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He knocks three times on the bright blue front door, rolling his eyes at the obnoxious color. The guy from Mia’s office answers, though his hair is slightly messier and he’s in a sweater and pajama pants. His soft, chocolate-brown eyes meet Dean’s green ones, and Dean can see the small inhale of breath. Dean offers a small smile.

 

“I’m not here to yell at you again. Mia’s phone isn’t working so she sent me over to ask you a few things about her patients. Tom, right?” The man nods, but stands his ground in front of the door. Dean raises an eyebrow. “You wanna talk here? Alright.”

 

“I can’t talk about patients, especially not to another patient.” Dean puts on his best charming smile, pulling out his badge.

 

“I’m actually FBI. We’re looking into the murders of two of Mia’s patients, Wes Bailey and Gloria Simon.” Tom’s eyebrows raise at that and he finally steps aside, motioning for Dean to come inside. He shoots Jack a warning glare before stepping inside, moving out of the way so Tom can close the door behind him.

 

“Can I get you something to drink, agent?”

 

“Some water would be great, thanks.” He follows Tom through to his kitchen, slipping his hand in his pocket and grabbing the silver dollar he’d stashed there. “How long have you been working for Mia?”

 

“About two years, now. It only started to get really busy about six months ago, though. We’ve had to start referring people to other therapists.” He motions for Dean to take a seat at the breakfast bar, setting a glass of water in front of him and leaning against the counter. “What can I do to help? Wes and Gloria were good people. Kind.” Dean offers a sympathetic smile, pulling the glass to him and taking a sip, pulling out his notebook. He gets as much information as he can, turning the flirting up when he catches Tom checking him out. He tucks his notebook away once he has all the information, slipping the silver dollar between the index and middle finger of his right hand, standing and offering the hand to Tom.

 

“Thank you for all your help, I really appreciate it.” Tom shakes his hand without a problem, and Dean offers him a parting smile before letting himself out of the house. He slides behind the wheel of the Impala, sighing and calling Sam, who answers on the second ring.

 

“Hey, man, it’s not Tom. Silver doesn’t bother him, he’s clear.” He can hear Sam’s answering sigh and mumbles a goodbye before hanging up. Jack is watching him, so he pointedly ignores the kid and pulls the Impala onto the road, driving back to Mia’s place.

 

·    ·     ·     ✤    ·     ·     ·

 

They leave Mia to deal with Buddy’s body, as she’d requested, and pile into the Impala to start the drive back to Lebanon. Jack falls asleep half an hour into the drive, and Sam is silent in the passenger’s seat. He taps his thumb on the wheel absentmindedly, letting his mind wander while he drives. They make it back to Lebanon and mumble goodnights before shutting themselves into their respective rooms.

 

Dean doesn’t sleep. Can’t sleep. He hasn’t slept through the night since… since he lost… him . Instead, he flips his desk lamp on and contemplates what Mia said. He chews his lip momentarily, but he’s mostly made the decision already. He opens his door just enough to avoid the creaking, slipping out into the hallway and walking down the hallway to one of the storage rooms. He flicks the light on and searches through the boxes in the room before he finds what he’s looking for. He turns the light off as he leaves, turning the item over in his hands as he walks back to his room. He closes the door softly, pulling his desk chair out and sitting, grabbing a pen from his drawer. He flips the journal open to the first page, a shaky sigh escaping his lips. It’s been awhile since he’s journaled. Eleven years, almost.

 

·    ·     ·     ✤    ·     ·     ·

 

May 30, 2017

 

Caught a case in Wisconsin this week. Therapy patients were being killed by their dead loved ones. Turns out the therapist was a shifter who used her abilities to give people what she calls “catharsis”. Basically, she’d transform into their dead loved one they never got to say goodbye to and let them say whatever they need for closure, or whatever. Turns out, her insane and abusive ex had tracked her down and was sabotaging everything good she was doing so she’d be miserable and take him back. Class act, huh? So we took care of him, with Jack’s help, and left Mia to her life.

 

Jack’s a nephilim. Lucifer’s son, actually. He ripped a hole in the universe to some apocalypse world when he was born. Lucifer’s trapped over there, but so is Mom. And Cas… Lucifer killed him. Came through the rift before it closed and stabbed him in the back with an angel blade. I saw…

 

We burned him. Jack’s mom Kelly, too. A hunter’s funeral. Cas earned it, and Kelly… Well, she deserved better than she got. As for Jack… we’ve got nothing to kill him, so he’s staying at the bunker for now, a few rooms down from mine so I can keep an eye on him. He hasn’t been trouble yet, but I don’t expect that to continue for long. He’s… I mean, he’s Lucifer’s son for Chrissake, there’s no way he won’t go bad sometime. Besides, it’s his fault we lost Mom and Cas. I don’t want to be a dick to him, but every time I look at him, all I can see is Cas’s grace burning out right in front of my eyes. I just… I can’t stop seeing it, even in my dreams. Even my nightmares from hell weren’t this bad.

 

He’s not coming back from this. His wings were burned into the ground, I mean… he was stabbed with an angel blade for fuck’s sake. There’s no coming back from that for an angel. That’s it, he’s… He deserved better. Better than the shit that was thrown his way, better than me. And now he’ll never have it.

 

I thought about asking her. Mia. There’s so much I never told him, so much he never knew. So much I need him to know. But it’s too late for that, too. We’re already back at the bunker. Mia gave us her number and told us to call if we wanted her services, but… I won’t. I know myself too well. Unless I was drunk or it was three in the morning, it wouldn’t happen.

 

I guess that’s it. Not much else to say about it, other than… goodbye, Cas. I’m sorry.

 

·    ·     ·     ✤    ·     ·     ·

 

He leaves the pen in the journal and closes it slowly, his shoulders sagging. It didn’t do much, but it feels like at least some of the weight has been lifted off his shoulders. He can see why people do this to help with their grief, especially if they don’t want to burden their family. Or, in his case, his family doesn’t understand why his grief is so harsh this time around. He scrubs a hand over his face, sighing softly and pushing the chair back from the desk. He strips down to his boxer-briefs, tossing his clothes in the general direction of his hamper and tugging on a t-shirt to sleep in before switching the light off and crawling under the blankets for another night of what he can only imagine will be a nightmare-filled sleep.

Unsurprisingly, he wakes up two and a half hours later, a strangled sob trapped in his throat. He swallows past the lump forming there, blinking away the tears in his eyes and taking a deep breath through his nose. He rolls over and glances at the time, sighing softly. He furrows his eyebrows when he hears clanging coming from somewhere in the bunker, tossing the blankets off and pulling on his robe, grabbing a flashlight and gun. He knocks on Sam’s door as he passes, flicking the safety off on the gun and switching the flashlight on, searching the rooms as he passes. He hears another clang and he’s finally able to place the sound: someone’s trying to unlock the bunker’s door. He glance at Sam once the younger Winchester meets him in the war room with a gun and flashlight of his own, nodding toward the door. They wait for it to open, but the noise stops after a few apparently unsuccessful attempts. Dean lowers his gun slowly, keeping his voice soft.

 

“Means they don’t have a key for the new lock.” Sam rolls his eyes.

 

“Doesn’t exactly rule anyone out, Dean, we’re the only two people who have keys.” He shoots a glare in Sam’s direction, switching his flashlight off and flicking the war room lights on instead. He tosses the flashlight to Sam, keeping the gun in his hand as he climbs the stairs quietly. He unlocks the door, pulling it open and aiming the gun at the man standing in the doorway before freezing on the spot.

 

“Dean? Dean, what it is?” He rushes up the stairs, gun pointed toward the door, but Dean puts a hand out to stop him.

 

“I don’t know who you think you are, but this isn’t funny. You’ve got three seconds to go back to whatever your normal form is before I shoot you in your fucking face.” Blue eyes widen and hands come up, palms facing Dean in an act of surrender. Sam’s eyes widen and he lowers the gun slowly.

 

“Cas. Is… is it really you? You’re-”

 

“Cas is dead. I burned him myself. Whoever the fuck you are, stop using his face.” He moves his finger to the trigger, clenching his jaw.

 

“Dean, please. It’s me, I promise you. It’s my face.” Sam tucks the gun into his waistband and starts to step past Dean, who forcibly shoves him away from the door.

 

“We burned him, Sam, come on . You can’t honestly believe this.” Sam opens his mouth to speak, but the Cas look-alike beats him to it.

 

“Good things do happen, Dean.” His finger twitches on the trigger, and he swallows past the lump threatening to form in his throat.

 

Fuck you. You don’t get to use his face and his words . You don’t get to use him!” Sam shoves the barrel of the gun away just as Dean pulls the trigger, the shot whizzing past the man on the doorstep, who flinches.

 

“Dean, what the hell!” He pries the gun from Dean’s hands, eyes wide. Dean tears his eyes away from this thing that thinks it’s okay to use Castiel’s face against him, grabbing the bag he’d discarded on the war table when they’d returned from the hunt and grabbing various things from it. He trudges back up the stairs, uncapping the flask and splashing holy water on the man’s face, his eyes narrowing when it does nothing. He grabs the silver knife from its sheath, grabbing the man’s arm and shoving his sleeve up roughly, slicing across his bicep. He blinks a few times when nothing happens, his eyes slowly drifting to the man’s face.

 

“I watched you rake leaves when you were with Ben and Lisa. I should’ve asked you for help with Raphael, but I didn’t want to drag you back into the life you’d managed to escape from. You prayed to me every night in Purgatory, even after I left you to fend for yourself. You were what broke the connection with Naomi- or, our bond was. You made me a tape of all your favorite Zeppelin songs, knowing full well that my truck didn’t have a tape deck and I’d have to listen to it in your room since you’re the only one in the world who still has the technology to listen to tapes.” Dean cracks a smile like that and Sam’s honestly surprised his jaw hasn’t hit the floor yet. “You prayed to me last night. I’d just woken up and I heard you praying to me.” Dean swallows and finally meets those blue eyes, the knife tumbling from his hand as the pulls Castiel into a tight hug. The man sags against him in relief, winding his arms around the hunter and hugging him back tightly, comforted by Dean’s familiar scent.

 

“I burned you, Cas. I wrapped your body and doused you, how are you back?”

 

“Hey, man, why don’t you come inside. We’ll get you something else to wear and something to eat, if you’re hungry.” Castiel nods with a small smile on his face, reluctantly letting Dean go and following the brothers down the stairs. Dean hovers in his space, seemingly afraid to take his eyes off the angel, like he’ll disappear if Dean blinks. Sam walks off toward the bedrooms and comes back with a pair of Dean’s pajama pants and a t-shirt. Castiel take them with a grateful smile, disappearing to the bathroom to bandage his arm and change. Dean drops into a chair at the war table, his hands shaking. He can feel Sam’s eye on him, but he can’t bring himself to look at his little brother. He can’t, not yet. Sam’s eyes shift to Castiel when he reenters the room, a soft smile on the blue-eyed man’s lips.

 

“How are you back, man? I saw your wings burned into the ground.” Castiel takes the seat next to him, shifting it so he can face both Winchesters while he talks.

 

“I’m not sure, really. I was in the Empty. It’s where angels go when they die. Something woke me up, which woke up… whatever cosmic entity presides over the empty. He wanted me to go back to sleep, offered me eternal peace, but I said no. I told him to send me back to Earth and that I’d fight him every day until he did.” Sam watches as Dean, consciously or not, shifts his chair closer to Castiel’s. He smiles to himself, nodding at Cas to continue. “I woke up in a field in Iowa, sometime in the morning yesterday. I wandered around for a while before I found my way to a town and I managed to get a ride to Kansas with a truck driver. He wasn’t leaving until morning, which is why I wasn’t here earlier. And why I heard your prayer.” Dean’s cheeks flush at that, but he clears his throat quietly and glances up at Castiel.

 

“So you’re just… back? Are you… okay?” Castiel hums, a small smile on his lips.

 

“I’m good. Great, actually. I’m back to full power. My wings are almost entirely healed, so I’ll be able to fly soon, be useful.” So I can stay remains unsaid, but based on the look on Dean’s face, he heard it.

 

“Cas, you don’t need your power to stay here, you know. It’s not… you’re not just here because you’re useful. You’re here because you’re our family and we care about you.” Castiel smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes, so Dean stands and grabs the angel’s hand, pulling him to his feet. He leads Castiel toward the hallway Dean’s bedroom is in, stopping in front of the room next to his. “I’ve been trying to get this done between hunts and Lucifer and everything, but then you died and…” He swallows, clearing his throat quietly and letting go of Castiel’s hand, opening the door. Castiel glances inside at the mostly clean room, turning back to Dean with a confused expression.

 

“I… don’t understand.”

 

“It’s yours, Cas. If you want it. I know you don’t sleep but I figured it might be nice to have somewhere in the bunker that was just yours .” Castiel’s eyes widen and he turns to look at the room again.

 

“This is… for me? You cleaned out a room for me?” Dean smiles softly, nodding.

 

“Yeah. So, if you want to stay…” He bites his lip, letting out a breath and closing his eyes for a moment, opening them and focusing his eyes on those blue ones. “Stay, Cas. Please. We- I want you here.” Castiel nods after a moment, a wide smile spreading across his face.

“Of course, Dean. I’d be honored.” Dean returns the grin, sighing in relief and motioning for Castiel to look around the room.

 

“Good. Welcome home, Cas.”