"Cas?!" There was an edge to his tone, a roughness that seemed almost desperate. He'd gone hoarse, calling the angel's name over and over, night after night without reply. His prayers, angry and sad, resentful and full of longing, received not even a whisper in the winds, a murmur in the static around him. It wasn't like Dean to bow his head in prayer, wasn't like him to lean against faith, using it as a crutch. That just wasn't who Dean was, but it was always different with Cas, wasn't it?

How many useless prayers had he wasted? The hours dragged on and the days melted away into that all-encompassing shade of grey. It never changed, no matter how much time passed. Dean was always either running, fighting or praying to the angel who never answered, the angel who was just as lost, just as powerless as the human who called out to him. Nothing changed. It might never change.

With nothing chasing the demon hunter, in this warped moment of solace, the older Winchester leaned against the trunk of a hollow, lifeless tree. All of the foliage Purgatory had to offer was brittle, cracked and dead, blending in with his faded, almost monochromatic surroundings. He shifted his feet, leaves and branches crackling and snapping beneath his weight. Energy was completely void from his being but falling to his knees in surrender was not an option. It would never be an option.

The hunter took a moment to assess his surroundings, confirming that he was truly alone (he'd gotten quite used to the feeling, even before boarding the Dick Roman express to Purgatory) before parting his lips to speak, angling his tired eyes towards the sky above. "Cas…" Dean called once again, this time his tone a bit softer, still burdened by a weight he couldn't seem to shake. He sighed, eyes tracing the void above him, almost as if he were searching for something.

Or someone.

"Where the hell are you, man?" Asked the hunter to the sky who refused to acknowledge him. "It's been way too damn long. You can't be dead…come on, we've been through so much worse, right?" Memories began to flash before his tired eyes, memories of blood and violence, confusion and regret, demons and Leviathans, what they had conquered, what they had survived and triumphed over, what they did together. They had literally been to Hell and back, so why should this be any different?

He'd just gotten Cas back and broken or not, he wanted the angel over his shoulder.

Castiel had once said that he and Dean shared a 'more profound bond' and the meaning of the statement hadn't quite sunk in until the hunter was without the angel, without the being that had become his best friend. In a time of war and bloodshed, a friend was a precious commodity and in Castiel, Dean had found that precious thing.

But he wasn't here now, was he?

An exasperated sigh tumbled from Dean's lips. He had volumes he wanted to say to the angel, angry and confused, and things echoing relief but whenever he tried to focus on the actual words, they all seemed pretty meaningless. What had words ever done for him? Actual words, not chants or banishments or summons, but actual words? Not much of anything. They couldn't bring back his mom and dad, couldn't guarantee Sam's safety and apparently, they couldn't summon Castiel back to his side, so words were pretty useless right now, weren't they?

Still, Dean needed to talk. He'd done enough running, enough fighting and for once, he wanted to focus his energy on a problem that couldn't be solved by swinging a blade around or firing off a few shots. He was just so tried, mentally and physically, so these few moments of clarity would be enough to push him forward for just a little longer. Without Sam, Dean had to be his own voice of reason, so instead of grinding his gears, wearing himself too thin, he took whatever quiet moment he could find to reevaluate his position and reintroduced himself to the part of him that was still human and not just a predator or in this case, not just prey.

He bit down on his lower lip. A few things he wanted to say lingered on his tongue, but Dean bit them back. His own true feelings continued to elude him, even now when those feelings and his will to survive were the only things keeping him alive. "Cas, buddy…I need you." Admitting that single fact was sobering and it left a bitter taste in his mouth, but he couldn't deny that truth. He needed the angel. He went as far as to admit to himself that he even missed Cas, broken or not.

The question of Castiel's mortality came up more than once, but Dean was quick to dismiss such thoughts. No, the angel was alive and fighting, same as he was, right? Right. "You'd better be alive, because I swear…" His voice trailed off, the hunter sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck. Dean Winchester didn't make threats, he made promises, but even if it were one or the other, what kind of threat or promise would he make? He didn't even know anymore. Things changed so frequently in his life that even the things that made sense at one time lost their meaning not long after. Even Castiel became inconsistent despite his consistency.

The words lingering within him continued to claw at the back of his throat. What he said and what he wanted to say differed a great deal; it seemed Dean was still too proud to let loose the words. Dean wasn't one for that mushy, sentimental crap. That was Sammy's department. It wasn't in the older Winchester's nature to allow his feelings to drip from his lips, wasn't in his nature to release his feelings to the open air. That just wasn't who Dean was, but those very same words that he tried to keep buried deep within himself continued to shred Dean's sensibilities, desperately trying to be words heard instead of words ignored. He gritted his teeth, balling his fists at his sides and squeezing his eyes shut.

"Dammit, Cas! What do I have to say to get you to answer me, huh?!" A crack in Dean's voice, a steady decline in volume and all that was left to say was the one thing he never thought he would say. "What do you need to hear? I just want to know that you're alive. Is that too much to ask? I mean, come on! One second, you're right by my side and then what? You just…blip and you're gone?" The world around continued to pulse with lives wasted, the scent of blood becoming the only tangible thing he could hold onto, the only thing his senses allowed him to cling to. What made Dean human, the irrational emotions and the warm sensations were slowly blending in with his surroundings and despite his hesitance, despite his reluctance, those words made him human, kept him alive, kept him fighting. He'd never truly be part of Purgatory because of this humanity and no matter how abandoned he may have felt, those feelings kept him from belonging to this world that was not his own. Dean swallowed down those emotions because he thought they made him weak but in reality, they were what made him strong. He'd never give up because of those emotions, those stupid, irrational emotions that never seemed to settle.

Dean's eyes darted towards the vast nothingness above him, face stained with dirt and blood (that may or may not have been his own) tilted skyward. Despite the resentment that brewed within him, his tone reflected none of that. He whispered now, unable to conjure the strength to allow his voice to tear through the silence with the raspy undertones that it usually had. "Cas, I lo—" He stopped immediately, biting his lower lip. No. Not now. The words hadn't left his lips and yet they still stung, feeling like venom brushed ever so gently across his tongue. The older Winchester successfully bit back what couldn't be said here and now, finally pushing himself away from the tree that had shouldered his emotional burden for those few moments of weakness. He couldn't afford to be weak. 'Weak' wasn't in Dean Winchester's vocabulary.

He remained still for a few moments, swallowing back the sentiment he refused to let loose. Dean shook his head, almost ashamed that those words almost passed his lips. What the hell was wrong with him? Instead of allowing his mind to linger, however, Dean grunted and began to walk once again. Where to? He had no idea. Maybe he'd just have to find somewhere with better reception.