Cas doesn't wait now. He says something to Dean, which earns him nothing back, and then he says something to Sam about finding Gabriel. He sighs, weary. Then he's gone.
Technically, Dean's not waiting to be needed, either. But he's needed somewhere he can't be, and he can't handle that. Sam's not sure he prefers this to Dean's rage, which had lit quick and intense and then had vanished, leaving nothing. Dean stands like a golem, a fetish, as though willing himself back through the rift. Sam gives him the time.
But the next time Sam makes a round through the room, Dean's not there. No, he is. He's just on the floor, almost under the table, his back against one of its legs. It does not escape Sam that this is the second time in twenty-four hours he's been tasked with pulling someone out of some strange comportment with the furniture.
Dean also flinches away from Sam, though with nowhere near Gabriel's urgency. Then Dean leans into him. He flinches away again when Sam puts a hand to Dean's shoulder. Dean doesn't know what he wants.
"You should've let Cas heal you before he left," says Sam.
"Don't touch me," Dean slurs. It feels like something he'd meant to say some time ago, except it had only just now made it from brain to tongue.
"Who was shooting at you?" Sam asks. He wants to know what happened. Dean starting in the middle had done little for Sam's comprehension; in the moment, all he'd known was that Dean was back, Dean was hurt, Dean was back, he was back. And Mom and Jack weren't.
"A bad shot," Dean answers. "Missed everything."
"Yeah, fuck him."
"I'm sorry," Dean says abruptly, and louder than he needs to. Speaking over the din of some psychodrama only he can hear. "I didn't mean it that way. When I said I shouldn't have come back, I didn't mean--"
"I know," says Sam. "Come on. Up." He slaps Dean's thigh.
"They could die," Dean says, not up. "Before we get to them. And now we can't--"
Sam groans as he pushes up from his crouched position, steadying himself with the table's edge. He trails his fingers over his stomach.
Dean looks up.
"Asmodeus," Sam shorthands.
"Used you like a stress ball?"
"Sure, I guess."
"I didn't mean I didn't want to be with you. I didn't mean it that way," says Dean, eschewing Asmodeus.
"Yeah," says Sam again. "I know."
Dean still doesn't get up.
"You could have died," Dean says. Sam could have died while Dean was on the other side of the rift, before Dean could get to him. He could have died, and if Dean had stayed on the other side of the rift, he would never have known.
"I feel like that's kinda true most days," Sam sighs. He's pretty sure Asmodeus did something to his spleen. It's at least bruised.
"Was... she okay?" Sam asks eventually. "Jack said she'd been tortured. You know, when he dreamwalked, and he showed us-- We saw--"
Dean coughs. "I dunno. Didn't even get close. No Mom, no Jack. Hell, no Michael."
They'd gotten so close, and in the end they really hadn't been close at all.
"It's not your fault," says Sam.
"Maybe someone's dumb ass shouldn't have gotten shot three hours in."
"Are you gonna need painkillers?" Sam asks. Getting up from the ground had made it abundantly clear to Sam that he hadn't slept in a few days, and in his lightheadedness the only unit of time he can grasp is the number of tasks that need doing before he faceplants in bed.
Dean makes a poor effort at picking himself off the ground. He clearly hadn't expected it to be that hard. "Dunno what the hell he put in me, so's probably not smart," he says, after an expanse of contemplation. Anticipating Sam's who what why hows, Dean adds, "Need your help with something."
Dean stumbles upwards, finds a chair. "It's quick. Just need you to figure out whether I'm gonna die or not."
Amazingly, this does not actually answer Sam's who what why hows. But Dean peels his jacket away from his shoulder. A ragged piece of black shirt flops over his hand, and Dean rolls his eyes at it. Under his breath, he mutters, "Dick. I liked this shirt."
Dean's shoulder's got a lot going on. Something crusty and oatmeal-like is smeared over his skin, which is a mottled bruise. There's traces of snakelike tendrils, too, a swollen but fading purple etching every capillary vivid against his white and unbruised segments of skin. Sam bends in close.
Dean's skin is cool; no inflammation. The tendrils are only a memory of something past.
"I didn't mean it that way," Dean says. Sam's not sure if he's being insistent or forgetful. He's looking far away again--back beyond the rift. Back toward whatever he'd found that hadn't been their mother, or Jack, or Michael.
Charlie, Sam supposes.
"When I let Ketch come and not you," Dean clarifies. "I didn't mean it that way."
Gently, Sam tugs Dean's jacket back over his shoulder. Dean barely reacts; he keeps staring, vessel-like, at the space between sleep and his failures.
Sam rubs a bit of the flaking poultice between his fingers, and imagines the story it tells.
"I guess it worked out," Sam allows. "And Cas never would have been able to handle Gabriel alone, anyway."
It's like the classic puzzle--you know, the one with a chicken, a fox, and some corn, all trying to cross an interdimensional rift. It only works in certain combinations.
"How'd you fix him?" Dean asks, eyes closed. He stays slumped in his chair.
Sam joins him. But he says, "There's no fixing. You know that. Sometimes you get lucky and stuff just falls in the right order."
"We ain't that lucky," Dean replies. "You saved him."
"Yeah, well. Gabriel's probably not big on paying it forward. He probably figures we're even, what with Asmodeus. Even though he only showed up to take his angel back."
"Fuck Asmodeus. No one cares about him." Dean kicks idly at Sam's boot.
"G'night," he slurs hastily, just before he passes out.
Sam kicks him back, gentle, but Dean's gone.
Generally, close isn't good enough. But right now it is.