It’s completely dark around him when Dean comes to. For a second he panics that he fell into some vortex and landed in the void. He feels around the floor around him.
Dirty, cold concrete.
Then his eyes adjust and he can make out shapes around him. The air is glowing dark, dark red.
A hand grips his arm and he jerks around into a defensive position. A small form appears next to him.
“Dean?” A high, frightened voice.
“May?” he whispers back.
Instead of answering, May wraps her tiny arms around him and burrows her head into his shoulder. He picks her up and stands to look around. Soon he can make out the source of the ominous light. It’s an old alarm light next to the steel door. They landed in the middle of the pentagram he started this journey from, somewhere deep in the bowels of the Men of Letters bunker.
“Don’t worry, May, I know where we are.” He tries for a soothing tone and hopes he succeeds. They are in the right place, alright. But did they find the right time?
He goes over to the door and tries the handle. The massive metal reacts with a scream. Dean flinches. If he is found in the bunker while it’s still in use he will have a serious problem. He takes a few steps into the empty corridor and turns to the stairs. It’s absolutely quiet.
He’s careful to not make any sounds nonetheless. The staircase brings him to the upper floors. Still not a soul in sight. His breathing comes easier now. Everything feels just like he left it. The next corridor leads to the war room.
Sam is slumped over the table, sleeping, his head cushioned by a massive layer of notes and open books. He startles awake when Dean comes closer, and a yellow post-it note still stuck to his cheek. Dean has to smile when Sam turns around and understanding slowly dawns on his face. He goes over and clasps his hand on the massive shoulder of his younger brother.
“Good to see my absence doesn’t keep you up,” Dean drawls with a grin. Man, it’s good to see Sam’s face again, even if it’s twisted into a smirk like right now.
Sam huffs. He stands and gives Dean an awkward half-hug on Dean’s free side. May still doesn’t show her face. “And who is this?” he asks softly.
Dean looks down at the child in his arms. “This is May. She’s Lily’s daughter.”
Sam gulps visibly and his eyes are full of questions. But he sounds all friendly and composed when he says, “nice to meet you, May.”
May turns then. “Is the bad man gone?”
“Yes,” Dean tells her, “he’s gone. And we will bring you to your mother.” He doesn’t ask where Cas is. If he were in the bunker, Dean would know by now.
Dean sent Sam to knock on Lily’s door and try to prepare her while he waits on the motel floor with May. She’s making up games, jumps from swirl to swirl across the heavily patterned 70s carpet. Dean had told her yesterday that Lily had been sick and that she may behave a little bit strange when the met her. May nodded and promised that she would care for her mom until she was better.
The drive here was an adventure. May didn’t know cars, paved roads, traffic lights and had never seen so many people. She pointed at everything she saw and never ceased asking question. Dean obliged, and he was grateful for the constant chatter. It kept his mind from asking himself how Lily would react.
Sam had told him about Lily’s spells and the way she had given away pieces of her soul in exchange for a long life and wisdom. Was enough of it left to let her daughter back in her life? Did he make the right decision in bringing May with him?
The door opens again down the hall. And then Lily stands in the middle of the hideous carpet and sinks to her knees. May squeals and runs over to her, flings herself into trembling arms, and Dean’s sure he made the right call. Whatever happens next, they will figure it out. Lily nearly crushes the kid and sobs openly into the long blond hair of her daughter. Sam emerges behind her and leans to the wall, watching the reunion with shining eyes.
They don’t get to see scenes like this often. The happy ends mostly happen after they have left the state. They never talk about it, but Dean knows Sam cherishes these moments just like he does, commits them to memory for the bad days. Sam looks over and their eyes meet in understanding.
Lily calms down after a while. She lifts her head and mouths “thank you so much” at Dean. He just starts to answer when he feels a presence at his back and sees Lily’s eyes dart to a point on his left. Dean knows it’s Cas without having to turn to him, and he can’t say for sure if he’s always been that in tune with him and never noticed or if it’s a new thing.
Cas puts a hand on Dean’s shoulder in greeting, but he stares at the scene in front of them, eyes wide. “You brought her here?”
“It was the only way to save her, Cas. I’ll tell you the whole story later.”
Cas nods. He looks like he has seen a ghost. “Thank you,” he says and his voice cracks.
When they get back home, Sam vanishes in the library and comes back with a stack of papers. “You were gone for five days. I started digging, tried to find something to prove you made it to the past. I unearthed these in the bunkers files.” He hands Dean two of the off-white sheets.
Dean takes them and scans the first page. His heart jumps in his throat and he swallows it back down. He traces the neat writing with his fingers. “It’s a letter from a friend,” he manages to say.
“Will you tell us what happened?”
Dean folds the paper and puts it back into the envelope Sam hands him. He’ll read Fran’s message later when he’s alone.
He clears his throat and turns to Cas who hovers somewhere near the stairwell as if he’s unsure about his welcome. Dean doesn’t meet his eyes. Seeing Cas like this is deeply unsettling, so familiar and completely new with everything he learned. Coming to terms with his own feelings doesn’t mean he’s ready to confront Cas’. So he just beckons Cas to sit at the table in the war room, and he starts his recollection of what happened in 1900 and 1901.
Sam, that nerd, has a truckload of questions, and interrupts Dean’s tales at every turn. Dean sighs and acts exasperated but he enjoys describing his life in the past. When he finally ends, it’s close to midnight. The take-out they got halfway through still litters the table between the empty beer bottles. Dean is pleasantly buzzed. Enough to finally dare meeting Cas’ eyes.
Cas hasn’t said anything through the whole story. Dean left out the more intimate parts. This is not the place or time to share them. But Cas seems to know Dean didn’t tell them everything. He squints and tilts his head and Dean hopes Cas doesn’t call him out. Cas could ask why the other angels punished him for only visiting earth. Or he could ask why the hell he would risk everything for a human he didn’t even know. Cas holds his gaze steadily. And Dean’s suddenly pretty sure Cas already knows the answers to those questions.
Dean coughs to break the tension. “What’s most important in all of this is: you didn’t fail that child, Cas. You tried to help even then, but you got brainwashed. It’s not your fault.”
Cas looks like he wants to argue, but then he drops his gaze to the table and murmurs, “thank you, Dean”.
And there it is again. The rift between them that Dean just doesn’t know how to cross. He wants to go over and hug Cas and tell him it’s alright and that he made the best out of a shitty situation, that Dean thinks he’s awesome because he even then defied his brethren and stood up for what he thought was right. Cas will only see the defeat, Dean sees Cas’ brave and noble nature. But he chokes on the words whenever he tries to tell him that.
The stale air of the bunker is stifling all of a sudden. Dean stands and grabs his jacket and his keys. “I’m heading out,” he says and Sam jerks up from his half-unconscious position.
“I need some fresh air. Be back tomorrow.”
He doesn’t look at Cas when he passes him. He needs to clear his head. And he needs to get his shit together.