Spoiler warnings to anyone who hasn't seen episodes 6.21 and 6.22. I am probably reading way too much in to some conversation from earlier episodes but it made me want to write and I haven't felt the need for a while. Of course it will all be wrong when season 7 opens but for now…We can all dream.
Acknowledgement to Supernatural Wiki for some of the quotes.
Supernatural is the property of E. Kripke and the CW and likely some other people/entities that are not me. The title is from a song released by Led Zeppelin II 1969
DEAN: So you're just gonna be cryptic, or...
DEATH: It's about the souls. You'll understand when you need to.
Appointment in Samarra
Castiel walked to the center of the room and proclaimed himself god.
You'll understand when you need to-Dean was struck by an inexplicable compulsion and began to murmur under his breath "Messorum evoco qui me tetigit…"
"Kneel down and worship me or be destroyed," the new god demanded.
Dean stood up as straight as he could, he wasn't going to kneel and he sure as hell wasn't going to cower. He didn't cave in to Lucifer or Michael or any of the other god-wanna-bes that demanded he submit. He sure as hell wasn't bending a knee to an angel with sudden onset delusions of grandeur. It was plain that he would be no more successful at reasoning with Cas now than he had before. Actually, it appeared pretty clear that any so called profound bond they might have had was broken, possibly irreparably. The untapped energy in the souls from purgatory had given Castiel absolute power and appeared to have corrupted his friend absolutely.
Dean was getting ready to say something he was certain he wouldn't live long enough to regret when a smooth and cultured voice interrupted him.
"Now, now, none of that, there shall be no more destroying tonight, at least not by you." Death had silently arrived in his cadaverous splendor and thought it best to make himself known. He directed his comment toward Castiel, hands crossed over each other and resting on the top of his ornate cane.
Castiel regarded this new player with the same disdain he had regarded Raphael. "You will bow before me Horseman. I am the new god."
"You are a child putting on his father's shoes and playing dress up. You are deluded not deified. And by opening the door to purgatory and taking in the souls placed there, you have upset the natural order.
"I am quite done with having the natural order upset. It was bad enough when these Winchesters went about mucking it all up, I will not tolerate it being done by a being who should know better and I don't care how desperate you were or how good your original intentions.
"I am not here to kneel, Castiel, I am here to restore the balance and it would be best if you just cooperated."
A scent of ozone spiked the air and the small hairs on the back of Dean's neck stood at attention. He glanced at his brother and surrogate father, checking their positions relative to the closest avenue of escape, hoping that flight was even possible since things seemed to be going pear shaped faster then usual.
Castiel seethed. "The souls are mine!"
Death shook his head sadly, totally ignoring the angel's outburst. He turned and addressed Dean, "There are many souls here, Dean. Though they are far from being pure, the sheer number may light things up a bit. It might be best if all of you close your eyes."
Dean, Bobby and Sam looked at each other and then took the suggestion seriously. They tightly closed their eyes.
For a moment it seemed as if nothing was going to happen. Dean was just considering taking a peek when the air pressure in the room soared, pressing in on him from all directions and making it hard to draw a breath. He shuttered his eyes tighter and hid his face in the crook of his arm.
Castiel raised his hand and prepared to snap his fingers, intent on ending Death as easily as he had ended Raphael. He had the power to destroy those who stood against him and did not fear to use it. He would teach everyone to treat him with the respect he demanded and adore him in a manner that he, as god, deserved; even if they didn't survive the lesson.
Death lifted a ring clad hand and made a come hither gesture.
Light exploded out of the angel. It filled the room with all colors and none. There was a sound that Dean could only describe as a million bees buzzing underwater. The sound and the light built in power, washing over the humans in waves. Their ears hurt, eardrums threatening to rupture. Even with eyes tightly closed and shielded with arms, the brightness leaked through, whitening vision. The humans were torn between holding their hands over their ears to block out the sound and continuing to protect their eyes as best they could.
When it stopped; it stopped suddenly. Brightness instantly gone leaving the inside of their eyelids washed with red after image. They each wondered if the buzzing had deafened them it was so silent.
Eyes blinking rapidly, Dean looked first for his brother and then Bobby. They were still there, still standing. That was enough for now. He looked at Death and Castiel. The angel was on his hands and knees, eyes wide and unseeing, until he slowly lowered his head and began to keen. "What have I become, oh Father, what have I done…"
Dean took a step towards him, but found Death in his path.
"You did very well Dean. I was not certain that you would remember at the right time and in the right place."
Dean pointed vaguely toward the quietly sobbing angel. "What about Cas?"
Death made a dismissive gesture. "When I removed the corrupt souls and the influence of the King of the Crossroads, he was able to see his actions in a clearer light. I also removed a bit of his grace as a penalty for messing with things which he should not. It will eventually grow back, if he survives."
"He has made many enemies and the angelic blade will now be quite effective, should you choose to use it."
Dean continued to stare at his former friend while addressing Death, "So you're not going to…"
"Oh, yes, I see what you are asking. No, Dean, I, personally, do not intend to reap Castiel this day. I will leave his judgment to you or his Father or whomever. At this moment, he is no longer my concern."
Death turned and walked slowly up to Sam, looking through him rather than at him.
Sam had faced death many times but never in quite so literal a manner. He involuntarily shrank away.
"I will not say I am not tempted to punish him more severely, however. In addition to attempting to destroy the way of things, it was not very nice of Castiel to bring down my wall when I had gone to such pains to erect it." He slowly raised his hand toward Sam's face.
Sam backed up, staring at the incarnation of mortality, "Dean!"
"Tell your brother it's going to be fine, Dean, I have no intention of harming him." Death's voice was cool and detached. He was regarding Sam as if he were a puzzle rather than a person.
"Sam," Dean's voice shook slightly, "just…"
"Yes, Sam, just…hold still and think of England." Death touched Sam's face and hummed quietly to himself. "Well there is no putting the wall back up but I can still cushion the memories so they are not so overwhelming."
"How?" Dean asked cautiously.
"Your brother was able to reintegrate all the pieces of himself: his memories of hell, his memories of his time while soulless and his original personality. I can filter the memories of hell through his soulless self. The memories, while present, will have no emotional impact and therefore will cause no suffering."
"Do it!" Dean demanded, not giving Sam any time to respond.
"If I do this favor for you, Dean, I will expect a favor in return."
"No, Dean, don't!" "What do you want?"
Death tilted his head in careful consideration. "Why should God be the only one to go on an extended holiday? Your short stint acting in my stead made me realize that I want a vacation; be it for a minute or a millennium, a bit of rest would be refreshing. When I call, you will take up my mantel and act as my surrogate. It has already been established that you are able to wear my ring without suffering ill effects, a rare ability for a human. If I have Tessa hold your hand, I'm certain that with your previous experience, you could muddle through adequately."
"No, Dean, don't," Sam repeated quietly, not wanting additional attention from Death. "No more deals, they are never worth the price." Suddenly the younger Winchester stiffened as he was overcome by another sense memory of being burned with hell fire from the inside out; he felt his skin blacken and turn to ash, his blood boil in his veins. The sudden agony unbearable, he could not stifle his cry of pain.
At Sam's outcry, Dean took a step and started to reach for his brother, only to be stopped again by a stern look from Death. He looked from his stricken brother to Death and back again. It really wasn't even a choice. "Yes, if you can fix Sam, then we have a deal."
"Do not think of this as a deal, Dean, think of it as quid pro quo. I am going to give you something that you want and in the future you will do something for me."
"Yes, alright, I'll owe you one. Please."
"Since you have asked so nicely, consider it done." Death moved his hand over Sam's mouth, quieting his piteous cries. "Hush now Sam, this isn't going to hurt and when I'm done the memories won't hurt either." Death's hand glowed where it touched Sam's skin. The brightness increased for several seconds and then slowly faded. "There now, all done." He took his hand away. Sam collapsed boneless to the hard concrete floor.
"Don't worry, Dean, he's fine." Death dusted his hands, a self-satisfied smile upon his thin lips. He walked toward the older brother; stopping so close that Dean could have felt his breath on his face, if Death breathed.
As soon as Death's attention waivered from Sam, Bobby scrambled to the fallen man and dropped beside him, placing a couple of fingers to his pulse point. He nodded almost imperceptibly to Dean whose shoulders slumping ever so slightly in relief.
"This has been a very productive evening, Dean. However, I must be going as certain events continue to require my attention. That many souls," he shook his head, sighing softly in exasperation to himself, "I have to ensure that my reapers don't make any mistakes with regard to destination or, perhaps, miss one. Yes, there is much to do. I'll be seeing you, Dean, and when I do?"
Dean faked a friendly smile, "Ring, vacation, got it."
Death nodded. He regarded Dean sternly before adding, "And take better care of yourself, you've lost weight. You need to eat more."
His heart beating so loudly he was sure the Grim Reaper could hear it, Dean said quietly, "Thank you…for everything."
Death nodded once then disappeared without further acknowledging him.
Hardly able to believe Winchester luck and that it was over with everyone's skin intact, well every one human, Bobby stood slowly from where he was kneeling by Sam's head, his knees creaked loudly in the silence that was only being broken by the weeping angel. He inclined his head toward Castiel. "How do you want to play this with angel boy here?" He pointedly looked at the angelic blade that had been discarded when it had failed to kill the angel and was lying on the floor. He might be the senior hunter but the angel had been Dean's friend. He'd leave that particular decision up to him.
Dean looked at the angel lying prostrate on the floor, quietly sobbing to himself in grief and remorse. The older Winchester sighed deeply, remembering everything that had passed between him and the one that gripped him tight and raised him from perdition, remembering the recent deceit and lies, trust tarnished due to desperation; was the situation really that different than what had passed between him and Sam a few years ago?
Life's short, and ours are shorter than most…Something's gonna get us eventually…Blanket apology for all the crap that anybody's done all the way around…clean slate.
"Dean, what do you want to do about Castiel?" Bobby asked again, a little louder this time, making certain he had the other man's attention.
Dean shrugged. There was really no option.