Dean's eyes stare up to the ceiling as he lies in bed. He feels…numb. Or maybe it's the opposite. Maybe he's just overwhelmed.

Kevin's gone.

Bobby was in Hell for a year.

Sam stuck in Purgatory for however short a period of time (more than long enough).


He swallows thickly, closing his eyes at the thought of his friend. What Benny did for him is not something he will ever forget. And while he understands why the vampire stayed behind, Dean still feels the burden of guilt weighing down his chest.

He should have done more.

He shouldn't have just cut ties with Benny like that. He should have been there to help him through the transition. It's no wonder the vampire wanted to stay there. Things are much simpler…in Purgatory. Hell, at times Dean still finds himself missing it.

Rubbing his face, Dean hears the faux calm voice of an angel again. A voice that's been playing over and over in his head, like a broken record.

You're hoping Castiel will return to you.

That…bitch. If Naomi thinks Dean is buying her act for a second then she's got something coming to her. Cas would never have tried to kill him if she hadn't messed up with his head. Dean is sure of that. He trusts the damn nerdy angel with his life and his brother's. And even while brainwashed, Cas had proven himself when he saved Sam from that demon the second he appeared in the room.

So no. It's not doubt that's clouding Dean's mind right now. It's worry. Because for all that Dean believes in Cas, he knows that the angel has not been the same for a while. Since way before Purgatory.

He's unstable.

And now with the whole angel tablet business, Cas was MIA. Somewhere out there, his angel is alone, trying to keep that damn piece of rock safe from his siblings.

And from you, a treacherous voice reminds him.

Dean looks up to the ceiling once again.

"Come on, man. I know you can hear me. Just…let me know you're safe, at least. Just to check in."

He waits for a long moment, not daring to hope yet still managing to feel disappointed when no answer comes. Heaving a sigh, he sits up and rubs hid face tiredly. Glancing at the clock, he realizes the time and stands.

Gotta make dinner for Sammy.

Hours later, Dean trudges back into his room and flops face down on the bed. Sam's trying to hide the effects of the most recent task, and Dean is just…tired. He's tired of being kept at arm's length. Tired of people trying to lie to him. Tired of people hurting his family. Tired of losing them.

He's extremely tired.

The trill of his phone makes him flinch. He must have fallen asleep. Rubbing his face, Dean squints around for his damn cell phone. It's a number he doesn't recognize, which means it could be Kevin, calling from God-knows-where to ask them to pick him up. Yeah, wishful thinking much?

Still. He can't really not pick up. With a sigh, he puts the phone to his ear and stifles a yawn. "Yeah." That's as good as you're gonna get, pal. Try not calling at one in the morning next time.


His name. Just his name and Dean can feel all the tiredness disappear as he sits up with surprise. That's all it takes.


"…Thought I'd check in." Yeah, Dean bets the angel thinks he's being very funny. Dumb son of a bitch. Still, he feels a smile pull at his lips and some of the weight in his chest disappears.

"Yeah, I bet you did." He breathes out a sigh of a laugh, "Wasn't expecting you to go back to the human line, though." He can't remember the last time Cas used a phone to communicate with him, and though it brings back fond memories, Dean feels the bite of dread in his stomach.

"I am…I'm hiding. Trying to stay below the radar." There's a note of exhaustion in Castiel's voice that Dean does not like one bit.

"Angels?" Fucking Naomi.

"And Crowley." Dean grimaces. Great. "I've been moving around by bus, mostly…I took a taxi today."

"Kinda sorry I missed that." He tries for a smile. He could only imagine Cas trying to get a cab by himself. If he wasn't worried, he'd probably laugh at the thought.

"It was…interesting." Cas's voice is also tinted by a smile. But just like his, it sounds strained, and Dean can only feel a pang in his chest because Cas is trying not to worry him.

Still. He chuckles. "I can imagine."

Silence falls between them for a long moment, neither of them sure of what to say.

"Cas," Dean finally finds his voice, "I met Naomi."

"What? Did she hurt you? What did she want?" The sudden alarm and the rasp of anger in the angel's voice sends a rush of warmth through his chest. Take that, bitch.

"No, she…she's trying to make me trust her. Says she wants to help you."

"She's lying." Cas snarls, "Dean you can't listen to her."

"Well, yeah, I figured." He says with fake levity, "She told me the whole killing me was never part of the plan. That you figured that part out yourself." He laughs it off. It's not true. He knows it isn't. But he needs the sliver of doubt that's been trying to take over his mind to go away. He needs to be reassured.

"Dean—" And fuck, but Dean can hear the hurt in the angel's voice. "Dean, I would never—she made—" He winces at the way Castiel stumbles with his words. "There's no way I could have chosen that path on my own. She'd been training me for that purpose specifically."

"What do you mean?" He doesn't like where this is going. And if it is what he thinks it is, Naomi's going to find one pissed off Winchester on her tail.

"She made me kill you, Dean." The strangled rasp of his friend's voice makes him wish the angel was here. He hates the thought of Cas alone, running from angels and demons without back up.

"Yeah, I got that." Because he does, he doesn't really think Cas decided to kill him just for kicks.

"No. You don't understand, she—" A long breath. Just what the hell did Naomi make him do. "She made me kill you, Dean. A thousand times. She made me…practice. She didn't want me to hesitate when the time came."


And the bitch had the nerve to say that Cas had misunderstood her orders. Just how fucking twisted could angels get?

"Shit…Cas," he rubs his mouth, eyes closing at the thought. "But you didn't do it." He couldn't have Castiel feeling guilty for something he ended up not going through with. He'd overcome the brainwashing.

"No, I didn't." Castiel agrees, voice quiet once again. Quiet and scared.

But I almost did. Dean can practically hear the thought echoing in the dumb angel's head.

"See? Bitch thought she could brainwash you and you proved her wrong. She can't get between our uh—" He tried to laugh, "What was it you called it, profound bond?"

A quiet chuckle, and Dean knows he's managed to at least quell the guilt for a little while.

"How's Sam?" Dean feels his heart clench in his chest.

"He's…well, you know. We completed another of the tasks, a few days ago. I don't actually know if it's gotten worse or not, he won't tell me."

"I'm sorry I wasn't there to help." And Dean can hear the regret in his voice. Cas is not lying.

"I know." And he does. Dean is sure that Cas would have offered to do something stupid in order to get Sam back. Maybe even to take him into Hell himself to rescue Bobby, the way he'd saved Dean all those years ago. He doesn't want to think of how badly that could have gone. "Where are you, Cas? Why don't you come back?" It finally slips out. And Dean can't find it in himself to be sorry.

"Dean…" There's a sigh in that voice, and Dean feels like a stubborn kid again, but screw it.

"No, hey, I know you have to keep the tablet safe from Naomi and Crowley, but why stay away? We can help." Why are you trying to keep it safe from us too?

"I know you can. But you have the task of closing the gates of Hell to worry about. And Sam is…weakening. I could feel it when I last saw him. It would not be wise to have the angel tablet near you as well."

And I've been trying to stay one step ahead of them to…to keep them away from you.

The words Cas confessed to him in Purgatory come slamming back into his mind. And now Dean feels stupid again. Stupid and angry. He doesn't want Castiel doing something this reckless just to keep him safe.

"Cas," He glares at the wall, "You know, staying away will just make Naomi try to gain my trust to get you back. She'll use me to find you." It's a low blow, but right now he just wants Cas back. Needs him back.

I need you.

"…I am…trying to find a new hiding place. For the tablet. To keep it safe until the gates of Hell are shut and Kevin Tran can work on deciphering it." Dean feels himself deflate with relief because Cas might actually come back to him after all. But the mention of Kevin makes him grimace.

"Yeah, about that. Kevin's gone MIA." He rubs his forehead, feeling his frustration at the kid's actions spark again, "We can't find him."

He can practically see Cas frown, squinting his eyes in thought. "I will try to locate him as soon as the tablet is safely hidden. Could Crowley have had something to do with his disappearance?"

"What?" Dean frowns, "No, we had the whole place warded against demons." It couldn't have been Crowley. Right? The long silence at the other end of the line is making him nervous, though. "Cas? You think Crowley had something to do with it? You think he has Kevin?"

"I don't know," Castiel sighs, "I'll see what I can find."

"Okay, let me know." Dean rubs his face tiredly, feeling exhaustion taking its toll once again.

"I will." The affirmation fills the hunter with relief. Relief that Cas is not going to just disappear again. "You should sleep, Dean." The angel's voice is soft with fondness and concern, and Dean feels that stupid warmth in his chest once again. He needs Cas here.

"Yeah," He says instead, "Yeah, I should." He swallows, "Hey, Cas?"

"Yes, Dean. I'll keep this phone with me, until I can get back to you."

Dean will forever deny the smile that spreads on his face at that. "Good." He clears his throat, "This whole talking to the walls thing was starting to get a bit old, you know." It's not, really. Praying to Cas has become a clutch of sorts for him in the past year. He can be more honest with him than he's ever been with anyone. Especially now that he knows the angel can always hear him.

"I will always hear you." He blinks, feeling his ears tinge with color. There's no way the angel can read his mind through the phone. Right? "Goodnight, Dean."

He sounds just a little amused. That quiet amusement that only reaches his eyes and softens his tone but doesn't touch his lips.

Dean smiles, confident and safe in the knowledge that he'll see the angel again, "Night, Cas."