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Authors Note; Sorry for the delay, guys. It took me a while to get into a groove with this chapter, and then the Internet broke, and then my computer broke a day later. I've only just gotten both back. It's been a terrible week. Anyway, I've got the chapter out, hope you enjoy!

Chapter 2

It seemed to go on forever. Dean had no idea what was going on, which had to be one of the worst things that were happening right now. The energy pulsating from Castiel combined with the natural heat of the way, boiling the car. He felt amazed that the car could withstand this kind of treatment. Shouldn't the windows be blasting out? And then, in one final explosion, it was over.

Castiel lay limp in his seat, eyes closed. To Dean, he looked like he was sleeping, but angels didn't sleep.

"Cas? Cas, hey, Cas can you hear me?" Dean leaned over, pressing his hand to Castiel's hot shoulder, shaking him a little. "Cas!"

When Castiel didn't respond to his calls, Dean swore under his breath and drove the car forward, then fish-tailed around and sped out of the ditch. He needed to get to a hotel fast—but the problem was that there weren't any towns for another couple of miles. Unable to stop himself from glancing at Castiel a few times a minute, he hoped that whatever happened to Castiel hadn't put his life in danger.

Going at least twenty over the speed limit, Dean's heart hammered inside his chest. He couldn't stop going over what happened to Castiel, trying to make sense of it. Answers very nearly overcame his need to drive with all four wheels safely on his side of the road. Shaking his head, he tried to zero in on the road, but his mind began to wander again. The most unsettling thing was having Castiel—a being who always had his eyes open, always staring at everything—was out cold.

Focusontheroad, Dean told himself sternly. You'renotgoingtobeabletofuckinghelptheguyifyoudestroythecarandgetyourselfkilled.Focus.

. . . .

The hotel bed creaked under the combined weight of Dean and Castiel, a small cloud of dust rising into the air.

Dean had garnered strange looks from the people in the lobby when he'd dragged Castiel through, who looked as pale as death and was unresponsive, but that was hardly his most pressing problem. If people thought he was a killer, they were not exactly far off the truth, anyway.

"I'm going back outside to the bags," said Dean to Castiel, feeling extremely stupid for talking to someone who couldn't hear him. "Just stay there."

He ran as fast as he could out the door, down the stairs and through the empty lobby to get to the car park outside. Grabbing all four of the duffels inside the trunk, he heaved them out and dropped them on the ground in favour of shutting the trunk and locking it. Never before had been so frightened—well, not for a very long while. Not since Sam.

It was a relief to find that Castiel had not up and vanished since his trip to the car, although Castiel was so far out of it that Dean didn't really expect him to wake up for weeks, at the very least. He didn't understand what had happened in the car, but he knew that it had to be very serious.

The first thing Dean did when he set down the bags was call Bobby.

"What have you gotten yourself into, idjit?" was the first thing that Bobby said to him.

"Bobby? It's Cas."

"Funny, you sound a lot like Dean."

Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. "No, no. Bobby, I mean I am calling about Cas. Something's wrong with him."

"Besides the obvious?" said Bobby dryly.

"Bobby, it really isn't that funny. He just … he just exploded in the car. His grace and his real voice at the same time. I'm surprised that the car and I managed to pull through," said Dean. He could already feel the curdling's of distress forming inside his chest. "He's been getting warning calls from Heaven for a while now; do you think that has something to do with it?"

Bobby sighed. "Well, I suppose it could be a number of things. Or not. I suggest that you bring him over here in the next week so I can take a closer look at him. Worst case scenario is that his grace has been ripped out or destroyed," he said. Dean's eyes widened and he span toward Castiel, looking for some kind of sign that Castiel's grace exploded.

"Yeah," said Dean. "Yeah, I'll leave for your place tomorrow. Right now, Cas isn't the only one who needs the rest. Thanks, Bobby."

"I never thought I'd have to say this, but you watch out for that angel friend of yours. If anyone gets wind that he's practically helpless, then he's going to have one hell of a target on his back."

"Yeah, I will, Bobby. See you." Dean flipped the phone closed and clutched it tightly in his hand, closing his eyes. This whole thing just didn't make sense. Not for the first time, he wished Sam was here. Even if his brother couldn't have contributed to the short list of theories Dean had, Sam would have been some nice support right now—someone to talk to.

"Damn it," Dean whispered, shaking his head. Now was not the time to let those kinds of thoughts filter through his mind. "Pull it together, Dean … Pull it together ..."

By the time morning came along, Dean figured that he'd probably gotten maybe an hour or two of sleep. Lugging Castiel's heavy ass to the car in the morning lost him all the calm and patience he'd gained from that. He shoved Cas in the back-seat, propping his head on the window, cushioning it with one of Dean's old jackets.

He got a few check-in calls from Bobby.

He drove the entire day, barely making any pit-stops. By the time the sun rolled down over the hills, practically ready to give birth to the night, Dean had gotten used to the blurry vision. He estimated that Bobby's was another hour out. Glancing back at Castiel through the rear-view mirror, he found him exactly as he'd left him earlier that morning. Comatose.

For the hundredth time that day, Dean stressed about what happened to his friend. He was literally at the end of his tether, ready to rip his hair out, because he wasn't ready to lose Cas yet. Maybe he never would be. All he knew was that it was too fucking soon for Cas to be going anywhere. He'd already lost Sam, he couldn't lose Cas, too.

He wouldn't.

He almost missed the turn into Bobby's junk yard, he'd been so encompassed with his thoughts. Swerving around, filling the air with the scent of burning rubber, and just managed to get into the driveway, saving himself from having to chuck a u-turn. Hearing a thump, Dean glanced back and found Castiel was now slumped across the seat, facing the opposite door. Dean cringed.

Bobby was already outside when Dean parked the car as closest to the house as he could get, possibly drawn out by the screech of the Impala's tyres.

Getting out of the car, Dean called out to Bobby as he went for the back door, "Come and help me get him about of here, would ya? He's like a dead weight."

Before Dean even got half of Cas out of the car, Bobby was by his side, grasping at whatever part of Cas that he could reach, aiding Dean. They managed to slide Cas out, his feet hitting the gravel with twin dull thunks. Grunting, Dean and Bobby managed to haul Cas up, wrapping an arm around their shoulders, and lugged Cas to the house.

Cas remained unresponsive. If Dean hadn't have checked for a pulse—dozens of times over, though he'd never tell anyone that—he'd have thought Castiel had passed on. It turned out to be the only small bit of comfort he had.

Dean and Bobby managed to haul Cas into the living room, where they dropped him on the lounge with twin sighs of relief. Dean knew there was no way they'd be able to lug him up the stairs. There was only so much they could do.

"So, you said last night that Castiel's grace exploded?" Bobby asked, taking off his trucker cap to scratch at his balding head. "What the hell does that mean?"

"I don't know," said Dean. He hated feeling so helpless. "One second we were out on the road, the next the car just filled up with this burning light, and after that he's just like this."

For a moment, Bobby looked thoughtful, scratching at the hair on his chin. "I'm going to go take a look around," he said finally, heaving a great sigh. "There must be something on exploding grace."

Dean figured there wouldn't be, but he didn't want to say so. He nodded, watched as Bobby left the room to go to the library. He didn't know what to do with himself.

He settled himself down on the floor in front of the lounge, bringing his legs up close to his chest and wrapping his arms loosely around his knees. From where he was, he could hear the soft, slow sounds of Castiel breathing. It was assurance; he, Dean Winchester, wasn't alone just yet.

He constantly replayed the scene in the car over and over in his mind. Everything had just seemed so fucking normal then, and then in the blink of an eye everything was just shot to hell. Dean was getting really very tired at waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time.

Don'tworry,Castiel,Dean thought fervently, standing up when his ass became numb, under the pretence of getting a beer even though he was not thirsty. I'mgoingtofixthis.

. . . .

It didn't come as a shock or disappointment to find out that there was absolutely nothing about exploding grace in any of Bobby's books about angels. All it did was harden the knowledge that Dean and Bobby would have to do this without written assistance.

Castiel's health started to deteriorate.

At first, Dean noticed a light sheen of sweat on Castiel's forehead. Considering that it was a mildly warm day, he'd thought nothing of it and simply grabbed a flannel and wiped the sweat away. Then, for something to do (because there wasn't much else that he could do for Castiel until he woke up and told them what went wrong), he went out and washed the car.

Days passed before another sign struck again.

Dean had been outside nursing a sweating bottle of beer in his hand, squinting up at the cloudless blue sky impassively. He thought about wings, and how Castiel must have felt flying around up there, free to go wherever he wanted even though the freedom of choice had been denied of him so long.

Perhaps it was ironic that Dean had been thinking of Castiel right as he heard the bone-chilling scream of pain that had him dropping the bottle to shatter on the worn wooden boards of the porch, spinning around and nearly falling as he rushed for the house, but in the heat of the moment, he hardly cared about anything that wasn't Castiel.

Cas didn't even look properly awake, even though his eyes were wide open, full of horror and agony as his hands clawed at himself over his shoulders, like he was trying to get to his back. Skidding to his knees, feeling the skin scrape off, Dean grabbed Cas's shoulders and shook him, trying to gain his attention.

"Cas? Cas!" Dean shouted. When shaking him didn't work, he started tapping four fingers against Cas's cheek. "Cas—tell me what's wrong! Tell me what's wrong!"

Bobby's footsteps thundered down the stairs, followed by the sound of a shotgun being cocked, ready to fire. "What the hell is going on in here?" he roared.

Dean ignored him. "Cas! Fuckin' tell me, man! I can't help unless you tell me."

"My—wings—" Castiel could barely choke out the words, tears flooding down his face in such a show of his mortality that Dean thought his heart was breaking in two. "W-wings!"

"I—I can't see your wings!"

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Cas leaned forward and pressed a hand to Dean's cheek, shuddering with the pain that wracked his body. "E-exactly."

While Dean didn't get that, Bobby certainly did. He tossed the shotgun down on the first clear surface he saw and rushed forward. Ordering Dean to support Cas, he lifted the back of Cas's shirt up, exposing what should have been smooth, pale, unmarred skin.

Instead, there were twin bruises on Cas's back in the shape of small wings, joined at the middle of his spine and splaying out to the very top of his shoulder. Dean felt his jaw drop; he had never seen anything like it before.

"What does this mean?" he asked, feeling as though he could live a long, happy life not knowing the answer to the question.

Bobby shook his head, clearly at a loss. "If you want my best guess," he said, "I'd say he's falling."

"Falling?" Dean echoed, astounded. "But … don't you have to, you know, rip out your grace for that? That's what Anna did. Cas never ripped out his grace."

"Maybe not of his own free will," said Bobby. Cas had fallen back into unconsciousness, and they rested him back against the lounge. For now, Cas's pain was numbed. Hidden from him. "But the incident in the Impala couldn't have been a coincidence. You said his grace exploded, didn't you?"

"So you're saying that … that Cas's grace was ripped out of his body then?" Dean asked. Standing up, he turned his back on Bobby, rubbing a hand over his face. "My best guess is the angels. I bet those douchebags had something to do with this."

"Why do you say that?" Bobby asked, not outright denying it because the angels doing something like this really didn't seem that far-fetched. They had done worse stuff that had weighed less on their consciences—if angels were capable of having one of those.

"Cas has been getting calls from heaven. The angels wanted him to come back, and he kept ignoring them," said Dean. He turned back to Bobby. Now that he found this line of reasoning, there was no way of making him believe otherwise. "Cas chose his own path, and I think this is exactly the kind of thing the angels would do to punish him for it."

Dean punched something. Why was it that every time Cas tried to think for himself, those sons of bitches that were supposed to be his fucking brothers punished him for it? For once, he just wished that one of their decisions just escaped under the radar.

There was nothing that Dean could do for Cas now; not until he woke up. Turning his back on Bobby, he walked back out the front to clean the mess of shattered glass he'd left behind. If he hadn't already known what it was like to punch an angel, and how much it fucking hurt, he'd probably punch the first angel that landed in front of him, whether they were on Cas's side or not.

He took off his thin green jacket to use to protect his hand as he scooped up the glass, wearing his favourite short-sleeved black shirt underneath. He took much greater care in picking up the glass than what he usually would have, but he just wanted to pass the time.

When he was finished, he walked back inside, revelling in the shade, and dumped the broken glass in the bin in the kitchen. Chucking his jacket on the counter, bracing his hands against it, Dean hunched his shoulders and turned his head to look at Cas's form on the lounge and let out a long, explosive sigh. Why couldn't life be fair once in a while?

Well, actually, he'd prefer Cas being fallen then Cas being dead, but still... How was Cas going to handle being cut off from everything he had ever known?

To Be Continued. . .

This chapter was supposed to be much longer, but I have a habit of getting directly to the point in under ten pages. :/ I'll try to develop a consistent updating schedule once I'm sure that the Internet is not going to backfire again. Future chapters, once I really start getting the ball rolling, will be longer.

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Tarklovishki

January 2012

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