Dean only leaves because Sam is safe. No safer place than Bobby's. He just needs an hour or two to wrap his mind around things.
With Baby back to rights he drives 'til the sun dips below the wheatgrass horizon, no destination set in stone but half tempted to find a bar just south of the border. It's the best combo there is to clear his head: just the open road, whatever's on tap wherever he pulls up, and the right kind of company for just long enough to sate this desire to scream his lungs out - at crappy circumstance, at the Winchester family curse, at his own bad choices.
He just wanted his brother back, is that so bad? Sam didn't deserve to be left behind - not in that place; no one does. He shudders to think how Alastair's torture might pale in comparison to Lucifer's. For Sam to go through that again - to re-discover whatever's left of him? Forget calling in Death for a quick-fix favour, because even Dean knows some things can't be fixed, can't be undone, unseen.
Dean lives with his memories from the pit every day. Avoids 'em, as much as it's possible to do so without some magic mind-block, but he's changed forever because of 'em. And Sam might not've been the one dealing out damnation, but if time works in a similar way down there then he was Lucifer's chew toy for over a century. And if that doesn't shake anyone to their foundations just to think about then they're either a lunatic or a goddamn liar.
Cas spelled out Dean's fear in no uncertain terms: Let me tell you what his soul felt like when I touched it: like it had been skinned alive.
But was he right? Had Dean doomed Sam to a fate worse than death by trying to do the right thing? Trying to save him?
If you wanted to kill your brother you should have done it outright.
Sam's fine - for now. But how long before his wall crumbles into Hellfire? The structural integrity's already been compromised, and no matter what Sam promised, Dean knows his brother: if Sam wants to right his own alleged wrongs then he'll do it and nevermind the cost to himself.
And while Dean holds fast that whatever Samdroid did while his soul was MIA isn't on Sam, Bobby's less convinced. Just to throw another wrench in the gears of the 'better life' that was 'spose to finally be possible after the Apocalypse was averted. Not that that was really ever gonna happen.
No Armageddon, but the tradeoff was Sam jumping into the pit. Sam gets resurrected, but his soul gets left behind. Dean gets a taste of the Apple Pie life, but hunting is his bread and butter. There's a civil war up in the clouds because (as everyone well-knows) Angels are dicks. And as if the self-crowned king of Hell trying to rip a hole between dimensions wasn't enough, apparently that little adventure is now on some dragon-dude's bucket list.
Crazy as it sounds, Dean kinda misses the ol' days. Y'know, when all they had to do was take down a couple of overzealous Archangels. They've got shit stacking up on so many spinnin' plates right now it's impossible to tell which one's gonna be the first to topple and shatter, that crap raining down on 'em in a mess of blood and pain and one gruesome smear of trouble after another - and it'll soil a bunch of innocent people too, if they're not careful.
Knowing their luck it probably won't be just the one plate, either.
But when it comes to this sorta thing all they can really do is.. wait n' see. Try to be ready to divert whatever mountain of crap avalanches at them - or try to outrun it, sidewind it before the risk catches up with them and the goddamn consequences bury them alive.
Some small-town city limits come into view just as the clouded night kisses down the last of twilight. Dean knows this place. He can get what he needs here, on a lucky night. Hell, two out of three ain't bad. Booze? Check. Distance? Check. Company?.. Guess he'll have to wait and see.
He'd kinda like some answers, too. Some goddamn direction to point himself in when he hits the road again. And there is a certain someone who might be able to help with that - or might not. But whatever the case, Dean wouldn't turn his company away. Maybe what he needs right now, more than anything, is a friend.
Baby slows to a stop in the vacant lot across the street from the bar, Black Sabbath cutting out with the purr of her engine.
"Hey, Cas.." And where the hell does he go from here? Honesty, or a passable lie? Maybe somewhere in between. "I know you think what I did for Sam was the wrong call, and.." Yeah.. okay. "..honestly, I dunno. I dunno if what I did is gonna make things better or worse in the long run. All I know is that I had to, man - I had to." There's really no more to it than that. Except maybe just, "I could really use a friend, right about now." Reckless little brother, uncle who lied to him for a year; seems he can't really go wrong seeking the advice of his Angelic best friend, right? Even if he has been out of sorts since their little reunion. Better than the alternatives at least, even if there is a year of space between them now.
Dean'd be lying if he said he didn't wonder what Cas got up to during that year. Caught himself before shooting off a prayer more than once. Maybe just to check in, maybe to brainstorm ways to save Sam. His spirit - already struggling to dry off from the shitstorm of their lives - was dampened to learn that Cas wasn't the one who saved Sam from The Cage - or tried to. Cas did try though, so maybe that's somethin'.
In the time it would take for Heaven and Hell to play out the last few bars of track seven and most of the closing number, Dean sits alone in the driver's seat, headlights lighting the way to nowhere, waiting.
Turns out to be just another mistake in a long line of dumbass mistakes, another mark on the board for his tally of bad choices. Baby purrs back to life half only half a minute before she's put to sleep again and Dean's stalking away into the bar.
"—Castiel?" Rachel's voice pulls him back before his wings denote a telltale stretch - still a reflex he must wilfully deny. "Is something wrong?"
Yes. "No, I was just.. listening."
Her eyes harden, and Castiel has been made accustomed to that look over the last mortal year as she nods. "Raphael's soldiers think blocking our channels with their rhetoric will hinder our efforts, but his numbers are not what ours are. And they can't affect our communications for much longer."
Of course. It is a tactic only effective in the short-term, for the amount of energy required to interfere would significantly drain the Angels pervading the etheric communicative transference.
She proceeds to inform him of their recent losses in battle along with how many of Raphael's soldiers were presumably wounded or killed.
Castiel dreads such knowledge perhaps most of all; knowing the extent of Angelic grace being spilled in a war that would not be waging if not for his actions, his choices alone. The only reprieve he finds from the guilt is in the belief that Raphael would have spilled more - and destroyed the Earth, as well - if Castiel and his brothers and sisters had not taken up arms against him.
He manages a tight-lipped smile, something enough to satisfy that he understands. "Have we any more news of the missing weapons?"
"Then I suggest you get back to it."
In the very least, being the Commander of garrisons affords him seniority, and with it the propensity to not have to explain himself further.
She takes her leave, and once he feels her grace reach an adequate distance in the aether, in her absence, he takes flight.
The familiar silhouette of one 1967 Chevrolet Impala is almost indistinguishable from the night sky, if not for the gleam of street-lamps off the polished metal belying an impression of the sun.
The moon is hidden tonight, as are the multitudinous stars of this galaxy - a favourite among many Angels throughout the eons. However, given the events of recent times, Castiel suspects he may be one of few Angels who prefer it over other galactic creations primarily for its housing of one particular solar system, which bears one particular planet, upon which a very special species makes its home.
Dean is gone.
The bar seems his likely destination, and if Castiel concentrates, allowing his Grace to reach out and survey the atmosphere.. yes. He can feel him near: warm and alive, though not at peace. He has never known what it is to feel Dean at peace in the mortal realm. There was a singular moment - fleeting and seeming so long ago, now - when his Grace touched Dean's soul raw and exposed; it seized his fear, incentivised Dean to feel safe, to trust in Castiel's intentions.
It was something akin to peace, perhaps relief. At the time, Castiel had thought it might be resignation to God's plan. But as he came to know Dean, he came to interpret that feeling as something intensely personal and not at all connected to The Grand Plan.
Perhaps, once Castiel completes his mission, once he stops Raphael and prevents the Apocalypse for all good, Dean will know peace. He deserves that much. He deserves much more.
The inside of the Impala is cool. Not as cold as the night air outside, but enough that Dean wouldn't be comfortable if he were to emerge from the bar this instant. Castiel places a hand on the dashboard, and while the engine remains silent, the interior comes alive in light and sound and air-ventilated warmth.
The music is not familiar, despite having listened through much of Dean's collection during his time with the Winchesters. Over the past year Castiel has not regretted safeguarding Dean's chance for peace, his life away from supernatural beings and the chaos and destruction they wrought. Although, he will admit to a certain discernible ache for their foregone time together; on the road within this now-familiar vehicle, or in whatever capacity Dean would have allowed, in any way that he might have needed Castiel's help.
The war in Heaven is not going well, despite Rachel's assurances. Without weapons at their disposal, Raphael's forces will soon diminish their own and all will suffer because of Castiel's failing. Which is precisely why he cannot fail.
Castiel always knew the chance of defeating an Archangel on his own was impossible, and therefore anything that could afford him victory in this war - to end the graceshed, to save Humanity, and the Earth, and Heaven from itself - then he must take it.
But even against all reason, all dangers considered, there are times when Castiel, too, does want for a friend.
For one friend, in particular.
..been higher than stardust
I've been seen upon the sun
I used to count in millions then
But now I only count in one
Come on, join the traveler
If you got nowhere to go
Hang your head and take my hand
It's the only road I know..
If only Castiel could pray to Dean.
..Yeah, Lonely is the word
Got to be the saddest song I ever heard..
But the want of a friend is selfish, dangerous.
Drawing Dean into the skirmish of Angels would further remove him from any chance at peace. And that, Castiel decides, is not worth the win. Even if Dean wants to help, he cannot allow it. He must keep Dean safe, and far away from the destructive reach of Heaven's current state.
..Yeah, Lonely is the name
Maybe life's a losing game.