As the moon rose slowly in the dark sky, the sleek, black Chevvy Impala swung around and pulled over into the truck stop with a deep, thundering rev of exhaust. Dean flicked off the ignition, snatched the keys and aggressively flung open the car door. Slamming it behind him violently, he stormed off toward the brightly lit service station entrance. Sam flinched at Dean’s behaviour and gave a deep, weary sigh. He opened his door and glanced in the back.
“C’mon…better stretch the legs,” he mumbled to the subdued angel sitting in the back seat. Castiel quietly obeyed, carefully pushing open the door and climbing out into the icy night air. Sam stretched painfully, various bones cracking in protest, and leaned back against the warm bonnet of the Impala, his cold hands in his jacket pockets. He gave another sigh, breathing in the fresh air, relishing one rare moment of peace and trying to ignore the nagging anxieties which had constantly plagued him since Dean had first picked up that Blade. He mentally shook himself.
“So, Cas. With the angels gone, what’s th…” Sam stopped mid sentence when he glanced behind him and realised he was talking to himself. He looked around for the angel, confused and a little worried, but breathed a sigh of relief as he spotted him not too far away, sitting slumped, his head in his hands. Sam felt a familiar pang of sympathy for the angel, and with a glance back to the service station, wandered slowly over to him. Sam reached the peeling bench and hesitated awkwardly for a moment.
“…you ok, Cas?” Sam asked tentatively. Castiel shifted and sat up slightly; avoiding Sam’s worried gaze, he nodded to his feet.
Sam saw through him instantly, made up his mind and sat down next to the miserable angel, purposely a little closer than he normally would. He didn’t know if he was imagining it through exhaustion, but he could have sworn he felt Castiel shift ever so slightly closer to him in response.
“Look Cas, man…what happened…there’s no way you could’ve seen it coming,” Sam’s brow furrowed with concern. “None of us did,” Sam’s voice held a hint of bitterness, but he pushed aside his own troubles in the face of Castiel’s misery. “It wasn’t your f…”
“SAM.” Castiel snapped suddenly, startling Sam and stopping him dead in his tracks, as the angel lost control of his calm composure. “Don’t you dare say it wasn’t my fault. The angels falling? Metatron? This entire war is all because of me! …because of my stupid, reckless actions!” Castiel’s teeth were clenched with emotion and his gruff voice was riddled with anguish and self-loathing. He gave a huge sigh and his head dropped back into his hands in defeat. “And now? Loosing my followers; my brethren who put their faith in me…lying to them…” He trailed off in bitter despair, turning away from the desperately concerned hunter.
“I…I failed again, Sam…”
The younger hunter barely heard Castiel’s soft, broken response as the angel’s regret and utter despair took him over and his whole body sagged under the weight of his pain. Sam felt his tired heart crumble into pieces. No longer able to contain his emotion, he reached out and grabbed Castiel’s shoulder. Sam pulled the startled angel towards him, and wrapped his strong arms around his exhausted frame. Castiel hesitated for a moment in surprise, but it didn’t take long before Sam felt the angel relax, arms slip around his middle and hands desperately clutch his jacket, holding on tightly.
“It’s alright, Cas,” Sam murmured kindly, patting his back gently. “I understand, really I do. You try so hard to do what you think is right. I know you only ever wanna help. You’re a good guy, Cas.”
Something caught in Castiel’s throat and he quickly buried his face in Sam’s broad shoulder. Sam felt the angel’s body shudder and he held him tighter, rubbing his back tenderly.
“Shh…shh…it’s alright…” The hunter cooed, comfortingly. “No matter what mistakes you’ve made, you’ll still always be one of us. Team Free Will…till the very end…” Sam felt his eyes begin to sting at his own words, and he held on to the angel’s tan coat tighter still, blinking furiously. An icy wind began to blow, bending the young trees near-by, but neither hunter nor angel felt anything through their warm, emotional embrace. They needed this. They had been through so much; Castiel carrying the burden of his mistakes and fighting a war; Sam dealing with the chaos of his own brother’s descent into Mark-induced darkness. After what seemed forever, Castiel sighed deeply and Sam pulled back, but continued holding Cas’ shoulder making totally sure that the angel knew he wasn’t going anywhere.
“We will take down Metatron, and we’ll do it together,” Sam gave the angel a small smile, squeezed his shoulder one last time and stood up.
“Sam?” Castiel murmured, as the hunter stopped and turned back to face him.
Sam hesitated for a moment, then suddenly his weary features broke into the first real smile in such a long time. It felt incredible.
“It’s an honour…really,”
Sam grinned as an equally rare smile lit up Castiel’s tired eyes. Cas stood up and together they walked side-by-side back to the Impala, just as Dean came marching toward them. Splurging on alcohol and pie seemed to have done some good for the older hunter’s mood, and he gave them a small smile as he reached the driver’s side door.
“Well? I’m ready to get the hell outta Dodge.” Dean grumbled in his deep, gravelly voice, as he threw the bags in the back and slid into the driver’s seat. Sam and Castiel exchanged glances and followed suit. Settled in their seats, Dean glanced at the both of them with, to Sam’s shock, a small smirk.
“C’mon,” Dean flipped the Impala into gear and she roared into life. “Let’s go home.”
Sam caught Castiel’s eye in the rear view mirror, giving him a warm, encouraging grin. Cas smiled back, both angel and hunter knowing that no matter where they went, what they did, no matter what horrific times might lay ahead, they would always be there for one another.
As the bright moon rose high in the silky black sky, the angel gazed out the window- for the first time since being sent from heaven all those years ago, Castiel felt like he was going home.