Jack reached for the light switch next to the door. He and Cas were going on a hunt in the morning, but Jack couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he couldn’t help thinking about the illness he was suffering from. If Cas ever found out… no. He wouldn’t think about it. He finally found the light switch and turned it on, and bright light assaulted his eyes as he lay back down on the bed, trying in vain to get a few hours of relaxation before morning.
Every couple hours, Jack checked the time. Once it was the time he and Cas were supposed to leave, he quickly threw on a t-shirt and jeans and went to meet Cas for the hunt.
○ ○ ○
Cas watched Jack enter the room and raised one hand to let him know where he was.
Jack crossed the room quickly but stumbled on the small set of stairs leading to the room Cas was in. Cas caught him gently before he could hit the floor.
“Are you okay?” Cas looked at Jack with a look of genuine concern and slight amusement.
“Yes, I just missed a step…”
“Um, there’s only one step Jack.”
“Yes.” Jack looked at Cas with his best innocent face and Cas looked back, bemused.
“Alright. Well, get your stuff. We leave in five.”
○ ○ ○
Jack hastily returned to his room to pack his bag. As he was packing, he felt himself begin to cough. Sensing that it would be bad if he let go, he tried to hold it back, but the more he tried, the harder it got until it was impossible. He grabbed a handful of tissues and coughed into them, trying to muffle the sound and catch whatever came up. Finally, the coughing stopped, and when he pulled the tissue away from his mouth, he saw all of the blood on it and sighed, tossing the tissue into the trash can. He heard a soft knock on the door, and Dean poked his head in.
“You okay? I heard you coughing from down the hall and just wanted to check in.”Jack looked at Dean and tried to rearrange his face into something that hopefully resembled an “I’m good” face.
“I’m fine. Cas and I are going on a hunt!” Jack tried to change the subject, but Dean began to look doubtful and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him.
“Look, I get it. You want to pretend you’re okay so that you can go out and hunt, but I see through that. We all do. You’re hurting, Jack, and you need to rest. The world will go on if you take a sick day.” Dean sat on the bed next to Jack and put his arm around him. “Why don’t you stay here, just this once? We can watch a movie or something.” Jack tried to answer that no, he needed to hunt, but his voice rusted over. He tried to clear his throat but found himself in a coughing fit. Dean looked over at him worriedly and patted his back until the coughing subsided. Jack was able to hold the cough back this time though, so it wasn’t very long until he replied to Dean.
“I know you just want to protect me. I understand. But I can still hunt . Besides, it’s not like I’ll be alone. Cas will be with me.”
“Look, kid, you can’t even carry a conversation without breaking down into coughing. You’re in no condition to be out there fighting. You’d just get hurt.” Dean paused, then removed his arm from Jack’s back. “Do you have a fever?” Dean asked, his ordinarily indifferent voice ringing with concern.
“I don’t know.” Jack was lying. He did know. He could feel it. Dean placed his hand on Jack’s forehead and immediately pulled back, his brow creasing.
“Uh, yeah, you do. I’ll get Cas. You are not going out like that. No way” Dean rose and left the room quickly, and Jack laid back down on the bed, succumbing to his tired body. It wasn’t long before Dean returned, this time with Cas in tow.
“Jack -“ Cas started, but Jack cut him off.
“Cas, I’m fine. I can still hunt.” He tried to get up to prove his point but found that his legs didn’t want to take his weight, and he fell back onto the bed. Cas rushed forward and put a hand on Jack’s shoulder, pushing him down into the bed.
“I can’t believe you were going to let me take you on a hunt in your condition.” Behind Cas, Dean began to unpack Jack’s bag.
“No, don’t -“ Jack started, but the look on Dean’s face cut him off when he lifted the bag to see the trash can hidden behind it. He slowly lifted the trashcan to get a better look inside, and his face went deathly pale. Cas turned to see what was wrong and gasped out loud. Sitting in the trash can, for the whole world to see, were the bloody tissues of the last few days.
“Cas, I can explain -“ But he couldn’t explain. It was precisely what it looked like. He had been coughing up blood and didn’t tell anyone, Jack tried to continue talking, but at that moment, his chest seized, instigating a fit of coughing. He coughed into his hand but, knowing that blood would start coming up soon, he grabbed some tissues and coughed into them, expelling large amounts of dark red blood. Cas and Dean rushed towards Jack and sat on both sides of him, waiting the coughing out.
“Jack, what’s going on?” Cas’s voice was tinged with fear as he put a hand on Jack’s shoulder in a comforting manner. It wasn’t clear whether he was comforting Jack or comforting himself.
“Well, I’ve been sick.”
“I can see that, but why? Do you know?”
“No, but I…” Jack decided he would come clean, “I can feel it, eating away inside of me. It feels wrong .” Cas and Dean exchanged looks of alarm, then Dean turned to Jack.
“Here, I’m going to go get Sam. Cas… stay with him. Jack, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m going to fix it,” then, in a tone so quiet he thought no one else could hear, he added, “I have to.”
○ ○ ○
Dean walked quickly through the hallway, mind whirling. “Why, why wouldn’t he say anything? Doesn’t he know we just want to help him? And what’s the deal with the ‘eating away inside of me’ crap?” Dean was so absorbed in his thinking that he didn’t even notice when Bobby walked in front of him, and they collided roughly.
“Hey, Dean! Watch where you’re going!” Bobby then looked at Dean for the first time and his usual look of perpetual annoyance faded, leaving confusion. “What’s wrong with you? You look like - well, I would say like you’ve seen a ghost, but that’s every day for you.”
“Bobby, it’s Jack. He’s… he’s really sick.”
“Like how sick?”
“Like… I don’t know! How the hell am I supposed to know? Have you seen Sam?” Bobby’s eyes narrowed before answering.
“Uh, no, I haven’t. I think he’s out with Charlie. But Jack, is he okay?”
“Um, I don’t know. None of us do. Well, if you see Sam, tell him to get his ass down here now .”
○ ○ ○
Cas looked down at Jack, waves of fear rolling over his body. He couldn’t be sick, he just couldn’t. Cas placed his hand on Jack’s chest to try and heal him but was met with a blockade. This was concerning enough, but among closer inspection, he found something profoundly disturbing.
“Jack, this sickness. How long after you lost your grace did it start?”
“Almost immediately. Why?
“Well, when your grace was torn from your body, it created a wound. A kind of wound that will eat away at you. Left untreated, it can get infected, so to speak.”
“So, what does that mean?”
“It means that because it wasn’t dealt with, now not only do you have this debilitating thing spreading through your body, but you’re much more susceptible to human illnesses. You haven’t gotten any yet, believe me, we would know, but you will if we don’t fix this.”
“ Can you fix it?”
“I… I can try. But Jack, you have to realize that it has spread much farther than I think I can deal with. I would need more power, and with heaven the way it is, that’s just not something I have access to right now. We could ask Rowena, but once she finds out who you are, I don’t know if she’ll want to help you.”
Jack’s eyes fell and began to fill with tears.
“So, it’s my fault then. I did this.”
“No Jack, this is not your fault. There is no way you could’ve known how bad it was.”
“I could have said something! I was stupid, and -” Jack trailed off, trying to articulate exactly how he felt, but Cas understood. He felt the same way when he used another angel’s grace and began to burn out, leaving him sick and weak. But he also understood that this was not Jack’s fault. Jack was not to blame, it was the man, the thing that took his grace.
Cas’s train of thought was interrupted by the sound of the door opening and Dean walking in.
“I couldn’t find Sam. He’s out on a hunt with Charlie and he’s not answering his phone. Figures.”
“Dean, can I talk to you? Alone?”
“Sure, okay…” They stepped into the hallway, leaving Jack’s door open a crack so that they could hear him if he needed anything, “What’s up?”
“Dean, Jack is sick. Really sick. If this isn’t taken care of soon, and I mean within a few weeks, Jack could die.” Dean was silent, absorbing what Cas said.
“Well, why can’t you just power up and heal him?”
“This isn’t a normal problem Dean,” Cas said impatiently, “It would take an immense amount of power to heal him, more than I have even at my strongest. And because he’s the child of an archangel, it would take at least the power of an archangel to heal him.”
“Well what then, we just let him die?”
“No, of course not. We have to find another way. I just don’t know what that is yet.”
“Guys?” Jack called, and Cas was alarmed at how weak his voice sounded, when earlier he sounded just fine.
“Yeah, Jack?” Dean called back.
“Can you come in here please?”
“Sure.” Dean gave a sideways glance to Cas and stepped into the room. When they came in they saw Jack, leaning against the wall, with a bag packed beside him.
“Jack, what are you doing? You need to rest.” Cas made to help Jack into the bed, but Jack stopped him.
“Cas, we’re going on that hunt. And we’re going to go now. I know you disagree, but -“
“Jack, there is no way you are going on a hunt right now.”
“Well, according to you, we don’t have the means to fix me. So I’m going to die. And if I’m going to die, I need to actually live . SItting around doing nothing but resting is a waste of the time I have left.”
“Jack, we can’t risk it -“
“Let him go,” Cas looked at Dean with annoyance and surprise. He had expected Dean to take his side and was miffed that he didn’t, “It’s not like he’ll be alone. You’ll be with him.” Cas found that he had no answer to this. Looking at Jack, seeing the pain and the determination in his face, Cas felt himself relent, just a little.
“Okay, but Jack, I am not going to let you fight. You can help me solve the case, but when it comes to killing the monster, you are going to stay behind. If you get any worse, we are coming back home. Immediately .” Jack’s face lit up with excitement and surprise. He did not expect Cas to let him go, but now, he was elated.
Dean turned to Cas, a hard but compassionate look on his face, “Take care of him. He’s counting on you. I’m counting on you.” He gently grabbed Cas’s hand, pulling it toward him. His other hand then drifted up to Cas’s face, and he gave him a quick kiss.
“Now go kick it in the ass.”