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Apocalypse Now (Absolution Later) 2/4

Apocalypse Now (Absolution Later)



Part One....Part Two.....Part Three.....Part Four....Epilogue

They had retreated, falling back behind the cover of a particularly intact log.  It was mostly a precaution, since so far their little friends hadn’t made a move toward them.  But their numbers were growing, and the group seemed restless.  There was a definite hum in their air, and Dean wasn’t sure if it was a safe bet to just charge ahead with the summoning ritual or to come up with some other kind of plan.  These demons were obviously up to something--something not good.

But there was no easy answer.  A mass exorcism could send the entire group into a frenzy, and all the demons might not even be there.  Dean had no way of knowing and question marks like those were not exactly reassuring.

Frustrated, he muttered a curse.

“So, what do you want to do?” Sam asked, giving the animals a look over the top of the log.

Dean glowered.  “Get the hell out of here and grab a beer,” he grumbled.

Sam barely restrained a sigh.  “We might want to get rid of the pack of demons first,” he suggested lightly.

“Gee, really?  Did you have to ask your demon blood to help you clarify that one?  Or maybe you consulted Lucifer since, you know, you let him out?”

Sam’s face registered hurt, but he pulled it back quickly. 

Dean sighed, rubbing a hand over his face.  That had been a low blow, but he just didn't have the patience.  He could handle one fiasco at a time--stopping a legion of demons and handling his little brother’s lack of judgment all at once was just not his cup of tea.  This was supposed to be an in-and-out job, quick and to the point, and Sam’s sarcasm was not helping him think this through.

Looking at the animals, he could see the bunnies were starting to bounce and the squirrels were chattering.  Groaning, he turned back, resting his head against the log.  “Dude, this is not how Cas explained it,” Dean said.

“Then how did he explain it?” Sam asked, his eyebrows raised expectantly.  It was a look Dean recognized from long ago, something of incredulity and little brother pride.  In fact, it was the closest Sam had come to a bitchface in months.

Dean’s brow furrowed--he had to stay focused.  “He said they wouldn’t be any trouble.  Something about falling apart without their leader, I think.”

“You think?”  The comment was snarky, more than Dean had expected.  He had thrown the big stuff at Sam, a reference to the demon blood and all, and yet the kid wasn’t backing down.  There was something to that, but there wasn’t time for it.  Not now.  He could only hope that Sam would get his act together and not make Dean regret trusting him on this one.

“Dude, it was a five minute conversation, give me a break,” Dean snapped.  He took a deep breath.  Heaven chose him to be a leader, to make the hard choices.  So that was exactly what he was going to do.  Reassert his authority--and Sam had better pay attention, along with the demons.  “We’re just going to have to keep going ahead with the plan.”

Sam gaped a little, looking at his brother to the forming herd of animals.  “There’s got to be nearly two hundred of them.”

Dean followed his brother’s gaze.  “Half of them are smaller than a beaver, so they don’t count.”

“And some of them are bears, so they count twice.”

Dean scrunched his nose.  “You got any bright ideas, genius?”

“I don’t think a mass exorcism is going to work,” Sam said, shaking his head.

“Of course it will.”

“Yeah, if we could keep them from eating us first, maybe.”

“You just you do your job, and I’ll do mine,” Dean said.

“Dude, you can distract a walking, talking demon, but these are animals.  With a group mentality.  They’re getting stronger by the minute, and an exorcism is just going to piss them off.”

“So read fast.”

“Have you seen this exorcism?” Sam asked.  “It’s involved.”

Dean had seen it, but he wasn’t about to admit defeat on this point--or on any point.  They had to stick to the plan.  If Dean had learned anything over the last year, it was that deviations from the plan were simply not a good idea.  Not unless they wanted to start the apocalypse--again.  “We follow the plan,” Dean told him again. 

Time was growing shorter now, Dean could tell that much.  The animals were twitching now, some in tandem, and a couple of the squirrels were skittering ever closer to them.  It was time to finish this.  Castiel wouldn’t have sent them on this mission if he had doubted Dean’s capability of getting it done.

Sam didn’t look convinced.  Doubt lingered in Sam’s eyes for a long second before he dropped his head, nodding.  “Okay.  You have holy water?” Sam asked, looking up.

Dean held up his bottle. 

“Be careful,” Sam said.

“I don’t need to be careful, Sammy,” Dean returned with a grin.  “I’ve got God as a backup.  What more do I need?”

Sam didn’t reply as he retreated a bit.  His brother pulled the exorcism from his pack, looking over it briefly before looking back at Dean.  Dean nodded, turning and going in the other direction, giving up any semblance of stealth as he crashed through the deadened forest.

Whether they were responded to Dean’s movement or Sam’s Latin, Dean wasn’t sure, but the group tittered, almost jittering in a wave.  Like they were following one another, which wasn’t a very reassuring thought.

Bottle poised, Dean waited.  There was no sense provoking them until they struck first.  Dean wasn’t sure how much sentience they had or if they knew anything about plotting, so it wasn’t clear how long it would take them to figure out what was up.  Still, even without a conscious mind, Dean knew that the fight-or-flight syndrome was bound to kick in eventually, and he just didn’t know how a herd of possessed wild animals would go about that.

An owl screeched, swooping low at Dean.  He ducked, cursing a little, flinging an arc of holy water at it as it dove at him again.

Hissing in pain, the owl veered off, slamming hard into a raccoon.  With a squeal of disapproval, the raccoon lashed back.

It was the break in the waiting game that caused all hell to break loose.

A bear turned on a buffalo, while a group of rabbits hopping in unison charged at Dean.  Dean hit them with a spray of holy water.  Recoiling, they seemed to cough as they smoked, but Dean’s reprieve was short as a porcupine reared its tail at him.

Frustrated, Dean hurled a branch at it, and the thing misfired, right into some weird quasi-buffalo looking creature with a mop of hair that looked just like Sam’s.

Now Dean was seeing his brother in demonic wildlife.  He wasn’t sure if Sam should be insulted...or if the animals should.

Not that he had time to think about that.

Not if he was going to survive to rib his brother about it.

Hastily, he considered his next line of defense.  Sam was right about the lack of distractions--these demons weren’t sophisticated enough to be deterred and yet just with it enough to really know what they wanted.

Dean didn’t know exactly what they wanted, but generalized death and destruction was really not something he wanted today.  Or ever.  Especially when he was probably first on the hit list.

So he just had to keep playing the field.  Stupid things that they were--they seemed easy enough to fend off with the holy water and some mad dodging skills.

He sidestepped a badger-like thing, which thudded into a tree stump behind him.  The animals were closer now, packed together and growing louder.  They still bucked and squirmed, as though they were trying to figure out their own skins.  Which, Dean thought, they probably were.  The demons were trying to make sense of where they were and of what they could do.  Cutting the head of the snake didn’t actually kill it--it just made it the damn thing regroup.

The thought struck him with a cold pang of dread.  Hive mentality.  They were used to following orders, so maybe all these workers bees would get together and plan their own attack.  They all were joined by similar nefarious ambitious, and given the increasing cadence of their shrill jabber and mewls, they were building to something.

Which made sense.  Why they were gathering.  Why they were just standing there, staring.  Attacking in small groups, incrementally growing more agitated.

This hunt just kept getting better and better.

He looked back at Sam, hidden in the brush as best he could from the prying eyes of the little black eyed fuzz-balls.  At least Sam was secure enough to do the exorcism--for now.

There was a furious squeak and a frantic flurry, and Dean turned, ready to move, but the action wasn’t aimed at him.

No, the little gang of chipmunks were scurrying to his right, passing him for something else. 

Dean swore.

The ranger.

Focused now, he moved ahead, yelling as he went.  He splattered the chipmunks with last of the water, and they scattered, skittering off from the ranger’s prone body.

Dean tossed the empty bottle to the side, his attention on the ranger.  He could see she was still okay--a few chipmunk bites to the contrary--but she was still breathing.  His relief was short lived when he heard the approach of pounding hooves.

Looking up, he had time to see an elk charging him. 

Cursing again, he realized he had no other means of protection.  The knife wouldn’t be effective against a charging animal of that size and the rest of the holy water was back in his pack.  He had nothing he could do except get out of the way, which would have been a whole lot easier without an unconscious park ranger to protect.

It wasn’t much of a decision to make--he couldn’t leave her suffer her fate, be it possession or being trampled.  Heart pounding, he bent over to pick up the ranger, but he knew he wouldn’t have enough time.  The best he could do was cover her from what was happening next.

He hit the ground, curling around her, and tucked in his head as best he could as he waited for the impact.

Which never came.

There was an animalistic grunt and the hoofbeats stilled in a hiss of smoke.

Peaking up, Dean saw his brother standing over him, a bottle of holy water in his hands.

“You think we should rethink this strategy?” Sam asked.

Dean looked back at the animals.  They were moving together more, and they were louder, their voices sounded more in tune.  “They know we can’t protect the ranger and get rid of them.”

“There’s just too many,” Sam said.  “If I start the Latin again, they’ll keep attacking.”

It was then Dean realized that his brother’s presence meant the exorcism wasn’t happening.  Pushing himself to his feet, he glowered at his brother, jogging toward him as Sam pulled the ranger’s limp body back behind a large fallen tree.  “Dude, I told you to stick to the plan.”

“You were going to get trampled,” Sam protested as Dean settled in next to him.

“I would have been fine,” Dean said.  “I need to trust that you’ll follow orders.”

“I did follow orders.”

“If you had followed orders, you might be done by now.”

“The exorcism is too long, Dean,” Sam said, and he was pleading a bit now.  He shook his papers at Dean.  “I was barely two pages in out of ten.”

Bobby had explained that mass exorcisms were hard to come by.  “So we have to create a barrier, some kind of safe zone.”

“On what?  The ground is littered with debris.  It’s too uneven.  We’d never have time to clear an area to lay something down.”

“So we spray paint it.”

“And one moved twig, and they’re through it, just like that.  It’ll never hold.”

“Okay, Mr. Negative,” Dean snapped, glancing nervously at the animals.  The whole front tier seemed to be swaying in unison now, finding a rhythm that Dean had to think wasn’t good.  “You want to piss on every idea I have or help me figure this out before they attack again.”

“That’s my point, Dean,” Sam said.  “Do you really think we can pull this off before they attack again?  Even if we can steer clear of them, how long until they’ve got their act together?”

“We don’t even know what that means,” Dean hissed.

“They’re building toward something,” Sam said, and it shouldn’t have surprised Dean that Sam figured it out.  “It’s almost like--”

“They’re trying to become one,” Dean finished for him. 

Sam looked grim.  “It makes sense.  They lost their leader, but they’re still inherently joined.  They know what they’re meant to do, and now they just have to regroup.  They’re lower level demons, not lesser life forms.”

“So they’re still hard-wired to cause mass destruction, all with one freaky-assed mind.”

“Starting with us,” Sam said.  “We don’t have anything to hold them back.”

“Which is why we need to stop them before they do that,” Dean said.  “Which is why you never should have stopped reading.  We’re wasting time.”

“Dean--” Sam began.

Dean didn’t have the time or the patience.  These demons may have been lower tier, but Castiel had been right about this job.  Together, they could cause serious destruction.  The fact that they didn’t have a fearless leader to command them was actually not reassuring at all.  Untamed evil wasn’t any better than the calculated variety, and Sam’s sudden desire to start questioning again had picked a hell of a time to reassert itself.

Dean needed to stop these demons--here and now--so that lives could be saved.

Starting with the ranger.

Which was a perfect job for Sam.  He could get her to safety and get Sam out of the way.  That way, Sam would be safe and Dean could focus on the job at hand.  His brother clearly meant well, but Sam’s judgment still wasn’t what it used to be.  Dean wasn’t sure it ever would be, but that wasn’t something he had time to contemplate now. 

“Take the ranger and get her out of here,” Dean ordered flatly.

Sam looked incredulous.  “What?”

Dean took the exorcism, steeling himself.  “Take the ranger and get her out of here,” he said again.

“Dean, you can’t do this by yourself,” he said.

“Yeah, I can,” Dean said.  “I’ve done it by myself before.  Who do you think was in charge of things while you were off sucking demon blood?  Or when you were going through detox?  I know what I’m doing.”

“There’s got to be another way,” Sam said.

“Damn it, Sam, there isn’t time,” he said sharply.  He glanced over his shoulder.  The animals were louder now, growing closer.  “They’re going to have their act together in no time, and if that happens, then a lot of people could die.  Do you want that on your conscience?”

That hit Sam--harder than Dean had intended.  Sam already carried the deaths of every soul since Lucifer broke out on his conscience, whether it was directly his fault of not.  Dean couldn’t bring himself to think about whether he held Sam accountable for that as well, but what he did know was that they could save people today.  Starting with the ranger. 

Dean’s eyes softened.  No matter what Sam had done, seeing the kid hurt wasn’t easy.  And Sam had tried and he was trying.  He just didn’t have it all figured out yet.  They could work on that--later.  Sam’s mind wasn’t focused on the right things; his judgment wasn’t up to par yet.  The best thing would for Sam to be away from here and safe so Dean could clean up this mess.

“Trust me,” Dean said, emphatically, meeting Sam’s gaze squarely.  “You take her, and you go.  You don’t look back.  I’ve got this.”

Sam’s forehead creased, and Dean saw a shadow of doubt flit through Sam’s eyes.  “Dean--”

Dean’s features tightened, his jaw clenching.  The concern in his brother’s voice was suddenly crystal clear, just like it used to be.  Sam was worried about Dean--worried about losing Dean.  Dean had missed that--more than he had realized--but this wasn’t the time for it.  Just like this was no the time for Sam’s independence to come back to the foreground.  They would work on that, sure, but only in the right time and in the right context when Dean was sure Sam wouldn’t screw everything up.  Dean had planned on starting with simple things, like picking whether they got Italian or Mexican, not how to run a hunt on the fly. 

Resolved, Dean’s gaze didn’t waver.  “You will do this, Sam.”

Sam’s face contorted, and his eyes looked a little wet.  “It’s suicide, Dean,” Sam said.  “There are over fifty--”

“And I’ve got the exorcism to get rid of them,” Dean reassured him.

“You’re going to need backup.”

“Not from you,” Dean snapped, harsher than he intended.  But the forest was growing hotter, and Dean could hear the throbbing hum of the demons growing louder. 

“Dean, I can help--”

“By taking her out of here.”

“No, Dean--”

There wasn’t time for this.  Dean’s compassion waned--he understood Castiel’s lack of warm fuzzies now better than he wanted to admit.  They had a civilian to get out, and Dean needed to have his wits about him.  This task was daunting, a hell of lot harder than Cas had suggested, which is why he needed to focus.  And he wouldn’t focus with Sam around--the kid was just proving the point.  Sam could handle simple jobs, but in all the chaos, Dean needed to make sure Sam didn’t do something stupid.  He’d neglected his watch once, with disastrous results, and this hunt wasn’t shaping up to be much better.  This wasn’t the time or place for Dean to take a chance. 

“You really think you have any ground to stand on when it comes to making decisions?” he said, knowing it was a low blow.  But he’d hurt Sam if it meant keeping the kid safe--if it meant keeping the world safe.  “If you’d just shut the hell up and followed along a few months ago, we wouldn’t be here at all.”

Pain swept across Sam’s face and he paled, swallowing hard.  His mouth opened, then closed, and Dean saw him turn hastily.  This time, Sam didn’t hesitate.  Dean watched his brother a moment longer as the kid pulled the ranger’s unconscious body into his arms.  Shoulders rigid, back straight, Sam didn’t look back as he headed quickly down the trail, steps uneven and stunted.  Dean didn’t have to see his face to know that his brother was crying.

Better crying than dead, Dean figured.  Licking his lips, he looked back at the exorcism in his hand, hoping that he could read fast enough.  He just had to keep one eye on the demons, and the other on the words.  If he kept moving, he’d be harder to hit, and hopefully the exorcism would disrupt their progress.

It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was all he had.  It would work, Dean was pretty sure. 

Besides, it wasn’t like he had many other choices at the moment.

With a deep breath, he started reading.

-o-

A page later, Dean was really beginning to wonder why he had thought this would work.

In theory, the plan still seemed like a good idea.  But when black-eyed bunnies were pairing off with seething ground hogs to keep him perpetually on the move, it made keeping up with the exorcism a little more difficult than he’d anticipated.

And a lot slower.

Which meant the animals were getting better.  Their attacks were becoming coordinated, happening in bunches, once involving five moose all at once.  And the noise was growing louder--an ominous sign that Dean didn’t really want to contemplate.

Mostly, he just knew he might need that back up after all.

The roaring ratcheted up another notch, so loud that Dean’s ears felt like they were ringing.  Grimacing, he yelled louder, trying to speak even faster.

He was two-thirds through at least.  He was making progress.

But so were they.  Now, they writhed almost as one, the shoots of pain from the Latin snaking through them like a well planned wave. 

The roar turned into a hissing laugh, loud and penetrating.

Dean couldn’t help but stop, listening in horror.

“We are Legion,” they said, and it wasn’t human and it wasn’t even animal.  Dean’s skin prickled as the voices rippled with laughter, still barely joined enough to speak.  “For we are many.  And you are one.  We will destroy.”  The voice splintered, coming together and falling apart, getting garbled in parts, but the deadly message was clear.

They were right about the first few counts, and Dean didn’t want to find out about the last point there.  Not if he could help it, and at this point, he was starting to doubt if he could.

“Cas!” he screamed, feeling a little desperate.  He was the type to do it alone, he really was, but he wasn’t above asking for a little divine intervention these days--not with the stakes as high as they were.  The angels wouldn’t let him die.  They couldn’t.  Not when he was the one, the only hope.  Hell, even Zachariah would save his ass for that end, and right about then, Dean would take what he could get. 

He steeled himself, quickening his pace.  He had to finish this thing before they got their acts together and worked as one.  A few possessed bunnies wouldn’t be a problem, but a whole herd of them, including cougars and moose and bears (oh crap) was a bit more than he wanted to feasibly handle.

They weren’t coordinating their attacks on a full scale yet--but he could see them building to it.  The buzz was nearly deafening, and Dean had to scream just to overpower it, the Latin coming from him gutturally. 

Just a bit longer--just a bit faster--

It was going to be too late.  After everything, this was going to be too late.

Then, the buzzing splintered, and for a second, Dean thought it was over.  He cringed, pulling inward on himself, before he realized that they hadn’t reached their pinnacle.  They had descended into chaos.

Surprised and relieved, Dean turned his head, expecting to see a flap of wings or the damn heavenly light that followed Cas around.  What he saw instead was Sam.

His brother had a bottle of holy water, which he waved again at the crowd of animals, sprinkling it haphazardly over the lot.  They hissed and screeched; somewhere a moose bellowed.

“We have to go!” Sam yelled at him.  “We don’t have a lot of time.”

Dean pulled his pack over his shoulder.  “I thought I told you to leave!” he said.

“I did,” Sam told him.  “And I came back.”

“But the ranger--”

“Is safe,” Sam said.  “She regained consciousness halfway there, and it turned out she used to run track.  We were in the safe zone in no time, and I told her to keep walking and not look back.  Given what she’d just been through, I’m pretty sure she believed me.”

“This is my job, man,” Dean said.

Sam looked at the horde of animals.  “Yeah,” he said.  He met Dean’s eyes, and Dean tried to remember the last time that had happened.  “And I was just being your backup.”

Backup.  What a novel concept.  Especially of the non-winged variety.  There was a time he’d taken that for granted, when Sam at his side was just a given.  He had missed it, but he hadn’t let himself believe that they were ready for that yet.

But here Sam was.  He had followed all the rules, he had done exactly what he was supposed to, and he had taken it a step further--he had thought on his feet and filled in where needed.  Dean had been so scared to trust Sam, that it had been easier to squelch his brother’s meager proactive efforts.  It had been safer, but not better.

Sam had a lot to atone for, and it still hurt Dean to think about some of it, but maybe it was time to move on.  To let go and help Sam let go.  Maybe it was time to restore the balance.

He grinned.  “Then why didn’t you get here sooner?” Dean asked.  “They were about to start gnawing at me.”

Sam’s smile dared to appear, dimples flashing briefly, before he pulled his emotions back into check.  “Yeah, well,” he said.  “I have more than enough to feel guilty about.  I couldn’t let you get killed this time around.”

It was true enough.  “So, you think we should go?” Dean asked, glancing behind him.  The rabbits were bouncing into each other and a moose was banging its antlers into a tree while the buffalo scraped roughly at the ground.  The multitude of animals were twitching and twittering, and more and more of them were glaring at them with a vengeance.  Nearly the whole pack was swaying together now, seeming to breathe together with a growing intensity.

Sam scrunched his nose.  “Well, staying would sort of defeat the purpose of a saving you.”

“Then let’s book it, little brother,” Dean said.

Sam flashed another slight grin, before reining it back.  He brought his eyebrows together, flinging the last of the holy water at the gathering of animals.

As the group writhed anew in a hiss of smoke, Dean pushed Sam hard in front of them, and they stumbled into action.

They moved quickly, running fast, even over the uneven terrain.  Their pace was purposeful and powerful, and for a moment, they were working in tandem, moving as one, just like old times.  Just like they were supposed to.  And, for a second, Dean remembered what it was like, remembered why he’d made the deal, remembered why Sam had mattered so much to him.

For a moment, it was perfect.

Then he heard the rise of voices behind him.  “We are Legion.  We are many.  You are few.  You will be destroyed.”

He spared a glance over his shoulder, and saw the ash kicking up behind them.  A growing cloud of debris and the rising swell of voices.

He prodded Sam again.  “They’re coming,” he breathed, and he felt Sam pick up his pace in front of him.

The hurtled headlong, though neither of them could have articulated where or why.  Even at their clip, the demons would move faster, and unless Castiel showed up, they would still have to perform the exorcism, with all of its wordiness, with nothing more than whatever holy water or iron they had left lying around.  That just didn’t bode well.

Dean was beginning to feel a little nervous when Sam came to a skidding halt in front of him.

Surprised, Dean didn’t have time to stop, tripping into his brother, and they both fell to the ground hard, in a tangle of limbs.  Dean’s face scraped hard against the ground, and he got a mouthful of ash, before he landed on his back.

Rolling to all fours, he swore.  “What the hell?” he asked.

Sam was already standing, squinting out in front of him, his chest still heaving with the effort.  “How do you feel about swimming?”

Pushing to his feet, Dean shook his head, panting.  “How do you feel about actually finishing our great escape?”

“I thought you might like to look before you leap,” Sam said.

Then Dean saw why.

The terrain dropped off.  Over the edge, Dean could see at least a thirty-foot drop, straight into the river below.

He swore again, glancing behind him.  “You’ve so got to be kidding me.”

Sam looked back as well.  “You want to try exorcising a pack of demons or jumping off a cliff?” Sam asked.  He met his brother’s eyes.  “You have about three second to decide.”

“We’re not quitters,” Dean said.  He looked out at the water again.  “But we’re also not idiots.  This jump isn’t fatal.”

“Unless we hit rocks.”

“You’d rather stay and face the demons?”

Sam licked his lips, eyes looking over the edge again.  “Seems a little Butch Cassidy and Sundance, doesn’t it?” Sam asked.

Dean grinned, wide and real.  He’d forgotten Sam’s sense of humor; he’d forgotten Sam--what it felt like to be a team, to work together in tandem, two equal parts.  “Well, at least they survived that jump.”

Sam laughed a little.  “I was thinking of the ending.”

“Oh,” Dean said, his brow furrowed.  “Well, we never know for sure what happened.”

“You want to find out?”

“Hell, yeah,” Dean said.

Sam hesitated, pressing his lips together.  “Dean, I--”

“Dude, we have a forest full of possessed wildlife after us.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “More than you know.”

“Yeah, well,” Dean said, tousling his hair.  “Maybe I’m sorry, too.”

There was a noise behind them, louder than a train, and wood creaked.  Dean glanced behind him to see the forest shaking with energy, trees falling as the demons approached.

“On the count of three,” Dean said.  “One, two--”

And before he said three, Dean leapt, pulling Sam with him.

There was a moment of free fall, fresh air assailing his face as they tumbled.  The water was coming up fast, and Dean closed his eyes, trying to straighten his body and prepare for impact.

It never came.

Instead, Dean found himself on the ground, his breath still caught in his throat, arms and legs curled in protectively.

It took a long moment before Dean realized he wasn’t falling anymore.

Another beat passed before he realized he was still alive.  In fact, he was on solid ground.

Unfurling cautiously, he peeked from behind his eyelids.  He was back in the charred forest, only the swarm of demons seemed to be gone--probably still charging headlong over a cliff, if Dean’s luck was holding out.

Luck was also known as Castiel, his guardian angel on his shoulder.  The guy was annoyingly vague and frustratingly absent until the crap hit the fan.  Then, Dean’s favorite winged jackass seemed to show up without fail.  Having the savior of the freakin’ world flame out before the final showdown was probably a pretty big screw up.

With a grimace, he pushed to his feet.  “You think you could have waited a little longer?” he asked.  “You know, like when I was drowning?”

“You said you could handle it,” Castiel replied, nonplussed, and Dean could detect traces of annoyance in his features.

Dean smirked.  “You said it was easy.  You didn’t say that all the little guys could come together.  It was like some whacked out demonic version of Power Rangers or something.”

“Dean, we do not have time for this,” he said.  “You simply needed to finish the exorcism and banish them.”

“Yeah, that’s easier when they’re not trying to kill me,” Dean sassed back.

Castiel sighed.  “We must set up an area of protection, then,” he said.  “We must work quickly before they return.”

Dean craned his neck.  “Speaking of which, where are they?  And where’s Sam?”

“I assume they are as we left them,” he said.  “I merely pulled you from the altercation.”

The meaning settled over Dean and his chest clenched.  “You left them as they were?” he asked, feeling a surge of incredulity and hoping like hell he was wrong about what he thought that could mean.

Castiel shrugged.  “I had to prioritize.”

“You’re an angel,” Dean said.  “If you can pull one falling human out of the air, you can pull two.”

With a sigh, Castiel turned to him.  “I could not risk the demons following us until we had proper time to prepare.  Your lack of preparedness led to this result in the first place.  Leaving them as they were was an apt distraction to give us time to regroup.”

Dean’s stomach dropped.  Sam had saved his ass and they had been ready to go out together and now Dean was on solid ground and he had no idea was Sam was.  Swallowing, he gave a measured nod, hoping that the conclusions he was drawing were wrong.  “You used Sam as bait?”

Angel or not, Castiel had gotten better at picking up on the nuances of human emotions.  Dean saw a flicker of regret on his face before he drew himself to full height and steeled his gaze against Dean.  “It was a small sacrifice,” Castiel said.  “Your brother has expressed his desire to serve in any way in which he is needed.”

“Yeah, and he has,” Dean said.  “How many times does a guy have to help save the world before he’s finally paid his dues?”

“Sam’s guilt is not my concern,” Castiel returned.

“Yeah, but maybe it should be,” Dean snapped.  “Since you and your angel buddies seem so content to just hang him out to dry whenever it is convenient for you.”

“The fall was not likely fatal,” Castiel tried to explain.

“Oh, whatever,” Dean said, turning away.  He looked over his shoulder.  “Is that what you told yourself when you let him down the demon blood?  When you guys left that message for Sam on his voicemail?  When you set him up to go against Lilith?”

“Sam made his own choices.”

“And so did you,” Dean said sharply.  He ran a hand through his hair, trying to get his mind together.  “And you had every chance to help him, and you didn’t.

“Neither did you,” Castiel said.

It was true, and Dean stiffened at the accusation.  “Yeah,” Dean said.  And he remembered accusing Sam of being evil, telling Sam that his little brother was gone, refusing to ask Sam what he needed. 

He had been so angry, so hurt, so tired, and he just hadn’t had the time or the energy to pay attention to it all.  He was so focused on how Sam hurt him that he wasn’t looking for why Sam was doing it.  And the thing was, it should have been so obvious.  Sam was a total mess, a loss of denial and desperation, and had been ever since Dean died.  That didn’t make Sam’s choices okay, but it also didn’t justify Sam being hung out to dry.  By any of them.

He took a deep breath, looking Castiel steadily in the eyes.  That was then.  This was now.  “And that’s not a mistake I plan on making now.”

Castiel looked stricken, and Dean could see that the angel was, in fact, afraid.  These hunts, no matter how flippantly Dean liked to treat them, were important, and this was a burden Castiel was carrying nearly on his own.  There were other rogue angels, but Dean knew their numbers were few.  Castiel was many things, but a liar wasn’t among them.  He had always been honest with Dean, and he had always been honest in his motivations.  He wanted to do the right thing, even when that right thing was hard.  Even when it required sacrifices.

For that reason alone, Dean couldn’t hate him for leaving Sam behind.

But that wasn’t enough for Dean to join him.  Not until Sam was safe.

Comments

Posted by: spoilerwolf (spoilerwolf)
Posted at: August 22nd, 2009 07:53 am (UTC)

Yay! Sam came back! :D I wanted to smack Dean for that miserable comment he made to make Sam cry! *cries herself*

And that Castiel!! *grrr!* Saves Dean, but leaves Sam? Ugh!

Dean... you better go find Sam and give him a hug, or I'll send Bobby after you!

On to chapter 3!!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 26th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
find me

I found myself wanting to hit Dean a lot last season, but that's neither here nor there :)

I'm glad you're still liking it!

Posted by: mikiya2200 (mikiya2200)
Posted at: August 28th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)

Not only poor Sam was crying at that comment, you're really taking me on a roller-coaster-ride with that. I'm so glad I trusted my instincts (hear that, Dean, I trusted MY instincts!!) and kept reading, I know you wouldn't leave Sammy with that Dean for long.

On to part 3 now!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 1st, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
after school limp

I'm replying out of order! Only because I am really disorganized...

And I have to set Dean up for his realization of how mean he's been--I'm a Sam girl through and through and probably of the most rabid variety. I'm always looking out for Sam.

And by looking out, I mean that I'm always looking out for new ways to hurt him :)

Thanks!

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