Cas had summoned Dean to the library. It is no surprise for Dean when he arrives that his brother is also there with Jack. Dean takes the seat next to Sam and across from Cas, slouching and crossing his arms lazily over himself.
Cas looks uncomfortable, like the room is too hot and stifling and the chair he sits in is painful. Dean has to remind himself that Cas is an angel who doesn’t feel temperature or comfort in furniture as humans do. He tries not to stare at the way Cas’ deep blue eyes seem to shine when they land on him. He tries to slow his heart and keep his eyes from dipping down to his best friend’s lips, pink and parted.
“I have decided that the time has come to tell you both something,” Cas announces. Dean sits up at the seriousness in Cas’ tone. “Dean isn’t on the brink of death and Jack has his powers back. Things are calm for this very brief period of time and I need to take this opportunity. I made a deal with the Empty.”
No one says a word as Cas takes a deep breath. His eyes plead with Dean, but Dean doesn’t understand what he’s asking for. Forgiveness? Understanding?
“I traded my life for Jack’s.”
The heart that had previously been beating too fast in Dean’s chest suddenly slams to a shuddering halt. The room seems to darken and he’s sure there’s no more air in the bunker or the world.
“It hasn’t taken me yet, but promised to take me back to the Empty once I’m truly happy.” His eyes fall to the table at the same time as Dean’s heart falls to the floor.
Sam is saying something, but Dean can’t hear it. His ears are ringing as he tries to breathe. His jaw clenches so tightly the high pitched noise of too much pressure screams in his skull.
“Dean?” Cas’ voice breaks through, dragging Dean’s eyes up from the table to the apologetic look in his angel’s eyes. Not his angel. He will never be his angel. He will never be his.
Dean shoves himself away from the table and gets up, walking away from the table where his family sits. He stops in the doorway, his hand gripping the frame as he tries to find any string of words that make sense after being told that the man you’re in love with is either doomed to die, or never be happy.
“I’m going for a drive.”
Cas made a deal. Cas made a deal with a being so powerful there’s really no way out. Cas made a deal that ensures he will either never be happy or he’ll die the happiest he’d ever been.
Dean wipes the tears that are streaming down his face with one hand before returning it to the wheel in front of him. His foot is practically on the floor, the pedal pressed all the way down as he speeds through the night. He doesn’t bother watching the needle climb on the speedometer. He doesn’t bother looking at the road signs that are telling him which direction he’s going. He doesn’t care.
“Fuck!” Dean slams the heel of his hand into the steering wheel. Everything hurts. Everything had calmed down. He didn’t have an archangel locked away in his skull and he had decided now was the perfect time to tell Cas about… everything. About falling in love with him and thinking about him all the time. About how every touch was as searing as the handprint from his ascent from Hell. About how his heart launches, leaving his body far behind, every time he hears Cas.
Dean swerves and slams on the break, skidding and steering the car to the side of the empty road. Cas, who always comes when you call or think.
“Why are you here?” Dean asks through a startled and relieved breath. He turns in his seat to face Cas, who is now sitting shotgun and staring straight ahead into the black night.
“You’re upset,” Cas answers, turning his head to face Dean, their eyes locking in the dark. The blue is dimmed by the night, but the shine and intensity is ever present.
“What gave it away?” Dean lets his head fall back in exasperation and maybe a little to hide the tears that threaten to fall still.
He wants to reach out and hold the hand that rests on the bench next to him. He wants to pull him into his arms and breathe him in, cry into his shoulder, kiss his jaw, neck, lips, nose, everywhere and anywhere. He needs him... He wants to tell Cas everything: how he feels and why his confession was hurting him so deeply. I am undeniably, desperately, and completely in love with you.
“I had to make the deal,” Cas says quietly. It’s a knife slicing through the palpable tension. “You told me to do whatever it took to bring Jack back.”
“Hah,” Dean lets out a humorless laugh and runs his hand over his mouth. “Yeah, well, I didn’t mean whatever it took, Cas. I didn’t mean you, Amelia Bedelia.”
“I am nothing like the Eldritch Horror, Dean,” Cas says, squinting and tilting his head in that way that makes Dean’s heart melt and explode at the same time.
“I’m sorry. Rewind. What?”
“The Elder Goddess, Amelia Bedelia.”
“I need some more explanation there, buddy. You can’t just tell me that there happens to be an Eldritch Horror of the same name as the best maid I have ever read about.”
“The stories you grew up reading were about the goddess. She is very powerful and currently bound to the Rogers family that you read about. They trapped her, protecting the rest of humanity from her.”
Amelia Bedelia is a maid in the Rogers household. She is a tall, thin woman with her curled brown hair kept pinned under her maid’s bonnet. She hums as she works, mopping the floor of the kitchen, her rosy cheeks brightening her already sunny face. She wipes her hand on her apron, leaving a red streak on the white fabric.
Amelia sighs, content with her work. She puts her hands on her hips to survey her the shining kitchen. The blood that had splattered the walls and pooled on the tile is completely clean. The kitchen looks as good as new.
Turning around, Amelia Bedelia sees the mangled body of her captor and employer. She grins, taking in the masterpiece that is her expert execution. The cuts are deep and exaggerated. Mr. Rogers’ head is turned 180 degrees. His insides are outside, spilling out onto the blue tarp that he’s been dragged onto. Beside him is his wife. She is tied to her chair, a gag in her mouth as she tries to scream.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Rogers. I can fix this,” Amelia Bedelia promises. She brings a bowl into the room and scoops Mr. Rogers’ organs and entrails into the bowl. “You do love pie, don’t you Mrs. Rogers?”
She is met with muffled cries as she turns on her heel and goes back into the kitchen to make a pie. She pours the meat from her bowl into the pie crust she had prepared earlier. She sets the timer after sliding it into the oven.
“What else did you want me to do? Draw the drapes?” Amelia Bedelia asks as she checks her list. “I’m still not very good at drawing, but you did ask for it.” She takes out her sketch pad and some colored pencils. She sits on the couch near her last living employer and sketches out the drapes.
“Oh no!” Amelia Bedelia exclaims, jumping up and going to the drapes. She runs her fingers over the blood splatter at the bottom of the heavy fabric. “That’s already stained!” She pouts for a moment before returning to her sketch, including the blood stains on her rendition of the drapes.
The timer goes off and Amelia Bedelia gets up, excitedly going to the kitchen to take the pie out of the oven. She smells it, inhaling the scent of baked human. She cuts a slice and sets it on the finest china before bringing it out to Mrs. Rogers. The blood is leaking onto the plate like the inside of a cherry pie might. The crust is perfectly flaky and sugary with it’s lattice top adding appeal to the gruesome slice.
“Now, Mrs. Rogers, I’m going to feed you this pie.” She takes the gag off of Mrs. Rogers and slaps her when she screams. “Hush, now. It’s okay,” she croons, stroking her face gently where she’d just slapped. “You are the one who said he looked good enough to eat. You asked for this. Open wide.”
She forces Mrs. Rogers’ jaw open, her fingers digging into her doughy flesh. She feeds her the husband that she had made the mistake of flirting with. Mrs. Rogers sobs as she swallows each bite, trying to spit it out, but unable to with Amelia Bedelia helpfully making sure it all goes down.
When the pie is done she asks how she liked it, beaming.
“Kill me,” Mrs. Rogers begs.
“As you wish,” Amelia Bedelia grins. “You sure do want strange things, Mrs. Rogers. You are the boss.”
When she’s finished, she lays Mrs. Rogers next to her husband on the tarp. The back of her skull is missing, the soft brain exposed, gray after having lost all of the blood that had once made it pink and juicy. She is also just as sliced up as her husband, the decorative slashes just as expertly made.
“Would you look at that?” Amelia Bedelia beams, lifting her bloody apron off of her and dropping it onto the tarp. “I’m free as a bird, now.”
She steps over the two bodies and gives into a shiver that runs down her spine. Her human form is gone, replaced by a small gray bird.
The bird flies, wings finally spread, mayhem unraveling in the uncaged mind of the Eldritch Horror. It’s only a few hours later that it passes over a shining black Impala. The two inhabitants are quiet as the green-eyed hunter drives, unaware of the bird and the horrors that are about to be unleashed upon his town. Their thick worry has nothing to do with Amelia Bedelia. Not yet. Right now, the three beings, angel, human, and goddess, are too busy with their own thoughts of death, closeted love, and freedom, respectively. No, they will meet soon, but not tonight. Tonight, they fly.
A week and a half passes, dragging slowly as Dean stays locked in his room, headphones jammed over his ears to keep from hearing the worry in everyone’s voices. He’s fine .
He’s completely and totally fine with the knowledge that the angel he’s in love with sold himself to the Empty with the promise that he will only get to live if he’s never happy. He’s cool with keeping his heart locked away. He’s fine with the nightmares that plague him. What nightmares? He doesn’t have nightmares because he’s fine. If he did have nightmares about a certain raven-haired man with eyes like gleaming sapphires dying in his arms, he would be completely okay, because he is so okay with everything that’s happening.
There’s a knock on the door that Dean doesn’t hear. Metallica is loud in his ears as he turns the page of his own hunter’s journal. He’s still in the beginning when the demon on that airplane seemed like the biggest deal. Back when he was young and hadn’t known about angels at all.
Sam opens the door and Dean jumps, slamming his journal shut and swearing. He pulls his headphones off as his brother leans against the doorframe, trying to appear casual.
“What?” Dean asks, sitting up straighter and turning off his music.
“Cas and Jack are out. I think Cas is getting you a pie. He’s worried about you, you know. We all are.” Dean exhales through his nose and shakes his head, looking down and refusing to have this conversation. “Dean.”
“Shut it, Sam.”
“You’re in love with him, aren’t you?”
The question is a punch in the gut. Dean clenches his jaw, his heart screaming in his chest that yes, he’s in love with him. He closes his eyes for a moment, his hands tightening on the edges of his journal before he takes a shuddering breath through his nose.
“He loves you,” Sam says gently. It’s just another stab.
“He loves everyone,” Dean says, getting off of his bed and pushing past Sam.
I love you. I love all of you.
How Dean wished for those words to belong to him. He had no right to them. He had no right to him. And now, with this deal, there was no chance in hell that he would try.
He can hear Sam behind him, trying to argue his way into getting Dean to feel okay again. He knows it hurts his brother to see him like this. He knows it hurts Cas, but hurting Cas might just keep him alive. He knows that cutting himself off is hurting everyone, himself most of all, but he needs it like a fish needs water. He can’t breathe around Cas. He couldn’t breathe around Cas on the best of days, but now, his heart shatters in his chest, splintering and stabbing, slicing up his insides every time he sees him or hears his deep voice.
“Where are you going?”
“To wash the car,” Dean says. Now that the words are out there, he has to. He heads to the garage and drives Baby out into the pouring rain in the dead of night and parks. Perfect weather for a car wash.
“Dean, we need to talk about this! It’s killing you!” Sam shouts, running to stand next to the Impala.
“I can’t hear you!” Dean shouts, spinning the dial on the volume in the car.
“ For the first time in history, it’s going to start raining men! It’s raining men!” the radio blares. As the first Hallelujah is sung , a sickening thud makes both Winchesters jump. The night is suddenly filled with the screams of men as they fall to their deaths, their bodies slamming into trees or hitting the pavement with horrendous crunches.
“What the fuck is happening?!” Dean yells as Sam climbs into the car to avoid getting hit by a falling body. Dean drives the car back into the garage and looks at his brother with wide-eyed terror.
“Did… Did you just play It’s Raining Men and…”
“I think so,” Dean nods, gulping and turning off the car. He turns in his seat to look out the back window as bodies continue to fall from the heavens. He gets out of the Impala and walks hesitantly to the edge of the garage, staring out into the not so silent night.
“Come on, we should call Cas.”
Dean closes the garage on the sound of screams, muffling them, but not silencing. He follows Sam into the bunker, trying to ignore the continuous thuds of bodies as they rain down on the bunker.
Cas and Jack meet Sam and Dean in the war room. No one wants to be the first to talk. It would be silent, but there is no silence under the assault from that damn song.
“What happened?” Cas finally asks, looking from Sam to Dean. His eyes remain on Dean and the room seems to heat up. Dean stares back, unwilling to answer. He knows this is his fault in some roundabout way. It doesn’t matter how. It is his fault.
“I don’t really know,” Sam says, stealing Cas’ gaze from Dean. “Dean was going to wash the car-”
“It was pouring rain outside. Why would you be washing the car?” Cas asks, returning his confused look to Dean. “Don’t you usually wash it during the day?”
“Anyway,” Sam clears his throat when Dean doesn’t answer. “He turned on the radio and it was playing-”
“It’s Raining Men,” Dean finally says. Sam nods, his eyebrows turned up in worry at the entire situation.
“That’s when the bodies started falling?”
The Winchester brothers look at each other before nodding. This was crazy. Crazy was their thing, but this? This was crazy.
“That’s… literal,” Jack points out, looking disturbed at the whole situation as he takes a seat at the table. Dean’s eyes snap to Cas and they lock. They both know what kind of a literal monster they were talking about recently. It was impossible. It couldn’t be.
“Amelia Bedelia?” Dean voices what they’re both thinking.
“It does sound like her, but she’s supposed to be bound. She wouldn’t be able to do this if she was still bound to the Rogers family.”
“What are you two talking about?”
“The Elder Goddess,” Cas says at the same time that Dean says, “Amelia Bedelia.”
“Amelia Bedelia, the Elder Goddess,” Cas corrects, giving Dean a look that is somewhere between a smile and exhaustion.
“She’s a book character, Cas,” Sam sighs.
“Those are now non-fiction,” Dean points out, earning another glance from Cas.
“She is related to the creature, Cthulhu,” Cas says, trying to explain to Sam. “She’s very powerful and very literal.”
“Cthulhu?” Sam repeats as Dean nods.
“The Eldritch Horror, Cthulhu,” Cas continues. “Amelia Bedelia is an Eldritch Horror just like Cthulhu and The Empty.”
“The Empty?” Dean chokes.
“I could list more,” Cas offers hesitantly.
“No, that’s okay, Cas,” Sam says, his thinking face on. “If we know what she is, we can look up how to kill her.”
“She can’t be killed. She will have to be trapped.” Cas tells Sam as they walk into the library. Dean watches the three of them leave before he ducks into the hallway and heads to his own room.
He yanks “Call of Cthulhu” off of his bookshelf and grabs a beer, making himself comfortable on his bed before opening the book. His eyes are reading, scanning the pages, but his mind is on the newest piece of key information. The Empty is a creature that can’t be killed, he knew that, but it was a creature that could be trapped. He could save his Castiel.
His fingers flip through the pages, trying to find the answers he desperately needs to save Cas. His mind is reeling, repeating over and over that the Empty can be defeated. He can save him. He can be the one to grip him tight and save him from himself.
Dean’s head snaps up as Cas enters his room. His face is lined with worry. He closes the door behind him, making the room smaller.
“Cas?” Dean asks, lowering the book to look at his the angel.
“I’m worried about you,” Cas says gently. It isn’t the first time this has come up. The last time was when Dean could barely hear him over the incessant pounding of Michael in his brain.
“Don’t be.” Dean shifts uncomfortably and makes room for Cas to sit on the edge of the bed, though he knows that it’ll squeeze his heart and fill his insides with butterflies. “I’m fine. Really.”
“You haven’t been fine since I told you about the deal.”
“It was a dumb deal, Cas.” The book is closed on his lap now, his hands shaking slightly with nothing to do. He wipes his palms on his jeans and clenches them into fists to hide the tremors.
“We aren’t going to talk about that again. I was wondering why you came in here instead of sitting with the rest of us while we research.”
Dean sighs, his eyes dragging up and down the angel on the edge of his bed. What’s the answer to that? Why couldn’t he read this book while sitting at the same table as everyone else? Why did he need privacy from everyone while he thought about saving Cas from the Empty?
“If the Empty is like Cthulhu,” Dean starts, trying to figure out how to word it. He bites his lip for a moment and picks the book up from his lap, looking down at the worn cover before glancing back up at Cas, the blue eyes swallowing him and pulling an answer out of him. “...can’t we just trap it to get you out of the deal?”
“I thought we were trying to defeat Amelia Bedelia.” Cas reminds him gently.
“ I’m trying to save you ,” Dean corrects him. There’s more he needs to say, but he can’t. There’s no way he can tell Cas everything. He can’t tell him about the dreams where he sobs over Cas’ limp form, unwilling to burn him again, his fingers digging into the trench coat as he screams. He can’t tell him about the self-medicating to try to sleep without dreams, the stolen Ambien under his mattress serving as dooming evidence. He can’t tell him that right now, he wants to hold him close, their chests pressed together so they can feel each other’s hearts beating. Or how he badly he wants to kiss him, his thumb running over the stubble so he can finally know if it’s soft or rough under the pad of his finger. There’s no way he can express how much pain fills him when he sees Cas.
That’s another thing. He can’t express how agonizing it is to hear that deep voice, perfect in every way, say his name like he’s the only person in the world.
Dean tears his eyes away from Cas and looks down at the book in his hands, fed up with everything. He wants to rewind back to when he was going to step into that metal, sigiled coffin and dive into the Pacific Ocean. He wants to tell his past self to just fucking do it because this is so much worse.
“Just go,” Dean whispers. Cas makes a noise in the back of his throat; something of a protest. “I’m fine, Cas. I just need to read.”
“For you,” Dean corrects under his breath after Cas closes the door behind him again.
Once the “rain” had stopped, Jack had gone outside to work on cleaning up the bodies. Cas helped with finding the IDs of the dead men and making a list of people to inform of their loved one’s passing. Sam and Dean were given the list.
Dean stares into the mirror in his room, dressed as a cop. He’s used to seeing this guise in the mirror of motels and stranger’s bathrooms, but never here. Never at home. He runs a comb through his hair one last time before leaving his room to meet Sam at the car.
“Hey, Baby,” Dean greets as he gets to his beloved Impala.
“Ready?” Sam asks, joining him.
“Ready as I’ll ever be to tell hundreds of families across Kansas that their husband, brother, son, whatever died in a freak accident brought on by an awesome song that I’ll never be able to listen to ever again.”
“Sounds about right,” Sam nods.
Upon returning to the bunker, Dean immediately goes to his room to change and then to the kitchen to grab a beer. There’s only one left. He sighs and takes it, taking a sip and sitting at the table instead of his room for the first time in weeks.
“You’re back,” Cas says, walking into the kitchen and taking the seat opposite Dean.
“I was just leaving,” Dean says, draining the last of the beer and tossing it into the recycling bin in the corner. He ignores the look on Cas’ face. Is that hurt? He can’t think about that right now. “We need more beer.”
“Dean,” Cas tries, but Dean is already leaving.
The keys jingle in his hand as he walks to the car. He focuses on the sound as he walks, not wanting to listen to any of the thoughts in his mind. Dean at his most comfortable is behind the wheel of his car, the world rushing past the windows as he speeds. The keys always dangle, just above his knee as he steps into the gas pedal and it makes the same noise as it is now as they swing from his finger.
Dean ducks into the Impala and closes the door. As he closes his, the passenger side opens and Sam falls into the seat next to him. Dean lets out a frustrated sigh. He doesn’t bother arguing, sliding the keys into the ignition and driving away from the bunker.
“Where are we going?” Sam asks after a few minutes of strained silence.
“Beer run,” Dean answers.
“We bought something like two dozen last week, didn’t we?”
Dean turns up the volume, drowning out the impending argument. It feels familiar, driving with Sam and hiding so much. They haven’t been in this situation in such a long enough time that Dean laughs inwardly. He missed it. Not the lying to his brother part. He hates that, but he has to. He missed just driving with Sam, music blaring, as he ignores Sam’s protests.
Dean slows the car as they near the town. Sam turns the music down as the confusion settles over both of them. Beer bottles, mugs, and cans are running through the streets marathon style.
“What the…?” Dean raises an eyebrow and slowly turns his head to look at his brother, who looks equally as confused. Once the road is clear of the spontaneous and literal beer run, Dean drives forward and parks.
Sam is about to open his door when a woman runs past with a flock of wild geese chasing after her. Her screams mixed with their honks makes for a strange mix and Dean laughs, earning a sideways judgemental stare from Sam.
“It’s a wild goose chase. Get it?” Dean’s smile falls when Sam only presses his lips together and gets out of the car. “Come on, Sam. At least it’s not all blood and gore. She has a sense of humor.”
“Because we really need a monster with a sense of humor, Dean.”
They walk into the grocery store and Dean goes straight to the back, grabbing two cases of beer. Sam has disapproval written all over his face before he turns to look at the price of the produce.
“This is going to cost an arm and a leg,” a customer sighs from the other aisle, tossing more things into his wife’s basket.
Dean passes by them, going to the pie and looking at the different flavors. Blueberry, cherry, lemon, mincemeat. Mincemeat? Dean grins and holds it up to show Sam.
“How much you wanna bet this isn’t fruit anymore?”
“Gross, Dean,” Sam says, scrunching up his nose.
“Come on. How much? We’ll slice it open tonight.”
“Put it away. I don’t want to know.”
Dean puts it on top of his two cases of beer and grabs the cherry pie for good measure.
“That’ll be an arm and a leg,” the cashier says to the couple at the front. Sam and Dean both whirl around and see the cashier taking out an amputation saw from under the counter. They let out strangled noises as they each drop their groceries and start running to the front of the store.
The man paying, offers his arm and looks at his wife as the saw is pressed into his shoulder joint. Dean reaches him first, but it’s too late. His arm is spurting blood, spraying the cashier, couple, and Dean. The wife pulls as the man shoves Dean away from him with his good arm, allowing his other arm to be ripped through.
The man goes limp and Sam catches him, slipping in the blood on the floor and falling. The cashier moves around the counter, pushing past Dean and going for the unconscious man’s leg. Dean panics when his punches and kicks don’t deter the cashier. The wife is still pulling on his arms, trying to keep him from saving her husband.
Dean elbows the woman in the face, knocking her away from him as he wraps his arms around the neck of the cashier, holding him in a choke hold and squeezing. His eyes go to the ceiling as he listens to the man in his arms grunt and gasp for air. The saw falls to the floor to free his hands so that he can scrape helplessly at Dean’s arms. He finally goes limp and Dean drops him, joining Sam on the floor where he’s calling an ambulance and trying to stop the bleeding.
The wife yelps before screaming behind Dean. He turns around and finds her sawing off her own leg to complete the purchase. Tears are running down her face, the color leaving her cheeks as her eyes roll up.
“Make that reservation for two, Sammy,” Dean says, prying the saw out of her hands.
They return to the bunker hours later covered in blood. The single case of beer that Dean is carrying is the cleanest thing about their return. Dean feels gross, but also a little bit free. It feels normal to go out on a hunt and return covered in blood and mystery goop.
“What happened?” Cas asks, standing as Dean walks into the kitchen with the beer case.
“That Eldritch bitch,” Dean answers, washing his hands in the sink and watching the blood run down the drain.
“It’s not just us,” Sam says, walking into the kitchen. “We need to get to the library and get some books on this before it gets any worse.”
“Any worse?” Dean asks incredulously. “How could things get any worse? A cashier sawed off a man’s arm, Sam!”
“What?” Cas looks from Dean to Sam, requiring more explanation than Dean is currently giving.
“He said it would cost an arm and a leg. Things got literal,” Sam sighs.
“I need a shower,” Dean says, excusing himself from the reliving of events. He hears Cas continue to ask questions and tries to think about anything but his voice as he walks away.
With the bathroom filling with steam, Dean strips off his filthy clothes and steps into the hot water. He stares down at the drain between his feet as the water turns red and swirls. He lets himself watch until no new blood is being washed and he tilts his face up into the water. He runs his hands over his face before dragging his hands through his hair and sighing.
After using every kind of soap, shampoo, and conditioner (thanks, Sam!), Dean finally stepped out of the shower, wrapped himself in his robe and spun himself a towel hat before walking back to his room. For the first time in a long time, he turns to his black hoodie. It had always been more of a comfort item of clothing rather than something he wore on the regular, but if he didn’t need comfort right now he didn’t know what he needed. The rest of the day will be spent at the library and reading anyway. He just hopes he doesn’t run into anymore bleeding out people.
Dean meets his family in the garage as they all pile into his car. He glances into the rearview mirror as he settles himself behind the wheel and his eyes lock with Cas’. He swallows hard but continues to stare for a moment longer before he readjusts the mirror, moving Cas out of his line of sight.
The drive to the library feels longer than it should. No music plays to avoid raining men incidents and no one talks, possibly to avoid the wrath of Amelia Bedelia, but also maybe to avoid the bruised relationships and open wounds from recent conversations.
Everyone goes their separate directions when they enter the library and Dean is thankful to finally be alone again. He walks to the children’s fiction section and pulls the first Amelia Bedelia book he sees off of the shelf, inspecting it as if it’s a treasured artifact.
He pulls three of the books and checks them out, handing his plastic library card that Sam made him get to the librarian.
“Where’s your little one?” she asks, smiling at the books as she scans them.
“He’s with his uncle,” Dean says, waving a hand in the direction he had seen Jack disappear with Sam. “Learning to read. He just loves Amelia Bedelia. You know how it is.”
“I do. I loved when mine were that age. Happy reading!” She hands Dean the books back and he takes them, an easy smile finding its way to the surface.
He returns to the Impala and sits in the front seat, cracking open the first book and slouching in his seat. The back door opens and Cas slides in. Dean looks over his shoulder at the angel and waits for him to speak first.
“Sam and Jack are still inside.”
“I’m fine, Cas.” Dean turns back around and resumes reading the children’s book.
“You are not fine,” Cas presses just before Sam and Jack open their doors and get into the car. Each of them also have three books, the max amount you can check out from the library at once.
“Want to grab some food on the way back? Maybe some burgers?” Sam asks as he closes his door.
“I’m not hungry,” Dean brushes him off, starting the car and heading home, the pile of Amelia Bedelia books on the seat beside him.
The car ride to the bunker isn’t nearly as silent as the car ride to the library. Dean just isn’t listening. He’s sure Sam is lecturing him… or trying. He keeps his eyes on the road and ignores his brother, also tuning out Cas and Jack in the backseat.
Dean is tired. He’s so tired. He doesn’t want to listen to bullshit. He doesn’t want to research. He doesn’t want to dream. He had swapped his Ambien for some Adderall and had decided not to sleep at all last night. That was his plan tonight, too.
Everyone makes their way to the library, carrying their borrowed books and still chattering while Dean turns the opposite direction and goes to the kitchen. He grabs the case of beer and walks to his room with a dozen bottles of beer and three Amelia Bedelia books.
Dean doesn’t answer. He doesn’t even register who called out. It was probably Sam. If it had been Cas, his heart would be on fire in his chest.
He closes his door and drags the dresser to block it, keeping himself locked in. He doesn’t want anything but silence. He wants to sleep, but he doesn’t want to dream. He wants to drink and read and pretend for two goddamn seconds that his world isn’t collapsing around him. He has a fucking case to work on.
He yanks his sweater off and gets onto his bed, uncapping a beer and taking a swig as he opens “Thank You, Amelia Bedelia.”
“I’m worried about Dean,” Cas says. His voice is strained like he wants to say more but won’t let himself.
“Me too,” Sam answers. “He’s been drinking a lot more than usual and I don’t think he’s been sleeping.”
“He won’t leave his room.”
“Hey, guys. I left my room,” Dean yells as he passes the library where Cas and Sam are talking. Annoyance settles inside of him as he walks toward the bunker’s exit. “I’ll do you one better. I’m leaving the bunker!” Their big fight is tomorrow and they’re worried about him ?
“Dean!” Sam calls after him as he goes.
Dean yanks open the door and shuts it behind him, taking in a deep breath of the fresh air. He doesn’t waste time, though, walking around the small hill that the bunker is set into and finding a sunny area to lounge on.
Dean plucks a blade of grass from next to his knee and twists it between his fingers before tossing it over his shoulder and picking up the first of the three Amelia Bedelia books in his possession. He leans his arms on his bent knees and opens the first book.
“Dean?” Sam calls as he finally makes it out of the bunker. “Dean, please.”
“Mrs. Rogers was all in a dither,” Dean reads and pauses. “That’s you, Sammy.”
“We’re worried about you. We shouldn’t have been talking behind your back. What are you even doing out here?”
“I’m doing research.” Dean says, lifting the book to illustrate his point before resuming his read on the next page silently.
“Did you hear what I said?” Sam tries again. “We’re all worried about you. When’s the last time you slept or drank anything besides beer?”
When’s the last time he took care of himself? Dean can answer that question easily. He hasn’t taken care of himself the way anyone else wants him to since Cas stabbed him through the heart, back, and gut with the news of that goddamn deal that he made. He had tried at first. He had known that sleeping would be hard so he took some medicine and knocked himself out. It had been a horrible idea, trapped inside of his nightmares for eight hours. So he switched tactics and stayed awake. That wasn’t much better because he was just trapped with his waking thoughts for hours on end, alone in the dark. And there was no way he was drinking more than usual. He drank beer every so often, so what?
Dean jerks and rolls his shoulders, still set on ignoring Sam.
“When’s the last time you ate?”
The last time he ate? How the fuck would he know? He didn’t keep a fucking chart to make sure he’d eaten. It had to be some time within the past few days. Right? Maybe? Breakfast yesterday? Yeah. He’d eaten some toast with his Irish coffee that morning.
“You look like shit.”
“Thanks. I tried so hard.” Dean runs a hand over his face, exhaustion taunting him when he closes his eyes briefly.
“Look at me,” Sam says. Dean clenches his jaw and tries to keep reading, anger rolling through him. Sam takes the book from him, closing it and setting it down on the other side of him so Dean can’t reach it. Not that he would be petty enough to try to grab the book back. Dean picks up the second of the three books instead, opening it and continuing to ignore Sam.
The second book is taken from him and he lets his hands fall, defeated and pissed.
“I know you’re hurt...” Sam starts.
Dean doesn’t want to hear this. He doesn’t want some lame heart to heart. He doesn’t want to hear how badly his self-destruction is worrying everyone else. He’ll get over it, but he’s not ready yet. He’s hurt. That’s the understatement of the year. Yeah, he’s hurt. He doesn’t need to hear it from everyone else. He knows. He’s fully aware of the ache in his own chest, the sharp pain in his head, the emptiness that gnaws at him day and night. He fucking knows.
Dean gets up and starts to walk back down the hill, trying to get anywhere that isn’t inside with Cas or outside with Sam. The only place he can think of is his car so he starts in the direction of the garage.
Sam quickly gets up, protesting. He reaches for Dean, who turns and swings his fist. He completely misses Sam and stumbles. His brother catches him by the arms and Dean shoves him away.
“I haven’t slept in two days and I feel fantastic. Never better, Sammy.” He turns away again and calls over his shoulder, “Now leave me the hell alone!”
“You’re not coming to fight tomorrow,” Sam yells. He hasn’t moved from where Dean left him.
“Fine,” Dean says, clenching his jaw and his fists briefly before leaving Sam behind.
He walks to the garage and slips inside, walking to his Impala and running his hand over the roof affectionately. He ducks into the driver’s seat and promises himself he’s just going to sit here for a minute. He’ll go inside soon. He just needs to breathe and maybe sleep. Not sleep. He doesn’t want to sleep. He’s just going to sit here and… He’s going to s...leep.
Cas stands in the barn in Illinois. He unfurls his wings, still only shadows against the wall. His blue eyes are bright and Dean realizes they are the only color he can see. The scene is painted in black and white with just that fantastic blue left to tell the story.
Cas sits in the Impala, his window down. The air that rushes by makes his hair wild. There’s a small content smile on his face and Dean wants to know what makes an angel happy. Not just any angel… his angel. The angel who rides shotgun and listens to rock music, smiling and looking at him as he drives.
“I’m just happy,” Cas whispers. Their chests are pressed together as they dance. Cas’ left hand is in his. Their feet move to a pattern that Dean doesn’t know, yet doesn’t mess up. Dean can feel his hand on the small of Cas’ back and is all too aware of how close they are. He swallows hard and presses his lips together. He’s drowning in Cas’ eyes. He watches them flicker to his lips before Cas stops moving his feet and tilts his face up, fitting their lips together.
Flashes of Cas dead sear through Dean. Cas in the chair, killed by April, his shirt open, chest marked. Cas, obliterated by Lucifer’s easy snap of the fingers. Cas standing, the light shining from his eyes and mouth as he’s stabbed through his back with an angel blade. His legs give out beneath him and he falls to the ground, his wings scorching the Earth. Cas, going limp in Dean’s arms after their kiss.
“Cas,” Dean begs, falling to the floor as he holds Cas against him.
“Dean,” Cas breathes. He smiles and strokes his hand down Dean’s face.
An arm made of shadow circles Cas’ hand and takes it from Dean’s face, pulling gently. Cas’ body remains as it goes cold and his life is dragged out of him and into the Empty. His eyes, still the only color, drain, becoming paler. When the blue is gone, Dean screams.
Dean jerks awake, his arm hitting the steering wheel as he does. His face is wet. He fell asleep. Dean wipes a hand over his face, clearing the tears and gets out of the car. He knows one thing: he can’t let anything happen to Cas.
Dean gets out of the car and makes his way through the sleeping bunker. The lights are off, but he knows this place like the back of his hand. His heart is still beating too quickly from his dream and he’s still exhausted.
He reaches the library and blinks wearily at the shelves upon shelves of information. He starts pulling every book that might have anything to do with summoning an Eldritch Horror and how to trap them. He sees a Men of Letters file with the word Empty and takes that too. Everything he can find on the Empty is power and he takes as much as he can, making his way back to his room and diving into how to save Cas.
Cas sits in the front seat of the Impala and it feels slightly wrong. With Sam driving, it feels like a betrayal. He left his heart in the bunker, locked up in Dean Winchester’s room. He looks in the side mirror, trying not to make his longing obvious as he tries to make out the bunker that is long gone behind them: out of sight and tucked into the green hill that left the mirror thirty minutes ago.
“Did we do the right thing?” Sam asks. He doesn’t look over at Cas like Dean always does. “Leaving Dean behind?”
“Yes,” Cas answers shortly. He wants to say more, but he doesn’t know what the right words are. His heart wants to drop everything to protect his one human. Not his. Never his. He’s just Dean and he’s just… Dean. Cas knows that he can’t put Dean above this fight. They have to save the world from the recently released Eldritch Horror, Amelia Bedelia. “We will be better equipped to take care of him after this fight. He needs us, but he can’t fight this one. So yes, we did the right thing.”
Sam nods, still not taking his eyes from the road. He’s much more stiff when he drives. Dean has an ease behind the wheel that makes him look like he belongs there. Sam doesn’t have that. He’s the little brother in his big brother’s shoes, filling his space. He looks sad to be doing it, like he remembers the months that Dean was in Hell, the years when Sam was trapped in Gabriel’s trick, the year of Purgatory when he hit a dog. He remembers it without fond memories, missing his brother, and it shows. Cas looks out the window again, not wanting to see what he’s already noticed.
* * *
Dean has a scribbled list of the ingredients he needs for the spell to summon the Empty and save Cas. His mind is moving too quickly on the no sleep and extra coffee. With the summoning bowl under his arm, he moves through the bunker, throwing the ingredients into his bowl and crossing the items off of the list.
Dean makes his way to the bunker’s dungeon. The dungeon where Cas had dragged him when he was demonic. Where he had been returned to his human state by his brother. Where he had fought many a monster. The dungeon that he thought was the coolest thing when they had first moved into their home. Now, it looms in front of him, empty of all past torture, ready for his private battle.
He steps in and closes the doors, putting the summoning bowl on the floor and the spell papers on the table. He has a single object, a lockbox-type object, to bind the Empty to. Nerves make his stomach roll as he kneels next to the bowl to begin the summoning.
“For Cas,” he reminds himself, his eyes closed as he swallows down his fear and begins.
* * *
The distance from Lebanon and the bunker is finally safe. The field they have parked beside is wide open and barren of crops. It’s the perfect location to summon and trap an elder god. Jack is summoning her, his eyes bright yellow and swirling with his power as he concentrates.
Guilt swims through Cas as he tries to keep his mind on the impending fight. His mind keeps repeating Sam’s question about Dean. Cas wishes he could pray to Dean as Dean has prayed to him. He thinks about checking his phone and texting him to make sure he’s alright, but their Eldritch Horror has arrived.
Amelia Bedelia looks much the same as she has for the past several centuries except her maid’s bonnet and apron are gone. Her brown hair is free with small flowers crowning her and she walks with a charming pep. She looks like an adorable young woman, her face bright with a smile to dazzle.
Cas remembers that she hasn’t always looked this human and sweet. Locked away in her current form is the monster that could drive any human insane. To see an elder god’s true form is to scramble the mind and live, locked inside of your brain with nightmares worse than Hell. The human next to Cas is vulnerable. If Amelia Bedelia decided to unleash her true self, Sam would be worse than dead.
Cas taps two fingers gently to Sam’s forehead, stealing his sight from his eyes with the millisecond of contact. Sam gasps and stumbles, throwing his arms out to the sides for balance, his eyes open too wide.
* * *
“Come on, you son of a bitch!” Dean yells. Not a moment later, a perfect clone of him stands in the center of the dungeon. He smiles a cold smile and looks Dean up and down.
“You know,” his clone says slowly, thoughtfully, “this is the third time this century I’ve been woken from my beauty sleep.”
“You’re the Empty?” Dean asks. He hadn’t expected a clone.
“Yes, hello. Just your friendly neighborhood cosmic entity. Your very tired and yet for some reason awake cosmic entity.” He walks slowly as if his mind is too occupied by something else to think about moving at all. His steps seem timed and deliberate, though.
“So, tell me, Dean,” the Empty says as he stands toe to toe with him,“why am I awake?”
There’s no chance to respond. Dean’s clone reaches out and the second his hand meets Dean’s head, he’s not in the bunker. He’s not standing in a dungeon with an elder god. He’s not trying to save Cas from a deal. He’s living through his life at top speed. He can’t breathe because there’s no time as he watches a movie of his life in a blur, the noises crashing in his ears all at once, the images nothing but color, too bright and too fast to decipher anything. He’s sure he can hear screaming. Or is that the noises from his mind? Is he screaming?
He’s released and falls to the floor panting.
“You son of a bitch.”
* * *
“Cas, I can’t see!” Sam yells.
“I’ll return your sight when she’s trapped. This is safer,” Cas says back as he takes the first Amelia Bedelia book from his coat pocket. “Recite the spell.”
Sam closes his eyes and begins the recitation as Cas opens the book and begins reading. Jack lifts his hand and looks to Cas for a nod to tell him that he can use his powers. Cas gives a small shake of his head. Not yet. Wait.
“...said Mrs. Rogers,” Cas reads over Sam’s spell. The cheerful eyes darken at the name. Cas nods to Jack, who puts up a forcefield between them and Amelia Bedelia. “What nice folks,” Cas continues.
“ Nice folks ,” Amelia Bedelia fumes. Her voice is high and filled with rage. Her eyes almost look black with anger. “ Nice folks ?” She yells, her hands balling into fists.
“I’m going to like working here,” Cas reads, knowing how untrue the words are.
“I was a prisoner!” she screams. She hears her own scream and the anger melts away, replaced with the sickeningly sweet smile that could charm thousands. “Castiel,” she says in her innocent and human voice. Cas ignores her, continuing to read the book over Sam so they have a chance at defeating her.
She had been captured once. They could do it again.
* * *
The Empty leans down close to Dean and slides his finger under Dean’s chin, tilting his face up so they are staring into each other’s identical green eyes.
“You woke me up for Castiel,” he whispers. The green eyes give way to blue and Dean’s heart wrenches in his chest as he’s suddenly face to face with the image of Cas.
“Dean?” It’s Castiel’s voice and everything in Dean screams. It’s the face of the man he loves with the voice that narrates his dreams, but it isn’t the angel of his heart. It’s just an asshole in a disguise who knows every inch of every nightmare, hope, aspiration, let down, and motivation of Dean. It’s just the Empty playing its hand.
Dean can rationalize that the thing in front of him isn’t Cas, but he can’t move. He can’t fight. He can’t move toward the table with the spell and he doesn’t know why he suddenly can’t remember the words to the spell that he had been trying to memorize for days.
“All of this for… me?” Cas, no the Empty asks. His voice changes back to the nasally high whine. “All of this to save the angel. Come on, Dean. You can’t save him. He made the deal because he doesn’t care about you. He can’t care about you. You’re just something to reject over,” Dean is kicked in the stomach and he coughs, “and over,” he’s kicked a second time, “and over again.”
“I’m going to kill you,” Dean says through gritted teeth as he tries to stand.
“You’re going to try,” the Empty says condescendingly, tilting the sides of his mouth down into a mock frown. “You stay back in your bunker alone, too messed up to bring along to the big fight. No one’s going to notice if I just pick you up and plop you into your own nightmares. No one’s going to care. You know that better than anyone, don’t you? I don’t need to show you every screw up you’ve made. I don’t need to show you how little you mean to everyone. But, you love him. You love him and it gives you a purpose.” He nods with his eyebrows turned up, his entire stance talking down to Dean.
“I don’t love him,” Dean says, inching toward the table.
“Stop! Lying!” the Empty snaps, his nose flaring and blue eyes darkening.
“Dean,” Cas’ voice says as he calms.
“I love him. I am going to save him. I am going to kill you,” Dean says, pulling the spell off of the table.
“Humans!” the Empty screams. “And their love ! He belongs to me, but you’ll do. Anything to watch him suffer truly and completely.”
Dean looks up and his jaw drops. Cas is no longer the visage it takes. There is no visage. There is no bunker. There is no ground beneath him to catch him as he falls. There is only pain as his mind is shredded into pieces.
* * *
Cas lets out a scream as he hears the terrifying sounds of Dean’s anguish. It sounds as loud and clear as Dean’s usual prayers, but there are no words. There is nothing but agony in every sound and feeling. His entire being is filled with Dean’s intense longing and torment.
“Cas?” Sam and Jack ask at the same time.
Another howl from Dean rips through Cas. He drops to his knees, holding his head, the noise coming from him nowhere near human.
“Cas, what’s wrong?” Sam asks, worry laced through his voice.
“Dean,” is all Cas can manage before he returns to the bunker.
Cas’ heart slams in his chest. Arriving at the bunker only intensified the ache in his bones and soul. His mind feels like it’s on fire as he runs through the bunker, panic surging through him. He’s sure he’s yelling Dean’s name, but he can’t hear over Dean’s screams in his head. Wait. Is that out loud now?
Cas’ feet carry him to the walls of the dungeon that are closed. He starts pulling at the doors frantically as he listens to Dean. He shouldn’t have left him here. He shouldn’t have left him when he was in so much pain. He shouldn’t have told him about the deal, but he deserved to know. He shouldn’t have. He shouldn’t have. He…
The doors finally open, the lock that Dean had secured breaking. The Empty sits in the single chair in the dungeon staring at Dean with an amused smile on his lips.
Dean is crumpled on the floor, curled in on himself as he wails. Cas runs to him, falling to the floor beside him and grabbing his arms. Dean’s hands are soaked in blood. A strangled noise comes from Cas as Dean starts to thrash in his arms.
Cas grabs his arms and turns Dean’s face up. His eyes are gone. The beautiful green eyes are gone, replaced with gushing eye sockets. His face is a mask of hysteric horror. Cas swallows hard and presses his hand gently to the side of Dean’s face, searching his mind.
There’s nothing but nightmares. There are no coherent thoughts left in Dean Winchester’s head. Torture is all Cas can feel and see. His heart races, screaming. He can’t fix something like this. Can he? He has to try. He has to save him. That was always his mission. Save Dean Winchester.
“He saved you, you know,” the Empty says, pulling Cas back to the bunker. “The deal is null and void if you can never be happy ever again. You had a chance with him, you know, living.” He smiles and it twists Cas’ heart. “He wanted to trap me to save you, but all he had to do is exactly what he did instead.” the Empty claps his hands as if he’s at an enchanting play. “Bravo. He saved his angel and you get to live. Forever.”
Cas looks back down at Dean who is whimpering in his arms. Tears stream down his face mixing with the blood from the savage eye removal. All of his muscles are tensed, jaw clenched hard enough that Cas can hear the bones crushing together.
When he looks up again, the Empty is gone.
He feels hopeless and he’s still filled with Dean’s pain. Everything hurts. Cas notices he’s crying when tears drip down onto Dean’s face. He lowers his face, pressing his forehead to Dean’s and trying to heal him, his mind fiercely trying to find something to mend. Between his entire being filled with Dean’s pain and the advanced stage of intense and crippling horror that has melted Dean’s brain, there is nothing to mend.
“Dean,” Cas whispers, his lips almost touching Dean’s cheek.
Dean immediately recoils from the sound. He chokes on his tears and blood, pushing Cas away as he also finds comfort in Cas’ touch and grips his hands in desperate attempts for safety. Cas stops his hands, pulling Dean against him in a tight hug, Dean’s hands trapped between their chests. Cas rests his chin on the top of Dean’s head as he holds him.
Cas reaches into Dean’s mind again, but not on purpose. He can’t make out any images or thoughts. He knows that Dean is scrambled beyond help. All Cas can make out is the searing pain that is coursing through them both because of their bond.
It would be merciful to them both for Cas to kill Dean. It would end the suffering on Dean’s part, but Cas? Cas would suffer forever in an entirely different way than he is now. He would save Dean from living locked inside of whatever nightmares are currently tearing him apart. He would save Dean from living without living. And Cas? Cas would live forever, safe from the Empty, safe from death. And every day would be a fresh stab in the heart.
Cas remembers Dean slamming the demon blade into his chest, hoping to kill his savior from Hell with every sigil he knew and every bullet he had. His vessel had bled a little and he had healed himself as he ripped the knife from his chest and dropped it to the floor.
His shirt is soaked through with Dean’s tears and blood. Cas pulls Dean away from his chest so Dean can rest on his lap again since he’s stopped struggling. Blood is left on Cas’ hand and he tilts Dean’s head gently to find that his ear is the source with blood trickling slowly.
He refrains from saying Dean’s name by biting his lip, scared to watch his once-fearless hunter flinch away from him again. His hunter is broken.
“Cas? Dean?” Sam yells. There’s two pairs of feet. Amelia Bedelia is gone. The Empty is gone. Dean is…
“Dean,” Sam breathes when he appears in the doorway. He can’t see the full picture. He can’t see how drenched in blood both Cas and Dean are. He can’t see that Cas is sobbing. He can’t see that Dean’s eyes have been discarded under the table, the green irises dim, as if they’re light bulbs that have been unscrewed from their power source. And they have.
Sam can’t see that Cas has his angel blade out, the tip pressed against Dean’s chest, riding and falling with every panicked breath that his human breathes.
“Cas, no,” Sam says as he steps close enough to see.
Cas raises his hand and blasts both Sam and Jack backward into the wall. Another wave of terror grips Dean and both of them scream. Dean’s is ear-splitting, but Cas’ is enough to break glass in a gas station, the mirror over a bed, and shatter lights.
The lights in the dungeon do shatter and spark, raining down on everyone. “I love you,” Cas says through his scream as he plunges his blade through Dean’s heart, cutting off the white-hot pain. Blood bubbles up in Dean’s mouth, cutting off the screams. The dungeon is quiet except for the strange gurgles coming from Dean as his bloody hand grabs at Cas’ on his chest.
Cas holds onto Dean’s hand as the choking stops and Dean goes limp. Cas’ entire body feels suddenly drained of everything. He hasn’t lived in a world without Dean and with their tether broken, it feels hollow. He would rather live in pain for the rest of his life. He made a mistake. He made a mistake. He made a mistake.
“Dean!” Cas sobs, folding into him as his body falls, heart shattering like the lights. He runs a shaking hand over Dean’s bloody and cold face. He drags his fingertips gently over the eyelids that are stuck open wide in horror or shock. He pulls them down and cups Dean’s face with his hand, his thumb stroking over the stubble gently as he cries.
After a mourning circle of nothing but sobbing from the three remaining Winchesters, Sam takes Jack away from the sight. He takes Jack to the far side of the bunker while Cas stays with Dean in his lap.
Cas picks up Dean. He’s still limp and his head falls against Cas’ shoulder. Cas winces and swallows his hurt as he walks to the bathroom. He wipes the blood carefully from Dean’s face and hands as best he can, not wanting to put him to rest with dried blood stuck to his now pale skin.
Cas brings Dean to a clean table in the library, laying him down and staring down into the now serene face. With the blood gone and his empty eyes closed, he could be sleeping, but Cas can’t hear his heart beat like he normally can. He can’t feel his longing or their bond. He can’t feel him.
Cas can feel Sam watching him as he drapes a white sheet over Dean and begins to wrap him. His hands are still shaking, but he can’t stop them. There had been a time, a dark time maybe but a time all the same, where he had thought he and Dean would live forever. He had thought they would fight side by side, keeping each other in check as they went. When that possible future was gone, he had been naive enough to think he could handle it.
Sam’s hand stops Cas’ gently. Cas lets out a shuddering breath, more tears falling as he falls into the younger Winchester’s consoling arms. They stand in a tight hug, both crying for Dean Winchester. Sam sobs, his entire body shaking, needing this hug and clinging to it like a life raft. This time is different. Of all the times Dean died before, this time was different.
“Cas, I don’t think I can-” Sam chokes. He’s starting to hyperventilate.
“Breathe,” Cas whispers through his own tears. He sends the healing powers that had failed Dean into Sam’s back through his hands. Sam’s breathing slows, but he continues to cry.
Cas walks into the woods behind the bunker with the corpse of his hunter in his arms. Sam and Jack follow quietly. Jack reaches out, picking flowers for a small bouquet. Why would a bouquet help anything? How could flowers possibly help penetrate the deep sadness that has descended on Dean’s family? Who are they for? Cas tries to ignore them as he builds a pyre silently, Dean’s covered body only a few feet away.
When the pyre is built and Dean is set on his throne, Cas takes a shuddering breath as he flips open the silver lighter that has always been Dean’s. Dean would flip it open and watch it ignite in one try, dropping it to light up graves, holding it up for light in the dark, and lighting too many hunter’s funerals. Cas’ hands fumble with the lighter, still shaking.
He can almost hear Dean cursing, son of a bitch! Almost.
The fire lights and Cas brings it to the sheet’s corner, watching it catch and spread quickly over the gasoline trail. He staggers backward and Sam catches his shoulders, steadying him.
“Sam,” Cas sobs.
“I know,” Sam answers, his voice strangled.
No one moves until the pyre has finished burning Dean. Jack puts the small flowers at the base of the ashes before they all walk away, drained and silent.
“Your sight is back,” Cas says as they reach the doors to the bunker. He looks up at Sam. He’s supposed to take care of Dean’s brother. He’s in charge of keeping Sammy safe now that Dean isn’t there to do it.
“Jack,” Sam nods.
“Sam…” Cas tries, but trails off.
“I think we both need some time.”
Cas nods and follows Sam into the bunker, watching Sam walk through the bunker. He goes into his room and closes the door, leaving Cas alone in the war room. There is nowhere to go. The entire bunker is filled with the ghosts of Dean’s love.
This was his home. This was the first place he felt comfortable enough to call home after Lawrence. His car had been his constant ally and familiar place. This place had been so much more. It had been Dean’s first place to call his. It was a place to park his car and put his feet up.
Jack walks into the bunker and mimics Sam, going straight to his room, wiping tears from his face on his sleeve. Cas has no fatherly advice for him. He has no brotherly advice for Sam. He has no angelic wisdom to keep his heart safe from Dean’s passing.
Cas walks away from the war room where he had spent many a night sharing pizza with Dean, and heads down the hallway, dragging his fingers along the wall as he goes. Every breath he drags into his lungs feels heavy.
His fingers run over and catch on the doorknob to Dean’s bedroom. Drowning in his own grief, Cas pushes the door open. His heart stops in his chest as he takes in the wreck of the usually clean room.
Empty beer bottles litter one side of the floor next to the bed. Papers, files, books, and notes are spread over every surface, Dean’s messy handwriting and haphazard circling making words jump out of the pages, but Cas ignores them as he walks to the bed and sits, his legs feeling like they might give way any moment without a rest.
Cas falls to his side, his head hitting Dean’s pillow. He would cry, but he’s fresh out of tears. He feels emptier now without the tears.
There’s something under the pillow and Cas reaches under to grab it. It isn’t a knife like he expected, nor is it a gun. It’s a hunter’s journal. Cas slowly sits up as he realizes he’s holding Dean Winchester’s hunter’s journal. He hadn’t realized Dean even kept one.
Cas opens it and for the first time, his hands are steady. Inside the front cover, in the handwriting of seven, twelve, fifteen, twenty, and forty year old Dean, is his name, the ever-evolving Dean apparent in his growth as a human. Cas runs his fingers over the names before flipping to the bookmarked page.
In the corner of the page is a sketched pair of angel wings, dark with black ink. He must have run over them with too much pressure because they dip into the page. Across the top line is written, “I Will Save Him.” Cas’ breath catches in his throat as his eyes scan the page. Spells and ideas for summoning and trapping the Empty are scribbled all over the page. Cas’ deal is written in red and boxed on the side of the page.
Cas glances to the page before it and finds all of the information of Amelia Bedelia crossed out to the point that it’s barely legible. He flips back and reads in Dean’s plans, his heart needing to soak up everything Dean wrote.
The last thing on the page makes Cas’ throat close and his heart stop. It makes the world expand and shatter around him. Cas closes the journal and holds it to his chest, hugging it, his fingers gripping the edges so tightly that they’re white.
I Love Him.
The three words that would have killed him yesterday are damning today, keeping him safe from the Empty. Dean’s final mission: Complete.