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“Thank you for your time,” Sam says to the waiter behind the counter. “If you remember anything else, uh, don't be afraid to contact me at this number.” He slides across the grey laminate counter a scrap of paper with ten digits hastily scrawled on it.

The man takes the paper, squinting at it for a second. His eyes dart up to Sam’s like he’s going to ask a question, but instead he swallows and says a gruff, “will do.” He sends one last panicked look Sam’s way, then leaves to serve a customer. Right. Cell phones apparently don't get a lot of use in this abnormal, middle-of-nowhere Arkansas town.

Sam tucks his pen back in his pocket, then turns to Castiel… who currently has the milkshake’s straw in his mouth and is sucking like his life depends on it. He’s drank about a fourth of the milkshake so far. Sam checks his watch; it’s 1:43. They really should be leaving, but Cas doesn’t seem like he’s going to stop enjoying his milkshake. Sam supposes they can stay—for a bit. He settles back on his stool.

“Is your milkshake good?” Sam asks.

“M’mm,” Cas says. He gives it one more slurp, then says, “I have not had strawberry before. It’s very… refreshing.”

Sam hums in agreement.

“Would you like a sip?” Castiel asks, holding the glass out to him.

Sam’s eyes flick down to the single straw. He shakes his head, an apologetic smile pulling at his lips.

Cas goes back to slurping, leaving Sam alone with his intrusive, gloomy thoughts. It’s like a switch has been flipped; he can’t think of anything but the case.

One person already dead. Who knows how many more will follow. Maybe while he’s been at this diner, enjoying himself and the reassuring company of Castiel, another person is getting their head exploded. Maybe the whole town is being slaughtered this very minute, while he just sits here.

Sam’s eyes dart to the window. The row of cars are still parked outside. His eyes dart to Cas’ milkshake. It’s about halfway drained. Which will take Castiel about two minutes to finish. Which means they should be able to be back in the car in three minutes. Which means he might not be too late to saving the next victims.

He doesn’t realize he’s nervously jiggling his leg up and down until he bangs his knee into his stool. Oww.

“Sam, are you okay?”

He stumbles over an answer. “I-I’m fine. Why do you ask?”

“You’ve been behaving oddly recently, and I’m worried.”

“Well, there’s, umm, a great deal of other stuff to worry about. Our lives aren’t exactly a corny sitcom. Dean’s been dealing with a lot, having to hold Michael in for weeks, and then having him break out like that.” Sam had held Lucifer for a mere few hours, and even that had taken more strength than he had in him.

“And Jack… losing his soul…” Lately Sam’s barely been able to look at the kid. He’s terrified Jack will end up the same as he had been; a ruthless monster who thought family was beneath him, who would tear down everything and everyone who got into his way. Who just didn’t care. Sometimes Sam’s also a bit terrified he himself is reverting back to those ways.

Cas fixes him with a kind gaze. “I asked about you, Sam. Not Dean or Jack.”

Sam clears his throat. “Right, uh–” It’s less that he keeps his emotions inside... and more that he’s been so completely detached from what he feels and what he’s supposed to feel that he has no clue how to put into words the emptiness that’s been surging through him these last few weeks. "Umm–"

“I know you were close to the refugees from the other world,” Castiel begins.

“Yeah,” Sam says stiffly. “I promised I would protect them, that they could call the Bunker home. I couldn’t save Maggie.” The image of her falling to the floor in front of him, eyes burned out, mouth stretched wide in agony, still torments his dreams. “I couldn’t save the other hunters.” Building them a pyre had taken days. He could swear his hands still smell of sweat and smoke and soot.

“Michael’s senseless slaughter is on him, not you, Sam.”

“But, he got out because of me.” Sam fiddles with the FBI badge in his pocket, flicking it over and over between his fingers. “I should’ve listen to Dean and locked up Michael when we had the chance.”

“And condemn him to eternity in a cage?” Castiel asks.

Sam had sacrificed himself to save the world from Lucifer’s hands—why hadn’t he allowed Dean the same chance to choose? Why hadn’t he respected that choice?

Sam’s angry. Not at Cas, but at himself, for being selfish. For choosing his brother over everything else. He changes the subject. “Look, I get that Dean sent you to chaperone me, but if he’s worried about me he can just–he can talk to me himself, not get you to do his dirty work.” Immediately Sam regrets saying those words, but he can’t take them back.

Surprisingly, Cas doesn’t look hurt, but apologetic. “Sam, I’m here of my own violation. I care about you, not for Dean’s sake, but for mine. I want to do what I can to help you.”

Oh. Sam doesn’t know what to say. Of course Sam cares about Castiel, would do anything for him, same as Dean, but Sam’s always had this nagging voice in his head telling him that Castiel is this grand ethereal angel, and Sam is too lowly and unclean for Cas’ attention. He swallows, and nods at the few sips of milkshake left in the glass. “Are you going to finish that so we can get on with this case?” He doesn’t want to let any more people down.

“Okay,” Cas says, agreeable as ever.

Gosh, Castiel deserves better than him. They all do.