Actions

Work Header

i want to do with you (what spring does with cherry trees)

Chapter Text

Why did the curtains have to be yellow? 

 

Yellow is such a cheerful color, Dean thinks. It promotes happiness, if not outright inviting it in, if not a representation for it already existing. Flowers and birds are yellow, nature's way of smiling. Bananas are sweet, buses for kids a stand-out color like a beacon of innocence, and bees make sure people breathe. The sun is depicted as yellow, a bright thing, warm and alive. 

 

It's such an absurd color to wrap Cas' body in. There's no happiness to be found here. No one is smiling. This isn't sweet, or innocent, and Dean can barely manage a breath that doesn't scrape and claw its way out, poisoned from the inside from where he aches. And Cas… Cas is cold. Cas is dead. 

 

Dean doesn't want to burn him. It's—he knows that he has to. Anything would jump at the chance to commandeer an angel's body, to take control of it, especially one so associated with Sam and Dean. It would be used against them in some way, and Dean knows that. He just… Something. Dean wants something to cling to, if only it's a small bit of hope. 

 

But he doesn't get that. No, of course he doesn't, not in this life. He has to set flames to that, too. 

 

And it has to be him. Sam can't do it. Dean's not going to let Sam do it, or even help. It's good that Sam doesn't try. When he finally does come in, he's silent and standing back, out of the way, on the sidelines like this isn't his. It reminds Dean of when Sam visited Jessica's grave—how he watched from afar, how he wanted to do something, how he knew there was nothing he could do. 

 

There's a certain kind of weight to a silence that exists because words won't mean anything. It's heavy. Dean feels like he's choking on it. 

 

For a long time, he smooths out wrinkles on the curtain. He knows—he knows it's pointless because it's going to burn anyway, but he keeps doing it. Meticulous about it, obsessive with shaking hands. He'd claim reverence if not for the devastation crushing down on him at the moment. He can feel it, this heavy grief that bears down on him until buckling seems more like a relief than surrender. 

 

When Dean gathers the strength to take Cas outside, he comes to the quick conclusion that there's only one way to get him there. Blinking hard, his jaw clenched, he slides his hand underneath Cas' knees, fitting his other arm around his shoulders. He takes a deep breath, hoping he has the strength, because he feels so weak right now. Physically so, like he might crumble under any additional weight. But he has to do this. He has to.

 

There's the sound of Sam hesitantly shuffling closer, quietly murmuring, "Dean, I can—" 

 

"I've got him," Dean snaps, his words coming out harsh and cutting, steady despite how unbalanced he feels currently. 

 

Sam steps back and doesn't say anything else, and that's just as well. Dean inhales sharply, then hauls Cas up with a grunt, the strain of it making him sway for a second. He feels stiff weight against his shoulder—Cas' head resting there. Dean blinks rapidly and turns, heading outside, carrying Cas over the threshold to where he'll turn to dust. 

 

The kid is already out there, staring at the form of his mother, looking lost. Dean can't bring himself to feel pity. Or feel anything, really. 

 

Cas burns like he lived. A long, slow process right up until the last stretch, flames catching out of control where they're not supposed to spread yet, going out then sparking up again and again until there's nothing for the embers to cling to. The heat of it doesn't feel real. Dean feels cold all the way through, a cold that comes with being numb, a cold that shapes itself to his bones and won't come loose. 

 

Sam doesn't say anything when Dean turns and walks into the house. Dean waits until the door is shut behind him before he stumbles, catching himself against the wall with one hand. For a second, just one second, Dean can't do anything but breathe. And he can barely do that. 

 

He forces himself to drag his fingers against the wall and pull his hand back. He's not done. It's not done. He has to finish it. 

 

There's a ceramic jar in the pantry, one of the kinds that usually holds herbs or canned fruits. It fits in both of Dean's hands, so Cas will, too. 

 

There's not a lot of ash to gather. What remains of Cas' has already started to be swept away by the wind, traveling far and wide. Cas always did like to fly, Dean thinks. He'd like that he still gets to do it. 

 

There's still much to do, Dean is sure, because there always is. He doesn't really care. The kid and Sam are dropped off at the Bunker, and Dean doesn't get out when they do. Sam turns back, waiting, and Dean puts Baby in reverse and doesn't look back. 

 

He drives for a long time. 

 

In truth, Dean doesn't really know where he's going. He's searching, maybe. He doesn't know what he's looking for, and he's not sure why it feels like he's trying to outrun something. There's nothing to run away from. This—what happened—is not something he can escape; the worst parts of reality never are. 

 

He finds something eventually. A picturesque meadow with a windmill, flowers coming into bloom, yellows and purples and reds. Dean's driving past it, thinking about how calm he would have found it to be just a few days prior. Peaceful, even. He doesn't know if he's ever truly felt that before, outside of the small samples the world has teased him with, places like this flashing past him as he drives to the next tragedy. 

 

Cas would have loved it, Dean thinks as it fades in the rearview mirror. He would have encouraged me to stop if he thought it would bring me a moment of peace, and maybe he'd find some, too. 

 

It's that thought that has Dean slamming on the brakes and doing a u-turn, the engine growling as he heads back. There's a small section of ground that connects over the ditch, just enough to park Baby on. He leaves her there, taking Cas with him as he walks further in, the grass shifting underfoot. 

 

"You'd like it here," Dean murmurs, knowing it down somewhere deep, where he knows the warmth of Cas' grace and the shape of his hand. 

 

Dean wavers for a long moment, turning the jar over in his hands. It's all he's got now, and he doesn't even know what parts of Cas it belonged to. He swallows and opens the jar, lifting his head to look around one more time, to take it in. The field, the windmill, the serenity. Yeah, Cas would like it here. 

 

"Guess it's all about the what ifs, huh?" Dean asks, tipping the jar and spreading Cas' ashes like he's consecrating the ground. He sniffs hard, tipping his head back and looking up at the sky until his eyes stop burning. "We weren't even… We never… I don't know, Cas, it just seemed like we could have been. It seemed like we almost were. Guess I'll never know." 

 

Some of Cas drifts away. Some dusts the blades of grass. Some stays in a thin film on the inside of the glass of the makeshift urn. Dean swallows and sits the jar down on a particularly springy portion of the grass, using his hands to pat down a small area so it will stay in place. It seems so terribly bare, so he goes and plucks flowers to place around the jar, stepping back when it looks like a proper memorial. 

 

As proper as this gets, anyway. 

 

"I'm sorry, Cas," Dean whispers, telling the jar and the spread ashes and the earth itself, like a confession. His whole face feels tight and twisted, his throat clogged. "I couldn't save you, man. I'm so fucking—I'm sorry. For everything, for too much. I'm really sorry, and I—" His voice catches, choking him, and he looks away. His breath shudders out of him as he closes his eyes. "Goodbye, Cas." 

 

He doesn't say anything else. He doesn't cry. He doesn't leave for a very, very long time. He just stands there, eyes closed, feeling the breeze and feeling numb all the way through. 

 

Leaving is harder than he expects it to be. 

 


 

Dean keeps going back. 

 

He doesn't particularly mean to. The day gets long and the drinks aren't helping, so he gets in his car and he goes. The drive there is always quiet, the radio off, a mourning silence. His gaze always flicks to the rearview mirror, looking at the empty seat, wishing there was an impression from who sat there the longest and the most consistent. When he arrives, it's always to blooming flowers and a windmill in the background, not too far from a brook, the sun painting the plains. 

 

He likes it there. He likes to stand in front of the makeshift urn and check that it's still where he put it, switching out the flowers when they wilt. He likes to listen to the sound of birds chirping, insects singing, the faint sound of water trickling in the distance. He likes to turn his face up and feel the sun on his skin, wondering if Cas would do the same if he were here, somehow knowing that he would. 

 

He likes to talk. 

 

Dean is surprised by that. Talking hasn't been his strong suit as of late. He doesn't say much to Sam, unless it's for a case. He can barely speak to the kid without biting his head off or making threats. He hasn't done much talking at all, really. 

 

But it's different like this. It really shouldn't surprise him. He remembers how he didn't talk after his mom died. Selective Mutism, one of his teachers had said. He'll talk when he's ready. They didn't know that he talked to his mom all the time when he was alone, even when she never answered. He would tell her things no one else ever got to hear, that she would never actually know, and he'd make up her answers to represent what he'd want her to say. 

 

When she came back, she never said them. 

 

Dean tells Cas things he never did while he was alive. He kicks himself for it, for never saying them while he had the chance. Even the simplest things. I like the way you wore your tie. I really worked hard on that mixtape, you know; I hope you liked it. I wish I had thought of putting you in sunglasses while I still could, at least once; it would have been funny. I saw a black cat cross in front of me today, and I didn't X my windshield. What's bad luck in a world like this with a life like mine anyway? How do you feel about superstitions? Sam's worried about me, I know he is. I wish I could be more convincing. The kid… Cas, I'm trying. I'm sorry. 

 

It always comes back to that. To I'm sorry. Dean is. He doesn't know how not to be. He tells Cas that, too. He tells Cas that he misses him. He tells Cas that sometimes he doesn't want to leave this spot, that he sort of just wants to lay down and seep into the roots here, too. He tells Cas that he's tired. 

 

There's never a response, but Dean feels the breeze rustle through his hair and watches the flowers bob when bees come to them and stares as the windmill keeps turning, turning, turning. And he imagines that Cas is replying—the windmill is the tilted head, the bobbing flowers are a gentle smile, the breeze is whatever words Dean wants to hear at the time. Sometimes, sometimes, it's almost like he's there. 

 

It's weird to miss the afterimages of someone on top of just missing them, but Dean does. When he leaves, he misses the pieces of Cas that he has left. He starts taking a flower with him when he goes, holding them in his pocket, putting them on his nightstand until they inevitably die, too. Every time one does, it's like watching Cas die all over again. 

 

Once, Sam finds a few petals in the crevice of Baby's seat. He makes a joke, no doubt trying to get Dean to crack a smile or loosen up. It has the opposite effect. Dean clams up, stricken, realizing that he's finding Cas in all the places he looks for him, and that's still not enough. 

 

Dean gets worse, and Sam follows him one day. He's good at it. Dean doesn't even realize it's happening, not until Sam appears in the meadow, hesitation etched into every line of his face. Before he even knows, he's cautious about approaching, almost like he can sense that this place isn't for him. He takes one look at the makeshift urn surrounded by flowers, and he sucks in a sharp breath. He looks at Dean, his throat bobbing, and Dean says nothing. 

 

"This is where you spread his ashes," Sam whispers. 

 

Dean gives one jerky nod and goes back to watching the windmill turn. Sam backs up, turns around, and leaves. He never comes back or mentions it again. 

 

Taking a flower helps when they're on cases. When he meets Missouri again, she reaches in his pocket and pulls it out, and he lets her. Just her. It couldn't be anyone else but her. She holds it gingerly, like it's special, eyes fluttering shut as she cups it in both palms. Her granddaughter needs help, yet she spares the time for this anyway. 

 

"A crimson this dark," Missouri murmurs as she opens her eyes, staring at the flower sadly as she gives it back to him, "it represents a deep sorrow, Dean. Did you know that?" 

 

"I didn't," Dean confesses gruffly. 

 

Missouri reaches out and puts her hand on his chest, right over his heart. "A part of you did. That's all it knows right now. I'm so sorry. Truly, I am." 

 

Dean strokes the petals in his pocket and doesn't say anything, averting his gaze. She sighs, and they get started on helping Patience. When Missouri doesn't make it, he leaves that flower at her grave. 

 

The day after, Dean goes back to the meadow and tells Cas where a piece of him remains now, how much he would have liked Missouri. The breeze is heavy that day, almost like a hug. Dean closes his eyes and pretends that it is. 

 

But, as always, when he opens his eyes…

 

He's alone. 

 


 

Dean feels his heart drop when he notices the tire tracks. It clearly comes from a deep tread, a truck of some kind with mud tires, flattening two wide paths through the grass. He picks up his pace, blood pumping as his heart starts thumping hard and fast. 

 

The source turns out to be a pick-up truck with a ridiculous lift kit. There are three younger people out here, a boy and a girl sitting on the tailgate, making out, and another girl farther in the back of the truck. She's ignoring the other two, absorbed in her phone, earbuds in her ears. 

 

"Hey!" Dean barks, his voice rough and sharp. "What the hell are you doing? You can't just—you wrecked through—" 

 

"Do you mind?" the girl snips as she breaks away from the kiss, swiveling towards him with a scowl. She's eyeing him judgmentally. "This isn't private property; we checked. So, we're not going—" 

 

"Get the fuck outta here!" Dean shouts, losing what cool he didn't have to begin with in a heartbeat. He hears himself, how threatening he sounds. Deranged and dangerous, almost. Irrational, undoubtedly. "Don't make me have to tell you again. Go!"

 

"We know you don't own—" 

 

The boy cuts himself off with a yelp the moment Dean jerks out his gun and shoots it, pointed up to the sky. They scramble off the tailgate and make for the front, the truck cranking up with a pathetic sound. The girl in the back is gaping at Dean with wide eyes, her earbuds missing. She frantically reaches out to hold onto the tool box she's leaning against, planting her feet as the truck jolts. 

 

Dean puts his gun away as the truck turns, and he doesn't watch them leave. He just falls to his knees next to a half-crumpled bush, cursing under his breath as he picks up some flattened flowers. 

 

"I'm sorry, Cas," Dean says, low and gruff, his jaw aching from where he wants to clench it. "Fuck, I'm so sorry. I should've—I'll fix it. I'll—" 

 

He swallows the rest of his words, slumping down and pressing his fist against his lips. For a long moment, he just squeezes his eyes closed and breathes. It hurts. It always fucking hurts. Just this persistent ache in his chest that won't go away, that offers him no reprieve. It's there every morning when he wakes, it drifts off with him when he sleeps, and it curls up with him for his nightmares. 

 

Dean swallows and opens his eyes, exhaling harshly and climbing to his feet. "I'll fix it," he vows once more, blinking hard. 

 

And he does just that. 

 

He has to go into the closest town to pick up some things. Just some tools to shape up the bushes, to even out the ground, and some bags to hold every branch and broken flower. He makes it back quick and starts working in silence, cleaning up. Fixing it, just like he promised he would. 

 

He hears the car before he sees it, an older model, something small and mint green. It pulls to a stop beside Baby, and Dean stands to full height, hands gripping the black trash bag so tight that his knuckles cramp with the tension. He watches, gaze sharp, as a girl climbs out of the car. 

 

It takes him a second to realize that it was the girl from the back of the truck. He recognizes her by the jacket, some kind of college logo on it. She's just a kid, by his standards, and he can't think of one reason why she would come back here. She approaches cautiously, but she meets his gaze. 

 

"I told you and your buddies to get the hell outta here," Dean tells her sharply. 

 

She nods. "I know. I just—well, I want to...help, I guess. You're cleaning up our mess, right?" 

 

"Yeah. And thanks, but no thanks. I've got it," Dean mutters, turning his back to her and dipping down to grab another handful of branches. 

 

"Uh, I—" She snaps her mouth shut when Dean turns towards her, jaw clenched. He'd thought she would leave, but apparently not. After a beat, she takes a deep breath. "Look, I went and got some chains and those posts you can beat into the ground. If you put them out by the road, no one will drive through here again. Even got a lock and key for it."

 

Dean stares at her for a long time, not really understanding what the hell is happening. "Why would you do that?" 

 

"I saw you," she says quietly. "As we were leaving, I saw you just… I mean, this place clearly means something to you. I'm sorry we fucked it up. I really do want to help you clean up, if you'll let me." 

 

"The bags are there," Dean says shortly, jerking his chin towards the bags. 

 

She smiles. "Thanks. I'm Sorine, by the way."

 

"Dean," Dean replies, ducking his head and moving over to get started on evening the ground out, erasing the treadmarks. 

 

"My parents were pretty hardcore into mythology before I was born, I guess. Sorine means Thunder God," Sorine informs him as she gets a bag. She shakes it out and starts in on the closest mess next to her, eyeing him through her bangs. "It's Danish, I think. It's not even really, like, a roots kind of thing. I'm pretty sure my mom read it in a book back in the eighties when she was on acid, or something." 

 

Dean grunts in acknowledgement. 

 

"My friend wanted to call the cops on you," Sorine continues. "Told him not to because, well, we did make a mess. Again, sorry about that." 

 

"Ya know," Dean grits out as he evens out the next portion of the ground, "it's really stupid to come back alone to a man with a gun. You could get killed, you know that? Something even worse, maybe." 

 

"You could have shot us when we were here, but you shot at the sky," Sorine points out. "Besides, I have pepper spray. And a taser. So, watch yourself, Dean." 

 

Dean grunts again. "Yeah, I'll do that." 

 

Things are silent between them for a while. Dean does his best to ignore her. It's nice that she wants to help, he guesses, but he doesn't particularly want her to be here. This place—it feels private. Claimed already. It's not hers. It's not even Dean's. 

 

He lets her help anyway because it'd be nice to get it done as quickly as he can, maybe even before the sun sets. Alone, he'd be working until after dark. He could do it—he would do it—but this is better. 

 

They work in silence before he hears a very soft, very regretful, "Oh…" 

 

Dean turns, then freezes in place. Sorine has worked herself back towards the main part of the meadow that Dean usually goes to, where most of the wreckage didn't reach, thankfully. She's staring down at the empty container—the makeshift urn that still has a small film of ashes clinging to the inside of the glass—and the flowers Dean always leaves next to it seems to tell her all she needs to know. Sorine glances over at him, her throat bobbing as she meets his gaze. He expects pity based on assumptions, but there isn't any. 

 

"Don't," Dean says, cutting her off before she can even say anything. 

 

"I wasn't going to," Sorine tells him quietly. 

 

Dean's lips twist. "Good." 

 

They go back to it, and true to her word, she doesn't say anything. He appreciates that. She's young, but she clearly has some tact. She goes around and cleans up while he erases the proof of a truck coming through here. He finishes, grabs his abandoned bag from earlier, then helps her finish, too. After that, he starts shaping up the bushes, and she follows behind him to hold out a bag, catching all the clippings dutifully. 

 

When that's done, Dean lets Sorine lead him to her car. She pulls out the chain, but he quickly moves in to hold the weight for her. She carries a post, nearly whacking herself in the face with it. He goes back for the second one, and she grabs a brand new mallet, following after him. 

 

She holds the post in place while he beats it into the ground, and there's something relieving about it. A harsh swing down that jams it further into the dirt, a burst of strength that explodes through him, fueled by the anger he can always tap into. It's like breaking apart Baby, everything so pent up that he can't help how hard he swings, or how his eyes sting. 

 

The second post goes in like butter, the ground a little softer on the other side. Sorine nearly slips down into the ditch before she gets her footing, and she still doesn't say anything. She just helps loop the chain around one post, hammering nails through some of the links to keep it from falling, then she helps him do the same with the second. After, she holds out the thick, silver lock and the gleaming key, holding his gaze as he takes it. 

 

"I know someone could still walk in," Sorine murmurs as he shoves the lock in place, "but this will probably keep a lot of people out. Plus, it'll make sure no one can drive through." 

 

"Thanks," Dean says, and he means that sincerely, even if his voice sounds rough. He clears his throat and looks at her with a frown. "Why did you do this? Most people would just...not." 

 

Sorine looks down at her shoes. "I didn't know that you...lost someone when I offered."

 

"I know," Dean tells her. "So, why did you?" 

 

"Eleven months ago, my best friend died." Sorine turns her head, staring towards the meadow, her cheek jumping like she's chewing on the inside of it. Dean feels her words like a gut punch. "Almost twelve now, actually. Monday will be a year." 

 

"I…" Dean trails off, knowing what not to say. I'm sorry doesn't help, because chances are, so is she. That's horrible is true, but it's not like she doesn't already know that. There's nothing to say about death, not really. There never is. So he doesn't say anything at all. 

 

"When we were, like, fifteen, we found this old bridge out in the woods. Concrete, nothing fancy. A little stream ran under it, but the water was brown, always dirty. We used to go out there and get drunk, get a little handsy sometimes, or just hang out. It was kind of...our place, I guess." Sorine clears her throat like there's a lump in it and tilts her head up to look at him. "When I saw you, the way you hit your knees, how angry you were… I don't know. I guess I imagined how it would have felt if I went to the bridge and found that someone had burned it." 

 

"You tried to...make it right," Dean mumbles, his chest panging when he realizes it. She's a good kid. It doesn't help, but he's sorry for her loss anyway. 

 

"Yeah." Sorine's lips curl into a ghost of a smile, flickering. "Her name was Levina. It means lightning bolt. That's how we became best friends, because we thought it only made sense, ya know? Thunder and lightning goes together." 

 

Dean nods. "Makes sense." 

 

"You wanna tell me their name?'' Sorine asks, jerking her chin towards the meadow. 

 

"Cas," Dean croaks out after a long beat of silence. The name sticks in his throat, cracking. 

 

"...sie? Or...sandra? Or, was it just Cas?" Sorine murmurs, watching him steadily. 

 

"Just Cas, mostly," Dean admits. "Short for Castiel."

 

Sorine blinks. "Hey, that's an angel's name." 

 

"How do you know that?" 

 

"Had to do some reports for a theology class. Some kind of angel for the week, right? 

 

"Angel of Thursday," Dean says softly. "His family is, uh, religious. His friends call him Cas, though. I sorta—well, I gave him the nickname, and I guess it just…stuck."

 

"Me and Levina got a lot of shit for our weird names, so we made a pact to own it," Sorine tells him, kicking lightly at the ground. She chuckles and shakes her head. "We met when we were thirteen. Best friends ever since. She got sick when she was nineteen, then declined really bad before she hit twenty. Didn't see twenty-one. I gave that bitch one of my kidneys, too." 

 

Dean's eyebrows jerk up despite himself, and she gives a wry grin. He coughs. "Oh, wow, that's… I mean, that was cool of you." 

 

"I guess." Sorine shrugs, her smile falling. "Pointless in the end. It wasn't just her kidneys that were failing. I asked the doctor if my heart would fit in her chest, but they didn't go for it." 

 

"Jesus," Dean whispers, her words piercing right through him. Fuck, the world is fucked. Sometimes, he forgets how regular people don't need monsters and cosmic forces to suffer. 

 

Sorine nods towards the meadow again. "How long has it been since Cas passed?" 

 

"Not long," Dean murmurs. "Too long." 

 

"Yeah," Sorine says, like she understands. 

 

"Little over a month now," Dean forces himself to say, his fingers twitching and curling into fists. He stuffs them in his pockets and looks away. 

 

"Pretty fresh," Sorine comments idly. "I'd tell you that it gets easier by the year mark, but I'd be lying. So far, it's the same as the very first day, like it just happened. Like it keeps happening over and over." 

 

Dean's chest feels tight. "Reckon it is. Gotta wake up every day and remember it."

 

"Yeah. Exactly," Sorine whispers. She's quiet for a long time, then she blows out a deep breath. "I didn't even want to come out here earlier. Kyle's been—uh, my friend with the truck—well, he sort of just drags me everywhere, I guess. Even when he's making out with his latest flame. We were friends as kids, but we didn't talk that much before Levina died. After, though… I don't know. It's like he tries to look out for me now, or something." 

 

"Bet his girlfriends love that," Dean mutters. 

 

Sorine snorts. "You have no idea. I do it because Levina liked him. They were kind of friends. She cared about him, so I just…" 

 

"I know what you mean," Dean says. "Cas has—had a kid, and now I'm… Guess I'm trying to teach him right from wrong, get him through life like Cas would have wanted, but it's—it's—" 

 

"Hard," Sorine supplies. 

 

"Yeah," Dean breathes out. 

 

There's silence between them for another few moments, then Sorine glances at him and asks, "Do you drink beer, by chance, Dean?" 

 

Only every night, Dean thinks, but his response is a simple, "Sure. Why?" 

 

"Kyle still lives with his parents, and they won't have it in their house, so I get to have the extra. They're in a cooler," Sorine informs him, backing up towards her car with a crooked smile. "Bottle or can?" 

 

"What kinda question is that?" Dean asks with a scoff. "Bottle." 

 

A few minutes later, Sorine is walking back over to offer him a beer. She drinks out of a can, because she apparently has no decency or taste. She makes a comment about his car, and he spends the next twenty minutes leading her around Baby, rambling on about her. Sorine doesn't seem to have much knowledge or opinion on cars, but she claims that Baby looks nice and—when Dean cranks her up to show off her growl—sounds nice, too. 

 

In the end, Sorine asks about trunk size, because she complains that her trunk is too small. Dean thinks about showing her, but he's pretty sure he's got a duffle of guns and knives on top of the false truck instead of in it. He distracts her by climbing up on the trunk with his beer, motioning her to join him, and she does with a quiet sigh. 

 

The sun is starting to go down, almost like a reverse sunrise. There's orange and pink and purple bleeding across the sky, a line that shrinks as more time passes, being swallowed by dusk. Dean watches and thinks about the passage of time, about how he'll have eleven months of this, of no Cas, just like Sorine has already of no Levina. 

 

"I like to talk about her sometimes," Sorine announces at one point, her feet dangling near the exhaust pipe. She swallows harshly enough for it to be audible, and her nails click against the aluminum can between her knees. "Other times, I can't even really—I can barely think about her. I never know what it's going to be. I don't get a choice in the matter, and I don't think a lot of people get that." 

 

"Not a lot of people do," Dean says bitterly, despising with everything in him that they get it. 

 

Sorine hums. "People act like talking about her will help, or something. It...doesn't, really. Sometimes it's nice, sometimes it's impossible. People who didn't know about her suddenly want to, and they'll ask me. Half the time, it's like they're asking me to throw up right at their feet." 

 

Dean grunts in understanding. He knows what that's like. Sam even mentioning Cas' name makes Dean's stomach churn, rolling and clenching, like he can be sick just from the thought that he'll be asked to talk. Or worse, that someone else will talk for him. Dean knows Sam must tell the kid about Cas, but he's glad that Sam doesn't do it when he's around, because he has no idea how he'd handle hearing it. 

 

Wouldn't be good, probably. 

 

In truth, Dean does a lot of not talking about the dead. Talking to the dead is a whole other story, it seems. It's simultaneously the most painful and most relieving thing just to come to the meadow and speak to the flowers, pretending that Cas can hear him. He always found beauty in this sad, agonized world, an appreciation for humans, even the shitty ones trying their best. Dean likes to think he'd do that after death, too. Maybe his ashes found some way into the roots here, maybe he exists in the breeze that turns the windmill. 

 

"No one ever asks if I want to talk," Sorine says. 

 

"Do you want to talk?" Dean asks, instinctively. 

 

"She used to—before she'd laugh, she always used to wiggle her nose, kinda like Tinkerbell," Sorine tells him. "She hated feet. Couldn't touch her with 'em, not even with socks, and she practically went catonic if you touched hers. She wanted a motorcycle, but she never—well. Anyway. Do you want to talk, Dean?" 

 

Dean huffs out a derisive noise. "Never." 

 

"Fair enough," Sorine says. "Levina and I used to get high, and she was—well, she was a flirty stoner. She'd put her hand up my shirt, like she had a right to it. She'd get all over me, and I'd let her because… Anyway, the next morning, I'd catch her looking at me, ya know? Really, really looking at me, kinda like she couldn't figure out how to stop. But then, she'd just laugh and roll away, like it never happened." 

 

"Kind of a dick move on her part," Dean mutters before he can think better of it. 

 

Sorine chuckles weakly. "Yeah. She knew, though. Her mom died a little after she was born with the same thing, and she told me at the end that she knew she'd go the same way. Somehow, she knew." 

 

"So she didn't want to get attached," Dean says. 

 

"Worse," Sorine mumbles. "She didn't want me to have to lose her. That's worse, isn't it? Worse than being scared to lose someone, just being scared they'll lose you. I think so." 

 

Dean tries not to think about Cas, but as always, he fails. He closes his eyes and takes a swig of beer to give him some time to get his shit together. His fingers tremble around the neck of the bottle, and if Sorine notices, she kindly pretends not to. 

 

"You lost her in the end anyway, though," Dean points out in a rasp. 

 

"Yep," Sorine agrees, then takes a swig of her beer. 

 

Dean exhales and opens his eyes. "Cas was weird. I used to—well, I got a thing for cowboys, so I used to make him watch things with me. Tombstone. Wyatt Earp. Young Guns. Plenty of Clint Eastwood, too. Oh, he'd bitch about it the whole time, but he'd watch it with me anyway. He was way too attached to his coat, and he sucked at staying put anywhere. He liked goddamn emojis. He used to replace words with 'em all in his texts, so it was like trying to work out fucking hieroglyphics sometimes. He'd send one outta that blue for no reason. So stupid." 

 

"Sounds like he was down with the kids, and you're just old," Sorine notes, amused. 

 

"Cas wasn't down with anybody. He was awkward. Just this weird, dorky guy. Kinda short. But he was also—he was…" Dean swallows thickly and looks down at the bottle cradled between both hands. He blinks a little furiously. "He was earnest about a lot. Always tried to do the right thing, and if he did the wrong thing, it was for the right reasons. Too much heart. That's what someone said to describe him once. He was such a fucking rebel." 

 

"Brought up in a religious family, right?" Sorine tips her head with a snort. "The black sheeps always are. Rebelling against God… I mean, giving the almighty the finger when it's all you've ever known is kind of as defiant as you can get, right? Most people need an excuse. Love, or their own sense of self, or struggling to have faith." 

 

"I think, for him, it was all three," Dean murmurs, staring off into the distance with furrowed eyebrows. 

 

"Levina's dad kept trying to get her to get saved before she passed. You know, accept Jesus into her heart and stuff like that," Sorine says. "She said her heart was still gonna give out whether he was in there or not. Her dad wanted her to get baptized, too, but she said she didn't want to meet God with all her sins washed away. She wanted to be able to look him in the eye and tell him she didn't get to commit nearly enough." 

 

"Levina sounds like she's fun in church," Dean replies, lips twitching when Sorine grins. "Cas would probably—I don't know—punch God if he actually got to sit down and talk to him. Whenever Cas needed him, he never came through for him. God doesn't hear us, and if he does, he doesn't care."

 

"You got me there." Sorine lifts her can and takes another swig, then sighs. "Tell me more about him."

 

"Well…" Dean chews on the inside of his lip for a long moment, a low sense of dread starting to curl in his chest. He doesn't know if he can keep talking about him. He tries anyway. "I made him a mixtape once. He had shitty taste in music, to be clear. Liked pop music. So, I...uh, I educated him properly. Traditionally, I mean. Dunno if he ever listened to it, though. He never got a gift before, so he tried to give it back. Like I said, he was a dork." 

 

"Sounds to me like he was pretty sheltered." Sorine pauses, then clicks her tongue. "Hey, what's wrong with pop music? No one hates a whole genre of music. Even if you don't listen to that genre usually, there's always a few songs you end up liking. Or, if you don't like it, you at least connect to it." 

 

"Nope," Dean denies. "Never once connected to a pop song in my life. Never will." 

 

Sorine's eyebrows jump. "Bullshit. No one? Ever? Bruno Mars? Maroon 5? Taylor Swift?" She pauses when he shifts, then she leans in. "Ah, yeah, Taylor Swift has that effect. This is her world, Dean; we're just living in it." 

 

"No, Sorine, Jesus Christ." 

 

"She makes me cry. She's got this song that I literally only just stopped sobbing along to, like, three months ago. Just you wait, you'll hear a song that reminds you of Cas, and then you'll never be able to listen to it without crying. Automatic tear trigger, I guarantee you."

 

"Okay, now I'm calling bullshit," Dean mutters. 

 

"Don't say I didn't warn you, Carl Fredricksen," Sorine says, shrugging. 

 

Dean stares at her. "Who the fuck is Carl Fredricksen?" 

 

"You know, the old guy from Up. The pixar movie," Sorine tells him distractedly. "You're kinda grumpy like him. Sad, too. He lost his wife and was kinda just fucked up after that. Guess that makes me your Russell. It's my comfort movie, especially after losing Levina. They really made Ellie's death realistically sad, ya know? Fucks me up every time."

 

"A sad death scene comforts you?" Dean asks incredulously. 

 

"Shockingly, it does. Don't ask me. I don't know why my brain is the way it is." Sorine takes another swallow of her beer, sighing after. "Like, okay, Levina and I had plans, right? Before she got sick, I mean. She was gonna be a hotshot actor, and me? Well, I guess I was gonna be the next Taylor Swift. She used to tell me with a voice like mine, I'm hurting the world by not letting people hear it. We had it all planned out. I've got songs written stacked back from years ago. Shit, we even saved money from when we were sixteen, and she wouldn't take a damn dime of it for hospital bills. It was our big dream, and now… Now, the thought of leaving the town she died in is… I don't know. I can't." 

 

"You don't want to do it?" Dean asks. 

 

"I don't know if I can," Sorine says. "Without her, it seems… I don't know how to believe in it anymore." 

 

"Well," Dean mumbles, "you only live—" 

 

"Don't YOLO me," Sorine cuts in. "For one, I believe in reincarnation, so that has no hold on me. Second, I don't think it works like that, no matter what anyone believes. It's not how many lives you've got, or don't. I think it's about the life we're living and how little time we have to live it." 

 

Dean looks down at his beer, rubbing the pad of his thumb around the rim, swallowing. "Not everyone gets enough time." 

 

"No," Sorine agrees, "they don't." 

 

"Think Levina would want you to do it?" 

 

"Don't think she has much of an opinion these days, if I'm being honest with you." 

 

"Right," Dean murmurs. 

 

Sorine glances over at him. "You know, I go back to our bridge all the time, and I think the water looks a little cleaner. I put my hand on the spot next to me where she used to sit, and it feels warm like she's right there beside me." 

 

Despite knowing better, Dean says, "Maybe she—" 

 

"The truth is," Sorine interrupts, "they clean the pipes annually and the spot she used to be will turn cold when winter comes." 

 

Dean looks away, fighting the ridiculous urge to gasp for air like he's being strangled. It feels like he is. He thinks about coming here to this meadow, touching the flowers, watching the windmill turn. What happens when those flowers die, and what happens when that windmill breaks down? He's been looking for Cas in all the places he'll never get to go, and he's never going to find him. 

 

"I'm sorry," Sorine whispers, her eyes drifting shut when Dean focuses on her. "That was—I just get really… It's hard. I'm sorry." 

 

"It's okay," Dean tells her, because it is. He gets it.

 

Sorine clears her throat and opens her eyes. "I really did try to give her my heart, you know. As soon as I found out that she'd probably never make it to see the top of the transplant list, I asked if they'd take mine. They wouldn't go for it, and Levina said I was crazy. But I just thought—I figured it'd be good, you know? Every time she'd see her reflection, her heart would race. Every time she'd smile, it would skip a beat. And—and that would be me. She'd always have me. That would be enough, that's what I said, because the way it happened… I don't get to always have her. I didn't get to have her at all, not really." 

 

"Sacrifice your life for hers, huh?" Dean says. 

 

"You wouldn't give your heart to Cas?" Sorine asks. 

 

Dean ducks his head, staring at the beer, the heart in question lurching in his chest. He exhales shakily, his voice escaping heavy and rough. "Yeah, I would. Might as well, right? If they've already got it." 

 

"Yeah," Sorine breaths out. "Yeah. Exactly that. 'Cause when they go, they still got it. They take it with them, and we have to learn to go on without it. But how the fuck do you go on without your heart?" 

 

"Haven't worked that out yet," Dean admits. He tilts his head up, staring up at the sky, keeping his eyes open so they'll dry out. "Probably never will." 

 

"I went to the hospital a few weeks after she died. I checked myself in with chest pains, and I thought—I mean, I knew what she had wasn't contagious. I still thought I caught it somehow. I thought I was dying," Sorine tells him. "Turns out I'm just heartbroken. Isn't that crazy? Turns out heartbreak is just a disease that doesn't kill you." 

 

"It can, though," Dean replies. 

 

"It's slow," Sorine says. "No medicine in the world can cure it. You either see the other side of it, or you don't. And that's—that's all there is." 

 

"They say time heals all wounds." 

 

"Tell that to the dead." 

 

"Jeez, kid, you sure are morbid, huh?" Dean mutters, but he gets it. That bitterness. That feeling of bereft. How unfair it is, and how angry it makes you. 

 

Sorine snorts. "Sometimes. I guess I'm just on the cycle again. Give me some time, I'll be at acceptance soon enough. Looks like I'm at anger right now." 

 

Dean blinks at her. "What?" 

 

"Five stages of grief?" Sorine raises her eyebrows at him. "Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then acceptance. The kicker that they don't tell you is that you go through it over and over. Just because you reach acceptance once doesn't mean you get to stay there. Ain't that some bullshit?" 

 

"Actually, yeah, that is," Dean admits. 

 

"Where are you at right now, you think?" 

 

"I don't think I grieve like normal people do." 

 

"No one grieves normally. We all do it differently, I think," Sorine muses. "Did it help to talk about him? You can tell me more if you want." 

 

Dean fiddles with the bottle, lips ticking down. He doesn't talk about Cas, not usually. He doesn't know if he wants to, or if it helps. "I guess, um… Well, Cas saw good in the world, even in the shittiest parts of it. I mean, he would find beauty in the ash imprint of a flower, just the same way he would before it burned. I try to see the world through his eyes sometimes, ya know, but I don't think I manage." 

 

"Sometimes, on days like this at sun down, I'll go out to squint at the horizon," Sorine says, pointing out at the sky. "Right there, that thin line between earth and sky, I swear I can see her dancing. Levina loved to dance, but I never did, and I'll never know how. Not like her." 

 

"That's...deep. Damn," Dean mutters. 

 

Sorine snorts. "Yeah, well, what's death if not a lesson in perspective, right?" 

 

"Hey, you said it," Dean tells her. 

 

"She likes the sky like this. When someone asked her what her favorite color was, she'd say sunset. Dramatic bitch," Sorine says fondly, shaking her head. She glances over at him curiously. "What was Cas' favorite color?" 

 

And Dean… 

 

Dean doesn't know why this particular question, above all that they have talked about so far, is what gets to him. He scours his brain for an answer, then finds none. It's such a simple thing. Something you know about someone as an offhand thing, maybe even one of the first straightforward things you learn about someone. 

 

"I don't—I don't know," Dean chokes out, the force of that hitting him hard. 

 

So hard, in fact, that he curls in on himself a little, fumbling with the beer until it slips from his grasp and sluggishly starts pouring out on the ground. He stares down at it, eyes burning, searching for some kind of answer. It's such a juvenile question, something that doesn't even really matter, something he'd roll his eyes at and scoff about, because they're not kids. And yet. And yet. What's Cas' favorite color? He should know that, but he doesn't, and now he'll never get to ask.

 

With no warning and with urgency, Dean is suddenly crying very, very hard. He keeps asking himself that question over and over, and it rips at him when he has no solidified answer. It could be anything, and nothing he guesses will ever be confirmed, because Cas isn't here to confirm it. 

 

Dean can hear himself making these god-awful noises, like something going off to a corner to die in misery. He's whimpering, fully unable to stop it. He tries muffling it instead, pressing the back of his hand to his mouth and folding over his own lap, squeezing his eyes closed. His shoulders are jerking like the question is actually wrenching at him physically, yanking him around, demanding the answer. But he doesn't have one. He doesn't know. 

 

"Dean," Sorine says urgently, putting her hand on his shoulder, squeezing it. "Dean, it's okay. Hey, it's okay. It's okay, Dean, it's—" 

 

And she keeps saying it until he can gasp out, "It's not. It's—I'll never know. I'll never get to—" 

 

"I know. Dean, I know," Sorine whispers, hesitating only a moment longer before she scoots closer and wraps both arms around him. She doesn't say anything else, doesn't try to lie and say it's okay again, doesn't do anything but let him cry it out.

 

Dean has never—done this. He doesn't know why he is now, why it's with her. Maybe because she has opened up about Levina. But probably not. He doesn't exactly get a choice in the matter. It all just comes pouring out of him, and there's nothing he can do to halt it, to lessen the impact. 

 

He just has to endure it. 

 

And he does. He cries long and fretfully, cries until he's angry enough to burn everything down, then cries until he's so exhausted that he can't cry anymore. He hates crying. That shit hurts. The clogged throat, his body fighting the necessity to breathe like it doesn't stand a chance against the need for Cas, who isn't here. The puffy, itchy eyes, and the ache that settles more firmly into his very foundation, like he'll never be rid of it. The horrible sounds of it, and what a sight it must be, and the complete and utter vulnerability in it. 

 

It hurts worse to acknowledge that he's hurting, like it gets stronger because he's aware of it. The pain is like a tulpa that he gives power to, and there's no way to stop believing that it's going to win every time. He thinks about how he burned that house on their first tulpa case, and how he can't burn himself alive just to escape this. It's oh so tempting, though, and that's a dangerous road to go down. 

 

When it's over, Sorine lets him draw away from her without complaint. In fact, she scoots back to her spot and then lays flat on her back, propped against Baby's back windshield. Dean appreciates the privacy, the chance to scrub his hands over his face like he's destroying evidence. 

 

After a few moments of heavy silence, Dean explodes out a deep breath and leans back, too. He blinks up at the sky, his vision kind of blurry and grainy. He almost apologizes, or says thank you, and then he does neither. 

 

"Will you be my new best friend, Dean?" Sorine asks him with a sigh. 

 

Dean chokes out an unexpected laugh, turning his head to stare at her. "What?" 

 

"I'm in need of a new one, you see." 

 

"Kid, I got at least twenty years on you. That's never going to work. Besides, I'm not...a good best friend."

 

"Well, my last one died on me, so as long as you don't do that, I think you're fine." 

 

"I'm a flake. You'll probably never hear from me again, Sorine." 

 

"That's okay." Sorine shrugs. "Just don't die." 

 

"I'll do my best," Dean mutters. 

 

Sorine hums and holds up her fist. "Alright. Put it there, and it's a sealed deal. Besties for life." 

 

"Sure, kid." Dean gives her a fist-bump, lips twitching against his will. "But if I'm doing that, then you gotta promise me something." 

 

"What?" Sorine asks. 

 

"Write me a song when you go off to become the next Taylor Swift," Dean says. 

 

"I'll think about it," Sorine replies. 

 

Dean huffs a weak laugh. "Good enough for me." 

 

It's quiet for a long time after that, but not the whole time. They talk. The conversation doesn't come anywhere close to Cas and Levina for a while, and instead, they talk a little bit about themselves. Their family. Favorite movies. Books, songs, food. Best friend things, Sorine insists. 

 

And one secret. Just one. That's required, apparently. Something that they've never told anyone else, no matter how big or small. 

 

"There's this guy at the library who likes me a lot. He's really sweet, and I like him, too. But it's more serious for him than me. I don't—I can't really… Not for a while, I think. But I use him sometimes. Let him come over just to remember what a warm body feels like, and when I close my eyes, I picture Levina instead," Sorine confesses. "He's in love with me, and I let him be, knowing I don't love him back." 

 

Dean lets that roll right off his back, refusing to judge her for it. "Cas was the first person that treated me like I was—like I was special, or something. It was always about my brother, even for me, and it always has been. I'm okay with that, ya know? S'what I want. But Cas… Cas was—he was biased, I guess. Don't get me wrong, he cared about Sam, but it always seemed—it always felt like I was his...favorite, in a way. Dunno what he saw in me, 'cause it shouldn't have been like that. It wasn't what he was supposed to do, caring about me that much that he'd—he'd, uh, leave his family and want to stay with me. But he did." 

 

"He fell for you," Sorine murmurs. 

 

"Yeah," Dean says, his voice hoarse. He knows she means it differently, not the way he does, not how Cas rebelled against Heaven for him. She means that he fell in love, and Dean means something different, but a part of him is struggling to not think of those things as the same. "Yeah, he did." 

 

Sorine hums and asks him what his favorite cartoon was when he was growing up as a kid. They have that in common, it turns out. Scooby-Doo. 

 

And so it goes. They stay out there until all the bleeding colors in the sky are staunched, until dusk has rolled in and threatens to turn to night, until Sorine has finally finished her first and only beer. She's a slow drinker, but Dean chalks that up to her terrible taste in drinking out of cans. 

 

He makes sure she's good to drive when she finally slides off Baby, despite the fact that she only had one beer over a couple of hours. She rolls her eyes and walks in a straight line, touching her nose with one finger of each hand and chanting the only nursery rhyme she remembers—the itsy bitsy spider. He declares her sober and watches her move to her car, leaning against her open door, paused there as she looks at him for a long moment. 

 

"Levina would have liked you," Sorine tells him, her voice soft and sad, but she's sincere. 

 

Dean quirks a small smile and says, "Cas would have liked you, too." 

 

Sorine smiles back, and then she slips into her car, and she's gone in fading headlights as she takes a curve. Dean turns around and walks back into the meadow, ducking under the chain, heading further in while he can still see. 

 

He replaces the flowers by the makeshift urn, unwilling to watch anything die here. He doesn't say anything, and the bushes rustle with the breeze, the grass swaying and sneaking up under his jeans to tickle his ankles. It's like a touch, and he closes his eyes and pretends that it is. 

 

On his way back out, he catches a flower that he and Sorine must have missed. It's a crushed, little thing. Smudged with dirt. Wrinkled petals and snapped branches. He crouches down and picks it up, his heart lodging in his throat. Cas would still find it beautiful. Hell, he'd probably relate to it, draw a metaphor between him and it. Broken, and still trying to do its best. Dean sniffs hard, blinking, and he cradles it in his hand as he stands and starts walking back to Baby. 

 

"What do ya think, Cas? You would have liked Sorine, wouldn't you?" Dean asks, twirling the crumpled flower in his fingers. Cas, as always, doesn't respond, but a petal comes loose and drifts down to the ground, so Dean gives a harsh laugh and nods. "Yeah, figured you would." 

 

The drive back to the Bunker is silent, just as it usually is, and Dean keeps the broken flower safely in his pocket. Just because it's likely to die quicker than the rest, he thinks, doesn't mean it shouldn't be appreciated while it's still here.  

 


 

Dean's trying with the kid, but it sometimes feels impossible. Jack's too much like Cas' most innocent parts for it to be anything other than excruciating. 

 

It baffles him how Jack can be so goddamn much like Cas without ever having actually met him. Every time his eyebrows furrow and his head tilts, Dean feels like he can't breathe. He looks like Cas sometimes, but mostly, he acts like him.  In his mannerisms, in the way he speaks, in how earnest he is. It's what Dean imagines Cas would have been like if he were ever a child. 

 

Jack is different, too. He's confused by so much. He has a sunnier disposition, always ready with a smile, even if the situation doesn't call for it. He's blunt like Cas is, but not unkindly—born from not knowing that complete honesty is not the route to go, whereas Cas just didn't care. And he wants so, so desperately to be good. It practically spills out of him all the time just how badly he wants to be a good person, to do the right thing, to make the right decisions, even when has no idea what those are. 

 

Dean looks at him sometimes, and it's like all he sees is Cas, and it's not a comforting thing. It doesn't do anything but remind him of why and how Cas died, whose fault that is. Yours, his mind whispers, an insidious thought that ensnares his brain. The kid's, too, he insists, because Cas would have never died if not for trying to protect the kid, if there was no rift to begin with, which the kid created. It's irrational, Sam would say, but Dean doesn't think so. And, of course, the blame goes to Lucifer as well, but Dean can't get to him. 

 

If he could… Oh, if only he could.  

 

Jack—like any other kid—clings to all he knows, and right now, all he knows is Sam and Dean. He wants to be around them all the time. He wants to learn from them, wants to be like them, but it's worse because it's mostly Dean. 

 

No matter what shitty thing Dean has said, Jack always drifts back towards him. He mimics him. He asks questions constantly. Can I hold your gun? Why is kale bad? Does Baby love back? Would she love me? He trails after Dean like Sam used to, like Dean used to trail after his dad. So eager to please, wanting more than anything to get approval, trying to be like them and liked by them. And it's so fucking hard. 

 

Dean shuts himself up in his room a lot and closes his eyes, a flower cradled between his hands, and he talks to Cas. He says, "You'd be good at this. Usually, I am. But he's so much like you. Why'd you saddle me with this shit, huh? I can barely look at the kid without wanting to send him up the river." 

 

He says, "Almost told the kid to fuck off today. He saw that I had a pocket knife. Asked me why, and I tried, Cas. I told him how they come in handy. He decided he wanted one because, get this, I have one. Kid can create alternate universes, and he wants a goddamn pocket knife." 

 

He says, "Caught the kid lingering by your door this afternoon, almost like he was gonna go in. No one's been in there since… Anyway, I ran him off. I think it hurt his feelings. Sorry, Cas." 

 

He says, "Some fucking dad you are, huh? Couldn't even stick around long enough to be one."

 

He says, "I raised Sammy, you know. But he's my responsibility. He's my brother. I had to, 'cause Dad sure as shit wasn't gonna stick around to do it. Jack? I didn't sign up for this. You can't just dump fucking kids on me and then leave, Cas. I can't even look at him. All I see is you and the imprint of your wings." 

 

He says, "I don't want to do it, Cas. Not without you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm—" 

 

Most of the time, Dean says nothing. Most of the time, he just stays out of the way and watches the flowers wilt more and more each morning. 

 

Jack doesn't talk about Cas—or Kelly—to Dean, and Dean has to wonder if Sam warned him not to. He can't imagine how that conversation went. Jack, Cas was Dean's best friend. He was family. It hurts Dean to talk about it, so do us all a favor and don't. Whatever was said, Jack doesn't mention Cas to Dean, but it sometimes looks like he wants to. In the end, he never does. Maybe he saves those questions for Sam. 

 

One day, though, he slips up, and it becomes vibrantly clear why Jack's not supposed to. It starts out innocently enough, to be fair. 

 

"I would like to learn to drive," Jack announces when he sees Dean fiddling with Baby's keys. 

 

Dean grunts and mutters, "You're not even six months old, kid. Anyway, there's no way in hell I'm teaching you to drive in Baby." 

 

"What about the truck?" Jack asks, his words just slightly hesitant. Not hesitant enough. "Castiel's truck." 

 

"No," Dean snaps, a cold, harsh refusal that cuts through the room like a knife. 

 

"Dean," Sam reprimands quietly, looking up from his laptop, a frown at the corners of his lips. 

 

"I said no, and that's final," Dean grinds out, the cadence to his voice reminding him so viscerally of his own dad that it only serves to piss him off even more. He shoves his chair back and stands up, turning to march away. 

 

There's the scrape of another chair and the sound of someone coming around the table, following after him, then Jack is saying, "Castiel was my father."

 

Dean whirls around so fast that Jack actually falters back a step. Whatever shows on his face makes Jack blink and Sam hastily stand to his feet, inching closer. Suddenly, the room seems suffocating, the tension so thick that Dean can't even think. 

 

"That doesn't mean his truck is yours, or that you need to learn how to drive in it," Dean says sharply. 

 

"Dean, man, I'll teach him. You don't have to, it's fine," Sam mutters. 

 

Dean shakes his head. "Not in the truck." 

 

"I don't understand," Jack says, his eyebrows crumbling inwards. "If I can't learn in your car, why shouldn't I learn in his truck? Castiel was my—" 

 

"Father?" Dean cuts in, his voice pitched higher, almost at hysterical levels. He feels like he's exploding in slow motion, just falling to pieces right in front of them, no matter how much he hates it. 

 

"Dean," Sam says softly, an undercurrent of warning in his tone, telling him to back off, ease up, he's just a kid. He's just a kid. 

 

Jack nods at Dean. "Yes, Castiel was my father." 

 

"He was your father? He was your father, huh?! Dean shouts, because suddenly he's shouting, and he has no idea why, or what's causing him to shake all over, not until it explodes out of him. "Maybe Cas was your father, but he was my everything!" 

 

Sam and Jack flinch back in twin responses of horror, and Dean knows exactly why. The admission had ripped out of him raw and aching, a hoarse shout that bounces off the surrounding silence like a scream for help. Dean's breath hitches in his throat, his vision blurry, and then he palms at his mouth and wrenches around to march away. 

 

Dean makes it to his room, bursting in like he's bursting for air. He gasps as he stumbles through the door, then immediately starts finding shit to do. It's automatic. He goes straight for the bed, messing up the sheets just to remake it, his hands shaking as he resituates the pillows. He's grinding his teeth, barely able to see shit with the stupid film of tears in his eyes spilling over and running down his nose. 

 

"Dean," Sam says from the doorway. 

 

"Don't. Don't. Go away, Sam," Dean chokes out, practically gagging on the words and how wounded they sound when they fall out. 

 

There's a beat of silence, and then the door clicks shut, and then Sam hasn't left because he delicately murmurs, "Come on, man, you've got to talk about this. It's eating you up inside, Dean." 

 

"Stop. Just stop," Dean whispers furiously. His fingers clench around a pillow, digging in. "It's not—I'll smooth it over with the kid later, alright? Just leave me alone right now. Please just…" 

 

"You can barely keep it together," Sam says gently, treading carefully but determined to continue on nonetheless. "Look, I know what this feels like, okay? I know exactly what you're going through." 

 

"No, the fuck you don't," Dean spits, ripping his hands away from the pillow to slice one through the air, jabbing a finger at Sam. "You don't know shit about this, Sam!" 

 

Sam takes a deep breath, then slowly lets it out. "You're not the only one who lost people, Dean. I lost them, too. Jack lost them, too. He didn't even get them. And I—I know now that it's different for you when it comes to Cas, but I've been there, okay? It's been years, but losing Jessica was—" 

 

"Oh, fucking spare me," Dean bites out, his anger radiating out for any target near him, nuclear. He can't help it. He just lashes out. "I don't wanna hear about how losing your little girlfriend from college is anything like this. That's bullshit. She didn't know you, Sam. She didn't know everything about you. She was just some girl you thought you could have a normal life with, and that didn't work out so well, did it? Try losing someone you've known for a fucking decade. Try losing someone who knows you, who really knows you, your worst and best. Try losing someone you didn't even get to have! Try that, then come back and talk to me."

 

"I loved her, regardless of those things, and that's what this is about, right?" Sam holds his gaze, not backing down. "That's—that's what you meant when you said he was…" 

 

"We were nothing," Dean says with a bitter laugh, nothing funny about it. "Me and him? We were nothing, Sam, and he still turned out to be everything." 

 

"You loved him," Sam whispers. 

 

"No," Dean replies sharply. Because he never got the chance. I wanted to, he can't say. He turns away from Sam, his fingers trembling so bad that he can't get a good hold on the sheets. "Get out, Sammy, I fucking mean it. You either leave, or I do. So, go." 

 

This time, eventually, Sam does. 

 

The moment the door shuts behind him, Dean sinks down onto his bed and puts his face in his hands, hating and hating and hating how he sounds when he weeps. It sounds like he's dying. 

 

At this point, that would be a relief.