Sam had been gone for about three years. It was a hunt gone nasty when the vampires they were going after turned out to be possessed by demons on Crowley’s orders. The brothers weren’t even aware it was possible for demons to possess vampires. It was a brutal fight, and while they managed to take out most of the demon vamps, Dean barely managed to get away, and that was with the help of Castiel. Sam...There was hardly enough of Sam left to burn.
But Dean kept hunting. He didn’t ask for Sam to be returned, because he knew that in Heaven, things would be better than any kind of life he could have had on earth. He just kept to the road, calling Castiel in on the particularly hard hunts (and some of the easier ones when he felt he could use the company). Over time, Castiel wasn’t needed in Heaven as much, and stayed with Dean as often as he could.
The two spent a lot of time together, talking, listening, even laughing on the rare occasion. Dean didn’t drink as much when Castiel was around, and preferred diners to take out. He found he wasn’t as angry, and actually hunted better when Castiel was with him. Dean never told the angel, but he was glad Castiel had decided to stick around. He was like a life raft while Dean was drowning in grief and anger. A shining beacon in the dark, helping him find his way.
Three years after Sam’s death, the two, without even discussing it, took a path that would have then searching for Crowley. Dean had found a lead on getting to Crowley after capturing one of his top demons. While Castiel usually doesn't condone torture, he was more than willing to step aside and let Dean do what he needed to do. For Sam.
They knew it would be dangerous. They knew they might not make it out alive. But as long as they took Crowley out with them, it didn't much matter.
The lead took them straight to hell, into the ever-shifting pit of darkness. It was no longer just a waiting line, an eternal queue, but rooms with varying purposes, always moving, never letting you see the same place twice. It didn’t take long to find Crowley, however. Dean figured the King was so sure of himself, he didn’t even bother trying to hide. The demons he posted to keep the human and the angel out were nothing compared to the vengeance coursing through Dean Winchester’s veins and Castiel’s angel blade.
They needed his bones, and they needed to burn them. Finding their location would be tough, seeing as the only person (demon rather) who knew their location was King Crowley himself. By the time they managed to fight their way into the chamber Crowley was hiding out in, Dean was beat up pretty badly, and even Castiel seemed wary and tired.
Dean just needed to douse the royal son of a bitch with a little holy water to distract him enough for Castiel to transport them out of Hell. But sneaking up on a demon that knows you’re looking for it is not a kind task. Of course, the older Winchester brother was not known for his stealth. An abrupt attack would be sure to throw Crowley off enough to spray him down.
Dean and Castiel were standing just outside the extravagant room Crowley had claimed for his own. The both knew Crowley knew they were there, but it didn’t hurt being a little careful.
“Alright, I’m going to go in first, in case he has any banishment sigils.” Dean said quietly, back pressed against the stone wall next to the lush wooden doors. “We can’t have you sent away right when we need you to transport us. I might as well kill myself if that happens.” He looked at Castiel, and found stern blue eyes peering into his. “Just, make sure you don’t get mojo’d out of here, Cas.” Dean found himself grasping the angel’s hand, and giving it a reassuring squeeze. We can do this.
With a nod, Dean launched himself through the mahogany doors and looked for Crowley. He was sitting on a leather sofa listening to a radio that seemed to be from the nineteen forties. He was staring right at Dean.
“Ah, Dean Winchester. I’ve been expecting you. Though, you did arrive a little earlier than I thought you would. Well done.” Crowley smiled wickedly as he pulled himself off the couch.
“Shut your trap, you useless piece of dirt. I’m not here to talk.” Dean placed a hand at the opening of the bag slung around his shoulder, poised to grab the spray bottle of holy water resting on top.
“Dean. Dean, Dean, Dean. What do you say we put the past behind us? I could bring back your precious Sammy if you’d like.” Crowley opened his arms in a welcoming gesture. “For a kiss, of course.”
“I said,” Dean growled deeply, plunging his hand into his bag as he stepped forward towards the demon, “Shut your trap.” And he pulled the spray bottle out and fired right at Crowley’s face as his eyes went black. “Cas! Now!”
Crowley yelled in anger as he tried to wipe away the holy water causing his skin to sizzle and steam. Castiel darted into the room, grabbed Dean’s arm, and touched two fingers to the still trashing demon’s forehead. Before Dean could even blink, they had landed in a warehouse. The windows and doors were salted.
“Fire.” Castiel said calmly, and Dean dropped a lighter at Crowley’s feet. On the outside edge of the Devil’s Trap he was standing in, a ring of holy oil began to blaze. When he looked up, he saw Crowley wiping away last bit of water and steam from his face.
“Oh, you think you two are so clever, don’t you?” Crowley’s voice was scratchy and annoyed. “Holy water? You think a bit of holy oil and paint can hold me for long? I’m the bloody king of Hell!"
“Who said anything about letting you be around for long, Crowley? We just need a location from you, and you’ll be gone for good.” Dean’s voice was still deep with anger. His green eyes were bright in the glow of the fire. He looked ready to kill.
“A loca- Oh. I see what this is.” Crowley was almost smiling. “You think you can scoop up me, King of Hell, find my bones, and burn them?” He clasped his hands together in front of him. “You think it will really be that easy, Dean?”
“We don’t need easy.” Dean spat, and he turned to look at Castiel. “We just need doable.” The angel just nodded, his eyes locked on the Demon confined by fire and sigil. “Now, you could make this difficult, or make it easy and tell me where you hid your bones.”
“Oh please. Like I’m going to tell you where I put them.” Crowley barked a laugh. “I am many things, Dean, but I am no idiot. Besides, there are already demons on the way as we speak. Nasty ones.” Crowley let out a toothy grin. “They don’t play nice.”
Dean sniffed and pulled the demon knife out of his bag. “Alright then, your highness. We’ll have it your way.” He tossed the knife to Castiel, who stepped forward to extinguish the flames around the devils trap.
“We’ve been over this. That blade doesn’t kill-“ Crowley was cut off by a gargle as the angel plunged the knife deep into his side. “Shit, well, it still stings a bit, I’ll give you that.” His voice was strained, and he was doubled over in pain.
“Sometimes, Crowley, the Father smiles down on his children.” Castiel said evenly, twisting the blade deep into the demon’s side. “And he grants us abilities to help us on a quest for justice.” Castiel placed a hand on Crowley’s forehead. Dean could see the whites of his eyes beginning to glow bright white from his power.
Before Castiel could finish, a window on the opposite side of the warehouse blew open, disrupting the salt line. Two inky trails of smoke slithered in through the broken window and materialized as a forty-five-year-old sea captain from Florida and a twenty-three-year-old art student from Illinois. The angel wrenched the knife from Crowley’s side and threw it to Dean without a word, not breaking his concentration.
“That’s right, come running to help daddy. Because I’m sure he would do the same for you.” Dean spit out, his eyes full of recklessness and a smile on his face that would have given Castiel pause if he could see it. The two demons didn’t say a word, but the twenty-three-year-old art student from Illinois lunged forward, her fists and teeth bared. Dean forced the knife in between her ribs and ripped out quickly, not bothering to watch her smolder as he fought his way through a blast of energy from the forty-five-year-old sea captain from Florida. He was strong, despite his paunch middle and thin arms of his vessel, Dean found himself shoved against the concrete wall of the warehouse by large, sea-sure hands before he was able to get the knife into the demons skull through the bottom of his jaw.
“Wow, Crowley. You’ve been teaching your work dogs some new tricks, I see.” Dean sneered, wiping some blood from his cheek.
“Oh, you want work dogs? I can bring you work dogs.” Crowley was almost healed from the demon knife wound, but still fairly incapacitated from Castiel’s power. “I’m sure that’ll be a fun trip down memory lane.”
“You’re gonna regret ever messing with me, Crowley.” Dean said, stepping close to the circle containing his angel and the demon. “We’re gonna burn you nice and slow.” Dean shoved the knife into Crowley’s ribcage and twisted, his face hardening as Crowley howled in pain.
“So you still remember how to torture. Good boy, Dean-o.” Crowley panted out. Dean was surprised he could keep his arrogance even while being on the losing side of a torture session.
“All the better to-“ Dean was cut off by Castiel jerking his hand from Crowley’s forehead, his eyes closing then snapping back open, back to their intense blue. “Do you have it?”
“It took much searching, but yes. I know where they are.” Castiel peered at Dean, as if he knew how much Dean was giving up by letting Castiel be the one to burn the bones. Dean would rather it be Castiel than someone else, however.
“Alright.” Dean twisted his wrist as he slowly pulled the knife from Crowley’s chest. Without Castiel’s support, the demon nearly dropped to the floor. “You need gas and a lighter.” Dean crossed to the table his bag was set on and pulled a can of kerosene and a mini-torch from beneath the knives and guns. “And how about we rub some salt in the wound, eh, Cas?” Dean grabbed the bag with what was left of their salt and handed the items to the angel.
“I’ll be quick.” Castiel said before turning to Crowley. “His death wont be.” Dean didn’t like how good those words sounded to him, but he figured that was something to deal with on another day.
“Don’t come back until you’re finished. For any reason, you hear me?” Dean stared at Castiel until he nodded. “You finish the job, whatever it takes.”
Castiel rested his free hand on Dean’s shoulder, and if his thumb rested a little too closely to the crook of his neck, Dean didn’t say anything. “Be strong, Dean. This is the end.” And Castiel blinked out, leaving Dean staring at the recovering Crowley, and the inky trails slowly pouring in through the broken window.
“You wont make it out alive, Dean Winchester.” Crowley growled. He was standing upright once more, is newest wounds from the demon knife healed up. “You’ll go down easier than moose boy.”
“That’s alright, Crowley,” Dean said as he slotted the knife in his pocket and picked up a gun with rock salt rounds, “As long as you go down hot and just as easy, I’ll take whatever end I got comin’.” And Dean began unloading the salt rounds as he and the demons neared each other. The rounds slowed them down, but Dean knew they would never be enough. The demons called to him.
“Got a death wish, Winchester?” Said the fifty-two-year-old lawyer from Kentucky.
“You want to see your baby brother again so soon?” Said the sixteen-year-old girl from Arkansas.
“We’ll send you to him nice and quick.” Said the thirty-year-old single dad from New Jersey.
“Quit your yapping,” Dean unloaded another round, “and bite.” Another. And another. And another. And finally they were so close, Dean smacked the closest demon, a surprisingly spry seventy-six-year-old retiree from Minnesota with bag lady claws, with the but of the gun before dropping it to pull the knife from his jeans.
He fought hard. He sliced and slashed and stabbed and swung. He took hits to his side, his kidneys, his head. He was thrown against the concrete walls and felt his ribs crack. Somewhere along the way, one of the demons pouring in managed to do away with the devils trap, and Crowley joined the fray, hitting him soft enough to live, but hard enough to be agonizing.
Fifteen minutes into the battle, Crowley tried to wrestle the knife from Dean, and it was then he found the demons backing up to watch the show. It was just the two of them, face to face and hand to hand, grabbling for control. Dean had two black eyes, a broken ankle, and a sprained wrist among various cuts and gashes and cracked ribs. Crowley was good as gold. Dean was at a solid disadvantage; he knew that going in. It didn’t stop him from biting and clawing and trying his damnedest. But despite his efforts, Crowley managed to get the upper hand, and tore the knife from Dean’s grip.
“Now this is a turn of events, eh?” Crowley all but crooned in Dean’s ear as he had him pressed close to the dirty concrete wall. “I’m not burning, but you’re still about to die. What a shame.” Crowley dragged the tip of the knife from just behind Dean’s ear down to his heart, adding just enough pressure to knick the surface of the skin. Dean didn’t even wince. “Seems like your angelic boyfriend skipped out on you. I’m not surprised, what with your track record of keeping friends alive.” Dean spit in Crowley’s face, but said nothing. “Testy, testy. I’ll tell you what. Since I’m Crowley, and I’m nice, I’ll let you reconsider my offer. I bring Sam back for your soul. I’m gonna kill you anyway, might as well get something sweet out of the deal, am I right?”
“I’d rather you killed me now.” Dean growled out, his eyes bright with rage and confidence that Castiel would get the job done.
“Very well then.” Crowley nearly sang out, pulling the knife back and the lodging it deep within Dean’s side, just above his bottom rib. Dean screamed out a curse, unable to double over from the force Crowley was applying. “What a sh-“ The demon was cut off by a smell of smoke and a glow from the direction of his feet. It was quickly spreading up his legs, reaching his torso in mere seconds. “What the bloody hell! That bastard angel-“ the rest of his sentence was cut off with a scream as the entirety of his body engulfed in flames.
Dean dropped to the floor, gasping as the motion caused the knife to twist. He scrambled as far as he could from the burning Crowley before wrenching the knife from his side.
“Told you we’d kill you, you bastard.” Dean heaved out, already feeling weak from blood loss. The other demons were recovering from the shock of seeing their King combust and were turning in Dean’s direction, murder burning in their black eyes.
But the bursting of windows and lightbulbs caused everyone to stop. The concrete walls shook, and a terrible din permeated the air. And then Dean heard the voice.
“The demon Crowley is burning. Leave now, if you do not wish a similar fate.” Castiel’s voice was loud and caused Dean’s head to erupt, but he could understand. Maybe because I’m dying. Wouldn’t that be something. Dean curled into a ball from all the combined pain, but he could hear the demons scattering through the busted windows until he was the only thing left in the wrecked warehouse.
“Dean.” This time Castiel’s voice was much softer, warmer, familiar. It was right by his ear, and a hand was resting above where the scar marred his shoulder. “It is done.”
“Yeah, Cas. It is.” Dead rolled over, grimacing as pain shot up his left side from the stab wound. He was in a pool of his own blood, had it smeared down his arm and face soaking into his clothes. But he still managed to smile.
“You…You don’t want me to heal you.” Cas tilted his head, blue eyes boring into Dean’s green ones. “You want to die.” Neither were questions, just statements of fact. Castiel said them in quiet acceptance.
“No, Cas. I want to rest. I want peace. I’ve never felt peace before.” Dean felt around for the angels hand before finding it still on his shoulder (When did I lose feeling in my shoulder?) and grasping it tight.
“You will find peace in the fields of the Lord. You will be happy, Dean.” Dean would have mistaken Castiel’s expression for sadness at Dean dying if he didn’t know him better. No, Dean knew Castiel was sad that it took death for him to finally be truly at peace.
“I know, Cas. You know, I already am.” Dean could see that he was gripping Castiel’s hand, but he didn’t remember when he lost the ability to feel. “Because I wouldn’t have anyone else here for this. You…you mean more to me than you’ll ever know.” Oh great, I’m dying and I turn into a chick flick.
“Shut up, Cas. I don’t know if I’ll see you in heaven, if I even go. So let me say this.” Dean was getting weaker, and he had almost forgotten why he was losing so much blood.
“No, Cas. Let me speak. I…” Dean coughed, spurting blood down his chin and onto his neck and chest. “Shit. Cas, I…I love you. I would have been lost without you these past three years. You saved me.” Dean coughed once more, and when he was finished he didn’t open his eyes. There were a few short seconds before Castiel spoke.
“Dean. I-“ But Dean never heard what Castiel mean to finish. When he opened his eyes, he was greeted by Tessa, who smiled warmly.
“You’re not gonna make me chase you around again, are you, Dean?” She asked, extending a hand invitingly.
“Nah. Take me home, Tessa.” Dean smiled. He turned once more to look back at Castiel, who was running a hand over his body’s face, closing his body’s eyes. “Make sure he burns me, will you? He was always a little iffy on the details.”
Tessa merely smiled and said “Of course,” before taking Dean’s hand and leading him into the light.
It was black, a harsh black, and Dean panicked. He didn’t remember his exchange with Tessa, only remembering Castiel’s blue eyes above his, peering down in sadness.
Everything turned bright at the thought of his angel. Airy and light
“I-I wanted to say goodbye.”
All Dean could see was white. He felt weightless. He wasn’t even sure if he actually said those words. Dean figured he was in the place between being alive and Heaven. There certainly wasn’t any of this calm before his trip to Hell.
Dean thought about Cas. About those words he said just before-
About how he never said goodbye. And he’ll regret that for as long as, well, for as long as he can feel regret. He most likely won’t ever see Castiel again. That was his only chance.
But out of the quiet nothing he heard angel’s wings. Oh great. Dean thought. I’m hearing things. Am I going crazy? Crazier?
A voice, so familiar and beautiful rung out from every direction, if there even were directions.
“You seem to misunderstand, Dean.” Dean tried to turn and look for the face he knew matched the voice. “This is the opposite of goodbye.”
No. Don’t do this to me. Dean tried and tried, but he had no body, no head to turn. He had no idea how he was even hearing the damnable voice that made him want to cry.
But all of a sudden, it was if his eyes were opened. After blinking several times, Dean focused on the being standing before him. The angel’s skin was pure white, glowing with Grace. Though the facial features were entirely different than what he was used too, even without the out of place trench coat, Dean would have known exactly who it was that stood before him, the world’s largest smile plastered on their radiant face.
“I suppose,” Castiel said, taking Dean’s face in long slender fingers, “you could actually call this a hello.” Dean felt his face being pulled forward, and his lips met Castiel’s and the feeling of nothingness gave way to warmth, to purpose, to the feeling of being whole once more.
Dean pulled away and took Castiel’s own delicate looking face in his hands. It was hard to imagine that someone with such a face was a soldier, a rebel, had fought through hell and made a deal with the devil. Dean noticed the two large black wings sitting on the angel’s back, shining bright like obsidian, and thought back to their first meeting. They were more resplendent than he could have ever imagined.
“Cas...” Dean started, pulling Castiel’s face close enough that if either of them were breathing, the would be able to feel it on each other’s lips. “Hello, Cas.” And brought their lips together once more.