There was no improvement in Dean's condition. Castiel and Kevin had to think of a way to get Dean out of the garage and into his room. It was Kevin's idea that perhaps being surrounded by his own things, in an environment apart from the one that caused him to lose his mind, would help to get him acting like Dean again. When Cas tried to move, Dean whimpered. When he tried to lead him by the hand, he balked and growled. Then they would have to start over coaxing him closer and it would take longer each time. Right now, Dean was close to Castiel.
"What's wrong with him?" Cas asked Kevin.
The prophet looked at the former-angel and explained. "It was a case that they couldn't figure out. They just wanted to be able to communicate with the dog to try to get a lead. I… I found a spell that would mind-meld him with the dog. We all thought it would wear off. But it… it never did."
Cas looked at Dean who was still not in his right mind. "How long ago was this?"
"It's been months."
They had a small moment of silence as that truth sank in. Saying it aloud gave it more gravity: Dean has been like this for months.
Castiel ran his fingers through his friend's hair. The former-angel felt the warmth of Dean's body against him and the pressure of his friend leaning into him.
His thoughts were simple thoughts that begged for more contact. And Cas stroked down Dean's back and felt his mind bloom with contentment and satisfaction.
"I have an idea," Kevin said, interrupting Castiel's peek into Dean's psyche. Kevin left and Dean lifted his head curiously, but still didn't move. When Kevin returned, he had a piece of pie. A cheap convenience store hand-pie, but a pie nonetheless. "I have pie."
At the word pie, Dean perked up. It seemed that even when his brain was gone, he still understood his favorite words. That meant that underneath everything, he was still Dean.
He opened the box and when he did, Dean started to sniff the air. Kevin could smell mostly the cinnamon wafting from the box of cheap apple pie. The hunter started moving towards Kevin, apparently also smelling it despite being nearly twenty feet away. About five feet out, Dean stopped moving. Kevin ripped off a piece and tossed it. The hunter picked it up off of the floor and ate it. "I think this can work," the prophet said. He tore off another piece and Dean picked it up and ate it as well.
But then, Dean ran up and pushed Kevin to the ground and snatched the rest of the pie from him. "Hey!" The prophet said, splayed on the floor. He jumped to his feet and started to move in, hoping to salvage some of the pie.
However, it was already half gone. Dean glared at him and growled. Helplessly, Kevin looked to Castiel. Now, he was in the corner, eating the rest of the apple pie messily.
The former angel shrugged. "It was his pie, and he didn't want to eat it off of the floor."
"Okay, well, that was the last pie. So we can't do that again." Kevin remembered that Crowley mentioned that perhaps Dean would need training. And when thinking about dog training, he thought of a leash. "Another idea." And Kevin left again.
"It's okay Dean," Cas said, "We'll get you back to your room. Maybe it will get you better." Dean went to the box and had it in his hand, but tearing it to pieces. He snuffled the cardboard pieces and licked any last trace of the pie from it.
Kevin returned a short time later, this time with a length of rope. "A leash."
"That's a rope," Castiel said. "Are you suggesting we tie him up?"
"No!" Kevin said. And then, considerably, "Okay, yes. But we aren't tying him up. We're just going to get the rope around him and then walk him out." He tied the rope into a makeshift noose.
"Why would that work?"
"Because he's acting like a dog! You walk dogs on leashes."
"I see," Castiel said in a way that made Kevin wonder if he really understood the plan.
Kevin started to walk towards Dean, who dodged and darted from him with a silly grin on his face. There was a brief game of chase until Kevin gave up. "Well, at least he's not scared of me anymore." He handed Castiel the rope. "You try getting it on him. I think dog-him likes you better."
The former-angel had the rope in his hands. He started approaching Dean, but paused. He could read his friend's intentions, even without reading his mind. Dean was only holding still in the suspense of Cas's approach. Another step and he'd dart away again.
"What's wrong?" Kevin asked.
"He wants to play. If I come any closer, he will run again."
"Okay, now what?"
"Perhaps if we wait, he'll make the first move."
Sure enough, Dean took a few tentative steps forward. He took a few quick steps away and gave an inquisitive grunt when Cas didn't give chase. He tried it one more time before snorting.
"Hruh!" Dean said. An animal like grunt. Just a noise coming out.
"I wish I had my watch," Kevin said. "Then I can know how long he's been like this."
"So we've been trying to get Dean into his room for thirty-seven minutes?"
"Thirty-eight," Castiel corrected. "And ten, eleven seconds."
"Well that's wonderful."
"I fail to see how this could be considered 'wonderful.'"
Soon, Kevin had a bright idea. He pointed to a space between two vehicles. "Hey, Cas. You go over there, I'll chase him towards you, and then you can slip that rope over his head."
"Got it," Castiel replied. He moved between two vehicles, which made a sort of corridor for them to catch Dean. The former-angel was ready with the rope.
Once Cas was in place, Kevin made his move. Every time he neared Dean, he would run off with a smile on his face as fast as he could a short distance before stopping and turning to face Kevin, legs in a wide stance, body leaned forward in eager anticipation. After a bit more running around, Kevin finally managed to herd Dean between the two vehicles. Castiel tossed the loop of rope over Dean's head and it landed awkwardly over his shoulder. He had put one arm through the noose.
"You got him!" Kevin said. "Don't let go!"
But Dean kept running. He ran hard and hit the end of the rope, hard. Castiel was holding the end of the rope and did not expect Dean to be able to pull him off of his feet, but he was considerably weaker since he was an angel. He had lost a lot of weight and strength. Dean stumbled, but continued running after righting his stride. Cas let go as he brought his hands forward to break his fall. He got up onto his feet quickly, not hurt at all, but looked defeated. "I let go…"
"It's okay," Kevin said. He was in no place to say anything when he knew he had made much bigger blunders. "We just need to grab the rope again."
Dean was smiling at the other end of the garage, ready to play again, and panting happily.
Castiel watched him and could feel the sheer joy emanating from his friend. "He's enjoying this."
"I'd say he is," Kevin replied. "Well, maybe he'll get tired." He took off his sweatshirt and set it on top of one of the cars. The running around had gotten him hot.
They chased Dean a few more times around the garage, but he always found a resourceful way to dodge them. He vaulted over the hood of a car when Cas and Kevin thought they had him cornered. Another time he was cornered, he slid between Castiel's legs before hopping back up to his feet. The former angel and the prophet had reacted a little bit too slowly. "This isn't working…" Kevin said as he stopped to catch his breath. Castiel was covered in sweat and completely winded. Kevin had to admit it was strange to see him actually be tired or fatigued from exercise.
Meanwhile, Dean was in much better shape than they were and panted with a smile on his face, tongue loose in his mouth, watching for their next move. He was not going to get tired before they did, even if they were playing two-on-one.
Kevin wiped some perspiration off of his brow as he looked to Cas. "Do you have any bright ideas because I have no clue what to do."
The angel mused about how they could possibly catch the hunter. He expanded his mind, trying to see what Dean was thinking. He got a headache trying to get a read on it, but not getting anywhere because he was much too far away. Then, he came up with something.
"So, even though Dean is acting… like a dog," Castiel began. "He's definitely still Dean. He enjoyed the pie. And, believe it or not, though his mind is quite animal at this time, it's still more human than not. And he… he doesn't like to be alone."
"Wait. 'His mind is quite animal…' You're reading his mind?"
"It appears that though I have no Grace, I have retained a few of my abilities."
"Apparently, an angel without Grace is not human." Castiel had gotten that tidbit of information from his friend Lively.
"Well, put that way, it sounds kind of obvious. Like of course you wouldn't turn human." Kevin looked to Dean. "Anyways, what's he thinking right now?"
"I can't read his mind right now. I need to be in closer proximity in order to do so."
Kevin subtly took a step away from Castiel, who was too oblivious to notice. There was quite a bit that he didn't want the former-angel to be privy to. "So, you were saying that Dean doesn't like to be alone, how does this help us?"
"Sam leaving triggered this behavior. And recall that when Sam was going to the bathroom, Dean stood up. He intended to follow him."
Kevin raised an eyebrow. "But, he didn't…" But then, it dawned on Kevin where Cas was going with this. "He was in his right mind when he stopped himself. He isn't exactly stopping himself from acting on his instincts right now. So, if we leave… he should follow. Then we grab the rope."
Cas nodded. Then, he said with determination, "And I won't let go."
"Hey, don't you think it's been too quiet?" Kevin scanned the area. "Where'd Dean go?"
Then, they heard the sound of ripping fabric. The two of them found him squatted behind a car and saw Dean had taken the Kevin's sweatshirt and was tearing it into pieces. He had a wad of it in his mouth and was pulling on up on it by his teeth while bracing it under his boot for leverage. "Oh no! What are you doing!"
"It appears that Dean is destroying the sweatshirt you placed on top of the car."
"I know that, but it's my favorite sweatshirt!"
Dean bounced up onto his heels and then jumped up onto his feet in a fluid, efficient movement. Now, he had the sweatshirt in his hand and started shaking the shredded fabric around, bouncing at the sound it made flapping against itself and against his body. He snorted and grinned cheekily, happy to be the center of attention again.
"This plan of yours had better work, Cas…"
Kevin and Castiel quietly left the garage. They could still hear the fabric ripping and Kevin sighed and kept thinking to himself that he probably was destined not to have nice things. Not that the sweatshirt was particularly nice. It was just comfortable and the one he wore the most often.
Then, they heard the sound stop. That was probably the moment when Dean stopped tearing things up and realized he was alone. The room was quiet and then, there was a panicked whimpering. They heard something crashing, then a few things being knocked over as he ran around the garage alone. Then, more whimpering that grew in volume as Dean approached and the snuffling sound of him sniffing for them.
Castiel shut his eyes and leaned against the door. Though there was a door between them, Dean was now close enough to read his thoughts. They were simple, but all converged on a single idea: That they had abandoned him. He started pounding on the door, which broke Castiel's concentration. He and Kevin propped themselves against the door to try to keep Dean from breaking out. They weren't quite ready yet.
"You were reading his mind, weren't you?" Kevin asked.
"Yes…" Castiel replied stiffly. He put his hand to his head, reorienting himself. Though he still had this ability, it was a lot more limited than when he was an honest-to-goodness angel. And without his Grace, using it took a lot more out of him. It was as if his human body was simply not meant to be able to do it.
Not answering for his own condition, Castiel shared worriedly, "Dean is panicking right now."
Kevin frowned. "Dean and panic doesn't really seem like it belongs in the same sentence."
The hunter on the other side stopped pushing. Kevin and Cas glanced at each other, wondering where he went before they felt Dean slam against the door.
"The rope coming off of Dean is approximately two meters," Cas said.
Kevin did some quick math in his head. "So we have about six and a half feet of rope to work with, got it." He looked down the hallway and imagined Dean wreaking havoc in the Bunker. "We can't mess it up this time."
The former-angel stared straight ahead. He couldn't afford to fail this time. When he was ready, he looked to Kevin. Blue eyes full of purpose.
"Okay. On three," the prophet said.
"One." Kevin's voice kept Cas's head in the game while he fought to keep the door shut. He could feel Dean giving a good shove to the door and grabbing at the doorknob clumsily, desperate to come out. The former-angel heard the hunter's frustrated noises.
"Two." Kevin glanced at Castiel. Like him, he was preparing for the next moment.
"Three!" And they jumped back. The door burst open and Castiel grabbed for the rope as Dean rushed out. Kevin got his hand on the rope as well. They braced themselves for the impact. Instead of pulling Cas down like he did last time, Dean hit the end of the rope hard with a yelp. After he got up, he attempted to run off again, but, this time, Castiel and Kevin kept their grips firm as Dean raced around, tethered.
After a few more minutes of hitting the end of the leash in every direction, Dean finally seemed like he was getting calmer. He blinked his eyes and looked around. Once again, Kevin was hopeful that he was coming back. But Dean whined and pawed at the noose that drew tighter and tighter so that it was under his left armpit and over his right shoulder in a diagonal. He gave a pained noise. And then, Dean slumped, depressed that he was trapped.
"Dean?" Kevin called. And the hunter lifted his head, eyes still void of humanity.
Castiel started to walk forward, but Dean balked. The former-angel stopped. "Dean, we're heading to your room." He attempted to move again, but his friend had put on the brakes and sat stubbornly, becoming an immoveable object. Cas looked to Kevin. "I thought you said dogs walk on leashes."
"Well, he's tethered now, so shouldn't be able to get away from us. We can try some more food," Kevin replied before leaving again.
Castiel walked up to Dean, shortening the rope by moving up it hand over hand so that he could stand closer to where his friend was sitting. He could read his mind. Interwoven with the chaos, were thoughts that truly belonged to the hunter. If Cas could describe it, it was as if this condition exaggerated them and made them more intense. Dean didn't like being alone and was co-dependent on the brother he raised. Now he had separation anxiety.
"Dean," Castiel said, reaching forward and letting Dean come up and close the distance between them. And Cas probed his mind. Despite not being in his right mind, Dean knew that how he was behaving was wrong and was afraid that this was going to be how he was for a long time. He just couldn't get his body to work in the way he wanted it to, but he was listening to Cas's gruff voice. "I was alone, too," the former-angel said. He sat down so that he and the hunter were both on the floor. And he talked about Rexford.
His gaze drifted, as it tended to whenever he spoke for any length of time. He felt Dean finally yield to the pressure on the rope and then, he could feel his lips brushing against his cheek. Castiel turned his head to look at Dean, surprised. He heard a clear intention ring in Dean's head. Not words, but ideas. Colorful and bright. Stay here with us and you don't have to be alone. He perked up as he sensed Kevin returning.
Kevin had came back with a bottle of beer. "He looked thirsty." As Kevin gestured with the beer in his hand, Dean's eyes were tracking the brown bottle. "You want some beer?" At the word beer, Dean lunged for it, but Castiel somehow managed to stay on his feet, though was dragged along. Kevin backed up, but was not prepared and Dean popped the bottle out of his hand and it rolled on the floor. Thankfully, it didn't shatter. That would have been a mess.
"Shit," Kevin said. He was tired of this. He just wanted his friend back. "We have to fix this as soon as possible."
"Dean," Cas said in his gruff voice. Dean immediately looked up from the bottle which he had picked up. "I can open it if you give it to me." A few moments passed where he'd offer the bottle and then snatch it away from Castiel.
"I don't think he knows English, Cas," Kevin said. But Dean seemed just as frustrated as the former-angel about what he was doing. Finally, he dropped it and stepped away. Castiel understood that he couldn't give it to him. That it had a lot to do with instincts and he managed to cooperate within his current nature. "Wait, so he does understand what we're saying?"
Castiel picked up the bottle and opened it. He handed it to Dean, who guzzled it quickly. "He does. He's still Dean. It's just…" Castiel was trying to piece together an explanation that made sense. "His brain is working differently and he doesn't know how to make his brain work for him sometimes."
Kevin realized that Castiel had been pretty much the only person who understood what Dean was going through. Though, it was because he could read his mind. "No wonder he likes you the best," Kevin said. And Castiel smiled at that. In Caribou, Dean had told Cas that Sam didn't 'get it.' He said he needed him. He felt the glow of pride in him because he was useful again. Dean finished the beer bottle and after playing with it in his mouth, he dropped it onto the floor.
"You feeling better Dean?" Kevin asked.
Dean opened his mouth, but no words came out. And it wasn't the first time the prophet saw him unable to find words. He was still too frazzled to speak. His mind still wasn't all there, but the fact that he was trying to talk was a good indicator that he was starting to wind down and become Dean Winchester again and stop being Fido.
However, when Castiel started walking down the hall towards his room, Dean put the brakes on again, but instead of trying to drag him towards his bedroom, Cas waited. As soon as his friend took an uncertain step forward and lined up with Castiel again, the former-angel smiled. "I knew you could figure it out." And then, just like that, Dean could walk while tethered, though he still pulled ahead and dragged Castiel on the makeshift leash.
Kevin followed them into Dean's room. It seemed like it would have made sense that coming in here would bring Dean back, but it didn't happen. "I thought he'd snap out of it," Kevin said sadly. "How are we supposed to do anything with the angels if Sam and Dean are going to be… well, you know." It was too hard to say just how bad off the brothers were right now. This was the worst night for both of them.
Castiel was exhausted after this day's events. He slumped into Dean's bed and was surprised when Dean jumped up with him and pushed his head into Cas's lap. Automatically, the former-angel started stroking his hair. "He's calming down considerably."
"I think I understand it. It's not like a light switch: On or off. It's more like a dimmer. What's the pattern on why he becomes more or less dog-like?" Kevin said.
Cas undid the rope and pulled it over Dean's head and arm and handed it to Kevin. "His behavior seems to fall within a continuum of normal and canine behavior depending on his emotional state."
"Ah, you gave me an idea to look at in my notes." He ran out of the room, shutting the door. The door opened again as the prophet poked his head in. "Cas, I'm really glad you're back." Things were starting to feel a bit more hopeful. The door shut again.
It was only a few more minutes before Dean's mind was back. And it came back slowly, gaining clarity and detail and the ability to think abstractly in the way that a Polaroid develops. Castiel could feel the thoughts gaining complexity. Contentedness and satisfaction became gratefulness when the realization that this could have been much, much worse came back. And then the ability to feel shame returned and his mind was stricken with embarrassment and guilt.
It was easier to lie like a dog in his friend's lap. To pretend he was still mentally trapped as an animal because he wanted to have that oblivious, simple happiness back, and Cas understood that desire to keep things easy. He had been there, in Rexford, pretending to be human because that meant he could pretend that he didn't make all of those mistakes as an angel. He knew that hiding from them wasn't the best course of action. Besides, he wondered just how aware Dean was throughout this whole thing.
"Do you remember what happened?"
Dean groaned, "Ugh, don't remind me."