The story was done, I thought. Then someone asked how Sam found out that Castiel was out; this is how…
Plan A: Epilogue
Since the Wall was broken, Sam only went to sleep when exhaustion weighed on him so heavily that his eyelids slipped shut unnoticed. He avoided sleep as long as he was able because when he slept, he dreamed and when he dreamed, he was back in Hell.
Hell was always the same agony, which was always delivered by a different type of pain. This time he was burning from the inside out while his skin was being slowly flayed in inch long strips, by inch long strips from his stomach. The pain was horrific but he couldn't scream because of the blood bubbling up from his lungs. Couldn't scream, couldn't talk, couldn't beg for mercy; not that there ever was any mercy, even when he was able to beg. And he had, many times.
Sam was dreaming and in Hell and then suddenly he wasn't.
He was standing on a small wooden dock that projected out into a placid lake. The sky was a bright cerulean blue with a few high white clouds that added to the peacefulness of the lapis expanse rather than taking away from it. There were no screams of the damned here to serenade him. Rather there was the buzz of dragon flies and the chirping of little frogs that lived in the cattails at the water's edge. When he fell asleep it was during the dawn of winter, crisp and coldly harsh. Here it was the green of life and the golden warmth of early summer. After letting the surreal calmness soak into his weary brain for a few minutes, Sam realized that he recognized this lake.
One summer, when he was about 7 or 8 and Dean was rocking his pre-teen attitude of boredom with all things little brother, Dad had left them with Pastor Jim for several weeks. Pastor Jim lived in Minnesota, a state with the nickname land of a ten thousand lakes, and there was a small lake within walking distance of Jim's home. After they had done their chores and after Jim was assured that they could both swim and that Dean would be extra careful watching after Sam, they were allowed to walk to the lake. They spent hours swimming in the shallows and exploring along the shore. The excitement of each rock, insect and tadpole captured was hoarded by Sam like a secret treasure. One day Dean found an old fishing pole in Jim's garage. After that his brother would sit on the dock for hours just watching the bobber floating idly in the water and smiling at Sam. Dean never caught one fish. It never matter. It was one of the best summers that Sam could remember; him and his brother, playing by the lake and just enjoying each other's company.
After that summer, they never had the chance to visit that lake again.
There was a wooden chair on the dock. Sam sat down. This was a much nicer dream than the one with which the night had started. He hoped he could stay here a while before he started to burn again.
"This is a dream, but it's a good dream," Sam said aloud, mostly just to anchor himself in the moment and to hear himself say something that wasn't a scream of pain.
"This is Dean's favorite dream," Castiel said quietly from behind him.
Sam jumped up and turned. Castiel was standing at the foot of the dock. He was wearing the wrinkled trench coat, his tie was askew and his hair slightly tasseled. "Castiel?" he asked cautiously. This was a dream and Lucifer had been known to torture him while pretending to be a friend…or even family.
"Yes. When Michael released the angels from purgatory, he allowed me to return as well," Castiel looked down in shame, "despite my failings." The angel straightened his shoulders and his spine. "I know you have no reason to forgive me for what I did to you and I do not expect forgiveness. I am truly sorry and ask only for the chance to try to make it up to you. If you will allow me."
Sam took the few steps that brought him to stand before the angel. "You brought down the wall. It could have killed me. It could have left me stuck in Hell in my own head. You did that to try to distract Dean, because you were desperate?"
Castiel stilled his impulse to drop his eyes. "Yes."
"You were convinced by a demon that you had no other choice?"
Castiel nodded, "Yes."
"You were corrupted by power and hurt the ones you cared about the most?"
"I did," the angel respond with the conviction of a sinner giving confession, "and I am sorrier than I can express and accept any penance that you set for me."
Sam put his hands on Castiel's shoulders. "Cas, I can't throw the first stone. You're my friend and I'm just glad that you're back and yourself again." Sam's hands moved from Castiel's shoulder to behind the angel's back and he hugged him.
Castiel stood stiff and awkwardly, finally bringing up one hand to pat Sam on the back while murmuring, "There, there."
Sam back way with a quick laugh. "There, there?"
"Isn't that the appropriate thing to say in such a situation?" Castiel inquired with a slightly quizzical tilt of his head.
"Yeah," Sam smiled brightly, dimples in full force, "that is exactly what you're supposed to say in such a situation. Dean knows you're back?"
"Yes," the angel seemed more at ease now, a slight smile indicating his pleasure. "We have talked a few times. He also graciously extended his forgiveness."
"Then I guess we'll be seeing you around more?"
The slight smile disappeared and the face became expressionless. "I am afraid not. Michael is not allowing any of the angels to physically travel beyond Heaven at this time. I don't know how long the interdiction will last.
"However, I can visit your subconscious mind. I can also guard your dreams. I broke the wall that kept Lucifer at bay. I cannot keep him from attempting to influence your waking mind but I can guard your dreams so that Hell doesn't touch them and guarantee your rest, as I do your brother's."
"That…ah…that would be great, thank you." Sam said almost speechless with gratitude, the tantalizing prospect of having a restful night's sleep seeming a sweet and unexpected blessing.
"It is the least that I can do; a start at redeeming myself…"
"Castiel, it's not…"
"In my eyes," Castiel finished, talking over Sam.
Sam nodded, intimately understanding the need for personal redemption. "So, I guess I'll only be seeing you…"
"In your dreams, yes."
Suddenly Dean appeared sitting on the dock. He looked around and quickly got to his feet. "Sam? What are you doing here?"
Sam looked at Castiel and then back to his brother. "I was just dreaming about how nice it would be to spend a little quiet time, just sitting on a dock and fishing with my brother. You know, like that summer we spent with Pastor Jim. Then I was here."
Dean looked at him suspiciously and then glanced over at Castiel. He frowned as if he were trying to figure out if Sam or the angel were pulling a prank on him. Coming to a decision, he smiled and turned back to the lake. "Well, grab a rod and a seat. Maybe this time, I'll even dream some fish into the lake."
Sam found a simple rod at his feet and moved to cast the line into the lake. Castiel moved up beside the brothers and regard the calm water with an inscrutable expression. The scene was idyllic; Sam was with his brother and a friend he thought lost. He was in neither psychological nor physical pain. He was genuinely happy and a glance at his brother's relaxed and grinning face suggested that Dean was finally at peace. This moment could not be more perfect, his very own Field of Dreams.
Sam was struck by a sudden irrational thought, "Is this Heaven?"
"No," Castiel replied, "I believe it's Minnesota."
And Now It's The End