The Impala creaks quietly as Dean climbs into the backseat. It's a tired noise, familiar, part of the soundtrack that loops behind life on the road. After thirty-three years, Dean's tuned a lot of it out -- the gritty crunch of gravel under the Impala's tires, the steady hum of a motel air conditioner, the buckshot rattle of shower-spray hitting a worn tile floor, the crackling spit and buzz of a dying neon sign.
Squeaky box-spring mattresses. Leaky bathroom sinks. Waitresses pouring coffee into his mug and his fork cutting into a piece of pie. The wind whistling through an open window. Train horns and drive-thru speakers. A new magazine sliding home. His Zippo lighting with a spark and a cough. Graveyard mud sucking at his boots.
Thirty-three years, and he barely even noticed. He should've paid more attention. He should've listened.
He's listening now. Crickets are whining in the hedge hugging the Impala's rear. Drizzle is slipping off the trees to tap the Impala's roof, and Cas is breathing. Cas is alive. He's dozing against the door with one leg folded on the seat. His head is tipped against the window and an old saddle blanket is wrapped around his shoulders. The nearly-full moon is hanging low, shining just bright enough to silhouette the lines of his face. Dean just stares at him. His relief is a living thing, brimming underneath his skin.
The Impala creaks again. Cas murmurs a soft, sleepy sound. He blinks a few times and says, "Dean," in a voice that makes Dean ache. He's spent the last few weeks thinking he'd never hear it again.
Dean smiles at him. "Hey. How you feeling?"
"I'm fine. God --" Cas' mouth twists "-- God healed me."
"Yeah," Dean says, clearing his throat.
He doesn't remember much of Cas' rescue beyond a blinding flash of pure white light and the bruises on Cas' face. The blood dripping from Cas' mouth and the way Cas' body had slumped against the wall like dead weight. Amara had been pulling at Dean with all her strength, had reached up inside him and ripped at everything in his chest. Fighting her off had made Dean so sick he'd almost blacked out. He'd sunk to his knees and puked. Everything after that is a blur -- Sam shouting, the walls shaking, his throat clutching as he gagged over and over, his hands trembling as he crawled across the floor.
He still has dirt under his fingernails. He'd been trying to get to Cas. He'd needed to get to Cas. Telling himself that had kept him going, had kept him moving away from Amara even when his knees gave out. Even when Amara hid his heart in her fist and squeezed it until he screamed.
The drizzle has pulled a veil across the Impala's windshield. Through it, Sam and Chuck are hazy shadows shifting near the treeline. They must be talking; Sam is waving his hands. An old headstone is just behind him, a tall and crooked cross that's leaning close to his back.
Dean fiddles with the ashtray, poking at the old army man with his thumb. He says, "I can't believe we're back at Stull."
"There's power here," Cas says, sitting up. The saddle blanket slouches away from his shoulders. "Power you and Sam created when you averted the apocalypse."
"You really think that's gonna help?"
"It won't hurt."
Dean huffs at that, at how human Cas sounds. He tugs at a loose thread on his jeans before saying, "Seriously. You think we can pull this off?"
"I hope so." Cas looks out the window for a beat or two. Then he looks back at Dean and adds, "We have a Hand of God."
"We already tried that. It didn't work."
"For Lucifer," Cas points out. His mouth pinches slightly. "It didn't work for Lucifer. He lacks God's favor."
"Yeah, all right. But Chuck keeps saying it's gotta be me, and I -- he's God." Dean shakes his head. "I don't know what the hell he needs me for."
"Your connection with Amara is a weakness."
"Yeah, for me."
"Possibly for her," Cas insists. "I read God's account of their life before her banishment. Her drive to destroy has always been absolute. Nothing has ever distracted her from that. Just you."
The seat whines as Dean shifts. He flips the ashtray closed and drums his fingers on the lid. "I just -- this ain't gonna work."
"Might," Dean mutters. He snorts. "If it doesn't, we're all getting sucked into the big empty."
Cas hums under his breath. "Having been sucked into the big empty more than once, I can tell you there are worse ways to spend eternity."
Dean shivers. He -- fuck. He clears his throat and says, "I -- thank you."
Cas just looks at him. "For what?"
"For pulling me outta hell. For sticking by me all these years. For not, um -- for not giving up on my when I was a demon." Dean takes a breath; a knot is burning in his throat. "I'm sorry that it's -- that we, uh. I'm sorry that you --"
"Dean," Cas cuts in. "I don't have any regrets." He pauses. Then he shakes his head a little and says, "That's not true. I have numerous regrets, but only one concerns you."
"Yeah?" Dean asks quietly. "What's that?"
Cas palms the side of Dean's neck. After a moment, he slides his hand up to Dean's jaw. He says, "I regret that we wasted all our time."
Dean's heart is hammering in his chest, but he reaches out and curls his hand at the back of Cas' neck. He leans in until their foreheads touch. Then he closes his eyes and breathes Cas in. He's so stupid. They could've had years. Now they've got about five minutes.
He kisses Cas soft, brushing their lips together a few times before pressing in, before lingering and opening up a little. Cas makes a noise into it, something inspiring and low, dark enough to dig underneath Dean's ribs. Dean threads his fingers into Cas' hair. He catches his other hand in the front of Cas' shirt and pulls Cas closer. Then he brings it up to Cas' face so he can rub his thumb at the corner of Cas' mouth.
When they finally ease apart, Dean says, "If we make it outta this, we -- we're gonna, uh."
"Yes," Cas says. His smile is sad. "If we survive, we will."
Chuck knocks on the window. He ducks down to look at them and says, "Hey. Sorry to be that guy and interrupt, but she's coming."
"Yeah," Dean says, stroking his thumb behind Cas' ear. "Yeah, okay."
He kisses Cas again. Then he opens the door and climbs out of the car. Fog is rolling in from the east, and the drizzle has softened the dirt into mud. The crickets have stopped chirping. Dean takes a breath and listens to the silence. This is it.
"You ready?" he asks.
Dean looks at him. He should've paid more attention when the lights were flashing in that barn. "You -- you don't have to come with me."
"Dean," Cas says, and -- yeah. Dean wishes the hourglass wasn't running out. He'd like to hear it another two or three hundred times. "Of course I'm coming with you."
"If I'm leaving here, I'd rather do it with you."
Dean nods. He takes Cas' hand and follows Chuck into the fog.