned with it. They will die if stabbed with an angel sword. There is an exorcism chant that can eject an angel from their vessel and banish them to Heaven. They are vulnerable to some forms of magic, like the blood spell I taught you that will banish any angels within close proximity.”
“Right. Well, we have the angel warding up and we have some holy oil on mail order from Israel. We have memorised the exorcism you wrote down for us and we have practiced drawing the blood spell. However, we don’t have any angel swords because yours was taken when Heaven captured you and we don’t know of any other way to kill an angel.”
“My angel sword could not harm Michael. Only an archangel’s blade can kill an archangel.”
“I don’t really see Michael, Raphael or Lucifer loaning us theirs so we can gank them,” Dean said dryly. “Sounds to me like these guys are pretty much unstoppable. We could keep them away for a little while, but eventually they’re gonna wear us down. We’d be better off if I just-”
“Wait a minute,” Mom said. She picked up a Bible from the table and started leafing through it, eyes scanning the pages until she found the page she was looking for. “Here. There aren’t many angels mentioned by name in this book, but of those that serve God, we see the archangel Michael and the messenger,” she pointed to the text, “Gabriel. He must have some importance.”
“He is one of the four archangels,” Cas revealed.
“You didn’t list him as a threat.”
“That is because he left Heaven a long time ago.”
“Left as in Fell? Like Lucifer?”
“No, he was not cast out. One day he was just gone. Many of us believe he is in hiding somewhere on Earth.”
“So he is not allied with Lucifer or with Heaven?”
“He wanted no part of the fighting. Even if we could find him he is unlikely to side with us.”
“He doesn’t have to. He just has to hand over the sword.”
“So we can use it to kill his brother?” Dean asked. “Pretty sure that’s not going to happen.”
“Besides, I doubt any of us would survive hand-to-hand combat against Michael long enough to deal a mortal wound,” Cas pointed out. “Not to mention the fact that he would have to be inhabiting a vessel for the blade to work…”
Dean went very, very still. “Cas? You said that when an angel possesses someone it is like they are sleeping while the angel rides around in their skin, right?”
Cas nodded uncertainly.
“But what if they were awake? Could they fight back? Distract the angel somehow? Slow it down?”
“I’m serious! If we had the sword and I said yes to Michael, do you think there’s a chance I could sabotage him from the inside long enough for you to kill him?”
“Maybe… But Dean, when an angel is killed the vessel dies too.”
“So? Me dying is a small price to pay if it means stopping Michael before he can unleash Armageddon.”
“Dean, no,” Mom protested. “The point of all this is finding a way to protect you! We’re not going to let you go on a suicide mission-”
“My life, my choice,” Dean said.
“But Dean, if you didn’t think you were strong enough to say no to Michael, what makes you think you will be strong enough to fight him when he’s possessing you?” Dad asked.
Dean glared. “Because I will do anything to protect this family. Saying no endangers all of your lives and I admit that I’m too weak to hold out against Michael if it means watching you all die horrible deaths. But committing suicide and taking Michael with me will mean that you and everyone else on this planet will be safe. I can find strength enough for that.”
“Mom, when are you going to realise that this is bigger than us? When innocent lives are on the line we can’t afford to be selfish! We can’t hide our heads in the sand and hope someone else will fix the world while we sit around and do nothing. This is on us. This is our fight. My fight. And I’m not going to back down from it.”
“But why you? Why do you have to be some kind of hero?”
“Because no one else will. I’m sorry, Mom, but I have to do this. And you have to let me go.”
“Cas.” Dean couldn’t let the angel finish what he was going to say. He couldn’t let anyone talk him out of this. Cas looked devastated by his decision and Dean knew how much his death would hurt the friend that had been watching over him since he was a child. Cas had given up everything for him and he had no one else in this world; Dean didn’t want to leave him. But he knew what he had to do.
“Thanks for looking out for me for all these years,” he said softly. “But you told me once that I was important, and I can’t imagine that there is anything past or future more important than this. You saved me so many times and I could never repay the debt I owe you, but I am afraid I have to ask one more thing from you. Help me save the world, Cas. Find Gabriel. Do whatever it takes to get his sword from him, and be ready to act when I make my move. You’re the only one I trust to do this. Please, Cas.”
The angel looked torn. Dean had never seen Cas cry before, but he would swear that there were tears in his eyes now.
“You know I always do what you ask of me,” Cas whispered.
Dean smiled sadly. “Thank you.”
Unwilling to make this harder than it already was, he chose not to see the grief written all over the faces around him.
Which is why he missed the fierce determination on Sam’s.