Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Angst
Characters, Pairing(s): Sam/Castiel, Dean, Bobby
Word Count: 17.8k
Warnings: Language, depictions of violence and mentions of death.
Summary: When Sam and Dean are left with no choice but to forcibly remove
the Purgatory souls , Castiel's Grace is ripped away and he is left human.
The adjustment is more difficult than any of them had anticipated and Castiel
reluctantly allows Sam's support. Though Castiel is still suffering from the
psychological wound of falling, with Sam's help and a little time, he finds a new
purpose for himself.
It had been a month since Castiel's ascension to Godhead.
A month since Sam and Dean Winchester were forced to their knees in false
supplication; one month since the miracles began, the disappearances and the
sightings and the sudden deaths.
In four weeks' time, the blind had been healed, the lame were seen walking, and
cities were razed. Entire churches burned down in a matter of moments while the
Horn of Africa and wilting Iran were suddenly bountiful and luscious green. Every
scrap of good was packaged neatly with something far worse, children saved from
cancerous blood only to have their parents stolen away by a rabid virus, towns
shielded from torrential hurricanes, only to have the next state over washed away
by inexplicable floods.
Even the monster population died down in the wake of all this Divine fury;
vampires, shapeshifters, and skinwalkers were suddenly disappearing off the map.
They hadn't even heard of a single demonic possession since this had all began
Castiel had taken to his newfound role as a Holy Enforcer quite well it seemed,
and the world was giving him wide berth to do as he chose. Raining down glory or
smiting the wicked however he saw fit and the brothers were powerless to stop it.
Week five had marked a different approach.
They had both considered it; Sam could tell as much from the way his brother held
himself: swagger replaced by harsh angles and razor-sharp glances that flickered
towards the sky. He cursed less to himself and more to the deity that could've
appeared to smite them at any moment, and the crushing weight of mourning
functioned as much as a crutch as it did a distraction.
Sam was more or less obvious for those who knew how to look. Research came
with a fierce undertow; books, crumbling newspapers, old tomes bound with the
skin of dead animals, witch's almanacs, and the journals of saints; all scoured
mercilessly under the fingers of a man who couldn't bring himself to give up. When
Bobby finally dragged him away from the table, he was lost amongst the jetsam,
words cleaving intently to the underside of his nails like the evidence of an ill-
In all that time they spent searching for answers to a question that had never been
asked and stacking ammo for weapons that could never kill; avoiding a routine
so engrained that their bones rattled at the thought--a junkie tick in the face of
withdrawal. Fact was, Castiel had been helping them out for a long time. Longer
than either one had come to allow; not since Bobby Singer and the infrangible
home that sat ramshackle amongst a cemetery of iron corpses.
The hum was on Dean's lips around every corner, every time he wrenched bolts
and dug dirt long enough to forget; it buzzed in Sam's mind over foreign hisses of
non sum dignus and kyrie eleison-- they were unable to call for help. They could
ask nothing of the one being who might know anything about saving the world from
a manufactured God simply because that being had become God. Prayer was a
knee-jerk reaction after three years of shuttling with an angel, and now, he was the
one they needed to protect the world from. They couldn't send their silent hopes to
Heaven for fear of bringing down a vicious wrath on their own heads.
In the end it was cyclical, an ouroboros that threatened to swallow them whole as it
sought after its spiny tail.
"Come on, Sam! Tyrfing, Fragarach, Kusanagi; they're all big time legendary
weapons, dude--swords that were known to slay the immortal. Don't act like you
don't know what I'm talking about." Dean was cradling a book the size of basket in
his arms, thumbing gingerly through its vellum pages.
They had been at this for days, trying to find a weapon powerful enough to subdue
a god. Book upon moldering, leather-bound book seeped its way into Bobby's
sitting room, spinning tales of Greek gods falling on blessed daggers or immortal
Sumatran warriors being pierced by a godspear. It wasn't a lack of lore that
seemed to be their issue; in this case, it was the complete overabundance.
It seemed every country and religion had its own mythical weapon - an Excalibur
for every tribe and sundry - but men had sought these weapons for centuries
before their time to no real avail. Plus, it had been their experience that oftentimes
the stories written down were never as true as their word.
"It's not enough to go on, Dean." Sam's voice was little more than a sigh against
his brother's ears, but there was finality where Dean would hear none.
Dean stood, eyes flashing in the low-light. "You think I wanna do this anymore than
Sam looked up from the withering tome that took up his lap, face set in a deep
moue. It hadn't occurred to him that Dean would even ask him something so
stupid, but they were met with stranger surprises every day.
"Of course not, Dean. I just-- I know how you get sometimes, that's all," he
finished lamely, pushing the book from his lap. Dean's jaw was working slow and
furious as he shoved his own book away to pinch at the bridge of his nose.
"What, when family turns on me?" he barked finally, arm resting against the
fireplace that had long since burned out. The question hung heavy in the air,
viciously weighted by the implications Sam couldn't help but feel it carried.
He had betrayed Dean once too, as he saw it. Ran off to save the world while some
demon held his hand and told him he was right--he was strong. That he was the
only person who could stop the end of the world.
Sam had believed it too, hadn't he? He'd thought, with all that demon blood
pumping through him, that he knew up from down, and even if he lost himself in
the Endgame, it wouldn't matter because this was the one time in his life when
he could sacrifice something for his brother. It had been the one time when Dean
wouldn't have had to pay the pound of flesh just to give the rest of humanity one
more trip around the sun.
That weighted silence drove straight through to his gut, and he stood there,
stunned at how naive he felt. How inconsiderate.
Those four months after Dean had been dragged to Hell by baying hounds and
he was left on Earth to wallow in liquor and self-pity, there had been only one
thing that gave him hope in all that darkness, gave him purpose where he'd had
none: a demon offering a way out--a way to save the whole world. To make that
death count for something when it would've otherwise been just a body amongst
It occurred to him now that Dean would keep going. He'd fight Castiel and try to
rip those souls right out of him because Dean didn't know how to give up on family.
That's exactly what it would be to him. If he couldn't find a way to get Cas back,
then Dean would either kill him, rather than allow him to live on as this monster, or
he'd die trying.
Sam wondered briefly if this was what Dean had been like when Sam was on
demon's blood or running around without a soul. Had he sat at the table like a
ghost, picking through books? Maybe he'd wandered out to the fields behind the
rotting husks of junkers
Bobby had littering his backyard, until there was enough distance between him and
the house to afford him some privacy, and hollered at the sky until the frustration
and hopelessness burned away. Either way, it didn't matter now. There was work to
Sam gathered the last of the journals, shoving them under his arm as he passed.
"We'll get him back, Dean."
In the long scheme of things, waking up was probably one of the least painful
activities Castiel had ever attempted. On a larger scale, this mid-afternoon would
barely register on the map. It was less than a blip in the waxing void of Time. For
Castiel felt like he would rather jump headlong into the Sun than open his eyes and
rouse his body from the position it had been cemented into.
He had been awake for some time now, or mostly awake. He was hovering in that
strange, hazy state where external stimuli turned the wheel of your subconscious.
Voices tugged him to the glimmering surface, and suddenly, he was all too aware of
A word formed very pointedly in his mind.
He could tell it was daytime from the light that shone through his eyelids and the
warmth on his chest, and he wasn't alone, but it hardly mattered in the face of that
incessant, itching burn that was currently eating its way through his dermis and
down into his core.
He could feel this body much too intensely. The blood pounding in his ears, the
gentle undulation of his pulse, and that wretched, searing ache - it all seemed to
pervade his every curve and angle. He felt that same itch in his throat, tracking its
nasty way down his esophagus, stomping with a force so strong that he pried his
eyes open before considering the consequences.
Another word formed in his mind, cutting its way past ache until it stood pinnacle.
The sun attempted to excise his raw corneas straight from his head, it seemed, and
he jolted forward, slapping a hand over his eyes before he could stop himself.
Footsteps, and then more voices. It was formless, murky speech that failed to hold
his attention as he felt around for something, anything that would block the sun
from his eyes. This was too much. There was burning ache that threatened to eat
his body whole and the wilting shock that pounded in his throat, and now he was
pathetically blind, eyes screwed shut under the force of sunlight. He could hear his
heartbeat growing louder in his ears and some foreign prickling settled in his gut.
"You're awake," a disembodied voice called out to him, seemingly nonplussed.
He felt an arm reach out to stop his sudden descent to the floor. Then all was dark
A slamming door caught Castiel's attention for the fourth time that night. Dean was
hauling loose duffels in and out of Bobby's house, and each intermittent absence
collapsed at the sound of the door slapping clapboard, peeling back on its hinges.
Once, Castiel had sought to peek upward at Dean, to catch a glimpse of green eyes
flashing, but they were furious and offered him little in the way of explanation.
"So what all do you do you remember?"
Sam was sitting opposite him on a moldering pile of Reader's Digests, fingers
dancing across his lap in an attempt to keep busy without seeming quite as anxious
as he really was. Dean's newfound hatred towards doors wasn't helping either of
them in the least.
It was a good question, to be fair, and Castiel considered it for a long while before
he dropped his head, uncertain of how to reply. It felt as if a fog had settled in his
mind, and he was left to feel around blindly for scraps. "The ritual," he croaked
finally, voice gruff from lack of use," I remember...so many voices and a burning
He remembered the skittering words that had rounded end on end until it was
like one voice speaking to him over his consciousness, telling him how his burning
Grace was so perfect and clean and that he had the power to fix the world now. It
had been a soliloquy that churned under his skin and sought out every single curve
and fiber of his being until he was consumed with a desire to force penitence on the
rest of the living world.
Castiel remembered the feeling of being constantly surrounded, of validation. The
way the white heat had threatened to swallow him up so completely and how it'd
felt to bask in the light of so much power. The shadow of loneliness and fear could
never creep its way into his mind when he was embraced by so much glory.
Burning homes and towns and faces, microscopic plagues that overtook unworthy
sinners, the sudden influx of prayer to the Father he had all but replaced. Castiel'd
seen Heaven ravaged down to the quick and barred its Gate. He'd emptied Hell of
its unholy contents and sealed the Pit to any damned soul that was left to seek it.
All soul paths had been directly rerouted to him; the perfect renewable resource--a
battery that would never die.
He remembered in white hot flashes that never gained quite enough momentum,
it seemed. In the end though, it was like trying to recall passages from a story told
too long ago. The more he thought--tried to force himself to remember, the more
the memories slipped away, like water through a cupped hand.
"Oh, that's real good," Dean gritted out, springing from the shadows as he dropped
his haul to the floor. "You go on a three month bender, threaten to kill Sam'n me,
wipe out two billion people, and the only fucking thing you can remember is voices
and a bright light?"
Dean covered the sitting room in less than a heartbeat and jerked Castiel to his feet
by his shoulders. "You nearly burn the world down and you're allowed to forget it
all?" Dean shook him, demanding eye contact as he shoved him flush against the
Sam stood, "Dean, stop. We don't know what those souls might've--"
But his brother was already laying into Cas, hammering his fist across any fleshy
surface it might meet. It seemed Castiel had given him silent permission. Instead
of pushing Dean away or flying off like he should've, he just stood there, pinned
under the barrage like there was no other choice but to suffer through the beating.
It took all of Sam's strength to pry Dean away, arms still flying as they toppled
backward against the bare hardwood.
"If you had a problem with me, then you handle it with me," Dean barked between
the arms that kept him from lunging forward again to attack. "Just because I was
a dick doesn't mean you take it out on the rest of the world, Cas. You know better!
What the hell did we spend two years fighting for?"
Sam could feel Dean's frame starting to rattle in his grip and sighed, letting him
loose before he crawled over to the crumpled pile Dean had been trying to pulverize
"Go out back and walk it off, okay?" It was more of a demand, but Sam's tone was
even enough for Dean to agree without comment.
"You shouldn't have stopped him," Castiel murmured between swollen lips. Sam
sighed, tugging up the corner of his shirt to press against the blood, though it did
"You can be penitent later, man. Right now...ugh--right now you need to use a
little bit of your angel magic to clean this up. I think he broke your nose." Sam was
trying very carefully now to smear the blood away from Cas's eyes, holding his
head straight as he dabbed sticky red away from the split skin on his cheek.
"Even if I could, I wouldn't," Castiel ground out, drawing back against the wall. Sam
knew this tactic, and the sheer familiarity of it made him roll his eyes.
He wasn't sure if it was just something about being a Winchester or if it was the
only way to cope with the lifestyle he learned to thrive in, but he knew the sting of
guilt all too well and the lengths he went through to pay for his sins. Sometimes
it felt good to hurt, to channel all that pain in your mind into something you could
actually touch and see healing. There was a time when Sam felt like pain was
his own private baptism. The only way he could be absolved of his self-imparted
damnation had been to suffer--and so, suffer he did.
Sam touched the cloth to Castiel's split lip and sighed hard enough to pull a shiver
through his shoulders, as he bent his head low to look Cas in the eye. "Enough,
okay? You let Dean blow off enough steam to keep everything civil for a while, why
But now he could see it. He could see it in the way Cas looked back at him, and the
way his shoulders fell in against his body at all the wrong angles, and the ragged
breaths he took. Sam had seen this before, back when Castiel had joined them
against Heaven and was cut off from the Host. The wholly bizarre way he held
himself, the way those bright eyes fell dull against the low-light when they should
"Cas, what happened?" Sam asked him in a voice so small it was a wonder Castiel
even heard him.
"My Grace--it's gone. I'm human."
"A hind?" This was the second time Dean had asked and Bobby didn't seem to be
getting any more amicable with further questioning.
"Yeah, a hind," he muttered gruffly into his coffee.
"What the hell is it?"
Bobby sighed, pushing the book across the table, giving the particular passage a
tap. "It's a sort of doe--accordin' to the Greeks, its blood was like a poison to the
Gods. You wound them with something covered in hind's blood and it saps their
juice; leaves `em mortal."
Dean's eyes went wide as he snatched up the book," A deer? Seriously?" He
scanned the page, picking over words like "ichor" and "Eurystheus".
"Bobby, how the hell do we even find it? It says here they're from someplace
called `Keryneia'. How do we even know they're still around?"
Bobby shook his head, leaning against the counter as he dropped the last bit of
whiskey into his mug. "We hunt it, I reckon. Or did you forget that's about the only
thing we're good at."
"We can't drive to Greece, Bobby," Dean remarked pointedly, going back to the
passage to look at the illustration. The thing was enormous, if the crude human
figure drawn next to it was any indication.
"Flew to Scotland for less."
Dean wilted at that, silently acceding as he read on. Sam appeared in the doorway,
greeting them with a groggy nod.
"Hey--it says that, according to some legends, it doesn't turn a God human...it just
kills them." Dean grew tight-lipped, knuckles blanching under the grip he had on
"Yeah, and that's our other little issue. There's no way to know for sure and I dunno
if it's a risk you're willing to take. So far though, it's the only thing that might
leave something intact." Bobby shifted, draining the rest of his coffee down. "If you
wanna keep lookin', be my guest."
Dean shut the book with a thud, jaw clenched. "No. If this is our one chance, then
we're gonna have to take it."
Sam was out of the house not a moment later. The slamming of the screen door
was the only indication of his departure.
"What do you mean you're `human'?" Dean would've sounded flippant if his timbre
allowed, but it didn't, and so he came across as more pained than anything.
Castiel almost shrugged his shoulders. The thought occurred to him that it would
be appropriate in this moment, but he quite frankly lacked any capacity to be
concerned. Instead, he slumped down into his chair, eyes fixed on the grain of the
Dean snapped his fingers, waving a hand in front of Castiel's eyes. "Yo, did you
hear what I asked? What do you mean you-"
"Exactly what I said." Castiel's eyes flickered up in a weak show of agitation. "I
don't know how to make myself any clearer."
Sam came through with a glass of water, and he gave Dean a rueful glance before
extending the cup with a weary half-smile.
Castiel blinked, staring between the brothers and then to the glass before taking it
between both of his hands stiffly.
"You're probably really thirsty--I mean, if you've been human since the er, y'know.
You don't seem dehydrated or anything though, but the water should help." Sam's
mouth was running away with itself, filling the room with awkward, half-broken
chatter as Dean and Cas continued to stare menacingly at everything but each
It occurred to Castiel that, while he had drank before, he had never imbibed a liquid
for the specific and intended purpose of being thirsty.
A brief glance upward afforded him a look at Sam giving him an expression that
he wanted to interpret as "encouraging", but it could have easily been pity. Castiel
decided it didn't make much difference either way, and pressed the glass to his lips,
gulping with clumsy breaths. Half a choke later, he was grimacing and setting the
glass down against the table a little too roughly.
"It's cold," Cas managed to chatter out, teeth ringing from the unpleasant rush
passing over his tongue and down his throat.
Sam frowned, head canted in question. "Shouldn't be. I just grabbed one of the
extra jugs sitting out-"
"As fascinating as that is, I think there are more pressing issues than the
temperature of his drinking water," Dean interjected loudly, carding a hand through
his hair. Castiel drew his arms around himself tightly, eyes suddenly wide as he
stood, taking care not to brush past either of them as he stumbled on.
"Hey, we're not done, Cas. There are questions you're gonna damn well answer."
Dean started after him but Sam was suddenly between him and the door, and Dean
was silently cursing his brother's freakishly long giraffe legs for the extra berth.
"Dean, just give him a minute, okay? Don't you think this is a lot for him to take
in?" Sam was talking with his hands again; a sign of investment--emotional or
otherwise, and Dean narrowed his eyes, anger flying all over his face.
"Did he give us a minute, Sam?" he started in, and oh boy here it goes, Sam's
thoughts supplied bitterly. "Did he give the world a minute before the tidal waves
and the swarms and the Nero virus?"
Dean's bark echoed through the wilting wallpaper and Sam held out a placating
hand. "Dean, d'you remember when that vampire turned you? How out of sync and
overwhelmed you felt, man? Imagine going through that and the only people in the
world who can help you are doing nothing but yelling at you." Sam shifted on his
hips, letting out a sigh before taking another approach. "Listen, I'm not saying you
shouldn't be pissed at him. You have every right to be mad, but just--just give him
some time, okay?"
Dean's frown shifted into a nasty sneer. "Did you forget what he did to you, Sam?
Because I fucking didn't. How could I forget that stoic feathery fuck putting you in a
coma you should never have even come out of?"
Dean turned away, voice tight. "Just because I've had to live through more than
one of your deaths doesn't make `em any easier, Sammy."
"I didn't forget, Dean," Sam murmured, hovering just out of contact. "But that's
what I've been trying to say this whole time. He may have torn the wall down,
Dean, but he fixed it too. He did better than that."
Sam was right; Castiel had done better than that. When he'd forced them to kneel
and declare him as God, it really had been an act of divine will. Neither had really
agreed, not of their own volition, but their knees had dropped to the cold ceramic
and the words had tumbled out of their mouths like they'd wanted to say it. Except
they hadn't; neither brother had truly supplicated in their mind and their bodies
were acting of their own accord.
When it was over and done, Castiel had approached them, reaching a hand out
to graze Sam's brow and then the world had been swimming in bright warm light
and his head had no longer been splitting open under the force of his tortured
Someone had asked, or maybe he'd read their minds, but Castiel had looked down
at them, and for the first time since his they had entered the room, that cold placid
smile had been gone. "Because I am setting an example. I am a God of my word;
when I said I would fix Sam Winchester--I meant it. And so I have. Let it never be
said that I wasn't merciful."
But the acts of Castiel, the God, couldn't be used to protect Castiel, the angel,
so Sam pressed on through another angle. "Dean, he was the one who brought
me back in the first place. Without him I--I'd still be rotting down there with the
Archangels; so forgive me if I feel like we should show him a little mercy."
Dean threw up his hands in exasperated surrender. "I can't handle this right now.
I'm going upstairs, Sam. But we are going to talk about this tomorrow, y'hear me?"
Sam nodded and Dean's heavy footfalls sounded his departure.