He'd never heard a sound like it. After forty years Dean would have thought the Pit had taught him every last horrible sound that existed but it took him a few seconds to realize this even was sound. He'd never heard a sound that wrapped him up like a spiked chain, that squeezed him so tight the knife fell from his hand. He tried to cover his ears but it didn't help, not when it shook under his skin and through whatever pathetic excuse he still had for a soul.
Dean looked up and saw the sky tear apart like tissue paper. The two demons standing next to Dean disintegrated in a puff of screams and sulfur as bright light filled the cracks in the sky; the rest of the demons scattered for hiding places like roaches but it didn't even occur to Dean to run. He felt his skin start to blister as the full force of the light hit him but that was nothing, he'd felt worse than that his first day in Pit. He wanted his skin to blister. He wanted it to char off his bones, wanted his eyes to melt and his bones to cook until there was nothing left of him, just ashes and bile and hate. He didn't know what that light was but it didn't belong in Hell, every inch of his soul told him that. Dean didn't care what it was or where it came from as long as it tore him apart so that nothing in the Pit could ever put him back together again.
As long as it ended this.
The light reached for him and Dean braced for what he knew must be coming with a smile on his face.
The next thing Dean knew was a hand on his shoulder shaking him awake. And not being all that gentle about it. "Hey. Hey. Knock that off, you're gonna wake up the whole camp."
He startled backward, almost tumbling off the narrow bed he'd come to on until a hand reached out to grab his arm. For a second Dean thought he was in a particularly bad motel, God alone knew he'd slept on plenty of beds this bad before, but then he shook himself fully awake and took in the wooden cabin walls around him and the exhausted blue eyes looking down at him and remembered.
For a fleeting instant Dean wondered if he could get back to the Pit instead.
"That looked like fun," Cas said, handing Dean an already open beer. "The hell was that about?"
Dean shook his head, downing half the bottle in one swallow. "Leave it alone."
"C'mon. The Pit or Cold Oak? You start tossing around like that and it's usually one or the other." Dean gave him a look and Cas shrugged. "Look, just because I can't see them anymore doesn't mean I didn't use to."
"That never stopped being creepy, by the way." Dean sighed, idly peeling the label away from the now-empty beer. "The Pit," he finally said, rolling his eyes at how Cas seemed pleased with himself for having guessed right. "Think it actually about the time you busted in and pulled me out."
"Huh. I didn't know you remembered any of that."
"Me neither. Know for sure this is the first time I dreamed about it." Dean leaned back on the bed, trying to find a comfortable position on the lumpy mattress. "I thought you were there to kill me," he admitted, balancing the neck of the bottle between two fingers.
Cas tilted his head to the side and Dean had to squeeze his eyes shut; he'd seen the real Cas do that so many times and seeing it now on this strange version of him with the body language all wrong squirmed in his stomach. "Is that why you didn't run for it? I always wondered."
Well, that answered the question of whether that dream had been true or not. "Guess so."
Cas just stared at him for a long, long moment, his eyes distant, before finally shaking it off. "Long time ago."
"How'd I wind up in here, anyway?" Dean asked, looking around the cabin in a desperate attempt to change the subject. He knew they were in Cas' cabin, he remembered it from when he'd walked in on the whatever-that-was meeting with Cas and all those women but actually coming back here was a complete blank.
"Time travel can take it out of you. You were in the mess and all of a sudden went face first into your MRE. Which is probably a better idea than eating one, granted." Cas sat on the bed next to Dean. "Anyway, I'm glad you're up. I wanted your help with something." Dean sat up when he saw the syringe in Cas' hand. "I can't find a vein," he said, rolling up his sleeve.
And more to the point, his hands were trembling enough that Dean didn't think he should be around anything sharp, let alone stick that sharp thing into his arm. "Will you get sick if I don't?" Dean asked, rolling the syringe between his fingers.
He didn't like the way Cas chuckled at that. "No, I'm not that far gone yet. Other you would toss me out of one of the jeeps and leave me by the side of the road if it ever got to that point."
Dean wanted to say that wasn't true. He hoped it wasn't true. God, Future Him was an enormous dick. "I don't think so, then," he said, handing the syringe back.
Cas shrugged, not seeming all that surprised. "Worth a shot. I'll get one of the girls to help me."
When he got up to leave Dean grabbed his arm. "Dude, wait. You don't have to do that."
"Yeah, I know I don't have to, Dean. I want to." He pulled his arm away, seeming confused that Dean had made even that token attempt to stop him. "And you should go back to sleep. You look like you're halfway back there already."
And with that Castiel left the cabin before Dean could say another word to stop him.
When Dean woke again he saw that outside the cabin was dark and, despite that, he was completely alone in the little room. For a second Dean's mind raced, giving a him a grand tour of all the terrible reasons Cas could have not made it back (and sure, there were not-terrible reasons but that was just not his luck lately.) Dean pushed himself up from the bed and got his boots back on, intending to head out and look, but when he grabbed for his gun he found a note wrapped around the barrel saying Dean. On the roof.
The climb up to the roof of the cabin was a huge pain in the ass – there was no ladder and Dean had to pull himself up with random handholds – but he was so relieved to find Cas safe and sound up there once he finally boosted himself up he couldn't bring himself to care. "Hey, Dean. Good to see you made it."
Hearing that instead of Hello, Dean bothered him for than he would ever admit out loud. "Hey, yourself. Thanks for the heads up," he said, giving his eyes a chance to adjust to the dim light.
Cas shrugged. He was lying flat on his back with his hands folded under his head, a blanket spread under him and a battered sleeping bag set up over that, making Dean wonder just how much time he spent up here. "I knew if you made a pest of yourself looking for me there was a 50/50 chance someone might shoot you and I'd get blamed for it."
Dean had to allow that Cas had a point there. He laid himself out next to Cas, mirroring him before realizing he was doing it. "What are you doing up here?"
"I like looking at the stars."
Dean looked up into the overcast sky and wondered exactly had been in that syringe Cas. "Um. Dude, there's no stars tonight. Hell, it feels like it's about to start raining any second."
"I know there's no stars now," Cas said, and Dean grinned at how exasperated he sounded. "I'm not anything close to that fucked up. There were stars a few hours ago when I first got up here."
"Is it even safe up here?"
Cas shrugged. "Croats aren't known for climbing. I'm probably more secure up here than back inside." He was quiet for a few moments and Dean had to admit, if the wind would tone down a little bit this would almost be kind of nice. "I used to know all their names," he said, so softly Dean almost missed it at first. "All of them. Even the ones you couldn't see from Earth. All of that just...slipped away." He took a long pull from a bottle of vodka beside him, handing it to Dean so he could have a taste too. "I don't even remember when that all happened."
He'd never heard this kind of bleakness in someone's voice before and Dean had heard a hell of a lot. "I know it probably doesn't seem like it but there's good stuff about being human, Cas."
"But I'm not human, Dean. Not really."
Dean didn't have much of an answer for that. "It sucks to see you this hard on yourself."
Cas laughed at that, pushing him back up so he was sitting cross-legged. "There is no me, Dean. Not anymore. All of this," he said patting his chest, "this is just a husk. There's nothing underneath here anymore, not anything real."
"I don't believe that."
"Yeah, that's nice but let's stay with reality here." Dean pushed himself up to sit next to him, wondering how many nights Cas spend alone up here with just those thoughts for company. He thought he'd start taking every drug he could get his hands on, too. "I don't have a soul. And what I did have, all of that in here that made me me, all of that bled away over the past five years and I felt every second of it. Now I'm just...a consciousness clinging to a body. Like a ghost clinging to an old watch."
Dean didn't believe a word of that but didn't know how to argue against it. "If I could drag you back with me I would, Cas. You know that."
"Well, you can't. Really don't think that's Zachariah's master plan."
"Be a nice surprise if it was."
Cas looked back up at the sky. "You don't realize it," he said. "You get so busy running and surviving, and then you know how bad it is but you don't have time to think about it," he said, a quaver in his voice that twisted in Dean's stomach. "Then one day you look up at the stars and you realize you're stuck down here when you used to be up there. That you used to be able to touch them and now all you can do is look up and know you'll never do that again."
Dean let the moment stretch out until it felt smothering. "Tell me what I need to do, Cas."
"Nothing you can do, so knock that off. And if you say that I deserve to be saved I'm going to push you off this roof."
"It would serve you right."
Cas finished off the last of the bottle. "Don't know how you didn't punch me when I was pulling all that."
"Yeah, well, telling me you'd toss me back in the Pit if I stepped out of line might have something to do with that."
"As if that wasn't the emptiest threat. I don't believe you didn't laugh in my face." He let out a long sigh, looking back up at the sky. "But sometimes if I take just the right thing I can remember what it was like to be up there instead of down here." He sighed again, shaking his head as if that was all he needed to do to make all of that go away. "I think you're right about the rain."
As if on cue the first drops started to fall and Cas started to get up. "Hey, Cas. Wait a second." He sat back down, frowning at Dean as he rolled up his sleeve. "While we're having this moment here, you mind tell me what the deal is with this?" he said, showing Cas the handprint. "I never got up the nerve to ask other you and that would just be weird anyway. Might as well find out now."
Instead of answering Cas traced just the edge of it, almost like he'd forgotten it existed. "That was...a lifetime ago," he said.
That wasn't an answer but Dean realized he wasn't actually interested in one. "It's weird that it matches your hand, y'know? Since I had this before you looked like this."
He could feel Cas breathing. Dean remembered that dream, that light tearing Hell apart and pulling him out and how all of that had led to the two of them here now. When Cas met his eyes Dean saw an echo of that light there, and even if that was in his head Dean didn't care. He leaned across the few inches and kissed him, tasting vodka and rain.
Cas didn't return the kiss but he didn't back away, either. "What are you doing, Dean?"
"I don't know. That okay?" Cas nodded, his eyes wide and that was what Dean wanted to see. That wasn't hope, not really but it was almost close enough. Dean kissed him again and this time Cas returned the kiss, pressing his hand against the scar on his shoulder. "There's better stuff than drugs, Cas, I swear to you there is."
"Well, yeah. There's booze, too."
"Shut up." Cas let Dean push him down onto the blanket, his other hand already under Dean's shirt. Dean started undoing his belt and Cas arched his back against Dean, his hands tight in Dean's hair as he pulled him back down. Dean licked away a drop of rain trailing down his neck, feeling Cas shiver beneath him. "You wanna go back inside?"
Cas groaned through his teeth, pulling off Dean's shirt. "Do you have any idea how long I've wanted you to do this?" he said, the bravado gone from his voice and that was all Dean needed to hear. He slid his hands past Cas' waistband, kissing down the curve of his neck. It only took a few more seconds to get the clothes off, strewing them across the roof, one of Dean's boots getting pitched off the side; Dean didn't even feel the rain as he trailed his hands down Cas' chest, tracing the scars he'd accumulated over the past five years. Scars Dean knew Cas had gotten because of him. Dean traced his tongue down one in his side, one that looked like a knife wound and saw Cas' eyes flutter. "How much time do we have before the camp wakes up?"
"I don't care."
Dean found he didn't either. Maybe he couldn't return the favor by coming down from the sky and pulling Cas out of all this, but at least he could keep that look in Cas' eyes. Dean sucked on another scar, this one down on Cas' hip and watched the rain make Cas' skin gleam. "My pocket," Cas moaned, his hands clenching in the blanket. Dean pulled himself away and fished a small package of lube out of his pocket, grinning when Cas shrugged. "I run orgies."
"Guess I have a lot of expectations to live up to," Dean said. Like a promise Dean trail his fingers up the length of Cas' shaft, watching his lips curl up into a real smile for the first time since landing in this horrible place.
He'd told Cas there were good things about being human, or all but. Dean's only goal for the rest of that rainy night was not to stop until he made Cas believe it too.