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15 December 2011 @ 09:51 am
Fic: Out Where the Shivers Won't Find You (1/2)  
Title: Out Where the Shivers Won't Find You
Author: discreetmath
Rating: NC-17
Fandom: Supernatural
Pairing: Sam/Castiel
Warnings: Explicit sex, references to torture.
Word Count: 16000
Summary: After Castiel rescues Sam from Hell, he sets him up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere to recuperate and to give his soul time to heal from the damage it suffered in the cage. When Sam experiences violent, frightening flashbacks to his time with Lucifer, Cas offers a solution, but neither one of them anticipates the way their tentative friendship will change. AU after 5x22.
A/N: Written for sassy_minibang. Many thanks to my artist, angelicfoodcake!
Disclaimer: These people do not belong to me, and this is all fiction.


Despite the obvious parallels, entering Hell to find Sam Winchester is nothing like it had been when Castiel retrieved Dean.

Castiel had fought his way to Dean, tearing through hordes of demons and drenching himself -- befouling his grace -- in their blood. When he'd found Dean carving at souls on the rack, the heat and flames, the screams, and the stench of gore had been overpowering. It had met and exceeded every expectation of Hell that Castiel had carried in his long existence.

None of those things are present here.

There had been little fighting involved in reaching Lucifer's cage; Castiel is stronger now than he was two years ago, and there are far fewer demons in this part of Hell. Unsurprising, as it manages to be uninviting even to their kind. It's frigid, colder than anything Castiel has ever experienced, and the air is infused with a sense of Lucifer's cold rage that cannot be contained within the boundaries of the cage.

He wants nothing more in this moment than to leave this place behind, to shake off the bitter chill that he feels seeping into his grace, but he's come here for a reason, and he won't leave without Sam Winchester.

---

The true boundaries of Lucifer's prison are not physical; he's bound by magic, Enochian sigils and a number of other means that are far beyond Castiel's understanding. The cage has taken a shape over the years, however, forming itself into a prison with solid walls of ice and bone.

Castiel can't see past the barrier, and though he reaches his grace as far as he can manage, the magic that created the cage keeps him out just as surely as it holds the archangels in. A ripple moves through his grace, almost like a weary sigh, and he forces himself to focus on the spell he's learned, on the words he's been given.

He performs the ritual, reciting the spell with careful precision. For a small eternity afterward, he fears that nothing will happen, worries that he's been tricked somehow. When, finally, he sees the walls fall away, he feels a shuddering sense of relief. 

The result is far less dramatic than he might have expected. The walls don't crumble or come crashing spectacularly down.They're simply there one moment, and nonexistent the next. The ritual is meant to reveal the Cage for what it really is, and it has done so.

His grace doesn't tremble at the sight before him, but it's a near thing. Now, he can clearly see the blinding graces of Michael and Lucifer, locked together and fighting without mercy. Far below are two points of light, far dimmer but still brilliant to Castiel's eyes. 

"Come," he utters, infusing the words with a pull from his grace. "This place is not for you."

The response is immediate -- a fresh burst of fear from one soul, and a hesitant swell of hope from the other. He knows at once that the second one is Sam. He pulls again with his grace, harder this time, willing them to understand the urgency of the moment.

Almost simultaneously, they seem to recognize what is happening and they move together, leaving Michael and Lucifer behind them and coming toward Castiel as quickly as they can manage. A horrible scream of rage fills the air, and Castiel knows that they have very little time left. He urges them to hurry, pulling as hard as he can as Michael and Lucifer pursue them.

The human souls pass through the boundaries without incident or any outward signs, but the angels slam into them as if they were solid walls.

Sam and Adam were never trapped here, not really. The cage was designed to hold an archangel. It's only the illusion of a prison that would have kept them here forever.

They're shaking now with exertion and fear, with disbelief and soul-deep exhaustion. They cower in front of Castiel, and he knows he must appear imposing in his true form, but that doesn't matter now. They're free.

---

Sam wakes up screaming. It takes several minutes for him to quiet, to realize that he's awake not in Hell. It's a struggle to hold on to that knowledge, but as he becomes more aware, the last shadows of his nightmare fall away. Finally, he finally hears the soft shushing noises and feels a hand stroking through his hair.

"Dean?" he croaks with relief, wanting to open his eyes but still afraid of where he'll find himself.

"No, Sam, it's not Dean." The sound of that voice makes his eyes fly open anyway.

"Cas? What's going on? What happened?" He feels a growing panic and tries to sit up, but Cas lays a hand on his shoulder and pushes him back down gently. Still, feeling that pressure holding him down, the panic takes over entirely. He only has a moment to shove at Castiel wildly, his heart pounding, before the angel lifts two fingers to his head and everything goes dark.

--

The next time Sam wakes, everything is markedly different. He's sprawled across the backseat of the Impala, lulled by the familiar feeling of the car speeding down the highway. Which… doesn't make any sense, actually, because a quick glance around him reveals that he's the only one in the car.

He's stretched out, comfortable in a way he hasn't been since his last growth spurt as a teenager. Even stranger is the fact that he's not panicking, despite being in the back of a driverless car flying down the road at seventy miles an hour.

I'm dreaming, he realizes, and slumps back into the door.

"Hello, Sam," comes a voice that has him jerking his attention to the passenger seat, where Castiel is gazing impassively out the side window.

"Cas? What're you doing here?" He thinks he remembers something else about Cas, something unpleasant, but it's just out of reach.

"This is interesting. When I directed your dreams to somewhere that you might find comforting, I didn't expect to find you in this car, though I'm not terribly surprised. It was your childhood home, I suppose."

"Yeah," Sam agrees slowly, feeling a bit lost. "So I'm dreaming, right? Why are you in my dreams, dude?"

"I thought it best to approach you under more agreeable circumstances. You were… less than receptive when I tried to speak with you last."

Sam feels that tug again, of knowledge just outside of his reach. He concentrates on that feeling, anxious to remember, and the memories slowly come into focus. He gasps as understanding washes over him; he was in Hell, and now he's not. He remembers Lucifer tearing into him, and then something, something happened and he wasn't there anymore. It doesn't seem possible.

He whips his head around to look at Cas, who stares back impassively. 

"How?" he asks in a small voice. Cas looks away, fidgeting, which is more than a bit unsettling. "Cas, how did you do it? Did Dean…" he doesn't know how to finish the question. He remembers now being with Cas in that room - a hotel, maybe - and he knows that Dean wasn't there.

"It was only me, Sam. Dean respected your wishes and went to see Lisa Braeden. It took time to find the things that I needed, but I could not allow you to stay in that place. Not after everything you've done."

"Everything I've done?" Sam scoffs. "Cas, I'm the one who let Lucifer out in the first place. If anyone deserves to be in Hell, it's me."

"No, Sam," Cas snaps in frustration. "I will never understand what it is about you and your brother, that you can dedicate your lives to helping others and still consider yourselves to be unworthy of salvation." Sam looks away, abashed, and focuses on a small scratch on the passenger side door. A thought occurs to him, and he sits up straighter.

"What about Adam? He was in there with me; is he alive, too?" Adam hadn't been targeted the way that Sam had in the cage, but he had still suffered things - horrible, painful things - that he should never have had to experience.

"Adam's soul, once freed, returned to Heaven. He knew where he belonged, and he is at peace now, reunited with his mother." At that, Sam breathes a sigh of relief.

"What about me, then? Why am I still here?" Sam's not upset, not really; he'd been to Heaven once and the whole thing was pretty boring. He knew it would be lonely without Dean, anyway.

"That is why," Cas says quietly, and of course he'd be able to hear what Sam had been thinking. This whole conversation is taking place in his own head, after all. "Your soul was unwilling to go to Heaven because you still have such strong ties on Earth. Your bond with Dean kept you here." He looks away briefly before returning his gaze to Sam. "I remade your body so that you might return to your life on Earth."

"Like you did with Dean?"

"Yes, something like that."

"So am I going to have a big Castiel-shaped handprint on me, too?" Sam asks with a chuckle.

"No. I was younger then, and in the exhilaration of success I healed him and returned him to his body with a bit too much… enthusiasm. I've learned since then. Your body is unmarred, I assure you."

Sam feels a vague sense of disappointment and chooses to ignore it.

"So, what now?" Sam asks. Cas looks out the window for a long time before turning around to face Sam.

"I've found you a place. It's remote, and it has everything you need. I believe it will take you some time to fully recover from what you've been through, and this place will allow you to do so."

"Thanks," Sam replies hesitantly, "but I feel fine. I don't think I really need any special treatment."

Cas smiles at him sadly, the look in his eyes unfathomable.

"I'm sorry, Sam. It's time to wake up."

---

Sam can't breathe. He feels like he's choking on the cold, as if an icy fist is wrapping around his heart and lungs and squeezing. He claws at his chest, desperate to relieve the pressure, and finds his hand gripped tightly by another.

The hand holding his is warm and firm, and he focuses every ounce of his concentration on that feeling until he can breathe again. It takes several minutes, but he sucks in a large lungful of air and cracks his eyes open.

Castiel is perched on the edge of the bed, watching him carefully.

"I guess I'm not fine," Sam croaks. Cas nods once. "Will it always be like this?"

"I don't believe so." Cas looks around the room once, and then back at Sam. "You were cold?"

"Yeah." Sam shudders at the memory. "Lucifer… the cage was always so cold. I thought it would be hot, you know? Even after everything he said in Detroit." He draws another deep breath. "It still burned, though." Cas nods again.

"I can take you somewhere else, if you like. It's autumn here, and it will be getting very cold soon. I should have considered… I could find you somewhere warmer." Cas looks agitated. "I traveled to a place called the Maldive Islands while I was searching for God. The climate was very pleasant. Perhaps you would prefer it there."

The idea is tempting, of course it is. Even though that initial sensation has passed, Sam is still feeling a chill, but he has no doubt that Castiel put a great deal of consideration into choosing this place. Besides, he really can't stand the guilty, anxious look on the guy's face.

He looks around the room that he's in. It appears to be a cabin, and he can see a small kitchen and a door that he assumes leads to the bathroom. A glance out the window by his bed shows nothing but trees, the leaves brilliant shades of red and yellow fading to brown. There's a fireplace in the corner of the room, a large, brick-lined hearth. It isn't lit, but Sam can imagine the warmth it might put off.

He turns back to Cas.

"This is perfect," Sam assures him. "As long as that fireplace works, I'll be great." Cas gives him a long, considering look before turning away.

"There's food in the kitchen. If you need anything, please call me. I'll be back to check on you soon."

"You're leaving?" Sam asks, feeling his stomach lurch with anxiety. He schools his expression into one of calm before Cas turns around.

"Since Lucifer and Michael fell into the pit, there's been a power vacuum in Heaven." Cas seems to sag as he speaks, and Sam feels a stab of guilt for only now noticing how tired he looks. "I do not presume to fill it, but without leadership my brothers and sisters don't know how to behave. There has been a great deal of infighting and squabbling amongst them."

"So you're, what? Mediating?"

"In many cases, yes. When God restored me, He made me stronger," Cas tells him. Sam sits up in the bed.

"Wait, restored you? What did…" he rakes through the memories that he has of the time after Lucifer occupied his body. He sees that empty building in Detroit and a seemingly endless string of thoughtless destruction. He sees Stull Cemetery, and then, oh.

"Oh my God," he gasps. "Cas, I'm so sorry. I don't know how I forgot about that." He feels sick at the recollection of Cas, so brave despite his humanity, disintegrating at a snap of Sam's own fingers. "God brought you back, though? I'm so sorry, I didn't…"

"That's enough," Cas interrupts quietly. "You are not responsible for Lucifer's actions while he possessed you, and I would never hold you as such."

"I'm glad you're alive, Cas." It seems insufficient, but Cas looks up at him briefly and Sam thinks that he gets it.

"As I was saying," Cas continues, "God made me more powerful. Even if he had not, many angels view my resurrection as an indication that my actions were in accordance with His plan. They respect me, in most cases. I feel a responsibility to use that respect to alleviate any discord that I can."

"And how's that going for you?" Sam asks, his voice light.

"Some days are better than others," Cas responds with a sigh. He meets Sam's eyes. "Some days I can retrieve innocent souls from perdition."

Sam doesn't have a response for that. As he fumbles for something to say, he hears the fluttering sound that he recognizes as Cas leaving.

"Thank you," he tells the empty room.

---


After Cas leaves, Sam finds it difficult to stay in bed. It's boring, for one, and he's kind of hungry. He makes his way onto the porch and takes a few minutes just to appreciate the fresh air.

It's cool here (and he realizes he never thought to ask Cas where here is), but it's crisp and comfortable. Maybe a tropical island seems like a more obvious choice right now, but this isn't bad. He can hear sounds of life in the woods around him, birds chirping and an occasional rustling in the underbrush, and it's unexpectedly comforting.

He looks down and sees that he's wearing a heavy flannel shirt, jeans, and warm socks. He decides not to dwell on where the clothes came from or how he got dressed.

A quick inspection of the porch reveals a wooden swing suspended from the roof and a large pile of split firewood. He gathers up an armful of it and brings it back inside, laying it down next to the fireplace before going to inspect the kitchen.

Sam sighs with relief when he sees a semi-modern gas range; he wouldn't have a clue what to do with a wood-burning stove, and he's starting to get seriously hungry.

The refrigerator is well-stocked, and must be running off of a generator along with the lights. Cas really had been thorough, and he hopes the angel knows how much he appreciates it.

Thirty minutes later, he's sitting at the small table with a plate of eggs and bacon. It's not fancy, but he hasn't eaten in what he suspects is a very long time. He's idly contemplating the kitchen wall, wood paneling reminiscent of any number of cheap motels he's stayed in over the years, when it hits him.

---

Towering walls extend so far above him that he can't see the tops. He claws at them desperately, looking for a way out or a place to hide, anything to get away from what he knows is coming. The skin on his hands tears, his fingers scraped bloody from the shards of bone and rock embedded in the ice.

"Surely you don't think you can, what, dig your way out?" Lucifer's voice is dripping with malicious humor. "Michael's having so much fun with Adam, and we haven't had any quality time in quite a while."

Sam turns to face him, trying to fight down the full-body shudder at Lucifer's small, bitter smile. Some part of Sam's mind usually presents the archangel in the visage of his former vessel. Sometimes, like now, he looks like Sam himself. It's always worse when it's like this.

He cowers, any pretense of not being afraid abandoned long ago. He squeezes his eyes shut and waits for Lucifer to make a move. And waits, and waits...


"Sam, wake up. Sam." The voice is accompanied by a hand gripping his shoulder, shaking him gently. Sam jerks upright, looking around wildly. His plate is upturned on the floor next to him, bits of food scattered under the table. He turns back to look at Castiel and there's a moment, however brief, when all he can see is angel.

His arms come up before he can realize what he's doing, shoving Cas away before scrambling backwards across the kitchen floor until he's pressed against the refrigerator, breathing heavily.

Cas, to his credit, doesn't attempt to follow him. He watches Sam closely, hands raised in a placating gesture.

"Sam, it's only me. Do you know where you are?"

"Do I…?" Sam feels shaky, disoriented. The memory is already fading, but there had been several long moments where Sam had been certain that he was somewhere else. Back with Lucifer, his mind supplies, and he shakes his head as if to dismiss the thought. "Yeah, Cas," he answers in as steady a voice as he can manage, though he suspects his pause was long enough to make any assurances seem less than believable.

"Was it a memory of Hell?" Cas asks, and Sam shuts his eyes, shaking his head minutely. "Sam." He sounds exasperated now. "You have nothing to gain from lying to me. It is normal to have these flashbacks, even by human standards. I believe it is known as post-traumatic stress."

"PTSD from Hell," Sam mutters before letting out a humorless chuckle. "Lucky me."

"Your mind will take time to heal, Sam. I know you've suffered; I can see the wounds on your soul. I should not have left you alone so soon." He stares at a spot on the linoleum, and there's that agitation again: Cas is fidgeting. Sam isn't used to seeing him look so nervous, and he doesn't like it.

"What is it, man?" Sam figures the direct approach is always best. "You look like you've got something you want to say." Cas' eyes flicker up, hesitant, before returning to the floor.

"There is something I could do, to speed the process of your healing. As it stands, I don't know how long it will take. It could be months, or even years." Sam's shoulders slump.

"So what's the thing? Because I've gotta tell you, Cas, the prospect of having the devil popping into my head at random doesn't really appeal to me in the long-term." When Cas still hesitates, Sam shuffles closer and shoves lightly at his shoulder. Cas jerks his head up and stares at Sam, expression unreadable. "Come on, man. Don't hold out on me."

"I could attempt to use my grace," Cas finally responds. "To help heal your soul, that is." He says it quickly, almost mumbling, and Sam nearly doesn't hear him.

"Well, what's the problem?" Sam demands, before catching himself and sighing. "Sorry, I'm just a little edgy. Obviously if it would put a strain on you, I would never ask you to do that."

"It wouldn't be a strain, Sam, but it would be quite invasive. To heal your soul would mean to touch it, to know it intimately. I understand that you might find that idea upsetting."

Sam takes a deep breath and lets it out, just a bit shaky. He can tell, based on how seriously Cas is taking this, that it's something to which he should give considerable thought before making a decision. There's no way to tell what Cas will see if he looks too closely at Sam's soul. The thought scares him more than a little, but then he thinks about that nightmare. It was even more vivid and painful than the visions that used to plague him, and he feels fear clench tightly around his heart.

"Do it," he breathes, trying to shake off the feeling of abject terror he feels at the thought of Lucifer, of his time in the cage. "I trust you, Cas. You won't go too far, and I know you wouldn't hurt me on purpose. I just can't stand the thought of living like this." He's embarrassed; he knows how weak he must sound, but all of those years he spent in the cage -- he doesn't even know how long -- have taken a toll. He's not too proud to ask for help. Not anymore.

"If I'm to do this, Sam, you need to be certain," Cas tells him, but he's already standing, offering his hand to help Sam up from where he's huddled on the floor.

He leads Sam into the main room of the cabin and looks around before gesturing for Sam to sit on the bed. Sam raises an eyebrow, smiling tentatively at Cas.

"I didn't take you for the type, Cas." Even to Sam, the joke feels forced, but he's anxious to dissipate the tension he can feel between them. "I thought you'd at least buy me dinner first."

"Were the groceries I brought not sufficient?" Cas frowns. "If you're hungry, we can wait. It would be better for you to be at full strength if we're going to do this."

Sam chokes out a laugh at that, shaking his head. "No, I was just... it was just a joke," he clarifies, embarrassed, before sitting down on the edge of the bed.

"I don't…" Cas looks at him curiously for a long, awkward moment before his eyes widen. "Oh, I see." Cas ducks his head, but not before Sam can see the first hint of a blush on his cheeks.

"Sorry, sorry. It was a bad joke. You can tell I grew up with Dean. I think the talent for making terrible, inappropriate jokes must be hereditary." He ignores the twinge of sadness that he feels at the mention of his brother.

He's been very pointedly not thinking about him all day. If Dean actually did make it to Lisa, and he's even a little bit happy, then Sam has no desire to mess that up for him even if he does miss him terribly. Maybe when he's got his head on straight, but not now, not when he's feeling so unstable. It wouldn't be fair to Dean.

His thoughts must be showing on his face (or else Cas is just reading his mind again) because when he looks up, Cas' expression is soft. Pitying. Sam clears his throat a bit more loudly than necessary, ready to move past this uncomfortable moment.

"Okay, let's do this. What do you need me to do?"

"Just sit there, and attempt to relax. I felt that the bed would be best, as I'm unsure how you'll react to this sort of contact. I don't want you to injure yourself." He swallows audibly. "I feel I should inform you, I haven't actually done this before. I'm technically only working on theory."

"Not gonna lie, Cas, I probably could have done without that information. But whatever, I meant what I said. I trust you. If you wanted to hurt me, you wouldn't have pulled me out in the first place." Sam shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath, then another, trying to force out some of the tension he's feeling. It's not easy, but once he reaches some semblance of relaxation he hears a rustling noise.

He opens his eyes to see Cas kneeling on the floor before him, lifting a hand toward him. Cas pauses when he sees him watching, but at Sam's nod he places his palm on Sam's chest, just over his tattoo.

"This may hurt," Cas warns, and then Sam feels an overwhelming warmth suffusing his body, radiating out from where Cas is touching him. For a moment it feels wonderful, banishing the last remnants of the bitter cold of earlier, but it quickly starts to become too much. He can feel Cas, he thinks, reaching so deeply into him. He can feel him inside his soul.

Sam feels suddenly vulnerable, and all of that trust he had professed becomes quickly irrelevant in the face of his rapidly-building anxiety. He tries to shove it down, to keep it from becoming hysteria, but he can't breathe. He can't breathe.

He reaches up, shoving ineffectually at Cas' hand as he feels his eyes roll back into his head. He tries to force him out, but he wouldn't begin to know how to do something like that. Cas is too strong, much stronger than Sam, and he can't stop him. He distantly registers a pained, keening sound and he thinks it must be coming from him.

"Sam." He shudders at the sound of that voice, and all of the layers behind it that he's never heard before. "Sam, you need to look at me. Right now."

His instincts scream at him to keep fighting, but that voice has power behind it, and he acquiesces, dragging his eyes down to meet Castiel's. They're as blue as ever, but he thinks he can see past them now, into the depths of him, into his grace. He feels the slightest twinge of a connection and shies away from it, painfully uncertain.

"You need to calm yourself, Sam. I understand that this feeling is alarming, but the more you try to push me out the more painful and frightening it will be." Sam shakes his head wildly, though he's unable to tear his gaze away. "If you wish to stop this, you need only tell me, but if you wish to continue, then I am ordering you. Let me in." Sam's skin prickles as the power in those words washes over him, Cas' voice fiercely quiet and booming all at once.

It's easier, somehow, when presented with the choice. He lets out a ragged breath before lifting his hand and clutching at Cas' coat to steady himself. Feeling a bit more grounded and still staring into Cas' eyes, he nods. He sees Cas relax fractionally, relieved, and then everything goes white. He has a moment to feel nothing but that same comforting warmth before he loses consciousness.

---

When Sam wakes up, the room is dimly lit and it takes a long time for it to come into focus. When it does, he sees Cas sitting at the foot of the bed, watching him with a worried expression.

"Hey, Cas!" Sam lifts his hand and flops it back to the bed in an approximation of a wave. He grins lazily. "What's up?"

"Sam, are you well?" Cas is still wearing that same concerned look.

"I'm great!" he blurts out quickly. "I feel awesome. Really, really awesome." He frowns. "Hang on. What happened with the soul thing? I feel weird. Am I drunk?"

Cas chuckles, quiet and sheepish, and the sound of it is enough to make Sam smile again.

"As I said, I've never done anything like this before. I attempted to work too quickly, and I fear I used an excessive amount of my grace. I assume that is why you are feeling... intoxicated."

"Dude, I'm angel drunk?" Sam asks gleefully as he squirms around in the bed, trying to get comfortable. "Does this mean I can fly? Or smite stuff?"

Cas rolls his eyes at that before rising from the bed. "I'm afraid it doesn't work quite that way." He moves into the kitchen and Sam twists around until his head is resting at the foot of the bed and he can see what the angel is doing. "I'm going to make something for you to eat, and then you'll need to rest some more."

"Aw, Cas, I didn't know you could cook! Thanks, man, that's nice. I'm starving." He shuts his eyes, and he must doze off because when he blinks them open Cas is standing over him with a plate, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot.

"I'm afraid my food preparation skills are quite limited," he says, apologetic, before handing the plate to Sam. It contains two grilled cheese sandwiches, one of which is burnt around the edges, and a small pile of potato chips. Sam looks up at him, smiling, and is quietly delighted at the shy expression on Cas' face.

"Thanks, Cas," he tells him seriously, and then he sets himself to the task of devouring the food on the plate. It's gone embarrassingly quickly, and when he looks up Cas is holding out a glass of water. He thanks him again, downing it in several gulps, and puts his dishes on the nightstand before flopping back onto the pillows. He still feels strange, like how he thinks being high would have felt if he'd ever had the occasion.

When he looks up, Cas is staring out the window, his brow furrowed. "I was able to repair some of the damage, but I believe we'll need to do this more than once to heal you completely. It will take some time, and you're in no state to try again right now."

"You're leaving," Sam realizes, and it's not a question. "Why do you have to go so soon?" He's embarrassed at the petulance in his voice, but he's not really in full control of himself at the moment.

Cas turns back to him, his expression regretful. "I was with you all night, Sam. There are things to which I must attend."

"No, I get it," Sam mutters, rolling over to face the wall. "You're a busy, important angel guy. It's cool. I just get bored when you're not here." It's not entirely true, as he hasn't been on his own long enough to get bored yet, but he really doesn't want Cas to go.

"Sam," Cas begins, just a hint of frustration bleeding through, "this feeling of attachment you have is a result of being overexposed to my grace. It should fade in the next few hours, and you need to rest."

Sam punches the pillow underneath his head a few times to fluff it up, and he huffs a sigh. "It's cool, Cas. Really." He twists around to look at the angel. "And thank you, I mean it."

Cas nods slowly, and then he's gone.

---

When Sam wakes up hours later, he stretches languidly and is relieved to find that his grace-borne inebriation has passed. He flushes with embarrassment at the memory of his earlier behavior.

When he rolls over, he's surprised to see a stack of books on the nightstand. A quick glance at a few of the spines reveals a worn text dealing with the Apocrypha, a Terry Pratchett novel, and, incongruously, something by Nora Roberts. He laughs at that before spotting a note tucked under the pile. The handwriting is careful and measured.

Sam,

To keep you from feeling bored. Excepting the religious text, I did not know what you would prefer, so I asked the man at the book store for an assortment. I will return when I can.


Sam can't fight a smile at the thought of Cas asking for help at a Barnes and Noble. He starts to reach for the book on the Apocrypha before thinking better of it and grabbing the Pratchett.

As he flips to the first page, he tries not to think about the fact that the effects of the grace have worn off, but he still misses Cas acutely.

---

Cas doesn't come back for three days. Sam busies himself working his way through the books Cas left him, taking advantage of the warmer parts of the day to drag a blanket outside and read on the porch swing.

It's beautiful here, and peaceful, and the hours he spends in the sun every day keep him from going stir-crazy. There's a distinct chill in the air -- he thinks it might be mid-October, but he's not really sure -- but sitting in the direct sunlight warms him to his core.

When the sun starts to sink in the sky, he comes inside and gets the fire going before making something to eat. It's a simple routine, but it's already familiar and easy. Although he dreads going to bed in the evenings, with nightmares of Lucifer plaguing his sleep, it's still better than the waking nightmare from that first day. He's always tired in the morning, but he does his best not to dwell on the dreams.

On the third evening, he's reading in the chair by the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate that he'd made on the stove. He doesn't know why Cas brought it, but when Sam had seen the block of chocolate in the cupboard he couldn't resist. Even before Hell, he hadn't had hot chocolate in years, and he's pleasantly surprised at the comfort it offers.

He's in the process of turning the page when he hears a fluttering noise behind him.

"Hello, Sam," Cas rumbles, and Sam jumps in surprise before shoving the Nora Roberts novel under the chair.

"Hey, Cas," he calls back, straightening and turning to look at him. "You scared me; I wasn't sure when I could expect you."

"I apologize. I've been rather busy these past few days. You've been all right?" he asks, glancing curiously at Sam's mug before looking at Sam again.

"Yeah, I've been good. No scary episodes or whatever, so I figure that's a plus, right?" Cas smiles faintly at that.

"That's very good. I had hoped that after last time, your memories would be kept at bay for at least a short while."

Sam unfolds himself from the chair and stretches, trying to work out all of the kinks from sitting curled up for so long. He glances over to see Cas watching him very intently, and he feels a faint shiver travel down his spine before Cas turns away. That was weird, he thinks, shaking off the feeling and walking into the kitchen.

"Your timing is great," Sam points out, lighting the burner carefully. "I just made hot cocoa, and there's a ton of it. Just give me a minute or two to heat it back up."

"Thank you," comes Cas' voice from just behind him, and Sam jumps. He finds himself reminded of Dean's frequent jokes about Cas needing a bell. "I appreciate the offer, but I don't require it."

"Cas, nobody requires hot chocolate. That's not why you drink it." Undeterred, Sam stirs the pot over the low flame to warm it back up. Cas just watches him in silence.

When it's ready, he fills another cup before topping off his own with what's left. He hands the fresh mug to Cas and walks back to sit on the stone ledge in front of the fireplace. He gestures to the chair, and Cas sits down with a mildly confused expression.

"Try it," he urges, taking a sip of his own drink. "You'll like it, I promise."

Cas looks more than a bit skeptical as he lifts the mug to his mouth, taking a small drink as he'd seen Sam do. He frowns slightly, considering, before taking another large swallow. He closes his eyes for several seconds, a pleased look on his face, before schooling his features and looking up at Sam with an expression of practiced indifference.

"I suppose it's not terrible," he concedes, but Sam can see in his eyes that Cas is just messing with him now.

"Is that all?" Sam laughs. "Then you won't mind if I finish yours?" He reaches across the gap between them to grab the cup from Cas' hand.

Cas yanks his mug out of reach with a disgruntled glare in Sam's direction.

"You probably shouldn't," he deadpans. "It wouldn't do for you to overindulge." He smiles then, that slight tilting at the corners of his mouth that Sam's learned to look for and appreciate.

"Atta boy, Cas. I knew you'd like it." Cas rolls his eyes at that but doesn't respond, choosing instead to sip slowly at his drink.

Once they've finished, Sam puts their mugs in the sink and goes to sit on the edge of the bed. Cas follows, and they resume their positions from last time, Cas kneeling on the floor to rest between Sam's knees.

Sam swallows, something uncomfortable twisting in his stomach at the open, guileless way that Cas is watching him. He shakes his head once to push away the feeling.

"So, ready to try this again?" He's grateful that his voice doesn't seem to betray his nervousness.

Cas nods, and he places his hand over Sam's heart like before. Sam shuts his eyes and lets out a shuddering breath.

When Cas' grace enters him this time, it feels much like the first time. That same warm feeling works its way through his limbs, though it's infinitely more bearable than it had been before. He hums in pleasure before he can think to stop himself. Embarrassed, he opens his eyes to see if Cas has noticed.

The angel is watching him with a curious expression, and Sam blushes at the scrutiny. He casts about for something to say to break the silence that's beginning to feel awkward, at least to him.

"Doesn't, ah, doesn't it repulse you?" Sam asks, feeling just lightheaded enough to let his worries slip - to ask the questions he might not, otherwise. When Cas doesn't answer, he presses on. "I know my soul is tainted. How can you stand to touch it?"

Cas is still looking at him, but now his eyes look sad. Regretful.

"Sam, your soul was never truly tainted. Since you were a child, the demons' influence has been twisted around it. The blood that you drank only strengthened its hold, but your soul has always been your own, and it shone brightly though Azazel tried his best to crush it." He looks away from Sam before continuing. "I should never have called you an abomination. I sincerely apologize for that. You had no control over the things that were done to you, and yet you were still strong enough to make the right choice in the end."

Sam closes his burning eyes. He doesn't know what made him think this would be the right time for a conversation like this. He already feels exposed and vulnerable with the way that Castiel's grace is sinking in, permeating every part of him. The painful sincerity behind Cas' words is only making it more difficult to keep his composure.

"It doesn't matter now," Cas continues, seemingly unaware of Sam's distress, "as your soul came back from the Cage alone. It's only you in this body now; the demons hold no sway over you."

"I… really?" Sam tries to keep the disbelief out of his voice, but it's hard to imagine that what Cas says is true. He doesn't feel different in any significant way, and life has taught him again and again that good things don't just happen to Sam. To the Winchesters in general, really. He tells Cas as much, and he's surprised when Cas makes a huffing noise that could almost be a laugh.

"You sacrificed yourself to drag two archangels into the pit and avert the apocalypse. In doing so, you subjected yourself to years of pain and suffering. This good thing did not 'just happen,' as you say. You earned it, a hundred times over." Cas' voice is earnest and sure.

That warm feeling in his chest pulses and grows stronger, seeming to punctuate Cas' words, and Sam can feel hot tears sliding down his cheeks without his consent. As quickly as it had come, the feeling fades, and Cas pulls back.

"That's enough for today, Sam." He brushes his hand over Sam's forehead, pushing his hair back from his face. The small action is so tender Sam has to look away. "Sleep," Cas murmurs, and Sam can feel the tug pulling him down.

Sam tries to thank Cas as he drifts off, but he doesn't know if he gets the words out.

He doesn't dream that night.

---

"How did you do it?" Sam asks a few nights later. The cabin is quiet and dimly lit, and they're sitting in the tiny kitchen. Cas hadn't seemed in any real hurry to get started, so Sam had decided to make dinner. Cas had accepted his BLT with murmured thanks, but he's been watching Sam instead of eating the sandwich. It's a little bit unnerving, but Sam's kind of used to the staring by now.

"What do you mean?" Cas frowns at him, picking at the edges of his lettuce.

"I've just been wondering, how did you get us out of the Cage?" Sam's hesitant to bring it up at all, but the curiosity has been eating away at him. "I thought angels couldn't get in or out."

"They can't," Cas agrees. "But I didn't have to get in. I just had to let you out." He stops abruptly, clearly hoping that answer will satisfy Sam, but Sam won't let him off that easily.

"That seems… way too simple." Sam can tell that Cas isn't too eager to explain, but that just makes him more curious. "Was it a spell or something? Was it a pagan thing?" he asks, scrunching up his nose.

"Yes, it was a spell. No, it wasn't pagan. I don't see that it matters. Isn't there an expression about looking too closely at free horses?" Cas frowns, considering. "I don't think I'm getting that right, but it shouldn't be important. It was successful, and that's what matters."

"Uh-huh." Sam squints at him in suspicion. "Why don't you want to tell me about this spell? Did you have to sacrifice a chicken? Did you have to perform it in the nude?" he asks, just a bit gleeful. Cas looks aghast.

"I told you, Sam, it wasn't pagan magic," he snaps defensively. "If you must know, I got the spell from Crowley." Sam doesn't think Cas could pack any more distaste into a word than he does into the demon's name.

"Crowley?" he asks, disbelieving. "Cas, you didn't… you didn't make a deal, did you?" Sam has had quite enough of other people making deals with demons for him, and Cas might be an angel, but Sam will definitely kick his ass if he needs to.

"Don't be ridiculous. I don't deal with demons," Cas huffs, ignoring Sam's skeptical look. "He owed me a favor," he elaborates. "I accidentally saved his life."

"Okay, you know I need to hear that story, right?"

"There isn't much to tell. There were several demons, loyal to Lucifer, that had been causing a great deal of nuisance for us. I just happened to track them down when they were in the process of cornering Crowley. Saving his life was merely incidental to killing them."

"And the spell?" Sam prompts.

"Crowley informed me that he very much dislikes being indebted to others, and that he knew about your situation." Sam snorts at the euphemism, but Cas continues. "He provided me with the spell I needed to free you and Adam, and then told me to 'sod off.' It was a very fortunate turn of events."

Sam's quiet for a long moment, looking for potential problems with that story.

"So you don't owe him anything? You two are even?" He just has to know, has to be sure that Cas hasn't given anything up for him. He can't deal with that weight again.

"We're even," Cas agrees. "Although he said he'd be sending me a bill for the suit I ruined while smiting those demons. I suspect he might have been joking."

"I somehow doubt that," Sam chuckles. "Guy takes his wardrobe pretty seriously."

"He'll be waiting quite some time for reimbursement," Cas confides, a smile flitting across his lips. "As an angel, I have no need of human currency."

At that, Sam laughs outright before nudging Cas' plate.

"You may not have need of human food, either, but if you don't eat that, I will."

Cas snatches it up quickly, demolishing it in four large bites.

"That was excellent," he mumbles through his mouthful of food. Sam makes a disapproving noise, but Cas just stares blankly back at him. Sam thinks he catches a hint of a smirk, but then Cas is swallowing the last of his sandwich and pushing back from the table. "Are you ready to get started?" he asks, offering a hand to Sam.

Sam takes it with a nod, letting Cas pull him to his feet.

"No better time than the present."

Part 2
 
 
 
lacking in glittertawg on December 29th, 2011 03:19 am (UTC)
I really liked reading demanding, angel-high Sam, that was pretty cute. I really liked this first part, the trick of the cage and all of the mentions of how Cas has grown stronger and more experienced with humans, but is still dealing with new things all of the time and can get a little out of his depth. Skipping off to part two...