Dean goes to give the "apple pie" life a try, but gets a surprise visit and makes a strange discovery.
"I swear, if you even think the word 'Midol' I will end you."
Friday 14 May 2010
Dean Winchester knocked back two fingers of bourbon, wishing not for the first time that evening that he was chugging a bottle. Lisa was a health nut, though, so he figured he should just be grateful he was drinking something remotely alcoholic.
Gratitude was the last thing Dean felt right now. In fact, he could feel very little besides the same numbing disbelief that had taken over about the same time he had watched Sam throw himself into a portal to Hell.
Lisa was moving around the kitchen with the kind of nervous energy that if he hadn't known her, might have made him ask if she'd just snorted a line of coke. She kept trying to fill the awkward silence in the room with light chatter, and was opening and closing drawers with more force than necessary in her quest to find him something to eat.
Dean wasn't hungry, but when she'd asked him when he'd last eaten and he hadn't been able to remember, she'd insisted on heating up the evening's leftovers.
Across the table, Ben didn't even pretend not to stare. He watched Dean with a focused intensity that would have done any angel proud.
The kid was two years older than when Dean had seen him last, a few inches taller and broader. If he'd thought Ben resembled him back then, it was impossible not to notice it now. Despite inheriting Lisa's dark hair and eyes, there was something about the jut of Ben's chin and the way his brow wrinkled as he frowned that was disconcertingly Winchester-like.
Not for the first time did Dean wonder if Lisa had been completely honest with him about the boy's paternity.
'Knock it off,' he told himself with a mental shake. 'Even if she did lie, you can't blame her. Not like it changes anything.'
It wasn't like it made losing Sam any easier.
He tightened his grip on the tumbler and took another draught, if only to give himself something to focus on. He had been trying to avoid thinking about Sam for a day now, with little success.
'Watching your little brother dive into the deepest pit of Hell to save the world isn't exactly forgettable,' he thought dourly. And he'd seen a lot of unforgettable shit in his thirty-one years – a forty year stint of his own in Hell notwithstanding. The calm look in Sam's eyes as he consigned himself to an eternity of suffering was something that would haunt Dean for the rest of his existence.
After everything they'd been through, it was still impossible for Dean to comprehend. He and Sam had spent their entire lives hunting down the creatures that regular people only ever saw in their nightmares. He couldn't believe that that part of his life was now over.
Sure, it hadn't been the easiest or most glamorous job – the pay was shit and the health package usually boiled down to a swig of whiskey and a sterilized needle – but it was necessary. In fact, with the exception of credit-card fraud, casual con-artistry and the occasional run-in with the law, hunting was remarkably honest work.
It also brought with it the unspoken satisfaction of being able to take out the bad guy, which wasn't necessarily a given in the 'real world'.
"Saving people, hunting things," Dean had once said, and it was as accurate a description of the life as any. Even Sam, who grew up somewhat wary of the lifestyle Dean and their father thrived in, had been hard-pressed to admit he didn't enjoy the perks sometimes.
Dean had always thought there were worse ways to spend a life than on an unending road trip. Even though Sam had always griped about Dean's music being limited to the greatest hits of mullet rock and Dean had always maintained that Sam's preference for light salads over red meat was a sure sign the latter was hiding a vagina, their relationship had always been a constant.
Until one day it wasn't.
Bad dealings with some of the shadier demons traipsing across the physical plane had almost completely severed it a few times. Dean had sold his soul to protect Sam from giving into his dark side, only to have a shifty demon bitch all-but invalidate that sacrifice while he rotted in Hell.
Things would have gone a lot differently if it hadn't been for Castiel.
The rather taciturn angel – with his inability to grasp neither the concept of personal space nor pop culture references – still made Dean gravitate between laughing and pulling his hair out.
Not only had he been the first angel to appear to the Winchesters in their many years of hunting, but Cas had fought through the fires of Hell to rescue Dean and resurrect him.
Dean was still coming to terms with the repercussions.
Even a self-confessed nonbeliever like him had nearly pissed himself upon realizing that, yes, angels were real. At the time, he had covered it up by lashing out at the bastard, but the implications had kept him awake on more than one occasion. That fact wasn't helped by Cas's tendency to make cameos in his dreams when he was starved for conversation.
He wasn't the only angel with the tendency to do that, unfortunately.
Over the past two years, Dean had learned that angels tended to be bigger dicks than demons. In the first few months of their acquaintance, Dean had been sure Cas was just another winged asshole; over time, though, he'd come to respect the guy, even rely on him. Against all odds, a friendship had emerged.
Even though Cas didn't manage to help Dean stop Sam from accidentally releasing Lucifer upon the world, he had died trying. Literally. Even after being resurrected by God, Cas hadn't abandoned them. When the denizens of Heaven and Hell tried to manipulate them into playing out the Apocalypse, Cas had sided with them and their insane plan of trying to stop it.
In retrospect, not the smartest decision, but Sam and Dean had been raised to fight; damned if the end of the world was going to be something they just lay down and accepted.
So they had fought harbingers of Judgement Day, defied archangels and battled Tricksters; they had made and lost friends and family, including a brother they hadn't even known about, and forged cautious deals with demons. In the meantime, Cas – cut off from Heaven for throwing his lot in with the Winchesters – searched for God with the hope that the Creator could set right the chaos being wrought by the followers of the two archangels Lucifer and Michael.
Only to be told as events came together that God would not intervene in his children's wars.
Yeah, God was kind of a dick too.
Through all of it, Cas had stood by them, helped them and believed in them (and sometimes for them) even when his own faith was shattered.
"I gave everything for you," Cas had told him once when Dean was hovering on the brink of giving in.
The idea had stunned him more than the unholy smack-down that Cas had subjected to him to afterwards, when words failed. There was just something wrong about a creature as powerful as Cas voluntarily diving into the mess that was humanity for the sake of a man who had been one of Hell's more notorious torturers.
Dean had always wanted to ask Cas 'why', but he had figured the answer might be more than he was ready to hear. So he had just accepted it. It was easier than trying to decipher the tangle of thought and emotion that came from knowing an angel had defied Heaven for him.
Instead, he told himself that Cas had finally seen humanity as more than an abstract concept, thanks to his dealings with Sam and Dean, and decided to defend them.
On the inevitable day when Sam finally said 'yes' to the Devil and lost himself to the power of Lucifer, and the only thing Dean could still do was drive onto the field of battle to be there for his family – not just Sam, but his estranged half-brother Adam too – Cas had followed him.
Followed him and died, again, beside Dean's adopted father Bobby to buy him a few more minutes trying to reach Sam.
Dean had managed to help his brother overcome Lucifer's control, but only temporarily. He had had to watch Sam make the ultimate sacrifice, dragging the two archangels and Adam with him into the Cage.
'So much for not thinking about it,' Dean reprimanded himself, going for another sip of bourbon only to realize he had already finished the glass. He frowned down at it, as though the container had done something to personally offend him.
Even though Cas had been resurrected (whether by God or whoever was now calling the shots), Dean still had an unwavering feeling of abandonment. The feathery bastard had completely bailed on him at the one moment when it might have been nice to have a friend around. He hadn't even bothered with a goodbye.
Of course, it was to be expected – angels didn't understand grief or feelings, and so Dean shouldn't have been surprised at being ditched so that Cas could go play Clint Eastwood up in Heaven.
Still, in the past few weeks he'd started to think that Cas was finally beginning to get the whole 'humanity' thing. It was a bit of a letdown to realize he hadn't. Probably never would, now that he'd gone back 'on high'.
The microwave beeped, bringing Dean back to the present, and a few moments later, Lisa was there, putting down a plate of food. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Dean said, even though his lie was obvious. "I'm good."
Lisa offered him a sympathetic smile; she knew there was something he wasn't telling her, but she hadn't pried. Most likely she was waiting until Ben was in bed to ask him about what had happened, and it was something he wasn't looking forward to. Even though Lisa knew some of the details of his life, he wasn't sure how to share all of the particulars with her yet.
And talking about Sam being gone would just hammer home a reality Dean was still coming to terms with.
"You need salt."
"Huh?" he glanced up, the sentence a familiar one but completely out of context in his current location.
"You should put salt on that," Ben repeated quietly, offering him the salt shaker. The kid lowered his voice conspiratorially. "Mom's meatloaf's more of a tofu-loaf, if you know what I mean."
Dean forced a smile, while in the background Lisa quipped, "I heard that."
He obligingly reached for the offered condiment, even though he was pretty sure he wouldn't really be able to taste anything anyhow.
Across the street, a light flickered and went out, drawing his attention. A lifetime of hunting made you aware of even the smallest things. Being in a suburb in Indiana, he figured he would probably see a racoon or a large dog hanging by the lamppost. He nearly looked away before his brain caught up with him.
For a second, he froze, seeing a shadowy outline beneath the streetlamp that was too familiar.
"Sam," he murmured in disbelief, his eyes wide.
He dropped the salt and was on his feet in an instant, torn between hope and something else he couldn't quite put a finger on. Ben was following his gaze, but whatever Dean had seen was gone now.
Before he could give into disappointment, he felt a spike of pain.
A sudden, sharp burning pulsed through him. It radiated out from his left shoulder and surged throughout his entire body like splintering arcs of lightening.
"Dean?" Lisa asked, worried.
Dean hissed in discomfort, clutching his shoulder in a reaction of surprise. His vision swam and something unseen barrelled through him, its force knocking the breath from his lungs. He gasped for oxygen, reaching out his free hand to steady himself. Blistering heat washed over his body, like every blood vessel and bone had been torched, and he felt himself break into a sweat.
"Mom…" Ben sounded unsure, a hint of alarm in his voice; Lisa was instantly beside Dean, trying to get him to look at her. Dean jerked away from her touch, which was painfully cold for some reason.
Lisa's eyes were wide, and when she spoke it was with a forced calm. "Dean – are you alright?"
He tried to answer her, tried to pass it off as though he had just stood up too fast, except he couldn't make his mouth move. He concentrated on trying to breathe.
"Mom, is he okay?" Ben's voice was a little panicky now. "Is he, like, having a heart attack?"
As soon as the words were out, Dean tried to shake his head – he was pretty sure that wasn't what this was – but his movements were slow and sluggish. Lisa seemed to take his inability to move as some kind of sign that Ben might be right, because she started trying to loosen his clothes.
"Call 911," she told Ben in a would-be-calm voice, gently but firmly pushing Dean back into his chair.
Dean tried to protest, but he was suddenly racked with tremors from head to toe. Somewhere inside, something was coming undone, like a rope that had frayed at the edges and was now snapping apart one strand at a time.
He was aware of a flurry of movement and a strange, insistent pounding in the distance, and voices streaming in and out of his hearing.
" – Dean – !"
" – going to be okay, just don't move – "
Despite his numbness, Dean knew his body was seizing. His focus narrowed precariously, and for a moment all he was came down to one tiny pinprick of clarity –
'Cas,' he thought inexplicably, and an incredible feeling of emptiness took hold. All sensation disappeared and he imagined a thunderous rushing noise before all sound faded out.
His eyesight wavered once more and then went completely white, but he was still conscious somehow. In an agonizing instant, everything inside him came undone, the lines holding him together sliced apart; for a terrifying second, he was without control of his body, a puppet whose strings had been viciously and irreversibly severed.
And then stars exploded in his vision and the world rushed back to him, his body flooded with sensation once again.
He was being simultaneously frozen and scalded, and his stomach rebelled as the entire world spun on its axis. Feeling surged back into his body, like invisible hands grasping blindly to regain their purchase.
The pounding noise he had heard before got louder, and Lisa and Ben's voices were getting more frantic; there was an explosion of sound like wood splintering and then someone shouted, "DEAN!" in a voice that he knew and should not be hearing anymore.
'Sam,' he thought dimly, and the world sharpened.
'Take your brother outside as fast as you can and don't look back. Now, Dean, go!'
It was an ingrained reaction to danger, the thought that Sam needed him and he had to get out of whatever trouble he had fallen into. Even knowing Sam was gone, that instinct helped to centre him. He mentally grasped at that, clinging tightly to it as he felt awareness return to him.
Control came back slowly – numbness slipped from his fingers and toes, retreating backward to where it had originated. His shoulder continued to ache, although now it was more the memory of pain than a physical sensation.
Once he was completely conscious of himself again, Dean blinked up at the ceiling.
He was on the floor, his chair knocked over a few inches away. His eyes fell on Lisa, who was standing several feet from him with an expression torn between worry and fear; she had planted herself between him and Ben, who was determinedly trying to peak around her, cordless phone in hand.
Neither of them seemed overly concerned with him, though; they were both staring at something else.
Someone who was kneeling over Dean right now in a blatant disrespect to his personal space.
Out of habit, Dean wanted to think 'Cas', except he didn't feel the same charge in the air that would have accompanied the angel's presence.
Slowly turning his head, his mouth went dry at the realization of who it was.
His brother, in all of his lanky, awkward glory was looking down on him with an anxious expression, his too-long hair hanging into his face. He looked exactly as he had when he backed into the portal to Hell, his eyes all wide and earnest. He smelled of blood and dirt and Sam.
The emotions that Dean had been sitting on for the past twenty-four hours suddenly overcame him, and he grasped at the most obvious reason for the presence of his brother.
Dean had to be dead.
His stomach clenched at the realization.
"Are you kidding me?" Dean croaked, his voice trembling unforgivably. The illusion of Sam frowned at him in worried confusion. "I fight off the forces of Heaven and Hell, and a freakin' heart attack takes me down?"
"'Takes you down'?" not-possible-to-be-Sam repeated, bewildered. "Dean, what are you talking about?"
"S'the only way I'd ever see Sam again," Dean murmured to himself, trying to get up but being held in place by the gigantor's huge hands. "Someone upstairs – or, I guess here – has been screwing around." He raised his voice. "Cas!"
There was a long silence in the kitchen.
"Dean?" Lisa asked, her voice wary. She continued to keep Ben behind her, eyes flitting from Dean to Sam, which Dean thought was a little weird. It didn't exactly jive with the eternal memory loop of Heaven – he didn't have any memories of standing in this kitchen with his brother, Lisa and Ben – but maybe things had changed since the last time he'd been dead. "Who are you talking to?"
"The jerk that I'm pretty sure is responsible for me being here," Dean grunted, glaring upwards even though he wasn't exactly sure of directions in Heaven. "Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, Cas, but I know it's not real and I know it's not Sam, so can you put me back now? I'm really not down for the Matrix treatment just yet."
"What the hell is he talking about?" Lisa demanded, directing her question at the Sam-clone; her tone was laced with confusion and anger. "Who's this 'Cas' person?"
"He thinks he's dead," fake-Sam said, realization colouring his tone. "He thinks he's in Heaven – but Dean, Cas is dead. I – Lucifer demolished him, I remember –"
"Cas came back," Dean retorted firmly, finally slapping away the hands that held him and pushing up off the ground. Not-Sam inched away and Dean wobbled to his feet, using the table to steady himself. "And considering this is obviously not Hell – which I would definitely recognize – where else would it be? I wouldn't be seeing Sam if I was still alive, because he's gone and you're not him – so, s'cuse me while I rip a certain angel of the Lord a new one – CAS!"
Fake-Sam's face became strained, and Dean felt a measure of guilt at being the cause of it, but shrugged it off. He didn't particularly feel like apologizing, especially not to a Heaven simulation.
"Sam, what's going on?" Lisa asked in a loud whisper, like she was afraid Dean would hear her – another thing that didn't make sense, but Dean couldn't dwell on it. He was pacing back and forth, trying to think back to his last stint in Heaven. Maybe he could make it to the Garden – or Ash and the Roadhouse…
Why hadn't Cas showed up? Sure, he and Dean hadn't exactly parted on the best terms, but if Dean was dead and Cas had orchestrated it all to give him some crappy version of Sam to make him feel better, he would have thought the angel would at least be there to welcome him upstairs.
After Dean spoke to him about appropriate sympathy gifts, of course. 'Seriously, dude could have just dropped off a pie.'
"Dean." The Sam-clone was trying to get his attention again, but Dean ignored him; he couldn't allow himself to get used to seeing his memory's version of Sam if he was going to get Cas to pull him back to earth.
The fact that the angel wasn't answering him was worrisome, and for some reason his brain kept coming back to the phantom pain that had incapacitated him. He had a niggling suspicion it was related, but he couldn't quite make the connection...
"Dean!" the fake Sam had grabbed him by the shoulders and was shaking him lightly. "You're not dead – you're alive and standing in Lisa Braeden's kitchen rambling like some kind of crazy person. And I'm really me, I swear." Dean tried to pull away, but the other man was gripping him tightly and staring him down. "Dean, look at me."
Something in his tone made Dean at least level a defiant stare at the image of his brother.
This Sam's hazel brown eyes were as intent and focussed as Dean remembered, practically pleading with him to believe him. They were the eyes of someone who had seen and experienced more than any human should – a hunter's eyes. But where Sam's gaze had always retained some softness, some glimmer of the innocent little kid Dean had helped raise, now there was a hollowness there. It was the gaze of someone who had survived the worst kind of horror imaginable and somehow lived through it.
It was the same look Dean had seen in the mirror every morning since he crawled out of his own grave two years ago.
Realization grasped hold.
Heaven would never have – probably could never have – imitated the look of a man who had been to Hell and managed to get out. Probably because there never had been such a man, until Dean. Those controlling dicks with wings probably couldn't imitate the look of a man who had shared headspace with the Devil, either.
Which meant that those familiar, haunted eyes watching him worriedly could only belong to his brother.
"…Sammy?" he choked, the feeling in his legs threatening to give out again.
Sam gave him a strained smile. "Well, this isn't exactly the welcome I would have expected. A punch in the gut or a talkin' to – maybe some holy water in the face?"
"You're…real? Or…or am I just…and I'm not…"
"It's me, Dean."
Hunter's instinct flooded back to him, overpowering the abrupt flare of hope. Dean narrowed his eyes. "Prove it."
For a moment, possibly-Sam looked like he was at a loss, before quickly patting himself down and coming up with the silver switchblade he always carried on him. He took it out, slowly, so that Dean could watch him and have time to react if he tried anything. Rolling up his left sleeve, he flipped open the knife and drew it across his forearm with the smallest grimace of discomfort.
A thin trickle of red wound its way down to his wrist, but otherwise there was no reaction.
The flare of hope became a lot stronger, but Dean still didn't move. Sam had grabbed the abandoned salt-shaker from the table, poured himself a handful and swallowed that.
The grimace was more pronounced this time, and he murmured, "That's nasty." Rubbing the salt from his hands, he fixed Dean with an intent look and finally pulled down the collar of his shirt to show off the unblemished anti-possession tattoo. "It's me. I mean, if you've got some holy water lying around or you want to draw a banishing sigil just to be sure –"
Dean wasn't even aware of moving, his arms already encircling his brother in a tight embrace.
"You stupid son of a bitch." Sam was unnaturally tense against him, but a moment later relaxed and gripped him tightly in return. "How…?"
"I don't know," Sam murmured into his ear. "I just…am."
Dean pulled back, just staring at his brother for a time. He felt dazed by the situation, couldn't really think of what to say first, and so he focused on Sam's appearance and frowned. Little chips of wood were tangled in his hair and on his clothing. "Dude, you get in a fight with a beaver down there? You've got splinters all over you."
"Uh, yeah, I kinda…broke down the door."
"Which you're paying for, by the way," Lisa piped up, startling Dean. He had momentarily forgotten she and Ben were still there. She was still standing protectively in front of Ben, who was watching Sam and Dean in utter bemusement. Lisa, at least, seemed on her way to recovering from the shock of a giant Sasquatch barging into her house. Ben slowly put down the phone. "You couldn't just ring the doorbell like a normal person?"
"I just saw Dean collapse, I sort of panicked," Sam said, half-defensive and half-apologetic.
"Saw me collapse?" Dean had let go of his brother by now and was making a face. "When? And when did you get here – how did you get here? Last time I checked, Hell doesn't give time off for good behaviour."
A steely look flickered in Sam's eyes. "I have no idea –"
"Hold on," Lisa interjected, considering them both with wide eyes. "Hell?" She looked from one to the other, "As in, fire-and-brimstone-eternal-suffering-Hell?"
Dean and Sam exchanged glances. "…Yeah."
Lisa gaped for a full five seconds and then shook her head as though to clear it.
"You – " she pointed at Ben, "Bedtime. You –" she indicated to Dean, ignoring Ben's sudden protests, " – sit down before you fall down. And you –" she jabbed a finger at Sam, " – get the bottle of bourbon from the cupboard over the fridge." She crossed her arms, determined. "You guys have a lot of explaining to do – " Dean opened his mouth to protest and she cut him off with another gesture, " – and I don't want to hear any of that 'it's better if you didn't know' crap. That's worked for too long. Not anymore."
"…and then things kind of went dark. Next thing I know, I'm standing under a lamppost watching Dean flip out," Sam finished.
There was a long silence around the kitchen table, and Sam automatically regarded Dean. His brother was looking uncomfortable and overwhelmed. He hadn't taken his eyes off of Sam since they sat down, even when he'd volunteered his own side of their story. Sam hadn't been able to meet his gaze at certain parts, although his heart had swelled when Dean told him how God brought back Castiel, who had then saved Bobby.
Having yet another loved one die because of him would have been too much for his conscience.
'That's another conversation that's going to be heart wrenchingly-awkward –'Hi Bobby. I'm alive. Sorry I let the Devil use my body and ended up killing you. Beer?''
Lisa sat at the head of the table, her eyes bright and wide. She opened her mouth to speak, couldn't seem to come up with anything, and instead took a gulp of liquor. She'd already refilled it twice since returning from forcing Ben to go to bed (time during which Dean had drawn a hasty angel-banishing sigil on the kitchen table, just to be sure that Sam still wasn't hosting Lucifer).
Sam thought she was taking it rather well, actually.
Dean was the one to break the silence, finally focussing his full attention on Sam. "You really don't remember anything?"
The question was tentative, for Dean.
"Nothing," Sam affirmed. He shrugged. "I know time passed – I know it felt like…years. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't a picnic…" He trailed off, the void of his memories doing nothing to quell the frayed feeling somewhere deep within him. Dean nodded in understanding and continued, "but I can't remember anything since jumping into the hole. It's like there's this…wall."
"So, you've got no idea how the hell you got out."
"None. Though, when I saw you having some kind of seizure, I figured you might have done something."
Dean grimaced. "Like what?"
"I don't know – a deal, maybe."
"I told you I wouldn't."
"And I didn't believe you any more than you believed you."
"Well, I didn't do anything," Dean snapped, defensive and regretful at the same time. At Sam's raised eyebrow, he made a face. "Not yet, at least. I was going to at least try not to…Wasn't sure how long it would last. But I was going to try."
Sam instantly felt guilty, but before he could apologize, Lisa finally spoke up. "A deal? You'd sell your soul to a…a demon? Again? Didn't you learn your lesson the first time?"
She didn't look impressed.
Much as it was kind of refreshing to have someone else nag Dean, Sam decided to cut off that argument. He interjected, "It wouldn't work anyway. No demon could swing this. The only way to get out of Hell is if something stronger than a demon gets involved. And where I was…let's just say it was probably a lot harder to get to than where Dean was. So whatever put me here was – is – really powerful."
He barely repressed the shudder at the memories he didn't have but could only guess at.
"Could your friend have done it?"
"Huh?" Both Winchesters considered her.
"Cassiel? Cas?" Lisa clarified, hesitating slightly as though she couldn't believe she was actually having a discussion about angels and demons in the middle of her kitchen. "The one who pulled Dean out of…of Hell. The angel – could he have done something?"
"Castiel? Not without a lot of power backing him," Sam answered. "When he went to get Dean, he was part of a whole garrison of angels. It took them months to get to him."
"But couldn't he, like, pull some strings or something? Dean said that he was brought back different somehow. More powerful."
"Even if he did get brought back more powerful, it would have taken longer than – what did you say it's been? A day and a half?" That was directed at Dean, but when his brother didn't answer, Sam turned his attention on him. "Dean?"
Dean's eyes had suddenly widened in a look of horrified comprehension. Before Sam could ask him what was wrong, his brother had stood up and hauled off his coat. Ignoring Sam and Lisa asking him what was going on, he frantically rolled up his left sleeve.
Sam didn't immediately understand what Dean was so upset about, until he realized there was something missing.
The skin of Dean's left deltoid was completely unblemished.
Castiel's handprint was gone.
Lisa, to her credit, seemed to understand immediately. "Is that where…?"
"Son of a bitch," Sam managed weakly, exchanging a meaningful glance with Dean, whose jaw was set in a grim line. "You don't think…?"
Dean wasn't listening to him, because he was on his feet, glaring skyward again. "Cas, you have, like, ten seconds to get your all-hallowed ass down here before I introduce the shit to the fan."
"Dean!" Lisa hissed, scandalized. "You can't talk to…to an angel like that!"
"Well, I ain't in a praying mood," Dean retorted with a scowl, not taking his eyes from the ceiling.
"This is actually still pretty polite for Dean," Sam assured her, trying to keep things light despite the unease he was feeling. His brother didn't even offer him a dirty look.
When the ten seconds passed without the appearance of Castiel, Dean dug out his phone and started to call him.
"Angels have phones now?" Lisa wanted to know.
"This one does," Sam answered.
Lisa poured herself another finger of bourbon. Sam was impressed; most women her size would probably be on the floor by now. Maybe all that yoga helped her burn it off faster.
Dean snarled and tossed his phone onto the table with such force that Sam was surprised it didn't shatter. "Straight to voicemail. Goddamnit, Cas!"
"Maybe he forgot to charge it again?" Sam supplied hopefully.
"Or he did something stupid," Dean groused. He blinked, and sent Sam an apologetic look. "You know what I mean. I want you safe, Sam, but I never thought Cas would…I mean, how would he…?"
"I get it," Sam assured him. "Besides, maybe that –" He pointed at Dean's bare arm, "– has nothing to do with all this. Coincidence."
They were silent a moment. Both of them knew that there was no such thing as coincidence. In fact, not only was Sam pretty sure that Castiel's lack of answer meant he was involved in Sam's return, but that the angel had done something a lot worse than selling his soul to do it.
'And I'm also pretty sure that he didn't do it for me,' Sam added to himself, taking in the tense way Dean held himself. He always looked like that when he was worried about something, poker face or not.
Dean scrubbed a hand over his face and exhaled wearily. "We should find out what went down. Except…"
He was watching Sam now, doubtful; Sam read the torn expression for what it was and mentally finished the sentence. 'Except you don't want to do anything that might mean I go back to Hell.'
Sam remembered that same look from the year after Dean sold his soul, and how he had resisted Sam's help at every turn out of fear that trying to break his deal would cause Sam to die. So even though it was clear that Dean wanted to find Castiel, or at least figure out what he had done, he wouldn't. Even though Castiel was the closest Dean had to an actual friend, he wasn't going to do anything that might harm Sam.
'Which is a nice sentiment, but you'd think after dying to save the world, Dean'd stop treating me like I'm four,' Sam thought, not for the first time. There were occasions Dean needed to be saved from his own martyr-complex. Besides, while he might not have as strong a bond as his brother and Castiel had, Sam still considered the angel a friend.
So, in a firm voice, he declared, "It's Cas. Half of what we've managed to survive wouldn't be possible without him. We'll figure this out."
Dean's face remained impassive, but Sam didn't miss the appreciative glint in his eyes.
Lisa was looking from one to the other, and finally shook her head. "As dramatic as all this is, you both look like you're about to pass out. You need to get some rest before you do anything else."
"If Cas is in trouble, every minute could count," Dean deflects.
"Is there anything you can actually do about that right this second? Or tonight?"
"No, but –"
"Then take a few hours to sleep before you get ready to ride off into the sunset again," Lisa said simply. "You'll be able to function better that way. There're couches in the living room. You're both welcome here for as long as you need." She frowned at Sam. "Or at least as long as it takes you to either pay for or fix my door."
Sam snorted. "You are taking this way too calmly."
"Two years ago I thought I watched my son spontaneously combust and last week my neighbour's cat gave birth to a litter of snakes," Lisa remarked. "I'm still iffy on the whole angels and demons front, but I've accepted the fact that the world isn't what I thought it was. I just happen to be really good at ignoring it, I guess." She finished her drink, considered pouring herself another, and then shook her head and began to clear the table. "You two, though, still have a job to do. And considering how important it is, I want you to be in good enough shape to do it." She replaced the significantly emptied bottle of bourbon in the cupboard. "I'll be right back, I need to make sure Ben hasn't snuck out of bed. Then I'll find you some blankets."
She disappeared from the kitchen, leaving the brothers alone. Without the excuse of a test to bridge the uncomfortable silence, they simply stared at each other, neither really knowing what to say.
Sam decided to try the usual method of diffusing a tense situation. He forced a grin. "Dude, marry that girl."
To his credit, that got the barest hint of a smile from Dean, but it was without any real humour. His brother continued to exude an air of distraction.
Sam furrowed his brow. "Dean, you okay?"
"If someone asks me that one more time tonight, I'm gonna start throwing punches," Dean told him seriously. "What about you? You're the one who just cashed in your Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free-Card. You're the one I'm worried about."
"And the missing angel," Sam pointed out. "But yeah. I'm fine. Better than fine, I think. It's almost like…back in Ilchester. I'm not even craving, uh… Ovaltine…anymore."
Dean snorted. "Think it was God again?"
"If it was God, why didn't he bring me back with Cas at the graveyard?" Sam asked.
"What about Death? He'd probably be powerful enough. And he seemed to like you. Sort of."
"Doubt it. The guy was pretty firm on the whole me-leaving-you-to-rot front," Dean shook his head. "Also, I get the feeling if he comes for you personally, that's it."
"You sure you don't remember? Anything?"
"Nothing," Sam replied. "I'd say 'I wish I could', but I really don't."
"Well, that's something at least," Dean said, sounding partially relieved and partially frustrated. He went quiet again for a long moment, and then added quietly, "So, you've got no idea if…if Adam…?"
The question trailed off and Sam winced. He hadn't even thought about Adam, not really. Even when they had told Lisa about him, it had been in the detached, afterthought-like way that seemed to characterize the entire relationship.
Sam had never really forgiven their father for not telling them about Adam. No matter how pissed off he had been about Sam leaving for college or how much he believed keeping Adam and his mother out of their lives was supposed to protect them, there was no excuse for not coming clean about the fact he'd had another son.
"No…the last I saw him was when Michael tried to keep me from jumping into the Pit," Sam said softly.
They didn't say anything for another beat.
"That's Winchester luck for you, I guess. Even if you beat the Devil, you're still screwed over in some way," Dean finally managed.
"Are we really surprised by that anymore?" Sam asked lightly.
Dean allowed himself a light chuckle, before clapping Sam on the shoulder. He squeezed, a little too tightly, but then didn't let go. It was the closest to a declaration of 'I love you and I'm glad you're not in Hell anymore' that Sam was going to get.
"We'll figure this one out," Sam assured him. "We'll find out what's up with Cas. And if we can help him – and Adam, too – we'll do it. It's like you said. Winchester luck."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Jury's still out on whether it's good or bad, Sammy."