Usual disclaimer applies: don't own them, am certainly making no $$$s from this.

I have read many missing scenes/tags to On the Head of a Pin but truth be told I think the boys are beyond a kiss and make up hug, so this is different and much bleaker – be warned! It contains a brief reference to something that happens in another one of my episode tags [In Restless Dreams]

xxx

Castiel gapes at him for a long moment and Sam stares it out with him before the angel's eyes wander over behind him, low down and to the right.

He says something Sam doesn't really hear because he's surfing this crest of ecstasy, pleasure. A rush unlike anything he's ever felt… the noise of it fills his ears, crashing like the sea, like the wind in the treetops, like a hurricane blowing inside him. He thinks it must be his blood racing through his veins. Her blood.

But it is perfectly still and quiet of course. It's over.

"Sam." And then, "SAM!"

He startles, shaken out of his reverie. Castiel is kneeling next to Dean, has his brother's bloody head and shoulders cradled in his arms. Any expression of… fear? awe? – come to think of it, Sam can't identify exactly what emotion had been crossing the angel's face at the end – has gone. His tone is urgent.

"We must look to your brother now."

There's a moment when they're struggling to hoist Dean into the back seat of the Impala when Sam blurts out, "Can't you just fly him there?"

And if Castiel ever has looked at him as if the elevator doesn't go all the way to the penthouse suite, it's then. "Like Superman?" he says, witheringly. He's white-faced, a sheen of perspiration on his brow, he's even breathing fast, and Sam wonders briefly if the angel's one-on-one with Alastair has drained him so much he couldn't teleport Dean even if he wanted to. And then it occurs to him that maybe Castiel can't intercede unless he's ordered to, and for the first few minutes of the hectic dash to the hospital he alternately seethes and rejoices at the fact Cas hasn't got the fuckin' sac to disobey, even as he smirks at the cosmic irony of an Angel of the Lord having seen Superman. Though it was probably the vessel. And he wonders what Dean would think of it, can imagine just what his brother would say: "Christ, Cas, I hope it wasn't that pile of crap, Superman IV, because the special effects totally sucked in that one."

His eyes keep flitting to the rearview mirror, where he can see his brother reflected, slumped against Castiel's chest, one of the angel's hands gripping his upper body and the other gently resting against his forehead, trying to hold his head still. He's hushing Dean and murmuring softly to him, words of comfort, he guesses. What would an angel say in this situation? Has Cas done this before, with his own kind? Is he praying? He's practiced, expert, but it seems like real concern. He seems… human. More real than Sam has ever seen him. Sam suddenly feels like an outsider looking in at a private, intimate moment. And he can't help this lightning bolt of red hot jealousy. It should be me back there.

Though deeply unconscious, Dean is agitated, shaking, grinding his head against the angel, and Sam wonders if Cas feels pain from that rock hard skull. He'd seemed stoic enough when it came to his own injuries, pausing beside the car simply for a cursory swipe at the blood trickling down the side of his face.

He can hear Dean's breathing, panting, wheezing. Cas now has two fingers resting lightly on Dean's throat, pale relief against the horrific blue-black bruises that are already appearing. His eyes meet Sam's in the mirror.

"You need to drive faster," the angel says, simply.

And now panic hits him, jolting him out of the stupor he's been in since they left the warehouse. "Dean! Dean! Hold on…" he calls back over his shoulder, and as if in response his brother's eyes snap open and Sam can see them in the mirror, darting this way and that, see his terror and confusion, hear his frenzied efforts to draw breath. The big car fishtails all over the road as Sam cranes his head around and finally screeches to a halt half on and half off the grass verge. Immediately he's up on his knees in his seat, leaning over his brother, desperate, grabbing hold of Dean's shirt to pull him away from Castiel and towards him, but there's no recognition in Dean's eyes.

"Dean… it's over and you're safe, it's over… Alastair's dead, you're safe, it's over, it's done, he's dead…" It all pours out and he knows he's babbling and that it isn't comforting or reassuring Dean at all, that maybe it's making him even worse, not shaking any sense into him but scaring him, because now his brother is making panicked whimpering sounds... and then a hand has gripped Sam's chin and is forcing him to look here, at me, and he's trapped in Castiel's steely blue gaze.

"He. Doesn't. Have. The. Time."

He must have let go, turned back around and started driving again, because an eternity later they see the sign for the county hospital and then he's watching a gurney speed off with his brother slumped on it, arms dangling down at each side, looking as if he's been dropped from a great height.

Castiel, standing next to him, sighs. The noise and chaos of the ER seems to recede into the distance, muffled somehow.

"I did it for him," Sam says quietly. It might be the only chance he gets to explain himself before the smiting starts.

"Did you?"

The angel's tone is even, non-judgmental, but Sam bristles. "What the fuck does that mean?"

"I think you know exactly what it means, Sam."

Sam counterattacks. "We can use it. Surely you must see that." He doesn't care that he sounds like some whining toxic tween. "You need to at least… consider it."

The angel is silent and Sam sneaks a glance over at him. And to his astonishment he can see that Castiel is considering it. He can see the process of the angel's thoughts passing across his usually impassive face. He can see… cold, hard, calculation.

"I need to think, reflect. And I must seek Uriel's counsel."

Sam snorts. "Then I guess I should start planning my last meal."

Cas seems distracted, it seems like he doesn't hear him.

"Something is not right…" he murmurs, staring into the middle distance at the swing doors Dean's gurney sped though just moments ago.

Then he's gone already. Jesus, how do they do that?

xxx

"Those demons can really kick ass," he says, much later, sitting by his unresponsive brother's bed. "You look like shit."

He drums his fingers on his knee. No miracle is forthcoming. And it's—unbearable. "It should have been me," he hisses. "They should have asked me. You can't do this. It's too much to ask. I'm stronger."

Castiel is back, hovering in the doorway, and Sam knows the angel can hear him. He stands, abruptly. "He can't do this. He isn't strong enough. You're using him and it's hurting him. You need to let him go. Now. While there's still something left of him."

"It isn't that simple, Sam," Cas says, and there is genuine regret in his voice.

"That so? Well why don't you enlighten me as to why it's not?"

And if that was fear or awe he'd seen in the angel's eyes earlier it's absent now, because Cas is right up in his face for this, eyes gleaming with some other emotion Sam doesn't even want to think about because it looks too much like… Sorrow? Uncertainty?

"You've made progress, Sam," he says, his tone neutral even if his eyes are flashing all sorts of warnings. "I am familiar with the ways and means by which this may have come to pass. And only one of them is currently at your disposal."

And now he is in no doubt about what shines out of the angel's eyes. It's disappointment.

And suddenly the control in this conversation switches sides and his boots start to look more interesting than they ever have before.

xxx

It's my turn to carve...

He startles awake. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to swallow. It hurts to be.

The barest whisper, as he tilts his head painfully towards the one he somehow knows will be there.

"Are you in my head?"

"No."

"You didn't leave then."

"Our circumstances have changed. I am not sure who can be trusted. You are safer if I remain."

"And you," Dean chokes out with difficulty. Cas looks blank.

"You're safer if you stay," he wheezes. "Poor Cas. All alone in the world."

"You are right,' the angel concedes. 'But that is not why I stay."

Dean stares at him until his eyes flutter closed again. He drifts off into the haze. He feels safe.

"We need to talk."

He cracks open one eye, blearily.

"No," he says, and then, when he sees Castiel has misunderstood, motions painfully at his throat.

"I could… heal you?"

For some reason that totally creeps Dean out, as practical as it would be. "Back off. You're not fingering me," he says, as aggressively as he can when all he can do is whisper, andheck that didn't come out right, did it?

"Then we'll try it my way," Cas says and Dean thinks he must be tripping – fuckin' grade A hospital drugs or what? – because Cas's lips didn't move. "That was awesome, man…" he says dreamily, his voice all echoey inside his head. Echo? Echo? "You gotta show me that one. Can you, like, throw your voice? Make it come out my boots? Can you, like, talk when you're sinkin' a beer? Fuck Uriel… there's no way he was funnier than you, man. You kill me…"

"Grow up, Dean," says Cas, but there's a note of amusement in his voice. And the fact he still isn't moving his lips snaps Dean out of it.

"Jesus! You're in my fuckin' head!" he cries, because in here his larynx isn't crushed at all. It's firing on all cylinders.

He's pulled up short by the awful possibilities of the whole Cas-in-his-head-reading-his-mind concept. "Do you come here often?" is all he can think of to sputter out, affronted, indignant. He begins a speedy mental litany of every potentially offensive thought, urge, cussword, back-seat-of-the-Impala-encounter (Jesus H Tapdancing Christ!) that has crossed his mind in the last three months. It's like his life flashing before his eyes, a life of crimes against everything Castiel stands for, no less. The morals of a fuckin' alleycat on display for an Angel of the fuckin' Lord, and Christ somebody stop me—'

"Don't fret, Dean," Cas says – no, thinks – and if it were at all possible the sound of his voice is nothing so much as a wide smile, teeth and all. "Your secrets are safe with me."

Inside his head he's all up close and personal with his sense of relief. In fact he's never felt so relieved in his life. For roughly ten seconds of glorious distraction from his FATE.

"Dean," Castiel starts, stops, starts again. "What Alastair did… I wish to ask your forgiven—"

"Don't, Cas," Dean cuts him off, wearily. "Just… no. I can't talk about it... about him."

He sees the slight nod of affirmation.

"When I can, I will. To you." Because Christ knows he isn't telling his brother and having it all thrown back at him the next time Sammy throws a hissy fit. "But for now… just, no."

And he moves it right along to things that aren't about carving... aren't about agony, despair, violation of mind and body and soul, about so many memories he needs to keep buried because if he doesn't he knows he will lose himself, that they will destroy that small part of him that Alastair didn't twist and burn and grind into nothing.

"Anyway, it's all bullshit, Cas. Alastair said the prophecy was about a righteous man. This little head trip should make it crystal clear that righteous I am not. I lie, I cheat, I steal, I kill. It's what I've done all my life. It is my life. Fuck, I even spent ten years of my death doing it. I'm not the droid you're looking for, dude. Itisn't me."

There is a moment of silence before the angel speaks.

"Righteous has many meanings—"

"Oh fuck off, Cas. Don't tell me: you minored in Zen mastery. Or feng shui. Yoga. Do you handknit in your spare time? Fuckin' treehugger."

Castiel won't be deflected. And Dean knows it. This is end-of-the-world big, after all.

'Hell changes souls, sometimes in the first nanoseconds. And some cling on. But all are made the offer you were made – salvation from the rack if they torture. And in that moment when they break, they have become demons. But you…"

Dean sees Cas has pulled the chair right up beside the bed and is strangely comforted by the physical closeness even if the mental closeness is overwhelming.

"When you… succumbed… you did not turn. You still retained humanity's essence. And in the Pit, among the hordes, that marked you as righteous."

"Cut the crap, Cas. Because that's what you're feeding me," he growls. "Don't sit there telling me I did that and stayed human, stayed me. Don't do that to me. Because that's worse than turnin', believe me. Jesus. The only thing that keeps me fuckin' sane is the thought it wasn't me doin' it."

Castiel considers him for a moment and when his voice comes again inside his head it's understanding, sympathetic, fuckin' grief-counselor, he thinks. "You feel regret, remorse. If you had turned you would not feel those things."

And it's true. He, Dean Winchester, chose to get off the rack, chose to cut, slice, destroy, feel the ecstasy that came with being the one in control, the one with the power. It was no demon. He never turned. It was him, just him.

So he changes the subject.

"You said you laid siege to Hell the second you found out about Lilith's plans. How could you have possibly known I even would break?" He knows just how utterly stupid that sounds the moment he thinks it.

"Everyone breaks, Dean," Cas says, softly. "It's just a matter of time."

"Not my dad. Alastor said he didn't break and I saw him, with my own eyes. He wasn't a demon."

"That's… academic."

"Not to me!"

He takes a deep, shuddering breath to calm himself, then speaks – thinks – more steadily. "Cas, when did you, did God, know I was the one? Because it sounds like you knew long before I broke. Why didn't you go after my dad? He didn't break. Doesn't that mean he was righteous too? Or did you leave him to rot because you knew he wasn't the one? Was it me all along, before I even went down there? Then why the fuck did God even let it happen?"

"It was of your own free will that you made the deal, Dean," Cas says, gently. "God gave mankind free will, choice. It is what raises you above the beasts. You could have chosen not to honor the deal. You chose your brother."

Dean plummets back to earth, but quick. "Sounds like blame, Cas," he says, prissily.

"It isn't meant to."

They both fall silent for a long moment.

And then Dean whispers this out into the stillness, because for what it's worth he needs Castiel and his God to hear the words spoken by this smashed, ruined shell of himself that they're pinning all their hopes on. "It can't be me, Cas. I can't do it. I can't be what you need me to be. It just isn't in me anymore."

Castiel drops his head into his hands, rubs his forehead hard in the universal human gesture of frustration and then slowly exhales a distinctive, "Christ almighty."

Well that was unexpected.

"Excuse me?"

Cas looks up at him, smirks – which he didn't even think was possible – and speaks out loud. "I fear Uriel was right. You are becoming a bad influence on me, Dean Winchester."

"You know I'm right. That there's something deeper going on here?" Dean says from inside his head, prodding.

"Yes. Some way, somehow, I do."

"Well don't make it sound such a fuckin' chore."

"This is not something I am accustomed to. This feeling of trusting, of caring for one who is not my kind."

"I thought you angels were all with the carin' and sharin'," Dean says and for a second he drifts off to back-seat-thoughts, forgetting Cas is in there with him. Good times.

A curt, "She was human then," snaps him out of that reasonably happy memory.

"We are one with each other, all of us. But it isn't like… this," Castiel continues, motioning back and forth between them with one hand. Dean's not sure if the angel isn't unsettled by the whole idea, because he abruptly changes tack.

"I have never thought to doubt, Dean. That way lies… faithlessness. But something is not right here."

"Because I'm right. Cas, you know I am. You said they don't tell you everything. There's something else, something they're not telling you. Some reason why I was the one."

And he has this awful feeling, this foreboding, about what it is. It's his connection with his brother. It's his brother who is the missing puzzle piece. It's him because somehow it's Sam too. And too late he remembers again that Castiel is there in his head with him, hears all, sees all, knows all.

He glances up to find his angel gazing straight at him, straight into his soul.

"Am I right?"

"I don't know."

"Can you find out?"

"I don't know."

"Are you going to kill my brother?"

"I don't know."

And again Castiel speaks out loud, murmurs really. "I don't know if I still can."

Dean finds he can even huff inside his head and wonders if he might be able to persuade Cas to leave this mindwhammy switched on. It has all sorts of potential. For finding out what the heck is going on in his brother's cro-magnon skull, for one thing. And with that bitch Ruby.

xxx

Castiel appears from nowhere (how do they do that?) and stops him as he strides up the hallway towards Dean's room.

"Your brother is resting," he says, evenly. There is no condemnation in his tone or his eyes. "Sam, I will not lie to you. You asked me to consider. I have and I will continue to do so. The truth is that events are proceeding in a way I had not foreseen."

"Sensing a disturbance in the force, Cas?" Sam says, with just a touch of insolence, because let's face it they both know the angel would be hard pressed to take him out of the game now.

"Uriel is… gone."

It's Sam's turn to gape. "Well that's a… shame."

"Relax, Sam. I know there was no love lost there," Castiel says, matter-of-factly.

Sam gapes even more. "Who are you? And what have you done with my brother's guardian angel?"

Cas lands on his feet and keeps running.

"As I have said, I am considering matters. Your power is… unsettling. But it is a weapon, and one we may be able to use in our defense, if necessary. Sam… I am not omniscient. I know only what I am told. But… I feel that our situation is becoming ever more dire. I no longer know who to trust among my brothers. But I know that I do trust your brother – with my faith, my soul and my existence. I want to believe that I can trust you."

Trust me? God help me. I don't even know if I can trust me any more…

Then Cas hits it home. "You must stop what you are doing with the demon until we know more. We need to know what it means and where it leads. In this, perhaps your friend Bobby Singer can be of assistance."

"I'll call him." Like fuck he will. There is no way on God's green earth he's going to tell Bobby what he's been doing.

Cas looks at him quizzically then. Jesus, can he read minds?

"Sam, I entreat you to think of your brother. I have shown you a glimpse of what he endured."

So... not a dream then, in that motel room in Iowa.

"He endured it for you. For his hopes and dreams of you. For your life, and for your soul's salvation. Do not fail him. Do not waste his sacrifice." He pauses briefly.

"We shall not speak of this with your brother for now. He needs to recover his strength."

xxx

He needs it.

He can still feel the buzz of it, coursing through his veins like an electric charge. He isn't sure he wouldn't have seen himself growing somehow bigger if he looked in the mirror afterwards, like the way Popeye's arms used to balloon outwards after he chowed down on spinach in the old cartoons he and Dean used to watch a lifetime ago.

And it focuses his mind, gives him clarity. He's so sick of the waiting-and-debating, the small-fry-ghouls in one-horse-towns Dean insists they chase, every job a mom-and-pop grocery store equivalent of the big-box store demons they should be hunting. And the one they should be chasing.

The thrill of it is still right there, he can taste it in the back of his throat. It had been so easy. She was right all along: fuck the headaches and nosebleeds. He was out of their league now. You have no idea. He could still see Alastair writhing and squealing and whimpering in front of him as he squeezed, oh so gently… the sheer joy of it. The bliss. Touch my brother, you fucking filth, you stain… how dare you.

A noise startles him and he realizes it's his boots tapping a staccato rhythm on the floor, urgent percussion to the monotonous beep of the monitor.

Dean sleeps, but the drugs don't mask his unease and tear streaks track his cheeks. What happened to you down there? Come back.

He looks small. Not all there. I love you. Nothing is ever going to hurt you again. Just let me keep you safe.

Sam finishes his coffee. The room is just too small. The world is just too small.

He needs to get out.

He needs it.

xxx

Thanks for reading…