Actions

Work Header

Side Job

Work Text:

Side Job

A Supernatural Fanfic

 

Castiel sighed heavily as he propped his chin in one hand, eyes searing from the long hours he had spent scanning the screen of his laptop. He had been alternating between looking into anything that could lead him to where Sam and Dean had been taken, and when those leads ran dry, he turned to figuring out where Kelly Kline might be—desperate to at least fix something. Both searches were pulling up equal blanks, though. He was beginning to wonder how Sam and Dean were ever able to find anything they needed on the internet. It seemed impossible to him, even with the notes Sam had made him a while back. He just didn't seem to be good at finding the information he needed. Just like when he was hunting alone.

It didn't help that the diner he was currently sitting in had a terrible wi-fi connection, and on top of that, the coffee tasted stale and bitter like it had been cooking in the pot since the day before. It was pretty much just adding insult to injury.

He almost breathed a sigh of relief when his phone rang, breaking the monotony, and he hurried to answer it as he saw Mary's name pop up onto the caller id.

"Mary? Is everything all right? Have you found anything?" he asked, before having to stop himself from blurting any more questions.

He heard her soft sigh from the other end of the line. "No, I'm sorry, Castiel, I still haven't found anything about where Sam and Dean might be." She sounded as tired as he felt and he felt a sharp pang in his chest again, still not having forgiven himself for letting Sam and Dean get captured like that. "What about you?" she asked after a second.

Castiel shook his head, glaring at the computer screen before he closed it. "Nothing. I can't find any information on the internet, and no one I have talked to is willing to help me."

"We'll find them, Cas," she assured him. "But in the meantime, I um…I've found a case, I think. If you have nothing else going on, I could use some help."

Castiel straightened up. "What kind of case?"

"Well, the deaths look like animal attacks; I thought werewolf at first, but the hearts weren't missing, so I'm not sure what this might be."

Castiel frowned. "That is strange. Where are you?"

She gave him the address of the motel she was staying at. "Thank you, Cas. I could probably handle this alone, but with the amount of bodies this thing's dropped, and the fact I don't know what it is…I'd kind of like to have some help on this one."

"Of course, you can always ask me for assistance," Castiel assured her. "I'll be there soon."

He ended the call and grabbed his laptop, leaving money on the table for the awful coffee. He was actually relived to have something to focus on. He thought maybe that had been Mary's intention. While Castiel would never deny her help, he knew she was also a very resourceful hunter and could probably handle the case herself. But still…the last thing he wanted to have to tell Sam and Dean when he got them back was that he'd let their mother go on a hunt alone where she got torn up by an unknown beast. So whether it was for her sake or his own, he was going to go offer his assistance.

Mary was only an hour away from where he was and he arrived at her motel in Leavenworth, Kansas around noon. Mary greeted him with a smile as he knocked on her door.

"Hey, Castiel. Come in, I've got some research going."

He followed her into the room and saw papers and books spread over the small table with more papers and a map of the area tacked to the wall nearby. Castiel went over to study it, seeing all the marks drawn onto the map.

"Are these all victims?" he asked with a frown, counting nearly ten dots Mary had marked.

"Yes," she said, standing at his shoulder. "All of them died the same, and all within the last two weeks. I talked to the local ranger yesterday and they're baffled as to what it might be. He thinks a rogue wolf or possibly even a coyote, but no one's seen anything."

"And it's definitely not a werewolf since the moon cycle is off," Castiel mused as he studied the map again, trying to see if he could make out a pattern in it. "Is there any connection between the victims?"

Mary shrugged helplessly. "If there is, I can't seem to find it."

"Well, it seems to be killing approximately within the area of a ten mile radius. Perhaps if we study the areas where the victims were killed we can find some more clues."

"I've looked at the most recent sites, but it wouldn't hurt to have a fresh pair of eyes," Mary told him. "I must be getting rusty."

Castiel offered her a small smile. "Well, you're still getting into your stride again, I'm sure. You're still better than I am."

"You just need more practice talking to the locals, Castiel," Mary assured him, smiling back. "But I'll help with that, show you some tricks. There was another attack last night but this time with a survivor. I was going to go question her today. Let me just change into my Fed gear and we can head out."

Before she could even grab her clothes though, a knock came at the door. Castiel cast a cautious glance at Mary.

"Are you expecting anyone?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No." She pulled a gun from the back of her jeans and approached the door slowly. Castiel was right at her shoulder, angel blade slipping into his hand as Mary opened the door and peered out to see who their visitor was.

Castiel groaned out loud and closed his eyes briefly as he saw who stood out there. "What do you want?"

"Love you too, Cassie," Crowley said with an insufferable smirk. "Is that any way to greet your former partner?" His eyes flicked to Mary and his smile widened. "And you must be the famous Mary Winchester. So good to meet you."

Mary stared blankly between the demon and Castiel. "You know him?" she asked the angel finally.

Castiel sighed. "Unfortunately, yes. Mary, this is…Crowley."

"Wait, you're Crowley?" she asked, narrowing her eyes at the demon. "I pictured you taller."

"I pictured you burning on the ceiling," Crowley shot back, and tried to get into the room, but Castiel stopped him with a firm hand on the shoulder.

"What do you want?" he demanded. "I know you didn't just show up for a social call. How did you even know we were here?"

Crowley rolled his eyes. "Really, Cas, after all that time we spent together hunting Lucifer you still don't trust me?"

"No."

The demon sighed. "Fine. I came about the murders."

"Why should you care about that?" Mary asked him, folding her arms across her chest.

"Because, someone stole a hellhound from its kennel, and now I've got to be the one to clean up the mess!" Crowley snapped.

Mary looked at Castiel before turning back to Crowley in surprise. "Wait, you think these people were killed by a hellhound? But I thought they would only come to collect souls when a person's deal was up?"

"Usually, yes," Crowley told her. "But this hellhound is being controlled by a group of Lucifer loyalists who are still running around despite my best efforts to eradicate the little verminous traitors. I knew there was a group of them operating close by, and so I went out to deliver a little justice, but one demon escaped with the stolen hellhound and now he's doing this as a way of giving me the finger, I suppose." He glanced between them. "Long story short, since you're here, I would like to employ you."

Mary glowered at him. "Why would we do that?"

Crowley looked to Castiel in appeal. "After everything I've done, can I get no trust here?"

Castiel glowered at him and Crowley sighed heavily. "Fine, long story short, I can't trust any of my own men. I never know when another one will turn on me, so I can't send demons to do this for me. You two are here working the case anyway, I assume, from the décor on the wall over there, so essentially, nothing changes. Except that I help you get better intel. What do you say?"

Castiel studied Crowley for a moment. "If we help you, we want something in return," he said.

Crowley raised his eyebrows, surprised. "Why, Cas, has our friendship meant nothing to you?"

"Do you really want me to answer that question?" Castiel replied blandly.

Crowley pulled a face. "Fine, what does Castiel wish for his services? Please tell me a new vehicle that was actually made in this century, or possibly some fashion advice."

Castiel narrowed his gaze at the demon but said, "I want intel on Sam and Dean."

"I can't give you that," Crowley said.

"Aren't you the King of Hell?" Mary asked him, stepping forward. "You've got to have some kind of universal access to stuff like this, right?"

"Hell, darling, is the operative word here," Crowley told her. "Not a government official—not that most of them would know. As much as it positively pains me to say it, your boys are locked up far, far away from anything anyone can sniff out, even me."

"But you must have people, contacts, high up in government," Castiel insisted. "Surely they would know something."

"This is too top secret," Crowley insisted. "No one is going to let this one slip."

"Then we're leaving town and you'll have to do this yourself," Castiel said. "Good luck."

He turned back, about to shut the door when Crowley grabbed the edge of it, stopping him. "Wait…" he sighed. Castiel waited, cocking an eyebrow.

"I might be able to find someone who will know what happened to them," Crowley said. "But seriously, Cas, there's no guarantee here."

"I trust you to do whatever is in your power," Castiel said with no room for argument.

"Now you trust me?" Crowley rolled his eyes. "Fine. We have a deal then."

Castiel narrowed his eyes at the phrase but nodded. "We'll help."

"Fantastic. Because we have some questioning to do—latest victim's sister if I recall?" Crowley said, clasping his hands together.

Mary glanced between them, looking resigned. "I'll go change."

Crowley and Castiel were left standing there in awkward silence. Crowley finally smiled. "So then, Cas, together again."

Castiel simply glared at him and made a sound in the back of his throat halfway between exasperation and disgust. This had been the last thing he'd wanted.

"You know, sometimes I think it would be better if we just struck off on our own; no more Hell no, more Winchesters, and you and I start a supernatural private investigation business. What do you think?"

"Shut up, Crowley," Castiel growled.

"Think about it," Crowley coaxed. "After all, if you can't find the Winchesters, what will poor Castiel have to do with himself?"

Castiel slammed the door in his face, hearing a satisfying yelp at it struck the demon in the nose. But really, he'd been wondering the same thing. Not that he had given up hope yet—he'd gotten Dean and Sam both out of Hell, a government facility shouldn't be that hard. But if the worst-case scenario happened…if he lost them…what would he do? Going back to Heaven was out of the picture, he wasn't that great at hunting, he had experience as a store associate, but that was a long, tedious existence for someone who didn't really need the money to survive. The thought of never seeing Sam and Dean again, of losing these men who had become his brothers without knowing what had been their fate…it made him feel suddenly claustrophobic. They were the ones who had given his life meaning after he fell, the thought of not having them in his life ever again made him wonder what his purpose even was.

"Castiel?"

He was startled out of his dark thoughts by Mary's hand touching his elbow. She looked up at him with concern, already dressed in her Fed clothes. "Are you okay?" she asked.

Castiel swallowed hard, managing a jerky nod. "Yes, I'm fine. Let's go."

He followed her out to her car. Castiel promptly shoved past the demon for the shotgun position and Crowley huffed and climbed into the back with no small amount of grumbling. Castiel glanced over at Mary as she started the car and headed toward their first destination. He supposed that if nothing else, he could help her hunt. She was Sam and Dean's family, and that made her his own too, in a way.

He vowed then, that if worse came to worse, and he never saw Sam and Dean again, he would do everything in his power to keep their mother safe.

He owed them that much.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mary pulled up at the house of the witness they were going to question, and glanced across at Castiel before turning the engine off. The angel had been silent the whole way, aside from a few snide remarks in answer to Crowley's comments from the backseat. He'd looked more rundown than usual when he'd shown up at her motel room that day. She could see a lot of weight on Cas' shoulders, and she could certainly sympathize with what he was going through. After she'd taken out that vampire nest for him, she'd gotten the feeling that he was floundering a little without Sam and Dean around. While she may not have known all the details of their long-running friendship, she was certain of one thing and that was that the angel cared very much for her sons. It was no wonder he looked so distraught as the days—weeks—crawled by with still no word on where they might find Sam and Dean. In a lot of ways—probably in all the ways that really counted right now—Castiel knew her boys better than she did. He had every right to take this hard.

Still, she knew it was important to get him out and doing something, even if they had no leads on Sam and Dean's location. Hopefully this hunt might give him something else to focus on.

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Crowley asked, already out of the car while she had been occupied with her own thoughts. "Are we working this case or not?"

Mary was starting to see why Castiel found the demon so annoying.

"Of course," she replied and got out of the car to join the angel and the demon…this might have been normal for Sam and Dean, but she couldn't be the only one who saw the irony in this team up, right?

Apparently they were taking Crowley's lead though as he strode up to the door, while Mary and Cas trailed behind, sharing a glance.

Crowley knocked and the door was opened by a young woman a few seconds later.

"Yes?" she asked, looking around as if they might not be the only ones who had shown up on her doorstep.

"Hello, Laura Conners? I'm Agent Sterling with the FBI," Crowley told her, showing her a badge. "These are my partners, Agents Ford and Deveroux."

"We're here to ask some follow-up questions about what happened to your brother," Castiel told her.

Her face pinched and she hugged her arms around herself. "The FBI are involved? Why? I thought it was supposed to have been an animal attack." The bitter note in her voice as she said it, told Mary that she'd already been run through the wringer by the locals. She knew she'd seen something weird and no one wanted to believe her.

"It's just some routine questions; it won't take long," she promised. "May we come in?"

"Um, sure, I guess," she replied and opened the door, stepping aside.

Mary and the others followed her into the kitchen where she started clearing stuff from the table so they could sit down.

"I'm sorry, it's just…"

"No need to apologize," Mary told her with a small smile. "I'm sure this is difficult. We won't take too much of your time, we just have a few questions."

"Okay," she said softly, sitting down. "What do you need to know?"

"Where were you when your brother was attacked?" Crowley asked. "The report we got wasn't very specific."

"Um, I don't remember exactly," she said, pressing a hand to her forehead. "We were just hiking out in the woods, when that…thing…attacked him. I thought it was gonna get me too, but he told me to run and I…" She covered her face with her hands. "Oh god, I can't believe I left him, it just happened so fast and…"

Castiel reached across the table and touched her shoulder gently. "Miss Conners, I know this must be difficult, but we need to know as much as you can possibly remember. This thing has killed a lot of people already, and you're the only one who has survived being near it so far."

She sniffed and rubbed her eyes. Crowley plucked a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her with a flourish. Mary rolled her eyes but Laura Conners seemed to be grateful for she dabbed her eyes with it and blew her nose. "It's just…I don't really know what I saw. I told the police and the rangers when they questioned me, but…I must have been suffering from trauma, just like they said."

"Why would you say that?" Mary asked her.

The young woman shook her head. "Because I know I didn't see what I thought I did."

"What did you think you saw then?" Castiel asked. "Believe us, anything you have to offer will help."

She sniffed again, and sighed, glancing between the three of them sheepishly. "I—I didn't see anything. I could have sworn that whatever attacked us was invisible."


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After a few more questions where Laura Conners was able to give them a general location after remembering she and her brother had passed a cabin out in the woods while on their hike, the three of them left. Mary had almost felt bad for trying to convince the girl she was most likely just suffering from post traumatic stress and that her brother had been most likely killed by a rogue wolf, but at the same time, wasn't it better to keep her as innocent as possible? The girl had already suffered enough, she didn't need to know that there were demons and hellhounds walking the earth.

"So now we have a general location," Mary said. "What's our next plan of action?"

"Find the little runaway and haul his ass back to hell," Crowley said.

"And what about the hellhound?" Mary asked. "We can't see it."

"Well, I can, and so can Cas," Crowley shrugged.

Castiel frowned thoughtfully. "Actually, Sam and Dean found a way to see them too. If you run a pair of glasses through holy fire, the wearer is able to see hellhounds."

"Oh," Mary said, impressed. "Perfect. I don't have holy oil, though."

"I'll see to that," Crowley said. "Meet me in an hour at the head of the hiking trail."

He disappeared and Mary and Cas both breathed a sigh of relief as they headed back to her car. She glanced over at the angel and offered him a small smile.

"You did good in there," she told him.

He glanced over at her, somewhat surprised and looking a bit skeptical. "Really?"

She nodded. "I don't think you're as terrible at this as you seem to think. It just takes a little confidence."

Castiel cocked his head to one side, considering. "I suppose you're right, I just…when I was at full power, I didn't need to rely on all this. I could get around easier, for one, and for another I didn't truly care what anyone thought. Now…well, I've been around humanity for so long—I've been human myself—I am more aware of how difficult it can be to…fit in."

Mary recalled his words when she had first come back about not being sure whether he fit in or not. She may not have been able to answer him then, but after seeing him with her sons, she could tell that he did.

"Honestly, Castiel, you're a lot nicer and more competent than a lot of hunters I've worked with over the years," she told him truthfully. "And I think all of us have trouble fitting in. We're not like normal people, and we never will be. Normal isn't part of the hunting life. Believe me, I've tried getting out of it, I should know." A pang went through her chest as old memories flooded her again. "For what it's worth, I think you fit in just fine."

Castiel gave her a small smile, but there was a sadness there as well. "I appreciate the sentiment. Perhaps some day I will be able to convince myself of that."

Mary had a feeling there was more to this than Cas was letting on. She made a mental note that if—when—they got Sam and Dean back, she would have to mention to them to talk to Cas about this. About making sure he felt that he fit in. She might be able to see from an outsider's point of view that was how her boys felt about the angel, but maybe Castiel needed the confirmation from them himself.

They drove back to the motel where Mary changed and picked out the best weapons for the job and she and Castiel then headed toward the hiking trail where they would meet Crowley.

The demon was waiting for them as promised and as Mary and Castiel got out of the car, grabbing weapons, he came over and handed her a pair of glasses.

"Cured for hellhound vision," he told her.

She put them on, but nothing looked different to her. "Are you sure they work?" she asked skeptically.

"They won't look different unless there's a hellhound in the vicinity," Cas told her. She shrugged. She supposed she would just have to trust the King of Hell. He had hired them, after all, so she was mostly confident that he wouldn't try to get them killed. At least not on purpose.

"Where is this cabin?" Castiel asked. "Do you think that's where the demon is holed up?"

"Considering that it's in the vicinity of the other attacks, I would say yes," Crowley commented.

"Let's go then," Mary said, already striding forward into the woods. She wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. If not to get away from the King of Hell, then to have him make good on his promise to find out any information he could on Sam and Dean. Crowley might be annoying to work with, but even she had to admit he was probably their best bet for finding her boys after they had exhausted every other resource.

The woods were quiet, and she thought that was a little strange, but then decided it was only to be expected with a demon and his hound living nearby.

They made it to the cabin and Crowley halted at the treeline, turning to them. "Wait here and keep a look out. If he bolts, nab him. Take him alive if you can, but if not, I'm not sentimental. He'll die either way, though I would like him to have a nice long stay in my dungeons first."

Castiel rolled his eyes and slid his angel blade out of his sleeve. "We'll make sure he, or the hellhound, doesn't get away."

Crowley nodded and stepped off toward the cabin. Mary and Castiel shared a glance and then moved to opposite sides of the cabin to be able to watch from as many angles as they could.

It wasn't long before a commotion rang out inside the cabin. Mary stepped forward toward the front door, ready if the demon bolted, but it was Crowley who exited, dragging the culprit along with him, by the back of the demon's collar.

Castiel came back to join them, raising an eyebrow. "Is that him?"

Crowley nodded, throwing the demon to his knees at his feet. "Oh yes, this is most definitely the scraggy runaway." He looked down at the protesting demon with a glower. "You, I am going to make an example of. My subjects need a reminder as to why they don't cross me, don't you think?" He glanced back at Cas and Mary. "By the way, his hound isn't there. Must have let it out of his kennel before we got here. I trust you'll clean that up? I've got Hell business to see to." And with that, he disappeared with the demon in tow.

Castiel and Mary shared a look of exasperation and started off on a hunt for a hellhound.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a quiet night, and there was a chill in the air. Castiel might not be affected by it, but he saw Mary zip her jacket up after a few minutes of being out of the car as they trudged into the woods. She was wearing the glasses they had cured with holy fire, and they both had their weapons close to hand, ready for a surprise attack. They'd been unable to find anything earlier and had gone back to town for food before they had returned to the woods after dark, figuring that the hellhound was more likely to be out then.

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Crowley decided to bail on the dangerous part of this hunt," Mary said blandly as she looked around for any sign of the hellhound.

Castiel grunted. "That is how he typically operates. I'm actually surprised he helped with Lucifer as much as he did. But then, having Lucifer loose was just as bad for him as it was us and Crowley did have a score to settle. Still, at least he took out the rogue demon."

A branch snapped further in the woods and Castiel held up a hand to caution Mary to stop. They both glanced around, alert. Something flitted between the shadows of two trees, catching Castiel's eye.

"There," he said, pointing in the direction he'd seen movement.

"Is it the hellhound?"

"I—"

Their answer came as a dark, spectral breast suddenly lunged out of the trees with a snarl. Smoke wafted from its open mouth, and its eyes glowed red.

"Watch out!" Castiel shouted, as the hellhound barreled straight toward them, leaping off the ground, right at Mary's throat.

She dodged quickly, leaping to the side and spinning around as the hellhound landed, hunkering low in a fighting crouch, as it looked between Mary and Castiel as if to decide which one to go to first.

"Hey!" Castiel shouted at it, falling into a crouch himself as he held his blade at the ready.

The hellhound spun around toward him and lunged with a series of angry barks. Castiel skipped to the side, slashing with his blade and scoring a hit to the hellhound's shoulder. It only seemed to make it angrier though, because it dodged swiftly to one side before it jumped up and bore Castiel to the ground.

He fell with a grunt, his blade knocked from his hand and his sword arm trapped under one huge paw as he looked up into the snarling muzzle of the hellhound. Its breath was so hot, it nearly burned his face as it leaned down to growl at him.

"Hey, ugly!"

The hellhound whipped around at Mary's shout, which was soon followed by a gunshot.

The hellhound snarled again and leapt off Castiel to turn its attention to Mary.

Castiel scrambled to his feet quickly as several more gunshots rang out nearby, followed by the yelp of the hellhound. Mary had wounded it.

Castiel picked up his blade, starting forward to help her finish it off, when the hellhound suddenly charged at her with an angry growl.

Mary got off several other shots, but the hellhound was too quick and barreled straight into her.

Mary fell hard with a cry, the glasses jarring off of her head. The hellhound crouched several feet away, growling as it waited for her to make a move.

"Mary!" Castiel cried, lurching forward, his heart in his throat. All he could think about was the hellhound ripping Mary apart with its claws, tearing her throat out.

She scrambled to her feet, leveling the gun in the general direction of the hellhound, but Castiel could sense it was about to leap, its shoulder hunkering further to the ground, and she wouldn't get the shot off accurately enough if she couldn't see it.

"Get down!" he yelled, and leapt forward. Mary jumped to the side as Castiel lunged at the hellhound, striking out at it with his blade. It whipped around too fast for a decent strike and he only managed a glancing blow to the beast's head, before it snapped its head to the side and took the wrist of his sword arm in its teeth.

Castiel shouted in pained surprise as his arm was wrenched to one side and his blade was torn from his grip. Before he could fully register how bad this situation was, the hellhound barked loudly, and leapt at him, bearing him to the ground, sinking its teeth into Castiel's shoulder.

The angel cried out as he felt the hound's teeth puncture the muscle between his neck and shoulder, and he was shaken like a chew toy, his neck snapping to one side.

"Castiel!" he heard Mary shout, and he tried to scramble for his blade, knowing it was somewhere close to hand.

But he didn't get the chance, because the hellhound suddenly pressed a huge paw to his chest to hold him down, claws digging in and then ripping downward, tearing deep furrows across his belly. Castiel screamed at the agony, feeling his flesh ripped apart, and was so blinded by the pain, he wasn't aware of the hound's weight being forced off of him until a few seconds later when he heard the beast yelp.

He forced his eyes open, and saw Mary holding his blade, stabbing it again and again into the hellhound's body until it stopped moving all together. She stopped then too, looking down at it and panting, covered in black blood before she hurried over to Castiel, dropping to her knees.

"Cas, oh my god," she cried, hands hovering over him as if afraid to touch. Castiel tried to push himself up onto an elbow, but pain tore through him and he collapsed with a cry. Mary gently pressed down on his good shoulder and his knee.

"Shh, easy, don't try to move," she said, and started yanking off her jacket, pulling her flannel overshirt off and pressing it against the wounds in his stomach. Castiel arched his back, a pained moan escaping from between clenched teeth.

"How bad?" he asked hoarsely, the wound in his shoulder making it impossible to crane his neck to see, even though he knew from the way he felt that it was very bad.

Mary kept one hand pressed to the wound as she pulled his shirt collar aside to look at the bite. She pressed her lips together. "You'll be fine, we'll get you patched up…"

"No, I won't," he forced out, a groan escaping his throat as his voice trailed off. "Hellhound saliva is…poison to angels." He gasped again as she pressed harder, squeezing his eyes shut.

Mary was loosening his tie and before he could ask her what she was doing, she was threading it behind his back and tying her shirt tightly against his wounds. He cried out again, but she took his good hand and pressed it against his stomach.

"Keep pressure on that. I'm going to get the car."

He didn't have the breath to protest, and Mary hurried off to where they had left the car. Pretty soon, he heard the motor and the headlights blinded him as she pulled up close to him. Briefly, he wished it had been the Impala for he had begun to be as comforted by the old car's presence as the Winchesters were, but Dean's 'baby' was back at the bunker, waiting for him and Sam to return.

Castiel forced those thoughts out of his mind. He couldn't dwell on that right now. It wasn't hard, the pain from his wounds was taking up most of his capacity to think.

"Cas."

He started as he realized Mary was crouching next to him again, a worried frown between her brows. "You need to get in the car. Just help me get you up, I can't lift you by myself."

It was an effort of Herculean proportions, but Castiel somehow managed to push himself to his feet with an arm wrapped around Mary's shoulders, even though the wounds in his stomach burned so badly, he felt like he was on fire. Sweat broke out across his forehead and he couldn't catch a breath until he sank into the passenger seat. Mary carefully closed the door and he gratefully leaned against the cool window, trying to force air into his lungs.

She was suddenly behind the wheel and putting the car in drive, tearing off toward the main road. Castiel felt a wave of dizziness wash over him and clutched at the handle on the door, to keep himself upright.

"Hang in there, Cas," Mary said. "We'll get back to the motel and I'll patch you up. Just keep pressure on that."

He grunted, remembering to press his hand to his wounds again but even the slightest pressure caused agony to rip through him. He knew it was only a matter of time too, before the bites started burning and the poison truly started to set in. He didn't think they would make it back to the motel before that happened.

"Castiel, the poison…" Mary said, glancing over at him. "How bad is it? What can I do?"

He sucked in a deep breath as they drove over a pothole and his whole body jarred painfully. "Nothing," he ground out.

"But there must be something…"

"It won't kill me," Castiel said, turning toward her—well, he was pretty sure it wouldn't, but these wounds…they might very well kill him. "But it will take time to burn out and…it will not be pleasant. And my wounds won't heal until then." He swallowed against the bile rising in his throat, before he realized he was afraid. Afraid of the pain to come, afraid of not being strong enough to survive it. Just like he hadn't been strong enough to defeat Lucifer before the fallen archangel had wreaked more havoc, hadn't been able to stop Sam and Dean from being taken. Had lost Kelly Kline. At least he'd been able to save Mary tonight. That was the first thing he'd done right in a long time.

He was surprised to feel a hand on his arm, squeezing comfortingly. "Don't worry, Cas, you'll get through it."

He was touched by her assurance, but also somewhat ashamed. "I won't…it won't be a pleasant experience. If you don't want to stay, I'll understand." He didn't want to be more of a burden than he already was. He knew Mary hadn't signed up for this, playing nurse to a wounded, broken angel.

Her grip on his arm tightened as she turned to him with a frown. "No, Castiel. I'm not going to just leave you like this. Why would you think that?"

He swallowed hard, not wanting to admit that at some points in their relationship, Sam and Dean would not have thought twice about leaving him if there had been more important things to do. Of course, it wasn't like that anymore, but sometimes those memories still hurt. It wasn't like he'd ever gotten different treatment from his angelic brethren.

"Besides," Mary continued, putting her hand back on the wheel. "You jumped in front of that hellhound to save me. I owe you my life. And I know I owe you my boys' lives multiple times too. The least I can do is keep you company through this, even if I can't do anything to help." She glanced at him again. "But that's not why I'm going to stay either. I'm staying because I care what happens to you, Castiel."

Warmth spread through Castiel's chest that had nothing to do with the growing fever. He glanced over at Mary as she offered him a small smile and he let out a breath, not wanting to admit how relieved he was at the thought of not having to go through this alone. "Thank you," he managed to say. Then slid more heavily against the door and allowed his eyes to close. There wouldn't be many more moments now before he was in complete agony.
It was another few minutes before they got to the motel, and Mary parked right in front of her room before she cut the engine and hurried around to Castiel's side of the car. He tried to open the door, but could barely get his right hand to work. The bite mark on his wrist was red and inflamed, and the hellhound's saliva was burning through him, making every small move painful. He nearly toppled out of the car when Mary opened the door, but she steadied him before he could hit the pavement.

"Easy," she said, threading one arm under his to lever him out. He staggered and grabbed the roof of the car as he got to his feet, trying to keep from falling on top of Mary. But she patiently steadied him while he got his footing and then slowly helped him shuffle toward the door.

It seemed like a million years before they got inside the room and Mary maneuvered Castiel toward the bed. He cried out as he practically collapsed onto it, his wounds jarring. He was too tired to move and Mary had to lift his legs onto the bed for him.

"Sorry," he whispered.

"Hush," she said, touching his good shoulder. "Just stay still while I grab the first aid things."

It wasn't a hard order to follow. Castiel couldn't move if he wanted to. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe through the pain burning through his body, wincing as he knew it was only going to get worse.

"Okay," Mary said, back at his side again. "Can you sit up a bit?"

With her help, he managed to prop himself up against the headboard slightly, and made it a bit easier for Mary to pull his coat and suit jacket off. His shirt she just cut since it was torn up anyway. Castiel couldn't help the gasp as the air hit his overly sensitive skin. Goosebumps broke out over his upper body almost painfully and he shivered.

"Okay, let's see this," Mary spoke softly and gently lifted the makeshift pad from his stomach. He bit his lip, and she hissed in sympathy. He caught the worried look on her face as she was able to fully inspect the wounds in full light now.

"These are deep and they're still bleeding," she said, and he craned his head slightly to see, ignoring the pull on the bite wound in his shoulder. Nausea clutched at his stomach as he saw the deep slashes the hellhound had left in his flesh from his right ribcage to his left hip. There wasn't just blood leaking from them either, but wisps of grace as well and he had precious little of that left to spare. He closed his eyes with a groan, slumped back against the pillow.

"Just patch them up as well as you can, they won't heal until the poison works itself out of my system."

Mary pressed her lips together and took out a box of butterfly bandages somewhat hesitantly. "Are you sure you won't need stitches?"

He shook his head. "No, I…I'd probably just rip them out in the throws of the fever."

She gave him a worried look, but set to work, first washing the wounds, dabbing the blood away and using peroxide to clean them. Castiel dug his fingers into the sheets, pain ripping through him with every movement Mary made no matter how gentle she was being. He thought vaguely that they should have put down towels to avoid getting blood all over the bed coverlet, but it was too late for that, and he didn't think he could move enough to get towels underneath of him now anyway.

As she finished butterflying the wounds in his stomach and started covering them in gauze, he could feel the deep ache of the fever starting inside of him in earnest, culminating from the two bite wounds.

"You're gonna have to hurry up," he warned Mary. "The fever is starting to set in."

She hurriedly fished through the first aid bag. "I need to pressure wrap this so we can protect your wounds a little better. Do you think you can sit up for just a couple minutes?"

Castiel wasn't sure at all, but he allowed her to help heave him up where he practically collapsed against her. It was a bit awkward, but it gave her enough room to wrap the pressure bandage around his torso before lowering him back down as gently as possible.

The sudden shift and the rub of the bandages against the open wounds caused unspeakable pain to rip through him, forcing a cry from his lips. Mary stroked a hand through his hair, surprising him.

"Shh, we're almost done," she promised.

She swiftly cleaned the bite wounds, pausing at the one on his shoulder as she dabbed at it. He couldn't see it, but he knew it would be red and inflamed. It pounded with every heartbeat, getting hotter and hotter. He found he couldn't stay still for the pain anymore, shifting constantly to seek out a more comfortable position, but there wasn't one to be found and it was only going to get worse.

"There," Mary said as she finished wrapping gauze loosely around the bite on his wrist and swiftly cleaned up the first aid supplies.

He just closed his eyes, trying to breathe through the pain. He knew even unconsciousness wasn't going to keep his suffering at bay. He felt briefly ashamed that she had to see him like this, figured she was probably wondering how the hell such a weak and helpless creature had done anything good for her sons. But Mary simply bustled around to make him more comfortable. She first pulled off his shoes, and then gently pulled the coverlet and sheet from under him before draping the light sheet over his shivering body. He opened his eyes incredulously as she pulled a chair over to the bed and sat down.

"Are you sure there's nothing I can do for you, Castiel?" she asked softly, with a helpless tone to her voice that touched him, but he shook his head, trying to contain the whimper that wanted to escape his throat as another wave of agony washed through him.

"No. I just…have to ride it out. The only thing you can do is…make sure I stay on the bed."

Mary gave him a pained expression, before she reached out and started carding her fingers gently through his hair again. Even though his whole body felt on fire, the movement was soothing, and he found his eyes closing again.

"Just try to rest then," she coaxed.

He moaned deep in his throat and shifted slightly as the ache started to get worse. There wouldn't be any rest for him that night. But in a very vulnerable moment he had before he started to drift into the fever's delirium, he was simply glad he didn't have to go through this alone.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mary watched Castiel slip into what seemed to be a restless sleep, tossing more and more as the hour passed. His fever was rising too, and she eventually had to go grab some washcloths from the bathroom and wet them with cool water. She placed one on his brow and used the other to cool his neck and shoulders a bit. He moaned at the ministrations, but turned toward the cool cloth eagerly, so she thought it must be helping at least a bit.

Truthfully, she was hoping this would be as bad as it got. A fever she could deal with. Taking care of an angel with a fever couldn't be so much different than two sick little boys—or a sick husband, for that matter, and Castiel had certainly already been a better patient than John ever had been when he'd been sick.

A sad smile crossed her lips, as well as a dull ache in her chest at the thought of her now grown boys being held god knows where, without any idea when or how rescue would come. She studied the wounded angel again for a long moment, thinking of all the hours he had put into looking for them so dedicatedly. She had seen how Sam and Dean were around him, treating him like another brother, and she had come to really like the angel too, even felt a kinship with him, seeing as he felt a little out of place, just like she did. She vowed then to her boys, wherever they were, that she would get their friend through this. If she could do nothing else for them now, she would get Castiel better and they would resume their search for Sam and Dean and bring them home.

Unfortunately, Castiel's ailment didn't stop at the simple fever. About half an hour after he had fallen into a restless sleep, he startled her by crying out suddenly, and jerking to one side in the bed. She quickly stood from the chair and tried to calm him, hoping he wouldn't hurt himself too badly, and found his whole body trembling. She hadn't truly realized how badly he was burning up until her hand touched his bare shoulder underneath the bite wound. She pulled her hand back on instinct at the heat, gasping in shock. He had to at least be past anything lethal for a human already. Maybe he was seizing, or maybe this was just from the poison, but in any case, she didn't know what was right and wrong to do.

When he calmed down a little, panting heavily, she ran to the bathroom and re-wet the cloths, but they weren't going to fix this. She glanced at the empty ice bucket that had been provided in the room, and glanced back at Castiel.

"I'll be right back," she whispered to him, even though she was pretty sure he wouldn't hear her. She grabbed the bucket and ran to fill it, hoping no one wondered why she was running around the motel in the middle of the night.

When she got back, she was horrified to find Castiel in the throws of another fit, twisting himself up in the sheets, and groaning through clenched teeth. She ran to him, climbing onto the bed in order to hold him down, even though he fought her.

"Castiel, shh, it's okay," she murmured, stroking his cheek and hair, which had seemed to calm him earlier. "Everything will be okay." She hoped anyway. A glance down at the bandages covering Castiel's stomach told her that the wounds were already bleeding through. The way he was twisting and jerking around, she was glad he had insisted against the stitches.

He did calm again eventually, gasping for breath and falling limp as if he had exhausted himself. Mary swallowed hard, having a bad feeling this was only the beginning of a long night.

She climbed off the bed, untangling the sheet from Castiel's legs, and started to pack the ice into towels, tucking them around his body. He moaned, and shivered at the contact, but it seemed like it might be helping, at least for a moment. Mary resumed her seat beside the bed and continued bathing his brow between cooling the cloth off.

Castiel's fits didn't stop though, in fact, they only seemed to be getting more frequent and violent. She was constantly worried that someone would come and investigate his cries, but there was nothing she could do about it.

They were approaching the end of the second hour when Castiel's eyes flew open, darting around in panic as he rolled onto his side, clawing his way to the edge of the bed.

Mary was on her feet instantly, trying to stop him. "Cas, what's wrong?" she asked, trying to get his attention, wondering how lucid he was.

"Ne—need to get—up," Castiel ground out and nearly slid over the side of the bed before Mary grabbed him to keep him from doing that.

"No, stay there," she pleaded. "You'll hurt yourself."

Cas whimpered. "Gonna be sick," he croaked.

Mary's eyes widened, understanding dawning. She dashed across the room for the garbage can and was back just in time for Castiel's stomach to rebel.

"Easy," she soothed as he heaved violently, but brought nothing up but bile—obviously the angel never really ate anything. But the action was likely excruciating with his stomach clawed open like it was. Cas gave a strangled scream as the vomiting stopped and he practically fell off the bed. Mary steadied him though and pushed him back onto the pillows. The angel was shuddering and sobs of pain escaped his throat along with tears streaming down his cheeks. She felt something inside of her break at the sight and hurriedly grabbed the cloth to wipe his face.

"Shh, just relax, Cas," she coaxed. "Breathe."

He moaned, eyes flicking open. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Mary frowned, leaning over to meet his eyes. "Sorry about what?"

His face crumpled in pain again. "Sorry for…for being a burden…"

Mary quickly took hold of his hand, squeezing firmly. "You're not a burden, Castiel. It's not your fault this happened, but I don't mind taking care of you. You're family."

Cas looked incredulous for a while but his face eventually softened into heartfelt gratitude. Mary squeezed his hand again with a small smile before starting to extricate the tangled blankets from around him.

"Let me check your wounds," she said.

They were bad. Blood soaked the bandages around his waist and Mary swallowed hard. She couldn't do anything about this, not if Castiel kept throwing up. It would just aggravate the wounds more.

She pressed her lips together, and readjusted the ice packs around his body, hoping that if she could keep him cool, then maybe she could keep the vomiting from continuing at least.

Of course, that was just wishful thinking. Castiel vomited twice more, or really just went through the motions since nothing came up, only resulting in his wounds tearing further. Blood was soaking through the sheets now and there wasn't a thing Mary could do about it.

Also, when she peeled back the bandage on his wrist to check on the bite wounds, she almost vomited herself as she saw how inflamed it was. Blackened puncture wounds, and the skin almost bright red around the teeth holes.

Cas also seemed to be worsening if that were possible. He didn't toss so much anymore as he just shuddered and twitched, like he didn't have the energy, and the pitiful hoarse cries and whimpers that escaped from his throat tore her heart out. She tried to keep him cool but it was really just pointless. The ice all melted too fast and he was now lying on a wet bed to top if all off. When she felt his pulse, it was fast and thready, his breathing came in sharp gasps…Mary began to fear that despite his assurance that this wouldn't kill him, she was going to lose him anyway.

And then what would she do? Sam and Dean would be devastated when she got them back—and without Cas, how was she going to get them back? Alone? She didn't think she could do that. It really just came down to the fact that she couldn't lose someone else. Not now. Cas was just going to have to pull through.

Her phone rang then, startling her. She glanced at the clock, saw it was three AM and frowned, wondering who could be calling.

However when she grabbed her phone off the table, she found it wasn't ringing after all. As she looked around in confusion, she saw a glow coming from the pocket of Castiel's discarded trench coat. She swiftly fished it out and answered.

"Hello?"

"It's about bloody time, I've been waiting for a confirmation for three hours now! I began to think you were dead!"

Mary winced at Crowley's loud voice.

"The hellhound's dead," she replied tersely.

"See, was that so hard?" he paused then. "By the way, where's Feathers?"

Mary glanced over to the shuddering figure on the bed. "He's hurt."

"Ah, so that's why you didn't check in."

"Crowley," Mary cut in swiftly. "Do you know how to cure hellhound poisoning?"

"Hellhound poisoning isn't really a thing unless you're an angel," Crowley replied.

"Just tell me what you do for it!" she demanded.

"Ah, now I see where Squirrel gets his bad attitude from," Crowley quipped. Mary was about to yell at him again, when he finally got on with it. "I'm guessing Cas got winged by the hound. There may be something, but I'd have to see the injuries."

"Then get over here!" she cried.

"Demanding much? I do have a kingdom to run, you know."

"I will summon you if I have to," Mary snapped.

A longsuffering sigh was heard over the phone. "Fine, I'll be there in a second."

The call ended and there was a knock on the door. Mary went to open it, and the King of Hell was standing there in the doorway, looking less than impressed.

"Just so we're clear, I'm not in the habit of making house calls," he said.

Mary rolled her eyes and stepped away from the door. Crowley strode in and went straight to the bed, glancing down at Castiel.

"My, my, Cas, you always do get yourself into the worst situations," he said and reached out for the sheet.

"Wait," Mary said and Crowley gave her a long-suffering look.

"Do you want me to help him or not?"

"I'm not sure if I trust you," she said cautiously.

Crowley rolled his eyes. "Of course you shouldn't trust me, love, but here, right now, I solemnly swear not to do the choir boy any further harm than has already been done to him. Hell knows, there's not much else I could do to him right now. I know you're new to the game, Mary, but despite my reputation, I am more a supporter of Team Flannel than I am against them now."

Mary pressed her lips together, and crossed her arms over her chest. "Fine. Just get on with it then."

Crowley shrugged, and turned down the blanket, revealing Castiel's bandages torso. Cas shifted uncomfortably in the sudden burst of cold air and Mary stepped toward the bed to sit on the other side, putting a hand over his wrist gently, in case he started to get restless.

"The hound really did a number on him," Crowley said, raising an eyebrow. He reached for the bandage on Cas' shoulder and peeled it off. He gave a small hiss.

Mary swallowed hard, seeing how inflamed the wound looked. This bite was even deeper than the one on Castiel's wrist, and the puncture wounds were puckered and oozing black poison.

Crowley stepped back. "Ah, yes, that's actually worse than I thought."

Mary scowled, standing up again. "What do you mean?"

"Well, the wounds are festering at an alarming rate, probably because your flyboy is only operating on half his grace."

Mary frowned at that, then remembered Cas saying something once about 'not being up to full power'. Apparently, he had gone through just as many hard times as her boys had.

"What does that mean?" she asked.

"It means that Castiel needs a little boost with the healing," Crowley told her. "With the extent of his wounds, his grace is working overtime just trying to keep the blood in his vessel, but it's already weakened by the poison which it can't fight off, and because of that, it's failing at doing either. If we don't help the process along it's very likely he won't make it."

Mary's stomach clenched, glancing at Castiel's prone figure again. "Then what do we do?"

"Well, I came prepared for a poultice, but I think we're beyond that right now. We're going to have to go for a more direct approach."

"What?" Mary demanded, wishing he would get to the point.

"Washing the wounds out with holy water."

Mary frowned, glancing between the demon and the wounded angel. "Would that work?"

Crowley nodded. "It's not going to be pleasant."

"Okay, then," Mary said and went to her bag, pulling out a flask of holy water.

"Ah, no," Crowley said. "You're going to need something more heavy duty than a little sprinkling. Fill the bathtub."

Mary glanced toward the bathroom. "Okay, then."

She filled the tub up so that there was only a few inches of headway and then pulled out a crucifix, performing the blessing on the water. She dropped the cross into the bottom of the tub for good measure, and then straightened up, heading back out to the room where Crowley was peeling off Castiel's bandages, causing the angel to moan in discomfort.

"Careful," Mary snapped as Crowley peeled the gauze off of his stomach wounds.

"We need to get them off. It's not my fault they're stuck with dried blood."

"Okay, you're gonna have to help me carry him," Mary told him.

Crowley scoffed. "Please." He touched Cas' shoulder and the angel disappeared.

Mary's eyes widened and Crowley rolled his. "Come on."

She followed him to the bathroom where Cas was shivering on the cold floor beside the tub. She quickly went over to him and started to heave his upper body off the floor, trying not to aggravate his wounds more than she had to. "Help me get him in the tub," she told Crowley.

The demon stayed firmly in the doorway. "I'm not getting anywhere near a tub of holy water."

Mary glared at him. "You came to help, so help."

Crowley sighed. "Fine. But don't splash."

He cautiously took hold of Cas' feet, and then as Mary counted to three, they heaved him up into the tub. There was some splashing and Crowley leapt back with a yelp, but his cry was completely tuned out by Castiel's scream.

Mary covered her ears at the sound, lights popped, and surged, flickering on and off, and Cas thrashed in the tub before she got her senses back together and bent over to keep him still.

"Shh, Cas, shh, easy," she pleaded, looking down in horror at the red-tinged water. It was sizzling around the wounds, concentrating on the bites. Castiel flailed again, and tried to push himself up, but Mary forced him back down so the water covered all his wounds, getting soaked in the process.

"I'm sorry, Cas, I'm sorry," she whispered, stroking his wet hair from his eyes as the screams turned into gut wrenching sobs of agony. She spun around to Crowley. "Is it working?"

The demon leaned forward cautiously to see and nodded. "Looks like it."

Mary sagged in relief. "Good. How long should I leave him here?"

"Until the wounds clean themselves out."

Mary looked at the bite wounds again and saw the blackness eking out into the water. She swallowed hard, and watched until the water began to clear, holding Castiel down as well as she could. His struggling weakened eventually, his cries only whimpers now. She tried not to think how much he looked and sounded like a half-drowned kitten.

"That's probably good," Crowley stated.

Mary reached in and pulled the plug to drain the water before she stood and began laying a couple towels out on the floor by the tub. Only once the water was gone, did Crowley step forward and help her lift Cas out of the tub. She dried him off gently, dabbing his wounds as he shivered, breath catching in his throat at the gentlest ministration. At least the wounds looked better now, not nearly so inflamed.

"We'll need to get him some dry clothes," she said as an afterthought, glancing down at his soaked trousers.

"Don't worry about it," Crowley told her and reached down to touch Castiel's shoulder again. The angel disappeared and Mary rose with a grunt of exasperation and went back out to the main room. Cas lay on the bed in a pair of sweat pants.

"You're welcome," Crowley told her. He disappeared for a few seconds then returned with an armful of stuff. He crossed to the table, clearing a spot and put down a bowl and several jars. "I'll make the poultice I brought along anyway, just to be on the safe side."

Mary began to work on rebandaging Castiel's wounded stomach as she narrowed her eyes at the demon. "Why are you being so helpful?"

"Please," Crowley scoffed. "I do repay my debts. Besides, if Sam and Dean ever get out of where they are, and knowing them, I'd bet high on that being the case, I'm not going to be the one they come after to lay the blame for getting their favorite lap dog chewed up."

Mary watched him carefully but nodded. "Well, thank you for helping."

Crowley cocked an eyebrow. "Well, that's certainly more than I've ever heard from your sons. You can't tell anyone though. Bad for the reputation." He poured a viscous liquid into the bowl and stirred before handing it to Mary. "This goes directly on the wounds. Pack it deep and bind them up. I won't promise perfect results, it's only a generalized poultice, but it should help things along in theory."

Mary took the bowl and turned to set it on the bedside table. By the time she turned back to grab more bandages, Crowley was gone. She was slightly perturbed at that but not surprised. Oh well, it would be easier to care for Castiel if she didn't have his snarky British accent yammering in her ear all night.

She applied the poultice and rebandaged the wounds like the demon had told her to before tucking Cas in tightly, resuming her seat beside him. For a while Cas seemed to be on the mend, but after another hour or so, he began to get restless again, tossing in the bed, and groaning. He wasn't as hot as he had been, but his fever did spike again and she took up the wet cloth to clear the beads of sweat on his brow and in the hollow of his throat.

At some point during the throws of the fever, he startled her by suddenly yelling, "No! Please! Don't make me do this!"

She carded her fingers through his hair, shushing him. "It's okay, Cas. You're safe."

But he seemed to be delirious. He pulled away from her with a moan. "Stop this, brother. Please do not hurt them," he pleaded.

Mary's heart clenched, wondering what sort of nightmare Castiel could be caught in. She hadn't even known angels could have nightmares, but apparently they could. The fact that he was pleading to a 'brother' not to do something too made her heart ache all the more.

"No! Sam!" Castiel suddenly cried, jerking on the bed, reaching out helplessly. "Dean! Lucifer, stop this! Please don't hurt them, please!"

Sick to her stomach, tears pricking behind her eyes, Mary reached out and grabbed his searching hand, gently pressing it back to the bed. "Castiel, it's okay, Lucifer is gone," she tried to get through to him.

His eyes suddenly flickered and blue slits were staring at her, bright with fever. "I can't save them," he whispered hoarsely. "I can never…never save them." A tear slid down his cheek as his eyes slid closed again in defeat. Mary felt a lump in her own throat as she gently wiped the tear away with her cloth, and continued to squeeze Castiel's hand with her other.

"We will save them this time, Castiel," she assured him firmly. "I promise we will find them and get them back."

He sighed deeply, a hitch in it, before he slumped limply back against the pillows. Mary stroked his brow again, trying to soothe him and hoping it was working. It seemed to be, or maybe Cas was just simply exhausted, because he seemed to fall into a deep slumber after that, a lot less restless now than he had been.

She was slightly worried at first, but then it seemed like his fever broke and relief flooded her. When she checked his wounds an hour later in the early morning, she saw with even more relief that they seemed to be starting to heal, if very slowly.

A few more hours of watching him and she dozed off in the chair, satisfied with the surety that he would make it through this.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Castiel blinked his eyes open, swimming up from the depths of delirium. He shifted slightly and groaned as his body protested. He forced his eyes open to see where he was, being fuzzy on what had happened to put him in this state, but then he saw Mary sitting in a chair beside his bed, blinking awake and glancing at him with concern.

"Cas?" she asked, leaning forward eagerly. "How are you?"

He grimaced, taking stock of himself. His shoulder and wrist throbbed dully, but it was his stomach that was the most painful. A searching hand found lots of padded gauze and bandages there.

"I—I think I'm okay," he said, sounding unsure even to his own ears. "Well, eventually I will be."

Mary seemed to sag in relief. "Good. I was really worried there for a moment."

The genuine concern he could hear in her voice touched him deeply. There was something so familiar there in her tone and expression that reminded him of Sam and Dean. It made his chest ache for a moment, missing his friends, but just knowing that Mary seemed to show him the same affection, viewing him as family herself as he had begun to view her too, it was just so humbling. The fact that she'd stayed with him through this was clearly testament as to how much she cared.

"Thank you," he said softly, unable to say anything else.

Luckily, Mary didn't seem to need the exact words to know what he was trying to get across. She smiled softly and reached out to touch his unwounded wrist, squeezing gently. "You're family, Castiel," she said simply, repeating what she had said before.

He didn't know what he could reply to that, didn't think he had to say anything at all. Instead, he just closed his eyes again, thinking that he might sleep a little longer to help his wounds heal.

Then Mary's phone buzzed, and he heard a sharp intake of breath from her.

"What is it?" he asked tiredly.

"It's from Crowley," she said. "He says he may have found something about Sam and Dean. Sent some cooridinents…"

Castiel tried to push himself up onto his elbows, biting back the grunt of pain. "Where?"

Mary instantly put the phone aside and stood, pressing him back to the pillows. Castiel was forced to comply, though he was not happy about it.

"Hold on, we're not going anywhere until you're healed," she said firmly.

"But…"

"But nothing," she said in a distinct motherly tone, crossing her arms over her chest. "You'll be no good to them half dead. How long do you think it will take you to heal?"

Castiel pressed his lips together, shrugging. "Another twelve hours, conservatively."

"Then we're staying here until then," Mary said firmly. "In the meantime, I'll find out as much as I can about their location, think about how to get them out." She went over to the table and turned on her laptop before glancing back at Castiel. "You're not a burden, Cas," she told him quietly. "And I need you with me on this, so rest." Then she added almost as an afterthought. "You remember when you said you didn't think you fit in?"

Castiel shifted slightly, uncomfortable with the topic as he still wasn't sure if that was totally accurate or not. "Yes."

"Well, I think you do. Right here," she said firmly. "Look what you've gone through for Sam and Dean, they're your family. If you didn't belong with them, do you think you would go to all this trouble?"

Castiel frowned. It was true, he had began his relationship with the Winchesters out of duty, but now…duty never came into it. He was looking for them now because he wanted them back, so…maybe Mary was right.

He managed a small smile. "You're right. But, Mary, I think you fit in here too. And you're my family too."

A slightly surprised, yet pleased smile spread over her lips before her gaze turned determined. "We will get them back, Castiel."

"I know," he replied.

"Now get some rest," she insisted.

"Alright," he sighed, but couldn't really argue. He did need the rest after what he'd gone through, and he knew she was right.

But he rested with the knowledge that it wouldn't be long now before they found Sam and Dean. Just the thought of getting their family back lulled him to sleep.

And knowing for sure where he belonged now made resting all the easier.