Disclaimer and beta thanks are in Chapter 1.
Previous chapter is here.
if hatred makes a play on me tomorrow
and forgiveness take a back seat to revenge
there's a hurt down deep that has not been corrected
there's a voice in me that says you will not win
"Rise and shine, big brother!"
The voice jolted Dean awake, out of a nightmare about Uriel and Alastair and the Colt. When the hell did I start dreaming about Chuckles being tortured and not Sam? he wondered as he shook his head to clear it.
One look at his brother striding towards him wearing that same black shirt and pants, yellow flashing across his eyes before they returned to their familiar blue-green, and he had the answer to his question.
Sam was carrying something in his hand, and as he got closer, Dean saw that it was a folded-up newspaper. "After our little chat the other night, I decided you were right. It's important to keep up with current events." Sam tossed the newspaper onto his chest. It rotated as it flew so that the headline was legible if Dean craned his head upwards. "At least you won't have to worry about avoiding hunts in Florida anymore."
Dean shot a quick glance at Sam before straining up to read the headline. FREAK MEGA-HURRICANE DROWNS STATE, it said. His heart plummeted as he saw the accompanying image: a satellite shot showing the U.S. coastline ending at roughly Jacksonville, with the entire Florida peninsula now open water.
His eyes flicked back up to Sam, his heart racing. "What the hell did you do?" he breathed out, unable to hide how his voice shook.
"Oh, that one wasn't me," Sam replied easily. "Shame, though. I wouldn't have minded wiping Broward County off the map and taking that damn Trickster with it." His voice turned a shade darker. "No one makes a fool out of me like that."
Dean let out a breath. "So how many seals are left?" he asked tightly.
Sam looked him in the eye. "Three."
Dean pressed his lips together, wondering how Castiel and his fellow soldiers were doing out there in what had to be an increasingly-desperate world. "And you're not going to stop it."
"Far from it." Sam bent over and snatched up the newspaper. "I'm pissed that Lilith got there first. That's not going to happen again, believe me."
"Sam, you do know what happens when the last seal breaks, don't you?" Dean asked sarcastically. Like they hadn't spent hours discussing it, like the last conversation they'd had before Sam vanished from their motel room hadn't been about that very thing.
The exasperated eye roll was all Sam, and Dean felt his heart clench. "No shit, Dean," Sam retorted. "Why do you think I'm doing this?"
"Why do I think you're trying to raise Lucifer?" he replied, his voice growing louder with every word. "I don't know, maybe because you've gone fucking crazy?"
Sam's mouth curled into a sarcastic smile. "No, but thanks for playing." He crumpled up the newspaper and let it sit on the palm of his hand. He gave it a glare, and the paper instantly vanished in a flare of ash.
Dean cleared his suddenly-tight throat. "You're full of those little tricks, aren't you?" And apparently he had no qualms about showing them.
"You have no idea," Sam replied. He folded his arms across his chest. "Come to think of it, Dean, there's a lot of things you don't know."
"Care to enlighten me?" Their dad had drilled into their heads that if they were in a tight spot and were physically trapped, getting information was the best strategy. It kept your mind occupied and your enemy potentially off-balance.
Of course, Sam knew that as well as he did, and the knowing twinkle in his eye said he was all too aware of what Dean was doing. But he answered, "You know what happens when that last seal goes. What you don't know is that whoever breaks it gets to control where and when that happens."
Dean looked at the two demons guarding the door to the room. One was the blond bouncer type he'd seen before, while the other was a short woman with weaselly features. "So it's you versus Lilith," he said slowly.
"Exactly." Sam saw where his gaze was going, and he smiled, jerking his head back to indicate the waiting demons. "I've got my army, she's got hers. And then it's winner take all. And I do mean all."
"Neither one of you is going to win, Sam." Dean had no idea how things had gone so wrong so fast, or what had motivated his brother to let his dark side take over him like this. But if there was anything at all that he could do to turn him back, anything that he could say, he wasn't going to stop until he had found it. "You know it. You might be keeping me prisoner here, but there are lots of others out there who aren't going to let you win. You can stop this before it's too late."
Sam cocked his head to the side. "Speaking of the others out there, where's Bobby?"
"Somewhere you can't get to him," Dean retorted.
"Really." Sam dropped down so that he was squatting next to the bed, looking Dean in the eye from a level height. "I already know he's not here backing you up, 'cause I'd have found him." The quiet confidence with which he spoke normally would have made Dean proud of his little brother's skills as a hunter.
At the moment, it was just pissing him off.
Sam leaned slightly forward, looking intently at him as he spoke in the same sure tone. "And if he was in town, he'd have been poking around by now trying to find you. So since he's not here, that means you didn't tell him where you were going." He shook his head. "Dean Winchester, always the protector."
Dean stayed silent, cursing to himself that Sam knew him well enough to be able to figure that out. No, he was sure that Bobby was the same place he'd been when he'd last talked to him: safe and secure inside his salvage yard, with the devil's trap painted on the kitchen ceiling and wards around every window and door, the chalk symbols underneath the doormat that could be avoided by—
He looked sharply at Sam. There was no reason for him to be thinking about Bobby's place in such detail unless something was making him do it. "Get out of my head, you son of a bitch," he growled.
Sam quirked up his eyebrows as a ghost of a smile passed across his face. "Can't blame me for trying," he said.
"You bastard—" Dean swept his right leg forward, but Sam shot to his feet and out of the way before his limited range of motion could bring him anywhere near the taller man. The chain around his ankle brought his movement to a sudden halt, the sharp edge of the manacle cutting into his skin and leaving him grimacing with pain.
Sam looked down at him for a moment, his eyes going dark. "Don't you ever try that again, or you'll be sorry," he said in a low voice.
"There's nothing you can do to me that hasn't already been done," Dean spat back. Never in a million years would he have expected to be drawing on his memories of Hell to sustain himself against his brother. Never.
Sam's eyes narrowed. "Are you accusing me of a lack of imagination?" He shook his head. "C'mon, I want to show you something." The tone was casual, the same way he would talk about an interesting website or something he'd discovered in one of Bobby's books.
Dean held out his arms and rattled the chains. "Love to, but I'm a little tied up here."
"Oh, right. Sorry, I forgot," Sam replied insincerely as he lifted one fist and spread his fingers wide.
Instantly, all four manacles popped open and fell back to the mattress. "Up and at 'em, Dean," Sam said, taking a few steps back from the bed.
Shooting a glare at him, Dean carefully sat up and rotated his legs to the side. He was expecting the head rush after being flat on his back for God only knew how long, and he wasn't disappointed. He gritted his teeth and fought to keep his gaze from swimming, and after a second, he felt strong enough to stand up.
"This way," Sam said, taking a few long strides towards the doorway. The two goons circled around behind Dean, and he had no choice but to move forward, stiff limbs protesting as he went.
He recognized the hallway as the same one he'd come down searching for Sam, what must have been thirty-six hours ago now, and it made him wonder what he could have done differently, how he could have taken more precautions in order to keep himself safe. More importantly, it made him wonder how he could still save his brother. 'Cause despite the evidence, he still couldn't believe Sam's soul was beyond reach. Or maybe this was some kind of extra-powerful demon that could withstand the usual tests; holy water hadn't fazed Azazel, after all. Bobby would know what do to. All Dean had to do was get free.
When they reached the T-junction, Sam took a left, and Dean and his two guards followed, his steps growing surer as the stiffness left his legs. Not that he was going to be able to try anything right now with them watching his every step, but he felt a lot better being up and around.
After they passed several doorways leading to rooms that looked like the one Dean had been confined to, Sam paused outside of one with a small window in the closed door. He stopped to look inside, and his lips briefly curled up in a shark's grin that was horribly out of place on those familiar features. Dean watched as he reached out a hand. The door swung open, and Sam tilted his head towards the open doorway while looking him in the eye. "Go on," he ordered.
Dean paused to look up at him, searching his face. It was a face he knew better than his own: every subtle flicker of the eyes, every slight twist of the lips, every tiny scrunch of the nose, was a page in a book he'd been reading as long as Sam had been alive. And now, it was like somebody had wiped the pages clean. There was such an utter lack of expression on Sam's face that it chilled Dean to the bone.
Swallowing hard, he turned away and took a step into the room. It was dark, with heavy curtains drawn over the windows and only a tiny amount of light seeping in around the edges. As Dean stepped forward, he heard a soft click behind him, followed by a bare bulb flickering to life overhead.
And then he stopped in his tracks at what he saw.
There was a figure standing against the far wall, slumped against the peeling white paint as if he lacked the strength to stand but couldn't sit down. His hands were held up at the height of his head, wrists limp and fingers drooping forward, but without visible bonds holding him in place. His head hung forward, eyes closed, looking utterly exhausted. His clothes were rumpled and familiar enough to drive a spike of fear into Dean's chest.
And as Dean watched, the figure lifted his head and opened his eyes, clear blue shining forth like a beacon in that dark, dingy room.
"Oh, God," Dean breathed out in horror, his stomach sinking down to the floor. "Castiel."
The angel's features were drawn, more haggard than Dean could have imagined them being. Recognition flared in his face as he saw Dean, and then he dropped his head forward again, shoulders slumping even further although his arms stayed up against the wall. "I had hoped," he rasped in a voice that sounded like he hadn't had water for days, "that I would not see you here, Dean."
"Oh ye of little faith," Sam said from the hallway. Then he snickered, and Dean stumbled forward from a shove as Sam entered the room and came to stand in front of the imprisoned angel. "Maybe now you'll believe me when I tell you there's no way out."
"There is always a way out." The voice might have been weak, but the light blazing forth from the angel's eyes was almost as bright as the bulb overhead. "Even for you, Sam Winchester. Even with what you have come to."
There was a pause, and Dean could see Castiel straining with effort. His left arm slowly came away from the wall, his hand beginning to reach out towards Sam. Dean held his breath, not sure if he should be cheering for Castiel or diving in front of his brother to protect him.
And then Sam let out a loud snort. "Give me a break," he said, flicking his right hand into the air as if swatting away a bug.
Castiel's arm went flying back against the wall, snapping in place as sharply as if a manacle had closed around it.
Dean whirled to face Sam, taking a step back to plant his right foot, raising his hands from his sides and curling them into fists before he realized what he was doing. Surprise flickered across the taller man's face for a moment, and then he mockingly took up the same position. "You already know that you can't fight me, Dean, with or without a weapon. And there's no Bobby here to save you this time."
Dean jerked his chin toward Castiel. "This why I haven't seen him since you went missing?"
Sam gave a light shrug. "I didn't want him getting in the way. He has this habit of trying to rescue you, and it could get really inconvenient if he showed up at the wrong time."
"The wrong time for what?" Dean asked warily.
"I thought you didn't like it when the villain monologued," Sam retorted.
Dean looked at him for a long moment, hearing the words but not quite believing them. Finally he asked quietly, lowering his arms to his sides, "What the hell is wrong with you, Sam?"
"I told you, nothing." Sam spread his arms out to his sides. "I feel great, for the first time in a long time. It's like when a headache goes away that's been bugging you for a while. Except in my case, I've had it for about three years. And now it's gone." He snapped his fingers.
"And this doesn't bother you." Dean gestured at Castiel. "It doesn't disturb you to be holding an angel prisoner? For God's sake!"
Sam looked over at Castiel and back, but the angel lowered his head, refusing to meet his gaze. "Looks like I'm not the one who's bothered," Sam replied. "And anyway, it's done, Dean. There's no going back."
"What, you can't get unpossessed? Can't send whatever kind of super-powered demon is in you back down to Hell?" Dean let a grim smirk creep onto his face. "I'd love to help, Sammy."
"Dean, I'm sorry." Castiel's voice sounded rough with disuse. "I can feel each and every one of the demons in this building—where they are, what they are. There is no demon in your brother." He pressed his lips together, his look changing to one of reproach. "There are only the powers he was supposed to forsake."
"Oops," Sam said, raising his eyebrows. "My bad."
Dean stared. It was the same casual tone with which Sam had dismissed his time in Hell when the siren had pitted them against each other. Of all the cutting words they'd thrown at each other that night, that "boo-hoo" had been the one he'd called on later when he hauled the fire axe over his head. Anger surged to the surface as he yelled, "You think this is funny, you bastard?"
"It's a little funny," Sam replied with a quirked eyebrow.
Dean gave him a glare hot enough to melt steel. The younger man shrugged it off and turned to the angel. "Nice to see you, Cass," he said in a voice full of false cheer. "We've gotta get going, but I'll be back to say hi later." He motioned towards Dean, eyes turning cold. "Let's go."
The walk back down the hallway was silent. Dean knew he should be cataloging his surroundings, making note of any weaknesses in his captors in case an opportunity presented itself. But all he could see was Sam slamming Castiel back against the wall without so much as touching him, and the cold dread in his chest rose higher and higher until it threatened to choke him.
They reached Dean's room all too quickly, and he was escorted inside. He took one look at the shackles on the mattress and turned to face Sam. "Don't do this," he said quietly.
Sam's jaw was set in a hard line, and his gaze went past Dean to the chains. "You have a choice, Dean: you can do it yourself or have me do it for you. But either way, you're getting back on that bed and back in those chains."
Under normal circumstances, Dean would have fired back with something about not having realized how kinky his little brother was. But they were so far in the other direction from normal right now that he couldn't even see it. It was one thing to keep him and the Colt out of the way. It was something else to keep a goddamn angel prisoner. There was no way he could make light of anything after seeing that.
So instead he folded his arms over his chest, looked his brother in the eye, and said tightly, "You do what you have to do, Sam. But I'll be damned if I lift a finger to help you do it."
In a second, he was flying backwards, coming to rest with a thump on top of the bed. His four limbs spread wide of their own accord, and the metal shackles fastened around each one again, their edges neatly fitting into the cuts on his flesh. Dean clenched his jaw so tight that he thought his teeth were going to break.
"Get some sleep," Sam commanded, and Dean looked at him standing in the doorway, leaning on one forearm pressed to the doorway over his head. From this angle, his face was entirely in shadow, and all Dean had to go on was the mock concern in his voice. "You'll need it tomorrow."
"Sam!" he called out, but his brother had turned away. The two demons followed, and the steel door shut with a loud clang.