Characters: Castiel, Sam
Warnings: obtuse spoilers for 10.9, [spoilers for the fic]major character death, suicide.
Author's Notes: Okay, so I was less than bouncy about Tuesday's SPN episode, for a host of reasons that I've already splattered all over everyone's journals. Regardless--or maybe in spite of it all--I was really moved by the drabbles HERE and HERE amberdreams produced in response to the ep. Please read them first! They're quick, and my ficlet will make much more sense afterwards. Actually, it's technically a tag to her drabbles!
Anywho, I found myself needing to wallow in the most abject melodrama and self-satisfying angst that I ever angsted. I NEEEEEDED THIS. Forgive me.
The bunker door is ajar. Castiel nudges it open with his foot, peeks into the gloom. The warding has been neglected.
He half-expects to see the walls christened with blood, flung in great rusty arcs. But he doesn’t, and there’s the faint and distant echoes of music playing from somewhere deep within the marble halls of the place.
Sounds like something Dean would be listening to. Aerosmith. The band name pops into Castiel’s brain, plucked from all that information implanted there by Metatron. He even knows the song title: ‘Last Child.’ And there is something distinctly ill-omened about that knowledge.
Castiel walks down the iron staircase, heads toward the music. Past the war room and the study and the mess hall, past the open bedroom doors, with their unmade beds.
Sam hasn’t picked up the phone since they’d burned Dean’s body. Since he and Castiel had made the pyre deep in the woods behind the bunker, in a clearing surrounded by bare branches and old snow. There was no eulogy from Sam, only dry-eyed silence, disturbed by the crackle of the flames and a flock of starlings that startled into the gray sky when Castiel had sneezed. He would need to find more Grace soon.
Afterwards, Sam hadn’t wanted anyone hovering over him. Castiel wouldn’t have minded doing the hovering, but he did have jobs. Jimmy Novak’s daughter needed supervision, albeit distant; as long as she didn’t know Castiel was playing guardian angel, the relationship was copacetic. And there were still rogue brethren wandering Earth and for them, Castiel felt particularly responsible.
Sam had always been stubbornly self-reliant. He’d said he understood why Dean did it.
“Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt,” Sam had said, with a laugh that held not a bit of humor. He’d said he knew it would happen, and it didn’t make him love Dean any less.
“It’s bullshit about suicide being a Mortal Sin, right?” he’d asked of Castiel, eyes boring into the angel’s as though daring him to lie. He knew Castiel could lie—oh, he could—he’d gotten quite good at it, in fact.
“Yes, Sam. It’s...bullshit. Dean’s soul may have to do penance, but he won’t be damned.”
Sam had nodded, taking deep breaths. He wanted so hard to believe, this much was clear. “And the Mark?”
“It can be removed now.” Castiel lied very well, indeed.
“Thanks, Cas.” And then Sam had wandered off with a bottle of something 100-proof dangling from his fingers.
Two weeks ago, that was. Castiel has not sensed Sam’s soul leaving the corporeal plane, but there is something amiss, and Castiel feels a flicker of guilt that he hasn’t paid closer attention to the one human being left on this planet who knows him best. Who forgives him everything. Who cares.
Still nothing, but the radio and a rumble.
The faraway rumble of a car.
Castiel runs, skids around the corner into the bunker’s massive garage. There is but one light on in the place, and one car is running. A hose travels from the exhaust pipe of the Impala to the driver’s side door, where it has been pinched tightly in the window.
He charges to the car and yanks on the door handle, but Sam has locked it. The hose pulls free with one tug, and Castiel slams his elbow into the window. The safety glass splinters into millions of tiny squares, but it takes a second strike to make an actual hole. Music blasts out of the car. Shoving his hand through the break, he unlocks the door and nearly tears it off the hinges, so desperate to open it.
Sam is sitting shotgun, his head lolled back and lips slightly parted. After the injury that nearly destroyed his shoulder, he’d struggled to put muscle back on, and now it’s clear he’s stopped taking care of himself altogether; his hair is greasy and his neck is thin, his cheeks, hollow. He hasn’t shaved.
Castiel grabs a fist full of shirt and drags him unceremoniously across the bench seat. Skinny or not, Sam is long and boneless, and it takes some care to untangle his feet from under the dashboard and get him to the garage floor without doing more damage. His skin is still warm but Castiel isn’t certain he’s breathing.
“No, Sam. No.” Castiel shakes him hard. Sam’s eyes are barely open but he doesn’t blink. Pressing a palm flat to Sam’s bony chest, the extent of the damage quickly becomes clear. It’s systemic. Sam is full of alcohol and something narcotic, and nearly every organ has shut down. There’s not enough Grace in three angels to make things right. Sam’s soul flurries against Castiel’s hand.
He tries to keep the tremulous, iridescent thing in Sam’s failing body, but it squirms and buzzes. Panic rises up in Castiel’s throat, stings his eyes. “No, Sam! I...you can’t. I lied. I lied to you, Sam.”
But the soul wants nothing more to do with the body that was Sam Winchester. It bats at Castiel’s palm, bewildered, pleading to soar like a starling in the woods. He feels his own cheeks grow hot, and tears drop onto Sam’s shirt, darkening the plaid in spots.
How can he tell Sam that he’s sorry? There are no words. There is no more time.
The music shifts into a song Castiel doesn’t recognize. A swaying melody, a man’s sweet voice singing of the saddest dusk he’s ever seen, turn to a miracle, high-alive...the lyrics make no sense, but they fit together like poetry.
My mind is racing, as it always will, my hands tired, my heart aches...*
Lifting his palm, Castiel allows the soul to thread through his fingers. It glows pale blue and fragile, prickling the fine hairs on his forearm. It might even have lingered a moment, watching, before it drifted up and up and into the dark of the cavernous garage, until Castiel knows that it is gone.
Tomorrow, he will build a second pyre, in the same spot as the first. He will lock the bunker up tightly. Perhaps someday, another hunter will deserve it, another legacy. But tonight, he will sit on the cold stone floor and brush the hair from Sam’s considerable forehead. And he will regret a great many things.
*The song in the car: REM's 'Half a World Away'