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The Graceless Fall

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Dean had been a stubborn son of a bitch since birth, coming into this world a week later than any doctor had predicted, and he'd been doing things his way ever since. Giving up wasn't in his nature.

But damn if this succubus hadn't discovered a weak spot.

Castiel, grace-less, practically human, had come to rescue him and gotten his stupid feathered ass caught. Dean couldn't begin to guess how the guy knew where he was. Dean had been trapped down here for five days (if his torture-addled brain was correct), but he and Cas hadn't spoken in weeks. Dean might have mumbled a silent prayer in a moment of delirious pain on day three, but he doubted Cas had the mojo for hearing prayers any more. The guy didn't have the juice to fight off the succubus when she caught him infiltrating her seedy hide-out, that much was undeniable.

"All right, Sweetheart," Dean drawled through a mouthful of his blood. He spat it at the high-heeled shoes of the haughty demoness. "Let's skip past the feeble attempts to break me. You know who I am. We both know how this ends."

She smirked full, pouty lips. "I don't think you do, baby," she said.

"Sure I do," Dean replied with empty bravado, distracted by the pain in his—everywhere—but more so by the fact that Castiel wasn't waking up. The angel had been out cold for several minutes, but at least he wasn't screaming anymore, the anguished, high-keening cries, the gasped, "I'm sorry, Dean," between each new wound, his eyes broadcasting his shame even more than his pain.

The screaming had almost broken Dean—had nearly made him give up everything to make that horrible, tortured sound stop. But now Cas lay silent and unmoving. Blood pooled beneath him on the floor, leaking from a gaping hole that went straight through his right shoulder. That was the worst of the stab wounds, but several others littered his body. Cas would need to make a trip to the trench coat store when they made it out of this alive. His current one was beyond salvaging.

Dean worked his jaw, the blinding pain and stiffness making it hard to speak. "I'm gonna break free," he said before inhaling a ragged breath. "And you're gonna get your freaky demon head chopped off."

The succubus, trussed up and stacked like a porn star, wore a hot librarian get up. She was ruining one of Dean's favorite kinks as well as his face and Cas's trench coat. The bitch would die screaming. She laughed low in her throat, tittering and chirping like a sexy bird.

"Dean Winchester," she stated. "I heard that you were insufferable, but I rather like that mouth of yours." She toyed idly with the paring knife in her hands. The rest of her torture implements lay on a table at her side. Save for that table and the chair Dean was strapped to, the room they occupied was an empty basement. It had concrete floors, work lights hung from low-hanging rafters, and a stuffy mildew smell that sank into everything.

"How about you put that mouth to good use, hm?" she teased.

"Sorry," Dean rasped. "But you're so not my type."

She tilted her head and smiled. Her body transformed, hazy at first, like a mirage, and finally all at once. Her clothes were the same, but her hair had turned from red and curly to straight and black. Eyes that had been big and blue moments before were now deep brown and almond-shaped. She looked like one of the Busty Asian Beauty girls.

"Dammit!" Dean groaned. "Leave one of my kinks untouched, would you?"

"Oh, baby," she drawled as she hiked up her skirt, revealing shapely thighs wrapped in black stockings and a garter belt. "I'm going to leave nothing of yours untouched." And then she sat on his lap, straddling him. Dean, handcuffed to the metal chair at wrists and ankles and bound with ropes everywhere else, could do nothing but hide his reaction. That's what she wanted: for him to be aroused by her. Once that happened, she would satisfy him, feed on his sexual desires, and kill him in the act. He'd encountered her type before. Sex demons were a little rarer than vampires, but they weren't usually this demented. Torture was strange for a succubus. So was the fact that she had him trapped. And Cas, too.

Maybe this was the Alpha. She seemed strong enough. And whatever the hell power she wafted over Dean to make his pain turn into sweet, agonizing pleasure, damn near knocked him unconscious from the throbbing desire. Every laceration on his skin, every bruised or broken inch of him sent jolts of sweet elation to his senses. It hurt, and it felt fucking amazing—so good that he wanted more pain, more pleasure. He wanted to be stabbed to orgasm and then to death.

But he wouldn't give in. He wouldn't get hard, not when the succubus kissed him and he felt it through his whole body. Not when she ground her shapely hips on his lap. Not even when she found that spot behind his ear that always made him drip pre-cum when it was kissed, even without the use of her sex magic making everything ten thousand times more powerful. Her voice was like silk as it wafted over him.

"Come on baby," she whispered, making the hair on the back of his neck prickle. "Play with me. I need to feel you."

No, he would not get hard. He knew that if he let himself give in even a little bit, her power would gain a foothold and he'd die; then she'd kill Cas or worse. So he grit his teeth and thought of salads, minivans, Crowley.

She unbuttoned her shirt, revealing a hot pink push up bra and massive honking titties underneath. Dean's mouth went dry. He tasted copper and something else, a sickly sweetness that seemed charged with electricity. Her magic, he guessed.

The succubus groped her breasts and rolled her hips over his lap.

"Play with me," she repeated. "Or I'm going to play with your pet over there." Her smile was toxic and gorgeous. If he'd seen this chick at a bar and she'd flashed him that smile, he would have been at her side in an instant, and they'd have been in the backseat of Baby not long after that. But this fake sexual arousal, this magic-induced want, it was poison eating at his veins, and he fought it with everything he had. Because he may have wanted her more than anything he'd ever wanted in his life, but he was stubborn, dammit, and she was a freakin' demon.

"You're not his type either," Dean growled through clenched teeth.

The succubus laughed and tossed her head to look behind her at the unconscious pincushion.

"Do angels even have a type?" she asked, surprising Dean with a sincere question instead of a snappy comeback.

"I don't know," he answered then grunted, "Not demons."

The succubus crawled off Dean's lap with a sigh. She buttoned her shirt and tugged her skirt down. She tightened her hand into a fist as she withdrew her magic from Dean's body, and the pain flared raw-hot all over his body. It was even worse than he remembered. It made him long for the excruciating torture of hurts-so-good elation that her freaky sex-torture magic gave him. This all-encompassing anguish made him puke. He turned his head as much as he could, but he still dribbled sick on his left shoulder. He couldn't even wipe his mouth. His vision swam as the succubus crossed the room to where Cas lay face down in his own blood.

God, he hated this bitch! He hated that she tried to use Cas against him. He hated that he couldn't show how much it hurt to see his friend in pain. Hated that he had to pretend he didn't care. He'd hoped to convince the succubus that torturing Cas wouldn't break Dean. But it almost did. God, it almost did.

When she ran Cas's shoulder through, and he'd cried out like nothing Dean had ever heard before, Dean felt desperation he'd only known a few times before, namely when he thought Sam had died. Feeling those feelings about Cas was intense. Hiding them from both the angel and the demon was one of the hardest things he had yet to endure. Now when the succubus approached Castiel, it was without any weapon. Dean thought that was a good thing at first, a chance that she was giving up on using the defenseless angel as a torture device. She gazed at Dean.

"Last chance to give yourself to me willingly," she said.

Dean tried to smile. "Bite me, demon bitch," he replied.

Her features shifted again, that same heat-off-the-pavement warp coating her body. He saw her eyes change color, flashing almost green across the dark room. Her hair shrank back toward her scalp, lightening into a tan blonde. Her skin darkened into a buttery tan. Her shoulders filled out. The woman was becoming a man. Her clothes were changing, too. Jeans. Plaid shirt. Bloodstains.

A horrifying realization hit Dean square in the soul.

"No," he growled.

The mirage snapped into crisp focus, and Dean stared in horror at a living, breathing mirror of himself. The succubus knelt and looped Cas's arm over her shoulder. The angel grunted as his head lolled back.

"No!" Dean shouted, stars erupting in his vision and bile crawling up his esophagus. The demon gave him a final grin, one he'd seen on his own face a thousand times in motel mirrors across the country. It was the shit-eating, 'I'm a handsome devil,' expression, a self-inflicted mask and lie that got him out of the room and socializing with the real world when he knew any more solitude would turn him into a shell. It was a grin that flashed cockiness, confidence, and hid all manner of self-loathing and doubt. But on the demon's face, it was the biggest lie of all, and it scared Dean senseless because it was just like him.

"I'll see you later," she said and finished with a heated, "Bitch."

Dean shook. The air was too thin to breathe. He couldn't speak. Had the demon literally stolen his voice? It sounded like it. Felt like it. She took Cas away, and the door slammed closed and locked behind them.

Chapter Text

Having to eat regularly was an annoyance. The human body hungered and demanded food. It needed water to survive. Angels had no such weaknesses. They didn't eat, sleep, or require any of a hundred other "human" peculiarities. But these pangs of thirst and hunger in Cas's being, coupled with the howling pain of his bodily injuries was a cruel reminder of how far he had fallen from grace. As if he needed any more of those.

"Cas?"

That was Dean's voice. It sounded gruff and hoarse, but it was him, and that meant they were together and both alive. Thank Chuck.

"Hey," Dean snapped.

Cas blinked. Opening his eyes hurt. The light, dim as it was in the darkened room, stung. But no moisture sprang up to relieve the ache. He must be dehydrated. Dean, covered in blood and hovering over him with a scowl, was an alarming but welcome sight.

"Dean," he managed, and though he'd meant to sound comforting and full of assurance that he was fine, all that he sounded was weak. "The succubus--"

"Yeah," he interrupted. "We got away, but she's still out there. Probably looking for us."

Cas tried to sit. Every nerve in his body howled in protest, the world spun, and he remembered that he was full of holes and lacking in blood. Dean's hand pressed down on Cas to keep him flat on the… cot? Ground? It was hard and cold. Probably the dirt floor. A few blinks later, Cas focused on their surroundings.
Sunlight broke through gaps between wooden wall planks. Gardening tools hung along shelves and lay on the ground. Cas saw a lawnmower, a chainsaw, a radio, and nothing else of import. Except for Dean.

"Are you okay?" Cas asked. There were more pressing issues to discuss, the demoness being high on the list, but Cas was weak and found that fighting his sentimental human side was exhausting.

Dean let out a gruff sigh.

"No," he said. "I'm not. But we're both free." His hands came down to grip Cas's trenchcoat. They ripped the material apart from the shoulder down to the waist. He added, "No thanks to your stupid heroics."

Cas felt a different kind of pain, then. It was like something indefinable inside him shrinking. Withering.

"Dean, I'm sorry. I was trying to--"

"Trying to what?" Dean snapped. His eyes fixed on Cas's shoulder. "To get us both killed? To gift wrap the upper hand and deliver it on a silver platter to that demon?"

Dean ripped through Cas's suit, then, his hands coarse and without gentleness. The action jostled Cas, starting at his shoulder and working down his ribboned torso. Being moved was agony, and now Cas remembered being skewered. Beneath Dean's touch, that injury became fresh. But Dean would hurt if he knew that he was causing any pain, so Cas swallowed the cries and shut his eyes tight to hold back tears. Dean continued his disgruntled speech.

"I thought you were smarter than that. I really did," Dean groused. Then he added in a voice laden with disappointment, "What were you thinking?"

Cas tried to speak but choked. It turned into coughing. His whole body was a map of everywhere the demoness had tortured him, and it lit up with fire. He couldn't help but whimper. He opened his eyes and saw Dean staring down at him.

"I thought," Cas said and took a breath to speak, "You needed me."

Dean looked incredulous. His jaw worked as he ground his teeth.

"Why the hell would you ever think that?" he replied.

Cas lay stunned, the physical pain muted at Dean's shocking loathing. But Cas remembered the man's prayer as clear as anything. It had been a soft, whooshing sound. A quiet, pitiful whimper. A last resort. A grudging need. But it had been sincere, and against all sense, that prayer had reached Cas. He had heard it and followed it back to Dean.

The succubus was unexpected. She was strong, even more so than she seemed at first. Thinking of Dean trapped and tortured had clouded Cas's judgment. His angel mind was a flashing light in the back of his awareness crying out for reason and reinforcements and a plan. But Cas couldn't stop the surge of human emotion that roared up when he realized what the demoness had done to Dean, and what she still meant to do. His hatred for her and his fear for his friend made him act rashly. Stupidly. He'd gotten caught. He'd been tortured and used against Dean. Now the man Cas wanted to save was disappointed in him again. Rescuing him. Again.

But they were both free and alive, and that fact helped dim the pain. Dean may end up hating him, but at least he wouldn't be suffering at the hands of the monster. It was enough. Cas knew that Dean's tolerance of his presence was more than he deserved.

"We have to stop this bleeding," Dean said. "Before I can move you. And we should move soon. She's still out there."

"Where are we?" Cas asked.

"Not far enough away," Dean replied. He ripped a piece of trenchcoat into a long strip and tied another long strip to the end, then tore apart several sections of Cas's suit and coat and laid them close by on the ground.

"Open your mouth," he ordered, a bundle of fabric balled up in his fist. "This is going to hurt. I don't want your screams drawing her right to us."

The coppery taste of the blood-soaked fabric made Cas gag. He nearly spat it out, but then--oh, then--he bit down for all he was worth. Dean was shoving a ball of fabric into the hole in his shoulder. Cas realized that he was thrashing, crying out loud. But Dean had an elbow planted on Cas's left shoulder, a forearm strapped across his chest, and all of his weight pinning him down. The ball of fabric in Cas's mouth kept him from biting his tongue off, but it did little to stop the uncontrolled cries of pain.

Cas looked at his shoulder, thinking that if he could see it, he could bear it easier. He was wrong.

The first three fingers on Dean's left hand were two knuckles deep inside Cas's body. The fabric was somewhere in his middle. Red sparks streaked across his vision. The rest of his being disappeared to inconsequential, disembodied atoms as his shoulder was skewered, scraped, and invaded. Tears clouded out the image of Dean's face, and Cas was grateful that he couldn't see it anymore. He usually liked looking at Dean, but not when the man was so clearly angry at him and grudgingly focused. Dean's disappointment hurt Cas in a way he didn't know he could feel pain.

He fought to muffle his cries as Dean continued to stuff him full of makeshift bandages. The pain was overwhelming. It lingered and confounded Cas. He didn't realize Dean had finished until the man's steady voice cut through the delirium, and it sounded farther away.

"You done screaming now?" he asked. Cas blinked the tears from his vision and saw Dean sitting back on his heels, wiping sweat from his brow. Fresh, red blood coated both hands, and he wiped them on his jeans. Cas nodded. Dean stretched out a hand and removed the fabric from Cas's mouth. It would be a while before Cas could speak, he thought, but he tried to meet Dean's eyes. He had to apologize somehow.

Dean returned his gaze, but instead of understanding, Cas saw only anger. Dean's green eyes looked dark and harsh. More shocking than the unfriendly emotion was the lack of connection Cas felt.

Dean had withdrawn behind a barrier, refusing to allow Cas to glimpse his soul like he usually could. It wasn't the first time Cas had received this look, this complete lack of connection. But Cas was tired and hurt, and he knew he'd made a mistake. The guilt coupled with the feeling of being alone made him wish he'd never let Dean run off on this hunting trip in the first place. He should have done more to calm Dean down before he left alone and angry. But he let Dean go, allowed Sam to convince him that Dean probably wasn't even going hunting but getting his dick wet instead, whatever that meant. Against all his instincts, Cas let Dean leave. Then he heard a tiny prayer and raced in after him without a plan or backup or power. He had almost gotten them both killed.

Cas deserved Dean's anger and withdrawal. But knowing that made everything worse.

"Don't look at me," Dean said.

Cas's mind processed this in a broken, fractured way. Dean's words repeated through his ears, echoing and heavy. Dean's cold eyes grew colder still. Cas was staring. Dean dove forward above him.

"Don't you even look at me!" he shouted, and Cas blinked before shifting his attention to the tin roof overhead.

"No," Dean growled. "Look down. I don't want to see the color of your eyes."

Cas looked downward then, toward his feet. His heart hammered in his chest, reminding him of every wound along his body that still leaked blood. He was making himself bleed out faster. If he lost consciousness, that would mean Dean would have to carry him to safety. They'd be caught.

"Leave me," Cas said.

They both knew Dean could escape without him. He'd broken free of the demon's clutches once already, as well as freed Cas somehow. If the hunter didn't have to worry about getting Cas out too, he'd be fine.

Dean sighed. "You know I can't do that."

Can't. That was accurate. The Winchesters were incapable of leaving anyone in danger. The need to protect, to save, must seem like a curse to them at times. And as much as Cas may have wanted to hear, "I won't do that," he knew the truth. Dean couldn't leave. Asking Dean to save himself was the same as asking someone to go against the fiber of their DNA. Impossible.

No wonder Dean was furious at him. Cas's botched rescue attempt might still cost them both of their lives.

Dean stood. Cas saw his long legs stride around the room, but he didn't look above the man's knees, afraid of angering him further and losing him forever.
He heard a few heavy sighs, a lot of rustling and objects shifting around. At one point, there was the loud clang of something crashing to the ground, and a hissed, "Son of a bitch." Then Dean was kneeling beside Cas again, rope in his hands.

"I have to see about finding us some water." His voice cracked as if to indicate just how much he needed it. Cas's mouth was drier than it had ever been before, and his head pounded from the base of his skull. Yes, they both needed water if they were to have a chance of getting out of here. But Dean couldn't leave this shack without knowing about the demoness. So Cas swallowed and tried to speak.

"Dean," he rasped.

Dean grunted in response.

"The demon," Cas continued.

Dean unspooled the rope. "What about her?"

"She's... She's something else."

Dean chuckled, which would have surprised Cas years ago, but now he was used to the Winchester brothers laughing in the face of danger and impossible odds.

Dean asked, "You got the hots?"

Cas winced as he checked in with his body.

"I am… rather warm," he replied. Hopefully, it was only hot in the shed and not a result of fever from infection. "But that's inconsequential. The succubus is more than a demon. I think she's a god."

Dean grunted. "Freakin' great," then Dean reached for Cas's hand. No, his wrist. He grabbed it tight and moved it to the center of Cas's torso before reaching for the other hand. He took the rope and tied both together.

"What are you doing?" Cas asked.

Dean secured the rope, lashing Cas's hands together with a series of loops and knots. "Tying you up," he answered.

"But--" Cas began before being interrupted by his own shriek of pain as Dean hoisted both his arms above his head. Dean's free hand shoved another strip of fabric into Cas's mouth to quiet him. His shoulder flared with new, white-hot agony.

"I don't want to do this," Dean said, sounding remorseful but determined as he reached above Cas's head. "But how can I trust you, Castiel?"

Cas's vision went wobbly, then gray.

Castiel? Dean hadn't called him that in years. How could a single word hurt so much?

Cas tried to scoot back, digging his heels into the dirt and pressing up toward his bound wrists to relieve some of the pressure. Dean had tied him to something sturdy above his head, and the awkward stretch caused a pinched and howling pain from his shoulders down his back.

Dean stood and moved toward the door. He grabbed a four-pronged pitchfork off a rack on the wall and held it tight in his right hand. He looked back over his shoulder, but not directly at Cas.

"I know that's got to hurt, and I'm sorry, but I can't have you messing anything else up. I can't worry about where you might be or what you might be doing that'll get us both trapped and killed." Dean put his hand on the door and lowered his voice. "Try to keep quiet," he instructed. "I'll find us some water."

Cas watched Dean leave with a sense of dread coiling in his stomach. It went beyond their dire situation with the demon goddess, which Cas felt certain would get worse before it got better. He wished he could convince Dean to leave him here and get out while he could. Forget the water and just run. But he couldn't because Dean was already gone, and Cas was tied to a wall with a gag in his mouth.

Chapter Text

The succubus had taken Cas. That fact gnawed at the back of Dean’s mind,  but the doppelganger situation was a bomb to disarm later. Right now, Dean was conscious and unattended. It was time to think.

Strategizing never came easily to Dean. His brother would always take care of the how and when, and Dean would charge ahead, guns blazing. He might get thrown against the wall right away, but he and Sammy and the rest of the good guys always ended up on top.

But with his body sliced into ribbons and his best friend skewered and dragged away to suffer God knows what other tortures, Dean felt decidedly on the bottom of this mess. Bravado wasn’t working. Threats weren’t working. He had to think like Sam.

First, he checked-in with his body.

The pain was manageable. An egg-sized knot on the back of his head was the oldest of his injuries. The next recent ones were the bruises on his face and ribs from various blunt objects. But the most problematic wounds were the cuts from day three.

If his body was a Christmas tree, the lacerations of various depths spiraled around his torso and limbs were like oozing, bloody ornaments. And that was the kind of random thought Dean only had while drunk or faint. He was stone cold sober. That meant he needed to eat something.

It had been five days since food, two since water. A few of the cuts from day three had been so aggressively deep that they still bled if he moved too much. One on his right thigh oozed dark red. His lips were cracked, his mouth felt scraped out by sandpaper, and delirium was becoming a problem.

Dean’s mind went loose. His thoughts scattered, and when they did, the succubus’s influence poured into his subconscious. Her magic made him hornier than he’d been in his life. For days on end, he felt as though he would come at any moment, and it hurt. When she was there in person, he fought her influence, knowing that it was evil and twisted and not at all what he wanted. But now, just remembering her lust for him, the shape of her body, the promise of the best fuck of his life, it made him hard, and the bitch wasn't even here!

Dean leaned his head back and groaned. Every time the succubus asked him to sleep with her, it became harder to resist. His dick just needed it. Like his body needed water. At least, that’s what her magic made him believe. Refusing her advances was like murdering the sexual part of himself—which was a healthily sized section of who Dean was as a human, and he didn’t know how much longer he could keep refusing her when he’d been so close to orgasm for days.

Dean considered himself an open-minded deviant. He liked it rough. Denial play was fun. But this was literal torture, and he was unraveling from the pain. His balls had been kicked with steel-toed boots and hurt less than this. His straining erection ached. Even the muscles low in his stomach felt pinched from the lack of release. His prick begged to be touched. It was ready to explode.

Despite every effort to focus on forming a plan, Dean’s mind became stuck, as it had for days, on this overpowering need to get off. Trying to think of anything else was becoming a waste of time, and he didn't have any of that to waste.

If only his hands were free, he'd be able to jack off and come in under three strokes. Hell, if there were anything to press against, Dean would come with a few quick ruts. But there was nothing.

Dean bit the inside of his cheek. Tasted blood. Tried to focus on anything but his throbbing cock.

He was going over his injuries. Right.

On day three, the succubus had attempted to cut his surrender out of his skin. It hadn't worked. You can't torture a man who's been tortured in hell. But it had gotten to him. He’d been three days without water by then, and had never felt so close to death without actually dying, or, you know, without being in Death’s presence. The delirium, the pain, blood-loss, regret, they all combined into a prayer. One Dean didn't think would be heard. A prayer he wished he'd never had, because Cas had heard him, and now Cas was in the hands of the succubus.

That painful thought was almost as distracting as the rock-hard monster crying out from his jeans, and Dean tried to shove both aside. A strange thing happened, though, when the two forces—his erection and the thought of Cas—combined. Dean didn't think he'd ever been so hard in his life.

"Oh, shit," he growled and shut his eyes as his vision swam. He didn't have enough blood to be this hard. He pulled a gasp in through his lips and bit down on the bottom one. He envisioned Cas's neck. His eyes. His hands. That stupid sexy suit and the way it clung to his shoulders and waist.

Okay, new plan. Come hands-free. As soon as Dean took care of his obnoxious, needy, abused (but not in a fun way) dick, he could get back to the escape plan. And bonus! When the succubus tried to seduce him again, he wouldn't be so desperate to come since he would have already done so. He’d be able to resist her. This was a good idea.

Dean wasn't proud of it, but it was a plan.

Now he just had to give himself an orgasm without using his hands. He thought he’d be able to if he just focused on the right thing, but all of his usual fantasies were turning him off, thanks to a certain she-demon. He tried imagining all types, shapes, and colors of women, different positions, situations, and fantasies. Everything made him think of the succubus, and she made him want to commit murder.

Dean growled in frustration, his body growing thick with tension beneath his bonds. A few more cuts opened up again, releasing more blood. Dean hissed, “Fuck it,” and accepted that he'd have to go with his rarest kink. Men. Or to put it more explicitly: angel.

Cas did it for him. He had since the very first day they met, when Cas’s holy handprint burned like righteous fire on Dean’s shoulder. The man—angel—turned Dean’s crank like no one else. Yeah, the guy was clueless and misguided and almost ended the world, but all of that made Cas so much more… real. Way more real than any bar hookup. More real than any relationship Dean had ever had outside of family. And his desire for the angel had been growing, unwanted, in intensity for years.

Dean wished he could think of Cas as a brother. It sometimes worked, like when the man went missing for months. But then Cas would show up with his tie loose and his shirt unbuttoned down to the hollow of his neck. Dean’s mouth would go dry, his eyes would fixate on Cas’s jawline as he spoke with Sam about something to do with the crisis of the year, and the rise in Dean’s pants would shout: Not brother.

Dean’s dick was painfully erect, now, and he tried not to feel guilty about it. This was step one of his escape plan, and he had to move fast. So he thought of Cas. He imagined that signature tie around his neck, and nothing else. Dean shifted his hips as much as he could, and the slight tug of his jeans rubbed against him in just the right way. He dropped his head and allowed himself to picture Cas’s full lips. They’d be parted and waiting, desperate for Dean’s kiss. Dean would ravish that mouth. Cas wouldn’t know which way was up. He’d be mewling, his hands clawing over Dean’s chest.

The backs of Dean’s thighs pressed against the cold metal chair as he humped the air in millimeter thrusts. What would it be like inside of Cas? Hot. Tight. Heavenly.

Dean groaned. His mouth watered. The thought of taking Cas from behind, gripping his hips, maneuvering his body, biting the crest of the man’s shoulder, and losing himself in the act of fucking the world’s most forbidden fruit was going to make him come in his pants. The next few seconds would have him exploding with his release. He imagined the angel crying out his name in pleasure, and that was it.

Dean’s entire body pulled tight, starting with his balls. He gasped down air and bit back the scream that wanted to break free. His hands fisted, his eyes screwed shut, and he couldn’t breathe as he came hard enough to see stars.

Release after five days of pent-up desire was dizzying, to put it in very mild terms. His vision went red and black and white. His ears rang with his heartbeat. It was exquisite and painful. The orgasm lasted an eternity and nearly made him pass out.

Tremors, little aftershocks, tore through his whole body during the come-down. Dean realized how much more pain he was in with each passing second. He felt blood drip from the handcuffs, every bit as wet as the streaks of jizz drying along his right thigh. He wanted to pass out, blissfully content, and wake up convincing himself that everyone had gay, sexual fantasies about their friends—it didn’t mean anything. But now that his dick was mercifully spent, the fog of lust was clearing. Reality snapped into clarity.

The succubus was masquerading as Dean, and Cas had no way of knowing they were both still in danger.

Time to strategize.

Dean had to get out of the handcuffs. Then maybe he could get his ropes loose enough to reach for a knife on the table and get to work on the rest of his bonds. But to do that, he had to break his hand. That was the only way.

A wave of nausea rose, and Dean pushed it down.

“Man up,” he ordered himself. “Don’t be a pussy.” 

He grabbed the thumb of his left hand with the finger and thumb of his right. His grip grew so tight that the cuffs seemed to shrink around his wrist. Several seconds passed with mounting dread. He thought through every moment that was about to happen, and he pined for step one of his plan, wishing he could repeat it for step two and three and...

The pain would probably make him throw up again, but he didn’t have anything in his stomach to upchuck, so that wouldn’t matter. One of the metal cuffs would be free and clatter against the chair. His hand would be slick and bloody. He wouldn’t be able to touch any of the ropes right away and risk the succubus noticing his bloody fingerprints when she returned. His hand would swell, and he wouldn’t be able to grip anything. But it would be a minor break. It would heal quickly.

However, snapping the bone out of socket would take more force than just pulling on his thumb. He would have to yank upward with his left hand while he pulled down with his right. He’d have to mean it, and with all the strength he could muster. Otherwise, he’d get only pain and no reward.

Dean took several sharp breaths, bracing himself. His grip tightened. In a few seconds, he would break his thumb. But then he heard the lock on the steel door slide back, and he stopped, his heart in his throat.

The succubus stepped into the room carrying a pitchfork. She was wearing Dean’s same clothes but looked like a red-headed woman again. Her hands were soaked in fresh blood, and Dean wanted to demand what she’d done with Cas, but he resisted. She was grinning. Humming.

“My day keeps getting better,” she announced and closed the door. She never locked it when she was inside. “How’s yours?” she asked as if she was a housewife from the sixties and Dean had just come home from work.

“Peachy,” he replied.

The succubus flashed a grin and a bit of cleavage as she turned. Her eyebrow arched in apparent surprise.

“I’d say so,” she practically purred as she sauntered his direction. A look of excitement and triumph crossed her features. “I can smell that, you know,” she whispered, and Dean tried not to look as panicked as he felt. Her cold gray eyes zeroed-in on his crotch.

“Coming in your pants like a teenager,” she tutted. “Naughty boy.”

Dean’s heart sank to his gut.

The demoness dropped to her knees and placed herself between Dean’s legs. He spluttered a curse, but she gripped his inner thighs and buried her face between his legs. She licked the wet spot on his jeans like a cat lapping up milk.

Dean’s mouth sagged in shock. He couldn’t look away. The woman’s eyes rolled back as she made a sound of pure delight. When she blinked and gazed up into Dean’s eyes, her pupils were dilated and her face flushed with color.

“Holy shit,” she breathed. Then she opened her mouth and pressed it to the curve of his cock, moaning against him. Dean choked. He said he wouldn’t get hard, but fuck, that felt amazing! She licked his jeans with more pressure, paying particular attention to the wet spot.

“The angel?” she gasped before letting out a wicked laugh, and Dean felt his stomach flip with dread. “Oh, that is juicy!”

Dean tried to speak, but all that he managed was, “Guh—Wh—I don’t—”

“This day keeps getting better,” she repeated. “Now I really can’t wait to play with Feathers! Of course, this changes my strategy.” She stood and leaned against the torture table. “Have you fucked him already, or are you just pent-up and pining for him?”

Dean’s face felt hot, either with rage or something else.

The demoness gathered the answer from his features.

She chuckled. “Typical.”

“Hey, go to hell!” Dean managed. “And I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

With a sigh, she replied, “That’s not even worth responding to.” She looked him up and down, her grin spreading across her face as she landed on his eyes. “I should have guessed. You know, the way he looks at you. Well”—she gestured at her torso, indicating Dean’s clothing—“What he thinks is you, at least. It’s like you hung the moon. No wonder he put up with what I did to him. He worships you.”

The succubus crossed her arms. Dean noticed the fresh blood again, and it made him seethe with rage.

“You’re disgusting,” he hissed.

The demoness leaned close and whispered, “Says the hunter who just jizzed in his jeans to the thought of fucking an angel.”

Dean felt shaky. He didn’t want to be ashamed, but he couldn’t help it. He knew it was messed up and impossible, what he wanted to have with Cas, but knowing that didn’t help it go away. And the sex-demon who wanted to torture them both was the only other living being who knew of Dean’s thoughts about Cas. How fucked up was that?

The succubus moved toward the door again, and Dean realized with a pang of fear that she was leaving.

“Hey,” he called out. “I have some questions for you.”

“I’m sure you do,” replied the she-demon. “But I don’t have time. Not now that I have this new information to play with.” She waved Dean off with a flippant toss of her hand.

“Hey, we’re not done here!” Dean cried out as the succubus retrieved the pitchfork. He leaned as far forward as his bonds would allow. “I’m talking to you, you stupid, hideous bitch!”

She blinked at him from the door. “You’re trying to make me torture you so I won’t go back to him, aren’t you?”

Dean glared. He fixed his merciless, ‘I’m going to fuck you up so hard’ glare on the succubus, but only because words failed him.

“Don’t worry,” she said as she opened the door. “I know you're lonely down here all by yourself, so I’ll let you watch this time.” With a smirk she added, “Maybe you can come on yourself for me again.”

 

Chapter Text

Stay awake. Stay awake. Just stay awake.

Cas repeated this mantra to fight the darkness that clung to the walls of his mind. It wasn’t long ago that he didn’t sleep at all. Now it was all he could do to stay conscious.

Cas had managed to turn his body toward the pipe that Dean had tied his hands to, and he thought it would help. But the pain wasn’t letting up.

His hands hung above him to the right of his head, painfully numb from lack of blood flow. His impaled shoulder caused him so much anguish that he wondered if having no arm would hurt less than having a hole straight through one. And he selfishly thought that if he’d died in that torture chamber, none of this would be happening. Not the pain of his wounds, not the wrath of Dean’s anger, not the chance that Dean could still die because he had to rescue Cas. The possibility of losing Dean was hard enough to fathom, but to think it could be because of Cas’s stupidity made the angel choke back a sob.

Doing so caused him to shift in his bonds. There was an explosion of white and red behind his eyes. The pain took over, and he lost track of his body.  In a way, it reminded him of heaven. Not the office building section, but the part outside the walls. The Void, a nothing full of endless possibilities of worlds. Cas had always avoided it, but now he wished he could be there alone in the nothing, taking comfort in the fact that his family was safe and he couldn't disappoint or endanger them anymore.

But that was impossible. His family was never going to be out of danger. The Winchesters might die at any moment. They might be dead right now. Cas had no way of knowing. No way of shifting to where they were, no way of reaching out to them, of saving them, of helping them.

Once, he had freed Dean's soul from the pit of hell. He had carved Enochian onto the brothers' ribs to keep them safe. But without his grace, he was worse than useless. He was a liability.

If he and Dean got out of this alive, Cas would leave for good. It was the best option. He had nothing to offer the Winchesters or the rest of the world, and he had to stop pretending otherwise.

The door to the shack opened. Cas didn’t turn around. If it was the succubus, so be it. If it was Dean, Cas didn’t have the right to face him.

“You still alive?” Dean’s voice sounded tired, but there was no urgency or fear. “I have water.”

Cas turned his head. “I’m alive,” he replied with a touch of regret. He craned his neck and looked over his shoulder. Mud covered Dean’s boots and the bottom of his jeans. The hunter’s shirt didn’t have any new rips or blood. Cas didn’t gaze any higher. Dean didn’t want to see his eyes, and heeding that wish was the one thing Cas could still offer.

“Did you encounter the succubus?” Cas rasped.

Dean took a few steps into the shack before sitting on an overturned bucket.

“No,” he answered. “And I have no idea where we are, either.” Dean’s blood-caked hands worked at the buttons of his shirt before he untucked it from his waistband. He withdrew a dirty water bottle from inside the fabric. It sloshed with the promise of water. Cas felt the sandpaper dryness of his tongue and ached for a taste. But Dean continued.

“I do know that these woods are freakin’ dense. It’s humid and buggy and desolate out there. I must have hiked for a mile before finding this guy.” He held up the water bottle. “Then I tripped over the world’s smallest creek. There wasn’t much to it, but the water wasn’t stagnant so it should be okay to drink. But I have a bad feeling about the succubus. Like she's close. Or toying with us from afar.”

Cas shared that fear.

Dean spoke as if to himself, “We have to get out of here.”

Cas waited for Dean to untie him, but the man took a sip from the water bottle and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees.

“Do you think you can walk?” Dean asked.

“Yes,” Cas answered. “At least, I think so. But Dean—”

“I’m not leaving you behind,” Dean growled. “We’ve been over this already.”

Cas clenched and unclenched his left fist, hoping it would bring some feeling back. He would need to hold the water bottle to drink from it. He spoke around the dryness in his mouth and throat.

“But we can split up. Then we would both have the chance to save ourselves. I’ll be fine.”

Dean chucked the water bottle at the floor.

“That's bull, and you know it!” he shouted. “You’ll bleed out, or the succubus will find and torture you before killing you. I won’t have your death on my conscience. I refuse.”

The bottle’s cap was open.

“The water,” Cas croaked with his eyes stuck on every wasted drop that spilled to the dirt.

“Shit,” Dean swore and dove for the bottle. He snatched it up and took several healthy gulps from it as if to reassure himself that there was still some inside. There wouldn’t be if he didn’t slow down, though. It was becoming strange that Dean hadn’t tried to share. It was also strange that he hadn’t untied Cas yet. The hunter leaned against the shelf along the wall and set the water bottle by his side.

Though his pride put up a fight, Cas asked, “Could you let me loose?”

Dean sighed, then grumbled, “Yeah,” before coming to kneel beside Cas. The man smelled like mud and blood and tortured flesh. He leaned over the angel’s body and reached to untie the rope.

From the floor, Cas saw beneath Dean’s raised undershirt to the slash marks along his lower torso. Many were red and inflamed. A couple of the worst ones had yet to scab. Several of them stretched below Dean's waistband.

How many sick ways did that demoness torture him before Cas got there? If he still had his power, he would have super-heated the succubus's molecules until she exploded in light.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t rescue you,” Cas murmured. “I tried.”

“I know you did,” Dean replied. He tugged on the rope, and Cas’s hands fell free to his chest. He cried out, shocked at the sudden pain, and Dean’s hand clamped down hard over his mouth.

“Goddamnit, do you want to bring her right to us?” he demanded. Then he snapped, “Don’t look at me.”

Cas dropped his gaze.

“I can’t baby you anymore, Cas,” Dean said, and the tortured angel felt a comforting warmth from hearing his nick-name. The warmth turned to ice when Dean added, “Take your clothes off.”

Cas fought not to look up. Often, Dean’s eyes spoke truths that his words did not or could not. Maybe the mystery command would be solved if he could see the emotion behind the man’s green gaze. But without that context, Cas was forced to ask, “What?”

“Sit up,” Dean insisted, already dragging Cas upright against the wall. Cas bit his lip to keep the howls of pain inside. Dean’s voice was flat as he explained, “We have to change out of these bloody clothes. She can probably smell us, and if we’re going to move, I want to give us the best chance of not ending up as succubus snacks. So strip.”

Dean took his plaid shirt off. The collar sloped down the musculature of his biceps before meeting his pushed up sleeves. His forearms flexed as he tugged the shirt down and off his arms. Cas found himself entranced and lightheaded as Dean stretched his shoulders, wearing nothing but a torn and bloody, white-in-places undershirt. The man looked imposing as he towered above Cas. His hands gripped the collar of his shirt behind his neck and tugged upward.

If Cas’s mouth was dry before, it became a cracked and barren wasteland as Dean disrobed. His body—

Cas shouldn’t think about Dean’s body. He reminded himself of that often. The man was… a man. And while Cas knew precious little about humans, he knew that men and women were the natural pairing. He also knew that Dean was a big, big fan of women.

Jimmy Novak had been a man, which made Castiel a man. He had the same parts, and sometimes he had the urges, but only when it came to Dean. He knew the oldest Winchester would be sickened if he knew of Cas's longing for him, so Cas kept his secret buried.

But right now, he stared helplessly at the hunter’s chest, drinking up every curve of muscle and every detail. There was the demon seal tattooed in black, the scars both old and new, the dark bruises on his ribs; and on his shoulder was the handprint that bonded the two of them in a way no angel had ever connected to man before.

“Water,” Cas managed, feeling dizzy. “Please.”

Dean took a knee in front of Cas. “Clothes first.”

Rough hands stripped Cas of what remained of his shredded trench coat. Cas screwed his eyes and mouth shut so as not to make noise. He fought so hard to stay quiet that he barely breathed. When Dean muscled him free from his suit jacket, Cas greyed out, losing sight and time for a few heartbeats. Dean smacked his cheek.

“Stay with me. I can’t carry you.”

Cas nodded, panting. Dean ripped open Cas’s shirt, sending buttons skidding along the dirt floor. When calloused, heavy hands landed on the frayed edges of Castiel’s shirt, bracing themselves against his chest, Cas gasped out, “Wait.”

Dean paused.

Cas managed, “I’m likely to scream.”

Dean’s body grew tense. His voice sounded strange within its usual gruffness when he asked, “You want me to gag you?”

Cas hesitated. The words sounded bad. It was as if his request amused Dean. Maybe the depths of Castiel’s weakness did amuse him. The ex-angel nodded and kept his eyes downturned.

Dean put a bundle of fabric in Cas’s mouth, then he gripped the fronts of his dress shirt and peeled it down from both shoulders.

Cas had been right about the screaming. It was automatic and involuntary, but when he heard himself, he was able to shift into quiet whimpers. Then everything was still. His shirt lay in a heap on top of his jacket and trench coat. Dean’s hands rested on the crests of his shoulders, but no clothing separated his touch from Cas’s skin. It didn’t hurt, but it burned in a way Cas had never experienced before. He desperately wanted to look into Dean’s eyes.

The touch on his shoulders shifted. Hands made their way toward the center of Castiel’s chest. The press of Dean’s palms was harsh and hot. Fingers landed on his tie, and Cas wondered at how he could have forgotten about that item. It still needed to be removed—that’s all Dean was doing. But then those fingers wrapped around the fabric, and those demanding hands tugged Cas forward. Dean leaned in, lowering his head. He shifted his body, now sitting on Castiel’s lap with his legs on either side. The position lit a fire in Cas’s brain. He didn’t know what it meant, but he knew that it meant something. The tie tightened, almost to the point of choking. He felt breath from Dean’s parted lips, and his own mouth sagged open.

Then he heard screaming. It wasn’t far away, and it definitely wasn’t female. In fact, it sounded like Dean. But he was right here. It seemed he heard the screaming too. His head whirled toward the door, and he stood sharply.

“I have to go,” he said. He grabbed the pitchfork and a pair of garden shears off the wall. “Don’t leave, and don’t die on me,” he snarled before heading out the door and slamming it closed.

Chapter Text

Dean heard himself wheeze, felt the crushing pain in his chest, and knew that he was having a panic attack. Sam used to get them all the time when they were kids, but he’d never had one before. He felt a new respect for Sammy. This shit was terrifying.

“Come on—” he growled at himself. “Get it—together.”

That she-demon was on her way to toy with Cas for her sick pleasure. She hadn’t even tried to seduce Dean this time, and that worried him more than anything else had so far. All succubus (Succubi? Succubusses? Whatever.) get their power and eternal life from sexual intercourse. This particular succubus clearly had some peculiarities and a fascination with torture, but her motivation should have been the same no matter what: To find an unwilling victim, seduce him, extract his sexual life force, and kill him. But she didn’t seem as interested in sex as psychologically fucking with both him and Cas. It didn’t make sense.
If there was one weakness Dean would admit to having, it would not be about fighting, weapons, or physical strength. He was tougher than nails and hard as shit to break. He'd been killed a number of times and it never stuck for long.

But his head? That was a complete disaster area. Dean could admit to that. No shrink would know what to do with him, and he’d never open himself up enough to confess his feelings. But as soon as Cas had stumbled in to rescue Dean, the demoness had realized that most of Dean’s fears, hopes, and desires led straight back to Cas. And since that moment, she had been flaying and stripping each nerve raw.
Dean still couldn’t catch his breath.

If his hands were free he would have slapped himself. He needed to calm down. This panic got him nowhere except closer to passing out.

So Dean imagined a cold beer. A warm bed with clean sheets. No monsters. No end-of-the-world crisis. Sam safe in the next room with a book. Cas sitting at the foot of Dean’s bed watching cartoons on TV and asking stupid, adorable questions that Dean would pretend to find annoying.

Finally, his breathing became easier, but as soon as he caught his breath, his vision exploded with white. Pain like knives stabbed the back of his eye sockets. He fought his screams as flames assaulted his eyeballs from within his head. As suddenly as it had come, the pain vanished, taking the white with it. Then Dean saw dark, blurred shadows.

Everything came into focus slowly. But this couldn’t be real. These surroundings looked like a disused garden shed. Dean tried to clear the remaining blurriness from his eyes, but he couldn’t blink. When he noticed Cas huddled on the dirt floor, he realized that the eyes he was seeing through weren’t his eyes at all.

A chill traveled his body, which he knew was somewhere beneath him, though he couldn’t see it and barely felt anything besides an all-encompassing dread.

The succubus had said she would let him watch next time. This was what she meant.

How in the hell could she do this? What the hell was she?

Dean heard his own voice and could have jumped out of his skin. It was him speaking, but his voice came from her.

“You still alive?” the demoness asked Cas. “I have water.”

Cas was a huddled mass on the floor, curled up facing the wall. God, there was so much blood. On him, under him, around him. Dean had been worried about Cas before, but seeing him like this was worse than imagined. The angel turned his head with a stifled moan and looked over his shoulder. Dean’s stomach dropped at the sickly pale face greeting him.

“I’m alive,” Cas rasped in a voice like shards of glass.

Seeing the world through the demon’s eyes, hearing his voice through her ears, it was messed up and disorienting. He could get lost between his reality and hers, especially because she was with Cas, and that was the only place Dean ever wanted to be anymore.

So Dean focused on the feeling of his heart pounding in his chest. It helped connect him to his own body back in the basement. He had to remember that he wasn’t really there with Cas. He was still chained and bound to a chair in some basement, and he couldn’t let this new torture distract him from his goal. He had to break his thumb and get out, especially because right now would be a perfect time. The bitch wasn’t there, and thanks to her eyes in his head, he could see where she was and what she was doing. Dean knew he was safe for the moment, so he had to take his chance.

Cas asked fake Dean about the succubus, completely unaware that it wasn’t Dean in the room with him. Dean would kill the bitch for using his likeness to hurt Cas. Overt torture was kind in comparison to her twisted games. Physical wounds healed faster than psychological ones. The demoness was denying Cas water but under the guise of negligence. It was as if she didn’t care about enough Cas to keep him thirsty. She just didn’t care about him at all. And Cas accepted her treatment as if he deserved it. As if Dean would ever—ever—be so cruel.

Dean whispered in his own voice from his own body, “I’d never treat you like that, Cas.” But a guilty part of him knew that he had been cruel in the past, too. It hurt to see his friend behaving as if anything that demon did as Dean was normal. But it killed him to think that his own words and actions had made it seem real enough to Cas that he didn’t even question her cruelty.

The world twisted as the demoness moved forward into the shack. It was nauseating. Dean felt trapped inside her body and seasick with the uncontrolled motion. She kneeled, and it seemed like Dean was mere inches from Cas, but he was still so far away. He couldn’t feel the other man, smell him, or touch him. He could only look through the eyes of a demon and wish that this had never happened.

Cas rasped, “I’m sorry I couldn’t rescue you,” and the guilt-ridden self-loathing that burdened his friend’s voice made Dean’s chest ache. Then Cas added a barely audible, “I tried.”

Dean—the real Dean—replied, “It’s not your fault,” even though he knew Cas couldn’t hear.

The demoness responded in a cold tone, “I know you did.”

Cas kept his eyes downturned. The demoness untied his wrists from the pipe, and Cas let out a cry of pain. The succubus slammed her hand over his mouth. The angel’s blue eyes flashed wide, and Dean saw into them without feeling their usual connection.

Dean heard his own voice curse at Castiel, and fury raced up his spine like an electric shock. He ordered the man not to look at him, and Cas obeyed.

Dean’s anger helped ground him to reality, even though he was blind to his own environment as long as the demoness was broadcasting hers to his brain. He had to block her out. This was exactly what she wanted—to make Dean angry, to keep him hot-headed and stupid. He wouldn’t fall into her trap.

Dean traced his heartbeat back to his real body. He flexed his hands, felt the ache in his shoulders and the sting of pain in his wrists from being cuffed so tight for so long. He closed his eyes, but that did nothing to block out the crystal clear broadcast of the demon’s view of Cas. Dean heard his own voice tell the other man, “Take your clothes off.”
Dean became like a stone in his shock and fear. He couldn’t function beyond breathing as he waited for Cas’s response to the insane demand.

Cas managed a weak, “What?”

The succubus replied by dragging Cas up the wall to a seated position, a movement which seemed to cause the angel great pain, which he attempted to hide. Then she gave a bullshit but a plausible reason for them both to take their clothes off.

What was the bitch trying to do? Seduce Cas as Dean? Part of him hoped so because that shit would never work, and then it would be her turn to be on the losing end. As long as Dean had known Cas, he’d never seen the guy display any inclination toward sexual anything. And he absolutely, beyond any doubt, had zero physical desires toward Dean. That was a solid fact.

Dean’s view of Cas became blocked as the succubus pulled a sheet of plaid over her head, followed by a blood-covered undershirt. She was disrobing, and Cas looked upward, seeming pained. The longer Dean observed, the more he understood Cas’s expression. It was longing. Cas seemed hungry for what he thought was Dean’s body. The expression was foreign on Cas’s face but it wasn’t a mystery. Dean had been looked at like that before. Hell, he’d probably worn that expression of desire for another person’s body for a good portion of his life, but not usually with the torment that Cas also wore. He couldn’t stop looking at fake Dean’s torso, but it seemed like he really wished he could. He begged for water, but the demoness denied him again.

Cas huddled against the wall in pain and torment, slowly dying of his wounds and thirst, yet he didn’t put up any resistance when the fake Dean told him not to look at him. When he swore at him. When he ordered the angel to take his clothes off and said he couldn’t drink water until it was done.

This was all Dean's fault. He was too hard on Cas. The guy just wanted to help. Always. Even when the two of them disagreed, Dean didn’t doubt that the angel’s motivations were good and pure. Cas couldn’t be anything but that, and he had learned so much about humanity and compassion since his time on earth. Dean had never thanked him enough. He should have been more patient. A better friend. This whole thing was his fault.

Dean struggled to maintain his focus as the waves of guilt kept rolling in to drown him, but then the best and worst thing that could have happened did.
The she-demon slapped Cas’s face.

Dean’s maudlin guilt was burned out by raging flames of hatred.

That bitch had laid her hands on Cas for the final time. Dean was breaking his thumb and he was busting out. He would separate that bitch’s head from her neck and he would do it smiling. Maybe even laughing.

He heard his voice ask from that other place, sounding smug and amused, “You want me to gag you?”

Dean saw that Cas didn’t understand the implication, and he knew that the succubus was getting off on his innocence.

Dean cursed, “Fuck you, bitch,” and he gripped his thumb as tight as he could. His anger helped ground him to his own reality, even though he was blind to his environment as long as she was broadcasting hers to his brain. He saw the demoness peel Cas from his shirt. He heard Cas cry out in pain then bite back his screams. He saw the likeness of his own hand touch Cas’s naked shoulder, and Dean could hardly think beyond his fury. He gripped his thumb, imagined it was the demonesses neck, and he squeezed and pulled in one hard, fluid jerk. The pain lancing through his arm told him that he’d definitely, savagely broken his thumb. He laughed, victorious.
The demoness leaned closer to Cas. She must have been straddling his lap to be in this position.

Dean had rarely ever been so close to Cas. He reminded himself that he still wasn’t, not really, but even if it was through a demon’s eyes, he still saw a thin vein pulse an uneven rhythm up the pillar of Cas’s neck, and it still made his dick twitch. He saw the goosebumps on the man’s skin as the demoness trailed her hands along his chest. She had left Cas’s tie on around his neck, and Dean knew that detail was for him alone. The bitch grabbed it and choked up on it, making the circle of blue fabric tight around Cas’s neck. And Cas, his eyes downcast, had his mouth open to catch whatever air he could.

Why wasn’t he stopping her?

Dean grit his teeth through the agony of sliding his broken hand free of the handcuff. He flexed every muscle in his arms and felt the raw chafe of the ropes that bound him as they shifted upward as one.

Blind to his basement reality, the one where he was leaning in to kiss Cas, and Cas gave every impression of looking like a man willing to be kissed, swam through Dean’s entire body. Even as he struggled to get free from his bonds, his heart hammered at the nearness of Cas’s body and the sensation of leaning in for that kiss.

It wasn’t him. Dean knew that. But Cas didn’t.

The demoness tilted her head and tugged on Cas’s tie, and Dean shouted at the top of his aching lungs.

“Don’t you touch him!”

Chapter Text

"Don't leave," Dean said. "And don't die on me."

The door slammed closed behind Dean, and Cas was alone again in the ever-darkening shed.

He was beginning to think he'd never leave this place, so Dean's first order wouldn't be hard to follow. The second one, however, was becoming troublesome with each passing moment.

Based on his injuries, he should be in far more pain than he felt. The dark, oozing thought of 'it hurts' was nothing compared to the sharp, stabbing agony of sometime before—when the wounds were fresher and his motivation driving and all he could think was 'Keep going! Let the pain become determination!' But now, Cas was halfway in the grave, and he knew it. The ex-angel was resigned to that fact.

Dean had acted like he had some escape and travel plan, but then he'd gone off again. By the time Dean returned next time, Cas might be dead. Maybe that was the only way Dean would have a chance of making it to safety. And really, that was all Cas wanted anymore. Just Dean safe from harm. It was his final prayer and wish.

His breath made a pathetic, wheezing sound. It cut through the otherwise silent space each time Cas sucked air through his mouth. He shivered in a pool of his blood. He didn't feel much of anything, now. Well, cold. He felt cold.

Death, it seemed, was merciful, even to those who didn't deserve such kindness. Cas had almost ended the world. He'd killed people and bargained with innocent lives. Dean was fighting a demon goddess right now because of Cas's weaknesses. And if the hunter did survive, and by some Winchester miracle kill the goddess, he would return here to find his friend dead.

Cas knew that Dean would never forgive himself if that happened.

So the ex-angel kept breathing far beyond when he wanted to stop. And when his body told him, 'We can't anymore,' Cas replied with a feeble, 'Do it for Dean,' and his lungs inflated again.

Time passed. The shed grew darker. The ground colder. Harder.

Hallucinations came in waves and shadows. Shapes appeared on the cobwebbed ceiling. Orbs of light. Angel's wings. Cas imagined the face of one of his long-departed brothers.

Gabriel was always one of his favorites.

The end must be very near if he was seeing dead angels.

"Okay, buddy. Hang in there." Gabriel's voice rang clear. Then he screamed, and it shook the foundations of the shack.

"Sam!" he shouted. "SAM!"

The tools on the walls trembled.

Cas felt pressure and fire on his shoulder; then the world went black.

Sweat poured down Dean's body in buckets. The direct-to-brainwaves televised special of "Demented Succubus Attacking Defenseless Angel" had turned off with a blast of darkness moments ago. He didn't know if it was because he had screamed or something else, but Dean knew he had to get free of the ropes: NOW.

The demoness could still be in that funky little shack with Cas, kissing him or something worse. And at the end of their encounter, Cas had looked like…

Dean's throat grew tight with panic, and he struggled even harder against his bonds. Cas was in bad shape. Real bad. That waxy-eyed, pale-faced expression on his handsome—no, stupid—face belied a chasm of nothingness underneath. It was the look of a man moments from death. His gaze had slipped down to fake Dean's mouth and broadcast a willingness to be kissed, but the look behind all of that said, "I'm gone, and I know it. This is goodbye."

Well, fuck that. Dean was getting out of the Succubus torture pit, he was finding Cas, saving his life, and killing the she-demon. And it would happen in that exact order.

The ropes scrunched up to the roundest part of his shoulders. Dean pushed with both arms as hard as he could outward, and the ropes dragged up his biceps. They released their hold, and Dean used his good hand to pull the massive bundle of woven cord off over his head.

His arms free, he stretched his left hand out to the teeny torture table (a cute nickname that did little to diminish the horror of said table) and latched onto the nearest weapon: a long file blade. He slid it into his boot. Next weapon. A longer, thicker knife, stained with his blood. Then he cut the ropes from around his legs.

Footsteps thundered down the hall.

"Shit," Dean hissed and shoved that knife into his other boot. He was free of the ropes, but another set of cuffs kept his ankles bound to the metal legs of the chair which remained bolted to the floor.

Dean cursed the fact that his one working hand was his left one. The right was useless. He couldn't grip anything. Couldn't even make a fist. It was another disadvantage on a mountain of disadvantages, but it would have to do. Dean scrambled for another knife, this one curved and serrated, and gripped it in his left hand.

If it hadn't been used to gouge crescent moons deep into his thighs, he might have loved this knife. The handle fit his grip as if it were custom-designed to do so. It was heavy for a smaller blade and shone as if polished, which was strange as his blood should have been all over the thing.

Could a weapon be self-cleaning?

Maybe a demon one.

Speaking of...

"How dare you!" bellowed the succubus as she kicked open the door. She wore a black dress and her default body: the one belonging to the busty redhead.

Dean replied, "That's my line, you bitch." He kept his left hand and the curved blade hidden behind his back but raised his right to show a broken thumb and a proud middle finger.

Her eyes flew wide as she looked him up and down. For a moment, she appeared frightened and backed up, but then seemed to realize her prisoner remained chained by his feet. She stepped forward, tightening her grip on the pitchfork and garden shears.

"I was so close to seducing that angel," she growled. "Do you have any idea the power that would have given me? You are going to pay for your interruption, Hunter."

"Bite me."

The demoness launched the pitchfork at him like a javelin. Dean threw himself to the ground. The garden weapon clattered against the chair as he hit the floor, but his knife remained firm in his left hand and hidden from her view. His legs twisted as the cuffs kept him pinned. In his boots, the hidden blades sliced him, but not enough to cause alarm.

"You're wrong. He wouldn't have fallen for it," Dean said. "Cas is too smart for your tricks."

The demoness smiled through her rage. "But he did fall for it, Princess. And he would have been giving it up in about two seconds if you hadn't ruined everything with that giant mouth of yours!"

"I thought you liked my—"

"Shut it, babe," growled the demoness as she came forward. "We are done flirting, you and I. My sights are higher, now."

The demoness was almost within stabbing distance. Just a few more feet and Dean could reach her leg with the blade. She would buckle to the ground, and he could stab up into her brain from below her jaw.

The demon drew near, the shears raised in her right hand as if to stab straight through his body. Dean shifted onto his back and scooted toward the chair, keeping the blade hidden under his leg.

"I'm going to have that angel," said the Succubus from above him.

Just one more step…

"And you are going to watch." The demon crept forward. "But I'll be damned if I'll let you ruin my fun again."

"You're already damned." Dean thrust the knife straight out into her lower leg. The blade stabbed straight through the meat of her calf after glancing off her shin bone. She shrieked and dropped the garden shears, but she did not bend. Her hand shot out faster than Dean's eyes could register its movement, and she had him by his neck and yanked him into the air.

The cuffs tugged on his feet, still chained to the chair as she pulled him higher.

"I could rip you in half!" she shrieked.

The chair beneath Dean creaked under the pull. His spine popped in multiple places, and he gasped from the pain of being tugged in two directions. But the demoness didn't kill him.

"You're lucky I'm so patient," she said as she propped her leg on the chair. With her free hand—because, yes, the monster was strong enough to hold him by his neck with just the one—she tugged the blade from her leg. "Now be a good dog." She threw Dean onto the floor. "And lay down," she commanded with her hand pressing on his neck. She straddled him at the waist. He fought to get out from beneath her, but she didn't budge an inch. Her hand was like a metal shackle pinning him by his throat to the ground, and she wielded the knife above him.

But there were still the weapons in his boots. If the demoness kept her attention on his face, he might be able to shift enough to grab another knife. Then he could stab her in the head.

Not his favorite place to stab a body, but it would be the best bet.

"Stop squirming, doggie," she said as she pressed on his windpipe.

Dean's fingers brushed against his boots.

"Next time," she began as she bent low to speak and ran the knife along his face. "I'll make sure you can't interrupt our fun."

Dean's brain screamed for oxygen. The world was turning red, and his lips tingled. Pressure behind his eyes threatened to pop them out of his skull. He fumbled for the hidden knife.

The demoness muttered something dark and ancient under her breath. Her irises glowed purple as the rims turned pitch black.

Dean saw the world turn bright white. An otherworldly pain tore through his throat.

It was like an implosion, a crushing inward to nothing. The demon's hand had flattened Dean's neck against the floor like a pancake—that was the only answer. But he was still breathing. Still alive and screaming from the pain.

Only, his shouting made no sound. Even his panicked gasps caused no noise. The demoness freed his neck from her grip and smiled down at him.

"Have something to say?" she asked as she tilted her head. She used the curved blade to lift his chin. "Speak up, Dean."

He tried to say, "You evil bitch," but nothing happened. His mouth moved, but sound didn't come.

She laughed. It would be her downfall, because when she closed her eyes, Dean gripped the blade in his shoe, slid it free, and stabbed with all his might.

The demoness' laughter cut short. She stared down at Dean, unblinking. A slender handle from the file blade stuck out of the side of her temple. Blood dripped down the edge of her face.

"Hm," she said. Then she frowned as if realizing there was still one more chore to do before bedtime. "Perhaps I will have to kill you after all."

How was she even speaking? Sitting up? Dean had stabbed her brain, right? What the hell? Shit balls.

"Stay," she commanded. Dean had no intention of staying. He had one more hidden knife and one more chance to do some damage if he moved fast. But she spun the curved blade in her hand and pierced the edge of Dean's thigh straight to the floor.

It didn't hurt. Not really. It felt like someone had punched him hard in the leg, and Dean wondered if he was wrong about what he thought happened. But when he raised his head and looked down his body, he saw that the knife went straight through his flesh and into the floor. When he attempted to move, agony lanced through his shredded muscles.

But again, his screams made no noise. Neither did his angry tears.

"I will end you," he cried without sound, hands balled to shaking fists at his sides. "I promise."

The demoness arched an eyebrow. "More threats, I assume?" She brought a hand up to her head and hissed. The handle of the knife embedded in her temple trembled. Dean hoped that she was in pain.

"Dean!"

The demoness spun to face the door.

"Dean, answer me!"

Oh, no.

"Sammy!" Dean shouted with all of his might, and still made no sound. "Sam, no!"

His younger brother filled the space of the open doorway, looking like he hadn't shaved, slept, or eaten in weeks. Sam laid eyes on Dean and shouted his name, sounding both overjoyed and distraught—and Dean realized he must look an inch or two from death.

The demoness got to her feet and turned to face the newly arrived hunter.

"Well, Sam Winchester. What obnoxious timing you have."

"Get away from my bother!" he shouted, wielding an angel blade and a murderous scowl.

Dean sat up, groaning in silence, and nearly passed out from the pain. He waved at Sam to get the fuck out. Shouted for Sam to go. And even though Dean had no voice, the shape of his words should be clear enough.

But Sam never needed to hear Dean's voice to know what he wanted. He also never listened.

He rushed the demoness. She dodged, but barely in time, and Dean realized that the knife in her brain might actually be affecting her. Again, Sam lunged toward her and nearly landed the blow. Maybe he stood a chance.

"Come on, Sammy."

He struck out and sliced her arm, but the demoness threw him against the wall. His head made a sickening smack. His eyes slipped closed, but in an instant, he was back on his feet, though he had to use the wall to hold himself upright.

"All this fighting," the she-demon said. "When we could be making love instead. Doesn't make any sense."

Seeing the Succubus use her magic from a distance was nowhere near as intoxicating as when she used it on him directly, but even though she was trying to seduce Sam, Dean felt that same, sick pull toward her.

Sam seemed caught off-guard. The angel blade slipped and pointed at the floor. His eyes softened and glanced down the woman's body. He furrowed his brows, confused.

Dean knew he couldn't shake Sam out of it from here, not without a voice. So he summoned all his willpower, all his strength, and prayed to whoever might still be up there listening to his prayers that he wouldn't pass out. Then he gripped the handle of the knife that curved through the meat of his right thigh, and he pulled with everything he had.

It worked. Dean blacked out for a few seconds, just long enough for the demoness to take a step closer to Sam, but Dean's leg was free, and the knife was in his hand. His brother still held the angel blade pointed at the woman, but he wasn't attacking. He wasn't rushing in to take her clothes off, either, so there was still hope. Dean knew that, mentally, Sam was fighting her influence. If Dean could help shake his brother out of her trance, the two of them could take the bitch down.

Dean tried to stand. He made it to one knee then fell flat on his face.

Hopefully, the noise was enough to snap Sam out of it, because Dean didn't think he could get up again. He'd underestimated his injuries or overestimated his strength. In any event, Dean realized the tank had hit empty ten miles back. He had nothing left to give. He fought to keep his eyes open, but he didn't see much besides shadows moving fast. Couldn't hear more than a dull hum of activity somewhere in the distance. And then a whisper in his ear.

"Hey, boy toy."

It was a familiar voice, but entirely out of place here. Dean had to be imagining it. Or he'd died and gone to some weird version of hell.

"Hang onto your hot pants," said the angel Gabriel. "Cuz you are gonna go through some shit."

Chapter Text

Sam took in the smooth black walls, the gold-lined doors, and added every step of the labyrinthine layout to his growing mental map.

Up ahead, hovering at shoulder height and already fading, was a glowing white arrow of light that indicated Gabriel had gone this direction.

Sam turned left by the marker. Three yards. Another marker. Left turn. Ten yards. Marker. Right turn. One, two, three, four—

“Sam!”

Gabriel’s voice, full of alarm. It came from far ahead. Sam sped up.

Step one of their rescue plan, if this hasty and ill-researched act of desperation could even be called such, had been to let Gabriel lead the way into the den of the succubus with Sam following behind. Gabriel knew what the demon was—though he had yet to say outright—and he had a sense of how to track her (supposedly). The angel would engage first, doing his best to weaken the mystery monster while positioning her back to the door. When she was in range, Sam would strike hard and fast from behind, hopefully killing her so they could rescue Dean and Cas.

“And you’ll be back together singing kumbaya before bed,” Gabriel had bragged.

Sam hated this plan, not least of all because it relied heavily on Gabriel. The torment that “Loki” had put him and his brother through held a special label in his memory marked, “the worst.” It was a moniker Sam also gave to Loki a.k.a. Gabriel himself, but the younger Winchester had to concede that if both Dean and Cas had fallen under the succubus’s might, Gabriel had better take the lead. Like it or not, it was the sensible option.

Five minutes into their search, the pitch-black halls and gold-lined doors led on without variance. If the constant downhill slope was real and not imaginary, Sam guessed they were two stories underground by now. So far, there had been no visible or audible hint of Cas, Dean, or any telltale signs of torture. If it weren’t for the breadcrumbs of glowing arrows that Gabriel had conjured at his every turn, Sam would think he was alone down here.

All he heard were his footsteps and heavy breaths. A few more minutes like this, and he might begin to fear that this endless maze of nondescript halls and doors was a trap he had fallen into and would never escape. But then Gabriel called for him.

“SAM!” The voice boomed like a bomb dropping, and Sam broke into a dead sprint.

FiveSixSevenEightMarkerRight—

Sam pulled up short in the open doorway. His eyes wouldn’t close, too many visual enigmas.

This room was wrong. Dead wrong. It looked, and more than that, felt like a garden shed in the middle of a forest. The ground was packed dirt with hints of grass. Colors of sunset shone through the cracks in the rough-hewn wooden walls. Garden tools covered in rust and grease and earth, the scent of fresh air, the heat from a ray of sunlight, it made no sense. Yet here it was. Underground. Inside.

“I didn’t scream your name because I needed a replacement door,” Gabriel growled from a kneeling position against the far wall.

Sam hurried into the room—shed?—glancing up to note a hanging lightbulb and cobwebs before realizing that Gabriel sat hunched over a figure.

“Cas,” Sam breathed, feeling the ground rush up to meet his knees as he sank down. “No.”

The huddled angel’s skin was practically translucent, blue veins shining through. Bruises marred his under eyes. Naked except for his pants and tie (the latter of which was pulled so tight it seemed to have been used to strangle him), Sam counted at least ten stab wounds on Castiel’s torso. A gaping hole, one that Sam would bet ran straight through Castiel’s body, shone bright red on his right shoulder.

Bile rose up Sam’s esophagus, along with a fiery rage.

“Hold his legs,” instructed Gabriel. “He might kick.”

Sam pressed both hands down over Castiel’s ankles.

“Close your eyes.”

Even with his lids screwed tight and his face tucked into his shoulder, the light from Gabriel’s grace was almost unbearable to Sam. Then it was gone.

Castiel had not kicked.

“Okay, Boyscout, you’re safe.”

Sam opened his eyes and saw Gabriel turn to gaze at him. His voice was breathy, but he wasn’t sweating and didn’t appear scared.

“This is bad,” he said.

“Is he dead?” Sam blurted, guts in a knot.

“No, but he would have been soon.”

Sam stood and backed up toward the door, adrenaline spiking, jaw clenched. He raised the angel blade.

“You stay with Cas. I’ll go—”

“No.” Gabriel shot to his feet. “We’re close. When we find Dean, we’ll find her too. We go together.”

“And what about Cas?” Sam challenged.

Gabriel furrowed his brow. Then his mouth curled into a smirk, and he met Sam’s gaze with glee.

“I have a brilliant idea that everyone is going to hate.” He scooped Cas up and hoisted him over his shoulder before hurrying for the open doorway.

Sam bit back numerous replies and followed.

One, two, three, four—Gabriel jogged ahead. Cas was like a scarecrow. Boneless, lifeless. Five, six, seven. The air smelled of mold. Gabriel’s head twitched to the right. Eight, nine yards. Right turn into another corridor, identical to the rest. Gabriel stopped at the first door on the left side. With care, he lowered Castiel to the floor. His hand lingered over the other angel’s heart.

“Don’t hate me, bro.” Gabriel’s voice was so soft that Sam wasn’t sure he heard correctly. Then Castiel disappeared from view.

It happened in an instant. A blink. When Sam’s mind caught up with his eyes—and by then Gabriel was standing—Sam hissed, “What did you do?”

“I’ll explain later.”

“Like hell.” Sam stepped up to the angel. “Explain now.”

“Can’t.” Gabriel grabbed Sam’s forearm and swung him with surprising strength at the door on the right side of the hall. “You have to fight now.”

The door burst open, and Sam hoisted the angel blade.

Basement. Mildew. Knives. The copper stench of stale spilled blood. Here was the torture chamber. Sam’s eyes narrowed. The monster, clothed in a black dress and kneeling over the figure of his brother, spun to face the door.

Heart in his throat, Sam shouted, “Dean!” In the dim lighting, he wasn’t sure—couldn’t see well enough to know if he was alive or not. “Dean, answer me!”

No sound came, but Dean moved, and Sam could have slumped against the wall in relief. So many other thoughts should have been in his head, but all that Sam could register was, “He’s alive.” And furious. He emphatically mouthed for Sam to leave.

Fat chance.

The angel blade caught light from a work lamp overhead, and Sam tightened his hold as the demoness marched forward.

“Well, Sam Winchester,” she purred, her voice smooth and sweet. Her hair seemed to be darkening from red to brown, and she plucked something from her temple before tossing it to the ground. It clattered as she said, “What obnoxious timing you have.”

“Get away from my brother!”

Sam rushed the bitch. It was close, but she was fast and escaped his blade unscathed. He tried again. She was just too fast. Sam saw Dean mouth, “Come on, Sammy.” He took a sharp breath and punched up the pace. Yes! He had sliced her arm. The demon bled reddish grey.

As he fought, other thoughts flooded in. Why the hell had he and Gabriel come up with a plan if the jerk was going to ignore it? But then Sam caught a flash of something behind the succubus—a moving shadow cast by nothing—and he realized that Gabriel was in the room.

Now he understood. This was still the plan, but with the roles reversed. Sam would make sure the succubus’s back remained facing Gabriel and Dean.

The world grew warm and fuzzy. It staggered Sam. Heat flooded his body, starting at his groin and spreading to his extremities. The basement faded into soft, hazy clouds, and his eyes magnetized to the enchanting figure of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

She was gorgeous. Dainty. Lightly tan. Her large, brown eyes regarded Sam as if all she wanted in life was to spend forever by his side, loving him.

No. That was wrong. This was a trick. 

Move, Sam commanded himself.

Stay, he heard in his mind. And why not? The woman was coming to him, and she was a wondrous thing. A miracle. Sam had never felt such a pull to another person. He had to have her. The angel blade—why had he been holding it?—felt wrong in his hands. She belonged there, underneath his touch, not the unfeeling weapon.

A hard thud pulled Sam from his daze and sharpened the basement to its former, stark angles. The stench of blood struck hard, and Sam latched onto the fact that it was Dean’s blood. Cas’s blood. Sam focused his eyes and sought out his brother. The older Winchester lay face down and unmoving, a curved blade in his hand and stretched out toward the fray. Even after all this torture, he was still fighting.

Sam lifted the angel blade.

“You two are the most stubborn men I have ever encountered,” said the demoness as she stood relaxed across from Sam, a hand on her hip. “But between you and me,” she pointed over her shoulder and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “he’s a little more stubborn.”

Sam huffed, “I know.”

A shadow fell across Dean’s body. It rolled him onto his back. Gabriel.

“What are you?” Sam demanded, as much to know as to hold her attention while Gabriel, hopefully, got Dean to safety. “No lies.”

The succubus smiled. “I’m the best lay you’ll ever have, baby.”

And her magic returned, suffocating all sense with the heat of desire, the pull toward her body, and this time, Sam’s dick stiffened. Across from him, she giggled. Her gaze drifted downward.

“Very impressive.”

Sam wanted to kill her, yes, but he needed to fuck her. His traitorous body lurched toward her.

He bit his lip so hard it drew blood. It was enough to break the spell.

Weapon raised, Sam struck out at the demoness.

Her eyes widened in surprise as she dodged. Another strike, this one closer to her body but still missing by an inch, gave Sam enough momentum to spin and thrust again.

“Fucking Winchesters,” the demoness barked, skirting out of the way of Sam’s continued attacks. “I’m offering you the best death you could ever hope to have. You get that, right?”

Ignoring her, Sam flipped the blade around his palm and held it backward. He would stab her in the heart, vampire style.

“Hunters all die horrible deaths,” she continued, “it’s inevitable. But how many can do it while experiencing the most incredible feeling of their lives? None. I could give you that gift if you give yourself to me.”

“You think very highly of yourself,” Sam replied. He shifted his gaze to where Dean lay, peering into shadow and seeing very little.

Gabriel had some unknown scheme, and Sam hated it, but he did trust the angel to keep Dean alive. The rest, they could figure out later.

“I am the best,” she stated. It was an odd tone, both confident and sad. The next time she spoke, her voice held a dark promise.

“When I am finished with you, Samuel, you will accept your death. Just like Castiel has done. Just like Dean will do.”

Sam’s hand shook from the strength of his grip. “You’re wrong.”

The demoness smiled. Her eyes flashed dangerous truths. “No,” she replied. “I’m not.”

The monster’s certainty chilled Sam. She spoke as if she had seen the future and had nothing to fear.

Sam raced forward with his arm outstretched, hand and blade raised to chest height. The demoness dodged to the left as predicted. Sam tossed the knife to his left hand and thrust straight down.

Satisfying and horrifying, the sensation of stabbing through flesh reverberated up Sam’s arm.

He had done it. The blade had pierced the unguarded space between the succubus’s collarbone and shoulder blade. It went straight down in the circle of her rib cage. The demoness gave a tiny gasp and looked at Sam through her lashes. He withdrew the blade to stab again, this time in her side between her ribs.

Her eyes widened. The soft ‘o’ of surprise that her mouth had slipped into at being stabbed the first time shifted into a tight line of rage the second.

“Fucking Winchesters,” she repeated.

Sam didn’t have time to be afraid as her hand shot out and gripped him by the neck. The force was crushing. His vision danced with black spots. He kicked out—his feet were off the ground—and she threw him against a wall. He landed on mercifully steady legs but no longer held the angel blade, (it stuck out of her side), and the monster advanced with murder in her eyes.

He was going to die. The succubus didn’t want to toy with him. There would be no more offers of fucking him to death. It looked like she wanted to eat him alive starting with his testicles. But all of that was okay because Sam had seen the shadow behind her crouch over Dean, and Sam had seen Dean’s body disappear.

He still didn’t know what that meant, but he did know that his brother wasn’t here. Gabriel had put him somewhere safe. Nothing else mattered.

The demoness reached out with both hands.

A white arrow of light materialized between the two of them, pointing upward.

Puzzled, the she-demon shifted her gaze to the ceiling.

Sam froze, breath held in his chest.

Gabriel appeared in place of the arrow, his back against Sam’s front.

A gurgling sound came from the succubus as Gabriel stabbed her heart with the angel blade he had taken from her side.

Hope filled Sam with excitement that sent his heart racing. A faint hum reached his ears, and in the next instant, he realized it was muttered words.

“Go,” Gabriel breathed. “Go, go, go, go, go.”

The angel used his body to force Sam backward toward the door, all while keeping his eyes on the stunned she-demon and repeating, “Go, go, go, go, go—”

A great, heaving breath came from the succubus. Glowing red pools spilled from her pupils and spread to her irises. Her mouth parted, splitting wide into both sides of her head like a demonic Pez dispenser. She howled, but not in pain. In rage.

“LOKI!” came the cry from her forked tongue. “LOKI!”

Gabriel shoved Sam into the hallway and sprinted ahead, dragging the longer-legged man by his forearm.

“GO GO GO GO GO!”  

Chapter Text

Cold air on his face, breath in his lungs, pain in his shoulder.

Castiel was alive.

A burst of energy gave him breath and strength and life. Castiel half believed that God, himself, had chosen to pull him from the brink of death and restore his grace, but then the sudden energy vanished.

Agonizing emptiness followed in its wake. Every hollow molecule where Castiel’s grace once resided cried out in phantom pain. The negative space, the nothing, consumed his awareness until Cas couldn’t feel his human body as his heavenly one struggled to comprehend the fact that he had no grace.

Castiel had grown used to ignoring the chasm of nothingness. Turning a blind eye to his defect had allowed him to endure life as a mortal, and time had given the gift of dulling the ache. But this raw agony felt as sharp as it had during the moment of separation from his power.

Something must have triggered a call for his grace. This was an involuntary reaction. It felt like being woken from a nightmare, falling out of bed, and trying to walk on legs that had been amputated.

What had made this happen? Why was his angel side trying to wake?

Had it been Dean? The succubus? Himself? Castiel’s last memory before waking to this torture had been of… Gabriel. Could that have been real?

Through the grit of dried tears and the weight of exhaustion, Cas forced his eyes open. If Gabriel was here, perhaps something he had done could explain this phantom pain. But when Castiel blinked away the darkness and his eyes pulled the world into focus, there was no Gabriel. More alarming, everything around him had changed. No shed. No garden tools. Cas lay spread out on his back in an open forest scarce of trees. He seemed to be alone, not even the sound of birdsong to keep him company. The sun set beyond his feet.

While he still had energy, Cas had to piece together this puzzle.

His wounds hadn’t healed—he knew without checking—but something had given him a boost. Likely, that same thing had called for his grace, and Castiel’s “muscle memory” had made him try to use that non-existent limb. Thankfully, the pain of that particular torture was fading into the background where Cas kept it out of reach.

But now the physical pain was gaining ground.

So many questions needed answers, and he feared he would lose consciousness soon.

He rolled his head to the left. There was only forest floor as far as he could see—not that he had much of a straightaway to study. The horizon tilted upward into a gray cloud. He turned his head the other direction and saw nothing as his vision darkened. This was the side of his shoulder impalement, and it screamed at him. More than that, it wept. The ground beneath him grew damp.

Some mysterious energy boost may have tugged him back from death’s door, but Cas didn’t have much blood left to lose.

“Dean?” he called. Either his ears were foggy, or his voice was almost noiseless. He took a deeper breath and pushed the air out harder. “Dean?”

Yes, it sounded louder that time. But there was no response.

He was alone. And… and…

The black crept in. It snuck into the edges of the forest and crept like a fog. Warmth. Rest.

No! Cas bit his cheek to sharpen his mind. He could not give in. There were too many questions. He had to piece together the puzzle, determine if Dean was safe, and then maybe he could let go.

Unless the shack had vanished leaving no trace behind, this was a new location. Perhaps in the same forest—the time of day matched up—but the air had a different quality. It felt colder. Less muggy.

So it was a new forest. How had he gotten here? Who had moved him?

A gust of wind, cold enough to make Cas shiver, blew on the frigid air. The smell of smoke burned his throat.

That was not encouraging.

None of this was. Why hadn’t he died? As certain as the sun would rise and set, Cas knew he’d breathed his last, but this did not feel like an afterlife. Unless…

Purgatory.

That made sense. Chilled air. Desolate waste of a half-dead forest. It felt like purgatory.

Well, this was the end. Second death would come swiftly here. Monsters populated this world, and he was defenseless. One of them would find him and, if Castiel was fortunate, kill him quickly. Cas prayed that Dean would survive and not end up here.

As if summoned by Castiel’s fear, voices, the sound of two men or more, came from over the horizon. Their tones were casual, their voices loud without concern of who might hear. Cas didn’t recognize either. Their thick, vowel-dripping accents were distinctly Southern.

“That weigh man never knew an honest day’s work in his life.” The higher pitched voice of the two sounded irritated.

Cas had to move. He couldn’t give up. The Winchesters never would. They had taught him so much. Given so much. If it was the last thing he did, he wanted to make them proud. Survival was life’s simplest goal, and he could rally for that.

A couple of yards away was a tall, skinny tree with some underbrush that might do for cover. Cas tossed his left arm over his right side and followed the momentum until he was face down in the dirt and leaves.

“‘Course not,” replied the huskier tone, “but you think the boss wants an honest weigh man working the line?”

Both men cursed and laughed bitterly.

The cold dirt parted as Cas dug both hands into the ground. Though his body protested, he forced himself to pull, crawling along the hard earth. At the unpleasant scrape, he remembered his lack of shirt. The tie still wrapped around his neck tightened as he dragged himself on his belly.

The voices drew near.

“There ain’t no honesty out here. There ain’t been for a long time.”

“Makes you think about joinin’ all those fools out West, huh?”

Footsteps vibrated through the ground, heavy and sloping. Cas grit his teeth, dug his fingers into the earth and pulled with all his reserves, but it did nothing but give him a few more inches. The cover was still five feet away at least, and the men would see him any moment.

“Better to die poor and cheated close to home than in the ass-crack o’—sweet mother, Mary!”

The high-pitched voice burst into a raspy laugh. “What in the hell did you just say about the mother of God?”

“Shut up and look!”

This was it. Nowhere to hide. No way to fight. The demons, ghouls, vampires, or whatever they were would kill him in a moment.

“God almighty.”

The footsteps burst into running before both sets stopped as they reached Cas. Knees hit the ground on either side of him. Rough hands landed on his back. He tried not to cringe.

“What in the hell happened, friend?” It was the man with the deeper voice. Cas blinked up. The stranger was young, mid-twenties, with dark hair under an Irish-style cap, light blue eyes that conveyed only worry, and a face covered in black dirt. He looked human.

“Damn near bled out from all these knife wounds.” The other man sounded queasy. He swallowed so thickly that Castiel heard it from the ground. “Robbery?”

These men weren’t demons. Not even hardened criminals. They were just men.

Cas coughed. He pushed against the blackness. “Where am I?”

The young man with blue eyes looked over Cas’s head in concern before kneeling closer to reply, “You’re in Ensley, Alabama, friend. Looks like you been robbed and stabbed. Did you have a horse?”

And then a horrifying dread visited Castiel.

He gasped and asked, “What year is it?” while fearing the answer and suspecting it already.

The high-pitched voice from Cas’s blind side whispered, “He’s in real bad shape.”

“We gotta get him to Doc.”

“Can we move him?”

“Think we have to.”

Their voices were fading behind a haze. The fog snuck in. Cas begged, “What year?

A hand squeezed his shoulder, and a soft voice said, “You’re gonna be okay.”

Cas let out a cry of despair. The men maneuvered him onto his back, and he didn’t fight, even though the pain lanced through his arm. He shivered, cold and baffled and hurt in every conceivable way. This should not have been possible. This was not possible.

When the darkness snuck in this time, he dove inside and prayed that when he woke—if he woke—this would have been nothing more than a fever dream.

Chapter Text

Gabriel touched Dean’s forehead, and it was like a bolt of lightning went through his whole body. Dean couldn’t scream, couldn’t move, couldn’t think, and he hoped to God he wasn’t pissing his pants. The angel injected Dean so full of whatever the hell was coursing through his atoms that every hair on Dean’s body stood up straight and he feared he might explode like a burrito heated up too long in the microwave.

But Dean did not explode. When the lightning vanished from his body, he was left invigorated. The world spun as he bolted upright, ready to fight or run. It was then Dean realized how very fucked he was.

That ass clown Gabriel had shifted him through space and put him in some kind of forest—alone—presumably far away from fighting, far from Sam, and far from Castiel.

Did Dean’s rescuers even know that Cas was in the same area as them needing saving, too? Was Castiel still in danger even now? Dying?

After trying to stand, Dean discovered that there was still something very wrong with his leg, even if it didn’t seem wholly impaled anymore and the pain was far away. Now on his knees, he took a look around himself. He sat at the bottom of a hill on the edge of a forest. There wasn’t much else of note. The world seemed enormous and empty. Each moment that passed, his questions grew more insistent, and even though he didn’t hurt too bad, the blood loss and dehydration caused a sluggish fog over his mind. This was not a battle situation, it was a puzzle, which meant Dean had to think like Sam. He did so in small steps. 

First: Where was he?

The ground was hard beneath a layer of fallen leaves. The air was crisp and the sky gray. With the forest at his back, Dean faced West where the last rays of a vibrant sunset painted the sky orange.

Wherever he was, it felt like the southern United States. Probably East Coast. If he was right, that meant he was a long way from where he had started hunting that succubus in Pennsylvania. Gabriel must have some serious mojo to transplant Dean all the way down here. Still, Dean didn’t know if the angel’s power would be enough to kill the she-demon. Hopefully, it was, and they would have a family reunion soon; Sam and Dean, Cas and Gabe.

Dean and Cas.

But Dean feared none of them would be so lucky.

He balled his left hand into a fist. Dean's right one was mangled, bloody, and swollen. It may as well be a puddle of jello for all the good it would do him. Moving on.

Second: Was it safe?

Well, nothing had jumped out of the forest at him yet. The tingles of imminent danger weren’t traveling up his spine, and Dean had a good sense of things like that. He reasoned it was safe enough.

Third: Where was Cas?

Probably not here. Perhaps in need of help with no one being aware of the need to rescue him. Besides Dean, the succubus was the only one who knew she had Castiel trapped. Would Sam and Gabe kill her before finding out? Or worse, would she kill all of them while Dean was stuck here?

Dean decided to skip that question for a less circular, spiraling into darkness forever, one.

Fourth: What should he do?

Well, he was Dean Winchester. If there were something to fight, he’d fight. If there were something to accomplish, he’d find a way to get it done no matter how impossible the task seemed. But right now, the only thing he could think of doing was to get himself to shelter.

“Dammit.”

Dean’s empty stomach clenched in unpleasant realization.

“Hello?” he called out as hard as he could. This made his throat raw, but it still didn’t make any noise. The forest rustled around him. Leaves crunched beneath him as he shifted to get to his feet, and he heard all of that, so his ears worked fine. He swayed—a lot—and lost his vision for a few seconds, but remained on his feet. His heaving breaths made noise. So why not his voice?

“What the hell did that bitch do to me?” he cried out.

Nothing. No sound.

“Balls.”

Dean kicked the leaves and went tumbling backward. He struck his head on a tree root, and the impact brought tears to his eyes. But it was frustrated despair that kept them there.

Don’t die, Cas. Dean thought, or rather prayed. Sammy, don’t you dare die on me either. Gabriel, if you’re listening, keep them both alive. And get me out of wherever the hell I am you sonofabitch. Let me fight!

No response.

Dean couldn’t lay on the ground all night. The chill coming up from the earth was making him shiver already, and the sun hadn’t even set all the way. So, he got up. He took his time, careful not to rush and pass out. Blood oozed from the large wound in his thigh, but it was a sluggish leak, and the leg could bear some weight. So Dean walked. He didn’t know where to, but there was a dark pillar of billowy cloud in the sky, and he pointed himself in that direction.

The going was slow. Dean's breathing was labored. Worst of all, pain crept back into every busted rib, each aching bruise, and all of his joints. His broken thumb was really screaming at him, now. He needed water. Needed food. Needed shelter.

Dean’s vision doubled. At the top of the hill, he came upon a cobbled footpath. It was filthy, covered in a thick layer of black grime, but there were fresh footprints. Two sets of men’s shoes, it looked like. Dean blinked and forced his eyes to focus.

The distance between the steps was short, though judging by the size of the boots, the men’s gaits ought to be almost as wide as Dean’s. And a few yards ahead in the road, a long, thick streak displaced the black grime. It looked like the marks of a body being dragged between the footprints.

Dean upped his pace to a trot. Balance wobbly at best, nonexistent in reality, Dean couldn’t form a straight line, but he kept to the road as well as he could. The distance between footprints remained short, and every fifteen yards or so, that body-smudge presented itself.

A wiser man might not have gone jogging into the unknown so unprepared. But Dean was doing even worse than that. His ineptitude went far beyond “unprepared.” He was shuffling ahead without a weapon, without a working right hand, without a voice, and little more than a vague idea of where the hell he was in the world. Dean was armed with insanity only, and that’s what kept him upright.

But something about that body-print had his working hand flexing and closing. His adrenaline spiked each time he came across that smear in the grime. It felt wrong, and that scared him.

He wasn’t running as much as he was throwing his weight forward and forcing his legs not to let him fall, but it did the trick. Soon, Dean heard voices. They were up ahead, just around a curve in the road. The tree-line blocked them from view.

“Come on,” panted a male voice. “I can’t hold him.”

Another, more youthful sounding voice panted right back, “Well, I can’t either.”

Dean heard the sound of something being shuffled around and placed on the ground, then several deep breaths.

“Damn,” exclaimed the first man. “He don’t look like much but boy is he heavy.”

“Heavier’n a three-hundred-pound cart.”

The first man put on a mocking voice to reply, “I think you mean a two-hundred-pound cart, there, Miner.”

Both men laughed. Dean snuck into the tree line and hid himself in the dark shadows. He could see the others, now. Two men, both in good shape, average height, wearing grimy work clothes. On the ground between them lay a third man, unmoving. He faced away, but the shape of his shoulders, the curve of his waist, the way his hair lay on the back of his head—Dean knew without question that huddled, half-naked heap of man was Castiel.

And without thinking, Dean hurled himself forward. He ran out of the woods, screaming Cas’s name without making noise nor caring that he made no sound. He ignored the strange men and the fact that they both screamed and jumped back at the sight of him.

All energy left Dean as he dropped to his knees behind Castiel’s blood-stained body. Dean lowered his head to his friend’s shoulder. There was nothing else, then. No forest, no other men. There was only Cas and Dean, and they were both still alive. Dean draped both arms and his torso over Cas as if to give the man’s body warmth, though Dean shivered himself.

“I take it you know this fella?” asked one of the men in a kind tone.

Dean managed a nod. He sat back, keeping his left hand on Castiel’s shoulder.

“What happened to you two?”

Dean shook his head.

The voices drew nearer. “You look one foot in the grave, same as your friend.”

And Castiel did appear to be half-dead.

“Cas.” Dean shook the angel’s shoulder and tried to speak again. “Wake up.”

From behind came a barely whispered, “You think he’s one of them mutes?”

Dean turned his head and nodded, thinking it the easiest way to explain why he couldn’t make his voice work.

“Well he ain’t deaf,” replied the younger of the two men and scolded, “Where’s your manners?”

“Sorry, friend,” said the older man as he crouched beside Dean. “I didn’t mean nothin’ by it, I just never met someone like you before.”

Dean thought the man had no idea just how true that statement was.

“We have a doctor in town,” explained the younger man. “We were tryin’ to get your friend there, but it’s a long trek to town and he ain’t helpin’ none. Seems like you’re okay to walk though?”

Dean nodded. The thought of a doctor and medicine gave him another push of energy. He would crash hard—monstrously hard—when they had made it to safety, but hopefully not before then.

The older man helped Dean to his feet. After a slight stumble, Dean was alright. The younger man lifted Cas from the ground. The angel didn’t stir.

The sky was growing dark, and the older man headed forward along the path. Dean followed but looked over his shoulder at the younger man struggling to carry Castiel’s weight over one shoulder.

No wonder they kept having to drag Cas. That was no way to carry a man.

Dean stopped, turned, and placed himself before the younger man, who looked up at him and grunted.

“Problem?”

Dean nodded and gave a disapproving—probably harsh and judgmental look—at the way the young man was carrying Cas. He mimed “Give him to me” as best he could, and the young man did so clumsily, keeping Castiel upright and tucked close to his side so Dean could take over the man’s weight when ready.

Dean reached for Cas’s right hand and pulled it over his left shoulder. He bent his knees and aligned Castiel’s torso across the expanse of his upper back. Then, with a breath and a mighty heave, Dean stood. He held Cas's hands and feet close together, making a tidy bundle and wearing Cas's weight like a shawl around his shoulders.

“Huh,” said the older man with a pleased smile. “That looks a helluva lot easier than how we was tryin’ to hold him.”

The younger man replied with less amusement. “Yes, it does.”

Dean marched forward several steps. Cas was heavy, and there was no physical way Dean should have had the ability to carry him on his injured leg and his starving body. But Cas had been tortured and nearly killed because of Dean. The man needed carrying and damn it, Dean was the one who would hold him—not these strangers.

Sweating buckets, wheezing all the way, Dean trudged onward. Soon he saw lights. It was too dark to study any buildings, but judging by the placement of the warm, almost firelight shining through the night sky, all the buildings in this small town seemed to be simple, one-story homes.

“I can take him,” said the younger man. “You look awful pale.”

Dean ignored him. He wanted to ask where this doctor was and why the men hadn’t just called an ambulance, but without his voice, he couldn’t. So he followed the lead of the old man in front, never slowing down.

It was dark as leviathan blood by the time they made it to the Doctor’s office. This town had no street lights, no cafes or restaurants, no welcoming hotel signs to draw travelers inside. As there was clearly no emergency clinic, Dean had to trust the strangers' words about this man being a good doctor, even though it looked like they were approaching a shack in someone's backyard and not a doctor’s office.

They must be out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere.

After a few knocks on an old wooden door, it flew open, and a white-haired man stood on the stoop, gazing out.

“Well Charlie Hunnam, is that you?”

“It’s me, Doc.”

“That rash flaring up again, is it?”

The young man choked on a laugh.

“No, Doc, and thanks for askin’.” That last part was grumbled. “It’s these fellas we found on the road.” The older man gestured behind himself, and the doctor put on a pair of wire glasses with small circle lenses and flimsy rounded ends. They were the kind Dean had seen in old Westerns and period movies but never in real life.

“Got robbed, looks like.”

The doctor stepped back and urged them all to come inside.

Dean was greeted by a mix of electric bulbs, put up by some kind of idiot with the wiring on the outside of the walls, and lamplight from old lanterns that worked on wick and oil. The furnishings inside the doctor's house were old fashioned and dull.

“Set him here, please,” the doctor instructed. Dean laid Castiel down atop a layer of what looked like hand-sewn quilts across a wooden bench. Cas looked pale and stretched and bruised and skewered. Dean took hold of the angel’s right hand in his left and squeezed as he knelt by the edge of the bench.

Voices blurred around Dean’s head. Someone asked what happened, how they were found, if there was any hint of the robbers.

Castiel’s eyelashes fluttered, and Dean leaned forward.

“Cas,” he said—mouthed. Then he prayed. Cas, please wake up. It’s me. Wake up if you hear me. Cas? Dean squeezed. Come on, man.

The doctor was there, then, gently wiping dried blood from Castiel’s worst injuries. Dean looked up to get a feel for how bad the doc thought things looked, but the man kept a tight grip on his reactions behind a clenched jaw and focused eyes.

Dean’s eyes slipped out of focus, and he saw past the doctor as he worked. The house wasn’t just old-fashioned, it was old. Like, really old. Like, wood-burning stove, iron kettle, no appliances in the kitchen old. No electrical outlets. Dean spun his head to the right. Zero modern furnishings. Not even retro or vintage. There were tintype photographs on the wall. No television.

No.

Television.

Something must have drastically changed about Dean’s demeanor—though he didn’t feel himself move or react at all—because one of the men said, “Steady on.”

Shock made Dean’s world spin.

Gabriel hadn’t just shifted him and Castiel out of state—he had moved them out of time.

“Holy shit.”

The young man snorted. “I could read that one on your lips.”

Dean staggered in his mind, swaying where he knelt. It was all disconnected. He had been sent back in time before, but nowhere near this far. Not under these circumstances. Synapses fired and gave out signals, but nothing in his body responded.

“Ah, here’s a good sign!” said the doctor.

Castiel’s eyes opened. He took a shuddered breath and moaned. Then his gaze found Dean’s. A bright, warm light like nothing Dean had ever known lit up his insides with joy. Cas was alive. They might be back in time, but at least they were together. But before Dean could smile or express anything at all, Cas shifted his eyes away.

It was like having a door slammed in his face—if that door was a freight train and “slammed” meant “completely destroy.” Dean couldn’t breathe.

Castiel hated him. Of course, he would. The demoness had tortured him while wearing Dean’s face. But even before that, he had gone off alone. It was against everyone's wishes, but mostly against Castiel's, and Dean had gotten himself trapped. And because of that selfish decision, Cas had been tortured. And now Dean realized a cruel truth with mounting panic. Without his voice, there was no way to tell Cas that what had happened outside of the torture basement wasn’t really him.

Castiel shook. So did Dean. The doctor placed himself between the two of them, and Dean let go of the angel’s hand.

He felt himself go boneless. Saw the room spin and the lights fade out. This was the monster crash. Dean lost consciousness before he hit the floor.

Chapter Text

“Dean!” Cas’s voice was a rasp.

“Now, don't try to move, son,” said a kind, stern voice. Warm hands pressed on Castiel’s chest, keeping him down.

“Dean,” Cas repeated. He tried to reach out, to touch Dean and confirm he was real, but Castiel’s right arm screamed at him, and Cas screamed back.

“Told you not to move,” said the elderly man perched above the angel. “You’ll hurt yourself worse. And your friend isn’t going anywhere.”

Cas glanced sideways at the unconscious Dean. One of the men from the road was pulling Dean’s body upright while the other stranger was returning with a tin cup of presumably water.

Before Dean had passed out moments ago, and his eyes met Castiel’s, the ex-angel had wanted to cry with relief. Words had sprung to his mouth—words like, “I’m so glad you’re here; I thought I’d lost you; I don’t know how I’d live without you.” But Cas had shut them down and averted his eyes like Dean had asked.

The old man had referred to Dean as Castiel’s ‘friend.’ But were they even friends any more? Before the succubus incident, their relationship was already threadbare. But now? After everything Cas had done to make things harder on Dean… how could they possibly be friends? He’d ruined everything. And as if events weren’t bad enough on their own, it now appeared they were stuck back in time.

Cas had suspected as much before he lost consciousness in the woods, but awakening in this home with these men was more than enough proof they were at least a hundred years in the past. Gabriel must have been very afraid to have hidden them this far away. And they had been here for… an hour at least, judging by the blackness outside the murky windowpane. The fact Gabriel hadn’t come to collect them yet must mean the she demon had not been defeated.

Did the demoness have Gabriel captured? Was she torturing him?

The white-haired man furrowed his brow as he held Castiel’s jaw in one hand.

“Now, that won’t do,” he said. “Just take deep breaths.”

Cas tried, but his chest protested under the weight of fear.

They were trapped here. If Gabriel had been captured or killed—how could Cas and Dean ever leave? How could they avenge the loss? Stop the monster? Cas had no power to move them through time. He didn’t even have the power to heal Dean’s wounds, which did not look insubstantial.

“Bring that here,” instructed the white-haired man to the younger stranger. The stranger placed the tin cup in the older man’s wrinkled hand, and the cup was placed to Castiel’s lips.

It was not water. It was liquor.

“There, there,” cooed the old man. “Just a couple more sips of the ole relaxer. Atta boy. Nothin’ to worry about now.”

If only that were true.

Cas drank deeply, and though he didn’t believe he could get drunk, his body did respond to the burn by unwinding some tension. He took an even breath. Then he set his eyes on Dean, who seemed to be well and truly unconscious.

The young stranger came to kneel beside Cas’s bed. Or was it a bench? It was quite uncomfortable and rather cramped.

“How you feelin’?” asked the young man wearing filthy overalls.

Cas replied, “Horrible.”

The young man chuckled. “Well, you look a right sight better than you did in the road so that’s sumthin’.” He then gestured to Dean. “And your friend’s here, too.”

Castiel’s throat tightened in a toxic mixture of selfish relief and overwhelming guilt. 

“He carried you, you know?”

A spark of shock jolted Castiel’s eyes wide.

The young man nodded. “Almost the whole way.”

“Damn stubborn,” groused the older stranger from the floor as he tried in vain to rouse Dean with gentle shakes. “Coulda killed himself. Left a trail of blood from here to Hag’s Cross.” The stranger gave up trying to wake Dean, instead laying him flat on the floor, and shifted attention to Cas. “What’s your names?”

“I’m Cast—” He stopped himself. Since losing his powers, it felt wrong to be referred to with the name of an angelic being. “Just Cas. That’s Dean.”

“I’m Jamie,” said the youngest of the strangers, the one with the blue eyes and the soothing voice. “That’s Charlie.”

The gruff looking man beside Dean nodded.

“And that’s Doc Emmerson,” explained Jamie.

The doctor was inspecting Castiel’s wounds with such gentle hands that Cas hadn’t even been aware of his touch or attention. But now that Cas looked, he saw the deep worry lines etched into the old man’s face and deepening every second.

“What happened to you two?” Doc Emmerson asked. 

Cas replied with a cautious, “What did he already tell you?”

This question was greeted with silence and shared, confused looks.

Charlie asked, “What do you mean ‘what’d he tell us’?”

The doctor moved down to inspect Castiel’s legs and tugged shredded fabric from a laceration. Gritting his jaw, Cas replied, “Dean must have mentioned something.”

And if he did, Cas would want their stories to match.

Charlie laughed a high-pitched bark. “You’re jokin’ ain’t ya? Here I thought you had no sense of humor.”

Castiel looked to Jamie for explanation. The young man’s eyes narrowed.

“You’re not foolin?”

Cas shook his head.

Jamie replied, “Your friend can’t speak.”

Cas felt the weight of everyone’s gazes weighing him down to the wooden bench.

“He… can’t?”

Jamie and Charlie wore matching flabbergasted expressions. Doc Emmerson removed his glasses and leveled Cas with a blue-eyed promise that this was a safe environment. Then he said, “I think you better tell us what happened.”

Cas felt his mouth part, but the words were a jumbled mess in his mind, and on top of all of the confusion was fear for Dean. Why didn’t the man’s voice work? Was he in shock, or had the she demon done something unspeakable, like remove his vocal cords? Would it be fixable, or was Dean—smart ass, mouthy, deals-with-pain-by-cracking-jokes Dean—going to be stuck without a voice forever?

If only Castiel had never lost his powers! If only he’d been stronger or more prepared before facing down the demoness. This was his fault. He was more than useless. He had caused this. He couldn’t fix Dean. Couldn’t even help.

The world shook. Cas’s lungs rebelled against the air. His body vibrated, and his injuries shouted out their hatred.

A hand pressed down on Castiel’s forehead, the weight and heat burning him. He tried to flee from the sensation but was too weak to move.

Doc Emmerson barked an order, “Someone get Miss Ruby over here.” Jamie stood and smoothed his hair. The Doc continued with a worried expression behind his guarded eyes. “Gonna need some help.”

 

#

 

The next time Dean opened his eyes, it was to behold the beautiful face of a woman with blue eyes and flaming red hair. He balked and jerked away. Something crashed, but the edges of his vision were too black to see anything besides the shock on the young woman’s face. He screamed at her to get away from him, but besides the tightness in his chest, nothing happened. No sound came forth from between his bared teeth.

Then the woman was blocked from his limited view by a young man—the same young man who had helped carry Castiel from the woods. Slowly, Dean calmed down. He took a few deep breaths, and the world came into focus. It was morning. He was inside the doctor’s house still, stretched out on the kitchen table, and the woman who he had just screamed and kicked at was not, in fact, the succubus.

The young stranger was still holding Dean to the table, and Dean was irritated to realize he didn’t have the strength to shirk off the boy’s touch. For a kid, he was strong.

“Settle down, Dean,” said the stranger. “You don’t have any enemies here.”

“How do you know my—?” Dean cut himself off when no sound came. He sighed and grit his teeth.

“Can I let you go now?” asked the kid.

Dean nodded. The young man’s calloused hands lifted from Dean’s shoulders. After the kid stepped back, Dean sat up, receiving a solid head rush and an instant headache. He noticed a broken bowl on the floor, surrounded by a puddle of water. Then he realized he was stripped down and wearing nothing but his boxers. He glanced at the red-headed woman who huddled against the wall. She was blushing, but her gaze showed more irritation than fear or embarrassment. Her mouth was tight and small. She clutched a bloodied rag between both hands and didn’t shy away from Dean’s gaze.

“You okay Miss Rose?” asked the boy.

The woman stepped closer to the table and replied, “Yes, Jamie. Thank you. I will need a fresh bowl and more water, however, if you please.”

Jamie nodded and looked at Dean. “You gonna have a fit again or are you settled now?”

Dean would have nodded, but answering yes to both questions wasn’t the right response. So he shot Jamie a glare until the young man realized his mistake.

“Oh, sorry. Are you settled?”

To this, Dean nodded.

Jamie addressed the red-headed woman. “I’ll be back before you know it, miss.”

“Thank you, Jamie,” she said, and Jamie exited the room in a rush.

Alone in the room with the woman, Dean felt his body shake, and he suspected it had little to do with his physical weakness. It wasn’t that she looked like the succubus. Not exactly, anyway. It was just… too close. She moved a cautious step forward, and Dean climbed down from the table. He wasn’t running away, he was just looking for Cas.

The woman shouted after him. “You should not be on your feet yet. You barely survived the night.”

Dean staggered to the doorway and leaned against it with his elbow. His eyes focused on the surroundings, and he spied Castiel sitting by the lone window in the front room, wrapped in a hand-sewn quilt. The ex-angel lifted his chin and turned his head at Dean’s entrance, but he would not meet Dean’s gaze. It was a worse feeling than his broken thumb and all of the stab wounds combined. Dean leaned heavier against the doorframe. He felt like he might pass out and slid down to the floor, his feet tucked underneath him.

Miss Rose had a nice, smooth voice, but it sounded irritated. “I did warn you,” she said.

Dean kept his gaze locked on Castiel, both wanting to look away because the guilt was too painful and wanting to stare at Cas until he knew he was going to be okay. The ex-angel’s skin remained pale, but no longer held the pallor of someone moments from death. Blood no longer marred his hair, face, or hands. With his jaw set and his long, dark lashes tipped downward like the corners of his mouth, the man looked carved from marble and absolutely kissable. Dean let out a shaky breath and hated the way his heart ached for something so close and yet so impossible.

Cas and Dean were in this together. Torture, mind-games, being forced back in time—the two of them were all each other had. But the distance between them had never felt so vast or impassable. Still, Dean had to try. This was a battle he could fight, and he would not let the chasm between himself and Cas grow bigger. Not while he still had a chance of making things better—or at least more tolerable.

Dean pulled himself up on shaky legs and took a determined step forward. Cas stiffened. He shifted to look at Dean from the corner of his eye, but didn’t rise or move. Dean’s right leg buckled, but he stepped heavier on his left and repeated the process until he was a foot from Cas. The angel had removed his tie, and a dark bruise lined his neck in its place. Dean ignored the other man’s flinch as he wrapped both arms around Castiel’s shoulders. Several silent moments passed. Cas didn’t bend or soften or even breathe. Dean held on tighter, too desperate to let go even though he knew Cas would have wanted to be let go. But then the ex-angel let out what sounded like a choked sob and turned his face into Dean’s shoulder.

Dean’s heart rose to his throat. Tension closed his airway and stung the backs of his eyes but he would not cry. Cas needed him to be strong. The feel of the man in his arms, even through the veil of the quilted blanket, was more comfort than he’d had in months. Castiel’s hair smelled crisp like fall leaves. His broken, choked breaths on Dean’s skin caused such inexplicable yearning. It crossed Dean’s mind to sit on Castiel’s lap, but he couldn’t bring himself to do anything so feminine, so he knelt before the man and looked up into his eyes. Castiel bit his lip and turned his head away. Dean gripped Cas’s hands, and Cas tentatively glanced at Dean.

“Are you okay?” Dean asked without sound.

Cas swallowed hard. “I’m all right. Are you?”

Dean let out a huff. He hoped it would come across as sarcastic and funny but feared it sounded more weak and defeated than anything. Cas freed one of his hands from Dean’s grasp to tighten the quilt around his shoulders. He stared at the wall. His voice was a frail, heartbroken sound when he whispered, “I’m so sorry, Dean.”

Dean wanted to say a million things, but all he could do was shake his head. Then the door opened, and the old man with the wire glasses entered the house with his hands full of brown paper bags. He glanced at Cas and Dean before greeting Miss Rose, who Dean had forgotten was there.

Then the doctor kicked the door closed and said, “Well, gentlemen. Now you’re both awake, let’s talk.”

Chapter Text

The Doctor—Emmerson, Cas recalled—entered the main room and placed his paper bags on the rickety-looking table beside the wooden bench Castiel occupied and in front of which Dean remained kneeling. Cas had seen Dean collapse in the doorway to the kitchen moments before and suspected the oldest Winchester brother would not be moving any time soon. The man should still be laying down somewhere.

The doctor approached both men where they sat. “Now, I know you’re still a bit dazed from your ordeal—whatever it may have been. I’ll try to make this easy on you, but we need to know who did this to you fellas. For our own safety, and the safety of our families. Understand?”

Dean’s head turned toward the old man, but his jaw flared, and he made no attempt to speak. Castiel felt the tension radiating from Dean’s hunched shoulders. The man’s breaths were tight pulls inward and short exhalations. It was a sign of deep frustration and often accompanied by physical bursts of temper. Cas ached to put a hand on Dean’s shoulder but feared such an action would only irritate Dean further.

“I don’t believe you will come to any harm,” Cas spoke, hoarse. “We have eluded the enemy.”

Dean swallowed hard enough that Cas heard the choked noise, and he interpreted the unspoken, “For now,” that he imagined the other man was thinking.

“And I hope you have,” replied Doc Emmerson. “But hope isn’t enough. Not with the way you fellas were dragged half-dead into my lap, here.” His blue-eyed gaze dropped to the floor as his voice lowered. “Last time I saw wounds as grave as yours, I was in a war zone.” He crossed his arms over his thin chest, his shirtsleeves rolled up past his elbows, and gazed at Castiel. “This wasn’t simple highway robbery. What happened?”

Cas had always been instructed to shut up and let Dean do the talking. Being an angel who spent most of his time in heaven had made Castiel seem as foreign to most humans as they had once seemed to him. But heaven was far behind (above?) him, and even though Cas understood many more human references than he had in the past, he knew most humans still found him off-putting. And more than that, he had come to prefer Dean speaking for him.

He liked the man’s voice. Liked the way the hunter could command a room, apply pressure with his words, smooth-talk his way into secret places. But now the burden of communication fell on Cas’s shoulders—and he only had one good one.

Castiel began by clearing his throat. Then he said, “We were tortured.”

Dean shifted to glare upward at Cas, and the ex-angel bit his lip with a sharp turn of his head. One sentence in and he’d already said the wrong thing.

Doc Emmerson let out a long sigh. “Well, that’s a new one for me.”

A young woman stood in the doorway where Dean had collapsed. “Me too,” she agreed. Cas thought her name was Rose but wasn’t sure as he’d been half-conscious when she’d entered the house hours ago. Since then, the woman had been in the kitchen cleaning Dean up with the help of the younger stranger from the woods, and Castiel had remained on the wooden bench in the front room.

“Who did that to you?” asked the doctor.

“It’s… hard to explain,” replied Cas.

Doc Emmerson ran a hand over his stubble. “Would it be easier to answer why they did it?”

Cas thought it over and shook his head.

Rose entered the front room. Her steps were light over the wooden floor and made almost no noise, but Dean jumped as if a bomb had gone off the moment she approached.

Castiel appraised the woman. Red hair. Round face. Blue eyes.

She looked like the demoness.

“You should leave,” Cas said. The woman seemed surprised and glanced at the doctor. The white-haired man studied Castiel’s face before shifting his focus to Dean.

“Why’s that?” he asked. “Miss Rose is a damn fine nurse. And her bedside manner’s far better’n mine.”

Castiel spoke to the woman directly. “I’m sure you’re an excellent nurse, Miss Rose, but your appearance is… it’s… too close to—to…” Cas’s mouth grew dry. His palms itched. There was no way of knowing what he should say. Dean would have the words.

Thankfully, the woman understood enough.

“Very well,” she replied. “Doc, you know where I’ll be if you need any more help.”

Doc Emmerson straightened. “Now, look here, there’s no need to run off just because—”

Miss Rose held up her hand. She glanced at Cas before saying, “I believe something about me makes the men uncomfortable. Is that a correct assessment, Mr. Cas?”

Castiel breathed a little easier and said, “Yes.”

Miss Rose nodded, curt. “Then I’ll remove myself for now and hope time changes this aversion.”

Doc Emmerson added, “Maybe it’s for the best. Talk of torture and all. Not much suited for young ladies.”

Miss Rose seemed to Castiel like the type of woman who would not be phased by such a thing. In fact, it appeared the implication that she was too delicate for tough conversations irked her. She lifted her chin and replied in a terse tone, “I’ll check in with you in a few hours.” And without further discussion, Miss Rose left the house.

Doc Emmerson stared at the closed front door a moment before pulling up a chair and seating himself across from Castiel.

“Better now?” he asked, his tone neutral but his mouth tight.

Cas snuck a glance at Dean and saw the man’s breath coming more easily.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Now, talk to me, Mr. Cas. Those miners who found you are good men, but they’ve got big mouths and wild imaginations. Half the town’s gonna know about you and your friend by now, and everyone’s going to be worried about what’s lurking out there.”

“The danger is far away,” Cas replied. “We… traveled far to find this place.”

“Hm. Well, that would explain your, eh, clothes and underthings. We don’t have the newest fashions here.”

Cas and Dean had both been stripped down to their final stitch of clothing: boxers for Dean and boxer-briefs for Cas. The men of this era wore long underwear beneath their clothes, so such flimsy and scant undergarments would seem foreign to them.

The doc hurried to the next topic of conversation. “How in the blazes did you men travel in this condition?”

“Quickly,” Cas answered. “Um, on horseback. But we lost our horses in the woods when…”

“When you fellas started nearin’ death’s door?”

Cas didn’t reply.

The doctor continued, “We’ll keep an eye out for any strays. Shouldn’t be hard to find.”

“Thank you.”

The doctor leaned forward with his elbows on his knees.

“Now, your friend can’t speak. And I do believe that’s a ‘can’t’ not a ‘won’t.’ But I get the impression this is a new development, and one that surprised you. Can you explain that?”

Castiel replied with a question. “Can you fix him?”

Dean flicked Cas’s kneecap in an apparent show of irritation. Of course, the man would not appreciate being talked about. He wasn’t an invalid—he was sitting inches away.

“Sorry,” hurried Cas. “Sorry, Dean. I just—I’m sorry.”

Dean made a wispy growl, then. The man’s lips moved, but Cas couldn’t read the words well enough. His throat tightened.

“I—I don’t understand,” he admitted.

The growl came again, this time sounding more like a curse, and Dean pulled himself to his feet. He limped to the front door, and Cas realized with a bolt of dread that Dean was leaving. He almost called out, “Please don’t go,” but refrained and said instead, “Will you be back?”

Dean looked affronted—at least from what Cas could see with his attention fixed on the other man’s left arm to keep the color of his eyes hidden from view. Dean nodded once, firm, and left, closing the door without slamming it shut. Cas didn’t know whether to be impressed with Dean’s restraint or terrified by the lack of his signature temper. 

“Well, that was stupid,” mused the doctor. “Where the hell’s he plan on going? Probably won’t make it ten feet without passing out again. Both of you lost enough blood it’s a wonder you didn’t die. And since I have your attention and since we’re on the subject, are you aware there’s a good heft of material stuffed inside a gaping hole in your shoulder that we’re gonna have to remove?”

Cas felt his empty stomach flip at the thought.

“I figured that could wait, though, at least until we get some broth in you. Unless you think you might throw it up during the procedure?”

Castiel thought that was more than likely, but he didn’t say so because he wanted as much time between him and the extraction of the fabric wedged inside his body as possible. So he shook his head.

The doctor continued. “Now, I suspect you aren’t gonna tell me who did this, and I’m not going to force you for answers. But maybe you can tell me what kinds of tools were used? What methods of”—his voice squeaked out the next word—“torture. Over how many days? What exactly was done to you both? I can help you better if I know.”

Castiel pulled the quilt tight around his shoulders as he summoned details to the front of his mind. The air seemed to drop in temperature as the small room shrank smaller still.

Castiel’s own torture at the hands of the she-demon was unimportant and relatively standard. He’d been starved of food and water, but he had a much higher tolerance for such things and slower metabolism than most mortals, so it didn’t affect him as badly as it would have a regular mortal. It was the same with the sleep deprivation. And pain was just pain.

The greatest lingering hurt from the ordeal was Castiel’s emotional wounds, but they weren’t because of the she-demon. They were no one’s fault but his own—a consequence of his sins and shortcomings. No less than what he deserved.

But what the evil bitch had done to Dean… that was burned on Cas’s mind. The embers still smoldered inside him, scalding afresh every time he prodded the memories. He didn’t want to speak about what he’d seen. He wasn’t sure if he could. But the doctor ought to be told, for the sake of helping Dean. And maybe… maybe Cas needed to talk about it.