After Heaven brings them back from the dead—again—Dean throws Sam and their bags in the car and heads for Bobby’s. He’s pretty sure Bobby's not going to want to see them so soon after the whole zombie fiasco, but it’s not like they’ve got a lot of options for places to go and Dean doesn’t have the energy to come up with a better plan. Besides, they’re not far from Sioux Falls and they’re practically family; Dean figures Bobby won’t turn them away, even if he wants to.
One look at their faces and Bobby wheels back to let them inside, then grabs the already open bottle of whiskey and hands it to Dean. He knows he should be worried about that, but he can’t quite bring himself to care. The liquor burns hot and clean going down. He wishes he could chase that warm feeling into oblivion, but considering being passed out drunk was what helped get them killed the last time, he guesses he’ll settle for the one, long pull, then hands the bottle to Sam.
“What now?” Bobby's voice is resigned, and yeah, Dean gets that. A week ago Bobby was forced to kill his wife—again—and seriously, no one should have to deal with that kind of shit. No one has lives—or deaths—like they do, and the hits keep on coming.
“Ran into a couple of hunters,” Dean says, grabbing a seat on the couch. “Roy and Walt.”
“They killed us,” Sam says, wiping whiskey off his mouth, and he sounds pissed off.
“Shot us. Both.” Sam’s shaking his head as if he still can’t believe it, and Dean can’t help but think Sam got off easy by dying first because he didn’t have to watch while it happened, didn’t have to see the blood spatter across the white sheets knowing he was next. He’s tired of watching Sam die.
“Dean?” Bobby looks at him for clarification, wide eyes clearly thinking Sam’s been into the booze long before they stumbled into his living room.
Dean makes a cut-throat motion. “Dead and gone to heaven. Of course, that’s what Zach wanted—a chance to put us on his turf, take another run at convincing us to say yes to vesselhood.”
“You’re saying you were in heaven.” Bobby waves for the bottle and Sam obligingly hands it over. “Pearly gates and all that jazz?”
“Well, more like ‘This is Your Life’, but yeah, it was definitely heaven.”
Bobby swallows a mouthful of whiskey and doesn’t meet Dean’s eyes. “So, you see anyone you know?”
Dean’s suddenly aware of the lingering odor of apples and cinnamon permeating the air. He can picture the dozens of pies cooling on the counter, the methodical way Bobby’s wife just kept baking, as if she didn’t have any idea what else to do with her new lease on life. The air is sweet with fruit left out too long, the edge of something rotten just underneath.
“Ash,” Sam volunteers. “And Pamela. They were good. Happy.”
Bobby nods, thoughtful, and takes another drink. They pass the bottle around until it’s empty. There really isn’t anything else to say.
When Dean opens his eyes, he’s in the front seat of the Impala. It’s parked by a lake that’s golden in the light of a barely visible sun. Dean can’t tell if it’s sunrise or sunset, but it’s quiet and peaceful, so he doesn’t really care.
He’s alone for maybe five minutes, listening to the slow lapping of the water, the occasional twitter of birds, before Castiel appears in the passenger seat beside him.
Dean rolls his eyes and sighs. “I’m not dead again, am I?”
“No,” Castiel states flatly. “You’re dreaming.”
“Well, that’s something. It’s been two whole days since somebody killed me. I’m thinking of putting up one of those signs that factories have. You know, the ‘it’s been 27 days without an accident’ kind of thing?” Dean glances at Castiel’s confused face, and shakes his head. “No, I don’t suppose you know, do you? Trust me, it’s funny.”
“I’m sure it is,” Castiel says, sounding like he isn’t sure of anything at all. Dean wishes he could ignore the uncertainty in Cas’s voice, give the angel something to believe in again, but he’s pretty much all out of hope himself. God doesn’t seem to care what happens; he couldn’t have said it any plainer if he’d taken out a billboard ad and roped it with neon lights. They’re on their own, and even if there was a time when Dean believed he and Sam could take on the world with nothing but attitude, he’s had enough hits to realize that’s not going to be enough this time. They’re going to lose, or they’re going to die. Most likely both.
“I thought I warned you about poking around in my dreams,” Dean says. There’s no point saying any of the things he wants to say—that he’s sorry God’s a dick who’s let them both down. That he wishes Castiel hadn’t given up everything for what was obviously a lost cause. That he doesn’t really mind Cas poking around in his dreams because he’s something good and real, and Dean still wants to believe in goodness even if everything is telling him he shouldn’t.
“I had no other way to find you,” Castiel admits, and Dean feels a twinge of guilt. They’d completely shut down after they’d left the motel, ditching the phones and picking up new ones, just in case someone else was looking for them too. They hadn’t told Cas they were heading to Bobby’s, although Dean figures he should’ve known. Where else would they go?
“We had to change phones,” Dean apologizes. “I didn’t think—” He hadn’t thought that Cas would be hurting too, and he feels foolish because he forgets sometimes that Castiel isn’t like the rest of the angels, that he believes with every fiber of his being. Or at least he did.
“It doesn’t matter,” Cas says, and Dean realizes he looks tired. Exhausted. More than that, he looks like a man who’s lost everything, and Dean guesses he pretty much has. Dean’s used to having his worst expectations met, but Cas has always had faith enough for all of them. Until now.
He already knows the answer, but Dean feels like he has to ask anyway. He owes Castiel that much. “Are you okay?”
The pause is long, filled with hollow-sounding breaths, not quite controlled. “No.”
“Is there anything I can—”
“No.” It’s quiet, but definite, and Dean thinks maybe he and Cas are more alike than he’s ever thought. You deal with the hand you’re dealt and you deal with it alone, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t wishing for someone to be there and understand, even just a little.
The sun’s starting to move now, as if time’s become unstuck, and Dean suspects it’s creeping towards dawn in the real world as well as his dream. The Impala’s slipping out of the shadows, and Dean closes his eyes, feels warmth touch his face.
“You can stick around for a while if you want,” Dean offers. “I don’t mind.”
“I would like that,” Cas says, and Dean senses the blue eyes on him as surely as he feels the sun through the windshield. “It’s … comfortable here.”
Dean smiles at that. “Yeah, it is.”