Dean stands alone in a graveyard in Kansas, where the Apocalypse didn't start. Bobby's body, head twisted, is lying in the grass, splashed red with what used to be Cas.
There's nothing to indicate Sam was there at all. Dean crawls over to where he disappeared, looking for the key laying in the grass, sure he saw it glinting down here just a second ago, but there's nothing.
Dean searches for as long as he can, but he's broken and busted up and so very tired. He lays down to rest for a moment, between the untouched grass where Sam had just swan dived into Hell, the bloody red patch of Cas, and Bobby.
He falls asleep.
He wakes up to his face throbbing, but he doesn't care. He slowly drags together a pyre for Bobby and sits and watches until the fire dies away. It's incredibly illegal, incredibly open, and insane that no one catches him.
He keeps Bobby's hat. There isn't a big enough piece of Castiel to bury or burn. He finds a shred of trench coat, torn and bloodied, and tucks it in his pocket. There's nothing left of Sam at all. He wants to lay back down in the graveyard until he dies of exposure, but that seems melodramatic, so he goes into town, finds a motel, and asks for a single room.
He stays in the motel, drinking and sleeping it off, for a few days. He's charged for a week, but it seems longer. He's hungry for the first time in days and goes out to the Impala to go grab whatever's closest.
He catches sight of himself in the rearview mirror, and the sight shakes him out of it a little. The left side of his face is purplish black with sickly yellow green at the edges. He looks like he's rotting. He drops into the driver's seat and turns his head back and forth, trying to make out his own features underneath the swollen jaw and discolored skin.
It wakes him up. He's starving. He stops at the drive-thru on the way out of town, orders enough for two and scarfs it all down in the parking lot before heading to Sioux Falls.
Dean had imagined the house would feel different, like it would know Bobby wasn't ever coming back. But it's just Bobby's house. He'd considered finding a place for the hat here, propping it up on a shelf or something, but having it sit in the front seat of the car had been too depressing. He'd dropped it into a river and watched it float away a couple hours before the South Dakota border.
There is whiskey in the cupboards, food in the fridge, and there are books everywhere. One of them must have the answer to getting Sam back. Dean heats up some left overs, pours himself a glass and drops onto the couch to read.
He works the phones when he's sober and bored. Sometimes he lets them ring. Sometimes he's so drunk it seems like a good idea to answer the phones after all. He probably gets Griggs arrested for impersonating an officer, but Griggs is a moron, so jail probably at least saves him from a nasty death by monster.
He gets despondent. He's not actually stupid, but he's not Bobby. He's not Sam. He can't find answers in dust and wood pulp.
He tries things his way. He makes calls. A lot of his old psychic contacts have dried up since what happened to Pamela. A lot of his hunter contacts dried up after word spread that Sam was the Antichrist.
And after they killed Gordon.
And after word got out that they started the Apocalypse.
And after word got out that he and Sam were constantly being dragged back from the dead. Supernatural was one thing, but Hunters didn't want to deal with shit once it got esoteric.
He's reached the end of his rope after a few weeks. Bobby's got a few half finished bottles of painkillers in his medicine cabinet. Dean's already soaked in whiskey. All of it combined would probably be enough. The idea of just going to sleep and not waking back up is appealing until Dean muzzily remembers that he'd probably just end up throwing it all back up.
Well. His gun's on his nightstand.
The argument against it that he's been using for the last month- that he has to save Sam- is failing. He can't do it. Not this time. He's probably blown his last shot at Heaven. Maybe he could spring Sam from Hell from the inside. Or maybe he'll just go back to Alistair's rack and get what he deserves for letting his brother die.
He gets up off the couch and is walking toward the stairs when he sees the mail slot clack open and clack shut.
For some reason what drops catches his curiosity. He bends to pick it up.
It's a letter. Pastel pink.
It's addressed to him. In the corner, where the return address should be, there is just a name. Missouri Mosely.
He tears the letter open, perplexed to find an old Easter card inside. It looks like a cheap gas station one, and the pile of orange stickers on the back advertise that it must have been the last card on sale. The cheerful little message about Easter eggs is crossed out and underneath is written, in black pen and oddly blocky script: Wait and see, you damn fool.
Dean goes out the yard and works on the cars. It keeps him busy. It keeps him sober. It keeps him alive. There's a hollowed out body to a 59 El Dorado that could be worth some money after a little paint.
Priming it is sweaty, tedious work. Even out in the chilly, damp air Dean works in his T-shirt, tossing his jacket and shirt underneath the metal shell. He's gotten most of the quarter panel done when he hears his cellphone ringing from the house.
That phone hasn't rung in over a month and it takes him a moment to realize what the sound is. He runs for the house, grabbing it on the last ring.
It's a wrong number.
Everyone he knows is dead.
He doesn't even go back outside to the cover the car or grab his stuff. He opens a fresh bottle of whiskey and sinks back into Bobby's couch.
He feels guilty about the binge in the morning. He should have been working on the car, Bobby's water and electric cost money. He should have been back at the books, trying to save Sam.
He almost pours the last of the bottle out, but can't quite force himself to do it. He drinks some water and goes out to the yard. He's less hung over than he expected to be: the sun blazes, but doesn't burn.
He walks over to the El Dorado. He should have covered it, but it doesn't look like there's been any harm done. He stretches, then grabs his buffer from the hood of the car.
And that's when he sees him.
Castiel is asleep on the ground under the car.
He's wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, and for some reason, a grey bathrobe with black stripes. His head is pillowed on the clothes Dean left under the car.
Dean dives through the window, nearly landing on him.
The yelling wakes Cas up, but Dean still grabs him and shakes him, just to make sure he's really there. Cas gives him a confused and slightly irritated look before responding, "Hello, Dean," as though he had just stepped out for some milk instead of just reappeared from the dead after a month and a half.
Dean hugs him fiercely, and Cas pats him on the back uncomfortably. Dean drags him inside.
Dean isn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but he still keeps an eye on Cas for the first few days. Not only did Cas come back from the dead, because really, who hasn't? But a quick search of his clothes reveals a plain black billfold with a South Dakota Drivers License, a social security card and an insurance card. All of these are made out with the name Castiel Novak on them, who is apparently thirty three years old, a hundred and sixty pounds, and an organ donor.
In a long and storied history of scary and bizarre, somehow that takes the cake for Dean.
Having two people in the house breathes life back into Dean. He gets the car primed. He works the phones. With Cas around they even get back to researching.
But it's evident after only a few hours of having Cas back that all they can do is research.
Cas is human now.
And while that's disappointing as far as killing their hope for an easy magic solution to getting Sam and Bobby back, it's not the end of the world. It's almost nice. Cas is always around now and teaching him to be human is kind of fun when Dean's not trying to save the world at the same time.
He brings Cas different things to eat, and even makes a few things. He only has three specialties- bacon at the perfect crispiness, Chef-Boyardee, and the defrost button- but Cas has never eaten anything but White Castle so he's not hard to impress. Dean shoplifts some clothes for him and teaches him how to do laundry. They have an interesting night when Cas learns that there is a huge difference between a human alcohol tolerance and an angelic alcohol tolerance. Dean finds a cassette player in the closet of the room he set up for Castiel and plays him the tapes from the Impala.
He teaches Cas how to fix some easy things on the cars. He finds a TV for free out on a curb and steals some old Clint Eastwood movies. He teaches Cas to play cards and cheat at poker. He teaches him how to shoot a rifle and a nine millimeter and how to hold a knife.
Cas picks up on things quickly too. He doesn't really understand the movies, but he gets good at the song lyrics. He'll never be a great bluffer, but he can count cards.
He's doesn't really understand how his mortal body works, and oddly that seems to be the hardest part of the learning curve for him. He doesn't eat if Dean isn't around to eat with him and Dean will come back from errands or working and be able to hear Cas's stomach growling. Sleeping and the necessities that surround it don't really seem to click for the Angel either, and for the first couple of weeks Dean is forever finding Cas dozing all over the house and sometimes the yard.
Cas understands that Dean set up the other extra room for him and that he should theoretically be sleeping there at night, but Dean usually finds him on the couch or on the porch swing in the middle of the afternoon. Dean would push harder for him to try to normalize that, but after a lifetime of working nights and getting less than four hours in a day, Dean is just as bad and between the two of them it becomes acceptable to fall asleep on pretty much any mostly horizontal surface on the property at any time.
One morning Dean finds a few strange deaths in Montana and asks Cas if he wants to go check it out. Cas isn't up for it and Dean finds that he doesn't really mind sitting out a potential case.
It's nice not being a Hunter for a little while.
Dean feels like a dick – well, it's worse than that, but he can't even put together the words for how bad he feels about it- when he finally realizes that he may be enjoying teaching Cas to be human, but that doesn't mean Cas is dealing with it well.
It doesn't even occur to Dean that Cas is essentially crippled now until he comes home one day from picking up Chinese food to find Cas in the kitchen, screaming and raging and hurling dishes at the walls.
"Cas!" Dean yells, dropping the take out in the hall way and running into the kitchen. "Cas!"
Cas doesn't stop, doesn't turn, just heaves a coffee mug against a part of the wall that's already dented.
Dean grabs him under the arm and heaves him against his chest, but it's like Cas can't even tell. He launches himself toward the cupboard, Dean wrestling him into a hold even as the former Angel tries to move. He grabs a plate off the cupboard, spins just hard enough to break Dean's grip and comes circling around ready to whack Dean with the dish. Dean catches his arm and hurls the plate of his hands, but Cas is still fighting.
Dean slips on a piece of plate when Cas pushes back against him. Cas drops, carrying Dean after him even as Dean gets a grip on him. He winds up forcing Cas to the floor on his stomach, only managing it in the end because he has just enough height on Cas and just enough weight on Cas that the little bit of awareness of the situation helps him overpower the other man.
"Cas! Calm the fuck down, jesus-fuck what are you doing?" Dean barks. Cas has stopped shrieking, but he keeps struggling against Dean's hands for a few more moments until he stops with a shaky breath and Dean realizes that there is blood on the linoleum. He's holding Cas down in broken glass.
"Cas? I'm gonna let you up. You're gonna hurt yourself if you don't calm down. We have to take a look at your hands."
Cas doesn't respond. He goes so limp in Dean's hands that Dean's afraid he's passed out, but when he jostles Cas the other man replies with a dead but reproachful sounding, "Don't shake me, Dean."
Dean hauls Cas up to his chest like a life sized, too-heavy-for-this rag doll and manhandles him to the bathroom with Cas only taking the occasional helping step, like a toddler who doesn't want to go to bed. Dean makes him sit on the counter while he looks at his bloody hands, forearms and knees.
"You're lucky, you just missed a few major fucking arteries here."
Cas sighs and leans back against the mirror, unresisting as Dean mops up blood with a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide.
"What the hell happened?"
"I broke a plate," Cas replies.
"You don't say."
"And I couldn't fix it."
"So you decided to go for the matching set?"
"I can't fix anything. Not anymore. I don't think you understand what I used to be, Dean."
And that's the moment that it kicks Dean in the stomach. In his mind, Cas just got normal. In Cas's mind he's lost everything. It would be like if Dean woke up one morning not just without limbs, but blind and deaf as well.
And he's been making the poor bastard spaghetti-os.
"No, Cas. I don't think I do," he replies. He grabs a tweezers and starts pulling shards of glass out of Cas's hand. There are only a few, and they're small. It could have been a hell of a lot worse. Cas hisses with every shard of glass and porcelain that Dean tugs out of his flesh. If it had been Sam, Dean would have teased him about not being a baby, but Cas clearly isn't in a place where he can be pushed.
Cas doesn't say anything else. Dean focuses on fixing the only thing he can. He holds Cas's arm over the sink and pours the hydrogen peroxide over it. Then the other. Then he wraps it them both up in gauze.
Now Cas looks like the one who was going to kill himself.
"I'm sorry, Cas. I shoulda…" Dean starts, then finally looks up at Cas, who is still and expressionless like before, but now has red rimmed eyes on top of it. Cas clears his throat and shakes his head. Dean walks him up to his bedroom, tells him to lay down and then goes downstairs to clean the kitchen.
Dean stays up most of the night trying to figure out anyway to help.
He can't. Obviously he can't, but he starts thinking of things Cas might like. He likes the patch of wildflowers in Bobby's yard. He likes when they order take out. He likes when they play cards.
Dean can work with that.