“I know how you feel,” Dean tells her. He's standing in the doorway of her room, watching the side of her face as she sits on the bed, legs stretched in front of her, and stares at the wall. She's been doing that a lot.
“No, you don't,” Claire says. A tear tracks down her face. She's done trying to bat them away.
“Yeah, I do,” Dean says. He crosses his arms and then uncrosses them and then crosses them again. It's hard to know what's more comforting. He leans against the doorframe, watching still, trying to read her face.
She looks at him then, a question in her eyes even as she says, “It's not like that. It's not like when you lose Sam.”
“I know it's not like that.”
“Then you don't know how I feel.”
She turns back to the wall for a moment, but ultimately decides even that's too open, and turns her back on Dean completely. She rolls onto her side and tries to bury herself in the pillows.
Dean didn't want to tell her. She didn't need to know, she'd be better off not hearing about it, better off never knowing.
Sam thought they should tell her - that she had a right to know. And Dean gets that, he does, but god, is there ever a right time to tell someone something like this?
This is as good a time as any, he guesses.
He sits on the bed and starts talking.
“We lost Cas a couple months ago,” Dean says. “Lucifer - uh, Lucifer got him. Nothing I could do but watch him die.”
Claire hasn't turned to look at him, but that's okay. He's not looking at her either. He doesn't think he can, right now.
“It wasn't like the other times I - we've lost him. It was bigger. More permanent. Like there wasn't any way back from that.”
Dean rubs a hand down his face.
“I prayed, you know? We uh, we met God a while ago. Like, the real one. And I figured, if anyone could save Cas, it was him. But he didn't. So I stopped praying, and we burned Cas’s body.”
He doesn't tell her that he was the one to wrap the body, that he carried Cas onto the pyre. He doesn't tell her that he didn't really stop praying until he dropped the first match.
“I didn't get to say goodbye, you know?” Dean says, but of course she knows. Then, quieter, “There's a lot of things I didn't get to say.”
He hears Claire shuffle on the bed to see him, but he doesn't look at her. Instead, he looks into his lap, where he's been wringing his hands this whole time.
“What did you do?” she asks, and suddenly this story is a bad idea. Sure, it's got a good ending, but that's probably not the ending she'll get to have.
“I tried throwing myself into the job,” he says, “saving people, hunting things. It's what I know. But we had Jack with us, and I swear, every time I looked at him all I could see was Cas. All I could see was Cas, dying, over and over and over, until it felt like I was the one dying.
“So I drank. I drank because I couldn't sleep, and I drank because I couldn't look at Jack without hating him, and I drank because I couldn't forget, and none of it worked. None of it even helped. So I killed myself.”
He hears Claire's sharp intake of breath, feels her go still beside him.
“We were on a case, and I saw a way to save the people trapped in the veil, but I had to die. And I was so fucked up already - because of Mom, yeah, but mostly it was Cas - I was so fucked up that it didn't even seem that bad an idea. I met Death and she told me I wanted to die. And goddamn, if she wasn't right.
“She sent me back. Told me it wasn't my time. I knew she was right, but I didn't want her to be. I wanted to stay dead. I didn't want to go back. I didn't want to go back into a world that didn't have Cas in it.”
He looks at her then, and she's got tears running down her cheeks again, but it's quiet crying now. The kind of crying you do for someone else.
“But she sent me back,” he says, and he's whispering now, “and I hated her for it. And then - Jesus - then I get a call, and it's Cas, it's him, and he's asking me to pick him up in a no-name town five hundred miles away. So I drove for three hours at double the limit, and there he was, standing next to the payphone he called me from.”
Claire isn't quiet-crying anymore.
“It was like - god, I don't know, like a weight off my shoulders, but it wasn't on my shoulders, it was on my whole body.
“And I know that doesn't help you, Claire. I know hearing my happy ending doesn't help when you're still in the shitty beginning. There's nothing I can say that'll make it easier on you. I just thought you should know that I do. I do know how you feel. And it won’t get better until it really gets better.”
“It won't get better,” Claire repeats.
“It won't get better 'til she comes back to you.”