He needs to fix it.
Except that there’s no way to fix it. The Leviathans might be gone, but Sam didn’t make it and Cas hasn’t gotten better. Dean’s been visiting plenty, now that he can, and nothing’s working. Bobby is gone, the contacts list of his cell phone is made of dead people except for Meg – he can’t take the idea that she’s the only one who survived except for him. And Cas, but he might as well be gone, too.
He’s admittedly drunk when he summons Crowley, but it’s not as if he cares about his liver anymore, and he knows it’s not a good idea. But then again he’s tempted to shoot himself in the head, so it’s not as if it can make any more damage.
“Look at who’s here. Someone’s desperate for a deal, isn’t he?”
“Fuck you. I don’t even know why I did this, but it’s not as if I know someone else who can do anything for me, do I?”
“Well, that might have been your lucky day.”
“Really? That doesn’t sound too good to me.”
“Dean, Dean, you’re such a downer. But, differently from you, I can admit a mistake.”
“That whole thing with opening Purgatory? I’ll admit it – that’s been the worst idea I’ve had in ages. Those pesky monsters, you think they ended up there again?”
Dean isn’t drunk enough for this. “You mean you have Leviathans making havoc in Hell and now you wish you had kept yourself content with just it? Do you even realize – fuck, I can’t.”
“But you can,” Crowley chimes in. “I’ll make you a deal. A very sweet one. Don’t worry, your soul isn’t in the bargain.”
Dean takes a swig from the cheap tequila he had been nursing before. His fourth bottle.
“Let’s hear it.”
“You know how it is with souls. The ones in Hell might not be the best option, but they can do for a temporary bust of power. Very temporary, though. I have no intention of getting addicted. Asylums aren’t really my thing.”
“Shut the fuck up and go to the point.”
“One would think you’d be a little more grateful. Anyway, let’s suppose that I can send you back in time. Meaning, you’ll remember everything from here, but you’ll be in your own body. The moment is your pick. I’m sure you have enough that you can think whose outcome you might want to change. Of course, the ball is entirely in your court, and if you get it wrong then you’ll most probably fuck it up for good, but hey, it’s still one chance, isn’t it?”
Dean thinks about it, even if he probably should ask Crowley for a day to mull it over – he’s not in his right mind. But… does he need to be? His brother is gone, there’s no known way to snap Cas out of catatonia, Bobby is dead, everyone he knew is dead except for Lisa, who doesn’t even remember him. Does he have anything to lose?
“Fine. I suppose your mojo can’t sober me up? If I got one pick, then I don’t wanna fuck it up.”
Crowley rolls his eyes and snaps his fingers, and Dean’s mind clears in a moment.
Good. He tries not to let himself get overwhelmed and focuses. It doesn’t take a genius to decide that it has to be from before the Leviathan fiasco, and from before he brought Lisa to the hospital – by then, it was too broken to fix it. Not even when Cas asked him to change sides, the entire plan had been set in motion by then. No, before. The time when he talked to Cas at Bobby’s, when Cas told him about the wrong sigils… no. No, it had already been broken by then. It broke when they trapped Cas in the ring of fire, but that was too late, too. But he can’t go earlier than Eve’s death – the last thing he needs is having her around all over again.
Then he knows.
“Do I have to tell you?”
“No. Just think hard about it when I tell you to. I wasn’t following your lot around, just so you know.”
Dean nods at him. Crowley moves closer, raises an eyebrow. “Well, good luck. I sincerely hope you don’t screw this up. Now.”
He snaps his fingers and Dean thinks about Cas saving him, Sam and Bobby at that demon’s lair (Ellsworth, the name was Ellsworth), he thinks about that fucking stupid Superman reference that made them all understand, and a moment later there’s sunlight creeping from the windows, Cas is smiling at him and he seems so pleased to having gotten one reference right, and Dean knows that Sam and Bobby haven’t missed the clue.
He doesn’t let that get to him. It’s now or never.
“Uh, Cas, you mind if we have a word? Just you and me. Possibly without dead demons around.”
“Of course,” Cas answers, and Dean glares at both Sam and Bobby before following Cas outside the barn.
When they’re in the open, and when they’re far enough from the barn, Dean turns towards Cas and looks down at his boots, taking a breath. He can’t fuck this up. He won’t fuck this up, and he’s had months to think about how things went wrong. He had told Cas that they could fix it, back when for a second he could he could have both Cas and his brother back, and he’s not going to do the same mistakes.
Cas sounds slightly worried when Dean looks up at him, blue eyes wide, and Dean knows that he’s concerned, and what kind of idiot was I?, he thinks before taking a step forward and throwing his arms around Cas.
“… Dean?” now Cas sounds really confused, and Dean tries not to think about the fact that Cas isn’t even trying to return the gesture. Of course he wouldn’t. It never happened before. What should anyone think?
“Cas, please, listen to me. I know what’s going on. I know about Crowley.” He feels Cas going rigid, but he tightens his hold at that. “Don’t – don’t you dare disappear on me. I’m not – I need you to hear me out. I know you think it’s the only way to win your war, and I know that you’re at the end of your rope, and I’m sorry that I haven’t been this great of a friend, but I’m begging you here – don’t do it.”
“But how –”
“It doesn’t matter how. But it’s going to end badly for all of us, especially for you. Please, before you go through with it – just – talk over it with us. We stopped an apocalypse with less, there has to be another way.”
He doesn’t move back an inch at that, wondering if there’s something more he should say. Cas is still too rigid, too still, and it’s not right. It isn’t how it should be (why hasn’t he ever done this before?).
“Please,” he keeps on. He knows he’s downright begging, but what should he do? “I don’t blame you for taking that deal. And I know that you think you’re doing it for us, and I appreciate it, but I don’t want you to risk your life again. You can’t resurrect forever, damn you. And I know that you were the one bringing Sam back – not your best job, but still better than leaving him down there.”
Dean almost gasps when one of Cas’s hands tentatively reaches up for his shoulder, and then the other. He’s breathing, heavily, and Dean knows that he doesn’t need it – he isn’t surprised when Cas’s shoulders tremble for a moment. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I don’t know how you know, but I didn’t – I didn’t have a chance. And I hadn’t realized I brought him back wrong until –”
“Cas. Shut the fuck up. I just need you to tell me you’ll talk it over with us. Friends help each other, you know.”
There’s a moment of silence, and then Cas goes from rigid to melting against him, his hands fisted in Dean’s jacket, his frame still shaking; Dean brings one hand into his hair when Cas hides his head against Dean’s shoulder, and his grip becomes tighter when Dean presses his lips to the side of his head, repeating all over that they can find a way out of this.
He knows he shouldn’t make that kind of promise, but he knows that there’s no way that this time can go the same as the first. He doesn’t let go for a long time.