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The Hardest Part

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Dean Winchester sat in the hospital staring down at his broken baby brother, corded in tubes and hooked up to machines. He had not moved in five hours and he had never felt so wretched and lost in his life. Sammy wouldn’t wake up and there was not a single damn thing he could do, nothing he could kill to make it all better. He had visited his fourth crossroads today and once again nobody had answered his summons. Even the demons wouldn’t help him.

Dean rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes to try and ease the effort of keeping them open. He avoided sleep as much as possible just in case... something happened. His mind refused to translate possibility into reality. He couldn’t bring himself to entertain to notion of Sam...not existing. The axis of Dean’s world was centred on his brother and had forcibly been so from a young age, though he could not blame his father for that entirely; Dean had accepted that his primary functions were to protect and kill and that was just who he was. Sam was his only family and Sam was more than his brother, he was had best friend and his rock and the only person he ever talked about his feelings with. He probably needed Sam more than Sam had ever needed him. Dean sighed and let his head hang dejectedly between his shoulders with his back hunched over his knees.

Somebody came to sit next to him in another of the hospital chairs in Sam’s room. Dean ignored whichever nurse had come to hit on him this time, hoping she’d go away and flirt with someone else who wasn’t grieving. But it was the faint smell of blood that drew his head to look up and he didn’t immediately recognise the man who sat with his elbows on his knees hunched forward, as Dean had been, chewing his lip thoughtfully. He thought later that it must have been the change of clothes that disorientated him from discerning the newcomer’s identity.

“Hey Cas”

“Hello Dean”

For the first time in a long time, Dean smiled a little.

“How was the journey here?”

“Bloody”

“The usual?”

“The usual”

Dean felt a little bad to have left newly human Cas to deal with the enraged angels and the long walk to the hospital. But the when Cas had called him and learned what had happened to Sam, he had urged Dean to stay there, promising he would get there himself. Dean could never express gratitude well but he hoped Cas knew what it meant to him to be able to stay by his brothers side.

“Have you slept?” Cas asked, peering at him.

“A little”

“I can stay now, you will go home”

“But what if he...” Dean’s voice was slurred with exhaustion.

“I’ll call you”

“But what if...”
“Dean.” Cas’s voice was stronger now, jolting him. Cas smiled sympathetically. “I am good at sitting still remember? I got this, you get some rest”

Hazily, Dean remembered Cas’s last night on Earth when Cas had been prepared to sit still for an entire night, to await his death the next day and knew Sam was in good hands. Cas smiled softly at him as he stood, but then vertigo nearly sent him pitching forward again. Strong arms caught him by the elbows and steadied him.

“Do you need a lift home?” Cas asked as Dean’s swimming head filled his vision momentarily, he blinked it away to see Cas’s enormous blue eyes frowning slightly at his condition.

“No, it’s... I...I’m fine” His words were punctuated by massive yawns that seemed to shake his whole body.

“Okay then” Cas sat back down.

“Goodnight Dean”

“Yeah night Cas”

Dean Winchester strode out of the hospital room and through the ward. Stopping to splash water from a fountain onto his face, if he crashed his Baby on top of everything else he would... He stopped the thought in its tracks before it fully formed. He couldn’t think like that now. Not yet at least.
The drive home to the bunker was a blur of light and blaring rock music. He remembered Kevin Tran grabbing him round the waist as he collapsed through the door and attempting to drag him to bed. Then nothing...
He supposed he was given a respite at that time. A sort of calm before the storm, because everything after that was destruction in its purest form, centred solely on his personal hamartia as though he had angered an ancient God and now his whole life was just a massive shit storm from here on out.
But Dean Winchester slept for now.
Tomorrow was just another day back then.

Chapter Text

The first thing Dean did when he awoke next morning was roll over to snatch his jacket off the floor and dig out his phone to get an update on Sam immediately, terrified he might have missed something during his twelve hour siesta. But he found he already had three texts from Cas, an hourly prognosis of Sam’s condition.
“Sam’s fine, still sleeping, nothing’s changed”
He smiled gladly at the angel’s thoughtfulness.
He ate that morning and showered too.
Talked with Kevin about Crowley who was locked in the dungeon, being ignored.

Kevin was packing to go to Garth's for a while, Dean wished him well.

He drove back to the hospital, quiet in the car for once. He got another text from Cas at eleven, while he was still driving but it said the same thing. Dean wondered if Cas wrote the same thing out each time or if he knew how to copy and paste. Dean smiled thinking he would have to teach Cas how to use the internet now and...his car stopped.

Just stopped.

There was no noise of screaming metal or indication of an accident. She effortlessly stopped, without even slowing, despite the speed he had been driving at.

Dean got out, checking to make sure Ruby’s knife was in his belt. There was a supernatural cause to this, he was sure of it. With his hunter senses tingling he surveyed the road. The Impala had stopped next to a dense forest, there were no houses or other cars in sight. He was walking to the hood to check the engine when a red-headed woman appeared on the bonnet.

“Get off my car Abbadon” Dean kept his voice level. Sure he was scared of her, she was damned powerful but right now he had better places to be than tussling with a knight of hell.

Abbadon smiled.

“No” She said simply, tossing her hair. She looked at him patiently and there was a certain something in her cruel eyes that Dean understood as happiness, or as close to happiness as a demon could get. She clearly wanted to play a game with him. Dean sighed.

“Why?”

“Because Deany I can give you...” she waggled a finger at him “...exactly what your little hunter heart desires and all it requires...” She looked smug at her rhyme, as she leant forward on his car “...Is a little kiss”

“Erm no” He said, one eyebrow raised. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have places to be so...” Dean whistled and jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

Abbadon just contemplated him, pouting.

“But I thought you wanted a deal Deano” She said in a mock baby voice. “You went to the trouble of trying four times.”

Dean felt his stomach grow cold and his sarcastic expression slipped off his face. He swallowed.

“I’ll do it. I’ll go back” The words struggled from his mouth but he truly meant them.

He would do anything for Sam.

But Abbadon just gave a trilling laugh and threw her head back.

“So eager! Deano, you’ve been already” She said, so teasingly he felt sickened.

“No we want something different, someone better” Dean felt his stomach pitch and roll, she was just taunting him.

“Then how can I make a deal Abby?”

He said through clenched teeth, imitating her own mock baby voice.
She smiled like a shark, clearly pleased he’d had to ask.
She ushered him closer and leant toward him as though sharing a terrible secret.
He sighed again but played along with her game, leaning down so she could whisper.

“We want the want the angel”

Dean’s back went ramrod straight in an instant. He staggered back a little and slowly closed his mouth, clenched his jaw.

“This...this isn't about Cas. This is about me, my soul in exchange for Sam” Abbadon was revelling in his discomfort, like those big hooded things from Harry Potter. She smirked playfully at him.

“It’s about both, sugar.” She purred.

“Your soul has seen some shit, let’s face it, but angel boys is brand new and shiny!” She sat up straight and uncrossed her legs, becoming business-like.

“The deal is we get you to kill Castiel for us and then we take him to hell as our new play toy, so you get to stay topside with your little baby brother for the rest of your miserable lives.”

Abbadon could see Dean's horror and smiled a red-lipped leer.

"You don't even have to kiss me! Death magic is far more effective than a kiss lemme tell you".

Dean’s mouth was dry. He tried to swallow. He felt like he had been within the reach of salvation only to find there had been no hope in the first place. No hope. None. Definitely not plausible. Dean refused to think. To subconsciously weigh up his two best friends on his mind and chose one. He knew he was supposed to refuse and shout and deny Abbadon the joy of watching him squirm under the impossible pressure. But the calculating hunter part of him was already categorising at the back of his mind.

Sam; brother, the only thing he ever needed for like the first thirty years of his life.

Then Cas; the angel he’d always needed since.

He couldn't do it.

“No.”

“Yes Dean.” Her voice was so much more certain than his. “You see, we demons have our weaknesses; salt, holy water, the Colt but don’t you ever forget that we know yours too.” She giggled and kicked her legs. “You'd do anything for Sammy, Dean anything at all”

He started to walk away fast. His head was too heavy to think straight. If he stopped to think about his thoughts too long he would see himself shooting Cas in the back of the head or smothering him with a pillow. Watching his big blue eyes go huge in shock and disbelief.

“The contract is written Dean” She said. Dean wheeled around to see that she had magically driven his own car after him, whilst remaining on the hood. She winked at him.

“The second you kill the angel, Sam wakes up, easy as pie. We don’t even care how you do it, so long as we get to pull his perfect soul apart in hell for the remainder of time.”

Chapter Text

Abbadon disappeared after her parting shot. Numbly Dean had gotten back in his car and driven to the hospital.
Cas had been there. Cas had gotten changed from his blood soaked clothes. Cas had asked him 'how he was' and 'did he feel okay'. But Dean wasn't really present in the hospital room anymore.

He was at war in his own head. He thought at first that he had a shoulder devil and angel. Good and Bad. But after a while he could figure out which was which.

The part of him that always told the truth, about Dean's worthlessness, hated this. Because it already knew his final decision. So it wanted to study Cas.
To stare at him one last time and try to figure him out.
There was always something about him that was a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a trench coat.
The part of Dean that knew, lamented that he would never find out who Cas really was or why he cared so much. But it's primary function was to wake up every morning and see Sam, otherwise their was no point getting up.

The other more hidden part of him wanted to scream like a wounded animal 'ALL CAS EVER DID WAS TRY TO HELP YOU AND YOU ARE GOING TO KILL HIM TO SAVE YOUR OWN BROTHER! YOU WORTHLESS, BACK-STABBING BASTARD, YOU JUST USE HIM LIKE HEAVEN DID, BUT YOU'RE WORSE BECAUSE YOU PRETENED TO BE HIS FRIEND FIRST...'
Dean couldn't even look at Cas without feeling sick.

He was going to kill this man, this angel. This goddamn misunderstood, beautiful, dorky angel.
No he wasn't. Of course he wasn't. He was the righteous man who always did what was right and rescued total strangers, putting his own life on the line on a daily basis. He didn't kill his friends. Especially not friends like Cas who had died for him more times than he could count.

But Abbadon knew him too well.

The part of Dean that did what was right all the time was crippled and broken, it had crawled into a corner, the other parts of his psyche had torn it to shreds. Dean and Sam were brothers, they had been through so SO much. They knew each other completely and had accepted each others flaws. Dean willingly vowed to protect Sam because he loved him. and not just because of Dad. He would happily live with eternally or die for Sam. This was his Sam Argument. He rehearsed it in his head whenever Sam fucked up and it usually calmed him down, allowed him to forgive.
This time he was thrown for a loop because wasn't it just the same for Cas?

Cas was as good as his brother, he had said so himself, that night Cas had deceived them and joined Crowley in the hunt for purgatory's souls.
But Dean forgave him.
Cas had evoked the evil souls and become a Leviathan mother ship.
Dean had forgiven him.
Cas had lost his memory, regained it only to destroy his mental state by invoking Satan himself from Sam. Saving his brother in a way that Dean wasn't able to do himself.
He was eternally grateful to Cas.

Cas had gone to purgatory with him and kept away from him to protect him from the Leviathans.
Cas had made Dean leave without him.
Cas had come back but been broken by the mind-fucking bitch Naomi.
Cas had been sent to kill Dean and he just couldn't. He was physically and mentally unable.
Cas couldn't hurt Dean.

Any other person. Anyone. Bobby even. If it had been Sam's life in exchange for anyone else he would have done it. Made it quick and easy. The remorse would have plagued him in later years, the murder of innocents was the sort of thing only humans did. Not hunters.

The problem with it being Cas was that Cas treated him, the way that Dean treated Sam.
Dean was Cas's Sam.
Cas had physically gone to hell and back for him. Dean had gone to hell in the first place to save Sam.

Cas would do anything for him. Just as Dean would do anything for Sam. Dean felt sick internally, his soul becoming rotten and seething in the blackness.

He knew he had made up his mind long ago.

But it would cost him so dearly. He would lose his only true friend he'd ever had in his life, his own guardian angel. Swap his soul for Sam's.
But Dean would lose his soul again too. His righteous anger. He could never be forgiven for this. He never wanted to be. Dean knew he wanted Sam back, with all the certainty he possessed. But he knew he also wanted to mourn and be punished. Dean wanted to got to hell too. He supposed he now knew how Cas had felt in Purgatory, wanting the pain and torment to never end because he could never ease the guilt of having killed his family. Cas was Dean's family too.

When Dean looked up from where he'd had his head in his hands it was dark. He lifted from his prone position and stood. There was a note on Sam's bed.

'Hope you don't mind, but I have gone back to the bunker because I needed some food.
I will pay you back later.
Sorry for the inconvenience
Cas'

Dean wanted to weep pathetically at the note. It summed Cas up completely; unassuming, selfless and kind. How must he have seemed to Cas? So distant and self-consumed and the whole time Cas had given him space while he was clearly starving hungry.
Dean had never felt so humbled in his life.

How long had Cas had to go without food because of his preoccupation? If Dean was a normal human he would go home and cook Cas a meal, maybe crack open a bottle of wine and chat. Try to get Cas drunk and watch Star Trek together. Curl up in blankets in the winter and roast marshmallows on the fire. Make snow angels. Grow vegetables. It was stupid to cry for something you'd never had but Dean did so now.

The part of Dean that was screaming still, begged him to stay at the hospital.
But the part that never lied told him he had to be quick, painless.

 

Dean entered the bunker to find Cas in the kitchen. He was eating uncooked baked beans straight from the tin. He looked up as Dean entered and smiled softly at him. Dean didn't deserve the smile but he saved it in his mind as a memory of what might have been.

"Kevin let me in just before he left with Garth" Cas explained "I didn't know how to use the cooker thingy but I was just so hungry it didn't matter" Cas said, quite happily.
Breathing and heart beating. Alive.

"It was hard to get the lid off though" Cas commented observing his raw bloodied fingertips. So innocent, so much to learn.
Breathing and heart beating.

"I'll make you a drink" Dean heard himself say.

"Thanks" Cas gave him an apologetic smile that made Dean feel more like a murderer than ever. He had never contemplated life more than before that moment, the moment before he took the most important life in the world. Played at being God.

Dean put cyanide in the whiskey. He tried to be methodical and cold. But he could see Bobby's face and hear his voice 'cyanide causes death within minutes to hours of exposure, just look at Hitler for example' He remembered Bobby had killed his wife when she had become possessed. He wondered if he'd be able to soldier on like that afterward. The part of him that always told the truth knew he would be nothing without Sam anyway. So it didn't matter.

Cas took the drink from the counter while Dean had been staring at the cupboard lost in thought. He gasped, the decision to make the final step had been taken form him. Someone who was breathing and had a beating heart and alive... Dean never made the conscious decision to poison Cas. Never had to look him in the eye as he handed him the glass. Maybe that's what got him through the bad days ahead.

He whirled round to see Cas staring at him, confusion lilting his eyes.
"This tastes..." he looked at Dean. Really looked.

Dean slid down the counter and onto the floor, the weight of his decision crashing around him as the intensity of Cas's stare scrutinised his face. He felt like he was Atlas sometimes, holding up the world's fate. But Cas was part of his family, part of his personal world. In that moment Dean would have killed hundreds of faceless people, he would've killed the entire world if it could mean he could have his own back. He stared at Cas and Cas stared back.
Cas came and sat next to him.

"It's for Sam isn't it?"

Dean gulped in air.

"How did you know?"

Cas smiled sorrowfully

"Because I know you too well, the first thing you'd have done is try to make a deal"

Dean would never ever get this opportunity again.
He grabbed Cas and held him in tight embrace.

"I'm so sorry, I'm so so sorry" he wailed. All dignity forgotten he let the screaming part of him vent the broken world as he clung to Cas.

Cas gently broke Dean's grip and pulled on Dean's shoulders, so that he was the one doing the hugging. Cas stroked his back and his hair. Shushed him quietly. It was so absurd that Cas was comforting Dean after Dean had just poisoned him. It was so selfless and so purely Cas that Dean cried even harder. They sat like that for what could have been a year but could also have been five minutes.

"Dean, I..I am erm going so I am just going to say this once" Cas's voice came from above Dean's head. He sounded slurred and blurry as though fading.
"I know it was for Sam and I accept that and I want you to be hhappy for... " Dean realised Cas had started to cry too. He switched their positions again, holding Cas tight to his chest with their foreheads touching. Cas had never cried before and he gingerly touched his own wet face as if marvelling at his own humanity. Dean screwed up his face at the gesture. He had managed to destroy an all powerful angel who had been alive for thousands of years. Destruction always corrupted those he held closest. He was a disease.

"I am sorry" Dean said one last time staring at Cas's ancient flickering blue eyes.

"I am only sorry we didn't have more time" Cas mumbled and his eyes shut fully.

Dean pressed his forehead back against Cas's. "Me too".

Chapter Text

Sam Winchester gasped.
Air and light and sound ripped into his senses. Bleeping erupted around him and halogen lighting punched his eyes, forcing him to screw up his face. A doctor ran in with shock alive in her features.

"Sam? Sam stay still take deep breaths."

Sam complied obediently. Taking deep calming breaths. The doctor began checking his pulse and heart rate, ordering a small army of nurses around. Sam focused on breathing calmly but an insistent thought rattled around inside his still dreaming mind. He was in a hospital. That was fine because he was awake now and he felt okay. But he couldn't remember how he'd gotten there. He breathed for a while more.

Sam hated hospital, he'd only just remembered.
He had been forced to wait, in cruel anticipation while Dean and Dad were on the brink of death.
Dean.

They dislodged the breathing tube from his throat.

"Ack" Sam said the dryness of his mouth preventing his speech. The doctor realised he was trying to say something and ran over. Many hands grabbed him to sit him upright against soft pillows. Cold water was poured and Sam gulped it down.

"Where is my brother?" He asked. His voice was scratchy but he looked intently at the doctor.

"Is he the cute dark haired one with the blue eyes?" The doctor asked with a grin, sitting in the chair beside his bed.

Was it? No that was Cas. The tough-ass angel of the lord had just been called 'cute'. Sam grinned back at the doctor. "No that's Cas, my brother's name is Dean and he's got green eyes erm...a bit shorter than me". It was usually Dean that got called the cute one, maybe he was losing his touch with the ladies.

"Oh yeah I saw him too" She waved her hand dismissively "Is this Cas single?" Sam chuckled.

"Yeah he is, want his number?"

"Honey, I'll get it personally when he comes back to see you".

Sam liked the doctor. She was about his age with light brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. It was a crying shame she had the hots for Cas but Sam wouldn't take any possible chances of getting laid away from the Cas. The guy was a million year old virgin.

"I'm Chris by the way, Doctor Chris". They shook hands and she stood.

"Press your panic button when your friends get here, huh" She winked at Sam and left the room.

Sam laughed and sighed. Then settled down in his pillows to wait for Dean to get there.

A few hours later he sat up and drank some more water. Recollection had fully flooded through his system now and he held out his wrists to look for the glowing light from the church. But it was gone. He was relieved, until he saw that the bite mark from Crowley was also gone.

SHIT

Dean had made a deal.
Then Sam was throwing the covers back and trying to untangle the various wires and tubes crossing his body when Dean walked in.

"Dean!" Sam yelled happily rushing to him. As Dean came closer, a faint smile forced onto his face, Sam was confused. His brother looked haggard and dead. Like he hadn't slept or eaten for weeks or like he had aged considerably since Sam had last seen him. But Sam hadn't been unconscious for that long. Had he?

"H...hey Sammy" Dean smiled with difficulty. Sam got up and hugged his little big brother. Enveloping him in a stifling hug that only the very tall can truly achieve. Dean melted against him, his breathing choking and erratic on Sam's shoulder. After a while Sam began to get worried.

"Dean sit down"
Dean leant away from him and slumped back into a seat. Sam got back into bed. Sam had never seen Dean look like this except for one other time. After Dean had gotten out of hell, he had admitted to Sam that he wished he couldn't feel at all, crying on the hood of the Impala he'd had the same haunted look.
But Sam was fine now. Dean had to see that.

"Where's Cas"

Dean's head snapped down to look at his hands and Sam saw a tremor run up his spine.

"Don't know. He never came back after the angels fell"

"Huh" Sam looked hard at Dean who was still averting his face from him.
Great so they'd had an argument. Dean was such a dick when he was emotional, poor Cas was probably locked in back at the bunker.

Or maybe Sam wondered, observing Dean's shaking hands as he crossed them inside his jacket to hide them, Cas had told Dean how he felt about him. Sam knew Cas had a thing for his brother but had assumed nothing would ever come of it, that Cas wouldn't act. Poor son of a bitch.

"So....you look like crap Dean" Sam said lightly. Dean choked on a sob. He'd never been like this before when Sam had been injured. Sam frowned sadly at his brother, maybe this was just one time too many. In addition to the militaristic training to protect Sam from their Dad, Dean probably blamed himself again for the incident. Typical selfless Dean.

Doctor Chris popped her head round the door. Then looked visibly disappointed to not see Cas. Sam stuck his tongue out at her over Dean's still bent head and she rolled her eyes in return.

"So you must be Dean" She said primly, coming to stand next to Dean who looked up at her and nodded. Sam saw her blink at Dean's appearance. But she carried on anyway and Sam was grateful.

"So Sam you are totally free to go but pop back soon to get some pain medication and FYI you're a medical miracle" She said flipping through some notes then snapped the book closed and Sam saw Dean flinch. But she didn't notice and gave Sam a flirty smile.

"You can come back to see me whenever you want" She winked and left, deliberately swishing her hair as she walked through the door. Damn he liked her. Sam looked back at Dean.

"Dean, you okay?" Sam asked, his brother hadn't moved.

"Yeah, yeah I'm fine" Dean sat up straight and gave a casual smile but his eyes were wide and slightly mad looking.

Yeah totally fine. "Okay lets go home then."

Dean had kept a bag of clothes in Sam's room for him to get changed back into for weeks and Sam put them on now, feeling glad he didn't have to wear the ruined shirt he'd worn to blood transfuse Crowley.

As Sam stepped into the bunker the first thing he did was look around for Cas.
He checked all the rooms not wanting Dean to know that Sam knew he'd lied to him. But Cas wasn't there. Sam frowned; what if Dean had been telling the truth and Doctor Chris had seen another man in his room? Plausible but Sam also had the nagging feeling he'd heard Cas talking to him while he was in the coma. There was no mistaking Cas's voice, subconscious or not. So where was he?
Why would Dean lie about it?

Sam went looking for Dean next, expecting the hunter to be waiting somewhere for him but it turned out that Dean had gone to his room and locked his door. Sam wasn't an angry person, not really. Compared to Dean he was practically a saint. But now he was kinda pissed actually; there was quite obviously something going on and Dean wouldn't tell him.

Sam cooked dinner, loving the bunker's homey kitchen. He stretched and smiled. It was so good to be here again. Kevin had gone to Garth's and Crowley was on lockdown in the dungeon. Things were looking up. When the food was ready Sam knocked on Dean's door for him to come and get it. Dean soon slouched into the kitchen but instead of taking the plate of pasta Sam was offering him he looked intently at the opposite wall where there were shelves. Stared at it like he'd seen a ghost.

"Erm Dean?" Dean didn't respond to the use of his name but still stared at the wall.

"Can I eat in the other room Sam?" His voice was strangled yet also small like a child's. Wow okay.

"Yeah sure come one." Sam followed his brother as he hurried from the kitchen.

They sat eating in silence for what felt like years. Sam watched Dean play with his food and try to stop his hands from shaking.

"So I know Cas did come back Dean," Sam began.

Dean dropped his cutlery and the silverware clattered to the floor.

"But if you guys..."

He didn't know how to say 'Had a big-coming-out-crisis' in a nice way.

"...had a fight, then I feel like I should know so I can help"

Dean paused as if wrestling with his thoughts, he face kept flinching as though his own mind was shouting at him. Sam was genuinely worried now. Dean looked like he was having a psychotic break down and Sam didn't know how to deal with that. Dean was always the dependable one not him.

"How did you find out?" Dean's usual sandpaper growl muttered with breaking something like hysteria.

"Doctor Chris was asking about him" Sam replied and Dean nodded with something like solemnity in his eyes. Like he knew lying would never have worked. Dean clenched and unclenched his jaw in a sort of rhythm.

Sam watched his brother build up to the truth never knowing how much it would hurt. When he reflected upon it later, Sam thought that it was partly the shock that made him react so strongly because he had been so sure that the cause of all this was just an emotional trip up for Dean that had affected his manly ego deeply.
And not murder in his name.

Dean rallied himself.
"Cas was here, you deserve to know" Sam didn't point out that Dean would quite happily have kept it from him if he hadn't found out but let it go. He'd heard the past tense in the sentence catch in Dean's throat.

"So where did he go?" Sam prompted. Maybe Cas had gone with Kevin to Garth's and Dean regretted having rebuffed him so early after his humanisation.
Dean took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"Abbadon offered me a deal..." Dean took a deep breath to continue talking...

But Sam didn't let Dean finish the sentence, he clapped his hands over his mouth and jumped to his feet, making his chair clatter to the ground.
"HE MADE A DEAL FOR ME!" Sam ran his hands through his hair and tears formed in his eyes. This explained everything! Of course Dean would be miserable he'd lost Cas, the only person he'd ever loved and been left with his idiot younger brother.
God what had he done! Cas was always the martyr but usually it was for Dean not for him! Sam wondered if Dean ever felt like this when Cas gave up his life for him, overwhelmed by the humbleness and clear gesture of love. Sam breathed out shakily. "Dean how could you let him! He had just become human, he had so much to..."

Dean was crying silently. Sam went to hug but Dean held up his hands, to push him away. He didn't even want to touch Sam. Sam had effectively killed Cas. Sam felt wretched and dirty, he could never redeem himself from this. Not ever.

 

Sam up righted his chair and waited. He wanted Dean to explain, to say that Cas had left him a note or did it for him because he hated being a human and didn't want to live anyway. Something that would ease the guilt in his chest.

"Sam I said I was approached to make the deal. Not Cas" Dean's voice was monotone. But Sam was still confused. What did Dean have to do with this? He was still alive so he clearly hadn't made the deal.

He waited.

Dean clenched his jaw on and off again, seeming to count down to the truth. Sam waited. "Abbadon offered me a deal to swap Cas's soul for yours" Dean whispered staring at Sam imploringly. But realisation didn't hit Sam like it usually did, a lightening bolt of comprehension, this time it crept into his gut and made it's way up his chest like a snake, constricting his airways. Because Dean COULDN'T mean that.
Dean WOULDN'T do that.

"Dean?" Sam always looked to Dean for guidance.
Now he looked at Dean and the way his eyes were stained red and he was thin and the very core of his being was begging Sam to understand. To accept. To forgive.

"Dean how could you?" Sam tasted the words slowly on his tongue, they were bitter and vengeful.
"How could you do this to me?" At this Dean looked confused, as though Sam's feelings were irrelevant.
"I have to live with this Dean!" Sam yelled across the table and Dean hung his head.

"I thought I was doing the right thing" He whispered and his tears splashed onto the table.

"The right thing for who Dean? Because I would never have killed Cas to save you because I can move on, okay? You...You cant even live without me Dean. You killed Cas.... to have me... do you have any idea how selfish that is?" Sam was breathing heavily, heaving the stones of guilt of his back and putting them on Dean's felt good, liberating. After starting the Apocalypse there was now way he could ever live like that again, bearing the lives of the entire planet across his shoulders. He would not let this one be pinned on him. This was Dean's doing.

"He doesn't even like me Dean! HE'S IN LOVE WITH YOU! That is literally the only reason he ever did anything you asked." Sam took a huge breath of air then played his ace. He didn't know it at the time but this particular poniard traumatised Dean most in the moths that followed.

"He saw how miserable you were without me, how pathetic, so he allowed you to kill him so you could be happy again because you are too blind to be happy with what you already had."

Dean was shaking in his chair, his eyes had glazed over. Sam realised he hadn't known. Had never known. Idiot.

"Well now..." Sam said standing up and taking his coat off the back of the chair. "You don't get either of us".

Dean heard vaguely the noises of Sam throwing his stuff into a bag in his room. Then the slam of the front door.

And he put his head on the table and had nothing.

No one.

Chapter Text

Dean Winchester woke up seven months later with the idle feeling that something had changed.

The cold morning dew was the same, as he walked bare foot into the woods surrounding the bunker. The inescapable pain in his chest that made him retch and cry on his bad days was the same. But the air felt charged like a storm was approaching. Dean shivered. That was good. A storm might be loud enough to keep him awake and stop him from sleeping.

Cas’s grave was the same as ever. But like normal Dean sat beside it and weeded the miniscule shoots that had appeared since his visit yesterday. Then he curled onto his side in the wet grass next to the grave.

“There’ll be a storm today Cas” He said with his eyes closed. This was how he normally talked to Cas, shutting his eyes made it easier to picture blue ones staring back.

“The food delivery guy will come on Thursday and we’ll have burgers again. Does that sound good to you?”

The Cas in his head smiled and Dean smiled back with his eyes shut.
After a few hours Dean went back inside to eat the last tin of beans straight from the can with a spoon. His bloodied and burst fingertips slowly dripping blood onto the floor like normal.

He would get more beans on Thursday and Cas could have his burgers. Dean left them cooked on a plate outside every night for him to eat. Logically he knew wolves were probably eating them. But lately he refused to address logic on principle; he refused to think most days, preferring just to act out the motions of the day before and the day before that.

Sometimes though, unexpected things happened.

Like that day the man who delivered his food (to a different motel every month for dean to collect and take back to the secret bunker), had worn a blue tie.

The walls Dean had built over the weeks had exploded all around him and forbidden memories accosted him in the pitch blankness of his mind. He hadn’t been able to move off the floor for three days, his body wrecked with sorrow. The nightmares plaguing his subconscious.

There was the day that Sam had texted him; for the last time. Dean had read it while huddled in the foetal position on the floor of his room after seeing the caller ID. Sam had moved in with Doctor Chris who apparently had ‘been there for him’ Sam was never coming back to see him because he could never truly forgive Dean for his atrocity. Sam had apologised for this and then said his last goodbye.

Dean had no energy left to have a break-down after that. He was in a constant state of blankness, his daily routine and talks with Cas the only thing he had left.
Dean had considered suicide in the beginning but the part of himself that never lied told him he didn’t deserve death.
He had sent Cas to an infinite life of torture and pain, it would be selfish of Dean to not endure the same.
The cutting helped a little, it added variation to the never-ending days.
Watching the cuts fade to scars helped him grasp the passing of time.
He talked to Cas about the self harm, reasoning that it was exactly like what Cas had done in Purgatory to atone for his sins. Dean could sense Cas’s distaste but didn’t care.

Dean slept in a different place every night, but liking the table top and the washing machine best, both were highly uncomfortable and guaranteed him wakefulness and penance.

The storm began just after he finished the cold raw beans he curled up on the table, starting with his left side. Eventually the left half of his body would grow sore and numb and he would have to change sides, therefore ensuring that he rarely ever slept. Just like Cas never would. Dean hadn’t changed his clothes all day. He rarely washed and refused to do anything he might have once enjoyed.
The day after Sam had left, he had taken a crowbar to the garage and not stopped until his arms and chest were scarred and bleeding and his Baby was a mess of metal and glass. She was youth and his brother and road trips and music. He didn't deserve her anymore.

Dean thought of blank blackness while he lay on the table, his protruding hip bone and shoulder sharp against the table. The rain and the wind screamed through the bunker and he was just beginning the nightly breathing count to one thousand when a knock resounded throughout the bunker. Dean sat up sharply, his long dormant hunter instincts flaring to life inside him.
He crept to his room to get his gun then went to the door. Logically it had to be Sam, he was the only other person who knew he was here. But Dean closed the door quickly on Logic, all sorts might come tumbling out if he left it open.
Dean took a deep breath and opened the bunker door into the rain, pointing the colt at the two short figure’s that stood there. It wasn’t Sam. Dean tightened his finger on the trigger to shoot but the figures came closer, making their faces visible.

It was Bobby.

Behind him was a tall dark-skinned girl who had her hair in braids.

Dean’s blankness didn’t allow him to think, he didn't process the logic that Bobby was dead or that he should probably do the silver and salt test on anyone who knew where the bunker was. If they were demons, then they would hurt him and he really didn't care anymore. He just stepped back to let them both in.
The heavy door closed and Bobby appraised him, water dripping of the bill of his cap.

“You look like shit, Son” Bobby said, his tone was casual but Dean could hear sadness wallowing there too.

“Yeah well you’re dead” Dean replied automatically, his voice was scratchy. Bobby huffed at that.

“That’s why I've brought an angel with me” Bobby gestured at the girl.

“I’m Samandriel, we've met” Samandriel spoke with a British accent and Dean recalled Alfie from the Weiner Hut. Samandriel had approached him during the auction to ask him about... Dean blanched and his head swam, don’t go there, don’t do it.

Bobby caught him by the elbows and Samandriel conjured an armchair from thin-air. Dean fell back and writhed in the comfortable seat, hating the alien luxury of it.

He leaped up and ran to the other room; quickly sitting on the table and holding his knees up to his chest, as he rocked back and forth. Trying to wipe the slate clean, make it clear to whoever was watching that he hadn’t given in his penance. He hadn't meant it. Bobby and Samandriel rushed in after him.

“Dean!” Bobby’s face was transported with grief as he looked at him. Dean didn't know what to say, he just continued his rocking and praying.

“Dean, we... we know okay. We've been watching from heaven” Dean knew subconsciously what that meant but was forbidden to examine to contents of the matter. He nodded to show he’d understood.

“Have you been alone this whole time?”

“No I talked to Cas.” Bobby’s eyebrows shot up.

“But Dean I thought Cas was...” Dean flinched. He wasn't allowed to think about that.

“No he’s just always in the garden” He said calmly. Comprehension dawned across Bobby’s features and he looked down at Dean sadly.

“You need sleep boy” He said softly.

“I won’t “Dean heard himself reply. The part of his mind that was still sentient argued that he sounded childish, there where people here now, he should give up this game. He had played it to show he cared but it was enough now. He should move on and eat and sleep.

“I WON’T!” Dean yelled at it. He would never give in; he could be tried and tested but his weaknesses for luxury wouldn't break him. As long as he stayed strong so would Cas. Dean’s body was tense like a bowstring and he curled back in on himself on the table. He realised he had screamed out loud. Bobby looked sick, like he’d seen a ghost. Samandriel just walked right up to Dean and placed her finger tips on his head.

“Yes you will” she muttered and he blacked out.

Chapter Text

Dean woke up in his bed with a pleasant buzz in his head. He sighed, basking pleasantly in the void between full wakefulness and sleep. Eventually he swung his legs out of bed and walked sleepily to the kitchen.

Hopefully they had bacon in the fridge; he was really in the mood for bacon.

That usually meant he was hung-over.

He couldn’t remember getting drunk that night though, unless he'd drunk himself into amnesia and Sam had had to carry him to bed.

He smirked at the thought.

He rounded the corner in the kitchen and saw Bobby at the table playing chess with a teenage girl with braided hair.

 

 

Dean’s knees gave out and a horrific agonising black-hole ripped opened up inside him. He was a vacuum of raw suffering and he was flayed open by memories that attacked him like piercing knives, plunging into his heart and mind as he remembered everything.
Cas’s eyes as they dimmed.
Sam’s features twisted in disgust.
Abbadon’s snake-like smile, as she leaned forward on the hood of his car to tell him how to save Sam.
Two pairs of hands grabbed at him as he thrashed and screamed on the floor. Then the smaller of the hands clamped over his head and he blacked out again.

Dean woke up again tied to a chair in the kitchen with Bobby Singer sitting across from him.

“Listen boy, just listen to us and then maybe Saman won’t have to put the whammy on you again” Bobby said his voice soft and gruff at the same time.

Luckily this time when he woke up the pain was already there; constant and comforting. Dean clung to it yet still waited a little while in his chair in case it intensified suddenly again. But then he calmed a little. Focused on Bobby.

“You’re alive” Dean said. It felt good to talk about something new for once; he had something new to tell Cas now. Bobby visited today and one of your brothers is alive. Dean definitely classified this as good news.

“Well temporarily.” Bobby said. “Just till we get Cas back”.

Dean nodded as a default movement.
He nodded when the food was delivered
Or when Cas told him not to hurt himself.
Nodding was acknowledgement.
But it took him a while to acknowledge what Bobby had actually said.
“Get Cas back”
But Cas was dead.
He had killed him.
He had killed him.
He would never come back.
He would never say ‘Hello Dean’ again.
He would never misunderstand a reference again.

Dean didn’t scream this time. He just hung his head and cried silently. He heard Bobby get up and felt himself being held as the tears came slowly and infinitely.

“I’ve seen you sad and I’ve seen you angry, boy” Bobby said in a broken whisper “But I ain’t ever seen you cry like this”

After a time Dean heard the swish of wings and sat bolt upright out of Bobby’s hold, gasping. But it was just Samandriel, holding a polystyrene box.

“I brought him sustenance” She said in a British accent, holding out the box to Bobby. “He does not appear to have eaten sufficiently in weeks”

“Yeah, I know” said Bobby placing the box in front of Dean with a heavy look. Dean’s mouth started to water at the gorgeous scent emanating from the box but he ignored it.

“Bobby” Dean choked, his voice was strained “I can’t”.

“I know boy” Bobby said and Dean saw his eyes were wet “I was the same without Karen”

Dean remembered Karen.
Bobby had loved her and been made to kill her twice.

“I’m sorry” He said, surprised at the new emotion of empathy spreading through him. Bobby smiled sadly.

“I’m sorry about you too” They paused and stared at each other for a while. For the first time in a long time, Dean didn’t feel completely alone. Bobby knew what he felt; Dean could see it in his eyes. Bobby still looked sad and empty but not completely gone.

“How did you...” Dean couldn’t finish the sentence but Bobby seemed to know what he meant to ask, he snorted softly through his beard.

“Alcohol and hunting mostly” He sighed “Then one morning Rufus showed up and told me to get over it.” Bobby clenched his jaw.

“I remember hitting him so damn hard I broke his nose, but he just let me beat the shit out of him. He said after that he thought I just needed it and I could make it up to him by helping him out on a case” Bobby laughed “I just back to life after that and o’course your dad needed all the help he could get with you two boys so I had my hands full” He looked happy as he reminisced all the bad times. He then looked straight at Dean with a small smile.

“Do you remember the first time we came across the trickster and he made you and Sam act like an angsty old couple” Dean smiled a little too as he recalled the first time they had come across Gabriel. “Well that’s how me and Rufus where, man annoyed me so much I refused to die”. There was a pause.

“I never probed him with an alien though” Bobby muttered thoughtfully and then he huffed a laugh into his beard and his eyes crinkled and Dean felt himself laugh too.

“What about that one time you got ghost sickness and were scared of everything” Bobby said through a smile.

“Yeah, even cats”

“Ya idgit”

They laughed quietly for a time. Then Bobby sat back down opposite him still smiling.

“We can get Cas back boy, you eat up while I tell you all about it” Dean knew the game Bobby was playing, but he was firmly convinced that Bobby was real now and not just a trick of his subconscious. He opened the box. It was pie.

“So how are you temporarily alive?” Dean said, attempting to forestall the pie for as long as possible to show that he still had will power. He was going to make the choice to eat, once he knew this plan to get Cas back was possible, until then he was not giving in.

“Well” Bobby sat back his chair; he always did love to tell stories. “We all saw the mess you were in and I talked with Saman about us coming down to help you out”

“Who are us?”

“Me, Ellen, Jo and Ash; we all live in the big Roadhouse in the sky” Bobby smiled slightly “and a while back God seemed to realise heaven was empty, so he brought all the dead angels back to life to run heaven and over take that Metatron SOB, so Saman here pops in regularly to check on us and she said only one of us had permission to come down so we agreed to remake my body temporarily to come down and pay you a visit”.

Dean froze. He swore his heart skipped a beat as a bubble of hope swelled in him.

“But if God decided to bring back all the dead angels...”

“Castiel died human” Samandriel interrupted “His soul resides in hell from where we must retrieve it”.

“I was getting to that part” Bobby huffed.

Anger replaced his excitement instantly.
“Wait up, you’re telling me God has brought back all the dead angels but he can’t be bothered to get one human soul out of hell?” Dean said and his voice rose. He glared at Samandriel, though it wasn’t her fault he had not felt anger for a while and it felt fiery and intoxicating within him.

“That’s why we have to do it ourselves” Dean snapped his gaze back to Bobby.

“How?”

“Same way you and Sam got me out” Dean gaped then huffed a little laugh, rubbing his face in his hands. He had been so dead inside; he had not considered fixing the situation, despite all ready knowing the solution.

He really was an idgit.

If this was real and Cas could be saved the way Bobby had been, then Dean could tell him he was sorry to his face. He knew he must never be forgiven, it was too late for him but Cas could have the life Dean had denied him. The fragile hope bubble was back but the logic of Bobbie’s solution was reinforcing it, making it plausible and then factual. They were going to do this.

“Guess we’ll need a reaper then” Bobby grinned at him.

“Better eat something then ya idgit”