Wow, just finished the last one and I have this to offer. A companion piece to The Hand of Sorrow (shameless plug) but you don't really need to have read that for this to make sense. Some people wanted to know what Dean was up to during the course of the afore mentioned and my twisted brain was only too happy to comply. Again, there is only Destiel here if you need your eyes testing so squint a bit, maybe eat some chocolate and look at it in the mirror but there is always the potential, because this is me.

Lyrics throughout are from Disturbed's Prayer

Disclaimer: I own neither song nor show, I'm playing with it, and I promise that I will return them only mildly damaged. Well, I say mildly...

Prayer.

Another dream that will never come true
Just to compliment your sorrow
Another life that I've taken from you
A gift to add on to your pain and suffering

Another truth you can never believe
Has crippled you completely
All the cries you're beginning to hear
Trapped in your mind and the sound is deafening

Dean does not sleep much anymore, has not slept properly for a long time. Even before he had taken what he had thought was a one way ticket to Hell, sleep had been a rare and precious commodity, no matter how much he teased Sam about it. It stands to reason, now, that he has not slept much since his return, going to bed with his boots and clothes still on, ready to run if he needs to, even if he really does not need to, just ready to get away from the sorrowful eyes and worried stares. Since he has not been getting much in the way of sleep, Dean has started to think a great deal, long into the dark, lonely hours when he would give anything to have a bit of company, even in the form of Castiel. Especially the angel, because sometimes, just sometimes, the dreams of Hell and torment and despair disappear, and Dean will find himself fishing, or eating pie, or anyone of a number of mundane things that he never really gets time to do anymore and the angel is always there, watching, sometimes with a half smile on his lips, sometimes with a face as blank as fresh sheet of paper, but always there. Always watching. Always guarding.

Dreams are not the only places that he has seen the angel of course, there was always the visits that were 'seal this' and 'apocalypse that' and on the odd occasion, when Sam had once again snuck out to see Ruby and do whatever it was that they did together at night, and if Cas had nothing better to do, the angel would just drop by. Not so much to say 'hi' of course, that not being the angel's way, but to bolster Dean's moral and seemingly to remind him that he was not alone. Although Dean has always known that he really is and now he is fairly certain that there will be no more of those visits anyway, not now that Sam has let Lucifer out of his cage.

The first time Dean realises something is not quite right is in one of his dreams. He and Cas are sat in a park somewhere, it could be any one of a number of such places that Dean has seen through the years, and for some reason, under the trees and basking in the dappled light that filters through the trees, they are playing chess. Dean has never played chess in his life, but here he is, with Castiel patiently teaching him, playing chess and finding it to be a nice way to pass the time, enjoying the only battle that he will ever fight in where it does not matter if he loses, because if he does, when he does, they can reset the board and start again. He likes that, no pressure. Cas has been staring at the board for a while now, like he is trying to think of his next move even though Dean knows that the angel has always been a little ahead of him.

"Cas?" He tries to get the angel's attention, is startled by the change when he finally does look up.

"Dean?" He tilts his head with the question, something like fear in the usually expressionless eyes. "Help me," the edge of desperation in the angel's voice makes Dean wince, shaking him a little more towards reality "please, help me."

"How? Cas, what?" But the frightened, real life Castiel is gone, the dream Cas is back and his piece is moved and he is berating Dean for not paying attention to the game. The strange, real Castiel does not come back that night.

The second time that Dean gets the feeling something is not quite right is when he finally notices that Castiel has failed to turn up for three weeks, there has been the dreams, and the daydreams and Dean has put those down to the fact that he has a lot on his mind and he just needs some way to unwind after another fruitless day of searching. Sure it had been annoying when Castiel had popped in every few days to send them off after another seal, or away if he felt there was reason for it, but now there is no sign of the guy and against Dean's better judgement that absence has him worried about the angel.

The third time is in a dream again, except that this one has come to Dean after a particularly loud and angry argument with Sam, what was new there anyway, and he had collapsed onto the bed after Sam had gone out to get some air, hand resting on the scar that Castiel had given him that has been throbbing for days and making him unbelievably short tempered for the better part of a week. He lies and rubs at it thoughtlessly, silently cursing the angel and his lack of presence and the general lack of appearances since he had faced off against the archangel and is it just that Castiel does not care anymore? He falls asleep, though he does not realise it, he is clutching the scar in the shape of a hand far more tightly than he believes he is capable of. It is dark in this dream and he fears for a long time that he has returned to the nightmares of Hell, that he is going to be alone and unwanted again and a part of him starts to struggle against the sleep.

"Dean," there is no way that he would not have recognised that voice, not even if all the armies of Hell had screamed over the top of it, he would have known the voice anywhere. Castiel. "Dean," his name again, a cry of distress that cuts at the hunter's soul and he turns, follows the voice through the darkness until he comes to a dimly lit corner and there is Castiel, on a table of iron, legs and arms bound and the ground around it is covered by strange, warped symbols.

"Cas!" He reaches his hands to the table without thinking, is beyond surprised when they sink straight through the angel. "What's going on, Cas?"

"Help me, Dean," the angel begs and there is real fear in his eyes then, fear Dean has never dared to believe that he would see. "Help...." his plea is cut off by a raw and gut wrenching scream and his chest seems to light up, burning with a mark that looks a little familiar if not entirely so and as the brilliance of it begins to burn out his retinas he feels hands tugging him back into wakefulness.

"Dean, Dean!" Sam sounds almost panicked and the elder Winchester can hear screaming, his screaming, his own throat tender and sore from his cries that it would seem are in tune with those of Castiel.

The final clue, is not so much a clue, it is a simple, outright confirmation of what Dean has already come to suspect. Castiel is missing, presumed lost and there is not a damn thing that any of the angels are going to bother to do about it because, as Zachariah puts it, they "have more pressing concerns than an angel who can not watch over a charge without giving in to temptation." Which bugs Dean more than he wants to admit when the only reason for Zachariah to be there is to introduce them to a new angel so that she, apparently, does not get stabbed or shot or any one of a number of other things that the Winchesters are known to do to the unknown when it turns up in their motel room of its own accord. An angel that is apparently there to watch them and make sure that Dean does not get himself killed or maimed before he can do the inevitable and kill Lucifer, at least, not until it is exactly when they want him to.

He looks her over while her boss is still in the room, has come to the conclusion, rather too rapidly, that he can see why she has been the one chosen as their new messenger. She is small, skinny and short, with brown hair that is pulled back off her face in a messy bun that is more haphazard and flighty, than thought out or prepared. Her eyes are grey, pale and as emotionless as Castiel's so often were, down turned in what is probably respect for her boss but at least she is less sombrely dressed, even if it is not practical for their line of work, a knee length black skirt and a sky blue tunic top that is cinched high with a wide belt just above her waist, giving a figure that should seem flat, an hourglass that Dean would normally be pleased to look at, if there was not all the worry that he is able to feel for Castiel coiling tight in his belly. Her name, they are told, is Seraphiel, and they were to treat her with more respect than they treated Castiel with, because even though they need Dean, her orders regarding Sam are a little more ambiguous, pretty much in line with the orders that Uriel spouted about being given, and if she needs to she can be rid of Sam just as quickly as she pleases, because Sam has served his purpose now anyway. Which should worry Dean more than it does, but there is still all that worry about Castiel.

When Zachariah and their new friend have gone, Dean allows himself to collapse on the bed. Sam knows enough to know that Dean feels guilty about Castiel, because the angel can never get a break, and because he pulled Dean out of Hell, had turned his back on Heaven to help Dean, and that counts for an awful lot in the Winchester book of good deeds to be rewarded with tolerance if not complete friendship and trust.

"We'll find him, Dean," Sam promises, and Dean wishes that he could believe his brother. Wishes that they were not stuck with this angel who seems to be nothing more than a wall flower and wishes that he had Castiel back, because he trusts Cas, and he likes him and wherever he is now, Dean is certain that it is his fault that he is there.

Let me enlighten you
This is the way I pray
Living just isn't hard enough
Burn me alive inside
Living my life's not hard enough
Take everything away

Reviews are little Castiels that fly above our heads and mini Deans under the bed. A small Sam in hand and a tiny John by the chair, a review that can show how much you care.

Artemis