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The screams of pain from the man strapped to the chair had long since been more than the elder Winchester could bear and he’d fled the dungeon. Castiel watched him go, eyes trailing after the human from where the angel was leaning back to half sit on a table. Cas had stayed and watched Crowley work for thirty minutes more, eyes trailing the collar and chain holding the King of Hell in place, as did the devil’s trap he was working within the confines of.

            Crowley wasn’t going anywhere even if he wanted. Wouldn’t try to go anywhere until after he’d finished his end of the deal and expelled Gadreel from Sam’s body. The angel in question had dug his heels in, determined not to go anywhere either. Having endured millennia of torture in the prison of Heaven, Cas knew breaking Gadreel and expelling him from Sam’s body would be no quick feat.

            With a sigh, he pushed away from the table. Crowley caught the movement out of the corner of his eye, turning his head just enough to slid the angel a glance, brow arching.

            Castiel nodded to the demon. “Do what you can. Spare Sam as much as you are able.”

            For once, the demon was not smirking, face all business as he fiddled with the device around Sam’s/Gadreel’s head.

            “See to the other one,” he said lowly, before turning his full attention back to the strapped down angel, and his actions ripped another scream from Sam’s borrowed throat.

            Clenching his teeth, Cas turned away and followed after Dean, uncertain where to even look for the other man. Gadreel’s cries of pain using Sam’s voice followed him as he climbed the stairs from the bowels of the Men of Letters base to on the main floor. Castiel let his eyes roam over the library and the hallway leading to the bedrooms, trying to ascertain where Dean would go.

            His ears led him to the kitchen, finding Dean already having covered the counters of the kitchen in ingredients and bowls, measurers and utensils. The hunter was pouring milk into a measuring cup, expression dark and angry.

            Creeping forward, Castiel took in the eggs, the bag of chocolate chips, the flour swiped on Dean’s cheek… and frowned.

            “Dean?” he asked cautiously, realizing the other man had not even noticed the seraph right by his side.

            The blond went rigid, tight clenched fists white-knuckling on the wooden handle he held. Castiel watched as the other man swallowed thickly and dropped his gaze to the bowl of what by all appearances seemed to be the makings of cookie batter.

            “When Sam was detoxing from demon blood, I thought I’d go crazy sitting around,” Dean began, voice low and harsh, as though scrapped from the deepest part of him. His eyes were distant, locked but unseeing. “I don’t do so well having to sit around, waiting. If something is wrong, I wanna be the guy taking first swing at it, you know? I can’t stand not acting.” A mirthless smile crossed his lips, and he snorted bitterly as he poured the milk into a bowl and began stirring. “I dismantled and cleaned every gun and weapon I could get my hands on until Bobby came upstairs as well and yelled that I wasn’t allowed to touch them until my hands could be trusted not to fire one accidentally.”

            He did glance at the angel at his side then, barely meeting Cas’ gaze before he tore his eyes away like it hurt. “The only thing he’d let me near was his kitchen. I’d already taken a crowbar to one of the junkers out back, so he wasn’t gonna let me try to work on one of them. I cooked and baked until I ran out of ingredients, the fridge was stocked and the cabinets were bare. Bobby and I were heating up leftovers for weeks.”

            A scream from the dungeon echoed through the whole of the base, and Dean spasmed as though stabbed, shoving the bowl away and gripping the edge of the counter top in such a way Cas worried the bones in the hunter’s hands might give. His borrowed heart squeezed tight in his chest. Though he had some of his angelic power back, there was nothing it could do for Sam, or Dean. The sense of helplessness he felt at seeing the tears that squeezed passed Dean’s clamped lids was enough to make Cas feel ill.

            “I can’t stand it, Cas,” admitted the other man wetly. “My own weakness caused this-“

            “Dean-“

            “Because I don’t know how to exist without Sam-“

            “Dean-“

            “And now-“ The hunter straightened, looking at Castiel like the angel might actually have some answer, “now the demon who’s taken more from us than I can even keep count of any more is the only hope we have at saving him, is using his torture techniques, the same ones he used on Alfie-“ He cut off abruptly and shook his head. “What am I gonna do, Cas? How am I gonna make this right by Sam? He’s never gonna forgive me.”

            Dean didn’t seem to notice the way he was shaking from head to toe, a trembling hand raising to wipe away traitorous tears that fell.

            Not knowing what else to do, Cas stepped forward and wrapped his arms around the other man, feeling the way the hunter’s hands curled in the material of his jacket, shaking as he buried his face in the tan fabric.

            “Sam will forgive you eventually, Dean. Time is all we need. Time to save him. Time for him to understand and forgive, as well.”

            The man in his arms shifted to speak, but were his mouth not so close to Cas’ ear, the angel wasn’t sure he would have heard it.

            “He let me go.”

            Castiel nearly winced, remembering the one time Dean had opened up to him about the betrayal he’d felt at learning his own brother had not tried to save him when they’d been sent to Purgatory. He rubbed a hand over the soft material stretched across Dean’s spine.

            “You let him go, once, too. Walked away like he asked.” The steady tremor in Dean’s body had passed, like he’d been coming apart at the seams in Cas’ arms. “Given time, I’m sure he’ll realize it was impossible for you to actually do it twice. To go through that again. He’ll forgive you for holding on and trusting in someone that came to you offering to help, the same way you eventually forgave him for turning and walking away without ever looking for you, me, or Kevin.” He pulled back so that he could look directly into those green eyes, cupping the sides of Dean’s face in his hands. “You weren’t trying to cause him pain. You were trying to save him, even from himself.”

            “He wanted to die, though, Cas. I should have thought about him, about what he wanted-“ he insisted, hands at the other man’s waist.

            The angel shook his head. “Dean. Sam had just spent months going through the trials. Those do things to a person, wear on a body, mind, and soul. Had Sam not been struggling under such a burden for so long, I do not think he’d have been so ready to just give up.”

Stretching, Cas pressed his lips to Dean’s forehead, the hunter’s eyes clamping closed again at the contact, more tears falling as the angel willed his Grace and whatever forces might actually still be looking out for the Winchesters to repair what Castiel could not. Just as losing Sam would destroy Dean; Cas could not imagine surviving losing Dean, not again.

Castiel stepped away just as another scream tore through the corridors, jerking Dean’s gaze past the angel and toward the doorway. The shorter man caught his eye, brows raised in question.

“Is there some way I may help with your current project?”

A huff of laughter escaped the hunter, head bobbing in consent. “Alright.” He turned back to the abandoned bowl, trying for a casual glance at the angel, but his eyes said too much, said more than the hunter had ever dared to say. “Don’t suppose you learned how to bake cookies during your brief time as a human?”

Reaching out with both hands, Cas grabbing Dean’s wrist with one hand, the lip of the bowl with the other. The hand on his wrist squeezed gently, the angel trying to convey everything he’d never been able to say in response. He pulled the bowl closer.

“No, but you’ll find I’m a quick study,” he promised, the two of them setting about with far too much diligence to the task, both trying to pretend the screams from the basement were becoming fewer and farther between.

 

End