I T WAS OBVIOUS that Dean didn't want to let Sam out of his sight in the wake of Sam's latest death right before his eyes. It was also obvious that they couldn't stay holed up in their motel room without making at least one supply run, and neither of them wanted to leave Castiel to wake up alone after he had just barely made it back from 1978. Faced with the choice of leaving Castiel alone or letting Sam go off unsupervised, it wasn't that much of a surprise that Dean opted for the third choice of "leave Sam in the dubious protection of the motel room and comatose angel while Dean goes and gets whatever food is scroungable" as the best solution. Sam disagreed - Dean was the one the angels were gunning for to get Michael his Vessel - but going with him would have meant leaving Castiel, and Sam had some very conflicting feelings about the angel to sort out.
It wasn't as if Sam could even articulate any of his thought processes or conflicting feelings within the privacy of his own head. He just stared blankly at the figure stretched out on his bed, trying and failing to sort out the almost painful feelings that were swirling around in his head over the angel who had shown very little fondness for him even by extension of Dean and yet nearly got himself killed trying to save him from one of his oldest friends, his former commander in Heaven! Not to mention the look on his face as he stared at Sam right before passing out. Even now, Sam didn't quite know how to parse that. Blue eyes showing more relief and softness than he had ever seen period, never mind directed at him, lips parted and curving upwards into the beginnings of a smile that slid away as those eyes rolled up and the angel had slumped limply forwards into Sam and Dean's grip. Like Sam was the thing he had most wanted to see, that he had to see before he could let himself relax at all.
Sam scrubbed both hands over his face and tried not to scowl. He had to be reading too much into that expression. Obviously, Castiel was just relieved that their mission into the past - to ensure that Sam and Dean were still born - had been a success, even if Sam was doubtful about his own birth being a good thing. The more Sam thought about it, the more it honestly looked like Anna's plan would have been a good one, either by ensuring that Sam wasn't born or by killing him and, how had she put it? Scattering his molecules across the universe? Drastic measures, but it would have kept Lucifer out of his True Vessel long enough for Michael to kick his ass, right? Not that Sam wanted to think about the implications of Dean saying "Yes", but if one of the two Archangels had to win this thing, better Michael than Lucifer... right?
Before he could think much further on that potentially disquieting subject, there was movement from the occupied bed. Castiel jerked, then shot upright, eyes wide and arm outstretched as if trying to reach for something or someone as he cried out. "Sam!"
"Whoa, whoa, Cas, take it easy!" Sam answered, getting up and carefully moving towards the panicked angel. His steps faltered when Castiel jerked around to stare at him with an incredibly naked look of desperation, but he made himself cross the distance and put himself in arm's reach. "It's okay, take it easy," he repeated, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "I'm right here. It's okay."
"Sam," Castiel breathed, slumping once more in visible relief. "Oh, thank Father, you're alive." A moment later and the angel went tense again, swivelling his head around to check the room. "Dean?"
"Making a supply run," Sam answered, trying not to focus on his own responses to Castiel's words right now. "We weren't sure when you would wake up, so he went to stock up in case we had to stay put for a few days."
"Would it not have been more prudent to change locations anyway?" Castiel asked, frowning in concern. "If Michael knows where you are--"
"Then it wouldn't matter if we left now or in six hours or three days," Sam said, shaking his head. "After the talk he had with Dean, Michael probably expects him to think about it and come to the conclusion that he's right, so it's not too likely that he'll send anyone to grab Dean the way Zachariah keeps trying. If he was going to do that, he would have done it already, and if he expects Dean to pray to him and say yes then he already knows where to go. Either way, we can stay put and get some rest, and if you hadn't woken up by morning or Bobby calls us..." He trailed off, hesitating. "I mean, it doesn't matter right now, you're awake, but... If it had come to it, would you be okay with us carrying you out and laying you down across the back seat?"
Castiel's expression changed from slowly closing down to one of confusion. "Yes, of course, but... I would have thought it would be safer and more expedient for you and Dean to leave me behind if you had to depart quickly--"
"No!" Sam paused and took a deep breath to reign in the vehemence in his tone. "We weren't leaving you, Cas. Didn't even consider it."
"I see," Castiel responded after a moment, though it was clear he didn't. To Sam's surprise, the angel's bright blue eyes became even brighter, then slowly spilled over with tears. Castiel reached up a hand to touch the skin beneath his eyes, looking surprised when his fingers came away wet. "What is... am I... crying?" He blinked, sending a fresh wave of salt water spilling down his cheeks, and looked up at Sam in helpless bewilderment. "Sam, I do not understand. Why am I crying? I am not sad..."
"Uh," Sam floundered. It was a good thing Dean wasn't here to see this one, he thought as quietly as he could. His brother was awkward enough with crying humans, never mind a crying angel, and that was when he didn't have the fate of the world weighing him down. Not that Sam was usually that much better with crying people, but he was a lot better at faking it and he was damn well going to do his best for Castiel. "People cry for a lot of reasons, Cas, not just sadness. Sometimes we cry because we're happy, or frustrated, or angry, or... or just overwhelmed." He hesitated, then reached up and cupped Castiel's cheek, brushing the tears carefully away with his thumb. "With everything that's happened recently, 'overwhelmed' is probably as good a reason as any."
"Today had been rather stressful," Castiel agreed, his head tilting sideways to press into the curve of Sam's hand on his cheek. "What should I do?"
"Just... let it out, I guess," Sam said, shrugging. "Dean might tell you to suck it up and deal, but since he's not here I don't mind telling you that his way is not the healthiest option or the best to emulate. The human body naturally responds to a build up of neurochemicals by triggering a release, usually in the form of tears. Your body - Vessel, I mean - it probably has a lot of built up tension to release, especially if you've been suppressing it with your Grace."
"My Grace is diminishing," Castiel admitted, closing his eyes. The tears spilled over faster, pushed out by the dropping of his eyelids, and he swayed further into Sam. "I have been cut off from Heaven for daring to stand against the Archangels in their efforts to further the Apocalypse, and while I would not alter my choice... I am afraid." He opened his eyes again and looked up into Sam's face, the vulnerability in his expression making him look painfully young even though Sam knew that Jimmy was a good ten years older than him. "When my Grace runs out, I will essentially be human. I will not be able to fly or smite or heal.... What use will I be to you then?"
"You'll be Castiel," Sam said, wanting to erase the desperation and fear he could read in the Falling angel's eyes, the agonizing certainty of being cast aside when he was no longer 'useful' to them. "You'll have your knowledge, your experience, your fighting skills... and you'll have me and Dean and Bobby to help you adjust to everything else. We're not gonna just drop you in the deep end and expect you to swim."
"I suspect learning to swim would be easier than learning to be human," Castiel replied. More tears slid down his cheeks, but his lips were curving up into a very slight smile. It made Sam smile back, even as he brought his other hand up to brush away the tears.
"That's probably true," he admitted. "Only so many ways to swim, but a lot of different ways to be human. You won't be alone, though, and don't even think that you being powerless would ever mean you're useless. Or that we'd stop caring about you. Angel, human, or anywhere in between... you're Castiel, and that's all you ever need to be to count as family. I promise you, Cas... you won't Fall alone."
As Castiel closed his eyes and leaned further into Sam's hands as the tears continued to fall, as the weight of Lucifer and Michael threatening to overwhelm him and his brother with the end of the world, Sam only hoped that it was a promise he would be allowed to keep.