It was an offhanded comment from Sam which first rose Castiel's suspicions. To anyone else it may have seemed innocent enough but if he had learnt one thing about the younger Winchester it was that things were rarely that simple.
It didn't take long for him to figure it out, every time he visited the brothers, Sam looked more and more tired. It wasn't unusual to see them sipping on cups of coffee but Sam began to stink of the stuff. His eyes seemed permanently heavy and blood shot, he was getting into arguments with Dean about his performance while hunting, he was even forgetting the most straightforward of things. At times when Castiel visited them, he would often see Sam cradling his head in his hands when he thought Dean wasn't watching.
During one particular visit, he was almost falling asleep on his laptop as he typed away, his head rolling every time he blinked. Castiel had attempted to excuse himself, to allow them to rest, only for Dean to claim they had not long woken up and had no need for anymore sleep.
That may have been true for Dean, but as Castiel eyed Sam carefully, he highly doubted the same could be said for his brother.
Sam had barely whispered one night, just before he departed. Dean had already left for the nearest bar at this point and he was just about to fly off too when the soft sound reached his ears. It was so quiet, if he hadn't have been an angel he would probably have missed it.
"Yes?" He responded, turning his attention away from the heavens and back to the young man who so rarely asked anything of him.
"Is there a way... Is there a way to stop angels entering your dreams?" He questioned reluctantly, his head hung as he sat on the corner of their latest motel's mattress.
Just like that, Castiel suddenly understood the last few weeks for what they were. Understood why he always seemed to be fighting off sleep when he so clearly needed the rest. He was embarrassed to admit he hadn't even thought of it before.
"No, not that I am aware. It's your mind Sam, all I can suggest is for you to try and take control. Force him out."
Sam had nodded, chest fallen, before he snapped on this fake, reassuring smile as he looked up at the angel.
"Okay, well it's nothing I can't handle anyway... don't worry about it... thanks."
Just who he was trying to convince with that, Castiel was not sure but he took that to be his dismissal and left.
Try as he might, he could not get Sam out of his head for the following days, even when dealing with the panic in heaven he could not stop thinking about their conversation.
Three days later and he found himself being drawn to the Winchesters room. As expected Dean was fast asleep, snoring away. One look towards Sam, showed he too was finally resting but it hardly looked like the peaceful one he needed.
The covers were screwed up tightly under his fists, he was hunched in on himself, tossing his head, his eyes squeezed so tightly together in distress that Castiel worried he was going to end up marking himself.
He was tempted to reach out with his grace to try and settle him, but against an archangel it would do little to help and Sam had had so much forced into his body without consent before, adding something else just seemed wrong somehow.
No matter how pure his intentions were.
He thought about waking him, to free him from whatever nightmare Lucifer was playing to him, but his body needed the sleep. He knew enough from watching him the last few visits to predict he wouldn't attempt to sleep again tonight if he disrupted him.
Not knowing how on earth to help, Castiel simply stood and watched, praying the Angel would get bored soon and leave him be.
"What are you watching?" Castiel asked, his head tilted as he took in the scene currently playing on the TV. There was far too much clothing involved for it to be one of Dean's usual programs.
Dean almost jumped a mile when the angel appeared beside him, clutching at his chest as he lunged off the bed in surprise.
"Dude what have I told you, learn to knock."
Castiel did not bother to dignify that with a response, just continued to study the film in front of him. A woman was being held, pulled into someone's side as they sat on a sofa, circles being rubbed on her back.
"What are they doing?" He did not recognise the gesture. When a human was upset, from what he had seen, they were hugged, or punched lightly in the arm and told to get other it, in Dean's case.
"Comforting each other... you know... 'There, there it's okay'?"
Castiel did not know. Nor did he understand why Dean was suddenly patting his shoulder.
"How is that meant to help?"
"It just does okay. It's a human thing. When someone you care about is hurting, people find it... reassuring. Soothing, whatever you want to call it." Dean replied. Reaching up, he pressed a button just below the screen and darkness descended, cutting the picture off completely. "Just for the record I wasn't watching a soap, capiche?"
He did not capiche. There were certainly no soap bars in the room which Castiel could see. Besides Dean should have probably been using them rather than watching them if there were.
It seemed a very odd statement to point out.
Castiel was somewhere in Utah the next night when he heard it, a desperate plea for someone to make it stop. It wasn't addressed to him, to be honest it could barely be considered a prayer, but he was so attuned to Sam he picked up on it in a heartbeat. His wings were unbound in less than a second and he took flight before they were fully erect.
He landed in the motel between the two beds before the 'please' had even finished and Castiel had to wonder, just how bad the torment was for him to be able to pray in his sleep. He wasn't entirely sure what he was planning to do now he was there, he just knew that if Sam wasn't going to ask for help, then he had to be the one to give it.
Once again Sam was on his stomach, twisted at a weird angle so his knees could be pulled in on himself. His face was buried into the pillows, if his body temperature was anything to go by, the sheets had long ago been thrown to the floor. Castiel could just about make out one half of his face and just the sight of it gave the angel the strangest feeling in his chest.
No one deserved this.
Least of all Sam, who seemed determined to suffer in silence.
Perching himself awkwardly on the edge of Sam's mattress, Castiel just watched him for a moment, an unreadable expression on his face. He couldn't understand why he wouldn't tell Dean about this, why he was so set on enduring this alone that even in his sleep, his mind prevented him from crying out loud.
He knew Dean didn't always take things well, but from what he had seen, he always tried to be there for his brother as best he could. He would want to know about this. He would want to be told.
Yet even with this knowledge, Castiel made no move to enlighten the older Winchester. It wasn't his place to interfere with the affairs of his charges.
Even if that was exactly what he was doing by even being there.
Glancing towards the motel's TV screen, barely visible in the darkened night and then to lump that he knew to be Dean, in the next bed, Castiel came to a decision.
Slowly reaching out, he placed the palm of his vessel's hand on the top part of Sam's back and gently patted twice, just like Dean and that 'soap' had shown him. The fact that move alone was not enough to wake a skilled hunter like Sam, caused his concern to deepen.
The move had no effect on the boy at all and Castiel had to wonder if he was somehow doing it wrong.
Sam's grip turned deadly on the old mattress and if his brain would allow him to make a noise, Castiel was sure he would be whimpering by now.
He tapped him again uncomfortably, using not even a tenth of his Vessels strength, up until that point, he had been unaware he'd even possessed the ability to be that gentle. But he felt it was necessary now. He did not want to wake him, just offer some comfort.
"It's okay. Sam." He whispered into the night, wondering if words would help too. Again, if it did, Sam showed no visible signs of this. Instead his mouth opened and he pushed his head into the pillow, as if he was trying to muffle a none existing scream.
This was ridiculous, he was an Angel, a Worrier, a tornado in a tea cup. He was not designed to do this.
Yet he couldn't bring himself to leave.
Off all the things he had done in all the millennia's he had been alive, this one somehow felt like it was the most important.
Maybe he had to be closer?
Scooting slightly towards Sam, Castiel leaned back against the wall and turned so his body was no longer perched but resting as a human did when they were sat up in bed. It felt weird to have his legs straight when he was in this position. He was unsure if they had been like this before- at least he knew they hadn't since he had taken Jimmy's body as his own. It was surprisingly stiff, his calves did not seem to want his legs the way they were, they were tight, apparently desiring a slight bend. Castiel ignored this.
Uneasily he placed his arm which was closet to Sam on his back again, patting it, repetitively this time. Rubbing a small circle along his shoulder blade between every few taps.
"He's not here Sam, whatever your seeing is not real."
When Sam showed no signs of calming, Castiel repeated the statement again.
Over and over.
His voice kept low so he didn't cause Dean to awaken. He did not want to have to explain this.
Oh if the other angels could see him now.
Half a human hour after he started, he realised something. Sam had stopped moving, he was no longer twisting in his sleep, his face no longer screwed up as if he was in pain, but relaxed, much like Deans.
Castiel felt a tug at the corner of his lips as he stared down at the sleeping form.
Well he might have been a poor excuse for an angel, but at least he was able to get something right.
He was gone before either of the Winchesters began to wake.
This carried on for about two weeks. Cas would hear Sam's nightmares getting out of hand, hear him begging Lucifer to leave him alone and then he would go to him. He would sit all night, patting his shoulder and telling him it was okay, he was safe. Every time, Sam would eventually begin to loosen up and fall into a more peaceful, undisturbed sleep.
It became a comfortable pattern of normality for Castiel. It didn't matter to him that Sam was unaware of what he was doing for him. Why would it? He wasn't doing it for credit. He was doing it because the boy with the demon blood, had the kindest heart he had so far encountered. Who else would suffer the way he was, just to allow his brother peace of mind?
Flying to the Winchesters, Castiel studied the room they were in. They had moved again, but he had learnt by now never to expect them to be in the same surroundings as the previous night.
"Castiel? Hi." Sam greeted him almost instantly, surprising the angel. He was so used to having Dean yell something at him as he shot out of his skin, it made a refreshing change. He studied Sam carefully for a moment or two, tilting his head as he took in the scene. He was sat at a desk, laptop open and piles off books and newspaper articles littered around him. It was obvious he was in the middle of some serious research.
"Are you busy Sam? I can come back. "
"No don't be silly." Sam argued, gesturing with his arm, for Castiel to take a seat on the bed. "Do you need something?"
"Not particularly, I am still searching for God, but you cannot help with that." He replied bluntly, causing Sam to snort and flash him a soft smile.
Castiel decided he very much enjoyed seeing that expression on Sam's face, it was the most genuine one he had worn in a long time. His eyes looked a lot brighter now, the bags and redness had vanished. For once he looked rested, relaxed and not on the edge of completely burning out.
It made the Angel feel good, knowing he had helped with that.
"Don't ever change man."Sam said with a laugh, confusing the angel.
"I've already changed Sam, I rebelled."
"Yeah... I just meant... never mind."
Castiel often wondered if Sam ever stayed on the same tangent for long.
"Are you hunting something?"
"Yeah, we're not sure what yet. There's been a string of deaths down town, the patterns date back all the way to when records began. There's crime reports from all over, it seems to move place to place, the cause of death is always unknown but they are found in the same position each time."
Sam ruffled though the loose clippings, pulling out a more recent crime scene photo of the victim and handed it to the angel. Castiel studied it carefully for a moment, his head tilted, the position the woman was in sure didn't look very comfortable. He supposed it didn't really matter, given she was already dead.
"Perhaps I can be of assistance."
Castiel caught wind of a rumour going around the catholic churches, of a man claiming to be in contact with god. Hearsay spoke off bush fires speaking to him, orders given in the most peculiar ways and good fortune falling on those who listened.
It was in a desert in the middle east.
Castiel had no choice but to follow it up.
The problem was he would have to remain there at all times, he couldn't skip out to go see Sam for hours each day. He fought with himself internally for a while over this. In the end, he saw no other option but to go. If he managed to talk to God, then he could end the apocalypse once and for all. There would be no Lucifer haunting Sam in the night to deal with anymore.
A few days away wouldn't kill him and in the long run, maybe it would help.
Sam had survived with less sleep for longer.
He had been wrong. So very wrong.
The trail had turned to nothing, just a wayward angel with too much time on his hands. Castiel had not have been pleased. Especially when he found out Jehoel was just acting on Michaels orders, keeping him busy as he went after Dean.
Dean, thankfully had not been stupid and despite several broken limbs had refused to say yes. The archangel had put the brothers back together again by the time Castiel returned. That did not make him any less angry.
He searched for them as soon as he established what was going on. He found them in Bobby Singers house, almost a week after last speaking to Sam while they were on that hunt. He believed they had dealt with the creature quiet smoothly and had stopped by their surrogate father's to help with another case in the area soon after.
Dean and Bobby were in the kitchen, drinking copious amounts of alcohol in celebration of something or another. Probably decking the demon, or whatever had cropped up in the town.
Sam was the hunter Castiel was concerned for however, so he bypassed them and went straight for
the bathroom. Remembering all too well Dean's instructions on the restricted zones, Castiel took a moment to make sure Sam was not sat on the cubical, submerged in water, or was in anyway unclothed from the waist down.
Satisfied that none of them were the case, despite where the younger man was sitting, the angel landed and made himself visible.
He almost wished he didn't.
Sam was sat on the toilet seat lid, his head resting in the palms of his hands, hunched forward. He had small droplets of sweat covering his brow and had a slight tremble to him.
Castiel never understood the expression 'as white as a ghost' given that ghosts were transparent, but looking at Sam now, he was starting to get it. His skin was deprived off all colour and he looked like he had dropped a fair bit of weight. He must not have been eating well either.
"Hello Sam." He said cautiously, trying his hardest not to spook the young man.
He didn't so much as flinch, his reflexes at an all time low.
"Hey Castiel." He replied simply, but made no effort to look up at him, drained of pretty much all of his energy.
"You should sleep."
Sam shook his head, slowly at first, but more vigorously as time went on.
"Is Lucifer still haunting you?" Castiel asked as he took a seat on the bath tub. He didn't always get human customs, but Sam seemed to like it when he was sitting down others were too when they spoke to him, so he obliged.
"Every time I close my eyes. He let up for a while, but I guess that was just to torture me more when he came back. He's just always there. He's Jess, He's dad, he's bobby, Dean, Mom, you. Anyone I care about. He's there and he's saying and doing and... I can't take this, I can't take him turning the few good memories I have and twisting them. Why can't he stop? Why won't he just leave me alone."
Of all the things the angel had expected, Sam confiding in him like that wasn't one of them.
"Physiological torment is often the most successful." He replied rather unhelpfully.
Truth be told he didn't know what to say. He had learnt how to help the young Winchester when he was asleep, but he was unsure whether that would be an appropriate action while he was awake. He was all too aware of the distance between them when they were both functioning properly.
"Yeah you can say that again... " He scoffed, before his body sank and shook more. "Sorry you don't need to hear this."
"If I could find away to stop him I would Sam."
"I know, It's okay, really, It's not your job to help me."
The last part was said in barely a whisper, but Castiel heard it clearer than anything. Of course it was true, Dean was his charge. Not Sam, it was never about Sam. Heaven had ordered him to guide Dean on the right path, to protect Dean. Only Dean. Truth be told, he only kept Sam alive for him to be able to for fill the prophesies and kill Lilith.
At times he had wanted to end his life.
On more occasions than he cared to admit he questioned why he wasn't allowed to.
But that was then, and this was now. He was no longer working under heaven's command.
"You have a strange definition of okay Sam." Cas stated, realising not a truer word could have been spoken. He was starting to realise 'okay' meant ' as far from okay as I could possibly be.' "And I come for the both of you."
He wasn't sure if Sam heard him or not, his eyelids already drooping closed as he pressed his hands harder into his forehead.
Reaching out and slowly placing his hand on his shoulder Castiel gave it a gentle, yet firm squeeze, pulling him towards him slightly.
As Sam sighed and gave in Castiel vowed to never let him sleep another night alone again.