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Echoes Bring Me Back

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Dean hated witches. Most monsters, you knew what you were in for. You knew what they did and what could happen if you weren’t careful. Witches, though - they could do anything. When he was a teenager, hunting with Dad, he’d had a persistent nightmare about being turned into a frog by a witch. It had never happened, and he’d been smart enough not to tell their Dad about the nightmare, but he still wasn’t fond of them.

All of which was to say that he was less than impressed with the wannabe witch scrambling to get her spellbook out as they approached her lair. He could feel the Mark on his arm urging him to kill her, rip into her, make her blood soak into the ground, but he could also tell that this witch was new and inexperienced, which meant that there was a chance to save her, and Sam wouldn’t let him live it down if he didn’t try.

“Okay, lady,” he said. “Let’s just talk this out.” He tried to sound as calm and reassuring as possible - which, if he was honest, was “not very”.

Beside him, Sam said “We just want to have a conversation with you.”

The witch fumbled with her book and kept one hand pointed at them in a way which Dean thought was supposed to look menacing. “No!” she said. “I don’t want to talk!”

She sound panicked, and Dean thought that this was probably her first run-in with hunters. Dean couldn’t bring himself to feel bad for her though - what did she expect? So far nobody had died, but two people were injured and it was only a matter of time.

He took a step forward, trying to be slow and subtle, but the witch panicked again and started chanting at them in badly-pronounced Latin.

Crap. He brought his gun up and pointed it at the witch, but she was already finishing the spell. A blast of something magical washed over him and Sam. It didn’t hurt, and he was definitely still human-shaped, but whatever she had done couldn’t be good. He was just about ready to pump her full of lead, Sam’s puppy-dog eyes be damned, when she bolted.

He wanted to go after her immediately, but he wasn’t foolish enough to chase after her without knowing what she’d done to him. Aren’t you, though? Something in the back of his mind asked, the Mark burning pointedly on his arm. He pointedly ignored it.

He growled in frustration. “I wonder what she did to us,” he said, turning to Sam. “I feel fine. You?”

Sam stared at him, confusion in his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but what came out certainly wasn’t English. In fact, Dean couldn’t recognize it at all.

He frowned, trying to remember some Greek or Latin or Hebrew or anything from one of the other languages he was familiar with, but nothing surfaced. “Crap,” he said. “Some kind of communication spell then.” He glanced over to where the witch had been standing. She’d left in such a hurry that her book was still there. “Amateurs,” he muttered, striding over and grabbing the book. It was still open to the spell she had been reading, but unfortunately for him, it was in Latin. Which he currently couldn’t read. He hit the book with the side of his hand in frustration and turned to Sam.

“We’d better call Cas,” he said. “See if he can help us translate.”

Sam looked confused, which was fair because so was Dean, but he nodded anyway. “Cas,” he repeated, so Dean figured he’d gotten the gist of it.

Dean pulled out his phone and dialed. He hoped that Cas would be able to understand him - after all, Sam clearly didn’t. What if he thought he was speaking English, but it was actually nonsense? Only one way to find out, he supposed.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas said on the other end of the line.

“Heya, Cas,” Dean said. “Look, uh, we were trying to talk down this newbie witch and she got a curse off at us. I’m not sure what it did exactly, but I can’t seem to remember languages I should know, like Latin, and Sam isn’t speaking a language I can recognize. Think you can come play translator while we work this out?”

“Yes, I can come,” Cas said. “Where are you?”

He gave Cas the address of their motel and Cas said he’d be there in a few hours. Dean hung up and turned to Sam.

“Okay, Sam,” he said. “Cas is coming to meet us at the motel, so we’d better head back.”

Sam raised his eyebrows at him, glaring a little. Dean sighed and gestured to the door, which prompted a nod from Sam. Before heading out, he grabbed the book the witch was using and marked the page it had been open to. Cas could translate it for them when he arrived.

Sam growled in frustration at the words on the piece of paper in front of him. He and Dean had made it back to the motel with no problems, but the curse was still in effect and he was not happy. He didn’t know exactly what the curse had done, of course, but he had some idea. He wasn’t looking forward to explaining this to Dean, but for now he tried to push those thoughts out of his mind and focus on the task in front him.

He had hoped that maybe it would be easier to communicate with words on paper than spoken aloud, but to no avail. He couldn’t understand Dean’s writing, and Dean couldn’t understand his. Instead, he decided to try a different approach.

He pulled the paper closer and started drawing - a clock, a little stick figure with wings, and a road. He pushed the drawing back over to Dean, raising his eyebrows to show it was a question. When will Cas come?

Dean glanced at the paper and seemed to understand. He furrowed his brow in concentration for a few moments before passing the paper back, having drawn two small clocks with curved arrows around them. Two hours.

Sam nodded and smiled his thanks. Trying to communicate like this to strategize about the cases seemed like a bad idea, so instead he stretched out on the bed and tried to get comfortable as Dean watched something incomprehensible on the TV. It was probably a sitcom, and Sam amused himself by trying to figure out the plot. Ordinarily, he’d read one of the lore books he’d brought, but of course that was off the table right now.

Eventually, there was knock at the door. Dean turned off the TV and opened it to let Cas in. They spoke - Cas concerned and Dean irritated but relieved - and after a moment Cas turned to Sam.

“Sam?” he said.

“I am glad you are here, Cas,” Sam said. “Could you read the spell for us?” he grabbed the book from the table and opened it to the right page before handing it to Cas.

Cas nodded, saying something to Dean which Sam hoped was a translation of his words. Then he turned back to Sam.

“Sam…” he said, glancing down at the page. “The spell is a curse to limit someone only to their most fluent language.” He paused, awkwardly. “I am sorry,” he said, and Sam shrugged.

“It is what it is,” he said, the idiom translating poorly to Enochian, and he spared a moment to wonder why he could remember English idioms, but not the actual language.

There was sympathy in Castiel’s eyes, and Sam knew he understood, as much as anyone else could. Hopefully he could explain it to Dean so Sam wouldn’t have to. He watched as Cas turned to Dean, presumably to do just that, and tried not to think of angry archangels.

Dean watched as Sam and Cas spoke. There was something in Cas’ voice he couldn’t quite identify, and it sent a frisson of anxiety through him. It made the Mark throb painfully and he had to fight off the urge to punch something. He didn’t like not knowing what was going on.

Soon enough, however, Cas turned back to him. “I read the spell,” he said. “It is designed to trap someone in their most fluent tongue.”

Dean groaned. “So the witch messed it up somehow?” he asked. “’Cause I practically raised the kid, and Sam’s first language is English, same as mine.”

Cas looked uncomfortable. Well, more uncomfortable than he usually looked, at any rate.

“No, Dean,” he said. “The spell traps someone in their most fluent tongue, not their first one. Sam learned English first, but his most fluent language is Enochian.”

“Enochian?” Dean echoed. Almost nothing was written in Enochian. The only people who really spoke Enochian were… “If those feathery assholes weren’t still in the Cage, I’d rip their wings off and barbecue them,” he swore. He couldn’t even blame the Mark for that urge - that was all him, furious at the reminder of the untold years of torture they’d put his brother through.

Sam cringed a little at the tone of his voice, though, so he made an effort to calm himself down.

“Thanks, Cas,” he managed. Deep breaths. “Can you tell if we can undo it without the caster’s cooperation?”

Cas looked back down at the book for a few moments, frowning slightly in concentration. “I believe the spell will expire on its own in twenty four hours,” he said. He then turned to Sam and said (presumably) the same thing, but in Enochian.

Sam replied, and Cas nodded, turning back to Dean. “Sam says that this makes sense, as the witch did not appear to have prepared anything beforehand, and the spell would not be powerful enough to last indefinitely.”

“Good point,” Dean said. “So what, do we just wait this out, or do you wanna go after her?” He wanted to go after her, to do something other than just wait around here, but he needed Sam’s input too. If Dean was honest, he didn’t completely trust his own judgment right now.

Cas repeated the question to Sam, who responded. “Sam says that the witch may use this time to escape,” Cas said. “He believes we should go after her.”

Dean breathed a sigh of relief. “Sounds good,” he smiled. “Okay. We know where she works and what her name is, but she’ll probably stay away from there for now, so we should figure out where she lives.” He glanced at Sam. “I’ll do the research this time, then we can head out.” Sam was usually the one who did this sort of research and hacking, but obviously that wasn’t possible at the moment.

He sighed in frustration and went over to the laptop. The sooner this hunt was over with, the better.

Sam sat on the bed and watched Dean glare at the laptop from across the room. Dean was perfectly capable of doing this sort of research, but that didn’t mean he enjoyed it. Sam would have found it funny, if not for the reason Dean was the one using the laptop.

“Are you okay?” Cas asked, moving to sit next to him on the bed.

“Yes, Cas,” Sam tried to smile. “I am okay.”

He was lying and they both knew it, so he wasn’t too surprised when Cas kept pushing.

“Sam,” he said, before pausing uncomfortably.

Sam sighed and cut him off. “Really, Cas, I am fine.” He huffed out a breath. “I mean, I am not happy with the situation, or with the reminder of… them, but I will be fine.”

Cas studied his face carefully before giving in and nodding. “Okay, Sam,” he said.

“I am just glad that you are here,” Sam told him. “It is not as though I had any books in Enochian. It has been boring.” He cursed the fact that Enochian was such a weirdly formal language. It was easier to tell himself he hated the formality than to think about the actual reason.

Cas nodded. “I understand,” he said. “I do not have any books in Enochian with me, but I would be happy to keep talking with you.”

Sam tried to smile. “I would appreciate that,” he said.

Cas launched into a lengthy lecture about bees and Sam felt himself relax marginally. The reminder of his time in the Cage was hard, and he had to fight to keep from pressing at the palm of his hand, but Cas’ rambling helped, a little. It was a welcome distraction from his own thoughts, at any rate, so he forcibly pushed reminders of Lucifer to the back of his head and tried to focus on the mating rituals of bees.

The witch was not at her apartment when they arrived. It was a simple matter for them to break in and wait for her, and Dean relaxed a little at the familiarity of it. He and Sam waited patiently out of sight, no translations necessary. It was about half an hour before anything happened, but eventually they heard the sound of footsteps approaching the apartment door.

The witch entered the apartment, seemingly relaxed. Her relaxation dissolved as Dean stepped out of the shadows to approach her.

“Hello,” he said, approximating a smile. “We need to talk.”

“Uh, I don’t-” she said, turning to leave. She froze as she spotted Cas at the doorway, and spun back around to face Dean and Sam.

“What do you want?” she asked. “Please don’t kill me.”

“We don’t want to kill you,” Dean said, ignoring the pulsing on his arm begging to disagree. “But if you keep hurting people like you have been, we’re going to have to. You can’t keep doing this.”

She stayed frozen and hyperventilating for a few moments as they stared her down. Finally, she slumped and looked at them forlornly.

“I didn’t mean to,” she said. “I just wanted to scare them a little, get them to back off. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”

“Well, they did get hurt,” Dean said. “But nobody died, and I’d like to keep it that way. But you’ve got to destroy your supplies and swear not to do this again.”

She nodded. “Anything,” she said, “Just don’t kill me. Please.”

She led them through her apartment to a small room in the back. “This is everything I have,” she said. “Not including that book I dropped when I ran from you last time.”

“Yeah, about that,” Dean said. “How did you know that spell would even work? Why did you assume Sam wasn’t most fluent in English?”

The witch just blinked at him. “What?”

“The spell you did,” Dean said, exasperated. “Before you ran off.”

She rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly. “Oh. Um, I thought I got that wrong, actually. I couldn’t quite read the Latin and thought it would prevent you from communicating at all. I don’t know how to undo it, whatever it did.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “The spell will wear off on its own,” he said. “But you really need to stop doing witchcraft,” he told her. “You suck at it.”

Cas, who had been translating the conversation quietly to Sam in the background, now spoke. “Sam says that you need to be more careful or people will get hurt, and that you don’t seem like the kind of person who genuinely wants to hurt people. Stick to things like finding lost pets and warming up food, not flashy stuff that can go wrong. And don’t sell anything to demons.”

Dean nodded. “Good advice,” he informed the witch. “I suggest you follow it. I’m not quite as generous as my brother.”

The witch nodded, looking scared but also genuinely remorseful, and Dean decided they’d adequately convinced her to abandon her work. He and Sam scoured the room, confiscating anything that could be used for harmful magic, even accidentally. Especially accidentally, considering her track record so far. Finally, they got it all and Dean nodded to the witch shortly before leaving.

Freakin’ witches.

The ride back was quiet. Well, Dean was playing classic rock - Sam didn’t need to understand the words to recognize it - but nobody spoke. There was no point, since the spell hadn’t worn off and Cas had to take his own car since his wings were still out of commission. Sam had almost asked to go with Cas, just so he’d have someone to talk to, but decided against it. He knew Dean would be feeling protective and between that and the Mark, he didn’t want to worry him. Besides which, Cas was relatively new to driving and distracting him with conversation was probably a bad idea.

So instead he sat in the Impala with Dean, listening to rock he couldn’t understand and staring out the window. He was glad they’d dealt with the witch nonviolently - she didn’t seem evil, really, just misguided and incompetent. He’d been a little worried about Dean, but he had to believe in his brother’s ability to control himself. For now, they were okay. They just had to get back to the bunker, wait it out, and the curse would wear off. Probably.

Sam sighed and gave in to the urge to rub at his hand. He saw Dean glance at him surreptitiously and resigned himself to the conversation they were going to have about this when it wore off. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk about it, per se, but he didn’t know what to say that they didn’t already know, and talking about it meant he had to think about it, and he was doing enough of that as it was. It was hard not to, given the circumstances. Still, he tried his best to distract himself by identifying the songs playing on the radio and trying to make the Enochian words fit the tune. He was only moderately successful at it, but it did distract him until they got back to the Bunker.

It was evening now, and they’d been hit by the curse that morning, so Sam knew he was going to be stuck this way until morning. He sighed and headed to the library. At least they had books in Enochian here he could entertain himself with. Maybe see if he could find anything that could help them remove the Mark.

Dean called after him, but Sam ignored him. Cas wasn’t back yet to translate, and if Dean wanted to talk to him that badly he could chase him down and pantomime. He smirked to himself a little at the thought.

He had just settled down in the library when he heard Cas enter. He and Dean exchanged words Sam couldn’t understand - don’t think about it - and then there were footsteps. Sam looked up as Cas entered and smiled in greeting.

“Hello, Cas,” he said.

Cas inclined his head. “Hello, Sam,” he said. “Your brother was worried about your wellbeing. He noticed you seemed distressed on the trip back.”

Sam sighed. “I am…” he thought about saying “fine” but decided otherwise at Cas’ expression. “I am managing it,” he said instead. “I just want to distract myself until this wears off. It is worse when I am reminded of it.”

Cas nodded in understanding. “You do not wish to be reminded of the Enochian,” he said. “Should I tell Dean to avoid speaking around you until this wears off?”

Sam shook his head. “I do not wish to bother him,” he said. “It is my problem, not his. I just want to wait it out.”

“It is okay to ask for help, Sam,” Cas said, looking so painfully earnest it almost hurt. “That is what we are here for.”

“I know,” Sam said. “Really. But it is well. It is only until the morning. I will survive.”

“If you are certain,” Cas said. “I will let you return to your reading.” He turned to go.

“Castiel,” Sam said, watching as Cas turned back slightly. “Thank you. For everything.”

“You would do the same for me,” Cas said. “You are welcome.”

They smiled at each other for a moment before Cas turned and left. Sam went back to his book and tried to focus on the intricate details of Enochian ward design. It was one of the few books in Enochian that wasn’t just about angels.

Sam woke up in his bed, and for one panic-filled moment couldn’t remember how he got there. He blinked and took a few deep breaths, relaxing as he remembered stumbling exhaustedly to his room after almost falling asleep in the library. He’d learned his lesson on that the hard way after one too many late nights left him with neck cramps.

He groaned and glanced at the clock, which informed him that it was 8:00 AM. The curse would still be in effect for a couple of hours, then. He sighed. He’d made it this far - he could handle an hour or two.

Castiel was in the kitchen when he entered, but there was no sign of Dean.

“Good morning Sam,” he said. “Your brother is in the library.”

“Thank you, Cas,” he said, pouring himself some coffee. “You do not have to stay here, you know. If you have other things to do, I understand.”

“I do not have ‘other things to do’ at this time,” Cas informed him. The use of finger quotes with Enochian made Sam smile a little. “I am happy to stay here with you and your brother until I have a need to be elsewhere.”

“Thank you,” Sam said. Cas smiled at him. The moment stretched out for a few beats until he cleared his throat awkwardly. “I am going to take this to the library,” he said, raising his coffee mug a little. “Take another look at that book now that I am not falling asleep.”

“Good luck,” Cas told him, turning back to his laptop.

Dean gave him a little wave and a nod when he entered the library, and Sam nodded back. Neither of them spoke - there was no point, and it wasn’t like “Good morning” was very difficult to communicate nonverbally.

The book didn’t really make any more sense than it had last night, but Sam was pretty sure that was the writer’s fault, not his. He’d finished with the book on wards the night before and had moved on to one of the other Enochian books. It was very abstract and he was starting to suspect that it was actually some sort of bizarre attempt at poetry rather than factual information about the metaphysical properties of various incantation methods, but it was something to do.

Thankfully, he only had to wrestle with it for an hour before he felt the spell break. It was as though a pressure was suddenly gone from his chest and he could breathe again. He glanced up to see if Dean had noticed, but he was still reading quietly.

“The spell’s gone,” he said, relishing in the ability to say that in English. He mentally translated it into Latin, too, just because he could.

“Awesome,” Dean said, putting away his book. “You okay, Sam?”

Sam bit back a laugh. Leave it to Dean to get straight to the point. “Yeah, Dean, I’m fine. Better, now that the spell is gone.” He paused for a moment. “I’m sorry about all this,” he said.

“Sorry?” Dean asked. “Why?”

“You know,” Sam said, though he didn’t know, really. He was just sorry about everything, the whole trainwreck of their lives, and this was just one more reminder of it. He sighed. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Look,” Dean said, “You have nothing to apologize for. Nothing that witch did was your fault.”

“I know,” Sam said. “I’m probably just tired, Dean. The whole curse thing was… unpleasant.”

Dean nodded. “Yeah. I didn’t even know you could speak Enochian, man. And then I thought about where you’d have learned it, and…” He cleared his throat. “I know the curse sucked for you. But hey, it’s over now, right?”

“Right,” Sam said, nodding.

They were quiet for a few moments before Dean spoke again.

“Hey, do you think you could teach me to swear in Enochian? There’s some great potential to mess with Cas here.”

“What? No!” Sam said, grinning despite himself. “Besides, I could tell you anything is a swear word. I could have you say anything I want and not tell you. I could trick you into telling him you like kale.”

“You wouldn’t,” Dean said, but he didn’t sound certain.

Sam just looked at him and kept smiling. It was good to be back.