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In twenty seconds, he can be through the war room, and up the steps to the door. Another twenty will see him in the garage, and they keep the keys in the cars in case they ever have to get out fast. So within one minute, tops, he can be out of the bunker, dialling Dean as he drives, warning him their home is compromised.

And so is Cas.

Cas.

But it’s little more than a pipe dream, and he should have expected Cas to just materialise right in front of him, blocking his exit before he can even get out of the room.

After all, only three angels in existence were unaffected by the Fall and got to keep their wings. Metatron, because he cast the spell that threw the rest of them out of Heaven.

The other two were locked away in Hell, but one of them is standing in front of him now, wearing the body of his best friend.

“Sammy, don’t look so shocked. Just because Castiel turned out not to be as dumb as I thought. Just because he could see the big picture. Just because he had the guts to say yes when you wouldn’t.”

He points the gun at Cas – no, at Lucifer – even though he knows it’s pointless. But the devil is standing in front of him, and all his worst nightmares have come true in an instant.

“Get out of him.”

“Sure, no problem, let me just…” Lucifer tilts his head to the side, a knowing parody, and grins at him. “Oh, though, wait…I can’t, can I? Because I left my standby vessel in the cage, and the one that was purpose built for me is still stubbornly refusing to do the job it was made for. So it looks like here’s where I’m staying. Actually, it isn’t too bad. I thought maybe it’d be a tight fit, two angels in here, you know, and let’s be honest – I’m bigger than Cas in all the right ways.

“But it’s quite comfy, really. Once I stuffed him in a trunk and shoved him in a room anyway.”

“If you’ve hurt him-“ It’s useless to threaten, and he knows it. All the bravado turns sour in his mouth. And of course Lucifer has hurt Cas. He remembers that it hurt, how it felt like something sinuous and sharp skinned sliding down his throat while he choked on it. And once it was settled in him, that first initial torture seemed like bliss by comparison.

“Hurt him? Sammy, he’s in agony. Come on, you know what he’s going through. Of course, it’s worse for him. And do you know whose fault that is? Yours. All of it, on you, Sam. Do you know why?”

Lucifer takes a step forward, and Sam backs up.

The devil gives him a hurt look that quickly changes into an amused grin.

“Let’s see, shall we?” He raises his hand, starts ticking off his fingers.

“First, you let Ruby trick you into sucking down all that red hot demon blood. Gross, I know, but she had to get you pumped, Sam. Not that you took much in the way of persuading. Then you actually went and killed Lilith. I got to be honest, I didn’t think that plan would work – I kind of thought you and your brother had more smarts than that. Even little ol’ Cas saw through that one, but you made his sacrifice pretty worthless when you went ahead and murdered the bitch anyway.

“Not that I’m complaining, because I did get to stretch my legs for the first time in a few thousand years. But then you wouldn’t say yes to me. All that planning, that effort, and you blew it Sam. I’m going to put aside for the moment the whole stuffing us back in the cage thing – but we’ll come back to it. And of course, then you coerced Rowena into breaking the Mark which unleased the Darkness. You know I don’t think I even need to lift a finger to end the world, Sam. I could just leave it to you; you’re doing a bang up job so far.”

“Shut up.” He backs away another step, trying to keep his head, trying to think. If he can’t get out, then there has to be somewhere in the bunker where he’ll be safe. But the fact that Lucifer was able to get in – of course he got in, he’s riding Cas, he’s the Anti-Christ – means there’s nowhere he can run to that the devil can’t follow.

Lucifer must see him come to that realisation, and he gets this satisfied look on his face. “See? Now if you’d only been that reasonable, oh, the couple of hundred times I’d asked. But, you didn’t. And look where we are now, Sammy.”

He swings his arm – Cas’s arm – in a backhanded slap that spins Sam around and sends him crashing down onto the table.

He’s pretty sure he blacks out for a few seconds or maybe Lucifer’s on him just that fast, because he’s suddenly on his back instead of his cheek being pressed into the glass surface of the table that he hit hard enough to shatter.

The devil climbs up until he’s astride him, and Cas’s blue eyes are staring down at him.

Sam’s seen a lot of expression in those eyes: love, pain, fear, anger. Even the cold distance when he’d swallowed the souls from Purgatory.

He’s never seen pure blinding hate, not before.

“Yep, Sammy. Look where we are now.”

**

Complete and utter washout – Dean can’t remember the last time he felt like such a friggin’ failure over something. Maybe their one big chance at killing Amara and he’d blown it.

Then to make matters worse, Cas had brought him back not to the bunker but maybe an hour outside of Lebanon. And he’d had to walk back because neither him nor Sam were answering their phones.

That does worry him – he’d been a little dubious about letting Cas try sending him back in time. The last time they’d tried it, Cas had ended up vomiting blood and in a coma for two days. But he’d been cut off from Heaven then; he wasn’t now, though Dean knew he’d only really had his own Grace back for a few months.

But they’re not exactly drowning in options, and Cas had seemed weirdly confident it could be done. It was good to see him like that – sure of himself again, not looking so beaten down.

The memory of it makes him smile and he figures maybe Cas is just out of practice, maybe he overshot or something. Anyway, he’s nearly back now, so he can find out what happened, and then they can hit the books again and find something else.

There has to be another way, and they will find it and then they’ll gank that bitch. Then, please God who isn’t there, maybe they can get back to just living what passes as a normal life for them and stop having the fate of the planet dumped in their laps.

He keeps thinking like that, fooling himself really he’ll come to realise later, until he clomps down the metal steps and into the bunker proper.

Where he finds Sam naked and bloody and so still Dean’s initial thought is that he’s dead, stretched out on the map table, eyes open and fixed on the ceiling.

But Sam isn’t dead – not physically at least.

**

The first time he tries to touch his brother, Sam screams. It isn’t pain, Dean thinks, though he can’t imagine how. There doesn’t seem to be an inch of Sam’s skin that isn’t already showing a prize fight level of bruising. Dean’s seen him come out of hunts so brutal that even their dad was scared for him and right now Sam looks worse.

It isn’t anger either.

It’s a combination of fear and panic and while Dean’s seem Sam exhibit both, it’s never been like this.

For a moment, he doesn’t actually know what to do. He starts to babble, streams of words, pleas and reassurances, and in the end he loses it a little. He isn’t proud of himself, but he slaps Sam hard, and the screaming stops in the same instant.

Somehow, the silence is worse.

“Cas!” Dean yells. Cas can fix this, Cas can touch Sam and take all of it away.

Except, he knows, if Cas was here then he’d never have let this happen. He’d have died before letting anybody hurt Sam. So either whoever did this hurt Cas too – or killed him, and his stomach lurches sickeningly at either notion – or they took Cas away with them.

He’s going to lose the last of his family on the same day because he pushed too hard at a crazy plan.

“Sammy,” he says, in the end, hoping that one word, that familiar name he uses to mock, to cajole, to express the love he can’t actually say, will get him through to his brother.

Sam sobs, just once, and then brings his hands up to cover his face.

He mutters something through them, and Dean wants to pry his hands away but he doesn’t dare touch him.

“Sammy?”

Sam drops his hands, and turns his face to look at Dean.

Dean will never forget the look that locks him up inside, turns everything in him to ice, and he’ll never forget what Sam says, or the deadened tone to his voice.

“Don’t call for Cas.”

**

Sam won’t let himself be touched. He’s very clear on that. He sits up on his own, though it takes forever, and has him crying through the pain. Silently, though, like he thinks he’s made enough noise, and it might just be inviting trouble.

He tells Dean to get him a blanket, and Dean does, shoving aside the questions burning inside him. Sam knows what happened here, and Sam will tell him, but he’s going to have to wait for him to be ready.

Don’t call for Cas.

Because Cas is dead. The only thing that keeps Dean on his feet when that realisation hits him and tries to put him down on the floor is that Sam needs him. If he breaks now, Sam will have to limp through to get him and he will not have his hurt brother – he’s more than hurt, Dean, you know that – trying to take care of him, not like this.

Whoever did this, whatever they did it for, whatever they actually did to his family, Dean knows he’s going to find them and he maybe doesn’t have the Mark on him anymore but he remembers what it felt like.

He’ll share that with them.

But that’s for later, not now. Now is for taking the blanket back to Sam, who’s manoeuvred himself to the edge of the map table by the time he gets back. He thinks about draping the blanket around Sam, thinks about the last time he did that for anybody and it was Cas, poor cursed Cas shaking and shivering as Rowena’s spell ate hungrily at his Grace.

He wishes Cas were here now, even if he was hurt too, because at least then he’d be close and Dean could take care of both of them.

But Cas isn’t here. Cas is gone, and Dean knows he isn’t coming back.

He ends up putting the blanket down near Sam and then backing away.

Sam doesn’t look at him. He picks the blanket up and wraps himself in it, covering as much of himself as he can manage.

Then he slides carefully off the table, leaving streaky blood stains behind him, and pads barefoot into the corridor.

That’s when Dean sees it, red fingermarks on the tabletop, something he’s done himself more than once, slit his arm and daubed that same design on any surface he could reach.

It explains what happened to Cas, he hopes, because it’s better than the alternative. Maybe their angel didn’t get kicked too far away and wherever he ended up, it’s far from the fucker who hurt Sam. That’s why Sam told him not to call for Cas, not for any other reason.

Not because he’s dead.

He hurries a little until he hits the corridor, then keeps back and to the side so that if Sam needs to he can see exactly where he is. He doesn’t know why he thinks that’ll help, but maybe it does because Sam seems a little calmer than before.

Probably in shock, some steady part of Dean’s mind supplies and he wants to kill that part of him, because even though it’s his training, even though some part of him needs to be able to deal with this for Sam’s sake, it feels abhorrent.

No part of him should be level, collected, when he’s just found his brother…

If he can’t even say it, he’s never going to be able to handle this.

Raped. Sam’s been raped. Beaten and brutalised and raped.

And he wasn’t here to protect him.

He wasn’t fucking here.

**

Sam doesn’t try to discourage him from coming into the shower room. It feels almost like he’s shut Dean out, but if he has Dean knows it’s not just him. He’s seen this kind of reaction before, hell he’s done it himself.

Been so hurt in and out that you shut down everything that isn’t vital at that exact moment, lock out everything that you can’t deal with but isn’t going to kill you over that lack of immediate attention. That includes your terrified brother hovering five feet away, scrabbling to work out what to do next.

The hunter part of him knows what to do next. Check each and every wound – stitch where required, do any look infected? Consider internal injuries – should this be something a hospital would be better dealing with? If so but Sam won’t go, and maybe even if not, Dean knows they’ll need some kind of medicine; anti-viral drugs, prophylactics, just in case whoever did this…

He knows nearly every single angel is worse than any demon they’ve ever got in a fight with, but the idea that one of them would do this just jams his head up. Sure, they’re not on the best of terms with Heaven, but this? Now?

The only upside he can find is that they probably weren’t carrying any STDs or the like, not with their inbuilt healing factor.

Even so, he’d rather be safe than sorry.

But that’s just the physical injuries. Dean doesn’t even know where to start on the wounds he can’t see. Or even if Sam will let him try.

All he can do for now is watch as Sam stands under the spray, the water forming billowing clouds of steam that still don’t manage to obscure the wreck that’s his little brother. The water that swirls around Sam’s feet before draining away is a ruddy brown colour; Dean wishes it would wash away the marks inside of Sam too, but he stops himself.

Wishing, praying, begging – they’ve never led to anything good, or anything really. Except Cas. Except when he prays to Cas.

Where you are, dude, he pleads. I need you back here, Sam’s hurt. Come on, man, find a car and get back to us.

You better not be dead.

How the fuck did you let this happen?

He isn’t sure if that last one is for Cas, or himself, or for both of them.

**

Sam stays in the shower until the water turns cold, and he starts to shiver. Dean tells himself it’s because he’s now standing in a jet of freezing water, but he knows it probably isn’t that.

He wants to reach in past Sam and turn the water off; he wants to take him by the arm and lead him out and wrap him back up in the blanket.

He doesn’t do any of that, because even though it’s him and Sam knows it’s him, he can see anything that crosses the perimeter Sam’s set up will just trigger him off again.

“You’re gonna freeze, Sammy,” he tries, when he sees his brother’s skin take on a blue tinge.

Sam doesn’t acknowledge him, not verbally, but he does turn off the water. He bends stiffly to pick up the blanket, and Dean almost goes to do it for him. He stops himself in time, but Sam still freezes like he caught Dean’s intention.

Then he drapes the blanket awkwardly around his shoulders, hugs it into himself as tight as he can, and starts back along the corridor, leaving wet footprints behind him.

**

Dean follows Sam to his room. He stands in the doorway, and watches Sam grab a bottle of whiskey from his bedside cabinet and his heavily stocked first aid kit.

He doesn’t protest as Sam shakes some painkillers out of an orange pill bottle, pops them in his mouth, then chases him down with the booze. He couldn’t even if it wasn’t something he’s done a hundred or more times himself.

If you’re that hurt, you want your body feeling dead as soon as possible, and nothing does the job like a hunter cocktail.

Dean has a feeling Sam could drink the whole bottle and it wouldn’t help. He half hopes he will, thinks about suggesting Sam drinks until he passes out, because then Dean could go over there and touch him without Sam having a freak out on the spot.

But that would shatter Sam’s trust in him, so he stays where he is and starts down to sit cross legged in the doorway.

“Dean,” Sam says.

He straightens back up, watches as Sam opens the kit and lays it down on the bed next to him. Then his legs wobble a little and he ends up slumped half on his side next to it, but still facing towards the door.

“Sammy, what the hell happened?”

He wants to kick himself for asking, but what he thinks isn’t the same as what Sam knows, maybe, and no situation was ever improved by him knowing less than he needed to. The shit with the Mark and the Book of the Damned proved that.

If Sam isn’t ready, then he isn’t ready.

But as it turns out, he is.

“I need you to listen to me, Dean,” Sam says, and so Dean does, even if what he hears next breaks his heart.

**

Sam passes out eventually. A third of a bottle of whiskey, pain medication, and sheer stress combine to knock him cold. He ends up half on and half off the bed, but Dean leaves him be. There was some unspoken promise passed between them; Dean won’t break it by touching Sam to move him, not even to make him more comfortable and less sore when he wakes up.

Sam needs to know whatever lines he’s drawn will remain unbroken.

And that leaves Dean in the silence to walk back to the war room and stare at the map table and the blood and the other…stains and now, with Sam unconscious, he has nothing to stop his mind from locking on to what Sam said and running with it.

Part of him still thinks Sam’s wrong. Maybe it was a shifter. Or some kind of hallucination. That bastard Sinclair had hid a whole house once for more than fifty years. He’d created a magical safety deposit box that made people see apparitions that encouraged them to kill themselves.

Maybe something got knocked over somewhere in the bunker, and it’s been leaking into the air all this time, and finally they got affected by it.

Because it can’t be what Sam says it is.

So he turns his back on the map table and slides his phone out of his pocket, and dials the number.

It rings. It rings for a long time and he lets it, and he doesn’t even realise he’s crying until the tears sting and stain his cheeks and roll off his chin.

And then the line clicks open and he hears that familiar voice – a lie all by itself, no matter what it says.

“Hello, Dean.”

“I’ll kill you,” he manages. “I’ll find a way to haul you out of him and then I’ll kill you.”

He can almost hear the smile in Cas’s voice – not Cas, not Cas. “Uhmmm, well, I know that you’ll probably try, Dean. But take a moment to think about it. I’m the only chance you have to save everybody. Your little angel knew that – that’s why he said yes. Well, it’s part of the reason, but that doesn’t really matter right now. And if you kill me, you’ll have to take Castiel out along with me. Ready to do that, are you?”

“I’ll find a way to save him. I’m coming for you, you bastard.”

“Always big on talk. Welp, I guess until then. Oh, if you think you’re pissed at me right now, you have no idea how Castiel feels. Wait until it’s your turn.”

The line goes dead.

It’s only later that Dean thinks to check the GPS, but maybe the devil’s learned a few new tricks, because there’s no location on Castiel’s phone.

**

Sam sleeps for nearly twelve hours straight.

Dean does a lot during that time.

The first thing he does is to get a bucket of scalding hot water and bleach and a cloth. His skin turns pink and sore from the combination of heat and chemicals, but he doesn’t stop until his arms ache and the pain in his hands make it too difficult to hold the cloth or the bucket.

He doesn’t think about what he’s doing; he thinks about how Sam had to do this same damn thing in the library, after….

He’s never asked, and Sam’s never said, but Dean can figure how it went. Sam probably came back, and found the bodies of the Stynes. And then he found Cas, and probably had a freak out on the spot. He imagines Sam having to carry Cas, maybe to a room, or maybe to the infirmary they found when they were first exploring the place, and put the serious drugs and first aid equipment in there for when push really came to shove.

And he imagines Sam helping Cas’s grace out by setting that broken bone so it got a head start on healing right. By stripping him of his clothes, and making sure Dean hadn’t stabbed him anywhere and left him leaking Grace. Probably overdosed him on morphine and then cleaned him up.

And then Sam would have got rid of the bodies. And then he would have got on his hands and knees in the library and cleaned up every blood stain, and most of them would have been from Castiel.

Sam had to do that because of him.

When he’s done, he tips the dirty water down the drain, puts the cloth in the garbage and holds his hands under cold water for nearly fifteen minutes until he can’t feel them.

When Sam sees what he’s done to himself, he’ll probably lose his shit, but that’s ok. Dean figures if Sam’s able to get annoyed at him, it’s good. It’ll help distract him from what happened, and it’s better than the void Sam’s projecting right now.

It kind of reminds him of when Sam didn’t have his soul – like there’s just a big vacuum where something vital, vibrant should be.

Lucifer took that with him when he left, just like he took Cas, and Dean’s terrified he won’t get either back.

But once the sensation comes back into his hands, and the pain with it, Dean calls Jody. She has to know; he doubts Lucifer cares much about Claire – maybe Cas managed to hide anything in his mind about her from that fuck – but he can’t take a chance.

It’s something he should do in person, but he can’t leave, not now, and so he has to do it over the phone. He can hear Jody’s voice go tight on him; she doesn’t know Cas, never met him, but she knows the hole he’s started to fill in Claire’s life.

He hopes she doesn’t hate Cas, for taking her father and then trying to be someone she could count on only to get wrenched away from her again.

He makes sure Jody will tell Claire that this is temporary; they are going to save that stupid angel. They are going to get him back. And then Claire can pull the teenage strop of all time at him and Dean will hold her fucking coat.

He asks Jody to call him, maybe tomorrow, let him know how they are. He texts her a picture of the banishing sigil just in case, and hopes they don’t have to use it.

And then he hits the books. He hauls every volume in the bunker library on possession, angels, spells for ejecting evil spirits, everything that’s anything to do with anything, and dumps them all on the table.

The skin on his fingers cracks and bleeds, and he still keeps going even though his vision blurs and he can’t really make anything out and he tells himself it’s the stink of bleach in the air and nothing else.

And that’s when he hears the clatter from Sam’s room, and he goes running.

**

He’s glad he didn’t listen to the stupid friggin’ voice of reason that suggested he should walk into Sam’s room – after knocking on the door – and not just burst in like a wildman.

Because if he had listened, maybe he’d have been too late.

As it is, he’s just in time. He slams the door open, and sees Sam standing there, naked and pale and shaking, but oddly enough not the hand that’s holding his knife.

Not the hand that’s starting to press the knife downwards, the tip ready to slip upwards along the inside of Sam’s wrist.

Dean doesn’t have time to be gentle. He grabs Sam’s wrist and twists, and the knife slips out of his grip. It clatters to the floor, and Sam keens at him and tries to pull away and hit him all at the same time.

“Stop it!” Dean screams at him. “What the hell are you doing, just stop!”

His best intentions go out the window, and he hugs Sam against him and tips them both back onto the bed. It’s just easier, safer, there. Sam’s desperate struggles, his thrashing, are less painful and damaging to both of them when it’s mattress beneath them and not stone.

Dean holds on through it, knows it can’t last forever, and it doesn’t. Eventually, Sam goes limp, and only his hoarse breathing, and the occasional whine, tell Dean he’s exhausted himself and not passed out.

He still doesn’t let go. This is maybe the only chance he’ll have to touch Sam, and if he stops now he’ll lose ground. He might lose Sam, so he can’t back away.

“Don’t you dare,” he hisses, his hurt too great for the yelling or screaming that threatens to start and not stop. “Don’t you dare, don’t you dare do that. You’d leave me? You’d let that bastard take you from me like he’s taken everything else? You can’t. Sam, please, don’t. Don’t.”

It’s getting hard to breath, Sam basically pinned on top of him, but Dean couldn’t move even if he wanted to. His body seems to have got the message that holding on to Sam is the only way to keep him, to stop him from grabbing that knife up again and finishing what he’d almost started.

Dean has a feeling they’re passed that now, but he can’t seem to make himself let go.

“Dean,” Sam says, finally, quietly. He doesn’t think he’s ever heard Sam sound like that. Like he’s too afraid to speak any louder.

“Yeah, Sammy, I’m here.”

“I’m sorry.”

Dean shifts enough that they’re lying side by side, facing each other, but he keeps his arms locked around his brother. Just in case. It’s difficult and awkward and painful, but he’ll take all of that over finding Sam with his wrists slit and his blood sprayed over the walls.

He leans in until their foreheads touch. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Sammy. No way did we see this coming.”

Though he feels like he should have. Cas was off before they went into the cage, he’d been weird for weeks, and Dean knows he’d brushed that aside. Figured Cas would bounce back. And even afterwards, his body language, his sudden energy. How the hell didn’t he realise Lucifer had possessed him before they’d come to this?

How the hell had he missed that in the cage, how had his best friend said yes maybe three feet from him and he hadn’t seen it coming and he hadn’t been paying enough attention to shove his hand over that damn angel’s mouth before he let the devil in?

There’s only one of them who has apologies to make, and it’s so fucking pointless now he just can’t.

“We’ll get him back,” Sam says.

Dean laughs. He can’t help it. Here’s Sam, all tangled up in and out and he’s trying to comfort him, already determined they are going to find a way to save Cas. It doesn’t take long until he’s shaking in Sam’s arms, eyes squeezed shut as his chest starts to hurt so much he thinks maybe it’s a heart attack, maybe this is it, and he won’t have to worry about how to rescue his family from maybe the worst thing that’s yet happened to them.

Part of him thinks he couldn’t be that lucky and that just makes him hate himself more – that’d he pleaded with Sam not to go, but he’d take a way out rather than face what’s happened and what’s going to happen next.

“I know,” he says, finally, when he feels all wrung out and an empty-ache starting to settle over him.

You hear us, Cas? We’re going to get you back.