“It is…unfortunate. But it must be done,” Zachariah put a hand on Cas’s shoulder. “Sam Winchester must be stopped. It’s clear that he disregarded our warning. He’s left us with no other choice.”
“Perhaps we can overlook this infraction, just this once?” Cas suggested. “His abilities helped to save an entire town…”
“Are you questioning orders, Castiel?” Zachariah asked dangerously.
“No,” Cas sighed.
“Good,” Zachariah tightened his hand. “Because I don’t think I need to remind you just how dangerous Sam Winchester truly is. He’s an abomination and if he’s not stopped…”
Zachariah let the threat hang. Cas nodded obediently. One good deed didn’t absolve Sam of the danger that he was becoming. He needed to be stopped before it was too late.
~ 1997 ~
Fourteen-year-old Sam leaned back against the wall with a book hanging from his hands. He looked over at the empty bed across the room from him and wished that Dean was here to keep him company. But Dean had gone off on a hunt with Dad yesterday and they didn’t expect to be back until tomorrow at the earliest. So he was alone until then.
He pushed the self-pitying thoughts back and glanced down at his book. Dad had left him a list of things he was supposed to do while he and Dean were on the hunt, and reading definitely wasn’t on it. Still, the one perk to being left alone (over and over and over Sam thought dryly) was that he had the leeway to rebel a little and do what he…
A crack of thunder pealed across the clear blue sky, making Sam jump up nervously. It was followed by a loud thump, and suddenly a man in a tan trench coat was lying at his feet. He leaped for his nightstand, where his .45 – a completely inappropriate reaction to a nine-year-old’s claim that he was scared of the thing under his bed – was tucked into the drawer. For the first time he found himself glad for his father’s drastic reaction.
“Who the hell are you?” Sam demanded. He frowned and corrected himself. “Or maybe I should ask what the hell are you?”
“Wait,” Cas coughed violently and was horrified to see blood pour out of his mouth. The time travel had affected him much more than he had expected and it seemed he was all but mortal at the moment. Now he was at the mercy of the evil teenager he’d been sent to kill.
Sam knew that Dad, or hell even Dean, wouldn’t have hesitated. People didn’t just materialize out of thin air and neither of them saw shades of gray when it came to the supernatural. Either of them would’ve shot first and asked questions later. He wasn’t his father or brother, though. He slowly lowered the gun and knelt next to the man.
“It’s okay,” he said softly. “Come on. You can use Dean’s bed for now until you get back on your feet.”
Cas had cringed away from the teen when he’d kneeled down beside him. Now he gaped up at him.
“Wait, you’re not going to kill me? Why?” he wondered. Talking made him cough again, spitting more blood out.
“Because I’m not gonna kill someone who can’t say more than three words without coughing up half his lungs,” Sam sighed. “Once you’re healed up maybe I’ll re-examine that option, but for now let’s just get you better.”
Sam flicked the safety back on and tucked the pistol into his waistband the way he’d seen Dad and Dean do a million times before. He grimaced at the uncomfortable feeling of it digging into the small of his back, and swore that when he finally did start hunting he was definitely finding a better way of carrying it around. For now he ignored it and did his best to help the man to his feet and drag him over to Dean’s empty bed, cursing the fact that he was small for his age.
“You won’t always be,” Cas gasped as he dropped onto the bed.
“I said you won’t always be small for your age. Someday you’ll even be taller than Dean or your father,” Cas winced as he replayed what he’d just said in his own mind. His mission was to make sure that ‘someday’ never happened for Sam.
“So I guess this means you want me to believe you’re from the future, huh?” Sam sat tentatively on his own bed and set his pistol on top of the nightstand. “You never answered my question, you know. What are you?”
“My name is Castiel,” Cas answered. “I’m an Angel of the Lord.”
“An angel?” Sam laughed. “Come on. Angels aren’t real.”
“We are very real,” Cas looked offended.
“Okay, well if you’re actually an angel how come you’re here instead of Heaven?” Sam asked. He wasn’t being sarcastic, that was more Dean’s thing anyway. He was legitimately curious as to why an angel would’ve just slammed into his bedroom floor like a ton of bricks.
Cas hesitated. Coming right out and telling the boy that he’d been sent to kill him didn’t seem like the wisest idea.
“I’m here on a mission,” he settled on that.
“From the future?” Sam clarified.
“Like the Terminator?”
“I don’t understand that reference.”
“Seriously?” Sam rolled his eyes. “Whatever. So in this future we apparently know each other?”
“Are we friends?”
“No, I wouldn’t say that.”
“Oh,” Sam looked disappointed. It would’ve been cool to know he was going to be friends with an angel in the future. “Well…you should try to sleep. It’ll help you get better faster.”
Cas wanted to argue that he didn’t sleep, but he realized that in the state he was in right now, that probably wasn’t true. In fact, there was an odd feeling that had been washing over him the entire time he’d been here. One that he’d never felt before. He was no scholar on human feelings, but he assumed it meant he was tired.
“Very well,” he agreed, coughing a little again. Thankfully there was no blood this time.
Sam watched as the angel laid his head back against the pillow and appeared to drop off to sleep almost immediately. He knew he should do something about the angel. If nothing else, being raised as a hunter had taught him how to spot a lie, and the Castiel was definitely lying about something. Not that it would’ve taken a hunter to know that. The angel was a terrible liar. Still, Castiel was clearly trying to hide something from him, and it would be better to take him out while he was weak. Who knew if he’d even be able to take him out once he was back to full strength? He reached a hand towards the gun…and tucked it back into the drawer. If not being able to kill the wounded angel made him weak, then he was weak. He just couldn’t.
Cas woke to the smell of something cooking. He tested his vessel’s arms and legs. He felt a bit stronger now, but still nowhere near confident enough to try to take the boy out and still be able to make his escape before the other two Winchester men made it back.
“You’re awake!” Sam returned to the bedroom holding a bowl of soup. He offered it to Cas. “I’m not so good at cooking so it’s just out of a can, but Dean always makes me tomato rice soup when I get sick. It always makes me feel better, so I thought maybe it might do the same for you.”
The look on Sam’s face was so hopeful that Cas couldn’t bring himself to tell the teen that he didn’t eat any more than he usually slept. He took an experimental taste of the soup. He supposed that if he were a human it might taste like tomato. His vessel, Jimmy, recognized it as such. As an angel, it was more like he could taste the individual molecules though. Not nearly as appetizing as he supposed it was meant to be, judging by the look Sam was giving him.
“Thank you,” Cas said gruffly.
“Welcome,” Sam blushed. “Hey, uh, so maybe I shouldn’t ask so many questions, but how come we’re not friends in…”
He broke off from his question and his face paled as he heard the familiar rumble of the Impala pulling up to the little house that their Dad had rented for the next few months.
“Shit! They weren’t supposed to be home until tomorrow!” Sam darted to the window and peeked out. He frowned when he saw Dean getting out of the car alone and raced outside. “Dean?”
“Dad’s okay,” Dean called over, knowing immediately what Sam must’ve been thinking about him showing up alone. “Another hunter was already working the case, so Dad said they’d take care of it and sent me back to sit with you.”
Dean was obviously pissed about being sent back to babysit. This would’ve been his first werewolf hunt and he’d been excited for it. Sam felt bad, but he figured he might be able to use that to his advantage.
“Y’know, I’m not some kid. I don’t need to be babysat,” he reminded his brother.
“Try telling Dad that,” Dean snapped. “I was looking forward to putting some silver bullets through some werewolf hearts, but here I am.
“Dad doesn’t need to know that you didn’t come straight home,” Sam suggested. “Wasn’t there some girl in town you were seeing? What’s her name? Molly?”
What are you hiding?” Dean was suddenly suspicious. Sam never tried to get rid of him like this unless he had a secret.
“Who says I’m hiding anything?” Sam asked nervously. “I’m not hiding anything.”
“We need to work on your lying skills,” Dean raised an eyebrow. “C’mon you gotta tell me. You have a girl in there?”
“I’m just asking,” Dean laughed.
Cas knew he couldn’t let Dean see him. It was bad enough that he’d interacted as much as he had with Sam up to this point. He was altering time enough by being here to kill Sam. He couldn’t alter it any more by letting Dean see him, too. He recognized the fact that Sam was trying to buy him time to hide somewhere, so he slipped out of the bedroom that the brothers obviously shared, leaving the door open so Sam would realize he wasn’t in there anymore, and made his way into the other bedroom. He shut the door just in time. No sooner had it clicked shut, when he heard the sound of the front door opening
“Dean, wait!” Sam pulled on his older brother’s arm, which did absolutely nothing to stop the much bigger boy.
Dean looked around, not convinced that his little brother wasn’t actually hiding a girl (or a guy) somewhere. His eyes fell on the empty can of soup and the saucepan on the stove.
“Are you okay?” he instantly went into overprotective big brother mode. Tomato rice soup only ever meant that one of them wasn’t feeling well. He reached out to touch Sam’s forehead.
“I’m fine,” Sam pushed Dean’s hand away. “I was hungry and we didn’t have much else.”
“Seriously, Sammy?” Dean glanced around the small kitchen. “That food was supposed to last you another day at least.”
“I was hungry,” Sam shrugged. “And it’s Sam. I told you I don’t want to be called Sammy anymore.”
“Whatever you say Sammy. I’ll go out for more food,” Dean rolled his eyes and sighed. “I swear you’re like a human garbage disposal. You want to come with me?”
“Nah, I was just getting to a really good part of my book,” Sam lied.
“Such a nerd,” Dean said fondly, ruffling Sam’s too-long hair. “Maybe I will go see Molly while I’m out there. Long as you swear to cover for me if Dad comes home early.”
“If he does then you went to the store five minutes before he got home,” Sam recited their established excuse.
“Thanks Sammy. You’re a good kid. Y’know, for a dork,” Dean teased.
Sam shoved him towards the door and waited impatiently for Dean to get back in the Impala and leave. As soon as he was out the door, he dashed over to his Dad’s bedroom. The house was small, so there was really only one place that Castiel could be. Sure enough, as he poked his head in, he saw Cas sitting tensely on the edge of the bed.
“I got rid of him for now, but he’ll be back in a couple of hours,” he told the angel. “I might be able to hide you out in here for a while, but Dean’s going to get suspicious if I keep coming in and out.”
“I won’t need to be here for much longer,” Cas assured him. The moment he was strong enough to get himself back to his proper time, he planned to finish his mission and go back.
“Right. Your ‘mission’,” Sam frowned. “You never said what it was.”
“No, I did not,” Cas replied.
“Is it something I can help with?” Sam offered.
You can stop being so kind, Cas thought.
The more he talked with Sam, the harder it was getting to think of killing him. The Sam he knew was kind, but the issue with the demon blood made it possible to see past that. This Sam, though…this one was simply a kind-hearted child who had never even been on his first real hunt yet. He had demon blood in him, courtesy of Azazel of course, but it hadn’t consumed him yet. If Castiel was actually going to be able to do this it had to be soon, while he could still justify it as being kinder than letting this innocent boy turn into the abomination he would become.
“Castiel?” Sam asked, making Cas realize he’d just been sitting there in silence.
“No,” he finally answered. “There’s nothing you can do to help.”
“Okay,” Sam shifted his weight from foot to foot, trying to find an excuse to stay. Secretive or not, he liked the angel. He didn’t understand why they wouldn’t be friends in the future, but maybe when he met him as an adult he could change that. “So, uh, I want you to know I changed my mind. I promise I won’t try to kill you as soon as you’re feeling better.”
Cas looked up, wishing he could promise the boy the same. It was getting harder to come to terms with what he had to do with every word Sam said.
“I need to rest,” he waved Sam away harshly. “Thank you for your offer.”
“Right. Sorry,” Sam apologized. “I’ll come back and check on you in a couple of hours, then.”
He bolted for the living room. He wasn’t any closer to figuring out what the angel was hiding at this point than he was when Cas had appeared on the floor choking and coughing up blood. If he had to guess, he’d say it was something pretty big though.
Cas remained sitting on the edge of the bed as the hours passed. Every moment he could feel his grace repairing the damage that had been done to his vessel in the time jump. Sam knocked on the door a few times, but he didn’t respond. Better to let the boy have the last few hours of his life to spend doing what he liked rather than taking care of the angel sent to kill him.
“Castiel?” a tentative knock came at the door just as Cas had made the decision that it was time. He slid his angel blade out of his sleeve, opened the door, and came face to face with the boy he was meant to kill.
Sam took in the sight in front of him. He nodded, as if he’d expected as much.
“I thought so,” he said sadly. “I don’t know why, but I guess if an angel has a good enough reason to travel through time to kill someone, it must be for the best. I just wanted to tell you that I’m glad I got a chance to meet you, and I’m sorry for whatever I did in the future that made this have to happen.”
He said it with such sincerity that Cas hesitated. The boy standing in front of him, willing to die for reasons he didn’t even understand, didn’t fit Zachariah’s description of him at all. Nor did his kindness throughout the day. Caring for him, and hiding him while he healed. Castiel looked down into the big hazel eyes and something in them – maybe the kindness, maybe the sincerity, it really didn’t matter – caused feelings he’d never had before to wash over him. Most he couldn’t even define, but the strongest one was impossible to mistake. He cared for Sam.
“No,” Cas said quietly. He slipped the blade back into his sleeve and reached out. Sam flinched just a little, but set his shoulders and stood firm.
Instead of harming Sam, Cas pressed a hand against his ribcage. Sam yelped and his knees buckled as a fiery pain shot through his ribs and chest. For a moment he thought, really thought, that he was dead. Then he realized that Cas had an arm wrapped gently around his waist, supporting him.
“What…what was that?” he gasped.
“Protection,” Cas explained. “I’ve etched protection sigils onto your ribs. They will hide you from every angel, everywhere.”
“But why?” Sam wondered. “I thought…”
“I can’t tell you anything and change time any more than I’ve already done,” Cas stopped him He realized he still had an arm around Sam’s waist in a way that could be considered inappropriate between an adult (like his vessel was) and a child, and quickly let go. “And I can’t finish what I was sent here to do. Thank you Sam, for re-opening my eyes.”
With one last glance at the teenager, Cas disappeared with the sound of rustling wings.
~ Present ~
Sam felt a strange sense of déjà vu as he heard a loud crack of thunder and a thump on the floor. He was packing up to leave town now that Samhain was dealt with, and waiting for Dean to come back from wherever he happened to be. A bar, he assumed. Years of training had him reaching for the gun in his waistband as he spun around to see what had caused the sound.
“Cas!” Sam quickly flicked the safety back on his .45 and knelt next to the angel. If he hadn’t had a sense of déjà vu before this, he certainly had one now. “Come on, man.”
He couldn’t help a small smile as he helped Cas stagger over to one of the motel room beds. It was a hell of a lot easier this time around now that he wasn’t a scrawny fourteen year old anymore.
“Thank you, Sam,” Cas choked out.
“Take it easy,” Sam soothed him, touching his cheek. “You’re alright. Talk after you rest up a little.”
Just like last time, Cas laid his head on the pillow and dropped into unconsciousness so fast that Sam almost checked to see if he was still alive. He finished packing and sat at the little motel room table to start researching their next hunt. Dean slammed through the door about an hour later and glared at the unconscious angel.
“What the hell is he doing here?” he snapped.
“Cas needed somewhere to rest up,” Sam stressed Cas’s name.
“Tell him to go do it up in Heaven, then,” Dean kicked the leg of the bed to wake Cas up. “Hey you dick.”
“Dean!” Sam grabbed his brother’s arm and pushed him away from the bed. “Seriously? What the hell?”
“He wanted to nuke an entire town, Sam! Or did you forget?” Dean asked.
“You mean the town we saved?” Sam reminded him.
“Saved or not, he still wanted to blow it off the face of the planet,” Dean argued. “He just blindly follows whatever orders his superiors give him and I’m not okay with that!”
“I’m not trying to be confrontational here, but maybe the reason it makes you so angry is because you were the same way for a long time,” Sam pointed out. “I mean, how many times did we fight because you did whatever Dad wanted you to do without question?”
“This is different,” Dean insisted. “I would never kill an innocent person, let alone a whole town full of them.”
“Neither would he!” Sam yelled.
“Could’ve fooled me with the way he tried to convince us to get out of town!”
All the shouting and arguing woke Cas up and he pulled himself to a sitting position slowly. The movement caught both brothers’ eyes and they stopped yelling at each other.
“My orders weren’t to destroy the town,” he said quietly. “My orders were to do whatever you said, Dean. And also to watch Sam.”
“What?” Dean frowned in confusion. “Your orders were to follow my orders and to babysit my brother? Why?”
“My superiors wanted to see what sort of…battlefield decision you would make, I suppose,” Cas answered. “As for Sam, they wanted to see that their warning was being followed.”
“Right. The warning that either I stop him or you will,” Dean sneered. “Looks like he and I both failed your little tests. You or any of your angel buddies make one move to hurt my brother and I promise that I will stab you in your face.”
“You’re a little late for that, Dean,” Sam admitted.
Before he had a chance to ask what Sam meant, Cas reached out and pressed his hand to Dean’s chest. He let out a yelp that was almost identical to the one Sam had made and backed away from Cas, looking offended.
“What the hell did you do to me?” he demanded.
“Angel warding carved into your ribs,” Sam answered, seeing that even that little bit of effort had cost Cas energy he didn’t have at the moment.
“It’ll keep angels from finding us, which I’m thinking we’re probably going to wind up appreciating,” Sam explained.
“Well what about you?” Dean asked, rubbing at his ribs like he could scrub the warding off from the outside.
“I’ve been warded for years now,” Sam told him sheepishly. “Since I was fourteen.”
“Fourteen?” Dean was getting more confused by the second. “Sam, we didn’t even know about angels until a couple of months ago.”
“You didn’t,” Sam shrugged and sat on the edge of the bed.
He wanted to reach out and take Cas’s had, but didn’t for two reasons. First, because he was pretty sure that Dean really would make good on that promise to stab Cas in the face. And second because he had a feeling that all of Cas’s travels had changed things between them.
In Sam’s mind, he remembered meeting Cas again the night they dealt with the raising of the witnesses. When Cas had come to Bobby’s house to pass along Heaven’s message about stopping him, Dean had stormed off, angry at the implication. Sam had gotten up from the couch where he’d been faking sleep and he and Cas had wound up talking half the night. It was clear that what they had been through back in `97 had affected them both. They’d shared their first kiss right there in Bobby’s kitchen. Afterwards, they’d agreed to keep it from Dean for a while and let Heaven believe that things were playing out the way they were meant to. After all, if Cas was never sent back in time they wouldn’t have these feelings for each other. Granted, he hadn’t expected his demon blood addiction to get quite as serious as it had and unfortunately all of the time travel seemed to have jumbled things up.
Cas saw the hesitation on Sam’s face and thought back. When he’d made it back to this time, he’d been bombarded with two sets of memories. One set from the timeline he’d originally come from and another from this one. Sam was clearly upset and unsure of where they stood with each other now so he reached up and ran his fingers through Sam’s hair comfortingly, regardless of what Dean would think.
“Somebody better start talking,” Dean warned, watching the exchange between his brother and the angel.
“There’s a lot to fill you in on,” Sam smiled at Cas thankfully and took the hand not currently brushing through his hair. Dean was going to be pissed at finding out that Sam had been keeping another secret, especially since Sam had been keeping this one since 1997. He hoped Dean could forgive him just this one more time, and felt Cas squeeze his hand encouragingly. “You remember back when Dad took you on what was supposed to be your first werewolf hunt when you were eighteen, but then sent you back to watch me when another hunter was already on the case? You remember how you thought I was hiding something or someone? Well, I might’ve lied just a little…”