"I remember everything." Castiel said.
He was Castiel, he knew that now. Not Emmanuel, not anymore. He looked away, down to the ground. He couldn't meet Dean's eyes now. The memories that had flashed fully formed into his brain brought with them overpowering emotions; regret, shame, pain and others he couldn't even identify, all swirling around in his head. His jaw worked, teeth grinding together.
"What I did-" He swallowed, broke off. "What I became..." His face twisted in a snarl of disgust at himself, remembering his words, actions and the justification he'd felt through it all. He'd been so prideful, so full of righteousness, even up until the end, and then he'd spread horror and death through Heaven and Earth.
Castiel tugged his eyes up to Dean's, some faint anger making its way through the maelstrom of memories and guilt. "Why didn't you tell me?" He asked, as if he had any right to be accusing about secret keeping.
"Because Sam's dying in there." Dean said quickly, his face pained, but eyes full of that old naive hope that Castiel the angel could fix everything. Castiel looked for recrimination, hatred, but there was only pleading.
"Because of me!" Castiel snapped. Didn't he understand? Dean opened his mouth, but there was nothing he could say. His guilt was undeniable. "Everything...all those people..." Castiel's eyes flickered around the parking lot, seeing the dead demon hosts he'd killed moments ago, and then superimposed over them the campaign office, the hundreds of humans he'd deemed hypocrites and deserving of punishment, the thousands of angels he'd massacred...all dead at his hand. His breath caught at the horror of it. Every cell and membrane of his body, every fiber of his still present grace roiled with the guilt and anguish.
There was a small voice in the back of his mind, which roused with a sense of justification and agreement with his assessment of himself. It was bitter and angry and just added to the pit in his stomach. It was Jimmy, he knew that now, still there. Castiel felt a pang for the pain he'd put his poor vessel through, the lies he'd told him long before he knew how far he'd fall.
His breath stuttered. "I shouldn't be here."
Castiel walked between Dean and Meg, away, stumbling towards the grass and away from the carnage of the parking lot. He was breathing hard, overrun with the desire to get away, to forget again, though he knew know he never could. How had he ever have wanted to remember who he was before coming out of that river? The reality was too terrible for words.
"Cas? Cas!" Dean's voice followed him, but Castiel ignored him, up the green hill. "Cas! wait up!"
Dean broke into a jog, and came up behind Castiel faster than he would have liked. "Would you just stop for a minute?"
Castiel shook his head, against Dean's voice, and the acknowledgment that he was about to let Dean down yet again, that Sam was going to die because of him, against the pounding his head and the emotions blocking his throat, and Jimmy's awakened judgement and everything that was crushing him.
"No," Castiel choked out, and kept walking. Dean walked with him, keeping up easily. Castiel considered that he could easily fly away, now that he knew what he was. He didn't though.
"Cas, if you remember, then you know you did the best you could at the time." Dean said, still trying, and Castiel felt a jolt of pain through him, because there was no way in earth, Heaven or Hell, Dean could mean that. It was impossible. Dean had to hate him, and if he didn't...then he should.
"Don't defend me!" Castiel said, full of venom directed at himself, and maybe Dean too; he couldn't tell anymore. He took a sharp breath. "Do you have any idea the death toll in Heaven? On earth?" And more than that, the wounds to Dean personally were tremendous, overwhelming and unforgivable.
And then he felt anew the tears through his heart, realizing there was a tiny part of him that hoped for forgiveness, for penance. But Dean would never offer forgiveness, and he would never ever ask. It was too big.
Castiel wheeled around, and met Dean's gaze with pained and furious eyes. "We didn't part friends, Dean."
Dean swallowed, and Castiel could see the pain in his eyes, the hurt towards him. It only confirmed his previous thoughts. Dean didn't want to be around him either, it was only that nagging hope that he could save Sam that kept him asking, forcing him to try though he'd rather leave Castiel in a ditch.
"So what?" Dean said shortly. Castiel's heart nearly shattered. He couldn't. He couldn't go near Sam again. Sam was dying because of him, of his failure, so many failures. Of bringing him back wrong, of leaving a part behind to get tortured for so long. Of breaking down the wall, the only thing keeping Sam sane. Now, at his lowest point, Dean still asked him to fix it, fix everything he'd broken, and he couldn't- Sam was dying because of him, but Castiel could still hurt him, and he didn't dare...
"I deserved to die!" And Castiel let his head hang, his mask falling, pleading. Please, just let me go. Let me go back in that river and die for what I've done. And please, please let me stay dead!
Dean had no answer, for there could be nothing but agreement.
"Now, I can't possibly fix it. So why did I even walk out of that river?"
Dean stared at him, and Castiel was praying that he'd agree, that he'd just let him go. But then,
"Maybe to fix it." He said, like it was that easy, like all his actions could just be washed away, like Sam wasn't irreparably broken. Castiel looked away. "Wait," Dean said.
He turned from him, and leaned towards the trunk of a car (not the Impala, and so Castiel hadn't even registered it) and opened it. Castiel turned slowly and watched as Dean rummaged around inside before pulling out an eerily familiar piece of clothing. It was his old overcoat. Castiel stared at it, a strange mixture of longing and shame flooding through him. The coat in Dean's hands was stained with what looked like blood and that terrible black substance that had dripped from his tearing body. The tan fabric was mottled with the stuff, making him think of the slaughtered campaign office and the rage of the old souls. He felt ill looking at it.
And yet, alongside that was a sense of nostalgia. This coat was what he'd worn for a long time, and to see it again was almost...nice. There was also the fact that Dean had carried it with him...it was strange. Why had he kept such a macabre reminder of him?
Castiel took the coat from Dean, his hands trembling a bit. He kept having to swallow past a lump that rose in his throat. He managed a nod to Dean, and carefully, gingerly shrugged it on.
Dean watched him straighten the lapels, and settle himself into the old familiar feel, long though it had been. There was an expression on Dean's face that to one who did not know him would seem blank. But Castiel, if nothing else, knew Dean and saw the hope and anger warring there. He knew that both emotions were directed towards him. The anger was fully deserved and then some. And the hope...well, perhaps... he didn't have to let Dean down again. With the coat around his shoulders, and Dean's pleading in his ears...he could try one final time.
"Okay," Castiel choked out, and then held a breath that tried to hitch into something like a sob. "Alright, take me to Sam."
Dean's tense shoulders loosened a tiny bit at that, relief on his face, and it broke Castiel how Dean still after everything had a smidgen faith in him. It was amazing that Dean would let him within one hundred miles of his brother, let alone trust him to try to fix him, after what he did. Castiel didn't know if he could save Sam from all he'd done to him, but for that look from Dean, he would try.
"He's got a room in the hospital, but if there are more demons, we'll probably have to fight our way in," Dean swallowed. "And hope they haven't already gotten to him."
Castiel nodded, beginning to pull himself together. "Let's hurry then."
They turned back towards the parking lot, to where the demon Meg waited, tapping her foot. Castiel wondered what she was doing there, with Dean. She seemed to be working with them, and fighting towards a common goal. What he couldn't fathom was why. Surely Dean had his reasons, but he couldn't help but feel a inkling of anger at the hypocrisy; Dean working with demons was fine, but when it was Castiel...quickly, he tamped that down. He had no right. All that he'd done was terrible; there was no getting around that, and it wasn't all from the influence of Crowley either.
Turning his mind back to the situation at hand, he nodded vaguely as they reached Meg. He recalled that the last time they'd seen each other, they'd shared a kiss. Two in fact. Again, he felt that 'what-were-you-thinking feeling towards his past self. Kissing demons was never a good idea (he knew that from Crowley, and his mind shied away from that!), and Castiel could see now how far down that road of pride and sin he'd been on even then.
Meg turned towards them, eying his newly restored coat. "Took you boys long enough," She drawled, "Did you finally kiss and make up?"
Dean ignored the question, stepping passed her and towards the hospital. Castiel moved to follow without thought.
"Wait, wait, what are you doing?" Meg, however, did have a protest. She hurried to Dean's side, but the other man didn't stop. "You're not just going to walk in there?" Meg was trying to get in front of Dean's stride. It was like a mouse trying to stop a raging flood.
"That's exactly what I'm going to do." Dean replied, eyes fixed on the building. Meg grabbed his arm, and tugged him around.
"Stop for a second, and let's think of plan, idiot." Dean shook her off.
"I've got a plan. It's called the 'fight our way in, grab Sam, and get the hell out of dodge' plan. Cas, you with me?"
Castiel looked at Dean, wide eyed. He could only agree. Dean's eyes softened a bit as Castiel nodded, and then he turned back to Meg.
"See, Cas can do the smiting thing; we'll get in, get out. Easy peasy."
Meg snorted, waving her hand towards the hospital. "They know we're coming, dumbass. Especially after what Clarence did just now. We're not gonna be able to just waltz in, especially with an angel on our six."
Dean looked at her in confusion, and Meg explained with some exasperation. "We can tell he's an angel a mile off, he's all...glowy." Meg glanced at Castiel with a smirk. "How do you think they found Emmanuel?"
Dean threw his hands out to the side, anger besting him for a moment. "What are we supposed to do then? If they know we're here, then they've probably already gone after Sam, and he can't protect himself the way he is right now. We have to get to him as fast as we can, and if that means fighting our way through an army of demons, I'll do it."
Meg rolled her eyes, but Castiel could see she accepted her defeat in the face of Dean's determination. Castiel was well versed in Dean's persuasive power, and so sympathized slightly.
"Alright, fine. Have it your way." She pulled out her knife, and Dean, his flask of holy water. Castiel swallowed, and moved to Dean's side. "But, if we get killed, I'm blaming you."
Dean smirked, and then they all looked up at the side of the hospital. Inside, Sam was suffering, and Dean would not let it continue, beit demons, madness or Hell itself. An unstoppable force against a tide of immovable objects, and Castiel would not bet against the man at his side. Rearing back slightly, it amazed him the faith he still had in Dean Winchester, even after everything. Perhaps, if all went well tonight, and Sam recovered, that would be something he could hold on to, to make it past this agony of spirit he was under now. But no use thinking about the future, when he wasn't sure if he'd survive till then.
Dean straightened, and glanced at Castiel. "Let's roll."
What they'd thought would be a bloodbath through the hospital, was actually a lesson in stealth. The halls were full of milling, clueless humans. Harmless patients and staff going about their day with no thought as to what had happened outside, or what might be happening that moment in their locked wards.
Castiel was sure that this was intentional; the demons using the civilians as cover. Meg slipped her knife under her jacket avoiding the gaze of the officials who walked the halls. Dean growled in frustration, and Castiel felt his stomach churning with nerves. Where were they?
He was sure they looked a strange threesome, walking quickly close together and giving all they met suspicious side gazes. No ugly demon visages peeked out from the human's faces, and Castiel was beginning to wonder what was going on.
Then they reached yet another locked ward, and the surrounding doors flung open, a small group of demons rushing through.
There were five or six, coming at them from both sides, and each of their instincts took over. Meg whirled and got one with the knife, and Dean twisted one around with a solid punch, shoving it to where Castiel stood. His hand came up without a thought, exorcising the hell spawn. The host's eyes burned out and the woman fell, while Castiel had to pause, his heart crying out at another life lost because of him. But then another demon was behind Dean, and the holy water in the flask was gone. Castiel leaped forwards, and another body fell to the floor.
Within minutes it was over. Among the other bodies, two lay with their eye sockets blackened and scorched. Castiel felt sick, breathing hard.
"Cas, you okay?" Dean glanced at him, and brow was furrowed. Castiel wanted to say he was nothing close to okay, but he swallowed back his gasping breaths and nodded. It wasn't like him to get out of breath, not since he'd regained his powers, and he felt a touch of warmth that Dean was concerned for his health, but truly he was just surprised that he wasn't collapsed on the floor. It was hard to keep the rolling storm inside of him constrained. His guilt had by no means abated, and now he had two more lives on his hands. All he wanted to do was find Sam and then lie down forever.
But Dean could not see that, Castiel was making damn sure, so he accepted his nod. Dean turned towards a single room that Castiel realized must be Sam's, and opened the door.
The abrupt paling of Dean's face was not a good sign.
"He's not there." Dean said, his voice harsh and hiding panic. Castiel felt a slide of ice run down his spine.
"Where is he?" Castiel asked, a useless question. Dean turned back to the two of them.
"We have to find him, fast!" Dean said, urgency rising. Meg looked over her shoulder, he face worried.
"We should split up. There's no knowing where they took him." She said. Dean nodded in agreement, and started off down the hall they'd not yet searched. Castiel felt panic rise up as Dean rushed away, and he realized that Dean was the only one of them not armed with something that could kill a demon. Meg had the knife, and he his powers, but Dean only had his regular knife and a gun, neither of which would do much more than irritate them.
With barely a thought, Castiel called his angel's blade into manifestation. He held the familiar handle, one he hadn't held since before this whole mess. Turning away from the thought, he flipped the blade and called out to Dean.
"Dean!" Dean slowed and turned, and Castiel tossed him the blade handle first. He caught it on reflex, surprise catching on his face.
"It will kill demons, just go!" Castiel turned to see Meg loping in another direction, and Castiel moved towards the final empty corridor, hearing Dean's footsteps fade behind him, along with a call to meet there again. A door slammed, and the place fell silent except for his quick steps.
He knew that soon the panic would spread through the building. Either the bodies in the parking lot, or the hallway would be found, and then the humans would be thrown into a mess of police and lights flashing, and investigations. They had to find Sam before then.
The urgency of that thought propelled him through a full ward before he realized. He was alone. For the first time since he'd regained his memories, there was no outside distractions.
It was odd, that with that thought his breath sped up in some type of panic, for ever since he'd remembered in the parking lot, he'd just wanted to get away from everyone. Now he was on his own, and the memories that had threatened while he was distracted with Dean's problems could flood to the forefront of his mind.
He remembered the deal with Crowley, the war in Heaven, the search for Purgatory. The trusts he'd broken, and how wrong he felt even then. Dean's anger and accusations. Breaking Sam's wall. Then there was the blood and the souls and the murders and the powers that had rushed to his head, making him feel magnificent and amazing, strength coursing through his veins. And then his desperate justifications, the terror of the old souls and the power, their fight to escape his frail body. And then that final horrific massacre that had somehow brought him back to himself.
It all bore down on him, and the guilt and anguish were too much to bear.
Still moving fast and peeking in every door for Sam, Castiel felt his emotions start to flow out of his control. His breath hitched, then once again. His throat felt tight, and his eyes became hot and blurry. A small whimper escaped, for the pain in his heart was nearly unbearable, and liquid began to drip down his face.
Castiel tried to keep going, wiping his streaming eyes as he glanced in room after room, but the tears would not stop once they'd started. His breath came harsher and harsher, until he began to feel light headed, and his knees would not support him.
He caught his elbow against a doorway in a mostly deserted hall, breathing hard and clasping his other hand to his face. Castiel's head felt like it was exploding, and his grabbed at his hair. Sobs broke his defenses, and he slid down to the ground, honestly feeling like his world was crashing down, such despair that coursed through him. Streams of tears fell from him eyes to drip off his chin.
Castiel curled small and shaking against the wall, like a child after a nightmare. And what he wouldn't give to just be dreaming, to wake up in bed next to Daphne and forget again. He choked again. Daphne. She would be wondering where he was. Emmanuel had married her, and he was Emmanuel no more, but he still felt that fondness, and it only added to his grief that there was another person he'd hurt, for he could not go back to her. Much as he'd like to just live their simple life again, he was an angel (a broken and sinful one, but nonetheless) and he couldn't bring his taint upon her any more than he had.
More sobs wracked his shoulders at that decision. It only added to the blackness of his guilt and anguish.
A sudden touch on his shoulder jerked his head up, and he gasped thickly, sniffing back the mucus that crying had generated in his sinuses. A young woman, human and scared looking, with bandages on her wrist and throat, was crouching near him. Her thin hand had just brushed his blood and gore spattered coat, and he felt the clean touch burning his limb. She should not touch him.
There was a patient's intake bracelet on her wrist, but Castiel saw that she was healthy save the wounds and great grief.
"Hey?" She whispered, and Castiel broke his gaze away from staring at her, from the nearness of such innocence. He realized the state he was in, after that, and if he'd had any pride left, he would have been embarrassed. Instead he simply wiped a hand down his face, and tried to control his breathing and shaking.
"What?" He ground out. She looked sympathetic, and tried again to touch him. Castiel flinched away, and she pulled back to put her hands on her knees.
"Are you alright?" She sounded so honestly concerned that Castiel nearly broke down then and there, with that little show of kindness. He sniffed again, and swallowed. There would be time for a break down later. Sam was pressing at him mind, and he'd wasted too much time already. He just had to be strong a little while longer.
"I'm looking for someone," He said in a voice full of broken glass. "Sam,"
She perked up at the name, and she put her hand above her head. "Really tall, long brown hair, thinks he's seeing the devil?"
Castiel could hardly believe it. She knew him!
"Where is he?" He asked urgently, the last of his tears falling away. A worried frown crept over her face, and she bit her lip.
"They came and took him to surgery about twenty minutes ago. It was weird..." She trailed off.
"Why?" Castiel voice cracked with strain at the question.
She looked around. "They were being really rough, not like normal doctors, you know? They were doctors I've never seen before...I don't know, just something was off."
Castiel came to his feet, and she straightened from her crouch. His tears were pushed back, as worry filled him.
"He's in danger. Where did they go?"
She gestured to the side. "The surgery is the next floor down, on this end of the building. I kinda explored a lot when I got here." She finished, and suddenly looked tearful. "Please, help him. Something's wrong, and he saved my life."
"I will," Castiel nodded in a solemn promise, feeling a pulse of fondness at how very like Sam that was, helping others even in the midst of his own pain.
He stepped away, and began to run down the corridor. At the end of the hallway, a door marked STAIRS beckoned, and Castiel shoved it open. Once inside, and out of the eyes of the girl, he flew to the bottom of the stairs, something sickening pulling him forward from the pit of his stomach. He had to hurry, Sam was in trouble. Glass windows appeared before him, and he looked in them by turn until a rush of fear and relief accompanied the view of Sam strapped to a narrow bed. He was shaking hard, face screwed up in pain, and there was a demon leaning over him glee.
With a flash, he was next to the demon, raising a hand to smite him with all the not-so-holy wrath he possessed. The demon screamed, and burned and Castiel was almost glad about this one, even through the guilt of killing another host. The dead man slumped to the ground, but Castiel was already turning to Sam.
Electricity was running through his body, Castiel could smell the charring flesh and ozone from here. It came from a machine on the side table that was hooked to him with a hideous contraption strapped to his head.
Quickly, he found the off switch, and the horrible noises the machine made slowed and stopped.
Sam was still semi-conscious even as the machine died down, his pained grunts not abating and his neck still straining, every muscle tensed.
Castiel unstrapped the thing from Sam's head, and removed the rubber between his teeth with quick hands, wanting to heal him as soon as possible, to save him from this continued pain.
"I should never have broken your wall, Sam," Castiel said, before Sam had even laid his head back. "I'm here to make it right."
He reached two fingers, and laid them on Sam's hot forehead. He felt healing power spread into Sam, mending damage done by the machine, and any ills he could find...but deep in his mind, where he'd torn down the construct that Death had created, the wall sifted through his fingers like fine dust. Castiel reached and grabbed, pulling and shifting at the pieces but there was nothing to rebuild. Nothing he could do.
Recoiling from Sam's mind, Castiel stared in horror. Sam lifted his eyes to meet Castiel's, and with the gaze of the insane, whispered, "You're not real..." Then he let his head fall backwards, while his breath quickened.
Castiel's world collapsed. He felt like falling to the ground, like sobbing again. His hopes for redemption, for a life after this moment came crashing down, depending only in fixing this one thing. Fixing Sam. And he'd failed. He'd let Dean down, and Sam would die because of him.
"Oh, Sam..." Castiel whispered. He bowed his head. "I'm so sorry."
The words were so inadequate.
Sam continued to jerk against the restraints, trying to escape the creations of his own mind, and Castiel felt another part of his heart break (somehow there was a piece that could still be broken among the shattered bits) at his distress and pain. Pain he could not take away, though he'd promised to.
What would Dean think? How could he tell him?
Castiel felt as if this were his final straw, that he had had this one thing to make right, to start to fix the things he'd done and now he couldn't. His tiny, tiny hope of moving on after this, of making things right with Dean, with Sam, with the Earth and Heaven were gone now. Everything was falling down, and he...he was done for.
With one last caress on Sam's foreheads, he turned away from him. He had to find Dean, and it wasn't safe to leave Sam alone and free of the restraints. Heavy steps took him to the door, and he had to resist the urge to lean on the frame and just bow his head for a while, he went through and locked with using both the mortal switch and a small rush of angelic power, hiding the door from view of ill will.
Then he turned and set off to find Dean. He wished that he had that old cell phone, or he could find Dean with his powers. Those Enochian symbols still caused him grief. Meg was somewhere above him, but heading closer. There were no more demons in the building, either dead or run off, and Castiel was distantly glad. He was so tired.
After a few empty hallways, Dean appeared around a bend, and Castiel felt a lurch in his gut. He'd been concentrating on finding the man, but now he had the terrible news to tell, that Sam was beyond his help. Relief and nervousness warred inside him, churning with his already tumultuous emotions.
Dean caught sight of him, and hurried forward.
"Cas! You find him?" Dean looked worried, and he searched Castiel's face for signs of news. Castiel hoped there was no evidence of his earlier crying, nor his utter heartbreak at his failure. Somehow, he wanted to put off telling him, just for a moment longer. Let him have his hope, while Castiel's fell shattered around him. Cowardice, and a desire to postpone that final condemnation on Dean's face made him hold his tongue. So, he simply nodded.
"He's this way." Castiel said, shortly, hiding everything he could. Dean didn't notice, he was wilting with relief that Sam'd been found.
"Let's go," Dean took off at a jog, and Castiel followed just behind, dread in his chest. He'd already tried to heal Sam, and he'd failed. Once Dean knew that, he'd turn his back on Castiel forever-with very good reason. Sam was doomed to a short and pain filled life because of him.
Sam's room was only a few steps down the hall, and Castiel broke the wards and opened the door slowly, watching Dean's face the whole time. Dean, after his initial rush, approached his brother quietly, and began removing the restraints. There was sadness, and a kind tenderness on his face that Castiel wasn't used to seeing.
"Hiya, Sammy," Dean murmured, skirting the machine on the table, and passing Castiel a worried look. "Let's get those off you..."
Castiel felt tears come to his eyes again, as Dean turned his full attention to his brother. He tried to hold them back this time, in case Dean looked. Apparently, he still had just enough pride in him that he didn't want Dean to see him cry. Pitiful. He sniffed, and rubbed his face quickly, but Dean didn't notice his movements anyway.
Sam was still semi-conscious, and flinched at Dean's movements, twitching, trying to escape his mental tortures. However, after Dean was done with the cuffs, he ran a gentle hand down the side of his face, and Sam leaned into his touch. He seemed to recognize Dean's presence and it comforted him.
"Can we get him back to his room?" Dean asked Castiel without removing his eyes from his brother's wan face. Castiel nodded, unseen, his tears under control again, and reached out his hands.
A moment later, all three were back in the small room that was Sam's quarters. Sam, transferred with no fuss onto his own bed, lay still and silent. His breath was fast, and his muscles looked prepared to leap up and fight, or run. His eyes flickered around the room, and then fixed on a point on the other side of the bed, staring at thin air.
Dean took a step forwards, pain plain to see on his face, before he whirled towards Castiel. "Well, get on with it. Healing powered, now. Fix him." Dean's face tensed as he talked, hiding all signs of fear or worry, save a little furrow between his brows. Castiel looked at that furrow for a second, and then had to let his eyes fall to the floor. "Come on, Cas. Rebuild that wall, or whatever...what's the matter?" Dean's voice went hard, covering fear. "What's wrong?"
Castiel hung his head lowered, feeling the resurgence of shame and guilt and all the other emotions that were so mashed up in his heart that they twisted around his throat until he could not talk. He glanced up for a second, and Dean was staring at him, waiting. He swallowed, hard.
"I tried, Dean," Castiel got out. His voice was trying to crack and break but he didn't let it. He lowered it to that toneless Castiel of years ago. If he let the slightest bit show now, it would all come spilling out, like in the hallway. He didn't want Dean to see that, didn't want Dean to see, or hear anything from him, not his news, not anything. With all his heart he wished he could just close his mouth. But... "I can't."
Dean took this in, then grabbed his arm and pulled. Castiel for a second thought he was going to hit him, and a part of him welcomed it. But Dean was only pulling him across the room, to the other wall. He folded his arms slowly, control in every movement. His hunched shoulders made him look small, like a child. After a moment, he spoke, his eyes flicking between Castiel and his twitching younger brother.
"What the hell do you mean, you can't." Castiel could feel the effort it took to say that calmly.
"I mean there's nothing left to rebuild." He answered, tired and raw.
"Why not?" Dean's eyes were fixed on his face now, but Castiel couldn't bear to meet them with more than a passing glance. He looked to Sam, and at the ground. The ground was better.
"Because it crumbled. The pieces got crushed to dust by whatever's happening inside his head right now." And it was all his fault. Castiel felt his composure crumble for a moment. He turned his head away from Dean, as Dean leaned slowly back into the corner of the wall behind them. The world itself seemed to reel. Quickly, he clenched his jaw against the break down that was trying to escape again...Dean needed him to be strong right now, even if there was nothing he could do, even if Sam's illness was all because of him. His breath hitched, and his mouth twitched, but he pressed his lips together to hold back the flood. He could fall apart later.
Dean spoke again, and Castiel could hear the hope fading from his voice. It killed him. "So you're saying there's nothing?" Dean asked. "That he's gonna be like this until his candle blows out?"
Castiel still couldn't look at him, couldn't talk without a strong swallow before hand.
"I'm sorry," He whispered. "This isn't a problem I can make disappear. You know that." He risked a glance at Dean, but the split second he met his eyes, he had to look away again. Dean's pain was too much right now. After everything, all the things he'd done, the things he'd touched and made better, this, the most important thing, was impossible to accomplish. Sam was the most important person to Dean in the entire world, Castiel knew that...had known that. And he'd still ripped open the wall in Sam's head, breaking him, and Dean with him. Healing Sam would have been a step towards fixing his stupid mistakes, but his chances of redemption were crushed before they even began. Sam could not be fixed, and there was no way Dean would forgive the one who'd killed his brother. Castiel could never atone for his sins. He'd killed them all.
Castiel turned from Dean, unable to see his hurt any longer, and back to Sam, who's eyes flickered around the side of the room. Suddenly, a realization dawned. He gasped, his mouth falling open as the pathway became clear. He could not heal Sam, could not rebuild the wall that he'd demolished. But there may be a way, an angelic sacrifice that was spoken of but never used. Taking another's burden in the most literal of senses. No other angel would attempt it, it was too detrimental to oneself. But, Castiel was passed caring about his own well being.
"But, I may be able to shift it."
Dean turned to look at him, his eyebrows lifting. "Shift-?"
"It would get Sam back on his feet." Castiel said, determination rising within him. Dean was staring at him in astonishment, hope and worry warring on his face. Castiel focussed on Sam, gritting his teeth, and rolling up his sleeve as he walked forward. Sam watched him come closer with the gaze of a wounded animal, his teeth hissing with sharp little breaths. Castiel sat slowly on the edge of the bed, and looked back towards Dean.
"It's better this way," Castiel said earnestly. Dean watched, uncomprehending. Castiel turned back to Sam. "I'll be fine." He murmured. It was a blatant lie, and not even a comforting one, to Dean or himself.
"Cas, what are you doing?" Dean sounded alarmed, but Castiel couldn't tell why. He was just righting his wrong, fixing one of his many mistakes. Dean had said he'd been brought back again to fix things. Perhaps this was it.
"Now, Sam," Castiel leaned towards the younger brother, putting Dean from his mind. "This may hurt. And if I can't tell you again, I'm sorry I ever did this to you."
Castiel moved his hand to press against Sam's forehead. The skin was hot with fever, and the mind underneath splintered with insanity. Castiel reached inward, and then pulled.The hell heat under Sam's skin resisted, his eyes flashed with the flames of the pit, the jagged glass shards of the wall began to move. They tore their way through Sam's skin, and attacked his own flesh, ripping their way up his arm, through the veins. It was like his blood turned to molten lava. Sam gasped in agony and then release, while Castiel took the pain filling him, his mind breaking moment by moment with no sound. Flames climbed in front of his eyes, the fires of Hell.
Distantly, Sam gasped a final time, pain free and himself again, and Castiel felt relief before it was quickly buried. Dean's voice was shouting in alarm, but Castiel could not hear him. He pulled his shaking hands from Sam's forehead (now feeling normal) and glanced at them, the pain that had coursed up them to his head. He was now burning, burning up, sweat breaking out on his forehead. He moved backwards.
Turning back towards Sam, hoping to take it back, or make it stop or something, Castiel saw in the place of Sam, Lucifer sitting on the bed. He'd not seen him since in Sam's body, the devil had killed him with a snap of his fingers. Now he was in his old vessel, smiling pleasantly at him. The sight filled Castiel with fear, though it should not have. Breathing heavily, he leaned back and scrambled off the bed until he hit a wall. With nowhere left to run, he stared in panic at his brother, at the devil, the Morning Star, glorious and evil.
"Hello, brother." The devil said, his voice oily and pleased. "We're going to have so much fun."
Logically, he knew that Lucifer was still in the cage, that he was seeing what Sam had seen, but the knowledge had no bearing on his reactions, and he could not control his harsh breaths and beating heart.
And still, with all his being crying out for it all to stop, he could feel a sense of rightness. This was just. He'd sinned so terribly, he deserved to be punished. He deserved the fires of hell, and more and since he'd brought this upon poor Sam in the first place, he should take it from him. Castiel knew that every lick of the flames against his body, every taunting word from the image of his brother, was right. And after the flames had run their course, he hoped to die and stay dead. This was the path he was on, and for the first time since he remembered his self, Castiel felt at peace.