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06 February 2013 @ 09:19 pm
While Angels Watched: He Who Strengthens Me (Chapter 6)  

“There’s significant herniation.”

A/N: Please join me in giving my betas, NongPradu and Numpty, a HUGE round of applause. I never EVER made their job easy. Numpty posted a delightful one-shot story a couple of months back called “More Than Words”. If you love the brotherly-bond, you will LOVE this story. Go read, y’all! Thank you also to Beckydaspatz for giving this story a thorough once-over before I posted. You’re awesome!

While Angels Watched

Chapter Six
He Who Strengthens Me


“There’s significant herniation.” The doctor’s expression was hidden by his mask, but the shake of his head and hunch of his shoulders spelled out his discouragement. Dr. Metzger looked up. Both the tension in the operating theater and in the conference room was electric, breathless. “The brain is coning,” he said, and John could see the occupants of both rooms simultaneously deflate. Shoulders slumped and heads joined the surgeon’s, shaking in disappointment.

“Well, that’s that I guess.” John heard one of the two men he’d followed into the room say quietly.

“What does that mean?” John asked him loudly. The man looked at him confused, noticing the hunter for the first time.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” the man asked, but John had already moved away, walking toward the monitor as his protective instincts overtook his need to blend in. There was a surprised, older, distinguished looking doctor staring at him. John barreled up to him, pointing at the monitor.

“I said what does that mean?” He demanded with cold desperation.

“Oh god,” he heard a woman whisper loudly behind him. “I think that’s the father.”

Several more whispers swept through the room, and John soon found himself surrounded by a dozen white-coats trying to usher him from the conference hall. The moment one of the doctors put a hand on him, a switch flipped in his head, and he morphed from protector to aggressor—from prey to hunter. A few of the doctors backed off from the menace and threat sparking in his eyes, their hands raised in mollifying surrender. The hunter’s voice fell half an octave.

John pointed to the television screen again. “What the hell is he saying? You tell me what’s happening to my son!” John seethed. Several of the younger males jumped in and gripped the hunter by the shoulders, trying to guide him from the room, but John wasn’t having any of it. His hands knotted into fists. “Get your damn hands off me!”

“Mr. Winchester!” A middle-aged woman called to him as she ran through the knot of people, her palms up. “Mr. Winchester, please. Calm down.” John was bristling and breathing like he’d run a marathon. His adrenaline radiated off of him like a mushroom cloud, and the woman could see how volatile he was. She turned to the men holding him. “Stop this,” she said to them. “Let him go. Mr. Winchester, please.” She reached for his hand and pulled him gently. “Come out into the hallway with me and we can discuss this.”

She escorted him from the room, telling the followers to go back and leave them alone. Once the door was shut, she looked at John with controlled anger in her eyes. “You should not have gone in there, Mr. Winchester. You know that. Come with me back to the waiting room. Dr. Metzger will see you as soon as the surgery is over.” She placed her hand on his arm and moved to walk to the elevator. John stood firm.

“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what he was talking about. Is my son in danger?”

The doctor met his stance and looked him directly in the eye. “Yes, your son is in danger. But your outburst is not helping him. You don’t need me to tell you that his condition is critical and precarious; he wouldn’t be here otherwise. Please let us do our job, for Dean’s sake,” she added, and this time he moved with her.

“Tell me, please,” John said as he stopped again. His eyes and tone were pleading this time, grief and worry overtaking his anger. “Tell me what the doctor was talking about.”

The woman sighed. “Coning…” she said haltingly, and her eyes suddenly shifted away from him. John could easily read her discomfort and evasiveness. “Coning means that the swelling in Dean’s brain is creating pressure on the brainstem. That’s not an encouraging development. They may have more difficulty resuscitating your son or it may cause other complications once they do resuscitate him,” she hedged, somewhat.

“What complications?” John asked forcefully. The doctor shook her head, refusing to speak further. “Tell me!” he demanded.

“Complications that Dr. Metzger will go over with you, Mr. Winchester. It is not my place to say, and I do not have legal or ethical authority to discuss this matter with you. No one in that room does,” she said with an air of finality.

“God damn you!” he bellowed. “I want you people to tell me what this means.” John moved in, looming, entering the woman’s personal space, but the doctor was not intimidated.

“Mr. Winchester, Dean needs you now. He needs you, and you need to stay calm for his sake. Please don’t make me call Security. Be here for your son, now,” her words and posture softened as she spoke. “Trust me. I know this is hard to bear. But I promise you, that team is doing everything in their power to save your son.”

She walked him to the elevator and entered it with him. They silently walked back to the waiting area. John didn’t argue with the woman any longer. There was nothing more to say. She wasn’t going to spell it out for him, and she was right about one thing: no amount of screaming or yelling was going to change anything.

As he approached the waiting room he saw Sam’s head swivel, and the child sprang up. The boy looked bleary-eyed from sleep or, perhaps, from tears. He couldn’t tell which. It was probably both.

“Dad! Where have you—” he began and then saw John’s devastated face. “Dad? What’s wrong?” he said breathlessly. The boy’s eyes were filling with panic and tears, fearing the worst. “Dad? Tell me!” he nearly shouted.

“Stop Sam,” John warned. “There’s no news yet. I was just talking to Dr…” he cut off, looking at the woman, fumbling.

“Dr. Alexander,” she prompted. “Grace Alexander.” She turned to Sam. “The surgery isn’t completed yet. Your father was just looking for an update. Dr. Metzger will be out as soon as the surgery is over.” She looked at John and nodded a little. “I’ll leave you two alone, now.”

John collapsed into the chair as soon as the doctor turned away. He bent over his knees, breathing heavily, cradling his head in his hands.

“I woke up and you were gone. Where did you go? Did you find anything out? What’s wrong, Dad?” The boy pelted the overwhelmed, overstimulated man. The child moved close, bending down and in as he tried to get a read on his father’s face. “Dad? Is Dean OK?”

“Yes,” John said, looking up, but then he stopped and began massaging his temples. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know, Sam. And I’m worried, OK? Can I be worried?” He pulled the duffel off the chair and tossed it on the ground. “Sit down, Sam, and just wait. There’s nothing we can do but goddamned wait it out,” John said miserably.

“We can do a lot more than wait,” Sam said, refusing to sit. “I asked the lady at the desk, and she said there is a library not half a mile down the road. This is Phoenix, Dad. They’ll have a big Navajo section. We can—” John cut him off.

“We can what, Sam?” he blasted so loudly that the few people who were around stopped and stared. He lowered his voice, but not his tone. “We can do what?”

“Nothing,” Sam spit out, angrily. “God forbid we do anything that could help Dean.”

John put his head in his hands and tried to tune Sam out. With all of his heart he wished it was the skinwalker. He wished he could indulge in the delusion that Sam was clinging to for all the boy was worth. He wished he hadn’t gone into that conference room or seen the doctor evade his questions.

“I’m going to die if I have to wait much longer,” Sam sulked.

John pulled his hands away from his head and looked at the boy sharply. “Don’t you dare say that, Sam,” he chided. “I mean it.” He sat silently for a moment. “It’ll be all right,” he said finally.

“How do you know that?” Sam asked bitterly.

“Because I know your brother, and so do you,” John said with a hint of a smile. “He won’t go down without putting up one a hell of a fight.” He prayed he wasn’t as deluded as Sam.


“Yeah, well, I’m here, and I ain’t goin’ anywhere,” Dean said, looking at the angel defiantly. “Being close to death isn’t anything for my family. We live in that state most of the time. There was this one time about three years ago; my dad took a knock to the head so bad he was in a coma for two weeks,” Dean boasted. “All the doctors said he wouldn’t make it, but he’s a Winchester, and he wouldn’t give in or quit. Neither will I. I’m not leaving my family,” Dean said with finality. “I don’t care what you say.”

The angel looked at the boy, giving no hint of his emotions, if he had any. He walked over to the table as the doctors worked, and laid his hand on the green sheets. Dean noted that his eyes, while still placid and serene, looked rather perplexed.

“There is much damage,” he said. “I…” he broke off, pondering. “I am not certain why my Father would have it so. We went to such lengths to bring you into existence,” he said quietly.

“Huh?” Dean looked at him, confused. “Me? What the hell does that mean?” The angel shook his head slightly, coming out of his contemplation.

“It is of no consequence. I shouldn’t question my Father’s decisions,” he said, breaking contact with Dean’s body and turning back to stand and watch.

“What a load of crap,” Dean huffed out, eyeing him before turning and watching the doctor. They had finally clipped the aneurysm and were beginning the process of bringing Dean out of Standstill. The angel looked at Dean, surprised by his angry response.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You should think for yourself at some point,” Dean said. “Look, I’m not talking about me, either.” Dean nodded toward his body lying on the table. “You don’t want to help me, that’s fine. Whatever. I can deal. I’m used to that. But how can you just sit back and watch innocent people get hurt? Why would any truly loving father think that’s OK to begin with? I mean, my dad’s a hard ass—as tough as nails, but he would never sit back and watch anyone, even people he didn’t know, get hurt. So, why the hell would your dad give you all this training and knowledge and power just to sit by and watch?”

The angel shook his head. “My Father has not mandated intervention.”

“Did he come right out and tell you that you couldn’t?” Dean asked, and when the angel hesitated he went on. He circled around the being. “My dad was the same way, too. Do as I tell you, when I tell you, and nothing more!” he impersonated his father’s deep graveled orders. “But sometimes, dude, you just have to do what you think is best when the shit hits the fan. At some point you have to take all that training and instruction and make your own choices.”

“It is unwise to disobey,” the angel countered.

“Unwise? Yeah, hell…maybe. But sometimes it’s just necessary, man. Then you take responsibility and deal with the consequences after you’ve saved the day. Your dad might surprise you. He might just realize that you saw something he missed or fixed something he didn’t know was even an issue.”

“My father has created the universe and everything in it. He does not make mistakes.”

“Huh…” Dean said with an empty laugh. “Well then I guess it was no mistake to have you come and watch over me and wonder why God would just let me die, then, right?”

The angel looked a little taken aback. He stood silently watching the activity in the operating room, seemingly lost in thought. “It does seem strange to me that my Father would have us go to so much trouble to ensure this body’s creation only to have one small artery undo such magnificence and hope. I don’t understand this,” he confessed sadly.

“Well, whatever,” Dean said. “I would never just watch shit like this happen. It may be God’s plan, but it sure as hell ain’t mine. There are a lot of people out there who need my help—especially now that I know for a fact that the God-squad isn’t going to be doing anything beyond making the Jiffy-pop for the big show. You watch all you want, Ebert. I’m going to help people. I have a job to do. And I’m not leaving Sammy. No way,” he said emphatically. “It’s been swell, but I’m going back now. I have to wake up and get better. Lives depend on me.” Dean walked up to the table and closed his eyes, concentrating. When nothing happened, he opened his eyes and bent in a little closer to the table. He cleared his throat, squeezed his eyes shut and tried again, straining.

“I don’t think your body will be able to house your spirit again, Dean,” the angel informed him. “There is too much damage.”

Dean cracked an eye and searched the angel’s beautiful face. “Says you. Why don’t you just go dust your harp or something,” Dean said, but he was breathing heavy from his effort to return to his body. “I have to get back,” he said. He watched as the doctor worked, overhearing them discuss a problem with his heart. After they had heated the body, his heart had apparently started but had gone directly into V-fib. Dean watched as the doctor placed paddles on his chest and everyone around the table stepped back. “Whoa!” The boy’s body lurched up from the electricity passing through it, and Dean also jolted as well. However, he still remained outside of his body, unable to connect completely with it. He shook his head, trying to clear it after the shock. “Come on,” he urged the doctors. “Please, you have to get me back,” he begged them. Of course no one paid any attention. The flurry of activity became more intense around the body. “You can do it,” he encouraged them. The doctor defibrillated the body again and Dean bucked along with it. He gasped out, breathing hard.

“Holy crap!” he said, his eyes wide with pain and fear. “Please,” he cried out again, as they put the paddles on him for the third time. He fell to his knees. “C’mon…c’mon!” He willed it to work.

The angel stood still as the doctors worked. His eyes closed briefly in concentration or perhaps in prayer, but Dean was too focused on his body to notice. The angel finally opened his eyes and moved in just behind the boy. With a gentle thrust, the angel pushed the teen toward his body. Dean felt the sudden gravitational pull, and in a mind-numbing reverse experience of his initial journey, he was sucked back into himself. As he traveled this time, though, he felt as if he was being stripped away or unmade. All knowledge of his life and his very sense of self was lost in a starburst of pain in his head.

The angel remained standing over the operating table as Dean’s heart was shocked again. This time, the heart achieved its normal rhythm, and the operating room became a beehive of activity, swarming with people trying to stabilize the body. In the midst of it all, the angel remained dead-calm, watching intently.

“I don’t know how long you’ll be able to stay, Dean Winchester,” he said, looking down on the teen. “But I have done the least of what I could. Most likely it was more than I should have, as I am certain my brothers and sisters will tell me. If my Father perceives I have done wrong, I will accept the consequences,” he added more for himself than anything else. “I am…” he said, looking confused and uncertain. “I am sorry that I cannot do more.”

The angel looked over his shoulder and then back. “I dare not do more,” he confessed.


Several hours passed before John and Sam were approached and taken to a small consultation room. The doctor, they were told, would be in shortly to talk with them. It was another twenty-five minutes according to John’s watch before Dr. Metzger arrived. John started in before the door had been completely shut.

“How is he?” he asked.

Dr. Metzger motioned to some chairs. “Please, Mr. Winchester, have a seat,” he offered.

“I don’t want a goddamned seat. I want someone to tell me what’s happening to my son. Did you get the aneurysm? Is he going to be OK?”

The doctor crossed his arms and stood facing John. “We did clip the aneurysm,” he said. Sam’s face lit up with hope.

“So it’s gone? The aneurysm is gone now?” the child asked. The doctor hesitated and looked from Sam to John.

“The aneurysm was clipped, and we were able to successfully bring Dean out of Standstill. However, when we had him open we discovered that there was a lot more bleeding than we had anticipated.”

“But he’s going to get better, right? Strokes are bad but people get better from them all the time, and my brother is the most stubborn person in the world. He’ll get better in, like, a tenth of the time you think it will take. You wait and see,” Sam said with pride. John placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder and also looked at the doctor.

“People do recover from strokes sometimes, but this one was more severe than most. The bleeding caused a lot of swelling.”

“You said his brain was coning. What does that mean? Are we looking at a longer recovery time? What?” John cut to the chase. The doctor looked a little mystified.

“I’m sorry, am I missing something?” the surgeon asked. “Who said that?”

“You did, during the surgery,” John said. Dr. Metzger cocked his head, still confused. John cleared his throat and confessed. “Look, I know I shouldn’t have, and I’m sure your colleagues will tell you all about it, but I went into the room where they were watching the surgery on the monitors.” Sam looked at his dad, surprised. “I heard you say that his brain was coning. One of the doctors told me that it meant his brain was swelling, but she wouldn’t say anything beyond that.”

The doctor’s eyebrows tented in surprise. “I’m sorry you had to hear that. I’ll follow up with my people to make sure that doesn’t happen again.” John waved his hand dismissively.

“Spare me and them the lecture. I don’t care about your protocol. Just tell me what is going on and what we can expect for Dean’s recovery.”

“Coning means that the swelling is creating severe pressure on the brainstem.”

John swirled his finger in the move-it-along, sign. “Spell it out, Doc. What’s it mean.”

The doctor looked at John a moment and cleared his throat. “The brainstem is responsible for the body’s basic functions: cardiovascular and respiratory control, consciousness—awareness. This has all been irrevocably compromised. We were able to restart his heart, but Dean is no longer breathing on his own. The body is exhibiting decerebrate rigidity, though this is likely due to the ventilator, since his last EEG showed no measurable brain activity. There has been no response to pain; his pupils are fixed and dilated. He’s in a profound coma. I’m so very sorry,” he said gently. “We did everything we could, but the damage had already been done before he arrived. Had the doctors in Provo known the extent of the bleeding, I wouldn’t have been called in.”

“My dad hit his head once real bad, and he was in a coma. He woke up,” Sam said. “Dean will, too, won’t he?”

The doctor looked at John, showing his discomfort that the boy was even there. John just gripped Sam’s shoulder tightly and looked at the doctor expectantly along with his son.

“This is not a coma from a severe concussion or skull fracture. Per the State of Arizona’s requirements for confirming brain-death, we will wait twenty-four hours and perform a second EEG and another round of response tests. But I have very little doubt at this point. Once we’ve done that, you will need to give consent for us to remove him from life-support. I’m sorry, Mr. Winchester. I truly am.” John shook his head, refusing to hear the doctor.

“What other treatments are there? There has to be something else,” the hunter said.

“No, you are not hearing me. This is it. I’m sorry. I know it is extremely difficult, but Dean is already gone. The machines are keeping his body here at this point.”

Sam stiffened and he sucked in some air. He pulled away from John and stood defiantly in front of the doctor. “You’re lying. My brother is here. I’d know if he was gone, and he wouldn’t leave us. He’s not gone! He’s not!” The child began to shout, causing John to reach out and grab him back. Sam fought his father’s grip on him.

“That’s enough, Sam,” he said.

“No it’s not, Dad! He’s not gone. I know he isn’t. He’s still here, and he can get better. We can make him better! Don’t let them take Dean off the machines until we talk to Uncle Bobby and Jefferson.” John adjusted his grip on him and shook.

“Stop this, Sam,” he hugged the boy to him desperately. Sam still pushed away.

“Tell the doctor he’s wrong!” The boy’s voice cracked on the last word. John stroked Sam’s head, as the hunter’s eyes filled with tears. He looked to the doctor for final confirmation, and the doctor slowly shook his head no.

“We did everything that we could, but there is nothing else we can do for him. You can spend the evening with him and prepare yourselves. In the morning they’ll be in to do the EEG. Then we’ll go from there.” The doctor’s posture changed, indicating that the discussion was at an end. John went to say something, but the surgeon opened the door. He beckoned a nurse or student over. “Hannah, will you take Mr. Winchester and Sam up to see Dean?” He turned back to John. “I’m very sorry,” he said again, and with a nod to Hannah, he slipped quickly from the room.

The journey to see Dean was surreal, and John recognized almost nothing before him. The hallways and corridors tunneled oppressively; even the squeak of their shoes on the floor was alien and out of place. Sam said nothing, or if he did speak it never registered past the ringing in John’s hears. The hunter’s knees were trembling as they exited an elevator. The woman leading them opened a set of doors and led them down one more corridor until they came to the ICU.

“This way,” Hannah said, pointing. She opened the glass door and Dean was directly ahead of them.

John was immediately struck by how quiet it was. He had grown so accustomed to the constant beat, click and ping of extreme measures, that their absence now was very telling. This, more than any words the doctor could have said, brought home the inconceivable truth to John. The doctors had given up on his child. There was the perpetual gasp of the ventilator and the quiet hum of the heart monitor, but that was it. Dean had one bag of IV fluids running into his arm and an oximeter on his finger. All the other gadgetry that had been attached to his son had been removed. The hunter fixated upon the figure of his son, too thin—too still—his head bound in a turban of white bandages. John vaguely heard someone say something, but no words registered, and he gave it no more thought after that. He walked closer to the bed.

Dean’s eyes were completely closed. His hands lay at his sides bent back at an odd angle, his fingers curled into strange, unnaturally tight fists. John picked one up and tried to gently uncurl the fingers, but they were stiff and unyielding. It was as though Dean’s body was folding in on itself, closing down. John thought he heard a couple more sounds that might have been voices speaking. He could no longer tell, and he didn’t care to listen. The hunter traced a vein on Dean’s temple, starkly blue against his pale skin. John’s finger lightly followed the flow of the vein until it was lost beneath the mounds of gauze swathing Dean’s head. He turned back and dabbed at the moisture seeping from his son’s eyes.

“Hey Champ,” he murmured. “We’re here, buddy.” John’s chin quivered as he stoically fussed a few more seconds with Dean’s pinched hands, trying to get them to relax, but the man suddenly and violently lost the battle both with the hands and with his own emotions. He let his head fall onto Dean’s chest and he wept as he had never wept before. The world stopped as he gasped and grunted and choked against his child’s body with intimate abandon as though he and Dean were the only ones in the room. “I’m sorry, kiddo,” he gulped out. “I’m so sorry, Dean.”

Minutes passed before he finally recovered his senses; then, he just let his head rest on Dean’s chest, feeling the surge of air that the vent was forcing in and out, listening to the sound of his son’s heartbeat.

At last he tilted up and away, his face smeared with tears and saliva. He looked around vacantly, trying to find his bearings, wondering how long he’d been lost in his grief. The few nurses nearby were keeping their eyes compassionately averted. John wiped his face and turned to Sam. He knew the boy was as bad off as he was—or worse. However, Sam was nowhere to be seen.

“Have you seen my son?” he asked one of the nurses. “My other son,” he specified. The woman came over to him quietly.

“He tried to tell you when you were—” she hesitated. “Indisposed,” she whispered the word as though he would actually give two shits about his dignity at this point. “He said that he needed some air and that he’d be back in a little while. I’m so sorry Mr. Winchester. I don’t think he went very far.”

Christ. This was more than he could take. He turned and grabbed the chair, pulling it closer. He figured Sam probably had the presence of mind not to fall apart in front of people like he’d just done. He’d be back. It was too hard to deal with his personal grief right now let alone Sam’s. He wouldn’t waste what little time he had left with Dean trying to hunt Sam down if he didn’t want to be found. The kid was probably calling Bobby. It didn’t matter anymore. The boy would either run out of quarters or hunters to call and find his way back to the room. John sat and took one of Dean’s fists in his own, and he clung to it numbly as his thoughts consumed him. He was struck again by how hushed everything was. Even with the ventilator softly swishing away, it was so damn quiet. He could not comprehend how such a monumental and thunderous moment could ever pass so mutely.

And so he lost himself to memories while he stroked Dean’s hand and arm. The limb was still soft with youth; yet, the hands showed the beginnings of calluses—Dean’s hands, like the rest of him, would remain forever poised on the cusp of manhood. And what a fine man he would become—would have become. John’s grief overtook him again, and he succumbed to it wholeheartedly. He sat, stone-eyed and fractured as he thought of all the days of Dean’s life, thought about his laugh and his voice, his unquenchable appetite for life. He thought about what an incredible hunter he would have made—better than him, better than Sam. He thought about the boy’s talent for weapons, his aptitude for the hunt, his bravery, his loyalty and his eagerness to please. Above all, John thought about Dean’s overwhelming love for his brother and his desire to help others—motives far more pure, when he honestly compared them to his own.

More than that, though, there had been the light—the fire in that boy—the spark so bright that it scared him at times. Dean was far, far more than life normally allowed. He was beyond the norm; he was tangibly and profoundly special in a way that humbled his father. There could be no Heaven—no God—no true goodness in the universe if it could so ruthlessly strike Dean down on the verge of such breathtaking magnificence. If God existed, John swore to himself, he would be no less thorough and no less vengeful in his hunt for Him than he had been in his hunt for the creature that had pinned his wife to the ceiling.

His thoughts were interrupted by movement close to the bed. He looked up expecting to see Sam, but it was a nurse he had not seen before. Coming back to himself slowly, he looked at his watch and saw that it was now after 7:00pm. A new shift of nurses had replaced the old, and with a jolt he realized that not only had he sat for hours without having been aware in the slightest but that Sam had not returned.

He turned to Dean and bent in close. “You are so much better at this than I am,” he admitted. “I don’t know how to help him. But I have to go find him, Sport. I’ll be back though, I promise.” Reaching up, he placed a kiss on Dean’s warm forehead.

“Goddammit Sam,” he said bitterly as he strode from the ICU.


This time there was no tunnel—or if there was, Dean had not been aware when he’d gone through it. He was definitely aware of the after-effects, though. It felt as though he was wallowing in a lake of cooling tar, and his thoughts were just as slow and viscous. After a long struggle, he found himself face-down on the floor, trying to lever himself up onto his hands and knees, but his body was too heavy or his limbs were too weak. He released an exhausted cry as he lost what little strength he had left and fell back onto his stomach, his cheek pressed against what felt to be a slab of stone. It was gravestone cold. Surely his father would not have buried him, he thought. A hunter’s salt-and-burn funeral would have been in the offing for him, so why was he laid out on granite?

“Do not try to move, Dean. I will aid you.” It was the voice of the angel. Dean didn’t know how long he had been away or what exactly had happened, but he was very glad to be back and very relieved that the angel was there. He didn’t remember much beyond roaming through a twisted maze of darkness, an endless warren filled with black crannies that he’d gotten stuck in. No matter how hard he’d tried he had been unable to find his way out and into the light. At some point, he’d actually let go and capitulated to the dark, unable to fight it, unable to even recall that it should be fought. He’d simply lost himself and had been unaware that there was anything beyond oblivion until he was face down with the angel hovering nearby.

But there were slow thoughts now as well as discomfort and fear. He had a headache that couldn’t seem to make up its mind—sharp and dull, shallow and deep—it was all those things and more. He could neither open his eyes nor move his limbs. He felt the angel’s wings surround him again, and he immediately unfolded and let the light and warmth revive him. The pain eased until it was manageable and then eased even further until it was barely noticeable. Dean drank in more angel-light, and his thoughts untangled and his mind stilled. After that, he simply rested, drifting for a moment in the comfort and warmth. At last he opened his eyes.

“Thanks,” he said with complete sincerity. “I really appreciate it.”

The angel nodded and set him down, moving away toward the open window. The wheat field was gone, replaced by the moon shimmering on a roiling ocean. He looked at the being and was surprised to see that the angel had also taken on the silver tones of the moon. His wings were now black with flecks of silver light floating off and dripping from them, like dust motes caught in the beam of a flashlight. The feathers undulated along with the foamy waves of the sea. Dean thought they had looked beautiful in the light of the sun, but they were even more striking under the moonlight. Dean swallowed and averted his eyes. Clearing his throat, he looked out at the ocean and the angel came and joined him.

“How’d the surgery go?” he asked, looking up at the being. The angel’s face was clear and calm, but either Dean was actually getting to know him, or the angel’s face was starting to exhibit small tells, because his eyes were concerned and worried. “Not too well, I take it?” Dean sighed and looked at the sea.

“Your brain has suffered much damage,” the angel said. “I still do not understand why it has to be.” His wide eyes searched the ocean as well, looking for answers he could not find.

“I guess you haven’t been watching my family all that long, then. Just our shitty luck,” Dean quipped, but then he turned to the angel. “It was too dark in there. I wasn’t me. How can I make it work? If I could just be me, I’d do whatever it took for as long as I had to in order to get better. I’d kick the aneurysm’s ass. But I don’t know who I am or even that I am when I’m inside there,” he gestured behind him, and, turning, he could see the ICU open up. He walked over to his body lying in the bed. The angel joined him.

“The brain along with the heart, are organs through which the soul manipulates and controls the body,” the angel explained. “When one of those organs has been compromised the soul is unable to interact properly with the world.”

“So my brain is the engine and my heart is the steering wheel?” he asked.

The angel thought a moment. “I am not entirely familiar with human modes of transportation, but I believe that is a useful analogy,” the angel conceded.

“So my engine is blown,” Dean commented. “And the doctors can’t fix it?”

“No, they can’t.” The angel turned away and went back to the window. If Dean didn’t know any better he’d have thought that the angel was pissed off.

Dean followed him. “Well I ain’t leavin’,” he said adamantly. “My family needs me. Maybe I was too impatient last time. If I can just stay in it long enough, I might be able to find my way up and out.”

The being shook his head, distraught. “Why would my father go to such trouble to bring you into existence only to let one small artery break the whole thing?” he spoke his thoughts aloud.

“Don’t look at me,” Dean said. “It’s jacked. But I don’t know why God allows half the stuff he does. Why create a world only to let evil do as it pleases there? If God really cared, he’d do something about it.”

“That’s just it,” the angel said passionately. “He does care and He is doing something about it. He brought people like you into the world to do His will, so I am perplexed. I do not see the balance in this.”

“Well, didn’t he bring you into the world, too? How do you even know what he wants? Does he tell you every little last thing to do?” Dean asked.

“Revelation does not unfold in that manner,” he conceded. “There are not many angels who have been in our Father’s presence. His will is revealed only to a few, and it is they who have sway over our actions. Still, in this case, my directive makes no sense, not when so much is riding on it.”

“What the hell, dude?” Dean looked at the angel. “What’s so important about me? My dad doesn’t even trust me to drive the car yet. How can I have any importance to angels?”

The wings fluttered reflexively, and the angel folded them in on himself. “I have over spoken in my anxiety,” the angel cautioned. “Don’t dwell on my words. My uncertainty is a weakness. I must submit myself to my Father’s will.” The angel gave a small, convincing nod to himself.

“If I had done that, my dad would be dead right now,” Dean snorted. “Like I said before, sometimes you have to do what’s right not just what you were told.” The teen stammered as the angel turned his gaze upon him. “I—I mean, it’s just that dads don’t know everything. They try and protect you, sure. But shit happens, you know? And that’s when you have to do what you think is best.”

“Perhaps,” the angel said. “But my Father does know everything, and yet here I am trying to discern His true intent. It is perple—” he began to say, but the air started the thrum and crackle with electricity.

Dean looked around him and noticed that every object had begun to glow and pulse. There was a pressure to the sound, a stridency that caused Dean to wince and the ground trembled.

“What the—” He was unable to finish his thought. The shrill noise became too overwhelming and he dropped to the floor. “Naarrrhgh!” He clutched his ears in pain. The light was now blinding. Finally, the angel sprang to life.

“Dean Winchester,” he shouted. “Come to me, now. Hurry!” Dean scrambled to his feet as the angel swept him up and covered him with his wing. The light and sound was just barely tolerable where he was hidden under the pinion, but the sense of dread continued to grow. The effect was much the same as when he’d first seen the angel, but this was even more dreadful. His entire body vibrated and trembled with an awe that unnerved him. He shut his eyes against the light, clinging to the wing, hoping it was enough to keep him in one piece. The angel gripped him tight, the wing folding over him protectively. Dean heard a strange whooshing ruffle and felt a surge of power as the new-comer’s wings stretched and then shuttered.

“My brother,” he heard a new voice say. Despite the terrifying power it contained, the voice had a higher cant than his angel’s had. “I’ve come to check on the vessel.”

Dean could feel that his angel’s posture shifted into a more subdued, nearly submissive stance. “The artery did not hold,” the angel reported. “There was a breach, and his brain has been damaged beyond the doctors’ ability to mend. Shall we not now step in and ensure his survival?” the angel suggested, rather hopefully, Dean noticed.

“Why would we do such a thing?” the other voice said. “If the vessel is malfunctioning, it is wiser to make a new one. Michael will not tolerate such weakness in his vessel. No, my brother. Better to be done with it and construct a more durable vessel.”

The angel holding Dean shifted. “But it is such an insignificant, anomalous weakness. It would require no effort on our part to correct. And even in the unlikely event that the weakness persisted, Michael’s very presence would completely counteract such a small defect when the time came. Why would we allow this to stand in our way?”

“Because the fate of the world rests upon the fortitude and stability of the vessel,” the voice said. Dean assumed it was another angel. “You know that as well as I that the vessel needs to be perfect, and this…” he stopped and Dean felt the creature move back toward where he and the angel had been looking at his body a moment ago. “This is a rotting piece of meat,” he said dismissively. “Michael doesn’t want a fixer-upper. The brain is all but destroyed now. There is no way the soul will be able to—” The angel cut himself off. Dean heard a violent ruffle of feathers. “Where is he, my brother? The soul has fled. It is not in the body. Have you removed it?”

Dean was irritated. He hated being referred to as a vessel, whatever the hell that meant, but he really didn’t appreciate being called a piece of meat. Yeah, it was true that he often didn’t think too much of himself, but he didn’t need anyone else, least of all some dick angel, putting him down. He sprang from under the angel’s wing, but he immediately regretted it. The light and power were too great for him to withstand.

“Ffffuuuhhhggg,” he blatted out. His forehead hit the floor and he shook uncontrollably. “P—put sssome mud on that n—nose, Rudolph. You’re k—killing me here,” he blurted out.

There were a few ear splintering noises coming from both angels, and wings beat the air furiously. After a moment the power in the room subsided, and Dean was finally able to venture a glance at the other angel.

Not that Dean had much experience with angels, but he was struck by how different this one looked. Its form was definitely closer to that of a creature than a human. The face was bestial, vaguely feline. The wings were thinner than his angel’s, but instead of two there were six terrible wings. The feathers were unruly and pointed wildly in different directions. They were more chaotic and unstructured, and they beat the air independently in forceful, clamorous strokes.

“Hey,” Dean said as he slowly rose. “Dude…six wings,” he whistled. “That’s pretty cool…for an angel,” he added.

“I’m a seraph,” the angel said, displaying his wings again, the tips curled and tilted like ailerons of sharp, painful light. Dean shook with dread again. The teen couldn’t speak. The seraph turned to the angel. “What were you thinking, my brother?” he berated. “Have you any idea how dangerous it is to remove a soul from a living body?”

“I didn’t remove it,” the angel insisted. “It was spontaneously ejected due to the trauma. And I have been keeping vigil over the body, spiriting away any parasites that came close. I would not let anything happen to either the soul or body,” he said curtly.

The seraph approached, and Dean instinctively moved back toward the angel’s wings. He was not above diving under them if the freaky thing came too close. He felt the seraph’s eyes sweep over him.

“You’ve been succoring him? Feeding him?” the creature accused the angel.

“He was in need, my brother,” the angel defended himself. “Would you have me just sit idle while his soul thirsts?”

The seraph’s wings twitched spastically. “You were instructed to watch only and report the outcome,” he snapped.

“Why?” the angel asked with heat. “Why would our Father just have us sit by and watch when we could so easily bolster the vessel?”

“You’re walking a dangerous road, brother,” the seraph said quietly, but with no less power to his voice. Dean moved even closer to the wings, and the angel must have perceived his fear because he reached out and gripped his shoulders steadying him, protecting him. The seraph glared at the angel without answering.

“It’s a simple question, chuckles,” Dean piped up, unwilling to let the angel take the heat for helping him. “What’s the point of watching people go through hell? You could do so much good in the world, but you just sit on your asses and watch, more interested in fairytale snakes and apples than in people who are dying.”

The seraph looked at Dean as though he were a bug. He turned to the angel, knitting his fingers together in steepled prayer. “I see where your new attitude comes from,” he scoffed. “It is very unbecoming. Enough of this. I knew they should never have sent you for this task. You’ve always been odd and feckless.” The seraph shook his head and looked down on the angel. “Wasn’t it you who stood for over one hundred years just watching the tide roll in and out of Deception Pass? You are foolishly naïve in the ways of these apes. They are manipulative creatures, constantly trying to get others to bend to their whims. You’ve spent too much time with the flowers and the rocks, my friend. Time has passed you by. You do not know what humans are like these days.”

“Perhaps you are right,” the angel said passionately. “And yet despite my unfamiliarity, I notice very little of import has changed in all these millennia: the salt in their tears, the color of their blood and the way they will protect the ones they love at almost any cost to themselves. They may dance, sing, and travel about the earth differently than they once did, but their basic needs remain the same. Their torments are no less painful than they were for those people long ago on whose behalf we so eagerly intervened. Our Father creates nothing without worth, and yet you are willing to discard something that He consciously, with forethought, created in especial. You talk about stability and fortitude of the vessel and yet you overlook the most important component.” The angel put his hands on Dean’s shoulders again and moved the boy in front of him, displaying the teen to the seraph. “Look at him. Tell me you do not see how he outshines the sun. How many souls have you seen as bright? Does it not take your breath away? Isn’t preserving this more important than one weak artery? Tell me, brother, why should we not aid him?” The seraph simply snorted at him.

“What a bleeding heart!” he hammered, looking heavenward. “You are being distracted by a little extra sparkle coming from a human. A human!” he hooted. “You should not have been sent. He is obviously corrupting you.”

“Why, then, was I sent?” the angel persisted. “If what you say is true, why would our Father have sent me?”

The seraph folded two of his wings in front of him angrily. “It wasn’t my doing, trust me. I wanted to send someone who’s spent much more time studying humans, like Uriel. But no, the gardener had to have his way in this matter. Joshua insisted that you be sent on this errand, and even Michael and Raphael are unwilling to thwart him. Joshua said our Father spoke your name and requested you and no other.” The seraph moved closer to the angel, and even with his power subdued, Dean began to quake from the proximity. He dove under the cover of the angel’s wing.

“Then this is my responsibility,” the angel said. “I will make sure our Father’s will is carried out.”

“See to it, brother,” the seraph sniped. “If ever you want to gain His favor, you better learn to obey His commands in thought and in deed. Don’t waste your time on this broken thing,” he said with a tilt of his head toward Dean. “We will make another vessel—preferably one with a better attitude—one who is less apt to incite such willful disobedience. Better to spend another hundred years setting up a perfect pair of vessels than to force Michael to depend on faulty equipment.” The seraph eyed up the angel. “Put him back and let nature take its course. This is already finished. You know that. Do not linger.” The seraph’s strange face split in a Cheshire grin. “Besides,” he took a deep, mocking sniff. “I smell a Reaper.” With a slight sound of ruffled feathers, the oppression in the room was gone along with the seraph.

Dean blinked and breathed in the light of the wings he was partially wrapped in. Both he and the angel looked over to where the seraph had nodded. Dean saw a frightening blue-green figure in the corner. It was not far away, hovering. Its tattered robes swept along the floor as it watched over Dean’s body lying in the hospital bed. The angular, specter-like face showed no emotion.

“Well that can’t be good,” Dean said bleakly.

Continue to Chapter 7

(Deleted comment)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 7th, 2013 10:51 pm (UTC)
D'oh! Well...look. I'll make you a promise. After next chapter...there will be no more cliffhangers for the story. Aren't I generous? :) :) :)

Yay! So glad you are still enjoying this one. I wrote this particular chapter over Christmas and New Years, and boy oh boy, but I had the hardest time staying on task and keeping focused. I couldn't even bring myself to read it before posting it. I was afraid I'd cringe and have to rewrite the whole damn thing...and I'm too lazy for that! LOL.

Thanks again for your kindness. I truly appreciate it!
stazzijenstazzijen on February 7th, 2013 03:48 pm (UTC)
I might just be your biggest fan.

Another cliffhanger. My poor nails can't take any more. They are now past the quick.

love and hugs to you and thanks for keeping me on the edge of my seat
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 7th, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
Aw, Stazzijen, you are so sweet. Thank you!

Heh yes...me with the damn cliffies. I really should be flogged. But...only two more chapters and we'll put this puppy to bed.

Take some vitamin E for your nail...help them grow out faster. ;)

ersilia62ersilia62 on February 7th, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC)
O.M.F.G. !!!!!!!!!
Another great chapter and another cliffhanger! I hope to know more soon! Thanks for sharing :)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 7th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
Mwahahahaha! I am so evil, I know. I know! Dadgum cliffies. :) Thank YOU for reading and for commenting. I appreciate it more than you truly know.
(Anonymous) on February 7th, 2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
Ok, i'm right at the beginning of this chapter but I have to say as someone who has dealt with a loved one in the hospital in serious condition this kind of treatment where the patient's family is treated more as an irritant or something the doctor stepped in than with the slightest hint of compassion or understanding or is spoken down to like they are an annoying 2 year old to be dismissed rather than with equality and respect happens far Too Damn Much!!! Certainly everyone I know who has been in that situation has had the exact same experience. At least in America where doctors are paid like royalty and seem to think they're kings as well. Dead on realistic.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 7th, 2013 11:07 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, well, you know I did create a bit of a difference between the treatment Dean received in Provo vs. the treatment he received in Phoenix. I wanted to somehow show how much effect Dean has on the people around him (when he's conscious). The doctors and nurses in Provo went above and beyond for him because they interacted with him and fell for him (like we all do)...a byproduct of Dean's "light" that shines so brightly. In Phoenix he is unconscious the entire time and therefore cannot *sway* the doctors and nurses and bring out the best in them. And, too, I figured this was a research hospital...and maybe they'd be more *sterile* and academic in their approach to medicine. I don't know for a fact that this is true, of course...it was just an interpretation.

I have received very compassionate care the (thankfully) few times I've ever needed emergency medical care, though. Of course, I think we can all feel like a piece of meat on an assembly line when we deal with doctors and the medical system in the US. That's for sure.
(Anonymous) on February 7th, 2013 08:01 pm (UTC)
Really powerful stuff you are dealing with here, beautifully told and described as well.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 7th, 2013 11:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, you're right. I was actually worried to go so far, and I think the next chapter is going to be even more powerful in that regard. I definitely picked at a few old scars of my own with this, and I'm sure that most people (with their own scars) will be able to recognize John's journey in this chapter (and even more so in the next). At the same time, it's difficult to keep the drama high without slipping into melodrama territory. It's a fine line. I had excellent betas, though, and they were brave enough to hold me back a couple of times. Hah.

Thanks so much for the comment. I so appreciate it!
Lala: Angel tipping  / everlynlalablue on February 7th, 2013 09:56 pm (UTC)
Damn cliffhangers! I love this story. I look forward to the concluding chapters.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 7th, 2013 11:19 pm (UTC)
I know...I know. Dadgum me anyhow! Yep...just two more chapters to go! So the cliffhangers will eventually come to an end, just not in this chapter...or the next...because...yeah, I'm totally that mean!

Thank you SO much for taking the time to comment. You've made my day.
jpgr: SPN Boys in Shadesjpgr on February 7th, 2013 10:54 pm (UTC)
Ok, so not Michael. And I like your Zachariah voice, very true to form. And poor John. I do love how he realizes how different, how special Dean is. Now I have to wait for Monday! *pouts*
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 7th, 2013 11:24 pm (UTC)
Nope...not Michael...but that would have been a pretty interesting way to go. But the show made Michael into such a jerk, I'm not sure how Dean would have gotten along with him, but it might have been interesting to see the two play off one another more than just that one scene in S5. Too bad I didn't think of it. LOL. Oh well...this'll have to do.

Yep...next chapter will be out on Monday. Until then, you have a fantastic weekend! Thanks so much for the comment. You are so very, very awesome!
mdlawmdlaw on February 8th, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)
Another stupid useless angel, REALLY! Zachariah I suppose. I love Dean's attitude. m :)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 8th, 2013 02:00 pm (UTC)
Seriously, right? Well, Dean seems to have the knack of getting people to follow him. Maybe he can get them to come around. We'll have to see!
Kallielkalliel on February 9th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
The hurt/comfort in this chapter is especially sublime. <3333
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 10th, 2013 02:46 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you so much! There was certainly NO lack of *hurt*, that's for sure! Hopefully I will get around to the *comfort* part before the end. LOL. But...um...yeah...I have to torture him just a little bit more before then! ;)

Thanks so much for the comment. I appreciate it so very, very much!
tifachingtifaching on February 11th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
You and your damned cliffies! Once again I can just head on out to the next chapter thought, so I'm not too distressed. For me anyway. For Dean I'm very distressed. Gotta love that boy and his supernova soul. Even John sees it and that's something!

So much love for the way Dean equates his body with a car. His engine is indeed blown. Love that he's working on Cas ( it is Cas, right?) just like he did as an adult. Getting him to question and to do the right thing.

My heart is breaking for John and Sam, though I kind of don't want Sam to have an "I told you so" moment.

Awesome, as always!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 12th, 2013 12:03 am (UTC)
Cheater! Cheater! You need to wait 3 days like everyone else! ;) ;)

Is it Cas? Hrmmm...well, I can't imagine God sending anyone else to watch over Dean. :) Too bad Dean is too preoccupied for introductions. LOL.

You are so awesome. Thanks for the comment. :)
jenny: Sad - Dean tearjennygeee on February 18th, 2013 10:50 pm (UTC)
YAY!! I knew it was Cas :D I'm so pleased it is Cas :D It is Cas isn't it? Who else would have stood for over one hundred years just watching the tide roll in and out of Deception Pass?

I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying this! I love John, I love Sam, I love Dean, I love Cas and I love you!!!

But oh my it is so sad :(
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 18th, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
Well, I honestly can't think of anyone God would want to have watch over Dean more than our nerdy, little angel. It was hard to describe him without his vessel (couldn't talk about his blue eyes, etc) to give more solid clues. :)

Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOO much for the comment. You are utterly too kind.

Jo: Sam tearapieceofcake on March 22nd, 2013 05:27 pm (UTC)
Heartbreaking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *sniffs*
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on March 22nd, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
D'awwww.... /comforts you. {{hugs}}
maguiemaguie on September 8th, 2013 10:33 pm (UTC)
“Well that can’t be good,” Dean said bleakly. LOL Dean

This so sad to read:

Doctor: “This is not a coma from a severe concussion or skull fracture. Per the State of Arizona’s requirements for confirming brain-death, we will wait twenty-four hours and perform a second EEG and another round of response tests. But I have very little doubt at this point. Once we’ve done that, you will need to give consent for us to remove him from life-support. I’m sorry, Mr. Winchester. I truly am.” John shook his head, refusing to hear the doctor.

Doctor: “No, you are not hearing me. This is it. I’m sorry. I know it is extremely difficult, but Dean is already gone. The machines are keeping his body here at this point.”

Sam: “You’re lying. My brother is here. I’d know if he was gone, and he wouldn’t leave us. He’s not gone! He’s not!” The child began to shout, causing John to reach out and grab him back. Sam fought his father’s grip on him.

Sam: No it’s not, Dad! He’s not gone. I know he isn’t. He’s still here, and he can get better. We can make him better! Don’t let them take Dean off the machines until we talk to Uncle Bobby and Jefferson.” John adjusted his grip on him and shook.

Doctor: “We did everything that we could, but there is nothing else we can do for him. You can spend the evening with him and prepare yourselves. In the morning they’ll be in to do the EEG. Then we’ll go from there.” John went to say something, but the surgeon opened the door. He beckoned a nurse or student over. “Hannah, will you take Mr. Winchester and Sam up to see Dean?” He turned back to John. “I’m very sorry,” he said again, and with a nod to Hannah, he slipped quickly from the room

OMG and now, where is Sam?

Poor John he is grieving cause his older son is dying and the youngest is going to need him more than ever, and he don't even knows where he is,,

Edited at 2013-09-08 10:33 pm (UTC)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 8th, 2013 11:11 pm (UTC)
Sam is definitely in a very bad way right now. Poor thing. And John...both his boys need him. A pretty dark space to be for everyone involved!
dljensengirl88dljensengirl88 on October 23rd, 2013 05:19 pm (UTC)
What I love most is Cas saying that God IS doing something by sending people to do His will, something that most people do not accept as a legit answer but it is just the same. I think the show is saying this too, just not as clear as you just did.

And this poor heartbroken John...I think he totally could have gone this direction if things had ever been this dire for his kids. If only he'd been given the chance to really show that. But I think John loyalists get it and that will have to do.

I can't imagine how you're going to heal this impossible situation without a straight up heavenly miracle and without other supernatural means. So I'm guessing you won't. :-)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 23rd, 2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
I certainly had a much more "sensitive" John in this story than in JGDO. Though they are the exact same man, I really felt that John would be much softer in this type of situation, especially given Dean's age and illness. Poor guy's heart is definitely breaking here.

How will poor Dean get out of this mess? Hrmmm!!!! We'll have to see. :)

Thanks so much for the comment. :)

JJ1564jj1564 on October 27th, 2013 11:33 pm (UTC)
Where's Sam gone and how could the nurses just let a traumatised 11 year old go on walkabout? Poor John must feel torn in two, his melt down at Dean's bedside was completely believable and understandable. I love how Cas is looking after Dean and how Dean accepts the angels help now and seeks his protection when the dickhead seraph arrives! But now there's a reaper too, I'm not sure if it's going to be Cas or Sammy that saves Dean!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 28th, 2013 01:52 am (UTC)
Hah! He's Sam Winchester....that little dude probably turned on the puppy-dog eyes and gave them the slip. He'll do what he wants. Tee!

Yep, we have quite a mix of characters all wanting a piece of Dean in this story. Who can resist? ;) Lord knows I can't.