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The First Cut

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By the time they were done with the wax, Dean’s throat was raw from screaming at them.

It hadn’t made a difference, just like his struggles. It hadn’t stopped them smearing the hexed liquid to form a sealing crust across Cas’s eyelids, or pouring it in his ears to block them up.

At least, and he was grasping at anything, anything, to make this less awful, Cas had been unconscious for that. And at least they’d gagged him using duct tape and not tried to cover his mouth and to silence him the way they had used to take away his sight and his hearing.

But then they reached for the hood and for that Dean found his voice again.

It made just as much difference as before.


When Cas awoke, it was to panic and darkness and pain.

He reacted instinctively by trying to move, but that hurt more; something heavy holding down his body even though he couldn’t feel anything pressing down on him.

Except cloth, rough and close to his face, a hood of some type and…

When he tried to open his eyes, he couldn’t; he realised he also couldn’t hear, and something was sealed over his mouth and…

He thrashed, scared and desperate, and the pain ramped up; something warm and wet trickled down his cheeks, and it got hard to breathe, his lungs aching for air even if it wasn’t a biological necessity, just his body used to it after all this time.

And then he heard a voice in his head, familiar and fierce and warm.



Tied to a chair across the room, there wasn’t anything Dean could do when Cas woke up.

He’d been waiting on it, dreading it, anticipating that eventual panic when Cas realised his predicament.

“You fuckers!” Their captors just stood, watching Cas rear up, sweat rising on his bare skin as he fought the power of the sigils painted on the floor around the table they’d laid him out on, and probably fighting the wax on his eyes, and the tape gag, probably scared and not knowing what was going on.

His chest hitched, and Dean felt cold fear replace his fury.

Angels couldn’t suffocate...well, they probably could, but it wouldn’t kill them, it’d just…

Be fucking horrific.

Cas, he prayed. Cas, Cas, it’s okay. Just calm down, you’ll be alright.

Not for the first time, he found himself wishing it wasn’t a one way channel, prayer, but he knew when Cas heard him because he stopped struggling.

His body sagged down, no longer taut with pain and fear, and his breathing levelled out.

Okay, he soothed. Okay. Cas, I don’t know who has us, or what they want, but we’ll get out of this. Just...stay calm for me, okay?

It was there, the tiniest nod from under that hood, but Dean could see Cas was trembling, and he couldn’t blame him.

He tore his focus from the angel to the men grouped about them.

“Now are you going to tell me what you want?”

One of them, a skinny rake of a guy, balding, with a hooked nose, looking like something out of a Roald Dahl book, came too close for comfort.

He grabbed a handful of Dean’s hair, and used it to force his head back so Dean had no choice but to stare up at him.

“The Colt. We believe you have it in your possession.”

Dean tried to tug free, but all that did was hurt.

“Had. It got melted down by some demon bitch months back. Sorry to disappoint.”

The man tsked him, but he didn’t seem too surprised by that response. “Dean, Dean. Fair enough, I suppose; I couldn’t expect you to just give it up on the first attempt. Playing the game, I guess.”

He turned to one of the other men, and nodded.

When Dean saw the gleam of a blade in his hand, he jerked forward, futilely. “Hey, wait, wait, don’t you..”

It was an angel blade, and it drew a sharp line of blood and glowing Grace straight up the centre of Cas’s stomach.

Dean heard the sharp cry of pain, even through the tape and the hood, and watched, praying for the wound to close up.

It didn’t. Blood trickled over Cas’s hips, down to pool slowly beneath him.

“There’s a lot of other places we can cut him, Dean. Oh, he won’t die, but he won’t heal either. So, the question is, what matters to you the most? The Colt, or the angel?”

“I don’t fucking have it!”

Hook Nose sighed as if disappointed that Dean wasn’t prepared to be reasonable.

“Well. I have to say, your answer surprises me. Castiel really should choose better companions.”


Sam watched as Rowena’s eyes rolled back in her head, and her body stiffened.

He’d seen her do this before, but it didn’t make it any less disquieting; it felt like watching somebody in a fit and just...watching.

After a few minutes, she sighed, a long slow breath, and then she was back, sagging against the seat of Sam’s car, hands dropping clumsily into her lap.

“Rowena,” he said, gently, and cupped her face. She opened her eyes, and smiled at him, but he could see she was shaken.

“Yes, Samuel, I’m all right. And I found them. They’re not far, as you thought. But we’d better hurry.”

He wanted to ask, but something in her expression told him he might not want to know.

But he had to. Sam started the car up; she could tell him as he drove.


After a while, Cas grew...used to the pain. He felt fuzzy and distant from it, aware it was there, but almost insulated.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he remembered Dean and Sam telling him the symptoms of shock, after he’d fallen, cut off from Heaven and without sufficient Grace to heal himself as he once could.

After he’d been ambushed by some of his brethren, and escaped though not unscathed.

After the brothers had stitched him up, and then refused to let him leave again because of the fear of him going into shock.

He suspected that was happening to him now, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.

Dean was still praying to him, but the channel was unclear, his prayers difficult to make out; at least, Cas was sure, the people who had them weren’t hurting him as well.

And he’d survive this. He could feel his Grace trickling past the fetters, just enough to keep him alive if not enough to heal his wounds.

Even the shock wouldn’t kill him.

He sank deeper as he felt another cut, slicing deep into his thigh, and the blood started to flow.


“You’re gonna kill him,” Dean begged.

He watched the blood flood out of Cas’s inner thigh; knife guy backed away, maybe looking like he had that fear as well, and looked over to Hook nose.

That one shook his head. “The sigils restrain him and his Grace; it leaves him just enough access to stay alive. Even if we slit his throat, he’d live.”

Dean could feel himself starting to shake at the sheer horror of what they were doing, but the thought of that, of them just casually slicing Cas’s neck open…

“I will give you anything I’ve got,” he said. Dammit, his voice was shaking too. “But I can’t give you the colt because I don’t have it any more. We tried to use it on Dagon and she just melted it down right in front of us.”

Hook nose was staring at him, picking him apart like a spool of tangled thread.

“You know, I believe you. I thought at first, you were as cold as I’d heard, willing to let all of this go on so you could keep hold of a gun.” He waved his hand at Cas. “But I guess you genuinely no longer have it.”

Dean nodded frantically. “So you’ll let us go?”

Hook nose sighed. “There’s little point in continuing if we have nothing to get out of it.”

He looked over to one of the other men, and nodded. He came behind Dean, and Dean shifted uneasily, trying to see what he was up to.

“That just leaves the clean up,” Hook nose said. “Clearly, our intel on the location of the colt was wrong, but one thing I do know for certain: if you cross Dean Winchester, don’t leave him alive. Do him, and then score through the outer circle of the sigils. That will shut off his Grace completely; he’ll either smother or his heart will stop from the blood loss.”

Dean wrenched forward, but then a plastic bag was pulled down across his face, and knotted tightly off.

He panted, panicking; even through the plastic he could make out knife guy bending down to the markings on the ground, finding the place to ruin them, ready to make the cut that would do more damage to Cas than all the others combined.

This...this was it, and Dean squeezed his eyes shut, hoping he had time to tell Cas just one last thing.


Sam kicked the door in, and Rowena burst through, uttering a spell that froze everyone in the room who wasn’t their family.

She’d told Sam what to expect, but actually seeing it froze him too, for a moment, blood everywhere, and Dean…

Holy fuck, Dean…. Sam ran to him and tore the bag open. His brother sucked in a lungful of air, eyes watering, tiny pinpricks of blood dotted around his face.

“Get him,” he panted, jerking his head at the guy crouched on the floor near the table Cas was lying on. “Get him the hell away from there.”

Sam set to untying Dean, and Rowena just put her foot to the man’s shoulder and pushed him over.

“The Paradox,” she said, shaking her head. “Not a spell you see used too often these days.” She looked at the men. “Not practitioners of magic, so I’m guessing you bought this from a sister or brother in the art.”

Dean rushed past her, Sam on his heels. “They said if they broke the outer circle, he’d die.”

Rowena came to help them, and her face darkened at the damage inflicted to their angel. “They spoke the truth,” she confirmed. “The spell allows him to access his Grace just enough to survive, but nothing else. If they’d broken the outer line, it would have shut it off completely. All his injuries would have overwhelmed him.”

“Can we get him off of this?”

Rowena circled the table carefully, then shook her head. “It’s a tangle spell, Dean. All interlinked. The part keeping him there is twined around the part keeping him alive, which is twined around the part tying down all but a sliver of his Grace.”

So, no.

Sam looked over at his brother; Dean looked stricken, and Sam figured he did as well. He wanted to touch Cas, wanted to pick him up and run, but he couldn’t.

Dean put his hand on Cas’s shoulder, shut his eyes.

Then he looked at them. “I think he’s unconscious.”

Sam looked between the angel and his brother in confusion. “Were you praying to him?”

Dean nodded. “You better prepare yourself.”

And then he took off the hood.


One thing they were good at, had learned to be, was finding the out to any bad situation.

There was always one, even if it wasn’t easy.

This time around was no exception.

While Rowena worked at breaking down the spell imprisoning Cas (she’d started by using one on Cas to keep him under while they worked), Sam had grabbed their first aid kit from the car, and started stitching up the angel’s wounds.

By the time he was done, Cas’s skin was crisscrossed with railroad tracks of dark thread; even his thigh, though Sam had no illusions of that one holding for long given the damage to the artery.

It’d be touch and go, but to make it a little less one and more the other, he’d set up a bag of saline on a drip and pushed it through rapidly, hoping to give them a few moments more when Rowena finally broke the spell.

It might, she’d said, take Cas’s Grace a few seconds to kick in, and they had to keep him alive for those few seconds or lose him.

While Sam worked, Dean had his own job to do.

He’d peeled away the tape covering Cas’s mouth, and then using the smallest blade on his pen knife, had carefully broken the wax sealing Cas’s eyes shut. Some warm water and a cloth had taken care of the rest, and then he could pray the angel’s eyes open.

Cas was still, mercifully, unconscious, but that would have to change, soon. They’d need to wake him up before they freed him, and Sam knew that was going to be ugly.

And then Dean checked Cas’s ears. He looked helplessly at Sam, and then must have just accepted that some damage was inevitable; once Cas was free, he could heal that like everything else, but for now they needed him to be able to hear.

Dean carved as much of the wax out as he could, on both sides, drawing some blood, until he could pry loose the chunks, taking skin with it, but at least it was clear.

They would just have to hope that’s Cas’s hearing wasn’t impaired because trying to communicate with a wounded angel, probably highly confused due to pain and blood loss, by prayer just wouldn’t do it.

And then it was time to wake him up.

Rowena pressed her hand gently on Cas’s forehead, and whispered to him, and then his eyes opened.

They could all see the moment the pain and panic hit him, and it took all three of them to hold him still, Dean yelling about his stitches.

Cas let out a desperate, hurt sound, and then Dean slowly cupped his cheeks.

“We’re here, Cas,” he said. “We got you, okay? But you need to listen to me.”

He explained quickly, and Sam could see the doubt in Cas’s face. He didn’t think he could do it, heal himself before the combined injuries and blood loss and shock took him out.

“Worst case scenario,” Dean said. “We do CPR until your Grace comes back on line, keep your heart and lungs going.”

Sam glanced at Rowena, and could see his own fears displayed there; if Cas’s Grace didn’t kick in pretty much straight away, no amount of CPR on the planet would help.

But there wasn’t anything else they could do.

Cas nodded at Dean, and Dean nodded at Rowena, and then Sam went to stand at Cas’s head while Dean went to his feet.

Rowena pointed at the markings on the floor, and spoke a word, guttural and charged, and the entire room felt like it was collapsing in on them.

Electricity sparked around the markings, and then Rowena yelled, “Now!”

They lifted, and there was nothing to tug Cas back down, and the angel screamed.

Sam and Dean had no time to be gentle.

They wrenched Cas up and then hauled him clear of the sigils and put him down on the floor.

He was so still, and Sam felt panic cloying at him when he realised the angel wasn’t breathing, and blood was leaking again through some of his stitches, torn in their haste to move him.

Dean was muttering under his breath, and he reached for Cas’s wrist, feeling for a pulse, and Sam could see, just knew, even before Dean’s face crumpled, that…

Cas’s body arched, but instead of the painful flash of an angel’s death throes, he was surrounded by a glowing blue light; it spread over him, and each wound faded into nothing, leaving behind loose thread and that was all.

He collapsed back, panting and dazed, and then looked around him.

“Dean. Sam. Rowena.”

Dean stripped off his coat and hastily covered the angel. “Yeah, yeah, we’re here.” He pulled Cas up and into his arms. “Damn it, you scared me.”

Cas patted clumsily at him, and then reached out for Sam. Sam took his head, squeezed it, and then grinned when Cas titled his head enough to look to the family witch as well.

Rowena smiled and ran her fingers gently through his hair. “Well, now that’s done…. Let’s take our angel home, shall we?”

Sam helped get Cas onto his feet, and Rowena averted her eyes to spare his embarrassment. The brothers guided the angel past her, and Sam paused when he realised she wasn’t immediately following.


She didn’t look back; her focus stayed on the men trapped by her magic, rendered helpless just as they’d done to Cas.

“Be along in a wee moment, Samuel,” she said.

Sam helped Dean get Cas to the car, settled him in the back with blankets, felt his forehead and was grateful there was no clamminess.

He was going to be okay.

Rowena joined them a minute later, and something on her face told Sam not to ask, but also that those guys who’d taken Dean and Cas, hurt them?

They’d never be doing it again.