Saving Grace

Chapter 1: An Unexplainable Incident

The air was thick and heated as the brothers raced through the forest alongside their angel friend. What they were running from could best be described as a mistake, a freak of nature; and the brothers wondered how they were still alive with such a creature chasing them.

“I think we lost him,” Sam mumbled in raspy breaths as he dodged obstacles from all sides of him as he ran through the trees.

The angel turned to look behind him before responding. “He’s right, I no longer sense it near,” replied Castiel, as he slowed his pace to a standstill.

The Winchester brothers stopped to catch their breath, struggling to keep their bodies upright while gasping and wheezing for the precious oxygen. But the angel, remained perfectly upright with no signs of exhaustion wracking his human vessel as he stood guard.

“Cut and dry case, my ass!” Dean huffed.

“Yeah, we go in trying to find a Wendigo, and end up being chased out by Godzilla,” Sam finished.

Castiel pivoted around when he heard them mention his father’s name in the bizarre word. “What is Godzilla?” Castiel asked.

“Nothing, Cas. Just a giant killer lizard that’s empowered by nuclear radiation,” Dean clarified, standing up straighter now that his lungs were working again.

“Komodo dragons are the largest lizard on earth, Dean. I have lived through many millennia and I have never heard of one of them being radioactive.”

Dean shook his head. “That’s because it’s a movie, Cas. Like Raiders of the Lost Arc, or Indiana Jones.”

“Yes, my father made sure that the Arc of the Covenant stayed out of human sight after the seventy Israelites disobeyed my fathers warnings and looked inside it.”

Sam and Dean both laughed on cue at that answer which caused Cas to tilt his head in confusion, awarding even more laughter from the brothers. While Metatron did give the angel knowledge of popular culture, that last incursion with with the darkness scarred a few of his memories. They really needed to find time to have a sit down and run through all the basics with Cas.

It had just been one of those days where something was bound to go wrong sooner or later. Almost every hunt did, but this time they thought it would be a regular cut and dry case. They had just been hunting a regular sized creature. A normal everyday monster, before they realized they were being chased by something much larger. But this one was far from normal. The outer armoring looked to be made out of the same material as an angel blade and its feet had the most ravenous claws he had ever seen. Not to mention, it was almost the size of a tree.

Cas gave a last glance to the hunters who were refilling their guns, before gathering his essence and using it to seek out any enemies in the vicinity.

This was one of the newest powers that the hunter was made aware of by the angel. Which was mostly because he hadn’t really done any field work with them until recently, and rarely in such a large area. Dean kept on watching the angel, his curiosity peaked with each subtle movement. He hadn’t noticed it before, but the past few hours were serving to be a reminder as to how strong the rebel angel really was. His nearly recovered grace added a certain strength and bravery that the hunter rarely saw these days. But he was glad for it nonetheless.

The angel’s brow crinkled in concentration as he kept perfectly still, the wind lifting the sides of his trenchcoat with noticeable snaps. He almost looked like one of those superheros on tv, standing erect on the top of some tall building with the moonlight reflecting off a utility belt and a silky black cape flapping poetically in the wind.

There wasn’t a day that went by where, Dean didn’t peruse the different directions that their lives could have gone. He secretly wished that his brother could’ve had that white picket fence life, with a wife and kids and a law degree. After all, he was more adjusted to the hunters life than Sam was and could hold his own if it came down to it. That was what he told himself anyway, each time his baby brother would shake him softly awake in the night with the evidence of a nightmare plaguing his features. Or the times when he would fall asleep to some superhero program, letting himself get lost in an imaginary world with no demons, monsters, or creatures of any kind. Just a dude with green hair and a red painted devilish grin.

But that was a different time. Now, he had a weapon against the evil. One who had risked his life countless times for them and who knows how many other times that they weren’t even aware of. Yeah, he had some major screw ups, but who wouldn’t when they had all that heaven and hell crap to deal with. At least he tried his best to come when he was called, and most of the time had the heavenly powers to back them up when their cards were low. Was there really much of a difference?

“Dean?”

The hunter realized he was staring and immediately turned away from the angel, biting his lower lip as he tried to think of a way to explain himself. “Right, um, did you sense anything?”

Cas tensed his shoulders and met the hunters gaze. “No, I didn’t, but my grace only reaches for a radius of a few miles.” Castiel paused as part of him longed to never say those words. He was once a powerful being, a heavenly angel with so much power in one finger that he could take down the fiercest enemies of heaven. Now he was struggling to keep his human vessel alive, much less fight any foes. His grace was replenishing itself, but the memory of the power that he once wielded, stung deeply. “I’m not certain it is gone.”

Dean pivoted to look around, spying his brother doing the same, before rejoining with the angels gaze. “If you say it’s a few miles away then we have more than enough time to high-tail it back to the Impala before it finds us.”

“I’m not sure,” Sam interluded. “It’s not that I doubt you, Cas. But you saw the way it avoided those traps we laid out. It knew what we were up to. This creature is smart, Dean. Smarter than anything we’ve ever come across. This place could’ve been the site for a breeding experiment gone wrong for all we know.”

Dean pressed his lips into a thin line, contemplating just what his brother was getting at. When it all came down to it, he knew that they had only had two choices: Either they stay and fight, or leave. Considering that none of their weapons were a match for the beast, staying there definitely wasn’t an option.“So what do you propose we do, Sammy? Stand here and wait to be killed, or worse? or hike the mile back to the Impala?”

Dean said the last word as more of a sarcastic proposition than a question as he faced his brother.

Sam was silent.

“That settles it.”

The trio had just started walking the mile back when a small beating of wings was heard. Castiel readied his angel blade and instinctively stood in front of the two hunters, shielding them from what was possibly another angel on kill mode.

“Show yourself!” Castiel shouted.

Everyone remained quiet and still, their senses on full alert as they surveyed their surroundings.

After some time passed with no sign of any threat, the angel lowered his blade and returned it back into the ether. “False alarm, I-”

Dean barely registered a hazy form before it suddenly came barreling through the trees and rammed into the angel. Castiel was flung through the air and slammed to the ground.

The air punched out of his lungs from the impact, sending shockwaves of pain ratcheting through his body. This wasn’t finished, Sam and Dean were still out there fighting. He needed to get up. Forcing himself up on his arms, the angel fought to bite down a scream as he felt the bones in his shoulders twisted out of place. It now occured to him that his only option at the moment, was to lie still, so he regulated a small amount of his grace to the problem areas to help ease the pain.

Blow after blow of Ruby’s demon knife hadn’t served any purpose, other than making the metal-tank-with-teeth mad, but just standing there watching, wasn’t his style— He’d hit it with pool noodles, just for the sake of fighting— not surrendering.

It wasn’t interested in doing anything but barring the path to Cas, despite both of their methods to dicract it, which was very worrisome and ticked the hunter off to no end. Still, he wouldn’t be Dean Winchester: the crazy, without biting danger in the ass a few times. So in a desperate attempt to rescue their fallen compadre, the hunter lunged forward under the bellie of the beast, and grasped the fabric of the angel’s trenchcoat.

Unfortunately, the material was very slippery under his trembling fingers. Almost like grasping butter; which made clamping onto the underside, that much more impossible.

Castiel felt the tugs to his clothing. Opening his eyes, blearily, he reached out to take Dean’s hand, despite the burning in his shoulders from doing so.

Their fingers were in touching distance of each-other, but then Dean was shoved from underneith by, what is that thing? He stared at the now visible, metal tail swaying violently to further trap the angel from escaping, or the hunters to get to him, and shrugged, turning to his brother.

“Sam, I can’t reach him.”

His brother swallowed, staring at the large propeller in their path. “Cas, can you hear us!” He called out.

“Cas!”

“Dean.” Cas tried to call out the hunters name, but his lungs had barely any air in them so it came out in a gravelly whisper. He wished there was a way for him to get to Dean. He wished he’d had the strength to reach out further, before the hunter was torn away from his grasp. He wished he was a full angel again.

The hunter was aware of himself and his brother as they were flung through the air, and hit what felt like the trunks of two trees, before everything went black.

Castiel lied there, helplessly watching as the brothers were smacked into the tree trunks. He could feel the spark of grace within was fading fast, and he felt the emptiness changing him from a vivacious oasis of essence, to an uninhabitable desert. He felt dead. There was sudden, strong hold over him, rendering him enert and unable to move as a dullnes took over his senses, blocking him from thinking. Gradually, he was coerced into unconsiousness.

As he came to a few minutes later, blues and silvers danced in his hazy vision until his senses focused clearly on the beast towering above him. The angel took a calm and controlled breath as the creature knelt down to him and stared into his eyes.

Castiel studied the glowing, blue eyes in great detail, trying to piece together the identity, before each of his arms were suddenly pinned under its feet. He understood now, why it was so hard to move. Although Castiel didn’t know what kind of creature it was, the aversion that he felt in its presence and the false power that it possessed, made him almost certain that it was an other worldly creature from a place that is absent of light.

He desperately needed to escape.

In a hastened attempt to free himself, Castiel slid the hilt of his angel blade into his hand and collected his nerve for what he was about to do. Bending his wrists as best he could in that position, he angled the tip over the creature’s appendage and stabbed down with all his strength. This caused a newfound rage of furry to erupt from the creature, as it bore down even harder on him. Cas winced as he felt the pain of its razor sharp claws dig into his flesh; Its body now weighted heavily on his bones, nearly cutting off the circulation. He was almost certain that both of his shoulders were now dislocated, but he didn’t have enough time to check at that moment as the pain bit heavily at him, forcing the angel to cease all struggles to get free.

The underlying leaves on the forest floor made an excellent hiding place for bugs as well as cushion its newest occupant from the harsh rocks and mud lying underneath. But nothing could’ve prepared him for what followed.

Dean was suddenly awoken by the horrendous scream of a being, who was in unimaginable agony, and an awful realization hit him. Ignoring the throbbing pain in his back and head, the hunter rose from his position on the ground and ran as fast as his body would let him out of the embankement of trees.

Dean quickly found his way out of the trees and stopped just behind the creature.

He only saw two things after that. His angel passed out, and the creature that was on top of him. Dean checked his person for weapons, but to his dismay, he found only some salt guns and Ruby’s demon knife; Which at this point would be like trying to take down a dinosaur with a flyswatter. The silver tipped arrows that they brought with them were apparently lunch to the thing. A bazooka would have been the ideal weapon to bring along.

And of course their silver tipped spears were eaten by the thing, it was perfectly normal for a monster to eat silver.

Seeing his angel being pinned down sent a surge of anger through him.

What the hell was this thing that it could hold down an angel? Even when Ca’s mojo was drained, it was like hitting a brick wall. Of course, at the time it wasn’t intentional, so he wasn’t moving very fast. But, Dean still felt the power of the angel’s essence hit him head on like a freight train, and it friggin hurt. But now, he was nearly at full power and the thing still had the upper-hand.

Dean found himself clinging to the only option he had left. But the last option in his arsenal was also the most dangerous, and could wind up hurting the angel even more, and quite possibly himself. That wasn’t an option, so he talked himself out of ramming into the creature.

A beam of light suddenly reflected off a patch of grass and shined into the hunters eyes. He knew for certain that there hadn’t been anything there prior to the attack, which left only one other conclusion; This was Ca’s angel blade. Dean intensely focused to send a thought to the angel, telling him to wake up. After Cas was kidnapped recently, this was their fourth form of communication in case one of them were ever separated from their phones or unable to speak.

The hunter then sent Castiel a mental thought to slide over his angel blade. Dean desperately hoped that being unconscious wouldn’t affect his hearing, and waited with bated breath for the angel to indicate that he heard.

His heart leapt in his chest as he saw the angels eyes slowly flutter open, and watched as he weakly slid his hand along the grass till it reached the hilt of the blade lying there. Dean could see him grimace as he did this, and made a point to lie down on his stomach to lessen the distance between them as much as possible so it would hurt the angel less.

After nodding in confirmation, Castiel painstakingly slid the blade over to the hunter’s outstretched hand, and in one fluid motion Dean picked it up and stabbed it into the creature.

To his dismay, the blade didn’t even make a scratch against the armor plating. But thankfully, but also strangely, the creature ran off at lightspeed into the trees disappeared, before he got another chance to maim it.

With the threat seemingly withdrawn for the moment, Dean immediately rushed to the angels side and checked him for any wounds or injuries. A surge of relief hit the hunter when he saw only bruising and a few scratches on his wrists and arms, along with two dislocated shoulders. However, the relief was short lived before yet another rustling sound caused the hunter to brandish the angel blade once again.

Dean’s senses were on edge as he stood in front of the injured angel. He was sure that the creature was coming back to finish the job. After all, they were defenseless prey unable to hide from its radar.

Dean gripped the blade tighter in his hand as the rustling got louder, and raised it threateningly in the air, preparing to throw it. To his surprise, a tall dirty figure with an overgrowth of hair suddenly walked out of the foliage in front of them.

The older Winchester heaved a sigh of relief, lowering his guard. He stifled back a laugh. “How’d the mud wrestling go, Sammy? Did you get the pig?”

Sam shot his brother a jerk-face. “Some of us weren’t lucky enough to wake up on a pile of leaves,” he grumbled. The younger hunter glared as he made his way over to his brother before a concerned expression took over. Sam knelt down by the angel. “What happened?” he asked warily, rubbing the part of his head that made contact with the hard oak tree.

Dean caught sight of him wincing. “You alright, there?”

The hunter fakely shrugged it off. “Yeah, i’m just a little rocked, that’s all.”

Dean knew that it wasn’t entirely the truth, but he let it slide on account that he didn’t see any wounds or signs of broken bones. “We had our asses handed to us while Cas was alone with that thing. Which reminds me, we should get the hell out of here before it comes back.”

Dean’s gaze shifted to the angel lying on the ground. “Cas, can you heal yourself?”

“I believe so.” Castiel grunted as he raised his hand in a way that wouldn’t stress the bones in his shoulders further, and hovered it over his shoulder.

The brothers watched as a bright light halo’d out from his palm for a few seconds, before flickering out.

Cas blinked in confusion. “My grace, it’s... gone.”

Dean met the angel’s now fearful gaze. “Gone?”

Sam moved in closer. “Cas, what do mean by gone?”

“I mean I don’t feel it’s power within me. I feel empty.”

That definitely wasn’t good.

Whatever that creature had done to him had rocked him pretty badly for his grace to just give out like that. The thing was badass to be immune to the angel blade; something that could take down every other creature that came in contact with its cold steel— Besides the obvious exceptions of course. Dean knew it had something to do with the oddly strong armor plating that covered every inch of the thing, considering the angelic weapon of heaven didn’t even scuff it. This thing was either magic, or held a much darker secret to be able to mess with an angels grace like that. Let alone, be able to run at almost the speed of light.

The discussion was going to have to wait. For now, they all needed to get somewhere safe to plan their next move.

Their lives were never simple.

Dean rubbed a hand over his face in temporary defeat. “All right, we need to get back to Bobby’s and we’ll figure it out from there.” He undid the angel’s coat, ignoring the strange responses. “Looks like it’s pioneer style for now,” he muttered, carefully working on making the angels trench coat into a makeshift sling for both arms, securing his shoulders in place. It wasn’t much, but at least it would keep the bones from further harm and help the pain, somewhat, when they started walking again.

After everything was set, and the hunter felt it would somewhat do it’s job, Dean helped the angel slowly stand up from the ground. All the while, Castiel’s eyes rested on his angel blade that Dean held in his hand.

The hunter must have caught onto it, as Cas saw his eyes suddenly drift downward to the blade and back up to him.

“I’m going to hang onto this until we get those bones of yours set, okay?”

Castiel reluctantly agreed, and the three of them began walking back to the Impala, with Dean in the lead, always keeping the angel blade at the ready in case they had yet, another run in.

The silky black hood of the Impala soon came into view as they made their way out of the forest.

Dean rubbed his hand over the glossy exterior in a quick greeting on the way to the passenger door, which didn’t go unnoticed by his younger brother on the other side.

“Yes, Dean, the car is still in one piece.”

The hunter scowled at Sam before walking around the back of the vehicle.

Castiel was about to climb into the front seat, before he paused in his movements and looked around, disoriented. “Where is Sam?”

The sound of leather squeaking cut off his train of thought as Sam climbed into the back seat. “Right behind you, Cas.” The younger hunter smiled slightly to reassure the angel. He was looking right at him when he climbed into the back, how did he forget where he was that quickly? Sam ran through the angel’s list of injuries over in his head. None of them could have awarded this amount of disorientation. Perhaps the pain was making him a little groggy.

Castiel turned and nodded at Sam before making a move to sit down.

After all these years, he was still not used to sitting in the metal death trap that Dean called the Impala, or Baby. The angel started thinking back to a time when he didn’t understand why Dean referred to his car in such a way. At the time, he could clearly see that it resembled nothing of what a baby looked like. It had no human parts at all. Then, after a few years, he figured that it was an endearing nickname that humans sometimes gave inanimate objects sometimes, and left it at that.

Why was he revisiting old memories?

As soon as the angel was situated, Dean walked back around to the drivers side and slid onto the familiar rough leather. He could feel the eyes of his brother burrowing into the back of his head.

“Dean?”

“What?”

“The blade.”

Dean looked down at his hand and realized he was still holding the angel blade, and set it under his seat. In his defense, he wasn’t used to being the one carrying the giant Archangel’s blade. It was always in Castiel’s possession, so naturally, he forgot it was still in his hand. The hunter turned toward his brother half expecting him to smirk smugly and rub it in his face, but the younger Winchester just stared out the window in his usual deep thought mode.

The hunter turned his review mirror towards Castiel.

Dean’s eyes were mirrors to the anger that was radiating from his being, and Cas could see a twinge of guilt and fear inside them, causing his soul to fluctuate in its resonance and energy as they loomed over him.

“Cas, i’m sorry. I should’ve been there sooner... I should’ve woken up when you needed me.”

“Dean, you and Sam are not to blame for being unconscious,” Castiel replied.

Sam made eye contact with his brother. “Hey, like Cas said, it’s not like you stood by and watched everything happening. There was nothing we could’ve done while passed out.”

This didn’t seem to convince the older Winchester any, but the angel could see it in his soul that it made him feel better, which caused Castiel’s heart to feel lighter.

At least he did some good.

After a last glance to the angel, the hunter lowered his gaze from the mirror and drove off without another word.

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