Actions

Work Header

Promises and Faith

Chapter Text

D-E-S-T-I-E-L

(Picks up right after Sam looks in the window, during the end of the Season 5 Finale)

Sam turned away from the window with a small smile, wondering if he should feel more sorrow than he did.  But he really couldn’t bring himself to feel bad about this.

Dean was happy. 

Happy and living the apple-pie life they’d always wanted each other to have, and doing exactly what he’d promised.  He’d followed Sam’s last wishes and gone to find Lisa, to find the life Dean had always wanted with her.  He’d earned the break after all the shit they’d been through in their lives.  And knowing Dean, Lisa would be safe, just like the kid Dean had had with her would be.  He wasn’t stupid.

That kid Ben was a dead ringer for Dean, and, happy as they were, he was going to leave them that way.  Lisa might’ve lied to Dean once, about his son, but she wouldn’t again.  Not when Dean was owning up to his responsibility and doing the right thing. 

Ben was his son, and Dean would be able to retire here, with them.  He’d earned it.

Hunting wasn’t really Dean’s thing, not like it was Sam’s.  He’d never said he wanted out, not explicitly but Sam was good at reading between the lines.  Dean lost a little more of himself every time they couldn’t save someone, falling a little deeper into the darkness hunters fought against.  He’d always wanted out, would never truly be happy with hunting for his life, and he had that now.  He had that with Lisa, and his kid.  Ben. 

He was free.  Free of obligation to the hunt.  Free of dealing with people who cared more about themselves than him, free of all the senseless death that came along with hunting.  Free of the guilt that wrapped him in its clutches so tightly it would never let him go and the emptiness Famine had tried to give him.  It was the best thing for Dean, especially with what was coming this year and how much Dean hurt every time an innocent life was taken.  Sam and the Campbells could keep him out of it all.

Keep him safe, away from the pain that the next few years were sure to bring down on all of their heads.

Dean had a girlfriend.  A kid.  Apple pie and all.  The life Sam had wanted for years and years, and never gotten the chance to have. 

Sam had been damn sure Ben was Dean’s kid years ago, and seeing him now, he looked just like Dean had at that age, again.  He was even more certain of it now, now that he was really looking for the similarities.  And with the way Dean had been acting with Lisa…Sam could leave him there, and know he was safe, and happy.  Because he was, now, for once in his life.

Sam couldn’t lie to himself, though.

It hurt.  Just a little bit, but it still stung to see how fast Dean had adjusted to life without him.  It had only been a month and Dean was starting to smile again, starting to come back from his grief, and it was good but it was—it hurt.  It was what Sam wanted him to do.  But it was weird

And it didn’t hurt nearly as much as he was expecting; probably a side effect from the Cage. 

Whatever he’d forgotten involved that, too.   When he’d been pulled out, he hadn’t been quite the same.  He was a better hunter, now.  Which meant he’d changed, but that was for the better.

Probably a side effect of overpowering Lucifer.  Something about him had changed, forever.  And he’d be stronger for it.  He…didn’t even really miss the feelings, but—he should have.

Dean didn’t know he was still alive, and didn’t know he was out of the Cage—or how he’d made it out, either, but neither did Sam.  The Campbells, their mom’s family, had found him shortly after, wandering around Kansas.  Taken him to see his grandpa, Samuel, who’d recognized Sam because of Dean traveling to the past two years ago.  He’d not been around before, but Sam was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt; the old man had probably hated John just as much as the rest of the hunting community did, or he’d have come looking for the Winchesters a long time ago.  And Dean—being Dean, his brother wouldn’t have accepted any sort of outside help.

Sam had found Dean not too long after, tracked him by using the names they usually did for long term cover.  Dean was going by their mom’s name these days; his legal name was now Dean Michael Campbell.  But he’d sworn to himself that if Dean was happy, he’d leave him to it.  And since the angels seemed to be finally leaving Dean alone, after all the shit they went through, he’d leave Dean here.  Happy, free from a life of hunting, from wondering what lay out there in the dark, waiting for him to stumble just into its path. 

They were free to choose what they did with their lives now that the apocalypse was over.  Sam was a hunter at heart, but Dean…Dean was a caretaker, a father, and a brother, first and foremost.  He hated the angels, and hated everything they stood for, except Cas, who was long-since gone.  Without Cas, there was no way Dean would be content just hunting with Sam again.  He was healing, finally, from losing Cas to the fight.  Sam wasn’t stupid; his brother was stupid in love with that angel, and if Cas was gone, Dean needed to move on.  To rekindle his relationship with Lisa if only to get better.  So Sam wasn’t going to ruin this for Dean, not when their weird bond was the whole reason Dean had even hunted in the first place.  Dean deserved a chance to have the life he so desperately wanted.

Sam didn’t notice the eyes watching him from the alleyway.  He didn’t notice them, not because he was unused to being on alert, but because he wasn’t tracking demons in his vicinity right now.  They were working with a couple of Crowley’s lackeys to stop the monsters from raising whoever or whatever they’d gotten into after the apocalypse.  This one was probably one of theirs, or the Campbells would have reacted to it by now.  Since they didn’t, he figured it was one of Crowley’s he could feel.

He was wrong, not that he knew it.

Sam had been followed to Dean’s house, and even as he watched Dean laugh, picking up the kid—Ben—and kiss Lisa on the cheek, the perfect father, he’d doomed them.  Dean had a family, the perfect apple-pie life—everything they’d ever wanted and aspired to as kids, and adults.  He’d never thought either of them would have it, not after Jess died and Cassie rejected Dean.  But here, Dean was happy. 

Cas was…gone, or he’d have tried to set Dean up with the angel.  Dean would’ve been able to—well, it didn’t matter now.  Cas was gone, and Lisa was here.

And Dean was happy now, starting to figure out how to live again, and Sam couldn’t take that away from Dean for their grandfather’s mission and what was coming.  Not unless something really big and really bad happened.  Dean couldn’t bear being caught in another war; not without Cas by his side.  He was hurt badly enough when the angel had died for them the first time.  Sam sent up a prayer this time, to Cas, to leave Dean to his apple-pie life if Dean were truly happy.  And to tell Dean he was alive, if the angel was still here.  Still alive.

Not that he held out much hope for that.

Cas had come back once, but coming back from Michael smiting him would’ve had to be something else entirely.  One miracle?  Good.  Two were impossible.  There would be no third chance; of that Sam was nearly certain, but miracles did happen sometimes.  Only occasionally, though.  And not for them.

Sam could handle the Campbells’ mess on his own.  Dean shouldn’t have to clean up a mess that wasn’t his in the first place, and Aldrich had been the idiot responsible for letting the last vamp get away. 

Mind made up, Sam smiled at the window, silently wishing his brother all the happiness in the world with his new life with his son. 

The minute Sam turned and walked away, it hid, leaving Sam to walk to the Campbells’ old van.  He got in the back, nodding to Gwen and Aldrich who were in the front.  They hadn’t taken any monster with them this time, so he could sit in the back comfortably and stretch out.

“Definitely not him,” he lied, deciding to keep Dean out of this at all costs. “I was wrong.  He’s just a civilian with a military past.  Same name as us, but no relation to the Campbell clan.  If there is, it’s pretty distant.”

“Damn,” said Aldrich “That brother of yours would’ve been useful.  You went up against, what, Satan?”

Which was why Sam was keeping him out of this war.  This wasn’t Dean’s fight.  This was Sam’s fight; leaving Hell had left a part of Purgatory open and let a lot of monsters free, and it was his responsibility to fix that mess.  His mess, his problem; Dean had gone through enough with the apocalypse.

Sam coughed “Yeah, but like I said, Dean’s good at disappearing.  If he doesn’t want to be found, we can’t find him, not with the extra protections we added during the apocalypse.  He’s a damn good hunter, but if he’s gone to ground, we’ll never find him.  I’m willing to bet he’ll be right on top of us if something big happens, but he’s probably figured out what’s going on and gone to ground already.”

“Hmm,” said Gwen, starting the car, smirking at him “That’s a good quality, really.  Means it’s harder for things to find him.” Sam nodded, taking a swig of the whiskey they kept in the back. “How long did he train for, again?”

“Ever since the house fire.  He kept me out of it for a good six or seven years, something about not eating well enough for that, but he was four when he started,” said Sam, shaking his head. “He didn’t try to keep me out of it completely, but he wouldn’t let me really train until I was eight.  Made a good case of it to an ex-Army sniper, but that’s Dean.  He’s really stubborn.”

“Huh, well that’s different,” said Aldrich, as he started the car. “But family’s family.  He sounds a damn good brother, though.  Wish Chris was nice enough ta do that for me,” Gwen rolled her eyes, and Sam did too.

Christian Cambpell was an asshole, but he wasn't that bad.  Then again, Sam hadn’t grown up with him and Gwen had.  She’d probably had a better judgment of him than Aldrich, who was his cousin—but maybe not.  Sam looked out the window, trying not to give away the game.  He’d made the right choice here.  Which meant not taking Aldrich’s bait.

“See anything that might be a monster?” asked Gwen, as they pulled out of the slow lane “Or no?”

“Nothing interesting.  Just a normal suburban neighborhood.  Might have a few hunters in the area, but I didn’t see any wards,” said Sam. “No obvious ones, at least.”

There were some less-than-obvious ones on Dean’s house, but that wasn’t something he was going to mention.  He already knew better than to mention the demons.  Last time he’d asked he’d been given a crash course in why they shouldn’t talk about them, and who knew if Aldrich or Gwen were in the know about Samuel’s deal?

“Typical,” muttered Gwen as they pulled onto a much busier road, and Sam turned to look out the window.

She turned the radio on, one of the Top 20 stations, and the sound of Christina Aguilera’s Falling In Love Again filled the car, letting Sam relax a little.  His cousins didn’t think anything of leaving Dean there because they didn’t know he was lying to them in the first place.  And now he had the time to think about what was going on with the mess Aldrich had landed them in.

Why would Lucifer being gone bring a resurgence of monsters like shifters and vampires? 

They had to catch one if they wanted an answer.  Sam smiled to himself, thinking of how easy it would be, with everything that had happened, to get an answer.  The name Winchester would ensure they got answers—they’d taken down Satan, the “baddest bitch of them all,” so that meant he’d probably get some really good information the next time he found one.

D-E-S-T-I-E-L

Chapter Text

Dean came to far too slowly for his liking.  He felt like he’d been hit with a semi, and when he did manage to force himself awake, he realized he was chained to a hot pipe.  His arms were bound above him in chains, and his legs were left free; his leg was throbbing, though, and the other one refused to move right without a flash of white-hot pain. 

But he was awake.

And he had room to move.

Mistake number one.

Ben was chained up next to him, but to the wall instead of the ceiling.  The kid was awake, one of his eyes puffed up and blackening in the low light.  He was shivering, but he wasn’t making any noise—he was tied up with rope, not chains, and he was shoving at Dean’s leg, which explained why it kept throbbing in time.  The kid had been trying to move him enough to wake him up.  Ben probably couldn’t tell he was awake.

Hell, Dean wasn’t too sure he was awake himself, not right now, but sleep didn’t generally hurt this much.

Dean took a deep breath and forced himself to take a step back, and found himself staggering, wincing and hissing curses under his breath as both his legs buckled, white-hot pain shooting through both of them.  The stretching made his back crack and bleed, burning, and his wrists were searing hot, like they’d been in Hell.

He almost lost his footing as he put all of his weight on the leg that wasn’t broken, trying to focus.  The blurry vision wasn’t good—probably meant a concussion.

He blinked blood out of his eyes, wincing at the sting, and trying to remember what happened.

He’d come home to an empty house, on a day when Ben didn’t have after school activities.  The house had been too quiet, so he’d come inside armed, just in case.  Thinking it was a human and been his fatal mistake, when Lisa had met him in the kitchen, Ben tied up behind her and eyes pitch-black with red irises. 

Threatening the kid to get to him was easy, but this thing was a fucking novice.  He’d actually managed a few blows before it took him down.  Lisa’s body was damn strong even without demonic enforcement and a single hit to hte head had him seeing stars.

The bitch had then kicked his ass in front of Ben.  Badly.  She didn’t let him pass out — kept waking him back up with hits — until she’d dragged him to the basement.  Even then it was pretty clear the demon wasn’t good at torture; probably a novice.  And it had hit him in the head after making him pass out, to wake him back up.  Another rookie move because while his head hurt, he was used to the pain; enough that it just hurt really bad when he woke up.

It tried to get to him without using Ben.  Rookie, stupid move, though it was probably banking on Ben breaking and getting him to hurt that way.  He was damn lucky it was dumb, and new, and trying to drag this out.  It hadn’t heard how long he’d spent with Alastair.  It even let him convince it to go after him, because it wanted to hurt him, not the kid.  Though the psychological part of this was gonna hurt like a bitch later.

Watching torture was hard.  Being tortured and getting over it was much, much harder.  Dean would never, never put Ben under the knife for him.  Not even if it would get them out of there faster, because it let him fight.  Ben wasn’t his, but that didn’t mean he wanted to watch him hurt.  And the black-eyed son of a bitch was pissed at him, not Ben, so when Dean had offered himself up, it went for him.  It had been after him for his role in the apocalypse, from the shit it had been screaming before he passed out.  And it was probably going to go after Ben next, but right now it wanted Dean until he was broken.

Because he couldn’t ever keep nice things.

Couldn’t ever keep the people he loved safe.

Bitch hadn’t even learned to keep her mouth shut about locking the Devil up.  Brought up Sammy to hurt him on top of Ben.

Mistake Two was hurting Ben at all.  Because that just made Dean angry, and he’d learned that being pissed was good for killing these things, and getting out of here.  Sons of bitches never seemed to learn to leave them the fuck alone.

Ben was bad off, but not as bad as Dean had thought at first look.  Another look at the kid confirmed he was bleeding, maybe concussed, and one of his wrists was hanging limply in the shackles, but he wasn’t whimpering or crying, just shivering.  He was definitely in shock, which meant they had to get him warm, fast, because it was hot in this basement.  And his wrists were on fire.

And Ben wasn’t as bad off as Dean was.  If he could get to a hospital he’d be fine.  Dean wasn’t likely to make it there, as it was right now.  He might not make it out of here at all.

He had four—no, five broken ribs, based on how bad it hurt to breathe; three on his right side and two on his left, and he could tell one of them was sticking into his kidney.  Just fucking great.  His left foot couldn’t hold any weight, and it was a twisted, swollen, mess, and bleeding all over the ground.  Also, his right shin was broken.  Fucking brilliant.  His cheekbone was swelling and his jaw was broken, too, and there were cuts all over his back, all of which burned with the sting of vinegar.  Son of a bitch, his wrists burned from where they were holding up most of his weight, and the awkward movement told him one of them was dislocated.  His arms weren’t doing much better, with lashes all over the forearms burning and bleeding every time he shifted.

But he was standing and aware of his surroundings, and he still had his left hand.

Mistake Three.

As long as he had even one working limb, he could fight.

Son of a bitch, his head really hurt. 

Great, he was concussed.  Pretty much no way out of this for him, but he could get Ben out and kill this thing in the process.  If he was lucky, he could do both.  An exorcism was enough for that and he could still remember all the words.

He managed to lift his head anyway, and look around.  From what he remembered, they were in the basement of Lisa’s house, and hell, he was chained to the hot water pipe.  He could see it up above.  And the damn thing had turned on a tap somewhere, too, heating it up.  No wonder his wrists felt like they were on fire.  Metal with injuries near it against hot water was actually a decent technique.  Sort of.  He’d seen much better, but that didn’t mean shit right now because right now, he was still alive.

He couldn’t be put back together very easily after this shit.  Not without a miracle.

What he could see of the basement was busted all to hell, some of the boxes thrown against the wall and shelves scattered everywhere, and Lisa’s boxes overturned and a mess.  Plus blood, probably his, was puddling on the floor beneath him and starting to creep over towards Ben.  He couldn’t quite tell where they were, but he could see the stairs weren’t too far from them, so they were likely as not underneath the kitchen in the basement.

Albeit a basement he didn’t recognize.  The Devil’s Traps were all scored through and fucked up, and everything was thrown around.  Basement was a total wreck—he didn’t see that getting fixed anytime soon.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean hissed, wincing as he pulled at his chains.  Definitely not getting out of this anytime soon without help. “Ben,” he turned to look down at Ben, wincing when he felt the skin on his back slip a bit and sting, slick with blood. 

Great.  Not only had the demon busted his ribs and given his son a black eye (and probably done worse), he—shit.  His back was bleeding.  Badly.  He could feel the wet warmth trickling down it, could feel the half-healed cuts all spilling blood, and swallowed hard, feeling lightheaded as he remembered.

The lashes.  Being held down, foot twisting slowly in its grasp as the demon asked again and again where his brother was until his foot broke and he screamed curses at it, swearing he would hold it down like Alastair had held him, and tear it to pieces.  The chains, whipping his back for punishment, covered in vinegar.  Being forced to watch the demon lash his son until he gave in and took them himself, because hell, he couldn’t watch that happen to Ben.  He couldn’t watch his own son go up against that thing, not like fucking that.  He was just lucky the damn thing had believed him when he’d said beating on him would work better for information.

That, and it really wanted to kick his ass, so he’d goaded it right into making the mistake of knocking them out and coming back later.  Which was a rookie mistake, but this thing wasn’t all that bright.

Ben might have been bleeding, and have a black eye or two but he didn’t have more than two broken bones, three if he was lucky, and he didn’t have the training Dean did.  Dean had a concussion, several broken bones, and was barely conscious.  But he’d been under Alistair’s knife for thirty-seven years before he’d broken, and Alistair was much worse than this thing.  So he’d taken the punishment.  Little bitch hadn’t mastered the slow, drawn out methods of Alastair; it just wanted to cause pain.  Only thing it knew how to do was the whip, and even that had been exaggerated to get answers.

Demonic dumbass was stupid enough to target his family. It had been a pretty good plan, too, except Dean was clever enough to play it against itself, and it hadn’t noticed a thing. 

It was clever, but not nearly clever enough to rise in Hell’s hierarchy, not like Dean or Crowley.  If it’d been Crowley or anyone like him doing this, Dean would be worried, but this was a dumbass.  Probably one of the demons pissed off about losing the chance to take over the Earth.  This one just wanted revenge for popping Lucifer back in the box.  And while Dean knew it’d really mess Ben up to see this, it’d really, really screw him up if Ben was the one getting torn up like this.

Ben was a kid.  Dean was an adult, and more than that, he’d been to Hell before.

Ben couldn’t come back from it like Dean could.  Dean had taken this for years, and this dumb demon only had a night.  He’d be damned if he broke for one demon bitch in a single day.  Sure, he did have to worry about staying alive, but Dean wasn’t going to die, not yet; he was too stubborn for that.  He’d send Ben off to Bobby if he couldn’t keep the kid here. 

About the only thing this demon had right was the vinegar he could feel in the lashings.  The rest of it?  Dean had dealt with worse.  He could bear this for someone else.  He’d already gotten stage 4 stomach cancer thanks to one dick with wings.  He could go to the hospital and get this fixed.  He’d be on desk duty for the next fifty years of his life, but it was a hell of a lot better than dying.

Besides, he was pretty damn sure neither afterlife wanted him after the mess he’d made of both of them during the apocalypse.  Death wasn’t an option for him anymore.  He’d even implied that much, after giving Dean his ring.

God, if he only had Cas right now.  But Cas was gone, dead, like Sammy.  Cas was gone.  Smote by Lucifer and Michael for saving his dumb ass.  Cas couldn’t hear him any more than Sammy could.  And would answer as often as God did, which was never.  A part of him hoped against all believe that Cas was still around. 

He’d know if the angel was dead, and lately, he’d started feeling like Cas was back.

It was a stupid feeling, but it was the only option he had left. 

He didn’t trust any angel to answer him but Cas anyway.  And he could only pray that Cas was still alive, could hear him, and had somehow been restored like before.  God brought him back once, and it felt like his best friend was still there, but Dean really only had hope.  Hope and luck; one was hollow most of the time, and the other, well, he was a Winchester.

It was really his only option, though it meant any dick with wings who was listening might hear him.  Hell, maybe they’d drag him out and try to make him an angel condom again, but at least then Ben would be safe.

Cas, please, he prayed, just in case the angel could hear him.  In case God had, for whatever reason, given him back. Cas. Please, Cas, I need you.

But he knew Cas was gone.  It was a long shot, and it hurt to think about Cas, dead; his eyes were burning at the thought and his chest ached, feeling like he’d already been stabbed with an angelic blade.

“Dean,” said Ben, sounding like he was about to cry “Dean.  You’re awake.  Are…”

“I’m okay,” said Dean, wincing when he heard himself try to speak.  Great, he knew he’d been yelling, but he’d also been cursing the thing out in Latin, trying to exorcise it—or as far as he could remember. “I’m here, Ben.  I’m right here.  I’ll be okay.  What happened when I passed out?”

“It—it knocked me out, something about…” Ben swallowed, “S-something about a—a person at the door?  And it had to deal with it?” Dean frowned, too, only to hiss when he moved his left arm; the bitch hadn’t touched him there. “Dean?”

Dean bit his tongue hard as Cas’ handprint, the one the angel had left on him about a year and a half ago, suddenly grew searing, white-hot against his skin.  He tasted blood, trying to hold back a whimper as it grew hot, white spots entering his vision instead of black spots for once.  It felt so much like when Cas touched it, so hot and so bright he was sure it was glowing. It had to be; why else would it be so hot right now?

He didn’t know why, but he repeated what he’d said, aloud.  There were no anti-angel wards or sigils around except the ones on his own ribs, but Cas—Cas couldn’t find him if he didn’t say something.

“Cas, please,” he whispered. “If you can hear me, please, we’re at this address,” he gasped, coughing as his ribs moved, scraping against each other as he inhaled, then whispered Lisa’s address under his breath. “Please, I need you, Cas.  Ben and me, we’ve been captured by demons and we need your help.  Track me.”

Nothing.  No sign but his mark burned like something had happened; like Cas was somewhere nearby.  Even more strongly than before.  Ben shrank in against the wall at the sound of footsteps from upstairs, and Dean struggled to pull himself into a standing position, just to stay in front of Ben. 

“Cas, damn it all,” mumbled Dean, “I hope your stupid ass isn’t dead.” He could hope, and he was praying here, but a part of him said Cas wasn’t dead.

But that was just it.  Cas was dead.  His friends were all dead, thanks to him, except for Bobby, all because of that graveyard.  And Bobby—hell, Bobby was too hurt by all this shit to really stay in the same room as Dean, let alone offer comfort for his problems.  Dean had started the apocalypse and had started the whole road to hell his friends had walked.

And he’d dragged Cas right down with them by convincing the angel to fall from Heaven.  Even if it had been the right thing to do, it was still Dean’s fault Cas was dead.

Cas, please . If you’re there, if you can hear me, I’m here.  I’m here.  I need you, Cas.

“Who’s Cas?” asked Ben, and the heat abated a little, before it surged again, moving through his veins like liquid fire, and Dean gasped, shutting his eyes.

His shoulder only did that when Cas was around.  Even then, only when his angel touched it.  The blood started scabbing over as the fire moved to his back and it burned, but it was definitely drying.

Cas.  He knew it; it had to be, that stupid, idiotic angel had come for them.  For him.  But he was gone.  Dead.

No one was coming for them, but…maybe…

“It’s a long story,” said Dean, fighting not to swear. “Cas—he’s an old friend.  From when I was traveling.  He’s a real badass,” he snorted, and immediately winced, remembering how confused the poor angel had been by a bed, “Most of the time.” Ben managed a tentative smile at that, and Dean hid a wince as he saw the black bruise along Ben’s jaw. “He’s a weirdo, but he’s a good guy.  He can hear me if I pray, but you’ll never,” he gritted his teeth as he shifted weight onto his broken leg “Never hear me pray to anyone else.”

Then there was a distant bang from upstairs, and they both flinched, Dean hissing as his wrists protested the movement again.  He couldn’t even get a good grip on the chains from here so he couldn’t take pressure off his legs.  He heard a vase crash to the floor and they flinched again, wincing, and then he heard fighting from upstairs.  Well, shit, that ruled out it being a hunter; they couldn’t go toe-to-toe with a demon.

“Is—is that Cas?” Ben asked in a small voice.

Dean opened his mouth to reply and was cut off by a wordless yell from upstairs that rapidly ascended in pitch to an angelic shriek, and he flinched, curling up to cover his ears.  Ben yelped and fell to his knees, hands over this ears, and the shriek cut off moments later.

But it hadn’t hurt Dean—not that a brief angelic scream did anything to him after the way Lucifer had fucked him up in that graveyard.  No, it was just—it wasn’t as painful as it should have been.  He might’ve been healed, totally healed in that brief, precious second when Lucifer had been overtaken by Sam, but he’d heard Michael shriek right after that.  He’d heard the angel loud and clear, and that had hurt, even briefly, but not by much.

So, whoever had heard him might not be Cas, but there was definitely one of them upstairs, and it might not be a good one.  An angel.  One who was maybe a dick, and maybe…maybe not.  Even if a prayer could be heard by all of Heaven, who’d answer him?

God, don’t let it be Raphael or Michael.  Or Lucifer.  The only archangel he could stand was Gabriel and he was dead too.  Right now, Dean just wanted to get out of here—and get Ben to a hospital as soon as he could.  And himself, too, if he could manage to get them there.

Didn’t matter what else happened to him after that.  He could bargain with a dick with wings if he had to, and he didn’t want that, but hell, he’d do it for Ben’s sake.  The kid didn’t deserve this.

“What…” started Ben, as something powerful and warm blanketed the house and Dean heard a loud Craaackkk-BOOM of thunder overhead.

He couldn’t let himself hope.  Not that Cas was alive.  Cas was dead.  Cas. Was dead.  He had to be.  It had to be another dick with wings upstairs.  It had to be.  Who else would bother with the theatrics?  Unless they weren’t theatrics.  Cas hadn’t bothered with them after the first time, but maybe that was because by the time he got super pissed off, the angel hadn’t really been able to use his power for any of that.

“Dean, w-w-what’s going on?” Ben sounded small, and scared, and Dean winced when he tried to straighten himself.

Demon fucker had broken his right leg clean through, too.  Shit.  That was going to heal funny without help.

A vase shattered upstairs, attracting his attention again, and then something very like a bookshelf was thrown.  He could hear an angry, deep voice shouting something in Enochian—a familiar voice, but again, he couldn’t bring himself to hope.  Not really.  It just—it just couldn’t be Cas.

Cas was dead.  Castiel was dead.  Lucifer had smote him for throwing a holy oil Molotov at Michael.  Castiel was gone, so why was he…why did he still hope he’d see his friend again?  Why did the handprint stick around?   Why could he still feel Cas?

Why had it stayed last time?  Why was it still here

Why couldn’t he let this go?

Dean had never let Lisa touch the handprint on his shoulder.  He couldn’t bear to have anyone else touch it but the angel that had made it, but Cas was dead and gone.  Gone, before Dean could ever even…ever…  He didn’t know what to think, but his best friend was gone. 

Dead.

Gone.  Just—gone.  The only thing left of him a mark on Dean’s shoulder.

Dean couldn’t really seem to accept it, but hell he’d—he’d known Sammy was going in with no hope of getting out, so why couldn’t he believe that about Cas?  Why was losing Cas so different than losing Sam?

“Hopefully, help,” said Dean, smiling down at Ben as he forced himself to focus on Ben.  Ben frowned at him, and he explained “I’m not sure, but that—whoever captured us?  That wasn’t your mom, Ben.”

Ben’s eyes teared up, but he didn’t cry; strong kid. “I know.  Her eyes were all wrong, Dean.  All wrong.  L-like—l-l-like that thing you saved me from a-a few years ago, I-it was wrong.  H-her eyes were—were black,” Dean winced; he’d really hoped they were safe, and he’d set up protections fucking everywhere so how?  How had the demon taken Lisa through the damn amulet? “And she was laughing, and sometimes I heard this—this other voice inside her.  I-it was d-d-deep, d-deep a-and w-wrong.”

There was a creak, and then a swift searing sound from upstairs, like something was getting cooked.  Just like a smiting, right over their heads.  Shit.  They were definitely dealing with a full-powered angel then, and one that wasn’t fucking around.  That made it ten times more likely not to be Cas, because the angel tried to avoid smiting things.

So far as Dean could tell, his friend would’ve been better suited to healing than fighting, but he was a freaking badass the second he picked up a blade.

Then he heard footsteps, heading towards the basement stairs, and Dean hissed at Ben, “Get behind me.  This thing comes for us, it’s after me.  Not you.” Ben nodded, pulling himself over as quickly as he could to hide behind Dean, who shifted over so he could block the kid from sight.

Whoever was coming down those stairs was here for him.  Dean heard something like more furniture being thrown, crashing to the floor, and then something else crashed to the floor.  Then the door was kicked in, crashing down the stairs and coming to a halt about four inches from Dean’s feet.  Dean winced as brilliant light filled the room, suddenly making his eyes water and he turned away a little.  A figure hurried down the stairs, appearing in the midst of the bright light as a shadow.  He squeezed his eyes shut, preparing to fight, to negotiate, to do anything to get Ben to a hospital and keep himself from being taken over by an angel.

No, no, no, no, he was not going to be possessed, not this time—whoever you are, just do it —take me, not the kid—

And then a familiar voice said one word, filled with pain, grief, and hope, and damn it if that didn’t sound good.

“Dean,” said the voice, filled with relief, hope, anger, pain, and, if he wasn’t wrong, joy.

Dean opened his eyes with a start.

Standing there in his familiar trench coat, haloed by the light from upstairs, was one of the two people he’d never thought he’d see again.  Messy black hair, a five o’clock shadow and brilliant blue eyes staring back at him, lit from within by a fiercely white light that had yet to fade.  He looked worried, worried and afraid and so relieved that, had he been human, Cas would likely have started crying.  Dean’s eyes stung with tears, and he tried very, very hard not to cry, but the damn things started spilling over anyway.  It hurt too much to stop.

“Cas,” breathed Dean, choking on a sob as Cas waved a hand and made the chains vanish.  He staggered forward into the angel with a gasp and a quiet, pained noise, and Cas caught him easily. “Cas.  God, you’re—you’re alive.  I can’t believe it, you’re alive,” he wheezed as Cas lowered him to his knees, taking pressure off Dean’s foot and leg.

“Dean,” said Cas, as Dean struggled to reopen his eyes. “I am sorry I did not come sooner,” he was kneeling in front of Dean now, and Dean was aware that Ben was there but all he could think about was Cas.

Cas had come back to him.

Cas was alive, and had come to save him, again.  Cas had answered his prayers, again, and saved him and someone he cared about, again.

Out of everyone he knew, Cas was the only one who came, every time Dean needed him.  Even when he tried to push Cas away, after the guy had gotten under Dean’s skin, it was like he never left.  His skin hummed a little, and so did the mark, with Cas near again.

God, he didn’t deserve this angel, but right now it didn’t matter.  Whatever, or whoever had sent Cas back, had brought him back to Dean again.  He didn’t care who, or what, because Cas was here, and everything was going to be okay.  His shoulder wasn’t on fire anymore either.  Now he had family with him again, family who cared, family who’d stuck by him knowing who and what he’d become in Hell, family who’d raised him out of the pit and then just as surely thrown himself at Michael just to buy Dean time.

Cas, who’d been blown apart by Michael for daring to throw a Molotov cocktail at an archangel, who’d died for Dean, and who was here for Dean now.  His best friend was alive. 

In retrospect, maybe crying wasn’t such a bad thing after all.  The tears were coming down fast now, and Dean couldn't help the sob that welled up in his throat as he collapsed, finally able to relax, into Castiel.

Cas was here, and everything was alright now.