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Paper Thin Hotel

Chapter Text

 

 2009.

Sam wakes to an explosion of light. His hands jerk up to shield his eyes. They only make it an inch or two before pulling up short against hard metal. He's in the panic room, handcuffed to a cot. Castiel is there, the cause of Sam's awakening, with his back to the curved concrete wall and his wings extended out on either side of him. They look like the wings of a bird made of napalm and fire.

Castiel is silent. All Sam's other hallucinations talked to him. They all tried to influence him, or told him terrible things about himself that weren't news to Sam in the slightest. Castiel just stands there, blazing like a beacon, as pure and shadowless as Heaven itself.

"Why're you here," Sam complains. Detox hasn’t been kind to him. His skin burns and his blood flows hot and sluggish as lava through his veins, and he thought before Castiel arrived there was no place left that didn’t already hurt. But it turns out he was wrong, because Castiel's wings are so bright Sam's eyes sting now too. He has to turn his head away, while the tears leak down his cheeks as he blinks. He's miserable, and wants to be left alone.

"Here to remind me what a 'bomination I am?" His voice comes out cracked and hoarse. Imaginary-Alastair's been working on Sam, and Sam's been screaming. He clears his throat as best he can. "Here t' tell me it's my own fault Dean doesn't trust me? You can go away; I got that already, thanks."

"Why won't you face me, Sam Winchester?" Castiel asks flatly.

"I. What?"

It's obvious why, and it startles Sam, and he looks again. Its not any better the second time around. His eyes tear up and he squints against the glare. God, his head hurts something awful.

"You're too bright," he explains- stupidly- to his own hallucination. He forgets he's cuffed and tries to gesture toward his eyes. The padding Dean wrapped around his wrists to protect them doesn’t extend quite high enough, and Sam flinches when the metal hits the raw mess of skin above it.

"I am too... bright," Castiel repeats, like either he or Sam is a muddled child.

"Your wings."

"You can see my wings."

Castiel frowns absently, and cocks Jimmy Novak's head to the side.

"Go away, Castiel." Sam is exhausted and thirsty and the room smells like piss and he's four-pointed to the bed and can't even roll to his side. Everything hurts. He just wants this all to be over. "Leave me to suffer in peace. Or if you- if I, my blood, whatever- can't do that, send Dean back. At least he doesn’t melt my eyeballs out."

Castiel's gaze cuts to the door. The blinding light of his wings flickers like a brown-out.

"Dean; yes. You betrayed Dean," he says. He sounds oddly tentative for such a self-evident pronouncement, like he's trying it on to see how it fits.

Sam gets a flash of memory, as bright in its way as Castiel is: Dean in the ICU, silent and still after Alastair beat him unconscious. Dean's freckles stood out like ink spots against the paper paleness of his shocky skin. His chest rose and fell in time with the respirator doing his breathing for him, and Castiel, who raised Dean from Hell and breathed life into his rotting, desiccated corpse, stood in the hall and said there was nothing he could do to help.

Dean cried, like he cried describing Hell. Sam can't afford to care whether what he's become is a betrayal or not.

"Well that makes two of us then," he says bitterly.

Castiel doesn't deny it.

"Are you repentant?" he asks.

Sam shifts on his bare mattress. He twitches one shoulder, a half-assed excuse for a shrug. "Not really," he says, although he's never felt more guilty in his life. Repentance implies he would stop. "I'm doing what I have to."

Castiel's expression is cold and unreadable. His wings flare out, incandescent, and he disappears.

Sam watches the ventilation fan spin lazily above him. He repositions his legs the few inches he can. His feet hang off the end of the cot. He misses Dean.

He especially misses the Dean who's gone forever now; the one who hadn't clutched his brother's dead body in his arms yet, and been ruined by it; who'd never been tortured by a master, or shown that he could break. He misses the things he once hated- Dean's stupid pranks and his easy petty crime, his disgusting gas station food chewed with his mouth wide open, his obliviousness when he'd recount his sexual exploits while Sam seethed with ill-defined jealousy at his side.

But he misses the harder, post-Hell Dean too. That Dean's absence from the concrete hole he's imprisoned his brother in is enough to break Sam's heart.

Eventually Sam's fever exhausts him, and he closes his eyes. Maybe he dozes, or maybe he just lies there drifting through his pain. He startles back into alertness when he hears the metal grind of the panic room door opening.

The handcuffs restraining him snap open one by one, wrists first, then ankles. The door swings wide, no one in evidence to account for it, and Sam gathers himself and stumbles out. His legs are rubbery from being confined too long. As he's staggering up the basement stairs a flicker of movement catches the corner of his eye.

Hidden in the gloom between two sets of rusted shelving is Castiel. He's wearing Jimmy Novak's body like an ill-fitting coat, more awkward even than usual. His expression is a harsh, inanimate fresco in the safety light above the door. If his wings are out, they aren't visible now. The basement is as dark as a crypt.

Sam pretends not to see Castiel. He trudges up the rest of the stairs. Behind him, Castiel raises a hand, and the door Sam escaped out creaks closed again. The lock snicks back into place. They'll never speak of it, to Dean or to each other. Sam's not even sure who the "they" are that hold this tiny corner of Sam's treachery to their chests. Sam and Castiel, or only Sam alone?

 

-*-*-

2011.

The plain is dry and featureless. The wall Sam sits against is smooth and black and stretches forever in either direction. In front of Sam stands Cas.

"Cas," Sam says, "I thought you-" But Sam forgets what he thought and has to stop.

Cas takes a step toward Sam, and spreads his wings. His feathers are deep wine red, the tips of his primaries burnished gold. He's wearing Jimmy Novak, like he always is, but Jimmy is wearing armor, and a plain gold circlet instead of a helm.

Fear blows through Sam like a bitter wind. Dean told him not to come here (stay away from the wall, don't scratch the wall), and Cas' expression is flat and blank, and Sam would back away, except his spine is already pressed flush against the cold stone behind him, and there's nowhere left to go.

Voices drift past without any visible source. A stranger's: --long has he been seizing--

And Dean's, a little clearer, tight with irritation and panic: A long-ass time, okay? Forgot to check my watch while I held his stupid head off the blacktop.

Sam looks, but there's only the empty desert and the wall and Cas. Off in the distance, a siren wails, and the landscape rocks gently, like the bed of a moving truck.

"Where's Dean?" Sam asks.

"Dean is occupied."

Sam, Dean's voice comes from nowhere, Wake up.

Sam tries to stand, but Cas advances on him, and there isn't room to move.

"Dean needs me," Sam says. He means it as an exit line, but it comes out sounding like a plea.

"And what about what I need?" Cas asks, "I need the souls from Purgatory to win the war in Heaven. I need you and Dean, if not as allies, at least to stand down. I asked Dean, as a friend," Cas' lip curls in contempt, "And he told me he would hunt me. We don't always get what we need."

Cas looms over Sam, his armored boots nearly touching Sam's toes. He's much too close. Sam's feet inch back the tiny remaining bit they can, knees folding in toward his chest.

C'mon, lazy bones, you're freaking me out here. Wakey-wakey, eggs and bac-ey. Jesus, Sam.

"Dean is calling me," Sam says stubbornly, like a child. His heart is pounding, and he's nauseous, and his head hurts something fierce. His memory is full of holes. He doesn't understand why he's afraid.

"Goddamn you, Cas, you get your feathery ass back here and fix him! He went to Hell for your friggin' Apocalypse once already. Isn't that enough?"

"I wish it hadn't come to this," Cas says gravely. When Sam stares up at him, Cas' wings block out the sun. "I'm truly sorry, Sam."

He does sound sorry. He looks sad.

He reaches out a hand.

His wings turn midnight black, and he touches the wall, and it crumbles, and Sam screams.

He screams and curls himself into the smallest ball he possibly can, and tucks himself in tight against the bits of rubble that can't protect him anymore. Tears stream from his eyes. He's alone in an endless, frozen desert. The sky is a terrifying swirl of colors and blinding light. Dean is gone, and Cas is gone, and Sam knows he deserves to be here, but he can't remember why.

Eventually he forgets why he's screaming, so he stops. He forgets why he's hiding, so he gets up and walks. He finds a sleek, black car. It looks familiar. The keys are in it. He gets in, and starts it up, and drives away, alone.