A/N I was re-watching the old SPN seasons, and that one Djinn episode struck me with insane inspiration to do this. However, rather than being set in season 2, I'd put this more around the middle of 6. Please enjoy! Reviews are also quite lovely.

Rated T for some violent/sexual references and moderate language

Disclaimer I don't own Supernatural or any associated characters, events, etc.

Every whisper, every waking hour
I'm choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost, and blinded fool
Oh, no, I've said too much
~ "Losing My Religion," REM

There's noise everywhere, noise and light, and it's overwhelming. Every sensation burns on Dean's skin, flashes of blinding whiteness seeming to singe his eyes from their sockets. His mind is a melted mess of confused chaos, and he struggles without knowing what he's fighting against, straining to break free from the arms that seem to be pressing down on him from all sides, hot and angry.

"No—help!" he shouts, and his skull rings with the force of his own voice as he squints and tries to pull his memories together, to recall how the hell he got here. He's aware that something is wrong, deep in his stomach. Something is very, very horribly wrong, and that knowledge is so fierce that it seems to suffocate him, swelling up in his throat and blocking his desperate breath. "Sam," he gasps, "Sam!"

Brother, he hears a voice hiss, he wants his brother…

"Where is he? What did you do to him?" And then, just as important—"Cas?" Surely Cas wouldn't let him get abducted like this without struggling, himself. There's no way. So they must have done something to him, too—strong enough to restrain angels, shit, he's in trouble now.

Something is still horribly, sickeningly wrong.

Slowly, the colors around him manage to settle into shapes—people, three white-coated people holding down his arms and legs, their eyes dark and bright with worry. It's all so unfamiliar. He needs something to root him in place, to fight with him, to reassure him that the world still makes some sort of sense—

But there's nothing, no one but the people who he suddenly realize to be doctors, two men and one woman, the latter of which is speaking fiercely to the other two. "Should we sedate him?"

"He's been naturally sedated long enough," another growls back, an older man with hard hazel eyes and a silver-flecked ginger beard.

Dean's stomach drops. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

The woman turns to him, smiling nervously. She's nice-looking, he recognizes faintly, even as his too-heavy hand fights to claw at her face. Platinum blonde hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, slim, clear features and almost violet-blue eyes. "Sweetie, you need to calm down. No one's going to hurt you."

"Nice try, you demonic bitch," he rasps. "What've you done with Sam and Cas?"

Her teeth worry her bottom lip, and he takes advantage of the brief moment of exposure to lash out, his fingers colliding with her cheek. He feels his nails bite against flesh, and she gasps, withdrawing as three thin streams of blood dart down to her chin.

"Alright, pump the sedative," the older doctor barks, and Dean only has time to feel his whole being lurch in a final, fierce surge of desperation before gray sleepiness is suddenly tingling through him. He fights it, at first, but everything is suddenly slow-moving, his thoughts spinning free of their normal, conscious restraints. His lips move, his breath like a phantom as his head falls heavily back onto what must be a pillow but feels like a cloud.


The walls of the hospital are as white as the doctors' coats, and it burns his eyes. The molded plastic chair he's sitting in cuts painfully into his back. His feet tap restlessly on the floor, but his arms are limp at his sides, his eyes staring straight ahead.

He doesn't entirely process the words that the thin-haired, entirely human man in large, round glasses is intently addressing to him. They're too long, anyways. Complicated. Nonsensical. Medical titles for obscure afflictions that contain too many syllables and not enough vowels. Head injuries, that's what the doctor is talking about. Head injuries. The gist is clear enough to garner, and Dean processes it in slow jolts, his mouth growing steadily dryer and more cottony.

Car accident. Severe injury to the head, fractured skull. Very nearly killed. Survival was a miracle. Deeply unconscious state; approaching comatose, but with clear brain activity. Very specific brain activity, at that.

Dreaming. You've been dreaming.

Everything. The demons, the angels, all the hunter business in general—hell, his whole damn life, really, his and Sam's, everyone's. Mary's death, John's death, Bobby's very existence… Castiel… all imagined. All dreamed.

"There's nothing to worry about if the dreams still seem real. They're very vivid, as our past patients and medical scanners both claim, and it can take a long time to shake them off. Not to mention that time in your head is different, of course—it was less than a month that you were unconscious, but it probably felt like years. Confusion at this point is perfectly normal."


"Your life may feel foreign to you, but in a matter of days or even hours you should be able to completely reorient yourself, and leave any nonsense behind. Be happy, Dean. You're back with us now, and that's more than half the battle right there."

"Yeah." There's a small painting of an angel, framed by dark wood, the only thing on the otherwise plain walls of the tiny room. Curly golden hair, flushed skin, serene blue eyes. Creamy robe with pearl-hued wings extending from its shoulder blades, a perfect little halo hovering over its flaxen locks. Who's it supposed to be? Gabriel? Michael? Almost amusingly inaccurate in either case.

But it's not. It's not, he reminds himself. He's never met Gabriel or Michael. They probably don't exist. They definitely don't exist. If there are angels, there'd have to be a God, and any higher power who had even the slightest scrap of mercy wouldn't let a thing like this happen to him.

"You may be unsteady for a while, but there's no reason that you should be kept in the hospital. We're discharging you today—right now, in fact, if you don't have any questions."


A clock is ticking somewhere in the room, but he can't see where it is. The blankness of the walls burns his eyes.

"Wonderful. You're a very strong, brave man, Dean Winchester. Your brother will be here to bring you home any minute now."

Under more careful scrutinizing, the angel is rather badly painted. Big, bold strokes that don't quite line up around the edges. Jarringly unreal.


They don't speak, at first. It's not a cold silence, just an uncertain one, that of two near-strangers with an unwilling obligation to care about one another. Sam gives Dean a nervous little smile, reaches out to grip his arm but doesn't move in for any sort of hug.

"Nice to see you on your feet, man."

"Yeah. Nice to be on them."

He's good at lying. Good at forcing his features into the wide grin to match Sam's uncertain little smile, good at lighting a curtain of warmth over his eyes to hide behind.

No more words are exchanged as they get into the car, a nice blue Toyota Matrix with a California license plate. A family car. He leans into the door and presses his forehead to the cold glass window as the hospital parking lot whisks away, watching the late autumn rain cry down onto the street. "So, how's Jessica doing?"

"Great. She's doing great." A small bit of warmth leaks into his voice at those words, and it's good to hear, even as it does something ridiculous to Dean's stomach. For a moment, nausea rises up inside of him, and he takes slow, deep breaths, still staring out the window, watching the people flit by and the other cars' headlights reflect in the puddles. "Mom and Dad'll be glad to see you. Carmen, too."

Carmen. His girlfriend, the one he's been living with for a while now. He remembers Carmen, but oddly, distantly, like she's some sort of dream. Dream. You've got it backwards, dumbass. Bronzy-russet skin, flowing dark hair, wide amber-brown eyes and a stunningly white grin.

A man waiting at a stoplight looks up. His eyes are vivid azure, large and piercing, shining under his dark, wet hair.

Dean swallows.

"Yeah. Carmen. It'll be… nice to see her, too."

They don't say anything else the rest of the drive, but Dean stops looking out the window.

He hugs Mary first, for the obvious reasons, and it's probably the first time since waking up that he feels fully happy. It's unreasonable that he should miss her so much—after all, he's been separated from her only as long as he has from the rest—but the dreams still feel far too real, far too vivid, and the false image of her alight on the ceiling burns behind his eyelids, ferocious enough to prick up tears that he fights to hold back, shakily inhaling her fresh lavender scent.

"Oh, it's good to see you, honey," she whispers, holding him tight to her with trembling arms. Her fingers massage along his shoulders, soothing, welcoming. "We were so worried about you, your father and I…"

"I'm fine," he reminds her, and he curses himself for sounding so damn choked up, so weak and vulnerable. You've been through so much, you shouldn't cave just for something like this—but he hasn't been through much, not much at all, as that little creeping voice in the back of his mind points out insistently, he's probably been through less than the average man his age…

She lets go of him before he lets go of her, and when he finally copies her action, it's with great reluctance, his hand lingering on her shoulder, feeling the firmly real warmth of her skin underneath the thin layer of a light shirt. The next person he turns to is John, of course, and the tears in his throat thicken as soon as he meets his father's familiar eyes, so large and brown, warmer than the hunter John Winchester's ever were.

They don't hug, not fully like Dean and Mary did, but John wraps a strong, firm arm around his son, patting him on the back and smiling widely at him, proudly. "But we knew you'd pull through. You're a strong man."

"Thanks." Not strong. I'm not strong. You're stronger, or you were, only not, because neither of us ever was…

And then, when he can't avoid it any more, Carmen. He does feel something for her, or at least he tells himself that he does, but it's shallow, a stirring lower than his chest. Not what he's learned to identify as love. Unless that emotion, the one that he wishes he harbored for her, is something that he conjured up himself. Perhaps his dreamed love is nothing like the real thing, perhaps it's simply an exquisite fantasy…

In any case, he can't be with her. Not now. And he thinks she knows that, too, because there's something about the tilt of her mouth and eyes that communicates more regret than delight. The end of their relationship is a palpable thing between them, even though neither of them dare to put voice to it now. It'll come when it's time. Until then, Dean makes sure to keep their lips apart, simply because he doesn't know how he'd deal with that right now. She seems willing enough to comply, nuzzling at his shoulder instead, and she keeps an arm firmly secured around his waist when she draws away, as he turns to face the three of them.

His parents are still gazing at him like he's the most precious thing in the world, but Sam looks awkward—nervous, even, his hands shoved in his pockets and his eyes darting around the walls. They're waiting, he realizes with a jolt—they're all waiting for him to say something, to make a suggestion as to what they do next.

"Um," he half-coughs, "sorry, but I'm… still feeling a bit tired. If it's fine with you guys, I… think I'll head home, turn in for the night."

"What, you didn't sleep long enough?" Carmen giggles, prodding at him playfully. He manages to pull on a grimacing sort of smile and a laugh like shattered glass in his throat.

"You've got no idea how much it exhausts a guy's body to lie inert for days on end," he forces himself to joke in response.

"Inert? Big word for you." Then, in a whisper that tickles his ear, "I can exhaust it more later, if you're in the mood."

Well, maybe he won't be getting rid of her quite so fast, after all.

Still, her euphemistic offer is a bland sort of idea, carrying the same sort of dullness as running in place. Oddly enough, he doesn't want to. Not today. So he suffices for a murmured "maybe," then sets about bidding goodbye to his brother and parents.

"We're going to have to make plans to celebrate soon," Mary reminds him.

"Yeah, sure."

Sam's still got those stupid bangs, he notices as he and Carmen head out the door. He imagines voicing the words—even I managed to dream up a better haircut for you—but keeps them sealed down in his stomach along with anything else hinting at humor. Besides, Sam would probably scowl, be confused by the half-baked attempt at lively banter.

Maybe they can work their way up to the relationship that he imagined them to share. But probably not. That sort of thing feels useless at this point. Everything does, really. Here he is, coming to the realization that he's whiled away a good portion of his life without ever doing anything useful.

He's ordinary. He's ordinary, and chances are that he's never saved one person or hunted a single creature in all his life.

The outside air is dark charcoal grey, stained by the stretching tentacles of the burnt orange sunset, which cuts bluntly through the wavering curtains of soft mist.

It all clashes so damn much. Everything about it.

Taking a deep breath, he tries to focus on the present, on the rush of fresh foggy breeze and the reddish glints of Carmen's hair when it's lit up from behind.

It doesn't work.

One of her hands is on his hip, the other one cupped around the back of his neck so that her slim fingers rub gently against his scalp. Her frame is warm, delicate, and he can admit to himself that it carries something with it—a sort of sense of comforting familiarity, something that, perhaps in another time, he might have associated with love. But it's not love, and he knows that now. Not anything approaching love.

Let me be your friend, he wants to plead. Don't make this into more than that.

I don't know you.

Which is wrong, entirely wrong as he gazes into her eyes, which are the perfect shade of age-darkened amber. He does know her, of course he knows her—she's Carmen, he met her seventeen months ago and they've been going out for twelve of those. After the first half-year, they moved in together, certain that they were meant for each other… that's where the two of them stand now, in their shared house, on the ground that's owned equally by the two of them. Ground promising a new life—or an old life, really, his old life, the future designated for him before that car crash came along and dragged him away from it all, thrust him into something that was more frightening, more dangerous, more gritty—undeniably better.

He's supposed to feel normal by now. To have recovered from the dreams. Isn't that what the doctors said? That the disorientation should probably right itself within mere hours?

But it hasn't. Dean's still sleepwalking, waiting desperately for the shake on his shoulder that signals Sam waking him up on one of those hundreds of hotel beds—not the strange, distant Sam that he knows now, but the Sam that shared such an intense bond with him, the Sam that he'd die for without the tiniest hesitation, that he has died for. He'll straighten into a sitting position, swing himself up and head out to the Impala, and they'll resume their regular life, their right life. Saving people. Hunting things. Maybe Cas'll even be there—that'd be nice, he recognizes with a fierce twist in his gut. Or maybe it's not his gut, maybe it's something else entirely, but he has no way of knowing that. He's blind to his own interior.

He wants Cas to be here. Wants to see those blue eyes, surely the purest color in the universe—the dark hair, the beautiful, beautiful face—

"You're distant," Carmen murmurs. Her ebony locks seem to twirl in the still, warm air as she tilts her head to the side, her expression open and searching. "Are you sure you're doing okay, honey? You didn't ask those doctors to send you home early or something, did you?"

"Distant?" he echoes numbly. "The… no, 'course I didn't. It's just… confusing. Yeah, confusing, being back in the…" A short, dry laugh, entirely devoid of humor. "Real world."

"The real world is nice, though, isn't it?" Her thumb inches along his shoulder. Curling under the collar of his shirt, warm and tentative. "I missed you."

"Me too." Lies, he decides, are thicker than truths. Like syrup coating his tongue and lips, forcing their collisions to be clumsy and unsmooth.

Now she's close, closer than she should be, but all he does is blindly watch her face. It's not right, and as she nears even more, his everything recoils, reminding him that this is wrong, wrong, wrong. She isn't the right person, and even if it took a car crash and days of sleep-hallucinations to realize that, it couldn't be clearer now.

Just let yourself go, Dean. Just appreciate the freaking girl. When have you ever turned down one this nice-looking before?

Her breath is on his lips now, her hand fully moved around to grip at the front of his shirt. The air between them is too warm. Stale, somehow, despite the fresh scent of her tropical shampoo and soft moisture from her newly washed hair.

He turns his head at the last moment, letting his chin drop, apology rolling off of him in bitter waves. "I'm sorry," he says, his throat aching. A quick move dislodges her hand from his hip, and the other one falls away automatically. Her eyes are shadowed. Hurt. "I… I just can't."

"Alright." She draws her robe tighter around her curvy form, presses her lips together into a firm line. "Come to bed when you're ready. I'll be waiting."

The door closing behind her is like a blow to his lungs. She never used to do that. Not when things between them were going alright.

He doesn't want to lose her, not really. He's just not ready to hold on any more than he is to let go.

His feet move without thinking, tracing a familiar path to a chair in the kitchen. The clock ticks away into the darkness, and he lowers himself into a sitting position.

There's nobody to listen to him.

Talk to Sam. Sam doesn't care.

Talk to Cas. Cas never existed.

Talk to Bobby. Bobby's not any more real than Cas.

There's no one to go to for help, so he stays silent, his elbows resting against the cold of the table, and drowns in the endless ticking of the clock.

The thought of sleep is a joke at this point, really. It's nearly five now, according to the glowing green numbers of the microwave, and even though exhaustion weighs down his eyelids and drags at his dry throat, he can't fathom the thought of crawling into bed, with Carmen. She'll be getting up in a few hours. He's not ready to see her again—he wishes the night would go on forever, so he'd never have to confront her or any other living person. So that he could just sit here, let the waves of shock and confusion roll over him until they chipped away at his being, until they eliminate him entirely, leave only a pile of dust in their wake.

He always wanted this, didn't he? That desperate thought wanders back to the front of his foggy mind, an obvious last straw. Hell, this is the life you dreamed up for yourself with the Djinn.

A dream within a dream. A false Djinn. A false victory.

That comes back to him, now—that layered experience, the slow sinking of his stomach when he realized that the Djinn's conjured version of Sam barely knew him, barely cared about him. He'd been so damn relieved when he'd fought his way back to 'real' life, gotten to hug his brother again… his brother who was just as imaginary as the Djinn one.

He wonders, vaguely, how Sam would react if Dean were to try and hug him now. Probably stiffen, swallow, pull his eyebrows together in confusion and uncomfortably wait it out. Pat him on the back, perhaps. He certainly wouldn't return the gesture.

Damn it. Dean's overlong fingernails scratch against the glossy tabletop, pressing down until they begin to bend, so that pain shoots through his nerves. He withdraws his hand and clenches it into a fist instead.

Sam isn't even the worst part. Because he still has Sam, in a way. Still has the beginning of Sam, and if he plays it right, if he works carefully, maybe he can re-forge some semblance of the bond that he imagined them to have. It's nothing definite, but it's a chance. An opportunity.

But how can he consider that solace, when it's the only thing he has? The rest are gone, aren't they? Cas is gone.

And he can't get that damn thought out of his head, even as he tells himself that it's not the most important bit either, that he should be more concerned about… about… God, what? What could possibly be more important than losing Cas? No, not losing him—never having him in the first place.

He created Cas. Out of nothing. Out of… what? Dreams? Hopes? Hopes for the ideal friend, or for—

Not a friend. Cas was damn shitty as a friend, when it came down to it; always so solemn, never able to take a joke, even betraying them sometimes…

But his chest prickles as fiercely as his eyes when he tells himself that, because what the hell, Cas was the best friend he ever had, or could ever imagine having… he was brave, he was loyal, he was strong, he was freaking adorable, he was—


And Bobby, God, Bobby. The rugged old hunter who'd saved both his and Sam's lives so many times… a character. A hallucination. Even now Dean can recall him with utter vividness, just how his house smelled, the way that cap would perch on his thin-haired head, the gruff look in his eyes, often framed above and below by a full-featured scowl.

The names and faces continue to whisk through his mind, Ellen, Jo, Rufus, Lisa, Ben, even the ones that he didn't care about, the ones he hated… Meg, Ruby, Crowley, Balthazar, Gabriel.



He doesn't sleep that night, and the next day, when Carmen's at work, he goes out to buy a gun.

It's only when he's holding it, perched on the side of his and Carmen's bed at home, that he realizes he doesn't know what to do with it. What's he trying to do? Kill something? Kill himself? Both equally useless. He turns it slowly between his fingers, inspecting the short, clean muzzle and the solid grip. It's a pistol, really, not the type he used often on hunts—dreamed that he used…

And it really doesn't feel familiar, either, tucked into his hand, like it doesn't quite fit there. How many times has he held a gun in his life? He strains his mind, fighting to remember, but reality is still too blurred with his dream, and he can't even tell whether he's ever actually shot one. Surely at some point… right?

It's not loaded—hell, he didn't even think to get ammo—but he twists it anyways, rotating his grip and flipping the nose of the weapon up to brush against his chin. It's cold, and chills radiate from where it touches his skin, traveling through his veins, heavy and icy. Almost unconsciously, he drags it along his jaw until it's against his lips like a macabre kiss, metal to flesh, dead to alive.

If there was a bullet in there—

But, no, he wouldn't. He hasn't slept all night, and he's not thinking properly. It'll be better when he wakes up. It has to be.

He doesn't know what the hell he'll do if it's not.

Slowly, as if moving underwater, he pulls open the drawer of his nearby dresser and stuffs the gun out of sight, under a pile of grayish socks. He should probably return it to the store—these things aren't cheap—but all he can really think right now is that he wants to blind himself to it all. Doesn't want to apply the effort, to hold the weapon in his unfairly weak hand any longer.

He flings himself back onto the bed, eyes thudding shut, exhaustion overtaking his body.

He'll sleep, and when he wakes up, it'll be better.

It has to be.

He wakes up after ten hours. It's dark out, only a few yellow lights bleeding through the window shades and touching the mattress. Carmen still isn't back. Night shift.

His heart is still far too heavy.

Nothing's better.

And that's how it stays.

"Dean, it's, um, your brother. Sam. Well—Carmen called, and I guess she's worried about you or something. And, er, she thought I might be able to help with that, so… I know we don't talk a lot or anything, but she said you haven't spent time with any of your normal friends lately, and, well… look, dude, I'm just going to come over, okay? Jess and I aren't leaving until tomorrow, so I'll be there around six and we can go get dinner or something. Um, yeah. See you there."

"Let's go to the lake," he says as soon as he opens the door, twin beer bottles in hand.

Sam looks surprised, but Dean doesn't waste any time in hurrying down the steps, towards the sleek car that seems to be the only right thing in this darkened reality. Its streamlined form is as dark and vintage as always, flawless in the dusky light.

"Lake?" he echoes, hurrying after.

"It's nearby. Come on, don't you know your way around this place at all?"

He slips into the driver's seat, and after a few seconds, the passenger door swings open. Sam lowers himself down, and, for a moment, the setting sun glares off of the metal, partially blinding him so that all he can see is the tall frame of his brother. His heart leaps in his strangled chest for a moment, because this could so easily, so easily be the start of just another hunt.

It's not, though.

But as he guns up the engine, his mouth opens, and the words begin to spill out, first one at a time, then in a massive rush, so that Sam's jaw is practically hanging by the time they're a ways down the road, when the story finally begins to take form.

It starts simple.

"I had this… dream thing."

"We were hunters." He stares out onto the water, which is rippling gently, crimson light from the sunset dancing over its smooth surface. "You and me, we… tracked down creatures. Ghosts, werewolves, crap like that. Killed 'em."

Sam shoots him a look, but it's gentler than it could be, more curious than exasperated. "Me? Why would I be in your dream? Instead of… Carmen, or someone?"

"Don't know." The sun reaches the exact point of the horizon, and he narrows his eyes against its sudden vibrant flare. "Guess it was just… some part of me acting up. Brotherly instinct, whatever."

"Well, it's…" There's a faint thud as he sets down his beer bottle on the damp wooden railing, and a bird coos from the trees, the shuffling of its wings barely audible over its soft, mourning peeps. The last fragment of sun drowns under the edge of the water, echoes of scarlet bleeding over the clear expanse, and the stars are suddenly much more vivid, dashes of silver in the dark, pure blue sky. Crickets join the bird, and mosquitoes begin to flit around their heads, but neither of them react. Just watch the water and the stars, the sky and the ghost of the sun. "…Flattering, I guess," he finally sighs. "I never would've expected…"

"To be featured in my crazy comatose dream about shootin' undead creeps with salt bullets?" He laughs and reaches over, clapping his beer-free hand to Sam's shoulder. His brother stiffens at first, then slowly relaxes, the smile playing around his lips only a tiny bit forced.

"Yeah. But… it wasn't a coma, Dean, people don't dream in comas."

"Shut up. I know that."

A short, hesitant laugh falls from Sam's lips, and then he shakes his head, straightening up and swatting a swarm of hungry mosquitoes out of his face. "Ready to head back?"

"Sure, okay."

They traipse over the dock with the water lapping underneath it, back to where the Impala waits. Its surface is glinting in the low light, and the scent of leather as he opens the driver's door is nearly overpowering. His chest twists with a strange sort of nostalgia, and his breath seems to die at the base of his throat for a frozen moment, the backs of his eyes stinging. So many memories—the hunts, the kills, Sam, Bobby, Ruby, Cas.

Cas. How is it that he can recall him so clearly? The exact way his hair fell over his forehead, the slightly slumped, almost defeated way that his shoulders often hung, the steely look on his face whenever he fought, the lithe grace of his trench-coated body… and the eyes, always the eyes, such a burning, unreal blue, liquid sapphire that seemed to pierce Dean to the core of his chest.

None of that's real. This is real. Sam married to Jess, the Impala with no hidden layer to her trunk, a quiet world where ghosts and angels and demons are all just myths.

"Dude, you gonna get in?"

"Yeah." His voice is thick, broken, and he spares one last glance at the silent lake before pulling himself down into his seat. "I'm comin'."

Being with Sam helps, alleviates the constant, stabbing disbelief for a while. But as soon as he's driven off in his own car, leaving Dean in the silent, empty house, the desperation begins to claw its way back up to the surface until he feels ready to vomit. The walls are swimming before his eyes, and his mind is free of its usual constraints, needs and thoughts darting every which way—he leans against a doorway, nauseated, dry breaths echoing through his throat.

Cas. Cas. Cas.

Memory of the angel is like a disease, poisoning him slowly, taking over his mind until he can't think about anything else. His voice couldn't be something conjured by Dean's imagination alone. That's not possible, is it? That's not possible.

He has to be real. He has to be.

Dean's never been religious—not in real life—but with his heart pounding and bruising against his ribcage now, with sickness fighting the back of his tongue and frantic tears stinging his eyes, he's positive of one thing.

He believes in Castiel.

Even if it's the same way a little girl believes in unicorns, he doesn't care, because it's fueling him. It's fueling him. With sudden newfound strength, he squeezes his eyes shut, brings his trembling hands together in an imitation of a prayer.

"Cas, you son of a bitch," he chokes out, pressing his forehead against the cold, cream-colored paint of the doorframe, "get down here. I know you're there. I know I couldn't have—just, come on. Please. I need you. You care about me enough for this, right, man? I… I matter enough that you're not gonna let me go totally crazy?"

One heartbeat, two, and still, there's only silence. His insides begin to sour as he cracks his eyes open to reveal the same still shadows as always in the kitchen—come on. Come on. There's no way I invented you, there's—

Outside of the window. A flash of tan fabric.

He's stumbling, tripping, probably crying with pure desperation. Forcing the lock of the door open, he finds his feet slipping on the sidewalk, his vision burning with darkness that focuses around the bright, pale trench coat. Swaying over the silver cement, wrapped around the gorgeous slender figure—

Oh God. Oh God. Cas.

He can't say the name. It comes out as a cough, and every cell of his body is on fire as he reaches out, as his hand finds the shoulder, latches onto it like a lifeline, fingers cinching around the muscle.


The eyes. He'll be able to see the eyes again.

The head is turning, and so is his stomach, and his lungs and his heart and—


Brown eyes.

Brown eyes, and a thin face, a clean-shaved chin and hair cropped far too short over the forehead.

"Excuse me?"

Too high of a voice. Southern accented.

His legs become water and his vision narrows to gray as it all becomes too much.

The first time he woke up, it had been in a flash, deep in darkness one moment and then flooded by brilliance the next. But this time it's slow, dredging, and he knows in the back of his heavy mind that he doesn't want to meet the reality waiting on the other side of the blurry veil.

It happens anyways. Slowly. Inevitably.

He doesn't forget anything, not for an instant. He knows what happened. The mistake he made. The stupid, childish mistake.

Inhale, exhale. He wants to sigh, but his lungs aren't strong enough.

"Are you feeling better?" It's the same doctor as at the very beginning, with the pale hair and the shaded amethyst eyes.

He doesn't answer. The truth is obvious enough.

"Looks like we let you out a bit early, hon. Still more than a bit of disorientation going on, that's why you fainted in the street. And you've probably been confused with the dreams and all, too, haven't you?"

"Didn't faint," is all he says. All he can say.

Her lips press together into a fine line, her eyebrows creasing in concern. "I'm afraid you did. That was almost two days ago, too. I'm guessing you haven't slept well since we first let you out?"

Definitely not.

"But you're better now, hm? We're going to keep you in here an extra day just to be safe. Definitely don't want to rush things again, we've seen where that goes. Okay?"

His mouth is numb. His heart is numb. Everything is numb.


"I'm very sorry for any confusion that you've been experiencing. Doing better now, though? You know what's real and what's not?"

He wishes he doesn't.


"Good. That's good, Dean, that means you're getting better. Your family was worried about you, but we're asking them to stay away until tomorrow, just so that you have time to completely orient yourself."

"I'm as oriented as I'm gonna get," he mutters honestly.

Her gaze is concerned, but she doesn't object, just gives a soft nod. "If you don't mind my asking…" Glancing back and forth, she leans forward until the curtain of her hair slips over her ear, hiding the side of her face from onlookers, even though the ward is practically empty. Her features are alight with barely stifled curiosity. "What was it, that you dreamed about?"


"I know it was something, Dean. You don't have to tell me, of course, but—"

"Just crazy shit." He stares past her, at the ceiling. "It didn't make any sense. It was stupid. Doesn't matter, anyways, right?"

She straightens up, her expression composed once more. "Of course it doesn't. You're right."

And he is.

That was just a dream, that was just a dream
That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion, trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh, now I've said too much, I haven't said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing, I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
~ "Losing My Religion," REM