Author: Das Mervin (with significant contributions from Mrs. Hyde)
Betas: Mrs. Hyde and gehayi
Rating: PG-13 to mild R for thematic elements and harsh language.
Word Count: 5,430
Warnings: Could easily be interpreted as Dean/Castiel; major spoilers for season seven of “Supernatural” up to and including the finale
Summary: Dean and Cas are stuck in Purgatory with nowhere to run from each other. So now there’s finally time to talk. Done for an SPN S7 finale comment meme.
Original Prompt: “I JUST WANT A LONG, ANGSTY CONVERSATION OKAY. Between Dean and Cas, seen from Dean's perspective, where he's torn between his sense of betrayal and the loyalty Cas has shown him. JUST PLEASE, CAN THEY TALK AND SHED MANLY TEARS AND THEN KISS.” princess_aleera, here.
Author’s Note: Well, I tried as hard as I could—but Dean just would not kiss him. Dammit. I tried everything, I swear. But he wouldn’t do it. So we compromised. I do warn, I am so, so out of my depth with this one. I guess that’s why I couldn’t make them kiss. I don’t normally ship Dean and Cas this way—I ship Dean/Human!Cas, but not angel!Cas. Not only that, but this is Crackstiel, who I have never written…gah. Anyway—I hope it’s enjoyable, and princess_aleera, I apologize again—he Just. Wouldn’t. Kiss him.
Disclaimer: I do not own “Supernatural”. It is the property of CW and Kripke Enterprises. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is being made from this work.
There was a time where Dean would’ve been ashamed of himself for even considering the idea that Cas had ditched him when he’d first woken up in the choking darkness of Purgatory. The idea that Cas, the guy who’d died twice for him, been to Hell and back for him, Fell from Heaven for him, all those things for him, would just ditch his ass in the Hundred Acre Wood from Hell would’ve appalled him.
Yeah, that time was long gone. So part of him had feebly insisted that he should’ve felt ashamed that he had considered it—no, not “considered”, he’d been convinced that that stupid, broken bastard had just up and run with his tail between his legs—but that part was easy to ignore. Because Cas was stupid, and he was broken, and he was a bastard.
He’d figured it was the end of the line—all he had on him was his gun and his machete, and what good would those things really do against and the things surrounding him here? They weren’t real, tangible monsters with weak spots that he knew—they were souls, and Dean knew from experience that you could hack and slash at a soul, but you couldn’t kill it. You’d only bruise it and wound it, and even then it sometimes wouldn’t stick. Not to mention that these things were twisted enough as it was—what the hell else could he possibly do to them?
But no. Cas hadn’t ditched him. He’d just been using him for bait. So, still a stupid, broken bastard. Just not a coward. Dean wasn’t sure which was better.
The things in the woods had circled him for a moment before they’d rushed him—Dean’d whirled around and only been aware of teeth. The rest of it…it was like his mind couldn’t wrap itself around it. A monster in its true form, or maybe something he’d never even seen before, locked tight inside Purgatory ‘cause it didn’t belong on earth. But then the world had gone dark and he’d briefly freaked out because what the hell had just landed on his head—then that searing, sizzling noise and the inhuman screaming and wailing, and the familiar sensation of suddenly being yanked from where he was and just being…moved, was the only way he’d ever been able to describe it, traveling by Angel Airlines with Cas.
But they’d landed with a crash, all of the air going out of Dean because Cas had landed right on top of him. Swearing, he’d fought his way out of Cas’s coat, shoving the damn deadweight off of him. Cas had gone with a grunt, landing on the ground next to him, and Dean had finally gotten that stupid overcoat off of his head.
“What the hell, Cas?” he’d growled.
“If they were focused on you, I was guaranteed to get in the first shot—better chance of us escaping the pack alive,” Cas replied simply, as though it were obvious.
“Goddammit, you used me as bait!” Dean hissed furiously. “Again!”
“Well, it worked—both times—”
“Yeah, for you!”
“Dean, please don’t yell.”
“Oh, fuck that—I am so not in the mood for your ‘bless the beasts and the children’ crap right now, because we are in fucking Purgatory—”
“Yes, Dean, and the monsters in Purgatory can hear you if you yell.”
So fine, he’d shut up, but he’d been far from mollified. Cas had fidgeted for a moment before getting to his feet and asking Dean for a knife so he could at least protect them from some of the lesser beasts with a few blood sigils. Dean had handed it over wordlessly, and then watched as he’d just slashed his own arm, daubing strange letters and shapes on the tree trunks of the dense thicket where they were hiding, muttering Enochian over the blood-soaked bark and making the unfamiliar patterns flash briefly with his words. Always willing to bleed for the Winchesters.
Dean didn’t want to think about that.
So that left them here—surrounded by whatever spellwork Cas had done, deep in a forest that wasn’t exactly a forest, with pretty much nothing. And Dean was not ashamed to admit that he was pretty damn freaked out—he had hardly any weapons, no idea if he could even combat the enemies out there, no food, no water, no nothing except an angel. Well, half an angel might be more appropriate, given that he was a few bricks shy of a load these days. As he was already trying to prove.
“Is this anything like camping?”
Dean closed his eyes, rubbing his temple.
Cas kept rambling quietly. “Because I’ve never been camping. Obviously. And my vessel hasn’t, either. You think he would have—he enjoyed running through the woods, going on nature hikes…”
“It’s not like camping,” Dean interrupted him flatly. “And even if it was, I wouldn’t give a shit. Cas, let’s talk about some stuff we need to talk about—like how the fuck are we going to get out of here?”
Cas stared at the ground. “Well…we can’t,” he replied.
“Why not?” Dean demanded. “You charged Hell’s gates. You did it twice, and one of those times was on the most secured place in the whole damn building. Can’t you wing us out of here?”
“Hell and Heaven were made for traffic in and out. But this is Purgatory, Dean. It’s a prison—an oubliette. It has no door, and you can only make one if you’re on the outside—and even then, it won’t stay open. Perfect design, really, to keep the things here inside of it. Unless someone irresponsible finds a key—”
“What if Sam made a door?” Dean cut him off—there was not any time for his bullshit right now. “Sam’s still in the real world, right? And we know how to open the door—what if he finds a way?”
“Purgatory is vast, Dean—I understand you not noticing,” Cas answered patiently. “There are a lot of trees—you really can’t see very far. And none of them are fruit-bearing trees—which is a shame—”
“So Purgatory is big,” Dean ground out. “And?”
Cas blinked at him. “And…even if Sam did open a door, who is to say we would be able to find it? It could be right here next to us, or it could open up all the way at opposite edge of Purgatory. Well, ‘edge’ doesn’t describe it well…it’s not a very linear place. But I can’t explain it to you. You’re designed to think in three dimensions, not five.”
Dean just stared at him for a moment, and then, slowly, said, “So…you’re telling me that we’ve got pretty much no chance of getting out of here.”
Cas glanced up at the black, starless sky, obviously going over every single thing they just talked about, and then nodded once. “Yes, I believe so, that is what I told you. We have pretty much no chance of getting out of here.”
“Fuck,” Dean muttered, squeezing his eyes shut, his hands curling into fists as he slumped down against a nearby tree, the ground hard under his ass. Cas just sat still across from him, cross-legged.
Cas was silent for a moment. But it wasn’t long before he started right back up again. “I really don’t know how long we are going to last down here. You need food and water, for one thing—I’m not sure if that exists down here. I’ll gladly go look if you want me to—though later. Are you hungry now? But I suppose I might be able to do something with that—I can’t cure hunger pains, but I can keep you from starving or dying of thirst. That’s sickness I can heal. If I can heal. I haven’t tried it on people since I woke up. I did heal a deer I found on the highway a few days ago. It had been hit by a car and left to die. But I laid a hand on it and it got up and walked away, so I can heal deer, at least—”
“What the hell happened to you?” Dean raised his head again, staring almost incredulously at him. “Seriously—what the hell happened to you, Cas?”
“I don’t understand.”
“What happened to your head?” Dean growled. “You don’t see that you talk crazy twenty-four-seven? What the hell happened when—what did whatever you sucked out of Sam do to you?”
Dean ground his teeth together when Cas looked off, his gaze going empty like it always did whenever any of them asked things like that. “I told Sam already,” he replied, evasive.
“But you didn’t tell me,” Dean said. “So explain it to me now.”
Cas was still looking off, but he licked his lips and answered. “I saw an echo first—saw Sam’s visions and hallucinations of Lucifer, which were interesting. But then I took on the scars and the pain, and after it was all over, I just managed to see things differently.” He cocked his head at Dean, a small smile quirking his lips. “Clearer. Like how I told you before—I was stationed here, and watched evolution? I didn’t understand a bit of it at first, but I do—”
Cas furrowed his brow at Dean, who just glared stonily back. “I’m tired of your ‘I’m just so fucking Zen’ crap. You aren’t Zen and I know it. You know how I know? Because I’ve met someone who is Zen and understands the universe, and when we started talking about sensitive or personal things, he didn’t immediately start talkin’ about cat dicks and bees.” Dean shifted, huffing irritably. “It’s called changing the subject. You’re avoiding things. Come on, Cas—you’re practically a Stepford wife at this point. Whatever’s going on up there has not made you Zen—you just don’t wanna talk about it, so you always change the subject and run off and play fucking games any time we ask you to step up and help us.” Cas was cringing in on himself again, but Dean didn’t much care. “Well, you stepped up—now would you just fucking tell me what happened to you?! You’re not Zen, you’re not okay, you’re fucking crazy, is what you are!”
“I am not crazy, I’m just—” But even Cas didn’t seem able to come up with a word for it, as he just stared at his hands clasped in his lap. “It’s not of import. I don’t need—”
“Cas, just—just fucking tell me what’s going on. After Sam told me what insanity was bouncing around in his skull, we actually found a way to deal with it, so would you just—”
Dean froze, his mouth still open mid-rant. Then he snapped it shut, his eyes narrowing. “Excuse me?”
“It’s—it’s you,” Cas repeated, refusing to look at Dean.
There was silence for a few moments. When it became clear that Cas wasn’t going to break it, Dean leaned forward a little. “What do you mean, it’s me? Are you sayin’ it’s somehow my fault or—”
“No, I’m not,” Cas said, looking uncomfortable and unhappy and not meeting Dean’s eyes. “I mean it’s—this sickness…I don’t understand it. But it seems to manifest through…emotional scars, guilt, fears…something like that. For a time, I saw Lucifer, and I could handle that. But then it…” He swallowed. “It became you. And that is when I…couldn’t. So I escaped it. Went to sleep—comatose, they called it. I can’t really sleep—I’m an angel—but I suppose I managed a reasonable facsimile. But then I woke up—you woke me up. The real you, not the…one standing beside you.”
Dean couldn’t help it—he glanced to his right, despite knowing he wouldn’t see a damn thing.
“You’re to your left,” Cas clarified mildly.
Dean did not look to the left this time. Instead he focused on trying to wrap his brain around this new bombshell—a new bombshell that he so did not need because goddammit, he was being fucking blitzkrieged at this point. “So…let me get this straight,” Dean began. “Sam saw a hallucination of the Devil, and you see…a hallucination of me.”
Dean rubbed his hand over his face. “Okay—you know that I’m the real one, right? That—” He waved a vague hand to his left. “—is not real. You do know that?”
“Of course I do,” Cas replied. “Not that the distinction matters. You both tend to say the same things.”
“You better have a decent explanation for that.”
“You both say the truth. That it’s my fault—all of it.” The blank look cleared, leaving nothing but the upturned, sorrowful blue eyes. “Sam’s sickness. Bobby’s death. The Leviathans, the slaughter of Heaven—anything evil in the world right now is because of me. And I know it. You both just remind me regularly of it. And I can’t get away from it.” The look began to clear again. “But I can ignore it. I can think about other things. If I avoid it long enough, he leaves, and there is nothing but silence and serenity. It’s much better.”
Dean nodded slowly, his jaw clenched. “I see. So you’re—” He ran a hand over his face. “So even after—after you finally just…even after you snap out of it and help us, after you try to do what’s right, you’re still—you’re still running. You’re still hiding. It’s better not to hurt and feel guilty over all the shit you did, so you’re just not gonna. Is that how you think it works, Cas?”
Dean could see him going blank again, and already it was making him want to get up and punch him—probably the only thing stopping him at this point was the knowledge that it wouldn’t do a bit of good. “Dean,” he said, “I…can’t. I’m an angel—I wasn’t meant for this. I can’t…handle that emotional weight. It—it hurts me. And every time I…feel it, every time I care, he shows up—”
“So you just wrap yourself up in flowers and butterflies and pretend that nothing’s wrong and that you’ve just reached the point where you understand the universe. Is that it?” Dean demanded.
Cas wasn’t looking at him again; he was just staring hard at the ground. “Dean, I…I helped you. I did as you asked. I thought—I thought I could do good again. I helped you kill the Leviathan, and—” He raised his eyes. “And look what happened. We’re here—you’re here, and I don’t know if I can protect you. When I do care, all I end up doing is hurting and destroying the things I care about. As I told you.”
“So you just give up and won’t care, just stay at home and do nothing, just ‘cause you’re scared you’ll screw up again? Fuck that shit, Cas,” Dean snarled.
Cas waved a hand at their inhospitable surroundings. “Empirical evidence supports my statement, Dean—”
“I think we did kill Dick, Cas! And that was what we set out to do! You—” Dean took a deep breath, struggling to keep his voice down. “Cas, you don’t just…run and hide when you fuck something up. You goddamn try to fix it. Did Sam just run away and refuse to help when he popped Satan’s box and let him out? Did I try to hide in a hole when I found out I broke the first seal and started everything myself? Hell, you winged jackasses wouldn’t even let me try—so what makes you think I’m gonna let you?” he growled.
Cas turned away, looking off to the side. Dean huffed, fuming at the deadened grass beside him and wrapping his arms around himself, drawing his jacket closed.
This was just great. He was stuck in friggin’ Purgatory, probably forever, with an angel who apparently literally saw double every time Dean yelled at him. God knew what…fake-him was sayin’ to Cas. And he obviously had trouble tuning it out. Well, if Sam could figure out a way to do it, Cas very well could find a way to ignore the voice in his ear, too, ‘specially since the real deal was right in front of him. If Dean found out he was listening to the fake one more closely than the real one, he’d—well, he didn’t know. He’d do something.
It was cold here—but not the usual kind of cold. He’d experienced otherworldly colds, of course—Hell wasn’t all heat, after all. But this was different from anything he’d ever felt. It didn’t make him shiver, it was just…cold. “Remote” might be the word Sam would use. Like the whole place was giving him the cold shoulder, wanted to make it more than clear that he didn’t belong here, and that he’d better leave or wind up eaten or some shit. He vaguely wondered if Cas was feeling the same thing—then figured no, probably not. He wasn’t human and probably fit in better with the locals. Well, it didn’t matter who fit in here better—they would not be staying. Screw what Cas said—Dean was getting out of here alive, and if Cas wanted to come with him, that was fine, too. He’d just…better help find a way, was all. None of this fake pacifism or “I give up” attitude. Dean would not have it. Especially when he—when he knew that the real Cas, the one he knew, was still there, just buried under two tons of insanity. It would just…take some effort to get him back out, was all. He’d get him out, and they’d get out of here and back to Sam. That was how it worked. Because he was not about to apply for Purgatory citizenship just because Debbie Downer declared they couldn’t get out. He was not abandoning his brother. No way in hell. And no way in fucking Purgatory, either.
“Are you thirsty?”
Dean jolted a little out of his thoughts, glancing back up at Cas. “Well, I could use a drink, but not of water.” He scratched at his calf. “Is there even water here?”
“Yes. It’s dirty, but I can fix that.”
“I thought you said you didn’t even know if there was any here.”
“There is. I…have a better feel for the area around us now. There’s water nearby. Do you want some?” Cas replied.
“No. I just want to think.”
“There isn’t much to consider about our situation, Dean.”
“Like hell there isn’t,” Dean grunted. “You wanna do something for me? Why don’t you help me figure out a way to get out of here?”
“Because there isn’t a way, Dean.”
“Goddammit, Cas!” Dean barked. “There is a way out of anything!”
“Please don’t shout, Dean.”
“I—” He shut his mouth, squeezing his eyes shut and counting to ten. When he opened them again, he fixed Cas with the fiercest glare he could muster. “Cas, we are going to get out of here. We aren’t just gonna sit here and wait to die, and we aren’t just gonna wander around and try to survive because we don’t have anything better to do. We’re gonna crack this place open and claw our way out because Sam is topside, and I am not leaving him alone to deal with whatever fallout came from us taking out Dick.”
Dean’s butt was starting to go numb, so he heaved himself to his feet so he could pace in the small clear space in the trees that Cas had found for them. “Why are you giving up again, anyway?” Dean asked after a moment. “You charged the castle with us, and it worked, now all of the sudden you’re back to la-la land pacifist?”
Cas was drawing abstract shapes in the dirt with a stick. “Because my involvement ruined everything again. I told you that. You’re down here, probably going to die because I can’t protect you from some of the things that live here, and I’ll probably die to, but I’ll continue to go through my punishment of endless resurrection, and things will be worse every time…” He pushed the stick too hard against the ground, snapping it in two. “I suppose it’s tempting fate to say so, but I can’t see how the next time I’m brought back could be any worse than this. I’ve destroyed you and Sam again.”
“Knock it off,” Dean grunted. “Especially with the talk that we’re gonna die down here. That’s bullshit. I sure as fuck am not dying down here. I don’t care if it is monster home turf—I’ve spent my life killin’ these things, and I am so not ready for them to return the favor.”
“What will we do if we do escape?” Cas asked.
Dean looked incredulously at him. “We find Sam and go from there. I mean, we don’t even know what’s happening topside right now. Don’t know if ganking Dick killed all the big-mouths or what. What’d you think we’d do?”
“I suppose I should’ve clarified—what do I do?”
Dean’s incredulity intensified. “You come with us,” he said forcefully. “Keep helping out. We need all the help we can get at this point.”
“My brothers asked me to return to Heaven,” Cas said, tapping half of his broken stick on the ground. “I don’t know why.” He looked up. “Do they really blame you for everything that happened? Because I find that ridiculous. It was on the orders of Michael himself that my garrison took part in the charge on Hell and rescue you, and he personally told us all to rescue you at any cost. If anything, they should blame him.”
Dean leaned heavily against a tree, shutting his eyes. “Do you want to go back to Heaven?” he finally asked, trying to keep the impatience out of his voice.
“No,” Cas replied immediately. “The flora and fauna in the personal heavens is pleasant, but it is only constructed, not real and alive as it is on Earth. Plus, it is intrusive of me, after all. When I want to see the flowers, I have to go to someone’s personal heaven. Granted, he doesn’t mind. He’s even spoken to me on occasion—he ever really knew what I was—”
“What happened up there, anyway?” Dean interrupted him.
Just like that, Cas became closed and fucking blank again, looking away and focusing on anything that wasn’t Dean.
Really, it didn’t surprise him. Didn’t stop him from being irritated, though. “Cas, come on,” he sighed. “Just…stop runnin’ from the uncomfortable topics. I think I got the general idea anyway, from what the other angels said, so just talk to me. How many angels are left?”
“Did you know that there are 23,457 species of butterflies in the world? Humans have only discovered about 17,500 of them, so you can see, you have a long ways to go finding them all—and new ones are already evolving.”
“Cas. I don’t fucking care about butterflies—”
“Don’t ask me about Heaven. I don’t—I can’t talk about Heaven,” Cas blurted out, staring hard at Dean’s feet as he almost seemed to curl in on himself.
“Why not?” Dean demanded. “Don’t tell me you can’t—this is a pure ‘won’t’ moment and we both know it. You’re just—Cas, it’s one thing to shove the guilt down just so you can function, but this? This is pretending it doesn’t exist!”
“No, Cas, come on, you—back there, you were you again! You helped us, you were—goddammit, you were you! And now you’re going right back to how you were?! Why?!”
“Because I failed. I failed, Dean, I—I just made it worse, and we’re down here now,” he babbled, twisting his hands in his lap. “You’ll die, and then I will die and be brought back and put on Earth again only this time you and Sam will both be dead and won’t be there to stop me from destroying everything again.”
“Goddammit, we’re not dying down here!” Dean shouted as loudly as he dared as he shoved away from the tree and advanced on Cas. “We’re not stuck here, we’re not dying down here, you didn’t fucking screw up! Jesus Christ, Cas, of all the things you could be obsessing over that you fucked up, you pick this one?!”
“Do you think there are insects here?”
The only reason Dean dropped to his knees and seized Cas by the shoulders to shake him was because, even enraged, he knew punching him would do absolutely no good. “Stop it! Would you just stop it?!” He punctuated his words with a shake every time, and Cas just limply took it, finally looking back up at him, his eyes huge and wide. “We’re in fucking Purgatory, Cas! Why are you talking about bugs?! You can’t just run off and be one with the goddamn bees this time! I need your help—I need you to be you! I—will you look at me?!” He shook him again, harder this time, because that stupid shit kept just looking over his shoulder, not focusing on him, and Dean was seriously on the verge of just breaking his hand on Cas’s jaw, because he was sick of being ignored, sick of all of this—
Cas’s eyes kept darting back and forth to his face to some point behind him, and Dean suddenly froze, his stomach dropping and his heart thudding painfully in his chest, and he let Cas go and whirled around—
Only there was nothing there.
Dean quickly jerked back around to stare at Cas, his anger boiling up again, and Cas was still on the ground, and still staring next to Dean, or behind Dean, what the fuck, what monsters was he seeing that Dean couldn’t—
And then it clicked.
That look. That same, familiar look he got right before he changed the subject back before all this happened. When Dean had yelled at him to clean up after himself, when Crowley had brought up their past to-do, when Cas adamantly insisted he didn’t want to fight—fearful, pleading, guilty…
Dean knew what Cas was seeing.
He dropped back down to his level, grabbing the lapels of his coat and shaking him again, although more gently this time. “Hey—look at me.” Cas’s eyes flicked to his face once, but then back over his shoulder. “Me. Look at me, Cas—don’t you look at him,” he said roughly. “He’s not real—you said you knew he wasn’t real, so stop looking at him.”
Dammit, Cas kept glancing over. He shook him harder. “He’s not fucking real! Stop looking at him!” Dean ordered more forcefully.
“I can’t be me,” Cas whispered. “You don’t want me. That…Dean, you’re asking for the one who…broke Sam’s mind, unleashed the Leviathans, killed my brothers, destroyed Heaven—I’m better as this. I can’t hurt you when I’m like this. When I’m just weak and pathetic and a hollow shell. Just like you said.”
“I never said that,” Dean growled. “Your own brain did. You know I never said that. I said I wanted you back and I fucking meant it. I—you were back, back when you helped me kill Dick. That was you—that was what I wanted.”
“Why? Why would you?”
Dean’s jaw flexed. “Because—” He took a shuddering breath. “Because you were Cas. You were the guy who sprung me from Hell, went up against all of Heaven, friggin’ died for us, saved the whole world with us. I never—Cas, I never wanted you to change. I told you that—I didn’t want you to change!”
His fingers flexed against Cas’s coat, everything just spilling out of him at once. “Back when you—when you remembered, and you were you again, I was mad, my brother was dyin’ ‘cause of you, but you were back—and I gave you this.” He tugged on Cas’s coat, breathing hard, and Cas’s fingers wrapped around his wrists as he stared with wide, overbright eyes up at Dean. “I kept it—the whole time, because you were my friend—goddammit, you were my friend, Cas, and I wanted you back! And just for that moment you were back, and you—you fucking fixed Sam, broke your own brain to do it, then you helped kill the Leviathans—that’s you! That’s just you, Cas! You fixed it, and even if you think you didn’t, you tried, because you—”
He wasn’t entirely sure when he’d gotten his arms right around Cas’s shoulders, yanking him forward into a crushing grip, but there it was. One of Cas’s hands was mashed between them, his fingers knotted in Dean’s shirt, the other in a fist against his back. “I just—I just want you to be you,” he ground out, aware that his voice was thick but he did his best to plow through that. “I don’t—I don’t fucking think any of whatever that other version of me you’re seeing is saying. So stop listening. That isn’t me. You know it’s not me.”
Cas was silent, and a tiny part of Dean knew how ridiculous this probably looked—for Christ’s sake, he was sitting on the ground hugging an angel in the middle of fucking Purgatory—but the rest of him didn’t give a damn. So he just went with the majority, staring hard out into the trees, blinking rapidly against the familiar sting and refusing to let that go any further than it had.
Dean finally tried to pull away, but was a little off-put when he realized Cas wasn’t letting go. Rather than try to pry him off and potentially ruin any progress he might’ve made with finally digging Cas out from under all his crazy, he just let him keep clinging. He twitched a little when Cas turned his head, resting it on Dean’s shoulder, his breath giving him goosebumps and his lips tickling Dean’s neck when he started talking.
“You kept my coat,” he muttered.
Dean snorted quietly. “Yeah.”
“Was that all you found?”
“Only thing I saw—didn’t go diving in for the rest of it, if it survived. Think the holy tax accountant look is gone for good.”
“I never thought much of the clothes my vessel wore. They don’t…mean anything to me. The vessel is what clothes me, not the fabric. But now, it…you kept it. After all I’d done.”
Dean nodded, his chin on Cas’s shoulder. “Yeah.”
“And you gave it back.”
Cas finally dropped his hands, letting Dean go, and Dean hastily pulled away, uncomfortably warm—weird, since it was so cold here. Cas picked at the ragged sleeve of his overcoat. “I…the other you—the one I see—he says you’ll never forgive me.” He looked up, blinking solemnly at Dean, but there was something like hope in his eyes. “But if that were true…you wouldn’t have kept this.”
Dean chewed on the inside of his cheek, swallowing hard and just nodding for a moment. Finally, he found his voice again. “No shit, Cas,” he said gruffly. “So just…quit paying attention to him.” He waved a vague hand to his right.
“He isn’t here anymore.”
Dean’s brow furrowed. “He’s not?”
Cas shook his head. “No. I’m sure he’ll be back later…but he’s gone now.” Cas wasn’t looking at him again, but it was different. He wasn’t just staring at the ground, but at the edge of his sleeve, where he was slowly rubbing the material between his fingers…the way Sam would rub at the scar on his hand whenever he would see Lucifer.
Dean reached up and clapped a hand on his shoulder, squeezing. “Well, just…remember what you said. If—you know, Bizarro-Me shows up, just…remember what you’re wearing.” He tugged on the lapel of Cas’s coat again before compulsively straightening the collar.
He dropped his hand after, though, heaving himself back up and ignoring the way his knees protested. “So,” he said, clearing his throat and glancing uncomfortably around, “you wanna help me try and find a way out of here?”
Cas gazed up at him for a moment, and then he too rose to his feet, tugging his coat a little more tightly around him. “I…think I can do that,” he replied hesitantly.
Dean gave Cas a half-smile.
Things might be looking up.