Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: under 30K total; this chapter, 994 words
Spoilers: through the end of Season Four
Summary: What if Sam and Dean knew one crucial piece of information about the future before Dean's deal came due? Would it have changed everything, or would the end result have been the same? AU version of Season Four, written for spn_30snapshots .
Master table is here. Prompt for this chapter: equinox.
The lightest of breezes carried the faint green scent of spring through the car window. Sam usually saw the seasons change multiple times every year in their travels, but here in Pontiac, Illinois, on the first day of spring, the first timely buds were shimmering on the trees and cheery purple crocuses were poking above the cold ground.
As the driver's door opened, Sam turned away from the tranquil neighborhood scene. "How're they doing?" he asked, nodding at Amelia Novak's house.
Dean turned the key in the ignition. "As well as anyone ever does when they find out this shit is real."
"And Claire?" Sam asked.
"God only knows." Dean paused. "Huh. That might not just be a saying." He shrugged and went on, "Jimmy said it was like being chained to a comet, right?"
Sam shuddered at the thought of a little girl being subjected to that kind of power, if only briefly. Castiel had had to use his vessel's daughter to break free from the angels who were threatening them all, and it was only the timely arrival of the demons crashing the party that had enabled the humans to escape unscathed.
So far, at least—Sam had no illusions that what he'd done to help was going to be forgotten by either side.
A few miles down the road, there was a brief flutter of wings before the back seat was suddenly occupied. Sam was reaching out with his power before he recognized Castiel, back in his familiar form. He pulled back but kept ready, every sense alert.
"Dude, you need to wear a bell," Dean grumbled, straightening the Impala out from its sudden swerve.
"The bell would not arrive in advance of me," Castiel replied. "I fail to see how that would help."
"Never mind," Sam muttered, teeth clenched and nerves tingling.
"I need to speak with you both," Castiel said. "Please pull over."
Sam looked at Dean, who already had a wary question on his face. Do we have any choice? Sam replied with raised eyebrows and a tiny grimace. Dean rolled his eyes, but the worry was clear in his thinned lips and tight jaw.
A few minutes later, the Impala was parked at the side of a dirt lane, Dean and Sam standing shoulder to shoulder in front of her. Even though Sam knew there wasn't anything Dean could do if Castiel decided to smite his ass, the protective stance Dean was taking sent a fierce wave of love over him that gave him the courage to face the angel head-on.
"I wanted to thank you," Castiel said, standing next to the hood of the car. "Especially you, Sam."
Sam blinked in confusion. "Really?"
"The first time I confronted Uriel about killing our brethren, I was fortunate to escape and send Jimmy to you for aid. But last night, if you had not used your powers to remove Uriel from his vessel and send him back to Heaven, I would have perished at his hand."
"We all would have," Dean pointed out. "Either his hand or the demons'."
Castiel inclined his head. "Yes, but considering how I have…acted towards you, you did not have to save me." His eyes focused on Sam, more bright and clear than the sky above. "I am grateful."
"You're welcome," Sam said slowly, half-expecting the "Twilight Zone" theme to start playing.
"Obedience is at the core of our being," the angel went on. "We are not to question orders, no matter if they seem strange or confusing. But this—what Uriel has done, what the others in the garrison have done—it cannot be right. To not tell the truth, to deliberately mislead me into thinking it was demons, and to coerce you into—" He looked at Dean and shook his head. "It is not right."
Sam stayed silent. Next to him, Dean refrained from his usual wisecracks, apparently also sensing that this was a monumental admission for Castiel.
"Because of Uriel, I feel…betrayed." Castiel paused. "I do not like it."
Dean let out a snort. "I don't think anyone ever does, Cas."
"The two of you," Castiel continued, scrutinizing them both at once. "You do not do as you are told. You do the opposite of what you are told. You tell a dozen half-truths every day as easily as breathing. You hold back truth from me and at times from each other. And yet, you would never deliberately betray your family."
"Of course not," Dean snapped, fire in his voice.
Castiel straightened his shoulders. "So I would rather stand with you. Against whatever is coming, against the breaking of the seals."
Sam stared at him. "What?"
"I am…more confident in your loyalty than that of my own brothers, and so I would offer my assistance. However, I realize that I might be more of a danger to you than a help, and so I leave the choice up to you."
Sam looked at Dean, seeing the same mixture of confusion and amazement that must be on his own face. What do you think? he asked with uplifted eyebrows and shoulders.
Dean's eyes slid to the side, his head tilting with it. I don't know, the gesture said. Could be a bad idea.
An angel, Dean, Sam thought, making his eyes wide. Some answers. Divine assistance. Okay, so Dean would have to be an actual mind-reader to get that last bit, but Sam was sure his enthusiasm was clear.
You're sure? Dean's pointed look said.
Dean turned towards Castiel and held up one finger. "No backseat driving. In fact, no driving at all." A second finger went up. "No giving Sam crap about his powers."
Castiel's gaze shifted to Sam and then back. "Agreed," he said solemnly.
"All right," Dean said, and held out his hand. Sam did the same, and the ritual gesture felt like something much bigger than a handshake as Castiel's hand closed around his.