Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters belong to Kripke and the CW and clearly not to me.
Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him. Booker T. Washington
Recently, when things were really bad, Sam told Dean that he didn't really care what his brother did to cope so long as he didn't die. He wanted a promise, so Dean, always trying to take care of his brother, gave him a weak one. Yeah, Dean would do what he could to keep from dying, for Sam.
But not dying didn't mean he was really living. He woke up every morning far from Heaven and just this side of Hell, no reason to go back and unable to move forward; a life in limbo…
Now he was actually in Limbo.
He had boned Dick, the evil bastard, who then exploded back to where he came from, sucking Dean and Cas along with him. The blast had knocked Dean out and he woke up in Purgatory, encircled by snarling red-eyed shadows and temporarily abandoned by his only possible ally.
Temporarily came very close to being permanently, as the shadows coalesced into werewolves with wicked, slashing claws and sharp, snapping teeth. Dean, alone and surrounded, was plucked without warning by an angelic hand from the grasp of the first monster to break through the trees and taken to someplace else.
Someplace else looked a lot like where he had just been standing; trees with shadowy limbs rustling in a non-existent breeze and grey ambient light. The sole difference between there and here being the lack of monsters trying to kill him. Dean collapsed to the ground just to catch his breath. He felt in danger of hyperventilating. Hell, he felt in danger of dying.
"We should not be here," Castiel said soberly, scanning the trees for any sign of movement. The falling angel looked at the only human in Purgatory and frowned, "Purgatory is a prison for things too dangerous to be allowed in my Father's world and an afterlife for the souls of things that were once human or were never human. You are still human and not dead; at least not yet, though your chance for survival does not look good. This is not a place for the flesh. I'm not even certain how you continue to breathe given there shouldn't be any real air here.
"Our being here is an affront to the natural order." He tilted his head thoughtfully. "Of course there is a possibility that if you die here, a reaper will come and take your soul to…where ever it is intended to go, most likely Heaven. That might be one manner of egress."
"There are two operative words there, Cas, possibility and die and dying is not a good idea, I kinda promised Sam," Dean shook his head, a spectacularly bad move as it made him feel like his brain was careening around and bouncing off his skull. "It's a bad plan. We'll have to come up with another one."
"Such as we work on finding a way out from this side while Sam works on finding a way to get us out from his side. One of us will come up with something. " Dean sounded more certain than he felt.
Castiel studied Dean as closely as the waning light would allow. His face was pale and he was sweating even though it was far from warm. There was a tremor of his hands. "You are not well."
"You are lying. Are you injured? Was it the werewolves?"
"I'm not injured!" Dean insisted. He felt like crap but it wasn't due to an injury. He wondered how long he was out after being pulled into Limbo and if time here ran faster like it did in Hell. He tried to calculate when he'd had his last shot of booze.
"Then what is wrong? You might as well tell me the truth now as I will eventually find it out."
Dean shook his head. His stomach was rolling and his gut cramping, his hands were trembling and he had a headache that was second only to a post-concussion migraine. In short he was feeling far from fine and could really use a drink. No not use one, needed one.
"I need a drink."
"I will go and look for water, though it is unlikely that I will find anything since souls require neither food nor water and this is a realm made for the essence of things."
"No, Cas," hating himself just a little more than usual because of what he had to admit, Dean swallowed thickly. "I need a drink of alcohol. You've probably noticed that I drink a lot of alcohol. I drink a few glasses to get to sleep then have another so I won't dream. I wake up and drink some more, trying for a steady state of numb so I don't have to feel anything.
"I've been drinking so much for so long that now I have to drink just to feel normal…or at least as normal as I ever feel. I think I'm going into withdrawal," Dean reluctantly admitted with uncharacteristic honesty.
Castiel narrowed his eyes in concern. "I have some honey, with a few other ingredients I can make you some mead." He shook his head. "Of course I'll have to make a small distillery and then wait for it to ferment and that might take longer than you would want to wait. You have none with you? You generally carry some in a flask. "
Dean closed his eyes with a grimace and took a couple of deep breaths to calm his racing heart and cool his irritability. "Man you're bouncing back and forth from old stick-up-your-ass you to let's-play-twister you so fast that watching it is giving me whiplash. Settle on a personality and go with it, okay.
"And no, I don't have any hooch with me. I melted Bobby's flask and I thought after confronting Dick, I'd either end up dead or be back to the cabin for a celebratory drink. I didn't think about bringing an extra bottle just in case I ended up in a dry afterlife."
"Yes, well, next time you should plan more carefully," Castiel admonished.
"I'll be sure to do that."
Cas took another long look into the darkness. "We appear to be safe for the moment. What can I do to help you?"
"You got any angel juice to spare? I can handle the detox but not running and fighting and detoxing."
"Dean, I'm sorry but this is not an injury that was done to your body but something you have done to yourself, it is not something that I can heal. However, I can see you are physically unwell. Perhaps if we talk it will provide distraction and take your mind off of your discomfort."
Dean shook his head. "I don't like to talk even when I'm not shaking and sweating. In the long run, it never seems to be a good idea."
"While I was at the hospital after assuming Sam's Hell, I was lead to believe that talking about one's emotional hurts is very therapeutic and the first step to acknowledging problems and looking for more effective coping strategies. I think you must learn a more effective way to deal with your emotional pain since you will no longer be able to rely on psychic numbing agents such as alcohol while we are here."
Dean rubbed his hands down his face and frowned at the idiotic suggestion. "You're kidding right? I'm sitting here irritable, anxious, cramping and shaking and you think this is a good time to talk about my feelings? Screw you, Freud; talking about your feelings only gets them thrown back in your face later when the person you tell gets possessed or pissed."
Castiel persisted, pretending innocence of his own transgression in that regard when he denied Dean's contention that they were like family. "To take your mind from your current physical discomfort, you should begin to deal with your old emotional pains. I will listen with unconditional positive regard and a non-judgmental attitude, just as the therapist did during the group gatherings that I was invited to attend at the psychiatric hospital. Talking about the evil of my brother was quite cathartic, even if they did generally increase the medications they gave me afterward. Of course your pain is old and deep, so perhaps you should start by telling me about your childhood or more recently your time in Hell. I saw you in Perdition so nothing you say would cause me to change my opinion of you, if that is your fear."
Dean looked down at his shaking hands and then way into the darkness. "First of all, I didn't say I'd be spilling my guts and even if I did, I wouldn't want to talk about my guts being spilled. If you want me to talk, pick something else. Or maybe you could talk about your feelings. Why don't you go emote all over the place to keep my mind occupied?"
Castiel looked down, shadows falling across his face. "I can't talk reliably about my emotions as I am still trying to understand them myself. It was all so much simpler before you taught me how to feel and try to think for myself. The only emotion I am certain of is remorse and guilt."
Dean forced a dry chuckle, pushing down his guilt for complicating Cas' existence. "Well, if you need any pointers don't be afraid to ask, when it comes to guilt and remorse, I'm the expert. " A sudden pain tore through his gut and he grunted before he was able to breathe his way through it. Maybe distraction would help. "You want to talk, let's talk. Why didn't you just ask for my help when Ralphie was threatening you and wanting to restart the Apocalypse? You were my friend. Did you think I wouldn't help?"
Cas turned his back to Dean and pretended to search the shadows. He was quiet for a long time. "No, I knew you would help and that was why I didn't want to ask you." He paused again. "You seemed to have found a bit of peace. After all you had sacrificed, a bit of peace seemed the least that was owed. I was trying to be a friend, it just all went so very wrong and instead of being a friend, I became an enemy. You were right. I was a child. In my arrogance I thought I could handle the power. I was naïve and even worse, I was cruel. I hurt you and I hurt Sam. I hurt people innocent of doing me any harm and all those that the Leviathans harmed, that is blood on my hands. I do not think I can ever be cleansed of it.
"You are right, Dean, again. Talking about it changes nothing and only makes a pain that has begun to dull, sharp again."
Castiel contemplated the gloom. "I understand now why I am here. I am a monster. I belong here. I am sorry that you were carried here with me. Your pain must be a part of my punishment."
Dean sighed loudly in exasperation. "Damn it Cas! Get over yourself," he yelled, "You aren't here as punishment any more than I'm here because I need to go to rehab. You're here because you're the wretched bastard that got the dirty job of raising me from perdition. You're here because this is how Winchester luck works. We win the battle; we win the war but never without it costing more than we want to pay.
"We're here because the weapon blew up Dick and then blew up in our faces!"
A rustling in the trees drew their attention and they held their breath until deciding it was just the wind.
"Perhaps we should speak quietly," Castiel suggested.
Dean nodded his head in quick agreement. "Listen," he whispered, the words still sounding too loud in the empty air, "You don't deserve this and the minute you believe that you do, you'll stop fighting and just accept it. You do that and we might as well give up now."
Winchester stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jacket to hide the tremors. His heart was racing and for a second he considered that he might be having a heart attack; he'd had enough of them to recognize the feeling. He was certain it was all pointless anyway and he would be better off just lying down and waiting for a reaper to show up; except he was afraid if he died here he would stay here and never get to see Sam again, even in death. It was just stubbornness that was keeping him going. "I'm barely holding on here and things are likely to get worse before they get better. You're all I got right now and I gotta know that I can trust you to have my back and not go all martyr on me."
Castiel stared at Dean for several very long minutes; maybe this was not so much a punishment but another chance at redemption. A very small smile lifted the corners of his mouth. The trust that he thought was totally destroyed was being rebuilt. Now he just had to make certain he was worthy of it. "I will try my best not to die. I will try my best not to let you die. We will find a way through this and out the other side. I will not betray your trust again."
He looked back out at the shadows. "It occurs to me that Purgatory is also a temporary place of punishment where souls are made ready for Heaven. It would not be appropriate that Leviathans and souls which might eventually be taken to paradise be placed together. Perhaps there are levels of Purgatory just as there are levels of Hell. Where Leviathan dwell is likely too secure. If it were not, they would have escaped to your world eon ago. If we move to where the souls are prepared for Heaven, it might be easier to find a way out. If nothing else, perhaps we could find the door to Heaven and from there I could easily get you home. To set our direction, we could capture a creature to question or once you are feeling better, I could explore."
Dean swallowed the bile that was rising into his throat and forced a smile. "Now that is a plan. Just give me a couple of hours and as soon as I feel a bit better we'll get right on it."
Castiel turned and walked over to Dean, squatting down beside him. "Perhaps if you slept, you could avoid the worst of it."
"Yeah, that would be great but it's not going to happen. There's no way I'd able to nod off, I'm too…keyed up."
"I cannot heal you but that I can help with," the angel said as he quickly raised two fingers to Dean's forehead before Winchester could move away. "Sleep and recover. I will keep watch. Trust me to take care of you and keep you safe." He caught his friend as he collapsed and gently lowered him to the ground. Taking off his trench coat, he folded it and tenderly placed it beneath Dean's head. "By this shared adversity, we will rebuild the bond of our trust."
Dean didn't object.
Castiel chose to interpret Dean's silence as agreement.
I love the possibilities that Purgatory provides and have read some very good and interesting stories about how Cas and Dean escape. This isn't one of them. I don't know how they will get out.
Thanks to my husband for a quick edit. His only real comment was that the story appeared unfinished. I agree but when you got nothing, you got nothing.