The door was still standing there like the remnant of some devastating hurricane. Dean was supporting Cas and couldn't do anything but watch as Bela sprinted for it, pausing just long enough to give Dean a kiss on his cheek when he caught up. "Best date I've had in ages, Dean," she said her hand on the knob and her voice a seductive, fake purr. "Let's hope we never see each other again."
Dean realized just in time she still had the sword. "Give that back," he said, grabbing her arm.
"Come find it," she said, laughing the way he'd always imagined she had when she'd stolen the rabbit's foot from under their noses. "Think of it as a finder's fee." And with that she slid out of his grasp and through the door.
"Son of a bitch."
"Let her have it. She earned it."
Dean shook his head. "What is it with you and letting demon chicks steal your sword, Cas? You trying to make Meg jealous?"
"Perhaps they'll battle over it."
Dean had to admit, that was a fun mental image. "Think I like the new you better already." He took a deep breath. "You ready for this?"
Cas nodded. "I've been ready."
Dean grabbed his hand, squeezing tight once before opening on three. "On three."
On the count of three they both stepped through.
Behind the door there was an endless field of white light. They floated in the nothingness for a second, just long enough for Dean to get nervous. "This supposed to be happening?"
"Give it a moment."
A wind picked up. In seconds it felt like a hurricane, deafening him and forcing him to throw one hand in front of his face. That's why it took a second to realize Cas was being blown in a different direction. "Cas! Hold on!"
Panic flashed across Castiel's face, then horrified understanding. "We're in different places," he shouted.
"Cas, I promise I will find you. You understand?" Even torn up as he was Cas was holding on so tight Dean's hand was numb. "Wherever you are, I will find you." Castiel nodded once and then the wind ripped him away, a sick echo of watching him fall away into the pit.
Then Dean came to wet and coughing on the filthy bank of the Hudson river, his chest aching and Sam leaning over him. "Jesus. Jesus, the Leviathan knocked you off the bridge. Dean, I thought you were dead."
Dean would have that nightmare later. He sat up, shaking water out of his hair as he looked around and tried to ignore the sick deja vu turning his stomach into one huge knot. "Where is he?"
"What? Where's who? The Leviathan took off..."
And then Dean realized. "Fuck." He forced himself to his feet, letting Sam catch him when he started to sway. "How far are we from the reservoir?"
"The reservoir. The one Cas went into."
"Um. Well, we're in Jersey, so..."
Dean shook his head; his keys by some miracle had stayed in his pocket and he threw them to Sam. "Can you drive there? I don't think I'm up to it."
"I'll explain on the way."
"Dean, you almost drowned. Take a rest for a second."
He shook his head again. "I'll be fine once we get to the reservoir." '
Dean took a step forward and saw Sam's eyes go wide. "Where'd you get that? You didn't have it when you fell."
He followed Sam's eye lines and almost went off his feet again when he saw the sword he'd gotten from Uriel tucked into the inside pocket of his sodden jacket. "Fuck," he whispered, wild hope shaking him so hard Sam had to hold him up again."Fuck, that really did happen."
"Dean, what happened?"
He shook his head. "On the way, Sam. We gotta drive and we gotta go now."
Dean filled Sam in on the way, trying to read his expression the entire way. If anyone had good reason to want to see Cas rot away on a rack he sure as hell knew it was Sam. "Dude," Dean finally said when he finally ran out of words, breaking a good ten miles of silence. "Sammy, I know after everything Cas is probably the last person you'd ever want to see, but I couldn't just..."
"I'm the one who called him, Dean."
"While you and Bobby were trying to undo everything, I went out and tried calling him. Y'know, praying. I couldn't think of anything else to do."
"Guy scrambled your brain, Sam, why would you even try that?"
"'Cause I knew you were too pissed off to? Someone had to try."
"How'd you even know that would work?"
"I didn't. I just...I don't know, hoped there was still something left of him in there."
Well. This was going way better than Dean could have hoped for. "So...I mean, you're not pissed off about this?"
"It's gonna be weird, I'm not gonna lie. And I am pissed you went without me..."
"There wasn't exactly cell service in Hell, Sam."
"But I still wouldn't want Cas in the Pit," Sam said, ignoring him. "Give me some credit." Sam shook his head. "It's not like he's the first one to get into bed with a demon, after all."
Dean stared at him for a solid minute. "You're a good guy, Sam. I did an awesome job raising you."
"Thought you hated chick flick moments."
"Look, I've had a hell of a day. Literally."
"You sure about that?"
Dean felt dread creep around the base of his spine. "What do you mean?"
"You almost died, Dean. Can you tell me for sure this wasn't, I don't know, some near death experience?"
He pushed that way aside. "No. No way that was a dream," he said, touching the sword again to convince himself.
"You dream about hell all the time."
Dean shook his head. "Not like that. It was real, Sam. Cas is waiting for me to get there. The sword's proof."
Sam stepped on the gas and Dean felt his baby's engine purr. "Then let's go get him."
The entire drive the memory of that dream in Hell haunted him. He tried to visualize finding that beach empty, the worst case scenario that all of that had really happened only for him to be too slow to save Cas again. Even the thought made his stomach crawl up into his throat.
Dean felt his heart almost stop when he saw the dark-suited figure shivering by the edge of the water. "Thank fucking God," he whispered. He'd switched with Sam a few miles back and pulled the car to a screeching stop now, taking a second just to remember how to breathe. "Watch the car, Sam," he said, then jumped out and popped the trunk, moving things aside until he finally pulled out the wrecked trench coat from its hiding place. He braced himself against the car for a few seconds until the shaking got to a manageable level, then he bundled the coat under his arm and walked toward Cas, not letting relief hit him until Castiel looked up. "Think you dropped this," he said, tossing Cas the coat.
"Thank you," Cas said, his eyes shining as he put it on. Dean realized he hadn't actually believed Dean when he'd said he'd kept it. "He was right," Dean heard him say, almost to himself. "I did have to learn how to swim."And with that Dean pulled him up into a long hug, staggered back a step when Cas buried his face against the curve of his neck. His hair was still damp. "I hate this place."
Dean kissed him. He hadn't figured out how to tell that part to Sam but there was no way he could put that off another second. "Then let's get out of here, huh?" Cas nodded and Dean hugged him close again. "You hungry?"
Cas paused, tilting his head to the side. "I think I am."
"Good. Know a great place. Me and Sam'll fill you in on everything you missed while you were downstairs." Dean searched his face. "We can find a way to fix you if you want, Cas, swear to God. I would never have asked you to..."
"Dean." Cas kissed him, the same desperate, hands tight in his hair kiss as in hell. "Do you remember what I said to you once? That much of the time I would rather be here." Dean nodded. "That was never a lie.
It had been so long since he'd had a win he'd forgotten what they'd felt like. "Let's get you in the car, then."
Cas' legs were shaky enough that Dean had to catch him when he stumbled once. "Dean," Cas said, "do you remember that dream you had, very early on? About the hood of your car?"
That was the last thing Dean would have expected Cas to say. "Um. Yeah, why?" He'd actually had more than one, but since they were all variations on a theme he figured that answer was still technically true.
"I'd like to try that."
Dean never in his life would have thought Cas could ever make him blush. "If we get tired of the stars, Cas. Promise you." He opened the rear door and eased Cas into the back seat, then climbed back behind the wheel and ignored the hell out of the arched eyebrow look Sam sent his way.
"Think you left some stuff out," Sam said as Dean turned the engine over.
"Me and Bobby had a bet going, y'know. I owe him twenty bucks now."
Sam adjusted the rearview mirror just enough to see Cas in the backseat. "He okay?" he asked, his voice low.
Dean shook his head; no one was "okay" after hell, Sam knew that as good as anyone. "Think he'll get there."
It took Dean a second to answer. "Think I'll get there."
Sam leaned back against the seat. "Well, that's better than we were yesterday."
Cas was starting to doze off in the back seat and Dean watched him for a few seconds, feeling like he could breathe for the first time in months. "Damn right." The day was edging toward dusk and Dean aimed the Impala right for the setting sun like an arrow.
They weren't okay. Dean knew the three of them weren't even in the same neighborhood of okay, not yet.
But as Dean gunned down the highway, glancing up every so often to see Cas asleep in his rearview mirror and with his brother sitting beside him for the first time in years Dean thought okay might be a possibility for him. Even the knowledge that the Leviathan were still out there waiting for them didn't have the usual toxic dread.
Dean drove on through the night, determined not to stop until he hit endless starlit skies and a future where hope was more than a memory.