Sam was down at the Gilfords' assessing the case, or so he had said.

Dean, however, was tired of looking at the peeling motel room walls and instead stepped out for some air.

It was a nice little city, he surmised. They were staying right in the downtown, for once, the motel sandwiched in between a string of check cashers and Chinese food restaurants. In walking distance to near about everywhere they needed to go, which meant that his baby was parked out back in clear view from the motel room window.

He wandered, for a while, no real destination in mind, hands jammed into his pockets and open-mouthed breaths coming out as a fog under the cloudy grey sky. The scent of exhaust and fast food grease seemed almost dulled from the sting of the cold on his nostrils.

He tried not to think.

One foot in front of the other, the cracked sidewalk, his ears so cold the tips were probably red at this point. Could really go for some lo mein. Was so tired but wanted to do anything, anything but sleep.

He stopped, only for a second, and happened to look up.

The church was pretty damn massive to be sitting right in the middle of downtown, all stone and stained glass windows and – even he would admit – gorgeous. The massive wooden front doors were propped open, a yawning entrance that innocently beckoned any passerby who needed peace, or any illusion thereof.

Before Dean knew what he was doing he was moving up the stairs and passing under the threshold into the dimly lit foyer. Hardly anyone was there, which was fine with him. Still, he unconsciously hunched a little, pulling his jacket collar up a bit straighter and walked into the sanctuary.

Something about being in a church this large, or maybe just the quiet and solitude, made him walk a little lighter, trying to make himself as unobtrusive as possible as he slid into a pew. He worked his fingers for a moment, the heat making them tingle as they thawed.

What the hell was he doing here?

Trying to get warm, for one. Trying not to think about the list of things inot/i to think about was the other.

Dean was well aware he could have done both in the motel room. Hell, he could have done both in a fucking laundromat.

He sighed and shifted a little in his seat.

Behind him he heard the soft sound of shoes on carpet and the rustle-shift of clothing. He didn't move from his hunched position and he almost didn't bite the inside of his cheek until it nearly started bleeding.

"Still haven't quite caught on to the concept of privacy?" he said.

"The public seems like an interesting place to look for privacy," Castiel replied from the pew behind him.

Dean almost groaned in frustration, clenching his fists. "Needed a place to think. Or, you know. Not think."

"And a church was your first choice?"

"No, it wasn't my first choice," Dean said, finally turning around, wondering where it was scripted that angels were such smartasses. "I just kind of came upon it, okay? It's quiet. Away from other people until you showed up."

Castiel didn't reply and instead just stared until Dean turned back around, hunching even more and trying not to let his shoulders twitch like they were going to burst into flame at any second, or something.

"You have to stop running," Castiel finally said.

"I'm not—I'm not running, okay, I'm sitting here, trying to have some peace and quiet and you are not helping," Dean shot back. "If you've got something to tell me, then tell me. Otherwise…." He made a shooing motion with his hand.

"Dean." Emphatic. Dangerous. "You have to stop running."

Dean almost exploded, felt it rush up within him to shout and punch and then hide, not for doing it, but for coming back from Hell and everything being the same as it was before. Nothing was solved, everything was still going down the shithole and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. It made him feel so damn tired he propped his elbows on his legs, rubbing his eyes with the heal of his hands.

"I can't," he said. "I can't… do what you said. I can't kill him. I won't. This whole stupid mess was because I let him get killed, and if you think I can be the one to make myself go through it all again, you're wrong. I can't."

Even after the roaring in his ears died down Castiel still hadn't said anything. Dean tried to think maybe he'd just left, but he really couldn't chalk up the false hope.

"Have you ever wondered," Castiel said slowly, "why you've never been possessed?"

Actually what Dean wondered was if angels were capable of having conversation that didn't have the meandering logic of a crazy person, but, sure. His father had been possessed. His brother had been possessed. It wasn't like it was standard for the job, being a hunter and all, but if you specialized in killing demons more often than not they tried to get all up in your personal space. Irony, or poetic justice, and all that. He'd killed a lot of demons, made a lot more angry, but no demon had even ever tried. So yeah, he wondered.

"You've been marked." Dean felt the barest of twitches from the still-pink handprint on his arm and flicked his eyes to his shoulder. "Not that mark," Castiel continued. "That is only physical."

Dean stared. "Come again?"

"Just as I said. You've always been marked."

And that, to Dean, sounded too familiar. He had no idea if this little revelation was supposed to give him the warm fuzzies, because it didn't.

"I never said 'kill,' Dean." Castiel's voice was soft but still it echoed through Dean's head. "I said 'stop.' There's a reason you're here."

Dean knew the second he looked away that Castiel would be gone, but there was no way he was able to hold the angel's gaze any longer. His chest hurt and his shoulder burned and when he opened his eyes he was, in fact, very much alone again.

He distantly heard the low murmur of voices that echoed softly through the church's high rafters and outer wings, watched the dull stained glass windows for any sign that the sun would make an appearance. It wasn't long before his elbows fell back onto his knees, head bowed as his fingers threaded into his hair.