He is barely aware of the voice. His grace battered and bruised even more than his vessel, Samandriel tries to turn his head into the direction of the familiarity and warmth it carries.
"Samandriel, can you hear me?"
A hand touches his arm, and he flinches back before the steady flow of his brother's grace convinces him to relax while it seals the very worst of his wounds to keep him from just drifting away into oblivion.
Samandriel forces himself to open his eyes, blinking away dried blood and pain seared so deep into his very being that it's starting to feel like a part of him.
He looks up into the face of a human he has never seen before, but behind his cerulean eyes Inias's grace swirls with worry.
"Samandriel, please. Can you move? I don't know how much time we have."
Inias takes a step forward, and Samandriel feels terror rise in his chest, instinct more than actual awareness of the situation.
"The seal!" he croaks, and Inias freezes midstep, takes a quick look around, and then crouches down outside the blood painted seal that is constructed to strip an angel of all his powers and keep him trapped.
"Oh." Inias murmurs.
Samandriel tries to sit up but the room starts spinning, and he has to close his eyes again and bury his head in his hands while Inias circles the barrier between them.
"I think I can break it," he hears Inias behind him.
Samandriel doesn't bother with an answer. He lets himself drift off again, just for another moment, to save his strength.
The constraints break so suddenly that Samandriel almost cries out in pain when his grace flares up and is thrown back by the boundaries of his vessel.
He blindly holds on to Inias, when the other angel helps him to his feet. He tries to force his borrowed body to cooperate, but he is so weak and so tired that Inias has to carry almost all of his weight.
Inias takes a step forward, dragging Samandriel's slumped form with him, and Samandriel cannot surpress a pitiful whimper.
"The entire building is layered in warding magic. I can't properly heal you just yet," Inias apologizes. "I'm so sorry."
Samandriel nods, gives Inias what he hopes is an encouraging smile, and then they stumble through hallways until Samandriel loses all sense of direction and his surroundings, and only blindly follows the steady if dampened flow of Inias's grace beside him. How they are not captured and killed, Samandriel doesn't know.
And maybe they have been. Or maybe Inias was never there at all. Samandriel finds himself back in Crowley's torture chamber, his own angel sword slicing through his grace, leaving marks in his very essence, and corrupting him in every way imaginable until the mutilated thing that used to be his grace bears no resemblance to an angel anymore. Samandriel starts shivering so violently that he is convinced that his vessel will just break apart and his grace will spill over the floor. His screams echo back to him from the wall without offering any relief.
Suddenly, it is all over, and he finds himself in the warm embrace of feathers and grace, and his brother's voice filters through to him, singing softly in Enochian until the shaking stops, and he floats off into a gentle light that almost feels like home.
The next thing Samandriel is aware of is the softness of two blankets wrapped around his vessel, and the smell of wood and nature. His recovering grace tells him that they are somewhere in the north of Canada.
He opens his eyes and looks around the sparcely furnished little one room cabin. He finds Inias standing at the window and staring out into the greyness of a rainy day.
"Did I sleep?" Samandriel asks, sitting up.
Inias turns around and smiles at him. "For a few days here on Earth. You were in a very bad shape and needed the rest. Are you feeling better?"
Samandriel takes a moment to take inventory. His grace still feels weak and tainted, but whole again, and with every passing moment it heals a little more. It will take him a few hours, possibly even days, before he is back to his full strength but he will get there.
Inias looks at him with an equal amount of worry and patience until he nods. "Yes, thank you, Inias."
After a moment of silence, Inias walks over and sits down on the bed next to Samandriel. "You screamed in your sleep. I didn't know what else to do so I sang."
Sweet, kind Inias.
"I could hear you." Samandriel assures his brother, and they fall quiet again, each angel lost in his own thoughts.
"I thought you were dead." Samandriel finally says. "When you didn't return with the prophet. We thought the Leviathans had killed you all."
"They did." Inias voice is just a whisper. "They killed everyone, my entire garrison."
Inias swallows before he continues. "I ran," he admits and looks away in shame. "I only survived because I ran away."
"Why didn't you come home?" There is no accusation in Samandriel's voice, only sadness.
Inias stands up and paces the room, his grace fluttering nervously. "I wanted to but - " He turns around to look at Samandriel. "There is something wrong in Heaven. Can't you feel it?"
Samandriel shakes his head. "I know things have been difficult but we are all doing our best to - "
"That is not what I mean." Inias interrupts him. "There is something hidden, something that's undermining the entire Host. I believe I can feel it because I have stayed separated from the Host all these months."
Inias has started pacing again and Samandriel can only watch him with worry. Seeing Inias, whose presence has always been calm and appeasing, this aggitated is truly unnerving.
"It scares me." Inias admits. "I wish Castiel was here. He is alive, Samandriel. I saw him shortly before we were attacked by the Leviathans."
Samandriel feels tears in his eyes. It is such a stupid human reaction, but he can't help it. Not with what he knows he has to tell his brother.
"Inias." he says. Standing up and walking over, he puts a hand on Inias's shoulder to get his full attention. When he sees the fear and loneliness in Inias's eyes, the words almost get stuck in his throat.
"Castiel, he - I talked to Dean Winchester. When they defeated the Leviathans they were sent to Purgatory. Dean Winchester says Castiel was lost."
"No." Inias takes a step back, and Samandriel grabs both his arms, afraid that his brother may lose control of his vessel and just collapse. Samandriel knows how much Inias has always admired Castiel, how much he has looked up to him, trusted him, loved him, not just because they were part of the same garrison, not just because Castiel was his captain. And even though the loss of Castiel burns through Samandriel's grace, he knows that it is nothing compared to what Inias must feel.
"Inias -" he starts again but his brother doesn't even seem to hear him.
"I should never have left him with the Winchesters."
"Don't blame yourself." Samandriel says wishing he had the same talent to soothe and calm that makes the brother in front of him so unique among the Host. He argues with himself whether this is a good time to share his doubts with Inias.
"I'm thinking - " he starts carefully. "I'm thinking what if Castiel is not dead? What if he is still in Purgatory?"
He looks at Inias, searching for any kind of reaction, but the other angels expression is unreadable. Inias, who was always so full of hope, who never gave up on anyone, just stares at him blankly as if nothing makes a difference anymore.
"You have fought your way through Hell with Castiel, haven't you? And you came back. Maybe you can do it again. Maybe we can do it together."
"We would have to abandon Heaven to whatever power is trying to corrupt it. We would lose everything we have fought for." Inias's voice is barely audible anymore. "Everything Castiel has fought for."
Samandriel can see how torn his brother is. How much he has suffered knowing that there is something wrong but unable to find a way to stop it. How much he wants to believe that Samandriel can make a difference, and help him discover what is threatening their home. But Samandriel can also see how desperately Inias needs to make sure that he did everything he could for Castiel because Inias could never just leave a brother behind. His head tells him that saving Heaven is more important than saving a single angel. But his heart disagrees.
"Maybe we can save both, Castiel and Heaven." Samandriel says, more because he wants Inias to have something to believe in than because he actually thinks it is possible. None of this is possible, not for two angels fighting on their own. "If we find Castiel, maybe he will help us free Heaven again. But I can't do it alone, Inias. I need your help."
Samandriel lets go of Inias and watches him walk back over to the window. Rain is still falling heavily, drowning out every other noise from outside. Samandriel thinks of all the other members of Inias's garrison who died during the Apocalypse, the war, and everything that followed: Anna, Uriel, Balthazar, Rachel, Hester, Asyel, Lamisniel... he wonders if Inias is thinking about then too.
When Inias turns around again, the doubt and despair is replaced with something else. It is too soft to be determination. It is a strength rooted in faith and hope and in Inias's unfaltering love for not just the Host as a whole, but every single one of his brothers and sisters. For Castiel and Samandriel, for the ones lost, and for every single angel in Heaven who tries.
They both know that they only have a very slim chance of success. That they probably won't make it back. That even if they manage to survive, and rescue Castiel from Purgatory, it may already be too late for Heaven. They both know that they may very well lose everything. But that never stopped Castiel, and they don't need words to know that they agree it won't stop them.
"Of course I will help you."
There was never a different choice. Sometimes free will is strange like that.