Sam carried his brother’s body outside, amazed that it was still sunny and warm. Without Dean it should be cold and raining. Unable to stand the sight of it anymore, Sam pulled the knife out of Dean’s back. Nothing happened. Dean didn’t yell, or tell him not to do that, or call him a bitch, or anything at all. Just lied there in Sam’s arms. Dead.
Inside the church Castiel dropped to his knees with the combined weight of his sadness and pain. Uriel smirked, and Cas felt the urge to flip him off, because that’s what Dean would’ve done.
“Nice to see you’ve learned your place in the world.” Uriel said, as though Cas was bowing for him.
“What do you want?” Castiel asked, not in the mood to play games.
“You should be nicer to me, I’ve come to make a trade.” Cas felt a flicker of hope.
“A trade? For what?” Uriel grinned, and Castiel’s stomach sank.
“Your little meat bag, Dean Winchester.”
“Please…” Castiel said, “Bring him back.”
“Don’t you even want to know what I want for him?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Castiel said, honestly. Uriel grinned again.
“Why don’t you guess.” So this was another game. Castiel sighed.
“You want to smite me.” Uriel made a ‘keep going’ motion by nodding his head. “You want to destroy my body and burn my soul into oblivion, so I’m in neither heaven or hell, but nonexistent.
“Not quite, but I do love to hear you say it.” Uriel said, the smugness back in his voice.
“You’re sending me to hell?” Castiel asked, confused. Angels didn’t get sent to hell. They knew too much.
“Try a little farther north.” Uriel said, holding up a small blue vial on a silver chain.
“No…” Uriel cocked an eyebrow at him.
“What was that? Did I find a price too high for even you to pay?” Castiel closed his eyes, weary. Being an angel was a horrible, emotionless experience, but he would do worse to see Dean alive and healthy again.
“I’ll do it.” He said, opening his eyes and treating Uriel to a direct stare.
“Just one more thing though.” Uriel said, a malicious glint in his eye. “If I do bring him back to life, I’ll have to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We don’t want anymore fallen angels, and all of them seem to have been with Dean Winchester at some point…”
“What are you getting at?” Castiel asked, afraid he already knew.
“After you become an angel, you can never again make contact with Dean.” The implications spun through Castiel’s mind. Never talk to Dean, or let Dean see him, or touch him in any way for the rest of his immortal life. The worst fate he could possibly imagine.
“I’ll do it.”
The doors of the church burst open, and Uriel stepped out.
“I’d walk away now, if I were you.” He said, Sam looked around behind him, until he spotted Castiel.
“Run, Sam.” Castiel said. “Go back to the car, then get very far away from here.”
“What about you?” Sam asked.
“I’ll be fine.” He looked down, “and tell Dean I’m sorry.” Sam knew immediately what he meant, and almost told him not to. Almost. He needed his big brother back.
“Cas…I-” He started.
“GO!” Castiel said, looking worriedly up at the sky. Sam didn’t need any further instructions. He picked Dean up and ran back to the car, hearing the doors of the church slam behind him. The sky, wich had been clear all day, clouded over. Fast. Sam felt like he was running in a nightmare, weighed down by his brother’s body. He reached the car and threw Dean in the back seat, climbing into the front.
The car started, and Sam risked one last glance over to the church. A stormy cloudbank hovered over the steeple. Sam was momentarily blinded by a flash of lightning. When his vision came back, the church was in flames.
Dean drew in a gasping breath.
“Sammy? Why are you driving?” Sam turned around.
“Dean! You’re okay!” Sam said, reverting to his five year old self.
“Why wouldn’t I be okay, and where’s Cas?” Dean said, wading through the confusion of being recently deceased. Sam didn’t answer the last part, but looked meaningfully at the burning church. Dean followed his gaze. “Is he still in there?” Dean tried to pull himself out of the car, but Sam grabbed him by the waist.
“Let go of me, Sam! We have to save him!” He said, struggling to get out.
“No we don’t.” Sam said. Dean stopped struggling.
“Is he…” Dean trailed off, unable to say the word.
“Yeah.” Dean fell back onto the seat of the car, speechless. Sam put the car in gear and drove away. Dean clutched at his arm, like it pained him. It took Sam a minute but he realized what Dean was doing. He was lining his hand up with the mark Cas left on him.
Dean and Sam sat in a hospital room in South Dakota. Bobby had two broken ribs, a fractured wrist and a minor concussion, but still somehow was more worried about Dean then himself.
“I’m fine,” Dean told Bobby for the fifth time in half an hour. He would’ve been almost convincing, except for the slightly emotionless tone his voice had taken on. Bobby looked at Sam, who discreetly shrugged.
“Okay, I believe you! Go get me something from the vending machine, will ya?” Dean nodded and headed out the door, leaving Sam and Bobby alone to talk about him.
“How’s he really doin’?” Bobby asked.
“Not great.” Sam replied. There wasn’t much else to be said. They both knew that when he finally broke down and cried, he’d go back to normal-ish. Until then all they could do was wait until then, and hope to be at least a little supportive when the time came.
Dean walked back down towards Bobby’s room with his vending-machine chips, going slow to give them enough time to finish their conversation. He knew the hallway was empty behind him, but he still heard that extra little footfall that wasn’t his, but wasn’t quite an echo. He could almost imagine a grumpy angel walking right behind him.
Dean stopped, and heard a soft step, that only a hunter would notice.
He might be going crazy. But he might not be.
“That you, Cas?” Dean asked the thin air. Nothing answered him, but he thought he heard a voice.