A/N: Apologies for the delay. Holidays and then a house move! This is the promised epilogue with a reappearance of Castiel. Thanks for reading!
Dean hunched over the tiny motel room sink, splashed cold water onto his face, trying to wash away the last flushes of illness from his cheeks. Water beaded on the end of his nose before dripping onto the stained porcelain below.
He tipped his head up and looked at himself in the mirror. Beneath the fresh sheen of water dark circles were fading, eyes appeared sharp and focused. For the first time in two weeks, he didn't feel like he might pass out or throw up any second. A smile tentatively crossed his lips when he realized he was actually hungry. Hand on his belly, feeling it rumble. He took a deep breath, puffing out his chest as he stood up tall. Grabbed a towel.
Before he had chance to raise it to his wet face, a gust of wind chilled his back. The sound of large wings flapping, the prickly feeling of not being alone. Eyes darted and refocused.
Castiel was in the mirror behind him, head hovering above his left shoulder. Their reflections watched each other for a moment.
Then Dean dropped his gaze and buried his face into the towel. But even without the reflected eyes staring at him, piercing him, the presence of god's messenger still ached at his back, pulled at his spine.
When the angel spoke it was cold. "You did a good job."
Dean felt all positivity fall muscle by muscle from his face. He dropped the towel into the sink and reached a hand up to massage the bones in the back of his neck, Tim's charred skeleton sticking out of a fiery grave suddenly all he could think of. New found appetite gone again in an instant.
"Yeah? Doesn't feel like it." He turned to face the angel, missed drops of water still dripping from his chin. "It was me who let Tim out of the school to kill all those people." He leant back against the sink and gripped the edge with both hands, white knuckled. "I should have burnt the place down when Sammy first suggested it." Shook his head while he looked at the floor.
Castiel responded: "No."
Dean wiped his face with his arm, frowned. "What do you mean, no?"
"That wasn't the plan." The angel's features softened. "If you'd burnt the school down earlier, when Sam wanted to, you would have killed the homeless man who sleeps in the basement sometimes. And the three children who were playing hide and seek."
"That's meant to make me feel better?" Dean asked, the imaginary image of three dead children lurching into an all too real memory of three black body bags. To a teenage boy's nightmarish corpse. "Because, you know, it doesn't. Nothing makes me feel better." One hand let go of the sink and gesticulated while his voice raised itself involuntarily. "I can't sleep these days, hell, most of the time I can't even think. Death is following me around like a bad smell, tormenting me, and you tell me it's all part of some great plan?" He paused to breathe, bloody thoughts and images pounding in his head. Almost shouted then: "The homeless guy, the kids, were they more deserving of life than the five others that died yesterday?"
"Well, yes actually." Castiel cocked his head to the side. " They were without sin. God-"
"Shut the fuck up."
Dean wanted to move, to leave, to be anywhere but here talking to an angel about god's warped justice. The door was open but his feet wouldn't move. Knees buckled but didn't break.
"You're already doing his work, Dean," Castiel hissed, stepping closer, dark eyes and dry lips close to Dean's face.
"Yeah, well, maybe I don't want to," Dean protested. "I mean, why me?"
"Those who have seen Hell-"
"Yeah, yeah, I'll fight hardest to stop Hell on Earth, right?"
Dean half-laughed. "Well, if you and your buddies think Hell makes me stronger than other people, that's bullshit. Every time I close my eyes, every time I see a fire, hear a scream, smell blood, I remember. Really, remember." Knees quivering, feet rooted to the spot. "And it fucking paralyses me."
Castiel's words were slow and considered. "You're stronger than you think."
Dean leant back slowly, creating empty space between him and the Angel. "I'm not strong, period," he responded quietly. "Tim was attacking Sam yesterday and I was stuck in this... flashback. I didn't know where I was. How can I take care of this-" he raised both hands vaguely into the air, " -whatever this is, when I can't even look after my brother any more? Tim was burning Sam and he had to roll around on the fucking grass to put the flames out because I couldn't help him."
"Your brother can look after himself. You can see that." Castiel reached out to put his hand on Dean's shoulder, that shoulder, right there.
Dean shuddered, felt the hand grasp tighter. Gulped hard. He tried to look away when stupid tears began to well in the corners of his eyes. "Well, that scares me more than anything," he admitted, voice quavering. "I mean, I look after Sammy. That's my job, right?"
The angel touched his face. "There are more important things."
Dean turned his head away from the intrusive hand but it followed, knuckles cold on his cheek. "Yeah, I know, you and Big Daddy got work for me," he spat. "Well, you tell Him I don't want to choose who lives and who dies."
Remembering then the heavy weight of his brother in his four-year-old arms. Except Sammy, I'd always choose Sammy. Rescuing them both from the flames.
A second hand reached up, and an angel was cupping his face. "You didn't choose, Dean. He did."
"Then He's a bastard."
Dean flinched when Castiel sort of laughed.