- "This is Cas, guys.", he says, disbelief and anger clear in his voice, and he's almost surprised by how less desperate, less disappointed he sounds, less desperate and less disappointed than he actually feels, because he's explaining to Bobby and Sam that it's impossible, that Castiel hasn't taken sides with Crowley, and he doesn't know how he's still standing, still speaking, because he feels like he's about to break down, because he can't stand the thought of talking about his friend like this, behind his back.
- "I mean, when there was no one and we were stuck, I mean really stuck, he broke ranks. He has gone to the mat, cut and bleeding for us, so many frigging times. This is Cas. Don't we owe him a benefit of the doubt, at least?", he says, but it's more of a plead than a statement.
Eyes set on Bobby and Sam, he pleads for them to understand, for them to realize that Castiel is still Castiel, that he is their friend, their guardian, their companion, that he is with them. And that he has always been. Merely considering that the angel might have betrayed them, that he might be working with Crowley of all people, is making him feel sick.
Castiel has put his life on the line for them so many times, and now Sam and Bobby have put their thoughts into words, their worries, their fears; that Castiel has turned his back on them. Dean can't help but feel guilty only thinking about it - talking about their friend like this, calling him a backstabber and a traitor, it makes him feel filthy and unworthy, and it hurts.
His eyes meet Bobby's then, and there's still the stern gaze in the dark irises but softer, somehow, though not in a gentle way. He knows this look way too good, this questioning look of frustration mixed with distress, a look Bobby only wears when he knows something's over but Dean is too stubborn to give in, and it's just like that, right there, right then, and Dean's not giving up, and Dean's not giving in; and it makes rage spark up deep inside of him, the way Bobby looks at him, because this time, for once, he's sure that he's right, and he knows, without a doubt, that Castiel is still with them, still on their side. He clenches his fists by his sides, ready to speak up, to defend his friend, should Bobby raise his voice.
And Sam is staring at him, compassion and sympathy clear in his hazel eyes, and Dean looks away as soon as their eyes lock, because he can't stand the way Sam is trying to comfort him without words, the way Sam is looking at him, because he's hating it.
Because he doesn't need comfort.
Because he only needs them to understand, to realize, because he knows he's right, he can't not be right about this, because Castiel is his friend, and his best friend at that, and Castiel knows that he is, knows that Dean cares about him, knows that he needs him.
Sam raises his voice, says that they can, at least, try, and Dean is grateful.
They pray for Castiel. Speak to him, out loud, begging him to come.
They pray. First Sam, then Dean.
Castiel doesn't come.
- "We never should have doubted you. We just hope you can forgive us.", he says, voice soaked with regret and pain, and hopefulness, because he knows that he has doubted Castiel, he knows that Bobby and Sam have, and he knows that Castiel has always been with them.
He knows that Castiel is mad, maybe, that he might feel betrayed, and Dean is okay with that, more than okay, even, because there aren't a lot of reasons not to be, and he knows how Castiel has to feel, because betrayal, and anger, and sorrow, and anguish, are things he's had to grow up with, things he's learned to cope with, things knows better than anyone else.
Castiel doesn't seem mad. Or angry. Or disappointed.
Dean looks at him.
He smiles. Because Castiel is safe, and they are safe, and he has always known that Castiel is a part of their team and that he would never betray them, and that none of them is going to take sides with Crowley; instead, they are going to go and keep the demon from opening the gates to purgatory, because it's the least they can do now, because it's all that's left for them to do.
He listens to them, as they talk, and he's happy, because Bobby and Sam finally seem to understand, to realize, that Castiel is loyal and honest, that he has been, ever since he's decided to take sides with them, to be with them.
- "It's absurd", Castiel says, and Dean laughs, softly, reluctantly, because he knows that Castiel has the right to be angry at them, to feel disappointed, and hurt, and out of his mind. He laughs, carefully and cautiously, because yes, it is absurd. It's absurd how they have doubted their friend, how they haven't trusted him in all he's done, how Dean has let Bobby's and Sam's words cloud his judgment, how-
- "Superman going to the dark side. I'm still just Castiel", Castiel says, and he smiles, and he seems so relieved, so thankful; and Dean feels his heart drop at the words, and he begins to feel sick, like he's about to throw up, because he doesn't know what to say, what to think; and he's trying to look for excuses, for reasons, for anything that could justify what Castiel has said, the words that have turned everything around again.
And it hurts, because he sees the disappointment in Sam's eyes, and the disbelief in Bobby's, and he doesn't know which side to take, because he doesn't know what to believe, because he doesn't want to believe he's been wrong all along, because he doesn't want to believe he's been betrayed, and lied to, and disappointed, and deceived.
And it hurts, because Castiel is still standing there, with this shy, hesitant smile on his lips, with this beam of hope in the sparkling blue eyes, as if he doesn't realize the meaning of what he has just said, as if he doesn't know how much it hurts; and it seems so genuine, so true, the gratefulness seems so sincere and honest that Dean doesn't know what to believe.
- "I guess we can put away the kryptonite", he says, forcing a soft chuckle, clenching his fists, fighting the urge to run off, to get away, because he knows that he'll be met with harsh "He lied to us"s and accusing "I told you so"s as soon as Castiel leaves, leaves them alone, leaves them behind, leaves them betrayed, and hurt, and in pain.
The disappointment is heavy in his voice, and there's this look on Sam's face again, this look of compassion and sympathy, because Sam knows all too well how much Castiel means to him, and how helpless and confused and messed up he feels, and he turns his face away from Sam, because he can't stand being looked at like this, because he doesn't want the sympathy, doesn't want the comfort.
And he knows that Bobby and Sam have noticed the pain in his strained voice, because they simply know him too well, and he doesn't know what to do; he's a mess, not able to hold back the emotions threatening to take over; but he knows that Castiel is oblivious to all the signs, to his forced smile, to his hoarse voice, to the grief and the pain, because he's still just Castiel, and he's horrible at reading people, and the look on his face is still the same as before; and it hurts.
- "Of course", Castiel says, and his voice is filled with gratitude and relief, and there's this smile tugging at his lips, and it's sheepish and careful, and Dean nods, and his eyes start to water, because he's kept them open for too long, and he blinks, and his vision blurs, and he blinks again, and he refuses to believe that there are tears in his eyes, because he won't cry, not now, not over this, because it's still just Castiel, and he doesn't know what to believe, doesn't know what to say, doesn't know what to do.
And so he blinks again.
Silence fills the room.
Castiel is gone.
- "Maybe angels don't need to breathe", he says, a hopeful, weak smile on his face, and he knows that he's wrong, that he's just trying to lie to himself, because he doesn't want to lose his friend, and he casts Bobby a glance, seeking for reassurance and some kind of approval, because he just wants him to say that yes, he's right, and that yes, Castiel will be alright, that it's just something going on with him, maybe something's wrong with his vessel, or with him, but at least he's not dead, at least he's alive.
And Bobby locks eyes with him, an apologetic, sad look on his face, and Dean just wants to get up and run, somewhere, anywhere, just run away, because he doesn't want the truth, he just wants lies, right now; he wants to be lied to, he wants Bobby to hide the truth from him, because he doesn't want to face it, because he's too weak to face it, because he's too selfish to face it.
- "He's gone, Dean", Bobby says, and the sympathy is heavy in his voice, because he knows how much Castiel means to Dean, but at the same time, the words are cool, and distant, because he knows how much chaos Castiel has brought, how much he's done wrong, how much he's sinned, and Dean feels angry and sad, and mad and desperate at the same time, at Bobby, at himself, at Castiel, because he has been wrong all along, and he hasn't trusted Bobby and Sam, and Castiel has turned on them and gone with Crowley, and his trust has been broken, and abused; but Bobby hasn't tried to save Castiel from the peril he's been getting himself into, and now they are here, and Castiel is on the ground, motionless, skin torn, clothes covered in blood, face still twisted in pain, and it hurts.
- "Dammit. Cas, you child", he says, accusingly, and he wants to be angry, he wants to be flaming mad, but all he feels is sorrow and pain and grief and hurt. "Why didn't you listen to me?", he says, trying to choke back all the emotions, trying to cover it all up; and he gets up from where he's been kneeling next to the lifeless body, and he tears his eyes away from Castiel, because it hurts to look at him; and he feels the unshed tears burning in his eyes, and he doesn't want to cry, not now, not over this, but he can't stop the despair, the sadness, the regret, from taking over, and so he tries not to look, not to take it in, the image that has already been burned into his mind.
A second later, or maybe two, or three, or four, even, Dean doesn't know, because it feels like minutes to him, like hours, there's a gasp, so quiet and weak, but it cuts through the heavy silence that has settled down, and so he hears it, still, and he looks at Castiel, the way he's still on the ground, still covered in blood, still motionless, still so pale and cold and weak, but there are blue gazing eyes and the wounds are gone, faded, vanished, and he looks alright; and Dean doesn't know what's happening, but he doesn't care.
- "Cas?", he says, because it's all he finds himself able to say right then, right there, and then he's on his knees again, right beside his friend, and Castiel looks so disappointed, so exhausted, so regretful, and it almost makes Dean feel bad, guilty, even, the way relief and happiness flood through him while Castiel is so weak, so hurt, so vulnerable, so broken.
- "Hey", he says, trying to soothe him, trying to say something, anything, to make Castiel feel better, to show him that he's right here, right with him, to show him that he doesn't need to be scared, that Dean's not mad, or at least not enough to let his anger show, because right now, there's only relief, there's only happiness, and gladness, and disbelief, and he doesn't care.
He says something, then, something unimportant and unnecessary and useless, simply for the sake of breaking the silence, for the sake of saying something, anything, because otherwise, he would've broken down, like the mess he is; and he has his hands on Castiel's arm to steady him as Castiel lifts his head, and his body is cold, so cold, but it doesn't matter, because he's alive, and Bobby is there with him, on the floor, and they help him get up, because it's the least they can do.
And for a second, everything's okay again. For a second, everything's alright, and Castiel is alive, and standing, and Bobby is smiling, and Dean doesn't know why Bobby is smiling, but he doesn't care, because he still can't believe it, can't believe they're alive, they're alright; and when Castiel gives his thanks, and apologizes, with regret, and bashfulness, and shame written all over his face, and when he lowers his gaze to the ground, and when says that he will find a way to redeem himself, Dean grabs his arm, and pulls him with him, slowly, softly, carefully, to get him out, not knowing where they will go, how they will go on, how the nasty scars will heal that have been left, but right now, it doesn't matter.
He doesn't want to talk about this. He doesn't care. He doesn't care that Castiel has messed up, that he has overestimated himself, that he has bitten off more than he could chew, that he has betrayed them, and lied to them, and deceived them, because Castiel is alive, and Sam is alive, and everyone's alive, and he just wants to get out, to get away, away from all the bad thoughts, from all the pain, and the secrets, and the mistrust.
And it doesn't matter, because the only thing that matters is that Castiel has come to his senses again, that he regrets it all, that he hasn't meant any of what he's said and done, and maybe none of them will ever be able to forget, and maybe they will need time to forgive, and maybe their trust has been broken, and maybe it will take time for the wounds to heal; but despite that, despite it all, Dean feels relieved, and he feels content, and he feels happy, because he knows that he's been right all along, that Castiel has always been with them, deep inside, and he knows that Castiel will always be.
And then, suddenly, he's pushed away, and Castiel yells at them, tells them to leave, to run, and his voice is filled with distress, and pain, and fear, and it all happens so fast, and Dean doesn't understand, can't understand, and he turns around, and stares at Castiel, and he's out of his mind, and he's confused, so confused, too strong - or too weak - to let Castiel go again, to abandon him once more; and he stares at Castiel, takes in the way he stands, bent over, blue eyes wide open, face twisted in pain, and Castiel's trying to hold them back, to keep them from taking over, to keep them from reaching Dean, because he's sorry, because he cares so much, because he's never stopped caring, and it hurts.
And the horror is clear on Dean's face as he turns to look at Bobby, and he still refuses to leave, because he doesn't know what to do, doesn't know what to think, and he won't leave Castiel alone, not this time, not again, not with so many unanswered questions, not with so many unspoken words, not with so many withheld truths, not with so many problems they need to fix, not with so many wounds they need to bathe; and Castiel begins to shout, and he yanks his head to the side, and he's trying his hardest, he's giving it his all, but it's not enough, because his all has never been enough.
And Dean is trying, too, and he's trying to get to Castiel, trying to comfort him, to tell him that it's gonna be okay, and he's trying not to be scared, not to feel so much fear and despair and pain, and he's trying his hardest, he's giving it his all, but it's not enough, because his all has never been enough.
And it hurts, to see the way Castiel's head snaps to the side, the way he's trying, and it hurts, to see the look on Castiel's face, the gloat; the cold, malicious gaze; the lunatic grin as the blue eyes open wide, as Castiel - no, not Castiel, he's not Castiel, this isn't Castiel - raises his voice, and spits out these painful words, shoves them down Dean's throat, and he doesn't manage to say something, anything, and he doesn't manage to speak a single word, because he doesn't know what to do, he doesn't know what to say, and it hurts, because Dean realizes that he has messed up again, that he has let Castiel down, that it might just be all over now.
And then Dean's feet leave the ground and he smashes into something, a table, a wall, the floor, he doesn't know, he doesn't care; and it hurts, physically and emotionally, because Castiel's standing there, towering above him, and his skin has healed, and he looks alright, and healthy, and fine, and for a second, just for a second, everything has been okay again, but now it isn't, it's not anymore, because Castiel looks at him through these piercing blue eyes, and there's a madness in them, a wild, biting madness, and Dean knows it's not Castiel, it's not his friend, it's not the man he knows, it's not the man he's caring for so deeply, but it hurts.
And he's looking up at Castiel, and there are black lines veining his face, and Dean doesn't know if he's going crazy, but he feels so angry, and sad, and hurt, everything at once, because it's Castiel's, it's his friend's body; it's his friend's body and those creatures, those monsters, abuse him as a worthless vessel, like he's nothing but a husk.
And Dean is trying to put on a smile, he's trying to force a smug grin, and he's trying to be strong, trying not to let everyone down again, and he raises his hoarse voice, eyes filled with tears, body aching, and he tells them to leave Castiel, to leave him alone, to leave him be, because he knows that he will fall apart, piece by piece, that he won't be able to take the hurt, to stand the strain, - 'he', he says, and he doesn't know; he doesn't know if it's Castiel or himself he's talking about, because he knows that it will break him, too -, and he can only hope that they will listen, that they will leave, and that they will find another vessel, a different one, a stronger one, because Castiel is strong, he's so strong, he's stronger than Dean could ever be, but he's not strong enough, not strong enough for this; and he tells them to leave, because it's the least Dean can do, and it's all that's left for him to do.
They don't leave. They stay. And they talk. And they won't stop talking.
And it hurts.
And he's just wishing for Castiel - no, not Castiel, it's not him, it's not Castiel - to do it now, to end it all, to end his life, because there's nothing left for him, nothing but pain and sorrow and grief, because everyone he's ever cared for has died; because he's a mess, and Sam is a wreck, and Castiel is gone.
Castiel stands, right in front of him.
And then, he leaves.
He walks out the door.
Castiel is gone.
- "Okay. So he's gone", he says, and his words are final as he forces a smile, like he's just told a goddamn joke; and his voice breaks as his eyes dart somewhere, everywhere, because he doesn't know where to look, doesn't know what to say, doesn't know what to think; because he wants to get away and to stay away, and to never come back, and he doesn't want to see, to look at anyone, because he feels so ashamed, so miserable, so broken, so empty.
- "Dumb son of a bitch", he says, and it's accusing, but weak, and the anger is back in his voice, and he's trying to cover it up, all the emotions, all the sadness, the sorrow, the grief, and it hurts, because he knows that he's too weak to pretend, too weak to be strong; and he turns the wet coat in his trembling hands, slowly folds it together, and he lets a shaking breath escape his lips, trying to pull himself together, trying to hold it all back, to cover it all up, as he clasps the fabric, tightly holding on to it.
And he turns to face away from them, and he stifles a bitter laugh, and he doesn't know why he's laughing, doesn't know why he's forcing a smile when he feels like breaking down, like crying, like giving up; but at the same time, he does know, because Bobby and Sam are right there, right next to him, right by his side, and they know how much it hurts, and he doesn't want them to know, doesn't want them to see, because he doesn't want to be weak, doesn't want to be comforted, doesn't want sympathy, because he's too busy feeling sorry for himself, too busy blaming himself, too busy hating himself.
They don't seem to care, they seem to be worried about the future, about what will happen to this town, to this world, to this universe, but they don't seem to care about Castiel, about him being gone; they are cold and distant, because they are angry at Castiel, and they are furious about what Castiel has done, and they are mad at the angels, mad at God, mad at the world, and they just don't care; and the sympathy is heavy in their voices, just because it's Dean that they care about, it's the one that doesn't deserve to be cared about that they care about; because they don't care about Castiel.
And he stands there, facing away from the lake that Castiel has just vanished in, the lake that was still and quiet in front of him, like it was laughing at him, making fun of him, mocking him with its dead silence, and it almost seems like nothing has happened, like everything is okay, like Castiel is still alright; and he clasps the soaked coat that is still covered in blood, carelessly folded together, in his shaking hands, and he knows that nothing is okay, that nothing will ever be okay again, and he wants to burn it, to throw it away, to never see it again, because it's only memories and grief and pain and betrayal, but he's still holding on to it, tightly, like it's his lifeline, because it's all that's left, because it's all he has left.
And Bobby tells them that they should leave. And he knows that Bobby is right, that they should go, and save what's left to save. And it hurts, to take a step. And it hurts, to lift his head. And it hurts, to walk, to stand, to breathe, and it hurts.
Eyes cast to the ground, he walks.
He walks away from the lake, walks away from his best friend, walks away from the one he's let down.
And it hurts, because he knows that it's all over now.
And it hurts, because he knows that Castiel is gone.
And it hurts.