“Betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope.”
-- Steven Deitz
“I wish it hadn’t come to this,” Cas said, looking away. Dean could feel Bobby radiating suppressed fury behind him while Sam was coiled like a spring to his right, ready to move at any moment.
Finally the angel looked back up, an unreadable expression crossing his face. “Well, rest assured, when this is all over I will save Sam.” Alarm ratcheted up in Dean’s gut before he even fully processed the words. “But only if you stand down.”
“Save Sam from what?” Dean demanded, but Castiel was suddenly gone.
All three humans turned sharply when Cas reappeared behind Sam. Sam visibly started at the sudden invasion of his personal space but didn’t have any more time to react. Dean was frozen to the spot as the angel lifted a hand to Sam’s temple. Dean thought he felt the exact moment Cas released the dam in his brother’s head in the suddenly charged air. Sam jolted as if electrocuted, his eyes widening before they rolled back into his head.
Dean’s mind went blank, panic completely overtaking every sense.
“Sam!” He didn’t know if he or Bobby had yelled.
As if in slow motion, Sam’s knees buckled and he toppled backwards. Dean was moving before he realized it, reaching out to his falling brother. He grabbed the lapels of Sam’s jacket to keep him from hitting the ground and pulled his brother into his arms. Sam’s dead weight nearly toppled Dean as well, dropping the smaller man to his knees. He didn’t have it in him to curse his Sasquatch of a brother’s bulk, not when…
Sam started convulsing violently, his long limbs thrashing. Dean struggled to pin the kid’s arms down as he seized.
No no no no no no no…
Looking at Sam’s contorted face, Dean was suddenly back in Bristol; he was watching Sam break on the floor of an abandoned house, unable to do anything but call out vainly to his brother whose mind was locked in memories of unimaginable horrors.
Dean was completely helpless.
His big brother instincts screamed for action.
“Watch out for Sammy.”
I can’t. Can’t do anything. Sammy…
A gravelly “I’m sorry” pulled Dean from Rhode Island back to the alleyway. He tore his eyes from his brother’s shuddering form, grip tightening protectively around his arms, and met an unfamiliarly cold, blue-eyed gaze that belied the apologetic words.
There had to be some mistake. There was no way Cas had done what it looked like. They weren’t on great terms at the moment, but Cas would never… Not to Sam… Not to him…
Dean looked at the angel, pleading please Cas, tell me this isn’t what it looks like. Tell me this is a mistake. This can’t be real. Tell me you wouldn’t.
Sam let out a strangled, broken moan before going still in Dean’s arms. Dean’s gaze shot back down to his brother, whose eyes had slipped shut and his entire body gone limp.
“Sammy,” he called, voice cracking. He knew Sam wouldn’t respond, but it still broke something in him when his brother didn’t react.
A flutter of wings echoed accusingly through Dean’s ears and he looked back up to find Cas gone. That was all the answer he needed.
“Son of a bitch,” Bobby cursed gruffly before kneeling next to the brothers. Bobby’s gaze traced Sam’s slack features a long moment before looking helplessly at Dean. “He didn’t. Did he?”
Helpless wasn’t a tone Dean was accustomed to hearing from Bobby Singer and that snapped him back to action faster than anything. Dean swallowed against a huge lump in his throat, but his reply was interrupted by another fluttering of wings.
“Oh he did,” Balthazar said, suddenly occupying the spot Cas had disappeared from moments before. In that moment, Dean couldn’t help but be thankful to the hedonistic angel; having to say the words himself would have made them true, made the whole situation real. And he wasn’t sure he was ready to face that just yet.
“What are you doing here, Balthazar?” Bobby asked wearily after a glimpse at Dean.
“I came to help, of course,” the angel said. “It’s not safe for you here, especially our dear Sammy there.”
“It’s Sam,” Dean snapped reflexively since his brother wasn’t able to himself.
Balthazar rolled his eyes. “Fine, whatever. Do you want me to help or not? I only have so much time I can spend with you lot before risking attention from the wrong people, you know. Dangers of being a double agent and all.”
“Yes, please,” Bobby drawled.
“Can you send us back to Bobby’s?” Dean asked, glancing back down at his brother. “We can keep Sam safe in the panic room.” God, he hated seeing Sam in that room, but he didn’t know where else they could effectively protect him.
Balthazar nodded in acquiescence. Dean gripped Sam tightly as the angel put fingers to his and Bobby’s foreheads. The next instant, they were kneeling inside the panic room. Sam hadn’t so much as flinched at the instant transport.
Bobby was looking strangely at Balthazar. “How can you be in here?”
The angel looked at the white-washed angel proofing marks that matched the ones upstairs. “You’ve got some mistakes in the sigils.” He glanced at Sam but was studying the marks once more so quickly Dean thought he might have imagined it. “I can show you how to fix them. Provided you let me out before you correct them.”
Dean only vaguely heard Balthazar pointing out mistakes in a few of the markings around the walls—and hoped Bobby was taking detailed notes—as he pulled himself out from under his far-too-still brother. The cot was still in the center of the room from the last time Sam had occupied it—a ten day coma after Death had returned his soul only a few months before.
“I’ll get his feet.”
Dean jumped at Bobby’s words, not having noticed the older hunter coming up behind him. He hadn’t heard his conversation with Balthazar finish, either. Speaking of... Dean turned to see the angel standing on the outside of the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. He raised a questioning eyebrow at Dean, who shrugged and turned back to the task at hand.
Together, he and Bobby were able to maneuver Sam’s dead weight onto the cot. Dean stared down at his unmoving brother. He could almost hear Sam’s screams from his detoxes in this room; could almost see his pale and sickly form after he’d screamed himself mercifully into unconsciousness; his soulless facsimile of a brother cuffed to the bed after trying to kill Bobby, then screaming—God, Sam’s screams were far too familiar—when Death returned his soul; his brother hooked up to an IV and barely breathing as his body adjusted to the damaged soul within him…
And now, his body and mind were being overtaken by gruesome memories that demon and angel alike seemed to think would destroy him.
Dean’s legs nearly gave out as the thought that Sam might really be gone for good this time really hit him, and only Bobby’s steadying hand on his arm kept him upright.
I’m going to fucking kill Cas, Dean thought with sudden vehemence as he watched the slow rise and fall of his brother’s chest. Whether they’d once been family or not didn’t mean anything.
Cas had hurt Sam.
Cas had intentionally hurt Sam.
There was one thing Dean Winchester didn’t forgive—no matter if it was an angel, a demon, Satan, God, or John Winchester himself—and that was hurting Sam.
Dean, feeling a sudden calm from knowing what he had to do, turned to Balthazar. “Cas is going to try to open the door to Purgatory tomorrow. We need to know where he is.”
“And I suppose you want me to find that out for you?”
“That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it, 00Halo?” Bobby drawled.
Balthazar snorted and uncrossed his arms. “Fair enough. I’ll be back when I’ve found out where dear Cassie has holed up with his demon lover.”
And with a fluttering of wings, the angel was gone. Dean nodded to himself and turned to Bobby.
“Did you fix the angel-proofing?”
“Yeah. I wrote down the fixes Balthazar made so we’d get it right next time.”
Suddenly exhausted, Dean dropped into the chair at the desk behind Sam’s head. He rubbed his face through his hands and just looked at his brother, willed him to wake up to no avail. Bobby leaned against the desk next to Dean.
“What now, Dean?” the older hunter asked, sounding just as exhausted as Dean felt. It was only then that Dean processed that Bobby had lost someone today as well; he also had to be furious at Cas for his part in Ellie Visyak’s death.
But Dean—Dean couldn’t process any hurt besides his brother lying unresponsive in front of him.
“He hurt Sam, Bobby.”
He brought Sam back soulless, lied about it and left Sam’s soul in the Cage with Lucifer and Michael for nearly two-hundred years, and then purposefully brought the wall protecting those memories down. It seemed like Cas had done nothing but hurt Sam since he’d jumped into the Pit.
“I know, son.”
Dean shook his head. “He meant to do it. Whether Sam wakes up or not—” Dean stopped abruptly, not wanting to finish that thought. He couldn’t…
“Whatever happens,” he amended, “I just can’t.”
Not again; not with someone he trusted his—and more importantly Sam’s—life to. He shook his head. Part of him hated that the decision had been so easy, but glancing at his comatose brother, there was no regret. Not when it came to Sam.
“I’m going to kill him.”