They're not just dreams anymore.
Cas is almost tangible now, so close that Dean is willing to bet anything that the angel is actually around.
At first, Dean thinks he's crazy, or that some son of a bitch monster has messed with his head again. Either way, the hunter can chalk it up as if he's just seeing things. It's normal to see your best friend after he's just died, right? It's completely normal to see him around and wish he was back. It was natural. That's what Dean told himself, over and over, ignoring how often Cas' face was looking back at him in the rearview mirror of the Impala. Ignoring how many times he woke up to the angel's breath on his face, always accompanied by the phantom pressure of fingers pressed into his skin.
Each time was the same – in the Impala Dean would do a double take, his head arching back as far as it could while narrowly avoiding accidents; and by the time it was safe to look back for Cas again, the figure was always gone. Gone, just like in the mornings, when the image of the angel was seared into him so completely that it had to be impossible for Cas to not be real. The sensations, the whispers – they couldn't be fake, or all in Dean's own head.
It was not unheard of – grief driving the hunter mad, past the point ofany sanity left holding him together. With Sammy around, however, things were a little more complicated. Dean just couldn't go for random drives and take more naps. He couldn't disappear and leave his little brother alone to wonder what in the hell was wrong with Dean.
What had started out as dreams had become reality, seeping into everything Dean was familiar with. Beer, women, driving, gambling; everything circled back to Cas, to the fact that he had let his best friend down. Each swig of amber liquid did nothing to dissuade Cas' figure, but instead increased the number of choked up apologies he made to the darkened sky each and every night. Every time he got the chance, Dean would pray to Castiel, asking him if he was still alive. He would pray for Sammy's continued health, would pray for someone – anyone – to bring Cas back to him.
He was seeing him, and it would never stop.
It was one of those nights where he felt Cas close to him, a comforting warmth that vanished without warning more times than Dean could count.
Arms around his shoulders, holding Dean so tight that he would be content to stay in place for the rest of his days. This embrace was secure – so unbelievably loving –
And yet it wasn't real.
"Please," Dean was breathing out as the feeling of Cas wrapped around him vanished as soon as it had come. Sammy was behind him now, that soft voice breaking through any illusion Dean must have been witnessing.
"Dean, are you alright?"
A breath – more amber liquid, burning its way down his throat, scorching it until there was no feeling anymore.
A hand slipping into the hunter's, squeezing as he drank more liquor, the breath on Dean's neck so real this couldn't just be in Dean's head.
"Sammy," Dean was whispering, his eyes glazing over with the sight of Cas letting go. "I'm seeing him."