Be Careful What You Wish For
The angels are lost again. Without leadership, again. Cas lets out a heavy sigh. He cannot take the lead this time, not again, not after every failure he's had and not while his heart feels like it's sinking slowly down the shaft of an angel blade.
He's dead too.
Metatron's words echo in his head. They both know what it means. They both know he's got the Mark. Fortunately, Metatron is too busy wallowing in his own defeat to gloat further, but part of Cas still wants to run the angel through. It would be possible now. Easy, even: he is a soldier, while Metatron is a writer. It would mean being on the run from Heaven again but he can live with that. What else is new.
Except for that.
Even after witnessing his strange display of attachment in their old command headquarters, Hannah is confused as to why Cas is so upset over the death of a single human. Perhaps she wouldn't be, if she knew. Nevertheless, she tries to be nice about it. She leaves him to stare for a while. He's not sure exactly when she leaves, or when she comes back, but eventually there is a tap on his shoulder. He turns towards it, barely out of his daze, and sees her there, holding a black telephone to her chest. He frowns at it.
"It's for you," she says, softly. "It's Sam Winchester."
Cas steps back, his eyes searching the room, trying to avoid looking at the phone. He should have found Sam by now. He should be there with him. If nothing else, he needs to warn him. But he can't. He can't bear to hear that voice. He can't bear to tell Sam – who doesn't deserve this at all, not this – that his brother is not dead. He can't bear the thought of looking at Dean, and not seeing Dean's face.
"Castiel," Hannah says, catching his eyes when he responds to his name. "I may have underestimated Dean Winchester. He seems like a brave man. I am sorry for his death. But look around you, look what we have achieved today. A peaceful resolution, relatively. Heaven is back. We can get our wings back. We can be angels again. Isn't that what you wanted?"
"I…" I'm not sure what I want. I want for this never to have happened. I want to have been there for Dean so that he didn't choose the Mark. I want none of us to have ever gone down this path. He blinks helplessly at Hannah and she holds the phone out.
"This is the brother of a man who just died. He is asking for you."
This is Sam. Sam Winchester. Who doesn't deserve this. Not at all. His fingers flex to take the phone but his arms don't move. Won't move. Cas swallows hard.
"I need to see him. Right now, I need…How long will it take to fix my wings?"
Hannah smiles, and reaches out two fingers to touch him on the forehead.
Sam opens his eyes and looks around. It's still dark in here. He's still alone. It's silent. He shouldn't be surprised: it's not like Cas had come when he had called in the past. It was Dean, it was always Dean. He takes a deep breath and it shakes, but he tightens his fist. If Heaven wasn't going to answer, then God help him, Hell was.
He marches down to the dungeon, where the books and materials are still laid out, and he can still feel Dean leaning against him. Can hear him. I'm proud of us. Proud? Of a little brother who locks you in a room where literally the only thing you can do is summon a demon?
Rage floods him. He grits his teeth. His hands don't shake as he lights the match and drops it into the kindling.
It's not the voice he is expecting to hear. Sam curses and jumps backwards as he twists, sending the ingredients of Crowley's rolling all over its sigil. He already has a knife in his hand. It takes him a moment of recognition to remember to lower it.
"Cas?" He peers into the darkness and he sees the angel, and his rage subsides. The stability it gives him subsides too, and as Cas steps forward he almost stumbles into the angel's arms.
"I'm so sorry, Sam," Cas says, holding him tightly. "Metatron told me Dean was -"
Sam pulls out of the hug, cutting Cas off, seizing the opportunity for something else to think about.
"Metatron told you? He's still alive?"
Cas lowers his eyes. "Yes, I – I promised that no more angels would die. I have to stand by that. But his powers are gone, he's a normal angel now, and he's in jail. The Angel Tablet has been broken. The pieces are being hid throughout heavens, each piece by a different angel. I thought that was the best way to protect it."
Sam nods and takes a deep breath.
"Is Heaven okay?" he asks.
"Heaven is back," Cas says, offering Sam a small smile. It is something, at least. "Hannah is well organised and many angels seem to like her. She is giving the Fallen their wings back, at the moment. I haven't got mine yet but she…sent me here."
Cas presses his eyes closed for a moment and it does not go unnoticed. They're back to Dean again. Sam hands start shaking again.
"Dean is not dead, Sam." Cas forces himself to look the younger Winchester in the eye. "I'm sorry."
"What do you mean?" Sam demands. "Why? How?"
"It's the Mark. It changes people. It was changing Dean."
Into something I don't wanna be. It's better this way. Stop. Stop. Sam sucks breath in through his teeth.
"What do you mean?" he repeats.
"When Metatron…killed him," Cas continues, fighting with the words. He can no longer bear to keep his eyes on Sam's face, but if he can just get to the end of the sentence… "The Mark doesn't let go that easily. I'm sorry Sam, but I think it…changed him."
"No." Sam steps back. He stares at Cas, whose gaze remains lowered. Sam can feel his knees starting to shake again. Wake up, he orders himself. Wake up, Sam. He digs his thumb into the scar on his hand and nothing changes. "No."
From upstairs, there comes a clutter and a screech of something heavy being dragged across the floor. Cas turns and runs back up the stairs, and it only takes a moment for Sam to leap into action after him.
The whisky bottle falls and smashes. The lamps go flying. Some of the books too. The table and chairs have all been tossed to one side and the lightbulb above them is going crazy as Cas and Sam arrive at the entry to the main area.
"Dean?" Sam narrows his eyes against the flickering light, trying to focus on the figure on the other side of the room. It looks like Dean, but it's hunched in a strange way. It's not standing like Dean. Not even a sick or injured Dean. Sam holds up a hand, trying to stabilise his vision. He can't believe it. He won't. Not until he sees it himself.
Cas already can see it, and it's worse than when Metatron told him, and it's worse than when he imagined it, and it's worse than when he first touched Dean's red-gold soul in Hell. This time, when Cas sees his face, it is not the chiselled and freckled and complex face of a human, albeit a tortured one. It has horns, a forked tongue, and the skin looks scaly and rotting at once. Its eyes are not the forests of love and anger, of Dean Winchester, but black pits of sin and suffering and corruption. They are a demon's eyes. This is not Dean. It can't be Dean. Not this.
"Dean?" Sam wonders again. The lights stabilise and he can see his brother, but not his brother, smirking like Lucifer once did, in Sam's body, after showing Sam the demons that had followed him his entire life. Sam presses his scar desperately. Not real, not real, he tells himself as tears start to blur his vision.
Dean, but not Dean, blinks and his eyes shine black. Sam tightens his grip on his knife. Not real. Not real.
Then Dean, but not Dean, holds up his hands - palms out in friendly greeting – and his smirk opens up.
"Woah," he says, with Dean's voice. "Easy, Tiger."