To Sam and Dean's combined relief and horror, Cas didn't hit the ground. Relief because the flying machine performed a spectacular maneouvre and caught the wounded winged man.
Horror because the flying machine sailed off with Cas imprisoned within.
Dean threw the Impala into gear and tore after it. "Sammy...."
"Already on it." Sam lowered what had once been the flap to the glove box. Now it was a small navigation and weapons control station.
The Impala had been altered as much as the brothers themselves had. It was now perfectly suited for ground exploration on alien worlds. It boasted a complete life support system, solar and oxygen cells constantly recharged for fuel, a propulsion system that was mute testimony to Dean's skill with electronics, and a full array of weaponry. A computer net wound throughout her body, making her all but sentient. All of it was controlled by the tiny board now resting on Sam's lap.
Each of the three had tracking devices implanted behind their left ears before they had left the main B'shain ship for the MaryJohn, and it was this that the computer was now tracking. "Ten degrees northeast," Sam reported. "They're taking him to that city he said he saw. Want me to see if I can tap into their computer system? Assuming they have one?"
"Go for it," Dean said, gritting his teeth against the worry blooming.
Cas's right wing had been shredded. Could he retract it? Would their brother ever fly again? It would kill Cas to be grounded. You don't live however the hell long Cas had lived as an angel and then come out of it mostly human but still able to fly for a reason --- only to be crippled and have one functional wing.
That would be the cruelest of fates for someone like Cas. And if Dean could help it, it was a fate he was not going to permit to happen. He was learning more and more and more about the MaryJohn every day. He could learn to use the Infirmary's equipment for something other than parts fodder.
They would get their brother back. And once they'd healed Cas, those responsible for hurting him would be made to pay.
Dean would see to it personally.
"There," Sam pointed at a tower complex. "They're flying there."
"Looks like it's on the other side of the city," Dean said. He abruptly changed direction, steering the Impala away from the city!
"Quicker this way than fighting traffic."
"You're still assuming it's like Earth."
"You're still chiding me instead of trying to crack their computer system."
Sam shot him a glare, then turned back to his work.
"Sammy, I know you can do this, okay?"
The smile was real as Sam replied, "Thanks." Cas had been talking to them about their "appalling communications skills" and it seemed to be taking root. There was a moment of tense silence as the miles were eaten away under the Impala's tyres, then Sam grinned. "Got it."
"I'm in." He tilted his head up. "You were right, that tower's their central command. We get there, we get Cas out, we get out of here."
"Wonder if that's why this planet is such a Bermuda Triangle," Dean said, angling the car toward the city at last. "They capture everybody different?"
"Not everybody," Sam pointed out. "We're still loose."
Dean grinned at that, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "And these people have no idea what they've just unleashed when they shot Cas down."
Sam nodded, pulling his gun out of its holster in the side of the door. "Do we have any idea what they've unleashed?"
"Not yet," Dean admitted. "But give me a few minutes."
Sam couldn't help the laughter. Some things, it seemed, never changed.
And he found that incredibly reassuring.
His first sensation was pain in his right wing. His next was that he was gasping for air and dripping wet.
His third was a cold voice. "General, he wakes."
"Good." This voice was a woman's, dripping icicles. He felt fingers entwine in his curly hair, using it as a lever to jerk his head backward. "Open your eyes."
He forced his eyes open and beheld a woman approximately 40 years of age, with a single thin strip of white down the centre part of her raven hair. It complimented her olive skin perfectly, and her eyes -- though beautiful -- blazed with anger.
And that was the instant Cas realised he really needed to stop reading pulp novels before he went to bed, if that was how his internal thoughts were going to sound.
"What are you?" the woman growled, her face so close to his that Cas could smell the spices from her latest meal lingering on her breath.
"M'Cas Winchester," he slurred through the pain.
"I asked the what of you, not the who of you!" She released him and his head fell forward.
".....m'wet....why'm I wet?"
"That was my doing," the first voice spoke again. "I threw water on you to rouse you."
"M'wing..." He wobbled his head up. "......please......need t'heal it...."
"Yes," the woman sneered. "Your wing. You are a winged man."
His head wobbled in a nod.
"No, that is plain," she said with a nod. "You are a man."
"A human man."
He wobbled a nod.
He shifted position and grunted as the injured wing screamed in protest and froze when he realised that he was strapped to a chair.
She leaned in close again, not touching him this time. Her voice was low and hissing, resembling a serpent more than a female voice. "You. Are. An. Abomination."
Cas felt his eyes go huge. Never in his long life had he been spoken of like that. "No.....m'not...."
She backhanded him, snapping his head around so hard he gasped. "Silence, Abomination! You will only speak to answer questions!"
Unable to stop the soft sob that erupted from his throat at the unexpected blow and repeated words of poisonous untruth, Cas squeezed his eyes shut and prayed harder than he had ever prayed in his life.
Please....let Dean and Sam find me quickly......
Finding a spot for the Impala was not difficult. Sliding into the city proper was a bit of a jolt, when they realised their comparatively pale skin made them stand out like beacons.
"How are we gonna sneak into the tower?" Dean whispered as they neared it. "We're already getting stares because we're light...."
"Your blond hair especially sticks out like a sore thumb," Sam whispered in return. "Not to mention we're both at least a head taller than most of the population...."
Dean scoffed. "So used to standing next to you that it's strange to feel tall." He grinned at the glare, then slapped Sam's arm. "Hey, I got an idea. Come on."
Rolling his eyes heavenward for just a moment, Sam followed his brother.
If anyone would have asked Sam, he would have told them that the idea was too simple to work -- a thrown rock, a yell of "Stop! Thief!" and the guards would take off in that direction and they'd slide into the tower.
But it did work -- partially. One of the guards took off after the sound. The other one was taken down quickly by the butt of Dean's gun to the back of his head.
One of the last things they knew from the Impala's scanners was that Cas was being held in one place now -- near the top of the tower. A straight elevator ride would have taken too long, so they alternated between elevators and stairs until they were at the top section of the tower.
Then they methodically searched every room. Every closet. Every stairwell.
Dean's frustration was growing with every empty space and every person they found that wasn't Cas. "You're sure it said he was here?"
Sam's was doing a quieter burn, but it was burning nonetheless. "Yeah, I'm sure -- as sure as I can be. We are dealing with technology, after all...."
Dean growled something unflattering and barely audible.
"....and honestly, it's not like either of us has any practical experience with away missions. Lifelong viewings of Star Trek and Star Wars notwithstanding, this is our first time actually doing it..."
There was a long moment's silence, then Dean turned to face him with a grin. "Why, Sammy," he said, his eyes glittering with mirth. "You make it sound like something salacious..."
Sam's jaw closed so fast Dean actually heard his teeth click together. "Jerk," he snarled, glaring at his brother.
"Bitch," Dean chuckled. "Come on, let's get going."
The next three floors were just as frustratingly empty as the first ones had been. By now, Dean was doing a slow, silent burn of his own.
By now, Sam was starting to notice something that he wasn't very happy with. "Hey....Dean?"
"Where are all the guards?"
Dean stopped walking and looked over at him. "You're complaining because there aren't guards up here?"
"They have flying machines with armaments capable of shooting Cas out of the sky. They are seemingly well-armed and mobilised. We followed a spaceship here, after all. And they leave a tower -- presumably their main base of operation and we definitely know it's where Cas is being held -- somewhere -- unguarded? It doesn't make any sense."
Jade eyes narrowed to furious slits. Dean's voice was a low growl. "You're saying we're bein' herded."
"Yeah," Sam said, shifting position and glancing around. "That's exactly what I'm saying."
"Big question is, where are we being herded to."
Dean licked his lips. "I'm thinking we go along with it for now. I've got this feeling that we're being herded right to Cas."
"Haven't gotten that far, yet."
"What do we do when we get there?"
"Haven't gotten that far, either."
"Wow," Sam couldn't help but chuckle. "You suck."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Come on."
Four unfruitful floors later, Sam opened a door and there was the most welcome sight in the world. "Dean! Found him!"
Dean joined him in the doorway. "Cas!"
They both surged forward. Cas was strapped to a chair by his forearms and calves. His damaged right wing trailed the ground behind him and his left one was strapped to his shoulder. His head wobbled up. "No.....get out...."
"Not without you," Dean said, crouching in front of him and starting to work on the knots.
"We know," Sam said. "We're still not leaving without you."
Cas shook his head, azure eyes huge. "Please......go....."
There was a loud slam and they turned to find the door out of the room closed. A man smirked at them through a window that was suddenly in the door, then it was closed.
Dean slowly stood. "....the hell?"
Cas closed his eyes. ".....too late...."
Sam pulled the ropes free and lifted Cas into his arms, careful of the damaged wing. "Window?"
"Window." Dean moved toward it, drawing his gun to shatter the window once he reached it.
He never reached it. A skylight sighed open and a round object the size of a baseball was tossed in. The skylight was hurriedly closed.
Clouds of grey-white gas began to billow from the object. "Move!" Dean yelled. "Move, move!"
They raced toward the exits, coughing from the gas. Dean's knees buckled and he fell mere feet from the door.
Sam felt Cas go limp in his arms and he raised his foot to kick the door open. Overbalancing, he fell onto his back, Cas's unconscious body sprawled over his.
I'm sorry, Cas was the last thing that crossed Sam's mind before unconsciousness stole him away.
His first impression was that his chest hurt and felt tight. It felt like he was a little boy again, struggling to inhale as the asthma strangled his lungs and laughed at him.
An attempt to draw in a breath was successful, and the tight band constricting his chest eased a bit. More deep breaths cleared it completely.
Once breathing was taken care of, he took stock of his situation. He realised he was tied to a chair -- exactly as Cas had been when they had finally located.....
Dean slowly shook the miniature Impalas off of his eyelids and forced them to raise. As he'd feared, neither of his brothers were in sight.
He was not alone in the room, however. A man in a military looking uniform stood contemplating him. "Ah, you finally wake."
A jolt of pride surged through Dean -- his translation program had done its job! It was quickly followed by anger. "Where are my brothers?"
The man's head tilted and Dean was immediately reminded of how Cas had acted when they had first met. "Brothers," he mused, fascinated by the plural. "They are both akin to you?"
"Yeah," Dean snarled, testing his bonds. "They are both my brothers!" He saw no need to mention that they had adopted Cas or that his Winchester DNA had been given rather than inborn. "What have you done with them?"
But the man seemed to have his brain stuck on the fact that they were brothers. "Brothers..." he repeated, moving toward the door.
"Hey!" Dean yelled.
The man waved a hand toward Dean. "Stay there," he said distractedly as he headed through the door.
Dean snorted. "You're kidding, right? Hey!" he roared. "HEY! GET BACK HERE! WHERE ARE MY BROTHERS? HEY! HEY!"
A searing ribbon of fire roared its way down into his shoulder. The shock of it sent a gasping cry ripping from his throat and his closed eyes flew open as if they had sprouted wings of their own.
"That is sufficient." His head turned and there was the woman from before, her features impassive as she stared at him.
The sudden retreat of pain very nearly caused him to black out again. He blinked the darkness away as he saw a man walk from behind him. "....what....were you doing...."
The man smirked. "Testing a theory," he growled. "That your wings feel as the rest of you do."
"They are part of me, if that's what you mean," Cas replied, as part of him marveled that he could still speak through a throat scraped raw from screaming.
"That is what I said," the man frowned. "Do you not understand my speech?"
"It is...stilted," Cas said, panting slightly from the pain.
The woman nodded slowly. "Then you are hearing us through a translation program. You do not speak Lankare."
That didn't translate -- that meant it was the proper name of something. Cas nodded. "That is correct."
"Your speech sounds stilted to us," the man said. "So your translation program is translating your words for us." He turned to her. "That would be why his lips do not match his words at times."
"Makes sense," she nodded again.
"I would like to test other theories," the man said, looking at Cas.
"Such as?" she asked.
"Birds have hollow bones. I would like to see if this bird-man does as well."
"How do you plan to do that?" the woman asked.
The man smiled and the sight of it made coldness slither down Cas's spine. "Why, break one, of course." He waved a hand. "Though, with him being the abomination that he is, perhaps we won't stop at one."
Cas felt the coldness only deepen at the woman's answering smile. She opened her mouth to answer the man, and a second man walked in. He whispered something in her ear, and she frowned deeply. "You are certain?" The second man nodded, and she turned back to Cas, her eyes narrowing. "Do nothing yet," she ordered the first man as she followed the second out of the room.
Perhaps it was only his imagination, but Cas thought the first man appeared disappointed that he had to wait.
Cas couldn't allow himself to feel relieved, yet. His torture was not over.
It had merely been delayed.
Sam raised his head when the woman and man who had talked to her came into the room where he sat lashed to a chair. He fixed her with the fiercest glare he could manage.
She smirked at him. "Brothers. The three of you are all brothers."
Sam didn't answer her.
A dark eyebrow rose. "You can forget the silent act. We heard you speak when you were trying to rescue the Abomination."
That caused both of Sam's eyebrows to shoot up, but then his eyes narrowed and his lips thinned. He still made no sound.
"Fine. If you will not give us what we need, we shall take something of yours." She nodded to the man with her. "Bring me his hand." She spun on her heel and left the room.
The man drew a machete and approached Sam. "Please....Please, tell us what we need to know. I don't want to do this."
Sam just glared up at him.
The man tightened the strap holding Sam's right hand immobile. He took hold of the back of it, forcing it flat and put the sharp edge of the machete onto the cuff of Sam's shirt just below the strap. "Please."
Sam turned his hand over and gave the man's a forgiving squeeze before he turned it back and closed his eyes.
How was he going to explain this to Dean?
He felt the man raise the machete.
He heard the man's whispered, "I'm sorry."
Then he heard it hiss through the air and felt it impact his arm with a metallic thunk.
Ateno strode into Ferri's office. "General."
Ferri looked up, a smile touching her lips. "'General', is it, then? What's the matter, Ateno?"
"I must have words with you on your treatment of our....guests."
Her eyes narrowed. "Words?"
"Words." He leaned over her desk. "What in the name of all the gods do you think you're doing?"
"I am dealing with intruders who happen to be abominations."
"I will possibly -- possibly -- stand in agreement with you on the Winged One. We don't yet know what he is. But the other two are--"
Ateno closed his mouth with an audible click and slowly stood up. "Brothers."
"Yes. Brothers. They are of a kindred." She stood and leaned over her desk, facing him. "We have been friends a long time, Ateno. You know me."
He just stared at her.
"You know I do nothing I don't feel is in Lankeer's best interests."
"So you will not stop."
"There is no reason to stop. They are abominations -- not human. We have an obligation to see that their kind does not pollute ours."
"Very well." He spun on his heel and moved toward the door.
"Ateno, I did not dismiss you."
"I don't care." He walked out the door and leaned against the wall. "......I thought I knew you, Ferri.....now, I am not so sure."
His attention was caught by a white-faced man dashing toward the office. He grabbed his arm. "Hamu, Hamu -- calm down, Hamu! What is it?"
"The-the-the...." Hamu stammered, gesturing behind him with a hand that held a machete.
"Mmm," Ateno said, wincing. "First order of business," he muttered, gingerly disarming Hamu and sliding the machete against the wall. "Now -- speak."
"The-the General....sh-she ordered me to bring her the silent one's hand!"
Ateno closed his eyes, fury welling up in him. "So," he said, opening them. "Where is it?"
"Still attached to him!" Hamu went even paler, if that were possible, swallowing hard as if to keep his food firmly behind his belt. "I could not cut him! I tried both arms, and I could not cut him!"
"Show me, Hamu." When the man started frantically shaking his head, Ateno grasped his shoulders. "I will handle him on the General's behalf. Show. Me."
Sam looked up as the door opened. In walked the soldier who had tried to remove his hands, followed by a man of straighter back and unafraid eyes. "There," the first one half-sobbed. "There he sits!"
The second man nodded. "Very well, Hamu. I shall handle this." He turned and lay a hand on his shoulder. "Go to your quarters. Make yourself presentable. Then go home. I fear you have had one too many shocks today."
"Aye, Colonel. Thank you, Colonel." He spun and all but ran from the room.
Once they were alone, the man closed the door and turned to face Sam. "My name is Ateno," he said in a gentle voice. "Have you a name?"
Sam glared at him.
"So I am to call you 'Silent Man' from now on?"
Sam couldn't help it -- his lips twitched at the humour.
"Ah, so there is a sense of humour behind those eyes. Can you speak at all?"
His eyes trailed toward the door.
"You are not dealing with Hamu or the General now. And for future reference? I think this is shameful."
His chin rose again, and his eyes looked at the door.
"You wish to be with your brothers."
Fox-like eyes snapped huge, and the jaw lowered as he stared at Ateno.
"I have brothers myself," Ateno said as he stepped closer. "Ferri -- the General -- she is an only child. I fear she does not understand what it is like to give up everything for someone you share blood with." He reached out. "But I unders---" He broke off as his hand closed over Sam's arm.
Sam stared at him in open challenge.
Ateno blinked, his fingers gently probing Sam's arm. Then his lips twitched. He stepped back, dropped his face in his hands, and let out a laugh muffled by his hands.
Sam glared at him. Dean would have recognised the look immediately.
Ateno shook his head as he got himself under control. "Hamu thinks you are invulnerable."
Eyes widened as that sank in, then Sam lowered his own head and laughed softly.
"Don't worry -- your secret is safe with me." Ateno raised Sam's arm as best he could with the restraints, and slid one of the hidden knives from its sheath over Sam's forearm. "I am going to guess that the other arm has a similar one."
Sam's only answer was a small shrug.
Ateno nodded. "I understand. They were in such a hurry to restrain you they did not check for hidden weapons. Our people do not carry weapons on our arms, in any case. They would not have thought to search there."
Sam gasped softly as Ateno regripped the knife and made a single slice. Then he stared in shock as the restraints holding his arm down parted.
Ateno flipped the knife around and presented it hilt-first to Sam. "Let's go find your brothers."
Sam took the knife and cut himself loose, then made the knife vanish. His eyes eloquently asked the question.
He smiled. "As I said -- I have brothers. And this treatment is wrong." He led the way to the door, pointedly turning his back on Sam. "And if anyone asks -- you are my prisoner and I am transferring you under General Ferri's orders."
Ateno turned, his eyes wide. "And the man does have a voice. What did you say?"
"My name is Sam."
"Greetings to you -- Sam. Come, I believe they are holding your brother down this hall."
Sam nodded and fell into step slightly behind him, letting Ateno lead the way.
When they came to a room with a nondescript wooden door, Ateno stepped forward to talk to the guards while Sam lingered in the shadows. After a long moment, one of the guards opened the door and another headed toward Sam, who tensed for a fight.
"Easy," the guard said, spreading empty hands. "Come on out to me. Ateno has gone to get your brother. We will lead you to the third." When Sam still hesitated, he smiled. "Not all of us agree with the General on his treatment."
"What treatment?" Sam blurted, then cursed himself for breaking his silence again.
"Bad news." But it was not the guard's voice. Nor Ateno's. It was a voice that had Sam racing from the shadows and past the guard, to taking the arm of the man shaking with rage that Ateno led out of the room.
It had been Dean's voice. Dean looked at him and nodded, curling his fingers on the back of Sam's neck. "M'okay."
"I'm invulnerable," Sam quipped, and Dean frowned deeply.
"General Ferri ordered his hands to be cut off," Ateno said, and Dean's eyes widened, shooting down to where those very intact hands were holding his arm.
Sam chuckled. "They cut above my wrists."
Dean's eyes widened in comprehension. "How many knives are you wearing?"
"Enough," Sam said, and turned to Ateno. "Where's Cas?"
"I don't know," Ateno said. "I only knew where this one was."
"I know," the guard who had approached Sam said. "This way." He took off at a jog, with the Winchesters and Ateno and his fellow guard behind him.
The scientist had not managed to return after proposing his bone-breaking experiment. So far as Cas could determine, that was nothing but good. He worked on his bonds, and managed to loosen them a fraction before he heard the distinct click of the door and saw it start to slide open.
He ground his teeth together and raised his chin, determined to not show fear -- though he was very much in pain and very much afraid.
He had chosen to take the name Winchester. Time to live up to it.
But when he saw who looked warily around the door, his shoulders slumped in sheer relief – and OW, that didn't feel good on his wing -- and he heard himself breathe out, "Oh, thank God...."
"Not out of the woods yet," Dean cracked as Sam produced a knife from seemingly nowhere and moved to eradicate Cas's bonds. "Might wanna hold out on the praise."
"Never," Cas smiled as he stood shakily. He closed his eyes and concentrated on drawing in his wings -- and gasped as the pain snapped them wide open and turned his tan complexion to something resembling pea soup cut with milk. "I can't....I can't retract them yet," he gasped. "The right one's.....still shattered."
"Don't try," Sam said. "C'mon, we gotta move."
Cas nodded. "I'll try again.... in a half hour or so..." Sam and Dean both shot strange looks his way, and he chuckled. "Fast healer, remember?"
"Not that fast," Dean shot back.
"No?" Cas showed them how he could move his right wing outward. "Couldn't do that a half hour ago. They're healing. I just need time."
Ateno jerked his head down an empty hallway. "Time is the one thing we can not give you. You have till the turn of that hallway -- then our truce must end of necessity."
"I hear them," Sam said. "Footsteps, coming this way."
"Thanks, man," Dean said with a smile. "We owe you." Then the three of them began a shaky run down the hallway.
As they rounded the corner and grew more steady with their feet underneath them, they heard Ateno's voice bellow, "THE PRISONERS HAVE ESCAPED! AFTER THEM!"
Dean kicked open a stairwell and the trio pounded their way down it. "The Impala is ground floor, back entrance!" Dean informed Cas.
"Will I fit? I can't retract my wing back into my body!" Cas gasped.
"You'll fit," the others chorused, and then they saved their breath for the run.
At the ground floor, Dean pointed and they ran toward the rear of the building -- pulling up short when they reached the glass-lined atrium beyond which they could see the Impala parked.
Soldiers filled the atrium. Among them was a smirking General Ferri. "Are you planning on leaving us, boys?" she purred. "You won't make it past us. Surrender now and we will make it easy on you. Continue to resist -- and it won't go well. Particularly not for you, Abomination."
Cas's eyes flashed with anger as he took a step forward. "My name is Cas Winchester -- not 'Abomination'. I will thank you to cease calling me that."
Ferri laughed, as did some of the soldiers with her. When it died down, she said, "Offer stands -- Cas." She made his name sound even more of an insult than 'Abomination'. "You cannot get past us to your transport."
"Oh, yes," Cas said with a cold smile. "We can."
"Cas," Dean hissed. "I'm unarmed and I don't know how many knives Sam has--"
"Not enough to take them all down," Sam hissed.
"Do you trust me?" Cas whispered.
"Yes, but--" Dean replied.
"Then step closer to me, and cover your ears."
They edged closer to him as if to protect him. "Why?" Sam whispered.
Cas shot him a smile that briefly reached his eyes. "I may not be envesseled..." He said, then turned to face the soldiers.
Dean and Sam both gasped when Cas's eyes turned blue-white from corner to corner and began to glow.
".....but I retain a measure of grace!" Cas snapped. Then he opened his mouth and they saw the cords of his neck snap into view.
A high-pitched whine began to fill the air.
Dean and Sam both slapped their hands over their ears, and gasped when they realised they felt that whine vibrating into their bones.
They were slightly behind Cas, and the sound emanated from Cas, pouring outward to envelop the atrium and the soldiers in it.
Cas's body was vibrating with the power he was putting into that unearthly wail. His hands had clenched into fists, and his white-blue eyes were only halfway open. Both wings were extended, up and out. Each one seemed to shield one of his new brothers from the noise.
The soldiers fell to their knees, except for one who looked blankly around and then winced, stumbling out of the room. Blood slowly appeared between their fingers and Ferri's face became a distorted mask of pain.
One after another, the soldiers toppled over, unconscious and bleeding freely from their ears. When Ferri slumped over, eyes glazed and body twitching, Cas's head snapped backwards slightly.
The sound tipped up -- over the downed soldiers -- and stopped as Cas sucked in a breath. Then it rippled out again, somehow louder than before.
The glass walls began to rattle in their frames.
Sam's prayed "....oh holy God, what the hell...." was swallowed by the sound, as was Dean's "....holy flaming shit...."
With the unholy crash of a thousand cymbals all together, every pane of glass broke into splinters at the exact same time.
The wail turned into a softly moaned, ".....ooh...." and white-blue glowing eyes snapped to dark, human blue as Cas's wings drooped and he sagged backward into their waiting arms.
Dean's hand carded through the sweaty curls that drooped as if exhausted across Cas's forehead. "Cas, what the hell...."
Cas smiled tiredly at him. ".....angel's....true voice.....screaming...." His eyes closed.
Sam grunted as he lifted Cas into his arms, letting the damaged right wing dangle. "We gotta go!"
"C'mon!" Dean led the way through the mass of downed, bleeding soldiers and gingerly stepped out of the atrium onto the street. "Careful, there's a hell of a lot of glass here..."
"No kidding," Sam said, sparing energy for a quick eye-roll as they maneuvred Cas's unconscious form through the frames together. Then Sam took over carrying him again as Dean ran to the Impala and got it open.
Sam gently lay Cas on the back seat and together they got his wings all clear of the door. Then they got into the front seat and Dean started the engine with the press of his palm against the dashboard.
He couldn't resist flipping the tower the bird as the Impala roared down the street at high speed. The faster they got off this horrible world, the better.
When Cas forced leaden eyelids to part, he found himself lying on a bed of B'shain design, with a diagnostic hood draped over the upper half of his body. Licking his lips, he turned to find Dean curled onto his side in the next bed over, sound asleep.
"Ah, awake at last." Cas turned to find Sam walking in and sinking into the chair beside his bed. He smiled and pushed back the hood, and Cas struggled to sit up.
With Sam's help, he managed to make it upright and get a little bit of water into his stomach. "What...." He looked over his shoulder. "My wings...."
"You did that all by yourself, about five hours after we got you back here," Sam informed him. "Sat right up, got that look that Dean calls your 'constipated face', and they faded back to where you keep 'em when they're not out."
Cas made a thoughtful humming noise. "They must have healed enough, then -- or the pain would have woken me."
"The scanner said your wing was nearly completely healed. As was your throat -- you ripped the hell out of it with that stunt."
Cas shrugged. "It got us free. That's all that matters."
Sam snorted softly. "Now I know you're a real Winchester."
"I've become a real boy!" Cas teased with a huge grin.
"You and those books," Sam laughed. "Yes, you've become a real boy." The smile vanished. "Who's 20% deaf in both ears."
Cas's shoulders slumped and he glanced down at his hands. "I kind of thought so. Things started getting really quiet once we transferred onto the MaryJohn."
"Cas." It was Dean, sitting up now. "How'd this happen?"
Sighing, Cas turned to face him and watched Sam go to sit beside him, so they both could face him. "When Gabriel left... after altering us and the Impala ... he-he said I would have a cross to bear, like every human does. He wasn't sure what it would be, himself. But he said I would know it when it arrived." He shrugged. "I suppose it has arrived."
Dean reached over and squeezed Cas's knee in silent support. Cas squirmed, making both of them laugh. "Cas!" Sam laughed. "You're ticklish!"
"Hush," Cas snapped. "....just a little bit."
Once the laughter had died down, Dean looked at Sam. "How far out from Lankeer are we?"
"We left their solar system behind two hours ago," Sam said. "We'd have been out sooner, but we've been playing 'avoid the patrols' by hiding in their asteroid field."
Cas frowned. "They've sent patrols after us?" At Sam's nod, he growled and stood up, grabbing his boots and jerking them on with a strange hopping dance as he headed toward the door muttering about "...should have woken me sooner....primary pilot, after all...."
Sam chuckled. "We're okay, Cas! The most exciting thing that happened was Bobby called growling at us in relief because we're free of Lankeer!"
Nodding, Cas paused at the doorway. "Dean?"
"I believe I would like that milkshake you promised me earlier. Vanilla is preferable." He tapped the door and smiled as he left the Infirmary.
Dean blinked after him, then shook his head and softly muttered, "Son of a bitch...." to the tune of Sam's delighted laughter.
Ateno closed the door behind him and turned to face the bed. "You wanted to see me, Ferri?"
She glared at him. "You helped them get away."
"I did not," he said. "I raised the alarm once I found them gone."
She leaned forward -- as best as she could with the restraints holding her to the bed -- and sneered, "Really? That is most peculiar. Since they escaped so soon after your foolish bickering with me about their treatment."
"Which I still disagree with," he pointed out.
She hummed, leaning back on the bed.
"How are you doing, Ferri? Honestly?"
Her look turned into another glare. "I am hearing again -- no thanks to the Abomination. I have bouts of dizziness and I have been found unfit to command. Something about reckless disregard for safety and life? You would happen to know nothing of that, would you -- General Ateno?"
"Ferri, if I could have stopped it...."
"Oh, don't even try!" she spat. "Of everybody under me -- I thought you were a friend!"
"I am your friend! That's why I wanted you to stop! That's why I want to get you the help you so clearly need!"
"I DON'T NEED THIS KIND OF HELP!" she roared.
Ateno sighed and ran his hand over his nose and mouth. "I'm sorry, Ferri. Truly, I am. But this has to end." He turned to leave her room.
"Yes, Ateno." Something in her voice made him freeze. "It has to end."
He turned back, to see her sliding a hand free of the sliced-through restraints. "Ferri?"
"And it ends today." She drew a pistol from beneath her pillow.
"Ferri....." His voice held a note of warning.
"FERRI!" He surged toward the bed.
The single gunshot sounded loud in the tiny room.
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