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his purpose first unfolded

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It's a drop. You'll explain to the Winchesters later that it's like hitting a pocket of turbulence, or being brought up short and tripping on a leap year. The worst part of sleeping is the waking up.

You wake to a light and a terror.

When Sam asked you once about your childhood, you said, "I am not a child," and it made him laugh. You considered, and adjusted the translation. "I was never a child."

But in the light you are cast so small. There is no whenfeel or wherefeel and you wake bent and huddled, wrapping limb over limb over limb. You are a forest shielding your eyes from a fire.

Sam is there, tucked among your body. His questioning is ceaseless.

"Okay, but pander to the linear mortal crowd for a second. There must have been a time when you were, you know. New?"

He is trying to pry apart your fingers and peek at the light. Cower, you tell him. Don't you know well enough to cower? But he prattles on in English.

“Because if now is always now, then there has to be a then, right? There’s a time out there, somewhere when everything is different.”

You are groggy with sleep, heavy. You’re crushing Sam in a cocoon of you, but still he is climbing out one finger at a time. The light hits his face and you kneel, and you kneel, but it was never enough.

“You know what I’m talking about, right, Cas? There’s a greater than, and a less than, and that’s not dictated by date or time.” Sam pulls back your pinions and snuffles his nose between them, a child, an animal. “Before I was ever born, before you ever met us. You spent more time, so much time on your knees.”

You’re screaming, Do not look. Close your eyes. Kneel. Cower.

But Sam is whispering within your plumage, “What do I have to be afraid of?”

You gather yourself around him and the light burns across the curving fall of your back.

I am not a child, you say. I am not afraid. I yearn, I yearn, I yearn.

He has found each face of you. A palm to every cheek. “So lift up your eyes,” he tells you. Sam has never sounded this way. “So witness my heart.”

And then you are alive, Dean is there, shaking the lapels of Jimmy Novak’s coat and spitting relief in obscenity. The sun is in your eyes; the light is gone. You try to speak and Dean shudders. Over his shoulder Sam bends in half, and he is not who you thought he was.

“Sorry,” you sputter. “I thought. It seemed you could.” You have to squint to see them. “What happened?”

Dean is soothing the folds of your jacket now, Sam is crouching down. They gather you.

“You fell asleep,” they’re saying. “But we found you.”