There's light spilling from the black ooze of the Empty.
It startles Dean, makes his gaze snap back from where Billie had just been - isn't anymore because she's dead now, gone and stuck forever in the Empty.
The light's not bright, barely manages to spill out of the seems of the blackness, but it's so very much there in the ominous semidarkness of the dungeoun that it makes Dean's heart freeze all over again. For a second he hopes. For a second he wishes.
The Empty pulls the light with it, swallows every bit that tried escaping and then it's gone and Cas-
Cas drops to the ground, rag doll limbs and trench coat sprawling underneath him.
His name leaves Dean's mouth broken and without choice. He doesn't want to say it because he knows he won't get an answer. At the same time the silence is deafening and his ears are rushing like he's stuck underwater and if there has to be noise, he'd rather it be his name.
He slumps forward, feels the dirty floor bite into his palms and knees as he crawls towards Cas. His hand hovers over his shoulder - his own tingles with phantom pains of a scar long gone - and then he touches and pulls. Cas' head lolls to the side, towards Dean, and their eyes meet. Except they don't, there's no one staring back at him. Just emptiness but blue.
He reaches out with his other hand and closes Cas' eyes almost on autopilot. It's easier than having him look nowhere even if the touch makes his heart ache. There's no thought left. His fingers linger, drag over skin, and brows, fitting themselves to his cheek and jaw, like they've done so many times. His thumb brushes too close to his mouth, Dean's breath catches.
Cas is still smiling.
Even in death.
I love you.
He gasps for air and gasps and gasps. But every try gets ripped from him with another sob. His heart isn't working right, skipping too many beats and there's a prickling in his fingertips like static when he grips his shoulder harder, feels the give of muscles and skin like he's done so many times but there's no response. The only thing left is warmth, seeping out and into his ice cold hands. It fills him with a sudden desperation to absorb it all, to keep it to himself.
Because the one thing I want, it's something I know I can't have.
He drags at Cas, pulls him up and into him, cradles his body like if he just holds him close enough, he won't loose the last thing there's left of him. Cas' forehead ends up tucked against his neck, hair tickling skin and he rests there as if he's just asleep. If Dean believes it hard enough maybe it'll become true.
"You could've had it. You could've-" Dean's voice breaks and the next noise that leaves his throat is too animalistic, reminds him too much of an animal suffering before being put down. And doesn't that sound like an all to fantastic idea? But that's not-
He rocks him like a child you sooth from a nightmare, clings to him like he is the only thing that's left. Except the nightmare didn't end when the darkness disappeared. It only began and it won't ever end again.
He whines, hand not wrapped around Cas' shoulder - clutching onto him like a lifeline - moving over his arms and chest but not quite touching, not sure where to settle. But it finds it's place on his cheek again in the end. A safe space. One where he touched again and again and it is familiar, except this time Cas isn't coming back to him but leaving him and Dean breathes in, in, in. He can't focus, everything in his mind scrambling over itself, yelling at him.
Because he never knew and Cas thought he didn't-
It feels too natural to press his lips against his forehead, soft and gentle. He's never done it before and yet it feels like the most instinctive thing he's ever done. It's almost peaceful and for a moment he can pretend.
That this isn't where it ends but where it starts. That when he pulls back, Cas will stirr and blink up at him, confusion in his eyes and a questioning "Dean?" because weren't they just fighting Death. And no, no everything worked out. Billie's dead, the Empty gone and now there's only God left. And they've come so far, they'll go so much further. They can figure that one out, too. They can figure them out before or after or inbetween.
"I should've told you," Dean mumbles, presses his face into Cas' hair and lets his eyes slip closed.
He stays there, cradling him until there's no warmth left.