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Lose Yourself in Momentary Grace

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The victim’s not like anything Sam has ever seen. She's attractive, sure, with deep red hair and fair skin that looks more iridescent than pale, even in death. Her eyes are a striking shade of blue, wide open. She's dressed unremarkably, jeans and a tee shirt that's just a bit too big for her, but Sam's eyes pick up all of those details in a few quick seconds.

What really draw his attention are the enormous wings drawn in ash on the floor to either side of her body. They're intricately detailed, looking like they’ve been scorched into the wood, and the most unsettling part is the way that they're unmarred by the blood that's seeped over them from the deep wound in her chest.

No, he's never seen anything like this.

Bobby stands up from where he's been crouching next to her, grumbling about his joints and the tendency of dead bodies to always wind up on the ground, and he steps over to where Sam's standing by the doorway.

"Well," he says, "cause of death looks pretty straightforward. Knife looks like it nicked her heart, and she bled out. Once I get her back to the morgue I should be able to get you some specifics on the weapon."

"What about the," Sam gestures toward the six foot wings burned into the floor, "the scorch marks?"

"I don't know, Detective Winchester, I can't do all of your work for you." He scratches his head, though, squints at the scene in front of him. "You might could call Dean, see if he's seen it before."

"I think if he had, he'd have told me, and I don't think I'd classify this as arson," Sam says, "but I'll think about it. He's got a date with Lisa tonight, anyway, and no case is worth the bitching he'll do if I call him away from that."

Bobby chuckles and opens his mouth to say something, but he's interrupted by a voice in the hallway -- a man arguing loudly with Officer Harvelle.

"Sir, you can't go in there," she's saying, polite but firm.

"I live there," the man says, an edge of desperation creeping into his voice. "I know something's happened; you've got to let me see."

"I understand, but I can't let you--"

Sam hears scuffling sounds, like he's pushing past her, and then the man's standing in the doorway of the apartment. He's got a broken expression that doesn't change when he looks down at the woman on the floor, like he's not surprised to see her there, just confirming what he already knew.

Jo appears behind him looking a bit disheveled, twisting his arm behind his back to restrain him. It doesn't seem to matter, though; all of the fight drains out of him, and Sam has to reach out and catch him under his arms to keep him from sliding to the floor.

"Anna," the man murmurs, "Why take Anna? Why not me?"

"Hey," Sam says quietly, nodding to Jo before easing the man back to lean against the wall. "Don't think like that. Come on, you shouldn't see this."

"It should have been me," the man says, still staring blankly at the body. "Anna's the strong one. It should have been me."

"What's your name?" Sam asks, shifting his body into the man's line of sight. When his attention finally focuses on Sam, he looks surprised, like he's only just realized Sam is there. "Your name?" Sam prompts again gently.

"Cas," the man says, throat clicking on a dry swallow. "Castiel, my name's Castiel Milton."

His skin is as pale as the woman's -- Anna's -- and his eyes are the same intense blue, although they're bright with unshed tears where hers are glassy, unseeing.

"Castiel, I'm Sam," he says, sliding a hand up to rest reassuringly on his shoulder. "Can you go downstairs with Jo? She'll sit with you for a little bit, and then I'll be down to talk to you."

Castiel nods slowly, thankfully unaware of the flash of annoyance on Jo's face. She's clearly not happy to be relegated to the role of babysitter, but Sam gives her a pleading look, and her face softens as she nods. Castiel allows himself to be led away, and Sam sighs. He turns back to Bobby, who looks curious but schools his face back into a frown when he sees Sam looking.

"Let's get this thing processed, then," he says. "Jody’s on her way, and I'd like to finish up before Harvelle scares that boy off."

Sam sighs, pushing his hair back where it's fallen into his face -- he needs a cut, and badly, but he can never seem to find the time -- and he gets to work.

---

It's nearly an hour before he makes it downstairs, turning the scene over to Mills and her team to finish up. Bobby stays behind, although he pretends it’s got nothing to do with Jody. Sam smiles a little to himself as he makes his way outside. He's relieved to see Cas sitting on the front steps, clutching a paper cup from the coffee shop across the street while Jo makes a show of reading the paper a few feet away. Sam folds himself onto the step next to Castiel and just sits quietly for a minute.

"Are you going to arrest me?" Castiel asks, and he sounds weary. Resigned.

"No," Sam says. Then, "Not right now." Castiel turns his head to stare at Sam curiously, and after a minute of that Sam has to look away. "I'd like to ask you a couple of questions, though, if you don't mind."

"Whatever you need," Cas says, shrugging. The gesture looks stilted and not quite right on him.

"Can you tell me where you were today?"

"I was at work," Cas tells him quietly. "Anna works at the library, and it closes at five, so she usually gets home first. I didn't leave the shop until almost seven."

"The shop?"

"I do the bookkeeping for a local auto mechanic," he says. "Rufus Turner. He was still there when I left."

Sam nods. He knows Rufus, knows he's a good friend of Bobby's -- to the extent that two surly old men can be friends, at least -- and he'll check that alibi tomorrow.

"So Anna," Sam says, and he winces a little when he sees Castiel flinch. "Your girlfriend?"

Surprisingly, Castiel lets out a watery chuckle at that.

"Hardly," he says, shaking his head. "My sister. We were..." he pauses, staring at the concrete sidewalk. "We shared the apartment," he says finally.

"Can you think of anyone who would want to hurt her?" Sam asks, and Cas looks up at Sam, his expression unfathomable, before shaking his head.

"Anna was lovely. She was good to people. She didn't do anything to deserve this."

It doesn't escape Sam's notice that Castiel hadn't actually answered his question, but he decides to let it go, at least for now. They sit there in silence for a few minutes, and it could almost be companionable if it weren't for the corpse getting cold two stories up, or the way Jo keeps shooting curious looks their way. He finally waves her off, and she frowns a little before walking halfway down the block and climbing into her car.

"Do you have anywhere you can go?" Sam asks. "Anyone you could stay with? The apartment is still... it's restricted until the techs finish up, and I don't think you should be up there anyway."

"It was just Anna," Castiel says, shaking his head again. "The only other person I really talk to is Rufus, and I doubt he'd appreciate the imposition. I should be able to get a room for the night, though." He pats absently at his coat pocket, maybe feeling for his wallet.

Sam is a professional, and he's had the unfortunate responsibility of dealing with quite a few grieving survivors, so there's no explanation for the words that come out of his mouth next.

"You could stay with me," Sam says, and he's sure he looks just as surprised as Castiel does, but it's out there now. So when Castiel shakes his head, opens his mouth to protest, Sam pushes on. "You don't have to, by any means, but it wouldn't be any trouble. My sofa is comfortable enough that my brother crashes there at least once a week."

Castiel looks uncertain, but something in Sam's face must convince him because he gets a determined sort of look to him and nods once. Feeling weirdly pleased, Sam stands and reaches out a hand to help Castiel up.

---

They stop for Chinese takeout on the way to Sam's apartment; Castiel declines to order anything, so Sam orders twice what he normally would. When Castiel raises an eyebrow he knows he's not fooling him, but it doesn't really matter if he can get him to eat something.

He looks strangely small, and not just in the way that everyone seems to look a bit small next to Sam's oversized frame. Sam wants to take care of him, which is a thought that comes out of nowhere and sticks stubbornly with him.

They eat their food at the coffee table, an episode of Deadliest Catch droning quietly in the background because Dean had filled his DVR with it, and because it seemed like an inoffensive way to take the edge off the silence.

"So," he says, relieved to see Castiel deftly picking his way through a carton of fried rice with a pair of chopsticks. Sam's never been able to master that, digging through his food with a fork instead, and he thinks it's because they weren't designed for hands as big as his. Once he thinks that, though, he can't help but notice how delicate Castiel's hands look, and he watches them for a moment until they still.

He glances up and meets Castiel's curious gaze, and it's only then that he remembers he had spoken.

"Sorry, Castiel," he says, blushing a little. "Zoned out for a second."

"Cas." He pauses. "You can call me 'Cas,' if you like. Anna always has."

"Cas," Sam says agreeably. "How long have you worked for Rufus?"

"About two years, I suppose. Anna and I have moved around a bit since leaving home, and we had a bit of car trouble that led us to his garage. He was very fair," he says, and then ducks his head to stare at a spot on the carpet, "but we didn't have the money to pay the bill. Rufus told me if I could sort out his paperwork, he'd consider it even. It was very generous of him."

"Oh, no," Sam groans. "I'm familiar with Rufus Turner's nonexistent filing system, and I'm pretty sure you got the short end of that stick." That makes Cas smile, just a ghost of one, but it's nice to see just the same.

"After working there for two weeks, I started receiving a paycheck, and when I asked him about it he pretended not to know what I was talking about. Anna found a job shortly after, so we decided to stay."

"So you don't talk to your family at all?" Sam asks, knowing it might be an overly personal question but feeling a need to know anyway.

"No," Cas says, and he shifts uncomfortably. "They don't know where we are, and I'd prefer to keep it that way. Although now I'm not sure we were as well hidden as we'd thought."

"Wait, are you saying your family did this?"

Cas frowns, shaking his head, and sets his food down.

"If it's all right with you, I'm very tired. I think I'd like to try to sleep for a while."

Sam furrows his brow, unwilling to let it drop, but a glance at the clock tells him that it's past eleven, and he resolves to bring it back up in the morning.

He grabs a pile of blankets and a pillow from the hall closet and deposits them on the sofa, and he feels triumphant when he finds an unopened toothbrush in the cabinet in the bathroom. Cas takes it all with a subdued thanks, watching Sam the whole time with an inscrutable look.

Sam goes to bed feeling unsettled, and he tosses and turns until past midnight before he finally falls asleep.

---

Sam wakes up with a start in the early hours of the morning. He rolls over to look at the clock -- 3:30 AM glowing red at him -- and when he goes to turn onto his other side he freezes.

He's not alone in the bed.

Castiel is resting next to him, head on the other pillow as if he belongs there. With the moonlight filtering in through the window behind him, Sam can see that he's awake, too, watching Sam with wide, beseeching eyes.

"Cas," he rasps, trying to shake off the last remnants of sleep, "what are you doing?"

"I couldn't sleep," Cas whispers. "It was too quiet, and I'm not accustomed to this place."

"Yeah, I get that," Sam says, and he doesn't know why he's still lying there and not getting up, demanding that Castiel leave. "But you can't just crawl into bed with strangers." He gets a hand under himself, shifting to sit up, and he's surprised when Cas' hand latches onto his wrist tightly.

"Please don't go," Cas asks in a hushed voice. "You're not a stranger to me, Sam."

"Cas, what..." Sam's words cut off when Cas moves across the bed, crawling on top of Sam before he can react. "Cas," he says again, but it's more of a groan this time. Cas is attractive, Sam would have to be blind not to notice that, but this is so far beyond the realm of what's appropriate that his head is spinning.

"Just let me," Cas murmurs, ducking his head to nose under Sam's chin, mouthing wetly at the skin of his throat and right at his pulse. He draws back, his breath still hot on Sam's neck. "Let me take care of you."

That's not right, though, he's got it backward, because Sam is supposed to be taking care of Cas. That's why he's here. It's hard to remember that when Cas rears back, grinding his hips down into Sam's. The feeling of their half-hard dicks rubbing together is enough to have his breath coming out in short pants, but the view is something else entirely. Where the moonlight hits Cas' bare skin -- and when had he taken his shirt off? -- it's radiant, drawing in the light and reflecting it back to Sam.

"What are you?" he asks, the question tumbling out of him before he can think about it, about how strange it sounds.

"You already know," Cas says, "I know you do. I know who you are," he pants, leaning down to press his cheek to Sam's and murmur in his ear. "You would have been one of Azazel's, but things took a different path."

Sam gasps, thrusting up and making a broken noise when his dick rocks up into the curve of Cas' ass. He lifts his hands to grip his hips, and tries to process Cas' words.

"I don't know what that means," he says, a vague, unfocused plea in his voice, and for a minute he thinks he sees shadows in the room that he knows aren't there. He blinks to clear his vision and tightens his hold on Cas, holds him still so that he can think.

"You know," Cas says. "You had an inkling when you... when you found Anna. You can feel it now, from me. I can't tell you," he says, "you've got to know before you can see."

He's being so cryptic, hands slipping and sliding over Sam's bare torso providing a distraction he can hardly overcome, but then it comes to him in a series of images and words, rapid-fire.

Cas' story about leaving home, about hiding from his family, and the way Sam's felt off-kilter since he first saw him.

The fact that Cas has him pinned to his bed, that he held him back from leaving earlier despite his relatively slight build.

And then, of course, the burned-in wings that he couldn't explain, framing Anna's lifeless body like...

"Angel," Sam chokes out, embarrassed and terrified and excited in waves that cycle over and through him until he feels like he can't breathe anymore.

Cas -- Castiel, Castiel -- shushes him, strokes a soothing hand over his cheek, and Sam presses into it. He squeezes his eyes shut and that's when he feels it, that same light touch brushing down his sides and his legs, and he wants to open his eyes to look but at the same time he really, really doesn't.

"Sam," Cas whispers, and there are layers under it that he couldn't hear before. When his eyes fly open, he sees the shadows again, huge hulking things spreading behind Castiel, folding in to touch him. He makes a noise, something that sounds pained to his own ears, even though he thinks this might be the best thing he's ever felt. Cas leans in again, rolling his hips as he does.

"Forgive me," he says, and then he's dragging delicate fingertips down Sam's chest and digging in, and Sam arches off the bed at the feeling of fire running through him. It courses through his veins and burns him out, and he can’t imagine that it leaves anything behind. He distantly registers that he's coming, a tiny spot of pleasure amid the twisted mess of feelings tearing their way through him.

Then, finally, it's over, and Castiel is murmuring in his ear, soothing sounds and words that he doesn't understand. Sam can feel him curling into his side, those shadowy wings sliding over him, a blanket that drags at his nerve endings like an electric shock.

He falls asleep.

---

Sam wakes up just before eight, feeling like a truck has run over him and the best he's ever been, all at once. The events of the night before come back to him in a rush, and he bolts upright, looking around wildly and breathing a sigh of relief when he sees that he's alone.

"No more Kung Pao chicken before bed," he mutters, rubbing tiredly at his face. He hauls himself out of bed, his limbs feeling a bit more wobbly than usual this morning, and tugs on a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt. As he makes his way down the hall, he has a moment of anxiety at the thought that Cas might have left in the night.

His fears are unwarranted, though, because Cas is sitting in the kitchen, utterly still as he stares out the window. There's a moment where the room looks fuller than it should be, shadowed and lighter all at once, but Sam shakes his head once and it's gone. Just an echo of that painfully vivid dream from the night before. He glances up at Sam and smiles weakly.

"Oh, good," he says, voice low and rough in a way that drags at Sam's skin. "You're up. I didn't want to leave without saying anything, especially after you've been so kind to me."

"Where are you going?" Sam asks before he can stop himself. "You could stay for breakfast."

"I have to go to work," Castiel says slowly, like Sam is a child or an overeager puppy, and he flushes.

"Right," he says quickly. "So do I."

Cas cocks his head slightly, his expression almost bemused, and Sam supposes he shouldn't bring up his job in conversation, not when his job on this particular day is to try to catch Anna's killer. Cas doesn't say anything, though, just rises from the table.

"I appreciate what you've done," he says, reaching up to clasp a hand over Sam's shoulder. Sam has to fight down a shudder, because this is nothing like the dream. This Cas is self-assured, determined, and a far cry from the desperate needy thing conjured up by Sam's imagination.

He swallows thickly, nodding once.

"Don't mention it," he says.

The warmth of Cas' hand leaves his shoulder, and when he hears his front door open and shut he has to sink into the chair Cas just vacated and try to wrap his head around how the past 12 hours got so fucked up.

---

"You did what?"

Sam flinches at the sound of Dean's voice down the line. He'd only called to put out feelers on Anna's case, but he'd found himself telling Dean about Cas before he even realized it. Apparently he'd gone on at some length, and once he got to the part about Cas sleeping on his couch, Dean had clearly had enough.

"Dean, it's not as bad as it sounds. He didn't have anywhere to go."

"I'm aware that Lawrence is a small town, Sam, but I'll have you know there are at least two hotels here that probably won't even give you diseases. Both of which are better options that opening up your home to a suspect in an active murder investigation."

"He's not a suspect," Sam argues, feeling more indignant than the situation necessarily calls for. "Not yet, at least."

"Oh! Just a person of interest! Well," Dean says, voice dripping with sarcasm, "why didn't you say so in the first place?" Sam huffs a sigh because yeah, put like that it doesn't sound so great.

"Listen, I didn't call so you could berate me for my life choices," Sam says. "That's what Thursday dinners are for."

"You mean you've got something else? Please tell me you started with the bad news, because I can't take any more before my second cup of coffee."

"Yeah," Sam says, digging out his notes from the crime scene. He tells Dean about the murder and describes the scorch marks he'd found, calling up every detail he can think of. As soon as he mentions the word 'wings,' though, Dean makes a sound of recognition.

"That sounds like something I've heard of before, maybe. Kind of a hard thing to forget, you know? I'll ask around, see what I can find out."

"Yeah," Sam says gratefully. "If this is some kind of weird cult thing, I'd rather know sooner than later."

"Can't say I blame you." Dean pauses. "Do you think you can manage to avoid having any more slumber parties with potential murderers?"

"At least for the next sixteen hours," Sam says, smiling despite himself. "After that, all bets are off."

"Oh, hilarious, Sammy. Really. We still getting lunch today? I have to testify on a case this morning, but I should be done by noon if you want to meet me over there."

"Yeah, man, sounds good. And thanks for looking into this, seriously."

"No big deal, but I mean it. Be careful, okay?"

"Yeah, Dean." Sam sighs. It doesn't matter that Sam is bigger than him, now, or that he regularly carries a gun -- Dean's big brother instincts are never going away. If Sam's honest, though, he doesn't really mind.

"See you at noon, bitch."

"Wouldn't miss it, jerk," he says with a half-smile before hanging up. He needs to get down to the station and try to make some headway on this case.

He just buries his face in his hands for a minute, though, and tries not to think about Castiel, or his hands, or Sam's dream from the night before. He tries especially not to think about angels, but it’s not terribly successful.

---

The morning goes by quickly, in the way it does when you need more time. Days always drag when they don't have a pressing case, but today 11:30 comes quickly, and Sam's ready to tear his hair out from lack of progress. The most promising thing they have going at the moment is a security camera feed across the street from Anna's building, but getting ahold of it is proving to be a colossal pain in the ass. He shuffles through his paperwork a few more times, checking to make sure there's nothing he missed, and he looks up when someone's shadow falls across his desk.

"Dean called me and said I might need to forcibly remove you from your office so you could meet him for lunch." Jo huffs. "Could you please tell him that I'm not his secretary? Or yours, for that matter?"

Sam laughs good-naturedly.

"I'm pretty sure he learned that lesson the first time you dropped him at a Harvelle family barbecue," he says. "I think he's a little scared of you."

She smiles at that, makes a satisfied noise, and wanders back out toward the front desk. Sam just shakes his head, because Dean's probably smart to be scared of her if she's half as tough as her mom.

He stares down at the papers for another minute before pushing back from his desk. Maybe he’ll luck out, and Dean will have something for him. If not, it probably wouldn’t kill him to eat something. He sighs, dragging a hand through his hair, and stands. It’s only a five minute walk to the courthouse, but he’s not likely to get anything else done sitting here.

---

Sam makes it there about ten minutes early, and he parks himself on a bench in the mostly empty hallway to wait. He tugs his phone out to check it; he's impatient, waiting for news on the security feed from Henricksen. That's the only potential lead he really has, unless Dean has any new information on the crime scene. He's trying not to get his hopes up over either, but it's difficult with a homicide investigation this fresh.

It's even harder when he keeps picturing Cas' face - his devastation at finding Anna, his cautious openness with Sam, and even the desperation fabricated by Sam's subconscious. He wants to get justice for Anna, of course he does, but he wants to do it for Cas, too.

Dean's right; having Cas stay the night is one of the stupidest things Sam's ever done as a cop, but it's like the guy burrowed under his skin right from the outset. Even now, he's a distracting presence quietly thrumming in the back of Sam's mind. He shakes his head and drops it to rest in his hands.

"Rough day?" Sam jerks up at the voice and sees a petite woman standing over him, one eyebrow raised. "I'm just saying," she says, "you look like shit."

"Thanks," Sam says drily. "As much as I appreciate your empathy, I think I'll manage."

"You sure?" she asks. "Come on, tell Aunt Ruby all your problems." She drops down next to him, perching on the edge of the bench and watching him carefully. She's pretty -- gorgeous, even, with deep brown eyes and a mouth that looks inviting, even stretched into a good-natured smirk. For some reason he can't pinpoint, though, he's not remotely interested in engaging her. He just feels some low-level discomfort from her closeness, and the way she's got her thigh pressed against his. He jerks in surprise when his phone rings in his pocket, and he stands quickly, thankful for the distraction.

"Hey, sorry, I've got to get this. It was, uh. Nice talking to you."

She frowns, pouting a little, but she gets up and saunters away down the hall. Sam watches her turn the corner as he pulls his phone out to answer it.

"Winchester."

"Hey, kid, it's Henricksen."

"You get something for me?" Sam asks, trying to keep the excitement out of his voice.

"You could say that," Victor says. "Looks like we've got a suspect; we have her heading into the building about two minutes after Milton, then leaving about ten minutes later. Whoever she is, she doesn’t live there."

"She?"

"Yeah, I've got a still from the security footage I'll send you. We're still running it through the database, but maybe we'll luck out."

"Hope so," Sam says. "Thanks for the update, man, and let me know if anything comes up."

"You got it," Victor says, "and hey. If you go that diner on 12th, bring me back a burger. It's the least you can do after I dealt with this shit all morning."

Sam laughs and says he will, then he hangs up the phone. It chimes a minute later with an incoming picture message, and he opens it right away.

There's a moment where the bottom drops out of his stomach, and a wave of nausea passes over him so suddenly that he has to sit back down. He blinks a few times, looks again, and sucks in a sharp breath.

Ruby.

He's up on his feet again in seconds, stalking toward where he saw her disappear. He's got to call dispatch and ask for backup, but he can't lose her if there's a chance she isn't gone yet. He dials his phone one-handed, the other one reaching for his gun as he turns the corner. This corridor is empty, but he sees a door halfway down that looks to be cracked open. He stops for a minute, hits 'send' on the call, and explains his situation in a low voice before asking the dispatcher to send Henricksen and as many uniforms as they can spare. He hangs up as soon as she's gotten the details and pockets his phone, moving toward the door as quietly as he can.

It happens quicker than he expects; one minute, he's standing ready outside what looks like a utility room, and the next, he's crashing into a wall inside. His head cracks against the sheetrock and he has to fight through a sudden wave of dizziness. When his vision clears, he sees Ruby standing in front of him, smirk still fixed in place. There's no humor left in it, nothing good, anyway, and he tries to move toward her before realizing with a feeling of dread that he can't.

"Yeah, sorry about that," she says as he struggles to peel himself away from the wall. "Big strong guy like you, though, I can't take any chances."

"Fuck you," he says, that feeling of discomfort from earlier now amplified into a gut-twisting sense of loathing that surprises him with its intensity.

"You know," she says, grinning, "I might have. We could have had a little fun, but you figured me out too soon. But that's life, isn't it? Lots of little disappointments."

"Why did you kill her?" he asks, trying to buy a little time as he squirms under whatever invisible hold has him pinned. He freezes when he sees her cock her head, her eyes sliding to a flat, inky black.

"Because, Sam," she says, voice innocent. "It's in my nature."

"What... what are you?"

Her smile gets wider, more feral, and she reaches out a hand toward him.

"I bet you can guess, if you really apply that big impressive brain of yours." She clenches her fingers into a tight fist, then, and Sam feels all of the air drag out of his lungs as pain lances through his chest. He knows he'd be screaming if he could get a breath, but he can't seem to do it, not with the way it feels like he's being ripped apart from the inside. He's never felt anything like this -- the car accident that had killed his dad had been his point of reference for agonizing pain up to now, but this is so far beyond that he can feel his vision blacking around the edges.

He’s sure he’s hallucinating when he sees a third person in the room, appearing behind Ruby between one blink and the next, but then the pain and the restraints are falling away and he collapses to the floor like he’s had his strings cut.

When he looks up, he sucks in a surprised breath.

“Cas?” he asks incredulously, but Cas doesn’t look at him, focused instead on Ruby where he’s holding her by the throat.

“You killed her,” he says, fury so clearly simmering under the surface that it prickles at Sam’s skin.

“She was weak,” Ruby says defiantly. “Too much time separated from the herd, so you know what I did?” She tips her chin up, just enough to make a point. “I. Picked. Her. Off.”

Cas snarls, tossing her to the floor. He spares a glance for Sam, then, concern showing on his face as he watches Sam try to pull himself upright.

“Are you all right?” he asks, and Sam would laugh if he didn’t think it would hurt so much.

“Fine,” he croaks instead, and he cuts his eyes over to where Ruby is standing up and dusting herself off. Cas follows his gaze, and then that anger is back in his expression.

“I don’t know what you’re playing at, Cas. You don’t have the mojo to actually kill me; your big sister made that much obvious.” She reaches into her jacket and tugs out a blade, a short sword with etchings covering its surface, and Cas’ eyes go wide.

“Where did you get that?” he asks, voice hollow.

“Oh, you know, an anonymous, disgruntled third party. Seems one of your brothers is in the mood to stir up shit, and I was more than happy to oblige him. Imagine my delight when I spotted that little spark of grace in poor, sweet Anna. I thought, ‘Who better to cut my teeth on then a helpless fallen angel?’ Imagine what a pleasant surprise it was when I realized there were two of you!”

Sam just gapes, because it was real. Not a dream, not a hallucination. He looks to Cas, whose face is twisted into something unreadable.

“You’re wrong,” he says firmly. “We’re not fallen.”

“Living on earth, with barely an ounce of strength left in you? I don’t know what else you’d call it,” Ruby says, laughing harshly. She twirls the sword in her hand, and Sam sees Cas’ eyes tracking it.

Almost too quick for Sam to follow, she moves in, driving the sword up toward his ribcage. Sam hears himself cry out, but Cas catches her wrist and grips it tightly. Her mouth drops open in surprise.

“There are places to find strength outside of the host,” he says, “and I’ve found enough to do this.”

Sam watches as he lifts his free hand to grip her jaw, but he has to cover his eyes as white light fills the room. It feels like he can still see it, even with his arm over his face, like it’s burning through him, too. It’s not anything like the feeling of what Ruby had done, though; it’s warm and inviting and it gives him the strength he needs to stagger to his feet.

As his vision clears, he feels like he can see Castiel, really see him; it’s like what he’d seen last night, terrifying and beautiful, but then he drags in a breath, blinks, and it’s suddenly just Cas standing in front of him again. Ruby’s body is lying unseeing on the floor, sword dropped uselessly at her side. When Sam stumbles, Cas moves to catch him, and Sam clings to his shirtfront like it’s the only thing keeping him together. For all he knows, it might be.

“Forgive me,” Cas says, and it’s so much like the night before it makes him shudder.

“For what?” he asks shakily. “You saved my life, I think.”

“I did it with strength that I borrowed from you. From your soul,” he clarifies, and Sam thinks that must have been what happened, what that pain was that he’d felt. “I should have asked, but Anna died because she was vulnerable. I had to protect myself so that I could protect you.”

“Why do I even matter?” Sam asks weakly. He can’t possibly have any relevance in a world where things like this exist, but Cas just smiles at him sadly.

“Time can take a number of paths,” he says. “In one of them, you and I fought together as brothers. I felt it as soon as I saw you.”

“So, you’re…” he can’t seem to get the words out, but Cas nods anyway.

“Ruby was a demon,” he says, “and the weapon she carried could kill my kind. She never should have had it.”

Sam hears shouting down the hall, and he realizes it’s the backup he called for. Has it really only been a few minutes since he went after Ruby? He turns to Cas.

“You can’t be here,” he says urgently. “This will be hard enough to explain as it is.”

“I have to go, anyway,” Cas says, nodding. “There are others like me, living here, and I’ve got to find out who among us is helping the demons.”

“I understand,” Sam says thickly. “Thank you for everything you’ve done. I’m so, so sorry about Anna.”

“So am I,” Cas says. He reaches up to cup a hand around the back of Sam’s neck, tugging him down. He presses a kiss to Sam’s forehead, and it feels almost more intimate than he can stand. “I’ll come back, Sam,” he says as he pulls away. “This is my home, now, whether I intended it or not.”

“Yeah?”

Cas smiles, and then he cuts his eyes to the door. His hand slips away from Sam’s neck, and before Sam can register the loss of contact, Cas is gone.

---

When Henricksen gets there, the story that comes out of his mouth isn’t his own. He explains how Ruby had surprised him and hit him over the head. How, when she realized she’d been cornered, she turned her sword inward and took her own life.

Sam looks toward the body where two crime scene techs are hunched over it, and he sees that the wound he’s describing is there in her stomach, just like he said. The sword is different, though, something plain and unimpressive. He doesn’t know how much power Castiel borrowed from him, but he can’t find it in him to be anything but grateful.

He’s in no state to deal with this, not after everything else. His head is throbbing from where it had hit the wall; that part, at least, he hadn’t been lying about.

Henricksen seems to pick up on that and casually suggests that Sam go home and take care of things in the morning. When Bobby gets there, he not-so-casually shoves Sam in the direction of his apartment.

“I was supposed to meet Dean for lunch, he’ll—“

“I already called him,” Bobby says, exasperated. “Now go get some rest, or I’ll bring your concussed ass to the hospital for overnight observation.”

“It’s my head, not my ass,” Sam grumbles. Bobby shoots him a nasty look. “I’m going, I’m going!”

He ends up getting a ride home from Jo, who manages to keep her interrogation relatively low-key. When she offers to walk him up, he declines as politely as he can. He’s feeling vaguely maudlin, and more than a little traumatized because, well, demons. Angels too, of course, but that thought just brings him back around to Cas. That’s something he’s not really ready to examine in any great depth.

Sam isn’t sure if the feeling that a part of him is missing is emotional, or if it’s a side effect of Cas using his soul like a battery.

He unlocks his door and drags himself inside; never mind that it’s the middle of the afternoon, he’s ready to collapse into bed. He tenses, though, when he hears a noise from further back in the apartment. Walking quietly back the hall, he curls his fingers around his gun; it could be Dean, but Sam’s not in the mood for any more nasty surprises.

He stops short in the doorway, though, because Cas is standing in his kitchen, and he’s… pouring a pot of pasta into the strainer? Now that Sam focuses on it, he can smell something rich cooking, like garlic and herbs.

“Cas?”

“It’s almost ready,” Cas says, glancing back at him with a smile. When he sees Sam, though, his face falls. “I’m sorry. Should I not have presumed? I wasn’t sure where else I could go.”

“No,” Sam says slowly, “no, it’s fine. More than fine, but I thought… you had to leave, didn’t you?” Cas puts the pot on the counter and crosses over to him.

“I do,” he says gently, “I will, at times, but I’m not running. I told you this was my home.”

“I thought you meant…” Sam pauses, feeling kind of stupid. “I thought you meant Earth.” Cas laughs, then, and it’s a nice sound.

“I meant Lawrence,” he says, sobering. “It won’t ever be the same without Anna, but running wouldn’t be better. I would stay here, if you’d have me, but I understand if you’d like me find somewhere else.”

“No,” Sam says again, but this time it’s quick and sure. “You can stay here. For as long as you want.”

Cas’ smile is small, cautious, but it looks like the sun. He knows he’s never going to hear the end of it from Dean, but if Cas will keep looking at him like that, it will be more than worth it.