AN: One-shot written mentally in my history class as I took a test, because I wrote a Supernatural fic mentally in every class today. ^.^ I couldn't break the pattern after it had been going for 2 out of my 3 classes, could I? ;P

Summary: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." (~Abraham Lincoln)... or, in simpler terms, Dean and Balthazar discuss loyalties, Cas, and the war. Canon up through 6.21.

Disclaimer: I disclaim. ^.^

Dean didn't end up having the chance to grill Cas on whether or not he'd betrayed them for a damn demon, the King of Hell, because on the way back to Bobby's place, he died.

It would've sucked, but his death was quick. At least it stopped Bobby and Sam from shooting him worried looks and having not-so-sneaky conversations with their eyes. It was a break, a relief, and how screwed up was that?

But heaven wasn't what it had been, at least not what it had been the one time Dean remembered visiting. Sam wasn't here, of course, but it wasn't just that. There was no road, no memory, no… anything. It was blank and expansive white, possibly made up entirely of light but just as possibly made up of absolutely nothing at all. It was terrifying, but there wasn't much he could do about it.

Dean decided that he was definitely standing on something, probably the same nothing that everything else was made out of, so he sat down carefully. Then, cross-legged and slouched, he stared into space. It was the perfect time to think, but Dean didn't like to spend excess time thinking. His mind invariably turned to darker things: Hell, torture tricks he'd learned from Alastair and the people he'd used them on, the wall in Sam's mind and how close it had come to falling, the barely averted Apocalypse, the Mother of All and her hell-bitch creatures, how close they'd come to losing Bobby, Cas…

So he stared off into space instead, pointedly not thinking. It was easier than it should have been. He didn't know if that was from too much practice or if he just hadn't been mentally active ever before in his life. He was even sure which option was better, at this point.

Time passed immeasurably in this state, but at some point he became aware of another's presence. It wasn't a sound that tipped him off; the environment around him just felt different now. He looked up to see Balthazar standing next to him, expression unreadable. For the first time since Dean had met the man, he actually looked like an angel. "Hello, Dean," the angel greeted, gracefully taking a seat beside him.

"Hi," Dean responded a bit shortly, glancing away from Balthazar but just as quickly glancing back. A guy could only stare at white nothingness for so long, after all.

"You went and got yourself killed again," Balthazar sighed. "As if little Cassie didn't have enough to worry about." It was almost accusing, that tone. Dean didn't want to be forced into feeling guilty right now, not while he was still working through things.

"It's not like I tried to," Dean bit back, trying to keep the defensive edge out of his voice. "How was I supposed to know there was a demon waiting in the bathroom at that gas station?"

Balthazar grinned. "Best way to die," he mocked. "'Here lies Dean Winchester, the heroic hunter of monsters that got caught with his pants down'."

Dean had to force himself not to grin, because it was the kind of joke he would have made. "Not funny."

Balthazar wasn't fooled. "Not at all," he agreed, still smiling. "You really should have known the monsters would be after you," Balthazar pointed out. "You did kill their mother."

Dean only shrugged and changed the subject, not wanting to admit that the angel had a point. He didn't concede to angelic douches as a general rule. "So what's up with this place?" Dean asked, gesturing around at the lack of anything in their immediate vicinity. "You lot got reconstruction going on or something?"

Balthazar frowned at Dean and shook his head slowly. "You really are stupid, aren't you, little monkey? What Castiel sees in you is beyond me…"

"Uh… not following you," Dean admitted.

"'A house divided against itself cannot stand'?" Balthazar quoted, quirking an eyebrow at Dean.

"Lincoln," Dean cited, wincing at the fact that he'd actually learned something in school. "….so you gonna tell me that the Hell is going on here?"

"Hell, Dean," Balthazar said with a considering look, "is not a bad description at all. It's the war, Dean. The civil war in heaven? The war that Castiel is fighting all the time while you're off getting your stupid ass killed?"

Dean looked around him. "Well, yeah, I know all of that. But what's this got to do with any of it?"

Balthazar just shook his head again. "Everything, you ignorant little mud-monkey. When your people fight wars, don't the battle grounds sustain damage? Do your civilians not die? It's a total war in Heaven. No place isn't fair game. No place is safe. So your little sector of Heaven just…" Balthazar paused to mime an explosion with his hands (complete with the "boom" noises), "…got hit by a bomb of sorts. No one's had time yet to find a new place for all the souls to go. They're just left here, drifting."

"They're messing with the souls?"

"That's part of it, yes."

"Are people…dying?"

"You mean the souls, I would assume?" Balthazar didn't wait for a response. "Yes, Dean, they are."

"So this war… it's really bad, then."

Balthazar looked like he wanted to say quite a few things, all of them fueled by frustration, but he settled for a simple, "Yes, Dean, it is."

"What would happen if Raphael won?"

"You've seen the end of the world. That would look like kindergarten to Raphael's high school. Total planetary destruction, corrupted angels running Hell, and Heaven torn apart without anyone that cared enough to rebuild it… it would be bad, as you said."

Dean frowned. "So, Cas needs to win." Balthazar didn't even give that one a response. "What would he do to win?"

"Do you mean to ask if he would team up with Crowley?" Balthazar clarified lazily.

"Yeah," Dean agreed.

"Yes, Dean, he would. He has. Now you're about to ask why he lied to you," Balthazar continued, holding up a hand to silence Dean as the Winchester started to unleash an angry outburst about Cas being a traitor. "Don't. He lied to you because he didn't have a choice. You're too self-absorbed to understand, Dean, and for some unfathomable reason Castiel cares what you think. Why else do you think he comes when you call? Every single time. Let me tell you, it ain't easy to fight a war that we're losing when our general has to leave us to chase after you, Winchester. What have you done to deserve that?"

"I…." Dean thought about it. He really did. "I'm his friend." It was the best thing he could come up with, because it was the only reason he could think of for why Cas put up with his shit. They were family.

"But you don't trust him?" Balthazar shook his head. "I know all about you humans and your strange little culture, and I know that friends are loyal to friends. He's lost everything for you, died for you—twice—and you can't let him fight his own battle without screwing everything up?"

Dean frowned. "But did it have to be Crowley?" he whined. He couldn't find a flaw in the angel's logic, because Balthazar had a solid point. Cas had earned his trust. It was just… wrong, somehow. Cas was supposed to be innocent, but it seemed Dean has screwed that up, too.

"Crowley's powerful, Dean, and he controls a whole 'nother army. Plus, Raphael will kill Hell's King to take over eventually, so they may as well be allies now. Also, if they form an alliance now, it may prove beneficial on the off-chance my little brother wins this war. It's politics, Dean."

"I hate politics," he grumbled. "Fine. Whatever, Cas and Crowley… whatever. But… how far would Cas go? Really. Where does he draw the line?"

"Are you asking if he'd kill you? Sam?" Dean nodded. "No. He'd do almost anything to save you, actually. It's a detriment to our cause, really, because he'd probably surrender to keep you safe."

Dean frowned. "What has he already done?"

"Sunk the Titanic, for one," Balthazar reminded him.

Dean's brow furrowed. "Why'd you guys un-sink it in the first place?"

"I thought you bought my story," Balthazar told Dean with a grin, a bit surprised. He looked almost impressed. "I am, after all, an angel with remarkably few limits. I'm a complete dick."

"Nah," Dean said, waving a hand. "You are all that, but Cas was way too awkward about it. I just… I didn't want to ask. I didn't think I wanted to know."

"We needed the souls, Dean. They're like… currency. Energy. We're losing, and even with my weapons our resources are dismally behind theirs."

Dean frowned, remembering something else. "Did he let you use us as decoys with the key that time?"

"Yes. We didn't expect them to follow you so quickly. He wouldn't have let you die, Dean. I didn't tell him that you were in danger."

"He used us, though." Dean couldn't even be angry, just confused. The pieces still weren't quite fitting together right. It was like a couple corners of the jig-saw pieces to this puzzle had been hacked off when he wasn't looking.

"Yes, Dean, he did, just like you used him as a decoy for Raphael and the angels when you went to stop Sam from breaking the final seal. We all have our moments."

"Okay," Dean said, nodding. "That's fair, I guess. Sort of. Why won't he let us die? You can just drag us back to life, can't you?"

"The other angels may get here first," Balthazar told him with a frown. "Heaven is no longer safe. You're just lucky they're all distracted right now, and Cas is never too distracted to check up on his little gang of mortals."

"So are you here to drag me back to Earth, then?"

"That's what Cas sent me to do," Balthazar hedged, "but I'm really here to decided whether or not you deserve it."

Dean frowned. "So this is a test?"

Balthazar shrugged. "Just in case, you'd better not fail," the angel suggested, flashing a smile.

Dean was quiet for a while. He thought. "If you put me back down there," he finally said, "I want you to promise me one thing."

"You aren't in a position to make demands, Dean," Balthazar pointed out, but he looked a bit twinkly in the eyes nonetheless.

"I get that," he promised, "but still, if you do drag me back down there, I want you to promise that you'll let me die if I have to. Cas has to win this war."

"Sam too?"

Dean swallowed. He loved Sammy. It was impossible not to: he'd raised his baby brother. A bond like that could never go away, it could only be buried in denial. But… though they were becoming the brothers they'd once been, they weren't there yet. He doubted they would ever be there again. "Even Sam. Anyone. You win this."

Balthazar tilted his head. "Just when I thought I understood you, Dean Winchester. I suppose I can almost see why my little brother is so obsessed with you. Fine, Dean, I'll grant you life, and I've no qualms about promising you that I'll kill you someday. Win-win situation." He grinned. "You never know, I may even help little Cassie get you back."

Dean would have bantered back, but Balthazar reached out and grabbed his shoulder, the one not marred by Castiel's scorched on hand mark, and everything went up in almost painful, burning light. Suddenly he was gasping awake in the dark, Sam crouched beside him.

"I'm okay," he promised his worried brother. He accepted a hand up. "It's all okay."

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