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Fic: Sore Afraid (1/1)

Title: Sore Afraid
Author: Zubeneschamali
Summary: One-shot tag for Lazarus Rising. "For lo, in the days ahead you will see that it would be better had you done as your father commanded."
Pairing: Gen
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Spoilers: Up to and including 4.01.

A/N: This has been at ff.net for a while, but I'm adding it in here.  Thanks to JennK528 and dreambrother89  for writing such awesome fic and getting me hooked on this fandom, and extra thanks to DreamBrother for beta writing.

Disclaimer: Fourth fandom I've written in, and I still don't own any of the characters. And yet I can't stop filling in the blanks as I see them.


"Because God commanded it. Because we have work for you."

The words lingered in the air for a moment, heavy with meaning. Overhead, the wind rattled the corrugated metal on the roof of the old barn. Down on the hard ground, Bobby's chest was rising and falling, although the older man probably wasn't going to come to until the creature with the invisible wings decided he could. And in the meantime, Dean Winchester was in the middle of one of the most bizarre conversations he had ever had in his life.

Work to do, huh? Now that makes a lot more sense, Dean thought. No salvation bestowed upon him for its own sake, no mercy imparted to him because of a lifetime spent rescuing innocent people and battling the evil that walked the earth. He hadn't been chosen for what he'd already done, but for what he still had to do. Bobby's words back in that godawful tiger-themed motel room sprang into his mind. No demon's lettin' you loose out of the goodness of their heart. They gotta have something nasty planned.

Maybe angels and devils were pretty much interchangeable when it came down to it.

Dean pursed his lips and deliberately spoke lightly. "I might be willing to take on the job. Gotta say though, I was kinda looking forward to spending some time with my brother. I haven't seen him in a while, you know."

Castiel had the same puzzled expression on his face that he'd had a few moments earlier when he was talking about Dean deserving to be saved, like he was pretty sure he was speaking in English although Dean wasn't comprehending the words. "But that's what I'm talking about. Your brother."

Over the last few minutes, Dean's heart had slowly been settling back into its proper place after becoming lodged in his throat upon seeing Ruby's magic knife sink into the man's chest with no effect. Now it shot upward again at Castiel's words. "What about my brother?" he asked harshly.

"You know that he is marked, that he is chosen."

Dean scoffed. "I know that Yellow Eyes had it in for him, yeah. I also know that all ended when I plugged the son of a bitch."

"Are you sure?" The blue eyes were piercing, almost inhumanly so.

"Yeah, I'm sure," Dean replied coldly. He'd never mastered the trick of drawing himself up to look taller; there had never been any point to that with a Sasquatch always by his side. Instead he'd learned how to radiate a fuck off vibe that was strong enough to knock over small children and pets if they weren't paying attention, and he was turning it on full steam right now.

Of course, the guy in front of him had managed to blow down all of the trees in a twenty-yard radius of Dean's grave, so maybe Dean was at a disadvantage here.

Castiel raised his head briefly, then gave a slow nod. "He has not told you any of what transpired while you were away."

"Is that a wild guess or do you have something you want to tell me?" Dean asked tightly. He raised a hand to forehead height and went on, "I've had it up to here with – with things who think they're so smart 'cause they know something I don't. If you people stopped playing games and told the truth a little more often, we might get where we're goin' a lot faster."

"Your father gave you a warning," Castiel replied calmly.

Dean flinched. That warning had been whispered directly into his ear, and the only person he'd told about it in the heart-rending months since was Sam. "How the hell…?"

"That warning still stands, Dean. It is not often that a human manages to uncover secrets known only to the inhabitants of Heaven and Hell. Your father is a rare individual." The angel took a step forward, now only a foot away from Dean. "But not as rare as his youngest son," he finished.

There was fear rising in him now, beginning to crowd out the anger. "Are you sayin' Sammy's going to go dark side after all?" Dean ground out. At the time, he hadn't thought too closely about his brother's confession that he'd tried everything he could think of to get Dean back, including an attempt at reopening the Devil's Gate. At the time, he'd been too concerned with getting at the truth of what Sam had done to resurrect him. When "nothing" appeared to be the answer, he'd let it go. But "everything he could think of" could cover quite a lot of territory, and he couldn't help the brief shudder that passed over him.

Castiel's face slid into a more compassionate expression. "You have to save him, Dean. Failing that, you have to kill him. No one else can get close enough to do either."

"You've gotta be kidding me!" He barked out the words, white-hot anger momentarily blocking out everything else. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

The being in front of him raised his eyebrows. "Most people would be a little warier of straying into the territory of blasphemy than you."

Dean ignored the response and crossed his arms over his chest. "You know why I was down there, don't you? Why you had to pull me out of the pit?" Without waiting for an answer, he went on, "Because I traded my life for Sam's. Because I made a deal with your bad self to bring him back from the dead. And I never regretted it, not even when the hellhounds were tearing me apart." He paused for breath and then looked Castiel straight in the eye. "So what on earth makes you think that I could even consider killing him?"

"Just because you have failed in the past doesn't mean you will fail in the future."

He reared back as if he had been struck. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

The man in front of him tilted his head forward, looking at Dean from under his eyebrows. "Two times you have had the opportunity to fulfill the promise you made to your father and to your brother. Once in Oregon and once when Sam had been taken over by another. Two times you have not been able to do what needed to be done. The third time will be the most crucial."

"Hold on," Dean said, putting his hands out in front of him as if to ward off a blow. "He was saved both times. He didn't die from that virus, and Bobby got him unpossessed. Neither of those were his fault."

"By all indications, he was beyond salvation," Castiel replied. "And in choosing the path you did, you signaled to the inhabitants of this world and to those above and below that you were not going to fulfill your promise. By sacrificing your soul, you made that reality further incarnate. Now you will see the consequences of your inaction. For lo, in the days ahead you will see that it would be better had you done as your father commanded."

From the way the guy spoke, Dean couldn't tell if "father" was meant to be capitalized or not, but he didn't really think it mattered. His eyes narrowed and he spoke around a sudden lump in his throat. "If you're so goddamn sure that he's going to go evil, then why not smite him down right now? Make sure he can't get to that point."

"Because there's this little thing called free will, Dean. You do have the right and the power to make your own decisions. You and Sam both. Given the right motivation and the right encouragement, he will make the right decision. You are the one to provide that encouragement. That is the task set before you."

Dean stared for a moment in disbelief. "Free will? Dude, I made my decision. I decided to go downstairs so that Sam could live. That was the deal. Now you're telling me that you canceled that choice and ripped me out of there against my will so I can do what you tell me to do." His hand came up to his left shoulder, pressing on the angry red blisters still beneath his shirt, using the sharp pain to keep himself grounded in what by all rights was the kind of conversation that should only occur in dreams.

"You're saying you would have rather stayed in Hell?" The incredulous look on the other man's face was almost amusing.

He let out a soft snort. This guy was starting to remind him of Sam, and not in a good way. "That's so not the point. All I'm saying is that this so-called power to make my own decisions? It seems a little limited here." He looked at Castiel for a moment longer before turning away, his gaze going down to Bobby lying peacefully on the ground. "Sounds like you're makin' me an offer I can't refuse," he added in a lower tone. That much was clear. He'd been brought out of Hell for a reason, and if he decided not to play along, there was no reason for Castiel not to drag him back down to the pit.

Of course, the irony was that he already planned on doing what the guy was asking of him. Of course he would keep an eye on Sam, make sure he didn't use any of those freaky powers of his or accept help from anything with intermittently black eyeballs. There wasn't a question of that. There must be a good reason Lilith hadn't been able to touch his brother, but that was purely self-defense, not the kid actively doing something Darth Vader-ish. He'd forbidden Sammy from doing any demon-tainted crap to save him four months ago, and he sure as hell wasn't going to change his mind about that now.

Castiel drew in a breath. "I see your point. I suppose then that what I'm telling you is, some things are more important than free will." Then he spoke so quietly that Dean could barely hear, giving the words even greater import. "Some things are more important than the choices you have made for your own soul."

Dean's head snapped up. "Sam is that important?" He wanted it to sound belligerent, but it came out questioning, bewildered, even a little lost.

"More important than you can imagine," came the quiet response.

Dean blinked. All his life he'd watched out for his little brother, put his needs first and defended his life more fiercely than his own. Now he was being told that it wasn't enough, or at least that more depended on it than Sam's own health and happiness. And he'd been hand-plucked from the place of no return to keep carrying out what he had always thought of as his purpose in life.

In a day of occurrences that were freaky even by Winchester standards, that was the most overwhelming thing he'd heard yet.

He swallowed and lifted his chin. "Okay then."

The other man's eyebrows went up. "That's it?"

"Hey, save the cheerleader, save the world, right? Sam always was a bit of a girl," he smirked.

Castiel stared at him. Dean thought he heard him mutter something about "mysterious ways indeed", but all he said was, "Then I trust you need no further instructions?"

Part of Dean bristled at the question, but the rest of him wanted to know what the hell he was supposed to do with this information that had been dumped on him. But "Nah, I'm fine," was all he said.

There was another slow nod in response. Then Castiel lifted a hand in Bobby's direction, and the older man began to stir. Dean began to move towards him, but the being in front of him laid a hand on his arm, his hand warm even through Dean's thick jacket. "You do have the power to make your own decisions. Including whom you share my tidings with. Only use that power wisely."

He looked into the other man's eyes, wondering exactly how much of this so-called angel he was seeing. Did the "vessel" he was using have that same air of serene confidence, of power shining outward from his bright blue eyes? Or was he getting the tiniest glimpse of what had stolen Pamela's sight? He tamped down his instinctual irreverence long enough to say clearly, "I understand."

In response, Castiel's hand tightened around his forearm. Then he moved past Dean and strode out of the cavernous room as deliberately as he had walked in.

There was a sound below him, and Dean tore his eyes away from the retreating figure to see Bobby raising a hand to his face. "Dean?" he asked groggily.

"Yeah, Bobby." He knelt down and helped the other man sit up. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I feel fine." Bobby squinted into the distance and then shook his head. "I musta been out a long time, huh?"

"No, only a few minutes," Dean answered. "Why d'you say that?"

"Huh. I haven't slept that good in--well, in ages."

In four months, Dean knew, but he didn't call him on it. He got a feeling there were plenty more surprises ahead of him regarding what had happened while he was gone.

"Hey, are you okay?" Bobby asked, reaching out to grab the front of Dean's jacket. "What happened?"

"Oh, it just wanted to talk," he said casually. "Turns out I'm gonna need some sunglasses and a fedora."

Bobby looked at him as if he'd lost his mind, which he might well have done somewhere along the way. "Never mind," Dean said, waving a hand and rising to his feet. He really didn't have the energy to explain the Blues Brothers reference right now. "C'mon, let's clean up and go." He extended a hand to Bobby and yanked him off the floor.

They packed up in silence, Dean aware of the curious looks Bobby was shooting his way but letting them roll off his back. He needed some time to absorb what had happened here: first to decide if he really believed it, and then to figure out what to do with it. He'd let Bobby in on it eventually--if he could figure out how to explain it without sounding like he'd gone looney-tunes--but for now he was going to ponder all of this stuff himself.

Besides, there was someone else he needed to talk to first.