The first thing blaring in Dean’s mind when he woke up was the crushing silence left behind by his angel. The weight of what had happened began to sink in, and as hard as he tried to kick to the surface, Dean was sinking with it. The acceptance in Castiel’s eyes had been impossible to ignore. He looked at peace, he had looked happy. Dean’s alarm shook him from this train of thought. Cas died for him. The least he could do was live for Cas.
Things were different now, they no longer had to fear God’s wrath, for the first time in their lives, the powers that be were a friend of the Winchester’s. They no longer had to fight against fate. Chuck be damned, they did it. Dean sighed as he sat up in bed, Miracle lapping at his hand. The dog jumped up into his bed, and he accepted it’s love with open arms. As far as Dean was concerned, Miracle was the first sign that things just might be okay. He clamoured out of bed, throwing the sheets on haphazardly, there are more important things on the agenda today than making his bed. He stretched as his feet hit the floor, an ache settled in his bones that he couldn’t quite describe. His mind lingered on the last moments before the empty came.
He wanted to be mad at Cas, he wanted to be able to feel the rage and frustration rolling to a boil just under the surface. There had been so many missed chances to make his feelings known, and he hadn’t taken them. He hadn’t known they would mean so much looking back. As deeply as he wanted to feel the anger, to feel anything , he only felt empty. There had been no time. No time to wrap his arms around Castiel’s neck and no time to tell him that it took him long enough to say it, that Dean felt it too. He was there one moment, and the next he was just gone. Unceremoniously and without so much as a whisper. Dean wrung his hands at his side, steadying himself against the thrashing weight of words unsaid pounding within his mind. He took this moment to grieve, to mourn as much as he deemed fair, and as soon as he felt human again, he stepped into the kitchen.
Sam was making eggs. He was smiling at the pan, music blaring through the bunker. A victory cry hiding something deeper beneath the roar of music. They were alive, and they had each other. After all, isn’t that what it’s always been about? Their mended little family? Dean held back a sigh.
“Smells good in here.” Sam turned, startled by Dean’s sudden appearance beside him.
“Figured we deserve it, after everything. We did it.” Sam’s voice sounded happy, pleased, victorious. Dean knew better than to take it at face value.
“We did it.” Dean whispered.
They ate in an all-consuming silence.
There were no footsteps clunking through the bunker, no laughter echoing off the walls. They ate in silence and the silence became them. What was the cost of their victory? They worked so hard to protect all they’ve earned, yet there they sat, even more alone than they were fifteen years ago. Their family scattered to the wind, or in places far beyond their reach. Nothing to hold onto but memories. Jack’s room sat empty now. His belongings abandoned, none moved from the last place he had put them.
Jack’s light was surrounding them, but it was just too far away for either man to grasp. The faith Castiel had put in the young nephilim cost them so much. They pushed against his place in their family, but Cas never let up. Jack had earned his keep. Sam glanced at the carvings on their table. Raggedy, the stain pulling up along the edges where they had dug the knife in. That was all they had now, wasn’t it? This small, destructive memo that screamed: “ we were here. ” It was fitting, in a way. They had done their fair share of saving, but free will didn’t come easy. It was a bloody path that ultimately cost them everything they’d ever truly loved. Their mark on the world was torn and ragged, lined with the bodies of friends they couldn’t save. Crowley, Ellen, Ash, Jo, Kevin, Charlie, Gabriel. Cas. It was a broken, lonely road. They had each other, but was it a crime to wish they ended with more?
Sam set his fork down, hesitating before speaking in a hushed tone, almost afraid to break the screaming silence.
“Do you think… When Jack brought them back… Do you think we’ll be able to find them?” Sam stared at his plate, his eyes empty.
“We’ll try. Eileen has to be out there somewhere. I don’t know if the rules have changed with Jack running things upstairs, but you and me? We haven’t changed. We’ll get her back, or we’ll run ourselves dry trying.” Dean spoke as a wave of conviction washed over him. If he wasted his chance to move forward, he was determined to help Sam take advantage of his.
It didn’t take long for the brothers to come up with a plan. Before the dishes from breakfast were in the sink, Dean was packing a bag and tossing it into the back seat of the impala. He stood alone, in the soft brush of new daylight, hesitating at the trunk. He knew what was waiting for him inside, and if he gave in, he felt like he may crumble.
He stood at the trunk, the breeze making his skin buzz.
He stood at the trunk, hand on the handle. He stood there for a long moment, pure energy, fear, and something he couldn’t quite explain hissing through him.
Sam shut the bunker door and the moment was gone as soon as it had come. Sam stared on as Dean all but ran into the driver’s seat of the car. Sam, watching on, had alarm bells ringing in his head. He had seen this side of Dean before. He made a silent vow to keep his head alert, no matter what they find, and to keep his eyes fixed forward, in spite of anything that comes their way. Jack help him, there’s no more room in his being to harbour another loss.
There was a sort of freedom in letting go, Dean quickly realized. Working towards something with nothing to lose, it made him feel young again. Young and dangerous. He drove fast down the highway, Sam sparing him a concerned glance every time they zipped past another vehicle. The wind in his sails, the fire in his eyes, the hurt burning within him. Dean felt alive.
A flash of vague, familiar light caught Dean’s eye, and before his mind had time to process the sight, the impala was grinding to a halt, and Sam was bracing himself against the dashboard. The car swings to a stop, and before the tires stop rolling, Dean was sprinting down the road.
His feet ached as they crashed against the pavement, the midday sun burning his eyes. Sam’s calls to him grew more distant the further away he got, the pounding of his heart in his chest drowning out any outside stimuli.
“Stop, Dean, what’s going on?” Sam calls from the halfway point between Dean and the car. Dean whips around, the fire in his heart burning strong. He turns back around, breathless, only to find an empty road ahead of him.
“No, wait, he was right here!” Dean yells, Sam finally catching up to his brother.
“Who was? Man, you’re freaking me out, who did you see?”
Dean leaned forward, hands on his knees, chest heaving with the force of each breath.
“Cas. Sammy, I swear.”
Dean quickly composed himself, standing tall and turning back to the car.
“I Don’t… I… We’ve gotta keep going.”